The SEC finished the 2008 season with a bang by going 6-2 in bowl games and winning its third consecutive national title.
The 2009 season looks to be yet another successful year for the Southeastern Conference, with teams such as Ole Miss making their way into the spotlight, and 10 of 12 SEC teams having Top 25 recruiting classes.
Growing up in the south, I have witnessed firsthand the excitement of SEC football and it is true: there is no comparison to the SEC when it comes to football.
As the 2009 season approaches, I thought it would be appropriate to size up the Southeastern Conference and make some predictions for where each team will be at season's end. Hope you enjoy it!
#5 Alabama Crimson Tide
National Recruiting Rank: 2
Returning Starters: 15; four offense, nine defense, kicker, punter
The Crimson Tide had a spectacular 2008 season (excluding the postseason), and it is clear that Nick Saban has permanently "turned the tide" in Tuscaloosa.
Led by one of the nation's best defenses, the Crimson Tide should be able to defend its SEC West crown, but Alabama will find that they won't sneak up on anyone this season.
2009 Prediction: The Crimson Tide goes 11-1 with a loss to Ole Miss.
#39 Arkansas Razorbacks
National Recruiting Rank: 20
Returning Starters: 17; seven offense, nine defense, kicker
Arkansas has the potential to make some noise this season, but a lot of that hangs on the ability of quarterback Ryan Mallet to run the offense.
The running game should be effective, but the defense needs to step up in order for the Razorbacks to get back into a bowl game.
A week two game versus Georgia should be a good sign of Arkansas's ability.
2009 Prediction: The Razorbacks go 7-5 with losses to Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss and LSU.
#42 Auburn Tigers
National Recruiting Rank: 16
Returning Starters: 16; seven offense, seven defense, kicker, punter
The coaching hire the Tigers made in the offseason raises many questions about what Auburn's long-term future holds.
The Tigers have the ability to start out the season strong, but once they get into the thick of their schedule, will they be able to overcome all of the issues that plagued their 2008 season?
For now, I think that is a little too much to ask.
2009 Prediction: The Auburn Tigers once again finish 6-6 with losses to Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama.
#1 Florida Gators
National Recruiting Rank: 21
Returning Starters: 20; seven offense, 11 defense, punter, kicker
There are no close seconds when it comes to who is deserving of the number one spot in the preseason.
Led by senior quarterback Tim Tebow and a defense that returns every starter, the Gators look virtually unstoppable on paper.
Florida definitely has all the pieces in place to win their third national title in four seasons, but history is most definitely against them. Nevertheless, Tim Tebow has the ability to will his team to victory, and to any team that has the guts to stand in his way...good luck.
2009 Prediction: There is no way that I pick the Gators to finish anything other than 12-0.
#15 Georgia Bulldogs
National Recruiting Rank: 4
Returning Starters: 15; seven offense, seven defense, kicker
Things feel a lot different in Athens than they did a year ago. No talk of preseason number one, much less top 10, and no Matthew Stafford or Knowshon Moreno.
However, there is also a different attitude in the Georgia locker room because the Dawgs have some unfinished business.
While you shouldn't expect an SEC or National Title out of the Bulldogs, don't count them out until they've played Florida on October 31st.
2009 Prediction: Georgia finishes the regular season 10-2 with losses to LSU and Florida.
#47 Kentucky Wildcats
National Recruiting Rank: 27
Returning Starters: 13; seven offense, five defense, kicker
Kentucky has had some great seasons the past three years, and I don't think the Wildcats are ready to let their bowl streak end just yet.
The defense should be formidable with playmakers such as cornerback Trevard Lindley at every position, but the offense was pitiful last year and if they can't score points, the Wildcats could easily lose more games than they win.
2009 Prediction: The Wildcats' three-year bowl streak comes to an end with a disappointing 5-7 record. Kentucky's only wins come against Miami (OH), Louisville, Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State and Eastern Kentucky.
#7 LSU Tigers
National Recruiting Rank: 3
Returning Starters: 13; seven offense, six defense
This season you can expect LSU to play a lot more games like last year's 38-3 stomping of Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson showed hints of greatness in 2008, and if he wins the starting job, he just might be the next Jamarcus Russell.
While the offense should be great, the defense needs to show more consistency in order for the Tigers to win the SEC west.
2009 Prediction: LSU improves greatly in 2009 by posting a 10-2 record with losses to Florida and Alabama.
#75 Mississippi State Bulldogs
National Recruiting Rank: 19
Returning Starters: 11; six offense, five defense
After a disappointing 4-8 season, the Bulldogs have brought in Dan Mullen from Florida to install his version of the spread offense.
With a Top 25 recruiting class, the Bulldogs have the talent to run the option if the players can learn it successfully. However, we should expect growing pains in Mullen's first season, so MSU is still a couple years away from being bowl contenders.
2009 Prediction: Mississippi State goes 3-9 in 2009 with wins against Jackson State, Houston and Middle Tennessee.
#8 Ole Miss Rebels
National Recruiting Rank: 17
Returning Starters: 16; seven offense, eight defense, kicker
Ole Miss is definitely the team to watch in the SEC this year. Fans in Oxford are in a frenzy as the only team to beat the Gators last season enter 2009 with high expectations.
Quarterback Jevan Snead and the entire Rebel defense are phenomenal and they have the ability to earn a berth in a BCS game.
Only time will tell if the Rebels will crumble under the pressure or make themselves an up and coming national powerhouse.
2009 Prediction: The Ole Miss Rebels live up to the hype and go 10-2 with losses at home to Tennessee and LSU.
#35 South Carolina Gamecocks
National Recruiting Rank: 13
Returning Starters: 12; five offense, six defense, punter
After four years of trying to make South Carolina an SEC contender, the "offensive genius" Steve Spurrier has still yet to do much of anything in Columbus.
Expectations are not high for the Gamecocks and there isn't much of anything other than highly touted running back Jarvis Giles to be excited about.
South Carolina faces a difficult schedule this season, and if the Gamecocks can manage to win at least eight games, Spurrier might stick around for another season (but that's being optimistic).
2009 Prediction: The Gamecocks continue a tradition of mediocrity and finish 7-5 with losses to Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Florida.
#26 Tennessee Volunteers
National Recruiting Rank: 8
Returning Starters: 12; six offense, five defense, kicker
Coach Lane Kiffin has definitely stirred things up at Tennessee, but he will soon find that if you're going to talk big in the SEC you better back it up.
The Volunteer defense was spectacular last season, and it should again be great with Heisman candidate Eric Berry at safety.
Quarterback play will be the key to Tennessee's success in 2009, but after finishing 107th in the nation in passing offense, Kiffin needs to ask himself if quarterback Jonathan Crompton is the answer.
2009 Prediction: Tennessee improves their record by three games this season and go 8-4 with losses to Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
#60 Vanderbilt Commodores
National Recruiting Rank: 72
Returning Starters: 18; eight offense, nine defense, punter
Vanderbilt had a season to remember in 2008 by finishing with a winning record and their first bowl victory since 1955.
Once again, the key to Vandy's success will be playing sound defense and sticking to fundamentals.
The Commodores may not have a high-powered offense, but if they can avoid turnovers and take advantage of opportunities, they might just find themselves in a second straight bowl appearance.
2009 Prediction: Unfortunately, Vanderbilt comes one game short of bowl eligibility and finishes 5-7 with wins against Western Carolina, Mississippi State, Rice, Army and Kentucky.
SEC Championship Game - Florida vs. Alabama
Independence Bowl - Auburn vs. Colorado
Liberty Bowl - South Carolina vs. Houston
Music City Bowl - Arkansas vs. Wake Forest
Chick-fil-A Bowl - Tennessee vs. Florida State
Cotton Bowl - Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State
Outback Bowl - LSU vs. Michigan State
Capital One Bowl - Georgia vs. Penn State
Sugar Bowl - Alabama vs. TCU
BCS National Championship - Florida vs. Texas