SEC Football West Preview: Battle at the O.K Corral
The ol' west is filled with stories and adventures that have been translated into movies; stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Most everyone can recall the famous battle at the O.K Corral between characters like Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and the Tombstone Cowboys. If you're not familiar with the story, then perhaps you haven't seen the movie Tombstone starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer.
In the movie and folk story, the two groups shot relentlessly at each other for 30 seconds in a treacherous battle (longer in the movie), and is regarded as the most famous gunfight story in western history.
This upcoming 2009 SEC Football season is going be much the same. It's going to be a fierce and gruesome battle for the SEC West, and possibly the fiercest battle in years.
I look for the battle to be mainly between LSU and Alabama. Last year, I predicted Alabama to win the west, but with a stronger western division Alabama has a much tougher road ahead of them in order to make it to the SEC Championship.
I am going to start at the bottom and work my way up to the Survivor of 2009's "Battle Of The West."
6) Mississippi State—MSU will as usual have a good defense. The offense I believe won't be up to SEC performance standards. Unfortunately, the whole team will have to suffer because of that. I think Dan Mullen was a great hire for the Bulldogs, and it will be at least a year or two before fans can see a change in direction. With annual powers such as LSU and Alabama, Dan Mullen's time in Starkville could be very limited.
5) Auburn—As I said last year with a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new starting QB, poor returning talent, and a poor recruiting class, Auburn will once again struggle in the SEC West. I like offensive coordinator Gus Malzohn, but I believe that hiring a 5-19 Head Coach out of Iowa State was a bad move.
The rest of the staff is descent, but it's all about the head of the program that matters. Auburn's defense will take another step back this year with defensive coordinator Paul Rhodes gone, and a very thin depth chart. The offense will be good, but not good enough to carry the team. Look for a repeat of 5-7 or 6-6.
4) Arkansas—Bobby Petrino is an outstanding coach who has a brilliant mind for offensive play calling. I think Arkansas' offense will improve dramatically under Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett.
Surprisingly, I think the Razorbacks defense wont be too bad, either. The pigs are one year away from reaching their true potential. This year with LSU, Ole Miss, and Alabama having better teams, Arkansas will settle for fourth.
3) Ole Miss—I really hate putting the Rebs here because they have such a fantastic team, but I simply think LSU and 'Bama are better. The offense will be led by a good QB and some dangerous playmakers, but I can't seem to wrap my head around Ole Miss being a fantastic offensive team.
The defense will be a bright spot for the Rebs this season. I believe Ole Miss to be good in all facets of the game, but not great in one. Ole Miss will finish third behind the SEC West's annual juggernauts.
2) LSU—I am predicting these top two spots very loosely, because I believe both teams could easily take the number one spot. I believe LSU lacks the defensive strength and experience to be the number one team (new defensive coordinator). First-year quarterback Jordan Jefferson will lead a talented offense, and will most definitely be the bright spot of the team.
Another reason LSU falls at No. 2, is I believe the SEC Title will go to the winner of the LSU-Bama game, and that game takes place in early November at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, giving Alabama the advantage.
1) Alabama—2009 is year three of the Nick Saban Era. Many people (as usual) will be asking why I have chosen Alabama to win the SEC West. First, I believe of all western teams, Alabama has the best schedule to manage, one that includes neither Florida nor Georgia in the regular season.
The Tide has Virginia Tech on a neutral field (Georgia Dome, is that really neutral?), South Carolina, LSU, and Tennessee at home. The Crimson Tide will also be playing in the annual Iron Bowl against Auburn on the road.
Along with a manageable schedule, Alabama will have a fantastic league-best defense, returning nine of 11 starters. On offense, I see the offensive line being the Tide's only weak spot.
The offense will feature an experienced backup QB in Gregg McElroy, studs in WR Julio Jones, and RB Mark Ingram. Alabama will also have the best coaching staff in the SEC to help them take the SEC West Crown.
Leave me your comments on who you think will win the SEC West. Look for my follow up in the next couple days on the SEC East preview.
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