SEC Football Picks: Western Division Week One
As week one of the 2009 college football is upon us, let's take a look at the SEC West schedule:
Alabama vs Virginia Tech:
Alabama enters the 2009 season with lofty goals after a 12-2 season in '08. The defense will be one of the best in the nation anchored by All-American NT Terrence Cody, All-American MLB Rolando McClain and All-American ILB Donta Hightower.
The offense must fill some holes on the offensive line, but coaches have been pleased with the new starters which include All-American JUCO LT James Carpenter.
Freshman All-American RB Mark Ingram is back in his sophmore season to anchor the rushing attack while junior Greg McElroy takes over as QB with weapons around him in Freshman All-American WR Julio Jones, a very physical, powerful player and the speedster Marquis Maze.
Virginia Tech enters with one of the top 10 defenses in college football. Junior Jason Worilds is back after leading the Hokies with eight sacks a season ago. Linebackers are inexperienced. Senior Cam Martin is back for his third year as the starting whip linebacker and is the only real experience in the group. Tech should field one of the best secondary's in the country.
Junior Tyrod Taylor returns as the starting quarterback. Playing with three freshman wide receivers last season, he managed only two touchdown passes. Taylor is considered a threat with his legs and was the second leading rusher last season.
Darren Evans was lost to a season ending injury and there is little experience to replace him. Sophomore Josh Oglesby carried only 38 times for 88 yards last season but is the most experienced of the group.
The Hokies were poorus in pass protection the past couple of years giving up 3.4 sacks a game. That must improve against a talented Tide defense.
Arkansas vs Missouri St:
Bobby Petrino looks for improvement in season two after a 5-7 2008 campaign.
Ryan Mallett, a transfer from Michigan, is the starter at QB. The 6'7", 248-pounder has a strong arm and should flourish in the Petrino system.
Michael Smith is back at RB to anchor the rushing attack after a solid 2008 effort. The wide receivers group could be one of the SEC’s best, led by sophomores Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. The offensive line must improve after allowing 46 sacks last season.
Defensively, Arkansas struggled last season, especially in the secondary which ranked as one of the worst in the nation.
Cody Kirby enters the season as the starting QB for the Missouri State Bears, a division II program. Kirby will have All-America tight end Clay Harbor as a weapon this season. Jonathan Davis leads the rushing attack along with freshman Mikael Cooper-Falls who has impressed in camp.
Things on defense aren't quite as clear as some offensive area's. Kolby Hurt has been a leader in the linebacking corp and the Bears hope to improve upon their rush defense.
These two teams last played in 2005 with Arkansas winning 49-17. Missouri State is 1-22 all-time against NCAA Division I teams.
Auburn vs La. Tech:
Junior college transfer Chris Todd was named the starter at QB for new head coach Gene Chizik. Todd had an ineffective 2008 season while dealing with an injury. Junior Kody Burns was moved to wide receiver.
Senior Ben Tate was the team’s leading rusher in 2008 was 664 rushing yards. He enters the season as the starting RB. Last season, Rod Smith, an uninvited walk-on, led all receivers. Auburn will be forced to rely on freshmen to help out in this area.
The front five on the offensive line are experienced and should be a team strength, but behind them the depth is thin and quite scary. Auburn simply can't afford an injury to any of their starting five. The talent drop off is too large.
Antonio Coleman returns for his senior season to lead the defense. The defensive line should be strong with Coleman. Linebackers are very inexperienced and a true freshman will be starting. The secondary should be fine and improved over last season.
La. Tech won a bowl game in 2008. That was the first time that had been accomplished in more than twenty years.
Junior Ross Jenkins returns at QB after decent play last season. Daniel Porter returns at RB after rushing for more than 1,000 yards a year ago. Tech returns all five starters on a solid offensive line. The Bulldogs struggled greatly with their passing game last year.
The defense should be solid with the leadership of All-WAC lineman D’Anthony Smith. The secondary is strong and features two solid safeties in Antonio Baker and Deon Young.
LSU vs Washington:
LSU fans struggled last year with the teams 7–5 regular season. But the roster is loaded with talent and the tem should be improved this year.
Jordan Jefferson enters his second college season as the starter at QB. Jefferson is athletic and has the ability to run and pass. Charles Scott anchors the ground game after rushing for 1,174 yards a year ago. All-SEC receiver Brandon LaFell is back at wide receiver. The offensive line will look to fill some holes with the key position being at center.
Three full-time starters are gone on the defensive line, but senior Rahim Alem returns after earning All-SEC honors a year ago. The linebackers struggled last season and the Tigers return some inexperience there this year. The Tigers had secondary issues a year ago and look to improve that this year.
The Washington Huskies were the worst team in college football last season going 0-12.
Junior quarterback Jake Locker returns for the Huskies. Sophomore Terrance Dailey returns at RB after leading the team in rushing with 338 yards a year ago ago. the wide receivers were average at best and are led by Junior wideout D’Andre Goodwin. The offensive line was retooled after a miserable 2008 effort.
The defensive side of the ball was just as poor in 2008 as the offensive side was. The defensive line looks to improve after being dominated by most opponets a season ago. The secondary has been a weakness for the Huskies for several years now.
Mississippi State vs Jackson St:
Dan Mullen takes over for the Bulldogs in 2009 after a successful run as Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator.
Senior Tyson Lee is back at QB and is athletic enough to run Mullen's offense. Senior tailback Anthony Dixon, the powerful runner, returns at RB as the best offensive threat the Bulldogs have. Wide receiver is a very weak area and during the spring Mullen resorted to using fullbacks, tight ends and walk-ons to shore up the area. The offensive line yeilded 37 sacks last year and must improve.
Pernell McPhee, a 6'4", 270-pound transfer from Itawamba Community College comes in to anchor the defensive line. The linebackers are a solid group led by Jamar Chaney. The secondary is young and looks to improve over a disappointing 2008 effort.
Jackson St. QB Trae Rutland returns as the leading passer and rusher for the Tigers. Sophmore Luther Edwards is back at RB after going for 445 yards a year ago. Senior Carlos Simpson leads the receivers with 401 yards in 2008.
The defense, which ranked second in the SWAC in total defense a year ago, has seven starters back but has holes to fill. The top newcomer will be cornerback Anthony Johnson, a transfer from Mississippi State.
Ole Miss vs Memphis:
Houston Nutt leads Ole Miss into 2009 with high expectations. The Rebels are considered a contender in the SEC West this year.
Jevan Snead is back at QB to lead the Rebels and may be the best pure passer in the league. Wide receiver Dexter McCluster moved to tailback after the midway point of the 2008 season and led all rushers. Shay Hodge returns as the leading receiver after hauling in 8 touchdown receptions last year. the offensive line should be fine but lacks depth.
Senior Greg Hardy returns to anchor the defensive line. Senior Patrick Trahan leads the linebackers in what should be a solid group. The secondary struggled a year ago and the Rebels look for improvement there this season. Kendrick Lewis returns at free safety and has All-SEC potential.
Memphis should contend for the C-USA title in 2009. Arkelon Hall returns at QB for the Tigers. 1,000-yard rusher Curtis Steele anchors the rushing attack. Duke Calhoun and Carlos Singleton are two of the best receivers in conference USA. The offensive line must replace four starters.
The defensive line is solid and returns a lot of experience in Jada Brown, Steven Turner, Greg Terrell and Josh Weaver. The Tigers may have the best core of linebackers in the schools history with Winston Bowens, Greg Jackson and Jeremy Longstreet. Former SEC talent is also on hand with former LSU linebacker Derrick Odom and ex-Mississippi State player Jamon Hughes. Former Auburn defensive back DeRon Furr comes in to try and help bolster the Tigers secondary.
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