Well, the preachers back on the porch after a season of some serious health problems that I finally pulled through after a difficult third quarter and dominated the fourth. Kinda like Bama in the NCS game.
But I am back on the porch enjoying the ice and snow, but can still get a pretty good view of the SEC from here. This is mostly forward looking, but with a little humor and reverse psychology as usual, so sit back, relax and enjoy. (And for my haters, get used to it, I am back for good.)
So in no particular order, let me show you my visions for the most dominating conference in college football. You have to admit, that even though the SEC brought home the BCSCS again and put 10 teams in bowl games, it was not the best season for our conference.
But next year looks to be a nail biting, hard hitting, slobberknocker of a total domination of college ball.
Bama is already predicted to be the preseason number one in the polls, and with good reason. They are returning most of their powerhouses, and other than the defensive coordinator who may take over at Texas Tech, all the staff will return as well. Since Saban runs most of the defense anyway, this should not be a very big obstacle to over some, and it should make all you Bamers proud that one of your coaches is hired to take over a premier program. After all, he could have went to Louisville like Charlie Strong, but instead held out for a powerhouse team.
Only problem I can see is that now the Big XVII might start learning to play some defense, and that could mean problems for the rest of the country. Still, all in all, Alabama has a really good shot at repeating as national champions despite a brutal schedule that includes Penn State and Florida State as their "off" games.
After a surprising season in which I had to eat some crow on this very site for predicting the tigers would only win four games, next year looks to be another rebuilding year, but continuing to build on this year's success they will be a force to be reckoned with. If they can use the off season to build up their defense and fill all of their scholarships with quality players, they may be looking at a 9 or 10 win season. But their also lies their biggest challenge: recruiting. Bama has dominated the state the last two years, and winning the NCS can't help Aubie's case any. But then again, from within a state where you have to declare your loyalty to one of two teams as soon as you can talk, this may not be as big a deal as the pundits make it, but outside the state? It will be rough, especially in Georgia and Texas where Bama and Auburn both have a strong recruiting presence.
Losing a huge chunk of your star players to the NFL and having your Coaching staff in limbo could put Florida in the state USC has been in for the last two years. Whether Meyers comes back or not, Florida has backups at nearly every position that could play in most any others conferences starting line-up, but having chaos in the head office after a heartbreaking season will be hard to overcome. If Meyer returns in time for the season, they might can salvage another run at the SEC East, but if not? It could be a long year in Gainesville with Florida State, ALabama, and Georgia pouncing on the recruits during the medlam. They will still have an 8-10 win season, but it will not be easy to get there.
The Wildcats look to field one of the best teams since Bear Bryant coached there back during the stone age. They return most of their starters (who had a pretty good season considering 71% were freshmen or first time starters) including Mike Hartline and Randall Cobb and one of the best offensive coaches in the game. And they are finally getting some money from the University to stay competitive with the rest of the conference, thanks to the revenues Coach Calipari and the basketball team has agreed to share with the football and soccer programs. Look for Kentucky to make a serious run for the SEC East and even possible appear in their first SECCS game. They have a cake schedule to go along with their loaded team as well.
If there is a team more hard to predict or analyze, it has to be LSU. When they have a team you think couldn't beat a junior varsity team, they win a NCS, and when they have a NCS caliber team they embarrass the state and the conference. Sure they have had winning records, but even a fifth grader could point out that this will be a make or break season for Les Miles; Miles is a great Coach, but this year somehow let the discipline and decision making process disappear and he will have to really knock some heads around to get control of his team back. They should have had an 11 win season this year, but due to coaching mismanagement and players who did not know who to look to for guidance, they almost didn't make the post season. (before you write your hateful comments, remember all the near losses...). This year, they again will have all the keys, but will they get it in the lock, or bumble around scratching the hell out of the car door again?
6. South Carolina
Like Kentucky, USC should field one of their best teams in recent memory. But like LSU, their Coaching staff will be the difference in whether they take advantage of it or not. Steve Spurrier seems to be losing his touch, but you can tell the difference between when he was micromanaging a game, or whether he was drinking gatorade on the sidelines thinking about his next golf outing. This will more than likely be his last year coaching, so I believe he will make it count and be the old Steve that we all remember from the Duke and Florida days. They was a threat to every team they played this year, and will be again next year. Will they actually finish a game? If they learn to do that, the entire conference better watch out. If not? Schedule them for homecoming.
And that is it for this half of the conference. I did not want it to be too long. Tomorrow I will finish them up and give my very premature preseason rankings. Thanks for all the e-mails and words of encouragement while I was undergoing this radiation and surgery, it was greatly appreciated and rest assured I read all of your article and even commented on a few. If they seemed off the wall, blame the awesome advances in medicine called pain pumps, ha. Until next time, that's the view from here!