When everyone refers to the SEC success, they usually look to SEC East teams. Georgia has already been acclaimed the 2008 favorite for the national title. Florida has an abundance of talent with Heisman winner Tim Tebow and the winner of the 2006 national title. Tennessee is also coming off of an SEC East Title. South Carolina has a proven coach in Steve Spurrier. Kentucky is always that team that can sneak up and beat you and Vanderbilt consistently competes but can never consistently win.
However, when you look at top-to-bottom, the division that will eventually overtake them, if not already, is the SEC West.
Just look at the coaches:
SEC West Coaches
Houston Nutt (Ole Miss) - 111-70
Tommy Tubberville (Auburn) - 105-53
Nick Saban (Alabama) - 99-48-1
Les Miles (LSU) - 62-27
Bobby Petrino (Arkansas) - 41-9
Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State) - 17-30
Overall Record of SEC West Coaches: 435-237
I know the response I'm going to get after that. Derek, what does a career record have to do with anything? Well, really nothing, but it's proof that all of these coaches are proven winners and the SEC West is loaded with coaches who knows how to get it done (with the exception of Sylvester Croom, who won 8 games last year and his team shows promise). Somebody's got to lose, which means that somebody is going to have an unusual season.
Take that with the reigning 2007 national champions, the Auburn Tigers, who in 2004 should've at least got a chance for the national title, the rising Alabama Crimson Tide, Sylvester Croom rebuilding Mississippi State, and Arkansas and Ole Miss adding new head coaches, and you have the combination for a tough division.
The SEC Championship is always a good comparison of competitiveness between the division's top teams. The first SEC Championship was in 1992, and from 1992-1998, the East won 6 out of the first 7 championship games. However, from 1999-2008, the West has won 5 out of the last 9.
Now, since we have that out of the way that we have proven the SEC West is a competitive division along with the SEC East, let's take a look at the SEC West predictions.
Most Likely to Win the SEC West
Auburn Tigers (returns 17 starters; 8-Offense; 9-Defense)
Auburn returns a full arsenal of starters and debuts their spread offense, which should do wonders with QB Kodi Burns. I know, I know, you've heard the same story, Auburn is the favorite. The reason I feel they are the SEC favorite is just a quick glance at their schedule. Their toughest SEC games seems to be at home, Georgia, LSU, and Tennessee. I feel as if they can win 7 in a row over Alabama, they have a great chance of visiting Atlanta.
Most Likely in for a Down Year
Mississippi State (returns 14 starters; 6-Offense; 8-Defense)
Although many SEC fans think this is Arkansas, call me bias against my team's arch-rival, but hear me out first. Mississippi State showed great signs of improvement last year with 8 wins, but did you notice all the close calls they seemed to have last year? They caught Auburn early and narrowly escaped with the 19-14 win. Although the score doesn't indicate, they played UAB close for three and a half quarters, as UAB was leading 10-9 after the third quarter. They barely held off Alabama , and made a major comeback on Ole Miss, after Ole Miss led 14-0 at the end of the third quarter. If those games were to sway the other way, which any could've, they would've managed three wins for the 2007 season. I feel as though with the departing defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, All-SEC defender Titus Brown, and the combination of close games from the 2007 season, in my opinion, makes for a disappointing down year. Their SEC schedule isn't boastful either, going to LSU, Alabama, Tennessee, and Ole Miss (which I might add where the Bulldogs haven't won in a decade).
SEC West Winner Sleeper
Alabama Crimson Tide (returns 13 starters; 7 offense; 6 defense)
I'm not jumping on the bandwagon, but I know that Nick Saban is a winner. Bama fans were somewhat disappointed last season by winning 6 games in the regular season and a trip to the Independence Bowl, but I believe Saban has a chance to win the SEC West this season. Also, Nick Saban has brought in the #1 recruiting class in the nation, as Julio Jones will replace D.J. Hall in the group of wide receivers, and Star Jackson will be a quality backup QB for John Parker Wilson.
SEC West Predictions
1) Auburn (last season: 9-4)
2) LSU (last season: 12-2)
3) Alabama (last season: 7-6)
4) Ole Miss (last season: 3-9)
5) Mississippi State (last season: 8-5)
6) Arkansas (last season 8-5)