SEC 2010: Looking Ahead

David HedlindAnalyst IIJuly 3, 2010

The has settled on expansion and realignment, at least for now.

I had to question why the SEC was even thinking of expansion. I get that if the Pac-10 or Big Ten would have expanded beyond 12 teams, that the SEC would have looked to add a couple to keep up in numbers, but with the recent and current success of the conference would it have really been needed?

Why not give it a year or two to see if the 16 team conference experiment actually works? Why ruin the conference by adding teams before we even know if a conference with more than 12 members can actually work?

We already know one try, the old WAC, failed. Who is to say that it will work now any better than before?

As for this coming season, the SEC coaching carousel didn’t move a whole lot.

Urban Meyer took a leave of absence but came back before spring practice even started. Very little impact there.

Rich Brooks has stepped down at Kentucky giving way to Joker Phillips. Phillips was named coach in waiting a couple seasons ago and now takes over a decent situation at Kentucky.

In my opinion Brooks is something of a foundation coach. He laid a foundation at Oregon that paved the way for Mike Bellotti to make the Ducks Pac-10 contenders nearly every year, along with a couple of runs at the national title.

Brooks led Kentucky to four consecutive bowl games, the most in school history. He brought in decent recruiting classes, better than what Kentucky was getting before he was there. Now it is time to see if Phillips can not only maintain what Brooks built, but continue to build the program up even more. The next step is to contend for the SEC East.

Another new coach is Derek Dooley at Tennessee. If you don’t know this story, you probably aren’t really a fan of college football.

Lane Kiffin came and went in one season at Tennessee, before returning to USC where he was offensive coordinator in '05 and '06. While there is plenty of animosity toward Kiffin from the Vol fans, it should be remembered that he did lead them to a winning season, and a bowl game after missing out the year before.

The Vols came within a blocked field goal from beating Alabama and only lost to Florida by 10 compared to the 54 points from 08. These were the two teams that played for the SEC title and Alabama was the eventual National Champion.

Dooley comes from the Louisiana Tech, which, despite the location, is part of the WAC. There are many who wonder if his coaching chops are enough to compete in the SEC after being unable to post a winning record in the far weaker WAC. In three years there he was only 17-20.

On the other hand some point to his lineage. He is the son of legendary Georgia head coach Vince Dooley. I don’t really think knowledge is something that is hereditary, though. Just because daddy was a good coach doesn’t mean Derek will be too.

Over that last few years, winning the SEC has pretty much meant going to the National Championship game. Short of that, the Sugar Bowl is the BCS bowl for the SEC.

The Capital One, Outback, Cotton and Chick-Fil-A Bowls are the next to select. This is the same as before.

The first line up change is Gator Bowl which comes in and jumps over the Music City and Liberty Bowls in order. The Independence Bowl against the Big XII is now replaced by the bowl against the Big East for the final spot.

It is pretty easy to pick the defending National Champions, Alabama, to win the conference again. The challengers in the west will likely be among any of Auburn, Arkansas, and LSU. As for who they will meet from the East, Florida is the favorite but might get a slight challenge from Georgia. After that, South Carolina could be viewed as a dark horse contender.