SEC West Up For Grabs

Daniel SmithCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2008

It has been a long off season, but football season is finally upon us. SEC media days just concluded, and fall camps will open on August 1. It will be no time before we are all watching our favorite teams open their season; each team's fans are optimistic when giving predictions on how their team will fare.

The SEC East is basically a two team race between Georgia, with their stud running back Knowshon Moreno, and Florida, with their Superman and Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow, but the SEC west is a whole other story.

The reigning SEC champs LSU graduated many of their major contributors last year and kicked their would-be starting quarterback Ryan Perrilloux off the team. Many people have said that Les Miles is only doing well because of the plethora of talent that Nick Saban left when he departed for the NFL. This year we will find out if that is true, or if Les Miles really is a good coach.

Auburn upgraded their offensive coordinator position when they hired Tony Franklin, but will struggle in their first year running the spread. They also hired Paul Rhoads as their new defensive coordinator to replace Will Muschamp, who departed to take the same position at Texas. Auburn returns a lot of talent on defense, but Rhoads is not a defensive genius like Muschamp.

Alabama, in head coach Nick Saban's second year, faces some of the same problems this year as it did last: developing depth and playing with more consistency. They return eight starters on offense, but lost their only pass rushing threat from last year's team in Wallace Gilberry, and are thin at the linebacker position this year.

We all saw what Alabama can do when they play a complete game; just ask Tennessee, who suffered a 41-17 beat down by the Tide last season. On the other hand, we all saw how inconsistent 'Bama really was when they lost to UL Monroe. New offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will run the same overall scheme as Alabama ran last year, but will make it easier for senior quarterback John Parker Wilson.

They will also count on many of the freshmen from their No. 1 incoming recruiting class to contribute this year, and how fast they mature will decide how good Alabama is this year.

Mississippi State looks to build on their breakthrough season, and they return a punishing running attack with Christian Ducre and Anthony Dixon. If they can get consistent play from quarterback Wesley Carroll they will be a force in the west, and could be in contention at season's end. Sylvester Croom has this team moving in the right direction.

Ole Miss should be improved this year. They hired Houston Nutt, and stole Enrique Davis from the Auburn Tigers just before signing day. That means Coach Nutt has another stud at running back, which he had at Arkansas. I think the guy's name was something like McFadden.

Arkansas will struggle a lot this year after losing the aforementioned Darren McFadden and his running mate Felix Jones. After hiring Bobby Petrino, however, don't look for Arkansas to be at the bottom of the barrel for too long. 

The West will be as wild as ever, but here is how I see it playing out: 

Ole Miss will actually win a conference game, but they and Arkansas will bring up the rear in the West. Everybody will prove to be right about Les Miles living off of Saban's players, and LSU loses all of the games that they should have lost last year, and finish tied for third in the west with Mississippi State at 8-4.

The Iron Bowl will decide who advances to Atlanta this year. Will Auburn extend their streak against Alabama to seven games? Or will John Parker Wilson lead the Tide to a shot at a 22nd SEC championship?


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