SEC West Predictions from SEC Football Breakdown podcast
6. Mississippi State
Dan Mullen has the folks in Starkville excited but he's still got a ways to go before they are back in contention for a higher spot in the division. MSU should be much improved on offense in the second year under his system but the defense is where State really needs to improve if they are going to move forward. I expect MSU to pull a couple of upsets but in the end I don't think they have enough to get over the hump this year.
Houston Nutt has put a lot on the shoulders of former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli. What role he has on the team is yet to be seen (and I do think he's a difference maker) guys like Brandon Bolden are going to have to step up this year to give the Rebels (that's still the mascot, right?) and chance at all of avoiding the cellar. The ranks are young and thin with experience in Oxford but a favorable early schedule makes a bowl bid a more probable task. Nutt needs to take advantage of that and rebuild the troops with solid recruiting or he and the Rebels will be left behind in the SEC West.
A lot is being made about the Auburn offense and how potent it might be in the second year of Gus Malzhan's hands. However, it's the defense that will still tell the tale for the Tigers this season. While they should be improved due to the arrival of new bodies which will help with depth, inexperience is likely going to cost them in a few big games. Auburn's a good team but they aren't quite ready to take the next step just yet unless a lot of odd things happen to the teams ahead of them.
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Hey, I admit, the difference between Arkansas and Auburn is very minimal. In fact, the only reason Arkansas is ranked higher is because the Hogs offense is wicked good and can bail out the defense. I expect nothing but more of the same from Arkansas in 2010 - points on the board and dare you to try and out score them. Some will but not many can and I think if Mallett stays healthy and has good protection and just slight improvement from his defensive teammates, Arkansas should be in a solid position here in the West. Bobby Petrino needs to wise up and hire a solid defensive coordinator STAT if he intends to get the Hogs beyond this mark though.
People tell me all the time how stupid Les Miles is and I'll admit, he's anything but orthodox. However, he's not an idiot and towards the end of last year, I think he realized how his talented team was off-kilter. He brought in another great class of young talent (not a surprise at LSU - been doing it for years) and from what I've seen, there's improvement all around. However, they still lack an identity on offense but that could be all part of the smoke and mirrors that is spring football. If LSU improves the line play and gets back to running the ball and being physical on the defensive front, they have the talent to hang with the big boys for sure.
Yes - Alabama lost a ton on defense but what's replacing those players includes some of the best recruits in the nation AND a load of guys who played significant roles in the championship run last season. On offense, the Crimson Tide are as stacked as they've been in long time. So, while the defense may fall back from last year's lofty heights, the offense led by a smashmouth running game and a smart quarterback will be enough to put Alabama back in Atlanta for the SEC championship game.
So there you have my picks for the SEC West.
So who will win it? Click the next slide.
SEC 2010 Champions: Alabama
That's right. I predict a repeat championship run for Alabama. They'll get there winning a lot of close games but they'll get there.
Read my SEC East predictions here--->http://tinyurl.com/24g4yyq
And I think they'll be back in the BCS Championship game to try and do what no team has done in the BCS era - repeat!
Thanks for reading and here's to another season of SEC football!
Don't forget to listen to the podcast for details and to hear my partners' thoughts and picks but here are mine for the SEC West.
Also on ITunes--->http://tinyurl.com/25p6r4y