College football season is finally approaching its start, and what better time to start throwing around previews for the entire season, based on last year's performance, spring practice, and the new talent that recruiting brings.
But hey, I love it just as much as the next college football fanatic. And what better place to start than with the conference that has provided the last two BCS National Champions. That's right the vaunted SEC, more specifically for this preview, the SEC East.
Let's start with a breakdown of how the standings should end up when all is said and done...
1. Florida Gators—Tebow and his super friends have the most talented offense in the league, maybe the nation. If the defense steps up and I believe it will under the guidance of Charlie Strong, the Gators can win their second BCS Championship in three years.
2. Georgia Bulldogs—The 'Dawgs probably have the most complete team in the SEC East; they also have the toughest schedule. With road games at Ariz St, USC, LSU, Florida (neutral site?—it's still in Florida), and Auburn. Brutal! Also, with so much hype this preseason, I look for the 'Dawgs to fold a little under the pressure.
3. South Carolina Gamecocks—With the addition of new Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson, look for the Gamecock defense to be vastly improved from last year. The return of Jasper Brinkley (LB) and Nathan Pepper (DT) should also sure up the run defense. Spurrier has found his QB he believes can make smart game managing situations in Junior (RS) Tommy Beecher. Beecher has plenty of weapons at his disposal including first—team SEC selection Kenny McKinley (WR), Jared Cook (TE) and Mike Davis (RB). Look for the 'Cocks to upset one of the "Big Three" of the Eastern Division in 2008.
4. Tennessee Volunteers—With the departure of QB Erik Ainge and coordinator David Cutcliffe, I look for the Vols to take a step back this year from last year's division title. The Vols return leading rusher Arian Foster and a solid group of DBs to lead the defense. The Vols will compete, but the above three are just a little better this year.
5. Vanderbilt Commodores—Vandy looks to climb out the cellar of the East for the first time since 2005. The 'dores have experienced and talented QBs in Senior Chris Nickson and Junior Mackenzi Adams, but having to replace almost the entire offensive line and top receiver for the past three years is too much for Vandy to improve from last year.
6. Kentucky Wildcats—Head Coach Rich Brooks knew it would be tough to replace his leading passer for the past three seasons, but with the trouble the replacements are getting into, it just got a lot harder. Brooks dismissed leading candidate Curtis Pulley this week for violations of team rules. The departure of leading rusher Rafael Little and the below—average defense do little to enhance Kentucky's chances of competing in the SEC in 2008.
5 Key Games (with eastern division champion implications of course):
SEP. 13—Georgia at South Carolina—Spurrier spurred Richt last year in Athens. Look for Georgia to try to return the favor. USC consistently plays Georgia close and I expect no different this year. Will Georgia overlook USC for next week's matchup at Arizona State, or will Knowshon Moreno run wild over the Gamecock defense?
SEP. 20—Florida at Tennessee—Always a great match up! This one could be scary for the Gators for two reasons. It's their third game of the year and it's at Tennessee, one of the most difficult places to play in the nation.
OCT. 11—Tennessee at Georgia—Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!...all that is on the mind of the Georgia faithful.
OCT. 25—Georgia at LSU—If the 'Dawgs can escape their brutal schedule with only one conference loss, next weeks showdown becomes even bigger. But they have to get through this one first and LSU is no joke.
NOV. 1—Florida at Georgia—Who goes to Atlanta to play for the SEC title may already be decided before this game, but it still has huge SEC and BCS implications. I think the Gators really want to "celebrate" big if they win this one.
That's it for now...Stay tuned for a preview of the SEC West and weekly SEC updates during the season.
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