This article is the beginning of an eight-part series that will predict outcome of the 2008 college football season. There will be one article for each BCS conference, one for top non-BCS schools, and an article of my top 25 rankings along with analyzing key non- conference match-ups.
The SEC once again is the deepest and toughest conference in college football. It has the most coaching talent in the league with 11 of the 12 coaches in the league being proven winners and five coaches with national titles (Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, Phil Fullmer, Nick Saban, and Les Miles).
As a result, the SEC will beat each other up and will not have a team appear in the title game. The team that is hurt most by this is the preseason No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs.
They have national championship talent, but tough road games at Auburn, Arizona State (first time going west of the Mississippi since 1960's), and Florida in Jacksonville will cost them a national title.
Winner: Florida defeats Auburn in championship game
Florida returns Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and their top wide receivers. USC transfer Emmanuel Moody fills a hole at running back and will lower Florida's fumbles. They also return eight starters on an improving defense.
However, outside of a road trip to Knoxville, all of Florida's tough games are in the state of Florida, and that will pull the Gators ahead of the Georgia for the SEC East and title.
Surprise Team: Alabama Crimson Tide
Nick Saban, with his top-ranked recruiting class, will surprise some people in the SEC. With the power of the SEC shifting to the East, Alabama has a relatively easy schedule (by SEC standards) and will eight or nine games this season.
Disappointment: LSU Tigers
A key to winning in college football is having top-tier skill players. Having a top quarterback can turn a program with mediocre talent into a national title contender (Missouri 2007, Utah 2004, Auburn 2004).
However, talented programs with quarterback problems often underachieve. The loss of Ryan Perilloux will hurt LSU more than anticipated, as they do not a clear successor to Matt Flynn.
Inconsistent play by the inexperienced quarterbacks fighting for a starting job will give the Tigers an off year before returning to national prominence.
Also they have a tough schedule by traveling to Florida and Auburn while playing Georgia at home.
Georgia vs. Florida: This may be the most important game in the history of the World's Largest Cocktail Party. The winner of this game will most likely win the SEC East and the conference championship, while the loser plays in the Capital One Bowl. This is also a matchup between two Heisman trophy contenders, Tim Tebow and Knowshon Moreno.
Florida vs. Tennessee: Phil Fullmer may need to win this game to save his job. Florida needs to win this to appear in the national title, as they escaped with a win in 2006.
Georgia vs. Auburn: Another tough road test for Georgia. If Auburn wins this game, count them in the SEC championship game.
Alabama vs. Auburn: Can Alabama turn around its recent futility in the Iron Bowl? Winning this game can return Alabama with national credibility and a SEC West title.
SEC Projected Standings
1) Florida 11-1 (7-1) Sugar Bowl
2) Georgia 9-3 (6-2)
3) Tennessee 9-3 (5-3)
tied 4) South Carolina 6-6 (3-5)
tied 4) Kentucky 6-6 (3-5)
6) Vanderbilt 3-9 (1-7)
1) Auburn 10-2 (7-1)
tied 2) Alabama 8-4 (5-3)
tied 2) LSU 9-3 (5-3)
4) Mississippi State 7-5 (4-4)
5) Arkansas 5-7 (3-5)
6) Ole Miss 2-10 (0-8)