by Jay Holgate
Welcome to SEC Sports Report pre-season picks. We're glad you joined us as we take a look at Southeastern conference Football 2008. We have compiled our picks for how the SEC East will end the year. Our picks are always different from the rest of the media but we're right more times than wrong. Remove a couple of plays from each game and we are near genius.
The USA Today pre-season rankings have the Georgia Bulldogs #1, Florida Gators #5, LSU #6, Auburn #11 and Tennessee at #18. The Gamecocks and Alabama are just under the top 25 radar.
Let's look at the SEC East: We're anticipating a fight for #1 spot in the SEC East between the Bulldogs and the Gators. The winner of this game should be the SEC East champs. We are anticipating the winner of the SEC East to have at least one loss this season because of the difficulty in playing such tough teams in the Southeastern conference.
#1 Florida Gators--Our top pick in the East are the Gators. The 2007 season was a maturing year with a very difficult schedule and high expectations. The 2008 schedule is friendlier, the team is more experienced and there is just so much talent on this team, Florida will be hard to beat. The Gators will once again be lead by Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow.
Tebow is like Superman and nobody wants to play against him. Coach Urban Meyer has said Tebow will distribute the ball to other playmakers on the team a lot more this season. With the national media pressure on Georgia, Florida can just do what they do best....win football games.
#2 Georgia Bulldogs--Coming off a #2 final season ranking in 2007, Mark Richt probably has the most talented team he has ever coached. The Dawgs are big , fast and have depth at every position. The Bulldogs have 17 returning starters and an experienced quarterback in Matthew Stafford and one of the top running backs in the country in Knowshon Moreno. Watching Moreno run over defenders reminds me of the glory days of Herschel Walker.
Great coaches, great players, tough schedule. Georgia will have a great year. The additional pressure of being pre-season #1 is a negative in our books. Every team will be gunning to knock off Georgia. Florida and Auburn have spent their entire off-seasons motivating their players to beat Georgia. Too much talent on this team to lose many games. When Georgia is playing well, they can beat anybody.
#3 South Carolina--In Columbia, Steve Spurrier starts his 4th year with the Gamecocks and the alumni are cautiously optimistic about the 2008 season. Spurrier opens up against NC State for the first ESPN game of the season on August 28. The Gamecocks are our SEC East spoiler team. Because the Gamecocks are so much under the radar, we believe they have a chance of upsetting at least one of the Florida-Georgia-Tennessee golden triangle due to the scheduling of their games.
Gamecocks schedule is less difficult than 2007 and the defense will be much better coached by new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. The big question mark for the Gamecocks is the quarterback position and with Spurrier we may see multiple quarterbacks in the first two games. South Carolina should be improved over last year.
#4 Tennessee Volunteers-- Last years SEC East champs, have a new offensive coordinator and a difficult challenge in returning to the SEC East top spot. Head coach Phillip Fulmer got a nice extension to his contract during the off-season so he can focus on football. We tend to think that hungry coaches are better motivators of football teams.
Fulmer has a fan base that wants more and it reminds us of the Houston Nutt situation last year. When you win the division and your fan base is still not pleased, it puts too much on a coach to be at their best. The Vols have a new offensive coordinator in Dave Clawson and a very talented quarterback in 6'4, 220 lb Jonathon Crompton. Fulmer had such a comfort level and so much success with offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe that we believe there will be growing pains in offense this year. We believe the Vols will have a winning season but will not be in contention for the SEC championship.
#5 Kentucky Wildcats--In Lexington, Kentucky finished 8-5 and upset Florida State in the Music city bowl. Kentucky was one of two teams that beat national champion LSU 43-37 in 3 overtimes. Kentucky also beat in-state rival Louisville 40-34. However, Kentucky has had off-season quarterback problems so they could be in a re-building year. With the loss of Andre Woodson and three great receivers, it will be tough for the Wildcats to repeat with a great year. We still believe Rich Brooks should go to a bowl game in this season.
#6 Vanderbilt Commodores--Vanderbilt finished 2007 with a 5-7 record. The Commodores beat Ole Miss and South Carolina in the SEC. Coach Johnson nearly beat Georgia at home and Tennessee in Knoxville. In 2008, Vanderbilt returns only 9 seniors and is probably in a re-building year. Anything can happen on Saturday and Vanderbilt is always in position to pull an upset. With only 3 returners on offense and 6 on defense, this could be a tough year in Nashville.
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