After another extremely competitive year, it's time for the 2011 SEC predictions. The defending SEC and National Champion Auburn Tigers lost a myriad of talented players; this means that the SEC is wide open for next year. With many recruits still undecided, and spring practice still months away, here is an early preview...
For years Vanderbilt has been the laughing stalk of the SEC; unfortunately for them, that is not going to change. Following a 2-10 season with only one SEC win, things will continue to be more of the same before.
Ole Miss is just not a good football team. They lost to Vanderbilt and Jacksonville State in 2010. It doesn’t seem likely that things will turn around quickly for them, especially in the extremely competitive SEC West. Just like Vanderbilt, except more of the same from Mississippi.
They were able to pull off a 6-6 record including a big win over SEC East Champion, South Carolina. Joker Phillips, has the team headed in the right direction for the 2011 season, but the SEC will be brutal as usual next year. With Locke graduated and Cobb likely to declare, there will be many holes in the offense for the unproven signal caller, Morgan Newton. It will be extremely difficult for the Wildcats to win more than two SEC games.
The 9-4 season under Dan Mullen was not a fluke. They played extremely physical and fast football on route to 4 SEC wins. The problem is that they also had 4 SEC loses against Arkansas, LSU, Alabama and Auburn, some of the best competition in the country. Unfortunately for Mississippi State, they still have to play all those teams next year. They will win the games that they should but I do not see them pulling off many upsets against the tough SEC West foes especially with all the talent that they are losing on the defense.
South Carolina burst out of the gates this year with three straight wins. They finished at a respectable 9-5 record which included a bid to the SEC Championship Game. They are returning Stephen Garcia, Alshon Jeffery, and Marcus Lattimore. That powerful threesome will be one of the best. With head coach Steve Spurrier returning one would think that it would be another great season, but the players leaving may be too much to overcome. Don’t be surprised if South Carolina, who will be preseason Top-25 team, disappoints and finishes in the bottom half of the SEC.
After the dismal start to the season for Tennessee, the future looked bleak. After substituting true freshman Tyler Bray into the starting quarterback role, they rolled off four straight wins and lost in a controversial bowl game. Tennessee was able to sign another top caliber recruiting class. With Bray at quarterback and Dooly at head coach, the future is bright at Tennessee. Look for a Top 3 SEC East finish.
Seldom does UGA finish with a losing record, and last year was one of those rare years. Look for UGA to bounce back without AJ Green. The main reason for this will be experience. This will be Georgia’s second year with the 3-4 defense which should allow them to be a much improved defense. Along with the defense, the biggest difference for next year will be Aaron Murray’s experience. With a full season of experience, look for Murray to spread the ball around to his underrated receiving core, including Orson Charles, Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, and Michael Bennett. Georgia currently has a top-15 recruiting class to compliment the talent that is already in place. Look for Georgia to compete with Florida for the top spot in the SEC East.
Coming off of a National Championship, Auburn will be losing a lot of key starters. Although they are losing much of their offensive and defensive lines, along with their secondary and likely Cameron Newton, they are returning enough players with experience to compete in the SEC again. Look for Michael Dyer to lead the Auburn Tigers and their top ten recruiting to another good season.
After a BCS Bowl bid in 2010, don’t be surprised to see Arkansas back in another BCS game. Although they are losing the extremely talented Ryan Mallett, look for Tyler Wilson, who showed spurts of potential this year, to become a great quarterback next year. He will be surrounded by a great core of skill players that includes: Knile Davis, Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright. The steady running game and explosive passing game should create a great offense. Expect Arkansas to be very good next year.
It was a down year for Florida. Urban Myer and his spread offense are now gone and Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis are in with a pro-style offense. This will be work much better for their current quarterback John Brantley. Florida will have the offense under wise working by fall. The defense will be very good again next year. Florida is the early favorite in the east.
The Tigers fished last season at 11-2 with a Cotton Bowl win. The key to their success last season was an incredible defense. They will continue to have a great defense. Jordan Jefferson is now entering his senior season and has shown glimpses of potential. With Michael Ford at running back and a solid receiving core, LSU should have a much improved offense. They are definitely contenders in the SEC.
By far the most talented team is the SEC; Alabama will continue to win in 2011. With the great coaching staff led by Nick Saban, Alabama is a National Championship contender. They are bringing back stars like Trent Richardson and Marquis Maze to compliment former Elite Eleven quarterback, A.J. McCarron. Along with returning stars, Alabama has a top three recruiting class in the Nation. They will have a very hard offense to stop, and as Michigan State learned the hard way; a very tough offense to score on. Alabama will win the SEC next year and the National Championship.