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College Football 2011: How the SEC Will Unfold

Joe PetruloCorrespondent IIIJune 1, 2016

College Football 2011: How the SEC Will Unfold

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    The SEC has been the most impressive conference in college football for years, and this season will be no different.

    Typical contenders like Alabama, Auburn, and LSU will all be ready to make a run at a conference title.

    The list will not end there, with talented teams filling out the bottom of the conference as well.

    Let's take a look at how the SEC will play out in 2011-12.

East: 6. Vanderbilt Commodores

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    2010 SEC Record:  1-7

    2010 Overall Record:  2-10

    Vanderbilt begins the 2011 season with a new head coach.

    The James Franklin era begins for the Commodores, who will look to turn things around.

    Despite a great 2008 season, Vanderbilt has struggled to find relevance.

    This will be a development season as they transition to a new coach and begin to change the culture. 

    Their schedule will not allow them a single SEC victory, but they should find a couple of non-conference wins.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  0-8

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  2-10 

East: 5. Kentucky Wildcats

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    2010 SEC Record:  2-6

    2010 Overall Record:  6-7

    Kentucky failed to find significant success with Mike Hartline as their quarterback.

    The stellar signal caller is now gone, and Morgan Newton is likely to replace him.

    Kentucky will struggle yet again this season, failing to find relevance since the departure of Andre Woodson.

    Their non-conference schedule should give them the bulk of their wins while their SEC schedule includes road trips to LSU, South Carolina, and Georgia.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  2-6

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  5-7

East: 4. Georgia Bulldogs

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    2010 SEC Record:  3-5

    2010 Overall Record:  6-7

    Georgia returns most of its core from a mediocre team in 2010.

    Still, this roster will need to make significant improvements to play up to Georgia's typical expectations.

    A somewhat difficult schedule could be tough to navigate through, especially with the lack of standout players returning.

    A loss to Boise State to open the season may kill the psyche of this team for the rest of the year. A win could help this team turn things around.

    Odds are that the Broncos carry on with their recent dominance and take down the Bulldogs.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  4-4

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  7-5

East: 3. Tennessee Volunteers

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    2010 SEC Record:  3-5

    2010 Overall Record:  6-7

    Tennessee has an extremely tough schedule in 2011.

    They face all of the top teams in the SEC, but have a manageable non-conference schedule.

    The leadership of players of 2010 All-Conference selections Malik Jackson, Prentiss Wagner, and Janzen Jackson should help create one of the best defenses in the SEC.

    This should help them scratch ahead of Georgia with a win over the Bulldogs on October 8.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  4-4

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  7-5

East: 2. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    2010 SEC Record:  5-3

    2010 Overall Record:  9-5

    South Carolina has a very impressive 2010 campaign headed by phenom freshman running back Marcus Lattimore.

    The season abruptly ended with two losses, including a 56-17 blowout in the SEC Championship.

    Lattimore returns as the cog of this offense that will also feature a stud on the outside in wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey.

    This team is filled with talent, and attracting the renowned Jadeveon Clowney should help the defense deal with a number of losses.

    Steve Spurrier has not been able to get to the top of this conference, and last year's championship appearance may have been the closest he will ever get.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  5-3

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  9-3

East: 1. Florida Gators

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    2010 SEC Record:  4-4

    2010 Overall Record:  8-5

    The Gators lost a ton of contributors from the defense, but that may not be the worst thing for this program.

    Florida needs to enter this new era with a sense of confidence in 2011.

    New players need to gain experience quickly. If they can get through the back-to-back weeks of Alabama and LSU with one win, this team could easily win the East.

    They probably have the easiest schedule of all the East teams and will look to capitalize on it with a special year.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  6-2

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  10-2

     

West: 6. Ole Miss Rebels

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    2010 SEC Record:  1-7

    2010 Overall Record:  4-8

    Life really just isn't fair for the Ole Miss Rebels football program.

    They have to deal with five schools that can contend for BCS bowls within their side of the SEC.

    As usual, they have scheduled a couple of good non-conference games with BYU coming to town and a trip to Fresno State.

    The team will feature an experienced offensive line that will need to protect projected new starting quarterback Nathan Stanley.

    Ole Miss will find it difficult to return to relevance this season in the brutal SEC West.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  2-6

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  5-7

West: 5. Auburn Tigers

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    2010 SEC Record:  8-0

    2010 Overall Record:  14-0

    There are probably two types of Auburn fans.

    Some may still be feeling the joy of the championship run, and are failing to look at reality for the 2011 season.

    Others are probably being realistic, knowing that the team could have some bumpy patches in 2011.

    Auburn will struggle this season. They return only four starters on offense and four starters on defense.

    Cam Newton will not be there to save the day in close games this season.

    Hopefully, the struggles will not push fans to turn back to how they felt on Day 1 about Gene Chizik.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  3-5

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  7-5

West: 4. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    2010 SEC Record:  4-4

    2010 Overall Record:  9-4

    Everyone is waiting for Mississippi State to take the next step in the SEC.

    Last season, they appeared primed to take it this season.

    A solid 4-4 conference record was actually a step forward for the program.

    Vick Ballard is overshadowed by all the other big name running backs in the conference, but he brings it every weekend.

    This year, Mississippi State will prove that they are not all that far from taking the next step, but the conference is still simply superior.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  5-3

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  8-4

West: 3. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    2010 SEC Record:  6-2

    2010 Overall Record:  10-3

    Arkansas had a great season in Ryan Mallett's last year as a Razorback.

    This year, they will miss him more than people think.

    Still, Knile Davis returns to lead the rushing game. He will likely have to do most of the work for this offense in 2011.

    If Bobby Petrino can find a quarterback to somewhat fill Mallett's shoes, this team will be just fine.

    In this scenario, a win over Mississippi State gives them the edge over the Bulldogs.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  5-3

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  8-4

West: 2. LSU Tigers

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    2010 SEC Record:  6-2

    2010 Overall Record:  11-2

    Jordan Jefferson has one last chance.

    He has been a successful college football player, but has been the picture of inconsistency in his time at LSU.

    He will likely be on a short leash as a senior, with huge expectations building in Baton Rouge.

    It is his time to rise to the occasion, or go out as a high-potential quarterback that never panned out.

    My guess is that the latter happens, and his replacement (Jarrett Lee or Zach Mettenberger)  takes this team close, but just short of an SEC Championship game.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  7-1

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  10-2

West: 1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    2010 SEC Record:  5-3

    2010 Overall Record:  10-3

    Auburn took the spotlight from its arch rival Alabama last season.

    This year, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will snatch it back.

    The team returns seven starters on offense and an astounding 10 on defense.

    There are a number of impact players on this defense at all levels, including linebacker Dont'a Hightower and senior safety Mark Barron.

    Alabama has an easier schedule than LSU this season.

    As long as they can hold serve at home against the Tigers, we will see them in the conference championship game.

    Projected 2011 SEC Record:  7-1

    Projected 2011 Overall Record:  11-1

SEC Championship: Alabama over Florida

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    This game, if it happens, could turn out to be just as ugly as the 2010 edition.

    Last year, Auburn romped South Carolina 56-17, after South Carolina had an extraordinary season for the program.

    In this scenario, Florida has gotten back on track for the first time since Urban Meyer left. These two teams are scheduled to meet during the regular season. If Florida can compete and ultimately take down the Crimson Tide on its home turf, the Gators will be extremely confident heading into this game.

    Nick Saban and Alabama will crush their dreams of the vaunted SEC title with a defensively dominant performance as they head into a big-time BCS bowl game.

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