Well football fans, the 2011 college football season is less than 50 days away now, and fall camp will be opening soon.
That means SEC fans are getting ready for another fantastic season of football. There is nothing that compares to a fall Saturday of football to the people of the South. They live, breathe and eat SEC football, and that is one of the many reasons so many recruits have signed on to play in the prestigious power conference.
Every SEC fan thinks it will be their year. It brings hope of another year of dominance for the powerhouse of last year or a year to break out and finally join the elite teams again.
But alas, not everyone can be winners.
This list will break down the best teams entering the upcoming season, so let’s get started.
Not much to say here.
Vanderbilt is severely lacking in talent. That is something you just cannot afford while playing in the nation’s best conference.
The Commodores have an excellent academic program, but they will be down in football for a while.
Houston Nutt gave the Rebels a lot of hope when he led the team to consecutive 9-4 seasons to start off his career in Oxford.
Last year, however, the coach fell on hard times; Ole Miss went 4-8, winning only one game in SEC play.
I don’t see them getting much better any time soon. Nutt will continue to try and develop a quarterback, but I see this turning out just like every other time he has tried to coach a quarterback.
I like Joker Phillips.
With that being said, I see this as a down year for Kentucky. They lost a lot with the departure of do-it-all player Randall Cobb, whom they relied on heavily last season. The Wildcats enter this year with a lot of questions that will need to be answered in a hurry if they want to make it to a bowl again.
If Morgan Newton can perform well at quarterback, I see this team winning six and going to another bowl. But with less talent, the odds will be stacked against the second-year head coach in Lexington.
There’s no doubting the progress the Bulldogs made last year. They went from a team in the cellar to a solid nine-win team almost overnight. They had a great year, and Dan Mullen will continue to work his magic to improve the once-down-and-out program.
But I think they will struggle this year, and teams will no longer overlook them after they showed what they could do in 2010. MSU returns many key players though, such as QB Chris Relf and RB Vick Ballard.
I see the Bulldogs getting to a bowl once again, but they will not have the kind of success they enjoyed last year. Dan Mullen will lead them to great things, but not this season.
The recent turbulence of the Florida program is bound to catch up to them.
Things have been going downhill for the Gators since the 2009 SEC Championship. With Coaches stepping down, coaches coming back, more stepping down and finally a new coaching hire, the Gators are looking for a little consistency in the upcoming season.
They will have massive amounts of talent as usual in Gainesville, but that only takes you so far in college football today.
I think the coaching changes and installation of a completely new system will hinder that talent and hold the Gators to another average season.
Speaking of recent coaching turbulence, we have Tennessee at No. 7.
Things have been crazy on Rocky Top since Phil Fulmer stepped down in 2008; NCAA investigations, the Lane Kiffin debacle and the disastrous 2010 season.
Despite this, things are finally looking up for the Vols and new coach Derek Dooley.
Dooley has put together a great offensive line and is looking to improve off a 6-7 bowl team he put together last year. Tennessee will likely rely on the success of sophomore QB Tyler Bray, who broke all of UT’s freshman passing records last season.
Tennessee still had plenty of things to overcome though.
They will need to work with a thin defensive line and injuries at linebacker. The return of star safety Janzen Jackson will help out the defense though, as UT will have a stellar secondary.
I see the Vols much improved this year, and I believe they will win 7-8 games in Dooley’s sophomore year as coach.
Auburn may be defending champions, but they will not see such glory this season. Auburn lost leaders Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and most of their receiving corps from their great run last year.
The Tigers did bring in a stellar recruiting class, but that doesn’t promise success in the SEC.
I think the incoming freshman will provide depth to the team and that will give them a few extra wins in conference play, but they will have to wait a few years before they reach the level they played at last season.
Georgia has been an exhausting team to follow these past few years. It has been a roller-coaster for the Bulldogs and their fanbase, but they are hoping 2011 will be their year to shine.
Aaron Murray proved his worth at quarterback, leading the Bulldogs as a redshirt freshman. Murray put up dazzling numbers, but he did fail to lead the team to a winning season. Georgia pulled in a great recruiting class that can only help their cause.
I think the Bulldogs will be much improved this year, but they still have a few questions that need to be answered. The recent issues at running back will put pressure on a new face to step up and replace the two leading rushers from last season.
Despite that, I believe Georgia will perform well in 2011. They will likely finish second in the SEC East.
The Razorbacks sure have come a long way in the past decade. The hire of outstanding coach Bobby Petrino has helped them become a contender every year.
Ryan Mallett may have graduated, but Tyler Wilson looks to start right where Mallett left off. Wilson will have a lot of help from the Arkansas receiving corps that will be the best in the SEC, if not the best in the nation.
The Razorbacks may have some questions on the defensive side of the ball, but I think their offense will make up for that. Wide receiver Greg Childs is back for another year in which he will contend to be one of the best players in the SEC. They also return leading rusher Knile Davis, who rushed for a staggering 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010.
With that much talent at the skill positions, Arkansas is destined for great things this year.
Look at how far Steve Spurrier has come with the once-embarrassing Gamecocks.
He took USC to their first SEC Championship game appearance last season and looks to build on that success. He will have the talent to do so, as they return their starting quarterback, running back and wide receiver. South Carolina did lose some key contributors on the offensive line and defense, though.
The Gamecocks will have to overcome these losses and a difficult schedule if they want to repeat as East champions, but as of right now, they are the clear favorite.
After a solid Cotton Bowl-winning, 11-2 season, Les Miles is hoping to be a step better this year.
He will have an abundance of talent that will challenge Alabama for the top spot in the SEC. I see the Tigers having a great season, but there are still questions as to whether or not Jordan Jefferson can be a good quarterback. If Jefferson cannot step up, LSU will not have such a magical season.
But if Jefferson does perform well, watch out, SEC.
Once again, Alabama has the most potential of any team this year. Their defense is seasoned, and they return explosive running back Trent Richardson, who is nothing short of a beast.
It seems the Tide have all the pieces in place to have another great season, but there are a couple of questions.
I’m not so sold on A.J. McCarron as some seem to be, so I’ll be waiting for him to step up before I pass complete judgment on him.
Nick Saban pulled in another incredible recruiting class that will add an extra layer of depth on an already-deep team. Alabama is the clear favorite in the SEC now, and they likely will be until someone proves them wrong.
But hey, this is the SEC. Anyone can win on any given day!