2011 SEC Preseason Outlook: The West
It's already time for the second edition of Tucker's Pick 'Em of the season, as we sit a mere four weeks away from college football.
While the East wasn't too hard to place teams where they'll likely finish, the West was a bit tougher.
Here's how I think the boys from the West will stack up in 2011:
6. Ole Miss (2010: 4-8, 1-7)
"Houston, you're fired."
Those words, or similar, will surely be spoken to coach Nutt after the 2011 season, as the Rebels are likely to have the worst season during Nutt's time at Ole Miss.
This is bad.
The only promising shot for this team to win an SEC game comes September 17 in Nashville.
5. Mississippi State (2010: 9-4, 4-4)
Unlike its counterpart to the north, Mississippi State is on the upswing.
Dan Mullen has established a solid foundation in Starkville but still hasn't managed to recruit the talent that other SEC West schools have been able to bring in.
If things go right for the Bulldogs this season—meaning, if they can win their close games, the Dogs could be looking at fourth or even third in the West.
4. Auburn (2010: 14-0, 8-0)
The defending national champions face a tough road this season, literally and figuratively speaking.
The Tigers will take the field without several starters from its championship team last season (including Cam Newton and Nick Fairley) but still feature plenty of experience at the skill positions and in the secondary.
The bad part for Auburn, however, is that all of its home games last year against tough opponents will be away from Jordan-Hare in 2011, excluding of course, the Iron bowl.
3. Arkansas (2010: 10-3, 6-2)
The Razorbacks might look a bit different this season without Ryan "Big Tex" Mallett at quarterback, but don't expect very much of a falloff.
Coach Bobby Petrino has another young quarterback who will fit right into the system for the Hawgs in 2011.
Auburn fans might remember Tyler Wilson from last season's barn-burner when he stepped in almost flawlessly for an injured Mallett until key turnovers late in the game cost the Hawgs the win.
Wilson will have plenty of experienced players to throw his passes to this season, including Joe Adams and Greg Childs.
On defense, the Hawgs are looking fine and dandy. They jumped 53 spots to No. 36 in total defense throughout the 2010 season and should be even better in 2011 with a talented group of veterans returning.
2. LSU (2010: 11-2, 6-2)
The Tigers will likely challenge for the West Division title in 2011, and there are plenty of reasons why.
Third-year starter Jordan Jefferson returns at quarterback, and he has plenty of experienced targets in the receiving lineup, including Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard.
The offensive line returns four starters this season to block for tailback Spencer Ware (and Jefferson) up front.
As always, LSU will boast another extremely tough defense this season as well.
Opponents better be on their toes when playing this squad in 2011, or they might find themselves "Tiga Bait."
1. Alabama (2010: 10-3, 5-3)
BAMA'S BACK, BABY.
Everything is in place for Alabama to add another championship to its illustrious history this season.
The only thing left now is to play the games.
Trent Richardson, a favorite to win the Heisman this season, returns at tailback along with Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze at the receiver positions.
Four of five offensive linemen return for Alabama this season after playing very well in 2010.
As far as defense goes, Nick Saban never fails there, and it doesn't hurt that most starters return from a very good team last season.
The only way the Tide doesn't dominate in 2011 would be a complete meltdown at the quarterback position (AJ McCarron or Phillip Sims), as neither of the two have ever started a game for the Crimson Tide.
Nonetheless, look for the West Division champion to be decided on November 5, when LSU travels to Tuscaloosa.