2011 SEC Football Predictions
The battle for the SEC title will be a fun ride this year with the conference being plagued by NCAA violations and injuries.
Alabama has multiple returning starters, Auburn lost Cam Newton, South Carolina has a powerhouse defensive line and Florida acquired Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator.
So, who will come out on top this year, and will they be able to pull off the conference's fifth consecutive national championship?
12. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is the only team in the SEC West to not play in the title game since the conference split into two divisions. Unfortunately, it seems like they will continue to struggle some this year.
The best thing they have going for them is Kentrell Lockett, their sixth-year senior on defense, while Barry Brunetti is battling against Randall Mackey for the quarterback position.
Last year's quarterback, Jeremiah Masola, led the team to 10th in the SEC in passing yardage and last place in passing touchdowns.
Barry Brunetti could potentially be a long-term payoff for the Rebels.
The Commodores will take the field under new head coach James Franklin this fall.
Franklin has bounced around to many schools around the country and even spent a year with the Green Bay Packers working with the wide receivers.
The experience will help Vandy out, but it will be a building season. The upside is that they will have 19 returning starters including the SEC's career leader in tackles, Chris Marve.
Kentucky has 15 returning starters this fall with nine of them on defense.
The defense will need to improve from last year to actually make a difference though. Last season the Wildcats were tied with Florida for 10th place in sacks and tied for 10th place in interceptions with Vanderbilt.
Morgan Newton will return as quarterback this season for an offense that will have to work to replace playmakers Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke.
Auburn is too young this year to be the powerhouse national champions that they were in 2010.
Michael Dyer is returning at running back but is only one of six returning starters to give the Tigers any push.
Tyler Bray and Taureen Poole will lead the offense for the Vols this season while Malik Jackson is the only returning starter on defense.
The offensive line should be pretty hard to penetrate this season because they have almost the entire line returning.
Poole and Justin Hunter will be a great pair for Bray to work with on the O-line, giving Tennessee a chance to go better than 6-7 this season.
John Brantley may finally have his time to shine under Charlie Weis who will be coming on as the offensive coordinator this year for Florida.
Brantley and Jeff Demps could be a great pair for the Gators this season.
They will definitely be in need of an offensive line since they only have four returning starters on the defense this season.
6. Mississippi State
This season, Dan Mullen will be trying to get his team back to win another bowl.
The way he's going to accomplish that? Chris Relf and Vick Ballard.
Ballard led the SEC's running backs in touchdowns by scoring 19 in 2010.
The Razorbacks are ranked 15th in the AP Preseason poll this year, which is the team's highest preseason poll ranking since 1990 when they were predicted 14th.
The big loss for the season was running back Knile Davis who had potential to be the best running back in the SEC.
Tyler Wilson should have enough experience in the conference that he will be able to perform well for Arkansas.
Unfortunately though, they will have to play at LSU and Alabama, which are always tough stadiums.
Aaron Murray could turn out to be the best quarterback in the SEC this fall.
The Bulldogs will also have their own Marcus Lattimore-esque player with Isaiah Crowell blossoming as a running back.
Brandon Boykin will also continue to give Georgia an edge with his electrifying returns.
Georgia will be an SEC force to be reckoned with.
LSU was ranked number 4 in both, the AP Preseason Poll and USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll. The Tigers will have 17 returning starters, four of them on the offensive line. Playmaker Reuben Randle put up 544 yards and 3 touchdowns last season, second on the team to Terrance Toliver who got drafted by the Texans in the off season. Randle will be a huge factor in the Tigers fight for a championship.
2. South Carolina
While they may have been plagued with quarterback troubles in the offseason, the Gamecocks will be running full force this fall.
They have a great defensive line including the ultra-hyped freshman Jadeveon Clowney and Melvin Ingram who led the team in sacks last season.
Stephen Garcia, Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey will be returning to run the offense this season for Steve Spurrier.
South Carolina will put up a fight to get past their AP Preseason ranking of No. 12.
Bama is going to take the SEC title this year. The team has a great defense, 16 returning starters and Heisman candidate Trent Richardson at running back.
Alabama was ranked No. 2 in the AP Preseason poll, receiving 17 first place votes.
The SEC had a record of eight teams on the AP Top 25 Preseason Poll.
All of the teams are going to put in a lot of hard work, but the SEC West is going to continue to dominate.