SEC Conference Preview: It's Not Just About Florida (although they'll win)

Alex FergusonSenior Analyst IIAugust 26, 2009

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 20:  The Auburn band makes its way onto the field before the LSU Tigers take on the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 20, 2008 in Auburn, Alabama. LSU defeated Auburn 26-21.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Hedges, pretty co-eds, jorts, and monster-sized stadiums...that's the SEC for you. Oh, and they play some pretty good football, too.

A quick few words about Florida:

Very. Good. Indeed. Preseason ranked No. 1. Tim Tebow. Brandon Spikes. Great defense. National Championships. Favorites to repeat in 2009. Big game on the road at LSU.

Is Ole Miss for real?

This is the dark horse for the SEC, although this dark horse may well come in second—by a mile to the Gators—when all is said and done. Jevan Snead's a darned good quarterback, and Houston Nutt's ultra confident that his team can be even better than last year. Watch out on the offensive side for Dexter McCluster, who's a threat receiving and rushing. The schedule will help: monster games at home to Alabama and LSU should make this team viable. If they beat one of those, they've already exceeded the VFA's expectations.

What about LSU?

Jordan Jefferson is a talented quarterback, and they still have a ton of speed on both sides of the ball. If Jefferson can pull it off and WR Brandon LaFell has a big year, then this might just be the team to upset Florida this year. As for winning the SEC West, it's going to be a toss-up between the Tigers, Ole Miss and...

Or Alabama?

So badly have the Crimson Tide been underrated before the start of the season for a while, that the critics cried: "You won't fool me again!" and now they are pre-ranked No. 5. Yes, the "D" is crazy good, but there are still a few worries about their offensive line. Oh, and at quarterback, too.

Meanwhile, in Auburn...

Gene Chizik will survive his first season in charge of "War Eagle," but only just. The fans aren't going to like what's going on in Auburn (particularly when the lose their second straight to 'Bama), but the school will talk about "rebuilding" (a lot) and GC will keep his 401K.

How is Lane Kiffin going to fare?

Well, new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin has been talking about "new attitudes" and he's been recruiting well. He's obviously eager to get the team winning the SEC East again, but it won't be this year. Why? Firstly, his new nemesis, Urban Meyer, will beat him along with everyone else in the divsion. Secondly, injuries have absolutely ravaged his wide receiving corps. But expect them to go bowling (7-5), though, even if it isn't a great one.

Georgia on our minds...

Athens is on our mind simply because we're hitting up the prettiest town in the SEC for the game against LSU. Frankly, we're praying for a night game, because that would be a blast. Fifth-year quarterback Joe Cox has tongues wagging, and he'll have AJ Greene, who's a tall and fast target for him to hit. Georgia's defensive line is much vaunted, and we'll see how good they are when they play Oklahoma State on the road. I predict a 10-2 record this year (with losses to Florida and Oklahoma State).

The rest?

Vanderbilt had a great 2008 (by their standards), but it's hard to see the Commodores winning more than five games this year...Kentucky won't be anything special, and South Carolina needs Stephen Garcia to shake off a woeful 2008 for the Gamecocks to compete in 2009. And in Razorback Country, Arkansas are going to be a lot better than last year, and Ryan Mallett will guide them to a 7-5 record. We'll see how good they are when they get it on with Georgia on September 19th. Oh, and we're ignoring Mississippi State for good reason. They're going to be terrible.

And more importantly...

Best fans:

The noise in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is enough to give anyone a headache. We still love the "you suck" chant at South Carolina. Best co-ed prize goes to Ole Mississippi (although Florida's pretty close behind).

Best tailgate:

You can't get better than tailgating on the North Lawn at the University of Georgia. It's an experience you have to do once in your life.

Expect this sort of game when Florida visits LSU this year.

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