Sunday, August 30, 2009

2009 SEC West Preview

The SEC West has as many if not more questions entering 2009. Will the Rebels finally break through and make it to Atlanta, thus robbing Mississippi State fans of their one football talking point? How will MSU and Auburn do with their new coaching staffs? Can Alabama and LSU answer their questions at QB? Can Arkansas’ defense stop anyone?

Here’s how I see the SEC WEST playing out:

1) Ole Miss: Call it a homer pick if you want to, but the talent is there in bunches and the schedule is as favorable as it comes. The Rebels have far and away the best quarterback and most explosive offense in the division and the defensive front 7 are strong as well. There are questions in the secondary and how the Rebels will handle their lofty rankings, but this is the year the Rebels break through.

2) Alabama: If the offense had as few questions as the defense, the Tide would be the pick in the division. Instead, Alabama returns just 4 starters on offense and is replacing a senior quarterback and 3 offensive linemen. That spells trouble in the SEC. I think McElroy will have a solid season and the OL will be sufficient, but in a division with DLs like the Rebels and LSU Tigers have, that could be troublesome for the Tide.

3) LSU: I’ve yet to figure out how this is a top 10 team by most accounts, but apparently that’s just me. The Tigers sport a plethora of highly ranked players at nearly every position on the field, but this team lost 5 games last year. The defense should be better under John Chavis, but what has QB Jordan Jefferson shown anyone that has them so excited. They’ll finish 3rd, but only because Arkansas has a more difficult schedule.

4) Arkansas: From hearing Arkansas fans talk, we all know by now that new quarterback Ryan Mallett is 7’3, runs a 4.5 40, and can stand on his head in one end zone and throw a football and knock an apple off DJ Williams head in the other end zone. Blindfolded. The Hogs’ offense should put up some points provided the OL comes together and give Mallett time to throw the ball. The Hogs are loaded with talented skill position players on offense. The biggest question marks are on the defense, which was just plain bad last year.

5) Auburn: After a drama-filled embarrassing season last year, the War Eagle Tiger Plainsmen are just looking for some stability. The hiring of Gene Chizik was, erm, questionable at best, and he, like Kiffin and Dan Mullen inherit a mess on offense. Chizik hired Gus Malzahn as his OC to run a spread offense with pro-style offense players, just like Tuberville did with Tony Franklin last year. While the recruits are buying in, for now, it’s hard to imagine things going well on the Plains this year.

6) Mississippi State: After suffering through 5 years of Sylvester “Media Darling” Croom and never finishing in the top 100 in the country in total offense, the Bulldogs kicked the fraud to the curb and replaced him with Florida OC Dan Mullen. Mullen plans to run a similar offense to Florida, one that teams in the SEC have had several years to adjust to, and he’ll be running it with an empty cupboard. So far, Mullen is saying all the right things for the MSU fanbase – season ticket sales hit a record last week – but it’ll be an ugly year in Starkville in 2009.

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