Moving out of the conference where my football team resides and into the one that produced the last few national champions: the Southeastern Conference. SEC football has already been making some news with the dismissal and rehabbing of Tyrann Mathieu from LSU, and that could change the landscape and alter those 2012 SEC football predictions that folks have been making all summer. What makes it more interesting is that this is a bit of a new-look conference, now with 14 entries as Texas A&M and Missouri join the fray. Without further ado:
2012 SEC Football Predictions: SEC West
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. LSU Tigers
3. Arkansas Razorbacks
4. Auburn Tigers
5. Mississippi State Bulldogs
6. Texas A&M Aggies
7. Ole Miss Rebels
I glanced at the preseason media poll after I filled this out, and noticed that I came up with much the same thing they did, save a few changes. One of those is at the top, as I’ve swapped Alabama and LSU. The Tide are the defending champs, of course, and while I think LSU are a terrific football team and a legitimate Top 3 team nationally, I can’t help but feel like Alabama is ahead by a hair. I’m doing my best not to overrate the loss of the Honey Badger, but he was a great play-maker for LSU that made them that much better in both defense and special teams. In a division where one loss could be the difference between playing for a national championship or some other BCS bowl, that could tip the scales.
Arkansas had a crazy offseason with Bobby Petrino screwing up and getting fired. At the end of the day, even with new coach John Smith, they’re still loaded with talent and should be fine. Meanwhile, in Auburn, they’re not what they were a couple years back when Cam Newton led them to a national title, but they’re still good enough to squeak into the Top 25 and play for a decent bowl game.
I think Kevin Sumlin will be a solid coach for Texas A&M, but I’ll slide Mississippi State in front of them by a nose as the Aggies get acclimated to the SEC. Both teams won seven games last year.
Unfortunately, things aren’t looking too good for Ole Miss, as the Rebels lost ten games last season and might not exceed three or four wins this season, given the high level of difficulty of their schedule. Hugh Freeze will have his work cut out for him in 2012.
2012 SEC Football Predictions: SEC East
1. Georgia Bulldogs
2. South Carolina Gamecocks
3. Florida Gators
4. Missouri Tigers
5. Vanderbilt Commodores
6. Tennessee Volunteers
7. Kentucky Wildcats
Again, checked out the poll after filling it out, and I came up with almost the same thing the media did. First and foremost, Georgia, the defending division champions from last year. This team is going to be good in 2012, and the coaches think so as they ranked them 6th nationally. Quarterback Aaron Murray and his 59 career touchdown passes are back, as are preseason first-team All-SEC defensemen Jarvis Jones and Bacarri Rambo.
The Head Ball Coach has South Carolina on the up and up, and they should once again finish near the top of the slightly less brutal SEC East. In Gainesville, Florida should be able to bounce back from a mediocre 6-6 regular season in 2011 as Will Muschamp begins his second season in the swamp.
Missouri, like Texas A&M, will also need some time to get used to the SEC, but the Tigers are a little bit better of a team and are in the “easier” of the two divisions, which is why they’re fourth and not sixth like the Aggies.
At the bottom, it’s Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The media poll switched Tennessee and Vandy, and they could be right. The gap between these two doesn’t appear to be that big at this time, if we’re going to use last season as a springboard, but it’s a new year and games aren’t played on paper. We’ll have to wait to see how it goes.
Finally, Kentucky fans are still relishing their basketball title and won’t be bothered with this football business.
2012 SEC Football Predictions: Championship
Alabama over Georgia