This is it, today is the day. College football is finally here. We get to momentarily forget about the terrible damage done by Hurricane Isaac. We get to forget about the RNC and the DNC. We put the NFL on hold until next week. Today is about college football. Tonight gets us started with #9 South Carolina playing at Vanderbilt at 7pm. This weekend features games involving just about every top 25 team. I only 2, maybe 3, losses by ranked teams and that’s because they are playing other ranked teams. The only potential upset is Auburn over #14 Clemson, a game I actually picked the Tigers to win. On Tuesday I previewed the entire season for the ACC, today we focus on the conference that has won the last 6 BCS Championships, the SEC. Here are my thoughts on each team, the winner/loser of every game, overall records, standings, and player of the year.
Alabama: Last year the Crimson Tide only lost one game (a 9-6 decision against LSU, a game where their kicker missed critical field goals) en route to winning the BCS championship. Title game MVP quarterback AJ McCarron is back to lead the Tide to what could be another national championship. Even with star running back Trent Richardson gone to the NFL, coach Nick Saban has his team reloaded for another run. They start the season off with a big non-conference match up against #8 Michigan in Dallas. Any bettors reading this blog are going to receive a huge gift because I’m telling you now, Alabama is going to cover the -14 point spread vs. Michigan. I do believe the Crimson Tide will go undefeated during the regular season. Wins: (all of them) Michigan, Western Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida Atlantic, Ole Miss, Missouri, Tennessee, Miss State, LSU, Texas A & M, Western Carolina, and Auburn. Losses: None. Final 2012 Record: 12-0 overall and 8-0 in SEC play and a spot in the SEC championship game.
Arkansas: If there is any team that is a threat to Alabama in the SEC west, it’s the Arkansas Razorbacks. Senior quarterback Tyler Wilson is one of the best in the game and will enjoy large passing lanes as defenses focus on stopping the run and the return of Knile Davis. The running back, coming off of an ankle injury, will have a monster year, taking most of the pressure off of Wilson. They are going to steamroll thru their first 2 games setting up an early season showdown with Alabama. This could be the make or break game for both teams. The only other obstacle I see in their schedule is a Nov. 10th trip to Columbia, SC. Wins: Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, Texas A& M, Auburn, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tulsa, Miss State, and LSU. Losses: Alabama and South Carolina. Final 2012 Record: 10-2 overall and 6-2 in SEC play with a spot in a bowl game.
Auburn: The Tigers 2012 campaign will end similar to their 2011 season: decent. Unfortunately Auburn has a rough schedule this season that includes a season opener against #14 Clemson. They will win more than they lose, and make a bowl game, but don’t expect a dream season for the Tigers like they had in 2010. Wins: Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Alabama A & M, Miss State, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Texas A & M. Losses: Clemson, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, and Georgia.
Florida: I know the Gators have a rich tradition in college football and a new head coach in Will Muschamp but I’ve seen people pick Florida to win the SEC East. Are you kidding me? Their receivers are horrible and they have teams they are going to look up to in Georgia and South Carolina. I do have the Gators shocking their in-state rival Florida State, but that will be the brightest spot of the year in a ‘ho-hum’ season. Wins: Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, Florida State, Texas A & M, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Missouri. Losses: Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina, and Georgia. Final 2012 Record: 8-4 overall and 4-4 in SEC play with a spot in a bowl game.
Georgia: For you to follow my assessment of their upcoming season you first have to understand how I feel about the Bulldogs 2011 season. After a lot of preseason hype they lost a de-facto home game to Boise State on national television. Then they turned around the following week and lost a sloppy game to South Carolina between the hedges. With their coach on the hot seat, the Bulldogs turned things around and rattled off 10 straight wins, including beating #20 Auburn and #23 Georgia Tech by a combined 76-24. Aaron Murray had a solid year and put ice on the seat of head coach Mark Richt. Then roller coaster begin to go back down the track as they lost the SEC championship game to LSU (again in the Georgia Dome) 42-10 and followed that up by losing in triple overtime to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. Fast forward to 2012 and the Bulldogs are back and ready, with what many are calling the SECs easiest schedule. Now, I fully expect Aaron Murray to have an amazing year, putting himself in the conversation for SEC player of the year, but I think he is going to struggle against the one tough defense he is going to see: South Carolina. I look for great things from Georgia this year but I think they will fall just short of their goal of returning to the Georgia Dome for another shot at the SEC title. Win: Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee. Losses: South Carolina. Final 2012 Record: 11-1 overall and 7-1 in SEC play with a spot in a bowl game.
Kentucky: Big Blue fans will not have much to cheer about this season and should really just go ahead and look forward to basketball season. Kentucky has a tough schedule that starts with a trip to in-state rival #25 Louisville and it doesn’t get any prettier from there. Wins: Kent State, Western Kentucky, Samford, and Vanderbilt. Losses: Louisville, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Miss State, Georgia, Missouri, and Tennessee. Final 2012 Record: 4-8 overall and 1-7 in SEC play.
LSU: After losing “Honey Badger” in the offseason the Tigers have been picked to finish as low as 4th in the SEC West. While I don’t think they are going to be that bad, I do feel this will be a “down” year for them and even have them losing a shocker to another SEC West team. Their bright spot could come on Oct. 13th as they welcome South Carolina to Baton Rouge, as they look to spoil the Gamecocks high expectations. Wins: North Texas, Washington, Idaho, Towson, Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Miss State. Losses: Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas A & M. Final 2012 Record: 9-3 overall and 5-3 in SEC play with a spot in a bowl game.
Mississippi: The Rebels are going to be a bad team this year and I don’t want to waste my time on them. Hugh Freeze is not going to make a big enough difference this year to change my mind. Look at the teams I say they are going to lose to and you’ll know why. One word, brutal. Wins: Central Arkansas, UTEP, Tulane, Texas A & M, and Vanderbilt. Losses: Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, and Miss St. Final 2012 Record: 5-7 overall and 2-6 in SEC play.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs only fare better than the Rebels because they don’t have a hard, out of conference, game against a powerhouse like Texas -and- they will beat Mississippi. I won’t name names but I’ve seen people pick the Bulldogs to finish 3rd in the SEC West. I don’t see it happening, especially when they will lose to all three West teams that will finish ahead of them. Wins: Jackson State, Troy, Southern Alabama, Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. Losses: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, and Texas A & M. Final 2012 Record: 7-5 overall and 3-5 in SEC play with a spot in a bowl game.
Missouri: I think Missouri will benefit in the long run from becoming a part of the SEC. I don’t think it will reward them very much this year. IF they are lucky they can squeak into a mid-December bowl game that only us hardcore football junkies will watch. The one to watch on the Tigers is junior quarterback James Franklin. The dual threat QB will have to adjust to SEC defenses but could put up some big numbers. Winners: Southeastern Louisiana, Arizona State, Central Florida, Syracuse, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. Losses: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina Tennessee, and Texas A & M. Final 2012 Record: 6-6 overall and 2-6 in SEC play with a spot in a low tier bowl game.
Tennessee: Unfortunately for the Volunteers they are going to lose their opener to the Wolfpack on Friday night. Derek Dooley will continue to be on the hot seat throughout most of the season. They only make it to a bowl if a committee thinks their fans will show up. Best moment of the season will be knocking off Florida. Wins: Georgia Southern, Akron, Troy, Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri. Loses: NC State, Alabama, Georgia, Miss State, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. Final 2012 Record: 6-6 overall and 3-5 in SEC play with a spot in a low tier bowl game.
Texas A & M: See Missouri. Only difference being the Aggies will knock off one of the big three in the SEC West, giving them a victory to hang their hat on. Welcome to the SEC boys. Wins: Louisiana Tech, Southern Methodist, SC State, Sam Houston State, LSU, Missouri, and Miss State. Losses: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, and Ole Miss. Final 2012 Record: 7-5 overall and 3-5 in SEC play with a spot in a bowl game.
South Carolina: Last year the Gamecocks won a school record 11 games and would’ve had another if it wouldn’t have been for a poorly time managed game against Auburn. The Gamecocks look to improve on their success of last season and should be able to achieve it. Junior running back Marcus Lattimore is healthy again after missing half of last year with a knee injury. The star runner is a Heisman Trophy candidate and should have a great year, taking off a lot of pressure from Connor Shaw. Shaw can produce with both his arm and his legs, giving Coach Spurrier a lot of options on offense. The defense has nothing to worry about. They were 3rd in the nation last year behind only LSU and Alabama and are led by sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. New defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward will have a field day with this group of players and expects to blitz more often. This is the perfect defense to cause problems for opposing quarterbacks that rely on the passing game, such as Rodgers at Vanderbilt and Murray at Georgia. This could be a special year for the Gamecocks with only a few hurdles to climb. I will be realistic and have them stumble at one, even though I’d like to see them go undefeated. Wins: East Carolina, UAB, Wofford, Clemson, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. Losses: LSU. Final 2012 Record: 11-1 overall and 7-1 in SEC play and a spot in the SEC Championship game.
Vanderbilt: Even with James Franklin at the helm and Jordan Rodgers under center, the Commodores are going to lose to the Gamecocks in their opening game setting the tone for a very disappointing season. Coming off of last years success, Vanderbilt made it to the Liberty Bowl, but that success won’t be duplicated. Look for Aaron Rodgers younger brother to have a nice year, but not the year Franklin needs. The defense only gave up 21.6 points per game last year however I expect a slight drop on that side of the ball. Look for Vanderbilt to continue to improve over the next few season as Coach Franklin begins to get better recruits. Wins: Northwestern, Presbyterian, Massachusetts, Wake Forest, and Tennessee. Losses: Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Ole Miss, Missouri, and South Carolina. Final 2012 Record 5-7 overall and 1-7 in SEC play.
Final 2012 SEC Standings:
East Division 51-33 (25-31): South Carolina 11-1 (7-1), Georgia 11-1 (7-1), Florida 8-4 (4-4), Tennessee 6-6 (3-5), Missouri 6-6 (2-6), Kentucky 4-8 (1-7), and Vanderbilt 5-7 (1-7).
West Division 58-26 (31-25): Alabama 12-0 (8-0), Arkansas 10-2 (6-2), LSU 9-3 (5-3), Auburn 7-5 (4-4), Texas A & M 7-5 (3-5), Miss State 7-5 (3-5), and Ole Miss 6-6 (2-6).
SEC Player of the Year: Marcus Lattimore, Junior RB, South Carolina
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