Fast forward to 2011, and we have yet another season approaching which is bound to provide some entertainment. Will we see another player with a Cam Newton like impact? Will we see another freshman wonder like Marcus Lattimore? You just never know.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Tide roll into the 2011 season with the hope to make another run at the National Championship. They are already favorites for the SEC and currently boast a pre-season no2 ranking by most polls. Nick Saban is known for his stout defenses and this year he features talent such as Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Robert Lester, Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick. A good defense is pretty much guaranteed for 'Bama this year, you can't argue that.
But what about on offense? Regardless of their no2 pre-season ranking they do have some questions on offense. Who is going to be the quarterback? The two obvious candidates are AJ McCarron, a young redshirt sophomore with limited back-up experience, and Phillip Sims who is a redshirt freshman with no experience whatsoever.
Another question is who will be the main man at wide receiver? We already know 'Bama will feature a strong run game lead by Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacey, but to take attention off of them both, the Tide will have to find a wide receiver with the ability and threat to make the big play. Teams took Julio Jones into account the last three years, and 'Bama need to find another Jones. The possible candidates are JUCO Transfer Duron Carter (who as I write this still hasn't qualified) and DeAndrew White. Marquis Maze will also feature as will Darius Hanks.
'Bama's schedule this year is by no means tough, but there are teams that have a chance to catch them out throughout the year.
No doubt 'Bama will have a really good defense this year, but if they can develop a productive offense another SEC Championship is not too far away. As of right now, I could see them dropping a game or two.
11-1 for the Alabama Crimson Tide (One loss to either Auburn, Arkansas, LSU).
The Razorbacks are starting to make headway in the SEC West. They are already yearly contenders and some of the talent they have produced through the last few years has been fantastic. Such as Darren McFadden and Ryan Mallet.
Arkansas still hasn't found a legitimate defense to contend with yet, which is why I am skeptical of their chances to win the SEC West. Their defense was no worse than Auburn's last year, however do they have their own Cam Newton?
Bobby Petrino is a marvellous offensive coach, and his run and gun play-style has certainly produced in masses in the last few years. This season they feature a star at RB (Knile Davis), a whole host of elite wideouts and an up and coming quarterback in Tyler Wilson.
If Arkansas can field a decent defense, there is no reason why they can't make a run at the SEC and possibly a National Championship. They have the ability to beat anyone any given week.
As of right now, no one has seen them field a legitimate defense. I don't see them being any worse than last year, but I certainly don't see them being much better (unless Wilson is the next Andrew Luck).
10-2 for the Arkansas Razorbacks (Two losses to either Auburn, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina).
As a major fan of Auburn I'm not quite sure what to think of the them this season. Auburn comes off a National Championship year in 2010, and 2011 will be an opportunity for a young team to grow and gel, not to mention trying to keep in contention with the rest of the formidable SEC West. Auburn loses a ton of starters from last year, including juniors Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and Darvin Adams. A lot of writers/fans expect Auburn to fall off the face of the earth because they "lost all their good players".
Listen closely, because I will say this just once:
Auburn is young, but still very talented.
From my calculations (excluding any new starters on the offensive line) Auburn will only have three seniors starting from day one, which include Brandon Moseley, Neiko Thorpe and Eltoro Freeman. Amazing isn't it? Well thats what a pathetic 2008 recruiting class gives you, we got a few decent players out of it but overall it was a poor class. If you want to go back and look at that disaster go here, but why would you?
Its no secret that the schedule is tough. Auburn plays on the road against South Carolina, Clemson, Arkansas, LSU, Georgia and gets Alabama, Miss. State, Ole Miss and Florida at home. One of the toughest ranked schedules in the country, but no task is too large for this team.
Even though Auburn is young and in-experienced, I think at least half of those games are attainable, including a surprise win over someone because you and I both know Auburn likes pulling upsets.
I've equalled that to 8 regular season wins. If Auburn can get solid play from the quarterback position (which under Gus Malzahn is not an impossible task) and also get some consistency on defense, then I think anywhere between 7-9 wins is the bench-mark for Auburn this season.
8-4 for the Auburn Tigers (Four losses to any of Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, Clemson).
Doesn't it seem like LSU is loaded every year? I think it does. They are turning into a real pro factory as every year they put top players in the NFL. Some of these include Glenn Dorsey, Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis....Jamarcus Russell? Haha
LSU's weak spot over the past few years has been the quarterback position. Last season featured the mediocre Jordan Jefferson but with a dash of back-up Jarrett Lee.
Is Jordan Jefferson going to improve? I feel as though this is the only thing holding LSU back from another SEC Championship. The Tigers have a loaded defense, nice pieces at wide receiver and running back, and a pretty decent offensive line.
There is no such thing as an easy schedule, but LSU's doesn't exactly scare fans. Sure they have to play the other 4 ranked teams in the SEC West, but they also get the exciting pleasure of playing Oregon on opening day, which I will certainly be tuning in for.
Can Jordan Jefferson become an elite quarterback? Can Les Miles become competent in time management? LSU might be Bama's biggest threat in the West, and if they find a good QB then it will be a fight to the very end.
11-1 for the LSU Tigers (One loss to either Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Oregon)
Mississippi State Bulldogs
The cowbell ringing crazies roll into 2011 expecting to be a much better team. The Bulldogs went 9-4 last season including a big win over the Michigan Wolverines.
They were a threat last season, almost beating the eventual National Champion Auburn and even beat a ranked Florida Gators. They have weapons on offense, including running back Vick Ballard and a nifty quarterback in Chris Relf, and not to mention a decent coach in Dan Mullen.
The Bulldogs do get Alabama and LSU at home this year, as well as playing Arkansas and Auburn on the road. Beating 2/4 of those teams would be huge for the Bulldogs, and I think it is certainly manageable.
8-4 for the Mississippi State Bulldogs (Four losses to either Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina)
Ole Miss Rebels
The bottom-feeders of the SEC West finished 4-8 last year.
That says it all doesn't it? Will they get any better? Its up to Houston Nutt to make sure it does. Can the Rebels defense step it up this year?
The defense finished last place in the SEC giving up 35.2 points per game. It was the exact opposite of what Ole Miss fans expected but its now or never for Nutt to get Ole Miss back to at least competing for the West. Nutt even brought in Masoli last year but unfortunately it did not translate to wins on the field.
It's a short piece on this team, but 4 wins won't wow anyone and when playing in the SEC you need to be a much better team. Houston Nutt is on the hot seat, could he get fired after another bad season? I don't think Ole Miss would give it a second thought.
Unless Ole Miss wins 9 games this year I don't see Nutt being the head coach for the Rebels in 2012.
6-6 for the Ole Miss Rebels (Six losses to Georgia, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, Kentucky, Mississippi State).
So there we have it. 2011 is slated to be another nice year in the SEC and I can't wait to see what might happen. Will a highly thought of powerhouse tumble down to the bottom? Will a lowly thought of team rise to the very top?
Put your seat-belts on folks, its going to be a hell of a ride.