There was a Pre-Spring ranking that came out a in the middle of February so now is the time to revisit that list and shuffle teams around based on their Spring practices. This list will go through one more change before the season starts and then will be updated weekly on Thursday in CFN’s Y’all Play Nice. There are a few changes in the Post-Spring list and the Pre-Spring ranking is listed in parentheses.
1. Arkansas (2)
Last year ESPN’s Pat Forde coined a phrase that inspired hatred from nearly every College Football fan in the country…BUS. The Boise Bus infuriated fans and turned a normally likable Boise State program into public enemy number one. So we can’t have my feelings about Arkansas and particularly Tyler Wilson associated with a bus. The suggestions I was given was a Wagon, so I am officially on the “Tyler Wilson Wagon”…there is space available but it is filling up fast. The Razorback offense will be dynamic, the defense will be good and they have one of the best OC’s in the country as the Head Coach. Arkansas took a big step forward last year playing in the Sugar Bowl; expect them to take another step forward in 2011.
2. Alabama (1)
There is a lot to like about Alabama, the defense looks salty and the running game should continue to be a force but the quarterback situation gives us pause. AJ McCarron is expected to get the starting job but will Alabama play two this year? The most exciting part of Alabama this fall will be Trent Richardson getting the majority of the carries. Richardson is the most physical running back the SEC has seen in years, he is a wrecking ball when he is moving and very hard to take down. The offensive line is full of maulers and they should be capable of dominating the line of scrimmage in every game. Whoever is taking the snaps should benefit greatly with time to throw the ball.
3. LSU (3)
When my Pre-Spring ranking came out I was fully prepared to see Zach Mettenberger light the LSU offense on fire and shoot the Fighting Tigers to the top of the Post-Spring list. That didn’t happen and while there is so much potential and talent on the LSU roster…there is no way any preseason publication can have LSU as a favorite until Jordan Jefferson plays at least 5 games this fall. Jefferson has historically been a strong starter only to tail off severely throughout the season. The LSU coaching staff may have faith in him but no one else should…if Jefferson is the starter against Oregon, win or lose we won’t know enough about this team until October.
4. Auburn (4)
The Auburn schedule makes this ranking a little dubious but Gene Chizik has been a fast starter at Auburn going 5-0 in each of his first two seasons. A 5-0 start this year would mean wins over Mississippi State at home, at Clemson and at South Carolina…none of those games are out of the question for Auburn to win but with so many new offensive players, itwill be tough. This ranking is based on the respect for Gus Malzahn, the Auburn offense should be dynamic once again if it stays healthy. The defense is younger but more talented than it has been in the past so a small statistical improvement could earn a win or two for a team that looks like an 8-9 win team.
5. Tennessee (5)
Spring games mean nothing…spring practices are where the important work is done. Tennessee fans better believe that after Tyler Bray’s dismal performance in the Tennessee Spring game but we aren’t taking a glorified scrimmage for anything more than what it is…worthless. Derek Dooley continues to add talent to his roster with a good 2011 recruiting class and the Vols might have the best group of skill players in the East. The best back and receiver may be in Columbia, but as a unit the Vols are better right now. Tennessee has a favorable schedule with UGA and USC coming to Knoxville and they get the Gators in the normal 3rd week of the season in Gainesville.
6. Georgia (9)
Georgia fans are pointing to the first game of the season against Boise State as the most important game because it is the next game. There is some merit to that argument but it really is the first two games that will make or break Georgia and Mark Richt this fall. They have to win both games against Boise State and South Carolina…0-2 or 1-1 is not good enough. You can’t lose to Boise State in the Georgia Dome if you are the in-state Bulldogs and the SEC home opener against Carolina is once again a huge game. UGA will be led by defense this fall, the skill position players are not what they used to be and neither is the play calling. Todd Grantham gets two key toys this year with the “Four J’s”…Johnathan Jenkins and Jarvis Jones. They will be on display early in September.
7. South Carolina (6)
South Carolina is capable of winning the East but if Stephen Garcia is still the quarterback…picking them to win the East is a dubious at best. The Garcia saga is all over the place, some writers say he wants to leave, some say it is the AD that wants him gone and others say Spurrier is fed up. The only thing that seems obvious is that Garcia is a questionable leader and no one knows if he will or will not be playing this fall. Sure you can assume based on Spurrier’s need to win or that the AD feels all the bridges have been burned but no one knows. Until we have an answer there is no consistent place to put Carolina in any rankings.
8. Mississippi State (8)
MSU had a great season in 2010 but they had success against the weaker teams of the SEC, they went 3-0 against the SEC East (win in Gainesville was impressive) and 1-4 against the West (the lone victory against Ole Miss). As always the quarterbacks will make or break this team and call me a pessimist but I don’t see Chris Relf getting any more accurate. Relf is a running QB, he is not a pocket passer, he is not an out-of-the-pocket passer…he can only run. Unless Relf starts making big third down throws down the field, MSU is limited in how good they can be. This is a team that will play in a decent bowl, but they are not ready to compete for the SEC West in its current form.
9. Florida (7)
Florida needs a lot of work and we just don’t know what they got done this spring. Is John Brantley more accurate? Have they found a receiver who can hold onto the ball in key situations? Is there a true running back on the roster and how will all these spread players fit into Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense. At this point we have no clue, Will Muschamp is going to do well at Florida but there are too many what-ifs to include the Gators in the top half of the SEC right now. They will fight for the East because only two teams have no chance to win the division, not because Florida will be a world beater this fall.
10. Ole Miss (10)
There are pieces of a good team at Ole Miss we just aren’t able to put the puzzle together yet and because of that Ole Miss is near the bottom of the rankings. Brandon Bolden is good running back, Bobbie Massie is a good SEC O-lineman but the quarterback situation is still a mess even with Barry Brunetti getting to compete for the job and play this fall. Losing Shackelford hurt even with Kentrell Lockett returning…Houston Nutt always has a positive outlook with his teams but we aren’t overly positive about the Rebels right now.
11. Kentucky (11)
This is going to be a tough year for Joker Phillips, Kentucky lost a ton from last year’s offense and it is not easy for a team like Kentucky to replace players that had so much SEC success. Morgan Newton will start at quarterback but there is no Randall Cobb, no Derrick Locke and no Chris Matthews catching passes. The defense has some guys that will be on pre and post All SEC teams…Winston Guy and Danny Trevathan but defense is not enough to win games in Lexington.
12. Vanderbilt (12)
Will we see a change in the Vanderbilt offense with new head coach James Franklin…maybe but the same story we have been reading about for almost 4 years is still key. Larry Smith is competing for the starting job at quarterback. Smith’s issues for years has been his lack of accuracy, a pretty big fault for a QB to have but there have been no other options for the Commodores to put out there. Franklin is a good offensive mind and should get the most out of whoever starts but the offense needs more than an accurate QB to be successful in the SEC. Franklin will do well in a few years but it won’t be this season.
What teams need to move up, who needs to move down and is it too early to have Arkansas as your number one? E-mail
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