Harbach: SEC Wouldn't Surprise Me 2011
First or Fourth in the East?
First or Fourth in the East?
Posted May 4, 2011

A quick breakdown of every SEC team listing a good and bad topic that would not be suprising if it happened this year.

By Brian Harbach

Preseason magazines are just weeks away from being released and the start of College Football's lone dead period starting up…it is time to take a look at some good and bad predictions for each SEC team. Some of these will be about players, some about a team's outlook for the season and some of them will be about specific groups within the team. These are not necessarily predictions on what will happen in the SEC this season, just a list of things that wouldn't be surprising if they did happen.

Just for fun take a look at the 2010 version to see what was listed a year ago and enjoy the thoughts on 2011…

I wouldn't be surprised if Alabama

The Good…Was ranked first in both Polls this August
The Tide has recruited well for years; the defense should be among the nation's best and the running game with be downright nasty. They may not receive every first place vote but there is an excellent chance they are the #1 team in the AP and Coaches polls when they are released in August.

The Bad…Has inconsistent play at Quarterback all season
AJ McCarron is the favorite but the competition is still open and Saban has mentioned Alabama might play more than one QB this fall. Backup Sims is pushing for playing time and it is never a good thing to go into the season thinking about playing two quarterbacks.

I wouldn't be surprised if Arkansas

The Good…Won the SEC
Another chance to discuss the Tyler Wilson Wagon…get on board while there is still room. Auburn won last year with a dominant offense and an opportunistic defense, sounds very familiar with what the Razorbacks will bring each Saturday this fall.

The Bad…Started out the year with three wins followed by three losses
Arkansas feasts upon cupcakes the first three weeks only to get right into the meat of their schedule week four in Tuscaloosa. At Alabama, neutral site game against Texas A&M and back home to play Auburn will be a tough stretch and the wheels might fall off if the team isn't sharp early in the season.

I wouldn't be surprised if Auburn

The Good…Doesn't miss a beat on offense
Auburn has the best offense in the SEC in 2009 with Chris Todd at quarterback (that is not a shot at Todd but he ain't Cam Newton). Clint Mosely and Barrett Trotter have a number of great offensive weapons to use plus the country's best OC in Gus Malzahn. Auburn won't lose games because of their offense this year.

The Bad…Falls victim to the losses/schedule and loses 6 games
The schedule is nasty…trips to Arkansas, Clemson, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina to go along with home games against Alabama, MSU and Florida. Add in all the senior leadership that is now gone and it could be a tough year for the Tigers.

I wouldn't be surprised if Florida

The Good…QB John Brantley becomes a much better passer
Charlie Weis has never had a problem grooming quarterbacks; his problem was being the man in charge so Brantley will have an opportunity to improve his senior year. Also playing in a system that fits his skills much better might help the Gators get past a very forgettable 2010 offense.

The Bad…Has a worse record than a year ago
Third new defensive coordinator in three years, a completely new pro-style offense with a roster full of spread players and a coach who is willing to instill discipline makes it hard to expect immediate improvement in Gainesville.

I wouldn't be surprised if Georgia

The Good…Won the SEC East
If Mark Richt can't get it done this year, that is on him and he should be gone. The East has no dominant team, this is the best schedule UGA has had in years and they get avoid Alabama, Arkansas and LSU from the West. There will be no excuses in Athens after this season as Georgia has an excellent opportunity to play in the SECCG.

The Bad…Finished 4th in the SEC East
That being said about UGA's schedule, not everyone is sold on the team. The offense is void of the same kind of skill player that was on campus 5 years ago, a 190lb true freshmen is supposed to be the answer in the running game and there are a lot of new, albeit talented faces on defense.

I wouldn't be surprised if Kentucky

The Good…Wins with defense this year
The stars have been on offense for years at Kentucky from Steve Johnson and Andre Woodson to Randall Cobb and Derreck Locke. The defense will be where Kentucky's playmakers are this season with Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy as the true leaders of this team. With so much offense gone, the defense will need to step up in order for the Wildcats to stay above water.

The Bad…Doesn't make a bowl game
Kentucky lost too much last year and the schedule is too hard to make it to a sixth straight bowl game. Any postseason game should garner Joker Phillips some votes for SEC Coach of the Year but this might be the prediction in this column that garners the most confidence.

I wouldn't be surprised if LSU

The Good…Finally has Jordan Jefferson wake up
The best comparison LSU fans can hope for is former Auburn QB Jason Campbell. Campbell was inconsistent for four years at Auburn before Al Borges came to the Plains and the light when on. Campbell rallied as a senior to be named the SEC POTY and a first round draft pick after the season. Jordan Jefferson has a new OC in Steve Kragthorpe and this is his last chance to live up to all the hype out of high school. Spring practice was good, but will that translate to the fall?

The Bad…Kept the Quarterback carousel spinning
Jefferson looked good in the spring, but he didn't get pushed from transfer Zach Mettenberger like many expected. If Jefferson starts to struggle again, will Les Miles have Mettenberger ready to step in or will he once again sink or swim with Jefferson. We need to see Jordan play with the new OC in a true game before we are convinced he is moving forward.

I wouldn't be surprised if Mississippi State

The Good…Has the best running game in the SEC
MSU already has the best rushing quarterback in the league with Chris Relf and they have a couple dynamic running backs that should have great years as well. Vic Ballard and LaDarius Perkins are a great thunder and lightning duo for Dan Mullen and Perkins started to show flashes of greatness late in the year, especially the bowl game.

The Bad…Still has wildly inconsistent play at Quarterback
It is difficult to have any faith in Chris Relf's ability to throw the ball accurately in key situations and Tyler Russell is not ready to take the job from him. MSU was very successful last year but they were limited in what they could do offensively because of the liabilities at quarterback. Relf has never been an accurate passer and that isn't expected to change this year.

I wouldn't be surprised if Ole Miss

The Good…LB C.J. Johnson has a Lattimore-ish impact
When Johnson puts on a uniform this fall no one is going to mistake him for a freshmen because he is built like a senior. He should start immediately for Ole Miss and he will improve the defense from day one. For a team that is looking for an identity under Tyrone Nix with so many impact players gone or hurt, Johnson will be that impact guy.

The Bad…Still has serious problems on defense
It is hard not to love Johnson but that is about it. Ole Miss has questions on the defensive line with D.T. Shackelford out for the season and even with the return of Kentrell Lockett, there isn't a lot left. The secondary was questionable last year and it is hard to see vast improvement this fall from the defensive backfield.

I wouldn't be surprised if South Carolina

The Good…Rallies around Stephen Garcia
Carolina got a taste of Atlanta last year and they want it again…Garcia is the best option the Gamecocks have to make it back to the SECCG and if/when he returns the team should rally around him for no other reason but he is their best option to win. Players can overlook their team-mates flaws as long as they do right on the field and Garcia is good enough to do a lot of right.

The Bad…Has Connor Shaw start in Charlotte Week One
This is not a shot at Garcia or faith in Shaw, we just have no clue at this point what is going to happen with South Carolina's quarterback situation. Do we expect Garcia back…probably? But no one is betting their house on it and if/when he does come back is anyone's guess.

I wouldn't be surprised if Tennessee

The Good…Is the SEC East Favorite by October
Being one of the few people on the Tennessee bandwagon this fall the Vols are my preseason pick to win the East. The skill players are very good, the SEC East schedule is friendly and there is no dominant team in the division. Second year coaches tend to have success in the SEC so Derek Dooley gets some love this year.

The Bad…Struggles with Tyler Bray as the man
The dreaded sophomore slump has hit Tennessee before, Erik Ainge struggled mightily his sophomore year and after a dreadful 5-30 performance in the Spring Game, Tyler Bray could be similar to Ainge. Bray is confident, borderline cocky but hard work will be the only thing that saves him from the same fate we saw a few seasons ago with another tall Vols QB from the West Coast.

I wouldn't be surprised if Vanderbilt

The Good…Becomes a more creative offense under James Franklin
Franklin coached under one of the more innovative offensive minds in the country, Ralph Friedgen and did some good things when he was in charge of the Maryland offense. Expect much more creativity and risk taking from Franklin's offense and more accuracy from the quarterbacks. Franklin will cater the offense to what Jordan Rodgers or Larry Smith do best and it should result in much better execution.

The Bad…The Results are still the same
Change is never easy and there is not a lot of talent in Vandy to see an immediate impact in the win/loss column with James Franklin. In time this might end up being a good hire and Vandy will return to being a competitive team in the SEC…just not this year.

What wouldn't surprise you during the 2011 SEC football season and let me know where you think I am wrong. E-mail me Brian Harbach

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