2012 Pre-Preseason Rankings - SEC West
Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope
Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope
Posted Jan 17, 2012

The too early look at how good the SEC teams should be in 2012.

CFN 2012 First Look Rankings

SEC West

2011 CFN Pre-Preseason First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20  

2011 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20

- CFN 2011 FINAL Rankings

It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, where does everyone stand before Signing Day and spring ball? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2012 based on how good they appear to be at the moment. 

- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason SEC East Rankings
1. LSU (13-1)

The Tigers won't be as good, but that might only bring them back to the pack just a little bit. Rarely does a national title-level team lose its starting quarterback and become better because of it. Jordan Jefferson had a good second half of the regular season, but his problems against Alabama showed just how much the offense needs more of a passing threat under center. Enter Zach Mettenberger, a transfer from Georgia who was the presumed front-runner for the Bulldog starting job two years ago before having some off-field issues. He has a phenomenal stable of running backs to hand off to, while the offensive line that was so dominant over the season gets enough starters back to be a killer again. Rueben Randle left early, but the passing game got a break with Russell Shepard reversing field and choosing to come back for another year.

The defense will be almost as nasty with Anthony Johnson, and Bennie Logan forming a solid defensive tackle pair, but losing Michael Brockers hurts. The linebacking corps loses both starters on the outside, and star corner Morris Claiborne took off – Tyrann Mathieu isn't eligible yet to leave – but Les Miles has stockpiled enough talent to not have too much to worry about.

2. Alabama (12-1)

Remember, the Tide had to replace Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, and Julio Jones in 2011, so the idea of losing starters – and offensive coordinator Jim McElwain - isn't exactly going to cause a major panic for Nick Saban and his program. Star running back Trent Richardson turned pro, but Eddie Lacy is a big playmaker who's ready for a bigger role. The linebacking corps will need to be remade with Dont'a Hightower taking off early, Courtney Upshaw done, and C.J. Mosley a question mark at the moment considering the horrible injury he suffered in the BCS championship.

On the plus side, Outland-winning tackle Barrett Jones stunningly chose to come back to join Chance Warmack to anchor the left side to keep BCS championship hero AJ McCarron clean, while D.J. Fluker is back at right tackle. The young receivers who looked so strong against LSU should play a bigger role, and they might need to make the passing game stronger to overcome early problems for a defense that lost seven starters. Even so, the D will quickly reload around strong safety Robert Lester and linebacker Nico Johnson.

3. Arkansas (11-2)

The Hogs just so happened to be in the toughest division in college football and lost to the nation's two best teams. Under Bobby Petrino, though, the talent level is getting to the point where it's time to knock off an Alabama or LSU and get to the SEC title. This could be the team to do it if a few playmaking receivers are found early on to replace Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. Most of the offensive line returns, to protect quarterback Tyler Wilson, who provided a big boost by deciding to return for his senior season. If Knile Davis is healthy and ready to go, the running game could be the SEC's best.

The defense loses a few heart-and-soul types like end Jake Bequette and linebackers Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson, but just enough key players return to prevent a disastrous drop-off. Unlike other SEC teams, Arkansas will have the offense to make up for any defensive issues.

4. Auburn (8-5)

Is there life without offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and star running back Michael Dyer, who both took off to Arkansas State? Probably. Settling on a starting quarterback right away is a must, but Barrett Trotter is out of the mix after stunningly choosing to take off a year early. Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier will be in the mix for the starting job, and the need to find a consistent second offensive weapon to go along with running back Onterio McCalebb. The interior of the line returns intact, but the starting tackles are gone. The defense had to be rebuilt, but now it's more experienced with nine starters returning. It should be even more talented than the national title version.

5. Texas A&M (7-6)

The Kevin Sumlin era could get off to a rocky start. Going off to the SEC West isn't exactly a way to rebuild, and losing a ton of firepower won't help with QB Ryan Tannehill, WR Jeff Fuller, and RB Cyrus Gray all off to the NFL. Christine Michael has to prove he can stay healthy enough to carry the rushing workload behind a great-looking line that gets all five starters back. The defense that was such a rock against the run and led the nation in sacks gets six starters back on the front seven including Sean Porter and Damontre Moore on the outside. The pass rush has to continue to be tremendous with three starters gone from the secondary.

6. Mississippi State (7-6)

There are too many big replacements to hope to get back to the 2010 production, but the talent is there to improve on a disappointing 2011. The defense loses top tackle Fletcher Cox off the line, and both safeties have to be replaced, but six starters are back and the production shouldn't drop off too much. Offensively, the passing game has to be better and that means QB Tyler Russell has to live up to his prep hype. All the top receivers are seniors, and they'll have to take over the offense with RB Vick Ballard and three offensive linemen done.

7. Ole Miss (2-10)

What kind of a team is Hugh Freeze taking over? The Rebels were 116th in the nation in scoring, 114th in offense, and last in the SEC in total and scoring defense. There's work to do on the defensive front that underachieved in a huge way, but the experience should pay off after throwing true freshmen C.J. Johnson and Bryon Bennett to the wolves. The defense will work around true sophomore linebacker Serderius Bryant on the weakside and Mike Marry in the middle, while all four starters are back in the secondary. The offense has to settle on a quarterback in yet another offseason derby, and finding a consistent running back to work around would be nice. The offensive tackles that were supposed to be a major strength, and weren't, are both gone with Bobby Massie taking off early for th e NFL, but the interior returns intact.

  - CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason SEC East Rankings