Mitchell: SEC West A Midsummer Night's Notes
Arkansas RB Knile Davis
Arkansas RB Knile Davis
Posted Jun 21, 2012

Random SEC notes as we head into the dog days of summer.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Ole Miss: The Good – Quarterback Bo Wallace was the JUCO Player of the Year last year at East Mississippi Community College, with nearly as many passing yards as different ways a Mississippi co-ed can blush. 4,603 to be exact, to go with 53 touchdowns. He'll have a talented and deep (if young) receiving corps to target. Wallace can also take a punch…which is a good thing, because his offensive line has lost every starter but its center, so Wallace can expect to get thrown around the West like it's a mosh pit. The Bad – Since the ill-fated firing of David Cutcliffe, the Rebels have won just 13 conference games, or 23% (13-43). As if that's not enough of an anchor for new head man Hugh Freeeze, Ole Miss might have the toughest schedule of any FBS team in 2012 – and that's a thud of an exclamation. After warm ups against Central Arkansas and UTEP, the Rebs get Texas, at Tulane, at Alabama, A&M, Auburn, bye, at Arkansas, at Georgia, Vandy, at LSU and the Egg Bowl. This is a much better team than the 2011 version and they will be more competitive. But with a slate like that, it'll be a lot of long Saturday nights in The Grove yet again.

Texas A&M: The Good – The Aggies lost more letterman from last season than any other western division team (27). Yet with 53 letterman returning, A&M nearly has the most in that category for 2012 (Ole Miss has 60). The sign of a young team? More likely, an unwillingness to churn the roster of "underperforming" players as much as many SEC schools (you can want things to stay the way they are, but let's not hide our heads in the sand). The Bad – 1914: that was the last time A&M and the Texas Longhorns didn't, well, lock horns. That's going to sting a little come Thanksgiving…but rest assured, Aggie/Longhorn fans, you will soon be playing each other again. There's simply too much money in this game for it to go away. Jerry Jones is salivating. That, and the SEC has several member schools that close out the season with out of conference rivalries: Florida (FSU), SC (Clemson) and Georgia (Georgia Tech). When emotions settle down expect to see these two neighbors closing out the season once again, and likely in the very near future. Follow the money.

Auburn: The Good – Auburn lost two games by 35+ points in one season for the first time in six decades (LSU & UGA). With 15 returning starters and the law of averages on their side, this year should see an improvement on 2011. The Bad – And your 2012 Auburn quarterback is…? Kiehl Frazier? The sophomore was brought to the Plains to run Malzahn's offense, which is now back in Arkansas with Gus. Clint Moseley? The RsJr. started six games last year, only to be benched in the bowl game for a guy who basically quit the team this offseason. On a positive note, Gene Chizik is 20-3 in Jordan-Hare, and the Tigers have only one real road game to speak of in 2012 (at Tuscaloosa).

Mississippi State: The Good – Given a particularly easy schedule to kick things off, don't be at all surprised if the Bulldogs are 7-0 heading into Tuscaloosa on October 20. The Bad – Don't be at all surprised if Miss State loses its last five in a row (all SEC games), and in so doing bows out of the 2012 season unceremoniously. If the Bulldogs lose four straight and get beaten up in the process, an Egg Bowl defeat in Oxford wouldn't be nearly as farfetched as you might think today in the comfort of June.

Arkansas: The Good – Even after losing three wide receivers to the NFL, and possibly three to suspension, this year's Arkansas offense might be the best the Hogs have seen in a decade. Shame it won't have Bobby Petrino. Don't expect Tyler Wilson to repeat last year's 3,638 passing yards, but they won't need it with Knile Davis, Ronnie Wingo and Dennis Johnson running behind an offensive line that's significantly more experienced, with nearly twice as many career starts as this time last year. The Bad – Can a brother get a run defense? That's four straight years the Hogs have finished in the bottom half of the FBS in rushing defense. In a division that sports LSU and Alabama, not to mention Auburn, Arkansas is doomed to runner up status until they improve here. Six of Arkansas' two deep lineman return, but the Hogs must replace a load of experience at linebacker, including all-everything Jerry Franklin and Jerico Nelson.

Alabama: The Good – A.J. McCarron is the first underclassman quarterback to lead his team to a BCS title. Many are concerned he won't get the time he saw in 2011, in that Bama will be hard pressed to match its rushing yards per carry average. However, with four great backs with diverse running styles, don't be surprised if the Tide take a play from LSU and go with a running back by committee, behind what looks like one of the best offensive lines in the nation. The Bad – For the last several years the Capstone has had its bye week before the LSU game…but not in 2012. Will it matter? St. Nick has yet to beat Les Miles without a week or more to prepare for the Mad Hatter.

LSU: The Good – LSU has had a defensive lineman selected in the NFL draft for nine years straight. With consensus All-American RsJr. Sam Montgomery roving the line, not to mention RsJr. Barkevious Mingo, Sr. Josh Downs and RsJr. Bennie Logan, expect that record to hit an even decade. The LSU defensive front seven are all from the same recruiting class – six RsJrs. and one Sr. The Bad – The Tigers will likely be favored in every game they play this season, but only one of those will be on artificial turf: the last one in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Will that make a difference?

For more on the SEC and college football, follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellcfb