SEC Media Days - Predictions & More
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
Posted Jul 16, 2012

Before the SEC media days kick off, here are the quick predictions for each team.

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SEC Pre-Media Days Predictions

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- 2012 SEC Media Days The Big Questions  
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Conference champion: LSU
The Tigers lose their starting quarterback (Jordan Jefferson), the best defensive back in college football (Morris Claiborne), the top receiver (Rueben Randle) and the star defensive tackle (Michael Brockers), but the result should be better with an easier schedule, an even stronger running game and another nasty defense. If quarterback Zach Mettenberger can keep the mistakes to a minimum, the pounding ground attack, defense and special teams will take care of the rest. With Alabama coming to Death Valley, it will take a huge upset for anyone else other than possibly Arkansas on the road in the regular season finale to keep the Tigers from winning a second straight SEC title.

Player of the Year: South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
If – and it's a big, giant if – Lattimore can be back to 100% after suffering a knee injury midway through last year, he should be the catalyst for potentially the best team in South Carolina history. At 6-0 and 218 pounds he's perfectly built to be an NFL franchise back in the near future, but first he has to be a little lucky. Steve Spurrier has never been afraid to use his workhorse back a bit too much, but Lattimore should put up huge numbers for a team that will be in the SEC title chase all season long.

Biggest Surprise: Tennessee
With quarterback Tyler Bray and the phenomenal receiving duo of Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter, the Vols should be able to bomb their way to a few big upsets in a bounceback season. The defense that was so strong last season should be even better, while the offense that sputtered and coughed will be night-and-day different and more consistent. There's still a big question mark about the running game, but Bray will bomb the Vols into a strong season while surprisingly hanging around the SEC East title chase.

Biggest Disappointment: Arkansas
Yes, Bobby Petrino was that good. John L. Smith won't be awful in his debut, and the return of running back Knile Davis will be a huge help, but the receiving corps isn't going to be as strong and the defense, while good, won't be elite compared to LSU and Alabama. The big question mark will be Smith. Can he outcoach Nick Saban, Les Miles and Steve Spurrier? Can he take his Hogs to Texas A&M, Auburn and Mississippi State and come away with wins? No, Arkansas won't fall off the map, but considering the program has been BCS-worthy over the last two years an 8-4 record will seem like a major step back.

Best Game: Alabama at LSU, November 3rd
The two wars last year might not have fired up anyone who loves offense, but they were wars with the regular season matchup – a 9-6 LSU overtime victory - as gripping and tight as any shootout. USC and Oklahoma might have something to say about it, but LSU and Alabama should once again be the two best teams in America and it should take a major upset for either of the two to falter before they meet up in Death Valley. If both teams are 8-0, this might be the highest-rated regular season college football game of all-time.

Conference Predictions

1. South Carolina - Not only is there a midseason stretch of three road games in four weeks, but the last two games are on the road at LSU and Florida after hosting Georgia. Throw in the home dates against Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee along with the end-of-the-year road trip to Clemson and there are more than enough landmines to worry about at least a three-loss season. However, if the Gamecocks can hold serve at home they should be in for a tremendous year and on to their second SEC title appearance in three years.

2. Georgia – The Dawgs are better than Missouri, but it'll be the first SEC game in Columbia and the Faurot Field crowd will be jacked up. Going to South Carolina is bad enough, but it'll be followed up by the Don't-Call-It-A Cocktail Party game against Florida. The Auburn trip will also be nasty meaning it wouldn't be a shocker if Georgia lost three of their five games away from home. They'll beat Kentucky in Lexington and without having to play LSU, Alabama or Arkansas, there can be one slip and still win the East title. There will be more than one.

3. Florida - While the Gators will be stronger, like last year, the schedule will be a problem with road games early at Texas A&M and Tennessee and in the regular season finale against Florida State. However, while Florida has to face LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Missouri, from the September 22nd date with Kentucky to the November 17th layup against Jacksonville State, there's only one true road game at Vanderbilt.

4. Tennessee - Getting Alabama from the West is a bad break made worse by being the lone home date in a four game stretch with road games against Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina. Closing out with three home games in the final four should make for a nice November, but first the team has to be in range to go bowling.

5. Missouri – The atmosphere should be tremendous for the SEC opener in Columbia against Georgia. Going to South Carolina will be bad, but the big problem will be dealing with Alabama at home in mid-October with a brutal finishing kick on the horizon. The Tigers play three road games in November going to Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M meaning the bowl bid had better be locked up relatively early or else a home game against Syracuse could be needed to save the year from a disaster.

6. Vanderbilt – Back-to-back road games against Georgia and Missouri will be next to impossible after starting the season off against South Carolina and a week after a road trip to Northwestern. The Commodores have to win a few of the home games against teams like Florida, Auburn and Tennessee to be in the hunt for a bowl game, and while three of the final four games are on the road, they're winnable against Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Wake Forest.

7. Kentucky – The Wildcats not only have to deal with Missouri, they have to go to Columbia. Outside of the home game against Vanderbilt, where are the possible conference wins? Mississippi State at home? An upset over Tennessee on the road? There can't be any slips against WKU or Kent State at home, and pulling off a few shockers will be a must to have any hope of getting in the hunt for a bowl game.

1. LSU - The schedule will be far easier with Alabama coming to Death Valley and with no brutal Oregon-like non-conference games. Going to Arkansas could screw up the dream year in the regular-season finale, and going to Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M will be challenging, but if everything goes according to plan the worst-case scenario could be 11-1.

2. Alabama - The Tide has to go to Death Valley to deal with a loaded LSU – made worse with the Tigers getting two weeks off to rest up and prepare. While Bama will be better than everyone else on the schedule, there are four other landmines against Michigan (in Arlington, Texas), at Missouri, at Tennessee and at Arkansas. Throw in the always-tough Auburn game, and a home date with Texas A&M, and there are just enough tough battles to assume a slip-up or two to keep the defending national champions from repeating.

3. Auburn - The Tigers will know where they stand right away opening things up in Atlanta against a Clemson team fired up to show the Orange Bowl was an aberration, and followed up by a trip to Mississippi State. To make things even more interesting, LSU and Arkansas have to come to Auburn to wrap up a fun first five weeks of the season. Four home games in a row late in the year will help prepare for the regular season finale at Alabama, but Georgia and Texas A&M will be fights.

4. Arkansas - Alabama and LSU are home games, but Alabama and LSU are going to be Alabama and LSU again. Auburn and Mississippi State are both stronger and both games are on the road, as is a date with arguably the East's best team, South Carolina. The Texas A&M showdown in Arlington will be a problem that could trip up hopes to stay in the West race.

5. Mississippi State - If MSU can get by the conference opener at home against Auburn, a 7-0 start is not only possible, it's likely before the brutal back half of the slate kicks in including dates with Alabama and LSU on the road and home battles with Texas A&M and Arkansas.

6. Texas A&M - Welcome to the SEC, Texas A&M. Now enjoy opening up conference play against Florida, and later enjoy the midseason run of four games away from College Station in five dates. That's not going to be just any old stretch; it kicks off against Arkansas and includes three straight road games to Auburn, Mississippi State and just for a little bit more fun, Alabama. Oh, and that home game to rest up and recharge in the middle of all the road madness is against LSU.

7. Ole Miss - The Rebels should be just strong enough to beat Central Arkansas, UTEP and Tulane in September, but the SEC schedule is a bear and the other non-conference game is against Texas. Even so, with Vanderbilt and Mississippi State at home, six wins isn't a crazy goal.

- 2012 SEC Media Days The Big Questions