What To Look Out For In The SEC
Florida DE Ronald Powell
Florida DE Ronald Powell
Posted Jul 20, 2012

After the SEC media days, what are the biggest things to look out for going into the season?

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SEC Media Days - Now What?

By Pete Fiutak

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After the SEC Media Days, what are the biggest things to look out for going into the season?

- SEC What To Look Out For, Part 2 - Top QBs, Great O Lines & More
- 2012 SEC Media Days  Predictions & More | SEC Big Questions

The injured superstars.

If every player on a college football roster this season was available for the NFL draft right now, and no one had any injury issues or concerns whatsoever, South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, Arkansas RB Knile Davis, Florida DE Ronald Powell and Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandijo would all be first round selections. There are plenty of superstars throughout the SEC, but these four are special talents who might hold the keys to the conference season in their hands, or more accurately, their legs.

South Carolina got a good offseason out of Kenny Miles and other backs, but Lattimore is the type of talent who can carry an entire offense by himself, even against top SEC defenses.
Arkansas got by just fine last year without Davis, but he might be the difference between the team being great and being beat-LSU-and-Alabama great.

The Florida line should be fine, but Powell was considered the No. 1 overall recruit a few years ago for a reason.

How good is Kouandijo? It's his expected emergence at left tackle that allowed Barrett Jones, to move to center after winning the Outland Trophy as the best lineman in college football.

The problem is that all four superstars are coming off of major injuries of various degrees with Lattimore and Kouandijo suffering torn ACLs in the middle of last season, Powell tearing his ACL this offseason and Davis coming off a broken ankle that cost him all of 2011.

The coaches of the four stars insisted their stars all ready to roll, but first they all need to prove they can take a hit again in live action. Davis is more than fine after getting a full year to heal, but it's asking for a medical miracle for Powell to be back to normal at some point this season and for Lattimore and Kouandijo to be 100% by September with less than a year since their major injuries.

How fast can these four get back to form? They have millions of dollars waiting for them down the road, but their college teams need them now.

LSU's potentially dominant season.

2011 LSU might go down as the greatest team to not win a national championship after beating the eventual national champion on the road and with wins over two other eventual BCS winners and conference champions in Oregon and West Virginia.

How great were the Tigers? They beat everyone on the slate but Alabama by 13 points or more. Take out the two games against the Tide and the Tigers went 12-0 by an average score of 41 to 11. Of course, all anyone will remember is the total failure on offense in the BCS championship loss to Alabama.

That might not be a problem this year.

The schedule isn't necessarily easier overall with road games at Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas, but the Alabama game is in Death Valley as part of a nice run with just one road game from early October until the regular season finale at Arkansas. Instead of dealing with Oregon and West Virginia like last season the Tigers get North Texas, Washington, Idaho and Towson.

But the schedule might not matter considering LSU should be better than everyone on the slate and everyone in college football by a huge margin.

If Zach Mettenberger can add just a wee bit more at quarterback than Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee could, no one will stop the offense with the great line paving the way for a big and punishing stable of running backs. The defensive line will be a brick wall and the back seven will once again be loaded with next-level talents and should be fine despite losing four starters. Throw in kicker Drew Alleman – who nailed 16-of-18 field goals – and terrific punter Brad Wing and there aren't any major weaknesses.

Basically, other than the November dates with Alabama and at Arkansas, it'll be a major upset for anyone on the slate to hang around with LSU if it's playing up to its full capabilities.

The five most important aspects of the 2012 SEC East season: schedule, schedule, schedule, schedule and schedule.

Florida had to play at Auburn last year. That wasn't exactly a bad break considering the Tigers weren't the Tigers of 2010, but the Gators had to play them after dealing with Alabama and a road date at LSU in the previous two weeks. They also had to go to Columbia to face South Carolina along with their annual date with Georgia in Jacksonville, which means they had to face the defending national champion on the road, the eventual 2012 national champion, the eventual 2012 SEC champion on the road, the eventual East champion away from home and the eventual 11-2 Gamecocks on the road.

South Carolina botched a winnable home game against Auburn, but they made up for it by winning at Georgia. However, the East was lost because of the bad break of having to face Arkansas on the road, while Georgia was able to win the division by missing Alabama, LSU and Arkansas and getting Auburn at home, Ole Miss and Mississippi State from the West.

Adding Texas A&M and Missouri will throw the schedules for a little bit of a loop, but once again Georgia gets the mega-break of not having to play LSU, Alabama or Arkansas while South Carolina has to go to Arkansas and Florida has to face LSU.

It's the SEC and everyone has to deal with nasty games week in and week out, but if Georgia wins the East and South Carolina and Florida don't because of their games against the top-shelf teams from the West, expect plenty of griping.

The SEC coaching hot seats.

Outside of possibly John L. Smith at Arkansas, there isn't an SEC coach in a true win-or-go-home situation. However, there are plenty of coaches who'll be under even more pressure than normal, even for the SEC.

Georgia's Mark Richt just signed a contract extension after leading the team to an East title last season, but he still hasn't shown he can get the team to a national championship and had an awful offseason fighting through an embarrassing array of off-the-field issues from several key parts of the secondary and former star running back prospect Isaiah Crowell.

Florida's Will Muschamp struggled in his first season after taking over from Urban Meyer, and while it was generally acknowledged that the team wasn't quite matured enough and not settled enough offensively, it's Florida. There's talent in place. While it's not back to the old days of being in the national title chase, there are plenty of high expectations for a superpower program full of great prospects from some phenomenal recruiting classes.

Derek Dooley walked into a rough situation at Tennessee, but change is coming slowly. This year the offensive firepower is in place – at least with the passing game – to be a dangerous threat for the East title, but after two straight losing seasons under Dooley and three in the last four for the program, this needs to be a turnaround season.

And then there's Smith, who's in a bit of a no-win situation taking over for Bobby Petrino. Arkansas is good enough to go at least 10-2 again and if it's a four-loss season or worse it might be seen as Smith's fault. However, with road games at Texas A&M, Auburn and South Carolina along with battles with Alabama and Rutgers, 8-4 wouldn't be an awful season.

- SEC What To Look Out For, Part 2 - Top QBs, Great O Lines & More