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2012 CFN SEC Preview
Alabama QB AJ McCarron
Alabama QB AJ McCarron
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 13, 2012


2012 CFN SEC Preview - Can there be a BCS championship without an SEC team? Not this year.


Preview 2012

SEC Preview


East
- 2012 Florida Preview | 2012 Georgia Preview
- 2012 Kentucky Preview | 2012 Missouri Preview 
- 2012 South Carolina Preview | 2012 Tennessee Preview
- 2012 Vanderbilt Preview

West

- 2012 Alabama Preview | 2012 Arkansas Preview
- 2012 Auburn Preview | 2012 LSU Preview 
- 2012 Mississippi St Preview | 2012 Ole Miss Preview
- 2012 Texas A&M Preview

- 2012 SEC Preview
- 2012 SEC Unit Rankings
- 2012 SEC Schedules & Picks 
- 2012 CFN All-SEC Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 SEC East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2012 SEC West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  

By Pete Fiutak

The SEC might want a four-team playoff system to be put in place as soon as possible, and for the legitimacy of college football, a playoff needs to be put in place immediately.

The best part of winning six straight national championships is that no one is going to take the BCS championship seriously if there isn’t an SEC team playing in it. The problem, though, is that it might be asking for the impossible without a little luck.

Even if two superpower of superpower programs like, say, USC and Texas go unbeaten, will anyone buy that the winner between the two in Miami is the true national champion if a 12-1 LSU or Alabama rolls in the Sugar Bowl? Of course, the SEC’s hope is that this will all be a moot point soon if a playoff plan is in place, but for now it might need to hope there aren’t two unbeaten BCS teams at the end of the season.

Fine, so no one outside of Arkansas – and maybe Alabama and Georgia - could play any offense in the SEC, but LSU rolled through one of the toughest schedules in the history of college football with wins away from home against three BCS winners – Oregon, West Virginia and Alabama. Because LSU was so fantastic, Alabama’s dominance in the snoozefest of a BCS championship – viewed by dozens – completely and totally eliminated any discussion of Oklahoma State be hosed out of the opportunity.

Even with all the rhetoric and debate about whether or not there should’ve been a rematch for the national title, when you win five straight national champions, it’s hard to make a case that the right team got the confetti shower, no matter how it happened.

But going forward, the SEC has to push for a four team playoff as soon as possible because it might not always get the big break it has needed time and again to get the right team into the title game. With the league getting even bigger and stronger with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, getting to 13-0 will be harder than ever, and at some point, a 12-1 SEC champion might be the best team in the country and won’t get the shot to show it.

No, the Tigers and the Aggies aren’t threats to win the SEC title, but they’re two fantastic teams that add even more tough dates to an already loaded dance card. It’s the anti-Boise State argument of the last few years. Yes, Alabama might be one of the three best teams this year, and it’s better than everyone on its slate with the possible exception of LSU, but it has to go to Missouri, and then to Tennessee, and then face Mississippi State, and then go to LSU, and then host Texas A&M in a brutal five game stretch. Throw in games against Michigan, Arkansas and Auburn, and the body blows start to add up.

The same goes for LSU. Even with a lighter slate than last year’s killer it still has to go to Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas. A midseason stretch of at Florida, South Carolina, at Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State – along with the dates against Washington, Auburn and Arkansas – would make 6-6 a dream for most teams, and with an SEC title, 13-0 a battle for a Tiger team that might be even stronger in some ways than it was last season.

The East isn’t going to be as awful as it was last year – it can’t be – and every team has at least one nasty non-conference date to deal with, so even if the SEC champion needs to back its way in, or if it needs every possible break, it’ll be hard to argue at the end of the year that it might not be the best team.

Team That Will Surprise
Texas A&M – No, the Aggies aren’t going to win the SEC West, and they’re probably not going to mount much of a challenge, but no one is going to be expecting much after a coaching change and with so much turnover on offense. However, A&M has one thing that most SEC teams are sorely lacking – an offense. With an aggressive D and a Houston-like passing attack the Aggies will make things interesting for the superpowers in the West. Getting Florida, Arkansas, LSU and Missouri at home should help the cause.

Team That Will Disappoint
Arkansas – Yeah, Bobby Petrino was that good. The Hogs might be high in the preseason rankings and there might be some hope that things will be business as usual after all the turmoil, but there’s a razor-thin fine line between being great and special in the SEC, and losing Petrino could tip the scales. Getting Alabama and LSU both in Arkansas might seem like a break, but home field advantage doesn’t necessarily mean much to those two. There are only four road games, but going to Texas A&M, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State aren’t exactly layups. The non-conference slate is a breeze, but Rutgers is good enough to win the Big East title and won’t be an easy out.

Game of the Year
Alabama at LSU, Nov. 3 – Hopefully the regular season matchup will actually mean something this time around. LSU has road games at Auburn, Florida and South Carolina to deal with before facing the Tide, along with a nasty home game against South Carolina, but it gets the huge break of having an extra week off to prepare. Alabama will be coming off a home game against Mississippi State after going on the road to deal with Missouri and Tennessee. The Tide also has to face Michigan and Arkansas away from home before going to Death Valley, but still, the two national title combatants of last year should still be among the best teams in the country all season long and could be on a collision course like they were last year.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight
1. WR Da’Rick Rogers, Jr. Tennessee
2. DE Corey Lemonier, Jr. Auburn
1. CB Jonthan Banks, Sr. Mississippi State
4. DT Jesse Williams, Sr. Alabama
5. LB Mike Marry, Jr. Ole Miss

Coach on the Hot Seat
Will Muschamp, Florida – There’s a thought that Urban Meyer left a big mess for Muschamp to clean up. What he left was a boatload of talent and athleticism. The Gators might have slipped a bit at the end of the Meyer era, and Muschamp was given a bit of a free pass in his first season, but the offense can’t be that miserable again and the wins need to start flowing. This is Florida. It should be an auto-pilot program that starts off every year in the top ten and with a legitimate shot at playing for the national title, but it likely won’t rank higher than third in anyone’s preseason ranking of the East. Muschamp won’t be fired with a bad year, but anything less than 8-4 will make 2013 very, very stressful.

5 Non-Conference Games the SEC had better take very, very seriously
1. Louisiana Tech vs. Texas A&M, Aug. 30
2. Missouri at UCF, Sept. 29
3. Western Kentucky at Kentucky, Sept. 8
4. Mississippi State at Troy, Sept. 15
5. Bowling Green at Florida, Sept. 1

Bold Statements

- Alabama has become such a machine that it can lose heart-and-soul defenders like Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw from the linebacking corps and not miss a beat. The running game won’t be better without Trent Richardson, but AJ McCarron will build off the BCS championship and will start to do even more with the passing game.

- Speaking of machines loses players like Michael Brockers, Morris Claiborne and Rueben Randle, along with the starting quarterback, and gets even better? Fine, so not having Claiborne is a problem and Tyrann Matheu's knucklehead issues aren't a plus, but even the loss of those two in a thin defensive backfield shouldn't matter too much. LSU’s running game will be devastating – DEVASTATING. The O line will beat people up for a full four quarters while wave after wave of big, strong backs keep pounding away. It will take a colossal flop for the Tigers to lose to anyone other than Alabama. However …

- Texas A&M might not be consistent and it might struggle at times to get things going offensively, but the air show will blow up at least once out of the blue to screw up someone’s season - the Aggies might be ones to expose the thin LSU secondary. The Tigers have to go to Florida, host South Carolina, and then go to College Station in a three week run before getting a week off to prepare for Alabama. It's a stretch to call the upset now, but If the defending SEC champs are unfocused in any way and if they’re looking ahead to the Tide, watch out.

- Marcus Lattimore would be a top 15 pick right now - possibly top five - if he decided to take the year off and work out and prepare himself for life as an NFL featured back. Instead, if the junior is healthy, Steve Spurrier is going to feed him the ball way too much, he’ll probably get hurt again and his draft stock will slip.

- Welcome to the SEC, Missouri. From the West league gave you Alabama and a trip to Texas A&M. Against the East, you get Georgia early at home but have to go to South Carolina and Florida. Three of the final four conference games are on the road. Good luck with that.

- John L. Smith will be fine for Arkansas, but he won’t be Petrino. The key for Smith will be to prove he can keep the team focused week after week. He’ll have the Hogs ready and able to pull off a big performance now and then, but the consistency won’t be there.

- Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen will come up with a special season and will fly up the draft charts. He has too much talent and too much NFL ability to only have 44 career catches for 489 yards. However, he has 14 touchdowns in three seasons.

- Kentucky was awful last year. In a league full of bad defenses the offense was a whole other level of bad. However, even with a miserable passing attack and an O that averaged just 260 yards per game, the Cats still finished 5-7 and had several chances to go bowling. The team will be better, but it will take several upsets to get a 13th game.

- Totally forgotten in Florida’s terrific season was how well the defense played. The Gators finished eighth in the nation in total defense, thanks to the secondary, but like all SEC teams it helped the statistical cause to play against SEC offenses. It’s not a stretch to call Florida’s quarterback battle between Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett the SEC’s biggest and most important position fight.

- Uhhhh, Georgia. Before saddling yourself with a contract extension to Mark Richt, you do know that the ten wins last year were a bit of a mirage, right? The best victory came against … Georgia Tech? Florida? Mississippi State? The Bulldogs played four good teams – Boise State, South Carolina, LSU and Michigan State – and lost to all four.

- Ole Miss fans. Right here, right now, would you rather have former Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze or current Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn?

- Tennessee might not be great, but at the very least it’ll add some pizzazz to the SEC East. Tyler Bray isn’t the sure-thing first round NFL talent some Vol fans think he’ll become, but he’ll be outstanding with Da’Rick Rogers and a healthy Justin Hunter to throw to.

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. DE Jadeveon Clowney, Soph. South Carolina
2. RB Marcus Lattimore, Jr. South Carolina
3. QB Tyler Wilson, Sr. Arkansas
4. DT Anthony Johnson, Soph. LSU
5. DE Sam Montgomery, Jr. LSU

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1. Alabama RB Eddie Lacy for Trent Richardson
2. LSU CB Tharold Simon for Morris Claiborne
3. Alabama LB Trey DePriest for Dont’a Hightower
4. Vanderbilt CB Andre Hal for Casey Hayward
5. Kentucky Malcolm McDuffen for Danny Trevathan

East
- 2012 Florida Preview | 2012 Georgia Preview
- 2012 Kentucky Preview | 2012 Missouri Preview 
- 2012 South Carolina Preview | 2012 Tennessee Preview
- 2012 Vanderbilt Preview

West

- 2012 Alabama Preview | 2012 Arkansas Preview
- 2012 Auburn Preview | 2012 LSU Preview 
- 2012 Mississippi St Preview | 2012 Ole Miss Preview
- 2012 Texas A&M Preview

- 2012 SEC Preview
- 2012 SEC Unit Rankings
- 2012 SEC Schedules & Picks 
- 2012 CFN All-SEC Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 SEC East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2012 SEC West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish