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1) The five
games that will shape the SEC race (in order)
LSU at Auburn
Yeah, Alabama and Arkansas will make a push, but the showdown of
Tigers should decide the West race.
Florida at Tennessee
Part one of the East puzzle will be put in place. Tennessee still has to
travel to Georgia, so this might be more vital to the team in orange.
Tennessee at Georgia
This could be a fight for survival if Georgia gets upset in its SEC
opener at South Carolina and Tennessee loses to Florida. If the Dawgs
and Vols win those two battles, this might decide the East title.
Florida at Auburn
You'll likely get a second chance to see these two play six weeks
Florida vs. Georgia
Can Urban Meyer make it 2-0 in
the Cocktail-Not-A-Cocktail Party?
Five non-conference games that SEC teams had better take very, very
Washington State at Auburn, Sept. 2
It shouldn't be hard for Auburn to remember last year's season
opening clunker against Georgia Tech. Washington State has the firepower
to bomb away and make this a nightmare for the Tiger secondary.
2. Marshall at Tennessee, Sept. 23
If there are still remnants of last year's Tennessee team floating
around, the date with the Herd, coming a week after the showdown against
Florida, could be a major problem.
3. Middle Tennessee at South Carolina, Nov. 18
On paper, South Carolina should obliterate the Blue Raiders.
However, this comes after the trip to Florida and before the rivalry
battle with Clemson. Don't forget how the Sun Belt team stunned
Vanderbilt last year.
4. Southern Miss at Florida, Sept. 2
If you're going to pull off an upset, the best chance is in the
season opener. In what should be a defensive slugfest, the Golden Eagles
have a puncher's chance.
5. Fresno State at LSU, Oct. 21
Everyone knows Fresno State's résumé. This game is the last thing
LSU needs in the middle of the SEC season.
best SEC pro prospects
Georgia DE Quentin Moses, Sr. - 44 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 20.5 TFL, 38
The hope was for Moses to go from being a solid situational pass rusher
to an All-SEC terror. 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss later, he's
going to be on the short list of All-America ends and the leader of the
potentially great Dawg line. He's not huge at 250 pounds and he's not
the best run stopper, but there are few better at consistently getting
to the quarterback. He's also smart being named to the SEC Academic
Honor Roll over the last few years.
LSU FS LaRon Landry, Sr. - 69 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL, 3
interceptions, 8 broken up passes
One of the nation's best free safeties and a sure early round draft pick
next year, he has the 6-2, 204 size, the 4.4 speed, and the résumé with
241 career tackles. He's a proven playmaker against the pass and a
light-him-up highlight reel hitter. It'll be a shock if he's not an
All-American and in the hunt for SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Miss LB Patrick Willis,
- 128 tackles, 3 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 4 broken
up passes, 1 interception
Head coach Ed
former coach at USC, said before last season that Willis could've been a
star on any of the recent Trojan teams. Willis is just now starting to
get more recognition from everyone other than CFN making most preseason
All-America teams, and he should be one of the favorites for all the big
defensive awards if he leads the nation in solo tackles like he did last
4. Auburn RB
Kenny Irons, Sr. - 256 carries, 1,293 yds, 13 TDs, 5.1
ypc, 14 catches, 164 yds
The South Carolina transfer ripped it up in spring practice of
2005, but didn't get into the mix until the third game of
the season when he tore off 147 yards and two touchdowns in the
win over Ball State on just 11 carries. He then went on to be
one of the SEC's best players with eight 100-yard days showing off
tremendous home-run hitting speed highlighted by a brilliant
218-yard day in the loss to LSU. He's not necessarily a power
runner, but he's physical and doesn't go down easily. When he
has a sliver of daylight, he'll tear off a huge gain.
Arron Sears, Sr.
The All-America caliber lineman can
play either tackle or guard, but he's best and most useful on
the outside. As the only returning starter on the line, he might
be moved around where needed, like he was in the win over LSU
when he saw time at four different spots. He's a strong, and
surprisingly mobile 6-4 and 338 pounds with two years of
starting experience under his belt.
Five biggest SEC shoes to fill
1. Georgia QB Joe Tereshinski for D.J. Shockley
It might be true freshman Matthew Stafford filling the void.
Tereshinski knows the offense and he has some experience, but
the question is whether or not he has what it takes to hold on
to the job. He's a big, smart player with good mobility for his
size, but he's not going to be Shockley running the ball.
Even so, if he's the starter, he'll be enough of a rushing
threat to keep defenses thinking and has the potential to
make the Shockley-like leap in overall production in his senior
season. He's most known for stepping in for an injured Shockley
in the loss to Florida catching a touchdown pass and rushing for
37 yards, but he struggled in the passing game only completing 8
of 21 passes for 100 yards with an interception.
2. LSU DT
Glen Dorsey for Claude Wroten
Dorsey got in better shape getting down to 284 pounds but still should
be a rock against the run. He was a steady reserve last year at both
tackle spots and should be an All-SEC performer and the leader up front.
He's quick enough to get into the backfield on a regular basis and
should double his sack total with more time on the field.
Alabama LB Terrence Jones for
It's Jones' time to shine with some huge shoes to fill replacing Ryans
on the strongside. He would've been starting for most teams over the
last two seasons, but the Bama linebacking corps has been too crowded
with talent. Even so, he has 50 career tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss
despite playing a limited role. While he can move with defensive back
speed, there's a little concern about his size for the strongside at
only 220 pounds
4. Auburn OT King Dunlap for Marcus McNeill
A monster at 6-8 and 313 pounds, Dunlap is one of the few players who
can literally fill the shoes of All-American Marcus McNeill. One of the
program's star recruits of a few years ago, Dunlap has enough
experience, and enough of the trust of the coaching staff, to play at a
high level right away at left tackle. Run blocking won't be an issue,
but he'll have to prove he can consistently keep his feet moving well in
5. Vanderbilt QB Richard Kovalcheck for Jay Cutler
Arizona transfer will get every shot at starting in a
battle with Chris Nickson. He has
good size and a nice, accurate arm with 11 games of starting
experience for the Wildcats in 2004 and 2005. While not the most
mobile quarterback around, he has a good enough arm to make up
for most shortcomings. Smart enough to have graduated from UA,
he's in grad school at Vanderbilt.
Five SEC breakout players
Jarvis Moss, Jr. - 25 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 11 TFL
Is Moss going to emerge as more than just a devastating situational pass
rusher? He has the speed, the 6-6 frame, and the closing ability to have
a double-digit sack season. So far he has gotten by on pure speed
running as fast as he can into the backfield and usually coming up with
great results. Now he appears on the verge of becoming a stronger all-around defender.
2. Florida TE
Cornelius Ingram, Soph.
The former backup quarterback looked like a major NFL prospect
in spring ball. He's 6-4, 235 pounds, fast, and now he knows
what he's doing. When he has everything working, he's next to
uncoverable. His blocking might not be anything special, but
that won't matter if he's making big plays with his hands. Now
he has to prove he can be great in game action.
3. Georgia QB
Matthew Stafford, Fr.
One of the most heralded
quarterback recruits to ever come to Georgia, the 6-3, 225-pound
high school superstar has NFL written all over him. He has the
team's best arm along with the poise and vision of an experienced
college veteran. He graduated early to take part in spring
practices, and he hasn't looked out of place in reps with the
4. Ole Miss RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jr.
Green-Ellis was a bright young tailback at Indiana rushing for
1,732 yards in two seasons. Now he's a Rebel and should be an
instant upgrade for a woeful rushing attack with his ability to
power it between the tackles to go along with the quickness to
get outside. He took over the top spot this spring for his
blocking and receiving skills as well as his workhorse running
State RB Anthony Dixon, Fr.
The true freshman might be the the most talented back on the
roster. He's big, strong and fast running a 4.5 40 with a bench
press of 265 pounds in a 6-1, 229-pound frame. He ran for 31
touchdowns his senior year at Terry High in Jackson,
Mississippi, and he'll get every shot at seeing the field right
away once he hits campus.