2007 CFN SEC Preview

Posted Jul 30, 2007

There's little debate that the SEC is the nation's best conference, so it might be asking too much for Percy Harvin and a rebuilding Florida to repeat as national champs, but can they even win the East? Check out the predictions, All-SEC team, unit rankings and more in the 2007 CFN SEC preview.

2007 CFN SEC Preview

Team Previews, Offenses, Defenses & Depth Charts
East Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Mississippi State

CFN All-SEC Team & Top 30 Players
- SEC Team-by-Team Capsules

SEC Unit Rankings

- SEC Schedules & Predictions

By Pete Fiutak

Really, how good is the SEC?

No one can deny it’s the best conference going at the moment. No one can deny that the overall speed and talent level is tremendous. The weekly drama is unparalleled, thanks to so many good match-ups, and the overall competition is so tough that it’s just about impossible to get through unscathed. So after the way Florida blew up Ohio State to win the national title, will the conference start to get every benefit of the doubt? It should.

Of all the national champions since Florida State won in 1993 (remember that only the BCS champions count in our new world…sorry USC of 2003), only three finished with a loss. Take a wild stab at which league produced those three; yes, the SEC (1995 Florida, 2003 LSU, and 2006 Florida). You can understand why Auburn fans are still angry after their unbeaten team got left out in the cold in 2004. The SEC has proven time and again that when given the chance, it shines through on the highest stage.

But really, how good is the SEC?

To feed the ego a little more, the league has gone 7-1 in the BCS since 2001, with two national titles, and the lone blemish was Georgia’s 38-35 upset loss to West Virginia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl. In that same time span, the Big Ten went 4-6 (with Ohio State winning three of those), the Big 12 went 3-6, and the ACC was 0-6.

Remember, it took USC losing to UCLA and a sizable portion of the voters to go against Michigan just to get Florida in the championship game. Maybe it’s time to start weighing the strength of schedule more when it comes to the SEC, and to realize that a one-loss team here could be the equivalent of an unbeaten team from another conference. That might especially be the case this season.

Things have gotten even tougher, with normal bottom-feeders Kentucky and Vanderbilt now good enough to go to a bowl. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are even better than in 2006, when they were more than just competitive by the end the season. And then, of course, there are all the big-name programs. 

Georgia is getting better with QB Matthew Stafford improving, South Carolina will be better than it’s been in several years, Arkansas has the best running back tandem in the nation, Auburn will be typical Auburn with a fast, nasty defense, Tennessee will be strong again (as long as the receiving corps comes through), and LSU and Florida will open the season ranked among the top five teams in the nation.

How good is the SEC? It’s still the best, and it’s only getting better.

Team That'll Surprise
Vanderbilt. This is the year. This is the year Vanderbilt finally breaks the drought and goes to its first bowl game since the 1982 Hall of Fame Classic (which it lost to Air Force). While their SEC record won’t be anything to swoon over, the Commodores will go 4-0 in non-conference play (Richmond, Eastern Michigan, Miami University and Wake Forest) and will come up with just enough league wins to get it done.

Team That'll Disappoint
Florida. Even though they’ll be ranked in just about everyone’s top five to start the season, the Gators have to rebuild almost the entire defense while hoping for the hyperkinetic Tim Tebow to lead the offense as effectively as Chris Leak did (at least when it counted). Even with as much raw talent as anyone in America, this team isn’t going to win all those close games two years in a row.

Offensive Player of the Year
RB Darren McFadden, Jr. Arkansas. The coaching staff realizes who the franchise is. In the Hogs’ “Wildcat” package, McFadden will see more time at quarterback, just to get the ball in his hands as much as possible. He’d be a threat to tear off a 68-yard touchdown as a long-snapper.

Defensive Player of the Year
DT Glenn Dorsey, Sr. LSU. Does anyone crank out top defensive tackles like LSU? One after another…the place is a factory for All-Americans, and Dorsey has continued the trend, coming off a phenomenal season as the team’s anchor. Eschewing the NFL for a year, he’ll be the key piece to a possible national title puzzle.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight ...
1. LB Jasper Brinkley, Sr. South Carolina  
2. DL Titus Brown, Sr. Mississippi State
3. OL Antoine Caldwell, Jr. Alabama
4. OL Michael Oher, Jr. Ole Miss
5. LB Wesley Woodyard, Sr. Kentucky

Coach on the Hot Seat
Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State – Croom hasn’t exactly turned things around, going 9-25 in three seasons. His Bulldogs won’t win the SEC this season, but they’d better flirt with a winning season or the program might have to rebuild yet again. 

5 Non-Conference Games the SEC had better take very, very seriously
1. South Florida at Auburn, Sept. 8
2. South Carolina at North Carolina, Oct. 13
3. Southern Miss at Tennessee, Sept. 8
4. Houston at Alabama, Oct. 6
5. Miami University at Vanderbilt, Oct. 27

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. RB Darren McFadden, Jr. Arkansas
2. DT Glenn Dorsey, Sr. LSU
3. QB Andre Woodson, Sr. Kentucky
4. DE Derrick Harvey, Jr. Florida
5. WR Earl Bennett, Jr. Vanderbilt 

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1. Matt Flynn for JaMarcus Russell, QB LSU
2. Jonathan Cornell for Patrick Willis, LB Ole Miss
3. Lucas Taylor for Robert Meachem, WR Tennessee
4. Tim Tebow for Chris Leak, QB Florida
5. Kyle Jackson for Reggie Nelson, S Florida

5 Bold Predictions
1. Florida will be terrific and will have a much easier schedule, but it’ll still lose three games. It’s easy to forget now after the dominant performance against Ohio State, but the 2006 Gators won five games by seven points or less. This year, the retooled national champions will lose at LSU, in a shootout at Kentucky, and in an emotionally-charged war at South Carolina.
2. Nick Saban won’t mean that much for Alabama right away. Just because Saban’s in Tuscaloosa, that doesn’t mean the rest of the SEC will be appreciably worse. There are just enough easy games to mean a bowl appearance, but Saban won’t be earning that big payday until at least next year, when his recruiting classes start to kick in.
3. Steve Spurrier will have his big year with the type of season South Carolina fans have been waiting for. He has just enough experience on both sides of the ball, and a veteran quarterback in Blake Mitchell, to be a real live threat to win the SEC East. Road games at Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas will keep this from being a title season, but South Carolina will set the stage to be the “it” team of 2008.
4. There will be at least three new head coaches next year at this time. Croom will be gone from MSU, only because the record simply won’t be up to snuff. Houston Nutt won’t be at Arkansas, as the program will want to go a different direction after a decent, but not fantastic year. The third? …
5. Some NFL team will open up the bank vault to Urban Meyer. While he’ll have a tough time leaving Gainesville and a team poised to win the 2008 national title, the money, power, and opportunity in the big league will be too great to pass up. Think Cleveland Browns. 

What Will Happen
- LSU will play for the national title. Forget all that stuff about a team from the SEC not being able to go unbeaten. LSU has the schedule (with the toughest road game at Alabama) to battle its way through to the championship game. Where’s the 2008 BCS Championship Game being played? New Orleans.
- Tennessee will lose at Florida and at Kentucky, but it’ll beat Georgia, who’ll lose to Florida, to win the East and play LSU for the SEC championship.
- Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, and yes, Vanderbilt, will go bowling.



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