2008 CFN SEC Preview

Posted Aug 3, 2008

The SEC is more top-heavy than last year while several teams will be rebuilding. Keiland Williams & LSU, Dannell Ellerbe & Georgia, Percy Harvin & Florida and Sen'Derrick Marks & Auburn will all be in the SEC title hunt in what should once again be a tremendous race. Check out the CFN SEC Preview.

2008 CFN SEC Preview

Click for Team Previews & Predictions
East Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

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

SEC Unit Rankings

- SEC Schedules & Predictions

By Pete Fiutak

Oh sure, there have been some legendary SEC coaches from Shug Jordan to General Neyland to The Bear, but when the 2008 season kicks off it’ll be the start of a new era of SEC football. Call it the renaissance or call it everyone keeping up in the arms race, but make no mistake about it, this is the greatest collection of college coaches to ever occupy one league at the same time.

Five of the coaches (Phil Fulmer, Steve Spurrier, Les Miles, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban) have won national titles, Tommy Tuberville did everything but win the national championship in 2004, and Mark Richt has been hanging around the national title ever since he took over at Georgia and has the team to break through this season. Rich Brooks, Houston Nutt, Sylvester Croom and Bobby Johnson are SEC veterans who have all fielded strong teams over the last few seasons.

Forget about the apprenticeships and the grace periods and the old college try, this is an all-star collection with several future hall-of-famers and crusty veterans who know everything there is to know about the SEC. They know all the talent, all the fan bases, and they’ve been through all the wars and have survived long enough to still have jobs in the more pressure packed of college conferences.

Even so, there are several major question marks.  Georgia still has to find a consistent passing game. Florida has to prove that all the raw talent will translate into production on defense and in the rushing attack. LSU has to replace several key starters from his national championship squad. Tennessee and Auburn are working with new offensive coordinators, Steve Spurrier isn’t planning on calling the plays at South Carolina, Kentucky lost all its offensive firepower, Alabama still appears to be at least a year away from all the top recruits kicking in, and Arkansas and Ole Miss have new coaching staffs.

Fortunately, for everyone who has patching to do, the coaches are in place to make sure everything works.

Team That'll Surprise

Ole Miss - It's not like Ed Orgeron was kicked out with an empty cupboard. He did a decent job of bringing in some good talents at key spots, and Houston Nutt will benefit. As long as his head is screwed on straight, Greg Hardy will be one of the nation's premier pass rushers and the star of a defense loaded with experience. Michael Oher's decision to return for one more year gives Nutt a strong O line to work around. Most importantly, QB Jevan Snead, the Texas transfer, appears to be the real deal.

Team That'll Disappoint
Georgia – It’s all relative. Considering Georgia will be in everyone’s preseason top three, if not No. 1, there’s nowhere to go but down when it comes to expectations. No, the team won’t be bad by any measure, but the margin between being great and being a national title contender is razor thin in the SEC. The loss of huge-legged PK Brandon Coutu might be enough to cost the Dawgs a game. The schedule isn't conducive to winning a national championship.

SEC Game of the Year
Florida vs. Georgia, Nov. 1 – The Cocktail Party has always been one of college football’s greatest rivalries and a key piece to the SEC puzzle, but now the stakes will be raised even higher. Both teams will likely be in the national title hunt, and after the emotional battle last year in Georgia’s win, the hype could be out of control.  

One Bold Prediction
Not only will Georgia not win the national title and not only will it not win the SEC, it’ll have to battle to win the East. While the team will be among the three best in America, things won’t go as expected because of three things: schedule, schedule, schedule. It’s asking way too much for anyone to get through unscathed at South Carolina, at LSU and at Auburn while hosting Alabama and Tennessee. Of course, there’s the Florida showdown to deal with, too..

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight ...
1. CB D.J. Moore, Jr. Vanderbilt
2. DE/LB Eric Norwood, Jr. South Carolina
3. S Rashad Johnson, Jr. Alabama
4. S/KR Derek Pegues, Sr. Mississippi State
5. OG Tyronne Green, Sr. Auburn

Coach on the Hot Seat
Tony Franklin, offensive coordinator, Auburn – With Alabama the hot resurgent SEC West program, LSU coming off a national title, at Ole Miss and Arkansas coming up with splashy coaching changes, Auburn is working to make sure it doesn’t get lapped. With the change to the spread offense, the spotlight will be on Franklin to make the Tiger attack work right now. There’s no grace period.

5 biggest SEC non-conference games
1. Auburn at West Virginia, Oct. 23
2. Georgia at Arizona State, Sept. 20
3. Alabama vs. Clemson, Aug. 30
4. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29
5. Miami at Florida, Sept. 6

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. QB Matthew Stafford, Jr. Georgia
2. QB Tim Tebow, Jr. Florida
3. OT Andre Smith, Jr. Alabama
4. DT Sen'Derrick Marks, Jr. Auburn
5. DE Tyson Jackson, Sr. LSU

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1. Ricky Jean-Francois for DT Glenn Dorsey, LSU
2. Michael Smith for RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas
3. Jonathan Crompton for QB Erik Ainge, Tennessee
4. Harry Coleman for S Craig Steltz, LSU
5. Brandon Deaderick for DE Wallace Gilberry, Alabama

Click for Team Previews & Predictions
East Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State