2009 Spring Preview - The SEC Hype

Posted Mar 18, 2009

Ready to get fired up for the 2009 season that's still six months away? As spring ball kicks in, here's the next installment of the 20 big off-season questions. After all the big losses, like Tennessee's gaffe against UCLA, is the SEC really worthy of all the hype? This and more in the pre-spring overview.

Spring Preview 2009

The 20 Big Questions ... No. 11

By Pete Fiutak 

With spring ball underway, here are the 20 Big Questions to start off the offseason, beginning with the top non-conference games.

Spring Preview 2009
20 Big Questions

- No. 12 - Will the Pac 10 finally get some respect?
- No, 13 - The top BCS. vs. non-BCS games

- No. 14 - Why no Big East love?
- No, 15 - Does the Big Ten suck?

- No. 16 - Was the Big 12 exposed?

- No, 17 - Just how good is the ACC?
- No. 18 - Are we any closer to a playoff?

- No, 19 - Potential BCS Busters

- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1 to 10)
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11 to 20)
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21 to 30)
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31 to 40)
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41 to 50
With spring ball underway, here are the 20 Big Questions to start off the offseason.

11. Is the SEC worth the hype?

It is until another big league steps up and proves otherwise. Just when it seemed like there was ammunition for SEC haters, the league came through when pushed.

The SEC, other than Florida, Alabama and Kentucky, had a nightmare of a time in pre-bowl, non-conference play, but for some reason the losses seemed to fly under the radar. Yeah, it was supposed to be a down year for the conference with several rebuilding jobs needing to be done, but the defeats were stunning and staggering.

- Arkansas lost to Texas and barely got by Western Illinois and UL Monroe
- Auburn lost to West Virginia
- Georgia lost to Georgia Tech (but beat Arizona State)
- LSU didn’t even play a BCS team in non-conference play, but needed an epic fourth quarter to get by Troy.
- Ole Miss lost to Wake Forest
- Mississippi State lost to Georgia Tech (along with Louisiana Tech)
- South Carolina got blown out by Clemson (but beat NC State)
- Tennessee lost to an awful UCLA (along with Wyoming)
- Vanderbilt lost to Duke and Wake Forest

That means eight SEC teams went a combined 2-9 in pre-bowl games against BCS league teams. 2-9?! Fine, throw in Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and LSU in the mix and the SEC still went 6-9 … oooooh.

But here’s the problem … everyone else stunk, too.

The Big 12 South got plenty of attention and the ACC did a solid job against other BCS teams, but it’s not like anyone else did much of note with the Big 10, for example, struggling and the Pac 10 having problems with the Mountain West. But that doesn’t excuse the SEC, which injures itself patting itself on the back when the media and the college football world aren’t doing it for them.

The bowl games showed that the SEC really might be just rebuilding and reloading, and that the athletes are in place to remain the nation’s top league, at least in perception. Florida really was that good. Ole Miss blew past Texas Tech. LSU played up to its potential and destroyed a hot Georgia Tech. Vanderbilt beat the ACC’s No. 2 team, Boston College, and Kentucky beat the Conference USA champion, East Carolina. Of course, South Carolina went in the tank against Iowa and Alabama was stunned by Utah, but overall the SEC made amends.

That’s fine, and winning three straight national titles and four of the last six will mean the top team will always get the benefit of the doubt in the BCS Championship game discussion, but the league has to come back roaring this year to prove that it really is worth the hype. The idea that it’s too hard to get through the SEC unscathed only works when the conference doesn’t stink in out of conference play.  

The “rebuilding” excuse is usually valid, but the SEC boasts that the talent level is stronger than in any other league, and as Florida has been able to show, it’s possible to win with freshmen in key spots. The recruiting is always so strong that the league can’t go out and tank so badly when it dares to venture outside of conference play, and on this, fans of other leagues have a valid point when it comes to the attention and the benefit of the doubt the SEC receives. Even so, the league gets a bad rap for not playing tough non-conference games and that’s simply not true.

Remember, the league has several built-in rivalry games like Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Kentucky vs. Louisville, and South Carolina vs. Clemson. Alabama plays Virginia Tech, Auburn plays West Virginia, Georgia plays Oklahoma State and Arizona State, LSU plays Washington, South Carolina plays NC State, Tennessee plays UCLA, and Mississippi State and Vanderbilt play Georgia Tech. That’s not bad. Those are 13 key games that the SEC has to win at least seven of to save face, and has to win nine or more to truly prove it’s the nation’s power conference and that it’s worth all the hype.

The Top 5 Players Who Need A Big Spring
1. Kodi Burns, QB Auburn
2. Jordan Jefferson, QB LSU
3. Stephen Garcia, QB South Carolina
4. Bradley Sowell, OT Ole Miss
5. Joe Cox, QB Georgia

The Top 5 Position Concerns/Battles
1. Florida wide receiver
2. Alabama offensive line
3. Tennessee defensive line
4. Arkansas quarterback
5. LSU defensive line

The 5 Biggest SEC Spring Storylines
1. Can anyone touch Florida? With everyone of note but Percy Harvin coming back, including all the defensive starters, and with a shockingly light schedule, the Gators have no one to blame but themselves if they don’t play for a third national title in four years.
2. Was last year a fluke for Alabama? The great recruiting classes under Nick Saban will have to fill in some huge holes, but this could be a more talented team than last year’s. Does it just need time to jell, or is it a bit of a rebuilding year?
3. Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik, Dan Mullen. Mullen will get a little bit of a break at Mississippi State, but the spotlight on Kiffin and Chizik will be white hot.
4. Is Ole Miss for real? The team was playing at a high level at the end of the season, and now the expectations will be through the roof.
5. LSU and its talent level. The Tigers were amazing against Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but they sputtered all season long. Are they going to be back in the national title hunt soon after yet another amazing recruiting class?

The Spring SEC Team Rankings
1. Florida
2. LSU
3. Alabama
4. Ole Miss
5. Georgia
6. Tennessee
7. Auburn
8. South Carolina
9. Kentucky
10. Arkansas
11. Vanderbilt
12. Mississippi State

The Pre-Spring Call For Player Of The Year
1. Tim Tebow, QB Florida
2. Brandon Spikes, LB Florida
3. Eric Berry, S Tennessee
Jevan Snead, QB Ole Miss
5. Eric Norwood, LB South Carolina