2009 CFN SEC Preview

Posted Aug 4, 2009

How good is the SEC? It was a down year and it still had a national champion, a great bowl season, and maintained the honor of being the nation's best conference. Now it should be even better. Check out the 2009 CollegeFootballNews.com SEC Preview, All-SEC Team, and more.

2009 CFN SEC Preview

Team Previews & Predictions
Florida | Georgia |
Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt

Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

- 2009 CFN SEC Preview
- SEC Team-by-Team Capsules

- CFN All-SEC Team & Top 30 Players
SEC Unit Rankings
- SEC Schedules & Predictions

- 2008 CFN SEC Preview

By Pete Fiutak

Nothing brings in the hate mail faster than not giving the SEC its proper respect. It's not enough to just say it's the best conference in America, it's imperative to bow down and kiss the ring over and over and over again. It's hard to do that when the league has a season like it came up with in 2008.

The bowl season was solid, even with Alabama's clunker to Utah and South Carolina's disaster against Iowa, Florida won the BCS Championship for the league's third straight national title, but all that masked a slew of problems. The biggest issue was that the conference was ... take a breath ... boring.

Oh sure, Florida's win over Alabama in the SEC title game was a classic, but up and down the league there were disappointments, bad games, and mediocre football. It wasn't a case of the SEC not being the Big 12, which was a weekly scoring funfest with points and stats being cranked out by the truckload, and it wasn't a case of the league having so many great defenses that the offenses didn't stand a chance. Most of the offenses were bad, several power teams struggled, the pre-bowl season non-conference season was mediocre, and outside of the top teams, the product was bad. That will change.

Call 2008 a transition year or call it a season when several teams had to undergo necessary changes, but 2009 should be much better. Arkansas has more of the right pieces in place to do what Bobby Petrino wants, while Auburn and Tennessee are almost certain to be better even though they're starting anew. LSU needed a year to reload, Georgia had injury issues that should mean a more developed team going into the season, South Carolina has its quarterback in Stephen Garcia, and tremendous recruiting classes brought in over the years at Alabama and Ole Miss should pay off in a big way. And, of course, there's Florida, who's not just going for a third national title in four years, but is pushing for college football immortality in and attempt to be counted among the greatest teams of all-time.

But the improvement of the league is an assumption because it's THE SEC. The proof will have to come on the field, and for the conference to be better, the offenses have to be more effective and more efficient. Florida, Georgia, and Ole Miss had great passers who were among the best in America, but the other nine SEC teams finished 65th or lower in pass efficiency with South Carolina, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt all finishing 93rd or lower. Six teams finished 97th or lower in total offense, seven teams finished 87th or lower in scoring, and five teams finished 81st or lower in rushing.

With experience should come more production with most of the teams finally settled at quarterback and with the coaching staffs in place to provide more stability. Of course, offense alone doesn't make a league great (ask the Big 12); big wins make a conference's reputation. As long as the SEC comes through when it absolutely has to, it'll still get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the national title discussion and the BCS games. But before what should be another great bowl season, expect a far more entertaining and far better year overall. If it's possible, the league is back, even though it didn't really go anywhere.

Team That'll Surprise

Georgia - It's all relative. Georgia was No. 1 to start out 2008 and came up with a disappointing 9-3 regular season. Now the spotlight is off, with all the attention being paid to Florida and Ole Miss, but don't go to sleep on the loaded Dawgs and don't just assume they'll take any sort of a step back just because it lost Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno to the NFL a year early. Of course, Georgia would likely be everyone's preseason No. 2 team had Stafford and Moreno returned, but it's not far off as is. The offensive line might be the best in America, the defense will be swarming, and the bevy of strong backs are good enough to carry the offense when the passing game isn't working. There will be tests, the season opener at Oklahoma State should be the SEC's best non-conference challenge, but no matter how that turns out, don't be shocked if it's Georgia, and not Florida, winning the SEC title. 

Team That'll Disappoint

Ole Miss - The preseason hype is off the charts with many thinking this could be a top five team. On paper, the schedule doesn't look that bad, there's a rising superstar in QB Jevan Snead, and the defensive line might be the best in America. However, the Rebels are hardly a slam dunk to roll through the West considering LSU has improved and Alabama might be better than last year. The offensive line is fine, but nothing special, while the secondary should be inconsistent. And then there's the expectation factor. Everyone will be gunning for the Rebels this year, and that includes sneaky-tough road games at South Carolina and Vanderbilt to start the year. Ole Miss will be good, at times great, but this isn't going to be the special season that many Rebel fans are hoping for.

Game of the Year … Florida vs. Georgia, October 31st. Florida's trip to LSU on October 10th will be must-see TV, and that's on the same day that Alabama plays Ole Miss. But it'll be the Cocktail Party that should define the SEC season with Georgia looking to establish itself as the league's top dog while Florida will likely wrap up the East with a win.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight ...

1. CB Myron Lewis, Sr. Vanderbilt
2. DT Malcolm Sheppard, Sr. Arkansas
3. DE Antonio Coleman, Sr. Auburn
4. DE Kentrell Lockett, Jr. Ole Miss
5. LB Micah Johnson, Sr. Kentucky

Coach on the Hot Seat

(tie) Gene Chizik, Auburn, & Lane Kiffin, Tennessee - Steve Spurrier needs to come up with a big year at South Carolina, but it's two of the newcomers who need to shine. Chizik was a controversial hire who needs to prove that he's a better coach than his Iowa State teams showed, and Kiffin has to hope his team can cash the checks that his mouth is writing. They each put together tremendous coaching staffs and they'll each get a grace period, but 2010 could be awfully tense if they don't start out hot in 2009.

5 Non-Conference Games the SEC had better take very, very seriously

1. Louisiana Tech at Auburn, Sept. 5
2. LSU at Washington, Sept. 5

3. Troy at Arkansas, Nov. 14
4. Florida Atlantic at South Carolina, Sept. 19
5. Memphis at Tennessee, Nov. 7

Bold Prediction … Alabama will flirt with another undefeated regular season. It's forgotten now after the way everything happened last year, but this was the season when everything was supposed to come together in the Nick Saban era. The recruiting classes have matured, there's a rock in DT Terrence Cody to work around, when he should be in an NFL camp right now, and there's more than enough returning talent to run the table. The Tide has to go to Ole Miss, but it gets LSU at home. With all that said, watch out for Auburn to be jelled enough at the end of the year to pull off the home win in the Iron Bowl.

5 Best Pro Prospects

1. LB Brandon Spikes, Florida
2. SS Eric Berry, Tennessee (Jr.)
3. WR Julio Jones, Alabama (not eligible until 2010)
4. DE Greg Hardy, Ole Miss
5. LB Rolondo McClain, Alabama

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill

1. OT James Carpenter for Andre Smith, Alabama
2. DT Lawson Scott for Peria Jerry, Ole Miss
3. QB Joe Cox for Matthew Stafford, Georgia
4. CB Jamie Graham for D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt
5. OT Bradley Sowell for Michael Oher, Ole Miss

- 2009 CFN SEC Preview
- SEC Team-by-Team Capsules

- CFN All-SEC Team & Top 30 Players
SEC Unit Rankings
- SEC Schedules & Predictions

- 2008 CFN SEC Preview