2010 CFN SEC Preseason Preview

Posted Aug 8, 2010

The SEC might be in a bit of a rebuilding phase, but it'll still be nasty week in and week out. Could a one-loss champion still beat out two other unbeaten teams in the BCS Championship hunt? What about a two loss team? Will the respect overcome a lesser record? Check out the CFN 2010 SEC Preview.

Preview 2010

SEC Preview

- Florida Preview | Georgia Preview | Kentucky Preview
- South Carolina Preview | Tennessee Preview | Vanderbilt Preview

- Alabama Preview | Arkansas Preview | Auburn Preview
- LSU Preview | Ole Miss Preview Mississippi State Preview
- 2010 SEC Preview | 2010 SEC Unit Rankings | 2010 SEC Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-SEC Team & Top 30 Players | Get SEC Tickets
- 2010 SEC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish

By Pete Fiutak   

Alright, SEC. How much juice do you really have?

The league overall might be a bit overrated (once you get past the killers at the very top each and every year), and this is certainly a rebuilding season for several key programs, but it's still the cream of the crop on a national scale. For right or wrong, when the top teams are great, the rest of the league's reputation follows, and that respect could get put to the test this season.

If all things are equal, the SEC champion will play for the national title no matter what. Four straight BCS Championship wins tend to overshadow various problems here and there, like down seasons from LSU and Georgia, a former superpower in Tennessee that's a shadow of its former self, Arkansas and Auburn teams that struggled to get by inferior opponents in their respective bowl games, a mediocre South Carolina program that got pantsed by Connecticut in the PapaJohns.com Bowl, and Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt programs that are decent, but hardly special.

No, it doesn't matter that there isn't the ten-mile wide gap between the SEC and the other BCS leagues like everyone assumes there it, mainly because there's a 100-mile chasm between the cream of the crop and everyone else when it comes to playing in championship games. And that's why 2010 could be extremely interesting when it comes to the national title debate. Will you feel comfortable if a one-loss SEC champion isn't playing in the BCS Championship? How about a two-loss SEC champion if the BCS Championship game has a one-loss BCS team vs. an unbeaten one?

The SEC's problem this season isn't that it's going to be too good (it'll still be the best conference in the nation, even in a down year), it'll be that it's just good enough with the right mix of reloading stars and the right schedules to all but guarantee that no one will get through unscathed, and there could be a two-loss SEC champion.

Alabama might be everyone's No. 1 team going into the season, but almost the entire defense has to be rebuilt. That might not be that big a deal considering Nick Saban brought in a slew of four and five-star talents over the last few seasons that are ready to step up and shine. The schedule, however, is an issue. In an extremely unfair quirk, six teams (South Carolina, Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Auburn) get a bye week before facing the Tide. Remember, it took everything in the bag for last year's ultra-motivated juggernaut to get by Tennessee and Auburn, and it took a dogfight to get past South Carolina and LSU. Rebuilding teams, even talented ones like Bama, don't get all the same breaks twice in a row in the SEC, and it wouldn't be the slightest bit shocking if the defending national champion lost two games, with road trips at Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU, to go along with home dates against Florida, Ole Miss, and Auburn, and still won the SEC title.

Florida has many of the same issues. The talent is national title good, but the team is still a year away from being jaw-dropping. The Gators have yet to go unbeaten under Urban Meyer (and, shockingly, has only one unbeaten season in their history, going 5-0-1 in 1911), and this doesn't appear the be the year that'll change with Captain Underpants, Jockey spokesperson Tim Tebow, off doing his Jim Palmer impersonation, and with so many changes on both sides of the ball. Throw in a schedule with road trips to Alabama, Tennessee, and a revamped Florida State, and tough battles with an improved Georgia, LSU, and South Carolina, and there should be at least one loss on the slate, and probably two, before a possible SEC title appearance.

Georgia is going to be really, really good, but this doesn't appear to be a team ready to go on an unbeaten run. The same goes for LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Auburn. So, again, will you sleep well at night if the SEC champion isn't playing for the national title?

The argument can and will be made that a two-loss Alabama or a one-loss Florida would still be the favorite to win a BCS Championship game over an unbeaten Ohio State, Boise State, Texas, or Oklahoma, and it'll be fascinating theater to see if this actually happens.

Of course, Alabama could steamroll everyone by 24, meet a one-loss Florida in a rematch of the Oct. 2 showdown, and everything would be nice, neat, and clean.

Team That'll Surprise

Georgia – Aaron Murray. If any coach in America actually knew the name of the Georgia starting quarterback, the Dawgs might have been given more respect in the early Coaches' Poll. The preseason No. 21 team has top ten, possibly top five, talent with the deepest, and possibly the best, offensive line in America, a loaded defensive front seven, fantastic running backs and receivers, and the best kicking game in college football. If Murray is merely serviceable, the Dawgs might be playing in Atlanta in early December.

Team That'll Disappoint

Alabama – Remember, this is all relative. Considering Alabama has won 24 regular season games in a row, is the defending national champion, has gone 26-2 over the last two seasons, has almost everyone of note back on offense, and is the preseason No. 1 team, anything less than a third straight BCS appearance and a second straight date in the BCS Championship will be seen as a disappointment. The Tide will still be really, really, really good, but it might go 10-2 in the regular season.

Game of the Year

Florida vs. Georgia, Oct. 30 – the Florida – Alabama game on October 2nd will be the biggest SEC regular season game of the year on a national scale, but it really might not mean that much. If both the Gators and the Tide finish the regular season with just one loss, or the winner is unbeaten, they'll play again in the SEC Championship and the winner will probably end up in Glendale. However, the winner of the Florida – Georgia battle will almost certainly represent the East in the SEC title game considering Tennessee is down, Kentucky and Vanderbilt aren't going to challenge, and South Carolina is merely decent. The winner of the former Cocktail Party, if everything else goes to form, could be one step away from playing for the whole ball of wax.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight

1. OLB/DE Justin Houston, Jr. Georgia
2. CB Patrick Peterson, Jr. LSU
3. LB Chris Marve, Jr. Vanderbilt
4. WR Darvin Adams, Jr. Auburn
5. LB K.J. Wright, Sr. Miss State

Coach on the Hot Seat

Les Miles, LSU – Georgia's Mark Richt probably can't afford another 8-5 year, and he certainly can't afford another blowout loss to Florida (losing the last two years by a combined score of 90 to 27), but Miles is in a stickier situation. The guy has a national title, and it could be argued that he did a decent job getting nine wins (with the four losses to Florida, at Alabama, at Ole Miss, and Penn State) out of a team that looked like Tarzan and played like Jane, but with nine losses in the two seasons since winning the BCS Championship, there's a sense that things are slipping. Alabama has reemerged as the cream of the SEC crop, Arkansas is getting better, Auburn is lurking, and Ole Miss appears to have staying power. Miles is still bringing in the talent, and it's not like a losing season is around the corner, but he could desperately use a ten-win campaign with a victory over an Alabama on November 6th and/or a win over Florida on October 9th to show that his team is still damn strong.

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

1. Georgia at Colorado, Oct. 2
2. Mississippi State at Houston, Oct. 9
3. Fresno State at Ole Miss, Sept. 25
4. Southern Miss at South Carolina, Sept. 2
5. South Florida at Florida, Sept. 11

Bold Predictions …
The SEC will have 11 bowl eligible teams, but the champion will have two losses. … At least three SEC schools will have a different head coach next year at this time. … At least two SEC schools will be on probation next year at this time, and, considering it's already on double secret probation for past sins, Alabama will have a brighter spotlight on after the Marcell Dareus issues. ... Auburn's Cameron Newton will be the hot player going into the 2011 season. … CFN will receive a bazillion e-mails about how we don't have do-it-all Auburn playmaker Mario Fannin among out SEC Top 30 players, they'll all be correct, I'll respond to all of them by saying, "But who do you take out?", and then he'll be ranked 14th in the season-ending ranking. … Ole Miss QB Jeremiah Masoli will battle Arkansas' Ryan Mallett for First Team All-SEC honors. … Tennessee will have a disastrous first two months and will go unbeaten in November. … Florida won't use the spread for the ground game as much as Urban Meyer is letting on. …

5 Best Pro Prospects

1. CB Patrick Peterson, Jr. LSU
2. WR Julio Jones, Jr. Alabama
3. QB Ryan Mallett, Jr. Arkansas
4. RB Mark Ingram, Jr. Alabama
5. DT Jerrell Powe, Sr. Ole Miss

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill

1. QB John Brantley for Tim Tebow, Florida
2. S Rod Wilks for Eric Berry, Tennessee
3. LB Don't'a Hightower for Rolando McClain, Alabama
4. CB Moses Jenkins for Joe Haden, Florida
5. LB Cornelius Washington for Rennie Curran, Georgia

- Florida Preview | Georgia Preview | Kentucky Preview
- South Carolina Preview | Tennessee Preview | Vanderbilt Preview

- Alabama Preview | Arkansas Preview | Auburn Preview
- LSU Preview | Ole Miss Preview Mississippi State Preview
- 2010 SEC Preview | 2010 SEC Unit Rankings | 2010 SEC Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-SEC Team & Top 30 Players | Get SEC Tickets
- 2010 SEC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish