Daily Archives: July 11, 2008

A very early look at the SEC East

You saw the ground rules in yesterday’s early look at the SEC West, so without any further ado, here’s the same for the East, again in order of 2007 division finish.

  • Tennessee (10-4, 6-2). I look at this team and see one area where it should be better than it was in 2007 – the secondary.  Tennessee is also Steele’s fourth most experienced team in the conference. Coming off of ten wins, ordinarily you might think that would be enough to have UT stand a good chance of repeating the success of last season. But there are a lot of trends and changes that don’t bode particularly well for the Vols.  There’s a new starting quarterback taking direction from a new offensive coordinator.  Tennessee got no favors on its schedule from the SEC this season, as Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina all have off weeks before playing UT.  This team was the biggest overachiever in the conference in ’07, playing in the SECCG despite being outscored and outgained (ninth!) in conference play.  One reason for its success: a 3-0 record in close games.  That won’t happen again.  Plus, UT starts off this year with a road game against a team that will have had Norm Chow gameplanning against its defense all summer (Mike Bobo, take notes).  Finally, if you believe Fulmer is a better head coach when he’s staring into the abyss, you can’t be too thrilled that he just signed what amounts to a lifetime contract.  Prognosis:  decline.
  • Georgia (11-2, 6-2). We all know the pluses and minuses here.  Seventeen returning offensive and defensive starters.  An entrenched coaching staff.  The ruggedness of the schedule – not so much the ballyhooed trip to Arizona State as the Bataan Death March that comes mid-season when the team doesn’t see Athens for more than a month.  Right now, that all has the feel of washing out evenly.  Prognosis:  unchanged.
  • Florida (9-4, 5-3). Believe it or not, according to Steele, Florida enters the 2008 season as the least experienced team in the SEC.  That’s because the Zooker’s last class, who would be this year’s seniors and redshirt juniors, essentially vaporized.  So while this team returns a large number of starters on the offense and defensive sides of the ball, it in essence has a depth problem in that many, many of the backups being counted on are young and green.  But that’s really not much different than last year, and the schedule, which drops Auburn in favor of Arkansas, is friendlier.  That sounds like a net gain to me.  Prognosis:  improved.
  • Kentucky (8-5, 3-5). This one writes itself, doesn’t it?  With only four returning starters, UK’s passing game has been gutted by graduation, led by the departure of Andre Woodson.  And even with those players, UK finished last year in negative territory in net yards per conference game.  That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the defense.  The good stuff is meh.  Steele does list the Wildcats as having the third most experienced roster in the SEC.  The OOC schedule is pretty weak, but so was last year’s.  LSU drops off the schedule, replaced by Alabama.  All told, it’s not a recipe for success. Prognosis:  decline.
  • South Carolina (6-6, 3-5). Georgia’s opposite in 2007, this is the hardest team to handicap in the conference this year.  The offense, which is supposed to be the OBC’s strength, was mediocre, so much of it returning means what, exactly?  Quarterback, Spurrier’s hallmark position, looks especially shaky.  The defense, with ten returning starters, appears formidable on paper.  But there’s a new defensive coordinator and several starters being moved around, so who knows how that winds up shaking out?  And while many claim that overall team depth is on the rise under Spurrier, how do you square that with the way the defense went in the tank last season after one key injury?  On the other hand, the schedule is somewhat kinder according to Steele and Spurrier’s ego has to count for something.  Maybe. Prognosis:  slight improvement.
  • Vanderbilt (5-7, 2-6). The simple truth is that Vandy should have played in a bowl game last year, but Bobby Johnson’s tendency to sit on a lead against a good opponent came back to bite him in the rear in the Georgia and Tennessee games.  This team lost a lot on the personnel front, particularly on offense (only three starters return) where it wasn’t that strong to begin with.  They’ll be somewhat respectable on defense, but it’s hard to see where the scoring will be coming from, especially considering that Steele ranks the Commodores’ schedule as the fourth toughest in the nation this year.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  Prognosis:  going down.

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More punditizing

A few more quotes from Day 2 of CFN’s Experts (whatever) Discussion:

From Just how bad is the Big Ten?

Teddy Greenstein: Is it possible to mentally groan? The Big Ten was down last year, no question. Just ask Appalachian State. Or Western Michigan, which busted a seemingly bowl-bound Iowa. Then there was the Rose Bowl, in which Illinois looked completely overmatched to a USC team that dominated the NFL draft.

I’d actually love to see Ohio State-Georgia for the national title. The disparity at the top of the leagues is not as great as the chicken-fried-steak crowd thinks it is.

From How/why is the BCS better than a playoff?

Richard Cirminiello: Although a plus-one system would be tailor-made for my taste, I’ve never been a proponent of a full-blown, 16-team playoff.  It’s unnecessary for determining a national champion and would diminish the importance of some regular season games.  Who wants LSU getting routed by Arkansas the day after Thanksgiving, yet still qualifying as the No. 12 seed?  If you want to find some beauty in the bloated bowl system, there is something to be said for a few dozen schools finishing the season with a W.  The BCS is surprisingly close to be a really crisp system, if only the powers-that-be could agree on one additional game after the bowls have been played.

From I’m not buying into …

Dennis Dodd: Three teams — Georgia, USC and Clemson.

I had Georgia No. 1 back in January but have since dropped it to No. 2. After talking to Mark Richt that might be too high. There are still issues in the offensive line. The young receivers still have to step up. I’m still not sold on Matthew Stafford and the schedule is a straight-up witch…

From How/why did you get into covering college football?

Fiu: The hair-dos of former Oklahoma star QB, and eventual senator, J.C. Watts and Heisman-winning RB Billy Sims … I’m not joking. As an eight-year-old, whose idol was Dr. J., watching the 1980 Orange Bowl, I thought Watts and Sims (can I do this without going Imus?) had really, really cool hair, and then I became mesmerized with the brilliance and precision in the way they ran the option attack in the 24-7 win over Florida State. In my strange young world, Oklahoma became an even more magical place once Buster Rhymes became a big deal.

Later in 1980, I watched Georgia beat Florida in the epic Lindsay Scott game, and I became a college football fan for life watching every game I could and reading everything I could find about the game. I’ve been researching and training for this gig most of my life.

I gotta admit it’s a pretty badass do.

Billy Sims, running back, fashion statement…

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Filed under College Football, Media Punditry/Foibles