Since I’m already on record as saying that I have no clue what to expect about Georgia’s performance this season, that makes it kind of hard to put together an SEC 2011 season projection as I usually have.
But I’m not giving up here. Instead, I’m taking a different approach. Rather than give you my predicted records, I’ll list the schools in the order they finished in the conference last year, look at areas of potential improvement and decline and assess in what direction I expect each to go by comparison to 2010.
In other words, pure seat of the pants BS.
Let’s hope this works.
AUBURN (14-0, 8-0)
- Pros: Continuity on coaching staff; Gus Malzahn; upgraded recruiting
- Cons: Ted Roof; loss of best offensive and defensive players in the conference; least experienced team in the SEC; much tougher schedule than 2010’s
- Outlook: No way to go but down here. The question is how much. If Chizik wins more than eight, he’s doing a helluva job.
ARKANSAS (10-3, 6-2)
- Pros: Continuity on coaching staff; Bobby Petrino; maturity on defense; superb receiver corps depth
- Cons: Special teams; new quarterback; Knile Davis injury; Alabama and LSU road games
- Outlook: They’ll win 10 again, I think, because Tyler Wilson likely works out well. But the defense being a notch below Alabama’s and LSU’s may mean that’s the ceiling.
LSU (11-2, 6-2)
- Pros: Tons of recruiting talent; John Chavis’ defense should rival Saban’s as conference’s best
- Cons: Offseason problems; quarterback situation unsettled; tough schedule
- Outlook: More than a few pundits have picked the Tigers as their top team in the country, but I’m having a hard time seeing that because of the quarterback situation and the schedule. Besides, don’t Miles’ teams always lose two games?
ALABAMA (10-3, 5-3)
- Pros: Stocked, talent-wise; deep, experienced defense; offensive line; Trent Richardson; coaching staff
- Cons: Unsettled at quarterback; uncertain who game-breaking wide receiver is
- Outlook: It’s easy to forget the Tide finished fourth in the West last year. That shouldn’t happen in 2011. This team appears to have fewer flaws than any other team in the SEC. ‘Bama will go as far as its offense will take it.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-4, 4-4)
- Pros: Dan Mullen; decent quality skill position players; schedule has South Carolina, Alabama and LSU at home
- Cons: Departure of Manny Diaz; defensive front seven losses; overall talent level not as high as top-tier SEC West squads
- Outlook: Mullen did a fantastic job last year squeezing every drop he could out of his team. Hard to see them equaling last year’s nine wins in 2011.
MISSISSIPPI (4-8, 1-7)
- Pros: Experienced backfield and offensive line; return of David Lee as Nutt’s offensive coordinator
- Cons: Inexperience at quarterback; secondary; SEC West schedule
- Outlook: They won’t be worse than they were last year, but it’s hard to see that they’ll significantly improve, either.
SOUTH CAROLINA (9-5, 5-3)
- Pros: Best offensive duo in the conference in Lattimore and Jeffrey; favorable schedule; Spurrier and Johnson; deep defensive line; weak SEC East; improved recruiting
- Cons: special teams; secondary; Stephen Garcia
- Outlook: You can tell Spurrier can taste it. He’s this close – meaning he’s as close as Garcia can take the ‘Cocks. If Garcia doesn’t implode, South Carolina wins at least 10 games and the East. (They may also surprise ‘Bama if they meet in the SECCG.)
FLORIDA (8-5, 4-4)
- Pros: Phenomenal recruiting; skill position talent; defensive line talent; Weis replacing Addazio
- Cons: Coaching staff/scheme overhaul; brutal October schedule; inexperienced secondary; offensive line depth
- Outlook: Maybe Muschamp is a coaching genius. With that schedule, he’d better be. The scheme change on offense with the attendant personnel mismatches suggests it’s going to be tough for the Gators to improve upon last year’s win totals.
GEORGIA (6-7, 3-5)
- Pros: Most favorable schedule in the conference; quarterback; tight end; special teams; second year in 3-4 defense
- Cons: offensive line depth; running back depth and inexperience; wide receiver depth; team psyche
- Outlook: Sigh. Before the first two games are played, who the hell knows?
TENNESSEE (6-7, 3-5)
- Pros: Good skill position talent; coaching stability
- Cons: Inexperience and depth issues on defense; special teams
- Outlook: The schedule is slightly kinder this season and it’s got to help that for the first time in a few years the Vols aren’t breaking in a new coaching staff, so you can make a case for seven wins. But this team isn’t as talented as the top teams in the East (let alone the West). Any kind of bad luck with injuries and it’s easy to see UT miss out on playing in a bowl.
KENTUCKY (6-7, 2-6)
- Pros: schedule; experienced offensive line; Danny Trevathan
- Cons: lack of offensive skill position players
- Outlook: If UK becomes bowl eligible, it’ll be because of that schedule. This just isn’t that impressive a team on paper.
VANDERBILT (2-10, 1-7)
- Pros: new coaching staff’s energy; some talent on defense; most experienced team in the SEC
- Cons: no offensive firepower
- Outlook: Vandy has a deep, deep hole to dig out of this season, so deep that they could very well play better and show no improvement from last year’s win totals. This is more than a one-year reclamation project.