The SEC is the best football conference in the country and they had two high-octane offensive style teams from the Big 12, Missouri and Texas A&M. The SEC has won six straight BCS Titles. There is an excellent chance that the streak could reach to seven this year.
1 – Georgia – The Bulldogs are loaded with talent this year. They have 16 starters back including nine on the defensive side of the ball. They were 5th in the nation in 2011 in total defense and they will be in the top 5 again in 2012. They are deep at every position on defense as well. It will be extremely difficult for teams to score on them this year. The offense is underrated with seven starters returning including QB Araron Murray. The schedule set up nicely for them and if they win at South Carolina and beat Florida this team could be undefeated heading into the SEC Title game.
2 – Florida – HC Will Muschamp did not have a very successful first season in gator land. Largely because of injuries at the QB postion and inexperience. The defense is outstanding with 10 returning starters. They allowed 20.3-ppg and were ranked 8th in the nation in total defense. The offense has to improve as Muschamp brought in Boise St OC to revamp the offense. The schedule is difficult but the defense will keep them in all of the tough games. This could be a surprise national title contending team.
3 – South Carolina – The Cocks had an awesome year in 2011 finishing with 11 wins and the expectations are high again in 2012. The defense will be rock solid even with only five returning starters. They are led by Soph DE Jadeveon Clowney. They also have solid corners and are deep in many spots on defense. The offense took off with Connor Shaw at qb and he will be the full-time starter this year. RB Marcus Lattimore needs a big year coming off of knee surgery and he will. This is a 9-10 win team again in 2012.
4 – Missouri – The Tigers enter the SEC and not much is expected from them. HC Gary Pinkel brings a new style of offense that will be tough to defend. The Tigers were 9th in the nation in rushing in ’11 and look to duplicate those numbers again this year. The defense needs to get more physical up front in order to deal with the great running games in the SEC. Looks like an undervalued team in our eyes that will make a bowl game and are an upset away from winning 8 games.
5 – Tennessee – HC Derek Dooley is on the hot seat in only year three but has some talent this year to really get him off that seat. 19 returning starters are back and they will be improved. QB Tyler Bray needs to stay healthy in order for this team to be successful. The defense was underrated last year and needs to improve even more in 2012. This is a good football team that has a chip on their shoulder. There are some character issues but Dooley is a solid coach and he will get this team ready for success in 2012.
6 – Vanderbilt – HC James Franklin has a lot of confidence as a head coach and he is not shy about talking about how he feels about his team this year. He is trying to gain some momentum from 2011 and feels his team will be really good. They will be good, but not great. 15 starters return but the offense is till well behind the defense. The defense only allowed 21.6-ppg and was ranked 18th nationally in total defense. The schedule is brutal as they have road games at Georgia, Missouri and Northwestern. They will be bowl eligible like last year but don’t see them getting more than 6 or 7 wins.
7 – Kentucky – Looks like a major re-building year in Lexington. They were 5-7 last year and there is a strong chance they won’t get to four wins this year. The offense was putrid last year and we don’t them being any better this year. This will be a long season for HC Joker Phillips and the Cats.
1 – Alabama – It’s all about re-loading in Tuscaloosa. HC Nick Saban doesn’t miss a beat and he is ready for any big year. The Tide have won 2 out of the last 3 BCS Titles and they have an excellent shot at going back-to-back this year. The recruiting has been top-notch and will only get better. They have an awesome offensive line and solid running game even with the loss of Trent Richardson to the NFL. The defense is loaded even with only five starters back. This is BCS Title contending team our pick to win the SEC West and SEC Championship.
2 – LSU – Ton of talent in Baton Rouge but the question is always the QB. If LSU can get quality qb play from Zach Mettenberger them they will be tough to beat. Special teams and defense are absolutely awesome and could win them every game if they needed. They get Alabama at home this year and that game could come down to who goes to the SEC Title game. Even with Bama going to their place it’s all about QB play and LSU will finish 2nd.
3 – Arkansas – A ton of bad publicity this off-season in Fayetteville with former HC Bobby Petrino getting fired after having an affair with a worker. In comes John L. Smith who has head coaching experience and will not miss a beat. The offense is loaded with QB Tyler Wilson and rb Knile Davis. 7 starters return on offense in total from a team that avg 36.38-ppg and ranked 29th in total offense. The defense is undervalued and this could be the ultimate darkhorse team to win the SEC West this year. They get both Bama and LSU at home so you never know. This is a 10-win team in 2012.
4 – Mississippi St – This is one of our most improved teams in the country so over 7.5-wins looks like a solid bet. The Bulldogs were 7-6 in 2011 and they struggled to score! New QB Tyler Russell will provide some accuracy and has a very strong-arm. 12 total starters return and they have a very favorable road schedule. HC Dan Mullen was disappointed with how his team performed last year and he will have them ready in 2012. This could be a 9 or 10 win team this season.
5 – Auburn – The Tigers had a respectable 8-5 season after winning the national championship in 2010. They do lose their offensive coordinator who orchestrated the offense the last two years in Gus Malzahn. The defense returns nine starters and needs a break-out year after allowing 28.9-ppg. They should get better and that will help. The offense won’t be as potent as the new offensive coordinator is trying some things that may take some time to get acclimated to. The schedule is very difficult so this is a 6-8 win team in 2012.
6 – Texas A&M – New HC Kevin Sumlin brings his high octane passing offense to College Station. He did a great job at Houston and is a solid hire. They must replace 1st round draft pick Ryan Tannehil and that job will belong to redshirt freshan Johnny Manziel. This is a tough transition for the Aggies as they are a finesse team and now must learn to play physical football in the SEC. The Aggies should be bowl eligible and they have a good nucleus for the future.
7 – Mississippi – The Rebels stink and there is no getting around it. They do have 16 returning starters but these are the players that went 2-10 last year. Whil a majority of the SEC is getting better or already great, Ole Miss will not be. New HC Hugh Freeze has a lot of work to do and 4 wins would be an accomplishment in 2012.
SEC Championship Game: Alabama over Georgia
This SEC Conference preview was written by Michael Blake’s Carolina Sports
Michael Blake is one of the best college football handicappers in the country and has been for over 17 years. In 2010 he finished #1 in college football (regular-season/bowls combined). Make sure you check out all of his award winning college football picks this year. There are also some other tremendous college football handicappers to choose from. Their free college football picks are some of the best in the nation. Some notable college football handicappers are Steve Merril, Rocky Atkinson, Jimmy Boyd, Freddy Wills, and Jack Jones at VTC.