SEC WEST W-L Analysis
1. Georgia 11-2 After starting off the 2011-2012 season with an 0-2 record, the nation was doubting Mark Rich and if he should continue to be the coach at Georgia. The Dawgs then won 10 straight. Georgia is going to be a very tough team to beat this season. They return 16 starters, including Heisman Candidate Jr. Quarterback Aaron Murray and two potential All-American candidates on defense Jr. OLB Jarvis Jones and Sr. Free Safety Bacarri Rambo. Georgia's passing attack will be dangerous this season with Sr. Receiver Tavarres King returning to the line-up. The running game is still questionable. It was inconsistent at times last season and So. Running back Isaiah Crowell struggled with off field issues that caused the Dawgs problems. Georgia returns nine starters on defense and last year was ranked fifth overall in the country in total defense. I feel Georgia will drop one game during the regular season. There loss could occur at South Carolina on Oct. 6 or against Florida on Oct. 27. Georgia is lucky and avoids playing LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas during the regular season. I have the Dawgs losing to LSU in the SEC Championship Game.
2. South Carolina 9-3 The Gamecocks will be a top contender in the SEC East again. Jr. Quarterback Connor Shaw proved himself against Clemson last year winning 34-13 and helped the Gamecocks beat Nebraska 30-13 in the Capital One Bowl. The Gamecocks also get their star Jr. Running back Marcus Lattimore back, after he tore his ACL against Mississippi State last season. One positive thing about the Gamecocks this season is there are no more distractions surrounding QB Stephen Garcia and his off the field issues. One negative is they lost their best Receiver Alshon Jeffery to the NFL. The Gamecocks return only 11 starters, but look for them to be consistent again in the SEC. The Gamecocks have one of the toughest schedules in the SEC. They play home against Georgia (Oct. 6), then have to play back-to-back road games against LSU (Oct. 13) and Florida (Oct.20). They also have Arkansas at home on Nov.10th and play at in-state rival Clemson to close the season out on Nov. 24th. Look for South Carolina to lose three games during the regular season.
3. Florida 9-3 Second year Head Coach Will Muschamp will look to be more consistent this season. Last year, Florida started off 4-0, then lost four in a row and ended up finishing with a 7-6 record. The Gator defense returns 10 starters from last season. This defense was ranked eighth nationally in total defense last season. What will make or break the Gators this season will be their offense. Florida's offense was terrible last season ranking 10th in the SEC and 105th in the country. Since the Tebow era, the offense has not been as lethal and QB John Brantley never panned out to what he was supposed to be. It's up to So. Quarterback Jeff Driskel to improve the offense and Sr. Running back Mike Gillislee to get the running game going. If Florida can establish some sort of running attack this season, it will open up Jr. Wide Receiver Andre Debose, who had 16 receptions for 432 yards and 4 touchdowns last season. Luckily for the Gators this season, they avoid both Alabama and Arkansas. Their schedule sets up favorably for them to win two more games than they did last season. The Gators need to win their early games at Texas A&M (Sep. 8) and at Tennessee (Sep.15) to gain momentum for their showdown at home against LSU on Oct. 6th.
4. Tennessee 7-5 Alright Tennessee and Head Coach Derek Dooley, this is your chance to finally get above .500 and become bowl eligible again. The Vols return 19 starters, the most in the SEC and possibly the entire country. This is going to be Jr. Quarterback Tyler Bray's break out season. Bray has a great arm and has NFL scouts drooling over his talent. He is going to need help though from his running game that was an awful 116th in the country last season. This is almost like the Florida situation, but Bray has proven he is a good enough passer and that the Vols will be fine if they can get Jr. Wide Receivers Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter open. The Vols will need to start out at least 3-1 in their first four games. They need to either beat NC State on opening weekend in Atlanta or at home against Florida two weeks later. Two games that could potentially put Tennessee at eight wins is at South Carolina (Oct. 27) or at home against Missouri (Nov. 10). If Derek Dooley can't hit the 7 win mark, expect him to be out as Tennessee coach. With 19 returning starters there are no excuses for Vol nation to watch a .500 team again.
5. Missouri 7-5 Let's just put it this way, Missouri should be grateful to the SEC in helping them avoid playing LSU and Arkansas in their first season in the SEC. Missouri will pretty much leave off where they left off last year. That is if starting Quarterback James Franklin's throwing shoulder is healthy and if Running back Kendial Lawrence can pick up where injured Henry Josey left off. One player to look out for this year on Mizzou is true freshman Wide Receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. He was the number one recruit in the country this year, according to rivals.com. Watch him to make a big impact on the Mizzou offense in his very first season. Missouri's offense was ranked 12th last year in total offense. It will be interesting to see how Mizzou's offense does against tough, hard- nosed defenses week in and week out, and to see if Mizzou's defense improves in a league where running the ball is crucial. Mizzou gets SE Louisiana in their season opener then gets three tougher games. They include homes games against Georgia and Arizona State and a road game at South Carolina. This will test Mizzou and will show the nation if they are ready to compete in the brutal SEC Conference or not.
6. Vanderbilt 4-8 Vanderbilt was fortunate last year to play two awful Ole Miss and Kentucky teams, as well as an easy non-conference schedule to get them into a bowl game. This year's schedule is much tougher. The Commodores have 15 returning starters and will look to use that statistic to get to a .500 record and become bowl eligible. One aspect Vanderbilt has is their defense was remarkably the 18th best defense in the country last season. Also, Sr. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers will look to lead an offense that he improved mightily last season and have Sr. Running back Zac Stacy in his backfield do what he did last season and rush for another school record. It is crucial for Vanderbilt to win their second game of the season at Northwestern. That will potentially put them at the five win mark. Then they will need to find a way to go to Kentucky or Ole Miss and win to make it six. Vanderbilt will need all they can get to become bowl eligible again.
7. Kentucky 4-8 Head Coach Joker Phillips enters his third season at Kentucky, and it may be another long season for him and his Wildcats. Kentucky was ranked at a terrible 118th in total offense last season. That is only better than Kent State and Florida Atlantic. Unlike Vanderbilt, Kentucky has no chance of becoming bowl eligible this season. Kentucky better hope So. Quarterback Maxwell Smith and company can put some points on the scoreboard, otherwise a majority of their games will get ugly. The defense is decent at best and kept them in games last season. Without an offense though it will be tough for the wildcats to win. The Wildcats unfortunately have a tougher schedule this season and have to start off the season by traveling to in-state rival Louisville, who is looking to win the Big East this season. Kentucky at best wins one SEC Conference game. Kentucky should be happy they will have guaranteed wins against Kent State, Western Kentucky, and Samford.
SEC Championship Match-Up: LSU vs Georgia
Top Ten (SEC)
1. Most important game: Nov. 3rd- Alabama @ LSU 8p.m. ET (CBS)
2. Biggest surprise team: Florida Gators
3. Biggest potential upset game: Sept. 29th- Tennessee over Georgia in Athens, GA
4. Best Quarterback: Aaron Murray, Georgia
5. Best Defense: Georgia Bulldogs
6. Biggest Bust: Auburn Offense
7. Best Head Coach: Nick Saban, Alabama
8. Biggest newcomer of the year: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
9. Most valuable to his team: QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
10. Toughest environment to play in: Tiger Stadium, LSU