Friday, September 03, 2010
Now we come to the grand daddy of all conferences: The Southeastern. This league is ridiculously deep. The big powers have lost a little bit. Florida lost Tebow. Alabama lost most of its defense. So that's leveled the playing field. Honestly, there are about 6 teams with a legit shot at winning the SEC title. Every team has a tough schedule, and every team will be tested more than Lance Armstrong's pee.
1. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
It's kind of silly to think that someone could repeat as SEC Champion. That hasn't been done since 1997-98. But there's nobody better to pick than Bama. The Tide return 8 offensive starters, including Mark Ingram, who ran for 1,658 yards and 17 TDs. But their biggest strength was defense. They were 2nd in the country in scoring defense, rushing defense, and total defense. However, only 1 starter returns. The d-line does have some experienced players, but the defensive backfield is brand new.
9/11 vs. Penn State
9/25 @ Arkansas
10/2 vs. Florida
10/9 @ South Carolina
11/26 vs. Auburn
Prediction: 11-2, SEC Champion, SEC West winner
2. FLORIDA GATORS
It's a whole new cast of skill-position players for Florida. But the offensive line returns 4/5 starters, and that's always a big help. They'll be deep at RB. The WRs need to show something, though. Only 5 defensive starters return. The D is talented, but green. They have the athleticism, but will they have the cohesion and wherewithal to win the big games? No. They'll lose twice to Alabama.
10/2 @ Alabama
10/30 vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, FL)
11/13 vs. South Carolina
11/27 @ Florida State
Prediction: 10-3, SEC East winner
3. GEORGIA BULLDOGS
8 offensive starters return, including 4/5 of the line. But the QB position is a huge question mark. The defense is bad, but perhaps a whole new set of assistant coaches and the implementation of a 3-4 defense can help change that. I think Georgia will be a lot like last year. They'll take care of business against bad teams, and average teams. But every good team they play will beat them.
9/11 @ South Carolina
10/30 vs. Florida (in Jacksonville, FL)
11/13 @ Auburn
11/27 vs. Georgia Tech
4. ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Do not underestimate Arkansas. They were 9th in the country in scoring offense last year, as well as 10th in passing and 20th total. And they return 9 offensive starters, including QB Ryan Mallet, who threw 3,624 yards, 30 TDs, and only 7 INTs. They had the highest scoring offense in the SEC, putting up 36.0 per game. They have some excellent WRs, but need to get their rushing game on track. And the defense needs to improve. Although they did rush the passer and force plenty of turnovers.
9/18 @ Georgia
9/25 vs. Alabama
10/16 @ Auburn
11/6 @ South Carolina
5. SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
SC returns 7 starters on offense and defense. But that offense was 102nd in scoring last year. Yikes. And only 2/5 of the line returns. The defensive line is excellent, but the DBs need to improve.
9/11 vs. Georgia
9/25 @ Auburn
10/9 vs. Alabama
11/13 @ Florida
11/27 @ Clemson
6. AUBURN TIGERS
Auburn returns 8 starters on each side of the ball. Their offense was a strength, as it ranked 17th in scoring and 16th in yardage. But they need the QB position to be settled, and the running game will be a worry. Auburn's mediocre defense keeps them a 2nd tier SEC team. They were 3-5 in conference games last year, and that will likely continue in 2010. But their schedule does provide them with home dates against most of their toughest opponents. That's about the best you could ask for in the SEC.
9/18 vs. Clemson
9/25 vs. South Carolina
10/16 vs. Arkansas
11/13 vs. Georgia
10/26 @ Alabama
The remainder of the teams are listed alphabetically...
For the first time since 1912, UK has compiled four straight 7+ win seasons. However, the Wildcats were 12-20 in SEC play during that stretch. For 2010, Kentucky boasts a good secondary, accompanied by an under-sized Front 7, and a boring offense.
The offense in Baton Rouge needs to contribute something. They were 112th in the country last year, and only 2/5 of the offensive line returns. Four defensive starters return. But perhaps freshman DE Barkevious Mingo's ridiculously awesome name will save them.
OLE MISS REBELS
Left Tackle Bradley Sowell. That's Ole Miss's only returning starter on offense. An offense that had been a respectable 39th in scoring, but now needs rebuilding. The defense will need to lead the team. An excellent d-line should help. A manageable non-conference schedule will fluff Ole Miss's record.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
These guys wouldn't be pushovers in any other conference. They might even be noticed on the national scene. As it is, they're that one team you struggle to remember as the 12th member of the SEC.
Good WRs are the only known positives on the offensive side of the ball. There'll be a new QB, and the RB situation isn't too promising. However, the solid defense won't be a liability, and might keep the Vols in some games. Unfortunately, the schedule is brutal. Just about every contender in the SEC will get to wallop the Volunteers.
Vandy offers a respectable defense, but a truly dreadful offense. And that's why these girls are so forlorn. No o-line starters return, and their QB threw 4 TDs and 7 INTs in '09.
The Red Sox narrowly avoided another disaster in Baltimore, and thankfully got out of the Mid-Atlantic before Earl struck. Although Friday night's game against Chicago might be in jeopardy.
Daisuke was great, then good, then awful. He didn't allow a hit until the 4th. He didn't allow an extra basehit until the 5th. He didn't allow a run until the 6th. But he allowed 4 of those, and very quickly.
Atchison saved the day with a stunning 2 inning, 3 strikeout performance. Okajima got an out, and Papelbon pitched around some singles to record his 35th Save.
But as much as I criticize Daisuke, you don't need to throw 3 hit shutouts to beat the Orioles. The O's will let you score 5 runs with no problem, so 5.1 innings and 4 earned isn't bad. Then again, Daisuke's last Quality Start came on August 5th.
I've already conceded the Wild Card and Divisional races. But I consider the next few weeks as a preview for 2011. And part of that preview is seeing Daisuke pitch. And he's still got weird nights like this one, throwing 94 pitches to get 17 outs, and completely dissolving in a matter of minutes.
The Red Sox host Manny Ramirez and the White Sox. They may also host Hurricane Earl.
Clay Buchholz faces John Danks tonight, at least as I'm writing this, that's the plan.