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Friday, May 15, 2009

Way Too Early Predictions

I try to reply to any comment on this blog that asks for a response -- although I admit, I miss a few. Anyway, I got this one last week and had been waiting to get some time to actually give it some thought.

From Matt: What would be your top 25 preseason poll? How would you rank the SEC for the East and West races? Who do you think will be the sneaky team that could win it all?
As we all know (and even Matt admitted) these preseason predictions are pretty meaningless -- especially at this point. But it's Friday, it's May, and what else do we really have to do?

So, here are a few of my thoughts (and remember, these are just for conversation's sake, so don't get all bent out of shape about them)...

As for the top 25, I'm really at a loss on making any grand predictions. The truth is, with the exception of coaches and players, sports writers see less of college football than almost anyone (odd then that it's writers and coaches who do the voting). Usually we are so consumed with the team we're covering and their opponent for that week that most of the rest of the college football world gets overlooked. So I don't know that I'll be much help on picking the top 25.

I do have some early thoughts on the SEC though...

Around the East...

Georgia: As I discussed earlier in the week, Georgia's offense is chock full of question marks. I don't think by any stretch that Joe Cox is another Joe Tereshinski, but he'll also have a lot fewer weapons around him than D.J. Shockley did. If the tailbacks don't take a big step forward, I really wonder how much Georgia will be able to score in 2009. (Wins: SCar, LSU, @ Tenn., @ Van, Aub, UK)

Florida: Let's just say the rest of the SEC (and the country) better hope the Gators get really overconfident. (Wins: All)

Kentucky: The Wildcats have nearly as many offensive question marks as Georgia does, but I do think there's enough talent on that team that a fourth straight bowl game will happen. (Wins: @Aub, MSU, Tenn.)

Vanderbilt: Last year's bowl game was nice, and I actually think the Commodores have a chance to have one of the better defensive units in the SEC, but I really don't know how they're going to put points on the board. (Wins: MSU, UK)

Tennessee: Still no quarterback, and Eric Berry can only do so much. Lane Kiffin's going to regret giving other coaches a reason to run up the score on him in 2009. (Wins: Auburn, Van)

South Carolina: I'm not buying the Stephen Garcia hype, and if he's not the answer, things could get very ugly for Steve Spurrier -- and this year's defense won't be anywhere near as good as last year's. Something tells me this is Spurrier's swan song in Columbia. (Wins: UK, Van., @ Tenn.)

PREDICTION: Florida 8-0, Georgia 6-2, Kentucky 3-5, South Carolina 3-5, Tennessee 2-6, Vanderbilt 2-6

Around the West...

LSU: Yes, the Tigers will be improved. That offense can't be any worse this year, and the defense can't possibly get torched the way it did in big games a year ago. Still, I'm not sure I buy into the huge turnaround everyone is predicting. They'll be better, but not dominant. (Wins: Van., @Miss. St, Aub., @Ole Miss, Ark.)

Ole Miss: Two big questions -- can the Rebels handle the role of favorites or were they a team that was better at sneaking up on people and can anyone step in to replace Michael Oher at left tackle. Jevan Snead is easily the second-best QB in the SEC, but if he can't stay upright, it won't matter. (Wins: @SCar, @Van., Ark., Ala., Tenn., @MSU)

Alabama: I love the defense, I'm extremely concerned about the offense. This seems like a team that is going to be in every game but, like last season, I'm not sure the depth is there to pull out fourth-quarter wins in close games against good teams. (Wins: @UK, SCar., Tenn., LSU, @MSU, @Aub.)

Mississippi State: Dan Mullen should at least make them more fun to watch, but he'd have to be a miracle worker to do what Houston Nutt did a year ago at Ole Miss. (Wins: None)

Auburn: I can't say I'm enthusiastic about Auburn's chances this year. Would I be shocked if the Tigers won the West? Yeah, a little, but it's possible. It's also quite possible they don't win a game in conference. Neither would surprise me. (Wins: MSU, Ole Miss)

Arkansas: OK, here's my dark horse. The Hogs haven't gotten a ton of attention, and they were clearly a weak link in the SEC a year ago. But Bobby Petrino knows offense, and even during their struggles last year, Arkansas still managed to move the football. If they can get any sort of improvement on the defensive side of the ball (an area that may be helped by the sheer ineptitude of some other SEC offenses) then I think this team is a clear bowl qualifier and maybe a potential division winner. (Wins: UGA, @Bama, Aub, SCar, MSU)

PREDICTION: Ole Miss 6-2, Alabama 6-2, LSU 5-3, Arkansas 5-3, Auburn 2-6, Mississippi State 0-8

Again, just some (very) early guesses at what might happen. What do you guys think? How much of an idiot am I? Who do you see as potential surprise teams?


Anonymous said...

I'm more concerned about UGA's defense than offense. The offense won't be able to score as many points as last year and if the defense hasn't improved it is going to be a long year.

jferg said...

The can't help but be improved. Think about it. All we really lost is a cornerback--Asher. And to be honest, I'm not sure there's going to be much of an athletic dropoff there (experience, yes, but no talent dropoff). Add in Jeff "QB Killer" Owens and the rest of the biguns up front...deepest LB corps in America...we'll be just fine on D.
That being #1 should give them all they want. My only prediction is OK ST game sets the tone for the year. If we win...we build on that and roll to another 10 win season.
DH, I have a question for you that I haven't seen asked or mentioned. In 2007, we danced in the endzone at UF. They replayed that video and did pushups to the number of our rush yards. Consequently, they whipped our butts last year. Does anyone at UGA remember Coach Meyer calling that time out last year just to rub it in a little? Any way UGA has a little underlying chip that could help bring some ferosity to the game this year? (yes, I'm reaching--but as you pointed out--it's Friday in May!)

Bernie said...

It's posts like these that put the smell of football, burning leaves and bourbon in my nose. September can't come soon enough.

I'm in no way bent out of shape, but one small correction: when you typed "Stephen Garcia hype", I think you meant "Stephen Garcia spin". I give him until late September at the latest.

Castleberry said...

Say it aint so David!! Just thinking of a loss the Hogs makes me sick at my stomach. I've been fearing the same thing, though. The travel setup for the first three weeks looks tough.

I almost feel like this is one of those Donnan years where I'm wondering... "Who is our secret weapon? Will we use the secret weapon before Tennessee?"

David Hale said...

Anon -- I think the 'D' will be improved... if only because it almost has to be. But the offense will likely take a step back, too, and I think the schedule is even tougher this year than last, so there are concerns.

Jferg -- Glad you brought that up. I've asked several of the players who were purposefully mum on the issue -- it's their motivational techniques and they aren't interested in sharing, most of them said. Jeff Owens told me, however, "we haven't forgotten those timeouts."

Bernie -- Agreed on Garcia, but here's what would worry me about the SC game: First, SC always plays Georgia close. Second, look at how bad UGA played in games following important road wins last year (@ASU, @LSU and last-second win vs. UK). Dawgs can't afford that type of performance against Carolina following the Okie State game.

Castleberry -- I think Arkansas will be much improved this year and outside of Florida and Okie State, probably the best offense the Dawgs will face. I was on the fence on the Ark and LSU games, and figured UGA would split them, so I picked them to win the home game and lose on the road. Plus, as you said, that first three-week stretch is an absolute grind.

Anonymous said...

You picked us to win at home, but lose on the road? Have you seen Mark Richt's home & road records?

I'm with you on the split, but reversing those teams is probably a better guess.