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?