Sunday, August 17, 2008

2008 SEC West Predictions

Every team in the West has questions this year - How will Auburn do running the spread for a full season? What kind of production will LSU get from its QBs? Will Alabama greatly improve in year 2 under Nick Saban? Can Houston Nutt win in Oxford with the talent Orgeron left him? How will Mississippi State score this year? How will Bobby Petrino do with inferior talent?

1. Auburn
Tuberville has established Auburn as one of the most consistent programs in America, but he shook things up last year after the Iron Bowl to implement the spread offense. They return nearly everyone on offense, so the transition should be a smooth one, but how it holds up for 12+ games remains to be seen. With all their tough games (except Alabama) at home, Auburn should win the West.

Best Case Scenario:
Kodi Burns steps in and plays like he's capable, the defense is strong, the Iron Bowl domination continues, and they end the season in the Sugar Bowl.

Worst Case Scenario:
The offense sputters like it did early last season, the Tigers are embarrassed on national TV by West Virginia, the Iron Bowl trophy goes back to Tuscaloosa, and AU finishes the season in Shreveport

2. LSU
The defending BCS Champs will have a very different look this season with so many key departures from last season. They'll still field one of the top OLs and DLs in the SEC -thus the country - and have their typical stable of talented RBs. Now it's just a question of who's going to be under center. With road games at Auburn, Florida, and South Carolina in a 4-game stretch, it's hard to see the Bayou Bengals repeating as division champs.

Best Case Scenario
Steady QB play couple with trench-dominating lines lead LSU back to the BCS

Worst Case Scenario
Les Miles' magic 8-ball coaching decisions don't pan out like they did nearly every single time last year, QB play is sketchy, and the tough schedule proves too much and LSU winds up in Nashville

3. Alabama
Year 2 of the Nick Saban era begins with the Tide still sporting more talent than last year's team, a nice tandem of RBs and one of the most experienced QBs in the league. The Tide should be better this season and should will finish with back-to-back winning seasons for the second time since 1996. It's certainly not outside the realm of possibility that the Tide could compete for the West, but road games at UGA, Tennessee, and LSU make it unlikely.

Best Case Scenario
Knocking off perennially overrated Clemson to open the season, finally beating Auburn, and facing UF in the SEC Championship Game

Worst Case Scenario
Bookend blowout losses to the season, ending up in the Bowl or equivalent because Shreveport doesn't want them again

4. Ole Miss
After 3 of the worst non-Vandy years in recent SEC memory, Ole Miss fired Ed Orgeron and brought in Houston Nutt. Orgeron left plenty of talent for Nutt to work with, though much of it unproven, particularly in the offensive backfield. With a manageable schedule, the Rebels could be bowling by season's end, though that's certainly no guarantee. Nutt's teams always seems to knock off someone they're not supposed, but by the same token, he often drops the inexplicable games too.

Best Case Scenario
If everyone buys into the system and performs like they're capable, the Rebels could win 7-8 games this year and wind up in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl

Worst Case Scenario
QB Snead doesn't live up to hype, critical depth shortages at key positions prove disastrous, and the Golden Egg stays in Starkville while the Rebels endure a 5th straight season with no bowl game.

5. Mississippi State
While the Bulldogs were a great story last year, the reality was they were - perhaps - the worst 8-win team in SEC history. A stout, opportunistic defense paved the way for the team as the offense was inept at best. It's tough to see them duplicating that kind of success this season without scoring more points, but all signs indicate that's an unlikelihood. A soft schedule probably means a bowl game though.

Best Case Scenario
The offense improves while the defense stays strong and the Bullies catch a few more lucky breaks and wind up in a 2nd straight bowl game

Worst Case Scenario
The offense performs like it did in the Spring Game, the defense wears down from overuse and all the positive vibes from last season are long forgotten in an ugly year

6. Arkansas
Everything that can be said about the Arkansas coaching situation has been, so I'll leave it alone. The bottom line is that Petrino is stepping into a less-than-ideal situation talent-wise. He returns an experienced QB in Casey Dick, but is that really a good thing? Petrino may very well win at Arkansas, but it's not going to be this season.

Best Case Scenario
Even with all the lucky breaks this side of the moon, anything better than 6-6 is a pipe dream

Worst Case Scenario
If the more talented team wins every game played, the Hogs will win no more than 4 games

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