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2009 SEC Conference Preview
Predictions - Analysis - Odds
Each year when we do our College Football Conference Previews, the SEC Conference is the one we look forward to the most. It's our favorite conference, both as football fans, and as handicappers. Many of our selections during the year, are in the SEC. Likely because it's a great conference to bet, if you like betting underdogs. It's the best conference in college football in our opinion, from top to bottom. So many solid teams capable of beating anyone in the country on any given day. Teams that come out of the SEC with winning records come bowl time, have earned their stripes as playing an SEC schedule can be brutal. There's no cupcakes in the bunch.
This year looks to be more of the same. All the usual suspects are in place to have solid years. Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida. Teams that were down a notch last year are poised to make a run a respectability again, such as Auburn and Arkansas. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the bunch is Ole Miss. In off a 9-4 season which saw them beat the Gators in the swamp and they return a healthy 16 starters this year. So let's take a look at the toughest conference in college football, the mighty SEC (sorry big 12 and pac 10 fans)
We have also included the odds to win the SEC next to each team in our preview. Each teams odds links to a top rated sportsbook so that our readers can stay up to date and check the current odds on any of these teams, at anytime. Remember, if you're considering betting college football futures, it's extremely important to shop around and check for the best odds.
Florida Gators - Odds to win SEC -300 - Urban Meyer did it again in 2008. The Gators took the BCS Title Game over a stellar Oklahoma team by a score of 24-14. They are an obvious preseason #1 pick, and should be even more lethal this year. That is hard to believe, but with the defense returning 11 starters, and golden boy Tim Tebow returning to lead the offense it is very possible. Tebow, the winner of the 2007 Heisman Trophy, has spent the winter working on his mechanics. He was a great passer before, and will be even better now. Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey will share the RB duties. Both are breakaway threats. The receivers are a question mark, but I believe they will do fine. The defense returns 21 of 22 members from last years team that ranked 9th in total defense and 4th in scoring. Floridaís dominance will not come to an end anytime soon. Look for them to appear in another BCS Title Game.
LSU Tigers - Odds to win SEC 2/1 - Last year resulted in an 8-5 record and a win over Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Things will go more smoothly this year for the Tigers. They will return 7 starters on offense. Sophomore QB Jordan Jefferson will be a more complete player. He has better knowledge of the playbook this year, and a great offensive line to defend him. WR Brandon LaFell caught more TDs then other receiver in the SEC last year at 8. Charles Scott is a Sr. RB who racked up over 1,000 yards last season. The offense is very potent. The defense brings back 6 guys and is a bit shaky. The Tigers have a new defensive coordinator in John Chavis. The defensive line is inexperienced. If the defense can avoid giving up too many big plays the Tigers will be one of the teams to beat in the SEC.
Alabama Crimson Tide - Odds to win SEC 3/1 - Nick Sabanís crew didnít look like a team that started the year 12-0 when they lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl. Despite losing the two biggest games of the year, its hard to argue with a 12 win season. The Crimson Tide will bring back only 4 offensive starters. Greg McElroy will lead the offense after waiting patiently for John Parker Wilson to depart. He is as good as Wilson, but is more than capable of running the offense. The offensive line will see many new faces, and could be a spot of weakness. WR Julio Jones will be a great weapon for the offense. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson will share running duties. Both are very good backs. The defense brings back 8 starters from 2008, and more than a few of these guys are destined for the NFL. Nose Tackle Terrence Cody is a fierce player and will anchor the line. It wonít be easy, but Alabama has the potential for another excellent season.
Ole Miss Rebels - Odds to win SEC 5/1 - Say hello to the winners of last yearís Cotton Bowl. The Rebels were the only team to take down Florida last year. Coach Houston Nutt did a great job shaking things up in his first year on the job. Expectations will be high this year. The offense brings back 7 starters, and will be led by star QB Jevan Snead. The junior threw for over 2,700 yards last year. This team will be solid running the ball once again. They ranked 4th overall in rushing during the 2008 season. The defense is solid and will return 8 starters. The Rebels have a very solid run defense. Marcus Tillman and Kentrell Lockett do a great job defending the pass. The secondary was last in the SEC in 2008 and could be a weak spot once again. The schedule looks relatively easy. The toughest game of the year will come at home against Alabama. People will be expecting big things, and all signs point towards the Rebels being able to deliver.
Georgia Bulldogs - Odds to win SEC 7/1 - After going 10-3 and winning the Capital One Bowl, the Bulldogs werenít given the credit they deserved for an excellent 2008 season. Such is the nature of the SEC. Matthew Stafford went #1 overall in the NFL Draft, so Joe Cox will be taking over the QB duties. He hasnít got a rocket for an arm, but he is an accurate passer. The offense brings back 8 total starters. The line will shine and should do a great job of protecting Cox in the pocket. Caleb King should get the starting job, but the Bulldogs have a stable full of good running backs. The defense returns 6 starters. The linebackers will be the biggest strength of Georgiaís defense. The Bulldogs will play LSU at home and Florida on the road. If they can take one of the two things should be looking up.
Tennessee Volunteers - Odds to win SEC 20/1 - Lane Kiffin has done plenty of talking since arriving at Tennessee. Now it is time to see if he has the walk to go with the talk. He brings a great coaching staff with him. Thanks to the Top Ten recruiting class this year, they could be a force in the near future. I have little doubt this team will improve on their 5-7 record of 2008. The offense brings back 7 starters. QB Jonathan Crompton was highly touted when he came to Tennessee, but hasnít lived up to the hype. He does well in practice, but canít seem to put it together. Perhaps Lane Kiffinís guidance will get him in gear. Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown will be tough at RB. The defense was very stingy in 2008, but should regress just slightly. The Volunteers will have 5 starters back from last years defense. SEC Defensive Player of the Year Eric Berry is back and will play FS. He had seven interceptions last year, tying for the nations lead in that category. I see this team winning at the very least 6 games, and maybe 8 if they play their cards right.
South Carolina Gamecocks - Odds to win SEC 12/1 - Steve Spurrier is switching things up after finishing last year 0-3 and with an overall record of 7-6. The offense returns 5 members of last yearís team. In order for the Gamecocks to be successful sophomore QB Stephen Garcia must improve his accuracy. He had 8 interceptions from 122 attempts during the 2008 season. The running game will be much improved with Brian Maddox and true freshman Jarvis Giles sharing carries. The defense brings back 6 starters but is lacking in depth. Eric Norwood is back for his senior year and will play LB and DE. The secondary is filled with almost entirely new faces. The Gamecocks schedule could prevent them from having a good season. They have to play Georiga, Alabama, and Tennessee on the road. They also have a late season home game against the Florida Gators.
Arkansas Razorbacks - Odds to win SEC 15/1 - After finishing 5-7 last year, Bobby Petrino should have this bunch headed in the right direction. The Razorbacks are easily one of the best young teams in the SEC. Key word being young. They return 7 starters on the offense. Ryan Mallet will take over the QB duties. He is a big boy at 6í 7Ē tall and he has quite an arm. He should do well throwing to WRs Joe Adams and London Crawford. RB Michael Smith has the potential to pound the ball for over 1,000 yards this year. The defense brings back 9 starters. The Razorbacks are strong at DE with Jake Bequette and Adrian Davis. Last yearís win over LSU showed that Arkansas can hang with the big boys, but this yearís schedule is intense. They have to play Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, and LSU on the road. 2010 will be the year of the Razorbacks, but you can expect improvement in 2009.
Auburn Tigers - Odds to win SEC 8/1 - Last year didnít go quite as planned, as the Tigers finished with a record of 5-7. 2009 brings hopes for a better year. The offense will bring back 7 starters. Gus Malzahn will take over as offensive coordinator. He is coming from Tulsa, who led the NCAA in total offensive each of the past two years. Kodi Burns is the probable starter at QB, but he will have to compete with Neil Caudle. Overall the offense has been weak in recent years. They must improve for Auburn to be competitive. The defense brings back 7 members of last yearís team. DE Antonio Coleman has All American potential. Depth will be a problem on both sides of the ball. If the Tigers can get off to a fast start then fans might be in store for a treat.
Kentucky Wildcats - Odds to win SEC 50/1 - Last year resulted in a record of 7-6 and a win in the Liberty Bowl over a scrappy East Carolina team. Mike Hartline will have the QB duties for an offense that returns 7 starters. He has a great target in Randall Cobb. While he will start at WR, Cobb is a dual threat who can play QB if needed. Alfonso Smith will play RB. He is a breakaway threat, and is super fast. The defense brings back only 5 starters. DE Jeremy Jarmon will anchor the line. Micah Johnson was an all SEC selection at LB. Trevard Lindley is among the best CBís in the entire nation. The Wildcats start the year against Miami (OH), and Louisville. Those should be two easy wins. After that nothing is guaranteed.
Vanderbilt Commodores - Odds to win SEC 75/1 - The Commodores went 7-6 last year and beat a stellar Boston College team to take the Music City Bowl. Things will be much harder this time around. The offense brings back 8 starters and will be led by sophomore Larry Smith. All members of last yearís offensive line are back, but Vanderbilt will see new starters in all three WR slots. RB Jared Hawkins is solid, but will have to improve this year. The defense was very good last year and will have to be again for the Commodores to compete. Vanderbilt had an excellent TO Margin of +9 last year. The defense will essentially have to carry the offense while it finds an identity. The Commodores have no room for error.
Mississippi State Bulldogs - Odds to win SEC 75/1 - This team finished last year 4-8 but couldíve been 6-6 if not for two close games. Too bad being close only counts in horse shoes. Dan Mullen takes over as head coach this year. He will bring a spread offense with him. The offense returns 6 starters. Tyson Lee is a bit undersized at 5í 10Ē, but he will be starting at QB. Anthony Dixon racked up over 1,000 yards in 2008, and he will be the key to the offense this year. The defense brings back 5 starters. Jamar Chaney returns at LB for his fifth season due to a medical redshirt last year. The secondary could be vulnerable. The Bulldogs should see progress with Mullenís first year, but donít expect too much.
To sum up, it will no doubt be another thrilling year of college football in the SEC. All the teams we're used to seeing compete for the SEC title are in place once again, but the team we're most interested in, and the team which will have the interest of many is Ole Miss. In off a year in which their 4 losses were all by 7 points or less, as well as a year which saw them go down to the swamp and knock off the Gators, this team is in position to do great things this year. Before teams become great, they generally have to knock on the door first. Well, last year they knocked on the door. This year we see if they can kick the door in. Houston Nutt is a great coach, but he also walked into a picture perfect situation at Ole Miss. All the pieces are in place and we can't wait to see how it all plays out!
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