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2010 SEC Football Preview
Odds - Predictions - Analysis
Why not save the best for last. Sure, it's open for debate, but the SEC, in our opinion, has been the best conference in college football over the last decade. It's the conference, of course, that gave us last years BCS Champ, Alabama, and is a conference deep in talent up and down the ladder. Just about every team has seen some form of success over the last decade, with even teams like Vandy and Kentucky shining. Then of course you have the teams like Florida, LSU, Georgia and Auburn which are dangerous just about every year.
What do the oddsmakers and the bettors think? Well, the SEC has 5 teams in the top 15 in the country, according to the odds listed at Sportsbook.com. Alabama and Florida are 6/1 and 7/1 making them 2nd and 3rd overall. Arkansas, Georgia and LSU are further down at 40/1 odds. Also according to the odds, Alabama and Florida are likely to play in the SEC title game. Of course, the odds aren't always right. If you're looking for betting value to win the ACC, you have to toss out Florida and Alabama. But there's a trio of teams at 10/1 odds that may be worth a look. LSU, Auburn, and Arkansas. They are all in the West Division and any of the 3 could knock of Alabama and end up in the title game.
Let's take a look at what's in store in 2010 in the big bad SEC. Odds to win the SEC Courtesy of the largest sportsbook in the world, Sportsbook.com
SEC East Division
Florida Gators - Odds to win SEC
1/1 - Tim Tebow's time in the college
football world has passed. He was not only the face of the Florida Gators, but
of the entire NCAA. John Brantley will attempt to fill his shoes and will
probably fail. How can he live up to the heights of Tim Tebow? That doesn't mean
he won't be damn good though. He is good enough to steady the Gators and keep
them in the talks for a National Championship and that is all that matters. This
team went 13-1 and won the Sugar Bowl over the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2010. With
a tad bit of luck they might make it back to the BCS Title Game which they won
in 2006 and again in 2008.
The Florida defense will be returning 5 starters and they will be as stout as ever. The Gators boast one of the best DB units in the NCAA despite losing CB Joe Haden. The offensive line is one of the elites in the NCAA and they will give new QB John Brantley plenty of time to throw the ball. Defense is the brightest part of the Florida Gators. Their defensive line is one of the elite units in college football. The LB unit is a bit inexperienced, but they are still better than 80% of the teams in the NCAA. Playing on the road against Alabama will be the toughest game of the year. There is no reason that the Gators can't compete for a BCS Title.
Talent is never as problem with the Gators. They are loaded every year with NFL caliber players. But there is a twist this year and it will be interesting to see if it has an impact on this Gator team. We're talking of course, about Urban Meyer and what happened at the end of last season. Remember, Urban resigned last December, then came back within 24 hours and called it an indefinite leave of absence. Now, the story goes, that there were health concerns, specifically, chest pains, which at the end of the day, turned out to be esophageal spasms.
Well, Meyer was back at spring practice in March, but apparently has taken quite a bit of time away from football during the offseason, something he has never done. What impact will the time away have on the Gators success? Will the quick flip flop have an affect on his players? Those questions will be answered soon, but if you're looking for a possible chink in the armor of the Gators, there it is.
Georgia Bulldogs - Odds to win SEC 9/1 - Coach Mark Richt has a superb overall record at 90-27 and 7-2 in Bowl games. After a season we would rate as 'fair' in 2009 when they went 8-5, the Bulldogs appear to be back in the saddle again. They have a fast offense and the defense is improved enough to allow them to compete for top honors in the SEC. After losing Matt Stafford to the NFL, the Dawgs played a season with Joe Cox. Now the starter will be redshirt freshman Aaron Murray. We don't know much about his talent level, but we don't expect Georgia's passing game to fall off much. The backfield returns intact and sophomore Washuan Ealey can provide a powerful punch on the ground for Georgia.
The defense, which gave up 26 points per game last year and was -16 in turnover margin, will be switching to a 3-4 front and returns just 1 starter to the line. The DBs are very inexperienced and they are our biggest worry for this team. Look for the LBing unit to improve after being plagued by injuries in 2009. If the defense holds up they could compete with Florida to be the top dog in the SEC East. The last two games of the year, @Auburn and Georgia Tech at home could decide the season.
Georgia a year ago was the perfect example of what happens when the fundamentals aren't taken care of. Sounds simple, but that's where success starts. Do the little things well, hold on to the ball, force turnovers and good things will happen. Georgia won 8 games a year ago. How many do you think they would have won if they weren't -16 in turnovers?
South Carolina Gamecocks - Odds to win SEC 25/1 - Steve Spurrier returns 8 starters on offense and 7 on defense. He brings in one of best recruiting classes that South Carolina has had in a very long time. The Gamecocks need to improve on last year's record of 7-6 where they lost to UCONN in the Papajohns.com Bowl. QB Stephen Garcia is a junior this year and has plenty of experience as the starter under his belt. Garcia will have several tall and fast receivers to pass the ball to. The offensive line looks improved.
Spurrier has done a decent job since taking over in 2005, considering what he has had to work with. But now is where hiring a guy like Spurrier is supposed to pay dividends. This is his team now. 5 years in means all of the players on the roster are players he brought in. He built this team. He now needs to take the Gamecocks to the next level, which means becoming a 9 or 10 win team year in and year out, instead of a 6 or 7 win team.
The stats say they gave up on average 20 points per game last year. Ok, they gave up 10 to Vandy, 3 to NC State, and so on. But take a closer look and you'll see Georgia scored 41 points, Tennessee 31, Arkansas 33 and then losing 20-7 to UCONN in the Bowl game. You're looking at a very average team that had trouble on both sides of the ball.
We can usually zero in on a team ready to make their move. You can see it in their recent body of work. Maybe a couple of close losses to traditional powers. Maybe an upset or two. But when we look at South Carolina, it just looks like there is still a ways to go. They have been too inconsistent. We shall see.
Tennessee Volunteers - Odds to win SEC 75/1 - This is a team in distress thanks to former coach Lane Kiffin. He came in and talked a lot of trash and racked up a lot of secondary NCAA violations. Then he performed a "fly by night" and headed to USC to coach the Trojans. After going 7-6 last year this team would be considered over performing to do the same again. New coach, new QB, average talent.......could be a long year for the Vols.
Kentucky Wildcats - Odds to win SEC 300/1 - Rich Brooks did a fine job with this time. He retires after having taking over the reigns at Kentucky in 2003 and after a couple of rebuilding years, put his stamp on this team and turned them into a competitor not to be taken lightly. They went to four straight bowl games for the first time in 100 years and piled up more wins over the last 4 years than any other Kentucky team since 1950. Brooks did as good of a job as was humanely possible at Kentucky and should be commended.
Remember, Kentucky is a basketball school. That will never change. Kentucky isn't likely to be an SEC Football power any time soon. We talk about this all the time. It's the dynamics of college sports. Kentucky Football will always be average with a few outstanding years thrown in here and there. Brooks got them over the hump. He was the difference between a 5 and 6 win team and a 7 and 8 win team. He got the most out of what he had to work with.
Having said that, the schedule looks favorable for the Wildcats this year. You can pencil in 6 or 7 wins, and this is still a Rich Brooks recruited team, so new honcho Joker Phillips may be able to step right in and continue the success Brooks started.
Vanderbilt Commodores - Odds to win SEC 500/1 - Early in July, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson surprised everyone when he announced his retirement, just 2 months before the 2010 college football season was to begin. Perhaps Johnson saw the wring on the wall. He took over a punching bag of a team back in 2002, and continued to get battered for another 3 years with 2 win seasons. Between 2005 and 2007 he was able to guide Vandy to a 4 win season and a couple of 5 win seasons and you could see drastic improvement as they were holding their own against traditional SEC powers. Then in 2008 he guided Vandy to a 7 win season and their first bowl victory since 1955 and only their second in school history.
Now THAT would have been a good time to retire! 2009 saw Vandy return to being a 2 win team and perhaps that took it's toll on Johnson. He likely saw what was ahead. Specifically, a rebuilding job. Another example of a coach that did the best he possibly could with what he had to work with. Vandy won't see another 7 win season for quite some time.
SEC West Division
Alabama Crimson Tide - Odds to win SEC
1/1 - The defending BCS Champions return
8 starters on offense and 2 on defense. Does that mean the defense will miss a
beat? Don't count on it. Nick Saban is one of the best recruiters in the country
and he has a stockpile of players to fill spots on his defense. Alabama defense
will be as good as ever. The offense looks solid with Heisman Trophy winning RB
Mark Ingram returning. The runner will get help from Trent Richardson who
contributed 109 yards and 2 TDs last year against Texas. Richardson made the SEC
All Freshman team. Ingram and Richardson are quite a tough 1-2 punch for the
QB Greg McElroy is one of the better passers in the league, but no one is going to mistake him for Tom Brady. Despite that, he is more than adequate to run the offense. Alabama doesn't have a tough game until they travel to face Arkansas in week four. They will host Florida after that and then travel to take on South Carolina. That three game stretch could define their season.
While the talent is there, you worry about losing so many defensive starters
because the nucleolus of the team, the players that were on the field for most
of the snaps, are gone. Everyone wants to knock off the champs, and there's 4 or
5 teams on the dance card that have the talent to do just that. It will be very
interesting to see how Alabama responds.
Arkansas Razorbacks - Odds to win SEC
10/1 - Look out for this prestigious
team. They will be back in the saddle once again after going 8-5 in 2009. Coach
Petrino has what is without doubt the best offense in the entire SEC and perhaps
the NCAA thanks to QB Ryan Mallett and a stable of top notch WRs. Mallett
transferred from Michigan where he owns the longest TD pass (97 yards) in school
history. He decided to head to Arkansas because he didn't fit well in Rich
Rodriguez offense. What a great decision that has been. Mallett is a big and
strong QB with an arm as good as Peyton Manning's. That is not an exaggeration.
This kid can throw a football!
Greg Childs and Jarius Wright are two great receivers for Mallett to target. The Razorbacks are set on offense with 10 starters returning. The defense doesn't look too bad either bringing back 7 players. They aren't the best defense around, but they will make strides this year. The Razorbacks have everything needed to put together a 12-0 season. If they slip up it will likely be on the road facing Georgia or hosting Alabama. We fully expect a minimum of 10 wins and we predict an SEC West title for Arkansas. Nothing is easy in the SEC, but the schedule is as cooperative as can be.
Auburn Tigers - Odds to win SEC 10/1 - This bunch started the year off 5-0 behind HC Chizik before enduring a 44-23 thrashing at the hands of Arkansas. They ended the rest of the year 3-5 for a total record of 8-5. The Tigers could improve on last year's 8 win season. It is likely they will head into the Iron Bowl against Alabama to end the year with a lot at stake. RB Fannin won't hearken back to the days of Bo Jackson, Cadillac Williams, or Ronnie Brown, but coaches expect him to produce a 1,000 yard season.
Auburn needs to improve defensively. They gave up 28 points per game a year ago. But Chizik is a defensive guy and he's had 2 years under his belt to add some depth to that side of the ball. Auburn has 6 games on their schedule that could go either way, including Clemson from the ACC. On the bright side, other than playing at Alabama, they face their toughest tests at home. With 8 starters back on both sides of the ball and added depth, this should be a nice year for the Auburn Tigers.
LSU Tigers - Odds to win SEC 10/1 - Lots of "experts" are predicting a tough year for LSU. We're not so sure. Let's look at the positives. Les Miles is 51-15 as the head coach here. Not too shabby. They recruit well and have talent year after year. Last season, a 9 win season, saw them go toe to toe with some of the best team sin the Nation. They were in every game. No one wiped the field with them. The lost to the Gators 13-3 and lost to Alabama 24-15. Add a 19-17 loss to Penn State in the Bowl game and a 2 point loss to Ole Miss. Two losses by 2 points and the other two losses to basically the two best teams in the Nation.
Defense wasn't the problem. They held teams to 16 points per game and kept some offensive powerhouses in check. It was the offense that struggled and that needs to improve. They ranked 112th in the nation offensively! Offensively, it all starts with the offensive line. That's their weak spot going in. But all in all, we see no reason for panic. It's not as if this team was .500 a year ago and in shambles. This team should be right where they always are this year. Anywhere from 8 to 11 wins. They'll have roughly 6 pivotal games that will determine their fate. As always, a break here or there in those games will determine the outcome. One thing is for certain. No one will be mopping the floor with LSU. They'll be right there.
Ole Miss Rebels - Odds to win SEC 40/1 - After going 9-4 last year and winning the Cotton Bowl 21-7 over Oklahoma State, this team will return 10 starters in total. Amazingly, starting QB Jevan Snead decided to turn pro after what just about anyone would say was a bad year. He went undrafted. Nathan Stanley and Raymond Cotton will battle for the starting job. Cotton can bench 365 and has 4.5 type speed. He can throw the ball nearly 80 yards. They have a favorable schedule that involves only three tough games (Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn. The Rebels will make bowl play for the third straight year.
Mississippi State Bulldogs - Odds to win SEC 75/1 - Coach Dan Mullen heads into his second year after leading the Bulldogs to a 5-7 year in 2009. They ended the year strong blowing out rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs return 7 starters on each side of the ball. Fans can expect to see some improvement. If they can pull an upset or two then reaching bowl play might not be out of the question. The problem for Miss State is that they play in the SEC. A look at some of the giants they have to face is enough to make any coach or fan weak in the knees.
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