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Deepest, Most Talented Conference Remains in the Heart of the South

By: Jordan Adams

The best and most challenging college football is played in the South Eastern Conference and ’06 will be another exceptional year among the south’s elite programs. Florida, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee will all be bowl teams and almost anyone of these teams could make a run at the conference’s BCS birth.

Year two of the Urban Meyer project will be extremely successful, as he has added some option into his spread offense behind senior quarterback Chris Leak. Only six starters return to each of the offense and defense, but Florida has no lack of talent so expect another deadly offense this year. The Gators have not reached the SEC title Game since 2000 and anything less than winning it would create heavy doubt from supporters. Ryan McDonald and Brandon Siler head the defensive unit, but its ninth total ranking of last year will be difficult to reproduce in ‘06.

War Eagle should continue its dominance among the SEC powers. The Tigers have won 16 of its past 17 SEC Games and have earned at least a share of the West division in five of the past six seasons. Only 13 starters return, but the two most important players are back. Running force Kenny Irons effectively succeeded Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams and will be among the best backs in the nation. Quarterback Brandon Cox was very efficient in his first year as starter and should again help to take some of the pressure off his talented runner. Auburn was sixth in scoring defense last year, but the defense will take a step back in a league where it will face a formidable offense almost every Game this year.

LSU has a special trio of quarterbacks, however only one will get the chance to start the season. Junior JaMarcus Russell will be the likely starter with his experience, but do not rule out Matt Flynn and the heralded Ryan Perrilloux getting a chance over the course of the season. Its receiving threats are menacing in the open field, but Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis will have to step up as they will be without speedster Xavier Carter who opted to leave the team and turn pro as a track star. The Tiger defense only brings back five starters, but three return to an exceptional secondary. Safeties Jesse Daniels and LaRon Laundry will not only cover well but also can put a lick on receivers who are bold enough to go across the middle.

Georgia and Tennessee have been constant powers in the deep SEC, but two up-and-coming teams might but them on the back burner in 2006. Arkansas and South Carolina are ready to take center stage and overshadow some of the more notable programs. Houston Nutt finally has a team with years under its belt. His Hogs are one of the best running teams in the country and sophomore Darren McFadden is the best offensive player you’ve never heard of. Signal calling will be split by Casey Dick and Robert Johnson, with wide out Marcus Monk leading the way through the air with his 6’6’’ physical frame. Steve Spurrier is ready to improve upon his team’s 7-5 record in 2006. Blake Mitchell did well in the old ball coach’s system as a sophomore and as a junior he should be ready to take the next step. He will be fortunate to have a wonderful young receiving threat in Sidney Rice who exploded onto the scene as an unknown freshman. Rice caught 70 passes for 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns and should again be one of the premier route runners in the conference.

SEC College Football Schedule – 2006

Thursday, August 31
South Carolina at Mississippi State

Saturday, September 2
Hawaii at Alabama
USC at Arkansas
Washington State at Auburn
Southern Miss at Florida
Western Kentucky at Georgia
Kentucky at Louisville
UL Lafayette at LSU
Memphis at Ole Miss
California at Tennessee
Vanderbilt at Michigan

Saturday, September 9
Vanderbilt at Alabama
Utah State at Arkansas
Auburn at Mississippi State
UCF at Florida
Georgia at South Carolina
Texas State at Kentucky
Arizona at LSU
Ole Miss at Missouri
Air Force at Tennessee

Saturday, September 16
UL Monroe at Alabama
Arkansas at Vanderbilt
LSU at Auburn
Florida at Tennessee
UAB at Georgia
Ole Miss at Kentucky
Tulane at Mississippi State
Wofford at South Carolina

Saturday, September 23
Alabama at Arkansas
Buffalo at Auburn
Kentucky at Florida
Colorado at Georgia
Tulane at LSU
Wake Forest at Ole Miss
Mississippi State at UAB
Florida Atlantic at South Carolina
Marshall at Tennessee
Tennessee State at Vanderbilt

Thursday, September 28
Auburn at South Carolina

Saturday, September 30
Alabama at Florida
Georgia at Ole Miss
Central Michigan at Kentucky
Mississippi State at LSU
Tennessee at Memphis
Kent State at Vanderbilt

Saturday, October 7
Duke at Alabama
Arkansas at Auburn
LSU at Florida
Tennessee at Georgia
South Carolina at Kentucky
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss
West Virginia at Mississippi State

Saturday, October 14
Ole Miss at Alabama
SE Missouri State at Arkansas
Florida at Auburn
Vanderbilt at Georgia
Kentucky at LSU
Jacksonville State at Mississippi State

Saturday, October 21
Alabama at Tennessee
Ole Miss at Arkansas
Tulane at Auburn
Mississippi State at Georgia
Fresno State at LSU
South Carolina at Vanderbilt

Saturday, October 28
FIU at Alabama
UL Monroe at Arkansas
Auburn at Ole Miss
Florida vs. Georgia
Kentucky at Mississippi State
Tennessee at South Carolina
Vanderbilt at Duke

Saturday, November 4
Mississippi State at Alabama
Arkansas at South Carolina
Arkansas State at Auburn
Vanderbilt at Florida
Georgia at Kentucky
LSU at Tennessee
Northwestern State at Ole Miss

Saturday, November 11
Alabama at LSU
Tennessee at Arkansas
Georgia at Auburn
South Carolina at Florida
Vanderbilt at Kentucky

Saturday, November 18
Auburn at Alabama
Arkansas at Mississippi State
Western Carolina at Florida
UL Monroe at Kentucky
Ole Miss at LSU
MTSU at South Carolina
Tennessee at Vanderbilt

Saturday, November 25
LSU at Arkansas
Florida at Florida State
Georgia Tech at Georgia
Kentucky at Tennessee
Mississippi State at Ole Miss
South Carolina at Clemson

Saturday, December 2
SEC Championship Game, Atlanta, Ga.

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