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Conference Preview: The SEC

crystalballIn an effort to address all the teams and conferences that make the fall so exciting, OTP’s All-Star Editorial staff is putting on their prognosticatin’ hats and taking a stab at each of the conferences and all of the teams in FBS. Alan and Edge are giving you the conference’s order of finish, the records, the superlatives for offense and defense, and the biggest surprise for each conference. At the conclusion of our series, we’ll have the Bowl Projections for all 34 Bowl Games.

OTP Conference Preview: The SEC

sec_logo1To call the SEC dominant is sort of the understatement of the decade in terms of college football. Year after year after year, that dominance is on display week in and week out, culminating in Bowl season, where the SEC’s champion has won the national title the last three years. The conference is universally regarded as the best played, the most passionately followed, and in possession of the most insane rivalries, home crowds, and gameday experiences you can find.

This year looks no different, as Florida is already being dubbed THE pick to win the national title. They’ve received all but two AP first place votes and are probably clearing out room in the trophy case as you read this for a new crystal football and a lifesize statue of Tim Tebow.

Everyone knows about the Gators and their successes, but it’s the strength of the conference from top to bottom that makes the SEC the premier football conference. Are there bad teams? Potentially. Mediocre teams? Of course. But those labeled “bad” or “mediocre” in the SEC would stand a significant chance of outright winning most any other conference. The simple fact is there are no pushovers in the SEC. Each and every week a team faces another team capable of beating them. There are no Washingtons in the SEC. The Syracuses just don’t exist. Forget about the Baylors.

In years past the doormats of the conference have significantly boosted their reputation and talent. Vanderbilt and Kentucky in the East were always fighting for the right to not be in dead last. But Kentucky has made it to three straight Bowls and won them all. Vandy went Bowling last year. The West is just as loaded. Three consensus top 15 picks in Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss. A new coach on the rebuild at Arkansas. New coaches at Mississippi State and Auburn look to improve their teams. It’s a good time to be in the SEC as this rising tide continues to lift all ships.

The captains of those ships are collectively the best group of coaches assembled anywhere. Nick Saban, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, and Urban Meyer all have national titles to their name. Mark Richt has SEC titles and a national championship as an assistant coach at Florida State. Winning a national title as an assistant can also be said of Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, and Auburn’s Gene Chizik. Houston Nutt at Arkansas, Bobby Johnson at Vandy, Bobby Petrino of Arkansas and Rich Brooks of Kentucky all have had their taste of success as well.

It’s easy for other fanbases to point to the SEC and act like the accolades and rep isn’t well deserved. The simple fact is that those sort of accolades are not only deserved, but earned, through the bloodied bodies of the other BCS conference opponents that the SEC’s best have left on assorted fields throughout this country.

Last 5 Conference Champions
2008: Florida
2007: LSU
2006: Florida
2005: Georgia
2004: Auburn

Bowl Tie Ins
The Southeastern Conference has nine bowl tie-ins.
#1- Bowl Championship Series. The winner of the SEC Championship Game gains an automatic berth to a BCS bowl game, preferentially the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
#2- The Capital One Bowl must select the team with the best overall record among non-BCS playing SEC teams, or a team within one game of the best record.
#3-5- The Cotton Bowl has first pick of remaining teams from the Western Division, and the Outback Bowl has first pick of remaining teams from the Eastern Division. The Chick-fil-A Bowl selects after those two bowls.
#6-7- The Music City Bowl and the Liberty Bowl work with the SEC office to determine the sixth and seventh picks.
#8- The Independence Bowl receives the eighth choice of SEC teams. In years where the SEC does not have eight bowl eligible teams, the Independence Bowl will select from the Sun Belt Conference instead.
#9- The Papajohns.com Bowl receives the ninth choice of SEC teams. In years where the SEC does not have nine bowl eligible teams, the Papajohns.com Bowl will select from the Sun Belt Conference instead.

Alan’s SEC Predictions
Order of Finish:
East
Florida 12-0 (8-0)
Georgia 11-1 (7-1)
Tennessee 6-6 (3-5)
Vanderbilt 6-6 (3-5)
Kentucky 6-6 (2-6)
South Carolina 5-7 (2-6)

West
Ole Miss 11-1 (7-1)
Alabama 11-1 (7-1)
LSU 8-4 (4-4)
Arkansas 7-5 (3-5)
Auburn 6-6 (2-6)
Mississippi State 2-10 (0-8)

League Champion: Florida defeats Ole Miss in the SEC Championship

League MVP: Tim Tebow, Florida
Offensive MVP: AJ Green, Georgia
Defensive MVP: Eric Berry, Tennessee

Biggest Surprise This Season: While looking ahead to their October 10th showdown with Alabama, Ole Miss stumbles at Vanderbilt. It will end up being their only loss this season.

Edge’s  SEC Predictions
Order of Finish:
East
Florida 12-0 (8-0)
Georgia 9-3 (6-2)
Tennessee 8-4 (4-4)
South Carolina 7-5 (3-5)
Vanderbilt 6-6 (2-6)
Kentucky 5-7 (1-7)

West
Alabama 11-1 (7-1)
Ole Miss 11-1 (7-1)
LSU 10-2 (6-2)
Arkansas 6-6 (2-6)
Auburn 5-7 (2-6)
Mississippi St. 2-10 (0-8)

League Champion: Florida knocks off Alabama in the SEC Championship

League MVP: Tim Tebow, Florida
Offensive MVP: Julio Jones, Alabama
Defensive MVP: Eric Berry, Tennessee

Biggest Surprise This Season: Things look promising for Alabama until week 10 when LSU decides to offer a little 2008 payback.  Saban gets pissed. Really pissed.  Lane Kiffin has a winning season for Tennessee but suffers extreme embarrassment at the hands of Florida in week 3 and finishes 4-4 in the conference.

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