Friday, August 30, 2002

I'll be keeping an eye on the SEC around here, and though it's a cliche, I figured I'd run out some preseason predictions. It's an odd year in the SEC. Steve Spurrier, the dominant figure in the SEC in the last decade and the second-most successful coach (after Bear Bryant) in conference history, is gone from Florida, replaced by Coach Generic, whatever his name is. Tennessee and Georgia would seem to be the top candidates for the East title other than Florida, but the Volunteers lost a lot of talent and are the latest NCAA witch-hunt victims. As for Georgia, I'm not sold on Mark Richt or their ability to consistently run the football, though they should be able to throw as well as anyone. When in doubt, I'll take the team with the best coach, and I think that's the Vols. South Carolina has a pretty good coach too in Lou Holtz, but I don't think they have the talent. And Vandy will manage to finish fifth, which is as well as it ever does. Kentucky will look forward to basketball more than ever.

1. Tennessee
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. South Carolina
5. Vanderbilt
6. Kentucky (ineligible for postseason)

Meanwhile in the West the team with the best combination of talent and experience, Alabama, is ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions. LSU lost its best player (Josh Reed) and its starting QB (Rohan Davey) but is still the defending champ. Ole Miss has Eli Manning, who is getting compared favorably to his brother and father, but he doesn't have nearly the talent surrounding him his relatives did. Auburn is led by the most overrated coach in America, Tommy Tuberville, and lacks top offensive talent. Mississippi State and Arkansas never seem to have the players the other schools do, but are usually pretty good and sometimes they'll surprise you. Not this year, I think. I think Alabama will win the most games, but thanks to the NCAA LSU will win the Division.

1. Alabama (ineligible for postseason)
2. LSU
3. Ole Miss
4. Auburn
5. Miss. St.
6. Arkansas

Anybody who finishes above .500 and is eligible will be in some bowl game.


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