SEC Media Preseason
All-SEC Preseason Team -
All-SEC Preseason Team -
For the first time since 2006, the computer does not project an SEC team playing for the BCS title game. Or does it?
Multiple teams are picked to go undefeated and projected 4th-ranked Alabama is one of them. Essentially, the computer is saying that 'Bama only has a slightly less chance than three other teams of actually completing the season unbeaten. The records are only projected through the regular season and exclude conference championships and bowl games which are unknown matchups. An SEC Championship game would provide the Tide with another strong opponent to add to its strength of schedule, further enhancing their chances of getting to the BCS title game.
Don't rule out Florida, either. The Gators are Alabama's projected opponent in the conference title game and a 4.07-point regular season loss in Tuscaloosa is the only forecasted blemish on their regular season resume. The Crimson Tide are a 1.06-point preseason favorite over the Gators in the rematch.
It would be the third straight 'Bama-Florida matchup in the conference championship game, repeating the pairs' three-year run from '92-'94. Overall, the Tide and Gators have played for the title seven times since the league split into two divisions in 1992.
If multiple teams do go undefeated and an SEC representative is one of those, it's difficult to fathom that it wouldn't get a national title shot, but it has happened before - just ask Auburn about its 2004 experience. The Tigers were one of three unbeatens at bowl selection time but were passed over in favor of USC and Oklahoma. That season, five teams went into the 2004 championship week with unblemished records.
Just last year, six teams went into championship week with perfect records - Alabama, Florida, Texas, TCU, Boise State, and Cincinnati. Four teams managed the trick in 2008.
When you consider that each FBS team only plays about 10% of the 120-team field, the argument could be made that multiple teams should go undefeated each and every season.
That's not to suggest that a team has to go undefeated to get to the BCS Championship game. LSU's 2007 championship squad lost two regular season games.
Any way you look at it, the SEC has owned the BCS. A conference member has won 50% of the title games held (6-of-12) since its inception in 1998, including the last four in-a-row. By comparison, the Big 12 has won two, followed by 1 apiece for the Big 10, PAC-10, Big East and ACC.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has won BCS titles with two different teams (LSU in 2003 and 'Bama last year); Florida head coach Urban Meyer is the only coach to win two with the same school (2006, 2008); and LSU has won two with two different coaches (Saban in '03 and Les Miles in '07). (see BCS Champions).
The SEC will also have a chance to land a third Heisman Trophy in the last four years. Alabama RB Mark Ingram took home the prize last season, following Florida QB Tim Tebow's 2007 win. Ingram will by vying to become a two-time winner of the trophy. In the 75-year history of the award, only Ohio State RB Archie Griffin has collected two (1974-1975)
The computer's forecast for 2010 says Alabama's path to the SEC West title will meet its strongest resistance
from Arkansas. The Razorbacks get 'Bama at home and, as such, are only a 5.03-point underdog. If Arkansas upsets 'Bama and wins the SEC West, Florida would be a nearly 7-point preseason favorite to win a conference title match with the Hogs.
The Tide's home game against Florida is their only other contest with a projected margin of under 9 points. Alabama is favored by 9.91 at home against Penn State in its only challenging nonconference affair in week two. The rest of the out-of-conference slate brings San Jose State (-42.75) and FCS member Georgia State (-47.55) to Bryant-Denny Stadium, and sends the Tide to Duke (-22.65). Alabama is favored at home by almost 17 points in the Iron Bowl rivalry clash with Auburn in the regular season finale.
Florida's journey to the SEC East title is expected to be a walk in the park. Aside from the loss at Alabama, the
Gators are picked to win every game by at least 12 points, and 6 games by over 20 points. It's a much better forecast than the Gators were looking at back in December when they almost lost head coach Urban Meyer. In the days leading up to their Sugar Bowl battle with undefeated Cincinnati, Meyer announced his resignation for health reasons. However, the resignation quickly turned into a "leave of absence" that was expected to last several months. In the end, he effectively only missed the month of February.
Georgia and South Carolina are expected to battle for a distant second-place in the SEC East. Both teams are
projected to finish 7-5 overall, 4-4 in the SEC. The border rivals meet in week two at Columbia where the Gamecocks are favored by 2.58.
A weak bottom half of the conference sees Tennessee edging out Kentucky for 4th. Both teams have new head coaches. Brooks retired from the Wildcats and handed the reigns over to head coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips. Kiffin bolted after a fairly disastrous single season in Knoxville to become Pete Carroll's successor at USC where he served as an assistant from 2001-2006.
Since leaving for Los Angeles, Kiffin has found his new team on NCAA probation and his old one under investigation for possible violations during his short tenure.
Tennessee eventually plucked Derek Dooley from Louisiana Tech after being rebuffed by Duke's David Cutcliffe, Utah's Kyle Whittingham and a small handful of others. Dooley's dad, Vince Dooley, led Georgia to 201 victories, 6 conference titles and a national championship in his 25 seasons at Georgia. His uncle, Bill, had successful stints at North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Derek's primary task will be to restore stability and civility to a program rocked by numerous arrests over the past two years, including a bar brawl involving several players in July.
Vanderbilt was rocked on July 14 with the announcement of Bobby Johnson's resignation, just 23 days before the start of practice. Robbie Caldwell, Johnson's assistant head coach and offensive line coach, was promoted from interim successor to official head coach on August 2. The Commodores are double-digit underdogs in 9 games and are only favored over a lowly Eastern Michigan team that was 0-12 a year ago.
In the SEC West, Ole Miss gets a somewhat surprising 3rd-place projection over Auburn and LSU, even though the Rebels lose QB Jevan Snead and record-setting RB Dexter McCluster. The late addition of Oregon transfer QB Jeremiah Masoli doesn't factor into the forecast. Masoli was considered to be a Heisman candidate for Oregon this year before he was suspended for the season after a second run-in with the law.
Ole Miss and Auburn are both forecasted to go 9-3 overall, 5-3 in the conference, with the Rebels rated as an
ultra-slim 0.12-point home favorite over the Tigers on October 30.
LSU is given a 7-5 overall assessment by the computer, and a 4-4 conference mark. The Bayou Bengals' SEC schedule is brutal with expected road losses at Florida, Auburn and Arkansas (to be played in Little Rock). LSU is a projected 9.52-point loser at home to Alabama, and a 4.89-point underdog to North Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
Mississippi State is picked to bring up the rear with only one conference win, but predicted home losses to Auburn (+3.89) and Georgia (+4.71) are by narrow margins.
Other interesting SEC nonconference contests include Tennessee hosting Oregon on September 11; Auburn
hosting Clemson on September 18; LSU hosting West Virginia on September 25; and Arkansas visiting Texas
A&M on October 9.