Walking through the Piggly Wiggly in Pawley's Island, South Carolina while on vacation I stumbled across my first SEC Preseason Magazine staring at me on the magazine rack. Like a kid on Christmas morning I grabbed it, ran to the cashier and held it tight as I made my yearly walked to the beach. If heaven is anything close to the feeling of cracking open that magazine knowing full well that SEC football is right around the corner, count me in. As always it got me thinking about the upcoming season and if I expected anything surprising to happen or is a second straight everything for the Crimson Tide a forgone conclusion.
I am not ready to make any definitive predictions yet, but I am willing to look at each team and tell you what would not surprise me in 2010. For each school there will be one good and one bad comment that if it happened I really wouldn't bat an eye. As always let me know what you think and keep in mind that we are closer than you know until SEC football is back.
I wouldn't be surprised if Alabama…
The Good…If Alabama won another SEC and BCS Championship in 2010
Even with the losses on defense, the Crimson Tide is too talented all over the field and off of it. The offense will be better this year and tough to stop.
The Bad…If Alabama lost a game in the month of September
If Alabama is going to lose a game it will be early, tough games against Penn State and Arkansas are worth worrying about.
I wouldn't be surprised if Arkansas…
The Good…If Arkansas won the SEC West
This is going to get a lot of attention from the rest of the SEC but the Arkansas offense is good enough to beat any defense in the country. If the defense can play a little tougher and avoid injuries this could be a possibility.
The Bad…If Arkansas was as overhyped as Ole Miss a year ago
A year ago Ole Miss was the darling of the SEC as a sleeper team with a single digit ranking attached to their name preseason. It wasn't a bad year for the Rebels, but it wasn't great either. The Hogs could be a mirror image in 2010, very good but not great.
I wouldn't be surprised if Auburn…
The Good…If Auburn QB Cameron Newton was the SEC Offense POY
All the skills are present for Newton to burst onto the SEC scene in a big way and with the talented receivers Auburn has along with the creativity of Gus Malzahn…he could shine for the Tigers.
The Bad…If Auburn's defense didn't improve much
Sure, it might not be possible to play worse, but the Tigers are still a year or two away from having the depth and experience they want and it is hard to rely on true freshmen as backups with serious playing time. Injuries to key players could spell disaster for a defense that was abused a year ago.
I wouldn't be surprised if Florida…
The Good…If Florida was better on offense this year
Like most SEC writers will tell you right now, I like John Brantley. I think he gives Florida the chance to be a more explosive offense in the passing game but may not provide the Gators with the 3rd and short conversions they have been accustomed to. The Gators might be even faster this year than they have in the past on offense.
The Bad…If the Florida defense took a big step back
Charlie Strong has been a dominant SEC defensive coordinator for years in the SEC and it isn't always easy to lose a coach of that caliber and keep on going like nothing changed. Obviously Florida has talent on defense, but with the losses to the NFL and to the University of Louisville how good will they be?
I wouldn't be surprised if Georgia…
The Good…If Georgia was a top 3 defense in the SEC this year
Talent has never been a problem for Mark Richt and the Bulldogs; they just haven't had the right coaches to motivate the defense. Grantham is a pretty passionate guy; he can get the defense moving in the right direction if they catch on to the 3-4 quickly.
The Bad…If Georgia has the same record in 2009 that they did in 2010
There will be a lot of new faces in Athens this fall, new coaches, new starting QB, new players. It takes a lot for a team to come together quickly and the first month is not exactly forgiving with games against South Carolina and Arkansas.
I wouldn't be surprised if Kentucky…
The Good…If Kentucky played in a bowl game for a Fifth straight season
Rich Brooks did a masterful job at Kentucky before retiring and Joker Phillips will take advantage of the hard work they both put in during that time. The HCIW idea works well in some situations…I think it will be a success for Kentucky.
The Bad…If Kentucky started four different Quarterbacks this year
Mike Hartline is the most experience but the two youngsters will compete with him all season…add in Randall Cobb who should get more snaps than he does under center and Kentucky is spoiled at the QB position.
I wouldn't be surprised if LSU…
The Good…If LSU won the SEC West
Les Miles has been taking a beating in the press and on hot seat lists all year long. There is too much talent in Baton Rouge for this team to be ranked preseason where they are. The Fighting Tigers get Alabama at home in November and can win every game on their schedule.
The Bad…If Les Miles was no longer coaching in Baton Rouge come December
Another subpar year will not cut it for Miles who is being unfairly criticized for winning with Nick Saban's players. Add in another possible challenging season for Rich Rod in Michigan and we may get another month or two of rumors in November and December.
I wouldn't be surprised if Mississippi State…
The Good…If Mississippi State played in a bowl game
The Bulldogs were close last year and this year if they can get the consistent QB play and some receivers to step up they could be bowl bound for the second time in seven years.
The Bad…If the quarterbacks were still a year away from being SEC ready
Both Chris Relf and Tyler Russell have done nothing in the SEC to make me confident that they can be a fulltime starter in this league. They both have the ability, but until they prove it we have no clue what they are capable of, if one clicks in August expect big things but if they don't it will be another year of poor QB play in Starkville.
I wouldn't be surprised if Ole Miss…
The Good…If Ole Miss had the best defense in the SEC
Tyrone Nix can consider himself the best DC in the SEC right now with Charlie Strong now in a different conference and he has talent at every position on his D. If the offense doesn't kill the defense this year with turnovers, they could be really special.
The Bad…If Ole Miss' QB play is worse that it was last year
Jevan Snead is gone and while no one is begging him to come back for his senior year…they may miss him if Nathan Stanley or Raymond Cotton doesn't take command of the offense quickly. Rebel quarterbacks gave the ball away last year like it was rancid meat, which could continue this season.
I wouldn't be surprised if South Carolina…
The Good…If South Carolina has finally found a running game
It is stupid to rely on a true freshmen who has not been on campus for one day but if there is one true freshmen that I can say without a doubt will make an instant impact it is Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore is what Carolina has been in need of for a decade and if the offensive line can just play a little better he should be a Freshmen All-American.
The Bad…If Connor Shaw started more than 2 games this year
Stephen Garcia was on double secret probation until Steve Spurrier decided to call out his starting quarterback for not working to be better. Spurrier seems to think Shaw is the competitive answer he did not have for Garcia a year ago and he will not hesitate to pull upperclassmen if he isn't getting the job done.
I wouldn't be surprised if Tennessee…
The Good…If Tennessee has found a long term answer at Quarterback
Soon to be a household name, Tyler Bray could very well be to Tennessee now what Eric Ainge was 5 or six years ago. He is a tall quarterback from the west coast with a very big arm and while he will face some tough competition this fall for the starting job…I like him long term.
The Bad…if Tennessee did not make a bowl game this year
The schedule is tough, really tough and while the Vols may have gotten a break with Oregon suspending Jeremiah Masoli for the season, the rest of the SEC slate is not an easy one. We won't know a lot about Derek Dooley as a coach until 2011 but he should get a pass in 2010.
I wouldn't be surprised if Vanderbilt…
The Good…If Vanderbilt doubled their win total from last season
Now that may not be saying much considering that the Dores only won two games in 2009 but Bobby Johnson is too good a coach to not have this team improve. They will surprise at least one SEC team, hopefully it won't be yours.
The Bad…If Larry Smith still wasn't the answer at QB
I don't think Vandy is done at the QB position and they not sink or swim with Larry Smith. There are other options that will get the opportunity if Smith struggles with his accuracy. He has not been the dynamic player maker that he should be by now and Bobby Johnson does not have the luxury of giving him another year to figure the SEC out.
What wouldn't surprise you during the 2010 SEC football season and let me know where you think I am wrong. E-mail me Brian Harbach