SEC West Preview: The Greatest That Ever Was [SEC Football]
The SEC West has to be the best college football in the country. They have more top teams than the Big-12 and the PAC-12. It is really no wonder why the SEC is so good when the teams play the other best teams in the country. It would be awesome if somehow Ole Miss could switch conferences for a season and then see how they fair. Two of the favorites to win the national title are not only in the same conference, but also in the same division.
Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer. Alabama was the better team in the national championship game and probably should have won the regular season matchup against LSU.
Nick Saban is probably the best coach in college football and even though the defense only returns 5 players, the defense will once again be the strength of the team. Two of the returners are on the defensive line and two are linebackers. This linebacker corps is probably the best group in the country. The defense only allowed 8.2 points a game last season and only gave up nine total touchdowns.
There are six returning starters on offense including quarterback AJ McCarron who threw for 2634 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. The biggest departure is Trent Richardson who went in the first round to the Cleveland Browns. He takes with him 283 carries for 1679 yards and 21 touchdowns. Eddie Lacy looks to replace him after averaging 7.1 yards a carry. Four starting offensive linemen return and should protect McCarron well enough for him to find the new receivers he has to throw to since the top four receivers from last year are gone.
The schedule is not favorable to Alabama as they have to travel to Arkansas and LSU. Michigan will be an easy way for Alabama to get a win over a name opponent as the Tide’s strengths match up with Michigan’s.
12 starters are back on a team that was four quarters from winning the national title. After beating Alabama in the regular season the Tigers struggled to move the ball in the national title game and got shut out. Already Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu has been kicked off the team leaving a lot of turnovers that aren’t accounted for this season.
The biggest struggle with understanding Les Miles’ success is with his decision-making. It’s like he just goes with the decision that is most fun for him personally. A lot of his choices just don’t make sense. I think Saban can just bring more consistency, which was my biggest reason putting Bama ahead of LSU.
7 starters are back on offense including four offensive linemen. Zach Mettenberger may improve the quarterback position because the constant waffling between Lee and Jefferson destroyed the passing attack. On defense five starters are back including three on the defensive line. The new players coming in on defense are some of the best players out of high school and have been in the program for at least two years now.
Luckily, LSU gets the Crimson Tide at home. The road schedule is tricky with games at Florida and Arkansas. On September 8 the Washington Huskies play a night game at Tiger Stadium in a game that is going to get ugly incredibly fast. I can’t wait.
The Razorbacks had to deal with losing their head coach in the offseason. It was the worst timing as Arkansas gets LSU and Alabama at home this year and now a new coach may not be able to get this team as good as it can.
Tyler Wilson comes back with a completion rate of 63.2%, good for 3638 yards and 24/6. He got hit hard a lot though in the backfield, so the three returning offensive linemen need to do a much better job protecting the star quarterback. Both the top rushers from last year return as they split time and combined for over 1000 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Six starters are back on a defense that allowed 22.2 points a game last year. Two at each position return to a defense that will be tested when the Razorbacks travel to Texas A&M and Auburn.
4. Mississippi State
I have been really high on Mississippi State the last few years. I loved Dan Mullen when he was at Florida and thought he would do really well. So far he hasn’t shown that he can get the Bulldogs to the next level. Last year the Bulldogs went only 2-6 in conference play and had to win their bowl game to get above .500.
12 total starters are back with five on offense. Tyler Russell is the starting quarterback and is a mobile quarterback. Only two linemen are back but all the starting receivers are back for an offensive unit that only averaged 182 passing yards a game.
The defense has gotten better the last two years, holding opponents to less than 20 points a game. There are two starters back at each position and they will be tested when they travel to Alabama and LSU.
The Tigers were one of the worst teams ever after coming off a national championship but a lot of that was due to only returning six total starters. That’s not the case this year as the Tigers have 15 starters coming back.
6 starters are back on offense that is making a switch from a spread to a pro style offense. Kiehl Frazier has been named the starting quarterback and hopes to bring the offense back up to speed after averaging only 25.7 points a game last season.
On defense 9 starters are back for a unit that gave up 28.9 points a game. All of the members of last year’s starting defensive line are back. Their schedule is split as they get LSU at home for their last game in September but have to travel to Alabama for the Iron Bowl.
6. Texas A&M
I don’t think the Aggies are going to be as excited about being in the SEC when they get knocked around this first season. Head coach Kevin Sumlin left Houston to bring his air raid to the Aggies their first year in the SEC. It’s been since the 90’s that a strong passing attack was present in the conference, and that may have been because defenses are just too good.
7 starters are back on offense and Johnny Manziel looks to take over for Ryan Tannehill who was drafted in the first round by the Dolphins. Four starters are back on the offensive line and what held A&M back from winning upwards of 10 games was decision-making at the quarterback position.
6 starters are back on defense with all the linebackers returning. The schedule is brutal in October and early November when they host LSU, travel to Auburn, play at Mississippi State, and then travel to Alabama. Yikes.
Ole Miss may lose a lot of football games, but they will never lose a party. The Grove continues to be one of the greatest tailgating scenes in the world. This team looked real good with Ed Orgeron as a coach but fell quick when Houston Nutt took over. Now Hugh Freeze looks to turn a team around that has 16 total starters back.
Three starters need to be replaced on the offensive line but the defense needs to drastically improve to do anything special this year. They gave up over 32 points a game the last two years and that is really unacceptable in the SEC.