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SEC West Preview

IS there anyone out there that does not believe the SEC West is the most powerful, the toughest, and the most successful division in all footballdom? If you’re not a believer, please exit the building cause you’re not a college football fan. You may hate the SEC West, you may think they are the worst pile of garbage humanity has to offer, but the truth is, they are the best, the toughest, and, in recent years, the most successful division of them all. Truth hurts, but it doesn’t hurt me. It’s a soothing balm to any hurt feelings I might have.

Alabama– Roll Tide! Big shocker that the Crimson Tide is the top pick for the division, conference, nation – and me! Last year, after losing to Ole 017Miss yet again, the sports world gleefully reveled as they started the funeral pyre. Just one problem, the Alabama team didn’t think they were dead. As a matter of fact, they got down right mad about folks pronouncing them dead. So they beat everyone up and won the National Championship. Then they smoked cigars and watched the doubters flog themselves again. And, for the third year in a row, here we are again. A new quarterback has to be broken in, but, in a new twist, the running backs have to be replaced, too! Not just one, but all of them. Truth be told, I’m a bit worried about the QB slot. Cooper Bateman appears to be in the lead but we saw him last year against Ole Miss and he did nothing to instill any level of confidence. So hearing that he might be it and the others candidates are unable to beat him out, worries me. Bo Scarbough is said to be cut from the same cloth as Henry was at running back, but he’s already torn both ACL’s in his knees and has a reputation of being fragile. This has my editor more worried than the QB controversy. The offensive line is solid. The receiving corps will be led by Mr. Fantastic, Calvin Ridley, and his supporting cast. OJ Howard returns at tightend and after his breakout game against Clemson. He is a huge weapon. The Defense is where Alabama has always made its fortune, and nothing’s changed. They lost some NFL caliber talent only to reload it with more NFL caliber talent. According to some reports, this defense might be better than last years. Be afraid, be very afraid. While the offense figures out who they are, the defense will have to keep the team in games. Adjustments have to come quickly for the Tide starts off with USC. Two weeks later there’s that team in Oxford, MS, my big brother’s school, but the Rebels must make atonement for their sins (beating Alabama). In between USC and Ole Miss is Western Kentucky, not a laughing matter at all. Alabama is the team all the others want to beat and it’s the team they all want to be like. Look for the Crimson Tide to be in the final four again this year.

Ole Miss– When the Rebels pulled off the repeat victory against Bama, I cannot lie, I was upset! After a sleepless night, I accepted the loss and was willing to accept Mississippi as the SEC West Champions, something they have never won. They could have done it, but they got cocky against 220Florida and the Gators knocked them on their keister. To make matters worse, they lost to Memphis after building a big lead. But they could have still won the SEC West until they lost to Arkansas. No Hotty Toddy in Atlanta. That was then, this is now. Ole Miss returns the best quarterback in the SEC and he could prove himself the best in the nation, Chad Kelly. If he’s able to connect with the new receivers, the passing game is going to be outstanding! The thing that has plagued UM, and continues to plague them, is the lack of a running game. The ground game has been non-existent. BUT Coach Freeze says that’s going to change this year. If he’s right, the offense will be unstoppable. The defensive side is where they lost the most to the NFL draft and yet no one seems to be concerned. They’ve got some great players just leaning on the gate trying to get on that field. They’ve learned that to play in the SEC West the defense must be top notch. Ole Miss starts off with Florida State in Orlando, and the Rebs have to win that game. No close matchups, not a moral victory, they have to win, cause after the second week, they have no let ups, none. If they beat Alabama again, (I will be most distraught) then they need to stop screwing around and win the SEC West, go to Atlanta, and win the SEC and get into the playoffs! This might be the team that finally does it. But they have to play Memphis again.

054Arkansas– Welcome to Hog Heaven. Bret Bielema has improved his Razorbacks over the last couple of years, and there’s no reason to doubt that they’ll improve this year as well. They’ve dropped some games they shouldn’t have recently, but not this year. They lost their starting QB, Brandon Allen, and he’s being replaced by Justin Allen. You guessed it, they’re brothers. If there’s one thing little brothers like to do, it’s be better than big brother was. Justin is poised to do just that. He’ll improve the passing game. The running backs need to be replaced, but Kody Walker and Jeremy Sprinkle have had experience and should do just fine. The strength of the Razorbacks will be the defensive line, here they are solid. They were solid last year and will be even better this year. They have been susceptible to the pass. The secondary needs to tighten it up and stop giving up big plays. Last year they lost to Texas A&M by one touchdown, They lost to Mississippi State by one point. They’ve got to stop coming up just short. It’s taken some time to get this team squared away, but this year will see a vast improvement. Bielema is getting comfortable in the SEC.

LSU– If it wasn’t for the 12.9 million dollar buyout in Les Miles contract, he would have been fired last year. It isn’t that he isn’t winning games, it’s065 that he’s not winning the right ones. Most of this is his own fault. He’s been dead set on having a dual-threat quarterback, but none of his recent projects can throw the ball. It isn’t much of a dual threat when all they do is run. Brandon Harris was the weak link last year and he’ll be the weak link this year as well. LSU has one of the best running backs in the nation. Leonard Fournette is a Heisman trophy candidate, but he can’t do it all by himself. Last year he was racking up yards against teams and looking invincible. Then they played Alabama, who sold out to stopping the run. They shut down Fournette and ruined his chances of post season awards. It was the most dominant game of a defensive line in years. After that, Ole Miss and Arkansas loaded the box and dared LSU to throw the ball. Harris couldn’t deliver. If he could have half way delivered in those three games, the Bengals would have won. LSU’s offense doesn’t look any different than last years’, so why expect improvement? The defense did better last year statistically, but they don’t have that “it” factor that scares offenses. They’ll stop teams, like Auburn, and Mississippi State, but they’ll struggle against elite offenses.

042Texas A&M- the jerseys at A&M should say, “in Trevor Knight we trust”. Coach Sumlin is betting his, and his coaching staffs’, job that Knight can deliver them out of the SEC hole they’re in. Knight did have that one game where he came out of nowhere and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (hated him for that) , but he couldn’t follow up on that victory and solidify himself as the star QB at Oklahoma. He lost the starting job, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Now he’s transferred to A&M, has won the starting job, (rumor is that there wasn’t all that much competition for the job) and they’re looking to him to be the savior of the Aggies. Since the Manziel days the offense has not been able to get it together. They win outside the conference, but which SEC-West team doesn’t? The Aggies are 1-7 against fellow SEC West teams. The powers that be at College Station have not spent hundreds of millions of dollars on facilities improvements, nor do they pay Sumlin championship money for A&M to go 1-7 against the SEC West. If Trevor Knight does not save the Aggies, they’re going to be looking for new head coach. The Daughter, who is now in the Texas A&M system as a college student, will not be happy with the Aggies picked this far down. I’m sure to get a couple of texts expressing her dismay at me.

Auburn– in the past two seasons the Tigers have looked confused. They looked confused on offense, they looked bewildered on defense, and off 134the field they’ve had issues after issues, from coaching changes to players getting busted for all sorts of offenses. This is do or die year for Malzahn’s job. Going 7-6 again will not hack it. With his current choices at QB, he shouldn’t buy a retirement home in Auburn, Alabama. Johnson and White both had their chances at being the starter and both of them blew it. Enter Jr. College transfer John Franklin, who couldn’t win the starting job at Florida State when he was there. Gus has chosen White as his starter. The defense has been just as bad. Last year they hired Will Muschamp to come in and make them dominant. He did a poor job of it, he’d done a poor job at Florida before Auburn, and at Texas before that. He was rewarded with the head coaching job at South Carolina. The first game of the season is going to be doozy for the Plainsman as they start off hosting Clemson, who played for the national title last year and are expected to be in the hunt for it again this year. If Auburn wants to make a bold statement, they’ve got to beat Clemson. Should they upset the South Carolinians, Auburn could have a decent season. If they get blown out by Clemson, and I wouldn’t be surprised, or unhappy, the odds of Malzahn making it through the season become very slim.

210Mississippi State– Current Dallas Cowboy starting quarterback Dak Prescott is going to be missed at MSU. Last year Prescott was good but in the game of football no one man makes a team. He needed to have the supporting cast he had in 2014. The Bulldogs went 9-4 and won their bowl game, but they kind-of fell a bit. This year they have to replace too many players the ones they have don’t have the experience needed. They’ve got some talent and they’ll win some games, but not enough. Don’t take that the wrong way, they’re still going to be good against teams outside the SEC. Remember, Auburn finished last in the SEC West last year, still went to a bowl game and won it. So in the SEC world, things are looking a bit bleak for the Maroons, but they’re still the envy of most BCS squads in the nation.

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