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Cigars & Football – A Simple Blend

SEC East

SEC East

The SEC East is pretty much the little brother of the SEC. They had been dominated by the SEC West over the past couple of years, but it wasn’t always this way. However, It would take the planets being lined up perfectly and everything else to fall in line for them to win the SEC crown this year, maybe, this decade. But like little brothers elsewhere across the nation, they have nothing to lose, so why not let it all hang out and go for it. Georgia is very talented this year, and the “ole ball coach” has made South Carolina into something they’ve never been before;- really good. Florida seems to be making waves in the improvement pool, but the life guards on duty have yet to blow their whistle and call it a day. Missouri is making their SEC debut which looks to be better than Texas A&M. Tennessee needs to make improvements and they just might do it. Kentucky is pretty much Kentucky and Vanderbilt made some strides last year which gets them out of the basement. So let’s see what the little brothers of the SEC have in store.

First up are the Georgia Bulldogs. They enter the 2012 season with a lot of talent and a schedule that is very promising. There is no Alabama, LSU or Arkansas so that makes it one of the best in GeorgiaBulldogsthe SEC. Georgia is predicted to be good this year which doesn’t work in their favor, for they seem to have a problem and under-perform whenever expectations are high. So, “Ssshhhh,” don’t tell them they’re suppose to be good this year, what they don’t know will help them. Aaron Murray is their returning quarterback and last year he put up some impressive numbers. They also have some really good receivers. They need their running backs to step up and take some pressure off the passing game. Georgia’s defense is stacked, and in the world of college football it’s the defense that wins. With this schedule it is imperative that this defense stay healthy and be ready to step it up in the big games. Mark Richt has been on and off the hot seat for most of his career as the Georgia coach. Maybe this year he’ll keep the flames away from his backside, but, as in the rest of the SEC, nothing quenches these flames but a National Championship. They have everything they need to win the SEC East but,remember, don’t tell them.

South Carolina is next up and they, too, have a good shot at winning the SEC East. Their Problem South CarolinaChild Stephen Garcia will not be a factor this year and that can do nothing but help them. Why he was able to hang around as long as he did is amazing. Now they have Junior Connor Shaw who had to step in last year and take over. He did pretty well and the best part is that he appears to keep his nose clean. Lattimore was predicted to contend for the Heisman last year but thanks to an ACL tear his season for cut short. He now returns and, hopefully, he’s all healthy and ready to go. This could be a banner year for him. The defense is under a new coordinator, Lorenzo Ward, who’s stepped into a pretty good situation. The Gamecock D doesn’t really need a lot of adjustments. They have proven to be a force that can stop the opposition so the Gamecocks could be making travel plans to Atlanta come December. Should the Gamecocks win the SEC Steve Spurrier could be making a return trip to the BCS Championship game. The only question would be what catch phrase would Spurrier give the press?

Florida got rid of Weis and scored a major upgrade in grabbing Brent Pease from Boise State. Now they just have to find a number one quarterback. They need an overhaul in offensive after they finished 105th in the nation. That is just not what Gator fans are used to. The Defense of the Gators has the potential of being rock-solid this year, and if their offensive doesn’t improve by quantum leaps, they are going to need a great defense. This will be Will Muschamp’s second year as the head coach and he has already burned his honeymoon season. Florida fans are used to winning and another 7-6 season will cause them to be screaming for Muschamp to follow Weis. There is no doubt that Muschamp is feeling the heat, the jury is still out on his fit as a Head Coach, and this season will be a watermark for him, good or bad.

Missouri, like Texas A&M, is entering the SEC, only the Tigers are in a much weaker division and in a much better shape to make a big splash. They have a steady coach and plenty of talent. As their Missouri-Tigersfirst SEC game is against Georgia, how they handle the Bulldogs will be some indicator. Should they win or keep the game close they will prove that they are ready to be a part of the SEC. Should they get blown out it will show just how far behind they are from the rest of the league. This will be James Franklin’s first year as the starting QB and he is a dual-threat weapon that could prove to be an asset for the Tigers. The biggest question mark for this team will be its Defensive line, there is not a lot of depth and that could prove to be their Achilles heel. The receiving corps for Mizzou might be pretty good, but that will depend on how well their QB can get them the ball. It will be interesting to see how Missouri fares this year. They never dominated the Big 12 (that has only 10 teams) so how they will stack up is pretty much up in the air.

 Now we turn our attention to K-ville, the University of Tennessee. These past few years have not been kind to the Big Orange. The Vols have been in free-fall for a good long time. Derek Dooley is starting his third year as the head coach and, actually, there are signs that he is doing well in building the program back up. His biggest move this off season was to hire Sal Sunseri as the defensive coordinator. Sunseri learned what a real defense is during his time at Alabama, but how long it will take him to build the Volunteer defense into something respectable remains to be seen. They do have a pretty good QB in Tyler Bray, arguably the best in the SEC, and he has needed to be good because the running game at UT has just been horrible;- we’re talking about holding-your-nose, phew, horrible. To illustrate my point, 41 running backs and three quarterbacks across the nation had more rushing yards then the entire UT offense. So it is obvious that Dooley really needs to get their running game fixed so that they are actually, at least, gaining positive yards this year.  If Dooley doesn’t get the corner turned, and a winning record would be a good indicator, those ugly orange pants he wears are going to catch fire.

Vanderbilt Commodores might be on the rise, then again they might not be. Every now and then the Commodores pull out a good season and go to a bowl game. Now it’s time to take that next step and that has always proven to be difficult.  Vandy needs to be able to finish the deal on close games. Last season they lost four SEC games by a combined 19 points. Not bad for a bunch of guys who’s SAT scores beat all the rest of the SEC combined. On defense they lost 4 starters from a unit that was ranked in the top 20. For the Commodores to make it to another bowl game this year those 4 losses on defense are going to have to be filled by some top players. On Offense, the passing game is what needs to evolve so that opposing defenses don’t load up the box to stop their running game. If Jordan Rodgers proves that his arm is as accurate as his test scores they’ll be able to move the ball downfield pretty well.

The Kentucky Wildcats finished last in the SEC in 2011. They had new receivers, a new QB and new tailback so they are still young but hopefully the experience they got last year will pay off.  Let’s be honest, the Wildcats actually didn’t have any strengths last season. But their last two games, against Georgia and Tennessee, were close, so hopefully they have learned that they can play with the other SEC teams. Joker Phillips is entering his third year as the head football coach at one of the biggest basketball schools in the nation. His rebuilding of this team needs to make some significant strides this year or he’s going to be in the top 5 category of coaches on the Hot Seat for the 2013 season. This is NOT a list any coach wants to be on. UK is going to be tested right out of the gate as they have to take on in-state rival Louisville who just happens to be the projected winner of the Big East Conference this year.

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