Here is Campus Confidential's SEC preview.
Opening kickoff: The SEC has won the last five BCS national titles and has had the last two Heisman Trophy winners. What can we expect from the SEC in 2011? LSU and Alabama will be national title contenders. In fact, LSU’s game at Alabama on Nov. 5. will likely decides the SEC West winner and should go a long way in setting up the BCS national title game. However, LSU and Alabama do have question marks this season. LSU is dealing with a police investigation into a bar fight. LSU suspended starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson indefinitely on Friday for his role in the fight. Plus, starting wide receiver Russell Shepard was declared ineligible this week for an NCAA violation. Jarrett Lee, however, has experience as a starting quarterback and transfer Zach Mettenberger is an intriguing option. Meanwhile, with Greg McElroy gone, Alabama’s quarterback situation remains unsettled. South Carolina, with quarterback Stephen Garcia, running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery returning, is the favorite in the SEC East. The rest of the conference should be very interesting. Will Muschamp takes over for Urban Meyer at Florida. The Gators also added Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator. It should be an interesting battle in the East with South Carolina and Georgia, which will be much improved with sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray. The SEC West has plenty of depth. After LSU and Alabama, Mississippi State, Arkansas and defending national champion Auburn all are coming off strong seasons. Auburn won’t duplicate last season’s success, but Mississippi State and Arkansas will be interesting teams and should land in very good bowl games. The SEC has some sensational running backs this season, with Alabama’s Trent Richardson and Lattimore leading the way. Both should be strong Heisman contenders.
CC’s predicted order of finish
- South Carolina
- Mississippi State
CC’s preseason offensive player of the year: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
CC’s preseason defensive player of the year: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Best game: LSU at Alabama, Nov. 5
Why LSU will beat South Carolina in the SEC title game: LSU is primed for a big season. Remember, the Tigers beat a hot Texas A&M team 41-24 in the Cotton Bowl to end last season. It’s true – LSU does have to replace some big names on defense, including All-American cornerback Patrick Peterson. And Jefferson’s status is definitely troubling. But overall I think LSU has the most talent in the SEC. South Carolina will be formidable on offense with Garcia, Lattimore and Jeffery. Both teams should be well tested by the SEC title game. LSU starts the season against Oregon at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and then goes to Mississippi State, West Virginia and Alabama later in the season. South Carolina has a road game at Georgia (Sept. 10) and then three straight road games against Mississippi State (Oct. 15), Tennessee (Oct. 29) and Arkansas (Nov. 5). I’m giving LSU the edge in talent and I think the Tigers’ defense is the difference in the title game.