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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who's Afraid of the SEC?: 2008 Preview

I'm not an SEC hater. I believe that at most times and in most places the SEC is better than all other conferences; better than the Big 10 and Pac 10 combined. But this year I have my doubts. Georgia, for one, is overrated. Florida didn't play defense. LSU has no quarterback and Auburn is installing a high school offense because the last one performed at that level (I'm exaggerating, but you get the point). I will need to be convinced that the likes of Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas and Alabama are really better than Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Colorado and Nebraska, because the top 4 in the Big 12 is every bit as good as the top 4 in the SEC. I'm not saying the SEC isn't better - I just need to be convinced this year.
The SEC championship, and possibly the BCS title, rest on two unknowns. Florida's offense will be record breaking, but its defense is a big question mark. Florida has talent on defense-Florida always has talent on defense-but last year they were exposed, abused, beaten and abandoned. The Gators lost two games in which they score 30 or more. Only Auburn held Tebow and Co. under 20.

Which brings us to the Auburn Tigers. One day the guy is trying to sell his offensive philosophy like a quack's magic tonic, the next Tony Franklin is heading up a national contender's offense. As long as Tommy is in town, Auburn will have a good defense, but what will become of the offense? If the Chick-fil-a bowl is a harbinger of things to come, Auburn could be really tough this year, or, if it isn't, Auburn's new up-tempo offense could just be another disaster that uses less clock before they punt or turn it over.
Auburn should slide into the championship game regardless, because LSU, the other West contender, has the schedule from hell. The Tigers from the Bayou have to travel to Auburn and Florida, and also have to play Georgia. Auburn gets Georgia and LSU at home and doesn't have to play Florida.
The SEC East could be decided in Jacksonville on Nov. 1 when Georgia and Florida meet up, but Florida will first need to win at Tennessee and at home against LSU. If so, and if Georgia plays up to some hefty expectations, we could be looking at a game for the ages. Florida will win if they play some defense and should be headed to the conference championship game matching a great offense against a great defense in Auburn.

And what a game that will be. When Florida has the ball, the level of play will be as good as we've ever seen in college football. When Auburn has the ball, it could be a different story. Whoever wins that battle will be SEC champs and could possibly be heading to Miami to face the boys of Troy for a chance at the big pie.
P.S. I want readers to know that I am explicitly ignoring another program that, despite selling their souls for a football coach and super recruiting classes, is yet to achieve anything - and I hope that continues, so I can watch them lose to fourth-tier teams on ESPN over and over and over again.