Auburn, Alabama To Battle For West Crown

brad logan.jpgThe Southeastern Conference has a storied history, both past and
present. The SEC Western Division is synonymous for a tactic known as
“three yards and a cloud of dust.” While philosophies have changed,
don’t expect the coaching brethren to shy away from the running attack.
A former coach once summed up the SEC a few years ago in reference to
the dedication of the players that light up the scoreboard each
Saturday. “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would
do it. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great.”


By BRAD LOGAN
The Southeastern Conference has a storied history, both past and present. The SEC Western Division is synonymous for a tactic known as “three yards and a cloud of dust.” While philosophies have changed, don’t expect the coaching brethren to shy away from the running attack.
A former coach once summed up the SEC a few years ago in reference to the dedication of the players that light up the scoreboard each Saturday. “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great.”
brad logan.jpgThe Auburn Tigers have silenced the critics, winning six straight over its arch rival Alabama. While that streak will come to an end this season, a trip to meet the Georgia Bulldogs in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game should be a nice reward. 
1) Auburn Tigers- Defense wins championships is a slogan that is echoed at every school in the SEC. For the Tigers, head coach Tommy Tuberville knows his defense is the poster child. The most talented linebacker trio in the conference can be found on the Plains, led by Tray Blackmon. Heralded Juco quarterback Chris Todd will press Kody Burns for the starting nod as signal caller, although expect both to see action. Talented running back Brad Lester returns, along with the entire offensive line. If you’re looking for a soft spot in the lineup, there’s not one. With Florida absent from the schedule this year, the Tigers have Tennessee, LSU and Georgia at home, while the only road test will be in Tuscaloosa. Will the Tigers be able to rebound after the loss to the Tide? Enough wins will insure a berth in Atlanta.
2) Alabama Crimson Tide- Head coach Nick Saban has surmounted top recruiting classes the previous two seasons. The Crimson Nation will expect results sooner than later. Expect the results to come soon. Nine starters return on offense, anchored by All-American tackle Andre Smith. Incoming freshman Julio Jones should make an immediate impact at receiver, as the position was depleted due to graduation. Rolando McClain, an all-SEC freshman last season, returns at linebacker, as does preseason All-SEC strong safety Rashad Johnson. A difficult schedule should prove to be the difference, with road games at Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU. A regular season win over Auburn should have the Tide in a New Year’s Day bowl.
3) LSU Tigers- Down on the bayou, the Tigers are coming off a successful 2007 season, winning the BCS National Championship. This season, graduation and off the field troubles, have taken it’s toll. Absent from the roster this season is Ryan Perrilloux, the now transferred quarterback that was dismissed by head coach Les Miles this off season. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton was left scratching his head, having the task of nurturing Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch into SEC caliber quarterbacks. Only five starters return on offense but many have seen action, mainly in running backs Richard Murphy and Keiland Williams. Brandon LaFell returns to anchor a depleted receiver unit. The well will not be dry as the Tigers landed a talented recruiting class last season. Road tests at Auburn, Florida and Arkansas will determine if LSU will maintain its post atop the college football world. Without an established quarterback, the road will be rocky.
4) Ole Miss Rebels- Exit Ed Orgeron. Enter Houston Nutt. While it may take a bit of getting used to for many Rebel fans, the former Arkansas head coach is anxious to start his first season in Oxford. He will inherit a talented group with very few wins to show for it. Texas transfer quarterback Jevan Snead hopes to aid in the transition. Opposite from last season, there is no controversy this season. With the loss of BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the backfield, Nutt hit the recruiting trail hard signing three running backs, highlighted by former Auburn signee Enrique Davis. A talented receiving unit returns with Mike Wallace and a now healthy Dexter McCluster. The ongoing saga of Waynesboro defensive tackle Jerrell Powe has come to a close. This should add depth to an already solid defensive front. The schedule has games at Wake Forest, Florida, Alabama and Arkansas. The tough road games will not be an easy road to climb but the addition of Nutt should give the Rebels a nod come bowl season.
5) Mississippi State Bulldogs- Sylvester Croom said he could do it. Not many believed him. In typical Croom fashion, the former NFL assistant promptly defeated Kentucky, Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss en route to a Liberty Bowl victory over Central Florida. Croom installed winning back into the MSU football program and many believe he will keep it there. There is no better place to start than running back Anthony Dixon. The junior rushed for 1,066 yards last season on 287 attempts. Herein lies the problem this season; Dixon will have to rely on a brand new offensive line. Quarterback Wesley Carroll returns, following a yeoman’s effort in the bowl game. Offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey worked diligently this off season in the passing department to mirror the success of last season. The defensive secondary will likely pick up any of the slack, returning all of its starters from last season. The Bulldogs have a rugged schedule, hosting Auburn, Kentucky and Arkansas and traveling to Georgia Tech, LSU, Tennessee, Alabama and Ole Miss.
6) Arkansas Razorbacks- Head coach Bobby Petrino has quite the job ahead of him. He must incorporate an offense the Hog faithful have not seen in four years. An offense without the services of Felix Jones and Darren McFadden. The former Louisville head coach is known as a pass-happy offensive mind, an offense completely different than any ever seen in the Ozarks. While the offense will struggle this season due to transition, the defense returns the entire defensive front led by nose tackle Ernest Mitchell. With the usual SEC competition, the Hogs have an early road game against the Texas Longhorns on September 13th. Unfortunately for the Hogs, it will be all downhill from there.
You can email Brad Logan at blogan80@yahoo.com
or visit www.bradlogansports.blogspot.com

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