Football Predictions For the Coming Season

Columnist Phillip Marshall gazes into his crystal ball to try to predict what we will be watching on SEC football fields this fall.

It's less than three months away now. Another college football season will be upon us, bringing with it all the drama and pageantry that make it such a part of the very fabric of life in our state.

With not much else to do on a summer morning, I got the old crystal ball. Here's what I saw as I looked ahead to those Saturdays of autumn:

*I saw Carnell Williams having a breakout year. It tells me something when Eddie Gran, who coached Deuce McAllister and John Avery among others, says Williams is already the best back he's ever coached.

*I saw Jason Campbell answering his critics, who seem to often forget that he was just a redshirt freshman last season.

Linebacker Dontarrious Thomas is expected to be one of the SEC's top defenders this season.

*I saw Dontarrious Thomas making tackles from sideline to sideline and having an All-American year, showing once again just how little recruiting rankings mean.

*I saw Alabama shrugging off the numbing effects of NCAA sanctions and having a big year in the last season before scholarship reductions and a couple of years of lackluster recruiting take their toll.

*I saw Tennessee winning the East and LSU winning the West, with Tennessee getting revenge in the SEC Championship Game.

*I saw Georgia underachieving yet again and ending the honeymoon for second-year head coach Mark Richt, who has received a lot of praise for someone who hasn't accomplished anything.

*I saw Auburn making amends for last season's disaster against Alabama, playing with heart and courage at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The scene faded away before I saw who won.

*I saw tight end Robert Johnson finally staying injury-free and having the kind of season that has been eagerly awaited since he was a freshman.

*I saw freshman wide receivers Ben Obomanu and Montae Pitts catching big passes and making big impacts early in the season.

Ben Obomanu is considered one of the top prospects in Auburn's 2002 signee class.

*I saw Florida State and Nebraska playing in the national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl.

*I saw Tennessee athletic director Doug Dickey continuing to insist he wasn't worried as the NCAA opened a full-blown investigation of the Tennessee football program.

*I saw Nick Saban bolting for the NFL after one more season as LSU's head coach.

*I saw Ole Miss fading down the stretch again, victimized by a defense that is lacking in size, speed and numbers.

*I saw Florida struggling through its worst season in more than a decade, reminding everyone just what a great college coach Steve Spurrier was.

*Speaking of Spurrier, I saw the Washington Redskins having a great year in the NFL, showing Spurrier is a great pro coach, too.

*I saw Jackie Sherrill scowling as officials penalized Mississippi State for cowbells in the crowd because its administration doesn't have the guts to enforce the ban on artificial noismakers.

*I saw Vanderbilt coming close early, then fading under first-year head coach Bobby Johnson, just like it has under every other coach who thought he was the one who could finally get it done.

*I saw Kentucky struggling to beat anybody and looking at a football future that was bleak even before the NCAA came down with harsh sanctions.

*I saw an angry press release. It was difficult to read, but it seemed to say the NCAA had struck down Alabama's appeal of two years of bowl sanctions.

Looking further into the future…

I saw Alabama winning its second straight SEC basketball regular-season championship.

*I saw Auburn climbing out of the cellar to finish in the upper division, earning an NCAA tournament bid and quieting Cliff Ellis' critics.

*I saw LSU coach John Brady making excuses.

*I saw Florida winning the SEC East over Kentucky, turning up the heat on Wildcat head coach Tubby Smith.

*I saw myself trying to answer for these predictions because most of them were wrong.

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