Another big year for SEC

Southeastern Conference teams play outstanding football, a fact clearly reflected in the national rankings over the past few years.

SEC programs filled precisely one-third of the top 15 slots in the final Associated Press college football poll for 2005 – the five being LSU (No. 6), Alabama (No. 8), Georgia (No. 10), Florida (No. 12) and Auburn (No. 14).

A year later six SEC programs graced the AP's final top 25, with two of them – No. 1 Florida and No. 3 LSU – finishing in the top five.

Last season five SEC programs showed up in the final AP poll, with league teams finishing at No. 1 (LSU) and No. 2 (Georgia).

Guess what? There's no end in sight. The SEC is going to be loaded for bear again in 2008.

Heading into the '08 season Lindy's 2008 College Football Preview rates three SEC teams among the nation's top 10 – Georgia (No. 1), Florida (No. 6) and LSU (No. 7). Three more league teams – Auburn (No. 13), Alabama (No. 20) and Tennessee (No. 24) grace the magazine's top 25. Another SEC squad, South Carolina, just missed the top 25, checking in at No. 27.

Here's a team-by-team look at Lindy's ratings of the 12 SEC schools, along with my assessment:

1. Georgia: I believe Mark Richt will win a national title someday but I don't think it will be with this team. People who rate the Dawgs No. 1 are putting too much stock in that lopsided blowout of an outmanned Hawaii team in the Sugar Bowl last January. I can see UGA in the top 10 but not in the top spot. My pick: No. 6.

6. Florida: When I look at the 2008 Gators I see a quality coaching staff, a Heisman winner at quarterback, a speed-driven offense, a talent-rich defense and a schedule built for a national title run. I think Florida will win it all this fall and the Urban Legend will continue to grow. My pick: No. 1.

7. LSU: The Tigers have a world-class defense but replacing the top two quarterbacks (Matt Flynn, Ryan Perrilloux) and facing a seriously taxing schedule will bump LSU out of the top 10. My pick: No. 12.

13. Auburn: I believe Tommy Tuberville, year in and year out, gets as much out of his teams as any coach in the SEC. I like the hiring of Tony Franklin as offensive coordinator and I really like the Tigers' schedule. My pick: No. 10.

20. Alabama: Nick Saban's first Tide team was erratic, looking like a champ in a 41-17 pasting of Tennessee and looking like a chump in a 21-14 loss to lowly Louisiana-Monroe. Year 1 ended 7-6, and I can't see Year 2 being THAT much better. My pick: 35.

24. Tennessee: I'm impressed with first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson and a ridiculously talented Vol secondary. Still, I think the premature departure of superstar linebacker Jerod Mayo and a killer schedule will make for some bumps in the road. My pick: 15.

27. South Carolina: I keep thinking The Ol' Ball Coach will find a quarterback and start piling up points, like he used to do in the good old days at Florida. If I'm wrong again this year, I'm going to stop thinking that. My pick: 20.

46. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs won eight games last year with virtuallly no offense. That catches up to you after awhile. My pick: 65.

53. Ole Miss: Houston Nutt is a much better coach than Ed Orgeron and Jevan Snead is a much better quarterback than Seth Adams. Orgeron left behind some good recruits, so the Rebels could be the SEC's most improved team. My pick: 50.

54. Arkansas: The Hogs' 2007 offense was built around Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The '08 attack is built around Casey Dick. Does anyone else see a problem here? My pick: 55.

63. Kentucky: Andre Woodson, Jacob Tamme, Keenan Burton, Steve Johnson and Rafael Little were the whole offense last fall, and now they're all gone to the NFL. These Cats better have nine lives. My pick: 70.

79. Vanderbilt: The 'Dores were offensively challenged last year, when they had NFL first-round pick Chris Williams blocking and third-round pick Earl Bennett catching passes. Now that both have departed, I see Vandy really struggling to move the first-down chains. My pick 75.

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