As spring football kicks off across the SEC, questions begin to arise with every program. This is one of my favorite times of the year. As fans, we get to speculate which personnel losses are devastating and which guys are ready to step up. Not only do we have new players proving themselves, there are some new coaches trying to put their stamp on their new programs.
I do some pretty extensive online reading and I stumbled across a topic on SEC Rant that had a nice series of questions up for discussion. I thought it would be interesting to answer them all here.
1. How will LSU’s offense do next season? With all the talent returning and a new OC, it seems that they can do well, but you can never expect too much from a Les Miles offense.
I think we will see the best LSU offense we have seen since Jamarcus Russell. It begins and ends with the QB and Zach Mettenberger is that guy. In his first year of experience he showed flashes of elite QB play (Bama and MSU games). I think we see him take that next step in his development which will elevate LSU’s offense to the next level as well. An improved Mettenberger will make LSU the top contender to compete with Bama for the SEC West crown.
2. Will Johnny Manziel be as good next year? He seems to be partying a lot and not really giving a shit about football….
I think we will see a dip in Manziel’s numbers and partying has nothing to do with it. He lost 2 great offensive lineman but returns most of his weaponry. I think the biggest thing working against Manziel is that Sumlin’s offense is not brand new anymore. Every coordinator in the SEC took extra time this offseason to break it down. I think Manziel will get a bit better but the defenses he plays will make a bigger jump in how to defend him. I think Manziel still has a big year but not a playstation 3 like repeat of last season.
3. Will Alabama really win the West next year again? It seems to be popular belief that they will be the best next year, but that means 4 out of 5 national titles. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it happening. They barely got away in two games this year (Georiga, LSU) and lost to A&M. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not flaming Alabama, but it seems really hard to believe.
I don’t see anyway Bama cannot be the favorites. They took a hit on the o line but they will retool. McCarron still has his top 2 WR’s and TJ Yeldon behind him. Bama still has Nick Saban and Kirby Smart so there is no reason to think their defense won’t be great. The key for them is their 2nd game at Texas A&M. If they get that one, its as good as over. They get LSU at home later in the year. If Bama were to lose to A&M it would open the door for the Aggies and Tigahs but that doesn’t count out the Tide by any stretch.
4. Will Georgia be relevant next year? Georgia has a great team and a great QB returning next year, but Mark Richt has been known for underachieving teams. Besides that, all logical reasoning points to the fact that they will be good.
With Aaron Murray returning you have to think UGA will at least challenge for the east. The loss of Jarvis Jones is huge for the defense but it seems that Willie Martinez has them bought into his scheme and I expect them to be a top 6 SEC defense. The biggest 2 things working against UGA this year are: (1) Mark Right teams have never had the “killer instinct”. They always seem to not quite be able to get it done on the big stage. (2) South Carolina is the biggest thorn in UGA’s side this year. Clowney and Shaw seem poised to lead USC to the SEC title game.
5. Which team will surprise? I actually think Tennessee with their new head coach and good recruiting class so far. They have some great players, and with the proper leadership, I think they can go far.
Tennessee should be improved but they aren’t my pick. I think we see the biggest turn around in Auburn. We saw what happened when Malzahn was there and when he left. I think he pushed Auburn to success in spite of the moron formerly known as Gene Chizick. People forget that Auburn recruits in the top 10 every year and has a roster as talented as anyone. The has just quit on Chizick last year. This year we will see renewed spirit and see a much better team that will upset 1 of the big dogs.
6. Who is going to be the non-SEC media darlings this year? Last year it was Notre Dame, but then that train went off the rails real quickly.
I think Notre Dame will get way too much hype again. With USC falling the way they have I don’t think they are in the discussion any longer. Mark this down guys. It will be Ohio State and the story line will be that Urban Meyer is the one who knows how to beat the SEC since he won NC at Florida. Prepare yourselves because its coming.
7. Will Ole Miss build on their success? I dont really think so. Not this year at least. They just dont have the talent, and now everybody is going to prepare hard for them since Hugh Freeze has proven himself. Just my thoughts.
Ole Miss has another brutal schedule and despite returning dang near everyone, they still are a very young team. The biggest problems I think Ole Miss faces is their road vs home schedule. Getting Bama and LSU at home leaves a brutal road slate. I don’t think they will upset either of those 2 at home. Throw in that Arkansas and Auburn will be different teams and the Egg Bowl in Starkville and this year is much tougher than last year. I think if Ole Miss duplicates what it did last year it would be a great success but I don’t see the next step happening.
8. Is Bret Bielema a good coach? He certainly was pretty successful at Wisconsin, but the SEC is MUCH MUCH more competitive than the Big Ten.
I think he’s a good but not great coach. He’s going to have to make his bones in the SEC recruiting. He has stepped into a whole new world and if he is going to have consistent success, he’s going to have to do a better job then he did at Wisconsin. That said, I think you see an immediate improvement in Arkansas. The motorcycle wreck wreck left the team stunned and John L was trying to hold it together to no avail. That was a dead, beaten team before they stepped on the field. I’m curious how the offense will fare without Tyler Wilson but I have full faith that the defense will be much improved. I expect a much better Arkansas team this year.