Wednesday, July 26, 2006

 

Most Overrated Sec Team

There has been continuous talk of Florida being extremely overrated going into the 2006 season, so I thought I would share my views of who could be this year's Tennessee(maybe not 5-6, but underachieving).

1. Auburn

Why?? They lost 11 starters on a team that lost 3 games last year, including the whole defensive line. To some, losing the D-line may not be that big, but everything starts and stops with the front 7. They lost 2 quality o-linemen, pretty much all of their receivers, and I'm still not sold on Brandon Cox being an Sec Championship caliber QB. He benefits from the balance AU has, but that balance could be thrown out of whack if there are no receivers to throw to. Couple these with the fact that Auburn hasnt been very good recently when the spotlight is on and I think there are the makings for a disappointing season.

Why Not?? #1 reason, they get LSU, Florida, Georgia, and Arkansas all at home. They have to go to South Carolina and Alabama, but let's face it, South Carolina's defense will be less than par and Alabama lost their whole defense and QB. I cant see either of these teams matching up well with AU, but that's why they play the games. Also, they get Courtney Taylor back from an injury and he can be a big time receiver given the oppurtunity. Auburn also placed 4 o-linemen on the 3 deep all sec team, although it is suspect given that 2 of the players didnt start last year. If these guys play up to potential, Auburn might not have to throw the ball next year so there will be no need for receivers. One replacement, King Dunlap, whom is a mountain of a man(6-8, 320), is said to be better than Marcus McNiel at this stage, but we havent seen it yet.

Conclusion: If Auburn's o-line is as good as the "experts" think, they should be fine. Personally, I dont think you simply replace the caliber of linemen Auburn lost last year. They will beat the teams they are supposed to, but if the ball bounces one way or the other, they could be looking at 4 losses by season's end. Will it happen?? Probably not.

2. Florida

Why?? All you have to do is take a look at the schedule: Alabama, at Auburn, UGA, at FSU, at Tenn, South Carolina, and LSU. That is 7 teams that have a possibility(outside) to finish in the top 15. That can make anybody's season have question marks. On top of the schedule, the Gators o-line has 4 new starters and the one returning starter has moved positions. That said, they still cant be worse than the UF line that was in the bottom third of the league last year. The Gators also have to replace the departed Avery Atkins, who was slated to start at CB, but was recently dismissed from the team. In an attack defense like UF runs, you have to be able to cover man to man, so this could hurt more than some expect.

Why not?? Florida probably has the best defense in the sec on paper. Reggie Nelson could replace the departed Atkins at CB and the Gators wouldnt miss a beat at CB, but would have to replace the play-making safety. We all saw what a team can do with a dominant defense last year in Alabama. Despite Alabama's anemic offense, the Tide won 10 games last year. That is a testament to how much a dominant defense can affect the W/L column. Do I think UF's defense will be as good as Bama's last year?? Nope. Do I think UF's offense will be as bad as Alabama's?? Heck no. As bad as we thought it was last year, the Gators still finished in the top 4 in most offensive categories. Also, the Gators return all skill players on offense save Chad Jackson, which can be offset by the fact that Bubba Caldwell is back to 100% after breaking his leg in the Tenn game last year and Cornelius Ingram has moved from QB to receiver and is said to catch everything in the zip code. Dallas Baker finally lived up to high expectations set for him in the second half of last season. The Gators have as good skill players as anyone in the conference, the only question is how much time Leak has to get them the ball. If he has time, Leak can pick anyone apart. If you go by Meyer's past success in year 2 of the spread, the Gators could have one of, if not the best offense in the sec. Lot of ifs.

Conclusion: I dont think there is any way that UF can run that guantlet of a schedule without at least 2 slip-ups. You would be quick to look at the FSU and AU games given the fact that UF played terrible on the road last year. That said, if they fall into a trap at Neyland early in the year, they could be in for a 4 loss season. Will it happen??? Not if the defense is as good as advertised. Also, Meyer adapted to Leak's strengths at the end of last year and it showed big in the FSU game and the bowl game against Iowa. I think they lose 2, but i think there would have to be some terrible luck or a rash of injuries to push it to 4.

3. Arkansas-

Why??? Let me preface this by giving the reasoning behind this pick. Many pundits have Arkansas to be the surprise team in the Sec this year and some have them as the surprise team in the nation. Pretty high praise for a team that has no proven QB, an OC who has yet to coach a down in college(much less the SEC), and a defense that couldnt stop their own shadow last year. They also need to find a complimentary receiver to Marcus Monk, and Peyton Hillis isnt what im referring to. Arkansas has to play USC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, and LSU. They could be staring at 6 losses right there.

Why not??? Two words: Darren McFadden. IMO, hands down the best running back in the Sec and maybe in the nation, with all due respect to Adrian Peterson. Felix Jones is also a threat every time he touches the ball and they have a prototype receiver in Marcus Monk. Arkansas' schedule all but guarantees them 6 wins with Utah State, Vandy, SE Missouri State, Ole Miss, Miss State and Louisiana Monroe. Upset 2 of the big boys and they could be looking at and 8-4 regular season, which i think most Hog fans would be happy with.

Conclusion: The only teams I can see Ark upsetting are Bama and South Carolina. Im not sure about either's ability to match up with the running game of Ark plus the fact that they get Bama at home. I think South Carolina's offense may outscore them, but I think McFadden has a field day in Columbia assuming they don't get down bad early. I think the Hogs go 7-5 in the regular season, upsetting somebody. It will be an improvement, but I get a feeling the Hog fans are ready to start competing for the West again.

Comments:
Very good article. However I must disagree with you about Auburn, and their personnel. All of the starters this year played significant time last year. Most people have not heard of them b/c they did a good job while replacing last year's starters. If you watch some AU games you'll notice that AU is really big on rotating players on the offensive line and the entire front 7 on defense. AU's defense looked really similar to the 03 LSU defense in spring. AU, on paper, will be as good as anyone in the nation. I will agree that AU does falter under high expectations, but i hope the players and coaching staff learned a lesson from 03. As far as being overrated, AU has the best winning % in SEC play this decade and are 3rd in complete season winning %. They have the 3rd best record in the nation over the past 2 years, and have only lost 1 conference game. I think they have earned their ranking.

UF should certainly be better this year with Leak being in his second year of the new system. The only problem that I see with UF is their lack of a running game. You MUST be able to run the ball to compete for the SECC.

I agree with you 100% on AR. I just don't get the hype. UF struggled last year trying to run the spread with a proven quarterback, a proven coach, and much more talent. The only upside I see for AR is their ability to run the ball and they have alot of returning players.
 
thanks...i dont think they are overrated, just have a shot to underachieve. that said, i dont think they compete for a nc, largely due to the fact that they havent an off week all year long. it will be fun.
 
I agree on competing for the NC. It's just to hard to make it out of the SEC undefeated. AU will lose 1 or 2 and if the "hype" factor kicks in they could lose up to 4, but I like to look at the bright side. I watched the UF spring game, and Tebow appeared to be the real deal. If he works on his accuracy and pocket presence a little, he will be a force in the future.
 
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