Preseason College Football Rankings: 2012 SEC Football Preview, West Division

2012 SEC Football Preview: West Division

8/15/12 in NCAAF   |   Tyler_Waddell   |   407 respect

Here is a preview and prediction of how the SEC West division will finish this fall, as continuation from my East outlook released on Monday.


WEST STANDINGS

Arkansas Razorbacks: 11-1 (7-1)
Blog Photo - Preseason College Football Rankings: 2012 SEC Football Preview, West Division
The return of Knile Davis to the backfield will mean the world to Arkansas, as he was the SEC's leading rusher back in 2010 before suffering an Achilles injury that kept him from playing last year. He'll have a big load to carry with some key departures among the offensive line and receivers corps, but all units will still have a lot of explosiveness, especially by the play of quarterback Tyler Wilson. The defense will be solid again, but it won't compare to those of Alabama and LSU—what separates the Razorbacks from the top-tier teams in the West is the fact that its offensive attack is world's apart. Everything will come down to the final game of the regular season, when Les Miles' Tigers take a trip to Fayetteville. And I believe it'll work in Arkansas' favor.

LSU Tigers: 11-1 (7-1)

Despite the loss of Heisman candidate Tyrann Mathieu, the Tigers' defense will once again be an elite unit. There are a few players in the running for his spot at nickel, while it's likely an underclassman such as Jalen Collins or Jalen Mills will take his spot at corner. Either way, the secondary will be fine and the front seven will be dangerous. The big question is how will the offense look just months after an embarrassing performance in the national championship? Quarterback Zach Mettinberger has looked very strong—he doesn't have the quick feet of Jordan Jefferson, but he's a lot more patient in the pocket and has a consistent, strong arm. The backfield will be extraordinary with multiple No. 1 go-to-guys, the offensive line should be stable and the receivers will be kept busy. The game plan won't be as one-dimensional as last year, and there likely will be more risks taken. But will it be enough to finish 12-0 again, or to beat Alabama and Arkansas for that matter?

Alabama Crimson Tide: 10-2 (6-2)

I hesitate to write this because Nick Saban is the greatest coach of my era, but this will be the reloading year for Alabama. It lost a ton of talent on defense to the NFL draft, including safety Mark Barron and anchor linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Arguably the best running back prospect in over a decade, the Tide have to replace Trent Richardson in the backfield (and a huge presence in the passing game). Not that Saban doesn't have anybody to get the job done, it's just the players that will take the field have little-to-no experience. Do I expect 'Bama to be in the thick of things for the East? Yes. Do I think it has a shot to appear in another national championship? Absolutely. But like 2010, the starting roster needs time to develop. Look out for the Crimson Tide in 2013.

Mississippi State Bulldogs: 6-6 (2-6)

It's the SEC West. If you don't have the top athletes in the country, you're going to find yourself fighting for your postseason life every single year. That's how things have been rolling for the Bulldogs as of late, and I don't expect much change from last year. Coach Dan Mullen is a hot coaching prospect, but can only do so much with a school like Mississippi State in the nation's toughest division. A big strength will be the secondary, but all other areas need a ton of work to compete, especially with the passing game. It'll be another average year for MSU, which probably is a lot better than it looks on paper.

Auburn Tigers: 5-7 (2-6)

Call me crazy, but I do not see how Auburn is pre-ranked No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Sure, it possesses talent, athleticism and has productivity, but it is still very young. Not to mention that the Tigers lost their coveted offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who played a huge part in the development of Cam Newton. They'll have trouble passing the ball again, while being forced to replace Michael Dyer in the backfield. The defense couldn't play healthy last year, and when it did, it wasn't very good anyways and couldn't work up a pass rush. A big reason why I have Auburn missing the postseason this year is because of its brutal schedule: vs. Clemson, vs. LSU, vs. Arkansas, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Georgia, at Alabama. The Tigers need a lot of work before they can hang with the big boys again.

Ole Miss Rebels: 3-9 (0-8)

The entire Mississippi offense is sketchy, with questions at nearly every position. There's no true starting quarterback; the line has holes everywhere; the backfield has struggled; the receivers are inexperienced. Ole Miss actually has a decent secondary, but the front seven is very inconsistent, not being able to stop the run and just doesn't look up to par against SEC offensive lines. Three wins may be wishful thinking for the Rebels in 2012.


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