Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

A preview of the 2012 Southeastern Conference

The Southeastern Conference Media Days are set to begin for Tuesday, and the conference has a lot to discuss. Will the implementation of a playoff system in 2014 hurt the SEC’s chances of winning more national titles? What can new conference members Missouri and Texas A&M bring to the SEC? Will the SEC yet again break its own record for most consecutive national titles for a conference, with seven?

While all these questions will surely be at the forefront of the Media Days, now is the time to look at the individual teams that comprise the conference, rather than the conference as a whole. Here’s a look at the SEC teams, 2012 style.

Teams with best chance at SEC title: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina

The SEC has often been criticized as being a top-heavy conference, and although the conference has done a lot to add talented teams in the middle of the pack, this year will prove no different. Out of the West, it’s pretty much a two-man race between Alabama and LSU. Arkansas is a good team, but as long as the Tide and Tigers are still there, Arkansas will have to settle for third-best. Circle that Nov. 3 date on your calendar. Out of the East, South Carolina and Georgia look to have the biggest chance at the title. The date between these two teams on Oct. 6 could have big implications for the conference.

Teams with worst chance at SEC title: Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee

These teams are, unfortunately, the least-talented the SEC has to offer. Further ahead you’ll see a section called biggest games of the season. You’ll notice that none of these teams are on that list. Each of these teams is coming off disappointing records, with Mississippi State being the sole team to have a winning record (7-6.) I considered putting Vanderbilt on this list, but the Commodores exceeded expectations last year (6-7) in head coach James Franklin’s first year, while the Bulldogs did not play to their expectations. And of course, Mississippi State is in the always tough SEC West. Bottom line, look for these teams to have another disappointing year.

New faces: Missouri, Texas A&M, Arkansas coach John L. Smith, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze

Everyone expects Missouri and Texas A&M to make a splash in the SEC (although for SEC West A&M, it may be more of a ripple.) Still, each team comes into the conference around the middle of the pack in their respective conferences, and it’ll be interesting to see how long it will take to see them play a significant role in how the SEC plays out. Whether that happens this year remains to be seen. In Arkansas, the addition of new head coach John L. Smith doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Razorbacks. The departure of former head coach Bobby Petrino was an unwelcome distraction in Fayetteville, and it’s up to Smith to keep his team focused. In Oxford, new head coach Hugh Freeze will try to set the ship straight for the drowning Ole Miss Rebels, who ended their season last year with a dismal 2-10 record.

Toughest schedule: Ole Miss

The one good thing about Ole Miss’ schedule: They don’t have to play South Carolina out of the East. The next good thing: There isn’t one. The Rebels’ schedule is hellacious. The Rebels have road trips to Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia. They also have to host Texas A&M, Auburn, Mississippi State and the much-improved Vanderbilt Commodores.

Easiest schedule: Georgia, Vanderbilt

This one was too tough to call. Both teams avoid the top four teams out of the West: Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M. Both teams host Tennessee and travel to Kentucky and Missouri. Vanderbilt has a small edge in that they host Florida and South Carolina, while Georgia has to travel to meet both of those teams (Florida at a neutral site.) Still, Georgia’s schedule is a little easier at the beginning, including five sure wins to start the season (including a visit from Vandy,) while the Commodores have to travel to Georgia and host South Carolina in the first month.

Biggest games: Sept. 1 – Alabama vs. Michigan: Alabama has a huge national stage to set its potential championship season off on a good note. Sept. 1 – Clemson at Auburn: A much-improved Clemson team will play the role of measuring stick against an Auburn team that was sent reeling with the loss of Cam Newton last year. Sept. 15 – Alabama at Arkansas: Arkansas has a huge opportunity to prove it’s one of the best teams in the SEC and the country, if it can take down the mighty Tide. Oct. 6 – Georgia at South Carolina: The two top teams in the SEC East. The winner of this game will likely represent the East in the SEC title game in Atlanta. Oct. 20 – South Carolina at Florida: Florida is looking to improve in Muschamp’s second year at the helm, and a win over one of the top teams in the East will surely help his cause. Oct. 27 – Florida vs. Georgia: It’s Florida-Georgia. This one requires no explanation. Nov. 3 – Alabama at LSU: Game of the Century, Part III? Nov. 10 -Arkansas at South Carolina: It’ll be interesting to see how Arkansas handles talented teams outside its own division. Nov. 23 – LSU at Arkansas: (See above: Alabama at Arkansas) Nov. 24 – Florida at Florida State: Florida State has huge expectations this year, and if Florida could knock off its talented in-state rival, things may start looking up for Muschamp. Nov. 24 – Auburn at Alabama: It’s the single-most heated rivalry in college football, and with the events that have happened at both schools over the past few years, this game will continue to get national recognition.

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