Predicted 2011 Record: 10-2. Alabama’s loaded with talent but has enough inexperience to get tripped up a couple of times during the season.
Mississippi State – 2010 Record: 9-4. Returning Starters: 15; 8 offense, 7 defense.
Reasons to Believe: Dan Mullen has breathed a real air of confidence in the Bulldogs since his arrival, and his offense has lived up to the billing. Returning starters at QB and RB, and the core from a decent defense should allow the Bulldogs to continue to flourish. The schedule is also pretty good with the toughest road games opening and closing the season.
Reasons to Doubt: For all the offensive balance, at times the unit just is not able to perform in key situations. That’s not a scheme issue as much as it’s a lack of complete talent to run it.
Predicted 2011 Record: 7-5. Every year a team takes a step back from forward momentum and this year it is Mississippi State. They are good enough to beat the teams they should but probably not good enough to take out the upper echelon teams in the conference.
Mississippi – 2010 Record: 4-8. Returning Starters: 14; 9 offense, 5 defense.
Reasons to Believe: Well, a lot of players on offense are coming back including a decent backfield. There’s a lot of hope another JUCO transfer QB will spark the offense. If Les Miles is lucky, then Houston Nutt is sneaky, always seeming to find ways to win when he’s considered out for the count.
Reasons to Doubt: The defense was just downright awful last year, having given up 35 points a game and not being able to get a stop when needed. There’s not much reason to believe it is going to be much better this year as the cupboard hasn’t be stocked with top talent under the Nutt regime recruiting classes.
Predicted 2011 Record: 4-8. Pretty much like last year, the Rebels/Black Bears appear to be the most likely candidates as the whipping post for the SEC West.
That puts Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia as my top teams in the hunt for the SEC Championship Game in December.
These predictions will be revisited at midseason and adjusted accordingly. Until then, let the countdown to the season continue.