Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Auburn Football Insider Podcast- Live Tonight

First off, thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. Jay and I really appreciate it. We will be airing again live tonight the 3rd edition of the show from 8pm - 9pm CST on Blog Talk Radio at the below link. If you want to be part of the show, please give us a call at 347-826-9452 and we would love to hear from you.

Also, if you have any suggestions or topics that you would be interested in us addressing, please let us know either via comment section or email, and we will be happy to accomodate. I already have one guest lined up for a future episode and I hope to have more. Also, as mentioned before, you can now find the show on Itunes. Thanks again for listening.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vote-Gate 2009: The (non) Story of SEC Media Days

SEC Media Days provides something of a circus atmosphere every July in Birmingham and seems to be consumed by one or two story lines each year. Last year it was former Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer being served with a subpoena upon arrival. This year, the topic de jour amongst all the scribes and other media of the SEC was the failure of the SEC coaches to unanimously select Tim Tebow as the first team, All-SEC quarterback. It all started off innocently enough with Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson joking on the first day about the media searching for the culprit when asked about who he voted for, yet by Friday, the media had let things escalate to the point that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was on the verge of breaking down when trying to explain his mistake in not voting for Tebow. All of this in the same week that several SEC commentators, AJC legend Tony Barnhart among them, came out publicly against Nashville based, AOL Fanhosue writer Clay Travis, for asking Tim Tebow if he was saving himself for marriage. CBS's Dennis Dodd angrily wrote, "There's a setting for all this: It's called open mike night. The rest of us, we're trying to get some work done here."

And what work might that be Mr. Dodd? Undertaking some pseudo investigative journalism, letting the biggest non-story of the century become a weeklong soap opera culminating with one of the SEC's greatest coaches ever having to profusely apologize for mistakenly not voting Tim Tebow as a first team All-SEC selection? Seriously. Don't get me wrong, I think Tim Tebow is probably the finest college football player I have ever seen, and by all accounts he is a model human being, which is the point Clay Travis was trying to emphasize by asking him about his virginity. But somewhere in the middle of this witch hunt, Tebow became a tragic figure to the press, a victim of a hidden agenda. Even after Spurrier's emotional confession, the press was asking if the accidental vote was really an intended slight against his alma mata? Was this really just a bit of gamesmanship instead? ESPN's College Football Live put this question to its viewers. Maybe someone could provide proof to the contrary, but when Spurrier said that FSU stood for Free Shoes University or noted that you can't spell Citrus without U and T, he didn't suffer from a sleepless night afterward as he allegedly did last Thursday night when he realized his school's mistake in not voting for Tebow.

It pains me to agree with anything that Nick Saban says, but he was right when, after admitting that he had indeed voted for Tebow, he noted that everyone should be allowed to vote however they wanted to. In typical Saban fashion, he then went on to overstate his point by saying that people have been fighting for the right to choose freely in this country for a while now. Wait, what Nick? As ESPN writer Pat Forde noted, I don't think the Marines planted the flag at Iwo Jima so that SEC coaches could vote however they wanted to in a pre-season poll, but Saban more or less made his point. Coach Chizik followed this up the next day by refusing at first to say with whom he had cast his vote, saying it was a private matter, but it soon became obvious to him that silence in this zany atmosphere would be seen as an implication of guilt. I thought to myself that it would have been interesting had Tubs still been around for this edition of SEC Media Days. After all, his teams went 2-0 against Tebow while losing to Jevan Snead last year, so in theory he might have a legitimate reason for not voting for Tebow.

That's not the point though. I think it is pretty obvious that Tim Tebow is the best quarterback in the SEC, probably the country, and maybe ever, but I also know that he has a couple of National Championships (not to mention SEC Championships), a Heisman Trophy (if SEC writers want to raise such a fuss, how about going after Big 12 Heisman Trophy Voters for leaving Tebow off their ballots last year), a future seemingly with no ceiling where he may well add to his previous honors during the upcoming season. Am I suppose to feel bad that one coach accidentally left Tebow off of his pre-season ballot? To borrow from Allen Iverson's famous treatise on practice, we talkin' about pre-season...not regular season, not regular season...pre-season. Is this really a story of any note? We're coming off of a Spring and Summer that was littered with possible secondary recruiting violations (you can't spell secondary without SEC) for multiple SEC programs, and while I don't think that's the next Woodward or Bernstein story either, it's certainly a more legitimate topic to cover in depth instead of Tebow vote-gate 2009.

The one bit of relevant information to come out of this story is the revelation that Spurrier himself did not cast the vote, but even then, it's the worst kept secret in the SEC that coaches do not take these votes seriously. It's well known that the school's SID is much more likely to fill out such ballots. What's puzzling is that the media knew this, yet they were still relentless in their search for the guilty party when each coach stepped up for his session with the press. If we are going to focus on any part of this story, why not zero in on holding the coaches more accountable in their votes, not so much with these needless pre-season polls, but with the USA Today/Coaches' Poll that still forms part of the BCS formula? I guess that's too much to ask from those in today's media who would rather chase (or generate) a story that is only notable for...well, nothing. Several Media outlets like to comment extensively about what a circus SEC Media Days is, all the while ignoring the fact that it is they who often contribute to this zany setting as much as the fans (especially Alabama, but also Auburn) that they so often belittle.

Auburn Football Insider Podcast now Available on Itunes

I wanted to let everyone know that you can now download the Auburn Football Insiders Podcast on Itunes. I would like to thank Jay Skipworth for making this happen and I hope that will provide you another way to enjoy our show. All you need to do is go to the Itunes store and type Auburn Football in the search and you will be able to find our show. Thanks for listening and please keep tuning in every week thru out the season.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Thoughts, July 27th

Ok everyone, I’m going to try something a little different. I’m going to start posting on a somewhat daily basis now that we are starting to get some real substance due to SEC Media Days being wrapped up and the beginning of fall practices beginning in just a little over a week.

My take on Media Days is that nothing un-expected came out of it, as it rarely ever does. It would have been fun if Coach Steve Spurrier would have either A) said his vote against Tim Tebow was intentional, or B) if he would have flat out denied that he didn’t vote for Tebow putting all the pressure squarely on Coach Lane Kiffen to defend himself with him being the next and last coach to speak and having everyone believing that he had not voted Tebow on the All-SEC “Pre-Season” team. That would have made for some good entertainment worthy of popcorn to sit back and watch Kiffen squirm.

As far as Coach Chizik, I thought he did himself proud by being well spoken and a good representative of our favorite University. Coach Chizik did leave the door wide open that a True Freshman, especially Tyrik Rollison would have a shot to come in, compete and win the starting QB job this fall. He also seemed to be upbeat about our offensive line, which we will need to step up dramatically compared to last season if we are to have a winning record this season. He also brought up our most concerning weakness on this team, and that is its depth in general. For us to be successful this year, we are going to have to win the turnover battle and not sustain major injuries. Those two keys seem to be a must in my mind for this year to be a decent year.

As far as my SEC predictions, I have the obvious in Florida winning the East and I have LSU winning the West setting up a rematch in the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship. In the championship game, I have Florida beating LSU, but I will caution you here to that whoever wins the regular season matchup is more than likely to lose the rematch. I’m really high on LSU going into the season. I feel that they have resolved their QB position on an offense that ranked #4 in scoring last season with subpar quarterback play until the last two games when Jordan Jefferson took over the reigns and the LSU defense will be much improved by them simply hiring John Chavis, who lead the Volunteer Defense to the #1 ranked total defense last season while having an offense worse than Auburn’s at the time to compliment it. As far as Bama goes, I just don’t believe they can lose their SR QB, top RB and three offensive linemen without some kind of impact that doesn’t involve losing a game you shouldn’t lose. For more information about my picks and other resident “experts”, please check my Podcast Co-Host Jay Skipworth’s column on Blog Critics, linked below:

There you have it, my new try before you buy daily affirmations. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.

War Eagle!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Auburn Football Insider Podcast- 7-21-09

Here is the link to tonight's show that will be airing live from 8pm - 9pm CST. Please listen, enjoy and call-in if you would like to chat.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, July 20, 2009

Breaking Down the SEC, Part Two

With my look at the SEC East in the books, it's time to turn our attention to the usually wild SEC West. Gone are the days when the SEC West was viewed (falsely, I might add) as the inferior division of the SEC. LSU has won two national championships this decade while Alabama spent a fair amount of time last season as the top ranked team in the nation. Throw in a 2004 Auburn team that is arguably the best SEC football team this decade (only LSU 2003 and Florida 2008 can enter that debate, but they both lost a game at home) and it's clear that the balance of power has evened out, if not shifted westward. Florida's two national championships may challenge that perception, but it's worth remembering that their losses in 2006 and 2008 came against teams from the West. In fact, if you look at Spurrier's Florida teams from the 1990s, you'll see that the Gators generally rolled through the East, but comparatively struggled against Western division teams. In fact, after realignment, Spurrier's teams lost four games against Eastern division foes from 1992-2001 while losing ten games to Western division foes in the same time period. The West has always been a microcosm of the SEC in that it has been pretty balanced top to bottom, as evidenced by the fact that five different Western division teams have played in the SEC Championship game since 1992 (Ole Miss being the only team not to make it). This pattern of balance looks to continue this season with Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss all receiving equal attention as favorites for Atlanta.

If there is one team in the SEC that actually may fancy its chances against Florida going into the season, it's LSU. Even with last year's relative debacle, there is perhaps no other team team in the SEC, maybe not even Florida, with more talent than the Bayou Bengals. The issues last year were suspect quarterback play and a talented defense that went missing in action. By the end of the season, the quaterback issue seemed to be resolved with the emergence of Jordan Jefferson, but despite the shutdown of Georgia Tech's offense in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Les Miles knew the defensive situation needed to be addressed. Enter John Chavis, engineer of the best defense in the SEC last season at Tennessee. Even if LSU were not returning seven starters on that side of the ball, their defense would already be substantially better with Chavis running the show. On offense, LSU's biggest problem last season was Jarrett Lee throwing half as many touchdown passes for the opposing team as for his own. Otherwise, there were a lot of things to like about the offense last season, not least among them, Charles Scott and the running game. Scott is one of the leading returning rushers in the SEC and if Jefferson continues his accelerated development (having Brandon LaFell at receiver won't hurt), this should be one of the better and more balanced offenses in the SEC. On paper, LSU has everything it needs to be a top five calibre team, but their schedule may be a huge factor in deciding the SEC West. Every year, at least one or two SEC teams get dealt a cruel blow in the scheduling department, and LSU is one of the unlucky teams this year. Road games against Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss and a home game against Florida makes for uneasy reading. Even the home game against Florida comes a week after the trip to Athens while the Gators will be fresh from their week off, a situation Urban Meyer has always thrived in. Still, if that game is under the lights at Tiger Stadium, LSU will be confident and it could be a titanic clash. Maybe we'll see the Earthquake Game, Part Two.

Turning our attention to the town whose name I will not write, Bama should find itself in the thick of the SEC West race once again this season. This Alabama team will probalby be more talented than last year, but I don't think anyone is quite expecting the same season as last year (unless you ask Bama fans), mainly because of the experience lost on the offensive side of the ball, particularly the offensive line. As much as everyone raved about JPW last season, I still never thought he was anything more than an average at best SEC quarterback, but sometimes that's all you need to win in this conference. Greg McElroy should do a solid job if the offensive line comes together, but like I said, that is the key for Alabama. As much as Saban might try to blame the fanbase for the loss in the Sugar Bowl, it can't be forgotten how badly Bama struggled against Tulane and Utah without Andre Smith. His loss, along with two of his cohorts, could wreak havoc on the Tide's offensive production, though they have the weapons at running back (despite the loss of Glen Coffee to the draft) and wide receiver to hurt any team if the offensive line does come together. The odds are that Bama will not need a lot of points to win most games with nine starters returning on one of last season's best defenses. The schedule is certainly manageable. I wouldn't put it past Bama to beat Virginia Tech in the opener, but don't expect another statement game like Clemson last season. After that, they can sort of ease into the season with games against Florida International and North Texas before possible sleeper Arkansas comes to town. They get LSU and Tennessee at home, so the schedule certainly offers up some hope of a repeat divisional championship even with the road trip to Oxford.

As for the Rebels, they have been prematurely attacked as being overhyped when, to be honest, I actually don't think as many of the so-called experts are picking them for SEC glory as the media would have you believe. I think most people expect them to be a good, solid team this year with a chance to win the division. Count me as one of those. No doubt, the expectations are raised in Oxford this season, but I don't think we've quite entered 'Auburn ranked number one in The Sporting News' territory just yet, even with this weeks cover of SI coming out. Then again, I guess relative to its comparative status to Auburn, maybe this is a big jump for Ole Miss. I certainly think Ole Miss can compete for the divsion this year, especially with the way their schedule sets up, but I think the bigger issue will not be dealing with expectations, but reaching a consistent level of play. We're talking about a team that lost to Vandy and South Carolina at home while beating Florida on the road in between those two games. The end of the season certainly brought some consistency, but that doesn't mean it will lead into the coming season (as Auburn found in 2003). They have plenty of starters returning on both sides of the ball and the offensive skill set looks marvelous, but the loss of Michael Oher on the o-line and Peria Jerry on the d-line could prove to be hurdles too big to clear. The schedule plays out very nicely and the non-conference schedule is weak at best, but a good schedule does not really become a good schedule until the games have been played. Yes, they get Bama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU at home, but it's hard to see them winning all those games and while the road schedule looks soft, they did lose to Vandy and South Carolina at home last year and must visit those places this season, and Auburn was unlucky not to get something out of the game in Oxford. Expect Ole Miss to win eight or nine games again, but they'll have to take it to another level that neither Ole Miss nor Houston Nutt have taken it to before if Ole Miss fans get the season they want.

Now we'll turn our attention to your Auburn Tigers. Given that this is the Auburn Football Insider Blog, I won't spend too much time commenting on the good guys since I'm sure they'll be covered in depth throughout the rest of the summer and coming season on this website, but I'll do a cursory glance nonetheless. Like Tennessee, I think that while the roster may not be quite to the level of recent years, I do think there is some talent there. The big issues for me are getting consistent QB play and seeing how we handle our lack of depth in some positions. After watching the A-Day, I do genuinely believe that Malzahn's offense is not your typical spread offense. Yes, it runs out of the shotgun and yes, it runs the no huddle, but like all great Auburn offenses in the past, it builds everything off of the power, north and south, running game. It was nice this Spring to see our offensive linemen (all eight of them) excited about getting big again and playing true Auburn football. Now if only a quarterback would step up (my money's on Caudle). On defense, I'm not sure if we'll scale the heights of 2004 or 2007, but we should still be pretty solid there barring a huge amount of injuries. The schedule is not the worst I have ever seen, but it's not the best either. It's nice to open up with four home games, but only if we win them all. If we can find a way to start 4-0, that will provide a nice platform for the meat of our schedule coming up afterwards, but things rarely ever go off without a hitch with a new staff (though Tubs was a Ben Leard broken collarbone away from starting the 1999 season 4-0 or 5-0).

Out in Fayettenam resides one of the more interesting looking teams in the SEC heading into 2009 season. Arkansas has everything it needs to be a sleeper except for the schedule, which is one of the most brutal in the SEC. Say what you will about Petrino (and having worked for the team when he was there in 2002 and in 2003 when he was part of the attempted coup, I don't care much for him as a human being), but the man can coach offense. If I could pick any kind of offense in the SEC to run myself, it would be his. So balanced. With probable starter Ryan Mallet, Petrino has the sort of quarterback he wants for the system. The issue on offense for the Razorbacks will be filling some of the holes on the offensive line after the loss of a couple of starters from one of the better offensive lines in the conference last season. With Petrino running the show, not to mention leading returning SEC rusher Michael Smith, they'll still be capable of moving the ball and putting up points. The bigger issue for this team in general will be the play of a defense that returns every starter, but struggled last season. Here is why things must improve. Road games at Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, and LSU, with a veritable road game at Texas A&M (the game will be played in Dallas) thrown in for good measure. The home schedule is more foregiving, but the Hogs will probably be underdogs against Georgia and maybe even Auburn. Look out for that game against Georgia though, which comes on September 19. Petrino would probably not want to have an off week before that game so early in the season, but if they can build a rhythm in the first couple of weeks of the season, they will beat the Dawgs. But they could be much better than last season and still finish with the same record, such is the difficulty of their schedule.

2009 looks to be a transition year down in Starkville after the surprising capture of Dan Mullen as head coach. He has all the makings of great head coach and I know he has State fans excited, but it's hard not to assume that there will be a huge amount of culture shock with the transition that team will undertake, especially on offense. We saw what happened when Auburn, after being 2 seconds away from Atlanta in 2007, tried to institute the spread in 2008. How will things go for a team that was 4-8 the previous season? Tyson Lee is a great competitor with a lot of heart, but he's an SEC quaterback. Don't be surprised if highly rated true freshman Tyler Russell is starting by mid-season, though he'll still need some established targets to throw to. Anthony Dixon IS an SEC running back. If Mullen can adapt his style a bit to help out Dixon, that could at least give the Bulldogs a decent running game off which to work with and get creative with the passing attack. State is always solid on defense and that could give them a chance in several games. The SEC road schedule is not obscene with trips to Auburn, Vandy, Kentucky, and Arkansas, but they would be underdogs in all those games if they played tomorrow. The home schedule offers no respite whatsoever with the likes of LSU, Florida, Bama, and Ole Miss all coming to town. It's hard to see a win there, though if Ole Miss's season has sort of sputtered by that point, a revved up Davis Wade Stadium may see the Egg Bowl Trophy return to Starkville. The non-conference schedule looks tricky with a road trip to MTSU (why on why Mississippi State do you keep playing road games against teams like La Tech and MTSU) and a home game to Houston as well as ACC favorite Georgia Tech. Mullen will have a free pass this season and the team will likely struggle at times, but look for Mullen to produce at least one shock that gets State fans excited about the future of their program.

That is my breakdown of the SEC West. Look for things to come to a head in November when LSU travels to both Alabama and Ole Miss. My head tells me that with LSU's schedule, Alabama will come out on top in the West, but given this is an Auburn blog, I'll go with my heart and say LSU's depth in talent will triumph in the end, with Bama coming in second. I think Ole Miss will win some of those big home games they, but they will also lose a couple of games that they shouldn't and finish third. Auburn and Arkansas look interchangeable at fourth and fifth while Mississippi State looks likely to finish bottom. Whatever happens, it will be fun to watch in the SEC West this season. It always is.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Breaking Down the SEC, Part One

From time to time, I will blog on subjects other than Auburn football, mainly (and maybe exclusively) SEC football, and with the Summer lull about to end, I thought I would give my own breakdown on how the SEC season may play out this fall. I'll begin by looking at the SEC East. Hard for the younger generation of Auburn fans (of which I am one) to believe this, but this is probably the division that Auburn should have been put into after the realignment of 1992. Geographically speaking, we lie further east than Vanderbilt, but more importantly, most of our historical SEC rivals outside of Bama reside this division, not even counting Georgia Tech from their SEC days. Back in the 1980s, Amen Corner consisted not just of Georgia and Alabama, but Florida as well. Before Florida-Tennessee in the 1990s and Auburn-LSU in the last decade (when played in Auburn anyway), Auburn-Tennessee was always the September game that set the tone for the rest of the SEC season.

Perhaps I should be thankful that things turned out the way they did, because Auburn will not have to face the Gators this season unless we make a run to Atlanta. As it stands, barring such a run or a miracle in Starkville when Florida plays Mississippi State, Auburn is and will remain the only SEC team that Tim Tebow has played and not beaten. Nice. Discussions on who will be favored to win the conference, not to mention the national championship, begin and end with Florida. What's not to like, other than Urban Meyer and their off the field problems. The offense has the biggest question marks given the loss of Harvin and some key offensive linemen. As for Harvin, they will have to find someone who can at least attempt to replicate what he did, but it's worth remembering that the Harvin-less Gators beat Alabama in Atlanta going away in the fourth quarter. The bottom line is that they have still got Tebow. The offensive line will only see a drop off in experience, not talent, and a relatively soft schedule to begin the season before the first real test in Baton Rouge should help the maturation process. One other thing to remember is that part of what fueled Florida's offensive explosion last season was a more balanced attack that had a running game that did not rely exclusively on Harvin and Tebow, and it should be better this year. As scary as Tebow and the offense is, it may be the other side of the ball where opponents' coaching staffs lose the most sleep over having to figure out a way past them. With Brandon Spikes leading the way for a defense that returns every starter, this may end up being the best unit, offense or defense, in the league. They were pretty salty after the Ole Miss game last season all the way up to the title game against Oklahoma, and it's hard to see how that doesn't continue this season. Tebow and company should still put up plenty of points, but they probably won't need all of them.

After Florida, it looks like Georgia and Tennessee will probably fight it out for second while one of the bottom feeders (USC, UK, and Vandy) tries to assert itself from that pack. If any team is going to challenge Florida or separate itself from the rest of the pack, Georgia may be that team. Tennessee may well finish ahead of the Dawgs, but Georgia is the only team with the depth of talent to realistically frighten the Gators. The Dawgs remind me a little bit of the 2004 Auburn team coming off a 2003 season that promised much and delivered little, but this comparison is drawn mainly from the fact that Georgia is largely flying under the radar with Florida picked to win everything again and Kiffin causing such a fuss in Knoxville. The fact is that Knowshon Moreno, Matthew Stafford, and Asher Allen all left early for the draft when Lac, Ronnie, and Carlos stayed for their senior years at Auburn in 2004. Still, without the expectation of last season, Georgia may be able to thrive. Without Stafford or Moreno, the offense may not be as dynamic, but it will probably be more efficient with Joe Cox at QB if a reliable running back can emerge. Defense will likely be the key to their season and Willie Martinez has some questions to answer about his ability to get the best out of Georgia's defensive talent. People have remarked that Georgia's defensive standards dropped off noticeably last season, but the truth is that Georgia has not been the same on the defensive side of the ball since VanGorder left after 2004. Georgia has the talent to be special there, but they've flattered to deceive in recent seasons. With the first half of the season consisting of games against Oklahoma State (away), South Carolina, Arkansas (away), Arizona State, LSU, and Tennessee (away), we'll quickly find out what kind of team Georgia is going to be.

Up on Rocky Top, Tennessee looks to be something of a mirror image of Auburn, just as both teams were in 2008 in many respects. While the roster may not be overflowing with the vintage Tennessee crop of players, there is still talent there. The biggest issue facing this team will be depth and consistent play from the quarterback position, not to mention the culture shock that sometimes comes with a new staff. Lost in the haze of Tennessee's disastrous 2008 campaign was the fact that their defense was one of the top units in the SEC and the country. It was really one of the better Tennessee defenses in recent memory, which is no small statement. The offense was just that poor that 5-7 was still the final result. The bad news is that the defense has some holes to fill this year, notably in the front seven. In Eric Berry, the Vols have probably the best defensive player in the nation leading maybe the best secondary in the nation. If Tennessee can plug the gaps up front, they could be very strong again on defense this year. Having Monte Kiffin run the defense should not hurt either. On offense, the good news is that Crompton or whoever takes the QB reigns cannot be any worse than a year ago, at least in theory. With an experienced offensive line and a proven SEC running back in Montario Hardesty, as well as a couple of blue chip RB recruits who look to make an immediate impact, Tennessee's running game should be strong enough to ease the burden on the quarterbacks, though a lack of proven playmakers at the receiver position remains a concern. The biggest x-factor for Tennessee will probably be Lane Kiffin. After all the excitement and controversy he has generated this off season, now comes the time to deliver. Expectations aren't huge this year in Knoxville, but failure to win at least seven or eight games after displaying such a cocksure attitude will quickly end the honeymoon period. The road schedule does the Vols no favors with trips to Gainesville, Tuscaloosa, and Oxford, but there isn't a home game that Tennessee shouldn't be confident of winning. Georgia should be the only home game (there are eight of them) where the Vols may start as underdogs. Despite the tough road schedule, Tennessee fans will probably be disappointed if they are not at least 8-4.

If Georgia and Tennessee are resurgent, then rounding out the SEC East should be thetraditional also-rans of the division: Kentucky, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. Having said that, each team looks capable of springing a surprise. Up in Lexington, the Wildcats are looking to do the unthinkable and go to a fourth straight bowl. Such is the state of this program under Brooks that it is not inconceivable to see it happen despite the loss of several starters from a strong defensive unit, including star defensive end Jeremy Jarmon who was ruled ineligible for unwittingly taking a banned substance. Regardless, Kentucky should still be solid on defense. The pressure resides on the offense to see if they can perform better than last season and alleviate some pressure on a talented, but less experienced defense. They have a bonafide playmaker in Randall Cobb and several starters return, but they need Mike Hartline to step up at the quarterback position so that they can find more ways to get Cobb the ball. Kentucky will in all probability be underdogs in three of their SEC home games and at least three of their SEC road games, so it's up to them to prove that this ain't your daddy's Kentucky football program. That said, they only needed two conference wins last season to make it to a bowl game, and they are probably good enough to do the same again this year with four winnable non-conference games.

Down in Columbia, their seems to be quite a bit of optimism about South Carolina, but it seems based more on hope than reality. It's as if Gamecocks fans are counting on the fact that Spurrier is bound to succeed down there at some point. There isn't a whole lot to indicate that this will finally be the breakout year past a few glimmers of hope here and there. The offensive line is suppose to be better than ever, and it will need to be. South Carolina's offense never did really find any rhythm last year, and that was largely due to the lack of a running game. For all Spurrier's perceived reluctance to run the ball, history will show that his best offenses have been able to run the ball with at least some authority, and Spurrier knows this. Until Spurrier develops a running game to take the pressure off of the enigmatic Stephen Garcia, the offense will continue to struggle to put up points. South Carolina's defense at least means the Gamecocks will be able to stay in most games regardless of how well their offense is playing. Ellis Johnson's unit does not figure to be quite as stout as last season, especially in the secondary with the loss of key personnel such as Captain Munnerlin and Emanuel Cook (both to the draft), but they should still be strong against the run, which is never a bad thing in the SEC. If Spurrier can finally establish the kind of offense he wants to, then South Carolina could be the sleeper in the East, but it's hard to see past another 6-6 type season with a schedule that includes road games N.C. State, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Arkansas as well as home games against Ole Miss and Florida.

Up in Nasvhille, Vanderbilt is a hard team to get a read on. In theory, a team that went 7-6 last season and returns nine starters on both sides of the ball should be considered a contender, but Vandy often did it with smoke and mirrors last season, beating teams like Auburn and Ole Miss and yet losing to teams like Mississippi State and Duke. Vanderbilt has just about always been solid on defense, and even with the loss of D.J. Moore to the NFL, they still figure to be. But as seems a constant throughout much of the SEC East and the SEC in general, the offense has to really up its production if they are to repeat last season's heroics, let alone surpass them. The offense didn't win very many games last season for Vandy, if any at all. It was solid special teams and an opportunistic defense that paved the way for their success, but it's hard to count on those things two seasons in a row. Mackenzi Adams showed promise at times at the quarterback position in relief of Chris Nickson, but he'll have to take on much more responsibility if Vandy is to go bowling two years in a row. Vandy has a tough road slate in the SEC with trips to Baton Rouge, Columbia, Gainesville, and Knoxville while facing the likes of Ole Miss and Georgia at home. Throw in a couple of out of conference road trips to places like Rice and Army (games that Vandy sometimes struggle in, e.g., MTSU in 2005) and Vandy would do quite well just to replicate the success of last season. That said, even before they went bowling last season, Vandy has never been an easy out in the SEC and they're likely to throw up at least one surprise at some point.

That is my breakdown of the SEC East. Unsurprisingly, I expect Florida to come out on top with Georgia ahead of Tennessee. Rounding out the bottom will be South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. With Georgia under the radar and Tennessee breaking in a new coaching staff, I think the Dawgs finish in second, but it's tough to see them posing any kind of a threat to Florida. We'll find out in a couple of months how right or wrong I am. In the meantime, keep a lookout for the second installment of my SEC preview when I will be breaking down the SEC West.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Auburn Football Insider Podcast

Hey everyone, sorry for the delay in posting. With media days next week, football season is about to start getting into full swing and I plan to start cranking out the posts on a more regular basis since there will be plenty to talk about. I’m really looking forward to this upcoming season as many of you are also. With that said, I’m really excited to announce that I will be partnering with Jay Skipworth to co-host an Auburn football podcast titled “Auburn Football Insider Podcast” on that can be heard live every Wednesday from 8pm – 9pm CST starting this Wednesday, July 15th. Jay is the co-host of the “Gridiron Breakdown” on Blog Talk Radio and has been a guest co-host on Montgomery’s 740AM “Sportsline” and Tallassee’s 1300AM & 106.5FM “The Wake-Up Call”, so I feel privileged to be joining him for this new show.

On the show, we will be discussing upcoming opponents, reviewing recent games, discussing the latest news and recruiting rumors and having fun at Bama’s expense. I also encourage you to send us emails (which can be found in the top left hand corner) with any questions or items you would like us to address on the show. Also, I will be posting the call-in number (347-826-9452) the day of our show so that you can call-in and join in the fun.

If for some reason you cannot join us live, our show will be made available for download in podcast form on ITunes. I hope that you will take the time to listen and enjoy the show and I look forward to discussing Auburn Football with you for the next several months.

This Wednesday’s Show can be heard live at the below link:

Please feel free to visit the comment section and post.