Lets breakdown some of the biggest contenders for the SEC Title this upcoming football season, as well as discuss their chances of winning the National Championship. Will LSU and Alabama lead the way once again?
Sportscasters will tell you that all of the offseason action and excitement is going on in the NFL, and with the draft coming up and all of the Peyton Manning drama, it isn't that hard to believe them. But dont forget that college football is right around the corner, and when you think college football, no need to look further than the powerful SEC Conference.
Currently, college football odds list the LSU Tigers as the favorite to win the BCS Championship at 19/4 betting odds while the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide is 3rd at 5/1.
Other SEC contenders are Georgia Bulldogs 14/1, Arkansas Razorbacks 20/1, Clemson Tigers 25/1, and South Carolina Gamecocks and Florida Gators at 30/1.
Let's take a deeper look into the conference from the south.
LSU Tigers- 19/4
Mettenberger is the man
Four years removed from high school football quarterback Zach Mettenberger will finally get his chance at playing some meaningful football. It appears that Mettenberger is ready for the task at hand and wanting everyone to forget that he was thrown of off Georgia's football team in 2010. This was a guy that was outplaying Georgia QB Aaron Murray in practices. Last season, Mettenberger was 8 of 11 for 92 yards and 1 TD. There's no more Jordan Jefferson and no more Lee, it's time for Zach Mettenberger to show the world what he's got and it appears to be a lot.
With the trio of future juniors Spencer Ware (707 yards, 8 TD), Alfred Blue (539 yards, 7 TD), and Michael Ford (756 yards, 7 TD), the Tigers rushing game is full of depth and more than able.
The Tigers will be without their leading wide receiver of last season who decided to leave for the NFL and will be a little thin at the position. Odell Beckham had a solid freshman year and will look to improve upon that along with fellow receiver Russell Shepard, who will be going into his senior year.
Wide receiver Avery Johnson will be a name to look out for as he's the 23rd top receiving recruit in the country.
Although the LSU Tigers sport the 2nd best defense in the country, they took a hit by losing defensive tackle Michael Brockers and cornerback Morris Claiborne to the NFL. "The Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu returns and this team is still very strong defensively.
Alabama Crimson Tide- 5/1
The Alabama Crimson Tide accomplished what they wanted to last season and knocked off the 13-0 Tigers to win the BCS Championship game. As some expected, some players wanted to go to the NFL early out on top. The Crimson Tide will be without Trent Richardson, Donta' Hightower, and Dre Kirkpatrick. It's a definite blow when you lose a 2000 yard rusher and 2 key players on the best defense in college football but the Tide will be ready to go.
Junior quarterback A.J. McCarron is a huge asset to have as he has the championship experience and has great strength in keeping mistakes to a minimum. McCarron threw for 234 yards on 23 of 34 passes as the Alabama dominated LSU. His quarterback rating on the season was 147.3. This is a reliable quarterback to go to battle with
Without Richardson, juniors Eddie Lacy (674 yards, 7 TD) and Jalston Fowler (385 yards and 4 TD) will get their chance to take over. Both players showed that they were quite capable as they averaged around the 7 yards per carry mark.
There's definitely a void at the receiver position as Alabama loses it's top 4 receivers. However, there are a bunch of inexperienced receivers led by Kenny Bell (255 yards, 2 TD) that will get their chance as this team has a great depth of young players.
The Tide take a major hit on the defensive end and will look to veteran players like linebacker Nico Johnson (46 tackles, 2 INT, 6.5 tackles for losses, 1 sack) Alabama does get the 2nd best athlete recruit according to ESPN in Eddie Williams and he can either play OLB or safety. The National Champion always recruits well.
Georgia Bulldogs- 14/1
The Bulldogs got off to a rough start last season and people were expecting a repeat performance of 2010 but the Bulldogs proceeded to win 10 out of their next 11 regular season games and earn a spot in the Outback Bowl. The man that's mostly responsible for this is quarterback Aaron Murray.
Although he's a major long shot, the junior QB Murray is a Heisman Trophy candidate and has the potential to take Georgia very far. Last season, he threw for his 2nd consecutive 3000 yard passing season and also threw for 35 touchdown passes. Murray can take solace in the fact that he forced a very good Michigan State team to 3 OT's in the Outback Bowl but his goals are set higher this season.
Georgia isn't a team with any definitive star at the key offensive positions but they're very deep and very young. Murray has the option of handing the ball to a very reliable Isiah Crowell who had 850 yards rushing in his freshman season and he has several targets to throw to in Tavares King (705 yards, 8 TD) and Malcolm Mitchell (665 yards, 4 TD). Although they don't have one of the top defenses, this is one of the most balanced teams overall in the SEC and possibly in the country.
On the defensive end, Georgia shows more balance as they have 6 returning players with 50 tackles or more led by senior defensive back Shawn Williams. Junior linebacker Jarvis Jones looks to improve upon his 13.5 sacks and Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams combined for 12 interceptions on the season. This team could be a sleeper.
Arkansas Razorbacks- 20/1
The Razorbacks had one of the best passing attacks in the country last year (ranked 13th) and were led by senior Tyler Wilson. Wilson was consistent and effective throughout the year as he and his team went on to beat Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl by double digits. Players have left Alabama and LSU and Wilson will be looking for more.
Last season, he threw for 3638 yards with 24 TD and 6 INT. It will be more difficult for Wilson this season as he loses his favorite target in Jarius Wright but wide receiver Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg, who combined for 1060 yards receiving and 6 TD's last season, will look to fill the void of the two top receivers from last season.
Freshman Nathan Holmes is a player to keep your radar on as he's a slashing runner and receiver but is more suited for the wide receiver position.
Running backs Dennis Johnson (670 yards, 3 TD -missed a couple games) and Ronnie Wingo Jr. (458 yards, 3 TD) will be leading the rushing attack. One knock on these players was that they tailed off towards the end of the season when things became more important.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Razorbacks lose defensive end Jake Bequette (10 sacks) and safety Tramian Thomas (91 tackles,5 interceptions). The Razorbacks will be counting on the production of linebacker Alonzo Highsmith who did it all. Highsmith had 1 fumble recovery of 47 yards for a TD, 80 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 1 INT. Look for Highsmith to have a big season for Arkansas.
Summary- Everyone is focusing in on Alabama and LSU. How could you not? It will be interesting to see if Zach Mettenberger is the real deal. A team that I think will go far and can beat any of these teams is the Georgia Bulldogs. With Aaron Murray behind center, the sky is the limit for this university.