By Shane from Centerpoint
Every year around the first of August I crack open my copy of Lindyâ€™s SEC Preview magazine. This yearâ€™s version is loaded with details, and informative to say the least â€“ especially the segment that highlights what opposing coaches (who chose to remain anonymous) think about other SEC teams and their potential for success. The results are surprising.
Weâ€™ll begin with the coach who had some ideas on how to beat Alabama: â€œYouâ€™ve got to make them one-dimensional. Theyâ€™re so big and physical, you canâ€™t let them get started running the football. It probably makes it even truer with their (new) quarterback. Theyâ€™ll have to run the football in game situations to win early.â€
He continues: â€œTheyâ€™ll be really good on defense. If they can get their offensive line to jell and the quarterback takes care of the football and manages the game, then theyâ€™ll be good. But, they wonâ€™t win the West.â€
Iâ€™ll respectfully disagree with this coachâ€™s assessment, mainly because I think McElroy is going to be much better than the pundits expect; and I think the Tide will roll right into Atlanta to face Florida for the SEC crown.
Next up weâ€™ll see what an opposing coach has to say about how to whip Tim Tebow and his Swamp Gators: â€œAs long as the guy taking the snaps is taking the snaps, theyâ€™ll have a chance (for a third national championship) to do it again. Really all youâ€™ve got to do is not give up the big play and create situations where they have to drive the ball. If you can keep them out of big plays (20-25 yards) and keep them at 15 or below, you have a chance.â€
More on Tebow: â€œHeâ€™s about as good a leader as Iâ€™ve seen in the SEC.â€
My take: Florida is talented and Meyer is a very good coach, but Tebow is the difference maker. He can literally will his team to victory.
The coach who comments on LSUâ€™s Les Miles has some surprising ideas: â€œThey donâ€™t need to underachieve like last year or he (Les Miles) wonâ€™t be back. Theyâ€™ve got the best players. I donâ€™t know what happened to them. Maybe they were like everyone else â€“ if the quarterback doesnâ€™t play well, you wonâ€™t be very good. If LSUâ€™s quarterback doesnâ€™t get better, Ole Miss will win the West.â€
I have a different opinion about LSU than this coach. I think the race for the West is a two-team race. It will come down to the winner of the Alabama/LSU game â€“ just like last year.
As far as Ole Miss is concerned, the coach who talked about their chances loves the team: â€œI think Ole Miss has great speed. I think you have to watch them. Their quarterback is a very good player and they have speed at wide receiver and tailback. The defense is good up front. Their top twenty-two competes at a high level because of the psyche Houston Nutt has put in them.â€
Okay, so Iâ€™m buying-in on the fact that the Rebels are good on paper. However, Nutt is famous for choking away a game or two that heâ€™s not supposed to lose. It happens every year.
Auburn fans should be very interested in the oppositionâ€™s opinion concerning expectations for the upcoming 2009 campaign: â€œI think Auburn might be the surprise team of the league. You know Auburn has good talent. Auburn and Tennessee were probably a lot alike last year. For whatever reason, they underachieved. Maybe it was that the high expectations werenâ€™t met early. Auburn always has good ability.â€
I have to disagree with this coach. He should know better. Auburn is coming off a losing season, adjusting to a new head coach, and needs two-three years to restock talent.
The coach that breaks down Georgia doesnâ€™t seem to be impressed: â€œI didnâ€™t think they were close to being the number one team in the country last year. But they had good players. I think expectations exceeded their ability a little bit. I always thought they were kind of soft. They never knock you off the ball and they never intimidate you. Defensively, they have a hard time with big, physical running games.â€
Wow! This guy just ripped Mark Richt and his Bulldogs a new one. I have nothing further to add. This coach said it all. Is this an indictment of Coach Richt?
The coach that assessed Tennessee was just about as harsh as the Georgia guy: â€œ I think theyâ€™re a 6-6 team. The 2008 offensive line might be their worst ever; it will be their weakness in 2009. They donâ€™t have an outstanding running back. They just donâ€™t have any playmakers. Their quarterback is not a very good team leader.â€
Iâ€™ll go ahead and say it. Thatâ€™s not an opposing opinion â€“ that is a hatchet job. The Volunteer Nation better hope heâ€™s wrong!
Anyway, itâ€™s always educational to hear honest evaluations, coming from professionals who actually coach in the league against the teams they are talking about.
Before I wrap this column up I want to add a few more interesting quotes from some of the coaches who commented. One of the best comes from a coach talking about Vanderbiltâ€™s state rival: â€œLane Kiffin said all this about Florida and Alabama. He better be concerned with Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt will be a better team than Tennessee.â€
The final quote comes from a coach talking about South Carolina: â€œI donâ€™t see them being a very good football team. Youâ€™ve got to recruit, and Steve doesnâ€™t care too much about recruiting. And, I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if he (Spurrier) called it quits after this season.â€