Shane: Contenders and Pretenders

By Shane from Centerpoint

With the 2009 football season quickly approaching, I’ve decided to start a new tradition. I’m going to open my crystal ball and see what lies ahead for some of the more popular members of the Southeastern Conference. I’ll cover teams, coaches, players, or anything else that pertains to college football in the SEC.

I’ll begin with Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, who’s received so much love from the media that he’s almost forgotten why he got run out of Arkansas. This guy is a real piece of work. At some point during the year, when Nutt chokes away another game he’s supposed to win, Rebel fans will start to realize that Houston is just another pretender.

There is one other thing that intrigues me about the University of Mississippi: quarterback Jevan Snead. Snead had his moments in the sun last year, but he also displayed a propensity at times to throw interceptions by forcing the ball into coverage. For now Snead remains in limbo with me, although he has plenty of time to prove he is truly a contender.

Mark Richt needs another SEC crown to return to form. He came into the league and took the championship by storm – twice. Yet, his team never seemed to get considered for a shot at the national title. However, I definitely expect Coach Richt to have his Bulldogs ready to contend for the league title this year. He has always been a contender – in my opinion anyway.

Can Bob Petrino take Arkansas to the top? He had some great teams while at Louisville, but this is the SEC. In spite of what Razorback fans believe, their school is a known pretender. Actually, I think they’ve got the right man in place to take them to the next level. The only roadblock standing in Coach Petrino’s way is the fact that he plays in a conference chock–full of contenders.

With only 75 players on scholarship, does new Auburn head coach Gene Chizik have a fair chance to put his team in contention to represent the SEC West in Atlanta? Truthfully, the rebuilding process at Auburn will take time and patience. Surprisingly, it appears that former head coach Tommy Tuberville left the program in shambles.

Forget pretending and contending for a moment – the word that best depicts the performance of Florida’s Tim Tebow to date is “excellence”. The only question left unanswered by Tebow is whether he can finish 2009 strong and go down as one of the greatest players in the history of college football.

Speaking of Florida and pretending – all this talk about the Gators losing their headman to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is beginning to make me wonder if it could be true. Would Urban Meyer tell recruits that he would stay at Florida for 4-5 more years, knowing that he would be leaving at the end of the season? I guarantee you he would!

For as long I can remember Mississippi State has been one of the one of the weakest teams in the SEC. In terms of losing in ugly fashion, the Bulldogs have been creative. Can Dan Mullen, Urban Meyer’s former offensive coordinator at Florida, create enough momentum and score enough points to allow Mississippi State to win a few games in 2009? I doubt it.

Finally, does the SEC have a solid shot at repeating as the national champion for a third year running? The answer is yes. There are three teams from the conference who are strong enough to win it all: The Alabama Crimson Tide, the LSU Fighting Tigers and, of course, the Florida Gators. All are “big time” contenders. Each team has everything in place to make a run for the national crown. In my opinion, this is Alabama’s year to shine.

Well, that about wraps it up for my 2009 pre-season insight. By the way, there is only one way to find out if I’m right or wrong – play the games. As always, regardless of whether the outcome matches my predictions, it’s definitely going to be interesting to see the end result.

Are you ready for some football?
—Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.