Shane: Early 2010 SEC rankings

Getting a head start on 2010 SEC pre-season rankings
By Shane from Centerpoint

Finally, college football’s recruiting circus is over. The real work is about to begin. Off-season conditioning programs, spring training, and eventually fall camp will replace the over-hyped drama of the events surrounding national signing day.

Attention can now be directed towards the 2010 season. SEC squads across the South will be working hard – using the tried and true methods I mentioned above – to prepare for a chance to be called a champion.

The SEC will field several competitive teams in 2010. There should also be a couple that will fare better than expected. And, two programs that have been on top lately will probably remain that way.

Anyway, for entertainment purposes only, I’ve decided to get a jump on the national pundits and post a pre-season ranking of the SEC from top to bottom, with a few comments thrown in for good measure:

#1 – Alabama The Crimson Tide just went 14-0 and won the national title with a senior class that Rivals had ranked 18th. Rivals also ranked the junior class 11th. Alabama actually won because Nick Saban is a master of player development, and he’ll have even better players to work with this year. This is a well-stocked, very talented, dangerously dominant team that nobody really wants to play – anywhere, anytime.

#2 – Florida In spite of the melt down by Urban Meyer, the Gators continue to load the shelves with top-flight talent. Who knows what effect Meyer’s personal problems will have on the team’s win/loss column. Last year they lost the offensive coordinator – this year the defensive signal-caller jumped ship. However, I think the overall physical superiority of the Florida athletes will take them to Atlanta where they will face-off with Alabama for the third time in three years.

#3 – Georgia Mark Richt is a proven winner who seems to have his back against the wall. He’s in a jam, at least from a perception standpoint. Still, I believe that the quality talent he’s pooled the last few years will begin to surface this season. Barring injuries, this is a team that will play Florida for the right to represent the East in the championship game. Richt’s Bulldogs may be good enough to win.

#4 – Ole Miss With the departure of Jevan Snead (Mr. Turnover), the Rebels have enough good players to challenge the best and beat the rest of the conference. They also have Houston Nutt, one of the best game–day coaches in the business. Will finish runner-up to the Crimson Tide in the West.

#5 – LSU Look, we all know that Les Miles isn’t the smartest coach to ever roam the sidelines, but he does have some fine assistants helping him win football games. With the depth of the state’s talent pool to draw from, Miles should be able to deliver nine wins every year. By the way, LSU is set to have a good year.

#6 – Auburn Gene Chizik lost his starting quarterback, his top running back, and has no returning depth on defense. His second year (actually his career) is dependent on young players and a group of highly–rated freshman. Truthfully, Chizik needs time and more players to compete on a consistent basis with the best. Patience with the new coach will probably pay off in the end.

#7 – Arkansas Bob Petrino is a great football coach. However, he is a lot like Chizik, in that both are stuck building depth because the former coaches left their teams short on players. Actually, Arkansas, LSU, and Auburn are hard to place because they are so much alike. These teams are better than the lower half of the SEC, but not as good as the top-tier teams.

#8 – South Carolina Steve Spurrier is running out of time and he knows it. He is a fierce competitor and it must pain him to know that even he can’t attract the better players to the school. The Gamecocks don’t ever seem to have enough speed or power to match up with the upper echelon. After watching Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier flounder there, I’ve decided to label South Carolina “Coach–killer U”.

#9 – Mississippi State Dan Mullen is an aggressive young coach, trained by Urban Meyer. He has an excellent staff that excels in all areas. Mullen has created excitement around the program, something former coaches could never accomplish. Given time, Mullen stands to raise the Bulldog nation’s status around the league.

#10 – Tennessee The Vol nation was torn apart and their hearts were stolen by the “California Kid”. Lane Kiffin swept in to their lives, then bolted out like a thief in the night. Derek Dooley – Tennessee’s new top guy – has his work cut out. He has to deal with teaching some players who’ve been in three systems in three years. Logic says that Tennessee will struggle through another transitional phase this fall.

#11 – Vanderbilt Bobby Johnson is a very good football coach who works for a pathetic football school. Yes, Johnson has a smart team, but Bobby can’t get the type of players that he needs. He teaches well and the Commodores play solid enough, but it is what it is. Vanderbilt remains an SEC “whipping boy”.

#12 – Kentucky Rich Brooks was a fine coach, but I don’t know much about the new guy except that his name is Joker. How dangerous can he be? Seriously, Kentucky has a great basketball program. On the other hand, the football team is an SEC “patsy”.

So, there it is. “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”
Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.