Back in August, I put up my SEC East and West Predictions. And though we’re only five weeks into the 2011 season, I thought now would be a good time to take a look back and see how each team is tracking.
We’ll start with a look at the SEC West, with the teams in no particular order…
** LSU [Current 5-0 (2-0), Predicted 9-3 (6-2)] – I predicted losses for the Bayou Bengals to Oregon, Tennessee and Arkansas. LSU has ridden blasting the Ducks, along with impressive wins over Mississippi State and West Virginia, to the No. 1 ranking. Obviously, I swung-and-missed on the Oregon game, but I still think the Tigers fall to Arkansas. Less certain is my prediction for a Vols win. My original prediction also included a win over Alabama. I’m sticking by this for now, assuming the LSU quarterback spot doesn’t implode. So my projection for LSU is 10-2, with a loss to Arkansas and a loss to either Tennessee or Alabama.
** Alabama [Current 5-0 (2-0), Predicted 11-1 (7-1)] – There were several major questions facing the Tide for 2011 and most of them have been answered so far. I predicted an 11-1 record primarily because I didn’t see this team going undefeated with either AJ McCarron or Phillip Sims at quarterback. I’m not so sure anymore. The defense seems to play better and better each week and the offensive line is coming along nicely. Except for LSU, the rest of the schedule sets up nicely for Bama. Tennessee at home and Auburn on the road could be tougher than expected, but the Tide should be heavily favored in both. I’ll stick with a projected record of 11-1 for the Tide, although, at this point, that result would be a disappointment.
** Arkansas [Current 4-1 (0-1), Predicted 10-2, (6-2)] – WHEW I AM SO GLAD TO HAVE BEATEN THE HOGS. Granted, the Tide did tear them limb from limb and make them look not-so-good, but I think this win is going to look better and better as the season progresses. And I wouldn’t want to play them at the end of the season. Like LSU has to. The Hogs’ schedule actually looks pretty doable up until the LSU game. Bobby Petrino has a special place in his heart for Auburn and should treat them rather rudely this Saturday. The South Carolina game looks a lot easier today and the UT game should be a shootout. But those games are also doable. I originally predicted a 10-2 mark and I’ll stick with it for now, but this bunch could go 11-1.
** Auburn [Current 4-1 (2-0), Predicted 4-8 (1-7)] – Auburn has beaten back the naysayers, for now, and owns a shiny 4-1 record. That’s even more impressive when you consider that they are lucky to not be 1-4. Utah State and Mississippi State each snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and South Carolina must have been stoned to not beat the Tigers. The win over the Gamecocks was huge and puts an entirely new perspective on the season. Alabama also helped the effort by trashing Florida and thereby making October look not so daunting. They’ll most likely lose to Arkansas, LSU and Alabama. Wins over Ole Miss and Samford are gimmes. So that leaves the Florida and Georgia games to decide whether it’s a meh 6-6 season or a wow-I-can’t-believe-they-did-that 8-4 season.
** Mississippi State [Current 2-3 (0-3), Predicted 7-5 (3-5)] – I never bought into the “this is the season” hype for the Dogs and in reality, they are a game worse than I predicted. I did think Dan Mullen and Co. would beat Auburn and they came within an eyelash. That game, though, should have never been close. In the preseason, I predicted the Dogs would upset South Carolina, beat Kentucky and Tennessee-Martin before losing out to Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Throw in a win against UAB this Saturday and that totals to a 6-6 season. I think State could definitely beat Ole Miss (the game is at home), but I also think they could lose to South Carolina (also at home), so I’ll stick with a 6-6 prediction.
** Ole Miss [Current 2-3 (0-2), Predicted 7-5 (4-4)] – I predicted the Rebel Black Bears would be 3-2 at this point in the season, so they are only one game off the pace. But, oh, losing to to the Vanderbilt Commodores has a way of changing the focus on a season. One little stomping by the Dores has head coach Houston Nutt and athletics director Pete Boone officially on the hot seat. For the rest of the season, I originally predicted losses to Bama and the Hogs, followed by a win over Auburn on the road. That would be followed by wins over Kentucky and Louisiana Tech. A loss to LSU and a win in the Egg Bowl would finish the year. If that plays out, the Rebs would finish 6-6 and Nutt’s scalp would likely be saved. But that’s far from a gimme. Winning against Auburn looks a lot less likely now and I would rate the Egg Bowl a total toss up. Those two games, however, will determine whether this is a 4-8 disaster or not.
The surprise team so far definitely has to be Auburn, though they are not far off from my original assessment. Most of the West’s surprises will come in the second half of the season as we see just how far Arkansas can rise and whether Alabama or LSU comes out on top.