After going through the schedule three times and predicting the outcomes for each team, I’m finally ready to release my 2012 SEC predictions. The first two times through the schedule provided very similar results – two teams from each division had almost perfect records (guess who?) and all the other teams were very ordinary to bad. After some thought, I decided my predictions made too much sense, so I went back for a third time and threw in a monkey wrench or two.
Let’s start in the East first…
1) Georgia Bulldogs [11-1 (7-1)] – Schedules mean something in the SEC and Georgia’s is very favorable. They’ll lose their showdown with South Carolina, but every other game goes in the win column. Their run game will be suspect again with the loss of Isaiah Crowell, but Ken Malcome and Keith Marshall will be enough the loss. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray is also one of the league’s best and the Dawg defense is nasty and will likely be the best unit in the league.
2) South Carolina Gamecocks [9-3 (6-2)] – These are the best of times for Carolina, but not good enough for a return to Atlanta for the second time in three years. The talent level in Columbia is improving by leaps and bounds, but they lose defenders Melvin Ingram and Stephon Gilmore and lose talented receiver Alshon Jeffery who is deferring his gas pumping gig to play for the Chicago Bears. To put things bluntly, I doubt Marcus Lattimore will return at 100% (at least not this year) and I don’t think Connor Shaw is enough to put the Gamecocks in the conference title game. I’m predicting a win over Georgia, but losses to LSU, Florida and Clemson. Don’t like the Florida prediction? Well, Arkansas is also a good shot at a loss as well.
3) Vanderbilt Commodores [8-4 (5-3)] – Vanderbilt? Third in the East? Yep, I’m in strange territory, but if you look at the schedule it’s at least possible. Pencil in losses to South Carolina, Northwestern, Georgia and Missouri. Also pencil in wins over Presbyterian, UMass and Wake Forest. Wins over Kentucky and Ole Miss aren’t gimmes, but they are close (well, Ole Miss is a gimme). That’s five wins and four losses so far. Add upsets over Florida (payback for last year), Auburn (not so much a stretch) and a win over Tennessee (more payback) – all played in Nashville – and there you go.
4) Florida Gators [7-5 (4-4)] – Excuse me if I don’t jump on the Will Muschamp year two band wagon. The Gator defense will be salty, but the offense? Not so much. The Gators are continue to move to a pro-style offense post-Urban Meyer, but the running game won’t be up to par yet. Losses to LSU, Georgia and Florida State are extremely likely. Score losses also against Texas A&M in the Aggies first home conference game and against Vanderbilt as the Dores settle a grudge from last year. I do predict a Gator upset of South Carolina but, overall, Gator fans won’t be happy this season.
5) Missouri Tigers [8-4 (4-4)] – This won’t be a bad first season in the SEC for the Tigers. Outside of league play Mizzou has three reasonably tough games – Arizona State and Central Florida and Syracuse – but should win all three. Tough, key wins will come against Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
6) Tennessee Volunteers [4-8 (1-7)] – The recent Da’Rick Rogers news backed me off the Tennessee bandwagon a bit. Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter (if he’s healthy) will be tough, but it’s just not enough. The offensive line will be improved, but the running game won’t necessarily be. The losses will get started next week against N.C. State in Atlanta and will be frequent after that. I think Derek Dooley needs a 7-5 record to save his hide, but I don’t think that will happen. You can thank Da’Rick for that.
7) Kentucky Wildcats [3-9 (0-8)] – Wildcat fans don’t care how bad their team is. They won a basketball title last season, remember? By mid October UK officials may be hunting for Bobby Petrino’s number.