The SEC West One Month In

Divisional Preseason Storyline

The balance of power has shifted from the SEC East to the West. The top three teams are so close as to be interchangeable. Watch out for Arkansas, who could make a second year leap under Bobby Petrino as so many other teams have made second year leaps under good coaches.

One Month In Reality

This division is stronger than the East, but the gap isn't nearly as wide as thought. Alabama is clearly the best team of the bunch.

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Preseason Storyline

How is Alabama going to deal with replacing Andre Smith and the rest of the graduating offensive linemen? It was the strength of last year's offense. Can Mark Ingram fill Glen Coffee's shoes? How about that new quarterback guy, Greg McElroy? We've heard some good practice reports, but no one knows how good he'll be until we see him on the field. At least the defense is mostly in tact.

One Month In Reality

Alabama's line has done just fine, and its four-deep at running back is terrifyingly effective. As for Greg McElroy, he's already looking better than John Parker Wilson ever did. For all the talk of Alabama just needing a game manager behind center, McElroy appears capable of being much more. The defense has resumed its role of a marauding band of pillagers, but now it will have to deal with losing Dont'a Hightower.

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Preseason Storyline

We will probably get to see the real Bobby Petrino offense now that the rocket-armed pocket statue Ryan Mallett is taking over for the Dick brothers. The Razorbacks were near the top of the conference in passing last year despite the situation under center, so it should be even better now. If the defense can shore itself up some, this team could be a spoiler.

One Month In Reality

The defense may be even worse than last year, as it made Joe Cox look like Joe Montana and turned the Crimson Tide attack into a big play offense. The unit has no hope of keeping things close when the offense isn't clicking. Mallett has been good, as predicted, and his arm is dangerous from anywhere on the field. However, it's not good enough to overcome an elite defense, and it's looking like it will be a while before the Hogs become a real complete team.

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Preseason Storyline

Leave it to Auburn to fire a winner for Mr. 5-19. What were they thinking? The defense will probably still be good with Gene Chizik on the staff, but the defense wasn't really the problem last year anyway. Gus Malzahn was an intriguing hire, but what can he do with the hole at quarterback? Will his spread scheme transplant be rejected like Tony Franklin's was?

One Month In Reality

It's hard to argue with much when you're 4-0 and doing it with style. The offense has surpassed 500 total yards in three of the four wins, and is right at the top of the total and scoring offense ranks with Florida. The Tigers returned to their roots as a rushing team as well, as they are currently fifth in the nation in rushing yards per game. Perhaps the most impressive stat of all is that Chris Todd is sixth in the country in passing efficiency. Granted Auburn has played only one two teams from a Big Six conference, so the optimism is tempered a bit. However, they couldn't have put up these kinds of numbers against air last year.

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Preseason Storyline

It's time for Les Miles to show something now that all of Nick Saban's players have left. Hiring John Chavis should help shore up the defense, and the offense is probably in good hands with Jordan Jefferson. Everyone who has seen a practice has raved about the skill position players, so it's looking like a bounce back year for the Tigers.

One Month In Reality

LSU is 4-0, but only just. The team is being buoyed by its 23rd ranking in scoring defense, but it is also 49th in total defense, 53rd in scoring offense, and a dismal 105th in total offense. The thing is still a work in progress, with wins over Washington, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State coming a bit too close for comfort. You can make an excuse for all of them (UW was the longest road trip in school history; Vandy does that to all conference front runners every now and then; MSU was an 11 AM game on the road and a look ahead game), but this team is out of them now. A poor performance against Georgia will likely get them beat badly.

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Preseason Storyline

This is it. This is the Rebels' year. They finished last year 6-0 and beat the national champs. Most everyone important comes back. Sure it will be tough to replace Michael Oher and Peria Jerry, but with a strong rest of the D-line and the conference's second best quarterback, Ole Miss should still compete for a division championship.

One Month In Reality

Ole Miss does indeed look like the team from last year. Unfortunately, it is the one that began the season 3-4 and not the one that finished strongly. The loss of Oher is looming very large as the offense has sputtered early against Memphis and for the first three quarters against South Carolina. The defense has held up its end of the bargain so far, allowing no more than 14 points in a game, but until Jevan Snead and the offense get back on track, it will be tough to consider the Rebels a true contender to Alabama's throne.

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Preseason Storyline

Hiring the offensive coordinator of the national champion, regardless of who that is, has to be considered a bit of a coup for Mississippi State. Now that Dan Mullen is in the fold though, we can't really expect much of him yet. Sylvester Croom, for all of his admirable qualities, never assembled much talent in Starkville, and conversions to spread option attacks seldom go well in the first year. A win or two in the conference would be a good year.

One Month In Reality

A 2-2 start for Mississippi State is encouraging, but it's even moreso when you consider that the Bulldogs could easily be 3-1 if not for the late game heroics of LSU's Chad Jones. MSU collected a conference win against Vanderbilt and looked good in giving LSU the scare of a lifetime. Mullen has taken Croom's offensive cesspool and turned it into the country's 25th best rushing attack. The game against Auburn didn't go so well, but otherwise things are looking up so far.

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