Perhaps you haven't kept up as obsessively with the SEC this off season as we have. That's okay. That's what this post is for. It's a quick recap of where the consensus ended up for each team in the SEC West. Whether you need a cheat sheet or you just know someone who does, this is the post you're looking for.
As the preseason No. 1 team, Alabama is almost universally expected to be in the running for the national title again. Nearly the entire offense is back, including last year's Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (though he's out for a short time with a knee injury). The team lost lots of players from its defense, but Nick Saban has been bringing in plenty of good talent and has one of the best defensive minds in the country. If the defense doesn't fall off much, Alabama will be near the top of the polls all season long.
Arkansas returns almost all of its SEC-leading offense from last year. Quarterback Ryan Mallett is an All-American candidate with a cannon of an arm, and he's got plenty of great backs and receivers to hand off and throw to. How much the team improves its 8-5 record from 2009 depends on how much its defense grows. The Razorbacks have been young on that side of the ball the past couple of years, but they have experience now. If that defense improves greatly, Arkansas has a chance at winning the SEC West.
After a rough 2008, Gene Chizik righted the ship in 2009 in guiding Auburn to an 8-5 record. The defense was thin last year and the quarterback didn't quite fit perfectly into the offensive system, but those issues look like they might be solved this season. The defense has some more depth, and Cameron Newton is a physical freak who will cause problems for opponents thanks to his running and passing skills. The jury is still out on how much improvement the Tigers will make, but after 2009, the arrow appears to be pointed up with the program.
Opinion is split on this LSU team more than any other in the division. On the one hand, the defense should be pretty good, quarterback Jordan Jefferson now has a year of experience under his belt, and he's got some nice targets to throw to. On the other, the offensive scheme was a mess last season, the offensive line was a disaster, and the hopes of the running game depend greatly on a red shirt freshman who has yet to carry the ball in a real game. If the coaches can solve the offensive problems, LSU will be a contender. If they can't, LSU will suffer in one of the toughest divisions in the nation.
After back-to-back Cotton Bowl appearances, Ole Miss is probably set to take a step back this season. New coaches always have a transitional down year, and this appears to be it for Houston Nutt. The defense should still be very good, and it should help carry the team to a bowl game of some sort. However, the offense is young and few guys have much experience. If transfer QB Jeremiah Masoli (from Pac-10 champ Oregon) can get a waiver to play this season, Ole Miss might make some noise in the division. If not, getting more than seven wins might be asking a lot for this team.
After being hopeless in all but one season under former coach Sylvester Croom, Dan Mullen energized the program on the way to a 5-7 season last year. The team should improve in the second year under his offense, but given how tough the schedule is, it will be difficult for the team to become bowl eligible. The team's bread and butter is its rushing game, which actually led the league in yards per game in 2009. If the Bulldogs are going to get to the post season, they must improve the defense. Mullen brought in two new co-coordinators on that side of the ball, so the burden is on them to help find six wins in the team's gauntlet this season.