Did you see Alabama's 11-1 season in 2010? Wait, that didn't happen. So my prediction about the Tide that year lacked a ring of truth, I suppose. And at least, despite my underestimation of LSU last year, there's an argument that "Alabama [was] simply the better team" -- depending on which game you want to use as a measuring stick.
So, yes, part of this post is an attempt to not make the same mistakes I've made in trying to call the West the last two years. Specifically, that relates to some of the logic that went into selecting Alabama as the 2010 winners in the division. The thinking was, sure, the defense lost a lot of talent from the year before -- but the offense was better, and Nick Saban could get a contender's performance out of a band of wild orangutans.
Well, he had a lot more than a band of wild orangutans in 2010, and there were still some shortcomings on defense that arguably cost the Tide some of their games. (South Carolina was a very good team that year -- but the Alabama defense made Stephen Garcia look like an All-SEC first teamer, which he was not.) The defense wasn't bad by any means -- it was statistically the best in the conference -- but it had a habit of disappearing at the worst times, allowing LSU to run for 225 yards and failing to hold onto a 21-0 first-quarter lead against Auburn.
And this Alabama team looks a lot like that Alabama team -- the stars are returning on offense, but there's some work to be done on defense. Not as much as there was in 2010, but a good deal of work to be done nonetheless. Meanwhile, LSU this year seems to be that year's Alabama team, only with a potential upgrade at quarterback and a majority of defensive starters actually returning. In other words, LSU in 2012 might be what we thought Alabama was in 2010 -- a great team with most of its opponents having at best a puncher's chance of pulling the upset.
In the end, Alabama gets the same projected record that I had for the Tide in 2010 -- 11-1 -- in large part because the Tide and Tigers have done quite a bit to separate themselves from the rest of the league. Alabama could very well lose two early-season games, against Michigan and at Arkansas, but Saban has never lost a season opener at Alabama and the Tide defeated the Hogs even in that 2010 season.
The result, though, is different. LSU has the talent and the coaching -- yes, I'm still a Miles fan despite some of his odd choices in the national title game last year -- to defeat Alabama in November. The likelihood of the first rematch in BCS history being followed by the second rematch in BCS history are incredibly slim, if for no other reason than I think that the voters will make sure it doesn't happen. There are some problems with championship by ballot box, I suppose.
The Bayou Bengals head to the Georgia Dome from the West and defeat Georgia (again) for the SEC Championship (again) and a chance for the national title (again). And despite the fact that the 2012 season will rhyme with the 2011 season, there's almost a guarantee that it won't be boring. With LSU, it never is.
Place: 1st in the SEC West
Record: 12-0, 8-0 SEC
Could be: 9-3 to 12-0
Best chance to be upset: at ARKANSAS
Bowl: BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
9.1.12 | NORTH TEXAS | WIN
9.8.12 | WASHINGTON | PROBABLE WIN
9.15.12 | IDAHO | WIN
9.22.12 | at AUBURN | PROBABLE WIN
9.29.12 | TOWSON | WIN
10.6.12 | at FLORIDA | POSSIBLE WIN
10.13.12 | SOUTH CAROLINA | LIKELY WIN
10.20.12 | at TEXAS A&M | LIKELY WIN
11.3.12 | ALABAMA | POSSIBLE WIN
11.10.12 | MISSISSIPPI STATE | LIKELY WIN
11.17.12 | OLE MISS | WIN
11.23.12 | at ARKANSAS | PROBABLE WIN
Place: 2nd in the SEC West
Record: 11-1, 7-1 SEC
Could be: 9-3 to 11-1
Best chance to be upset: vs. MICHIGAN
Bowl: CAPITAL ONE
9.1.12 | vs. MICHIGAN (Dallas) | POSSIBLE WIN
9.8.12 | WESTERN KENTUCKY | WIN
9.15.12 | at ARKANSAS | PROBABLE WIN
9.22.12 | FAU | WIN
9.29.12 | OLE MISS | WIN
10.13.12 | at MISSOURI | PROBABLE WIN
10.20.12 | at TENNESSEE | LIKELY WIN
10.27.12 | MISSISSIPPI STATE | LIKELY WIN
11.3.12 | at LSU | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.10.12 | TEXAS A&M | LIKELY WIN
11.17.12 | WESTERN CAROLINA | WIN
11.24.12 | AUBURN | PROBABLE WIN
Key (from least likely to win to most): Loss, Likely Loss, Probable Loss, Possible Loss, Possible Win, Probable Win, Likely Win, Win