With less than a week to go before toe meets leather, as they like to say, the ESPN College GameDay guys got together to do their annual preseason special this morning.
The show is not just a repository for their predictions, but it also is a window into what they think the narrative for the season is. For instance, the entire second segment of the show was solely about Penn State. We're probably going to see a lot of focus on that through the fall as it was a story that extended well beyond the reaches of just college football fans. They also spent almost their entire allotment of Pac-12 discussion on USC, which is interesting given that there's another preseason top five team in that league in Oregon.
Anyway, they covered a couple of SEC topics in the intro segment as they did a broad overview of the sport in 2012. In it Lee Corso focused on Alabama's difficult slate of games away from home, as the Tide faces Michigan, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and LSU away from Tuscaloosa. Desmond Howard then did a soliloquy about how much LSU will miss Tyrann Mathieu. All three analysts on the show believe his departure to be a difficult thing to overcome.
The third segment (and the first devoted to a single conference) went more into the SEC. They did your standard headlines, mentioning expansion, Bobby Petrino's accident, Marcus Lattimore's return, and the dismissals of Mathieu and Isaiah Crowell. Howard spent time cataloging the major departures from Alabama's defense, saying that they'll miss Dont'a Hightower's and Mark Barron's leadership and ability to set the defense. Kirk Herbstreit echoed the sentiment, saying that it takes a lot of game reps to truly get Nick Saban's system down.
Corso said that he was prepared to pick Arkansas to win the West until Petrino's accident and firing. He's relatively high on the team but thinks that Petrino's talent in running his offense is unique and can't be fully replicated with his brother Paul calling the plays. Chris Fowler asked the three guys if they thought the East has closed the gap with the West and could potentially win the league title in Atlanta. Only Corso was fully in the affirmative. Howard thought the gap had closed some more from LSU and Alabama's personnel losses, while Herbstreit said the gap hadn't closed because of how good the top two West teams are.
Here are their predictions for the season ahead:
Heisman: Landry Jones (third year in a row he's picked Jones)
Big 12: Oklahoma
Big East: Louisville
Big Ten: Michigan State
National Championship: USC over Oklahoma
Heisman: Matt Barkley
ACC: FSU over Virginia Tech
Big 12: Oklahoma
Big East: Pitt
Big Ten: Michigan State over Wisconsin
SEC: Alabama over Georgia
National Championship: FSU over USC
Fowler noted as they signed off that of the six predicted national championship game participants, none are from the SEC. That's one to file away for later in the season.