I was out all weekend, and honestly, I didn't think about the SEC at all. The only sports on my radar was the Magic-Cavs series, which Orlando has gone up in two games to one. What can I say? I grew up in the City Beautiful.
Prior to the two conference finals, everyone was planning on a Kobe-LeBron finals. It practically a foregone conclusion that Orlando and Denver would fall away, and Nike even made the stupid puppet commercials in anticipation of a Los Angeles-Cleveland finals. A few people picked the Magic (take a bow, Sir Charles), but I'm not aware of anyone notable who picked the Nuggets.
Well, right now Orlando is up 2-1 and Denver is tied 2-2 in their respective conference finals. It's far too early to call it for either, of course. However, most people got caught up in the star power and ignored that the Magic and Nuggets match up very well against the Lakers and Cavs.
In the SEC this fall, Florida is the runaway favorite in the East. In the West, there seems to be little consensus but Ole Miss is certainly the chic pick. The Gators are led by stars Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, and Joe Haden. The Rebels are headlined by Jevan Snead, Dexter McCluster, and Greg Hardy.
My question for today is this: who are the Magic and Nuggets out there ready to try to ruin the storylines? Having heavy preseason favorites go down is not unprecedented. Remember in 2005 when ESPN decided USC was the best team ever and Reggie Bush was the best player in the game? Texas as a team took care of the former, and Vince Young ended up the People's Heisman.
Who do you see as the best bets for pulling the upsets?
In the East, I'd say Georgia. As T. Kyle at DawgSports would gladly tell you, the Bulldogs have never lost to a defending national champion, and a win over UF is going to be a prerequisite for taking down the Gators in this division. UGA should have a deep and experienced offensive line thanks to the trials by fire of the past two years, and there are going to be some nice targets for fifth-year senior Joe Cox to throw to.
Whether the defense can recover from giving up 49 to Florida, 38 to Kentucky, and 45 to Georgia Tech down the stretch will be the key.
In the West, I'd give Alabama the pick. It's not so easy to apply this model to the West because as I said, there's not a firm consensus. Ole Miss, Alabama, and LSU are all garnering picks for taking the division.
The Tide is losing a lot on offense, especially on the offensive line. Losing John Parker Wilson's experience hurts a lot worse than losing his production does though, and there will be plenty of backs to take over for Glen Coffee. Really though, the 2009 team appears to follow the template of all the great Bama teams with a stifling defense and an adequate offense.
What do you think? Will South Carolina be the team to challenge Florida? Do you like LSU or think Auburn will be back with a vengeance? Let's hear it.