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32 Questions for the SEC

 32 Questions for the SEC in 2012

My 30 Questions for the SEC Preview that I do every year has now been changed to 32 questions with the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M. As always I'll keep these predictions up all year, so feel free to rip me on anything I get wrong.

1. What SEC Player has the most pressure in 2012?
A. Aaron Murray QB Georgia- Murray has plenty of NFL potential and has had a solid career at Georgia, but he has yet to become a superstar in College Football. Part of the problem is that Murray is only 2-6 against ranked teams and the 2 teams he beat were #24 Auburn and #25 Georgia Tech. Georgia has the chance to compete for a National Championship in 2012, but Murray must step it up against top 10 competition like South Carolina.
2. What coach has the most pressure in 2012?
A. Derek Dooley- Tennessee has not had 3 straight losing seasons in over 100 years. With the exception of Alabama, the Vols are the most historic program in the SEC. There is no reason they should be this bad. Some of the issues with the football program right now have nothing to do with Dooley, but by year 3 some improvements have to be shown. Dooley must win at least 8 games in 2012 or he is likely to be looking for another job in 2013.
3. Who is the SEC's most underrated player?
A. Zac Stacy RB Vanderbilt- Last season Stacy ran for 1,193 yards and needs only 631 yards to become Vanderbilt's all time leading rusher. Yet, he gets overlooked by backs like Lattimore, Davis, and Lacy. Stacy isn't the most powerful or the fastest back, but he can find holes and create plays for himself. His health is key to Vanderbilt making it to a 2nd consecutive bowl game.
4. Who is the SEC's most underrated coach?
A. Gary Pinkel- It amazes me that more credit isn't given to what Pinkel has done at Missouri. This is a man that took over a program that had not finished ranked in the top 20 since 1981 and only had 2 winning seasons from 1984-2000. Pinkel has since led Missouri to 7 consecutive winning seasons, the most since Dan Devine was coach. Pinkel has coached 3 QBs that made it on NFL Rosters and has developed one of the most productive offenses in the country. This was a program that was once known for a 5th down loss to Colorado and a kick ball loss to Nebraska. Now it is known for its exciting offense and is a program with 48 wins in the last 5 seasons. 
5. Which Division of the SEC is the best in 2012?
A. It's still the SEC West- Last year Arkansas, Alabama, and LSU all finished in the top 5. This year those 3 teams are all starting the year off in the top 10. The West is home to 4 of the last 5 National Champs. The SEC West is still the elite division in College Football, but the SEC East is closing in on it. South Carolina and Georgia are both top 10 teams entering the preseason and Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt make up solid middle. The West still as the power, but with a coaching change at Arkansas and some coordinator changes at Auburn we could see a little more balance between the 2 divisions in 2013.

6. Who will be the first player drafted from the SEC in the 2013 NFL Draft?
A. Tyler Wilson Arkansas- Wilson proved in 2011 that he is among the elite QBs in College Football. Wilson has been a part of a prostyle offense that prepares QBs for the next level and has played against the best defenses College Football has to offer. The most impressive thing about Wilson isn't his football IQ or talent, no it's how tough he is. Wilson shows no fear staying in the pocket and taking hits from the SEC's dominant pass rushers. Wilson could have been a 1st round pick had he entered the draft in 2012, his patience will pay off with a top 3 selection in 2013. 

7. What Freshman will have the biggest impact in 2012
A. Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham- When Missouri won the recruiting battle for DGB over Arkansas it was their first major SEC victory. At 6'6 220 Green-Beckham has the size to dominate in this league. TJ Moe will likely get more balls thrown his way early in the year, but by year's end Green-Beckham will be one of CFB's most dangerous players in Pinkel's spread attack.
8. What is the best out of conference game for the SEC in 2012?
A. Michigan vs Alabama at Cowboy Stadium- What's not to love about this game? Michigan is #1 all time in CFB winning %. and Bama ranks 6th with the most bowl appearances and national championships ever. Alabama is the defending National Champs and Michigan won a BCS Game last year. Both teams have stadiums that seat over 100,000 fans, but this game will be played at probably the best modern stadium in the United States. Alabama will be favored by most, but Dernard Robinson has the playmaking ability to make this game exciting. Plus, Greg Mattison's defense could keep things close.
9. What is the worst out of conference game for the SEC in 2012?
A. Western Carolina at Alabama- WCU has one of the most scenic stadiums East of the Mississippi, but they have one of the worst FCS teams. Last year the Catamounts went 1-10 and lost their FBS game against Georgia Tech 63-21. The last time they played Alabama was in 2007 when the Tide won 52-6. WCU might not cross the 50 all day in this game.
10. Who has the toughest schedule in the SEC in 2012?
A. South Carolina- The Gamecocks draw 2 of the big 3 from the SEC West and must play a tough October road stretch that includes 3 straight games against UGA, LSU, and Florida. Out of conference South Carolina gets last year's ACC Champ Clemson and an East Carolina team who will be one of the favorites to win CUSA East. USC shouldn't have a problem with UAB, but they are coached by Garrick McGee who's offenses have given the Gamecocks fits in the past couple years. Even Wofford's offense has give USC issues in the past. 
11. What will be the first big upset in the SEC?
A. Missouri will upset a top 10 Georgia team- The first ever SEC game in Columbia, MO will be in week 2 when UGA visits. Georgia typically struggles when they go West of the Mississippi and the Dogs will still be trying to find someone to replace Crowell and establish a running game. Pinkel will find ways to score on Grantham's defense and Mizzou will win 28-21.
12. What familiar face will visit Fayetteville, Arkansas in week 1?
A. Former Arkansas Head coach Jack Crowe- Crowe was the head coach for Arkansas when they entered the SEC in 1992. After losing 10-3 to The Citadel in week 1, Crowe was fired after spending just over 2 years as head coach at Arkansas. Since then Crowe has been head coach of Jacksonville State since 2000 and even beat former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt in 2010.
13. What coach will leave the SEC for a better job in 2012?
A- Kirby Smart- Last year we saw Jim McElwain leave Alabama to become head coach at Colorado State. This year it's Kirby Smart's turn to take a head coaching job. Smart is probably the biggest DC name in College Football and after spending. 6 years in Tuscaloosa he will be ready to advance to a head coaching job. Smart isn't only a great defensive mind, but he also has experience coaching on the offensive side of the ball, something he did at UGA in 2005.
14. Who will be the first coach to be fired in the SEC?
A. Joker Phillips- The Kentucky program has declined every year so far under Phillips and it's obvious that naming him "Coach in Waiting" while Rich Brooks was still head coach was a mistake. This year's Kentucky team may not win a single SEC game and likely loses its 2nd consecutive game to Louisville.
15. Why is this a huge year for Gene Chizik?
A. He doesn't have Malzahn- Yes, Chizik did when the National Championship in 2010, but in non Cam Newton years the Tigers are only 16-10 under Chizik. Gus Malzahn has left the program to take the job as Head Coach at Arkansas State which means the AU Football program will take on a new identity. No longer is this the fast paced, creative offense that Auburn has sold itself in the Chizik Era . The new identity of this team will likely determine Chizik's long term future with the Tigers. If it becomes an efficient powerful offense that features a punishing Van Gorder defense then Chizik could be at AU for many years. If it becomes an offense with no identity that needs the defense to save it every game then Chizik could find himself on the top of some hotseats in 2013. Football fans have short memories and Chizik must prove he can win without Malzahn and Newton.
16. Who hurt his team more, Crowell, Dyer, or Mathieu?
A. Michael Dyer- Georgia has a good enough QB to move the offense without Isaiah Crowell. Plus, the Dogs will bring in two highly touted RBs in Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Mathieu was a big time playmaker on a defense loaded with more big time playmakers . Jalen Collins is good enough to fill the hole left by Mathieu in LSU's secondary. The loss of the Honey Badger will hurt LSU in the return game the most . Dyer accounted for 25% of Auburn's offense in 2012 and there isn't a proven every down back for Auburn. Auburn also does not have a proven QB to take the pressure off the running game like Georgia does.
17. What team will be the most improved in the SEC in 2012?
A. Tennessee- The Vols return 18 players and get a much more favorable schedule in 2012. UT drops LSU and Arkansas from its schedule and replaces those two with Missouri and Mississippi State. UT also will return a health Justin Hunter and healty Tyler Bray. Dooley was forced to play lots of youth in 2010 and 2011 and that move will pay off in 2012 with a trip to a New Year's Day Bowl game for Tennessee.
18. Is Ole Miss in danger of having the longest SEC losing streak ever?
A. No- The longest losing streak belongs to Sewanee. Sewanee lost 37 straight SEC games, 26 of them being shutouts. Ole Miss currently has a 14 game losing streak and I predict that will end in 2012.
19. What do Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel have in common?
A. Both took their first jobs as head coach at Toledo- After finishing 9-2 in his first year at Toledo, Nick Saban headed to the NFL to become defensive coordinator for the Browns. His replacement at Toledo was Gary Pinkel, who stayed much longer. Pinkel spent 10 years as head man of the Rockets and finished with a 73-37-2 record and had 4 conference championships. Pinkel's 95 Toledo team went 11-0-1.
20. When will Florida be back to being Florida and competing for championships again?
A. At least 2 more years- Muschamp took over a program that ran a spread option type attack and is trying to install more of a prostyle attack. Without a proven QB, RB, or WR the offense is likely going to struggle for the next 2 seasons. Muschamp's defense will start to look like a championship type defense in 2012, but the offense is so far behind the rest of the elite teams in the SEC right now that it's going to take some time. Turnover at the offensive coordinator certainly didn't help with the development of this Gator team. Mike Gillislee is a good back, but not talented enough to carry this team.
21. Were West Virginia and/or Virginia Tech better options for expansion for the SEC?
A. No- I've heard these two names come up over the last year as better expansion teams for the SEC. Texas A&M obviously brings a larger TV market and more alumni than any available team. A&M also has a gameday atmosphere that is up there with the elite programs in the SEC and far beyond anything WVU or VT can offer. A&M also brings exposure to a state rich in instate high school football talent. A&M has more bowl appearances and more top 25 finishes than both WVU & VT.
Missouri seems to be the one picked on by the most by SEC fans. For some reason, some in the SEC Media seem to believe WVU & VT have more passion for football than Missouri. Mizzou averaged 6,000 more fans a game than WVU did in 2011. VT did have a slightly higher average attendance than Missouri, but how long will that last? Prior to Beamer the support for Virginia Tech Football was almost non existant in the State of Virginia. The Washington D.C. market is always mentioned when someone speaks in favor of Virginia Tech, but this is not a VT market. D.C. is a NFL market and VT's influence in it is secondary. While the Cardinals might be the most popular sports team in Missouri, there is no other College show in town. Missouri has already shown its dedication to the SEC when it announced it would expand Memorial Stadium to a capacity near 77,000.
22. What scoring record could be broken in 2012?
A. Kevin Faulk's scoring record for Running Backs- Faulk had 53 career TDs in 4 seasons at LSU from 95-98. With 24 TDs in 2012, Marcus Lattimore will break this record in 3 years. Certainly this could be a tough task, but Lattimore was on pace for 20+ TDs last year prior to his injury.
23. How do the 14 SEC Coaches Rank currently?
A. 1. Nick Saban 2. Steve Spurrier 3. Les Miles 4. Mark Richt 5. Gary Pinkel 6. Dan Mullen 7. Gene Chizik 8. Kevin Sumlin 9. James Franklin 10. Hugh Freeze 11. John L. Smith 12. Derek Dooley 13. Will Muschamp 14. Joker Phillips
24. Was Hugh Freeze a good hire for Ole Miss?
A. Yes, much better than the last two- Ole Miss really should have never fired David Cutcliffe in 2004, but that's ancient history. The hiring of Ed Orgeron helped with recruiting, but Orgeron wasn't organize or mature enough on the field to be a head coach. Houston Nutt was a good quick fix, but once Orgeron's talent left it was obvious the Nutt experiment would not work. Hugh Freeze is from Mississippi and has spent most of his life in Northern Mississippi and Memphis. He did a fantastic job in two years at Arkansas State as OC and head coach and is the man who will get Ole Miss back to a regular bowl team. Unfortunately, for Freeze and the Rebels this is going to be a 2 year rebuilding job so patience is needed . In the long run, Freeze will establish himself as one of the better coaches in this league.
25. Was Kevin Sumlin a good hire for Texas A&M?
A. No- Sumlin has yet to prove he can win without Case Keenum, who was brought to Houston by Art Briles. Sumlin certainly will bring an explosive offense to A&M and will put plenty of points up on the scoreboard, but has offense hasn't been the issue with A&M in recent seasons. For years A&M was "Linebacker U." and was known for its dominating defenses. Hiring a defensive mind like Kirby Smart or Charlie Strong would have made more sense in my opinion for the Aggies . In 4 years Sumlin will win more than he will lose, but he won't get A&M to the elite in the SEC. I will admit though that if Sumlin does win big in the SEC and I'm proven wrong that you could see more of a Big XII type style enter into the SEC. More than likely though, there will be a want for a defensive mind by 2016.
26. What team will debut the ugliest uniforms in the SEC in 2012?
A. Arkansas- When I think of Arkansas football I think of the classic cardinal uniforms and that white running hog on the helmet. While I don't think the cardinal pants and cardinal jerseys look as nice as the traditional uniform, it is certainly better than what the Hogs will wear in 2012. Charcoal gray is not an official color at Arkansas or anywhere else in the NCAA. Also, the white helmet with the white Hog just looks tacky. A white helmet and red hog would have looked so much better. A player is far more likely to go to Arkansas because of their gameday atmosphere, 21 wins in 2 years, great facilities, and education than it is for some crazy looking uniforms. The only thing thing that looks worst than these uniforms that will debut in 2012 in the SEC is David Yost's hair. 
27. What team will debut some nice looking uniforms in 2012?
A. Vanderbilt- I really like what Vanderbilt did. They took their traditional colors of gold, white, and black and created several different uniform combinations. There is somewhat of a different look, but Vandy didn't go too far from their traditional look.
28. Who will have the best offense in 2012?
A. Arkansas- The Hogs have potential first round draft picks at QB, RB, and WR. Last season Arkansas scored a total of 478 points and had 474 in 2010. This year I think Arkansas goes past the 500 point mark. Expect Chris Gragg to have a huge season for the Razorbacks along with the higher profile players like Davis, Wilson, and Hamilton
29. Who will have the best defense in 2012?
A. LSU- Alabama's youth will show early and will struggle a bit against the offenses of Michigan and Arkansas. Even without the Honey Badger, the Tigers are still loaded on defense with 5 All SEC Preseason selections by the media on that side of the ball. As stated above, I believe Jalen Collins can fill the spot vacated by Mathieu very well.
30. Who wins the SEC East?
A. South Carolina- The Gamecocks have an All American Running back, one of the nation's top pass rushes, an elite coach, and an efficient QB. Getting Georgia at home is huge and I believe USC's only slip up in the regular season will be a road trip to LSU.
31. Who wins the SEC West?
A. Alabama- I do think this young Alabama football team will struggle early and drop a regular season game to Arkansas. Then the Tide will recover and by November will be mature enough where the talent will truly shine. Alabama will win a tough, physical game in Baton Rouge and win the SEC West.
32. Who wins the SEC?
A. Alabama- Saban will go to 2-3 against Steve Spurrier. Lattimore will find some holes in the running game against Alabama, but Shaw will have his worst performance of the year against a tough Alabama defense. Alabama will move the ball, but be forced to kick 3 FGs as several drives will stall. Alabama wins 23-17 and appears in their 2nd consecutive National Championship game. This time against Oklahoma.

Matt Barber
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