Well it didn’t take long for the big debate to start as the Top 25 Pre-Season Coaches Poll was released today and, to no surprise, the SEC dominates once again. When you start any conversation about college football, you have to lead off with the best conference in the land. Until someone unseats the SEC from the top spot, experts are going to continue to talk of southeastern domination, and rightfully so. Today’s pre-season poll has five SEC teams in the top 10 and seven teams overall in the top 25.
For a conference to have won six straight BCS Championships, it has to be really scary for everyone else in college football to think that the SEC may in fact be getting better. Let’s take a look at the seven ranked teams from 25 down to number one.
25. Auburn Tigers: The Tigers finished the 2011 campaign with an 8-5 record. Not bad considering they won the hoisted BCS crown in 2010. The Tigers will enter 2012 with some changes: two new coordinators. Gone are Gus Malzahn and Ted Roof and in are Brian VanGorder and Scot Loeffler. Auburn definitely has the talent to improve in 2012. They will kick off the season September 1 in the Georgia Dome against the Clemson Tigers in what will be the fourth meeting in as many years between these two teams.
23. Florida Gators: Much like Auburn, the Gators and head coach Will Muschamp will welcome in a new offensive coordinator, Brent Peace. Peace comes to Gainesville from Boise State, having worked under offensive genius Chris Petersen. Peace should make an immediate impact, especially with quarterback play. Settling on a quarterback will be the Gators’ main objective in fall camp as the defense should once again be solid with 10 starters returning.
10. Arkansas Razorbacks: Change is a common theme for the first two teams on our list and the Razorbacks are no different. Gone is head man Bobby Petrino and in steps John L. Smith. Smith inherits a loaded squad with one of the best quarterback/running back combos in the country. Paul Petrino will call the plays for this offense that should put up huge numbers, much like it did in 2011.
9. South Carolina Gamecocks: The Old Ball Coach enters 2012 having led the Gamecocks to an 11-win season in 2011. South Carolina looks to be on the verge of becoming an elite program in college football. The health of running back Marcus Lattimore will be key if the Cocks are going to make a run to Atlanta.
6. Georgia Bulldogs: Mark Richt signed a contract extension in the off-season, so hopefully the faithful in Athens won’t be calling for his head if the Bulldogs lose an early one. Georgia is loaded with talent, especially on defense with the return of sackmaster Jarvis Jones. Aaron Murray returns at quarterback after a 2011 season in which he passed for 3,149 yards and 35 touchdowns. The schedule sets up favorably for the Dawgs as they avoid SEC West heavyweights Alabama, LSU and Arkansas.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide: The Tide will enter 2012 having won their second BCS Title in three years. Head coach Nick Saban is cementing his legacy as one of the all time greats in college football. Bama will break in a new offensive coordinator, Doug Nussmeier, who comes over from Washington. Expect there to be more of the same from the “Gang In Tuscaloosa”, including a lot of fundamental offense and a defense that will beat down opponents.
1. LSU Tigers: Coach Les Miles and his bunch will start the 2012 college football season as the hunted. In 2011, LSU slaved through the toughest schedule in college football, running through ever opponent until their rematch with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS Title Game. This year could be the year in Baton Rouge, as they return an abundance of talent on the defensive side of the football. Throw in an offense with one of the best offensive lines in college football, a stable of running backs unmatched anywhere and a new quarterback who could become a star and you have the makings of a championship caliber squad.