Conference Preview: SEC

Auburn linebacker Daren Bates (25), ex-wide receiver Darvin Adams (89), and running back Onterio McCalebb (23) (photo credit to Mike Zarilli, Getty Images)

           Projected Order of Finish

East                                                      West

1. Georgia Bulldogs                          1. Lousiana State Tigers

2. South Carolina Gamecocks        2. Alabama Crimson Tide

3. Florida Gators                                3. Arkansas Razorbacks

4. Tennessee Volunteers                4. Auburn Tigers

5. Missouri Tigers                             5. Texas A&M Aggies

6. Vanderbilt Commodores            6. Mississippi State Bulldogs

7. Kentucky Wildcats                        7. Ole Miss Rebels

Conference Champion: Louisiana State Tigers

Offensive Player of the Year: Running Back Marcus Lattimore – South Carolina

     Despite missing half of last season due to a torn ACL, the 6’0 230 pound Lattimore still managed to rush for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns in only seven games. As a freshman two years ago, the Gamecock back ran for nearly 1,200 yards and 17 TD’s en route to second team All-America and NCAA Freshman of the Year honors. The knee apparently is fully recovered, meaning Lattimore should return to pummeling opposing defenses for at least one more season in Columbia.

Defensive Player of the Year: Linebacker Jarvis Jones – Georgia

     The USC transfer posted a team-high 13.5 sacks to go along with 70 tackles a season ago as part of a Bulldog defense that ranked 5th in the country in yards per game. Jones, an All-American last season, should be one of the most fearsome pass rushers in the nation in 2012/2013.

Surprise Team: Tennessee Volunteers

     The Vols have become a trendy pick to make some noise in the SEC East this season thanks to the return of some dynamic offensive playmakers. Junior quarterback Tyler Bray is finally healthy after being sidelined with a thumb injury for a good portion of last season, and the 6’6 Californian will be protected by one of the most experienced offensive lines in the conference. Junior wide receivers Da’Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter form arguably the best receiving tandem in the SEC, and a defense that finished 28th in the country in yards per game last year returns eight starters. Another positive sign for the Vols is that SEC West favorite Louisiana State is absent from Tennessee’s 2012/2013 schedule; a relief to Vol fans who had to sit through LSU’s 38-7 obliteration of UT last year at Neyland Stadium.

Best Game: Alabama at LSU – November 3rd

     It’s a rematch of the BCS National Championship; a game in which the Tide utterly dominated LSU on their way to a resounding 21-0 victory in New Orleans. New Tiger quarterback Zach Mettenberger will be counted on to guide an LSU attack that failed to eclipse 100 yards of total offense in the BCS title game. You can bet the fans in Death Valley will be doing everything they can to cheer their Bayou Bengals on to victory.

     Honorable Mentions: Georgia at Missouri – September 8th

     South Carolina at LSU – October 13th

     LSU at Arkansas – November 23rd

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