Hobbs: Tigers and Gamecocks headed to Atlanta?

By By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Hang in there. Less than one more week and college football’s silly season — August — will be over.

It can’t get here fast enough to make up for all the useless predictions and rankings, the ratings, projections and listings

that litter the August landscape.

But it’s a start.

The funny thing is that people fall for

them year after year, no matter how useless they look even before

September is done. They not only fall for them, they sound so good they use them

for bragging rights or anguish and bicker about this slight

or that.

After all, everything seems so neat and tidy in August.

That’s my problem doing the prediction thing. I never could make myself sound authoritative enough to make a prediction matter

since I’m usually giggling through the absurdity of it.

But I’ll play along again. I’ll get

into my deepest, most serious, furrowed-brow voice to take you through a

genuinely authoritative

tour of the way the SEC race will end this season.

We’ll start at the bottom of each division, beginning with the east, where there’s more top-to-almost-bottom parity but not

the power at the top like in the West.

7. Kentucky — The Wildcats are

suffering the most from Vanderbilt’s breath-taking rise to mediocrity.

Not sure who they can

beat on their conference schedule now. Sadly, the Cats do not play

Ole Miss, which could settle the who’s-worst question once

and for all. But the basketball team will surely be good again.

6. Vanderbilt — This is the trouble

with playing in the SEC. You can give the culture a complete makeover,

upgrade the recruiting,

live in the weight room, gain some confidence and give a walk-on a

scholarship on a viral You Tube segment. And you still

might only move up one spot. But Vanderbilt really is a lot better

and might well finish higher in the West, which is supposed

to be tougher. Either that, or last year new head coach James

didn’t realize he was at Vanderbilt.

5. Tennessee — A lot of this isn’t coach Derek Dooley’s fault, but the Vol fans are restless anyway over the mess the program

has become. They have a chance to be good on offense even without yet another suspension to a star (Da’Rick Rogers, one of

the SEC’s best receivers), but defense rules this league.

4. Florida — The Gators will probably

be better, but right now it just seems like ... what? ... an incomplete

team? Maybe

an awkward team with a lot of five-star pieces that just don’t

seem to fit into a team puzzle. Or maybe that’s over-analyzing,

thinking too deeply on what is really a simple sport. But coach

Will Muschamp first has to figure out what this team is before

he can build on whatever personality emerges. It also wouldn’t

hurt to figure out who his quarterback is.

3. Missouri — I like the Tigers’ approach to joining the SEC. While Texas A&M has been fairly deferring while saying all the

right things, Mizzou’s attitude about jumping into this physical mosh pit seems to be, “Oooooo, we sooooo sccccaaaaaared.”

It almost seems like they’re saying, hey, it’s just a football game, not like, you know, life or death. That will be quite

a shock to the SEC’s system, but the Tigers are also better than you think they are.

2. Georgia — Going against the grain

here, but anytime you pick a team to win a division based on having an

easier schedule,

you’re dealing with fool’s gold. Unless you picked Georgia to win

the East on that last year, which is exactly how the Dawgs

did it. The football gods won’t let that happen two years in a row

and also ...

1. South Carolina —The Gamecocks are

just better, even with a far tougher schedule that includes both LSU and

Arkansas (Georgia

plays neither and also avoids Alabama). It also way fun to watch

Steve Spurrier win with defense and a strong running game.

OK, now the West.

7. Ole Miss — The Rebels will likely be the worst team in the SEC again, but will surely upgrade from last year’s worst SEC

team I ever saw, if only because they won’t have Houston Nutt to quit on this season. Still, new coach Hugh Freeze has his

work cut out for him.

6. Mississippi State — The Bulldogs are making noise again about being much better. And they will be, I guess. Just not good

enough to be a factor. They do own Mississippi at the moment, however.

5. Auburn — I could be wrong on this one. You never know with Auburn. But anytime it takes this long to figure out who our

quarterback is, it usually means you don’t really have one. And Auburn really needs one (see Newton, Cam).

4. Texas A&M — New coach Kevin

Sumlin will bring a Big 12 team with a Conference USA offense into the

fray against the salivating

defenses of the SEC. Hey, works for me. But the Aggies figure to

win a few games that surprise you.

3. Arkansas — If the Razorbacks don’t

win the SEC as every good Hog fan fully expects, it won’t be because

Bobby Petrino rode

his motorcycle off into the sunset (with a gossipy side stop in

the ditch). John L. Smith will be fine and pass the audition.

If they do win the SEC it won’t be because both the Alabama and

LSU games are in Fayetteville. The Razorback defense

will or won’t be better and that will be the deal-maker or

breaker.

2. Alabama — OK, I flipped a coin. I’m

not really smart enough to figure out in August how losing over half their starting defense

will affect the Tide or losing its only Honey Badger will affect

LSU. But it won’t be enough to keep them from being the best

two teams in the SEC — while still refreshingly capable of

dropping a game to someone other than each other.

1. LSU — Keep in Mind, last year the feeling was that LSU was a year away from being REALLY good. Wouldn’t surprise me. As

much as the new quarterback, it’s the returners on both lines that give the Tigers the edge.

Anyway, for what it's worth in August, that makes LSU the de facto SEC champion.

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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com