2012 College Football: SEC Conference Predictions


What’s a college football season without some preseason predictions? As the 2012 college football season gets into full swing this weekend it is time for me to post my annual HogManInLA’s SEC Conference predictions.

If you followed closely last season I had a pretty good record overall; remember some of these predictions did not include post season play.

I nailed South Carolina and Georgia’s record in the East but had the Gamecocks in the SEC Championship Game; that privilege went to Georgia.

I over estimated the Florida Gators, as I will do again this year, and gave way too much love to Joker Phillips and the Kentucky Wildcats. Being one game off on Tennessee and Vanderbilt works for me.

Florida was injury riddled by midseason in 2011 and had a brutal four game stretch of games against Bama, LSU, Auburn, and Georgia. The backend of the Gators 2011 schedule may have been the toughest in all of college football with additional games against South Carolina on the road, Florida State on a neutral field, and Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.

I was one off on Bama and LSU, over evaluated Mississippi State and under valued Auburn, even though Auburn crept by in their first two games of the 2011 season which would have been put me closer to the mark. Auburn won the Chick-fil-A Bowl over Virginia 43-24, something else I did not think would happen during my preseason predictions.

Was it difficult to predict Ole Miss’ record in 2011? You may say yes now but had Houston Nutt guided the Rebels to a win over BYU in their opener (13-14 loss) how would the rest of the season had played out? Just hurt my arm patting myself on the back.

I nailed Arkansas’ overall record except I thought they would split with Alabama and LSU in the regular season; my same sentiments for the 2012 season. I was off by one game on LSU and Alabama. Who knew they would end up in a rematch in the national championship game?

Through my keen college football predicting eyes I only really missed on Kentucky (+3), Florida (+2), MSU (+2), and Auburn (-3 regular season). How will HogManInLA finish the 2012 season?

HogManInLA’s 2011 Predicted Order of Finish

SEC East

Team/SEC Record/Overall Record/Actual 2011 Record

South Carolina 6-2, 10-2/11-2

Florida 6-2, 9-3/7-6

Georgia 5-3, 9-3/10-4

Kentucky 4-4, 8-4/5-7

Tennessee 2-6, 6-6/5-7

Vanderbilt 1-7, 5-7/6-7

SEC West

Team/SEC Record/Overall Record/Actual 2011 Record

Arkansas 7-1, 11-1/11-2

Alabama 6-2, 10-2/12-1

LSU 6-2, 10-2/13-1

MSU 5-3, 9-3/7-6

Auburn 1-7, 4-8/8-5

Ole Miss 0-8, 2-10/2-10

Scratching out the wins and losses on a loose piece of paper here’s the 2012 overall records for each SEC team:

SEC East

Team/SEC Record/Overall Record

Florida 7-1, 10-2

South Carolina 6-2, 10-2

Georgia 6-2, 10-2

Vanderbilt 4-4, 8-4

Tennessee 3-5, 7-5

Missouri 1-7, 5-7

Kentucky 0-8, 3-9

SEC West

Team/SEC Record/Overall Record

Arkansas 8-0, 12-0

LSU 7-1, 11-1

Alabama 6-2, 10-2

MSU 4-4, 8-4

Auburn 3-5, 6-6

Texas A&M 2-6, 6-6

Ole Miss 0-8, 3-9

Here’s the corresponding logic, or at the very minimum, thought process behind the picks.

Florida has a lot of talent returning on defense, 10 total starters. They maybe unsettled at quarterback but the first month of their schedule is fairly easy allowing the offense to get in a groove before LSU comes to town Oct. 6. Back to back games against South Carolina and Georgia will be the big test of their season followed by a season ending visit against Florida State.

FSU took last year’s game 21-7 as both teams limped into the game. Look for Florida to bounce back if they can avoid the injury bug in 2012.

Florida may still be a season away from being Florida again but you gotta go big or go home.

South Carolina’s schedule is just too difficult for them to not have at least two losses by season’s end. There is not a lot of overall talent on offense and their defense might be overrated.

The Gamecocks did squeak out 11 wins in 2011 so that should count for something. Rating SC as highly as I did may be an oversight. If Spurrier overuses running back Marcus Lattimore and quarterback Connor Shaw too early the Gamecocks will have a very tough October.

Lattimore has not made it through an entire SEC season without injury in his first two years, I have doubts he will in year three as well.

Georgia’s schedule is way too easy for them to not win 10 games for the second year in a row. Mark Richt has saved his job because of back-to-back easy conference schedules. The Bulldogs miss out on Arkansas, Alabama, and LSU during the regular season for the second year in a row.

Smoke and mirrors then… poof… Georgia could be back in the SEC Championship Game again if a couple of tough games swing their way.

Vanderbilt is a lot like South Carolina without the overall talent on the roster. Good QB and talented running back, solid defense but overall still rough around the edges.

Vanderbilt played Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee tough last season. One thing missing from their lineup was a productive place kicker. Commodores head coach James Franklin signed a Parade All-American kicker only to grey-shirt him.

Vandy will have trouble winning close games if they cannot find someone to put three points on the board every now and again instead of having to rely on getting in the end zone every time they get in the red zone.

Tennessee has returning talent on the offensive line which should help the Vols find the running game they were missing in 2011.

Quarterback Tyler Bray returns under center. Bray’s talent is there but he has missed SEC heavy weights Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, and Arkansas over the last two seasons. Putting up big numbers on the Montana’s and Buffalo’s of college football is great for confidence doing that against Top 10 teams is another feat unto itself.

Welcome to the SEC Missouri Tiger fans, players, and coaching staff. We believe in tough love throughout play in the toughest college football conference in all the land. Just deal with it, take your lumps, and recruit better for the upcoming seasons.

Too harsh for Missouri fans? Maybe but Missouri was 5-4 in Big 12 Conference play last season with losses to every ranked team they played. Beating Texas A&M last year in College Station should carry momentum into 2012 when the Tigers have to travel back to College Station for conference play this time as SEC foes.

Missouri’s offensive line from last year is all but gone. Two starters return and 1,000 yard rusher Henry Josey is still sidelined recovering from a knee injury suffered against Texas. A 5-7 record may seem cruel but there is a learning curve for teams making a step up in level of talent in college football. Don’t believe me, just ask Utah how playing in the Pac-12 worked out for them last year.

And then there is Kentucky. The Wildcats had a nice run of five consecutive bowl appearances snapped in 2011. Joker Phillips inherited a senior laden team in 2010 and still struggled to six total wins. In 2011 they had 11 total starters coming back, in 2012 they have eight… Wildcat fans can at least hang their hats on winning the 2012 NCAA College Basketball Championship.

The West is where the big boys will roost for yet another season in college football. Everyone is constantly reminded about Alabama and LSU meeting in the National Championship game. Guess what college football fans the same scenario could happen again in 2012!

If LSU can overcome the loss of both cover corners and quarterback Zach Mettenberger is half as good as Tiger fans will have us believe they should be in the hunt for another shot at the title. Their offensive line is as good as Bama’s as well as their defensive front and both teams should be able to run the ball at will.

The hitch in the scenario of a SEC National Championship Game rematch is Arkansas not Alabama. The Razorbacks do not have the overall talent in the back seven on defense as their conference rivals but the “Hogs” defensive front will hold their own against Bama and LSU’s offensive line come the fourth quarter. The Hogs do not have depth in the back seven so any injuries there could cause major problems this year.

One fallback position the Razorbacks have if the defense comes up short is an overwhelming offense. Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis should be an unstoppable force this year. Add a much improved offensive line into the mix along with the next wave of talented receivers and Arkansas will win games outright on offense this year.

Fans, the national media, and Mississippi State fans keep waiting for the Bulldogs to turn that corner. After a 9-4 2010 season was completed with a dominating 52-14 win over Michigan in the Gator Bowl, everyone thought Dan Mullen had put MSU back on the map. Injuries and lack of experience on both sides of the ball brought their 2011 season to a crashing halt.

The Bulldogs play tough for Mullen, if he can ever win the in-state battle for top recruits he will be a consistent player in the West, not a contender but a player. Until that happens Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs are looking at another above average season.

On paper Auburn could be a wild card team in the West. The wild card they hold is that of spoiler for teams that may overlook the younger but talented squad.

Auburn snuck past Uath State and MSU to start last season, both games that came down to the last series of the game. An inch here and an inch there and Auburn would have been a sub .500 team. Now they have to replace their offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, bring in a true freshman to start at quarterback and replace their two-year 1,000 yard rusher at tailback. Tough times lay ahead.

The Tigers’ defense was below average last year but should be improved due to the lumps they took a year ago. Nine starters return from a team that was ranked No. 81 overall in total defense, No. 78 in scoring defense, No. 94 in rushing defense, and No. 51 in passing defense.

Texas A&M has a lot of holes to fill for a team that has averaged 6.4 wins a season over their last five years. Their 2011 offense was potent coming in at No. 11 in scoring and No. 7 overall. Gone are three key components to that offensive team, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Cyrus Gray, and wide receiver Jeff Fuller.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin has a career coaching record of 35-17 in four years as head coach. Four years as head coach at University of Houston in a spread offense is much different than going up against the coaching talent he will face in the SEC West.

Sumlin has credible credentials on his resume as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and Texas A&M but…

The Aggies defense was average overall last year playing in the Big 12. The Big 12 is not known for their defense but widely known for their passing offenses. With four starters back on defense going head first into a run-first conference with tough offensive lines to face in LSU, Alabama, Florida, and Arkansas will A&M be able to hold up over the long haul? Throw in a sophomore quarterback that had five passing attempts the year before against the SEC West defenses and another learning curve has just begun.

And then there is Ole Miss. Hugh Freeze has quickly worked his way up the coaching hierarchy going from high school football coach in 2004 to head coach at Lambuth 2008-2009 and then taking over as head coach for Arkansas State in 2011 after being their offensive coordinator in 2010.

Freeze spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons in Oxford as the Rebels tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. He should be familiar with the SEC West but the talent on the sidelines is depleted. Freeze is a couple of years away from making any noise in the SEC if he’s lucky.

Those are HogManInLA’s fearless predictions. What are your predictions?