Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Deepest Conference in the NCAA?

I was listening to talk radio again yesterday, and I heard some actual substantive football talk for the first time in a while.  Tony Curry, who does not offend me generally, said that the SEC this year is the deepest conference in America, and the deepest it has been in a long time.

Really?  Well, Tony Curry is entitled to his opinion, and I'm not going to criticize his intelligence for it, but I think he's incorrect here.  In fact, I think the SEC is going to be significantly down from last year, when we had 10 teams end the season bowl-eligible.  I doubt we even flirt with that again.

Next year I think the SEC will have a decided underclass again, which is the usual state of affairs.  What made last year so special was that South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Arkansas all put together pretty good teams that could beat anyone on any given day.  I expect that only Mississippi State will be able to do it again next year among that list.

South Carolina, Vandy, Kentucky, and Arkansas all lose a lot of good players and don't have the depth or recruiting to replace them.  In particular, let's look at Kentucky and Arkansas.  Kentucky loses its quarterback, 4 of its top 5 receivers, its top running back, and its best defensive player.  And those are just the guys I can identify immediately.  Kentucky's depth chart was not littered with 4- and 5-star players.  They are not going to be able to replace guys like Andre Woodson, Keenan Burton, Jacob Tamme, Raphael Little, and Wesley Woodyard.  Kentucky should take a step down.

Arkansas is even more obviously going to trend down.  They lose their only really dangerous skill position players.  Guys like Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis, and Marcus Monk made this team dangerous.  Even with Marcus Monk mostly out of the equation last season, they still lose their top 4 receivers.  They have some young players who show promise, but you just don't lose that much productivity, plus install a new offense and a new defense, and expect not to lose a little bit.

Those two teams are clear candidates to take a step down, but Vandy and USC also lose productive players.  Vandy will have an offensive lineman selected in the first round of the NFL draft, and its best wide receiver in its history is going to the NFL as well.  USC no longer has anyone named Brinkley on the team, and its solid running back tandem is now a solo job.  They return dangerous wideout Kenny McKinley, but have never managed to find a consistent quarterback to throw to him.  South Carolina had a really good 2007 recruiting class, but they're probably a year away from making any real noise.

That's 4 teams out of 12 that I think are not going to be as good as they were last year, and I can only identify one team that I think will make a significant step up.  Ole Miss was a young team last year with a lot of talent at wide receiver, defensive line, and linebacker.  Their QB play should be much improved, and if they can find a running back to replace BenJarvis Green-Ellis (5-star recruit Enrique Davis is a good place to start looking).  Their young wide receivers made some serious plays last year, and if they get consistent quarterback play out of Jevan Snead they can have a very good offense.  I think Ole Miss is a bowl team, but they're really the only team to appear on the verge of stepping up.

We all know that Florida and Georgia look like they're going to be really good.  LSU looks like it will be just as good if our quarterback situation resolves in the way I hope it will.  Tennessee and Auburn both look solid, though perhaps less so than in years past.  Bama, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss look like they are likely to be bowl teams, but that's really about it.  I think the SEC will be good next year, but not as good as last year.

1 comment:

Rogers A said...

I think I listened to the same show. WJOX? Off the top of my head, I'll say the Big 10, ACC, Big East, and Pac 10 won't be as good from top to bottom.

That leaves us the Big 12, which I would think is better from top to bottom. I don't think the SEC has a team as bad as Baylor, but there are more potentially mediocre teams in the SEC (Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vandy, Kentucky, South Carolina).

Most local radio hosts are not being paid to be experts on college football around the country, just the local area. While I would like them to know more about what is going on around the country, I guess this is too much to ask.