Auburn was the pick to win the SEC West, and they responded with yet another fight in practice Tuesday morning.
Coach Tommy Tuberville said after practice that “there are fights every day,” and I’m sure he’s including the one that sent Antonio Coleman to the hospital last spring. The makers of “Grand Theft Auto” think Auburn’s practices are violent.
Anyway, I like that pick even more now. Picking the SEC East:
1. Florida (7-1)
The Gators leave their Florida environment only three times — at Tennessee before Jonathan Crompton is very deep in his tenure as quarterback starter; at Arkansas, which, as you’re reading this, is giving up a 90-yard touchdown run; and at Vanderbilt.
Of course, the Gators are losing more players to ACL tears this preseason than a women’s basketball team, tight end Cornelius Ingram being the latest to undergo surgery (no word yet if Tim Tebow performed the operation by simply smiling). But backup Aaron Hernandez is more than capable of contributing at tight end.
Games against Tennessee, LSU and Georgia are the potential problems, and I say Florida wins two of those, including the Party Formerly Known as the Cocktail. The Gators’ offense, with Tebow, Percy Harvin, an actual running back and four returning starters on the offensive line, may set records this year and compensate for any remaining ills in the secondary.
2. Georgia (6-2)
Anyone who read Michael Lewis’ fabulous book, “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,” knows it was much better than my book. They also know how critical the loss of left tackle Trinton Sturdivant is for Georgia. Here’s the main significance: Georgia draws Auburn and LSU out of the West this season. Those two teams, more than any other in the SEC, boast an embarrassment of riches in the pass-rushing department.
Maybe Georgia finds a formidable line combination. And maybe the road schedule — remember, Vegas usually gives the home team just three or four additional points — is a bit overrated. But if I were playing as Georgia on a video game system, and I was enduring this kind of preseason, I would be hitting the old reset button.
3. Tennessee (5-3)
Tennessee’s usual front-loaded schedule presented a problem last year when an inexperienced secondary was fed to Cal (45 points allowed), Florida (59 points) and, finally, Alabama (510 total yards and no turnovers).
This year, Crompton is the inexperienced recipient of the brutal slate to begin the season. And he will often face rested defenses: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky are off the week before playing Tennessee.
But don’t count out a repeat of 2004 or ’07: The Vols lose early, plow through the relaxing November schedule and suddenly find themselves in the Georgia Dome after everyone else beats on each other.
4. South Carolina (4-4)
Odds Steve Spurrier renames himself the offensive coordinator at some point during the season: I’d say Vegas took that one off the board. Odds Stephen Garcia supplants Tommy Beecher as the starting quarterback: very, very strong. Odds the Gamecocks lose a few before making those transitions: pretty high.
5. Kentucky (3-5)
I give you Kentucky’s recruiting ratings from 2003 to ’07, according to Rivals: 45th, 67th, 36th, 54th, 57th. But the Wildcats are coming off back-to-back seasons with eight wins and a victory in the Music City Bowl. Does it get more underrated than Rich Brooks?
I’ve got some bad news, however. Remember receiver Dicky Lyons’ dream about fighting Matthew Stafford? He had another dream: The Wildcats actually had a quarterback. And receivers. And then Lyons got punched again, this time by someone named Reality, and realized Kentucky was still searching for a quarterback and receivers. The end.
6. Vanderbilt (2-6)
Here’s why I think the Commodores will end the bowl-less streak this year: They actually had someone arrested this offseason! Welcome to the big time, Vandy.