published Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

SEC questions asked and answered

Let's review the league. As always, we'll list these in the order of our personal power ranking:

Alabama: Do the Crimson Tide need anything more than adequate quarterback play from the two-headed enigma that is Jacob Coker and Blake Sims? This is the deal. It's not who will be the Tide QB1, it's how much will they need from him. The answer is "not much," considering the talent levels everywhere else. Still, for Alabama to have national-title intentions there will be a moment or three that the quarterback will have to make a season-changing play. And if we don't know who the starter is, it's impossible to gauge if he will be ready.

Auburn: Can the Tigers repeat the magic of 2013? We believe Auburn will be a better football team this season on the field -- much better at wide receiver with Jaylon Denson healthy and junior college transfer Duke Williams; a year older across the defense at all levels and a more experienced Nick Marshall back at quarterback -- but not as good in the standings. There's simply no way a team can get that many breaks in back-to-back years.

South Carolina: Is Dylan Thompson ready to be the guy? We think so. Dude has gotten quality experience -- and while that experience came in most cases with Conner Shaw injured and waiting to return -- experience still counts for something. Plus, the Gamecocks are sneaky salty across the lines of scrimmage -- always a good thing in the SEC.

LSU: Will the freshmen be ready this quickly? We think running back Leonard Fournette will be the national freshman of the year. That said, if the quarterback questions aren't answered positively quickly -- Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings will play in the opener against Wisconsin -- that may not be enough.

Georgia: Can the Bulldogs survive the injuries and suspensions/dismissals in an early crush? Georgia has dismissed what likely was three-fourths of its starting secondary in the offseason, and the team's two best deep threats are hobbling. Not exactly the best way to enter two of your three toughest games right out of the gate. Still, if the Bulldogs survive the Clemson-South Carolina swing in the first three weeks, the sky's the limit.

Ole Miss: Whatcha got, Hugh Freeze? Freeze now has as much talent as the Rebels have had in recent memory -- a tribute to the glorious recruiting haul of 18 months ago. They also have expectations -- and a favorable schedule -- to match. If 10 wins is a reasonable goal in the toughest division in the sport, then Freeze has done a lot right. Now we'll see if he can run with the lead dogs.

Mississippi State: Can Dan Mullen get some respect? The Bulldogs coach keeps plugging along in one of the sneaky/historical runs in school history. Now with an experienced and talented quarterback in Dak Prescott -- whom Mullen compares favorably with Tim Tebow -- MSU also has high hopes.

Missouri: What can the Tigers do for an encore? It's hard to see a repeat after they won the East in their second year in the SEC, since Missouri has to replace a ton of skill-position guys, including former No. 1 overall national prospect Dorial Green-Beckham, who was booted from the team this spring.

Florida: How hot is Will Muschamp's seat? It's nuclear, and the results of September can go a long way toward changing the perception and path of the program, since a slew of nationally renowned prospects like the Gators but are waiting to see how the year plays out. Uneasy times for Muschamp and Co., which has to rebound from the worst season in Gainesville since 1979.

Texas A&M: Can the defense be any worse? No. No it can't. And without Johnny Football, the defenders will need to answer a few challenges from a year ago, which means they will answer a few challenges.

Tennessee: If the over/under is 18 on number of freshmen who play for the Vols, would you take the over? We would.

Arkansas: Which Arkansas will it be? Yes, the Hogs went doughnut-and-8 in the SEC in Bret Bielema's first year, but they were much more competitive in the second half of the season. It's hard to see Arkansas going 0-fer in the league again this year. (If they do, it's hard seeing Bielema getting real comfortable in Fayetteville.)

Vanderbilt: Can James Franklin be replaced? We'll see as Vandy tries to continue its most successful run in the modern era. Those shoes are large, huh, Derek Mason.

Kentucky: If the Wildcats struggle this fall, will Mark Stoops continue his torrid recruiting pace as he tries to build the program? We think so, because Stoops has been a recruiting ace everywhere he's gone and continues to get UK into conversations and circles among prospects who previously never would have considered Lexington.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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