The 2006 SEC Conference Preview
The Florida Gators, after a strong finish to their 9-3 season in the Outback Bowl last year, are looking for big things in the upcoming 2006 season. This being Chris Leak’s final season at the helm for the Gators, anything less than a National Championship would be considered a disappointment. Florida is packed with talent heading into the season, and the offense should run smoother in Urban Meyer’s second season. Therefore, National Championship is a very reasonable goal for the Gators.
The Georgia Bulldogs, after a shocking 38-35 loss in the Sugar Bowl to underdog West Virginia last season, look to regroup and bounce back in 2006. The Bulldogs lost 13 starters from their 2005 team, including senior quarterback DJ Shockley. Senior Joe Tereshinski will most likely be the starter, as he is the only quarterback on the roster with any game experience. Although the Bulldogs do have a lot of talent, inexperience can prove to be their Achilles heel in 2006.
The Kentucky Wildcats, after a dismal 3-8 mark a year ago, are looking to improve greatly in 2006. The Wildcats return 15 starters from last year’s team. Although they are not the most talented teams in the SEC, they do have tons of experience and may be learning how to win games they are used to losing. If Coach Rich Brooks can instill some sort of confidence in this group, they may be able to compete in the SEC this year.
The vastly improving South Carolina Gamecocks, with their new fun ‘n gun offense under the Ol’ Ball Coach finished a surprising 7-5 in the SEC last year. That record will be sure to improve this year after a whole season of getting used to the up-tempo style that Steve Spurrier implemented. The Gamecocks showed they can compete with anyone in the SEC last year, beating both Tennessee and Florida. If they can find a way to be more consistent start to finish, South Carolina could compete for a spot in the SEC title game in 2006.
The Tennessee Volunteers, after a crushing 5-6 season last year under Coach Phillip Fulmer, look to improve and get back to where they were expected to finish in 2005…in the top 10. The Volunteers lost several heart-breaking games, including blowing a huge lead to LSU early in the season which they could never recover from. The Volunteers do have lots of talent, and if their quarterbacks can find a way to hold on to the ball in 2006, it could be a very good season for Tennessee.
The Vanderbilt Commodores, after a 5-6 season behind stud quarterback Jay Cutler, look to show the nation that there is more to Vanderbilt football than the first round draft pick from a year ago. The Commodores showed they could play with big time powers of the SEC like Tennessee and Florida, and if this confidence snowballs into 2006, Vanderbilt will be a tough test for any team.
The Alabama Crimson Tide, which had the best defense in the country in 2005, looks to impress the nation again in ’06. After losing quarterback Brody Croyle, the Crimson Tide need to fill his shoes with a quarterback that can help the defense win ball games. Last year it was a heavy dose of Kenneth Darby along with a ball control offense that won them football games. However, the defense cannot be counted on as heavily this year if Alabama wants to have another dynamite season.
The Arkansas Razorbacks, after finishing their 4-7 season last year with a crushing 19-17 defeat to the LSU Tigers, are trying to get back into the SEC picture in 2006. The Razorbacks return 19 of 22 starters in 2006, and Coach Houston Nutt wants desperately to take this team into the post season. If Arkansas’ maturity can help them to pull out some close wins, this team very well could be headed to the post-season.
The Auburn Tigers finished up 7-1 in SEC play in 2005. The Tigers lost half of their starters from the 2005 roster and are very inexperienced heading into 2006. This is undoubtedly one of the biggest wild cards in the SEC this year. If Coach Tommy Tubberville does not find a way to get them experience fast, it could be a disappointing season in Auburn.
The LSU Tigers, which finished their 9-2 season with an impressive thrashing of the Miami Hurricanes in the Peach Bowl, look to have another strong effort in 2006. Although the Tigers lost half of their starters, including seven of them to the NFL Draft, they can have a very strong season if their new talent can gain maturity fast. If the Tigers can find a way to build together some offensive and defensive lines, this can be a very memorable season in Baton Rouge.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs, which finished their 2005 season with a dismal 1-7 SEC record, need to improve all across the board if they want to compete in 2006. Third year Coach Sylvester Croom is in desperate need of a strong season if he wants to keep his job. If he doesn’t find a way to put together some talent that can win, it is sure to be another long season in Starkville.
The Mississippi Rebels, which finished 2005 with a 1-7 conference record, need desperately to put together some wins early in 2006. The Rebels revamped their coaching staff after getting trounced 35-14 to rival Mississippi State to end their season. However, the new staff isn’t a solution by itself. If Mississippi doesn’t find a way to pull out some close games, it will be another tough year for the Rebels.