Who will win the SEC East in 2011?
For the 45th year in a row, Athlon Sports will release its in-depth preseason preview annual complete with coaching changes, behind the scenes features, scouting reports from within the locker room, pages of recruiting rankings, and most importantly, in-depth predictions and previews.
Each year, we order some pizza and lock ourselves in a room until all 120 teams have been hammered into place. And every year, there are some seriously heated discussions that result in not-so-cordial commentary.
The 2011 preseason top-25 countdown will begin with No. 25 on Monday May 2. But every day until then, we will offer the college football fan a peek behind the curtain at some of the most heated debates that we the editors at Athlon had to work through.
Check out all the debates linked below.
The Debate: Who will win the SEC East in 2011?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I like Georgia. I know the Bulldogs finished 6-7 last year and there are a lot of questions about Mark Richt's future heading into 2011. South Carolina finally broke through last year, but I can't trust the Gamecocks with Stephen Garcia at quarterback. Florida may have the best roster, but I still wonder about the offense, even with Charlie Weis calling the plays. The Bulldogs have the SEC's best quarterback (Aaron Murray) and figure to be improved on defense in the second year of the 3-4 scheme. Also, the Bulldogs do not play Alabama, LSU or Arkansas - arguably the three best teams from the SEC West in 2011.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
I would love to say that the defending SEC East champs - and all their NFL offensive skill talent - will be able to repeat. But with a knucklehead quarterback and defensive front issues, it becomes a Florida-Georgia debate for me. I think Georgia has the best quaterback in the league, should be able to run the ball better and has the more proven head coach. The cross-over schedule also favors the Dawgs heavily. Florida must break in a entirely new staff and all the pieces must fall into place on offense.
How ‘bout them Dawgs?! That’s right, it’s make-or-break time for Mark Richt and he’s going to make it happen down in Athens this season. The SEC East is ripe for the picking — Florida has a new regime in power (led by Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis) and a fan base that still cheers loudest for Tim Tebow during the spring game; South Carolina has a ball coach on the golf course and a quarterback bellied up at the bar on the 19th hole; and Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt aren’t ready for prime time. UGA has a steady quarterback in Aaron Murray, a pack of running backs (Isaiah Crowell, Washaun Ealey, Caleb King, etc.) and a 3-4 defense entering its second year with personnel that better fits the scheme (i.e. 340-pound nose tackle “Big Bad John” Jenkins). Nice guy Richt needs to borrow the safari hat from his old FSU boss Bobby Bowden; it’s time for the Bulldogs to go big game hunting in the SEC East.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think South Carolina has a great chance to repeat in the SEC East. It's hard to ignore the effect Charlie Weis could have on Florida's offense and their young talent on defense, but the Gators may be a year away with their inexperienced offensive line. Georgia has the best returning quarterback and a favorable West schedule, but the defense needs to improve greatly. Even though the Gamecocks have QB questions, having the best runner and receiver Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery in the league is a major advantage. With one of the top defensive lines in the nation and avoiding Alabama and LSU in the West, I'll take South Carolina to grind out first place in the East.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
This is a really, really tough call. If I knew that Stephen Garcia would be reinstated and would be well-behaved (a big if), I might have to go with South Carolina to repeat. But I just don’t trust him. I will go with Georgia, who has a very good quarterback, a potentially great freshman at running back and a favorable schedule.
Debate: Who is the top challenger to West Virginia in the Big East?
Debate: What is Ohio State's record after five games in 2011?
Debate: Who is the first-team All-Big 12 quarterback this year?
Debate: Who will finish second in the ACC Atlantic?
Debate: How far will Auburn fall in 2011?
Pre-order your team’s Athlon Sports cover here (athlonsports.com/store) and find out where Athlon has your team picked when the 2011 Top 25 countdown begins on Monday, May 2.