In the SEC East, picking Florida to win the division is a no-brainer. The Gators have All-Everything quarterback Tim Tebow back along with a ton of talent on both sides of the ball.

Every team in the East is chasing Florida. It’s not even close.

The SEC West is a completely different story. There is parity in this division.

Alabama won the division last year, finishing the regular season undefeated. It’s going to be tough for the Crimson Tide to duplicate that success, especially after losing quarterback John Parker Wilson and three starters on the offensive line.

Ole Miss has received a lot of preseason attention, which is partly due to how the Rebels finished last season. Now in his second season at Ole Miss, coach Houston Nutt has a team he believes can contend.

There are two problems, though.

The first one: Ole Miss is a perennial underachiever. The Rebels rarely live up to expectations.

And the second: Nutt’s teams typically underachieve. Remember all the hype that surrounded his Darren McFadden-Felix Jones teams? He only managed to get those Arkansas teams to the SEC Championship Game once.

Ole Miss will suffer at least one upset this season, and that doesn’t count the Alabama and LSU games.

LSU is another interesting team in the West. Lots of talent, unproven quarterback in Jordan Jefferson and a head coach that very few outside of Baton Rouge, La. have faith in.

Yes, Les Miles won a national title at LSU. He did it with three losses, though. In other words, his teams lose games they aren’t supposed to.

With that said, LSU will be in the mix throughout the season for one reason: Talent. The Tigers have plenty of it.

There’s a significant drop-off after Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. One of those three teams will play Florida in Atlanta.

Which one will it be?

Alabama gets the nod because of coaching, not to mention a very talented defense.

Now heading into his third season, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has quickly assembled a solid program. Those back-to-back recruiting classes that were ranked No. 1 in the nation hasn’t hurt, either.

Saban is a better coach than Nutt and Miles. And in a year where there isn’t a clear favorite, coaching is usually the deciding factor.

As for Auburn, expect lots of ups and downs. The Tigers are still without a starting quarterback and the talent is down.

Not even a bowl game is guaranteed for Auburn.

To become bowl eligible, Auburn has to win three of these games: at Tennessee, at Arkansas, versus Mississippi State and versus Kentucky. All of them are in the first half of the season — which could be interesting since Auburn doesn’t have a starting quarterback yet.

If Auburn has a good start, six or seven wins and a bowl game is what the fans can look forward to.

A poor start, and first-year coach Gene Chizik will feel the heat. And that brutal second half of the schedule — at LSU, versus Ole Miss, at Georgia and versus Alabama — doesn’t help.



Here’s a glance at The Times preseason Southeastern Conference football predictions:



SEC West

1. Alabama

2. Ole Miss

3. LSU

4. Arkansas

5. Auburn

6. Mississippi State



SEC East

1. Florida

2. Georgia

3. South Carolina

4. Tennessee

5. Vanderbilt

6. Kentucky



‰ These preseason football predictions are the opinion of The Times’ sports department. Feedback can be sent to sports editor Justin Graves at sports@cullmantimes.com.

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