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West Division best and worst case scenarios for 2015 season

Alabama

Best Case: 11-1. Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin choose the right quarterback for their system, and the Crimson Tide win se-veral close, low-scoring games. Alabama defeats Auburn in the Iron Bowl to secure the West Division crown, and the Tide advances to their fifth SEC title game under Saban. In Atlanta, Alabama avenges an early-season loss to Georgia and is the No. 2 overall seed in the College Football Playoffs. Unlike 2014, ‘Bama advances to the National Championship Game, but lose again to Ohio State. 

Worst Case: 8-4. Alabama’s defense is still one of the best in the country, but an inconsistent offense leads to the worst season Saban has endured in Tuscaloosa since his debut effort in 2007. A difficult October schedule takes the Tide out of the mix for the SEC West title by Halloween, and UA finishes the season with a loss to Auburn. 

Arkansas 

Best Case: 10-2. The Razorbacks build on their success from the second half of last season en route to their first West Division crown since 2006. Bran-don Allen improves at quarterback and the Hogs’ passing game effectively compliments their dynamic running game. 

Worst Case: 7-5. Arkansas’s offense remains one-dimensional and the defense struggles to keep up with up-tempo offenses. Early conference losses to Texas A&M and Alabama cripple the Razorbacks’ chances of winning the division, and Arkansas remains in the middle of the pack in the SEC.

Auburn

Best Case: 11-1. The Tigers avoid succumbing to the pressure of lofty preseason expectations and win the SEC title for the second time in three seasons. Gus Malzahn’s offense, led by Jeremy Johnson, leads the SEC in scoring. Auburn’s revamped defense improves drastically under the guidance of new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, and the Tigers meet Ohio State in the National Championship Game. 

Worst Case: 8-4. Much like a season ago, defense prevents Auburn from being a national title contender. Road losses to Arkansas and Texas A&M keep the Tigers from winning the West Division, and season-ending home losses to Georgia and Alabama lead to a disappointing season on The Plains. 

LSU

Best Case: 8-4. Brandon Harris improves enough at quarterback to keep LSU relevant in the West, and sophomore running back Leonard Fournette submits a Heisman-worthy season. The Tigers still can’t score enough to keep up with several other West Division teams, but Les Miles wins enough games to avoid questions about his job security. 

Worst Case: 5-7. Miles has never had a losing season in Baton Rouge, and the Tigers shouldn’t have one this year given how much talent is on this team. However, there isn’t a single conference game on the schedule that is a guaranteed win. If things aren’t going well late in the season, it’s possible LSU finishes the season with four straight losses. 

Mississippi State

Best Case: 7-5. The Bulldogs had one of the best seasons in school history last year, and much of that success was due to several key upperclassmen contributors. This season, MSU returns only a handful of starters. Although quarterback Dak Prescott is among them, the Bulldogs will be breaking in numerous new starters this season. It would be another impressive accomplishment if Dan Mullen’s team finished the season in a bowl game again this year. 

Worst Case: 5-7. The schedule isn’t terribly difficult, but there’s a chance that MSU could miss out on a bowl game. The Bulldogs’ bowl chances could hinge on the Egg Bowl at the end of the season. 

Ole Miss

Best Case: 9-3. After his first season in Oxford, Hugh Freeze brought in one of the best recruiting classes in school history. Three of those recruits – Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil and LaQuon Treadwell – are now all likely to be first round picks in next year’s NFL Draft. Ole Miss’s defense will be among the best in the country, and the receiving corps will be very strong. The Rebels don’t win the West Division this year but are able to knock off rivals LSU and Mississippi State at the end of the season. 

Worst Case: 6-6. The weaknesses that kept Ole Miss from making the playoffs last year are the same ones that could plague them again this season. It’s still unclear who will play quarterback for the Rebels, but whoever it is will need to be much more consistent than Bo Wallace was a season ago. Depth on the offensive line is also a major concern, and Ole Miss will need to have a more productive running game. Otherwise, the Rebels will finish toward the bottom of the SEC West. 

Texas A&M

Best Case: 10-2. A&M has as much offensive talent as any team in the SEC. Kyle Allen returns at quarterback and the Aggies are loaded on the offensive line and at receiver. Defensive coordinator John Chavis joined the staff after departing from LSU, and he is very familiar with SEC West offenses. Plus, he’ll have plenty of support from the Aggie offense. A&M plays Alabama and Auburn in College Station and gets Arkansas on a neutral field. If they can win two of those three games, the Aggies will have a great chance of winning the West Division for the first time. 

Worst Case: 8-4. Kevin Sumlin’s team faces Arizona State and Arkansas in the first month of the season, two games will dictate the course of the season for the Aggies. If they can beat both teams, a 10-win season is a definite possible. If they lose both – and that’s certainly a possible outcome – A&M could be headed towards another season of missed opportunities. 

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