June 18th, 2013 10:30 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M
Tags: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss
With summer upon us and fall moving quickly — too quickly — toward us, we’re starting to get plenty of “fall preview” questions when we appear on radio talkshows across the Southeast. Having answered the question, “What intrigues you about School X” umpteen times already, we thought it might be a good time to put all of the topics that most interest us together in one or two posts.
Yesterday, we shared with you our thoughts on the SEC East. Today, you’ll find our look at the SEC West and the seven questions — one per team — that we look forward to having answered in the fall. They’re listed in alphabetical order according to the school below…
Can Nick Saban coax the same chemistry and drive from this year’s team? After Alabama won the BCS championship in 2009, Saban spent his offseason trying to convince his 2010 team that — despite the return of many important players — the new squad wasn’t defending anything. The 2009 bunch won the title, not the 2010 team. But that message didn’t get through. The Tide stumbled to a 9-3 finish. Since then, Saban has led his 2011 and his 2012 squads to national crowns. Obviously, the coach knows what it takes to win and what it takes to repeat. But will this particular group of players heed his warnings of “you ain’t won nothing yet?”
How will Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney co-exist? At Wisconsin, Bielema’s teams almost always finished in the bottom-quarter of the Big Ten in pass attempts. Chaney is known for having an itchy trigger finger when it comes to the passing game. At Purdue, Drew Brees and Kyle Orton winged it for him. At Tennessee, Tyler Bray was the gunslinger. Now the run-first head coach and the pass-first coordinator are teaming up with a first-year starting quarterback and a roster made up of recruits signed to play Bobby Petrino’s pass-heavy style. This might be the most fascinating mixture to watch in the SEC in 2013.
Was Auburn’s 2010 BCS title more a product of Gus Malzahn’s offense or Cam Newton’s amazing talents? Malzahn — hired to replace old boss Gene Chizik this offseason — has tested his up-tempo offense three times in the SEC. (And no, we’re not counting the year that he was given little power as Houston Nutt’s offensive coordinator at Arkansas.) In his season on the Plains with Newton at quarterback, Malzahn’s offense led the league in scoring (40.2 points per game versus SEC foes in 2010). In the other two seasons without Newton, the Tigers finished fifth (25.0 points per game in 2009) and eighth (20.0 points per game in 2011) in the SEC. That’s quite a difference. Now Malzahn returns to AU without a sure-thing at quarterback and a need to focus on both the offense and the defense. It’s time to for Malzahn to earn the big bucks.
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