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SEC at a glance

By Times Staff
Published September 1, 2006


WEST DIVISION

1. AUBURN

2005 RECORD: 9-3 (7-1, tied for first in division). Ranked No. 14.

COACH: Tommy Tuberville (60-27, eighth season; 85-47, 12th overall).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 5, defense 6.

Will have a legitimate shot at ... playing for a national title just two years removed from their 13-0 season. They are stacked with talent. All they need to do is use it properly.

2. ALABAMA

2005 RECORD: 10-2 (6-2, third).

COACH: Mike Shula (20-17, fourth season). Ranked No. 8.

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 9, defense 4.

WILL FIND OUT THIS YEAR ... if Mike has any of Don's coaching genes. He has had enough time to rebuild the program that was left in shambles. He's still got the baby face, but the Tide has to keep rolling or he'll start looking old very soon.

3. LSU

2005 RECORD: 11-2 (7-1, tied for first). Ranked No. 6.

COACH: Les Miles (11-2, second season; 39-23, sixth overall).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 6, defense 5.

WILL BE ONE OF THE NATION'S BEST STORIES IF ... the Tigers win a championship after what happened to the state last year. If a program can survive a hurricane and still contend for a league title, anything is possible the next year.

4. ARKANSAS

2005 RECORD: 4-7 (2-6, fourth).

COACH: Houston Nutt (57-40, ninth season; 93-62 14th overall).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 10, defense 9.

WILL GET BACK TO A BOWL GAME IF ... Nutt's decision to turn over the play-calling duties to a man with no college experience turns out to be a good one.

5. MISSISSIPPI STATE

2005 RECORD: 3-8 (1-7, tied for fifth).

COACH: Sylvester Croom (6-16, third season).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 3, defense 9.

WILL MAKE ITS WAY OUT OF THE CELLAR IF ... QB Michael Henig can get better command of the West Coast offense and improve upon his play at the end of last season. Croom has made some strides, but it's still a long way to the top.

6. MISSISSIPPI

2005 RECORD: 3-8 (1-7, tied for fifth).

COACH: Ed Orgeron (3-8, second season).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 5, defense 5.

WILL BE A TEAM TO WATCH OUT FOR IF ... former Miami offensive coordinator Dan Werner can make former Tennessee QB Brent Schaeffer into an SEC-caliber signal caller. In his second season, Orgeron is an experiment that is still in the test tube.

EAST DIVISION

1. GEORGIA

2005 RECORD: 10-3 (6-2, first in division; SEC champions). Lost 38-35 to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl. Final AP ranking, No. 10.

COACH: Mark Richt (52-13, sixth season at Georgia).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 4, defense 5.

WILL WIN THE LEAGUE IF ... they can find a quarterback. With another SEC title, Richt may become the new dominant coach in the league. A soft SEC West schedule sets up well for the Bulldogs.

2. TENNESSEE

2005 RECORD: 5-6 (3-5, tied for fourth).

COACH: Phillip Fulmer (128-37, 15th season).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 6, defense 5.

WILL RETURN TO THE GLORY DAYS IF ... the return of offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, who coached quarterback Peyton Manning, can make the Vols excel on offense again.

3. FLORIDA

2005 RECORD: 9-3 (5-3, tied for second). Ranked No. 12.

COACH: Urban Meyer (9-3, second season; 48-11 sixth overall).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 6, defense 6.

WILL CHALLENGE FOR SEC TITLE IF ... it has a tailback rush for more than 1,000 yards and can survive a brutal midseason schedule. Meyer's offense requires a strong running game; and the Gators didn't have one last season. Contrary to popular belief, if you can't run, it's hard to win.

4. SOUTH CAROLINA

2005 RECORD: 7-5 (5-3, tied for second)

COACH: Steve Spurrier (7-5, second season; 196-84-2 22nd overall).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 6, defense 4.

WILL BUY SPURRIER A NEW GOLF COURSE IF ... he embarrasses as many traditional SEC powers as he did a year ago (Meyer and Fulmer). Are you ready for just how bad this whole thing could really get?

5. VANDERBILT

2005 RECORD: 5-6 (3-5, tied for fourth).

COACH: Bobby Johnson (11-35, fifth season; 71-71 13th overall).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 7, defense 6.

WILL REALIZE HOW MUCH it RELIED ON JAY CUTLER WHEN ... they play without their quarterback this season. Just think: last season was among their best in nearly 20 years and the Commodores still didn't make a bowl game. What else do we really need to say?

6. KENTUCKY

2005 RECORD: 3-8 (2-6, sixth).

COACH: Rich Brooks (9-25, fourth season; 100-134-4 22nd overall).

STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 8, defense 6.

WILL SELL OUT THE BASKETBALL SEASON IN RECORD TIME AFTER ... Wildcats fans see what this team is going to look like. The biggest question now is who would dare attempt to move into Brooks' office?