Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The SEC Race is a jumble

 

Want to know just how confusing and unpredictable the SEC Race will be this season? Take a look at Kendall Rogers’s predictions for the League:

Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi – Yes, that is right, the SEC will have 10 teams with regional aspirations at the end of the season. Auburn fell just short of reaching an NCAA regional last season, but hopes to take a step forward this season by returning to the postseason.

Honestly, you could throw a dart and pick a team to be the SEC favorite. Personally, I don’t put much stock in Rogers’s predictions. All of the SEC teams have question marks, and picking a winner or a favorite is far from clear cut.

Above all, Auburn WILL be better than 2009. We were almost there last year and I’m hard pressed to see a reason we can’t get to Hoover this year. Again, it will be pretty much do-or-die in 2010, but everyone knows that.

Last year, we were hit by the injury bug and lost two of 2008’s breakout contributors (Ryan Jenkins and Corey Luckie) and spent most of 2009 filling those voids (Caldwell stepped up for Jenkins, but no one could fully replace Luckie). However, looking at Rogers’s assessments, there is concern for almost every SEC team except Auburn. Yes, the Tigers have question marks, but they are just that, questions and not concerns.

Arkansas and South Carolina are my personal favorites for the league. South Carolina could be missing a stud at 1B, but they have guys in place that could easily slot in. Arkansas is just stacked, top to bottom.

LSU Has the best pitcher (Anthony Ranaudo) and hitter in the league, but the weekend rotation is suspect right now. Outside of Ranaudo, there is a huge drop-off on Saturday and Sunday. That favors Auburn. The LSU series will be at home and Friday night games at Plainsman Park are something special. If we can beat Ranaudo, I have to like our chances on Saturday and Sunday.

Kentucky’s season depends on James Paxton. If he’s ineligible then UK will be playing catch-up all year.

All Auburn has to do is be better than 5 teams in the league. On paper, we are better than Tennessee and Mississippi State, who are still rebuilding. We have to be favored against Vanderbilt (a team with depth questions, injury questions, and coaching questions). That leaves Kentucky and Alabama. Both those series will be crucial for Auburn to establish distance later in the season.

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