Exciting set up for 2004 SEC football

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 1, 2004

She sat with an almost disgusted look on her face as I flipped through the pages of the magazine like a child with a brand new toy.

&uot;Is it time for football, already?&uot;

My wife should know better, after all she grew up in Alabama.

It’s always time for football. Especially around here.

If it’s not being played, it’s at least being talked about.

A host of pre-season publications hit the streets in the past few weeks, sparking the passion that will grow more heated with the coming summer swelter.

Yes, football is just around the corner.

Thompson graduate Tony Bell will report alongside the incoming freshman players at Auburn on Aug. 5.

And the pride of Briarwood Christian’s state championship team, Simeon Castille, will report for duty at Alabama on Aug. 9.

Both players have a chance of making an early impact on teams fighting for position in college football’s toughest conference.

Here’s a look at our predictions for the SEC.

In the west:

1. LSU: Fresh off a share of the national championship, the Tigers will finish tops in the SEC West. Though they don’t have the bite to compete for another national title, an SEC crown is not far from reach.

2. Auburn: This could finally be the season Tommy Tuberville’s Tigers put it all together on the Plains. The offense is loaded with Carnell &uot;Cadillac&uot; Williams and Ronnie Brown in the backfield, but questions about quarterback Jason Campbell and the defense linger.

3. Arkansas: The Razorbacks have become as fierce as feral hogs under coach Houston Nutt.

4. Alabama: The Tide could surprise with a better season now that NCAA sanctions have expired. But a lack of depth will make the road difficult for Mike Shula.

5. Ole Miss: Eli Manning is gone to the NFL, leaving behind a Rebels team that relied heavily on his golden arm.

6. Mississippi State: Sylvester Croom will likely turn the Bulldogs into a better football team, but they still have a long way to go. Regardless, look for Croom’s trip to Tuscaloosa to be an exciting matchup.

In the east:

1. Georgia: The Bulldogs have more proven talent returning than any other team in the league.

2. Florida: Young quarterback Chris Leak will prove to be one of the nation’s best in just his sophomore season.

3. Tennessee: The Vols have slipped from their dominance of year’s past and won’t bounce back this year with an unproven quarterback.

4. South Carolina: The Gamecocks might be better than expected this season with the ancient Lou Holtz on the sidelines in the twilight of his career.

5. Kentucky: The Wildcats were getting better, but they lost two key seniors in quarterback Jared Lorenzen and receiver Derek Abney.

6. Vanderbilt: No surprise to see the Commodores at the bottom. After all, the school recently merged the athletic department with intramural sports.

Ashley Vansant will be sports editor at the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at mailto:ashley.vansant@shelbycountyreporter.com