Three SEC dark horses for this fall

May, 23, 2011
5/23/11
2:30
PM ET
Numbers have been crunched, spring games have been watched and rosters have been thoroughly examined. So, we all know who will be tabbed as the SEC favorites heading into the fall.

When all the preseason polls come out, Alabama and LSU will most likely be in the top five, while Arkansas should hover around the top 10. South Carolina should be the highest ranked representative from the East and will be the favorite to make it to Atlanta for the SEC title game.

But there is also the slim chance that the media will be wrong about these teams, leaving for a surprise to bask in SEC glory.

Auburn was that team last year, so it will come as no real surprise if there is another team that surpasses expectations to challenge for a championship.

Here's a look at my three SEC dark horses for the upcoming season:

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have been a sexy pick this spring to be the team that challenges those four for the SEC crown. Mississippi State returns most of the components of an offense that ranked fifth in the SEC in total offense (401.3 yards per game). One of those components is quarterback Chris Relf, who showed at the end of last season that he's got quite the arm to go with his legs. He'll have plenty of targets to throw to with tremendous depth returning at wide receiver. The Bulldogs must replace remembers of the front seven on defense, starting with three linebacker spots, but they will have a very strong and frustrating secondary to help out.

Georgia: This group of Bulldogs has the talent to make it to Atlanta and win it all. But that seems to be the theme in Athens every year. The star of the show is sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who improved both his on-field game and leadership skills this spring and could be the most talented quarterback in the league. He doesn't have A.J. Green to throw to anymore, but he does have the talented Tavarres King at the flanker spot and Orson Charles at tight end, who could move out to receiver at times as well. The defense should be one of the most fun to watch this fall, with a pack of talented linebackers and a strong secondary. Finding playmakers at receiver and running back are the next steps.

Florida: Like Georgia, Florida has the talent to compete for a title. However, there is a new regime in Gainesville and there are a ton of questions on offense. The offense really struggled in the spring game, but new coach Will Muschamp made it clear that he was happy with how it looked throughout spring. Defensively, the Gators have a lot more speed and athleticism out there. The front seven should be much more aggressive, especially when it switches over to the 3-4 during games. The secondary significantly downgraded with the dismissal of All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins, but there is young talent there and the hope is that the front seven will make it tough for teams to get into a passing rhythm.

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