- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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By popular demand, my SEC fearless predictions are back.
And this season, you’re not only going to get mine, but Edward Aschoff will also join the fray.
So that’s 20 predictions to live by in the SEC this season.
Among them: Randall Cobb scoring touchdowns four different ways, Vanderbilt scoring 20 points or more in an SEC game, Tennessee losing at least six games for the third time in six seasons and SEC commissioner Mike Slive averaging three more hours of sleep per night with Lane Kiffin no longer in the conference.
Turns out I was a little too conservative on Slive’s sleep habits. The commissioner tells me it was closer to four more hours of sleep with Kiffin on the West Coast.
OK, he didn’t really say that, but he did think it was funny.
And, yes, I did miss a few last season. For example, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson didn’t each rush for 1,000 yards. In fact, neither one of them did. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett didn’t throw 40 touchdown passes. He was “held” to 32. Georgia didn’t win 10 games, either. Instead, the Bulldogs finished 6-7, the first losing season of the Mark Richt era.
We don’t rest on our laurels on the SEC blog (good or bad), so let’s delve deeper into what to expect this season.
Here are 10 predictions to live by in 2011:
1. The SEC will make it six in a row. I’m not going as far as to say it will be a fifth different team, but the SEC will extend its streak to six straight BCS national championships. For what it’s worth, no conference had won more than three in a row before the SEC went on its current tear.
2. Alabama senior linebacker Courtney Upshaw will lead the SEC in sacks. He was plagued by an ankle injury early last season, but lived in the opposing backfield the last two games. He had five of his seven sacks against Auburn and Michigan State. The 6-2, 265-pound senior will make a run at doubling that number this season.
3. South Carolina will win 10 games. Granted, some people out there may be shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Ten wins? That’s no big deal.” Well, it would be for the Gamecocks when you consider they’ve only won 10 or more games one time in school history. The key will be getting to 10 in the regular season.
4. Arkansas senior linebacker Jerry Franklin will lead the Hogs in tackles … again. If you’re counting, that would be four straight seasons, making him the first player in Arkansas history to accomplish that feat. Franklin has improved on his tackle total every year. He had 87 as a redshirt freshman, 94 as a sophomore and 100 last season as a junior.
5. Ohio State’s bowl drought against the SEC will continue. We all thought the Buckeyes’ futility against the SEC in bowl games had finally ended with their 31-26 win over Arkansas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. But Ohio State announced in July that it was vacating all of its wins from the 2010 season for playing ineligible players. So, officially, the Buckeyes are still 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games. Come January, probably in either the Capital One or Outback bowls, look for that drought to reach 10 in a row. At this rate, the SEC might have everybody off of probation before the Buckeyes ever beat an SEC team in a bowl game.
6. There will be more Colonel Reb sightings than Black Bear sightings in The Grove. I can’t speak for all the fine folks at Ole Miss, but this whole Black Bear business still seems odd. At the very least, I hear Ole Miss’ new on-field mascot, who’s nicknamed “Rebel” by the way, has learned the words to “Hotty Toddy.”
7. LSU sophomore running back Spencer Ware will rush for 1,200 yards. With all the talk about the suspensions of quarterback Jordan Jefferson and receiver Russell Shepard, don’t forget that the Tigers still have a slew of talented playmakers on offense. Right there at the top is Ware, who can also catch it and throw it. The Tigers will put his many talents to good use this season.
8. South Carolina’s super-duper combo of Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery will combine for more than 3,000 all-purpose yards for the second straight season. A year ago, Lattimore had 1,197 rushing yards and 412 receiving yards, while Jeffery racked up 1,517 receiving yards. Defenses will be keying on their every move this season, but they open up things for each other.
9. Vanderbilt will win as many games as they have the last two seasons combined. That means the Commodores will win at least four games in James Franklin’s first season as coach. They won two each of the last two seasons, winning just one SEC game along the way. Only five times in the last 16 seasons has Vanderbilt won more than three games.
10. Georgia will beat Florida. I went out on a limb last season and wrongly predicted the Bulldogs would win 10 games, so call me delusional for venturing down a similar path again this season. I’m not predicting 10 wins, but I am predicting that Georgia will finally take out some frustration against Florida and beat the Gators on Oct. 29 in Jacksonville. How big would a win over Florida be for Georgia? Since the 1990 season, Georgia has won a grand total of three times in a rivalry that hasn’t been much of one for the last two decades.