We're once again taking an early look at the 2012 college football season and colleague Mark Schlabach yet again provides us with a few talking points. On Friday, he unleashed his Way-Too-Early To0-Early 2012 Top 25 and it has six SEC teams in it:
8. West Virginia
10. South Carolina
11. Michigan State
17. Ohio State
18. Kansas State
22. Oklahoma State
23. Virginia Tech
25. Georgia Tech
LSU and Alabama are ranked where I'd have them. Both look like they'll once again be two of the most talented teams in the country this fall. It seems hard to believe that LSU's offensive won't be better and more balanced with juco transfer Zach Mettenberger taking over at quarterback. LSU's defense has a couple of holes to fill, but it doesn't look like that will be too hard for the Tigers. Alabama should also see an offensive boost in the passing game with an older AJ McCarron and coach Nick Saban is making sure this year's defense doesn't go the way of the 2010 group.
Georgia has the schedule to make it back to Atlanta and that team that Mark Richt has isn't too bad either. But suspensions to four defensive starters to begin the season is a concern, especially with a trip to Missouri coming in Week 2. Quarterback Aaron Murray said this spring that despite the distractions that have come with the suspensions, this team is still very focused on its goals, but the pressure will surely be on the Dawgs in 2012.
South Carolina should probably be a little higher, but with Marcus Lattimore coming off of that knee injury, it's tough to know what this team will do this fall. The defense returns a handful of talent, while quarterback Connor Shaw picked up where he left off last season, which is a good thing for the Gamecocks' offense. South Carolina does face LSU and Arkansas this season, meaning the Gamecocks will have to at least split those to challenge Georgia for the East title.
The loss of Bobby Petrino has Arkansas trending down a bit, but if players rally the way they said they would under interim coach John L. Smith, the Razorbacks will be dangerous this fall. The offense is still loaded, led by quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis, and new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes should help Arkansas have a more aggressive defense. There will still be questions surrounding this team with Petrino out and Smith in, but the Razorbacks are still very confident and don't anticipate taking steps back. Having Alabama and LSU at home this year will play in the Hogs' favor as well.
The Gators saw improvements on and off the field this spring and coach Will Muschamp is much happier now than he was a year ago. I think Florida is a little high on this list, but an improved offensive line and more confidence in Gainesville could go a long way for the Gators. While Muschamp was happy with the strides made on the field, he was even more pleased with the chemistry of his team. Players are stepping up as leaders and buying into the program more. Muschamp is in charge of a tougher team this fall, but will play his first two SEC games on the road this year.