Before I write anything about this post, I'm going to try to hold off the onslaught of critics by stating the obvious: This is utterly unscientific, likely pointless and completely for fun because... well we still have three months before we get any concrete evidence on how the 2010 SEC season will unfold.
Over the past few months I've done a bit of numerical analysis in hopes of getting a better idea of what's in store in the coming season.
I looked at the (once again) minimal depth at the QB position around the SEC.
I looked at the returning firepower in the receiving game, running game and scoring around the league.
I studied how many tackles, turnovers and sacks each team was returning from last year's squads.
I also looked at the returning experience on the offensive lines for each team.
So after doing all that, I figured it might be interesting to put all the numbers together to try to get a big-picture feel of who might be the teams to beat in each division.
Of course, while I freely admit this is an unscientific methodology, I also wanted to try to make it as complete -- and hopefully reasonably accurate -- as possible. So there were a few more things to take into consideration.
For one, there's leadership. I'm not really sure how much any of that matters, but for the sake of argument I figured it was worth considering how many veterans would be on each team's roster. Luckily, Phil Steele has captured those numbers already.
Steele also was helpful enough to solve another issue by coming up with a ranking for which teams faced the toughest schedules this season.
And while many of these numbers judge the talent that left a particular school since last year, it's also worth considering what has been added. For that, I added up Scout's recruiting scores for each SEC from the past two years (i.e. the freshmen and redshirt freshmen most likely to step in during the 2010 season) to get a ranking for that, too.
And finally, I figured there should be an edge given to teams with great coaches, too. I didn't have a great measure of that exactly. I considered using a comment from our favorite angry anonymous poster, but his list only included 11 coaches, ranked Derek Dooley five spots ahead of Mark Richt, and failed to include Dan Mullen's name, but rather simply referred to him as "that coach from Mississippi State." Instead, I tried to find the second-most arbitrary list I could... so here's one from Bleacher Report.
(Note: To wrap up, Georgia ranked fourth in experience, third in schedule, fifth in recruiting and fourth in coaching.)
To reach our final score, I simply ranked each team in each category and added them all up. The team with the lowest score (i.e. the highest rank in each category, on average) should theoretically be the best team. Here's how the numbers turned out:
|SEC East||SEC West|
| S. Carolina||62||Arkansas||41|
| Florida ||77||Alabama||65|
|Kentucky||90|| Ole Miss||87|
|Tennessee||93|| Miss. State||89|
*Note: There were 12 categories considered, so Georgia's score of 64 means the Dawgs ranked, on average, 5th in each category (i.e. avg. score of 5.3).
Again, there are plenty of flaws in this analysis. For one, the methods of establishing rankings are pretty arbitrary. For example, I used QB TDs thrown as my ranking for the quarterbacks. That really hurts Aaron Murray -- the only starting QB without a TD pass -- and he's no doubt a good bit better than Larry Smith. That metric also ranks someone like Stephen Garcia pretty high (second overall). Judging by what their coaches have said this offseason, however, there's every reason to believe that neither QB is being ranked properly. And, if you assume both Murray and Garcia will essentially be league average, that would bump Georgia down to a score of 58 and jump South Carolina up to a 66.
So, the point remains that this probably doesn't mean much. But it might be worth making a few big-picture points based on the numbers.
First, all those folks predicting another Alabama-Florida SEC CG might be getting a bit ahead of themselves. Both teams have strong recruiting classes ready to step in, but it's hard to overlook all the talent that has left Gainesville and Tuscaloosa in the past year.
Second, LSU could be in some serious trouble. I don't believe the Bayou Bengals will be as bad as Vandy, but they have a tough schedule, a problematic QB and a lot of holes on both sides of the ball they'll need to fill.
Third, there are some good reasons for the hype surrounding Arkansas and Auburn as chic picks to win the West. I'm still not entirely sold on Arkansas, which gets a nice score due to having so many returning players, but is it really that big of a deal to return so much on defense when the D wasn't that good to begin with? Auburn, on the other hand... I'm really starting to buy in to that one.And last, despite all the questions about the defensive scheme and the QB, Georgia can make a pretty strong case for being the favorite in the East. No, none of this means anything now, but if Murray can be decent and the D can force more turnovers than it did last year... well, there's good reason to be excited about what could be in store.