SEC Conference Report
Can Alabama repeat as SEC champ? How will Florida fare in the post-Tebow era? Is Les Miles really on the hot seat at LSU?'s 2010 conference reports continue with Andy Staples' SEC breakdown.
How They'll Finish
South Carolina 4-47-5
Ole Miss3-57-5
Mississippi State2-65-7
Conference Championship: Alabama def. Florida
Offensive MVP
Mark Ingram
2009 Season Stats: 271 carries, 1,658 rushing yards, 17 TDs
2010 Projected Stats: 250 carries, 1,510 rushing yards, 15 TDs
A lot of people believe Ingram's backup, Trent Richardson, might have the most complete skill set in Alabama's backfield, but the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner will get the lion's share of the carries again in 2010. He deserves them, too. Ingram has an uncanny knack for turning nothing into a first down. Last year, Ingram gained 1,075 yards after contact. That's a stunning statistic.
GALLERY: Ingram headlines's All-SEC Team
Defensive MVP
Patrick Peterson
2009 Season Stats: 52 tackles, 2 INTs, 13 PBUs
2010 Projected Stats: 60 tackles, 4 INTs, 15 PBUs
Opposing offensive coordinators probably will avoid Peterson's side of the field altogether. Only a few receivers -- think Alabama's Julio Jones or Georgia's A.J. Green -- have the skills to beat Peterson, and even the best could struggle against his combination of strength and speed. Even if a receiver is brawny enough to keep the 6-fot-1, 211-pound Peterson from jamming him at the line of scrimmage, he likely still can't outrun the Pompano Beach, Fla., native.
Impact Freshman
Michael Dyer
High School Stats: 2,502 rushing yards, 31 TDs
2010 Projected Stats: 170 carries, 950 yards, 10 TDs
The popular misconception about Auburn coordinator Gus Malzahn's offense? That it's an all-out aerial assault. Not true. It works best when a back is gaining big chunks of yardage between the tackles. Enter the 5-9, 215-pound Dyer, who should be able to replace the carries and yards the Tigers lost when Ben Tate went to the NFL.
STAPLES: There's no debate, SEC football is still king
Coach On The Hot Seat
Les Miles
Last Season: 9-4 (5-3 SEC)
Career at LSU: 51-15 (28-14 SEC)
Miles won a national title three years ago. He has a sterling record at LSU. So why is his name in this space? Because he's gone 8-8 in SEC play over the past two seasons, and LSU is expected to compete for the national title every season. If Miles can't keep the Tigers in the conversation for at least the SEC title, he could be in trouble.
Three Key Nonconference Games
LSU vs. North Carolina (Atlanta, Ga.)
Saturday, Sept. 4
8 p.m. ET (ABC)
The Tigers can answer a lot of questions about whether their offense can move the ball against the Tar Heels' stingy defense. LSU's defense should be able to stop North Carolina's offense, which has been a weak link. The Tigers would love to use a win in this game to launch their season the same way Alabama did the past two seasons.
Penn State at Alabama
Saturday, Sept. 11
7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The newly expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,000-plus) will rock when Bear Bryant's voice growls "I ain't never been nothing but a winner" over the speakers just before the defending national champs take the field. Another winner will stand on the opposite sideline. Penn State's Joe Paterno, winner of an FBS-best 394 and counting, will face the Crimson Tide for the first time since a 9-0 win in 1990.
Florida at Florida State
Saturday, Nov. 27
This hasn't been much of a rivalry in recent years. Florida has won the past six meetings, and the last three haven't even been close. That could change this season. QB Tim Tebow, who played some of his better games against the Seminoles, is in the NFL. Florida State's offense should be one of the nation's best, and the Seminoles' defense has nowhere to go but up after last season.
VIDEO: How will Florida rebound from turbulent offseason?
Three Key Conference Games
Georgia at South Carolina
Saturday, Sept. 11
Noon ET (ESPN)
If -- and it's a big if -- Florida is vulnerable in the East this year, this early-season clash could determine which division rival challenges the Gators. Georgia's new 3-4 defense will get its first test from a Gamecocks' offense that could look different than any Steve Spurrier has ever fielded. The Fun 'n' Gun now includes a package of zone-read runs. Meanwhile, Georgia redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray will take on an SEC defense for the first time.
Florida at Alabama
Saturday, Oct. 2
The SEC championship game hasn't featured a rematch of a regular-season game since Auburn-Tennessee in 2004. As fate would have it, that regular-season matchup was also played on Oct. 2. Florida and Alabama have faced off in the past two SEC title games, and the winner has gone on to claim the BCS title. That could be trickier this season with two potential meetings.
Auburn at Alabama
Friday, Nov. 26
2:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
When Alabama crushed Auburn, 36-0, in 2008 at Bryant-Denny Stadium to snap a six-year losing streak against the Tigers, it seemed the Crimson Tide would own the Iron Bowl for a long time. Then, last year, Auburn nearly stopped Alabama's march to the national title on Black Friday. Auburn is better in Gene Chizik's second season, and that improvement could produce one of the most meaningful Iron Bowls in years.
Did You Know?
Though most preseason predictions -- including the one earlier in this preview -- have Florida winning a third consecutive Eastern division title, Gators coach Urban Meyer isn't so confident. Meyer, who must replace quarterback Tim Tebow, linebacker Brandon Spikes and a host of NFL draft picks, believes the Gators' division is up for grabs. "I don't know if there's ever been one much greater than the other as far as talent," Meyer said. "It's about staying healthy, getting chemistry going on your team. I think the East is completely wide open."
After the turmoil of the past two seasons, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton sent a letter to fans on Aug. 1 that seemed aimed at girding them for the long season ahead. "I would ask for your unwavering support of these young men who have been through so much," Hamilton wrote. "Some strong leaders have emerged out of the trials of the last 24 months, and I expect their character will be revealed in the season ahead."
Vanderbilt interim coach Robbie Caldwell has had tougher jobs than the one he took over when Bobby Johnson abruptly retired last month. Caldwell's first job, at a turkey farm in Pageland, S.C., certainly wasn't glamorous. "I don't know if I could tell you what my job was, but I was on the inseminating crew," Caldwell said. "That's a fact. I worked my way to the top."
SEC Video Preview
Top Contenders
Source: SI breaks down why Alabama, Florida and Georgia look like the top SEC contenders in 2010.

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