This is an article from the Aug. 21, 2006 issue
Top performersfrom unranked teams in the conference
FELIX JONES, RB
The 6-foot,208-pound sophomore will spell the injured Darren McFadden, the SEC freshman ofthe year in '05. Jones was impressive in his first year as well, running for626 yards on 99 carries and averaging 31.9 yards per kickoff return.
EARL BENNETT, WR
The only Commodoreto catch a ball in every game last year, he went wild in the final four weeks,pulling down 49 passes for 545 yards and nine TDs. His numbers may dip withoutQB Jay Cutler, but he'll provide stability to the passing game.
PATRICK WILLIS, LB
A tremendoushitter with great speed, he was the heart of a surprisingly stout defense lastseason. Despite playing with a cast on his broken right hand most of the year,the 6'2", 230-pound All-America led the SEC in tackles with 12.8 pergame.
RAFAEL LITTLE, RB
The Wildcats'version of Reggie Bush, he ranked fifth in the nation in all-purpose yards(180.2 per game) as a sophomore. Little led Kentucky in rushing (1,045 yards)and receiving (46 catches, 449 yards) and topped the SEC in punt-returnaverage.
JUSTIN HARRELL, DT
He almost leftschool for the NFL last spring, and the Vols are lucky he stayed. A forceinside, the 6'4", 300-pound Harrell is the only returning starter from lastyear's front seven. His presence ensures that Tennessee will have a formidablefront four.
These aren't theyoung, inexperienced Razorbacks of 2005, who got drilled 70-17 by the Trojansin L.A. Deep and hungry-and playing at home-the Hogs can make a huge statementwith an upset. USC had better be ready.
AUBURN AT SOUTHCAROLINA
Can you say Tigerstrap? Auburn will be coming off consecutive home games-a battle royal with LSUon Sept. 16 followed by a cakewalk against Buffalo. Five days later it's off toColumbia for a Thursday-night game on national TV.
LSU AT FLORIDA
The Tigers haven'twon three straight in this series since Carter was in the White House, but thismight be their best chance. The Gators will have their fourth game in afive-game string of SEC showdowns, with the finale coming at Auburn on Oct.14.
OLE MISS runningback BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who sat out last season after transferring fromIndiana, is poised to be a star. He started 14 games in two years with theHoosiers, rushing for 1,732 yards and 12 touchdowns. The 5'11", 211-poundjunior will be the focal point of new offensive coordinator Dan Werner'sphysical ground attack.... The SEC chances of ALABAMA will take a major hit ifwideout TYRONE PROTHRO, who suffered a broken left leg late in a 31-3 win overFlorida last Oct. 1, is unable to play. The coaching staff has remained mumabout Prothro's status, but his teammates say they are preparing to play theseason without him.... New ARKANSAS offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn didn'tarrive in Fayetteville empty-handed. The coach of the 2005 Class 5A statechampion, Springdale High-and author of a book on offensive strategy-deliveredfour Springdale recruits, including blue-chip quarterback Mitch Mustain.... TheSEC's easiest schedule belongs to SOUTH CAROLINA, which, save for aseason-ending game at Clemson, has a pillow-soft nonconference schedule, withhome dates against Wofford, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee State. Andexcept for a trip to the Swamp to take on Florida, the Gamecocks' toughestconference games will all be played in Columbia.... After ranking 113th in thenation in total offense last year, MISSISSIPPI STATE figures to get a boostfrom wideout Tony Burks, a transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast CommunityCollege. Coach Sylvester Croom believes the 6'4" 219-pounder will developinto the deep threat the offense has lacked.
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
DEC. 2 IN ATLANTALSU OVER FLORIDA