HOW THEY'LL FINISH
This is an article from the Aug. 16, 2010 issue
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: DEC. 4 IN ATLANTA ALABAMA OVER FLORIDA
Best offensive player
RB, Alabama, Jr.
The reigning Heisman winner rushed for 1,658 yards last year, with 1,075 of those coming after contact, and will again be a major factor in a run-first attack.
Top defensive player
CB, LSU, Jr.
The 6' 1", 211-pound Peterson can overpower most receivers at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately for the wideouts, Peterson can outrun most of them too.
True freshman to watch
RB, South Carolina
The 6-foot 210-pounder, rated the No. 1 running back by some recruiting services, should play early for a team that was last in the SEC in rushing in 2009.
Coach on the rise
Many Tigers fans were ticked off when Chizik (left), who was 5--19 at Iowa State, was hired. After a three-win improvement in 2009, those fans are smiling now.
Coach on the hot seat
He may have won a national title, but an 8--8 record in SEC play the past two seasons plus mismanaging the clock at Ole Miss last year has ended his grace period.
PLAYERS TO WATCH (Top performers from unranked teams)
LB, Auburn, Sr.
The 6' 2", 239-pound quarterback of the defense is the hard-to-find middle linebacker who rarely comes off the field. Last year he led the team in tackles (104).
WR-PR-KR, Kentucky, Jr.
Cobb will do it all, from catching balls to returning punts and kicks to taking snaps in the WildCobb formation. Few players in the nation will contribute more.
WR, Georgia, Jr.
The 6' 4" Green, who had 808 receiving yards in '09 despite missing three games with a shoulder injury, is as big a receiving threat in the air as he is down the field.
LB, Vanderbilt, Jr.
The SEC's top tackler in '09, Marve has made more than 100 stops in each of his first two years and will be counted upon to lead a run D that was worst in the conference.
DT, Ole Miss, Sr.
Down from 383 pounds to a mere 320, Powe is still a mountain in the middle of a line that is expected to be one of the best in the conference.
With only two inexperienced scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, Ole Miss coach HOUSTON NUTT didn't feel he had a choice in bringing in former Oregon QB JEREMIAH MASOLI, who was dismissed by the Ducks for multiple off-the-field incidents. "The bottom line is, I think he wants to do the right thing," Nutt explained to SI. "He wants his name back." Don't be surprised to see Masoli start this season.... Vanderbilt coach ROBBIE CALDWELL inherited a wide-open QB competition from Bobby Johnson, who retired last month. Junior LARRY SMITH(below) started nine games in 2009 but completed just 46.7% of his passes. Senior JARED FUNK impressed coaches in the spring but spent more time in punt coverage last year than under center. A potential wild card is junior JORDAN RODGERS, a rare (for Vandy) juco transfer whose older brother is Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.... MANNY DIAZ, one of Mississippi State's first-year co--defensive coordinators, brings an innovative blitzing scheme to Starkville from his previous stops at Middle Tennessee and N.C. State. "We run an offensive defense," he says. The new D should free up linebacker K.J. WRIGHT and defensive end PERNELL MCPHEE to improve their sack numbers.