Thursday, August 13, 2009


By Dan Harralson

The 2009 SEC Western Division race should be one of the best divisional races since the league expanded in 1992. In the past we have seen a three-team Eastern Division race between Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia. We have seen the BCS tiebreaker to determine the 2004 East champion and many more close races between the three-headed monster in the East. The 2009 season is different from what we are used to. In the early 90's, the west was usually won by Alabama (much like Florida of late in the east.) The old east race has turned into the new west race, a race that really has never existed. The western division is fielding three teams in the preseason top ten (Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU.) The much deserved headline, between the three schools, in pursuit of making the Atlanta Georgia Dome trip in early December: THE COACH; THE SCHEDULE; AND THE PROGRAM.

Nick Saban provides and back's up THE COACH ROLE. Saban is entering his third season at The Capstone. He has turned around Michigan State, LSU, and now has returned the glory days to Crimson Tide football. Alabama may have lossed John Parker Wilson, Glen Coffee, Andre Smith, Antoine Caldwell, Rashad Johnson, and others; but when you are Nick Saban, you only reload. Greg McElroy is entering in as the new quarterback, but Alabama is as good as it has been since the Gene Stallings days. Saban will have the Crimson Tide right back in the thick of the SEC Western Division race, by having his unbelievable recruiting efforts competing on the field and showcasing why Coach Saban is on his way to three consecutive top-ranked recruiting classes.

Ole Miss is a new edition to the three-team race, fielding the role as THE SCHEDULE. Sure, Ole Miss has never made the trip to Atlanta to play for a Southeastern Conference Championship. Why should we place this Ole Miss team in the mix: Houston Nutt and their schedule. Last season they defeated LSU, Florida, and Texas Tech all away from Oxford. In 2009, the Rebels welcome Alabama and LSU to Oxford. Houston Nutt has Atlanta SEC Championship game experience, most of his starters are returning, and most importantly a favorable schedule. If Jevan Snead is able to play Tim Tebow on December 5th, he will have earned his one All-SEC first team vote that was taken away from him.

LSU is coming off an 8-5 2008 campaign (a disappointment from recent year’s success.) LSU plays the 2009 role as THE PROGRAM. Many LSU fans hold a grudge against current Crimson Tide head coach, but they shouldn't. LSU is in this three team race due to Nick Saban's unbelievable turnaround down on the Bayou earlier this decade. Les Miles is a championship coach who has beaten the likes of Bob Stoops, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, and Nick Saban: This is why you can't count out LSU. In addition, Miles has hired John Chavis to quickly turnaround his defense (one of the best coordinator hires in the off season.) Like Alabama, the Tigers are fielding a new starting quarterback in Jordan Jefferson. Jefferson is a "Les Miles" type quarterback, which will make Miles feel more comfortable running his offense. Miles has won with a mobile quarterback that can throw, much like Jamarcus Russell and Terrance Woods (his quarterback at Oklahoma State.)

We are weeks away from the season kicking off and beginning the determination of who will be crowned as the 2009 SEC Western Division champion. All three of these coaches have coached in a combined seven SEC Championship Games. Ole Miss will try and complete what all other SEC West schools have done in the past: play for a SEC Championship in Atlanta. We will see if the Rebels can overcome LSU and Alabama, but we all know the Rebels will treat the Tide and Tigers to their festivities, at The Grove, on October 10th and November 21st. The question is: Will the Rebels take claim of the best in the west?

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