Alabama-Ole Miss clash could decide SEC West

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, July 12, 2009

While there seems to be no debate over Florida’s invincibility in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division, the West will be much more up in the air, right? Probably not.

Alabama and Ole Miss should be the class of the division. It’s difficult to see a solid Ole Miss team losing to anyone other than ‘Bama because the Rebels have the most favorable conference schedule possible. Ole Miss doesn’t play the three best teams from the East (Florida, Georgia and Kentucky) and gets the three other best teams from the West (Alabama, Arkansas and LSU) at home. So, who wins what could be a match-up of two top-10, unbeaten teams on Oct. 10 in Oxford, Miss.? The better team, and that will be Alabama.

But the Crimson Tide will have a hangover performance the very next week and lose at home to South Carolina. The Crimson Tide will be walking a ledge the rest of the season with Ole Miss waiting on a slip…that never happens.

Much can, and probably will, change between now and then, but Florida appears an easy pick to top Alabama again in the SEC Championship Game. That would be the two teams’ seventh meeting in the game. Twice is the most any other two teams have met for the championship.

This scenario noticeably doesn’t include LSU, winners of two national championships in the past six seasons. That’s because the two problems from last year’s 3-5 conference campaign still linger: an unsettled quarterback situation and a defense that lacks the overwhelming talent the Tigers had in their championship days. Jordan Jefferson looked great in the blow out of Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but, after his first bad game, expect fans to scream for hotshot true freshman Russell Shepherd and coaches to wonder whether the more experienced Jarrett Lee would be the best option. Expect another 3-5 SEC mark.

Arkansas, under second-year coach Bobby Petrino, and Auburn, under first-year coach Gene Chizik, will improve enough on last year’s sub-par seasons to earn bowl bids. Don’t expect the same thing from Mississippi State, though, under new coach Dan Mullen. The Bulldogs will likely go winless in conference play.