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Countdown to kickoff: SEC predictions

8/29/2012

GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throughout August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, Helman and Laney give their SEC predictions:

Eastern Division

Gary Laney: 1. Georgia, 2. South Carolina, 3. Florida, 4. Missouri, 5. Tennessee, 6. Vanderbilt, 7. Kentucky

When it comes down to it, I like Georgia's ability to produce big passing numbers with Aaron Murray over South Carolina's ability to churn rushing yards with a Marcus Lattimore who may, or may not by healthy. Florida is a worthy and dangerous darkhorse and I think Missouri will be a better SEC team than some think.

Helman: 1. South Carolina, 2. Georgia, 3. Florida, 4. Tennessee, 5. Vanderbilt, 6. Missouri, 7. Kentucky

Georgia gets a lot of love for an easy schedule, but I happen to think the Gamecocks are just that much better as a team. Lattimore is All-America caliber, the pass rush is one of the best in the nation and I think Connor Shaw will turn some heads. I think Tennessee is due for something good to happen, and I think Missouri will need to recruit heavily along the lines before it can factor into the race.

Western Division

Laney: 1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Arkansas, 4. Auburn, 5. Mississippi State, 6. Texas A&M, 7. Ole Miss

Both LSU and Alabama remain teams with potentially dominant defenses and physical running games. I like LSU because while I think Alabama knows what it is in the passing game, I think LSU will be light years better with its passing game and thus, will be much better. If I had confidence that Arkansas could defend at the same level as the Tigers or Tide, the Hogs would be my favorite. Where I like Missouri, I'm skeptical of A&M's transition, at least in year one.

Helman: 1. LSU, 2. Arkansas, 3. Alabama, 4. Mississippi State, 5. Auburn, 6. Texas A&M, 7. Ole Miss

The Crimson Tide are loaded, but I think they simply lose too much off that defense to stay at a championship-caliber level this year. AJ McCarron is good, but not good enough to carry a team for 12 weeks, and I don't think Eddie Lacy or T.J. Yeldon will be the same workhorses that Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson were -- at least not this year.

Arkansas might have the best QB-RB duo in the SEC in Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis, and they get Bama and LSU at home. And I think this is the year Dan Mullen and Mississippi State get a statement win in the SEC West. He's got an experienced offense and what should be a stingy defense.

SEC Championship

Laney: LSU 24, Georgia 21

I can't resist predicting another Mettenberger-Murray battle. Mettenberger goes home and wins.

Helman: LSU 34, South Carolina 20

I think LSU once again over powers the East and repeats. But I'm not sure if it will be enough to get them to Miami.

Major Post Season Bowls

Laney: LSU vs. USC, BCS championship game; Georgia in Sugar Bowl, Alabama in Cotton Bowl.

The SEC's BCS winning streak is on the line with a team proven capable of playing poorly in a BCS title game.

Helman: LSU vs. Florida State, Sugar Bowl; Arkansas in Fiesta Bowl, Alabama in Cotton Bowl.

The streak has to end sometime, right? I think the SEC West finally cannibalizes itself out of the national title race this season, with both LSU and Arkansas finishing 10-2 and out of contention, while Alabama goes 9-3.