In three of the past four seasons, the SEC West champion has gone on to become the national champion. That's quite a statement for any conference, much less a single division of a conference.
It wasn't that long ago that the West looked like it might be losing some momentum in the battle with the East for SEC supremacy. Then over the course of 2007-09, the division traded Mike Shula, Ed Orgeron, and Sylvester Croom for Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, and Dan Mullen. That is how you revitalize a division.
So in 2011, the West's hold over the conference is unquestioned. Its hold on the nation is pretty strong too. The division has three teams in the top 15 of the preseason consensus as it stands today, matched only by the Big 12 and surpassed only by the overall SEC's four teams. Alabama stands at No. 1, while LSU is in the hunt at No. 5.
In other words, if prized true freshman Cyrus Kouandjio demonstrates that he can get the job done at left tackle, Jones will stay at guard. The same goes for senior Alfred McCullough, who played some left tackle in the spring. McCullough, though, is probably best suited to play guard. In an ideal world, the Crimson Tide would like to keep Jones inside. That way, they keep their interior intact with senior William Vlachos at center and junior Chance Warmack at left guard. Sophomore D.J. Fluker returns at right tackle, and he's probably going to stay on the right side.
Perhaps no new addition comes with more anticipation than Duron Carter, a transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. Since his commitment last spring to sign with Alabama, he has been hyped with the potential to be the Crimson Tide's next big-game wide receiver. The reputation spawns from his pedigree. His father is Cris Carter, who starred with the Minnesota Vikings and Ohio State.
Despite falling short last year, Alabama is overwhelmingly considered the team to beat in the Southeastern Conference. During recent media voting it had had 16 players selected for preseason All-SEC honors, nine first-team, both being records. The various preseason watch lists for national awards already have 32 Crimson Tide names on them. "I love all the expectations," junior running back Trent Richardson said. "At the end of the day, I want to live up to that. I want to be able to say like ‘Hey, I did that’ or ‘We did that.’ At the same time, it’s hard because you got a big target on your back, but that’s nothing to be scared of."
Potential matchup I’d like to see: Western Michigan against Alabama. So it lacks the name panache of some other potential finals -- this still could be an interesting game. The Broncos return all five of their starters to a team that won the West Division of the MAC and could be a nice sleeper/Cinderella pick come March. Put that sort of nothing-to-lose mid-major attitude up against an Alabama team that is facing legitimate expectations for the first time in a long time and you could have the makings of an entertaining game.
This is former Alabama coach Gene Stallings and former Auburn coach Pat Dye sitting on the beach at Gulf Shores, Alabama. Below is a conversation they might be having while sitting buried in sand (for a commercial for Gulf Shores tourism, but they might not know that, and that is crucial for our story here.)
Phil Steele breaks down homefield advantages for every CFB team and finds Alabama tied at sixth and tied at the top of the SEC with Florida and LSU.
"Wow. Wow," Jackson said. "What an improvement. What a different guy. Last year, obviously, I wasn’t as involved with him that way but I see a guy with a lot more confidence, really taking command of our defense, is the leader of our defense, wants that responsibility, understands that it’s time for him to play like he can play. Not that he didn’t a year ago but he knows that I expect for him to play like they play. The guys play every day so he comes to practice with that attitude. He brings it. He demands it from the rest of the defense, him and Richard and Tommy. Those guys are doing a good job." McClain declined to be interviewed. He rarely speaks with the media. However, he said he intends to speak Sunday.
"Education is really important and essential to having a good life," Ingram said. As for the rest of his visit to the Arsenal, Ingram spent time at the Exchange signing autographs and then toured the Software Engineering Directorate. He said he was excited to visit a military base. "To be around the Soldiers, the people who fight for us every day, is a tremendous blessing," Ingram said.
"The last two years are over with and I don't like to reflect on it. I did those things and I've grown up," said Smith. "I felt good (tonight). I did a lot of work this offseason to get my body in shape and it felt real good to be back out there with the guys."
Per multiple reports, the Chiefs have signed veteran fullback Le’Ron McClain to a one-year deal. McClain, who played enough tailback to rush for more than 900 yards in 2008 (including a Texas Stadium-imploding 82-yard touchdown run in the last game played there), joins Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones in the Kansas City backfield.