But there is an interesting trend that has permeated the 2012 version of SEC squads that will provide fans with an unpredictable and captivating season: no one team has it all together, but almost every contender has amassed incredible talent the past four years.
One of the biggest missing pieces to each team’s puzzle is who’s calling the plays and who’s taking the snaps. Teams with returning quarterbacks have new offensive coordinators. Teams with returning coordinators will have new starters. Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M have both.
But do you need continuity and talent from the quarterback spot to succeed?
The best team in the league? LSU. The Tigers were undefeated through 12 games with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson sharing snaps, and because of Parkinson’s disease, offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe had to step down to solely coach quarterbacks during fall practice before the 2011 season.
That’s about as unstable as they come.
JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger watched the ineptitude as quarterback from the sidelines last year, but the former four-star recruit is easily the best quarterback in Les Miles’ tenure.
The best quarterback in the league? Tyler Wilson of Arkansas. Most quarterbacks would love to throw to just one of Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams or Cobi Hamilton. Wilson had all four at his disposal in 2011 and threw for 3,638 yards with 24 touchdowns.
Even with only Hamilton returning in 2012, Wilson was primed for a run at the Heisman.
But coach and offensive guru Bobby Petrino took his eyes off the road while on his motorcycle and wrecked, uncovering a scandal that led to his firing in April. The lesser Petrino, Bobby’s brother Paul, remains offensive coordinator, but Bobby’s absence will be felt.
Instability. But will it matter?
It’s not like anyone else in the conference has it figured out.
Auburn is going through the second consecutive fall practice with the quarterback situation still in flux. It’s fairly obvious who will start, but new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s scheme varies greatly from his predecessor, Gus Malzahn. Alabama has returning starter A.J. McCarron, but until last year’s rematch with LSU, his primary task was not to try to win games, but simply not to lose them.
Georgia’s Aaron Murray, the league’s second best signal caller, saw standout running back Isaiah Crowell kicked off the team this summer, and he has the unfortunate task of running plays called by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
Sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will try and replace John Brantley at Florida. Both were equally atrocious (14–28, 120 yards and 1 INT combined) against Auburn last season, though they are fairly talented. New offensive coordinator Brent Pease has yet to name a starter.
Steve Spurrier finally rid himself of Stephen Garcia, South Carolina’s oft-troubled quarterback for parts of the past three seasons, but top target Alshon Jeffery left for the NFL and stud running back Marcus Lattimore is recovering from a season-ending knee injury in 2011.
And those are just the good teams.
When you drop down to Barry Brunetti (Ole Miss) and Jameill Shower (Texas A&M), things get even bleaker.
For the SEC to push its string of consecutive championships to seven, they will have to compete with teams led by Matt Barkley (Southern California) and Landry Jones (Oklahoma). Given the instability under center for many contending teams, this is the year to unseat the SEC’s run of dominance.
No contender escapes September without a test of its new offense. Those that adapt quickly will survive and march toward Atlanta. Who will those two teams be? You’ll have to watch and find out.
But you probably already knew that.