2012 SEC Football Simulated Preview From WhatIfSports.com image

2012 SEC Football Simulated Preview

We simulate the SEC football season

By Jake Westrich - WhatIfSports.com
August 28, 2012

Using our college football simulation engine, WhatIfSports.com simulated thousands of college football games to create this SEC Preview. Team ratings, player ratings and depth charts are accurate as of August 17th. What you see in the SEC Predictions table is the most likely outcome based on the computer simulations. The team-by-team schedules use Absolute Records, which you can learn more about below. Those same game-by-game simulations also generate average points per game for both teams.

SEC Predictions
EastWLOverall Record
Georgia6210-2
South Carolina448-4
Florida447-5
Missouri447-5
Vanderbilt447-5
Tennessee357-5
Kentucky174-8
WestWLOverall Record
Alabama7110-2
LSU7110-2
Arkansas629-3
Mississippi State357-5
Texas A&M356-6
Auburn356-6
Mississippi173-9

To hide the details, click here.

For this analysis, thousands of college football games are simulated, with the sum of the winning percentages of those games being our final predicted record. As can be noted, sometimes a team is "favored" (wins more than 50% of the time) in a different number of our games than the expected record shows. We list this record as the Absolute Record. The assumption of the Absolute Record is that the more likely scenario always happens. Since we know that it does not, our expected record (in the table above) is far more accurate. Also, especially since we are rounding, it is possible for a team to win a game more often, yet score the same or fewer points on average. In those cases, for Absolute Records, we always take higher winning percentage and are not predicting a tie or a win by an underdog. This is another reason why the expected records are more accurate, as the teams are so evenly matched, the game could easily go either way.


Georgia

Aaron Murray

It's another year and once again Georgia has enough talent, experience and schedule to win the SEC title, and if it's good enough to win the SEC title, it's good enough to win the national championship. Maybe, just maybe, Georgia can hope for the NCAA basketball tournament theory that all you can do is keep fielding good team after good team and wait for that one run when everything bounces the right way. If that's going to be this season, it certainly hasn't begun that way after a rocky start.

With a slew of suspensions, defections and off-the-field problems, Georgia has come under fire for having the most disastrous offseason by anyone outside of Happy Valley. Three starters in the secondary aren't going to be around for the first part of the season – have fun with that, Missouri – but it was star running back Isaiah Crowell's arrest on felony weapons charges that put the cherry on top. Now Mark Richt has come under fire for more than just not winning a national championship, but for being the head man with all the problems and all the controversies happening on his watch. However, everything will quickly be forgotten if Georgia beats the teams it's supposed to.

Georgia – with a loaded defense that will be as good as any in the SEC and a tremendous quarterback in Aaron Murray who'll make up for most issues on offense - is better than Buffalo. It's better than Missouri. It's better than Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. It's better than Kentucky, Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn and Georgia Tech. It's probably not better than South Carolina and probably won't win in Columbia, but considering the Gamecocks have to go to LSU and Florida and have to play Arkansas, an 11-1 Georgia will almost certainly get back to the SEC championship game.

Unfortunately, at this point going 11-1 and playing for the SEC title still wouldn't be enough for a program that's way overdue to go 13-1 and win the national title.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Georgia Bulldogs
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Buffalo Bulls9536-10
2@Missouri Tigers6826-20
3Florida Atlantic Owls9539-10
4Vanderbilt Commodores7927-17
5Tennessee Volunteers7428-19
6@South Carolina Gamecocks5824-21
8@Kentucky Wildcats8728-14
9Florida Gators7324-16
10Mississippi Rebels8331-14
11@Auburn Tigers7831-19
12Georgia Southern Eagles9555-7
13Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets7330-22

South Carolina

Steve Spurrier

Steve Spurrier has been able to put together a whopper of a defensive line and has a very young but very promising offensive front, which makes life much easier for the speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball to come through. But there are problems.

Special teams have been a glaring weakness over the last few seasons and they don't appear to be promising going into this year. There might be good talents across the board, but there's not a lot of backup experience at quarterback, receiver or corner. And yes, while South Carolina is reloading, getting three players taken in the top 45 of the 2011 NFL draft – Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram and Alshon Jeffery – and losing six starters to the next level stinks.

But despite any and all concerns, as long as the Gamecocks play up to their talent level and as long as they can stay healthy and win the games they're supposed to at home, they'll be front and center in the race for the SEC East title. If the team can manage no more than one loss on the résumé, Spurrier will get his shot to see what he can do on the big SEC stage for the second time in three seasons, with a chance to almost certainly play for the whole ball of wax.

Get used to it, SEC. South Carolina doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 South Carolina Gamecocks
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Vanderbilt Commodores5922-18
2East Carolina Pirates8930-16
3UAB Blazers9534-13
4Missouri Tigers5122-21
5@Kentucky Wildcats7424-14
6Georgia Bulldogs4221-24
7@LSU Tigers3919-25
8@Florida Gators5721-18
9Tennessee Volunteers6622-18
11Arkansas Razorbacks4024-27
12Wofford Terriers9550-7
13@Clemson Tigers4724-23

Florida

Ronald Powell

Say what you will about the Florida offense starting to hit the skids in 2010 to usher in the miserable 2011, but outside of Texas over the last few seasons, you don't come up with elite recruiting class after elite recruiting class and be that bad.

But there's hope for a quick turnaround. The defense really was good – partly because you and ten ex-girlfriends could've slowed down most SEC offenses last season – and there are future NFL players across the board ready to come up with a whopper of a year. Eighth in the nation in total defense in 2011, expect more of the same including a rotation at defensive tackle that could rival any in the country.

For all of the problems the offense had last season, the Gators still had chances to beat Georgia, South Carolina, and even Florida State. If the attack can do anything on a consistent basis this year – and from most indications it will – that could be the difference between another disastrous 7-6 campaign and a things-are-on-the-right-track ten-win season.

Again, though, ten wins without at least an SEC East title to show for it doesn't work at Florida, but it might be enough to get by for now. There's an understanding, though, that no matter what happens, an SEC title had better be coming around the corner soon.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Florida Gators
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Bowling Green Falcons7927-15
2@Texas A&M Aggies5522-20
3@Tennessee Volunteers5821-19
4Kentucky Wildcats7123-15
6LSU Tigers3117-23
7@Vanderbilt Commodores5219-18
8South Carolina Gamecocks4218-21
9@Georgia Bulldogs2716-24
10Missouri Tigers5420-19
11Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns6926-19
12Jacksonville State Gamecocks9547-8
13@Florida State Seminoles3718-23

Missouri

Gary Pinkel

Fortunately, Missouri is going to the East while Texas A&M is off to the West, and while these things tend to go in cycles, being in the same division with Kentucky and Vanderbilt is a nice start. At the moment, dealing with Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee is far, far better than having to face Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Arkansas every year.

But still, until the wins start coming, the constant knock will be that Mizzou is out of its weight class. Sure, it'll be a tough out and it should win its share of battles, but can the team string together big win after big win to be a player in the SEC? This year, maybe it can.

The schedule really isn't all that bad. Getting Alabama stinks and closing out with the final three conference games on the road at Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M isn't fair, but considering Georgia is coming to Columbia, the date against Bama and the road trip to South Carolina are the only two games the Tigers shouldn't be able to win.

The offense that finished 12th in the nation in total yards is more mature and should have more firepower in the passing game, while the starting 11 on defense are as good, athletic and nasty as any Gary Pinkel has had during his tenure.

If Mizzou was in the West, forget about it, but in the East and with the talent returning it could be a surprise of a season. The program from top to bottom appears ready to show that it's not going to be a pushover. They've embraced a "nobody believes in us" attitude, because no one believes in them. That might soon change.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Missouri Tigers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Southeastern Louisiana Lions9547-9
2Georgia Bulldogs3220-26
3Arizona State Sun Devils5424-22
4@South Carolina Gamecocks4721-22
5@UCF Knights6928-21
6Vanderbilt Commodores5622-21
7Alabama Crimson Tide2919-28
9Kentucky Wildcats7121-15
10@Florida Gators4619-20
11@Tennessee Volunteers5021-22
12Syracuse Orange5225-21
13@Texas A&M Aggies5122-22

Vanderbilt

Jordan Rodgers

Don Yates of VandyMania.com is our Vanderbilt Commodores insider:

Vanderbilt returns the bulk of its starters from a 2011 team that won six games and played in the Liberty Bowl. Head coach James Franklin has most of his offensive playmakers back but must fill in a few key holes on defense.

Jordan Rodgers, brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, returns to lead the offense. Rodgers took over as starting quarterback about halfway through the 2011 season and the Commodores averaged over 30 points per game with him as the starter. Also back for Vanderbilt is top receiver Jordan Matthews and an over 1,000 yard rusher in Zac Stacy. Veteran tackle Wesley Johnson will lead a bolstered offensive line.

True freshman speedster running back Brian Kimbrow is a newcomer to watch for on offense.

On defense Vanderbilt lost All-SEC cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Sean Richardson to the NFL. Both defensive end Tim Fugger and four-year starting linebacker Chris Marve must be replaced. The Commodores return an outstanding defensive tackle in Rob Lohr. Safety Kenny Ladler and cornerback Trey Wilson will lead a deep secondary. Junior Chase Garnham will take over Marve's middle linebacker spot. Archibald Barnes returns at one outside linebacker position and Karl Butler will fill the other side.

True freshman defensive end Caleb Azubike is a newcomer to watch for on defense.

Vanderbilt returns both its specialists in kicker Ryan Fowler and punter in Richard Kent.

Vanderbilt's schedule looks conducive to another winning season. The Commodores were able to avoid clashes with LSU, Alabama and Arkansas but will have to travel to Georgia, Auburn and Missouri. Vandy opens at home against South Carolina and later will host both Florida and rival Tennessee. The Commodores will also pay visits to both Ole Miss and Kentucky, two teams they beat handily in 2011.

For more from Don Yates and the Commodores, check out VandyMania.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Vanderbilt Commodores
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1South Carolina Gamecocks4118-22
2@Northwestern Wildcats5825-21
3Presbyterian Blue Hose9545-7
4@Georgia Bulldogs2017-27
6@Missouri Tigers4421-22
7Florida Gators4718-19
8Auburn Tigers5420-19
9Massachusetts Minutemen9330-9
10@Kentucky Wildcats6523-17
11@Mississippi Rebels7624-15
12Tennessee Volunteers4518-21
13@Wake Forest Demon Deacons5921-18

Tennessee

Tyler Bray

Chris Price of InsideTennessee.com is our Tennessee Volunteers insider:

The Tennessee Volunteers could be one of the biggest sleepers in all of the NCAA Football Subdivsion. The Vols lose just four starters of the 2011 squad (5-7) that suffered an embarrassing loss at the hands of division rival Kentucky to end the season, the first in 26 years.

The combination of quarterback Tyler Bray and two SEC Preseason All-Conference receivers Justin Hunter (Second team) and Da'Rick Rogers (First team) makes for a potent attack. Spice things up with five-star junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson and the Orange & White should have no trouble reaching paydirt in 2012.

The biggest question mark for the Vols comes in the form of the defense under former Alabama assistant and new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, who is implementing his 3-4 scheme in Knoxville. Look for the season-opening matchup with the North Carolina State Wolfpack to be an excellent barometer for the remainder of head coach Derek Dooley's third year on Rocky Top.

For more from Chris Price and the Volunteers, check out InsideTennessee.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Tennessee Volunteers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1North Carolina State Wolfpack5122-21
2Georgia State Panthers9548-6
3Florida Gators4219-21
4Akron Zips9433-11
5@Georgia Bulldogs2519-28
7@Mississippi State Bulldogs5222-20
8Alabama Crimson Tide1516-28
9@South Carolina Gamecocks3418-22
10Troy Trojans8731-16
11Missouri Tigers5022-21
12@Vanderbilt Commodores5521-18
13Kentucky Wildcats6624-17

Kentucky

Martavius Neloms

For all the problems and with all the ugliness in painful performance after painful performance, UK still went a not-that-bad 5-7 in 2011. After going to five straight bowl games, no matter how it's sliced, all it would've taken was one extra win to have gotten a 13th game and for the attitude coming into this season to be far different.

Kentucky was worse than it could've ever worried about, and yet it still battled hard in losses to Georgia and Louisville and needing just one more win for a successful year. It will take just a little more offense and a little more tweaking to potentially be just good enough to get back over the hump.

The offense that struggled so much is full of experience at all the key spots with speed all over the place. The line might have had problems and it might have to come up with some new starters at tackle, but it's a good-sized group with strong pieces to work around.

The defense didn't get any help from the offense and still came up with a solid season. Now it has to replace a few irreplaceable stars in linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Winston Guy and has to hope offenses can't take advantage of the corner problems early on, but the line is experienced and it should be more aggressive and productive.

Can the Wildcats be one game better and get to a bowl game again? It might not seem like anything exciting to shoot for, but in the SEC and with so many problems last year, UK should be in for a far more interesting season.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Kentucky Wildcats
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Louisville Cardinals2416-25
2Kent State Golden Flashes7520-12
3Western Kentucky Hilltoppers8726-15
4@Florida Gators2915-23
5South Carolina Gamecocks2414-24
6Mississippi State Bulldogs4218-20
7@Arkansas Razorbacks1314-30
8Georgia Bulldogs1314-28
9@Missouri Tigers2815-21
10Vanderbilt Commodores3417-23
12Samford Bulldogs9543-8
13@Tennessee Volunteers3317-24

Alabama

AJ McCarron

Kirk McNair of BamaMag.com is our Alabama Crimson Tide insider:

Alabama is ranked among the nation's top teams because the Crimson Tide returns many key performers from the 2011 national championship squad and because Bama has Nick Saban as head coach. There are some concerns about Alabama because the Tide also lost many great players from that team – four first round NFL draft choices among the 12 departed starters – and because Bama has a difficult schedule with a neutral site game against Michigan and road games at Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and LSU.

At quarterback, Alabama returns junior AJ McCarron, the Most Valuable Offensive Player in last year's BCS National Championship Game. The Tide also returns four starters in the offensive line, including Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones (moving this year from left tackle to center). No fewer than three of those five in the offensive line are expected to be first round NFL draft picks. The Tide also returns three-year starting tight end Mike Williams. Alabama must replace tailback Trent Richardson (with Eddie Lacy expected to step up) and two wide receivers, but there are several outstanding prospects at split end and flanker.

There are more replacements needed on defense, but Alabama played a lot of back-ups on defense last year. Returning starters are Jesse Williams (moved from end to nose tackle), end Damion Square, linebackers Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley, cornerback Dee Milliner, and safety Robert Lester. Look for big-time help from end Quinton Dial, linebackers Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest, cornerback Deion Belue and strong safety Vinnie Sunseri.

Bama returns an adequate punter (Cody Mandell) and placekickers (Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster) and expects Christion Jones to inherit primary kick return duties.

Almost everyone expects the Nov. 3 Alabama game at LSU to determine the Southeastern Conference champion and have a major bearing on the national title.

For more from Kirk McNair and the Crimson Tide, check out BamaMag.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Alabama Crimson Tide
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Michigan Wolverines6327-22
2Western Kentucky Hilltoppers9539-11
3@Arkansas Razorbacks5427-24
4Florida Atlantic Owls9539-10
5Mississippi Rebels9131-13
7@Missouri Tigers7128-19
8@Tennessee Volunteers8528-16
9Mississippi State Bulldogs8228-16
10@LSU Tigers3521-24
11Texas A&M Aggies8630-17
12Western Carolina Catamounts9557-7
13Auburn Tigers7827-17

LSU

Zach Mettenberger

Rarely does a team improve by losing its veteran starting quarterback, but the Tiger passing game should be leaps and bounds better with Zach Mettenberger pushing the ball down the field a bit more. He doesn't have to be Matt Barkley, and he can afford to make a slew of mistakes with a great defense in place to bail him out, but the important thing will be for him to provide the mere threat of the passing game to be there so defenses – primarily Alabama's – can't send everyone and the student section to the line to stop the run.

But Mettenberger was on the roster and as a backup last year and LSU wasn't able to finish the drill. Has he improved enough to be the guy who can lead the program to its third national title in the last decade?

He still has to prove he can survive and thrive in the SEC wars, and there isn't a Jordan Jefferson waiting in the wings this time around to bail out the offense in a crisis. However, all he'll have to do to win most games is hand off, hand off, hand off.

Depth is a wee bit of an issue everywhere except in the offensive backfield where the Tigers have six big, powerful backs who can all soften up a defense. The starting five on the offensive line should be dominant, and there are a few options at guard to form a decent rotation. The LSU offense will go on soul-crunching drive after soul-crunching drive, and then the defensive will take care of the rest.

The D lost Thorpe winner Patrick Peterson last season, and it was even better. This year it loses Thorpe winner Morris Claiborne and dominant tackle Michael Brockers, and it should be every bit as good as long as everyone stays healthy. The defensive line will be a brick wall, and the secondary, as always, is full of NFL talent. Throw in the special teams led by punter Brad Wing and steady kicker Drew Alleman, and LSU has all the talent and potential for another run for the national title.

And this time, it'll have a passing game that can generate more than 53 yards in the championship.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 LSU Tigers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1North Texas Mean Green9136-15
2Washington Huskies7830-20
3Idaho Vandals9538-10
4@Auburn Tigers7828-16
5Towson Tigers9557-7
6@Florida Gators6923-17
7South Carolina Gamecocks6125-19
8@Texas A&M Aggies7427-18
10Alabama Crimson Tide6524-21
11Mississippi State Bulldogs8529-14
12Mississippi Rebels9230-13
13@Arkansas Razorbacks5525-24

Arkansas

Knile Davis

Clay Henry of HawgsIllustrated.com is our Arkansas Razorbacks insider:

It's a strange season at Arkansas where almost everyone is back -- except the head coach. Bobby Petrino was fired in the spring and John L. Smith was given a 10-month contract to guide an experienced team with all nine assistants staying put. All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson and 17 starters return from an 11-2 team that throttled Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl to finish fifth in the country. The loss of Petrino is probably the reason the Hogs don't start close to that in preseason polls. They are 10th in the major polls, the fifth-highest SEC team. Running back Knile Davis appears healthy after missing last year with a broken ankle. He was All-SEC in 2010 as a sophomore. Davis hasn't been tackled in spring or fall camp, but looks sleek and ready. Defense continues to be the major question mark. Starting linebackers Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright have been injured in fall camp, as has top safety Eric Bennett. All three should be ready by the opener against Jacksonville State. The strength of the defense is a deep, experienced line. That's no surprise. In the Cotton Bowl, there were 10 different linemen with tackles and all but one return.

For more from Clay Henry and the Razorbacks, check out HawgsIllustrated.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Arkansas Razorbacks
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Jacksonville State Gamecocks9557-8
2Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks9539-15
3Alabama Crimson Tide4624-27
4Rutgers Scarlet Knights7628-17
5@Texas A&M Aggies7931-20
6@Auburn Tigers7930-20
7Kentucky Wildcats8730-14
9Mississippi Rebels9030-16
10Tulsa Golden Hurricane8632-21
11@South Carolina Gamecocks6027-24
12@Mississippi State Bulldogs7327-19
13LSU Tigers4524-25

Mississippi State

Johnthan Banks

Over the last four years, MSU has gone 1-15 against Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU, with the lone bright spot a 31-28 win over a mediocre Hog team in 2008. The Bulldogs are able to beat the teams they're supposed to, and they're not getting embarrassed on a regular basis in their losses, but now it's time for some more oomph.

Fortunately, the defense should continue to do its job against all the mediocre SEC offenses. The linebacking corps is maturing and improving, and the front four – despite the loss of tackle Fletcher Cox a year early to the NFL - should be as active as any in the league. The key will be a secondary that's loaded with veteran talent, especially at corner with Johnthan Banks considered a likely first round draft pick next season. As long as the defense can keep games within reach, MSU has a shot.

Now the offense has to start pulling its weight. Dan Mullen likes to get the running game going and he likes mobile quarterbacks, but Chris Relf is gone along with workhorse back Vick Ballard. However, Tyler Russell could be the best pure passing quarterback the program has ever had, and he has a potentially loaded receiving corps to work with. The running game won't be ignored, but with Russell under center the attack should be more dangerous. It needs to be.

MSU should be able to give everyone more of a fight. The team is better than last year's version, and Mullen is growing into a top coaching prospect who'll get more and more attention from the higher-profile programs. But in the end, the Bulldogs are probably going to spend another year beating their heads against the SEC West wall.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Mississippi State Bulldogs
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Jackson State Tigers9546-7
2Auburn Tigers3920-23
3@Troy Trojans8228-16
4South Alabama Jaguars9533-11
6@Kentucky Wildcats5620-18
7Tennessee Volunteers4720-22
8Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders8830-17
9@Alabama Crimson Tide1616-28
10Texas A&M Aggies4722-22
11@LSU Tigers1414-29
12Arkansas Razorbacks2719-27
13@Mississippi Rebels7221-16

Texas A&M

Ryan Swope

Lost in the 7-6 record of last season was that A&M was really, really close to coming up with a special season.

They had Oklahoma State in trouble. They were up on Arkansas going into the fourth. They gagged in an overtime loss to Missouri and they couldn't come up with a stop in the four-overtime loss to Kansas State. Throw in the still-puzzling Case McCoy run to glory and a Texas win, and A&M lost five games by a touchdown or less. The Oklahoma game was the only blowout, meaning roughly six plays cost the Aggies an 11-1 season.

The close calls might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the Mike Sherman-led Aggies weren't going to have a prayer in the SEC – they weren't going to win big by playing it straight. However, the Kevin Sumlin curveballs might have just the right mix of talent and scheme over the next few seasons to be in the mix for the title if things break the right way.

This year's team already has some good pieces to build around with a terrific offensive line and a superior pass rushing front seven. There's SEC speed and athleticism across the board, and there's plenty of help on the way from a strong recruiting class that seemed to like the direction things were headed after Sumlin was given the gig.

No, it might not be that bad to become the Texas Tech of the SEC West for a little while, but the new Texas A&M under Sumlin could quickly surprise and show that it was a good move to jump leagues. If Arkansas can become a player in the SEC West, then so can A&M.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Texas A&M Aggies
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Louisiana Tech Bulldogs6629-21
2Florida Gators4520-22
3@Southern Methodist Mustangs6227-21
4South Carolina State Bulldogs9551-7
5Arkansas Razorbacks2120-31
6@Mississippi Rebels6024-18
8LSU Tigers2518-27
9@Auburn Tigers5423-20
10@Mississippi State Bulldogs5322-22
11@Alabama Crimson Tide1417-30
12Sam Houston State Bearkats9550-8
13Missouri Tigers4822-22

Auburn

Kiehl Frazier

Brandon Miller of AUTigers.com is our Auburn Tigers insider:

Gene Chizik's Tigers will start the 2012 season with three challenging games in the opening four weeks, which should be a test for an Auburn team with improved talent and depth, but many of the top players in the freshman and sophomore classes.

After opening in Atlanta on Sept. 1st in a neutral site game vs. defending ACC champion Clemson, the Tigers open SEC play at Mississippi State and two weeks later play their SEC home opener vs. preseason league favorite LSU.

Offensively, the biggest questions are the quarterback play and how a rebuilding line will perform. True sophomore Kiehl Frazier is the favorite to run the revamped offense installed by new coordinator Scot Loeffler, who is moving the Tigers from a hurry-up, no-huddle, spread to a multiple formation, NFL-style system.

Last season Frazier saw action as a role player, who was normally called on to run the ball or hand it off on option plays. This year he should get a chance to show the arm that made him the all-time leading passer in Arkansas high school history.

The return to good health of the team's top receiver, Emory Blake, is a plus for the Tigers, who feature another senior in Philip Lutzenkirchen, who should be very productive with Loeffler liking to feature tight ends.

The Tigers return a trio of starters on the line with Reese Dismukes at center along with John Sullen and Chad Slade at guard, but could start a redshirt freshman at one tackle and a true freshman on the other side.

Brian VanGorder's defense is led by what should be a strong front four featuring All-SEC junior end Corey Lemonier and another junior end, Dee Ford, who is back from injury that forced him to redshirt last year.

VanGorder, the former defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, has challenged the linebacker group to step up and play better than last year. The linebackers are led by senior Daren Bates, the team's top tackler last year. Jonathan Evans and Jake Holland have starting experience, but depth is a question.

With cornerback T'Sharvan Bell making a strong recovery from knee surgery, the Tigers have three returning starters in the secondary with Chris Davis at cornerback and Demetruce McNeal at safety. However, there is plenty of competition for playing time at all four spots.

With better depth the defense should be improved and will need to be for Auburn to make a run in the SEC with home games vs. LSU, Arkansas and Georgia on the schedule in addition to a road trip to Alabama.

For more from Brandon Miller and the Tigers, check out AUTigers.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Auburn Tigers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Clemson Tigers3322-27
2@Mississippi State Bulldogs6023-20
3Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks7328-18
4LSU Tigers2116-28
6Arkansas Razorbacks2120-30
7@Mississippi Rebels6724-18
8@Vanderbilt Commodores4619-20
9Texas A&M Aggies4620-23
10New Mexico State Aggies8831-18
11Georgia Bulldogs2219-31
12Alabama A&M Bulldogs9545-8
13@Alabama Crimson Tide2217-27

Mississippi

Mike Marry

Houston Nutt gave it a good run for a few seasons, but he did nothing with a great group of linemen on both sides of the ball and he couldn't seem to find the skill players to make the offense move. Worse yet, the team played like a bunch of defeated losers over the final stretch.

Hugh Freeze is looking for the players to take on more responsibility and to become better leaders, and while that seems to be working, there are still way, way too many loose ends to expect a steady and consistent year.

The quarterback situation that was never settled and never productive last season still has to be figured out. There are academic concerns with RB Jeff Scott, while CB/WR Nickolas Brassell is already gone after failing to measure up in the classroom. The defensive line needs to find playmakers, and the overall alignment has to come together depending on who's healthy and who's ready. Throw in a slew of new starters on the offensive line, and a new scheme to figure out, and there's a lot to be concerned about.

However, this team could also be the X factor in the West. No, not as a possible champion, but there's depth, athleticism and enough skill to be a spoiler and a surprise team if it gets a few big breaks. There's no pressure and there's still enough youth across the board to see this year as a building block with a payoff to come, but first there has to be something positive to get excited about.

Rebel fans starved for a winner are ready for something special, but after last season, just being competitive again would be a nice start.

- Pete Fiutak, College Football News

Absolute Schedule/Records

2012 Mississippi Rebels
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Central Arkansas Bears9542-8
2UTEP Miners6724-19
3Texas Longhorns1215-28
4@Tulane Green Wave7625-18
5@Alabama Crimson Tide913-31
6Texas A&M Aggies3918-24
7Auburn Tigers3318-24
9@Arkansas Razorbacks916-30
10@Georgia Bulldogs1614-31
11Vanderbilt Commodores2415-24
12@LSU Tigers813-30
13Mississippi State Bulldogs2816-21

Gridiron Dynasty

Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jwestrich@whatifsports.com.

Gridiron Dynasty

Coach, recruit and run your own college football program.

Every DIA, DIAA, DII & DIII College Awaits


SimLeague Baseball

Compete in a full season with your dream team from MLB past and present. Lineups, player settings, trades, prizes and more.

Try It For Free


Hardball Dynasty

Run your own baseball franchise in this in-depth, multi-player baseball game.

Try It at a Discount

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