Marc Lawrence’s 2009 SEC Conference Football Preview

Marc Lawrence from brings us his 2009 SEC Conference football preview and betting predictions. The SEC owns the best non-conference win percentage 18 of the last 29 seasons…


Marc Lawrence
Marc Lawrence

Marc Lawrence •

SECond to none.

That’s the SEC’s mantra and it’s hard to argue.

Consider, the SEC: has lead the nation in total attendance the last 27 seasons; owns the best non-conference win percentage 18 of the last 29 seasons, including 43-13 last year;has featured 4 teams in the BCS final Top 25 each of the last five seasons; has won more BCS bowl games (12) than any conference; features 4 current coaches that have won national championships.

Like we said, it’s pretty hard to argue with those kind of numbers.


Here is my take on the SEC CONFERENCE for 2009.

Returning starters are listed alongside each team’s name (returning QB’s designated with an *).

Coming up next: the SUN BELT CONFERENCE.



ALABAMA – 4 / 9
Team Theme – EAT MY WORDS

Immediately after being flattened by Florida in the SEC title game, an insensitive Sick Naban lauded the fact that Alabama was the only BCS team in the country to finish the regular season undefeated. The Tide’s big boss was left eating his words when Utah stunned the Crimson in last year’s Sugar Bowl, putting a damper on what had been a promising campaign. Owning the 5th best win percentage among active college coaches (110-50-1), slick Nick clings to the fact that he’s never had a losing season on this level. Lifetime backup QB Greg McElroy (backed up Chase Daniel 3 years in high school and John Parker Wilson 3 years with Alabama) celebrates his coming out party in ‘09. “He’s shown he’s far and away our best quarterback,” says Saban. Gulp. Let’s hope someone in Tuscaloosa knows the Heimlich maneuver. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Tennessee (10/24)

ARKANSAS – 8 / 9

Team Theme – GEE, WIZ

Yet another ‘Mission Team’ for 2009, Arkansas endured its 3rd losing season in 5 years despite being guided by coaching wiz Bobby Petrino last year. Petrino’s plight was sealed early on when he was forced to play 16 true freshmen – the 3rd most in the nation – last year. As a result, they found themselves favored only two times in 2009, equaling a watermark low dating back to at least 1976. That’s what can happen when you go toe-to-toe against the nation’s 5th toughest schedule. Former head coach John L. Smith adds stability to the coaching staff, former Michigan QB Ryan Mallett (3-0 with Wolverines) joins RB Michael Smith (1072 yards) in the backfield and 9 starters return on defense, including the entire front line. Let’s hope that playing 4 of their final 5 games at home to conclude the season is neither too little nor too late for the Pigs. PLAY ON: vs. Mississippi (10/24)

AUBURN – *7 / 7


When OC Tony Franklin was fired after Game Six of the season last year, (former Tulsa offensive guru, Gus Malzahn will direct the spread attack this season), little did head coach Tommy Tuberville realize his own head was next on the chopping block. After suffering its first losing season this decade, Auburn dispatched Tubs in favor of Gene Chizik, the former boss at Iowa State. Say what? Tuberville for Chizik may someday rival Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio as arguably the worst trade ever. Nonetheless, the Tigers like the move. Chizik may not, however. Consider this: heading into last season, Tuberville was 14-1 SU and ATS with Auburn against undefeated SEC opposition. Last year they were 0-3 SU and ATS against the same. FR RB Onterio McCalebb says, “We’re going to shock a lot of people this fall.” Chizik for Tuberville? Yeah, we’re shocked. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Tennessee (10/3)

FLORIDA – *7 / 11

Team Theme – OBAMARAMA

The 2008 National Champions were honored this spring at the White House, about which Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote noted, “The most powerful man in America was honored to meet the President, according to a Tim Tebow spokesperson.” The former Heisman winner is so revered he gets called for roughing the tackler. He scares the Grim Reaper to death. Opponents this year will likely be shaking in their boots with the knowledge that Florida won the BCS title game last year despite facing the 2nd toughest schedule in the nation and will return 18 starters from that same team, including all 11 on defense. That’s the same unit that features the strongest corps of linebackers in the land (i.e. – out of 78 starts at the three LB positions the last two years, every start was made by a LB that returns). Its no wonder the President is impressed. PLAY AGAINST: vs. Kentucky (9/26)

GEORGIA – 7 / 6


It wasn’t the pressure that came with being named the pre-season No. 1 team that did the Dawgs in last year. It wasn’t the lack of effort put forth on the field (Georgia was one of three teams that improved their stats offensively and defensively but declined both SU and ATS). It was the quality of play inside the SEC. Pure and simple, they fell to the 4th most difficult schedule in the nation. Unfortunately, Georgia lost its top skill athletes in QB Matthew Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno and WR Mohamed Massaquoi in this year’s NFL draft. To make matters worse, eight bowl opponents line this year’s schedule. However, don’t think for a moment that those obstacles will deter the Dawgs from extending a 98-30 mark, the best in the SEC the last 10 years. Georgia was a money burner last year. They figure to be money earners this year. PLAY ON: as dogs vs. Georgia Tech (11/28)

KENTUCKY – *7 / 5


Life outside the SEC was grand for Rich Brooks’ Wildcats last season. In five non-SEC games, he posted five wins, including a upset victory over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. Kentucky also managed to notch a third straight seven-win season for the first time since 1949-51. They also won three bowl games in a row for the first time-ever in school history. The problem came in conference play, where UK dropped 6 of 8 decisions. “We need to step it up a bit to get back to 2006 and 2007 levels of production,” said Brooks. “I will be very disappointed if we do not reach bowl eligibility for the fourth year in a row.” Behind the shield of 7 returning starters and 7 offensive linemen that have all started at least 3 games, the offense that vanished last year should easily deflect Brooks’ concerns. PLAY ON: vs. Vanderbilt (11/14)

LSU – *7 / 6

Team Theme – LS U-TURN

We’ve lauded the feats of the Bengals on these pages the last four years, and deservedly so. They were one of only four teams (Florida, Oklahoma and Southern Cal are the others) ranked in the AP pre-season Top 10 each of the previous four years. However, this season they will need to shake the effect of having suffered the most defeats (5) by a defending National Champion in the AP Poll since 1943. Hence, it was no surprise to discover the offense and defense deteriorated 109 yards combined in 2008. As a result, there will be numerous revenge-payback games on the Tigers’ itinerary this season. With the offense in good hands behind SEC 1st -teamers RB Charlie Scott and WR Brandon LaFell, look for the defense (2nd best unit in the land the last five years, 274.5 YPG) to lead the charge. PLAY ON: as dog vs. Alabama (11/7) – *KEY



Not only did the Rebels conclude the 2008 season tied with Minnesota for the 2nd best turnaround (3-9 to 9-4) of all major college football teams, they went from zero conference wins in 2007 to a Cotton Bowl championship last season. Those weren’t just minor improvements behind new head coach Houston Nutt. They were major strides. More impressive was the fact that all four losses were by 7 or less points. Hence, it was no surprise to see Nutt win SEC Coach of the Year honors. Leading the charges in 2009 is QB Jevan Snead, of whom Nutt glows, “He’s got real command in the huddle and he has gotten better and better.” With SR WR Dexter McCluster also back, the offense couples with a defense that improved 116 YPG, making the Rebels a downright can’t miss team. PLAY ON: vs. Alabama (10/10) – *KEY +6.5 or more



The five-year Sylvester Croom experiment has ended. After breaking through to the other side and recording their first winning season in eight years in 2007, the Bulldogs could not withstand the prosperity.

A 4-8 effort last year spelled the end of the line for Croom, who leaves with a 21-38 record. Enter Dan Mullen, who was the offensive coordinator at Florida the last four years. Mullen inherits three skill players in SR QB Tyson Lee, SR WR Brandon McCrae and SR RB Anthony Dixon, all starters last season. Mullen understands that the main task at hand is to develop a winning attitude. He also knows a win over arch-rival Mississippi goes a long way toward building that attitude. With solid defensive support and a fresh new approach, a Bulldog makeover will have them looking better than ever, sooner than later. PLAY ON: vs. Mississippi (11/28)



Having only 10 seniors on this year’s roster and still reeling from a 7-11 skid since 2007, Steve Spurrier sent out an SOS. Consequently, six new coaches roam the sidelines in Columbia these days. Defections by quarterbacks Chris Smelly (to Alabama) and Tommy Beecher (to Liberty) makes SO QB Steve Garcia the big man on campus.

Garcia played 8 games last year, with 6 TD passes and 8 INT’s to show for his efforts. A 56-6 loss at Florida last season was the worst ever in Spurrier’s career. It was part of a 118-30 thumping the Gamecocks endured to conclude the season, prompting USA TODAY columnist Mike LoPresti to say, “They don’t make Steve Spurrier teams liked they used to.” With nine games slated against teams that played in bowl games last season on the dossier, another SOS may be going out soon. PLAY ON: vs. Florida (11/14)

TENNESSEE – *7 / 6

Team Theme – PHILLING IN

Somehow you get the feeling the SEC has become the home of failed NFL coaches. When he relieves Phil Fulmer on the sidelines in Knoxville this year, Lane Kiffin, the recently ex-communicated head coach with the Raiders, will join Rich Brooks (Rams), Bobby Petrino (Falcons), Nick Saban (Dolphins) and Steve Spurrier (Redskins) in the SEC ranks. Fulmer left with a sterling 17-year career mark of 151-53-1 at Tennessee. Surprisingly, the Vols’ defense improved an eye-popping 141 YPG, but it wasn’t enough to save Fulmer when the offense slipped 132 YPG. It remains to be seen how the players adapt to Kiffin’s rah-rah style. Eleven players with scholarships have left the program since Kiffin signed on, four since the end of spring practice. Every 16 years or so Tennessee changes head coaches. Will Kiffin endure here, or is he simply a failed coach? Stay tuned. PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite vs. South Carolina (10/31)



It’s absolutely amazing what winning does for the soul. Like chicken soup, it’s a remedy that boosts the endorphins while eradicating the negatives. After enjoying their first 5-0 start since WWII last year, the Commodores did not let an impending 1-6 season-ending collapse stop them from becoming bowl eligible. Then, taking full advantage of the home field against Boston College

in the Music City Bowl, Vandy won it’s first post-season game in 53 years and, as a result, enjoyed its second-winning season in 33 years. Best of all, Bobby Johnson’s squad is prepared to take on a schedule with no back-to-back road games in 2009. Vanderbilt is well- stocked squad that features eighteen starters from last year’s team, including the entire offensive and defensive line. At the very least, the Commies would like nothing better than defend their Music City Bowl title. Who says you can never go home again? PLAY AGAINST: vs. South Carolina (10/24)

Note: Marc Lawrence is a 30-year veteran handicapper. He finished No.1 in the nation (88-63 +25.7 Net Units) in MLB during the 2007 season as documented by Sports Watch in Las Vegas.

Comments are Welcome!!!


Marc Lawrence Has Been Handicapping Sports Professionally Since 1975 – Check Out His Weekly Picks & His DAILY MLB PLAYS Today Here at >>>