Commentary

SEC forecast: No repeat for Tebow, Saban scores upset

Originally Published: August 6, 2008
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

The BCS crystal football hasn't left Dixie since 2005, and now Georgia is predicted by many to follow Florida and LSU as national champions. Clearly, the stakes are higher in the Southeastern Conference than anywhere else. Of course, so are the attendance figures and coaches' salaries. This season should be like any other in the SEC: fast, furious and having a direct impact on the title race.

1. Winner of the Cocktail Party will play for the national title.

Florida and Georgia have both been in the top 10 four times when they've staged their annual brawl in Jacksonville; this year, for the first time, they could both be in the top five. And there will be plenty of pregame chatter about Mark Richt's rush-the-end-zone ploy last year.

2008 SEC Preview

The SEC has delivered the last two national champions. The reigning Heisman winner is from SEC country. What will the conference provide in 2008?

Low: Uncertain QB landscape
Low: Tebow still learning
Maisel: UGA's great expectations
Opportunity for South Carolina
Skill threat: UT's Eric Berry
Forde: Five SEC predictions
SportsNation: Vote on SEC

2. Tim Tebow will not repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner.

Florida will have more options at running back, which means fewer carries for its bulldozer quarterback. And fickle voters who love finding flaws will overlook them in fresher candidates.

3. Jordan Jefferson will get on the field for LSU -- early.

With a good August, the touted true freshman quarterback could wind up at the controls of a low-risk offense by week No. 3 against North Texas. Redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee and Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch are not the answer.

4. Mississippi will be the surprise team of the year.

Houston Nutt walks into a pretty swell situation: 16 returning starters, including a veteran offensive line; a talented transfer quarterback in Jevan Snead; and a user-friendly schedule (Ole Miss draws Florida from the East but not Georgia or Tennessee). With good play and good luck, the Rebels could be 5-1 by mid-October, which would be more victories on the season than they've had since 2003.

5. Nick Saban will pull an upset -- either to open or close the regular season.

Alabama opens in Atlanta against Clemson, which is ranked in the top 10. It closes, of course, with Auburn -- potentially another top-10 opponent. The Crimson Tide will win one of the two, either spoiling Clemson's season early or ending their losing streak to Auburn late.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.