The great thing about SEC football is the unexpected. We can spend hours in front of the computer and evenings reading publications; yet something always happens between September and January to surprise us. Last year it was the fall of Auburn and the sudden rise of Alabama. It was Ole Miss coming out of nowhere to set itself up as the media darling this season. It was Georgia failing to live up to expectations and LSU losing five games.
As we get ready to kickoff the 2009 season, the truth is, we really don't know what's going to happen. And that's what keeps all of us coming back. With that as a backdrop, I'll foolishly try to predict 10 things that will surely happen between early September and January. Feel free to throw these up in my face as the season progresses. I expect nothing less. Here goes...
- Auburn pulls a big upset in the SEC. Who knows when or where, but Gus Malzahn's offense is too creative not to sneak up on someone. Plus, first year coaches almost always pull surprises. Look back to 1999 and Tommy Tuberville's surprise blowouts of LSU and Georgia. And let's not forget Terry Bowden's magical run in 1993.
- Auburn loses to a team it shouldn't. See first bullet. With surprises comes disappointment - usually. A new coaching staff and new systems almost guarantees a stumble somewhere down the road. Rarely does a season go as predicted. This year is no different.
- Tiger Athletic Director Jay Jacobs manages to tick off most of Auburn's fanbase at some point during the season. Rarely does Jacobs go more than a few months without alienating himself from everyone - see Chizik hiring and the Tailgate Guys.
- Florida repeats as national champion. Not only is this the most talented SEC team in more than 10 years, the Gator's schedule sets up perfectly. Non-conference opponents include: Charleston Southern, Troy, Florida International and Florida State. A trip to Baton Rouge on October 10th will likely be Florida's toughest test until the SEC Championship game.
- Ole Miss loses three games. All fans have heard since January's Cotton Bowl is how loaded the Rebels will be in 2009. Sure they're playing with Steve Spurrier's favorite quarterback, Jevin Snead, but they are also without left tackle Michael Oher. And we all know how difficult it is to replace a tackle. Right Bama?
- Speaking of Spurrier, the Ole Ball Coach finally throws in the towel at South Carolina. This year's team is his best ever, but no one notices because he plays in the SEC East.
- Georgia's Mark Richt will be on the hot seat at year's end. They'll lose for the 17th time in 20 tries against Florida; and Georgia Tech will claim two straight against its in-state big brother.
- Lane Kiffin goes 7-5 in his first season in Knoxville. The Vols shake off their 49 point loss to Florida in early September to rebound and earn a trip to the Independence Bowl. In his final press conference of the season, Kiffin guarantees a 21 point victory over the Gators in 2010.
- LSU surprises everyone and captures the SEC West. They lose to Florida by three touchdowns in the championship game in Atlanta. Purple Tiger fans demand Les Miles' resignation.
- ESPN's Lee Corso ends his run on College Gameday. After suffering a stroke earlier this year, the old coach returns as good as always, but ultimately decides enough is enough. The show is never the same. Soak it all up one last time.
There you have it - my list of 2009 surprises. Will they all happen? Who knows - probably not, but you can bet something a lot stranger will happen by year's end. Right now we don't have a clue. And that's why SEC football is a lot like Christmas morning. Only 25 days and a wake up before Louisiana Tech. Get packing!