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Posted: Wednesday August 18, 2004 12:41PM; Updated: Wednesday August 18, 2004 12:45PM
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  SEC Preview

   Stewart Mandel's Projected Records (Projected overall record in parentheses)
   East Division
1
  Georgia
   7-1  
(10-1)
With an improved offensive line, fourth-year QB David Greene should flourish, and the defense will dominate.
2
  Florida
   6-2  
(8-3)
The Gators' offense is on the brink of exploding behind QB Chris Leak and a pair of talented running backs.
3
  Tennessee
   4-4  
(7-4)
With uncertainty at quarterback and a young secondary, the normally powerful Vols could struggle early in the season.
4
  South Carolina
   4-4  
(6-5)
A rededicated Lou Holtz, now doubling as offensive coordinator, looks to end the 'Cocks' two-year bowl drought.
5
  Vanderbilt
   3-5  
(5-6)
Don't laugh -- the Commodores return 20 starters and should be more competitive than they've been in years.
6
  Kentucky
   1-7  
(3-8)
The Wildcats are doomed to struggle if their running game doesn't improve on last year's pitiful performance.
   West Division
1
  LSU
   6-2  
(9-2)
The defending national champs are still loaded but face a daunting early road schedule (at Auburn, UGA and Florida).
2
  Auburn
   5-3  
(8-3)
RBs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown could be scary in a West Coast scheme, but the defense must rebuild up front.
3
  Ole Miss
   4-4  
(7-4)
Eli Manning's successor, Micheal Spurlock, has the luxury of working with an experienced O-line and receiving corps.
4
  Alabama
   3-5  
(6-5)
The probation-ravaged Tide should be able to improve on Mike Shula's 4-9 debut campaign thanks to a strong D.
5
  Arkansas
   3-5  
(5-6)
The Hogs face a tough transition year, with QB Matt Jones one of just four returning starters on the entire roster.
6
  Miss. State
   2-6  
(4-7)
The Bulldogs should be more competitive under Sylvester Croom but still lack the necessary offensive firepower.
Photo credit: Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

Cream of the Crop

2004 Preview
Myths, realities of title teams
What does it really take to win a national championship?
By Stewart Mandel
Applying the formula
Five teams that fit the mold in 2004, and three "contenders" that don't.
By Stewart Mandel
Profile of a Champion: A statistical breakdown of the 12 national champions from the past 10 years.
Athlon 2004 Previews: All 117 I-A teams
TV Guide: 10 games to watch in '04
National TV schedule | '04-'05 bowl schedule
 And much more ...
8/5  Return of the RBs
8/6  The true freshmen
8/10  SI's Top 25
8/11  ACC preview
8/12  Big 12 preview
8/13  Big East preview
8/16  Big Ten preview
8/17  Pac-10 preview
8/18  SEC preview
8/19  C-USA, Mt. West, MAC
8/20  Inds., WAC, Sun Belt
8/23  SI's All-Americans
8/24  SI's Heisman Preview
8/25  Bowl Projections
8/26  SI.com's Crystal Ball
8/30  Power Rankings
 

Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn: "Cadillac" enters his senior season tied with Bo Jackson for the Tigers' most career 150-yard games (eight).

David Greene, QB, Georgia: The Dawgs' four-year quarterback is 32-8 as a starter, throwing for 9,020 yards his previous three seasons.

David Pollack, DE, Georgia: Greene's roommate and childhood buddy, the All-America has collected 21.5 sacks the past two seasons.

Corey Webster, CB, LSU: A first-round pick had he turned pro after last season, he's intercepted 14 passes in two seasons on defense.

Marcus Spears, DE, LSU: Both pass-rusher and defender, Spears returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl.

Others: Justin Vincent, RB, LSU; Channing Crowder, LB, Florida; Thomas Davis, S, Georgia; Vincent Burns, DE, Kentucky; Jovan Haye, DE, Vanderbilt.

Poised for a Breakout

Gerald Riggs, RB, Tennessee: After floundering his first two seasons, Gerald Sr.'s oft-hyped son has been the surprise hit of fall camp.

Jonathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina: The juco transfer with 4.4 speed and great hands has quickly emerged as Dunta Robinson's heir apparent.

Danny Ware, RB, Georgia: The redshirt freshman may be thrust into a starting role following Kregg Lumpkin's season-ending injury.

Others:; Albert Toeaina, T, Tennessee; Jared Hicks, TE, Arkansas; Micheal Spurlock, QB, Ole Miss; Dee Webb, CB, Florida; Claude Wroten, DT, LSU.

Burning Questions

How many wins does Ron Zook need? Under the microscope since day one, Steve Spurrier's replacement enters year three knowing his honeymoon is over. While AD Jeremy Foley has showed unwavering support for his hire, Zook needs to improve on his two 8-5 marks thus far to avoid a fan uprising.

Will a year make a difference at Georgia? Last year, with all five offensive line starters in their first year, the Dawgs got manhandled, giving up 47 sacks. There's no shortage of talent, however -- tackle Max-Jean Gilles is considered a future All-America -- and the good news is each starter now has a year under his belt.

What will Ole Miss do for an encore? Following a decade of mind-numbingly consistent second-tier finishes, the Rebels finally had their breakthrough last season, winning 10 games, including the Cotton Bowl. With Eli Manning now a Giant, will it prove to be a fluke or the beginning of something special?

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