COLUMN: Not your usual predictions about the 2009 SEC

We are a little more than two weeks away from the SEC Football Media Days, which will mark the beginning of the pre-preseason period when guys like me are shoving football down your throat every single day.
You know you love it.
It’s also the time when people start making preseason predictions, when poll voters start thinking about the preseason rankings, and when I tape a snapshot of myself to my wife and kids’ bathroom mirrors so they won’t forget what I look like.
Some folks have already taken a stab at the prediction game, namely the preseason magazines that come out every June. It kind of helps justify talking about football at that point.
I’ve gotten copies of the Phil Steele and Athlon mags. Not surprisingly, both have Florida as the nation’s preseason No. 1 team. Also not surprisingly, both have Mississippi State finishing last in the SEC Western Division.
One thing I’ve learned about preseason predictions: At least one team is going to make us all look like fools. Remember Georgia last year? Preseason No. 1, but didn’t even make a BCS bowl.
So, here are a few SEC predictions from yours truly. And not the traditional kind as mentioned above, because those are boring.
– Won’t live up to the hype: Ole Miss, which is a Jevan Snead concussion away from being mediocre.
– Breakout team: Vanderbilt, which returns 18 starters. The Commodores won their first bowl game since the U.S. flag had 48 stars, and there’s no stopping them now.
– Will do spectacular faceplant: Lane Kiffin, Tennessee. He’s been built up mostly on self-hype, which means he’s set himself up for inevitable – and spectacular – failure.
– Will defend the indefensible: No, I’m not talking about somebody stopping Tim Tebow. I’m talking about Tennessee fans, because most of them have already defended the actions of their no-class coach. If Kiffin were doing all this at, say, Florida, UT fans would roast him. Few things foster hypocrisy – and unreasonable optimism – like college football.
– Most likely to overachieve: Georgia, because the spotlight’s off.
– Most likely to underachieve: LSU, because I’m not convinced Les Miles is worth his ridiculous paycheck.
– Most likely to have national title hopes burst early: Alabama, which opens with Virginia Tech (in Atlanta). A loss there, and forget it, because the Tide ain’t going 8-0 in the SEC again.
– Coach most likely to get fired: Gene Chizik. Seriously, something ain’t right at that place. And if Auburn has a horrendous year, the geniuses that ran off Tommy Tuberville will realize – too late – the mistake they made when they hired Chizik.
– Team most likely to beat Florida: New England Patriots. Oh, wait, they’re not on the schedule this year. Never mind.

Brad Locke (brad.locke@djournal.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal