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NATIONAL PREVIEW

Five points

September 01, 2007|Chris Dufresne

* Dare we suggest, Les Miles, that the Southeastern Conference boasts the best collection of players and coaches? Four different whistle-blowers have led SEC schools to national championships. Steve Spurrier, now at South Carolina, won a title at Florida in 1996; Nick Saban, now at Alabama, won the Bowl Championship Series title for Louisiana State in 2004; Tennessee's Phil Fulmer brought the prize home for the Volunteers in 1998; and Urban Meyer led Florida to last season's BCS championship. And don't forget Tommy Tuberville at Auburn, whose Tigers were 13-0 in 2004 but did not win a title.

* Go ahead and put South Carolina down on this year's SEC watch list. After going 15-10 in two years, Spurrier announced this summer it was probably time the Gamecocks tried to win something really important. It was the reason Spurrier took on his own admissions office in a fight over recruits. South Carolina finished 8-5 last season and three of those five defeats were winnable efforts against Auburn, Florida and Tennessee.

* Meyer will challenge Pete Carroll for coach of the so-far century if he can follow the Florida basketball team's lead and repeat as national champion. The Gators have only two returning defensive starters from the unit that ransacked Ohio State in last season's national title game. The good news for Gators fans is that the schedule breaks in Florida's favor. The Gators get Tennessee, Auburn and Florida State at home. The trouble spots are trips to Louisiana State and South Carolina.

* Hey look, it's Saban, another college coach who went bust in the pros. Like Spurrier and Dennis Erickson before him, Saban has crawled back to campus in search of his reputation. After a forgettable stint with the Miami Dolphins, Saban takes over as Alabama's $4-million dollar (a year) man and now must appease arguably the nation's most dysfunctional fan base. Alabama is banking that it's getting the Saban who led LSU to a share of the national title in 2003. Look for 'Bama fans to start talking national championship if the Crimson Tide can squeeze past Western Carolina.

* Someone missed the canoe in not making a reality series out of the off-season at Arkansas, where Coach Houston Nutt's private life and text messages were dissected by citizen journalists and information peddlers. The media relations department is trying to change the subject to returning tailback Darren McFadden, who finished second in last year's Heisman Trophy balloting but whose mother recently changed the subject by announcing her son was going to turn pro after this season.

-- Chris Dufresne

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Quick facts

* AP preseason top 25: No. 2 Louisiana State, No. 6 Florida, No. 13 Georgia, No. 15 Tennessee, No. 18 Auburn, No. 21 Arkansas.

* AP final 2006 rankings: No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Louisiana State, No. 9 Auburn, No. 15 Arkansas, No. 23 Georgia, No. 25 Tennessee.

* 2007 conference projection: (Eastern) 1. Florida (13-1 overall, 7-1 in SEC in 2006). 2. Tennessee (9-4, 5-3). 3. Georgia (9-4, 4-4). 4. South Carolina (8-5, 3-5). 5. Kentucky (8-5, 4-4). 6. Vanderbilt (4-8, 1-7). (Western) 1. Louisiana State (11-2, 6-2). 2. Auburn (11-2, 6-2). 3. Arkansas (10-4, 7-1). 4. Alabama (6-7, 2-6). 5. Mississippi (4-8, 2-6). 6. Mississippi State (3-9, 1-7).

* 2006-07 bowl record: 6-3.

* Last season vs. Pac-10: 3-1.

* Key Pac-10 win: USC 50, Arkansas 14 (Razorbacks didn't look much like a 10-win team in this 2006 opener; two Hogs eventually followed the Trojans back from Fayetteville to L.A.)

* Key SEC win: Tennessee 35, California 18 (season-opening loss woke up Golden Bears; Cal won its next eight.)

* This season vs. Pac-10: Today, Tennessee at California.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

* Will Arnold, Sr., G, LSU, is a preseason All-American.

* Earl Bennett, Jr., WR, Vanderbilt, had 82 catches for 1,146 yards and is on pace to become leading receiver in SEC history.

* Glenn Dorsey, Sr., DT, LSU, surprised some by returning for senior season and will lead the conference's top run defense.

* Darren McFadden, Jr., RB, Arkansas is a Heisman favorite who rushed for 1,647 yards last season.

-- Eric Maddy

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