In the spirit of the NCAA basketball tournament, which concludes with Monday night’s championship game, why not bring a little bracketology to SEC football?
Let’s fill out the brackets for the 2011 season.
My top four seeds would be No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 LSU, No. 3 Arkansas and No. 4 South Carolina. Those four teams would get a bye in the opening round.
Now that we’ve determined that, here’s a look at my picks. All games will be played at neutral sites:
No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Vanderbilt (at Memphis): The Bulldogs advance with quarterback Chris Relf picking up where he left off in the Gator Bowl.
No. 6 Florida vs. No. 11 Kentucky (at Birmingham): Too bad this wasn’t hoops for the Wildcats, who were the only SEC team to advance to the Final Four.
No. 7 Georgia vs. No. 10 Ole Miss (at Jacksonville): Both coaches could use a big season in 2011, but it’s the Bulldogs who move on thanks to a more consistent defensive effort than a season ago.
No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 9 Tennessee (at Orlando): Auburn’s young talent outshines Tennessee’s young talent in a game that’s decided in overtime on a Mike Dyer run.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Auburn (at Miami): The tournament version of the Iron Bowl produces another memorable finish, this time with AJ McCarron driving the Crimson Tide the length of the field for the winning touchdown.
No. 2 LSU vs. No. 7 Georgia (at Dallas): The Tigers lost some marquee talent on defense last season, but plenty of talent remains on that side of the ball, which allows LSU to hang around and then pull away in the second half.
No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 6 Florida (at Nashville): Every good tournament features an offensive shootout somewhere along the way, and the Hogs and Gators treat us to just that. In the end, it’s too much Knile Davis, Greg Childs and Joe Adams.
No. 4 South Carolina vs. No. 5 Mississippi State (at Charlotte): The Gamecocks start out quickly, but there’s just something about the postseason and South Carolina football that doesn't mix. A short Vick Ballard touchdown run ices it for the Bulldogs.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Mississippi State (at Atlanta): Defense is usually the difference when you reach the Final Four. Sure enough, Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower spend the entire game in Mississippi State’s backfield, and the Tide roll on.
No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 Arkansas (at Atlanta): In the best overall game of the tournament, Zachary Mettenberger comes off the bench to rally the Tigers and hits a streaking Russell Shepard down the middle of the field for the winning touchdown.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 LSU (at Atlanta): Nick Saban has already led two different SEC teams to BCS national championships. His latest coup is leading Alabama to the inaugural SEC football tournament championship in the kind of defensive struggle you might expect from these two teams. Neither team is able to move the ball consistently, but a 60-yard touchdown run by Alabama’s Trent Richardson proves to be the difference, giving the Crimson Tide yet another piece of hardware to find a spot for in the Hall of Champions.