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Wisconsin preview: Badgers hope one dimension is enough against Bama

Wisconsin preview: Badgers hope one dimension is enough against Bama

For Wisconsin, a game against Alabama in Week 1 is a bit like engaging in a demolition derby – against a Ross Winans steam locomotive, rather than an old sedan.

Alabama has been, ever since Nick Saban’s arrival, a machine. It doesn’t always move fast, but it moves deliberately, it’s hard to stop and almost impossible to overpower. And while Alabama has made forays into what many observers like to call “modern football” – i.e., the hurry-up, no-huddle offenses and their variants – Alabama wins with brawn and depth.

Shortly after Barry Alvarez’s arrival in Madison, Wisc., the Badgers became somewhat of the Alabama of the Big Ten – Gene Stallings’ Alabama, that is. Wisconsin throws the ball only when a judge orders it. Otherwise, Wisconsin is content to bury its opponents under a pile of rubble, occasionally lobbing the ball to a receiver just to keep them interested. While Wisconsin finished the 2014 season with an impressive 11-3 record, the Badgers had their hands full with any team it couldn’t physically intimidate. Most notably, Wisconsin fell 59-0 to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

SEC Previews and Predictions: Week 1

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SEC Previews and Predictions: Week 1

The 2015 SEC season kicks off this week, and the TideFans.com Predictions Dept. is looking for a better effort this year. The 2014 season was mediocre by past standards, but the road doesn’t get any easier, given the depth the SEC has managed to build, particularly in its West division. The highlights of the first week, outside of Alabama’s opening tilt against Wisconsin, is probably either Auburn’s opener against Louisville, or Arizona State’s visit to College Station to face Texas A&M.

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Previews 2015: Vanderbilt Commodores

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Previews 2015: Vanderbilt Commodores

Many people saw the collapse coming early last year for Vanderbilt, as the Commodores tried to change too many things simultaneously under first-year coach Derek Mason. Mason ditched the ‘Dores’ spread offense for a pro-style I-formation, then dumped the 4-3 defense in favor of a 3-4. Neither move worked particularly well, and Mason’s strange quarterback roulette killed any momentum former coach James Franklin had left him. In 2015, the future doesn’t look much brighter, although Mason at least appears to be a respectable recruiter, meaning happier days may lie ahead.

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Previews 2015: Tennessee Volunteers

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Previews 2015: Tennessee Volunteers

Between a heavy concentration of returning starters, improved recruiting and some of the best offensive skill talent in the conference, Tennessee is hoping it can finally lift itself out of the doldrums it’s been in for at least the last eight seasons. Roughly from the time Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, Tennessee has been irrelevant in the SEC. The 2015 Volunteer team is still not perfect; the offensive line, while experienced, wasn’t good in 2014, the defense has some holes up the middle and the book is still out on Butch Jones as both an x’s-and-o’s coach and a program leader. But things are looking up.

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Previews 2015: South Carolina Gamecocks

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Previews 2015: South Carolina Gamecocks

Mediocre, thy name is South Carolina. The Gamecocks enter the 2015 season being average almost across the board, as graduation and a handful of recruiting misevaluations have limited the Cocks’ ceiling for the coming year. This season will inform a lot of the discussion going forward about Steve Spurrier’s tenure and ultimate retirement from the game. It’s unlikely he wants to helm a South Carolina team stuck in mediocrity, but that’s where the Gamecocks are headed if the defense doesn’t get markedly better this year.

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Previews 2015: Missouri Tigers

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Previews 2015: Missouri Tigers

Missouri has earned the respect no one wanted to give it when it first joined the SEC. For each of the last two years, the Tigers have played the upstart role in the SEC East, taking out heavily-favored Georgia and, at least briefly, getting itself into the national championship discussion in 2013. In 2015, though, the personnel losses of the previous year may be too much to overcome. Missouri is rebuilding its skill talent on offense and its front on defense. Sketchy special teams will add to the drama, but history would demand the Tigers not be counted out just yet.

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Previews 2015: Georgia Bulldogs

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Previews 2015: Georgia Bulldogs

One of these years, Georgia is finally going to find a way to put it all together. It just might have to require a change in head coaches, though. The Bulldogs have underachieved consistently under Mark Richt, and being out front in the preseason is a dangerous place to be for Georgia. That’s where the Bulldogs again find themselves, picked by some – including this service – to run the table in the SEC. The schedule sets up nicely for Georgia, with back-to-back games against Alabama and Tennessee being the real challenge. On the field, Georgia must find a quarterback and solidify its defensive line.

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Previews 2015: Texas A&M Aggies

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Previews 2015: Texas A&M Aggies

How far the Aggies go in 2015 will be determined by how quickly new defensive coordinator John Chavis can right the ship. The Aggies have never lacked for offense since joining the SEC, but their built-for-the-Big-12 defense just can’t cut it. In addition to Chavis, head coach Kevin Sumlin finally seems to be getting serious about allocating assets to the defensive side of the ball. The Aggies might also find themselves better on offense simply by getting rid of Kenny Hill, who had become a distraction there. Texas A&M will put up a ton of points, but can the Aggies keep opposing offenses from doing the same?

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Previews 2015: Mississippi State Bulldogs

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Previews 2015: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State overachieved greatly in 2014, in the process solidifying Dan Mullen’s hold on the head coaching position in Starkville – and, unfortunately, lifting future expectations. As often happens with Mississippi State, success does not appear to be sustainable. The Bulldogs simply haven’t recruited consistently enough to remain in the SEC’s upper echelon, and had its starting quarterback not elected to return to school, State would be staring a losing record in the face. As is, the Bulldogs will do well to get back to the postseason.

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Previews 2015: Ole Miss Rebels

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Previews 2015: Ole Miss Rebels

Relative to talent, there has probably not been a team fall short of expectations as spectacularly as Ole Miss has done it over the past couple of years. Ole Miss lost two of its last three games in 2014 by a combined score of 72-3, failing to achieve offensive balance or take advantage of several packed recruiting classes. The window isn’t closing yet for Ole Miss, but uncertainty in the offensive backfield makes the Rebels vulnerable. Most of the uncertainty, though, falls back to a coaching staff that is starting to take some heat for its choices.

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