I'm participating in an SEC Roundtable organized by SB Nation's Bud Elliott. Here are my answers to his questions; please chime in in the comments section. I'll be sure to post the roundup when it goes up.
Topic 1: Predict the SEC's overall record in its games against other BCS conferences, and tell me which is more likely: the SEC winning 13 or more of the games, or the SEC winning 10 or fewer.
I've got the SEC winning 14 games. The swing games look like Georgia at Clemson (as long as Mike Bobo pounds Clemson with his runningbacks, I think Georgia wins this one); LSU vs. TCU (again, as long as Les Miles plays to his strengths--a big if--LSU should win); Arkansas at Rutgers (neither team is very good, so I'll go with the home team in Bielema's building year); Florida St. at Florida (both teams with some question marks after losing key contributors; I'll go with the home team); and Clemson at South Carolina (South Carolina has been the better team in recent years, and should win at home this year). Here are my picks:
Alabama v. Virginia Tech (Atlanta)-Alabama
Mississippi State v. Oklahoma State (Houston)-Oklahoma St.
LSU v. TCU (Arlington)-LSU
North Carolina at South Carolina-South Carolina
Washington State at Auburn-Auburn
South Carolina at UCF-South Carolina
SMU at Texas A&M-Texas A&M
Florida at Miami-Florida
Tennessee at Oregon-Oregon
Louisville at Kentucky-Louisville
Arkansas at Rutgers-Rutgers
Missouri at Indiana-Missouri
Florida State at Florida-Florida
Georgia at Georgia Tech-Georgia
Clemson at South Carolina-South Carolina
Topic 2: Which non-conference game not involving your own team are you most excited to watch? Why?
Definitely Georgia at Clemson. This will be a great chance for Carolina fans to get a glimpse of what their two biggest rivals will look like this season, one of which we're playing the following week. Plus, this is the renewal of a relatively storied rivalry, and thus should be intrinsically interesting for everyone. Florida-Florida St. is the other one that jumps out at me. With both programs good again after a few years of lopsided contests, that series is going to feature some good games in the coming years.
Topic 3: Which SEC opponent is the biggest mystery to you at this point?
Georgia. Obviously, they should be a good team, and they should have one of the best offenses in the country. Their defense is a huge question mark, though. They lose so much talent, and while they've recruited well enough to reload quickly, it's going to have to meld really quick for them to compete for a national title because the first two games come against top-10 opponents.
Topic 4: Are you in favor of a nine-game conference schedule? Is preserving annual cross-division rivalries (Bama-VOLS, LSU-UF, UGA-AUB) worth adding seven more conference losses to the aggregate and having fewer teams make bowls?
I'm going to disagree with tryptic and say I'm in favor. It's what the SEC has to do, both to benefit its strength-of-schedule rankings for the upcoming college football playoff, as well as to remain competitive at the all important television bargaining table, where the SEC will struggle against the conferences that are taking the plunge if it doesn't follow suit. There are, of course, some drawbacks. The mid-range programs that rely on cupcake OOC games to become bowl eligible will have more trouble doing so. (Remember those Kentucky teams that made bowls despite only winning a couple of SEC games?) It will also make it harder for programs to schedule marquee OOC games, particularly the ones that already play an OOC in-state rival. South Carolina won't be playing North Carolina too often if we go to a nine-game conference slate, and losing those games represents a real loss for the fans. However, the extra conference game should largely make up for lost fan interest there.