Archive for August, 2013

Thursday Round-Up: Ole Miss vs Vandy play in classic, unlike Clowney

So, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt served up a classic for any college football fan (like they did LAST SEASON, actually), while Jadeveon Clowney proved why he’s…..oh wait a minute, he didn’t. But South Carolina rolled North Carolina 27-10 to keep Vegas happy.

So, here are the headlines:

1) Clowney Calamity?

If we could go to jail for ‘after the fact irresponsible advertising’, then we probably would have the cops knocking on our door after wanting to re-name Thursday ‘Clowney Day’ to celebrate the return of college football to our TV screens and stadiums. The South Carolina behemoth struggled for most of the game against North Carolina – especially during the Tar Heel’s hurry-up offense. He looked beat repeatedly, and we kept asking ourselves: ‘This Jadeveon Clowney, right?’. Clowney had three first-half tackles and hurried UNC’s quarterback Brenner a couple of times, but really, the most exciting defensive end in college football, well, wasn’t that exciting. The explanation was the fact that he’d had a stomach bug before the game started, and that’s why he was so exhausted. For us, he looked over-heated and out-of-shape – perhaps a function of the off-season injury to his shoulder, which made him miss a couple of practices. OK, so credit also has to go to the Tar Heels’ offensive line, which double-teamed him pretty much throughout the game and neutralised his presence, too. But really, the Clowney show on ESPN was more about what a let-down he was instead of how he changed the season opener.

2) Ole Miss vs Vandy: Another Classic

We’d like to remind you that Ole Miss vs Vanderbilt is a) One of the SEC’s oldest rivalries (if not the most celebrated), and that last year, the two teams served up a classic, with Vanderbilt winning in the final minute of the game. Well, Ole Miss served that piece of heartbreak back, scoring a TD with 1:30 left to come from 35-32 down to 39-35 up. This was after Vanderbilt was up a convincing 21-10 at half-time. You know, after Ole Miss had run out to a 10-0 lead early on. Oh, and the game finished with Jordan Matthews, the Vanderbilt receiver who was excellent today, dropping a drive-continuing pass. He ended up sobbing on his coaches’ shoulder. Wow. I’m sure if I was a Vandy fan, I’d be doing the same thing. But kids, this was the best game of the night,and will be hard to beat as the SEC’s best game of the season in the weeks and months that come. It was truly, truly awesome.

3) Barrett Shaw? Dylan Thompson? Does it matter?

Barrett Shaw burned North Carolina with both his legs and his arm, while Dylan Thompson had one pass and was absolutely perfect. The problem with Shaw is the fact that he doesn’t bother sliding. If he wants to be the dual-threat quarterback that he is, he’s going to learn how to do that. He could take lessons from Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace who – when he had the time – did it really well. Still, Shaw threw for 149 yards and a TD and ran for another 43 yards, so logic would dictate that they are fine.

3) Vandy needs another wide receiver…

I talked a lot about Jordan Matthews, and despite the deflection off his hands that gave Ole Miss the game-winning interception, Matthews is STILL one of the best wide receivers in the SEC. Now, with Chris Boyd currently suspended for his part in the Vanderbilt rape case, Vandy URGENTLY need another wide receiver. It showed during the game. Sure, I’ll be pointed towards Steve Scheu’s TD catch at the end of the game, but Jordan Matthews needs a partner, and quickly.

4) But Ole Miss is fine with a kid

Laquan Treadwell came into this game the nation’s No.1 high school receiver (if ESPN didn’t mention it enough), and was exceptional in Ole Miss’ victory. He had 82 yards in 9 receptions, and was exceptional. He didn’t get the TD because in short-and-goal range, Hugh Freeze opted for his QB-keep packages of Barry Brunetti and Wallace, who ended up with 3 touchdowns between them. But Treadwell is going to frighten a lot of secondaries this year….and Texas had better watch out!

5) South Carolina are going to be OK without Marcus Lattimore

He’ll be one of the most missed running backs Carolina’s ever seen, but Steve Spurrier will be fine without Marcus Lattimore. Behind an awesome offensive line, Mike Davis and  Brandon Wilds showed great power. They’ll be fine.

6) Robert Nkemdiche, stud of the future

I’ll leave you with this: Robert Nkemdiche played his first game of college ‘ball for Ole Miss today, and was a HUGE presence for his team in the defensive line. Imagine what he’s going to do to offensive lines in 2014 and 2015, folks. I’m scared just thinking about it.

PS: The SEC Football Blog would also like to note he was 2-0 in both game predictions, and spread predictions. It doesn’t happen often, so we’re bragging.

No Clowning Around on Clowney Day? SEC Predictions Week 1

Wow. So this is it. It’s the start of the 2013 college football season today, and this is a wonderful thing. In fact, I’m in tears of excitement just thinking about it.

Anyways, here are our SEC Predictions

THURSDAY

North Carolina at South Carolina

South Carolina’s defensive superstar and potential NFL No.1 pick Jadeveon Clowney is getting re-unleashed on the world against a North Carolina offence trying to pick its offensive line back up. South Carolina have to replace running back Marcus Lattimore but quarterback Connor Shaw is more than capable of winning the game – especially when’s it at home at a very, very loud Williams-Brice Stadium. South Carolina is a 12 ½-point favourite against a team that on its day can score a ton of points.

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN: Connor Shaw gets injured, Dylan Thompson throws too many INTs, Clowney gets ejected for ripping a UNC player’s head off. Chaz Sutton gets ejected. Hell freezes over.

PREDICTION: South Carolina beats North Carolina and by more than the 12 ½ point spread.

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

This is an interesting game for a ton of reasons. Ole Miss come to Nashville with plenty of hope after a brilliant end to the 2014 season, a fantastic recruiting off-season, and a brilliant first-year player called Robert Nkemdiche, who’ll be playing with his really talented brother, Denzel, in the Rebels’ defence. Quarterback Bo Wallace leads a talented offence that includes WR Donte Moncrief and RB Jeff Scott. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is doing some slight rebuilding, with new QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, but excellent WR Jordan Matthews is a potential match-winner.

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN: IT CAN’T. SEC! SEC! SEC! SEC!

PREDICTION: Ole Miss is a three-point favourite in what could be the game of the night. We think Ole Miss will win and beat the handicap.

SATURDAY

GEORGIA AT CLEMSON

This is the biggest game in college football by an absolute mile and we can’t separate the two sides. Clemson has the wide receivers, while Georgia has a better quarterback (Aaron Murray vs Tajh Boyd). Running backs-wise, Georgia’s running back combo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are going to seriously hurt Clemson’s defence – even though their offence can keep up with anybody. The ‘X’ factor could be the atmosphere – Clemson’s at home, at night in what will be the loudest atmosphere this weekend in college football by a mile. Clemson is a 1-point favourite.

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN: Georgia’s secondary not existing. Aaron Murray not coping (again) against ranked teams. Gurley and Marshall looking human. Georgia’s defense – again – not learning how to tackle.

PREDICTION: Clemson wins in a cracker, and beats the handicap, but only by a whisker.

LSU VS TCU

LSU’s clash with TCU promises a lot. How will LSU cope without 14 of their starters going to the NFL, including most of their defence? Will RB Jeremy Hill be back for the game? Will DE Davonte Fields be back for TCU? Can TCU’s QB Casey Pachall and coach Gary Patterson conjure up a massive upset victory? How good will LSU QB Zach Mettenberger be now he’s been coached by former NFL offensive co-ordinator Cam Cameron? LSU’s a four-point favourite in this one, which could well be wild.

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN: Whatever happens, it’s all going to get blamed on Les Miles.

PREDICTION: LSU wins, and by more than the handicap suggests – they have a pounding rushing game and the offensive to help Mettenberger sort out some of the problems of last year. In Cam we trust.

ALABAMA VS VIRGINIA TECH

National Champion Alabama is an overwhelming favourite in the first game of the season against Virginia Tech – especially with all the injuries the Hokies have had recently. ‘Bama coach Nick Saban has constantly warned his side against complacency – and he’s got the weapons in QB AJ McCarron, WR Amari Cooper, RB TJ Yeldon, and the best defence in the country to win and win this game in style. It’s just going to be a matter of how much 20 ½-point favourite Alabama’s going to win by, and if Saban decides to take his foot off the gas in preparation for the September 14th super match-up with Texas A&M.

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN: Logan Thomas has the game of his life, while Nick Saban’s head (literally) explodes on the sideline, leaving Alabama feeling coachless. Kirby Smart can’t do it all himself. TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry run into each other in a complicated offensive play, knocking each other out. AJ McCarron sprains his neck running into his offensive linesman’s behind.

PREDICTION: Alabama wins and beats the handicap – but only just as the Crimson Tide take their foot off the accelerator for the reasons explained earlier.

RICE AT TEXAS A&M

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has been highlighted for just about everything apart from football this off-season, and he’s going to suspended for the first half of the Aggies home opener with Rice for signing too many autographs. In the mean-time, the Aggies will kick off proceedings with either Matt Joeckel or very talented first-year Kenny Hill (we’ve actually seen the latter in action, and he’s really, really good). They’ll face a Rice side that returns 19 starters (9 offence, 10 defence), but should be no match.

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN: Johnny Manziel sees a hottie in the crowd and doesn’t come down for the rest of the game. Kenny Hill and Matt Joeckel simply suck. Michael Evans gets injured. A&M’s ‘D’ actually gets worse from last year. Rice run riot.

PREDICTION: Aggies win by (far more) than 27 points.

OKLAHOMA STATE VS MISSISSIPPI STATE

Oklahoma State’s clash against Mississippi State looks interesting from a lot of angles. Oklahoma State definitely has a high-scoring offense, but their defence is one of the more leaky in college football, and Mississippi State has QB Tyler Russell and RB LaDarius Perkins that can cause trouble to the Cowboys. Having said that, MSU have lost the best members of their secondary, and Oklahoma State sure know how to the throw the pigskin. This one’s going to be FUN.

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN: In fact, we’ll be shocked if MSU wins this one. They’re going to have to deal with an extremely good offense, with a weakened secondary.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma State wins. I’m nervous about the 12 ½ points though….it depends on how improved the Cowboys’ defence is.

 WASHINGTON STATE AT AUBURN

Mike Leach vs Gus Malzahn. Hmmm. We know one thing: This could be point-heavy, folks! It’s going to be interesting how Auburn’s new QB Nick Marshall copes with the pressure on the plains (and despite a crappy year in 2012, there IS PRESSURE ON THE PLAINS), and how Tre Mason runs at the Wazzu’s defense. Speaking of ‘D’ , how will Auburn cope with a Mike Leach offense? Auburn’s a 15-1/2 point favourite in this one….but is it a little high?

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN: Mike Leach, folks. And Auburn’s defense being….Auburn’s defense

PREDICTION: Auburn wins, but by less than the 15 1/2 points. Leach exposes some of Auburn’s defensive frailties, but this game is indeed fun.

TOLEDO AT FLORIDA

Florida’s missing Mike Gillislee and some key offensive components from last year’s excellent season, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Gators struggle early against Toledo, who’s a 23 1/2 point dog. If you remember the Jacksonville State game, Will Muschamp’s offense didn’t get it together until the second quarter. So what will happen here? The same?

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN? Jeff Driskel gets injured, and Florida’s offense remains clueless, and remain camped in their own 50.

PREDICTION: Florida wins, but we’re not so sure about the spread. We’re really not. 

KENTUCKY AT WESTERN KENTUCKY

Western Kentucky’s actually a 4-point favourite for this one….and frankly we’re not surprised. We’re only surprised that it’s not more. Sure, we like the hiring of Mark Stoops and half of Tallahassee. Sure, we think that Kentucky’s going to break its SEC duck – although we don’t know who against (yet). But Bobby Petrino and the fun that he’ll have with this WKU offense is going to cause Kentucky problems. You watch.

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN? Bobby Petrino.

PREDICTION: Western Kentucky wins by more than 4 points.

AUSTIN PEAY AT TENNESSEE

Tennessee by a mile. Tennessee’s a 50-point favourite with the best offensive line in the country, and a good offensive co-ordinator in Butch Jones. But should they win by more than 50-points? Erm…

WHAT COULD SCREW UP A SEC WIN: Nothing.

PREDICTION: Tennessee wins, but just squeezes by the 50-point victory margin.

 

Top Five of Just About Everything SEC

Fed up with Top 10s, we’re going even narrower with our Top five of EVERYTHING SEC (well, almost everything). So enjoy reading, and come back with your comments.

 

 

 

 

TOP FIVE PLAYERS IN THE SEC NOT NAMED JOHNNY OR JADEVEON

1. Todd Gurley/Keith Marshall (RBs, Georgia) – Gurshall!

2. Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) – Best wide receiver in the SEC, and maybe college football

3. Michael Evans, WR Texas A&M – He’s pretty good, too.

4. AJ McCarron (QB, Alabama) – Has the keys to a Porsche, but all he does is win.

5. Aaron Murray (QB, Georgia) – Will be going to the NFL.

TOP FIVE FRESHMEN WITH UNREAL POTENTIAL

1. Robert Ndemkiche (Ole Miss) – Tremendous DE. People talking about him as the next Clowney.

2. Derrick Henry (Alabama) – Hasn’t played a second of college ball and already people talking about this running back as being a Heisman hopeful. So no pressure, then.

3. Marquez North (Tennessee) – They are already drooling over this freshman wide receiver in Knoxville.

4. Carl Lawson (Auburn) – Everyone loves his mouth, but also his ability. He’s going to be a great on the Plains (if he doesn’t get injured, suspended, thrown off the team etc)/

5.  Alex Collins (Arkansas) – Going to be used by Bret Bielema as one of the RBs to run the ball down an opponent’s throat. We’re excited.

TOP FIVE PLAYERS WE’RE LOOKING FOR BETTER FROM

1. Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri) – Wide receiver was No.1 recruit in the nation and was talked about being the ‘real deal’. After getting suspended for one game for a drug misdemeanor, he had just 395 yards receiving and 5 TDs. We need more, people

2.Tyler Russell (Mississippi State) – I know he had a pretty good year, but Russell’s reputation puts him as possibly one of the best QBs in the SEC – but he didn’t really show it in 2012 – especially during the Kings of Cowbell’s latter-season slide. Might sound harsh, but we want more.

3. Byron Moore (Tennessee)  – Sure, the safety had 84 tackles and 5 INTS for a horrible Vols, but Tennessee will need EVEN MORE if they are going to get to a bowl game this year.

4. Aaron Murray (Georgia) – Sounds horrible to say, but we want to see more from Murray – especially from the ‘big time teams’. Against South Carolina, Murray went 11-31 for 109 yards. Florida? 150 yards. Heck, he even struggled against Auburn (208 yards) and Georgia Tech (215). We need to see a little more consistency, please.

5. Alvin Dupree (Kentucky) – No-one knows who are you? Fine. He’ll be a key to Kentucky’s defense next year as the school tries to rebuild under Mark Stoops. Warning: It’ll take a while.

TOP OFFENSES

1. Texas A&M – Johnny Football, Michael Evans, and a solid offensive line that WILL get better.

2. Georgia – Gurshall, Aaron Murray, and a WR that you might have never heard of, Michael Bennett.

3. Alabama – TJ Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Amari Cooper and a QB that never loses in AJ McCarron

4. South Carolina – Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson are good QBs, peeps.

5. Ole Miss – Hugh Freeze’s boys will put up some points. Bo Wallace is a good QB, and there’s a lot of good young talent in coming through. Ole Miss just pips LSU for the country’s top offense.

TOP DEFENSES

1. Alabama – Talent all over, and coached by the best.

2. South Carolina – Jadeveon Clowney’s good. So’s Chaz Sutton, people.

3. Florida – Will Muschamp’s ‘D’ will still be filthy despite losing talent.

4. LSU – If you don’t think John Chavis is one of the best defensive co-ordinators in the country, you’re an idiot. If you think they don’t have any talent this year on defense, you’re equally stupid.

5. Ole Miss – Will come on strong this year with the two Ndemkiche kids playing together.

TOP FIVE TEAMS LOOKING FOR A TURNAROUND

1. Kentucky – Mark Stoops’ arrival has gotten hope in Lexington. If he gets UK to a bowl game he’ll be given the Freedom Of The State.

2. Tennessee – Butch Jones did miracles in Cincinnati. Could he do the same with the Vols. Vols fans think so – they are packing out practices!!

3. Missouri – If the miracle could be a good offensive line and James Franklin not getting killed, God would be in Tigers fans good books.

4. Arkansas – A bowl game for the Razorbacks? A tough order in a loaded SEC West, but Bret Bielema’s got the fanbase whirring again. Bobby Petrino created whirring of a different sort…

5. Auburn – Gus Malzahn’s back! The glory days are back! Kiehl Frazier isn’t the team’s QB anymore! War Eagle!

TOP FIVE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS

1. Alabama  

2. Georgia

3. South Carolina (switch with Georgia after Week 2 if the Gamecocks beat the Dawgs in Sanford).

4. Texas A&M (switch with ‘Bama if Johnny & Co roll the tide on September 14th)

5. Florida (Because Will Muschamp’s defense loads up every day, and the schedule isn’t terrible)

TOP FIVE MOST UNDERRATED TEAMS

1. LSU – No-one seems to believe – with all the talent that’s left – that LSU is going to remain pretty damned strong. We do.

2. Auburn – Gus Malzahn’s an offensive miracle worker, and the D should be greatly improved.

3. Florida – No-one’ s been talking about Will Muschamp’s team in the off-season. Is this a good thing because they’ve stayed out of trouble?

4. Tennessee – Joke all you want, but Marquez North and the offensive line are seriously nasty in Knoxville.

5. Mississippi State – Ignore ‘The Cowbell’ all you want….Mississippi State’s going to be bowl-eligible this year.

TOP FIVE TEAMS THAT MIGHT END UP WINLESS IN SEC PLAY

1. Kentucky – Won’t be a surprise

2. Missouri – Won’t be much of a surprise

3. Tennessee – Will be a little disappointing

4. Arkansas – At least they have an excuse – they have a new coach and a terrible ‘D’.

5. Vanderbilt – Would be a huge step back

TOP FIVE COACHES IN THE SEC

1. Nick Saban

2. Steve Spurrier

3. Mark Richt

4. Les Miles (Beat Sumlin last year in College Station. Ergo, he’s above him)

5. Kevin Sumlin

TOP FIVE MIRACLE WORKERS IN THE SEC

1. Kevin Sumlin – Look what he did with the Aggies in 2013. That’s a miracle, folks!

2. Steve Spurrier – Brought Carolina out of the doldrums and turned them into a machine.

3. Dan Mullen – Mississippi State. Reignited a fanbase.

4. Hugh Freeze – Reignited Ole Miss’ fanbase, which hasn’t really been awake since Eli.

5. Mark Richt/Les Miles – The fanbases seem to dislike both coaches, yet both coaches keep winning games, recruiting great talent. Les Miles wins National Championships and beats the crap out of Notre Dame in bowl games. Shutting the boo-birds on those fanbases is a miracle and a half.

TOP FIVE COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT/ WILL BE ON THE HOT SEAT

1. Gary Pinkel (Missouri) – Another losing season and it could be Pinkel’s out of a job.

2. Mark Richt (Georgia) – Because he’s ALWAYS on the hot seat in Athens.

3. Butch Jones (Tennessee) – UT’s ADs have always had itchy trigger fingers. They want to bring back the teams of the late 1990s.

4. Les Miles (LSU) – Because Les Miles is Les Miles. Someone’s always saying he should be fired.

5. Dan Mullen (Mississippi State) – Because will getting into a bowl game yet losing the Egg Bowl to Ole Miss be enough for fans in Starkville?

TOP FIVE COACHES IN NO DANGER OF GETTING FIRED

1. Nick Saban (Alabama) – No question the best coach in college football.

2. Steve Spurrier (South Carolina) – He talks **** about Clemson and Georgia, and beats Clemson and Georgia. And is now putting South Carolina in content for SEC East Titles. That’ll do for Gamecocks fans.

3. James Franklin (Vanderbilt) – The only way he’s leaving Nashville is for a bigger job.

4. Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) – Miracles in Year 1 in College Station. That’ll do.

5. Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss) – At the moment, he can do not wrong in Oxford.

TOP FIVE SEC STADIUMS 

WARNING: This is the toughest Top Five I’ll ever have to do. But here we go:

1. LSU – Saturday nights in Death Valley are insane. Saturday days tailgating are equally insane.

2. Texas A&M – A weird Aggie cult, full of swaying, wooing, and weirding. But incredibly loud.

3. Georgia – There’s something special and beautiful about the hedges.

4. Florida – The Swamp. Nasty, stinky, and very, very loud.

5. Alabama – Tuscaloosa’s a fortress for the Crimson Tide – and it’s a nice stadium, too.

TOP FIVE SEC STUDENT SECTIONS

1. Texas A&M – 12th. Man.

2. LSU – Rowdy, rude, and like to have a little dance. It works.

3. Auburn – Lovin’ them shakers, man!! (Orange and blue look cool, too)

4. Florida  – Chomp! Chomp! Jorts! Chomp! Jorts!

5. Tennessee (when Neyland gets going) – A fantastic orange student section when Tennessee gets going. I’ve experienced it, and it rocks. Louder than Georgia’s, anyways.

TOP FIVE SEC CO-EDS (AND THIS IS A CLOSE BATTLE, SINCE THERE ARE SO MANY BEAUTIFUL LADIES IN THE SEC (THAT’S WHY WE’RE WINNERS)

1. Ole Miss 

2. Georgia  

3. Alabama

4. Florida

5. South Carolina

We’d like to note that there are beautiful women in the SEC on every campus. That’s why we win National Championships and people come flooding back to our stadiums. No disrespect meant for the list. 

TOP FIVE AWESOME-EST CHANTS

1. Woo! Pig Soieee!!! Arkansas’ war chant even better after half a bottle of Jim Beam!

2. Rammer Jammer! The ultimate “Screw You” from Alabama fans. Also great if you beat Alabama and you taunt their fans with it. They go strangely quiet, a Texas A&M fan informed me who was in Tuscaloosa for THAT game

3. Geaux Tigers!  French said in a cajun drawl always wins. LSU fans trying to use french is pretty cool. Also, it’s insistent

4. The Texas A&M Battle Hymn – It’s incredible to listen to. It’s all about how much they hate the University of Texas. Which is OK with us. They remind you to ‘Saw Varsity’s Horns Off’. So there you go.

5. Rocky Top – Because it’s freaking catchy

TOP FIVE BEST (LIVE) MASCOTS IN THE SEC

1. Mike The Tiger (LSU) – Because no-one beats the tiger. Or goes anywhere near him, if we’re honest.

2.  UGA (Georgia) – Because the Bulldog’s cool.

3. Spirit (Auburn) – War. Eagle.

4. Tusk (Arkansas) – Don’t mess with the pig.

5. Reveille (Texas A&M) – All we can think of is Lassie.

 

Three-peat for ‘Bama? 2013 Alabama College Football Preview

Is there ever going to be a year that Alabama will NOT be the favorite, or one of the favorites, for a national title? Well, after 2012, when Alabama waltzed home with its second straight National Championship, we’ll answer that: Probably not.

Nick Saban’s the country’s best coach. Nick Saban’s one of the country’s best recruiters. All Nick Saban does (unless you’re referring to his NFL career) is win.

His team brings back their starting quarterback who just knows how to win, and an exceptional wide receiver who doesn’t drop anything. Their running back stable is the best in the country. And their defence is frighteningly good.

But will he get his third straight National Championship? A lot of people think that he will. Alabama is an almost unanimous No.1 with the AP.

LAST YEAR

Last year Alabama had wins where they destroyed teams, wins where they squeezed by and times when they had more than a little bit of fortune. The wins where they destroyed teams? Michigan. Missouri. Tennessee. Auburn. Notre Dame in the National Championship Game. The wins where they got away? LSU. Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. The bit of fortune? When they had lost to Texas A&M at home and then Kansas State and Oregon don’t do what they were meant to.

But that was OK by Alabama. All that mattered was the Crystal Ball. And that’s what they got.

OFFENSE

We procrastinated over whether we’d put Alabama’s McCarron over Georgia’s Aaron Murray in our list of the SEC’s best QBs, but we put McCarron over Murray because we believe a few things. One: McCarron’s got two National Championships. Two: We believe McCarron’s a better game manager than Murray – see him pull one out of the box against LSU and Georgia for details. Three: He’s got better wide receivers. Amari Cooper is one hell of a weapon to have. Cooper helped McCarron to an excellent 2012, where he threw for 2,900 yards and 30 TDs, giving up just 3 INTs, with a SEC-topping QB rating of 175.3. That’s pretty gaudy numbers.Oh, and the TJ Yeldon/Derrick Henry running back combination? We could see Yeldon as a Heisman contender, people. And we see Derrick Henry as a future Heisman contender.

Sure, Alabama is going to have to blood three new starters in the offensive line (we’d argue that the biggest loss is center superbrain Barrett Jones), but Nick Saban will be OK with that. He’s Nick Saban, after all.

DEFENSE

Alabama returns seven players from a fearsome defense that ranks first in points per game (10.7 pts), rushing (76.4 yards/game), and total yards (250 yards per game). They were seventh in passing defense (173.6 yards/game).

We’ll start with the ‘weakness’ – the Alabama secondary. Sure, they lose Dee Milliner and Robert Lester, but it’s not like they bring back duds.  Free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had five INTs, strong safety Vinnie Sunseri who 5th on the team in tackles (54), CB Deon Belue (40 tackles, 2 INTs). For a ‘weakness’ it’s a lot more experienced than most secondaries out there!

And up front, the loss of leader/nose guard Jesse Williams, DEs Damion Square and Quinton Dial will definitely hurt. I’m sure of it. But it won’t show on the field. CJ Mosley, Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard are all back. They had over 200 tackles between them (well, Mosley had a tidy 107!). It doesn’t matter if Alabama doesn’t have a dominant pass rusher – they’ll choke you if you try and run on them.

What’s interesting for us is how they deal with an offense like a Texas A&M’s, who beat them by forcing turnovers, but also beat them because of the seeming uncatchability of Johnny Manziel.

THE SCHEDULE

8/31 vs. Virginia Tech (in Georgia Dome)

9/14 at Texas A&M

9/21 COLORADO STATE

9/28  OLE MISS

10/05 GEORGIA STATE

10/12 at Kentucky

10/19  ARKANSAS 

10/26 TENNESSEE

11/09 LSU 

11/16 at Mississippi State

11/23 CHATTANOOGA 

11/30 at Auburn

Right, we know what the biggest game of Alabama’s season is, and it’s not the November 23rd showdown with Chattanooga. It’s the September 14th showdown on the road at Kyle Field with Texas A&M. If they can get through that unscathed, then the schedule is extremely generous to Nick Saban. There’s no Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina. LSU and Ole Miss are both games that will be played in Tuscaloosa. The opening day of the season is being played in Atlanta against Virginia Tech, so they avoid playing on the road in Blacksburg (thanks, ESPN).

BOTTOM LINE: Alabama wins at Kyle Field, and rolls to a SEC Championship. And then rolls to a National Championship. Then wins another one.

Heeeeeeere’s Johnny! Texas A&M 2013 Preview

Furious about Texas’ Longhorn Network, the Aggies went to the SEC, and the conference is all the better for it, people. And while Texas’ coaching staff – and defense – was getting shredded during 2012, Texas A&M were making the biggest waves it has done since Bear Bryant was coaching back in the day of the Junction Boys. Kevin Sumlin arrived at a press conference almost upon arrival, and said: “I want to be around people who want to play at the highest level in the best conference in America. If you’re scared of that, get a dog.”

Well, the Aggies were the dog in 2012, chomping on their new SEC West rivals. They are the most celebrated side of the 2012 off-season, thanks to the activities of quarterback Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman last year and spent a lot of it in the little world known as ‘controversy’.

LAST YEAR

Last season was a hell of a coming out party for Texas A&M.  There was an unknown quarterback called Johnny Manziel, who arrived, beat Alabama, invigorated America, and won the Heisman. The Aggies finished the season with a terrific 10-2 record, with losses to LSU and Florida. Oh, and in true irony, the Aggies annihilated former Big XII rival Oklahoma in their bowl game 41-13. And in truth, the Aggies could well have gone to the SEC Championship Game ahead of Alabama, if they hadn’t been stifled in the second half against Florida and given up FIVE turnovers against LSU. That’s how good this team was. Thanks to Manziel’s brilliance and some fantastic receiving work from frosh Mike Evans  and experienced WR Ryan Swope – who we still credit for getting Ryan Tannehill in the NFL – scored over 45 points seven times.The offense ended up fourth in the country in scoring and put up a terrific 558.5 yards per game, good for third.

But in the off-season, Texas A&M season hasn’t been the best. Johnny Manziel can’t seem to go anywhere without courting a news report, either from TMZ or ESPN. Sumlin had to suspend two players – both from the team’s secondary – for their involvement in a fight in April. They’ll be gone for the Rice game.

OFFENSE

Listen, we all know about the off-season that Johnny Football has had, but really, it should be no surprise that the Heisman Trophy winner that – if you believe the highlight film – beat Alabama single-handed and took Texas A&M to the promised land of a New Year’s Day Bowl win against Oklahoma (where they destroyed the Sooners), has been named No.1 on the SEC Football Blog’s 2013 list. Frankly, if he wasn’t, we’d be a bit shocked with ourselves. The guy can brutalise defences with his arm AND his feet.

In terms of weapons, Johnny Football’s going to miss his excellent left tackle (now right tackle) in Luke Joeckel and center Patrick Lewis, who have both gone to the NFL , and he’s sure as hell going to miss wide receivers Ryan Swope, Thomas Johnson and Uzoma Nwachukanu. Can Mike Evans – who had over 1,100 yards receiving in 2012 – continue his god-like qualities in 2013. If not, Manziel could probably do it all himself anyway, while saving Metropolis and getting together with Louis Lane .

Now, there is some worry coming out of Kyle Field that Manziel may miss a game or two or four for his role in an autographs scandal, but right now, he’s the best quarterback in college football, let alone the SEC. Oh, and his back-up – who we feel should be redshirt Kenny Hill – is pretty great, too.

DEFENSE

A lot of people who cover up for Texas A&M’s dreadful defense will be the people who say “Well, they didn’t need a defense, because the offense was great”. And they might be right.

But imagine a day when Johnny Manziel and the offense DOES get closed down. You know, we can imagine one on September 14th when a certain Nick Saban team comes to town. If your offense gets stopped once but you can’t stop the pass (they couldn’t last year) or the run (they weren’t great against either), then you’re in trouble. The team’s turnover margin was a distinctly unhealthy -5, and although there were some great turnover days last year (Alabama, which they had a fumble and an INT), but there were also some terrible ones (LSU, where they lost 2 fumbles and 3 INTs).

And the Aggies defense is going to be all the poorer without Damontre Moore and Jonathan Stewart, who nearly had 170 tackles between them. They bring back LB Steven Jenkins, who’ll be relied upon to do some tackling.

As for the secondary, something’s got to be an improvement to the horror of 2012, which gave up 250.7 yards of passing. We won’t see how they’ve improved much in the first game of 2013, what with Deshazor Everett getting suspended for half a game and Floyd Raven suspended for a whole one for their part in an April 13 fracas. They’d better improve for Alabama, or they are in trouble.

THE SCHEDULE

Aug 31  Rice 

Sept 7  Sam Houston State

Sept 14  Alabama 

Sept 21  SMU

Sept 28   at Arkansas

Oct 12   at Ole Miss

Oct 19 Auburn

Oct 26  Vanderbilt

Nov  9  Mississippi State

Nov 16  New Mexico

Nov 23  at LSU

Nov 30 at Missouri

Three things on this schedule stand out: The Alabama game on September 14th, the fact that there’s no Texas game on Thanksgiving, and the visit to Death Valley on November 23rd. Otherwise, this is a great schedule for any Aggies fan who wants his team beating all and sundry into a cocked hat. Heck, this team could even win convincingly WITHOUT Johnny Football.

THE BOTTOM LINE The season depends on the September 14th game against Alabama. If A&M wins, then they will be favourites to go to the SEC Championship Game. If they lose, then they will be fighting for second with the aforementioned Tigers, albeit with an easier SEC schedule. We think that they LOSE against Alabama in a tight, tight game, but the season finishes 11-1.

Will Butch Jones redeem the Vols?: Tennessee 2013 Preview

Butch Jones has arrived in Tennessee, and  it’s his job to right a ship that pretty much sank under the ‘stewardship’ of Derek Dooley. The good news is is that he still has some playmakers and weapons playing for him – they didn’t all decide to transfer. The bad news is is that the Vols are playing catch-up in a nasty SEC and an even nastier division – the SEC East, where the ‘haves’ are Georgia, South Carolina and Florida….and former ‘little brother’ Vanderbilt are becoming the conference’s hottest story.

So how will things work out in 2013. Here’s our preview.

LAST YEAR

It’s strange, because last year wasn’t a truly awful one for Tennessee….at the start, anyway. The Vols ranked fashionable dark horse NC State 35-21 in the first game, and scored 50 in their home opener to quickly go 2-0. Then came Florida. The Vols took a 14-10 lead into half-time – and it could have been more had the Vols offense (and in particular Justin Hunter, who dropped a couple of key catches) been able to take their chances. They then lost heart in the second half, and Florida won out a more-convincing-than-the-scoreline-suggested 37-20 winners. After being Akron, Dooley’s team then lost a shoot-out against Georgia 51-44, turning a 21-10 first quarter deficit into a 30-27 lead in the second. They were 51-44 with 15 seconds to go and had the chance to take the game to overtime before Tyler Bray was intercepted by Sanders Commings. More bad luck for Dooley – and more horrific defense, too. Losses at Mississippi State and at home to Alabama followed, and Jadeveon Clowney’s freakish play in the dying seconds of the South Carolina game (you know, the one where Marcus Lattimore broke his leg in one of the most sickening moments of the 2012 season), ensured that the Vols lost 38-35 and Derek Dooley’s job was basically over. Squeaking by 55-48 against Troy hardly did the coach’s job any favours, and a 4 OT loss to Missouri, followed by the 41-18 annihilation at Vanderbilt ensured Dooley was fired before the final game against Kentucky, which the Vols actually won 37-17.

Why did we go into so much detail on this? Because it’s interesting to note out that the Vols actually weren’t as bad as their 5-7 (1-7 SEC) record suggested. They lost three games by a touchdown or under. They led against Florida and didn’t get the breaks. They were 22nd in the country in scoring offense (although their defense was 104th in the country).

But what killed the Tennessee fans, boosters and probably AD Dave Hart, probably wasn’t the fact the UT went 0-3 against South Carolina, Florida and Georgia – they could have easily gone 2-1 in those games. It was the fact that they went 0-3 against Vanderbilt, Missouri and Mississippi State – all three games that would have been ‘winnable’ on a Vols fan’s schedule.

OFFENSE

There is one thing that will help the Vols once they’ve got this situation dealt with: They’ve got an excellent and experienced offensive line. It’s stacked with future first and second-round NFL picks, led by Antonio Richardson, and are No. 2 in the country in total starts. So that’ll help the QBs’ necks, then. Now for their arms…

Justin Worley might know this offense, but he’s missing a ton of it. Gone are coach Derek Dooley, brilliant receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson and receiver (brilliant sometimes) Justin Hunter, as well as TE Mychal Rivera, who was great as a blocker and a catcher.

Athalon Sports preview said: “Worley will likely win the job because he’s taken Gen. Robert Neyland’s first maxim of football to heart….”The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win“. They’ve got Worley beating Pearlman and Ferguson to the job. But if I’m a Vols fan, I’d be worried that Worley couldn’t stand out during Spring practice. It’s a reason why the battle is still on, and not Worley’s. Ferguson might bring a good arm to the UT table after throwing for nearly 6,000 yards in his last two years at high school, but who’s he going to throw to? Some people believe Pearlman’s getting the job, by the way.

A lot of people are talking up freshman receiver Marquez North, who’ll combine with freshman Jason Croom. Marlin Lane had exactly ZERO TDs last year. In a word: gulp.

DEFENSE

The Vols return eight defensive starters this year, but as a friend of mine puts it: “If they weren’t very good last season, it doesn’t really matter if you return all 11”. That’s probably a valid point. No-one on the team distinguished themselves last season – unless it was giving up a ton of points and looking terrible against the pass (282.5 yards per game) and a little less terrible against the run (188.8 yards per game).

Some previews blame that about the installing of a 3-4 defense, so a return having four men up front hopefully will stop some of the SEC runners (Tennessee fans will pray so against one of the rougher schedules in college football!). More will be required of defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, who disappointed in ’13, and DT Maurice Couch and DE Jacques Smith will be equally required to improve from terrible seasons. LB A.J. Johnson may well be someone you see on Sundays – especially if he can repeat his excellent 138 tackles in 2012, leading the team by far. Vols fans will be hoping he becomes a sack threat – he only had one last year (the top returning ‘sackmeister’ are LB Curt Maggitt, Smith and DE Jordan Williams, who had 2 apiece. Because by God, the Vols need to learn how to pressure a quarterback- particularly with the offenses they’ll face.

Secondary-wise, Brian Randolph, a safety who Orange Nation had a lot of hopes for before he was injured in the Florida game, returns, which gives the secondary a bit of hope. It was so awful last season that fans feel that they need it.

THE SCHEDULE

Aug 31  AUSTIN PEAY 
Sept 7 WESTERN KENTUCKY 
Sept 14 at Oregon 
Sept 21 at Florida 
Sept 28 SOUTH ALABAMA
Oct 5 GEORGIA 
Oct 19 SOUTH CAROLINA 
Oct 26 at Alabama  
Nov 2, at Missouri 
Nov 9 AUBURN 
Nov 23 VANDERBILT 
Nov 30 at Kentucky 

Whoever the Tennessee offense gets, they’d better click by the time they face upset-minded Western Kentucky in Week 2, who are coached by Bobby Petrino, who knows something about a high-octane offense. Well, even if they get through that unscathed, Butch Jones’ real baptism of fire will be back-to-back games against the high-tempo Oregon, and the high-tempo defense of Florida, followed by a ‘game’ against South Alabama before back-to-back battles with Georgia and South Carolina at Neyland. Then it’s an easy road trip to Alabama followed by a match-up with Missouri in Columbia before Vols fans get to see Auburn and Vanderbilt visit Neyland. Then it’s Kentucky on the road to polish the season off.

BOTTOM LINE

THE OPTIMIST SAYS: Tennessee goes 2-0 to start the season, doesn’t embarrass itself against Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Carolina and Alabama, recovers to beat Mizzou, beats Auburn who have some of the same issues in defense that they do, beat Kentucky and get back to winning ways against ‘Little Brother’ Vanderbilt, going for a 6-6 season and a bowl game. On the offensive side, Marquez North becomes the next Cordarrelle and Justin, and Vols fans breathe easy behind good quarterbacking. Oh, and ‘D’ is better-than-average, too.

THE PESSIMIST SAYS: Listen, Butch Jones could be an offensive master and Marquez North could be the next Sammy Watkins, Amari Cooper, Marqise Lee and Jerry Rice rolled into one, but we still don’t see the Vols getting beyond five wins – and it could be even worse than that. Why? Their ‘D’ remains poor. Austin Peay and South Alabama are the only definite wins on the list. Western Kentucky is good at upsets. Vanderbilt has all the momentum. Auburn has Gus Malzahn and a high-tempo offense that the ‘D’ won’t be able to live with. Columbia, Missouri won’t be easy and the fans will be loud and desperate. As will Mark Stoops at Kentucky, who by then will be screaming out for their first SEC victory. Oh, and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and those tiny teams Alabama and Oregon might as well be ‘Ls’ on the list. This side could easily go 4-8 or even 3-9, or even worse, 2-10. That’s how bad the ‘D’ is.

THE NEUTRAL: Tennessee scares South Carolina and Georgia for a bit at Neyland, but the season is a ‘rebuilding’ one, and the Vols finish 4-8. 

 

Insane Clowney Posse? 2013 South Carolina Preview

It was a weird year for South Carolina. Thanks to a two-tier QB system of Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, the fact that Shaw seemed to struggle with getting battered by fast SEC players didn’t matter. They won close games. They lost a few, too. They beat Georgia….and still didn’t go to the SEC Championship game because they lost to Florida…..and to LSU.

Jadeveon Clowney was undoubtedly the star of the Gamecocks, partnering his frightening size with brutal speed and amazing playmaking ability. We can’t wait to see him this year…..and nor can most people.

So here goes our preview…

OFFENSE

The great thing about South Carolina’s QB ‘quandry’ is that it really isn’t a quandry in the least. Both Shaw AND Thompson can do great jobs for the Gamecocks – and they’ll need to without running back Marcus Lattimore. Thompson’s got the cannon arm, while Shaw’s got the whirring legs. They combined for an average of 238.1 yards passing per game. Not great, but when you’ve got a good running game, you don’t really need them.  We think both QBs could be pretty good if they shared the load. And we also think that whoever throws to Bruce Ellington (600 yards last year), he’ll catch the thing. But in a Spurrier offense (and a soft-ish schedule), both Shaw and Thompson will be fine.

Offensive line-wise, South Carolina brings everyone back except center TJ Johnson, so a lot will be hoped of freshman center Cody Waldrop, so that’s going to be a point of real strength.

At that running back position, much has been made of the Mike Davis/Brandon Wilds battle for Spurrier’s eye, so we’ll have to see. It’s definitely a question mark, though.

DEFENSE

Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney (deep breath) Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney. There’s nothing else you really need to say about ‘The Freak’, who can rip apart offensive lines – it seems – almost singlehandedly. The only offense that managed to actually get a hold of Clowney’s aggression was LSU, who seemed to throw behind him to RBs/TEs/WRs who then found the space to cause problems. It was really interesting – and stunning that a lot of teams didn’t copy the gameplan.

But apart from him, the Gamecocks return just four defensive starters, although DE Chaz Sutton and DT Kelcy Quarles are both very, very good.

In the secondary, the loss of D.J. Swearinger is going to be a massive loss for the team, and we wonder how the ‘Cocks are gong to cope. Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree had 84 tackles between them, and strong safety Brison Williams, who had 52. But despite this good experience, Swearinger’s still going to be a massive loss.

THE SCHEDULE

Aug 29 NORTH CAROLINA

Sept 7 at Georgia

Sept 14 VANDERBILT

Sept 28 at Central Florida

Oct 5 KENTUCKY

Oct 12 at Arkansas

Oct 19 at Tennessee

Oct 26 at Missouri

Nov 2 MISSISSIPPI STATE

Nov 16 FLORIDA

Nov 23 COASTAL CAROLINA

Nov 30 CLEMSON

South Carolina opens the season with North Carolina on Thursday night. Opening nights on a Thursday at Williams-Brice have become a college football staple, and we’re not complaining. The next week they go to Athens for a SEC showdown with Georgia, and then a tricky home game with Vanderbilt. Then comes the easiest part of the schedule, with Central Florida, Kentucky, on the road to Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri, and a home game with Mississippi State before Nov 16’s beast of a showdown with Florida. Coastal Carolina and a possible “11-os” showdown with Clemson – which could see both teams unbeaten before they face each other on Nov. 30.

BOTTOM LINE South Carolina’s showdowns with Georgia, Florida and Clemson are both toss-ups. We truly don’t know how they are going to go. Otherwise, we can confidently predict that the Gamecocks are going to go 9-0 in the other games. So, if all goes well the Gamecocks will end up going 12-0. If not, 9-3. It’s going to be more like 11-1, with a loss to Georgia or Florida. This is a very, very good side Steve Spurrier has, people.

 

ESPN’s ‘Best Student Sections In College Football’ Slideshow: Are you joking?

——BY ALEX FERGUSON/@viewfromamerica For The SEC Football Blog—-
Thanks to reading a little Saturday Down South, they pointed me towards ESPN’s latest slideshow: “The Top 20 Student Sections in College Football”.

No. 1 was Alabama. Georgia, Tennessee and Florida were all included, as were Auburn.

As lists go, it was a terrible list.

Thanks to SDS, who listed it out so we didn’t have to, here is the Top 20 list:

1. Alabama
2. Florida State
3. Penn State
4. Nebraska
5. Illinois
6. Oklahoma
7. Pittsburgh
8. North Carolina
9. Georgia
10. Tennessee
11. Wisconsin
12. Maryland
13. Florida
14. Miami
15. Cincinnati
16. SMU
17. TCU
18. Michigan
19. Auburn
20. Harvard

We’re not going to be a SEC homer, so we’ve got some questions to ask about other schools:

1) ESPN College Football guru Kirk Herbstreit called Texas A&M The ‘Best Student Section in College Football’. Fans we know from the Aggies’ Big XII days would agree. So would fans we know from the SEC who have been to A&M. The noise is relentless. And if you’re going to put Penn State’s student section at 3  – and they were also named the best student section in college football by Kirk Herbstreit back in 2005, why don’t you name the Aggies?

2) If Alabama‘s student section has been so incredible, intimidating, and such a big plus, then why has Alabama’s record ON THE ROAD – against the best student sections in the country – has actually been better than Alabama’s record AT HOME in recent years. Is that why that there are louder college football student sections than Bama’s by a mile

3) If Illinois is the third best student section in the country, then why can’t the student section sell out? The same probably applies to Georgia, too, where they are reducing the amount of student tickets because of the fact that the fans don’t show up.

4) Michigan’s student section gets in despite the fact that Ann Arbor itself is renowned for having historically quiet fans. Are you getting this off the Notre Dame-Michigan night game of 2011? Or is there any other evidence for this?

5) Miami‘s on the list, despite the fact that the stadium doesn’t even fill? If the students were the ‘best in college football’, surely they’d flood the place?

WHY WEREN’T THESE TEAMS ON THE LIST?

1) LSU – Well known as one of the loudest, rudest, student sections in college football. Oh, and the dancing during games is pretty cool, too. The fact that they seem to refuse shakers is also pretty great. Very un-SECish, but still great.

2) Ohio State – A big reason The Horseshoe is a difficult place to play is the Ohio State student section, which is absolutely rocking for any game, but particularly at night. We’d point you towards their epic battles with Texas and USC back in the day (and Michigan whenever the Wolverines are in town), over Ohio State.

3) Texas A&M – Two words for you: Twelfth. Man.

4) Oregon – The student section – and Autzen Stadium is general – is awesomely loud. Helps to make Autzen one of the most intimidating venues in college football…even if it is full of Pac-12 hippies.

5) South Carolina – A SEC fan said to me: ‘I hate to say this, but Williams-Brice is just defeaning’. Is it because it’s only been since Steve Spurrier came along? But if not, why aren’t they in?

6) Clemson – The Orange Death Valley has become one of the toughest places to play in college football. It starts with the student section. But no, ESPN, you’re putting North Carolina ahead of them!!

7) West Virginia – Morgantown’s a nutjob’s paradise. True, there’s been some trouble with the locals about fan behavior at the stadium, but you know what, West Virginia’s still a rough place to play.

8) Oklahoma State – Anyone who shows up with paddles to games automatically should get to any ‘Top 20 Student Sections in College Football List’.

9) Texas – Burnt Orange = Smoking hot. Or – as is known by a friend of ours who tries to go there once a year – ‘Paradise For Any Red-Blooded Male’.

10) Arizona State – Sun Devil Stadium’s student section ‘Black Outs’ are a sight to be seen.

Calling The Hogs: 2013 Arkansas College Football Preview

If there’s any season that Arkansas fans would like to brush under the carpet, it’s 2012. The Hogs were horrible under John L. Smith, the interim coach who probably never would have stayed in his role ANYWAY- even if the Razorbacks had been bowl eligible. Bobby Petrino started 2012 horribly, got fired for sexual indiscretions (and lying about it – and making us all laugh in the process), and Smith’s press conferences and his horrible team made us laugh even harder at the end.

But then they hired Wisconsin’s coach Bret Bielema, and we stopped laughing at the guys at Fayetteville. There’s no question Bielema has the experience of coaching for big teams in high-pressure environments. Wisconsin was both. Bielema can recruit, too.

LAST YEAR

Last year the Hogs went 4-8, including a 2-6 SEC record. The Razorbacks beat terrible Auburn and Kentucky sides, but struggled and were outperformed by just about everybody else. There were blow-outs at Alabama, Texas A&M and even Mississippi State. There were heartbreaking losses against LSU and Ole Miss. And there were embarrassing losses against Rutgers and University of Louisiana-Monroe.

Tyler Wilson still managed to throw for over 3,300 yards and 21 TDs. His problem was his 13 INTs. Cobi Hamilton was one of the top five best receivers in the SEC, and maybe college football, grabbing a sensational 90 catches for 1,335 yards and 5 TDs. That’s pretty great. The Razorbacks had a poor running game, with no rusher getting over 800 yards.

OFFENSE

Now that Brandon Mitchell’s transferred, this is going to be Allen’s team. Having said that, with new coach Bret Bielema’s offense, which during his years at Wisconsin was ‘run first, ask questions later’ – despite having Russell Wilson as a leader, don’t be surprised to see him not high on the ‘attempts list’ for starters at the end of the season. Allen stands in the shadows of giants after his predecessors Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson tore up Fayetteville during their Razorbacks careers, and he’s had some game experience.

Expect Allen to be supported by RBs Jonathan Williams and Nate Holmes, but now Hamilton’s left and MeKale McKay’s gone to play for Cincinnati, he’s lost his top three receivers for 2013. A lot is expected – and needed –  of you, Chris Gragg.

Running-wise, it’s going to be a hotch-potch of running backs. We expect a duo of running backs in the same way as Wisconsin had with Montee Ball and James White, with Jonathan Williams and Kiero Small leading the charge. It definitely won’t be too much of an ‘Air Raid’ offense this year, we can tell you.

DEFENSE

In 2012 the Hogs gave up over 30 points per game and 409 yards per game. Despite their relative excellence against the rush (124.1 yards/game – good for 19th in the country), they were abysmal against the pass (119th in the country).

The defense returns eight starters from 2013, including DEs Chris Smith and Trey Flowers and DT Byran Jones. The line should actually be really strong in 2013, again.

In 2013 the abysmal secondary returns most of their secondary – which Arkansas fans will pray will show some improvement from the horror of 2012. This will include strong safety Rohan Gaines, who was the team’s second-highest tackler last season with 75.

THE SCHEDULE

(Thanks, Wikipedia)

Date Opponent
 
Aug 31 Louisiana–Lafayette*  
Sept 7 Samford*    
Sept 14 Southern Miss*  
Sept 21 at Rutgers*  
Sept 28 Texas A&M
Oct 5 at Florida  
Oct 12 South Carolina
Oct 19 at Alabama  
Nov 2 Auburn
Nov 9 at Ole Miss  
Nov 23 Mississippi State
Nov 29 at LSU  

Unless everything goes drastically wrong, the Razorbacks should go 4-0 to start the season, before it all gets a little difficult against A&M, at Florida, at home to South Carolina, and on the road to Alabama. That’s one of the nastiest streak of games any team could ever get. In November, the schedule lightens up a bit with the hosting of Auburn, back-to-back Mississippi games at Ole Miss and at home to MSU, and the season-ending Battle For The Golden Boot against LSU.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s not a stretch to say that we think Arkansas finishes its opening eight-game stretch of the season at 4-4. It would not be too much of a stretch to see Arkansas then splitting the last four games, to finish 6-6. Any Arkansas fans would be delighted by that. However, it could all go wrong. There could be an embarrassing loss to Rutgers. Or at home to Auburn. Or to (gasp) Southern Miss. But we’ll go for 6-6, because we’re feeling optimistic about Coach Bielema.

Can Missouri Finally Arrive? 2013 Missouri Tigers Preview

Right, how does one say this about Missouri? In 2013, it’s quite difficult to say that they were goddawful, bearing in mind that they had two more SEC victories than Auburn (two), and took a National Championship frontrunner to the hilt (Florida), but at times, they really did look like men against boys.

This year Missouri will be looking for a vast improvement on their 5-7 year. So how will they do it?

LAST YEAR

Missouri simply weren’t that good last year. Sure, they battled gamely against Georgia and Florida – and scored two SEC victories against Kentucky and Tennessee – but seeing them embarrassed against Alabama, Texas A&M and South Carolina reminded us that Gary Pinkel’s side wasn’t really a contender.

Things weren’t helped by an injury early in the season to starting quarterback James Franklin and then a back-up in Corbin Berkstresser who was completely out of his depth, and the sad underperformance of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who set  nothing alight with 395 yards receiving and 5 TDs – although Mizzou fans on Twitter have been quick to point out how poor Missouri’s offensive line was last year.

OFFENSE

Remember folks, Franklin was a guy who had 2,865 yards for Mizzou in 2011. He’s got the talent. But can he stay healthy? There’s no doubt that if he IS healthy and on his game, James Franklin can cause defenses problems. But in 2012, he was rarely healthy or on his game. Corbin Berkstressr who took over was a lot worse – although both weren’t helped by a comedically awful offensive line, who ensured their QBs were sacked 29 times.

Dorial Green-Beckham had a disappointing 2012 – especially for a wide receiver that got a lot of press in the months preceding the season because of his high school excellence. ‘DG-B’ showed some flashes of excellence, but there was an awful lot of mediocrity. Franklin will be hoping that DG-B’s put his problems behind him, and that Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington can have breakout years.

DEFENSE

For a team struggling to be decent, the fact that they return six starters should at least give Mizzou a little experience in the midst of the SEC schedule. But the loss of top guy Sheldon Richardson is going to hurt a defensive line that still manages to return three starters, and a lot will be hoped for from Andrew Wilson, one of the team’s better returning tacklers. E.J. Gaines has been talked about as being a ‘playmaker’ for Mizzou’s thin secondary.

THE SCHEDULE

Aug. 31st – Murray State
Sept. 7 – Toledo
Sept. 21 – at Indiana
Sept. 28 – Arkansas State
Oct. 5 – at Vanderbilt
Oct. 12 – at Georgia
Oct. 19 – Florida
Oct. 26 – South Carolina
Nov. 2 – Tennessee
Nov. 9 – at Kentucky
Nov. 23 – at Ole Miss
Nov. 30 – Texas A&M

Stop the press, but it wouldn’t surprise us at all if Mizzou’s 4-0 to start the year, and even 5-0 after its first SEC away trip of the season to Vanderbilt. But then, it gets horrible. We’ve marked Georgia away, Florida and South Carolina at home as losses, and the Tennessee game’s going to be another close one. And while they should win Kentucky away, an away win at Ole Miss is unlikely, and a home win over Johnny Football and Texas A&M is even more unlikely.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a Missouri optimist, you think that your Tigers should go 4-0 to start the season, although the trip to a suddenly fired-up Indiana team could well confuse the issue. Then you’ll say that they’ll win at Vandy, lose as predicted the next three straight, before beating Tennessee at home and Kentucky away. Then you’ll say that it’s pretty close but the team will manage to beat Ole Miss, before losing to Texas A&M. That would have you at a very decent 8-4

If you’re a realist, you’d expect Missouri to still go 4-0 to start themselves, lose against Jordan Matthews and a tough Vanderbilt side on the road, before getting demolished by Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. Tennessee’s still a year away, but can the secondary deal with Marquez North and can Missouri’s rushers really deal the best offensive line in the nation? The Tigers should win Kentucky away, but we can ‘t see anything but Ole Miss and Texas A&M victories to close out the year, giving Gary Pinkel a 5-7 record or at best 6-6 record.

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