Archive for September, 2015

Vanderbilt 2015 Preview: Will the disaster continue?

2014 was a disaster for Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason in his first year. There’s no other way to look at it. The three victories in the season included a win by 3 over UMass, a win by 1 over Charleston Southern, and 14 over Old Dominion. They were played off the field in virtually every SEC game they played (apart from Tennessee when they lost by 7), going 0-8 and immediately putting Mason on the hot seat.


Derek Mason went on the rampage, firing OC Karl Correll, DC David Kotulski, and WR coach Marc Lubick. His new OC is former Wisconsin OC Andy Ludwig, while he’s appointed himself as defensive co-ordinator (as he should have done originally, bearing in mind that’s where he made his name at Stanford).

Patton Robinette and Stephen Rivers both decided to leave, leaving the QB spot wide open.

And the rape case that had clouded the program for the last year was declared a mistrial, and will be set again for November 30th.

Recruiting-wise, the signing of four-star LB Josh Smith should bear fruit, as should highly-touted QB Kyle Shurmur. CB Donovan Sheffield was also an excellent signing, particularly with the way Tennessee was recruiting in the South.


The best thing to come out of Vandy is Ralph Webb, the excellent sophomore RB, who’s been more under-the-radar than a spy plane. He ran for 914 yards and 4 TDs last season, picking what was an awful offense onto his back.

This year, he’ll have some help from Dallas Rivers and frosh Josh Crawford, who came in as a 3-star recruit. He’ll also be helped by an experienced offensive line, led by Spencer Pulley, who’s been moved from guard to starting center to replace the excellent Joe Townsend, while senior Jake Bernstein will add some experience to a line filled with juniors. It’s actually a place of strength for the ‘Dores.


With Robinette and Rivers departing within the space of three months, no-one knows who’s going to be the QB in Nashville this year. Will it be Johnny McCrary or Wade Freebeck? Shurmur – it seems – will have to wait his turn. McCrary is listed as a dual-threat quarterback, which should be some fun if Vandy’s line isn’t awful.

Wide receiving-wise, C.J. Duncan’s season-ending lower leg injury is a huge loss, meaning that the pressure’s on Latevius Rayford, Darrius Sims and Trent Sherfield to catch some balls. Rayford’s probably going to be the better option.


The best move of the off-season will have been Mason appointing himself defensive co-ordinator. If he’d been hired into the SEC just to do that position, people would have said he would have been a great hire. He’s going to kick the Commodores – who were 72nd in the country at yards/game given up – into shape.

The star of the defense – and Vandy site ‘Anchor of Gold’ reckons he hasn’t lived up to the hype – is DE Caleb Azubike. The future superstar of the defense – we predict – is going to be freshman linebacker Josh Smith.


Vanderbilt could be even worse than they were last year, with only wins over Austin Peay and MTSU. The rest? I can’t see where the wins – or even A in-conference win from. Sorry, Derek. Does anyone?

Sept. 5 WESTERN KENTUCKY Vanderbilt Stadium
Sept. 12 GEORGIA Vanderbilt Stadium
Sept. 19 AUSTIN PEAY Vanderbilt Stadium
Sept. 26 at Ole Miss Oxford, Miss.
Oct. 3 at MTSU Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Oct. 17 at South Carolina Columbia, S.C.
Oct. 24 MISSOURI Vanderbilt Stadium
Oct. 31 at Houston Houston, Texas
Nov. 7 at Florida Gainesville, Fla.
Nov. 14 KENTUCKY Vanderbilt Stadium
Nov. 21 TEXAS A&M Vanderbilt Stadium
Nov. 28 at Tennessee Knoxville, Tenn.

Missouri 2015 Preview: QB Controversy Brewing?

We hadn’t heard of Drew Lock before we listened to the excellent Missouri-dedicated podcast ‘Mizzodcast’, but everything’s going to be pretty interesting under center if he continues his off-season challenge to QB Maty Mauk.

Last season Missouri – in another stunning season – won the SEC East and was then brutalized in the SEC Championship Game by Alabama.


The biggest story was very nearly a tragic one. Defensive lineman Harold Brantley was caught in a car crash that seriously injured him. Thank God he’s still alive. He’s done for the season, but not for life.

Aside from that, the team lost defensive co-ordinator Dave Steckel, who went to coach Missouri State. Pinkel hired Memphis DC Barry Odom to fill the position.  They also lost excellent DE Shane Ray and WR Bud Sasser to the NFL.

Recruiting-wise, the biggest pick-up was DL Terry Beckner Jr, who’s a monster.


If we heard the guys on the ‘Mizzodcast’ correctly, Drew Lock has been kicking ass in practice while incumbent Maty Mauk has merely been struggling. We loved Mauk in 2013, but he struggled in 2014 behind a pretty poor offensive line and some bad decision-making. While he threw for over 2,600 yards and 25 TDs, his INT count rose from 2 in 2013 to 13 in 2014.

Although Lock was officially named back-up for the Tigers for this year – a decision by Pinkel to burn his player’s first year of eligibility on potential benchwarming – our feeling is that if Mauk has some awful moments (like he did against Indiana), Lock would come in as a potential cover. And if he succeeded, it might well be Mauk who would find himself out of a job.

If the Tigers start slowly, this could get interesting.


Defenses aren’t normally high on the list if you’ve read our previews, but this Missouri team is built on a great defense….and has won back-to-back SEC East titles. Anyway, this year DEs Ray and Markus Golden left, meaning that a lot of pressure’s going to be on Charles Harris (there would have been Marcus Loud, but he was booted in March). 5-star Beckner will be one of the defensive tackles alongside and starting as a freshman, so expect the drumroll for him, too. Expect Walter Brady to step up at DE – although he’s never played a college snap in his life.

This unit will be good – but not as great as previous years.


We mentioned a lot about Mauk and what might happen, but there are also some other things to think of. Bud Sasser leaving takes 1,000 yards and 12 TDs off the table (He’s actually been released by St Louis Rams and hasn’t found a job since). If Dorial Green-Beckham had remained a senior, he would have been a frightening prospect for secondaries to face.

On the floor, RB Russell Hansbrough will be expected to pick up a lot of the workload. Ish Witter and Morgan Steward will provide the back-ups.


Ranking and Predicting Saturday’s SEC games

Right, so it’s Christmas Day on Thursday, with Steve Spurrier dressed up in a garnet and black Santa costume, ready to deliver us all presents. It’s going to be a phenomenal day out, and we can’t wait. The biggest pity? South Carolina – and North Carolina – screwed over their season ticket holders by having the game in Charlotte. We’ll be stunned if the stadium’s sold out.

Anyway, here’s our previews, in terms of importance. HINT: South Carolina vs North Carolina isn’t No.1 on the list.


Trying to work out what the best game of the day was between this one and Texas A&M vs Arizona State, but we’re going with this one because of the Bobby Petrino/Will Muschamp factor. Bobby Petrino’s team is suddenly getting built on a really tough defense, while Auburn’s defense had better improve. The offense – as is always the case with Gus Malzahn’s teams – won’t have a problem putting up the yards. Will be fun to see Duke Williams and Jeremy Johnson link up, too.

PREDICTION: The game is close for three quarters, but 10.5-point favorite Auburn pulls away. Auburn by 14.


A lot has been talked about Arizona State and what Todd Graham’s been doing in the desert land, and they are all good things. And Texas A&M fans are happy that they’ve hired a new defensive co-ordinator in John Chavis. Myles Garrett, Chavis’ biggest player, could be a gamechanger.

PREDICTION: Arizona State’s a 3-point underdog. We’re going to say ASU wins by a touchdown in a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, good game.


Wisconsin loses Melvin Gordon. And this is the first game for Paul Chryst. Alabama has Derrick Henry. Wisconsin really isn’t that good. Alabama may well be in the CFB Play-Off and win the SEC. There’s only one way we can see this game going.

PREDICTION: Alabama beats the spread and wins by 17. Sorry, Badgers fans.


This is actually going to be pretty fun, bearing in mind that North Carolina’s a pretty talented side and South Carolina’s got a Pharoh (Cooper) at wide receiver that could cause some problems.

PREDICTION: South Carolina’s a 3-point favorite. We think they win by 7, establishing superiority in the Carolinas.


For a lot of people – including us – Vanderbilt may have another 0-fer in the SEC. But people believe that the game against Western Kentucky – where the Commodores are a 2.5 point underdog – will be their first loss. And on the evidence of the two teams last year, it’s not hard to see why.

PREDICTION: Western Kentucky wins by 7. And it’s not Vandy’s defense’s fault, necessarily. Their offense will remain awful. 


A lot of people believe this is going to be a difficult clash for UK at Commonwealth Stadium, so much so that some books have UK as a 14 point favorite.

PREDICTION: UK wins by 24, cruising mid-way through the third quarter. 


A hugely-hyped Tennessee – armed with a great offense led by Joshua Dobbs – are a tidy 20.5 point favorite against Bowling Green at Neyland. The tester won’t be on that side of the ball. It will be interesting to see if the Vols have learned to talk this year.

PREDICTION: Vols win by 28. 


A lot of UGA fans will be piling in to see if Greyson Lambert is actually a good quarterback. And Nick Chubb, of course. Otherwise….M’eh.

PREDICTION: UGA’s a 35-point favorite. We think they’ll win easily. By over 40.


Jim McElwain’s first game is reason enough to peek into this game for SEC fans. The Gators will have their wicked way, and are 38-point favorites.

PREDICTION: Florida wins by 35, and annoys a lot of degenerate gamblers. And me. Probably.


We’re starting to scrape the bottom-of-the-barrel with these SEC match-ups, but safe to say that the only reason people should be tuning in is LSU fans wanting to see Brandon Harris in his new role as starting QB, Leonard Fournette, and a half-full Tiger Stadium under the lights. Even the bookies aren’t interested.

PREDICTION: LSU wins by 45, and for once, all is well in the world with Tigers fans. Until Sunday’s hangover.


Is it a complete mispricing in Vegas that Southern Miss – who finished the season 3-9 last year – is only a 21-point underdog to Mississippi State? Probably.

PREDICTION: Dak gets ’em. Mississippi State by 31.


Arkansas is going to be fun to watch with Alex Collins. Sadly for the Razorbacks they’ve lost Jonathan Williams for the year, but will this stop Collins getting around 200 yards against UTEP – particularly behind an offensive line that’s going to dominate? No.

PREDICTION: Arkansas is a 33-point favorite. We think they win by 35.


Do not watch this game unless you are an Ole Miss fan, you have a man-crush on Robert Nkemdiche, or you are a NFL Scout (for Robert Nkemdiche).

PREDICTION: Ole Miss by 45. Neeext.


There is no interesting reason to watch this one.

PREDICTION: Missouri by 41. 


Auburn 2015 Preview: Is this the Tigers’ year?

After starting the season 5-0, a lot of was expected of Auburn when they went to Mississippi State. After losing 38-23, it was obvious that something was missing from Gus Malzahn’s team….a good defense. And for the rest of the season, the defense rotted, basically mailing it in against Georgia and Alabama. Of course, Ohio State will thank Auburn for exposing the Crimson Tide’s weak secondary (they did the same thing a few weeks later), but this team was a real disappointment, culminating in a 34-31 loss to coach-less Wisconsin.


Auburn made the biggest splash of the off-season in hiring defensive co-ordinator Will Muschamp, who had been fired at Florida as the Gators’ head coach. Muschamp was an excellent DC at Auburn and Texas, but a terrible head coach. Muschamp came in and recruited DE Byron Cowart and four 4-star linebackers, and on the offensive side there was a lot of excitement about Jovon Robinson, who people are talking about as the new Tre Mason.

Oh, and the team lost Elijah Daniel, who was busted on theft and burglarly charges and summarily dismissed.


Now Nick Marshall’s gone, a lot is expected of QB Jeremy Johnson. Some people – mostly hopeful ‘Burners – have tabbed him as a Heisman contender, but someone brought it up on a podcast: “If he couldn’t beat Nick Marshall to the QB’s job last year is he really that great?” Time will tell. Johnson certainly impressed at preseason scrimmages, and his 6-5, 225lb frame indicates that he could be put in the Cam Newton role. Which for Auburn fans, means that he’ll be the next Cam Newton and automatically win them the National Title.


We love Roc Thomas, Auburn’s starting running back, who ran for 214 yards and 2 TDs on 43 attempts, and also had 6 catches for 27. He also caught three kick-offs for 43 yards. Thomas is small and pretty elusive, which is going to bode well if Auburn’s offensive line does its job.

But with Thomas is the most exciting prospect of them all in Jovon Robinson, the No.1-ranked Junior College RB. This is a return to the Plains for him after originally signing for the Tigers in 2012 but not being able to make it due to academic issues. He’s a good pass catcher, has great speed, and will be a lot of fun to watch with Thomas and Peyton Barber, who’s the No.3 RB.


We love D’Haquille Williams’ hops an awful lot. On his day, he’s the best pass catcher in the SEC, and maybe college football. Yes, he’s that good. The problem’s going to be his discipline. He was suspended during practice for six days for ‘discipline’, which can mean anything from drinking too hard to being an a**hole. But anyway, the 6-2, 224lb Williams caught had 730 yards for 5 TDs, averaging a pretty 16.2 yards per reception. Auburn fans will take that all day long.


The Tigers were 64th in total yards/allowed, 67th in rush defense, and 68th in pass defense. All those were recipies for former DC Ellis Johnson getting booted. And it was deserved.

This year, with Muschamp, we’re looking for a much more aggressive defense. As our friends at say: “One of the areas we will see a lot of improvement is getting to the quarterback,” adding that the return of 6-2, 260lb pass-rushing defensive linesman Carl Lawson from a season-long injury will help with the sack counts (only 21 last year). Cowart will probably start at defensive end, which could be a frightening prospect for passing offenses. And in a world where SEC teams are struggling for good QBs, the Tigers could make hay.

The secondary has had some huge losses, with five of them going in the off-season via the draft or simply walking out. A lot will be expected of Tray Matthews – who used to play for Georgia – and Rudy Ford. But as we said, the Tigers are helped by the fact that they aren’t going to be facing great quality QBs in 2015.


Like anyone in the SEC West, it’s a brutal schedule, and the powers-that-be added to it by scheduling a monster Opening Day match-up with Bobby Petrino’s Louisville in the ATL. Their tough away trips at LSU, Arkansas and Texas A&M, while they welcome Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama to Jordan-Hare.

For us, it’s all going to come down to The Iron Bowl against Alabama, which will see the SEC West, the State of Alabama and a place in the College Football Play-Off played for.

Saturday Edge thinks Auburn will win over 8.5 games, which we think is a little low. What do you think?


Sep. 5 – Louisville @Atlanta, GA 
Sep. 12 – Jacksonville State
Sep. 19 – at Louisiana State
Sep. 26 – Mississippi State
Oct. 3 – San Jose State
Oct. 15 – at Kentucky
Oct. 24 – at Arkansas
Oct. 31 – Ole Miss
Nov. 7 – at Texas A&M
Nov. 14 – Georgia
Nov. 21 – Idaho
Nov. 28 – Alabama

PREDICTION: Auburn will run the table in the SEC, and go to the SEC Championship Game. Thanks to a reignited defense and an offense that can at times be unstoppable, there’s no reason why they can’t be the best team in the SEC.


LSU names Harris as starter

LSU has named Brandon Harris as the starting quarterback of Saturday’s game against McNeese State.

Harris and Anthony Jennings battled over QB duties during the Spring.

Harris was named starting QB in the 2014 season, and struggled, ending the season going 25-45 for 452 yards, 6 TDs and 2 INTs. He also rushed for 3 TDs and 159 yards.

Although the numbers weren’t terrible, Harris looked out of his depth against stronger opposition, and had to be replaced by Anthony Jennings as the season wore on. Jennings struggled too.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s still difficult to be confident about LSU’s prospects this season with Harris as QB, but he at least has two elite WRs in Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural and an excellent receiving RB in Leonard Fournette.

Mississippi State 2015 Preview: Dak Attack!

Last season was a stunning one for Mississippi State. They went to No.1 in the polls. They beat LSU on the road for the first time in their history. They had their second 10-win season in their history. Their QB, Dak Prescott, was a Heisman contender. OK, so underestimating the Bulldogs was our mistake, Starkville.


Dak Prescott had an awful Spring Break when he was blindsided by some douchebag in Panama Beach. He didn’t press assault charges, which is a shame. He should have done.

Coaching-wise, Dan Mullen lost defensive co-ordinator Geoff Collins to Florida, and replied by bringing in Manny Diaz as his DC, who did a terrible job at Texas where he was DC there. Seriously, the Texas players were awful tacklers under his regime.


Dak Prescott was exceptional for the Bulldogs in 2014, throwing for 3,449 yards and 27 TDs and only 11 INTs. He also ran the ball for a career-high 986 yards and 14 TDs….and even caught two receptions (one of them for a TD!). He’s going to provide the nucleus for this offense this year, which should hardly be surprising for anybody.

More pressure is going to be piled upon him because of the departure of RB Josh Robinson, especially with the under-experienced Ashton Shumpert. Aeris Williams and Dontavius Lee will provide the back-ups.

Prescott’s biggest target will be De’Runnya Wilson, who – despite his awesome name – is actually a WR. The 6-5, 215lb player caught for 680 yards and 9 TDs in 2015. He’ll be a difficult match-up for most secondaries….if he stays clean. He was arrested on drug charges in March, which wasn’t his brightest move. Fred Brown and Fred Ross will provide depth.


It has been noted that MSU has to replace  THREE offensive linesman from the successful corps that shone out last year. ESPN put it simply: “The heart of that line — Ben Beckwith, Blaine Clausell and Dillon Day — is gone.” A lot will be expected of Justin Senior and Justin Malone, as well as three other replacements.

With this, I’m not sure that Prescott’s going to repeat his banner year of 2015. Sorry.


In their SEC season preview, SaturdayEdge notes that MSU “had the worst pass defense in the SEC a year ago, and three starters are gone from the defensive backfield”. Kivon Coman and Deontay Evans at safety and Taveze Calhoun will come back to play, but I’m not thrilled about them.

Also, it’s sad to say goodbye to Bernardrick McKinney and Preston Smith, who did an excellent job for the Bulldogs. They’ll need to replace them. A lot will be required of Beniquez Brown, Chris Jones, A.J. Jefferson and Nelson Adams.

Otherwise, the addition of Diaz as defensive co-ordinator – who we didn’t like during his time at Texas and we don’t now – hardly spells out exciting times in Starkville.


Sep. 5 – at Southern Miss
Sep. 12 – Louisiana State
Sep. 19 – Northwestern State
Sep. 26 – at Auburn
Oct. 3 – at Texas A&M
Oct. 10 – Troy
Oct. 17 – Louisiana Tech
Oct. 24 – Kentucky
Nov. 5 – at Missouri
Nov. 14 – Alabama
Nov. 21 – at Arkansas
Nov. 28 – Ole Miss

It’s going to be an ugly season in Starkville. They’ll go 4-0 in their non-conference games against nobody, but against SEC opponents, we can see them win one game – at home to Kentucky – and losing the rest. Here’s why: Dak Prescott cannot do everything alone. His offensive line has been shredded, his running backs are experienced, and on the other side of the ball, his defense loses a huge amount of talent. This will be a rebuilding year.



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