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Quick SEC reaction: Week 3

What a Week 3 it was. While Tennessee fans once again spat bullets about losing to Florida at home, they managed to drown their beers and sip some champagne as Lane Kiffin and No.2  USC lost at Pac-12 rival Stanford, we once again had evidence that there’s only one team out there in College Football at the moment: Alabama. The SEC has a lot to catch up.

Anyway, here’s the top 10 things about our SEC teams this week:

1) Tennessee lost the game against Florida because it had no running game and its wide receivers couldn’t make easy catches. And when we’re talking easy, we’re talking ones like Justin Hunter’s that absolutely killed the team’s drive. And also, the Vols incurred penalties that also helped to knife the team in the back. Also, the Vols’ nature for conceding the big play came back to kill them….twice. But Jeff Driskel proved to be a leader for the Gators, and Florida’s rushing game was fantastic. They really helped to shut up Big Orange. Sad day for Tennessee, but here come the Gators, folks!

2) Alabama may have destroyed Arkansas, but as John L.Smith says, the Razorbacks simply gave up. It was like a friend of mine’s middle school football game when they were down 20 and decided not to play anymore, and ended up losing by 50. Wow. Arkansas Razordbacks fans should ask for their money back after that – because this was the worst performance I’ve seen from a SEC team in a long time…. and there have been some pretty awful SEC performances in the past.

3) Oh, and as for Bama? This was a very impressive side, which was quick, great in a tackle, and almost perfect in every part of their performance. Even Nick Saban should have been happy with this performance.

4) Georgia and LSU surprised us early on by not wiping both Florida Atlantic and Idaho to the floor immediately, but both Bulldogs and Tigers both warmed up their act, and the rest was history. The atmosphere at both stadiums wasn’t great, though. No great surprise for bad, non-conference opponents, but still…(hint to both ADs: Schedule some big-time home and homes?).

5) Missouri managed to hold off Arizona State – just. We love Corbin Berkstresser, who replaced James Franklin, but the Tigers QB (the one who’s out), has got more to offer in the SEC schedule, in our opinion. Franklin gave Georgia’s defense fits at times with some of his play in Mizzou’s opening SEC game.

6) For those of you who thought Ole Miss was worth taking as a 10-point underdog against Texas, we did tell you not to bother (in more words). We told you that Ole Miss wouldn’t be a match for Texas’ running game (350 yards the Longhorns put up), although the fact that the Rebs put up 31 points is a definite plus – even if giving up 66 – isn’t.

7) Vanderbilt and South Carolina may have had a closely-fought encounter in Week 1, but when it came to playing Presbyterian and UAB respectively, both sides went through with little trouble. The biggest thing to trouble Steve Spurrier – although the play of Dylan Thompson may negate that – is the injury (once again) to Connor Shaw. We’re getting to point of yelling: “Steve! Why don’t you just close down Connor Shaw and let this Thompson kid play?”. As for Vandy, it was Presbyterian. A small round of applause for 50-odd points.

8) What was happening in Auburn? Auburn…..well, the field goal-in-overtime victory showed that the Tigers can win while they are down, but the muted reaction inside Jordan-Hare Stadium showed me that Tigers fans are preparing themselves for a long season. And Gene Chizik is preparing himself for a hot seat.

9) MSU survives Troy. Regardless of what people say, Mississippi State beating Troy by just 6 points is a bit of an upset, but here’s some love to Chad Bumphis, who grabbed three touchdowns. Still, the Bulldogs’ defense needs a bit of work…they conceded 572 yards of total offense.

10) What in the hell happened in Lexington? Well, it was a fun game in Lexington, where the mighty Kentucky lost to in-state ‘rival’ Western Kentucky in overtime to a fantastically-executed trick play. But should it have got this far? No. Joker Phillips will be lucky if he’s in the job by end-season, folks.

11) Nice for Texas A&M that the Aggies rebounded with a solid 48-3 victory on Saturday. On the road. Without any scares.

SEC: Ole Miss suspension news

SEC headlines from today:

1) Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin isn’t overly happy with the Florida Gators and the fact that its players cramped up in the second half. Florida fans: Are you skeptical about the team’s conditioning or do you think it was gamesmanship?

2) Arkansas QB and Heisman candidate Tyler Wilson didn’t practice on Tuesday after leaving the ULM game with a concussion. However, Alabama‘s Nico Johnson & Co is still preparing to play Wilson on Saturday.

3) Despite defense from his school, Ole Misssafety Trae Elston has been suspended by the SEC for Saturday’s showdown with Texas on Saturday night for a dangerous hit in the final minutes of the win over UTEP. That’s not going to make things any better against one of the best running offenses in the land.

4) Mississippi State DB Byron De’ Vinner was given $200 by a booster, apparently.

 

Quick SEC reaction: Week 2

Wow. What a Week 2 for the SEC. And it was somewhat humbling, let me tell you (although not as humbling as the Big 10, who saw Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, Iowa and Illinois all lose, stalwarts Michigan and Ohio State tested) – especially in Fayetteville.

Anyway, this blog went an honest-to-God 9-2 yesterday, with our only bad predictions with Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

Anyway, here’s some quick grades before a longer piece tomorrow, when we’re feeling more, ahem, ‘together’.

1) We completely underestimated Louisiana-Monroe. We thought they’d come to town, take their near-$1m, and walk off or walk over. Instead, they battled Arkansas when they were 28-7 down in the third quarter, and came back to win in stunning fashion in overtime. Would they have won if Tyler Wilson hadn’t left the game with a concussion? Probably not. But that’s what football’s about. And Arkansas defense looked downright lousy. Alabama must be really scared going into Fayetteville.

2) Speaking of Alabama, Western Kentucky was dealt with handily. ‘Nuff said.

3) Both Missouri and Texas A&M could have won their games against Georgia and Florida. Missouri was pretty good until their offensive line started getting blown up by Jarvis Jones, and James Franklin didn’t start using his ability to get out of the pocket (or was that more love to Todd Grantham and UGA’s defensive line, we wonder?), and the score more than slightly flattered Georgia. We don’t know if Aaron Murray IS the next Matt Stafford yet, but he’s got a hefty offense out there. And when Georgia get their idiots back from their drug-related suspensions, they will be even better. And as for A&M, the atmosphere at Kyle Field for the game against Florida was SEC-noisy. Florida certainly found it difficult to deal with the noise. But then they discovered that Texas A&M couldn’t deal with the running game – and Kevin Sumlin did their offense a favor by giving Caleb Sturgis another shot at a field goal virtually on half-time that he missed the first time, and they aren’t very good at keeping leads. All points to Mike Gillislee and some good scrambling from Jeff Driskel. He wasn’t too bad as a passer, either, going 13-16 for 162 yards. He could have had a TD too if Frankie Hammond had been able to catch.

4) Vanderbilt goes to a disappointing 0-2. We always had the South Carolina game as a loss, but we really thought – after months of bravado- that James Franklin’s Vanderbilt team would stop, ahem, being Vanderbilt. Well folks, they haven’t. They lost the Math Derby to Northwestern last night 23-13 and although they were in it until late in the game, things obviously aren’t going well down there. Jordan Rodgers 17-33 effort certainly isn’t too great, either – even if he threw for 217 yards.

5) Speaking of 0-2, Auburn was simply terrible in their game against Mississippi State. True, the first half of that one was like watching paint dry and deserving of Twitter jokes about it being the “Jefferson Pilot Rivalry”, but it was basically a puntfest with a few cowbells thrown in. Second half, things were pretty exciting, but then Mississippi State improved vastly – while Auburn had only a 100 yard TD kick-off return from Onterio McCalebb to thank for their inept offense. Yes, we know that the Gus Malzahn era’s going to take a while, but we don’t think that the Kiehl Frazier era should last too long either – especially after this poor (and that’s an understatement because this is a family blog) showing.

6) South Carolina cruised to a game that was over by half-time. Quick note to all doubters of Dylan Thompson, who took over from the injured Connor Shaw for the East Carolina game. The kid threw for 330 yards and 3 TDs in a pretty heroic effort, and some of his reactions to completions and TDs made you think you were watching a guy playing in the Super Bowl. It was awesome! Seriously though, we’re not going to give the Gamecocks too much of a round of applause after this one, but Spurrier managed to do two things: 1) Show that he’s the best quarterback coach in the SEC (see: Steve Spurrier at Florida) 2) Keep Marcus Lattimore from getting injured (He had only 13 touches for 40 yards).

7) Ole Miss (yes, them!) goes 2-0. Ole Miss comfortably beats the team that probably should have beaten a sleeping Oklahoma last Saturday night, with Bo Wallace (three TD passes, 1 TD run) proving to be the new hero of Oxford. We’ll still go out on a limb and say we expect them to lose their next game to Texas (who also went to 2-0 yesterday, by the way), but we’ll stand in the middle of Times Square, wearing only a Mr Freeze costume from Batman, and yell: “There’s a Freeze Coming!” if Ole Miss scores the upset.

8) Tennessee and Kentucky (yes, Kentucky!) complete a good day for the SEC East. Both sides were meant to handle Georgia State and Kent State handily and they did, one by scoring 51 points (UT) and one by scoring 47 (UK). Tyler Bray threw for 310 yards and 4 TDs for the rejuvenated Vols, who’s fans suddenly believe that Derek Dooley is the new Messiah (#fickle), while UK’s Maxwell Smith threw for 354 and 4 TDs. UK fans don’t believe Joker Phillips is the new Blue Messiah, but they wish to be competitive. Good luck with that.

9) And last but not least, a lot of people thought LSU would struggle with Keith Price and the University of Washington. At home. At night. This wasn’t the case, with LSU’s defense proving smothering in a punishing, don’t-y0u-dare-doubt-us 41-3 blowout of the Huskies. This is a darned good football team, folks. Oh, and who cares that Tyrann Mathieu – a LSU student – was at the game? We don’t, ESPN! Just let the kids play! As USC struggled in Syracuse (despite the scoreline), is LSU the second-best team in the nation now?

We’ll let you think about that.

 

 

SEC Predictions: Week 2

First of all, apologies for not giving the blog too much updatin’ recently. From Week 2, you’ll get everything that you need for the rest of the season….

Anyway, here are our predictions for SEC teams in Week 2 of the season. There are going to be some walk-overs, and some close games. We promise.

Georgia at Missouri

Georgia gave up 23 points against Buffalo, and nothing clicked for the first part of the game as Buffalo took a 6-0 lead. Thankfully, Todd Gurley’s kick-off return gave the Dawgs a 7-6 lead, and they didn’t relinquish it, putting up a 45 points in a 45-23 lead. Missouri – who smashed Southeastern Louisiana 62-10 in their opener – is going to be a tough test for the Dawgs, who are still missing players for off-season stupidity. T.J. Moe and Doral Green-Beckham are going to give Georgia’s secondary all that it can handle on Saturday, and a rowdy Columbia crowd (the first of two trips to Columbia the Dawgs are going to have to make this year!) at night is going to give this game an added edge.

BOTTOM LINE: Georgia by 3 in thriller. Although don’t be surprised if Missouri springs the upset.

Florida at Texas A&M

College Gameday’s at Kyle Field for this one, and the place is guaranteed to be a) hot and b) absolutely hopping. Florida fans won’t know what it’s like to show up to a team that doesn’t have any female cheerleaders (so don’t expect any ‘Replacements’-type antics on the Aggies sidelines), and why the Aggies take Lassie to class, but we’re sure that Aggies fans will explain to them traditions. And Gators, remember to ask: Who’s ‘Varsity’ they sing about? And why don’t they play them every year? Anyways, going back to the game, Texas A&M had its first game washed out by Hurricane Isaac, so their first game is going to be against one of the best defenses in the country. Aggies fans will be happy that they certainly aren’t playing one of the best offenses in the country, who looked absolutely clueless at times against Bowling Green in its 27-14 victory. The thing that Aggies are going to have to deal with is Florida’s speed, while hoping that Johnny Manziel can deal with the Gators defense. UF’s secondary should watch out for Ryan Swope at all times.

BOTTOM LINE: Florida spoils the party, winning by 7.

Auburn at Mississippi State

Don’t you love the sound of cowbell in the morning? Anyway, we can guarantee that Tigers fans and Tigers players will be glad to be leaving Starkville after their game at MSU, if only for the sound of cowbells rattling their cages. Auburn lost last week to a speedy Clemson team in an exciting game that Clemson managed to get hold of in the fourth quarter, and there’s going to have to be a ton of improvement from QB Kiehl Frazier, who was 11 for 27 for 197 yards on an offense that produced 374 yards at the Georgia Dome. Mississippi State, however, had things a little easier, putting up half a century in a 57-9 victory over that football powerhouse Jackson State. The highlight for the Bulldogs day was a balanced offense that didn’t punt the ball until late into the third quarter. That’s pretty good going….or a pretty poor opposition. Auburn’s going to give MSU all they can handle at home. This could be fun.

BOTTOM LINE: Auburn goes 0-2. Mississippi State by 7 in one of the under-the-radar, good games of the week.

NON-CONFERENCE

Washington at LSU

No-one expects the Huskies to spring an upset in Death Valley….and therefore no-one will be surprised if LSU wins, and wins this comfortably. LSU has everything this year and should be more than a match for a Pac-12 side that flattered to deceive against San Diego State (they won 21-12 last week). Zach Mettenberger had a strong day in the huddle against North Texas, throwing for a TD and 192 yards. The story this week is going to be about running back Kenny Hilliard, who put up 141 yards on just 13 attempts. As for the Huskies, Keith Price threw for 222 yards last week, and they’ll be hoping that his throwing ability tests LSU’s Tyrann-less secondary.

BOTTOM LINE: LSU roars. By 21.

Vanderbilt at Northwestern

The battle of the bright schools in Chicago sees Northwestern and Vanderbilt battle each other out. And no, we don’t think the tailgate is going to be an extended Math competition. For the record though, we prefer the color black to the color purple (Northwestern’s colors). Last week, Jordan Rodgers was unlucky not to get a pass interference call at the end of the Commodores’ battle with South Carolina, which ended in a heartbreaking 17-13 loss. Rodgers should impress again against a weaker Northwestern team – but will it be enough on the road?

BOTTOM LINE: Count it up! Vandy by 3 in a classic.

East Carolina at South Carolina

Connor Shaw left Vanderbilt a broken man (seemingly) in everything but result, after hurting his shoulder, coming in again, and then hurting it again in the 17-13 win over the Commodores. If the Gamecocks keep Shaw healthy – as well as the knee of Marcus Lattimore who looked excellent last Thursday night – this shouldn’t be close. At all.

BOTTOM LINE: Gamecocks by 30 in a game over by half-time.

UTEP at Ole Miss

Thanks to our love of college football, we stayed up late on Saturday night to watch UTEP’s battle with Oklahoma – and let us tell you, UTEP gave the Sooners all it could handle. And if the Miners had actually found a field goal kicker, the Sooners could well have been on the end of an upset in El-Paso on Saturday night. Anyway, Ole Miss is going to have to watch out for Nathan Jeffery, who ran for 177 yards on a pretty stout (ish) Oklahoma defense. And give him enough room, and Ole Miss could struggle. Let’s put it this way: Rebels fans must be dreading the SEC schedule this year after seeing some of the on-field, product, which sputtered to a 20-14 deficit until Ja-Mes Logan recovered a fumble in the end zone mid-way through the third quarter to give Ole Miss a 21-20 lead that they would extend through the game to a 49-27 victory as their offense at last clicks into gear.

BOTTOM LINE: Fear the Miner (if Jeffery’s playing)….but not too much. Ole Miss by 10.

Western Kentucky at Alabama

Alabama’s performance against Michigan was nothing short of brilliant on Saturday night – and that’s why they are the top-ranked team in the nation. This week, we expect running back sensation T.J. Yeldon to run for 150 yards against Western Kentucky, in a game that’s not going to be close.

BOTTOM LINE: Alabama by more than 40.

Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas

Knile Davis didn’t play a huge part in the 49-24 win over Jacksonville State on Saturday, and we’re not expecting him to play a huge part against ULM, either. Tyler Wilson had a great performance to start off his season, but is Cobi Hamilton going to be OK? Otherwise, the Razorbacks are going to have to worry – a lot – about the depth of their receiving corps. If they don’t already.

BOTTOM LINE: Arkansas by more than 30

Georgia State at Tennessee

Tyler Bray & Co were excellent in the win over NC State, giving Derek Dooley a little more cool on his behind and giving Volunteers fans some confidence for the year. And while the Wolfpack game was a worry for the Volunteers, we don’t expect UT to have any problems dismissing Georgia State.

BOTTOM LINE: Bray throws for over 300, Volunteers win by 50.

Kent State at Kentucky

When the highlight of the season for both sides has been a Kent State player running the wrong way against Towson, you know that both teams didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory last week. Having said that, Joker Phillips’ side will still be too strong for Kent State – regardless on how many of his players decide to follow the example of Andre Parker.

BOTTOM LINE: Kentucky wins by 21.

 

 

SEC Predictions: Week 1

It’s the start of the season, which means that we get to see some College Football again! Yaaaaay!

Anyway, here are our predictions for every SEC team playing this [long] weekend, apart from Texas A&M, who have seen their game against Louisiana Tech postponed to Hurricane Isaac, which is dumping its load all over New Orleans as we speak…

Anyway, here goes….

THURSDAY

South Carolina at Vanderbilt

Everyone’s talking about Vanderbilt’s potential to upset USC in Nashville on College Football Kick-Off Night on Thursday night, but if Steve Spurrier gets Marcus Lattimore rolling and Connor Shaw finds a wide receiver or two, then James Franklin’s got his work cut-out. Sure, people believe in Jordan Rodgers, but will Vandy’s offensive line really measure up against Devin Taylor and Jadeveon “Insane Posse” Clowney?

PREDICTION: Sorry, James. Clowney and Taylor too strong. South Carolina by 10

FRIDAY

NC State vs Tennessee (Atlanta)

Da’Rick Rogers really hurt Tennessee when he got kicked off the team. Tyler Bray is going to miss out on a fantastic receiver – which means everything of any value’s really going to go through Justin Hunter and potentially a rather weak running game. As for NC State? Suddenly they are being talked about as having one of the better secondaries in the ACC (ie Bray better watch out), and on the other side of the ball, Mike Glennon can cause UT problems.

PREDICTION: A monster upset in the ATL. NC State by 7.

SATURDAY

Michigan vs Alabama (Dallas)

How will Alabama’s new and inexperienced defense deal with Denard Robinson? How will Michigan’s defensive line deal with Alabama’s incredible offensive line? Will Ed Lacy be the next Trent Richardson? Will AJ McCarron continue the excellence of his National Championship Game?

PREDICTION: A close one until Alabama pulls away. Alabama by 10.

Clemson vs Auburn (Atlanta)

Clemson’s biggest Achilles Heel will be the fact that their No.1 receiver – and Heisman Trophy Candidate – Sammy Watkins is out due to his own stupidity. Auburn’s biggest Achilles Heel is the suspension of their best offensive linesman – and the transfer of their top running back, Michael Dyer (due to his own stupidity). But this game’s going to be fun, because we’ve got no trust whatsoever in both team’s defenses.

PREDICTION: Clemson in an exciting high-scorer, winning out by 3 on a last-minute field goal.

Bowling Green at Florida

We know Florida’s defense is going to be good if not great. But Florida fans will begging Will Muschamp for one thing: Score points please!

PREDICTION: Florida by 35 in a game that still raises some eyebrows about UF’s offense. Gulp.

Buffalo vs Georgia

Regardless of whether Isaiah Crowell’s no longer on the team, this one’s not going to be close. However, we can’t wait for the Keith Marshall/Todd Gurley combination and what it will do – especially as we only expect Aaron Murray to play 3 quarters of what will NOT be a close game.

PREDICTION: Georgia by 50. At least.

North Texas at LSU

The biggest question of the night – and the season – will be: How can LSU cope without Tyrann Mathieu? Well, here’s the answer: It won’t be answered against North Texas, folks!

PREDICTION: LSU by 50 in a game that’s over by half-time.

Jacksonville State vs Arkansas

The only thing that will be remotely interesting about this game will be the return of Knile Davis and how fit he is after his injury. And possibly if John L. Smith does anything to change his team’s philosophy after the ‘fun and gun’ that was Bobby Petrino’s.

PREDICTION: Smith smothers J-State. Arkansas by 60.

Jackson State vs Mississippi State

Dan Mullen’s program has been through its own share of problems recently, so we’ll be interested as to whether MSU’s secondary has changed for the better with Tim Brewster in charge now. Otherwise, we expect MSU to roll.

PREDICTION: Ring the Cowbell. MSU by 35.

Southeastern Louisiana vs Missouri

Here’s to hoping that the University of Missouri gives the game receipts from this game to the American Red Cross to support those affected by Hurricane Isaac. They probably won’t. On the other side, Mizzou will need a new RB after the loss of Henry Josey for the year, and James Franklin (the QB) will get a chance to full test out his shoulder.

PREDICTION: Some of Missouri’s fledgling SEC season will be tough. This game won’t be one of them. Missouri by 50.

Central Arkansas at Ole Miss

Last season could be charitably called a ‘learning exercise’ for Ole Miss, who were pretty dreadful last year and currently have a double-digit losing streak in the SEC. This is Hugh Freeze’s opening game of the season, and he’ll be on his knees before the game to ask for a good start to the season. Central Arkansas is just hoping this game will go to the fourth quarter.

PREDICTION: Ole Miss by damn! A 21-point victory in Hugh Freeze’s first game.

SUNDAY

Kentucky at Louisville

UK once again starts the season with Louisville, and once again, Kentucky’s expected to do absolutely nothing and Louisville’s expected to compete in the Big East. There aren’t many times that Big East talent outmatches SEC talent, but this time is one of them. Next year’s going to be a good one, though – especially with the talent UK has coming through at quarterback!

PREDICTION: Louisville by 14 in a closer game than many expect.

 

SEC Preseason Preview: Can Alabama reload and re-win?

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Ready to reload Alabama?

It’s no secret that 2011-2012 National Champions Alabama lost a load of talent to the NFL, but this is Nick Saban. He’s recruiting brilliantly (again), he’s one of the best coaches in the game (name us someone better), and Alabama ought to be OK for the 2012-3 season – which is why they are again one of the favorites to go to the National Title game.

LAST SEASON

Y’all know what happened last season. Alabama won the National Championship, hammering LSU 21-0. Should they have actually been in the National Championship Game? Well, the argument is is that the Crimson Tide didn’t even get to their Conference Championship Game. The other argument is is that they were really the second best team in the nation, and deserved the spot. But the fact of the matter is this: Alabama are National Champions.

NFL-wise, Alabama lost a heap of talent. Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Josh Chapman, DeQuan Menzie and Brad Smelley were all drafted.

SO WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE DEFENSE?

The first question is simple: How on earth is Nick Saban going to replace all that talent?

Simple, really. Super-sized and larger-than-life nose tackle Jesse Williams (24 tackles, 3.5 Tackles for Loss) will anchor the center of the field, taking over the nose guard role from Josh Chapman, while defensive ends Damion Squire and Ed Stinson will be expected to shore up things up.

Nico Johnson (47 tackles, 1 sack, 5 1/2 Tackles for Loss and 1 INT), CJ Moseley (37 tackles)  and Adam Hubbard will try and replace the major loss of Hightower (85 tackles, 4 sacks, 7 Tackles for Loss).

Secondary-wise, things aren’t going to be as easy. Mark Barron (68 tackles, 2 INTs), Dre Kirkpatrick (30 tackles) and DeQuan McKenzie (41 tackles, 1 INT) are gone – which is a hell of a lot of talent to try and reload from. Sorry, Nick. SS Robert Lester (39 tackles, 2 INTs) will try and pick up some of the pieces, and we should all watch out for Dee Milliner, who’s getting some rave previews from writers about his potential. Will he be able to turn potential into brilliance in 2012. Auburn fans will be hoping not.

AND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BALL….

Last year in the National Championship Game, AJ McCarron made LSU’s extremely good secondary look extremely ordinary, picking them apart seemingly at will.

This season he’s getting some Heisman talk – and we think he’ll throw the ball a lot more what with Trent Richardson going to the NFL (he hasn’t had the greatest of starts). Much-heralded wide receiver Duron Carter’s departure from Alabama in the off-season has left McCarron with an even less-experienced receiving corps than last year – although Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, Christian Jones, DeAndrew White and tight end Michael Williams won’t be bad at all.

Running backs-wise, we’re all going to miss Trent Richardson, who was as good at making players miss as he was simply running over them. We’ll miss you, Trent. Anyway, Eddie Lacy (674 yards, 7 TDs) is going to be depended on to put up the big ground numbers for Saban’s offense – although Jalston Fowler’s versality will also help, journalists say. Still, how are you really going to replace Richardson’s 1,679 yards?

The great thing for Alabama’s is that they are going to very, very solid up-front, still. Barrett Jones could be playing in the NFL right now, but he enjoyed being a member of the Tide that he decided to stay in school for another year. He’s moved to center on an offensive line that is so, so experienced. Antony Steen, Chance Warmack, DJ Fluker, Cyrus Kouandjio have nearly 100 career starts between them – and all are over 6 ft 3 and 300 pounds. That’s a ‘solid’ proposition for defenses and Alabama’s offense alike.

AND THE X-FACTOR IS…

Nick Saban. The guy is hands-down the best coach in College Football (certainly defensively, anyway!). While Alabama might have lost a lot of talent, Saban’s good enough to make sure that the season doesn’t unravel and the Crimson Tide are there or thereabouts when it comes to battling it out for a SEC West title.

THE SCHEDULE

September 1 MICHIGAN (AT Cowboys Stadium, Dallas)

September 8 WESTERN KENTUCKY

September 15 at Arkansas

September 22 FLORIDA ATLANTIC

September 29 OLE MISS

October 13 at Missouri

October 20 at Tennessee

October 27 MISSISSIPPI STATE

November 3 at LSU

November 10 TEXAS A&M

November 17 WESTERN CAROLINA

November 24 AUBURN

THE BOTTOM LINE… Alabama has a monster match-up on the first game of the season when they play Michigan in JerryWorld, and it’s road trip to Arkansas ain’t gonna be easy either. Oh, and they also have to travel to LSU (as well as Tennessee and Missouri), too. Having said that, the favorable home schedule and the fact that there’s too much talent on this team means this: Alabama loses to LSU in Death Valley this year, but finishes the season a tidy 11-1, and is in the conversation (once again) for the National Championship.

SEC Preseason Preview: Can South Carolina dominate the SEC East?

In Steve Spurrier, South Carolina is coached by one of the greatest coaches the SEC (and College Football), has ever seen. And he’s great with doing something from nothing, because  South Carolina’s not historically Georgia, LSU or Alabama, and yet he can still pick up some immense recruits and sends some great ones to the pros.

This year, South Carolina goes into the season higher thought-of than ever. So can they win the SEC East title, which they missed out on last year?

Last year

Let’s get this straight: If they hadn’t have had such a sucky SEC conference, they would have won the SEC East. They went 4-0 against their division, but because Georgia managed to avoid playing anyone decent in the SEC West – and South Carolina had games at Auburn and Arkansas – Georgia (who they beat in an absolute classic last year) came out with a better SEC record and hence went to the SEC Championship Game.

Starting QB Stephen Garcia was dismissed in October for yet another bout of ‘overdoing it’,  and star running back Marcus Lattimore managed not to badly injure his knee at Mississippi State, and although the Gamecocks defense was still as good and reliable and usual, the offense never really recovered until the final game of the season when they put 34 on a suddenly-stumbling Clemson.

NFL-wise, Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, Alshon Jeffrey, Rokevious Watkins, Antonio Allen, and Travian Robertson were all drafted.

TWO BIG QUESTIONS ON OFFENSE

As far as we’re concerned, Connor Shaw’s going to do just fine this season for the Gamecocks. Although there are worries about Shaw’s back, Spurrier’s said he’s going to be fine for Thursday’s SEC opener at Vanderbilt.

The biggest question on everyone’s lips is about catching – who’s going to replace Alshon Jeffrey (762 yards, 8 TDs) as Shaw’s target man? Will it be Ace Sanders, or  Bruce Ellington or Rory Anderson or Nick Jones who will make the headlines? No-one knows? All we do know is that Jeffrey was a hell of a presence for the Gamecocks last year – something that will be needed.

And the other question – if we’re honest – is about Lattimore and his knee. The injury itself at Mississippi State was one to make any right-minded person feel nauseous, and it ruined his season there and then. Some reporters are confident that Lattimore’s back to the old self that made him a Heisman Trophy candidate, but Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles will also be used to provide bigger support. This could answer a couple of worries.

AND THE DEFENSE?

Actually, the NFL Draft did a pretty good job itself, ridding the Gamecocks of CB Stephon Gilmore and DE Melvin Ingram and LB/SS ‘Spur’ Antonio Allen.

Having said that, there are still imposing figures to destroy offensive lines in giant sophomore DE Jadeveon Clowney (36 tackles, 8 sacks), and DE co-player Devin Taylor (42 tackles, 6 sacks) who are also very quick. This should be fun.

But as we mentioned, the loss of Allen and Gilmore is going to be a major loss for Spurrier’s defensive back unit – and they’ll need CB Akeem Auguste to be healthy and SS DJ Swearinger (USC’s second-highest tackler with 80 tackles, 3 INTs, 1.5 Tackles For Loss) to continue his good form of 2011.

THE 2012 SCHEDULE

August 30 at Vanderbilt

September 8 EAST CAROLINA

September 15 UAB

September 22 MISSOURI

September 29 at Kentucky

October 6 GEORGIA

October 13 at LSU

October 20 at Florida

October 27 TENNESSEE

November 10 ARKANSAS

November 17 WOFFORD

November 24 at Clemson

USC’s first game of the season at Vandy on Thursday isn’t exactly an easy one to start with, and if they get through that game, then we expect them to run the table until they have the ‘triple whammy’ of Georgia and road games at LSU and Florida. Then it’s Tennessee, Arkansas, Wofford and a trip to ancient rivals Clemson.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Spurrier’s lost too much talent not to suffer this year, but the return of Marcus Lattimore, the fact that Connor Shaw’s a better QB than Stephen Garcia and the Clowney/Taylor combo is going to be fantastic on the defensive line is going to make life a little bit easier. Having said that, we think USC will go 10-2 – and miss out once again on a SEC Championship Game spot (despite beating Georgia)

Texas A&M opener postponed due to Hurricane Isaac

Hurricane Isaac has already taken with it one SEC casualty – Texas A&M’s first game as a SEC school – on the road at Louisiana Tech on Thursday night.

The game has been rescheduled for October 13th.

And while this gives Texas A&M another week to prepare for the visit of the Florida Gators to Kyle Field, it also means that Kevin Sumlin’s first game as the Aggies’ head coach is against one of the best defenses in the SEC and possibly in college football.  Usually ‘big-time’ schools will schedule a smaller program to give themselves match fitness before the all-important conference season.

Louisiana Tech said that this was due to fan safety rather than a worry about weather conditions, according to news outlets.

 

SEC Preseason Preview: Can LSU overcome the loss of Tyrann Mathieu?

Tyrann Mathieu really screwed up this time. In fact, he screwed up so much that he’s now in rehab, and he’s off the LSU team. Last year he was suspended for drug use, while in the off-season he entertained everybody by wanting to change his ‘Honey Badger’ nickname for ‘King’. Wow, there’s nothing like a bit of humility, is there? We can only hope that a reformed, drug-free Tyrann Mathieu is back in FBS Football and his bravado is pitch only.

But will Mathieu’s expulsion from the team cost the LSU Tigers a shot at the National Championship?

LAST SEASON

As you all know, LSU was not only shut out of the National Championship by Alabama, but they were embarrassed, too. Their offense was lousy, and their defense wasn’t a lot better in the 21-0 defeat.

It’s funny, because LSU got to the National Championship the right way last year. They played Oregon and West Virginia outside the confines of Death Valley. And won both games. They won the toughest road game of them all in Tuscaloosa 9-6, and made frat boys cry in the process. And they beat Georgia comfortably in the SEC Championship Game. They destroyed teams with an excellent defense, and some even better special teams play. And guess made most of the standout plays?

LSU – loaded with NFL-worthy talent – sent Morris Claiborne, Michael Brockers, Rueben Randle, Brandon Taylor and Ron Brooks to the NFL.

SO WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN WITHOUT TYRANN MATHIEU?

As angry Les Miles must be with Tyrann Mathieu, he must be also thanking the Good Lord that Eric Reid – who tied Mathieu for tackles and interceptions has stayed out of trouble. The secondary – with the loss of two of its star players – now returns just one of its starters (Reid), but Tharold Simon, Craig Loston Jr and Dwayne Collins, Dwayne Thomas and Jalen Mills could also be exciting options.

Having said that, defensive co-ordinator supreme John Chavis knows what he’s doing, and the Tigers should be fine – if a little less exciting than last year!

OH, AND LSU STILL HAS THE BEST DEFENSIVE LINE IN THE COUNTRY

Defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo (what a great name, by the way) are two of the best defensive ends in the country. Between them, they had 17 sacks last year. And although Brockers is gone, DTs Bennie Logan(57 tackles, 3 sacks) and Antony Johnson will also scare offensive lines across the country.

And that’s going to help the linebacking corps, which lacks experience apart from Kevin Minter, who had 61 tackles last year. Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones are projected to start to0 – this could be pretty exciting.

And did we mention that John Chavis knew what he was doing?

AND THE OFFENSE?

We’ve been quite defense-focused in our LSU preview (mainly because of Mathieu), but the good news for LSU fans is that Les Miles finally has a strong-armed, good quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, who was named starting QB almost immediately to avoid a situation like Florida or Texas. LSU fans had better pray that Mettenberger stays healthy – and out of trouble – because PSU transfer Rob Bolden really wasn’t anything special in State College. But for some consolation, here’s freshman highlight reel, by the way. Things didn’t improve from there.

Mettenberger’s weapons are going to be Odell Beckham, Russell Shepard and TE Chase Clement. There’s not a lot of experience in the team on that line – both Shepard and Beckham only caught 55 passes and 6 TDs last year – but this was mainly due to Les Miles using his powerful offensive line to grind out the yards rather than throw it up in the air (and the fact that with Jarrett Lee / Jordan Jefferson at QB, they were hardly reliable, were they?). And with Mettenberger’s arm, opposition secondaries had better be careful.

Also, Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard all come back into a rushing game that, giving LSU a very legitimate run threat too.

And we think the offense is going to need to be more sparky than they were in 2011, because the defense is definitely a little weaker. Especially in the secondary (if we hadn’t mentioned it before).

In the SEC West, where field position in all-important, One of Les Miles’ biggest weapons is going to be a rather good-looking Australian kid called Brad Wing, who’s an absolute freak at doing that.

THE SCHEDULE

September 1 NORTH TEXAS

September 8 WASHINGTON

September 15 IDAHO

September 22 at Auburn

September 29 TOWSON

October 6 at Florida

October 13 SOUTH CAROLINA

October 20 at Texas A&M

November 3 ALABAMA

November 10 MISSISSIPPI STATE

November 17 OLE MISS

November 23 at Arkansas

LSU’s schedule isn’t an easy one…particularly on the road. Going to Florida, Arkansas and Auburn will be tough, and the atmosphere at Kyle Field (Texas A&M) is one of the most deafening in the country. Home-wise, Alabama and South Carolina at home are the key games.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Regardless of how magical John Chavis is or how good LSU’s defense is, the logic is this: LSU is a worse team without Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is a threat on defense AND special teams – something that LSU will struggle with without their Heisman Candidate in the team. But we still think LSU is good enough to run the table – squeezing past Alabama to maintain a 12-0 record and a SEC Championship Game spot. It won’t be easy, though.

SEC Preseason Preview: Can Florida return to old glories?

The Florida Gators are a National Power. Sure, they may have sucked pre-Spurrier, but in the last three decades, they’ve been almost always extremely competitive (if you ignore the Ron Zook years). Since 1991, Florida has won eight SEC titles, and three National Titles. They also haven’t missed a bowl game since 1991, either. That’s a pretty great record.

But 2011, after Urban Meyer’s decision to leave the Florida family and go to ESPN (for the year, as it turned out, because he managed to recover sufficiently to take up a role at Ohio State), the Muschamp era started with a sputter. Sure, the Gators got into a bowl game, but they ended the season without a National Ranking….and losing to their hated cross-state rival, Florida State.

LAST SEASON

As we’ve mentioned before, the Florida Gators sputtered last year to a 6-6 regular season record. And their offense didn’t just sputter, they were goddawful. John Brantley missed almost all of Florida’s losses against Alabama, LSU and Auburn (which didn’t help matters), and Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel didn’t nothing to inspire confidence. On the ground, Chris Rainey & Co. couldn’t get anything done on the floor, and the Gators ended up ranked 71st in points scoring.

Results-wise, Florida ran to 4-0 to start the season, but then sputtered, losing four straight to Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia before beating Vanderbilt and losing 17-12 to South Carolina in a game that we can only say wasn’t one for the purists. The season ended with Florida State snapped jaws in The Swamp 21-7 in another drab game. Oh, and somewhere in there, Florida also beat Furman.

NFL-wise, Jaye Howard and Chris Rainey were the only two Gators picked in the 2012 Draft, and Jeff Demps ran for the US Olympic 4 x 100m relay team, where he received a medal after running a leg of the preliminary heats. Demps subsequently signed a contract with the New England Patriots.

WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN AT QUARTERBACK?

The Florida Gators quarterback scenario is one of the more entertaining of the season. Will Muschamp can’t seem make up his mind as to who will start for his team – both Brissett and Driskel are still duking it out for the starting spot. Both will play the opening game against Bowling Green. Both Brissett (206 yds, 2 TDs, 4 INTs) and Driskel (148 yards, 2 INTs) were uninspiring last year, and in the Spring Game equally so.

AND THE RUNNING AND RECEIVING GAME?

No doubt about it: Losing Rainey and Demps are going to be massive losses. Mike Gillislee, Trey Burton, Hunter Joyer will be required to pick up the pieces. One thing’s for certain: The unit certainly won’t be as quick!

On the receiving wise, Andre DuBose provided us with one of the highlights (and crowd noises) of the season when he caught the opening play of the Alabama contest and took it to the house, and he, Frankie Hammond and Quinton Dunbar will be relied on to provide big yards – although Jordan Reed’s an excellent tight end.

THE LINE, THE LINE, THE LINE

The Florida Gators have an excellent line, with their five projected starters owning nearly 70 starts between them – talk about experienced. Jon Halipo Jr and James Wilson Sr. are both giants at their respective guard positions. That (hopefully) should keep the QB game for getting any more injuries and befalling the same fate as it did in ’10!

AND HOW ABOUT THE ‘D’?

If there is one thing EVERYONE is raving about, it’s the Florida Gators defense, which could be one of the best not only in the SEC, but in all of college football. While LSU has lost its best defensive player through his own stupidity and Alabama has lost most of their best defense in years due to that nasty thing called the NFL Draft, the Gators bring back practically EVERYBODY. That automatically makes them a contender.

While Ronald Powell, who plays in Muschamp’s hybrid linebacker/ defensive end position is still recovering from his ACL injury, watch out for freshman Dante Fowler to turn some heads at that position – as he has been in training. And speaking of linebackers, the Gators are absolutely loaded at the actual position, which is going to be headed  up by Jon Bostic (94 tackles ) and Jelani Jenkins (75 tackles) – both of whom have NFL talent. Shariff Floyd returns to defensive tackle alongside the excellent Dominique Easley.

In the secondary, strong safety Matt Elam, who was second on the team in tackles (and top in tackles for loss) will be someone to watch this year, although CB Jeremy Brown was injured yet again in August (though Muschamp is hoping for a return by opening day). The good things for Florida is that everyone coming back started is experienced – which will be needed in a conference that relies on that.

THE SCHEDULE

September 1 BOWLING GREEN

September 8 at Texas A&M

September 15 at Tennessee

September 22 KENTUCKY

October 6 LSU

October 13 at Vanderbilt

October 20 SOUTH CAROLINA

October 27 GEORGIA (Cocktail Party at Jacksonville)

November 3 MISSOURI

November 10 LOUISIANA

November 17 JACKSONVILLE STATE

November 24 at Florida State

The Gators are going to definitely benefit from the fact that two of their biggest games of the year – LSU and South Carolina are going to be played in the home comforts of The Swamp, while the Cocktail Party they are at ‘home’ too in Jacksonville. We expect the Gators to finish the year 10-3 with losses coming from Georgia, LSU and at Florida State.

 

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