Who are the SEC players to watch out for in 2018?

Regardless of what the pro-SEC fans say, a lot of stars left the conference in 2017. Just from the National Championship Game, Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), and Roquan Smith (Georgia) are gone in their junior years, while Nick Chubb and Sony Michel (Georgia) departed after four years. The bigs are gone too, with ‘Big’ Bo Scarborough (Alabama) and Da’Ron Payne (Alabama) departing for NFL riches.

But that’s not all. From Auburn Kerryon Johnson and Kam Pettway are off, while at LSU Derrius Guice, Arden Key, Kevin Tolliver and Donte Jackson leave. For Texas A&M, the most exciting player in college football – Christian Kirk – is going to take his returning talents to the pros.

But despite the amount of heroes going to the NFL, there are more heroes that are going to come along. And yes, we know that we have mentioned five-star recruits that are going to start this year, but they could be arrested/dismissed/suspended before the season starts, so we’re not counting our chickens.

Here are our Top 12/13 (in no particular order):

  1. Drew Lock (Missouri): Lock exploded under OC Josh Heupel, passing for a breathtaking 3,339 yards and 23 TDs. In fact, he was the only QB to cause Georgia’s DB trouble all season long, and we’re expecting great things from him in 2018 – especially with a lot of pressure on him from NFL Draft ‘experts’ who expect him to go in the Top 5 in 2019. His only problem(s) could be his wide receivers not being able to catch, and new OC Derek Dooley (we still don’t understand why Barry Odom passed on former UCLA OC Jedd Fisch).
  2. Deebo Samuel (South Carolina): The most explosive, exciting player in the SEC last year – until he was injured. He can return punts, run the ball and receive throws, and he’ll rip a team’s defenses apart if they don’t watch out for him. He’s the next Christian Kirk and potentially the SEC’s answer to Christian McCafffery.
  3. AJ Brown (Ole Miss): Brown is going to be one of the greats of Ole Miss when he’s done with his career in Oxford. In a freakish sophomore year, Brown had 1,252 yards receiving and 11 TDs. We expect many more things from this exciting player come 2018.
  4. Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama): One amazing half of National Championship may not a starting QB at Alabama make, but Tua, with his strong arm and ability to move around in the pocket, is already prepped to Alabama’s next throwing star. Don’t get us wrong, Jalen Hurts could get his job back and slice up defenses with his legs (and he could also be extremely useful on trick plays), but now the starting Bama job is Tagovailoa’s to lose.
  5. D’Andre Swift (Georgia): Swift had 771 yards and 4 TDs for the Dawgs, and now Chubb and Michel have gone to the NFL, Swift will be the No.1 running back. Expect him to get 1,000.
  6. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn): If Stidham can play as well as he did against Georgia (Game 1) and Alabama, then he’ll be one of the biggest stars in the conference. He’s got good legs, a great arm, and we think Stidham could flourish.
  7. Nick Fitzpatrick (Mississippi State): Before he was injured against Ole Miss, Nick Fitzgerald was phenomenal for the Bulldogs. Statistically, he may have had a worse year than he did in 2015 last year, but he still had SIX rushing games of over 100 yards. We expect him to flourish in Joe Moorhead’s offense. Moorhead’s great with mobile QBs – just as Penn State’s Trace McSorley.
  8. Damien Harris/Najee Harris (Alabama): Harris’ decision to return for 2018 is a fantastic one – he’ll be vying with Stanford’s Bryce Love as the best RB in the country. He had 1,000 yards and 11 TDs this year, and we expect excellent things next year too. As part of the two-headed monster, Najee Harris has the speed to match Damien’s brawn, while is going to be great for Nick Saban and his new offensive co-ordinator.
  9. Jake Fromm (Georgia): Fromm’s going to go from ‘game manager’ to ‘star’ in Athens – particularly when Kirby Smart lets him throw the ball more.
  10. Tyrel Dodson (Texas A&M): As much fun as we’ve made of the Aggies’ ‘D’ in the past, there’s no denying what a star Dodson was in his second year. The freakish linebacker had 104 tackles and 3 INTs, and he could break out as the next Myles Garrett.
  11. Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt): You might make a lot of fun out of me for including a Vanderbilt player, but hear us out. As terrible as Vandy was in the SEC (their only win came over Tennessee), Shurmur still managed to throw for 2,823 yards and 26 TDs. It may not have lit up the scoreboards, but he’s proved himself a leader on the team. If he remains hot, there could be NFL discussions.
  12. Aeris Williams (Mississippi State): We didn’t consider Williams until we saw his numbers for this year, and then felt guilty. The sophomore RB reminded coaches of Le’Veon Bell with his running style, and made a lot of Cowbellers happy with his 1,107 yard, 6 TD performance – as well as 142 yards receiving. Expect him with better numbers under Moorehead.

Also considered: David Reese (Florida), Malik Davis (Florida), Mecole Hardman (Georgia), Traeyvon Williams (Texas A&M), Devwah Whaley (Arkansas), DeMarkus Lodge (Ole Miss), Javon Wims (Georgia), Emmanuel Hall (Missouri).

Suck it, Ohio State. Suck it, Clemson. Suck it, Oklahoma. The SEC’s got two teams playing in the National Championship game.

That’s right – in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium fans all over America will tune into Monday to a game they most feared: An all-SEC Natty featuring Alabama and – to less an extent – Georgia.

Listen to the pundits, and they are hoping and praying that it won’t be boring. They hope it won’t be a 9-6 slugfest. They pray that Brian Daboll or Jim Chaney will come up with some offensive invention to stop that happening. They are hoping for end-zone celebrations and while craziness. They had a lot of that in two previous National Championships – and are praying for that to happen again.

The sad thing is is: It probably won’t happen.

Both Alabama and Georgia having amazing athletes. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are the best running back duo in College Football – although Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough, Najee Harris are also great too. Alabama also has a quarterback in Jalen Hurts who can run the damned ball, too.

Alabama fans might be slightly worried about putting the game on Hurts. Although Hurts is one of the best scramblers in the game, and he led the team down the field against Mississippi State that was – retrospectively – a season-saver, he’s actually got worse in terms of completion-percentage terms from 2017 to 2016. His fumble against Clemson was only bailed out by the usual immense Alabama defensive performance (kept Clemson to 3 points). Now, it’s not that we think Jalen Hurts is a terrible quarterback by any means  – he could cause Georgia hell-on-earth with his legs, but he’s not a great thrower.

On the other side, Georgia’s Jake Fromm has been a sensation. He’s got a cool head, and by reports by students at Georgia we know, he’s a pretty humble, unassuming guy – a diametric opposite to Jacob Eason, who walked around Athens thinking he was God. Fromm has played like a leader all season long. But then again, he hasn’t faced a pass rush like Alabama’s. Has he? Oh wait, he did. In Jordan-Hare against Auburn….and had he had his worst game stats-wise for the Dawgs that day. Sure, he was better in the rematch, but this is a fresher, nastier defense than he’s faced for a while. If Georgia goes down by 14, Smart’s going to have to put the game onto Fromm’s back…..and we’re not hugely confident if he will be able to take it.

We might have outlined this, but both teams feature absolute beasts on the defensive side of the ball. Georgia has Roquan Smith, the Butkus Award winner who’s a beast.Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter – who blocked the kick in overtime in the Rose Bowl – is an immensely-talented tackler, and so’s David ‘Humble Yourself’ Bellamy and Jordan Ledbetter. If Bellamy gets run over by Scarborough, he’ll be humbled. The Georgia players HAVE to make tackles, or it’ll be a long day.

As for Alabama, they’ve got God in the backfield in Minkah Fitzpatrick who – like Smith – is amazing. Although there’s a story going around about Fitzpatrick’s bruised kidney, which the best corner in college football/future NFL Top 5 pick dismissed as a non-story, it shouldn’t stop Fitzpatrick. Georgia’s Dominik Sanders will try and be Fitzpatrick in the Georgia secondary. We think he’ll try and play man-to-man with Calvin Ridley (good luck!). Oh, and Rashaan Evans is a freak, and Alabama has all the depth in the world to stop Georgia if there are injuries, which sadly is a sure bet in what will be a hard-hitting bet like this.

Co-ordinators wise, Jeremy Pruitt is a genius. Mel Tucker ain’t bad either (look at his defensive adjustments against Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma in the second half of the Rose Bowl). Both of them will be the busiest guys of the night – especially if they are getting their ears chewed out by Smart and Saban!

Offensive line was, it’s hard to differentiate between the two. Talk to a Georgia fan who was practically suicidal after some of the efforts of the offensive line last season, they aren’t altogether happy with this one. If you think about, Georgia has had 2 games where they have been truly tested on the offensive line, and it’s 1-1. UGA comes into the decider facing a nasty defense that could get to Fromm faster than a Daytona racecar. For Alabama, Hurts has only been sacked all season long, and you don’t see opposition defensive players in the backfield very much. There’s a good reason for that. There’s some good news for Georgia in that 6-4, 324lb Bama guard Lester Cotton won’t be playing in Atlanta after getting injured against Clemson. Cotton started all 13 games for the Tide, but we expect Nick Saban to make the changes.

So what’s going to happen?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is going to be a war. Alabama’s a 3.5 point favourite in Vegas, and to a lot of people, that looks about right. We think Alabama wins by 7 in a game that’s close, if not really exciting. Unless you like defense. Then this will be porn

SEC fans of the year: The Tennesseee fans who stayed around

In 2017, it was easy to be an Alabama fan. It was easy to be a Georgia fan. It was easy to be an Auburn fan. Hell, at the end of the season, it was easy to be a LSU fan and a Missouri fan.

But it wasn’t an easy year for Tennessee fans.

This inaugural award doesn’t go to the Tennessee fans who started up the #EmptyNeyland campaign, aimed to show fans’ chagrin at Butch Jones. It doesn’t go to the people who jumped on the ‘No Schiano’ bandwagon, like my former priest, who claimed not to care about Tennessee – or any college football for that matter – because he was ‘too busy with kids, but managed to whack a sermon of Facebook telling everybody who would listen: ‘I don’t know who runs the decision making at the University of Tennessee, but this is a travesty. I’d never let any of my sons anywhere near a coach like this”, adding: “I’m absolutely appalled the University of Tennessee would hire anyone who was anywhere near that kind of horrific culture. It’s completely tone-deaf, and a giant middle finger to ethics, integrity, and wise program-building”. It doesn’t go to people who painted the rock with hate about former AD John Currie, Butch or Greg.

It goes to the Tennessee fans who stayed.

It goes to the Tennessee fans who kept going to games, even when they knew it wasn’t going to end nicely. It’s the fans who didn’t leave even when Georgia was up 42-0 with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. It’s the fans who went to both home and away games, and kept rooting for their team, despite the carnage on (and off) the field, led by the likes of Clay Travis, ESPN and Twitter (including yours truly, who really thought Butch Jones should have gone last season).

It goes to the Tennessee fans who didn’t sign up to the #EmptyNeyland campaign. Those Tennessee fans who said: “Hell, I don’t know who’s gonna be coach next year, but it doesn’t really matter, but I’m going to be rooting for them anyway”. Those Tennessee fans who care about the team that they were willing to take the verbal barbs from the Georgia and Alabama fans at work, because whether their SEC brethren liked it or not, they were gonna keep supporting their team.

The Tennessee Fan Who Stayed Around deserves to be supported, given a round of applause and a pat on the back. We hope for the Tennessee Fan Who Stayed Around that times will be better under new coach Jeremy Pruitt. While some Tennessee fans will demand an 9-3 or 8-4 year at the worst in the first two years of Pruitt’s tenure, the Tennessee Fan Who Stayed Around will acknowledge that some things take time, like the brewing process of the moonshine he had after hunting deer in the Appalachians.

And most of all, it goes to the Tennessee students, who stayed around to say that they still believed in the team at whatever cost. Whether the fanbase likes it or not, the students have to suffer, because random SEC fans will tell them over Thanksgiving or Christmas: “Tough Year”. They won’t be talking about Grandma’s illness or even the retirement of Dale Jr, but they’ll be talking about the football team. This is the Tennessee student who’s still got three years to go, because it may not be the easiest wearing orange.

Happy Christmas, Tennessee fans, you’re our fans of the year.

Note: Vanderbilt fans came close, and then we remembered that Vanderbilt’s win over Kansas State as well as eviscerating the Vols made them the second most-suffering fanbase in the SEC. 

College Football desperately needs an eight-team play-off

After penning an overly-long article about Alabama and Ohio State and why Ohio State didn’t get into the play-off but Alabama did, we at the SEC Football Blog also thought it was time to say what should be done about College Football.

Why? Because if we’re honest, we’re getting bored of the arguments about who should be in, and who shouldn’t.

In the past, we hated the BCS and its computers, we hated the pollsters, we hated everything that defined a National Champion.  We hated the BCS so much that we put in a play-off committee to decide things.

Who then screwed things up. They seemed to be able to shoot themselves in the foot, be inconsistent, and seem like they are bias. In other words, they were faulty….like all humans are. Accusations will fly back and forth between Tuscaloosa and Columbus about that, and we simply don’t know. All we know is that Ohio State won its Championship, Alabama didn’t, and yet Alabama got into the Play-Off and Ohio State didn’t.

But this could have all been sorted by an 8-team play-off.

So here’s our idea.

THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

You would have five spots for Power 5 Conference winners.

In 2017, that would be Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State and USC ranked in that order.

THE AT-LARGES

Then you would have two at-large teams and the top Non Power-5 school.

Our two at-large teams would have been Alabama (11-1 record) and probably Wisconsin (one loss). The non-Power 5 school would be UCF.

OUR PLAY-OFF RANKINGS

Our rankings:

  1. Oklahoma (Big XII Champs, better strength of schedule)
  2. Clemson (ACC Champs, beat 11-1 Miami)
  3. Georgia (SEC Champs, 11-1, only loss to then 10-2 Auburn )
  4. Ohio State (Big Ten Champions, wins over two Top 5 schools)
  5. USC (Pac-12 Champions)
  6. UCF (Highest-ranked Power-5 school by AP, 13-0 record)
  7. Alabama (Best at-large bid (11-1 record)
  8. Wisconsin (Best at-large bid (12-1 record)

THE MATCH-UPS

That would set up: Oklahoma vs Wisconsin, Clemson vs Alabama, Georgia vs UCF, Ohio State vs USC.

IMPORTANCE OF REGULAR SEASON KEPT

Of course, those bemoaning it hate the fact that an 8-team play-off would ‘reduce the importance of the regular season’ and ‘might have to reduce the regular season’.

The importance of the regular season is still going to be there. Teams will still have to get to Championship games, win them, and guarantee themselves a play-off spot. Losing a Championship Game but having a better record than anyone there becomes important (see Wisconsin over Auburn would be the only one to cause the controversy, although Wisconsin only has 1 loss compared to Auburn’s 3).

AND WE ALSO HELP THE SMALL SCHOOLS STILL

Here’s the argument for a reduction in games: While Applachian State beating Michigan (or in SEC terms, Mississippi State over South Alabama or Troy over LSU or ULM over Alabama) happens ever so often, it’s not a regular occurrence. Sorry you won’t get to see your team play Mercer, Alabama and Auburn fans. Bigger non-conference games means more fun for us all.

Or alternatively, don’t reduce the games at all. In the NFL, players will have to learn to play 16+ games anyway (unless you play for Cleveland, where it’s a straight 16!). The players themselves are at the peak, and against smaller oppostion, play the back-ups immediately. The average team size is 118, with 85 scholarships. The back-ups at Alabama should be able to hammer Alabama A&M. The small teams get their $1 million, the fans get their victory, the back-ups get to play, the starters get rested, and everyone’s happy. This happens in professional soccer all the time when a team’s trying to balance cup games and European games and league games. It works. And if fans complain that they aren’t seeing their superstars play Mercer and stay away, someone else will take their place. And  you know what happens there? A FBS’ fanbase enlarges.

WE CAN’T WAIT

Can’t wait to watch the Oklahoma vs Wisconsin, Clemson vs Alabama, Georgia vs UCF and Ohio State vs USC play-off games.

Oh….wait….. in my dreams.

Alabama’s in, but the Crimson Tide deserve it?

I love SEC Football as much as the rest of ’em, but there’s no way I can look at myself straight in the face and say: ‘We had the best conference. We deserved two teams in the play-off. College Football is great.’

Why? As a conference (apart from Georgia, Auburn and Alabama), the rest of the conference weren’t particularly great…or stank out right. As a conference, big names like LSU and Florida were a side conversation, Mississippi State lurched from looking like world-beaters one week to ‘world’ the next, Texas A&M wasn’t in the discussion, Ole Miss and Missouri were mostly interesting because of their great offenses and terrible defenses….and we all know how bad Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt was.

When your three biggest teams are effectively crapping on the opposition, that doesn’t make you a great conference. It makes you one-sided. In terms of interest as a college football fan, it wasn’t as competitive as the Big XII, Pac-12, or arguably even the ACC.

The fact that the SEC was so lackluster ensured that Alabama couldn’t make the argument about strength of schedule, because it simply wasn’t there.

And now to Ohio State…

Ohio State may have looked like world-beaters against crappy B1G opposition, but when it came down to it, the Buckeyes struggled against the biggest game of the season, losing in a blow-out to Oklahoma. Later during the season after an emotional win over Penn State, they were hammered at Iowa. After beating Michigan and its joke of an offense, the Buckeyes then won the B1G Championship Game. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, who controlled the game (if you don’t believe me look at the yardage stats), they only won by six points and not the 31 that probably would have swung a spot in their favor.

There was also the argument that Ohio State won its conference while beating two Top 5 teams in its own conference (No.2 Penn State (that went 10-2) and No.4 Wisconsin (that went 12-1), while Alabama’s only Top 5 win outside of its conference was a No.3 Florida State, who had to re-schedule Louisiana-Monroe (and pay it $1 million in the process) to ensure bowl eligibility. And the fact that Ohio State won its conference, and Alabama didn’t.

But still, it was all about the Iowa loss.

Nick Saban – as he’s so good at – lobbied the NCAA incessantly, to the point of appearing on College Gameday as a guest (and looking befuddled when some guys dumped food on the desk), and throwing shade at Ohio State for the loss in Kinnick.

However much you could argue about Kinnick being a tough place to play (just ask Michigan in 2016), the fact that the Hawkeyes had played Michigan State and Penn State tough (losing by 7 points or less both times) and was 5-3 at the time and hadn’t had a stupid loss yet (they sure made up for that with losing to Purdue!), getting spanked by 31 points was never going to be a good look for the Buckeyes – who still don’t understand what in the hell happened that afternoon.

And when that type of loss is given to someone as brilliant with the media as Nick Saban is (its helped by the fact that he’s won so many National Championships, he’s the best recruiter in the land, and Alabama is the biggest brand in the game), and you give him a head start of a week because you’re playing in a Championship Game, then the game for Ohio State almost looked over – even if they had shelled Wisconsin.

The College Football Play-Off Committee helped…

Also helping Alabama was the duality of the College Football Play-Off Committee, who was able to put forward one argument but then not back itself every week. They also seemed to look at team’s past reputations, not look at strength-of-schedule in the way that it should have done, and seem to have one rule for one team and one team for another. Alabama was also helped by the fact that while the Committe was happy to talk up losses when convenient (see the time they put Notre Dame in the Top 4 even with the UGA loss and UGA in the Top 4 win the ND rode win), but then ignore them when it didn’t seem necessary (see Syracuse loss for Clemson and Iowa State home loss from Oklahoma), yet when it came to talking up the Crimson Tide’s whooping of Florida State in Dallas on Opening Weekend, they did so with vigour, while forgetting that Alabama’s next best win was over Mississippi State and LSU. LSU lost to Troy.

But at the end of the day, Ohio State was frustrated. And sadly with this system, there will be others until something changes.

 

 

 

 

Will Georgia or Auburn win the SEC Championship Game?

Wow. The 2017 SEC Championship Game between Georgia and Auburn will be the first SEC Championship game since 2013 not to feature Alabama.

It’ll be Auburn’s first trip to the SEC Championship Game since it won a 59-42 shoot-out against Missouri in 2013, and it’ll be Georgia’s first trip to Atlanta since they lost 32-28 to Alabama in 2012 in one of the greatest SEC Championship Games in living memory.

This year, both teams come with one spot in mind: The College Football Play-Off. Basically, the winner will go to the College Football Play-Off, while the loser will be on the outside looking in.

Of course, there’s a revenge factor for Georgia. On November the Bulldogs were schooled at Jordan-Hare, losing 40-17. Auburn comes with momentum, having toppled two No.1 teams in a row in Georgia and Alabama in the Iron Bowl (with an untidy performance against Louisiana-Lafayette in the middle).

In other words, no-one in the South – or in college football – can wait for this one.

Here’s why both teams will win.

WHY GEORGIA WINS

The revenge factor. Georgia was hammered at Jordan-Hare. There are arguments that if WR Riley Ridley had caught Jake Fromm’s throw, things might have been different. Of if Georgia had decided not to give 75 yards on seven, stupid penalties. Having said that, that wasn’t the real reason the Bulldogs lost. The Bulldogs lost because they couldn’t stop Kerryon Johnson, who pummeled Georgia’s offensive line. They lost to an Auburn defensive line that shut down Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and they lost to the better quarterback in Jarrett Stidham. But now, all this doesn’t matter. Kirby Smart’s team have been looking forward to this for a week (they are pretty well-rested after easily dusting Georgia Tech in ‘Clean Old-Fashioned Hate’ (or whatever that rivalry’s called), and they now know how to stop Malzahn.

Georgia’s also going to win because they are sick to death of being told how they will ‘Georgia’. In other words, how they will miss out on the epic victory, like Mark Richt managed over and over again (with the exception of the 2005 SEC Championship Game – the last time the Dawgs won the trophy). This time it’s different, it’s personal. Chubb and Michel are both fit – unlike Johnson, who is listed as ‘probable’ by the Tigers, but we both know that with the pain that he left the Iron Bowl in, he’s unlikely to be at the top of his game. They also know how to win, and how to take advantage of what is still a week Auburn secondary.

Oh, and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium isn’t going to be a game at Jordan-Hare, either. It could feel like a home game for Georgia.

WHY AUBURN WINS

There is no team in college football with greater momentum than Auburn at the moment. After all, they’ve dispatched of two No.1s. And not only have they beaten Georgia and Alabama, but they’ve comfortably beaten them. No-one’s playing as well as their defensive line, led by Jeff Holland, Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown and Dontavius Russell. They’ve got back-up players (Nick Coe and Andrew Williams) who are nasty as well. This defensive line didn’t just stuff Georgia – they stuffed Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough. Unless Jake Fromm turns into the new Baker Mayfield, the invasion of the Georgia offensive line will continue.

Oh, and there’s the offense, too. QB Jarrett Stidham played two of the best games of his season against Georgia and Auburn – even if his TD stats didn’t show it against the Tide (he threw for 3 TDs and 214 yards against Georgia). He’s taken control of the offense at just the right time, and he’s going to cause Georgia’s defense problems on broken plays with his legs as well as with his arms. And we ‘almost’ (hee! hee!) forget about Kerryon Johnson. Not only does he throw touchdowns, but he’ll also run over defenses. He was IMMENSE before getting injured against Alabama, and even better against Georgia. All season long he’s been incredible, running for 1,276 yards and 17 TDs, running over defenses who have tried to stop him. Gus Malzahn’s confident he’ll play.

And in terms of offensive brains, you’d take Malzahn over Kirby Smart or his offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney. So we can’t wait for the pack of cards to come out.

WHAT VEGAS THINKS

Auburn’s a two-point favorite.

WHAT WE THINK

This is going to be a damned classic. There’s no way this is going to be as one-sided as people think. We think Georgia’s D is going to come in angry as hell, and they are going to target Johnson’s shoulder (fairly or unfairly). That’s going to mean that Stidham will be forced to throw more against a very good Georgia secondary. And the revenge factor – and the fact that it will be a home game for the Dawgs – is huge.

Oh, and we’re still quite smug about Vegas only making Georgia a 11-point favorite against Georgia Tech last week. They blew that out mid-way through the third quarter. Thanks for the money!! 

SO OUR PREDICTION…

Georgia 35, Auburn 28.

Other predictions: Oklahoma will slam TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game, Clemson will have no problem with Miami (thanks to the fact that not only is it the better team but also Charlotte’s a home game for the Tigers), and Ohio State will beat Wisconsin by 14 in the Big Ten Championship Game, and USC will beat Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game. And Lane Kiffin will win with FAU (beating North Texas) and Scott Frost will take UCF to an unbeaten season by beating Memphis in a high-scoring, must-watch classic.

Will Jimbo Fisher go to Texas A&M?

This weekend, Georgia and Auburn are playing for the SEC Championship, with the winner going into the College Football Play-Off.

But if we’re honest, all eyes (that aren’t in Athens and Auburn), are on College Station, Texas.

You see, on Sunday the Aggies let go of head coach Kevin Sumlin. To a lot of the fanbase, it was hardly a surprise.We didn’t like the fact that Sumlin was fired at first, and then we were reminded of his SEC home record. Sumlin hadn’t won a SEC home game since October 2015, which is a hell of a long time if you think about. The team had regressed since Johnny Manziel’s Heisman year, and there hasn’t been a quarterback that has been able to recreate his heroics. To make matters worse, after Kenny Hill transferred to TCU after rumored issues with alcohol, he’s been excellent. And despite the massive investment going into the program, Sumlin could never really challenge the might of Alabama (he only beat them once) and could never beat LSU.

Anyway, there are rumors flying around that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will be soon packing his bags and going to Texas A&M.

Fisher, who is paid $5.5 million per year by Florida State thanks to a contract extension in 2015, could have earned $40 million by 2022 if he’d stayed in Tallahassee.

But apparently, that’s not the case. Fisher has implored the team to ignore the ‘distraction’ of the Texas A&M rumors, but he’s been extremely evasive when it’s come to speaking to the media about a possible move.

Fisher said: “I never comment on jobs,” Fisher said. “My focus right now is winning against ULM and playing our season. I don’t get in to the rumors and the rumor mill. If there was ever something to it then at the appropriate time, but right now there’s no reason to comment and I’m focused on beating ULM.”

While we don’t think that Fisher would be leaving a sinking ship if he left Tallahassee, it certainly hasn’t been an easy season for him. Having lost starting QB Deondre Francois in the blowout loss to Alabama at the start of the year when the Seminoles were ranked No.3 in the country, he then had a sea of injuries throughout the season.

But with a team like Florida State who recruit as well as Fisher did, it was extraordinary that the Seminoles were as bad as they were. While the loss to Miami and Louisville (both who had servicable quarterbacks) was excusable, the 35-3 blowout loss to Boston College, the struggles against Wake Forest and Duke were not.

During the season Fisher also exchanged words with a Seminoles fan after the Louisville loss, and seemed permanently under pressure.

If Fisher does move, we all know what he’ll get. He’ll get a bump in pay, the fertile recruiting ground that is Texas, and facilities that rival any school in the country. He’ll also get to play in some of college football’s biggest games, although in 2018 he’ll be going on the road both to Alabama and Auburn, and get LSU at home, as well as a small ACC team called Clemson (at home). And he’ll also get one of the most passionate fanbases in the country. If you don’t get what we’re talking about, then we advise hitting up Kyle Field for a game. And bring earplugs.

And if Fisher does move to Aggieland, Texas A&M will get themselves a coach who has won two National Championships (one as an assistant at LSU and one as head coach at FSU), various ACC titles and is a fantastic recruiter.

One person we know who is going to make out like a bandit from these affairs is Jimbo Fisher’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, who is college football’s chief powerbroker, and arguably, chief mischief-maker. He’s already cashed in on the buyouts of Sumlin as well as other coaches who have lost their jobs recently (Butch Jones at Tennessee and Jim Mora at UCLA), and will make a small fortune for himself and his company CAA if the Fisher deal goes through – or if Fisher’s given another bump in pay in Tallahassee. He wins either way from this poker game. Like he always does.

But for Seminoles and Aggies fans who are checking social media 100 times a day, they are just going to have to wait.

Bret Bielema is out at Arkansas

Bret Bielema is out at Arkansas after five years at the helm.

‘Bert’, as he’s ‘affectionately’ known by social media, was fired after the Razorbacks were beaten 48-45 in a thriller at home to Missouri, leaving the school with a 4-8 record. This is the second coach that has been fired this season after a loss to the Tigers – the first was Tennessee’s Butch Jones.

Bielema was fired almost immediately after the game. There were rumors that he had been fired as he walked off the field, but Arkansas pointed out that they hadn’t been that cruel – it was ‘actually in the coach’s office by the visitor’s locker room’, ESPN stated.

Bielema was quick to protect himself, telling the press that six out of his Top 10 players were available to play a ‘significant’ time for the Razorbacks, and he also admitted that that team didn’t have the depth of SEC West competitors. He also noted that in the five years that he’s been at the helm, he had the toughest schedule in the SEC.  Arkansas finished 1-7 in the SEC this year, with their lone win coming over Ole Miss this season in what was ironically one of the most exciting games of the conference’s fairly-moribund season.

Bielema’s SEC record was outright terrible, with a 10-24 SEC record, and a 27-29 overall record that included some embarrassing losses, particularly to Toledo. His only positive win percentage with the Hogs was bowl games (2-1).

There were some good wins during Bielema’s time, including shut-outs of ranked opponents LSU and Ole Miss in 2014, and a bowl trouncing of former hated rival Texas in the Texas Bowl in 2014.

But they weren’t enough to paper over the cracks of what was a disappointing reign for a state employee that was being paid $4.1 million by the school as well as having a contract buyout of $5.1 million.

OUR TAKE

If we’re honest, the fact that Arkansas finished bottom of the SEC West behind an Ole Miss team (who it ironically beat!) that had the shadow of NCAA sanctions floating over them and an interim coach, their second straight losing SEC record, and the fact that in Bielema’s time, they couldn’t beat their SEC West rivals very much (they had a 0-5 record against massive rival Texas A&M, which included THREE overtime games in four years, was 0-5 against Alabama, 1-4 against Auburn, 1-4 against Mississippi State and 2-3 against LSU. The only SEC West team Bielema ended having a winning record against was Ole Miss, with a 4-1 record). We all knew (pretty much) that the writing was on the wall for Bielema when Arkansas fired its head coach Jeff Long earlier this year.

Previewing The Iron Bowl and every other #RivalryWeek game in the SEC

Because it gives me a chance to ignore the extended family and watch football for three days, I love Rivalry Weekend. It starts with the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night, and then moves through like a hurricane until the regular season (sniff! Sniff!) winds up at the end of Saturday.

This rivalry week for the SEC looks pretty damned special. There’s an Iron Bowl at Auburn, with Alabama visiting. We’ll hear the words ‘Kick Six’ mentioned a lot, and Harvey Updyke’s name may crop up ever so often. The story that’ll probably get missed this week is about Rodney Alexander, an Alabama fan who shot an Auburn fan this week over an Iron Bowl disagreement. That almost puts Updyke and Smoking Lady to shame.

There’s also ‘Good Ole Fashioned Hate’ as Georgia goes to Georgia Tech, The Egg Bowl which sees Ole Miss and Mississippi State (regardless of what people think, they really hate each other down there), and Florida versus Florida State, which is actually going to be one of the worst games of the year (Chip Kelly or no Chip Kelly). There’s Louisville vs Kentucky in the Bluegrass Bowl, where we see LeSean Jackson play. LSU hosts Texas A&M as the ‘replacement game’ for the Aggies’ traditional Texas game (that got called off when they went to the SEC, which in my mind is still the biggest load of B.S. since the Longhorn Network) for what could be Kevin Sumlin’s goodbye, and surging Missouri goes to Arkansas is what could be Bret Bielema’s last, too. Arkansas fans are praying so.

Oh, and there’s the terrible, terrible games of Tennessee playing Vanderbilt, which pits two 0-7 SEC teams, and Florida State going to Florida. All four teams suck so much that trying to work out the best one is a law unto itself.

So here are the games in order of interest for this writer:

  1. Alabama (-4) at Auburn: There is going to be some atmosphere in Jordan-Hare – especially with the SEC West division and a potential play-off trip on the line. We should see both sides beat the living crap out of each other on the lines, but I still think Calvin Ridley can cause Auburn’s secondary more damage than Auburn’s receivers can do to Mykah Fitzpatrick and friends. PREDICTION: Alabama by 7.
  2. Georgia (-11) at Georgia Tech: A lot of people keep telling us how Georgia Tech’s slow play will stop them getting beaten into a pulp by UGA, but my argument is is that UGA’s fast play – thanks to its electric running backs and fast, fast defense – may rack up the points before Tech can even stop them. PREDICTION: Georgia by 14.
  3. Missouri (-9.5) at Arkansas: The ‘Bert Bowl’ is really interesting, because it could be Bielema and Jen’s last game. Then Wisconsin fans will scream ‘karma’. Missouri is an offensive juggernaut at the moment, but will it last against an Arkansas team who have been fighting quite a lot recently for its coach? PREDICTION: Arkansas by 3 in an upset. But carrying Bielema off the pitch would be the biggest feat by this Arkansas team.
  4. Texas A&M at LSU (-10): Another game in which we could say goodbye to another coach, the Aggies travel to LSU. Again, a sneaky pick for one of the funner games of the week, Kevin Sumlin – who is rumoured to be leaving College Station very soon indeed – has to jack up his Aggies in a game that they have never won. Ed Orgeron’s team also has a knack of playing down to its opponents. PREDICTION: No major celebrations here. LSU by 10.
  5. Clemson (-13.5) at South Carolina: If Jake Bentley can keep away from throwing INTS (the last time he played vaguely competent defenses he threw five of them), then this could be a classic. Clemson, with all their firepower, still aren’t the same team that won the National Championship last year. A Clemson loss would make an OK season for South Carolina all the sweeter, because it would knock the Tigers out of Play-Off contention for good. PREDICTION: Clemson by 10 in a battle.
  6. Louisville (-10) at Kentucky: This is more about saying goodbye to one of college football’s greatest players (Lemar Jackson). If Kentucky defends him badly, he’ll have a field day. But then again, Louisville’s ‘D’ is nothing to write home about, and Kentucky could well exploit it –especially in front of a partisan Commonwealth Stadium crowed. Oh, and there’s Bobby Petrino’s return to the SEC. Apparently, his time at Arkansas was a bit of a [motorcycle] wreck. PREDICTION: Louisville by 7 in a high-scoring thriller.
  7. Ole Miss at Mississippi State (-14.5): The rumors are circling about Dan Mullen leaving. By the end of Sunday, he could have a choice (Tennessee, Texas A&M, Arkansas). But right now he’ll have to concentrate on the Ole Miss game with Mr UT-CHATTANOOGA Nick Fitzgerald. Ole Miss can score points, too. This Egg Bowl will be very fun indeed. PREDICTION: Mississippi State by 10 – although it’s close going into the 4th
  8. Florida State (-5) vs Florida: I remember when this used to be a HUGE, HUGE GAME. Now, it’s a match-up between two of the worst teams in the State of Florida. Maybe Chip Kelly will spice up the rivalry next year – especially if Jimbo Fisher moves to Texas A&M, where he’s rumoured to be going after this year’s massive failure. PREDICTION: Florida State by 3 in a close, entertaining game.
  9. Tennessee (-1) at Vanderbilt: It’ll be like watching ‘America’s best sports crashes’. Seriously. Here at the SEC Football Blog we’ll wait around for the final score for this one…and we pity any fans actually going. PREDICTION: Tennessee by 10. That’s how bad Vanderbilt is.

The SEC Rankings after Crap Saturday don’t change very much

The best thing about Crap Saturday is that that weekend ends all the weekends of crap games, and it’s one week before our favorite long weekend of the year: Rivalry Week.

But we’ll get onto Rivalry Week tomorrow, once we’ve basked in the glory of last Saturday’s incredible SEC schedule, which saw zero upsets, one close, fun game and….er…. (in other non-SEC news) Baker Mayfield grabbed his crotch at some Kansans, and then wrote his usual apology.

So here’s your SEC rankings from 1-14.

  1. Alabama: Heroically beat Mercer to preserve unbeaten season. Games like the Mercer vs Alabama is why we love SEC Football.
  2. Auburn: Struggled early against Louisiana-Monroe, but eventually hit the gear they were looking for. They could have done with an easier tune-up before the Iron Bowl.
  3. Georgia: The Dawgs absolutely dominated Kentucky. We already can’t wait to the SEC Championship Game.
  4. Mississippi State: One week they play like they play like Champions, the next week they struggle against Arkansas. That’s why they dropped a beat. We still don’t understand Dan Mullen’s great mystery of a team. But it’s fun.
  5. LSU: Beat Tennessee in horrific conditions in which we saw goalposts nearly fall down, an Ed Orgeron interview for the ages, and Noah building an ark.
  6. Texas A&M: Won a thriller in Oxford where first-half defense was so bad we thought it was going to be a Pac-12 game. Sadly, both sides managed to play some defense in the second half, and the Aggies won 31-24. Still, it was a fun game.
  7. Missouri: The Tigers continued their surge by crushing Vanderbilt on the road. They are now bowl-eligible. After the Purdue game, that seemed unthinkable. Will Drew Lock go after this junior year? Probably….but it’s inadvisable.
  8. Ole Miss: We’re looking forward to the Egg Bowl a hell of a lot more than we did when the Rebels lost at Cal a month or two ago.
  9. South Carolina: Beat Wofford. But we’ll say this – if the Gamecocks played Kentucky right now, they’d probably beat them.
  10. Kentucky: Housed by Georgia. But the Cats are bowl-eligible, and that’s fine for Stoops & Co.
  11. Arkansas: Actually played pretty well against Mississippi State. You have to wonder what might have happened if their QBs hadn’t either been injured or suspended.
  12. Florida: The Gators actually ruined my weekend, because they beat UAB and we love Bill Clark so much that we wanted a fairytale ending to what’s been a glorious season. It’s not that we hate Florida, it’s just that we love UAB. Because UAB’s amazing.
  13. Tennessee: Battled the elements against LSU, but they were closed down by an excellent defense.
  14. Vanderbilt: Eeew. The Commodores are so damned bad at the moment that I’m taking Tennessee in the game this week.
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