QBs in the SEC: Who’s in the best shape for 2017?

LSU always seems to have a quarterback problem, it’s been argued that Florida hasn’t had a good one since Tebow, and Georgia hasn’t won the SEC despite having good quarterbacks, while Alabama has won a lot of SEC titles without having any quarterbacks that you’d say are NFL-worthy. So for 2017, which SEC team is in the best shape at quarterback? And who is struggling? Clue: It’s probably not a team from Baton Rouge.

  1. Mississippi State: Nick Fitzgerald did wonders at Mississippi State last year. He led the SEC in total yards in 2016, throwing for over 2,400 yards and 21 TDs (and no interceptions) and rushing for nearly 1,400 yards and 16 TDs. He also beat Ole Miss, which pretty much makes him God in Starkville. There are worries because he didn’t have a sharp Spring Game, but it’s a Spring Game. Mississippi State’s in fine fettle at that position. Whether he’ll have the contributors he needs now Fred Ross he needs to give him the good stats is another thing altogether.

2. Auburn: After playing one Spring Game for Auburn, there was already Heisman hype around Jarrett Stidham on the plains. Some have even compared him to Drew Brees. Managing to get Stidham – who was already familiar with a high-octane offense by playing for Baylor in 2015 – to come play for you was a masterstroke by Malzahn and company. Stidham is a fantastic dual-threatt QB who’s going to cause defenses a lot of problems.

3. Alabama: Talk about an embarrassment of riches. Nick Saban keeps on getting hold of freshmen who are so good that that sophomore who had an insane season is suddenly worrying about his job. We see with Jalen Hurts – who had an incredible freshman year – in a sudden quarterback battle with Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa – a five star from Hawaii – had a brilliant Spring Game which got the tongues about Hurts’ job stability. And next season? There will probably be someone else to scare the crap out of these two.

4. Georgia: With Jacob Eason, the Bulldogs have an entrenched starting quarterback. His problem might well be the same that haunted him last year – the offensive line. But for pure stability – and a cannon for an arm – the Dawgs are going to be juuuuust fine.

5. Arkansas: We quite like the shape the Razorbacks are in at this position. Allen’s got a cannon, and threw for 3,450 yards, 25 TDs and 15 INTs last year. His problem will be the offensive line, which got him sacked THIRTY FOUR times last year. But if that improves, the Razorbacks have one of the best weapons in scrimmage around.

6. Missouri: Drew Lock’s going to start at quarterback for the Tigers, and he’s got the arm to be a star. If his receivers (we see you, J’Mon Moore) could actually catch the ball, then he could put up some immense stats and lead the Tigers forward.

7. Kentucky: Drew Barker vs Stephen Johnson is an interesting QB battle. Barker was the 2016 starter before he hurt his back, and then Johnson took the team over and led the team to seven wins – including a win over hated rivals Louisville. There is hope in Big Blue Nation. Although Mark Stoops has been uncommittal about the QB battle, it’s Johnson’s team, and UK is in a good position.

8. Vanderbilt: Kyle Shurmur will start. He had 2,400 yards passing, although he threw more INTs (10) than TDs (9). He progressed nicely through the last few weeks of the season, throwing for 221, 252, 273 and 416 yards in his last four games of the year. The 416 came against Tennessee’s defense (just in case you were thinking it was against a ‘nobody’. Vandy should be in pretty good shape here.

9. Ole Miss: Shea Patterson was given a lot of love when he walked into The Grove, and during his first year he threw for nearly 900 yards with 6 TDs and 3 INTs. And the opposition (Texas A&M, Vandy and MSU) wasn’t terrible either. The problem won’t be about Patterson’s skills, but more if the team plays with confidence after the trouble that the school is going to be in with the NCAA. And we’d argue that’s going to be a lot.

10. South Carolina: A lot of people were excited about Jake Bentley, who came in mid-way through the season and threw for 1,420 yards and 9 TDs (and 3 INTs). His strong Spring Game got Gamecocks fans drooling (if they weren’t already bearing in mind they had a Final Four game to watch that day).

11. Florida: The QB battle between Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask is certainly an interesting one, although both aren’t particularly well-known quantities. Luke Del Rio’s coming back from a shoulder injury, and could compete for the job. While some are excited about Florida if the QBs prove capable, we still don’t know a massive amount about them. They should be helped by a nasty defense, though.

12. Texas A&M: Jake Hubenak, Kellen Mond, and Nick Starkel didn’t exactly stand out at A&M’s Spring Game, but Starkel was given the most love because of how he stood in the pocket – and that his receivers dropped passes. The good news for Aggie Nation is that the running game looks very solid indeed.

13. Tennessee: Former Josh Dobbs back-up Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano are fighting it out for the Vols QB position, but I’m not convinced about either of them. Sorry, Vols fans.

14. LSU: This is how bad the LSU QB competition is. Ed Orgeron – normally Mr Exuberant and Mr Confident in these situations – told the press: “No-one has earned the starting spot…. Most of the spring, [starter for most of 2016] Danny [Etling] has been there. Nobody has taken him over. But tonight, underneath the pressure, the guys didn’t perform the way we wanted to. They’ll have to show me who can perform under pressure and be the LSU quarterback.” Normally when the guy who ended last year as the starter is safe and hasn’t transferred or been arrested (ie doesn’t go to Oklahoma), he’s your man to be the starter for 2017. Not so for Louisiana State University. In the Spring Game, Justin McMillan passed only three times and Lindsay Scott didn’t pass once. And Etling was horrible. These could be bad, bad times for the Purple and Gold and trying to get a QB into Baton Rouge.

Why did Mississippi State enroll a woman abuser?

I’m sorry if you don’t like harsh headlines, but this is a fact: Mississippi State today enrolled a person who abused a woman on its team.

Today, the school allowed defensive end Jeffrey Simmons onto campus despite Simmons’ arrest in March for striking a woman while she was on the ground during a fight.

Simmons made no effort to break up the woman-on-woman fight, but instead launched himself into it with both fists flying. He was arrested and booked for simple assault. Apparently in the land of Mississippi, that’s OK, because it was only a misdemeanour – despite Simmons’ obvious size advantage AND the woman was lying on the ground. He then ran away, which is neither here nor there. The damage was done. After he had finished, the woman was lying there, wondering what in the hell happened to her, and no-one was helping her up. Yes, we know that the woman was in a brawl with another woman, but Simmons could have split up the fight – easily. Instead, he took sides and went UFC on her.

WHY DID MULLEN ALLOWS SIMMONS TO COME TO CAMPUS?

The reason why Dan Mullen let Jeffrey Simmons come to Starkville was simple: Simmons is a five-star defensive end – the top player in the state – and Mississippi State wasn’t certain that other SEC schools (and he’d been recruited hard by Ole Miss and Alabama, and offered by Tennessee, Auburn, LSU and Vanderbilt) wouldn’t have snapped him up in a heartbeat. That’s because SEC head coaches – and it’s shown to be them particularly – really believe in second chances, especially for those guys who might really, really, help their program.

There’s a ‘serious misconduct’ rule that stops one player within the SEC transferring to another, but when the kid hasn’t stepped foot on campus, that rule becomes open to interpretation. And you KNOW SEC schools – and a bunch of other schools away the conference – would have found a way to try and get round it (although we can safely say not Miami, Penn State or Baylor).

The amusing thing was Mullen telling Simmons that he would be suspended for Mississippi State’s MASSIVE SET YOUR ESPN NOW BECAUSE THIS ONE’S BIGGER THAN ANY GAME YOU’LL SEE ON TV THAT WEEKEND game against mighty, mighty FCS South Alabama, who finished 5-7 last year. What then amused us was the school admitting Simmons “under conditions”, which include counselling, anger management classes, and a “No second chances” rule. With the final one, we expect that’ll happen unless he turns out to be really, really good.

WHAT WE THINK HAPPENED?

What we think happened is that there was some serious lobbying from Simmons’ family, church and high school all saying the same thing: “That was sooooo out of character. I can’t believe he did that.” We know nothing about Simmons, or his past history, so we’re inclined to believe that unless facts come out about his high school days that are different. Mississippi State then realized that Simmons really was a special kid and offered him the chance to play for the team.

WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED?

Apart from Mississippi Police charging him with serious assault and slinging him in jail (which really should have happened), Mullen should have taken the higher ground and decided not to take Simmons. And then the SEC should have stepped in and stopped Simmons coming to any other SEC school’s campus. And maybe he would have had to play in a community college for a year or two, or maybe he would have had to play for a much-lower rung team, but at least he would have learned that beating the crap out of women IS NOT THE WAY TO GO.

Because as it stands now, Mississippi State’s just sending the message: “We don’t give two craps whether you beat the crap out of  a woman. If you’re a five-star recruit, we got a cowbell waitin’ for ya!”

 

 

Alabama-LSU re-takes focus of college football: Week 11 SEC Predictions

So, it was a pretty crazy Thursday after all. Baylor was restricted for a quarter-or-so then broke out the whooping stick on Oklahoma. Then, unbeaten Oregon rolled into Stanford….and lost 26-20 in a game that they trailed 26-0 and were owned in.

Anyway, Saturday night’s alright for fighting…..or Alabama to play LSU. The game last year was incredible, but not a lot of people are anticipating the 2013 version from Tuscalossa to be that good.

Anyway, here’s your Week 11 Predictions.

LSU AT ALABAMA

Because of the size of Thursday’s games, the LSU-Alabama has been slightly overshadowed this week. There’s also the fact that LSU’s losses to Georgia and Ole Miss means that they currently stand 13th in the rankings to Alabama’s No.1, with the Tigers really having no hope of going to a SEC Championship Game….unless they win in Tuscaloosa. Tigers coach Les Miles is going to have let it all hang out in Tuscaloosa, which means his offensive line providing enough protection for QB Zach Mettenberger, and then hoping Mettenberger himself regaining the consistency and confidence he had earlier in the season. Mettenberger has two targets in Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry who are, in my opinion, college football’s best wide receiving tandem. They should test Bama’s secondary like no other team has since Texas A&M. Beckham’s also damned useful from special teams, too.

The key to LSU’s win might well not even be on that side of the ball. They’ve got to stop Alabama’s offense, which features one of college football’s best QBs (AJ McCarron) two incredible running backs (TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake), three good wide receivers (Kevin Norwood, Amari Cooper, and DeAndrew White), and a sturdy offensive line. Oh, and a great defense, too.

This should be a great game.

BOTTOM LINE: Alabama’s a 12-1/2 point favorite. We think Alabama wins, but by less than the spread.

AUBURN AT TENNESSEE

Tennessee’s 31-3 thumping by Missouri didn’t turn a lot of heads. People knew that despite their big victory over South Carolina and overtime loss to Georgia, they wouldn’t stand a lot of hope on the road. And it came true. Well, the Volunteers have got the chance of causing a massive upset on Saturday afternoon when they host No.9 Auburn. Of course, they’ll depend on QB Josh Dobbs (in his second career start) having a better game than he did last week, hope he hits his excellent WR Marquez North, and pray that the defence can cause some turnovers against a freight train of an Auburn offence. But you never know – Neyland Stadium hasn’t been an easy place to play this season, folks.

BOTTOM LINE: Auburn’s a 7-1/2 point favorite. We think Auburn wins and beats the spread pretty easily, despite a noisy Neyland.

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT TEXAS A&M

This is the last time that Kyle Field will see Johnny Manziel play on its sacred turf in its old guise (it’s undergoing a $400m redevelopment after this season), because that’s it for the Aggies at home this year. It’s been an adventure, folks. Offensively, the Aggies have been incredible, fun, and a joy to watch – mainly because of Mr Manziel, but also because of the superb wide receivership of Mike Evans. Defensively, they’ve been awful (when your fans celebrate shutting down an awful UTEP side, you know you’ve got issues).

Anyway, Mississippi State goes into A&M after playing pretty well at South Carolina (they had more yardage and time of possession, but ruined their own day committing FIVE turnovers). They’ll have to stop the turnovers to have a prayer of pulling out the upset.

BOTTOM LINE: Texas A&M’s a 19-point favorite. Frankly, we’re keeping more of an eye on the ‘D’, but we think A&M wins by more than the spread.

MISSOURI AT KENTUCKY

The only reason why we’re talking about this is the spread. Despite Kentucky not playing too badly at home and coming off a waxing of Alabama State last week, the Wildcats still haven’t got a win in SEC play (we’ve been lobbying the SEC to get the 0-fer bowl together between them and equally-awful/maybe-even-more-awful Arkansas), and they aren’t very good. Missouri, on the other hand, beat the living daylights out of Tennessee, and have the wide receiving weapons – like L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham, who recovered from a crappy Week 9 to come back strongly – to blow this one open early.

BOTTOM LINE: Missouri’s a 13-1/2 point favorite, we think they beat the spread comfortably.

VANDERBILT AT FLORIDA

One of the more interesting games on the SEC plate this week, simply because Florida must be looking and thinking: “How bad can this season get?” (ANSWER: Losing to Vanderbilt), while Vanderbilt had their butts kicked at Texas A&M last time out, and have lost 2 out of the last 3. They are beat-up (although not as beaten-up as UF), and they are on the road.

BOTTOM LINE: Florida favored by 10. With an offense that’s horrific. We think they win by 7 in a game that’s nip-and-tuck all the way through.

ARKANSAS AT OLE MISS

Bret Bielma’s had a poor start to his Arkansas reign, and it’s hardly surprising after the drop-off in talent there was from 2012. But really, they are TERRIBLE offensively. Ole Miss, on the other hand, crushed Idaho after winning a real battle with LSU, and will be salivating at playing a Razorbacks side which doesn’t have a lot of confidence. They also need a quarterback….and a ‘D’ might be nice.

BOTTOM LINE: Ole Miss is a 17-point favorite. We think Ole Miss wins -and beats the spread. Ole Miss by 21.

AND THE GAME WE’RE NOT REALLY INTERESTED IN…

APPALACHIAN STATE AT GEORGIA 

Why? Georgia’s favored to win by 40 against an Appalachian State that’s not the speedster team of 2007. We think they win by…..as many as they want to. They’ve got Auburn to play soon, and will be gearing up for that.

Why The SEC Should be Watching Oregon/Stanford/Baylor/Oklahoma on Thursday Night

To steal an Elton John song, Thursday’s night’s alright for fightin’.

Because this Thursday night, I’m going for forgo my ‘But it’s not SEC football’ and concentrate on not one but TWO ranked battles going on elsewhere in the country between the fast cats of Baylor and Oklahoma and THAT GAME between Oregon and Stanford.

And you know what? There’s a few reasons why SEC fans should watch:

1) The winner of either game could be Alabama’s National Championship opponent. We forecast ‘Bama to make the SEC title game, win that, and go to the National Championship Game. Everyone’s talking about Florida State, Oregon or perhaps Baylor battling it out with the Crimson Tide in Pasadena. Well, both Baylor and Oregon play on Thursday night. We’ll get to see both spread offenses play, and think about how Alabama could play against ’em.

2) The players are pretty good All four sets of players are really good. Forget Oklahoma’s destruction by Texas- that loss is looking better and better with the form Texas is on, OU is still a good team.

3) Future SEC Coaching Talent If Art Briles doesn’t go to Texas, rest assured that a big SEC school may come calling this year or next. His offenses are fast-moving, entertaining, and they score a ton of point. Baylor isn’t too bad defensively either. Can you see Mississippi State go and speak to Baylor? Or even Florida? Hmm….Not only this, but Kentucky fans will be cheering Mark Stoops’ brother Bob to get the job done against Baylor.

4) How good IS Oregon? People able to watch college football outside of the SEC should note that Oregon’s struggling twice already this year early on (Washington and UCLA), before hitting stride and taking the game away in the third and fourth quarter. DeAnthony Thomas, despite all of his talk, hasn’t played a lot this season, Marcus Mariota is a hell of a QB, and Byron Marshall, Mariota and Thomas Tyner can all run the ball. As Stewart Mandel said on the podcast relating to this game: ‘This offensive line is pretty good. This isn’t the Oregon offensive line that lost to Auburn’ (or words to that effect). Alabama fans will want to know if Oregon’s spread will ask them questions. Because if Oregon wins (and runs the table), they should be No.2 in the nation, because Florida State’s only got a beaten-up Florida left on its schedule.

5) Bowls, Bowls, Bowls: It’s interesting for us because not only do we see a potential BCS game, but we also see who might be Auburn/Texas A&M/LSU/Georgia/Missouri/South Carolina’s Cotton Bowl opponent – Oklahoma or Baylor. Because we love our wild games, we’re rooting for Baylor vs Texas A&M.

6) Do it for your dollar: Oregon’s a 10-1/2 point favorite (we think they’ll cover) and Baylor’s a  14-1/2 point favorite (we think they’ll cover, too), and this game could mean some early money before you lose it all on Florida not covering the spread against Vanderbilt (the Gators are -10). Over/under in the Baylor game’s 73-1/2 (we’ll take the ‘under’), while Oregon’s 61-1/2 (we’ll take the ‘over’).

7) Do it because it’s football: You’ve just spent a ton of money on Hallowe’en costumes and Hallowe’en drinking. You’ve got Thanksgiving and Christmas to come, which is going to take in a lot of green. Sit at home with Jack ‘N’ Coke, and watch two great games. Make sure you start with Fox Sports 1 (OU/Baylor) and go to ESPN (Oregon/Stanford). Better, get a computer for the second half of OU/Baylor, and watch Oregon/Stanford live, depending on which commentary team you prefer. Oh, and David Pollack and Jesse Palmer both played in the SEC…so in SEC terms, go ESPN.

8) Watch ‘The Replacements’ for your SEC viewing:

A) The Gunslinger: Bryce Petty (Baylor)

B) Johnny Pac-Ball: Marcu Mariota (Oregon) – With less interceptions.

C) The Speedy Running Back: Lache Seastrunk. Forget a freight train, the kid moves like a Japanese bullet train.

D) The Odell Beckham (without the one-handed kick-off grab): Ty Montgomery (Stanford). The kid’s got wheels.

E) The Barry Brunetti: Blake Bell (Oklahoma), or as he’s known: The Belldozer.

F) The Alabama Defense: Stanford

G) The ‘We Don’t Know How Good They Are Until They Played Somebody, And Then We Realized They Were Quite Good – Like Missouri’ – Baylor

H) The ‘We Want Bama’ – Oregon

I) The ‘Hey, We’re Pretty ****ing bright. And good at sports’ – Stanford.