SEC Week 3 Rankings: Bama rules, Mizzou doesn’t

The SEC Football Blog went to wonderful California for the witness two things: 1) Hippies and 2) Tons of Ole Miss fans going to a Pac-12 team. There were indeed tons of hippies, and there were a ton of Ole Miss fans who went to see the Ole Miss vs Cal game. Regardless of how some people felt it was a snoozefest, no-one can argue about how close it was…..until Shea Patterson’s Pick-6.

Oh, and we’ll take SEC sundresses and bowties over bro-tastic T-Shirts, vests and girls looking like, ahem, ladies of the San Francisco night.

Anyway, here are the rankings after a quarter of the season (yes, we’re there already!). It’s pretty easy to do No.1 and No.14, but it’s really difficult to work out 2-13. That’s because – and I hate to say it – there’s an awful lot of mediocrity at the moment. 

  1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide are the best team in the country, and despite starting slowly, it’s showing it. You can’t outthink Nick Saban and his team of thousands for 60 minutes.
  2. Mississippi State: Smashing LSU at home proved that the Bulldogs ARE for real. We like Nick Fitzgerald and Aenis Williams, and last week, we couldn’t believe what a wrecking the D put on LSU. Oh, and the Bulldogs are winning the SEC West at the moment, bearing in mind its got a 1-0 conference record to Alabama’s 0-0. Nick Saban will use that to fire up his team.
  3. Georgia: The way Jake Fromm is playing, Jacob Eason might not have a job. The match-up between MSU and the Dawgs in Athens on Saturday night could well change the No.2 and No.3 ranking, but Georgia’s got momentum, and it’s looking scary.
  4. Auburn: A lot of people criticized me when I said that Auburn would give Alabama a run in the SEC West this season because of the Tigers’ poor offensive line. I didn’t believe them. I was wrong. Jarrett Stidham will come alive this year, but the question is is: Can he be kept alive long enough to do so? We love Auburn’s ‘D’ though. It’s for real.
  5. LSU: A beat-down by Mississippi State was an embarrassment. Plain and simple. The Tigers shot themselves in the foot by committing needless penalties (including two which would have cost them TDs). Danny Etling is an ordinary QB when he plays ordinary teams, which leaves defenses time to dial in on Derrius Guice. If the offense doesn’t pick up, LSU could be one very ordinary team, and people will start asking the “Is Ed Orgeron a better replacement coach than an actual head coach?” question.
  6. Florida: Again, we’ll see when Florida plays LSU, but an incredible Hail Mary/long pass from Feleipe Franks doesn’t particularly cover up just how bad Florida’s offense has looked over the last two games. The D’s excellent, though.
  7. Tennessee: Beaten by a Hail Mary/long pass by Franks, but really they should have won in The Swamp. This team’s not going to be bad, but with injuries suddenly mounting up (LB Cortez McDowell, WR Juan Jennings (rest of season) and S Todd Kelly (indefinitely)), UT’s depth could be hurt long-term.
  8. Vanderbilt: The good news? Vanderbilt’s 3-0 and scoring points. The bad news? The celebration from beating No.18 Kansas State will be slightly dulled down after they play Alabama on Saturday as the 3.30 game on CBS.
  9. Kentucky: A huge win at South Carolina was helped by the Gamecocks’ inadequacies in the red zone, as well as an injury to their incredible WR Deebo Samuel. We will see if Kentucky’s any good when they play Florida, who they’ve lost to for 30 games straight. Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium is going to be sold out and LOUD for the visit of the Gators.
  10. Ole Miss: Ole Miss was disappointing against Cal, but we still love Shea Patterson. Even on that Saturday night, we could see a lot that makes him one of the most fun prospects in college football – let alone the SEC.
  11. Texas A&M: The Aggies have been bad all season long, on both sides of the ball. They will really struggle in interdivisional play – to a point that the Arkansas game becomes important for bowl implications.
  12. South Carolina: The loss of Deebo Samuel could kill the bright start that was the Gamecocks’ season.
  13. Arkansas: We don’t have a lot of positive things to say about Arkansas, bearing in mind they were crushed in the only big game they played. We will see what happens against A&M – who they’ve lost the last five straight to.
  14. Missouri: Can’t play offense, can’t play defense, can’t play special teams. This Missouri team might end up with one win all season, and fire Barry Odom come-season end. And be right to.

Week 3 SEC Preview: Vols-Gators, MSU-LSU

With the destruction of Hurricane Irma still lingering over the State of Florida, there will be a lot of positive sentiment flowing towards the Florida Gators in Week 3. Can they back it up with a good offensive performance against Tennessee?

The SEC Football Blog previews that game and all the others involving SEC teams in our Week 3 preview….

  1. No.23 Tennessee vs No.24 Florida (-5.5): From 2005 to 2016, Tennessee-Florida was hardly a rivalry. Florida won 11 in a row. Sure, 2014 and 2015 had been squeakers, but it just didn’t look as though UT would beat the Gators. Then 2016 happened, and Tennessee romped to a 10-point victory. Suddenly, after Florida fell apart against Michigan on Week 1 (sadly, it’s the last we saw of them because of Hurricane Irma), and Tennessee started the season 2-0, the questions are less about Butch Jones’ coaching ability and more about Jim McElwain’s. Yes, we know that Florida has an incredible defense, and – as Michigan found out – anything disastrous from Tennessee QB Quinten Dormady could result in a Pick-6. Tennessee showed that they can score AND come back from big deficits against Georgia Tech, and the Indiana State game was a predicted slaughter. WR Antonio Callaway and RB Jordan Scarlett will miss the game through suspension (as well as seven other depth players), which has been seen as a bonus. What we think gives Florida an edge is the fact that Florida has The Swamp behind it. With Florida mourning from Irma after the awful hit, the Gators will see it as a moment to fight for the State. And the Vols had better watch out. PREDICTION: Florida by 7.
  2. No. 12 LSU (-7) vs Mississippi State: There haven’t been a lot of teams who have made more impressive starts than LSU, who showed both youth and skill in a lot of places. But as they showed for the last 3 years (including a win with Dak Prescott in Tiger Stadium), this team under Dan Mullen isn’t going to lie down and let LSU give them a geaux-ing over. Last week Nick Fitzgerald and Mississippi State was very impressive in smashing La. Tech on a road 57-21 in a game many thought could cause the Bulldogs a lot more headaches than actually happened. Fitzgerald could cause this Tiger secondary – who calls itself ‘DBU’ – a lot of problems, and so could Aeris Williams, who’s averaging 7.6 yards per carry this season. So could running backs Jefferey Simmons and Montez Sweat on the other side of the ball. For LSU, Arden Key, LSU’s best pass rusher and future NFL first round pick, is back after injury but Coach O has said that he’s not confident he’ll play the whole game. One of the most interesting factors will be how LSU Derrius Guice deals with a firmer defense than he’s played for the last two games. Guice hasn’t exactly exploded out of the gates so far this year, averaging just 5.3 yards per play on 45 carries. This game could be one of the best SEC games of the year. And one thing’s for certain, we’ll hear a few bells ringing. PREDICTION: LSU by 10 in a game a hell of a lot closer than that until the final few minutes. 
  3. Kentucky at South Carolina (-6.5): Of all the SEC teams, we’ll throw it out there and say South Carolina’s had the most testing of schedules. The NC State game wasn’t easy, going into Missouri wasn’t (meant to be) easy, and now Kentucky, who some people talking about as a vastly improving team, come into Columbia for the Gamecocks’ first game of the season. That ain’t easy. But South Carolina’s 2-0, they dismantled a very good offense in Missouri spectacularly easily, and Jake Bentley’s looking like one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks. As for Kentucky, they are 2-0 but haven’t convinced anybody. I like Carolina, and I like Carolina a lot. PREDICTION: South Carolina by 14, smashing the spread.
  4. Ole Miss (-3.5 to 4) vs Cal: If any of these two teams’ defenses have been anything to go by in the last two weeks, then this game should be awesome. Cal gives up 505.5 pts per game, while Ole Miss gives up around 354. Both sides have given up 6 touchdowns this year to pretty terrible opponents. And it’s a 10.30 ET game, and it could be the most spectacularly high-scoring of the night, with the good money on the over/under of 72.5 getting blown out like the marijuana smoke from them Hippies’ lungs up there.  Even Ole Miss’ fan website haven’t a clue about what will happen. That’s what will make it so damned fun. PREDICTION: Ole Miss in a high-scoring crazy one, winning by 10 in a late-night classic (for the record, I think Ole Miss by 10 might be conservative).  
  5. No.18 Kansas State (-4) vs Vanderbilt: Bill Snyder’s team of veterans come into Nashville as a 4-point favorite, and we’re pretty excited about this one, as it could be under-the-radar. Derek Mason’s given this team a lot of hope this year, despite not playing anybody and going 2-0. Kansas State hasn’t played either, so it’ll be interesting. PREDICTION: Vanderbilt wins in the upset. 
  6. Purdue vs Missouri (-7): Things have gotten so bad at Missouri that the Tigers fired their defensive coordinator after just two games into 2017 (If we’re honest, he should have gone after the 2016 debacle, but that’s another story). After their horrific all-around performance against South Carolina (and Purdue’s ‘lucky getaway’ loss against Missouri (it could have been a lot more), there are thoughts that Missouri could be better. Vegas doesn’t seem to think so, making the Tigers only 7 point favorites. If Barry Odom loses this one, prepare for the seat to be set to boiling. PREDICTION: Missouri wins by 14, but no-one’s satisfied.
  7. ULL vs Texas A&M (-24): The world is expecting Texas A&M to rout ULL after they were dropped 66-42 by Tulsa last Saturday, and we’re expecting it too. But to do this, A&M desperately needs an offense. Kevin Sumlin’s still struggling about who will be the QB – Jake Hubenak or Kellen Mond, and the defense is simply struggling. Traeyvon Williams and Keith Ford should keep running the ball down the Ragin Cajuns’ throat all night long, as the Aggies seek a big blow-out victory. PREDICTION: Aggies by 30.
  8. Colorado State vs Alabama (-28.5): Nick Saban seems to believe in the Rams, called Mike Bobo’s team a “really good football team”. Vegas doesn’t seem to, believing the Crimson Tide will win by over four touchdowns. To be fair on Colorado State, a lot of Rams fans believe that they should have had the upset over Colorado in the ‘Weed Bowl’ after blowing out Oregon State in Week 1. The name Crimson Tide fans have got to look for is WR Michael Gallup, who’s a big NFL prospect. We look forward to the Gallup vs Fitzpatrick battle in the secondary…..if QB Nick Stevens is given any time to throw! PREDICTION: Alabama rolls by 31, but it’s a lot easier than that.
  9. Mercer vs No.15 Auburn: After not getting into the end-zone against a beastly Clemson defense, the fanbase will be looking for the Tigers to run up the score against Mercer’s defense who is yet to play a quality opponent. This is their time. PREDICTION: Auburn by 45, leaving Auburn fans a little happier. 
  10. Samford vs Georgia: There’s a lot of excitement about Georgia QB Jake Fromm after the Bulldogs came out of Notre Dame with a 20-19 victory, and Bulldogs fans will look for the $1m game (well, Samford’s getting paid $1m to get the butts in Athens in front of next-to-nobody) to show that the offense can really, really click. Look for less about Fromm and more about Nick Chubb and Sony Michel running riot. PREDICTION: Georgia by 50. At least.

Oh, and we’re not usually the kind to give some out-of-conference betting tips, but we would urge you to stay the heck away from Clemson (-3)-Louisville, but WOULD encourage you to take USC as a 16.5 point favorite against Texas. We saw Texas in Austin on Saturday, and we can safely say that Texas is horrible. 

Georgia wins in South Bend, and Week 2 in the SEC

It was a hell of a week in the SEC, where Georgia actually didn’t give their fans heartbreak in a close game (finally), Auburn lost a defensive brawl to Clemson, and Texas A&M showed why they still have problems.

But here are our quick takes on every team in the SEC after Week 2.

  1. Georgia: UGA fans turned out in their tens of thousands to South Bend to witness the Bulldogs beat the Fighting Irish 17-16. It wasn’t so much a barnburner of a game as a really ugly one, with UGA’s ‘D’ playing lights out. Jake Fromm was pretty good as a QB, which means that Jacob Eason will be worrying about his place. One worry though: The Bulldogs offensive line will face better teams’ defense than Notre Dame. We’re not sure how they’ll cope. Vegas is also kicking its heels after making Notre Dame the favorite, and so are ESPN, with 4 out of 5 of the experts picking the Leprechaun boys.
  2. Auburn: The Tigers were stifled in Death Valley by Clemson. Jarrett Stidham seemed to spend most of the game running for his life. Gamblers who had Clemson winning by more 6.5 were also happy. Auburn will be fine, but they didn’t look great.
  3. Texas A&M: In a week sadly highlighted by a racist letter to his wife and people questioning his job security, Kevin Sumlin could have done with a massive win over Nicholls State. Winning by 10 didn’t quite cut it for us. We’re writing this from Texas after seeing Texas beat San Jose State, and we can truly say this: If Texas vs Texas A&M had played their year-end game this year, then God would have to help us all. Both teams are awful.
  4. Arkansas: Is Bret Bielema really that good a coach? Are Hogs fans beginning to get impatient. A 28-7 beating at home by TCU certainly won’t make them happy. And they’ll play better Ds than that one. Suddenly the Texas A&M game in Jerryworld becomes all-important for bowl reasons….
  5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks are a sneaky pick for the SEC East. Will Muschamp’s got the offense moving in the right way….
  6. Mississippi State: Many thought that MSU would struggle at Louisiana Tech, but they didn’t, putting up 57 points by the fourth quarter. Talk about some optimism coming into the match-up against LSU…
  7. Missouri: On the other hand, we’d like to apologize to anyone who actually bet on Missouri winning 8 games after my SEC East preview earlier this year. They are awful. They lost with bad defense, bad offense, and comedy special teams moments.
  8. Alabama: Coasted to a win over Fresno State, and they are still No.1. No great revelations there. Again, if you took Fresno State to lose by less than 44 in Tuscaloosa, you would have been ecstatic by what happened. Alabama called off the Dogs at halftime effectively, and ‘only’ won by 31.
  9. LSU: Won 45-10 against Chattanooga and sacked their QB five times. Danny Etling again looked serviceable and Derrius Guice looked like Derrius Guice. They’ve got playmakers on both sides of the ball, but we’ll see how it all pans out in SEC play, particularly with a potential barnburner next week against Mississippi State and QB Nick Fitzgerald.
  10. Kentucky: We said that the Wildcats would “have it pretty easy” against Eastern Kentucky. Down 13-10 at halftime, they recovered to a 27-16 victory. But still, it was hardly a revelation for Mark Stoops.
  11.  Vanderbilt: Not a lot to say about the Commodores after the 42-0 win over Alabama A&M. Apart from the fact that it was Alabama A&M and they face Alabama on September 23rd.
  12. Ole Miss: After seeing Ole Miss look like they have lots of offense but no defense against UT-Martin, and watching Cal have a lot of offense but no defense against Weber State, we can truly say this: The Ole Miss-Cal game scheduled for next week? Could be first to 70!

Thoughts and prayers to the people for Florida in the middle of Hurricane Irma. We hope you are safely. We think particularly to the University of Florida and Gainseville, and all the students who know people in the Tampa area. We hope everyone’s safe. 

Can Auburn beat Clemson? SEC Previews for Week 2

fAmid a lot of crap,  there are three great non-conference games for the SEC, featuring Auburn going to Clemson, Georgia rolling down to Notre Dame, and TCU rolling into Arkansas. In the SEC, we have our first in-conference game of the year with South Carolina rolling into Missouri for the battle of the Columbias. The rest of the games, well, aren’t very interesting.

Oh, and thoughts are out there to all Floridian players and fans as Hurricane Irma rolls in. Hope everyone stays safe. And if you didn’t know already, Florida cancelled their game with Northern Colorado at The Swamp.

So here are your games in order of what’s interesting…

  1. No. 13 Auburn at No.3 Clemson (-6.5): I’ll get this one out of the way early: It’s not like Auburn’s not used to playing in Death Valley! They have to play there every other year. This game won’t be full of drunken, loud Cajuns….it’ll be full of drunk, loud South Carolinians wearing orange and purple. We expect more of a celebration tailgate between the two sets of fans, bearing in mind Clemson’s accomplishments last season against Auburn’s most hated rival. As for the game, Clemson’s favored by 6.5 and if we’re honest, we kinda like it. Although it’s hard to say against substandard opponents, Clemson impressed me more than Auburn did. Clemson seem to have something special in Kelly Bryant, but we’ll see how he fares against stronger opposition. Auburn’s got Jarrett Stidham, who’s a known quantity and will test Clemson’s ‘D’ to it’s full with his spread attack and three awesome running backs with Kam Pettway, Kerryon Johnson and Kyle Davis. Pettway and WR Kyle Davis both come back from suspension. Clemson’s still got plenty of weapons to test Auburn’s secondary. This will be fun. PREDICTION: Clemson by 7 in a barnburner of a game.
  2. No.15 Georgia at No.24 Notre Dame (-4): This was such a joke to gamblers early on that the line moved from -6.5 to -4. Vegas still thinks Notre Dame beats the Dawgs in South Bend – although we think a lot of that is dependent on the fact that Jacob Eason went down with an injury against Appalachian State, and they think that Irish QB Brandon Wimbush is going to be better than UGA starter Jake Fromm, and that Notre Dame’s going to be able to stop UGA RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. For us, the biggest factor will be what Notre Dame’s pass rushers can do to Georgia’s young-and-susceptible offensive line. If they can get through them, Fromm will be running for his life. Georgia’s ‘D’ is pretty solid, by the way, so give them some credit out there, but if the O-Line is making a game a perpetual 3-and-out (see Michigan vs Florida last week for example), Georgia’s in trouble. PREDICTION: Georgia to win by 3.
  3. No.23 TCU (-3) at Arkansas: Last year’s game – which went into double overtime – was electric and we’re hoping for the same when the Horned Frogs roll into Fayetteville. In Week 1 both sides teed off against crappy opponents and got the expected blow-out, givers-of-confidence results that you would expect and normally get, so this game provides quite the opponent markup. TCU is going to bring out a fast-paced offense that’s going to give Arkansas a lot of problems, while we expect Arkansas to pound the Horned Frogs with a solid running game that features Chase Hayden. If Arkansas’ offensive line doesn’t hold out and Austin Allen isn’t given the time, the Razorbacks are in trouble. PREDICTION: TCU wins by 7 in a high-scoring classic.
  4. South Carolina at Missouri (-2): I DON’T UNDERSTAND YOU VEGAS! South Carolina beat NC State, one of the better ACC opponents in a thrilling victory, while Missouri showed all of us that if there’s a defense, then they have heard of it (although if there’s an offense, they certainly have). We expect a high-scoring fun one with both defenses driving their head coaches crazy, both quarterbacks (USC’s Jake Bentley and Mizzou’s Drew Lock) to post great numbers, and one side to stop another maybe sometime. USC showed thta it could do that in a close game against NC State, but will they continue it against Missouri? We think they will. PREDICTION: South Carolina wins a barnburner by 3, but if we’re honest, we’re more confidence about the ‘over’ at 71.5. We also like the ‘over’ for 71.5.
  5. Mississippi State (-8.5) at Louisiana Tech: Vegas thinks that this one will be pretty close, but we don’t think it will be, despite MSU being on the road. We can’t wait to see if Nick Fitzgerald picks his act up from Week 1 to Week 2 (last week 16-29, 239 yards, 2 TDs), where we expect him to get a fuller game than he did last time. This could be one of those spread blow-out games. PREDICTION: Mississippi State by 18.
  6. Fresno State at No.1 Alabama (-44): You’ll know that Alabama beat Fresno State, but what you might not know is that Fresno State beat college football monster Incarnate Word 63-0 on Saturday. That’s about as deep as we’re going to get this one, because we expect Alabama to roll. If you’re a gambler I’d keep away from this one because Nick Saban would really p*** you off late on with a late Fresno TD against the second team. PREDICTION: Alabama by 41. As we said, watch the late TD stuff. 
  7. UT-Chatanooga vs No.12 LSU: LSU’s defense was incredible against BYU last week, keeping them to -5 rushing yards and choking any offense that the Cougars may have brought with them to New Orleans. And let’s be honest, we expect the same to be done in Death Valley. Vegas thinks the game is going to be so close that it’s not allowing bets on it. PREDICTION: LSU wins by 40, and it’s not even that close.
  8. Nicholls State vs Texas A&M: There are so many internal issues at Texas A&M (Coach Kevin Sumlin not only on the hotseat after the UCLA loss but also getting no support from an A&M regent after said loss as well as racial abuse sent to his home) that even a medium side would feel that they could capitalise on the calamity at Kyle. But Nicholls State isn’t one of those teams. PREDICTION: A&M. Easily.
  9. Eastern Kentucky vs Kentucky: After coming through the struggle at Southern Miss, Kentucky will have it pretty easy about Eastern Kentucky. Commonwealth Stadium will be expecting Stephen Johnson to rack up the passing yards, CJ Conrad to catch a TD or three, and this game to be over by half-time. PREDICTION: UK by over 40.
  10. UT Martin at Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze blah blah…..Hugh Freeze….Ole Miss coming back blah blah……PREDICTION: Ole Miss by 40. 
  11. Indiana State at No.25 Tennessee: Sadly, Larry Bird won’t be playing WR for Indiana State. If you don’t get that joke, you’re too young. Anyway, Tennessee scrapped through against Georgia Tech and guessed right to stop a 2-point conversion in double overtime, and this game should be over by halftime. PREDICTION: Tennessee by 50. 
  12. Alabama A&M vs Vanderbilt: Derek Mason’s psyched about this game, but he’s the only one. PREDICTION: Vandy by 41 after changing team at halftime.

Will Alabama beat Florida State? Week 1 Predictions

OK, so it’s the start of the College Football Season proper (despite Stanford and, er, Oregon State starting things off last week) on Thursday, and to say we’re excited would be an understatement. Mostly, it’s to do with the monster battle between Alabama and Florida State, although the Michigan vs Florida game is going to be pretty awesome too.

So here’s how we think SEC teams will get on this weekend. We’ve also including some spread action if you’re into that, even if we’re not.

  1. Alabama (-7) vs Florida State: This is the game of the week and maybe the game of the college football season. Alabama will have to show everybody what they are like with a retooled defense and a new offesnive co-ordinator, while Florida State will show us what life’s like without Dalvin Cook. The key man – in my view – is going to be Alabama RB Bo Scarborough. If FSU don’t get him under control, Alabama will control the game and win this one comfortably. And that’s what we think will happen. PREDICTION: Alabama by 10. 
  2. Michigan (-4.5) vs Florida: Again a massive game to start the season, and again this pisses me off about the fact that it’s in Jerryworld instead of being a home-and-home. It would be cool to see UF going into The Big House as well as the Wolverines walk into The Swamp the year later. Well, this year both teams – with the tragic events of Houston going on down the road – are going in fairly beaten up, with Florida finally working out their quarterback just days before the start (Feleipe Franks over Malik Zaire), while Michigan has so many parts to replace (including a massive one in Jabrill Peppers). What’s also hurt Florida is the news that it’s suspended its starting running back Jordan Scarlett alongside already-sidelined Antonio Callaway. Jim McElwain must be going crazy. This should be a fun, close game. PREDICTION: Florida by 3 in a tight, fun one.
  3. Texas A&M at UCLA (-4): The fact that Texas A&M is starting the season without Myles Garrett and they have an unproven QB in Jake Hubenak adds some eyebrows to the Aggies side. Don’t get us wrong, we still think Christian Kirk is an all-world athlete, but can the Ags defense stop Josh Rosen and his exciting bunch of receivers? We think not. PREDICTION: UCLA by 7 in an go-to-the-wire game
  4. Tennessee (-3) at Georgia Tech: It’s undeniable: Tennessee’s going to be missing a lot of talent. this year. Joshua Dobbs is gone, as is RB Alvin Kamara, top WR Josh Malone, and a lot of their defense. John Kelly will be a very exciting returning RB, but other than that, we’ve got no damned idea what to expect. With Georgia Tech, they’ve just recently booted their leading rusher Dedrick Mills for ‘breaking athletic department rules’. UT won’t find walking into Georgia Tech’s stadium particularly worrying: They’ll have plenty of their own fans comin’ to Atlanta to scream Rocky Top at the top of their voice in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But Georgia Tech may well cause them problems. This is going to be fantastic. PREDICTION: Tennessee wins by 6
  5. Georgia (-14) vs Appalachian State: Vegas seems to think something exciting’s going to happen in Athens, because the Dawgs opened as a 35-1/2 favorite and they’ve bet it down to just 14. They obviously think another Michigan 2007 game might happen. Oh, and they saw the Nicholls State debacle and they decided that UGA’s offensive line might have the same problems. OK, well here’s our argument: Georgia has an excellent young QB in Jacob Eason, two battering rams in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and if the offensive line does its work against what will be a smaller defense, Georgia will have fun. PREDICTION: Georgia eases through, winning by 28.
  6. LSU (-16 1/2) vs BYU: We all know that this game was meant to be placed in Houston, and our thoughts are with the UH and the fans there. Sensibly, both schools didn’t argue and moved the game to New Orleans, where it’ll be essentially a home game for the Tigers. We don’t expect BYU to be able to stop any of LSU’s running posse – least of all Derrius Guice, and LSU’s defense will be far too good to let BYU have any sort of unstoppable other hand. You know, unless LSU shoot themselves in the foot – like they did against Wisconsin last year. PREDICTION: LSU wins by 21, and the Play-Off chat begins.
  7. South Carolina vs NC State (-5): Vegas has set the over/under at 52.5, which means that they think this’ll be an entertaining one. A lot of people love South Carolina’s QB Jake Bentley, and there’s a lot of hope going on with the program. The problem for NC State will be in the trenches: NC State’s got some fantastic soon-to-be NFL talent in the defensive line, featuring Bradley Chubb, Kentavius Street, B.J. Hill and Justin Jones, who had excellent seasons last year. But Carolina’s secondary better keep their eye out, because TE Jaylen Samuels is plain nasty. NC State will also have home field advantage bearing in mind this game’s being played in Dullsville (sorry Bank of America Stadium), Charlotte. PREDICTION: NC State wins by 10.
  8. Vanderbilt (-3) at Middle Tennessee: Vanderbilt finished the season pretty well with a victory over Tennessee, but we’re expected a brawl of a game in Murfreesboro, just 35 miles away. Vandy don’t bring much travelling support, so we’re expecting a full house of MTSU ready to make things difficult. If Vandy’s defense can continue to improve (head coach Derek Mason is a defensive guru), then things will be difficult for MTSU. This one will go to the wire. PREDICTION: Vandy by 3 in a classic.
  9. Kentucky (-1o) vs Southern Miss: Southern Miss is a dangerous team, and so scheduling them suddenly doesn’t look like a cupcake from the Wildcats’ point-of-view…particularly in Hattiesburg. A lot of things point to Kentucky having its hands full. PREDICTION: Kentucky wins by 4, but Southern Miss upsets Vegas. We also like the over of 57, people, as both teams don’t seem to enjoy playing much defense. 
  10. South Alabama vs Ole Miss (-23 1/2): Hugh Freeze blah blah blah…..We expect Ole Miss to blow the doors off South Alabama. If nothing else to make the point that they don’t care about no NCAA, homes. PREDICTION: Ole Miss by 42.
  11. (And onto boring game No.1:) Auburn’s a 34-1/2 point favorite against Georgia Southern. They’ll win by over 40, because Gus Malzahn will want to prove a point to the haters (blah blah blah).
  12. (Boring Game No.2): Missouri State’s visit to Missouri should see Missouri win comfortably. So much so that Vegas isn’t offering odds on the game. We think Mizzou wins by 50, and pleases our friends at the Mizzodcast, the excellent Tigers podcast.
  13. (Boring Game No.3): Mississippi State‘s 2016 opener was an embarrassment when they lost at home to South Alabama, but we don’t think it’s going to repeat itself against Charleston Southern, who is a useful FCS school (it has won the Big South twice in the last two years), but won’t keep up with the Cowbellers. Mississippi State by 38.
  14. (Boring Game No.4): We’d like to ask one massive question. Why in the Lord of Hogs’ name is Arkansas’ game against Florida A&M being played in Little Rock instead of Arkansas’ true home in Fayetteville? Arkansas will roast the Ratters by 40, and no-one’s going to care after the first quarter…

 

Can Auburn take Alabama’s SEC crown?

f his produiThis year, a lot of hope arrived on The Plains in the former of Baylor graduate transfer QB Jarrett Stidham, who has a bullet arm and an ability to play the Gus Malzahn offense. But will it be enough to beat Alabama, who arrive – yet again – stacked despite losing some real heroes in their defense?

Here’s the SEC Football Blog’s SEC West Preview. Enjoy….

  1. Alabama (12-0): Alabama’s going to have to replace Reuben Foster, Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson, Dalvin Tomlinson and Tim Williams. That’s a hell of a lot of talent. But they’ll re-load. There’s also the fact that offensely, Jaylen Hurts might have to do less than last year because he’s got an absolutely filthy RB trio in Bo Scarborough, Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs. Oh, and after the Florida State game, we can’t see any worries in the schedule until they play LSU. At home. The biggest game for them will be the Iron Bowl with a much-improved Auburn team. Both teams might be undefeated going into that game, which will make it fun… WINS SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
  2. Auburn (11-1): As mentioned in our introduction, the arrival of Jarrett Stidham from Baylor has left a lot of Auburn fans drooling at the mouth (stop your farmer jokes here, people!). Not only that, but his bullet arm will be helped by a trio of top running backs in Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson and Kam Martin, and the fact that Auburn’s also got an experienced line that adds two more transfers. Defensively, the loss of Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams will hurt the Tigers. There’s still experience in the secondary, and LB DeShaun Davis in a stud.
  3. LSU (10-2 (losses to Alabama and Auburn)): Derrius Guice is an awesome, fun-to-watch running back who can destroy a defense with his speed. He’ll definitely put up the yards – although against whom will be the biggest test. While it’s all well and good putting up big numbers on Chattanooga, if he and the offensive line don’t perform against Florida, Auburn and Alabama in an evil month of October-to-November, LSU will have problems. That won’t be helped by the fact that Danny Etling isn’t great (his 2,000 yards and 11 TDs passing were undone by the fact that he had a QB passing average of 59.6), and he’s returning as the starting QB, showing the lack of depth LSU has at QB. Defensively, LSU is a shining light, with so much talent all over the board, highlighted by LB Arden Key, who was unworldly last year. The problem for us is the schedule: Will they be able to stand the triple-battering in October to November? We think they lose the Auburn and Alabama games.
  4. Texas A&M (8-4 (losses to LSU, Alabama, Auburn, and UCLA): Texas A&M’s going to adapt and adapt fast to a couple of things: The loss of one of the best DEs College Station has ever seen in Myles Garrett, as well as having a very fresh QB in Jake Hubenak taking over the offense (oh, as well as most of the WRs targets leaving, too). We love Christian Kirk’s offensive threat from special teams, and if his production picks up as a WR, he’ll be one of the most dangerous players in college football. Trayveon Williams is also a star running back, and if the offensive line does the job, it’ll take the pressure on Hubenak. If.
  5. Mississippi State (7-5): We’d just love to mention that we love QB Nick Fitzgerald. He’s unpredictable, fun to watch, and last year was weirdly hard-to-stop when he ran with the ball instead of using his, ahem, mediocre arm. Fitzgerald may have to run a lot more if MSU’s offensive line – which isn’t that great – doesn’t do its work. On the other side of the ball, Dan Mullen’s decision to swap DCs with Louisville means that Todd Grantham makes a return to the SEC after leaving Georgia. His very aggressive defenses were a lot of fun to watch, but if you’re a Mississippi State fan, but you’ll be praying that his defenses don’t maintain the trajectory that they had when he left Athens, when they were getting worse and worse. There were just too many people missing tackles. Still, the biggest game of the season’s The Egg Bowl with Ole Miss, and it could be the one that sees them go to a bowl – or not.
  6. Ole Miss (6-6 (loses Mississippi State)): A lot has been said about this Ole Miss team coming into this season with a huge chip on their shoulder. Sure, they might start hot (we expect them to start 3-0 against football giants South Alabama, UT Martin and Cal), but how will the team’s mentality change if they get the floor wiped with them by Alabama on September 30th? Offensively, they shouldn’t miss a lot of tricks if Shea Patterson’s the QB that everyone thinks he is and his wide receivers don’t fall away, but defense could be an issue because of its lack of depth. The biggest game of Ole Miss’ year will be The Egg Bowl against Mississippi State. If they win that, they ruin Dan Mullen’s chances of being bowl-eligible. That could be a lot of fun.
  7. Arkansas (5-7): There’s a lot to like about Austin Allen, but this year, we’re really not that excited about the Hogs. As much at Bret Bielema rates himself as a coach, his SEC record in horrible (10-22). We get that they have to play in an evil SEC West, but 10-22 is 10-22. And as much as that there is insistence that Arkansas’ highest-paid state employee ($4.1m per year, since you ask) is not on the hot seat, we’ve got a question: Why in the heck not? 2017 won’t be easy, with a lot of the defensive corps departed, and on the other side of ball, a lot of Allen’s receivers have got too – as well as one of the best TEs in the country in Jeremy Sprinkle, who we think will have a big NFL future. A lot will depend on Devwah Whaley, Allen’s top RB, as well as Bielema’s offensive line, which is projected to be better than their coach’s SEC record.

Can Florida win three SEC East titles in a row?

MAs much as everyone keeps on talking about Georgia, the brutal fact is this: Georgia hasn’t won a SEC title since 2005. Since Georgia’s last SEC title, Florida has won two of them. Georgia hasn’t been to Atlanta since 2012, while Florida have been to the last two.

Florida’s also won the last three Cocktail Parties against Georgia.

So who’s going to win the SEC East?

  1. Florida — Georgia might have the tailbacks, but Florida brings back a hell of a lot of experience on the receiving front, with Antonio Callaway leading the way. If Callaway can keep his nose (and lungs) clean, then the Gators have an excellent WR who had 721 yards and 3 TDs last year. If Dre Massey can also be 100%, then Florida’s really dangerous. And despite all the talk about Malik Zaire starting as quarterback, it seems as though Feleipe Franks has started in Jim McElwain’s good graces, kicking off the season’s practices with the first-team offense. And if the offensive line can play beyond expectations and keep Franks/Zaire alive, the Gators could be exciting. Oh, and while we’re mentioning exciting, things are going to be interesting with the Gators defense. New DC Randy Shannon is a fantastic hire by McElwain, and he should have some solid returnees in DE Cece Jefferson, safeties Nick Washington and  Marcell Harris. But will they be OK after losing 8 starters? Florida’s schedule sees the Gators play Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M and Florida State at home, and Michigan and Georgia in neutral site venues. These Gators could shine. PREDICTION: 10-2 (losses to FSU and LSU)
  2. Georgia — It must be because Athens is pretty close to the SEC Network’s base in Atlanta, but everyone’s – again – drooling about the Bulldogs. OK, I GET that Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are one of the best running back combinations in the SEC. Although please name in a season where both players have managed to get through the whole season unimpeded by injury. Eljah Holyfield has been named as an exciting prospect if when one gets injured. Quarterbacks-wise, everyone with a red shirt will talk your ear off about Jacob Eason, and we know he has the skills. But get this: He’s still got a young offensive line, and his biggest piece of receiving talent has gone in Isaiah McKenzie, who at times lived up to his nickname as the ‘Human Joystick’. Terry Godwin and Riley Ridley will have a lot of slack to pick up. Defensively, Trenton Thompson (58 tackles, 5 sacks) and LB Davin Ballamy can be stars alongside a defensive line which is will be one the best in the nation. The biggest problem for UGA is a nasty schedule which sees them go to Notre Dame, Tennessee, Auburn and play a tricky Mississippi State team who has the kind of quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald to exploit their secondary. PREDICTION: 10-2 (losses to Auburn and Florida, meaning Florida goes to SEC Championship Game.
  3. Missouri — This could be a very good team, but then again, this also could be a very bad one. The returners are potential stars, with QB Drew Lock, RBs Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter and there’s a star in there in J’Mon Moore, who led all SEC receivers by averaging 84.4 per game. However, Moore dropped EIGHTEEN catches (that’s 22.5% of all balls thrown his way). He’s claimed a new focus, but we’ll have to see. Defensively, Missouri’s going to have to stop the rot. With Charles Harris now gone, the pressure’s going to be on former five-star prospect Terry Beckner Jr, who has struggled with injuries ever since he’s arrived in Columbia. He could be a frightening prospect for opposing offensive lines – especially if Marcell Frazier can get back to his best. Mizzou brings back an experienced linebacking corps who SHOULD improve from 2016. Schedule-wise, things aren’t easy with trips to Georgia, Kentucky and Arkansas, and the home games to Auburn, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee are hardly gimmes either. PREDICTION: 8-4
  4. Tennessee —- If he doesn’t succeed, 2017 might be Butch Jones’ last at Rocky Top. Unfortunately for Jones, he’ll have to replace some studs to save his job. QB Joshua Dobbs, top RB Alvin Kamara, top WR Josh Malone, top CB Cam Sutton, top DEs Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen have all left Knoxville. That’s a lot of talent. And to make matters worse, QB Quinten Dormady – who’s seen as the potential starter – isn’t highly thought-of in the least, although WRs Jauan Jennings and Josh Smith and TE Ethan Wolf could cause problems. They’ll also be helped by an O-Line which is one of the most solid in the conference. However, the defensive losses are massive. Barnett and Vereen’s losses take 75% of last year’s sack production. The schedule is evil, with trips to Florida and Alabama as well as home games against Georgia and  LSU. They could well go 0-4 in those games. The trips to Kentucky and Missouri won’t be easy either.  PREDICTION: 6-6 (And Butch Jones gets fired after the season ends)
  5. South Carolina — People are actually pretty excited about Gamecocks football this season. After finishing 6-7, Carolina returns with a quarterback who came in under-the-radar for the second half of the year, starting seven games, going 4-3, and throwing for 1,420 yards and 9 TDs and 4 INTs. That’s Jake Bentley. Deebo Samuel (WR) and Hayden Hurst (TE) are both receivers who cause trouble for anyone’s secondary. Speaking of secondaries, the Gamecocks return five out of their top six DBs, led by the CB trio of Jamarcus King, Chris Lammons and Rashad Fenton. The big issue for them is a nasty schedule, in which they go to Georgia, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Missouri. They’ve also got a local rival who may have won the National Championship at home. They’ll be happy to go 3-2 in that space. Which we don’t think they will. PREDICTION: 5-7.
  6. Kentucky — Everyone seems to be tipping Kentucky for magnificent things this season, but I’m not convinced. The defense – which was horrible against the rush last season (110th in the FBS, giving up 228.2 yards/game at 5.15 per rush) doesn’t really improve, and they are in a conference where rushing is a big component. Their schedule – they face Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Louisville, Ole Miss, Missouri and Arkansas (amongst others) will feature teams who will try and test them. If they can improve, good things will help. Stephen Johnson is an excellent QB and WRs Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker could cause defenses problems. But I’m sorry, I’m not sold. PREDICTION: 5-7 (Win over Ole Miss makes life better pulls people back on Mark Stoops bandwagon)
  7. Vanderbilt — I want to point this out: I really like Derek Mason, Vanderbilt’s head coach. He seems like the sort of head coach who would actually suspend a starter if they were arrested black-out drunk at the driver’s seat of his car, whatever the game they had to start the new season. You know, unlike another guys we could mention. But that doesn’t mean I think they are going to be great. Here’s why: They’ve lost a ton of talent on the offensive line and they aren’t bringing it back. The poor offensive line – against formidable defensive competition – is going to hurt Davis Webb, Vandy’s QB. If that doesn’t work, then it’s going to be a long old season. Defensively, saying goodbye to the excellent Zach Cunningham is going to be a big blow. The schedule is nasty with games against Alabama and Ole Miss, and they’ll have to go to The Swamp and to Tennessee. Otherwise, the Dores play UGA, Missouri and Kentucky at home. PREDICTION: 4-8 (Although they’ll score a stunning win over Kansas State).

SEC teams getting upset: The most stunning since 2012

We were thinking about doing an article in the shower about the best records in the SEC over the last five years, but they’ve already been nicely covered by everyone from Gridiron Now to Saturday Down South.

You’ll be astonished to hear that Alabama’s got the best home record in the last five years, and the crappiest home record is Kentucky’s.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to you to find out that after the 2016 season happened, every single SEC team in the last 5 years has winning records in the comfort of their own homes (Kentucky was the last to get to black but did so after going 5-2 last year). Last year’s two worst home records were Georgia’s and Mississippi State’s at 3-3, and Georgia’s could easily have been 2-4 if you count how badly they played against Nicholls State (mind you, UGA fans would deride Tennessee’s Hail Mary victory as a fluke, but there we go).

So with that in mind, it’s quite difficult to work out what the worst losses teams experienced at home, so we’re going for ANY in the last five years….

Alabama: We’re trying to work out what was more stunning: The Texas A&M game where Johnny Manziel ran Nick Saban’s team ragged in 2012, or Ole Miss‘s win in Tuscaloosa for the first time in 25 years. We’ll take (deep breath), the Texas A&M game….

Arkansas: When No.8 in 2012, the Razorbacks lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe. The fans are still blaming Bobby Petrino’s extra-vehicular activities for the mess that was 2012.

Auburn:  The 28-10 loss to unranked Mississippi State helped to signal the start of the end for one Gene Chizik. It was about then that Auburn fans realised that their team really wasn’t going to be very good. Chizik was fired in November, and brought in a guy called Gus Malzahn. That worked out OK…

Florida: Losing 26-20 at home to mighty Georgia Southern in 2013 saw Gators chomped.

Georgia: In 2013, Georgia went to Vanderbilt ranked as the No.15 in the country. They lost 31-27.

Kentucky: Kentucky has been amazing at struggling against non-big conference teams, with back-t0-back losses to Western Kentucky at the end of the Joker Phillips era and the start of the Mark Stoops won, but our favourite might well be 2016’s 44-35 home loss to Southern Miss….who ended 4-4 in the Conference USA.

LSU: The No.9 Tigers had won three straight against Arkansas and were probably looking forward to their 2015 encounter with the Razorbacks, particularly as they’d been thrashed 17-0 in the game previous in 2014. However, the Tigers bombed out, losing 34-17. This only heaped the pressure on Les Miles, who wouldn’t survive the 2016 season.

Missouri: The 31-27 home loss to Indiana as a No.18-ranked team in 2014 seems like a huge result at first, but then getting 51 dropped on you by Middle Tennessee State in 2016 was even worse.  Right? RIGHT?

Ole Miss: The Mid-South rivalry game between Memphis and Ole Miss wasn’t much of a rivalry between the two teams, with Memphis losing the six games in a row. It seemed obvious that No.13 Ole Miss would deal with the Tigers in 2015. They didn’t, losing 37-24.

Mississippi State: The score of South Alabama 21, Mississippi State 20 opened up the 2016 season. Not great for the SEC, and certainly not great for the Bulldogs, either.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ 23-22 home loss to The Citadel in 2015 won’t be a game that Gamecocks fans will want to be reminded of.

Tennessee: There were a lot of poor losses in the 2012 season, but standing out is the Vols’ 41-18 shellacking by Vanderbilt.

Texas A&M: Auburn had two SEC wins in 2015. One of them was a 26-10 win at Kyle Field against the Aggies. This made Kevin Sumlin’s seat a little hotter. It’s very hot going into the 2017 season, we can tell you.

Vanderbilt: The 37-7 crushing home loss at home to Temple in 2014 was the worst home opening defeat for the program in its entire history. It was hardly an ideal start for new coach Derek Mason, either.

If you feel that there are some games we’ve forgotten about, let us know via Twitter on @secblog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Can Georgia replace ‘The Human Joystick’?

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The Human Joystick. The guy that moved through opposition players like they were nothing, with the screams of joy emanating from the fans behind him. The human highlight reel. The one-of-a-kind for that season.

And now, Georgia fans, Isaiah McKenzie is gone. And with him will be his numbers.

Georgia fans will talk about reloading after McKenzie’s decision to opt for NFL riches after his junior year, but it’s going to be really, really difficult.

McKenzie not only brought a receiving threat to the table (663 yards, 7 TDs on 44 receptions, going for an average of 14.4 yards/ reception), but also brought a running threat too (134 yards, 2 TDs on just 19 carries, averaging 7.1 yards/play). He also returned 23 punts (for 245 yards and a touchdown).

If you want to take this as total, the hole that McKenzie will leave will be even bigger. He accounted for 26% of all total receiving yards, 20% of all receptions, and – this is the most galling – 43% of all total throwing touchdowns. Thanks to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, his loss won’t be felt hugely in the Georgia backfield, but still.

For a moment, take away the fact that the Dawgs have a young offensive line, and this could be yet another season where red-clad fans see opposition linemen run through their line, and let’s just look at the talent coming back to Sanford….

WHO FROM THE RETURNERS REPLACES HIM?

  • Sony Michel (RB): We liked how he was used out of the backfield over the last couple of years. He’s a definite game-changer. Had 149 yards receiving on 22 receptions. The problem for Georgia will be whether they can keep Michel healthy. He’s had injury problems for the last two years. Which is unfortunate, for a man of his talent.
  • Terry Godwin (WR): Underimpressed in just about every game last year. He had 38 receptions for just 397 yards and no touchdowns. That’s hardly a massive return for the five-star recruit. His averages from 2015 to 2016 barely improved. But Godwin’s going to be the No.1 receiver in Athens next year – and will have to prove it.
  • Riley Ridley (WR): Ridley’s freshman season in Athens was a pretty productive one. He had 238 yards on just 12 receptions – although we’re a little worried that he was actually targetted 22 times. He’s also injured his foot, so he’ll definitely not play the Spring Game and probably be out until mid-summer.
  •  Jeb Blazevich/ Isaac Nauta (TE): Smart’s use of the TE is very Saban-like, and the increasing use of them continues bring a new dimension to the attacking game.
  • Javon Wims (WR): The former JUCO transfer started only 3 games but still had 190 yards on 17 receptions. And no fumbles.

WHAT ABOUT THE FRESHMEN?

There are things to be excited about for the Bulldogs. 6ft 2 incoming freshman (and four-star recruits) Jeremiah Holloman and redshirt freshman Mark Webb ought to bring in some size out wide for QB Jacob Eason, and both Matt Landers and Trey Blount are both considered to be a little raw.

SO IN OTHER WORDS….

McKenzie will be pretty much irreplacable in 2017 with what he brought to the offense. There aren’t a lot of players that were a three-headed hydra of offense like he was. We expect UGA to go more towards the run this year – despite having Eason’s cannon. The reason? The offensive line. We’re not sure if he’ll be as lucky in his second year to survive as he was in his first.

 

 

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