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.

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. 

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.

Why the NCAA should forgive Ole Miss

The NCAA should forgive Ole Miss and get on with life.

By way of Houston Nutt, they’ve already got their prized cow in Hugh Freeze, and now they are going to do just about everything to burn Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork and friends at the stake. That’s because the NCAA is greedy, and the NCAA wants to look like the father that never gives up.

Listen, I’m not saying that Ole Miss didn’t do anything wrong. Anyone who knows anything about football in the SEC knows that players are paid to come to schools, to play at schools, and are rewarded for playing well at schools. The people that do it are either do-gooders or cult members. We’re still trying to work out which one they are.

And we’ve read about the stories of the Bagmen, and we know that thousands upon thousands more of them exist. For some reason, they love the idea of giving money to an establishment so the players can have a better life. It’s probably their own ego, or a story to tell around their other church – you know, the one where they worship Jesus Christ. But before anyone starts having massive sympathy for FBS Football player, it’s not like they have the world’s hardest time when they are school away from the football field.

Football players are known (generally) to have the tendency of taking the easiest classes, possibly/maybe getting people to do tests for them because they are so ****ing lazy (or stupid) to do it themselves/, getting three big meals per day, and getting adored by just about everybody. Oh, and there’s also the maximum female attention, too. And if you’re at a school like Clemson, you get a fun-slide, and if you’re at Alabama, you get your own taxi service to ensure that you don’t get into trouble on a Saturday night (or at least they didn’t during Julio Jones’ time there).

But with all this, we still can’t understand why the NCAA can’t work towards the idea of players getting a much bigger increase in playing stipend – or even getting paid to play. With the money the Group of 5 schools are making from their players in everything from endorsements: “The Tennessee Volunteers: The Official SEC team of Happiness” to TV deals (The SEC Network), yet the players seem to pocket nothing. I’m sure that the geniuses at the NCAA and the member schools think this is an incredible idea, but let’s be honest: The idea that players can go for 4 years, not even start for a first team, get the crap beaten out of them at every practice, and then not get paid….it’s an absolute joke.

As this carries on, you’ll get more Ole Miss stories. And more accusations by other schools about what schools do. Stories of watches going to major football players at [Name your school here], or weed to players at [Name a lot of schools here], or money going to [Name a lot of schools here]. The worst thing for the NCAA is that everything that seems to go through their mighty infractions office seems to be done at a sloth-like pace anyway, so why not get rid of it all and put in some sort of salary cap?

So why not drop the whole case and put in something that makes everyone’s lives easier? The players are pretty good at getting benefits anyway….

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.

Should Hugh Freeze lose his job?

The biggest question coming out of Oxford, MS at the moment is this: Will Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze be out of a job by the time the NCAA has finished with its investigations.

According to the NCAA’s filings, the school lacked insitutional control – which basically means that it turned a blind eye as boosters paid players, gave recruits thousands of dollars worth of money off from stores, paid electric bills, and let them hunt on property (which isn’t a big one). And even if Freeze himself didn’t know directly about what was going on under his nose, he darned well should have done.

Freeze has protected himself, saying: “Contrary to the allegations, I have demonstrated throughout this entire process that I have a strong record of promoting compliance and monitoring my staff, and I look forward to presenting that evidence to the Committee on Infractions.

In other words, the first thing Freeze is doing? Deny all charges and say: “Boss, it wasn’t my fault”. Why? It means that if the school DOES decide to fire him, he will still walk out with a great part of the $4.3 million he’s paid by the school – especially if this includes a severance package if he decides to appeal.

For pure butt-covering, Ole Miss may well fire Freeze because it makes them look good. Ole Miss’ AD Ross Bjork may throw him under the bus so it saves the school even worse punishment than is already given.

But although there are rumors that Freeze actually set up meetings between recruits and boosters, no-one really knows if this is true. What we do know is that any meeting between Freeze and his recruits really didn’t go that well: They were 30th in the 24-7 rankings, and 12th in the SEC.

And if they fire Freeze on something that they don’t know whether it’s true or not, then Ole Miss doesn’t look very bright in the least.

 

Ole Miss gives itself 1-year postseason ban

Ole Miss has given itself a postseason ban for the 2017 season after the NCAA found that it had violated 21 different rules.

The NCAA has charged the SEC school with a lack of institutional control, which includes various payments to players – including paying recruits between $13,000 and $16,000 in cash payments.

Ross Bjork, the school’s AD said: “The additional allegations announced today are serious,” Bjork said in a video statement released by the university. “But we will vigorously defend the university against the allegations that we believe are not appropriately supported, including that we lacked institutional control and that our head coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance or monitor staff in the football program.”

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss’ head coach said in a statement: “I am extremely disappointed to learn that any member of my staff violated any SEC or NCAA rules, and as the head coach, I regret those actions. Any behavior by my staff that is inconsistent with that commitment to do things the right way simply does not reflect the emphasis I personally place on NCAA compliance. As the record will show, I am constantly communicating to our compliance office, the SEC office, and industry leaders to make sure we are using best practices when it comes to doing things the right way.”

However, what was interesting was how quickly Freeze went to cover his own behind, after allegations that he had helepd to cover up the whole process. “Contrary to the allegations, I have demonstrated throughout this entire process that I have a strong record of promoting compliance and monitoring my staff, and I look forward to presenting that evidence to the Committee on Infractions.

Ole Miss had previously reduced their own scholarships, which includes 1 in 2015, 2 from 2016, and four from the 2017 and 2018 classes.

Worries to the possible future of the Rebels’ program hit Ole Miss hard in 2017: They were 30th in the 24-7 sports rankings.

Alabama defensive line coach and top recruiter expected to leave

Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis is expected to leave or resign due to possible recruiting violations, the Tuscaloosa News has reported. 

Apparently Davis was being looked into not only internally but also by the NCAA into the possible transgressions. It is not known which players he was recruiting at the time that the possible transgressions took place.

If Davis left, it wouldn’t be his first departure from Alabama. Davis was hired in 2007 then left after the 2010 season for Texas, stayed 3 years in Austin and then came back in 2014, where he has been ever since.

Both Nick Saban and players have been nothing but complimentary about their coach.

When Davis departs, it could set off a college football-wide domino effect – especially as Alabama is the biggest name in college football and would be a top spot for any top recruiter or defensive line coach.

Ed Orgeron, anybody?

 

Hey Gators! The Will Grier loss ain’t that big!

Sorry to have missed the memo from the University of Florida, but apparently starter-and-school-hero-until-he-took-PEDS Will Grier decided that he didn’t want to play in Florida anymore, and decided to transfer to West Virginia, where no doubt he’ll be welcomed by burning couches and beautiful rattle of “Deliverance”.

If you’re a West Virginia fan, you’re delighted because Grier will take the year off – as you have to if you’re a transferred player (and the Mountaineers are quite used to transferring players) – and come back good-as-new in 2017. He’s a winner, an inspirer, and will be fine in Dana Holgerson’s offense (if Holgerson’s still around).

If you’re a Florida fan, you’re happy because Grier and the ghost of Grier and what he may or may not have done (we still don’t know what over the counter medicine Grier took – although it points to something called L3 Terminus) is now gone, and you can start a new chapter with Felipe Franks, Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby and Kyle Trask.

If Will Grier wants something to do other than playing football and working out, we’d recommend doing a reverse over-nighter on the Gauley River. It’s some of the best whitewater rafting in the USA. It’s seriously awesome. And yes, we at the SEC Football Blog have done them.

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