Alabama’s Calvin Ridley: A rebound after 2016?

We know one thing about Alabama’s depth chart: It’s going to be deep. Real. Freaking. Deep.

Everywhere on an offensive line will be players who can catch a ball, run it quicker in pads than most people without a ball, helmet and pads on, and they will weigh about the 250-300lb mark. Running backs will be lightning bolts. Tight ends will be wide receivers.

2016 was meant to be a breakout year for Calvin Ridley – particularly after a freshman year when he had 89 receptions, 1,045 yards and 7 TDs, averaging a tidy 11.7 yards per reception. That was good for 33rd in the Nation, and not bad at all for a freshman start.

For 2015, we thought that this would be another monster year for Ridley. Sure, his quarterback, Jalen Hurts, was new, but the fall in stats was staggering. Ridley went from ‘trusted receiver’ to ‘not particularly trusted receiver’, falling to the 94th receiver overall in NCAA rankings in terms of receiving yards, with ‘just’ 769. His receptions fell to 72, and his average yards per reception dropped to 10.7. The only thing that stayed the same was touchdowns (7).

He also had five attempts as a rusher in 2016, and even scored a touchdown. He had one in 2015.

BIG FACTOR?

For 2015, Ridley was a factor in almost all of his games, getting thrown to at least 6 times in the last four games of the season, and grabbing two touchdowns in the play-off win over Michigan State. While he wasn’t a big factor in the National Championship Game, he put defensive co-ordinators at Clemson off enough that they seemed to forget about OJ Howard as the big tight end had the game of his life as the Crimson Tide battled their way to a National Championship.

In 2016, Ridley had no touchdowns in his last 4 games and was thrown to an average of a smidgeon under 4 times a game (Bearing in mind that he averaged over 6 yards per reception, you could argue that if Lane Kiffin/Steve Sarkasian/Nick Saban had used him more, he would have had even more of an effect on the game).

THIS SEASON

This year, it’ll be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll uses Ridley. Ridley’s got an immensely smooth running action, can blow the doors off defensive backs, and bearing in mind his 6-1, 188lb frame, he’ll probably go to the pros after this year and continue a line of very good NFL receivers. Oh, and you would be surprised to see him in the backfield either, if Daboll’s looking to spice things up!

And what we do know is this: If Ridley’s used like he was in 2015, the SEC defenses in 2017 are going to be very worried indeed!

 

Will Alabama win at Georgia? Week 5 SEC Predictions

After a weekly state that saw Tennessee and Arkansas choke away leads, Ole Miss and LSU cough a lot against Vanderbilt and Syracuse respectively, and Auburn not manage to score a touchdown against Mississippi State, this week’s back with a vengeance with a monster clash between National Championship Contenders Georgia and Alabama in Athens.

So without further ado, here’s ranking your SEC games for Week 5…

  1. No.13 Alabama at No.8 Georgia

Alabama’s record against Georgia is a good one: 37-25-4, with the Crimson Tide winning the last two, which included an incredible SEC Championship Game and a 41-30 stuffing of the Bulldogs in Athens in 2008. This year, Alabama’s home loss to Ole Miss has meant the SEC West isn’t in Nick Saban’s hands anymore, while Georgia’s still the class of the SEC East. Georgia’s got a legitimate Heisman contender in running back Nick Chubb, while Alabama’s got a legitimate Heisman contender in running back Derrick Henry. Both teams have pretty good defenses, and both quarterbacks – UGA’s Greyson Lambert and Alabama’s Jacob Coker will be hoping to get some time to throw the ball. But if Saturday’s clash on what could be on a crappy, rainy day (70% chance) is anything like the game the two teams played in 2012, then we can’t frickin’ wait.

PREDICTION: Alabama’s a two-point underdog (first time in 72 matches blah blah blah…). We’ll take Alabama to win, because of their superior defense. By 7. 

2. No.3 Ole Miss at No. 25 Florida

Florida came back from a double-digit fourth quarter deficit to beat Tennessee, while Ole Miss struggled with Vanderbilt after their huge win in Tuscaloosa. This week, Robert Nkemdiche & Co roll into The Swamp, where the atmosphere is going to be electric. If Ole Miss wins this time, you won’t get the big Tim Tebow speech like there was after an unranked Ole Miss side stunned the No.4 Gators in 2008, because a loss will be pretty much expected. But this Florida’s defense – led by future first rounder Vernon Hargreaves – is very, very mean, so don’t expect a monster day from Chad Kelly, either. Can’t wait for Hargreaves’ clash with Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell. Nor can the NFL Scouts.

PREDICTION: Ole Miss is a 7-1/2 point favorite in Vegas. We’ll take Ole Miss by 10 after three quarters of a scare. 

3. No. 21 Mississippi State at No. 14 Texas A&M

Texas A&M’s only unbeaten because Arkansas couldn’t hold onto a big lead in JerryWorld last week, but this week, the Aggies had better watch out for Dak Prescott, who’s the best QB in the SEC right now. WR De’Runnya Wilson could cause some havoc in the secondary if he’s got the time….and the Cowbellers are pretty good at converting opportunities. On the other side, we’re sure that A&M’s future All-American Christian Kirk WILL cause havoc with his punt returning or wide receiving adventures. The great thing for Texas A&M is that Mississippi State doesn’t exactly have a monster running game (Arkansas exploited it last week).

PREDICTION: Texas A&M’s favored by 6-1/2. We’ll take the Aggies by 14. 

4. Arkansas at Tennessee

BIG NEWS FROM KNOXVILLE: Extra counsellors have been hired to monitor the 100,000-odd crowd who are going to be sat there in the peeing rain in Neyland Stadium for the inevitable:  One of these two sides losing in the heartbreaking fashion. The counsellors won’t change the game on the field, but they might stop the losing fanbases attempting to end the life of their head coach.

PREDICTION: Tennessee’s favored by 6-to-7 points. Oh hell. We’ll take Arkansas by 3 in fun shoot-out. 

5. South Carolina at Missouri

With Maty Mauk getting suspended indefinitely for an unspecified rules violation, Missouri fans are suddenly happy again. That’s because Mauk has been pretty much awful so far this season, and the rest of the offense has been – as the brilliant podcast “The Mizzodcast” puts it – “Hot Garbage”. The pressure will be on freshman Drew Lock to do the job against a South Carolina side who’s on its third quarterback – Lorenzo Nunez. Pharoh Cooper will be the person to watch – as usual – as the potential gamebreaker. This won’t be a game for the neutrals.

PREDICTION: Missouri’s a 3-point favorite. We’ll take Missouri by 7, winning, er, 10-7??

6. Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee State

The bookies seem to hate Vanderbilt so much that they’ve installed Middle Tennessee State as a 1.5 point favorite on Saturday (although that’s fallen from 4). It’s weird, because Vandy’s defense was fantastic at offensive juggernaut Ole Miss, limiting them to 26 points and intercepting QB Chad Kelly twice. MTSU this season has lost to Alabama (37-10) and Illinois (27-25) and beaten Jackson State and Charlotte. And put up 70 points in each game.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt with the ‘upset’, locking the defense and winning by 7.

7. Eastern Michigan at LSU

We’ll only be keeping an eye on this because of Leonard Fournette.

PREDICTION: LSU’s a 45-point favorite. Which we’re not sure about. The Tigers will win, though.

8. Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky

Patrick Towles and the Wildcats return to the site of their monster victory against Missouri last week by hosting Eastern Kentucky. Will this game really matter? Leading up to the game we got the appalling news that EKU redshirt freshman defensive linesman Joey Kraemer – who was only 19 – was killed in a car crash over last weekend. Our condolences, EKU Family. 

PREDICTION: Kentucky by 21, but it’s closer that it seems. 

9. San Jose State at Auburn

If Auburn doesn’t get a touchdown in this game, then we might see the trees burn in Auburn.

PREDICTION: Auburn’s a 20-point favorite. We think they win by 28. Won’t really ‘make a point’ to the rest of the SEC, but it’ll make everyone smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving! Things all our SEC teams are thankful for….

Happy Thanksgiving!

As it’s a time of gratitude, we’d like to point out a few things that our 14 teams’ fans are grateful for.

And before that, we’d like to point out as a unit that we’re grateful that ESPN has given us more money than GOD to rebuild our stadiums and our weight rooms and make us gods of recruiting. We are grateful for SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, and we’re grateful – most of all – for SEC fans, who rock our stadiums, especially when it’s a SEC vs SEC match-up. We’re grateful for Hate Weeks, great tailgating on lawns, groves and rivers, and beautiful co-eds and cheerleaders. We’re grateful for mascots, for cool uniforms, for cowbells and shakers.

Over to you, fans….

ALABAMA: “We’re thankful for Nick Saban, Amari Cooper, home Blake Sims, and great recruiting. And them National Championships. And excessive TV coverage, with our own cheerleaders in Paul Finebaum and Gary Danielson.”

AUBURN: “We’re thankful for Gus Malzahn. And Chris Davis. 1000 times over for Chris Davis.”

ARKANSAS: “I’m thankful that got that goddamn SEC monkey off our back. And our giant-size offensive line.”

FLORIDA: “I’m thankful that Jeremy Foley found some stones and did what he should have done last year, and finally fired Will Muschamp. I’m thankful that we beat Georgia, and I still don’t understand how.”

GEORGIA: “We’re thankful for Nick Chubb. And hedges. And having the money to hire Jeremy Pruitt. And while we’re here, we’d like to give the NCAA a finger to Todd Gurley. Mark Richt gives thanks to Jesus. And we’re cool with that, if we can PLEASE BEAT ****ING SOUTH CAROLINA AND FLORIDA AND GET TO THE PLAY-OFF NEXT YEAR”

KENTUCKY: “I’m thankful for hosses. And some young players.”

LSU: “I’m an LSU fan! I don’t have to be thankful for crap!! So I’m NOT grateful for crappy kick-offs! I’m NOT grateful for crappy quarterbacks! I’m NOT grateful for poor tackling! I’m NOT grateful for the fact that I have to spend Thanksgiving in College Station, TX when I would rather be eatin’ gumbo and drinking bourbon and 8 in the morning with my family!”

OLE MISS: “I’m grateful for a good start to the season, and the fact we beat Alabama, had the world focussed on us until we lost, and the fact that NOW everyone knows that The Grove’s a good partying spot. I’m grateful for Robert Nkemdiche, and Coach Freeze. And Coach Freeze for recruiting Robert Nkemdiche”.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: “I’m grateful that we’re doing better than Ole Miss right now, and that we’re having the SEASON OF OUR FREAKING LIVES and that no-one at SEC Media Days will laugh their ass off next year when Dan Mullen says that we’ve got the team to win the SEC. I’m grateful for Dak Prescott, the seniors who stayed in Starkville, and Bo Wallace for consistently providing us with items of comedy.”

MISSOURI: “I’m grateful for our crazy-good defense which bails out our s***y offense every week. And that we can leave Tennessee and never have to hear ‘Third Down For What?” Again.”

SOUTH CAROLINA: “I’m thankful for Dabo Swinney and Mark Richt for providing us with a year’s worth of comedy every year, without fail. And Steve Spurrier’s stand-up routine every press conference. It’s awesome.”

TENNESSEE: “I’m thankful for Butch Jones, young players, Josh Dobbs, and to see Neyland Stadium getting louder and filled again. I’m thankful that people are looking forward to seeing the Volunteers of 2015, because sure as hell I am.”

TEXAS A&M: “I’m grateful that in the future Mark Snyder will get fired. If Armageddon hasn’t happened by then. Seriously, I’m grateful for the students and fans that stay four quarters at Kyle Field, and the band and all the cool stuff that happens before and during games. Our fans are awesome. I’m also grateful for Johnny Football. Still.”

VANDERBILT: “I’m grateful that Vanderbilt works me so hard that I have a ready-made excuse not to go to games” – Current student.

 

2014 SEC PREVIEW: Can Missouri shock the SEC East AGAIN?

As we’re in the swing of doing our SEC previews, we thought that as the SEC Conference 2013 winners were first up on The SEC Football Blog SEC Preview, then the 2013 SEC Conference runners-up (aka ‘Winners of the SEC East) should be second on the list. Then we can go with 2013’s also-rans. 

So we start with Missouri. I can’t wait to see Maty Mauk. I was really, really excited to see Maty Mauk link up with Dorial Green-Beckham, until Gary Pinkel booted him out of Columbia. But I’m still excited to see Maty Mauk. Oh, and there was some stuff about a guy called Michael Sam, too. 

LAST SEASON

Missouri shocked the WORLD in 2013 when they won the SEC East. They beat Georgia, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, and only succumbed to South Carolina in overtime (USC also had a shocking loss – to Tennessee, which ended up costing them the Championship). No-one expected them to get to Atlanta (except maybe for a bowl game), but they did. They were helped by not only some great QB work from James Franklin and Mauk (Franklin was injured for a while), but also clutch wide receiving from L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham, who had nearly 900 receiving yards each. D G-B led the TD count 12-10, by the way. Not only that, but Henry Josey put up 1,100 yards on the turf. And the defense, while it didn’t exactly shine out, was 34th in points against, while 82nd in total yards given up. Michael Sam and Kony Ealy were the stars at rushing the QB (20 sacks between them), and an opportunistic secondary came up with 20 interceptions – a quarter of them by E.J. Gaines (5), who is unfortunately a senior.

Anyway, Mizzou went to the SEC Championship Game and lost 59-42 in a shoot-out, and then turned around and won the Cotton Bowl 41-31 in another shoot-out. Nothing if not fun, Mr Pinkel…..

THE OFF-SEASON

Michael Sam’s decision to tell the world he was gay in February before the NFL Combine made him the talk of the off-season. He ended up a 7th round pick by the St Louis Rams in this year’s Draft. He still is, with Tony Dungy saying how he wouldn’t have drafted him because of the ripples it might cause in  the dressing room.

But for us, the biggest off-season news that happened in Columbia was Pinkel’s booting of Dorial Green-Beckham, who was investigated by police for assaulting an 18-year-old student in April. And you know what? Pinkel hasn’t exactly been pilloried for his decision, either. More people are upset at the girl for not going to the police and getting the player arrested. Two more Missouri players were arrested for pot possession in mid-March. Since then, it’s been pretty quiet.

2014 PREVIEW

QB/WR: IT’S A MATY WORLD AND WE LOVE IT

Maty Mauk came in as a cover for James Franklin after the QB got injured (again)….and threw for over 1,000 yards (68-133) and 11 TDs at a rating of 143.1. We knew as soon as this season was all over that Mauk was going to take over as the QB, and we couldn’t wait for the combo of him and D G-B, with his performances maybe putting BOTH players in Heisman contention. And then G-B got himself B-O-O-T-E-D from the team, and with Washington gone, it’s going to be up to Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and former Longhorn Darius White to give some hope to the Tigers faithful. Levi Copelin could also be exciting – although the kid needs to stay out of jail, as could walk-on Gavin Otte. They are all relatively untested – especially with the amount of catching Washington and D G-B were doing last year. But if the offensive line can do its job, Mauk’s got the chance to impress. You know, Heisman-like.

RUNNING BACK: NO, JOSEY….BIG PROBLEM

Henry Josey’s gone from the backfield, which could well be a massive problem for Mizzou. Josey’s 1,100-yard season made him a good threat for opposing DCs to think about, and now he’s gone (BTW, What a dumbass! He leaves to go to the NFL….and finishes up undrafted. He’s been picked up by Philly. (“Which is good, bearing in mind he’s got a child to support and needs a salary – and his knee could only take so much of a beating”” (a Mizzou fan tells us)), everyone’s now excited about 6ft, 210lb Morgan Seward, who’s going to be a battering ram. He’ll provide a triple threat with Russell Hansborough and Marcus Murphy. Probably not that great for a fantasy team, but probably really great for Mizzou’s offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE: FEELING BOEHM-IAN

We liked Center Evan Boehm’s vocalness during the SEC Media Days, where he wished D G-B ‘well’ but then moved reporters on. He could well be one of the best Cs in the country. On the other hand, how much will Mizzou be missing Max Copeland and Justin Britt from next year? Many people think Mitch Morse could be great at left tackle. Maty Mauk certainly hopes so. Anyways, this is a pretty deep OL, which will make Pinkel happy.  What could hurt the OL was the decision by veteran O-Line coach Bruce Walker to retire…just a few days ago. Josh Henson and new arrival A.J. Ricker from Illinois will be trusted to keep things ship-shape.

DEFENSE: LIFE WITHOUT SAM?

The losses of Michael Sam and Kony Ealy are going to be HUGE for Missouri. Both were fantastic defensive players. They could tackle, they could rush the QB, and they could cause turnovers. Markus Golden and Shane Ray will be entrusted on DE duties, and Kentrell Brothers , will stay at OLB, despite thoughts that he might move to the middle linebacker. Michael Scherer is favored to start at middle linebacker.. The ‘D’ returns 5 starters, by the way.

Secondary-wise, the loss of E.J. Gaines is going to be HUGE for a very, very inexperienced secondary. Between all the players going for a starting position, Braylon Webb is by far the most experienced with 14 starts, and then Ian Simon with, er, 5. Aarion Penton has just 2. Of course, almost all of the secondary actually has played in games, and Webb, Simon and Penton all have pass break-ups to their name.

THE SCHEDULE: STREAKY

Aug 30: South Dakota St. 
Sept 6: at Toledo
Sept 13: Central Florida 
Sept 20: Indiana 
Sept 27: at South Carolina
Oct 11:  Georgia 
Oct 18: at Florida
Oct 25:  Vanderbilt 
Nov 1 Kentucky 
Nov  15 at Texas A&M
Nov 22 at Tennessee
Nov 29 Arkansas 

This is going to be streaky. We like Missouri to go 4-0 in its first 4 games, with Indiana probably putting the Tigers up with the biggest of problems thanks to their high-octane offense. Then, we see the Tigers going 0-3 in their next 3 games, losing to USC, UGA and a revitalized Florida team. They then go 2-0 with their home games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and then lose to Texas A&M before going 2-0 in their next two games against Tennessee and Arkansas.

FINAL PROJECTION: 8-4…..And Maty Mauk in the conversation for a Heisman.