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

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

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

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

It goes to the Tennessee fans who stayed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great hire: Tennessee hires Pruitt to be new head coach

It came at the cost of one athletic director and a lot of red faces in Knoxville. A lot of Volunteers fans were the butt of jokes about the social media. And then Tennessee hired a former head coach as an AD, and within a few days, the school had installed a new coach from hated rival Alabama – defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

While details on Pruitt’s contract are not known, Pruitt was hired over Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. All three had done fantastic jobs at their respective schools this season.

Of course, the hiring of Pruitt did not come without its controversy. Apparently Jimmy Haslem, the school’s powerhouse booster, wanted Tucker for the job, but Philip Fulmer – who was driven out in 2008 for not taking the Vols to the heights he took them in 1998 when he won Knoxville a National Championship – would have none of it. He plumped for Pruitt.

It’s hard to argue with Pruitt when it comes to his defensive numbers. Pruitt’s one of the best – if not the best – defensive coordinator in college football.

Working under Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher at Alabama and at Florida State before that (with a trip under Mark Richt at Georgia in between), Pruitt’s defenses were always in the top five in their respective seasons. The amount of defensive players who have left Alabama and Florida State after playing for him is staggering.

Pruitt is also seen as a fantastic recruiter, and with the name Alabama, Florida State and Georgia carried he was able to get talent from all over the country.

What’s interesting about Pruitt’s resume is that he’s never stayed anywhere for very long. He’s had five jobs at big schools (Alabama/Florida State/Georgia/back to Alabama) in 10 years. We don’t know whether that was his own hot feet or whether it was created by Jimmy Sexton, his agent who is renowned for placing his head coaches and their assistants in well-paying jobs.

It’ll be interesting if he’s loyal to Tennessee – or the people in Knoxville are that loyal to him.

This season he’s got quite the turnaround to do, with home games against Alabama as well as Florida (who will almost certainly be revitalised under head coach Dan Mullen), and evil road games at Auburn and Georgia. He also opens his Tennessee career with a tricky opening game against West Virginia in Charlotte. He’ll be happy it wasn’t Morgantown.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite all the stumbling around, Tennessee has made a fantastic hire on paper in Jeremy Pruitt. He knows the area, he’s a fantastic career, and he also knows the SEC as well as anyone in college football. Having said that, Tennessee’s schedule is hardly easy, so a bowl game would be a success for the Vols in 2018.

 

 

 

College Football desperately needs an eight-team play-off

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

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

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

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

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

So here’s our idea.

THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

You would have five spots for Power 5 Conference winners.

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

THE AT-LARGES

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

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

OUR PLAY-OFF RANKINGS

Our rankings:

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

THE MATCH-UPS

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

IMPORTANCE OF REGULAR SEASON KEPT

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

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

AND WE ALSO HELP THE SMALL SCHOOLS STILL

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

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

WE CAN’T WAIT

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

Oh….wait….. in my dreams.

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

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

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

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

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

And now to Ohio State…

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

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

But still, it was all about the Iowa loss.

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

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

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

The College Football Play-Off Committee helped…

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

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

 

 

 

 

Will Jimbo Fisher go to Texas A&M?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bret Bielema is out at Arkansas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR TAKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crap Saturday: Previewing the worst weekend in the SEC season

Some rude SEC hater (@SECexposed) called this weekend of the college football season #chickenshitSaturday, and when I looked at the SEC schedule, I had to agree. If there are any Alabama fans getting excited over the chance of watching the Crimson Tide eviscerate Mercer, then you probably need to get out more. But please don’t poison trees or smoke in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Both will get you in trouble and be the butt of jokes here, there and everywhere.

Anyway, back to this Saturday. We’re christening it ‘Crap Saturday’, because the schedule’s a load of crap.

The biggest game is….is…. LSU’s visit to coach-less Tennesseee? Missouri’s bid for getting into an unlikely bowl against Vanderbilt, who still don’t have a SEC win? Texas A&M’s trip to Ole Miss….where both teams have given up on their season? Kentucky vs Georgia, which is expected to be less spectacle and more slaughter? Frankly, we’re repping UAB’s trip to The Swamp this weekend.

So here are your weekend’s most interesting games. We’re not going to bother with Alabama hosting Mercer, Auburn hosting UL-Monroe and South Carolina-Wofford because there’s going to be nothing close about any of those games. We’d be surprised if Vegas is going to let anyone bet on these either.

OK, so here we go…

  1. UAB at Florida (-10.5): Bill Clark has done more of a miracle with that UAB team that any well-pocketed SEC head coach has done with their team. Remember this about UAB: Certain parts of University of Alabama governing board wanted to wipe the school off the face of the earth. Well, they are back, and UAB is a magical 7-3. We know about Florida and the fact that it’s been a nightmare. What else do you want us to say? Florida’s a 10.5 point favourite in this one. PREDICTION: Florida by 14. UAB keeps it interesting until the fourth quarter. 
  2. LSU (-15.5) at Tennessee: There were great parties in Knoxville when news came through that Butch Jones had been fired at Tennessee. And then Jones added to his delightful resume by walking off with $8 million and immediately started calling recruits to tell them to go find somewhere else to play. Anyway, LSU comes into town to play a team led by Brady Hoke – himself a bit of a disaster when it came to head-coaching (Michigan, cough! cough!) – who’s now the interim head coach after spending time being the defensive line coach (yeah, that defensive line that gave up 400 yards to Missouri on Saturday). LSU isn’t on fire (they didn’t play well against Arkansas until mid-way through the second quarter of the game), but they’ll have too much for the Vols. PREDICTION: LSU by 21
  3. Mississippi State (-12) at Arkansas: The pre-end-of-season bloodbath in the SEC may continue in Fayetteville this weekend as Bret Bielema hosts a Mississippi State who must feel more than a little aggrieved to have lost their game against Alabama. Not only did they lose to some terrible coaching calls, but they also lost to some terrible refereeing ones, too. Now, against Arkansas, which keeps losing games because they are flat-out terrible, they should have no problem. The problem for MSU will be how motivated they will be after a soul-destroying loss. PREDICTION: MSU by 10. 
  4. Kentucky at Georgia (-21.5): If Georgia catches the throws they are meant to catch and come out more disciplined than they were against Kentucky, then Kentucky’s going to get run over. Georgia should play angry – because they are still in a shout for a College Football Play-Off place. And with Alabama and Auburn playing joke opponents on Saturday, this is their chance to get noticed…for good reasons. PREDICTION: Georgia by 35. Most of the fourth quarter we will have to listen to Nessler and Danielson prattle on about why the Dawgs didn’t play like this against Auburn.
  5. Texas A&M at Ole Miss (-3): This may well the most fun game of the day, which both teams prepared to put up the points. Maybe that’s why Vegas is giving an O/U of 69.5. Of course, both quarterbacks will now let themselves down and the only highlight will be Christian Kirk running for his usual touchdown, and Texas A&M getting out with 10-3 victory where half of Oxford has left to go back to the tailgate. But if Nick Starkel and Jordan Ta’amu shine – as well as WR gods A.J. Brown (Ole Miss) and Kirk – then we could be in for a fine, fun game. We are expecting a lot of points. PREDICTION: Texas A&M wins by 7, but the O/U is well over the 69.5. We can’t wait! 
  6. Missouri (-8.5) at Vanderbilt: Missouri’s flying high after one of booking in back-to-back impressive games against Florida and Tennessee (albeit one without coach, and one barely with one). Drew Lock can throw bombs, and the running backs are looking very, very good. This all bodes well for Vanderbilt, who hasn’t been able to stop anybody since they were run over by Alabama, and were destroyed by Kentucky, who normally plays down to its opponents. This does not bode well for the Commodores. PREDICTION: Missouri by 17 in a high-scorer.

Oh, and congratulations to Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina on your hard-fought victories.

No surprises: Tennessee fires Butch Jones

There was a smell around the Tennessee program that was putrid, and absolutely undeniable. It was that of garbage, desperation, and giving up.

It was joked that Tennessee’s players had given up on Butch Jones way before his firing on the day after the school dropped 50 points to Missouri.

It was obvious the fans had. There was a social media tidal wave of fans saying: “Fire Butch Jones” (aside from the wags – mostly in the SEC East – with signs begging Big Orange to keep him), and there was even a failed attempt by the fanbase to show displeasure against the current management by emptying Neyland for the Southern Mississippi game – ironically the last game that the now-departed head coach won during his time in Knoxville.

Like a lot of his head coaching colleagues in the success-rabid SEC, Butch Jones was already on the hot seat when the 2017 season started. The team had just lost to Vanderbilt, had continued its run of losing to Alabama, and wasn’t competitive within the SEC anymore. Then there was the press conference were Jones referred to his team as ‘Champions of Life’ that made him sound less head coach, and more preacher. It also made the Tennessee program look like a joke, which can’t have helped the school’s relationship with the boosters. Then there was the trash can to celebrate turnovers by the Tennessee defense. By Butch Jones’ last game at Tennessee, the Volunteers were just that: Trash.

Butch Jones is the latest head coach that hasn’t lasted in Knoxville since Philip Fulmer left in 2008. Jones’ record wasn’t actually terrible, with a 51-30 overall record with a .588 overall record. Unfortunately, Jones’ SEC record wasn’t great, coming in at 14-18 with a .438 record…which should have been better in what has been a consistently down SEC East. However, it’s been noted that he was 5-15 against AP-ranked teams and 3-12 against Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

“We have been fortunate to have Coach Jones lead our program for the last five years. During that time, the program has improved tremendously in the areas of academics, discipline and community involvement,” athletic director John Currie said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we are not where we need to be competitively. For that reason, I have asked Coach Jones to step down as head football coach. I know Coach Jones will be successful moving forward, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

The problem for Butch Jones, is where else might hire him? If he goes, he seems that he will have to take a big step down in earnings. He was on a $4.11 million salary with the Vols, and his buyout is $8 million, because he had a contract signed until 2021. It was also noted that UT would have to pay less than the buyout fee if and when Jones gets hired again.

By what he’s said during press conferences and the way Tennessee fell apart, it’s likely to be more of a ‘if’ than a ‘when’.

 

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