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2017 SEC PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

My college previews kick off with the Southeastern Conference! I think there are some very interesting storylines going on within each division this season. In the West I think it’s going to be very difficult to knock off Alabama given all the weapons they return on offense along with what should be another top-10 defense, but after Alabama it gets really interesting. Auburn draws the Tide at home this year and if Jarrett Stidham takes the reigns for War Eagle and starts rolling, Auburn could make a legit run for the SEC West. I don’t think you can say the same about LSU because their QB situation isn’t ideal and they have to travel to Tuscaloosa, but if they beat Auburn on October 14th in Baton Rouge, then LSU could very well be 8-0 and coming off a bye against a potentially 8-0 Alabama team coming off a bye as well. Those 3 teams will make it interesting but the Auburn/LSU game could determine quite a bit.

After the Big 3 in the West it gets interesting. I think Mississippi St. has some of that 2014 feel to them when they started 9-0 and were ranked #1 in the nation before traveling to Tuscaloosa and dropping a game to Alabama 25-20. Nick Fitzgerald could be on the cusp of being a star and it’ll be interesting to see how he plays. Kevin Sumlin is on the hot seat in College Station and I could see the bottom dropping out on on the Aggies as they try to replace so many players on defense and at receiver. Arkansas should be better or even Bret Bielema could start feeling heat and of course the Ole Miss situation is unfortunate as the Rebels looked to have a talented team with a very talented QB in Shea Patterson. The #4-#7 spots could get interesting in the West and I even think Mississippi St. has a chance to climb into that top-3.

The East is even more interesting as I think teams like Kentucky and South Carolina have a real chance to upset the apple cart and move ahead of division stalwarts Florida and Tennessee. Mark Stoops has built up the Kentucky roster to where I think it can compete if it is a veteran led squad with a favorable schedule. The Wildcats have 17 returning starters and get both Tennessee and Florida in Lexington! South Carolina can be a squad that can compete with Florida and Tennessee on the recruiting trail, and I think Will Muschamp is on his way to doing so with the Gamecocks. Carolina returns 10 starters on offense, but QB Jake Bentley is special. SC gets both Kentucky & Florida at home which I think pushes them to 2nd place behind Georgia in the East. I also think it’ll be interesting to see how much heat Jim McElwain’s seat gets in Gainesville if the Gators have a disappointing season and if Butch Jones can survive another year in Knoxville without an SEC title or even a 10-win season. Would 5-years be enough?

Finally, keep an eye on Missouri & Vanderbilt. Missouri under Barry Odom is quietly getting better and while I think they should be better than last year’s 4-8, it’ll be interesting to see what strides they can take in 2017 because 2018 should be their coming out party. Vanderbilt is also interesting to watch. The program is making strides under HC Derek Mason and it’ll be interesting to see if Mason can take the Commodores to the heights that his predecessor James Franklin reached.

The SEC is the best conference in college football for a reason so it’s no surprise the storylines are endless as we head into the 2017 season!

# TEAM SEC WEST
1 Computer Hope Impossible to go against the Tide at this point. QB Jalen Hurts returns behind a dynamic O-Line. Bo Scarbrough & Damien Harris return at tailback and WR Calvin Ridley is poised to become a 1st Team All-American. Lose LT Cam Robinson? Replace him with Jonah Williams! Defensively the Tide lost a truckload of star talent to the NFL, but it’s Alabama where there are 3-4 five star players on the depth chart. Minkah Fitzpatrick could move to safety alongside Ronnie Harrison. Da’Ron Payne & Da’Shawn Hand are going to dominate up front. I think the 2016 version is better, but they’re still good enough to win it all.
2 Computer Hope If the Tigers didn’t travel to Tuscaloosa on November 4th, I probably would have taken the Bayou Bengals to win the West. Derrius Guice is a MAN playing against boys in college. What makes him scarier is that he’s playing in front of a couple of interior O-Linemen in Will Clapp & Maea Teuhema who could be All-Americans. I think QB Danny Etling will make fewer mistakes & keep LSU away from turnovers. The Tigers lost a TON on defense but return Arden Key who is the best pass rusher in American and DC Dave Aranda is outstanding. With the talent LSU has, they’ll post another top-10 defense in 2017.
3 Computer Hope I’m buying QB Jarrett Stidham and he could be the best QB Auburn has had since Cam Newton was screaming War Eagle and we saw how that worked out in 2010! Gus Malzahn is an offensive genius so if Stidham works out Auburn is going to score in spades with weapons like RB Kamryn Pettway, WR Darius SLaton, WR Nate Craig-Myers & WR Kyle Davis. Defensive the Tigers bring back 6 of their top-7 tacklers but losing Montravius Adams & Carl Lawson will be felt. I think DE Marlon Davidson will need to be huge. This Auburn team has crazy upside & gets Alabama at home. They are playoff contenders.
4 Computer Hope In case you didn’t know, his name is Nick Fitzgerald and the QB is a MONSTER! Last year Fitzgerald passed for 2423yds & 21TD while also rushing for 1375yds & 16TD! The Bulldogs have a little but of that 2014 feel to them and if they can beat LSU at home and upset Georgia & Auburn in back-to-back road games, they have a clear path to 9-0 before they welcome in Alabama on November 11th, a week after the Tide host LSU. That’s a lot to ask but back in 2014, Mississippi St. beat 3 top-10 ranked teams in a row (at LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn) en route to 9-0 and the #1 ranking before being upended by Alabama 25-20.
5 Computer Hope Things haven’t gone exactly to plan for Bret Bielema since leaving Wisconsin, but this season should provide him with a chance to play his style of football. The Hogs lose RB Rawleigh Williams, but Devwah Whaley has immense talent and should be able to replicate Williams production because the O-Line he’ll be running behind is tremendous led by All-American C Frank Ragnow. QB Austin Allen is a senior and should be solid. Defensively Arkansas returns 6 starters and 5 of their back-7. They’ll struggle to get pressure on opposing QBs which I think limits their upside but if they ball control they could win close ones.
6 Computer Hope I don’t know if there is a better RB/WR duo in college football than Trayveon Williams & Christian Kirk, but the Aggies are going to try and break in a rFR at QB in Nick Starkel behind a fairly inexperienced O-Line. Even with Kirk returning, the Aggies lost a ton of outside talent. Defensively I don’t even know how A&M replaces Myles Garrett, Daeshon Hall, Justin Evans & Shaan Washington! HUGE LOSSES. I think there is a good chance A&M loses their opener at UCLA and if that happens then HC Kevin Sumlin’s seat is going to be blisteringly hot! A&M also has some brutal home games. This could get bad in a hurry!
7 Computer Hope Ole Miss is somewhat of a wild card with Hugh Freeze leaving the program and Matt Luke taking over as interim HC. It’s too bad really because the Rebels have some upside to this team. The offense has a potentially outstanding O-Line with 4 starters returning and Greg Little manning LT. QB Shea Patterson has some tremendous upside and the Rebels have solid skill position players. Defensively, Ole MIss returns 6 starters & 5 of their top-7 tacklers. DE Marquis Haynes returned for his senior year & he’ll be one of the best edge rushers in the nation. NT Benito Jones should also be a force up front. Very tough to predict.

 

# TEAM SEC EAST
1 Computer Hope There might be some questions surrounding the offense with the O-Line being young and QB Jake Fromm potentially pushing QB Jacob Eason for starting time but worst comes to worst how hard is it to hand the ball off to Nick Chubb or Sony Michel? These hairy dogs have enough talent on the outside to keep defenses honest. What stands out about UGA is their defense. Trenton Thompson might be the best DT in college football while Davin Bellamy & Lorenzo Carter might be the best pair of edge rushers. Georgia returns their ILBs and secondary as well. HC Kirby Smart knows a thing or two about top defenses!
2 Computer Hope This could be the most surprising team in college football this season. QB Jake Bentley completed 66% of his passes last year as a true frosh and the Gamecocks have 10 returning starters back on offense including all their skill players. TE Hayden Hurst has a chance to make a HUGE impact. Defensively South Carolina is going to need Dante Sawyer to provide a legitimate threat off the edge but LB Skai Moore returns & will combine with Bryson Allen-Williams to give SC a solid pair of LBs. Both corners return & I think Will Muschamp is going to do some great things in Columbia just like another former Florida head coach.
3 Computer Hope I think the SEC is a little topsy-turvy this season and Kentucky benefits by getting both Tennessee and Florida in Lexington. If they can get those wins I think the Wildcats could have a banner season. HC Mark Stoops has a talented roster and UK returns 8 starters on offense & 9 on defense. If there is going to be a time for Kentucky to make a move, it’s this season. CJ Conrad, Benny Snell & Stephen Johnson should keep the offense humming with 4 returning starters on the O-Line. Denzil Ware, Jordan Jones & Mike Edwards should be solid up front on defense. Kentucky could potentially get to 8-9 wins this season.
4 Computer Hope I think Florida is in a precarious situation. They are probably already behind Florida St. when it comes to recruiting the top tier talent within the state, but Mark Richt going to Miami-FL makes things extremely difficult as well. I love Jim McElwain as a HC, but right now I’d say he’s behind Richt & Jimbo Fisher in recruiting. Florida also already has turmoil coming out of the program with the suspensions including WR Antonio Callaway for the opener against Michigan. Florida isn’t sold on Luke Del Rio being the starting QB either & the defense returns just 5 starters. After 2 SEC East titles, this year feels like transition.
5 Computer Hope Like Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M, I’m going to be surprised to see Butch Jones make it out alive in Knoxville this season. The Vols have talent to be sure, but I think losing guys like QB Josh Dobbs, DE Derek Barnett, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin and CB Cameron Sutton are going to be hard to overcome. UT also has road games against Florida, Alabama, & Kentucky. They get LSU, Georgia & South Carolina at home which are going to be exceedingly difficult games to win. I think losing Alvin Kamara is going to be bigger than people think. Josh Malone is a loss too. I like the talent here but a lot of key pieces are gone from 2016.
6 Computer Hope It is going to be very difficult for Derek Mason to recreate what James Franklin did here at Vanderbilt but Mason is trying his best. In his first year, Vandy went 3-9. Last year in his 3rd,  the Commodores were 6-7 and got to a bowl game. This year Vandy returns 9 starters on offense including QB Kyle Shumur who has generated some buzz this offseason. Ralph Webb is a work horse out of the backfield & Vandy returns their top-9 receivers from a season ago. Defensively, Vanderbilt has made huge strides since Mason’s first season & while they do lose Zach Cunningham, they return 7 starters from a unit that was solid.
7 Computer Hope I would have had Missouri in 6th but they play at Vanderbilt so I put the Commodores one spot ahead. HC Gary Pinkel is a legend in Columbia, but I hope Barry Odom sticks around because he’s on the cusp of doing something great at Mizzou. This season the Tigers have a TON coming back on offense, but I want to see QB Drew Lock improve his accuracy. Missouri has a chance to be REALLY SPECIAL in 2018 assuming Lock comes back. RB Damarea Crockett is a MONSTER. Defensively I think Missouri misses Charles Harris & Aarion Penton quite a bit. They return 5 starters but again look towards 2018 for this unit.



SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

EAST SEC CHAMPIONSHIP WEST
Computer Hope I think this could be a lot closer game than people would expect and here is why. Alabama is going to try and run the football which they should, but Georgia is STOUT in the middle with Trenton Thompson & John Atkins on the line and LBs Roquan Smith & Natrez Patrick filling it up. If Alabama goes pass then UGA has some ELITE pass rushers in Davin Bellamy & Lorenzo Carter. This of course is assuming that Alabama’s offense can actually be stopped and Georgia can get anything going against what will surely be a tough Tide defense. Alabama wins. Computer Hope

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi St., Missouri, NCAA, Predictions, Preseason, Previews, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas AM, Vanderbilt | Leave a comment

TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 TE FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

Tight Ends!!! BIG SKILL!!! I love the tight end position because these guys are some of the most important positions on the field. When you look back at great QBs in the history of football, one of the reasons they’ve been great is that a lot of these QBs have had fantastic TEs to throw to. They are a fantastic safety net and to be honest, these guys can be almost impossible to cover when in one on one situations against LBs and safeties. The standard right now is Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski who at 6’6/260lbs is a physical freak that is pretty much unstoppable when he’s healthy. His size alone makes him brutally hard to defend because he can high point the football. Throw in his ball skills and you are seeing a Hall of Fame tight end. This is true at the collegiate game as well. Last year you saw Clemson have Jordan Leggett who was highly productive. The year before Alabama had OJ Howard. In 2013 Florida St. relied heavily on Nick O’Leary being a weapon. In 2011, TE Brad Smelley led Alabama in receiving TDs. Believe me when I tell you that these guys are important.

A quick reminder, the 20 players are listed alphabetically by their team. As I’ve said before, I don’t try to actually rank the top-20 because I’m not entirely sure how much value added I’d receive by doing so. The margins are fairly thin between some of the players.

TEAM COMMENTS
Computer Hope Hale Hentges/6’5/251lbs/JR: Like the receivers, Alabama’s TEs don’t get a ton of run time. OJ Howard was the best TE in college football last season and wasn’t Alabama’s primary weapon given their prodigious running attack. Howard still caught 45 balls for 595 yards & 3TD. Hentges barely has any run time, but he was an outstanding TE recruit with a huge frame and good hands. I think QB Jalen Hurts being in his second year will be more comfortable and while Alabama will still keep running, I think Hentges can be effective.
Computer Hope Blake Mack/6’3/245lbs/SR: Mack flashed last year as a junior for the Red Wolves leading Arkansas St. in receiving with 34 catches for 652 yards & 3TD. That’s an amazing 19.2ypc which is incredible for a TE! It was Mack’s first real run time down in Jonesboro and he made the most of it. He even caught 3 balls for 49 yards (16.3ypc) against Auburn early in the years showing he can flash against the big boys. Arkansas St. returns Justice Hansen at QB so I’m interesting to see what he & Mack can do for an encore season. Will be fun.
Computer Hope DeAndre Goolsby/6’4/244lbs/SR: Goolsby showed some promise back in 2015 as a sophomore when he caught 17 balls for 277yds/1TD with a 16.3ypc. He followed that up last year with more volume catching 38 balls for 342yds/3TD but his average was just 9.0. Goolsby is a better athlete than this & Florida should be able to open the game up with him with a lot of focus going toward Jordan Scarlett & Antonio Callaway. The Gators still have some QB issues to work through, but the offense should be better & Goolsby should play well.
Computer Hope Ryan Izzo/6’5/245lbs/rJR: Back in 2014, TE Nick O’Leary caught 48 balls for 618yds/6TD for a 13-1 FSU team. The year before when the ‘Noles won the BCS Championship, O’Leary was an even bigger big play/red zone threat. Florida St. wants to use their TE and Izzo is the heir apparent to O’Leary. In 2015 FSU had Everett Golson at QB & Izzo was just a rFR. Last year FSU had a frosh QB in Deondre Francois. This season Izzo returns as a rJR and Francois has a season now under his belt. I think FSU gets back to using their TE like in 2013 & 2014.
Computer Hope Isaac Nauta/6’4/246lbs/SO: Nauta flashed last year as a true frosh catching 29 balls for 361 yards & 3TD. The 3TD was 2nd on the team behind Isaiah McKenzie’s 7. Nauta also had a true frosh QB throwing to him in Jacob Eason. According to Phil Steele, Eason was the best QB in the 2016 recruiting class. Nauta was the best TE in the same class. With Nick Chubb & Sony Michel coming back, teams are going to have to play a lot of attention to Georgia’s running game which should allow the receivers to have a field day. Nauta will go off.
Computer Hope C.J. Conrad/6’5/245lbs/JR: The Wildcats stole Conrad out of the state of Ohio and are reaping the benefits. Conrad hasn’t been a high volume player but last season he caught 19 balls for 262 yards & 4TD averaging 13.8ypc. He’s a huge target at 6’5/245lbs and has already started 20 games for UK in his first two seasons. He also flashes big play ability as evidenced by his 72-yard TD catch against New Mexico St. last season. Kentucky averaged 30PPG and return a lot of starters on offense. Everyone will be a lot better & I think Conrad benefits here.
Computer Hope Adam Breneman/6’4/250lbs/rSR: How does arguably the best TE prospect in the 2013 draft class end up at UMass? Breneman originally committed to Penn St. and during his true freshman season he eventually became the starter. Injuries derailed his next two seasons but Breneman graduated from Penn St. in 3 years & transferred to UMass for his remaining 2 seasons. Last year he led all TEs in catches (70) and yards (808) and scored 8TD. Breneman is one of the best TEs in the nation & a naturally gifted athlete. He’ll be an NFL draft pick.
Computer Hope Ryan Smith/6’4/278lbs/SR: The first thing that jumps out about Smith is that he’s a TE that is 6’4 which isn’t unusual but the fact that the kid is pushing 280lbs is CRAZY! Even crazier is that Smith is productive. Last year he caught 31 balls for 356yds/5TD averaging 11.5ypc! Even cooler is that Smith had his best game last year against Mississippi St. where he caught 7 balls for 72 yards & a TD! He’s not a big play threat obviously but he can wall defenders off with ease. Miami returns Gus Ragland at QB & I think Smith can catch 40-50 balls.
Computer Hope Tyrone Wheatley/6’6/276lbs/rSO: Wheatley is a GROWN MAN at 6’6/276lbs! You know Jim Harbaugh wants to play smash mouth football out of a 2-TE set and Wheatley is going to be one of those TE who is going to catch the football. Last year Jake Butt caught 46 balls for 546 yards & Wheatley is going to try and match those numbers now that he’s in his 3rd year under Harbaugh. This guy is a matchup nightmare and almost impossible to defend in the red zone given his size. The Wolverines are awfully young on offense the talent is great.
Computer Hope Alize Mack/6’5/251lbs/rSO: Mack will have to battle Durham Smythe a little bit to get on the field, but his big play ability is incredible & that is going to lead Chip Kelly & OC Chip Long to get Mack on the field if nothing else to force the defense to respect his big play ability. Mack ran into academic troubles last year which led to a redshirt season, but those troubles seem to be behind him. ND should have a great running attack & Equanimeous St. Brown is an outstanding WR. Mack should should see a lot of single coverage which = big plays!
Computer Hope Marcus Baugh/6’5/250lbs/rSR: You never really know how much run time a TE might get in Urban Meyer’s offense. Nick Vannett seemed like a guy who could fill it up but never really was showcased a ton. Jeff Heuerman however had a monster 2013 season. Baugh didn’t do much in his first two season but last year flashed a bit catching 24 balls for 269yds/2TD. He’s tOSU’s leading returning receiver and QB JT Barrett could look to him early and often. Baugh is big with a lot of talent & I could see him being featured in this offense.
Computer Hope Mark Andrews/6’5/253lbs/rJR: In his first two years at TE for Oklahoma, Andrews has been a 1st Team All-Big XII selection. He checks every box you’d want for a TE. Big play ability? Check (64-yard long reception). Red zone threat? Check (14TD in his first 2 seasons). Big play ability? Check (averaged 15.8ypc in 2016). Size? Check (Kid is 6’5/253lbs). Andrews enters 2017 as the best TE in college football. Baker Mayfield is still QB at Oklahoma and the Sooners return their entire O-Line. Andrews should be even better & is a 1st Rd. NFL pick.
Computer Hope Mike Gesicki/6’6/253lbs/SR: If there is a TE who will challenge Andrews for title of best TE in college football, it’s Penn St.’s Mike Gesicki. He essentially did everything Andrews did last season catching 48 balls for 679yds/5TD while averaging 14.1ypc. Like Andrews I think Gesicki is in play to be a 1st Rd. NFL Draft pick in 2018. He’s huge at 6’6/255lbs and he can obviously make plays with the football. Penn St. brings back both Trace McSorely & Saquon Barkley so opposing defense are going to protect the run leaving Gesicki to make plays!
Computer Hope Cole Herdman/6’4/245lbs/rJR: I listed Purdue QB David Blough in my Terrific 20: QB post, and I think Herdman is going to be a significant factor this year as well. Herdman is Purdue’s leading returning receiver. He was more volume last year catching 35 balls for 344 yards/3TD but he also had a 53-yard catch showing he can get loose on occasion. New HC Jeff Brohm has been wildly successful thus far with QBs & I think Blough is going to improve. We know Blough is going to sling it around and I think Herdman is in line to benefit from that.
Computer Hope Hayden Hurst/6’5/253lbs/JR: Hurst was a big dude who originally was a professional baseball player in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Spent two years with the Pirates and then walked on at South Carolina. No flash his freshman year but last year Hurst broke out catching 48 balls for 616yds/1TD. Hurst obviously has the size and athleticism to play great football. I think what separates him is that the game is not too big for him & I think QB Jake Bentley is going to be special. That means more opportunities for Hurst at TE.
Computer Hope Mitchell Wilcox/6’4/250lbs/rSO: After sitting out a season to bulk up, Wilcox didn’t waste any time becoming USF’s starting TE and garnering 2nd Team All-AAC honors after catching 12 balls for 278yds/2TD with an incredible 23.2ypc average! Wilcox also made a big 52-yard grab during the season showing his big play ability. Quinton Flowers returns at QB or the Bulls along with a lot of the same players save RB Marlon Mack who moved on to the Indianapolis Colts. Given Wilcox big play ability & athleticism, I think he becomes a focal point.
Computer Hope Dalton Schultz/6’6/240lbs/rJR: If you are a TE at Stanford, chances are you are going to be pretty good. Recently the Cardinal has produced Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener, Austin Hooper, and Levine Toilolo. Schultz is next in line and should be ready to have his breakout season. Phil Steele noted Schultz to be the best TE prospect in the 2014 class. He’s got great ball skills and elite level size. Stanford has someone of a QB mess on their hands, but whoever emerges is going to have a great safety valve in Schultz being able to create space & make big plays.
Computer Hope Ethan Wolf/6’6/245lbs/SR: I think Wolf is sometimes the forgotten man when you look at TEs in the SEC and that’s because I think he’s been consistently good for a long time. Wolf already has 35 starts in his career with Tennessee and he’s been steady the entire time. He has great size at 6’6 and almost 250lbs. He doesn’t need to be taken off the field for overt running plays & he does a good job of getting open. There is always a lot of talent at Tennessee but the Vols lost some significant playmakers on offense from 2016 so Wolf could emerge here.
Computer Hope Daniel Imatorbhebhe/6’4/245lbs/rSO: When you have Sam Darnold throwing you the football, you immediately become a factor because you are going to be put into positions to succeed. Imatorbhebhe was just a rFR last year and caught only 17 passes but 4 of them were for TDs and he averaged 14.7ypc. He’s a big time redzone threat for the Trojans and you can imagine the comfort level between he and Darnold has only solidified since last season. With JuJu Smith gone, somebody will have to get some of his balls & Imatorbhebhe gets them.
Computer Hope Troy Fumagalli/6’6/249lbs/rSR: With Gesicki, Wheatley & Baugh getting a lot of love, it’s easy to forget that Fumagalli was 2nd Team All Big 10 last season with 47 catches for 580yds/2TD. Fumagalli is a big target and I think Wisconsin is going to make him a bigger factor in the redzone given his size & skillset. Last year QB Alex Hornibrook had just 9 passing TDs, but Corey Clement has departed for the NFL & Wisconsin might rely a bit more on Hornibrook’s arm in 2017. If that is the case then Fumagalli is going to get a lot more looks to make plays.

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

Matt Dotson/Michigan State/6’5/234lbs: One of the best TEs in the 2017 high school class, Dotson comes in at 6’5 and almost 240lbs meaning he won’t need a redshirt season to bulk up to play at the collegiate level. He enters a good situation in East Lansing as TEs Josiah Price and Jamal Lyles have moved on creating quite a vacuum at the position. A vacuum that Dotson could immediately step in and fill from the moment he gets to campus. I believe a big part of freshman success is opportunity and there should be a pretty big one for Dotson. The one caveat is that Michigan St. is in the midst of a complete rebuild with the program. Jim Harbaugh has woken a sleeping giant in Ann Arbor and James Franklin has Penn St. WAY AHEAD of schedule as far as bringing that program back to prominence. Ohio State under Urban Meyer is incredible meaning Michigan State has quite a bit of work to do to get the Spartans back on top. Is there enough talent around Dotson that will allow him to flourish as a freshman? That might be the biggest question regarding what impact he can have in 2017.

Jimmy Jaggers/UCLA/6’4/245lbs: Jaggers comes into a good situation at UCLA seeing how last year’s TE Nate Iese has graduated and there is pretty much a wide open race for the starting TE spot with Jaggers being the most talented TE on the roster. It also helps that Jaggers is the biggest TE! I think UCLA QB Josh Rosen has a lot to prove this year after having missed significant time last season and not really building upon his solid freshman season back in 2015. Jagger is also unique in that he gives Rosen his first real threat at TE. UCLA didn’t really employ a TE when Rosen was a freshman and last season the Bruins had both Iese and Austin Roberts as their primary weapons at the position. The problem is that Iese was a converted LB and Roberts is more of a WR at 6’2/230lbs. Jaggers enrolled early so his chemistry with Rosen should be better than it would if Rosen had waited to step on campus in the fall. I think he’ll get opportunities to showcase as a freshman and I think the opportunities are what matters in situations like these. I think Jaggers could be a key piece for UCLA if they hope to challenge USC for Pac 12 South supremacy.

Chase Allen/Iowa State/6’6/235lbs: Allen was a huge get for new Iowa St. head coach Matt Campbell. The Missouri native picked Iowa St. over Nebraska and Michigan to start his collegiate career but the fun was only just beginning. Right before the start of last season Allen was hit by a car that resulted in injuries that caused Allen to have over 100 stitches placed in his body. He then contracted the mumps during his true frosh season and things never looked more bleak. Allen has to redshirt last season which means technically he’s still a freshman so I’m listing him here. Allen is a DYNAMIC athlete having been a 3-sport star in high school and comes from a football family where his dad had been a college head coach for at least 15 years! The Cyclones bring back QB Jacob Park and since this is year 2 of Allen being in Ames, I think he’ll have a good connection with his QB. Matt Campbell has the program headed in the right direction which means more wins which means more points which means more opportunities to shine for Chase Allen.

Parker Eichenberger/Houston/6’3/230lbs: A little bit off the radar but Eichenberger steps into a situation in Houston where the TE spot is up for grabs. Tyler McCloskey was the leading TE last year and he graduated. Last season McCloskey caught 23 balls for 233 yards & 4TD showing that while the TE spot wasn’t necessarily a high volume target for former QB Greg Ward, McCloskey was looked at in the red zone quite a bit. This year Ward is going and in comes Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen who should be more of a pocket type passer than Ward. With Duke Catalon returning at RB and Linell Bonner commanding a lot of attention at WR, the new Houston TE should be able to create some space and take advantage of opportunities. Allen was with Houston last year as a redshirt because of transferring but new HC Major Applewhite was also the OC the last couple of seasons so Allen and he should be on the same page. Eichenberger is probably a touch small at 6’3/230lbs, but he’s playable enough and with the wide open position, I think he has the possibility to emerge and play a key role in Houston trying to win the AAC.

Hunter Bryant/Washington/6’2/241lbs: Jake Browning is going to get his opportunities to throw the football even with Myles Gaskin returning after a 1,373 yards season in 2016. Bryant might be the most highly recruited TE in Washington history or at the very least his the most talented TE recruit UW has had in my recent memory. Drew Sample started 11 games at TE last year but made just 9 catches so he clearly wasn’t a high priority in UW’s offense, but Bryant could change that. He’s a little bit short at 6’2, but already at 241lbs, he doesn’t need any time to bulk up. David Ajamu is on the depth chart but he played in 14 games last year and made one catch. Michael Neal hasn’t gotten any run time. Neither has Jacob Kizer. Bryant is the most talented TE on the roster and clearly UW doesn’t think their current stable of tight ends are the best of playmakers. There are certainly a lot of mouths to feed given who the Huskies have returning even with John Ross now suiting up for the Cincinnati Bengals. Keep in mind also the Darnell Daniels was a TE for UW that is now gone and he caught 17 balls for 307yds/3TD. I think Washington wants to use their TE more and Bryant might give them that opportunity.

August 13, 2017 Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas St., Florida, Florida St., Georgia, Houston, Iowa St., Kentucky, Massachusetts, Miami-OH, Michigan, Michigan St., Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Penn St., Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Purdue, South Carolina, South Florida, Stanford, Tennessee, Terrific 20, Tight End, UCLA, USC, Washington, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 LB FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

Linebackers are up next! This might have been the most difficult position yet for me to select down to 20 players. There is seemingly a lot of talent across the nation at the LB spot which is a great thing for defenses and for us fans!  I do want to point out that my definition of “linebacker” is the traditional sense of the word that doesn’t include the edge rushers. This mean I’m looking primarily at 4-3 LBs (the SAM, WIL and MIKE LBs) and 3-4 ILBs. I think it’s worth noting that the in today’s version of football, the LB position is evolving quite a bit. A lot of teams are in some ways going away from those big thick inside thumpers, and instead are looking for more athletic guys who can drop into coverage and defend the middle of the field against the pass.

This evolution has been going on for awhile now and see this especially in the NFL with examples such as Mark Barron and Deone Bucannon. What gets tricky with these types of hybrid players is their physical size. Bucannon is 6’1/211lbs which is essentially the size of a safety, the position Bucannon played in college for Washington State. Barron is similar at 6’1/213lbs and again he played safety in college for Alabama although he’s been moved to LB in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams. I’m thumper heavy for the most part in my top-20 because the guys that are 6’1/210lbs I’d consider a safety. Bucannon and Barron are interesting examples and I wonder if this evolution will actually revert back to the old mentality of thumping ILBs given how many collegiate running backs have enormous size for the position.

A quick reminder, the 20 players are listed alphabetically by their team. As I’ve said before, I don’t try to actually rank the top-20 because I’m not entirely sure how much value added I’d receive by doing so. The margins are fairly thin between some of the players.

TEAM COMMENTS
Computer Hope Rashaan Evans/6’3/234lbs/SR: Evans is a BEAST of a player but when you are playing behind Reggie Ragland and Rueben Foster, it’s going to be hard to find time to get on the field. That is a testament to how amazing the depth chart is at LB with the Tide. This will be Evans’s first years as a full time starter and he’s already a potential All-American candidate that will be the key to the Alabama defense that should once again be one of the best in the nation. Evans is a freaky athlete that should have no issues topping 100 tackles.
Computer Hope Kendall Joseph/6’0/230lbs/rJR: Joseph exploded last year for the Tigers en route to leading Clemson to their first national championship since 1981! Joseph recorded 124 tackles last season included 13.5 tackles for loss and 5 QB hurries. Ben Boulware got a lot of publicity and rightly so, but Joseph was a 3rd Team All-ACC linebacker and should easily be one of the best LBs in the ACC again this season. I think Clemson has a real chance at a repeat national championship and I think Joseph will have a lot to do with that very real possibility.
Computer Hope Tegray Scales/6’0/230lbs/SR: From a production standpoint, there wasn’t a better inside LB than Tegray Scales last year. Scales racked up 126 tackles, 7 sacks and an incredible 23.5 tackles for loss for the Hoosiers as Indiana went to their 2nd straight bowl game. Is it possible for him to still be underrated because he plays for Indiana? Scales has the ability to be a 1st Team All American this season and I’m interested to see what happens with him in the NFL. He’s an inside thumper but if he can improve in coverage, he’s got a big time chance.
Computer Hope Josey Jewell/6’2/236lbs/rSR: Jewell is an interesting guy because he racks it up when you talk about production. He tested the NFL waters this past season but was told to return to school to improve on his pass coverage ability, but he broke up 9 passes last season so it’s not like he doesn’t drop back into coverage at times. Jewell is certainly a thumper at 6’2 and almost 240lbs. An unheralded recruit out of Decorah, IA, Jewell has maximized every bit of his talent. He’s a front runner to be a 1st team All-American and he’ll be playing in the NFL.
Computer Hope Jordan Jones/6’2/221lbs/JR: Kentucky’s defense last year was dreadful in giving up 31.3PPG but that was hardly Jones’s fault who had an incredible year leading the Wildcats in tackles with 109, tackles for loss with 15.5 and QB hurries with 9. That was good enough to merit a 2nd Team All-SEC selection and keep in mind that Jones did this as a true sophomore with hardly any experience. UK’s defense should be a lot better in 2017 an Jones has a unique role in that he plays that hybrid S/WIL spot that is becoming in vogue. He plays it well.
Computer Hope Jermaine Carter/6’0/235lbs/rSR: Carter doesn’t get a lot of publicity but he’s been filling it up for the last two season at Maryland. Last year Carter racked up 110 tackles which led the team and also led the team in 2015 with 103 tackles. He’s obviously a thumper and plays the MIKE spot but he’s able to drop into coverage at times. He’s best asset is his ability to read and attack. Carter recorded 14 tackles for loss in 2015 and followed that up 9 last season. Carter is a little limited physically & he’s not getting a ton of attention, but he’s very solid.
Computer Hope Shaq Quarterman/6’1/240lbs/SO: MONSTER. If you want to like a young linebacker, then look no further than Quarterman. You can tell “THE U” is ready to return to their swag days when guys like Quarterman hit campus and then dominate. The true frosh racked up 84 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 8 QB hurries and 3.5 sacks in a banner year for the Miami-FL freshman. Quarterman is a man already at 6’1/240lbs. He’s a legit All-American candidate as a sophomore and if he keeps building off of 2016, he’ll be a 1st Rd. pick in 2019.
Computer Hope Mike McCray/6’4/248lbs/rSR: I mentioned this briefly in my write up on Maurice Hurst when looking at defensive lineman, but it applies to McCray as well in that he took advantage of Michigan’s outstanding talent on their D-Line in 2016 to hunt down opponents and turn in a huge year. McCray was an all-around beast totaling 76 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss 7 passes broken up, 2 picks and 5 QB hurries. Expect a lot of the same in 2017 as I think McCray will have just as many opportunities to hunt from the weak side as Michigan’s D-Line is going to be good.
Computer Hope Nyles Morgan/6’1/238lbs/SR: Morgan is a helluva player but I think some inaccurately compared him to former Irish stand out Jaylen Smith which is an inaccurate comparison as Smith is more of a WIL backer while Morgan is a MIKE. There weren’t a ton of bright spots on defense for Notre Dame last year but Morgan racked up 94 tackles & 4 sacks which is even more impressive when you consider opposing offenses knew to stay away from him an the ND D-Line didn’t give him tons of room to diagnose and attack. I think he’ll be in for a big season in South Bend.
Computer Hope Jerome Baker/6’1/225lbs/JR: Baker is an interesting guy because hiss athleticism is off the charts and that is giving rise to some speculation that he’s even better than he’s shown. That’s amazing considering last season as a sophomore Baker had 83 tackles with 9.5 tackles for loss. He even picked off a couple of passes although most evaluators think he could get better against both the run and in pass coverage. One thing is for sure is that it’s impossible to keep him off a list like this because his athleticism is off the charts. He’s that perfect hybrid WIL.
Computer Hope Ogbonnia Okoronkwo/6’1/242lbs/rSR: Okoronkwo is an interesting guy because he broke out last year for the Sooners, but he also led the team in sacks with 9 so there is some speculation he’s going to project more as a 3-4 OLB. His size though speaks more to an inside thumper and he did record 71 tackles which shows he’s all around the field. Smaller guys on the edge have worked though. Dwight Freeney is one of the best pass rushers in NFL history and he was around that 6’1/270lbs range, but Freeney was freakish athletically. I like Okoronkwo a lot.
Computer Hope Troy Dye/6’4/225lbs/SO: Like Shaq Quarterman, Troy Dye is a true sophomore that makes the list. Dye came into Eugene and had an incredible true freshman season leading the Ducks in tackles with 91 but also recording 13 tackles for loss along with 6.5 sacks. He was a Freshman All-American as a result. Dye was nothing short of outstanding on a defense that was downright terrible. I think Dye is going to improve dramatically which could be scary now that Jim Leavitt takes over as DC for Oregon. Dye can hunt and I like him being that hybrid WIL type LB.
Computer Hope Skai Moore/6’2/221lbs/rSR: Moore was an All-American candidate going into the 2016 season with some projection systems suggesting he could be a 1st round NFL draft pick. Moore was set up to have a banner year as a senior but that came crashing down when he injured himself and was lost for the season. He returns to Columbia motivated to make a comeback and I’m for one am betting on his ability. At this best, Moore is a tackling machine with the ability to hunt and drop back into coverage. I think South Carolina can be sneaky good in 2017.
Computer Hope Malik Jefferson/6’3/238lbs/JR: As a freshman in 2015, Jefferson didn’t disappoint coming in and being an immediate starter racking up 61 tackles & 7 tackles for loss. Last year as a sophomore Jefferson for the most part replicated his freshman season and the Longhorns once again gave up 30+PPG. It’s hard to miss Jefferson on the field and a lot like Jerome Baker from Ohio St., you get the feeling you haven’t seen even the surface of Jefferson’s immense talents. He’s a 6’3/240lbs WIL that can get to the QB & drop into coverage. Rare.
Computer Hope Cameron Smith/6’2/245lbs/JR: Smith has started since he set foot in Troy and hasn’t disappointed yet putting in back to back 2nd Team All Pac 12 campaigns from the middle spot. Smith is an absolute thumper in the middle at 6’2 and almost 250lbs. He led USC last season tackles with 83 but also posted 7 tackles for loss and 4 passes broken up. Smith has a chance to be an All American this year and work his way into the 1st round of the NFL Draft. With as much talk as we hear about the hybrid WIL position, having a legit leader in the middle is invaluable.
Computer Hope Micah Kiser/6’2/240lbs/rSR: From a tackling standpoint there hasn’t been a more productive LB in the country over the last two seasons than Kiser who has posted 251 tackles over the last 2 years. Last year’s 134 tackle campaign earned Kiser a 2nd Team All-American nod. It’s easy to blur the lines between collegiate and NFL football sometimes when looking at players. Kiser is limited physically, but the guy can fill it up in the middle which is very valuable. He’s a diagnose & attack player that has a hard time dropping into coverage, but the kid is a playmaker.
Computer Hope Andrew Motuapuaka/6’0/233lbs/rSR: Motuapuaka has been a productive player for awhile but really came alive in 2016 after being somewhat of a whipping boy for Hokie Nation during the 2015 season. Motuapuaka racked up 114 tackles including 3 interceptions in earning 2nd team All ACC honors a year ago. Like Jermaine Carter listed above from Maryland, the New Zealand native doesn’t have exceptional size but he’s got a knack for being around the ball and making plays. Doesn’t have great top end speed, but that hasn’t mattered much in Blacksburg.
Computer Hope Azeem Victor/6’3/225lbs/rSR: Victor missed for games last year for the Huskies and still racked up 67 tackles which was 4 fewer than team leader Budda Baker. In 2015, a fully healthy Victor led UW in tackles with 95 while also recording 6 tackles for loss along with 4 passes broken up. I like Victor a lot for Washington. He’ll be a HUGE piece of their defensive puzzle and a key contributor in getting the Huskies past USC and getting back to the college football playoffs. He’s a potential All-American and a 1st Rd. NFL prospect. I’d like to see him play the WIL more.
Computer Hope Jack Cichy/6’2/235lbs/rSR: Like Victor, Cichy missed time last year but instead of 4 games, Cichy missed half the season and still amassed 60 tackles which was 4th on the Badgers! A no-nothing prospect out of Minnesota, Cichy walked on to the Badgers squad and then earned a scholarship before the 2015 season. He earned it because in 2015 Cichy logged 60 tackles, 8 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. You can’t miss Cichy on the field. He’s everywhere and if you only watched Wisconsin, you might think Cichy is the best football player to ever play. One of my favorites!
Computer Hope T.J. Edwards/6’1/246lbs/rJR: Cichy and Edwards are the kinds of guys that make Wisconsin look so smart and the rest of college football look so dumb. Cichy was a walk-on and Edwards had other offers from Toledo, W.Michigan and Wyoming! Now both guys are potential All-Americans who could easily wind up being Pro Bowl type players in the NFL! Edwards does everything. Last year as a sophomore he led Wisconsin in tackles but also had 3 picks and 8 tackles for loss. He and Cichy are why the Badgers could win the Big 10 title game!

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

Avery Roberts/Nebraska/6’1/230lbs: Roberts had an impressive offer sheet including invitations from Clemson, Louisville, Miami-FL, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn St., Stanford, Tennessee and Virginia Tech, but he committed to the Cornhuskers and Mike Riley fairly early in the process. The Delaware native is actually the first player committed to Nebraska from the Blue Hen State since 1974! I think Roberts is going to get an opportunity in Lincoln. Nebraska is going to run a 3-4 and Dedrick Young is going to start at one of the ILB, but the other is fairly open. Roberts enrolled early and has been with the Huskers since January so he should be familiar enough with the defensive calls to succeed. At 6’1/230lbs, Roberts is big enough to step in and play immediately without needing a year to bulk up. Bob Diaco is the new DC and he was wildly successful as the DC at Notre Dame. The Nebraska faithful would love nothing more than a return to the days of the BLACK SHIRTS!!!!

Anthony Hines/Texas A&M/6’3/220lbs: The Aggies like to play somewhat of a 4-2-5 nickle package. With Otaro Alaka returning but Shaan Washington moving on, the Aggies have a hole at one of their ILB spots that Hines could fill. Arguably the best LB in the 2017 high school class, Hines enrolled early at Texas A&M so has been with the team since January. He very well could be behind Tyrel Dodson who is only a sophomore himself but Hines can make an argument that he is the most talented linebacker in College Station so he could easily find his way onto the football field. With Alaka sort of playing the WIL LB spot, Hines would move more into the MIKE, but he’s got high end top speed for a LB so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do when dropping into coverage at the collegiate level along with his ability to take and give out punishment on the inside. I think he’ll have an opportunity which is what freshman need.

Dylan Moses/Alabama/6’3/240lbs: Amazingly enough Moses might have to wait awhile before getting on the field but I wanted to mention him anyway because the guy is FULLY FORMED at 18 and enrolled early meaning he’s had quite a bit of time with the Tide already. What’s amazing about Alabama is just how many INCREDIBLE LBs they already have. Rueben Foster could play because he was behind Reggie Ragland. Rashaan Evans had to backup because he played behind Foster. Moses can’t play right away because he is behind Evans, but Moses also has Mack Wilson ahead of him. A consensus 5-star player who Phil Steele ranks as the best LB in the 2017 class, Moses only EQUALS Wilson’s credentials as Wilson too was a consensus 5-star player who Phil Steele ranked as the best LB in the 2016 class!!!! I don’t know how much run time Moses will get if any this year, but if you are looking for a 1st Rd. Alabama LB in the 2020 or 2021 draft, you will probably find Dylan Moses!

Baron Browning/Ohio State/6’4/230lbs: The Buckeyes return 6 of their front-7 from last year’s 11-2 squad that made it to the college football playoffs. The one position that doesn’t return is the SAM LB after Raekwon McMillan was a 2nd round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins earlier this year. That leaves a hole that could potentially be filled by Browning. The Buckeyes are also looking at Dante Booker and Keandre Jones, but neither player has done anything to stand out so Browning could walk into a situation that is very advantageous. Browning is big enough to play on the strong side and opposing offenses are going to have difficulty with Ohio St.’s front 7 because the talent is INCREDIBLE. I can’t imagine Browning not being in one on one situations for most of the year and keep in mind that tOSU’s D-Line is going to be MORE than good enough to occupy the O-Line which leaves Browning room to hunt or get to the QB because running backs are the ones likely to pick up him. Backs on Backs leads to Sacks. Browning could be walking into an incredible situation.

Bruce Jordan-Swilling/Georgia Tech/6’1/209lbs: Jordan-Swilling comes to Atlanta to play for the Ramblin Wreck and immediately becomes the most decorated defensive recruit on the team. The New Orleans native must LOVE engineering because he had offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida St., Miami-FL, LSU, Michigan, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UCLA and USC but still picked the Yellow Jackets! In fact, Jordan-Swinning has huge family connections to GT with his father and brother playing football for the Jackets. I don’t know how Jordan-Swilling will fit in with GT this season. He didn’t enroll early and he’s got the build of one of those hybrid/WIL type of LBs so there might not be a redshirt in his future. Right now Terrell Lewis has that role for GT, but he’s not a returning starter so it’s still possible that Jordan-Swilling could step in right away and play. Georgia Tech also plays a lot of 4-2-5 so throwing in another WIL/S hybrid probably wouldn’t be bad. The more I look at the roster the more I think Jordan-Swilling could have a significant impact on GT’s season.

August 6, 2017 Posted by | Alabama, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Linebackers, Maryland, Miami-FL, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oregon, Predictions, Preseason, Previews, South Carolina, Terrific 20, Texas, Texas AM, USC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #49 to #40

If you missed the rankings for the coaches ranked #65 to #50, you can find it here or just keep scrolling and it’s the post directly after this one. We left off with Arizona HC Rich Rodriguez at #50 so let’s take a look at the coaches landing in the forties.

#49 – Kliff Kingsbury – Texas Tech

I’m not as down on Kingsbury as some people are. He’s heading into 2017 on the hot seat to be certain, but I don’t think it’s been all bad. Texas Tech isn’t the easiest place to win and so far in his 4 years in Lubbock, Kingsbury is 24-26 overall and 13-23 in conference play. Those aren’t tremendous numbers, but if you look at the league historically, the Red Raiders are following Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St., TCU, Kansas St. and West Virginia. That makes them 7th in the league and a good coach at Baylor puts Tech 8th. Kingsbury has yet to record a winning record in conference play, but he recruits fairly well and I think he’s good for the university and the program. If trends hold, he should be in for a 7-9 win season in 2017.

#48 – Dave Doeren – North Carolina State

Doeren didn’t walk into a great situation given how NC State AD Debbie Yow dismissed his predecessor Tom O’Brien. Yow essentially cited lack of enthusiasm for the football program as justification for canning O’Brien, but in O’Brien’s last 3 seasons, NC State went 24-14 (13-11). In Doeren’s last 3 seasons as HC, the Wolfpack have went 22-17 (9-15). Yow wanted a football coach who could bring in Top-25 classes. Doeren hasn’t done that either. With that said, Doeren has been consistently 7-6/8-5 in his last 3 years, but he’s also went 3-5 in conference play those same three seasons. I think a coach can win at NC State & Doeren is doing just that, but he needs a breakthrough season with 9-10 wins.

#47 – Todd Graham – Arizona State

A lot of what I wrote about Rich Rodriguez can be written about Todd Graham as well. Graham is better than this but the Sun Devils have been regressing for a couple of year now. In 2013-2014, the Sun Devils posted a 20-7 record. The last two years that total has dropped to 11-14. Graham has been better than Rodriguez in conference play, but only marginally so. ASU went 8-1 in the Pac 12 South in 2013 and won the division. Just 3 years later they finished 2-7 and this is with USC still somewhat regrouping. Graham has recruited top-25 level classes to Tempe and Sun Devil Stadium can be a bear to play in for opposing teams. ASU was pretty young last year and I think 2017 will see a much improve Sun Devils squad.

#46 – Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M

Sumlin’s star could have been any brighter after the 2012 season when he took the Aggies to an 11-2 record and a final ranking in the top-5. A&M would beat a #1 ranked Alabama team that year and then go on to humiliate a solid Oklahoma team in the Cotton Bowl. QB Johnnie Manziel wasn’t quite as spectacular in 2013 and the Aggies dropped to 9-4. Life after Manziel hasn’t been promising either as Sumlin has turned in 3 consecutive 8-5 seasons with a slew of QB transfers that can’t help morale down in College Station. Making matters worse is that Texas A&M is 15-17 in SEC play over the last 4 years & Alabama isn’t going away. Life in the SEC West isn’t easy and Sumlin probably enters 2017 on a seat that is heating up.

#45 – Derek Mason – Vanderbilt

Mason has to deal with some of the difficulties of being a HC at a school like Vanderbilt in much the same way that Northwestern, Duke, Stanford and even possibly Virginia has to deal with. Stanford is somewhat of an exception, but Vanderbilt is the only one of those schools playing the SEC which makes their ceiling quite a bit lower. You can’t help but be impressed with Mason so far in taking over for James Franklin. Mason cut his teeth under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw at Stanford so he knows the drill. His first year in Nashville saw Vandy post a 3-9 (0-8) record. Last year, Mason’s 3rd, Vandy improved to 6-7 (3-5) with a bowl appearance. The rebuild wasn’t as fast as James Franklin coming in, but the Commodores are in good hands.

#44 – Mark Stoops – Kentucky

Like Mason, you can’t help but be impressed by the work Stoops is doing in Lexington. Stoops took over a disaster of a program left behind by Joker Phillips and turned them into a bowl team 4 years later. In Stoops’s first year (2013), UK was terrible going 2-10 (0-8) but last year the Wildcats jumped to 7-6 (4-4) and got a rivalry win over Louisville! Stoops has shown the ability to recruit top-25 level classes to Kentucky which is borderline amazing considering they are surrounded by football blue bloods which is another feather in Stoops’ cap. UK was smart to stick with their HC despite back-to-back 5-7 (2-6) seasons. It paid off in spades last year with UK having their best season since 2009. The talent is there for UK to be even better in 2017.

#43 – Dave Clawson – Wake Forest

Wake Forest hasn’t been relevant since the days of Riley Skinner and Aaron Curry. When Clawson took over in 2014, the Demon Deacons hasn’t had a winning season since 2008 nor had they had a bowl win since 2008. Winning in Winston-Salem isn’t exactly easy which is why it was so amazing what Jim Grobe was able to accomplish with Wake. He couldn’t sustain that and eventually Wake ended up being a sub-.500 team which led to Clawson’s hire. Clawson had to do some rebuilding his first two seasons which saw WF finish with back-to-back 3-9 (1-7) seasons, but the Deacons broke through last year finishing 7-6 (3-5) including a bowl win over a very good Temple squad. That’s solid progress for this program.

#42 – Butch Jones – Tennessee

This is probably too low for Jones. I’m of the opinion that the Vols should have never fired Fulmer, but I’m also not sure Fulmer was going to get Tennessee another national title which should always be the goal in Knoxville. Tennessee made a couple of bad hires in Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley and Jones was hired to clean up the mess. In his first season UT went 5-7. In his 2nd the Vols went 7-6 followed up by back to back 9-4 seasons. That’s progress, but to a degree Jones’s tenure at Tennessee has been marked by disappointment. In and SEC East where Missouri won a couple of division titles, Tennessee has come up empty despite SC not being very good and Florida being in a holding pattern until McElwain showed up. Is that a missed opportunity? It sure seems like it. Throw in the fact that UT is 14-18 in SEC play during Jones’s stay and he doesn’t look so good.

#41 – Jim Mora – UCLA

Like Jones, I think Mora is somewhat disappointing which is why he’s ranked in the 40s instead of the 20s. Last season was depressing with expectations that weren’t close to being met. The Bruins entered the 2016 season as the odds on favorite to win the Pac 12 South. With Washington thought to still be a year away, with USC still in rebuilding mode and with Oregon headed towards disaster, the conference and potential playoff spot was ripe for the taking. Instead, UCLA turned in a 4-8 season that saw star QB Josh Rosen miss half the season and potential 1st round NFL Pick DT Eddie Vanderdoes turn in an underwhelming season. The talent is here & Rosen is great so there is time for Mora to improve his stock in 2017.

#40 – Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh

Narduzzi was a tough one to figure out. On the one hand it seems as if he’s a little underrated. Since coming to Pittsburgh, he’s led the Panthers to a 16-10 overall record with an 11-5 mark in conference play. Last year’s Pitt squad was the best they’ve fielded since Dave Wannstedt took Pitt to a 10-3 final record back in 2009. On the other hand, the team under Narduzzi has also been puzzling. The 16-10 record is nice, but if you have watched Pitt the last two years, it could have been so much more. Last year the Panthers lost 4 games by a total of 18 points! The year before they lost 4 games by a total of 27 points. If Narduzzi can figure out how to win close games, we might be looking at a dominant Panthers team. However, Pittsburgh is also 0-2 in bowl games under Narduzzi’s watch & the defense got worse from 2015 to 2016 despite Narduzzi’s reputation as a defensive wizard. Narduzzi loses a truck load of talent so we’ll see how he responds in 2017.

May 15, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona St., Big XII, Coaching, Kentucky, NC State, Pac 12, Pittsburgh, Rankings, SEC, Tennessee, Texas AM, Texas Tech, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest | 4 Comments

2016 NCAA FOOTBALL – BOWL SEASON PREVIEW!

AWAY QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl seems fitting. You really can’t say enough about what a tremendous job Bob Davie has done for the Lobos. New Mexico was a combined 3-33 in the 3-years before Davie took over. How he has them at potentially a 9-4 season with back-to-back bowl games in his 5th year. As for the game, New Mexico has the nation’s best rush offense so UTSA will need to figure out a way to stop it if they’re to win. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Las Vegas Bowl: Talk about a consolation bowl for early watching! The 9-3 Cougars take on the 10-3 Aztecs! Both of these teams were thought to win their respective conferences. Houston didn’t but SD State did get their revenge win over Wyoming to take the Mountain West. Tune in for Houston QB Gary Ward & DT Ed Oliver. Both guys have been outstanding this season. The Cougs won’t have Tom Herman but this is a fantastic early game. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Camellia Bowl: Jason Candle did an outstanding job in his first year as HC of Toledo. The Rockets went 9-3 and won the MAC East. Their 3 losses came against W.Michigan, Ohio & BYU. Not bad at all. Appalachian St. has an outstanding defense. At 9-3 they have 2 losses to Tennessee and Miami-FL! It’ll be interesting to see if the Mountaineers can put a stop to Toledo’s Cody Thompson, Logan Woodside & Kareem Hunt. This game will be very compelling. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Cure Bowl: Somewhat of a ho-hum bowl game as 6-6 UCF takes on 7-5 Arkansas State. UCF has a couple of tremendous corners in Shaquill Griffin and DJ Killings. They’ve been a terror to QBs all season long & that shouldn’t change. Helping them is OLB Shaquem Griffin who has totaled 11 sacks and 19 TFL on the season. Ark State is mostly a running team although they don’t do it particularly well. I’d tune in for the Knights defensive playmakers. Computer Hope
Computer Hope New Orleans Bowl: A couple of 6-6 teams going at it from CUSA and the Sun Belt conference. Obviously this is going to be one of those games that nobody is paying particular attention to but both teams feature a pretty good running back. Southern Miss’ Ito Smith ran for 1300+ yards & 15TD averaging 5.5ypc, while ULL’s Elijah McGuire ran for 1,028 yards & 7TD. This is HC Mark Hudspeth’s 5th bowl in 6 years as HC for the Ragin’ Cajuns. He’s done well. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Miami Beach Bowl: This game is played in Marlins Park which is the home of the Miami Marlins which is pretty cool. This is a bad matchup for C.Michigan. After a nice 3-0 start which saw them beat Oklahoma St., CMU went just 3-5 in MAC play & 3-6 in their final 9. Tulsa’s offense is prolific! They have a couple of thousand yard rushers, a thousand yard receiver & a three thousand yard passer. I think Tulsa scores 50+ in this game & dominates. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Boca Raton Bowl: Every time I hear the words Boca Raton I always think of Episode 9 of Season 1 of The Sopranos entitled Boca about Junior Soprano going down to Boca with one of his girlfriends, Bobbi Sanfillipo. The entire episode revolves around Junior’s amazing cunnilingus skills that eventually gets out. The part I always liked best is the end when Junior shoves Bobbi’s head in pie. Oh the game! Lots of scoring here with two good offenses. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Poinsettia Bowl: This is one of the underrated bowls I’m interested in. Wyoming HC Craig Bohl did a helluva job this year with the Cowboys. Nobody picked them to be this good, but Wyoming pulled off a coup to win the MW Mountain division & posted wins over Boise St. and San Diego State! BYU is tough. They went 8-4 but their 4 losses came by a total of 8 points! The Cougars are THIS CLOSE to being 12-0! Kalani Sitake did a GREAT job at BYU! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Idaho Potato Bowl: What a job Paul Petrino has done in Moscow! The Vandals were 3-21 the two years before Petrino took over and in his first two seasons they were even worse at 2-21. Last year they improved to 4-8 & in Petrino’s 4th season the Vandals are bowl bound at 7-5! They also went 6-1 in their last 7 games! They’ll have it tough with Colorado State. The Rams can score with a very balanced offense. Tough game for Idaho but great year. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Bahamas Bowl: If Old Dominion doesn’t lose on the road to W.Kentucky, the Monarchs finish 10-2 and undefeated in CUSA. The probably win the conference title and get to 11-2. HC Bobby Wilder has this program humming & I wouldn’t doubt if they become THE premier team in CUSA. A win here makes them 10-3 on the season & I expect them to take care of E.Michigan. EMU HC Chris Creighton was 3-21 his 1st 2 seasons. This year EMU went 7-5!! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Armed Forces Bowl: How is this for disappointing! If Navy blows out Temple in the AAC Championship game, they had an outside shot at jumping W.Michigan & getting to the Cotton Bowl to play Wisconsin. Instead the Middies are playing Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Bulldogs had a solid year but their defense is suspect & if Navy comes to play they should have no issues forcing the issue on offense. Win & Navy finishes at 10-4. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Dollar General Bowl: Frank Solich has done an outstanding job with the Bobcats. Western Michigan got all the publicity this season, and rightly so, but Ohio’s 8-5 record is a bit misleading. The Bobcats never lost a game by more than 9 points and 4 of those 5 losses were by 7 points or less. That 8-5 record is close to 12-1! Troy is exactly the same. The Trojans had a great 9-3 season but 2 losses were close so 9-3 could be 11-1. This should be a very good bowl. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Hawaii Bowl: And this is where we make the case for too many bowl games as the 6-7 Rainbows get in via exemption to play Middle Tennessee State. A lot of credit has to go to Hawaii 1st year HC Nick Rolovich for getting Hawaii into a bowl given that over the past 4 seasons the Rainbows have an 11-39 record. Hawaii’s last bowl game was in 2010 & their last bowl win was in 2006. Tune in for MTSU QB Brent Stockstill & RB I’Tavius Murray. They’re big! Computer Hope
Computer Hope St. Petersburg Bowl: LOVE THIS GAME! Talk about a wild season for Miami-OH! They lose their first 6 games, but win their final 6 to get bowl eligible! Some of that was schedule, but the switch to QB Gus Ragland made a HUGE difference. Ragland is 6-0 as a starter this season with 15TD to ZERO picks! Nobody picked Miami-OH to get to 6-6 & now they get an SEC team in a bowl! Outside of WMU/Wisconsin, this is the MAC bowl game to watch! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Quick Lane Bowl: Potentially a snoozer, Maryland and Boston College are a couple of high major squads coming off 6-6 regular seasons. These are a couple of teams still finding their way. Steve Addazio at BC is still figuring out his rushing attack without Andre Williams and Tyler Murphy. DJ Durkin obviously has a defensive reputation & the Terps improved defensively but still have a ways to go. The bowl is nice here but both teams actually need the reps. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Independence Bowl: The funny thing about Vanderbilt is that their 6-6 record could easily be 10-2. The Commodores have some excellent wins on the resume. They beat MTSU, WKU, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Georgia. Four of their 6 losses were close! Derek Mason has done an outstanding job! They’ll be competitive. I want to see which NC State shows up. The NC State against Clemons & Florida St? Or the NC State against Louisville? I hope the former. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Heart of Dallas Bowl: The Black Knights get to their first bowl since 2010! If you feel like you are having deja vu, don’t worry. These two teams actually played each other on October 22 when North Texas upended Army 35-18! Making matters worse? North Texas got to a bowl game by exemption given their 5-7 record. That’s too bad. Army deserves better. How amazing is it that the Knights have wins over both Temple & Navy? What are the odds? Computer Hope
Computer Hope Military Bowl: Temple wins the AAC so they get Wake Forest in the Military Bowl? No wonder Matt Rhule left out in a hurry for Baylor!! This feels like a huge slap in the face to the Owls. Temple is on a 7-game winning streak. They are 10-3 & a conference champion. Wake Forest is 6-6 & 2-6 in their last 8 games. They finished 5th in the ACC Atlantic with a 3-5 conference record. I get the conference tie ins but this is a huge opportunity lost for college football. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Holiday Bowl: This should be a pretty cool game regarding contrasts in styles. Minnesota wants to control the clock with their running game while Wazzou obviously wants to light up the scoreboard with their passing attack. What’s interesting here is the Gophers have a very good run D but a suspect pass D. I wonder if they’ll try to rush 3-4 and drop 7-8 and dare the Cougars to run the football? Teams have tried this and the Cougs have made them pay! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Cactus Bowl: A couple of close road losses to Wyoming & Air Force prevented the Broncos from a 12-0 & potentially 13-0 season which would have robbed Western Michigan of the Cotton Bowl. WMU is a better story so I’m glad it worked out, but Boise has to be fairly happy it was able to keep Bryan Harsin. There was some rumor about a move to Oregon which would have been tough. A win here make Harsin 32-8 in his first 3 years on the blue turf. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Pinstripe Bowl: This is a pretty neat bowl game that will be played in Yankee Stadium. I thought the Panthers had a good shot at winning the Coastal this year but 3 close losses took them from 11-1 to 8-4. The same could be said for Northwestern. I thought the Wildcats became the team nobody wanted to face in the Big 10. A couple of odd losses early & a loss to Minnesota took a potential 9-3 & made it 6-6. Both teams are going to try & run the ball. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Russell Athletic Bowl: OLD SCHOOL BIG EAST!!! I love this game. Couple of interesting subplots here. Miami-FL isn’t great but the Mountaineers are still looking for some validation of their 10-2 record. A win here to get to 11-2 at least shows they can win outside the Big XII. For the Canes, they were 0-3 in close games so that 8-4 is VERY close to 11-1. They’ve won 4-straight & really want to go out on a high note. Brad Kaaya can improve his stock here. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Foster Farms Bowl: Getting better by subtraction? Former Indiana HC Kevin Wilson led the Hoosiers to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in 25 seasons yet resigned over philosophical differences and DC Tom Allen takes over. I don’t think Hoosier Nation could be any happier with Allen as HC and some think it was a preemptive move to keep Allen from taking a different HC job. What a wild ride in Bloomington! GO HOOSIERS! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Texas Bowl: This is an intriguing game on paper given that both teams are 8-4, but this has the feel to me of a K-State blowout win potentially because I’m not sure a lot of the A&M players will feel like this one is worth playing. Guys like Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall have nothing really to gain here. On the other hand, would Texas A&M dare to make a move away from Kevin Sumlin should the Aggies get blown out and turn in another 8-5 season? Computer Hope
Computer Hope Birmingham Bowl: Outstanding season for the Bulls and former HC Willie Taggart. Unfortunately Taggart has taken his talents to Eugene Oregon as the next HC of the Ducks so a new era in USF football starts with Charlie Strong! I love the move for South Florida because I think Strong is an OUTSTANDING recruiter and putting him in Florida should put a lot of teams on notice. It would be pretty cool to see USF finish the season 11-2. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Belk Bowl: This should be a really fun game. In his first season at Virginia Tech, HC Justin Fuente has really done some solid things with the Hokies offense making more of a run-centric unit and that will pay massive dividends down the road given Bud Foster’s defensive prowess. It’s not unlike what Arkansas does under Bret Bielema. VT will utilize their pass a bit more, but you get the gist. I really hope VT gets that 10th win but Arkansas needs a W too. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Alamo Bowl: This is the first game you can really start looking at conference strengths. By all accounts, Oklahoma St. was the 2nd best team in the Big XII. I’d say the Buffaloes were the 3rd best team in the Pac 12 behind Washington & USC. Does a #3 Pac 12 team beat the #2 Big XII team? The big matchup here will be the UC secondary against Mason Rudolph. I don’t think the Cowboys are going to able to air it out & Coach Mac gets the Buffs to 11-3! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Liberty Bowl: I think some people are a bit disappointed in Kirby Smart’s first season as HC of the Bulldogs but Georgia’s 7-5 record includes 3 games that were lost by a total of 4 points. The ball bounces the other way & UGA is 10-2 & SEC East champs. They beat UNC & Auburn. I don’t think Nick Chubb was 100% all season & Jacob Eason was a true frosh QB. Leonard Floyd & Jordan Jenkins were huge losses. Win or lose here, Georgia did well. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Sun Bowl: Not saying this was a wasted season because the Tar Heels could still get a bowl win & finish 9-4, but when you look at back at their season, the Tar Heels should be 11-1. That would have won the Coastal & given UNC a good shot at New Year’s 6 bowl even if they lost to Clemson. Don’t dismiss Stanford in this one. I think the Cardinal is looking for respect & getting to 10-3 could potentially put them in the final AP Top-15. Love this game. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Music City Bowl: Games like this are sort of neat because both are historically great programs and if you look at the jerseys alone it’s cool to see them, but this isn’t the mid-1990s. Nebraska is Big 10 #6 going up against The Vols are are SEC #6/7. What could make this game interesting is a blowout win for the Huskers. Butch Jones is on thin ice as it is. Could a blowout win for Nebraska combined with the 49ers firing Chip Kelly lead Kelly to Tennessee? Computer Hope
Computer Hope Arizona Bowl: It’s pretty cool for South Alabama to get to a bowl game even if it is with a 6-6 record, but this is a massive mismatch that the Falcons should take advantage of. Air Force is 8-4 and on a roll having won 5 straight including wins over Colorado St. and Boise State. They have one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the nation & South Alabama is going to be overwhelmed when they see it. This opened with AF -15. They cover. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Orange Bowl: I’d expect Michigan to come out and dominate this game. Florida St. is better than their 9-3 record, and as talented as Dalvin Cook is at tailback, I have a hard time believing he’s going to get away with running against Michigan when Ohio State couldn’t. If Deondre Francois tries to air it out, it’s turnover season & the Wolverines really start blowing it out. This might be the sexiest game outside of the playoffs, but Michigan kills it. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Citrus Bowl: Love the storylines here. For LSU this is a chance for Ed Orgeron to really put this program at 100% going forward. It’s also a chance for Lenoard Fournette to boost his draft status & for Derrius Guice to start a Heisman campaign in 2017. For Louisville it’s a chance to end the season on a high note & a chance for Lamar Jackson to prove what a great player he is by taking on and beating by far the best defense he’s seen all season. Can’t wait. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Taxslayer Bowl: Great bounce back season for Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech was 3-9 last year & has a shot at 9-4 this year with a win over Kentucky. It was also a solid year for the Wildcats who got to a bowl game for the first time under HC Mark Stoops and beat Louisville to finish the regular season. I think this is a big jump off game for the 2017 season as both teams return a lot of players & should be even better in 2017. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Peach Bowl: Chris Petersen is an exceptionally creative coach so the thing to watch here is how well the Huskies can play in the 1st quarter while Alabama could potentially be taken off guard. At some point in time talent is going to settle in and the Tide have a GIGANTIC advantage here, but if UW gets out to a 14 point lead, can they hold on for dear life? This is best case for Washington. Worst case is that they’ve never seen anything like Bama’s front-7 and lose by 30. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Fiesta Bowl: I’m not a fan of this game. I understand the reasoning behind putting Ohio St. in the playoffs but Penn St. beat them and won the Big 10 championship. I think the Nittany Lions got a raw deal which taints the playoff regardless. A lot of talk here about how this game is Deshaun Watson against JT Barrett, but I think Clemson’s defense is going to be tough & the Tigers have so many weapons on offense against a fairly young defense. Still should be a great game. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Outback Bowl: This is a great game for Iowa to end the season on a high note. The Hawkeyes have won 3 straight games which includes wins over Michigan and Nebraska. Their 8-4 record is a lot closer to 11-1 given their close losses than people imagine & it’s easy to forget that some thought Iowa had the schedule this year to set up another 12-0 run. Finishing 9-4 is great albeit somewhat disappointing. As for the Gators, they really need to avoid another late season collapse. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Cotton Bowl: ROW THE BOAT!!! The Western Michigan story is a fantastic one, but this is a situation for Wisconsin that is almost unwinnable. Lose and you lost to a MAC school. Win and all you did was beat a MAC school. It’s interesting to note that WMU is 2-0 against Big 10 schools this year having beat Illinois and Northwestern by a combined 25 points. The Badgers beat both by a combined 59 points. It would be so cool to see PJ Fleck pull of a 14-0 season! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Rose Bowl: Two teams couldn’t be any hotter coming into this one. Penn St. has won 9 straight games including wins over Ohio St. & Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship game. USC has won 8 straight games including wins over Colorado, Washington, Notre Dame & UCLA. I really think these teams are out to prove they should have been in the playoffs. USC beat both UW & Colorado. Penn St. beat Ohio State. This might be the best bowl outside of the national championship. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Sugar Bowl: Love this game. If the season started tomorrow and the Tigers were healthy, knowing what we know now, I think they’d go 11-1. War Eagle has a top-5 defense that is massively underrated in my opinion. Their running game is also exceptional so Auburn can put a lot of pressure on Oklahoma. I think OU is playing for respect. A win over Auburn legitimizes them as a team that maybe should have been in the playoffs. A loss here hurts the Big XII quite a bit. Computer Hope

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Air Force, Alabama, Appalachian St., Arkansas, Arkansas St., Army, Auburn, Baylor, Boise St., Boston College, Bowl Season, BYU, Central Michigan, Clemson, Colorado, Colorado St., Eastern Michigan, Florida, Florida St., Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Houston, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas St., Kentucky, Louisiana Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Memphis, Miami-FL, Miami-OH, Michigan, Middle Tennessee St., Minnesota, Mississippi St., Navy, NC State, NCAA, NCAA Playoffs, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Texas, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Old Dominion, Penn St., Pittsburgh, San Diego St., South Alabama, South Carolina, South Florida, Southern Miss, Stanford, TCU, Temple, Tennessee, Texas AM, Toledo, Troy, Tulsa, UCF, USC, Utah, UTSA, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Washington, Washington St., West Virginia, Western Kentucky, Western Michigan, Wisconsin, Wyoming | Leave a comment

2016 NCAA FOOTBALL WEEK 10 – BIG GAMES

AWAY QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope It doesn’t get much better than this. I don’t expect LSU to keep this within 20 points. The Tigers are having a feel good story by going 3-0 since Les Miles was fired, but they haven’t played anyone. The trouble with playing Alabama is that they are going to take things away from you. Rueben Foster will see to it that Leonard Fournette is locked down meaning LSU is going to have to beat Alabama through the air, but Danny Etling simply isn’t good enough to give Alabama fits. ROLL DAMN TIDE! Computer Hope
Computer Hope So much on the line in this one. The loss in Madison last week stinks for Nebraska, but their season isn’t over quite yet. Beat Ohio State, win out and then beat Michigan in the Big 10 championship and the Cornhuskers are going to the playoffs. For Ohio State, the formula is just as simple. Beat Nebraska. Beat Michigan. Beat Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship and you are headed to the playoffs. The loss to Penn St. hurts but Texas A&M won’t stay in front of them if they win out at 12-1. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Now we know style points matter. The Huskies have to be seething now that the first playoff poll has come out & Washington at 8-0 ranks behind a Texas A&M team that is 7-1. Strength of Schedule I’m sure played a role, but Washington’s 31-24 win over Utah probably didn’t help matters as voters were looking for a reason to believe Washington was an ELITE team. It’ll be interesting to see how UW plays on the road against a bad Cal squad. My guess is the Huskies are going to run it up big. Computer Hope
Computer Hope NC State was reeling after back-to-back losses to both Louisville & Clemson, but Boston College going into Raleigh and defeating the Wolfpack raised more than a few eyebrows. I don’t suspect the Cardinals to have many problems on Chestnut Hill, but Louisville had issues last week against Virginia and rank behind Texas A&M and Ohio St. in the first playoff poll. They can’t control the Aggies & Buckeyes, but they can control their games by winning with tremendous style points. They need it. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Northwestern has quickly become that team that nobody really wants to face. Since their first two weeks, Northwestern is 4-2 with their only losses coming to Nebraska & Ohio State, two games the Wildcats can argue they should have won. The Badgers are still looking for a Big 10 West title and despite beating Nebraska, they trail the Huskers in the standings. They need help from Ohio State which they are likely to get, but they cannot afford a let down themselves if they want to win the West. Computer Hope
Computer Hope This might not seem like a big game this week but consider that Kentucky is sitting in 2nd place in the SEC East and Tennessee just lost to South Carolina and Vols RB Jalen Hurd is transferring. Things are in disarray in Knoxville. Why is that important? Because if UK wins out and Florida manages to lose games to Arkansas & LSU (entirely feasible), it would mean Kentucky would finish as SEC East champions! UK will lose to Louisville, but finishing 8-4 as SEC East champions can happen! Computer Hope
Computer Hope You almost saw a bit of a let down last week when Penn St. struggled against Purdue in the first half before blowing the Boilermakers out. It was to be expected after the season defining win over Ohio St. the week prior, but this week the Hawkeyes are coming to town and this has the feel of a legitimate let down where Penn St. is on the verge of having a great season & it gets sidetracked with a loss to an Iowa team they probably should beat. I’m interesting to see how the PSU defense plays. Computer Hope
Computer Hope If Tennessee is real about their rivalry against Florida, then the ultimate revenge is to lay down against Kentucky in a couple of weeks after Florida blows it against Arkansas! This game matters a great deal to Florida because it is one of the two games left on the schedule they need to win to fend off Kentucky. A loss here to an Arkansas team, who will bounce back big after the loss to Auburn, will put tremendous pressure on the Gators to beat LSU. How incredible is the SEC East this season!? Computer Hope
Computer Hope This probably shouldn’t be that much of a game for Colorado especially because the Bruins are playing without QB Josh Rosen, but it’s not like UCLA doesn’t have some talent and that much talent can pull off upsets on any given night. I think this would be a big win for the Buffs. UCLA is 3-5, but their 5 losses have come by a combined 32 points or 6.4PPG. Lady Luck has been more cruel to UCLA than most so a 10+point win for Colorado would be another positive sign of Colorado’s validity. Computer Hope
Computer Hope You wouldn’t think this would be much of a game, but if Virginia Tech is vulnerable, it might be this week. The Hokies are 2-2 away from Blacksburg while Duke is hitting .500 at home in Durham. Duke has beaten both Army & Notre Dame. While those teams aren’t as good as the Hokies, Duke won’t be intimidated either & keep in mind that the Duke defense held Lamar Jackson & Louisville to 24 points. Like Wisconsin in Evanston, this is hardly a game Virginia Tech can overlook and still win. Computer Hope

November 3, 2016 Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Big Games, Boston College, California, Colorado, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Must See Games, NCAA, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St., UCLA, Virginia Tech, Washington, Week 10, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

COLLEGE FOOTBALL HOT SEATS!

With so much talk about coaches potentially being fired, I thought it would be a good idea to go over the coaches that could be/are on the hot seat at this point. The college football season is entering Week 6 while the NFL is at the quarter mark for all teams but two (Philly & Green Bay). I’ll get to the NFL in a later post but for now let’s evaluate what is going on at the collegiate level at the Power 5 conferences and Notre Dame.

Les Miles/Ed Orgeron-LSU

Miles has already been fired and the seat didn’t cool simply because Orgeron took over as the interim head coach. LSU has a Nick Saban problem more than they do a coaching problem. That said, the Tigers are entirely TOO TALENTED to lose the games they’ve been losing. Sure Wisconsin & Auburn are better teams than people expected heading into the season, but LSU still should have been able to win those games. In fact, with the way LSU recruits, it’s hard to believe LSU would lose any games other than road dates to Alabama. That might have not been the historical norm, but Nick Saban showed LSU Nation would could be in Baton Rouge and now that is the standard. LSU could lose 3-4 more games this season but Phil Steele in his 2016 annual noted that LSU was the 3rd most talented team in college football. That shouldn’t equate to a 6-6/5-7 season. In 2015 Steele ranked them 10th and the Tigers finished 9-3. In 2014 Steele ranked them 14th and they finished 8-5. If anything, LSU should expect their head coach to get the most out of their talent. That hasn’t happened and I seriously doubt Orgeron winds up with the HC job after this season.

Gus Malzahn-Auburn

I think the notion of Malzahn being on the hot seat is absurd but he did take Auburn to the BCS Championship game in his first year in 2013 and finished 12-2. He’s declined every year since going 8-5 in 2014 and 7-6 in 2014. I like Auburn this year more than most but like LSU they have a Nick Saban problem and an SEC West problem. Auburn could wind up 8-4 and have an excellent year, just not a national championship year. The fanbase gets a little spoiled an impatient when you take the program to 2 national championship games in a 4-year span and Malzahn is dealing with that fallout. Gene Chizik won a national championship in 2010 and was fired two years later for crying out loud! The heat is on Malzahn to be sure but I think he could probably survive another 7-5 season although at that point 2017 would be make or break for him.

Mark Stoops-Kentucky

Stoops is feeling a little heat after a couple of 5-7 seasons but Kentucky isn’t playing awful. I thought they could be a surprise team in the SEC East this year but when they opened up the season with a loss to Southern Miss, I think it took a lot of air out of their expectations. The Wildcats did get a win over South Carolina and they have their next 2 games at home against Vanderbilt & Mississippi State. Win those games and UK is 4-3 with a game against Austin Peay on the schedule which would give them 5 wins & needing just one more to get to a bowl game. That game might have to come on the road against Missouri or at home against Georgia. If Stoops falls short again then Kentucky might make a change, but Stoops is close to the Rich Brooks formula that worked so well. Maybe another year & he’ll have it down although playing Louisville every season isn’t going to do them any favors considering that is practically an automatic loss as long as Bobby Petrino heads the Cardinals.

James Franklin-Penn State

It might be a bit premature for Franklin to be on the hot seat in just his 3rd year, but I think the problems are mounting. They lost a road game against in-state rival Pittsburgh. They were humiliated on the road against Michigan and they needed OT to get a home win over Minnesota. They needed OT to beat the Golden Gophers in Beaver Stadium! Let that sink in for a second. Penn St. might have more of a Jim Harbaugh/Urban Meyer/Mark Dantonio problem than they do a coaching problem, but if the Nittany Lions as a program want to be mentioned in the same breath as Ohio St. and Michigan, then they need to figure out FAST if Franklin is the guy because if he’s not they might be missing out on pretty big opportunities by being slow and measured. It’s an odd type of situation to be in but it’s closing in on a decade since Penn St. has been nationally relevant and that doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon under Franklin.

Darrell Hazell-Purdue

I don’t see a conference win for the Boilermakers this year unless they can get a home win over Northwestern, but the Wildcats just took it to Iowa so that even seems like a stretch. Regardless of outcomes this year, Hazell right now is 8-32 in 40 games as Purdue HC. In Big 10 play he’s 2-23 to this point and coming off a 50-7 road loss to Maryland! Recruiting is taking a big beating for Purdue as well and Phil Steele noted they had the worst recruiting class of any program in the Big 10 in 2016, and it was by a decent margin. Danny Hope wasn’t very good in West Lafayette, but at this point he’s looking like Vince Lombardi compared to Hazell. The Boilermakers are a long way away from the Joe Tiller era and if Purdue turns in another 2-10 season, it’s hard to imagine they won’t make a change.

Mark Helfrich-Oregon

Oregon went 46-7 from 2009-2012 under Chip Kelly before Kelly left Eugene to coach the Philadelphia Eagles. Mark Helfrich came in and went 11-2 his first season and then led Oregon to a national championship game that ended up a 42-20 loss to Ohio State although Oregon finished the season 13-2. Last year the Ducks went 9-4 and this year they are 2-3 with going through a 3-game losing streak with losses to teams such as Washington St., Colorado and Nebraska. This isn’t your older brother’s Oregon Ducks team and Helfrich is feeling the heat. When you look at the remaining schedule, I think it’s certainly possible that the Ducks miss a bowl game! Helfrich gets judged a little harshly with the 9-4 season a year ago. That was a lot closer to 12-1. The loss to Michigan St. probably should have been a win. It took Wazzou 2OT to beat Oregon and the bowl loss to TCU was a 47-41 affair that went into triple OT! Oregon needs to figure the defense out fast. They’ll score points in spades but a big difference the last years under Helfrich is that the defense is giving up 35+PPG! Brady Hoke is the new DC here & he needs time. Hopefully that time doesn’t cost Helfrich his job.

Clay Helton-USC

I don’t know what to make of this situation. Last year everyone seemed very pleased that Helton got the job and there was a lot of chatter from the players that they were very happy Helton was getting the gig. Fast forward to this season & it looks like Helton has long control of the football team and he & players are coming to physical altercations! Who knows what to think at this point. I don’t think losing to Alabama to open the season or follow up losses to Stanford & Utah on the road are killer although you wouldn’t have seen that under Pete Carroll. With that said, there has to be some rebuilding aspect to this program & the Trojans came out and looked great in beating Arizona St. 41-20. A win this week over Colorado could have the Trojans back on track & it looked like a great move to insert QB Sam Darnold into the starting lineup. The schedule is absolutely NASTY so I could see it going either way but an 8-4 season with a bowl win gets USC to 9-4 and sets them up for a BIG 2017. Helton probably survives if they get to 9-4. If they fall apart and wind up 4-8 or 3-9 then he’s gone.

Charlie Strong-Texas

Strong is feeling heat after dropping 2 straight to California and Oklahoma State, but I still wonder if anything will happen in Austin. Beating Oklahoma would definitely cool his critics but even a loss to the Sooners doesn’t completely end the season. A loss does probably destroy their chances at a Big XII title, but their toughest games remaining would be against TCU & Baylor, two games that will be played in Austin. Lose to Oklahoma but win out and get a bowl win and the Longhorns are looking at a 10-3 season after being 13-14 in Strong’s first two seasons! Do you can the guy after a 10-3 season which is a 5 win improvement!? Seems doubtful. On the other hand, Texas’ defense is downright terrible and the Big XII does nothing but put up points. Let’s assume they can’t beat Baylor & TCU. That’s 2 losses right there, but they have road games against Kansas State & Texas Tech! Can they win a shootout game against the Red Raiders in Lubbock? I think at a minimum Strong has to win 8-9 games. Otherwise where is the program going?

Mike Gundy-Oklahoma St.

It’s ridiculous to list Gundy. The Cowboys are 3-2 at the moment. One loss came on the road against a ranked Baylor team that is still undefeated. It happens. The other loss was on a brutal call by an official that screwed Oklahoma St. out of a win over Central Michigan. You could certainly argue that OK-State should have never been in a close game with Central Michigan and I wouldn’t disagree, but the Cowboys should be 4-1. To be fair, Oklahoma St. should win out until their final 2 games when they play TCU & Oklahoma on the road. That means they’d be 8-2 going into the last 2 weeks of the season. A coach at 8-2 is on the hot seat? T. Boone Pickens might be getting a bit senile. If not for his inane comments about Gundy, I wouldn’t even have dreamed of putting Gundy on any hot seat list. OK State should be happy he hasn’t gone to greener pastures like Jimmy Johnson & Les Miles did.

Brian Kelly-Notre Dame

I’m not sure Kelly is on a hot seat per se but he’s in Year 7 of his tenure in South Bend and he’s losing home games to Duke and has a defense that is utterly atrocious despite recruiting at a high level since the day the man stepped on campus. With the home loss to Duke, the Irish open themselves up to potential losses each week for the rest of the season. Maybe they don’t have to worry too much about beating Army but they still have NC State, Stanford, Miami-FL, Navy, Virginia Tech & USC on the ledger! Since Kelly got lucky in 2012 & led the Irish to the national championship where they got HAMMERED 42-14 by Alabama, the Irish have gone a combined 27-12 over the last 3 seasons and this year they are going to be SUPER LUCKY to get to 8-4. If they were to lose the bowl and finish 7-5 then over the past 4 seasons Kelly would be 34-17. That’s 8.5 wins per season. That’s not going to cut it at Notre Dame.

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Auburn, Coaching, Kentucky, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma St., Oregon, Penn St., Purdue, Texas, USC | Leave a comment

2016 SEC PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

It’s that time of year again! Football is in the air! Kicking off my previews this season is the SEC. You might as well start with the best and there is no question that the SEC is the best conference in college football. Here are my predictions along with a brief preview of how the SEC divisions will shake out in 2016.

SEC WEST #1 – ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

Offense: There has been an awful lot of talk about Alabama’s potential drop off in offense given the loss of RB Derrick Henry & QB Jake Coker, but Alabama has lost offensive starters before and the team seems to pick up right where they left off. Losing Henry isn’t a huge deal. When TJ Yeldon left Henry picked it up. When Trent Richardson left, Yeldon picked it up. When Mark Ingram left, Richardson picked it up. This year it’ll be up to Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, DeSherrius Flowers & BJ Emmons to pick up the pace. Which of them becomes the lead back is anyone’s guess, but somebody for Alabama is going to run the football & run it effectively. I also think it’s somewhat irrelevant whether or not Blake Barnett or Cooper Bateman become the starting QB. The QB will have weapons galore in the form of potential 1st Team All-Americans Calvin Ridley at WR & OJ Howard at TE. Throw in ArDarius Stewart & Robert Foster and the offense looks almost unstoppable. Alabama returns 3 OL including LT Cam Robinson would is a potential #1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. True frosh Jonah Williams & JUCO Charles Baldwin could also play significant time along the O-Line. It sounds crazy to think an offense wouldn’t take a step back after losing a Heisman Trophy winner in their RB & their starting QB after both of those guys were key cogs on a team that won a national championship, but Alabama might be able to say just that.

Defense: Nasty. Downright NASTY! Alabama has 4 guys on my preseason 1st team All-SEC. They have 7 on my first & second team. I listed 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th team All-SEC players in my preview & Alabama has 9 players represented! Alabama got a couple of big boosts defensively when DE Jonathan Allen & S Eddie Jackson decided to return to school. Both are potential 1st Team All-Americans. Like the offense, the Alabama defense suffered some losses, but it’s possible they actually got better! A’Shawn Robinson & Jarran Reed were 2nd round picks in the draft but replacement Dalvin Tomlinson & Da’Shawn Hand have the ability to be just as good. Throw in an improving Jonathan Allen & the D-Line is INCREDIBLE. Tim Williams & Ryan Anderson return at OLB where they combined for 16.5 sacks & 24TFL in 2015. Reggie Ragland departs but Rueben Foster is being touted as a potential 1st Team All-American. CB Cyrus Jones is another draft pick but Alabama has Minkah Fitzpatrick & Marlon Humprhey at corner who were both just freshman a year ago! Throw in Ronnie Harrison & Tony Brown in the secondary & there isn’t anyone that can touch them. It’s conceivable that Alabama could have the best collection of players of any team in the nation at all 3 levels of the defense. The best defense since Nick Saban has been in Tuscaloosa was Alabama’s 2011 version when the Tide allowed 8.2 points per game. You can make an argument that the 2011 Alabama defense was the best defense in college football history. The 2015 version has a chance to top it.

Schedule: Alabama doesn’t have the easiest road back to a national championship. They open the season in Arlington with a game against USC. They have conference road games against Arkansas, Ole Miss & LSU. They drew Tennessee & Kentucky out of the East which isn’t fantastic. They play in Knoxville against a Vols team that could very well be a top-5 team themselves. Even Western Kentucky isn’t awful. The worst part of the schedule is a 5-week span where the Tide go: @Arkansas, @Tennessee, Texas A&M, bye, @LSU. Even with a more difficult schedule, I can’t see anyone beating Alabama unless a team lucks up & stops their offense & is able to score 7-9 points. Remember that in 2011, the Tide did lose in the regular season to LSU 9-6. That is the only plausible scenario in which Alabama loses.

Bottom Line: Even with the losses of a Heisman Trophy winner and your starting QB. Even with a schedule that looks pretty daunting. Even with the mindset of complacency after a national championship win. Even with all those things, I can’t see Alabama losing a game. The defense is going to be historically good at the very least and that in and of itself will separate Alabama from the rest of the teams in the country. The offense will find a way to figure itself out as the Tide get their 5th title under Saban, their 2nd turn as back-to-back champions under Saban, and Saban gets his 6th national championship cementing his status as the greatest collegiate head football coach that has ever walked a sideline.

SEC WEST #2 – LSU TIGERS

Offense: LSU returns 8 starters from an offense that scored 33PPG a season ago. There is no question this offense is going to revolve around 1st Team All-American and Heisman Trophy favorite RB Leonard Fournette. Fournette was outstanding last year rushing for almost 2,000 yards & 22TD. If not for a bad 3-game span against Arkansas, Ole Miss & Alabama, Fournette probably would have walked away with the Heisman with a great opportunity to win back-to-back awards for the first time since Archie Griffin at Ohio State! I’d also expect Derrius Grice to get some carries as well. As a true freshman last year, Grice averaged 8.6ypc with 3TD on only 51 carries! The only issue preventing LSU from being able to score 50PPG is the play of QB Brandon Harris. Harris is under tremendous pressure to produce & there is no reason why he shouldn’t given the plethora of weapons. WRs Malachi Dupre & Travin Dural are big play receivers with great size & experience. TE Collin Jeter is a HUGE target at 6’7/244lbs and could be a mismatch on every passing play LSU runs. During conference play last season Harris completed 54.9% of his passes with a TD:INT ratio of 8:5. That simply isn’t good enough & teams know it. As great as LSU’s running attack might be, the Alabama defense can stop it if it is the only thing they have to worry about. LSU returns 3 starters on the O-Line & the skill position players are outstanding. Harris has to come through now as LSU’s starting QB.

Defense: Let’s forget about the players for a second & concentrate on first year DC Dave Aranda. Aranda’s career as a DC really took off when he joined Gary Andersen’s staff at Utah State in 2012. In 2011, Utah State ranked 68th in scoring defense allowing 27.8PPG. In Aranda’s first year as DC in 2012, Utah St. improved to #7 in the nation allowing just 15.4PPG en route to the Aggies finishing 11-2 which included a WAC championship & a bowl win. When Andersen left Utah St. for Wisconsin, Aranda followed him. The Badgers ranked 16th in scoring defense at 19.1PPG allowed the year before Aranda took over so it isn’t like Wisconsin didn’t defend well, but in his first season the Badgers jumped to #6 in the country at 16.3PPG. In 2014 they dropped to #17 at 20.8PPG allowed but last year Aranda guided the Badgers to the #1 scoring defense in all of football at 13.7PPG allowed. During his 3 years as DC, Wisconsin would amass a 30-10 record. Gary Andersen departed for Oregon St. after the 2014 season but Aranda stayed on for one more season in Madison before coming to LSU. He’s going to switch things up a bit in LSU by turning them into a base 3-4, but Aranda is known for mixing up his fronts. What’s amazing is what this guy has done with the talent on hand and that becomes a VERY SCARY proposition now that he has the very best athletes in the world playing for his defense.  The talent & experience here is INSANE. LSU lost Deion Jones to the NFL but getting Kendall Beckwith back was a huge gain. With guys like Beckwith, Lewis Neal, Davon Godchaux, Arden Key, Tashawn Bower, Tre’Davious White, Kevin Tolliver, Ricky Jefferson & Jamal Adams at his disposal, there is no telling how good the LSU defense will be under Aranda. There could be 6-7 All Americans in that group. Alabama has the best defense in the nation, but LSU could be a lot closer to being the best defense than being the 3rd best defense.

Schedule: Casual fans won’t get the irony but it is interesting that LSU opens up at Lambeau Field against Wisconsin, the team Aranda left to go to Baton Rouge. That isn’t as easy game, but it is an entirely winnable game. The schedule is actually what puts quite a bit of pressure on Les Miles and the Tigers. LSU gets both Alabama & Ole Miss at home. Granted, they play both squads back-to-back but their bye week is sandwiched between with an extra week of rest before Alabama comes to town. Ending the year at Texas A&M isn’t easy and drawing a road game against Florida was a tough one, but getting Bama & the Rebels in Baton Rouge is the real key here. If the Tigers can stay perfect at home, there is no reason why they don’t finish the season 12-0.

Bottom Line: If things go as I see them, LSU is going to push hard to be a 2nd team in the 4-team playoff from the same conference. This smacks of what we saw in 2011 when LSU went 13-0 only to lose to an 11-1 Alabama team in the BCS Championship game in a rematch of the 9-6 LSU win earlier in the year that Alabama would avenge with a 21-0 win & a national title. Any rational argument would have LSU #1 and Alabama at #2 given the losses Alabama has, but Nick Saban has Alabama on a completely different leven than any other college football program at the moment, not to mention, with Les Miles it’s always wait & see. Hiring Aranda might have saved his job because Miles will stick it out here if he finishes 12-1.

SEC WEST #3 – TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Offense: I think people are sleeping on Texas A&M as some publications out there are predicting A&M to finish anywhere in the SEC West from 5th to 6th! That’s insane & it starts with the offense. Anywhere HC Kevin Sumlin has went, his teams have scored big time points, and it’s not always a by product of Johnny Manziel. A&M averaged 35+PPG in 2014 when Kenny Hill & Kyle Allen were playing QB. In 2010 the Houston Cougars under Sumlin averaged 37.7PPG with freshman David Piland playing for the injured Case Keenum. Last year the QB position was a disaster with Kyle Allen & Kyler Murray not playing all that well. Both transferred which looked bad, but this game an opportunity for former Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight to enter the picture. Knight isn’t a world beater but he played in some TOUGH games at Oklahoma & the stage won’t be too big for him. He’s also an experienced leader. There won’t be any questions regarding the QB position which will filter into the INCREDIBLE array of talent around him. WRs Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones & Speedy Noil have to be hands down the best WR corps in the nation. Any QB in the country would be envious to have those guys. How can Knight not flirt with 4,000 pass yards & 30TD? Keith Ford, another former Oklahoma player, takes over as RB. Ford is a big time talent that will finally get to start. The O-Line is a little raw, but the added stability to the QB position completely changes the complexion of the team for the better.

Defense: If you believe in QB pressure is a good predictor of team success, then Texas A&M should rank right up there with some of the best teams in the country. DE Myles Garrett returns for his junior year & is looking to become the #1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Teams can’t completely worry about him though because Daeshon Hall is a load at 6’6/260lbs & can get after the QB from the other side. Daylon Mack & Kingley Keke are big time space eaters up the middle who can command double teams giving the Aggies a stout front-4. The secondary should also be a strength behind safeties Justin Evans & Armani Watts along with CB Donovan Wilson. UCLA transfer CB Priest Willis should step in immediately and help at 6’2/200lbs! The linebackers are probably the weakest of the 3 levels of the A&M defense but they are young & talented. Josh Walker is projected as the MIKE LB and he’ll be responsible for bringing that unit up to speed. John Chavis is in his 2nd year as A&M’s DC coordinator & his reputation speaks for itself. A&M ranked 77th in the nation in 2014 in scoring defense allowing 28.1PPG the year before Chavis took over. Last year in his first season, A&M improved to #28 allowing 22PPG. Given the talent assembled here, one thing is for certain is that Texas A&M should be able to bring quite a bit of pressure & they have quite a few guys such as Walker & Watts who can fill up the running lanes. If the LBs can do a good job aggressively stopping the run, this defense will be TOUGH.

Schedule: There is never really an “easy” road in the SEC West, but the Aggies have a schedule they can work with. Their non-conference slate is fairly easy outside of a season opener against UCLA, but that game is in College Station  which is a big break for A&M. The Aggies really benefit by getting Ole Miss & LSU at home. Those two games could really determine whether or not the Aggies finish 2nd or 4th in the division. Sure they play Alabama on the road, but A&M’s other road conference games are against Auburn, South Carolina & Mississippi State. Those are all winnable games. They do draw Tennessee out of the East which isn’t great, but at least it’s a home game. You could make an argument that it would have been easier for the Aggies to play UT in Knoxville & get the Auburn game in College Station if you want to talk about maximizing opportunities for wins. The upshot here is a 10-2/11-1 season if Texas A&M can capitalize on it. If they can’t then Sumlin might be looking for a new job.

SEC WEST #4 – MISSISSIPPI REBELS

Offense: A good & simple way to gauge what teams are best is to see how good the QB is. Who is going to win the AFC East? The Patriots are the safe bet because of Tom Brady. Who is going to win the AFC South? The Colts were a safe bet because of Peyton Manning. Who is going to be really good in the SEC? Ole Miss is a safe bet because Chad Kelly is the best QB in the conference. Kelly had a banner year last season throwing for 4,000+ yards with 31TD & completing 65% of his passes. This year Kelly come emerge as an All-American & Heisman Trophy candidate while playing his way into the 1st Round of the NFL Draft. It would seem like Ole Miss lost quite a bit of skill players with Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core & Jaylen Walton all departing, but TE Evan Engram returns along with WRs Quincy Adeboyejo, Damore’ea Stringellow & Markell Pack. It might not be quite as good as the quartet Texas A&M throws at you, but Ole Miss’s receiving corps looks pretty dominant to me. Kelly should have no issues replicating his 2015 numbers. The big question for Ole Miss is their O-Line. Akeem Judd will be fine replacing Walton, but the O-Line is going to have to block well & pass protect to give Kelly time to operate. Given the pass rushing capabilities of Auburn, Alabama, A&M & LSU, it is imperative the O-Line gels quickly! True frosh Greg Little will replace Laremy Tunsil while Sean Rawlings, Javon Patterson & Robert Conyers provide some continuity. The O-Line is the key to Ole Miss offensive success.

Defense: The Rebels are taking on a few heavy losses with the departures of Robert Nkemdiche, Trae Elston, Mike Hilton, CJ Johnson & Denzel Nkemdiche, but Ole Miss has the chance to have a VERY good defense on the field in 2016. DE Marquis Haynes broke out last season as a reshirt sophomore with 16.5TFL and 10 sacks. I’d expect big numbers again from Haynes although he’ll be a tricky draft prospect next year because his size at 6’3/220lbs is extremely light as a 43DE and he’ll make the transition to 34OLB. At 6’4/280lbs, Fadol Brown makes up for size at the other DE spot. DJ Jones & Breeland Speaks are the DTs at 6’2/310 & 6’4/315lbs. Losing Robert Nkemdiche is a blow but I really like the makeup of this D-line. All 4 guys can get to the QB & Haynes is a potential All-American. The LB corps took some losses but leading tackler DeMarquis Gates and Oregon St. transfer Mageo Rommel will be good enough not to notice losses. Terry Caldwell will also play an important role. Ole Miss runs a lot of 4-2-5 fronts so the LB should have quite a bit of rotation ability. Losing Trae Elston & Mike Hilton from the secondary is tough, but Tony Bridges & Tony Conner are all conference type players with big time size. KenDarius Webster also has a lot of upside as a starting corner. The secondary shouldn’t be a problem. Ole Miss has the makings  of a great defense, but it a tick behind Alabama, LSU & even Texas A&M. With that said, I don’t think the Rebels will have any issues improving upon their 2015 numbers.

Schedule: The schedule burns Ole Miss. While they do get Alabama at home, you have to feel at some point the Tide are going to get sick & tired of losing to Ole Miss every year & figure out a way to beat them. Can Mississippi really beat Alabama for 3 straight years during the Nick Saban era? It sounds ridiculous. The other problem facing Ole Miss is that they draw both LSU & Texas A&M on the road. The schedule might not be as daunting with a veteran QB like Chad Kelly at the helm, but those 3 games looks brutal and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least for Ole Miss to be a top-10 team & yet lose all 3 games. They drew Georgia from the East but that game is in Oxford & the Rebels open the season in Orlando against Florida State. For Ole Miss to have had a national championship run in them, they might have substituted home games against Auburn & Mississippi St. with the road games against LSU and Texas A&M.

Bottom Line: Head coach Hugh Freeze has improved his record at Ole Miss by one game in each of his first 4 years in Oxford. To continue to do so would mean a season in which the Rebels finished 11-2, but I’m not sure that is going to be possible with the schedule at hand. The fact I have Ole Miss as the 4th best team in their own division just adds to the insanity that is also known as the SEC West. When you look at Ole Miss’s roster, you see a team that should be competing for a conference championship & with that a potential national title. In the SEC West it’s good enough for 4th. The one caveat I’ll put on Ole Miss is that they do have the best QB in the conference. The QB counts for a ton of potential victories, then Ole Miss could win the SEC. We’ll find out early as the Rebels host Alabama on September 17th. If they win that game, they CANNOT blow it like they’ve done the last 2 seasons with bad subsequent losses that cost them SEC West titles.

SEC WEST #5 – AUBURN TIGERS

Offense: Running an offense the way Gus Malzahn does is so dependent upon good QB play that it tends to come apart at th seams when the QB isn’t fantastic. The Auburn offense was terrible last season because neither Sean White nor Jeremy Johnson could run the read option/hurry up offense style that Malzhan wants to run. This worked with Cam Newton in 2011 when Malzhan was OC. It also worked in 2013 with Nick Marshall where the Tigers got to the national championship and fell just short of beating Florida St. for the national championship. Jeremy Johnson is 6’5/245lbs but he doesn’t have that other worldly athleticism that Cam Newton has. Sean White’s biggest asset is his arm, but at 6’0/195lbs, you can’t exactly turn him loose. Auburn will turn to John Franklin III this season to play QB. He’s slight of build as well at 6’1/175lbs, but Malzahn hopes that both he & RB Jovon Robinson can find the chemistry that Nick Marshall/Tre Mason and Cam Newton/Mike Dyer had. I think it’s going to work. Robinson is ready to bust out & he’s too talented of a back to not run well. Kerryon Johnson should also play a big role running the football. The Tigers lost quite a bit at WR, but Tony Stevens, Marcus Davis & Jason Smith are all upperclassman with size & experience. TEs Jalen Harris & Landon Rice could both become big time producers as safety valves for Franklin. The interior O-Line should be lights out with Alex Kozan, Braden Smith & Austin Golson. The tackles will have to step up, but Auburn’s offense should be vastly improved.

Defense: It sounds like a broken record, but Auburn has a defensive line that should be one of the best in the entire nation. A big reason why Auburn would be MUCH MUCH better than people are expecting is the play of DE Carl Lawson. Lawson was plagued by injuries last year but he did record 11 QBH in just 7 games. A year to improve & a full slate of games could see that number inch towards 25 which is incredible. Montravious Adams is one of the best DTs in the conference while DT Donatvius Russell & DE Byron Cowart are both only sophomores. Russell showed tremendous ability last year as an interior pass rusher which puts even more pressure on the offense. True freshmen Derrick Brown & Marlon Davidson could also see playing time. At LB War Eagle lost both Kris Forst & Cassanova McKinzy. Both where high productive but Auburn does get Tre Williams back who will move to the middle & QB the defense. Illinois transfer TJ Neal will be a big bonus at LB as he was a 3rd Team All-Big 10 caliber LB last year. Darrell Williams & Jeff Holland will also contend for playing time. Both are very young & very talented. I think Auburn has the chance to have an oustanding secondary. True frosh Carlton Davis was incredible his first year at Auburn & can only get better. He has great size at 6’1/190. Joining him is Ohio St. transfer Jamel Dean who looks spectacular after a knee injury ended his career in Columbus. Jonathan Ford & Tray Matthews are returning starters & safety & Ford is all-conference. It’s potentially a great secondary.

Schedule: Auburn plays in the SEC West with potentially 4 teams having the ability to be in the top-10 so it’s not like the schedule is easy. Their home slate of games though is interesting. They draw Clemson, Texas A&M, LSU & Arkansas at home. They also draw Vanderbilt from the East and get a winnable road game against Mississippi State. The tough road games for Auburn come against Ole Miss, Alabama & Georgia, but if Georgia can’t get it’s QB situation figured out fast enough, Auburn could steal a game in Athens. If they can stay perfect at home, War Eagle could be looking at a 10-2 mark which would be in stark relief over the past 2 seasons in which the Tigers combined to go 15-11. There are a lot of “what if” propositions here which means Auburn can run the table on all of them. With that said, there are some winnable games & Auburn should easily get back to a bowl. The first 4 weeks should tell us a lot as Auburn hosts Clemson, Arkansas State, Texas A&M, and LSU. Going 3-1/4-0 in those games puts Auburn back in the title hunt.

Bottom Line: I think patience is the key here for Auburn. This is a building block year in what should be a fantastic 2017 campaign. The 2017 season could be a banner year as Alabama will lose so much on defense. Chad Kelly won’t be around in Oxford. Texas A&M will be looking at a new starting QB with Trevor Knight moving on and if LSU loses 2-3 gams, I could see Les Miles being dismissed. That opens up a lot of doors for Auburn which is already a massively talented team, but who might be a year away. Another thing to think about is that Auburn hosts Alabama in 2017. Auburn in the sort of program that expects championships in football, but they shouldn’t be disappointed this season. If Malzahn can get his QB situation going with Franklin then War Eagle should set up for a national championship run in 2017.

SEC WEST #6 – ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

Offense: Arkansas under Bret Bielema is going to play smash mouth football, but that is going to be an interesting propsition in Fayetteville in 2016. Arkansas is going to run the ball. It’s what they do, but their passing game might be better of the two components to the offense this season. You can’t overstate the effect of losing QB Brandon Allen & RB Alex Collins. Allen took a lot of heat during his tenure as a Razorback, but the guy was great last year completing 66% of his passes for 3,440 yards & 30TD on a team that is clearly run first. Alex Collins was also phenomenal rushing for 1,577 yards & 20TD. Little brother Austin Allen takes over for big brother Brandon & I think he’ll be a quick study. He’s been around the Arkansas program his entire life & while he still has to prove it on the field, I think he’ll transition well. Helping him is a great receiving corps headed by WRs Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan & Dominque Reed and also TE Jeremy Sprinkle. The loss of Hunter Henry is big at TE, but Sprinkle is going to be something special this year & at 6’6/255lbs, he’s got incredible size & skill. Taking over for Collins will be RBs Kody Walker & Rawleigh Williams. They’ll try to emulate the Alex Collins/Jonathan Williams duo Arkansas rode in 2014, but I’m not sure they’ll replicate that success. Another problem for is Arkansas lost 3 starting O-Linemen. Dan Skipper & Frank Ragnow are all-conference type players but the new starters will have to gel. There is a TON of upside to this offense, but A LOT of new guys.

Defense: When you think Arkansas football under Bret Bielema you think immediately think running the football, but this season you might think defense because the Razorbacks bring back 15 of their top-17 tacklers from a season ago! Like the 5 teams listed above them, Arkansas brings back an elite edge rusher in DE Deatrich Wise. A potential All-American, the 6’5/280lbs Wise is a beast of a human being who broke out last year as a junior with 8 sacks & 10.5TFL. He could easily play his way onto All-American lists & a 1st Rd. NFL Draft pick as an ideal fit in a 3-4 scheme at DE. Helping Wise attack the edges will be Jeremiah Ledbetter (6’3/275) & Tevin Beanum (6’4/271). Bijhon Jackson (6’2/324) & Taiwan Johnson (6’2/273) man the interior. This is a solid D-Line that is very big & very physical. Brooks Ellis & Dre Greenlaw were Arkansas’ top-2 tacklers last year & both return as LBs for 2016. The two combined for 197 tackles last year & with the D-Line as good as it is, I’d expect those two to hunt down ball carriers with abandon. Arkansas’ entire secondary returns. CBs Jared Collins & DJ Dean return alongside safeties Josh Liddell & Henre’ Tolliver. Nickle Kevin Richardson also returns. The experience in the secondary is crucial as Arkansas was a terrible pass defense team last season. They ranked 117th out of 128 BCS teams! DC Robb Smith has a solid track record & specializes in defensive backs. I’d expect quite an adjustment for Arkansas last year in the secondary which would give them a complete defense.

Schedule: I think the big reason why I have Arkansas here at #6 is that they get both Texas A&M and Auburn on the road. They get Alabama & LSU at home which is a tough get because the Razorbacks are going to have a very difficult time beating those two teams anyway and I don’t see them beating Ole Miss either to be honest with a first year QB going up against that Ole Miss offense led by veteran Chad Kelly although the Rebels do tend to give a game away here & there. That said, the Razorbacks really do look like they have 4 losses on the schedule at a minimum and that doesn’t include the road game against TCU. They didn’t get a great draw out of the East with Florida & a road game at Missouri which I think is going to be A LOT tougher than people realize. Arkansas could very well be a top-25 program, but getting to 9-10 wins seems almost like an impossibility especially with the loss of their starting QB.

Bottom Line: We know that Arkansas has the type of program that can not only compete for SEC Championships but also be in the national championship discussion. Bobby Petrino proved that in 2011 when Arkansas finished 11-2 with both losses coming on the road to LSU & Alabama. Those two teams would go on to play for a national championship. If LSU & Alabama were the top-2 teams, then Arkansas could make a great case to be the #3 team in the nation that year. Things have been trending downward for the Razorbacks, but HC Bret Bielema seems to have Arkansas trending in the right direction although he isn’t progressing as fast as Petrino did before Petrino went off the rails. The trick now is to get Arkansas back into that elite category. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem like the year to do it. Like Auburn, Arkansas has a relatively young team that could really come into its own in 2017. Patience will be key this year, but I think Arkansas will be primed for 2017. It’s never fun to have a “transition” year, but I think that is what is in store for the Hogs.

SEC WEST #7 – MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

Offense: Mississippi St. obviously has big time issues at QB having to replace arguably the best QB in Mississippi St. history in Dak Prescott. A 3-year starter, Prescott led the Bulldogs to a combined 19-7 record over the past two seasons which is the 3rd best record in the SEC during that span behind only Alabama (26-3) & Georgia (20-6). That’s amazing when you think about it as Hail State has been better than Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M & Ole Miss during that span. Replacing Prescott is rSO Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has IDEAL size at 6’5/230lbs with a strong arm so you can expect the Bulldogs not to utilize the QB as much in the running game as Prescott was used. Fitzgerald will likely have to grow into the role on a weekly basis, but he’ll have some help along the way. Senior WR Fred Ross has great size at 6’2/210lbs & is a reliable receiver. Ross had over 1,000 receiving yards last season. The passing attack would have been better had Fred Brown not gotten kicked off the team & DeRunnya Wilson not declared early for the NFL draft, but Donald Gray & Malik Dear hope to pick it up. Gray showed some excellent explosion while Dear should get better. Brandon Holloway returns as the tailback. He’s pretty slight so expect Ashton Shumpet & Dontavian Lee to get some significant time. Another solid for MS State going forward is their O-Line. Justin Senior will move to LT & is a solid starter. JUCO transfer Martinas Rankin will play RT giving Fitzgerald solid protection leaving Fitzgerald needing to come into his own.

Defense: DC Manny Diaz left Starkville for Coral Gables so new DC Peter Sirmon is going to attempt to move the Bulldogs into more of a 3-4 style defense, but I wouldn’t expect too much of that early on. Mississippi St.’s defense is pretty good already & they are a lot more experienced this year than last. While it doesn’t appear that Hail State has the big time front-7s of the other SEC West teams, they do have quite a bit of talent. At edge rusher is AJ Jefferson & Will Coleman. These are big guys at 6’3/277lbs & 6’5/250lbs respectively. They both need to do A LOT more to improve their pass rushing abilities, but the size is there. On the inside DTs Nick James (6’5/330) & Torrey Dale (6’6/275) are massive. The presence of James gives MS State the ability to go 3-4 if you have James at NT along with Dale & Jefferson at DEs. This actually plays more into MS State’s strength as a defense. In this situation Coleman & JT Gray are the edge rushers although Gray is more of a S/LB hybrid which turns MS State into a 3-3-5 squad playing nickle. Richie Brown & Gerri Green are two very good & very productive interior LBs so givein them opportunity to hunt is paramount. There is a lot of ways the Bulldogs can play it and I think giving multiple looks is the way to go. The front-7 has a lot of potential. The secondary should be good as well with safeties Brandon Bryant & Kivon Coleman being a fantastic pair. CBs Tolando Cleveland & Cedric Jiles are experienced seniors. This defense has a tremendous amount of potential.

Schedule: Mississippi St.’s schedule actually sets up well. They get Texas A&M, Arkansas & Auburn at home while having to travel to Alabama & LSU. The games against the Crimson Tide & Bayou Bengals were probably losses anyway so getting them on the road is actually a good thing. If you believe the SEC West is a toss up from #3 to #7 then the schedule doesn’t work much better than what Mississippi St. has. They draw Kentucky & South Carolina out of the East and while the UK game is in Lexington, it’s not like Mississippi St. can’t match up well with the Wildcats. The non-conference slate has 3 cupcakes mixed in with a road game at BYU. That should be interesting. The Bulldogs season will come down to their home schedule. If they win their 6 home games & steal road games against UMass & Kentucky, then MSU will be 8-3 when they travel to Oxford for the Egg Bowl where they haven’t won since 2010. Even with a loss, MSU could finish 8-4 this year after losing Prescott which is amazing considering Prescott himself went 8-4 his senior season.

Bottom Line: I really like the MSU program and I really like Dan Mullen as a head coach. It’s almost impossible not to root for Mississippi State, but I think the loss of Dak Prescott is almost too much to overcome. The one saving grace for MSU is their schedule which sets up about as well as it possibly can for a team who plays in the SEC West. I think if Prescott returned for another year, then the Bulldogs could be in contention because I think he’d find a way to win with so many questions surrounding other teams. Instead, MS State will have to settle for being a 7-5 team most likely that would be a 10-win squad in any other conference. Keep an eye on the D-Line & O-Line. The O-Line could be a lot better than people think & MS State brought in a recruiting class that was heavy on the D-Line. If Mississippi State can dominate the trenches then they could make a significant run. I’m going to bet on them struggling because of the QB transition.

SEC EAST #1 – TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

Offense: The Volunteers bring back arguably the most complete offense in the SEC. Given the transient nature of college football, Tennessee brings back a plethora of talent & experience from a team that averaged 35+PPG! Leading the way is QB Josh Dobbs who could emerge as a Heisman candidate if he can increase his completion percentage & find the endzone a few more times through the air. The 6’3/210lbs senior spent his first two seasons splitting times with Justin Worley, but Dobbs  made the offense his own last year & excelled leading the Vols to a 9-4 record including a 45-6 blowout win over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Helping Dobbs is an ELITE RB combination consisting of Jalen Hurd & Alvin Kamara. Hurd is a monster at 6’4/240lbs & Kamara provides plenty of pop as well at 5’10/220lbs. Dobbs can make plays with his feet as well and the trio combined to rush for 2,657 yards with Hurd leading the way with 1,288. None of them have that nasty home run hitting ability but all 3 can grind you down & shorten games up. Jauan Jennings, Preston Williams, Josh Smith & Josh Malone give UT a talented quartet at WR that has lots of size. Teams will not be able to load the box or these guys will have a field day. The O-line returns 4 starters as well with their only loss being Kyler Kerbyson & has a chance to be truly great as their is only one senior projected to start on the line. Expect a big year out of TE Ethan Wolf. He’s a big time “X” factor. If you are looking for a weakness here, you won’t find it.

Defense: A scary thought about Tennessee is that for as good as the offense is, the defense might be even better. The Vols have ELITE players at every level of the defense starting up front with DE Derek Barnett. Barnett racked up 10 sacks & 12.5TFL last season as a sophomore. He’s got a good chance to become a 1st Team All-American & go in the top-15 or so picks in next year’s NFL Draft. On the other side is Corey Vereen who wasn’t bad last year with 9.5TFL & 3.5 sacks at 6’2/250lbs. UT has some experience in the trenches, but I think Shy Tuttle (6’2/315lbs) & Kahlil McKenzie (6’3/345lbs) will get tons of time this year. Both were BIG TIME recruits. Danny O’Brien & Kendall Vickers will add to this depth & give UT a strong rotation on the inside. LB Cameron Reeves-Maybin is OUTSTANDING and like Barnett has a shot to be a 1st team All-American. The 6’1/230lbs senior is a do-it-all WIL is certain to bring former UCLA LB Myles Jack to mind as there is literally nothing he can’t do on a football field. MIKE Darrin Kirkland is going to be even better as a sophomore. The secondary is led by CB Cameron Sutton who also has All-American potential. At 6’0/190lbs, Sutton has lockdown corner potential. Justin Martin is on the opposite of Sutton & bring solid size at 6’1/190lbs. Malik Foreman & Emmanuel Moseley should factor in as well. Todd Kelly & Rashaan Gaulden are the safeties. Tennessee only allowed 20PPG last year & they’ll be better this season. UT has the makings of a potential top-10 defensive unit.

Schedule: Tennessee didn’t do themselves any favors with the scheduling. Three of their non-conference opponents are Virginia Tech, Appalachian St. & Ohio. I don’t think Tennessee loses any of those games, but you never know. Virginia Tech is no slouch even if they aren’t quite where they used to be. Ohio is a MAC school so they shouldn’t represent trouble but the Bobcats could contend this year & they have an experienced team. Appalachian St. isn’t afraid of big games. Go ask Michigan. App St. should win the Sun Belt & QB Taylor Lamb is going to keep them in games. The point is those games aren’t complete walks and after those 3 openers, the Vols get Florida, @Georgia, @Texas A&M and then back home to face Alabama. Drawing the Aggies & Tide out of the West wasn’t the best of draws & having to go to Athens won’t be easy either. I think Tennessee wins their first 3 games but the next 4 will be tricky before winning their last 5. What we can definitely say is that if UT wins the SEC, they’ll certainly have earned it.

Bottom Line: Tennessee is one of the most storied programs in college football history that has been trapped in mediocrity for quite some time. From 2002-2015 the Vols have accumulated a record of 101-76! That is on average a record of 7-5 over a 14-year period! That’s not Tennessee football in the SEC. That’s more like Mississippi St. or Missouri. Fourteen years is a long time to be walking around in the desert! Fortunately this Tennessee team is good enough to get UT back to where they were in 1998 or 2001. Butch Jones has UT ready to bust out. This team should compete for a national championship and the Volunteers simply need to take that next step. Keep in mind that UT was 9-4 last year with all 4 losses being close. Their toughest game will come against Alabama, but the game is in Knoxville so an undefeated season is a possibility. UT is back & Big Orange Nation isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. This could be potentially be an EPIC year in Knoxville.

SEC EAST #2 – GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Offense: In 2014 when Nick Chubb was completely healthy, he ran for 1,547 yards & 14TD. As a result, Georgia averaged 41.3PPG on offense and ranked 8th in the nation in scoring offense. Last year Chubb missed half the year due to injury & Georgia averaged 26.3PPG and ranked 85th in scoring offense. Clearly getting Nick Chubb healthy is of greatest concern for the Georgia faithful. His recovery from a knee injury last year has went swimmingly well so far this year & the thought is that he might miss the season opener but not much else. I’m leaving out a big piece of the puzzle. In 2014, Georgia started the year with Todd Gurley as their RB, but the Bulldogs have Sony Michel who has been great this first two years & even rushed for over 1,000 yards last year in Chubb’s absence. So why the big decrease in offense? Well, Greyson Lambert wasn’t even close to being as good as Hutson Mason and the trio f Chubb/Gurley/Michel was a lot better than the trio of Chubb/Michel/Marshall both in yards per carry & getting in the endzone. This of course evolves into the question of who will be the QB for Georgia? Greyson Lambert, Brice Ramsey or incoming freshman Jacob Eason? It’s an important question because Georgia is loaded everywhere else. Greg Pyke, Brandon Kublanow & Isaiah Wynn lead a solid OL. Terry Godwin & Jeb Blazevich should be receiving weapons. The running game speaks for itself. LSU & Georgia are somewhat in the same boat as they look like powerhouse offenses as long as they get solid QB play. That’s the question.

Defense: You can’t begin a discussion of Georgia’s defense without talk of their secondary. Georgia led the nation in pass defense last season & return every starter from their secondary which is a scary thought given how new HC Kirby Smart wants to employ those DBs. An even scarier thought is how much time Smart spent with Nick Saban who specializes in defensive backs. Safeties Dominick Sanders & Quincy Mauger are the stars here. Sanders has All-American potential while Mauger has 1st Team All-SEC potential. Both are legitimate ball hawkers who can turn the ball over on a whim. CBs Aaron Davis & Malkom Parrish came into their own last year as true sophomore. Davis at 6’1/190lbs has fantastic size while Parrish at 5’10/195lbs can play press man & doesn’t shy away from big hits. Smart is going to play a lot more press with these athlete CBs which opens up Georgia defense to a lot of options for pressuring the QB. That is ideal because Georgia does have to replace Jordan Jenkins s& Leonard Floyd as their edge rushers. Lorenzo Carter (6’6/240lbs) & Davin Bellamy (6’5/240lbs) give UGA some big freakish edge rushers. Carter could emerge as an All-American. Trent Thompson, John Atkins & Jeremiah Ledbetter anchor a D-Line that is very young but exceptionally talented. LB Tim Kimbrough is a solid high production player & he’ll be joined by Natrez Patrick, a freak of nature at LB who is 6’3/255lbs! The defense is fairly young, but the secondary is outstanding. Expect UGA to have a dominating defense.

Schedule: Georgia’s schedule alone makes them ripe for thinking they’ll be a truly ELITE team in the SEC. They avoid Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M from the West. They also get Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia Tech in Athens. They do have to go on the road to play Ole Miss and that could be a risky proposition as well as the Biggest Cocktail Party in Jacksonville to take on a Florida team that beat the Bulldogs 27-3 last season. Those two hurdles might be in for Georgia. They do play South Carolina, Kentucky & Missouri on the road, but SC & Mizzou have new head coaches this year while UK will have a new starting QB. On top of that, those 3 teams can’t match the Dawgs in talent. Georgia does have a tricky season opener when it takes on North Carolina in Atlanta, but that is practically a home game for UGA and UNC will be breaking in a new QB. The season might come down to October 1st when Georgia hosts Tennessee. A win there & Smart just might get a shot at this former boss in the SEC Championship game.We’ll know early though. Georgia has a tough stretch from September 17th through October 8th when they go @Missouri, @Ole Miss, Tennessee and finish @South Carolina.

Bottom Line: Mark Richt couldn’t quite get Georgia over the hump and into the national championship picture. Kirby Smart was brought in to finish the job. To be honest, I can see the frustration from UGA fans. When I started looking at the SEC, my initial thought with Georgia is that they’ll need some adjustment time because of a coaching change along with the emergence of Tennessee. I also didn’t want to discount what a phenomenal job Jim McElwain has done in Gainesville as Florida won the SEC East last season. I figured Georgia would settle in behind the Vols & Gators. THINK AGAIN! This team is absolutely loaded and when you look at their schedule, the only game I think they probably won’t be favored in is when they travel to Oxford. If they play to the odds they go 11-1 & win the SEC East. If they protect home field advantage they are AT WORST 10-2 and SEC East champions. Georgia feels a lot like LSU & Alabama in that they need to figure out their QB situation, but beyond that, the team is devastating. The season comes down to October 1st when they play Tennessee. It’s too much to ask Kirby Smart to finish the job Mark Richt started in just one season, but don’t be shocked when it happens.

SEC EAST #3 – FLORIDA GATORS

Offense: Like every team in the SEC save Tennessee & Ole Miss, Florida has question marks on offense, but Florida has extensive question marks instead of one or two. The Gators offense was humming last year when Will Grier was under center for the first 6 games. Florida averaged 32+PPG & was 6-0. Then Grier got suspended for a year due to PED use & Treon Harris took over. From that point Florida averaged 16.5PPG & finished 4-4. Heading into this year, Grier transferred to West Virginia & Harris is now a WR. Making matters worse, Florida lost their star RB Kelvin Taylor to the NFL who accounted for almost 1300 total yards & 13TD. If that wasn’t enough, Florida’s star freshman WR Antonio Callaway was dismissed from the team & still hasn’t come back. Callaway led the team in receiving last season & had a very good chance at being a 1st Team All-SEC WR this year. That’s still a possibility but Callaway needs to at least rejoin the team! Florida will look to Oregon St. transfer Luke Del Rio to QB this team. Del Rio was originally an Alabama recruit & hasn’t thrown a pass in college football although Jim McElwain has been extremely impressed by him thus far. Jordan Scarlett & Jordan Cronkrite were true frosh RBs last year who got some run time. They should be better. I think TE DeAndre Goolsby could be a star & the Florida O-Line returns tackles Martez Ivey & David Sharpe along with C Cameron Dillard. Tons of questions, but if Del Rio is for real & Callaway can make it back, the offense could gel rather quickly.

Defense: Florida’s defense was its strong suit last year as the Gators finished 11th in scoring defense & 8th in total defense. If not for the defense, Florida doesn’t finish 10-4 & win the SEC East, but the losses are HEAVY. Gone are DT Jonathan Bullard, DE Alex McCalister, LB Antonio Morrison, CB Vernon Hargreaves & S Keanu Neal. CB Brian Poole is also gone meaning the Gators lost 5 of their top-9 tacklers, 3 of their 5 top tacklers for loss, and their two top sack guys. That’s significant loss, but this is Florida so the talent is in abundance. CB Jalen Tabor was thought to be a better CB than Hargreaves last season so he enters the season as the best CB in the nation. You can’t complain about a 1st Team All-American taking away half the field! S Marcus Maye also returns & has All-American potential. Both of those guys will fill up a stat sheet. LB Alex Anzalone is healthy & if he can stay that way (a big if) then I don’t think Florida feels the effects of losing Morrison. WIL LB Jarrad Davis could be in for a MONSTER year and could play himself into the 1st round of the NFL Draft. Bullard is a big loss but CeCe Jefferson is a talented guy who will kick inside. He along with Taven Bryan & Caleb Brantley should give the Gators a formidable interior D-Line. Bryan Cox & Jordan Sherit should start at the DEs. Both bring size, speed & talent to the position. As you can see, this is the very definition of reloading. Florida’s defense should once again be one of the very best in the country & it’ll keep the Gators in games with a chance to win.

Schedule: This isn’t a forgiving schedule. Florida gets a road game against Tennessee and a neutral site game with rival Georgia. They draw LSU & Arkansas from the West which isn’t exactly hitting the lottery & the venues didn’t work either as Florida has to travel to Arkansas while hosting LSU. Both could be losses in those environments. Florida does well to avoid big time confrontations in their non-conference slate. I’m not a big fan as Florida has built in games within their own state they could play every year that would guarantee big time games. The Gators get it right with playing Florida State every season. They get it wrong by not playing Miami-FL. Ideally the Gators would play the Seminoles & Hurricanes every year & then at the very worst play Central Florida & South Florida as their other two non-conference games unless Florida takes on bigger opponents such as Notre Dame, Oklahoma, USC, Michigan, Ohio State, or Clemson. They draw Florida State in Tallahassee which is another bad break. If things go wrong, Florida could be looking at 7-5, but to be fair, the only game I see them definitely losing is the road game against Tennessee and even then they’ll most likely be competitive.

Bottom Line: It’s easy to sort of disregard the Gators after the way they ended the season in 2015. They lost their regular season finale to Florida St. 27-2. They then lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship game 29-15 in a game they were clearly overmatched in. Florida saved the worst for last as they were blown out 41-7 by Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Florida finished 10-4 but were they mostly a paper tiger? There are three reasons why I wouldn’t sleep on Florida. The first is Jim McElwain. The guy gets it and he’s going to be a tremendous HC. He’ll win a national championship at Florida during his tenure. He’s that good. Urban Meyer went 9-3 in his first season at Florida. McElwain went 10-4 & won the SEC East. The second reason is Luke Del Rio. Del Rio most likely gives the Gators their best QB since Tim Tebow’s last season in 2009. Florida has had to suffer through Jeff Driskel, John Brantley, Jacoby Brissett, Tyler Murphy, Treon Harris & Will Grier. Grier showed some promise but ended up being a disaster. I think Del Rio finally gives Florida a QB it can depend on. The third & final reason is the defense. It could be outstanding at every level and has championship quality to it. Florida may have problems on offense, but defensively they are going to hold opponents in check. It’ll give them opportunities to win games & it will also force other teams into turnovers. The Gators are probably playing catchup to Tennessee & Georgia by a hair at this point because of all the question marks surrounding the offense and the schedule isn’t that friendly within conference play, but last year wasn’t a fluke as far as McElwain was concerned. If the offense doesn’t gel this could still be an 8-9 win team. If the offense comes together, the fireworks between Tennessee, Georgia & Florida will be off the charts.

SEC EAST #4 – MISSOURI TIGERS

Offense: Offense was a MAJOR problem for Mizzou last year as the Tigers averaged a paltry 13.6PPG which ranked 127th of 128 teams! Only Kent State had a worse offense than Missouri! The problems started when QB Maty Mauk was suspended forcing true frosh Drew Lock into a starting role. I like Lock and think Mizzou has found a QB who can start for the next three seasons, but he didn’t have much help. RB Ish Witter wasn’t ready for the starting gig when Russ Hansbrough didn’t play well. The Mizzou receivers were also fairly young after seeing guys like Dorial Green-Beckham, Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt, Darius White & L’Damian Washington leave over the course of 2013 & 2014. Missouri did have 4 senior starters on the O-Line, but nothing for them to block. This year the job is Lock’s without question & he’s definitely a big time talent with prototypical size at 6’4/220lbs. Oklahoma transfer Alex Ross takes over with Witter moving to backup which helps Mizzou out tremendously as Ross is 6’1/230lbs & gives the Tigers a more bruising downhill runner. The receivers should be better too as J’Mon Moore & Nate Brown get a year better. Alabama transfer Chris Black should also help a receiving corps that is very big. TE Sean Culkin (6’6/245lbs) can also play. The O-Line this year is very inexperienced as Nate Crawford is the only returning starter. There is nowhere for the offense to go but up after such a dismal 2015, but I’d temper expectations. If the Tigers average 24-25PPG it’ll be considered massive progress.

Defense: You can’t begin talking about Missouri’s defense without starting with their D-Line! Missouri has a great argument for having the best D-Line in college football especially if you only look at teams playing a 4-3 base defense. DEs Charles Harris & Walter Brady were outstanding last season combining for 31TFL, 14 sacks & 17 QB hurries! Both are 6’3/255lbs & Harris has a shot at being a 1st Round NFL pick. Brady was just a true frosh last season so he could still get quite a bit better which is a scary proposition. DTs Terry Beckner & Josh Augusta are big time talents & BIG TIME specimens. Augusta is 6’4/345lbs & fits the bill as a true 3-4NT giving Missouri some flexibility in their fronts. Beckner was a true frosh last year & played exceedingly well. Harold Brantley & AJ Logan provide fantastic depth. The LB unit will miss Kentrell Brothers for certain but MIKE Mike Scherer and SAM Donavin Newsom return and both are high production players who have All-SEC ability. WIL Joey Burkett will have to replace Brothers & his insane production, but spread to Scherer & Newsom could make Burkett have an easier transition to starter. CB Aarion Penton & S Anthony Sherrills are the returning starters in the secondary. Both are high impact/high production players who have all-conference ability. Missouri’s defense ranked 5th in the nation last year with 16.2PPG. It was the reason Misssouri could win 5 games with their offense. They have a chance at being even better & be potentially Mizzou’s greatest defense ever.

Schedule: Missouri’s schedule isn’t bad & most importantly they get both Kentucky & Vanderbilt at home. Those should be wins for the Tigers. The bad news is that they do draw South Carolina in Columbia, but the Gamecocks are going through their own massive transition this season and with the defense Missouri can bring to the table, I think the Tigers can escape the Palmetto State with a win & ensure they are the 4th best team out of the SEC East. Missouri drew LSU & Arkansas out of the West which isn’t fantastic but it could have been worse. The season finale is a home game against the Hogs so a 5-6 Missouri team might have extra incentive to beat Arkansas. They get both Florida & Tennessee on the road which were losses anyway & I have a hard time believing they’ll be Georgia either. Eastern Michigan & Delaware St. should be cupcakes. Mizzou opens in Morgantown to take on West Virginia. Tough game and a likely loss, but the schedule still sets up for 6-7 wins.

Bottom Line: Barry Odom takes over the HC duties from Gary Pinkel after Pinkel spent 15 years as HC for Missouri. Pinkel leaves some big shoes to fill, but Odom might be a perfect candidate given his ties to the university. Odom played at Mizzou and spent 10 of the past 13 years on Pinkel’s staff in varying capacities. Last year Odom returned to Mizzou as DC after a 3-year stint as DC at Memphis. Luckily for him, Pinkel did not leave the cabinets bare & Missouri should be a lot better than the 5-7 record the Tigers endured last season. On the other hand, Odom faces an unenviable task of competing in the SEC East just when the big players in the East seem to be getting their acts together. Butch Jones has Tennessee primed to regain their national prominence as a perennial national championship contender. Jim McElwain in my opinion is the 2nd best HC in the conference behind Nick Saban & is in a ridiculously good position at Florida. Kirby Smart was brought in to bring a championship to Georgia. These are going to be difficult times in the SEC given how powerful those teams are so it’ll be interesting to see how Odom navigates the proposition. I think getting to a bowl game this year with 7-8 wins is a good goal to have in Columbia this season.

SEC EAST #5 – KENTUCKY WILDCATS

Offense: Kentucky is in position to have the best offense they’ve had in a long time. The offense returns 9 starters from a unit that average 24.7PPG. That isn’t fantastic but if the Wildcats can improve by 7-8 points then they are averaging 32-33PPG which would certainly be significant. RB Boom Williams is the star of the offense & he’s likely the best RB you haven’t heard of. He’s not huge at 5’9/195lbs, but he ran for 855yds/6TD while averaging 7.1ypc! If anything, UK didn’t feed him the ball enough! UK’s top-5 receivers also return in WR Dorian Baker, WR Garrett Johnson, WR Jeff Badet, WR Blake Bone & TE CJ Conrad. All the receivers were inexperienced sophomores last year while Conrad was a true frosh. Baker (6’3), Bone (6’5) & Conrad (6’6) give QB Drew Barker some outstanding targets to hit while Johnson & Badet should be able to settle into the #2 & slot receiver spots effortlessly. Barker is a first time starter as a true soph. He got some mop up duty behind Patrick Towles last year but he’s a big upgrade over Towles and at 6’3/220lbs fits the bill as the face of a program. The O-Line is led by potential All-American center Jon Toth and has 3 other returning starters. Cole Mosier is the only non-starter & he’s an upperclassman giving UK 4 juniors & 1 senior on the line. It has taken Mark Stoops a couple of years to get to the offense ready, but Kentucky is ready to fly this season with a big & talented group of players. Barker needs to step into his role & play well. If he does, this is a balanced offense that will give opponents fits.

Defense: Unfortunately for Mark Stoops, a renaissance on offense doesn’t coincide with the defense. Kentuck loses their top-3 tacklers from a year ago & 7 of their top-8 including NFL Draft pick LB Josh Forrest. With only 5 returning starters the Wildcats look like they might have to take a step back but that could be a bit premature. Kentucky runs a 3-4 base which means their NT is of prime importance & the Wildcats just happen to have 6’7/360lbs Matt Elam clogging up the middle. Elam needs to play to his ability but if the light switch goes on for him, then Elam immediately becomes a tremendous NFL prospect & gives UK’s LBs a lot of room to be on the hunt. The Cats rely on this inside pressure because while they do run a 3-4 it’s somewhat of a 4-2-5 in that OLB Denzil Ware is their only reliable pass rusher. Jordan Jones & Courtney Love are new starters at LB, but they will mostly play on the inside & try to make up for the losses of Josh Forrest, Khalid Henderson & Ryan Flannigan. Ware has some big upside & will be fascinating to watch this season. What might be most interesting for Kentucky is their secondary. CB Chris Westry has been OUTSTANDING and at 6’4/195lbs, bring mind blowing size to the edge. Opposite Westry is Derrick Baity who is 6’3/180lbs himself giving UK a pair of corners with unprecedented size. Both were just freshman last year so the sky might be the limit for both. UK lost a lot last year but they have some very exciting players at every level of the defense. We’ll see how they pan out.

Schedule: The good news is that Kentucky got both South Carolina and Vanderbilt at home. That was paramount given the state of the SEC this season. It was a tough break getting Missouri on the road, but you can’t have everything. Kentucky has a brutal road schedule with away games against Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee & Louisville. Four of those 5 games were probably losses in Lexington so getting them on the road is no big deal, but it puts UK under the gun as those 5 games could easily be losses meaning there is little room for error. A home game against Georgia pretty much ensures UK has to win their other home games to simply get to 6-6. Even then that won’t be easy as UK gets home games against Mississippi St. and their opener against Southern Miss. Kentucky’s opener will be a harbinger. Get by Southern Miss and the season starts off right. Lose to Southern Miss and the pressure is extreme the rest of the way.

Bottom Line: Former UK head coach Rich Brooks had a simple formula that said Kentucky had to win the games they were supposed to win along with an upset or two in order to get bowl eligible. This isn’t rocket science as most teams like Kentucky follow the same example and hopefully after a few years of 6-7, 7-6 & 8-5 seasons, they can break through to a 9-4, 8-5, or 10-3 seasons. It’s how programs are built, but the problem is, and always has been, that there are a finite number of coaches that are legitimate program builders. When they show signs of this at 2nd-tier schools, they are snatched up pretty fast. Look at Brian Kelly at Cincinnati or Butch Jones at Cincinnati or Urban Meyer at Utah. Mark Stoops at Kentucky is trying to abide by this rule but his seat is getting hot & the SEC East is getting tougher & tougher to navigate. The problem for Kentucky is that where are the games they “should” win? There are no weaknesses in the SEC West. They can’t draw a downtrodden Mississippi State team every year & have them come to Lexington. So let’s assume 2 losses to the West. They aren’t beating Tennessee, Georgia or Florida. That’s 5 losses. Say what you will about Bobby Petrino’s personal life, but the guy is a MONSTER of a head coach & UK plays Louisville every year. That’s 6 losses. That means UK has to win their other 3 non-conference games & also beat Missouri, South Carolina & Vanderbilt every season. It’s a tall order. At the end of the day, I think this UK roster is pretty darn talented and if I were Kentucky I’d leave Stoops to his own devices. Kentucky might not get bowl eligible this season, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t improving. At the very least this season I think Kentucky will be one of the most interesting to follow regardless of outcome.

SEC EAST #6 – VANDERBILT COMMODORES

Offense: Vanderbilt is very similar to Kentucky when it comes to offense this season. Like Kentucky, Vandy has a very good RB you might not have heard of in Ralph Webb. At 5’10/200lbs, Webb isn’t much of a home run threat but he can grind defenses down. Last year he ran for 1,152 yards and averaged 4.2ypc while scoring 5TD. Webb is also a legit 3-down back as he’s a receiving threat out of the backfield which increases his value. The Commodores also return receivers who got quite a bit of action last year. Trent Sherfield & Caleb Scott where the two top receivers last year & CJ Duncan was only a fresh in 2015. Vandy doesn’t have the size that Kentucky has at receiver, but the talent is pretty good & TE Nathan Marcus should provide a big target at 6’5/242lbs. The O-Line returns 3 starters including C Barrett Gouger & both tackles in Andrew Jelks & Will Holden. Vandy should have a big physical O-line protecting QB Kyle Shurmur. Shurmur was a true frosh last season & opened up behind Johnny McCrary, but McCrary didn’t play that well paving the way for Shurmur to pick up some action. Shurmur wasn’t great completing just 42.7% of his passes with 5TD to 3INT, but he’s a prototypical QB at 6’3/223lbs with a big arm. He fits more into what HC Derek Mason wants to do with a more pro-style attack so Vandy can’t help but improve under center with Shurmur being the guy. Vandy’s offense was putrid last year but should see improvement as Mason finally has his guy under center.

Defense: The Commodores will be led on defense by S Oren Burks & LB Zach Cunningham. Cunningham at 6’4/230lbs is an All-SEC performer who could wind up being an All-American at ILB. He’s ultra productive raking up 4.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss & 103 tackles while also breaking up 3 passes. Burks is one of the new breed of hybrid S/LB at 6’3/215lbs. Burks led the team in interceptions last year with 3 and also kicked in 59 tackles. He’s one of the few Vandy players who ball hawks consistently. As with Kentucky, Vandy plays somewhat of a 3-4 defense but only has one real rusher (Josh Smith) so they devolve into a sort of hybrid 4-2-5 with Burks alternating between S & LB. Vandy would do just as well to be a 4-3 as they don’t have a true 3-4NT and Jonathan Wynn at 6’4/255 is more like Smith at 6’4/240 & both could act as 43DEs. The DTs are Adam Butler & Nifae Lealao. Both can be effective inside players & hopefully they get better this season. Joining Cunningham at ILB is Nigel Bowden who was hurt last year. Getting Bowden healthy is a big plus for the Commodores as he’s a high impact/high production player. In the secondary, corners Tre Herndon & Torren McGaster return as starters. Both are 6’0+ with McGaster leading the team with 13 passes broken up last year. Emmanuel Smith is a big physical FS at 6’2/222lbs who could develop into something special. Vandy’s defense improved by 12.3PPG in Mason’s 2nd year. It’s a stout group & there is a lot of potential for it to be even better in 2016.

Schedule: It’s tough. Vanderbilt has tough non-conference road games against Western Kentucky & Georgia Tech. WKU has a chance to win CUSA while Georgia Tech is a bear to defend with the triple option attack that Paul Johnson uses Vanderbilt has a stout defense so it’s possible they can beat the Yellow Jackets, but it won’t be easy as Vandy doesn’t see that type of offense every week. They draw both Kentucky & Missouri on the road which probably limits their ability to climb too high in the East. Auburn & Ole Miss are their West opponents but Auburn is on the road & Ole Miss is likely a loss no matter where they play. Derek Mason did quite an improvement job from year 1 to year 2. He won an extra game and two extra conference games. The defense improved by 12+PPG as well. For the Commodores to take the next step they’ll have to win a few tough road games.

Bottom Line: This is a good football team. I think what hinders Vanderbilt are the reasons that will hinder Missouri, Kentucky & South Carolina and that is the fact that the top of the SEC East is becoming dominant once again. It’s easy to compare Derek Mason with James Franklin because of what Franklin did before he bolted to Penn State, but let’s not forget that Florida & Tennessee were in the toilet by their own standards when Franklin was going 9-4 in 2012 & 2013. Does James Franklin lead Vanderbilt to 9-4 records right now with UT, UGA & Florida being this good? It seems doubtful which is why Vanderbilt is once again enslaved by the formula of winning the games they should win & hoping for an upset or three to get bowl eligible. Another layer of crazy for Vanderbilt is that it is an academic school so why can’t they achieve what Stanford has or what Northwestern has been able to achieve for the most part? The easy answer is that Northwestern & Stanford don’t play in the SEC. It’s a different kind of animal. Vanderbilt should have an exciting year and they’ll be fun to watch, but 6-8 wins should be what people are hoping for which would be a dramatic improvement for Derek Mason & his staff. I don’t think there is heat on Mason and like Mark Stoops at Kentucky, he’s making big strides.

SEC EAST #7 – SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

Offense: What always seemed interesting to me about the Steve Spurrier years in South Carolina is the battles he had with his QBs. When South Carolina put up a huge run from 2010-2013 (SC went 42-11 in that span) they lucked up on Connor Shaw being a lot better than people probably imagined. Last season the Gamecocks struggled mightily with Perry Orth & Lorenzo Nunez. Neither played well. That fed into the running game as well as Brandon Wilds & David Williams weren’t very good. Pharoah Cooper was an outstanding WR who put up a 66/973/8/14.7 line, but the next highest receiver had 28 catches and he was a TE. South Carolina had a poor offense, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. True frosh Brandon Mcilwain is the likely starter & was a heavily touted recruit. Sure he’ll have a learning curve in the SEC, but that experience should pay off. David Williams comes back at RB & Williams has some talent and is also big at 6’1/220lbs. True frosh WR Bryan Edwards is a big target at 6’3/200lbs and sophomore Deebo Samuel was a starter last year. The O-line has some talent as well. C Alan Knott & LT Mason Zandi are returning starters. G Cory Helms was a starter at Wake Forest before transferring over. T DJ Park & G Zack Bailey have some talent. Last season was South Carolina’s worst offensive output since 2009 when they averaged 20.6PPG. The good news is that SC increased their PPG by 10.3PPG in 2010! If that happens in 2016 then the Gamecocks will average 32.2PPG! They’ll take it!

Defense: The defense took a significant blow this May when potential All-American LB Skai Moore went down with a neck injury. Moore was going to be a senior & had nasty intentions coming back to Columbia for his senior season. He wanted to finish what he started with SC which was music to fans’ ears, but the injury now puts a tremendous dent into SC’s defensive hopes. TJ Holloman returns as the MIKE but Larenz Bryant is going to have to replace Moore at WIL and that is almost an impossible task. SC needs to get better at rushing the passer as well. DEs Marquavius Lewis & Darius English led the Gamecocks in sacks a year ago & both return. Daniel Fennell is a rFR that SC hopes can contribute to getting to the passer as well. Kelsey Griffin & Taylor Stallworth return as the DTs. Both are 6’2/302lbs so the size is OK but their production isn’t all that great. There is a lot of synergy that goes between the ILBs, DEs and DTs and a lot of that is sometimes dependent on the DTs. South Carolina isn’t dominant in the trenches. The secondary is most likely SC’s strongest level. They have 3 returning senior starters in CB Rico McWilliams, S Jordan Diggs and S Chaz Elder. SC also did a great job nabbing JUCO CB Jamarcus King who at 6’1/170lbs has great size on the outside. Like the offense the defense has a lot to work on but Wil Muschamp is a defensive minded coach & I think SC can turn it around. Losing Moore had to make Muschamp sick to his stomach, but overall it can improve from 2015.

Schedule:  South Carolina could be better than the 3-9 team they were last year but the schedule doesn’t do them any favors. If McIwain is the starter, he’ll have some bumps to start the season, but SC’s first 3 games include 3 road SEC games against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State & Kentucky. For SC to have a successful season, those 3 games are almost must wins, but because all 3 are on the road, the Gamecocks are going to be underdogs and SC is 3-11 over the last 5 years as road dogs. They do have a home game mixed in there against East Carolina which could give them a victory. Those their first 3 games they come home to play Texas A&M and Georgia before going on bye. After the bye they get UMass and then Tennessee in Columbia but the Vols are coming off a bye that week. To end the season SC has road games against Florida & Clemson in 2 of the last 3 weeks. Ouch! That’s a brutal schedule to navigate but SC definitely had 3 non-conference wins & I think the games against Vandy, Kentucky & Mississippi State could be winners as well. They get Missouri at home so there is another that could break their way.

Bottom Line: Last year was a rough on for the Gamecocks as essentially it was a rebuilding year in Columbia. What made matters worse was Carolina starting the year 2-4 and then having their HC skip town. I would have liked to have seen Spurrier stick around until the end of the season if only for the players, but it sort of destroyed the rest of the season. SC would finish 1-5 in their last 6 for an abysmal year. It was South Carolina’s worst season since 1999 when Lou Holtz took over for Brad Scott & SC went 0-11. The good news is that SC went 8-4 in Holtz’s 2nd year! Can we expect that sort of turnaround in Columbia under Muschamp? It’s hard to say but I do think Carolina could be a little better than we think. Last year, SC lost 5 games by a total of 20 points. If those 5 go the other way then SC is 8-4 and not 3-9. They also would have had wins over Clemson, Florida & Tennessee. Last year ended miserably, but the rebuild starts right now & SC can expect not to have to endure an 0-11 season the way the 1999 fanbase did.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi St., Missouri, Predictions, Previews, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas AM, Vanderbilt | Leave a comment

2016 PRESEASON ALL-SEC TEAMS

POS TEAM FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB Computer Hope Chad Kelly: Kelly was the SEC leading passer last year as he threw for 4,042 yards & 31TD to only 13 picks. He completed 65.1% of his passes en route to leading the Rebels to a 10-3 record & handing Alabama their only loss of the season. Kelly wasn’t as dominant in SEC play as he was during the non-conference slate but Ole Miss finished 6-2 & beat Bama so how bad could he have been? At 6’3/225lbs, Kelly should light it up this season. If his decision making improves and he can cut down on his interceptions (especially in conference play), he’ll start jumping up draft boards for the 2017 NFL Draft. LSU & Alabama will dominate SEC West talk, but Ole Miss could contend because of Kelly.
RB Computer Hope Leonard Fournette: Forget the SEC, Fournette might be the best RB on the planet! Entering into the 2016 season I think Fournette is the Heisman front runner and if the Mad Hatter can stick to a gameplan, it’s hard seeing anyone stopping this rushing attack. Fournette had a monster freshman season but didn’t disappoint in his sophomore campaign rushing for 1,953 yards & 22TD! Fournette had a 3-game span last year against Alabama, Ole Miss & Arkansas where he didn’t run well & LSU lost all 3 games. Clearly the Tigers will go as far as Fournette can take them. With Derrius Grice, Fournette won’t have to shoulder as much load but enjoy him while you can because he’ll be in the NFL next year.
RB Computer Hope Nick Chubb: I don’t care about his knee injury & I don’t care that he might miss the first game or two of the season. When Nick Chubb is on the field, he completely changes the complexion of a game by taking it over whenever he wants. As a freshman when Todd Gurley went down, Chubb ran for 1,547 yards & 14TD averaging a ridiculous 7.1ypc! Last year before the injury Chubb ran for 747 yards & 7TD in 5 games. He averaged 8.1ypc! At 5’10/230lbs, he’s built like a tank and can be an asset in the passing game. Chubb has exceptional first step quickness and a ridiculous initial burst. He’s hard to take down & rarely goes down on first contact. Like Fournette, he’ll be playing on Sundays next year.
WR Computer Hope Calvin Ridley: It’s easy to forget that in 2014, Alabama’s leading receiver was Amani Cooper who caught 124 balls for 1727 yards & 16TD en route to being a 1st Team All-American and a 1st Round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders. All Calvin Ridley had to do was come in as a true frosh & replace him! Ridley didn’t disappoint! The 6’1/185lbs WR tore the SEC up going for 89 reception for 1,045 yards & 7TD leading his team in receiving on their way to a national championship. He was named a freshman All-American and is the leading returning receiver in the SEC. Ridley should continue the Alabama legacy of top flight receivers in the NFL behind both Amani Cooper and Julio Jones. An outstanding talent.
WR Computer Hope Christian Kirk: Like Ridley, Christian Kirk was a true freshman facing incredible expectations. Kirk wasn’t replacing a legend like Cooper, but he was facing incredible competition to get on the field in the forms of Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones & Speedy Noil. Kirk didn’t waste much time. At 5’11/190lbs, Kirk has 4.4 speed & is practically a perfect fit as a slot which made him a perfect fit between Reynolds & Seals-Jones. Kirk capitalized on this with 80 catches for 1,009 yards & 7TD. Kirk was also an OUTSTANDING punt returner for the Aggies. Getting a more experienced QB this season in Trevor Knight could do wonders for Kirk as he continues to get better. I’d expect a huge year!
WR Computer Hope Quincy Adeboyejo: Adeboyejo walks into a perfect situation in Oxford as the Rebels #1 receiver heading into 2016. Last season being the 4th option, Adeboyejo had 38 catches for 604 yards & 7 TD. He averaged 15.9ypc showing he’s got speed, big play ability, and he can also find the endzone. At 6’3/190lbs, he’s got the size/athleticism to challenge for any ball that comes his way and you know Chad Kelly is going to light it up this season. With Evan Engram returning and Damore’ea Stringfellow on the other side of the ball, Adeboyejo should see single coverage most of the time & if that happens I’d expect a HUGE season from him. He could top Laquon Treadwell’s numbers from last year rather easily.
TE Computer Hope OJ Howard: Howard gave us a little taste of what he could do in the national championship game as he TORCHED Clemson for 208 yards & 2TD on only 5 receptions. A freak of nature at 6’6/250lbs, Howard surprised quite a few people when he didn’t come out for the 2016 NFL Draft where he most certainly would have been the #1 TE on most draft boards. He’ll stay the #1 TE on draft boards for 2017, but I’d expect his role in Alabama to expand greatly this year & he provides a ridiculous mismatch on every play regardless of the defense. He needs to work hard this year to consolidate his game by improving his route running & blocking, and he’ll get chances to do this as he should play a bigger role.
OC Computer Hope Ethan Pocic: Pocic was the best center in the SEC last year not named Ryan Kelly. Started his career at LSU as a guard & has since moved to the center to QB the offensive line. A lot can be said for Leonard Fournette’s running ability or Brandon Harris being able to use his legs a bit, but LSU’s O-Line did a tremendous job protecting the QB & opening up running lanes for LSU rushers. Pocic was a big part of that. What’s interesting about Pocic is that LSU lists him at 6’7 which is ENORMOUS for a center. Teams inflate numbers all the time so I wouldn’t be surprised if Pocic was 6’5 which would probably be better for him. Solid in both run & pass blocking, Pocic is the best of a lot of very good SEC centers.
OL Computer Hope Cam Robinson: Robinson is a monster at 6’6/330lbs with the feet & agility to stay at LT. He wasn’t as good as Laremy Tunsil this past season, but there isn’t much question that Robinson would have been the 2nd highest graded tackle in the 2015 NFL Draft & he’ll be the highest rated LT in the 2016 NFL Draft. It’s hard to believe he’s a true junior. Robinson is a bit long on potential at this point as his 2015 didn’t go exceedingly well. He has consistency issues & the off the field issues this past offseason can’t be much of a help. I think he’ll turn in a big year for the Tide as he’ll want to work on his game. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that really wants to spend more time in college than he has to.
OL Computer Hope Dan Skipper: I can’t remember seeing a tackle as big as Skipper who comes in at 6’10/330lbs! Massive road grader who was an all SEC performer his sophomore year at LT before moving to RT last year where he was again an all-SEC performer. Skipper should be one of the top tackles in 2016 regardless of conference & if Robinson doesn’t show well, then Skipper should be the best in the SEC. It’ll be interesting to see where Skipper goes from here because we’ve never really seen a guy this long play before. You would think that length would be an advantage at LT, but given the speed/size combination of edge rushers in the NFL, I wonder if Skipper’s eventual home will be on the right side of the O-Line.
OL Computer Hope Greg Pyke: Pyke is a big interior O-Lineman who runs about 6’6/320lbs. The Georgia Bulldog had a great sophomore campaign in 2014 where he was a 2nd Team All-SEC selection and did a great job run blocking for both Todd Gurley & Nick Chubb. His 2015 was somewhat of a disappointment and at one point the Georgia coaching staff actually benched Pyke for uninspired play. Pyke has quite a bit to play for this season which will be his last in Athens, and he’s owned up to his less than stellar efforts last season which is a great sign of maturity on his part. He’s penciled in to take over at RT for the Bulldogs this season which is a solid move given his size. Pyke is a potential All-American this year.
OL Computer Hope Alex Kozan: Kozan had a nasty year in 2013 where he was a freshman All-American and had a huge part in the Auburn ground game that saw Nick Marshall rush for 1,068 yards & Tre Mason rush for 1,816 yards! That Auburn team finished 12-2 & was 3 points away from beating Florida State for a national championship. Kozan was put on all sorts of watch lists & was a potential 1st team All-SEC player heading into 2014 before he hurt his back & missed the entire season. He played in every game last year but coming into this season, Kozan will be 2-years removed from his injuries and I expect we’ll see a big year out of the 6’4/300lbs guard. I think a lot of people will be sleeping on him. I think that’s a mistake.

2ND TEAM OFFENSE

QB-Josh Dobbs/Tennessee: Completion % needs to come up but everything is in place for Dobbs to have an incredible senior season and win the SEC.
RB-Jovon Robinson/Auburn: 2015 didn’t go as well as the JUCO transfer thought, but the 6’0/235lbs Robinson could be huge in Malzahn’s offense.
RB-Jalen Hurd/Tennessee: Huge at 6’3/235lbs! Grinds defenses down and is a 1st Team All-Conference player in any conference except the SEC!
WR-Malachi Dupre/LSU: Big at 6’3/190lbs. LSU’s leading receiver last season. Can get to the paint & make big plays. Imagine if he had a legit QB?
WR-Josh Reynolds/Texas A&M: Outstanding size at 6’4/200lbs! Has averaged 17.0ypc during this 2 previous seasons in College Station & can score.
WR-Fred Ross/Mississippi St.: Not flashy but the 6’2/205lbs Bulldog is reliable. Caught 88 balls for 1,000+yds last season. Very consistent play at WR.
TE-Evan Engram/Ole Miss: A bit undersized at 6’3/230lbs but strong & can create mismatches. More of a Jordan Reed/Aaron Hernandez type of TE.
OC-Jon Toth/Kentucky: Ideal size at center at 6’5/300lbs. Toth is without question the general of the Kentucky O-Line & is arguably the best center here.
OL-Braden Smith/Auburn: Big interior guard at 6’6/290lbs, Smith was an all-SEC performer last year & will be a big part of Jovon Robinson’s success.
OL-Justin Senior/Mississippi St.: 6’5/300lbs senior who has started for 2 straight years. With Dak Prescott gone, he’ll try to keep his QB upright.
OL-Jashon Robertson/Tennessee: Has started 23/26 games since he’s been on campus. Incredibly important part of Tennessee’s interior offensive line.
OL-Alphonse Taylor/Alabama: Has had some trouble getting his weight down to Nick Saban’s liking, but he’s a big part of Alabama’s rushing attack.

3RD TEAM OFFENSE

QB-Trevor Knight/Texas A&M: He might not be outstanding, but how does Knight not put up huge numbers with all the receiving options he’ll have?
RB-Bo Scarbrough/Alabama: Scarbrough looks to be next in line in Alabama’s RB factor. The 6’0/230lbs runner should start to breakthrough in 2016.
RB-Keith Ford/Texas A&M: Like Knight, a Oklahoma transfer, Ford should have plenty of room to run with defenses keying on the A&M passing attack.
WR-Drew Morgan/Arkansas: Solid receiver at 6’0/190lbs. Led Arkansas in receiving last year & also caught 10TD passes. I think he can replicate that.
WR-Antonio Callaway/Florida: On talent alone Callaway probably should be a 1st team player but off-field issues might keep him off the field entirely!
WR-Keon Hatcher/Arkansas: Hatcher’s first senior year didn’t go as planned due to injury so he’ll try again. If healthy, he could put up big numbers.
TE-Jeremy Sprinkle/Arkansas: Don’t be shocked if Arkansas doesn’t miss Hunter Henry as much as you think. The 6’6/250lbs Sprinkle is dangerous.
OC-Brandon Kublanow/Georgia: If Jacob Eason is the starter in Athens, Kublanow could very well end up being the most valuable OL in the SEC.
OL-Avery Gennesy/Texas A&M: Gennesy takes over for Germain Ifedi at LT & is A&M’s best bet to keep their streak of 1st Round OL NFL Draft picks.
OL-David Sharpe/Florida: Massive at 6’6/350lbs, Sharpe will protect Luke Del Rio’s blindside in what could be a very good Florida OL that plays nasty.
OL-Maea Teuhema/LSU: How special is this guy? At 6’5/330lbs, he’s a true sophomore that is already starting at LT for a national title contending team.
OL-Martez Ivey/Florida: True sophomore that was #1OL recruit in 2015. The 6’6/310lbs will be at LG biding his time until he takes over for Sharpe.

4TH TEAM OFFENSE

QB-Brandon Harris/LSU: Much scrutinized to this point, Harris is only a junior and has a chance to start rewriting his legacy over the next 2 years at LSU.
RB-Derrius Grice/LSU: A 5’11/220lbs monster, Grice could easily wind up with over 1,000 yards rushing in relief of Fournette. A starter anywhere else but LSU.
RB-Sony Michel/Georgia: Ran for 1,100+ yards in relief of Chubb last season. Has all the tools to rush for another 1,000 yards even with Chubb healthy.
WR-Travin Dural/LSU: 2-year starter at 6’2/190lbs. RIDICULOUS PLAYMAKER. In his 3 years has averaged 19.9ypc! Needs to get the ball a lot more!
WR-Damore’ea Stringfellow/Ole Miss: I think Adeboyejo & Engram are going to be the first 2 options, but Stringfellow will get his fair share of balls.
WR-Ricky Seals-Jones/Texas A&M: TE size at 6’5/240lbs, I can’t figure out how this guy doesn’t get 100 balls for 1700 yards & 19TD. Very exciting to watch.
TE-DeAndre Goolsby/Florida: Has a chance to be really special in this offense. Showed great ability with 16+ypc last year at 6’4/240lbs. Needs ball more.
OC-Frank Ragnow/Arkansas: Ragnow being a 4th team All-SEC player proves how talented and deep the center position is in the SEC this year.
OL-Austin Golson/Auburn: Another center, Golson is a 6’5/310lbs transfer from Ole Miss. Auburn’s interior offensive line should be one of the very best.
OL-Will Clapp/LSU: Clapp is the 8th LSU starter listed on my 4 SEC teams. The 6’5/300lbs sophomore will play guard & open up holes for Fournette.
OL-Zack Bailey/South Carolina: The 6’6/330lbs guard is a true sophomore & probably SC’s most talented lineman. Will protect against pocket collapse.
OL-Ross Pierschbacher/Alabama: Regardless of whether he lines up at guard or center, the 6’4/300lbs redshirt sophomore deserves to be among the elite.

POS TEAM FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL Computer Hope Jonathan Allen: When you look at SEC games only, you can make an argument that Allen was more effective than Myles Garrett and did so at the 34DE position instead of the 43DE position which is more geared towards a pass rush. Allen is somewhat of a tweener at 6’3/272lbs. He doesn’t have the ideal height as a 34DE but he’s such a darn good football player it might not matter where you line him up in any defensive scheme. A 3rd team All-American last year, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Allen return to Tuscaloosa, but Nick Saban can’t happier about it. Allen should be a 1st Team All-American & if Alabama wins another national championship, Allen will be a big reason why.
DL Computer Hope Myles Garrett: Garrett has been an all-world talent since he stepped foot on the A&M campus & he’s done nothing in his first two seasons that would make us believe he doesn’t live up to the hype. At 6’5/255lbs, Garrett practically defines “perfection” for a 4-3DE. In his first two seasons he’s totaled 24 sacks & 33.5 tackles for loss. A first team All-American last year, you have to wonder if the Titans would have been as eager to trade down if a talent like Garrett had been available? There isn’t a question of whether he’s All-SEC or All-American? The question now will be the degree in which he dominates & if he can navigate his junior year without injury. Something Jaylon Smith & Myles Jack didn’t do.
DL Computer Hope Marquis Haynes: While all the talk centered around Robert Nkemdiche last year, Marquis Haynes put together a fantastic sophomore season that was All-SEC worthy. Haynes was a freshman All-American & followed that up with a year where he recorded 16.5TFL and 10 sacks! Haynes isn’t huge at 6’3/220lbs & is probably miscast as a 43DE in Ole Miss’s defense, but I don’t think it matters at the collegiate level. Outside of Nkemdiche, the Rebels return their entire D-Line. Fadol Brown, DJ Jones & Breeland Speaks is going to take up quite a bit of attention so Haynes shouldn’t have any trouble getting one on one matchups. I expect a monster year and I think Haynes will play his way into the first round.
DL Computer Hope Derek Barnett: At 6’3/267lbs, Barnett is giving Myles Garrett a run for his money in being the most productive SEC DE over their first two seasons. Garrett has 24 sacks & 33.5TFL, but Barnett has recorded 20 sacks & 33TFL! The numbers aren’t that different. Barnett was a freshman All-American in 2014 & followed that up with a 2nd Team All-SEC selection last year. Barnett is a little different from Garrett in that he’s already a stellar run defender. It’ll be interesting to see how Barnett improves his pass rushing ability even more. He’s going to be an All-American and a potential top-5 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The real question is whether or not Barnett will surpass Garrett as the top rated DE!?
LB Computer Hope Rueben Foster: Regardless of how talented a player you are, typically a LB has to wait a couple of years to start at Alabama because the depth is absurd. Foster waited his two years as a reserve & then jumped on the scene last year & didn’t disappoint, recording 73 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 9 passes broken up & a sack for good measure. At 6’1/240lbs, Foster is a legit thumper in the middle with the ability to cover the intermediate middle of the field. He’ll take over as the lead dog in the middle now that Reggie Ragland is in the NFL & I wouldn’t be surprised to see Foster play his way to 100+ tackles and All-American status. Given what Alabama has up front, Foster has plenty of room to hunt.
LB Computer Hope Zach Cunningham: Cunningham is an ultraproductive force as a middle LB with outstanding size at 6’4/240lbs! Cunningham would have been an intriguing NFL prospect & was eligible for the draft as a redshirt sophomore, but chose to come back to Nashville for his 4th season in the Vandy program. Cunningham led the Commodores in tackles, sacks & tackles for loss. He’s the best defender Vandy has but that doesn’t mean Vanderbilt isn’t short on defenders. Cunningham is going to be solid & will put up the numbers to earn this spot, but I don’t think it was an unusual move for to return. Vanderbilt has a ton returning on both offense & defense so Cunningham may think something special could happen.
LB Computer Hope Jalen Reeves-Maybin: For all the talk the Tennessee offense will get this year behind Josh Dobbs, Jalen Hurd & Alvin Kamara, don’t forget about the defense. The Vols defense is what sets them apart & Reeves-Maybe is a HUGE part of that. The 6’1/240lbs senior can argue rather easily he’s the best LB in college football and certainly the best weakside LB. Reeves-Maybin has led UT in tackles the last two seasons going over the 100 mark both times. Last year he tacked on 14TFL & 6 sacks to go along with 4 passes broken up. Reeves-Maybin shows outstanding sideline to sideline speed. There isn’t much he can’t do on a football field. He’s a more limited version of Myles Jacks but without the injuries.
LB Computer Hope Tim Williams: The 6’4/230lbs 3-4OLB had a breakout season in 2015 going for 10.5 sacks and 12.5 TFL. Williams along with Jonathan Allen & Ryan Anderson provides Alabama with something defensively they haven’t completely relied upon since Nick Saban took the gig which is a legitimate pass rush! Since Saban took the job in Tuscaloosa, he’s never had a pass rusher with double-digit sacks until last season when both Allen & Williams did so. Williams has incredible explosion off the line & is an easy 1st round talent as a pass rusher. If he can work on his run support, he’ll vault himself into the top-half of the first round. If he gets the snaps expect 16-19 sacks and a nod as a first team All-American.
DB Computer Hope Jalen Tabor: Teammate Vernon Hargreaves was a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft & Tabor outplayed him in 2015. Tabor wasn’t draft eligible because he was a true sophomore, but Tabor probably would have been the 2nd corner off the board after Jalen Ramsey had he been able to come out. Tabor has incredible size at 6’1/190lbs for a CB and he also runs quick enough to play legit press man coverage off the line. Tabor had a ridiculous 14 passes broken up last year to go with 4 interceptions, 2 of which he returned for TDs. In my opinion Tabor is the best corner in college football this year. He doesn’t shy away from contact either & has a physical element to his game. Can easily play on an island.
DB Computer Hope Tre’Davious White: White brings 35 career starts to the table making him the most experienced CB in the SEC. White doesn’t have the same size as Tabor, but isn’t awful at 5’11/190lbs either! White had a great junior season in Baton Rouge going for 44 tackles & 7 passes broken up. He’ll get knocked by NFL guys that he’s too short & stringy to go up against NFL WR size, but I wouldn’t worry too much about that. White could have actually come out last season & been a high draft pick. I love the fact he came back to LSU & his return makes this defense THAT much better. Between White, Tabor, Desmond King & Adoree Jackson, there is some serious competition for All American honors at corner.
DB Computer Hope Eddie Jackson: Jackson had a solid year last season ball-hawking in Alabama’s secondary. His 6 interceptions ranked 7th in the nation and he’ll be an integral part of an Alabama secondary that is extremely young at corner. The 6’0/191lbs safety ended the year as a 1st Team All-SEC safety & a 2nd Team All-American. Jackson is actually a converted corner giving him the advantage of having good cover skills as a safety which is why you see the big numbers in picks & passes defended. Jackson doesn’t shy away from contact either and can at times drop down in the box. Alabama does an EXCEPTIONAL job of blurring the lines between strong safety & free safety and Jackson fits this strategy to perfection.
DB Computer Hope Jamal Adams: Adams is one of my favorite players in the SEC. What is it about LSU defensive backs that looks so incredible on Saturdays? When these guys put on the uniform it looks like they were born to play football. Adams has been ridiculously consistent in his first two years in Baton Rouge. He’s had 66 & 67 tackles over his first two seasons. His had 5 tackles for loss in both seasons. He’s had 5 & 6 passes broken up in each season. Adams showed tremendous ball skills & ball-hawking ability last year with 4 interceptions. I think Adams is the best safety in America & he’s primed for a MONSTER season! I could see 100+ tackles, 1st Team All-American status and being a high 1st round pick in the NFL draft.

2ND TEAM DEFENSE

DL-Deatrich Wise/Arkansas: Wise broke out last year with 8-sacks/10.5TFL. The 6’5/271lbs rSR has incredible size & could play himself into Round 1 as a 3-4DE.
DL-Davon Godchaux/LSU: The 6’4/300lbs DT had a great season in last year as a true soph. Has fantastic athleticism for a man this big. Had 6 sacks & 8TFL last year.
DL-Da’Shawn Hand/Alabama: Hard to find playing time with Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson & Jonathan Allen ahead of you. Hand finally gets to play this season.
DL-Dalvin Tomlinson/Alabama: Like Hand, Tomlinson had to wait his turn, and like Hand, Tomlinson will run with. Both guys could be 1st round picks in 2017.
LB-Kendell Beckwith/LSU: The 6’2/245lbs senior MLB should be the unquestioned leader of what could be an incredible LSU defense. Crazy to think he’s a 2nd teamer.
LB-Jarrad Davis/Florida: Davis had an incredible year as a 1st year starter at the WIL for the Gators. Davis had 98 tackles, 11 tackls for loss & 7 QB hurries.
LB-Arden Key/LSU: DO NOT SLEEP on this guy. Key might be the most exciting defensive player in the nation. At 6’6/231lbs, it’ll be interesting to see his progress.
LB-Richie Brown/MS State: The 6’2/245lbs MLB is highly productive & entering his senior year. MS State is always going to compete & Brown is a big reason why in ’16.
DB-Tony Bridges/Ole Miss: At 6’2/190, Bridges has outstanding size for a CB. The JUCO transfer had a great 1st season in Oxford with 9 passes defended & 3 picks.
DB-Minkah Fitzpatrick/Alabama: Fitzpatrick came in last year as a true freshman & made a case as to why he was the best CB in Tuscaloosa! A true freshman did this!
DB-Marcus Maye/Florida: Keanu Neal’s counterpart at safety last year at Florida, Maye could easily find himself being taken in the 1st round of next year’s NFL Draft.
DB-Dominick Sanders/Georgia: The 6’0/187lbs Sanders has been a starter since he stepped on the field in Athens. Good coverage & ball skills as a free safety.

3RD TEAM DEFENSE

DL-Charles Harris/Missouri: Good size at 6’3/255lbs. Harris broke out last year as a rSO with 7 sacks & an incredible 18.5 tackles for loss. Likely a 34OLB in the NFL.
DL-Walter Brady/Missouri: Another 6’3/255lbs Mizzou DE, Brady had a great year last year as a rFR with 7 sacks & 12.5 tackles for loss. He’ll get even better in ’16.
DL-Terry Beckner/Missouri: The 6’4/300lbs true frosh made a case for being the best DL in the 2015 class. Beckner clogged up the middle & showed some pass rush.
DL-Bryan Cox/Florida: A redshirt senior, Cox is going to put up big numbers this year along the Florida D-Line. Cox finally got a shot last season & did very well.
LB-Ryan Anderson/Alabama: With a ridiculous amount of talent everywhere on Alabama’s defense, don’t be surprised if Anderson emerges as the sacks & TFL leader.
LB-Alex Anzalone/Florida: Injuries have really taken a toll on Anzalone’s career at UF but you can’t deny the talent of the 6’3/240lbs LB. Let’s hope he stays healthy.
LB-Darrin Kirkland/Tennessee: The 6’1/224lbs Indianapolis native wasted no time becoming UT’s starting MIKE as a true frosh! Kirkland is an outstanding talent.
LB-Michael Scherer/Missouri: Big time production with Scherer that sometimes gets over looked because Kentrell Brothers played alongside of him. He’ll be the man.
DB-Cameron Sutton/Tennessee: Sutton is outstanding and if he winds up as a 1st Team All-SEC player I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. Offenses try to avoid him.
DB-Marlon Humphrey/Alabama: Humphrey, like Fitzpatrick was also a frosh last year although a rFR. Big time size at 6’1/192lbs combined with big time talent.
DB-Armani Watts/Texas A&M: Undersized strong safety at 5’11/190lbs, but Watts shows up every week. He led the Aggies in tackles last year totaling 126! 2nd in the SEC.
DB-Oren Burks/Vanderbilt: Burks is big at 6’3/220lbs & I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shoot up draft boards as a hybrid WIL/S type of player the NFL covets.

4TH TEAM DEFENSE

DL-Carl Lawson/Auburn: Injuries have plagued Lawson but the talent is INCREDIBLE. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Lawson ended the year as SEC defensive POY!
DL-Lewis Neal/LSU: Neal has odd size at 6’1/255lbs. The switch to a 3-4 hurts him in my opinion. He’s an edge rusher with the size of a 3-4 ILB. It’ll be interesting to see.
DL-Josh Augusta/Missouri: MASSIVE at 6’4/350lbs! Augusta does more than clog up running lanes. He also had 8.5 tackles for loss & 27 tackles. Can be a legit 34NT.
DL-Caleb Brantley/Florida: Brantley is a big guy at 6’2/320lbs with some first step quickness & wiggle. His ability to provide interior pressure will be big for Florida.
LB-Brooks Ellis/Arkansas: Ellis led Arkansas in tackles last year with 102 but also showed ability as a pass rusher. The 6’2/248lbs senior should have a great year.
LB-Donavin Newsom/Missouri: A 6’2/230lbs thumper as the SAM, Newsom is going to have massive opportunity to excel. Missouri’s front seven looks ridiculous.
LB-Tim Kimbrough/Georgia: Kimbrough is a solid interior LB in UGA’s 3-4 scheme. There is nothing overtly fancy about his game, but he knows his job & gets it done.
LB-Lorenzo Carter/Georgia: Unbelievable size at 6’6/240lbs, Carter has the responsibility of replacing Leonard Floyd & Jordan Jenkins. I think he has a monster year.
DB-Carlton Davis/Auburn: The true freshman established himself as Auburn’s best CB last year with 3 picks & 8 PBUs. Good size at 6’1/182lbs, he’ll continue to improve.
DB-Donovan Wilson/Texas A&M: Isn’t defined by a set position at A&M other than “playmaker”. The idea is to get this kid on the field & wait for big plays to happen.
DB-Quincy Mauger/Georgia: Solid safety for the Bulldogs, Mauger wasn’t quite the player for Georgia last year as he was in 2014, but I think he’ll have a big senior season.
DB-Kivon Coman/MS State: Great size at 6’3/200lbs, Coman has pretty good cover skills while also being able to come into the box and play against the run. I like him.

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi St., Missouri, Preseason, Previews, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas AM, Vanderbilt | Leave a comment

2015 NCAA WEEK 13 – BIG GAMES

ROAD QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope This is a great rivalry game but is growing into an incredible rivalry. Over the last 4 seasons both teams have been ranked in the top-25 while one of the teams have been ranked in the top-10. To me this is the game of the week because of the rivalry but what also could happen. It’s a must win for the Irish who are outside of the playoff top-4 & need a signature win with some style points. Stanford ranks #9 in the playoff poll but could get to #5 if they win out! Computer Hope
Computer Hope BEDLAM! The last time these two met with this much on the line was 2011 when Oklahoma was 9-2 & Oklahoma St. was 10-1. The 3rd ranked Cowboys would blow out the 13th ranked Sooners in that game 44-10! Don’t expect a repeat. The playoff committee has been very impressed with Oklahoma the last 2 weeks with wins over Baylor & TCU which have OU #3 in the poll! Win & the Big XII is theirs. OK State has to hope for a win & a Baylor loss. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Before the season began we thought we were going to get an insane matchup between Trevone Boykin & Seth Russell. Instead we get Bram Kohlhausen v. Jarrett Stidham! Baylor isn’t out of the woods yet. A win here puts the Bears at 10-1 with a home game against Texas left. The tricky part here is if Baylor won & Oklahoma lost, would an 11-1 Baylor team be good enough to jump an 11-1 Notre Dame team if the Irish win? Oklahoma did so why not Baylor too? Computer Hope
Computer Hope The good news is that it looks like Conner Cook is going to be ready to play Penn St. this weekend. The bad news is that gnawing feeling I have about Michigan St. that has been there all season with their propensity to play with fire. They didn’t exactly hammer Ohio St., and let’s not forget that Sparty has loved playing close games. Penn St. should lose but if Christian Hackenberg goes off then it gets interesting. A win & Sparty wins the Big 10 East. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Don’t count out the Huskers in this one. At 5-6, Nebraska needs this win to get bowl eligible and they are coming off a bye week which gave them an extra week to prepare for Iowa while the Hawkeyes had to take of Purdue last week. Iowa moved into the top-4 of the college playoff poll this week so if they win out they are going to be playing for a championship. I hope the good times keep rolling for Iowa, but they have to be careful to let down at the end. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Amazingly enough these teams are meeting to decide who represents the Pac 12 South in the Pac 12 Championship game against Stanford. It’s an interesting game for a lot of reasons least of which is that both teams could beat Stanford & go to the Rose Bowl. I think what will be sharp contrast is USC having a 5th year senior QB Cody Kessler under center while UCLA throws out true frosh Josh Rosen. UCLA has won 3 straight so you know USC wants revenge. Computer Hope
Computer Hope From a personality standpoint this is the best game of the week and I’m probably ranking it too low although the outcomes doesn’t determine much if Michigan St. beats Penn State. Urban Meyer & Jim Harbaugh could combine to give us the 2nd coming of Woody Hayes/Bo Schembechler. This game means everything if Michigan St. loses, but even if they don’t, this is a HUGE game across the college football landscape! I can’t wait to watch this! Computer Hope
Computer Hope I’m not sure you can completely throw out the records when these two teams meet in the Iron Bowl. The last two times Auburn & Alabama have faced off with Auburn not being ranked was in 2011 and 2012. Alabama won both games by the combined score of 91-14. Another problem for Auburn is that this will be a very motivated Alabama team. They have to win this game to win the West and move into the SEC Championship game. Roll Tide! Computer Hope
Computer Hope If the last 4 years hold true, then this year is Mississippi St.’s turn to win the Egg Bowl. There is quite a bit to play for here. For Ole Miss they can still win the SEC West if Alabama somehow loses. Both teams a win here keeps a 10-win season in play. For Mississippi St., the game could be bittersweet. It’s the last home game for QB Dak Prescott but it could also be the last home game for HC Dan Mullen as the Bulldogs HC if he decides to take another job for ’16. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Despite the loss last week to UConn, the Cougars can still win the AAC-West with a win over Navy this weekend. That would push Houston to 11-1 & potentially a 12-1 season if they win the AAC which would put them in a Big 6 Bowl. The same holds true for Navy. A win here puts them at 10-1 & likely 11-1 with a win over Army. They’d have to win the AAC title game but a 12-1 Navy squad is playing on New Year’s. I’m pulling hard for the Middies to win. Computer Hope
Computer Hope When was the last time Florida St. & Florida met when their combined record was at least 19-3? It’s not as far back as you think. Both squads were 10-1 in 2012 which resulted in a 37-26 win for the Gators. I’m not sure that will happen this year with as bad as Florida has been playing of late. How amazing is it that Florida St. could be 10-2 with a win here & 11-2 with a bowl yet most people view them as an afterthought? I think FSU gets the win & 10 wins. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The Wolfpack have actually won 6 of the last 8 meetings between the two. NC State is the perfect example of manipulating an easy schedule to get bowl eligible. UNC has sort of done the same thing but Carolina is the superior team & I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tar Heels blow the barn doors off this on in Raleigh. I hope UNC doesn’t let up because a 12-0 Clemson taking on an 11-1 North Carolina squad could be interesting in the ACC title game. Computer Hope
Computer Hope UConn played spoiler last week to Houston and could do the same thing this week to Temple if they were to manage a victory over the Owls. At 6-1 in the AAC, a Temple win ensures the Owls the AAC-East division which will put them in the title game against the Houston/Navy winner. A loss here combined with USF beating UCF puts South Florida in the title game. I’m pulling for Temple & Navy as I think those are the best teams in the AAC. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I don’t often discuss CUSA, but Marshall & WKU play each other to decide the CUSA-East division. This one should be fun as it’ll be contrasting styles. WKU’s offense is dominant & they want to get out & move the ball quick with QB Brandon Doughty who is having an INCREDIBLE year. Marshall on the other hand wants to play hard nosed defense with their top-10 ranked unit & manipulate time of possession. Both teams are 9-2 so a win equals 10! Computer Hope
Computer Hope While Marshall & WKU determine the CUSA East, Southern Miss & Louisiana Tech will determine the CUSA West! It’s a big weekend for Conference USA! Both teams are going to try to beat you with offense & when you look at them in a vacuum you wonder why either team didn’t garner more attention, but when each squad played big time teams they lost. The QB matchup between Jeff Driskel & Nick Mullens should be fun as they light up the scoreboard. Computer Hope
Computer Hope It’s amazing to this game is virtually meaningless, but right now these might be the two worst teams in the SEC West which seems ridiculous. The game is significant however because it could be Les Miles’ last game as LSU head coach. How amazing is it that this offseason we are going to have both the LSU job and the USC job open for hire!? Miami-FL, Virginia Tech & South Carolina are also looking for a head coach. Those are big time programs! Computer Hope
Computer Hope This game would be a lot more interesting if we knew if Wazzou QB Luke Falk was playing. Falk’s status right now is up in the air but I hope he plays & is effective because Washington’s defense is the best in the Pac 12 & it would be a great matchup between Falk & HC Mike Leach going up against the UW defense. The Huskies have a lot of incentive to play. They need a win to get to 6-6 & bowl eligibility. I like UW but it’s impossible to root against the Pirate! Computer Hope
Computer Hope The battle for the Oaken Bucket! Kevin Wilson & Tom Crean pretty much run the same team strategy of big time offense combined with little to no defense. To be honest, IU should destroy Purdue. They are better & the Hoosiers’ “best case” record is 9-2. On the other hand, you can never know what to expect from Indiana & a loss here could mean Kevin Wilson loses his job. Either Indiana earns a bowl berth here or they need to make a change. Incredible. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Frank Beamer’s final home game in Blacksburg didn’t go as well as he would have liked as the Hokies missed an opportunity to finish Beamer’s career with a home victory that would have also provided bowl eligibility, but Virginia Tech gets a 2nd chance at the elusive bowl with the season finale in Charlottesville against in-state rival Virginia. I almost feel like it would be fitting for Beamer to lose because it would allow his final game to be in Virginia. Computer Hope
Computer Hope A cool rivalry game Kentucky needs to win to get bowl eligible. I think both of these teams feel like they’ve had disappointing seasons. Both teams took on quite a few close losses which would have completely changed their seasons if they had been just a little luckier. What’s great is that these two teams are led by excellent football coaches and the teams are relatively youthful. This game should keep getting bigger & bigger with the stakes getting higher. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Gary Andersen’s first year in Corvallis hasn’t went well & it’s not going to get any better playing the Ducks in Eugene for the 119th edition of the Civil War! The teams couldn’t be coming into this one on more opposites sides of the spectrum. In their last 5, the Beavers are o-5 & have been outscored 38-11 on average. The Ducks are 5-0 in their last 5 & have outscored their opponents 43-33. I love the Civil War but this one is going to be very lopsided for Oregon. Computer Hope
Computer Hope How can you not love a rivalry game that is called Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate!? It’s the best rivalry nickname in college sports! I’m interested in the fallout of this game if Tech loses. They’ll finish the year 3-9 & if you remember, the seat was getting pretty hot with Paul Johnson before GT’s run last year to the ACC title game. That heat could come back which would be interesting if Georgia Tech was another program looking for a head coach for 2016. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The only MAC game that is intriguing, there is a lot going on here for Toledo. The Rockets had a perfect season until Northern Illinois upset the apple cart with a 5-point win over the Rockets. It was a tough loss because despite NIU’s 3 losses, none of them were in MAC play & this effectively knocked Toledo from the MAC West. If Ohio beats NIU this week Toledo could win the West with a win here. A win in the MAC title game puts them at 12-1. Enough for New Year’s? Computer Hope

November 26, 2015 Posted by | Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Big Games, Connecticut, Florida, Florida St., Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Marshall, Michigan, Michigan St., Mississippi, Mississippi St., Must See Games, Navy, NC State, NCAA, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Oregon, Oregon St., Penn St., Purdue, Southern Miss, Stanford, TCU, Temple, Texas AM, Toledo, UCLA, USC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington, Washington St., Week 13, Western Kentucky, Western Michigan | Leave a comment