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RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #50 to #65

Let’s get back into action with some college football talk. This marks the beginning of my ranking the 65 Power college football coaches in the nation. I looked all the head coaches from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Notre Dame. I took the last 5 years and looked at their records, conference records, history, recruiting efforts, bowl records and the overall trends of their team over these past 5 seasons. I’ll go in reverse order starting at the bottom and working my way up by 10 spots. This beginning post will start with the bottom 15. Here we go!

#65 – Chris Ash – Rutgers

Ash didn’t exactly walk into the best situation given the Kyle Flood controversy but in his first year in New Brunswick, the former Ohio St. DC finished 2-10 with a conference record of 0-9. His 2016 recruiting class also ranked #78 according to Rivals meaning talent isn’t pouring into New Jersey either. Most of Rutgers games weren’t even that competitive. In their games against Ohio St., Michigan, Michigan St. and Penn St., the Scarlet Knights were outscored 224-0! The Big 10 East isn’t the easiest division to play in, but good grief Rutgers can’t get HAMMERED like that. Ash probably has a little more rope but another 2-10 (0-9) season might spell disaster.

#64 – David Beaty – Kansas

Beatty has gone 2-22 in his first two seasons in Lawrence with a Big 12 record of 1-17. There has been improvement. Beatty went 0-12 his first season at the helm and improved by 2 games last season to 2-10. He also improved his conference record from 0-9 to 1-8. The powers that be at KU thought enough of that improvement to give Beaty a contract extension through 2021! Beaty did lead Kansas to their first win over Texas since 1938 and they came pretty close to beating Iowa St. and TCU! Recruiting it up a bit and Beaty has a chance to improve this ranking quite a bit. Sure Kansas only won 2 games, but in 2015, their average margin of defeat was 30.8 PPG. In 2016 it was 17.0!

#63 – Barry Odom – Missouri

Almost impossible to replace a HC like Gary Pinkel who had tremendous success at Missouri, but if there is anyone that knows Pinkel it’s Odom. Another positive about Odom is that there can’t possibly be a more dyed in the wool Mizzou Tiger than Odom himself. There will never be a lack of passion for Missouri football coming from the head coach! Odom’s first year as HC wasn’t a great one as the Tigers went 4-8 (2-6). That was the worst record the Tigers have had since 2000 when Missouri went 3-8 the year before Gary Pinkel was hired. Pinkel’s worst record in 15 years was 4-7. Odom has his work cut out for him and he needs to recruit better, but Pinkel did more with less so maybe he can too.

#62 – Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia

Mendenhall is a tough one to evaluate. His first year in Charlottesville was a disaster as the Cavaliers went 2-10 with a 1-7 conference record. I don’t think much was expected of Virginia in Mendenhall’s first season, but Virginia should have been at least comparable to their 2015 version which went 4-8. Instead, they regressed. Sometimes seasons can go sideways and that seems to be the case with Virginia. They shouldn’t have lost to FCS Richmond to open the season. They let road games at UConn and Wake Forest get away from them as well. Those 3 games turning to wins would have at least allowed UVA to get to 5-7. There is a lot of room to move up this season for Mendenhall.

#61 – Lovie Smith – Illinois

Before last season, the last time Lovie Smith coached in the college ranks was 1995 when he was DB coach for Ohio State. He was the head coach for the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 11 years leading the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006, so it was quite an odd move that Smith would leave the NFL for collegiate football and all the headaches involved with recruiting 16 and 17 year old boys. Smith got a rude awakening his first season. The Illini finished 3-9 (2-7) with one of their wins coming against Murray State. The games weren’t even that competitive and Smith didn’t exactly tear it up on the recruiting trail. With Jeff Brohm and PJ Fleck joining the Big 10 West, it’s not getting any easier.

#60 – Dino Babers – Syracuse

Babers was an assistant coach for almost 30 years before he finally got his shot at Eastern Illinois and made the most of it. He went 19-7 with EIU winning back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships. He parlayed that job into the head coaching gig at Bowling Green and did well there too. Babers posted an 18-9 record with the Falcons, winning the MAC East in both years and the MAC championship in 2015. He traded that job for a Power-5 conference job with Syracuse. Unfortunately for Babers, he didn’t do as well at Syracuse as he did with EIU and BG. A 4-8 (2-6) record wasn’t fantastic and Babers didn’t kill it on the recruiting trail either. He still has plenty of time left.

#59 – Justin Wilcox – California

Wilcox has never been a head coach but for the last 11 years he’s been the defensive coordinator for Boise St., Tennessee, Washington, USC & Wisconsin. In those seasons here is how his defenses ranked in scoring defense:

2006: #20 (Boise St.)
2007: #26 (Boise St.)
2008: #3 (Boise St.)
2009: #13 (Boise St.)
2010: #56 (Tennessee)
2011: #36 (Tennessee)
2012: #39 (Washington)
2013: #29 (Washington)
2014: #46 (USC)
2015: #50 (USC)
2016: #4 (Wisconsin)

Clearly Wilcox has a track record of success which is good for Cal because the Bears haven’t had anything resembling a decent defense these past 5 seasons. Losing QB Davis Webb will be tough, but Wilcox will do a good job if he can keep Cal from giving up 40PPG.

#58 – Tom Allen – Indiana

Allen did a stellar job as a defensive coach at Ole Miss and South Florida before coming onto Kevin Wilson’s staff last season as the defensive coordinator. Allen didn’t disappoint, improving the Hoosiers’ scoring defense by 10PPG! That’s good news for Indiana as their problem has always been on the defensive side of the football. Allen has never been a head coach and his ascension to the throne was somewhat odd in light of the dismissal of former HC Kevin Wilson, but I think Indiana is in a much better place with Allen leading the charge than with Wilson, even if Wilson guided the Hoosiers to back-to-back bowl appearances. It doesn’t get any worse than the Big 10 East, but Allen has started recruiting well which is a good beginning.

#57 – D.J. Durkin – Maryland

Durkin’s first year in Maryland doesn’t look horrible when you consider the Terps were 6-6 during the regular season and getting bowl eligible before losing the bowl game to finish 6-7. A deeper look is a little more rough as Maryland started the season 4-0 against garbage competition and then finished 2-6 in their final 8 with wins over Rutgers & Michigan State, two team who combined for a 1-17 conference record. That’s hardly awe inspiring. Maryland also lost to Ohio St., Michigan and Nebraska by a combined score of 149-13. That’s not Rutgers territory, but it’s not great either. Durkin is recruiting well in College Park and he’s in a fertile recruiting ground which makes it easier. Still a lot of room to make up on Ohio St., Michigan & Penn State.

#56 – Ed Orgeron – LSU

I get the pull of Orgeron being a Louisiana native and who in their right mind isn’t in love with the guy, but I wonder if LSU made the right call in bringing their native son back home to head up the Bayou Bengals? For Orgeron, this is a shot at redemption. There is no question that Orgeron can recruit with the best of them and he’s in a prime spot to bring in a top-5 class annually. There is also no question that Orgeron is a helluva defensive coach as well and the Tigers will most certainly have his fingerprints all over their defensive identity. The question will be whether or not Orgeron can pull it all together. He’ll need a strong staff around him, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Orgeron will get it done.

#55 – Matt Campbell – Iowa State

It wasn’t a banner year in Matt Campbell’s first year in Ames has head coach of the Cyclones, but the 3-9 record hid some exciting trends. The Cyclones let a close to Northern Iowa get away from them but they also played Oklahoma, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., and Baylor very close. ISU picked up conference wins over Kansas & Texas Tech, even beating the Red Raiders 66-10 which was Iowa St., most lopsided win since the Cyclones beat Colorado St. 69-0 back in 1980! Campbell is young and energetic. He had tremendous success at Toledo and he has recruiting trending the right direction. There is no reason to believe that Iowa St. can’t be a bowl eligible team on a yearly basis under his watch.

#54 – Matt Rhule – Baylor

Hard to argue with Rhule’s bonafides. His first year at Temple was 2-10. His 3rd year the Owls were 10-4 and AAC East champions. His 4th year they were 10-3 and AAC Champions! The only thing that was tough to argue about Rhule was his taking the Baylor job to begin with. Rhule is a Penn St. graduate and all of his experience is just not east, but east of Ohio! Now he’s smack in the middle of Texas against some HEAVY HITTERS in Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That’s not easy, and I’m not even mentioning the inroads that places like Notre Dame, Alabama and LSU have made the Lone Star State. Rhule will definitely have the Bears playing outstanding defense early.

#53 – Will Muschamp – South Carolina

I’m probably being a little hard on Muschamp here seeing how in his first season he took the Gamecocks to bowl eligibility when nobody except the most dedicated Gamecocks fans though SC would do anything but finish in the basement of the SEC East. My only caveat is that South Carolina and Muschamp worked the schedule which allowed SC to finish 6-6 and get to a bowl. Their non-conference wins included those against East Carolina, UMass and Western Carolina. Missouri was in the tank last year and Vanderbilt wasn’t great so there is 5 wins there. An upset win, which they got over Tennessee, was all SC needed. Muschamp will recruit well enough. Let’s see how his 2nd stint through the SEC East goes.

#52 – Jeff Brohm – Purdue

Brohm wasted little time building off of what Willie Taggart and Bobby Petrino did before him at Western Kentucky. Brohm finished his time in Bowling Green with a 30-10 record with a 19-5 mark in Conference USA play. In his last two seasons at WKU, Brohm led the Hilltoppers to a 22-5 mark including 2 bowl wins and a CUSA record of 15-1 which led to back-to-back conference championships. Brohm had Western Kentucky’s offense flying and the Hilltoppers actually led all of FBS in scoring offense in 2016. Brohm inherits a mess at Purdue, but he’ll get the offense rolling and if the defense follows suit, the Boilermakers could definitely start making noise in the Big 10 West.

#51 – Steve Addazio – Boston College

Addazio’s a tough one to figure out. I think what you have to wonder is what kind of ceiling does a program like Boston College really have? Addazio has went 7-6 in 3 of his 4 years on Chestnut Hill and is 1-2 in bowl games. That’s isn’t terrible when you consider that BC plays in the same division as Clemson, Florida St., and Louisville. In reality, BC is probably looking at a ceiling like 8-4/9-3 and Addazio is pretty close to having the Eagles at this mark with some aspect of sustainability. I think he could recruit better to be sure. Boston College should be able to get better players than what they have. Matt Ryan & Doug Flutie showed how good BC can be when they get elite level talent on the roster.

#50 – Rich Rodriguez – Arizona

Rodriguez is better than this but his teams certainly aren’t playing like it. Rodriguez had somewhat of a breakthrough in 2014 when the Wildcats went 10-4 and won the Pac 12 North, but it was colored a bit by a 51-13 loss to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game followed up by a 38-30 loss to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2015 the Wildcats dropped to 7-6 and last year Arizona completely collapsed finishing 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in conference play! Arizona’s conference record over the past two seasons is 4-14 and Rodriguez’s recruiting classes have been trending downward. USC seems to be stabilizing under Clay Helton. Colorado is emerging. That doesn’t play well for RichRod in the Pac 12 South.

May 14, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona, Baylor, Big 10, Big XII, Boston College, California, Coaching, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa St., Kansas, LSU, Maryland, Missouri, Pac 12, Purdue, Rankings, Rutgers, SEC, South Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia | 4 Comments

2016 NCAA FOOTBALL WEEK 1 – BIG GAMES

TEAM QUICK THOUGHTS TEAM
Computer Hope The game of week 1, USC/Alabama is interesting because both come in with unproven QBs. USC is going with Max Browne while the Tide are going to probably go with Cooper Bateman although we will see some Blake Barnett & maybe even some Jalen Hurts. This is the first game of brutal schedules for both teams so obviously a win sets them up well. I think a couple of things to look for in this game is the matchup of Tide WR Calvin Ridley against Trojan CB Adoree’ Jackson. That’s the highlight film but I think JuJu Smith against the Tide secondary will be interesting as well as the USC O-Line trying to block the Alabama D-Line. According to Phil Steele, USC has the #1 O-Line while Alabama’s D-Line ranks #1. This is the marquee game of the first week & a win definitely puts either USC or Alabama at the head of the championship chase. Computer Hope
Computer Hope How about these numbers for the two starting QBs! OU’s Baker Mayfield completed 68% of his passes last season for 3,700 yards with 36TD to only 7INT. Mayfield also rushed for 405yds & 7TD! Houston’s Greg Ward completed 67% of his passes for 2,828 yards with 17TD to 6INT but ran for 1,108 yards & 21TD! If Houston doesn’t drop a road game to UConn of all teams last season then the Cougars could have went 14-0! This is an insane game for Houston. The Cougars finished in the top-10 last season in HC Tom Herman’s 1st season. There isn’t a hotter team or coach in the nation, but Houston did take on some losses. On the other side is an Oklahoma team who has unfinished business from last year’s playoff run & a QB with a lot of swag. A win helps either team, but it’ll cement OU or Houston becomes a top-10 really quick. Expect fireworks! Computer Hope
Computer Hope These kinds of games are what college football should make happen in every team’s non-conference slate! I can’t wait to see how Chad Kelly does against FSU’s secondary. The Seminoles lost Jalen Ramsey & Lamarcus Brutus but have Tarvarus McFadden, Marquez White, Levonta Taylor, Derwin James & Marcus Lewis which is a RIDICULOUSLY talented group! Kelly is going to put it to the test though with a bunch of Ole Miss receivers who I think are going under the radar. Laquon Treadwell is gone but Quincy Adeboyejo, Damore’ea Stringellow & Evan Engram return. The WR/DB matchup should be incredible. I’m curious to see how Dalvin Cook runs too. The Rebels lost quite a bit of their interior defense so Cook could establish his Heisman candidacy early with 150yds/2TD and a big Florida St. win. Ole Miss needs it if they want to win 11! Computer Hope
Computer Hope This is a big game for the Tigers especially considering it’s a national game at Lambeau Field. It doesn’t get more storied than that. To me this game is about LSU’s dominance. There is no way Wisconsin can hang with LSU on talent alone & when you combine that with the fact that LSU has the best running back in the nation & Wisconsin is breaking in a new starting QB, then you start coming to the conclusion that LSU not only needs to win this game, but they need to destroy the Badgers leaving no doubt. Wisconsin is a HARD nosed team to be sure. They’ll show up and I’m curious to how ILBs TJ Edwards & Jack Cichy as well as 34DEs Conor Sheehy & Chikwe Obasih do against Leonard Fournettt. All 4 players are returning starters for the Badgers & if they neutralize Fournette, the onus will fall to Brandon Harris. LSU needs a decisive victory here. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I think this is a really interesting game because of the heat the coaches could be under. The Irish have a QB controversy brewing between Deshone Kizer & Malik Zaire. HC Brian Kelly didn’t do anything to stop the flames from getting bigger when he said both will play against Texas. Charlie Strong did the same between his two potential starters in Steve Buechelle & Tyrone Swoopes. The Irish were hit hard by the NFL Draft and the Longhorns return more starters but clearly Notre Dame has been better in recent seasons. Regardless of outcome, the loser is going to be second guessed because the QB by committee didn’t work & neither team has an easy schedule, which means the season could get off the rails before it even begins. The game is in Austin & Texas needs it more, but I’m not sure either coach is really in a position to lose their opener. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I’m excited to see how Tar Heel RB Elijah Hood does against a Kirby Smart defense with the talent Georgia has. Hood ran for 1,463 yards last year with 17TD, but he had the benefit of veteran starter Marquise Williams under center. This year the Tar Heels break in a new starter in Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky has a ton of weapons including Hood, WR Ryan Switzer & WR Mack Hollins. Carolina averaged 41PPG last year & the scoring should continue. On the other hand, Georgia returns a tremendous amount of talent on defense including their entire secondary & a good LB corps. Unfortunately for UNC is that UGA RB Nick Chubb is going to play & his carries apparently will not be limited. That’s bad news as Chubb is a MONSTER! Chubb is a load & Carolina hasn’t been a great rush defense. North Carolina can’t win if Chubb runs all over them. Computer Hope
Computer Hope This isn’t an easy opener for Clemson especially given that it’s a road game. The matchup here obviously is Clemson QB Deshaun Watson against the Auburn edge rushers, and the edge rusher that could make a HUGE difference is Carl Lawson. Injured last year Lawson is a game changer so Watson & Clemson LT Mitch Hyatt are going to have to play well. It’s not just Lawson either. DTs Dontavius Russell & Montravius Adams can move the interior & Lawson has help on the edge with Marlon Davidson, Byron Cowart & Jeff Holland. Clemson has a lot back on offense but Auburn’s defense looks good. I’m excited to see what Gus Malzahn does with this offense. I like that he named Sean White the starting QB & I’m excited about RB Kerryon Johnson. Clemson took on massive losses on defense & return just 4 starters. War Eagle will make a game of it. Computer Hope
Computer Hope There is so much going on here. The Myles Garrett v. Josh Rosen storyline is incredible and I can’t wait to see it play out on the field, but I also think Texas A&M’s offense is going to be really interesting. Trevor Knight transferred in from Oklahoma & he’ll take over the reigns of an offense that should be outstanding through he air. A&M also brings in another Oklahoma transfer in RB Keith Ford. The Bruins return 10 starters on defense if you count DT Eddie Vanderdoes. They’ll be up to the task. I’m excited to see a healthy Vanderdoes as he’s one of the most dominant interior D-Linemen in the nation. This is a tough game for the Bruins but UCLA is could make a next-level jump. They avoid Oregon & Washington out of the South & get both Stanford & USC at home. A win here sets up UCLA beautifully for a perfect run through the regular season. Computer Hope
Computer Hope West Virginia is one of my favorite college football teams. I think college football is better when they are relevant. Since joining the Big XII the Mountaineers have gone 15-21 in Big XII and nothing illustrates where WVU better than what happened in 2015. The Mountaineers lose to Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Bayor & TCU in 4 consecutive weeks. Three of those games were on the road & all 4 teams were ranked at the time West Virginia played them. This year WVU finds themselves in another interesting position in that they get Kansas St., Okahoma, TCU, Missouri & Baylor in Morgantown. It’s probably too much to ask for WVU to stay perfect on Mountaineer Field, but they should only lose 1-2 games at home if that. HC Dana Holgorsen needs to make a step in the right direction and this feels like a West Virginia squad that could get to 10 victories. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The Rocky Mountain Showdown is one of my favorite intra-state rivalry games. I do wich they’d start going back to campus sites however. The game is especially beautiful when both teams are playing on Fort Collins in Hughes Stadium! I’m excited to see what Colorado can do in this game. The Buffaloes bring back 18 starters from a 4-9 team in 2015 including QB Sefo Liufau, RB Phillip Lindsay & DE Derek McCartney who is a load to block on the outside at 6’5/255lbs. HC Mike MacIntyre took over a San Jose St. team in 2010 that went 2-10 in 2009. In MacIntyre’s first year the Spartans were 1-12. His 2nd year 5-7. His 3rd year? San Jose St. was 12-2! This is MacIntyre’s 4th year in Boulder but Colorado has gotten better each year he’s been there. A good sign for the Buffs would be blowing out the Rams. Don’t count on it but CU gets a win. Computer Hope

August 31, 2016 Posted by | Alabama, Auburn, Big Games, Clemson, Colorado, Colorado St., Florida St., Georgia, Houston, LSU, Mississippi, Missouri, NCAA, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Previews, Texas, Texas AM, UCLA, USC, Week 1, West Virginia, Wisconsin | 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 12 – BIG GAMES

ROAD QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope More separation in store for the Big XII. I think this is the biggest game of the week because I’m still not sold on Oklahoma State. They struggled last week against Iowa St., and maybe TCU isn’t as good as we think. The Cowboys non-conference schedule was terrible so this game will go a long way to proving some legitimacy for them. The Big XII’s best hope for a playoff spot is Oklahoma or Oklahoma St., so the conference is certainly hoping for a Cowboys victory. Computer Hope
Computer Hope TCU barely got by Kansas last week 23-17 & Trevone Boykin is beat up. WR Josh Doctson is hurting as well so the Frogs are at a severe disadvantage. Making matters worse is that Oklahoma might be the hottest team in football & is playing better than anyone in the nation not named Alabama. I’m on board with the Sooners & I think nothing could potentially be better than an Alabama/Oklahoma national championship. I think the Sooners roll! Computer Hope
Computer Hope I’m really excited to see how Michigan St.’s defense attacks Ohio St. & JT Barrett. I love Spartan LB Riley Bullough. LBs Darien Harris & Jon Reschke are going to be responsible for shutting down Ezekiel Elliott & keeping Barrett contained. Michigan St. will pressure with Malik McDowell & Shilique Calhoun off the edges. Elliott & Barrett wore the Spartans out last year in Ohio St.’s 49-37 win in East Lansing. I hope Michigan St. puts up a better fight in 2015. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Penn St. suffers from what Mississippi St. suffers. They look like a solid football team at 7-3. Penn St.’s losses have come on the road against Temple, Ohio St. & Northwestern. It’s all acceptable, but then you look at the wins. Their best win might be San Diego St. or Indiana. Michigan can’t overlook Penn St. though. The Lions can get after it on defense, they are playing at home & Michigan has struggled quite a bit lately against Minnesota & Indiana. Computer Hope
Computer Hope This game doesn’t have the national appeal as the above games do, but it’s a tremendous game & I can’t wait to see it. USC has won 4 straight & has a chance to win the Pac 12 South if they win out. They’ve been playing MUCH better now that the coaching drama is behind them. Oregon has won 4 straight games & is looking like the best team in the Pac 12 with a healthy Vernon Adams. If the Ducks win out & Stanford loses to Cal, Oregon wins the Pac 12 North. Computer Hope
Computer Hope This is a tough one. Both teams enter the game at 8-2 with their 2 losses being against highly ranked teams. Both lost to Iowa. Northwestern also lost to Michigan while Wisconsin also lost to Alabama. Corey Clement is questionable, but if he plays then I think this game is almost impossible for Northwestern to win. If he doesn’t then the Wildcats could win another ugly game. This game ultimately determines who is the 2nd best team in the Big 10 West. Computer Hope
Computer Hope A win over Mississippi St. this week would give Arkansas their 5th straight win & their 6th win in their last 7 games. Those wins include contests at Tennessee, v. Auburn, at Ole Miss, at LSU and then v. Mississippi State! The one loss? In Tuscaloosa against the Tide! Like last year, Arkansas has needed time to warm up, but if they could start the season on fire, we might be talking playoffs. At this minute Arkansas could be the 3rd best team in the nation! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Both teams need this win badly. LSU is coming off 2 straight losses. There is quiet talk the Tigers have been overrated all season long & too much credence given to their 7-point win over Florida. Ole Miss needs the win to keep the possibility of finishing the year with 10 wins. Les Miles might have the most to lose here. Lose this game & it’s a real possibility LSU finishes 8-4 after starting 8-0! I get the bizarre feeling that Miles’ seat could get extremely hot. Computer Hope
Computer Hope On the surface I don’t think North Carolina should be all that worried about Virginia Tech. The Hokies are having a down year and at 5-5, they don’t look so hot. On the other hand, this the final home game for outgoing HC Frank Beamer who has made Virginia Tech football what it is. It’s also an opportunity for the Hokies to get bowl eligible in Beamer’s last season. There will be TREMENDOUS emotion in Lane Stadium & Blacksburg is never an easy place to win. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Stanford has won The Big Game for the past 5 seasons. I don’t expect that to change this season, but you never know. The Bears aren’t awful & this is a must win for Stanford if it wants to win the Pac 12 North. Remember a Stanford loss combined with an Oregon win gives the Ducks the keys to the North. The loss to Oregon last week was lethal for the Cardinal, but keep in mind that this team still has the opportunity to finish with a 12-2 record if it wins out. Computer Hope
Computer Hope After starting the season 6-0 with great wins over Michigan & Oregon, the Utes have come back down to earth going 2-2 in their last 4. Amazingly enough, they need help to win the Pac 12 North as they do not own the tiebreaker with USC. The good news is that USC plays Oregon in Eugene this week so if Utah doesn’t let down, they could/should win the South. Like Stanford last week, Utah’s loss destroyed any hope for a playoff appearance but they could still win 12. Computer Hope
Computer Hope How is this for AAC drama!? This is actually a must win for Temple. The Owls losing to South Florida last week opens up the AAC East as another Temple loss would force them into a tie with USF who holds the tirebreaker over Temple! Temple’s amazing season wouldn’t even result in a division title! Memphis on the other hand is playing spoiler. They can’t win the AAC West, but they can do their part to ensure Temple doesn’t win the East. Very interesting. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Last week’s 28-7 win over Wake Forest was dominant, but the Big XII is moving in fast on the Irish in the college football playoff poll, so now more than ever the Irish need some style points. Unfortunately I don’t think there will be many to be had in Fenway as the Irish probably beat BC but it’ll be close. The Eagles can play defense so the Irish cannot overlook them to next week’s game against Stanford. Notre Dame needs a little help to make the playoffs. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Purdue is 0-4 on the road & 2-8 overall so you might think Iowa doesn’t have too much to worry about this weekend, but I’d be cautious. The Boilermakers can put a scare into you & they can catch lightning in a bottle (ask Nebraska). The Boilermakers have played Wisconsin, Michigan St. & Northwestern tough on the road. Iowa is no different so they’ll need to be ready in case Lady Luck decides to shine on Purdue. Iowa should win but this could be close. Computer Hope
Computer Hope HUGE TRAP game for Houston. The Cougars come into this game at 10-0 & next week they play their season finale at home against Navy which will decide the AAC-West. Last week Houston barely escaped Memphis 35-34 & the week prior they barely escaped Cincinnati 33-30. Oddly enough, UConn might be the best defensive team Houston has played so far & HC Bob Diaco will have the boys fired up. UConn was on bye last week too. Upset alert!!!!!! Computer Hope
Computer Hope The Duel in the Desert! I love intrastate rivalry games like this. I think both of these teams are disappointed in their seasons. For the Sun Devils they need one more win to get bowl eligible & this is their last home game. Arizona is bowl eligible at 6-5 but a 7-5/6-6 season has to be disappointing & if Rich Rodriguez bolts for Miami-FL or Virginia Tech, the program will likely be set back a few years. I hope RichRod sticks around. He makes the Pac 12 stronger. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The MAC SPECIAL! Bowling Green at 8-2 cannot lose the MAC East. They are 6-0 in conference. On the other hand, Toledo is fighting for their lives to win the MAC West. A win here gives the Rockets a 6-1 record but the loss to Northern Illinois is killer as they lose the tiebreaker! What’s crazy about Toledo is that the NIU loss is likely to cost them the MAC West, but it also cost them a perfect season. Tough to go 11-1 & have nothing to show for it. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I have the Vols ranked #14 in my latest power poll. This week’s game against Missouri should be a good test of that ranking. If my ranking is legit, then UT shouldn’t have any issues rolling over a Mizzou squad that is 1-5 in the SEC. On the other hand, Columbia is an extremely volatile place right now with the racial narrative that is taking place. I think Tennessee is a really good football team. I’d love to see them put in work and finish the season 9-4. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Both Maryland & Indiana are 0-6 in the Big 10 this season. This isn’t a game that will get a lot of buzz but I still like it. For Maryland it’s their last chance to get a home win. That’s not great but it’s something to build on. For the Hoosiers, it might be their best chance to get that elusive 6th win to become bowl eligible. If Indiana doesn’t get it this week then they’ll need a road win over rival Purdue which seems unlikely. A loss here definitely warms up Kevin Wilson’s seat. Computer Hope

November 19, 2015 Posted by | Arizona, Arizona St., Arkansas, Baylor, Big Games, Boston College, Bowling Green, California, Connecticut, Houston, Indiana, Iowa, LSU, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan, Michigan St., Mississippi, Mississippi St., Missouri, Must See Games, NCAA, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Oregon, Penn St., Purdue, Stanford, TCU, Temple, Tennessee, Toledo, UCLA, USC, Utah, Virginia Tech, Week 12, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

2015 NCAA WEEK 7 – BIG GAMES

ROAD QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope This game has the most potential to upend the rankings especially if Texas A&M comes away with a win. If the Aggies can win this game then they have a legitimate shot at being #1 when the dust settles as Utah plays Arizona St. & Florida plays LSU. Keep an eye on the trenches in this one. Texas A&M’s D-Line is one of the most aggressive in the country with Myles Garrett & Daeshon Hall, but the Aggies are suspect against the run. Expect big doses of Derrick Henry to try & neutralize the pass rush & avoid turnovers. Computer Hope
Computer Hope There isn’t a team in college football more on fire than Michigan is at the moment. The weird part about Michigan is that there was talent on the roster so it’s not completely surprising that Jim Harbaugh could come in and win some games. Statistically speaking Michigan is better in all phases of the game & they are playing at home. There is on thing to look for & it’s turnover margin. Michigan is -1 on the year while Michigan St. is +8. I’d expect a lot of ground & pound but Connor Cook could put Sparty on his back. Michigan St. needs it! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Losing Will Grier is brutal for the Gators. Florida finally found a leader in their QB for the first time since Tebowmania left Gainesville & now he’s gone. That means Treon Harris has to step up in a big way for Florida to be taken seriously as a playoff threat. A win in Baton Rouge could solidify Florida’s place in the national landscape but while their rush defense has been great, they haven’t faced a rushing offense featuring Leonard Fournette & Derrius Guice. Oddly enough both teams need this for validation. Computer Hope
Computer Hope This is obviously a huge rivalry game, but USC couldn’t be facing the Irish at a more difficult time. I think it’ll be interesting to see who the Trojans respond with their backs against the wall on the road against a hated rival. Teams can do special things when they have that “us against the world” mentality so Notre Dame has to be careful as another loss could completely ruin what chance they may still have for a spot in the 4-team playoff. There is an awful lot of offensive talent on USC’s side so the Irish better be ready. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Iowa can wrap up the Big 10 West with a win in Evanston this weekend, but even a loss doesn’t prevent them losing the division as long as they can win the rest of their games & Northwestern slips up one more time (how about in Madison?). I don’t want to see the Hawkeyes back into this one though. This might be the best Iowa team we’ve seen in some time. The defense is very good & RB Jordan Canzeri could get some Heisman buzz should Iowa keep rolling. I think it would be nice for the Big 10 West to be clean. Iowa can do that. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Arizona St. could find themselves deserving of a very high ranking should they beat Utah in Salt Lake City, something Michigan & California couldn’t manage. Combine this win with a Texas A&M loss & you could make an argument that the Sun Devils are a top-5 team & the best team in the Pac 12. The USC loss would seem distant. The big question then becomes whether an 11-2 Arizona St. team could make the playoffs? A Utah win only reinforces what I already know. The Utes are the best team in college football at the moment. Computer Hope
Computer Hope It seems like it has been forever since UCLA last played, but despite their loss to Arizona St., the Bruins aren’t in that bad of a position. A win in Pao Alto cures a lot of ills, but it won’t be an easy task as Stanford finds themselves in almost the same position. I think UCLA is playing with house money at this point. Losing Myles Jack & Eddie Vanderdoes is brutal & I’m not sure how UCLA survives it. They also have a frosh QB. Should they expect to make the playoffs? Imagine if Hundley returned & the injuries didn’t happen? Computer Hope
Computer Hope Memphis can play a little bit. Last year the Tigers were 10-3 & 2 of those 3 losses were close so they could argue they should have been 12-1! Paxton Lynch has made big strides at QB & the Memphis receivers have done a great job at making big plays. Ole Miss’s offense should be able to carve the defense up pretty well but Memphis should be able to score & don’t forget about the Florida game. Lynch could have a game like Will Grier. If Ole Miss gets turnover happy then Memphis could win & the SEC West gets shaken a bit. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Since Florida St. has started conference play they’ve been somewhat living on the edge. The Seminoles haven’t looked particularly impressive beating Boston College, Wake Forest or Miami-FL over their last 3 games. Now comes Louisville who is coming off a bye & are the winners of 2 straight games. Lamar Jackson has a lot of work to do on his passing game, but he’s a big play threat with his feet & Louisville is THIS CLOSE to being 5-0. It’s a home game for FSU which helps but they are on upset alert. Computer Hope
Computer Hope This is a solid game for Georgia to get back on their feet after losing back-to-back games to Alabama & Tennessee. Missouri isn’t awful but the game is in Athens & the Tigers will still be without their starting QB Maty Mauk. Georgia isn’t without losses either as star RB Nick Chubb is out with an ACL injury, but it’s not like Georgia won’t be able to run the ball with guys like Sony Michel & Keith Marshall. Georgia isn’t completely out of it considering the Will Grier situation, but they need to win out. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I still think Boston College is one of the most intriguing teams in college football & I can’t think of a non-contending team I’d want to play less than the Eagles. BC is coming off back-to-back heart breaking losses to Wake Forest & Duke & at some point a few breaks will go their way. Clemson is coming off 3 emotional wins over Louisville, Notre Dame & Georgia Tech. This is sort of a “perfect storm” scenario so Clemson has to watch. If BC had any type of QB confidence, an upset might not be much of an upset. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Since losing at BYU in Week 2, Boise St. has won 4 straight by the combined score of 203-24! If not for the BYU loss, Boise would be looking at a 13-0 season that might not be difficult to obtain. Their defense is the very definition of ball-hawking. Boise ranks #2 in TO margin at +10 & their 13 interceptions lead the nation. Offensively, the Broncos grind it out behind Jeremy McNichols who is on pace for 1,000yds/24TD! Utah St. is a good football team. If they can avoid mistakes, they’ll make of game of it. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Oklahoma is coming off a stunning 24-17 loss to Texas & now travel to Manhattan to take on an Kansas St. team that always plays well at home & will be a very tough out for the Sooners. Oklahoma still has a legit shot at the playoffs if they win out, but that is going to be tougher than it looks. Kansas St. probably should have beaten Oklahoma St. & took TCU to the brink last week before losing 52-45. Kansas St. wants to grind out games so it’ll be interesting to see how Oklahoma defends & what they’ll do offensively. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Can you imagine having West Virginia’s schedule? Their week 5 through week 11 games are: @Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., @Baylor, bye, @TCU, Texas Tech & Texas. West Virginia could be a top-25 team & yet be 3-6 after 9 games. I really like West Virginia & Dana Holgorsen but this is a TALL TEST this week against the Bears. Games like this remind me of the old Big East and how much better it would be if we had that conference. Now teams like WVU, Cincinnati & Pittsburgh seem at a disadvantage. Computer Hope
Computer Hope This might be one of the best games of the week because of the implications. Before last season when GT went 11-3, won the Coastal & almost upset FSU in the ACC Championship game, the rumors of Paul Johnson’s demise were starting to heat up. After losing 4 straight this year, those rumors are starting to surface yet again. I can’t believe how bad GT has been this season. As for Pitt, a win is amazing. Consider that the only loss on Pittsburgh’s schedule came on the road at Iowa by 3 points. Computer Hope
Computer Hope After losing back-to-back games against UCLA & Michigan, BYU has bounced back with a couple of solid wins over Connecticut & East Carolina. Cincinnati is an interesting opponent. The Bearcats are 3-2 & coming off a bye & before that they beat Miami-FL. Cincinnati can score although their defense is rough so I’d expect BYU to win the game. This is likely BYU’s toughest test remaining on the schedule. A win here could propel BYU to 10-2 & a bowl win gives them 11, the most they’ve had since 2009. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Nebraska hasn’t been nationally relevant for close to 15 years. This game will be a pretty cool microcosm for a lot of details. The first is Nebraska moving to the Big 10 was a disaster. In the Big XII North they virtually had a cakewalk to the Big XII title gave every year. The second is that with a Gophers win you can say Nebraska is now behind Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota & Northwestern in the Big 10 West! The third is what coaching does. Minnesota got it right with Jerry Kill. NU got it wrong with Pelini & Callahan. Computer Hope
Computer Hope With a loss, Oregon can drop to 1-3 in the Pac 12 & 3-4 overall! It sounds wild but Washington still has a legit shot at winning the Pac 12 North. Their only loss is to California but the Bears lost last week to Utah so if Cal loses another, Washington would be ahead. UW’s schedule is nasty, but they could argue they should be 5-0 & Chris Petersen has found a special QB in Jake Browning. I love the juxtaposition of the two programs. Washington seems to be on the rise while Oregon is falling rather quickly. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Miami-FL still controls their own destiny. The Hurricanes season got off to a good start winning 3 straight including a big win over Nebraska, but Miami has lost their last 2 to Cincinnati & Florida State. The FSU loss isn’t huge & Miami can get back on track with a win over the Hokies. It’ll be interesting to see how Al Golden pulls it together (if he can) because I’m not sure he’s long for the job. It’s time to make a change in Coral Gables, but the real trick will finding the right fit. It hasn’t been easy for “THE U”! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Auburn is still Auburn but what makes this game interesting is what happens with a Kentucky win. The Wildcats are 4-1 with a couple of surprise wins over Missouri & South Carolina. With the SEC East sort of up in the air, UK has a decent shot if they can defend Lexington! If UK can defend their home turf, then a 9-3/10-2 season could be a real possibility & would 6-2 be good enough to win the SEC East? UK could wind up 11-3!!! A win over Auburn puts them closer & gives UK even more confidence. Computer Hope
Computer Hope My MAC special! Western Michigan isn’t a good football team, but the Broncos are coming off a 41-39 upset of Central Michigan. There isn’t much WMU does exceptionally well but they can throw behind QB Zach Terrell at times. Ohio is the interesting team here. The Bobcats are 5-1 with their only loss coming at Minnesota in a 27-24 loss to the Gophers. Ohio’s pass defense is great so we might end up with a blowout here. Ohio is a player in the MAC & could wind up with 9-10 wins. Big improvement from last year. Computer Hope

October 15, 2015 Posted by | Alabama, Arizona St., Auburn, Baylor, Big Games, Boise St., Boston College, BYU, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida, Florida St., Georgia, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Kansas St., Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, Miami-FL, Michigan, Michigan St., Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Must See Games, NCAA, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Texas AM, UCLA, USC, Utah, Utah St., Virginia Tech, Washington, Week 7, West Virginia, Western Michigan | Leave a comment

2015 NCAA WEEK 6 – BIG GAMES

ROAD QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope This game has the most potential to impact the rankings in my opinion. Northwestern is ranked #13 in the AP Poll despite my having them as the #2 ranked team in the nation. What really can’t be debated is that a Northwestern win will give the Wildcats wins over Stanford, Michigan & Duke. If Northwestern wins by 10 then it outdoes Utah’s win by 7 in Utah. Utah is ranked #5 in the AP. Wouldn’t NW have to be a top-3 team then? If Michigan wins & Utah stays unbeaten how is Utah not #1 & Michigan not #2 at this point? Great game! Computer Hope
Computer Hope It’s amazing that these two are the last 2 unbeaten teams in the Pac 12. There is a lot going on here. California is off to an incredible start, but they haven’t really played anyone & their schedule now gets considerably tougher starting with a trip to Salt Lake City. QB Jared Goff is getting tons of press & now he’ll be able to show what he can do this season against a top flight defense. It’s amazing that Utah hasn’t played since blasting Oregon 62-20. That seems like forever ago. It’ll be nice to see the Utes back in action! Can’t wait! Computer Hope
Computer Hope The Irish haven’t lost to Navy since 2010 but the last 2 years, ND’s won tight games. Navy is always a tough game to play for Notre Dame it seems just from the injury report a lone. The Irish hammered Georgia Tech so the triple option Navy runs shouldn’t be an issue & if ND plays to talent this should be a 50-10 game like it was in 2012, but I’m very curious to see how Notre Dame comes back after a crushing loss at Clemson. The Middies are 4-0 coming into this game so I’m certain their mindset is coming into South Bend to upset ND! Computer Hope
Computer Hope The jerseys alone are worth watching this one. Miami-FL might be one of the most difficult places to coach. It takes a certain kind of coach to pull it off. Al Golden doesn’t seem to have it. Randy Shannon didn’t have. Butch Jones did. Jimmy Johnson did. There is enough talent on Miami’s roster to win this game which would certainly shake up the ACC, but after getting housed at Cincinnati, my faith in the Al Golden regime is non-existent. On the other hand, FSU hasn’t played all that well lately against Boston College & Wake Forest. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Like Florida St./Miami-FL, this one is cool because of the jerseys & the fact that it’s the RED RIVER RIVALRY! I guess you can sort of throw the records out with this one. Last year Oklahoma squeaked by with a 31-26 win whereas in 2013, the Longhorns upset OU 36-20! If OU plays right this should be a blow out which puts even more heat on Charlie Strong. Remember that Mack Brown was 9-4 in his 2nd year in Austin & he took over a worse situation than Strong inherited. Should it take that long to win at a program like Texas? Computer Hope
Computer Hope Before the season began, I would have thought this game could very well decide the SEC West. Instead, the Razorbacks have lost 3 games & Alabama is 4-1 with a loss to Ole Miss. It could still very well decide the SEC West should Arkansas win as it would most likely knock Alabama out of contention. If Alabama is on, then I don’t think they can be beat, but Arkansas is still a VERY good football & they’ll try to control the clock against the Tide. I’m not saying it’ll work, but Alabama won this game 14-13 last year. It could be very close. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Like Alabama/Arkansas in the West, this was the game I thought would decide the East, but Tennessee has already lost a couple of conference games & UGA was embarrassed by Alabama last week in Athens. Georgia still controls its destiny & it’ll be interesting to see how the Bulldogs rebound from losing to Alabama. Tennessee is no pushover team. You can easily argue they should have beaten Oklahoma, Arkansas & Florida so Georgia won’t be in for an easy game especially in Neyland. Chaos could continue with a Vols victory. Computer Hope
Computer Hope With Maty Mauk suspended for violation of team conduct policy, Mizzou QB Drew Lock got the start & had a helluva game going 21/28 for 136yds & 2TD in the 24-10 win over SOuth Carolina. Missouri essentially had no vertical game, but the offense was still effective. Florida is off to an amazing start but I wouldn’t count out HC Gary Pinkel and the Tigers playing upset special. Florida had 3 close wins before & emotional romp over Ole Miss last week in Gainesville. Now they play on the road so how big will the let down be if any? Computer Hope
Computer Hope Beating Wisconsin in Madison simply doesn’t rate anymore. Last week Iowa was ranked #22 in the AP & #23 in the Coaches poll. The Hawkeyes go on the road to Camp-Randall & pick up a 10-6 victory & they don’t move an inch in the polls! Yours truly bumped Iowa 8 spots from #22 to #14. Last week was the first time I got to see Iowa for a full game this season & I really liked what I saw. Canzeri’s a beast & Beathard is better than he showed last week. Iowa is at Northwestern next week so I hope they don’t overlook the Illini here! Computer Hope
Computer Hope I still like Georgia Tech as a team although the offense hasn’t clicked under Justin Thomas like I thought it would. Clemson needs to be on upset alert especially after the emotional win over Notre Dame last weekend. I would say I think GT could pull off the stunner but DeShone Kizer completed 70% of his passes for 242yds/TD. Thomas Sirk completed 68% of his passes & ran for 50+yds. Marquise Williams ran for 148yds/2TD last week. GT has a hard time with good QBs and unfortunately for them, DeShaun Watson is next in line. Computer Hope
Computer Hope With Iowa & Northwestern playing so well, this game has sort of taken a backseat, but it’s still fairly interesting. Wisconsin didn’t draw Michigan, Ohio St. or Michigan St. out of the East & they play N’Western at home so they could wind up 10-2 (7-1). Nebraska has lost to Illinois & get Michigan St. at home but the Spartans haven’t put fear into anyone so if the Huskers win out they could be 9-3 (7-1). Neither team looks like a player, but both could be & this is a great game to jump start a push towards relevance so it should be pivotal. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Kansas St. is coming off a brutal home loss to Oklahoma St. and now they get the Frogs coming to town. At first glance this seems like a game that might be worth watching. Kansas St. only has the one loss & the game is in Manhattan with TCU not being overly dominant this season. The last time they played here Kansas St. won 33-31! On the other hand, Oklahoma St. just passed for 441 yards on the K-State defense so that doesn’t bode well with Trevone Boykin coming to town. TCU is almost averaging 60PPG in their last 4 games! Computer Hope
Computer Hope You could definitely make an argument that if Nate Sudfeld & Jordan Howard don’t get hurt last week, the Hoosiers could very well be sitting at 5-0 with a win over Ohio State! Instead, Xander Diamont was atrocious from the pocket as usual & Ohio St. escaped. The trick here is seeing if Kevin Wilson has Indiana over the hump. If Indiana plays like they did against Ohio St. for the rest of the season then the Hoosiers should end up at worst 8-4. Is that enough to turn the tide? I’ve been skeptical of Wilson, but maybe he actually gets it. Computer Hope
Computer Hope It’s really tough to get a gauge on how good Oklahoma St. is & this will be a good game to see if they are really deserving of being 5-0 or are they just pretending as WVU is actually a very solid team in my opinion. One thing that absolutely stands out about the Cowboys is their ability to get pressure on the QB. OK State leads the nation in sacks & tackles for loss. This is certainly a deviation of their usual narrative of being an offensive first football team. WVU hasn’t been great at pass protection so Skyler Howard could have a long day! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Oddball game between 2-3 Wake Forest & 3-2 Boston College but I think it could have meaning. You can make a strong case that BC should be 5-0 with wins over Florida St. & Duke. I REALLY like this team. Florida St. struggled with Wake so if BC blows them out it strengthens their case against Florida State. I think it also puts teams on upset alert. I’m not sure I want to be Clemson & Notre Dame getting a Boston College team with confidence and the ability to keep getting better. BC could make it very interesting in the Atlantic very soon! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Depending on how close you follow college football, you might not have noticed Middle Tennessee St., but they have had a pretty good run so far at 2-3. When they’ve won they’ve dominated & they almost beat Illinois & Vanderbilt so that 2-3 could easily be 4-1. rFR QB Brent Stockstill is having a tremendous season & the team has some athletes. WKU has QB Brandon Doughty. HE’S WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION! So far he’s completed 74% of his passes for 2000yds with 15TD/2INT. He’s a Heisman front-runner if not at WKU! Computer Hope
Computer Hope A fairly big MAC West game, both of these teams are chasing Toledo & the Cardinals already were whipped by the Rockets, but this is still the most interesting game in the MAC & I wanted to start including MAC games. I was surprised last week at NIU losing to Central Michigan after the Huskies came THIS CLOSE to beating both Ohio St. & Boston College. Maybe playing their 3rd road game in as many weeks took too much of a toll. Ball St. is a good team & they might be catching NIU as the wrong time, but this should be a good game. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I wanted put in Hawaii this week because their year has been so weird. The Rainbows are 2-3 and in their wins they’ve outscored their opponents 75-47. That’s not that odd but in their losses they’ve been outscored 111-0! Every loss Hawaii has had this year has been a shutout! The other interesting part is that Hawaii is 2-0 at home but 0-3 on the road. They can’t score on the mainland! I think that trend ends with SDSU this week. I still really like the Aztecs. They’ve had a couple of close losses but could still the MW West division. Computer Hope

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Ball St., Big Games, Boston College, California, Clemson, Florida, Florida St., Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas St., Miami-FL, Michigan, Middle Tennessee St., Missouri, Must See Games, N. Illinois, Navy, NCAA, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Penn St., San Diego St., TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wake Forest, Week 6, West Virginia, Western Kentucky, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

2015 NCAA WEEK 4 – BIG GAMES

ROAD QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope Pac 12 play opens for both of these schools in the best game of the week in my opinion. Utah has played great so far this year but a win over Oregon would garner national attention which is something Utah needs. Oregon definitely has issues on defense but Utah doesn’t necessarily have a high powered offense that can exploit Oregon’s weaknesses. Then again, Utah could ball control the Ducks. This won’t be an easy game for either team I suspect, but whoever dictates style will likely come out as the winner. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The Pac 12 South is far from decided but with Arizona St. & USC already suffering losses, Arizona & UCLA are the last teams standing (I didn’t forget about you Utah!). I can’t wait to see this game because Josh Rosen finally goes into enemy territory in the Pac 12. Arizona’s pass defense has been effective in creating turnovers which could come back to haunt the true freshman who is looking the part in UCLA’s last couple of games. Anu Solomon & Nick Wilson are having fantastic years & UCLA should be on upset alert. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I’m a huge fan of Kliff Kingsbury because I think he gets it. He’s bringing some serious swag to Texas Tech & while the Red Raiders were down a little bit last year, they are picking it back up this season starting with their demolishing of Arkansas & then Kingsbury talking smack to Arkansas HC Bret Bielema. At the beginning of the year I would have thought TCU would roll in this one but Tech QB Patrick Mahomes is playing well & the TCU defense hasn’t played up to their usual standards. This one is gonna be great! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Early season games can be hard on teams. USC took a loss from Stanford last week & Arizona St. was handed a season opening loss at the hands of Texas A&M. It looks like the season has went off the rails but in reality that’s hardly the case. In USC’s case the Stanford loss didn’t drop them out of the top-20 & for the most part they are still viable. Arizona St. essentially dropped off the map despite winning their next 2 games. These are both solid football teams but remember that a loss by USC means 2 in conference. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Tennessee should win this game. They are clearly the better team & if not for a let down agaisnt Oklahoma, the Vols would be a top-10 team at 3-0 heading into Gainesville against a Florida team that looked a little iffy against both East Carolina & Kentucky. The Vols have to have revenge on their minds as Florida upset UT 10-9 in Knoxville last season & Tennessee has quite a bit riding on this game. Then again, I’m not betting against Jim McElwain having the Gators ready in a pivotal SEC East game. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I love the scenarios with this game. If BYU wins they improve to 3-1 & their only really tough game remaining is a neutral site game against Missouri. If they run the table, then BYU goes 11-1 & makes a STRONG case for the playoffs IF UCLA can run the table. If Michigan wins & Utah beats Oregon, then the Wolverines look pretty darn amazing as they’re only loss will have come on the road to Utah by 7 points. You can’t really lose with either outcome, but it would be cool to see BYU push the playoff envelope! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Missouri is 3-0 but it’s a suspect 3-0. They barely held on to beat UConn last week 9-6 & the week before they got a close win over Arkansas St. 27-20. QB Maty Mauk hasn’t been good this year & Mizzou doesn’t really have any weapons around him right now. This is another opportunity for Kentucky to climb the ladder in the SEC East. The loss to Florida might hurt but I think UK still has a legit shot at being 3rd in the division with a win here. Then again, Gary Pinkel is an OUTSTANDING football coach. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Somewhat like Michigan/BYU, the scenarios here are pretty amazing but with the added bonus that both of these teams play in the ACC Coastal division. Georgia Tech’s only loss has  come on the road to Notre Dame. That’s hardly laughable. Duke’s only loss came at home at the hands of Northwestern, the team that beat Stanford who just beat USC. I think the Coastal has opened up a bit with Michael Brewer going down for Virginia Tech. I think it’ll be very interesting to see how Georgia Tech bounces back. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Every football coach in Texas is lining up to take their shots at Arkansas & HC Bret Bielema after what Bielema said about Texas HS football coaches. The Aggies are no different. After taking a beating & catching flack from Texas Tech & Kliff Kingsbury, the Razorbacks now have to welcome in the Aggies who should be A LOT tougher to handle. After the loss to Toledo, Bielema seemed relieved it wasn’t a conference game. Neither was the loss to Texas Tech, but a loss here definitely counts ni conference! Computer Hope
Computer Hope After their 16-13 road loss to Boise St., Washington has quietly put together a couple of solid wins over Sacramento St. & Utah State. Freshman Jake Browning has stepped up quite a bit & has Chris Petersen’s squad looking better. While they aren’t Oregon or Stanford, I still think this is a huge opporunity for California! The Bears are on the rise & a solid road win over Washington would help out the Bears. QB Jared Goff keeps making a Heisman push & this will be a solid game to add to his resume. I’m loving Cal. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The heat under Charlie Strong’s seat can’t seemingly get hotter but if Texas loses this game, then the Longhorns have TCU & Oklahoma up next meaning Texas could easily start the season 1-5 and even then it doesn’t get easy as they’d host Kansas State in Game #7! The Cowboys are ranked and the defense has been playing well despite the lack of competition in their first 3 games. It’s really interesting to see the fall off of Texas after Mack Brown was sort of forced out. A loss here could be deafening in Austin! Computer Hope
Computer Hope I have to admit I’m pulling for Mississippi State here. The Bulldogs almost beat LSU a couple of weeks ago & rebounded with a blowout win over Northwestern State. Now they travel to Auburn against a Tigers team that has to be reeling after getting blown out against LSU. It’ll be interesting to see if Gus Malzahn can right the ship for Auburn. I had War Eagle winning the SEC before the season began so the talent is definitely there. A win over MSU would not only be meaningfull but could put Auburn back on the right track. Computer Hope

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Arizona, Arizona St., Arkansas, Auburn, Big Games, BYU, California, Duke, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi St., Missouri, Must See Games, NCAA, Oklahoma St., Oregon, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas AM, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Week 4 | Leave a comment

2015 SEC PREVIEW and PREDICTIONS

RANK SEC EAST COMMENTS
#1 OFFENSE: Tennessee is BACK! Offensively the Vols improved by 5.1PPG in Butch Jones’ 2nd year as HC. If they keep that trajectory then UT scores 34PPG which will be more than enough to win the SEC East. The scary part is that they might score closer to 40PPG. The Vols have 10 starters back on offense which is ABSURD! Of their projected starting 11, 7 were frosh/soph last year meaning they all come with significantly more experience in 2015. Josh Dobbs is the QB who played well last year & RB Jalen Hurd rushed for 900yds as a frosh. UT has their top-9 receivers back & there is talent up & down the offense. The one issue last year was poor O-Line play, but the line is so much more experienced this season. It’ll be wait & see with the O-Line but I expect improvement. Hurd is going to be big this year. DEFENSE: Like the offense, the defense improved by 5PPG in Jones’ 2nd year & if the same holds true this year UT will allow 19PPG! However, I think UT could improve this as well. The Vols bring back 8 starters 5 of their front & back 7. LB AJ Johnson is a big loss but UT brings back 5 of their top-6 tacklers. LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin led with 101 tackles last year & DE Derek Barnett was a monster last year as a true frosh with 10 sacks & 20.5 tackles for loss! LB Curt Maggitt chipped in 11 sacks himself & is a potential All-American! S LaDarrell McNeil & CB Cameron Sutton can be All-SEC. UT has 5 legit all-SEC defenders. SCHEDULE: I have UT winning the East because they get Georgia in Knoxville & the upside of this team is outstanding. OOC games against Oklahoma & Bowling Green will be interesting. The Vols draw Arkansas & Alabama out of the West & also have road games against Florida & Missouri. It’s not an easy task, but if the Vols win their homes games, they’ll be OK. BEST CASE: 12-0!!! WORST CASE: 5-7
#2 OFFENSE: With all due respect to Ezekiel Elliott, Nick Chubb is the best RB in college football & is almost reason enough to have Georgia win the East, but UGA simply doesn’t rise to the occasion. The SEC East should have been the Dawgs’ playground, yet Missouri has won the division the last 2 seasons! Chubb headlines an offense that also returns 4 starters on the O-Line. It’s potentially the best O-Line in the nation & G Greg Pyke is an All-American candidate. The one issue Georgia has is that they’ll be starting a new QB & they lose their top-2 receivers. QB Hutson Mason did a fantastic job last year for UGA & of course there is talent galore at the receiver spot. Georgia is going to run the ball & then run it some more but they’ll need to show the ability to pass as well to make the running game more effective. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Georgia average 40PPG again. DEFENSE: DC Jeremy Pruitt is in his 2nd year & I’d expect Georgia to keep improving. Georgia improved their PPG allowed  by 8.3PPG in Pruitt’s 1st season so the upside is there. What I like about this 3-4 defense is DE Jordan Jenkins & OLBs Lorenzo Carter & Leonard Floyd. All 3 can get to the QB & having a 3-4DE with pass rushing ability is a huge asset. They also bring back 3 of 4 DBs with safeties Quincy Mauger & Aaron Davis as potential All-SEC players. The corners also have good size. UGA did lose their ILBs who accounted for 225 tackles a season ago, but I think this defense can be just as good this year! SCHEDULE: UGA got no breaks drawing Auburn & Alabama out of the West! They also have to go on the road to Tennessee and Georgia Tech. The rest of the schedule isn’t bad, but Georgia has to watch out for the early game against South Carolina. That seems to trip them up all the time & they are 1-4 in their last 5. BEST CASE: 12-0. WORST CASE: 5-7
#3 OFFENSE: Missouri’s offense took a step back last year by almost 12PPG which was to be expected as Chase Daniel left & new starting QB Maty Mauk took over. The results didn’t differ that much as the Tigers were able to win a 2nd consecutive SEC East title en route to an 11-3 season! This year Mauk & RB Russell Hansbrough enter their 2nd year as full time starters with an O-Line that returns 4 of 5. Hanbrough rushed for 1084yds/10TD/5.3ypc & I think those numbers will improve. The one area Missouri has to be concerned with is Mauk & the passing game. Missouri loses their top-4 receivers including Bud Sasser (77rec/1003yds) & Jimmie Hunt (17.5ypc!). Those 2 were obviously safety guys for Mauk who has all new receivers this year. TE Sean Culkin should play a huge role, but for Missouri to be successful, Mauk has do better than 53.4% & a 25:13 TD:INT ratio. DEFENSE: Losing Markus Golden, Shane Ray, Lucas Vincent & Matt Hoch along the D-line would seem BRUTAL and it is, but Mizzou has done an outstanding job of restocking the D-Line. Marcell Frazier is a monster JUCO talent coming in to the DE at 6’5/270lbs! Charles Harris at 6’3/255lbs is the other DE. Top recruit Terry Beckner comes in at DT  & the Tigers also have Harold Brantley & Josh Augusta. The D-Line will take a hit because of the losses, but it’s an interesting group with massive upside. Missouri also returns LBs Kentrell Bothers & Mike Scherer who were #1 & #2 in tackles last year with All-SEC potential. The secondary returns 3 of 4 starters including both corners. SCHEDULE: OOC is a joke outside of BYU late in the year in Kansas City. Mississippi St. & Arkansas out of the West isn’t horrific. They do play at Georgia but get Tennessee, South Carolina & Florida at home. This is a VERY manageable schedule. BEST CASE: 10-2. WORST CASE: 4-8
#4 OFFENSE: The Gamecocks have averaged 30+PPG since 2010, but that is going to be a hard precedent to follow with an offense that is completely rebuilding. The offense essentially loses everyone outside of potential All-American WR Pharoh Cooper & 3 offensive linemen. SC loses QB Dylan Thompson & RB Mike Davis along with 4 of their top-5 receivers! The Ol’ Ball Coach is still on the sidelines so it’s not like the offense won’t have some firepower, and this is South Carolina so there is obviously talent. Connor Mitch takes over at QB & I think he’s going to have a good year. Brandon Wilds & David Williams are the RBs & both have some upside although it’ll be different than seeing Mike Davis/Marcus Lattimore in recent seasons. The offense has a chance if the O-Line can gel, LT Brandon Shell keeps Mitch upright & Cooper & TE Jerell Adams act as safety valves for the new QB. DEFENSE: Carolina’s offense was downright TERRIBLE last season allowing 30.4PPG! That is so unlike SC football that it’s hard to believe the Gamecocks were that bad. Luckily, they return 8 starters so the unit should be a lot better. Carolina returns 6 of their top-7 tacklers including 6 of the front-7. The problem is production. MLB Skai Moore is the only defender who could be an All-SEC type players. The front-4 is huge averaging 6’3/325lbs at DT & 6’3/270lbs at DE! Marquavius Lewis should have an immediate impact. The secondary returns 2 of 4 starters. There is a lot of potential here & I have a hard time believing SC won’t be better. SCHEDULE: The OOC is tough with games against UNC, Clemson & UCF! They have road games against Tennessee, Georgia & Missouri which limit the upside of how high SC could go. They draw LSU & Texas A&M from the West. It’s a brutal schedule that will be hard to overcome. BEST CASE: 9-3. WORST CASE: 2-10! 
#5 OFFENSE: The Gators are in rebuilding mode offensively but new HC Jim McElwain is an interesting fit. He spent the last 3 years at Colorado St., guiding the Rams to continuous improvement. CSU was 4-8 in McElwain’s first year. They were 10-3 last season! What’s interesting about him is that before Colorado St., McElwain was Alabama’s OC from 2008-2011! He understands SEC football and he’s accustomed to winning football games. Florida brings back just 4 starters on offense, but the talent is undeniable. It’ll be interesting to see what McElwain will do with QBs Will Grier & Treon Harris. Remember what Garrett Grayson was able to accomplish at Colorado St. during McElwain’s time there. WR Demarcus Robinson has great upside & while the O-Line welcomes in 4 new starters, the big uglies up front average 6’4/320lbs. Keep & eye on RBs Kelvin Taylor & Adam Lane as well. Florida might struggle a bit offensively but it’ll be fun to watch. DEFENSE: The Gator defense has a lot more experience & has 2 potential All-Americans in CB Vernon Hargreaves & LB Antonio Morrison. DT Jonathan Bullard & CB Brian Poole should also be All-Conference contenders. This is the unit Gator Nation won’t have to worry about as Florida allowed just 21.1PPG & could be better. The secondary is arguably the best unit in the nation & the D-Line anchored by Bullard should be solid. Losing Dante Fowler is tough but Florida should be alright. This is a defense that shouldn’t have many problems allowing fewer than 20PPG making them a scary team. SCHEDULE: OOC is cake except season finale hosting Florida State. They get Ole Miss & LSU from the West which hurts & also have road games against SC & Missouri. They do get Tennessee at home which is a huge break. Still a tough schedule for such a young team. BEST CASE: 8-4. WORST CASE: 4-8
#6 OFFENSE: In Mark Stoops’ 2nd year in Lexington, the Wildcats improved their offense by 9PPG! This year Kentucky brings back 7 starters on offense including their QB, leading rusher, leading receiver & 4 offensive linemen. When you think of SEC football you typically don’t think about Kentucky, but Stoops is doing an AMAZING job thus far & if UK improves as much this year as they did between Years 1 & 2, they would celebrate an 8-4 season! The talent isn’t overwhelming here but it fits. QB Patrick Towles is huge at 6’5/241lbs. While not amazing last year, if he improves his accuracy & decision making, UK is immensely better. RB Stan Williams averaged 6.6ypc in limited time. He’ll be the feature back this season. The O-Line averages 6’5/305bls with C Jon Toth being a potential All-SEC player. TE CJ Conrad & WR Dorian Baker are big targets while Ryan Timmons  is old reliable who can be outstanding! UK averages 30+PPG this year! DEFENSE: Kudos to Stoops for switching the defense to a 3-4 which better matches the personnel. Melvin Lews is a legit NT at 6’4/350lbs. What UK really needs to have in 2015 is a pass rush after losing Bud Dupree & Za’Darius Smith. Dupress is irreplaceable but Jason Hatcher, Denzil Ware, Alvonte Bell & Jabari Johnson are going to try & get a pass rush going. UK also brings back three quarters of their secondary with both CBs intact. LB Josh Forrest led the team in tackles last year with 110 & will anchor the LB corps & is an All-SEC candidate. I like the upside of this defense & think it works a lot better as a 3-4. It’ll improve. SCHEDULE: OOC is a joke outside of Louisville. They draw Auburn & MS State from the West. OUCH! They get UGA & SC on the road but UT, Mizzou & Florida at home. Kentucky is going to surprise some people this year. I wouldn’t overlook them. BEST CASE: 8-4. WORST CASE: 4-8
#7 Let’s not worry so much about Vanderbilt’s breakdown as far as offense, defense & schedule are concerned. Vandy is in an interesting situation because they had a couple of 9-4 seasons under former HC James Franklin before Franklin picked up for Penn State in the hopes of restoring that once proud & storied program. If you are coaching Vanderbilt & Penn St. comes knocking, you pack up & move to Pennsylvania. No question. On the other hand, Vanderbilt was left with this feeling that they could actually compete in the SEC. The question is whether that is a legit proposition or not? From 2012-2013 the Commodores were 18-8 with a couple of bowl wins. In their previous HISTORY, Vanderbilt had only one other season in which they won 9 games. However, notice these other records during those 2 seasons: Florida 15-10; Tennessee 10-14; Georgia 20-7; South Carolina 22-4; Missouri 17-9. For the most part Vanderbilt was better than all of those teams save South Carolina although even the Gamecocks couldn’t win an SEC East title despite those 22 wins. What’s interesting here is that Vandy sort of seized on an opportunity presented by Florida & Tennessee who were having downward spikes in their program’s history. Coaching uncertainty seemed the norm as Will Muschamp wasn’t the answer in Gainesville & Derek Dooley wasn’t the answer in Knoxville. The problem Vanderbilt faces now is that the coaching situations have seemed to have stabilized. Georgia is always Georgia, but Butch Jones has seemingly been a great hire for Tennessee & by all account Jim McElwain looks like a winner in Florida. Kentucky has upped the ante considerably with Mark Stoops while Mark Richt & Steve Spurrier & great coaches. I don’t think there is anything to exploit here which spells trouble for Vanderbilt. BEST CASE: 7-5; WORST CASE: 2-10

 

SEC EAST OVERALL OUTLOOK: This is a very interesting time to be in the SEC East. The division has played little brother to the West for quite some time now, but that might be on the verge of changing with a lot of new coaches coming into the division & making once proud programs relevant again. Butch Jones looks to be “the guy” and I’m very high on Jim McElwain at Florida. Gary Pinkel can coach with ANYONE and of course we still have Georgia with Mark Richt & Steve Spurrier with South Carolina. What also makes this division interesting is what Mark Stoops is doing in Kentucky. It’s a difficult cycle to be in for Wildcat fans because of Stoops keeps succeeding at the rate he has in Lexington, it won’t be long before a bigger football school comes calling. On the other hand, he’s HC in the SEC which is something so persuasive that Bret Bielema left a Wisconsin program that had been to 3 straight Rose Bowls to take over an Arkansas program on the rocks after the Bobby Petrino fiasco! I don’t think the East has caught up to the West just yet, but it’s coming. The race this year should come down to Tennessee & Georgia, but every program in this conference will be competitive. I’m bearish on what Derek Mason can do at Vanderbilt because his timing in Nashville isn’t quite as good as James Franklin’s was relative to the rest of the division, but Mason is a good football coach & Vanderbilt will come to play. I love the East this season. I think it’s a great division & the fireworks should be never ending in 2015!

 

RANK SEC WEST COMMENTS
#1 OFFENSE: The offense returns just 4 starters but this is Gus Malzahn & the Tigers are in the 3rd year of his schemes. War Eagle has scored 39.5PPG & 35.5PPG in his 1st 2 years respectively. Auburn is going to score points. There is a lot of lost players though. QB Nick Marshall, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, WR Sammie Coates, TE CJ Usomah & 2 O-Linemen, but this offense could be just as explosive. QB Jeremy Johnson is huge at 6’5/240lbs & has shown uncanny accuracy in limited time. RB Jovon Robinson is a monster as is RB Roc Thomas. WR D’haquille Williams is the best WR in college football & RT Avery Young is an All-American candidate. The O-Line returns 3 starters but G Braden Smith was a frosh All-SEC guy so they have essentially 4. The talent is incredible & the roster is stacked. There is some thought that the rushing numbers will down without Artis-Payne & Marshall. The O-Line is going to be really good & I think the receivers are better than people think. DEFENSE: I think defense is what’s going to separate Auburn from the rest of the West this year as they return 8 starters & 6 of their top-8 tacklers! LB Cassanova McKinzy is arguably the best ILB in the country this year. DT Montravius Adams & DE Carl Lawson give the Tigers 2 All-SEC players up front & Lawson is returning from injury so War Eagle didn’t even have him last season. LB Kris Frost, DE DaVonte Lambert & S Johnathan Ford also return! Auburn also has both corners returning. Eight of the 11 starters are upperclassmen & this defense just fits well to me. Expect big numbers. SCHEDULE: OOC against Louisville. They draw Kentucky & Georgia out of the East but get UGA at home. Alabama comes to Jordan-Hare this year which decides the West. They do travel to Arkansas & LSU, but the LSU game is early & I love how this team sets up. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 5-7
#2 OFFENSE: Alabama is going through a tremendous rebuild on offense this year as they return just 3 starters & lose their starting QB, their best RB & their top-3 receivers including all-world WR Amari Cooper who caught 124 balls last year for 1727yds/16TD! The only players returning for Alabama is RB Derrick Henry, C Ryan Kelly & LT Cam Robinson! Kelly & TE OJ Howard are All-American candidates & all-4 players mentioned could be 1st-Team All-SEC! Obviously there is a massive amount of talent on board at every position but how well QB Jake Coker plays will probably determine how effective the Tide can be this year. Henry is going to be the focus of the offense & he & Howard will take some pressure off of Coker who should be OK as a senior, but I don’t think Alabama’s offense is going to put up close to 40PPG the way they have the last 3 years. OC Lane Kiffin has his work cut out for him. DEFENSE: Alabama has a few losses here, most notably S Landon Collins, but the D also returns 7 starters & have 3 potential All-Americans in NT A’Shawn Robinson, LB Reggie Ragland & S Eddie Jackson! Fiver other Tide defenders could be All-SEC which means Alabama has the potential to put 8 of their defensive players on the 1st Team All-SEC Defense! That’s insane! DC Kirby Smart has plenty to work with & I’d expect the Tide to get back to allowing fewer than 15PPG! Keep an eye on Ryan Anderson & Jonathan Allen. SCHEDULE: FILTHY! Alabama didn’t get any favors getting both Tennessee & Georgia from the East with a trip to Athens. They also draw A&M, Mississippi St. & Auburn on the road. Throw in Wisconsin as an OOC opponent & you are looking at arguably the most difficult schedule in the BCS! Alabama is 46-3 at home the last 7-years. They’ll win at home. What is hard this year is the road slate. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 3-9
#3 OFFENSE: Get ready! In HC Bret Bielema’s 2nd year, he’s improved Arkansas’ offense by 11.2PPG & went from 3-9 to 7-6. Arkansas was 4-2 in their last 6 including wins over LSU & Ole Miss! This year the Razorbacks bring back 9 starters including QB Brandon Allen, RBs Jonathan Williams & Alex Collins who both rushed for at least 1100yds, TE Hunter Henry & 4 O-Line starters! The offense averaged 31.9PPG last season. They might average 50 this season! Henry might be the best TE in the game & Collins & Williams should form an almost unstoppable duo in the backfield. Brandon Allen already has good decision making on his resume. If he improves his accuracy (56% in ’14), he’ll be a potential All-SEC player. The O-Line has 3 guys (Dan Skipper, Sebastian Tretola & Denver Kirkland) who could be All-Conference. If there is a weakness to this offense, I don’t see it. DEFENSE: Arkansas lost a ton on defense which included 4 NFL Draft picks! LB Martrell Spaight is the biggest lost as he was the heart & soul of the defense. DE Trey Flowers was also a huge loss as their best pass rusher & CB Tevin Mitchell was their best corner guy. There is some OK talent left though. DE JaMichael Winston could have a big year getting after the passer & the secondary returns 3 of 4 starters. LB Brooks Ellis was 2nd in the team in tackles last season & DT Taiwan Johnson is an interior defender who can get to the QB. The defense won’t match last year’s 19.2PPG allowed, but it could be OK. With the way Arkansas runs the football, they are going to control the clock quite a bit so the defense won’t have a ton of pressure. It’ll work. SCHEDULE: OOC is a joke but they draw UT & Mizzou from the East. Arkansas has road games against Bama, LSU, Ole Miss & Tennessee. Schedule is BRUTAL but something special is happening here. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 7-5
#4 OFFENSE: The Rebels have averaged 30PPG in HC Hugh Freeze’s first 3 seasons, but this might be the best edition yet. Gone is QB Bo Wallace but almost everyone else returns. The O-Line returns all 5 starters led by All-American Laremy Tunsil. In fact, Tunsil probably won’t be the only 1st Team All-American on the offense as TE Evan Engram & WR Laquon Treadwell could also join him! WR Cody Core also returns & WR Damore’ea Stringfellow rounds out the receiving corps which could be the best in the nation. RBs Jaylen Walton & Jordan Wilkins return as well. The QB looks like it’ll be Chad Kelly who originally was at Clemson, but transferred & won a NJCAA national title last season! He has the keys to an offense that could be extremely special. The O-Line has to get a bit better in pass protection, but this should be an extremely powerful offense. DEFENSE: The offense isn’t the only unit with an All-American as DT Robert Nkemdiche is outstanding from the interior! DE Marquis Haynes, LB Denzel Nkemdiche & CB Tony Conner are also outstanding defenders with All-SEC potential. Freeze is an offensive guy, but the dramatic improvements have come on defense where the Rebels allowed 27.6PPG his first year but 16.0PPG last year (his 3rd)! The talent is overwhelming here. DT DJ Jones & DE Breeland Speaks are new starters & I’m really excited to see what they can do. CB Tee Shepard also enters the starting lineup. Ole Miss does lose 5 of their top-8 tacklers including CB Senquez Golson & S Cody Prewitt. Those are huge losses but I still love this defense. SCHEDULE: Hard to put Ole Miss #4 but they play on the road against Auburn, Alabama & Mississippi St. They also draw a road game against Florida. OOC is a joke & Freeze has improved every year so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ole Miss with 10-11 wins. BEST CASE: 10-2; WORST CASE: 5-7
#5 Like we did with Vanderbilt, let’s not worry about breaking LSU down from a unit perspective. I don’t think there is a more polarizing coaching figure in college football than LSU’s Les Miles. Some people believe he is a mad genius and one of the best coaches in the game. And who could argue with that? He’s 103-29 in 10-years with the Tigers. He’s won a national championship & played for another one. LSU can argue they are the most talented football team on a yearly basis with the way the program recruits. On the other hand, you have those who believe that Miles is over his head. That he’s sort of a bumbling coach that just happens to be at a place that will always have tremendous talent, but in some odd way has under performed given the talent level. I mean, hasn’t that guy in Tuscaloosa won 3 titles and a 4th at LSU!? Why isn’t LSU seeing that kind of dominance? I think LSU could be in trouble regarding talent relative to coaching acumen. LSU played for a title in 2011 but in 2012 they lost a couple of SEC games. In 2013 they lost 3. Last year they lost 4 SEC games & finished 8-5, the worst record they had since 2008! The coaching talent at Ole Miss, Mississippi St., Arkansas & Auburn has been massively upgraded in recent years. Texas A&M has joined the conference & Kevin Sumlin can coach. Oh, and there is that guy at Alabama still hanging around. If you wanted to argue that Miles might be the worst coach in the SEC West, I wouldn’t necessarily quibble with you. I mean, how far does a national championship take you? Is Barry Switzer a great NFL HC because he won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys? Once again LSU is star studded & despite the big losses on defense, they should still be one of the best teams in the country, but I think rough times are in store for the Tigers and you have to wonder how long Miles will be around. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 5-7
#6 OFFENSE: The Aggies were down last year in offense (only 35PPG!!!), but this year the unit brings back 8 starters along with QB Kyle Allen who now has a season under his belt. The fireworks are going to be incredible offensively. WRs Ricky Seals-Jones (6’5), Josh Reynolds (6’4), & Speedy Noil (5’11) are OUTSTANDING giving Allen ridiculous options to throw too. All 4 players could be all-SEC by the time the season is over! In fact, I think Seals-Jones & Reynolds could put up All-American numbers! RB Tra Carson also returns for his senior season & Brandon Williams is around to back up. The one area where A&M could struggle is the O-Line. They lose 3 starters including LT Cedric Ogbuehi & LG Jarvis Harrison who were both NFL Draft picks. Still, there is a lot of talent there with 3 guys who could be All-Conference. I think Allen takes a jump & A&M goes back to 40+PPG! DEFENSE: The D-line is RIDICULOUS! It didn’t take long for DE Myles Garrett to make a statement. The 6’5/255lbs true frosh had 11.5 sacks & 14TFL! DT Alonzo Williams can get good pressure on the QB & DE Daeshon Hall is no slouch himself! I think this is a great D-line. Everyone returns & Garrett is an All-American in the making. The D-Line averages about 6’5/280lbs! The LB corps is a little thin but new starters Otaro Alaka & Josh Walker are now sophs who got some good run time in last season. They’ll be better. Shaan Washington was 4th in tackles a year ago. The secondary returns 3 of 4. It’s probably their weakest unit but there is plenty of talent there. I’d keep an eye on S Justin Evans & CB Nick Harvey. SCHEDULE: Arizona St. OOC won’t be easy but A&M draws both Bama & Auburn at home! They draw SC & Vandy out of the East & only travel to Ole Miss & LSU! They get Arkansas in Arlington. Not easy but A&M could be a surprise playoff team. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 4-8
#7 OFFENSE: The good news is QB Dak Prescott returns & could be a Heisman candidate. The bad news is that Mississippi St. returns just 3 other starters on offense & are incredibly inexperienced. WR De’Runnya Wilson returns & at 6’5 is a matchup nightmare. He caught 9TD a season ago & is one of the best WRs in the SEC. The O-Line returns a couple of starters as well. The losses are huge. Up front the Bulldogs lose 3 starters, but the good news is that none of those starters were NFL Draft picks & they have quite a bit of talent coming in. Fred Ross & Donald Gray should be good options at receiver & it looks like Ashton Shumpert will take over as RB & could do a really good job replacing Josh Robinson. There is a lot of loss here but there is a lot of talent too & if Prescott plays like a Heisman/All-American, then that covers up a lot! They might not score 37PPG like last year but they’ll be in good shape. DEFENSE: Even worse than the offense, the defense returns just 3 starters, but they do return 5 of their top-7 tacklers! CB Will Redmond & DT Chris Jones could be all-SEC guys while DE Ryan Brown should be a force on the outside pass rush. LB Beniquez Brown ranked 2nd on the team in tackles a year ago & of course HC Dan Mullen has upped the talent level with another recruiting cycle. The losses are huge though. DE Preston Smith, DT Kaleb Euls and DT PJ Jones are gone from the D-Line. LB Benardrick McKinney is probably an even bigger loss than Smith! LB Matt Wells & both safeties were also lost. Last year’s defense was amazing so there is some drop off but I still like the upside of this unit: SCHEDULE: OOC is a joke & have road games against Auburn & Arkansas. They draw Mizzou & UK out of the East. They do get Ole Miss, Bama & LSU in Starkville. This could be the worst team in the West & still a top-25 program. BEST CASE: 10-2; WORST CASE: 4-8

 

SEC WEST OVERALL OUTLOOK: The best division in college football without question. Every team in the division is a possible playoff threat which is ridiculous when you think about it. Mississippi St. was the #1 team in the nation for a large portion of the year in 2014 & they come into 2015 looking like the worst team in the West given the losses they have to endure this year and I still think it’s possible for them to grab 10 wins if everything breaks right for them. Win a bowl game & arguably the worst team in the division is looking at a final record of 11-2 & a top-10 finish! I’m not sure any of these teams couldn’t win the division except for Mississippi St. who I think can’t overcome such crippling losses in personnel although I wouldn’t want to play them either. The most interesting thing for me coming into the season will be watching the rise of Arkansas and the fall of LSU. I’m not sure it’s inevitable that Miles’ days in Baton Rouge are numbered, but it sure does seem that way. I also think watching Bielema having so much success at Arkansas is interesting. We hear a lot about how Urban Meyer brought the SEC to Big 10 football with his leaving Florida & going to Ohio State. What we don’t hear about is how Bielema is bringing Big 10 football to the SEC & having success with it. Has that success been as fast as Meyer has had at Ohio State? No, but Arkansas is a legit playoff threat & I wouldn’t be surprised to see them post an 11-2 record. I haven’t mentioned either Auburn or Alabama yet, the two teams I think are the best in the entire conference. If things go to plan, I think Auburn & Alabama finish 11-0 before the Iron Bowl. What will be interesting is to see if the loser can somehow still make it into the playoffs. You can’t go wrong watching SEC football this season.

August 23, 2015 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

NCAA POWER 15 – FINAL 2014

Better late than never! Like the NFL Power 15, the college Power 15 was a little late but it’s always fun to go back over last season to get ready for the next. Hopefully I can get some previews coming up soon as the college football season is going to be on us a lot quicker than we think!

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 Computer Hope Beat Oregon 42-20 in National Championship. The QB story was THE story all year long, but I don’t want to overlook the fact that the Ohio St. won a better than people thought Big 10 conference. They won in East Lansing & beat down Wisconsin 59-0 in the B1G Championship game. They took down Alabama & Oregon and if you’ll note, Ohio St. has 3 wins against 3 Top-5 teams in my final power rankings! Ohio St. earned the national championship. They didn’t luck into it. Ohio St. hammered Oregon 42-20 in the championship game! A couple of other things not to overlook. RB Ezekiel Elliott was a monster but the B1G also had Melvin Gordon & Tevin Coleman, a couple of 2,000-yard rushers! Joey Bossa was an All-American DE and likely the best defender in college football in 2014. Don’t look now but Ohio St. returns almost everyone and has a great chance to repeat. The QB story between Braxton Miller, JT Barrett & Cardale Jones will be there, but it didn’t bother the Buckeyes in 2014.
#2 Computer Hope Beat Mississippi 42-3 in Peach Bowl. If there was one team Ohio St. didn’t beat on their way to the championship that leaves the door open for argument, it’s that TCU didn’t get their chance. When TCU got left out of the first football college playoff, you sort of got the feeling they were looking for revenge, so I’m sure the Ole Miss Rebels were none too happy to be facing off against the Horned Frogs i the Peach Bowl. TCU entered the game as 3 point favorites & won by 39 points in the most dominating performance in a bowl for the season. Ole Miss rushed the ball 37 times for 9 years, and TCU looked the part of the defense that Gary Patterson dominated the Mountain West for so long. I’ll never understand how Ohio St. got into the playoff but TCU didn’t when TCU’s lone loss was a 3-point road loss to #5 Baylor while Ohio St. got beat by 14 at home against an unranked Virginia Tech squad. If there was an argument to having a conference championship game in the Big 12, TCU getting screwed made it.
#3 Computer Hope Lost 20-42 to Oregon in National Championship. Oregon got to their 2nd national championship game in 5 years and once again came up just short of winning their first national title. In 2010 the Ducks fell to Auburn. In 2015 they lost by 22 to Ohio State. Except for a slip up against Arizona, Oregon dominated everyone they played including defending champ Florida State who they beat 59-20 in the Rose Bowl! They actually played a solid game against Ohio St., but had absolutely no answer for Ezekiel Elliott who ran for 246yds & 4TD. The Ducks closed to 21-20 late in the 3rd but Elliott took over scoring a late TD in th 3rd to give Ohio St. a 28-20 lead & Elliott pounded Oregon in the 4th while QB Marcus Mariota went 5/12 with a pick in the final quarter. It wasn’t exactly a horrible year for the Ducks. A lot of teams would take a 13-2 season including a berth in the national championship game and a Rose Bowl victory. They won’t start over but losing Mariota is huge.
#4 Computer Hope Lost 35-42 to Ohio St. in Sugar Bowl. The college football world is in completely turmoil! Alabama hasn’t won a national championship since 2012 & the SEC hasn’t won a title since the Tide won that year! What’s even crazier is that an SEC team didn’t even play in the championship game in 2014! Alabama losing to Ohio St. is a good example of QB play at the collegiate level. The Tide only lost by 7, but they were hampered a bit by their inability to convert on 3rd down & turnovers. I’m not saying Bama wins here but how does this game turn if Greg McElroy or AJ McCarron are under center instead of Blake Sims? It’s tough to say. Like Oregon, Alabama had no answer for Ezekiel Elliott running the football so maybe it doesn’t matter, but I have a hard time believing McCarron or McElroy make those mistakes. Given how Oregon/Ohio St. turned out, we can now conclude that Alabama/Ohio St. was probably the real national championship game.
#5 Computer Hope Beat Baylor 42-41 in Cotton Bowl. Early season loss in Eugene probably dosen’t hurt Sparty, but couldn’t figure out a way to beat Ohio State. If Michigan State beats Ohio State then given that tOSU beat the Badgers 59-0 in the B1G Championship game, you could safely conclude MSU would have went 12-1 & probably had found themselves in the playoffs. Instead, Sparty settled for the Cotton Bowl where they beat #4 Baylor 42-41 which gave even more legitimization to the Big 10 conference. In one of the best comebacks in bowl history, MSU was down 41-21 going into the 4th quarter. Three TDs later & solid defensive stands by the Spartan defense gave Michigan St. a 42-41 win over a team that was one spot shy of the playoffs. In their final 2 possessions, Michigan St. was able to block a FG & intercept a Bryce Petty pass to keep Baylor from scoring. Michigan St.’s only losses in 2014 came against the 2 teams who played for the national championship.
#6 Computer Hope Lost 20-59 to Oregon in Rose Bowl. You knew it was going to happen at some point but Florida State completely collapsed in the 3rd quarter of the Rose Bowl, committing 4 turnovers which led to a 3Q score of Oregon 27, Florida State 7! Before the plethora of turnovers commenced, FSU was down 18-13 at half with a total yard advantage. After 3 quarters Oregon led 45-20! FSU played with fire all season long. They were 8-0 in close games which is almost unheard of, and regression is a terrible friend. The Seminoles had no answer for Oregon’s running attack, something we’d see in sharp contrast the following week as Ohio St. bottled up the Quack Attack efficiently. Some critics might point to Jameis Winston not having as good a year but don’t forget he was missing Davonte Freeman, Kelvin Benjamin & Kenny Shaw. The defense lost 5 of their top 6 tacklers. Sure they lost to Oregon badly but including that loss the Noles are 29-1 in their last 30 games.
#7 Computer Hope Beat Mississippi St. 49-34 in Orange Bowl. Probably the most underrated team in 2014, the Yellow Jackets finished the season 11-3 with their 3 losses coming by a combined 13 points! Georgia Tech’s “Best Case” record is a whopping 14-0 which goes to show you how amazing a season they had. GT took care of business against Mississippi St. in the Orange Bowl, running a top-10 Bulldogs team into the ground. GT ran for 452yds and did what they do. They controlled the clock. Converted on 3rd down. Limited penalties & turnovers. I think GT also did a good job defensively holding MSU to FGs on a couple of trips to the red zone that proved to be critical early on in the game that never really allowed Mississippi St. to get momentum. Another interesting tidbit is that GT was 5-1 in games they were an underdog in. He won’t win it because Paul Johnson’s offense is somewhat of a gimmick but QB Justin Thomas should be a Heisman contender in 2015.
#8 Computer Hope Beat Louisville 37-14 in Belk Bowl. Georgia did what Georgia does in a beat down of Louisville in the Belk Bowl. RB Nick Chubb went wild against the Cardinals defense, posting 266 rushing yards and a couple of TD while averaging 8+ypc! The Dawg defense came to play as well limiting Louisville’s running attack & intercepting 3 balls. Georgia’s running attack really was a sight to behold. Todd Gurley barely played but still managed 911yds/9TD/7.4ypc while being a top-10 NFL Draft pick. No Gurley? No problem! True Freshman Nick Chubb picked up the slack going for 1547yds/14TD/7.1ypc including the dominating performance in the bowl game. The 10-3 season looks pretty good, but UGA lost 3 games they should have won which kept them out of the SEC Championship game. Before losing to GT in OT, UGA had posted 152pts in their last 3 games. It would have been pretty cool to see Chubb & Co. try to run on that Alabama defense.
#9 Computer Hope Lost 41-42 to Michigan St. in Cotton Bowl. A huge let down in the 4th quarter to Michigan State prevented Baylor from finishing 12-1 with a real argument saying they should have been in the playoffs. At the same time, can you really blame Baylor for not really caring or breaking down in the end? They were 11-1 & Big XII champions and didn’t get into the playoffs. Winning a glorified exhibition game didn’t matter much except for pride. Baylor had a horrible final quarter against Michigan State. A blocked FG, a Bryce Petty interception. A onsides kick not recovered. If it could go wrong it went wrong for Baylor in that quarter. Still a great season finishing 11-2 & Baylor has now won 40 games in their last 4 years & is 22-4 in their last 2. I don’t know what the move is for the Big XII at this point but grabbing BYU & Boise State might not be a bad idea to get to 12 teams to reintroduce the conference championship game. TCU & Baylor definitely suffered for it.
#10 Computer Hope Lost 34-49 to Georgia Tech in Belk Bowl. Georgia Tech isn’t an easy team to face defensively although I would have thought the Bulldogs would have put forth a little more effort into their defensive schemes than it appeared in losing to GT 49-34. The Bulldogs gave up almost 500yds rushing to the Ramblin Wreck! It’s hard not to feel a little disappointed as MSU was 9-0 to start the season & ranked #1 for 4 straight weeks. They went 1-3 in their last 4 to drop out of the final top-10. College football is interesting in this way. If MSU got by LSU early then they should have went 9-0. The schedule called for it. The problem is that 2 of their last 3 came on the road to Alabama & Ole Miss. Losing those games don’t make you a bad team. The 10-3 season was masterful. It was the most wins MSU has had since 1999 and you have to go all the way back to 1940 when Mississippi St. finished 10-0-1 & won the Orange Bowl. This was the best season in 64 years!
#11 Computer Hope Beat Minnesota 33-17 in Citrus Bowl. HC Gary Pinkel has been at the helm the entire 3 years Missouri has been in the SEC and all the Tigers have done now is win back-to-back SEC East titles and finish 23-5 in 2 years including 2 bowl wins over Oklahoma St. & Minnesota. Mizzou did a good job bottling up Minnesota RB David Cobb in the bowl game. It took all 4 quarters as Mizzou only led 19-17 after 3, but a few key stops in the 4th & Missouri blew it open for a convincing win. The 23 wins is telling. Missouri is the winningest SEC team over the last 2 seasons & the only teams with more than 23 wins in the last 2 seasons are: Ohio St., Michigan St., Oregon, and Florida State. It’s elite company. Missouri has the task of getting back to the SEC championship game for a 3rd straight year. That hasn’t happened since Florida did it from 1994-1996. Oddly enough Florida was 3-0 in those contests whereas Missouri has come up short in their first 2.
#12 Computer Hope Beat Auburn 34-31 in Outback Bowl. It took OT to get the victory but the Badgers got to 11 wins despite getting humiliated 59-0 at the hands of Ohio St. in the B1G Championship. The win over Auburn was a wild one. Melvin Gordon & Corey Clement ran wild on the War Eagle defense, but Wisconsin couldn’t keep Auburn from scoring either. Even the coaching was odd as HC Gary Andersen left for Oregon St. before the bowl game forcing AD Barry Alvarez to go back to coaching & getting another bowl win for the Badgers, their first since 2009! The coaching situation at Wisconsin is more than odd. Since 2009 the Badgers have averaged 10 wins a season but Bert Bielema left Madison for Arkansas and Gary Andersen left for Oregon State. It would seem that at your very optimistic, these are lateral moves, but frankly they seem to be moves downward. Paul Chryst now takes over after being in Pittsburgh for 3 seasons where he won just 19 games.
#13 Computer Hope Beat Kansas St. 40-35 in Alamo Bowl. I’m sure UCLA was hoping for more but QB Brett Hundley was able to go out a winner beating Kansas St. 40-35 and earning double digit wins for the 2nd straight season. Before 2013, UCLA hadn’t won 10 games since 2005 and now HC Jim Mora has posted back to back 10-3 season and is 29-11 in his 3 seasons with the Bruins. Amazingly enough, this is the first time in UCLA football history that the Bruins have won 29 games in a 3-year period and you have to go back to 1997-1998 for the last time UCLA won 10 games in back-to-back seasons. It was also nice to see LB Eric Kendricks go out winning too. The 1st team All-American was a 2nd round draft pick for the Minnesota Vikings & racked up 149 tackles & 4 sacks for the Bruins. UCLA in on the verge of becoming one of the nation’s truly elite programs. The one issue they’ll have going forward is keeping Jim Mora in Westwood & not letting him jump to the NFL.
#14 Computer Hope Beat Arizona 38-30 in Fiesta Bowl. Dan Hawkins’ last season with Boise St. was 2005 when the Broncos went 9-4. Chris Petersen took over & Boise went 13-0 in his first season 2006. Petersen’s last year with Boise was 2013 when the Broncos went 8-5. Bryan Harsin takes over in 2014 & goes 12-2 with a Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona. Like Hawkins & Petersen, Harsin can coach & it was evident last season with Boise coming THIS close to 13-1 and not 12-2. The only issue now is which big time program Harsin will leave Boise for in the next 7-8 years? The win over Arizona was pretty sweet in my opinion. I think the Wildcats are on the come with RichRod as HC and they were P12 South champions last year. Maybe it was a little bit of stretch given how they did lose to UCLA & USC but I still think this was a solid win for Boise State. The more things change the more they stay the same & Boise State is still a class football team. When is the B12 going to come calling?
#15 Computer Hope Lost 3-42 to TCU in Peach Bowl. You can’t really blame Ole Miss for not showing up in the Peach Bowl. After starting the year 7-0, Ole Miss dropped games to LSU & Auburn which essentially left them out in the cold in the SEC West. Their last remaining goal was to destroy Mississippi St.’s season by winning the Egg Bowl, which they did 31-17 despite being 3-point dogs at home! Mississippi St. was essentially playing for the SEC title & Ole Miss ruined it. After that the Rebels hadn’t much else to play for while TCU had a mission to show everyone on the planet how badly they messed up by not giving TCU the nod into the playoffs. I think losing WR Laquon Treadwell against Auburn was a huge blow too down the stretch. It sounds crazy but Ole Miss was actually 2-4 in their last 6 games. Hugh Freeze is definitely the right guy for the job & in his first 3 seasons Ole Miss has won 7, 8, and 9 games. The last time Ole Miss had 3 seasons which improved in Years 2 & 3 was 1988-1990.

 

DROPPING OUT

Auburn Tigers (Last Week #11): Lost to a Wisconsin team that was blown out 59-0 in their conference championship game. Auburn was a solid team throughout the season and they did finish 8-5, but they were 3-5 in their last 8. They were this close to a national championship in 2013 so there was let down to be expected.

Arizona Wildcats (Last Week #14): Rich Rodriguez has to be ecstatic to finish 10-4 with a Pac 12 South title under his belt in Year 3 in Tucson. The 10 wins was the most Arizona has had since 1998. It’s a little hard to complain when the only teams you lost to were Oregon (13-2), USC (9-4), UCLA (10-3) & Boise St. (12-2). The losses to USC, UCLA & Boise St. were by a combined 18 points so Arizona was pretty darn close to being 13-1! Dropping Arizona out of the top-15 might be a little harsh.

Kansas St. Wildcats (Last Week #15): I always feel like K-State is always a bit overrated, but then they just keep winning games. Last year K-State went 9-4 and since Bill Snyder came back to coach, the Wildcats have averaged 9 wins a season & have won 38 games in the last 4 years! Last year they beat everyone in the B12 save TCU & Baylor. Like Arizona, it’s hard to bang on Kansas St. for losing. Their losses came against Auburn (8-5), TCU (12-1), Baylor (11-2) and UCLA (10-3).

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Baylor, Boise St., Florida St., Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kansas St., Michigan St., Mississippi, Mississippi St., Missouri, Ohio St, Oregon, Power 15, TCU, UCLA, Wisconsin | Leave a comment