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2017 SEC PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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



SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

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

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

TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 TE FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

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

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

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

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 LB FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

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

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

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

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

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #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 | 5 Comments

2016 NCAA FOOTBALL – BOWL SEASON PREVIEW!

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

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

2016 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 3 – BIG GAMES

ROAD QUICK THOUGHTS HOME
Computer Hope Ole Miss has shown the ability to play defense this year but the real trick will be seeing how they handle Alabama stud RB Derrick Henry. Remember that while Ole Miss has an exceptional offense, Nick Saban can counter that by keeping them off the field. You don’t hear about in the media all that much, but ball control is absolutely vital to winning football. The Alabama defense is looking for statements. Locking up Ole Miss would be a huge statement to make & put the SEC on notice. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I think this game really catapults either squad nationally. Notre Dame has historically struggled with this sort of team during Brian Kelly’s tenure, but the loss of Malik Zaire or Tarean Folston doesn’t affect the defense one bit. I think the Irish score, but the biggest point of emphasis will be Notre Dame’s ability to stop Paul Johnson’s triple option. To this point GT hasn’t had to rely on QB Justin Thomas, but you almost get the feeling Thomas has been waiting for this game to put his game face on. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Keep an eye on Auburn’s rush defense. Through 2 games, War Eagle ranks 97th in the nation in rush defense & Leonard Fournette is coming to town. Fournette bruised up Mississippi St. last week to the tune of 159yds & 3TD on 28 carries. The beating was slow & methodical. Also note that LSU’s defense pretty much kept Dak Prescott in check & Jeremy Johnson isn’t nearly the QB Prescott is. Given how Auburn has played early & that this game is in Baton Rouge? Auburn finally slips. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I think most people by now would have thought BYU would be 0-2. Instead they are 2-0 & you can’t help but notice the magic surrounding this football team. The Cougars were going to be good this year regardless of how they played at Nebraska & Boise State. What we didn’t know was that Taysum Hill would be out for the season against Nebraska & Taylor Mangum would become a glory magnet with 2 huge wins. Sure Missouri & Michigan are left but a win at UCLA sets BYU up for 12-0! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Stanford looked better last week against Central Florida in a 31-7 win, but that still can’t erase the 16-6 disaster they posted against Northwestern. USC tuned up Arkansas St. & Idaho in preparation for Pac 12 play. I don’t think either team could be entering the game from more opposite directions. I think we can learn a lot here. If Stanford holds tough then you kind of have to wonder just how good Northwestern could be or rather if the loss was just a blip on Stanford’s season. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Just think about 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2014 to realize how important this game is for Georgia. Sure the Bulldogs got a win in 2013 but Spurrier seems to own Mark Richt & Georgia in recent times. There is no way Georgia should lose this game. They are more talented. They are playing between the hedges. There are a number of other reasons but throw them out. Georgia doesn’t have great QB play so if the Gamecocks defense shows up against the run then who knows what happens! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Blake Kemp & the East Carolina passing attack torched the Gators last week although Florida did walk away with a 31-24 win. Kentucky has been winning games with a solid rushing attack behind Stanley Williams & JoJo Kemp. One thing Florida is doing well is playing outstanding rush defense so it’ll be interesting to see if UK QB Patrick Towles can make some plays. Could you imagine saying Kentucky is out to a 3-0 start with wins over Florida & South Carolina? In football? Computer Hope
Computer Hope I was really high on Pittsburgh before the season began because I thought Pat Narduzzi could do a good job with all the Panthers had returning. All-American RB James Connor was knocked out of the season in Week 1 but Qadree Ollison has stepped up in a HUGE way! I still like Pittsburgh but this game will be telling. Pitt’s defense stepped up against Akron but the Panthers might have a QB controversy on their hands. As for the Hawkeyes, a win is huge as the West is wide open! Computer Hope
Computer Hope Can Arkansas bounce back from a humiliating home loss to Toledo? Whether you like Texas Tech or not, the Red Raiders are going to score some points. Tech has scored 64PPG in their first 2 games & QB Patrick Mahomes has already thrown 8TD passes! Arkansas had tremendous issues running the football on the Rockets which is almost impossible to imagine. Texas Tech ranks 121st in rush defense so if the Razorback defense can hold up, Arkansas should run wild. Computer Hope
Computer Hope A really interesting game. It’s not among powerful teams but intriguing for what it can tell us. Duke has been flawless in their first 2 games outscoring their opponents 92-7. Northwestern has the huge opening win over Stanford. Duke QB Thomas Sirk has been almost perfect & the Blue Devils have some intriguing players. Duke is 19-8 over the past 2 seasons with an ACC Coastal title. This won’t be a walk, but a Wildcat win further solidifies Northwestern. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Texas is in complete shambles at this point. After the 38-3 drubbing at the hands of Notre Dame, HC Charlie Strong completely shakes up the staff. The following week Texas wins an uninspiring home opener over Rice & the school fires the athletic director. Maybe getting rid of Mack Brown wasn’t such a fantastic idea even if he wasn’t winning national championships. I love this game for Cal because it’s a resume builder & Cal can start turning some heads. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Louisville hasn’t looked so good starting the season 0-2 but the Cardinals have lost both games by 10 points so they are this close to being 2-0 & if that were the case we’d be thinking about this game in a completely different light. Let’s face it, Louisville has a freshman QB in Lamar Jackson who is struggling mightily. Two of his starting receivers are out & Louisville is allowing 32.5PPG. This is a game Clemson should win by 20. Let’s see if they do it. Computer Hope
Computer Hope The opening home loss to BYU was a gut-punch for the Cornhuskers but Nebraska fans might be clamoring for Bo Pellini should they lose to Miami-FL and start the season 1-2! I think it’s amazing how Nebraska has fallen by the way side as a national power. It’s not unlike Miami-FL has done since Butch Davis left Coral Gables. This is a great game when you think historically, but not so much today. I’d like to see the Hurricanes get to 3-0 & get noticed. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I don’t think Michigan St. is going to turn around and lose a home game to Air Force after securing the biggest win in college football this year, but I do think this will be a tough game. Michigan St. is exceptional with their run defense & Air Force runs that triple option & they do it exceedingly well. Because of this I think Air Force can keep it close & cause the Spartans some trouble. These games can be bruising so keep an eye on Sparty’s injury report as they head into B10 play. Computer Hope
Computer Hope It’s worth noting that over the past 5 seasons, Northern Illinois is 57-13 with 3 MAC Championships. That isn’t to say they’ll beat Ohio St., but NIU isn’t your typical run of the mill MAC doormat that the Big 10 so likes to dominate. Drew Hare is a solid QB running that system & NIU has looked good in their first 2 games. I will say that the last time the Huskies faced a ranked opponent was 2011 when Wisconsin beat them 49-7. I’d expect the same, but maybe NIU can stick around. Computer Hope
Computer Hope I love this game. I’d love it even more if they would just play the home & home instead of going to Denver. Seeing the Buffaloes in Ft. Collins is an awesome sight plus it puts the rivalry moreso in the students’ hands than the alumni in Denver. I think Colorado St. is one of those programs just under the radar that needs a great head coach that wants to be there for awhile. They are a Dan Hawkins or Chris Petersen or Gary Patterson away from becoming the new Boise State. Computer Hope
Computer Hope Rutgers is an absolute dumpster fire at this point. They were this way early with all their player dismissals & suspensions but now HC Kyle Flood has been suspended for inappropriately contacting a faculty member our players’ grades! The Big 10 has to feel awful allowing the Scarlet Knights admission but there they are. Given all that is going on with Rutgers, nothing less than a blowout for Penn St. is acceptable but can they do it? Coaching Penn St. is a little tougher than coaching Vanderbilt! Computer Hope

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Air Force, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Big Games, BYU, California, Clemson, Colorado, Colorado St., Duke, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Miami-FL, Michigan St., Mississippi, N. Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Penn St., Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Week 3 | Leave a comment

NCAA POWER-25 WEEK 2 2015

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 Computer Hope The best win of the year so far is Michigan St.’s win over the Ducks in East Lansing this past Saturday night. It wasn’t a dominant win by the scoreboard as Sparty won by three, 31-28, but the game looked a lot more like a Michigan State romp when you watched. Madre London & LJ Scott look like a dynamic 1-2 punch & Aaron Burbridge looks like he might be taking over the role Tony Lippett had last season. LB Riley Bullough had a monster game with 14 sacks & the Spartan defense was able to get to Oregon QB Vernon Adams for 4 sacks. Michigan St. was beaten twice last year. Once by Oregon. Once by Ohio State. Part 1 of the Revenge Tour is over. Now it’s perfection until Columbus.
#2 Computer Hope Business as usual in a 38-0 home opening win over Hawaii. It would be an overreaction to say that Ohio St. might have some issues considering the Buckeyes just pitched a shutout & Ezekiel Elliott went over 100 yards again, but the Ohio St. offense wasn’t humming. The passing attack wasn’t fantastic and Ohio St. only averaged 4.1ypc. Maybe Hawaii is better than we think (they did beat Colorado in Week 1), but Ohio St. averaged 9.7ypc against Virginia Tech’s defense on the road. They go 5.6ypc fewer in the Horseshoe against an inferior defense? Ohio St. also needs a receiver to step up & be the big threat they had last year with Devin Smith. The good news is LB Darron Lee looked like an All-American.
#3 Computer Hope This might be a little bit aggressive but I think Tennessee is THAT GOOD and going into Knoxville and getting a road win in OT is a huge statement for the Sooners. Defensively, Oklahoma put on a clinic as they comletely shut down Josh Dobbs & Alvin Kamara. Jalen Hurd managed 104 rushing yards but he did it over 24 carries (4.4ypc) & OU has to be happy about that. The issue might be the offense. QB Baker Mayfield looked so bad Sooner fans were hoping Bob Stoops would be Trevor Knight in the game. Give Mayfield some credit. Oklahoma was down 17-3 going into the 4th quarter & he rallied them to a victory while tossing 3TDs! Let’s hope he can build on this game.
#4 Computer Hope Nothing to see here but another methodical demolition of an inferior opponent. This time the Tide hammered MTSU 38-10 in a game that could have been a lot worse. Derrick Henry rushed for 96yds/3TD while the Tide put up 500 total yards & 220yds rushing. MTSU was held to 86 yards rushing and Alabama forced 4 turnovers. It was a little sloppy for the Tide as both Jake Coker & Cooper Bateman threw picks. LB Reggie Ragland had 9 tackles which gives him 21 on the year. At this rate he is on pace for close to 150! One thing that I can’t quite figure out with the Tide is their pass rush. They didn’t record a single sack against MTSU & only 3 against Wisconsin. They are on pace for 21.
#5 Computer Hope The Aggies put on an offensive clinic in beating Ball St. 56-23! QB Kyle Allen was almost perfect going 10 of 13 for 126yds & 3TD. True frosh Kyler Murray was 9 of 14 for 65yds & a TD. Tra Carson, Bruce Dolezal & Kawme Etwi combined to rush for 258yds & 2TD on 39 carries (6.6ypc!)! Texas A&M was up 49-3 at halftime! Oddly enough the defense only got one sack on Ball St. although it doesn’t look like Myles Garrett or Daeshon Hall got much run time. The Aggies blew the barn doors off this one rather quick so HC Kevin Sumlin took the opportunity to set most of his starters for the entire second half. The Aggies get Nevada before starting their SEC schedule.
#6 Computer Hope Last week Taysum Hill gets hurt & Tanner Mangum comes in and throws a Hail Mary pass in Lincolin that Mitch Matthews comes down with to give BYU a huge upset win over Nebraska. This week the Cougars welcomed in Boise State to Provo only to get another heroic performance out of Mangum. The BYU wasn’t perfect but going into the 4th quarter, his team was down 24-14 and the magic started to happen all over again as the Cougars scored 21 straight points. Mangum ran for a TD before throwing a 35-yard TD pass to Mitchell Jeurgens. To cap the game, BYU got a pick-6 by Kai Nacua to put the game on ice. The ranking is high but wins over Nebraska & Boise St. to start the season is impressive.
#7 Computer Hope After getting a scare in Minneapolis, the Horned Frogs got back to business tearing up Stephen F. Austin 70-7! Granted the competition wasn’t exactly stellar but TCU was up 35-0 at half and 56-0 after 3 quarters. TCU used 11 different runners, 3 different QBs & 11 different receivers in this disaster. Lost in the 70-7 win was true freshman LB Mike Freeze leaving the team on a personal leave of absence with no timetable set for his return. Freeze was one of the most exciting players I saw play in Week 1 when he made 7 tackles for TCU against Minnesota & looked like he was going to do a great job filling in for Paul Dawson. I hope he’s doing well & is suiting up soon for the Horned Frogs.
#8 Computer Hope Nobody has Northwestern this high but the win over Stanford was legit & the defense is outstanding. Northwestern flat out hammered Eastern Illinois this week 41-0. Sure it’s Eastern Illinois so it’s not all that impressive but Clayton Thorsen might be the best QB Pat Fitzgerald has had since he’s been in Evanston and I think this is probably the best defense he’s had. This upcoming week is going to be a big one for Northwestern as they go on the road and play Duke. They won’t be intimidated because of the game they already won against Stanford, but this will be their first road game. If they win, they have a very good chance at being 10-0 when they travel to Madison on Nov. 21.
#9 Computer Hope I’m not willing to give up on Auburn quite yet. The talent on this team is too great not to be impressed, but their resume to this point is pitiful. They barely held on to beat Louisville last week. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because the Cardinals looked good, but this week Louisville was beaten at home by Houston and Auburn needed OT to beat lowly Jacksonville State! Auburn has legitimate problems at QB unless Jeremy Johnson snaps out of this funk. The defense also looks completely different when Carl Lawson isn’t on the field. Lawson & DE DaVonte Lambert have a combined 1 sack for the season. They travel to Baton Rouge next week. They better show up.
#10 Computer Hope LSU missed their opener against McNeese St. due to weather but you can tell how the Tigers are going to play it in 2015. RB Leonard Fournette is going to carry this team as far as he can take them offensively while the defense plays out of its mind. The sophomore RB ran for 159yds & 3TD in a 21-19 win over Mississippi State. QB Brandon Harris only threw 14 passes & avoided making mistakes which led to LSU barely pulling out a victory at home. The LSU defense avoided giving up the big play through the air & forced Dak Prescott to stay in the pocket. The Tigers won’t face too many QBs as dynamic as Prescott. The D has to be salivating to get a chance at Jeremy Johnson.
#11 Computer Hope There hasn’t been much luck for the Irish this season thus far. Sure the Irish are 2-0 with wins over Texas & Virginia but they’ve come at a heavy cost as the Irish lost starting RB Tarean Folston against the Longhorns & this past week they lost starting QB Malik Zaire for the season! This is an extremely deep Irish team & QB DeShone Kizer promptly led the Irish to a game winning drive to avoid the upset, but these losses are bound to add up. I’m not necessarily worried too much about the offense, but what bothered me was Notre Dame’s inability to stop QB Matt Johns, RB Taquan Mizzell & WR Canaan Severin. You knew those guys were getting the ball & it didn’t matter. Georgia Tech up next & that’s scary!
#12 Computer Hope It probably doesn’t matter given the Bears offense but you have to be a bit concerned that Baylor has given up 21 to SMU & 31 to Lamar! Baylor ended up pulling away from Lamar for a 66-31 victory but we are talking Lamar here & the Cardinals had the Bears tied at 21 late in the 2nd quarter before Baylor outscored them 45-10. The Bears also continue to be sloppy. They had 12 penalties & 4 turnovers. Against Lamar & SMU they can afford to make those mistakes but against Oklahoma & TCU, those mistakes will be fatal. Luckily for Baylor they are likely to be 8-0 before welcoming in Oklahoma on Nov. 14, but HC Art Briles definitely has something to work on.
#13 Computer Hope Dominance. USC isn’t getting much national attention to this point and that’s mainly because of their competition. I have them ranked #13 because they haven’t played anyone to date. They’ve hammered both Arkansas St. & Idaho with the combined score of 114-15. QB Cody Kessler is on pace for 4500yds/50TD while WR JuJu Smith is on pace for almost 2,000yds receiving & 21TD! RBs Tre Madden & Ronald Jones are both on pace for 1,000yds rushing. If there is one thing to keep an eye out for it’s the pass rush. USC hasn’t played dominant O-Lines yet the defense has generated 2 sacks. As dominant as USC has been, it doesn’t seem right the defense is on pace for 14 sacks.
#14 Computer Hope The win over Virginia looks amazingly better now that Notre Dame struggled so mightily with the Wahoos. QB Josh Rosen played like a freshman in UCLA 37-3 romp over UCLA but it didn’t much matter as RBs Paul Perkins & Bolu Olorunfunmi did the heavy lifting rushing for a combined 216yds. Perkins had 151 of those yards & 2TD. Keep in mind that Rosen doesn’t have to play well. UCLA had a 4-back RB rotation that is absurdly good. Paul Perkins is the #1 guys but true freshman Soto Jamabo & Bolu Olorunfunmi are getting significant run time & excelling. Nate Starks is a helluva runner in his own right & he’s been the 4th man so far. It’s a tremendous offense.
#15 Computer Hope Oregon would have ranked a lot higher had they held on to beat Michigan St. in East Lansing. If you believe in Michigan St. then you almost have to believe in Oregon, but from where I was sitting, I thought Oregon didn’t look that good & I kept going back to how important Marcus Mariota was to Oregon the last couple of seasons. Oregon is LOADED but they have issues with Vernon Adams at QB. It’s not that Adams can’t be great, but how good can they guy really be if he’s been in Eugene for 4-5 weeks? The defense is also unsettling. The Ducks have given up 73 points in their first 2 games & they had no answer for the Spartans running attack. It’s still Oregon but we’ll see.
#16 Computer Hope I love the Bulldogs but they’ve spent their first 2 games hammering away at UL-Monroe & Vanderbilt. Sure the Vandy game was an SEC road game, but Vanderbilt is absolutely terrible so you knew that wasn’t going to be much of a challenge. Georgia has been plagued by early season losses in recent memory. In 2010, 2011, 2012  & 2014 it was South Carolina. In 2013 it was Clemson. This year the East is again wide open for Georgia and the Ol’ Ball Coach is reeling after South Carolina lost to Kentucky in Columbia. Now Spurrier will bring the Gamecocks to Athens and nothing short of a 20-30 point victory will suffice for Georgia. They must be on the look out for the loss though.
#17 Computer Hope San Diego St. is a better football team than the 35-7 final score would indicate, but to me this is more indicative of the fact that California is a player in the Pac 12 North. Given Oregon’s defense & Stanford’s play early on, how can the Bears not be considered a de facto favorite? QB Jared Goff continues his torrid pace, throwing for 321yds & 3TD against the Aztecs. Daniel Lasco ran exceedingly well & Trevor Davis made some big plays. The reason Cal isn’t getting any poll love is their schedule. Their next two games are road dates against Texas & Washington. If Goff & Co. wreck those defenses then it’ll be hard to ignore a 4-0 Bears team that resembles Baylor & Ole Miss.
#18 Computer Hope  This ranking is probably too low but at this point Utah gets hurt just a bit because I think they are still behind USC, UCLA & Oregon in their own conference. I have Cal ahead of them which is probably just a preference. The win over Michigan looks a lot better now that Michigan ripped through Oregon St. without problem. Utah has a couple of great wins so far against Michigan & Utah State. The 24-14 win over Utah St. this past week can’t be minimized as the Aggies are a solid football team, but the Utes are 2-0 by 17 points. It’s nitpicking to be sure when looking at scoring margin, but it does matter. This defense is for real although thus far they’ve failed to live up to “Sack Lake City” standard.
#19 Computer Hope  Absolutely love Paul Johnson & the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech has outscored their opponents 134-16 to start the season. By that metric they are the #1 team in the nation, but the issue with GT so far is their opponents. The Yellow Jackets have hammered Alcorn St. & Tulane thus far. That’s hardly inspiring considering that most teams ahead of them at this point have beaten a team of note. QB Justin Thomas hasn’t really even turned it on yet so there is another gear this team could potentially reach. The good news for GT fans is that Notre Dame is up next. A convincing win there puts GT in the top-10 in my opinion. The bad news? Notre Dame is up next & they are solid.
#20 Computer Hope  Basically the same narrative that Georgia Tech is following to this point. Ole Miss is putting the hammer down on their opponents, outscoring them 149-24 over the first two games, but those 2 games have come against Fresno St. & UT-Martin. The 149pts isn’t a type either! Ole Miss is averaging 75PPG on offense! QB Chad Kelly played out of his mind in the Rebels win over Fresno. He was 20/25 for 346yds & 4TD! The game could have been worse too as Ole Miss had 3 turnovers. As good as Bo Wallace was, I think Kelly might be better which could be the difference between Ole Miss finishing 9-4/10-3 and them finishing 12-1/11-2 with playoff aspirations. We’ll learn a lot this week in Tuscaloosa!
#21 Computer Hope  A lot of different ways you can spin this. The win over South Carolina in Columbia is huge even it was by just a 26-22 margin. Kentucky beat South Carolina last year so maybe HC Mark Stoops has simply surpassed SC as a program with the Wildcats. If that’s true then it’s a MAJOR accomplishment. He’s still got Tennessee, Georgia & Missouri to tackle. On the other hand, maybe Steve Spurrier’s time in Columbia coming to a close & UK took advantage of a program that might be trending downwards? Either way, SC beat a solid North Carolina team & then UK beat SC. The win over UL-Lafayette is a good one too & Kentucky is 2-0. Their next two is at home against Florida & Mizzou. We’ll learn a lot.
#22 Computer Hope  The 31-24 OT loss at home to Oklahoma is devastating. There is no other way to put it. A win over Oklahoma would have established Tennessee as the SEC East favorites at this point & set the Vols up for a tremendous year where the upside could have been 11-1. What the loss sort of shows is that HC Butch Jones has Orange Nation close, but not all the way back just yet. Really good teams don’t give up 17-3 leads in the 4th quarter at home which is what the Vols did here. Josh Dobbs looked awful & the running game could never quite get established. The defensive implosion in the 4th capped it off. UT has time to rebound but this one hurts given the lead in the 4th.
#23 Computer Hope  Probably way to low at this point but the Seminoles have only beaten Texas St. & South Florida and they aren’t blowing them out the way Baylor, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss & California have been doing inferior opponents. RB Dalvin Cook should be getting major play at this point with the Heisman. He’s averaging 211yds per game & almost 3TD. Project his current numbers over a 14-game season & Cook is on pace to rush for almost 3,000yds with 35TD! I’d like to see FSU be a bit more aggressive on defense, but this is more of a ranking due to circumstance than performance. QB Everett Golson has been close to perfect meaning FSU could be looking at 14-0 again.
#24 Computer Hope  Sort of like Utah, Clemson is ranked this low as a matter of circumstance. I have them below Florida St. & Georgia Tech in the ACC and those two squads, while dominant, haven’t beaten anyone so they keep dropping in my power rankings mostly as a result of SOS. Clemson has this same issue as they are 2-0 but with wins over Wofford & Appalachian State. Also like Florida St., Clemson hasn’t completely decimated their opponents the way other teams ahead of them have. With that said, everything is clicking with Clemson. The one thing that really stands out for me is that the Tigers have lived up to defensive expectations. The 20 tackles for loss ranks 20th in the nation. I like it!
#25 Computer Hope  There was a lot of argument going about after Michigan St. beat Oregon that argued that if you believed Oregon was a top-10 team before they lost to Michigan St., then you had to believe they were a top-10 after. Minnesota isn’t getting any national love, but if everyone believes TCU is a top-5 or even top-3 team then how can you argue MInnesota isn’t at least a top-25 team? The Gophers were a TD away from beating TCU in week 1 and then followed that up with a gutsy OT win in Fort Collins, beating Colorado St. 23-20! QB Mitch Leidner hasn’t been outstanding but he’s not beating himself either. The Gophers are a player in the Big 10 West & should be 3-1 when they head to Evanston.

DROPPING OUT

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (previously #9): Are you kidding me? Losing to Toledo in Little Rock? HC Bret Bielema is right in that at least it wasn’t a conference game, but how awful will it be for the SEC should Arkansas run the table get to 12-1 and then be left out of the playoffs because their conference champion was beat at home by a MAC squad?

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (previosuly #22): Are you kidding me? Losing to Kentucky in Columbia? Kentucky actually has a good football team & if South Carolina pulls one of their usual wins over Georgia then maybe the loss just looks like one of those games SC loses every year that they shouldn’t.

WISCONSIN BADGERS (previously #23): The Badgers didn’t do anything wrong this week. They hammered Miami-OH 58-0 and really they look like the odds on favorite to win the Big 10 West. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Wisconsin run the table & get to 11-1 only to lose to Ohio State in the Big 10 championship game before winning their bowl game. That would put Wisconsin at 12-2 and be almost parallel to Michigan St.’s season a year ago.

MISSISSIPPI ST. BULLDOGS (previously #24): They should have beaten LSU. They deserve to be in the top-25 but they’ll be a 6-6 team that is better than most 9-3 squads.

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (previously #25): Are you kidding me? Losing to Houston in Louisville? Who knows what is going with the Cardinals but methinks it’s just a little bad luck. I think Louisville beats Auburn if they play 5 quarters & the 34-31 loss to Houston? It happens. I still wouldn’t want to face this team if they get rolling.

September 15, 2015 Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, BYU, California, Clemson, Florida St., Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Michigan St., Minnesota, Mississippi, Mississippi St., NCAA, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oregon, Power 25, South Carolina, TCU, Tennessee, Texas AM, UCLA, USC, Utah, Week 2, Wisconsin | Leave a comment

NCAA POWER-25 WEEK 1 2015

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 Computer Hope Things were a little dicey for the Buckeyes when Hokie QB Michael Brewer was in the game. Ohio St. went up early 14-0 but Brewer led Virginia Tech to 17 unanswered points before halftime as Virginia Tech took a 17-14 lead. An Adolphus Washington broke Brewer’s collarbone early in the 3rd quarter & Ohio St. cruised from that point forward. Cardale Jones & Ezekiel Elliott looked unstoppable for the Buckeyes. LB Dillon Lee was everywhere. If you want to nitpick one little thing about Ohio St., it’s their lack of a coherent passing attack. It’s minor to be sure especially when they can run the ball like they did, but it’s a weakness that could be exploited later. A win in Blacksburg is solid as V-Tech is a good team.
#2 Computer Hope You get the feeling that Alabama & Nick Saban feel like they are being disrespected. Wisconsin is a good, solid football team yet it looked like the local high school team against their little league counterparts in their 35-17 win over the Badgers. Derrick Henry was a man among boys out there rushing for 147yds & 3TD on 13 carries. Kenyan Drake ran for 77yds a TD of his own on just 10 carries. QB Jake Coker looked solid & the Tide didn’t commit a turnover. There was a little chatter coming from LB Reggie Ragland this offseason about the Bama defense getting back to being dominant (back to being dominant? I don’t think they ever left) & he backed it up leading the team with 12 tackles & appearing everywhere in sight.
#3 Computer Hope The 38-17 win over Arizona State was OUTSTANDING! This is eerily similar to last season when A&M hammered South Carolina 52-28 to open the season & everyone was gushing about QB Kenny Hill being a Heisman candidate. The Aggies would get to 5-0 & #6 in the nation before the wheels came off, but I’m a believer this year. QB Kyle Allen is solid & I simply don’t think there is an answer for DE Myles Garrett. Even better is that DE Daeshon Hall can be incredibly dominant as well so if teams key in on Garrett, they lose anyway. In a week bereft of adequate pass rushing, the Aggies logged 9 sacks & 14 tackles for loss in an incredible performance. Hall had 4 sacks, Garrett had 2 & S Donovan Wilson had 2. I’m buying this defense!
#4 Computer Hope A tricky one for me. On the one hand Auburn looked outstanding getting out to a 24-0 lead over Louisville early in the 3rd quarter. At that point you really thought the Tigers were going to blow this open, win 38-0 & establish themselves as Ohio St.’s greatest threat to repeat as national champions. But then they fell to pieces. Louisville outscored them 24-7 the rest of the way & QB Jeremy Johnson looked terrible. Even the defense looked odd. Early on guys like Carl Lawson & Kris Frost looked dominant, but as the game wore on Louisville QB Lamar Jackson kept getting better. I really like this Auburn team & the 31-24 win over Louisville is going to keep getting better & better, but Johnson might be a problem at QB.
#5 Computer Hope Notre Dame’s 38-3 thrashing of Texas in South Bend was the most dominant football game I watched all weekend. There wasn’t a single aspect of the game that the Irish didn’t completely dominate. Granted, Texas isn’t Texas right now, but the Longhorns still have a tremendous amount of talent & they got hammered. Malik Zaire was almost perfect going 19/22 for 313yds & 3TD. True frosh RBs Dexter Williams & Josh Adams looked fantastic as did CJ Prosise. WR Will Fuller looked unstoppable with 7 catches for 142yds & 2TD! The Irish racked up 4 sacks & 7 tackles for loss. True frosh DT Jerry Tillery got his first sack. The Irish did lose RB Tarean Folston for the season which was the only negative. He was due for a HUGE year.
#6 Computer Hope TCU dropped in the rankings from #2 to #3 and I’ve dropped them from #2 to #6, but winning in Minnesota 23-17 is probably a bigger accomplishment than you would think. Minnesota HC Jerry Kill probably knows Gary Patterson better than anyone in the coaching fraternity & Kill is an OUSTANDING head coach himself. The Gophers might not attract the kind of talent Ohio St. or Alabama does, but they aren’t going to lay down either & they are going to put up a fight. TCU played well enough to win. QB Trevone Boykin & RB Aaron Greene moved the chains enough. True frosh LB Mike Freeze is a player. He’s been given the impossible task of replacing Paul Dawson (drafted by the Bengals) but he’s going to shine. Love the kid!
#7 Computer Hope QB Cody Kessler was on fire in USC’s 55-6 opening win over Arkansas State! The senior signal caller went for 236yds/4TD on 19 of 26 passing. Tre Madden & true frosh Ronald Jones combined to rush for 192yds/2TD on only 18 carries while WR JuJu Smith caught 4 balls for 89yds & a TD. Defensively it was an interesting game for the Trojans. They gave up over 400yds to Ark State but they also were +4 in TO margin. Su’a Cravens had a pick & true frosh LB Cameron Smith led the team in tackles with 7. DT Kenny Bigelow picked up a sack, the only one for USC on the night. The rush defense needs to get better as teams like UCLA, Arizona & Oregon are MUCH BETTER running the football than the Red Wolves.
#8 Computer Hope With 18 returning starters, the one big question facing UCLA this year was the development of true freshman QB Josh Rosen. Already touted as the best QB in the high school class of 2015, Rosen has essentially been given the keys to a Ferrari. How would he fare? Like a senior getting ready to be a top-5 pick in the NFL draft! Rosen completed 28 of 35 passes for 351yds & 3TD en route to leading UCLA to a 34-16 win over Virginia. The Bruins used 10 different receivers in their attack that led to 500+ total yards. Rosen wasn’t the only true frosh making waves. RB Soso Jamabo ran led the team in rushing with 79yds on just 9 carries. The bad news is UCLA lost DT Eddie Vanderdoes for the season. He’s a special player.
#9 Computer Hope With Arkansas you immediately think run because Jonathan Williams & Alex Collins each ran for over 1000yds last season, but Arkansas did it through the air against UTEP in a workman like 48-13 win over the Miners. QB Brandon Allen went 14 of 18 for 308yds & 4TD! With Williams missing the year due to injury, Collins shouldered the load up front & ran for 127yds/TD on just 12 carries. Rawleigh Williams ran for 45yds in trying to recreate Williams’ role. Allen was a solid QB last year throwing 20TD to just 5INT along with 2200+yds but his accuracy wasn’t hot at 56%. If his accuracy is improved then the Razorbacks are going to be brutal to play as they’ll have both air & ground attacks. I really like this team.
#10 Computer Hope The Bulldogs took UL-Monroe to the woodshed in Athens on Saturday jumping out to a 35-7 halftime lead before putting the game to bed with a 51-14 win. This game was actually called in the 4th quarter with about 10 minutes left due to the weather so Georgia could have easily gotten close to 70 points by the end! Georgia pretty much got this win on the ground. Nick Chubb ran for 120yds/2TD while Keith Marshall chipped in 73yds/2TD & Sony Michel ran for 41 & caught a TD pass. UGA QBs attempted just 14 passes but completed 10 of them for 192yds & 3TD! The Bulldog rush defense was stingy although ULM QB Garrett Smith had a decent game. Georgia is going to win a lot of games with that rushing attack.
#11 Computer Hope I thought Georgia Tech’s win was lopsided!!! Good grief! Ole Miss didn’t come out sluggish in the opener as they cruised to a 41-0 halftime lead over UT-Martin before finishing the game with a 76-3 victory! Yes it was only UT-Martin but everything seemingly worked for the Rebels offense. Ole Miss had 662 total yards & was incredibly balanced as they ran for 338 & passed for 324. Ole Miss used 3 QBs, 8 different players ran the ball & 11 different players caught passes. RB Jaylen Walton was the only Rebel with more than 1 TD as he ran for a couple. This was a dominant win but I would have liked to have seen a little better pass rush from Ole Miss. They managed just 1 sack against a team like UT-Martin. Come on!
#12 Computer Hope Good heavens! QB Justin Thomas only played the first quarter for the Yellow Jackets in their season opener against Alcorn St., but it was a quarter that saw Georgia Tech score 34 points! Thomas even got in a TD pass to Micheal Summers as he rushed for a TD himself. Backup Tim Byerly would handle the last 3 quarters as Georgia Tech cruised 69-6 over the Braves. Granted the competition wasn’t much but GT’s triple option attack looked unstoppable as it racked up 476 rushing yards & averaged 9.2ypc! Six different Yellow Jackets scored rushing TDs. True frosh Marcus Marshall ran for 184yds/2TD on just 8 carries. Patrick Skov chipped in 72yds/3TD. Georgia Tech did not commit a single penalty during the game.
#13 Computer Hope Yes Akron lost 41-3, but give the Zips defense some credit. Akron has the best defense in the MAC & their D-Line isn’t anything to sneeze at. Akron’s front-7 held Oklahoma to just 100 rushing yards on 33 carries which has to be considered a victory. Samaje Perine ran for 1713yds/21TD last year but managed just 33yds against the Zips front-7. Oklahoma tore it up through the air however with QB Baker Mayfield throwing for almost 400yds & 3TD. RB Joe Mixon carried the ball only 5 times for 27yds but did catch a 76yd TD from Mayfield. The Oklahoma defense was OK but nothing exceptional. I wish they would have gotten a bit more pass rush. It seems OU is a little undersized at their 3-4OLB positions.
#14 Computer Hope This might be a little too harsh for Baylor but I was a little disappointed that they led SMU 28-21 at halftime. We can get crazy with Baylor’s offensive statistics. They were there to be sure as the Bears racked up 700+ total yards and end up winning the game 56-21, but like Michigan State, I expected more from them defensively. Shawn Oakman didn’t play. The D-Line could only must 3 sacks against an overmatched SMU squad. As a team Baylor committed 13 penalties & only had 5 more 1st downs than SMU, 27-22. Seth Russell completed just 50% of his passes. Of course, the team ran for 8.1ypc which is going to be practically unstoppable but this was a sloppy game & Baylor might play 8 games before being tested.
#15 Computer Hope That was a bittersweet trip to Lincoln for the Cougars. On the one hand you lose your senior starting QB Taysom Hill in your very first game, but you also have freshman QB Tanner Mangum throw a Hail Mary at the end of the game to WR Mitch Matthews that gives you a 33-28 win in a raucous road environment. The issue for BYU now is how well Mangum can come in and run the offense. He actually played well in Hill’s absence & he’s also a run threat like Hill. What really helps is BYU’s receiving corps. Mitch Matthews, Nick Kurtz, Terenn Houk & Devon Blackmon are all huge & all upperclassmen. It’s a great crutch to lean on. BYU has a chance to have a very special year of Mangum can pick up the pieces. Great win.
#16 Computer Hope This may be an over reach for Utah but I liked the team that beat Michigan 24-17 on opening Thursday. The issue I have with Utah (and why I think I might have them a bit too high) is that like Louisville, I think if Michigan had another quarter, they might come back & beat the Utes. Michigan was driving in the 4th down 17-10 when Jake Ruddock through a pick that CB Justin Thomas ran back for a 55-yard TD that put Utah up 24-10 midway through the 4th quarter. I think this can go a couple of ways. The first is that Michigan is going to prove over time this season they are a very good football team & this is a great win for Utah. Or Michigan might suck & Utah squeaked out a win over a bad team at home. We’ll find out.
#17 Computer Hope Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson couldn’t have asked for a better debut at Florida State. The QB completed 19 of 25 passes for 302yds & 4TD. It’s easy to forget that Golson led Notre Dame to the national championship game in 2012 & came into Florida St. with an 18-6 record as a starter. He’s played on the biggest of stages. The big question for the Noles coming into 2015 was how Jameis Winston was going to be replaced, but remember that Winston last season passed for 3907yds with 25TD to 18INT. Golson threw for 3500yds/29TD/14INT last season with the Irish. Dalvin Cook & Mario Pender were unstoppable running the football & FSU used 13 different receivers in the 59-16 win over Texas St.! They’ll be fine.
#18 Computer Hope A little disappointed in Michigan State. I know they led 20-7 at the end of the 1st quarter but Western Michigan tied them 17-17 through the remaining 3. The Spartans come away with a 37-24 win, but it feels disjointed. QB Connor Cook didn’t complete 50% of his passes. The running game by LJ Scott, Madre London & Gerald Holmes was solid but not spectacular. Defensively they gave up too many yards through the air. The one good thing to come out of this was Michigan St.’s rush defense allowed only 18 rushing yards on 23 attempts! LB Riley Bullough was a machine out there racking up 3 sacks & 9 tackles. As a team Michigan St. recorded 7 sacks so they were getting pressure. They just gave up too many yards.
#19 Computer Hope I made it a point to watch the Stanford/Northwestern game. My main thought was that Northwestern was a solid team, but that Stanford was going to be a playoff contender so I thought the Wildcats would be a good test. Instead I came away believing Northwestern has a real shot at winning the Big 10 West. I think Clayton Thorson played great. He’s much more of a run threat that Trevor Siemian. If Thorson can get his accuracy up, he’s going to be very tough to handle. RB Justin Jackson tore Stanford up! Jackson ran for 1178yds last year but gashed the Cardinal for 134! Christian Jones also looked great after being out last season. The Wildcats defense looked fantastic. Anthony Walker & Ifeadi Odenigbo were great! Love Walker!
#20 Computer Hope Clemson jumped out to a 35-0 lead with over 5 minutes left in the 2nd quarter & HC Dabo Swinney considered the rest of the game garbage time as the Tigers rolled to a 49-10 win over Wofford. Deshaun Watson was sharp going 18/22 for 194yds/2TD. Wayne Gallman & Zac Brooks combined to rush for 146yds/3TD on 21 carries. It’s hard to read too much into this game because the starters didn’t play so much but Clemson was -2 in TO margin & they committed more penalties than Wofford. It’s nitpicking to be sure, but things I’m sure the Clemson staff will clear up before next week’s game against Appalachian State. Another oddity is Clemson haven’t just 1 sack. They need to get a lot more pass rush than that.
#21 Computer Hope Absolutely love the offense. QB Josh Dobbs was outstanding going 15/22 for 205yds/2TD & also rushing for 89yds & a TD! The Vols broke out a 2-headed BEAST at RB as Jalen Hurd & Alvin Kamara looked unstoppable. Hurd ran for 123yds/3TD while Kamara went nuts with 144yds/2TD on just 15 carries! TE Ethan Wolf caught both of Dobbs’ TD passes. While the offense was humming, UT was giving up 557 total yards & 30 points to Bowling Green in the 59-30 victory! Bowling Green QB Matt Johnson threw for 424yds/2TD! Bowling Green might be the best team in the MAC so they weren’t going to lay down, but I expected more out of a UT defense that returned 8 starters. They can’t play like this against Oklahoma.
#22 Computer Hope I don’t think South Carolina’s 17-13 win over North Carolina in Charlotte went as planned but something has to be said about a team with ball hawking ability on defense & their ability to win games. North Carolina dominated this game statistically yet Spurrier & Co. ended up 1-0! Skai Moore was the MVP of this game coming up big time with 2 interceptions. If not for those turnovers, SC loses this one & starts 0-1 with a real chance to start the season 0-3 & potentially 2-5! The win doesn’t necessarily mean a ton, but now you just sort of feel SC might start 5-2. The Gamecocks have problems at QB as Connor Mitch was hardly inspiring, but the Heels are a good team & a win is nice. SC deserves to be in the top-25…..for now.
#23 Computer Hope Maybe Wisconsin keeps it a little closer against Alabama if RB Corey Clement had been 100% but that is unlikely. Still, it was a solid effort for the Badgers as they went down to the Tide 35-17. This game was only 14-7 at halftime before Alabama dominated the 3rd quarter 14-3. The Badgers deserve some credit for keeping it close as Alabama’s rushing game looked unstoppable. I thought this was actually a decent game for QB Joel Stave. Stave struggled last year completing just 53.4% of his passes. Against a vaunted Alabama defense, Stave completed 67%! I thought OLB Joe Schobert had a solid game too. In Wisconsin’s 3-4 base, Schobert had 10 tackles, 2 sacks & 4 tackles for loss. He looks really good early.
#24 Computer Hope QB Dak Prescott was on display in Hattiesburg as Mississippi St. took down Southern Miss 34-16. Prescott passed for 237yds/2TD while rushing for 72yds/1TD. Prescott wasn’t overly sharp but he was good enough. WR Fred Ross had a big game & at 6’2/205lbs could be a pretty big go to weapon for Prescott as the season goes along. That would be helpful as it would take some pressure off the running game that is trying to cope with the loss of RB Josh Robinson. LB Richie Brown & DE AJ Jefferson had big games. The Bulldog defense probably gave up a bit too much through the air but did get a couple of picks. Southern Miss has been down in recent years, but the program is headed back in the right direction.
#25 Computer Hope If Louisville would have had one more quarter, I think they would have come from behind & gotten the win over Auburn in Atlanta. Auburn led the Cardinals 17-0 at halftime but Louisville outscored War Eagle 24-14 in the 2nd half leading to the 31-24 loss. HC Bobby Petrino didn’t waste any time going to true frosh QB Lamar Jackson. Jackson was a little rough at first but he was able to run for 106yds & a TD while RB Brandon Radcliff chipped in 76yds/2TD. S Josh Harvey-Clemson was EVERYWHERE! He ended up with 14 tackles & 2 interceptions! The Georgia transfer is a monster at 6’5/230lbs playing the safety position! If Jackson can settle in, Louisville is A LOT better than anyone thinks.

DROPPING OUT

OREGON DUCKS (previously #7): They won’t stay out of the top-25 for long especially if they go into East Lansing & beat Michigan State, but giving up 42 points & 549 total yards to Eastern Washington? Where in the world was the defense? If they get exposed by Michigan State, then all of a sudden things look worrisome in Eugene.

VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (previosuly #14): I would have ranked them in the top-25 even if they did lose to Ohio St., but the loss of QB Michael Brewer was devastating. Brewer had VT up 17-14 at halftime over the defending national champions. When he went down, Brenden Motley looked lost out there as the Buckeyes put the hammer down in the 2nd half.

STANFORD CARDINAL (previously #17): The biggest disappointment of Week 1, I picked Stanford to win the Pac 12 North & be a surprise playoff contender. I suppose that could still happen but losing to Northwestern 16-6!? The offense looked absolutely horrendous. They could be looking at 2-4 after 6 games!

ARIZONA ST. SUN DEVILS (previously #21): I’m not overly shocked they lost to Texas A&M, but they were dominated which was surprising. One thing to keep in mind about Arizona is they play USC & UCLA back-to-back in Weeks 4 & 5. They could easily start the season 2-3 with road games against Utah & California to come not to mention the game against Arizona.

BOISE ST. BRONCOS (previously #22): Boise didn’t do anything wrong in beating Washington 16-13 in Chris Petersen’s homecoming but the game was close & non-eventful while other teams made statements in their victories (see: Northwestern, BYU, Utah & Mississippi State). Boise St. plays BYU this week & a win gets them back up in the rankings.

LSU TIGERS (previously #23): LSU gets a hurt a bit by getting their game against McNeese State canceled. It also doesn’t help that teams like Arkansas, Ole Miss, Texas A&M & Mississippi St. looked fantastic. We’ll know an awful lot about them in the next 2 weeks as they play at Mississippi State & Auburn! How is that for your first two games?

PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (previously #24): I really like Pittsburgh but I probably would have dropped them out due to their defensive performance against Youngstown State. The Panthers won 45-37 but they were -3 in TO margin & they lost RB James Conner for the year. That’s a huge red flag but rFR Oadree Ollison stepped in & ran for 207yds/1TD on 16 carries! Chris James ran well too. I still bullish on Pittsburgh. If Ollison can keep this up they’ll be right back in the top-25. Brutal schedule though.

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Alabama, Arizona St., Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Boise St., BYU, Clemson, Florida St., Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, LSU, Michigan St., Mississippi, Mississippi St., Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Power 25, South Carolina, Stanford, TCU, Tennessee, Texas AM, UCLA, USC, Utah, Virginia Tech, Week 1, Wisconsin | Leave a comment