Tag Archives: Brandon Harris

Is a Graduate Transfer Quarterback Worth it for Texas?

Tom Herman has made it very clear in his words and his actions that he expects to win in 2017. That was made even more crystal clear when news came out recently that Herman is heavily recruiting Brandon Harris, a graduate transfer who has spent his college career playing quarterback at LSU. However, with Harris’ recent commitment to play for North Carolina this year, Herman will have to explore other options.

I always thought Herman would entertain the idea of bringing in a graduate transfer at the quarterback position, considering he only has two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster at the moment (third-stringer Matthew Merrick quit the program to focus on academics recently).

One of them is Shane Buechele, who started every game for the Longhorns last season. The other is Sam Ehlinger, a true freshman early-enrollee who has only been on campus for a couple months.

I’ve discussed the good things and bad things from each of the quarterbacks before. I feel like it’s a good thing that Herman is pursuing a graduate transfer QB to provide some depth and competition at the position. However, I’m glad Harris chose another route, so Herman can focus his efforts elsewhere.

Harris has started at LSU on random occasions over the past few seasons. He was highly recruited out of high school and there’s no doubting his athletic ability. But the fact that he couldn’t keep a stranglehold on the job at LSU is telling. I’m not a hardcore LSU follower, but they are involved in plenty big games where I watched Harris play enough to gather an opinion.

What I observed is a quarterback who is pretty athletic, but isn’t going to outrun or finesse anyone to break a long run. He’s not very accurate most of the time, but he can make some really good throws occasionally to give you hope. And he seems to pretty indecisive, almost like he either thinks too much or has no clue what the defense is doing (or what play his offense is running).

Who does that sound like?

Yep. The 18-wheeler himself, Tyrone Swoopes.

There are just way too many similarities between the two to get excited about bringing Harris in. His experience would have been valuable, but will he really win more games this year than Buechele would?

Herman said in an interview after a practice recently that he would worry about developing his other quarterbacks next spring if a graduate transfer is better than them this year. There’s good and bad to that situation.

What if Buechele doesn’t appreciate a graduate transfer coming in for just a year and taking the job from him? Does he transfer himself? Does he lose confidence? Or does he grind harder as the backup, knowing that he’s got two years left to prove his worth?

And then what if a graduate transfer does get the job and wins 6-7 games? It would seem like a loss of a year of experience for Buechele, since he could hopefully win that many games on his own.

That’s the bad.

The good thing is bringing in a graduate transfer QB is ideal for Ehlinger’s situation, since it’s best if he redshirts anyway. It would also send a message to the team that Herman doesn’t care who is on the field, as long as the team is winning. The notion that anyone is replaceable should make the effort level rise at every position.

My thought is if Herman brings in a graduate QB transfer, it says more about what he thinks about Ehlinger than it does about anyone else. I believe Ehlinger is Herman’s type of player, but he knows he won’t be ready to lead the team this season as a true freshman. A graduate transfer QB would allow Ehlinger to redshirt, get used to the system and be more prepared to take over next year.

There are so many “what ifs” that it’s hard for me to be convinced that a graduate QB transfer is needed right now or not. Of course, if we were talking about JT Barrett or another no-brainer guy with a ton of talent, then it would be a different story.

Harris is not a no-brainer type acquisition. That’s the reason why I’m glad he chose to play elsewhere.

Depth at the QB position is desperately needed, but Herman doesn’t need to be desperate in finding just any quarterback. If the right one comes around at the right time, then grab him.

I’ve said it many times already this offseason, but it’s worth saying again…In Herman We Trust.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia

Nick Saban Has Nothing to Prove to High School Coaches

Louisiana high school football coaches have had a busy few weeks. First, there was the on-again/off-again boycott of Ed Orgeron’s LSU football program. Then, Parkway High School football coach, David Feaster, went nuclear when he banned Nick Saban and Alabama from his program. The tense situation between the New Orleans high schools and Ed Orgeron was quickly smoothed over. As for Feaster and Saban? Feaster soon found himself on the unemployment line as Parkway principal Waylon Bates fired the coach.

Feaster didn’t agree with what he considered to be Saban’s unethical recruiting tactics. The former Parkway head coach took particular issue with how Saban recruited Brandon Harris in the 2014 recruiting class.

Harris was a highly regarded dual-threat quarterback in that 2014 recruiting class. Alabama’s offensive assistant coaches believed that Harris would be a valuable asset to the Alabama offense. But no matter how good a recruit is, they don’t truly have an offer from Alabama until Saban says they have an offer from Alabama. For that to happen, Harris would need to attend a Crimson Tide football camp to prove himself to Saban.

Saban’s record at Alabama speaks for itself. The way in which he structures his recruiting process may seem harsh to some, but that structure has proven results. If you’re in charge of a high school program, you’re wise to play by Saban’s rules. If you don’t, it’s not going to harm Saban. It’s only going to be to the detriment of your high school recruits.

Now, as for Harris, his time as an LSU Tiger was anything but extraordinary. His career in Baton Rouge was spent between riding Les Miles’ bench and starting. He was ultimately benched in favor of Purdue transfer Danny Etling. Based on this, I’d say that Saban was correct to pass on the previously highly regarded quarterback recruit. Saban continues to sit on top of the SEC while Miles found himself fired mid-season.

There is a bigger picture in all of this. Those Louisiana football coaches were wrong for leading an albeit short boycott of LSU and Feaster was wrong for banning Alabama from his former program. Who high school recruits show interest in and where those recruits end up playing their college ball is up to the players. End of story.

These high school coaches can offer advice to their players but that’s where it has to end. Unless the college coaches who are recruiting the players are doing something illegal, they should be granted access to the recruits. If the recruit wants nothing to do with a particular college program, that’s their call. Otherwise, the only thing that these high school coaches are doing is limiting the potential opportunities for the recruits. And limiting the opportunities of the recruits is the last thing a high school coach should be doing.

Perhaps if Feaster would have given Saban the benefit of the doubt, Harris’ collegiate career would look considerably better than it does. Just imagine if Harris would have attended the Alabama camp, been offered a scholarship by Saban and enrolled at Alabama rather than LSU. A large part of the reason Miles was fired by LSU was due to his inability to develop a quarterback. And a large part of Saban’s success is his ability to develop a college level quarterback and place that quarterback in the best position to win.

Saban continues to win. Harris is looking to transfer. Miles is sitting at home. And Feaster was fired for what was considered to be insubordination.

 

E-mail Seth at  or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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SEC Quarterbacks Are Downright Unimpressive

Anybody who knows me at all knows that I have a special place in my heart for SEC football. I really do. But I can’t sit by and be silent about this. The SEC quarterbacks, once again, look overwhelmingly bad. At the risk of sounding cliché, watching the SEC quarterback play so far this year is like watching paint dry.

I can’t think of a single SEC quarterback who actually excites me right now. Meanwhile, I can think of four or five ACC quarterbacks that do. This is madness. How does the conference with the most ranked teams have the worst quarterbacks? I just don’t get it.

Usually, the SEC East is a mess and the SEC West is great. This year, everybody except for Alabama (and maybe Texas A&M) is a mess. Yet somehow there are still eight teams ranked in the AP top 25 at the moment. I’ll let you in on a little something, though—they definitely aren’t ranked because of their quarterbacks.

So here is where I go through every SEC team, by division and in alphabetical order, to prove a point. I’ll keep the assessment for each team brief.

The Florida Gators have been starting Luke Del Rio at quarterback. On the season so far he has 762 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, and two interceptions. But unfortunately for the Gators, he’s sidelined due to a knee injury and they’ll have to rely on Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby for now. Just when they were getting some momentum…

The Georgia Bulldogs seemed pretty well-off as far as quarterbacks go when the season started. Both Greyson Lambert (who was solid last year) and Jacob Eason (who’s a true freshman) have taken snaps for the Dawgs, with Eason taking the majority of the snaps. Eason has racked up 643 yards passing, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. Not bad…and also not fantastic.

The Kentucky Wildcats have played both Drew Barker and Stephen Johnson at quarterback, but Barker went down against New Mexico State and Kentucky has had more success with Johnson now anyways. He has 355 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. In the second week at Florida, Drew Barker actually threw three interceptions to the Florida defense and only completed two passes to his own players. Oops!

The Missouri Tigers have mostly stuck with quarterback Drew Lock so far this season. A bright spot in the East, he has 1106 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions. But, the Tigers are still struggling, only managing to win one of their first three games this season.

The South Carolina Gamecocks haven’t had all that much luck at quarterback between Brandon McIlwain and Perry Orth. McIlwain has been slightly better than his competition, with 356 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also added 80 yards rushing and two more touchdowns on the ground. But with Muschamp at the helm, I don’t know if they’ll ever have great quarterback play.

The Tennessee Volunteers have had pretty much the same Josh Dobbs they’ve been behind for a couple years now. So far his passing game leaves a lot to be desired with 486 passing yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions. On the bright side, he has added 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground. He’s also been a great leader despite being behind a shaky offensive line.

The Vanderbilt Commodores have struggled offensively (as always) behind Kyle Shurmur so far this year. He’s had 335 yards passing for two touchdowns and one interception. If Shurmur could get it together, maybe they could actually win a couple conference games this season.

But wait…there’s more! We still have another division full of mediocre quarterbacks to go.

The Alabama Crimson Tide have had Jalen Hurts take the majority of their snaps at quarterback this year. He has 563 passing yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. He’s also added 197 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground. Plus, they’re Alabama. Their quarterback play won’t make or break their season.

The Arkansas Razorbacks have stuck with Austin Allen as their quarterback so far this season. Allen has 655 yards passing, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions. He’s been good so far; he just hasn’t been outstanding.

The Auburn Tigers had some fun at quarterback against Clemson to open the season, but Sean White is now taking the snaps. He has 510 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception so far. Meh.

The LSU Tigers started off the season behind Brandon Harris at quarterback but have since given the nod to Danny Etling. Etling has 315 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also does have one rushing touchdown. He may not be great, but I think he’s better than Harris.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs have played both Nick Fitzgerald and Damian Williams at quarterback so far this year. Fitzgerald has edged out Williams with 298 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception to Williams’ 237 passing yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, Fitzgerald has 219 yards on the ground and Williams has 88 yards as well as a touchdown. While they seem fairly evenly matched, neither is too exciting at this point.

The Ole Miss Rebels have Chad “Swag” Kelly, who was supposed to be the best quarterback in the nation. Kelly does have 953 passing yards and ten touchdowns, but he also has four interceptions. The Rebels will live and die by Kelly this season so those mistakes are costly.

The Texas A&M Aggies have Trevor Knight at quarterback. Knight has 830 passing yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also has 151 rushing yards and three more touchdowns on the ground. He’s no Lamar Jackson, but he’s better than most SEC quarterbacks.

Now that you’ve made it through that, maybe you can understand why I’m just unimpressed with the SEC quarterbacks at this point. You know things are rough when Missouri arguably has the best quarterback at the moment. Missouri…a team that has lost two of their first three games. I guess you could argue that Trevor Knight is just as good since he’s more of a dual-threat quarterback. But either way, those two are the best the SEC has to offer right now and that’s not good.

Now, I understand that just looking at these stats isn’t really fair in a lot of ways. Offensive lines not giving time to throw or space to run can be absolutely devastating for quarterbacks. Receivers dropping passes can be just as bad. And facing good secondary units can also be incredibly tough for a quarterback. But even with those things in mind, there isn’t a single quarterback in the SEC that has really impressed me or excited me the way quarterbacks in other conferences have. I didn’t expect there to be a Heisman trophy-winning quarterback from the SEC, but I also didn’t expect the performances to be this lackluster.

Fortunately for SEC fans and our quarterbacks, football isn’t just about that one player taking the snaps. In the SEC it tends to be more about running backs and defenses. That’s probably why there’s still a whopping eight SEC football teams ranked in the AP Top 25, like I mentioned before. And as much as quarterback play can be fun to watch, I prefer watching some hard-hitting SEC defense anyways. So maybe I should save my complaining for the day the defenses are weak.

Here’s the big question for this year will SEC teams be able to compete in the postseason when these SEC quarterbacks are playing like this? If you ask me, it depends on the team. If you have a great defense, a solid offensive line, and a good back or two, then you can compete with anyone. That’s why Alabama is virtually unstoppable. But otherwise, you’ll just become another overrated SEC team. And nobody wants that.

And then there’s the other big question. Why is this such a problem for the SEC and will it continue next year? In all honesty, I still haven’t figured out why the SEC doesn’t have the same quarterback depth that the other major conferences do. But this isn’t something new by any means. And while it may get a little better next season as some of the guys mentioned above take more snaps and gain experience, I don’t expect the SEC to have phenomenal quarterback play anytime soon. I’ll leave that to the ACC for now.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Image courtesy of Ken Lund.

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The Fate of SEC Football is in the Hands of These Six Quarterbacks

The SEC, as always, looks strong heading into the season. In fact, there are six SEC football teams ranked in the AP preseason Top 25 poll that was released August 21. These six teams, in order of rank, are the Alabama Crimson Tide, the LSU Tigers, the Tennessee Volunteers, the Ole Miss Rebels, the Georgia Bulldogs, and the Florida Gators.

These six teams are expected to lead the two divisions of the conference, with at least one team eventually going to the College Football Playoff. The fate of all these teams, and SEC football as a whole this season, is in the hands of six starting quarterbacks, two of which have yet to be named.

[Insert name here], Alabama

Yep, that’s right. The top-ranked team heading into the season has yet to choose its starting quarterback. In all fairness to Alabama, I do understand their dilemma. The Crimson Tide could start Cooper Bateman, the only quarterback with experience. Though he’s fast, his arm is not impressive. He’s their safest bet, but he also has the lowest potential to put up big numbers. There’s always redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, who came in as a five-star prospect. He put on weight and gained strength during the past year but he hasn’t been impressive in practice. The last option, with the most risk, also has the highest possible reward for Alabama. They could start true freshman early enrollee Jalen Hurts. Because of his dynamic play, he was key in helping the Tide prepare for Deshaun Watson. He has a strong arm and has been impressive in practice. The biggest problem with having Hurts start immediately is the possibility of that decision causing his competition to transfer to another program. If Hurts doesn’t start immediately, I still expect him to claim the starting position within a few games.

Brandon Harris, LSU

Brandon Harris was a question mark for LSU heading into last season. They knew they would have a solid running game behind Leonard Fournette, but what about their passing game? He didn’t have a fantastic completion percentage (53.8%) and he didn’t have a solid touchdown-to-interception ratio (13:6). What Brandon Harris did get was experience. That experience gave him confidence that will be very valuable heading into another season with high expectations for the Tigers. With Harris being a big piece of the puzzle, I’m not too sure my expectations for the Tigers are quite as high as everyone else’s. Don’t get me wrong, Leonard Fournette is amazing, but Brandon Harris is only a little less of a question mark than he was at this time last year. Brandon Harris is simply not an asset to their offense.

Josh Dobbs, Tennessee

Seth Merenbloom isn’t a fan of Josh Dobbs, but my dad is. And I’d actually have to side with my dad on this one. From Seth’s point-of-view, Dobbs has cost the Vols in late game situations. In mine, Butch Jones and his play calling have cost the Vols in these situations. His play calling was conservative, as he was trying to keep a lead instead of trying to win the game. Dobbs does have some things going for him, though. He may not have the arm of Chad Kelly, but he has much better legs. He finished last season with a completion percentage of 59.6% and had 15 touchdowns with five interceptions. Josh Dobbs has also shown leadership for the Volunteers both on and off the field. What he needs to improve on in order to lead Tennessee to Atlanta is his decision-making. He needs to be better at protecting the ball in critical moments of the game, even if the Vols wouldn’t be in said critical moments if it weren’t for the play calling of Butch Jones. So here it is: Butch Jones is the key to Josh Dobbs being a successful quarterback for the Vols this year.

Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

The only question I have about Chad Kelly is, “Can he put his money where his mouth is?” He may easily be the best SEC quarterback heading into the season, but that doesn’t say much this year. Kelly has gone one step further and confidently said he is the best quarterback in the entire nation. Is his confidence a veil or is he really going to perform at that high of a level? Last season he had a great cast of offensive players around him. This season, he doesn’t have the same cast. Can Chad Kelly elevate a somewhat inexperienced offense and prove he is the best quarterback in the nation? I don’t know. What I do know is that this season the Ole Miss offense lives or dies by Kelly, and that means so does its season.

[Insert name here], Georgia

Oh look, another highly-ranked team without a definite starting quarterback! While Georgia’s practice makes it seem that true freshman Jacob Eason is the front-runner, the Bulldogs do have experience in Greyson Lambert. In 2015, Lambert completed 162 out of 256 pass attempts, giving him a completion percentage of 63.3% (which is better than both Harris and Dobbs). He had 1959 yards, 12 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. His stats in 2014 were very similar, with the only major difference being his eleven interceptions in 2014. Jacob Eason has none of this experience that Lambert has, but his talent makes him a clear favorite to eventually start at quarterback for the Dawgs. Like Alabama, starting Eason from the beginning could lead to another quarterback option, namely Brice Ramsey, transferring out of the program. It seems as if it is not a question of if Eason will start but instead just a matter of when he will start.

Luke Del Rio, Florida

It took Luke Del Rio quite the journey to get to Florida, but after being a walk-on at Alabama and playing backup at Oregon State, he is finally here. Del Rio did have some competition for the starting position this season, but as of right now he will be their man. There really isn’t too much to judge Luke Del Rio by except for his play in camp as well as in the Orange and Blue Debut. In the spring game in the Swamp he led the first team to victory with four touchdown drives and two touchdown passes. He completed 10 of 11 pass attempts for 176 yards. These stats should be taken lightly considering they were against the second team defense, but they’re all we have. If the Gator receiving corps steps up, I expect Del Rio to have a successful season starting at quarterback. If not, I expect Florida’s offense to make me want to cry the same way it did the second half of last season. Here’s to hoping Del Rio can solve all of Florida’s offensive problems!

Email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Featured Image courtesy of Srgragg on wikimedia.

Watching Only One SEC Football Game Each Week: Part Two

A little over a week ago, I introduced this idea. What if, for some terrible reason, I could only watch one SEC football game each weekend this season? Which games would I watch? Part one featured my picks for weeks one through six of the SEC football season. Here are my picks for the remainder of the season.

Week 7: #1 Alabama @ #10 Tennessee

This is probably the one game I’m most excited to watch all season. The Crimson Tide may have lost some key pieces to their championship team but they have plenty of recruits from their past few classes that can fill in those gaps. They also have Bo Scarbrough to replace Derrick Henry, and he definitely cannot be ignored. On the other hand, Butch Jones and Tennessee didn’t really lose important pieces to their puzzle at all. They return experienced players on both sides of the ball. The defense will be solid, and the offense has the potential to be explosive. If Josh Dobbs can pass for more than ten yards this season, the Volunteer offense will be hard to stop.

This game was a close one in Tuscaloosa last year, with Alabama obviously being the eventual victor. This year the two teams meet in Knoxville and I’m sure Neyland will be rocking. I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to get a win at home over the Crimson Tide. And I’d be laughing at Lane Kiffin the whole time. He might have to block me on Twitter if they lose.

Week 8: #12 Ole Miss @ #6 LSU

There are a few Ole Miss games that will definitely have my attention this season. This game in Death Valley is liable to be one of the most exciting SEC West games we’ll get to watch all season. I’ve talked about him plenty in Part One of this duo of lists, but Chad Kelly will be huge for Ole Miss this season.

The Rebels lost Laquon Treadwell to the NFL at the end of last season, but Damore’ea Stringfellow has the potential to be just as important to their offense. Playing opposite Treadwell last year, he already put up some pretty impressive stats (36 catches, 503 yds., 5 TDs) for the Rebels. LSU returns Fournette who was mostly a force to be reckoned with last season. More importantly, their quarterback Brandon Harris now has more experience and can hopefully help balance Fournette’s rushing attack with his passing attack.

These two offensive powerhouses meeting in Baton Rouge should make for a fantastic, explosive football game. The winner? Whichever team has fewer turnovers.

Week 9: #25 Florida vs. #16 Georgia (at EverBank Field)

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will always draw my attention as a Gator. Heading into this season, both teams are expected to be strong but both have some pretty big question marks. The Gators need to actually move the ball on offense and they need to choose a quarterback to do that…again. Their defense will be as solid as ever as they retain the title “DBU.”

Georgia will have running back Nick Chubb again and an exciting new coach in Kirby Smart. That combination could prove to be very dangerous. As far as SEC defenses go, theirs may be pretty average. But an average Bulldog defense might overpower a below average Gator offense. At the end of the day, I’d give this one to the Gators. But I don’t say that with much confidence.

Week 10: #1 Alabama @ #6 LSU

Alabama and LSU are the two highest-ranked SEC West teams in the preseason coaches poll, making this game an easy choice. Last season, the Alabama defense shut down Heisman hopeful running back Leonard Fournette in this matchup. The question is whether or not they’ll be able to repeat that feat now that LSU has a more experienced quarterback with Brandon Harris returning.

For LSU, containing the Alabama offense will be a must. Last season, they allowed them to outgain the Tiger offense by about 250 yards. If they allow Alabama to gain over 400 yards again, they’ll be hard-pressed to win this game. Fournette and Harris will be a destructive duo, but I expect the Alabama defense to be able to contain them pretty well. And for this reason, I anticipate Alabama winning this game, despite LSU’s home field advantage.

Week 11: Auburn @ #16 Georgia

I honestly have no idea what to make of Auburn at this point. Last season I expected them to be solid but I would consider their 6-6 regular season record anything but solid. Surprisingly, they only lost to Georgia by a touchdown. That team they played a close game with was not the same team that Georgia has this season. Mark Richt was replaced with a shiny new head coach straight from Alabama, Kirby Smart. And since running back Nick Chubb is returning from his injury, the Georgia offense will undoubtedly be more difficult to stop.

The Auburn defense under Will Muschamp’s replacement, Kevin Steele, will be what decides this game. Steele has worked with a number of impressive programs: Alabama, Clemson, and LSU, to name a few. Whether or not he’ll be able to resurrect a defense that struggled during most games last year remains to be seen. Because of my doubts for Auburn’s defense and my faith in Georgia’s offense, I give them the clear advantage in this game. But I don’t expect a blowout.

Week 12: Arkansas @ Mississippi St.

Arkansas is in a similar position to Tennessee this season, even though their outlook isn’t quite as favorable as that of the Volunteers. Head Coach Bret Bielema is entering his fourth year here after a decent season last year. In theory, he should finally have his players and his system in place.

Meanwhile, Dan Mullen has had to return to the drawing board for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs lived and died by quarterback Dak Prescott the past two years. Last year, they had pretty much no offensive production unless Prescott was involved. Now that Prescott is gone, Mullen is going to have to completely revamp their offense if he wants any chance of surviving in the SEC West. Since Arkansas seems to be on more of an upward trend here, I see them winning this game at Mississippi State.

Week 13: Rivalry Week

Sorry guys, but I really can’t pick just one this week. There are far too many interesting rivalry matchups.

All rankings listed are according to the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll, released on August 4th, 2016. Featured photo courtesy of wikimedia via user Neomrbungle.

E-Mail Kristen at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Watching Only One SEC Football Game Each Week: Part One

The Amway Preseason Coaches poll was just released and it inspired me to look forward to some of the best games that lay ahead. In all honesty, I would gladly watch college football, even just SEC football, all day each Saturday starting next month. But unfortunately that isn’t always possible, because let’s face it, not all people are the as awesome as us die-hard college football fans.

And for that reason I decided to create a list of the SEC football games I would watch this season if for some terrible reason I could only watch one game per week. Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to this, but if it does at least I have you (and myself) covered.

Week 1: #12 Ole Miss vs. #4 Florida State

While I could’ve easily picked #1 Alabama vs. #17 USC or #6 LSU vs. Wisconsin, but the Ole Miss-Florida State matchup takes the cake here. I fully expect Alabama to be able to handle the Trojans and although Wisconsin wasn’t bad last year, LSU should be able to handle them between Leonard Fournette and a much-improved Brandon Harris. Ole Miss and Florida State is most intriguing of these matchups to me because I expect it to be the closest game. Ole Miss is returning a fantastic quarterback in Chad Kelly and while Florida State may not have quite the same kind of weapon at quarterback, they do have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Usually I watch games for the defense, but this time I’ll definitely be watching for the offense. And as much as I ride for SEC football, I have to admit I do expect the Seminoles to come out victorious.

Week 2: Arkansas @ #14 TCU

Arkansas may not be a team picked by too many to have a great season this year, but I do think they’re a team to watch early in the season. If the Razorbacks can get off to a good start with what Coach Bret Bielema might call a “borderline erotic” (no, I’m not letting that one go yet) victory over TCU, then the sky’s the limit. Arkansas may have an inexperienced quarterback, but they make up for that lack of experience elsewhere. They return numerous starts on the defensive side of the ball and they have plenty of options for offensive production when you look at potential running backs. The TCU Horned Frogs will undoubtedly be a formidable opponent, but I’d definitely put this game on “upset alert” right now. And who wouldn’t want to watch a good upset?

Week 3: #1 Alabama @ #12 Ole Miss

This game needs very little explanation. Both were great teams last year, both are expected to be about equally great again this year. Ole Miss has proven to be somewhat of a stumbling block for the Crimson Tide lately, so Alabama needs to find a way to overcome whatever the issue is and get off to a better start this season. While Chad Kelly is going to be a fantastic quarterback for the Rebels, I’d put my money on Alabama’s suffocating defense just about any day. Do I expect Ole Miss to get its third victory in a row in this series? No, but I do anticipate a very interesting football game.

Week 4: #25 Florida @ #10 Tennessee

For me, this is the hardest game to watch every single season. I was raised a Volunteer but became a Gator when it was time to go to college. Since I’ve been a Gator, Florida has yet to lose to Tennessee. They’ve actually won eleven in a row in this rivalry…but who’s counting? This year I truly do expect that winning streak to come to an end. The game may ultimately come down quarterbacks. Josh Dobbs is reliable as a threat on the ground, but will he become a real passing threat this season? The Gators are likely to start Luke Del Rio this season, but he may not be the answer to all their offensive woes. I will say that the Gators aren’t going to be a pushover in the SEC East this season but the Vols return too much talent, both offensively and defensively, for the Gators to be able to handle them once again. I could be wrong about that, but again this one is bound to be another really good game to watch.

Week 5: #10 Tennessee @ #16 Georgia

I’m just going to throw this out there but the last time Tennessee was ranked #10 in the preseason poll was in 1998. The last time Tennessee won a National Championship was also in 1998. So, there’s obviously something to be said for their preseason ranking. Georgia is still a bit more of an unknown heading into the season. Nick Chubb returns this season after he was injured on the first play of the Tennessee game last year and that could be big. Not to mention, Georgia did one of the smartest things you can do when hiring a new head coach. They sought out a former Alabama coach to lead their team, Kirby Smart. Florida will tell you what a great idea that type of hiring decision can be. Since the game is in Athens, this could be a tough one for the Vols to win. But if the Vols do get that win then it’s safe to say they are national contenders and Alabama better watch out for them in a couple weeks.

Week 6: #6 LSU @ #25 Florida

The hype heading into this game last season was incredible and I expect the same kind of energy this year. While LSU returns Leonard Fournette at running back and now has a more experienced Brandon Harris at quarterback, Florida has made some adjustments. Like previously mentioned, quarterback transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start for the Gators. If they had him at the helm of their offense last year, they might have even been able to get a win in Death Valley. On top of that, the Gators can still claim the title of being the “Real DBU” with Jalen “Teez” Tabor picking up right where Hargreaves left off last season. And let’s not forget that Florida might actually have a kicker in Eddy Pineiro to help them out in those tight games this year. With the Tigers traveling to the Swamp, I give a slight edge to the Gators here. This is another one of those games that will be highly entertaining, regardless of the outcome.

Be on the lookout for part two of this article, coming next week!

 

All the rankings listed above are according to the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll, released on August 4th, 2016.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tate Nations

If you feel the need to debate my picks for each week, feel free to interact with me on Twitter, @OGKristenB.

SEC Links: Finding Gunslingers in the Wild, Wild West

Former Auburn football head coach, and College Football Hall of Fame honoree, Pat Dye once stated, “It all starts at quarterback.” It does. The quarterback is the the leader of the offense and, often, the face of the football team. He usually receives an over-abundance of praise if the team is doing well, and he gets more than his share of the blame if his team is performing poorly.

A quarterback needs to take command of the huddle, gain the confidence of his teammates, and inspire his fellow warriors to have confidence in themselves. He needs to know not just what his assignments are, but also the particulars of those who surround him.

If the quarterback works as hard, or harder, than anyone else on the team by staying after practice to throw with his receivers or just do a little extra work on the details of his job, then that could make the difference as to how the team finishes the season in terms of wins and losses. It could determine whether that teams wins a championship or finishes lower in it’s conference standings.

In short, the quarterback is the man.

Spring practice has, for all intents and purposes, wrapped up across SEC country, and the burning question in the minds of fans is who will serve as the signal-caller for their beloved squad.

Let’s take a look at how some of the crucial races for field generals are shaping up in the SEC.

We will first turn our eyes to the best division in all of college football, the SEC West. Let’s begin with SEC and national Champion, Alabama.

It appears that Nick Saban and his offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, have their hands full in deciding who will be at the helm of the Crimson Tide offense. They have strong candidates but there is not an abundance of experience at the position. Kiffin worked magic with Blake Sims in 2014 and also with Jake Coker in 2015. I don’t have any idea who will emerge from what looks like a four-man pack, but I do think Kiffin will find the right guy. His track record points to that scenario.

Bama, more often than not, winds up with someone who can manage the offense. They don’t tend to find an all-world type of guy like Johnny Manziel or Cam Newton. History tells us that Bama will be just fine at the position.

Across the state, Auburn is also, desperately, in search of the player to lead the Tigers’ offense. Jeremy Johnson did not become the quarterback that he was highly-hyped to be. Sean White was serviceable but certainly not dynamic. John Franklin III, a JUCO transfer, has the skill set to become the dual-threat type of player that has succeeded in Gus Malzahn’s system at Auburn, but he needs a great deal of development to step into the role. He has a great arm and blazing speed but needs to really work on his accuracy. As much as I want Franklin to succeed, I don’t see him taking the SEC by storm and leading Auburn back to, or near, the pinnacle of the West… in 2016… 2017, maybe?

Les Miles and LSU fans are hoping Brandon Harris will finally emerge as the answer down on The Bayou. Harris has the tools to do this and his friend, former Mississippi State star, Dak Prescott, thinks the third year will be the charm for Brandon. I tend to agree with Dak on this matter. Harris will have a big year and LSU will be very much in the thick of it in November.

Speaking of Dak. What’s going on in Starkville? Mississippi State is in the unenviable position of replacing, arguably, the most outstanding player in Bulldog history. That will not be an easy task. When you throw in the factor of State’s residence in the West, then one finds little reason to believe that it will be a contender in the West. In my initial SEC column I picked the Bulldogs to finish last, and basically, having to sort through four inexperienced hopefuls at quarterback will make that a reality.

Let’s make the obvious transition to the hated in-state rival of the Bulldogs, Ole Miss. Up in Oxford things are much less complicated when it comes to quarterback. They have one. His name is Chad Kelly. Kelly had a great year in 2015 and, barring injury, he could find himself the the top quarterback in the SEC and beyond. The sky is the limit for him and Ole Miss. They will be in hot pursuit of the University of Alabama for the West crown.

Bret Bielema has an Allen returning to lead the Razorbacks in 2016. The problem is, it’s not Brandon Allen. Over the course of his career, Brandon Allen became the player and leader that everyone hoped he would be and had a very good senior campaign in Fayetteville. It’s his brother, Austin, who will now be given the reigns to help Bielema continue to build the type of program he envisions for Hawg fans. The younger Allen may be the chosen one but it will take a year of getting a true feel in the starter role before Arkansas can make a move upward.

College Station, TX will be our last stop on this tour of quarterbacks in the SEC West. Kevin Sumlin’s fanny is definitely getting warm out there in Aggieland and he needs a great signal-caller to relieve that pressure. Trevor Knight, a transfer from Oklahoma, is the man Sumlin has chosen to lead the Aggies. He had his ups and downs throughout his career in Norman and he needs his upside to assist in cooling his head coach’s backside. I don’t think it will happen. There is too much turmoil in College Station.

So, will there be an known comodity to emerge from the West and lead his team to the SEC  promised land? Could another Newton or Manziel come out of nowhere and shock the football world? Or will the SEC East produce a quarterback?

That will wrap it up for this week. Next week we take a gander at the SEC East and the interesting battles that are in progress for starting quarterbacks in that division.

Teams Poised to Improve in 2016

Every year there are teams that under- or over-perform compared to expectations. Sometimes teams are just bad. Whether it’s injuries, a bad record in close games, or an unusually tough schedule, some fan bases find themselves thinking it’s just not their team’s year. It often sets up for that team to exceed expectations the following year. The following teams are ones which I think should improve their win-loss record drastically from last year’s finish.

Maryland Terrapins

The Terrapins were about as bad as any Power 5 team this side of Kansas last year. They only left the field victorious three times and one of those was against Richmond. There are reasons for hope entering 2016 however, and by hope I mean they should at least be competitive in most games. Maryland only returns 12 starters, but one of them is the starting quarterback. Perry Hills isn’t going to be confused for Peyton Manning (ok, pre-2015 Peyton Manning), but he rushed for over 90 yards in four games and gives the offense a dual-threat quarterback that can keep defenses off-balance. Then there’s the schedule. The Terps played Bowling Green and West Virginia in the non-conference last year, two offenses they didn’t have a chance of keeping up with. The 2016 non-conference slate consists of Howard, Florida International, and Central Florida and crossover games against Wisconsin and Iowa have been replaced with much more manageable foes in Purdue and Nebraska. Maryland won’t be battling for a conference championship anytime soon, but with any luck it can find its way to a bowl game this fall.

LSU Tigers

LSU certainly isn’t going to surprise anybody this upcoming season, especially when you consider they are likely to find themselves in the top ten of the pre-season polls. I still think they are a team that could be much better than they were last year. I don’t think the Tigers were as good as their 9-3 regular season record would indicate and to increase their win total by even two games in 2016 would be a significant improvement over the 2015 squad. LSU only has four true road games and most importantly, none of those are in Tuscaloosa. If Brandon Harris can hold onto the starting job, he should improve on a season where he threw only six interceptions. Part of the reason was he spent most of his time handing off to Leonard Fournette, but if Harris can be even an average passer it will make the LSU offense exponentially better. Then there’s the defense, one which looked nothing like the Tigers’ stop unit we’ve come to expect. The Tigers’ run defense was gashed in their three losses. That should change this year with the arrival of new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Aranda led a Wisconsin Badgers defense that has been near the top statistically each of the past few seasons. With 18 starters returning, it’s no wonder the Bayou Bengals are on the short list of title favorites in 2016.

Louisville Cardinals

The Cardinals finished a disappointing 7-5 last year after some had pegged them as an ACC sleeper. That was shot down early as the ‘Ville started off 0-3 before rattling off some wins through the easier part of its schedule. The opening game loss against Auburn looks bad, but they only lost by a field goal to both Houston and Clemson, who each finished as top ten teams. The Cardinals could never really get consistent QB play, and that will be the key to a turnaround. Lamar Jackson is dynamic, if not the passer Bobby Petrino is accustomed to. Petrino will lead a 2016 team that returns 18 starters, tied for most in the country. Jackson’s dual-threat ability combined with a defense that should be one of the best in the country provide a team that has the talent to hang with almost anyone on a given Saturday. But the passing game will need to show more consistency if that improvement is going to show up in the win column. With a schedule that will have them favored in at least nine of their games, there are no excuses.

SMU Mustangs

Chad Morris had plenty of success as the offensive coordinator for Clemson, but after leaving to become SMU’s head coach. He had to watch the Tigers march all the way to the title game while enduring a 2-10 2015 season in Dallas. The Mustangs have a lot of things working in their favor heading into this season however. It usually takes time for a new coach to get things going, so the team should see improvement across the board just from being in Morris’ system for the second year. This is especially the case for an offense that returns nine starters, including quarterback Matt Davis. Davis won’t be throwing for 500 yards a game anytime soon, but after the opener against Baylor, he didn’t have a single game with multiple interceptions the rest of the year. The offense should keep the team in games in 2016, when the schedule lightens up quite a bit. Not only did the Mustangs face Baylor and TCU in the non-conference last year, they also had conference games against Houston, Temple, Navy, and Memphis, all teams who were much better than anyone could have anticipated. All six of those teams are on the schedule again this year but Temple, Navy, Memphis, and TCU will all likely be worse than their 2015 editions. With improvements for the Mustangs and the rest of the conference falling back to the pack, we may see Chad Morris’ squad bowling in just his second year on the job.

Featured image courtesy John McStravick

Crimson Tide ROLLS over LSU in Tuscaloosa

Leonard Fournette has had a run of at least 25 yards in six of LSU’s eight games this year. He has had at least a 31 yard run in four games. But 31 was the total number of rushing yards Fournette was able to muster against Alabama’s defense on Saturday. That includes a long of 18 yards which felt like a 50 yard gain the way the game was going. Fournette only gained 18 yards on his other 18 carries on the night. Most of it wasn’t his fault however. The Alabama front seven dominated the line of scrimmage.

It would have helped Fournette if the passing game had showed up, but I guess it was hard to expect a passing game to show up when one hasn’t really been present all year. The Tigers haven’t asked QB Brandon Harris to do much this year, choosing instead to ride their star running back the way the Dallas Cowboys did DeMarco Murray in 2014. It showed up in this game, as Harris had no shot against an Alabama secondary that has improved compared to its disasters in recent years. Harris threw a great ball on a 40-yard touchdown to keep LSU in the game. Outside of that the passing game was just as bad as the running game.

Nick Saban probably didn’t even need the extra week to prepare for LSU’s offense but with it, LSU didn’t have a chance. They hit a couple big pass plays that lead to points in the first half but otherwise looked like a high school team against Alabama’s defense. The Tigers defense actually held up fairly well in the first half but was grounded down as the game went on as the Tide finished the game basically doubling up LSU in time of possession.

So after this, Alabama is BACK right? Not so fast. I should preface this by saying that Alabama deserves to be in the Top 4 (I have them in my Top 4) and the fact that people say several undefeated’s should be ahead of them simply because of Bama’s loss to Ole Miss is garbage. Sure the Rebels aren’t helping Alabama’s cause in recent weeks, but Ole Miss has three, if not four, first round picks on that team. Ole benefited from one of the flukiest touchdowns you’ll ever see and also won the turnover battle five to zip. They still only won by six. How many other teams could lose by just one score in that scenario like Alabama did? Zero? One? Sure as hell not Iowa.

Alright now that I defended Alabama’s spot in the Top 4, I have to caution any Tide fans out there getting too excited over that LSU win. For years we’ve seen the Tide struggle with the spread/dual-threat type QBs and offenses they run. I would say it’s because they’re front seven is full of players that are huge for their position and can’t move in space. You know what they don’t struggle with? Offenses that try to play in the box and pound it up the middle. Alabama’s defensive front is just bigger and more talented than almost every other team’s. The last decade of recruiting rankings can tell us that. Throw in that scenario with Nick Saban having an extra week to prepare against a power offense that’s also one-dimensional and it was a disaster waiting to happen.

The Crimson Tide have a pretty easy path to the playoff now. They play Mississippi State who has Dak Prescott and little else and then Auburn, who has done their best USC impression this year. After beating whatever helpless team comes out of the SEC East, Alabama may even find themselves as the favorite to win the playoff again. But that’s where the Tide will let their fans down again. They won’t get to face the LSU-type offenses once they get in the playoff. They’re looking at possible games against teams like Clemson, Baylor, Ohio State, and Oklahoma State. And they’d have to win two games in a row against spread offenses. I wouldn’t bet my money on that. So fans in Tuscaloosa better enjoy these next few weeks, because they might be looking at another offseason of “SEC=overrated” venom from the rest of the nation.

Quick Hitters

  • Navy’s win over Memphis Saturday not only put Memphis bid as the top-ranked Group of Five team on life support, it also jump-started Navy’s push for the same spot.
  • Baylor barely survived against K-State, but anytime you can get a conference road win on a week night, you have to take it, especially in Manhattan, KS. The Bears get their first real test this weekend against Oklahoma, and I think they stay undefeated.
  • Ohio State’s offense struggled with Cardale Jones starting which means JT Barrett will get the starting QB gig back when he returns from suspension, and that’s probably a good thing for the Buckeyes long-term.
  • Another referee fiasco led to Michigan State suffering their first loss off the season. First of all, don’t give up 33 points to Nebraska (before that last touchdown). Second of all, it probably means little in the grand scheme of things. The Spartans will have to beat Ohio State and Iowa to get to the playoff anyway, and whether the Spartans finished 13-0 or 12-1 with a Big Ten title they probably would make the playoff.

Top 4

Baylor
Clemson
Ohio State
Alabama

SEC Football Power Rankings: Week 8

Well, this is a first for me as a writer here. I try to shy away from ranking teams because of the upset fans that will inevitably tell me their team shouldn’t be wherever they are on my list of rankings. Every fan thinks that way about their team. Sometimes I think that way about my teams. When ESPN’s SEC Power Rankings for Week 7 had 1-4 as LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M, then Florida, I felt like they were wrong. Florida deserved to be third, NOT Texas A&M. Luckily for me, Florida is third this week…because even though I’m a biased fan, I was right. So there …HA! Now I’m sure at least one person will read this and have similar sentiments about whatever I rank their team, but at this point in the season I really couldn’t care much less. So here we go, my inaugural SEC Power rankings and the explanations of my choices are all below.

  1. LSU (7-0): LSU is the lone undefeated team left in the SEC and as such, there was no question in my mind when it came to their #1 ranking. Star RB (and probable Heisman trophy winner) Leonard Fournette has been unstoppable on his feet this season. And on top of that, LSU QB Brandon Harris has now had over 200 passing yards in each of their last three games. With the rest of their offense finally becoming a real threat, LSU is going to be a tough team to slow down as they head toward the end of the season. Next game: @ Alabama, Nov. 7, 8 p.m.
  2. Alabama (7-1): Alabama, as always, is a force to be reckoned with. Last week they played a dangerously close game against the visiting Volunteers in Tuscaloosa. But, the Alabama defense still asserted their dominance when it came down to crunch time. Not to mention that Alabama was coming off a brutal schedule throughout the past few weeks and Tennessee was coming off a refreshing bye weekend. What we do know about Alabama is that they’re beatable. But just how beatable can a team with such an imposing defense be even if their offense is pretty average? Next game: vs. LSU, Nov. 7, 8 p.m.
  3. Florida (6-1): We learned nothing new about the Gators last week while they had a bye. But we still know a few things from their previous games. The Gators have a dominant defense, led by one of the best secondary units in the country. They also have more playmakers on offense this year than they ever did under former coach Will Muschamp. But, their kicking game is still a huge problem. And in close games, that may just come back to bite them. Thankfully they still have a stellar 4th down conversion percentage in case they’d rather not risk kicking the ball. Go ahead and ask FSU about those risks, Gator fans. Next game: vs. UGA, Oct. 31, 3:30 p.m.
  4. Ole Miss (6-2): Ole Miss is still a very confusing team in my mind. They beat Alabama early in the season but got dominated by Florida just a couple games later. They killed New Mexico State, but then got handled by Memphis. Last week they bounced back with a big win (20-point margin) over Texas A&M. Who is this Ole Miss team? I really don’t know. I guess it depends on the week. But they’ve proven to be a tough team to beat on their good weeks and I’m predicting at least a couple more good weeks for them this season. Next game: @ Auburn, Oct. 31, 12 p.m.
  5. Mississippi State (6-2): Mississippi State is an interesting team. They actually have a solid defense when you look at their statistics. What they don’t have is a solid offense involving any player(s) besides their QB Dak Prescott. Dak Prescott is dominant. He obviously leads their team in passing yards with over 2,000 so far this season. But he also leads the team in rushing yards. Overall, he’s been responsible for 20 TDs this season and has only thrown one interception. The Bulldogs live and die by Prescott, but lately they’ve just been living. Next game: @ Missouri, Nov. 5, 9 p.m.
  6. Tennessee (3-4): I know that a lot of you think it’s crazy to rank a team with a losing record so high. And I’m okay with that because I know I can support this ranking. Their losses this season have only been by a combined 17 points. And three of those losses were to teams currently ranked in the Top 15 of the AP poll. The Vols really are on the verge of being a good team again. They finally managed to beat Georgia this season and maybe that will be the boost they need to be able to close other games for the rest of the season. Their biggest weakness right now is in their kicking game, but leave it to Butch Jones to find a way to straighten that one out. Next game: @ Kentucky, Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m.
  7. Texas A&M (5-2): The Aggies started out the season 5-0, but have since lost their last two games. Their first five opponents may have factored into how they made it so far into the season without losing a game. But after facing Alabama and Ole Miss, they Aggies have now lost by a collective 38 points…over double what the point differentials from Tennessee’s four losses add up to. And that’s why Texas A&M is barely in the top half of my SEC power rankings. But maybe if they switch things up at QB this week, they’ll shut me up. Next game: vs. South Carolina, Oct. 31, 12 p.m.
  8. Georgia (5-2): Georgia suffered more than just an L in their win-loss column when they traveled to Tennessee a few weeks ago. They lost their star RB Nick Chubb on the first snap of the game. That loss likely helped the Vols get a win over Georgia that day. But there’s still no excuse for how they fared against Alabama at home with a healthy Chubb. They also barely beat Missouri in a really ugly game a couple weeks ago. After their bye week, we know nothing new about the Bulldogs. But this weekend we should find out just about all we need to know about Mark Richt’s squad. And I don’t expect that to be a particularly positive result. Next game: vs. Florida, Oct. 31, 3:30 p.m.
  9. Arkansas (3-4): Arkansas has had four pretty bad losses…their two non-conference losses being the worst of those. They lost to Toledo and Texas Tech in non-conference play and have lost to Alabama and Texas A&M in conference play. But even two of their three wins haven’t been so pretty. They barely beat Tennessee and they also won a ridiculously high-scoring game against Auburn by only eight points. Arkansas is just an unimpressive team this season, even though they have all the potential in the world to be a solid squad. Potential doesn’t mater if you don’t play up to it, though. Next game: vs. Tennessee-Martin, Oct. 31, 4 p.m.
  10. Auburn (4-3): If Florida was the good surprise of the season in SEC football, then Auburn was the bad surprise. Although their record is still a winning one, that’s only because they’ve already played three of their non-conference games. Three of those four wins were against the likes of Louisville, Jacksonville State (in OT), and San José State. Their only conference win was over Kentucky and just by three points. They’ve already lost to LSU, Mississippi State, and Arkansas. With Muschamp’s underperforming defense and weak offense, I expect them to lose to at least three of their four remaining SEC opponents. Next game: vs. Ole Miss, Oct. 31, 12 p.m.
  11. Kentucky (4-3): For a team that’s used to being the perennial laughing stock of SEC football, Kentucky has had a decent season so far. They lost to Florida, Auburn, and Mississippi State. But, they beat South Carolina and Missouri. I wouldn’t call this a good team, but I would say it’s an improvement for their program. And sometimes turning a program like Kentucky’s around takes baby steps. Winning at least one of their three remaining conference games would go a long way in instilling confidence in this team that they can be relevant in the coming years. Next game: @ Tennessee, Oct. 31, 7:30 pm
  12. South Carolina (3-4): There’s not really much I can say about South Carolina this season. Now that Head Ball Coach (Steve Spurrier) is gone, South Carolina is really in a tough spot. Their only conference win so far was at home against Vanderbilt. Other than that they beat UNC (by 4 points) and UCF (by 17 points). They have racked up a whole bunch of losses in the SEC so far. And their three remaining SEC games won’t be easy unless South Carolina can find a way to finally get something going on offense. And even their defense could use some work. Overall, this season has been and will continue to be a struggle for the Gamecocks. Next game: @ Texas A&M, Oct. 31, 12 p.m.
  13. Vanderbilt (3-4): With their first SEC win under coach Derek Mason, the Commodores are no longer currently the worst team in the conference. Though that isn’t saying much, because of the way their schedule works out, Vanderbilt could technically still win the SEC East. Even though they don’t have many wins going for them, the majority of their losses weren’t by huge margins. And like many other SEC teams, they have a really tough defense. They may not even win another conference game for the rest of the season, but one is better than none, right? Next game: @ Houston, Oct. 31, 7 p.m.
  14. Missouri (4-4): Missouri wouldn’t have been considered the worst team in the SEC a week ago. But after an ugly loss to Vanderbilt, they get spot #14 on my rankings. Their defense has been suffocating for the entire season, averaging holding their opponents to only 12.5 points against them. But their offense has been miserable, averaging only 14 points for the team. Not to mention they’re in the 100s as far as rankings for both passing and rushing yards go. If they don’t miraculously start creating some offense, this team is going to go down in flames even though they have one of the best defensive units in the country. Maybe having QB Maty Mauk back from his suspension can give their offense the spark it needs. Next game: vs. Mississippi State, Nov. 5, 9 p.m.

If you have any comments, make sure to tweet them at me. You’ll find me as @OGKristenB on Twitter!