Tag Archives: Bret Bielema

SEC Champions? Oh Lord, Won’t You Take Me to Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Rejoice! Kickoff is one week from tomorrow! Actually, the Arkansas Razorbacks will tee it up on Thursday. Their “competition?” The mighty Rattlers of Florida A&M. And then on Saturday, some of the other SEC related games include Missouri playing Missouri State, Georgia hosting Appalachian State,  Charleston Southern will play at Mississippi State… ad nauseum.

But! There are some big games on the slate for opening weekend with the monster clash between Alabama and Florida State headlining them all.

Now it’s time for me to summon my crystal ball and look into the future. I hope gazing at the eclipse didn’t blur my powers of prognostication.

Onward!

SEC EAST 

Florida (8-4, 6-2) I like the Gators’ big uglies, their defense, and their skill position players. But, just like everybody else, the quarterback position is the key. They will plug in someone who is more than capable to put them at the top of the East.

Tennessee (9-3, 5-3) The Vols will have more total wins than anyone else in the division but they will also have more conference losses than the Gators. That head to head matchup will decide which team makes the trek to Atlanta.

Georgia (8-4, 5-3) You gotta love the Dawgs’ running backs and their overall talent, but it will be their inconsistent play at quarterback and in the trenches that will cause the East title to elude them.

Kentucky (8-4, 5-3) I like the Cats as the sleeper to win this division. There is talent in Lexington but probably not enough SEC quality depth to carry them to Hotlanta. I’d love to see it though!

South Carolina (6-6, 3-5) Will Muschamp’s second year in Columbia will find an improved team, but the record will not reflect that. They’re in good shape at quarterback with Jake Bentley.

Vanderbilt (3-9, 1-7) Derek Mason has the Commodores playing pretty well. I like Kyle Shurmur as their signal-caller. But do not expect Vandy to rise any higher than sixth in the division.

Missouri (4-8, 0-8) The upside is the offensive potential, and QB Drew Lock, in Columbia. Overall, though, Barry Odom’s second year might not turn out any better than his first.

SEC West

Auburn (11-1, 7-1) Talent, depth, experience, and coaching will combine to make this one of those highly memorable seasons down on the Plains. Jarrett Stidham will, indeed, turn out to be the straw that stirs the drink. And the home finale with Alabama will finally go Auburn’s way again.

Alabama (10-2, 7-1)  Loaded. Every year. But the season will begin and end with losses which will keep the Crimson Tide from their fourth straight College Football Playoff appearance.

Texas A&M (9-3, 6-2) Kevin Sumlin steps down off the hot seat with a very good season in College Station. And the Aggies pick up some big wins on the way to a solid 9-3 campaign.

LSU (9-3, 5-3) Coach O won’t be able to bring home a ring in his first full season in Red Stick. I still have my doubts about the Tigers’ long term prospects, as well, in spite of their talent level.

Arkansas (7-5, 4-4) Bret Bielema and his Hawgs continue to battle the mediocrity that has beset them in Fayetteville. This year will bring no relief. Austin Allen provides great talent, tenacity, and leadership behind center, but the West is too strong to allow for a climb up the ladder.

And then… the Mississippis. The six and seven slots in the division are interchangeable.

Mississippi State (5-7, 1-7) I’ll go with State, Dan Mullen, and Nick Fitzgerald to keep the Bulldogs out of the cellar. And, they will probably notch more than the one conference win I have allowed them.

Ole Miss (4-8, 1-7) Two words. Dumpster fire.

So there you have it! According to my mighty powers of perception, note that I never use the term “reality” in my fearless forecast, the Auburn Tigers will meet the aforementioned Florida Gators in Atlanta, GA on December 2nd for the championship of the Southeastern Conference.

Who will win that contest? Yes, it will be my Tigers! And they will go on to make the College Football Playoff, along with the Florida State Seminoles, the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Washington Huskies.

You may now wipe those tears away, whether they be tears of joy or of sadness. My guess is you might have sprayed your morning coffee or evening cocktail all over your phone or computer screen at the sheer hilarity of such humorous predictions! That’s ok.

For again I say, rejoice!

College football is upon us!

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E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ramblin’ Around the SEC, Something’s Burning

Occasionally, I do a column on my personal website which I call Ramblin’. It’s a stream of consciousness, word association, hodge-podge type of thing on which I bemuse on any number of subjects. Today, we’re going to ramble around the SEC a bit. This one will be more organized and structured but it is ramblin’ nonetheless.

One topic of discussion that tends to circulate throughout college football, in the off-season, concerns coaches who are on the hot seat. Some of those coaches’ fannies are truly scorching, for others it’s just a matter of speculation on the part of the media and fans.

Here is my take on the SEC coaches who appear to be feeling the most heat, in no particular order.

Gus Malzahn

I’ll start with Gus because I’m an Auburn guy and his situation is, obviously, the most important to me. I do not believe Gus’ hiney is as hot as many might think. Now. But, if Auburn loses 4 or 5 games it probably will be; however, I don’t think that will be the case. The Tigers appear to me as the second best team in the conference and their record should, ultimately, reflect that.

Kevin Sumlin

 A similar situation to Malzahn. A&M needs to have a big year. Sumlin needs to break the pattern of winning his first 5 or 6 games and then crashing and burning in the second half of the season. The Aggies’ boss definitely needs to take care of business or climb down off of the porcelain throne.

Hugh Freeze

 Whether the Ole Miss powers-that-be or their fans like it or not, his rump is hot. How can it not be? Regardless of the Rebels’ on-the-field performance, their NCAA situation screams for someone to take the fall in Oxford. In the end, doesn’t that fall on the head coach?

Butch Jones

 In spite of being “Champions of Life” and having “Five Star Hearts”, the Tennessee Volunteers need to win a lot of football games. Talk is, indeed, cheap, especially when the product on the field consistently fails to meet expectations.

Bret Bielema, are you listening?

Onward to some talk about some actual football games. SEC Media Days is just around the corner, July 10-13, and polls will then begin to pop up everywhere. Speculation will be like wildfires spreading across the nation. And here in the Southland is where things seem to always burn with the greatest intensity.

Yeah! Let’s keep on with that hot theme!

Here are the ‘smokinest’ games in the SEC on opening weekend. Again, in no particular order.

Florida vs. Michigan

 Both teams will be ranked (Yes, I think Florida should and will be ranked). SEC vs. Big Ten. Gators and Wolverines. Jim vs. Jim. The flamboyant Harbaugh and the steady McElwain. Jerry World.

Alabama vs. Florida State

 The biggest one of the weekend. Two top five teams, at minimum. The ACC and the SEC. The Tide and the Noles. Hotlanta, GA. First college game at Mercedes-Benz stadium. Playoff preview?

Texas A&M vs. UCLA

 Two coaches on the hot seat. Huge for both teams. Rose Bowl. Bruins house. Prime Time. Sunday! Sunday! SUN-DAY!!! Be there!

Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech

Rocky Top and Ramblin’ Wreck. Great jump-start for someone. Mercedes-Benz, again. Hotlanta Deux. Jones and Johnson.

Disparate styles. A shootout?

Missouri vs. Missouri State

Just messin’ with ya!

And now, we might as well conclude with more hot topics or burning questions.

Will Alabama keep its playoff streak alive? Will Ole Miss be sanctioned into certain, long term mediocrity? Will Georgia win the East for the first time in five years? Will Coach “O” deliver? Will Vanderbilt go bowling again? Does anybody care? Will Muschamp?

All of this and more… later!

Gator Defense Will Silence Austin Allen and Company

It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for another smackdown. Interestingly enough, I have only written one of these in favor of my Florida Gators. But fear not, because this week it’s time for another one.

The Gators beat the Georgia Bulldogs last weekend in the annual World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. While the offense may have been lackluster as always, the defense was scary good.

This weekend Florida travels to Fayetteville to play the Arkansas Razorbacks. The last time the Gators traveled to Arkansas was during the Meyer era, and they won that game by 31 points.

Overall, the Gators boast a 9-1 record over the Razorbacks. And after this weekend I fully expect that record to improve to 10-1.

It’s not that the Razorbacks can’t beat the Gators. It’s just that they won’t.

The season was actually going pretty well for Arkansas just a few weeks ago. It had only lost two games to two very good teams, and not by completely ridiculous margins. Then the Razorbacks traveled to Auburn and got absolutely blown out by the Tigers. They lost 56-3. Yes, that means it was a 53-point loss. Now that is an example of a completely ridiculous margin.

While Auburn is good, there’s no way the Tigers are that good. That’s the kind of score you expect when a major FBS team is playing some tiny FCS team. That’s not the kind of score you expect in conference play.

Arkansas did have two turnovers to Auburn’s none. But what really hurt most is its 215 totally yards on offense to Auburn’s 632.

No, Florida’s offense will probably not put up 632 yards (I can only dream of the day when it does). Actually, the Florida offense only had 231 yards in the win over Georgia. But after holding Georgia’s offense to 164 yards, that was more than enough for the Gators.

Arkansas may have an offense significantly better than that of Georgia. But it also has a defense that is much worse than Georgia’s. And because of that, this matchup favors the Gators.

My favorite game-predicting statistic, the ESPN FPI Matchup Rater, gives the Gators a 65.2% chance of winning this game. But if we dive deeper into the numbers from this season, you’ll see why the Gators are favored (and rightfully so).

The Razorbacks are averaging 30.9 points per game on offense but giving up an average of 31.4. They are gaining an average of 416.8 yards each game but allowing an average of 428.0. Furthermore, the Razorbacks average 256.4 passing yards per game while giving up an average of 206.3. And as far as rushing yards go, they average 160.4 yards per game but give up 221.8.

The Gators are averaging 29.4 points each game and only giving up an average of 11.7. They gain an average of 398.6 yards per game but only allow an average of 239.9. The Gators average 228.4 yards per game in the air but allow an average of only 134.3. They gain an average of 170.1 yards on the ground while allowing an average of only 105.6.

I’ll let all that sit for a minute. Read it again if you must.

But if you look at these numbers you’ll see an interesting pattern, a pattern that results in more W’s for the Gators and more L’s for the Razorbacks. The Gators put up more points and gain more yards than they allow. The Razorbacks put up fewer points and allow more yards than they gain, with the only exception being passing yards.

That one exception could be very significant in many games. But when you’re playing the Gators, you really can’t rely on success in the passing game. The Gators have a borderline erotic defense. Maybe even just erotic.

They have an incredibly strong defensive line, especially when the linemen are all healthy. They boast one of the best linebackers in the country in Jarrad Davis. The Gators also have Marcus Maye, who you really don’t want to throw the ball anywhere near, at safety. Not to mention they have the best cornerback duo in all of college football this season, Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor.

It comes down to this: Austin Allen is good. But he, along with the Arkansas O-line, should prove to be no match for this Gator defense. As long as this defense performs the way it has been for most of the season, the Razorbacks will end up on their knees begging for mercy, much like Bret Bielema in this lovely clip from a Hog Walk.

And just because I can’t talk about Arkansas without mentioning its first game of the season, let’s not forget that Arkansas almost lost to Louisiana Tech. No, the Gators didn’t blow out UMass, but they didn’t only win by a single point. So there’s that.

Go Gators! It’s only natural for gators to annihilate hogs anyways.

 

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

Photo: Bryan McDonald, Flickr

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Beating Bret Bielema

Auburn and Arkansas have only been playing football against each other since 1992 when Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference. There was the Liberty Bowl of 1984, when the Tigers, behind game MVP Bo Jackson, trounced the Razorbacks, 21-15. But that was the only meeting between the two prior to the SEC’s expansion, which also included South Carolina.

As a side note, there was a freshman walk-on wide receiver on that 1984 Hawg team by the name of Gus Malzahn.

Auburn leads the series with 13 wins to Arky’s 11. There has been one tie, 24-24. That occurred in the 1992 game in Auburn. Coincidentally, Bo Jackson’s number 34 jersey was retired that day.

We now find ourselves, in the year 2016, with Arkansas native Gus Malzahn serving as the head ball coach (a nod to Steve Spurrier) at Auburn and a brash Bret Bielema at the helm in Fayetteville.

Bielema is also the focal point of a mini web television program, Being Bret Bielema.

Good for Bert (as we often refer to him here in the friendly confines of Campus Pressbox).

Our own Seth Merenbloom is particularly fond of the Bert moniker.

Seth is also sadly off base with his prediction on this game. He, mistakenly, has picked the Razorbacks to come out victorious in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night.

https://soundcloud.com/fourlightsfm/the-sec-411-61-alabama-just-keeps-rollin

Sorry Seth, it ain’t happening.

And with that, I welcome you to my own take, on the game, in my first installation of Beating Bret Bielema.

Auburn will defeat Arkansas, and here is how they will do it. This will be a complete team victory in the three vital areas of a football game: offense, defense, and special teams.

Let us proceed.

OFFENSE

Arkansas has given up points by the dozen in conference play and Saturday will be no exception. Auburn will be able to establish great balance between the running and passing games, and should join its fellow SEC brethren who have piled up both points and yardage on the visitors.

Click here for a glimpse at the Tigers’ now highly potent O.

We move on to our next phase of the game…

DEFENSE

I wrote an article before this football season that spoke to how Auburn would be much improved in 2016 and that it would begin with defense.

That has been the case, thus far, this year.

Check out what Wesley Sinor of AL.com has to say about the defense’s challenge to thwart Hawg quarterback Austin Allen.

And now…

SPECIAL TEAMS

Special teams have also been a key to Auburn’s success as it rides an impressive three game winning streak, and placekicker Daniel Carlson has been a big reason for that success.

This column from the USA Today speaks to the junior All-American’s remarkable level of play.

Auburn is coming off a bye week. It is well-rested. It is playing with great confidence and swagger. And it is playing very loose and having a lot of fun.

Expect that attitude to continue in this upcoming game.

Arkansas has played seven straight games without a bye week. It’s last two opponents have been two strong teams from the SEC West, Alabama and Ole Miss.

It was fortunate to come from behind to beat Ole Miss but it took a whuppin’, both on the scoreboard and on the field, against the Crimson Tide, the best team in the nation.

The odds makers like this Auburn team as well.

The Tigers opened in Vegas as an eight-point favorite. That line has now risen to 10. It could climb even higher before enough people begin to put down some money on the Razorbacks.

10 points won’t do. If I were a gambling man, I would take Auburn, minus 10, in a heartbeat.

I would take Auburn minus 16 in a heartbeat.

Take that, Seth! And welcome to this episode of Beating Bret Bielema.

Auburn 34, Arkansas 17.

 

E-mail Bird at  or follow him on Twitter@Autull

Auburn Tigers and Malzahn Are More Fit to Win than Razorbacks and Bielema

This is not a team I usually write about, but I just couldn’t resist weighing in on this game. I know the Auburn Tigers are ranked a little below the Arkansas Razorbacks, but they’re going to beat them anyways. Plain and simple: Auburn is a more balanced team than Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks.

Before I get to pump up those Tigers, let me smack down these Razorbacks just a little bit.

Remember their first game of the season this year? I do. It was almost a borderline erotic upset win—for the other team. Arkansas hosted the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and only won by a single point. The Razorbacks were a 21.5-point favorite heading into that game and they beat the Bulldogs 21-20. That’s just plain embarrassing.

Speaking of embarrassing games, Arkansas got absolutely whooped by the Texas A&M Aggies almost a month ago now. I don’t care if they’ve proven to be a good team this year and they have the 12th Man, that’s just inexcusable. The 19-point loss at home against the Alabama Crimson Tide is far more excusable than that.

Really, the only thing the Razorbacks have going for them is their win over the Ole Miss Rebels last weekend. No, the double-overtime win over the TCU Horned Frogs is not that impressive. TCU is overrated once again. But somehow the Razorbacks are still ranked ahead of the Tigers. I just don’t understand.

Maybe the Razorbacks had more preseason optimism surrounding the team than the Tigers did, but the preseason is long gone now. What matters is what these teams have actually done on the football field so far. And Auburn definitely has the edge there.

Auburn has two losses this year: a 6-point loss to the Clemson Tigers and a 13-point loss to the Texas A&M Aggies. It’s worth noting that Auburn’s loss to the Aggies was less severe than that of Arkansas. And having a 6-point loss against a team that went to the National Championship Game last year is nothing to be ashamed of either.

If you’re like me and you need numbers to justify this clear advantage I say that the Tigers have, then you’ll love this part.

Arkansas has allowed 398.9 yards per game and 27.9 points per game. Auburn has allowed 346.8 yards per game and 16 points per game. The gap there undeniably favors Auburn’s defense. If you swear by ESPN’s statistical analyses then you’ll enjoy knowing that the Tigers are 13th in defensive efficiency while the Razorbacks are 60th.

Although Auburn has the advantage defensively, the two teams are pretty evenly matched offensively. They’re also pretty evenly matched as far as special teams go.

The difference here really does come from the defense. With a stronger defense and the home field advantage at Jordan-Hare Stadium, you’d be crazy to think that Auburn doesn’t have the upper hand.

Heck, even ESPN’s FPI gives Auburn an 84.7% chance of winning this game. Considering the Razorbacks are ranked no. 17 and the Tigers are ranked no. 21, I’d say that kind of margin is a pretty good sign for the Tigers.

And if you really want to get ugly about it, let me just remind you that the Arkansas head coach, Bret Bielema, looks like he ate Auburn’s head coach, Gus Malzahn. Low blow? Maybe. But come on, the Tigers are clearly more fit to win this game when you take everything into account. Plus Coach Malzahn can actually move around the sidelines with his team as they put points on the board over this unimpressive Razorback defense. You can’t beat that!

So let me leave you with two of the most recognizable words in all of college football: WAR EAGLE.

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

Photo courtesy of Organizedchaos02 on Wikimedia Commons.

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Grab Your Beer: We Have a Perfect Saturday Slate of SEC Football

I’m going to take you back to an article I wrote before the season got underway. I came up with the nightmarish scenario of only being able to watch one SEC football game per week. Then I picked the games I’d watch each week if that were the case.

Weeks 1-5, I was pretty much dead-on. Week 6 is where SEC football makes me feel a little silly.

That’s because it’s now Week 6 and there are three huge conference match-ups that I will watch. Ironically, the one that I initially picked over the others seems to be the one of least consequence here. And by that, I mean I picked the LSU Tigers visiting the Florida Gators as my one game to watch.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll definitely be watching the Tigers pay the Gators a visit. But if I had to choose just one game to watch, it might not be that game anymore.

Fortunately, my nightmare hasn’t come true and I do not have to pick only one game to watch. The schedule works out perfectly for the SEC football fan in me this week, as I get to watch three amazing games. So here’s a preview of what this perfect Saturday as SEC football fan will look like.

At noon on ESPN, the Tigers play the Gators. This game may not be the best of the weekend but it’s still intriguing in many ways.

LSU fired head coach Les Miles and left Ed Orgeron in charge for the time being. At the same time, star RB Leonard Fournette’s status is “day-by-day” with an ankle injury. Additionally, Danny Etling has taken over at quarterback instead of Brandon Harris. Yes, they beat the Missouri Tigers in convincing fashion, but that was at home against a team that was winless in SEC play. With or without Leonard Fournette, it’ll be interesting to see how this Tiger team handles a road game against a ranked opponent now that Miles is gone.

Florida has question marks, but for completely different reasons. The Gators seem to have caught the injury bug, with their whole starting defensive line suffering some kind of injury. Not to mention that their biggest hope for having a good quarterback, Luke Del Rio, injured his knee taking a low hit a couple weeks ago. It also seems like the coaching staff hasn’t really figured out an effective rotation for the running backs, as made evident by Jordan Scarlett’s absence on many snaps last game. On top of that, there are questions about Florida’s rushing defense after how they handled Ralph Webb. This group of defensive backs is always great, but can the whole defense rise to the occasion of defending someone like Derrius Guice or possibly even Fournette?

After that game, Tennessee takes on Texas A&M on CBS at 3:30. Regardless of where your loyalty lies, why wouldn’t you want to watch a battle of unbeatens?

The Vols to have destiny or the football gods or even just some good juju on their side so far this season. Josh Dobbs has come through in a clutch way, and his passing game has helped lead the Vols to some pretty great comeback wins. Unfortunately, the Vols have suffered some injuries on defense and still have some ground to make up there. And there’s also the question of whether or not this team can play a whole game of good football instead of just playing a great second half. But, with fate seemingly on their side, you just can’t count out this Vols team.

Texas A&M, once again, has gotten off to a 5-0 start this season. This is the third season in a row that they’ve gotten off to such a start. But will this be the first of those years that they also win Game 6? It very well could be. Trevor Knight has proven to be solid at quarterback, and a great supporting cast surrounds him. The Aggies are ranked in the top 50 FBS teams in passing yards, rushing yards, points for, and points against. No question marks about that.

At 7:00, flip back to ESPN to watch as Alabama pays Arkansas a visit. Alabama is always good, but Arkansas has been surprisingly good this season too. That makes this game the upset alert of the week.

Alabama, like Tennessee, has had some slow starts. Okay, their starts are like a jog to Tennessee’s walk. But they definitely can’t afford to be jogging this game. As I’ve said before, the Crimson Tide may not have a super strong quarterback this year, but that doesn’t matter. True freshman Jalen Hurts does enough to make the rest of the team shine. They actually don’t even have a go-to running back like Derrick Henry this season, and that weakness worries me. But even if Alabama wins this one, they go to Tennessee next and host Texas A&M after that.

I never know what to make of Arkansas. All I know is that at any given moment, they could pull off a borderline erotic upset win. I have my doubts after their loss to Texas A&M, but you just never know. They have a great quarterback in Austin Allen, but how will he handle an elite defense? And even more worrisome than that is the question of how the Razorback defense will handle Alabama’s potent offense. I’ll always give them the upset factor, but if they manage to pull this one off it might be just plain erotic for coach Bret Bielema.

Now I have just one request: Grab a beer (or six) and enjoy what will probably be an exciting day of SEC football.

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

Featured photo courtesy of Gainesville Apartments.

Woo Pig Sooie! Here Comes Bret Bielema and His Razorbacks

It should come as no surprise to anyone that, when talking about the SEC, the West is king of the mountain. And when talking about the SEC West, all roads to the divisional championship go through Tuscaloosa. Any notion of Alabama having a down year was laid to rest when the Crimson Tide made short work of USC in the season opener. The final nail in that down year coffin was smacked when Alabama came from behind to put Ole Miss in its place.

Alabama is a team that none of us really need to watch on any given Saturday. As long as Nick Saban is on the sideline, we should all expect the team to win.

Still, there is plenty to play for if your team is in the SEC West and this weekend is an opportunity for the “best of the rest” to create separation from the also-rans. Arkansas versus Texas A&M is a week four matchup that will begin creating that separation.

I’m a fan of Bret Bielema and therefore am also a fan of Arkansas. As I’ve written about in past articles, Bielema has the confidence, charisma and swagger that make a football fan believe in not only him, but also his Razorback team. And unlike a coach like, say, Jim Harbaugh, Bielema doesn’t carry his swag in a way that portrays arrogance.

Prior to the season kicking off, Arkansas was my pick for SEC darkhorse and I have no reason to eat crow as the Razorbacks prepare to play the Aggies. Arkansas defeated Louisiana Tech in the season opener, 21-20. In holding a typically potent Tech offense to 20 points, the Razorbacks showed us all that the defense was capable of standing up to a high powered offense. Arkansas followed this win up with a thrilling 41-38 overtime win against TCU. In scoring 41 points, Bielema’s offense proved that it could keep pace with a full throttle Power 5.

And here is what should scare the rest of the SEC going into conference play – Arkansas can grind it out and win or the team can win in a shoot out. Don’t look now, but here come the Hogs.

The SEC game that everyone will be fixated upon this weekend will be Florida versus Tennessee. While the rest of you are watching that SEC East classic, i’ll be focused on this Arkansas versus Texas A&M game. You know, a game that will actually mean something in the big picture of college football.

Whichever team wins this game will be in the driver’s seat to give Alabama a run for its money and I expect the winner of this game to be Arkansas. if the Razorbacks do, in fact, win the game this Saturday, it will set up one of the biggest games in Bielema’s career when Alabama visits Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on October 8.

Like I said, it would be difficult for me to pick against a Nick Saban coached Alabama team, but Arkansas was my darkhorse pick and I continue to stand by that. it’s for that reason that i’d give Arkansas a chance against Alabama, Especially with that game being in Fayetteville.

Woo pig sooie! The preface to Arkansas’ season starts against Texas A&M.

 

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

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I Guess TCU Beats Arkansas, But the Big 12 Still Sucks

Here at Campus Pressbox, my disdain for Bret Bielema is well-documented, as is my complete lack of faith in the Big 12. When faced with two, unsavory options, what is a man to do?

In this weekend’s matchup between Arkansas and #15 TCU, I’m airing on the side of talent. I’m taking the Horned Frogs.

Although, again, I’m not loving my options. Both teams embarrassed themselves last week in spite of earning victories. Arkansas eeked out a one-point victory against Louisiana Tech. TCU allowed 41 points and 461 yards against an FCS squad. Certainly not inspiring performances.

Nevertheless, TCU is still my pick to win the Big 12. That’s contingent upon their defense being able to stop a nosebleed, but hey, fingers crossed. Aside from an 87-yard rush that briefly gave South Dakota State the lead, TCU only allowed 1.8 yards per carry last week. The Horned Frogs’ rushing defense wasn’t the problem, their secondary was. Thankfully, Austin Allen doesn’t look poised for a 300-yard passing day anytime soon. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Austin Allen proves me wrong, but the SEC has failed to do that so far this season.

When TCU has to face Big 12 opponents clinging to the air raid, the Frogs may have a reason for concern. This week, the fans in Fort Worth shouldn’t be concerned. Expect TCU to handcuff the Razorbacks’ developing offensive line and shut down their rushing attack.

Now that’s out of the way, it’s time for the main event: Bielema-bashing.

Let me get this straight. Bret Bielema almost became a victim of the BielemaMeter last week, but this week he’ll rally the troops and defeat a ranked opponent? With an unproven QB incapable of making big plays? With an offensive line that revealed a myriad of flaws against a C-USA team? After a dismal week for the SEC? Count me among the skeptics. Arkansas might be tracking upwards, but the issues they showed against Louisiana Tech aren’t being resolved overnight.

Why Bielema ever accepted the Arkansas job is beyond me. Bielema was 68-24 while coaching in Madison. He could operate his smashmouth offense against the likes of Rutgers and Purdue and still make a Rose Bowl every now and then. Instead, Bielema opted to take over a stalled program in an impossible conference, only now beginning to dig Arkansas out of a years-long slump. The money isn’t any better, and now he’s the fourth or fifth best coach in the SEC rather than the third best coach in the Big 10. Is that relevant to this Saturday’s matchup? Absolutely not. It is, however, an important chapter in the brilliantly confusing, unending book that is Bret Bielema.

So yeah, I’m not crazy about either team. I’m not a Bret Bielema fan. I’m not an Arkansas fan. I’m not a fan of terrible offense. I guess that means I’m picking TCU.

But the Big 12 still sucks.

Photo: Dallas Morning News

Email Cole at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

The BielemaMeter: Remember to Respect the #MACtion

When, I find myself tasked with a difficult situation, I simply ask myself: if Bret Bielema were in this situation, what would Bret Bielema do? Then, once I have determined that answer, I proceed to do the exact opposite of that thing.

Why? Because, you see, Bret Bielema is an idiot.

On a highly-classified list of the MAC’s Ten Most Wanted, Bret Bielema clearly ranks Public Enemy #1. And it all goes back to September 9, 2015, when Bret Bielema unfortunately found himself in front of a microphone.

First off, everybody knows criticizing cupcake schedules is a thankless job reserved for stooges like me who write for college sports blogs. For the head coach of an SEC football team? Way out of bounds. Cool your jets, Bret. Bielema’s jab at a clearly better coach and a clearly better program also contained some hidden commentary. Ohio State’s 2015 schedule featured noteworthy bouts against Western Michigan and Northern Illinois- two of the MAC’s strongest programs. Was Bielema suggesting that the Mid-American Conference isn’t worthy?

That’s right, folks. Bret Bielema made a critical error. Bret Bielema didn’t respect the #MACtion.

Bret Bielema also paid the price. Just three days after dismissing the MAC as an inferior conference, Toledo stormed their way into Fayetteville and took Bielema to the cleaners, rocketing the Razorbacks straight back to reality. The takeaway? There is one, simple rule when it comes to non-conference #MACtion:

No one is safe.

With that in mind, let’s analyze all five of the MAC’s opportunities to pull off upsets against AP Top 25 teams early this season. I’ll break down each game and then rank the likelihood of an upset based on a super-duper scientific metric known as the BielemaMeter. Essentially, the more Bielema it sounds, the more Bielema it is; the more Bielema it is, the more likely a Power Five team is about to come crashing down.

Week 1: Miami (OH) at #17 Iowa

Last time the RedHawks faced the Hawkeyes, a young Ben Roethlisberger stood under center, throwing four interceptions in a 21-3 thumping at Kinnick Stadium. The RedHawks won every other game in the 2003 season, chalking up the Iowa game as another exercise in what could’ve been.

There will be no one loss seasons for the RedHawks this time around. Miami is still undergoing a Chuck Martin rebuild, leaving them at least another year away from any legitimate contention against a top echelon squad.

Meanwhile, Iowa returns much of the talent that garnered a Rose Bowl big a season ago. The defense returns eight starters, including Jim Thorpe Award-winner Desmond King. The offense also returns eight starters, including quarterback C.J. Beathard and many vital components to 2015’s vibrant rushing attack. In Week 1, Iowa will basically be starting where they left off. Miami? Not so much. There’s still too much work to do in Oxford.

BielemaMeter: a Rose Bowl victory. You can’t get any less Bret Bielema than a Rose Bowl victory. Iowa shouldn’t have any trouble dispatching the RedHawks, so long as Billy Bahl doesn’t morph into Ben Roethlisberger through some fratty, Miami wizardry.

Week 1: Bowling Green at #6 Ohio State

I won’t lie: I think Bowling Green can keep this game interesting for about a quarter. Then, Ohio State’s firepower takes over. It’ll be intriguing to see how Ohio State copes with the departure of twelve draftees, but it won’t be because Bowling Green displays any ability to expose them.

We’ve seen Ohio State slouch down to non-conference competition in seasons past. Remember when Northern Illinois almost caught the 2015 Buckeyes napping? I suspect, with a younger team now hungry to prove themselves, the 2016 Buckeyes won’t follow suit. Bowling Green needs to string together a load of big plays to mount any chance in countering the speed, size, and skill of this Ohio State team. As confident as I am in picking Bowling Green to carry the MAC East, I don’t see nearly enough experience in this team to warrant any expectation for a competitive game.

BielemaMeter: the state of Wisconsin. Bielema flirted with Wisconsin for a few years before defecting to Arkansas. I expect Ohio State to flirt briefly with losing before sending Bowling Green back to the wrong side of Ohio.

Week 2: Central Michigan at #21 Oklahoma State

These are two teams that everybody is sleeping on. In a questionable Big 12, who’s to say the Cowboys can’t claim the conference? And who’s to say Central Michigan can’t create some mischief in a hotly-contested MAC West?

Oklahoma State opens their season tomorrow against Southeastern Louisiana, which certainly isn’t a very inspired choice. Thus, the Chippewas provide Oklahoma State their season with its first real dose of competition. The same was true last year, when the Chippewas opened their season in Stillwater with a 24-13 defeat.

With offensive weapons like Mason Rudolph, Marcell Ateman, and James Washington, expect Oklahoma State to score many points and throw many passes. Their running game suffered last season, a weakness Central Michigan’s defense might be able to capitalize on. Ultimately, Oklahoma State is going to score a massive amount of points. Either Cooper Rush and Central Michigan reciprocate, or they become just another bullseye in a round of Pistol Pete’s target practice.

BilemaMeter: an SEC championship. Bielema has never won an SEC championship, nor do I ever expect him to. But, if one day every other SEC team vanished out of thin air, there’s at least a slight chance Bielema could win it. Similarly, I don’t expect Central Michigan to beat Oklahoma State, but I’m leaving the window of opportunity cracked slightly open as a member of the Cooper Rush fan club.

Week 3: Ohio at #9 Tennessee

I’m certainly not sold on Butch Jones and the Volunteers this early in the season. After Thursday’s atrocious showing against Appalachian State, nobody is.

Tennessee’s offensive line bordered on disaster last night, which is something they’ll obviously need to correct if they hope to make a run in the SEC. But never mind the SEC, how about the Ohio Bobcats? Ohio features perhaps the stiffest front seven in all the MAC, a battle in the trenches for which Tennessee might not be adequately prepared. Plus, Tennessee’s tilt against the Bobcats serves as a wedge between two very high-profile contests: one at Bristol Speedway against Virginia Tech, one against the Florida Gators that may decide the SEC East.

Ohio certainly lacks the flash you’d expect out of a promising underdog, but the skill pieces are in place for the Bobcats to compete. The Bobcats can out-grind even the grittiest of opponents when Frank Solich has them firing on all cylinders- even those in Bielema’s beloved SEC. Granted, Ohio doesn’t look quite as strong as in years past, and they’ll likely need poise from an inexperienced Greg Windham to secure a fighting chance. But Butch Jones is prone to slow starts, and the climate seems right for another SEC shakeup. When it comes to #MACtion, anything is possible.

BielemaMeter: Jen Bielema. Yes, the wife of the Bretmaster happens to be smoking hot– just like this matchup’s BielemaMeter. Tennessee, beware- the Bobcats are on the prowl. One more disappointing season, and we may forget why we’re even supposed to care about you.

Week 4: Kent State at #1 Alabama

LOL.

BielemaMeter: freshly-tossed salad. You’ll be hard-pressed to find Bret Bielema venturing among leafy greens, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anybody willing to bet against the Crimson Tide in a shameless, non-conference cakewalk. Remember to respect the #MACtion Bret, or you may be eating spinach and romaine for the remainder of your days.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Email Cole at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

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.