Tag Archives: Chad Kelly

SEC’s First Spring Practices Headlined by Quarterback Questions

For each of the first five SEC football teams to start spring practice, one of the most interesting storylines is at quarterback. Maybe it’s a wide-open battle for the starting position or maybe it’s seeing how one player has progressed since last season.

In an attempt to finally truly embrace spring practice for the drama it can bring, I’m going to discuss the SEC quarterbacks we’ve already got our eyes on in spring practices. SEC quarterbacks haven’t been known to impress much lately (Dak Prescott aside). Hopefully this spring will help get our SEC quarterbacks off to a much better start for the 2017 season.

And let me be clear: These are not the only five SEC schools with intriguing quarterback predicaments. But all of these five schools that started practice before the beginning of March definitely do have this much in common.

South Carolina was the first team to commence its spring practices. To most, the question of who will start at quarterback had already been answered. Brandon McIlwain may have started the first few games last season, but Jake Bentley took over soon after. Bentley finished the season on a high note with his Birmingham Bowl performance.

Bentley’s hard work in the offseason has impressed head coach Will Muschamp. But in true Muschamp fashion, the coach had been saying Brandon McIlwain was still battling with Bentley for that starting position. As of March 1st, though, McIlwain has decided to transfer from South Carolina. That means that, barring injury or suspension, Bentley will be the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks. Bentley’s progression will still be something to watch this spring, though.

Vanderbilt was the next team to begin its spring practices. Vanderbilt, like South Carolina, doesn’t have a true quarterback battle. In fact, one of Vanderbilt’s quarterbacks won’t even be returning this season. Wade Freebeck, who occasionally started for the Commodores, has chosen to pursue the option to transfer to another school.

The starting job is then almost definitely left to Kyle Shurmur. To say the least, Shurmur was inconsistent last season. He’ll have a lot of work to do to cement his starting role with a few other quarterbacks waiting in the wings, especially freshman Deuce Wallace. Head coach Derek Mason seemed very excited about signing Wallace, and that may not bode well in the long run for Shurmur.

Auburn began its spring practice on the last day of February. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham took reps with the first-team offense, which is an early indication that Auburn coaches have really opened up the quarterback competition. Sean White, the incumbent starter, had to sit out due to injury. Redshirt freshman Woody Barrett led the second-team offense. Last season’s backup, John Franklin III split reps between special teams and quarterback.

The biggest question remaining seems to be where Sean White will fit into this competition when he returns from his injury. Will he bump Jarrett Stidham to the second-team offense and retake his starting job? Or will Jarrett Stidham impress enough in spring practices to keep the starting job for now? And what about Barrett and Franklin? Will all four guys stick around for the season with so much competition for that starting position? This will easily be one of the most interesting quarterback races to watch this offseason.

Florida also began its spring practices on the 28th of February. And once again, the Gators are looking for someone to step up and claim the starting quarterback job. This seems to be a common theme for Florida lately. And heading into spring practice, the theme looks to be holding strong for yet another season.

The starting quarterback from the beginning of last season, Luke Del Rio, is sidelined after a shoulder surgery. That means redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask have a great opportunity to take the lead in the quarterback competition this spring. On Tuesday, Franks took snaps as the first-team quarterback. Many of those present commented on how improved his throwing motion was. Kyle Trask also took snaps at quarterback along with early enrollee “athlete” Kadarius Toney. Even after his injury is healed, I definitely don’t see Del Rio beating out all three players to regain his starting position. But Gator fans will undoubtedly be watching the quarterback competition closely this spring.

Ole Miss began its spring practices on Tuesday as well. The Rebels have their starting quarterback all but chosen for next season already. But there are still questions that Ole Miss fans will have about their quarterback this spring. Shea Patterson was originally going to observe Chad Kelly in all his glory last season but got thrown into the mix when Kelly tore his ACL. Patterson debuted well but the offense was inconsistent under his lead and the season went down the drain.

Patterson had taken very limited reps before being thrown into the game so the inconsistency is somewhat understandable. But will he become more consistent as he takes more reps with the team? And better yet, how will he respond to Coach Longo’s fast-paced offense? Patterson already had a lot to learn but will learning a new coach’s system prove to be too much? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions yet, but I suspect Ole Miss fans will be watching Patterson very closely through spring practices. After all, how can he live up to THE “Swag” Kelly?

E-mail Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Featured photo courtesy of Gainesville Apartments.

Five Way Too Early Predictions for SEC Football in 2017

I know we still have a while to go until we get our beloved SEC football Saturdays back, but I just can’t wait. SEC football is on my mind all the time. So here are just a few of my recurring thoughts about this coming season.

Georgia will be the team to beat in the East

Let’s be honest, Kirby Smart’s first season in Athens was a little underwhelming. The worst moment of the season for the Dawgs had to be that last-minute loss to the Vols at home. Just when Jacob Eason had led them down the field to take the lead, Josh Dobbs and Jauan Jennings connected for an unbelievable Hail Mary. I fully expect Georgia fans to be able to put that pain behind them next season. Eason will have more experience, the defense will have more experience, and coach Smart will also have more head coaching experience.

South Carolina will have more than one good upset win

This past season wasn’t particularly impressive for South Carolina in its first year under Will Muschamp. But, the Gamecocks did manage to get a pretty nice upset win over the Vols. They were a huge part of why Tennessee never made it to Atlanta. The Gamecocks showed promise in most games, even many of the losses. The only game they might want to erase from memory is that Clemson thrashing at the end of the season. But with another year under Muschamp’s guidance and with his recruits coming in, I anticipate two upset wins out of the Gamecocks this season.

Butch Jones will get run out of Knoxville

This call may be a little early. But with all his press conference clichés, I think this might be the year Tennessee fans grab their pitchforks and run Jones out of town. Heck, after that Vanderbilt loss to end the regular season my dad had decided not to renew his season tickets for 2017. Guess he doesn’t want to be part of another championship of life. Or maybe he just doesn’t have that five-star heart. All this being said, the Vols may be in trouble next season. Their defense is a huge question mark and now they have a question mark starting at quarterback too. Just ask the Gators how well that second question mark works out in the SEC.

Alabama will win the West…again

No other team was truly a tough match for Alabama in the West last year, with the biggest challenges coming from LSU and Ole Miss. Ole Miss later lost star quarterback Chad Kelly to injury and its season tanked. The Rebels were more of a pretender than an actual contender. LSU had a slow start, but ended up in some good games under then-interim (now head) coach Ed Orgeron. But at the end of the day, Alabama was still dominant in the SEC. Alabama dominated all the way until the national championship game that it lost to Clemson. That loss may sting, but with quarterback Jalen Hurts having more experience, I expect Alabama to be number one in the West and headed right back to Atlanta again in December. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Alabama still has Nick Saban.

But LSU will make it close

The LSU Tigers had arguably one of the most interesting seasons out of the entire SEC in 2016. Les Miles was fired and replaced on an interim basis by Defensive Line Coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron led the team to a 5-2 finish (after starting the season 2-2 under Miles). Additionally, LSU dominated Louisville and its Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson in the Citrus Bowl. On top of all this, Orgeron put together a top ten recruiting class in his first time recruiting as LSU’s head coach. With Orgeron leading, talent returning, and talent coming in, the Tigers are poised to finish second in the SEC West and maybe even give the Crimson Tide a run for its money.

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

Image courtesy of Sean Davis, Flickr.

Picking Up the Pieces of the 2016 SEC Football Season

The championship games are now in the book as well as a few straggling regular season games. Army-Navy remains. That being said, let’s do some housekeeping and tidy up a few odds and ends concerning the SEC.

First, we’ll saunter back to SEC Media Days and review how the scribes’ picks turned out.

As you see in this article, Alabama was picked to win the SEC West and Tennessee was the choice to represent the SEC East in Atlanta. Alabama, obviously, held up their end of the deal but the Vols did not. The Florida Gators managed to take the division by default. The Crimson Tide steamrolled the West in dominant fashion. They won their division by three games over who? The Auburn Tigers.

Auburn was picked not second, or third, of fourth, or fifth. They were picked sixth in the West behind LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Arkansas.

Bravo for the Tigers! And they were rewarded with a trip to the Big Easy and the Sugar Bowl. They will take on Big 12 champion, Oklahoma. It could be one of the better games of the entire bowl season. More on that, and other bowls, in later columns.

What about the cellar dwellers? South Carolina was the choice to bring up the rear in the East, but the Gamecocks, modestly exceeded expectations and came in fourth. Missouri had the distinction of finishing last in the “Easy.”One of the Mississippi teams was tagged by the media to sink to the bottom in the grueling West. But it was the Bulldogs of Mississippi State that was chosen for that “honor.” Ole Miss, much to the surprise of most every football fan in the country, plummeted to the number seven spot while predicted to come in third.

Here is a complete look at how the standings shook down in 2016.

Here is how the media sized up the All-SEC selections.

And here are the coaches’ choices (the only one we have when this article was composed) for All-SEC.

Glaring discrepancies on the first team offense? Chad Kelly at quarterback, Leonard Fournette at running back, Nick Chubb at running back, Calvin Ridley at wide receiver, and O.J. Howard at tight end.

Jalen Hurts, Kamryn Pettway, Derrius Guice, ArDarius Stewart, and Evan Engram took those slots.

Defense? As you peruse the lists you will note that things went pretty much as expected. Good job media!

The coaches individual award winners on offense, defense, and coach went to Jalen Hurts, Jonathan Allen, and Nick Saban. As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!”But, in all fairness, who’d a thunk Jalen Hurts would walk off with the offensive player of the year? No one could have seen that coming.

In this interim, between the regular season and bowl season, and beyond, there are some questions we look forward to seeing answered.

What will the NCAA decide in the way of punishment for Ole Miss?

Will Nick Saban retire? (Wishful thinking)

What underclassmen might surprise us by succumbing to the lure of dollars and the NFL?

How hot is Butch Jones’ fanny?

Kevin Sumlin’s?

Will Lane Kiffin take a head coaching position? (More wishful thinking)

How about Rhett Lashlee?

Will Jim McElwain ever find a quarterback?

Will Gus Malzahn?

Will Kirby Smart be a bust?

Will Barry Odom?

Who might be the next Jalen Hurts or Kamryn Pettway?

Is anyone capable of bridging the gap between Alabama and everybody else?

And… is the SEC still the top of the heap in the world of college football.

The bowl games are upon us and, with their conclusion, the season of 2016 will be but a memory.

What does 2017 hold for us as college football fans?

In the words of a wise man… we shall see.

 

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

 

Thankful Ohio State Is In The College Football Playoff

After an epic 38-31 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, it was a foregone conclusion in my mind that the Penn State Nittany Lions were headed to the College Football Playoffs. After all, they were the only team to defeat Ohio State, fluke or not and just added a conference title so I was initially shocked when the playoff committee decided to choose the Buckeyes over Penn State. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked their selection of the Silver Bullets and as the title obviously suggests, I am thankful the committee put them in the field.

If you’re still saying, this is completely unfair, I hear you. I agree with my fellow colleague, Tim Bach, it’s  unfair in every way and I’d be pissed off if I was a Penn State fan.  As a Wisconsin fan, I hate the Buckeyes but I take pride in my conference and as a Big Ten fan, I admit that Ohio State gives us the best chance at a national title for the second time in three years.

Think about it. As hot as Penn State has been, is there anyone out there who believes the Nittany Lions can stand next to Alabama and knock them off? I certainly don’t believe so and I‘d be hard pressed to find anyone else who does. However, the Buckeyes are the team in my opinion that poses the biggest threat to the Crimson Tide.

Now I know what you might be saying. Hasn’t J.T. Barrett struggled as of late (86 yards versus Michigan State, 124 yards versus Michigan) and inconsistent passing been a problem this whole season? Shouldn’t an offensive line as talented as theirs be better in protection (59th, 25 sacks allowed) and be more disciplined (64th in fewest penalties allowed)? Didn’t this team lose to Penn State, barely beat the Spartans and need two overtimes to defeat Michigan? Isn’t this team very young and inexperienced?

I concede that all those points are accurate but you have to admit, though this team has faced adversity, they still have come out on top even when nothing has gone right. It’s dangerous to live on the edge but there is something to be said about a battle-tested team that can make crucial plays in crunch-time.

Remember in 2014, the Buckeyes had a very young roster with a loss to Virginia Tech but still crashed the College Football Playoff and came away with the title over the favored Crimson Tide.

Another point to keep in mind is unlike 2014, this isn’t uncharted territory for head coach Urban Meyer and it’s intimidating to think what kind of game plan he devises given nearly a month to prepare. Next to Nick Saban, he has one of the brightest minds in the game.

Before Alabama, however, the Buckeyes need to take care of business against a highly motivated Clemson team. Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson showed little signs of wear-and-tear from last season as his stats are practically identical but even so, only two quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions than his 15, which plays right into the strength of this Ohio State team. The stingy, ball-hawking secondary nabbed 19 interceptions and their pass efficiency defense (91.43 rating for opposing quarterbacks) leads the nation.

On the other hand, the way to hurt the Buckeyes is to pressure Barrett and Clemson features a fearsome defensive line led by Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, and ACC defensive rookie of the year Dexter Lawrence that can dominate Ohio State’s porous offensive line.

I believe it will be a closely contested game and both defenses will force each quarterback to throw the ball so it comes down to who’s more efficient and less turnover prone. In my mind, I’d have to lean towards the Buckeyes as they hold onto win 31-28.

So how does Ohio State defeat the Crimson Tide?

Besides the aforementioned prowess of Meyer and the strong defense, the Buckeyes have a dual-threat signal caller in Barrett and Alabama’s defense struggled against other mobile quarterbacks like Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Clemson’s Watson in 2015.

In addition, if Ohio State can limit its mistakes, apply pressure on true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, sustain long drives and score before the Crimson Tide can answer, they have a shot at dethroning the champions.

In the end, I think that Alabama still wins the national title in a surprisingly close game, 30-23. Remember I didn’t say Ohio State would win but gave our conference the best chance and I’d rather lose by seven points than get blown out and humiliated.

Yes, it’s unfair but the committee did our conference a huge favor and for that I’m thankful.

E-mail Mike at mike [dot] tews [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Georgia Bulldogs Should Brace for Brutal Beatdown

Earlier this week, I called Ole Miss a fraudulent contender.  No, the Rebels are not making the Playoff but, that doesn’t mean they can’t muck things up in the Hog-eat-Dawg SEC.  Man, do I wish I’d saved that one for week seven when Georgia heads to Arkansas.

Anyway, someone call the other SEC because we’ve got another fraud alert.

See, the thing is, while Ole Miss is committing rather harmless mail fraud, Georgia is credit card scamming folks out here.

The Georgia Bulldogs are the third best team in the SEC East this year and that’s only because four of their division mates have already proven they don’t deserve to even be mentioned by name.

Kirby Smart is surely smart for parlaying his eight-year stint as Alabama’s defensive coordinator into his dream job.

Smart is now the head man at his alma mater.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  Other than being the man heading the most consistently dominant unit in all of college football, that is.

By the way, props to Jeremy Pruitt for playing the Lester Holt to Smart’s Brian Williams.  Remember kids, patience is a virtue and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a big promotion when one of the higher-ups does something stupid.  Don’t worry, they always do.

I’m sure you’ve heard this one, too.  You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.  Kirby might have to learn that one the hard way.

Then again, Smart could be on the fast track to emerging as the Crimson Tide’s new nemesis.  Time will tell.

I emphasize the capital T on Time.  This is not Kirby Smart and Georgia’s time.  Ole Miss is Alabama’s current kryptonite, despite the result in the matchup of the mirrored states.

The point is that the Rebels show up for big games and now that they’ve lost, they’ve become an even more dangerous opponent.

Even if that weren’t true, the Bulldogs would still be an overrated mix of mangy mutts.

In the past two weeks, Georgia has beaten Nicholls and one of those SEC East unmentionables, by a combined three points.

The Dawgs’ one quality win came against my Tar Heels, who prefer to lose the first game to make their season more interesting.

Nick Chubb is going to get some Heisman love as he works his way through what has to be his final college campaign.  Right now though, he’s trending down.

After rushing for 222 yards in the opener, Chubb has fallen short in each of the past two games.  Again, those were against a relatively unknown FCS squad and an SEC bottom-feeder that will continue to remain nameless.

But, but, but, Ole Miss has gotten killed on the ground, you say.  Yeah, that was against two teams with quarterbacks who could take off whenever they needed, hell, whenever they wanted.  Georgia does not have that luxury weapon.  Jacob Eason ain’t going anywhere quickly.

Do you expect that pocket-passing freshman to be able to pick apart this secondary with a focused pass rush pressing in on him?  I don’t.

Interestingly enough, Eason will be the third freshman QB the Rebels will face this fall.  Let’s keep the clichés coming.  That’s right; the third time’s the charm.

Though the numbers aren’t large, there’s significance to Georgia’s defense giving up positive rushing yardage to every quarterback it’s chased around this season.  Chad Kelly can tuck it and chuck it, though I’d certainly not call great at either one.  Still, Kelly’s dual-threat ability will present problems for the Bulldogs this weekend.

In the first real test for Georgia, Chubb’ll struggle; Eason will see the reason why true freshman don’t lead SEC championship-caliber teams; and Chad Kelly will do rad cellys in the endzone.

The Rebels are going to give the Bulldogs one quarter to brace for a brutal beatdown that should put them, and your expectations, back in their proper place.

So, Smart puppies, go crawl back into the SEC East division doghouse.  We’ll call you when it’s your time to entertain us.

 

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikipedia

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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 Crimson Tide Will Roll Right Over Chad Kelly’s “Swag”

The Alabama Crimson Tide will seriously roll right over the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday. Roll Tide Roll! Their offensive line will stand strong while their defense swallows up Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly.

After this major loss, there will no longer be any “swag” for Chad Kelly. There will just be shame—and a heck of a lot of angry Ole Miss fans. It will be the same kind of shame that he felt after that second-half pounding he received from Florida State a couple weeks ago. There’s just really no coming back from that.

I hyped him up before that game. And then he let me down. I mean, how are you supposedly the best quarterback in the country but then you throw three interceptions? Come on. Quit kidding yourself, Chad Kelly. You barely have and swag left at this point. And after Saturday you will actually have no swag left.

And while I’m roasting Kelly, I should mention that he got absolutely put on blast by an adult film star from Florida State. Although I may not like Mia Khalifa all that much, I’m with her on this one. Stay out of DMs and focus on football. Maybe it’ll help. But then again, maybe it won’t. Maybe Kelly is just that bad.

But even beyond Chad Kelly’s supposed greatness, what has Ole Miss actually done in college football lately? No, I don’t care if you went to a bowl game. No, I don’t care that you beat Alabama for two years in a row after losing to them from 2004 all the way until that game in 2014. In case you Rebels were unaware, the record for this rivalry is very much lop-sided in Alabama’s favor. So as much as you may have enjoyed the wins these last two years, don’t get used to it. Winning in this rivalry is the exception for you, not the rule.

Oh, you say the Crimson Tide doesn’t have a real quarterback yet? It doesn’t matter. Alabama is the one team in the entire country who could win the National Championship with a completely average quarterback. Yes, the rest of the team is that good. So how Ole Miss thinks they’ll be able to get another win in this series is completely beyond me.

At the end of the day, this comes down to one thing. This is Alabama that we’re talking about, guys. I don’t care what team you are, but you don’t get to sit there and think you’ll beat them for the third year in a row. It just won’t happen.

And in case you missed it, the last team that tried to throw stones at the Crimson Tide got completely demolished. Both off the field with snarky t-shirts and on the field with an embarrassing blowout loss.

When it comes to college football, you just have to respect Alabama. I don’t care whether or not you like them, they have been sustaining an absolutely phenomenal program for years now. If you argue with me on this one then I will just assume you know absolutely nothing about college football. We won’t be able to be friends.

To be totally honest, at this point the regular season is just Alabama getting warmed up for their playoff appearance. It’s that undeniable. And if that doesn’t do it for you, think about it this way: if the Seminoles only played one great half of football and beat the Rebels, then Alabama is pretty much guaranteed to come out of this one victorious.

You Ole Miss fans can keep saying “Hotty Toddy” as much as you want, but it’ll never compare to the sound of Alabama fans yelling “Roll Tide” after they come out victorious over your Rebels.

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

Image from Wikimedia.

Put Everyone on Alert: ACC Football Deserves Some Respect

The title says it all. I think it’s finally time to show ACC football some respect. Listen, I know it’s a bit early in the season to make a statement as bold as this one, but I have my reasons.

At the end of last season, I could’ve argued the same thing. If it weren’t for Florida State’s bowl loss to the Houston Cougars, I probably would’ve argued the same thing actually. About eight months later I’m finally ready to convince people that the ACC may be more than just a basketball conference now.

Let’s start with its overall record during the opening weekend of this college football season, 11-3. That looks really impressive at first glance, but we do still have to keep in mind that the opposition they faced was nothing worth celebrating.

ACC teams played Charlotte, Tulane, William & Mary, Colgate, Liberty, Villanova, Richmond, Georgia, NC Central, Florida A&M, Auburn, and Ole Miss. They lost two of these games and there was also one conference matchup. Surprisingly, the two games lost were not both against SEC teams. While North Carolina did lose to Georgia in Atlanta, Virginia managed to lose to Richmond in Charlottesville.

The ACC went 2-1 against the SEC in Week 1. Yes, Clemson was favored over Auburn and FSU was favored over Ole Miss, but both of those still count as big wins for ACC football in my book. So how did they fare so well in the first weekend?

Well, I know they say that defense wins championships, but the ACC has something else that also proves to be instrumental in winning football games. The ACC easily has the best quarterbacks in college football right now. The Clemson Tigers have Deshaun Watson; the Florida State Seminoles have Deondre Francois. The Louisville Cardinals have Lamar Jackson; the Miami Hurricanes have Brad Kaaya. I rest my case.

Okay, I don’t rest my case. Some people probably don’t get just how good these quarterbacks I listed really are. Let me give you a crash course in the nation’s best quarterbacks.

On Thursday night, Lamar Jackson led the Louisville Cardinals to a 70-14 victory over Charlotte. In that game, Jackson accounted for eight touchdowns and 405 yards of offense. He was unstoppable. Now we have to wait and see if he will be just as unstoppable against more formidable opponents.

On Saturday night, Brad Kaaya led the Miami Hurricanes as they demolished the Florida A&M Rattlers 70-3. Kaaya didn’t have the same stat lines as Jackson, but he did have four touchdowns and did complete two-thirds of his passes. Miami won’t really be tested until October. We already know from last season that Kaaya is a solid quarterback.

Also on Saturday night, Deshaun Watson led his team to victory over the Tigers at Auburn, 19-13. Auburn’s defense did a good job containing Watson, but he still completed over half his passes, threw for 248 yards, and had a touchdown pass. That may not sound particularly impressive, but we already know what a great dual-threat quarterback Watson is.

On Monday night, Deondre Francois helped the Florida State Seminoles dig out of a 22-point hole to beat the Ole Miss Rebels, 45-34. Francois completed 33 of 52 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 59 yards on the ground. And unlike Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly, he didn’t throw any costly interceptions. That’s not bad for his first start in this offense against a swarming Ole Miss defense.

There are plenty of other bright spots around ACC football if you’re willing to look for them. At this point, most of us aren’t willing to look for them because the ACC has been mostly irrelevant to college football over the past decade. I’m not going to jump to crazy conclusions after one week and say this is their year…but this might be the ACC’s year.

Clemson is still Clemson, even if they did struggle against Auburn. Florida State is still Florida State, even if they did have to overcome a huge deficit to beat Ole Miss. And as for the rest of the teams, many are on their way up. Louisville moved up in the Top 25 after a strong showing against Charlotte. Miami made it into the AP Top 25 this week, as expectations soar for Mark Richt and Brad Kaaya. And even though North Carolina dropped in the polls, they put up a good fight against Georgia. Not to mention this is a Georgia team that might have the eventual Heisman trophy winner in running back Nick Chubb.

I know it’s early, but it isn’t too early to put everyone on alert. ACC football is not to be taken lightly this season. Its quarterbacks are some of the best in the country and its programs are on the rise. I admittedly haven’t always been the biggest ACC football fan, but it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

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

Image courtesy of Wikimedia user Perthsider.

Smackdown Friday: “Swag” Kelly and Ole Miss will Teach Florida State What Strong Looks Like

Labor Day is just a welcomed day off from both work and school for most people. But for Ole Miss this year, it’s the day they take down the Florida State Seminoles. It will definitely feel like a holiday for the Rebels on Monday night.

Let’s just revisit how both teams ended the year last season…

Ole Miss was selected to play the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Sugar Bowl. Florida State got the opportunity to play the Houston Cougars in the Peach Bowl. The Rebels won the Sugar Bowl against the #16 Cowboys by 28 points. Crazy, right? What a blowout! The Seminoles lost the Peach Bowl to the #14 Cougars by 14. Not quite a blowout, but also not a good showing for the Seminoles against a non Power Five opponent. I bet that one still hurts a little bit in Tallahassee.

Heading into this season, I didn’t get the chance to ask Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois how he and his teammates got psyched up for this first game. But thanks to Florida State’s most infamous rhetorician, Jameis Winston, I do have an idea of how he might reply. It would probably go a little something like this…

“And those men looked me in the eye and they said ‘We got this, Deondre.’ And I said…we said…I said, ‘Are you scrong?’ They said, ‘I’m scrong if you scrong.’ And I said ‘we scrong then.’”

So now I have a question… Are we talking ACC “scrong” or SEC strong? Because those are two entirely different things when it comes to college football. Florida State can be ACC “scrong” all they want, but when you’re enjoying cakewalks in most of your conference play, then you clearly have no idea what strong means to a conference like the SEC. Ole Miss beat the eventual National Champion last season. Florida State, on the other hand, lost to the eventual Runner-Up last year. Clearly there are two different standards for strength/”scrength” here.

And I have another question about being “scrong.” How do you really consider a game in Orlando to be a neutral site game? Are you that scared to leave the state and play a formidable opponent? Tallahassee is practically on the way to Orlando for Ole Miss fans. But of course the Seminoles think this is a great matchup, many of them citing the neutral setting making it an even harder matchup for them. A neutral setting being exponentially closer to your fan base doesn’t sound so “scrong” to me. But I guess Seminole fans can just keep saying whatever helps them sleep at night now that Bobby Bowden is gone.

Do you know what actually sounds strong? Ole Miss quarterback Chad “Swag” Kelly. If Francois pays close attention on the sidelines while the Ole Miss offense dominates the game, he might be able to learn a thing or two about being a quarterback. Swag Kelly has been vocal in saying he’s the best quarterback not just in the SEC, but also in the entire country. He’s not just saying he’s strong if his teammates are strong. He’s saying he’s stronger than anyone else regardless. I can’t wait to see that confidence in action versus a non-SEC defense. I mean, talk about swag. Running up the scoreboard on a top five program sounds right up Kelly’s alley.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Ole Miss has proven to be pretty clever leading up to this game. Clever is a word I don’t imagine many Florida State players would understand. It came to light that Florida State running back Dalvin Cook actually has ties to Ole Miss. His brother, Deandre Burnett, plays on their basketball team. Because of this connection, Ole Miss and Mr. Swag Kelly himself chose to make a nice little parody video to get the season going.

As much as I clearly love the Seminoles I love the SEC more. No team in the ACC will ever compare in my heart. And while Ole Miss may have their own issues to resolve with the NCAA, at least their star players aren’t stupid enough to walk out of a grocery store without paying for $32 worth of crab legs or yell obscene things in the middle of the school union. And their fans seem to understand the concept of reflective surfaces, unlike my favorite Seminoles fan. You do you, Tallahassee. But you stay classy, Oxford!

The featured picture is my rendition of my favorite Florida State fan and of course, my favorite fan herself. Yes, I did actually wear that to a Halloween party in Gainesville, Florida last year.

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

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.