Tag Archives: Cooper Bateman

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.

Predicted: New Year’s Six and the College Football Playoff National Championship

This is the third and final part of my 2016 College Football Preview. The picks in this article directly reflect my first and second article, so check those out before reading this one.

Orange Bowl (ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND) 12/31/16

Miami (9-4) vs. LSU (10-2)

The Matchup: Miami will get the automatic ACC bid, as the Hurricanes are the best ACC team not in the CFP. LSU squeezes its way into the New Year’s Six over the likes of Notre Dame, the second team in line who just misses the New Year’s Six due to their indecisiveness at the QB position early in the season, which cost a few games. Other teams who are in the hunt for the Tigers’ Orange Bowl spot are Michigan State, Ole Miss and Arkansas, but none of them finish over 9-3.

The Game: This is Leonard Fournette’s final game in an LSU jersey. He will eat up the Miami defense, which will have to deal with a bit of Les Miles madness. LSU will come out passing early and often, as the Miami defense gets weaker the further away from the line of scrimmage you go. Once the Tigers expose Miami’s pass defense, LSU will catch the Hurricanes on their heels by simply letting Fournette run over the competition. Fournette’s early season injury may keep him out of the Heisman Race, but he will sure look like a Heisman winner after this game is all said and done. LSU will simply put up too many points for the Hurricanes to keep up with.

Final Score: LSU Tigers 38 – Miami Hurricanes 20

Cotton Bowl (At-Large vs. At-Large) 1/2/17

Michigan (11-1) vs. UH (12-1)

The Matchup: Michigan is not happy to be here. The Wolverines believe that it belongs in the CFP. However, it ends up playing in Dallas facing off against a Houston Cougars squad whose excitement to be in this spotlight inversely mirrors the Wolverines.

The Game: The team’s respective enthusiasm for this particular game reflects into the matchup’s first half to a large degree. Michigan comes out uninterested and sluggish, which a Greg Ward, AAC player of the Year, powered Cougar offense heavily exploits. The First Half ends with the Cougars up 14-10. The Wolverines swing back in the second half, and take a three-point lead over UH with just over a minute left in the game. Greg Ward leads a final charge down the field into the red zone with time winding down. However, after two incomplete passes, Jabrill Peppers fools Ward, after Peppers fakes a blitz before dropping back into coverage. The strong Wolverine defensive line forces Ward to rush a decision, and he overlooks Peppers before throwing a pass which Peppers intercepts.

Final Score: Michigan Wolverines 41 – Houston Cougars 38

Rose Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac-12) 1/2/17

Iowa (9-4) vs. Stanford (11-2)

The Matchup: Iowa, who lost the Big Ten championship to Ohio State, gets the automatic Rose Bowl bid. Stanford, meanwhile, wins the Pac-12 and because no Pac-12 team gets into the CFP, are the other automatic bid, which makes the 2017 Rose Bowl an identical matchup to the 2016 game.

The Game:  This game will have a similar outcome as the matchup the previous year. Stanford will let Christian McCaffrey run free, and he will single-handedly slaughter Iowa. Iowa, in all honesty, does not belong in the Rose Bowl, and once again, the game’s result shows that. This one is not even close.

Final Score: Stanford Cardinal 31 – Iowa Hawkeyes 6

Sugar Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC) 1/2/17

TCU (10-2) vs. Tennessee (10-3)

The Matchup: I’m going to be honest. Even though I picked them to be here, I would be surprised if Tennessee can win the SEC East and get the automatic bowl berth. The Volunteers’ inconsistency over the last several years makes I hard to believe that it can string together a solid season and take the East over Georgia and Florida. But, that’s what my mind believed when I wrote last week’s prediction article, so here we are. If the Volunteers manage to make it to the Sugar Bowl, it will face off against TCU, winners of the lackluster Big 12.

The Game: Despite the fact that I don’t think it will make it to this game, I think the SEC will prove too much for TCU. Tennessee, behind powerhouse running back Jalen Hurd and a Joshua Dobbs who develops into a great passer throughout the season, are able to out muster the Horned Frogs offensively. Tennessee’ defense, which nine starters, will shut down the Horned Frogs’ offense. This will be a defensive battle between these two teams, but the Volunteers prevail.

Final Score: Tennessee Volunteers 24 – TCU Horned Frogs 17

Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal)  12/31/16

#1 Ohio State (13-0) vs. #4 FSU (11-1)

The Matchup: Ohio State, still riding off “The Game of the Century” Part 2, in which the Buckeyes beat #2 ranked Michigan, gets the #1 overall seed for the third annual College Football Playoff. FSU, meanwhile, campaigns hard for its spot, which the Seminoles fight Michigan, Stanford, TCU and Houston for. However, dominating wins late in the season after a close defeat to Clemson allow FSU to squeeze into its second College Football Playoff appearance.

The Game: Lead by recently crowned Heisman Trophy winner, J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes get off to a quick start, scoring quickly on a pass over the middle against the weakest part of the Seminole defense. However, the Buckeyes’ inexperienced defense will struggle to do anything to stop the Dalvin Cook Seminole offense, and FSU goes up by 10 heading into halftime. Coming out of the half, Dontre Wilson brings the kickoff all the way back for a touchdown, making the Buckeyes deficit only three. Both defenses then hunker down, with the likes of Raekwon McMillan and DeMarcus Walker dominating for the Buckeyes and Seminoles respectively. Late in the 4th, J.T. Barrett leads Ohio State down the field, but Urban Meyer has to settle for a field goal. However, with two minutes to work with, Dalvin Cook is able to take his time and rush the Seminoles into Field Goal position with only a few ticks left. Ricky Aguayo gets a perfect hold ad knocks home a 52-yard field goal as time expires to allow the Seminoles to win.

Final Score: Florida State Seminoles 23 – Ohio State Buckeyes 20

Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal) 12/31/16

#2 Clemson (13-0) vs. #3 Alabama (12-1)

The Matchup: Winners of the ACC and SEC respectively, Clemson and Alabama both come off monster season to qualify as the middle seeds for the College Football Playoff. Heisman runner-up Deshaun Watson, Clemson finished undefeated, while Alabama’s only loss came to Ole Miss early in the season.

The Game: This game will ultimately come down to Clemson’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense. The Alabama offense will struggle with Cooper Bateman at the helm, but Clemson’s defense will not be nearly as dominant as years past, allowing the Crimson Tide to find holes to score both on the ground and in the air. However, the issue for Alabama is that Clemson’s offense simply has too many pieces, as if the passing game to wide outs Mike Williams and Artavis Scott struggles, Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman, both of whom were 1000 yard rushers in 2015, can simply push Alabama back behind the Tigers’ O-Line. Though Alabama remains in the game in the first half, Clemson comes out firing in the second and breaks the game wide open. Alabama, though talented, won’t have an answer for Clemson, and the Tigers win the game by a fairly wide margin. The Crimson Tide’s shot at returning to the College Football National Championship is cut one game short.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 45 – Alabama Crimson Tide 24

 College Football Playoff National Championship 1/9/16 (Tampa, FL)

#2 Clemson Tigers (14-0) vs. #4 Florida State Seminoles (12-1)

The Game: This game is going to be a rematch of possibly the best offensive matchup of the 2016 season. Earlier, Clemson beat out FSU in Tallahassee, and that is why the Tigers remained undefeated the entire year. The National Championship, featuring two teams less located less than 600 miles from the game’s location, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, will be an offensive bout the likes of which we haven’t seen in man years. While both teams have competent defenses, Clemson and FSU will look to win the National Championship with offensive firepower. This game will actually not be as much of a nail-biter as their first matchup, as Deshaun Watson, in his second straight title game, will come out firing on all cylinders. FSU will stay in the game, but the Clemson offense will prove to be too much, and keep a constant lead over the Seminoles the entire game. The Clemson Tigers will have its first National Title since 1981.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 48 – Florida State 35

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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Image Courtesy of Counse – Flickr

I Don’t Like Alabama, But I Sure As Heck Respect It

This is one of those rare moments when I swallow my Gator and Vol pride to give credit where credit is due. The Alabama Crimson Tide is getting all the credit I can get myself to give to it today. I will make this clear: I loathe Alabama football and I obviously cannot stand Lane Kiffin. But that does not mean I will not show them some respect when it comes to what they manage to do season after season. The Tide is consistently excelling in the hardest division of the strongest conference in all of college football. That alone is absolutely incredible.

I will be the first to admit that I tend to underestimate Alabama every single year. I always think they lost too much talent so they may need to rebuild. What I seem to forget is that they are pulling in phenomenal recruits year after year. Last year, I even went so far as to say that Nick Saban was about to be in Urban Meyer’s shadow. I am eating those words at the moment. I take it back. I take it all back. As my penance for that terrible thing I said, this year I will not underestimate Alabama football. This year I am finally ready to put aside my pride and give them the credit they clearly deserve.

Their spring game was admittedly a bit underwhelming, with a whopping ten points scored overall. When you are an Alabama fan though, I doubt you really care about what happens in the spring game. You just know deep down that your team will perform when it counts. That feeling must be nice.

Last year Alabama had a quarterback battle that lasted into the season. This year it still has quite the quarterback competition going on in Tuscaloosa. This one might last into the season as well. If last year is any indication of who will be the starting quarterback, then you can bet Cooper Bateman will get his chance to go from second-string to first-string. With other athletic contenders in the mix, namely Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts, I would definitely not give Bateman the starting job quite yet. Replacing last year’s quarterback may not be their biggest concern heading into next season though.

The Tide lost key starters on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the biggest concern for Alabama right now is the offensive line. I know we have to take spring games with a grain of salt, but let it be known that the offensive line allowed eleven sacks in that game. Now, it is definitely worth nothing that a sack in a spring game is not as physically involved as one during a real game. It is also worth noting that Alabama probably has a top ten defense again so, of course, the defense is going to get some sacks. That kind of smothering defense is just something we have come to expect from them. Still, the number stands, and eleven sacks are just too many to completely overlook. Knowing Alabama football, though, I am sure the Tide will have it figured out in time for the College Football Playoff next year. Just maybe not in time for the Ole Miss game.

So what else is there to think about? Worried about them replacing Derrick Henry? No need to be. Bo Scarbrough seems to be more than ready to pick up right where Henry left off and there is some pretty good depth at running back behind him. So what about the defensive talent they lost? I said it once and I will say it again: Alabama probably has a top ten defense again. Okay, they lost Kirby Smart as their defensive coordinator. Never fear. We all know Nick Saban is the one who really calls the shots in Tuscaloosa anyway. Here’s the thing: every single potential problem I propose already has a clear solution. And that is their secret. That right there is how Alabama does it, folks.

Nick Saban at the helm and good recruits from years passed make almost every personnel (and coaching) loss a non-issue for the Crimson Tide. That is exactly the thing I failed to understand when I was quick to say Alabama could not win a title last year. I mean is there ever really a year when Alabama does not have the potential to win a National Championship? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a strong “no.” Love them, hate them, envy them, doubt them…do whatever you want. At the end of the day the haters will continue hating while the Crimson Tide keeps dominating. As Birdman might say, put some “respek” on their name!

Now please excuse me while I go thoroughly wash out my mouth with soap for saying all this. I am truly sorry to all my other SEC friends for writing this article. And to my dear father who taught me everything I know about football, I hope you are not too disappointed in your little girl right now. But, if you guys want to see how much I really do dislike Alabama then make sure to follow me (@OGKristenB) on Twitter. I assure you that I definitely do not usually sing their praises.

Photo of Bryant-Denny Stadium courtesy of Latics.