Tag Archives: Dak Prescott

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.

My Favorite SEC Football Players of All-Time

Last week was a busy one for SEC football. Coaches wish it weren’t so, but it seems as though there is never a dull moment when it comes to headlines that don’t spotlight the positives in and around their programs.

Hugh Freeze got blindsided (pun intended) with the resurrection of the Laremy Tunsil debacle just as Ole Miss is about to hear from the NCAA and its investigation into their program. Also, it appears that Freeze and Jim Harbaugh will attend the same satellite camp in Mississippi.

As the football world turns. These soap operas are highly entertaining and they give people like me something to write about.

Speaking of smoking weed with a gas mask device, four Auburn players were arrested on the Plains Saturday night for, you guessed it, ganja possession, and much to the chagrin of Gus Malzahn and the rest of us in the Auburn family. How long, oh Lord?

Then there was the NFL draft. Ohio State had the most first round picks with five and Alabama had only one, which surprised many “experts”, but the SEC, once again, had more players drafted than any other conference. So there! Nanny nanny poo poo!

So much for all of that. In my last couple of blogs I, subjectively ranked, in order, SEC head coaching jobs and power rankings of the fourteen schools in the conference.

I like lists. From top tens to favorites to whatever. I think most people do enjoy these.

That being said, this week I’m going to give you my top ten favorite SEC players of all time, excluding Auburn. If I allowed my Tigers’ players on the list you would have Pat Sullivan, Terry Beasley, Bo Jackson, Cam Newton, Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Phil Gargis, James Brooks, Joe Cribbs, Cadillac Williams, Bobby Hunt, Travis Tidwell, and the like to dominate it.

Here we go! My top ten favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. I will do them alphabetically.

Billy Cannon – LSU – 1957-59. Cannon is most remembered for his 89-yard punt return against Ole Miss, in Tiger Stadium on Halloween night in 1959, to give the Tigers a 7-3 win. He won the Heisman that year, as well. Cannon was also named the SEC player of the year in both 1958 and 1959. LSU won the National Championship in ’58.

Randall Cobb – Kentucky – 2008-10. Cobb was an electrifying player at multiple positions for the Wildcats including quarterback, wide receiver and return specialist. He could do it all.  He is not to be confused with boxer, Randall “Tex” Cobb. 

Archie Manning – Ole Miss – 1968-70. Archie is, actually, one of my favorite players in any sport at any level. I never enjoyed watching a player from a team, not named Auburn, more. Just go back and watch some of the old clips from his days as a Rebel. Simply amazing!

Peyton Manning – Tennessee – 1994-97. Does anyone really need to be familiarized with Peyton? He led the Vols to an SEC Championship in 1997. He was a consensus All-American that year and also won the Maxwell Award. He should have won the Heisman Trophy.

Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M – 2012- 13.  Has there ever been a more exciting college football player than “Johnny Football”? Incredible. Love him or hate him, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. The 2012 Heisman winner pulled off more incredible escapes than Houdini. I truly hope his story turns out to be one of redemption.

Darren McFadden – Arkansas – 2005-07. McFadden could flat out tote the rock. He rushed for 4,590 yards at a 5.8 yards per carry clip during his years as a Razorback.  He tied the SEC record for most yards rushing in one game, in 2007, with 321 against South Carolina. McFadden won the Doak Walker Award twice, 2006-07, and the Walter Camp Award, given to the nation’s best overall player, once, in 2007.

Joe Namath – Alabama – 1962-64. “Joe Willie”, “Broadway Joe.” These are two of the monikers that Namath was known by during his playing days with the Crimson Tide. I loved him. Most boys loved him. All the girls loved him. Bama won the National Championship, with Joe under center, in 1964. But he is most famous for guaranteeing that his New York Jets would win Super Bowl III, and they did.

Dak Prescott – Mississippi State. The best player in the history of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, no? He was a gifted athlete who could both run and throw the ball. He carried the Bulldogs to heights henceforth unknown as they topped the polls for several weeks during the 2014 season. That season he also passed for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns, and accumulated 4,435 total yards. He rushed for 2,411 yards in his time at State and that is third all-time, by a quarterback, in SEC history.

Steve Spurrier – Florida – 1964-66. Spurrier may be best known as the Head Ball Coach, but he was also a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for the Gators in 1966. There may have never been a more competitive, driven player and coach in the annals of the SEC. Football, golf, tiddlywinks, Spurrier just wants to beat you. And, he was always good for a great quote.

Herschel Walker – Walker is,  arguably, the greatest running back in the history of college football. Bo Jackson is my choice for the greatest athlete of all-time, but Herschel, both a Heisman winner and a national champion, carried the mail. He rushed for 5,259 yards in only three years as a Bulldog. And he was a sprinter, mixed martial artist and bobsledder!

There is my list of favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. Why not come up with your own list? I am also open to suggestions for future lists as they are a lot of fun, and great conversation centerpieces at home, or at your favorite sports bar.

Now, who was the greatest fighter that ever lived? 😉

The Proper Sendoff

Years come and go and so do teams, but names of the elite and those that leave a great impression on its program and any other platform are the ones that stick with the history of the conference. These players brought forth, have impacted the SEC in positive ways in which will leave us talking about them for quite some time with great on and off the field performances giving us plenty of reasons to share them in future conversations. The list provided points out a handful of players with the significance they deserve.

 

 Kentrell Brothers, Missouri, LB, Senior

MizzLogoBeing snubbed for not even being on the list of finalists for the Butkus Award, Brothers finished his career on a high note in his senior season leading the nation in total tackles with 152 stops and also being a second team All-America standout. His fearless attitude and continuous drive doesn’t go unnoticed as coaches and players around the league think highly of his play and integrity. Tied for eighth in the record books for all-time tackles in school history, Brothers’ future looks bright at the next level as we look forward to seeing him thrive in his next steps.

 

Shon Coleman, Auburn, OT, Junior

Auburn LogoThough just a junior, Coleman is expected to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft receiving some first round praise from a few credible scouting sources. Coleman’s story is detailed with his bttle to overcome leukemia in his leg as he bounced back to continue his football career at Auburn. Working back to get into the swing of things, Coleman had a junior season to rmember serving as the bookend tackle for the Tigers and receiving All-SEC second team praise. Seeing Coleman’s success is a heartwarming narrative that we hope to see continue with a happy ending in the NFL.

 

Jake Ganus, Georgia, LB, Senior

UGA logoWith the unfortunate announcement that UAB’s football program was being shut down, Jake Ganus’ football career was almost cut short until the decision was made to walk on to the Georgia football team. Being a seasoned starter at UAB, Ganus provided the perfect fit to what the Bulldogs needed to produce at middle linebacker and the new Bulldog didn’t disappoint. Ganus completed his lone season with the Dawgs with 96 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss while pursuing a management degree and being equally known as the guy that proposed to his girlfriend on the field of Sanford Stadium. Though just playing one season in the SEC, Ganus provided the likeness and toughness that every SEC great has been described with.

Derrick Henry, Alabama, Junior

Bama LogoWell, when you surpass The Hershel Walker you will be remembered forever among all things college football. Running the ball for 1,986 yards and counting with 23 touchdowns, Henry has put together one of the all-time great seasons in college football history. But if you ask his friends, family and teammates, he isn’t known just for his success with the ball in his hands, but of the impact and warm spirit he brings to put a smile on everyone’s face. Henry enjoys football and enjoys people. What more can you ask?

 

Antonio Morrison, Florida, LB, Senior

UF logoThere’s no question when asking who is the leader on this talented Florida defense. Morrison brings the intensity and leadership with a drive like no other to get the best performance out of himself and his surrounding teammates. Morrison has battled through tough injuries that jeopardize his future playing career, but he didn’t go down without a fight and now finishes his career with 281 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks entering the Citrus Bowl. Morrison’s experience and expertise will be missed in 2016 for the Gators.

 

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, QB, Senior

MSU logoIt’s finally that time for the likable Dak Prescott to move on from college and graduate from Mississippi State. Prescott has been nothing short of spectacular since taking over the quarterback duty back in 2013 with a Heisman caliber season and the ability to carry the team on his back and succeed. Prescott’s decorated career as one of the SEC most noted dual-threat quarterbacks, Prescott’s inspiring journey after he lost his mother to cancer has been a testimony to many as he looks to continue to support cancer victims while succeeding at football. A great football player and an even better man.

 

Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss, WR, Junior

Ole Miss logoWhen talking to teammates and coaches, Treadwell is simply described as a hard worker. Battling back after the gruesome leg injury in 2014, Treadwell put together a wonderful season highlighted by his team’s win over Alabama for the second season in a row. Treadwell’s inspiration to football players from all over and any citizen of the United States creates optimism and strength with hope to overcome any devastation. His football skills are top notch at the college ranks and he looks to be the top wide receiver picked up in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Arrow Pointing Down for the SEC

The once vaunted SEC has now been relegated to mortal status. It still may be a solid, deep conference, but it was pretty underwhelming at the top. After another down year, the SEC isn’t even the best conference in football, let alone head and shoulders the best. It’s a far cry from the conference that won seven titles in a row. Two years have already gone by without an SEC team bringing home the title, an eternity for fans from the southeast. Unless Alabama can break that streak, it will go to three. Making matters worse is the competition Alabama will face in the college football playoff. Alabama would not be happy ending another season with a loss to Oklahoma, especially this year when it would come in the championship game. But could you imagine if Alabama lost to an under-appreciated Big Ten team or *gasp* an ACC squad in the championship? Any of those results would be the cherry on top for SEC-haters in a season that has been a disaster for the Southeastern Conference.

The SEC, which once dominated the polls, only had one team finish in the college football playoff committee’s end-of-season rankings. The conference’s second best team (Ole Miss) lost to Memphis. To find the next group of SEC teams you have to go down to the same territory for which you’ll find the likes of Houston, Navy, and Temple, the traditional powerhouses that they are.

Pre-season darling Auburn fell flat on its face from the beginning of the year and was maybe the biggest disappointment of 2015. LSU struggled again with an offense that’s quarterback play was borderline embarrassing. Mississippi State lost far too much from their 2014 squad and was Dak Prescott and little else. All of this taken into account, the SEC West was still a prettier sight than the performance of the East division. Florida was a nice surprise but it was clear they were going nowhere fast once Will Grier was suspended. Georgia went into the tank after their loss to Alabama and Tennessee once again failed to live up to the expectation that THIS would be the year they take that next step.

At least 2015 is almost over and 2016 is a new year, right? Thing is, I’m not sure much changes heading into next fall. Alabama will still be good because, well, they’re Alabama. The rest of the division on the other hand is full of question marks. LSU will be the same team they’ve looked like the past few years with a good defense, good running game, and talented receivers but no quarterback that threatens the defense. Mississippi State will be replacing the best signal-caller in school history, and their rival Ole Miss just blew their best chance at winning the SEC. The Rebels have been stacking up good recruiting classes and have another great one coming in, but it will be hard to improve when they likely will lose their best WR, LT, and defensive lineman to the NFL draft. And I haven’t even mentioned Texas A&M, who just had both of their prominent quarterbacks transfer and have been stacking up good recruiting classes and disappointing seasons at a near 1/1 rate.

Just like the play on the field, the outlook for the SEC East isn’t any prettier. Mark Richt may have worn out his welcome at Georgia, but he had the Bulldogs competitive almost every season, and Georgia won double-digit games in over half of his years there, and he’ll be replaced by a first time coach. Missouri and South Carolina will also have new head coaches trying to overtake the dominating SEC West.

As far as the team that represented the East in the SEC Championship, the Florida Gators? I think Steve Harvey has had a better week than Gators coach Jim McElwain. The team looked like a potential championship contender with the aforementioned Will Grier behind center and though they would have had to play the first half of 2016 without him, they could have treaded water until he returned. Recently news came out that Grier will transfer from Florida, so the Gators will have to rely on inexperienced quarterbacks next year or hope they get drastic improvement out of Treon Harris. As if that wasn’t bad enough, RB Kelvin Taylor and WR Demarcus Robinson declared early for the NFL draft. Robinson caused headaches, but he was one of the few playmakers on a struggling offense. Taylor and Robinson will likely be joined by CB Vernon Hargreaves III, who merely became a back to back First Team All-American.

So yeah, things don’t look great for the SEC, which should make calls into the Paul Finebaum Show even more entertaining entering next year. Now there is still a bowl season to play. The SEC could show well and Alabama could win the title. Either way there will be a lot of turnover for the conference going into 2016, and a Crimson Tide championship wouldn’t mean the SEC was still the best conference the same way Ohio State winning it last year didn’t mean the Big Ten was the best conference in 2014.

Feature image courtesy of Jay Clark

Legacy Lines – 11/13/15: A Forgotten Rivalry

Editors note: Hollis Oliver McLain, III (@HollisOliverIII) will be publishing a series of articles throughout the season on some of college football’s most storied programs. This year, we’ve selected Alabama, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and Virginia Tech. On Tuesday’s you’ll get important links about each program (Legacy Links) and on Friday’s you’ll get important story lines and a game preview of one team (Legacy Lines). Follow each of these stories here , and get your latest news when you need it.

The lineup for this week’s Legacy Programs is weak, to say the least. Out of our six Legacy Programs, there were two games that seemed worthy of the Legacy Lines game of the week. These were Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech and Alabama vs. Mississippi State. Since the GT vs. VT game was played last night; I thought it would be better to go with Alabama vs. Mississippi State.

One thing I do want to say is that you missed a heck of a game last night when VT played GT. These two teams battled to the end and Virginia Tech came out victorious. While the end of the game was sloppy, the Hokies pulled it out and are one step closer to continuing their bowl game streak, which is the longest in the nation. The Hokies desperately need to send Frank Beamer out with a bowl appearance, it’s only fitting. The bad news is that Virginia Tech has to play North Carolina before their finale against Virginia.

When I glanced over the scheduled games this weekend, a few caught my eye, but one did so in particular. The Alabama vs. Mississippi State matchup has major playoff implications for the Tide, and for State, any win against Alabama reflects well on your program. So, I decided to make Alabama vs. Mississippi State game the Legacy Line game of the week. I did this partly because of the potential upset, but mostly because this is a rivalry, however lopsided it is.

If you asked Alabama fans who their rivals were, they probably would start with Auburn, LSU, and Tennessee. But, if you posed the same question to Mississippi State fans, the answer would probably be Ole Miss and Alabama.

Although this matchup of SEC West opponents hasn’t been a “rivalry” recently, there is no doubt that it has historical significance. This game has been played since 1896. That makes this rivalry one of the oldest in the SEC. It’s simply mind blowing that there have been 100 meetings in this rivalry.

As I mentioned before, this annual bout is rarely won by Mississippi State. Usually, if a team doesn’t win, then it isn’t considered a rivalry. I’m here to tell you that it is a rivalry, no matter how many wins State has. This series has all the qualifications of a rivalry, and here is the abridged version.

These teams are divisional opponents and they play every year. Not only do they play every year, but they are 90 miles apart, which makes these schools closer to each other than any other SEC programs. You might hear the game referred to the 90-mile drive, or battle for Highway 82, but that’s probably rare. The most unreal stat about this rivalry is that while Mississippi State has only won 18 games, they are tied with LSU for the most wins in Tuscaloosa. All in all, even though this series hasn’t really been competitive, it is a great SEC rivalry. Saturday will mark the next installment in the rivalry, but more importantly, it will help decide where Alabama finishes at season’s end.

Now, on to this week’s matchup. There is only one way the Bulldogs can win this game, and that is through the passing game. Mississippi State’s defense might be able to slow down Jake Coker, but I highly doubt they stop Derrick Henry. That being said, if the Bulldog defense can create some early turnovers, they definitely have a shot. On the opposite side of the ball, Alabama’s front seven is, again, amazing. Yeah, they might not have the pure talent that they usually do on the line, but they make up for it with proper technique. Mississippi State’s running game will serve as merely a decoy for most of the game. The Bulldog’s best chance to win runs through the arm of Dak Prescott. If Prescott can play like the Heisman candidate he once was, then they will be in the ballgame. However, if Dak goes out there and plays any way but great, I fear this one will get out of hand quickly.

At the end of the day, Alabama wins the game, but Dak will keep the Bulldogs in the game for at least a couple quarters.

34-20 Alabama Crimson Tide

 

(Photo courtesy of CJ Anderson/Flickr)

What About Me?

Last season at this time headlines read, “Dak Prescott’s Heisman Credentials Stack Up Historically” with “Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott takes Heisman Survey Lead” and more notably “If Season Ended Today, Dak Prescott deserves Heisman Trophy.” Having the stats to justify his position in the Heisman race, Dak Prescott was creating a buzz in Starkville, Mississippi that has never been present: a Heisman caliber player taking snaps from center with a possibility of running the table in a tough SEC West division. What if I told you that the currently unranked Heisman contender is having a better season than his hyped 2014 campaign? What would you say?

OK, statistically you got me beat. Entering the Alabama game a season ago, Prescott was credited with 29 total touchdowns and 3,010 total yards sporting a 9-0 record. For Heisman hopes, stats are everything and having a chance to contend for a national title is just sprinkles on top.

Prescott Stats

But for the football junkies that are not all attracted by records and stats, like myself, concerning their interpretation of a good season depends on what is done on the field mentally and mechanically on how those flashy stats are produced or how stats can be ever so deceiving. Did Colt Brennan’s 100,000 yard passing season make him the best quarterback of all time? I didn’t think so. But it did give him some Heisman attention and a Sugar Bowl appearance.

Last season was a year for Mississippi State to find out where they were and what they had. Playing in an offense that ran on power runs with Prescott and current Colts running back Josh Robinson with play action fakes relying on Prescott’s scrambling ability to make impact plays on offense. Now knowing the strengths of Prescott and how he can be utilized to his potential, State made the decision to create a pocket passer out of him and it has workout nicely.

Many argued last season and earlier this season that Prescott was just a hot commodity because of his luxurious running ability at the position and his passing skills were just an afterthought. Some truth to that could be justified as the fortunate teams that were able to contain Prescott last season weren’t threatened much by his passing attack. Instead of dodging the visible concerns, why not fix the potential issues creating a greater quarterback version of the once heralded Heisman product?

The goal is to produce a passer that maintains maturity and poise within the pocket giving Mississippi State a prestigious quarterback to operate with.

So far. So good.

Watching Prescott go through his progressions is night and day from 2014 compared to this season while also gaining the ability to deliver pillow soft throws in the secondary. Also something that has become more noticeable this season is Prescott’s trust in his receivers. Junior target De’Runnya Wilson is one of the more underrated players in all of college football and Prescott has heavily relied on him giving him an ample amount of opportunities to overmatch the smaller opposing corners as opposed to last season forcing throws and uncharacteristic throws from a spread offenses without being able to get the ball out quickly resulting in his choice of escaping the pocket and making plays on his feet.

Sure, the stats don’t match up to the gaudy numbers Prescott produced in the memorable and historic season in 2014, but his awareness and overall maturation and ability as a quarterback has improved which is something that cannot be countered. Not having his usual high quality performance at Alabama last season, Prescott is determined to play well and to capture a win against the only team he has yet to defeat in the SEC West.

C.J. Anderson
Photo Credit: C.J. Anderson

“I’ve beaten every team in the SEC West besides Alabama. I want to go do it. There’s no better time to go beat them than my last year in front of my home crowd.”

(Interview with Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger)
—-
Dak Prescott headlines brought to you by…
“Dak Prescott’s Heisman Credentials Stack Up Historically” by Michael Bonner from the Clarion-Ledger
“Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott takes Heisman Survey Lead” by Thomas O’Toole from USA TODAY Sports
“If Season Ended Today, Dak Prescott deserves Heisman Trophy” by Ethan Levine from Saturday Down South

Five You Must See: Week 11

#2 Alababma (8-1) at #17 Mississippi State (7-2) Saturday 3:30pm on CBS

Alabama made a loud statement last week by shutting down LSU completely.  Mississippi State, who’s lost to those Tigers and the Aggies of A&M, has since rattled off four straight wins during the midseason lull in their schedule.  Winning here would give them, Ole Miss and LSU new life in the crowded SEC West race.

This game features two of my favorite offensive players in the country.  Alabama running back Derrick Henry, fresh off a 210-yard, three-touchdown performance, is finally getting some Heisman hype of his own.  Most everyone was focused on Leo Fournette this time last week, but by out-rushing the former frontrunner by 179 yards, Henry has shifted the attention to him.  It’s time for him to follow it up with another stellar game on the ground to let everyone know he’s for real.

On the other side, watch out for (who else) quarterback Dak Prescott.  He’s really the only hope the Bulldogs have in this game.  The senior leads his team in passing and rushing yards, and I’m sure he would lead in receiving too if they had someone who could throw it to him consistently.  He’s also been responsible for 25 touchdowns this season.  For his team to have a chance in this one, Prescott has to go off.

This is the best chance all you Alabama haters have to see the Tide slip up again.  Tune in to hear Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson on the call.

#21 Memphis (8-1) at #24 Houston (9-0) Saturday 7:00pm on ESPN 2

Memphis ruined any shot they had at the playoff by losing to Navy last week.  Meanwhile, Houston’s 20-point win over SMU was much closer than the score suggests.  This matchup will likely be a battle of two great junior quarterbacks.

Memphis’ Paxton Lynch is getting some mention as a top QB in this year’s draft class if he decides to declare.  It’s hard to argue that based on his body of work.  He’s one of eight guys in the country who’ve thrown for more than 3000 yards.  He’s ninth in completion percentage at 68.9.  And with 19 touchdowns on just two interceptions he takes care of the ball too.  A signature game in front of a national audience would validate his high draft stock.

Greg Ward Jr. is just as prolific, though his game is much different.  Ward is that dual-threat that we’ve seen open up the NFL to new possibilities.  At 70.4 percent, he ranks second in completion rate.  He’s the top rushing quarterback in the nation outside of Navy’s Keenan Reynolds who has an unfair advantage, running the triple option.  To average 92 yards per game on the ground as a QB is just sick.  The Tiger defense is going to have to keep a spy on Ward all night if they hope to hold him in check.

All of a sudden Memphis finds itself third in the division, needing a win here and a Navy loss to have a shot at the AAC West crown.  Houston, on the other hand, still has dreams of an undefeated season and a playoff spot.  This is easily the biggest game in the AAC’s brief history.

Oregon (6-3) at #7 Stanford (8-1) Saturday 7:30pm on Fox

Oregon is finally playing well.  They’ve won three in a row, but a fourth will be difficult.  Stanford is really good.

The Cardinal calling card has always been a stout defense.  Now that they’ve added offensive firepower to their arsenal they’re an absolute nightmare of an opponent.  They can, and will, pound you between the tackles with Christian McCaffrey who averages 134 yards per game.  That’s made life so much easier for Kevin Hogan who’s completing 66 percent of his passes now that most of them come off a play action fake.

The Ducks are finally getting the production they need from Vernon Adams, which is good news because they’re going to have to outscore the Cardinal to win this one.  In the last three games he’s thrown 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.  Like McCaffrey does for Hogan, Royce Freeman opens up opposing defenses for Adams.  The sophomore standout has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven of nine games this fall, with a pair of touchdowns in four of those seven.

It’s been a disappointing season for the Ducks but they’ve still got a chance to spoil Stanford’s playoff party plans.  There should be a fair amount of bad blood in Palo Alto.

#12 Oklahoma (8-1) at #6 Baylor (8-0) Saturday 8:00pm on ABC

The Baylor Bears have been waiting to prove themselves all season, but the Sooners have needed to prove themselves since taking a terrible loss to Texas.

This is the first of three gauntlet games that round out Oklahoma’s schedule.   They’ve got TCU coming to town next week and they’re headed to Stillwater for Bedlam against Oklahoma State in two weeks.  All three are huge obviously, but a loss here would significantly detract from the next two.  A quick note on quarterback Baker Mayfield: he’s completing 70 percent of his passes and averaging 10 yards per attempt.  That combination is astounding and needless to say, no one else is even close to that sort of production.

Baylor’s offensive machine is now operating with a backup quarterback.  Freshman Jarrett Stidham has the keys now after Seth Russell was injured two weeks ago.  He exceeded expectations last week against a formidable Kansas State defense.  He’ll need to be even better against hands down the best defense the Bears have seen all season.

Baylor also has a bumpy road ahead with trips to Oklahoma State and TCU, and a game against Texas on conference championship weekend that looks like the perfect opportunity to trip them up if they’re somehow still standing.  The odds are stacked against them, but that’s pretty much what they asked for.  Let’s see how they handle it.

Washington State (6-3) at #19 UCLA (7-2) Saturday 10:45pm on ESPN

Don’t pass out early.  The nightcap should be fun too.

Washington State has been entertaining this year.  At an astronomical 56.9 attempts and 417.3 yards a game, nobody throws it around the lot like the Cougars.  What else would you expect from a Mike Leach offense?  Luke Falk is another one of those guys completing passes at a 70 percent clip, but when you air it out 56 times a game it brings a whole new meaning to the stat.  UCLA’s defense has been banged up all season.  Falk and company will be aiming to take advantage.

UCLA is still alive despite back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Stanford.  They still control their own destiny with games at Utah and at USC after Wazoo.  Sure it’s tough to ask them to go out and win those last two, but that’s what championship teams do.

Josh Rosen has become a must-watch player for me.  He can make all the throws.  It’s clear he’s got the talent.  Now it’s a matter of him progressing as a quarterback, not just a thrower.  He has to learn how to diagnose defensive schemes and figure out how to consistently move his team down the field in order to take that next step.  I’m excited to see if he can do it.

Do the Bruins come out flat and fall on their faces again, or have they gotten their act together?  Stay up late to find out.

SEC Football Teams in the CFP Rankings

Last week we got our first look at the national rankings according to the College Football Playoff Committee. Those rankings included six SEC football teams: LSU, Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State. After an interesting weekend in the SEC West and an ugly win for Florida in the SEC East, things are looking a bit different this week. Two SEC teams from the West have dropped out of the rankings completely: Ole Miss and Texas A&M. That means there are only four teams left in those rankings this week, all four of which are sitting at different spots than they were in the season’s first CFP rankings.

 

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

The Crimson Tide is up a couple spots from where they were last week at number four in the rankings. Do I think this is deserved? Short answer: Yes. But let me give you a longer answer here, too. Alabama is 8-1 and in line to represent the SEC West in Atlanta on December 5th. This committee does not take being the best team in the toughest division of any conference in recent college football history lightly, even if they do have a loss. That loss was to Ole Miss, a team that made the rankings last week only to fall out this week after yet another inconsistent performance. They have wins against LSU, Texas A&M (previously #19), Georgia with a healthy Nick Chubb, and Wisconsin. Their strength of schedule and strength of wins seem to be what sets them apart in the committee’s collective mind.

9. LSU Tigers

After a loss on the road to Alabama last week, the Tigers have fallen to number nine in the rankings this week. I think this is a pretty fair ranking for them at this point in the season. The Tigers only have lost that one game, but they have beaten Mississippi State and Florida. Though both teams have been a little inconsistent, the Tigers still have two of the tougher divisional opponents left to play. In a week and a half they play at Ole Miss and the week after that they host Texas A&M to close out the season. If the Tigers are not careful, they could drop another game and fall right out of the top ten. What remains to be seen is how Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette bounces back from being absolutely dominated by Alabama’s defense last week. The committee still believes the Tigers are deserving of a top ten ranking, but it was made clear this week that they do not have much room for error.

11. Florida Gators

After a win and two undefeated teams losing, the Gators managed to drop a spot in the latest rankings. And I’m not mad about it. A lot of Gator fans that I know are bent out of shape about it, but when I look at the big picture I see everything that played into this decision. Last week was not just an ugly win for the Gators…it was an ugly win at home over Vanderbilt of all teams. The Gator defense showed up to play and so did the kicker Austin Hardin. But it seems as if nobody on that offense ever even stepped foot on the field. On top of that embarrassing showing, the one loss that Florida has just became a worse loss than it previously was when LSU dropped a game to Alabama and Leonard Fournette was proven to be stoppable. With all that being said, the committee clearly felt like there may be a few teams (Stanford, Oklahoma State, and Utah) that deserve to be ahead of the Gators that showed up on Saturday. With a convincing victory this week the Gators could pretty easily pop right back into the top ten. But after last week, the probable doubt in the committee’s mind is whether or not the Gators have enough offensive power to consistently win for the rest of the season.

17. Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have been consistently beating the teams they should beat. But they have also already dropped two games and they still have to play both Alabama and Ole Miss. The committee seems to be giving them a lot of credit for their wins when in all reality they do not have an impressive list of wins. What Mississippi State does have is a chance to make a statement this week, a statement that they can beat a team they are not supposed to beat as well. My guess as for the committee’s faith in the Bulldogs is that they’re watching Dak Prescott rack up touchdowns week after week thinking maybe this will be enough to win tough games. But what remains to be seen is whether or not Dak Prescott is enough to beat the absolutely suffocating defense of the Crimson Tide. A bad loss to Alabama might drop the Bulldogs out of the rankings altogether, but a “good loss” to Alabama could leave them in the twenties somewhere if the committee loves Prescott as much as I do.

 

All these rankings could change again after this week. With a good win, Alabama could perhaps jump Clemson (crazy, I know). With a bad win, maybe a team could jump Alabama. And with a loss, who knows what would happen to them? If LSU beats Arkansas big maybe they can make up a little ground. If the Gators can beat South Carolina with some actual offensive action then they might be able to sneak back into the top ten as well. And I don’t even want to think about how much a Mississippi State win would shake up the current rankings. There are lots of big if’s this week for CFP-ranked SEC teams and I cannot wait to see how they all play out. I will be watching football all day Saturday so make sure to follow me @OGKristenB on Twitter!

Crimson Tide ROLLS over LSU in Tuscaloosa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Hitters

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

Top 4

Baylor
Clemson
Ohio State
Alabama

SEC Football Power Rankings: Week 8

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

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

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