Tag Archives: Dan Mullen

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

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

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

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

Onward!

SEC EAST 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEC West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For again I say, rejoice!

College football is upon us!

Comment on this story in our free forum.

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It’s Time to Make the SEC Great Again

Any follower of my writing here at Campus Pressbox knows that I am a fervent supporter of the so-called “Make the MAC Great Again” movement. If fact, I am its only supporter.

Like a proud mother, I lovingly birthed the “Make the MAC Great Again” movement just a matter of months ago, feeding it, burping it, cradling it in my arms. And while my love for all things #MACtion will never subside, I must momentarily abandon my precious child. It seems there is an orphan in need, and that orphan is the SEC.

That’s right. It’s time to Make the SEC Great Again.

While the Mid-American Conference was but a shy, forgotten child simply searching for its wings, the poor Southeastern Conference faces far greater psychological damage. Raised by two abusive, over-ambitious parents getting regularly ejected from their kid’s tee-ball games, the SEC was raised its whole life to pursue expectations it couldn’t possibly attain. Everybody pushed the SEC to be the star of its high school basketball team. But really, all the SEC wants is a callback for the school musical.

The SEC bottled up those insecurities for years, even decades. But once the 2016 season began, the SEC could no longer bear it. Last weekend, the SEC appeared unusually shattered and broken, meaning it’s time to pick up the pieces in a step-by-step diagnosis of a meltdown that was the SEC’s Week 1.

It all began Thursday night in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Joshua Dobbs proved his worth as an early-season Heisman contender. Sure, Appalachian State may have joined the FBS only two seasons ago, but that didn’t stop the Sun Belt heavyweights from taking the ninth-ranked team in the nation to overtime. Tennessee’s offensive line volunteered for a shellacking at the hands of a gritty Mountaineers unit.  Even though they escaped with a narrow victory, the implication of an SEC offense only managing 1.4 yards per carry against a Sun Belt squad can’t be ignored.

Then, before SEC Nation could even recover, this happened.

Mississippi State blew a 17-0 lead, and they blew it against another Sun Belt team. Safe to say the #FunBelt wasn’t so fun for Dan Mullen on Saturday, as he should probably be out of a job this morning. South Alabama possessed the ball for 36 minutes and threw for 285 yards, nearly doubling Mississippi State’s meager 143 yards of production. They also incurred eight penalties and missed both of their field goal attempts, but the Bulldogs still could not prevail.

Shortly thereafter, the fifth-ranked team in the country forgot how to play offense. Even with Wisconsin gifting LSU three turnovers, the Tigers’ attack never kicked into gear. One offensive touchdown wasn’t enough to outduel the Badgers in an ugly, defensive showdown. LSU and Leonard Fournette couldn’t overcome their first-half struggles, resulting in a 16-14 loss at Lambeau Field.

Tennesee suffered a gashing on the offensive line. Mississippi State got out-passed by a mid-major. LSU got out-slugged by a Big 10 school. Aren’t all those elements supposedly hallmarks of the SEC?

The bleeding certainly didn’t stop there. Missouri predictably faltered against West Virginia. Arkansas needed a late, go-ahead touchdown to survive Louisiana Tech. Kentucky blanked the entire second half in a loss to Southern Mississippi. Florida entered the fourth quarter locked in a 10-7 battle against UMass- another FBS newbie. Auburn botched every single chance it had at beating Clemson. And as the icing on the SEC’s intervention cake, Ole Miss spoiled a 22-point lead against Florida State in primetime, Monday night.

While Georgia, Texas A&M, and Alabama all registered impressive victories, these were clear exceptions to a dismal rule. Excluding the intra-conference matchup between South Carolina and Vanderbilt (not that anybody cares about Vanderbilt anyway), the SEC went 6-6 in a Week 1 full of both high expectations and terrible competition.

The SEC was favored in nine of those contests. It fared an abysmal 4-8 against the spread. It appears the conference hit rock bottom.

For whatever reason, we keep expecting the SEC to be supreme on the college football landscape. It’s time to measure those expectations. A good conference, yes, but the SEC is just that: a good conference. Its quarterbacks are no better, its schedules are no tougher, and it should be no more guaranteed a playoff spot than any other conference.

Five or ten years ago, in the heyday of the BCS, it might be fair to claim that the SEC cornered the market on skill and talent. Today, when coaches like Urban Meyer inhabit the Big 10, when teams like TCU near triple digits on the scoreboard, and when players like Ed Oliver choose to enroll at Group of 5 programs, that’s no longer a fair claim.

SEC schools should be judged based on the merit of their play, not based on some media-driven pseudo-merit of the conference that they play in.

Those truths might be hard. But only through those hard truths can we begin the conference’s healing process. Only through those hard truths can we remind a bruised and battered SEC that it’s okay to be human. So this college football season, when you find yourself suffering through yet another three-hour dose of Verne Lundquist, take a moment to reflect on a movement for college football fans, coaches, and players across all conferences. We’re all in this together.

Being a great conference doesn’t require yelling and screaming about being great, it requires proving it on the field. It’s time to let the SEC know, because only then can we truly Make the SEC Great Again.

I only hope the MAC can lead by example.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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

Watching Only One SEC Football Game Each Week: Part Two

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

Week 7: #1 Alabama @ #10 Tennessee

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

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

Week 8: #12 Ole Miss @ #6 LSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 10: #1 Alabama @ #6 LSU

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

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

Week 11: Auburn @ #16 Georgia

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

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

Week 12: Arkansas @ Mississippi St.

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

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

Week 13: Rivalry Week

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

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

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

Dan Mullen Giving Jeffery Simmons a Second Chance

The announcement was made yesterday that Mississippi State recruit Jeffery Simmons will be permitted to enroll in school and play for Dan Mullen’s Bulldog football team. This came as a shock to many people because he was allegedly guilty of assault and disturbing the peace back in March.

This was more than simple assault considering that Simmons struck a woman. Here is the video if you would like to view it.

There is no question that Simmons was wrong for striking this woman. This would hold true if he had hit a man or a woman. However, I also believe that, based on what we know, he deserves a second chance. Part of what we know is that he has been charged with nothing up to this point.

The argument being made against Mullen and Mississippi State offering Simmons a second chance revolves around the systemic rape culture that had been supported at Baylor.

Mullen and Mississippi State are not Art Briles and Baylor.

[Merenbloom:  Baylor and Art Briles Live Off of Redemption]

I do not believe that it is fair to Simmons, Mullen or Mississippi State to hold them accountable for what went on at Baylor. Similar circumstances are not the same circumstances. Similar crimes are not the same crimes.

One of the big differences between the situations at Baylor and Mississippi State was that Simmons did not allegedly commit his assault as a student of Mississippi State. I may be splitting hairs here, but this is a distinction that needs to be acknowledged. It is this distinction that makes lumping these two institutions together seem misguided to me.

Another difference is that Mississippi State openly acknowledged that Simmons is a high-risk individual based on the assault accusations and the video that is available. Baylor chose to ignore the allegations and facts surrounding some of its football players committing rape.

Mississippi State not only acknowledged the high-risk nature of admitting Simmons to the school, but the school has also implemented a support system for Simmons once he arrives on campus.

After careful assessment, the MSU athletics department has determined Simmons may be a part of the football team, but he will be evaluated by the licensed professionals at the university’s Student Counseling Services and be required to complete any program prescribed by that office.

Not only is there a support system in place for Simmons, but he is also suspended for the first game of the season. Suspending a player for a game is unprecedented considering that he did not commit his alleged crime as a current member of the team and, do not forget, he has yet to be charged with anything.

None of this seemed to happen at Baylor.

With all of that said, there is no guarantee that the second chance being given to Simmons will be a success. That is completely up to him.

Mississippi State and Mullen have now placed their fate in the hands of a kid. It is true that this is the case with every coach in America, but the confidence that the university and coach have placed in Simmons falls under greater scrutiny given what has transpired at Baylor.

This scrutiny is fine, but making Mississippi State even passively culpable for what happened at Baylor is not fine.

If Simmons assaults anyone while enrolled at Mississippi State, all bets are off. There should be no third chance and people should lose jobs. But to assume that Simmons will assault someone else and make him, Mississippi State and Mullen all guilty of something that has not happened yet is not fair.

Mullen is taking a chance on Simmons and it is a chance that Simmons best take seriously.

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

Photo: Flickr

SEC Links: And This Is Only May

How do you think college football’s Power 5 conferences’ coaches rank, from best to worst? CBS Sports analysts took a stab at this and created a poll in which coaches were rated, one through sixty-five.

In a recent column, I ranked the SEC coaching jobs, bottom to top. But the CBS poll just considers the the head coach and not the entire array of factors that go into making that job what it is.

Let’s take a look at how some of the SEC head coaches fared in the eyes of the people at CBS.

Guess who’s number one? Bingo! Nick Saban. Now that we have the obvious out of the way we’ll take a gander at the more difficult task of slotting the men who rank behind Saban in the Southeastern Conference.

Les Miles is number seven, Gus Malzahn thirteen, Hugh Freeze twenty-one, Bret Bielema twenty-two, Jim McElwain twenty-seven, Dan Mullen thirty-one, Kevin Sumlin thirty-two, Butch Jones thirty-three, Will Muschamp forty-four, and Kirby Smart forty-six. Derek Mason, of Vanderbilt did not poll in the top sixty-five and neither did Mark Stoops, of Kentucky, or newcomer Barry Odom, of Missouri.

Here’s my take on this. I love Gus, but I don’t know if I would rate him as the third best coach in the SEC. I would have after the 2013 season when Auburn came within thirteen seconds of winning the BCS National Championship and he won coach-of-the-year honors on almost every front. Gus has a lot to prove in 2016. We can revisit this after the season has completed.

Dan Mullen has done more with less, at State, than Kevin Sumlin has at Texas A&M. And why would Kirby Smart be ranked at all? The Georgia Bulldogs have yet to take the field with him as their leader.

That brings us back to Kevin Sumlin down in Aggieland. Wednesday was, yet another, tough day in College Station. Their top quarterback recruit de-committed and Aggie assistant coach, Aaron Moorehead, threw a tantrum on Twitter. Moorhead said the de-committment and the Twitter outburst were not related.

If that were not enough, two Aggie wide receiver commits also decided that they would not spend the next few years at Texas A&M.

I, for one, am quite curious as to how all of this will shake down. Stay tuned.

But hold on! We’re not completely done with the Aggies, just yet! Also on Wednesday, Johnny Manziel turned himself in to the proper authorities on the misdemeanor assault offense that he had, previously, been charged with. He was to appear in court on Thursday. As I stated in my Wednesday blog, I truly hope that Manziel’s story ends up being one of redemption.

The land of sin and salvation. Nobody does it better than the Bible Belt and Texas could be considered the buckle of said belt.

Back to Saban and Alabama, it might not be as crazy in Tuscaloosa as it is in College Station, but all is not well on The Capstone. As you probably know, assistant coach, Bo Davis “resigned” recently and that situation has yet to be resolved. Most experts speculate that this will not turn out to be huge and that Alabama will have it contained well. But, NCAA recruiting violations have been committed and penalties, however severe, will be levied.

Let’s move on to the coaches ranked numbers twenty-seven and thirty-three. That would be Jim McElwain and Butch Jones, respectively.

McElwain thinks Jones, and Tennessee, should beat the hell (Okay! “heck”) out of the Florida this fall. Interesting.

Players from the Gators and Vols are also weighing in on the matter. Butch thinks his guys should do this talking on the field. I couldn’t agree with him more.

I will conclude with this. This is all fun and games for us SEC fans, but I’m ready for the real games to begin.

117 days remain until Vanderbilt and South Carolina kick it off on Thursday, September 1.

Ranking the 2015 SEC Coaches

Putting coaches on a pedestal to dissect their each move is what us media love to do. Grading them on what they did right and of course what they did wrong by giving our own opinion as we are the Paul Bear Bryant of all our armchair quarterback strategies serving as the cream of the crop compared to these college football coaches.

Personally, I always try to stay away from critiquing coaching and playing styles because I have my job as a writer and scout and they have theirs both coming with reason (though Nick Saban may think differently on how deserving media analysts are with his own criteria of the position – but that can be addressed at a different time). The times when I throw my benefit of the doubt reasons for the coach out the window is when coaches stray so far away from the K.I.S.S. method and getting themselves into trouble.

Coaches sometimes become too cute (Gus Malzahn) while others are almost too conservative (Les Miles) not getting enough bang for their buck with the players they have on the field. Though you have to factor what those coaches have on the field in terms of what to run but that’s what practice is for.

Coaches, especially at the SEC level, are seen as gods and kings receiving luxuries and royalties when their well-coached team performs well, but once the market slips below equilibrium all hell breaks loose. Here are the top coaches in the SEC based strictly off this season’s performances and how they compare with last season’s results and preseason expectations:

1. Jim McElwain, Florida (9-1 Overall, 7-1 SEC)

Comparing the Gators’ 2014 season to this season, it’s a night and day difference in the execution on the offensive side of the ball as McElwain has increased the production of this once anemic offense. McElwain got gut punched by the NCAA when the news came out about Will Grier’s 2015 playing status, but backup quarterback Treon Harris has filled in nicely leading the Gators to a 3-1 record since taking over. McElwain had the luxury to rekindle a strong Gator defense put together by former head coach Will Muschamp, but even with an offense that looks better on the field they average less points than last season but have decreased the amount of turnovers giving them a chance to win in every outing. Well done, Coach McElwain.

2. Nick Saban, Alabama (9-1, 6-1)

Obviously the best coach in football, but Nick Saban just falls to second place because of McElwain’s immediate success in his first season at Florida. Having the quarterback controversy to deal with for the second season in a row, it seems as this narrative has already been written. This Alabama defense is one of the best Saban has possessed in his tenure at Tuscaloosa and continue to put themselves in manageable situations to win football games not making quarterback Jake Coker have to do too much. It’s another normal Alabama season that has playoff bound characteristics written all over them.

3t. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3)

Having been placed to finish last in the SEC West this preseason, Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs have been quietly effective this season with seven wins. Dak Prescott has been playing better than ever (Alabama game just average performance: 22-43, 300 yards, Int) and the defense has been just fine holding opponents to just 18 points per game. Mullen has this team contending every week and even with a couple of tough games left on the season 9 or 10 win season is not out of the picture. Dating back to the 2014 opener, the Bulldogs have 17 overall wins which is tied for second in the SEC with Georgia (Alabama ranks first with 212 wins).

3t. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss (7-3, 4-2)

Some coaches can’t even take down Alabama twice in their careers, nonetheless taking down the Tide in back-to-back seasons like Ole Miss has. Hugh Freeze has a unique style to his system scoring big and keeping opponents under 25 points. The philosophy has worked and Freeze has coached up another junior college quarterback to help guide his team. With an ample amount of NFL caliber players you could ask more of the Rebels but with another win over Alabama under their belt and potentially a road win in the Egg Bowl, the season will be a success once again.

5. Bret Bielema, Arkansas (6-4, 4-2)

Seeing how the Razorbacks started it’s strange to see Arkansas riding on a four game winning streak with wins over Auburn, Ole Miss and LSU. Hiring former Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos to run his offense, Bret Bielema has turned his run first offense into an effective balanced attack scoring 34 points per game and an increase of total yards per game of 63 to 469. With the recent win over LSU, Arkansas looks to finish out the season on a six game winning streak getting to eight wins for the first time since 2011.

6. Les Miles, LSU (7-2, 4-2)

It’s a tossup on whether LSU has either overachieved or underachieved with a 4-2 conference record. The quarterback position has been in doubt over the past two seasons with the combination of Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings and neither one of them being effective enough to control the outcome of a game. With a talented filled roster it’s expected for the Tigers to have a little more eye candy and firepower than they have produced this season with just a mediocre showing with a couple of potential losses left on their schedule.

7. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (7-3, 3-3)

In his fourth season at the helm, along with Texas A&M’s fourth season in the SEC, Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies were expected to see the Aggies contending for league titles by now with the improved personnel and coaching staff within the past few years. With another underwhelming season, Sumlin’s seat isn’t getting warm but it’s time to get going on the right road because another eight win season isn’t cutting it.

8. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (4-6, 2-4)

Taking matters into his own hands making changes in the coaching staff, Derek Mason has transformed this 2014 struggling team into a black and white difference in 2015 though the Commodores are still in jeopardy of not producing a bowl eligible season. Mason has this program heading into the right direction and could be a quarterback away from bringing back what James Franklin started in Nashville.

9t. Butch Jones, Tennessee (6-4, 3-3)

This was supposed to be Tennessee’s year. Returning quarterback Joshua Dobbs with key skills players and experienced players in the trenches, this was Butch Jones’ best shot at capturing an SEC East title crown but has fallen short with his team collapsing late in games.

9t. Mark Richt, Georgia (7-3, 5-3)

A 7-3 record isn’t too bad, but it’s just the same ole thing in Athens. Mark Richt has created this program to be on a level to compete for championships every season so this disappointment comes each season when the Dawgs fail to even scratch the surface of at least an SEC East title. Richt’s time could be limited in Athens and with the University of Miami head coaching job vacancy it makes an interesting story…potentially.

11. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (4-6, 2-6)

Sure, the expectations weren’t high for the Wildcats this season but falling apart in the middle of the season was not part of the plan. Mark Stoops’ team has dropped five straight games averaging just 16.8 points per game with poor play on all cylinders. The Wildcats can still reach bowl eligibility with wins over Charlotte and Louisville, but Stoops just has two SEC wins in his three years as head coach in Lexington. It’s time to get it done on the field.

12. Gus Malzahn Auburn (5-5, 2-5)

It’s crazy to see a Gus Malzahn offense struggle so much without having a productive player at quarterback and any big-time playmakers on offense (or we just don’t get to see them get the ball much). Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp seems to finally have his defense playing at a high level, but the Auburn offense has not even been mediocre not being able to capitalize in the red-zone. Who is to blame? I’m not sure, but the finger always gets pointed back at the heacd coach so Malzahn takes the fall with the Tigers extremely underwhelming 5-5 record.

13. Gary Pinkel, Missouri (5-5, 1-5)

Unfortunately, long-time head coach Gary Pinkel has to hang up his coaching career for now and it would have been nice to see his team end on a good note, but that’s not the case. Pinkel’s team ran into more than enough trouble at quarterback decreasing its stock value this season giving reason to its 1-5 conference record. The Tigers are possibly now in rebuilding mode, but moving forward with freshman quarterback Drew Lock can be a good thing.

14. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina (2-4, 0-4)*

Well, if you tap out in the middle of season because of losing you’re not going to find yourself at the top of many lists. Steve Spurrier has been rumored to be a sore loser and we may have witnessed just that this season. The Gamecocks have found themselves in the victory circle just once since Spurrier’s departure, so The Ole Ball Coach may have been foreshadowing when leaving, but still at least finish out the season, right?

 

Eagles impressive in Loss to Mississippi State!

Southern Miss(C-USA-West) will take Saturday’s night 34-16 loss to Mississippi State (SEC-West) as a Big Step in the right direction. If a team on Saturday put their first foot forward in the 2015 season, USM gets the nudge. Straight out of Southern Miss playbook was a few sandbox plays that all were a success including an on side’s kick. Most MSU fans thought this game would be a slaughter and had not given to much Credit to Southern Miss or even to the University as a whole. Saturday night Southern Miss gave now 25th ranked Ms. State all they could handle and all they wanted. It was obvious in the second half that MSU opened up their playbook to keep the offense of Southern Miss off the field and the ball in State QB Dak Presscott. Turning point of the game was likely the Goal Line Stand that kept USM out of the endzone.

“Hats off to Todd (Monken) and his staff and you can see what they are trying to do here. Great crowd and environment tonight and I think it is great to play in this in state rivalry. If the people stayed up to watch, I think they got to see a pretty good ballgame.” Said Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen after the win. “The Goal line stand was a huge lift for our Defense and a turning point in the game.” USM Head Coach Monken said “I don’t know if it turned then because it was still 14-10 at halftime. Does it sting? Sure it does. I knew I was going to be aggressive tonight. We weren’t going to hold any bullets back. It is disappointing. I don’t regret it. We are going to look back at it as a staff. It is part of what we do. That is what we get paid to do, make those calls. We didn’t get in. We have to go back and figure out how to do it better. We get down to the one inch line, we are not kicking it. We are going to figure out a way to get it in.”

Junior QB Nick Mullens had just completed one of his 30 passes on a WR throwback to QB play to get the Eagles down to the three yard line and first and goal. USM opted to go four straight times and the heart of the Bulldog defense and couldn’t budge the bullies back. MSU dug in on fourth and goal with everyone thinking that the Eagles may do something different but in the end it was a dive play and stuffed again was USM. How in the world do you not score from first and goal. State was so clogged in the middle with 9 guys in the box that anything outside would have gotten a score. The 100 yard Kick-off return for a TD and a blocked punt (really the kicker just punted it straight into the defender) that gave MSU their first 14 points but certainly you have to score.

Mullens finished the game with an eye opening 311 yards and one TD against the MSU secondary. Mullens did play a little too conservative in some spots and has got to learn to get out of the pocket quicker. But for the most part the QB played a very solid ballgame. “He made some really good throws under duress and we will have to work more on third down plays.” Said Monken. Fans were also pleased for the most part with Mullins but did wonder where TCU transfer Tyler Matthews was hanging out and not playing. Simply put that Mullens did not do anything to lose his role as a starter.

Overall Southern Miss is vastly improved from the past three seasons and will most definitely win some games and possibly make a run at the C-USA West Title. The Eagles played awfully hard from the opening kickoff the the end of the fourth quarter. Hats off to everyone that works for Southern Miss because the campus was Amazing and it was the place to be for a College Football game. The series is over with MSU but there is no Doubt that if you were at the game this past Saturday you saw one great game no matter who you were pulling for to win. It was great for the State of Mississippi and great for both Universites. There is no since for Ole Miss and Mississippi State to go out of State to play other Non-Conference teams when you have Southern Miss in your backyard. It was really good to see USM’s campus with some visitors other than former students at a Football game. A record crowd of over 36,000 witnessed a game that had everything from a Kickoff Return, blocked punt, trick plays, on sides kicks, fumbles and goal line stands.

Next up for Southern Miss is Austin Peay in Hattiesburg. Kickoff is set for 2:30 Saturday at” The Rock”.

Superlatives Part Two: SEC West Coaches

Earlier this week, I shared my list of superlatives for the SEC East coaches. Last season I found that assigning and explaining superlatives was actually a fun way to describe the coaches of the East. Unfortunately, I never got around to creating such a list for the SEC West last season. But this year I made sure to put in my time and I did my research to come up with a pretty solid list of superlatives for the coaches of the SEC West as well. Some may be more serious than others but I definitely expect them all to hold true!

Alabama Crimson Tide

Nick Saban, “Most Likely to be Eclipsed by a New Supernova”

Nick Saban is one of the most well-known coaches in college football in recent years. His fame definitely is warranted when you consider the amazing success he has racked up during his time at Alabama and even his previous success at LSU. A few years ago, many people would’ve easily called him the best college football coach in the nation. Last year, with the return of a talented coach, a new supernova started to rise. This year, Saban will almost undoubtedly be eclipsed by that supernova. Who is this star? Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who now coaches the Ohio State Buckeyes. In fact, he coached them straight to a National Championship last season. What’s even more remarkable about Meyer is that last year he lost not only his starting quarterback, but also his backup quarterback and somehow he still coached Ohio State to victory with ease. (I say with ease because we didn’t hear about any chest pain last season.) While I’m sure Saban will still have a Top 25 season down in Alabama, Coach Meyer will definitely eclipse him this season…if he didn’t already do so last season. You tell me.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Bret Bielema, “Most Likely to Have a ‘Borderline Erotic’ Season”

If you don’t know anything about Razorback football or Bielema himself, then you might not understand the wording I used here. Last year after Arkansas beat Texas in convincing fashion, Coach Bielema had quite the interesting description of the victory. To paraphrase, he basically described their bowl victory over Texas as being “borderline erotic.” He later explained why the victory was so special to him. As a player at Kansas State, he was unable to beat Texas and the Texas program had seemingly been on a pedestal his entire life. So to beat them the way that the Razorbacks did, to him, was “borderline erotic.” Now, how can that term apply to this season? Given that Arkansas only lost to perennial powerhouse Alabama by a single point, they do have a chance to pull off a flat out “erotic” victory there. Even a victory over Auburn or another over LSU or Ole Miss this season would probably be “borderline erotic” for Bielema and the Razorbacks. And with a pretty solid squad returning to the field this season, it’s safe to say Bret Bielema is most likely to have a “borderline erotic” season one way or another.

Auburn Tigers

Gus Malzahn, “Most Likely to Find the Robin to His Batman”

Gus Malzahn has swept Auburn fans off their feet in true superhero fashion. But every superhero needs a trusty sidekick. And it looks like Malzahn may have found just the guy in former Gators head coach Will Muschamp. They’ll be the Batman and Robin of SEC football. Though Muschamp wasn’t successful as a head coach, he has proven to be a defensive mastermind throughout his career. In fact, the only constant bright spot during his time with the Gators was their defensive strength. But even a great a defense can’t save that lack of offensive power. Just like how a great offense can’t win every game, especially here in the SEC, without an equally great defense. Muschamp as his Defensive Coordinator might be just the sidekick Malzahn needs in order to put together a really impressive run in the West this year. Trust me, I know from living in Gainesville during Muschamp’s reign that his defense can slow down any team. Combine that kind of defensive mastermind with Malzahn’s offensive power and they might have something really special going on at Auburn. Almost as special as Batman and Robin…almost.

LSU Tigers

Les Miles, “Most Likely to Rule the Internet”

You might be thinking this is a strange superlative, but if you look into it you’ll find out just how true it is. Though he’s no longer the most followed college football coach on Twitter with Urban Meyer and Harbaugh both about doubling his following, he’s still one of the most popular coaches on the internet. He remains one of the most quotable coaches in the game, often because of his uniquely funny remarks. Case and point, SEC Media Days 2014: “I like us. I like us in every game,” ……okay then Coach Miles. Then during the SEC Media Days this year, LSU standout RB Leonard Fournette wore red pants as a part of his suit…I bet you’re wondering what Coach thought of this. “It’s not that I don’t like red, but I just really don’t like red,” Miles said during his interviews. He also apparently told Fournette that he’d take a can of purple spray paint to that suit if he could. Basically what I’m saying is anybody who knows college football knows that when you put Les Miles somewhere with cameras and/or a microphone, it’s going to be amusing. And these days amusing sound bites like that not only get you media coverage, but also get you followers on Twitter and hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube clips. And I could never forget to mention his…interesting…habit of tasting grass considering the internet may never get tired of that one. Hat’s off to you Les, I actually really can’t wait to see you all over the internet again this season!

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Dan Mullen, “Most Likely to Rewrite the School Record Book”

If I had done superlatives for the West last year, this probably would’ve been one of them. How can it not be? Dan Mullen’s success at Mississippi State has been completely unprecedented. If you look at his biographical page on the HailState website, it’s basically a huge list of different records Mullen has either set or broken during his time at Mississippi State. I don’t want to bore you with that entire list because, trust me, it’s a very long one. Overall, Mullen has transformed a program that was struggling year after year into one that has ended the season with a winning record each of the past five years. Last year was definitely his finest year as head coach, with a 6-2 record in conference play, finishing second in the SEC West, and ending up with a 10-3 record overall. In 2014, his team also went from unranked to being ranked #1 the fastest out of any team in college football history. Last season Mullen also coached one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and maybe the best quarterback in program history, Dak Prescott. Mullen was awarded the honor of the AP SEC Coach of the Year, with good reason. And this year, he returns a good amount of his playmakers, including that great QB Dak Prescott. It definitely seems as though Mullen is well on his way to adding more records to the book and shattering those that already existed in the history of the Mississippi State Bulldogs program.

Ole Miss Rebels

Hugh Freeze, “Most Likely to Be the Mark Richt of the West”

If you read my other list of superlatives, this one needs very little explanation. But in case you didn’t I’m basically saying I think Coach Freeze is most likely to be a bridesmaid, but not the bride. Ole Miss has definitely become a force to be reckoned with under Freeze’s guidance over the past few years, but they haven’t truly been at the top. They’ve been really good, even great at times, but the SEC Championship game has eluded them. Both that conference title and the national title rings have not been placed on Freeze’s finger. I get that it’s a bit quick to expect such a feat in the stronger half of one of the hardest conferences in the country, but he’s still setting himself up well to continue to be a bridesmaid. There’s nothing wrong with being a bridesmaid if that’s your cup of tea…winning a good number of games is very nice. Just ask Mark Richt. But you know what’s even better? Winning an SEC Championship game and even a National Championship game. Don’t ask Mark Richt about that one… My point is, while Hugh Freeze has been good for Ole Miss football, I don’t know that he’ll ever be great. He may just end up stuck in SEC coaching purgatory after another good, but not great, season this year. But who knows? Maybe Hugh Freeze has the potential to be the bride…some day.

Texas A&M Aggies

Kevin Sumlin, “Most Likely to Find the Kato to His Green Hornet”

I promise I didn’t come up with this one on my own. I honestly really don’t know too much about Kato and the Green Hornet. What I do know is that they’re a good superhero-sidekick combination. What I also know is that this combination doesn’t outdo Batman and Robin…it just doesn’t. What does this mean in college football terms? Kevin Sumlin is likely to have found himself a good sidekick by luring Chavis away from LSU, but Sumlin and Chavis are no Malzahn and Muschamp. Analysts have been selecting the Aggies as a dark horse candidate for this season and I understand why. But as far as having a sidekick goes, I would choose Muschamp over Chavis any day. Chavis is very good, but Muschamp is a little better. Sumlin is very good, but Malzahn is a little better. You see what I’m getting at here? Kevin Sumlin definitely made a good move and found a pretty good sidekick to head into this season with, but they’re no match for the Batman and Robin of the West. They’re like the Green Hornet and Kato, less well-known but still pretty dang awesome. (Oh and thanks for the major assist on this one, Dad!)

Florida’s Premature Coaching Carousel

Getty Images
Getty Images

The SEC faces a gauntlet of a schedule this weekend with Samford, Western Carolina, South Alabama, Charleston Southern, Eastern Kentucky, and Vanderbilt (oops, my mistake) all coming from their “respected” conferences. These juggernauts will have their hands full of the overrated SEC teams this week, so I will not even touch on the games.

Unfortunately, with the season coming to a close and coaches getting fired, we can’t help but to already look to next season, right? Will Muschamp is out as Florida’s head coach and Florida has some high profile coaches on their desired list heading into the offseason. Florida has been and always will be a desired destination for any coach whether serving in the ranks of collegiate or professional football. Though recently, the program has simmered down from its elite-like status and has just been average in Muschamp’s final two seasons.

Does that mean this job is less attractive for other coaches? Absolutely not.

To be redundant and state the obvious based off of all the other articles already written, Florida is one of the more attractive jobs in all of football due to the amazing facilities, the fertile recruiting grounds, and playing each week in the best conference in football.

Many articles have been written on who the Gators must get to be successful and who fits the mold of the Florida coaching profile (whatever that means). Here’s my list based off who I believe is not only a great fit, but one that should bring success based on his coaching methods, his ability to recruit, and his valuable experience that could suit him best in the Florida coaching position:

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State Head Coach

Let’s just go ahead and get this name out of the way because we know it’s everybody’s favorite to get the gig. Mullen spent years at Florida already under Urban Meyer and was wildly successful in running the spread with the phenomenal Florida athletes. There, he gained much respect and left Florida to take the head coaching job at State. But what would get Mullen out of Stark Vegas and to Gainesville? Sure, the money is greater and Mullen could shout out some zeroes and it would be given to him, but money might be the only thing that may pull Mullen back to Gator Nation. Mullen and Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley reportedly had a fishy relationship at Florida and it was quickly known that Mullen will not be a candidate for the job.

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 A positive for Mullen staying at State is that he can build off the momentum of 2014 and create a sturdy foundation at MSU for years to come, which is something the Bulldogs have never experienced. It’s a pride thing with coaches and Mullen deserves every right to boast in what he has created and accomplished at Mississippi State, whether that gets him the nod in Gainesville or not.

Kirby Smart, Alabama Defensive Coordinator

Jeremy Foley came out early and stated that he wants the next head coach at Florida to have an offensive mind because that has been lacking during Muschamp’s tenure and the Gators were very successful under Urban Meyer’s revolutionary spread offense. With that said, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart may just be too juicy to pass on. Smart’s defense has virtually been ranked first in every defensive category since coming over from Miami with Nick Saban.

Smart has learned under the best coach in football, but is that enough for Florida? Florida went down the same road with Muschamp and well I wouldn’t be writing this article if he was successful. Smart will be a candidate for the job, but will unlikely reach the final cut due to the qualifications and preferences Florida has already laid out.

 Jim McElwain, Colorado State Head Coach

247 Sports
247 Sports

McElwain would not be the sexy pick, but sometimes that’s the way you have to go sometimes. McElwain in as little as three seasons has completely turned around his Colorado State squad with a current 9-1 record with the only loss coming to Boise State. McElwain was solid at Alabama as a coach and recruiter and could be the sleeper for the job and I would approve, but that doesn’t mean much.

Chad Morris, Clemson Offensive Coordinator

Could this finally be Chad Morris’ big break? And wow, it could come at an awesome place. Morris has flirted with head coaching destinations throughout his short stint at Clemson, but nothing seems to have caught his eye quite yet. This could be a golden opportunity for Morris and his high-powered offense, which is right on the money with what Florida is searching for.

Morris manages a similar offense that Meyer ran at Florida by spreading out the best athletes and running the offense around their best attributes and abilities. This hire would almost make too much since, but the experience as serving as only an offensive coordinator may not be enough.

Other candidates that deserve a look…

Justin Fuente, Memphis Head Coach

Fuente has been named recruiter of the year many times throughout his career while serving as an assistant at many high-profile programs. Fuente wouldn’t be very high on the list, but possibly could be a candidate for many other jobs this offseason, so write this name down on a sticky note and keep it near.

Adam Gase, Broncos Offensive Coordinator

This is a little stretch, but could be a logical choice for the Gators. The 36 year old has only served two years as offensive coordinator for the AFC champs, but his offense broke records in his first season and are playing just fine in his second. Gase served as a graduate assistant at LSU for a few years before jumping to the NFL. Gase’s offense will cater to the speed of Florida and will bring a new swagger to Gainesville.

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Many other names like Gus Malzahn, Jim Harbaugh and even Chip Kelly have been thrown around, but c’mon let’s get real.

 

Gus Malzahn: Wesley Hitt/ Getty Images
Chip Kelly: Strength Power Speed
Jim Harbaugh: Scott Cunningham/ Getty Images

The 2014 SEC West Division Champions Will Be…

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When one begins a discussion of the SEC West it often begins with Alabama. The Crimson Tide has proven their worth over the past seven seasons under head coach Nick Saban. Everyone knows what they have accomplished and those accomplishments have been extremely impressive. They don’t rebuild, they reload. The majority of pundits and prognosticators are, once again, picking Alabama to win the West. That’s fair.
Any debate over who will win the West has to include LSU. The Tigers have won the division three times since Les Miles arrived in the Red Stick back in 2005. They won the BCS National Championship in 2007 in spite of losing two games. LSU has lost a ton of talent to the NFL over the past few years. They lost ELEVEN underclassmen just last year to THE LEAGUE. LSU also just reloads and they have a lot of talent, per usual, but they have to replace their quarterback and fill many other slots as well. This does not appear to be THE year for the Bayou Bengals.
Texas A&M exploded on the SEC scene in 2012 with Johnny Manziel behind center. The Aggies had two very good seasons with Johnny Football as the signal caller but Kevin Sumlin’s team could not capture a division title. They will not in 2014 either.
The two Mississippis, Ole Miss and State, are receiving a lot of platitudes for the coming campaign. They both do appear to have solid teams. But the fact remains that Ole Miss has never won the West and State has only won it once and that was back in 1998. Both teams should make some noise this season and could pull a couple of upsets to make the Wild West just that, but neither will take home the crown. Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen will have to continue to build those programs in order to have a serious chance at a title.
Arkansas. The Razorbacks play what coach Bret Bielema refers to as “Normal American Football”. That phrase is a bit of a head scratcher as many of us are not sure just what the phrase means. Bielema is building a foundation in Fayetteville and the Hawgs will be a better football team in 2014 but they absolutely will not take the West.
That brings us to Auburn. The Tigers will win the SEC West in 2014.
My reasons for picking Auburn to go to Atlanta in December are plenteous and not altogether without bias. But hey, all of us have our prejudices and presumptions, and we often wear our allegiances on our sleeves. Good… let us begin.

Without boring you with black and white statistics that you can find anywhere, I’m going to give you my three primary reasons why I think Auburn will come out on top in the West.
MOTIVATION
This most unlikely aggregation came within 13 seconds of winning the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena last winter. How many people thought that would happen? I think the answer is somewhere near zero. Not even the most blindly optimistic of us even considered that a possibility.
Coming up just shy of a crystal football did not deflate these Tigers. All it did was instill a deep hunger to return to the title game. This is one motivated football team and they are on a mission… believe me. The 2014 edition of the Tigers is a more experienced, and a more talented football team than it was in 2013. They have more quality depth.
In essence Auburn will have a better team than it had last season and that spells trouble for the rest of the SEC, and for the entire college football landscape.
MARSHALL
Now this is where it truly begins to get scary. As good as Nick Marshall was last season, he will be much improved for the 2014 campaign.
Marshall is a freakish athlete with a raging inferno of a desire to win. He is brilliant and deft in commandeering this offense, and he is a magician in executing the zone read. Now that he has had a full season, off season, a spring, and a summer to further grasp the offense, and polish his passing skills, there is no reason to think he will not be the best quarterback in the SEC.
Finally, Nick Marshall could emerge as a bona fide Heisman candidate and could very well be Auburn’s fourth player to bring home that hardware.
MALZAHN
The final, and possibly the most integral, piece to Auburn’s return to the Georgia Dome in early December is its head coach… Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn is, arguably, the best game day tactician in college football today. But as good as he is on football Saturdays, his attention to detail in practices, his relentless work ethic, and his will to win, combine to make him a guy that is extremely hard to beat.

When you take all of the above factors and combine them with a coaching staff that is exceptional, you have a formula that will lead the 2014 Auburn Tigers to Atlanta and, yes, beyond.