Tag Archives: SEC Championship Game

What a Great SEC Football Season! Now Bring on the Bowls!

Ex… HALE…

The SEC regular season has now concluded. Thank you, Jesus! I have rarely been so happy as to see one come to a conclusion.

Oh! Say what? The SEC Championship Game? Puh-leeeeze! Does anyone outside of Gainesville or Tuscaloosa even care? Well, maybe those who are wagering on this Clash of the Titans. An outsider’s tip? Crimson Destruction Machine minus the 24 or 25.

Wasn’t that easy and painless? Now, let’s move on to some…

Musings

September

SEC basketball is underway with its prelude to conference games which begin later this month. It’s December! And the Kentucky Wildcats are the pick to win the SEC. Oops! Sorry! More foregone conclusions.

Back to football. Hey, hey! I hear that collective groan.

Let’s take it back to the opening week of the season with fbschedules.com. This should be fun! First note the missed predictions. There are seven of them.

Vandy over South Carolina. Mississippi State over South Alabama ;). Oh, it gets better. Missouri over West Virginia. LSU over Wisconsin. (I’m beginning to hear cackles). Kentucky over Southern Miss. Auburn over Clemson. And… Ole Miss over Florida State! (That cackle is becoming a solid chuckle, huh?).

Did I hear some smart aleck ask how I did in week one? That’s not the point.

Okay, here’s an excerpt from the article that caused me to raise my eyebrows.

“Because of this, the Commodores could be this season’s team to determine the SEC East champion. Most years saw Kentucky or South Carolina playing this role well, but Vandy may very well ruin one or two seasons in 2016. This team could resemble the Woodyball/Rod Dowhower teams of the mid-to-late ‘90s that would resemble an NFL powerhouse on defense and a middle-of-the-road peewee team on offense. The offense should have more talent than those sad teams of the late ‘90s, but the conference is much deeper today.”

October

Didn’t everyone enjoy this goat-screw? Florida-LSU. Whew!  But in all seriousness, everyone was safe and the game got played, much to the chagrin of the LSU faithful. Go Gators! December third is a comin’!

November

Miss State 35  Texas A&M 28

Arkansas 31  Florida 10

Georgia 13  Auburn 7 (Where is my gun to the head emoji?)

Ole Miss 29  Texas A&M 28 (Wait! It gets better quick!)

Vanderbilt 38  Ole Miss 17 (What’d I tell you?)

Missouri 28  Arkansas 24

Miss State 55   Ole Miss 20 (Boo-yah!)

And the Grande Finale!

Vanderbilt 45  Tennessee 34!

As Pat Dye once famously stated,“Hindsight is 50/50.”

Florida hopes to upset Alabama in SEC championship game

In my best Jim Carey… Just jokin’ with ya! And one from Doc Holiday in Tombstone… “You’re a daisy if you do.”

Actually that is a headline from this November 29th Fox Sports article.

More emojis please! The one that laughs until it cries!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

I know. I know. Someone is raising their hand and begging the question, “What about the bowl season? That’s coming right up!”

Okay. You got me. Before we go, I’ll just give you a few names of this bowl season’s exciting matchups.

San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Ah! Poinsettias!)

Foster Farms Bowl

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl

Quick Lane Bowl

Dollar General Bowl (Hey! When you can’t get Nieman Marcus…)

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl (Ditto above and insert Ritz-Carlton)

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Another order of laugh until you cry emojis, please!

Well, that’ll wrap it up for today boys and girls. And slow down! I know you’re rushing to these bowl sites, or StubHub, to snarf up tickets to one or more of these titillating contests.

God save us.

 

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

 

Auburn is Decimated, Alabama Marches On, Apathy Sets In

I expected my column, this week, to look completely different from what it has now become. I expected Auburn to beat Georgia, ravage Alabama A&M, and set up another epic Iron Bowl (which should be referred to as the Auburn-Alabama game or Alabama-Auburn game). Not gonna happen, as you well know.

I expected to expound upon the great college football season that this had become and set the table for an exciting College Football Playoff. Nope. Who cares?

It has become Alabama and the 127 dwarfs or, as my friend Lyn Scarbrough puts it here, Alabama and everybody else.

Same song. Fifth verse. Or 17th verse, depending on how many phalanges one chooses to employ.

Also, last weekend, Clemson lost, as did Michigan and Washington. And that even further tainted the anticipation leading up to the playoff.

As a matter-of-fact, when I was scanning SEC articles a few minutes ago, I found myself more interested in a column concerning Kentucky’s pasting of Michigan State in basketball than those about football.

And now, I am more eager about Auburn’s basketball game, with Eastern Kentucky, than its football game with Alabama A&M.

By the way, Auburn will not field 25% of its roster Saturday. That number includes multitudinous injuries, redshirts, and walk-ons.

All that really doesn’t matter. Auburn will annihilate A&M and will then offer itself as the next sacrifice at the altar of the Big Crimson Machine.

Yes, I will get my hopes up and pull hard for my Tigers to spring the gargantuan upset, but how many people truly think that will happen?

We’ll hear the same old cliched arguments dragged out yet again. You can throw out the record books! Anything can happen in this game! You never know! Blah blah blah!

If I were a neutral fan, and a gambling one at that, I would take Alabama minus the points and put the ranch on it.

Lord, please make me eat my words!

No, this is not the wide-eyed positive, passionate, enthusiastic me that you have come to expect. This is the realistic, pragmatic me that had the breath knocked completely out of him by Auburn’s performance in Athens, GA last weekend.

That was unacceptable. It was the Tigers game to be taken, was offered up on a silver platter, and Auburn refused to feast upon that golden opportunity.

I do not want to take anything away from Georgia. They played with good intensity and purpose and took what was given them. Congratulations to the Bulldogs.

But, the fact remains that Auburn completely squandered a chance to play Alabama for the SEC West and a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

That is that. It is what it is. And we press on.

Toward what?

Toward an SEC football weekend filled with games like the Auburn-Alabama A&M game. And Alabama-Chattanooga, Georgia and Louisiana-Lafayette, South Carolina-Western Carolina, Kentucky-Austin Peay, and Texas A&M vs. Texas-San Antonio.

And! If the Florida-LSU game hadn’t been so poorly mangled we would be treated to these two barn burners. Florida-Presbyterian (Were the Episcopalians not available?) and LSU-South Alabama.  But now, Presbyterian and South Alabama will play each other!

Can you contain yourselves?

But there’s more. The Florida-LSU game will be played in Baton Rouge, instead of Gainesville, and it will count as a home game for the Gators!!!

Where is Les Miles when you need him? Baylor, maybe?

In another cruel twist of fate, we were hoping to take our granddaughter to Auburn this weekend but the game was moved it to 7:30 PM ET and we didn’t want to get home late, so we sold our tickets. Only to have them get lost in the mail, and I will now have to refund a fine fellow his money.

TA DAH!

Ok! Love y’all! Tip your waitresses! Drive safely! See you next week!

 

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

Can Anyone Dethrone Alabama?

Which team, besides Alabama, has a legitimate chance to win the SEC?

Consider that for a moment.

Ok, here is my attempt at ranking the SEC, top to bottom…

1. Alabama 2. Auburn 3. Texas A&M 4. Florida 5. LSU 6. Tennessee

7. Arkansas 8. Ole Miss 9. Kentucky 10. Vanderbilt 11. Georgia

12. Miss State 13. South Carolina 14. Missouri

Before I start the process, I’m going to eliminate all teams from number seven on down. None of those teams will even come close to winning their division, much less take the conference title.

Now we will take each team, in order, and speak to its possibilities of unseating the Crimson Tide.

Auburn

To quote a snippet from the old Johnny Cash/June Carter song, Jackson; Auburn is “hotter than a pepper sprout.” The Tigers are smoking!

AL.com’s Kevin Scarbinsky weighs in on the matter.

You have probably heard it said or seen it written many times: The SEC is a line of scrimmage league.

Yes, it has to get done in the trenches. Your team’s chances of winning any game primarily depends on how it fares on both lines of scrimmage.

Auburn is playing extremely well in the trenches and if it continues to improve in each game from here on out, it will be very, very tough to beat.

If you couple that with its blistering HUNH offense, you have one lethal combination.

I give Auburn the best chance of dethroning Alabama.

But before the Tigers can even have an opportunity to win the SEC, it must win out and someone else must defeat…

Texas A&M

If the Aggies and Auburn both win out, then Kevin Sumlin’s group would represent the West in Atlanta by virtue of its 29-16 win on the Plains back on September 17th.

Jerry Palm, of CBS, actually proposes the possibility that two SEC teams could make the College Football Playoff in this column.

Florida

It’s simple, on paper, for the Gators. It wins out. It (cough, cough) upsets Alabama in the SEC Championship game. It makes the playoff. Presto!

SEC Country’s Will Miles shares his thoughts on the Gators.

LSU

These Tigers play Bama a week from Saturday. They wins that game and the remaining three games that follow it (Arkansas, South Alabama, and Texas A&M). Alabama takes care of Auburn, and LSU finds itself in Hotlanta.

Mark Heim, also of AL.com, has this to say.

And finally…

Tennessee

The Vols will need help in winning the East. They overcame the Gators, in Knoxville, on September 24th, but they have two conference losses to Florida’s one.

Georgia, Arkansas, and South Carolina are the next three games on Florida’s schedule and one of those must topple the Gators. Presbyterian and Florida State follow as non-conference match ups.

Tennessee finishes with South Carolina, Tennessee Tech, Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. They must win the four games which involve SEC opponents.

John Adams, of knoxnews.com, breaks it down.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, and sports fans of all ages, it appears that we have five exciting weeks of SEC football to be played before the Big One at the Georgia Dome on December 3rd!

Most pundits and prophets, if pressed, could very well concede this thing to Alabama, and that is quite understandable.

But I, for one, am not ready to do that just yet.

That oblong ball has been known to take some very odd bounces and don’t be completely surprised if that’s what occurs before this 2016 regular season is completed.

Stay tuned!

 

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.
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Is Leonard Fournette’s Injury Bad Enough to Make Seth Love Josh Dobbs?

In this week’s chat, I’m joined by a new cast of characters to discuss the Southeastern Conference. We’ll tackle Leonard Fournette’s “injury,” LSU finishing spot, Tennessee’s problems and discuss the SEC Championship Game that is a mere four months away.


Damien (Damien Bowman; Executive Editor): Kristen, LSU has suffered many injuries this camp, and most of those have come in the past week or so, is this injury ‘bug’ something LSU needs to worry about or is this just media hype?

Kristen (Kristen Botica; Deputy Editor – Football): Seems like on the defensive side of the ball it could be something for them to worry about. But as far as Fournette goes I’d say the media is probably blowing that out of proportion, considering he’s basically a college football superstar at this point.

Seth (Seth Merenbloom; Managing Editor): I agree with Kristen. The Fournette injury is being blown a bit out of proportion given who he is. Unless this injury is more than just a minor sprain, I would be surprised if he misses any actual game time.

Bird (Bird LeCroy; Auburn/SEC contributor): If he is, indeed, out for a bit, it appears that his backup is more than capable. Derrius Guice is “an electrifying ball-carrier who has the potential to take every carry the distance,” according to lsusports.net. He averaged over eight yards-per-carry last season. A 5-star. But he ain’t Fournette.

Kristen: Yeah, I was looking into Guice too. I mean, I think it would probably take them out of being a real contender not to have Fournette. But I don’t think their season would be lost.

Seth: If LSU does have to rely on Guice, the quarterback play will be crucial. Guice is probably great considering how well Miles recruits, but he’s not Fournette and won’t be able to mask the potential issues at QB.

Bird: I have them picked to make the playoff. It could kill that.

Seth: Bird, you’re just picking someone other than Alabama. LOL.

Bird: Yes, Seth, the lights have to come on for Brandon Harris.


Damien: Ok, so rotating this a bit away from Fournette, and towards LSU as a team, where does everyone see LSU finishing this year?

Bird: I just had to go with someone other than Bama. The law of averages has got to play out. Don’t they?

Seth: I think LSU finishes no higher than third. They should battle Arkansas for the best of the middle of the SEC West pack.

Kristen: Harris seemed to get more comfortable at QB throughout the season last year. With Fournette, he’s probably fine because they can really put a lot of the responsibility to generate yards on Fournette. Without him, it’d be tougher for Harris. That being said, I’d say they’ll be third in the West this season.

Bird: LSU first until further notice.

Damien: Bird, have you been drinking? The people want to know.

Bird: Not yet. There will be cocktails in about and hour or so.

Seth: I like LSU. I like Miles. I like Fournette. But I wouldn’t pick them as high as our Auburn friend is.

Damien: Seth, this is to you, sticking with the SEC West – assuming you you’re picking Alabama to win the West, which other team has the best chance to knock off the Crimson Tide?

Seth: I’d say Ole Miss has the best chance, but…don’t count Arkansas out.

Kristen: Amen to both of those.

Bird: Neither. The Bengals or Bama.

Kristen: You never know, Tennessee could give them an SEC loss too…and then that opens up the West a bit.

Damien: Kristen – you think Tennessee can beat Alabama?

Seth: Ole Miss has that offense and teams will have to score with them. Arkansas and Bielema have slowly put together a solid, hard-nosed team that will dominate in the trenches and can make just about any game down and dirty. And I’ll take Bielema when it’s down and dirty.

Bird: I got Tennessee over the Tide in Knoxville.

Seth: If it’s close, Dobbs will find a way of crumbling…

Kristen: I do too, Bird. But that might make me just as crazy as you apparently are. Seth, my dad says Jones and the play calling is the issue, not Dobbs, by the way.

Damien: Obviously, I agree that it isn’t Dobbs. Jones is the problem.

Seth: I agree that there is a certain amount of truth to that. But the player has to perform when given the opportunities.

Bird: Damien could be onto something.

Damien: Seth, why do you hate Josh Dobbs?

Kristen: Preach, Damien. Dobbs performed a lot but in the UF game, Jones played to keep the lead, not to win.

Bird: I think this will be Dobbs’ coming out party.

Seth: I don’t hate Dobbs. I just don’t think he’s as good as his fans pump him up to be.

Damien: One player can’t control both the offense and defense, and the players around him have to play up to their ability and those players let him down last year with a shaky line and receivers that were either hurt or pooped themselves when it counted.

Seth: Of course, it’s a team sport, but he’s the QB.

Kristen: So is it always the QB’s fault if he has one or two mistakes when his team loses?

Damien: The Ravens won a Super Bowl with a quarterback that couldn’t do anything, but the defense was awesome. We ignore the great defense and credit the quarterback?

Seth: QBs get the praise when the team wins, so they get it when the team disappoints. Dilfer did what he was asked to do. Dobbs hasn’t done that.

Bird: You know the old adage. QB gets too much blame when a team loses and too much credit when they win.

Damien: Agree, I think some like to put the blame on Dobbs and ignore the other shortcomings of the team. There’s plenty of blame to go around in those key losses last year.

Seth: This is a make or break year for Jones at Tennessee.

Kristen: Butch Jones calling timeouts on fourth down giving Florida the chance to change their mind and go for it killed them in the UF game. Twice. I blame Butch. Bringing out my pitchfork.

Damien: I thought this was on Dobbs, Seth?

Seth: On the field it is. But like we established, Jones asks Dobbs to do much of what Dobbs tries to do.

Damien: What?

Seth: Play calling.

Kristen: His play calling puts too much responsibility on Dobbs down the stretch.

Seth: What Kristen said.

Bird: Ditto

Damien: Now it sounds like you’re [Seth] agreeing with us that it’s more Jones than Dobbs. Did you love him before you hated him?

Seth: I never knew him before I hated him.

Bird: Dobbs does have to execute under pressure.

Damien: Seth – it sounds like you are not on the Tennessee train this year, and Kristen’s dad is not happy, so if not the Big Orange than which team represents the East in Atlanta?

Seth: Ah, not so fast! I am picking Tennessee to win the East. I don’t love them, but it is the East and everyone else is entirely unproven or is just bad.

Bird: It WILL be Tennessee.

Kristen: Georgia is just a huge question mark. And so is Florida’s offense. No better options. They wouldn’t win the West though.

Bird: True and true. Vols can lose two and still win it.

Seth: If it isn’t Tennessee, it’s because someone came out of nowhere in the East to knock them off.

Kristen: Like Florida did last year lol nobody called that.

Bird: In conference, Dawgs will lose three and Gators four.

Kristen: Did you start drinking?

Bird: Hahahaha! No.

Damien: Ok, I disagree with all of you. I believe Tennessee loses to both Florida and Georgia.

Bird: You’re the one who’s drunk!

Kristen: Yeah, because you think they have zero chance to win the east, which is a little much. I think they lose to one of those two but not both.

Damien: I think they have zero chance because they lose to both of those teams and I think that because I don’t think Butch Jones is a good coach when it matters. I don’t think Dobbs is the problem. I think it’s all 100% Butch Jones. Hell, the Vols could lose to Virginia Tech.

Bird: Nooooooooooo.

Kristen: I am a little worried they’ll overlook the Hokies, but that doesn’t matter to conference standings.

Damien: Doesn’t matter to the conference standings, but it matters to the players.

Seth: I think Tennessee learned something against Oklahoma last year. They’ll come out on fire against the Hokies. Whether or not they can carry that fire for a full season is another question.

Bird: There’s so much hype, already, on that game.

Damien: There is?

Bird: Yes! Battle of Bristol. Largest crowd in CFB history.

Kristen: I’ll be there.

Damien: I don’t even think that’s the biggest game of the weekend. Take the crowd and people will watch for a bit, but nah…not the biggest of the weekend.

Bird: It’s not. Arkansas-TCU [is].

Damien: So, there might be some hype around the schools, but I haven’t seen much of it hyped anywhere else.

Seth: I haven’t seen it hyped either.

Damien: So, you’re all in agreement that Tennessee wins the East?

Bird: Yes!

Seth: Yes.

Kristen: Yes.

Damien: Which school represents the West?

Seth: Alabama.

Bird: You already know where I stand. LSU!

Kristen: I’m with Seth.

Seth: Bird, our SEC 411 guest will love you tomorrow.

Damien: Will Tennessee be the first team from the East to win the SEC since Tennessee last won the SEC in 1998?

Bird: Bama could lose 3. Look at that road schedule.

Seth: Nope. Roll Tide.

Bird: Didn’t say they will. No to Vols Damien. West.

Kristen: If they lose to Bama in the regular season but still make it to ATL, I think they win the championship against them. But if they beat Bama at Neyland, Bama gets revenge.

Bird: Yes, Kristen.

Kristen: Too hard to beat the same team twice.

Seth: But if a team can do it, it’s Bama with Saban.

Bird: Although it has happened more than one would think.

Kristen: With how close the Bama game was last year, I wouldn’t trust them to beat UT twice.

Seth: Bama will be fine at QB, will have a monstrous offensive line and Calvin Ridley becomes a superstar this year.

Bird: D is smothering.

Kristen: Bo Scarbrough.

Seth: Exactly all around. Bama has the best talent and best coaching.

Bird: Has been injury prone. Will be interesting.

Seth: Can Bama be beat? Yes. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Bird: Seriously, third-toughest schedule in the country, Bama. Brutal road games.

Damien: Ok, Kristen then Bird then Seth. Last thoughts on Alabama, Josh Dobbs, LSU and Tennessee.

Kristen: Alabama: not a lock, but I’d never bet against them. Too much talent everywhere because of all their top recruiting classes. Josh Dobbs clearly isn’t great under pressure but Butch Jones isn’t calling plays to help that. It’s on Butch more than Dobbs to figure that out. LSU can be decent without Fournette but could only possibly be a contender in the West with him. Tennessee will win the East. Too much returning talent.

Bird: Bama loses two and finishes second in a tie with… with… Auburn! I was happy to see Phil Steele give AU love. Dobbs has an all-star year. And UT goes… undefeated. But loses to LSU in Hotlanta.

Seth: Alabama will keep doing what we’re all accustomed to them doing with Saban. Dobbs will have some magical moments, but will put the team in some tough spots with his play. LSU will be solid, but not well-rounded enough to challenge Alabama. And Tennessee should win the East if Jones gets out of his own way and makes Hurd the focus instead of Dobbs.

Follow Damien on Twitter @damienbowman, Kristen @OGKristenB, Seth @SethMerenbloom and Bird @Autull.

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For These Two SEC Teams in 2016, it’s Atlanta or Bust!

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Sports fans across the USA! Fall camp has begun at eight SEC schools and the remaining six are soon to follow. You don’t have to be force fed politics any longer. The first college football game is less than a month away. On Friday, August 27, the University of California Golden Bears will take on the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at 10 p.m. ET in Sydney, Australia. Say where? Yep! All eyes will turn to the land down under.

Yes! College football is upon us! YeeeeHaaaaw!

No piddling around here. I will get right down to the nitty gritty and make my predictions as to how the SEC will shake down, and there are some surprises. After digesting this column, some of you might think I’ve been on tour with Willie Nelson or, at least, that I have shared a ride or two on the Honeysuckle Rose with the Red Headed Stranger. I wish.

Back in early April, I wrote this column on my early SEC predictions for the coming 2016 season with the promise to re-visit those picks later. Later is now. And some things have changed.

Following each team, below, you will see the prediction for said team’s overall record, followed by it’s projected SEC record.

So, take a deep breath, exhale, and… read.

SEC East

1.Tennessee (12-0, 8-0) The hype is real. The Vols will march through their regular season undefeated and play for the SEC Championship. Will they win it?

2. Georgia (9-3, 5-3) Kirby Smart will have a good debut season and lay the foundation for the Bulldogs to become a championship contender year in and year out.

3. Florida (7-5, 4-4) Gator fans will surely be hoping for more, but reality sets in as Jim McElwain attempts to continue building the program back to its former glory. He will also have the help of the Head Ball Coach as an ambassador and consultant.

4. Kentucky (7-5, 4-4) Mark Stoops finally has that break through season and the Cats return to a bowl game. Look for an upset win over Georgia in Lexington in early November.

5. Missouri (5-7, 2-6) True Son Barry Odom will get off to a rocky start in his first year as head coach of the Missouri Tigers.

6.Vanderbilt (4-8, 1-7) The Commodores will play a lot of teams tough, and flirt with a big upset or two, but will fail to improve on their overall record from 2015.

7.South Carolina (3-9, 0-8) The Gamecocks have a long, long climb back to respectability. Will Muschamp might accomplish that, but South Carolina hit its high water mark under Steve Spurrier.

SEC West

1.LSU (11-1, 7-1) This team is L.O.A.D.E.D. But isn’t it every year? The difference lies in a Heisman Trophy winning season for Leonard Fournette and the re-discovery of the forward pass by Les Miles. Brandon Harris will have the year Tiger fans have been waiting for.

2. Alabama (10-2, 6-2) In my April column I wrote that it would be “foolish” to pick anyone other than Bama to win the division. Then color me foolish. Losses to LSU and Tennessee will mar an otherwise very good campaign for the Crimson Tide.

3. Auburn (10-2, 6-2) Surprise! Surprise! But not really if you consider Auburn’s history of sterling seasons when you don’t expect it. An upset win over LSU in mid-September propels these Tigers into contention in the cruel SEC West.

4. Arkansas (8-4, 5-3) There were just too many big losses in personnel for Bret Bielema and his Hawgs to take the next step up the ladder of success on the gridiron. But opponents better be ready for this dangerous squad.

5. Ole Miss (8-4, 5-3) The looming NCAA sanctions will create just enough turmoil off-the-field to knock the Rebels down a notch on the field. That, in spite of a brilliant season from Chad Kelly.

6. Miss State (5-7, 2-6) The loss of Dak Prescott, and it’s residence in the West, will spell trouble for State.

7. Texas A&M (4-8, 1-7) The problems the Aggies have experienced, many of them inexplicable, will contribute to Kevin Sumlin’s fall from grace in College Station. His days will soon be numbered.

And so, it’s Tennessee vs. LSU for the SEC Championship, on December 3rd, in the last one of these games to be played in the Georgia Dome, in spite of its still being a great place to watch a football game. Whatever. It is what it is.

LSU and Fournette put an exclamation point on the season Tiger fans have been impatiently waiting for since 2011 when it last won the West and the SEC. Les survives and takes his team to Tampa, and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Who will join the Tigers there? No guesses from this corner, just yet anyway.

It’s onward to the first SEC games on Thursday, September 1st, when Vanderbilt hosts South Carolina (look for an “upset” here), and the Appalachian State Mountaineers travel to Knoxville to do battle with the Tennessee Volunteers (don’t look for an upset here).

I cannot wait! How about you?

Tennessee and Florida: the Evolution of an SEC East Rivalry

This month, I was given the task of writing an article about “my” team’s biggest rivalry. This obviously posed an interesting question for me…which team would I be considering my own? If I were to stick with my Tennessee roots, then I would surely be writing about years of Tennessee-Florida matchups. But if I were to decide that Florida is “my” team for this purpose, then there would be no mention of Tennessee and it would be all about Florida playing Florida State. Funny how that works out! I, of course, decided to choose the option that allowed me the chance to talk about both of my teams in discussing Tennessee’s history of losses and their recent rivalry woes against the Florida Gators.

When the Rivalry Really Began

Those woes started about eleven years ago, now. But the real reason this qualifies as a rivalry is because of what happened in the 1990s. Though the teams did play before then, it was in 1992 that the SEC divisions made their matchup a permanent one. Any competitor that stands in your way of the division title is automatically going to be a rival. In the 1990s, the division title wasn’t the only one both teams seemed to be constantly chasing. Between the Vols and the Gators, they took eight out of ten SEC Championship titles during the decade. Not only that, but they also accounted for two National Championship victories during that same time period. It was safe to say that this game always had major implications for SEC football and possibly even NCAA football, as a whole.

If you ask most Gator fans which team is their biggest rival, they won’t say Tennessee. If you ask who their second-biggest rival is, they probably still won’t mention the Volunteers. But if you ask any Vol fan who their biggest rival is, they will easily mention the Gators. I know it; I grew up as a self-proclaimed “Gator hater” in East Tennessee. The only other rivalry that seems to come close is that with Alabama. But the Gators are still public enemy number one. So how did this disparity come to be?

The 1990s, the decade of VolGator SEC dominance, Florida managed to amass a 7-3 record over Tennessee. In the 2000s, they also had a 7-3 record over the Volunteers. And in the 2010s, they’re undefeated thus far and will therefore have the majority of wins in this rivalry regardless of the outcome of the next four games. Obviously, Gator fans aren’t particularly worried about the Tennessee game each year. But because Tennessee has managed to lose to them the majority of the time, and often in close fashion, Vol fans loathe the Gators. Two games come to mind when thinking about why exactly I would hate the Gators so much if I were still only a Vol fan. Their worst loss in recent memory came last year in Gainesville, and their “best” loss (if there is such a thing) came in the 2000s in Knoxville.

Tennessee’s “Best” Loss

In 2006, Urban Meyer was eager to prove himself as the new head coach for the Gators. He came into Neyland Stadium and did just that. But for the Volunteers, this was their best loss in this series. One highlight of this game was that defensive tackle Justin Harrell played his last game even though he had just injured his arm the week before. They also brought everything they had to the field, including a trick play touchdown pass and a great kicking performance. The Vols had the lead for much of the game and they didn’t blow it because of some horrible coaching decisions (I’ll get to that). They blew it because of simple mistakes in execution. To end Tennessee’s chances of possibly mounting a comeback after the Gators had taken a 21-20 lead in the closing minutes of the game, the Gators needed a big play. That’s just what they got when Reggie Nelson got an interception, allowing the Gators to eventually run out the clock.

The fact that they played such a close game with the eventual national champions is not something shameful. Think about how different things would have been that season if the Vols had been able to win on a last-minute field goal. The Gators would’ve been 6-2 in SEC play and the Vols would’ve been 6-2 as well. Since the Vols beat the Gators, they would’ve been the team representing the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game and would’ve gotten another shot at Arkansas (one of their two SEC losses). If the Vols had beaten Arkansas this time, then who knows how the season would’ve ended. Not to mention, Urban Meyer wouldn’t have gotten the same momentum over the Vols and the current win streak for the Gators would only be at a maximum of eight games, not eleven. There was another loss more recently that I would consider their “worst” loss in this rivalry, though.

Tennessee’s Worst Loss

Last year the Volunteers came into the season surrounded by more hype than they had seen in years. When Tennessee traveled to Gainesville, FL to play the Gators, many people knew that this game could possibly decide who took the SEC East title. Those people were right. Tennessee seemed to be clicking on all cylinders and the game was all but over. But then, the Gators managed to mount a stunning comeback. Butch Jones only helped the Gators in their comeback quest by calling timeouts at moments when Florida Coach Jim McElwain could really use those timeouts to his team’s advantage. The Gators capitalized on the opportunities they were given and were leading 28-27 with very little time left. The Vols were able to get in field goal range and missed not one, but two tries at what would’ve been the game-winning field goal. That is just the epitome of a terrible loss.

Again, think about how differently the season would’ve panned out if the Vols hadn’t choked in this game. Once again the Gators would’ve been 6-2 in SEC play and the Vols would’ve finished at the same mark with the tiebreaker. They would’ve headed to the SEC Championship Game for a rematch against Alabama, a team they played very tough just a few weeks prior. Tennessee could’ve beaten Alabama and the end result of their season would’ve been entirely different. The Vols did manage to run over Northwestern in their bowl game, but imagine if they had been able to squeak into the New Year’s Six instead. All of that opportunity was lost because of poor timeout usage by Jones and some pretty pitiful kicking.

Twelve in a Row?

This year, the rivalry may prove to be relevant to the NCAA as a whole again. But that only holds true if Tennessee can make this a true rivalry again by winning a game for the first time eleven years. While Florida seems to still be somewhat of an unknown with a new QB and the loss of some defensive starters, Tennessee has everything it could possibly need to make a great run in the SEC East. Once again, this game is likely to be the one that decides the SEC East champion. That fact alone automatically makes this a fantastic rivalry to witness. And if the Vols want the Gators to respect this rivalry the way they do, then they’ll need to bring everything they have for an entire four quarters of football this season. This journey back in time proves that just one bad quarter in this rivalry can ruin a whole season.

E-mail Kristen at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ogkristenb.

SEC Links: We Ain’t So Dumb

Good day sports fans! Here is week two of our SEC Links. In spite of it being the “off-season” there is always some good SEC football to talk about. People like Jim Harbaugh actually ease the burden of assembling discussion-worthy material and he doesn’t even coach in the SEC. But he has pissed a lot of SEC coaches off, hasn’t he? Speak ye of the devil…

I understand where Finebaum is coming from on this matter but I also understand that he has to fill a lot of air time banging his gums on the SEC Network. No one stirs the pot better than Ole Big Ears and he does a fine job of it here. But guess who continues to get lots and lots of press? Correct! Mr. Khaki Pants himself.

And we continue along this line with Ole Miss coach, Hugh Freeze, weighing in on the subject after Harbaugh called him out.

I have to agree with Blindside on this one and I don’t blame him. These satellite camps can certainly throw a monkey wrench into your dead period for recruiting. Now everybody take a deep breath and… chill. Of course that is easier said than done when you’re getting paid $4 million dollars a year to win football games. You had better cry for yourself because no one out here in middle-classville is going to do so.

Ok! Just one more please! Some Pac-12 head honchos weigh in on the matter and Stanford’s football CEO says our SEC football players are dumb.

Stanford is most definitely an elite school in the academic arena and they are pretty darn good on the gridiron, as well. But that is also an elitist attitude on the part of coach David Shaw. You know what we used to say about such folks on the elementary school playground? “Smarty pants, smarty pants, lay you britches on a mat!”

Ah yes, coaches and coaching. Ultimately they put up or shut on the field of play. How do the SEC coaching staffs rank in order of their abilities? This piece attempts to sort them out from fourteen through one.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2632543-sec-football-ranking-every-team-by-2016-coaching-

Alabama’s staff surely appears to be the best. Duh! Florida second? I don’t think so. A&M third? Nope. I’ll take Georgia, LSU or Ole Miss over the Gators or the Aggies. Butch Jones has assembled a very nice group also. Mississippi State at twelve behind South Carolina and Kentucky? Mullen and company were the number one team in the country, for a few weeks, back in 2014, and what on earth has Will Muschamp proven? And the Stoops group? Nope.

Continuing along the line of coaches. If you read last week’s column you might remember that I posted an article about Auburn and Alabama as candidates to move to the East as realignment talks are in the works. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn shares his thoughts on the Tigers openness to that possibility. I am all in. I thought Auburn should have been in the East, as they volunteered to do, when the divisions were contrived. It makes even more sense now. Missouri in the East is crazy.

And finally! I know! I Know! Hold the applause. We bring you to the subject of SEC teams playing FCS opponents. You see it every year dotting the landscape of SEC schedules. South Carolina vs. Wofford, Auburn vs. Jacksonville State (oops! Almost a major bust), Alabama vs. The Sisters of Mercy, etc.

Personally, I do not like these games. You don’t have to play another Power 5 team. I wish they would, or schedule a ninth SEC game. They could at least play FBS teams within their respective states. Alabama could play UAB, Auburn could play Troy, Tennessee could play Memphis, Texas A&M could play any number of schools. Keep it in the state. Those games surely generate more interest than say Florida vs. New Hampshire.

Well, there’s your dose of SEC links for this week. Chew on those for a bit and we’ll be back here with more from the best conference in the FBS, the SEC.

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

SEC Football: Yesterday and Today

Last week I introduced myself to you as your SEC blogger for Campus Pressbox. I know that was exciting. Try to contain yourself. We’re only in week two and I don’t want you to peak even before all of the spring football games have been played. I’m not going to rehash any of those drama-filled debacles for you in this space, that is unless you need a good sleep aid. Just turn on the SEC Network, record one of those barn burners and play it near your bedtime. The sandman will be pounding you into submission before the first quarter has come to completion. A good night’s rest is very important.

We now move on to a short history lesson. Where else can one get all of this, and more, in a thousand words or less? Exactly!

Follow me deep into the bowels of the Library of… Ok, nooooo, just into that bastion of academia, Wikipedia.

“The SEC was established on December 8 and 9, 1932, when the thirteen members of the Southern Conference located west and south of the Appalachian Mountains left to form their own conference. Ten of the thirteen founding members have remained in the conference since its inception: the University of Alabama, Auburn University, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University (“LSU”), the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”), Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University.

The other charter members were:

The University of the South (“Sewanee”) left the SEC on December 13, 1940, and later de-emphasized varsity sports. It is currently a member of the Division III Southern Athletic Association.
Georgia Institute of Technology (“Georgia Tech”) left the SEC in 1964. In 1975, it became a founding member of the Metro Conference, one of the predecessors to today’s Conference USA. Georgia Tech competed in the Metro Conference in all sports except football, in which it was independent (the Metro did not sponsor football). In 1978, Georgia Tech joined another Southern Conference offshoot, the Atlantic Coast Conference, for all sports, where it has remained ever since.

Tulane University left the SEC in 1966. Along with Georgia Tech, it was a charter member of the Metro Conference. Unlike Tech, however, Tulane remained in the Metro Conference until it merged with the Great Midwest Conference in 1995 to form Conference USA. Tulane remained an independent in football until C-USA began football competition in 1996. Tulane left C-USA in 2014 for the American Athletic Conference.”

“Sewanee! How I love you! How I love you! My dear old Sewanee!!!” I do Al Jolson too! And hey, folks, it’s free!

Did I hear a cackle? Harrumph! “I didn’t get a harrumph out of you!” $1 to Blazing Saddles.

In 1899 Sewanee recorded a sterling record of 12-0. Not only that, but they outscored their opponents 322-10! The lone team to score on them was Auburn, War Damn Eagle!, with John Heisman at the helm.

The “Iron Men”, as Sewanee was affectionately known back then, dominated Southern Conference football.

There’s more! The “Iron Men” won five road games in six days that season!!!

Now, speaking of former SEC teams, how many of you knew that Georgia Tech and Tulane used to play in the SEC? And how well have these teams done since their departure? MmmmHmmm.

How many of you know that Missouri is in the SEC? Don’t snicker! When was the last time Georgia won the Easy and played in two consecutive SEC Championship Games?

I do soooo love having a third team of Tigers in the conference, but I also seem to often come up with thirteen when counting up the total number of SEC squads; or I come up short of seven teams when counting the Easy. (Dang! I keep hitting the “y” key instead of the “t” key when referring to the “other” division in the SEC.)

I thought I heard groans from fans of the teams in said Easy. Alrighty then! When was the last time a non-West division team won an SEC Championship Game? I can hear Jim Morrison even now, “The west is the best.” Name that song!

OK! OK!, in the spirit of fairness, when was the last time Ole Miss won the West?

When was the last time Mississippi State won the SEC?

When was the last time Arkansas won the SEC?

(Now don’t forget! We’re talking football here. God bless the non-revenue sports. I’ll say ten ‘Hail Marys’ and ten ‘Our Fathers’. Wink wink. I’m not Catholic, but I did date one once.)

Aggies, you get a mulligan.

Vanderbilt and Kentucky, your baseball and basketball teams get you a mulligan. You may pass ‘Go’ and collect your bowl money, and it’s a helluva lot more than $200.

Well, that’s all we have time for, today, boys and girls! Say your prayers and eat your vegetables. And whatever you do, join us here, again, next week. Same Bat Time! Same Bat Channel!

Adios!

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

Featured Image: Wikipedia

Alabama Dominates Florida in 2015 SEC Championship Game

Florida is good, but they weren’t today against Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Their offense was non-existent tonight and it shows the disparity between Alabama and everyone else.

Buckeyes fans were hopeful that Alabama could be knocked off by Florida but they didn’t stand a chance. Frustration came across in the fourth quarter through a pair of personal fouls against the Gators and there was little Jim McElwain could to turn the tide.

Thats really the story of the second half. And the first half.

Florida’s sequence of possessions: punt, safety, missed field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt.

(I think the Gators just punted again.)

So, while Florida’s Jim Mcelwain has certainly earned the Bear Bryant coach of the year award, his Gators simply got their ass kicked by Alabama tonight in Atlanta.

What’s next for Alabama?

https://twitter.com/tomfornelli/status/673302194091724800

We’ll find out this weekend where and who Alabama will play in the playoff. Unless Clemson loses against North Carolina, I expect Clemson to remain No. 1. That likely means that the Crimson Tide will play in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

What’s next for Florida?

Florida will likely play in the Sugar Bowl (yes, the best bowl) against a Big 12 team – which at this point has to be TCU.

What felt obvious in the first half is that Florida was happy to be in the game and only in Atlanta to cash a paycheck. But they showed signs of life in the second half, but it was too little too late.

For Ohio State fans they’ll need North Carolina to beat Clemson handily to maybe get back into the top four, but the likelihood of that happening appears between slim and none.

Nick Saban solidified his place as the best coach in the modern era, but it would be hard to ignore the likes of Urban Meyer creeping up on him.

Photo: Bird LeCroy/Campus Pressbox

The Alabama Crimson Tide Will Feast on Florida Gator

Alabama is getting ready to appear in its 5th SEC championship game of the Nick Saban era. Saban’s teams are 3-1 in these games with the most recent appearance being last year when the Crimson Tide steam rolled the Missouri Tigers by a score of 42-13.

This year’s opponent in Atlanta will be the Florida Gators. The Florida Gators will head back to Atlanta for the first time since 2009 when they lost to Alabama by a score of 32-13. Led by Jim McElwain, this is a teacher versus pupil matchup.

Do the Gators stand any chance to win this game? Hell no. What McElwain has done in his first year in Gainesville is simply remarkable, but the run stops on Saturday. This game has a similar feel to Alabama’s game with Missouri last year. Like Missouri, the 2015 Florida team has a strong defense. As for the offense? Well this Florida offense makes the 2014 Missouri offense look like a juggernaut.

As we all know, Alabama golden boy Kirby Smart has accepted the head coaching position at Georgia. With this promotion in hand, all signs point towards Nick Saban running the defensive show for Alabama this Saturday. Should this give the Florida offense room for optimism? Hell no.

Under Smart’s leadership, the defensive numbers for Alabama have been staggering since 2008.

Here’s the thing: Smart was the defensive coordinator, but this is Saban’s beast. I do not expect a let down from this Crimson Tide defensive unit. The defensive system isn’t going to change because Smart is no longer there and the players are all the same, top of the heap athletes that have been their forever.

Even if Florida still had Will Grier suiting up at quarterback, this would still be an uphill battle for the Gator’s offense. Just imagine the Vines that the Grier family could have produced off of this game. But it just wasn’t meant to be. The world will be deprived of that gift that keeps on giving.

Treon Harris and the Gator offense were non-existence this past Saturday against Florida St. with the final score being 27-2. 2 points is what the Gators mustered and, being the smart football fans you are, you know that the offense cannot score 2 points. Florida offense managed just 262 yards of total offense with 0 points.

Florida St. is good but Alabama is better. What should the Gators expect to produce offensively on Saturday? The answer is that they shouldn’t expect to produce much at all.

I expect two things from this game. The first being a virtual blood bath administered by Alabama. Who likes barbecued Gator? Nick Saban, that’s who. The second being a Verne and Gary slobber fest over Alabama, Saban and Smart. Slobbering from these two usually comes with an hourly rate and is considered legal only in Nevada.

If there was ever a time that Alabama thought they needed a statement game, this is it. Whether or not they admit it, last year’s loss to Ohio St. has to still sting. You know, the whole SEC versus everyone else narrative. The SEC championship game is when Alabama’s season truly starts and the Gators are a mere fly on their windshield.

Not only does Alabama as a team need to make a statement, but I also believe that Saban will be making this game and the playoffs a personal statement of his own. If he does indeed choose to go to the NFL after this season, how great would another trophy look on his mantle? To win a 5th national championship would be poetic for him. It would be poetic because it would give Saban the same number of national championships as Bear Bryant.

That would be one helluva way to ride off into the Alabama sunset.

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

Photo: Lloyd/Flikr