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.
Seth: Play calling.
Kristen: His play calling puts too much responsibility on Dobbs down the stretch.
Seth: What Kristen said.
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.
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?
Damien: Which school represents the West?
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.
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