Tag Archives: SEC East

Proof We Aren’t Always Right About College Football

At the end of any given football season, I always love going back through my articles and checking out all the brilliant things I said throughout the year. Then, when I come across all the completely dumb things I said, I enjoy that part even more. Laughter is good for the soul.

So, first of all, let me brag to you about the things I said that have turned out to be absolutely brilliant in retrospect. I don’t get to brag about being right about football too often, so let me have my moment.

April 2016:

“SEC East Sleeper: Remember the Gators” This was a title for one of my articles early in the year.

May 2016:

“This year, I am still cautious about all the optimism surrounding the Tennessee football program.” Good call here, even if my dad was convinced otherwise.

“With the return of Mike Williams from injury, Watson should have a great target downfield for those longer plays.” Deshaun Watson proved to be a huge asset in Clemson’s championship game, but so did Mike Williams.

“I would not be surprised to see a Heisman winner from an ACC football program this year.” It may not have been Deshaun Watson, but the Heisman winner was from the ACC.

August 2016:

“And as much as I ride for SEC football, I have to admit I do expect the Seminoles to come out victorious.” This was the one SEC game I really wanted to see during week one, even if I did expect Ole Miss to drop this game.

“Do I expect Ole Miss to get its third victory in a row in this series? No, but I do anticipate a very interesting football game.” This came from that same article and was referring to watching Alabama’s trip Ole Miss. I was right about this year, even though Ole Miss had given Alabama trouble lately.

“They’ve actually won eleven in a row in this rivalry…but who’s counting? This year I truly do expect that winning streak to come to an end.” This is yet another gem from that same article about watching only one SEC football game each week. Tennessee had been hitting a huge mental roadblock in the Florida game–until this year.

September 2016:

“ACC football is not to be taken lightly this season.” Early in the season, I warned everyone to give ACC football some respect this year. After the conference’s bowl season performance, it was definitely earned.

“To be totally honest, at this point the regular season is just Alabama getting warmed up for its playoff appearance.” This came from my Alabama-Ole Miss smackdown piece, but really was not an exaggeration at all.

“Florida’s offense is still nothing special.” Although this was from my smackdown piece before the Florida-Tennessee game, it turned out to be very true. No surprise there.

October 2016:

“I know the Auburn Tigers are ranked a little below the Arkansas Razorbacks, but they’re going to beat them anyways.” Yet another smackdown piece that proved to be correct.

December 2016:

“It will be funny to see Great Value DBU shut down the Heisman winner though. I must say…” This was a personal tweet referring to LSU shutting down Lamar Jackson, which did eventually happen.

So I was right, at least to some extent, pretty often. But what I hope you’ll find much more amusing is all those really stupid things I said. Maybe my sense of humor is strange, but I thought some of these were pretty hilarious.

May 2016:

“If Mark Richt can do that, they could have a very impressive non-conference win in his first season as head coach.” I really thought Miami’s trip to South Bend would be a noteworthy non-conference game this season. Unfortunately, beating Notre Dame wasn’t exactly an impressive feat.

August 2016:

“But if the Vols do get that win then it’s safe to say they are national contenders and Alabama better watch out for them in a couple weeks.” Remember when everyone thought the Vols were potential national contenders before the season even started? I bought into that hype when discussing how I wanted to watch the Vols play at Georgia in Week 5 of SEC football.

“I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to win at home over the Crimson Tide.” I wanted to watch the Alabama-Tennessee game in Week 7 if I could only watch one SEC game. Poor choice there.

September 2016:

“Labor Day is just a welcomed day off from both work and school for most people. But for Ole Miss this year, it’s the day [it takes] down the Florida State Seminoles.” From a Smackdown Friday piece so I didn’t really mean it. But still hilarious. Plus, that whole article was hilarious if you like hating on Florida State.

“…if I had money to bet I’d be putting it all on the Tennessee Vols to win the SEC East right now.” It’s a good thing I was broke. I would’ve wasted a lot of money thinking that the Vols were really going to win the SEC East.

“I hate to break it to Clemson fans, but Lamar Jackson is about the shatter your hopes and dreams.” This Smackdown was off. Lamar Jackson did take Deshaun Watson’s Heisman trophy. But Clemson still lived out its dream of winning a national championship again.

October 2016:

“Coastal Division Is Worse for ACC Football than East Is for SEC Football” Even just the title of this article is off. After bowl season, there’s not much that can be said for the SEC East, aside from Florida and Tennessee.

November 2016:

“It’s not that the Razorbacks can’t beat the Gators. It’s just that they won’t.” Another Smackdown Friday article gone wrong. The Razorbacks could and did beat the Gators–in convincing fashion.

E-mail Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

Picking Up the Pieces of the 2016 SEC Football Season

The championship games are now in the book as well as a few straggling regular season games. Army-Navy remains. That being said, let’s do some housekeeping and tidy up a few odds and ends concerning the SEC.

First, we’ll saunter back to SEC Media Days and review how the scribes’ picks turned out.

As you see in this article, Alabama was picked to win the SEC West and Tennessee was the choice to represent the SEC East in Atlanta. Alabama, obviously, held up their end of the deal but the Vols did not. The Florida Gators managed to take the division by default. The Crimson Tide steamrolled the West in dominant fashion. They won their division by three games over who? The Auburn Tigers.

Auburn was picked not second, or third, of fourth, or fifth. They were picked sixth in the West behind LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Arkansas.

Bravo for the Tigers! And they were rewarded with a trip to the Big Easy and the Sugar Bowl. They will take on Big 12 champion, Oklahoma. It could be one of the better games of the entire bowl season. More on that, and other bowls, in later columns.

What about the cellar dwellers? South Carolina was the choice to bring up the rear in the East, but the Gamecocks, modestly exceeded expectations and came in fourth. Missouri had the distinction of finishing last in the “Easy.”One of the Mississippi teams was tagged by the media to sink to the bottom in the grueling West. But it was the Bulldogs of Mississippi State that was chosen for that “honor.” Ole Miss, much to the surprise of most every football fan in the country, plummeted to the number seven spot while predicted to come in third.

Here is a complete look at how the standings shook down in 2016.

Here is how the media sized up the All-SEC selections.

And here are the coaches’ choices (the only one we have when this article was composed) for All-SEC.

Glaring discrepancies on the first team offense? Chad Kelly at quarterback, Leonard Fournette at running back, Nick Chubb at running back, Calvin Ridley at wide receiver, and O.J. Howard at tight end.

Jalen Hurts, Kamryn Pettway, Derrius Guice, ArDarius Stewart, and Evan Engram took those slots.

Defense? As you peruse the lists you will note that things went pretty much as expected. Good job media!

The coaches individual award winners on offense, defense, and coach went to Jalen Hurts, Jonathan Allen, and Nick Saban. As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!”But, in all fairness, who’d a thunk Jalen Hurts would walk off with the offensive player of the year? No one could have seen that coming.

In this interim, between the regular season and bowl season, and beyond, there are some questions we look forward to seeing answered.

What will the NCAA decide in the way of punishment for Ole Miss?

Will Nick Saban retire? (Wishful thinking)

What underclassmen might surprise us by succumbing to the lure of dollars and the NFL?

How hot is Butch Jones’ fanny?

Kevin Sumlin’s?

Will Lane Kiffin take a head coaching position? (More wishful thinking)

How about Rhett Lashlee?

Will Jim McElwain ever find a quarterback?

Will Gus Malzahn?

Will Kirby Smart be a bust?

Will Barry Odom?

Who might be the next Jalen Hurts or Kamryn Pettway?

Is anyone capable of bridging the gap between Alabama and everybody else?

And… is the SEC still the top of the heap in the world of college football.

The bowl games are upon us and, with their conclusion, the season of 2016 will be but a memory.

What does 2017 hold for us as college football fans?

In the words of a wise man… we shall see.

 

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

 

Hokies’ Justin Fuente Proved He Was Last Year’s Best Hire

Now that the season is over, I can confidently say that Justin Fuente is my pick for best head coaching hire after last season. The Virginia Tech Hokies have become (somewhat) relevant this season and that isn’t just a fluke.

The Hokies finished the regular season at 9-3, winning the ACC Coastal Division. Granted, winning the ACC Coastal is about the equivalent of winning the SEC East these days. But I’ll get to my SEC East comparison. Virginia Tech then went on to lose in a pretty close game to Clemson at the ACC Championship in Orlando.

Virginia Tech beat UNC, Miami, Pitt, Duke, Notre Dame and a few other opponents. Who did it lose to? Virginia Tech’s three regular season losses were to Tennessee, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. Syracuse is the least excusable loss of the three. And you can blame the Tennessee and Georgia Tech losses almost entirely on turnovers.

In fact, I was at that Tennessee game. I remember just how sloppy it was. Virginia Tech outgained Tennessee by 70 yards, had the ball for two and a half minutes longer and had five more first downs than Tennessee did. But because of the Hokies’ five turnovers (and the Vols’ one), they fell to Tennessee in what turned out to be a bit of a rout.

Virginia Tech outgained Georgia Tech by almost 100 yards and had ten more first downs than the Yellow Jackets did. But Virginia Tech lost by ten points after giving up four turnovers. Georgia Tech only gave up one.

The Syracuse game is a bit of a different story. The Hokies only had one more turnover than the Orange did. But Syracuse quarterback channeled his inner Lamar Jackson and had 311 yards passing as well as 106 yards on the ground.

Aside from these three hiccups, the Hokies really did have a great season under first-year head coach Justin Fuente. Transfer quarterback Jerod Evans may not have been a Cam Newton, but he did what Fuente needed him to do. He racked up over 3,000 passing yards and also led the team in rushing yards.

Compare this to last season when Virginia Tech finished in a tie with Duke for fourth place in the ACC Coastal and you’ll see why I’m impressed. The Hokies, in one year, went from being 4-4 in conference play and unranked to being 6-2 in conference play and ranked somewhere in the Top 25 depending on which rankings you look at.

Just like it was miraculous for Jim McElwain to take the Florida Gators from 4-4 in the SEC to 7-1 last season, it was nearly miraculous for Fuente to do what he did with the Hokies this season. And just like I was anxious to see what McElwain would do this season, I’m very anxious to see what Fuente could do next season.

Now, I know he won’t be the national coach of the year. Some other coaches had even more success this season on a national level. But Fuente’s ACC Coach of the Year honor is well deserved. And of course I think calling him the best first-year head coach for a program is equally well deserved. Heck, I almost wish Florida had held out another year so we could have gotten Fuente instead.

What Fuente did for the Memphis Tigers football program in his four years there was incredible. And it seems like he’s on track to make equally incredible strides with his Hokies.

So here’s to you, Justin Fuente. You may not have the same name recognition as some of these other coaches, but you are truly a coach to keep our eyes on over the next few years. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see you repeat as division champions, just like McElwain did in the SEC East. In fact, I may even be rooting for you to join that club.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo: Kristen Botica

The SEC East, Where Even the Winners Are Losers

In case you’re just now joining us, we have weekly articles that we run for “Smackdown Friday” here at Campus Pressbox. I have happily smacked down many teams throughout the season, and I’ve had my fair share of fun doing so. But when I looked to this week, there was no smackdown piece I wanted to write; there was no more fun. And who is to blame for this? The SEC East. It has sucked the fun out of everything.

The SEC East has been struggling for years now to keep up with the formidable teams in the SEC West. That’s no secret. But this year, more than any year of late, I am especially disheartened by the play of all of the SEC East teams.

You see, I couldn’t write a smackdown about any of the SEC East games (or the one cross-divisional game in the SEC), because no matter who wins these games, the SEC East is still a bunch of losers.

Too harsh? No. Maybe not even harsh enough at this point. With the results of last week’s games, we are on track for the possibility of a six-way tie in the SEC East. No, this is not a joke. The SEC East, on the other hand, really is a joke.

In the spirit of smacking down a team (or seven), let me get to the fun part. Let me really explain how the SEC East teams lose this weekend, even if they do win. And no, there was no exaggeration there. I am actually going to smack down every team in the SEC East. Let’s face it; they all deserve this.

Florida hosts South Carolina this weekend. That means the seniors will be playing their last home game against the coach who recruited them, Will Muschamp. Crazy how things work out! What’s crazier: Either team winning this game does not change how awful the two teams have been (at times) this season.

Florida just had one of the most gut-wrenching losses at Arkansas last weekend. The Gators had almost no offensive production, and the defense (after being on the field most of the night) was exposed. This win would be nice to bounce back but at the end of the day, the Gators still have been incredibly disappointing.

South Carolina has done pretty well with its new quarterback. Yes, Will Muschamp has finally figured out what a good QB looks like. But, South Carolina is still nowhere near where they were earlier this decade. South Carolina could get this road win and satisfy its fans, but to the rest of us the Gamecocks will still be losers.

Georgia hosts Auburn this weekend. With the way the SEC East has been playing against the West, this game is almost guaranteed to be ugly for the Bulldogs.

Georgia narrowly beat Kentucky last weekend, couldn’t get anything going in a loss against Florida the weekend before and lost to Vanderbilt in its game before the bye week in October. What I’m saying is: Georgia has four losses and deserves to be ripped into for these losses. And even if by some miracle the Bulldogs do beat the Tigers, they still shouldn’t be ranked. They’re still going to be losers.

Kentucky pays Tennessee a visit this weekend, too. And the fact that there are a number of Vol fans who are concerned about possibly losing this game says almost all that I need to say.

Kentucky will always be a basketball school in the eyes of the rest of the SEC and probably even the rest of the country. Somehow, the Wildcats have managed to put together a season that’s actually pretty impressive by Kentucky football standards. If the Wildcats beat the Vols, they will be celebrating. But that would all but guarantee that Florida returns to the SEC Championship Game (if the Gators beat the Gamecocks). So Kentucky still loses.

And on the other side of this, Tennessee actually really needs this win. There are plenty of fans concerned that the Vols won’t get it either. My dad is one of those fans. And while Tennessee may very well win this game, after some of their recent losses (including injuries) the Vols will ultimately still be losers.

Missouri hosts Vanderbilt this weekend. This game is truly the battle of the two worst teams in the entire SEC, not even just in the SEC East. The Loser Bowl, perhaps?

Missouri has taken too many L’s too count this season. The Tigers have yet to win a conference game. And they have three of those left, including this one. Not to mention, they also lost to MTSU in October. Who even does that? Are you actually allowed to do that in the SEC? No victory could redeem Mizzou at this point. The Tigers will still be the biggest losers in the SEC this season.

Vanderbilt is only one conference win ahead of Missouri. That being said, the Commodores really have no room to talk here. They have had some “moral victories” in the numerous close games they have forced. But even those moral victories combined with an actual victory this weekend would not make Vanderbilt a winner. That record doesn’t lie.

No matter which way you look at things, every SEC East team will be a loser this weekend. That, my friends, is why I decided to smack down the entire SEC East. Bless their hearts.

Email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo: Joni Vanhoecke, Flickr

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

Coastal Division Is Worse for ACC Football than East Is for SEC Football

One thing I always seem to hear from those who don’t support the SEC the way I do is “Well, the East is garbage.” Garbage? With two teams still in the top 25, I wouldn’t call the SEC East garbage. The SEC West may be better, but the SEC East isn’t that bad. If you want to know about garbage, look no further than the Coastal Division of ACC football. Not only is the Coastal Division worse than the Atlantic, it also isn’t much good compared with any other division out there.

I wrote an article earlier this season about ACC football finally deserving some respect. Now, I want to amend my statement. The ACC Atlantic Division still deserves respect, but the Coastal Division has quickly fallen from grace.

Of course, the three main teams that have been carrying ACC football this season are Clemson, Louisville and, at times,  Florida State. But you know what those three teams have in common? They’re all part of the Atlantic Division.

You see, the Atlantic Division is home to the number #4 Tigers, the #7 Cardinals and the number #13 Seminoles. The Coastal Division’s highest-ranked team, on the other hand, is the #22 Tar Heels.

While the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Tech Hokies may have looked good a few weeks ago, neither team is impressing anyone now. So when I say that the Coastal Division is garbage, I mean it. Yes, they’re closer to garbage than the SEC East is. If I were the Atlantic Division of ACC Football, I would definitely want to disown them.

North Carolina, the best part of the division, is 5-2 so far this season. One of those losses was to the Georgia Bulldogs and one was to division opponent Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels did manage to get a win at Florida State, though, and this is likely why they’re still in the top 25. How long the Tar Heels will remain in the top 25 depends on the rest of the country’s teams. At this point there are no more impressive opponents left on the schedule for the Tar Heels, so anything but wins will not be acceptable.

As I said, one of North Carolina’s losses was to the Virginia Tech Hokies, who were briefly in the top 25. After a two-touchdown loss to Syracuse, the Hokies are no longer part of that club. The most difficult teams remaining on the Hokies’ schedule are the Miami Hurricanes and Notre Dame. Unfortunately, the Fighting Irish have proven to not have all that much fight in them this season. The Miami Hurricanes may be better than they were last year, but “The U” is still not back.

Let’s talk about those Hurricanes, though. In their first season under Mark Richt, the Hurricanes got off to a 4-0 start. Since then, the Hurricanes have lost two games. While the loss to Florida State is somewhat excusable, the loss to North Carolina is not quite the same. The Florida State loss came on a missed extra point during what was otherwise a pretty close game. The North Carolina loss wasn’t quite the same, with the Canes losing to a lower-ranked team in their own less powerful half of the conference. Not to mention, they didn’t lose by one point; they lost by one touchdown.

The Coastal Division of ACC football also includes the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2, 2-1), the Virginia Cavaliers (2-4, 1-1), the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-3, 1-3) and the Duke Blue Devils (3-4, 0-3).

Just for laughs, let me go ahead and end this article by equating each ACC Coastal team to their SEC East counterpart. North Carolina is like Tennessee, near (or at) the top of the division, with the hardest games already behind it. Virginia Tech is like Florida, near (or at) the top of the division, with a top ten defense. Miami is like Georgia (and not just because of the Mark Richt factor). Pittsburgh is like Kentucky. Virginia is like Vanderbilt. Georgia Tech is like South Carolina. Duke is like Missouri. Poor Duke…

I’m sorry, ACC Coastal fans. Well, not really. It’s about time somebody makes the SEC East look okay. But hey, look on the bright side! At least basketball season is well on its way.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, by Brian Allen.

Florida Gators Will Beat Mizzou and Prove They Aren’t Afraid of Tigers

Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion lately, the Florida Gators are not scared of Tigers. They are not scared of the LSU Tigers and are definitely not scared of the Missouri Tigers.

Due to Mother Nature having a mind of her own, the Gators were not able to host the LSU Tigers last weekend. Because conspiracy theorists are everywhere nowadays, a hurricane postponement somehow morphed into the storyline of Florida being scared to play a football game. Ha. The internet trolls must’ve been incredibly bored last week.

The Florida Gators are in the AP Top 25. They have no reason to be scared of anybody.

Apparently losing one road game in an SEC East rivalry with the Tennessee Volunteers means that the Gators are just going to be scared from now on. Not only do the Vols get credit for being a top 10 team, this was also the first time they had beaten Florida since 2004. For some reason, I don’t think that all adds up to mean the Gators should be frightened by the remainder of their opponents. That moonshine up in Tennessee must be great, because countless Vol fans would disagree.

So, now that we know the Gators have no reason to be scared of the LSU Tigers, let’s talk about why they also have absolutely no reason whatsoever to be scared of the Missouri Tigers.

Last year Florida marched into Columbia, Missouri, and beat the Tigers 21-3. This year’s team seems pretty similar to last year’s except with far more potential on offense, especially now that Luke Del Rio is back at quarterback. This Florida team also now has a great kicker in social media sensation Eddy Pineiro.

The Tigers have been all over the place this season. They started out with a 15-point loss on the road to the West Virginia Mountaineers. The next week they hosted the Eastern Michigan Eagles and beat them by a whopping 40 points. After that, they hosted the Georgia Bulldogs and eventually lost that game by only a point. Not surprisingly, the Tigers then beat up on the Delaware State Hornets the next week, winning that one 79-0. Two weeks ago, the Tigers traveled to Baton Rouge and lost to some other “scary” Tigers, 42-7.

That puts the Missouri Tigers at 2-3 overall. Meanwhile, the Florida Gators are 4-1, even though they’ve been missing some of their defensive line as well as their starting quarterback for the last two games.

When you look at it that way, the Gators have absolutely nothing to be afraid of this weekend. There are a lot of other ways you can look at it that will support that same Gator confidence.

Missouri’s biggest strength is its passing game. Florida’s biggest strength is probably its group of defensive backs led by likely first-round draft picks Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor. No SEC team has more interceptions so far this season than the Gators. Georgia also has eight interceptions but has played one more game than Florida has. Only one SEC team has more sacks than Florida and unsurprisingly that team is Alabama. Texas A&M also has 19 sacks but, again, they have played an extra game comparatively.

By the way, as far as yardage goes, Florida has the fourth-best passing defense in the country. Do I hear a “DBU” chant starting?

Even though Missouri’s rushing attack hasn’t been its biggest strength, Florida is also ranked in the top ten in rushing defense. And even beyond that, Florida has only allowed an average of 11.6 points per game this season. With a defense like that, the Gators have nothing to be scared of when it comes to this Missouri team.

The Missouri defense, on the other hand, has been shaky at best. The Florida offense has performed similarly. But, now that Luke Del Rio will be starting again, I expect Florida’s offensive production to improve at least marginally.

Florida’s special teams? Well, kick returning hasn’t been great. Like I said before, Florida finally has a solid kicker in Pineiro. Florida also has a great punter in Johnny Townsend, who has averaged 50.2 yards per punt this season.

Basically, no matter which way you look at it, Missouri is the team that should be (and probably is) scared. I know that the last time Missouri came to town for homecoming, things didn’t go so well for Florida. But that was the Muschamp era and this is the McElwain era. Coach Muschamp is currently 2-4 at South Carolina, if you really needed any explanation on why the difference in head coaches is significant.

So, after a week off and a week of ridicule from LSU Tigers and Tennessee Vols fans alike, the Gators are going to remind everyone just why we aren’t scared of anybody. Championship teams often have one loss anyway, so you can’t count out the Gators just yet.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo of student ticket from Kristen Botica.

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

The Tennessee Vols Will Keep Snatching Souls on their Way to Being SEC East Champs

Last Friday, I picked the Tennessee Vols to beat Florida…well, actually I said they would “WTFA.” That turned out to be true. Over a month ago, three of us here at Campus Pressbox (including myself), picked the Vols to win the SEC East. And before that, I even wrote an article listing some pretty major reasons why the Vols would win the SEC East this year. Four games into the season, I’m sticking with it all.

The truth is that it really isn’t over until it’s actually over. But if I had money to bet I’d be putting it all on the Tennessee Vols to win the SEC East right now.

That’s not to say the Florida Gators can’t win out in SEC play and somehow end up beating out the Vols. With the way LSU football has been going, Florida’s schedule is starting to look a bit easier. It’s also not to say the Georgia Bulldogs can’t bounce back from that ugly loss at Ole Miss. They can, but they would still have to get through both the Vols and the Gators.

What I am saying is that I believe that the Tennessee Vols will win the SEC East just as much as I believed it before the season started. I actually may believe it even more than that. Butch Jones has finally gotten just the win he needed. And this team is something special. There’s no denying that.

People will always have something to say about Josh Dobbs because he isn’t a traditional passing quarterback. But he is at the heart of why this team is so successful. He is exactly the kind of leader you want on your side when you come into the second half down 21-3. He’s relentless and he isn’t afraid. He’ll take some hard hits from a blitz as long as it means he got a chance to fire off that pass. He won’t let the pressure get to his head. He will go out there and prove every single person who doubts him wrong. And you have to love that about Josh Dobbs.

Beyond Dobbs, there are so many other players who make this team special. Because of all of Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor’s trash talk, nobody will forget that Jauan Jennings catch that really opened up the lead for the Vols in the second half. Jalen Hurd was a workhorse as usual, with 26 carries for 95 yards. Josh Malone had another good game for the Vols, putting up 91 yards receiving and a touchdown. Todd Kelly, Jr. had a great interception for the Vols. Evan Berry finally was able to show how explosive he can be on kick returns. Alvin Kamara even helped with field position for the Vols on punt returns. All in all, it was a true team effort that won this game for the Vols.

This team showed that when they are firing on all cylinders, they could be nearly unstoppable. That was something I hadn’t yet seen from the Tennessee Vols this year. They also showed just how resilient they are by coming back from an 18-point deficit to win by 10 points. Even when some of their own fans had turned on them, they never let up. They kept playing the game the way they knew they could and they were eventually rewarded for it.

Now, back to reality. That game opened up a really tough stretch for the Tennessee Vols. This coming weekend, they’ll be visiting the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. The weekend after that they’ll go to College Station to face the Texas A&M Aggies. And after that game, they come back home to host the Alabama Crimson Tide. The road to the SEC Championship Game definitely won’t be easy, but this team seems as capable as any to power through.

Maybe I’m biased because this is my hometown team, but nobody can deny that the Tennessee Vols looked downright scary in that second half on Saturday. They snatched the souls right out of the Florida players’ bodies. Now they just need to bring that same intensity for the entire game these next few weeks. Remember: #WGWTFA.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo by Kristen Botica.

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

The Tennessee Vols Will End Florida’s Streak and “WTFA” While They’re at It

It’s that time of the year. It’s time for one of the most important games all year for me as a fan of the Tennessee Vols. It’s time for the Volunteers to finally start a streak of their own and show Gator fans why this is a true rivalry.

Beyond just Tennessee, we have to win this game for the good of the American people. Why? Florida’s usual starting quarterback Luke Del Rio is out with an injury. That means that Florida is starting their transfer quarterback from Purdue, Austin Appleby. And apparently Austin Appleby is a fan of Osama Bin Laden. Well, maybe not a fan, but he still dressed up like him. There’s actually photo evidence.

Don’t even get me started about that trash-talking delinquent Jalen Tabor. Apparently he thinks it’s pretty obvious that Florida will beat Tennessee. I’m sure it’ll shut him up (at least for a bit) when he finds out just how wrong he is. Maybe he’ll even disappear from Twitter again.

I know what Florida fans are thinking: The Vols have lost eleven years in a row, so what has changed? Well, I can tell you what hasn’t changed. Florida’s offense is still nothing special. And it’ll be even worse with Appleby having to start at quarterback this week. Appleby, by the way, threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns in his time at Purdue. He’s pretty much nothing for the Vols to worry about.

Let’s not forget all the assets that the Vols have on their side. Offensively, they boast an impressive trio of guys who can all provide substantial rushing yardage. Quarterback Josh Dobbs is great on his feet and so are running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. Now, if the Vols could only get the ball to Kamara in space…

One other very obvious thing that Tennessee has working in their favor is their attitude. And I mean that #WGWTFA attitude. (WARNING: The video features strong language.)

But really, can you beat an attitude like that? Virginia Tech couldn’t at that game in Bristol. Now it’s Florida’s turn to give it a try. We’ll see how well that “try” goes in front of over 100,000 rambunctious fans in Neyland stadium tomorrow.

I know there’s been some talk of a supposed curse from certain things. Apparently checkering Neyland is a bad sign. And the grey uniforms don’t have a stellar record…yet. AND College Gameday is going to be in town. Basically, things don’t look good for the Vols when you consider those circumstances.

There are other circumstances that matter infinitely more. Like Derek Barnett putting a beating on Appleby and Justin Martin, adding to Appleby’s interception count. When (not if) the Vols do those things, there will be thousands of happy Vol fans singing “Rocky Top” as loud as they can on Saturday. So loud that it will almost definitely haunt Florida’s players in their dreams later. This has been eleven years coming, so it will absolutely not disappoint.

In summary, if you ask me how Saturday will go I’ll tell you one thing: #WGWTFA.

 

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo by Kristen Botica.

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

A New Mizzou – None of Us Know What to Expect

Close your eyes and imagine it’s Sept 3rd, 2016, 11am.  Missouri v. West Virginia.

What do you expect to see?  What does the Missouri Tiger football team look like?  And I’m not talking about the uniform combination. I’m talking about what you expect out of the University of Missouri Tigers under the guidance of new head coach Barry Odom.

What do you expect to see?

Well, you’re wrong.

We all are.

What we have here is A New Mizzou.  This era of Mizzou football is one that nobody can predict.  This isn’t your average “Aww shucks. We’ve lost some seniors to graduation and we have a bunch of baby faced freshmen coming in and we don’t know what to expect out of ‘em” unpredictability.

No folks, this is a whole different level of unpredictability.  Mizzou should patent this level of unpredictability.

This one would be filed under the longest run on sentence in the history of history category.  It would read a little something like this…

“Well we’ve lost Mizzou’s winningest coach due to cancer related health concerns. With him, we’ve lost the highest sustained level of success this program has ever experienced.  Oh, and we’re replacing our former head coach of 15 seasons with a first time head coach and O and D coordinators who haven’t achieved anything noteworthy at this level either.  It doesn’t stop there…

We also have a team fresh off a boycott last fall – a boycott which was a part of racially fueled protests on campus involving a hunger strike, a list of student demands, gained international attention and led to the ousting of the system president, chancellor and some curators just for good measure.

And you thought that was all… funny.

The Athletic Director’s office has been a turnstyle, with the left field departure of Mack Rhoades to Baylor, and a MUsical chairs routine of interim AD’s before finally stopping on one Jim Sterk (at least for now).

These changes along with regular ass changes like losing seniors to graduation, cultivating a new crop of baby faced freshmen, along with the all to common dismissal of players for “academic reasons” and “violation of team rules”.

The only thing that would make this situation more comical is if it was coming out of the Ol’ Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier’s mouth.  But it ain’t.  So here we are.

Now, let me ask again, What do you expect to see out of the 2016 Missouri Tiger football team?

Actually, don’t answer that.  No matter what you expect to see, or what you’re about to say, you’re gonna be wrong – we all are – and that’s ok.

But being wrong doesn’t mean we can’t have still some predictions and expectations for what’s in store for us on Saturday afternoons this fall.

Given all of the goings on in Columbia since last fall, I only come away with a couple near certainties for this New Mizzou.

  1. Expect to be surprised.  New faces all over the coaching staff is going to breathe new ideas, concepts and ultimately a new feel to this football team.  Regardless of outcome, that brings some fresh squeezed excitement to the program.  If you felt that the Tigers had grown stale under coach Pinkel, under Odom, they’ve shed that skin and given way to the real possibility for surprise.
  2. Rough patches.  Like a yard that’s been excavated and reseeded with new kentucky blue grass, it’s gonna take time for the grass to root and begin to grow.  Along the way, we’ll likely see some patchy spots, some bigger than others, and some crab grass sprouting up where you’d rather not have it.  Hopefully sooner than later we’ll have a well manicured yard worth showing off to the neighbors.
  3. Defense.  The one and only expectation I think we can all feel confident in is playing Defense.  It’s been the core of Barry Odom’s success as a football player and coach, and the most consistent and strongest aspect of the team from last year.  Defense you can pack up and take with you anywhere you go.  Defense is ugly and the uglier it gets, the better it is.  Expect Defense, and with that defense, expect Mizzou to be competitive in 2016.

Despite all these changes and despite the black thundercloud of negativity currently hanging over the University of Missouri, when you open your eyes on Sept. 3rd, you will see A New Mizzou, and god-willing and the creek don’t rise, one that we can all be proud of again.

 

E-mail Ryan at ryan or follow him on Twitter @ryanbinkley

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia user Marcus Qwertyus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: LSU Tigers 38 – Miami Hurricanes 20

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

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

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

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

Final Score: Michigan Wolverines 41 – Houston Cougars 38

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

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

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

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

Final Score: Stanford Cardinal 31 – Iowa Hawkeyes 6

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

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

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

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

Final Score: Tennessee Volunteers 24 – TCU Horned Frogs 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 45 – Alabama Crimson Tide 24

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

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

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

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 48 – Florida State 35

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

Comment on this and every article by becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider. Preseason special pricing is $2 for the entire month of August.

Image Courtesy of Counse – Flickr