Tag Archives: SEC

How Many Games Will the SEC Lose This Weekend?

The SEC has plenty of all-but-guaranteed wins in the first week of the 2017 college football season. But, the SEC also has multiple games that are toss-ups and some that look like likely losses.

As a lover of all things SEC football, I’ve been contemplating what kind of record the SEC will emerge from this opening weekend of games with.

Last year, the ACC proved to be stronger than many anticipated (even though I made an early call on that one). But with three at least decent ACC opponents scheduled for SEC teams this first weekend, should the SEC be worried?

There’s also that Michigan-Florida rematch from about a year and a half ago when the Wolverines annihilated the Gators in the Citrus Bowl. Should we go ahead and give this one to Michigan, too?

What about Texas A&M and UCLA? Aggies Head Coach Kevin Sumlin is undoubtedly on the hot seat this season. Will he be able to get his second-straight win over the Bruins and ease the pressure down in College Station a bit?

Unfortunately, I am not Brandon Stark and I do not have “the sight.” I cannot give you a completely confident answer for any of those questions I just posed. I can, however, give you a few game predictions along with my reasoning for my picks.

The NC State Wolfpack and South Carolina Gamecocks face off on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. This game poses an interesting offense-defense matchup for the teams. NC State has a powerful defensive line but will be lacking in the secondary. South Carolina may be lacking on the offensive line, but boasts one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC this season in Jake Bentley. ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives NC State a 62.7% chance of winning this game. After seeing how the ACC fared last season and considering the intriguing matchup, I give a slight edge to the Wolfpack here as well. Regardless of the outcome, I expect this to be a close contest.

The Florida State Seminoles and Alabama Crimson Tide also face off in an ACC-SEC matchup on Saturday in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. I’ll never be one to bet against Nick Saban and Alabama, but if I were going to bet against him, I would be considering this game. ESPN’s FPI may give the Tide a 59%-41% advantage over the Seminoles, but the computers don’t know everything. Alabama returns numerous important pieces of its puzzle, and so does Florida State. Florida State seems to have the advantage on offense while Alabama has the defensive advantage. At the end of the day, this will probably come down to coaching. And in that scenario, I’ll take Nick Saban.

The Tennessee Volunteers play another ACC opponent next Monday, when they also visit Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face off against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. A few weeks ago, I would’ve said Tennessee was likely in trouble in this game. After the Yellow Jackets dismissed top returning running back Dedrick Mills from the team, Tennessee’s chances to win this game surged. After a rough 2016 season defensively, the Vols might have had trouble defending such a dynamic offense. But the loss of Mills will be insurmountable for the Yellow Jackets at this point in the season, giving Tennessee a good shot at winning this game. And for what it’s worth, ESPN’s FPI also gives the Vols a good shot here with a 68.1%-31.9% advantage.

The Michigan Wolverines take on The Florida Gators on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Due to a 41-7 Michigan win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl the concluded the teams’ 2015 seasons, there is doubt that Florida can even put up a good fight. Michigan returns almost nobody noteworthy from that 2015 team. So, I find that bowl victory to be irrelevant. Florida returns multiple starters, boasts a very talented receiving corps, and has very capable young defensive players to fill gaps left by last year’s departures. Michigan returns talent and has young players stepping up as well, make no mistake. But because of Florida Coach Jim McElwain, I’m leaning toward the Gators for this huge matchup. ESPN’s FPI isn’t any help here, being a near-toss-up at Michigan 50.5%, Florida 49.5%.

The Texas A&M Aggies travel to Pasadena, CA, this weekend to take on the UCLA Bruins. Last season, these two teams kicked off the season in College Station, TX, with an overtime thriller. The Aggies finished the 2016 regular season at 8-4 while the Bruins finished at 4-8. The Aggies lost countless starters, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Their season is as unpredictable as ever under Head Coach Kevin Sumlin. The Bruins finished 4-8 last season, only winning one game after losing starting QB Josh Rosen to a season-ending injury. With Rosen back, the Bruins could be poised to bounce back with a vengeance this season. Because of Rosen and Texas A&M’s departures, I have to give the edge to UCLA here. ESPN’s FPI will back me up on this one, giving the Bruins a 68.4% chance of winning this game.

The question I posed remains. How many losses will the SEC endure in its first week of play this season? If you go by my answers here, it’s only two. But with a couple of my SEC wins being close calls, I wouldn’t be surprised to see three or four losses from the SEC this weekend.

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

Overcoming Our Fear of College Baseball

Super Regionals are this weekend.  More of us should be tuning in than will be and I think that’s because we don’t know what we’re watching.  We don’t know what to be looking for.  Essentially, we don’t know how to enjoy college baseball.

Taking a look at our relationship with college basketball helps to illustrate my point.  Many people’s biggest beef with March Madness is that no one really knows who most of the teams are because we don’t watch the regular season.  Well, baseball has many more games and much less, almost no coverage on ESPN for you to stumble upon.

Generally speaking, we have zero idea what’s going on in the college baseball world until mid-June.  Then, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to care deeply about the eight teams that have made it to the College World Series?

Which is hosted in Omaha, Nebraska, by the way.  Not that it’s not a nice place.  I’ve never been there myself actually, but I have heard nice things.  It’s just not what you’d exactly call a vacation destination.  That fact, however driven by perception it may be, exists all the same and does the CWS no favors with potential casual fans.

How It Works

So what exactly are we watching?  How does this tournament work?  Here’s a look:

Regionals are the first round, which happened last week.  64 teams are broken into 16 groups of four.  Those groups play a double elimination tournament until one team is left standing in each region.

That brings us to where we are now, the super regionals.  16 teams remain.  They’re broken up into eight pairs and now it’s a best of three series, starting this Friday.  Win twice and you’ve made it to Omaha and the College World Series.

Once there, the eight teams play another double elimination tournament until two are left.  Those two then play a best of three championship series.

Who We’re Watching

Oregon State is the prohibitive favorite, carrying with it an astounding 52-4 record this season.  Vanderbilt is the unlucky team that will face the Beavers.  The Commodores beat #21 Clemson twice at its own field to win the regional last week.  OSU’s lefty Luke Heimlich has a chance at being selected in the first round of this summer’s MLB draft.

The only team hosting a super regional that did not host a regional is Texas A&M.  To earn that distinction, the Aggies triumphed over that Baptist School in Waco, Texas, Iowa, and the host, Houston.  College Station will host because Davidson took down the number two team in the nation, North Carolina, twice last week to get here.  If you’re looking for a Cinderella, you’ve find her.  It’s Davidson.

#9 Long Beach State and #20 Cal State Fullerton square off to determine which school will represent the state of California in Omaha.  Fullerton beat their host #8 Stanford twice to advance from regionals.  The team affectionately known as the Dirtbags holds a 5-1 record in two series against Fullerton this season.

Louisville hosts Kentucky in an even bigger rivalry matchup.  With #7 and #11 in the latest D1Baseball.com Top 25, this is the most intriguing series, on paper, heading into the weekend.  The Cards and the Cats split a pair of separate meetings during the regular season.  Louisville lefty Brendan McKay is the consensus #2 draft prospect.

Sam Houston State took the long route to the super regionals, having played five games in the previous round.  With their backs against the wall, the Bearkats won three straight games in two days, including two over host Texas Tech, to earn this spot.  Their reward is a shot at #16 Florida State, which rebounded from losing the first game in its regional last week.

#6 TCU really had no trouble sweeping through its regional.  The Horned Frogs will play host to the #22 Bears of Missouri State, who snuck by Arkansas, winning two of three one-run games between the two sides last weekend.  Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger has scouts excited about his future.

It’s an SEC affair with #17 Mississippi State traveling to #3 LSU.  The Tigers won their three games by a combined 18 runs, while the Bulldogs beat their in-state rival, #10 Southern Miss, twice on Monday to advance.  LSU’s Alex Lange is another top prospect to look out for.

If you pay attention to such things, you’ll notice that six of the 16 teams left are members of the SEC.  It must mean more down there or something.  That sixth SEC representative is Florida.  The #4 Gators welcome in #14 Wake Forest.  Florida’s 6’5” pitcher Alex Faedo has been getting a lot of mention as a potential top ten pick.

So, there’s a bit of info that will hopefully spark your interest and get you to check some of these games out.  The best part is there are games on all weekend long.  With start times of noon, three, six, and nine, you’ll have at least one game to watch basically all day long for three days straight.  Saturday is even better, with two games in each of those four time slots.  And if any of these series are tied after two games, we get even more games on Sunday and Monday.

Join me in flipping on the ESPNs this weekend as we get ready for the College World Series.  Doing so will help us all with our apparent fear of college baseball.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

New Year’s Six Preview: Sugar Bowl

If I’m being totally honest, the Sugar Bowl is the least interesting of this year’s New Year’s Six matchups. It features two teams who, despite being highly ranked, failed to ever truly contend for the College Football Playoff. Neither the Auburn Tigers nor the Oklahoma Sooners had any type of eye-catching season, and this game just seems, frankly, boring to me. It’s the last of the New Year’s Six games this year, and I would be unsurprised if it receives the lowest TV ratings of the bunch.

There is no point walking around it, so let’s just cut right to the chase. This game really shouldn’t be close. I can’t say that it won’t be, because you never know how hard teams will come out and play for a bowl game, but it really shouldn’t be much of a game. Auburn is severely outclassed. While Oklahoma did drop a few embarrassing games to Houston and Ohio State, Auburn really hasn’t shown me a single bit of proof that it can beat a team like Oklahoma.

Against good teams, the Tigers have struggled mightily to score, and I seem the same thing transpiring in New Orleans this year. Let’s not forget that Auburn lost to Georgia in November! The fact that this team is in the New Year’s Six at all is baffling. It points toward a huge issue with conference bids to bowl games of such large magnitude. The SEC had the automatic bid for the Sugar Bowl, but the SEC was so uncharacteristically awful (apart from Alabama, obviously) that it almost seemed like no one actually wanted to go to the Sugar Bowl. Auburn won only 66% percent of its games this season. Yet, here the Tigers are, somehow, in the Sugar Bowl.

Anyway, my prediction is simple. This is a landslide. Baker Mayfield gets going early, and the Sooners cruise throughout the majority of the second half of this bowl game. There is a chance that Auburn could make a game of it, but I just don’t see it happening. Look for the Sooners to go back home happy.

 

Final Score: Oklahoma Sooners 38, Auburn Tigers 17

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

Photo: Pixabay

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College Football Playoff Preview: Peach Bowl

Poor Washington. They are literally going to be traveling into the heart of Alabama Crimson Tide country for the Peach Bowl this year. I am fairly certain that the ambiance will be that of a ‘Bama home game back in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban has yet to prove that he is mortal, but maybe, just maybe, Washington is the team destined to prove this fact. Chris Petersen returns to the bowl game spotlight once again as a heavy underdog who no one thinks can do the improbable. Maybe we’re all right and the Huskies don’t stand a chance. But perhaps Chris Petersen has been waiting 10 years just to amaze us all once again.

I fully expect both the Alabama offense and defense to play at Nick Saban levels, so there is little use talking about what they “need to do to win.” Statistically, Washington is in a whole lot of trouble. Alabama has the best defense around, and after seeing Jake Browning struggle a bit with the pressure from Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship, it would be unsurprising to see mistakes from the Washington QB. Washington needs to find a way to have its running back corps break through “The Great Wall of Alabama Defensive Linemen.”  Truly, Washington’s offense needs to play at, if not above, its top level in order to win.

Though Alabama’s offense isn’t on God tier like its defense, it certainly is in no way, shape, or form, a pushover. Washington’s defense needs to hang on for dear life and hope that the Huskies offense can keep the defense off the field long enough to get a breather. Florida, a team with a superior defense to Washington, did well against Alabama until the offense stopped any and all progress. At that point, the Gator defense simply became too tired to keep up. If this happens to Washington, the game is effectively over.

Nick Saban is going to take the Washington Huskies very seriously. His demeanor, while a serious impact on his players, however, may not rub off on them quite enough. Some, if not many, of the Crimson Tide players are going to come into Atlanta being told by family and friends that this will be an easy win, and the large contingent of Alabama faithful in Atlanta will further this ego among the Alabama players. On the other hand, Washington knows that no one thinks they even have a shot. I think that will motivate each and every player for the Huskies to play above and beyond their potential. I think Washington is going to catch the Alabama players off guard, and this game will be get very interesting. Time will tell if Chris Petersen can do it again, but I’ve been on the Washington Huskies “believer” train all season (if you don’t believe me, check out how highly I’ve ranked Washington all season) and y’know what? I’m not stopping now. Viva la resistance!

 

Final Score: Washington Huskies 48, Alabama Crimson Tide 47 (OT)

 

Email Cooper at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

Photo: Pixabay

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Is the Big Ten Better Than the SEC Right Now?

It’s the age-old question that college football fans from the North and South love to quibble over because who doesn’t want to have bragging rights that their conference is undisputedly, top-to-bottom the best college football has to offer? Some say it’s still the SEC because Alabama won the national title this past season and is in prime position to claim it again in January. They also point to the depth and competitive balance of the conference and say its teams as a collective whole are a better product. At least they don’t have Rutgers or Maryland. Sigh. Fair enough.

However, others believe there’s been a shift in conference supremacy and that the Big Ten has surpassed the SEC with its coaching and quarterbacks.

Back in 2010, Auburn became the fourth SEC school to win a national title in five seasons and the league featured five national championship-winning coaches in Nick Saban, Les Miles, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier and Gene Chizik. In addition, James Franklin arrived at Vanderbilt, Mark Richt had won two league titles at Georgia and Bobby Petrino led a solid Arkansas program. Fast forward to the end of the 2016 season. Out of those eight coaches, Saban is the only one who remains and the SEC athletic directors have replaced those championship-caliber coaches with unproven leaders who have struggled.

Now, it’s the Big Ten that’s filled with solid coaching commodities, from Meyer building a powerhouse at Ohio State to Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, Paul Chryst at Wisconsin, and Franklin at Penn State. Moreover, Mark Dantonio, Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald have been fixtures of stability at their respective programs. And don’t forget in the only regular Big Ten-SEC matchup this season, even with lesser talent and by far, much less expectations, Wisconsin led by Chryst in just his second year, outcoached an LSU team that had national title aspirations and was headed by the SEC’s second-best coach, Les Miles.

In terms of quarterbacks, I think it’s safe to say this year, the Big Ten’s signal callers were better. While he wasn’t Heisman Trophy-caliber worthy as once expected, J.T. Barrett was still really solid, as well as Trace McSorley, Wilton Speight and Clayton Thorson. However, for the SEC, with its consistent misses under center, more of its teams have been searching for the easy fix, courting junior college players and graduate transfers hoping to get a Russell Wilson. But instead, they’ve found John Franklin III and Greyson Lambert. The number of transfers being used at SEC schools is incredible. I find it even more ironic that the SEC gets all the high-profile, five-star quarterback recruits and are using Purdue rejects at flagship schools. Danny Etling won the LSU job and Austin Appleby guided Florida.

There are valid points to the argument the Big Ten is better than the SEC, and depending on how you look at it, the conference just may be better. But as much as it pains me to say it as I’m a staunch Big Ten supporter, I find it hard to make an argument that our conference is clearly above-and-beyond better than the SEC. Right now while there is more parity in the Big Ten at the top and it has more high-ranked teams than the SEC with four teams finishing in the top eight of the final College Football Playoff rankings, the bottom half of the conference really brings down the Big Ten compared to the SEC and hurts the Big Ten’s depth.

Bottom line is the SEC as of today owns the national title and to me, it’s all about the hardware. Could that change in a few weeks? Absolutely. But as for now, as of today, I’d give the edge to the SEC…just barely.

E-mail Mike at  or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

A Coach’s Guide to Keeping SEC Fans Happy

It seems like there are always coaching rumors out there. Between angry fan bases tired of their current coaches and fan bases hoping to hire a top candidate, coaches are always a hot topic. But what can coaches do in their current jobs to keep fans happy? More specifically, how can SEC coaches keep their fans happy?

We’ve said goodbye to a couple long-time coaches over the past year, Georgia’s Mark Richt and LSU’s Les Miles. Now, fans in the SEC East are displeased with a couple of coaches that really haven’t done anything except be pretty darn successful. The two coaches that come to mind are Tennessee’s Butch Jones and Florida’s Jim McElwain.

Using these four coaches, I’m going to set forth some simple guidelines that should help keep these finicky SEC fans happy.

1. Get top recruiting classes.

Butch Jones has done well recruiting while at Tennessee, with fans (like my dad) excited over many of the players he’s brought in. Jim McElwain has only brought in two classes, but has gained a name amongst fans because of all the three-star recruits he brings. Both Georgia and LSU averaged top ten classes over the past five years, but both Richt and Miles were fired. Okay, so maybe recruiting won’t save your job. But as McElwain knows, not recruiting the best players will make people mad at you even if you are successful.

2. Hire and/or fire the right coaches.

This one is big. McElwain brought in Doug Nussmeier to be his offensive coordinator at Florida. This hire has drawn all sorts of criticism from Gator fans since the Gator offense still looks pretty miserable. Even many of those who want to keep McElwain (and fans should want to keep him) are calling for him to get rid of Nussmeier. Jones, who is also drawing criticism from the fans, is getting heat for some of his coaching hires. After the way the defense has played this season, it seems like Bob Shoop as defensive coordinator may not have been the best hire for Jones even though he was touted as a “great get” for the Vols.

3. Keep your players out of trouble.

In some instances, this may not actually be a priority. Just look at all the Baylor fans that want former coach Art Briles back. But overall, keeping players out of trouble is important. If your team is making headlines because of the crimes the players commit off the field, then nobody is going to be able to pay attention to what the team does on the field. Keeping these young men out of trouble also gives them a much better shot of succeeding at the next level. As we’ve all seen with Johnny Manziel, bad behavior in college can turn into bad behavior once you’re a professional. And if things get bad enough, you can lose your job.

4. Don’t just win your division.

This is where I’m really looking at you, Gator fans. Jim McElwain came in to a pretty decent program with a solid defense but an abysmal offense. In both of his first two years at Florida, he has managed to navigate the Gators to the SEC Championship Game as the East Division Champions. In his first year, the Gators actually swept SEC East play. But apparently for some spoiled and/or delusional fans, just winning the division isn’t enough. And maybe it isn’t enough in the grand scheme of things, but in the first two years that kind of success is unprecedented. Literally.

5. Beat your rivals.

I cannot say this enough. Beating your rivals is possibly the most important goal to keep in mind as a head coach, aside from those big rings. But we’ll get to those. One thing Les Miles was struggling with lately was beating LSU’s biggest SEC West rival, Alabama. And maybe there isn’t a coach out there who could really beat Nick Saban. But fans were willing to try to find one. On the other hand, Jones finally beat two of Tennessee’s three biggest rivals this year. The Vols claimed their first victory over the Gators since 2004. The Vols also beat the Bulldogs for the second year in a row. So even with losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt, Jones did accomplish some goals this season. Beating Florida and Georgia may not have gotten them the SEC East Championship, but it did get the fans some bragging rights. And that is really Coach Jones’ saving grace after an otherwise disappointing season.

6. Win rings.

Miles and Richt are great examples of why this guideline matters. In his entire time at Georgia, Richt only had less than eight wins in one season. He won the SEC East and the SEC multiple times. But one big thing Richt could never do was taking home a big championship. As I’ve previously said of him, he’s always the bridesmaid but never the bride. Close but no cigar. Miles did bring a National Championship home to Baton Rouge once. And I’m sure Tiger fans will always be grateful for that. But he struggled to make it back to the big game once Saban emerged as the best coach in all of college football. And for the LSU football program, this was unforgivable. Miles was a consistently good coach, but the school let him go to try to find a coach great enough to give Saban a run for his money. Then LSU hired Ed Orgeron… Interesting choice given exactly why Miles was let go, but that’s another story for another day.

7. Don’t use clichés as staples in your pressers.

This last one is something that may not seem important to everyone, but the way a coach presents himself and represents the program at press conferences is extremely important. Most recently, Jones completely violated this guideline. And consequently, #VolTwitter exploded. Talking about his team a little over a week ago he said, “They’ve won the biggest championship—and that’s the championship of life.” Is he a motivational speaker or a head football coach? I get it—the young men did well for themselves. Amen! But you can’t use lines like this to avoid taking ownership of the fact that you have failed to bring a National Championship, SEC Championship or even SEC East Championship to the program. If you don’t accomplish your goals, acknowledge it instead of sugar-coating it. Show the players, fans and recruits that you still want to win actual championships.

 

Bonus: Beat Nick Saban.

This one needs no explanation. Just beat Nick Saban. Somebody, please do it.

 

This list is obviously not comprehensive, but in using two former and two current SEC coaches as examples, I would like to think I’ve pin-pointed some important guidelines for keeping fans happy. Some fans (Hi, Gators) may never be satisfied, but that doesn’t mean a coach can’t do everything in his power to try to appease them. Coaches Miles and Richt: I’m sorry the fans gave up on you because good wasn’t good enough. Coaches Jones and McElwain: I’m rooting for you. We’re all rooting for you.

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

Photo: Sean Davis, Flickr

Shame on Your Weak Week 12 Schedule, SEC

Shame on you, for real.

No, not you, Ohio State. I don’t think you were looking ahead, to the last game on your schedule. You were dealing with a typically tough conference rival in their house. You won the game, and that’s all we needed to see.

No, not you, Colorado. What a fantastic season you’ve had. However, let’s not get it twisted. Storming the field has lost all meaning, if you’re motivated by the “lifetime achievement award” type season. Taking down Washington State may have been your best home win, but that was hardly a moment of goal post uprooting.

Kansas, you should be ashamed of a lot of things, but the pandemonium in Lawrence makes sense to me. It shouldn’t have been the second trespassing incident on that turf this season. It shouldn’t have been the Jayhawks’ first win in 24 tries versus FBS competition. I sincerely hope Saturday’s win over Texas doesn’t end up being the backdrop for Charlie Strong’s Final Act as head coach at Texas. Standby on that.

The SEC-Southern Conference Challenge

Shame on you, Alabama. For the record, I don’t care to see any of the game’s traditional juggernauts play a televised game against a scout team any time of year, but when it happens in Week 12, the exhibition adds insult to injury. I’m not mad that Tennessee-Chattanooga led the Tide, 3-0 after one, and I don’t think it should matter to anyone. Whether Alabama won that game by a single possession or earned the 28-point victory they actually etched out against their 8-2 FCS opponent, no one should have cared about that game. I hope no one of any significance did.

It’s just a shame. I think we’re being gypped. It’s become clear to me that how good you are matters more than what you’ve achieved, and if that’s the criteria, I don’t want the best of the Southeastern Conference playing anyone that isn’t Power 5 after October 1st, let alone in Week 12.

They weren’t alone in the SEC, seeking out a Southern Conference opponent from the lower tier. South Carolina hosted the Catamounts of Western Carolina. Down in Auburn, the Tigers survived Alabama A&M from the SWAC, edging the Bulldogs 55-0. What do these contests tell us?

Nothing. It’s a shame they even partake in the practice.

Florida and LSU Found a Way to Play

It’s funny how it ends up being a blessing in disguise for the conference to bail themselves out of the cluster-you-know-what created in the aftermath of Florida canceling their scheduled game with LSU on October 8th. Remember all of that finger-pointing? Did you think maybe Florida was digging their own grave?

It turns out they didn’t. They got a trip to Atlanta out of it, and they don’t have to go to Baton Rouge next year. We’ll see how much of it matters after they rendezvous with Saban and company. It may not matter much after they play Florida State. The one we don’t get, is the 2-9 Presbyterian Blue Hose. Their coach is stepping down; South Alabama gave them a whooping in Florida’s place, and faithful Gator fans were spared an essentially unwatchable game.

Rutgers Just Isn’t Good Enough For the Big Ten

Shame on the Big Ten for the latest expansion. I don’t care if anyone thinks it pisses on tradition. You stuck all of these decent teams in the Big Ten East with Maryland and Rutgers. Two teams that really could have used showcase games, a week before Ohio State and Michigan own the conference spotlight, got stuck with cake walk games–versus Maryland and Rutgers.

That’s your Big Ten Championship, if the dominoes fall a certain way next Saturday. Nebraska and Penn State, they might as well have played Youngstown State and Villanova. The chalk says Wisconsin plays Penn State, but it sure would be a shame if the winner of Ohio State-Michigan didn’t win the Big Ten Championship.

Would it be a shame to appoint our first team without a conference title in hand? I would not be ashamed to see a Buckeyes team with wins over Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the College Football Playoff.

That would only be a shame for people that think seasons should disintegrate due to blocked field goals in hostile road environments. Shame on you, people like that.

The next few Saturdays should be a lot of fun. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get more quality from the 205 this weekend.

Photo Credit: Matthew Tosh, via Flickr

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

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It’s All About Texas

It’s all about Texas. It’s always been all about Texas in the Big 12. And this isn’t a good thing. This isn’t a good thing because it is to the detriment of the rest of the conference. When it comes right down to it, this is something that everyone, including the leadership at Texas, has always known.

This Texas-centric attitude was on full display as the conference decided not to expand. As the news broke about the Big 12 remaining at 10 teams, Oklahoma’s David Boren took the lead as he spouted the contrived rhetoric that is considered to be the conference’s most up-to-date position. But make no mistake, this is about what’s best for Texas. It’s always been about what’s best for Texas.

If there is any doubt about the role that Texas has played in all of this, please read what Gabe DeArmond wrote at Power Mizzou. DeArmond takes us on a journey that can best be described as Back To The Future. Texas was, is and will always be the bully.

Roy Thrilliams wrote a stunning article of his own at Burnt Orange Nation. In his article, Thrilliams attempts to make the case for Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 in favor of the SEC. Thrilliams clearly states that the Big 12 is dying and Texas must get out while it can. 

I have news for Thrilliams. Texas is not a casualty of the unstable conference. The Longhorns are the reason for the unstable conference and I’m sure the SEC is well aware of that fact.

As DeArmond reported in his article, Missouri athletics director Mike Alden considered the Big 12 doomed from the start.

Added Alden: “The structure of the Big 12, the way it was originated, in my opinion, that league was set up to fail. I do believe that if it would have been set up differently, it could have been one of the greatest leagues ever. When you set it up and you had favoritism toward one institution and then everybody else, it’s not going to work.”

The “one institution” that Alden was referring to is Texas.

Missouri has always been blamed for the Big 12 collapsing, but a factual look at the history of the conference tells an entirely different story. Nobody trusted Texas from day one so when the Big Ten expressed interest in expansion, Missouri listened.

And if we’re talking about which schools were the first to have a wandering eye, again, look no further than Texas. The Pac-12 was prepared to add Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. R. Bowen Loftin, who was at Texas A&M at the time, questioned Larry Scott about the terms of the invitation to join the Pac-12. Loftin didn’t believe that the terms would be agreeable to Texas. But to his credit, Scott said that was how it would have to be. Texas could take it or leave it. We all know how that ended.

Texas was the source of the unstable conference, but Longhorn athletics director Deloss Dodds continued to paint other schools as the bad guy. Dodds knew that he was shopping Texas to the Pac-12 and had at least one foot out the door, but that didn’t stop him from cussing out the Missouri leadership during a Big 12 meeting.

When all this was going on, there was one athletic director in particular, I can’t remember what school it was, but it’s in Austin. Anyhow, I heard a guy in that chair, he just started flipping out—flipping out is probably too strong a term, but he got pretty agitated, this person—and started dropping expletives about this and firing them kind of at us, at Mizzou, because Mizzou was rumored maybe the Big Ten is looking. And I was trying to be very professional.

Texas is Texas. I get it. But no other conference wants to touch it because the Longhorn program considers itself above every other program. And one of the things that DeArmond proved in his expose was that Texas is a phony, backstabbing program.

Yes, geographically Texas makes sense for the SEC. But Texas is a toxic program even with all of its financial clout. The SEC has 14 members that all get along so why would that conference risk that stability all for Texas? I don’t see it happening.

I am of the opinion that every school not named Texas should be looking for an exit strategy from the Big 12. Yes, there is a Grant Of Rights clause that forces the Big 12 to remain intact until 2025, but schools can make their intentions known before the GOR expires.

Based on what we’ve witnessed from the Big 12 and from Texas, I find it highly unlikely that schools like Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State aren’t actively shopping for another conference. Here’s how I view the Big 12 – Texas has to live with its ex-wife until she finds someplace else to live. 

But Thrilliams still considers Texas to be too good for any conference, including the SEC, to pass up. Nevermind that the Pac-12 already told Texas, “Thanks, but no thanks.” And I’ve got more news for Thrilliams, it’s not ignorant to think that the SEC would turn its back on Texas.

The SEC operates without a GOR, because, well, it’s the SEC. And by operating without a GOR, the SEC has told its members that it trusts them. If Texas was brought in, that trust among the schools would evaporate. I mean think about it. Who in their right mind would expect Missouri or Texas A&M to give Texas a glowing recommendation? Nobody. That’s who.

It’s also important to remember that Texas has to be the center of attention. Does anyone honestly believe that the SEC football programs are going to take a step back at the negotiation table for Texas? Again, there’s no way that happens.

The SEC is king of the college football world. And as magnificent as Texas believes its football heritage to be, it pales in comparison to Alabama’s. Alabama wouldn’t lick Texas’ boots and shouldn’t be expected to. That submissive role in the SEC is not something the Texas ego could stomach.

Thrilliams and everyone else who bows before Bevo needs a reality check. Texas isn’t the innocent conference bride that its made itself out to be. The Pac-12 realized that early on and there’s no way that the SEC will fall for Texas’ act of innocence.

 

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

Photo: Wikipedia

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Rutgers is a Disgrace to the Big Ten

If I had to sum up my feelings about Week 6 in one word, I would say ashamed. I am ashamed to be a fan of the Big Ten and be associated with that ever-burning dumpster fire known as Rutgers especially after that 78-0 decimation by the hands of Michigan. The larger the deficit grew, the more I cringed and shook my head in disbelief.

I don’t care about Rutgers or have any allegiance to the Scarlet Knights but the reason it bothers me so much is that the laughing stock of college football is a direct affiliate of our conference. I can just hear SEC fans scoffing at the Big Ten and brag how they have premium matchups seemingly every weekend. They can brag and justifiably so that the worst team in the SEC, the Vanderbilt Commodores lost their three conference games by a combined score of 43-21 and had a legitimate chance to come away with victories in those contests, losing by one score in all three. Rutgers has been outscored 150-7 in conference games and it could have been even worse.

How did Rutgers football get this incredibly bad? Granted, Rutgers was never great but it wasn’t this terrible either. It was only two seasons ago they knocked off Michigan and they did return 11 starters.

I understand their quarterbacks Chris Laviano and Zach Allen can’t make a throw to save their lives (2 of 18 for 5 yards against Michigan), their chief playmaker Janarion Grant is injured and lost their top three linebackers but this is a monumental loss of epic proportions. This is supposed to be Division 1 football, not high school junior varsity.

Anyways, I never was fond of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s decision to invite Rutgers to our conference because even though they had mild success in the 2000’s culminating with an 11-2 record in 2006, they were never a football powerhouse or even a perennial contender in the now defunct Big East. I understand he wanted to expand the conference’s presence on the East coast and increase the Big Ten’s revenue stream through more viewers and bigger broadcast deals. It makes sense but as a fan, I couldn’t care less about more money because it doesn’t directly affect me or compensate the athletes. That’s a different argument for another day.

I care deeply about the product we put on and want to be proud of how our conference is perceived but Rutgers is like an anchor that continually brings us down, on and off the field. It’s 4-15 in the Big Ten since it joined in 2014 and I haven’t even got to all the turmoil that took place in 2015 with the three-game suspension by then-head coach Kyle Flood and the arrests of several players.

It will take a long time for Chris Ash to turn this program around and even if he manages to somehow someway keep recruits from bolting, I see them being just another middle-of-the-road team like Indiana or Purdue at best that could possibly challenge the top dogs but never compete for a division especially in a loaded Big Ten East. However, even that would be a significant improvement and I would surely welcome that as opposed to being subjected to this garbage.

Yet, any sign of hope is a long way away and we are still stuck in the present where the Scarlet Knights are actually part of our conference. Like Groundhog Day, it’s a recurring nightmare that you can’t escape.

It’s times like these I wish satire didn’t exist and Delany really would kick Rutgers out forever but with all the money involved, the Big Ten doesn’t regret its decision to invite Rutgers and would never admit it.

The only thing I guess I can do is endure the ridicule as Rutgers continues to embarrass us and hope that the Big Ten gets the last laugh by making the College Football Playoff and winning the national title.

Until then, all I have to say is that Rutgers is a disgrace to our conference and you’ll need more than luck to turn the ship around.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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