Tag Archives: Tennessee Volunteers

Phil Fulmer Is Set To Be “The Don” Of The VolNation Family

John Currie has been fired by Tennessee. With the soap opera coaching search that was underway at Tennessee, his firing shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But let’s be honest, Currie was in a precarious position from the beginning.

Currie’s job was a position that Phil Fulmer coveted. The former football coach left a storied past on the sidelines and he hoped to lead the program back to the top as A.D. He was a finalist for the position that Currie was ultimately selected for.

Fulmer received a consolation prize in place of the job he pined away for when the university hired him as a special advisor. That sort of thing happens a lot but, in this instance, it left Currie in a shaky position from day-1 on the job. All it would take is one real or perceived slip up for the hardcore Vol fans to get their wish. That slip up occurred when Currie attempted to hire Greg Schiano to replace Butch Jones.

It was all downhill from there for Currie and the writing was on the wall.

There are now reports that Fulmer has been sabotaging Currie’s coaching search in hopes of replacing the Rocky Top outsider. This isn’t a good look but if we’re being honest, it’s exactly what #VolNation has deeply desired all along.

#VolNation marched on Knoxville in protest of the attempted hiring of Schiano due to their high moral standards. Those fans couldn’t fathom the thought of a man like Schiano roaming the sidelines inside of Neyland Stadium. Under no circumstances could they have Schiano acting as the face of the program. And Currie was considered guilty by association.

But #VolNation is just fine with Fulmer.

Each year college football presents a laundry list of awards to players, coaches, and teams. Many are serious. Some are not. The Fulmer Cup is one of those parody awards.

The Fulmer Cup tracks player arrests. If your program had the most players arrested, you win the award. And why is it named The Fulmer Cup? Easy. Because Phil Fulmer ran a program whose arrest record rivaled its winning percentage. Ah yes. The good old days!

This is all well and good for #VolNation. You can run your program like Tony Soprano if you’re considered a True Vol. If you’re an outsider, like Currie and Schiano, then perceived moral improprieties will have you pushed off of Rocky Top.

With Fulmer lurking over his shoulder, Currie was placed in an impossible situation from his first day in Knoxville. All he had to do was give Fulmer and his fans a reason to hate him. Once that happened, Fulmer seems to have taken care of the rest.

All that’s left to do is for Tennessee to name Fulmer as A.D., name Peyton Manning as a special advisor to the program, and to bring Tee Martin in as head coach. Once the ’90s are reestablished in Knoxville, all will be right for #VolNation.

The thing is, I don’t know if we should call this Rocky Top family an athletic department or a syndicate. Rick Barnes better watch his back or Don DeVoe may be brought back to coach the basketball team.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] 

Photo: Flickr

Tennessee Volunteer Football Fans Have Lost Their Minds

It’s been nine years since the SEC football conference champion came out of the East. It’s for good reason that the division is known as the SEC Least. For that to change, a better collection of coaches have to be assembled in the East and that is beginning to happen. Sort of.

There were two openings created in the East when Tennessee and Florida fired its coaches mid-season. Tennessee fans planned on singing Rocky Top with Jon Gruden. Florida fans planned on doing the Gator chomp with Chip Kelly. Once reality set in, Gruden stayed put with Monday Night Football and Kelly accepted the natural fit at UCLA.

That left Tennessee with Greg Schiano and Florida with Dan Mullen. I was going to write about both of these hires, but after looking into the storylines, I’ve decided to focus on the would-be marriage between Schiano and Tennessee.

Schiano isn’t a hire that will excite Tennessee fans. He may be an underwhelming hire, but the reaction from those fans, both influential and Average Joe, is downright scary. Some fans want Currie’s plane to crash while a local coffee shop, Remedy Coffee, says that Schiano isn’t allowed in the establishment.

The reason why some fans are hoping for Currie’s death and coffee shops won’t sell Schiano a dirty chai is because he coached at Penn State during the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Fans and politicians can’t believe that Currie would allow someone who supported child molestation into Neyland Stadium. The outrage is so strong that some believe the offer to be the Tennessee head coach will be pulled. If this is the case, it’s a huge overreaction.


First, let me say this; Schiano doesn’t support or condone child molestation. I don’t know the man and I’ve never spoken to him. But I’m confident in making that statement. Jerry Sandusky and Penn State were both prosecuted. What happened in Happy Valley was awful but it’s been dealt with. I’m sure that isn’t a popular opinion but it’s the truth. Schiano is innocent.

Now for the hammer to be dropped.

The problem is with the Tennessee fanbase. You’re all off of your rockers. Many college football fanbases are rabid, volatile, emotion-filled groups of people. But this group of fans perched upon Rocky Top is really something special.

This group of Tennessee fans, comprised of no-names, politicians, and business owners, are so upset that they didn’t get Gruden that they’re trying to run off a coach before he’s stepped foot on campus. Schiano has coached at Penn State is just a convenient excuse. Not getting Gruden, or even Dan Mullen was a huge blow to the over-inflated egos that root for Tennessee football. It’s just a bad look for any fanbase.

Remember this; there’s no room for Schiano in Knoxville but Peyton Manning remains a living deity. Accusations and assumptions are only damning when the target isn’t a member of the Tennessee’s Mount Rushmore.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

Pondering and Power Rating the SEC

It took me a few days to muster up my enthusiasm for college football after the brutal, inexcusable loss in Baton Rouge, and now I am actually now looking forward to the games this weekend. With that, here are my power ratings on the SEC.

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Texas A&M
  4. LSU
  5. Auburn
  6. Kentucky
  7. South Carolina
  8. Florida
  9. Miss State
  10. Ole Miss
  11. Arkansas
  12. Tennessee
  13. Vanderbilt
  14. Missouri

Auburn has a better football team than LSU, but LSU deserves to be rated ahead of AU by virtue of its win on Saturday. That could right itself by season’s end. The Bayou Bengals could have a big letdown this coming Saturday at Ole Miss, and the Rebels had to gain some confidence by whipping Vandy. The bottom 4 teams are utterly miserable, at this point, but Auburn better watch out for Arkansas. The Tigers are beat up and have to be a bit demoralized after the loss to LSU. We’ll see what they’re made of Saturday.

Bama continues to dominate, but Georgia is for real and both teams could be undefeated entering the SEC Championship game. The Bulldogs’ schedule certainly is not daunting although there are some potential pitfalls on there, especially Auburn at Auburn and Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Texas A&M is a sleeper and has an opportunity to make some noise before it’s all said and done. Watch out for the Aggies.

“Butch Jones is probably coaching his last game as head man of the Vols.”

Kentucky? If it can get by Mississippi State, in Starkville, that could be a springboard to a very good season. The Wildcats could even make a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Conversely, if State beats Kentucky its record would be 5-2 and the Bulldogs might be poised for a run in its last 5 games. Games with Texas A&M and Alabama would loom large. The fact-of-the-matter is, State will not beat Alabama and it is doubtful to come home with a win in College Station. But win the others and that would put them at an impressive 8-4.

Cock-a-doodle-do! South Carolina is also sporting a 5-2 record and don’t forget that one of those wins came against a very good North Carolina State team. Georgia, Florida and Clemson are huge obstacles to a sterling season in Columbia.

Over in the other Columbia, the Missouri Tigers are truly stinking the woods up with a 1-5 record at its halfway point in 2017. There are a few potential wins left on the Tigers’ slate, most notably this Saturday versus Idaho and the following weekend at UConn. But Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas are winnable games for Mizzou.

Florida is a mediocre 4-3 and facing an almost certain loss to Georgia in that heated rivalry. Missouri, South Carolina, UAB, and Florida State conclude the Gators schedule and those games are all possible wins or losses. Don’t laugh at the possibility of a UAB victory in The Swamp. Bill Clark has the Blazers playing remarkably good football, especially when one considers that this team hadn’t played a game in two years before the 2017 campaign began.

We haven’t even mentioned Tennessee except by name. I don’t know if ‘dumpster fire’ is even an adequate description for what is taking place up on Rocky Top. But, historically, November has been the month when the Vols really tend to make hay. But Alabama might beat them mercilessly on this Third Saturday in October and that could complete the demoralization process in Knoxville. Butch Jones is probably coaching his last game as head man of the Vols.

After a 3-0 start the Vanderbilt Commodores have lost 4 straight games and are headed south with a bullet. The schedule is doable (South Carolina, Western Kentucky, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee) but it will have to pick up the pace to make a bowl game.

That’s my take on the Southeastern Conference here and today. A lot of football remains to be played and who knows what portends as we look down the stretch of the 2017 college football season. Good luck to you and your favorite teams!

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

Image via Flickr/getmahesh

Mizzou Is In The SEC For Better Or For Worse

Everyone likes taking shots at the Missouri football program. I get it. There’s no denying that Missouri football is horrible in its current state of affairs. But Missouri is not the only bad team in the SEC.

Missouri has become the seemingly trademarked product of all that is bad with SEC football. This anti-Missouri bias was on display when Gary Danielson referred to Tennessee as “Missouri” while the Volunteers were being drubbed 41-0 by Georgia. And Danielson didn’t call Tennessee “Missouri” once. He did it twice and this was after Brad Nessler corrected him.

Danielson’s jab at Tennessee at the hands of Missouri was met with some snarky defense.

Ha, ha, ha! We get it, Holly. As bad as Tennessee played, it’s an insult to the Volunteers to refer to them as Missouri. Just remember that Missouri doesn’t REALLY belong in the SEC. And when it comes right down to it, Missouri should really be kicked out of the Alabama-And-The-13-Dwarfs conference.

Former Missouri beat reporter for the Kansas City Star, Tod Palmer, jumped to the defense of Missouri. All that got in response from Anderson was the classic “snowflake” jab.

Danielson was making the same statement on air that Anderson was making on Twitter. That statement was that Missouri is bad and doesn’t belong in the SEC. It’s just a tired, whiney argument at this point. I can’t say this loud enough – Missouri is in the SEC and Danielson, Anderson, Saturday Down South and everyone else needs to come to terms with this!

[Merenbloom: Why Does Saturday Down South Hate Missouri And Barry Odom]

Part of coming to terms with this is expecting people like Palmer and myself jumping to the defense of Missouri when the jabs are thrown. We’re not “snowflakes” when we bring up the recent success that Missouri has had in the SEC. When Anderson asked Palmer how Missouri’s two SEC East titles went for the Tigers, she and others like her continue to question Missouri’s place in the conference. No, Missouri didn’t win the SEC Championship during either visit to Atlanta, but Butch Jones would gladly trade his collection of 2nd, 4th, and 6th place SEC East finishes for just one of Missouri’s conference championship game appearances.

Here’s the reality of the situation.

Missouri is in the SEC and the Tigers have had some success in their new conference. Times are tough right now for Missouri as the on-field product is hot garbage. And if you need to know, hot garbage is indeed worse than a dumpster fire.

Tennessee hasn’t won the SEC East since 2007. Times are tough in Knoxville, but for different reasons than Missouri’s tough times. The Volunteers aren’t a dumpster fire let alone hot garbage. Jones is merely the captain of a dysfunctional ship.

Here’s a little more reality.

Danielson was out-of-line for using Missouri as the butt of his joke. But at this point, Missouri fans are used to this kind treatment from Danielson. He didn’t like Missouri being in the SEC when the Tigers were good in 2013 or 2014 and he doesn’t like Missouri’s membership in the SEC when the team is hot garbage.

As for Anderson, she made her comment on Twitter and I had no problem with using that forum for the jab. Having said that, calling Palmer a “snowflake” for defending the program showed who had the thin skin.

And I’ll offer a touch more reality…

There’s a fine line between hot garbage, a dumpster fire, and a dysfunctional ship. Both Missouri and Tennessee need new coaches.

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

The New Era of College Football: The Haves Trump The Have-Nots

The evolution of college football has created a new reality. Thanks to the college football arms race in facilities, fan support, and money as well as the nascent playoff system, there are two types of college football programs:

  1. Those that have a chance to win a national championship
  2. Those that have no chance to win a national championship

There is no migration between the types of programs. You either have a chance to win it all or you don’t. The rich teams get richer, everyone else treads water or drowns.

While there are two types of college football programs, there are three types of college football fans:

  1. Those fans who correctly recognize that their teams have a chance win a national championship
  2. Those fans who correctly realize their teams have no chance to win a national    championship
  3. Those fans who incorrectly believe their team has a chance to win the national championship, when in reality, they have no chance.

No convinced? Take a look at the following videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVC3UziHeGk and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU4NXtu2T5E.

These are, theoretically, facilities for college students. But we all know what these really are. Recruiting tools to draw top athletes to Texas and Texas A&M. These are “in-kind” payments to players who are ostensibly amateur athletes.

I have no doubt that the other programs with a chance to win a national championship have (or will soon have) facilities on par if not better than these. We all know the names of these programs – Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Ohio St, Michigan, Clemson, Florida State, & Oklahoma. You could probably add Oregon, Tennessee, Notre Dame and a small handful of other programs to this list, but that’s it. No other programs have a chance.

It is not shocking for fans of programs like Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College, Vandy, Kansas, and Northwestern that they have zero chance to win a national championship…ever. I think the fans of these programs understand that they will never have facilities like Texas or Texas A&M. They will never compromise their integrity to the extent that the contending programs must to get the numbers of top players needed to compete for a national championship. Fans from these programs and many more like them realize their role in the world of college football. They are fodder for the teams with a chance to win it all. They can have successful seasons and win bowl games, but they will never hoist the national championship trophy. Maybe that’s okay. The point of college, after all, is to educate young minds, not win national championships. College athletics is supposed to be entertaining, so if you recognize your place and revel in reaching the heights of success within the boundaries of your possibilities, college football is a great deal of fun.

What might be shocking to the vast majority of the fans of programs not listed above, is that their teams also have no chance to win a national championship. None, zero, zilch, nada… they just don’t realize it. Many programs fit this description…we can all name these programs with perpetually frustrated fans who mistakenly think they are on the cusp of breaking into the top tier of college programs – Virginia Tech, NC State, UNC, West Virginia, Michigan State, South Carolina, TCU, Baylor, Arizona, Missouri, Maryland, Iowa, Kansas St, and Arkansas among many others, have no chance to win a national championship. Unfortunately, their fans think they do.

Think about how excited fans of these programs are when they land a big-time recruit. A 5-star or high 4-star kid who is a “can’t miss” prospect. There are high-fives all around and dreams of winning the college football playoff. The sad reality is, the teams that have a real chance to win it all, get at least a half a dozen of these players – every year. Not one per year or every other year like the wannabe programs. So the teams with a real chance to win it all have 30 or more can’t-miss players on their teams. The wannabe teams might have 5.

None of this is lost on the best coaches in the industry either. Do you think Nick Saban is going to leave Alabama to coach Northwestern anytime soon? Urban Meyer going to Wake Forest? Which programs have huge donor bases that make space-age locker rooms possible? (hint: it’s not Duke and it’s not Virginia…nor NC State or West Virginia) The best coaches go to the programs with the biggest donor bases that pay the biggest salaries & fund the best facilities, which draw the best talent…and so the cycles continues.

Like gambling in Vegas, the college football game is rigged. Over the course of any season, there will be exciting times when wannabe teams beat the odds and score big upsets. But over the course of a full season (including the playoffs), a single wannabe program cannot beat the system. There are too many 30+ mega-recruit teams out there, getting better every day and one of those teams will win the national championship every time. It’s why house wins over time in Vegas. The swanky trappings of the Bellagio are not there because gamblers go home winners. The odds favor the house, so it always wins. The system favors the top programs, so they will always win.

As we begin the 2017 college football season, we could create a list of 18-20 programs with a chance to win it all. It would be the same list from 2016. The participants in the football championship will be from that list – with no chance for an upstart to crash the party. It’s like the list to get into the VIP section of a popular night club. Not on the list? Not getting in.

The downside of this could be that as more college football fans realize the game is rigged against them, fans will lose interest and the game’s popularity could begin to fade. Then again, Las Vegas doesn’t seem to be losing its steam and state lotteries continue to be wildly popular. Maybe the fans of the wannabe programs understand their fate better than they let on. Maybe they are like the lottery players, thinking that someone is going to win this jackpot, if I buy a ticket it might be me, so every season, misplaced hope springs eternal. Unfortunately, the odds of winning the Powerball are better than their team winning the national championship.

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @dmrayner.

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.

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

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

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

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

Onward!

SEC EAST 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEC West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For again I say, rejoice!

College football is upon us!

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ramblin’ Around the SEC, Something’s Burning

Occasionally, I do a column on my personal website which I call Ramblin’. It’s a stream of consciousness, word association, hodge-podge type of thing on which I bemuse on any number of subjects. Today, we’re going to ramble around the SEC a bit. This one will be more organized and structured but it is ramblin’ nonetheless.

One topic of discussion that tends to circulate throughout college football, in the off-season, concerns coaches who are on the hot seat. Some of those coaches’ fannies are truly scorching, for others it’s just a matter of speculation on the part of the media and fans.

Here is my take on the SEC coaches who appear to be feeling the most heat, in no particular order.

Gus Malzahn

I’ll start with Gus because I’m an Auburn guy and his situation is, obviously, the most important to me. I do not believe Gus’ hiney is as hot as many might think. Now. But, if Auburn loses 4 or 5 games it probably will be; however, I don’t think that will be the case. The Tigers appear to me as the second best team in the conference and their record should, ultimately, reflect that.

Kevin Sumlin

 A similar situation to Malzahn. A&M needs to have a big year. Sumlin needs to break the pattern of winning his first 5 or 6 games and then crashing and burning in the second half of the season. The Aggies’ boss definitely needs to take care of business or climb down off of the porcelain throne.

Hugh Freeze

 Whether the Ole Miss powers-that-be or their fans like it or not, his rump is hot. How can it not be? Regardless of the Rebels’ on-the-field performance, their NCAA situation screams for someone to take the fall in Oxford. In the end, doesn’t that fall on the head coach?

Butch Jones

 In spite of being “Champions of Life” and having “Five Star Hearts”, the Tennessee Volunteers need to win a lot of football games. Talk is, indeed, cheap, especially when the product on the field consistently fails to meet expectations.

Bret Bielema, are you listening?

Onward to some talk about some actual football games. SEC Media Days is just around the corner, July 10-13, and polls will then begin to pop up everywhere. Speculation will be like wildfires spreading across the nation. And here in the Southland is where things seem to always burn with the greatest intensity.

Yeah! Let’s keep on with that hot theme!

Here are the ‘smokinest’ games in the SEC on opening weekend. Again, in no particular order.

Florida vs. Michigan

 Both teams will be ranked (Yes, I think Florida should and will be ranked). SEC vs. Big Ten. Gators and Wolverines. Jim vs. Jim. The flamboyant Harbaugh and the steady McElwain. Jerry World.

Alabama vs. Florida State

 The biggest one of the weekend. Two top five teams, at minimum. The ACC and the SEC. The Tide and the Noles. Hotlanta, GA. First college game at Mercedes-Benz stadium. Playoff preview?

Texas A&M vs. UCLA

 Two coaches on the hot seat. Huge for both teams. Rose Bowl. Bruins house. Prime Time. Sunday! Sunday! SUN-DAY!!! Be there!

Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech

Rocky Top and Ramblin’ Wreck. Great jump-start for someone. Mercedes-Benz, again. Hotlanta Deux. Jones and Johnson.

Disparate styles. A shootout?

Missouri vs. Missouri State

Just messin’ with ya!

And now, we might as well conclude with more hot topics or burning questions.

Will Alabama keep its playoff streak alive? Will Ole Miss be sanctioned into certain, long term mediocrity? Will Georgia win the East for the first time in five years? Will Coach “O” deliver? Will Vanderbilt go bowling again? Does anybody care? Will Muschamp?

All of this and more… later!

Sieging Atlanta Twice: Will the SEC Do It?

Whoa Nellie! We may not have Keith Jackson calling college football any longer, and that is a tragedy considering some of those whom we do have to endure as announcers today; however, the game is as popular as ever and the 2017 season is fast approaching.

Over the years we have seen multitudinous adjustments to the game that many of us hold so dear. Rules have been altered. We saw the implementation of the BCS. And three years ago brought about a dramatic change that we thought might never occur in our lifetime, a playoff for member schools of what is now known as the FBS.

Yes, things have changed dramatically but our passion for college football has not.

“I believe the winner of the Iron Bowl could very well win the SEC and represent the conference in the College Football Playoff.”

When I was growing up in Lower Alabama we, essentially, had one pre-season publication to rely on. That was Street and Smith’s College Football Yearbook, and the publication continues to hold a spot near to my heart. On its cover would be a brilliant color photo of one of the players who was considered to be one of the very best in the country for the upcoming season.

Auburn’s own Pat Sullivan graced the 1971 coveted spot and, indeed, did go on to win the Heisman trophy that season.

Back in 1971 there was no ESPN, Fox or CBS sports channels on television. You had your local news with a sports segment that lasted about 5 or 10 minutes. And I’m talking about those few minutes to cover all of sports, college and pro, football, baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, et al.

And pre-season information? There is a bottomless pit of magazines, e-zines and dot com sites to gather info from. For purposes of this column I have chosen four magazines from which to draw the basis for my word to you today: Lindy’s, Athlon, The Sporting News, and yes, Street & Smith’s.

Phil Steele has not published his hard copy and that is the reason for it not being included in our ratings compilation.

What I have done, just as I did in the 2016 pre-season, is take these magazines’ ratings of SEC teams and average them into a consensus.

In alphabetical order:

Athlon has Alabama number one, Auburn nine, LSU 11, Georgia 15, Florida 16, and the Tennessee Vols 19.

Lindy’s also has Bama at one, Florida 15, Auburn 18, and LSU 11. Georgia and Tennessee are not to be found in the top 25 here.

Sporting News keeps the pattern of the Crimson Tide in the number one slot, Auburn is 10, LSU 13, Georgia 14, Florida 18, and Tennessee 23.

Finally, ol’ Street & Smith’s. Guess who’s numero uno? Yep, it’s the University of Alabama! LSU takes the 10 slot, Florida’s Gators are 13, Georgia is 14, Auburn is 16, and Tennessee 24.

And now your consensus SEC picks. Alabama 1; Auburn 13.25; LSU 13.75; Georgia 14; Florida 15, and Tennessee 22.

It is very interesting to note that no other SEC teams made any of these four publications’ top 25. Not one!

My humble opinion on this? Making Alabama tops in the SEC is a no-brainer. Why pick anyone else? In the entire country? That’s arguable. See Florida State, Ohio State, Washington, and, possibly, Southern Cal. Those seem to be the big dogs at this point in the discussion.

The rest of the SEC? I do like Auburn as number two in both the West and overall in the conference as a logical pick. What do I think will actually occur on the field? I believe the winner of the Iron Bowl could very well win the SEC and represent the conference in the College Football Playoff.

The East? Once again, this division could be won by default with it being a crapshoot between the three teams that are consensus picks in the magazines. I like Kentucky as a dark horse in the Easy. LSU will have a big say in the West.

But, currently, all of this is mere noise. Alabama and Florida State kick it off in 77 days. That’s when it gets real brothers and sisters. Buckle up! It should one heck of a ride!

Butch Jones Is A Victim Of The Pinkel Effect

When Gary Pinkel arrived at Missouri in 2001, he didn’t have much to work with on the roster he had inherited from Larry Smith. If you’re a Missouri fan, you know the story that has been etched in the tablets of Tiger folklore. Pinkel only had one scholarship defensive back. Pinkel didn’t step into a program coming off of probation, but he didn’t step into an enviable situation either.

Pinkel’s 73-37-3 record at Toledo was highlighted by a 1995 MAC championship to go along with three MAC West Division championships. His success in the MAC is what made him a viable candidate for the Missouri job. And once he left Missouri, he had proven his worth with a record of 118-73. Between his Big 12 and SEC tenure, he led Missouri to five divisional championships, six bowl game victories, and an impressive list of NFL draftees. His track record for placing defensive lineman in the NFL was truly – as he would say – remarkable.

Would anyone say that he is an underrated coach? I don’t believe so.

Let’s now look at a coach who went 27-13 in MAC with two divisional crowns; went 23-14 in the Big East with two divisional crowns; and gone 30-21 in his first four years in the SEC East with zero divisional crowns. This same coach has also had a steady stream of NFL draftees.

Would anyone suggest that this coach is underrated? Why yes. Yes they would.

This is precisely the case that Dennis Dodd has argued in defense of the job Butch Jones has done at Tennessee.

Dodd makes some solid points. Jones did inherit a mess of a program that was coming off of probation. Jones has had to deal with a Title IX investigation (but what school hasn’t?). Only Nick Saban has won more games than Jones as far as SEC coaches are concerned. And Jones’ players get drafted by the NFL.

Jones is doing good work at Tennessee. But given the resources and history he has to work with, should it be considered enough? I don’t believe Jones is underrated. If anything, he is overrated.

Now please, just stop what you’re likely thinking. No, I’m not lobbying for Jones to be fired. But, having said that, I will say that he should be on the hot seat. And let’s attribute this hot seat to Pinkel. We’ll call it the Pinkel Effect.

When Pinkel brought his Tigers into the big, bad SEC, they weren’t expected to compete. Not even in the SEC East. In his four years of SEC East competition, Pinkel won the division twice. That simply wasn’t supposed to happen. The SEC was supposed to teach Missouri how grown men play football. Instead, Pinkel and his merry band of developed 3-star misfits slapped the East in the face.

Jones, on the other hand, has recruited a steady stream of 4 and 5-star talent to Knoxville and has a couple of 2nd place finishes in the East to show for it. And remember, it’s not like competing in the East is anything like competing in the West. The East is diluted with overall mediocrity from top to bottom. And still, Jones hasn’t been able to do what Pinkel did at Missouri. Jones hasn’t been able to win the division.

If Jones isn’t able to break through the SEC East ceiling, he will be pushed off of Rocky Top. Will he be considered underrated or overrated at his next school?

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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