Tag Archives: Texas A&M

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.

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

The Sunday Morning Notebook: Last Name Edition

What?

We just hit the reset button on the season, I think.  It’s Alabama — then everyone else.

I generally struggle to pick which games to write about. This week it’s easy.

I give you The Sunday Morning Notebook: Last Name Edition.

 

Chris Didn’t Blow It

Clemson lost to Pitt, if you haven’t heard.

Chris Blewitt, who owns the best last name of any kicker in the history of football, hit a game-winning field goal with six seconds left to beat the Tigers in Clemson, South Carolina.

Deshaun Watson threw for over 500 yards in the game, but it was Pitt’s Nathan Peterman who stole the show.  A senior, Peterman played out-of-his-mind, throwing for a career-high five touchdowns to lead the Panthers to victory.  Not only is it a career high, but Peterman hasn’t even thrown for FOUR touchdowns this season, and he’s only thrown for THREE touchdowns ONCE in 2016.

Peterman’s 22 completions were the most he’s thrown this year (second most in his career) and his 308 yards marked the first time he’s ever thrown for more than 300 yards in a game.

Speaking of career days, Pitt’s Senior Tight End Scott Ordnoff caught more passes (nine) for more yards (128) and more touchdowns (two) than he’s ever had in one game during his college career.

Good timing from Peterman and Ordnoff.

Notes:

  • Watson threw the ball 70 times for 580 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions.  Those numbers aren’t typos. His team lost, but he really boosted his Heisman resume.
  • Clemson’s Wayne Gallman rushed for three touchdowns on just 36 yards.
  • What will this do to Clemson’s playoff hopes? I don’t think anyone can accurately answer that question right now, but if they can win out and win the ACC Championship, I have to imagine they’ll still be in.

 

An Ugly, Boring, Beautiful Upset in Iowa

There isn’t much to report on this game, to be honest. Other than the fact that Keith Duncan became more famous than Duncan Keith for a few hours, as the freshman kicked his Hawkeyes to victory, much like Mr. Blewitt, to give Iowa its first win over a Top-5 team in six years.

Michigan’s Wilson Speight, who many people on my Twitter timeline were touting as the next Tom Brady (insert rolling eye emoji), completed 11 of 26 passes for 103 yards and an interception.

The brightest spot in the game was Iowa’s Akrum Wadley, who rushed for 115 yards on 23 carries.

Notes:

  • The loss for Michigan puts the Wolverines in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten East with Ohio State and Penn State. If those three teams are tied going into the final week of the season and the Buckeyes beat Michigan, that means Penn State would represent the East in the Big Ten championship game (assuming Penn State also wins its last game). Confused? Try this.

 

Can You Say Imatorbhebhe!?

Me neither. But I can say, “Washington Loses to USC.”

That’s right. The number two, three, and four teams lost yesterday, sending the media into a tailspin.

What happened here? USC contained Myles Gaskin and held Jake Browning at bay to upset the fourth best team in the nation.

To be honest, this game didn’t really look or feel like an upset.  USC looked like the better team from start to finish.  Sam Darnold passed the ball well for the Trojans, completing 23 of 33 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.  USC also found success on the ground, getting 93 yards and a touchdown from Ronald Jones II.

Freshman Daniel Imatorbhebhe, pronounced exactly how it’s spelled, baby, finished with 78 yards receiving and this touchdown. It was a remarkable performance considering he only had 114 total receiving yards this season heading into the Washington matchup.

Notes:

  • I have to imagine USC will jump pretty high in the polls.  The Trojans lost three of their first four games, but have rattled off six straight wins, winning by nearly 20 points per game.
  • The Washington loss may mean that the Pac-12 champion will not get into the College Football Playoff. There are a lot of one loss teams that won’t be conference champions that are worthy of a playoff bid (Louisville, Michigan, and Ohio State are possible examples). The way the Pac-12 teams have beat up on each other, it will be hard to send one team to the playoff over the rest.

 

Other Notes:

-Sure, three of the top four teams lost and that’s the first time that’s happened in a single day of college football since 1985. But did you know Auburn lost, too?

-And Texas A&M.

-So did Virginia Tech, by the way.

-To top it all off, in perhaps the craziest development of the day, the most juggernaut program in college football history lost its first regular season game in 113 tries.

 

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @evanskilliter.

 

Photo: Phil Roeder, Flickr

College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 7

Welcome back to the Campus Pressbox College Football Playoff Rankings. This week’s rankings are an abbreviated version, but we will be back to full force next week. As always, you can find  previous weeks’ rankings here.

Rankings

1.  Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

2. The Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

3. Clemson Tigers (3)

4. Washington Huskies (4)

5. Michigan Wolverines (5)

6. Texas A&M Aggies (6)

7. Louisville Cardinals (7)

8. Nebraska Cornhuskers (8)

9. Baylor Bears (10)

10. West Virginia Mountaineers

 

Drop Outs

Wisconsin Badgers (8)

Honorable Mentions

Florida State Seminoles, Boise St. Broncos, Florida Gators, Tennessee Volunteers, Western Michigan Broncos.

 

Games to Watch This Weekend

Texas A&M @ Alabama

Everyone is in agreement that the Top 10 showdown between A&M and the Crimson Tide is by far the best game this weekend. It should and will most likely decide who wins the SEC West. Obviously, that team will also be the favorite to win the SEC championship and to advance to the CFP. Alabama has shown neither remorse for its opponents nor any signs that the heavy schedule is having any effect on the team. For that reason, it just makes too much sense that Alabama will be able to overcome the surging and surprisingly good Aggies.

North Carolina State @ Louisville

N.C. St. surprised everyone last week when they kept pace with Clemson. The Wolfpack was only a field goal away from a huge upset, but was unable to pull it off. However, Louisville still needs to be wary. The Wolfpack may be a bit melancholic after last week, but there is a chance State comes out looking for blood. If that happens, Louisville could be in some trouble. Louisville just needs to be ready to play, and I’m sure Lamar Jackson will take care of the rest.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @uf_goetz
Image Courtesy of Aparkswv – Wikimedia Commons
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Will History Repeat Itself with the Southwest Conference and Big 12?

The reason for college football expansion all starts with the state of Texas. In 1982, SMU finished second in the polls. This was the last time a Southwestern Conference team competed for a national title.

What really hurt the Southwestern Conference was the constant NCAA violations. The last eight Southwestern Champions lost their bowl games. They didn’t have any powerhouses anymore because the NCAA went after them because of how dirty they were.

Arkansas, one of the three teams (Arkansas, Baylor and Rice) not hit by sanctions, left for the SEC to gain part of their television deal and to get out of a dying conference due to the constant punishments handed down by the NCAA.

Once Arkansas left, the remaining members of the Southwestern Conference had to get a fresh start to help their image and become prominent once again. The SEC expanded in 1990 from 10 to 12 teams. In the same year the Big Ten added Penn State and in 1991 the ACC expanded to nine teams by adding Florida State.

With all of these conferences expanding, they also added television deals with major television companies. While all of this was going on Texas became desperate and decided to leach on to a conference so they could become prominent again in the eyes of the nation.

Fast forward to 2010. What caused Texas A&M, Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska to want to leave the Big 12? The state of Texas, once again. Texas came into the Big 12 making demands, creating television deals and looking out for its own well-being before every other team in the conference.

Texas did everything in its power to keep Texas A&M and the rest of the conference down by creating the Longhorn Network. Texas got rid of the prop 48 or partial qualifying players that the Big 8 once had. Texas also attacked Nebraska’s Association of American Universities status causing a major rift between the two schools. With Nebraska and Texas A&M both feeling wronged they began to looking to leave the Big 12 Conference. With two major players in the Big 12 looking to get out Missouri and Colorado began searching for safer conferences to align with.

So once the second wave of conference realignment started the Big 12 lost four members. Colorado to the Pac 12, Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC and Nebraska to the Big Ten. The Big 12 was then forced to look for less nationally predominate teams to keep its head above water, taking in West Virginia and TCU to help the conference survive.

This third wave of conference realignment threatens the Big 12 yet again with rumors of Kansas and Oklahoma going to the Big Ten, with West Virginia rumored to go to the ACC and Texas not budging on their money losing Longhorn Network. What conference will want to deal with Texas and all of its conference imploding tendencies regardless of their television deals? Texas has been in two conferences, one has dissolved and the other on the verge. What will happen next?

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Big 12 Satellite Camps

The Big 12 has been in the news for one subject the past few months .I don’t know about you, but I am ready for the Big 12 meeting to be over. As we all know there are other subjects in regards to college football but with all Big 12 fans they have been swept under the rug. One of those subjects being satellite camps.

Earlier this year the NCAA banned satellite camps. The Big 12 was not really news about the banned camps because the majority of the schools did not really give their opinion on the matter. The Big Ten was the main conference that spoke up about it. The SEC and ACC banned these years ago. Banning these camps effected the Big 12 more than people think. Satellite amps involved the NCAA football programs and their coaches co-hosting camps with lower division colleges or high schools outside of their home state.

When satellite camps became really popular when coaches found a loophole in the rule the NCAA made. The rule was that the schools were limited to hosting camps within fifty miles of their campus or within their home state. Satellite camps help coaches find players who have yet to be recruited and have some hidden talents that have yet to be discovered.

Many of the Big 12 coaches are glad that the ban was raised. One of the many reasons is that it helps the athletes that don’t necessarily have the means to travel to be seen by coaches at certain schools. Coach Beaty at Kansas stated “If we truly care about kids and what is best for them, and giving them great opportunities, I think (overturning the ban) is something we have to look at. Even though it has been overturned I agree. I really think that satellite camps benefit the kids because it gives them opportunities to show coaches how they play and practice. This is much better than sending them highlight videos, that some of the coaches do not even watch or showing up to camps at the university where there are many other players competing for coaches attention.”

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State host a lot of satellite camps in Texas so when they heard the news about banning them they were one of the most upset schools in the Big 12. Another school that would have been highly upset if the ban stayed was Texas. Texas, the past two years, did not hold camps in Texas. The Longhorns held camps in Florida in 2015 and Louisiana last year. Going to these states helped Strong gain many great recruits for Texas. Strong thinks that gaining strong recruits from different states will help Texas look solid for recruits in the state of Texas. Which is why this year the Longhorns decided to stay in Texas, which could mean major competition for Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Texas is trying its hardest to get back on top of the recruiting ladder in their home state, especially since Texas A&M is struggling in many aspects. Strong is really hoping that recruits in Texas will want to stay close to home and go to the more dominant school and not go to the schools who host satellite camps in Texas.

I am very pleased that the NCAA lifted the ban for satellite camps. Nothing will really change since the ban did not last long enough for any effects to really take place. It is good for the student athletes who will not have the opportunity to go to the college football camps that are offered at the Universities. Hopefully schools do not take advantage of these and they will last for a long time.

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Charlie Strong Wins National Signing Day

Wow! Did that just happen?

That’s what Texas Longhorns fans were saying for about 24 hours starting on the Tuesday before National Signing Day. Texas was sitting at 15 total commitments and ranked no higher than #30 in any of the recruiting rankings when the day started on Tuesday.

Then the first domino fell.

Running back Kyle Porter made the call to Coach Strong Tuesday afternoon, in what was a bit of a surprise. Then D’Andre Christmas-Giles decided to announce his verbal commitment to Texas on a New Orleans TV station (where he is from) that night. It was those two moments that we could feel a little momentum building.

It was one-after-another-after-another when it comes to verbal commitments, and eventual Letters of Intent being signed on National Signing Day itself. Strong pulled in an astonishing eight 4-star prospects in a 24-hour span. It was enough to make him start trending on Twitter by mid-morning.

Texas jumped 22 spots in ESPN’s class rankings to finish #10 with 24 total signees. No other recruiting service had them ranked any lower than #10. And this is a team that went 5-7 last year and 6-7 the year before.

Charlie Strong’s recruiting strategy was extremely gutsy. He went all-in with confidence that he was going to get the players that he wanted. There were a few that he didn’t get on signing day, but signing eight of his twelve targets in a 24-hour period wasn’t a bad showing.

Most coaches want players to commit to their school early. Not Strong. He told recruits to commit to him, but don’t announce it. Why? Because that makes them an easy target for negative recruiting by other schools. If other schools don’t know that they are committed to Texas, then they can’t talk as bad about them to persuade them to back out of their commitment.

That was the secret to Strong and the Longhorns winning signing day.

It wasn’t a surprise to him, even though it may have shocked the country. He knew what was going to happen. But even he admitted he had a couple of surprises that fell in his favor.

One of those pleasant surprises was landing one of the best safeties in the country in Brandon Jones. Jones picked Texas over Texas A&M and Baylor. If you’ve watched any college football over the past few years, you know that both of those programs have had better results on the field than Texas.

Chris Daniels is a defensive lineman that was once committed to Oklahoma.

Christmas-Giles was considering TCU and LSU.

Jeffery McCullouch was considering A&M, Notre Dame and Stanford.

The one thing in common that all those other programs have is that they’ve been better than Texas on the field recently. So how can a Texas team get these players when they’re coming off of a 5-7 season and a 6-7 season the year before?

The answer is trust.

It’s evident that these players trust that Strong will turn around Texas. They want to be a part of something special. Many of the players that Strong signed yesterday could have gone to a dozen or more schools, but they chose Texas.

So what does that all mean for Charlie Strong and the Longhorns?

Nothing if they don’t develop those players and start winning games.

Mack Brown was known as Mr. February during the later part of his career at Texas, since he was able to consistently bring in top-5 recruiting classes. But once the results started becoming non-existent on the field, he found his way out of the program.

This year’s big recruiting class or last year’s won’t matter either if they can’t find a competent quarterback to lead the team. Shane Buechele could be that guy, or someone else could step up.

On paper, this class could be more important than last year’s because it gives the Longhorns depth at just about every position. It will be shocking if more than 4-5 upperclassmen are starting for Texas next year. Because of the 50 or so players that Strong has brought in over the last two seasons, the excuses for losing are becoming few and far between. These are his players now and this is his team.

If Strong doesn’t start winning soon, then he could just be stockpiling the cupboard with talent for another coach to come in and win with his players. We’ve seen it happen with other programs. One thing for certain is that the players will play hard for Strong and will go to war with him any day of the week.

Texas may not be back at the top in 2016, but when Strong’s first two classes at Texas become sophomores and juniors, look out.

Ranking the SEC Bowl Games of Importance

The satisfaction of reaching a bowl game varies among programs across the SEC and college football. Having the luxury to virtually prepare for next season with a postseason game to foreshadow is how some teams may approach the bowl season as in Auburn, LSU and Tennessee returning its starting quarterbacks for next season with a talented enough roster to make an impact. Other teams like Arkansas and Mississippi State look to provide a proper send off to two of the nation’s most efficient passers along with a couple of other all-conference performers.

The once dominant SEC, yes I used that in the past tense, has taken a step down this season with underperformance and the lack of big quarterback play. The conference usually hangs its hat on its successful bowl showing and looks to capitalize on some favorable matchups heading into the new year. Making the conference look good is one thing, but individually some teams need a good showing to help boost the program’s image or to continue to ride its success. Here is the breakdown of which games I view are most important to the programs and teams individually regarding the current status of the team.

#10. Tax Slayer Bowl: Georgia vs. Penn State

With the departure of Mark Richt and the absence of eventual head coach Kirby Smart, this game is really just something to enjoy on your New Year’s Day hangover. The Bulldogs still without all-conference runner Nick Chubb can reach the 10-win mark for the fourth time in five seasons. But yet, Bulldog fans wanted Richt out and the demands were met. Welcome to college football, folks!

Game Details: Jan. 2 at Noon EST on ESPN // Jacksonville, FL // EverBank Field

#9. Citrus Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan

Frankly, just getting to a mid-tier bowl in his first season as head coach, Jim McElwain has already had a successful inaugural season in Gainesville. With quarterback issues and an inconsistent offense, not much is expected from this Gator squad on New Year’s Day. Amazingly making it to the SEC Championship Game with 10 wins, the Gators have already reached its peak this season and getting to 11 wins is just a luxury. Having that opportunity alone tells you what a fine job McElwain has done this season or the lack of a strong East division or a little bit of both.

Game Details: Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. EST on ABC // Orlando, FL // Orlando Citrus Bowl

#8. Sugar Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State

A pseudo fumble play essentially eliminated them from going to Atlanta for its first ever SEC title game appearance and the Rebels will settle for second place in the SEC with a Sugar Bowl berth. The game is important to many in the game but from an outsiders’ perspective the game will just be entertaining to watch as we know the program is in good hands with or without a win here. One thing is for certain though: NFL scouts will be aplenty.Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 5.14.13 PM

Game Details: Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN // New Orleans, LA // Mercedes Benz Super Dome

#7. Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. Kansas State

Having won its past two bowl games versus the Big 12, the Razorbacks are prone to having hot finishes as of late. The key to ending this game with a win is to carry the victory over to next season. Arkansas dominated a declining Texas squad a season ago, but failed to keep the momentum into the 2015 season. The importance of this game is to win, but to also deliver a bright spot to the 2016 season without Brandon Allen.

Game Details: Jan. 2 at 3:20 p.m. EST on ESPN // Memphis, TN // Liberty Bowl

#6. Belk Bowl: Mississippi State vs. NC State

Mississippi State was picked to finish last in the always highly competitive West division in the preseason and managed to come away with eight wins. Finding a way to get to eight wins was huge for this program and compliments Dan Mullen’s ability to hang in there with some of the top teams in the division. With Mullen’s name being tossed around for some coaching jobs it’s unsure to note how comfortable Mullen is staying in Starkville for a longer period of time. I’m guessing a win here sure would help. Oh, and we’ll miss you Dak!

Game Details: Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m. EST on ESPN // Charlotte, NC // Bank of America Stadium

#5. Texas Bowl: LSU vs. Texas Tech

Pretty much having to “rehire” Les Miles as its head coach, LSU has the opportunity to get to nine wins in what has been a very interesting and lopsided season. With a win here, it gives LSU officials that doubted the direction of the program the chance to not say, “I told you so,” with a loss here motivating that comment. Regardless, LSU has the opportunity to capitalize on its impressive amount of bowl victories in its history currently at 23 wins.

Game Details: Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN // Houston, TX // NRG Stadium

#4. Outback Bowl: Tennessee vs. Northwestern

What more positive things can we say about this Tennessee program with Butch Jones? We’ve tried to embrace the new culture but the wins and intensity has yet to stick. Jones isn’t on his way out, but if an unattractive loss came to the Big Ten’s Vanderbilt, there will be some heavy heat on the program heading into 2016, but I don’t have to warn you about that happening.

Game Details: Jan. 1 at Noon EST on ESPN 2 // Tampa, FL // Raymond James Stadium

#3. Music City Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Louisville

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 5.29.28 PMThe offensive schemes in this matchup of Kevin Sumlin and Bobby Petrino are intriguing enough without whatever is going on in College Station at the moment. First off, the Aggies are going to have to find a quarterback to start the game and Sumlin will need to find a way to distract viewers and followers from the dark cloud looming over the campus. A win would of course help the rumors and exaggerations from spreading even further.

Game Details: Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN // Nashville, TN // Nissan Stadium

#2. Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis

The punishment of finishing with an underwhelming 6-6 record is a bus ride two hours up the road to take on the number one rated NFL draft quarterback Paxton Lynch (good luck with that). Gus Malzahn is 0-2 in bowl games at Auburn and both losses have come when failing to hold fourth quarter leads. Malzahn’s seat is getting warm and another bowl loss, even without much of a defensive staff, would be an extremely disappointing outcome and would create some murmurs throughout the fan base.

Game Details: Dec. 30 at Noon EST on ESPN // Birmingham, AL // Legion Field

#1. Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State

We knew Alabama would get here somehow to be the lone team to represent the SEC. The importance of this game falls on the shoulders of the SEC and the Alabama program itself. The SEC’s stance on this game is hoping to at least have Alabama win for a chance to win another national championship for the conference. As for Alabama, the loss to the later national champion Ohio State did not settle well in Tuscaloosa and if the Tide were going to drop another, I imagine there would be some uncomfortable feelings toward the football program.

Game Details: Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN // Dallas/Arlington, TX // AT&T Stadium

Started From the…and Now We’re Here

Disappointing and surprise seasons come due to the rankings the teams are knighted with in the preseason. Fair or not fair that’s how college sports roll. The season is almost half over and many fans have already started the “next year’s team” talks. On the other hand, hopes and aspirations are still alive for some of the higher caliber programs along with some of the surprise teams that have suddenly came out of their shell; at least for now they have. Comparing the preseason expectations and how they have performed this season I break down each SEC team to see how they have stacked up against their preseason accolades or premature dismissals.

Alabama Crimson Tide (Preseason Rank: #3; Current Rank: #8)

The preseason buzz that surrounded the Tide this preseason focused on the quarterback competition and not only who was going to be awarded the job but if that quarterback can sustain the always high-caliber Crimson Tide. Though the team already has one loss on its playoff résumé, the Tide look to be in good hands from here on out finding consistent play at quarterback with both sides of the ball looking sharp in Athens last weekend.

 Arkansas Razorbacks (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

Arkansas came into the 2015 season similar to last season’s billing as looking the part but not showing its improvement on its record. Opposed to last season, this season’s version has not looked improved dropping some key non-conference games to Toledo and Arkansas and not looking good in either showdown. Bret Bielema has been a big talk guy but when is it time to walk the walk instead of just talk the talk? Time is running out.

Auburn Tigers (Preseason Rank: #6; Current Rank: NR)

One of the biggest letdowns in college football this season is the Auburn Tiger football team. Jeremy Johnson was in line to be the next big thing but has slipped out of the spotlight to find himself on the bench. The season has almost started anew with new quarterback Sean White and many defensive adjustments as the Tigers look to renew their once hyped 2015 season.

Florida Gators (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: #11)

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Within the past ten years or so, first year head coaches have made immediate impacts at their respected school. With that said, the expectations for the Gators this season were not high as they were breaking in potentially a new starting quarterback with many personnel changes. Finding Florida ranked just outside the top ten is big for a program needing a spark and now are in the driver’s seat in a semi-weak eastern division.

Georgia Bulldogs (Preseason Rank: #9; Current Rank: #19)

It’s become a status quo for Georgia football starting the season as one the SEC and national favorites but find a way to slip up along the road in disappointing fashion. It’s not that Georgia was supposed to defeat Alabama – Georgia was favored to win – but losing by three touchdowns at home to a team that is still in the growing process on offense has left the Dogs in a weird but kind of expected season. The Mark Richt hot seat rumors have been ignited and it could be SEC championship or bust for the Bulldogs. What do you think?

Kentucky Wildcats (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

Similar to Arkansas’ 2014 season outlook the record should not reflect the overall improvement from this Kentucky football team. Kentucky has improved mightily since Mark Stoops took over and each year we have seen the strides of getting better. Unfortunately the record has yet to be completely rejuvenated but with addition of new SEC talent the Wildcats are in good position for the future. The question is does the future begin next week or next year?

LSU Tigers (Preseason Rank: #14; Current Rank: #7)

Another SEC team that was flooded with quarterback questions before week one, LSU answered its problem without really addressing the issue directly not having to yet with a stud running back in Leonard Fournette. Doing exactly what is expected of them, the Tigers have grounded and pounded through the schedule so far and now jump into the heart of the SEC portion part of it.

Ole Miss Rebels (Preseason Rank: #17; Current Rank: #14)

Chad Kelly

The star-studded recruiting class became draft eligible week one and has hit on all cylinders for the most part. Going into Tuscaloosa and coming out with a win giving Hotty Toddy consecutive wins over the Tide set the tone for what could have been an unblemished season. Not coming away with a win from Gainesville is tough but having been completely shut down on offense is why I am currently cool on the Rebels.

Mississippi State Bulldogs (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

Having a historical season a year ago it was hard to predict how the Bulldogs would fare this season based on returning only nine starters from last year. State has performed right on par in where they were expected to be riding Dak Prescott’s back with key plays from the secondary. Seemingly being out of the conference race State can play spoiler throughout the rest of the season still claiming to be a solid all-around team.

Missouri Tigers (Preseason Rank: #24; Current Rank: NR)

There was a point of good, bad, and ugly the first few weeks of the Tigers’ season and hopefully it’s back to good now. Oddly enough benching Maty Mauk, with the suspension, may have been the best thing to happen for the Tigers after struggling to score points on offense on many occasions yet still sneaking by. Though still an impressive 4-1 the season has not looked as peachy as expected, but the Tigers look to be headed into the right direction with Drew Lock taking snaps from center.

South Carolina Gamecocks (Preseason Rank: NR, Current Rank: NR)

Yuck. That pretty much sums up what has been a rough year for the Gamecock fan base. Not having consistent quarterback play, heck, any consistent play has put Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks in a really sticky situation heading forward with not much positives to throw out there right now.

Tennessee Volunteers (Preseason Rank: #24; Current Rank: NR)

After writing a column titled “Put Up or Shut Up” for Tennessee two weeks ago, I am disappointed and a little surprised in what Tennessee has put out in the past two weeks. Having the youthful roster still doesn’t suffice an excuse of underachieving some lofty preseason expectations. Tennessee has blown three games when being up by at least 13 points, which has unfortunately set the tone for the season. A big win over Georgia this weekend could really turn things around.

Texas A&M Aggies (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: #9)

Getty Images from Washington Post
Getty Images from Washington Post

Struggling on the defensive side of the ball since its inaugural year in the SEC, Texas A&M seems to finally have some identity on defense complementing its always high-scoring offense. Meshing these two together have given the Aggies a 5-0 record heading into Tuscaloosa next weekend off a bye.

Vanderbilt Commodores (Preseason Rank: NR; Current Rank: NR)

It’s a luxury if the football program is relevant in Nashville in any given season and just the norm when the team fails to reach bowl eligibility. This season hasn’t been a luxury, but it also hasn’t been a letdown either. Though to the naked eye the 2-3 record looks bad but holding their own versus conference foes Georgia and Ole Miss showing improvement slowly but surely.

Premature SEC MVPs for Each Team

I won’t try to make this sound like a complete spoof or parody, but then again I am because everyone likes to draw incredible out of line conclusions after week one. But even with that said these players deserve the spotlight recognition they should be receiving throughout this season or at least for the first couple of weeks. Here’s a list of some of the top performers from last week’s matchups from each SEC team:

Alabama Crimson Tide

Derrick Henry, running back: The obvious choice here is Derrick Henry and that’s the direction I am headed. Henry displayed his all desirable skill set Saturday night in the Tide’s win 35-17 over Wisconsin. Henry’s role will be counted on more than ever with the obvious quarterback “concerns” for Alabama and finally being the main back after TJ Yeldon’s departure. He is a threat to take it the distance each time and is worth a critical game plan for the opposing team making him the most valuable piece for Nick Saban’s bunch so far.

 

Arkansas Razorbacks

Dan Enos, offensive coordinator: I cheated the definition a little here but hopefully you see the point I am making. Dan Enos was brought over from his head coaching duties at Central Michigan to run (transform) the very conservative Bret Bielema. The Arkansas offense racked up 490 total yards (fourth highest in Bielema’s stint at Arkansas) with 308 in the air! Yes, Arkansas was playing an inferior UTEP defense but just from straight Xs and Os, Enos dialed up some excellent, yet simple, play calling. Brandon Allen’s accuracy improved with the receivers having no drops and the pass protection was solid using more backs using extra max protection schemes giving Allen a clean pocket to work in.

 

Auburn Tigers

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Montravius Adams, defensive tackle: A season ago with highly touted Carl Lawson out with an ACL tear, Montravius Adams received most of the attention taking on multiple double teams and not being able to completely display his talent. With Lawson back and Adams’ overall game improvement, Adams thrived in Auburn opener in Atlanta finishing the day with seven total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and one sack. Adams is a force across a heavy talented Auburn defensive line unit standing out with tremendous first step quickness and play recognition solidifying himself as one of the tops in the nation at his position.

 

Georgia Bulldogs

Leonard Floyd, linebacker: Normally making himself known on the exterior of the defense, Leonard Floyd got the start on the inside to help free up playmaker Jordan Jenkins and rising star Lorenzo Carter on the outside so they can be on the field at the same time to cause havoc in the backfield. Floyd is the anchor of this, once again, stout linebacking corps as he finished with eight tackles, half a sack, and half a tackle for loss.

 

Florida Gators

Antonio Morrison, linebacker: The senior only recorded one tackle this past weekend, so you may be asking yourself why is he being awarded as the MVP of Florida. Morrison’s status was unclear entering week one after suffering a serious knee injury in the bowl game but his presence didn’t go unnoticed as the heralded leader of the Gator defense.

 

Kentucky Wildcats

USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Stanley Williams, running back: Consistency in the run game is something Kentucky lacked the past few seasons not really having a feature back to carry the load. Though it’s only been one game, Williams has the ability to be in that feature back role and showed it this past weekend with ten measly carries for 135 yards. Taking the pressure off Towles is something the offense needs and if Williams is the solution to complete a consistent Kentucky backfield, then by all means award him as the early MVP.

 

LSU Tigers

McNeese State, football team: They’re getting paid millions, we think, for not even playing a game and don’t have to deal with an ugly L on their schedule. Sounds good to me.

 

Ole Miss Rebels

Robert Nkemdiche, defensive line: Nkemdiche was already known for his versatility across the defensive line but Saturday he embraced his inner JJ Watt catching a 32-yard touchdown pass. The man is crazy talented but this play shows volumes of how athletic he can be. Whether it’s scoring points or preventing them, Robert is a phenomenal playmaker for the Rebels and is a key piece for their success in 2015.

 

Mississippi State Bulldogs

AJ Jefferson, defensive end: In his first collegiate start, AJ Jefferson thrived at defensive end. His ability to convert speed into power is impeccable as he finished the late night kickoff with seven tackles and two sacks as he camped out in the backfield all night. This is huge if he can perform at this level each weekend with the departure of second round pick Preston Smith.

 

Missouri Tigers

Kentrell Brothers, linebacker: Brothers had a phenomenal performance Saturday versus FCS foe Southeastern Missouri State with 16 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Brothers is a force off the edge in the pass and run game while also being solid coverage. Brothers also managed to get his hands on a punt as his mitts became responsible for a special teams touchdown after a blocked punt.

 

South Carolina Gamecocks

Skai Moore, linebacker: To say the matchup between the Heels and Gamecocks was sloppy would be an understatement, but Skai Moore gave a positive boost for the Gamecocks coming up with two crucial interceptions in the redzone. Moore led the team in tackles with ten and is the SEC’s active leader in career interceptions with nine. Moore is one of the few consistent pieces on a still shaky Carolina defense.

 

Tennessee Volunteers

Tag team of running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara: Hurd and Kamara combined for 267 yards on the ground with five touchdowns. The Tennessee offensive line thrived versus an undersized Bowling Green line as they paved way for these two talented backs. A healthy running game with a consistent Joshua Dobbs at quarterback will be huge this upcoming weekend versus a solid Oklahoma defense.

 

Texas A&M Aggies

SI.com
SI.com

The whole defensive personnel: Since Texas A&M joined the SEC they have been known for their high-powered offensive production, but also equally known for their very average, to put it nicely, defense. The Aggie defense, run by new defensive coordinator John Chavis, put on one of the best defensive performances within the past decade against a quality opponent in Arizona State. The defense totaled for 14 tackles for loss, nine sacks, five forced fumbles, and a 27% third down conversion rate. IS Chavis the savior of the Aggie defense? Only time will tell.

 

Vanderbilt Commodores

Oren Burks, safety: With an ugly loss to Conference USA foe Western Kentucky, there is not much positives to take away from a final score of 14-12. Oren Burks may have been the exception as there could be a playmaker in the works for the ‘Dores. Burks finished the game with four total tackles, two pass breakups, and a half tackle for loss. Though the stat line isn’t incredible, Burks looks to have a promising future for the anchor down Vandy defense.