College Football

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Spring Noles

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Florida State had their annual Garnet and Gold Spring Showcase over the weekend. They had 18,061 fans in attendance.

Doak Campbell Stadium is undergoing renovations so one-half of the stadium did not have bleachers.

They had four guest coaches from the 1999 National Championship Team as guest coaches. Those players were wide receiver Peter Warrick, defensive lineman and current State Senator Corey Simon, running back Travis Minor and linebacker Tommy Polley.

“We’ll roll through some modified timing and the main part of the scoring will be the grand finale,” FSU head coach Mike Norvell said. “We’re excited to get some of the past players from the 1999 team that was really special.”

The FSU quarterbacks debuted a new turquoise jersey to represent Seminole Heritage.

Last season the Seminoles finished the season 13 – 0. They were snubbed from the College Football Playoff and had to ‘settle’ for the Orange Bowl. They had several injuries and players opt-out of playing the game. We all know they were demolished by Georgia, 63 – 3.

Georgia was the opposite and had their key players buy-in and play. I think this says a lot about the culture of the two programs.

Norvell is entering his fifth season in Tallahassee. His record has improved every year. In 2024, he is hoping his team can have the same success as last year but have postseason success.

FSU had the #4 transfer portal recruiting class, so a new group of talented players is on campus. The class is headlined by former five-star QB DJ Uiagalelei. Uiagalelei played at Clemson and Oregon State. He has not lived up to his recruiting ranking thus far and he is trying to finally reach that potential at Florida State.

Last season at Oregon State, he passed for 2,638 yards, 21 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and he completed 57% of his passes. He’s listed as 6’4 and 252 pounds.

They have five incoming Alabama players: linebacker Shawn Murphy, running back Roydell Williams, corner Earl Little II, offensive lineman Terrence Ferguson and receiver Malik Benson.

The other notable transfers are edge rusher Marvin Jones Jr. (Georgia), wide receiver Jalen Brown (LSU), defensive lineman Sione Lolohea (Oregon State) and defensive lineman Tomiwa Durojaiye (West Virginia).

The showcase does not follow a traditional spring game format. The defense started strong, with Marvin Jones Jr. getting a tackle for loss, followed by a half-sack from Jones, joined by defensive lineman Byron Turner Jr.

DJ was an unofficial 13 of 29 passing for 184 yards (including situational work before the scrimmage).

“Wasn’t obviously the cleanest day,” Uiagalelei said.

He got off to a shaky start but he improved. His first pass in the red zone was behind his receiver. He missed on five of his next seven passes. He also had a few passes dropped by his receivers.

He did complete a long pass to Malik Benson. The next play was a 35-yard touchdown run by Roydell Williams. Benson would later leave the contest on a cart with what appeared to be a lower leg injury.

Tight end Jackson West caught a few passes from Uiagalelei that moved the chains.

The defense played very well. Players like Cai Bates and Azareye’h Thomas broke up passes. The defensive front also created pressure.

Redshirt freshman Brock Glenn and freshman Luke Kromenhoek out with minor injuries, freshman Trever Jackson took snaps behind Uiagalelei. He showed poise with a few nice passes, including a 10-yard pass to freshman tight end Landen Thomas.

I’m sure the offense will look like a more cohesive unit in the Fall.

 

Reckless Driving

By: Colin Lacy

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The off-season for two consecutive seasons has been filled with much of the same that everyone around the country in today’s college football.

Transfer portal additions/subtractions, NIL meetings, spring football, but one thing that has been more prevalent than any team across the college football landscape in the public eye has been the off-field issues and more specifically run-ins with law enforcement on traffic related issues at the University of Georgia.

Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart has been under scrutiny especially the last two years because dozens of citations and arrests due to speeding, reckless driving, DUI, and other serious traffic offenses.

The latest of these came in late March when star transfer running back Trevor Etienne was arrested on four misdemeanor charges including DUI and reckless driving.

Etienne transferred to Athens after spending two seasons at SEC rival Florida. In his two campaigns with the Gators, Etienne rushed for 1,472 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns and was expected to be a key piece along with quarterback Graham Mertz before Etienne entered the transfer portal.

The addition of Etienne to the running back room for the Bulldogs made perfect sense after Georgia lost their top two rushers from a year ago as Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton take their talents to the NFL.

According to the UGA Athletic Department policy, Etienne will at minimum miss 10% of the 2024 season (equates to at least one game), if found guilty of the DUI charge.

Etienne was also charged with speeding and reckless driving for traveling between 80 to 90-mph in a 50-mph zone while also crossing the double yellow line to pass cars on two occasions.

Head Coach Kirby Smart has only commented that the team and athletic department will let the legal actions run its course before officially announcing if there will be or the length of the suspension of Etienne.

While Georgia has been hammered by the media and outside noise, most don’t focus on the steps that Athletic Director Josh Brooks and others in the athletic department have done to help aid the situation.

In an interview with ESPN, Sophomore offensive lineman Earnest Greene III said there have been numerous programs put into place ranging from conversations with local police officers, AD Josh Brooks, and Head Coach Kirby Smart about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Greene also said, “it’s on us” and went on to say that Smart has stressed the importance of the players taking ownership of the team and policing themselves.

Like most situations in college sports nowadays, there seems to be two drastically different sides, then the truth falls somewhere in the middle.

On one side, it seems like there is an inordinate number of arrests for speeding, DUI, and other serious traffic violations within the Georgia Football program.

On the other hand, there is only so much Josh Brooks and Kirby Smart can do to control 18–25-year-olds, also the Athens local law enforcement has earned the reputation of being somewhat stricter than most college towns.

Again, my two cents, I think it falls in the middle. Is there an issue for Georgia Football with the behaviors of SOME student-athletes? Sure, I don’t know that anyone would dispute that.

But I also think it easily gets overblown for a couple of reasons. Yes, there have been somewhere between 14-18 players involved in an incident like this, but I don’t think it’s unique to Georgia.

The Bulldogs are just the ones that are 1. Published about, and 2. Talked about because of the rise of Georgia Football.

So, and this coming from someone that’s not a die-hard Georgia fan, sure there is an issue that needs to be addressed and is being addressed by the athletic department and Georgia Football, but it also gets blown out of proportion due to a number of factors around Athens.

The Bottom Half

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

That’s right everyone, it’s time for my bottom half ranking the head coaches for the 2024 SEC season.

A few of these coaches are new coaches and others are on the Hot Seat waiting to be fired.

No. 9 Mike Elko, Texas A&M: Elko is 16-9 in two seasons as Duke’s head coach, leading the Blue Devils to one of their best seasons in school history in 2022.

He got the Texas A&M job because of his coaching (and player development) acumen, plus a personality that should play well with the Aggies’ fickle booster base.

No. 10 Hugh Freeze, Auburn: Freeze remains the most difficult coach to rank in the SEC. How do you weigh his accomplishments previously at Ole Miss (two wins over Nick Saban) versus his recent results at Liberty and Auburn? The history is not promising.

No. 11 Brent Venables, Oklahoma: Venables bounced back from a tough first season as a head coach, guiding the Sooners to a 10-win season in advance of the program’s move to the SEC.

A bad loss to UCF squandered a chance to play for the Big 12 Championship, but Venables did beat Texas in Red River and fixed a bad Oklahoma defense.

No. 12 Shane Beamer, South Carolina: After two straight seasons of exceeding expectations under Beamer, the Gamecocks regressed to the mean in 2023 — going 5-7 with a slew of frustrating losses.

South Carolina dealt with all sorts of injuries last year (particularly at OL and with wideout Juice Wells), but the team ultimately wasted a solid season from quarterback Spencer Rattler.

Beamer has had a bunch of staff turnover, this offseason, too.

No. 13 Sam Pittman, Arkansas: Pittman is a beloved character in college football, but the shine has worn off the Pit Boss’ star since he led the Razorbacks to a surprising 9-4 season in 2021.

Like Napier, Pittman must win now or else he probably won’t be on this list next spring.

No. 14 Jeff Lebby, Mississippi State: Lebby finds himself last in the 2024 SEC head coach rankings solely because he hasn’t been a head coach previously.

The guy he replaced Zach Arnett was ranked at the bottom of this list last spring, too, but here’s guessing Lebby will have a much longer stay in Starkville.

No. 15 Billy Napier, Florida: No head coach in the SEC faces more pressure than Billy Napier in 2024, and the stakes were raised earlier this month when Steve Spurrier openly said, “There’s a feeling around the Gators of ‘What the heck are we doing?’”.

Napier is just 11-14 in two seasons with the Gators. He secured a signature win over Utah in his debut as UF’s head coach, but pretty much everything since the 2022 opener has gone wrong.

Florida’s defense has been a disaster for two seasons.

No. 16  Clark Lea, Vanderbilt: The expectation was that Lea would receive a long leash to rebuild his alma mater in his image, but the results have been so dire (2-22 in SEC games in three seasons), that suddenly the former Vandy fullback is facing pressure to deliver more wins.

Not looking great for Vandy.

I believe 3 coaches on this list are on the Hot-Seat: Shane Beamer, Sam Pittman and Billy Napier.

All 8 of these coaches have something to prove. Last year, I ranked Eli Drinkwitz at 14, so who on my bottom half will rise and who will be fired?

Rank Em

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s the pollen-covered cars spring, which means March Madness and head coach rankings!

For the uninitiated, these lists are totally subjective. This is meant to be a fun exercise, and it’s my ranking.

While career achievements are considered, college football has become a sport that’s constantly changing, so recent performance (wins, recruiting, working the transfer portal, hiring assistants, producing NFL Draft picks, etc.) will be taken into account.

Entering the 2024 season, the SEC features two new teams (so two more coaches to rank), and two new head coaches at Texas A&M and Mississippi State.

No. 1 Kirby Smart, Georgia: Smart is the undisputed top-ranked coach in America right now. He’s won at least 11 games in six of the last seven years, has a pair of national titles and just inked another No. 1 recruiting class.

Georgia has sent more talent to the NFL than any program in the country in the last few seasons, and the Bulldogs are the early favorites for the national championship in 2024. Clear number one here.

No. 2 Brian Kelly, LSU: Kelly has done everything but win a national championship at the FBS level. He’s won at least 10 games in seven straight seasons, producing a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jayden Daniels in Year 2 at LSU.

No. 3 Kalen DeBoer, Alabama: While DeBoer’s resume as FBS head coach is fairly light, the man rarely loses, whether it’s at Sioux Falls or Washington (104-12).

He won 21 straight games with the Huskies, beat Texas twice and made the national championship in Year 2, which is why he became the coveted target to replace Nick Saban at Alabama.

No. 4 Steve Sarkisian, Texas: Sarkisian won 10 games for the first time in his career in 2023, resurrecting the Longhorns’ program back to national prominence by winning the Big 12 and making the CFP.

He’s arguably the best play-caller in college football and is certainly one of the top offensive minds.

No. 5 Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss: Kiffin just led the Rebels to their first 11-win season in school history, and like Sarkisian, has overcome a rocky start to his head coaching career (be it the one-and-done season at Tennessee or the stint at USC).

Before Kiffin arrived in Oxford, Ole Miss had just three 10-win seasons in 48 years. He could top that in 2024 with the Rebels pushing their chips for a potential SEC title run.

No. 6 Josh Heupel, Tennessee: A year after leading the Vols to their best season in nearly 25 years, Heupel managed to win nine games in 2023 despite erratic quarterback play.

That shouldn’t be an issue in the future, though, as the Nico Iamaleava era starts this fall and 2025 5-star commit George MacIntyre is waiting in the wings.

No. 7 Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri: Drinkwitz is coming off the best coaching job of his career, leading the Tigers to a surprising 11-2 season and a win over Ohio State to finish in the Top 10.

Before the season, he shrewdly delegated play-calling duties to new OC hire Kirby Moore, which allowed Drinkwitz to focus on his entire team and move worked brilliantly.

No. 8 Mark Stoops, Kentucky: Stoops has been the Wildcats’ best football coach since Bear Bryant, elevating the program with multiple 10-win seasons for the first time in more than four decades.

Stoops’ ranking requires perspective though, Kentucky football was basically nothing before he arrived and the ‘Cats have made eight straight bowl games. He’s raised the expectations, which is why 7-6 is seen as a poor season.

Here are my top SEC coaches entering the 2024 season.

Scheduling For Money

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The SEC is likely to stay with an eight-game football schedule for the 2025 season, but that could be the final year before going to nine games, according to Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte.

The main news: the SEC is sticking with an eight-game schedule for the 2025 season. There was no confirmation from the SEC office or anyone else at the town hall event Del Conte spoke at.

Several conference sources emphasized that there has been no official decision either way on the 2025 season or beyond.

But indications are the SEC does not want to have its annual meetings in Destin, Fla., this May be dominated by another debate about the future schedule format. The conference could announce well before that it’s going with an eight-game schedule for 2025, then make a decision later for 2026 and beyond.

When Oklahoma and Texas announced they were joining the league a few years ago, the momentum was toward going to a nine-game schedule. But that momentum stalled mainly because ESPN did not agree to increase payout to the SEC in exchange for adding a ninth game.

At last year’s spring meetings, the SEC announced it would keep an eight-game schedule for the 2024 season. That was the first eight-game schedule for Texas and Oklahoma, and it postponed the long-awaited decision on whether to go to nine.

The biggest reason is money. Even schools that favor a nine-game schedule, such as Georgia, have wanted ESPN to increase its payout in exchange.

The television contract, which was signed about six months before Oklahoma and Texas announced they were joining, just has a pro rata clause, which means the payout goes up by an equal amount to what the current 14 schools were getting.

SEC officials have argued that eight more conference games  the result of going to a nine-game schedule is worth more money. But ESPN, dealing with Disney-ordered cutbacks, has not agreed.

There is another reason for the SEC to punt: It can see if only playing an eight-game schedule helps or hurts its teams for the 12-team CFP when the Big Ten and other conferences are playing nine games.

There have been two formats under discussion: In the eight-game format, every team would have one permanent rivalry and rotate everyone else.

In the nine-game format, every team would have three teams it plays every year and rotate everyone else. In both formats, everybody plays everybody else at least twice every four years.

The downside of an eight-game schedule is traditional rivalries that wouldn’t be played every year: Auburn and Georgia or Alabama and Tennessee, for instance.

While Texas-Texas A&M was considered one of those, Del Conte also said that the Longhorns would play the Aggies every year. It could be Oklahoma and Texas that wouldn’t be played every year if an eight-game schedule were adopted.

This year, while the SEC stayed with eight games, it kept those traditional rivalries as rotating games. That could be done again in 2025.

In result, the traditional rivalries would stay intact if the SEC went to a nine-game schedule starting in 2026. If the conference sticks with eight games, the rivalries would go to a non-annual basis.

In your opinion, does the SEC rotating rivalry schedules create a significant enough loss in media dollars to justify a pay increase for nine games?

Because if not having those secondary rivalries played every year, the SEC can justify to Disney that they have to pay more in fear of missing out on rivalry media dollars.

Plenty Of Bite

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The expectations are through the roof.

The Georgia Bulldogs finished (13-1) but came up short last season in their quest to become the first three-peat national champion in modern-day history.

A 63-3 Orange Bowl win over FSU showed the nation that Georgia was good enough to accomplish the 3-peat but the system in place did not allow it.

Now, we go to a 12-team playoff in 2024, and after 8 straight top three recruiting classes Georgia is poised to be in the mix for another run at a national championship.

The Bulldogs have been known for defense during this run the program has been on, but what goes unnoticed is how productive and explosive the UGA offense has been over the past two seasons.

It all starts at the QB position for UGA. ESPN has named Carson Beck as the best returning QB in the country for this fall.

Beck passed for 3,941 yards in 2023 and had a 72.4% completion percentage with 24 TD passes. Beck is a Heisman Trophy contender going into the 2024 season and if he can lead UGA back into the college football playoffs he may just bring the Heisman to UGA for the first time since 1982 when you know who won it.

He patiently waited his turn in Athens in an era of ‘I want to play now or transfer’. That mentality won over the UGA locker room last fall, and now the decision to return for 2024 has Beck leading a team that many will predict to win a national championship.

At running back UGA has a loaded room. Trevor Etienne comes in from Florida and the expectations are high for the junior with plenty of SEC game experience.

Roderick Robinson returns, and Branson Robinson is recovering from a knee injury.

Nate Frazier leads a trio of incoming first-year students that will re-stock the running back room.

At wide receiver Dillon Bell, Rara Thomas and Dominic Lovett will lead a deep room that still includes Arian Smith and some highly touted transfer portal additions.

This is a deep group that will give Beck plenty of options in the passing game. Georgia offense put up prolific numbers in 2023, and 2024 should be no different.

At Tight End Oscar Delp takes over for the legend of Brock Bowers in Athens. Delp is productive but has huge shoes to fill. He will be the next great UGA tight end.

The offensive line is a place UGA has recruited very well and will reload.

Former Camden County Wildcat Micah Morris will compete for a starting position in the spring and summer, and the UGA coaches are extremely high on former Brunswick High Pirate Jamal Meriweather, who bulked up thirty-five pounds during his redshirt season last fall.

Jared Wilson has all conference potential at center, Earnest Greene is a budding superstar at left tackle.

For all the hype Kirby Smart gets for recruiting defensive stars he also has developed a roster of studs on the offensive side of the ball.

Nobody manages a roster better than Kirby Smart, and now with the retirement of Nick Saban the best coach in the country resides in Athens, Georgia.

Repeat after me Kirby Smart is the best college football coach in the country, and he will have an offense in 2024 that will prove it. He might just maybe have his first Heisman Trophy winner as a head coach.

The Amateurs

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NCAA’s amateur model is crumbling right before our eyes.

The free agency market for college athletes is taking shape.

The preliminary injunction against the NCAA that will prevent the association from prohibiting athletes from negotiating NIL compensation with collectives and boosters – shouldn’t even be considered momentous. It should be considered obvious and overdue.

This is a landmark ruling in college sports, and this ruling is in effect and largely consequential because an entire industry has been conditioned for decades to believe that it’s against NCAA rules for athletes to be able to gauge the true value of their labor like any other American.

Now, Judge Clifton L. Corker, ruling in the NIL lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Tennessee and Virginia, is signaling that the NCAA’s suppression of a free market – at least as it pertains to NIL – is on the wrong side of the law.

“Without the give and take of a free market, student-athletes simply have no knowledge of their true NIL value,” Corker wrote in his decision. “It is this suppression of negotiating leverage and the consequential lack of knowledge that harms student-athletes.”

The court ordered that the NCAA and “all persons in active concert or participation with the NCAA” are restrained from enforcing the interim NIL policy, NCAA bylaws or any other authority that prohibits athletes from negotiating NIL compensation.

God forbid a college athlete, like the rest of us, can gauge what he/she is worth on the open market before they make life changing decisions about their future.

It’s another loss for the wigs and suits and the NCAA, and a massive one.

Athletes shouldn’t have been brainwashed to the point where news like this is celebrated. This needs to be normal. It is a good step in the right direction from a business ethics standpoint.

However, the athletes’ free market model needs to expand to further benefit the people who make the NCAA what it is.

What this decision represents is the continued demise of the NCAA’s amateurism model.

Here is what will take hold: another much-needed step toward the formation of a long-overdue free market for the athletes.

Athletes also need the ability to gauge how large of a slice of the enormous broadcast rights pies they deserve. They need to be empowered to collectively bargain with schools, leagues or the College Football Playoff on  any number of issues related to compensation, health, welfare matters and much more.

The fact that 10 FBS commissioners engaged in a nearly nine-hour College Football Playoff meeting Wednesday and broached the possibility of expanding the newly expanded 12-team tournament to 14 teams without a peep of input from athletes  tells you how far college sports still needs to go.

But change is coming. Considering the pace of change in 2024 alone, it’s coming fast.

Time will tell how the case plays out. In the meantime, we are now witnessing, in real-time, the NCAA’s amateur model crumbling. And we’re seeing the college athlete free market take shape, a change as obvious as it is overdue.

The SEC Mine Field

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

This year for the first time ever in college football we have a new piece to the equation. That’s the new 12 team playoff scenario.

Many across the country felt that Georgia was the best team in the country in 2023. And that was after the Michigan Wolverines spanked the Washington Huskies in the NCAA National Championship game.

But they picked a bad time to play a very average game and lost the SEC championship to old nemesis Alabama 27-24. With the 4-team playoff in place all Georgia could say was woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Well hopefully this new format will give a more rounded playoff and throw a little more excitement into it. Let’s take a way too early look at the SEC contenders for a spot in the 2024 playoffs.

ALABAMA: The biggest news in college football this year was Nick Saban heading off into the sunset.

In comes Washington Huskies Kalen DeBoer to lead the Crimson Tide. Offensively the Tide return Jalen Milroe, who came on at the end of the season and was instrumental in the upset of then #1 Georgia.

Add in budding star Justice Haynes at RB and a solid returning O-line with experience and the Tide could be tough on Offense. Losing Isiah Bond and Amari Niblack to the portal won’t help though.

The defense was wrecked by the NFL draft, the portal, and the coaching change. While they ranked 17th in the country giving up only 19 PPG in 2023, 2024 could be a different story. Bama’s season will rest on the D.

GEORGIA: While Dawg nation had all the respect in the world for Nick Saban, they are damn glad he’s gone.

Playing a sub-par game when it counted, the Dawgs fell 27-24 to the Tide in the SEC championship and missed a chance at a 3-peat.

Well, the Dawgs are back and reloaded for 2024.

Back is Carson Beck, who threw for 22 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. He has first round NFL written all over him.

The RBs should be one of the best in the country with the addition of Trevor Etienne. Add in a massive, talented O-line and a very good returning receiving corp and the Dawgs are loaded on offense.

Defensively, the Dawgs return starters and experience throughout. Nazir Stackhouse, Mykel Williams, Smael Mondon, Daylen Everett, and Malaki Starks all return.

There is talent, speed and experience and the defense should be solid.

Add in a great placekicker in Peyton Woodring and the Dawgs are ready for run. The #1 recruiting class this year won’t hurt either.

TEXAS: Welcome to the SEC, Texas!

The Longhorns bring a great winning tradition, a rabid fanbase and a loaded experienced outfit to the SEC in 2024.

Texas returns Quinn Evers at QB and 4 of 5 starters on the O-line. That’s 2 major pieces to the puzzle in the rugged SEC.

The WR room has been bolstered by the addition of Matthew Golden and Silas Bolden from the portal. Add in Isiah Bond from Alabama and this could be a team strength.

On the defensive side the Horns will miss T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy II.

They do have returning experience and starters throughout the defense and should be solid. This will be a very good football team in 2024.

How they deal with the week-in week-out physicality of the SEC will be fun to watch.

So, those are the three top dogs in the SEC for 2024? But there is a sleeper or two.

OLE MISS: Nobody likes the Portal as much as Lane Kiffin.

And so far in 2024 the Rebs have added 17.

Ole Miss returns Jaxson Dart at QB and he leads an offense that is flat loaded.

The O-line is experienced and SEC proven and includes Jeremy James, a two-year starter who grew up in Brunswick and played for our U-12 all-stars, the Broncos. Great kid and family.

Add in a great group of WRs for Dart to connect with and the Rebels will be formidable on offense.

Defensively Pete Golding likes to rotate, rotate, then rotate players. That leads to a lot of experience on that side of the ball. Add in the portal additions and the Rebels will be improved on D in 2024.

LSU: You’ve got to hand it to Brian Kelly,  the dude can coach football.

He brings a squad to the table that on any given day can beat any of the above.

Offensively, look for Garrett Nussmeier to have a great year. The second-string gunslinger from 2023 will lead the Tigers in 2024 and he is one of the better QBs in the league right NOW.

The O-line is physical and returns 4 starters.

The defense is experienced and returns players throughout the lineup. Add in Harold Perkins, one of the most electric defensive players in the nation and LSU is loaded. You better bring you’re A game with these guys.

The SEC is going to be fantastic in 2024. We could very easily see 3 teams in the 12-team playoff.

Don’t sleep on Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Oklahoma.  I just hope we haven’t beaten ourselves to death by playoff time.

The Future Is Now

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The two most powerful conferences in the NCAA are teaming up to tackle the biggest issues in college athletics.

The Big Ten and the SEC are forming a joint advisory group of university presidents and athletic directors.

It will discuss recent court decisions, pending litigations, governance proposals, and state laws. Their goal , is to “take a leadership role in developing solutions for a sustainable future of college sports.” (Whatever that means).

The two conferences are the richest in the country and deal with large scale issues like NIL on a  differently from their peers. Sankey has long complained that the NCAA governs across too diverse a membership, with the schools in the highest-resourced leagues needing to make more decisions for themselves.

No one is looking out for the greater good of the college sports. There never has been, and I’m not sure there ever will. I’d sure love for there to be a commissioner of college football (an ideal candidate just became available in January), but why would the conferences voluntarily hire a boss?

Oh, I don’t believe Greg Sankey and Tony Petittii aren’t plotting a full-on breakaway by their conferences. At least not yet. It’s more that big market administrators want to throw their weight around while college sports are reconfiguring.

Sankey, who came up through the NCAA model and remains largely loyal to it, seems unenthused by NCAA president Charlie Baker’s proposal in December for a new subdivision of schools that can pay their athletes $30,000 per year.

Petitti is a college sports outsider who may be more willing to think outside the box than most NCAA lifers.

Also: the SEC and Big Ten need a functioning NCAA more than many suggest. Do you think Kentucky is going to bow out of March Madness in favor of a Big Ten-SEC March Challenge? Do you know what a big deal the College World Series is in the SEC and the Frozen Four in the Big Ten? Not to mention all the regulatory headaches the leagues currently get to outsource to the folks in Indy.

The issue at hand is centered around college football, but this affects all athletes across the country. Any College Football Playoff format that leaves out the ACC, Big 12 and Notre Dame, among others, would lose credibility.

I suppose they could just absorb all the most credible remaining contenders (Clemson and Florida State, etc.), but unless or until a court invalidates the ACC’s Grant of Rights — which could be years — that’s not feasible.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t use their leverage to secure the most favorable terms possible in the new CFP deal in 2026. They’re certainly not going to let a two-team conference dictate how many leagues (if any) get automatic berths.

For years, College Sports Inc. has been in a state of limbo where everyone recognizes the system is broken, but no one is stepping up to do anything about it.

This was the SEC and Big Ten taking it upon themselves to do, which undermines the entirety of College Athletics for personal gain. As for the athletes and supporting conferences, they don’t have much choice but to follow their lead.

Portal Power

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The transfer portal has changed college football drastically.

Players seem to hop from school to school now without much thought. Any team that wants to be a contender has to get talent from the transfer portal.

The 30-day winter transfer period ended January 2, 2024. Let’s take a look at the schools with the best transfer portal classes.

Ole Miss has the top ranked transfer portal class for 2024. The Rebels have 17 commits. The five-star player is defensive lineman Walter Nolen (Texas A&M). He was the #1 football recruit in the class of 2022 as a senior in high school. He played for the Aggies for two seasons, totaling 11 tackles for loss and 5 sacks.

The rest of the class consists of seven four-stars and nine three-star players.

Some of the top players are defensive end/edge Princely Umanmielen (Florida), wide receiver Antwane Wells (South Carolina), linebacker Chris Paul Jr. (Arkansas), corner back Trey Amos (Alabama), safety Yam Banks (South Alabama), running back Logan Diggs (LSU) and tight end Daequan Wright (Virginia Tech).

Texas A&M has the #2 class. The Aggies have 23 commits and 8 of them are four-star players. That’s great, considering they lost two five-stars in the transfer portal.

We already discussed Walter Nolen leaving for Ole Miss but they also lost wide receiver Evan Stewart to Oregon. Four-star defensive lineman LT Overton transferred to Alabama, tight end Jake Johnson transferred to UNC and wide receiver Raymond Cottrell transferred to Kentucky.

Four-star right tackle Chase Bisontis started all 12 regular season games for the Aggies last season. He entered his name in the portal but withdrew it and decided to return to College Station.

The top incoming players are edge rusher Nic Scourton (Purdue), corner Dezz Ricks (Alabama), wide receiver Cyrus Allen (Louisiana Tech), defensive end Cashius Howell (Bowling Green), corner Will Lee III (Kansas State), safety Marcus Ratcliffe (San Diego State), corner Donovan Saunders (Cal Poly) and linebacker Scooby Williams (Florida).

Florida State has the #4 transfer portal class.

The last time we saw the Seminoles was in the Orange Bowl where Georgia demolished them, 63-3. That did not stop them from getting 15 new transfer players and ten of them are four-stars.

Something that is very interesting is the amount of players coming in from Alabama.

The five incoming Crimson Tide players are linebacker Shawn Murphy, running back Roydell Williams, corner Earl Little II, offensive lineman Terrence Ferguson and receiver Malik Benson.

They also have two Oregon State players; defensive lineman Sione Lolohea and quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. Uiagalelei started his career at Clemson so he is at his third school.

They are also receiving edge rusher Marvin Jones Jr. (Georgia), wide receiver Jalen Brown (LSU) and defensive lineman Tomiwa Durojaiye (West Virginia).

South Carolina has the #9 class. The Gamecocks class only has four four-star players.

The top player is running back Raheim Sanders (Arkansas). Sanders had a breakout year in 2022 as a sophomore, rushing for 1,443 yards, 10 touchdowns and he averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Unfortunately, in 2023 he tore his labrum in November. He also suffered a knee injury in Week 1.

South Carolina is also receiving linebacker Grayson Howard (Florida), linebacker Demetrius Knight (Charlotte) and edge rusher Kyle Kennard (Georgia Tech).

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