SEC

SEC QB1

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Six quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, tying the 1983 class, which included Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

Despite the college landscape’s losses, SEC Football will have no shortage of talent at QB1 in the 2024 campaign.

From veteran transfers to young standouts, countless QBs are hungry for their shot at glory in the upcoming season. Here are my top 5 SEC quarterbacks heading into 2024-25.

  1. Garrett Nussmeier (LSU): Nussmeier’s only start last season came in LSU’s victory over Wisconsin in the ReliaQuest Bowl.

In the win, Nussmeier exploded with talent: 31 completions, 395 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. I feel confident Nussmeier can replicate this success next season in an expanded role.

LSU is going to score a lot of points, and, it’s [Nussmeier’s] team now. He knows that. Brian Kelly knows that. Everyone in that locker room knows that. And, I think we got a preview of it during the bowl game.

  1. Nico Iamaleava (Tennessee):Nico Iamaleava finished last season with 28 completions for 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.

During Tennessee’s 35-0 win over Iowa (Cheez-It Citrus Bowl), Iamaleava completed 12-of-his-19 pass attempts for 151 yards and a touchdown. He also had three scores on the ground. I believe Iamaleava might realize his full potential this season.

  1. Jalen Milroe (Alabama):Jalen Milroe finished this past season with 2,718 yards passing, 23 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions.

He was also a significant threat on the ground, collecting 468 rushing yards and a team-high 12 touchdowns on the ground.

While Nick Saban is no longer leading the Crimson Tide, My prediction is Milroe will continue to roll over his opponents.

Milroe and Kalen DeBoer, to me, are a lot like the french fry and milkshake combo. It sounds like two things that are very different wouldn’t go well together. I think that’s Kalen DeBoer and Jalen Milroe. You don’t think they’re supposed to go together and then you try it and you’re like, Oh, wow, this is phenomenal.

  1. Jaxson Dart (Ole Miss):Jaxson Dart led one of the most dangerous offenses in the nation last season.

In 2023, the 6-foot-2 QB recorded 233 completions for 3,364 passing yards and 23 touchdowns while only tossing 5 picks. I am forecasting these numbers will grow in the upcoming season.

1B. Quinn Ewers (Texas):Quinn Ewers threw for 3,161 yards and 21 touchdowns across 11 games as a redshirt sophomore last season, leading Texas to its first College Football Playoff appearance in program history.

Expect even more jaw-dropping statistics from Ewers this year.

Ewers, I think has the ability to have the best statistical performance out of anybody on this list this season. He has figured out what works in college football. The light bulb is on. It’s not blinking. It’s beaming.

1A.  Carson Beck (Georgia):Carson Beck finished this past season ranked third nationally and first in the SEC in passing yards (3,941), as well as fourth in the nation in completion percentage (.724).

For his efforts, he was named a Coaches All-SEC Second Team selection. Obviously, I anticipate more accomplishments for Georgia’s QB1.

I have the highest level of confidence that [Beck] is going to execute his job at the highest level every single Saturday..

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.

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.

Best Of The Best

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Many analysts and fans consider the SEC to be the best football conference. Depending on the year there may be an element of truth to that.

I’m going to look at some of the best teams in conference history and try to determine who the best is.

1998 Tennessee: The Vols were the first national champs of the BCS era.

Ironically, everything came together the year after Peyton Manning graduated. They were led by quarterback Tee Martin and wide receiver Peerless Price. Sophomore running back Jamal Lewis tore his LCL in his right knee, so he only played in the first 5 games.

Price had 920 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Travis Henry led the team in rushing with 970 yards and 7 touchdowns.

They beat Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 13-0.

1992 Alabama: The Crimson Tide were led by a strong defense. They led the nation in fewest points allowed (9.2 per game during the regular season). They won the first SEC Championship Game against No. 12 Florida.

In the Sugar Bowl they played defending national champ, No. 1 Miami. They routed the Hurricanes 34-13 to finish 13-0.

They also did not allow an offensive touchdown to the Heisman Trophy winner, QB Gino Toretta.

1980 Georgia: This team was led by freshman running back Herschel Walker. He rushed for 1,616, 15 touchdowns and averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

He was talented enough to help the team overcome mediocre quarterback play. Buck Belue passed for 1,314 yards, 11 TD’s, 9 interceptions and completed 49% of his passes.

They beat No. 14 South Carolina and No. 20 Florida in consecutive weeks. In the Sugar Bowl they beat No. 7 Notre Dame to finish 12-0.

1996 Florida: The Gators are the first team on this list with a loss. They outscored their opponents 612-228. QB Danny Wuerffel threw for 3,625 yards, 39 touchdowns and 13 picks. He won the Heisman Trophy.

The offense had a lot of talent with running backs Fred Taylor and Elijah Williams. They also had Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green at receiver.

The Gators only loss came in the regular season finale to No. 2 Florida State, 24-21. They got revenge in the Sugar Bowl and demolished FSU, 52-20.

2009 Alabama: They were led by Heisman Trophy winning running back Mark Ingram with 1,658 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. He also had 3 receiving touchdowns.

Linebacker Rolando McClain won the Butkus Award and Jack Lambert Award.

Greg McElroy threw for 2,508 yards, 17 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and he completed 61% of his passes.

Julio Jones led the team in receiving with 43 receptions for 596 yards and 4 touchdowns.

They beat No. 1 Florida in the SEC Championship and No. 2 Texas in the Rose Bowl to finish 14-0.

2011 Alabama: The defense led the nation in every major statistical category.

Running back Trent Richardson won the Doak Walker award, rushing for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Seven players were named to various All-America Teams.

The only loss was to No. 1 LSU, 9-6. In the National Championship Game, they avenged the loss and beat the Tigers 21-0. They finished 12-1.

2008 Florida: This was coach Urban Meyer’s best team. They were led by Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin on offense.

The lone loss came to Ole Miss. They finished 13-1 with a win over No. 2 Oklahoma in the national championship.

2019 LSU: I saved the best for last.

Joe Burrow had the best season for a quarterback in college football history and led the Tigers to a 15-0 record.

The Tigers demolished everyone they played.

I Have The Power

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Another college football season has come and gone.

The SEC perception wise seemed a little down in 2023.

No SEC team played for a national title for the 2023 season for the first time since 2014. The College Football playoff committee/ESPN dream scenario match-up of Alabama and Texas did not come to fruition.

It was still a solid year in the premier football conference in the land. My final SEC power rankings are listed below. The 12-team playoff begins in 2024. Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Ole Miss all would have made an expanded 12-team playoff if it had been in place 12-months sooner.

1.Georgia – It is hard to be disappointed after going 13-1. It was not the best UGA team in the last three seasons but it was damn good.

UGA was not consistent all season on getting pressure on the QB. They lost to Alabama in the SEC title game 27-24, but gave you 63 reasons in the Orange Bowl to show that they are the best team in the country.

A 12-team playoff would have resulted in a 3-peat. UGA lost late in the season one year too early.

2.Alabama – Considering the QB situation, it was great season. The demise of Saban and the dynasty was premature. The Wide Receiver play was not up to Alabama standards.

Jalen Milroe is a talented athlete who needs to improve in the short and intermediate passing game.

Alabama has had the most talented roster in the country for three straight seasons based on blue chip rankings, but no national titles to show for it.

3.Missouri – The Tigers were unexpectedly good and the future is bright.

Who did not enjoy the Cotton Bowl win over Ohio State? This team will be in the SEC title hunt in 2024.

4.Ole Miss – The Rebels won 11 wins for the first time ever. That alone gets you a lofty spot in SEC power rankings. The top four in this conference are better than any top tier teams in any other conference. Lane Kiffin has Ole Miss rolling.

5.LSU – I suspect a letdown given last season but still on the right track.

Did anyone seriously think the LSU defense would be as poor as it was? The Tigers  did produce a Heisman winner.

6.Tennessee -It was a good season for the Vols. There is lots of hope for the future after the bowl game against a tough defense.

It wasn’t as good of a season as I am sure most Vols fans hoped for but not horrible.

Tennessee must improve on the lines of scrimmage to be elite.

7.Kentucky: The Wildcats started 5-0 then finished 7-6. That is about what you expect from Kentucky football.

8.Texas A&M – Ugh. Mike Elko to the rescue. Does that inspire confidence Aggie fans?

9.Auburn – Only Auburn can lose to New Mexico State and then force Alabama to win the iron bowl in miracle fashion and upset the entire college football world’s power structure.

That is Auburn doing what they do best, causing havoc.

Prediction: Hugh Freeze in three years will have Auburn competing for national titles and will be the premier college football program in the state of Alabama.

10.Florida – The Flagship University in the state of Florida has had three straight losing seasons.

The Gators did not make a bowl game in 2023.

They have the schedule from hell in 2024.

DJ Lagway better be really good at QB is all I can say.

Billy Napier may not survive 2024 as UF head football coach.

11.Mississippi State – It may be a while for the Bulldogs from Starkville.

12.South Carolina – There is significant improvement needed in 2024.

13.Arkansas – Bobby Petrino to the rescue. Sam Pittman’s days are numbered in Fayetteville.

14.Vanderbilt – Vandy always has baseball season to fall back on.

On July 1, 2024, you have Oklahoma and Texas entering the mix. The SEC will expand the national perception of being the best conference in college football.

It Just Means More?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The shots came from the north, the west and all over social media: The vaunted SEC, dominator of college football, had been humbled.

Michigan player Braiden McGcegor spoke for many: “In the SEC they say it just means more. That should be ours now.” Somewhere commissioner Greg Sankey read that and grimaced.

For the first time in nine years the SEC will not be represented in the national championship game. There’s a cruel irony in that for Sankey, who helped usher in the 12-team College Football Playoff despite his conference dominating the four-team era.

Why change a beneficial status quo? Because Sankey knew college football would be better if more regions and more conferences were invested and engaged. Sankey also wanted expansion this year, which, should it have happened, would have created an opening for at least one more of his teams to make a run.

Ah, well, a good humbling every now and then is healthy in the long run. The SEC sees clearly that it is in an even competition with the newly constituted Big Ten. But it’s also not a dire picture: Alabama losing to Michigan in overtime on a neutral field is not itself a confirmation of inferiority for SEC detractors.

Vice versa, Tennessee stomping Iowa and Missouri beating Ohio State are also not satisfactory evidence of total conference superiority for SEC defenders because well, bowl games in this era.

It’s just a kick in the butt collectively to the SEC to know it is no longer just in competition with itself. That change can be good. It can be fun.

But this edition of the vibes doesn’t look back. It looks forward, which is why it includes the two coming entrants to the league.

And the vibes, for those whom may be new or forgetful, are not a pure ranking from best to worst; it’s who’s feeling the best to who’s feeling the worst which is why these rankings will look funky.

This takes into account expectations, performance, and just generally the optimism, or lack thereof, heading into the 2024 season.

Even when I adjust for the normal postseason optimism, a look at the top of the SEC shows this is still going to be the best  conference, but the Big Ten is not that far behind.

The SECs tagline of “it just means more” carries a little more weight now, as the additions of Texas and Oklahoma make the league a super conference in 2024.

I feel good about 4 to 5 SEC teams’ chances of making it into a 12-team playoff next season.

The SEC will not play for this year’s championship but they are still the top conference in college football.

Saves The Dates

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

2024 is upon us. The college football playoff landscape expands to a 12-team beauty contest moving forward.

The SEC officially released next year’s schedules recently. Not enough space to go through them all, but I will go through the historical SEC programs and Oklahoma and Texas.

Alabama
Aug. 31: vs. Western Kentucky
Sept. 7: vs. USF
Sept. 14: at Wisconsin
Sept. 21: BYE
Sept. 28: vs. Georgia
Oct. 5: at Vanderbilt
Oct. 12: vs. South Carolina
Oct. 19: at Tennessee
Oct. 26: vs. Missouri
Nov. 2: BYE
Nov. 9: at LSU
Nov. 16: vs. Mercer
Nov. 23: at Oklahoma
Nov. 30: vs. Auburn

First Glance: Bye weeks before Georgia and LSU. @Tennessee, @LSU, and @ Oklahoma the week before the Iron Bowl. The Tide will be road warriors in 2024.

Auburn
Aug. 31: vs. Alabama A&M
Sept. 7: vs. California
Sept. 14: vs. New Mexico
Sept. 21: vs. Arkansas
Sept. 28: vs. Oklahoma
Oct. 5: at Georgia
Oct. 12: BYE
Oct. 19: at Missouri
Oct. 26: at Kentucky
Nov. 2: vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 9: BYE
Nov. 16: vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 23: vs. Texas A&M

Nov. 30: at Alabama

First glance: No road game until October. @ UGA and @ Alabama. Nice slate for Hugh Freeze to get Auburn back on track.

Florida
Aug. 31: vs. Miami (FL)
Sept. 7: vs. Samford
Sept. 14: vs. Texas A&M
Sept. 21: at Mississippi St.
Sept. 28: BYE
Oct. 5: vs. UCF
Oct. 12: at Tennessee
Oct. 19: vs. Kentucky
Oct. 26: BYE
Nov. 2: vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 9: at Texas
Nov. 16: vs. LSU
Nov. 23: vs. Ole Miss
Nov. 30: at Florida State

First glance: The last five games are brutal. Will Billy Napier still be employed by November? Only one cupcake on the slate.

Georgia
Aug. 31: vs. Clemson (in Atlanta, GA)
Sept. 7: vs. Tennessee Tech
Sept. 14: at Kentucky
Sept. 21: BYE
Sept. 28: at Alabama
Oct. 5: vs Auburn
Oct. 12: vs Mississippi State
Oct. 19: at Texas
Oct. 26: BYE
Nov. 2: vs Florida (Jacksonville, Fl.)
Nov. 9: at Ole Miss
Nov. 16: vs Tennessee
Nov. 23: vs UMass
Nov. 30: vs Georgia Tech

First glance: Clemson in Atlanta, @ Texas and @Alabama, and a trap game @Ole Miss sandwiched between Florida and Tennessee.

LSU
Sept. 1: vs. Southern Cal (Las Vegas, NV)
Sept. 7: vs. Nicholls
Sept. 14: at South Carolina
Sept. 21: vs. UCLA
Sept. 28: vs. South Alabama
Oct. 5: BYE
Oct. 12: vs. Ole Miss
Oct. 19: at Arkansas
Oct. 26: at Texas A&M
Nov. 2: BYE
Nov. 9: vs. Alabama
Nov. 16 — at Florida
Nov. 23: vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 30: vs. Oklahoma

First glance: USC and UCLA from the Big 10, and the best SEC slate of all the SEC contenders from a management standpoint.

Oklahoma
Aug. 31: vs. Temple
Sep. 7: vs. Houston
Sep. 14: vs. Tulane
Sep. 21: vs. Tennessee
Sep. 28: at Auburn
Oct. 5: BYE
Oct. 12: vs. Texas (at Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX)
Oct. 19: vs. South Carolina
Oct. 26: at Ole Miss
Nov. 2: vs. Maine
Nov. 9: at Missouri
Nov. 16: BYE
Nov. 23: vs. Alabama
Nov. 30: at LSU

First Glance: @ Auburn welcome to Jordan Hare Sooners where dreams go to die. Alabama and @ LSU to close the regular season. Are you sure you wanted this Oklahoma?

Tennessee
Aug. 31: vs. Chattanooga
Sept. 7: vs. NC State (in Charlotte, NC)
Sept. 14: vs. Kent State
Sept. 21: at Oklahoma
Sept. 28: BYE
Oct. 5: at Arkansas
Oct. 12: vs. Florida
Oct. 19: vs. Alabama
Oct. 26: BYE
Nov. 2: vs. Kentucky
Nov. 9: vs. Mississippi State
Nov. 16: at Georgia
Nov. 23: vs. UTEP
Nov. 30: at Vanderbilt

First glance: @ Oklahoma and @ Georgia who the Vols have lost seven straight to. Alabama lost the last time they came to Neyland.

Texas
Aug. 31: vs. Colorado State
Sept. 7: at Michigan
Sept. 14: vs. UTSA
Sept. 21: vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 28: vs. Mississippi State
Oct. 5: BYE
Oct. 12: vs. Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl – Dallas, TX)
Oct. 19: vs. Georgia
Oct. 26: at Vanderbilt
Nov. 2: BYE
Nov. 9: vs. Florida
Nov. 16: at Arkansas
Nov. 23: vs. Kentucky
Nov. 30: at Texas A&M

First glance: @Michigan, Oklahoma, and Georgia back-to-back, and a Thanksgiving trip to Aggieland. SEC was kind to Texas with the road slate to State, Vandy, and Arkansas who all are terrible now.

Whoever wins the SEC in 2024 will be tested for a deep playoff run.

 

 

Old Nemesis

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

This is just another SEC Championship Game. The argument will be made here, probably determining whether Georgia wins their third national championship in a row.

UGA has yet to beat Alabama in the SEC championship or at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

If Georgia beats Alabama on Saturday, they have national champion written all over them.

If Georgia loses to Alabama, there is no College Football Playoff.

Feel free to take those statements and throw them back at me next month. Say it: I’m SEC biased, or  too dependent  on recent history.

Georgia’s biggest hurdle awaits them Saturday. The main reason is talent..

The most talented team in the country, per the 247Sports team talent composite, is Alabama. The third-most talented team is Ohio State.

Class, who is the last team to beat Georgia? That would be Alabama two years ago, in the SEC championship. Which team since then has come the closest? Ohio State, in last year’s CFP semifinal.

The Crimson Tide are still in the Bulldogs’ way. By Smart’s own admission, quarterbacks who can run and throw have given Georgia’s defense problems, and you might have noticed that Jalen Milroe can run and throw.

He has multiple receivers who can make plays Jermaine Burton, playing against his former team for the first time, and Isaiah Bond, the man who caught fourth-and-31 to win the Iron Bowl.

No, Georgia is not doomed. It’s a modest favorite (4.5 points) for the right reasons, and the temptation in this space would be to take Georgia to cover. But it is a mere temptation, because Alabama, Saban and his talented unit are going to be a tough out.

First, of course, they need to make the Playoff, and at this point, the SEC Championship looks like win-and-in, lose-and-out.

That wasn’t the case for Georgia the past two years, but this year there are too many viable candidates in other conferences. There are only four spots, and if Alabama beats Georgia it would get one of them. The Pac-12 championship will get another. The chaos scenario thus requires two of the following three: Michigan losing to Iowa, Florida State losing to Louisville, Texas losing to Oklahoma State.

We’ve been waiting for the chaos, and the chaos hasn’t occurred yet, so it’s probably time to stop waiting.

We could also get into a scenario in which Georgia loses on a late field goal or disputed call, and two of the three win in the same fashion. That’s maybe when the committee finds a way to jam Georgia in.

This is a committee made of human beings who apparently think a lot of Georgia, and might also appreciate the three-peat storyline. If it’s close, that would help Georgia. But it’s harder and harder to see the close scenario. It’s setting up to be fairly clear choices for the committee.

If someone is going to stop Georgia from a three-peat, the most likely team is the one that for the longest time was its nemesis, and could still be again.