SEC

I Have The Power

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

1)Georgia (1-0): Did everyone enjoy the Duck hunt in Atlanta? The Georgia faithful sure did. UGA dismantled Oregon 49-3. Could have been a lot worse. After week 1 Georgia is the best team in the country.

The defending national champions looked as if they could repeat. I am not going to say it but #13 looked like the best QB in the country last weekend. Yeah, I did say it.

2) Alabama (1-0): Alabama beat Utah State 55-0. Good solid opening day win for Alabama. Alabama and Georgia are the class of the country now.

The Tide is preparing to issue a beatdown to the Texas Longhorns on Saturday in Austin, Texas.

3) Florida (1-0): Yes, Florida goes right here after week one. The Gators playing in front of a raucous Swamp crowd on Saturday night beat the team everyone said would blow them out in Utah.

Utah was never coming into Gainesville and getting a win. BTW, I called this outcome.

The Gates land here. Billy got snubbed by LSU in the hiring process after building the best program in Louisiana. They called him Sunbelt Billy in LSU circles. Bet the power brokers in Red Stick are kicking themselves now after the Brian Kelly debacle against FSU.

Anthony Richardson looks like a Heisman front-runner.

4) Tennessee (1-0): The Vol offense looked world class, but can they stop anyone with a pulse. But today they land in the four spot. Look at the SEC East rising to the top of the current power rankings…

5) Arkansas (1-0): The Hogs beat a College Football Playoff contestant from a year ago at home last weekend in Cincinnati. That is enough to land in the top five of my initial SEC power rankings for 2022.

6) Mississippi State (1-0): The Air Raid is in full effect in year 3 of the Mike Leach era in Starkville. This could be a dangerous team in 2022. Alabama and Georgia are you listening?

7) Kentucky (1-0): The Cats looked ok in week one. Business picks up this weekend in Gainesville. I mean business really picks up. The Cats will not be ready to handle Anthony Richardson and the Gators.

8) Ole Miss (1-0): The Ole Miss defense looks solid. The offense will come around soon. Lane Kiffin will see to that.

9) Texas A&M (1-0): I am not a believer. Do not get upset by Appy State at home this weekend Aggies.

10) Missouri (1-0): The Tigers looked like you would expect Mizzou to look and that is the look of an SEC bottom feeder.

11) South Carolina (1-0): The Gamecocks had to block two punts for TDs against Georgia State to pull away.

Spencer Rattler looked rusty. Carolina better get better quick with Arkansas and Georgia coming up during the next two weeks.

12) Auburn (1-0): Auburn should never be in this position which is a formal accusation on everything associated with Auburn at this moment in time. This is unacceptable.

13) Vanderbilt (2-0): This may be the high-water mark for Vandy in 2022. Vandy looks good on offense currently. Enjoy it while it lasts.

14) LSU (0-1): What in the blue hell LSU?

You looked like hot garbage against Florida State. Offense was horrible. Players were unmotivated, coaches lacked emotion.

The culture in Baton Rouge right now is rotten. For week one you land right here where you deserve.

Florida looked impressive with Billy Napier in his first game. LSU looked awful under Brian Kelly in his first game.

Absolutely no reason for LSU to look this bad with the talent on that roster.

The East Beasts

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are going to take a look and preview the SEC East for the upcoming 2022 season.

#1 Georgia: The Bulldogs finally beat Alabama in the National Championship to win their first national championship since 1980.

They only return 10 starters but they are expected to reload. The defense was historically good but they lost players like linemen Jordan Davis and Travon Walker, linebacker Nakobe Dean and safety Lewis Cine.

Stetson Bennett returns under center and they return three starting offensive linemen. They have two very talented tight ends, Brock Bowers and Arik Gilbert.

#2 Tennessee: Head coach Josh Heupel is entering his second season in Knoxville and he has the program going in the right direction. The Volunteers averaged 39.3 points a game. They also led the SEC in plays of 40-plus yards (23) after only having three in 2020.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker is entering his senior year after having a breakout year in 2021. He passed for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 620 yards and 5 scores.

They also return four starting O-linemen. The defense allowed over 200 rushing yards and 33.6 points a game in SEC play last season.

#3 Kentucky: It’s a toss-up between the Wildcats and Tennessee for the No. 2 spot. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen helped them average 32.3 ppg last year. Coen left to take a job on the LA Rams staff. Mark Stoops hired Rich Scangarello from the 49ers to replace him.

QB Will Levis is back and they have a good running back stable led by Chris Rodriguez Jr.

Kentucky ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, 21.7 ppg allowed. They have holes to fill up front and in the secondary. The linebacker unit is talented.

#4 Florida: The Gators are led by first year head coach Billy Napier. They finished 6-7 in 2021 and they should improve this season. Quarterback Anthony Richardson played in eight games last year and averaged 8.1 yards per play, ran for 401 yards and 9 total scores.

Florida should have a solid running back core that includes Louisiana transfer Montrell Johnson and former top recruit Demarkcus Bowman. The Gators finished 10th in the SEC against the run and only had 20 sacks in conference play.

#5 South Carolina: The Gamecocks could be one of the most exciting teams to watch. They have several transfer players including quarterback Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) and receivers Corey Rucker (Arkansas State) and Antwane Wells (James Madison) to add to a receiving corps already featuring Josh Vann (15.8 yards per catch) and Dakereon Joyner.

They return all five starting O-linemen but that’s still an area of concern. They only averaged 3.8 yards per carry in 2021. The defense allowed 175 rushing yards a game.

#6 Missouri: The Tigers have a bad defense and inconsistent quarterback play. The defense allowed 6.7 yards per play, 36 points a game and more than 200 rushing yards a contest in SEC action last fall.

Offensively, the Tigers averaged only 22.6 points and 5.2 yards per play in SEC games last season.

Ends Isaiah McGuire and Trajan Jeffcoat lead the way up front, while cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine and safety Martez Manuel are two building blocks for new coordinator Blake Baker.

#7 Vanderbilt: Are we surprised to see the Commodores here?

Mike Wright and Ken Seals are competing for the QB 1 job.

Vanderbilt ranked 13th in the SEC against the run, last in pass efficiency defense, and surrendered an unpleasant combination of 6.8 yards per play and 35.6 points per game.

Wild West

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Let’s take a look at the SEC West and preview how each team’s season will go.

#1 Alabama: The Crimson Tide are loaded with talent like they are every year. They return Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young and add Georgia Tech transfer running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

There are also a pair of transfer wide receivers, Tyler Harrell (Louisville) and Jermaine Burton (Georgia).

Left tackle Evan Neal departed for the NFL. The offensive line gave up 41 sacks last year and they were very inconsistent. The defense held teams to 20.1 points per game last season and they should be better this year.

#2 Texas A&M: The Aggies had the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation in 2022.

The question is can they convert that into winning the West, getting to the SEC Championship and the CFB Playoff? No, but I think they can win double-digit games.

Quarterback Haynes King was injured in the second game of 2021. He returns in 2022 along with LSU transfer Max Johnson and true freshman Conner Weigman.

They need more big plays from the passing game and true freshman Evan Stewart could provide that. Devon Achane rushed for 910 yards, 9 touchdowns and averaged 7 yards per carry in ’21. He should have a breakout year and the offensive line returns three starters.

#3 Arkansas: All-SEC candidate KJ Jefferson returns at QB, four starters on the o line and a solid backfield led by Rocket Sanders.

It’s going to be tough to replace receiver Treylon Burks (66 catches) and the big-plays he used to make. Transfer receiver Jadon Haselwood (Oklahoma) and Matt Landers (Toledo) will compete with Warren Thompson for the top target.

The defense gave up 29.6 ppg in SEC Play last year but they thrived at getting third down stops and limiting teams in the red zone.

They only return four starters but they added several players from the transfer portal. That includes ends Jordan Domineck (Georgia Tech) and Landon Jackson (LSU), linebacker Drew Sanders (Alabama), and defensive backs Dwight McGlothern (LSU) and Latavious Brini (Georgia).

#4 LSU: Bryan Kelly left Notre Dame to take over this program.

The Tigers are 11-12 over the last two seasons so they have a lot to improve. Only six starters return but they typically have talented players in Baton Rouge.

The secondary finished 12th in the SEC in pass efficiency defense last fall. They have several transfer players that should be able to contribute.

Garrett Nussmeier, Jayden Daniels and Myles Brennan are battling for the starting quarterback job.

#5 Ole Miss: The Rebels are coming off of 10 wins and a Sugar Bowl appearance. They lost several key contributors like QB Matt Corrall, running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner and receiver Dontario Drummond.

USC transfer QB Jaxson Dart is expected to win the starting job. They also have several transfers on both sides of the ball.

#6 Mississippi State: The Bulldogs won seven games last year and return 17 starters. QB Will Rogers returns to lead an offense that averaged 378.3 passing yards per game and 29.1 ppg.

They allowed 34 sacks in 2021 and lose both starting tackles.

Having playmakers step up to keep the Air Raid going will be the storyline.

#7 Auburn: The Tigers lost five games to end the season, several players transferred and coach Bryan Harsin is already on the hot seat.

Running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter should be the focal point of the offense.

They ranked 11th in the SEC in scoring last season.

Winning

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is June and SEC football is less than one hundred days away.

My random thoughts relate to SEC Football. When Nick Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007 the entire landscape changed in the SEC.

Alabama became a dynasty. Beginning in 2008 Alabama has run things in the college football world. Here is a snapshot of the current SEC membership since the beginning of this great Alabama run.

Ten-win seasons since 2008:

Alabama – 14: Alabama has won 10 or more games for 14 straight seasons.

The worst record during that time was a 10-3 mark in 2010.

I do not know if college football has ever seen a more dominant run than the current one the Crimson Tide is on.

In the same window Alabama has won six national championships. Many have Alabama as the favorite to win number seven this fall under the Nick Saban watch. Saban is the greatest coach in the history of college football.

Georgia – 9: Georgia has been a consistent winner since 2008 and finally broke a long championship drought in 2021 by winning the national championship.

Losses to Alabama in the SEC title game in 2012, and a loss in the national title game in 2017 have kept UGA from having three national titles in the past decade.

Kirby Smart has Georgia built for the long haul. UGA seems to be here to stay. Kirby is getting ready to sign a long-term contract that could make him the highest paid head coach in college football.

Florida, LSU – 6: Florida won a national title in 2008, then lost the SEC title game to Alabama in 2009. Florida went off the grid for a few years then bounced back with a nice 2020 season then Dan Mullen made the famous recruiting comments after the UGA loss in 2021 then was run out of Gainesville.

LSU went 15-0 in 2019 and won the national title. That team was the first SEC team ever to go 15-0 in a single season.

LSU lost to Alabama in the BCS National Title game in 2011. LSU has had two straight losing seasons in 2020 and 2021. That is unacceptable in Baton Rouge.

Missouri – 4: Mizzou joined the SEC in 2012 and had 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 and won the SEC East in the process.

Mizzou also had a couple of other ten-win seasons since 2008. Never in a million years did would I have believed that Missouri would have more 10-win seasons than Auburn since 2008.

Auburn, South Carolina – 3: Auburn is either great or mediocre as evidenced by the 2010 national title with Cam Newton and the 2013 season in which they lost to FSU in the title game.

All of South Carolina’s success came when Steve Spurrier roamed the sidelines in Columbia. The Ball Coach retired in 2015.

Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss – 2: Kentucky has played football since 1892, and in that time has four ten-win seasons.

Mark Stoops has two of those in the past four years. Arkansas and Ole Miss are proud football programs that are on the rebound with good head coaches.

Mississippi State, Texas A&M – 1: MSU is a historical doormat in the SEC, and Texas A&M went 11-2 in 2012, which is their only 10-win season this century.

Jimbo Fisher is getting paid big bucks by The Aggies to be an 8-4 type football program. Now he calls out Saban recently on NIL comments the GOAT made.

Tennessee, Vanderbilt – 0: Vandy is Vandy we know they are not going to compete consistently in football, but Tennessee being a dumpster fire for the last 14 years blows your mind. No ten-win seasons, no championships, 15 year losing streak to Alabama. How the proud have fallen.

2022 should be another banner year for SEC football.

The New Look SEC

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For the next several days, the SEC will take over Destin, Fla., as the league’s leaders and coaches meet to discuss name, image and likeness, future scheduling, playoff expansion, transfer portal windows and more.

There’s undoubtedly going to be grumblings about collectives and college football free agency, but after commissioner Greg Sankey told Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher to zip-it recently, the spiciest of soundbites may have already happened.

Still, even if we don’t get Fisher vs. Saban Round 2, these SEC spring meetings could carry as much importance as they have in many years.

With Oklahoma and Texas set to join the league in 2025, the future of the conference could be hammered out at the Hilton Sandestin this week.

Here’s primer on the various topics expected to dominate the conversations:

Which scheduling model will the SEC choose? Heading into the SEC spring meetings, the conference is split on a couple different potential scheduling options starting in 2025 when new members Oklahoma and Texas join the league.

Pods (think NFL-like divisions) have been eliminated from the proposals.

The league is now considering two main formats: An eight-game (1-7) schedule where schools would have just a single permanent opponent (think Alabama–Auburn) and seven rotating opponents. This would allow every team and fan base to see the entire league every other year.

On the flip-side, it would eliminate a bunch of annual, storied rivalries.

There’s also a nine-game format proposal, where every school would have three permanent opponents, thus preserving more rivalries, and six rotating league games.

For now, divisions seem unlikely but haven’t totally been ruled out.

Expect plenty of horse-trading with whatever format the league chooses. The powerbrokers (i.e., Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, etc.) are in favor of the nine-game format, understanding that it would generate the league even more revenue (i.e., more TV inventory, more butts in the seats) and produce better games. Again, it bears repeating, but it would also save important rivalries like Auburn-Georgia or Tennessee–Kentucky.

Notably, Sankey prefers a nine-game conference slate.

The bottom half of the league currently favors the eight-game format, wanting that extra non-conference game as a potential boost for their overall win-total.

Determining team’s permanent opponents will lead to some contentious debates. What’s equitable? And to whom? Is it fair if Auburn has to play Alabama, Georgia and Florida every year plus a rotating set of opponents? No. And other schools will make similar cases.

How serious is the league about an All-SEC playoff? Four Means More to the SEC than any other conference, so don’t expect Sankey or the league’s ADs to cave on any future eight-team playoff.

They were willing to sacrifice for 12, but when talks collapsed, the league began tinkering with ideas about its own postseason tournament.

The early details include an eight-team playoff tournament, likely starting around the same date (early December) as the current SEC Championship.

The question at hand is this merely a leverage play by Sankey and the ADs to essentially threaten the rest of the sport that if they don’t meet back in the middle on College Football Playoffs expansion then the league will be ready to do its own thing, or are they serious about exploring potential additional expansion (think poaching ACC schools like FSU and Va. Tech, among others), building a super conference and holding their own tournament?

The league would obviously benefit greatly financially from an intra-SEC postseason, and could still plot a path to playing someone from The Alliance (Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 or Big 12) for “national championship.”

SEC QB1

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

1.Bryce Young, Alabama – Young is the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner who accounted for 47 touchdowns last season. The redshirt sophomore will have Alabama once again in contention for a National Championship. Young is without a doubt the top quarterback in the SEC and the entire country going into the 2022 season. Young could be the first name called in the 2023 NFL draft for a team that needs a franchise quarterback.

2.Stetson Bennett, Georgia – When you lead a team trailing with 8 minutes left to victory in the National Championship game, you land high on any QB ranking list. Bennett is a winner that folks not associated with UGA like to dismiss. He won the national title game with his arm with two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to lead UGA to that win over Alabama. The QB that is ranked higher on this list than Bennett, ended his 2021 season with a 79-yard pick six to Kelee Ringo. The Mailman will deliver once again this fall for the Georgia Bulldogs.

3.KJ Jefferson, Arkansas – Jefferson is an exceptionally large man. The Razorbacks’ 6-3, 250-pound dual-threat talent led a resurgence for Razorback football in 2021. Jefferson has Arkansas believing that they can supplant Alabama in the SEC West. If Jefferson plays well in 2022 then Arkansas should make some noise in the SEC West. I hope I am not over-hyping Jefferson.

4.Will Rogers, Mississippi State – Rogers can sling the football in Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack. He led the league in passing yards per game in 2021. He passed for 4,700 yards and completed almost 74% of his throws. This kid is good. You never know what you are going to get when you play against a Mike Leach team, but this QB makes State a dangerous team to go up against in 2022. Can you imagine Rogers leading a Texas A&M team in search of a topflight quarterback?

5.Hendon Hooker, Tennessee – Is Hooker that good or is it Josh Heupel’s system. Hooker passed for 31 TDs in 2021. Year 2 in the new system should reap comparable results. Tennessee should be able to put up a lot of points this fall. Game with the Vols could turn into shoot-outs in 2022 with Hooker under center. The Florida game will be huge for Hooker and Tennessee early in the season. Win that one and look out SEC. Tennessee has been down for a decade, but they will not be down much longer. The SEC is much better when Tennessee is relevant.

Just Missing the Top 5: Spencer Rattler, South Carolina – Rattler will have to make the adjustment to the SEC where much better team defense is played from the Big 12. South Carolina feels like Rattler can get them near the top of the SEC East. The Gamecocks host UGA in September. UGA fans are not laughing because there have been some tough trips to Columbia is last 20 years.

Will Levis, Kentucky – Quietly Levis has become one of the top tier QB’s in the conference. Kentucky is a sleeper team in 2022. He is tough and can use his legs. He makes all the throws needed.

Jaxon Dart, Ole Miss – Dart will be under the guidance of Lane Kiffin. Enough said there. Ole Miss QB’s will put up enormous numbers.

Save The Receipts

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The recent verbal jousting over NIL between two of college football’s heavyweight head coaches, Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher has garnered a ton of national media attention and headlines in the past few days.

The minute Alabama coach Nick Saban’s comments regarding Texas A&M and NIL showed up on social media Wednesday night, the college football world stopped to watch what happened next.

Saban further opened up about what he said during an event in Birmingham. He said Texas A&M “bought every player on their roster,” which led to a fiery press conference from Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher on Thursday.

Saban reiterated his stance on NIL and how it’s a good thing for players, but continued to call for “guardrails” to help create “parity.”

“It was not my intention to really criticize anyone,” Saban said. “I was just trying to make a point about the state of college football and college athletics right now. I think we have some unintended consequences of name, image and likeness in some of the circumstances that we’re in right now. The spirit of competition is what has made sports popular, created a lot of fan interest….But we’ve always had guardrails on rules that govern competitive sports to create parity, and I think the situation that we’re in now in college football, we don’t have that. There’s a lot of Division I schools that aren’t going to be able to do the same things that other Division I schools can do to create opportunities for players in some kind of way. I’m all for the opportunities for the players, but some way, we’ve got to create a balance in all that.”

Saban also said he worries about programs losing players to other programs because of NIL opportunities — and he called for “guardrails” to prevent that.

“I don’t want to go down that road of bidding for players out of high school. I don’t,” Saban said. “But if we go through this recruiting class this year and we lose all the players, because Jimbo Fisher has been saving the receipts.”

Texas A&M’s head coach went scorched earth Thursday during an impromptu press conference responding to comments by Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who accused Fisher and the Aggies of “buying every player on their team” through NIL deals this offseason.

Texas A&M inked the greatest recruiting class in modern history this spring, and Fisher, who has already issued multiple public statements denouncing accusations of cheating, once again doubled-down that the Aggies did nothing outside of the NCAA rules (i.e., pay for play) to land their historic class.

“It’s a shame that we have to do this,” Fisher said. “It’s really despicable. It’s despicable that somebody can say things about somebody, an organization, and more importantly 17-year-old kids. You’re taking shots at 17-year-old kids and their families. That they broke state laws, that they’re all money, that we bought every player in this group. We never bought anybody. No rules were broken. Nothing was done wrong.”

Thou doth protest too much? Too much performance art? Absolutely, but under the new NIL rules, Texas A&M could’ve totally provided six-figure deals to players. While inducements are prohibited, there’s a lot of gray area in-between.

But the mere suggestion that the Aggies’ recruiting was not above board sent Fisher into such a tizzy that he unleashed the greatest diss track since 2Pac’s Hit ‘Em Up.

The man emptied the clip on a man many considered his mentor, someone Fisher worked under for five seasons at LSU. During his opening salvo, Fisher referred to Saban as “despicable” multiple times, and called him a narcissist.

Jimbo Fisher has been saving the receipts, and his clapback is just relentless. No mercy. Who else cannot wait to be a fly on the wall when Fisher and Saban sit at the same table at the SEC Spring Meeting.

I Have The Power

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Spring football is behind us now in the SEC.

All the programs have had their Spring Football games and now the pundits weigh in on typical off-season things like ranking the teams coming out of that process. Here goes mine based on my observations and things I know about the SEC in general.

Alabama: Bryce Young and Will Anderson return. Young won the Heisman in 2021, and Anderson is regarded as the best defensive player in the country.

Plus, they have Nick Saban roaming the sidelines.

Concerns for the defending SEC Champions reside along the offensive line and depth at the wide receiver position.

This is Alabama, so recruiting has not been an issue. It seems like everyone is anointing Alabama as the odds-on favorite to win the National Championship in 2022. They land at the #1 spot in my rankings.

Georgia: The National Champions (What a sweet sound coming off your lips) do not rebuild they reload now under Kirby Smart.

Stetson Bennett is back at QB, and UGA has an offense that looks like a juggernaut with Brock Bowers and company returning.

This will be an experienced unit that will score buckets of points. On the defensive side yes, they lost five first rounders to the NFL, but do not ever worry about defense while Kirby is in Athens. The unit will be elite.

Kentucky: Yes, Kentucky lands here. Laugh if you want, but Will Levis returns at QB, and Mark Stoops has quietly become one of the best head coaches in the conference.

Kentucky is becoming a serious football school. They host UGA in Lexington; this could be a classic football game.

Arkansas: Sam Pittman has the Hogs believing they are contenders.

KJ Jefferson returns at QB, and LB Bumper Pool will lead an Arkansas defense.

Alabama must travel to Fayetteville this fall, and I am putting the Tide on upset alert in May. Arkansas will have this game circled on the calendar.

Texas A&M: NIL produced on paper the best recruiting class ever. Time will tell. Who will the QB be? Many have the Aggies higher than I do, but until a QB emerges they sit at #5 for me.

Ole Miss: Yes, they lost Matt Corral and Lane Kiffin addressed that in the portal with Jaxon Dart.

This team has a swagger about them. I know they will score points. How good this team eventually becomes will depend on the defensive side of the ball. Alabama travels to Oxford on November 12th.

Tennessee: Hendon Hooker returns at QB. The Vols have some talent at WR. Will this defense perform good enough to get Tennessee to nine wins? The jury is out.

LSU: This seems low, but who should they be ranked above with the QB issues they have and a first-year head coach in Brian Kelly?

Kelly is an elite coach and LSU will always recruit well, but again tell me who the QB is?

South Carolina: Will Spencer Rattler be able to lead the Gamecocks to 8-9 wins?

Mississippi State: Will Rogers is an elite QB. State is a team that can shock the world one week and look like the worst team in the country the next.

Florida: Billy Napier will get this ship turned around and Florida will be Florida again soon.

If he can win eight games with the depth issues, he inherited in 2022 then look out for the Gators moving forward.

Auburn: Brain Harsin is the equivalent to dead man walking. The power brokers have tried to fire him this offseason and were not successful.

Talent is just not up to Auburn standards. Now watch this team win the SEC West. That is what Auburn does.

Missouri: Bowl team that just lands here due to the overall power of the SEC.

Vanderbilt: Vandy just lands here most seasons now. That is just the way things are in the SEC.

The SEC Stable

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

SEC talent is always the top talent of college football. This year is no different, especially when it comes to running backs.

Despite losing talent such as Najee Harris, Larry Roundtree and Eric Gray, the SEC remains strong all around at the running back position in 2021.

Three out of the top five rushers are returning. Who will lead the rushing attacks for the SEC programs in 2021?

This list isn’t just about players’ statistical impact, but their overall impact on and off the field.  Here are my top 5 running backs in the SEC for 2021.

  1. Brian Robinson, Alabama: Robinson doesn’t have the production numbers compared to the others on my list, partly because he was playing behind Najee Harris the past few seasons.

The Crimson Tide’s starting running backs have produced 1,000 plus yard seasons eight times in the past 10 years. Robinson will run behind one of the SEC’s most dominating offensive lines, so just pencil him in for 1,000 plus rushing and double digits touchdowns, not to take away from his incredible explosiveness and talent.

  1. Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky:Rodriguez just might be the most underrated backs in the country right now.

Rodriguez is a power runner with excellent footwork, and 2021 will be his breakout season. Last season he finished 6th in SEC rushing yards, and he only played in nine games.

Rodriguez piled up 11 rushing touchdowns (4th in the SEC) and averaged 6.6 yards per carry! He will share the backfield with Kavosiey Smoke this season.

  1. Kevin Harris, South Carolina:Harris finished 2020 with the most rushing yards per game.

Let’s be totally honest, Harris was the Gamecocks’ whole offense last year. A physical runner noted one of the league’s biggest surprises in the 2020 season.

Harris averaged 6.2 yards per carry behind one of the (measurably) worst offensive lines in the SEC. He is a human bowling ball. He rarely falls at first contact, and never falls backward.

Harris gives the Gamecocks reliable balls in the backfield. He’s a difference maker who will be heavily carrying Shane Beamer’s first season.

  1. Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M: Spiller has become Jimbo Fisher’s featured back in the Texas A&M offense. This past season, he totaled 1,229 yards of total offense (1,036 rushing and 193 receiving) in only 10 games.

When the Aggies needed a big play or key third down conversion, they dialed up Spiller. With a new signal caller in College Station this season, Spiller will man the new controls in the offense.

I expect Spiller to team up with Devon Achane and Anias Smith (Mr. Do it All) to give Jimbo Fisher plenty of weapons to choose from, but Spiller will be the focal point of this Texas A&M offense.

1.Tank Bigsby, Auburn: Bigsby is the best running back going into the 2021 season.

Despite being 6 foot and weighing 208 pounds, he is built like his first name and plays like one too.

First year coach, Bryan Harson’s offense will thrive through Bigsby. He is capable of carrying the ball 20 plus times a game this year.

As long as Bigsby can stay healthy, he should emerge as one of the elite running backs in the SEC in 2021. Considering the production at running back at Boise State during Harson’s reign, Bigsby has to be excited about being the bell cow of the Auburn offense.

Honorable Mentions Outside of the Top 5:  Trelon Smith, Arkansas; James Cook, Georgia; Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss; Zamir White, Georgia; Ainias Smith, Texas A&M; Tyrion Davis Price, LSU; Trey Sanders, Alabama; Nay’Quan Wright, Florida

Breakout Player This Year: Tiyon Evans, Tennessee

Program Pulse

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is now June and College Football is on the horizon. Time to start speculating about the SEC for 2020, but to do so let’s take a look at SEC won/loss records since 2015.

1.Alabama: 79-6 (.929): Alabama just does not lose many football games that is the bottom line. Nick Saban is the best in the business.

The defending national champions will be the team to beat again in 2021, and should be the team to beat as long as Saban is roaming the sidelines.

Alabama lost some skill people from 2020 so we will see who steps up this fall for the Tide.

  1. Georgia: 62-17 (.785): A friend calls yesterday and says it is now or never for Kirby and UGA. Really?

UGA is a team that has been winning a lot of football games. They just haven’t beaten Alabama when it matters most.

Does that mean UGA is a program that under produces? Nope it means that Kirby continues to build a monster in Athens.

Opposing fans insert your 1980 comebacks here. Critics say Kirby is not a good game coach and folks like Dan Mullen are better.

I know many Florida fans that would trade Mullen for Kirby if the opportunity arose. I don’t know a single UGA fan that would trade Kirby for Mullen. Think about that for a second.

  1. LSU: 56-19 (.747): 2019 National Champs. It feels like the Tigers are on the decline now under Coach O, doesn’t it? This program will always have elite talent, but 2021 is an unknown for LSU.
  2. Florida: 52-24 (.684): No championships since 2008. Try this on for size Florida fans:

2011 – With zero HC experience, Florida hires Will Muschamp for $2.7m/year.

2012 – Florida extends Will Muschamp (picked up option year) after going 7-6.

2014 – Florida buys out Will Muschamp for $6m and fires him.

2014 – Florida pays $7m to Colorado State to buy out and hire Jim McElwain for $3.5m/year.

June 2017 – After zero championships and one 10+ win season, Florida agrees to an extension and raise for Jim McElwain.

October 2017 – Florida buys out Jim McElwain for $7.5m and fires him.

2017 – Florida pays Mississippi State $500k to buy out and hire Dan Mullen (who had zero championships in Starkville) for around $6m/year

2021 – Still after zero championships, Florida agrees to an extension and raise for Dan Mullen to $7.6m per season after giving up 55 points in his last game coached against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Florida fans wonder out loud why their ticket prices are going thru the roof.

  1. Texas A&M: 49-26 (.653): $75 million dollar question is can Jimbo beat Alabama? So far, the answer is no.
  2. Auburn: 48-29 (.623): The Gus Bus has been retired, and now Auburn is starting over once again. Sound familiar Auburn fans?
  3. Kentucky: 42-33 (.560): This is a program that has exceeded expectations recently. Could surprise in 2021.
  4. Mississippi State: 42-34 (.553): Better than expected for this bottom feeder. In fishing circles, a Catfish is known as a bottom feeder. If you pulled a nice cat from the bottom of the Mississippi River today it may have a State logo stamped on it.
  5. Tennessee: 38-35 (.520): UT football is a dumpster fire. It may take years for this proud program to recover and the NCAA has not even dropped the hammer yet.
  6. Ole Miss: 35-36 (.493): Program on the rise. This could be an elite SEC program in a short period of time. Keep an eye on Ole Miss.
  7. Missouri: 35-37 (.486): Another program on the rise.
  8. South Carolina: 31-42 (.425): Carolina stays up at night obsessing over Clemson. Until they clear that hurdle, they will never be a factor in SEC Football.
  9. Arkansas: 26-46 (.361): The Pit Boss has Arkansas on the rise. This is a proud football program that is on the road to recovery.
  10. Vanderbilt: 24-47 (.338): Baseball school. Come on Vandy make another trip to Omaha in a couple of weeks.