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.

Chomping Gators

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Florida Gator football started out strong in its season opener against Utah on Saturday, in which the Orange and Blue put up a gritty, 29-26 win.

The victory represents the first for the program in the Billy Napier era, while extending the Gators’ longest-active home-opener win streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, which stands at 33 straight games.

With the big win now in the rearview mirror, Napier and company turn their attention to their SEC opener against the Kentucky Wildcats at home this coming Saturday.

The ‘Cats, led by Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Will Levis, represent another top-25 matchup for the Gators that will test their revamped squad.

The main concern the Cats have going into Gainesville, however, will be the play of the running back and the offensive line.

Let’s first start with the running backs. With the absence of Chris Rodriguez due to suspension, I didn’t think the Cats’ running backs would struggle against Miami of Ohio. On the night Kavosiey Smoke led the rushing attack with seven carries for 32 yards, while the other trio of Ramon Jefferson, JuTahn McClain, and La’Vell Wright all combined for 11 carries and a total of 36 yards.

That won’t be enough to help push the Cats over Florida. Here’s why:

For the offensive-line, it seemed their youth played a huge role against Miami of Ohio. After giving up four sacks on the night, the question now changes to; can they hold up against the Gators front seven?

It will be interesting to see, but Coach Zach Yenser has his work cut out for him this week as he tries to help the young O-line process through the different schemes and stunt recognition they will see Saturday night.

Defensively, it comes down to whether the Cats can contain the run game or not.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson stole the show in week one. The highly-touted recruit from Gainesville was only used sparingly as a true freshman under Dan Mullen.

In his first start for Napier, Richardson completed 17-of-24 passes for 168 yards, while he rushed for a team-high 106 yards and 3 touchdowns.

For Florida to reach their ceiling, the young quarterback has to carry the team.

Utah was unable to slow Richardson down and wasted a solid offensive performance due to the defense’s inability to limit quarterback runs.

Kentucky must find a way to make the NFL prospect play strictly from the pocket. With that being said, it’s way easier said than done.

In many ways, the game on Saturday will come down to Kentucky limiting Florida’s ground game. That is only done if the Wildcats can get Anthony Richardson on the ground.

The Gators O-line performed well opening holes for the running game and allowing no sacks.

Florida went 31 years without suffering a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats but has a 2-2 record in the last four games. Credit to Mark Stoops. He took over a program that was second-fiddle to basketball and has built a culture that they recruit and play to consistently win. Stoops has two 10-win seasons and more wins over Florida than his six predecessors combined.

With that said, it is going to be a battle on Saturday night. The crowd, weather (heat, rain & humidity) and overall team talent leads me to pick the Gators by 2 scores.

Florida 31 Kentucky 20

 

 

 

 

South Games

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2022 NFL season kicks off this week. Let’s take a look at the Week 1 NFC South matchups.

New Orleans @ Atlanta: This is a classic rivalry that has been played since both teams started playing in 1966 and 1967, respectively.

The expectations for these two teams are extremely different. The Falcons traded veteran quarterback Matt Ryan in the offseason and they are in complete rebuild mode.

Marcus Mariota has taken over and he had one of the best college careers in recent memory. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 and led his team to the national championship game. He was the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, selected by Tennessee. Injuries and inconsistent play derailed his career. Now he’s trying to reach that potential in Atlanta.

The best pass catcher on the roster is second year tight end Kyle Pitts. The Falcons drafted wide receiver Drake London (USC) 8th overall but he got hurt in the first preseason game. They also have running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who is coming off of a great 2021 season.

The Saints are replacing head coach Sean Payton who retired in the offseason. He was there since 2006 so there might be some growing pains. He was replaced with Dennis Allen, who was the team’s defensive coordinator from 2015 to 2021.

New Orleans is expected to be a playoff team if they can stay healthy. Quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft is returning from an MCL sprain that ended his season in October.

Wide receiver Michael Thomas missed the entire 2021 season with a foot injury and he is also coming back.

“With Marcus Mariota, now we’ve got to go back and watch some Vegas film, maybe watch some Tennessee film,” Cameron Jordan said. “We’ve got to break down who he is because he’s not a traditional pocket passer like Matt was. This is going to change up their game a lot.”

I think the Saints win this game easily.

Carolina vs Cleveland: This is interesting because Baker Mayfield was traded from the Browns to Carolina in July. He was the Cleveland starting QB the past four seasons, until they signed Deshaun Watson in the offseason. We know he’s going to want to get revenge against his former team.

Running back Christian McCaffrey has been injured the past two seasons so he’s missed a ton of games. If he can stay healthy, he’s one of the best players in the league.

Watson is suspended the first eleven games of the season so backup Jacoby Brissett will play.

Cleveland has an elite back with Nick Chubb but I expect them to struggle on offense. I’m picking the Panthers to win.

Tampa Bay @ Dallas: This is a good Sunday night game of teams that made the playoffs last season. They also played the season opener in 2021 in Tampa.

Tom Brady is now 45 years old but his play hasn’t slowed down. The Buccaneers have had injuries to the interior of their offensive line that could cause some problems.

Receiver Chris Godwin tore his ACL in Week 15 last season. He’s making a good recovery and will possibly be ready to play Week 1. If he does the question is how will he look coming off the injury? It typically takes one year for the knee to fully recover.

I think the Bucs will win a close game against the Cowboys.

 

Gator Bait?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There is a new era beginning for the Florida Gators football program.

Billy Napier’s era will officially begin on September 3, as the Gators host the No. 7 Utah Utes.

Utah finished the 2021 campaign as the Pac-12 Champions. Kyle Whittingham’s team finished the regular season with a 9-3 record. They beat Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game and fell three points short of beating Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. They finished 10-4.

Whittingham has a small connection to UF. He took the head coaching job at Utah in 2005, replacing Urban Meyer.

Meyer, of course, left Utah to accept the head coaching job at Florida and went on to win two National Championships in Gainesville.

The Gators don’t have a coach entering their 18th season at the helm, like Whittingham at Utah. Billy Napier was hired 276 days before the game kicked off. There are much easier ways to begin your tenure, something Napier jokingly acknowledged at SEC Media Day.

One of the biggest question marks for the Gators in 2022 is: Can they stop the run? Last season Florida finished 10th in the SEC allowing 163.92 yards per game. That was nearly 100 yards more than Georgia and nearly 78 more than Alabama.

The Gators have a ton of pass rushers but they’re thin on the interior defensive line. Is Florida stout enough to plug up the middle and stop Utah from running it up the gut? It won’t take long to find out what kind of defense the Gators will have this season.

Cameron Rising and Tavion Thomas are a very tough combo to beat. Rising was a 64% passer last season with 20 TDs and just five picks, while Thomas added a school-record 21 rushing touchdowns, third-most in the FBS last season, with a 5.4 ypc average.

Returning that core, which tortured Ohio State’s D in the Rose Bowl, is vital in a cross-country road opener, especially against a soft Gator front.

This game is incredibly conflicting to me. If we know anything about the Pac 12 in recent years, it’s that they will eliminate themselves from playoff contention as soon as possible. The best team in the conference suffers a big loss at the beginning of the year almost every year. This would be that spot.

Last year, however, Florida was one of the worst teams against the spread because they were simply given credit for being Florida; even though they were a bad team. They went 6-7 and played in the SEC, yet they were only a home underdog once.

Now, Billy Napier comes to town after an incredible run at Louisiana and has Anthony Richardson at quarterback. Richardson only attempted 64 passes last year and is already considered a potential first round pick in the NFL draft. That’s how good he is.

Napier brought in a lot of transfers from Louisiana on the offensive line and in the backfield. The team should become familiar with his system quickly and the offense could hit the ground running.

The Swamp will be sold out and the weather should be welcoming. Game time temperature is expected to be 81 degrees with 88% humidity and 50% chance of rain with close to 89,000 hyped up Florida fans.

The weather, crowd and The Gators will make this a miserable trip for the Utes.

The Utes Don’t Care About The Weather or The Crowd, this is the most important opening game in Utah’s history.  UTAH 31 FLORIDA 24

The Rattler Effect

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Coming off a 7-6 season with a win over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, things are looking bright in Columbia, South Carolina.

Shane Beamer has the Gamecock Nation believing that Carolina will be contenders in the SEC East in 2022. I cannot think of a more optimistic fanbase than South Carolina in my history as a college football fan.

South Carolina is still in rebuilding mode; expectations are rising once again until you look at a schedule from hell.

South Carolina has a lot of experience returning this fall, it has a good young head coach and with the addition of Spencer Rattler at QB, the Gamecocks look to make noise in the SEC East.

South Carolina has put all their eggs in the basket of one Spencer Rattler, the Oklahoma transfer at QB. Can Rattler lead this program to 8 wins this fall? Let us look at the schedule.

9/3/22 vs Georgia State: South Carolina is only a 13-point favorite at home over Georgia State currently. Does that mean Carolina could struggle in this contest. Give me Carolina at home 34-17. 1-0

9/10/22 @ Arkansas: The Hogs are expected to be good, and Carolina must travel to NW Arkansas to play this one. This is one of those games Carolina must have if they want to be relevant in 2022. KJ Jefferson will be too much for Carolina on the road. Arkansas wins 35-24. Carolina is 1-1

9/17/22 vs Georgia: Carolina fans point this game as one that will shape a season. I believe it is listed as a noon kickoff in that furnace of a stadium.

September games in Columbia are brutal. If you lose to Arkansas on the road, then how do you expect to beat UGA? They will not. UGA wins 38-20. Carolina drops to 1-2.

9/24/22 vs Charlotte: Carolina bounces back with a 42-13 win to even the record at 2-2

10/1/22 vs South Carolina State: Carolina wins this one easily 49-10. 3-2 on the season.

10/8/22 @ Kentucky: UK thinks the UGA game at home in November will be for the SEC East Championship.

Could the Cats take South Carolina lightly? Carolina puts up a great fight, but they come up short in Lexington 24-21 to sit at 3-3 at the halfway point of the season. 0-3 in the SEC.

10/22/22 vs Texas A&M: This is where Carolina salvages their season when an overrated Aggie team travels to Columbia.

Everything comes together on this day for South Carolina and Sandstorm reigns as it is piped into a raucous crowd. Carolina wins 31-27 to go to 4-3 on the season. 1-3 in the SEC.

10/29/22 vs Missouri: Mizzou gets thumped by Carolina 31-14. 5-3 and 2-3.

11/5/22 @ Vanderbilt: Vandy is awful. Carolina easily 45-10. 6-3 and 3-3 in SEC play. Bowl eligible.

11/12/22 @ Florida: Toss up game. I like Carolina’s depth right now better than Florida’s. Shaky nod to Carolina 28-27. 7-3 and 4-3.

11/19/22 vs Tennessee: Senior night in Columbia. Tennessee is a trendy pick this fall based on their offense. Can they stop anyone is the key?

I like South Carolina’s defense better than the Vols. Give me Carolina in front of a jacked-up home crowd 38-35 in a wild affair. 8-3 and 5-3.

11/26/22 @ Clemson: I will not pick South Carolina to ever beat Clemson again until they accomplish it. Clemson at home 28-21. 8-4 regular season and Shane Beamer could run for office in the state.

Best case: 8-4 as outlined above with a bowl game in Orlando or Tampa on NYD.

Worst Case: 5-7 with losses to Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee, and Clemson.

We will see how the Spencer Rattler experiment transpires.

The Knights Conquest

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The UCF Knights play seven home games during the 2022 football schedule; four of the first five games are inside the Bounce House at FBC Mortgage Stadium.

The most attractive home games from a fan perspective are likely Power 5 opponents Louisville and Georgia Tech, as well as in-conference foes SMU and Cincinnati.

The road games feature an in-state battle with Florida Atlantic, as well as trips to East Carolina and USF.

The road game for the Knights against the Bulls might be the last between UCF and USF for quite some time, as UCF heads off to the Big XII on July 1, 2023.

To win the AAC title in the last year of the AAC’s existence, the Knights will need to be very good during the back end of their schedule. Starting with the road game against East Carolina (Oct. 22), UCF played six consecutive conference games that contained their own pitfalls.

2022 UCF Knights Football Schedule

Sep. 1, South Carolina State: The HBCU National Champions are no match for The Knights. UCF wins in a blowout.

Sep. 9, Louisville: This is Louisville’s first ever trip to Orlando. As we learned first-hand in last season’s match-up, Cunningham’s dual-threat ability has been a problem for UCF historically.

The Bounce House will be Rocking for revenge after last season’s heartbreaking loss. This is a measuring stick game for The Knights. The crowd and humidity will play a big role in this game. UCF 31 Louisville 27

Sep. 17, @ Florida Atlantic: This is UCF’s only true road game in the entire first half of the season. UCF flies by the Owls 48-17

Sep. 24, Georgia Tech: This game in Orlando was initially scheduled for September 16th, 2017, but was canceled due to Hurricane Irma. This is Georgia Tech’s first-ever trip to The Bounce House and they’ll get bounced back to Atlanta. UCF 38- GT 20.

Oct. 1, SMU: The Knights kick off conference play against a team that blew them out last year. Tanner Mordecai has found a home at SMU after sitting on the benching at Oklahoma for three years.

He’s a Walter Camp, Davey O’Brien, and Maxwell Award Watch-lister coming into 2022. With that being said, UCF has never lost to SMU at home. UCF 34 SMU 30

Oct. 13, Temple: The Owls new coaching staff will bring a new energy, but this is a bad football team. UCF smokes another parliament of Owls.

Oct. 22, @East Carolina: The Knights first real road game. The Pirates have 14 returning starters, East Carolina is poised for another winning season and will be a tough out in the American Athletic Conference.

This is a trap game with the Knights looking ahead to the showdown with Cincinnati. ECU 30 UCF 28

Oct. 29, Cincinnati: This will be the big one for American Athletic Conference play.

The Bearcats have lost a ton of talent especially at the skill positions.

Who is going to replace Desmond Ridder, Jerome Ford, Alec Pierce on offense and Sauce Gardner, Coby Bryant and Bryan Cook on defense?

There will be an electric atmosphere at The Bounce House and The Knights will feed off the crowd in a shocker. UCF 27-Cincinnati 24

Nov. 5, @Memphis: The 2022 Tigers are full of veterans on offense, Memphis should be strong in the defensive backfield, and overall, they should be just a wee bit motivated by being left out of the BIG 12 expansion. This should be a true American Athletic Conference shootout. UCF 48 Memphis 38

Nov. 12, @Tulane: The Knights will surf the Green Wave. UCF 37- Tulane 16

Nov. 19, Navy: Navy can play! Their offense can still control the clock, the running game was ninth in America, and their defense even finished 34th in the nation and wasn’t bad.

The Knights sail easily by the Midshipmen all things considered. UCF 31 Navy 10

Nov. 25, @USF: The Cows are still crying about being left out of the BIG 12. This may be the final ‘War on I-4” and the Knights will sacrifice the Bulls. UCF 53-USF 13

Gus Malzahn overcame a rash of injuries to put together a solid 9–4 season in his UCF debut. With 14 returning starters and a host of plug-and-play transfer additions, The Knights will leap back into the AAC championship game.

The 12th Man

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Texas A&M seems to always be on the cusp of becoming a great program.

When they moved to the SEC in 2012, they beat Alabama and Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy. They used that momentum to sign five-star players like Kyler Murray but he transferred after his first season.

They moved on from coach Kevin Sumlin and replaced him with Jimbo Fisher in 2018.

Fisher won a national championship at Florida State and he was expected to do the same with more money and resources at his disposal in College Station.

So far, he’s done a decent job, going 34 -14 in his first four seasons. His best season was in 2020 when the Aggies went 9 – 1. Last season A&M went 8 – 4 but they were the only team to beat Alabama in the regular season. That means A&M has lost four or more games in 23 of the last 26 seasons.

They had the top ranked recruiting class in the nation in 2022. Nick Saban famously said they “bought every player” with name, image and likeness deals. That started a public feud that will make this season’s game interesting.

“We saw each other at the SEC meetings [in Destin, Florida]. I have great respect for Nick, had a great friendship with Nick,” Fisher said. “I respect him very much, and we all learn from different circumstances in which we have, and I have no ill will, no anything to him.”

The offense was 11th in the SEC averaging 392 yards and 29 points per game. Starting quarterback Haynes King broke his leg in the second game last season and missed the remainder of the season.

He was replaced by Zach Calzada but he transferred to Auburn in the offseason. Max Johnson transferred in from LSU where he threw for 27 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

I expect Johnson to be the starter going into the season, but they also have five-star freshman Conner Weigman.

Junior running back Devon Achane should be the focal point of the offense. In 2021 he rushed for 910 yards, 9 TD’s and averaged 7 yards per carry. The offensive line should be better at four of the five positions.

Senior wide receiver Ainias Smith is the leader of the receiving corps. He had 90 catches and 12 scores over the last two seasons. Five-star freshman Evan Stewart should become the deep threat.

Defensive back Antonio Johnson was named a preseason first-team All-American after a breakout 2021 season.

The Aggies open the season with an FCS opponent, Sam Houston State. The next game is against Appalachian State. Both will be blowout wins.

Week 3 #16 Miami comes to town and I don’t think the Hurricanes will put up much of a fight.

The next game is at AT&T Stadium versus Arkansas. The Razorbacks were good last year but I expect A&M to win.

October begins at Mississippi State for an easy win.

Things get drastically harder when they travel to Tuscaloosa. Alabama will get their revenge.

The Aggies play their third consecutive away game at South Carolina. I expect this to be a tough game.

A&M returns home with games against Ole Miss and Florida. I expect them to lose one of those games.

The final three games are at Auburn, U Mass and LSU. Both Tigers have fallen on hard times, but they still have some talent on the roster.

I think Texas A&M will win eight games again this season, if things go right possibly nine. They should be much better going into 2023.

 

 

 

 

High Tide

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Why the heck would anyone rank these guys the preseason #1? Let’s see….

They have the consensus #1 collegiate football coach of all time.

They have the returning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback.

They have the #1 pro prospect on defense who had SEVENTEEN and ONE HALF sacks last year.

They have 4 of the top transfers in the nation in Jahmyr Gibbs [Georgia Tech], Jermaine Burton [Georgia], Eli Ricks [LSU], and Tyler Steen [Vanderbilt].

They have 4 starters back on the O-line and the TE

They have 8 starters back on defense plus the punter and PK.

They have had a “rebuilding” year according to Saban and went 13-2 and lost in the Natty to a once in a lifetime Georgia team.

That’s a lot of ‘they haves’ and I can’t think of any ‘they don’t haves’!

They are the consensus #1 for now and should be next January. Boys and girls this team is built to run the table!

Offensively the Tide will be loaded with the only questions being the tackle spots.

Look for Tyler Steen, the Vandy transfer, to step in at left tackle. He will be a key protecting Bryce Youngs blind spot.

J C Latham has the experience and size, 6’6 325, to excel at right tackle. TE Cameron Latu is back to give defenses fits and the wide receivers will be good. Look for Jermaine Burton to have a big year. And Ja’Corey Brooks won’t be far behind.

At running back, Trey Sanders has waited his turn and will be another load for defenses both running the ball and out of the backfield. This offense averaged 488 years and 40pts per game last year. It will be better with the maturity in the O-line protecting Bryce Young and opening holes for Sanders.

Defensively the Tide has experience and speed! They return 4 of the front 7, including “the man” Will Anderson.  You could write a whole column just on Will.  The 6’4 245 LB is probably the best collegiate player for 2022.  With 4.5 speed and a head hunter’s mentality, Anderson will wreak havoc this year.

Look for DC Pete Golding to find ways to turn Anderson and sophomore phenom Dallas Turner loose. D J Dale anchors a solid defensive line and Henry To’oTo’o is an all-SEC type backer.

This defense ranked 7th overall in the country in total yards given up last year.  They will be better.

The DBs should be bolstered by Eli Ricks and will be solid with Kool-Aid McKinstry, Jordan Battle, and Demarcco Hellams all back.

PK is in good hands with returning SR Will Reichard and punter James Burnip is back also.

One more item for the Tide will be Jahmyr Gibbs returning punts and kickoffs.  He should be outstanding and have a big year.

Schedule wise, the Tide opens with an 11-3 Utah State team and then travels to Texas and former OC Steve Sarkasian.

Those games will show what’s coming to an SEC slate that includes the usual culprits.

There are a couple of tough ones with a revamped LSU, a rising Arkansas, and A&M at home. The only trip up game that I can see, would be at Tennessee.  I Would love to see that one.

Oct 15 at Neyland stadium. A hundred thousand orangenecks! The pomp, the pageantry and SEC football at its best! If the Vols can stay up for 4 quarters, they might make it a game.

Both Bill O’Brien and Pete Golding return as coordinators, which is rare for Bama. That’s a real plus for a team that has just about everything going its way.

Nick Saban said last year was a “rebuilding” year and caught some flack for that. Guess what? Nick don’t lie………I look for the Elephants to stomp everything in their path this coming year.

Maybe Georgia can play with them, maybe Ohio State.  But probably not, I look for the Tide to HAVE IT ALL in 2022.

Back to Back?

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

“Oh, woe are the Dawgs” seems to be the theme of the sports media glitterati. The poor, impoverished defending national champions lost so much from last year. Woe, I tell you. Gloom, despair and misery on ye, Dawg Nation.

Oh, just stop it. Everything is fine in Athens. More than fine, really.

Yes, the Dawgs saw 15 players go in the NFL draft. Yes, Jermaine Burton jumped ship & sold his soul to the Crimson Tide. Yes, UGA still have Stetson Bennett as QB1.

And that’s where I’m going stop you. Stetson has not only earned the right to be the starter, he’s going to have a potentially Heisman-worthy year.

Look at last year’s stats in the 11 regular and 3 post season games. 2,862 yards, 29 TDs vs. 7 INTs, 64.5% completion, plus 259 yds rushing. It’s been said before, I’ll say it again – if any other QB posted those stats with a year of eligibility left, we’d be begging him to come back.

Consider me #TeamSBIV, and proudly so.

And while there was a lot of talent lost to the NFL, keep in mind exactly how much production Kirby got from underclassmen. All told, 13 starters return to the Dawgs this year, mostly on an offense that looks to be somewhat improved; SBIV, Brock Bowers, Ladd McConkey, Adonai Mitchell, Sedrick Van Pran, Warren Ericson, and BHS alum Warren McClendon.

Add the RB stable of Kendall Milton, Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards, and the beastly Branson Robinson, and it’s not a stretch to think that the 2022 offense is going to surprise some folks.

While the defense will not reach the historic standards of last year, Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith and Kelee Ringo will lead a squad that should still statistically lead the SEC.

And of course, Glynn Academy’s own Jack Podlesny will carry on the proud legacy of UGA kickers for one more year.

While there are a few pundits out there that seem to think UGA can’t go undefeated in the regular season again (including one SSE writer that has the Dawgs going 9-3), here’s how this humble correspondent sees the 2022 campaign playing out;

WEEK 1 – vs Oregon – My favorite Dawg podcaster says the Silver Britches are going to blank the Ducks. I’ll ride those coattails and call it a 31-0 win to start the season.

WEEK 2 – vs. Samford – The Athenian Bulldogs wallop the Alabamian mutts 49-6.

WEEK 3 – @ Carolina – Although I’m admittedly an appreciator of Beamer Ball, this ain’t the year quite yet. Dawgs on top 35-14.

WEEK 4 – vs. Kent State – My best friend’s dad graduated from Kent State and was present for the darkest day in their history. I’ll forgo the jokes out of respect and just predict a lopsided 55-12 final.

WEEK 5 – @ Mizzou – The first of back-to-back Tiger matchups. Dawgs dispatch the midwestern SEC pretenders handily, 42-10.

WEEK 6 – vs. Auburn – There are trendy upset picks, and then there’s delusions of grandeur. Absolutely no way War Eagle Nation walks out of Sanford Stadium with a “W.

Georgia stretches their record in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry to 63–56–8 to the tune of 35-17.

WEEK 7 – vs. Vanderbilt – Some things never change, and some things rarely change. The outcome of UGA versus Vandy falls somewhere in between the two. More of the same this year, red and black dispatches The Commodores 41-9.

WEEK 8 – vs. Florida – Dan Mullen may be gone, but the stench still remains…oh, who are we kidding. That stench has always been there. Dawgs thump the lousy stinkin’ Gators 49-7.

WEEK 9 – vs. Tennessee – This is another fashionable pick for a trap game. Much like your typical Volunteer fan, I’ve never been accused of being “fashionable.” Sanford security confiscates the mustard & Dawgs keep rolling 42-20.

WEEK 10 – MISSISSIPPI STATE – If there’s any potential stumbling block for 2022, this is it. Those cowbells are loud and annoying, but I have faith. Kirby & company ekes it out 27-24 in OT.

WEEK 11 – KENTUCKY – Another tough road game, another close score, another W for the Dawgs. Put ‘em down for a 31-28 final.

WEEK 12 – North Avenue Trade School – The only anticipation in this game will be seeing what my spirit animal Andrew Smart put on the dry erase board this year. Dawgs still run this state 52-0.

FINAL RECORD – 12-0, 1st place in the SEC East, CFB playoffs.

Return Of The Chomp?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida Gators are under new management for the fourth time in the last decade. That much turnover can be necessary and detrimental to a program.

There’s not much debate that Florida needed to move on from Will Muschamp in 2014. Or that Jim McElwain’s self-destruction and death threats didn’t warrant a change.

Dan Mullen’s recruiting incompetence was written off because the team was winning. He was the first head coach in UF history to win 10 games in each of his first two seasons. In the end, it became clear that the direction of the program under Mullen was going the wrong way — and just on the trail.

Billy Napier was hired to rebuild the Gators. He was tasked with reviving UF recruiting and getting talent back to Gainesville. He called college football a “talent-acquisition business” and began by building the biggest support staff UF ever seen. The Gators hauled several blue-chip recruits like Kamari Wilson, Shemar James, and Chris McClellan.

The team also has Anthony Richardson returning, who should give the Gators a chance anytime he’s on the field.

The Gators only leave the state of Florida three times in 2022. Their home schedule is fantastic. Utah, LSU and Kentucky are all great games to host in The Swamp.

With that being said, the opponents are strong. The Gators draw, somehow again, Texas A&M from the West. UF has played the Aggies three times since they joined the SEC and 2022 will be the fourth matchup. Meanwhile, Florida has played a former yearly rival in Auburn just once in that same time period.

The Gators also begin a home-and-home series with Utah. The Utes are the reigning Pac-12 Champions. Utah returns 60 letter winners and 17 total starters in 2022.

Billy Napier prescribes to a motto of “put the ball down and let’s play” but it would be easy to put the ball down against a small directional school rather than a loaded defending conference champion.

The Gators have also lost twice to Kentucky in the last four seasons. Mark Stoops has built that UK program for a decade. What was once an assured win, is now a presumed toss up.

Every year the SEC is tough. This year, will be a very difficult one for the Gators, thanks to their tough season opener and road trip to College Station.

Optimistic: 9-3, with three straight wins to end the year and all sorts of hype heading into 2023. Anthony Richardson proves to be the perfect dual-threat quarterback in Billy Napier’s system.

Tailback Lorenzo Lingard looks like the 5-star who signed with Miami out of high school, same for wideout Justin Shorter.

The Gators’ defense takes a big step forward without Todd Grantham calling the shots. Gervon Dexter emerges as the best defensive lineman in the conference.

Pessimistic: 5-7 and no postseason appearance in Year 1 for Napier. Florida opens the year 0-2, with home losses to Utah and Kentucky. After dismantling South Florida, the Gators lose at Tennessee for just the second time in 18 years.

They stumble at Tallahassee against Florida State to end the season. Richardson is up and down — or worse, gets hurt again and Jack Miller isn’t up to snuff. The lack of explosiveness at receiver is problematic all season.

The front-seven once again struggles to stop the run. Penalties, team character and chemistry remain lingering issues despite the coaching change.

Realistic: 7-5 with one signature upset against either Utah, Kentucky, Tennessee or Texas A&M.

The Gators certainly could go 0-2 to start the year, but I see a split. While the roster has depth issues (particularly at receiver, defensive line and linebacker), there’s a lot of quality talent in Gainesville.

The pass rush, led by Brenton Cox Jr., is fierce, and cornerback Jason Marshall is one of the better defensive backs in the SEC.

Richardson has flashes of brilliance and frustration, ultimately leading him to return to the team in 2023.

Arizona State transfer Ricky Pearsall has a solid season but is not the band aid solution to Florida’s receiver problems.

Key Points: Starting out against Utah isn’t a given at home, and finishing up at Florida State in Tallahassee will be tough.

In between there’s a road game at Tennessee, LSU – as always – is on the slate, and then there’s the killer two-week stretch against Georgia and at Texas A&M.

It’s Florida. It’s going to be a problem for the other teams in those tough games, too. It’ll work its way to eight wins in an improved year, but factor in three losses somewhere in the mix to go along with one 50/50 game.

Seven wins will be okay, eight will be fine, nine or more would be terrific, but …

It’s the Florida Gators. It’s time to start winning more.