Hootie Who 2022

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Kennesaw State started playing football in 2015.

The Owls have had immediate success, making the playoffs four times. Head coach Brian Bohannon has been there from the beginning, going 63–18.

They played in the Big South Conference previously. They joined the ASUN Conference this season, formerly known as the Atlantic Sun.

Junior quarterback Xavier Shepherd is on the preseason Walter Payton Award watch list, which is for the best player in the nation in FCS. Shepherd is ASUN Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and ASUN Preseason All-Conference.

He played in seven games last season and passed for 640 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 556 yards and 12 scores.

KSU had a very good 2021 season, going 11–2. One of those losses was to a Power 5 FBS school, Georgia Tech. They are trying to focus on having deep playoff runs at this point. The Owls advanced to the second round of the FCS Playoffs, losing 32-31 to #7 East Tennessee State.

They tried to address some concerns by adding talent in the offseason. They signed 25 players in the class of 2022 and 17 of them are from Georgia. Five of them are offensive linemen so they have added depth up front.

“Every year we are trying to get better, and I think that’s the case with this year’s class. It’s a great group and our staff did an awesome job,” Bohannon said. “When you are playing late in the year and you are balancing recruiting and the playoffs, it’s challenging, but we have gotten used to that around here, which is a good thing. It is a great group of young men that we have signed, and we are also going to add another good group in February. I am excited about what is going on with Kennesaw State football right now.”

KSU should be a well-rounded team with a strong defense, allowing 19.5 points per game last season. The Owls return eight of their 11 top tacklers, led by LB Evan Thompson, who broke the single-season school record with 118 total tackles.

In the FCS preseason Top 25 poll the Owls are ranked sixth.

The season starts Thursday September 1st at Samford. This will be a win.

Things get much harder the following week at Cincinnati. The Bearcats had an undefeated regular season last year and made the College Football Playoffs. They lost a lot of talent from that team but as an FBS team they have more talent and scholarship players. The Bearcats will win big.

After a bye week the home opener is against Wofford. KSU beat them 31-10 in 2021 and I expect a similar outcome in 2022.

The first conference game is October 1st at Jacksonville State. JSU is transitioning to move up to FBS so they do have more scholarship players. They are eligible to win the conference title but not eligible for the FCS playoffs. Kennesaw State beat the #17 Gamecocks 31-6 last season. I think it will be closer this season and Kennesaw gets the W.

The next two games are home conference games against North Alabama and Central Arkansas. Both should be wins but fairly close.

The next three games are non-conference against Tennessee Tech, Charleston Southern and UT Martin, all wins.

The season will end against ASUN opponents Austin Peay and Eastern Kentucky. These are both games KSU will be favored in.

Best case scenario is going 10-1 in the regular season. I think they will need to win at least two playoff games to make this season successful.

Ascending Eagles

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

So many question marks as the Georgia Southern Eagles begin the 2022 season.

With a new coach, a new staff and a revamped offense and defense, these guys may take some time to learn their true identity.

Take into account a very tough schedule that is not going to be conducive to a learning curve and the word in Statesboro may be PATIENCE in 2022.

This team will look like the 21 outfit in uniforms only as Clay Helton will bring a more balanced attack to the Eagles. Coming from the west coast and USC [yeah, THAT USC], Helton will look to mix it up with offensive coordinator Bryan Ellis calling the shots.

It looks like the Eagles will turn to a transfer with experience and RPO ability in Kyle Vantrease at QB. He brings a wealth of experience after transferring from Buffalo. A 6th year graduate transfer, Vantrease started 26 games and threw for 4400 yards and 23 touchdowns with a 61% passing percentage and also rushed for 13 touchdowns. Keeping him healthy will be crucial to success.

The Eagles are well stocked at running back with Gerald Green and Jalen White leading the way. Between the two, they rushed for 9 touchdowns last year. There is depth also at RB.

Receivers are untested and will need to step up to take the strain off teams loading the box on them. One answer to this will be returning tight end Beau Johnson. The 6’ 1” 225lb returning starter should get a lot of looks from Vantrease.

Southern does return 4 of 5 on the o-line and as I type this, they are probably working on pass protection! This should be a good group led by tackle Brian Miller. If they can make the transition from an option attack to a balanced offense, this could be a much more explosive offense moving forward. And that is Clay Helton’s plan.

Kicking and punting should be in capable hands with Alex Raynor back for PATs and FGs and Anthony Beck back at punter. Beck is a good one, averaging 45yds per punt. He punted 64 times last year. Helton and company will hope to reduce that number this year

Defensively, the Eagles have got a lot of work to do. They gave up 31.4 points and 289.5 yards thru the air last year and return only 4 starters off that outfit.

Look for them to improve on this as much of the secondary returns and will be led by safety Anthony Wilson.  He led the team in tackles.

Other returners include stud Justin Ellis at DE, Dillon Springer at DE and Justin Birdsong at DB. Most of the new starters have seen a lot of action and this will be a veteran defense with 7 seniors and 4 juniors. They just have got to step up.  New defensive coordinator Will Harris has a lot to work with.

The schedule is not going to do the Eagles any favors. A September date with the Nebraska Cornhuskers followed by a trip to UAB, then Ball State and at Coastal Carolina………. that’s gonna be tough.

Throw in Georgia State, Louisiana, Marshall, and App State and a break-even scenario starts looking plausible.

Georgia Southern is a great school with a great football tradition. It is moving in the right direction with Clay Helton. It just may take a little while to get there.

Look for the Eagles to be competitive and definitely improve on the 3-9 debacle of last year. If the defense can come on and Vantrease has a great year, the Eagles could surprise a lot of people.

Look for the Eagles to take a big step back to respectability this year and start laying a foundation for the future.

War Path

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida State football program has suffered a severe fall from grace over the past few seasons. With that newfound mediocrity, comes an automatic lack of promise entering this season.

Can the Florida State Seminoles take advantage of a manageable schedule and return to some relevance as a result? Or, will they once again fall victim to bigger fish in the Atlantic Coast Conference? Let’s find out.

Vs. Duquesne (W)

Sure, the Florida State Seminoles have seen better days than the ones currently surrounding them, but they haven’t fallen so far that this matchup is a toss-up. Anything less than a 40-point win here would be a darn shame, even for a season opener.

Vs. LSU (L)

The LSU Tigers may have seen a downgrade in 2021, but they will be led into New Orleans by new head coach Brian Kelly. With that said, there is a very small chance that the Noles come out of this one with a win. Kelly should take this one by two or three scores, making an early impact in his still-young tenure at LSU.

@ Louisville (L)

Following a dog fight in New Orleans with LSU fails to make things any easier. The bye week placed between the games will help, but not really. The Noles will lose a close one here.

Vs. Boston College (W)

BC will be heading to Tallahassee while Florida State is desperate to make an impression. Expect a convincing Noles win from this one.

Vs. Wake Forest (L)

To put things delicately, the Demon Deacons were not nice to FSU last season. In a 35-14 loss that included a plethora of turnovers, the Seminoles were dealt what ended up being their worst loss of 2021. The Noles may not lose by 21 again, but a disheartening defeat is almost a guarantee, nonetheless.

@ North Carolina State (L)

Now FSU will travel to Raleigh, where they have not prevailed since 2016. If Wake Forest is going to down the Noles on the road, what NC State has in store for them at home the very next week feels almost unimaginable.

Vs. Clemson (L)

Boy, the punches just keep on coming. The Tigers are still expected to be a top-tier contender in the ACC for 2022. And especially with who all they will face leading up to this game, the Seminoles will fail to stay at Clemson’s level .

Vs. Georgia Tech (W)

Finally, we can see a rainbow through the storm. Most GT fans will probably end up praying for this one to end as soon as possible.

@ Miami (L)

Nothing about this matchup leaves the Seminoles with a positive outlook when entering it. Yes, they won the 2021 battle, but the Hurricanes have new head coach Mario Cristobal and they also look like the better team.

Due to the stigma of any big rivalry, the game will probably be closer than it should be. However, Miami should still be the victor by the time the game clock hits zero.

@ Syracuse (W)

This won’t be a blowout, but the Noles are a better team.

Vs. Louisiana (W)

The game should start out good, but FSU will most likely pull away in the second half.

Vs. Florida (L)

The Gators have also won the last three meetings with the Seminoles. The Gators will keep Florida State out of the bowl season again. The Gators are more talented and better coached. This game will not be close.

Conclusion:

The Florida State Seminoles will finish their 2022 regular season slate with a final record of 5-7. It will be their 3rd-straight season without a bowl appearance, and their 5th-straight season with a losing record.

The Real Question:

Will Mike Norvell keep his job if my predictions come true?

War Eagles Soar

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Of all the second-year coaches in the SEC, Auburn skipper Bryan Harsin is probably the most intriguing.

His first season at the helm of the Tigers saw the team go 6-7, almost upsetting Alabama in the Iron Bowl with a team that was more M*A*S*H unit than football team, then wrapping up the year with a final-minutes loss to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl.

After that, the real drama happened – assistant coaches resigning, multiple players diving into the transfer portal, and power-player Auburn boosters basically attempting a coup to remove Harsin for cause. The head coach survived, so now comes the real hard part.

Surviving the 2022 season.

Some elements are in place for this to be a much better season.

Tank Bigsby leads a stable of running backs that is easily top-3 in the conference. The receiver corps is solid if not exciting. T.J. Finley’s arrest means that it’ll be a smaller group of combatants for the starting QB nod.

On defense, the front four should be stout and once the offseason dings & dents get worked out, the secondary should be fine.

The secondary, by the way, includes Jaylin Simpson.

Simpson was the QB for the 2018 State Champion Frederica Knights team. This might be his final year on the plains and should be a showcase for him. Way-too-early speculation says he should be a second-day selection with an outside chance of being a first-day pick in next year’s NFL draft, should he declare.

Keeping in mind that, this is the SEC we’re talking about. Here’s our best estimation of what Auburn is going to do on the field this year.

WEEK 1 – vs. Mercer – I kinda wish this was at Mercer so Jaylin Simpson could re-live some 2018 memories. Maybe the score will be nostalgic enough. Auburn opens with a 48-0 win.

WEEK 2 – vs, San Jose State – Another cupcake, another easy win. The Plainsmen are going to need as many of these as possible as the season goes on. The Spartans are conquered 45-10.

WEEK 3 – vs. Penn State – The Nittany Lions took a close one at Happy Valley last year. Home field advantage makes the difference this year, too. Tigers take it 35-28.

WEEK 4 – vs. Missouri – The SEC schedule starts with a Tigers vs. Tigers match up. The actual southeastern team beats the out-of-their-league Midwesterners, 31-10.

WEEK 5 – vs. LSU – The last of the 5-game home stand to start the season sees another Tigers vs. Tigers matchup. This one will be the toughest so far, but we’ll say the home cookin’ makes the difference. Auburn victorious in a 21-17 scrap.

WEEK 6 – @ UGA – The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry gets renewed for the 127th time. This is a tough game even on off years, but the reigning champs will easily hand the orange & blue their first L of the year, 35-17.

WEEK 7 – @ Ole Miss – While it’s always fun to see Lane Kiffin on the ropes, I don’t see him getting out coached at home this time around. Consecutive losses for AU, this one to the tune of 34-14.

WEEK 8 – vs. Arkansas – As the season grows nearer, mentions of Arkansas being the SEC dark horse get more frequent. While I like Sam Pittman, I don’t see him walking out of Jordan-Hare victorious. Auburn gets back on track 24-13.

WEEK 9 – @ Mississippi State – Another close matchup in the thick of the conference schedule. Low scoring affair that the Tigers let slip 13-6.

WEEK 10 – vs. Texas A&M – More than likely, this will be two teams battling for 2nd place in the west with an outside chance of them battling for first. Here’s hoping for a brawl for the ages with Auburn taking the shootout in OT, 43-42.

WEEK 11 – vs. Western Kentucky – a “get healthy” game in the leadup to the Iron Bowl. Easy 45-6 win for War Eagle nation.

WEEK 12 – @ Alabama – were it not for Tank Bigsby going out of bounds last year, this one might be the Tigers looking for 2 in a row. Stranger things have happened in the Iron Bowl, but I just can’t give them the upset (though I REALLY wish I could). BAMA rolls, 51-21.

FINAL RECORD – 8-4, 2nd Place in the SEC West.

Clawing Back

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Well, it looks like these Tigers are going to have to rebound this year and we ain’t talkin’ basketball.

After a lackluster 2021 season that saw these Tigers slide out of the national picture and into ACC oblivion, these guys definitely have something to prove.

After an opening game loss to the eventual National Champion Georgia Bulldogs, the Tigers let two games slip away in the ACC and finished with 10-3 record.

While most programs would be happy with double digit wins. Most programs ain’t Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers.

Injuries and poor production at quarterback were the main reasons for the letdown. You can have 5 stars next to your name but if you throw more INTERCEPTIONS than TDs over the season with a schedule that includes South Carolina State and Connecticut then you’re not cutting it at Clemson.

DJ Uiagalelei came to Clemson as one of the most heralded QBs in the country. Last year his QB rating was in the toilet and he passed for an average of 172.8 yards per game with a 55.6% completion rate. Add in 9 touchdown passes for the whole year and well, you get the idea.

So, what do you do when your 5-star struggles? Well, Dabo just went and got another 5 star in Cade Klubnik out of Texas.

Klubnik is one of the top players in the country, Cade may be playing a little earlier than expected if DJ doesn’t cut the mustard starting against the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta in game one. Klubnik competed in the spring and may give DJ a run for his money. QB play will again determine how the Tigers finish nationally.

If the QB play can step up the offense could be very good. Running back Will Shipley leads a talented backfield that has speed and depth. Expect to see Shipley on Sundays in a couple of years.

The receivers are solid with Joseph Ngata and EJ Williams, although depth could be an issue there.

The offensive line should be much improved with four returning starters. Once again this should be a fine offensive team but the key is going to be the QB play.

On the defensive side of the ball then Tigers will be flat loaded again. Wanna know who Clemson’s defensive line reminds me of this year? Georgia’s from last year!

The trio of Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee, and Xavier Thomas are all studs and will be playing on Sunday.

KJ Henry and Tyler Davis aren’t far behind. This is one of the top front fours in all of college football.

The LB’s will be young and very talented with Trenton Simpson leading the way.

The DB’s will be steady at FS and SS while both corners will have to be replaced. This defense could be one of Clemson’s best and that’s saying a lot.

The defensive front should give the new LB’s and Corners some time to grow and by the time the Tigers roll into Touchdown Jesus territory in early November, these guys could be scary.

On special teams BT Potter returns at PK and should also handle kickoffs and punts. He will be a busy man.

The Tigers and Dabo Swinney have built a juggernaut and just aren’t used to losing three games in a season.

Now, the defensive and offensive coordinators have to be replaced and there are some questions about how that will affect the team.  Still this team is loaded with talent.

The schedule is tough with the usual ACC teams and a trip to Notre Dame and a resurgent South Carolina in Death Valley.

If the tigers can roll into South Bend undefeated, we will know that the QB issue is A-OK and these big bad cats have clawed their way back.

Should be a very entertaining year for the Tigers, one way or the other!

Prowling Panthers

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Georgia State Panthers started playing football in 2010, so they are a relatively new program. They have made it to five bowl games, which is impressive.

They started last season 1 – 4 and looked like they were dead in the water. They finished the year by winning seven of their last eight games. They ended the season with a dominant win in the Camellia Bowl over Ball State, 51-20.

GSU returns 15 starters and they are serious contenders to win the Sun Belt title. They were 6 – 2 in conference play in 2021 and they look to improve on that in 2022.

Shawn Elliott is entering his sixth season as the head ball coach in Atlanta. He only has one losing season and an overall record of 30 – 30.

The Panthers return four starters on the offensive line and have the best backfield tandem in the league. Senior running backs Tucker Gregg (953 yards, 9 TDs) and Jamyest Williams (859 yards, 9 TDs) will be the focal point of the offense.

“It’s a great one-two punch,” Shawn Elliott says of his RBs. “And I think we have two or three young backs that may be as good as our all-conference guys.”

Furman transfer quarterback Darren Grainger played well when he became the starter in October. He passed for 1,715 yards, 19 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

He also rushed for 646 yards, 3 scores and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He’s a good dual threat QB that can take care of the football. He needs to improve on making big plays in the passing game.

Sophomore wide receivers Ja’Cyais Credle and Jamari Thrash combined for 53 catches. Tight end Aubrey Payne scored 7 touchdowns and he was granted a seventh season of eligibility.

The Panthers bring back seven starters from a defense that made some big, disruptive plays with a school-record 36 sacks, 92 tackles for a loss and 21 turnovers forced. They run a 3-4 scheme and the strength of the defense is the linebacking corps. They are led by two all-conference players in Blake Carroll (11.5 TFLs) and Jordan Veneziale (97 tackles, 8 TFLs) along with junior Jamil Muhammad, who had six sacks and a fumble return touchdown. Safety Antavious Lane had 5 interceptions in 2021.

The first two games of the season are well compensated beatings, at South Carolina and home against North Carolina. Surprisingly the game against UNC is the second game in a home-and-home series. They cannot afford any major injuries in these games.

Week 3 is home against Charlotte and this is the first win of the season.

They have a short week with a Thursday night game against division rival Coastal Carolina. GSU will win a close game.

The following week is at Army. The Black Knights won last year’s meeting 43-10 and I expect a similar outcome.

Georgia Southern comes to town to claim the title as the true GSU. This is a rivalry game that I expect GA State to win.

The Panthers travel to Boone, North Carolina the following week for a Wednesday night game at Appalachian State. They will lose by double digits.

The final five games are Old Dominion, at Southern Miss, ULM, at James Madison and at Marshall.

ULM is the only team that was in the Sun Belt last season. Three of those teams are from Conference USA and James Madison has moved up from FCS.

GSU should win all of those games but they might struggle in the cold weather at Marshall. The best-case scenario is eight regular season wins.

Category 5

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The University of Miami ended the 2021 season with 7 wins. They’re entering 2022 with new coaching staff.

So, as I look at this year’s schedule for the Hurricanes, it’s not hard to predict that this team can … and perhaps should be… a 10-win team.

The three tough games? Texas A&M, Clemson and Pittsburgh, putting those in order of toughness.

If you believe in the oddsmakers, Miami’s No. 3 in the conference at +700 to win the ACC behind Clemson -150 and Pitt + 450 (per WilliamHill.com).

With that said, here’s how I see this year shaping up:

* Bethune-Cookman, Sept. 3: Easy win. 1-0 record.

* Southern Miss, Sept 10: Easy win. 2-0 record.

* Texas A&M, Sept. 17: This is a team that beat Alabama last year but went on to lose four games but with a great defensive front and receiver room this is going to be a very tough road game for Miami. Texas A&M wins by 14, Miami leaves College Station with a 2-1 record.

* Middle Tennessee State, Sept. 24: Easy win, 3-1 record.

* North Carolina, Oct. 8: UNC loses its star quarterback, Sam Howell, and this is a team that has question marks on both sides of the ball off a disappointing 6-7 season. At home, I like the Canes to win by a touchdown or more. 4-1 record.

* Virginia Tech, Oct. 15: It’s never a gimme playing on the road against the Hokies, but on paper Miami is a much better and more complete team. So, I think this will be a win by a touchdown or more. 5-1 record.

* Duke, Oct. 22: The Blue Devils are probably going to be the worst team in the ACC. 6-1 record.

* Virginia, Oct. 29: This team always seems to give the Canes problems, with Brennan Armstrong back at QB, this might be a high scoring game. On the road this is a game you worry about, but if Miami is as good as I think, then this middle-of-the-road ACC team shouldn’t be a problem. It might be a close game, but I believe Miami will pull it out for a 7-1 record.

* Florida State, Nov. 5: The Canes lost a heartbreaker in Tallahassee a year ago, but this year they get FSU at home. Is FSU as talented a team as UM?  No, not really. UM wins this heated rivalry and moves to 8-1.

* Georgia Tech, Nov. 12: The Yellow Jackets are not a good team. Easy win and 9-1.

* Clemson, Nov. 19: It was a down year for Clemson in 2021, and the team still won 10 games, so that tells you the hill Miami has to climb. The Tigers have question marks on offense, a really inconsistent area last season, but should have one of the nation’s top defenses. This will be a tough game for Miami to pull out on the road. While I’m not saying UM can’t win this, in all likelihood it’s a loss simply looking at it on paper. So, Miami is looking at a 9-2 record at this point of the season.

* Pittsburgh, Nov. 26: The Panthers were a surprise last year, winning the Coastal and finishing with an 11-3 record (Pitt’s lone Coastal loss was to the Canes). Miami has this game at home, and it could wind up determining which of these two teams goes to the ACC title game. To me, this is a 50-50 game. So, I see Miami finishing the regular season at a 10-2 record and rematch with Clemson in the ACC Championship.

If it all comes together, I can see Miami perhaps only losing one or two games – Texas A&M and/or Clemson.

In Year 1 there are bound to be some hiccups, but Canes fans can be hopeful with a manageable schedule to test the new generation of coaching in Coral Gables.

Ramblin’ Wreck

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Geoff Collins is in his fourth season as the head coach in Atlanta.

He’s won three games each season at Georgia Tech, making his overall record 9 – 25. To call that not good is an understatement. The fan base was sick of Paul Johnson, but they regularly went to bowl games.

Collins seems too focused on social media posts and branding over actually coaching football. He shared some insight at ACC Media Days about what we can expect in 2022. He was asked what would give the fan base optimism.

“Just excited about the guys that we have been able to add to the organization, whether that means coaches or players. In the last couple of years, we have been able to develop depth on the roster and a lot of leadership, and the way the guys are working. The big focus since the end of last season is how can we play the best brand of Georgia Tech Football on college football Saturdays and that has been the focus of everything that we have done and all the changes that we have made, deep introspection on how we do things, and why we do things. We are excited to keep building and getting to that point.”

Collins was asked about NIL and where Tech stands in terms of offering it compared to the rest of the conference and the Southeast.

“I think one of the biggest pieces is our location. Being in the heart of the city of Atlanta where there are a lot of opportunities for our guys to benefit from the name, image, and likeness. We fully support it as a coaching staff, as an institution, as an administration and we’ve got the system set up with the different collectives. I think all of the opportunities are there in the city of Atlanta and the support that we give our guys is there”

He says the right things but let’s take a look at the schedule and see what games they can win.

The season kicks off Labor Day at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Clemson. Last season the game in Death Valley was close, with the Tigers winning 14-8. I think they’ll be better this season and they will win this game.

The home opener is against an FCS team, Western Carolina. Tech will win big.

Week 3 is home against Ole Miss. The Rebels lost a lot of starters from last season, including quarterback Matt Corral. They will still have more talent than the Yellow Jackets and win.

The first road game is at Central Florida. UCF was 9 – 4 last season in Gus Malzahn’s first season. The offense should be more explosive in his second season and they will score a lot of points.

They travel to Heinz Field to start October on the road. Pitt lost QB Kenny Pickett, who was drafted in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. This game could be close but I like the Panthers.

Tech returns home to face Duke and I think they’ll beat the Blue Devils.

After Duke they have a bye week. The next four games are against Virginia, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami. I think we can mark these all off as loses.

The final two games are in the road at North Carolina and Georgia. They did beat UNC handily last year, so they have a chance. Unfortunately, they’ll get pummeled by UGA again.

The best-case scenario is three wins, but I think they’ll win two games. This should be Collins final season before he gets terminated.

Climbing Rocky Top

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Tennessee Volunteer fans probably feel like they’re in a bit of a time vortex right now.

While last years’ initial campaign from new head coach Josh Heupel gave the Vols as much hope as you could expect from a first-year-of-a-rebuild season, the spectres of Jeremy & Casey Pruitt and their 18 Level I NCAA allegations still hang in the shadowy corners of Neyland.

Let’s focus on the positives here, though. In his first year as head coach, Heupel did a yeoman job of changing the atmosphere & attitude around the football program, and his players on the field responded.

The 2021 Vols produced 39.3 PPG and set several single-season program records, including total yards, points, and TDs. This up-tempo production can only go up this year, considering the rapport that QB Hendon Hooker and WR Cedric Tillman developed last year.

Hooker, after taking over the starting job early in the season, threw for 31 TDs and ran for another 5, all while limiting himself to 3 interceptions. Don’t be surprised if he gets some fringe Heisman consideration.

The defensive side of the ball is where the second-year coach is really going to need to work some magic. The Vols defense underperformed last year, sometimes considerably. If they are going to have even an outside chance at knocking off some of the (pardon the pun) “big dawgs” in the SEC, they’ll need to improve their third down efficiency, especially through the air.

Here’s how you can expect the Vols season to pan out.

WEEK 1 – vs. Ball State – Like any good SEC team not named Georgia, the season starts with a cupcake. Easy win against the Cardinals, 31-14.

WEEK 2 – @Pittsburgh – Pitt is in a bit of a resurgence, so this isn’t an idea time for Tennessee to come calling. I wouldn’t be surprised they pull an upset, but I wouldn’t bet on one either. Vols fall 28-10.

WEEK 3 – vs. Akron – Another lightweight, another W for Big Orange. Zips get zapped, 41-7.

WEEK 4 – vs. Florida – The Gators ran away in the second half last year, smashing UT 38-14. Vols get their revenge & open the SEC slate with a victory 31-24.

WEEK 5 – @LSU – Death Valley is a tough place to play, even on a bad year. Brian Kelly’s antics (and fake accent) might distract, but not enough to make a difference this year. Tigers win big, 49-17.

WEEK 6 – vs. Alabama – Someday, this rivalry will be competitive again. Today, however, is not that day. Bama does Bama stuff in a 55-14 trouncing.

WEEK 7 – vs. Tennessee – Martin – Got to pad those stats somewhere in the season. This is the week to do so. UT over UT-M, 45-20.

WEEK 8 – vs. Kentucky – This one will be closer than most match ups for the Vols this year. Kentucky will be hard pressed to match the momentum they built last year. Give it to UT, 28-24.

WEEK 9 – @Georgia – It seems to be fashionable to pick this as a trap game. I’ve never in my life been accused of being fashionable. Dawgs on top, 42-20.

WEEK 10 – vs. Missouri – Someone explain to me again why a midwestern team like Mizzou is in the Southeastern Conference? Tennessee easily notches another win, 28-10.

WEEK 11 – @South Carolina – Shane Beamer showed a lot of the same promise that Heupel did last year. It’ll be interesting to see which one is still around in five years. Beamer ball will take a close one at the horseshoe, 17-14.

WEEK 12 – @Vanderbilt – Nothing like an easy win for a team waiting on a call from the Belk Bowl. Vols wrap up the season with a 38-6 win.

FINAL PREDICTION –  UT goes 7-5 for the season, 4th place in the SEC East, mid-level bowl berth.

 

Buyer’s Remorse?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Through two seasons (one impacted by the pandemic) things have been disappointing for Mike Norvell at Florida State University.

In his third season as the head man in Tallahassee, Norvell is already setting high expectations. “We have great expectations,” said Mike Norvell. “The daily expectation with the season expectation is for us to go out there and do our best to improve daily, to go out there and not only be competitive, but to push to new limits of where we are and also where we’re going.”

“To see this team come together and to play as one. Those are the things that we’ve seen in laying that foundation this last year and to be able to see the growth, to see the confidence that our players have. I’m going to put no limits to what these guys can accomplish.”

To fix issues on the roster, Mike Norvell has leaned heavily on the transfer portal. He’s hoping that those players will be able to fill gaps.

The rest of the team is filled out by players Norvell recruited and developed. It’s a group that Norvell has a lot of confidence in.

“I’ve got an unbelievable amount of confidence in them,” Mike Norvell continued. “But ultimately, for us, it’s about us showing up every single day and going to perform and to execute at that level with an incredible level of consistency throughout that process. We have great expectations as a program.”

Through his first two seasons, Mike Norvell is 8-13. Florida State fired his predecessor, Willie Taggart part-way through his second season for going 9-12. The pressure is on Norvell and his players to win at Florida State, and win now.

“When you are at Florida State, that’s part of it. You don’t choose to come play at Florida State, you don’t choose to coach at Florida State unless you embrace that opportunity and embrace those expectations to go out there and play at an extremely high level on a day-in and day-out basis.”

Last year, Florida State played Miami and Florida as they were going through internal turmoil. They managed to beat the Hurricanes at home while losing to the Gators on the road.

Based on these spreads, Las Vegas clearly expects Miami to be the toughest challenge for FSU in 2022.

LSU, despite the game being played in New Orleans, has tons of question marks to answer. FSU has not played the Tigers since 1991.

At Florida, new head coach Billy Napier has tried to lower expectations in year one, pointing out challenges in rebuilding.

Whether or not FSU can win these key games will determine if their season is successful and disappointing.