Alabama Crimson Tide

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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.

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.

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.

Smart Or Not?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

First and foremost, I am a huge fan of Kirby Smart.

After six years, some honest and constructive assessments seem fair game.

Kirby is hands down the best recruiter UGA has ever seen and probably the best in college football. The Athletic Board has given him a blank check for several hundred million dollars of new and upgraded facilities.

The UGA fan base is one of the most loyal, loud, rabid and die-hard in America. They show up and show out. Kirby has been given every possible resource at his disposal. He has proven himself as a phenomenal recruiter. He has not yet proven himself to be a phenomenal head coach.

Some guys are great defensive coaches. Kirby, Will Muschamp certainly qualify. Some guys are great offensive coaches. Todd Monken appears to be one of the best they have ever had at UGA.

But being a great Coordinator does not mean you will be a great Head Coach, just ask Muschamp and Mullen.

So far, Kirby has been a better than average Head Coach, and he has shown growth and improvement during his six years.

Clearly there are other coaches who have done more with a lot less talent and sub-standard facilities. Kirby is building a program for the long haul. No shortcuts. But to quote Kirby, “you’re either elite or you’re not” and Kirby is not an elite coach … YET.

Elite professionals work as hard improving themselves as they do improving others.

They don’t let egos or stubbornness impede their personal growth. I don’t know if that is what is happening with Kirby this season or not, but the next few weeks will certainly answer the question.

Kirby has tried beating Bama twice with Stetson Bennett. He failed both times.

He has more than enough film to prove he is not going to beat his mentor with Stetson Bennett. He also saw Auburn take Bama to 4 OT ‘s by playing man defense and pressuring Young with a constant blitz.

Georgia has three of the brightest defensive minds and through stubbornness or ignorance, they stayed in zone defense, with no pressure, and allowed Young to pick the Dawgs apart. Auburn had 7 sacks; Dawgs had zero.

Elite coaches will ADMIT their mistakes and make the necessary corrections. Time will tell if Smart has that skill set or not. And soon, we will see if Kirby can become an elite coach.

If he continues to do the same thing and expect different outcomes, then we will know Georgia hired a phenomenal recruiter, and an above average head coach.

Flame away if you like, but these are my constructive thoughts. Good news is you won’t have to wait but about a month to find out if I’m right or not.

Reevaluate the quarterback situation and get JT Daniels ready to play. I don’t know if it will happen but I do believe it needs to. I know many Dawg fans want to see Daniels under center against Michigan.

UGA has to get healthy and get some guys ready to play.

The STAR/nickel position got exploited against Alabama. I think the staff needs to get Kamari Lassiter or Javon Bullard or whoever ready to play winning football going into the playoffs.

The bottom line is Kirby Smart has built an Elite Program but can he win the BIG GAME?

SEC Hardwood

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We’re about two weeks into the college basketball season. The SEC is known for football but there are several programs ranked in the top 25 in basketball.

It looks like Kentucky will have some competition after a down 2020-21 season. Let’s examine the ranked teams to see who the real contenders are.

#10 Alabama: The Crimson Tide (4 – 0) have been doing well on the hardwood lately. They advanced to the Sweet Sixteen last season and lost to UCLA in overtime.

They also won the SEC Tournament. Alabama finished last season ranked No. 5 in the final AP Poll and Coaches Poll. Those were the school’s highest season-ending rankings since 1956.

Junior guard Jaden Shackelford leads the team in scoring with 19.5 points per game. Junior Jahvon Quinerly averages 15.5 PPG and senior Keon Ellis averages 14.5 PPG.

Alabama heads to the ESPN Events Invitational this week in Orlando, where it will meet Iona on Thursday at 4 p.m. CT in a rematch of its NCAA tournament opener in March. They will play either Belmont or Drake on Friday, with a chance to meet Kansas on Sunday in the finale. The Jayhawks are No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 3 in the coaches poll this week.

# 10 Kentucky: The Wildcats (3 – 1) lost the third game of the season to No. 5 Duke, 79 -71. Last season they finished 9 – 16, their worst season since 1988-89.

Since head coach John Calipari took over in 2009, he’s built the team with the top one-and-done players every season. Surprisingly, out of the top four scorers on the team only one is a freshman.

Freshman TyTy Washington Jr. and junior forwards Oscar Tshiebwe, Keion Brooks all lead the team with 13 PPG.

The next four games are against Albany, North Florida, Central Michigan and Southern. Those should all be blow out wins. The schedule gets tougher after that with games against Notre Dame and Ohio State.

#13 Arkansas: The Razorbacks (3 – 0) are looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. In 2020-21 they were 25 -7 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

Senior guard JD Notae leads the team with 21.7 PPG. Fellow senior Chris Lykes averages 15.7 PPG.

They have eight games before conference play begins December 29th and only two of those games are against Power 5 teams. They should be undefeated during this stretch.

#15 Tennessee: The Vols (3 – 1) just played some elite teams over the weekend in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament. They were blown out by No. 5 Villanova 71 – 53 on Friday. They rebounded Saturday and beat No. 18 North Carolina, 89 -72. They have some marquee games against Colorado, Texas Tech, No. 9 Memphis and No. 17 Arizona before SEC play starts.

#19 Auburn: The Tigers (3 – 0) have been doing well the last few seasons since Bruce Pearl took over as head coach in 2014. They advanced to the Final Four in 2019 and would have been in the 2020 NCAA Tournament if it was not cancelled due to the pandemic. Last year they were 13 – 14.

They play UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas for their next game. No. 24 Michigan State, No. 6 Baylor and Syracuse are potential opponents in the next round.

#23 Florida: The Gators (3 – 0) play Cal in the Fort Myers Tip-Off this week. They will face No. 21 Seton Hall or Ohio State in the next round.

The best team they have played so far is Florida State and they won 71 – 55.

 

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