Kipp Branch

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Omaha!

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

One of the underrated sporting events in the country starts today and ends on June 27th.

It is the College World Series. The field looks balanced this year with no clear favorite after Tennessee, the self-proclaimed greatest team of all-time, choked at home in the Super Regionals losing to Notre Dame in grand fashion.

The field includes four SEC teams and two others, Oklahoma and Texas, who will be joining the SEC by 2025.

The SEC is dominant in most sports these days. The College World Series is played annually in Omaha, Nebraska. There should be plenty of SEC chants going on over the next 10 days. The CWS is a double-elimination tournament.

 

2022 COLLEGE WORLD SERIES Round 1

All Times Eastern

 

Friday, June 17

Oklahoma vs #5 Texas A&M 2 pm ESPN: A match-up of two SEC teams. One current and one in future in Oklahoma.

This was a huge rivalry when A&M was in the Big 12 so these programs are familiar with each other.

In his first year at Texas A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle has reached the College World Series. He took TCU to Omaha five times in his 18 years at TCU. The Aggies are hot currently, so give me Texas A&M in this contest.

Notre Dame vs #9 Texas 7 pm ESPN: This should be a great contest. Texas lost game one in the Supers at East Carolina. Then come back and walked off with a win in game two and blew ECU out in game three to earn a trip to Omaha.

The Longhorns hit the long-ball frequently and will be a tough out in the CWS. Notre Dame, like I mentioned earlier, is riding high after beating Tennessee in Knoxville to earn a berth.

This is a tough gritty team that is dangerous in an environment like Omaha.

Give me Texas in this contest because the Longhorns have made the CWS field 38 times since the inception of the CWS.

The 2022 tournament marks the 75th playing of the CWS. Texas has been there more than half of the time. No other program has more than 25 appearances. Give me Texas in this match-up.

 

Saturday, June 18

Arkansas vs #2 Stanford 2 pm ESPN: Stanford always has good pitching, and this year is no exception. Arkansas was the Top overall seed in 2021 and did not make the CWS but went to Chapel Hill and beat a tough North Carolina team in three games to earn a spot in 2022.

Arkansas is peaking at the right time. Watch out for the Hogs. Give me Arkansas in this game.

Ole Miss vs #14 Auburn 7 pm ESPN2: Ole Miss may be the hottest team in college baseball right now. They were Preseason #1 that slumped badly in the middle of the season, only to get hot at tourney time.

The Rebels were the one of the last teams (probably last) selected to the field of 64 and have gone on a run and won a Super in Hattiesburg by sweeping Southern Miss and not giving up a run.

Auburn got sent to Corvallis, Oregon for a Super Regional and beat Oregon State.

Auburn has been a major surprise in 2022. The Tigers have a good power packed line-up. The SEC goes head-to-head in this one. Give me Ole Miss in this contest.

Teams with deep pitching staffs will rise to the top during the tourney. When it is all said and done, here is how I see it playing out:

 

Bracket One:

Notre Dame

Oklahoma

Texas

Texas A&M

 

Winner: Texas

 

Bracket Two:

Arkansas

Auburn

Ole Miss

Stanford

 

Winner: Arkansas

 

College WS Final:

Arkansas vs Texas

Winner: Arkansas

 

Arkansas is your 2022 National Baseball Champions.

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.

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.

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.

Ridder Respect

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the 74th pick in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons selected Desmond Ridder QB of Cincinnati.

With the selection Ridder looks like the future QB in Atlanta.

The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota as a free agent for the 2022 season. The drafting of Ridder signals that Mariota is a bridge quarterback that will play until Ridder is ready to take over the job.

I am guessing by midway through the 2022 season the reigns of the franchise will be handed over to Ridder.

Ridder is a great athlete with an above average NFL arm. He should be able to make all the throws. He ran a 4.52 forty at the NFL Combine so he will be a threat with his legs if the pocket breaks down.

Ridder has a reputation as a student of the game with tremendous work ethic. He started 48 games at Cincinnati so experience should not be an issue.

Some mock drafts had Ridder going in the bottom of the first round so the Falcons got excellent value by him being there at the 74th pick. He finished his college career with over 10,000 yards passing, 87 TD’s to only 28 interceptions. He also rushed for 2,180 yards with 28 TD’s.

He became the Bearcats’ starting quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and passed for 2,445 yards and 20 touchdowns and gained 583 yards rushing along with 5 touchdowns. He was named the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Rookie of the Year for the 2018 season.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, Ridder completed 179 of 325 passes for 2,164 yards and 18 touchdowns against 9 interceptions, while also rushing for 650 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Ridder was named the MVP of the 2020 Birmingham Bowl leading the Bearcats to a win over Boston College.

The 2020 season would prove to be a breakout campaign for the junior QB. Ridder was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Year after passing 2,296 yards, and 19 touchdowns with 6 interceptions, while also rushing for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ritter played well in the Peach Bowl in a close loss to Georgia.

Ridder led the Bearcats to national prominence in 2021 as the No. 7 Bearcats defeated No. 9 Notre Dame on the road.

Ridder went 19-of-32 for 297 yards and 2 TDs. In addition, he rushed for 26 yards and a game-sealing fourth quarter touchdown as the Bearcats snapped the Fighting Irish’s 26-game home winning streak.

Following an unbeaten 12-0 season, Ridder and the Bearcats went into the 2021 American Athletic Conference Football Championship Game ranked number four in the AP Polls, meaning a victory would see them stay in a playoff spot.

Following a 35-20 win over the Houston Cougars, they became the first Group of Five team to make the playoffs, as well as the last major undefeated team going into the post-season. Cincinnati lost to Alabama in the college football playoff 27-6 to finish with a fine 13-1 record.

 

Career highlights and awards:

2× AAC Offensive Player of the Year (2020, 2021)

AAC Rookie of the Year (2018)

2× First team All-AAC (2020, 2021)

Birmingham Bowl MVP (2020)

 

Desmond Ridder is a deal for the Atlanta Falcons.

Excellent value/need pick in third round. He brings a quiet confidence to the QB room. He brings some intangibles to the position that the Falcons have not seen in over a decade. Those are mobility, athleticism, and youth.

The Matty Ice era in Atlanta is over. The only memories that remain are the agony of blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl with 2:00 remaining in the third quarter.

Can Desmond Ridder be the next great QB in Atlanta? The jury is out on that right now, but this kid has the work ethic and talent to be an above average to great NFL Quarterback.

Jaguars Draft Needs

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2022 NFL Draft will be the 87th annual meeting of National Football League franchises to select newly eligible players.

The draft is scheduled to be held in Paradise, Nevada, from April 28–30, 2022.

For the second year in a row the Jacksonville Jaguars hold the number one overall selection. The Jags are a team with many pressing needs. Let us look at the top two areas of need for the 2022 Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Wide Receiver: The Jaguars have a potential franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, who they selected first overall in 2021.

They must build the offense around him and keep surrounding him with more weapons. Their wide receiver corps is good but not great.

Jacksonville paid a pile of money to sign Christian Kirk form Arizona. Kirk was never the #1 option in Arizona, but Jacksonville gave him a #1 receiver contract. We shall see how this plays out. The top five receiving prospects in this draft are:

Garrett Wilson/Ohio State University/Projected top ten pick

Jameson Williams/University of Alabama/Projected top fifteen pick

Drake London/University of Southern California/Projected top fifteen pick

Treylon Burks/University of Arkansas/Projected top fifteen pick

Chris Olave/Ohio State University/Projected First Round

 

To get one of the top five rated wide receivers the Jaguars would need to trade down in the draft for a Garrett Wilson and collect draft capital in the process.

If the top five names above, go as projected in the first round where they are slotted could Jacksonville draft former Georgia WR George Pickens with the first pick in the second round #33 to address the need at WR.

Pickens is a stud who ran 4.47 at the combine 11 months removed from a torn ACL. Pickens is a top thirty rated prospect on many NFL draft boards. This is a position of high need for Jacksonville that needs to be addressed in the first two rounds.

 

Offensive Line: The Jaguars need to replenish the offensive line in 2022. Look no further than the University of Alabama’s Evan Neal.

 

Neal’s Draft Profile:

Rating: 92.93 (All-Pro)

Pro Comparison: Bigger Andrew Thomas

Strengths: Insanely large, impossibly twitched up for his size. Carries his weight extremely well. Loose-hipped blocker with effortless power, which makes him a tremendous asset at the second level. High-end recovery skills because of his suddenness. Creates huge arc for rushers to run around to the QB. Balance could use some work. All-Pro upside and is mostly NFL ready.

Weaknesses: Can get a little overanxious at the second level and lunge, and the same is true in pass protection. Anchor is not as sturdy as expected given his size. Occasionally, small speed rushers get the best of him.

Accolades: 2021- Consensus All-America (two sacks allowed in fifteen starts)

Forty career starts (2020 CFP national champion)

Neal has been projected anywhere from the first overall pick to the fifth overall pick in most mock drafts I have seen.

I think Jacksonville should take Neal with the number one overall pick and draft the best wide receiver on their board with the first selection in second round. Then draft additional wide receivers and maybe some help secondary help in the mid to later round.

To take the next step the Jacksonville Jaguars need to provide Trevor Lawrence with some weapons, or you are setting him up for failure.

The Green Jacket

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Spring is in the air as the world’s best head to Augusta National Golf Club for the 86th playing of the Masters Tournament.

Blooming dogwoods, azaleas, and the beautiful golf sanctuary of Augusta National tells you that Spring has officially arrived on the calendar.

Now news is breaking that Tiger Woods may play this year after a long grueling rehabilitation from an automobile accident that almost cost him a leg adds that much more excitement to an event that kicks off the most prestigious tournament in professional golf.

The weather forecast in Augusta is calling for sunny, cool, fall like temperatures for this year’s event.

Here are my thoughts on the favorites going in the 2022 Masters:

 

2022 Masters odds

 

Jon Rahm +1000: Rahm is considered the best golfer in the world. When his game is on, he dominates. Rahm seems to have conquered the mental side of the game over the past few years. Look for Rahm to be in contention for a Green Jacket in 2022.

Justin Thomas +1400: Maybe it is just me, but I am just not feeling like Thomas will be a factor in the 2022 Masters. Big name, big game, but it is just not his time yet.

Dustin Johnson +1600: Johnson has won at Augusta. With his length he should always be a betting favorite at Augusta. He should be in contention over the weekend.

Cameron Smith +1600: If you watched Smith make putt after putt at The Players Championship you should factor this guy in the mix for the coveted Green Jacket. The Players win has Smith peaking at the right time coming into the first major of 2022.

Scottie Scheffler +1600: Scheffler will be a non-factor which means he will be within two strokes of the lead on Sunday.

Rory McIlroy +1800: A Green Jacket would give Rory the career grand slam, but he has not finished in the top-20 in his last three starts at Augusta. Is Rory placing too much pressure on himself to win at Augusta?

Brooks Koepka +2000: Koepka only has one win since 2019. He has the game for majors, but he is in a victory drought and cannot seem to end it.

Patrick Cantlay +2000: I picked him to win The Players and it did not happen. Does not seem to be on the top of his game currently.

Jordan Spieth +2000: Always a threat at Augusta. Will be a serious contender to win in 2022. The 2015 champion always seems to play well in Augusta.

Viktor Hovland +2000: I know this kid is exceptionally good. Could be a factor in 2022.

Collin Morikawa +2000: Great all-around game. Two-time major winner plays well on all types of courses.

Xander Schauffele +2200: Finished 2nd to Tiger in 2019 at Augusta. He is due. Only a matter of time before he wins a major. Top ten finishes in all four major championships. Top three finishes in the Masters, US Open, and Open Championship. Xander could break through this weekend.

Will Zalatoris +2800: Will had a great run in 2021 finishing second at Augusta. The crowd will be going crazy if this kid is in contention on Sunday.

Bryson DeChambeau +3500: I love to watch Bryson hit the golf ball. Power golf is appealing to the masses.

 

My dream scenario would be for Tiger to compete in the tournament and be in contention on Sunday. That scenario ensures that I do not move out of my recliner on Sunday afternoon.

 

Predictions:

Winning Score: 274 (-14)

Winner: Xander Schauffele

Farewell Freddie

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Los Angeles Dodgers and All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman agreed to terms on a six-year, $162 million contract.

Earlier, Freeman sent this heartfelt message to Braves Country this week via Instagram:

Freeman wrote:

Braves Country,

I don’t even know where to begin. For the past 15 years I got to be a part of your organization. It was truly an honor. We went through the very highs together and some lows but those lows is what made last year so special. You watched me grow up from a baby faced kid to marrying my love @chelseafreeman5 and seeing us bring 3 beautiful boys into this world. I’m so glad my family got to be a part of yours! To Snit, my coaches, teammates, training staff, clubhouse staff, and everyone who made Turner Field and Truist Park so special for my family and I over the years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has been a blast to have you cheer for me and I hope I was able to bring smiles to a lot of your homes over the years. I gave everything I had day in and day out and I hope you guys saw that as well. Although our time has come to an end, I look forward to seeing and playing in front of you all again. When that time comes, I hope you remember all the wonderful memories we made together. I love you Braves Country! Champions Forever!

Love,

Freddie, Chelsea, Charlie, Brandon, Maximus

After the Braves won their first World Series since 1995 the thought process switched to ‘ok now it is time to resign Freddie Freeman.’ When the lockout hit Braves fans are thinking when this thing is over the first thing Atlanta will do is resign Freddie Freeman.

Once the lockout ended the Freddie watch began. A few days passed and Braves fans like me started asking the question “Will the Braves really let Freddie Freeman walk away?”

We got our answer earlier this week when the Braves traded away center fielder Cristian Pache, catching prospect Shea Langeliers, and pitching prospects Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes to Oakland in return for first baseman Matt Olson.

Olson, an All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, is considered a rising star in MLB circles. At 27 years old, Olson was then inked to an 8-year deal $168 million dollar contract with the Braves through 2030.

The Freddie Freeman era is now over in Atlanta. The realization that MLB is a brutal business comes to mind for the Atlanta fanbase. Here are Freddie’s career numbers as an Atlanta Brave:

At Bats: 5,767

Hits: 1,704

Runs: 969

RBI’s: 941

Batting Average: .295

Home Runs: 271

Freeman was putting together a Hall of Fame career in Atlanta. Now he is off to LA to play for the hated Dodgers.

Who for one second does not think Freddie will end up killing Braves pitching if these teams meet up in the playoffs?

Gone are the days where a player spends his entire career with one team. The sport is driven by money and analytics now.

Thank you, Freddie, for your service in Atlanta. You will be missed greatly. I hope the Braves retire #5 and that number is never worn again by an Atlanta Braves player. You came to Atlanta as a kid and left a decade or so later as a World Champion. Braves Country is eternally grateful to you.

Here is a question that never should have come to mind: If Freeman goes on and has an outstanding career in Los Angeles, does he go into Cooperstown as a Brave or a Dodger?

Can the money and analytic crowd answer that question?

The 5th Major

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are a week away from returning to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for The Players Championship.

The total purse of $20 million is a record for the tournament. The winner will take home over $2 million. Justin Thomas won the 2021 Championship with a score of -14 under par.

 

The Favorites:

John Rahm 10/1: Rahm is the current favorite to win the TPC. Rahm is playing exceptionally good golf so far this year with three top ten finishes.

He is coming into this tournament with his game peaking. At last year’s tournament, Rahm finished in a tie for ninth. He finished with a Sunday score of 73.

You must think if he can improve his play in the final round, he stands a good shot at winning.

Rahm is currently the top ranked player in the world. Rahm is the type of player that can dominate the competition if he gets hot.

Justin Thomas 14/1: Thomas comes in second to Rahm as betting odds go for this year’s tournament.

Since the event last year, Thomas has not won another tournament. Thomas currently ranked seventh in the World Golf Rankings and is still playing as one of the best players on tour.

He already has three Top-10 finishes this season, his latest coming at The Genesis Invitational. In the history of the Players Championship no player has ever won in back-to-back years. History is working against Thomas in this area.

 

Other Odds:

Collin Morikawa 16/1: The Open Champion plays well on tough golf venues.

Morikawa just seems to hover near the top of leaderboards in about every big event on the PGA Tour. If he is within striking distance on Sunday, then he will be a major factor in the outcome.

Patrick Cantlay 20/1: Cantlay is one cool customer on the golf course. Pressure does not seem to bother him at all. He has the mental makeup to win the TPC.

Do not be surprised if Cantlay is holding the TPC trophy at the conclusion of this year’s event. He is that good. Also do not be surprised if Cantlay does not win The Masters in April.

Will Zalatoris 50/1: Who does not want to see Will win the TPC?

Zalatoris will be a huge crowd favorite if he is in contention. This kid brings a ton of excitement to the game of golf. Players like Will Zalatoris provide a bright future for the PGA Tour.

The Course: THE PLAYERS STADIUM COURSE AT TPC SAWGRASS

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass was built in 1980 to be the permanent home of THE PLAYERS Championship.

As the first true Stadium Course, it was designed to improve the overall on-site fan experience.

The signature island green on the par-3, 17th hole is one of the most recognized in golf and the course is consistently named among the best in the world.

My Pick: Patrick Cantlay. Cantlay is on track to becoming the number one player in the world in 2022.

Dark Horse: Will Zalatoris. The kid is a great ball striker, and would it not be impressive if the kid wins his first PGA tournament at TPC Sawgrass?

I hope golf gets a big shot in the arm after the negativity surrounding some comments made by Phil Mickelson recently.

Phil has had a brutal week with sponsorship losses after his controversial comments about Saudi Arabia.

Can we give Lefty a break? Society seems so unforgiving these days.

Prove It To Me

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is that time of the year that is dreaded and that is the official ending of football season.

Football, the greatest game on the planet, is in hibernation until August. However, it is never too early to discuss SEC football in the South. Here is a look at my top five teams in the SEC with the most to prove in 2022:

 

1: Texas A&M: All the talent money can buy. They need a good season this year, and need to prove they can win.

Can Jimbo get it done in College Station? Yes, they beat Alabama last season, but they found a way to lose 4 football games.

The Aggies must find a QB that can lead this team to the SEC title game. The new NIL landscape favors the Aggies, who have very deep pockets. If this team can’t win 10-11 games this fall, then the heat starts mounting on Jimbo Fisher.

 

2: LSU: When you think LSU, you think contenders.

LSU will have a new coach, and will have to prove they are making progress.

I think Brian Kelly is a pretty good hire. Talent is never an issue in Baton Rouge, but right now the QB position is a big question mark. If the Tigers can figure that out quickly, they could be factor in the West.

 

3: Tennessee: The Vols have not been relevant since 2007, when they last won the SEC East.

Tennessee has not won a national title since 1998.

Skill position talent is much improved, but Tennessee does not have the offensive or defensive line talent to be a serious SEC contender yet.

Tennessee has lost 15 straight to Alabama and is 1-16 against Florida in the last 17 years.

Since Philip Fulmer was forced out in 2008 the Vols have whiffed on 4 straight head football coaches. Josh Heupel hopes to reverse that trend.

Tennessee went 7-6 in 2021. In the last five years Tennessee is a combined 0-15 against Alabama, Florida and Georgia, which are the 3 biggest games on the Vol schedule. Tennessee needs to beat one of those three teams in 2022.

 

4: Florida: Florida also has a new head coach.

They must prove they can compete in the SEC East. The East is way better when Florida can challenge UGA for that top spot.

Billy Napier was a great hire for UF. There is talent on the roster, but it is undisciplined talent. If Napier can change that culture in Gainesville and recruit then Florida will be back soon.

If Florida can win 8-9 games in 2022 then things should take off quickly in Gainesville.

Since Steve Spurrier retired Florida has missed on 4 of its last 5 football coaches. Only Urban Meyer has had consistent success since 2001.

Florida has not won an SEC or National Title since 2008. Too much talent in the State of Florida for the flagship university not to be a national player and to top it off you just lost to UCF in a bowl game.

 

5 Ole Miss: Ole Miss surprised a lot of people last season by being a top 10 team. Was it a fluke? They must prove they can maintain solid seasons with Lane for years to come.

I don’t think 2021 was a fluke for Ole Miss. If Matt Corral can be replaced then I think this team will finish right behind Alabama, and Alabama does come to Oxford in 2022.

The defense is improving, and we know a Lane Kiffin offense will produce. I think this will be the surprise team in the SEC next year. I believe Ole Miss is here to stay and 2022 will prove that.

I did not mention Auburn because Bryan Harsin is dead man walking on The Plains of Auburn. Of course, it has all been self-induced by Auburn, who set this man up for failure.

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