Mississippi State Bulldogs

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.

The Crystal Ball Of The SEC

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Labor Day weekend is upon us and that means the greatest game of all, College Football kicks off.

I love many sports, but college football is just special. In this part of the world, you have SEC football; which is the best brand in college athletics.

Others try and duplicate it, but they simply come up short.

Oklahoma and Texas are moving over probably next season instead of 2025. Some critics say conference expansion is bad using excuses like geography, and any other reason they can find.

We live in a generation of participation trophies as it relates to sports, and quite frankly the SEC has an ‘iron sharpens iron’ kind of mentality and that keeps them ahead of the rest in the college football world.

Here are my 2021 SEC Predictions:

Most Overrated Team: Texas A&M: The 2021 hype train has the Aggies picked by some to knock of Alabama to win the West.

I don’t think defensively A&M is there yet, and will Jimbo Fisher open up the offense to the Alabama and LSU levels of the past two seasons?

I don’t think the Aggies have those types of weapons and will come up short in the West. What happens if they lose at home to Alabama? Well, they are and I think they end up losing to Ole Miss and possibly LSU.

Most Underrated Team: Ole Miss: Ole Miss may end up having the best offense in the conference. So, when you line up against this team you better be prepared to score a lot of points.

Everyone harps on the Ole Miss defense, but I ask the question they can’t be worse than they were last year, right? I expect improvement out of the unit in 2021. This team could sneak up into the double-digit win category.

SEC West:

Alabama: Until someone knocks them off, they are the pick here.

Nick Saban is the best head coach in the history of the conference and he has the national championships to prove it in the playoff era of college football.

Ole Miss: This team is dangerous. Sleep on them if you want to.

Texas A&M: I’m just not buying the hype. This team is too conservative on offense, and do they have enough defense to be championship elite? The answer is no.

LSU: Coach O it is starting to slip away. Fix it in 2021 or your seat is going to get very hot.

Auburn: New coaching staff that wants to go from a spread offense to more of a pro type offense. Going to take some time Aubbies.

Arkansas: I love how the Hogs are building this roster, but you are in the best division of the best conference in college football.

Mississippi State: Not a terrible team, but you have six bowl teams ahead of you.

SEC East:

Georgia: This is an elite football program that gets the underachiever label by folks who don’t hold everyone to the same standard they judge UGA by.

Could it be they know UGA is about to knock the National Title door down in the near future and what that may mean? Cue the 1980 jokes haters.

Florida: Gators will be good, but a different kind of good. One that starts with better defensive play. Florida lost 6,600 yards and 79 TDs to the NFL draft from last year.

Missouri: A much improved Tiger squad could challenge for 2nd in the East.

Kentucky: Nope, I’m not buying what you are selling Cats. Your offense is like watching paint dry.

Tennessee: Vols are building back the roster. It is going to take a couple of years.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks are starting a Graduate Assistant at QB. Ouch!

Vanderbilt: We love the Dores during baseball season, but they are an instant win during the fall.

SEC Title game will be Alabama against Georgia.

The Return

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I’m sure at some point over the past six months, most of us reached that moment where we had watched everything we were interested in and started binge watching television shows or movies we had no desire to see, just to pass the time.

(Personally, I began a weekend watching the first Police Academy and finished it with Mission to Moscow; something I’m both proud of, yet less than impressed with.)

If I may stick with the entertainment theme for just a minute longer, when the college football season started a few weeks ago it felt like watching “The Office” after Steve Carell left; the cast of characters and storylines were enough to keep watching, but it just wasn’t the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed watching some of the lesser known schools get their time in the national spotlight, but when the two best conferences in college football aren’t on the schedule the whole thing is a little underwhelming.

With the SEC beginning their season, it not only felt like another step towards some sense of normalcy, but there was a feeling of excitement about watching the games because of who was playing and not just because a game was being played.

I have to admit, even with it being the first games of the season for SEC teams, they did not disappoint, obviously with Mississippi State and Florida garnering a lot of the praise.

Speaking of the Bulldogs, me trying to find any redeemable quality in Mike Leach is like trying to find a pack of Skittles in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese.

However, what KJ Costello and the MSU offense was able to do to LSU forces me to begrudgingly give Leach credit.

I still think LSU will finish the season as the better team and I doubt the Bulldog offense will put up those type numbers again, but for right now Leach is deserving of the credit that’s come his way.

I also have to confess, I kind of like this schedule, where teams basically just play within their conference. I know we’re missing out on some of the big out of conference games we’ve started to see more of lately, but we’re also not having to be subjected to Alabama playing the Flying Griffindors of Hogwarts University, either.

I realize when you’ve got a new head coach, or new players at prime positions, like LSU and even Georgia to a certain extent, it’s nice to have easier games for everyone to get acclimated to each other.

On the other hand, it’s a nice change to essentially throw all the teams into the deep end and see who learns to swim first.

This isn’t to say the first few weeks of the season were rough to watch, they weren’t by any stretch. And there have been some really good storylines we’ve seen emerge that may not have otherwise gotten the attention. (A perfect example are the Miami Hurricanes. Imagine how much of the hype going to Mississippi State would be going to Miami after their annihilation of Florida State.)

Still, it’s nice to turn on a football game and see some of the major teams and players back in the field; it’s one of the reasons we love it so much.

I mean, we’re not watching Cobra Kai because it has the return of Daniel LaRusso’s mother, are we?

How The West Was Won

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Why don’t we take a look at the toughest division in all of College Football and that, my friends, is the SEC West.

Here are my SEC West Predictions for 2019:

Alabama 12-0: Tua will be the frontrunner for the Heisman, and Najee Harris may be the best overall running back in the SEC when it is said and done production wise.

The Alabama receiving corps with headlined by Jerry Jeudy are the best in college football.

Nick Saban is the best in the business, and the Tide has the best starting 22 players in the country.

LSU comes to Bryant-Denny, but dangerous road trips to Texas A&M and Auburn seem to be the only hurdles on the regular season slate. Alabama heads to Atlanta for another epic showdown with Georgia for the SEC Title.

LSU 9-3: Coach O has got the Tigers headed back in the right direction.

Joe Burrow is back under center for a second straight season. John Emery is coming in at running back, and LSU has the best defensive backfield in the conference.

With that said this team is not going to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. A tough road game at Texas in week 2, and dangerous SEC road trips to Starkville and Oxford in mid-season. I think the Tigers drop one of those Magnolia State road trips.

Texas A&M 8-4: This schedule is brutal with the SEC West slate plus Clemson and Georgia. Is this team ready for primetime?

The Aggies lost their leader rusher and tackler from 2018. Is Kellen Mond an elite SEC QB? Jimbo Fisher is an elite coach, but it’s still too early to proclaim the Aggies as great in this division.

The Aggies will lose to Alabama and LSU in the West this year.

Auburn 8-4: Gus Malzahn is sitting on the hottest seat in the conference.

Who is going to be the starting QB? Will a running back up to Auburn historical standards surface? The front seven on defense will be solid and Derrick Brown may be the best defensive lineman in the conference.

Who knows about this team? Georgia and Alabama come to Jordan-Hare. Brutal schedule with the opener in Dallas against Oregon and a trip to Florida make it hard to predict big things for the Tigers in 2019 which usually means they play in the National Title game right?

A lot of questions right now in Auburn, Alabama. Gus is feeling the heat.

Ole Miss 8-4: This is my SEC West sleeper team. Yes, I see 8 wins on the schedule.

This team has some talent on offense with Matt Corral at QB. Ole Miss always has productive wide receivers. Can this defense hold up is the question?

I think the Rebels come back in 2019 after the probation period and go bowling.

Rich Rodriguez may have struggled as a head coach, but he is one of the best offensive coordinators in the business. This offense will cause problems in the SEC.

Mississippi State 6-6: The Bulldogs are going to struggle in 2019.

How do you lose three first round draft picks on defense from 2018 and improve on that side of the ball?

MSU gets in a bowl at 6-6 and the heat starts getting turned up on Joe Moorhead in 2020. Keytaon Thompson has talent at QB. The jury is out on the Bulldogs.

Arkansas 4-8: Chad Morris is in a total rebuild in Fayetteville.

It is going to take a couple more recruiting classes for Arkansas to be competitive again. Proud program that let a Big 10 coach come in and drive it over a cliff. Hog fans need to be patient with Chad Morris.

Bowl Teams: Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State

Division upset of the year: Ole Miss over LSU in Oxford on 11/16. LSU suffers a letdown after losing to Alabama on 11/9.

SEC Championship Game: Georgia over Alabama

SEC Hardwood

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We’re starting to get close to conference play in college basketball.

The SEC is the deepest it has been in years. There are currently four teams ranked in the top 25 and at least two more that may join them. I’m going to take a look at these teams.

#8 Kentucky: The Wildcats (8-1) have the same story year after year. They’ve been the gold standard in the conference since the 1920’s. Ever since coach John Calipari came to Lexington in 2009 they’ve been the poster child for the ‘one and done’ players. They reload every season with a top 5 recruiting class and this year is no different.

The 2017 recruiting class was ranked second in the nation with six 5 star recruits. The only loss was to #12 Kansas by four points. The next three games are against Virginia Tech, UCLA and in-state rival Louisville.

SEC play begins December 31st at home against Georgia. I expect Kentucky to be the best team in the SEC again. They should make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

#9 Texas A&M: The Aggies (8-1) are off to their best start since the 2006-07 season.

They have some pretty impressive wins thus far. They beat #11 West Virginia 88-65 and #10 USC 75-59.

The only loss was against Arizona by three points. The Wildcats were ranked in the top five earlier in the season. They begin conference play Dec. 30th at Alabama.

The remaining non-conference games are easy wins against Savannah State, Northern Kentucky and Buffalo. A&M should be the best team in the SEC West.

#20 Tennessee: The Vols (7-1) had a well-documented awful football season. Fans in Knoxville need something to cheer about so it’s good to see the basketball team playing well. They beat #17 Purdue in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

The lone loss came against top ranked Villanova. Other than those two games the schedule has been pretty weak. They’ve played Mercer, Clemson, High Point and Presbyterian to name a few.

I think they may not be as good as the schedule suggests. We will get an idea of how good they really are when they play #7 North Carolina at home Sunday December 17th. I expect them to lose that game but they should handle Furman and Wake Forest. Then the Vols will play at Arkansas to open conference play.

#22 Florida: The Gators (6-3) were ranked as high as fifth before going on a three game losing streak. It’s hard to tell if they were overrated or just inconsistent. Their best win is against #12 Gonzaga.

They lost to #4 Duke by three points, which is respectable. But they followed that with loses to Florida State and Loyola Chicago.

They snapped the losing streak by beating Cincinnati. We won’t learn much about them before SEC play begins because they play Clemson, James Madison and Incarnate Word. I’m curious to see how Florida will develop as the season progresses.

There are a few teams right outside of being ranked in the top 25. They are: Arkansas (7-2), Miss State (8-0) and Mizzou (8-2). Missouri signed the #2 recruit in the 2017 class; 6’10 forward Michael Porter Jr.

Alabama (6-3) signed the #7 recruit in the 2017 class, guard Collin Sexton. The Crimson Tide lost to #14 Minnesota by five points. They played with three players, which makes that more impressive. Teams like that with future lottery picks are dangerous because they have a chance to beat anybody.

Making The Grade In The SEC

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The regular season is over in the SEC for the 2017 football season. Nine SEC teams are going to bowl games, and two are going into the college football playoff.

Overall Conference grade: C

Ole Miss tried to cheat their way to a title and big 6 members Florida and Tennessee are dumpster fires is ultimately what kept this grade from being higher.

For the first time in the new playoff format two teams from same conference, Alabama and Georgia made the final four while the Big 10 and PAC 12 champions got passed over.

Individual Team Grades:

Alabama: B+. The loss at Auburn kept the Tide out of the SEC title game but sitting at 11-1 Alabama will play Clemson in the Sugar Bowl in a national semifinal game.

The LB corps have been decimated by injuries, and Jalen Hurts needs to throw the ball better. Nick Saban is still the best coach in football.

Arkansas: D-. Bret got fired and the Hogs looked awful for most of the season. No bowl and a 1-7 record in the conference and 4-8 overall. Enter Chad Morris to fix this mess.

Auburn: B+. The Tigers beat two number one teams Georgia and Alabama at home in November, but blew a 20-point lead at LSU who lost to Troy.

Kerryon Johnson was the SEC Offensive player of the year and the defense played well all season. The blowout loss to UGA in the SEC Title game kept this from being an A grade.

Florida: F. Worst Florida team I have seen since the late 70’s. The offense was offensive with no QB play and this team mailed it in after the LSU game. Dan Mullen has been hired to fix this huge mess. Mullen has to change the culture in Gainesville.

Georgia: A. 2017 SEC Champions. Roquan Smith is SEC Defensive Player of the year, Kirby is SEC Coach of the year, and Jake Fromm is SEC Freshman of the year. In year two Kirby has won a title and gotten a Rose Bowl against Oklahoma in National Semifinal on NYD. Could be a really special year in Athens.

Kentucky: B. A seven win football season in Lexington does not come often. The Music City Bowl game against Northwestern upcoming. Nice season for the Cats.

LSU: B-. A loss to Troy and getting blown out in Starkville won’t cut it in Red Stick but the season turned with the Auburn win and the Tigers outplayed Alabama everywhere but the scoreboard in Tuscaloosa.

A win over Notre Dame in Citrus Bowl would get the Tigers to 10 wins and set them up for an SEC title run in 2018.

Mississippi State: B: Nice season in Starkville. The loss to Ole Miss was a fluke with the Nick Fitzgerald injury 5 minutes into the ball game.

Missouri: B. Most improved team in the SEC in the last half of the season and a Bowl game against Texas. Drew Lock throws the best deep ball in the league.

Ole Miss: F. Matt Luke will clean up that stinking cheating culture in Oxford.

South Carolina: B+. I like where Coach Muschamp is taking this program. The Gamecocks will beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl to get to 9 wins.

Tennessee: F-. 0-8 in the SEC and it has taken almost a month to find a coach. This program has hit rock bottom. May take 3-4 years to recover from this train wreck. Phil Fulmer is on the job as AD now and that is good unless Steve Spurrier takes an AD job in the conference. Spurrier owns Fulmer.

Texas A&M: C. Kevin Sumlin got fired with a 51-26 record in College Station. Enter Jimbo Fisher at a price tag of $75 million.

Vanderbilt: C. About what I expect from Vandy. Derek Mason is a very good coach who deserves a better opportunity to win at a bigger program.

What if we have a Bama/UGA national title game? The national media will want to blow up this current playoff format.

Survival Saturday

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We have several heavyweight matchups taking place in Week 11 of the college football season.

Games like #12 Washington vs. #21 Stanford and #11 Oklahoma State vs. #15 Iowa State are on the backburner. Let’s look at some of the marquee matchups.

#1 Georgia at #14 Auburn: So, the Dawgs are 9-0 for the first time since Herschel Walker was on campus (1982). They have an embarrassment of riches at running back with Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and D’andre Swift.

True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has that ‘it’ factor and he made Georgia fans forget all about Jacob Eason.

The defense has been stellar ranking fourth in the nation in total defense, only giving up 254 yards per game.

Auburn looks like they finally found their stride on offense. The last time the Tigers were really explosive was 2013.

Baylor transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham received a lot of hype to before the season began. He struggled initially but he looks more comfortable running Gus Malzahn’s offense. He’s also able to rely on the power running of Kerryon Johnson. Auburn is also exceptional on defense, ranking 14th nationally in total D.

Fromm went on the road and played well in Knoxville in front of over 100,000 fans but the Vols are terrible. I think playing a good team in front of 87,451 screaming fans might cause him to make freshman mistakes. I give the edge to War Eagle.

#3 Notre Dame at #10 Miami: It’s crazy to think undefeated Miami (8-0) is only ranked tenth. They have had some luck on their side against Florida State and Georgia Tech. They are coming off of a 28-10 win against #13 Virginia Tech so their confidence is high.

The Fighting Irish are thirteenth in total offense. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush is a good runner and he’s improved his passing game.

RB Josh Adams has rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and averages 8.7 yards per carry. I think this will be a close game but Notre Dame should win.

#5 Oklahoma vs. #8 TCU: Both teams have one loss. The only chance the Big 12 has to make the college football playoff is for one of these teams to win out. The Sooners are led by Heisman frontrunner, quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The offense is clicking, coming off of a 62-52 win over in-state rival Oklahoma State. That’s also alarming that the defense gave up so many points. They’ve looked bad since the Ohio State game.

Both teams lost to the Iowa State and you know the Cyclones aren’t a great team. That tells me they both lack focus.

I think the Horned Frogs are a more complete team. TCU is sixth in total D and Oklahoma is 87th. That’s going to cost them against a good team like TCU.

#2 Alabama at #16 Mississippi State: The Bulldogs looked like contenders at the beginning of the season. They had a blowout win against LSU and we didn’t know the Tigers were overrated at the time.

Then Georgia and Auburn blew them out in consecutive weeks. Miss State is on a four game winning streak.

The Crimson Tide get to play with a chip on their shoulder after being demoted to number two.

They rank second in defense and 17th in total offense. They’re the most complete team in the nation. Mississippi State has shown that they can’t compete with elite SEC teams so this will be another bad loss.

Mississippi State Bulldogs Preview

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Richmond Hill’s own Nick Fitzgerald is back for his junior season in Starkville, Mississippi as he leads his Mississippi State Bulldogs into SEC play.

When Fitzgerald played for Richmond Hill he ran the triple option system and dominated Coastal Georgia during his time as the Wildcats starting quarterback. He was rated a three star QB when he signed with the Bulldogs in 2014. Fitzgerald redshirted in 2014 and served as Dak Prescott’s back-up in 2015.

Fitzgerald got his chance in 2016 to be the face of Bulldog football and did not disappoint. Fitzgerald led the Bulldogs to an upset win over No. 4 Texas A&M, recording 391 yards of total offense and scoring 4 total touchdowns, including a 74-yard touchdown run on the Bulldogs’ first offensive play.

In the Egg Bowl, the Bulldogs’ annual season finale against in state rival Ole Miss, Fitzgerald led Mississippi State to a 55-20 victory and accounted for 5 total touchdowns (3 passing 2 rushing) while setting a Mississippi State single game rushing record with 258 yards.

Here is a mind blowing stat; Fitzgerald, who plays QB, was the second leading rusher in the SEC in 2016 with 1375 yards and a 7.1 YPC average.

Derrius Guice of LSU led the SEC with 1387 yards rushing. Fitzgerald had more rushing yards in 2016 than Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb, and Kamryn Pettway. That is saying a lot folks.

Fitzgerald also passed for 2400 yards. He accounted for 37 TD’s in 2016 (21 passing and 16 rushing) and accounted for 3,800 yards of total offense. Fitzgerald has the perfect skill set to run Dan Mullen’s spread attack in Starkville. Fitzgerald is a developing passer who must improve on his completion percentage. It was 54.3% in 2016.

Offensive line is a huge question mark for the Bulldogs. Donald Gray and Keith Mixon lead the WR group. Farrod Green and Justin Johnson are good TE’s and could be good options as well in the passing game.

Aeris Williams is a solid RB who had 720 yards in 2016 and could take on a bigger role in running game and could take some of the rushing load off Fitzgerald.

Former UGA DC Todd Grantham takes over the MSU defense in 2017. Grantham is the 4th DC in 4 years in Starkville. Grantham has an attacking style and has some players in place to make a difference.

Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, a former five-star recruit, and linebacker Leo Lewis are both top tier talents in the SEC. Chauncey Rivers road to Starkville was chronicled in Last Chance U and he will provide a spark on defense. Johnathan Abram a UGA transfer will help in the secondary.

The Schedule/Predicted win/loss: The Bulldogs will beat Charleston Southern, Louisiana Tech, UMass, BYU, and Ole Miss who will be beaten to a pulp by the NCAA. That is five sure wins I see.

Losses: I don’t see the Bulldogs beating UGA and Auburn on the road. They will not beat Alabama at home.

So the Bulldogs are sitting at 5-3. Let’s take a look at the toss-up games I see on the MSU schedule:

September 16th LSU in Starkville. I’m not sold on LSU in 2017 yet. Especially at the QB position. I think the Bulldogs get Davis Wade Stadium rocking and pull the upset.

October 21st: Kentucky comes to Starkville in an evenly matched game. Nick Fitzgerald will be the difference and MSU wins.

October 28th @ Texas A&M: MSU upset the Aggies in 2016. That won’t happen in 2017 in College Station.

November 18th @ Arkansas: Tough game for the Bulldogs. I think they find a way to beat Arkansas on the road.

Season Record: 8-4 and 4-4 in the SEC with a Liberty Bowl berth in Memphis.

2016 SEC Rankings


By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Now that college football season is over and we must wait another 9 months for the joy of fall to arrive back in God’s Country also known as the SEC. Here are my final 2016 SEC power rankings.

14. Missouri: The Tigers finished the season with the worst overall record in the SEC, but closed with a big win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Mizzou will always be decent on defense, but must find a way to score points in 2017.

13. Ole Miss: Yes, the soon to be NCAA poster child for sanctions finished at 5-7 with all of that talent. The Bears/Rebels will bounce back hopefully in next 5 years after sanctions beat them to a pulp.

12. South Carolina: The Gamecocks will get better under Muschamp. The Ole Ball Coach left a mess behind for will to clean up. A loss to a directional Florida school during the bowl season lands South Carolina here.

11. Mississippi State: Tough year in Stark Vegas, but a bowl win and winning the Egg Bowl helped the Bulldogs stay out of the number 13 spot in these rankings.

10. Vanderbilt: Wins over UGA and Tennessee and a trip to Shreveport made the season one to remember in Nashville. I like Derek Mason and think he will continue to do a fine job in the Music City.

9. Arkansas: How do you blow a 24-point lead at the half in a bowl game? Well the Piggies did, and this team is hard to figure so they land here.

8. Kentucky: The season was a success for the Wildcats. The Cats made a bowl. Now just go do your job its basketball season.

7. Texas A&M: Start fast and finish slow is the Aggie blueprint. Top 5 in October and unranked in the final polls. Kevin Sumlin’s seat is red hot going into 2017.

6. Auburn: You finish the season with a loss to UGA, Alabama, and Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl a place you had no business being at. Florida should have received the Sugar Bowl bid.

5. Georgia: A nice win over TCU in the Liberty Bowl. But 8-5 with home losses to UT, Vandy, and GT just will not cut it moving forward Kirby. Help is on the way with this monster recruiting class. This is a team on the rise.

4. Tennessee: Who did less with more than the Vols in 2016? The jury is out on Butch Jones. 2017 will be a make or break year for Butch.

3. LSU: Coach O turned it around down the stretch and the Tigers looked great in their bowl game in Orlando. A team to watch in 2017. I like the Coach O hire.

2. Florida: Back to back East titles and a nice win in Tampa during Bowl season. I think the Gators drop back a little next year.

1. Alabama: The gold standard of the SEC. The Tide just keeps on winning. The title game loss to Clemson which I predicted in the preseason by the way does not tarnish a great season. Alabama is not going anywhere soon. The rest of the Sec must catch up.

The SEC was down in football in 2016. It was Alabama and the 11 Dwarfs. The rest of the SEC must pick up its game in 2017.

The ACC from top to bottom was the best football conference in America in 2016. Ouch!!!!

SEC Bowling

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For anyone who is not a fan of SEC football, this year has been pretty satisfying.

People have been coming from all over the place to pile on the misfortunes of college football’s most prominent league. That doesn’t mean the SEC won’t have a chance to get the last laugh though, and shut up all those critics with a successful bowl season. The question is whether or not they’ll be able to do it.

Miami, OH. vs. Mississippi State: Why are the Bulldogs even allowed to play in this game? I mean, technically I know why they’re playing, but has there ever been a more defining moment for “everybody gets a trophy” than MSU making a bowl game. They’re probably the better team, but out of sheer principle I can’t pick them to win. Bowl Record Prediction: 0-1.

NC State vs. Vanderbilt: Living in North Carolina you become familiar with NC State’s ability to be their own worst enemy, because for some reason they just aren’t allowed to have nice things. I think Vanderbilt is much better than their record shows, especially with the way they’ve been playing of late. Also, I think the Commodores are just the better team. BRP: 1-1.

Texas A&M vs. Kansas State: A month ago I would’ve gone with A&M and not thought twice about it. Now, not so much. To be honest, I haven’t really paid much attention to Kansas State this year, but I trust Bill Snyder more than Kevin Sumlin. BRP: 1-2.

Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech: I’m going with Virginia Tech on this one, but I feel about comfortable with that as I do anytime I choose a new Chinese restaurant to visit. BRP: 1-3.

Georgia vs. TCU: This game will closer than what I assume most people probably think. It’s been a rough year for the Athens faithful, but a win here will help salvage a rather unforgettable season. BRP: 2-3.

Nebraska vs. Tennessee: This is more or less a de facto home game for the Vols. They’d better hope it treats them like that since 3 of their 4 losses this year were on the road. I don’t know which Vols team will show up, but I’m going to guess the one that does will be good enough to win. BRP: 3-3.

LSU vs. Louisville: I’ll be flipping back and forth between watching the game when Louisville’s Off./LSU’s Def. are on the field and watching the new season of Fuller House when their counterparts are playing. Heisman winning QB’s seem to struggle after winning and LSU players love playing for Orgeron. I want the Cardinals to win, but I’m going with LSU. I hope I’m wrong. BRP: 4-3

Auburn vs. Oklahoma: I have a feeling this one isn’t going to be all that close. Auburn has been much better than I thought they’d be when the season started and I have a lot of respect for what that coaching staff has done, but Oklahoma is too talented to lose…. Wait, you mean Bob Stoops is still the Sooners coach? Nevermind, I’ll take the Tigers. BRP: 5-3.

Alabama vs. Washington: Alabama wins this one going away (BRP: 6-3), with a similar result in the National Championship game. BRP: 7-3.

If the SEC is able to finish their bowl games with a 7-3 record, it would difficult to be too critical of the conference and their season as a whole, especially if Alabama wins it all.

Unfortunately for SEC fans, considering how my predictions have gone this year, I wouldn’t count on any of it happening.