Missouri Tigers

The East Beasts

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are going to take a look and preview the SEC East for the upcoming 2022 season.

#1 Georgia: The Bulldogs finally beat Alabama in the National Championship to win their first national championship since 1980.

They only return 10 starters but they are expected to reload. The defense was historically good but they lost players like linemen Jordan Davis and Travon Walker, linebacker Nakobe Dean and safety Lewis Cine.

Stetson Bennett returns under center and they return three starting offensive linemen. They have two very talented tight ends, Brock Bowers and Arik Gilbert.

#2 Tennessee: Head coach Josh Heupel is entering his second season in Knoxville and he has the program going in the right direction. The Volunteers averaged 39.3 points a game. They also led the SEC in plays of 40-plus yards (23) after only having three in 2020.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker is entering his senior year after having a breakout year in 2021. He passed for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 620 yards and 5 scores.

They also return four starting O-linemen. The defense allowed over 200 rushing yards and 33.6 points a game in SEC play last season.

#3 Kentucky: It’s a toss-up between the Wildcats and Tennessee for the No. 2 spot. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen helped them average 32.3 ppg last year. Coen left to take a job on the LA Rams staff. Mark Stoops hired Rich Scangarello from the 49ers to replace him.

QB Will Levis is back and they have a good running back stable led by Chris Rodriguez Jr.

Kentucky ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, 21.7 ppg allowed. They have holes to fill up front and in the secondary. The linebacker unit is talented.

#4 Florida: The Gators are led by first year head coach Billy Napier. They finished 6-7 in 2021 and they should improve this season. Quarterback Anthony Richardson played in eight games last year and averaged 8.1 yards per play, ran for 401 yards and 9 total scores.

Florida should have a solid running back core that includes Louisiana transfer Montrell Johnson and former top recruit Demarkcus Bowman. The Gators finished 10th in the SEC against the run and only had 20 sacks in conference play.

#5 South Carolina: The Gamecocks could be one of the most exciting teams to watch. They have several transfer players including quarterback Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) and receivers Corey Rucker (Arkansas State) and Antwane Wells (James Madison) to add to a receiving corps already featuring Josh Vann (15.8 yards per catch) and Dakereon Joyner.

They return all five starting O-linemen but that’s still an area of concern. They only averaged 3.8 yards per carry in 2021. The defense allowed 175 rushing yards a game.

#6 Missouri: The Tigers have a bad defense and inconsistent quarterback play. The defense allowed 6.7 yards per play, 36 points a game and more than 200 rushing yards a contest in SEC action last fall.

Offensively, the Tigers averaged only 22.6 points and 5.2 yards per play in SEC games last season.

Ends Isaiah McGuire and Trajan Jeffcoat lead the way up front, while cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine and safety Martez Manuel are two building blocks for new coordinator Blake Baker.

#7 Vanderbilt: Are we surprised to see the Commodores here?

Mike Wright and Ken Seals are competing for the QB 1 job.

Vanderbilt ranked 13th in the SEC against the run, last in pass efficiency defense, and surrendered an unpleasant combination of 6.8 yards per play and 35.6 points per game.

Coaching Carousel

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When I realized earlier this year the SEC had no turnover within their head coaching ranks after last season, I reacted like you do when you get a perfect pump at the gas stations- I was caught by surprise, immediately told anyone around me what had transpired, and knew that it would be a while before it happened again.

So, while it was a nice story that no head coach lost their job, you knew a few wouldn’t be so lucky this time around.

Of the three coaching changes that have taken place, one you could see coming before the season even started (Arkansas), one made sense even though it wasn’t a foregone conclusion (Missouri), and the other seemed to take place in part due to a poorly timed, even though well executed, end zone celebration (Ole Miss).

Regardless of why any of the changes were made, the only thing that matters is “will their respective replacements be an upgrade?” That’s where things get a little more interesting.

If the adage about not hiring the same type of coach you just fired was ever engraved on a plaque, I imagine you’d see it placed sporadically throughout the hallways of the Ole Miss athletic facility.

In the span of three years the Rebels football team will have been coached by Hugh Freeze, Matt Luke, and now Lane Kiffin, who is basically Hugh Freeze on a steady diet of Red Bull, Jägermeister, and Birthday Cake Oreos.

As far as what Ole Miss can expect to see on the field, it’s a good hire. I think Kiffin is an above average coach, who will recruit well for the program.

The problem is you have no idea what’s going to happen off the field. It’s like driving 120 in a 35mph zone- it’s a great thrill ride, if you make it to the end, but more than likely you’re going to run off the road, drive head first into a tree, and die in a spectacular explosion. Welcome to the Lane Kiffin era, Oxford, I hope you have good airbags.

I can’t blame Eliah Drinkwitz for leaving App. State to go to Missouri- you can’t pass up a 400% raise in salary- but I do question why the Tigers are paying him that much ($4 million) to come to Columbia.

Drinkwitz was in the precarious situation in Boone where he inherited a very talented team and was able to lead them to a very successful season.

Was he the reason for the success, or just in the right place at the right time? Like most things, the answer is a mixture of the two, but that’s still an awful lot of money to pay a coach with one year of head coaching experience, especially when it didn’t seem like there was much competition for his services, outside of Missouri.

As for Arkansas, I don’t know much about Sam Pittman, except he seems to be popular among his peers and was an impactful recruiter at Georgia.

Pittman was the backup plan to the backup plan on the Razorbacks list of coaches, but it doesn’t matter how or why he got the job, only what he does with it now that he has it.

There may still be another coaching casualty after the bowl games, but for right now this is the new crop of SEC head coaches.

It may be a while before the conference goes a year without having any turnover; my bet is at least two of these coaches will be contributors as to why.

The SEC East Crystal Ball

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are now under three months and counting until the start of College Football Season.

As far as I’m concerned, no other sport compares to College Football and the best conference from top to bottom is the SEC.

Clemson from the ACC won the Natty in 2018, but the ACC is nothing near the caliber of the SEC in football. If that previous statement bothers you then get some sensitivity training.  We will take a look at the SEC East.

Here are my SEC East Predictions for 2019:

Georgia 11-1: Kirby Smart is the best recruiter in the business. Georgia has the best 85-man roster in the country.

Jake Fromm could be a sleeper contender for the Heisman. The offense could be scary good with the best offensive line coach and players in the country.

Will this team lay an egg against someone they are not supposed to? History says yes.

I’m dreading the Auburn trip on 11/16. This team will play for the SEC title and will contend for the College Football Playoff. If the Dawgs win the SEC, they are in. This could finally be the year. The pass rush must improve in 2019.

Missouri 9-3: Kelly Bryant will be at QB in 2019. Barry Odom is doing a fine job in Columbia. Could the Tigers be 8-0 coming to Athens on November 9th? Florida comes calling on November 16th for second place in the East. Give me the Tigers over the Gators.

Florida 8-4: Two words, Feleipe Franks. Will Franks lead the Gators to back to back 10-win seasons?

Dan Mullen has trolled UGA in the off-season, but the schedule is tough. The Gators open against Miami and have Auburn, LSU, and Georgia in the heart of the SEC schedule.

Florida is putting all of its’ eggs in the Georgia basket, but they better be careful.

They have a solid defense, but again Feleipe Franks. If this team contends in the East it will be because of improved QB play. Can Mullen recruit with Kirby? Time will tell.

Tennessee 7-5: If the Vols win in Gainesville on 9/21 then excitement goes through the roof in Rocky Top.

Jeremy Pruitt is a fantastic coach and he is starting to put some pieces together in Knoxville.

Will Tennessee ever beat Alabama again in football? Pruitt needs two more top 15 recruiting classes to get Tennessee back to being Tennessee again. Be patient Vol fans you are on the way back.

South Carolina 6-6: The Gamecocks have a brutal schedule. Alabama and Texas A&M from the west and Clemson to close out.

I think Will Muschamp is a pretty good football coach, but with Georgia being a national power, and Florida and Tennessee on the way back it is going to be hard for Carolina to get any traction in the division.

South Carolina is putting together a good 2020 recruiting class. This team will upset someone in 2019, and ruin their season.

Kentucky 5-7: The Cats will come back down to earth in 2019. Benny Snell is gone.

The Cats host Florida early in the season after breaking a long losing streak that stretched over 30 to the Gators in 2018. Basketball is king in Kentucky. Cats go back to being a bottom feeder in football.

Vanderbilt 3-9: Vandy hosts UGA in the opener and LSU in week 3. This is going to be a long season for Vandy football.

Vandy fans might better tune into the College World Series starting this weekend as that may be the high-water mark for the athletic program for the rest of 2019.

Biggest division game: UGA vs UF in Jacksonville

Division upset of the Year: South Carolina over Texas A&M. The Aggies get caught overlooking Carolina at home the week before playing Georgia in Athens.

Bowl Teams: Georgia, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When people bring up “March Madness” they’re generally talking about the NCAA Tournament; no groundbreaking news there.

However, with the way this season has played out, the “madness” part may begin a week earlier with the conference tournaments, especially in the SEC.

Over the past 8 seasons, the tournament has basically belonged to Kentucky. They’ve won five titles within that time frame (including the last three) and have made it to the finals in two of the three years they didn’t win it all.

Certainly, the Wildcats have as good a chance as anyone to extend their streak of conference titles to four; the main difference being there are six or seven other teams who have just as good a chance to win.

Currently, the eight teams that are ranked 3-11 are within two games of each other heading down the stretch. The four teams tied for third are only one game out of second. Basically, it’s about as evenly matched as it’s been in years.

Auburn has been the best and most complete team throughout the year. They lead the conference in scoring and have been tremendous on the road and in neutral site games. Their defense and focus has been a little suspect at times, but when they are engaged, they’re good enough to beat anyone.

Tennessee, with Rick Barnes and his desire to only coach teams with orange color jerseys, have struggled a little bit of late, but are arguably the best defensive team in the conference. If they can find some rhythm on the offensive end, they’ll be a tough out.

Arkansas is pretty much what you would expect; they’re going to score a lot of points and odds are, they’ll allow a lot of scoring, too. The question is can they work out their defensive issues between now and the tournament.

Missouri and Alabama are kind of in the same boat, in the sense that both teams have some really impressive wins- especially Alabama- but then they’ll both inexcusably lay an egg against a less talented team. As weird as it may sound, if I’m a fan of either team, I’d be more worried about their opening round game than anything.

When it comes to Florida it’s pretty simple; are they hitting their outside shots? If so, they are one of the better teams in the conference. When they’re not, they’re basically Ole Miss, but with a coach.

If the conference tournament were played in Starkville, I’d probably give Mississippi State the edge to win the whole damn thing; they’ve only lost once at home all season.

Unfortunately for Bulldog fans, the tournament isn’t even in the state of Mississippi and MSU has been down right abysmal away from home. Maybe someone will spray paint the Scottrade Center maroon and white?

Of course, this leads us to Kentucky. On one hand, you have to respect Calipari and his ability to get the most out of his teams come tournament time. On the other hand, I’m just not sure there’s enough talent on this team to run the table.

Combine all these things and the SEC tournament should be one of the more interesting and unpredictable conference tournaments.

For a league that has been dominated by one team in recent years, and plays second fiddle to their football programs, this type of excitement may just be what’s needed.

Then again, if it doesn’t have quite the drama I’m expecting, spring football is just a little more than a month away.

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.

SEC East Report Card

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Going into the season we had a pretty good idea of who should win each conference. We had favorites to win the different divisions so we might know what the conference championship matchup might be.

One of the most unpredictable divisions had to be the SEC East. I’m going to give my report card for the division.

Georgia (4-0): It pains me as a Georgia Tech fan to praise UGA. They look head and shoulders above everyone else in the division.

Kirby Smart has the defense playing fast and physical mirroring Alabama (which is why he was hired). You know about the two beasts at running back, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm is the real deal. My only concern is he’s experiencing everything for the first time so I don’t know how he’ll react. For instance, playing in front of over 100,000 fans at Neyland Stadium next week. Grade: A+

Florida (2-1): Since Tim Tebow left Gainesville the Gators have struggled on offense.

They were manhandled on both sides of the ball in the first game against No. 7 Michigan. Since then they have started to have a little more success moving the ball with freshman QB Felipe Franks.

There may be a quarterback controversy brewing because Luke Del Rio has been named the starter against Vanderbilt. They also have nine players facing felony fraud charges including WR Antonio Callaway and RB Jordan Scarlett.

We’re used to the annual beat down they give Georgia every year in Jacksonville but this can change everything if these players are suspended or dismissed. Grade: C

Kentucky (3-1): The Wildcats are coming off of a tough 28-27 loss to Florida over the weekend. So far, they look like the second most consistent team in the division. Senior QB Stephen Johnson is completing 64% of his passes and the offense has several playmakers. Mark Stoops is looking to keep his job and lead Kentucky to their second consecutive bowl appearance. Grade: B

South Carolina (3-1): The Gamecocks had an impressive win over NC State to begin the season. The lone loss was by ten points to Kentucky. They struggled to beat Louisiana Tech over the weekend 17-16. It looks like Will Muschamp has finally gotten a team that can play some offense. As a team, they are inconsistent so we aren’t sure if they will play to the level of competition from week to week. Grade: B-

Vanderbilt (3-1): Vandy had an impressive win at home over No. 18 Kansas State a couple of weeks ago. Then they got destroyed 59-0 by Alabama the following week.

The Commodores aren’t as talented as the rest of the division but they play hard and disciplined.

They should play solid enough to win three more games but they don’t match up well with Georgia, Florida or Tennessee. Grade: B

Tennessee (3-1): We knew the Vols would have a tough time replacing QB Joshua Dobbs. Quinten Dormady has struggled, only completing 58% of his passes and throwing 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Running back John Kelly is the focal point of the offense averaging 112 rushing yards per game with 6 TD’s.

The Vols beat Ga Tech by one point in their first game and honestly should have lost. Florida beat them on the last play of the game with a Hail Mary. There coming off of a lackluster 17-13 win over U Mass. Grade: C-

Missouri (1-3): Their record says it all. The loan win was against an FCS team. They’ve been blown out in every other game. Grade: F


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!!!!