Robert Craft

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Chomped From Inside

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Steve Spurrier created the Gator Standard, Urban Meyer exemplified this standard by taking the program to new heights, and after two failed coaching hires, and numerous embarrassing losses; Dan Mullen was the man hired to awaken the sleeping giant.

Year one under Mullen saw a quicker turnaround than any realistic fan could have expected (and could’ve asked for). Bad losses occurred, and red flags appeared, but they were excused due to the upward trajectory of the program in only one season.

Fast forward to year four, the bad losses and red flags remain; this time, Mullen has run out of excuses. I am no insider, and don’t claim to have any secret knowledge inside the University of Florida’s football program, but several things have made me scratch my head.

Mullen’s ego is disproportionate to his on-field accomplishments. What big game has he won? He has been extremely close twice versus Alabama but lost at both contests.

I would think he’d carry himself with a chip on his shoulder, but quite the contrary. Dan Mullen refuses to hold himself to the Gator Standard.

He does not hold himself accountable! After his second loss to Kentucky in four years, being the first Florida coach since Doug Dickey to lose multiple games to Kentucky (for reference on how long ago that was: Jimmy Carter was President), Mullen snapped at a reporter who asked if felt outcoached tonight.

Mullen’s quoted, “NO! But 382 yards, I guess that sputtering. I don’t know. We had 382. They had 211 yards. I wouldn’t think that would be the case. I think guys did some pretty good things right there, moving up and down. I think we got to really look at the penalties that we have and how to get ourselves in better situations that way. I got to do a better job coaching up the PAT/field goal group. They’re a physical group. We outrushed them. We outpassed. We out total gained them. The time of possession, we were better on third down.”

BUT COACH, AT THE END OF THE GAME, YOU DIDN’T OUT SCORE THEM! SOUNDS PRETTY OUTCOACHED TO ME!

Mullen has also refused to make changes to his coaching staff. He has selectively neglected staff incompetence, especially in recruiting SEC-level talent.

He has yet to win a game as an underdog in his tenure at Florida. Fans will calm down and Florida will finish the season with eight or nine wins. Dan Mullen isn’t going anywhere soon.

I am not one of those calmed down fans. The stench from the Gators’ loss to Kentucky is lingering like burnt popcorn after the worst movie ever. Another loss like the last one and noise will build in the program for an exit.

Mullen will be a name next to Zook, Muschamp and McElwain, and be another coach that can’t return Gainesville to glory.

Let’s not forget that most Gator fans (and I) are already miffed with him for not starting Anthony Richardson.

If Mullen wants to win championships, he is going to have to change.

First, he will have to make significant changes to his coaching staff. Next, he is going to have to give a Damn about recruiting. Finally, he is going to have to hold himself to the Gator Standard.

Mullen has steadied the program, and now, can he take them up to the next level?

It’s Game Day In Athens

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

ESPN announced that College GameDay will be headed to the Classic City for Arkansas versus Georgia. Dawg fans are complaining about the noon kick-off, but I like it. ESPN will have eyeballs from 10 am to midnight.

This isn’t College GameDay’s first visit to Athens. GameDay has been on Georgia’s campus five times. Here are those results.

October 10, 1998: #5 Tennessee vs #3 Georgia. Tee Martin and the Volunteers came “Between the Hedges” and dominated the Dawgs. Strolling out of Athens with a convincing 22-3 win en route to winning a National Championship.

September 27, 2009: #8 Alabama vs #3 Georgia. This was Georgia’s big Blackout game that wasn’t. This was one of the most anticipated games of 2008. The Tide opened the game by punching the Dawgs in the mouth. The game was over at halftime with a score of 31-0, Bama. The final score of 41-30 was more cosmetic than the result.

September 21, 2013: #6 LSU vs #9 Georgia. The battle between Murray and Mettenberger, both quarterbacks put on an offensive firework show.  Mettenberger had a career day 23 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns. Murray did not disappoint, completing 20 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns. One of the loudest days in Sanford Stadium’s history. Whoever had the ball last would win. Murray found Justin Scott Wesley for the game clinching touchdown with less than two minutes left in the 4th quarter. This, my friends, is a classic. If you are ever bored, pull this one up, sit back and enjoy.

September 21, 2019: #7 Notre Dame vs #3 Georgia. A perfect day in Athens to host the Fighting Irish in the Classic City.  Jake Fromm and Lawrence Cager didn’t show the same southern hospitality, Fromm threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Cager early in the fourth quarter and the Dawgs survived for a 23-17 victory. This was also the debut of the Celebrated Red Lights at Stanford Stadium to add to the already electric Light Up Stanford tradition at the close of the third quarter.

October 3, 2020.  #7 Auburn vs #3 Georgia. Stetson Bennett and The JunkYard Dawg’s Defense led Georgia to a 27-6 win over the Tigers in last year’s rendition of “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.” GameDay was held inside Stanford Stadium with no fans due to COVID.

October 2, 2021. #8 Arkansas vs #2 Georgia. The Hogs come in 4-0 with wins over Texas and Texas A&M. It is important to emphasize that Arkansas is a good football team. Vegas book makers have installed them as a 19.5 underdog. That’s because Georgia is an elite football team. Kirby Smart has built a roster loaded with studs on both sides of the ball.

Georgia’s defense looks impermeable and the offense continues to stretch the field.  Georgia 44  Arkansas 13.

 

The Bright Sunshine

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It has been cloudy in The Sunshine State for the Big Four (UF, FSU, UCF & Miami). All four teams recently suffered setbacks and the storm clouds are building up around a couple programs.

Miami and Florida State are on the list of programs with a name that inspires nostalgia and memorable expectations, but with little or no reference to recent big-time success.

Manny Diaz and Mike Norvell may not be on the “hot seat” right now, but with recent performances their seat will be red hot in no time.

Speculation about Diaz and Norvell seems sure to start. Who could replace them in Coral Gables and Tallahassee? If fans had their way, both would be gone immediately.

Here’s a realistic list of replacements, so you won’t see James Franklin, Deion Sanders, Mario Cristobal, or Urban Meyer on this list.

  1. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota head coach: Fleck has a 27-20 record with two bowl game wins that includes an Outback Bowl win over Auburn.

Fleck is known for his motto Row the Boat. I could see Fleck leaving Minnesota for a high-end job like Florida State or Miami. In some respects (as bad as things are at UM and FSU), Fleck could be rowing his boat in Florida water next year.

  1. Mark Stoops, Kentucky head coach: In his ninth season, Stoops has a 52-50 record.

The Wildcats are a basketball school, but Stoops has made them somewhat respectable. Stoops has ties to the last of Miami’s glory days; he was the defensive back coach under Larry Coker from 2001-2003.

Both teams would prefer Mark’s brother Bob, but among realistic candidates, they’ll settle with Mark.

  1. Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina head coach: Chadwell hit the national radar with an 11-1 record in 2020.

Chadwell has built his system quickly during his time as a head coach. Coastal Carolina went from three, to five, to 11 wins in Chadwell’s first three seasons.

Coastal Carolina couldn’t afford to keep Chadwell if either Florida State or Miami came calling. Chadwell’s track record of building a winner will bring Power 5 money, so watch out for his name.

  1. Lane Kiffen, Ole’ Miss head coach: Kiffen has been the head coach for the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers, USC Trojans, Florida Atlantic Owls and his current gig with Ole’ Miss.

Kiffen is a relentless recruiter and offensive mastermind. His name will be thrown into discussion for every job opening in 2021.

He would be a perfect fit with both programs, because he knows the terrain and he’s a fierce competitor.

1.Tony Elliott, Clemson Offensive Coordinator:  This OC has been in talks for several jobs in past years.

He has been waiting for the right job and most importantly, a big-time job.

Elliott has the best resumé and accolades for a non-head coach. He is a respected recruiter in the South Florida area, and that is essential to building a college football program. If Elliott is to become a head coach, it will likely be a blue blood.

Getting the hires right for Miami and Florida State is extremely important for the trajectory of these once dominant programs.

Contrarily, this article can be for nothing if Miami and Florida State turn it around on the field with their current Head Coaches.

Fear The Spear?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It was a nightmare for Florida State football fans, it was their first EVER loss to an FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) opponent, falling 20-17 to Jacksonville State, allowing a 59-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired.

It usually gets worse before it gets better, but Coach Mike Norvell has not shown anything on the field for me to suggest any upward trajectory. All Coach Norvell has done so far is apologize.

Coach Norvell said, “Did not have our team ready to play today.”  That was evident from the start of the game, UCF transfer McKenzie Milton had not one, but two touchdown throws dropped by Milik McClain and Keyshawn Helton.

The offense committed penalty after penalty and could not find a rhythm. For most of the game, Florida State’s defense was solid, but undisciplined; blown coverages literally cost them the W. Six days after the moral (losers) victory against Notre Dame, FSU suffered the worst loss in program history.

College football today is becoming the land of haves and have nots. Florida State: yes, the Florida State that was not far removed from being a dominant program in college football in the mid 2010s, finds itself a ‘have not’ in the early 2020s.

In truth, I don’t know where Florida State goes from here. If you feel they hit rock bottom, then up, but could the program fall into the lower ranks of ‘has beens’ such as Nebraska, Texas and Miami?

Since Jimbo Fisher departed from Tallahassee, Florida State has been in the dumps, both financially and on the field. FSU fired Wille Taggart near the end of his second season and have now made their bed with Mike Norvell, who has 3 wins in 11 games so far.

Can Florida State afford to even consider another change this early on in Norvell’s tenure? Mike Norvell’s buyout is $18 million. Most coaches are given at least three seasons before trajectory dictates job security, but Florida State has already set precedent with Willie Taggart that they are unafraid to pull the plug on a failing coach.

Florida State owes Willie Taggart about $17 million for his buyout. The next month is extremely important for Norvell if he wants to keep his job in Tallahassee.

I entered the season predicting Florida State would go 6-6, and I’m no longer convinced that 6-6 is attainable.

Florida State currently has the 10th ranked recruiting class in the country. Recruits are singing the right tune at this moment. Fans have to continue to hope this class sticks together. But I’ve heard this tune before and so has the transfer portal.

Is Florida State a victim of high expectations that are no longer realistic? Besides Clemson, the ACC is not a great conference; and winning 8-10 games a year shouldn’t be too tall of a task.

Due to economics, Norvell is not on the hot seat in 2021. Norvell is in his second of his six-year deal, and his buyout is 85% of his remaining base salary.

I fear that Florida State is entering a cycle where they’re going to be so deep in a hole that climbing out of it and returning to a consistently great standard is going to be an insurmountable task.

The Boys Are Back

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

College football is back and week one brought us some great games.

Seeing fans fill stadiums from Blacksburg to Charlotte to Madison, showing the love and passion for the game.

Not only did we see some of the top teams in the sport flex their muscles, but two teams from the same conference established themselves as favorites to win the College Football Playoffs.

There were some real surprises Saturday that will cause a domino effect with the College Football Playoffs.

Check out my top takeaways from what I saw on the gridiron this weekend.

1.The Georgia Bulldogs defense is very, very NASTY!

Coaches at every level preach 11 to the ball and on Saturday night it looked like 11 hungry Dawgs snapping at orange jerseys.

D.J. Uiagalelei was under siege for the entire contest. He attempted 37 passes and it felt like he was pressured on half of those throws. With good health and defensive play at this level, the Bulldogs should waltz into Atlanta 12-0 for the SEC Championship.

  1. The Alabama Crimson Tide seemed determined to defend their national title and preseason number one ranking by dismantling the Miami Hurricanes.

Even with Matt Jones, Jaylen Waddle, Najee Harris and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith drafted to the NFL, Bryce Young set a school record for a starting debut with 344 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air.

Even more impressive, Young is rolling with a new offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien.

  1. Never mind Notre Dame beating FSU in overtime, the hero of the game was McKenzie Milton.

Milton may provide the sports story of the year after just week one of the season. Just three years ago after leading UCF to a National Championship, Milton suffered one of the most gruesome knee injuries: dislocation, shredded ligaments and arterial damage.

Fast forward to Sunday night, Milton entered the game late in the fourth quarter trailing 38-28.  All he did was lead the Seminoles to 10 consecutive points to send the game into overtime.

  1. First year UCF head coach Gus Malzahn; it took the Knights and Malzahn two days to beat Boise State 36-31.

Weather delayed the start time four hours, and the Gus Bus started the game with flat tires.

The Knights dug a 21-0 deficit against the Broncos. Transfer running back Isaiah Bowser and quarterback Dillon Gabriel led the offensive comeback, but the defensive unit controlled the game in the second half.

Also, news broke Friday that UCF along with BYU, Cincinnati and Houston are planning to join the Big 12 Conference.

  1. The ACC had an awful Week 1. Let’s recap: Clemson lost to Georgia, Miami was throttled by Alabama, Georgia Tech lost to Northern Illinois; a MAC team, and North Carolina was upset by Virginia Tech.

The top three teams in the ACC and the league’s best playoff hopes are now holding an L after one week. That’s not a good look.

  1. Emory Jones’ starting debut for the Florida Gators was not smooth.

After leading the Gators on consecutive touchdown drives in the first quarter, Jones didn’t look the same after throwing an interception.

He finished 17 for 27 with 113 yards and a pair of interceptions in a 34-14 win over FAU.

Redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson stole the show with a 74 yards touchdown run and a leap over a defender for a first down.

I’m not suggesting there is quarterback controversy in Gainesville, but keep a close eye on this situation for any developments to unfold.

As I reflect on an amazing Week 1 of college football. I can’t help but think that for the first time in a long time we stopped yelling at each other, and started yelling for each other; if you’re rooting for the same teams at least.

Bounce House Crazy!

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Lying Season is over! College football is in full swing this weekend and all the preseason reviews and prognostications can be thrown in the trash. To steal a line from Hank Williams Jr., “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?”

As I browse the games this week around the State of Florida, three games stick out with Playoff indications. The first features the number 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide taking on the number 14th ranked Miami Hurricanes in Atlanta. Can D’Eric King handle the Bama defense? No, Alabama 49 Miami 24

The second game is Sunday night, Notre Dame travels to Tallahassee to take on FSU. This game is tough to predict with so many unknowns. The Irish are rebuilding on offense and the Noles have a lot of new faces on defense. Notre Dame 27 FSU 24 

The feature game in the State of Florida is on Thursday night as Boise State travels to Orlando to take on UCF. Why does this game have major playoff ramifications? For both teams, whoever loses is out week 1. The Playoff committee will give many teams a pass for losing one game but “Non-Power 5” teams do not have that luxury.

Both teams have new head coaches, Boise’s Andy Avalos and UCF’s Gus Malzahn. Both teams are in the running for the Group of Five’s bid on a New Year’s Six bowl game, with an outside chance to sneak into the big show, the College Football Playoffs.

The winner of the season opener in the Bounce House will keep themselves right in the conversation, but the loser will see themselves out.

It’s been a while since Boise State played in a full stadium. The Bounce house is very unique.  As soon as you hear KernKraft 400’s “Zombie Nation”, the fans start jumping, and the metal bleachers wiggle and sway the stadium with every impact. Not a typical college football Saturday by any means, especially to first timers.

The Broncos are led by junior quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who threw for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns in five games last season. Boise State will likely run a West Coast style offense and will try to get the ball in the hands of senior receiver CT Thomas. Thomas had 20 catches for 347 yards and two touchdowns last season.

On defense, Boise State’s linebacker Riley Whimpey set the tone for the Broncos. Whimpey has led the Broncos in tackles the last two years, finishing with 61 last season and 83 in 2019. He joined this season with Brock Wilson, a transfer from the Wolfpack at North Carolina State.

Boise State has been to Florida in recent years, they even came home victorious; In 2019, the Broncos upended the Florida State Seminoles 36-31. This team is no stranger to winning on the road.

The Gus Bus has parked, and now it is time to see what Coach Malzahn has in store for the 2021 UCF Knights.

The Knights return quarterback Dillon Gabriel, a junior who has passed for 7,223 and 61 touchdowns over the past two seasons. In both seasons, he’s passed for over 3,000 yards, becoming the third quarterback in school history to do it twice. The other two were NFL quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Blake Bortles.

UCF will feature wide receivers Jaylon Robinson, Ryan O’Keefe, Jordan Johnson, Brandon Johnson and Mokiao-Atimalala. This is one of the most talented and fastest receiver units in college football. It has earned them the nickname UCFast.

UCF’s defense was (honestly) hot garbage last season. Luckily, for Orlando, Travis Williams has been brought in to turn things around. With the key additions of Big Kat Bryant, Bryson Armstrong, Ricky Barber in addition to the return of Kalia Davis, look for the Knights to cause disruption on defense.

The crowd, weather, a new coach, and traveling across the country are all factors to the downfall of the Broncos. Most importantly, UCF is a more talented team on both sides of the ball and in this contest, UCF has the best player on the field.  

 

Final: UCF 38 Boise State 20.

Gator Chomp

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Florida will begin the 2021 season where they ended in 2020; ranked 13th by the AP.

Florida sits behind three SEC teams, two of which will appear on this year’s schedule.

Week 3 the number 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will travel to Gainesville, and Halloween weekend, the annual cocktail party with number 5 Georgia.

Remember, it was just three years ago that the Gators were 4-7. Dan Mullen was hired and the turnaround began. The Gators have gone 21-5 the past three seasons.

Of course, the 8-4 record was disappointing, but beating Georgia and playing in the SEC Championship game were signs of the program heading in the right direction.

This year’s Gators have the potential and talent to challenge for the College Football Playoffs.

Sept 4 vs FAU: Willie Taggart will bring his Owls to the Swamp to be plucked. Florida 51 FAU 10.

Sept 11 at South Florida: USF brings back 15 total starters but that is not going to mean much as the Bulls get barbecued. Florida 49 USF 17.

Sept 18 vs Alabama: It is hard for me to believe that Florida or any other SEC team takes down the Tide this season. The fact the game is at the Swamp and it will be Bryce Young first SEC road start gives the Gators a puncher’s chance.

Alabama is one of the most talented and coached teams in the country. No SEC title game revenge. Alabama 34 Florida 27.

Sept 25 vs Tennessee: Tennessee is in total rebuild mode. Josh Heupel will have an up-tempo offense but the lack of talent will be apparent. Florida 49 Tennessee 20.

Oct 2 at Kentucky: The Cats have been a thorn in the side of the Gators for the last few years, but they have only won once against UF. This game is always close (other than last year’s blowout) but Florida will sneak out a win on the road. Florida 34 Kentucky 28.

Oct 9 vs Vanderbilt: Vandy is going to be bad, and I mean really bad. This may be the worst Vandy team in the last 10 years. New coach has the same results. Florida 58 Vandy 3.

Oct 16 at LSU: Everyone remembers the last year when an LSU’s player shoe was tossed and a flag followed. This event led to a game winning field goal. Florida wants revenge, but I think the Tigers are going to be much better than they were last season. In my opinion, revenge is Sweet this year for the Gators! Florida 27 LSU 24.

Oct 30 vs Georgia: I’m calling this the “What If Game.” All offseason. Georgia fans have been saying “What If JT Daniels was healthy?” Daniels will be full go this season, but who will he throw the ball to?

That answer is hard to find with the SEC’s best wide receiver George Pickens recovering from an ACL injury and Arik Gilbert leaving the team.

The winner of this game represents the SEC in the Championship. Gators’ defense gets a late sack from Georgia transfer Brenton Cox. Florida 34 Georgia 27.

Nov 6 at South Carolina: Trap game after an emotional win in Jacksonville, the Gamecocks will keep it close until the fourth quarter. Florida 27 South Carolina 17.

Nov 13 vs Samford: Another win over the Bulldogs. Florida 51 Samford 7.

Nov 20 at Missouri: Eli Drinkwitz is building a program in Columbia but the Tigers are not at the same level as the Gators. Florida 31 Missouri 21.

Nov 27 vs FSU: FSU hasn’t been relevant since Jimbo was in town. After not playing their instate rival in 2020, the Gators win big. Florida 48 FSU 13.

Mullen gets the Gators back to Atlanta with an 11-1 record.

Shining Knights

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Despite finishing with a 6-4 record last season, UCF has had the most exciting offseason in program history.

First, Josh Heupel took the Tennessee job, then UCF hired Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn has brought excitement in the transfer portal and high school recruiting to UCF’s fan base.

The question is, can Gus Malzahn take the pieces around him and make UCF an AAC Championship contender?

Watching tape of Malzahn’s offense at Auburn, he did not incorporate the vertical passing game, and when his offense was most successful, he had a running quarterback (Cam Newton and Nick Marshall).

So, I dug a little deeper, I watched tape from Arkansas State, Tulsa and Arkansas (offensive coordinator). At these programs, Malzahn did utilize the vertical passing game. At Tulsa, Malzahn’s offense ranked second in the nation in scoring and first in passing offense.

The reason for the research is Malzahn’s offense at UCF will revolve around Junior quarterback Dillon Gabriel.

Gabriel is one of the most prolific passers in college football; in two seasons he has thrown for 7,223 yards, 61 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while maintaining a quarterback rating of 156.6.

UCF returns all five starters on the offensive line, but they do need to be a bit stronger in pass protection. The passing attack will be the spotlight of the offense again in 2021, but the ground game will also have to be productive if the Knights want the AAC Championship.

UCF has weapons at wide receiver with Jaylon Robinson, Ryan O’Keefe, Nate Craig Myer (Colorado State transfer), Brandon Johnson (Tennessee transfer) and Jordan Johnson (Notre Dame transfer). Speed, Speed and more Speed!

UCF’s running back roster is crowded and unproven. Running backs coach Tim Harris Jr and Malzahn will have to find a solid rotation. Look for one of the following players to emerge as the starter: Mark Anthony Richards, RJ Harvey, Johnny Richardson, or Isaiah Bowser.

UCF’s defense was a big problem last season, allowing almost 500 yards and 33 points per game. The Knights are counting on some transfers to improve on last season’s struggles.

Former Auburn Tiger Big Kat Bryant and Ricky Barber from WKU should be quick improvements for the Knights on a roster-personnel standpoint.

Eriq Gilyard (LB), Derek Gainous (S), Tatum Bethune (LB), Cam Goode (DT) and Corey Thornton (CB) will join the other new transfers to create more big plays. UCF’s defense will tighten up and help the Knights get back to Championship contention.

Competition wise, UCF should receive a few challenging tests throughout the 2021 season, including a few heated and strong rivals in their conference.

Their out of conference schedule isn’t a given, as matchups with Boise State and Louisville, will prove to be important early season tests.

Before I waste any more time, here’s the UCF schedule and my predictions.

Layup wins: Bethune-Cookman, East Carolina, Temple, UConn and South Florida

Tough games but wins: Boise State, Louisville, Navy, Memphis, Tulane and SMU

Marquee Matchup: at Cincinnati, the Bearcats home field advantage proves to act too much for the Knights. Rematch December 4th for the AAC Championship Game.

To end the 2021-22 season, Gus Malzahn and the UCF Knights will finish with an 11-1 record. Heard it here first, folks.

 

Sharpened Spear?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

After a very rough first year under Mike Norvell, the Florida State Seminoles looks to rebound behind UCF transfer quarterback McKenzie Milton.

Coach Norvell had a year to replenish the Noles’ roster with high profile transfers, and the Seminoles are hopeful for a substantial improvement over last year’s 3-6 record.

The transfer of star quarterback McKenzie Milton was the story of this offseason and it is a foregone conclusion that he’ll be the starter.

Milton was a Heisman contender at UCF, but he hasn’t played a game since sustaining a career threatening leg injury in 2018. A star in status may not return with star-level skill after something like that.

Due to some disastrous games in the 2020 season, Vegas does not think very highly of FSU, giving them just a 15.5% chance to win 6 games. With those odds, let’s take a look at their schedule:

Sept 6 vs Notre Dame: The Noles open the season on prime-time TV versus the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday night at 7:30. The home crowd should help the Noles play with a lot of energy, but the Fighting Irish have too much talent and will leave Tallahassee with a big win. ND 48 FSU 24.

Sept 11 vs Jacksonville State: The FCS Jacksonville State Gamecocks should be a win for FSU. Florida State has 3 games they must win if they want to be bowl eligible. This should be a walk in the park for the Noles. FSU 56 JS 13.

Sept 18 at Wake Forest: First road game of the season and FSU has more talent than Wake Forest. This is the first of a few toss up games for the Seminoles and should be a battle between McKenzie Milton and Sam Hartman, I anticipate a high scoring affair. FSU 48  Wake Forest 42  

Sept 25 vs Louisville: The second of four total toss up games and a must win for the Noles. This was a tough outing for FSU last year, ending in a 32-point blowout. FSU should look at this as a revenge game. FSU 38 Louisville 23

Oct 2 vs Syracuse:  If this was basketball, then there’s a need to be worried. This is football and this should be an easy win for the Noles. FSU 36  Syracuse 17

Oct 9 at North Carolina: Last year FSU shocked the Tar Heels at Doak Campbell Stadium, but either way I look at this game, it is not good for the Seminoles.

Sam Howell leads a high-powered North Carolina offense and the game will be played at Kenan Memorial Stadium.

This will be a respectful L for FSU, one that hopefully welcomes them back as a competitor in the ACC. North Carolina 44 FSU 20

Oct 23 vs UMass:  The Seminoles face their second FBS team, UMass happened to go 0-4 last season. This will be a blowout Homecoming special. FSU 64 UMass 13

Oct 30 at Clemson: Oh-NO!! After last season’s COVID canceled game, Dabo will take it out on Norvell. The Noles will wish this year’s game was also canceled hours before kickoff. Clemson has too much Champion-tier talent and it will trash FSU’s game plan from start to end. Clemson 52 FSU 13

Nov 6 vs NC State: Another toss up game. Thayer Thomas and the Wolfpack travel to Tallahassee and hand the Seminoles another home loss. NC State 38  FSU 24

Nov 13 vs Miami: The Hurricanes have dominated the Seminoles in the last four seasons, and the trend will continue this season. The U comes to town and leaves with another no doubt victory. Miami 57 FSU 27

Nov 20 at Boston College: Game four of the four toss up games. Milton and the Noles are too much for the Eagles. FSU 38  Boston College 16

Nov 27 at Florida: This is probably one of the biggest rivalry matchups of the season. The Gators have more talent on both sides of the ball and will show FSU no mercy. Florida 58 FSU 24

Record: 6-6

The 2021 season will be a turning point for FSU. Can they meet, or exceed expectations?

I believe the ceiling for FSU is 8 wins and the floor is 4. McKenzie Milton is the key to the season. If he stays healthy, FSU can reach their ceiling, if QB1 is QB done, expect 4-5 wins.

The SEC Stable

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

SEC talent is always the top talent of college football. This year is no different, especially when it comes to running backs.

Despite losing talent such as Najee Harris, Larry Roundtree and Eric Gray, the SEC remains strong all around at the running back position in 2021.

Three out of the top five rushers are returning. Who will lead the rushing attacks for the SEC programs in 2021?

This list isn’t just about players’ statistical impact, but their overall impact on and off the field.  Here are my top 5 running backs in the SEC for 2021.

  1. Brian Robinson, Alabama: Robinson doesn’t have the production numbers compared to the others on my list, partly because he was playing behind Najee Harris the past few seasons.

The Crimson Tide’s starting running backs have produced 1,000 plus yard seasons eight times in the past 10 years. Robinson will run behind one of the SEC’s most dominating offensive lines, so just pencil him in for 1,000 plus rushing and double digits touchdowns, not to take away from his incredible explosiveness and talent.

  1. Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky:Rodriguez just might be the most underrated backs in the country right now.

Rodriguez is a power runner with excellent footwork, and 2021 will be his breakout season. Last season he finished 6th in SEC rushing yards, and he only played in nine games.

Rodriguez piled up 11 rushing touchdowns (4th in the SEC) and averaged 6.6 yards per carry! He will share the backfield with Kavosiey Smoke this season.

  1. Kevin Harris, South Carolina:Harris finished 2020 with the most rushing yards per game.

Let’s be totally honest, Harris was the Gamecocks’ whole offense last year. A physical runner noted one of the league’s biggest surprises in the 2020 season.

Harris averaged 6.2 yards per carry behind one of the (measurably) worst offensive lines in the SEC. He is a human bowling ball. He rarely falls at first contact, and never falls backward.

Harris gives the Gamecocks reliable balls in the backfield. He’s a difference maker who will be heavily carrying Shane Beamer’s first season.

  1. Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M: Spiller has become Jimbo Fisher’s featured back in the Texas A&M offense. This past season, he totaled 1,229 yards of total offense (1,036 rushing and 193 receiving) in only 10 games.

When the Aggies needed a big play or key third down conversion, they dialed up Spiller. With a new signal caller in College Station this season, Spiller will man the new controls in the offense.

I expect Spiller to team up with Devon Achane and Anias Smith (Mr. Do it All) to give Jimbo Fisher plenty of weapons to choose from, but Spiller will be the focal point of this Texas A&M offense.

1.Tank Bigsby, Auburn: Bigsby is the best running back going into the 2021 season.

Despite being 6 foot and weighing 208 pounds, he is built like his first name and plays like one too.

First year coach, Bryan Harson’s offense will thrive through Bigsby. He is capable of carrying the ball 20 plus times a game this year.

As long as Bigsby can stay healthy, he should emerge as one of the elite running backs in the SEC in 2021. Considering the production at running back at Boise State during Harson’s reign, Bigsby has to be excited about being the bell cow of the Auburn offense.

Honorable Mentions Outside of the Top 5:  Trelon Smith, Arkansas; James Cook, Georgia; Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss; Zamir White, Georgia; Ainias Smith, Texas A&M; Tyrion Davis Price, LSU; Trey Sanders, Alabama; Nay’Quan Wright, Florida

Breakout Player This Year: Tiyon Evans, Tennessee

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