Vanderbilt Commodores

The East Beasts

By: Kenneth Harrison 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.

The Crystal Ball Of The SEC

By: Kipp Branch 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.

Coach Em Up

By: JJ Lanier news services

At the end of every season, regardless of the sport or the level of competition, there is turnover within the coaching ranks.

While a school like UCLA, who fired Steve Alford over three months ago, is still searching for his replacement, SEC schools have been hiring coaches as if they were contestants on “Supermarket Sweep.” In the span of basically two weeks, they filled their four vacant positions.

Alabama: Nate Oats. I don’t follow the inner workings of the Alabama basketball program, so unless there was some sort of internal dysfunction taking place, I was a bit surprised to see them let Avery Johnson go.

Putting my initial reaction aside, I think the Oats hiring has been the best hire, up to this point. The two time MAC Coach of the Year exceeded expectations at Buffalo and has already made an impact in Tuscaloosa, convincing John Petty to take his name out of the transfer portal and stay at Alabama.

His biggest task though is being just as persuasive with All-SEC player, Kira Lewis, whose name is still in the portal. If he can convince Lewis to return, Oats’ inaugural season with the Crimson Tide could be a very successful one.

Texas A&M: Buzz Williams. The former Hokies coach is certainly an upgrade from Billy Kennedy. In his eleven years at Marquette and Virginia Tech, Williams’ teams only twice failed to win 20 games, and only missed out on the NCAA Tournament three times.

It may take a year or two for that success to transfer to the Aggies, but there’s nothing in his past to make you think it won’t ultimately happen.

He doesn’t always have the best demeanor with fans and the media, and while that has absolutely nothing to do with his team’s on the court performances, it should make for some interesting columns in College Station.

Vanderbilt: Jerry Stackhouse. This was an interesting hire just because Stackhouse hasn’t been a name thrown around in the college circles that much, but I have to give Vanderbilt credit for thinking outside the box.

Stackhouse has minimal head coaching experience- he had a short stint in the D-League where he did win Coach of the Year in 2017- and I have no idea how he’ll do on the recruiting trail.

He does have a very good reputation on the NBA level though, and obviously did a good job developing his players in the D-League; hence the COY award.

Personally, I’ve always liked Stackhouse- as much as a Duke fan can like a Carolina player- so I hope he’s able to succeed.

Arkansas: Eric Musselman. Musselman’s a decent coach, but besides Nevada’s Elite 8 run in the tourney last year, I’m not sure there’s anything in his coaching past that makes you think he’s going to be the answer.

I guess when you haven’t made the Sweet Sixteen since 1996 you’re kind of forced to take whomever you can get. I’m not wishing for the guy to fail, but if you were to ask me which of these four will be the first to go, my money would be on Musselman.

The level of play within the SEC has drastically improved over the past few years, so all four coaches have their work cut out for them.

The question now is “Will they make the grade, or will they be forced back on the shelf, waiting for the next coaching cart to swing by and pick them up?”

Making The Grade In The SEC

By: Kipp Branch 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. 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 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 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.