2018 CFB Playoff Predictions, SEC Preview, Conference Winners, And More

Finally, the 2018 college football season starts this week, and I can honestly say I have never looked forward to a football season so much. College football is my favorite sport, and one of the reasons why is that there are so many storylines and question marks every season. That is no different this year. So, I meant to write a lot more preview articles before the season, but my schedule has not allowed me to do so. Anyways, I am cramming a lot of stuff in this one preview article. Let’s start with my CFB Playoff predictions.

CFB PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

1. Alabama (13-0)

Ah, yes, the Tide are my No. 1 seed this year. I don’t know if the Tide will be as strong on defense as they were last year as they lost a ton of experience, but as always, Alabama will reload and shouldn’t take much of a step back. Also, the 2018 Alabama offense could be the best Saban has ever had in Tuscaloosa. (Yes, I am talking about with Tua Tagovailoa at QB because no way Jalen Hurts keeps the starting spot for long at least.) Combine that fact with a pretty easy schedule that includes Auburn at home, I see the Tide making the SEC Championship unscathed, and I got them winning a close one over UGA to be the No. 1 seed.

2. Wisconsin (12-1)

Is this the year Wisconsin finally gets over the Big 10 Championship hump? I think it is. Wisconsin is absolutely loaded this year. They return a large amount of experience, including nine guys on offense. Most notably, they return one of the best offensive lines in the country, and the sensational Jonathan Taylor is back for his sophomore season at running back. Also, the Badgers also return the veteran presence of Alex Hornibrook at quarterback.

Wisconsin’s schedule is tricky for once and includes trips to Michigan and Penn State. I think the Badgers split those two games and defeat whoever comes out of the crowded Big 10 East in Indianapolis in December.

3. Clemson (12-1)

Clemson will somehow find a way to lose a game they shouldn’t this year. It seems like a theme from Dabo Swinney for most years. Other than that, Clemson will again dominate the ACC and get back to the playoff again for a potential fourth consecutive matchup with Alabama.

If  the Tigers want to make any noise in the playoffs though, they better start freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence over incumbent starting quarterback Kelly Bryant at some point. The rest of the team is scary good, especially that insane defensive line.

4. Oklahoma (12-1)

Yes, Oklahoma lost a Heisman winner at QB to the NFL in Baker Mayfield. However, I think former Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray will step up to the plate, and the Oklahoma offense with Rodney Anderson at running back and Marquis Brown and CeeDee Lamb at receiver won’t miss a beat. However, the Big 12 is finally improving, so I see the Sooners collecting a loss along the way. Let’s say they lose to Texas in the regular season then beat them in a rematch in the Big 12 Title game.

Two Teams on the Cusp: Georgia and Ohio State/Michigan

National Champion: Clemson but only if Trevor Lawrence is starting QB.

SEC PREDICTIONS

Yes, it’s no secret I am a big SEC guy, so of course I had to give my take on how the conference will play out in 2018.

West

  1. Alabama (12-0)
  2. Auburn (10-2)
  3. Mississippi State (9-3)
  4. Texas A&M (8-4)
  5. Ole Miss (7-5)
  6. LSU (5-7)
  7. Arkansas (5-7)

East

  1. Georgia (8-0, 12-0)
  2. South Carolina (6-2, 9-3)
  3. Missouri (5-3, 8-4)
  4. Florida (4-4, 7-5)
  5. Kentucky (1-7, 5-7)
  6. Vanderbilt (1-7, 4-8)
  7. Tennessee (1-7, 4-8)

Here are my SEC Game-by-Game Picks:

IMG_0385

Yes, I picked Alabama over UGA in the SEC Championship game. Even though I have the Tide winning, it’s really a toss-up to me. I think UGA and Bama are both capable of reaching the CFB Playoff this year, and if my prediction of both of those teams going undefeated in the regular season holds true and enough chaos happens in the rest of college football, I could see both teams making the playoff again. (Yes, a UGA-Alabama rematch in the playoff would be unreal.)

However, I obviously had to pick someone, so I went with everyone’s favorite Alabama. On a side note, there is no doubt we’re going to see these two juggernaut teams battle it out for years to come. I truly believe Nick Saban and Kirby Smart are the two best coaches in college football. Yep, you heard me. I’d take Smart over Swinney or Meyer.

Alabama and UGA are clearly head and shoulders above anyone else in the SEC. (Auburn may creep into the picture down the road if they ever get rid of the choke job they call a head coach in Gus Malzahn, and LSU likewise with Ed Orgeron.)

Alabama, Georgia and Clemson are in the best situations of any programs in college football, and they’ll be in the playoff or in serious contention for years to come. (Note: I would have added Ohio State to this, but this whole Urban Meyer situation clouds things up. Yes, he’s gotten his slap on the wrist, but let’s be real. It is not over.)

Conference Winners

Big Ten: Wisconsin

Big Twelve: Oklahoma

Pac 12: Washington

ACC: Clemson

SEC: Alabama

American: UCF

Conference USA: Florida Atlantic

MAC: Ohio

Mountain West: Boise State

Sun Belt: Arkansas State

FINAL THOUGHTS

Like I said I apologize for the brevity of this article as it is definitely more of a bird’s-eye view of things. College football will be amazing as always, and I, for one, cannot wait for the official start of the season on Thursday. Before I go, here are my final predictions and thoughts for you guys. Bryce Love wins the Heisman. Texas is the bounce-back team of the year, and the Longhorns’ Tom Herman is probably coach of the year as well.

New hires Scott Frost and Dan Mullen struggle in their first year as head coach at Nebraska and Florida respectively. Things in Baton Rouge, L.a., are a complete disaster, and LSU fires Orgeron over the offseason and hires Lane Kiffin.

As always, be sure to follow me on Twitter: @legitjaydogg and follow the new site’s twitter: @fallenpylons

 

*Featured Image via @iam__mw3o on Twitter

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Why Urban Meyer Should Never Coach in College Athletics Again

Urban Meyer should never coach in collegiate athletics again. Plain and simple. College football writer and former ESPN employee Brett McMurphy broke a huge story earlier today  in the wake of former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith being fired on July 23.

McMurphy filled in the details in the eye-opening article he posted to his Facebook page today. You can read that here.

In the article are text messages, pictures and a timeline of the long history of abuse and domestic violence perpetrated by Smith against his now ex-wife Courtney Smith. It is quite horrific to read. People can obviously read the details in Brett’s article, but safe to say, it does not look good for Meyer.

This article is very damning of one of the most high-profile names in all of collegiate athletics, and I believe Urban Meyer should be fired by Ohio State right away and never be allowed to coach college athletes ever again.

We’ve seen this story too many times. Joe Paterno at Penn State, Art Briles at Baylor and  now Urban Meyer at Ohio State – What do they all have in common? They were all enablers.

And Meyer’s case is pretty damn bad. It seems (from this report by McMurphy) that he largely ignored the whole issue and did not take the right steps to actually fix the problem. We see this so many times in sports. The problem was that winning took precedence over people, and that’s a line you can’t cross.

College athletics, particularly big-time college football, are a high-stakes, cash-ridden affair that is loved by fans across the country almost to the point of religion. However, it is still just a game at the end of the day. Yes, that may sound like I am oversimplifying it, but it is the truth.

With the details that have emerged, Meyer should be done immediately at Ohio State. Other coaches have been fired for a lot less. This will likely go down as one of the biggest scandals in the history of collegiate sports, and Meyer is ultimately responsible.

Think for a minute if you’re child played for a guy that would rather stay focused on winning instead of taking the proper steps to stop domestic violence. Would you really want that message passed on even subliminally or indirectly to your kids?

If I were a parent, I certainly would not.

My Official CFB Preseason Top 25

This situation could have been solved so easily, and Meyer had so many opportunities to put his foot down but didn’t do anything for years. (Ok, not much.)

I think Meyer’s story is a good lesson for everyone. We should all be wary of ourselves and things going on around us. Don’t be naive and think your coach from your favorite school or someone on the coaching staff isn’t capable of the same thing. We are all human and stuff like this happens everywhere.

Fortunately, more of this kind of stuff is coming to light, and more people are being held accountable. However, there are still consequences in life, and that’s why Urban Meyer should never be allowed to coach in collegiate athletics ever again.

*Featured Image via WikiMedia Commons 

Enough Is Enough: Leave Hugh Freeze Alone

I have kept my mouth closed for a while, but I will not tolerate this Hugh Freeze slander. I have been critical of Hugh Freeze in the past, but enough is enough. This is getting ridiculous. All this latest outrage from me started with this:

Now, in Greg Sankey’s defense (Sankey seems like a cool guy even though my only interaction with him is riding down the same elevator at a UGA game I was covering.) Hugh Freeze becoming an offensive coordinator (or at least a co-OC for now) under Saban at Alabama would be both unfair and inherently sinful.

Just think about Hugh Freeze coaching Tua Tagovailoa? That is a scary enough thought for God, himself, to intervene on behalf of all humanity.

But put that morbid thought aside. Could you imagine what this offensive genius could do at LSU? (Yes, LSU was rumored to be pursuing ol’ Hugh as an offensive coordinator.) He could possibly save the job of that proven loser, who somehow got the head coaching job at LSU. (Yes, I am talking about that unintelligible buffoon named Ed Orgeron.)

The fact that Sankey discouraged anyone from the SEC hiring Hugh Freeze ticks me off. Now, I will say it was cool to realize that there is someone out there with more power than Nick Saban in college football.

But please, people, let Freeze live his life.

There is a lot that people can criticize Freeze for, but his offensive coaching is not one of those things. I would put him up against any offensive mind in the country. He is a great head coach too.

If I were an athletic director in major college athletics, I would pull the trigger and hire the guy. Has he made his fair share of mistakes? Hell, yes. Freeze calling escorts is not an admirable thing to do, but that is ultimately an issue between him and his wife. A lot of guys would do the same thing if they were in that situation.

That is obviously wrong in my book, but everyone makes mistakes. I am all about giving a guy another chance. Now, clearly, the big reason an athletic director does not what to take a chance to hire Hugh is because of his NCAA troubles.

I would bet my house, though, that Freeze will be slow to pay players again or commit any violations after everything that has transpired. However, an athletic director should still take all the steps to make the environment Freeze is in one of accountability and transparency, so nothing like what happened at Ole Miss happens again.

I am not too naive to not realize that actions from your past can affect your future, but I think it is a little hypocritical in Freeze’s case. (Let me be clear. This is not a criticism of Sankey but just this whole moral high-horse hypocrisy in college football as a whole.)

What ultimately matters to employers (in most cases) is if your work good enough that it outweighs your baggage. I can list countless examples of this in all walks of life, but let’s keep it to football.

How do you think Bobby Petrino got a job again? How do you think Pete Carroll got a job again? I can go on. Let’s do a college basketball example. You think no school is going to take a chance on Rick Pitino again? Exactly, someone will because, even though he has a lot of baggage, he is a damn good coach.

Let’s also not act like Freeze’s NCAA problems of paying players is morally wrong in any way. Frankly, it makes more moral sense to actually pay the players that the NCAA and institutions are making millions off of every year. It is downright upsetting.

Also, don’t be naive that most (if not all) of the major institutions in college football are not paying players already. Now, it may be more hidden or based on boosters’ underhanded schemes, but pretty much everyone does it. Freeze just got caught.

So, I am imploring everyone to please leave Freeze alone. Everyone makes mistakes.

*Side Note: Yes, it has been quite a minute since I have written an article before now. I have done a lot of inward searching and have altered my career path. I am still not against writing online, but my interest in pursuing print journalism as a career is over. I will address this in full detail in a later post. 

Week 5 SEC Power Rankings, CFB Playoff Picks, SEC Weekend Picks

The College football regular season is already almost a third of the way done, which is crazy to think about. Over the first four weeks of college football, we have learned a whole lot, but there still are so many questions left to be answered. Let us take a quick look at my weekly SEC power rankings, my CFB Playoff top four and two teams right behind them and my SEC weekend picks.

SEC Power Rankings

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0)

The Tide are on top once again and for good reason. They went into Nashville last weekend and came out with one of the most physically dominant conference wins of the Nick Saban era. Heck, they held Vanderbilt to 67 total offensive yards and zero points and put up 677 yards and 59 points on the Commodore defense. Alabama is loaded at pretty much every position (except kicker). No one in the SEC will be able to beat them this year. In all honesty, it will be a surprise if they do not beat every team by multiple touchdowns. They are that good.

2. Georgia Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0)

Man, Georgia really looks impressive. I will be the first to say that I picked Mississippi State to come into Athens and upset the Bulldogs on Saturday night. I just did not fully know what to make of this UGA team. How I was wrong. Georgia absolutely dominated the other Bulldogs. It was apparent from the opening whistle.

The defense led by ultra-talented inside linebacker Roquan Smith and outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter and others is one of the best in the entire country. The offense is not too shabby either led by a tough running game. This is the best Georgia team I have seen since probably 2012.  I would not be surprised if the Bulldogs run the table the rest of the way in the regular season. They are that good. They should win every game left on their slate, but will they?

3. Auburn Tigers (3-1, 1-0)

I am not really high on Auburn, but the conference looks so weak at this point that I have to put them at No. 3. It is honestly head-scratching that the league has looked pretty mediocre outside of Georgia and Alabama. (I believe it goes back to coaching as I have reiterated a lot.)

Even though Auburn has not looked great on the offensive side of the ball at times, their defense has played well, and the Tigers had a nice 51-14 win over Missouri. (Yes, I know it is Missouri, but Auburn putting up 51 points against anyone is something they will take.) The Tigers have the talent to still be a force this season. They will face a big test this weekend when they host Mississippi State on the Plains. That will go a long way in determining the landscape of the West.

4. Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1)

MSU got exposed against a very good Georgia team on Saturday night. They are not going to seriously challenge Alabama this year, but they can still have a very good season. Nick Fitzgerald will have success against a lot of the teams he plays this season. How will he handle the challenge of going into another hostile environment in Auburn, Ala., this Saturday? That will tell a lot.

5. LSU Tigers (3-1, 0-1)

LSU have had an up-and-down season so far. That is for sure. After a dominate early wins over BYU in Week 1 and Chattanooga in Week 2, the Tigers got boat raced 37-7 in Starkville against MSU and then struggled at home against Syracuse last week. The injury-plagued squad should have another easy outing against Troy this Saturday before traveling to Florida next Saturday in a game which will tell a lot about the two teams. Hopefully, Derrius Guice (whose status is up in the air for this weekend) will be fully healthy for that one. LSU is so much more enjoyable to watch when he is out there.

6. Texas A&M Aggies (3-1, 1-0)

Big overtime win over Arkansas last weekend was nice, but Kevin Sumlin’s firing is still only a matter of time.

7. Florida Gators (2-1, 2-0)

The Gators were lucky to get out of Lexington with a win last week. They are not near where they were last season, but they should still probably contend in a crappy East.

8. Kentucky Wildcats (3-1, 1-1)

They are never going to beat Florida. It is written in stone.

9. Tennessee Volunteers (3-1, 0-0)

Butch has to go. How do you barely beat UMass?

10. Vanderbilt Commodores (3-1, 0-1)

Never talk trash about Alabama. We all see the result (59-0).

11. Arkansas Razorbacks (1-2, 0-1)

Ol’ Bert should be gone. No excuse. Enjoy another mediocre season, Arkansas fans.

12. South Carolina Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1)

The Gamecocks survived against La. Tech at home. Congrats.

13. Ole Miss Rebels (2-1, 0-0)

NCAA probs and Bryant-Denny this Saturday has such a good ring to it. Doesn’t it?

14. Missouri Tigers (1-3, 0-2)

Absolutely pathetic. Yep, that is all I got.

CFB Playoff Rankings

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide
  2. Oklahoma Sooners
  3. Clemson Tigers
  4. Penn State Nittany Lions

Two teams looking in: USC and Michigan

Week 5 SEC Picks

Florida over Vanderbilt

Arkansas over New Mexico State

Georgia over Tennessee

Kentucky over Eastern Michigan

Auburn over Mississippi State

LSU over Troy

Texas A&M over South Carolina

Alabama over Ole Miss

 

That’s all I got right now, folks. Follow me on Twitter: @legitjaydogg

SEC Power Rankings, SEC Coaching Woes, CFB Playoff Top Four

After dealing with some personal stuff, I am back doing what I love best – writing about college football. We have already enjoyed three weeks of it, and we have learned a lot but still have a lot of unknowns.

My focus (as has been the case for a while) is on the Southeastern Conference. With that in mind, I am going to give you my power rankings for all the SEC teams as it stands now, talk about the conference’s coaching woes and give you my CFB playoff top four plus two teams looking in. Enjoy!

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0, 0-0)

No. 1 was not hard to choose at all. Nick Saban and Co. are the class of the conference yet again, and there is not even a close second. No, the Tide have not yet played a conference game as of yet, but beating Florida State (in dominating fashion) is the best victory any SEC team can boast about.

They will open up against an undefeated (not a typo) Vanderbilt team in Nashville this weekend to open SEC play for both teams. Alabama will  not have a problem in this game.

2. Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0)

My goodness, have Mississippi State looked impressive or what? They might be the second-best team in the conference if they keep playing like they are now. Dan Mullen and his coaching staff have coached this team up, and they are playing unbelievably well.

While a lot of teams in the conference have struggled moving the football on offense, the Bulldogs certainly have not had that problem, as they put up 49 and 57 points (respectively) in the first two weeks of the season and beat LSU 37-7 in an upset heard ’round the college football world last weekend.

It definitely helps to have one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country in Nick Fitzgerald under center. He has established himself as an early Heisman contender in my opinion.

The defense is also solid, and Aeris Williams is the second-best running back in terms of rushing yards in the conference this year. Mississippi State has a tough challenge at Georgia this weekend, but regardless of that result, they still looked poised (as things stand now) to be the primary challenger to the Crimson Tide in the West.

3. Georgia Bulldogs (3-0, 0-0)

I am still not completely sold on this UGA team. Yes, they are 3-0 and should win the East this season, but I am not really sure how good second-year head coach Kirby Smart’s squad actually is. We will all know a lot more about this team Saturday night when they host the aforementioned Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Georgia’s offense has struggled to move the ball at times due in large part to a (still) suspect offensive line and having to start a true freshman quarterback in Jake Fromm over the injured Jacob Eason. (Eason has technically not been ruled out for this weekend, but it would be a long shot for him to come back.) Georgia’s defense is really good this season. That much is clear. Will they be able to stop Fitzgerald on Saturday? They better.

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Georgia has the unenviable task of trying to stop Nick Fitzgerald on Saturday night. Will they be able to do it? Guys like Lorenzo Carter better go off if they are to have a chance.

4. LSU Tigers (2-1, 0-1)

I know the Tigers are reeling from their blowout loss at the hands of Mississippi State last Saturday, but I really believe LSU will get things turned around. Are they that good of a team? I do not think so, but most of the other teams in the conference and particularly the West are in fact worse. The Tigers still have a lot of talent (particularly on defense and a guy named Derrius Guice) and should be able to take care of most teams on their schedule.

5. Kentucky Wildcats (3-0, 1-0)

It was hard to choose between Kentucky and Vanderbilt for this spot, but I am giving the Wildcats the edge here since they have an SEC win. Kentucky did not look extremely impressive against inferior competition in the first two weeks of the season but had a huge performance on Saturday as they travelled to Columbia, S.C. and beat Jake Bentley and the South Carolina Gamecocks for the fourth-straight season.

I will be the first one to tell you I did not see this coming. I will admit I thought the Wildcats would finish as the worst team in the East, but I was wrong. There is still a long season left, but Kentucky has a lot of momentum at this point in time. They have a huge opportunity this Saturday as they host a Florida team that is the worst it has been in a while in my opinion. Will the 30-year losing streak be broken? We will see.

6. Vanderbilt Commodores (3-0, 0-0)

7. South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1)

8. Auburn Tigers (2-1, 0-0)

9. Florida Gators (1-1, 0-1)

10. Tennessee Volunteers (2-1, 0-1)

11. Texas A&M Aggies (2-1, 0-0)

12. Ole Miss Rebels (2-1, 0-0)

13. Arkansas Razorbacks (1-1, 0-0)

14. Missouri Tigers (1-2, 1-1)

Now, let us get into our second topic. The SEC looks horrible so far this season. No, it is not due to a lack of talent. SEC teams do well in recruiting. The coaching is terrible particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

I have said that before, and it has proven true yet again this year. Which fanbases (majority) besides Alabama, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and possibly Georgia are feeling very confident in their coach right now? Zero. Kevin Sumlin and Butch Jones deserved to be fired before this season is over. Bret Beleima should not even still be at Arkansas right now. There is no doubt. Jim McElwain and Gus Malzahn are not making things any easier on themselves either.

(Speaking of Butch Jones, I had to include the ending to the Volunteers’ game this past Saturday that included this incredible finish. Tennessee should have easily won that game if their head coach had any competence whatsoever.)

Honestly, half of the SEC teams or more need to just call it quits and get new head coaches. It is that simple. Until, the quality of coaching in the SEC improves, the conference will continue on a downhill trajectory.

Anyway, before I go, here are my college football playoff top four teams with two teams on the cusp.

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Penn State

Next Two: USC and Oklahoma State

That is all folks. Come back later this week for my SEC and college football predictions for this Saturday.

2017 SEC Football Predictions

We have finally arrived upon the first weekend of college football, and I for one could not be more excited. My focus is always on the Southeastern Conference. It is very hard to predict this year outside of Alabama, but I will give my best shot.

WEST

1. Alabama Crimson Tide 

Projected Record: 13-0 (8-0), SEC Champion

Impact Players: QB Jalen Hurts, RB Bo Scarborough, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

Alabama lost a lot of talent to the NFL this year particularly on defense, but the Tide return one of the most talented offenses in the country led by sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts. For all the criticism of Hurts in the offseason, he did win SEC Offensive Player of  the Year last year as a freshman.

If Hurts improves as a passer, Alabama will be that much more deadly. His job will be made easier by the return of a talented receiving corps led by Calvin Ridley and a star-studded running back group led by Bo Scarborough.

The defense lost a lot of talent in the offseason but should be just fine as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Rashaan Evans and Da’Ron Payne look to pick up the slack on this stop unit. Saban’s team again runs the table, wins the SEC Championship and gets to the playoff again this year.

2. Auburn Tigers

Projected Record: 10-2 (6-2)

Impact Players: QB Jarrett Stidham, RB Kamryn Pettway, DB Tray Matthews

The Auburn Tigers are poised to have a very good season as Jarrett Stidham seems like he will be the missing piece at quarterback to get head coach Gus Malzahn’s offense going on all cylinders. Auburn has enough talent (including the SEC’s leading rusher from 2016 in Kamyrn Pettway, a deep receiving corps and a solid defense) around Stidham to seriously contend for the West this year. They will stumble late yet again against rivals Georgia and Alabama to come up just short of going to Atlanta.

3. LSU Tigers

Projected Record: 9-3 (5-3)

Impact Players: RB Derrius Guice, LB Arden Key, DE Christian LaCouture

Ed Orgeron is embarking on his first season as the permanent head coach of LSU and hired Matt Canada as offensive coordinator in the offseason to help shore up that side of the football. Canada will have at his disposal an offense led by superstar running back Derrius Guice, who has a chance to contend for the Heisman this season in my mind, but other than that has a lot of question marks. The biggest question mark is how will senior quarterback Danny Etling fair? Will he continue to be just okay or will he take a step forward in the new offense?

LSU will be good in 2017, but mediocre quarterback play and a rebuilding (yet still talented) defense will keep them from being great this year. Watch out for them in the future though.

4. Texas A&M Aggies

Projected Record: 8-4 (4-4)

Impact Players: WR Christian Kirk, RB Trayveon Williams, DB Armani Watts

Head coach Kevin Sumlin has to do well this season, or he will be gone. That is all there is to it. The Aggies always seem to do incredible in the first half of the season but stumble down the stretch. This year will tell a similar tale despite having star power in running back Trayveon Williams, dynamic wide receiver Christian Kirk and others. Will 8-4 be enough to calm down the athletic department and make them keep Sumlin? Doubt it. Texas A&M (by today’s standards) can do better.

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LSU star running back Derrius Guice is poised for a huge season in Baton Rouge in 2017. (Image via @DhaSickest on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DhaSickest/status/888516662923849728)

5. Arkansas Razorbacks

Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5)

Players to Watch: QB Austin Allen, RB Devwah Whaley, C Frank Ragnow

Bret Bielema was the talk of college football when Arkansas hired him away from Wisconsin in 2013. However, Bielema has not lived up to the hype at Arkansas, as he has gone 25-26 overall in Fayetteville and has yet to put together a complete team. The Razorbacks had a disappointing 2016 that ended with a loss to Missouri and a bowl game loss to Virginia Tech, despite being up by 24 points.

Safe to say, there is some grumbling about Bielema. That will not change this year, but hey, at least the offense, led by Austin Allen, will score some points.

6. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5)

Players to Watch: QB Nick Fitzgerald, WR Donald Gray, LB Leo Lewis

Nick Fitzgerald is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. Unfortunately, the guys around him (overall) are just not talented enough for State to contend in the West. Combine that with a tough schedule that includes an East crossover game against Georgia in Athens, and Mississippi State’s record will not show how good they are. They will still sneak up on some teams though.

7. Ole Miss Rebels

Projected Record: 5-7 (1-7)

Impact Players: QB Shea Patterson, WR Van Jefferson, DE Marquis Haynes

It is safe to say Ole Miss has had a tough offseason. Things are not going to get any better anytime soon with their fall NCAA hearing looming. Hugh Freeze is obviously gone too, and Matt Luke will head coach his first game as an interim. This Ole Miss team just does not have enough talent (outside of Shea Patterson and a good receiving corps) to improve on their 5-7 record from 2016.

 

EAST

1. Florida Gators

Projected Record: 9-3 (6-2)

Impact Players: WR Antonio Callaway, RB Jordan Scarlett, DB Duke Dawson

Choosing the winner of the East this year was very difficult. I got Florida winning the division based on the fact that you know what you are going to get with the Gators.

Georgia is the popular pick to win the East, but they have a lot of question marks. (Rule of thumb: Never pick Georgia to win the East until they do it, and never pick Alabama to not win the West until it happens.) The East will come down to the annual meeting in Jacksonville, and the Gators will come out on top for the fourth straight time.

Jim McElwain has done a good job in his two seasons in Gainesville, but his teams have struggled on offense, which is supposed to be his forte. The Gators lost a lot on defense, but they still have a lot of young talent and will not take a major step back.

The offensive line is solid and the receiving corp is underrated led by Antonio Callaway (if he stays out of trouble after his one-game suspension). If McElwain can get solid quarterback play this season (Cc: Feleipe Franks), the Gators are going to be really good.

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Florida will win the SEC East for a 3rd-straight year. (Image via @NickWashingtonn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NickWashingtonn/status/777563432107307008)

2. Georgia Bulldogs

Predicted Record: 10-2 (6-2)

Impact Players: QB Jacob Eason, RB Nick Chubb, DT Trent Thompson

Georgia is the most talented team on paper in the East, but will they take that next step and win it? Not this year. The Bulldogs have some serious questions surrounding the offensive line, a talented defense that has a history of underperforming, a shaky kicking game and more.

However, if the Bulldogs answer some of those questions (mainly at offensive line) they could have a fine season. They definitely have the most upside of any team in the East.

Their offense is looking for some serious improvement as they return Jacob Eason at quarterback and a stacked running back corps led by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The defense has the potential to be one of the best in the conference. Will it happen though?

Smart has been killing it on the recruiting trail even if his team did not fare well on the field in 2016. The Bulldogs will have a bounce back year this season and come just short of winning the East. Look out for this team in 2018. They could potentially reach the playoff.

3. South Carolina Gamecocks

Projected Record: 7-5 (4-4)

Impact Players: QB Jake Bentley, LB Skai Moore, WR Deebo Samuel

This season will be pretty much the opposite of Will Muschamp teams so far. The South Carolina offense should be fun to watch and score a lot of points this year, but their defense will be the weak link. The Gamecocks just do not have enough talent on that side of the ball.

That is why I see South Carolina having an up-and-down year. Watch out for this team in the future when Muschamp gets his players though.

4. Tennessee Volunteers

Projected Record: 7-5 (3-5)

Impact Players: WR Jauan Jennings, TE Ethan Wolf, DB Todd Kelly Jr.

Tennessee should have won the East last season, but they somehow did not (even though they beat both Florida and Georgia) go to Atlanta due in part to injuries and mainly to bad coaching. (I have been clear on my thoughts that Butch Jones being a coaching disaster in the past.)

The Volunteers lost a lot of talent in the offseason, and it appears their window to win the East has closed for a while. That will certainly be the case this season.

5. Vanderbilt Commodores

Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5)

Impact Players: RB Ralph Webb, DB LaDarius Wiley, LB Oren Burks

Derek Mason has quietly done a solid job in Nashville. The Commodores returned to a bowl game last year for the first time since 2013. Star running back Ralph Webb and several other key players return and give Vanderbilt confidence that they are bound for a big year.

However, their overall record will not really convey how good this team is as their schedule is very difficult. They will make the postseason once again in 2017 though.

6. Missouri Tigers

Projected Record: 6-6 (2-6)

Impact Players: QB Drew Lock, WR J’Mon Moore, RB Damarea Crockett

I am higher than a lot of people on Missouri this year. They were better than there 4-8 record showed last year. The offense, led by junior quarterback Drew Lock, star wideout J’Mon Moore, who led the conference in receiving yards per game last year and sophomore running back Damarea Crockett, who is the most underrated back in the SEC  in my mind, etc,  is extremely talented and will score a bunch of points this season.

Can the defense stop anyone in 2017? That is the question 2nd-year head coach Barry Odom will have to answer after his defense struggled mightily in 2016. Ultimately, I see Missouri getting through a tough schedule and getting to a bowl game.

7. Kentucky Wildcats

Projected Record: 5-7 (1-7)

Impact Players: QB Stephen Johnson, LB Jordan Jones, RB Benny Snell Jr.

Safe to say, I am not as high as a lot of people on Kentucky this year. While they have a pretty good team this year, I believe they will regress this season. The difference between not getting to the postseason and getting to a bowl is their season finale against Lamar Jackson and Louisville. Louisville is not going to lose this year.

Dear God, Please Let Johnny Manziel Coach in the SEC One Day

I love Johnny Manziel. Let us just get that out of the way. He was easily one of my favorite college football players to watch ever. The guy had the “It” factor; that was for sure. Known for being a electrifying yet controversial player both on and off the field, Manziel found himself back in the news recently.

Manziel sat down with Clay Travis of the madly popular Outkick The Coverage at the International Football Betting Conference in Costa Rica in early August. He was asked about his plans if his NFL comeback did not work out.

“I’d do something involved with sports. I can’t get away from it,” Manziel answered. “I’ve had to ask myself that a little bit as of late over the past year, but at the same time I’d want to be involved in sports in some way, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s doing something like that. So I think that’d be my route.”

He followed this up by clarifying he would most likely be interested in coaching in college. (You can see the entire interview here.)

For me personally, this was fantastic news. More Johnny Football after football? Sign me up. I have to say though. I hope that Manziel ends up coaching the SEC one day so badly.

Everyone knows the SEC is the already batsh*t crazy anyway. Could you imagine a world in which Johnny Manziel is coaching in the SEC? Just imagine it for a second. He would be Lane Kiffin on steroids.

That is scary. (I do not know if that would be the type of world in which I would feel comfortable raising children, but I digress.)

The SEC (as a whole) has the best traditions and pageantry, overall talent and prestige of any conference in the country. They have also had a history of not only great but colorful coaches, although most of the current coaches in the SEC are garbage and that is a direct reflection on the conference’s recent backslide. Add Johnny Manziel to that list of SEC coaches, and it would undoubtably be insane.

I mean Manziel is basically just your average frat guy that happens to be pretty damn good at football. That is the truth. I guarantee we would see pictures of Manziel at college parties while he is coaching. (Maybe, he will even bring back the Scooby Doo costume.) No doubt about it.

Manziel is a legend and for good reason. The dude could play, and his college career showed it.

The Texas native burst onto to the scene in 2012, when as a redshirt freshman, he was absolutely electrifying and led Texas A&M to an 11-2 record (in their first year in the SEC) including huge wins against then No. 1 and eventual national champion Alabama on the road and a blowout victory against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. For his efforts that year, Manziel won the ultimate award in college football – the Heisman Trophy.

His games were all must-see television events as it seemed he would always do something remarkable and unthinkable on any given Saturday. His next season in 2013 (which also happened to be his last) was arguably better than his Heisman-winning season.

I will never forget attending his last collegiate game. It was the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta versus Duke. Texas A&M were down 38-17 to the Blue Devils at halftime and came back to win 52-48 thanks to Manziel’s amazing passing performance (30-of-38 for 382 yards and four touchdowns).

Manziel had a truly unbelievable collegiate career, and who knows if he can make a comeback to the NFL. Frankly, I do not really care. I just want to see him as a head coach especially in the SEC. Do I think he will be successful? I do not know, but it will be an entertaining ride for sure. So that is why I hope and pray everyday that “Coach” Manziel will somehow end up in the wildest conference in college football – the SEC.