It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year August 31, 2011Posted by Matt in Football, Razorbacks.
Tags: Alabama, arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi St., NCAA football, Ole Miss, predictions, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
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With wish lists in hand and hopes and dreams in our hearts and minds, we gather together with family and friends to usher in that magical time of year when all things seem possible, when optimism infects each and every one of us with a radical zeal that defies reality, when our belief in something greater than ourselves trumps all misconceptions. On this illustrious eve we wait with bated breath, our anticipation growing by the second as the time quickly approaches. What challenges, what joys, what agonies, what triumphs await us in the coming months.
Yes, college football season starts tomorrow.
Tomorrow evening, the iconic swine-covered orb will be kicked off, launched down the field with a jubilant yell like those first flights into outer space. The faithful will don their chosen colors, greet each other in a traditional manner, whether that be a “Roll Tide,” a “Hotty Toddy,” or, in our case, a “Woo Pig,” stand for their beloved fight song and cheer their team on to victory.
But all will not be victorious, for there are always some casualties along the way as each squad vies for dominance on 100 yard field of battle. Favorites will fall, heroes will rise, and the faithful believers will grasp tightly to each and every win, savoring the sweet taste of victory on the long march through the Fall season and into the frigid depths of winter. In the end only one team will stand as a champion, but today, on the precipice of another football season, we are all undefeated.
I sketched out my SEC predictions for my coworkers, so I thought I would share them with you as well. Let me know what you think.
Georgia 9-3 (6-2)
South Carolina 9-3 (5-3)
Florida 8-4 (5-3)
Tennessee 6-6 (2-6)
Kentucky 5-7 (1-7)
Vanderbilt 2-10 (0-8)
Alabama 11-1 (7-1)
LSU 10-2 (7-1)
Arkansas 10-2 (6-2)
Auburn 8-4 (4-4)
Mississippi St. 7-5 (3-5)
Ole Miss 5-7 (2-6)
Georgia: While many of their conference foes are starting off the year with what they deem to be surefire wins, the Bulldogs are launching their season with an always-tough Boise St. They have arguably the best quarterback in the league in Aaron Murray, and a favorable SEC schedule (their only away games are Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt, with Florida at a neutral site), but the SEC is a meat grinder and they are not of the elite caliber to keep them unscathed. Their week 2 home game against South Carolina will set the tone of the season.
South Carolina: Last year the Gamecocks advanced to their first SEC Championship game on the sturdy back of running back Marcus Lattimore, and his return is the key to success for Steve Spurrier’s team this season. Their schedule is tough, with away games at Georgia, Mississippi St., and Arkansas, but, like Georgia, I think the week 2 matchup will either put them on track for a second straight East title or for another decent, middle-of-the-pack season.
Florida: The Gators suffered some growing pains last season as they tried to emerge from the shadow of Tim Tebow, faltering to an 8-5 record, but this season, with the addition of new head coach Will Muschamp, could see them rejuvenated down in Gainesville. They have a tough schedule, with away dates at LSU, Auburn, and South Carolina, not to mention home games with SEC West foe Alabama and in-state rival Florida St. I can see them pulling off an upset win (I’m looking at you, Bama), but not showing a great improvement in the win column this season.
Tennessee: The Volunteers struggled mightily under the tutelage of head coach Derek Dooley in 2010 and I expect more of the same this season. They are quite talented, but wins will be hard to come by in the SEC, especially when they are facing road games at Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas. Look for Tennessee to struggle again in 2011 before maybe sneaking into a lower-tier bowl.
Kentucky: Second year head coach Joker Phillips will have his hands full with this year’s Wildcat squad, which lost the majority of its notable players from last year’s 6-7 crew. Facing off against a league full of Goliaths, Kentucky may be able to muster their inner David once or twice this season, but I don’t expect them to make much of an impact. On a positive note, at least they have Vanderbilt to keep them out of the cellar.
Vanderbilt: First year head coach James Franklin has one of the most daunting tasks before him of any signal caller in the SEC: turning the Vanderbilt Commodores into a winning program. The Vandy football team have long held the title of annual patsy in the SEC, the automatic “W” on everyone’s schedule and this year will probably be no different, but it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the team.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide are only two years from their last National Championship and once again they are locked and loaded for another title run. Losing a Heisman-winning running back and adept quarterback may seem like insurmountable odds to most teams, but this is Alabama, where football runs through veins and all-American players seem to spring from the ground itself. Running back Trent Richardson is set to be the star on this year’s squad, which has the good fortune of playing Arkansas and LSU at home, but the tough task of facing the Gators in The Swamp. I think they’ll drop at least one game and, though I wish it were to my beloved Razorbacks, it seems more likely to occur against Florida.
LSU: Tiger faithful may tremble at the thought of facing #3 Oregon in their opener without starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and the National Title implications held in that game, but the team is certainly talented enough to run the table. Always-entertaining coach Les Miles is certain to make some head-scratching tactical errors along the way that may lead to a few losses, but overall I expect the Tigers to fare fine in the SEC.
Arkansas: Coach Bobby Petrino has built a powerhouse in Fayetteville over the past three years and though last year’s 10 win squad set the bar high, hopes were in place that this would be the season when the Hogs would make an honest national push. That, of course, was prior to the season-ending injury suffered by star running back Kniles Davis in the first play of the first scrimmage game of the summer. Rushing has always been secondary in Petrino’s offensive plans, though, and this year’s passing attack looks to be one of the nation’s best. The Hogs face two tough road challenges in Alabama and LSU, as well as a resurgent Texas A&M in Dallas, but I expect them to win at least one of those games. Winning two could place them in the SEC Championship and that is certainly within the realm of possibility.
Auburn: The Tigers lost a host of great players, including Cam Newton, from last year’s National Champion team, and though that could cause feeling of foreboding among the Auburn faithful, they should again make some noise this season. Head Coach Gene Chizik and Offensive Coordinator extraordinaire Gus Malzahn return to lead one of the youngest teams in the conference. The role of underdog could prove to be just what is needed in Auburn. Perhaps more than anything, I’m looking forward to watching the ingenious playcalling of Malzahn again.
Mississippi State: Last year the Bulldogs took a big step forward under coach Dan Mullen, finishing the season with a 9-4 record and a resounding win over Michigan in the Gator Bowl. Though Mississippi State is quite good and should pull off a few big wins again in 2011, the SEC is awfully strong and more than 8 wins is most likely out of reach for a team that is on the road for Auburn, Georgia, and Arkansas. On a positive note, the Bulldogs kick off their season tomorrow night against our local team, the Memphis Tigers, who last year proved themselves to be among the worst in Division 1. It should be over by halftime.
Ole Miss: Times have gotten hard in the lovely town of Oxford, where coach Houston Nutt is wringing his hands and wondering how to succeed with the players he brought in. If the Rebels improve over last season’s 4-8 mark, it won’t be by much with the exceedingly difficult Western Division teams on their schedule. Their opener against BYU this Saturday should provide enough to know whether or not the Rebs will have a shot at postseason play.
The Realignment Solution June 17, 2010Posted by Matt in Football, sports.
Tags: BCS, bowl games, conference realignment, NCAA football, playoffs, super conferences
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I don’t know what the talk has been where you live, but in Memphis there have been few subjects more widely discussed than that of NCAA conference realignment. People in Memphis have been excited by the possibilities of leaving their 2nd, or maybe even 3rd, tier division, Conference USA, and joining with a more high profile, preferably BCS conference. Of course the biggest chatter around the college football world had been about the possibility of Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-10 (because when you think Pacific, you think Texas and Oklahoma), but that fell through, leaving a few, relatively minor changes.
But, you know it is no big secret that college football, in particular, has problems, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that these problems have actual, workable solutions, if only the parties in question could see beyond their traditional way of doing things. So, in the interest of the general public, I’ve decided to present a plan that would revolutionize college football for the better. This plan would reduce the travel costs that would be incurred by placing a team like Texas in the Pac-10 and encourage the existence of regional rivalries, the bread-and-butter of college football.
First of all, we would proceed with the idea that many have alluded to, building 5 “super” conferences of 16 teams each.
North Carolina St.
The remaining FBS teams would be distributed among 3 more large conferences. Each season, a team would play the other seven schools in their divison, two from their conference’s other division, and three non-conference games.
In this plan, each of the five mega-conferences would begin their post-season with a Conference Championship Game, the winner of which would then represent the conference in the BCS. In addition to these five champions, three more teams would be chosen from either other teams in the Big 5 BCS conferences or from the pool of remaining teams, based upon their BCS score. In the end we would have eight teams entered into the post-season BCS playoffs, seeded according to their season-ending BCS scores. The seven game playoffs would employ the current BCS bowl games and end with the BCS Championship.
Other teams with winning records would be invited to play in the current collection of lesser bowl games. In this way, we can preserve the bowl game tradition and move forward to annointing a true champion.
What do you think? Is it workable?
Monday Morning Quarterback 12/01/08 December 1, 2008Posted by Matt in Football.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas Razorbacks, BCS Title Game, Florida, NCAA football, Oklahoma, Texas
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So, the college football regular season has nearly reached its end, leaving fans with either a feeling of satisfaction or anger at the seeming technological whim of the BCS computer system. As of today, there are four teams remaining with a legitimate shot at a BCS Title Game berth – sorry Utah and Boise State fans, but until you leave your high school conferences and play with the big boys, your undefeated records are near-meaningless.
Contestant number one is sure to come from the SEC, where Alabama and Florida will meet this weekend in Atlanta to engage in a fierce battle that will decide their fates.
Alabama is the lone undefeated team among the top four, having won their twelve games with a hard-nosed, defense-minded style. With the possible exception of Georgia, the Crimson Tide have somehow avoided playing the nation’s toughest teams, and Florida will no doubt be the biggest challenge they have yet faced. So, the question must be asked, will Nick Saban’s squad be up to the task presented them by the powerful Gators?
With only a one point loss to Ole Miss blemishing their record, Florida may be the most dominant team in the country. While their schedule was not much tougher than Alabama’s, their eleven wins have come by an average of over 37 points per game, including a 30 point victory over LSU, 39 points over Georgia, and 30 over in-state rival Florida State. The Gators, though, have been hampered by injuries and may be without two defensive lineman and star receiver Percy Harvin.
The big controversy is not from the south, though, it is emitting straight from America’s Heartland and the incredible teams of the Big 12.
Texas finished their season at 11-1, with only a November 1 loss to Texas Tech blemishing their record. Despite beating Oklahoma by 10 points earlier in the season and destroying in-state rival Texas A&M on Saturday, the Longhorns found themselves being leapfrogged by Oklahoma in the BCS standings, dropping them from the second spot to the third and possibly losing a national title berth, despite winning.
Oklahoma, who also finished 11-1, now has the number two ranking and is on the inside track to the BCS title game, with only 19th ranked Missouri standing in their way. Their surge in the polls is no doubt due to their impressive wins over the past two weeks – a 65-21 shellacking of then-#2 Texas Tech and a 61-41 win over in-state rival Oklahoma State on Saturday.
My prediction: Florida vs. Oklahoma in the BCS Title Game.
Who do you think will make it?
Also, I have to give some props to my home-state Razorbacks and their upset win over LSU on Saturday. Even though they finished the season a disappointing 5-7, it was good to see QB Casey Dick finish his career with a win.