Biting the bullet: reviewing my SEC preseason predictions

Okay, okay, it’s time to call my own ass out.  I made my preseason picks and now I have to live with them.  It’s time for my annual modest attempt at keeping myself accountable.

As always, schools are listed in the same order as they were in the preseason post, with this season’s won-loss totals.

[Ed. note:  Please read that last sentence again, carefully, before you blast me in the comments for not agreeing with the order of presentation.  You’ll save us both a lot of time.  Thanks!]

SEC WEST

ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1)

  • What I said:  Did you ever see Groundhog Day?  Nothing changes under Saban.
  • How I did:  Close, but no ceegar.  It turns out even Alabama can have enough injuries to expose depth problems.  Who knew?
  • Final grade:  B+

AUBURN (10-3, 7-1)

  • What I said: If you believe the Stidham hype, Auburn is going to have a great season. I’m a little skeptical because of the small sample size and because of the change at offensive coordinator.  On the other hand, the Tigers looked better on defense last season than I thought they would under Steele, so I expect the losses they suffered on the d-line won’t affect them too adversely.  That being said, Gus has proven he doesn’t do as well when big things are expected at Auburn.  Add it all up, and it comes to nine wins.
  • How I did:  It took a little while for Stidham to get untracked, but when he did, so did Auburn.  I have to give Gus credit for going against type, too.  If Auburn beats UCF in the bowl game, that means the Tigers will have beaten three ranked undefeated foes in the same season.
  • Final grade:  B+

LSU (9-3, 6-2)

  • What I said:  On paper, there’s a lot to like:  talent in many places and two well thought of coordinators, for starters.  So why does it feel like some cracks are starting to show?  Part of it’s probably due to Orgeron’s ceiling as a head coach.  The extra SEC road game doesn’t help, either.  It looks like another eight-win season from here.
  • How I did:  The Tigers won a game more than I thought they would, but lost to Troy.  I’d call that a draw.
  • Final grade:  B+

TEXAS A&M (7-5, 4-4)

  • What I said:  Sumlin’s looking at more hot seat talk.  The real issue for TAMU is that while he’s a good in-game coach, he’s clearly not as good at talent evaluation and signing as Mike Sherman was.  The Aggies get Alabama and Auburn at home, which can’t hurt, but that last three quarters of the schedule looks like a real grind.  It’s hard to see them notch more wins in 2017 than they did in 2016.
  • How I did:  They dropped one more game than they did the previous season.  Then they dropped Sumlin.
  • Final grade:  B+

ARKANSAS (4-8, 1-7)

  • What I said:  Is this the SEC’s most meh team?  It’s not that the Hogs are outright bad; it’s just that it’s hard to see much to get excited about.  Seven wins again sounds about right.
  • How I did:  I predicted mediocrity and got bad instead.
  • Final grade:  D

MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4)

  • What I said:  Mullen is an excellent quarterbacks coach and Fitzgerald is his latest success story.  Grantham is an improvement at defensive coordinator; unfortunately he doesn’t have much to work with.  The middle part of the schedule is a weekly grind.  There is also the question of whether the NCAA investigation of Ole Miss winds up ensnaring the Bulldogs, or at least diverting some attention to the season.  This season looks like another fight for bowl eligibility.
  • How I did:  I underestimated this team, or maybe I overestimated the quality of the SEC West.  In the end, same difference.
  • Final Grade:  D+

OLE MISS (6-6, 3-5)

  • Outlook:  Man, what a mess.  I figure there’s about a 20% chance of the team rallying with an “us against the world” attitude and about an 80% chance things snowball quickly as the schedule toughens.  The Egg Bowl ought to be fun, though.  Even if the Rebels were bowl-eligible, they wouldn’t be going.
  • How I did:  The 20% chance hit.  The Egg Bowl was fun.  They aren’t going to a bowl game.
  • Final grade:  C+

SEC EAST

FLORIDA (4-7, 3-5)

  • What I said:  McElwain is two-for-two in division titles, which is particularly impressive given the personnel flaws on offense he’s had to manage around.  He faces different challenges in 2017, though.  The offense ought to be better on the o-line, at receiver and at running back, while the defense has suffered significant losses at every level.  The schedule helps, but this is a team that could go south in a hurry if injuries mount.  If that can be avoided, the East being weak should keep the Gators in contention.  In that regard, it helps that the two toughest games on the schedule are against non-conference opponents.  (Not to mention the Gators have five home conference games.) I’ll say nine wins for now.
  • How I did:  Oof.  Didn’t see the wheels coming off this particular wagon the way they did.  One of my bigger whiffs.
  • Final grade:  D-

TENNESSEE (4-8, 0-8)

  • What I said:    Boy, did I whiff on last year’s prediction that Shoop was the best offseason hire in the SEC.  The Vols’ disappointing 2017 season can be blamed on several things, but the defense was a major contributor.  It’s hard to see the losses in the offensive backfield and Barnett being replaced without a hitch.  This season has the feel of a reboot.  Eight wins, if they get some breaks; otherwise, seven seems likely.
  • How I did:  The Vols were so far off from my expectations that they made me look like Nostradamus when it came to Florida.
  • Final grade: F

GEORGIA (12-1, 7-1)

  • What I said:  On paper, this is a team that should win at least nine games and the SEC East.  As last year’s Nicholls game indicated, though, Georgia often doesn’t play on paper.  The rising talent base fueled by two excellent recruiting classes should fix the problem areas; the question is how long it takes.  If the offensive line gels early on, the season shapes up quite favorably.  I’ll say nine regular season wins and hope to be pleasantly surprised.
  • How I did:  What can I say?  I was pleasantly surprised.
  • Final grade:  B

KENTUCKY (7-5, 4-4)

  • What I said:  There’s a lot of “if this team wore Florida’s or Georgia’s uniforms, they’d be taken as a serious division contender” talk for the Wildcats.  But they don’t, and that’s because it’s hard for a perennial doormat to take that next big step.  That being said, there is a fair amount to like about UK, as Stoops has done a good job upgrading the talent base.  I don’t think the ‘Cats slide and may actually add a win to last year’s total.
  • How I did:  Came out where I expected, but that may be more attributable to the weakness of the division than Kentucky’s quality.
  • Final grade:  A-

VANDERBILT (5-7, 1-7)

  • What I said:  Derek Mason knows how to coach defense.  That’s good, because losing Zach Cunningham hurts.  Vandy starts at a talent disadvantage against the rest of the conference and this year’s schedule doesn’t help.  If the ‘Dores make it back to six wins, Mason’s done a good job.
  • How I did:  It looked early on like Mason was on his way to exceeding expectations, but then his team imploded.  The big surprise was how much the ‘Dores regressed defensively.  This was not a good season.
  • Final grade:  C

SOUTH CAROLINA (8-4, 5-3)

  • What I said: Although the talent situation is less dire than Spurrier left it, there are still a lot of holes on the roster.  Muschamp did a respectable job managing last year’s team to bowl eligibility.  A respectable job this year might mean another win.
  • How I did:  Helped by divisional mediocrity, Boom did a better than respectable job.
  • Final grade:  C-

MISSOURI (7-5, 4-4)

  • What I said:  The offense was okay last year.  The defense was abysmal.  The offense will probably be better with another year under its belt.  If the defense shows even modest improvement, the Tigers should be bowl eligible, especially with that non-conference schedule.  It’ll be close, but I think they’ll get to six wins.
  • How I did:  It took a while to kick in, but the defense stabilized in time for Mizzou to rattle off wins in its last six games.
  • Final grade:  B+

Overall, it felt like I was about as mediocre with my picks as the conference was with its results.  How did your expectations turn out?

55 Comments

Filed under GTP Stuff, SEC Football

55 responses to “Biting the bullet: reviewing my SEC preseason predictions

  1. WarD Eagle

    If only you’d been a liiiiittle more wrong on those AU & UGA predictions.

    Oh well, fun year. Next year will be here soon enough.

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  2. Jack Burton

    I think you deserve an F for the Gators and a D for the Dawgs.

    9 wins? Blah blah blah on paper, etc.

    Try 12-1, 10 wins by 21+ points, #1 in the initial CFP rankings, outrageous statistical improvements across the board, etc.

    You weren’t even close with your dawgs prediction.

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    • mdcgtp

      Because he spent the off-season questioning the Kirby Smart hire.

      Like

      • Sigh. I spent the offseason deploring the process that led to the hire. Still do.

        If you’re gonna give me crap, at least do me the courtesy of being honest about it. (Although I realize you claim to know the workings of my inner mind better than I do.)

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        • mdcgtp

          If that’s what you have convinced yourself of, great. I would prefer not to dig through archives to prove my point, and you simply acknowledged that you might have underestimated how good a coach Kirby might have been, but I am not holding my breath because intellectually honesty isn’t your thing.

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          • LMAO. Thanks for proving my point. You are the smartest guy in the room.

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            • Mayor

              A very small room.

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              • That must be why it seems a little stuffy in here. 🙂

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                • mdcgtp

                  https://blutarsky.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/we-have-got-to-get-some-wins/

                  “If you’re Kirby Smart at that point and you can’t recruit a top-five class, what exactly do you have left to bring to the table as Georgia’s head coach?”

                  What about that line speaks to the process of his hire?

                  To quote the great Matt Damon in Rounders,

                  “Are you satisfied now, Teddy? Because I can keep busting you up all night if you like.”

                  I have a ton more where that came from.

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                • Biggus Rickus

                  You’re taking the quote out of context, as it assumed a lack of success during the season would hurt recruiting. It didn’t predict a lack of success. It was just part of the never-ending series of posts reiterating the same thing: Georgia needed to improve in year two.

                  I don’t really understand why he deplores the whole process from firing Richt onward, myself. There was no way of handling the Richt firing that people were going to like, and in hiring his replacement, they landed their number one target. I questioned whether or not he should have been their number one target, but they accomplished exactly what they set out to do in hiring Smart.

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                • My issue with the hiring process is that the open UGA job was the best on the market once USC retained Helton. Given McGarity’s abysmal hiring/firing record, I thought — and still do — that it would behoove the athletic department to do a careful assessment of what options might be available to it. If Smart had been the choice after careful consideration, the process would have been much easier for me to accept.

                  Look, it’s all worked out. UGA got lucky with its rushed decision. I accepted Smart from the get-go and that’s never changed. As you note, year two needed to be better than year one and it clearly has been.

                  Evidently, that’s not enough for some people.

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                • To quote the great Matt Damon in Rounders,

                  “Are you satisfied now, Teddy? Because I can keep busting you up all night if you like.”

                  You actually spent time going through the archives and that’s the best you can come up with?

                  That line has nothing to do with the hire and everything to do with a mediocre on the job training year.

                  Fold your hand, dude.

                  Like

                • mdcgtp

                  As for quotes about Kirby and his competence, I should have been more precise this morning by writing the following:

                  “He spent the off season criticizing Kirby Smart’s 2016 season (often relying on Bill Connolly’s flawed analysis to make his points), while expressing doubts that Smart was capable of doing the job while continuing to express disapproval with the process that ended with Smart as our coach.”

                  Is that better? Do you dispute that? Is that materially different from questioning Kirby Smart’s hire?

                  Nonetheless, here are couple more quotes of yours that weren’t hard to find that read like the writer has little confidence in the individual to whom they refer:

                  “It’s not his vision that should be questioned, merely his ability to execute his vision.”

                  “Let’s hope he shows us in the next couple of seasons that he knows what he’s doing.”

                  Do you want me to keep going or can we let it rest?

                  As for your view of the coaching search, every football coaching search is different based upon the current circumstances of the school, time, and place, etc. In some cases, the type of search for which you advocated is appropriate, and other times, one candidate rises above all others. Sometimes that candidate has a proven track record as a head coach, and other times he does not, but there is no evidence that one process or set of qualifications works better then others.

                  This topic has been discussed, but when presented with the above logic your insistence that the process was flawed because UGA did not do it the way you advocated wreaked of the “know-it-all” behavior you accused me of with your “smartest guy in the room” snark this morning. Yet, I have always tried to keep debate to the subject matter at hand rather than resort to personal attacks.

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                • By Gawd, you’ve cracked the case, Holmes! I was dissatisfied with aspects of Smart’s performance last season. Brilliant!

                  As for you keeping it going, I don’t think that’s a matter of what I want. Carry on and flail away.

                  Like

        • Uglydawg

          I hate to defend Bluto, because I deplore sycophants, but he’s very accurate on this..he blasted the process (which was a sham) and not the hire. He took a wait and see approach to CKS.
          Forgive me for this.

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          • Cojones

            Yeah, there’s some nit-pickin’ going on here that I can’t understand. I may disagree on the grading fine points, but have to admit that if I had made those predictions, you would never hear the end of it. I’d be braggin’ about how none of you had the guts to post why you picked W/L for the SEC.

            When some of you have the guts to hang it out there like the Senator did on those guesses, I’d like to see a contest at the same time next season.

            This blog gives us outlets for our football judgement egos that lets us all be the guessers to our heart’s content; that’s for each week’s Dawg game plus 9 other important games/wk at the Fun Office picks. The Senator lets his warts hang out there as well; stripped of pretention and looking like the rest of us jerks.

            Kudos, Senator.

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    • I gave myself an “D-” grade for the Gators prediction, and you’re bitching it wasn’t an “F”? Seriously? Would you have been okay with an “F+”?

      As for Georgia, I thought they’d be better, even win the division, but the degree to which they’d improve depended on the offensive line. Sorry if I don’t see eye-to-eye with you on the grade. I guess I’ll just have to live with your disappointment.

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      • I guess some people don’t know how to be respectful when they get invited to come into your home.

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      • gastr1

        I think you deserve a better grade on the Gators, because you mentioned that they could go south in a hurry with injuries…well, it was a bunch of suspensions and then one key injury, Del Rio. At least you correctly saw the ledge they were running on.

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        • Nashville West

          My thoughts exactly. The injury (and suspension) bug bit the gators hard and the results were as the Senator predicted. I’d give him a C on the gators prediction.

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      • Macallanlover

        Agree with your UGA assessment, expected they would win 10 games and the East and able to “show up” in Atlanta. But the degree of improvement was startling, and it is fair to say, we did more than show up on Saturday. The adjustment to be aggressive on defense and attack the perimeter with a mixed blend of weapons running and throwing on offense was exactly what many had been asking for. And it worked brilliantly.

        Now that we know Chaney is capable, and has weapons in the playbook to give us some diversity, I again ask: why didn’t we have a Plan B on November 11? We got throttled by their defense that day, and they were not that different than we had seen on film, just more amped by the situation and crowd. I appreciate the change, but wouldn’t most of that have worked three weeks ago? The game was competitive for over a half with us just beating our heads against the wall; might have changed the crowd mood and gotten the defense some rest if we had different arrows in our quiver…..every game.

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        • PTC DAWG

          Sometimes teams just get beat…did Our OC call for muffed pints and dropped TD passes on the plains?

          12-1, SEC CHAMPS and some are not happy…D, JD.

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          • Macallanlover

            And you think that is what I based my criticism on? Come back when you either improve reading comprehension or understand football.

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        • Bulldog Joe

          All part of the master plan to give a future SECC opponent a false sense of confidence.

          He baited the trap with rat poison and the rats ate it.

          Three-dimensional chess, baybee.

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      • Uglydawg

        You could get an Auburn coach to change your grades for you.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. 81Dog

    In August, I felt like UGA should win the East. We had lots of returning talent on offense (though the OL was a possible issue) and the D was loaded. The schedule looked favorable to me. The East seemed a dumpster fire; though I thought Florida would be decent, I didn’t think anyone else would be. ND didn’t scare me (Eason did pretty well on the road last year😀), MSU was at home and we have dominated AU and Tech. A good team, which I hoped we would be, should win the East and be respectable against Alabama in the SECC.

    Last year didn’t convince me either way about the staff, so that was still a question for me. The highs were good, the lows were not so good. Hope is not the same as confidence.

    The staff and team exceeded all my hopes. The ND game showed me we could take a punch. We made lots of mistakes and won on the road with a true freshman QB. The MSU game showed me we could handle prosperity. No mercy at ALL, no flicker of inconsistencies. UT showed me revenge is a dish best served cold. Florida showed me we could maintain focus. AU part 1 was a disappointment, but showed me we aren’t superhuman. UK and Tech proved we could bounce back from the disappointment, and Revenge At The Benz proved we have championship quality.

    This program has been all I could hope for this year and then some. Now, we will see how much more we can exceed expectations, but whatever happens, it’s been a great, impressive performance by staff and players.

    Like

    • PTC DAWG

      Well said…very well said.

      Like

    • DawgFlan

      nice post!

      Like

    • TXBaller

      Nice post.

      ***Still not enough credit and praise being given to Smart and this staff.

      Like

      • 81Dog

        How much more do you want than “great, impressive performance by staff and players” or “exceeded all my expectations”? The most hardened Kirby skeptic (which was never me, by the way) would have to admit Kirby and his staff have really done a great job here in year 2. If you were one of the people who felt, on the day that he was hired, that there was no doubt we’d be in this position, my hat is off to you for your foresight. I wanted him to succeed at UGA, I just didn’t know if he could or not. Last year had some points for him, but also some not in his favor. I hoped for improvement this year, especially in week to week consistency, and that question has been resoundingly answered.

        Everyone who didn’t assume Kirby would be a home run wasn’t a skeptic. Some of us have just been burned a little before, but I’m impressed with the job he’s done this season (and his staff), and with the way the players, especially the seniors, but also the young guys like Fromm, Swift, and big Andrew, have stepped up in the clutch all year. Full credit where it is richly deserved to all.

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      • 81Dog

        Sorry, didn’t mean to slight Smart or the staff. All have done a really first class job, along with the senior leadership on the team, and some contributions by some rock solid freshmen (Fromm, Swift, big Andrew). I couldn’t have asked for more at this point in the season than what we have. The week to week improvement and consistency of effort have been the most impressive thing to me. If you saw this coming when Kirby was hired, my hat is off to you for your foresight. I didn’t think he was a mistake, I just didn’t know if he was capable of getting it done. Last year was an incomplete, but this year I would have to say the question has been answered that he has what it takes.

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  4. I certainly didn’t expect 12-1, but damn it feels good. Misbehavior in the Florida football program finally caught up to them when they turned their misbehavior on the institution itself. I certainly didn’t see Tennessee fall off the cliff like they did.

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    • gastr1

      Clearly the players got tired of the shenanigans of that coaching staff, no?

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    • Biggus Rickus

      I thought it was possible, but I figured they’d gack up a couple of games on their way to winning the East. I wasn’t expecting much of either Tennessee or Florida, though I figured Florida was the only other possible contender for the East this year.

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  5. mdcgtp

    The UT and UF implosions in the same season have to be once in a lifetime events. I wonder how often mid season turnarounds like Mizzou happen.

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  6. Yurdle

    college football seasons are the best things in the world.

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  7. Bulldog Joe

    I thought Georgia would win a terrible East division until the moment Eason went down. At that moment, I feared another 8-5 struggle with a true freshman QB.

    Expected Georgia’s defense to be good, but not good enough to cover the flaws in the OL, receivers, and special teams.

    Biggest surprise was Fromm being the catalyst he turned out to be, especially in motivating the OL and giving the receivers opportunities to win their one-on-one matchups with high accurate throws to the back shoulder. Reminded me of Aaron Murray’s last two seasons. Give Jim Chaney and his staff credit for having him ready.

    Second biggest surprise was the improvement of our kickers and the play of the special teams. Hope we find a way to keep Kevin Butler academically eligible for seasons to come 🙂 .

    Going foward, I expect the big numbers being offered for head coaching moves to also be extended to our assistants as the team prepares for its playoff game(s).

    Kirby saw this same challenge at Alabama so I am confident he will handle it well and keep the staff and team focused.

    But will The Georgia Way handle it well?

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  8. Mayor

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Nobody saw the FU and UT collapses coming and those two easy wins plus a win in the SECCG got the Dawgs to 12 wins.

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  9. dawgfan

    Tennessee has to be the huge surprise this year. I would’ve never dreamed they would go a perfect 0-8 in the SEC East, fire Butch Jones before the end of the season, fire the AD they just hired, and then hire Fulmer as the new AD. That is one amazing season.

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    • Bulldog Joe

      I saw that coming when the new chancellor hired Fulmer as a ‘special assistant’ last spring.

      That’s a very large snake-in-the-grass you have there, Tennessee.

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    • Uglydawg

      It’s been a beautiful thing to watch!
      Vol fans are so dumb..they still don’t comprehend their situation.
      It’s as if they went to sleep on the train and got off at the wrong station and are still too groggy to realize where they are as opposed to where they think they are. Lovely!

      Like

    • And don’t forget that one of their few wins was against Tech, contributing to keeping the bugs from bowl eligibility. I really don’t know what more we could have asked for from the Vols this year!

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      • Bulldog Joe

        I agree, Reverend. The Vols stepped up and met expectations. Even lost a conference game on a Hail Mary. 😉

        However, in a Tennessee divorce such as this one, who gets to keep the trash can?

        #HTBteam121

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  10. PTC DAWG

    There is a reason they call it predicting…nobody here could have done a bit better trying to predict what 14 teams were going to do this season…

    Like

  11. Got Cowdog

    I was at 9-3 and winning the east, Got Sr. was 10-2 and the east. We both agreed the SEC would go to Bama over UGA. I said losses to ND, Missy State, and Auburn. GS said ND and Auburn. As far as the rest of the conference? Didn’t really care too much.
    However, I had not counted on being able to stand outside at twilight and revel in the glow of burning villages that the Dawgs would leave in their wake while plundering the SEC. I hedged my hope and the season far exceeded my expectations. If I trust my gut, Oklahoma is walking into a buzz saw and we will face the old rival from the east for all the marbles. It is a great time to be a Bulldog!

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  12. No Axe To Grind

    I was hoping for 9 wins and anything more would be gravy. Needless to say, I am ecstatic. A side note: If Kirby keeps up the pace, Lop Ears and BM need to raise him 1 million and extend his contract two years. If he keeps this up, he’s going to be hot property and LE and BM better keep their checkbook close.

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    • Cojones

      He is already realizing that much (over $900k) from achieving certain milestones this season. You probably mean another M or two just to bring him to third in the SEC.

      One note: Everyone has found out who Mel Tucker, our D Coach, is and we need to show him most of our love for another year to be tacked on before he leaves us for greener pastures (Phil has interviewed him for the UT job). He has certainly earned it by his career path and experience. Is it greed to want him for at least a year of cheering for a great D as well as a great O? I don’t feel the safety net with Kirby like I should because he has to run the entire show and no one could accomplish what Tucker has done this year, so let’s get him for one more year, at least.

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      • Biggus Rickus

        I don’t think he’ll take the Tennessee job if they offer it. I expect a lesson he could and probably will take from Smart is to wait for better positions to open up.

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  13. My breakdown of Georgia was an 11-1 regular season, with a loss to Tennessee, and then losing to Bama in the SEC Championship. Glad I was wrong on those 2 losses. Though, I didn’t think Auburn stood a chance. I didn’t expect Stidham to pan out.

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