Chaos, I tells ‘ya.

If the Alabama-LSU rematch for the BCS title was the spark that lit the fuse to end the old postseason order and replace it with the current four-team college football playoff format, what do you think this would lead to?

Suppose the committee did put the two Tigers plus the Tide and Seminoles in ahead of, say, a one-loss Washington or Michigan or TCU. This sort of thing is why we have the playoff in the first place. Two SEC teams making the BCS National Championship Game in 2011 immediately preceded the creation of the new system. The rest of the power conferences thought enough was enough and finally decided to expand the championship system. (Ironically, the SEC had been pushing for a four-team arrangement for years by then.)

If the majority of the power conferences get left out this year, there will be tremendous pressure to Do Something About It. This could go anywhere from tweaking the committee guidance to more heavily favor conference championships to possibly setting a date to expand the bracket. Only the situation of all four playoff teams coming from just two conferences could do that because the other three P5 leagues have voice and influence in a way that the G5 conferences do not. That’s why I put this scenario far ahead on the nightmare scale than Houston—even an undefeated Houston—not making the playoff.

If you’re one to root for chaos, then your best bet is pulling for the actual four best teams to be Alabama, Clemson, FSU, and LSU in some order. The committee will either have to break its own rules to avoid putting all four in or follow its rules and potentially set fire to the whole system. The Big 12 has been having an existential crisis ever since its one-loss champion(s) failed to make the 2014 bracket. Imagine what could happen if the Final Four only came from two leagues.

It’s an eight-team playoff proponent’s wet dream.

10 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

If you’re Mark Bradley, it’s not too early to start setting up Kirby Smart.

You gotta love this Trump-esque conclusion about Georgia’s 2016 expectations:

Back to Georgia: Even with a new coach, this cannot be seen as a classic Rebuilding Season. There’s too much talent on hand, and the schedule is too inviting. Maybe that’s why Kirby Smart seems wrapped extra tight — if he doesn’t break double figures in Year 1, it will be viewed in some circles (Las Vegas included) as a disappointment.

Mind you, Bradley’s not saying he’d be disappointed (although he’s picking Georgia to win 10 games in the regular season), just that “some circles” would be disappointed.

Maybe one day Bradley will concede that Smart’s almost as good a head coach as the genius… er, sorry… meant to say he’ll note in some circles that’s the perception.

7 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

First thoughts on the opener

A couple of early outsider takes on Georgia’s opener:

First, Herbstreit thinks a running back will be a big key, which sounds good, until it turns out the back he’s referring to is North Carolina’s Elijah Hood.  He’s picking the Heels to win.

Over at Statistically Speaking, Matt Melton leans the other way.

Georgia -2.5 North Carolina @Atlanta
Believe it or not, these two southern foes separated by just one state have not faced each other since clashing in the Gator Bowl following the 1971 season. North Carolina will look to build on their Coastal Division title last season which saw them climb as eighth in the AP Poll and finish ranked for the first time since 1997. For Larry Fedora, the season cannot start soon enough, as he has certainly not won the offseason with his condescending comments to a female reporter and his curious defense of Tim Beckman’s presence on the coaching staff (he has since resigned). For Georgia, the Bulldogs will begin the season with a head coach other than Mark Richt for the first time since 2000. Former Nick Saban assistant Kirby Smart has taken the reigns and will look to lead Georgia to their first SEC title since 2005. While the Tar Heels finished with the second highest Net YPP (my preferred rating system) in the ACC last season, those numbers were accumulated against an easy schedule. No other team in the Coastal boasted a positive Net YPP and the Tar Heels drew NC State (their permanent rival) and Wake Forest in their cross-division games. NC State ranked sixth in the ACC in Net YPP, but Wake Forest was dead last in the conference. Meanwhile, based on Net YPP in the SEC, Georgia was arguably the best team in the SEC East despite their disappointing season. You may remember North Carolina and their improved defense were last seen allowing a season’s worth of rushing yards to Baylor in Art Briles’ final game as coach. Of course, Georgia does not run the same type of offense as Baylor, but the Dawgs do have two of the country’s best running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Chubb and Michel do have some injury concerns, but my guess is one or both will see action in this game. Even if they do not, Georgia has other talented backs to carry the rock. North Carolina has a checkered history against non-conference BCS/Power 5 foes under Fedora, going 2-6 straight up and just 3-5 ATS. While some of those losses have come to good teams, like South Carolina in 2013, they have also dropped games to Rutgers and last year’s version of South Carolina. Clemson and Florida State (and maybe Louisville) are the only teams I currently trust in the ACC/SEC clashes. Take the Dawgs to cover this small number.

Picking up on the next to last sentence there, if I can go as briefly superficial as Herbstreit does for a moment, I have a hard time picking the ACC to go 3-0 against the SEC opening weekend — and I don’t see either Clemson or FSU losing their games.

Obviously, I’ll have more on Georgia’s opener as we get closer to Saturday.

25 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Who ‘ya gonna call?

Well, if you’re Art Briles and you want to coach again, I guess there’s only one place to turn.

When Baylor fired Art Briles, the school’s lawyers originally put in two stipulations in the proposed buyout.

No. 1, per the agreement Briles was to sign, he would not coach at another Texas school.

No. 2, per the agreement Briles was to sign, he would not coach at another Big 12 school.

When Briles saw that in the fine print an already ugly divorce turned nastier. That’s when he took steps toward filing a lawsuit against his employer.

Baylor, of course, backed down from those restrictions and the lawsuit was dropped. Briles, who lives in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, near Austin, has hired a powerful agent — Jimmy Sexton — with eyes on landing a good job for next season.

I don’t know if that’ll work.  But if the threat of Briles does nothing more than gain a few more concessions for another of Sexton’s clients, Jimmy will count it as time well spent.

5 Comments

Filed under Jimmy Sexton is the Nick Saban of agents and is Nick Saban's agent

Again, with the little details

Compare this blast from the past from Collin Barber

“We have coach (John) Lilly who does Pride — the punt team — but it would be nice to have …a guy that knows about punting and kicking and not just coverage in what we’re doing,” said Barber, who still at times turns to personal kicking coach Marc Nolan in Roswell. “It would be great to have a specific coach to do the basic drills of kicking and punting.”

… with Coach Smart’s comments yesterday about Kevin Butler’s work:

“I think it’s the greatest asset a first-year coach could have, especially with somebody like me who really has not dealt on the psychological side of kickers. Who better to have than one of the greatest ever to kick in the game.”

By itself, that may not be much, but to paraphrase Everett Dirksen, a detail here, a detail there, pretty soon you’re talking real improvement.

5 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Not your regular SEC preseason predictions, 2016 edition

It’s time to roll them out again.  After a few years doing this, I’m in a groove, but as a reminder to those of you who haven’t read my previous excursions, here are the ground rules:

The format for my picks, in case you haven’t tuned into this broadcast before, hasn’t changed.

Rather than give you my predicted records, I’ll list the schools in the order they finished in the conference last year, look at areas of potential improvement and decline and assess in what direction I expect each to go by comparison to 2010.

In other words, pure seat of the pants BS.

Based on that, the teams are listed in the order of their 2014 conference order of finish.  Remember that, before you start freaking out over where a school shows up in this post.

Update 2014 to 2015 and we’re good.  With that in mind, here goes nothing.

SEC WEST

ALABAMA (14-1, 7-1)

  • Pros:  Unparalleled team depth; Nick Saban and The Process; best defensive front seven in the country; receiving corps; great advanced stats
  • Cons:  Depth in the secondary; inexperience at quarterback; games against three highest ranked conference opponents on the road
  • Outlook:  I’m really having to stretch to pick holes.  It’s hard to find many flaws with this team.  It’ll take some freaky bad luck for ‘Bama to lose two games this season.

MISSISSIPPI (10-3, 6-2)

  • Pros:  Favorable advanced stats; coaching stability; quarterback; linebackers
  • Cons:  Significant losses to NFL; running back; offensive line; turmoil surrounding program; tough early schedule
  • Outlook: Lots of talent and lots of controversy that threatens to distract.  With that difficult early run of games, if things don’t break right, I could see this team let things get away from it, especially when you consider the loss of top-flight talent on defense.  For the moment, I’ll stick with nine wins.

LSU (9-3, 5-3)

  • Pros:  More talent than any team in the conference outside of Alabama; home game against Alabama; upgrade at defensive coordinator; running backs; offensive line; secondary
  • Cons:  Scheme change on defense; quarterback; offensive coordinator
  • Outlook:  It’s not often that I have something as a plus and a minus, but the hiring of Dave Aranda qualifies.  I have little doubt he’s a major upgrade over Kevin Steele, but he’s moving LSU from a base 4-3 to a base 3-4 and I feel like there will be some growing pains as they sort out the inevitable personnel issues that come with that.  Still, this should be at worst the second-best team in the West.  If they get improvement at quarterback, the Tigers could exceed that.

ARKANSAS (8-5, 5-3)

  • Pros:  Offensive line; improving defense
  • Cons:  Secondary; special teams; last seven games on schedule against SEC opponents
  • Outlook:  This team is the poster boy for steady improvement.  Can they continue to build on that?  Arkansas plays in a tough neighborhood.  The Hogs look like an eight-win team that goes .500 in the conference to me.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-4, 4-4)

  • Pros:  Coaching stability;  favorable cross-divisional schedule; wide receivers
  • Cons:  Running backs; offensive line; quarterback
  • Outlook:  I don’t see how you can look at the Bulldogs post-Prescott and not think they’re in reset mode.  I’m thinking eight wins, tops.

TEXAS A & M (8-5, 4-4)

  • Pros:  Great recruiting; second year under John Chavis; defensive line; receivers
  • Cons:  New offensive coordinator; turnover at quarterback; linebackers; tough strength of schedule
  • Outlook:  Last year I said Chavis was a great hire, but warned Rome wasn’t built overnight.  The defense still has some holes, but should be improved.  Not sure how Mazzone fits with what TAMU does, though.  Eight or nine wins seems right.

AUBURN (7-6, 2-6)

  • Pros:  Solid recruiting; healthy Carl Lawson; offensive line; special teams
  • Cons:  Brutal schedule; third defensive coordinator in three years; quarterback; wide receivers; linebackers
  • Outlook:  This is the year the “Auburn plays its best when it’s under the radar” meme gets its stress test.  Given the schedule, I’m not sure it survives.  From where I sit, I have a hard time seeing any improvement in the record.

 

SEC EAST

FLORIDA (10-4, 7-1)

  • Pros:  Defense; coaching stability
  • Cons:  Offensive line; quarterback; running back, receivers; schedule with eight conference games in a row
  • Outlook:  Jim McElwain did a heckuva job in his first year.  Can he keep it going?  There are depth issues on offense that concern me; it’s a team that could go south in a hurry with a few key injuries.  Even if Florida’s health doesn’t suffer, it’s hard to see ten wins again.  That defense and a weak East should keep the Gators in contention, though.

TENNESSEE (9-4, 5-3)

  • Pros:  Quarterback; upgrade at defensive coordinator; most returning experience in the conference; running back; special teams
  • Cons:  Offensive line; schedule; mental outlook
  • Outlook:    The Vols have improved their talent base steadily under Jones, and their record has followed.  Shoop is the best offseason hire in the SEC.  In the end, he’s why I think you have to pick Tennessee to win the East.  Vols win ten in the regular season and do no worse than lose two conference games.

GEORGIA (10-3, 5-3)

  • Pros:  Running back; tight ends; secondary; easy coaching transition on defense; upgrade at offensive coordinator and offensive line coach; softest schedule in the East; solid recruiting
  • Cons: Quarterback; experience and depth of defensive front seven; wide receiver depth; coaching turnover; special teams
  • Outlook:  After the quietest 10-win season in major conference history, exit Mark Richt and enter Kirby Smart.  There’s talent, but it’s not spread out evenly.  The schedule eases significantly in the second-half of the season, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a modest start followed by a win streak to close out the season.  I’ve waffled between nine and ten wins, but I think I’ll take nine at this point.

KENTUCKY (5-7, 2-6)

  • Pros:  Running backs; offensive line; coaching stability
  • Cons:  Defensive front seven; special teams; schedule
  • Outlook:  The only team in the conference whose 2015 record was identical to 2014’s.  I like UK to make it three years in a row.

VANDERBILT (4-8, 2-6)

  • Pros:  Linebackers; softer schedule than most teams in the division; Ralph Webb
  • Cons:  Offense; special teams
  • Outlook:  Mason is a top notch defensive coordinator and it showed last season.  The Commodores have an SEC-quality defense.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Vandy’s offense.  That being said, Vanderbilt’s saving grace is that it doesn’t appear to be the worst team in the division.  Bowl eligibility may be a stretch, but I can see the ‘Dores squeezing out one more win in 2016.

MISSOURI (5-7, 1-7)

  • Pros:  Defensive line
  • Cons:  Offense; new coaching staff
  • Outlook: Things sure went south in a hurry last season, didn’t they?  It’s hard to see how the offense can be fixed quickly, especially with a new staff.  Bowl eligible at best.

SOUTH CAROLINA (3-9, 1-7)

  • Pros:  New energy on the coaching staff; offensive line
  • Cons:  Lack of talent on both sides of the ball; new staff
  • Outlook:  The HBC didn’t do Boom any favors in the personnel department, that’s for certain.  Having a staff that’s more focused is a plus, but the SEC is a Jimmies and Joes conference and there isn’t enough focus in the world to offset the disadvantage Muschamp faces.  He’ll win more games than he’ll get thrown out of, but that’s about it.

 

8 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

The next best thing to a rabbit’s foot

Auburn’s larded up its starting offensive roster.

12 Comments

Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands