Category Archives: SEC Football

Changing of the guard

So, the dust has settled, and the SEC has five new head coaches:  Chad Morris at Arkansas, Dan Mullen at Florida, Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State, Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee and Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M.

This piece on Morris and his brand of offense got me to thinking (again) about the topic of why there’s been so much coaching turnover in the conference in the past three seasons and what athletic directors are hoping for with the changes they’ve made.

Saban, of course, is my response to the first question.  As for the second, that’s a bit more convoluted to winnow out.  Start with this:  what’s the background for the current group of SEC coaches?

SEC WEST

  • Alabama:  Saban, former defensive coordinator
  • Arkansas:  Morris, former offensive coodinator
  • Auburn:  Malzahn, former offensive coordinator
  • LSU:  Orgeron, former defensive line coach
  • Mississippi State:  Moorhead, former offensive coordinator
  • Ole Miss:  Luke, former offensive line coach
  • Texas A&M:  Fisher, former (Saban)  offensive coordinator

SEC EAST

  • Florida:  Mullen, former offensive coordinator
  • Georgia:  Smart, former (Saban) defensive coordinator
  • Kentucky:  Stoops, former defensive coordinator
  • Missouri:  Odom, former defensive coordinator
  • South Carolina:  Muschamp, former (Saban) defensive coordinator
  • Tennessee:  Pruitt, former (Saban) defensive coordinator
  • Vanderbilt: Mason, former defensive coordinator

The first thing that jumps out at you there is that schools in the East are more oriented towards defensive guys, particularly former Saban assistants, running their programs than are their Western peers.  In the vast scheme of things, I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes.  Since 2010, Saban’s last mediocre season (at least by Saban’s standards), Alabama’s lost eight times to SEC West teams and once to an East program.  Of those nine, two were to LSU; the rest were to teams that were coached by offensive-minded head coaches.

Even within that overall framework, though, there are some interesting individual cases.  Arkansas and Florida in general favor offensive coaches.  Missouri may have a former defensive coordinator calling the shots, but the Tigers have been much better on the other side of the ball.

If this is a case of more than one way to skin the Saban, it should be interesting to see which way, if any, has more staying power, and, in turn, if that leads to more imitation in hopes of similar results, although I can’t help but wonder if we’ve already seen the first example of that in Kirby Smart’s success and Tennessee’s hire of Pruitt.

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To everything…

… churn, churn, churn.

I wonder how many of those 43 are represented by Jimmy Sexton.  He owes Saban a commission.

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules, SEC Football

Today, in around the SEC

The coaching chairs continue to swirl, among other developments:

  • UCF has hired Mizzou’s Josh Heupel as its next coach.  As someone who was impressed with the job Heupel did this season, that’s a pretty good hire in my mind and it will be interesting to see which way Missouri goes in trying to keep the conference’s top offense going.  UCF also tabbed Randy Shannon as the new DC.
  • South Carolina is expected to dump Kurt Roper as its offensive coordinator, per Dan Wolken.  Kind of surprising in that Boom used to be Roper’s biggest fan.  Is Brian McClendon about to get a bump, or could Muschamp do something crazier, like bring in Hugh Freeze?
  • It sounds like Phil Fulmer has accepted reality and recognized that the situation in Knoxville is too toxic for an established coach.  The search appears to have focused on Saban assistants — how creative! — Kevin Steele and Tee Martin.  Good luck with that, Vols.
  • Meanwhile, after being rebuffed by Gus Malzahn, Arkansas looks to be staying sane by going after Chad Morris, who is an excellent offensive mind, has head coaching experience and, perhaps most significantly, good ties to Texas recruiting.
  • Ole Miss doesn’t need a head coach, but may very well need bodies after the school announced that it will allow its players to speak to any other program they want in considering a transfer.  Jim Harbaugh appears eager to take Ole Miss up on its generous offer.  (I can’t wait to hear Jim Delany talk about SEC players again.)

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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?

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Filed under GTP Stuff, SEC Football

Today, in wut?

Words fail me.

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Sometimes, it really does mean more.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football

The SECCG’s Freudian slip

This is amusing.

By the time Georgia freshman tailback D’Andre Swift broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown run for a 28-7 advantage, the game seemed so far out of reach that the scoreboard operator at Mercedes-Benz Stadium prematurely posted a message congratulating the Bulldogs for winning the SEC championship — with 10:34 left to play in the game.

Then again, maybe the conference was just sending a message to the officials to back off.

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