Who’s gonna the win the SEC? Beats us.

Honestly, if this doesn’t summarize the current state of the SEC, I don’t know what does.

According to voters in the 69th annual AL.com/Birmingham News SEC Preseason Football Report — the league’s 14 football information directors — Auburn and Georgia are the choices to win their respective divisions and meet in the Dec. 5 SEC Championship Game.

Auburn received three first place votes and three second-place finishes from the seven Western Division football information directors to top its division with 33 points, barely edging Alabama, which received three first-place votes, two second-place votes and one third-place finish for 32 points.

Georgia had an easier path in the East, gathering six first-place votes for 36 points. Missouri was second with one first-place vote, four seconds and one fifth for 28 points.

A school’s football information director could not vote for his school in the polls.

Just how good Auburn and Georgia turn out to be will be front and center Nov. 14 when the Tigers host the Dawgs in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

In the overall poll, just to make things interesting, Alabama was voted No. 1. With all 14 football information directors participating, the Crimson Tide received nine first-place votes, three seconds and one third for a total of 164 points.

Auburn, with three firsts, six seconds, two thirds, one fourth and one eighth-place vote, was runner-up with 149 points. Georgia was third with 145 points with its one first-place vote, three seconds, six thirds and three fourths.

In other words, the conference SIDs believe the SEC’s best team won’t make an appearance in the conference championship game.  Clear as mud.

These folks aren’t any more certain than we are.  What are the odds Saban mocks that a bit at SEC Media Days?

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Filed under SEC Football

Not for love or money

Chip Towers tells a heartwarming story about Trent Thompson’s recruitment.

As recruits go, they don’t come any more highly recommended than Trent Thompson.

Not only did he come to Georgia rated as a consensus five-star prospect, but he also achieved the No. 1 overall spot in 247Sports.com’s composite rankings, which take into account the evaluations of all the major recruiting outlets.

All this kind of slipped up on Bridgette Flewellen, Thompson’s mother. Obviously she knew her middle child was big and good in football. But she didn’t really understand the depth and scope of it until they were in the full throes of the recruiting frenzy.

“I came home and started seeing stacks of mail,” Flewellen said. “The next day, another stack of mail. I’m like, ‘this is getting serious!’ All the sudden I’ve got five or six bags full of mail. Then they started calling, wanting him to come look at this school and that one.’

“I was like, ‘my baby?’ All I could do was look up and say ‘thank you, Lord.’ This is my baby!”

The interesting part of it is that it mostly was for naught. Thompson’s recruitment really was over before it started.

Thompson secretly accepted the first offer he got. It was from Georgia, and it came during their junior day during 2014.

“It was my first offer, the first school I visited, the first coach that came down to meet me and tell me they wanted me at Georgia,” Thompson said. “So I made my mind up I was going there.”

Not that he was going to let that get in the way of this impending adventure. Neither Thompson nor anyone in his family had ever been very far away from Albany. So Thompson readily accepted invitations for official visits to Auburn, Florida, Florida State and USC.

He also went to San Antonio, Texas, for the U.S. Army All-American Game. For that one, his mom went along. It happened to be the first plane flight of her life.

“She was squeezing my leg the whole time,” Thompson tattled.

Flewellen laughed. “I was talking real loud when I got off. I couldn’t hear anything!”

Like I said, that’s sweet.  You can’t help but share in Flewellen’s excitement there… until you step back and reflect on the NCAA’s position that a kid who’s never really been far from home with a mom who’s never flown on an airplane before are perfectly capable all on their lonesome of weighing the ins and outs of a national letter of intent.

If Trent Thompson were as skilled at playing baseball as he is at football, we wouldn’t be hearing this charming tale, or at least that wouldn’t be the entire story.  Because in preparing for the MLB draft, he would have hired someone to explain the consequences of the most important decision of his young life to him.  And nobody would find that inappropriate.

That the NCAA thinks that and, more importantly, is willing to punish a kid who might think about hiring someone to help him with understanding a contract is sad.  Honestly, given that Thompson has a learning disability that makes reading difficult, it borders on the outrageous.

But at least they love Mark Richt.  That makes it all right.

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Filed under The NCAA

UT’s “switch to the Swoosh”

I knew that Tennessee is in the process of abandoning its long-held “Lady Vols” label for its women’s sports teams except basketball.  I didn’t know the decision was tied in as part of the process of changing suppliers from Adidas to Nike.

Tennessee’s path to Nike hasn’t been entirely smooth, though.

The university’s decision, announced in November, to unify all sports except for women’s basketball with the Power T logo and “Volunteers” name as part of the university’s rebranding structure initially didn’t create much of a backlash, but it’s received more attention and more criticism the past six months.

The response to the perceived elimination of the Lady Vols logo and brand has included some informal protests, petitions to state representatives in Nashville and the creation of websites and social media accounts aimed at “saving the Lady Vols.”

Hart has been the target of most of the criticism, though the decision wasn’t solely his.

“I’ve never, ever — my entire career — been offended by people’s opinions,” he said during an interview with “The Nation,” a statewide Vol Network show, in late February. “It’s part of it. When you make tough decisions, then you’ll get that type of reaction, because everyone’s not going to be in agreement with those decisions.”

In its announcement of the decision, Tennessee cited an internal audit, done with consultation from Nike representation, that determined the Power T logo was the university’s primary mark.

This isn’t meant as a knock on the Vols in particular.  College athletics these days are, sadly, rife with similar examples of programs choosing money over tradition. (Although, strangely enough, UT is taking a pay cut in the move to Nike.)  In fact, you could say that choice will be left as the only meaningful tradition remaining.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, It's Just Bidness

The Georgia Way versus The SEC Way?

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say there’s some daylight between Jere Morehead’s continuing desire for a conference-wide drug testing policy

“We have vigorously argued that we should all be operating under the same standards in the Southeastern Conference,” Morehead said. “I have articulated that view to the new commissioner. I think it’s important that we develop some conference-wide standards and rules, just as we did on the transfer matter that I sponsored related to the case involving domestic violence.”

… Morehead said UGA’s “high standard and high expectation” for its athletes serves the school well. He said no coach has ever raised the issue of wanting to change it in any meeting with him.

“I don’t think it any way has negatively affected our performance,” Morehead said. “I think it’s been a positive and I would hope and expect that our alumni and our supporters want us to maintain those highs standards.”

… and Mark Richt’s.

“I think if everybody could come up with something that made sense for the student-athlete and made it the same across the board, I’d be fine with that,” Richt said.

(Hint:  Turn on your sarcasm detector before digesting “If I didn’t know any better”.)

One thing I’ve always been curious to know is what Mark Richt really thought when he was told the athletic department was going to drug test his players upon their immediate return from spring break.  I’m guessing it wasn’t UGA’s “high standard and high expectation” for its athletes.  At least not in the way Morehead offers it.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football

Adding up the Golden Nugget numbers

So, based on who’s favored and who’s not, how would those Golden Nugget lines on SEC teams play out?  al.com has your answers.  (Order based on favored-underdog-toss up.)

  • Alabama:  8-0-1
  • Georgia:  4-0-2
  • LSU:  7-1-1
  • Missouri:  5-2
  • Auburn:  5-3-1
  • Ole Miss:  4-2-1
  • Tennessee:  4-2-1
  • Arkansas:  4-4
  • Texas A&M:  3-5
  • South Carolina:  1-5
  • Vanderbilt:  0-1
  • Kentucky 0-2
  • Mississippi State:  0-6
  • Florida:  0-7

First impression?  Vegas is a lot less worried about this not being the Year of the Quarterback than we are.

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Filed under SEC Football, What's Bet In Vegas Stays In Vegas

Nick Saban doesn’t have time for this “decline of the SEC West” shit.

You can tell he’s getting his condescension ready for the next ESPN talking head who dares raise the subject, can’t you?

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules, SEC Football

“It’s officially in the system.”

And so, one more step on the road to marginalizing the regular season is taken.

A formal proposal for the deregulation of conference championship games, which would allow the Big 12 to have a championship game as early as 2016, was advanced to the NCAA Council this week and is expected to be approved in January, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN.com.

Before you chide me for having a case of the vapors about it, consider this:  the Big 12, a ten-school conference which plays a round robin conference schedule – the best way to decide a conference champion, in my humble opinion – is going to tack on a conference championship game.  Why?

One day, guys like Bowlsby are going to wake up and wonder where all the interest in the college football regular season went.  And then they’ll go out and add another round to the national playoffs.  More brackets!

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UPDATE:  If you’re having trouble answering my question – and I’m not sure why you would – let Oklahoma President David Boren fill in the blanks for you.

“…When we look at football playoffs and our conference is bumping up against conferences with 12 or 14 members, I believe that we are psychologically disadvantaged because we are a smaller conference.”  [Emphasis added.]

“Psychologically disadvantaged”.  Jeebus, these guys are too much.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Big 12 Football, The NCAA