Hello folks, it's been a couple weeks. Two weeks ago was cupcake Saturday, and it was hard to get motivated in a week where the game of the week would have been Vanderbilt vs Tennessee, and of course last week was Thanksgiving, and the loss of my best friend, my old 18 year old dog had my mind on other things.
I'm gonna bypass the Next Best 3 this week, simply because there's not a whole lot of action this week, and I think it'd be better to review the regular season.
Kentucky- It was a very rough year for Kentucky. They did manage to beat potential BCS buster, Kent State early in the season, but their only other win was against an FCS school, and one of the losses was against the much smaller in state school of Western Kentucky. At no point during the season did Kentucky know who their best QB was. Smith and Whitlow split time at the position. Both are true freshmen, and both were rather mediocre at best. Their SEC schedule proved to be winless for them, and as a result, their coach, Joker Phillips was fired, and the fans in Lexington are thankful that college basketball season has started.
Auburn- Just two years removed from winning the BCS National Championship, Auburn found themselves finishing the season at 3-9 with an 0-8 conference record, and their coach, gene Chizic was fired. They got absolutely zero production from any of their QBs. Lutzenkirken, their second leading receiver failed to gain 200 yards on the season. They have talent in the running game, but their passing offense was historically bad. And things don't look to be getting brighter anytime soon. With Nick Saban at Alabama, it's hard for Auburn to lure in the best in state recruits, and they are currently being investigated by the NCAA. Dark days at Auburn.
Arkansas- Wasted talent is the best phrase to describe the Razorbacks this season. They had one of the best QBs in the SEC with Tyler Wilson, 3 solid running backs in Johnson, Wingo and Davis, a stud receiver by the name of Cobi Hamilton and a talented, but injury plagued tight end in Chris Gregg. The season was rough for Arky before it even started when their coach, Bobby Petrino was caught doing something he wasn't supposed to which lead to his firing, and journeyman coach, John L Smith thrown into the position of head coach for a preseason top 10 team. Arky lost in Little Rock to UL Monroe, and the team never really recovered. Their only wins in the conference were against Auburn, and Kentucky, the only two teams that didn't win a conference game this year. This season was a disaster for the Razorbacks as they finished 4-8 and failed to make a bowl game.
Tennessee- Well, the season started off good enough with a nice win over a solid ACC team in NC State, but that was the only real bright spot on the schedule for the Volunteers. Tyler Bray had a good season, and his two main receiving threats in Hunter and Patterson produced nicely, but they didn't have much in terms of a running game, despite having the most experienced o-line in the conference, and their defense was virtually non existent. They became the first SEC team to start conference play 0-5 since Vanderbilt did it a few years ago. They managed to keep things close against Georgia and South Carolina, but ultimately, their only conference win came against Kentucky on the last game of the season, and the losses included a blowout loss to Vanderbilt. As expected, Coach Dooley was shown the door.
Missouri- Their first year in the SEC didn't go quite as planned. Their SEC schedule got off to a rough start as UGA doubled them up at home, and they never really recovered. Early season trash talk from Sheldon Richardson and some rather lame viral videos made Mizzou a target for the rest of the conference, and when James Franklin went down, so did their season. Their only conference wins were against Tennessee in OT and the helpless Kentucky squad. After the Tennessee win, all they needed to do to make a bowl game was beat Syracuse, and they failed to do that, and they finished the season at 5-7 and will be watching the bowl season at home. But things aren't so bad in Columbia. They are the first team on the list that hasn't fired their coach, and it's likely they will get some payback during basketball season.
Ole Miss- A 6-6 season for most teams is a disappointment, but for Ole Miss, it was a huge step in the right direction. After last season's 3-9 efffort with 0 wins in conference play, finishing 6-6 and winning 3 conference games along the way, and making a bowl game seemed pretty far fetched before the season. Two of the conference wins might have came against Auburn and Arkansas, but they also managed to blowout their biggest rival in Mississippi State to close out the season. New coach, Hugh Freeze has got the Rebels going in the right direction. Sophomore, junior college transfer, Bo Wallace had a very nice first year in the SEC, and most of his top weapons are underclassmen as well. For the first time since Javan Snead's sophomore season, things are looking good in Oxford. They need some work on defense, but it is a young squad that figures to improve with time. They are the first team on the list that I would call having had a successful season, and the first on the list to make a bowl game.
Mississippi State- The Bulldogs of the west rode an easy schedule to a 7-0 start, which lead to a lot of midseason hype surrounding them, they peaked at 11th in the rankings, and some were picking them to beat Bama. But when the schedule got tough, Miss State was brought down to earth a bit with 3 consecutive blowout losses to Bama, Texas A&M and LSU, then they rebounded to beat Arky before getting blown out by Ole Miss. But despite the late season disappointment, Coach Mullen does have the team headed in the right direction. 8-4 might not sound like much, but is an improvement over last season and they finally have a QB who can throw the ball in Tyler Russell. Though this season was a step forward, the Bulldogs might have a bit of rebuilding to do next season as most of their top weapons will be either graduating or going pro. It could have been better, but 8-4 is a great season for Mississippi State.
Vanderbilt- Vanderbilt is pretty much the opposite story of Miss State. The season got off to a rough start, starting 2-4 with a tough schedule that included a close loss to South Carolina, a blowout loss against Georgia and losses to Northwestern and Florida. But after the rough start, vandy ran the table to finish the season 8-4 with a 5-3 record in the conference. I'm still pretty young, but in my life, I can only recall Vandy making a bowl game twice, and both times they were 6-6 when they went, and I don't remember them ever having a winning record in the conference. 8 wins at Vanderbilt is unheard of. This season is also important because Zach Stacey broke the school record for career rushing yards. Coach Franklin has done a great job with the long time laughing stock of the SEC. Back to back bowl appearences for the first time in my life time. Hats off to the team and the kids for their great season. As a UGA fan, I hope this upward swing for Vandy continues.
Texas A&M- Excellent season for the Aggies in their first year in the SEC. Things got off to a bit of a rough start as they gave up a late lead to Florida at home to start the season 0-1, but after that, things started looking a whole lot better. In fact, their only other loss was a close one to LSU. I think you've all heard about that stud QB in College Station by the name of Johnny manziel, who is considered to be the favorite to win the Heisman, which would make him the first freshman to ever win the award and head coach, Kevin Sumlin is a strong candidate for coach of the year. It was an incredible rebound year for the Aggies, who last season blew numerous large second half leads to finish 6-6. This season, they came and finished 10-2 and are the only team to have beaten Nick Saban's Crimson Tide this season. Their bid for playing in the conference championship game was cut a bit short, but nonetheless, A&M figures to be selected into one of the high ranking non BCS Bowls, and they made a very strong impression their first year in the SEC, and they did it with class.
LSU- For most teams, finishing the regular season 10-2 would be a great year, but after last season's impressive regular season and rematch loss to Bama in the title game, this was national championship or bust. Mettenberger shined at times, but for the most part wasn't a huge improvement over the Lee-Jefferson tandem of last season. They had some impressive wins against South Carolina and Texas A&M, but close losses to Florida and Bama derailed their season, and they will fail to play in a BCS bowl. The future does look bright in Death Valley as they had a strong recruiting class last year and another one this year, but all in all, I'd have to call this season a disappointment for the Bayou bengals.
South Carolina- It was an up and down season for the Gamecocks. The ups include being the only team to beat Georgia so far this season, and doing it in blowout fashion and beating their biggest rival in Clemson despite Connor Shaw being hurt. The downs included losing a close one to LSU in Death Valley and getting blown out in the swamp by Florida in back to back weeks to squander their chances of playing in the SEC title game. 10-2 is a good season for South Carolina and the old ball coach has proven to be a good hire, since he has brought the program from obscurity to being a ranked team most every year, and as usual, he has given the Gamecocks' biggest conference rival, georgia fits in his time there. But when talking about South Carolina's season, the first thing that will pop into most people's mind is the terrible injury suffered by star running back Marcus Lattimore. Back to back seasons he's suffered a season ending blow, and I would like to wish the kid a full recovery and I hope he bounces back strong whenever he is cleared to play again.
Florida- A lot of people would argue and it's tough to make an argument against Florida being the most deserving SEC team to go to the National Title game. They beat Texas A&M. They beat LSU. They blewout South Carolina and they beat Florida State. And their only loss was to the current third ranked Georgia. It's hard to figure how a team with such a tough schedule that finishes 11-1 with only 1 undefeated team in the country not going to the national championship game. But I guess conference championships are there for a reason. A lot of the times, the football wasn't pretty for Florida. Throughout the season, they struggled to find their footing on the offensive side of the ball. They definitely weren't winning any eye test contests, but their defense came up huge all season, even in their loss to UGA, where the offense turned the ball over 6 times, their defense kept them in the game. Coach Muschamp has brought the gators back to life. The rebuilding is over in Gainesville, and the gators seem to be a national power house again. This georgia fan would like to congratulate them on a great season, but I'm glad their misery is our gain.
SEC Championship Game
The game will be played in the Georgia Dome this Saturday afternoon, and if you want a ticket, the nosebleeds are going for 320 dollars, with good seats going for as high as 5000 resell, and the SEC and the Georgia Dome have warned fans about counterfit tickets circulating. So this is the most hyped SEC Championship game in a while, and the stands will be packed full, half red, half crimson.
Both Georgia and Alabama come into this game with one loss, and both know that whoever wins this game will win a date with Notre Dame in the National Championship Game while the loser will likely have to settle for the Cotton Bowl at best. Both teams have had a great season. Both teams are solid on both sides of the ball and both teams know that this game won't be easy. I won't get into the importance of this game, because the title of the game speaks for itself. Let's just get into the game.
While the game is in Atlanta and UGA will have the shorter drive, it will hardly be a case of homefield advantage for the Bulldogs. Alabama fans travel well, and Atlanta isn't that far from the Alabama line. This game will come down to who is better prepared and who executes better. Alabama's defense has been exposed a bit this year. Zach Mettenberger picked apart bama's secondary in their matchup, and Johnny Football ran wild against them. While Aaron Murray is no Johnny Football running the ball, he is a very mobile QB who has great scrambling ability when needed, and I have to think he's a better pocket passes than Mettenberger. To me this game will ultimately come down to Aaron Murray's head. He seems to get nervous before big games, and that leads to poor play. the South Carolina game is a prime example, and despite the win, so is the Florida game. Murray did seem to come to life at the end of the Florida game, and if he can control his nerves, and keep the offense balanced which has been a big reason why its been so successful this season, Georgia has a very good shot of winning this game. McCarron, while he is an efficent QB who doesn't turn the ball over much isn't really a threat to light up the scoreboard. Alabama likes to run the ball and pound opposing defenses into submission. If Bama can execute their game plan and not turn the ball over, they will be very tough to beat.
On the defensive side of the ball, I think its a bit more even than most would think. UGA gave up a lot of points early in the season, but half of their defense was suspended and Jarvis Jones was hurt. UGA has their big time players of Ogletree, Rambo and Vasser back, and since their return Georgia defense has ranked top 5 in the country. Alabama's front 7 is a pain as always, but they have holes in their secondary, and they aren't as experienced as UGA's defense who returned 10 starters from last season. And both teams have very good o-lines.
I think this game is very evenly matched, but I think Georgia now that they are healthy and in good standing with the NCAA has more talent on the defensive side of the ball, and IMO, Jarvis Jones will be the best player on the field on Saturday. And if Aaron Murray shows up, Georgia has the better, more balanced attack, and he has the talent to pick apart Bama's secondary like Mettenberger did and open up running lanes for Gurshall. It will be a tough, physical game, but in the end, I just can't make myself pick against my team, the Georgia Bulldogs when the game means a shot at playing for the National Championship. My prediction: Georgia wins 24-17