|July 20, 2012||Baseball update: Moreland, Stratton, etc.||no comments|
|July 20, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 8||no comments|
|July 19, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 7||no comments|
|July 18, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 6||no comments|
|July 17, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 5||1 comments|
|July 16, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 4||no comments|
|July 15, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 3||no comments|
|July 14, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 2||no comments|
|July 13, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 1||no comments|
|July 09, 2012||346 pages of light reading on football||no comments|
Here are a few quick notes on pro baseball players with area ties:
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 44 days away)
SEC Media Days wraps up today in Hoover, Ala., and it's always a point of curiosity to consider which coach - or coaches - will not be back next season.
There's always the unforseen development, of course; Bobby Petrino would not have been a name that sprang to mind last July, but he wasn't there on behalf of Arkansas, now was he?
As it happens, there are two coaches with similar profiles who need to take care of business this fall or they will almost surely get the heave-ho before the 2013 kickoff.
Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Tennessee's Derek Dooley are both 11-14 after two seasons, each with a 2010 bowl loss followed by a second consecutive losing season in 2011.
Vols fans walked away disgusted from the end of last season, when their team fumbled a chance at a bowl by losing an ugly 10-7 decision at Kentucky. This was the infamous game in which Phillips started a receiver at quarterback and got away with it.
Tennessee has had three losing seasons in four years, but it's widely assumed the Vols will be improved enough this fall to spare Dooley. USA Today sees a 7-5 overall record with a 3-5 conference mark, while Phil Steele says he expects UT to be one of the nations' most improved teams.
Much depends on a good start, and that start arrives Aug. 31 with a neutral site game against N.C. State in Atlanta. With a win, there's a path there for a winning season - but with a loss, it'll be a hard pull to avoid another losing mark.
It's still a demanding schedule, with Florida and Alabama coming to Knoxville and with notable road trips to Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi State.
Kentucky has to travel a tough path, including a homecoming game against Georgia. Yikes. The Wildcats open at Louisville and have road games at Florida, Arkansas and Missouri (the Tigers' homecoming) along with a payback trip to Knoxville.
USA Today sees a 3-9 team with an 0-8 SEC record. That would surely be the end for the Joker.
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 45 days away)
The football coaches Texas A&M and Missouri made their debuts on Tuesday at SEC Media Days, and it's possible that will be the high point for both teams this season.
Texas A&M, with a new head coach, a new quarterback and new offensive and defensive schemes, faces the tougher task - a schedule that includes four former national champions (Florida, LSU, Auburn and Alabama) and also road trips to Oxford and Starkville.
I keep looking at the Aggies' season opener, against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 30 in Shreveport, and it looks more and more like a huge trap game right off the bat, with the SEC opener at home against Florida the next week. USA Today sees a 6-6 finish, including a 2-6 league record, but that could come unwound quickly with a loss in the opener.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel took offense at the suggestion that competition in the league his team just left, the Big 12, isn't comparable to the SEC. He's got to say that, I guess, but he's moving into a league with a much stronger emphasis - and much better athletes - on defense, and you figure it will take the Tigers a little time to adjust.
USA Today sees an 8-4 overall record and a 4-4 league finish, but everything will have to go Missouri's way to make that happen. The back end of the SEC schedule consists of road trips to Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M, while the early home games include Georgia and Alabama.
I like Missouri's bowl chances a lot better than A&M's, but a Tigers program with seven consecutive winning seasons will have to battle to keep that streak rolling.
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 46 days away)
Whether you're a fan of Mississippi State or Ole Miss, here's a suggestion that you'll want to keep a close eye on Auburn, which will visit both Starkville (Sept. 8) and Oxford (Oct. 13) this season.
Phil Steele thinks MSU will finish ahead of Auburn this fall, while USA Today projects that the Tigers will be the fourth-place team in the SEC West behind the Big Three of LSU, Alabama and Arkansas.
If Mississippi State can beat Auburn - the Bulldogs have lost four straight in the series, however - there's a real path to a 7-0 start before an Oct. 27 visit to Alabama. More likely, there's a loss in there someplace, but to leave Tuscaloosa with a 6-2 record would set the stage for at least an 8-win regular season.
Auburn will be the homecoming opponent for Ole Miss, and that game follows by a week a visit from Texas A&M. That's a two-game stretch that probably tells the tale of 2012 for the Rebels. Ole Miss could enter the A&M game with a 3-2 record and a sweep of those two games, while unlikely, would put the team's first bowl game since 2009 in reach.
For a program that's lost 14 conference games in a row, the key thing is to beat somebody. And the back half of the Ole Miss schedule is going to be tough, with three SEC road trips and home games against Vandy and MSU.
Auburn opens its season with a neutral-site game against a fine Clemson team. A generous reading of the schedule suggests an 8-win season, but an 0-2 start with losses to Clemson and MSU would leave the team with an uphill battle.
But Georgia got off to an 0-2 start last season and rallied for a 10-win campaign. The challenge for the Tigers will be to avoid letting the season slip away at the start.
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 47 days away)
In thinking about the 2012 schedule, it turns out that we will know a few key things about the SEC before that first game kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 1.
That's because there are some significant games involving league teams on Thursday and Friday as well:
South Carolina at Vanderbilt: An Aug. 30 win for the Commodores would end a three-game losing streak in the series and would suggest that last year's pigskin revival in Nashville was no fluke. A South Carolina loss would leave the Gamecocks in a hole in the SEC East two days before their biggest rivals take the field.
Texas A&M vs. Louisiana Tech (at Shreveport, La.): Upset special. USA Today sees La. Tech as a 9-win team and A&M is in transition with a new head coach. But if the Aggies can't win this Aug. 30 road game, how are they supposed to handle trips to Oxford, Starkville, Auburn ... and Tuscaloosa?
N.C. State vs. Tennessee (at Atlanta): Some folks think Tennessee will be much improved this year, after a swoon that has seen the Vols go 23-27 over the past four years. Most reasonable paths to a 7-win season would have to include a win in this Aug. 31 game, yet the Vols have lost their last two openers against BCS teams (Cal in 2007 and UCLA in 2008).
(We're counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 48 days away)
Buried in the back of the USA Today College Football Special Edition are the preseason Sagarin ratings which have not yet - as far as I can tell - been posted at usatoday.com.
Because of the way Jeff Sagarin crunches his numbers, I've always been uneasy about his ratings until a significant sample of games have been played. I think they're more predictive in October or November than in August.
He starts with Alabama No. 1, which is valid based on the end of last season but doesn't tell us anything about 2012.
The first thing I looked for was the, er, "spread" between Mississippi State and Ole Miss. It's about 9 points on a neutral field, compared to about 16 points at the end of last season. This is largely the function of crediting Ole Miss with an improvement of about a touchdown over last season. Which is purely speculative.
Figuring in homefield advantage - the Rebels and Bulldogs play in Oxford this fall - would leave MSU as about a 6-point favorite. You can contrast that with an early line from the Las Vegas which, I'm told, establishes MSU as a 10-point favorite.
While we're here, how about the 2012 opening opponents?
Looking at the Sagarin formula, MSU would be expected to beat Jackson State by about 37 points, and Ole Miss would be expected to beat Central Arkansas by about 16. (Generally, the wiseguys do not set lines for games between major-college teams and their FCS (formerly I-AA) counterparts.)
We were on the road most of Saturday returning from a week on the Gulf coast of Florida. Part of the time I was riding I spent thumbing through the USA Today College Football Special Edition. It's a 64-page newsprint tabloid that seemed a bit pricey at $4.95 but since (full disclosure) I am a Gannett stockholder I think they should charge as much as they can and send me some of it.
I gleaned a couple of things I'll share, confident it won't dissuade you from laying down the $4.95 if you're so inclined.
* USAT has Southern Cal against LSU in the national championship game, with Arkansas and West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl.
* You're saying to yourself, "They expect Alabama to finish third in the SEC West?" No, they have LSU at 8-0, Alabama at 7-1 and Arkansas at 5-3. And they have Georgia winning the SEC East at 7-1 so it seems like the Bulldogs would get the Sugar.
Well, look I own a little stock in the company, but I don't know really how to explain all that. Most likely, different people did the bowl projections and the SEC guesses.
* Mississippi State is projected to finish 7-5 overall (3-5 SEC) and Ole Miss 3-9 (0-8). Looking at the Bulldogs' schedule this seems a fairly pessimistic projection on their part. I can see the logic behind the Rebels' projection but I assume one or two unexpected developments along the way in Oxford this fall. Might as well.
There are 50 days until the kickoff of the Sept. 1 college football games. I reflect on that in a column for the Daily Journal found here.
Let's see if I can come up with 49 more decent college football blog posts between now and then. Maybe.
I'm relaxing a little bit this week, and among the items in my stack of reading material, in addition to the second and third “Hunger Games” books, is the Phil Steele college review magazine. His website is www.philsteele.com
(At least the Phil Steele I bought in Corinth has SEC players on it – it had the Alabama cover – as opposed to previous years, when Mississippi stores often got the Texas cover.)
Mr. Steele starts with Florida State No. 1, Mississippi State No. 28 and Southern Miss No. 45. (Ole Miss, not pictured.) As he points out, that ranking is based on where he thinks all teams will be ranked at the end of the year, not at the start. Like most folks, he figures $outhern Cal will be No. 1 in the preseason.
Steele picks LSU to win the SEC Western Division, with Alabama second, Arkansas third and MSU fourth. Ole Miss is picked to finish last in what is now a seven-team division.
Here's an endorsement that comes free of any compensation to me: Phil Steele's book costs $8.95 and I find that it is worth every penny. I keep in on my desk throughout the football season and it will get pretty beaten up as I refer to it again and again and again.
I may quibble with some of his analysis, but he's got all the nuts and bolts in there. Now, I'm going to find myself a cold drink and dig in. I've got some reading to do.