|July 29, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 17||no comments|
|July 28, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 16||no comments|
|July 26, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 15||1 comments|
|July 26, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 14||no comments|
|July 25, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 13||no comments|
|July 24, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 12||no comments|
|July 23, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 11||no comments|
|July 22, 2012||Moreland ready for rehab assignment||no comments|
|July 22, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 10||no comments|
|July 21, 2012||Fifty shades of football: Day 9||no comments|
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 34 days away)
I like that idea about the most important stretches in the SEC West schedules so much that I'm saving it for Monday - for one thing, because it will get more traffic that way, but also because of something I noticed this morning and wanted to talk about a little bit.
I have become addicted to checking in each day with the website Pre-Snap Read. The writer, Paul Myerberg, is counting down all 120 major-college programs, and he got to No. 41 this morning.
His list so far has included five SEC teams:
So that will put the remaining nine SEC teams into the Top 40.
(Update: Auburn is No. 40 in Monday's installment.)
You can compare that with Phil Steele's preseason Top 40, which includes 10 SEC teams, but note that Steele's list is an attempt to project where teams will wind up at the end of the seaso, while Myerberg appears to be ranking teams on preseason outlook:
16, Arkansas (which he says he dropped after the coaching change)
23. South Carolina
28. Mississippi State
30. Texas A&M
Steele likes Texas A&M better than Myerberg, and I have to say I think Steele might be off-base on that one. New coach, new quarterback, new schemes on both sides of the football AND a new league? Sounds like the potential for a long season in College Station.
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 35 days away)
Let's look at the most crucial early stretches in the schedule for the SEC Eastern Division. We can do the same for the Western Division on Sunday.
Florida: Sept. 8 at Texas A&M, Sept. 15 at Tennessee. The Gators were generally a strong road team for Urban Meyer - 14-2 between 2006 and 2009 - but they're just 3-5 as a true road team in the past two seasons. Wins in both of these should have Florida 4-0 when LSU visits on Oct. 6.
Georgia: September sets up nicely for the Bulldogs, with only a Sept. 8 visit to Missouri meriting real preseason concern. It could be an emotional day at Columbia as the Tigers play their first SEC game, but this is a veteran Georgia team that has generally played well on the road for Mark Richt.
Kentucky: Sept. 2 at Louisville, Sept. 8 vs. Kent State, Sept. 15 vs. Western Kentucky. The Wildcats must get off to a good start, because they walk into a buzz saw of seven SEC games in seven weeks after these three non-league games. Joker Phillips teams are 1-8 on the road, with the only win in the 2010 season opener at Louisville. The Cardinals are projected to win the Big East, so this will be a tough opener. Phillips is 11-14 in two seasons, and the only obvious path to a .500 season involves winning all three of these, beating Samford on Nov. 17 and stealing a couple of SEC games - but there's not an obvious league win on the schedule.
Missouri: Sept. 22 at South Carolina, Sept. 29 at Central Florida. The Tigers' first SEC road game comes in the context of a 1-4 road mark last season, and they gave up 37 or more points in three of those. You'd like to say that a "real" SEC team wouldn't risk a road trip to UCF, which appears like the favorite in the Conference USA East, but it should be a good test.
South Carolina: Aug. 30 at Vanderbilt, Sept. 8 vs. East Carolina. The loser of the first league game of 2012 will be in a hole even before the sun comes up on the first Saturday. The Gamecocks have won 10 non-league home openers in a row, but have had some problems with East Carolina teams in the past.
Tennessee: Sept. 31 vs. N.C. State (at Atlanta). As with South Carolina, this is a game that could set the tone for the Vols right from the start. By the end of September, they will also have played Florida (Sept. 15) and at Georgia (Sept. 29), so we should have a good handle on Derek Dooley's squad - and, perhaps, his future - by then.
Vanderbilt: Aug. 30 vs. South Carolina, Sept. 8 at Northwestern. It's a challenging early stretch for Vandy, even though the team only plays three September games (Sept. 29 open week). There's all sorts of historical evidence pointing to a 1-3 start, when you include a Sept. 22 visit to Georgia, but a big part of James Franklin's challenge is to continue to fight against a long history of failure. There's no sample of games in the past 10 years that compares to the Commodores' 5-2 home mark last season, so it's impossible to figure if this was a fluke or a new thing.
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 36 days away)
Before we start getting buried in news about the looming start of college practice, let's take a minute to assess recruiting for 2013.
Ten SEC teams are in the 2013 Top 25 as compiled by RIvals.com, with LSU, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Alabama in positions 3 through 7 nationally. FYI: Southern Cal is No. 1 and Michigan is No. 2. The Rivals.com rankings are here.
Rivals' rankings involve compiling total points on each commitment, and of course not every school has the same number of commited players at this point. Yet Southern Cal also has the best 2013 class at this point if you look at its class by average individual ranking.
When you crunch the numbers that way, the Ole Miss Class of 2013 commits falls from 16th nationally in terms of collective ranking down to 34th in terms of the average of inidvidual rankings of each player in the 19-man recruiting class. To get a proper picture, you need to control for that factor.
How Rivals.com ranks the average quality of the players in each 2013 SEC commit class:
Texas A&M (27)
Mississippi State (12)
South Carolina (18)
Ole Miss (19)
Another day, we'll check in on the Scout.com recuiting rankings for the SEC.
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 37 days away)
We talk a lot about coaches on the hot seat, but which coaches are on the coolest seats - that is, who doesn't have anything to worry about, regardless of what happens on the field this fall?
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports does "Hot Seat Ratings" every preseason and it's no surprise that the coolest seats in the SEC belong to Alabama's Nick Saban, Missouri's Gary Pinkel and a new coach, Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss. Vandy's James Franklin, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin are on very cool seats as well.
See Dodd's whole list here.
Man, a seat can get hot in a hurry. LSU's Les Miles is in no danger after making it to the national championship game, but his seat could get hot if his Tigers underachieve this fall. Georgia Mark Richt is in much better position after a 10-win campaign in 2011.
The league's hottest seats? Joker Phillips at Kentucky and Derek Dooley are familiar names for such a list, but Dodd also includes Arkansas rent-a-coach John L. Smith. In fact, Smith and Dooley are the only coaches with hot seat ratings of the maximum, 5.0 - "Win or be fired."
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 38 days away)
Sorry, got up today with a mission to get a handle on the likelihood that any Penn State refugees might find their way to the Magnolia State. I'm rather skeptical, but you can read the story in Thursday's Daily Journal.
Meanwhile, here's a little bonus bit - the SEC's season-openers, listed from toughest to easiest. This is based on my own (lightly informed) impression:
South Carolina at Vanderbilt - No. 1 because it's a league game
Tennessee vs. N.C. State
Auburn vs. Clemson
Alabama vs. Michigan
Kentucky vs. Louisville
Texas A&M vs. Louisiana Tech ... upset alert, as game is in Shreveport
Ole Miss vs. Central Arkansas
Florida vs. Bowling Green
Arkansas vs. Jacksonville State ... beat Ole Miss in 2010
LSU vs. North Texas
Mississippi State vs. Jackson State
Georgia vs. Buffalo
Missouri vs. SE Louisiana
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 39 days away.)
There have probably been a billion words written lately about Penn State, but indulge just a few more. The perspective that fascinates me is how the football team moves forward.
Many of the best athletes will leave, but not all. There are young men who dreamed their whole lives of playing for the Nittany Lions and some of those will stay true to their school. It's just a few days before the start of practice, so some players may opt to stick with the team this fall and then use their NCAA-approved golden tickets to go elsewhere in the spring.
This fall figures to be an unmitgated disaster, at any rate. If things come unwound, there could be as few as four wins on the schedule - for a program that's won 83 games over the past decade.
But the sun will come up on Happy Valley and the team will play. To navigate the rough waters through the next few seasons, I think the new coach should pick up the phone and call Rick Pitino. No, really.
Pitino, after all, returned from a couple of seasons in the NBA to take over a Kentucky program that had been slammed by the NCAA. It took him three seasons to get the Wildcats to the Elite Eight - and that mind-boggling 104-103 loss to Duke in the East Region final.
In his seventh season, he won a national championship.
It would be crazy to suggest that Bill O'Brien will win a national title at Penn State. The program today appears light years from ever competing effectively on the national stage. But the Pitino model suggests some possibilities - find a fan-pleasing style of play, forget about winning the recruiting-service wars and focus all efforts on those young men who have grown up loving the Nittany Lions. Then, build a roster that understands that its mission is to play for pride until the program can fight through the current sanctions.
Would that work? I don't know - is there any other choice but to try?
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 40 days away.)
Let's take a minute to ponder Conference USA, which will have its media day presentation on Wednesday in Irving, Texas.
It's the final C-USA season for Houston, Memphis, SMU and Central Florida, all of which are headed to the Big East next season. Yeah, we don't get it, either.
Thing is, it appears that Houston and UCF are seen as the favorites to reach the league championship game on the way out the door.
The coach who built Houston into a national power, Kevin Sumlin, is gone to Texas A&M. His replacement, Tony Levine, led the Cougars to a bowl win over a demoralized Penn State squad.
Record-setting QB Case Keenum is gone and the team will be in transition, so that could open the door in the West Division for SMU or maybe Tulsa.
Southern Miss - also with a new head coach and quarterback - will challenge Central Florida in the East. It could come down the Golden Eagles' Oct. 13 visit to Orlando - where they are 3-0 in previous league games.
The gut feeling here is that a Houston-UCF title game is unlikely.
(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 41 days away.)
Guess which SEC team lost the fewest starts to injury last season? That's right, national champion Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost just nine starts, according to research by Phil Steele, to rank high among teams least affected by injury.
But I think the other end of the spectrum is where you can mine some data that might be interesting when trying to size up the 2012 season. It's possible that teams which had a lot of injuries in 2011 might have fewer this fall, and that would help the bottom line - winning.
Memphis, an awful team, lost 44 starts to injury. But a bowl-bound Vanderbilt team lost 42 starts - and a significant improvement there might boost the Commodores' chances of building on last year's 6-6 regular season.
Starts lost in 2011 by other SEC teams: Tennessee 36, Missouri 36, South Carolina 35, LSU 31, Florida 29, Texas A&M 27, Georgia 22, Arkansas 21, Ole Miss 21, Kentucky 17, Auburn 15, Mississippi State 11.
Based on the 2011 sample, 21 starts lost to injury seems to be the average. So teams like Vandy and Tennessee that had losing seasons may find their rate of injury will decrease in 2012 - but so may teams that had good seasons, including LSU and South Carolina.
On the other end of the spectrum, Alabama and Mississippi State might be expected to have at least a few more injuries this season - while a bad team, like Kentucky, might have yet another obstacle to overcome if its injury rate increases.
(We're counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 42 days away.)
We've published the SEC schedules several times in the Journal and we've even had the state SWAC schedules, but we haven't published the schedules of the state's four small colleges. Here they are, along with links to their respective websites:
Sep. 1 at Cumberlands (Ky.)
Sep. 8 Louisiana College
Sep. 15 at Cumberland (Tenn.)
Sep. 22 Campbellsville
Sep. 29 at Virginia-Wise
Oct. 6 Kentucky Christian
Oct. 13 Bluefield
Oct. 20 at Lindsey Wilson
Oct. 27 at Faulkner
Nov. 3 Pikeville
Nov. 10 Bethel
Sep. 1 Fort Valley State
Sep. 8 At Elizabeth City (N.C.) State
Sep. 22 North Alabama
Sep. 27 Abilene Christian
Oct. 6 at Tarleton State
Oct. 13 West Georgia
Oct. 20 at Valdosta State
Oct. 27 West Alabama
Nov. 3 at University of Indianapolis
Nov. 10 at Shorter College
Aug. 30 Mississippi College
Sep. 8 at LaGrange
Sep. 15 at Point
Sep. 29 at Centre
Oct. 6 Huntingdon
Oct. 13 Sewanee
Oct. 20 at Rhodes
Oct. 27 at Trinity
Nov. 3 Austin
Nov. 10 Birmingham Southern
Aug. 30 at Millsaps
Sep. 8 Webber International
Sep. 15 at West Alabama
Sep. 28 at Hardin-Simmons
Oct. 6 Sul Ross State
Oct. 13 at Howad Payne
Oct. 20 at Texas Lutheran
Oct. 27 East Texas Baptist
Nov 3 Louisiana College
Nov. 10 at Mary Hardin-Baylor