Author Archives: tardawg1014
It’s well past time for the smartest people in the sporting industry to take their picks as to how the upcoming college football season plays out. For the record, yes I believe the people of Las Vegas, particularly of Bovada, are the smartest people in the industry.
Please note that these numbers are for the 12 regular season games only, and that conference championships and bowl/playoff games do not count. Intrigued? Here is the link.
1) South Carolina 9.5 – Outside of Auburn, I don’t see a game they shouldn’t win. OVER
2) Georgia 9.5 – Outside of South Cack, I don’t see a game they shouldn’t win. OVER
3) Florida 7.5 – Better than last year, but Alabama, LSU, Georgia, SC, and FSU all loom. UNDER
4) Missouri 7.5 – Not seeing it. 6.5 would give me pause. UNDER
5) Vanderbilt 6 – With five probable wins on the schedule, I think they can steal two more. OVER
6) Tennessee 5.5 – Borderline bowl eligibility again. For the East’s bottom 4, it depends on how they play each other. UNDER
7) Kentucky 3.5- They would have to sweep Ohio and ULM, as well as knock off an SEC opponent or Louisville. UNDER
1) Alabama 10.5 – Bama gon’ Bama. OVER
2) Auburn 9 – Ran into a lot of luck last year, as we all know. Tough schedule. UNDER
3) LSU 9 – Too tough to call, too many young players, this is called a hedge. PUSH
4) Ole Miss 7.5 – I’m assuming they win one of the four they should lose (Bama, A&M, LSU, Auburn) and drop one they shouldn’t as well, giving them 8. OVER
5) Miss. State 7.5 – They’d win 7.5 if they could. Taking the UNDER
6) Texas A&M 7 – Being slept upon. OVER
7) Arkansas 4.5 – Two SEC wins or a win at Texas Tech? Ehhh maybe next year. UNDER
Thanks to nonconference play, I could technically pick every last team to go over and almost be right. But I didn’t. Nor did I do anything too terribly bold outside of taking Auburn at about 8-4 (which we would all love). Take my picks to the bank and the fact that my identity is known on this website becomes a mistake.
Giving you the business,
To honor Dan Mullen’s 4-1 record in Egg Bowls (and his 2-20 record against top 25 opponents), I am going to make as many references towards our favorite unhatched chicken treat as possible in this preview. Omelet our other writers take a shot at being serious, but I doubt they will be. Sorry in advance, you cowbell-toting Bulldogs. Hope I don’t end up with egg on my face for mailing it in.
Despite an eggcellent record against evenly-matched opponents, Mississippi State has consistently gotten fried by the West division’s powerhouses. A 1-14 record against Alabama, Auburn, and LSU in Mullen’s 5 seasons looks even worse since records don’t indicate Auburn fielded an SEC football team in 2012. Want evidence on how much over easy the East has been than the West? Look no further than Mullen’s 9-4 record against the East (putting him at 7-24 vs. the West). In a rare occurrence of correlation = causation, MSU’s annual East rival is Kentucky. Mullen has not coddled the Wildcats.
If ever there was a year for the Bulldogs to break their 7-8 win plateau, this could be the year. They’re not foo yung anywhere as there are only four underclassmen listed in their starting 22. Looking at the schedule, one is hard boiled not to be kinda optimistic (relative term to previous performance) about their chances against a young LSU team early in the season, or in October home games against Texas A&M and Auburn salad sandwiched between two bye weeks.
Their long-term prospects are bleak, as the Hugh Freeze recruiting machine has poached the high-quality talent that stays in Mississippi the last two years.
Five players to watch:
1) Benedictardrick McKinney, LB: He had over 100 tackles as a freshman and dropped to 71 last year, but the dude is a 6’5 middle linebacker.
2) Dak Prescott, QB: With Tyler Russell gone, the quarterback situation becomes less pickled. Prescott led the team in rushing last year, but his passing numbers (58% completions, 10 TD, 7 INT) have to improve.
3) Jamerson Love, CB: While the secondary returns three starters from last year, they were often scrambled in SEC play last year.
4) Jameon Lewis, WR: Led an otherwise balanced attack of pass catchers with 64 catches (and zero egg drops), 923 yards, and 5 TD last year.
5) Ran out of notable Mississippi State players and egg puns at about the same time, I think.
Random Betting Tidbit:
They’ve failed to cover against LSU in each of the past four years. But they have covered against their last three FCS opponents, so if you can find a sportsbook to take a bet on the UT-Martin game, make a deal with the deviled.
There are fifteen egg puns in the body of my preview. Comment (below) or tweet (@Chad_Floyd) all 15 to me and I will mail you a DudeYouCrazy bumper sticker.
Touche, Missouri. I have now been wrong about you each of your first two years in the SEC, and I no longer know what the hell to expect from you. In year one, your SEC opener against Georgia scared the bejeezus out of me, because I was a believer in James Franklin and your spread attack. Last year, you were 5-0, and I went to a wedding the night before the game, never intended to show up before halftime, and when I arrived it was 27-7.
Missouri. The gateway to the West, the enigma of the South. Not even located in the South.
Unlike your last unexpected ascendance in 2007-08, a two-year span that saw you win 22 games and hit #1 in the polls for a week (note: Kansas, Boston College, and South Florida also had cameos in the top 5 in that stretch), I don’t see any way you’re going to maintain the standards set by last year’s team. Anyway…
Five Players to Watch
1) Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, DE: These guys could lead the SEC in sacks, both are terrors.
2) James Franklin, QB: The type of accurate dual-threat that really makes an offense impossible to predict.
3) Dorial Green-Beckham and L’Damian Washington, WR: Big, physical threats with enough speed to take the top off defenses, opening holes for…
4) Henry Josey, RB: Look for him to gash defenses for about 7 YPC and upper-teens touchdowns.
5) E.J. Gaines, S: Could be the beneficiary of the pressure Ealy and Sam get on opposing QB’s. Expect Mizzou to force a LOT of turnovers this year.
Oh…wow. All of those guys are gone. So in addition to leading the SEC in sacks, and the NATION in turnover margin, and putting up the most yards per game in the history of your program, you lose the guys responsible for ALL of your statistics?
Yikes. Let me try again.
1) Markus Golden, DE: Funny thing about last year is that while Ealy and Sam took home the accolades, their second team at DE contributed 11 sacks. Golden was responsible for 6.5 of those last year and I’ll have him on my All-SEC team.
2) Marcus Murphy, RB/KR: Although he specialized in kick returns last year, the shifty back should carry more of a featured role in the offense. He netted 9 TD’s on just 92 carries last year.
3) Braylon Webb, S: He has 30 starts under his belt, and should be coming to an NFL special teams unit near you in 10 short months.
4) Maty Mauk, QB: Hall is not huge on him, as he only completed 51% of his passes last year. I look at the TD/Int ratio of 11/2 and think his low completion percentage is a factor of conservatively not wanting to screw up in lopsided wins over Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky (3 of his 4 starts).
5) Shane Ray, DE: The other DE referenced in the Golden piece, Ray is more the Sam to Golden’s Ealy. An NFL ‘tweener who could put up big numbers this year.
Random Betting Tidbit
If you believe in everything evening out, Missouri is your team for easy money this year. +16 turnover margins generally don’t replicate themselves year-to-year, and neither do 11-3 records against the spread.
With the exception of their early game against Toledo (-16, won by 15), their record matched up with their performance ATS perfectly. Beat the spread? Win. Fail it (-2 against South Carolina and pick-em against Auburn) they lose. Crazy.
Because we have pretty well-established precedent here,
we can logically assume DT Jonathan Taylor is in his last days as a member of the Georgia football program (he is no longer a member of the program). I’m not one to prioritize crimes based on the nature of egregiousness, but aggravated assault on a female strikes me as something Mark Richt will not (and obviously should not) stand for. As witnessed by the fact that two of the four players charged in the ‘theft by deception’ check fraud scandal are already gone, it stands to reason that Taylor (and fellow South Georgia D-lineman James DeLoach) were already skating on thin ice.
As I’ve speculated multiple times on this very blog, I think Georgia is set to transition to a much more multiple look on the defensive side of the ball this year. New DC Jeremy Pruitt runs a defense that can give you multiple looks, and for the purposes of simplicity have called it a 4-2-5 base look.
Given the premium a 4-2-5 puts on versatility, the loss of a 335-pound nose tackle lends itself towards that conclusion now more than ever. It is a formation that is capable of giving offenses multiple looks as the situation dictaces, and with Georgia’s talent at linebacker can show any number of fronts: 3-4, 4-3, 2-5, 5-2, hell, even 1-6 in
3rd/4th-and-forevers (as I refuse to reference the Auburn Hail Mary yet again).
Given my previous predictions, this actually helps Georgia fit more of the mold I expect Pruitt to employ.
Ironically I will lay out below that the 3-3-5 actually serves us better in rushing downs. In a 4-2-5, I expect Jordan Jenkins and either Leonard Floyd or Lorenzo Carter to serve as de-facto DE’s (read: not necessarily good against the run), with a YOKED 6’5 290 Ray Drew sliding inside to man one of the tackle spots.
The main concern in either alignment here is who among Jenkins/Floyd/Carter can serve as what was known under Grantham as the “Star”, who plays more of a hybrid LB/safety role. Floyd acquitted himself well in this position last year, but was really more of a pass rusher. Jenkins had 23 quarterback hurries in each of his first two seasons, so we want him to continue to rush the passer on all downs.
Carter is an X-factor for me. He was a pass rusher in high school as well, and his ability to play in space will dictate how much time on the field he sees this year. If he can’t, he will be a situational guy behind Floyd/Jenkins. Names such as Johnny O’Neal, Shaun McGee, Shattle Fenteng, and Quincy Mauger strike me as better potential fits for a hybrid spot, but in the cases of Fenteng and Mauger, they may be needed as more traditional safeties. (Said another way, we NEED J.J. Green and Corey Moore to take away the deep parts of the field very capably.)
The 4-2-5 allows Georgia’s defense to get fleeter of foot, something Pruitt has said he is trying to do. Looking at the chart, it definitely puts more Georgia playmakers on the field. However, I see this as more of a pass rush alignment, as Floyd and Jenkins setting the edge in run support scares me a little bit.
As mentioned, the Star and his ability to do everything– rush the passer, stop the run, and cover slots and TE’s– is key to the success of this alignment. I like Fenteng as a prospect here for his size (6’2 210) and speed, and the bonus that he was brought in as one of Grantham’s hulking safeties who doesn’t really fit the mold of a modern-day college football safety. Again, assuming Lorenzo Carter is too lanky/not fluid enough.
As a consequence of being a faster lineup capable of playing in space, I see this being the primary scheme when Georgia opens up against Clemson. As it gets three monster pass rushers matched up on opposing O-linemen, this seems an obvious passing down alignment as well, perhaps replacing Herrera with an additional hybrid or DB.
A 3-3-5 really incorporates two hybrid players, and Georgia’s strength as a defense is in the players who fit that mold. Jenkins, in this diagram, is more a hybrid DE/LB, which, for all intents and purposes, he was last year. This allows the Dawgs to get more size up front in Drew/DT/Bailey, but takes away from the athleticism Pruitt craves. The size and space-eating ability of an extra wide body (Thornton/Mayes/Bailey) serves to occupy blockers against a run-heavy team, such as a South Carolina.
As I have it laid out here, Floyd serves as the Star (a la 2013) as opposed to a rush end (a la the 4-2-5 example above). This makes a lot more sense in running downs for obvious reasons, and still allows Georgia to show a plethora of looks. Floyd and Jenkins can both drop back while Herrera rushes the passer (taking him out of coverage), either can put their hand down and rush the passer…the possibilities are endless.
It’s altogether possible that these schematic changes would have manifested themselves with Taylor finding a spot on the bench anyway, because he honestly doesn’t fit the mold of a Pruitt DT. The only thing the (probable) loss of Taylor creates is a slight drain on depth from a position that, given the number of 3-4 ends (transitioning to 4-man front tackles, this blogger assumes) on the roster already, the Dawgs can afford.
3:15 PM: He gone.
#UGA D-lineman Jonathan Taylor dismissed by Bulldogs shortly after bonding out of A-CC Jail for Aggravated Assault/Family Violence charge.
— AJC UGA (@ChipTowersAJC) July 23, 2014
There’s an expression the kids are using these days that is applicable to Vandy fans: “I just can’t.”
After Jason Smith’s excellent preview for Vandy which hit the site on Sunday, we were inundated with tweets from self-righteous Vandy fans for no good reason. Jason was fair and guardedly optimistic as a Vandy supporter, which, given their history, is high praise.
— Ingrid Strzelczyk (@ingrid2809) July 20, 2014
I don’t think this reader understands the concept of comedy/tragedy in Shakespearian terms, and we’ll leave it at that.
Anyway, James Franklin is gone after leading the Commodores to 3 of their 7 all-time bowl appearances. I don’t know if Derek Mason can sustain Franklin’s success (as Franklin’s ties to the mid-Atlantic were a boon to Vandy recruiting) but there’s a chance of a couple years of good coattail-riding for the new regime.
Vandy fans: as a private school wearing black and gold, you are to the SEC what Wake Forest is to the ACC. Except Wake Forest won an ACC title in our lifetime.
Five Players to Watch
- Jerron Seymour, RB: I hate the term ‘jitterbug’, as used by announcers to describe running backs short in stature from Barry Sanders to Quentin Griffin to Darren Sproles. Seymour fits that bill, and Uncle Verne called him exactly that on his game-winning jaunt against UGA last year. He had 14 TD’s last year and should be the focal point of an offense lacking in returning skill tallent.
- Darreon Herring, LB: As mentioned on the Vandy pod, dude had 10 PBU’s last year, one behind Vernon Hargreaves for best in the SEC East. And he’s a linebacker. He’s the anchor (get it, Vandy fans?) of what could be a stout front seven.
- Andrew Jelks, LT: Freshman All-American last year, and the note from Phil Steele is “was recruited by Alabama and Stanford”. See, Vandy fans? You started from the bottom, now you’re here, where here is preview mags highlighting what other schools offered your best players.
- Paris Head, CB: Three picks as a freshman last year, and now part of a defensive backfield that returns zero starters.
- Steven Scheu, TE: The only guy returning who averaged more than 10 yards per catch on the entire Vanderbilt roster. He had 9 catches last year.
Random Betting Tidbit
In the past 10 years, Vanderbilt is 27-13-1 against the spread when playing on the road as underdogs. Opportunity knocks only three times this year, as they’ll be favored against Kentucky, but play at Georgia, Missouri, and Mississippi State.
Dear Vanderbilt Fans,
You are right. We were wrong. Vanderbilt football is not a comedy in any sense of the word. It’s not a tragedy, either. It’s something else. The only way to describe Vanderbilt football is as a dominant powerhouse defined by stability, consistency and ruthless victory.
Nine or more wins per season is absolutely the standard for Vanderbilt football, any prognostication to the contrary is nothing short of ridiculous. After all, Vanderbilt has won nine or more games in two consecutive seasons. And in the program’s storied 124-year history, Vanderbilt has won nine games (but never more) more exactly 3.23% of the time. Nine victories or more, that is what Vanderbilt does. Just over 3 percent of the time.
Dont’ pay any mind to the 44 seasons of 3 or fewer wins. Forget about the school’s .261 winning percentage all time in SEC play. Ignore the fact that Vanderbilt has finished in the top three of the SEC East just once since divisions were established in 1992. Those facts are meaningless.
This is the new Vanderbilt. The Vanderbilt that James Franklin Vanderbuilt. He will lead Vandy to prolonged success. As long as he is in Nashville and the Commodores don’t have to deal with the turmoil that always follows new coaching staffs to middling programs, this football team will remain elite.
Our sincerest apologies for not recognizing all of this.
P.S. Obviously, Temple, UMass, Kentucky, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion look like wins, but where do the other four come from? An Ole Miss team that is much improved and beat Vandy last year? A South Carolina team that some are hailing as the best Gamecocks squad of the Spurrier era? On the road against a Georgia team that won’t be completely handicapped? On the road against a Missouri team that is rebuilding from departures after something called a Conference Championship Game? A Florida team that’s going to be hungry and a maniacal coach fighting for his job? A Mississippi State team on the road that might have a darkhorse Heisman candidate at QB? Or a home game against the state’s traditional power as the Vols look to restore balance? Just curious. Which four of those should we mark as victories to hit the expected nine wins? I could have sworn we had Vanderbilt ranked 12th in the SEC for a reason, and I thought part of it had to do with the program as a whole and the schedule. But I was mistaken.