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What is "Talking Season" really all about?

Jul 27, 2014 -- 7:53pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Have you noticed that college football coaches and commissioners seem to be doing more snipping than normal? Out in PAC 12 land, even one commentator has decided to get into what South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier calls “talking season” action.

Here are a few examples.

Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher comments on the absurdity it is that some conferences don’t have a title game. Since the Big 12 is the only league without one, there was not much doubt which conference he was referencing.

Here is what Baylor’s Art Briles had to say about Fishers comments, “Jimbo Fisher, I think he needs to worry about the ACC, I guess if that’s the league they’re in. I’m not telling them how to do their business. Don’t come down here to Texas and try to tell me how to do mine.”

Then there was Bob Stoops and his shots at various SEC members.

First Stoops called out the entire SEC, saying this, "It's (non-conference schedules are) not real strong, and you're only playing 8 conference games." Of course, when your conference games include Kansas, Iowa State and 2-7 TCU, just how meaningful is playing nine conference games?

Alabama has also been one of his favorite targets, in particular Nick Saban saying that there are challenges getting a team ready for a “consolation game” like the Sugar Bowl. Stoops said this about the Bama’s coach comments, “They didn’t look like it was a consolation game on that first drive when they scored a touchdown and everyone thought they were going to rout us. I’ve been in plenty of those [non-national title games]. We’ve played in a bunch of national championship games, right? So that means I’ve got a built-in excuse the next time we don’t play for a national championship?”

Then there was the back and forth between Stoops and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin on out of conference scheduling.

The Aggies will face Lamar, Rice, SMU and UL-Monroe. Not exactly the toughest slate out there. Stoops said this about the lineup, “Boy, that's a bunch of toughies." This irked Sumlin who then said, “Coach Stoops has the right to say whatever he wants, but if he wants to play us again we’ll take him up on that.” Challenge issued.

Stoops had no comment on the out of conference schedule defending Big 12 champ Baylor will face. The Bears will take on SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo in 2014.

Another name getting in on the SEC bashing is former Colorado, UCLA and Washington coach Rick Neuheisel, who is now a commentator for the Pac-12 Network. He said, "Their [SEC] November is so vastly easier than any other conference ... they can sit back and watch [contenders] fall off. I've got a Mike Slive Fat Head in my house. The guy's a genius."

So, if I get Neuheisel right, Bama’s slate against LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn and out of conference Western Carolina is a whole lot easier than Oregon’s final stretch stretch of Utah, open week, Colorado and Oregon State.

He thinks that South Carolina playing Tennessee, Florida, South Alabama and Clemson is a breath of fresh air compared to the Stanford November schedule of an open week, Utah, Cal and UCLA.

There is a reason Neuheisel is in broadcasting and not coaching today.

Seven of the twelve PAC-12 teams have an open week in November. By the way, back in week one, The SEC has nine teams that actually face a genuine threat in their season opener. Using a liberal count, only four PAC-12 teams do the same. Cream puffs are cream puffs wherever they fall on the schedule.

What is most of his about?

Trying to drag down the strength of the SEC so the nation’s best conference will only get one team into the CFB playoff instead of two.

The reality is that the best football is still played in the SEC. The rest of the conferences know that, but they have to do something to try and keep the SEC juggernaut from dominating the new format like they did the BCS.

Good luck.

 

 

 

 

The SEC's best teams

Jul 24, 2014 -- 10:07pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

On Monday I ranked the best SEC offenses and that was followed up on Wednesday with a ranking of the SEC defenses.

Today we combine the scores from both sides of the ball to rank the SEC football teams from top to bottom.

Here is the methodology that was used. Each fall the various pre-season publications always rank the position groups for the schools that comprise each conference. We took the rankings from Phil Steele, Lindy’s and Athlon for the SEC schools and tallied them up. The lowest total number is considered the best for that position group. By totaling the scores for each offensive and defensive group, it should hold that the lowest overall score should be the best complete unit and so forth.

Today is the next step. We combine the offensive and defensive scores, and once again, we rank the schools 1-14 based on low score to high.

Here is how it turned out.

1. Alabama-60 Total Points

My opinion, the Tide is over ranked. Unproven QB, questionable offensive line play, weak kicking game and a secondary that does not have starters at the corners yet.

2. Auburn-86 Total Points

There is no reason to not think the Iron Bowl winner will be the conference champion in 2014. This team has the best OL and QB in the conference.

3. Georgia-101 Total Points

Plenty of ball carriers and a defense that will be better at the fundamentals with new DC Jeremy Pruitt.

4. Ole Miss-109 Total Points

Will this be the year the Rebels take a big step forward in the West? Strong recruiting has created a solid foundation, but they will have to beat the powers in the toughest division in college football.

5. South Carolina-118 Total Points

Head coach Steve Spurrier is talking quite a bit in the pre-season. He must feel really good about this Gamecock team. Mike Davis might be the best RB in the conference. That is a big statement.

6. Florida-134 Total Points

Is this the season where QB Jeff Driskel will silence all of his critics while also saving the day, and job, for Will Muschamp?

7. LSU-140 Total Points

If the Tigers finish this low, Les Miles will find his seat a little warm. Lots of talent on this team.

8. Mississippi State-162 Total Points

This will be Dan Mullen’s best team since arriving in Starkville. Dak Prescott is an underrated QB and the defense has talented depth.

9. Texas A&M-183 Total Points

The offense may score, but it won’t be like the Manziel years. The defense will be just like the last couple of ones. Very bad. That is not a good sign for HC Kevin Sumlin.

10. Tennessee-189 Total Points

This might be too high for the Vols. They have to replace every starter from last season’s offensive and defensive lines.

11. Missouri-203 Total Points

There are plenty of potential playmakers on this roster, but there are also plenty of guys that will be new in the playing rotation this season.

12. Arkansas-208 Total Points

Bret Bielema’s team will be better. Expect an upset of either Alabama, Auburn or LSU in year two.

13. Kentucky-249 Total Points

HC Mark Stoops is building a solid defense, but this team will be terrible on offense.

14. Vanderbilt-259 Total Points

Expect the Commodores to look more like Vandy this season.

Complete Standings

Combined

School

60

Alabama

86

Auburn

101

Georgia

109

Ole Miss

118

South Carolina

134

Florida

140

LSU

162

Mississippi State

183

Texas A&M

189

Tennessee

203

Missouri

208

Arkansas

249

Kentucky

259

Vanderbilt

 

Ranking the SEC Defenses

Jul 22, 2014 -- 4:05pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Who has the best defense in the SEC?

To answer this question the position group ratings from the big three pre-season publications (Phil Steele, Athlon and Lindy’s) were added by grouping and then totaled. In theory, the lowest score would have the best defense, given the evaluation of their talent.

On Monday I ranked the offenses using this method. Today the defenses get their turn.

Alabama-21 Total Points

The front seven should be very good, but there are questions at both cornerback slots. Safety Landon Collins is the next NFL first round pick from the secondary for Bama.

Florida-31 Total Points

The entire defensive line returns from last year and LB Jarrad Davis is going to be a name to remember when All-SEC teams are announced at the end of the season.

Ole Miss-31 Total Points

This unit has nine starters back and features one of the best defensive backfields in college football. This group is led All-American FS Cody Prewitt.

Georgia-41 Total Points

New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has plenty of talent to work with. The Dawgs need to clean up some fundamentals, like proper tackling. Ramik Wilson is a stud at linebacker.

LSU-42 Total Points

There is plenty of talent and this defense should be a physical one with a good combination of size and speed. For the first time in memory, no LSU defensive player was named to the All-SEC Pre-Season team.

Auburn-55 Total Points

Auburn was really good on third down last year and should be an improved unit in year two under DC Ellis Johnson. DE Carl Lawson is a young player you will want to watch as the season progresses. He has the looks of a star in the making.

Mississippi State-61 Total Points

The defensive line is deep and talented. Of the top 22 defensive players from last season the Bulldogs have 19 back. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney is going to make a living playing on Sundays and is as good as any defensive player in the SEC.

South Carolina-61 Total Points

This defense features a group of linebackers that grew up last season and is ready to make an impact in 2014. The concern is who will be playing at the corner slots where there is a genuine void of proven players.

Tennessee-84 Total Points

A.J. Johnson is a strong linebacker, but all the starters from last year’s defensive line have to be replaced.

Texas A&M-92 Total Points

The Aggies keep losing defensive starters to the long arm of the law. Since December, four players that were being counted on heavily to improve a really bad defense are no longer available.

Missouri-93 Total Points

Expect the defensive line to be the key to the Tigers defense again this season. It has to be because the secondary and linebackers are not in the SEC’s upper half.

Arkansas-99 Total Points

Trey Flowers is a proven playmaker at DE and Darius Philon will be a difference maker in the interior of the defensive line. Brooks Ellis is a sound linebacker with a bright future. The secondary has issues.

Kentucky-110 Total Points

The Kentucky defense is starting to add some pieces that will pay dividends in the future, but the offense will not keep the ball long enough to give the defense any rest and there is a lack of quality depth.

Vanderbilt-110 Total Points

There is experience on the defensive front, but the rest of this Commodore defense will struggle. No Vandy defensive player was named to the first, second or third team Pre-Season All Defensive Team.

 

School

Line

Linebackers

Defensive Backs

Total Score

Alabama

4

7

10

21

Florida

7

14

10

31

Ole Miss

11

11

9

31

Georgia

21

3

17

41

LSU

17

21

4

42

Auburn

10

22

23

55

Mississippi State

17

24

20

61

South Carolina

26

12

23

61

Tennessee

41

18

25

84

Texas A&M

32

34

26

92

Missouri

21

38

34

93

Arkansas

32

35

32

99

Kentucky

30

42

38

110

Vanderbilt

39

31

40

110

 

The "best" SEC offenses

Jul 20, 2014 -- 9:16pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Forget which school has the best position group on offense. The better discussion is which school has the best overall unit.

Today we have the answer to that question…kind of.

Most pre-season football publications rank the position groups for each conference to give some indication of how one team stacks up against another in a particular group. Great…except that it takes all of the elements coming together to make an offense work. In other words, the very best running back is useless if he does not have an offensive line to run behind.

The rankings below were compiled using the big three pre-season publications (Phil Steele, Athlon and Lindy’s) position rankings. Total points were tallied for each position group and the combined lowest total is considered the top offense since they have the “best” combination of units on the offensive side of the ball. Like golf, a low score is good.

At the bottom of this story you will find the combined points by position group for each school. Wednesday we will post the same rankings for the top SEC defense.

1. Auburn-31 Total Points

Quarterback Nick Marshall was the consensus pick as the SEC’s top QB and the offensive line was the top ranked unit for each publication as well.

2. Alabama-39 Total Points

Having a large stable of running backs and lots of playmakers at receiver were the key for Bama being the second ranked unit.

3. South Carolina-57 Total Points

Mike Davis is a great running back, but depth is a question at the position. There is also respect for Dylan Thompson at quarterback. The Gamecocks have a physical line.

4. Georgia-60 Total Points

The Dawgs have Todd Gurley back and some really solid experience at the receiver positions. How Hutson Mason performs as a first year starter at QB will determine much for Georgia in 2014.

5. Ole Miss-78 Total Points

Bo Wallace has experience, a strong arm and a talented group of receivers to throw to. There will be a number of new faces on the offensive line.

6. Texas A&M-91 Total Points

Everything with the Aggies will start up front this season with a strong offensive line. The receivers should also be a plus for A&M.

7. LSU-98 Total Points

A strong offensive line will create running lanes for a solid group of running backs. There will be several new faces for the Tigers at the wide receiver positions and QB.

8. Mississippi State-101 Total Points

State has eight returning starters on offense and one of the most undervalued quarterbacks, Dak Prescott, in college football.

9. Florida-103 Total Points

Kelvin Taylor is a proven running back and new offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper, will install an offense that might actually let QB Jeff Driskel use his talents.

10. Tennessee-105 Total Points

The Volunteers will have to replace every starter from last year’s offensive line. That is usually a sign of trouble in the SEC.

11. Arkansas-109 Total Points

The Razorbacks have the running backs to create a strong ground game and an improving offensive line.

12. Missouri-110 Total Points

Maty Mauk has shown he has the skill set to be a success at the quarterback position. There is no proven go to receiver in the mix today.

13. Kentucky-139 Total Points

There are questions at quarterback and almost every other position, even with six starters returning.

14. Vanderbilt-149 Total Points

The Commodores have holes at QB, RB, WR and the line. James Franklin knew it was time to get out of Nashville.

School

Backfield

Receivers

Line

Total Score

Auburn

19

9

3

31

Alabama

22

4

13

39

South Carolina

29

16

12

57

Georgia

28

5

27

60

Ole Miss

35

16

27

78

Texas A&M

58

22

11

91

LSU

47

39

12

98

Mississippi State

49

22

30

101

Florida

38

26

39

103

Tennessee

55

17

33

105

Arkansas

45

39

25

109

Missouri

55

33

22

110

Kentucky

71

31

37

139

Vanderbilt

78

41

30

149

 

SEC Football: strength, weakness and big question for every school

Jul 17, 2014 -- 11:01am

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

SEC Media Days-Monday, June 14, 2014

Auburn Tigers

Head Coach: Gus Malzahn

2013 record: 12-2, 7-1 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-7  Defense-6

Strengths: Quarterback Nick Marshal is the best returning QB in the conference and will play behind the best offensive line in in the SEC.

Weakness: Pass defense has to improve and there will be many changes in the kicking game.

The Big Question: Will Nick Marshall be able to execute the offense s well in 2014 as he did last season?

Florida Gators

Head Coach: Will Muschamp

2013 record: 4-8, 3-5 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-6  Defense-8

Strengths: There is depth at running back with Kelvin Taylor leading the group. Taylor averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season.

Weakness: The offensive line will feature four first year starters and lacks depth.

The Big Question: Will quarterback Jeff Driskel fulfill the promise he brought to Gainesville under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper? Roper served in the same position at Duke last season.

Vanderbilt Commodores

Head Coach: Derek Mason

2013 record: 9-4, 4-4 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-6  Defense-4

Strengths: The defense is deep and athletic along the front seven.

Weakness: There are plenty of questions to be answered in the passing game with inexperience at quarterback and the receiver positions.

The Big Question: Can first year head coach Derek Mason keep the magic going in Nashville that James Franklin brought with him?

SEC Media Days-Tuesday, June 15, 2014

South Carolina Gamecocks

Head Coach: Steve Spurrier

2013 record: 11-2, 6-2 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-8  Defense-6

Strengths: RB Mike Davis totaled 1214 yards last season and 5.8 yards per carry and in 2014 he has a strong and experienced offensive line to run behind.

Weakness: In an SEC that is featuring more and more HUNH teams that like to throw the Gamecocks are woefully thin in the secondary.

The Big Question: The question is not if SC can replace Jadeveon Clowney on defense. Can QB Dylan Thompson can fully replace Connor Shaw? Thompson has shown glimpses, but this year he will be the man.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Head Coach: Dan Mullen

2013 record: 7-6, 3-5 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-8  Defense-8

Strengths: Dak Prescott is one of the most undervalued quarterbacks in the SEC and LB Benardrick McKinney is a future NFL first round pick.

Weakness: Depth on the offensive line. Starters are solid, but if there are injuries it gets dicey.

The Big Question: This is Dan Mullen’s best team since being at State. Can they get a win against one of the big boys in the SEC West?

Texas A&M Aggies

Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin

2013 record: 9-4, 4-4 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-5  Defense-9

Strengths: There are proven players at almost every position on offense except for the QB position. Expect the Aggies to be able to score.

Weakness: The defense returns nine starters, but this is still a unit that needs help. Sometimes returning lots of starters is not a good thing.

The Big Question: Can Sumlin find a QB that can keep the offense running at a high level?

Tennessee Volunteers

Head Coach: Butch Jones

2013 record: 5-7, 2-6 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-4  Defense-5

Strengths: For this team it has to be at linebacker where A.J. Johnson is one of the top players in the conference at this position.

Weakness: There will be brand new starters at every position on the offensive and defensive fronts. That can be a really big problem in the SEC.

The Big Question: Will Butch Jones team make the kind of progress they should in year two, f what is a four year rebuilding program?

Missouri Tigers

Head Coach: Gary Pinkel

2013 record: 12, 7-1 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-4  Defense-4

Strengths: The Tigers have two solid running backs to fill the void left by Henry Josey. Marcus Murphy averaged 6.5 yards per carry in 2013 and Russell Hansbrough averaged 6.0.

Weakness: There is no big play threat at receiver and the defense will be breaking in many new starters.

The Big Question: Is Missouri the team that went 5-7 in 2012 or the team that surprised with their 12-2 record in 2013?

LSU Tigers

Head Coach: Les Miles

2013 record: 10-3, 5-3 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-6  Defense-7

Strengths: This team features a strong set of running backs led by Terrence Magee who averaged 7.3 yards per carry in 2013. In addition to Kenny Hilliard, the nation’s top recruit, Leonard Fournette, is also going to be ining u in the backfield.

Weakness: The continuing early departure of players leaving for the NFL leaves a talented, but inexperienced group on defense that needs depth to mature.

The Big Question: Will whoever becomes the Tiger QB, Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings, drag this team down as they gain maturity?

Arkansas Razorbacks

Head Coach: Bret Bielema

2013 record: 3-9, 0-8 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-7  Defense-4

Strengths: There is solid depth at RB with Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and Keith Marshall.

Weakness: The best receiver on this Razorback team, and maybe the best player, is Hunter Henry. The wide receivers are unproven and a potential liability.

The Big Question: is Brandon Allen going to be an effective SEC QB?

SEC Media Days-June 17, 2014

Georgia Bulldogs

Head Coach: Mark Richt

2013 record: 8-5, 5-3 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-6  Defense-9

Strengths: This team has playmakers on offense. Todd Gurley might be the best RB in college football and Malcom Mitchell combines with Michael Bennett to give the Bulldogs a strong dup at receiver.

Weakness: Jeremy Pruitt is the new defensive coordinator and he needs to clean up tackling issues and other fundamentals for a defense with plenty of potential.

The Big Question: Big injuries hurt Georgia last year in several games. Can the Dogs stay healthy this season?

Ole Miss Rebels

Head Coach: Hugh Freeze

2013 record: 8-5, 3-5 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-5  Defense-9

Strengths: Bo Wallace is a seasoned quarterback and knows Freeze’s offense well. The defense is going to be stout.

Weakness: There are three new starters coming to the offensive line which can always make things tough in the SEC.

The Big Question: Is this the year that Ole Miss can step forward to actually challenge in the SEC West?

Alabama Crimson Tide

Head Coach: Nick Saban

2013 record: 11-2, 7-1 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-8  Defense-4

Strengths: This team is loaded with skill players at RB, like T.J. Yeldon and wider receivers where Amari Cooper is the standout player. Most college football experts are expecting Derrick Henry to have a big sophomore campaign in the Tide backfield.

Weakness: The front seven on the defense may be solid, but the Bama secondary is very unsettled and has only one player, Landon Collins, that is really proven.

The Big Question: Will the Alabama offensive line become capable of taking over games in the trenches this season?

Kentucky Wildcats

Head Coach: Mark Stoops

2013 record: 2-10, 0-8 SEC

Returning Starters: Offense-6  Defense-8

Strengths: The defensive front will be much improved in 2014. Look for DE Bud Dupree to have a big campaign.

Weakness: There is a severe lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball at every position.

The Big Question: Are there enough winnable games on the schedule to help the program look like it is making progress in year two under Stoops?

 

SEC Football: Predicted order of finish

Jul 17, 2014 -- 9:41am

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

SEC CHAMPION

School

Points

Alabama

154

Auburn

75

South Carolina

32

Georgia

19

LSU

9

Ole Miss

2

Arkansas

1

Mississippi State

1

EASTERN DIVISION

School

Points

South Carolina

1895

Georgia

1777

Florida

1362

Missouri

1263

Tennessee

893

Vanderbilt

619

Kentucky

395

WESTERN DIVISION

School

Points

Alabama

1915

Auburn

1735

LSU

1453

Ole Miss

1069

Mississippi State

890

Texas A&M

791

Arkansas

351

 

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