Budgets must be balanced and athletic directors must come up with ways to finance that new stereo system that pumps rap music throughout the football complex, not to mention a new field turf rug for the women’s field hockey team to play on. At least that’s the universal excuse nationwide for loading up non-conference football schedules for the schools in the power conferences with cupcakes. Okay, we understand the necessity for bringing in a will be your boy toy for a paycheck team to ensure there are enough home games to keep the program in the black and we understand exactly why bottom feeders from the catfish leagues are willing to subject themselves to abject humiliation, but is it necessary to bring in so many of them on one weekend?
On a weekend where the national schedule includes #7 Michigan State at #3 Oregon; Virginia Tech at #8 Ohio State; #14 USC at #13 Stanford; Michigan at #16 Notre Dame and San Diego State at #21 North Carolina, the SEC presents us with the following:Florida Atlantic at #2 Alabama, SEC Network
San Jose State at #5 Auburn, ESPN2
Lamar at #9 Texas A&M, SEC Network
Sam Houston State at #12 LSU, SEC Network
#15 Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, ESPN
East Carolina at #21 South Carolina, ESPNU
Arkansas State at Tennessee, SEC Network
UAB at Mississippi State, GamePlan/ESPN3
Ohio U at Kentucky, ESPNU
Nicholls State at Arkansas, SEC Network
Eastern Michigan at Florida, SEC Network
Of those 11 games, only Ole Miss at Vandy and East Carolina at South Carolina figure to be competitive although nobody should be surprised if Arkansas State gives Tennessee fits or if Ohio U gives Kentucky all it can handle. What we have is an SEC weekend in which there are nine paycheck games being played.
Now there is no question that the SEC is the best college football conference going or that the SEC schedule is so brutal that its teams need to bring in a whipping boy to work out the frustrations, but nine paycheck games on the same weekend? The SEC ought to be ashamed, particularly with the SEC Network less than a month old. That kind of schedule is not exactly the way to get the rest of the nation interested in the new network.
Remember what happened with the Idaho game? Of course you do. Now fast forward to Saturday. Weather Underground calls for 86 degree temperatures and says there is a chance for rain and thunderstorms when the Gators tee it up with Eastern Michigan at The Swamp at 4 p.m. Weather.com simply says there will be a 60% chance of rain with scattered thunderstorms during the day and says thunderstorms are likely in the early evening.
The Associated Press poll went like this: (1) Florida State; (2) Alabama; (3) Oregon; (4) Oklahoma; (5) Auburn; (6) Georgia; (7) Michigan State; (8) Ohio State; (9) Texas A&M; (10) Baylor; (11) UCLA; (12) LSU; (13) Stanford; (14) USC; (15) Ole Miss; (16) Notre Dame; (17) Arizona Sate; (18) Wisconsin; (19) Nebraska; (20) Kansas State; (21 TIE) South Carolina and North Carolina; (23) Clemson; (24) Missouri; and (25) Louisville.
If I had a vote, my top 25 would look like this: (1) Florida State; (2) Auburn; (3) Alabama; (4) Oklahoma; (5) Oregon; (6) Michigan State; (7) Georgia; (8) Texas A&M; (9) Baylor; (10) LSU; (11) Ohio State; (12) USC; (13) Notre Dame; (14) UCLA; (15) Ole Miss; (16) Stanford; (17) Arizona State; (18) South Carolina; (19) Wisconsin; (20) Nebraska; (21) Kansas State; (22) North Carolina; (23) Louisville; (24) Texas; and (25) Mississippi State.
2. Big Ten, 12-2 (.887)
3. Pac-12, 10-2 (.883)
4. ACC, 9-3 (.750)
5. Big 12, 6-3 (.667)
It’s a bit early to be projecting bowls, but leave it to ESPN to come up with its projections for the postseason. Probably the biggest surprise is picking Georgia for the national semifinal. The Bulldogs did beat Clemson handily in game one but that’s game one and at last check there are 11 to go including roadies with South Carolina and Missouri, Florida in Jacksonville and a homer with Auburn. In that Georgia typically loses one game it should lose and at least one more that it shouldn’t, picking the Bulldogs to defy the odds seems a stretch this early in the year. Until someone from the SEC East knocks off the SEC West, winners of the last five SEC Championship Games, any projection of a team from the SEC East in the national semifinal seems a bit hallucinogenic.Rose Bowl (national semifinal): Georgia
Orange Bowl: Alabama
Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl: Auburn
Capital One Bowl: Texas A&M
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: LSU
Outback Bowl: South Carolina
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Mississippi State
Belk Bowl: Florida
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: Missouri
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Ole Miss
Birmingham Bowl: Tennessee
#2 ALABAMA: Alabama will welcome back starting inside linebacker Trey DePriest, who missed the season opener with West Virginia while serving a one-game NCAA mandated suspension for violation of an unspecified rule. In assessing the play of his linebackers against WVU, Nick Saban said, “We didn’t play very well at linebacker. We had too many missed communications, too many missed coverages, too many missed assignments.”
ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks have lost ten games in a row but head coach Bret Bielema is encouraged by what he’s seeing. At his Monday press conference, Bielema said, “... the more I watched film [of Auburn loss] and the more I saw things that I know that are going to have an effect on us winning games down the road, it makes you feel good.”
#5 AUBURN: Auburn always has a running threat at quarterback, whether it’s Nick Marshall or Jeremy Johnson, but the Tigers will also run a wildcat quarterback. Senior wide receiver Quan Bray lined up in the wildcat against Arkansas and handed off to Corey Grant on a jet sweep that gained 19 yards. Expect to see more of Bray in the wildcat this week and in the weeks ahead and expect that he will do more than simply hand the ball off.
#6 GEORGIA: Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who has missed the last 14 games, was at practice for the first time this season Tuesday. Mitchell wore a non-contact jersey and was seen jogging on the sidelines. Receivers Chris Conley (shoulder) and Brendan Douglas were in non-contact jerseys along with Justin Scott-Wesley (knee/ankle sprain).
KENTUCKY: The Wildcats seem highly impressed with themselves after game one. “It was mind blowing to see the difference from last year to this year,” were the words of offensive tackle Jordan Swindle. “I mean we have so many playmakers on the edges, running backs who are so clean and hitting the holes perfect. When you hae all that it makes it easy for us.” Someone remind Swindle that the Wildcats played a very average D1AA team in that season opener and not a decent team from the SEC.
#12 LSU: Although Anthony Jennings handled the bulk of the snaps in the Tigers’ win over Wisconsin, head coach Les Miles insists that it’s still a two-man rotation at quarterback and it’s going to remain that way for the immediate future.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Defensive lineman Preston Smith was named Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week after registering two tackles, one interception, one blocked field goal, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry against Southern Miss.
#23 MISSOURI: Missouri is trying to spin a lackluster 393-yard offensive effort against D1AA South Dakota State as nothing to worry about since the Tigers were slow to crank up in their first three games last year ... Missouri got three turnovers against SDSU, extending their best in the nation streak of 45 straight games with at least one forced turnover.
#15 OLE MISS: Saturday opponent Vanderbilt took a 37-7 beating last Saturday, a game that the Commodores all but handed to Temple with three interceptions and four lost fumbles. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze doesn’t think that game is indicative of the team the Rebels will face in Nashville Saturday. “I don’t expect us to go in and get seven turnovers from them,” Freeze said. “I’m sure they’re making corrections. I expect it to be another SEC fight like all are.”
#21 SOUTH CAROLINA: Following a lackluster effort in that game one loss to Texas A&M, Steve Spurrier says he’s looking for more effort and enthusiasm from his team when it faces East Carolina Saturday. “Hopefully, we can come out there and run round and show some fire and act like we really love playing the game,” Spurrier said. “I hope we can do that. That remains to be seen because we didn’t do it very well obviously the other time.”
TENNESSEE: Offensive tackle Jacob Gilliam, a fifth year senior who started at left tackle against Utah State, will miss the rest of the season after suffering an ACL tear against the Aggies Sunday night. With Gilliam out, juco transfer Dontavius Blair, redshirt freshman Brett Kendrick and true freshman Coleman Thomas will be in the running to start at left tackle Saturday against Arkansas State.
#9 TEXAS A&M: The last two years it was Johnny Football. Now they’re trying to come up with a nickname for the new Aggie quarterback. Kenny Hill prefers Kenny Trill, which ties in with the Texas rapper Bun B Trill G who has some sort of a relationship with A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. In rap culture, the world trill is a hybrid of true and real.
VANDERBILT: Head coach Derek Mason has no plans to announce who he’s going to start at quarterback against Ole Miss. Patton Robinette started the loss to Temple, but Stephen Rivers got the bulk of the snaps off the bench and he was relieved by Johnny McCary. About the QB situation, Mason said, “Different guys have different skillsets and we’re going to work to those skillsets and we’re going to see who gives us the best opportunity.”