Haven’t we been down this road before?
Last year was supposed to be Georgia’s year and right behind the Bulldogs were the Tennessee Vols, who had some experts predicting a breakout season. Florida was nowhere to be found in anyone’s top 25 rankings and for good reason. Given Florida’s inexperience on the offensive side of the ball, particularly on the offensive line, it was sheer lunacy to pick the Gators among the best teams in the country.
You would think that after finding enough bubble gum and baling wire to hold things together for a 10-win first season on the job, the experts would give Jim McElwain a bit more respect the second time around, but check out the early predictions for a preseason top 25 for 2016 and the Gators are once again nowhere to be found.
Florida’s offensive line should be vastly improved, there is more speed at the skill positions and quarterback figures to be a serious upgrade from the second half of the season. Over on the defensive side of the ball, the Gators are once again stacked despite the loss of Jonathan Bullard, Antonio Morrison and Keanu Neal. But, no one seems to think Florida’s proven talent stacks up.
Here are four all-too-early top 25s. It’s not unexpected that Alabama and LSU are in the top 10, but look at the respect given Tennessee, which has lost 11 straight years to UF, and Georgia, who the Gators have beaten soundly the last two years even though Georgia has had superior talent.
ESPN: (1) Clemson; (2) Alabama; (3) Baylor; (4) Michigan; (5) Oklahoma; (6) Florida State; (7) LSU; (8) Stanford; (9) Notre Dame; (10) Houston; (11) Tennessee; (12) Ohio State; (13) Ole Miss; (14) Michigan State; (15) Southern Cal; (16) Iowa; (17) North Carolina; (18) Oregon; (19) TCU; (20) Washington State; (21) UCLA; (22) Oklahoma State; (23) Georgia; (24) Louisville; (25) Washington
FOX SPORTS: (1) Clemson; (2) Florida State; (3) Alabama; (4) Michigan; (5) LSU; (6) Oklahoma; (7) TCU; (8) Ole Miss; (9) Baylor; (10) Houston; (11) Tennessee; (12) Stanford; (13) Michigan State; (14) Ohio State; (15) Washington; (16) Notre Dame; (17) Southern Cal; (18) Iowa; (19) Georgia; (20) North Carolina; (21) Oklahoma State; (22) Oregon; (23) Louisville; (24) Utah; (25) Miami
CBSSPORTS.COM: (1) Clemson; (2) Alabama; (3) Oklahoma; (4) LSU; (5) Ohio State; (6) Michigan; (7) Baylor; (8) Notre Dame; (9) Michigan State; (10) Houston; (11) Tennessee; (12) Florida State; (13) Miami; (14) Stanford; (15) Iowa; (16) Oklahoma State; (17) Ole Miss; (18) Oregon; (19) Arkansas; (20) TCU; (21) Southern Cal; (22) Georgia; (23) Louisville; (24) Boise State; (25) Washington State
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: (1) Oklahoma; (2) Alabama; (3) Clemson; (4) Ohio State; (5) Florida State; (6) LSU; (7) Michigan; (8) Tennessee; (9) Notre Dame; (10) Baylor; (11) Stanford; (12) Ole Miss; (13) Houston; (14) Iowa; (15) TCU; (16) Southern Cal; (17) Michigan State; (18) Oklahoma State; (19) Louisville; (20) North Carolina; (21) Oregon; (22) Georgia; (23) Miami; (24) Washington; (25) Washington State
AN EARLY LOOK AT SEC FOOTBALL SCHEDULES FOR 2016
The schedule: 9/3 Southern Cal (Arlington, TX); 9/10 Western Kentucky; 9/17 at Ole Miss; 9/24 Kent State; 10/1 Kentucky; 10/8 at Arkansas; 10/15 at Tennessee; 10/22 Texas A&M; 11/5 at LSU; 11/12 Mississippi State; 11/19 Chattanooga; 11/26 Auburn
Bowl teams from 2015 (9): USC, Western Kentucky, at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, at Tennessee, Texas A&M, at LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn
Division IAA (1): Chattanooga
Toughest stretch of games: at Arkansas, at Tennessee, Texas &M, at LSU, Mississippi State
Assessment/Prediction: Alabama’s four toughest SEC games – Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU – are all on the road and the schedule opens with a couple of decent non-conference games in Southern Cal and a Western Kentucky team that won 12 games in 2015. The Tennessee game on October 15 could be a preview of the SEC Championship Game. As always the LSU game will be circled as the potential West Division championship. Anything less than 11 regular season wins will create near panic conditions in Tuscaloosa.
The schedule: 9/3 Louisiana Tech; 9/10 at TCU; 9/17 Texas State; 9/24 Texas A&M (Arlington, TX); 10/1 Alcorn State; 10/8 Alabama; 10/15 Ole Miss; 10/22 at Auburn; 11/5 Florida; 11/12 LSU; 11/19 at Mississippi State; 11/26 at Missouri
Bowl teams from 2015 (9): Louisiana Tech, at TCU, at Texas A&M, Alabama, Ole Miss, at Auburn, Florida, LSU, at Mississippi State
Division IAA: Alcorn State
Toughest stretch of games: Alabama, Ole Miss, at Auburn, Florida, LSU, at Mississippi State
Assessment/prediction: Even though the Razorbacks lost key skill people, there is no limit to the optimism in Fayetteville. Improvement on last season’s 8-5 record will be determined by how well the Hogs play over a 5-game stretch that begins October 8 with Alabama and ends November 12 with LSU. Four of those games are at home so if the Hogs are to do any better than a 7-win regular season they’ll have to do no worse than 3-2 during that stretch.
The schedule: 9/3 Clemson; 9/10 Arkansas State; 9/17 Texas A&M; 9/24 LSU; 10/1 Louisiana-Monroe; 10/8 at Mississippi State; 10/22 Arkansas; 10/29 at Ole Miss; 11/5 Vanderbilt; 11/12 at Georgia; 11/19 Alabama A&M; 11/26 at Alabama
Bowl teams from 2015 (9): Clemson, Arkansas State, Texas A&M, LSU, at Mississippi State, Arkansas, at Ole Miss, at Georgia, at Alabama
Division IAA (1): Alabama A&M
Toughest stretch of games: Clemson, Arkansas State, Texas A&M, LSU
Assessment/prediction: The first four games – Clemson, Arkansas State, Texas A&M and LSU – are all at home. If somehow Auburn could win those four or even go 3-1 to start the season, then it could be a surprisingly good year. That’s a big if. Reality says the Tigers are a 7-8 win team – at best.
The schedule: 9/3 UMass; 9/10 Kentucky; 9/17 North Texas; 9/24 at Tennessee; 10/1 at Vanderbilt; 10/8 LSU; 10/15 Missouri; 10/29 Georgia (Jacksonville); 11/5 at Arkansas; 11/12 South Carolina; 11/19 Presbyterian; 11/26 at Florida State
Bowl teams from 2015 (5): at Tennessee; LSU, Georgia, at Arkansas, at Florida State
Toughest stretch of games: at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt, LSU
Division IAA (1): Presbyterian
Assessment/prediction: This isn’t the most challenging of schedules, which is a good thing considering the Gators are probably going to be breaking in a brand new quarterback. If the Gators can get through that Tennessee, Vanderbilt, LSU gauntlet unbeaten they’ll have a very good chance to repeat as SEC East champs. Figure 9-10 wins. McElwain’s that good a coach.
The schedule: 9/3 North Carolina (Atlanta); 9/10 Nicholls State; 9/17 at Missouri; 9/24 at Ole Miss; 10/1 Tennessee; 10/8 at South Carolina; 10/15 Vanderbilt; 10/29 Florida (Jacksonville); 11/5 at Kentucky; 11/12 Auburn; 11/19 Louisiana-Lafayette; 11/26 Georgia Tech
Bowl teams from 2015 (5): North Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn
Division IAA (1): Nicholls State
Toughest stretch of games: at Missouri, at Ole Miss, Tennessee, at South Carolina, Vanderbilt
Assessment/prediction: Georgia only has two games when it will be challenged on successive weekends (at Ole Miss and Tennessee in Athens). Otherwise Kirby Smart has a very manageable schedule for his first year. If Nick Chubb is healthy and a QB is found, the Bulldogs should win no less than nine games.
The schedule: 9/3 Southern Miss; 9/10 at Florida; 9/17 New Mexico State; 9/24 South Carolina; 10/1 at Alabama; 10/8 Vanderbilt; 10/22 Mississippi State; 10/29 at Missouri; 11/5 Georgia; 11/12 at Tennessee; 11/19 Austin Peay; 11/26 at Louisville
Bowl teams from 2015 (7): Southern Miss, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi State, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisville
Division IAA (1): Austin Peay
Toughest stretch of games: Mississippi State, at Missouri, Georgia, at Tennessee
Assessment/prediction: The Wildcats have a schedule that is conducive to a 1-5 start and three games in November (Georgia, Tennessee and Louisville) that look extremely losable. Another 4-5 win season is in the cards.
The schedule: 9/3 Wisconsin (Lambeau Field, Green Bay); 9/10 Jacksonville State; 9/17 Mississippi State; 9/24 at Auburn; 10/1 Missouri; 10/8 at Florida; 10/15 Southern Miss; 10/22 Ole Miss; 11/5 Alabama; 11/12 at Arkansas; 11/19 South Alabama; 11/24 Texas A&M
Bowl teams from 2015 (10): Wisconsin, Mississippi State, at Auburn, at Florida, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Alabama, at Arkansas, South Alabama, at Texas A&M
Division IAA (1): Jacksonville State
Toughest stretch of games: at Florida, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Alabama, at Arkansas
Assessment/prediction: The Tigers are as talented as any team on the schedule including Alabama. We’ll know if LSU is a contender or a pretender for the SEC and national championships with those back-to-back games with Ole Miss and Alabama.
The schedule: 9/3 South Alabama; 9/10 South Carolina; 9/17 at LSU; 9/24 UMass (at Foxboro, MA); 10/8 Auburn; 10/15 at BYU; 10/22 at Kentucky; 10/29 Samford; 11/5 Texas A&M; 11/12 at Alabama; 11/19 Arkansas; 11/26 at Ole Miss
Bowl teams from 2015 (7): at LSU, Auburn, at BYU, Texas A&M, at Alabama, Arkansas, at Ole Miss
Division IAA (1): Samford
Toughest stretch of games: Texas A&M, at Alabama, Arkansas, at Ole Miss
Assessment/prediction: The three toughest games on the schedule (LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss) are on the road which means another 8-win season is likely for Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs.
The schedule: 9/3 at West Virginia; 9/10 Eastern Michigan; 9/17 Georgia; 9/24 Delaware State; 10/1 at LSU; 10/15 at Florida; 10/22 Middle Tennessee State; 10/29 Kentucky; 11/5 at South Carolina; 11/12 Vanderbilt; 11/19 at Tennessee; 11/26 Arkansas
Bowl teams from 2015 (7): West Virginia, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee, Arkansas
Division IAA: Delaware State
Toughest stretch of games: at South Carolina, Vanderbilt, at Tennessee, Arkansas
Assessment/prediction: This was as bad an offensive team as there was in the country last year and any improvement will be welcome. The schedule isn’t all that difficult by SEC standards but that still won’t get more than 5-6 wins.
The schedule: 9/3 Florida State (Orlando); 9/10 Wofford; 9/17 Alabama; 9/24 Georgia; 10/1 Memphis; 10/15 at Arkansas; 11/22 at LSU; 11/29 Auburn; 11/5 Georgia Southern; 11/19 at Vanderbilt; 11/26 Mississippi State
Bowl teams from 2015 (10): Florida State, Alabama, Georgia, Memphis, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, Georgia Southern, Texas A&M, Mississippi State
Division IAA (1): Wofford
Toughest stretch of games: Alabama, Georgia, Memphis, at Arkansas, at LSU, Auburn, Georgia Southern
Assessment/prediction: There may not be another team in the country that plays seven consecutive games against teams that made it to a bowl game last including the national champions. Getting Alabama and Georgia back-to-back will tell you early on how good Ole Miss is going to be. Pencil the Rebels in for nine wins.
The schedule: 9/3 at Vanderbilt; 9/10 at Mississippi State; 9/17 East Carolina; 9/24 at Kentucky; 10/1 Texas A&M; 10/8 Georgia; 10/22 UMass; 10/29 Tennessee; 11/5 Missouri; 11/12 at Florida; 11/19 Western Carolina; 11/26 at Clemson
Bowl teams from 2015 (6): Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Clemson
Division IAA: Western Carolina
Toughest stretch of games: at Vanderbilt, at Mississippi State, East Carolina, at Kentucky, Texas A&M, Georgia
Assessment/prediction: The Gamecocks open the season with two SEC road games and play three of their first four on the road before hosting the Aggies and Georgia on consecutive home games. The second half of the season is back loaded with Tennessee and roadies to Florida and Clemson. If Will Muschamp can squeeze five wins out of this schedule it’s a great coaching job.
The schedule: 9/3 Appalachian State; 9/10 Virginia Tech (Bristol Motor Speedway, TN); 10/17 Ohio U; 10/24 Florida; 10/1 at Georgia; 10/8 at Texas A&M; 10/15 Alabama; 10/29 at South Carolina; 11/5 Tennessee Tech; 11/12 Kentucky; 11/19 Missouri; 11/26 at Vanderbilt
Bowl teams from 2015 (7): Appalachian State, Virginia Tech, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, Alabama
Division IAA (1): Tennessee Tech
Toughest stretch of games: Florida, at Georgia, at Texas A&M, Alabama
Assessment/prediction: The schedule is frontloaded to the point that Tennessee could have its ticket to Atlanta punched by mid-October if it can somehow go through that four game gauntlet unbeaten. The Vols have experience and a back end schedule that lends itself to an end of the season win streak. Anything less than 10 wins should be disappointing for Vol fans.
The schedule: 9/3 UCLA; 9/10 Prairie View A&M; 9/17 at Auburn; 9/24 Arkansas (Arlington, TX); 10/1 at South Carolina; 10/8 Tennessee; 10/22 at Alabama; 10/29 New Mexico State; 11/5 at Mississippi State; 11/12 Ole Miss; 11/19 Texas San-Antonio; 11/24 LSU
Bowl teams from 2015 (8): UCLA, at Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee, at Alabama, at Mississippi State, Ole Miss, LSU
Division IAA (1): Prairie View A&M
Toughest stretch of games: at Auburn, Arkansas (neutral site), at South Carolina, Tennessee, at Alabama
Assessment/prediction: Starting with the Auburn game in mid-September, the Aggies go through a 5-game stretch with only one game at Kyle Field that will determine their season. Other than UCLA, the non-conference schedule is easy. Overall, this looks like a 7-8 win season.
The schedule: 9/3 South Carolina; 9/10 Middle Tennessee State; 9/17 at Georgia Tech; 9/24 at Western Kentucky; 10/1 Florida; 10/8 at Georgia; 10/22; 11/5 at Auburn; 11/12 at Missouri; 11/19 Ole Miss; 11/26 Tennessee
Bowl teams from 2015 (7): Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee
Division IAA (1): Tennessee State
Toughest stretch of games: at Auburn, at Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee
Assessment/prediction: The Commodores actually have a more favorable schedule than last year and the defense should be nasty. The problem is the offense is nasty in a not so positive way. This is another 4-win team.
LSU got an unexpected gift when corner Tre’Davious White backtracked on a possible first round NFL opportunity (Mel Kiper had him #20 on his big board) to stay for his senior season.
Texas Tech QB Davis Webb, who will transfer to another school after he graduates this spring, will take an official visit to Colorado this weekend and has plans to take an official to Auburn in February. Webb has thrown for 5,777 yards and 46 touchdown passes with only 22 interceptions in his college career.
They’re playing the Australian Open. I’m sure that’s high on your list of priorities. Don’t know what the Aussie Open is? Glad you asked. It’s tennis. I’m sure you’ll place it right there with volunteering for a root canal you don’t need on your to do list.
Lou Michaels, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a former All-Pro in a 13-year pro career, died of pancreatic cancer Tuesday. A two-way tackle, punter and placekicker, Michaels played for Blanton Collier at Kentucky where he finished fourth in the 1957 Heisman Trophy.
Did you know that UF QB Luke Del Rio used to throw passes and hand the ball off to Stanford Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey in Colorado? The two teamed up to lead Valor Christian to a state championship in 2012.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Two part question: Based on what the Gators did in year one under Jim McElwain, do you think the “experts” are underestimating UF once again and do you think these same “experts” are giving Georgia entirely too much love?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I listened to “The Last Waltz” by the band today and it reminded me just how good the late Levon Helm was both as a singer and drummer. I found this live concert of The Levon Helm Band from 2008, four years before he died of cancer. I think you’ll like it.