Remember all that talk about how the SEC had slipped and how the other conferences were gaining ground? Funny, how no one is really trumpeting that tired old line since Alabama beat Clemson for its fourth national championship in seven years and the SEC’s ninth since 2003. We’ll probably hear more of that talk next year – one publication already has Clemson and Florida State 1-2 in its preseason rankings – but enough of that wishful thinking. It only takes a check of the recruiting rankings to see why the SEC has dominated and will continue to dominate.
While 5-star athletes make up only a small part of any team, they’re a good measuring stick for recruiting purposes. Schools and conferences that lure the best players tend to have the best teams. Since 2008, the SEC has landed 142 5-star football players (ranked by Scout.com), 20 more than any two other conferences combined. Alabama has landed 32 5-stars since 2008 and has backed that up by landing an astounding 109 that Scout.com rated 4-stars.
With 19 days until National Signing Day, the trend continues to the SEC, which has 9 commitments from 5-star athletes. That’s one more than the Big Ten and Pac-12 have landed combined. The SEC also leads with 100 4-star recruits, 38 more than the second place Big Ten.
For a little bit of perspective why the SEC will continue to dominate college football all you have to do is take a look at Scout.com’s rankings at the single most important position on the field – quarterback – where five of the seven top for 2016 are committed to the SEC – 1. Shea Patterson, Ole Miss; 2. Jacob Eason, Georgia; 3. Jareet Guarantano, Tennessee; 5. Feleipe Franks, Florida; and 6. Jalen Hurts, Alabama.
5-Star/4Star by SEC Team Since 2008 with Won/Loss Record
1. Alabama 32/109; 98-12 record
2. Florida 22/83; 73-32 record
3. Georgia 18/84; 74-32 record
4. LSU 17/82; 78-26 record
5. Auburn 17/78; 65-39 record
6. Ole Miss 9/44; 58-44 record
7. Tennessee 6/68; 49-51 record
8. South Carolina 6/39; 66-38 record
9. Arkansas 3/36; 56-45 record
10. Mississippi State 3/34; 59-43 record
11. Kentucky 0/21; 39-60 record
12. Vanderbilt 0/10; 42-58 record
Texas A&M/Missouri Big 12/SEC combined
Texas A&M 8/53; 62-41 record
Missouri 1/22; 69-36 record
Top 10 Teams for 5-Star Recruits Since 2008
1. Alabama 32
2 (Tie) Florida State and Southern Cal 27
4. Texas 24
5. Florida 22
6. Oklahoma 19
7. (Tie) Georgia and UCLA 18
9. (Tie) LSU and Auburn 17
5 Star Recruits by Conference Since 2008
1. SEC 142
2. Pac-12 66
3. ACC 56
4. Big 12 48
5. Big Ten 43
UF WOMEN’S SPORTS
Florida’s women’s basketball team moved to 16-3 Thursday night by dusting off Alabama, 80-72, at the O-Dome. The Gators did it in typical fashion – 12 players got into the game, nine of them played at least 13 minutes, 11 broke into the scoring column and all 12 contributed on the defensive end, where the Gators scored 33 points off Bama turnovers.
Freshman Eleanna Christinaki paced the Gators with 16 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals while Ronnie Williams had 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals and Simone Westbrooke scored 11 to go with 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.
Tim Walton’s Florida softball team, which will be going for a third straight national championship when the season opens up on February 12, is the preseason favorite to win the SEC championship in a vote of the league’s 13 coaches. LSU and Auburn, which both advanced along with the Gators to the Women’s College World Series, were selected to finish second and third.
Florida’s top-ranked gymnastics team goes on the road tonight to face #8 Auburn, led by senior All-American Bridget Sloan, who won SEC Gymnast of the Week after winning the all-around as the Gators blew the doors off #5 UCLA. Alicia Boren shared Freshman of the Week honors with Missouri’s Britney Ward.
SEC SCHEDULES 2016: WHO HAS THE TOUGHEST OCTOBER?
1. OLE MISS
10/1 Memphis: 9-4
10/8 Open Date
10/15 at Arkansas: 8-5; won Liberty Bowl
10/22 at LSU: 9-3; won Texas Bowl
10/29 Auburn: 7-6; won Birmingham Bowl
Assessment: Hugh Freeze must be wondering what he did that was so bad to deserve this brutal schedule. He gets FSU, Bama and Georgia in September and then gets four teams he could lose to in October. An 0-4 is possible and a lot of folks think this has 2-2 written all over it, but Freeze typically wins one he shouldn’t so a 3-1 is do-able.
10/1 at Georgia: 10-3; won Gator Bowl
10/8 at Texas A&M: 8-5; lost Music City Bowl
10/15 Alabama: 14-1; won SEC and national championships
10/22 Open Date
10/29 at South Carolina: 3-9
Assessment: Given their September schedule, the Vols could all but wrap up the SEC East with a 3-1 October. Considering they played Bama to the wire in Tuscaloosa last year, a 4-0 October isn’t such a wild notion.
10/1 Kentucky: 5-7
10/8 at Arkansas: 8-5; won Liberty Bowl
10/15: at Tennessee: 9-4; won Outback Bowl
10/22: Texas A&M: 8-5; lost Music City Bowl
Assessment: The Arkansas game could be interesting only if the Crimson Tide is looking ahead to Tennessee. That’s the game Nick Saban already has circled on the calendar and it could be a preview of Alabama’s SEC Championship Game opponent. A loss in Knoxville shouldn’t surprise anyone but a 4-0 October is what we expect out of Alabama and probably what we’re going to get.
10/1 Alcorn State (in Little Rock): 9-4 in Division IAA
10/8 Alabama: 14-1; won SEC and national championships
10/15 Ole Miss: 10-3; won Sugar Bowl
10/22: at Auburn: 7-6; won Birmingham Bowl
10/29 Open Date
Assessment: October starts out easy with Alcorn State from Division IAA and then things get immensely worse with Alabama coming to Fayette Nam for a visit. If the Hogs survive the Bama game without getting too beaten up, they’ll have a shot at Ole Miss at home the next week. A 2-2 record is entirely possible but that road game at Auburn could make this a 1-3 month.
10/1: Louisiana Monroe: 2-11
10/8 at Mississippi State: 9-4; won Belk Bowl
10/15 Open Date
10/22: Arkansas: 8-5; won Liberty Bowl
10/29: at Ole Miss: 10-3; won Sugar Bowl
Assessment: Unless the Tigers show their vastly improved in September, this figures to be a very difficult month. The only game Auburn will be favored is a paycheck visit to Jordan-Hare by Louisiana-Monroe. Arkansas is a tossup that is winnable. This looks like 2-2.
10/1 Missouri: 5-7
10/8 at Florida: 10-4; won SEC East championship; lost Citrus Bowl
10/15 Southern Mississippi: 9-5; won Conference USA South championship; lost Heart of Dallas Bowl
10/22 Ole Miss: 10-3; won Sugar Bowl
10/29 Open Date
Assessment: The Tigers could see their SEC and national championship hopes go up in smoke with a roadie at Florida and Ole Miss a couple of weeks later in Baton Rouge. Missouri and Southern Miss will put up resistance but aren’t going to beat LSU in Tiger Stadium. In a worst case scenario, LSU goes 3-1.
10/1 at Vanderbilt: 4-8
10/8 LSU: 9-3; won Texas Bowl
10/15 Missouri: 5-7
10/22 Open Date
10/29 Georgia (in Jacksonville): 10-3; won Gator Bowl
Assessment: October figures to be Florida’s most difficult month. The two easiest teams on the schedule – Vanderbilt and Missouri – played UF white knuckles last year. Then there is LSU at home and Georgia in Jacksonville. The LSU game will be the toughie. Figure 3-1.
10/1 Tennessee: 9-4; won Outback Bowl
10/8 at South Carolina: 3-9
10/15 Vanderbilt: 4-8
10/22 Open Date
10/29 Florida (in Jacksonville): 10-4; won SEC East championship; lost Citrus Bowl
Assessment: Georgia benefits from playing Tennessee at home. The South Carolina and Vandy games should go in the W column. When Kirby Smart played for the Bulldogs he was 1-3 against the Gators. He’ll make it 1-4 and Georgia will go 2-2 in October.
9. TEXAS A&M
10/1 at South Carolina: 3-9
10/8 Tennessee: 9-4; won Outback Bowl
10/15 Open Date
10/22 at Alabama: 14-1; won SEC and national championships
10/29 New Mexico State: 3-9
Assessment: The Aggies have two games they should win without a lot of trouble in South Carolina and New Mexico State and two that should go in the L column in Tennessee and Alabama.
10. SOUTH CAROLINA
10/1 Texas A&M: 8-5; lost Music City Bowl
10/8 Georgia: 10-3; won Gator Bowl
10/15 Open Date
10/22 UMass: 3-9
10/29 Tennessee: 9-4; won Outback Bowl
Assessment: The only surefire win is UMass but at least the Gamecocks get the Aggies, Georgia and Tennessee at Williams-Brice. This has 1-3 written all over it.
10/1 at Alabama: 14-1; won SEC and national championships
10/8 Vanderbilt: 4-8
10/15 Open Date
10/22 Mississippi State: 9-4; won Belk Bowl
10/29 at Missouri: 5-7
Assessment: The Wildcats will almost certainly lose to Bama and Mississippi State. The problem is Vandy and Missouri will play them very, very tough. A 1-3 record is in the forecast.
10/1 at LSU: 9-3, won Texas Bowl
10/8 Open Date
10/15 at Florida; 10-4; won SEC East championship; lost Citrus Bowl
10/22 Middle Tennessee State: 7-6; lost Bahamas Bowl
10/29 Kentucky: 5-7
Assessment: There isn’t a game in October the Tigers aren’t capable of losing, but the guess is they’ll muster up enough offense to knock off Middle Tennessee State and Kentucky to finish the month 2-2.
10/1 Florida: 10-4; won SEC East championship; lost Citrus Bowl
10/8 at Kentucky: 5-7
10/15 at Georgia: 10-3; won Gator Bowl
10/22 Tennessee State: 4-6
10/29 Open Date
Assessment: Florida and Georgia will both be on upset alert because Vandy played them very tough last year, but realistically, the Commodores have a shot at 2-2 because they could win a tossup game with Kentucky and should have no problems knocking off Tennessee State. This looks like a 1-3 month, however.
14. MISSISSIPPI STATE
10/1 Open Date
10/8 at Auburn: 7-6; won Birmingham Bowl
10/15 at BYU: 9-4; lost Las Vegas Bowl
10/22 at Kentucky: 5-7
10/29 Samford: 6-5 in Division IAA
Assessment: This is a very manageable schedule that with a break here or there could turn into a 4-0 month for Dan Mullen. If the Bulldogs can get out of Jordan-Hare with a win, it’s very likely they run the October table.
VALDOSTA STATE A GOOD GIG FOR KERWIN
Valdosta State has a home run hire in former Gator QB Kerwin Bell, the former HBC at Jacksonville U. This should be one of the best jobs in all of Division II football and Bell has the ability to make it a championship contender every single year. JU was not a scholarship program yet the Dolphins played and held their own against scholarship Division IAA programs while winning three Pioneer League championships in his nine years as head coach.
Valdosta has outstanding facilities for a Division II program and plays its home games at 11,500-seat Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. There are plenty of outstanding players in south central Georgia and north central Florida who are overlooked by Division I programs so recruiting should be no problem.
For a small school program, Valdosta State has quite a history of getting coaches ready to move on to bigger and better things. Among the Division I coaches who have cut their coaching teeth at VSU are Hal Mumme, Mike Leach, Dana Holgorsen, Will Muschamp and Kirby Smart.
Jon Gruden is all for abolishing instant replay in the NFL. He says the constant stopping of play to check replays slows the game down too much. “Let the people on the field officiate and hold them accountable,” Gruden says.
Former NBA star Cliff Robinson has opened up a new business to grow marijuana legally in Portland, Oregon. I’m not making this up but the business is registered under the name “Uncle Spiffy.”
The more I watch SEC hoops official Tony Greene the more I realize his sell-by date expired about six or seven years ago. And, any time I see he’s on a crew to officiate a Kentucky game I know every close call is going to go Kentucky’s way. Greene’s blown calls were worth at least 10 points for Kentucky Thursday night.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Do you believe there is a correlation between getting the most 4- and 5-star athletes and winning big or is that just a myth?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
My first concert was The Beatles in Jacksonville in 1964. I’ve been hooked on their music ever since. Even though the Beatles broke up more than 45 years ago, Paul McCartney keeps the music alive. I keep checking his website to see when he’s going to tour this year and if there is a stop somewhere close by because I want to see him live at least once more before he decides to call it quits. Today’s music is his 2007 concert at The Olympia in Paris.