Getty Images

CFT 2018 Preseason Previews: SEC

Leave a comment

It wasn’t that long ago the SEC was labeled as being “down” in part due to the lack of good quarterback play across the league. How things have changed, as this year’s stellar crop of signal-callers makes the conference one of the toughest to play in yet again and more than capable of producing multiple College Football Playoff contenders throughout the season. Missouri’s Drew Lock has been labeled as an early first-rounder, as is Auburn’s Heisman contender in Jarrett Stidham. Alabama has not one but two good options behind center and transfers like LSU’s Joe Burrow (from Ohio State) have bolstered the ranks even further. Add in a host of new coaches to the league and there’s perhaps never been more intrigue from top to bottom of each division. 

In the SEC West, things begin and end as they always do in the era of Nick Saban with Alabama. The Crimson Tide looks primed to defend their title but this time around will be led by their offense. No matter who winds up being the long-term option at quarterback between Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts, the team will sport perhaps their best collection of young skill position talent in the last several years and another stout offensive line. The front seven remains loaded and while there are concerns about replacing so many starters in the secondary, few are going to doubt Saban from figuring something out. Their biggest challenge might come in their own state as Gus Malzahn sports another explosive offensive full of weapons and teams that up with a defense that very well could be the best in the conference. 

Don’t sleep on Mississippi State crashing the top two in the West, either, as new coach Joe Moorhead is a perfect fit for dual-threat QB Nick Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs have the players in the trenches on both sides of the ball to go toe-to-toe with anybody. Speaking of new coaches, nobody has more eyeballs on them than Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, who will no doubt have a few growing pains in College Station but has enough talent to keep the Aggies afloat despite the tough schedule. Ed Orgeron faces an increasing amount of pressure to win big at LSU but, even with the addition of Burrow to run the offense, that might be a tough task in 2018. Both Ole Miss and Arkansas (with new coach Chad Morris) face rebuilding situations, but both sport a pair of fun offenses that should at least make their shootouts fun to watch even if the wins don’t follow.

Over on the eastern side of the conference, defending champion Georgia is primed to repeat in the division and make yet another run at the national title. The losses of guys like Nick Chubb and Roquan Smith hurt but nobody has recruited as well as Kirby Smart has since taking over in Athens and the Bulldogs will once again trot out more talent than anybody in the East. Their biggest challenger will likely come in the form of Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks as QB Jake Bentley and WR Deebo Samuel is one of the top combos in the league — and they get UGA in Columbia this season. Dan Mullen is back in The Swamp and in charge at Florida but the Gators, while set to be much improved, still have a way to go before they catch their rivals.

The aforementioned Lock has a lot to work with at Mizzou, but the Tigers will still have their work cut out for them, especially with Derek Dooley taking over as offensive coordinator despite previously never calling plays. Play-calling won’t be as big of an issue at Kentucky, which can build around terrific RB Benny Snell but enters rebuilding mode for veteran coach Mark Stoops. There’s a lot more talent for Jeremy Pruitt to work with in Knoxville during his first season with Tennessee, but it might still be a bit of a stretch to call the Vols pesky as the entire program turns over after a difficult stretch. Finally, Vanderbilt not surprisingly faces an uphill battle but does have a solid signal-caller to build around in Kyle Shurmur. 

Add it all up and it will just mean more yet again. Fresh off a season in which they put two teams in the national title game, it would surprise nobody if there’s a repeat of history for the SEC as it proves once again to be the best conference around.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

SEC East

1. Georgia
2. South Carolina
3. Florida
4. Missouri
5. Tennessee
6. Kentucky
7. Vanderbilt

SEC West

1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Mississippi State
4. Texas A&M
5. LSU
6. Ole Miss
7. Arkansas

IN SHORT…

 

SEC releases 2019 schedule

Getty Images
Leave a comment

We’re only a quarter of the way into the 2018 season, but who wants to break down the SEC’s 2019 schedule?

Okay, we’re not going to do that, because that would be insane, a waste of time, and an insane waste of time. But we will note that it has been released, and the full thing can be found here.

Considering the SEC refuses to budge from its inane 6-1-1 scheduling model, really the only thing to note is the one (1) rotating crossover game each team plays. The league rotates the home and away venues, and all the East teams will be at home in 2019:

  • Alabama at South Carolina (Sept. 14)
  • LSU at Vanderbilt (Sept. 21)
  • Auburn at Florida (Oct. 5)
  • Arkansas at Kentucky (Oct. 12)
  • Ole Miss at Missouri (Oct. 12)
  • Mississippi State at Tennessee (Oct. 12)
  • Texas A&M at Georgia (Nov. 23)

A few other observations, in no particular order:

– Texas A&M makes visits to Clemson (Sept. 7) and Georgia, in addition to playing its regular SEC West schedule. The Aggies are slated to play half of the current AP Top 10 in 2019.

– While not SEC games, notable SEC non-conference games in addition to Texas A&M at Clemson on Sept. 7: Alabama vs. Duke in Atlanta (Aug. 31), Auburn vs. Oregon in Dallas (Aug. 31), Florida vs. Miami in Orlando (Aug. 31), Ole Miss at Memphis (Aug. 31), South Carolina vs. North Carolina in Charlotte (Aug. 31), BYU at Tennessee (Sept. 7), West Virginia at Missouri (Sept. 7), LSU at Texas (Sept. 7), Vanderbilt at Purdue (Sept. 7) and Notre Dame at Georgia (Sept. 21).

– Missouri plays five consecutive home games from Sept. 7 through Oct. 12. The Tigers open at Wyoming on Aug. 31 and will not leave Columbia again until an Oct. 19 trip to Vanderbilt.

– Georgia plays five games in November: vs. Florida in Jacksonville, vs. Missouri, at Auburn, vs. Texas A&M and at Georgia Tech.

– Florida plays a four-game stretch that includes Auburn, LSU, South Carolina and Georgia (after a bye), the final three away from Gainesville.

– Alabama continues to catch breaks from the scheduling department. The Tide play Texas A&M and LSU after byes and Auburn after playing Western Carolina.

– As such, every team across college football will have two byes in 2019, as there are 14 Saturdays between Labor Day weekend and the first Saturday in December instead of 13.

The SEC Championship will be Dec. 7 in Atlanta.

South Alabama’s season-opening starting QB, Cole Gavin, arrested for being drunk in public

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Arizona Bowl - South Alabama v Air Force
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Yet again, it’s time for an in-season resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

The latest to trigger a move back to double zeroes is Cole Gavin, with the South Alabama quarterback arrested early Friday on a charge of public intoxication. No details of what led up to the arrest and charges have been divulged.

The football program has, though, confirmed that Gavin has been indefinitely suspended from the team as a result of the arrest.

Last season, Gavin started seven games as he split time with Dallas Davis, who transferred to UAB this past offseason. Gavin started the season opener as well against Louisiana Tech before giving way to backup Evan Orth, who started the Week 2 loss to Oklahoma State.

For the season, Gavin is 10-of-22 passing for 64 yards, one touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Gavin didn’t play in the Week 3 win over Texas State, a game that kicked off a little over 24 hours after his arrest.

A year ago, Gavin had the same number of touchdowns as interceptions (seven) as well as 1,490 yards as he completed under 53 percent of his 232 passes.

Brian Polendey’s season-ending surgery leaves Miami with the two healthy scholarship TEs

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Already a concern entering the season, Miami’s depth at the tight end position has been chipped away yet again.

The U announced Tuesday that Brian Polendey (pictured, No. 88) suffered an unspecified injury to his right knee and be sidelined for the remainder of the 2018 season.  The release didn’t state how the injury occurred.

The sophomore will undergo surgery on an unspecified date to repair the damage.

Polendey, a three-star 2017 signee, played in six games as a true freshman.  He caught his first career pass, for 14 yards, in a 77-0 win over FCS Savannah State in Week 2.

In early August, Michael Irvin II suffered an MCL injury in his right knee and will be out for up to four months.  The injuries sustained by Irvin II and Polendey leave the Hurricanes with just two healthy scholarship tight ends — Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory, who are both true freshmen.

Jordan’s two receiving touchdowns are tied for the team lead, while his seven receptions are tied for second.

Arkansas pulls trigger on another change at QB

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Eastern Illinois at Arkansas
Getty Images
3 Comments

With Arkansas set to open up SEC play this coming weekend, Chad Morris has made a change under center for the Razorbacks.  Again.

The first-year head coach confirmed Monday that Ty Storey will start at quarterback this Saturday against No. 9 Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Storey will replace Cole Kelley, who started the Week 1 win over FCS Eastern Illinois as well as the Week 3 loss to North Texas.

Storey had also replaced Kelley as the starter for the Week 2 loss to Colorado State.

“Regardless of the practice, regardless of the way things go,” Morris said of the decision to move back to Storey, “I wanted him to know straight up from [Sunday] that, ‘Look, we’re going to go with you, and let’s respond. Now instead of putting you in to where you’re in a tough situation with the momentum not in our favor, how would you respond?’”

This season, Storey has completed 17 of his 30 passes for 297 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.  In his other start, the first of his career, Storey went just five-of-13 for 36 yards and both of his picks before being yanked in favor of Kelley.

Through three games, the Razorbacks are 100th nationally in team pass efficiency (119.46).  Only one of the 129 teams at the FBS level (New Mexico State, nine) have thrown more interceptions than Arkansas’ eight.