Gurley Injury, Bama Beats the Bulldogs and Florida Will Send Muschamp Packing

Gurley
Gurley
This was not the season Todd Gurley envisioned having and it got worse on Saturday.

It was huge win for Georgia. They defeated Auburn 34-7 after spotting the Tigers a 7-0 lead but a cloud hung over Sanford Stadium Saturday evening as news spread that Bulldogs’ Running Back Todd Gurley had a very serious injury. It was confirmed yesterday that Gurley will miss the remainder of the season with an ACL tear. This was Gurley’s first game back since admitting he took money for signing autographs and this wasn’t how his Bulldogs’ career was supposed to end.

Gurley will still get drafted but this has to hurt his stock. It’s another tough blow for kid who admitted his mistake, served his punishment and returned only for this to happen.

Ironically, it was a Todd Gurley-less Georgia team that seemed to have saved Will Muschamp’s job at Florida. The win was sorely needed by both school and coach but now none of that matters as the university announced yesterday that Muschamp would not return.

It seems likely that the Gators will reach a bowl. At 5-5, Florida will play host to Eastern Kentucky which should provide them their sixth win and common sense would have to tell us that they’ll fall to rival Florida State in the finale. It’s doubtful he would coach in a bowl game if the Gators even accept a bid.

As has been the problem all season, what big name is out there for the Gators to go get? I would have to think Dan Mullen will get a call and heck, maybe even Urban Meyer (kidding)? I think Muschamp put forth great effort but between injuries and just flat-out poor play, his fate was sealed.

Bulldogs
The Bulldogs should't hang their heads for long because I believe they are still in the top four.

It came as no surprise to me that Alabama beat Mississippi State Saturday. Bama has played in games of this magnitude for years and the fact they were at home was just icing on the cake. The Crimson Tide defense sacked Bulldogs’ QB Dak Prescott just once but they harassed him all day forcing him into one poor throw or decision after another.

I don’t feel like this is a typical Nick Saban team but they still find ways to win and it all starts with Saban. With a cupcake in Western Carolina coming in next week and a reeling Auburn the following one, I see no reason why the Tide won’t be in the four-team playoff.

Where we stand now in the race for the playoff

As usual, we are left with more questions than answers as we await the college football playoff committee’s rankings on Tuesday night. The first question will focus on Mississippi State. With a five-point loss in Tuscaloosa, is that enough to keep them in the top four? I believe it is.

The second question is whether the committee will punish TCU for barely beating a Kansas team that Baylor destroyed. The Bears beat the Jayhawks 60-14 while the Horned Frogs escaped 34-30. The debate between both Big 12 teams has been strong but perhaps even in victory it is no longer up for discussion. The committee rewarded TCU ahead of Baylor (even though the Bears beat the Frogs) because of their more impressive schedule.

I think, based upon TCU’s close call and Arizona State’s blunder at Oregon State, Baylor will move up to #5 and wait for someone to fall above them. Therefore I believe the committee will come out with the following top-four;

1. Alabama 2. Florida State 3. Oregon 4. Mississippi State

With the committee elevating an Alabama team to number one even though they weren’t in the top four will create the talking points this week. Let’s face it; talking points are what this whole thing is about anyway right?

 

Some Stay Alive, Some Don’t in Race for College Football’s Playoff

Mariota
Mariota
Marcus Mariota and the Ducks crushed rival Stanford and now may be in line for the top four if the committee so chooses.

Tomorrow evening the 12-person college football playoff committee will unveil its’ latest rankings. What we know for sure is that the top four will have a different look as one of the top four from last week went down. What will also be different are the teams lining up behind the top four so let’s examine those and more from this past weekend’s action.

The Top Four

We already know that the number two team, Florida State, survived a 21-point deficit to defeat Louisville Thursday night 42-31. I believe there’s a strong chance you could see Florida State move to the top spot and I say that because…

Last week’s top team Mississippi State struggled at home to defeat Arkansas 17-10 Saturday night. Despite Dak Prescott’s career high 331 passing yards, the Bulldogs still needed an interception in the end zone to thwart the Razorbacks. While any SEC win is a good one, the Hogs have still not won an SE game under Head Coach Bret Bielema.

That’s a string of 13 straight games. To be fair, this is a much better Arkansas team than last year’s version but I have to wonder if the pressure of being the nation’s top team is getting to Mississippi State.

The other two teams in the initial four-team rankings played each other Saturday in another classic SEC game as Auburn knocked off Ole Miss 35-31 in Oxford. As I suggested earlier in the week, I thought the Tigers would be the first to gain over 20 points against the Rebels’ defense and that they did. What this means for Ole Miss is quite simple.

With two losses, both of which were to SEC West opponents, the Rebels are no longer going to be a factor. Even if everyone else in the division ends up with two losses, I think they’ll be on the outside looking in. They have a road trip to Arkansas and a home date with rival Mississippi State to prove they belong.

For Auburn, they have solidified their position among the top four teams. The Tigers shouldn’t have trouble with Texas A&M this coming weekend at home, but they still have to deal with away games at Georgia and Alabama.

On the outside looking in

Boykin
Trevone Boykin has the Horned Frogs in prime position for a playoff spot if they can remain unbeaten the rest of the way.

The one-loss teams are a vast array of teams and chief among them to take the place of Ole Miss would have to be Oregon if we are using common sense. They are currently the fifth team and defeated nemesis Stanford  45-16 Saturday night. Common Sense and college football haven’t always gone hand in hand though and that means the team in the sixth spot, idle Alabama, could jump in there as well.

Not to be outdone though are several other teams with just one loss.

Could TCU jump into the top four with a last-second win at West Virginia?

Michigan State was idle but now hosts fellow one-loss team Ohio State on Saturday night in East Lansing.

Notre Dame was thought to be the one-loss team who was shafted the most in the initial rankings but then surrendered a 21-point lead to Navy before winning 49-39. My guess is that their win won’t resonate much with the committee.

We cannot forget about Kansas State either. The Wildcats throttled the fading Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday. K-State faces the toughest gauntlet of any top-ranked team however as they have four games remaining and three are on the road against TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. Should the Wildcats navigate that to win the Big 12 it would be hard not to consider them for the playoff.

Other teams that are out

Georgia who laid a massive egg against Florida… Arizona who dropped a 17-7 game to UCLA.

Possible Long-Shots

Nebraska. If they can get past Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota and get into the Big Ten title game then who knows? Arizona State. They survived against Utah Saturday and can gain serious cred if they knock off Notre Dame this week.

Winston Situation is a Referendum on the Whole Darn Problem

Winston
Winston
While I'm pretty sure Jamies Winston is guilty of several things, getting money for autographs shouldn't be one of them.

Off the field, the last seven days have been pretty bad for the reigning Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston. His school, Florida State University, has opened an investigation into his sexual assault allegations. According to Title IX rules, FSU is within its’ rights to investigate the alleged assault on their own. Winston has also been linked to the same sports’ memorabilia people that have cost Georgia running back Todd Gurley his season.

On the field, Winston was brilliant in leading the Seminoles over Syracuse in Western New York on Saturday. He was 30 for 36 for 318 yards and three touchdowns and is proving once again that he seems to play better the more the off-field scrutiny he is under.

Signing autographs for anyone is not against the law nor is it against the rules of the NCAA. Accepting so much as a dime however is a violation of NCAA rules and to this point Winston claims he never accepted any money. ESPN’s Darren Revell said the signatures on 500 pieces of memorabilia were in the same location on each piece and were signed with the same marker.

While that doesn’t mean Winston did anything wrong, it suggests that he did these signings at one time which under almost all circumstances results in a payment.

Gurley
Todd Gurley was suspended for making money on his name. Georgia makes millions on it but that's OK.

I don’t have the answers here and I’m not going to claim to but I’ve been around long enough to know that where there is smoke, there is almost always fire. Going back to the FSU investigation for a minute, while this will not result in any jail time or legal ramification, it could be a tremendous thorn in Winston’s side from here on out in his personal and professional life.

He has the right to remain 100% silent while being questioned by FSU authorities but what has already been uncovered is disturbing. Florida State officials have admitted what many of us assumed about the Tallahassee Police Department’s investigation. It was poorly done and was essentially swept under the rug to make things easier for Winston and the football program.

Regardless of how this investigation turns out, the real issue here is the eventual death of amateurism.

My personal opinion is that a player should be allowed to make money any way possible (within the law obviously). Take Gurley for example who is currently suspended for signing jerseys for money. Why can’t he make money for this when the University of Georgia is making money hand over fist by selling his jersey on their own website?

Move away from football for second… There was a time in amateur athletics when athletes basically lived on whatever they had. Corporate sponsorship was not allowed at the time so many Olympic hopefuls had to rely on their families for financial support.

Now, look at a guy like Michael Phelps who apparently got bored being an average citizen and was arrest two weeks ago for his second DUI. Phelps has made millions off of sponsorships like the ones he’s had with Subway, Under Armor and several swimming apparel companies. The mere fact we call Olympians ‘amateurs’ anymore is a joke.

While I firmly believe Winston has screwed up royally and much of it due to feelings of entitlement, the system still needs to be overhauled. College athletes need to be allowed to take advantage of their fame especially considering the money they bring in for their universities.

College Football Provides More Talking Points

Fisher Winston
Fisher Winston
Jimbo Fisher and Jameis Winston must have some kind of relationship.

What is it about college football that it seems to provide us with no shortage of great, terrible or just plain kooky moments? Yesterday was no exception as there were upsets, big wins and coaches seats that got hotter. Let’s start with the kooky stuff first.

Earlier in the week, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for the first half of last night’s eventual OT win against Clemson. On Friday, FSU was not satisfied with Winston’s explanation and suspended him for the full game. So it was with some surprise that as the Seminoles took the field for warm-ups that Jameis Winston was fully dressed and participating.

The video, which I’m guessing you’ve seen by now, shows Head Coach Jimbo Fisher clearly disgusted over his QB’s decision. What I found really odd was that after Winston returned to the field without pads, you can clearly see Fisher apologize to him. My question is why and for what? Just what in the wide wide world of sports is going on at FSU?

How does your QB not know he shouldn’t be dressed for action? How forgets to tell him this nugget of information? Fisher apologizing to him tells me everything I need to know about who runs the team and it sure isn’t anyone named Fisher.

Muschamp
Will Muschamp has to be feeling the pressure as his Gators struggle.

Time to dust off the resumes’ for Hoke and Muschamp

It wasn’t exactly a secret when the season began that Michigan’s Brady Hoke and Florida’s Will Muschamp were both skating on thin ice in regards to their respective jobs. After yesterday’s performances I don’t think either man should plan to do any skating any time soon.

In Tuscaloosa, Muschamp’s Gators hung tough with his mentor’s Alabama Crimson Tide thanks to Bama miscues but in the end lost 42-21. The loss was one thing but the fact the Gators gave up a school record 645 yards and tallied only 200 of their own will not sit well with the Florida faithful. Prior to 2009, the Gators owned the SEC but now they will struggle once again to even reign in their own division.

In Ann Arbor, if were possible for a head coach to be fired during an actual game, this instance may have occurred while the Michigan Wolverines and Utah Utes waited out a storm delay of several hours with Utah holding a 26-10 lead. The frustration on social media was running hot and with good reason. Michigan would eventually lose by the same score.

During the game, Hoke was seen in a verbal argument with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison which will not do Hoke any favors as his team falls to 2-2 with wins against Appalachian State and Miami,OH. Going back to last year, the Wolverines lost five of their last six games and nearly lost games to UConn and Akron as well. Hoke may be a ‘Michigan Man’ but he is not getting the job done in any way, shape or form.

Other Items of Note

Raise your hand if you had Indiana as the one Big Ten team to salvage a significant non-conference win. The Hoosiers, who lost to Bowling Green last week, knocked off #18 Missouri in Columbia 31-27… Michigan State scored 73 in a win over Eastern Michigan and Georgia hit 66 in a win over Troy… Not to be outdone was East Carolina who bested North Carolina 70-41.

What We Know and What We Don’t Through Three Weeks of College Football

SEC
SEC
The SEC has remained in its' dominant place at the top so far in college football.

We are now through three full weeks of college football and typically by this time we have a small glimpse of who the top teams might be. I would accept arguments right now on any number of teams but I still haven’t seen one team that makes me sit up and take notice. Consider the following games from this past weekend.

Georgia was the darling of the college football world after their huge win over Clemson in their opener. Paired with South Carolina’s devastating loss to Texas A&M, many CFB experts we suddenly changing their picks for the winner of the SEC East Division. The Gamecocks barely escaped East Carolina (more on them later) in week two so naturally, we thought Georgia would go into Columbia and win right?

Georgia battled hard by fell 38-35 to the Gamecocks. The loss opens things back up for South Carolina and also makes each team’s game with Florida that much bigger now.

As far as those Pirates of ECU are concerned, all they did was go into Blacksburg and knock off unbeaten Virginia Tech 28-21. This was a Hokies team that upset Ohio State in Columbus just a week before. Suddenly we were all thinking that maybe the ACC wasn’t easy street for Florida State. Well, maybe it is after all.

Hundley
The Bruins proved they can win without Hundley, but their wins have been ugly.

One of the sexier picks to make the Championship Playoff this season was UCLA led by Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley. The good news is the Bruins are still unbeaten at 3-0, but their wins have been struggles. They defeated Virginia on the road with defense, barely survived Memphis in the Rose Bowl by seven and then Saturday they managed to get by Texas 20-17 with Hundley out with an elbow injury.

Back-up Jerry Neuheisel led the Bruins to the go-ahead touchdown with three minutes to go in the fourth. Let’s be clear; the name of the game in college football is winning and UCLA is winning but I have a hard time seeing this get through the Pac-12 schedule unscathed right now.

What We Know

What is blatantly obvious to all of us is that the Big Ten is not going to go anywhere near the playoff with several miracles. A week ago the conference suffered losses at the top with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State going down and losses at the bottom with Northwestern and Purdue losing to MAC schools.

This past weekend, Michigan was taken deep into the second half by Miami, OH before pulling away in the fourth. Indiana lost to Bowling Green and Iowa lost at home to rival Iowa State by three. This is a Cyclones’ team that was throttled at home in the opener by North Dakota State too.

As bad as the Big Ten has been, the SEC has been quite the opposite.

The best football conference in the country is proving worthy of their title as they now have seven teams in the Top 25. Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss are in the top ten and each is unbeaten. Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri are also listed. The tragic irony of this dominant situation is that the SEC could very well knock itself around too much.

Florida plays at Alabama this coming Saturday and then in two weeks, things get really interesting. LSU will play at Auburn and Alabama will travel to Ole Miss. While it’s doubtful anyone comes out without some scratches, the SEC can’t beat itself up too much or it could cost itself the two spots we’ve all given it in the final four.

As usual, there’s a lot that can happen.

 

College Games I like Tomorrow

Beamer
Beamer
Frank Beamer and his Hokies host East Carolina tomorrow in Blacksburg.

East Carolina (+10) at Virginia Tech (O/U 54) – This could be a dangerous spot for the Hokies who come home following a huge upset win over Ohio State in Columbus. The Pirates gave South Carolina fits well into the final quarter before losing in Columbia.

Trends: East Carolina is 7-2 straight up in their last nine games… Virginia Tech is 2-4 against the spread in the last six games when playing East Carolina… The total has gone UNDER in four of ECU’s last six games when playing the Hokies… Virginia Tech is 18-7 straight up in its’ last 25 games at home.

The Pick: I like East Carolina getting the points but I’ll take the Hokies to win and take the under as well.

Gurley
Todd Gurley leads Georgia into South Carolina tomorrow.

Georgia (-7) at South Carolina (O/U 60) – The Gamecocks are 1-1 but were embarrassed at home by Texas A&M and then hung on to beat East Carolina last week. The Bulldogs were impressive in beating Clemson in the opener and now head to Columbia for their first SEC game. Having already lost to the Aggies, South Carolina cannot afford another loss in conference play.

The Dawgs will ride with Todd Gurley who I expect to have another big game.

Trends: Georgia is 1-4-2 against the spread in their last seven games at South Carolina… The Gamecocks are 22-1 straight up in their last 23 home games… The Bulldogs are 4-2 SU in their last six games at South Carolina… The total has gone UNDER in five of USC’s last five games when playing at home against Georgia.

The Pick: I like Georgia to cover and I like the OVER.

Purdue (+27.5) vs Notre Dame (O/U 56.5) – This game is being played in Indianapolis. Let’s be real quick here shall we? Purdue just lost at home to Central Michigan. Notre Dame just shut out Michigan.

Trends: The Boilermakers are 0-5 straight up in their last five games against Notre Dame… The Irish are 4-1 SU in their last five games… The total has gone UNDER in five of Notre Dame’s last six games… Purdue is 1-11 SU in their last 12 games.

The Pick: Take the Irish to cover but take the UNDER.

Tennessee (+20.5) at Oklahoma (O/U 56.5) – This is a big opportunity for Butch Jones and the Vols but I also think they are going into a buzzsaw in Norman. Sooners’ QB Trevor Knight is playing well and OU just doesn’t lose at home under Bob Stoops.

Trends: Tennessee is 2-4 against the spread in their last six road games… The Sooners are 5-0 straight up in their last five games… The Vols are 1-8 straight up in their last nine road games… The total has gone OVER in four of Oklahoma’s last five games at home.

The Pick: Take OU to cover and I love the OVER.

UCLA (-7.5) vs Texas (O/U 50.5) – This game is being played in Arlington. I’m not sure we’ve seen the real UCLA just yet and this would be a horrible week for them to show up if you’re Texas. The Longhorns were throttled at home by BYU last week and I don’t think it will get much better.

Trends: The Bruins are 7-1 straight up in their last eight games… Texas is 2-4 against the spread in their last six games… The total has gone OVER in four of UCLA’s last six games… The total has gone UNDER in five of the Longhorns’ last six games.

The Pick: Take the Bruins to cover and I like the UNDER.

Penn State (-3) at Rutgers (O/U 51.5) – This is Rutgers first-ever game in the Big Ten and they open with the Nittany Lions who are now eligible for a bowl after the NCAA lifted the postseason ban this week. I really like Christian Hackenberg at QB for PSU.

Trends: Penn State is 4-1 straight up in its’ last five games… Rutgers is 1-4 against the spread in in its last five games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of PSU’s last five games on the road… The Scarlet Knights are 16-5 straight up in their last 21 home games.

The Pick: Take Penn State to cover and I like the OVER.

What an Opening Saturday in College Football!

Miles
Miles
More Les Miles' magic propelled the Tigers to a comeback win over Wisconsin.

If this is what we are going to get every Saturday through January of 2015 then I think we’ll all be quite pleased. While there will be weekends with more upsets and perhaps more exciting action, this opening Saturday proved one important thing; I don’t think there is one dominant team out there at the moment. Let’s start with the two big games in Texas.

LSU rallied to beat Wisconsin last night in Houston by scoring 21 unanswered points to win 28-24. The Badgers have to be violently ill this morning after having a powerhouse SEC team on the ropes only to get knocked out in the end. Badgers’ QB Melvin Gordon carried his team with 140 yards rushing and a touchdown but new QB Tanner McEvoy could do nothing in the passing game. He went just 8 for 24 for 50 yards and two picks.

The Tigers meanwhile looked uninterested, fundamentally unsound and lazy while falling behind Wisconsin early and into the second half. Les Miles as expected started Anthony Jennings who was miserable at QB. Brandon Davis came in for a series and didn’t look much better. Jennings was able to find a groove in the second half though throwing two touchdown passes to rally the Tigers to victory.

Wisconsin will have to figure out the QB situation because those numbers by McEvoy won’t get it done. LSU meanwhile has tons of work to do but can build on the comeback win.

Fisher
FSU's Jimbo Fisher has some things to work on despite winning last night in Arlington.

Up the road in Arlington, defending national champion Florida State survived 37-31 against a very tough and game Oklahoma State team. The Seminoles were thought to be as good on defense as they are on offense but giving up 364 yards and 8 of 16 on third downs is not going to get this team a return trip to Cowboys Stadium for the title game.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was great when he needed to be despite two turnovers. He threw for 370 yards, a touchdown and a fantastic 28-yard TD run. The big concern going forward for FSU is the running game which put up just 106 yards. The Seminoles’ offensive line is considered the best in the country but they looked anything but against a younger, more inexperienced defensive front from Oklahoma State.

Sometimes it’s games like these that give you a shot in the arm or are a real wake up call. If I’m Florida State this morning I’m hoping that this is exactly the case.

Other games of note…

UCLA needed three defensive touchdowns to win on the road against Virginia 28-20. If Brett Hundley expects to be a Heisman candidate then he has to play better than he did… Ohio State defeated Navy 34-17 to begin the ‘season without Braxton Miller’ campaign. The Midshipmen actually led 14-13 in the third quarter… There was no gigantic upset in the Big House this time as Michigan rolled to a 52-14 win over Appalachian State. This was a much less talented Mountaineer team than was the 2007 team however… Second ranked Alabama survived a tough contest with West Virginia winning 33-22 in Atlanta. The Tide rolled to over 500 yards of offense with running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon both going over 100 yards on the day. The alarming part for Bama is that WVU QB Clint Trickett threw for 365 yards which is the most ever against a Saban-coached Bama team. He broke the record set in the Tide’s last game which was a Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma… The clear front-runner in the Heisman race has to be Georgia’s Todd Gurley who rushed for 198 yards and three TDs in the Bulldogs’ 45-21 rout of Clemson. He also had a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown too.

Rejoice! College Football Saturday is Back

Mason
Mason
Hutson Mason takes over for Aaron Murray in Georgia as the Bulldogs welcome Clemson.

It’s finally here! Football Saturday is back!

Clemson (+8) at Georgia (O/U 54) – The Tigers enter 2014 having to replace a lot of offensive talent which means Head Coach Dabo Swinney will rely on a seasoned defense to carry his team early in the season. Georgia enters the post-Aaron Murray era with QB Hutson Mason who will benefit from having Heisman Trophy hopeful Todd Gurley in the backfield.

Cole Stoudt replaces Tajh Boyd at QB for Clemson and although it was in mop-up duty last season, he threw five TD passes. The Georgia defense struggled mightily last season and I’m not sure how quickly they turn things around. I sense a close game in Athens so take the Tigers and I like the over.

Driskel
Jeff Driskel returns from injury to lead the Gators into 2014.

Idaho (+37) at Florida (O/U 50) – It’s been an incredibly long offseason in Gainesville following last year’s horrendous season. The Gators and Head Coach Will Muschamp will feature a very good defense and an offense that returns quarterback Jeff Driskel who missed most of last year with an injury. His absence led to many of the problems for the Gators.

Last season, the Vandals surrendered 80 points to Florida State and now they play a Gators’ team that has won 24 straight season openers. I like Florida to cover and I love the over.

Fresno State (+21) at USC (O/U 58) – Is anyone happier to actually play a game than Steve Sarkisian and the Trojans? The last week has seen the coach be called a ‘racist’ by a former player and he’s had to deal with Josh Shaw’s heroic story-turned police investigation. USC and Fresno saw each other in the Las Vegas Bowl where the Trojans routed the Bulldogs 45-20.

USC has excellent talent in the top 22 players but the depth is hurting a bit. Fresno State has to replace record-setting QB Derek Carr who could be starting for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL. I like USC to cover today simply because I think  they’ll be excited to play football and remember, this was a ten-win team last season. I love the over as well.

Florida State (-19) vs Oklahoma State (O/U 64) – The defending national champions open their season in Cowboys Stadium against the Cowboys from Oklahoma State. Like USC, the Seminoles have to be happy to get back on the field after a ‘crabby’ offseason for Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

Mike Gundy has done a great job for his alma mater in Stillwater but he could use a signature win but it won’t happen here. The Seminoles have too much speed and talent in all of the right places and I expect them to cover tonight. I also love the over.

LSU (-5.5) vs Wisconsin (O/U 50) – The good news for Wisconsin is that they are one of the Big Ten’s top teams for 2014. The bad news is that they have lost six of their last seven bowl games which means the jump in competition has been an issue. The fact that the Badgers return just three starters on defense doesn’t bode well for them either. The Tigers always reload well and that’s the case again in Baton Rouge. QB Zach Mettenberger is off to the NFL and Head Coach Les Miles seems likely to play both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris in the opener.

The game is being played in Houston but that favors the Tigers significantly who don’t have a long way to drive. The amount of newcomers on the Wisconsin defense worries me and it looks like the Badgers will go with untested QB Tanner McEvoy. I like the Tigers to cover and I’ll take the under as the Tigers will limit Melvin Gordon forcing the Badgers to throw.

Odds on the 2014 SEC East Division Winner

Spurrier

 

Spurrier
I expect the ole ball coach and his South Carolina Gamecocks to win the SEC East.

With the Big Ten completed, my attention turns to the Southeastern Conference. I expect things to fall back a bit with so many new quarterbacks but it will still be the same old SEC when it’s all over. Today, it’s the East.

Florida 3/1 – Will Muschamp and the Gators lost seven straight games to finish the season in 2013. They return seven starters on both sides of the ball which is cause for optimism and Jeff Driskel returns at QB after a season-ending injury last year. Florida should be 3-0 heading to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama. Other road trips include Vandy, Tennessee and Florida State.

Georgia 8/5 – The Bulldogs will ride Todd Gurley and a defense that returns eight starters. With Florida down and South Carolina the only real threat, there will be tons of pressure on Mark Richt to get back to the SEC Title Game. Georgia has just four away games and the neutral site showdown with the Gators. Possible road bumps include Missouri and South Carolina. They do get Clemson, Auburn and Georgia Tech at home.

Kentucky 50/1 – The Wildcats are hoping a big-time recruiting class can get them to a bowl game in 2014. In Mark Stoops’ first season they were just 2-10. The road slate isn’t very kind to Big Blue. They have trips to Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, LSU and Louisville. They do get home dates with South Carolina and Georgia but I have a hard time seeing six wins here.

DGB
Dorial Green-Beckham has left Mizzou and that leaves a large hole at wide receiver.

Missouri 10/1 – The defending division champions have several holes to fill as they only have four starters returning on each side of the ball. Now that they’ve been in the SEC two seasons, they are no longer going to sneak up on anyone. The Tigers first road game is at Toledo who gave them all they could handle before pulling away last season. They’ll also have to go to Tennessee, Texas A&M, Florida and South Carolina. With a lot of new faces, the Tigers cold take a step back this season.

South Carolina 7/4 – The Gamecocks lost just twice last season and were the only team to defeat division chap Missouri who they get in Columbia this season. SC gets eight starters back on offense and six on defense. The road schedule could be too daunting down the stretch as the Gamecocks have to play at Auburn, Florida and the finale at Clemson. Steve Spurrier always fields competitive teams and this will be no different. It’s very possible SC could 7-0 before they head to Auburn.

Tennessee 12/1 – Butch Jones has this team on the rise and that was evident last year. They were competitive in several games but still struggled with the big boys like Alabama, Auburn and Oregon. The Vols will have to fill some holes on both sides of the ball but the expectations are still going to be higher this year. There won’t be much room for error but six wins is very possible. Key road trips are at Oklahoma, Georgia and South Carolina while they get Florida and Alabama at Neyland Stadium.

Vanderbilt 50/1 – James Franklin has left for Penn State so Derek Mason takes over. With six starters back on offense and just four on defense, Mason’s job is cut out for him. The Commodores draw Ole Miss and Mississippi State from the West and those could be wins. The also have home dates with Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee. The two tough road games are at Missouri and at Georgia. Don’t be surprised to see this team back in a bowl under Mason.

The Pick: I just don’t have faith in Muschamp despite a lot of talent. Look for the Gamecocks to take the title.

Long-Shot Possibilities to Make College Football’s Four-Team Playoff

Cook
Cook
Connor Cook and the Spartans have a favorable schedule in 2014.

On Friday, I gave you the top eight favorites to make the new four-team college football playoff. Today I’m looking at teams that are outside of the favorites that I believe will have a legitimate shot at making the playoff.

The term ‘long-shot’ in college football is used a little differently than in other walks of life. Most of the teams listed below are very viable title contenders but they just aren’t listed among those top eight. Let’s get to it.

Will _____ make the four-team playoff?

Baylor Yes +350, No -600 – The defending Big 12 Champs have Heisman candidate Bryce Petty leading the offense but the question will be how well the defense can play? The schedule is not horrible but they do have to go to both Texas and Oklahoma. If they get wins in both of those locations then the sky’s the limit.

USC Yes +550, No -1,100 – The Trojans enter the Steve Sarkisian Era with high hopes that he can return them to glory. After starting all 14 games last season, Cody Kessler will start again at quarterback. USC will face some tough tests but only Stanford and UCLA are on the road. They get Notre Dame, a bowl-game rematch with Fresno State in the opener and both Oregon State and Arizona State at home. Don’t sleep on this team.

Michigan State Yes +300, No -500 – The defending Big Ten Champions are going to be a very sexy pick despite losing some key players from last year’s team. The Spartans only road tests are at Oregon and at Penn State. They get Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska at home in East Lansing. Head Coach Mark Dantonio will keep this team competitive.

Richt
Mark Richt and the Bulldogs need a big season in 2014.

Georgia Yes +250, N0 -400 – If the Bulldogs can get past Clemson in the opener and then at South Carolina two weeks later then look out. The rest of the schedule is pretty favorable including the final three game at home and that includes Auburn and Georgia Tech. If the defense improves and the quarterback play is solid then UGA could be there.

South Carolina Yes +400, No -600 – The Gamecocks have to replace Connor Shaw and of course #1 pick Jadaveon Clowney but the cupboard is far from bare. The good news is that SC has four of their first five games at home. The bad news is that they have road games at Auburn, Florida and Clemson in the second half of the schedule. Spurrier always has competitive teams but this one will depend on the QB.

Florida Yes +600, No -1,000 – Frankly I find it embarrassing that the Gators are listed here. This team was brutal last year and while you can point to the loss of QB Jeff Driskel, his injury was far from the only reason the Gators finished under .500 for the first time in many years. Florida should open with three straight wins at home before their first road game which is at Alabama. They also have Tennessee and Florida State on the road. Don’t waste your time on the Gators.

Others I like to make it… Wisconsin – If they can get past LSU in the opener in Houston then the schedule is extremely favorable the rest of the way… Arizona State – Road games at USC, Oregon State and Arizona are tough, but they get Notre Dame, UCLA and Stanford at home. The Sun Devils are a long-shot but they made good strides last year.

Of all the teams above, I like the Michigan State schedule the best and give them the best chance of making the final four.