Bob Knight Says Kentucky Will Not End Undefeated

One question for close to the entire college basketball regular season has dominated: Will the Kentucky Wildcats finished the season undefeated.

Now Kentucky is sitting at 28-0 as it head into Saturday’s big game against No. 18 ranked Arkansas. With 28 games played, the Wildcats need just 12 more wins to match the last college basketball team that finished the season undefeated, Bob Knight’s  Indiana Hoosiers in 1976.

The question remains on everyone’s mind, but the odds remain against it.

Bill Self, the Kansas coach whose team lost by 32 points to Kentucky in November said at the time if the Wildcats were still undefeated in February, then a perfect season could happen.

In the 12 games that remain, some should be quite close. Prior to the end of the regular season, the Wildcats much play the Razorbacks, Florida as well as Georgia. Both the Gators and Bulldogs gave Kentucky tough games the first time they played in earlier this month.

Kentucky could play any of those same teams during the SEC tournament or even rivals such as LSU or Texas A&M.

If the Wildcats do make it out of the regular season and SEC tournament unscathed, they would still have to win 6 games of which as many as 4 could be versus ranked teams.

One analytical expert ran a calculation on Kentucky going undefeated and the Wildcats came out with a 24% change of going 40-0, earlier this season.

Kentucky’s odds of ending the regular season undefeated have gone up to over 74% at this point. Its chances of winning the SEC tournament are now 73% and over 48% of winning the national championship, says one basketball expert. Last season, no team entering the tournament had more than a 15% chance of taking home the title.

Most odds makers are giving the Wildcats just a 24% chance of winning the national championship and going undefeated, which is very high for something that has not been accomplish for the past 39 years.

Nevertheless, it will take excellent coaching from head coach John Calipari since his players are between 18 and 22 years of age, with the majority less than 20 and pressure situations, which will only increase as they continue winning, will make it hard on the young players.

Putting the Wraps on College Football With Three Questions for 2015

Patterson
Patterson
Gary Patterson and TCU have every right to be upset especially after the team that replaced won the title.

By now you know the Ohio State Buckeyes are the champions of college football. While many will tell you this is the first-ever undisputed championship, you won’t catch me saying that.

Let’s remember that this team got into the playoffs simply because the committee wanted to avoid choosing TCU ahead of Baylor. By taking the Buckeyes, that meant neither the Horned Frogs nor the Bears were going into the playoffs so a lot of controversy was avoided. TCU had been listed in the top four for several weeks and in the last poll before the final rankings were released.

Both TCU and Ohio State had one loss. The Frogs lost a high-scoring shootout to Baylor 61-58 in Waco while the Buckeyes lost to 6-6 Virginia Tech in the Horseshoe.

Then bowl season came around and we all wondered how TCU would respond in their match-up against Ole Miss. Would they still be hanging their heads wondering about what might have been or would they prove to the committee that they should have been in rather than Ohio State?

Ask the Rebels which TCU team showed up…

The point is this; The Buckeyes are a worthy champion having defeated Alabama and Oregon and I certainly can’t say TCU would have accomplished this. But the fact that the one team that wasn’t in the top four rankings until the very end won the title tells me the playoff must expand to an eight-team field.

Barrett
If J.T. Barrett recovers well, I expect him to get the nod at QB for the Buckeyes in 2015.

I believe it will eventually but probably not for several years at the earliest.

Five Questions Heading Into 2015

1. Can the Buckeyes make it two in a row? You bet they can. With Urban Meyer as head coach, a plethora of top new recruits and a lot of guys back from this past season’s team, there is no reason OSU can’t win back-to-back titles. The schedule is very favorable with the only troublesome road trips at Virginia Tech in the opener and at Michigan in the finale.

Obviously the biggest issue is at quarterback. It’s a good problem to have but Meyer is going to need to commit to Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller fairly soon. My gut feeling is that they go with Barrett as long as the leg heals properly.

2. Who bounces back for the SEC? Southeastern Conference expert Paul Feinbaum had a funny tweet yesterday and I’m paraphrasing a bit. “The Big Ten wins the National Championship in football, while the SEC has the top team in basketball. Something isn’t right.”

There’s no question the folks down South are hurting right now. While overall, their run of consecutive national titles still reigns supreme, but the fact they couldn’t even muster a team into the title game has left many feeling blue.

There isn’t a team in the SEC that doesn’t have question marks however. Both Alabama and Auburn will feature new quarterbacks and LSU is undergoing numerous changes on the defensive side. The SEC East should be better overall but whether they have a title contender is uncertain.

There’s no question the SEC will bounce back but there’s no clear cut evidence of who rises to the top just yet.

3. What is a “good outcome” in Harbaugh’s first year at Michigan? If you ask Wolverines’ fans they’ll tell you nothing short of a Big Ten title will suffice but that isn’t fair. Michigan will be better, there’s no way they won’t be with the staff Harbaugh has assembled and the attitude he’s already installing.

The defense last year in Ann Arbor was actually pretty darn good but the offense was the real problem. Harbaugh has to find a capable QB and a running game as well. I believe eight or nine wins is a very acceptable first year. Anything more is a bonus.

 

Wisconsin Situation Should Serve as a Wake-Up to the Rest of the Big Ten.

Alvarez
Alvarez
Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez finds himself looking for a coach for the second time in three years.

People change jobs for any number of reasons. Tops among those reasons is of course more money. There are very few among us who wouldn’t take a similar job to the one we currently have if it offered more money.

But there are other scenarios that factor into a person’s decision to take a job and I believe those are what caused Gary Andersen to leave Wisconsin.

Coaching changes at Florida, Michigan and even Nebraska were not surprises, but very few on the outside or the inside for that matter saw Andersen leaving the Badgers. His decision to leave for Oregon State has not only raised questions about the situation in Madison but in the entire Big Ten as well.

Andersen is believed to have left because he and his assistants didn’t care for Madison. They are mostly west coast guys who prefer living out there and that’s good enough for me. I get that… We also have heard Andersen was not pleased that he couldn’t bring many of the players he wanted into his program because of the academic standards.

This is where our problem begins…

No one denies that the most powerful football conference in America resides in the Southern and Eastern parts of this country. The past eight to ten years speak for themselves in terms of success on the football stage.

Andersen
Gary Andersen's surprising move to the West Coast may expose more about the Big Ten then anything just at Wisconsin.

For eight straight years a team from the Southeastern Conference has played for the college football championship. The Big Ten meanwhile, the conference that Andersen has left, has played for just two titles in that same span.

So why the sudden shift after so many years of sharing power? There was a long time where teams from the Big Ten, SEC, old Southwest conference and Pac-8 used to consistently vie for titles and bowl games.

Even with expansion, the SEC has continued to pull away from most of the other conferences and most obviously left in the dust has been the corn-fed folks in the Midwest.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has some powerful things to consider going forward and Andersen’s departure will hasten those issues.

If the Big Ten wants to compete on the national stage and gain the respect they once had, then something has to be done to allow lesser academic athletes into its’ institutions. This will not be an easy thing to accomplish and there is growing sentiment that it might never happen.

I say “never” only because I would have thought the cash would have convinced them to jump on board the collegiate football money train by now. No one in the SEC will argue their academic standards don’t match those in the Big Ten.

They are all quality schools but do any actually compete with a Michigan, Northwestern or Purdue when it comes to academics? The answer is “no” and you won’t hear anyone apologize for it either.

The argument I consistently hear is about Ohio State. The Buckeyes belong to the Big Ten yet seem to have athletes similar to those in the South. My take is that OSU has figured out how to get these kids into the University.

If you look at the majors by not just OSU but also schools in the South you’ll notice plenty majoring in “exploring” and “general studies.” Get it?

Andersen’s leaving also brought out the issue of Wisconsin not paying assistants very well and that’s a viable cause for leaving but it’s obvious to me the Big Ten needs to decide if it wants to compete for football glory or continue to be the red-headed step-child to the SEC and beyond.

College Football Conference Championship Lines and Trends

This is championship week in college football with a number of conferences playing their conference championship games.

MAC – Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green

Northern Illinois is 10-2 and 6-6 ATS, while Bowling Green is 7-5 SU and 4-7-1 ATS.

Friday night, the two will face off in Detroit, Michigan. NIU has opened as a 3-point favorite.

This is the fifth consecutive season Northern Illinois will be vying for the trophy. The Huskies are 2-2 in the previous four.

The two teams played in last year’s MAC Championship with Bowling Green winning 47-27.

The underdog is 5-1 ATS over the past 6 championship games.

Pac-12 – Arizona vs. Oregon

Arizona is 10-2 SU and 5-7 ATS, while Oregon is 11-1 SU and 8-4 ATS.

The two will meet on Friday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Oregon has opened as a favorite by 13.5 points.

This is the fourth championship game for the Pac-12. The favorite is 2-1 SU and 0-3 ATS in the first three Pac-12 championship games.

The Pac-12 North is 3-0 SU in the first three championships.

Arizona was a road dog by 21.5 points in October and defeated Oregon 31-21.

SEC – Alabama vs. Missouri

Alabama is 11-1 SU and 4-8 ATS, while Missouri is 10-2 SU and 8-4 ATS.

Alabama meets Missouri for the SEC championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.

Alabama opened as the favorite by 10.5 points but that has increased already to 13 points.

In the SEC championship, the underdog is 11-10-1 ATS.

The SEC West is 5-0 SU in the past 5 SEC championship games. Missouri lost in last year’s championship to Auburn by 17 points as a favorite by 2.5 points.

The teams last met in 2012 with Alabama winning 42-10.

ACC – Florida State vs. Georgia Tech

Florida State is undefeated at 12-0 SU and 3-9 ATS, while Georgia Tech is 10-2 SU and 5-1 ATS.

Florida State will defend its ACC title against Georgia Tech at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Florida State was a 5.5-point favorite to open but it is now just 4 points.

FSU is 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS in its four prior trips to the ACC Championship. Georgia Tech is 1-2 SU in its three trips.

The two played in the ACC Championship in 2012 with FSU winning 21-15.

Big 10 – Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

Ohio State is 11-1 SU and 7-5 ATS, while Wisconsin is 10-2 SU and 7-5 ATS.

Ohio State plays Wisconsin for the Big 10 title in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Wisconsin is favored by 4 points.

The underdog is 1-2 SU in the 3 prior Big 10 championship games.

Wisconsin is 2-0 SU in two Big 10 title games and Ohio State is 0-1 SU.

T.J. Barrett the OSU quarterback is out with broken ankle.

Ohio State is 4-1 SU in its past 5 games head to head with Wisconsin.

SEC Showdown in Oxford Between Auburn and Ole Miss

The start of November, an SEC rivalry, both teams in the top four in the inaugural rankings for the College Football Playoff, it just does not get any better than this.

On Saturday, the Auburn Tigers visit the Ole Miss Rebels in what should be an exciting game under the lights.

Ole Miss is looking to rebound from its first loss of this season.

However, Auburn has won four of the past five head-to-head games versus Ole Miss, both straight up and against the number.

Both teams must win if they hope to remain in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings.

The current line has Ole Miss favored by 2.5 points with the point total sitting on 51.

Auburn is 4-1 SU as well as ATS in its past 5 games versus Mississippi. The Tigers are also 4-1 ATS in its past 5 games on the road versus opponents from the SEC. The Tigers are 3-1 ATS over its past four games as a road ‘dog.

The Rebels are 4-0 ATS over their past 4 games as a favorite at home. Ole Miss has covered the spread in 7 of its past 10 games played at home versus opponents from the SEC.

The OVER has cashed in each of the past three games Auburn has played as a road ‘dog. The OVER has cashed in 7 of the past 10 games Ole Miss has played as the favorite at home.

Head to head the OVER has cashed in 4 of the past 5 games between the Tigers and Rebels.

Last week Ole Miss faced another must win game to be considered a legitimate contender for the national championship. The Rebels came up short when they lost to LSU 10-7.

However, the selection committee for the College Football Playoff kept Ole Miss for the time being in the top 4.

Many football observers believe Ole Miss will make the final four if they can run the table from here on out. That includes Auburn today and Mississippi State to end the regular season, which is no easy task

Auburn has a daunting task ahead of them as well.

The Tigers this month have to play on the road against Ole Miss today, Georgia and Alabama. They have to also play at home versus Samford and Texas A&M.

Ole Miss loves the UNDER. The UNDER has cashed in 7 of the Rebels 8 games this season and 10 of their last 11 dating back to last season.

With the pressure mounting on both teams to win, that could make the UNDER if more attractive.

The home side giving less than a field goal is a solid play.

I like Ole Miss and the UNDER.

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.

 

The Big Ten Continues to Struggle Against the SEC, Power Conferences

Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats are 8-2 against power conferences but none of those games were against ranked teams.

For many years in old system of college football, the Big Ten Champion would travel westward to play the Pac-8, then 10 and now 12 in the Rose Bowl. For many decades there was dominance by the Big Ten and then in the 1970’s and 1980’s the pendulum swung drastically in favor of the kids from the West Coast.

In the 1990’s, the Big Ten won six of the 10 games leading up to the birth of the BCS and with that slight edge, some thought the Big Ten had turned a corner and was ready to return as the best or second best conference in America.

The Big Ten, which is now actually made up of 14 teams, is no longer compared to the Pac-12 the way it once was. The standard today is the SEC who had won seven straight national titles until last season. This isn’t to say the Big Ten isn’t still compared to the Pac-12 because it is any time they face each other but the SEC is the cream of the crop right now.

Of the five major conferences in college football right now, one could argue that the Big Ten has slipped not to number two but perhaps as far as fourth or fifth. The ACC has the reigning champion in college football and was better overall last season in terms of depth. The Big 12, which has ten teams, had two BCS bowl bids last season.

UM/PSU
Michigan and Penn State need to rack up some wins against the SEC in order to gain any respect for the conference.

If we look at the breakdown of Big Ten teams vs the ‘Power Five’ conferences (this doesn’t include Rutgers or Maryland), only Northwestern (8-2) and Ohio State (5-3) have winning records against schools from those conferences since 2010. Overall, the Big Ten is 35-48 over that time span.

Before we anoint Northwestern the kings of the block, consider that they are 0-0 against ranked Power Five conferences. That means they are thriving on the bottom-dwellers of those conferences. Only the Buckeyes have a winning record against ranked Power Five conferences and that’s a rather meager 2-1 record.

The overall Big Ten record against ranked Power Five conference teams is just 8-25.

Lastly is the record of Big Ten teams against SEC teams dating back to 2010. Not surprisingly it is well below .500 at 7-15 with Northwestern once again “leading” the way with a 3-1 record. The three wins were against Vanderbilt (2) and Mississippi State and the loss was to Texas A&M when they were still in the Big 12.

The Wildcats are the only team with a winning record against the SEC. Ohio State and Michigan State are 1-1 while Michigan and Penn State are both 0-3.

So what does the Big Ten do to regain a place among the top two conferences in college football? Unfortunately not much in the short-term because the bottom of the conference is just horrendous and yes I’m looking at you Purdue and Illinois.

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier said this week his team gets more out of a game against East Carolina then they would against the bottom half of the Big Ten. Here’s the thing; Spurrier is absolutely right. Top Big Ten teams usually have starters and first line depth to compete with anyone but once you get into the middle and bottom of the Big Ten the starters of those teams aren’t much better if at all then a school like East Carolina.

The Big Ten for many years has ‘sampled’ the talent in places like Texas and Florida but still can’t compete with Nick Saban and Les Miles coming into a kid’s living room. With Rutgers and Maryland coming in, the hope is that the Big Ten’s recruiting base will now open up places like New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. That will help but until the Big Ten can consistently go into the deep south they will continue to struggle.

Lowering their academic standards might help too.

Alabama Favored to Win SEC

The Southeastern Conference has been the powerhouse of college football for the past decade with 7 national champions in the past 10 seasons.

Last season however, the Florida State Seminoles ended the run of 7 straight national titles by a SEC team when they defeated the Auburn Tigers in the BCS Championship Game.

Since 2006 at least on team in the SEC has reached the National Champions game. With a streak like the one the SEC has had, it is important to know who is the favorite to win the SEC conference championship in the 2014 season.

It likely is not a surprise to anyone that the Crimson Tide of Alabama at 13 to 10, with their series of consecutive recruiting classes and a new transfer quarterback own the shortest odds in the conference.

Jacob Coker who transferred to the Tide from FSU, where he became second string to Jameis Winston the Heisman Trophy winner, is expected to step in and start this season as the new signal caller for Bama despite head coach Nick Saban talking about a fierce competition at quarterback.

For Alabama, the toughest competitors in the conference based upon the prices are Auburn at 7 to 2 and Georgia at 11 to 2. However, a great deal of noise will be made by South Carolina at 6 to 1 and LSU at 8 to 1.

Nick Marshall will return at quarterback for Auburn, but there could be fallout from a marijuana citation he received in early July.

Auburn will open its season against Arkansas an SEC rival so if Marshall is suspended early it could be detrimental to their season.

Georgia will have a new quarterback starting in 2014, but the Bulldogs will likely jump on Todd Gurley’s broad shoulders and let the talent running back carry them early and often. That is at least through the first few games until the new QB can become comfortable and learn the ropes in the SEC.

Both Tigers – Auburn as well as LSU – will have direct shots at knocking the Tide off in head-to-head games. However, both the Bulldogs and Gamecocks would have to wait until the title game of the conference to get an opportunity to face them if one or the other were to make it that far.

Current SEC Championship Odds

  • Alabama 13 to 10
  • Auburn 7 to 2
  • Georgia 11 to 2
  • South Carolina 6 to 1
  • LSU 8 to 1
  • Florida 12 to 1
  • Ole Miss 12 to 1
  • Missouri 40 to 1
  • Tennessee 50 to 1
  • Mississippi State 50 to 1
  • Texas A&M 50 to 1
  • Arkansas 75 to 1
  • Kentucky 100 to 1
  • Vanderbilt 100 to 1

Odds on the SEC West Winner for 2014

Yeldon
Yeldon
T.J.Yeldon and Alabama will look to take back the SEC West from rival Auburn.

Saturday it was the SEC East. Today it’s the West. Let’s go!

Alabama 2/3 – Nick Saban begins his eighth year in Tuscaloosa and has to pick up the pieces of two straight ‘hard-to-take’ losses to end the season. It was clear in the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma that the team hadn’t recovered from their stunning loss at Auburn. Now, Saban leads a team wit a new man at quarterback and six new starters on defense. Bama should be 3-0 before entertaining Florida then has road trips to Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU before finishing the season with the Iron Bowl at home.

Bielema
All SEC coaches face pressure but Bret Bielema needs to turn things around at Arkansas now.

Arkansas 33/1 – Bret Bielema has the challenge he was looking for when he left Wisconsin in his hands now as he led the Hogs to a poor 3-9 record. It goes without saying that anything short of a bowl game this year could spell his end in Fayetteville. The team returns seven starters on both sides of the ball and the schedule isn’t horrendous. They get Texas A&M, LSU and Alabama at home and get Georgia in Little Rock. The only significant road trips are at Auburn in the opener, at Texas Tech and at Missouri. Six wins is doable but not a guarantee.

Auburn 4/1 – Head Coach Gus Malzahn returns for his second season and the fans will be hungry for more of the same but is that a fair expectation? Gone are studs like Tre Mason, Greg Robinson and Dee Ford but they do have eight starters returning to the offense including the quarterback. The schedule features home dates with LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina while the road features tough games at Kansas State, Georgia and Alabama in the finale. I do not see a repeat of last season but I do envision eight or nine wins.

LSU 5/1 – If the Tigers do not reach a big-time bowl then the natives in Baton Rouge will become even more restless then they are. Seeing rivals Alabama and Auburn fighting it out at the top doesn’t sit well on the bayou. Les Miles has five offensive starters returning and seven on the defensive side of the ball. The schedule is not easy as they open in Houston against Wisconsin. They also go to Arkansas, Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M. Alabama will likely be the only ranked team that comes into Death Valley in 2014. I think nine or ten wins is possible.

Mississippi State 12/1 – Head Coach Dan Mullen will have no excuses not to challenge in the SEC West. With eight starters returning on both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs’ faithful will have very high expectations. The non-conference schedule is weak and should provide four wins in four games. The conference road slate features tough games at LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss, but they do get Texas A&M and Auburn at home. Mullen knows the importance of this season and I’m not sure even eight wins will be enough.

Ole Miss 9/1 – The Rebels have nine starters back on defense and six on offense and that includes QB Bo Wallace. The question is whether the depth is enough to challenge the rest of the division. I predict a 3-1, possibly 4-0 non-conference schedule if they can beat Boise State in the opener. The conference road schedule games at Vanderbilt, LSU and Texas A&M while they get Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State at home in the Egg Bowl. That opening game with the Broncos could tell a lot about the direction of this season.

Texas A&M 14/1 – The obvious is replacing Johnny Manziel at quarterback but the Aggies also lost big play receiver Mike Evans and stud offensive tackle Jake Matthews to the NFL. With Kyle Field under-going a massive addition and renovation, the pressure is on Kevin Sumlin to make 10-win seasons the norm in College Station. The road will not be kind to the Aggies as they open at South Carolina and have other contests at Auburn and at Alabama. They end the season with LSU and Missouri at home and have a very weak non-conference slate. With the defense returning nine starters, they’ll need to lead the way with a new QB at the helm.

The Pick: It’s one top recruiting class after another for Nick Saban and despite losing some important guys to the NFL, I look for the Crimson Tide to roll to another SEC West Division Title.

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.