It’s Friday and I’ve Got Several Things on My Mind and Football is All of Them

Hill
Hill
Kenny Hill torched 9th-ranked South Carolina last night with over 500 yards passing.

So apparently my English skills are about as good as my ability to predict things if read this title. Two days ago, I gave you five fearless predictions for college football and already one of them is looking incredibly wrong. I said that Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks would win the SEC and while that could still happen, that theory took a massive hit last night.

Texas A&M came to Columbia with a redshirt freshman quarterback not named Johnny Manziel and torched the Gamecocks for over 500 yards passing in a 52-28 upset. Kenny Hill, son of former MLB pitcher Ken Hill, threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns in the rout over ninth-ranked South Carolina. The win does two things; first it makes us question just how good South Carolina is and two, how much longer before Kevin Sumlin is coaching in the NFL.

The fact that Sumlin has been able to show in just one game that he has moved this team beyond the Manziel era is enough for NFL teams and other major college programs to take notice. As for the Gamecocks, might want to work on that pass defense.

Rice
Ray Rice got one heck of a hometown discount from Roger Goodell as it turns out.

Goodell Does Something Positive for Once

Roger Goodell and the NFL announced yesterday that they have implemented a disciplinary system for domestic violence abusers. The first time will result in a six-game suspension while the second offense will result in a lifetime ban from the sport. Why it took this long for some form action in this regard is beyond me but it’s finally here and we should be happy about it as we can’t tolerate this behavior.

In the announcement, Goodell did something I never dreamed I’d hear from him. He apologized for the weak response in Ray Rice’s situation. While I appreciate the apology, I find it interesting that he didn’t extend Rice’s penalty. Perhaps it has to do with the NFLPA or maybe that Baltimore is his hometown team.

Strange that Goodell never apologized to Ben Roethlisberger after suspending him even though he was never arrested or charged with a crime. I digress however… I’m glad that the NFL is acting on domestic violence. It’s just a shame it’s taken this long and after a massive cry from the general public. Goodell has once again proven himself as the ‘reactive’ commissioner.

Because they have made themselves the epicenter of the sports’ world, ESPN is hard to avoid no matter how much they irritate and bother the hell out of us. Outside of ’30 for 30′ and the featuring of the several major sports, the rest of ESPN is essentially tabloid fodder. This notion was proved once again this week as ESPN reporter Josina Anderson decided to report on St. Louis Rams’ defensive end Michael Sam’s showering habits.

As you know, Sam is an openly gay man trying to make the roster and so far, he has an excellent shot at it. Whoever thought a story about whether Michael Sam showers with his teammates was worthy of our viewing time at ESPN needs to be fired. My question in this manner is quite simple; “who cares?”

Sam has had a really good preseason for the Rams and his two sacks of Cleveland Browns’ QB Johnny Manziel nearly forced Twitter into a shutdown. Whether he makes the roster or not is uncertain but someone will grab him because he has proven he can play in the NFL. Let’s hope that is what ESPN chooses to report on from here on out.

Five Fearless Predictions for College Football 2014

Meyer
Meyer
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will survive the loss of Braxton Miller and still win ten games.

There are any number of adjectives I could use to describe my predictions for college football 2014 but ‘fearless’ just seems right. After all, they are fearless. I mean, it isn’t like I should ‘fear’ any repercussions should my predictions prove untrue right?

Enough lip service. Here are some predictions sure to come true for college football this year.

1. Ohio State still wins 10 games despite the loss of Braxton Miller. Have you seen the Buckeyes’ schedule? The two biggest road games are at Navy in the opener and at Michigan State in what most expect will be for the Big Ten East Division title. While the loss of Braxton to season-ending shoulder surgery is a tough pill to swallow, it’s not like Urban Meyer suddenly forget how to recruit and how to coach. Even with a redshirt freshman quarterback I expect Ohio State to still win ten games.

Knight
Trevor Knight was great in last year's Sugar Bowl but I have concerns this season.

2. Oklahoma doesn’t make the Final Four. Everyone is jumping on the Sooners’ bandwagon and it all has to do with Trevor Knight’s performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Let’s think about this for a second; Alabama was playing a meaningless game after their difficult and heart-breaking loss to Auburn. They went from the number one team in the land and potential SEC Champ to a Sugar Bowl bid. Oklahoma Tech could have beaten Alabama in the Sugar Bowl last year based on this theory. Knight is a nice QB but I expect some less than good games along the way. Don’t be surprised to see the Sooners lose one or two they probably shouldn’t. One loss is enough to cost them a Final Four bid.

3. Florida State drops an unexpected game. By all accounts, the Seminoles could be better than they were last year but that doesn’t mean they are infallible. If you had to point to a game where the opponent could give them trouble, you’d say Oklahoma State, Clemson, Miami and Florida. I have a feeling they are going to stunned by an unexpected foe however. Don’t rule out a road loss to NC State or Louisville. Both environments will be rocking.

4. Michigan’s Brady Hoke will lose to both Michigan State and Ohio State. Again. I like Brady Hoke and I think  a lot of the Michigan faithful does as well but I think there’s one major problem with him and that’s that I don’t know how good of a coach he really is. Look at the losses in his time in Ann Arbor and you’ll notice multiple losses to Urban Meyer, Kirk Ferentz, Bo Pelini and Mark Dantonio. There’s no shame in losing multiple games to those coaches but at some point you have to start questioning whether he can get it done with his great recruiting classes. This year won’t be any better as the Wolverines have to go to both Columbus and East Lansing.

5. South Carolina wins the SEC. Yup. That’s what I said. South Carolina wins the SEC. The first clue was the fact that Head Coach Steve Spurrier has been flapping his trademark gums more than usual of late. Dating back to his days coaching the Florida Gators, that’s a sure sign that he likes his team. Secondly, the Gamecocks avoid both LSU and Alabama on the schedule. Their only two tough road games are at Auburn and at Florida. Normally I’d add Clemson to that list but Spurrier has owned the in-state Tigers. I like USC to win the SEC Title game over Alabama.

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.

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.