A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
Since we only have a little less than eight months until college football cranks up again, here is an all too soon prediction for the 2014 Southeastern Conference.
1. SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks have 10 likely wins, one tossup and one likely loss. Likely wins: Texas A&M, East Carolina, Georgia, at Vanderbilt, Missouri, at Kentucky, Furman, Tennessee, at Florida, South Alabama. Tossup: at Clemson. Likely loss: at Auburn. Best case scenario: 12-0. Worst case scenario: 9-3. Prediction: 11-1.
Comment: Even though they lose Jadeveon Clowney, Connor Shaw and three others who went early to the NFL, this will be Steve Spurrier’s best team. There isn’t a game on the schedule they can’t win and Spurrier has a two-deep filled with SEC caliber athletes who can run. If Mike Davis stays healthy, he could run for 1,800 yards.
2. MISSOURI: The Tigers have eight likely wins, three tossups one likely loss. Likely wins: South Dakota State, at Toledo, Central Florida, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas. Tossups: Georgia, at Florida, at Texas A&M. Likely loss: at South Carolina. Best case scenario: 12-0. Worst case scenario: 8-4. Prediction: 10-2.
Comment: Maty Mauck could turn into the best quarterback in the SEC and the Tigers have the best receivers, plus eight home games. Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham will make all-intergalactic. If Gary Pinkel can find replacements for the guys he loses on the defensive line, Missouri could be nasty on that side of the ball.
3. GEORGIA: Georgia has five winnable games, five tossups and two likely losses. Likely wins: Troy, at Arkansas, at Kentucky, Charleston Southern, Georgia Tech. Tossups: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Florida (Jacksonville). Likely losses: at South Carolina, Auburn. Best case scenario: 10-2. Worst case scenario: 6-6. Prediction: 9-3.
Comment: The key to the season is the health of Todd Gurley. If he’s upright and able to run, the Bulldogs are capable of beating every team on the schedule although Todd Grantham’s defense will find a way to give at least one or two away. It would help to find a quarterback, too.
4. FLORIDA: The Gators have four likely wins, four tossups and four likely losses. Likely wins: Idaho, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky. Tossups: at Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia (Jacksonville), at Vanderbilt. Likely losses: at Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Florida State. Best case scenario: 9-3. Worst case scenario: 6-6. Prediction: 8-4.
Comment: The Gators could be a big surprise if everybody stays healthy and new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper can coach the snakes out of Jeff Driskel’s game so he doesn’t have turnover meltdowns periodically. Watch for some heretofore obscure receiver to emerge as a 75-catch star who drives defenses batty. The front seven is going to have to stuff the run consistently or else it will be a 7-5 or 8-4 year. Will Muschamp needs eight wins in the worst way. Nine would be exceptionally good.
5. VANDERBILT: Vanderbilt has five likely wins, three tossups and four likely losses. Likely wins: Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern, at Kentucky, Old Dominion. Tossups: Ole Miss, Florida, Tennessee. Likely losses: South Carolina, at Georgia, at Missouri, at Mississippi State. Best case scenario: 9-3. Worst case scenario: 5-7. Prediction: 8-4.
Comment: The key to Vanderbilt’s season could be James Franklin. If he’s back, they’ll go bowling for a fourth straight year. If he takes the Penn State or a pro job, all bets are off for Vanderbilt.
6. TENNESSEE: Tennessee has four likely wins, two tossups and six likely losses. Likely wins: Utah State, Arkansas State, Chattanooga, Kentucky. Tossups: Florida and at Vanderbilt. Likely losses: at Oklahoma, at Georgia, at Ole Miss, Alabama, at South Carolina and Missouri. Best case scenario: 7-5. Worst case scenario: 4-8. Prediction: 6-6.
Comment: The Vols will be much improved, enough that they’ll go bowling but the two-deep is still going to be too young to be a factor in the SEC East race. Playing Oklahoma in week three in Norman then following it up with Georgia and Florida is not conducive to much more than a break even season.
7. KENTUCKY: Kentucky has three likely wins, one tossup and eight likely losses. Likely wins: Tennessee-Martin, Ohio U and Louisiana-Monroe, all played in Lexington. Tossups: Vanderbilt, played in Lexington. Likely losses: at Florida, South Carolina, at LSU, Mississippi State, at Missouri, Georgia, at Tennessee and at Louisville. Best case scenario: 4-8. Worst case scenario: 2-10. Prediction: 3-9.
Comment: Memo to Mark Stoops. It’s Kentucky. It’s a graveyard. You are a Stoops. You should know how to pick and choose your assignments better than going to Lexington. If Bobby Petrino is back at Louisville, the last game of the season is going to be a nightmare.
1. ALABAMA: Alabama has 10 likely wins, two tossups and zero likely losses. Likely wins: West Virginia (Atlanta), Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss, Florida, at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, Texas A&M, at Tennessee, Mississippi State, Western Carolina. Tossups: at LSU, Auburn. Likely losses: none. Best case scenario: 12-0. Worst case scenario: 10-2. Prediction: 12-0.
Comment: The last two times seasons ended badly for Alabama (2008 and 2010) the Crimson Tide came back to win the national championship the next season. Nick Saban has this habit of taking out his anger about losing on people the next year. A quarterback has to be found and the defense has to be better than it was against Auburn and Oklahoma, but until someone steps in and knocks Alabama off two straight years, they’ll start out #1.
2. AUBURN: Auburn has 10 likely wins, two tossups and zero likely losses. Likely wins: Arkansas, San Jose State, at Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, at Mississippi State, South Carolina, at Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, Samford. Tossups: LSU, at Alabama. Likely losses: none. Best case scenario: 12-0. Worst case scenario: 9-3. Prediction: 10-2.
Comment: If Tre Mason comes back then the offense is going to be dynamic again. The defense can’t be worse than it was in 2013, can it? If Mason comes back and the Tigers can stop someone occasionally they’re going to be good enough to run the table because Gus Malzahn’s offensive scheme is that good.
3. LSU: The Tigers have nine likely wins, three tossups and zero likely losses. Likely wins: Wisconsin (Houston), Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, at Florida; Kentucky, Ole Miss, at Arkansas, at Texas A&M. Tossups: Mississippi State, at Auburn, Alabama. Likely losses: none. Best case scenario: 11-1. Worst case scenario: 8-4. Prediction: 10-2.
Comment: Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry went pro. Big deal. It just means LSU will hand the ball off to Jeremy Hill and some other 230-pound stud running back who runs like a deer. Anthony Jennings could be a star at quarterback. The defense has to improve or else there will be speed bumps.
4. MISSISSIPPI STATE: Mississippi State has six likely wins, four tossups and two likely losses. Likely wins: Southern Miss, UAB, at South Alabama, at Kentucky, Arkansas and UT-Martin. Tossups: at LSU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss. Likely losses: Auburn, at Alabama. Best case scenario: 9-3. Worst case scenario: 6-6. Prediction: 8-4.
Comment: Dan Mullen has a team that could shock the world. Or they could lose early like they did three years ago and never recover. Quarterback Dak Prescott will drive defenses crazy and could have 2o touchdowns throwing and 20 more running.
5. TEXAS A&M: The Aggies have five likely wins, three tossups and four likely losses. Likely wins: Lamar, Rice, at SMU, Arkansas (Arlington, TX), Louisiana-Monroe. Tossups: at Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Missouri. Likely losses: at South Carolina, at Alabama, at Auburn, LSU. Best case scenario: 9-3. Worst case scenario: 6-6. Prediction: 7-5.
Comment: There will be no Johnny Football and no Mike Evans which means if there is once again no defense, the Aggies could be in deepest and darkest linguine.
6. OLE MISS: Ole Miss has four likely wins, five tossups and three likely losses. Likely wins: Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Tennessee, Presbyterian. Tossups: Boise State (Atlanta), at Vanderbilt, at Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State. Likely losses: Alabama, at LSU, Auburn. Best case scenario: 9-3. Worst case scenario: 5-7. Prediction: 6-6.
Comment: This is a team like Mississippi State – talented enough to shock the world and young enough to go in the tank if things don’t go well early on. The Rebels could score a lot of points if Bo Wallace can (a) stay healthy and (b) remember to throw the ball to people wearing the same color shirt that he’s wearing.
7. ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks have two likely wins, two tossups and eight likely losses. Likely wins: Nichols State, UAB. Tossups: Northern Illinois, Ole Miss. Likely losses: at Auburn, at Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia (Little Rock), at Mississippi State, LSU, at Missouri. Best case scenario: 5-7. Worst case scenario: 3-9. Prediction: 3-9.
Comment: In year two of Big Ten Goes South, Arkansas will once again do its best imitation of a Big Ten team and bring up the rear in the SEC West, which will cause those money people with names like Walton, Reynolds and Tyson threaten Jeff Long with a serious cut in donations if Brett Bielema isn’t canned. This is a disaster.
All too early SEC Offensive Player of the Year for 2014
Jeremy Hill, LSU
All too early SEC Defensive Player of the Year for 2014
Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
All too early SEC Coach of the Year for 2014
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
MUSIC FOR TODAY
His name is Jean-Baptiste Frederic Isidor, Baron Thielemans and he’s from Belgium. He is also known as Toots Thielemans and he has turned both whistling and playing the harmonica into true art forms. Toots is 91 years old and still performing. I saw him perform at Montreux many years ago and it absolutely blew my mind. This is “Blusette” which he first recorded in 1962 and became a jazz standard.