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Around the SEC

John Sommers II | Reuters

PROGAMMING ALERT: Kentucky’s LSU Upset to Air on SEC Network

John Sommers II | Reuters

Starving for football?  You can get your fix by re-watching Kentucky’s 2007 upset of No. 1 LSU.

Ahead of the 2018 season, the SEC Network is re-airing classic SEC football games.  Kentucky will get the spotlight tomorrow at 3:00.  If you can’t get to a television, set your DVR, or go through the following YouTube highlight reel from one of the most memorable UK football moments in the last 25 years.

Another Kentucky-LSU classic football game will air tonight at 9:00 on the SEC Network, but you’ll want to turn it off after Guy Morriss gets a Gatorade bath and before the final play.


Petrino says UofL will beat Alabama; Petrino has a death wish

Jim Brown | USA Today

You have to appreciate Bobby Petrino’s confidence. You also have to be concerned about his team’s safety.

While looking ahead to the Cardinals’ opening game at Alabama earlier today, Petrino told the audience at the Louisville kickoff luncheon, “I believe we’re gonna go beat ’em. And we will go beat ’em.”

So you know how insane Petrino’s comment is, Alabama opened as a 26-point favorite when the line was released earlier this year. There has been some movement each direction, but it’s still 26 points at most sports books today. (Only Kentucky can overcome that kind of line… at Louisville.)

Once Nick Saban gets wind of Petrino’s comments (and I’m sure he has already), this will go straight to the Alabama bulletin board.

Good luck with that, Louisville.


The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E70: Jon Rothstein on SEC Basketball

In the latest episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, Aaron talks all things SEC and college hoops with Jon Rothstein. The CBS college basketball insider picked Tennessee as the top team in the SEC heading into the season and he does not back down from his selection as the two talk SEC hoops.
Before Rothstein joins the program, Aaron discusses Duke’s first game in the Bahamas. Highlights:
The Emergence of Zion Williamson: While R.J. Barrett led the way, Zion Williamson emerged as the star of the Blue Devils on Wednesday. Aaron explains how Williamson exceeded expectations and showed a more well-rounded game than anyone could have expected.
Duke’s ConcernsWhat can go wrong for Duke? Will depth plague this team? Do they have a second point guard behind Tre Jones? Aaron also explains why Marques Bolden continues to struggle.
Next, Aaron welcomes CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein to the show. The pair discuss:
How Rothstein became a College Basketball InsiderRothstein explains his winding road to where he is today, as one of the pre-eminent insiders in the sport. Why it takes a decade to make an overnight success story, and how one game created his college basketball fandom — and nearly ruined his parents’ marriage.
His thoughts on the SECRothstein explains in great detail why he has Tennessee atop the conference. He also explains why he still believes Kentucky is capable of winning a national championship. Also, is this the best the SEC has ever been?
 
Top College Basketball StorylinesRothstein wraps by discussing an unsettled Big East, why Nevada is so fascinating and what to expect from UConn in the first year of the Dan Hurley era. Also, why he refuses to give out New York City restaurant recommendations to Aaron!

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Also, we recently started an “Aaron Torres Sports Podcast” Instagram page, for videos and pictures related to show and to preview upcoming guests. Go ahead and click here to follow the show.


Knoxville columnist says 0-8 Vols “not that bad” for 0-8

Knoxville columnist says 0-8 Vols “not that bad” for 0-8

Tennessee had a winless record in conference play in 2017 for the first time in school history. It was hilarious. I’m still laughing. It was a real knee slapper. But a columnist with the Knoxville News Sentinel thinks “it wasn’t that bad.”

Our friend Mike Rutherford from The Card Chronicle found the print version of the article and shared a photo of it online. “It could have been worse,” the glass-half-full John Adams wrote.

Twitter | @CardChronicle

If you’d like to read Adams’ entire comedy piece, you can do so here.

If you think Tennessee will go 0-8 again, you’re not alone. They’re going to suck.


SEC Preview: Top 5 Most Important Conference Games in 2018

For the next few weeks leading up until the start of the College Football season, I will be previewing different teams, players, and more from the SEC. This week I preview the most important conference games of the 2018 season. These contests may not turn out to be the best games, but they will have the most significant impact on SEC play.

5. September 8th: Kentucky at Florida

While some may call this a “homer” pick, I honestly think that this game is the second most important SEC East matchup this season which is why it makes my list.

I firmly believe that Florida will have a big bounce-back season and finish in the top half of the East after their disastrous 4-win debacle that was last year. New Head Coach Dan Mullen will also have a lot to prove in his first SEC Game as the head honcho in the swamp.

The Gators will be playing a dangerous Kentucky team who some call the dark horse squad in the division. With Benny Snell on offense and Josh Allen on defense, this is simply the most talented team during Mark Stoops’ tenure in Lexington.

A conference win over Florida will give UK a chance to realize their full potential. However, yet another loss to the Gators will be incredibly demoralizing heading forward. Let us not forget how much last season’s loss sucked.

To put this bluntly, the Wildcats may not get another chance like this to break their agonizing streak against Florida. If this is their most talented team this decade, there is no excuses to why they shouldn’t beat a squad that won just 4 games last year.

4. November 10th: Mississippi State at Alabama

Save this date because it’s going to be the most important weekend in the SEC (more on that later). First up is a huge contest between the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide.

In my opinion, Alabama is going to come into this game with an undefeated 9-0 record while Miss. St. will have an 8-1 or 9-0 record. Each team will most likely be ranked in the top ten by that point so that alone gets this game on the list.

But don’t forget that this is a revenge game for the Bulldogs. Last season Miss. St. led the Crimson Tide in the 4th quarter. Alabama narrowly won on a Jalen Hurts touchdown pass with just 25 seconds left in the game.

The Bulldogs return just about everybody from last season, so to say they will have some extra juice on this night would be an understatement. If they somehow win in Tuscaloosa this season it would turn the college football world on its head as Miss St. would have a great chance to make the playoff.

The only reason why this game isn’t higher on the list is because it’s going to be hard to beat Alabama on their own turf. Plus, despite all the preseason hype there is still a chance that the Bulldogs could flame out early in the season with a new head coach.

3. October 27th: Florida vs. Georgia (In Jacksonville)

This is going to be the very first “huge” conference game played this season in the SEC. Georgia plays no one before this game so they will be 7-0 and ranked in the top 5.

Meanwhile, I think Florida will come into this game 6-1 and ranked high in the rankings as well. Their only other tough matchup besides Miss St. will be LSU. The Tigers are in complete rebuilding mode plus they must play at Gainesville.

Considering that both Florida and Georgia will be coming off their bye weeks heading into a huge rivalry game between two ranked opponents, this is easily the biggest SEC East game of the year.

Georgia has one very tough SEC game left on their schedule that they could easily lose, so this game is incredibly important in the East race. Besides this contest, Florida may very well only lose one other SEC game. Believe it or not, but if the Gators pull off this huge upset they are probably in the Conference Championship game.

I believe the Bulldogs should destroy the Gators in this matchup, but that doesn’t make this game any less important than what it will be.

2. November 24th: Auburn at Alabama

The Iron Bowl is always one of the most hyped games in college football every season and this year is no different. Alabama will probably be 11-0 heading into this game, however Auburn plays a tremendously tough schedule and they very well could come into this game with multiple losses (more on that in a second) which is way this game isn’t at No. 1 on this list.

But, there is always the chance this contest could decide which team represents the West in the SEC Championship. Couple that in with the fact that it’s the biggest rivalry game in college football and you easily have the second biggest SEC matchup of the year.

This year, the Crimson Tide will be seeking revenge after last season’s loss which almost put them out of the playoff. With Jarrett Stidham back at quarterback, Auburn matches up well with an inexperienced Alabama secondary.

Also, it just seems like the Iron Bowl is better when it’s played in Tuscaloosa. The fans are a bit more passionate, plus it’s always fun to watch Alabama fans react to a loss.

In 2018, expect the Iron Bowl to be yet another classic game.

1. November 10th: Auburn at Georgia

I told you this Saturday in November was going to be huge.

If I was forced to pick the most important game in the entire college football season in 2018, I would have a very hard time not picking this huge matchup.

First, let’s start off with the basics. This is a huge grudge match after these teams split contests last year in the regular season and in the SEC Championship game. Both squads will be incredibly motivated to win this game.

Georgia should be undefeated heading into this game unless they fall to Florida (they won’t), and Auburn should be undefeated unless they lose to Washington in the first game of the season (they probably won’t).

This contest just has so many implications. Let’s say Georgia wins. If so, then the Tigers may have two losses BEFORE they even play Alabama. They would almost be a lock to not make the playoff.

Now, let’s say that after winning this game Georgia goes to the SEC Championship undefeated and falls to Alabama. Would Georgia still get in the playoff? Honestly, they would have a good case considering that they have a huge victory over Auburn in the regular season.

And what if Auburn wins? Georgia would then be forced to beat Alabama in the title game to make the playoff. And if the Bulldogs do that…..does Alabama make the playoff with just one loss in the SEC Championship game?

There are of course a ton of other weird scenarios that I can get into but trust me when I say that so much in this upcoming college football season hinges on this matchup between Auburn and Georgia.

Mark this down in your calendars, because you are not going to want to miss this.


UK Athletics

Twilight Zone: Florida is Modeling its Football Facility after Kentucky’s

UK Athletics

We live in a world where the Florida football program is modeling its new state-of-the-art facility after Kentucky’s.  What a time to be alive.

The Tampa Bay Times recently profiled the rise of multi-million dollar complexes dedicated exclusively to college football programs.  With more than a billion dollars spent nationally since 2013, the headlines tend to gravitate toward the extreme, like Clemson’s slide and Texas A&M’s TV-filled mirrors.

Kentucky’s $45 million Joe Craft Football Training Facility has all of the bells and whistles, but that’s not why it stands above the rest in the country.  The University of Florida toured UK’s facility to see how Kentucky created one of the country’s most efficient football complexes.

“Everything’s there,” C.J. Conrad said.

It’s all there because a program’s most limited resource is time.

NCAA rules limit coaches to only four hours of player interaction daily, and players’ schedules are packed with class and training. If a new building can eliminate a 15-minute trip across campus, that’s 15 extra minutes they can spend watching film, studying or unwinding.

The same principle applies to a facility’s layout.

The Wildcats’ weight room flows to the practice fields, so players can transition easily from lifts to sprints. The practice fields flow to the 52-degree plunge pool for recovery. The hydrotherapy area flows to the locker room, where players can shower and change before heading to tutoring, meetings or the players’ lounge.

Kentucky has mastered the art of efficiency, but I wish they kept that secret. It could have been a valuable bargaining chip to move the annual game against the Gators from September to November.

[Tampa Bay Times]


(Photo: Mark Zerof, USA TODAY Sports)

SEC Team Previews: Ole Miss

(Photo: Mark Zerof, USA TODAY Sports)

Through this week I will be previewing the 5 SEC West teams that Kentucky will NOT be playing in the 2018 season. For some awesome in-depth previews of the other 8 teams that the Wildcats will be playing this year, be sure to read Nick Roush’s SEC Media Day breakdowns of UK’s conference opponents. Next up in my preview are the Ole Miss Rebels.

Offensive Outlook

Just like last year, Ole Miss’s offense will be the strength of the team. They return everyone except for quarterback Shea Patterson, one offensive lineman, and 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Wilkins.

Even with the loss of Patterson to Michigan, this offense will still be electric. This is in large part due to senior Jordan Ta’amu who did an outstanding job at the position last season when Patterson went down with injury.

Ta’amu managed a 11-4 TD-Int ratio, while also totaling a better completion percentage and quarterback rating then Patterson managed. He also is considerably more mobile than Patterson as he scored four times on the ground while adding 165 yards.

I was very impressed with Ta’amu last season, and I don’t think they really lost anything at quarterback due to his breakout season in 2017. Expect a big year from the Hawaiian in 2018.

With the return of almost their entire offensive line and their top three receivers from last year, the Ole Miss air attack will be one of the best in the SEC.

However, with the loss of Wilkins they have a major hole to fill at running back. No one else on the roster has much experience so expect the Rebels to turn to junior college transfer Scott Phillips.

This offense was the 5th best offense in the conference last season and I expect an even better result this year. The air attack will be good enough to give the ground game time to find its footing.

Defensive Outlook

Ole Miss’s defense went in the complete opposite direction in 2017.  The unit finished dead last in the SEC in total defense and 115th in the FBS. Yea….it wasn’t great.

Despite returning seven starters, the Rebels lose their top two tacklers and almost all their linebacker core. Their defensive line depth will be their strength of the defense, but I don’t believe that it will be enough to offset the overall lack of talent this unit has.

Defensive tackle Benito Jones will be asked to lead this unit. He was once a highly touted prospect, and he recorded the most tackles for lost last season out of any returning defensive player.

It doesn’t matter what kind of defensive scheme a team has, you must have good linebackers to lead that side of the football. Going into the 2018 season, I can’t honestly tell you anything about Ole Miss’s linebackers besides the fact that the guys who started in front of them last year were not good.

So, I imagine their backups that will start this year won’t be too great either. To say that I don’t think much of the Rebel defense this season would be an understatement.

Best Overall Player

A. J. Brown is a baaddddddd man. After finishing last season on the All-American 2nd Team the receiver is back to set the SEC on fire once again.

At 6’1, 225 pounds, Brown totaled over 1,200 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 75 receptions. He is a physical beast with great hands who runs crisp and quick routes.

To say that the NFL is patiently waiting for Brown’s arrival to the pros would be a safe bet. Usually it’s not a great sign that a receiver is your best player, but in this case, it says more about Brown’s talent than it does about Ole Miss.

He will unquestionably be the first overall receiver taken in the 2019 Draft unless something disastrous happens between now and April. Brown will be one of the most entertaining players in the SEC this year so be sure to tune in to watch this guy snatch the souls from defensive backs.

Biggest Overall Weakness

Motivation. Ole Miss is still under a self-imposed bowl ban for 2018. Considering that this team will be very dependent on its offense this season, it’s not a great sign that they are guaranteed not to win a title.

A large amount of defense is simply the amount of effort players give on that side of the football. I think that will show a lot this season with an Ole Miss defense that will be playing catch-up with its offense.

Don’t forget, this is an SEC West team. They will be playing three or four of the toughest teams in the nation along with South Carolina from the East and Texas Tech in nonconference play.

In the back of their minds, this team knows that they don’t have a destination this season. They aren’t making an SEC Championship by any stretch of the imagination. Their season will end on Senior Night against archrival Mississippi State.

Some people may not think this matters a whole lot, but I really think it does. I hope the best for Head Coach Matt Luke this year. He didn’t ask for this kind of situation.

Season Outlook

I don’t think this Ole Miss team will be very good in 2018, but I still think this team will surprise some people. With an offense with that kind of firepower, I think that the Rebels will straight-up outscore teams that will annihilate their defense.

Will they beat any teams in the top half of the SEC? No.

But they have a favorable nonconference schedule. They will be picked to win all four of those games. Couple that win with the fact that they draw Vanderbilt out of the East and they play South Carolina at home and I think this team will avoid a losing season.

However, with a bad defense and a lack of motivation I believe that anything more than seven wins would be a huge surprise.


(John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

SEC Team Previews: Arkansas

(John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

Through this week I will be previewing the 5 SEC West teams that Kentucky will NOT be playing in the 2018 season. For some awesome in-depth previews of the other 8 teams that the Wildcats will be playing this year, be sure to read Nick Roush’s SEC Media Day breakdowns of UK’s conference opponents. Next up in my preview are the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Offensive Outlook

The Razorbacks finally enter a new era as Brett Bielema was fired at the end of last season. Gone is the archaic offense that worked in the Big 10 but failed miserably in the SEC.

Imagine what it must’ve felt like being an Arkansas fan last season. Every single game your team runs the ball 40 times only to finish the season 4-8. That’s pretty much the definition of running into a brick wall and smashing your face in repeatedly without stopping.

Thankfully for the Razorback faithful, Chad Morris takes over for Bielema. Morris will be implementing a new spread offense this season which will be quite a breath of fresh air.

But will it be successful? The Razorbacks return everyone offense except for Austin Allen at quarterback and one offensive lineman which means they will have an embarrassment of experience for Morris to work with.

With the move to a spread offense I expect whoever wins the quarterback competition to put up respectable numbers. Arkansas returns their top 4 receivers from last season while running back Devwah Whaley is back as well.

Cole Kelley (6’7, 245 pounds) is the supposed favorite to win the job after respectably filling in for Allen last season. He has tremendous size and arm strength, but accuracy is still a question mark.

Overall, this offense will be much better than it was last season. The new spread offense will help whoever wins the quarterback competition, plus their incredible amount of experience will matter in close games. Brighter days are on the way in Fayetteville.

Defensive Outlook

Like on offense, the Razorbacks return just about everything on defense. They only lose two defensive backs and a defensive lineman, so everything seems to be pointing up on this side of the football as well.

The big news on defense is that Arkansas will be shifting back to a 4-3 after playing a 3-4 last season. It’s obvious this change needed to have been made after the Razorbacks gave up 196 rushing yards per game.

Linebackers Dre Greenlaw and De’Jon Harris both totaled over 100 tackles in 2017 and will be looking to cause more damage in 2018. They are similarly talented players who play incredibly hard and fast.

It will be very interesting to see how well Greenlaw and Harris perform in the new defense as they will be depended upon even more this year.

Overall, I see this defense improving this season. The change in schemes will give teams a different look from last season, plus it will give their best players more chances to make plays.

Best Overall Player

My vote for the most interesting player in the SEC goes to my pick for the Razorbacks’ best overall player: Hjalte Froholdt. And yes, I spelled his name correctly.

The crazy thing is that is his first name is actually pronounced “Yelda.” If you don’t believe me, here is the video evidence:

All jokes aside, Froholdt is a fascinating player. He is actually from Denmark of all places and stands at a massive 6’4, 315 pounds. He possesses NFL-ready speed and toughness at the guard position even with being so huge.

One thing that Bielema did correctly during his time at Arkansas was recruit very talented offensive lineman which is exactly what Froholdt is. He has made just about every preseason watch list for linemen this summer after making the All-SEC Third team in 2017.

Froholdt will be one of the most vital pieces of the Razorback offense in what will likely be his last season in Fayetteville. Oh yeah, he can also dish out some great trash talk on the field as well:

Biggest Weakness

The talent level at Arkansas is still low when compared to the rest of the SEC especially in the West division. Morris has a lot of experience at his disposal, but there is a reason why the Razorbacks only won four games last year.

For crying out loud they only beat Coastal Carolina by one point in 2017. That speaks for itself. Their only other victories were against Florida A&M, New Mexico State, and Mississippi.

Their experience will help counter their lack of talent, but this team still isn’t ready to compete week in and week out with the top teams in this conference. Morris will need multiple seasons to recruit the type of players that can launch the Razorbacks back to near 10-win seasons.

Season Outlook

I am high on the Razorbacks this season. I think they will be in the running for one of the most improved teams in the SEC, and I guarantee they will make a bowl game this winter.

Their nonconference slate should give them four victories considering the best team they play is Colorado State. In SEC play they get Mississippi, Vanderbilt, and LSU all at home and Missouri on the road. I really do think that the Razorbacks will find a way to win two or three of those matchups.

The blend of experience and new schemes from a team that won just one SEC last season will be a bit of a shock to the rest of the conference. Couple that in with the coaching talent of Morris and I think you have a recipe for a surprising season.


(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

SEC Team Previews: LSU

(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

Through this week I will be previewing the 5 SEC West teams that Kentucky will NOT be playing in the 2018 season. For some awesome in-depth previews of the other 8 teams that the Wildcats will be playing this year, be sure to read Nick Roush’s SEC Media Day breakdowns of UK’s conference opponents. Next up in my preview are the LSU Tigers.

Offensive Outlook

Rebuilding. That’s a term that fanbases across the country absolutely dread to hear. However, every team goes through this phase at one time or another. What separates good programs from the great ones is just how much success they experience during these supposed rough patches.

In 2018, the LSU offense will certainly be rebuilding. The question is just how much success they will experience. They return a total of 5 starters from last season in the form of three offensive lineman, a receiver, and their tight end.

Gone is Danny Etling who enjoyed a decent year at quarterback, but most importantly gone is Derrius Guice at running back. Guice was the most important player on last year’s team and he will surely be missed. Gone as well is wide receiver DJ Chark who was one of the best receivers in the SEC.

With so many huge losses, sometimes you got to get creative. And creative is what head Coach Ed Orgeron became. In comes Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow at quarterback, Texas Teach transfer Jonathan Giles at receiver (1,158 yards in 2016), and NC State transfer Thaddeus Moss at Tight End.

Not only does LSU welcome in three talented transfers on offense, but the Tigers are moving to a more pass-happy system this fall as well. It’s going to be weird to watch a normally run-dominant team air it out, but that’s what we will see this season.

They still have talent at half back with sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire taking over, however the LSU offense will be defined by its new-look passing game. If Burrow can improve upon what Etling did last year (which won’t be tough) and if Giles can once again be a big-play receiver, fans won’t be able to tell it’s a rebuilding year.

Defensive Outlook

There are three certainties in life: Death. Taxes. And LSU always having a great defense.

That doesn’t change in 2018 as the Tigers once again will be fielding a top 5 defense in the SEC. While it is true that LSU only returns 5 starters on this side of the ball they return three of their top four tacklers from last season.

Even more important for Orgeron’s team is that they return linebacker Devin White and defensive back Greedy Williams (what a name). They are the two most talented players on this team, and both will be selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Three starters total return at defensive back which will be the most loaded aspect of LSU this season. Normally the Tigers field a tough defense against the pass and this season will not be any different.

They don’t return as much experience in the front seven, but with a plethora of highly touted recruits starting along with White this will not be a rebuilding year on defense for LSU.

Best Overall Player

This is an incredibly tough decision to make between White and Williams, but I’m going with the one and only Greedy Williams.

Not only is he likely winning the competition for best overall name in the SEC, but he is my pick for the best cornerback in the country. As a redshirt freshman last year Williams broke up 11 total passes while also grabbing six interceptions.

Combine those coverage skills along with the fact that Williams stands at 6’2 and you have an ideal cornerback in the national football league.

I would not be surprised at all if a team with a bad pass defense selects him within the first 10 picks in the draft. In fact, if LSU has a surprise year in the SEC Williams could be the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

However, I don’t want to completely leave out White. He is the top inside linebacker in the country after totaling an absurd 133 tackles last season. He will be a first-round pick and in the running for SECDOPY as well.

Biggest Weakness

LSU’s biggest weakness this season is the fact that they return an incredibly low amount of meaningful experience from last season. Sure, adding some big names in the form of transfers is a smart way to try and make up for this, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is mostly a brand-new football team on offense.

Orgeron is very smart to try and move to a pass-happy system. Every other offense in the SEC West will be improving from last season and the Tigers don’t need to get left in the dust.

With a very, very tough schedule that includes Miami, Alabama, at Auburn, and Georgia, having to rebuild team chemistry on offense is going to be incredibly hard to do.

Orgeron certainly has his work cut out for him this year. If Burrow can be the real deal at quarterback, I think the Tigers can win some games they probably shouldn’t have.

Season Outlook

This may be a hot take, but I’m a bit low on LSU this season. College football expert Phil Steele has the Tigers rated 129th on his experience chart heading into the season. In case you forgot, there is only 130 teams on this level of college football.

Ouch.

However, I still think LSU will make a bowl game this season. White and Williams are that talented on defense, and there is enough talent elsewhere on that side of the ball. That defense will win them games on its own this season.

While they won’t beat any teams in that murder’s row mentioned earlier, I still think they find a way to win six of their other eight games. They will win all three of their other nonconference games, beat up on Mississippi and Arkansas, and win a surprising game against Texas A&M to finish their regular season.

This really feels like a 6-6 team because of their lack of experience and incredibly tough schedule. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m proven wrong. You can never really count out the toughness of that LSU defense.