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Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland out for the season

Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland out for the season

Unfortunate news in SEC Basketball: Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland will miss the rest of the season. The freshman guard and one-time Kentucky recruit suffered a meniscus injury in his left knee vs. Kent State on Friday and underwent surgery yesterday.

“Darius had a very successful surgery, and will be better than ever when he returns,” Bryce Drew said in a release from Vanderbilt. “Unfortunately, he will be out for the remainder of this season.”

Garland was off to an impressive start for the Commodores, winning SEC Freshman of the Week for his 33-point performance vs. Liberty last week, and popping up as a lottery pick in some mock drafts. Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery.


Nov 24, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores players celebrate after a win against the Tennessee Volunteers at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

ICYMI: Vandy is Bowl Eligible, Tennessee is Not

 

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Look, 9-3 is an impressive record for UK, I understand that. But I can’t help but wonder what could have been if the Cats hadn’t dropped an inexplicable 24-7 loss to UT. Especially now that we know that Tennessee won’t even get the chance to go bowling after a 38-13 loss to Vanderbilt.

First off, congrats to Derek Mason for at least making Vanderbilt a legitimate threat in the SEC. The Commodores challenged Notre Dame early in the season, nearly took down Florida, and were a serious thorn in the side of several SEC teams during the regular season. Vandy was and continues to be exactly what most people expect them to be; a pesky team determined to screw up the grand plans of every one of their division rivals.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Pruitt’s Tennessee squad was precisely what you would expect from a bottom-tier rebuilding team. We, the University of Kentucky, were somehow the best win UT could muster all season long. The Volunteers next best W was a single touchdown win over unranked Auburn. I’ll take this stat as a legitimate compliment.

After an absolutely dominant win over Louisville, UK is headed to perhaps its highest rated bowl game in decades, while Tennessee is wondering what steps it should take next to revive its program. Ah, how the tables have turned. Turns out Mark Stoops was actually a pretty solid hire as compared to UT hiring the flash-in-the-pan that was Butch Jones.

It’s nearly 2AM as I write this, and it is hard to comprehend the entirety of the results from Rivalry Weekend, from UK’s absolute drubbing of the Cardinals to Texas A&M’s historic upset of number 7 LSU. But one thing is for certain: waiting for UK’s upward trend ever since Mark Stoops was hired was well worth the early losses. Meanwhile, Tennessee fans are probably wallowing in their sorrow, wondering what they did to deserve the current curse that is conceding bowl eligibility to Vanderbilt.

BBN > Vol Nation, am I right?

@JayWinkKSR


Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland Suffers Knee Injury

Brian Rothmuller | Getty Images

One of the SEC’s brightest young stars has suffered a significant injury.

Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland injured his left leg two minutes into the game against Kent State. Without Garland, the Commodores fell 77-75.  The school announced Garland suffered meniscus injury and is out indefinitely.

Vanderbilt provided no further details, but typical recovery from a meniscus injury is six to eight weeks.  That could vary based on Garland’s draft stock.

A five-star McDonald’s All-American from Nashville, Garland scored 33 points earlier in the week.  Before the injury Garland was a projected lottery pick and averaged 16.2 points per game.

Kentucky hosts Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena on January 12.


SEC Storylines of Week 13: Rivalry Week

(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

The college football season finally reaches its last week of regular season play, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for in Week 13 as Kentucky takes on Louisville on the road.

1. The Iron Bowl Showdown

It’s rivalry week in the SEC which means that all eyes will focused on the famous Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama.

This game has given college football some of the best games of this decade. The unfortunate news, however, is that this year’s Iron Bowl does not have near the hype of its predecessors. Alabama is having one of the best seasons in recent memory, and they enter this matchup as 24-point favorites.

ESPN’s current matchup predictor only gives the Tigers an 8.9% chance of winning this contest which is almost unheard of in a rivalry series that has been so entertaining.

There is still some intrigue to this game. Don’t forget, Auburn is the last team that defeated the Crimson Tide as they were victorious in the Iron Bowl last season. The Tigers will not be afraid of Alabama when they travel to Tuscaloosa.

Plus, Auburn still has Jarrett Stidham at quarterback. Yes, he has been incredibly disappointing this season, but Stidham may just be the best quarterback talent-wise that the Crimson Tide have seen so far this season (I’m not big on Drew Lock).

Despite these motivating factors for a Tiger victory, I don’t think they have any chance to win if Tua Tagovailoa is healthy and under center for the Crimson Tide. The most interesting aspect of this matchup is if Tagovailoa can put up large enough to stats to secure the Heisman Trophy.

2. LSU Makes Its Final Case

In the only ranked SEC contest this week No. 7 LSU will travel to College Station to take on the No. 22 Texas A&M Aggies. This will be the final game the Tigers will play before the committee selects which four teams will make the College Football Playoff.

If LSU drops this matchup, they will be effectively eliminated from the playoff. If the Tigers win, they may still find their selves on the outside looking in. They will need all three of Oklahoma, Georgia, and Michigan to lose one more game, and even if that happens UCF could realistically jump over LSU if they remain undefeated. Crazier things have happened.

But let’s look at what is currently at hand. I see today’s matchup as basically an even match. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Aggies a 59.9% chance of winning, and they are also favored by three points.

Of course, LSU is the higher ranked team with more to play for so it’s easy to see why many still think the Tigers will walk away victorious.

In what will be a close game, I think the team with the best offensive player will win and that happens to be Texas A&M. In running back Trayveon Williams the Aggies have the best running back in the SEC at the moment (sorry Benny Snell).

Plus, I believe that the Aggies also have the better coach with Jimbo Fisher despite Ed Orgeron having a great season. Add in the fact that this will be a night game in College Station, and I think you have a recipe for a Texas A&M victory.

3. Tennessee and Vandy Battle for a Bowl Game

In the third most important game of Rivalry Weekend (South Carolina doesn’t stand much of a chance against Clemson) 5-6 Tennessee travels to Nashville to take on the 5-6 Vanderbilt Commodores. You know what that means.

The winner will be playing in a bowl game which will be absolutely huge for either program.

Head Coach Derek Mason badly needs a big win over a rival school to keep his coaching career alive at Vanderbilt. Remember, Vandy currently does not have an athletic director. There are no guarantees that Mason will remain at the school if the Commodores turn in a losing season.

On the other hand, receiving a bowl invite for the Volunteers just one season after Tennessee failed to win a single SEC game would be nothing short of miraculous. Imagine if the Volunteers somehow manage to finish the season 7-6. That would be a program-changing type of season considering how low this program was just one year ago.

So, who has the upper hand here? To be frank, neither team does. Vanderbilt does have home field advantage, but Tennessee fans will show out in full force today. There won’t be much of an advantage for the Commodores, but don’t tell Mason that.

Vanderbilt has the slightly better offense, but I think the Volunteers have a better defense. Both teams also are 1-1 in their last two games and 2-5 in conference play.

Any advice given on who to pick to win this game is likely going to be bad advice, but I’ll go with the Volunteers. There is just something about Jeremy Pruitt as the head coach of this team. I think that Tennessee has a future with him, and that begins with this victory.

4. South Carolina Travels to Clemson

The Gamecocks will certainly have their hands full today as they are taking on the No. 2 Clemson Tigers. If you thought the spread was big in the Iron Bowl, Clemson is currently a 26-point favorite against South Carolina.

Unless you are a Gamecock fan and think otherwise, no one really thinks that South Carolina has a chance to win this football game on the road.

If you are wondering why, it’s because the Gamecocks have been terrible on the defensive side of the football this season. They are currently giving up an absurd 190 rushing yards per game. That is not great considering Clemson has one of the best running backs in the nation in Travis Etienne.

Plus, the longer the season continues the better freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence plays. The freshman is ranked 21st in the nation in quarterback rating as he arguably has the bets raw arm talent of any quarterback in the country.

All signs are pointing towards a big Clemson win, but keep your eye on Gamecock quarterback Jake Bentley. In the past two games he has thrown for nearly 600 yards and six touchdowns. If the junior plays well, I think South Carolina will have a pretty good chance at covering the spread.

5. Will Two SEC Teams Make the Playoff?

This is the question that is on the mind of many fans across the SEC. As we are just a week and a half away from the College Football Playoff Selection Show, what chance does the conference have at getting two teams in the playoff?

First off, the only two teams this could realistically be are Alabama and Georgia. As previously mentioned, a considerable amount of chaos will have to happen for LSU to be selected.

Obviously, all eyes will be on Clemson, Michigan, and Notre Dame. If Notre Dame beats USC and if Clemson wins out, then they are locks to get into the playoff. There is no question there.

The Iron Bowl is essentially a meaningless game for Alabama. If Georgia beats a bad Georgia Tech team, then the winner of the SEC Championship game is a lock for the playoff regardless of what happens in the Iron Bowl.

The crazy question that has to be answered is this: What if Michigan wins out and Alabama’s only loss is to Georgia in the conference championship? Who would be the final team, Alabama or Michigan? If Georgia wins out, then they are a lock in the playoff as well.

This is essentially the same scenario as last year. The decision came down to the Big 10 Champion and an Alabama team that did not win the SEC.

The only difference this year is that if Michigan wins out their only loss would be by three points to Notre Dame whereas last year Ohio State got slaughtered by an average Iowa team.

This is why I think the committee will make the right decision and select the Wolverines to be the fourth team. Therefore, for two SEC teams to make the playoff the following has to happen: 1. Georgia must win out. 2. Alabama must beat Auburn before losing to Georgia. 3. Michigan loses a game.

Of course, where things really get crazy is if Notre Dame or Clemson drop a game. But that’s an article for another day. However, nothing that I just said will matter if Alabama beats Georgia. And folks, that is exactly what should happen anyways.


SEC Storylines of Week 12: Cupcake Weekend

The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for in Week 12 as Kentucky takes on Middle Tennessee State in Lexington.

1. Dead Week in the SEC

This is possibly the most infamous week in the SEC every year in college football. It’s the weekend before the last week of the regular season which is otherwise known as rivalry weekend. With so much riding on that last game, SEC teams usually spend Week 12 playing a non-power 5 team that is lacking in talent.

This year is no different as 8 of the 14 teams in the SEC are playing mid-major squads within the friendly confines of their own home stadium. There are only three inner-conference matchups, and only one of those involves a ranked team (Arkansas at No. 21 Mississippi State).

In other words, this should be the most boring week of the entire year in the conference. Unless a monumental upset occurs, 11 SEC Teams will walk away victorious on Saturday. The toughest non-conference opponent today will be UAB when they take on Texas A&M in College Station.

As one can imagine, the rest of the college football world isn’t exactly happy that the SEC is basically taking a week off today. If any conference is to get two teams in the college football playoff, it’s obviously the SEC. Having a weekend this easy this late in the season is rubbing people the wrong way.

No matter what anyone says, that last tweet is correct. This week has yet to hurt the conference at all the past couple of years. So, if it isn’t broke, then why fix it? The SEC smartly plans cupcakes right at the end of the season. That’s just how it is.

2. Kentucky Tries to Stop Its Free Fall

Every season in college football there is a surprise team that will come out of nowhere in the first half season and be ranked in the top 10 only to then quickly fall from grace.

Sadly, for the Big Blue Nation this year it was the Kentucky Wildcats. In just a matter of two weeks the Wildcats went from possibly making the SEC Championship game to losing to Tennessee by double digits. Yikes.

Despite this crushing fall back to Earth, things are still looking up in Lexington. Despite two straight losses and a 7-3 record, the committee still has the Wildcats ranked in their top 25 at No. 17 overall in the nation.

With only Middle Tennessee State and Louisville left on their schedule, there is no excuses for why UK should not finish the regular season 9-3 overall. Despite a terrible offense, the Wildcat defense led by Josh Allen is still one of the best in the nation.

Even if you are frustrated with how Kentucky has performed over the last month, tune in to watch Allen go to work. His NFL Draft hype is at an all-time high right now as many have him pegged to be selected in the first 15 picks.

3. Tennessee and Vanderbilt Fight for Bowl Eligibility

In the most underrated storyline of the weekend, Tennessee and Vanderbilt will continue their fight for bowl eligibility. The Volunteers currently sit at 5-5 on the year as the Commodores have a 4-6 record.

This week Tennessee plays at home in a very interesting matchup against Missouri as Vanderbilt will also be playing at home against Ole Miss. The Volunteers and Commodores will then end their regular season in a huge conference matchup in Nashville.

Theoretically, it’s still possible for both teams to be bowl eligible. Both squads would have to win today against capable opponents, then Vanderbilt would have to beat Tennessee in the finale and both teams would finish 6-6.

It isn’t the most likely scenario, but it would be a very good look for the SEC if both teams make bowl games. On the flip side, it would be a terrible look if neither one makes a bowl as that is a possible scenario as well.

While the Volunteers are just happy to be considerably better than last season, there is a lot riding on Vanderbilt’s performance in these last two weeks. Head Coach Derek Mason is squarely on the hot seat and finishing with a 4-8 record may just do the trick for the Commodore faithful.

Personally, I’m hoping the best for Mason, but if he coaches as bad as he did last Saturday then his days in Nashville are certainly numbered.

4. Georgia Prepares for a Showdown With ‘Bama

Last week I wrote that if Georgia took care of business against Auburn, then their regular season is basically over, and that’s exactly what happened.

Now, the Bulldogs just have to play UMass today (snore), then Georgia Tech next weekend (also snore) and they will play in the SEC Championship Game with a chance to make the Playoff.

Georgia is one of the teams to watch out for in the weeks leading to the committee Selection Sunday. First off, there is a very real chance that if Georgia pulls off the upset and defeats the Crimson Tide that the committee will put both the Bulldogs and Alabama in the playoff.

Someone else may have to lose a game in order for that to happen, but I think the committee would love to put two SEC teams in the playoff once again. Also, if Georgia was to slip up then this would open the door for one loss teams like Oklahoma, Ohio State, or West Virginia to make a huge run and get into the final four.

Either way, Georgia controls its own destiny at the present moment. If they take care of business in their next two games then defeat Alabama, the Bulldogs will be in the playoff for a second consecutive year. With D’Andre Swift back to playing like the best running back in the SEC, anything is possible for Georgia.

5. Tua’s Death Grip on Offensive Player of the Year

In case you live underneath a rock, Tua Tagovailoa is winning SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2018. He is easily the best overall player in the conference, and there isn’t a close second.

No other offensive player in the SEC has had near the impact that Tua has had on the Crimson Tide this season. The only other quarterback that’s comparable stat-wise is Ole Miss’s Jordan Ta’amu and the Rebels has dropped five SEC games this season.

While that race is all but settled, what will be very interesting to watch is how the Heisman Trophy race will wrap up. At this point, it’s really a three-man battle between Kyler Murray, Will Grier, and Tua.

Considering that Oklahoma and West Virginia play each other twice in the next three weeks, whoever plays better in those matchups will have the best chance of beating out Tua for the trophy.

All Tagovailoa has to do is put up solid numbers against The Citadel today then have nice performances in victories over Auburn and Georgia and the award will be his no matter what.

However, after aggravating his knee against Mississippi State Tagovailoa’s health will be something to watch moving forward. Either way, the best player in college football is currently in the SEC so enjoy watching him while you can.


SEC Storylines of Week 11: The More Things Change…

The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for in Week 10 as Kentucky takes on the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.

1. Georgia’s Last Regular Season Test

In the biggest SEC game of the week eleven the No. 24 Auburn Tigers will take on the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs in Athens.

Georgia is of course coming off their most impressive victory of the season after easily defeating Kentucky on the road thus clinching the SEC East and a sport in the Conference Title Game. Despite some drama in the East, the SEC Title Game will again be Alabama vs. Georgia.

However, there is still very much at stake for the Bulldogs. At No. 5 in the committee’s polls they are the SEC’s last best chance to have two teams in the playoff (I don’t think LSU stands much of a chance unless some luck falls their way).

Their matchup against Auburn is their last true test until they face off with Alabama in Atlanta. No offense to Massachusetts or Georgia Tech, but the Bulldogs should handle those teams with ease.

A loss to Auburn will all but eliminate Georgia from making the playoff so today’s contest in Athens is incredibly meaningful. Don’t forget, the Tigers have looked pretty good since their disastrous back-to-back losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Now they are coming off a huge victory over then-ranked Texas A&M. Even more impressive is that Jarrett Stidham finally looked like himself as completed 18 or 29 passes for 239 yards, 2 TD’s, and no picks.

I like going with quarterbacks who are on a hot streak, and while it is true that Jake Fromm is also playing well Auburn is out for revenge after losing last year’s SEC Title game to the Bulldogs, thus missing out on the playoffs.

Georgia is good, and they are playing at home. However, the current 14.5 spread for them is entirely too high especially considering it’s a rivalry game. I expect a game that will be closer than two touchdowns and Auburn will cover the spread. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Tigers throw a wrench into the playoff picture and even defeat Georgia on Saturday.

2. Florida Tries to Bounce Back….

This Florida team is officially the weirdest team in the SEC. How can they be good enough to beat LSU and Mississippi State but turn around and get throttled by Missouri at home??

Last week’s crushing 38-17 defeat was one of the stranger scores that I’ve seen in the SEC this season. Now the Gators sit at 6-3 on the season and 4-3 in conference play. Their contest against South Carolina this week will decide which team will finish third in the SEC East.

Not too bad for a team that finished 4-7 last season, eh? Dan Mullen’s first season has been a mostly positive one. With Idaho and Florida State still on the schedule it seems like the Gators will win eight regular season games, and if they defeat the Gamecocks this weekend the total will be up to nine.

Feleipe Franks hasn’t been totally terrible at quarterback this season and running backs Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett have formed a nice duo at that position as well.

The future is bright in Gainesville, and if the Gators capture a third-place finish in the East this weekend then they will have a nice amount of momentum heading into bowl season.

3. …And So Does Kenutucky

After being just one game away from the SEC Title Game, the Wildcats have crashed back down to Earth after Georgia issued them a beatdown last week. At the end of the day, the Bulldogs just have a more talented roster and that’s okay. Kentucky may get there in the coming years.

In the meantime, the Wildcats are playing for respect and a nice bowl game. They have sealed second place in the SEC East and with three games left in the season they can still finish 10-2.

This week presents a tough challenge for UK. First, they will be coming off a demoralizing defeat and those aren’t always easy to come back from. Second, they will be playing in Knoxville which is never an easy task.

Of course, the Volunteers aren’t necessarily a good team, but they have talent on defense and quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is no slouch.

Luckily for the Wildcats Terry Wilson seems to be playing a bit more comfortable in the pocket as he had a pretty good game against Georgia. He now sits at No. 11 in quarterback rating in the SEC out of 14 quarterbacks, so he is improving.

I’m expecting Josh Allen to be one of the key players in this matchup as he should wreak havoc on a bad Tennessee offensive line today. There are zero excuses for Kentucky to lose this game so I’m calling for them to win and cover the spread.

4. Keep an Eye on Mississippi State vs. Alabama

This is actually the second ranked matchup in the SEC today, but there is pretty much zero hype behind this game. The reason being that the Bulldogs are playing on the road against what might just be the best college football team in history.

Last year Mississippi State gave the Crimson Tide one of their biggest challenges of the season. However, despite a perfect game plan and home field advantage, Alabama was still victorious.

Considering how much better Nick Saban’s team is this just season, I just do not see how the Bulldogs can win this game in Tuscaloosa.

However, this is college football and stranger things have happened. After coming off such a huge victory over LSU, Alabama could come out flat in the first half and give Mississippi State a chance to be in this game through the second half.

Also, if any team in the SEC is going to stop the Crimson Tide’s offense it will be the Bulldogs. They have the best defense in the conference as they only give up 278 yards per game (6th in the country). If Mississippi State can create pressure on Tua Tagovailoa often, then this could be close in the fourth quarter.

However, as long as the quarterback matchup is Nick Fitzgerald against Tua, Alabama will win this game. This is literally a matchup between the best passing quarterback in the SEC and the worst and I expect that to show today.

5. Quarterbacks Start to Find Their Stride

 A few weeks ago, I wrote in this weekly column that the quarterback play in the SEC has been extremely disappointing outside of Tua.

However, the play of just about every quarterback in this conference has improved since then. The biggest improvement belongs to that of Drew Lock who now sits at No. 5 in quarterback rating in the SEC.

South Carolina’s Jake Bentley is also starting to live up to his preseason hype as he sits right behind Lock at No. 6 in quarterback rating. This is thanks in part to a huge performance last week against Ole Miss in which he passed for 363 yards and two touchdowns.

Speaking of Ole Miss, Jordan Ta’amu now leads the SEC in overall passing yardage with 3,001 yards. That is good for fifth overall in the nation. Of course, fellow Hawaiian Tagovailoa is having a Heisman Trophy candidate season himself.

Even Jarrett Stidham has managed to turn things around a bit as previously mentioned. Overall, this group of quarterbacks has taken a noticeable step forward over the past few weeks. This is a very important storyline to follow as we near bowl season. The play of these quarterbacks will most likely determine just how many bowl games the SEC will win this season.


SEC Opening Night: UK, Florida embarrassed the league

Now that the Southeastern Conference is a basketball league, we should keep a close eye on the happenings outside of Kentucky. Nine SEC teams opened their seasons last night and some looked good, while others (Kentucky and Florida) did not.

The league went 7-2 on opening night and these are your headlines:

 

Duke drilled Kentucky. But you already know that and you are currently trying to convince yourself it was just a really bad dream. Unfortunately, it happened, and it was a crushing blow to the BBN’s spirits. I’m sorry for bringing it up again.

Florida got killed. Florida opened its season on the road at Florida State down in Tallahassee, and it was ugly. The 17th-ranked Seminoles won easily, 81-60, by holding the unranked Gators to just 19-of-53 shooting from the floor. Florida State led by as many as 35 at one point in the game, while holding Florida’s best player, senior KeVaughn Allen, to zero points. It wasn’t the ideal start for Mike White’s Gators, the fifth-place team in the SEC preseason poll.

(Photo: John Reed/USA Today)

Auburn looked scary good. The No. 11 Tigers destroyed a pretty good South Alabama team, 101-58. Auburn shot 51 percent for the game and 47 percent from outside. Point guard Jared Harper had 20 points, 13 assists and hit six three-pointers; Chuma Okeke went for 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists; and Malik Dunbar had 16 points, all in the second half. Auburn opened the game by hitting its first six shots, five of them three-pointers. Bruce Pearl has a real contender.

No. 6 Tennessee killed some Division II school you’ve never heard of. Any big Lenoir-Rhyne fans out there? I didn’t think so. It’s a small school in North Carolina, where UT head coach Rick Barnes played in the 70s, which explains why the game is on Tennessee’s schedule. Barnes didn’t take it easy on his alma mater Tuesday night as the Vols rolled through the Bears, 86-41. The lopsided affair taught us nothing about Tennessee.

LSU’s four freshmen made a strong debut. LSU is the forgotten team when discussing the challengers in the SEC, but Will Wade has some serious talent, even if he had to pay to sign them. (Kidding! Not really.)  Naz Reid led the 23rd-ranked Tigers in scoring with 17 points; Emmitt Williams had a double-double with 12 and 10; and Darius Days and Ja’vonte Smart each reached double-figure scoring with 11 and 10 points as LSU beat Southeast Louisiana, 94-63.

Other scores from around the league:

South Carolina 65, SC Upstate 52
Alabama 82, Southern 62
Missouri 68, Central Arkansas 55
Vanderbilt 92, Winthrop 79

 

It just means more.


SEC Storylines of Week 10: Monster Showdown Saturday

(John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for in Week 10 as Kentucky takes on the Georgia Bulldogs to decide who will represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game.

1. Alabama and LSU Battle for the West Title

Make no mistake about it folks, this is the biggest SEC game of the season. This decade has given the college football world some incredible matchups between the Crimson Tide and the Tigers. Luckily for football fans, this Saturday should be another classic game.

So, who has the upper hand here? LSU will be playing at home underneath the lights in Death Valley. That’s an incredibly hard task for any opponent to handle. However, Alabama has the much better quarterback on their side.

For perspective, Tua Tagovailoa’s quarterback rating is twice as high as Joe Burrow’s (238.84 to 118.16). It’s mathematically accurate to say that Tagovailoa is twice the quarterback that Burrow is. Honestly, that’s not even a shot at Burrow who is a tough game manager. Tagovailoa is just that amazing right now.

No matter how good this LSU defense is, I guarantee that the Crimson Tide offense finds a way to put up at least three touchdowns. What will determine this game is if the LSU offense can get anything going through the air.

Trying to run the ball against the Crimson Tide has mostly been a complete failure any team throughout this decade, and this year is no different. Alabama ranks 21st in the nation in rushing defense and I expect them to impose their will on the LSU offensive line.

If Burrow can have the performance of a lifetime, then I think LSU might win this game. However, I can’t get his terrible performance against Florida out of my head. While I’m not sure that Alabama can cover the 14.5 point spread here, I am guaranteeing the Crimson Tide will walk out of Death Valley tonight with a victory.

2. The Biggest Game of the Century for Kentucky

I think it may be a bit an overstatement to say that today’s game against Georgia is the biggest in program history even if there is a strong argument to suggest that it is. A more accurate statement is that this is by far the biggest game that the Kentucky Wildcats have played in the past 18 seasons and there isn’t a close second.

Basically no one outside the state of Kentucky thinks that the Wildcats have a chance here. Georgia was only mere seconds from winning a national title last year, and the Bulldogs still have the most talented overall roster in the SEC East.

However, I think the Wildcats matchup nicely with the Bulldogs, and it has everything to do with that incredibly talented UK defense. People around the country have a very hard time believing this, but the Wildcats are tenth overall in total defense in the nation.

Josh Allen is straight up the best defensive player in the nation, and yes that is including Houston’s Ed Oliver who is awesome in his own right. Allen will easily best player on the field Saturday so expect him to get acquainted with Jake Fromm often.

Plus, Kentucky will also have the home field advantage in what will surely be the craziest atmosphere that Kroger Field has even seen since renovations took place. It just seems like everything is in place for the Wildcats to pull this off.

I honestly cannot believe that I’m about to type this, but I’m picking the Wildcats to win this game outright. It just seems like their year in the East, and I don’t trust Fromm enough without Sony Michel or Nick Chubb behind him.

Alabama vs. Kentucky in the SEC Championship? Sure. Why not?

3. How Will Auburn Look Off a Bye Week?

After the two huge matchups mentioned above, there isn’t a lot of other big storylines in the SEC this week which is understandable considering that the SEC Championship game will most likely be determined on Saturday.

However, I’m taking a hard look at the Auburn Tigers in my third biggest storyline. This week they play No. 20 Texas A&M at home as the Tigers are coming off a bye week.

Remember, just three weeks ago Coach Gus Malzahn was squarely on the hot seat after Auburn surprisingly lost back-to-back games against Mississippi State and Tennessee (!). Luckily for him, Auburn caught an average Ole Miss squad right before the Tigers’ bye week.

Today, after an entire two weeks of preparation, a very tough and physical Aggie squad comes to town. I think this game is crucial for Malzahn’s future at the school. This is a must win for Auburn considering that two of their last three games are against Georgia and Alabama.

If they drop this winnable game at home, there is a very strong chance that the Tigers finish the regular season at 6-6. Wowza. Is that bad enough to get Malzahn fired?

Honestly, I think it will be.

4. Missouri Enters the Danger Zone

What a disastrous season this has been so far for the Missouri Tigers. Some thought that Drew Lock would led this team near the top of the SEC East. However, as we welcome the start of November, the Tigers find their selves dead last in the division without a single SEC victory (0-4).

(This is a good time to remind ourselves just how Missouri lost their last game)

This week doesn’t look any better as they go into the swamp to take on the No. 11 Florida Gators. I have yet to be impressed by Lock or any Missouri player so far this season, so I expect the Gators to take this game easily.

So, with a potential loss coming this week the Tigers will have to win two out of their last three games to be bowl eligible. The good news is that these games are being played against Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Arkansas and they should be favored in all three.

However, those matchups against Vanderbilt and Tennessee will not be easy by any stretch as both of those teams will be trying to make a bowl game. Missouri and Lock must wake up now and try to steal a game in the swamp. Its officially time to hit the panic button.

5. Tennessee Tries to go Bowling

Yupp. That is an honest headline. After last season’s embarrassing 0-8 finish in the SEC, the Volunteers are in distance of reaching a bowl game this season thanks in large part to their huge win over Auburn.

They currently possess a weak 3-5 record, but there is a solid chance that Tennessee can win three out of their last four games. The Volunteers will start that quest this week against the Charlotte 49ers. This should be a very easy victory which means they will be just two games away from bowl eligibility.

If you are wondering how on earth this is even possible, the answer begins and ends with play of quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Once considered by many to be bust, the highly touted prospect has had one of the most surprising season in the SEC thus far.

Guarantano currently has the fourth (!) highest quarterback rating in the conference so far, he has completed 64% of his passes, and his TD-INT ratio sits at a respectable 8-2.

To get into a bowl game, the Volunteers will have to win two of their game against Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. This will be a tough task, but if Guarantano keeps improving I think this will be very attainable by the end of the season.


Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Storylines of Week 9: The Florida-Georgia Game

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for in week nine as Kentucky travels to Missouri to take on the Tigers in a huge SEC East matchup.

1. Can Georgia Bounce Back After A Huge Loss?

In the biggest showdown of the weekend, Georgia will take on Florida in Jacksonville in their yearly rivalry showdown. If Georgia wins, they will be in the driver’s seat in the SEC East heading into their huge contest with Kentucky next weekend.

However, if Florida wins it would just about eliminate the Bulldogs from SEC Title game contention and possibly even the playoff as the Gators would have the important head-to-head victory over Georgia.

So, who has the advantage in this showdown for SEC East supremacy? Usually, the reliable answer would be the Bulldogs, but I am not so sure here. I really, really did not like what I saw from Georgia in their blowout loss against LSU.

Quarterback Jake Fromm looked lost in that matchup and the running game never got going. Plus, their somewhat inexperienced defense did not seem up to par for the big moment.

On the other hand, Florida has been on absolute fire since their one loss to Kentucky. They have won five straight including two victories over then-ranked opponents. This is not the same Gator team that lost to the Wildcats.

In close matchups on neutral fields, I usually always take the team with the best quarterback. I just don’t have a lot of trust in Fromm against this very good Florida defense. Of course, I don’t have any trust in Feleipe Franks but he has a better matchup against a beatable Bulldog defense.

I believe that to win this game, it may be time for Kirby Smart to give the keys of the offense to freshman quarterback Justin Fields. I think Jake Fromm is talented, but he has regressed this season and Fields has a much higher ceiling already. Unleash the freshman Georgia and regain the momentum in your season.

2. Will Kentucky Evolve?

The Kentucky Wildcats are having a season that any UK fan would take. Heading into Week 9 Kentucky controls their own destiny in the SEC East and they are ranked as the 12th best team in the nation.

However, all is not perfect in Lexington at the moment. The Wildcats have played their worst games of the season the last two weeks as the offense only scored 14 points in both contests.

While it is true that UK has a great running attack and an even better defense, the passing game has literally been the worst in the conference at 127 passing yards per game. That number is so poor that is also puts the Wildcats at 123rd of 129 teams in FBS collegiate football.

To put this bluntly, I don’t see Kentucky having too much more success if the passing game does not evolve somehow. Sure, they will beat the opponents they are supposed to beat (Louisville, MTSU) but I’m very worried about Missouri, Georgia, and even Tennessee on the road.

This week’s contest at Missouri will judge if this Kentucky team truly is special, or if they will flame out quietly in the second half of the season and finish with something like an 8-5 record.

This all starts with quarterback Terry Wilson. Look, I like his personality just as much as the next guy. Also, he played positively great in a huge win at Florida which did so much for this program.

But it’s time to tell the full truth here. Wilson must be benched if he can’t give at least a decent performance this weekend. In seven starts this season he has passed for just 721 yards, and he has the second lowest quarterback rating in the conference out of starting quarterbacks. The guy behind him is Nick Fitzgerald who is getting benched this week (more on that in a second).

If Kentucky can’t evolve their painfully one-dimensional offense against the Tigers, then Drew Lock will eventually start hitting receivers at some point in the game. Time’s up for UK’s quarterback group. Someone must truly step up now.

3. Keytaon Thompson Time

Speaking of bad passing quarterbacks, Mississippi State is finally ready to give someone else a chance after last week’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of LSU. In this defeat Bulldog quarterback Fitzgerald threw for just 59 total passing yards and 4 interceptions.

Terry Wilson would neverrrrrr.

In all seriousness, Mississippi State’s season has already played itself out of contention for an SEC title, so the Bulldogs are finally giving talented backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson a shot to prove himself.

Thompson is also a dual threat like Fitzgerald who started Miss. State’s first game of the season due to Fitzgerald being suspended. In that game Thompson threw more passing touchdowns then Fitzgerald has thrown so far this season (seriously).

Thompson is much more of a natural passer of the football as his throwing motion is much quicker than Fitzgerald’s. Honestly, I have no idea how Fitzgerald wasn’t benched earlier for this kid.

Texas A&M should win this week’s matchup, but I would not be surprised at all if the Bulldogs came out on top due to a big spark Thompson. I guarantee this kid will be better than Fitzgerald. It’s almost impossible to be worse.

4. Gamecocks at the Crossroads

South Carolina has been one of the weirdest teams in the SEC so far this season. They have some decent victories over Missouri and Vanderbilt, but they got destroyed by Kentucky and Georgia, so we know they aren’t a “good” football team.

Wait. Hold on a second. Are we still for sure this team will even make a bowl game this season???

I’m being completely serious here. Right now the Gamecocks are 3-3 on the year. They end the year with terrible Chattanooga and awesome Clemson to end their nonconference schedule. That will put them at 4-4 on the year. In between lies three straight games against SEC opponents: Tennessee at home this week, then road games against Ole Miss and Florida.

This week SHOULD be their easiest game of those three as they are a better team than the Volunteers. However, playing at Florida seems like a loss and at Ole Miss won’t be very easy as well.

That’s why this week is so important for the Gamecocks. If they lose this game, I don’t see them finishing the season with a winning record.

It’s time for Jake Bentley to step up. Right now, his quarterback rating is ninth out of the 14 starting quarterbacks in the SEC. If that does not improve, his time as the starter could be numbered.

5. Let’s Talk About the Devin White Situation

Well folks, we have ourselves the very first big controversy of SEC play.

Last week star linebacker and future first round pick Devin White was ejected for targeting in the second half against Mississippi State for the following hit:

I’m going to cut to the chase here. This is a load of crap. White obviously is trying to pull up at the very end of this play as he literally tackles Fitzgerald with his hands. His helmet accidentally touches Fitzgerald’s and the rest is history.

Since this happened in the second half, White will be suspended for the first half of LSU’s next game which just so happens to be……. Alabama. Yupp.

As you can imagine, the reaction has been incredible to this situation. Just take a look below.

Whewwwww boy. We got Tebow screaming at Stephen A. Smith, people flying banners in the sky, and grown men throwing around the word “collusion” with college football. What a truly beautiful disaster this is.

If there is any way possible, I personally hope the NCAA does act on this. I want to see the best linebacker go up against Tua in what might be the game of the year.

Plus, it’s always a good idea to side with Tim Tebow, right?


(Photo: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)

SEC Storylines of Week 8: The Halfway Point of the Season

 

The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for in the second half of the season as Kentucky takes on Vanderbilt in Lexington on Saturday.

1. Malzahn Officially on the Hot Seat

(Photo: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)

The SEC has seen many surprises both good and bad so far this season, however, no surprise has been bigger than the utter disappointment that the Auburn Tigers have been.

Remember when they were ranked in the top 10 at the start of the season and they just won a huge game over the Washington Huskies?

Well fast forward to the unofficial halfway point of the 2018 season, and the Auburn Tigers are in sole possession of sixth place in the SEC West after losing at home to hapless Tennessee.

What on earth has happened to the squad that was supposed to give Alabama a run for its money? It all starts with the head ball coach. Gus Malzahn was once prophesied to be the man who would take down Saban’s Alabama powerhouse after he led the Tigers to the National Championship Game in the 2013 season.

Almost five years later and underneath Malzahn in that timespan the Tigers are just 37-23, 1-3 in bowl games, and 1-3 against Alabama. They also only have one double-digit win season in that timespan, and unless they win out completely (including their potential bowl game) that will not be the case again this season.

With an offense that has been as bad as Auburn’s, who knows if the Tigers can even defeat an average Ole Miss team this weekend on the road. For Malzahn’s sake, he had better get this win.

Remember, Auburn still has Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama all still left on the schedule. The writing will be on the wall for Malzahn if he falls to a very beatable Rebels squad.

2. Disappointing Quarterback Play

Let’s get one thing straight here: this part of the post excludes Tua Tagovailoa completely. He is having (so far) the single greatest season a college football quarterback has ever had. That’s not an overstatement either just check the stats.

This is an analysis from top to bottom of the quarterbacks in the SEC until this point in the season. In short, this group has been underwhelming at best once we exclude Tua.

Guess who has the fourth highest quarterback rating in the conference? That would be Jarret Guarantano of Tennessee. Yikes. Guess who is second in passing yardage? That would be Kellen Mond of Texas A&M. Yikes again.

Out of all of college football in total QBR there is only three quarterbacks from the SEC in the top 30 which are Tua, Jordan Ta’amu from Ole Miss, and Guarantano.

Let me breakdown every starting quarterback really quick just so you can see how disappointing they have been.

Ta’amu is having a nice season thanks mostly in part to the best receiving core in the nation. Mond has played well but is still inconsistent. Guarantano has been bad his entire career until last week’s game against Auburn.

Jake Fromm has been lethargic lately and everyone is calling for Justin Fields to start. Feleipe Franks somehow has a completion percentage of 56% and is fifth in the conference in quarterback rating (plus he is bad). Drew Lock has disappointed so far as well as Jake Bentley. Kyle Shurmur is Kyle Shurmur.

Jarrett Stidham and Nick Fitzgerald have had disastrous seasons and those entire fans bases are calling for them to be benched. Ty Storey is bad, and the last time we saw Terry Wilson he was scared to throw a football (plus he is second to last in quarterback rating among starters in the conference).

Also, don’t bring Joe Burrow into this as your savior. I doubled down on him two weeks ago as being good and that’s been my worst opinion of the season. He is 12th out of the 14 starters in quarterback rating and he has a completion percentage of 53%. Burrow is not a good passer.

Hopefully I’ve made my case clear. Tua and Ta’amu (both from Hawaii) are the only consistent starting quarterbacks in the SEC and we are heading into week eight.

Thank you very much Hawaii.

3. Is the SEC East Back?

In much more positive news, the SEC East has had an extremely impressive first half of the season when compared to how the division has played in recent years.

Now, three teams from the East are ranked within in the top 14 teams in the nation: Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky. That is simply an incredibly improvement from what we have come to expect from this division.

The only question is can this success be sustained? We just saw Georgia play terribly at LSU and Kentucky fall at Texas A&M. Florida has been hot, but just how good are the Gators?

Considering that there are two head-to-head matchups left between these three teams, we will truly see who is for real. Florida and Georgia both have their bye this week and Kentucky gets Vanderbilt so expect the top of the East to still look great heading into week nine.

4. Mississippi State’s One Last Chance

There has been no denying that Mississippi State has had a disappointing season thus far. For a team that many people thought could contend for a SEC Championship, starting off 3-2 was terrible.

However, the Bulldogs were able to bounce back strongly with a huge win over Auburn, and they got a much-needed week of rest as they are coming off their bye.

It would be incredibly difficult, but this team can still contend for possibly second place in the very talented SEC West which means the Bulldogs could still make a large bowl game. Considering they are ranked once again (No. 22) they can still salvage their season.

The bad news is that they must travel to Death Valley today to take on the red-hot No. 5 LSU Tigers. The conventional wisdom here would be that the Bulldogs have no chance against a squad seemingly destined for this glory year especially when that team is playing at home.

I just don’t think it will be that easy for LSU. This will be the fourth ranked matchup in their last six games. It doesn’t matter how good you are that kind of wear and tear will start to show.

If Mississippi State wins it will reload their entire season and put them back near the top 15. They should be more motivated in this one, they are coming off a week of rest, and despite a bad season so far, the Bulldogs will have the best quarterback in this game with Fitzgerald.

Call me crazy but I think Mississippi State will cover the spread (6.5 points) in this matchup, and I would not be surprised at all if they won this one.

5. Time for Missouri to Hit Panic Mode

Missouri has been another disappointing team from the SEC so far. With Drew Lock at quarterback, many thought that they would have a great chance to place second in the East behind Georgia.

Well that did not work out the way people thought it would considering that it is halfway through October and the Tigers have failed to win an SEC game yet (0-3).

After losing three straight games, it is time for Missouri to start playing with an overall sense of urgency. They still have two ranked opponents on their schedule plus a Tennessee team that seems rejuvenated.

This week they play a nonconference game against the electric Memphis Tigers. If Missouri is not careful they could easily mess around and drop a game they should win. After all, Memphis has the nation’s leading rusher in Darrell Henderson who is averaging an insane 10 yards per carry!

Missouri has more talent and they are playing at home so they I think they should be able to win this one relative ease. However, if they underestimate Memphis’s offense they could get embarrassed.

And if they were to lose this game they would have to win three of their next five games against SEC opponents just to be bowl eligible. That’s just how fast things can fall apart in college football.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 88: Peter Burns and SEC Hoops Preview

It is a jam-packed episode of the Aaron Torres Sports, as he spans the college football and basketball worlds in a way that only he can. The SEC Network’s Peter Burns joins Aaron to discuss Kentucky’s SEC East title hopes, Notre Dame’s shot at the CFB Playoff and the rest of college football landscape.  After SEC Football talk, Aaron provides a few SEC Basketball predictions. But first, Aaron welcomes on Nick Coffey to discuss a wild week of courtroom drama on the FBI case.
Should Bill Self Be Fired? The guys break down all the testimony from court this week and ask the question: Should Bill Self be out at Kansas? Aaron explains why — after a year of the NCAA saying they want to remove sneaker company influence — they need to step up, but the guys also question if there is enough to cost Bill Self his job.
Coach K’s comments and Zion Williamson: Aaron defends the Hall of Famer after Coach K said the FBI trials are just a “blip” on the college basketball radar. He also explains why it isn’t so obvious that Zion Williamson definitely took extra benefits to go to Duke. The guys also discuss friend of the podcast Will Wade and his potential involvement in the case.
Next up the SEC Network’s Peter Burns joins the show. Peter discusses a number of topics, including:
Is Notre Dame a legit title threat? Peter made some headlines earlier in the week when he said that he thinks Notre Dame will get crushed if they go to the playoff and he isn’t backing down.
Why Kentucky will win the SEC East: Burns believes Kentucky will win the SEC East and face Alabama in the SEC Championship. He explains why he believes the Wildcats have the goods to get to Atlanta. They also talk about LSU’s surprise run, Texas A&M and more.
Finally, Aaron wraps the show withSEC basketball predictions. After an extensive article here, he breaks down who he likes, who he doesn’t and who will finish where in the final league standings.

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show Instagram too.


Everything You Need to Know About the 2018-2019 SEC Basketball Season

SEC basketball media day is today, a moment to look at what’s ahead, while celebrating all that the league accomplished last season.

And if we’re being perfectly honest, boy did that league accomplish a lot last season. By any tangible measurement, 2018 was the single greatest season in the history of SEC basketball, with a record eight teams making the NCAA Tournament, and an argument could also be made – at least by me, anyway – that on a night-in, night-out basis it was the single toughest conference in the sport. While the league didn’t produce a true national title contender (although you could argue that with the way that Villanova blitzed through the tournament there were no true “contender” other than Nova) every team was competitive, every single night. As an example, Ole Miss – which finished in last place – beat three different teams which ended up in the Big Dance. No conference in America could claim depth anywhere close to that.

Still, as good as the SEC was in 2018, the best just might be yet to come in 2019.

The league probably won’t have the top-to-bottom depth like it did a year ago, but unlike last season (where only two teams made the second weekend of the Big Dance) there are true national title contenders at the top of the league. Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee have the goods to make it all the way to the Final Four (and beyond), and Mississippi State, LSU and Florida also have second weekend NCAA Tournament potential as well. Alabama and Vanderbilt also should compete for NCAA Tournament berths, and Missouri and Arkansas should be tough outs.

So with media day about to kick off, it’s only fair that I put out my preseason predictions. Here they are:
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