Football Season Coverage
TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT! Benny Snell is currently inside KSBar & Grille, a restaurant we know a little something about, to sign autographs and take pictures to kickoff his tour across the Bluegrass. We’ve already heard “Benny and the Jets” and seen some pretty awesome Snell-Yeah gear. Matt even broke out his UK jacket:
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) January 11, 2019
Here’s a look at some of the fans who have already arrived:
— Ryan Lemond (@ryanlemond) January 11, 2019
— Ryan Lemond (@ryanlemond) January 11, 2019
Send your best pictures to @KSBarAndGrille on Twitter – we’d love to see them! And, it’s not too late! Get to KSBar before 8 p.m. for a chance to meet the all-time leading rusher in UK football history…. Because Benny Snell said so (and that’s the bottom line):
— Mr SNELL YA LATER?? (@benny_snell) January 11, 2019
By Nick Roush on ©January 11th, 2019 @ 4:15pm
Kentucky shined in the Citrus Bowl’s New Year’s Day spotlight.
The TV ratings have been released for this year’s slate of college football bowl games. Outside of the New Year’s Six, the Citrus Bowl was the most-watched bowl game with a 4.4 rating on ABC. More than 7.7 million viewers watched Mark Stoops’ Kentucky Wildcats defeat the Penn State Nittany Lions.
It’s the second straight year Kentucky has played postseason football in front of a large audience. The 2017 Music City Bowl was the third-most watched non-New Year’s Six game with more than 4.6 million viewers.
Kentucky completed all of its Citrus Bowl goals. Josh Allen put on a show, Benny Snell broke a record, the Cats brought home hardware and they did it all in front of massive audience. Of the almost eight million viewers, I have a feeling a few of them are prospective Kentucky football players.
By Nick Roush on ©January 11th, 2019 @ 2:30pm
The college football transfer portal has never been busier. The latest quarterback to throw his name in the ring has a Kentucky connection.
The Tulsa World reports quarterback Austin Kendall will transfer from Oklahoma. The four-star pocket passer played sparingly as a true freshman backup for the Sooners in 2016. After redshirting for Baker Mayfield’s Heisman winning season, many believed Kendall could beat out Kyler Murray. Instead, Kendall backed up another Heisman Trophy winner.
As Kendall seeks a new home, he could revisit a familiar place. Austin’s brother, Ryan, was a walk-on wide receiver at Kentucky from 2014-18. Early in the recruiting process Kentucky pitched Austin Kendall the chance to play with his brother, but ultimately lost the sweepstakes to Oklahoma.
If Gunnar Hoak grad transfers, Kentucky’s quarterback room could use another weapon. Austin Kendall will have two years of eligibility remaining as a grad transfer and could play right away.
The Kentucky connection might actually help Kendall land at another school. Neal Brown was one of the first to recruit Kendall. Brown needs to replace Will Grier and West Virginia isn’t a bad place to exact revenge against Oklahoma. Anything can happen, but Kendall to West Virginia makes too much sense.
By Nick Roush on ©January 11th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Enjoy the follow up to Kentucky’s historic ten-win 2018 football season by purchasing 2019 Kentucky football season tickets.
Next season will be unlike any before at Kroger Field, and not because of the preseason expectations. For the first time since the stadium renovations, the Cats will host eight games at The Kroge. The opponents are not too shabby.
Aug. 31 – TOLEDO
Sept. 7 – EASTERN MICHIGAN
Sept. 14 – FLORIDA
Oct. 12 – ARKANSAS
Oct. 19 – at Georgia
Oct. 26 – MISSOURI
Nov. 9 – TENNESSEE
Nov. 23 – UT MARTIN
Nov. 30 – LOUISVILLE
The extra game and the new state sales tax will put an additional financial burden on season ticket holders. To ease that pain, 2018 season ticket holders who choose to renew before February 1 will get eight games for the price of seven.
“The investment of our season ticket holders is the foundation of both the success of our football program this season and its continued growth in the future,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “We deeply appreciate the support of the Big Blue Nation and thank our season ticket holders for making 2018 a special season. It was important to us to demonstrate that gratitude by offering 2019 season tickets at a special price during this Early Signing Period.”
The season ticket Early Signing Period begins tomorrow through your MyUK Account. Season tickets officially go on sale February 8. For more details on 2019 Kentucky football season tickets, visit UKAthletics.com.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 11th, 2019 @ 12:14pm
You knew KyWildcatsTV’s recap of Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl victory would be special. The three-minute long feature just debuted on YouTube and captures all of the drama and joy from that amazing day.
Grab your popcorn, dim the lights, and settle in to relive one of the best wins in program history. You’ll even hear some familiar voices at the beginning.
Over/under on how many views that video has by August? I’m going with 90 million.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 10th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
To say Kentucky fans have mixed feelings on offensive coordinator Eddie Gran would be an understatement, and the last 24 hours or so have brought out the extremes on both sides of the equation.
On Tuesday afternoon, news leaked out Tennessee would be hiring Georgia’s Jim Chaney as their offensive coordinator. And then on Wednesday morning, multiple reports leaked out that Gran was in the running to take over the Bulldog offense.
Stephen Godfrey of SB Nation was the first to connect Gran with Georgia, saying the Kentucky offensive coordinator was a “name to watch” in the job search.
A name to watch at Georgia is Kentucky OC Eddie Gran. Wildcats were conservative this season but Gran’s Cincinnati offenses were very explosive. He’s also a very strong Florida recruiter.
— Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey) January 9, 2019
Today, KSR broke the news that Eddie Gran was officially offered the offensive coordinator position at Georgia, with total control of the Bulldog offense and a salary of at least $1.1 million on the table.
Football Scoop, one of the most reliable college football sources in the game, confirmed KSR’s report. They also added that Gran was “strongly considering remaining at Kentucky” as of this morning.
As the discussion heated up, as did the back-and-forth within the Kentucky fanbase. There were those ready to kick Gran to the curb, begging him to take the Georgia job so Kentucky could spice up the offense going forward. And then there were others who saw UK’s 24-15 overall record (13-11 in the SEC) with Gran calling plays, regardless of how it happened, and wanted the continuity.
After several hours of “will he or won’t he” controversy, the man himself took to Twitter to announce he wasn’t going anywhere, officially turning down Georgia’s offer.
I’m all in, #BBN! Let’s do this !
— Eddie Gran (@CoachGran) January 10, 2019
Whether fans are big fans of Gran’s offense and playcalling at Kentucky or not, this is a massive win for the program on multiple levels.
Kentucky’s status as a legitimate SEC program
The easiest surface-level argument with all of this is that for the average college football fan, “Kentucky’s offensive coordinator turns down Georgia,” especially after the program’s most successful season since 1977, will be seen as a major positive.
For recruits not as familiar with Kentucky’s current status, it piques interest. “Why is their offensive coordinator comfortable enough to decline a pay raise and an opportunity to coach at a title contender?” leads to questions such as “What do they have brewing up down there?” and “Is it something I want to be a part of?”
This season, Kentucky put forth a complete performance that put the program in the national spotlight. It started when Benny Snell was ejected during the Music City Bowl, continued when they knocked off Florida to end the streak, and then took another spike when they played Georgia for the SEC East title game late in the year. Their victory over Penn State in a New Year’s Day bowl just put the icing on the cake.
This news won’t hurt that positive momentum the program established throughout the season in the slightest.
Bulldog fans and individuals in the UGA media will paint the picture that Gran never received an official offer and he was never a serious contender for the job. In fact, some Georgia writers have already taken to Twitter to push this narrative. As a perennial powerhouse, why would they want to admit they were turned down by a program they feel is lower on the totem pole?
No matter what the narrative may be, we can confirm the interest was sincere on Georgia’s side of things. They had great respect for Gran’s ability and felt he would be a fantastic addition to the coaching staff.
That will pay off for Kentucky on the recruiting trail moving forward.
Contenders are built with loyalty, continuity, and trust
Though there is glitz and glamour that comes with taking the Georgia offensive coordinator job, Eddie Gran’s fantastic relationship with Mark Stoops is one of the key reasons why he opted to stay put. He has bounced from job to job and has worked under countless head coaches, but sources tell KSR his comfort level with Stoops, the staff, and what they have built together in Lexington is something he is in no rush to leave.
Contracts can be negotiated and UK AD Mitch Barnhart has shown raises are there to be had, but loyalty, stability, and mutual respect is something Gran values significantly.
On Stoops’ end of things, he has said multiple times in the last year that he has never trusted an offensive coordinator more than what he does with Gran. With three different offensive coordinators since he first got to Lexington and the rewards finally starting to come to fruition, it’s no surprise he wants to see things through with this current situation. No new playbooks to learn, major scheme changes, or adjustment periods under a new personality leading the offense.
Instead, they can take what they learned this past season by throwing out what didn’t work and building on what did, making minor tweaks only. Quarterback Terry Wilson can go through an entire offseason focused on developing his own game and building chemistry with the other playmakers on offense, not worrying about the excess baggage that comes with bringing in a new coordinator.
This coaching staff is extremely excited about the pieces they have to work with on offense, and the feeling is mutual on the players’ side of things, as well.
Gran’s true playcalling abilities will be shown this season
I’ve been extremely critical of Gran in the past, both in terms of overall offensive schemes and individual play calls. The vast majority of the fanbase has been frustrated at one point or another, and it’s understandable why. Offensive performances like the ones we saw against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Missouri, and Tennessee made you want to rip your hair out, as it felt like the entire unit was trying to force a square peg through a round hole.
In fact, sources tell KSR that there were was genuine frustration amongst players on the offensive side of the ball with how individuals were being utilized and how plays were being called. It never got to the point where locker room turmoil or divide was a concern, but it was something that needed to be addressed. Why wouldn’t an offensive player want the ball in his hands or have the opportunity to make an impact? That level of competitive spirit is something you hope for on a team with dreams as massive as Kentucky’s are.
With Benny Snell in the backfield, however, there was mutual understanding amongst players that he was the top option and the offense would be molded around his talents as a result. As the program’s all-time leading rusher and touchdown scorer, they understood it was absolutely in the team’s best interest to play the way they did and roll with the punches, even if it meant things would slow down at times against elite run defenses. Stoops wanted to pound the rock with arguably the greatest running back in school history, and Gran tried to put the star Wildcat in position to succeed with those guidelines.
With 3,873 career yards and 48 touchdowns for Snell, with just about every rushing record there was to be had, he did just that.
In his final year at Cincinnati, Gran’s offense ran a total of 1059 plays and had a near 50-50 split between the pass and run. Working with two quarterbacks, the Bearcats finished No. 4 nationally in passing offense at 373.1 yards per game and ranked No. 5 in the nation in total offense by averaging 559.4 yards per game. He knows how to play to his team’s strengths, and for the last three seasons with Snell, it worked more often than not.
With the star running back off to the NFL now, there is growing confidence within the organization that the offense will open up a bit more to facilitate some of the other playmakers. Terry Wilson will have more time to settle in and show off his development, Lynn Bowden is a superstar, AJ Rose has proven he can make plays in the run game and as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, Tavin Richardson is reliable, Justin Rigg will thrive in a passing attack, etc. There are options available, and Gran will be able to play a bit more to their strengths now. I still believe Stoops and Gran will favor the run, but things certainly won’t get as one-dimensional as we saw at times this season.
After Kentucky’s victory over South Carolina this past season, Stoops said he simply will not play a reckless style of football, and that will be a common theme moving forward.
“When you say same old offense, this is the same old offense that’s putting us in position to win a bunch of football games,” said Stoops. “Here’s the deal, the object is to win games. So when you’re (significantly) ahead, and we’re possessing the ball and limiting touches and opportunities for the offense, that’s what you’re trying to do is win games. Of course we want to put the foot on the gas and score points, but you don’t want to be reckless, as well. You want to win.”
In 2016, Kentucky’s offense managed 35 or more points in five of the team’s last seven games, with seven total on the year. The defense struggled immensely, so Stoops and Gran had to adjust accordingly (with JUCO QB Stephen Johnson replacing Drew Barker in week three, mind you) by turning it up a notch to let it fly a bit. They still had an impressive running attack with a junior Boom Williams and a freshman Benny Snell in the backfield, but the offense kept opposing defenses honest through the air.
This past season, the vertical passing game became non-existent at times and the offense as a whole became predictable. They’ll still stick to their hard-nosed, grind-it-out ways, but the balance we didn’t necessarily see last year will be back.
As a result, the offensive product will likely be more appealing, yet still maintain the winning formula Stoops is pushing for.
The KSR Football Podcast crew is finally back from Orlando, but they have not finished celebrating Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl victory. Nick, Drew, Charles and Austin break down every aspect of the game that capped off Kentucky’s historic ten-win season. Highlights:
— Special Teams matter.
— Was Trace McSorley actually injured?
— Stories from the celebration on the field.
— Roush ruined the brand, again.
— Austin, not Chuck, breaks down year-by-year wide receiver development.
— What’s next for the KSR Football Podcast.
Get the podcast delivered to your phone by subscribing to “KSR Football Podcast” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app. You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play , and streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.
Today’s episode is brought to you by:
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 10th, 2019 @ 5:53pm
Eddie Gran is staying put.
After being offered the offensive coordinator position at Georgia, Gran posted on Twitter that he’s “all in” at Kentucky. Minutes before his tweet, KSR learned the same.
I’m all in, #BBN! Let’s do this !
— Eddie Gran (@CoachGran) January 10, 2019
Criticize Gran all you want, but the fact that Georgia was willing to pay him a salary of $1.1 million means he’s doing something right. The fact that he turned them down means Kentucky’s doing something right too.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 10th, 2019 @ 4:22pm
FootballScoop.com, arguably the best website on the entire internet for following coaching searches around college football, has confirmed our own report that Eddie Gran has an offer on the table to become the next offensive coordinator under head coach Kirby Smart at Georgia. But in a new update on its story, Football Scoop says Gran was “strongly considering remaining at Kentucky” as of this morning. However, a final decision has not been made either way.
If Gran does remain at Kentucky, it will be a huge win for the program. Yes, Gran has his critics, but continuity is important among the staff and for a young quarterback like Terry Wilson. The last thing we need to see is that offense start back over with yet another new offensive coordinator.
It would also be pretty awesome for a UK assistant to turn down a job at a national contender like Georgia to stay in Lexington. If you had told me a few years ago that any UK assistant would turn down a million dollars at Georgia to stay with Kentucky then I would’ve said that person should be locked away in an insane asylum. Now it could be a reality.
Gran Watch is on high alert.
A source tells KSR that UK Offensive Coordinator Eddie Gran was offered the position of Offensive Coordinator at Georgia under Kirby Smart in the last 24 hours. Smart has offered Gran total control of the Offense and a salary of at least $1.1 million.
A decision has not yet been made and Gran is pondering the offer.
More as it comes….
You know Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl stars. Lynn Bowden was electric, Josh Allen stalked Trace McSorley and Benny Snell broke records to earn MVP honors, but they didn’t do it by themselves. A few of the most critical plays were made by guys that go unnoticed. It’s their turn to receive some of the spotlight.
The former Iowa basketball player did not record one reception in his first season at Kentucky. Instead of catching passes, he found other ways to make an impact. Most recall the pass interference he drew at Missouri that gave UK one final untimed down. In the Citrus Bowl, he made two more incredible plays as a member of Kentucky’s punt return unit.
On the fourth snap of the game, James Franklin tried to run a fake punt. Wagner’s nose was right in the middle of the pile, stuffing the run short of the first down marker. A few series later, Lynn Bowden entered the game as UK’s returner. After Bowden made a few cuts through traffic, Wagner secured the score with a pancake block.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 7, 2019
Calvin Taylor Jr.
The biggest man on the Kentucky’s defensive line had a sneaky excellent season that reached a crescendo in the Citrus Bowl. The 6’9″ defensive end recorded a season-high four tackles against Penn State. Three of the tackles were solo and one was for a loss. Kentucky had nine tackles for loss, three more than the Nittany Lions, who entered the game ranked fourth nationally in the category.
The redshirt junior had a breakout season in 2018. Taylor finished the season with 26 tackles, the most by a UK defensive lineman. Taylor had six tackles for loss, ranked fourth on the team, and he recorded a sack, a PBU and a fumble recovery.
Brad White and Derrick LeBlanc
The reason why you probably did not notice Taylor’s breakout season is because of Derrick LeBlanc. UK’s defensive line coach leveled the playing field on his line. Players remained fresh in LeBlanc’s rotation and played discipline football, freeing up the linebackers to stuff the stat sheet.
The outside linebackers made even more plays thanks to the addition of Brad White. The former NFL tactician took Josh Allen’s game to incredible new heights. His experience benefitted this group and attracted future stars on the edge to sign last December.
LeBlanc and White are the two most under-appreciated coaches on Kentucky’s staff. One play in the Citrus Bowl perfectly illustrates their impact on Kentucky’s defense.
As Kentucky clung to a 10-7 lead in the second quarter, the UK defense forced a third and six. Expecting McSorley to drop back to pass, Matt House dialed up a twist with Josh Allen. T.J. Carter attacked the edge and drew two blockers, leaving Allen in a one-on-one pass rush situation with the center. All it took was one slight jab to give Allen a free shot at McSorley.
If I were hosting an instructional clinic on how to run a twist, I would use this play as an example. LeBlanc and White’s fingerprints are all over the outstanding display of fundamentals.
Of Kentucky’s five senior defensive backs, Lonnie probably gets the least amount of credit for the secondary’s success. Without him on January 1, Kentucky might not have won the game. Lonnie’s third quarter interception, the first of his career, set up Benny Snell’s historic game-winning touchdown.
I love my squad ? pic.twitter.com/rh0CUqW83D
— 4/7 (@Lonnie30johnson) January 2, 2019
When Lonnie Johnson becomes the highest drafted Kentucky defensive back, remember that you heard it here first.
The upperclassmen in the secondary receive all the attention, yet the one underclassmen receiving significant reps ended his season on a high note. Primarily covering Penn State’s best receiver, KJ Hamler, from the nickel position, Robinson held his own. Covering sideline to sideline, he had five tackles, four of which were unassisted. Next year’s secondary will be built around the Lexington native.
Two other big pieces on next year’s defense did not disappoint: Chris Oats and DeAndre Square. Oats had three tackles and recovered the fumble that ended the game. Only Darius West and Kash Daniel had more tackles than Square, a star for many years to come on Kentucky’s defense.
Like LeBlanc and White, Hood’s contributions to the Kentucky football team often get overlooked. Against Penn State, Kentucky won the field position battle multiple times, thanks to the Australian punter Hood found in the offseason. Max Duffy saved his two best punts for last, one from 67 and one from 65, to cap off his season averaging 44.78 yards per punt, the 14th-highest average in America.
Hood also worked some schematic magic. Given one last opportunity to use Josh Allen, the special teams coach put the future first round pick to work. Hood installed a new field goal block the week before the Citrus Bowl, using Carter and Taylor to open a hole for Allen to penetrate the offensive line. Allen had just enough wiggle room to get a hand on the ball. Instead of entering the locker room at halftime tied, the Cats had a three-point lead, the final margin of victory.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 10th, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Benny Snell will be at KSBar and Grille tomorrow night (Friday, Jan. 11) to meet his biggest fans before he leaves the Bluegrass for the NFL. The event is set for 6-8 p.m. and it is going to a lot of fun.
So you know ahead of time, a signature from Snell will cost $30 per item signed. You can bring your own items to get signed (no limit on signatures) or purchase Snell Yeah merchandise (t-shirts, towels and wristbands) that night. If you forget to bring something and choose not to purchase something there, an 8×10 photo will be provided with the cost of the signature, although photos are not included if something else is signed.
Now for the really important part: You can go to KSBar and Grille anytime today or tomorrow to pick up a numbered ticket to reserve your spot in line. It’s not something you have to do before tomorrow night, but it will give you priority access in line. If you’re in a hurry to get in and out, I recommend making the trip over to KSBar as soon as you can. If you can’t, don’t worry — you will still get to meet Benny if you’re on time.
We opened the doors at 11 a.m. this morning and there was a line for line passes:
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) January 10, 2019
For those of you unable to make tomorrow’s meet-and-greet, Snell will make four more stops around Kentucky:
For the first time in decades, the Kentucky football team has a multi-sport star.
Last night Kash Daniel announced that he will be taking his talents to the water as a member of Kentucky’s Bass Fishing Team. A club sport at the University of Kentucky, the Wildcats compete in tournaments throughout the region.
The Kentucky linebacker does not tell fish tales. He reels in the big ones.
For some, it’s tough to reel them in outside of the usual fishing hole; not Kash. Whether he’s in the Commonwealth or has some down time at the Citrus Bowl, Kash can find them.
If Kash can perform under pressure in front of television cameras, I’m confident he’ll help the Kentucky Bass Fishing Team win a few tournaments this spring.
The College Football Season finally ended as the Clemson Tigers easily defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday by a score of 44-16. So how did each SEC team fair overall this season? Below are my final grades and analysis for every squad in the conference for 2018-19.
Final Grade: A-
The Crimson Tide were without question the best team in the SEC this season. That is not up for debate. What is up for debate is defining the success of this Alabama team. On one hand, the Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 for basically the entire season, dominated all their opponents expect for Georgia, and were SEC Champions once again.
But on the other hand, Alabama was greatly embarrassed in front of a national audience on Monday as they were dominated in the National Championship Game. That simply does not happen to Nick Saban ever.
The last coach to beat Alabama by 16+ was Nick Saban at LSU.
— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) January 8, 2019
That’s why despite the Crimson Tide’s mostly dominate year, I cannot give Saban’s squad anything higher than an A-. While this one massive failure does not define this team, it is still a failure for a program that expects national titles with its incredible pool of talent.
What’s most concerning is the feeling that most people had in Santa Clara last night. Every time Alabama drops a game the public always asks, “Is Saban’s dynasty finally over?” And every time those people look like fools for asking that. However, last night was very, very different.
What happened tonight completely changes the story of this entire college football era. A year from now there may not be a changing of the guard so much as a realization we were witnessing the age of #ClemsonFootball the whole time. #ClemsonAlabama #NationalChampionshipGame
— Max Kellerman (@maxkellerman) January 8, 2019
Day after with Clemson: "I definitely think it was a changing of the guard tonight," per Austin Bryant. https://t.co/2mnuN9khEY
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) January 8, 2019
Only time will tell if this title game was a changing of the guard in college football as you can never count out Alabama and Nick Saban. But for now, Clemson and Dabo Swinney unquestionably sit atop of the college football world.
Final Grade: A-
The first thing you are probably thinking to yourself is, “How can I give Texas A&M the same grade that I gave Alabama?” Well it has everything to do with expectations and what each team did with those expectations. The Crimson Tide had arguably the most talented team in the sport and failed to win a championship while the Aggies were supposed to be in a rebuilding year and placed second in the SEC West.
Yes, the Aggies lost four games on the season. However, that included three incredibly tough road games against Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State which are three teams that have more talent than Texas A&M had this season. Plus, they managed to give Clemson the best game the Tigers played in all year as the Aggies fell 28-26.
Jimbo Fisher led the Aggies to their best possible season given their absurdly tough schedule and the fact that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year in College Station. Add in their crushing 52-13 bowl victory over a talented NC State team, and you have a very successful season.
The momentum Fisher and the Aggies have going into the 2019 season is at an all-time high as most of their starters return and they add one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Buy stock now in Texas A&M. The Aggies are on the come-up.
Here's your Top 25 for next CFB season!
11 Texas A&M
21 Miss St
22 Where Jalen Hurts is
— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: B+
The Tigers are a very hard team to grade. They did win their first five games on the season and shot up the rankings. They were picked to finish on the lower side of the SEC West, but they managed to beat those expectations as they placed third in their Division. If you had told me before the season started, they would finish 10-3 with a New Year’s Bowl victory, I would have been surprised.
However, a deeper analysis of their season reveals some complex issues. A huge reason why they shot up the rankings is because they throttled a Miami team that everyone overrated before the season started.
They were very lucky to beat Auburn as they did so on a last-second field goal, they looked bad against a lesser Florida team, got utterly embarrassed by Alabama at home, and they only beat UCF by eight points with the Knights not having their best player in program history.
Nevertheless, LSU’s season is still a surprising success. However, they had some rough games, and if it wasn’t for some good luck they would have finished fourth or fifth in the West. As long as Ed Orgeron is still in Baton Rouge, the future is still looking good for the Tigers.
"He lived out his childhood dream. His dream was to be an LSU head football coach."
John Battle says Ed Orgeron isn't only coaching the Tigers, he's doing it at a high level. pic.twitter.com/lztMWEj1r5
— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) January 4, 2019
Final Grade C-
The Bulldogs were a very trendy pick in the preseason to finish second in the West. Many picked quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and company to be in a New Year’s Six Bowl. However, Miss. State finished fourth in their division and finished with a mediocre 8-5 record after losing to Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
That’s a pretty disappointing season despite some bright spots. The Bulldogs basically wasted Fitzgerald’s last season in Starkville and many of their NFL prospects on defense will probably be leaving for the Draft.
However, I can’t give Miss. State a failing grade considering their strong wins over Auburn and Texas A&M. This was a very talented team this season that was just too wildly inconsistent due to a new head coach in town and inconsistent quarterback play. Losing to Iowa also stalls all momentum going into next year. Watch out for Head Coach Joe Moorhead to possibly end up on the hot seat by 2020.
Final Grade: C
The Tigers are really in the same league as Mississippi State here. Auburn was the favorite to finish second in the West, but they instead finished fifth which is a *really* bad look. Add in the fact they lost five SEC games this season and man does Gus Malzahn have some questions to answer.
In fact, the only reason I gave them a higher grade than the Bulldogs is because of their legendary beatdown Purdue in the Music City Bowl. Winning the last game of the season 63-14 gives this program momentum heading into next season no matter how disappointing the year was.
Like Miss. State, the Tigers wasted their final season with their talented quarterback (Jarret Stidham) and now they will have to find someone to lead the program behind center in 2019.
Heading into next season, Malzahn will have a mountain of pressure on him. After an up-and-down year, boosters will be expecting a better finish, or he might be on his way out of Auburn. It’s one of the most interesting storylines in the SEC heading into next season.
Since 2015, 8 teams have started ranked in preseason Top 10 & finished year unranked. Of the 8, Mark Richt & Gus Malzahn are only coaches to do so twice. Richt (2015 at UGA & 2018 at UM), Malzahn (2015 & 2018 at Auburn)
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: D+
The Rebels were on a postseason ban this season, so this was mostly a year to give young players a lot of reps and valuable experience. Despite having a very talented quarterback, one of the best receiving cores in college football, and a running back who totaled over 1,000 yards from scrimmage Ole Miss still finished with a losing record (5-7).
It’s all because the Rebels’ defense might have been the worst in all of the SEC. Giving up 482 yards of offense per game speaks for itself. One has to wonder where exactly Ole Miss goes from here. Gone are stars Jordan Ta’amu and A.J. Brown. Who will step up offensively, and can the defense improve at all?
One decent starting point is the hiring of Rich Rodriguez has offensive coordinator and Mike MacIntyre as defensive coordinator. Both are former national head coaches of the year so who knows what next year will bring. It just needs to be better than this disappointing season.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) January 3, 2019
Final Grade: F
It’s pretty easy to write about a team that went 0-8 in conference play and 2-10 overall. The Razorbacks stunk all over the field this season. Offensively they were pitiful, and their defense couldn’t stop anyone.
This was a disastrous season that deserves the bare minimum of words written about it. Teams that are this bad deserve to be forgotten forever. Hopefully something may go right next season for Arkansas, because there is no place to go but up from here.
Final Grade: B+
The Bulldogs were easily the most frustrating team to grade out of the 14 squads in the SEC. Except for a strange no-show against LSU, Georgia dominated their SEC opponents in the regular season.
Then we all know what happened next. They gave Alabama an amazing game in the SEC Championship, but they fell just short of a victory and a playoff bid. Considering that Clemson proved that the Crimson Tide were not all that great, I am giving exactly zero brownie points to the Bulldogs for giving them a close game. Throw in the fact that they were beaten because of one of the worst play calls ever and this defeat is unforgivable.
Georgia Athletics recent history:
– Lose SEC title game on a fake punt to keep 5 star QB
– 5 Star QB transfers as result
– Lose to UT jr, while their beloved mascot becomes national joke
– Lose half their roster to NFL Draft
– Lose by FOURTY-SIX in SEC opener
— Cody Conrad (@cody__conrad) January 6, 2019
Georgia then performed terribly and got blown out by a decent Texas team. Quite frankly, I do not accept the excuse that “their hearts were not in it.” I could write an entire article about why that excuse is not adequate for ANY team, but the fact that we are at that point speaks for itself.
The season ended so badly for the Bulldogs that their most talented overall player (Justin Fields) up and transferred to Ohio State. Look, I think Jake Fromm is a great college quarterback, but I truly think Fields is the more talented player. The fact that Kirby Smart couldn’t figure out how to make him happy is embarrassing to say the least.
Georgia was oh so very close to receiving an A+ on this season. But bad decisions and no-shows led to an abysmal ending of what should have been a great overall year. Take your B+ and do better next season.
Final Grade: A-
Yes, Georgia slaughtered Kentucky in the regular season which may make you wonder why I gave the Wildcats a better grade. It has everything to do with how each team performed with the talent they had at hand. The Bulldogs ended the season about as bad as they possibly could, while the Wildcats were the absolute best versions of their selves this year.
Seriously, if you had told me that the Wildcats would finish 10-3 after winning the Citrus Bowl over Penn State by only passing for an average of 161.5 passing yards per game, I would have laughed in your face.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened in Lexington. Every single week the Wildcats manage to prove me wrong. Josh Allen developed into a superstar before our very eyes and Benny Snell Jr. went down as the most loved player in recent memory for Kentucky fans.
The scary thing is that the Wildcats were just one incredibly strange defeat to Tennessee and a heartbreaking overtime loss to Texas A&M to being in the conversation for the playoff. That speaks for itself. This is the best Kentucky team I have seen in my lifetime, and they finally put some respect on the SEC East’s name. This was a season that will not be soon forgotten by Big Blue Nation.
After a historic 10-3 season, Kentucky is No. 11 in the final @AmwayUS Coaches Poll!
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: A-
Florida is back folks. I have been trying to tell people since I analyzed the Gators during the preseason all the way back in July. I told everyone that Florida would at the very least double their win total from last season and everyone mocked the idea to no surprise.
Well I think it’s safe to say that the Gators got the last laugh as they blew out Michigan in a New Year’s Six Bowl to finish 10-3 on the season. For a team that only won four contests in 2017, the lowest possible grade they could possibly receive is exactly what I gave them.
They lost to Kentucky mostly since Head Coach Dan Mullen was still trying to figure out what he had with this new team, they lost to Georgia because the Bulldogs were just the better team, and, like the Wildcats, they had a bizarre loss which was to Missouri.
Besides these hiccups, everything went right for the bounce-back team of the year. Because of their fantastic hiring of an all-around good head coach in Mullen, the Gators can finally get back to the days of Tebow and Chris Leak.
Mark my words now folks, Georgia and Kentucky will have their hands full with the Florida Gators next season.
It’s great to be a Florida Gator pic.twitter.com/ZuCTcTUhBq
— Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen) January 6, 2019
Final Grade: D+
I could care less that the Gamecocks finished with a winning record (7-6), this was a bad football this season and I stand by that opinion.
Besides a decent victory over Vanderbilt and a lucky win over Missouri, South Carolina defeated the following teams in 2018: Coastal Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Chattanooga, and Akron. In other words, the Gamecocks did not beat single team that finished the season ranked in the AP top-25 poll.
To make matters even worse, South Carolina was absolutely embarrassed by an incredibly average Virginia team in their bowl game. Losing 28-0 to an average ACC team is what it is. The Gamecocks will enter the 2019 season with absolutely no momentum. This year was so incredibly forgettable that it may end up hurting this team’s development.
With an absurdly hard schedule next season, look out for rumblings against Head Coach Will Muschamp. Things could get bad in a hurry, and we all know how quickly things can change for head coaches in the SEC.
South Carolina’s 2019 Schedule = BRUTAL
What will their record be? pic.twitter.com/Un7ZEsNMas
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) January 4, 2019
Final Grade: B-
This is another example of the transitive property not being a true indicator of overall program morale. Yes, South Carolina defeated the Tigers in the regular season, however the way Missouri ended its season was considerably better than how the Gamecocks did.
Even with a very close bowl game loss, the Tigers scored at least 30 points in their last five games which led to a 4-1 record. That stretch included a very impressive win on the road against Florida where Missouri won 38-17.
Despite a strange loss to South Carolina and a very unlucky defeat at the hands of Kentucky, the Tigers did everything right in Drew Lock’s last season. Now with the addition of former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant by means of transfer, Missouri seems to be locked and loaded for another good year in 2019. Things did not go exactly right in 2018, but head coach Kevin Odom has solidified a program that can beat anyone on any given Saturday.
— College Football (@holidayhqteam) December 5, 2018
Final Grade: C+
For the third straight season the Commodores finished with seven losses. That fact alone prohibits this team from earning anything higher than a C+ in my book. Vanderbilt defeated every team that they should have beaten, but they also didn’t beat anyone they should not have beaten.
However, winning three out of their last four SEC games on the season is very noteworthy. Head Coach Derek Mason entered the year on the hot seat, and he will be entering 2019 still with his job. That’s a success within itself.
Besides a heart-breaking bowl defeat to Baylor, the Commodores ended their season on a very high note. Now with one of the program’s best all-time quarterbacks leaving in Kyle Shurmur, the pressure will be on Mason and the rest of the program to finally break through and lose less than seven games. While that may end up being a tall task, they had a decent enough season to have hope for 2019. Hope is sometimes all a program needs.
Final Grade: C+
I put the Volunteers right there with Vanderbilt. Tennessee just came off one of its worst seasons ever in 2017 after they failed to win a single SEC game. But with the hiring of Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt, the Volunteers were able to turn things around a bit in 2018. While they still had a losing season (5-7), Pruitt led Tennessee to huge upset victories over Auburn (on the road) and Kentucky.
These victories showcased that there is still talent in Knoxville, and Pruitt may just be the coach to revive this program once he gets a fair amount of time at Tennessee.
With a losing record and no bowl appearance I can’t give the Volunteers anything higher than an average grade. But considering how honestly terrible Tennessee was in 2017, blatantly average is something fans in Knoxville will gladly take. Also, the Volunteers managed to pull offensive coordinator Jim Chaney away from Georgia for the same position. This is a massive upgrade for Tennessee and step in the right direction to say the least.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) January 9, 2019
I’ve had a blast writing this weekly SEC column this college football season. This was another incredibly fun season to analyze and write about. Hopefully, you found some enjoyment in these articles as I know I had a blast writing them.
Overall, I think the SEC showed why it’s still one of the best conferences in college football this season despite a 6-6 bowl record and an embarrassing National Championship defeat. This conference still has the most overall talent and best storylines in the sport, and I think that’s something we can all agree on.