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Around the SEC

Vanderbilt will sell alcohol at football games this season

People now have a reason to go to Vanderbilt football games. The Commodores just announced they will sell alcohol to the general public at Vanderbilt Stadium this season.

“Not only will this game day initiative enhance our fan experience, it will provide additional resources to invest in our mission of helping our student-athletes succeed on and off the field, such as through facility enhancements and in other areas,” said Malcolm Turner, Vanderbilt vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs.

As that statement suggests, for Vandy, the move makes a ton of sense. The school is in desperate need of a new — or majorly renovated — stadium, and attendance is already an issue. The ‘Dores join Arkansas, LSU, Missouri, and Texas A&M on the growing list of schools to allow public alcohol sales since the SEC lifted its ban earlier this summer. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi State have all announced they will keep their current policies in place — for now — and only sell beer and wine in premium areas.

Another reason to come to the Kentucky/Vanderbilt game in Nashville on November 16, right?


Mizzou built a new statue of a… What is that?

(Photo: Twitter/@MizzouAthletics)

Missouri’s football stadium has a new statue outside its South End Zone and it’s a… What is that? It’s not a tiger. If it is, it is a very skinny tiger. Is it a dinosaur? What’s with that neck frill?

The replies to this tweet are great:

And here is the big reveal from last Friday:

Nailed it.

(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

SEC Football Preview: Bold Predictions Sure to be Wrong

(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

For the next few weeks leading up to the start of the College Football season, I will be previewing different teams, players, and more from the SEC. This week, I give my five boldest SEC Football predictions for this upcoming season. Are these sure to be wrong? Probably. But fortune favors the bold.

5. Georgia’s Demetris Robertson Will Have a Big Season

The Bulldogs have a bit of a problem on their hands entering the 2019 season. After a great year from quarterback Jake Fromm, Georgia will lose four of their top five receivers (including their top three) from 2018. While junior Jeremiah Hollman returns (418 yards, 4 TD’s), there is a huge need for a receiver to step up and be one of Fromm’s top targets.

Enter Demetris Robertson. Robertson is a transfer from the California Golden Bears of the Pac-12. Out of high school, he was ranked as the No. 2 receiver in the nation. He showcased his talent regularly at California where he tallied 837 receiving yards in 13 starts with Davis Webb at quarterback. He spent most of last season on the bench at Georgia where he failed to catch a single ball. But his big-play ability was showcased as he ran for over 100 yards on just four carries.

Overall, Robertson has the most talent out of all of Georgia’s receivers. There is a huge need for someone to step up big time here. Don’t forget that the leading receiver for Georgia last season compiled only 570 yards.

I think it’s a relatively safe bet that Robertson has a breakout year in 2019. All he would need to do is amass over 700 yards receiving to make a big splash on this team. Considering his talent and experience at the position, the need for a big-time playmaker, and that Fromm is throwing him the football, I think it’s a very safe bet that Robertson makes a lot of noise in the SEC this year.

4. Tennessee Will Have its First Winning Season Since 2016

As this list goes on, the predictions will get bolder and bolder. I’m sure that I’m not winning any fans with this one, but I earnestly believe that the Volunteers will win at least seven games in 2019. It has everything to do with their returning experience. They return a total of 10 starters on offense and six on defense. It doesn’t matter who you are, returning every player back on offense with the exception of one lineman bolds very well for you.

Personally, I really like Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt and the confidence he has instilled in quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who has real talent as a pocket passer. On a wider level, the talent level in Knoxville is still relatively good. In the end, it all comes down to their schedule. Are there at least six winnable games there to get them to a bowl game?

First, I see definite losses at Florida, at Missouri, Georgia at home, and at Alabama. As far as should-be wins, Tennessee shouldn’t have much trouble with Georgia State, Chattanooga, UAB, and Vanderbilt at home. That just leaves BYU, Mississippi State, and South Carolina all in Knoxville along with a road trip to Kentucky. Personally, I see at least two (maybe three) wins there which puts the Vols win total at six.

Add in a possible bowl game win, and the Volunteers have a winning season. Honestly, Tennessee isn’t going to be all that great, but they have the right coach, the right quarterback, and a path to seven wins. In their second season under Pruitt, I think the Volunteers will make it happen.

3. Matt Corral Will Prove to be the Real Deal

Being a freshman quarterback in the SEC is not exactly ideal, to say the least. However, that is where Corral finds himself after being redshirted by Mississippi in 2018. Fortunately for him, Corral played in the minimum amount of games required by the NCAA before losing a full year of eligibility. In that very short amount of time, he actually had a better QBR than former quarterback Jordan Ta’amu did.

Corral has a big arm, and an even bigger personality. You might remember him for being involved in the infamous brawl Ole Miss had with rival Mississippi State last year. Out of high school, he was rated as the second-best quarterback prospect in the nation (behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence) so the talent is certainly there to match his “passion.”

Let me be clear here. I am not suggesting that Corral will set the SEC on fire this season. The Rebels are still rebuilding and the offense returns just three starters this season. Ole Miss will lose four of their top five receivers from 2018. Gone is AJ Brown and DK Metcalf to the NFL. Several players will need to step up in order to help Corral, and I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Overall, Corral and the Rebels will struggle early on in 2019. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the young freshman has a problem with interceptions. Even with the struggles, I do think that Corral will do just enough to showcase that he is the future of this program. I will take my bets with a quarterback that can do something like this:

2. Arkansas Will Make a Bowl Game

Yes, I know. This might certainly sound crazy. After all, I did tell you that these predictions were bold. The Razorbacks are officially at the bottom of the barrel right now. They won four games in 2017 and just two in 2018. So, it would seem rather crazy that I’m suggesting that Arkansas will pull off six wins in 2019.

But that’s exactly what I am suggesting.

I actually don’t think the Razorbacks are even a good team, but I do think that they will have a perfect storm of positive factors that will give them a bowl berth. First, they are due some good luck. They had four close losses in 2018 while playing exceptional defense at times.

Second, they have a rather manageable schedule for an SEC West team. Will they lose to Alabama, LSU, Missouri, Auburn, and Texas A&M? Yes. But their other seven games go like this: Portland State, Ole Miss, Colorado State, San Jose State, Mississippi State, WKU, and Kentucky. Add in the addition of quarterback Ben Hicks (SMU’s all-time leading passer) and I believe that Head Coach Chad Morris will get Arkansas to six wins in his second season.

This is a big bet by me, and I realize that there is a high chance I’m wrong. But even if the Razorbacks fail to make a bowl game, I can guarantee that there will be measurable improvement with this program in 2019.

1. Missouri Will Win 10 Games, Bowl Game or Not

Now things are getting spicy. I’m all in on the Tigers this season. While I think Kentucky will be just fine, there will be regression which means that another SEC East team will move up into their spot in the East. That team will be Missouri, but I think they will be even better than advertised.

Similar to the situation with Arkansas, the Tigers have a very manageable schedule in 2019. In fact, I think it’s a very easy schedule by SEC standards. Sure, I think they will lose to Georgia and Florida. However, their SEC West draw is Arkansas and Ole Miss, and their non-conference schedule is a joke. They play Wyoming, West Virginia, Southeast Missouri (?), and Troy. Folks, that is six wins right there.

That leaves the rest of the SEC East, and the Tigers get South Carolina and Tennessee both at home. They have a 1,000-yard rusher back in Larry Roundtree III, plus four of their top five receivers return from last season. Now, add in the fact that Missouri replaces Drew Lock with the very underrated and underappreciated Kelly Bryant, and you get an offense that is absolutely loaded for 2019.

Missouri’s defense will be just fine as six starters return on that side of the ball, especially considering that unit was very underrated in 2018. We know that the Tigers are currently under a bowl ban for this upcoming season. While many believe that Missouri will win its appeal of the ban, the NCAA doesn’t rule on it until the bye week (Nov. 2).

The toughest game on Missouri’s schedule before that date is…Kentucky on the road. Yupp. Before November, their toughest games will be UK, South Carolina, and…West Virginia maybe? My point is that there is a very good chance the Tigers are 8-0 and in the national conversation for being highly ranked when the NCAA makes their ruling. This will be a big story after Halloween is over, bet on it. Even if they lose their appeal, they still get Arkansas and Tennessee to end the regular season.

The SEC East will have three teams with double-digit wins. This time, however, it will be Missouri joining Georgia and Florida. I realize this won’t be the most favorable opinion on this website, but I can’t ignore a very good bet when I see one.

Kentucky isn’t the only team suffering training camp injuries

It’s hard not to feel snake-bit after every single preseason Kentucky football injury. “Why always us?” It’s not bad luck. It’s just football.

Over the last two days UK opponents have taken quite a few lumps, none more so than Missouri. The Tigers’ two top offensive players were carted off the field during Monday’s practice.

All-SEC tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was the first, spraining his knee during a red zone drill. Albert O missed the last four and a half games of last season with a broken scapula. A few plays later, quarterback Kelly Bryant slipped when rolling out of the pocket. Barry Odom said the non-contact injury was a hamstring strain. Each walked off the field before they were carted away from the medical tent. Their timetable for return is uncertain.

Kentucky’s season-opening opponent lost one of their offensive leaders. Toledo’s anchor of the offensive line, Bryce Harris, will miss the entire season with a knee injury. Harris was a second tam All-MAC selection last year and represented the Rockets at MAC Media Day.

“That’s a big blow for our football team and our offensive front,” Toledo head coach Jason Candle said. “That guy is an extension of your coaching staff. That guy’s at MAC media day. He is one of the faces for what this thing looks like.”

They aren’t the only UK opponent to lose a lineman for the season. Arkansas’ Noah Gatlin was competing for the starting spot at right tackle when he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the first practice of the year.

In the SEC East, Florida defensive back C.J. McWilliams ruptured his Achilles. He’s the second Gator to rupture his Achilles this summer, following inside linebacker David Reese. Just a few miles north of Gainesville, former five-star pass rusher Brenton Cox is reportedly transferring from Georgia.

College football is not for the faint of heart.

KSR’s Definitive Ranking of SEC Quarterbacks

Preseason rankings and all-conference teams dominate talking season. KSR might as well get a crack at it.

Last month one radio pundit ranked every SEC quarterback. In an egregiously ignorant move, he ranked Kentucky’s Terry Wilson last, the same guy who won ten games as a starter in 2018. Instead of just pointing and laughing, Adam Luckett and spent 30 minutes on the debut of 11 Personnel assembling the proper pecking order of SEC quarterbacks. You will not find a more accurate preseason ranking of SEC quarterbacks.

1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
2. Jake Fromm, Georgia
3. Kelly Bryant, Missouri
4. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
5. Joe Burrow, LSU
6. Jake Bentley, South Carolina
7. Feleipe Franks, Florida
8. Terry Wilson, Kentucky
9. Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee
10. Bo Nix, Auburn
11. Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel, Arkansas
12. Keyteon Thompson and Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State
13. Matt Corral, Ole Miss
14. Riley Neal and Deuce Wallace, Vanderbilt

There are four distinct categories in the hierarchy of SEC quarterbacks:

1. Tua and Fromm
2. Game Managers+
3. Game Managers
4. Unproven Passers

Kelly Bryant, Kellen Mond and Joe Burrow are not elite quarterbacks, but when their team needs them to make a big play, they’re capable enough to rise to the challenge, whether it’s with their arm or by using their legs. The next group is much more difficult to delineate. (Note: Game Manager does not and should not have a negative connotation.)

The four returners in the SEC East have all been dealt different hands. The players around them have dictated how they’ve performed up until this point. Even though Jake Bentley has not been great, South Carolina has never given him a run game. Feleipe Franks had the best numbers last year, thanks to a solid run game and Dan Mullen’s system. Terry Wilson was not asked to do much with Benny Snell in the backfield, while Guarantano was not asked to do much despite not having a run game. Billed as a dual-threat in high school, he has not done much of that at all against Tennessee.

The four middle of the road SEC quarterbacks have plenty to prove this season. Nobody has a higher ceiling than Wilson. With exponentially more responsibilities and options in his second year as a starter, Wilson can become a playmaker that jumps into the Game Managers+ category.

To hear more on the state of SEC Quarterbacks, listen to the first episode of KSR’s new football podcast 11 Personnel.

Arkansas Basketball joins the pool dunk craze

Arkansas Basketball joins the pool dunk craze

Earlier this summer, the Kentucky Basketball team showed off an elaborate pool dunk while hanging out at John Calipari’s house. Since then, teams across the country have followed suit, most recently, the Arkansas Razorbacks. Whose pool dunk reigns supreme? Let’s break down the contenders.

First up, Kentucky, as orchestrated by Immanuel Quickley, Ashton Hagans, Nate Sestina, EJ Montgomery, and Tyrese Maxey:

Not bad, not bad. A few weeks later, Chris Mack’s Louisville Cardinals turned in their version:

I hate the Cards, but bonus points for the use of the slide.

Arkansas went above any beyond for their video, throwing the ball off the balcony and kicking it like a soccer ball:

These are all entertaining, but I’m not sure any of them top UConn’s from last summer:

I should have said this earlier, but please don’t try this at home.

SEC Football Preview: Top Heisman Trophy Candidates

(Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)

For the next few weeks leading up until the start of the College Football season, I will be previewing different teams, players, and more from the SEC. This week I preview the players who will be the top Heisman Trophy candidates from the conference this season.

5. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Harris is my “wildcard” pick on this list. I spent a long time choosing between him and Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix, but I just didn’t have it in me to pick someone who hasn’t even won the starting job yet.

Harris, on the other hand, has a firm grip on the starting running back job at Alabama, and that’s a position which has had great success in recent Heisman Trophy voting. Last year Harris got stuck between two guys who were trying to be high NFL Draft picks despite the fact that Harris had a better rushing average (6.7). Heck, he didn’t even get the most carries on the team in 2018 as Nick Saban decided to force feed Damien Harris the football on 150 occasions.

Both Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs are now gone, leaving Najee Harris as the bell cow of the offense. Yes, the Crimson Tide will pass the ball a ton with Tua leading the aerial attack. However, if Tagovailoa keeps coming up short in big games, Najee Harris could come in and steal the show. I can see a very reasonable path to where Harris can run for around 1,800 yards which includes some great performances in their biggest games. Plus, don’t forget that Alabama has what is considerably the easiest schedule in the SEC this season (more on that later). This season is Harris’ coming out party, and I think he will be chosen in the first few rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.

4. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

This could be a bit controversial as Burrow did not put up huge stats last season, nor did he play very well in a few games (cough, Florida, cough). However, he totally won over the team as the LSU’s leader in his very first year in Baton Rouge. He is a tough, fierce competitor who isn’t going to stop playing hard no matter what the score is. He led the surprising Tigers to a 10-3 record last season, and they only lose three starters on offense for 2019.

Of course, I’m still talking about a player that threw for less than 3,000 yards and who only completed 57.8% of his passes last season. Even if LSU went undefeated those stats would not have given Burrow a chance at the Heisman Trophy. The good news is that there is a serious lack of Heisman contenders in the SEC in 2019, and LSU could have a huge season.

Ideally, Burrow’s Heisman path would look like this: Beat Alabama, make the SEC Title Game, throw for over 3,500 yards, and have a dominant TD-INT ratio. How hard would this be for him to accomplish? Well, he would have to pass for 600 more yards then he did in 2018, he already had a really good TD-INT ratio, and LSU gets Alabama on the road with the Crimson Tide coming off a bye week. Ouch. This all depends on how much Burrow has improved. If he makes a substantial jump, I think he could end up in New York for the ceremony. If he is the same guy as last year, he doesn’t stand a chance.

3. Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M

This is where things get a bit more interesting. Mond had a very impressive sophomore season: 3,581 total yards, 31 total touchdowns, and just nine interceptions. Jimbo Fisher obviously has had an incredibly positive impact on Mond and the rest of the team. In just his first year in College Station, the Aggies won nine games for the first time since 2013.

The opportunity is certainly there for Mond in 2019. It is true that Texas A&M has one of the toughest schedules in the country, and the Aggies only return four starters on defense. It is also true that this is the second season with Fisher at the helm, and I believe the national media is seriously underrating that fact. The continued influence he will have on Mond will be huge.

For Mond, Texas A&M does not necessarily need to make the SEC Title Game. His Heisman path looks like this: lead the team to over 10 regular season wins, have over 4,000 yards of total offense, and around 40 total touchdowns. This would easily net him the Heisman, and it only asks a relatively normal improvement from Mond. The catch will be winning two more regular season games with that brutal schedule. But who knows, all it takes is a couple of Heisman moments.

2. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

The guys at No. 2 and No. 1 on this list are going to be painfully obvious. First up is Fromm. His Heisman path is actually relatively easy: Win the SEC East and throw for around 800 more yards in the regular season compared to his last. Look, we all know that like Burrow, Fromm is not wowing anyone with his passing yard numbers (just 2,761 yards in 14 games). He is the definition of a top-tier game manager, and yes that is a compliment.

Everyone also knows that Georgia is going to walk into the SEC Title game out of the East. All I’m asking for is a slight bump in his stats. Yes, he threw for 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions, but the passing yardage has to improve in order for him to win the Heisman compared to the top guy on this list. This will be incredibly tough as the Bulldogs are losing their top three receivers from 2018.

If Fromm can overcome those losses, accumulate better stats, and yes, beat Alabama in the SEC Title game then I would give the Heisman to Fromm. That just isn’t a bet that I would be too willing to make.

1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

This was a bit of a no-brainer here, but Tagovailoa is of course the top Heisman Trophy candidate in the league entering 2019. He narrowly lost the trophy in one of the closest races ever after passing for almost 4,000 yards and over 40 TD’s (despite not playing in the majority of 4th quarters).

Believe it or not, there is still room for improvement. Against the three toughest defenses he faced last season, Tagovailoa had a 4-5 TD/INT ratio, only passed for an average of 207 yards per game, and a 57.5% completion percentage. If Alabama wants to get back to winning national titles then their quarterback must play better when it matters the most.

The Crimson Tide’s schedule this year is surprisingly (and disappointingly) easy so I expect possibly even better numbers from him. Remember, Tagovailoa was still just a true sophomore last year. I expect the Heisman race between him and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence to be very, very close. We all know his stats will be other-worldly this season. The question facing him is that he needs to be better in the biggest games. Now that is actually a bet I would easily make. This guy will be the best candidate for the Heisman Trophy from the SEC this year. Sometimes, the most obvious choice is the right one.