THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, AUGUST 9, 2019
By Franz Beard
AN OVER-UNDER FOR EVERY SEC TEAM IN 2019
Alabama: Alabama gave up an unheard of 18.1 points per game last year, largely due to an end-of-the-year collapse that saw the Tide give up 127 points in the last four games including 34 to Oklahoma and 44 to Clemson in the two playoff games. There is a reason why Nick Saban replaced his defensive coordinator. Take the under as in under 15 points and under 300 yards allowed per game.
Arkansas: Last year the Hogs went 2-10, the worst record in school history. The four non-conference games this year are Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose State and Western Kentucky, all at home. The Hogs might not win a single SEC game, but they’ll be hard pressed to lose a non-conference game. Take the over as in over three wins.
Auburn: Auburn ran the football for only 167.46 yards per game while averaging 4.25 yards per carry. Those are pedestrian numbers and have a lot to do with Auburn’s disappointing 8-5 record that had some alums talking about firing Gus Malzahn. The problem was two-fold. First, Gus wasn’t calling the plays until the bowl game (Auburn lit up Purdon’t for 63 points and 586 yards). Second, quarterback Jarrett Stidham gained one yard rushing. Total. If you’ve followed the Gus then you know his offense is dysfunctional without a running QB which he has this year in redshirt freshman (Joey Gatewood) and true freshman (Bo Nix). Take the over as in Auburn will run for over 220 yards per game.
FLORIDA: The Gators got to opposing quarterbacks for 37 sacks in 2018 with Jachai Polite leading the way with 11. Even though Polite is gone, Florida’s pass rush is going to be scary good. Start with grad transfer Jonathan Greenard, who had 7.5 sacks two years ago while playing for Todd Grantham at Louisville. Greenard and Grantham are reunited at UF and now Greenard has that bookend edge rusher (Jabari Zuniga) that he never had at Louisville. Now throw in Jeremiah Moon, Khris Bogle and some other athletic freaks and the Gators are going to terrorize opposing QBs. Take the over as in over 40 sacks.
Georgia: Georgia is 24-5 the last two years and would have a national championship and a second SEC title except the Poodles have blown double-digit leads to Alabama (national title game, 2017; SEC title game, 2018). Because of what Georgia fans would call a couple more “near national championships” the Poodles are everybody’s preseason #3. But take a look at a schedule that includes Notre Dame, Florida, (at) Auburn and Texas A&M. Take the under as in under 11 wins and quite possibly under 10.
Kentucky: Kentucky parlayed a stacked defense led by a ferocious pass rusher (Josh Allen, 17 sacks) and a ball control offense that could control the clock with Benny Snell Jr. (1,449 yards, 17 TDs) pounding it between the tackles into the first 10-win season since Fran Curci was the coach back in the 1970s. Allen and six other starters are gone from that defense. So are Snell and three O-line starters. Take the under as in under 10 wins for sure, most likely under eight.
LSU: The Tigers have a QB they believe can give them a chance to make it to the promised land (Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game) in Joe Burrow, who put up decent numbers (16 TDPs, 7.6 per pass attempt) while learning the offense on the fly last year (arrived as a grad transfer in August). To further Burrow’s development, Coach O hired Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints to put some electricity in the passing game. The Tigers have incredible speed on the outside and a veteran offensive line to protect Burrow. Take the over as in over 250 passing yards per game.
Mississippi State: Mississippi State’s defense gave up 13.2 points and 263.1 yards per game in 2018. That’s impressive stuff but DC Bob Shoop will be missing three first round draft picks (DT Jeffery Simmons, DE/LB Montez Sweat and S Jonathan Abram) and four other starters. Take the over as in over 20 points and 320 yards allowed per game in 2019.
Missouri: With Derek Dooley calling the plays, Mizzou’s passing numbers took a serious dip in 2018. Missouri receivers averaged 16.24 yards per reception in 2017 but that dropped to 12.93 in 2018 and that was with a future NFL QB (Drew Lock), whose yards per attempt fell from 9.3 to 8.1. Kelly Bryant is the new QB. He doesn’t have Lock’s arm or ability to make tough throws. Take the under as in under 7.5 yards per pass attempt and under 250 yards per game passing.
Ole Miss: This one is easy. There is no way the Ole Miss defense can be as bad as last year when the Rebels gave up 510.5 yards and 36.2 points per game. Take the under as in under 500 yards and under 33 points allowed per game.
South Carolina: If there has been a knock on quarterback Jake Bentley it has been that he completes far too many passes (30 in his career) to the other team. He throws one of the best deep balls in the country, but he tries to force too many of the shorter throws into tight coverage. Word is that Bentley finally understands that a 5-yard completion is better than a pick. He has to throw fewer interceptions for South Carolina to break even or better against that brutal schedule. Take the under as in under nine interceptions this season.
Tennessee: Last year the Vols averaged a pitiful 129.08 yards per game rushing and just 3.7 yards per carry. The architect of that dismal effort was Tyson Helton, who somehow got himself hired as the HBC at Western Kentucky. The new OC is Jim Chaney, who spent the last three years calling the plays at Georgia. Don’t expect the Vols to set the world on fire in the running game, but it should improve enough to get them to a bowl game. Take the over, as in over 150 rushing yards per game.
Texas A&M: Kellen Mond’s improved numbers in 2018 had a lot to do with having Trayveon Williams (1,760 yards, 18 rushing TDs) to run the football behind a huge, veteran O-line. Williams has moved on to the No Fun League and the two best O-linemen have graduated so don’t expect the Aggies to come anywhere close to last year’s 219 rushing yards per game and 5.29 per carry. Take the under as in under 190 rushing yards per game.
Vanderbilt: In the second half of 2018, Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the most dangerous running back in the country. He finished the season with 1,244 yards and 12 rushing TDs while averaging 7.92 per carry. If he gets a step he’s as good as gone yet he carried the ball only 13 times per game and had only two games with more than 20 carries. If the Commodores are to get anywhere close to five wins Vaughn’s got to see the ball early and often. Take the over as in over 1,500 rushing yards.
SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
Andy Staples of The Athletic on UCF athletic director Danny White and the ongoing football scheduling debate:
“The current scheduling debate in the Sunshine State is whether UCF should take a two-for-one with Florida should the Gators agree that the Orlando game would be in Spectrum Stadium on UCF’s campus and not in Camping World Stadium near downtown. White considers that hypothetical to be pure fantasy, though. What’s in that for Florida, a program with an already formidable conference schedule and a traditionally good out-of-conference rival (the aforementioned Seminoles)? There is little upside for the Gators to play the Knights in Gainesville — other than it might excite season-ticket buyers more than currently scheduled games against Towson or New Mexico State. And there certainly isn’t a benefit to the Gators going to the Bounce House. Orlando isn’t an exotic destination for people who already live in Florida, while Boulder and Austin — where the Gators have scheduled future non-conference games — are. Plus, Florida runs a real risk of losing to a team that has gone 14-0 at home during the past two seasons. That wouldn’t be good for a Gators brand that new coach Dan Mullen is working to rebuild.”
Jim Bowden of The Athletic on former Gator lefty pitcher A.J. Puk, who is close to being called up to the Oakland Athletics:
“Puk was the A’s first-round pick and went No. 6 overall in the 2016 draft, and his first three years in the minors have not disappointed. He has 253 strikeouts in 179 innings pitched. He was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery a year ago, but has returned and is back pitching, and the A’s have put him in the bullpen – both to help his comeback and to maximize his high-90s fastball and work on harnessing his nasty-but-inconsistent slider and developing change-up. His frame has made it difficult for him to repeat his delivery, which in turn has hurt his command and control of his pitches. His move to the bullpen seems to be helping, though, and the A’s view him as a lefty reliever who can help them down the stretch, pitch multiple innings, and get out both lefties and righties.”
Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger on one young phenom QB who trains with private coach Ron Veal:
“Julian Lewis is only 11 years old, but Nick Saban knows who he is. As Julian’s dad, T.C., tells it, at Alabama’s youth camp in June, the Crimson Tide coach took in the majestic precision of the boy’s quarterbacking, sidled up beside him and said, ‘I want you back. Every summer.’ Julian had been training for that moment since he was eight, that tender age when most boys are preoccupied with searching for boogers, not receivers downfield. That’s when he started working with private QB coach Ron Veal in hopes of one day attracting not just compliments, but also scholarship offers. While the notion of elite instructors like Veal molding lab-grown QBs destined for big-time programs is not new, here’s what is: Never before have so many of their pupils been so ready so fast.”
SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF
The Little Rock Touchdown Club has scheduled former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino as its guest speaker on September 9. Petrino, who was 34-17 in four seasons at Arkansas, was fired before the 2012 season when he and a former Arkansas volleyball player were involved in a motorcycle crash.
Redshirt junior offensive lineman Nathan Neihaus is leaving the Tennessee program for medical reasons.
One of the reasons quarterback Sawyer Smith left Troy to become a grad transfer at Kentucky is his plan to become a football coach after his career is complete. Meanwhile, Smith is pursuing a master’s degree in sports leadership.
One of the reasons LSU defensive end Jarrell Cherry has bulked up from 225 when he signed to his current 270 is he carries bricks in his backpack. The backpack is so heavy that an LSU assistant coach couldn’t lift it.
Missouri grad transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant won’t be receiving a national championship ring from Clemson. Bryant left Clemson after four games when Dabo Swinney made Trevor Lawrence the starting QB. “He wasn’t on the team,” Swinney told ESPN’s Chris Low. “You’ve gotta be on the team to get a ring. I love Kelly and appreciate what he did for us, but he decided to move on.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Baltimore Orioles first baseman had to be restrained in the dugout when he went after manager Brandon Hyde, who apparently said something Davis didn’t like. Davis is hitting a scintillating .182 with 111 strikeouts in 247 at bats to go with eight homers and 30 RBI. For this he is being paid $23 million a year … The Boston Red Sox are a full 16 games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East. Did anyone see this coming? … Heisman Trophy QB Kyler Murray was 6-7 for 44 yards in his pro debut with the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night … Dwayne Haskins made his pro debut with the Washington Redskins, throwing for 117 yards and two interceptions … Charges have been dropped against Georgia Southern QB Shai Werts, who claims the substance on the hood of his car that police tested positive for cocaine was actually bird poop. I don’t have to make this stuff up.