Bowl Wrap-up and Clemson vs. Alabama

The 2016 college football postseason is now all but completed. Only one game remains and you don’t need me to enlighten you as to which game that is. As far as the FBS is concerned, this king of the mountain game is all but done and only two teams stand at the point of the peak.

Every conference, except for two, has completed the four-month march toward the summit. The SEC and the ACC are left standing and ready to do battle. One more time.

I’ll get to that shortly. In the interim, let’s take a gander at how every FBS conference fared in postseason play. We will start at the bottom and work our way to the top.

The Mid-American Conference, or MAC, was the biggest loser with an 0-6 record. It’s crown jewel, Western Michigan, couldn’t even bring home a trophy. That boat did not row.

The Big 10 strutted its stuff from September through November but went as cold as the approaching winds of December when all was said and done. 3-7. O(hio State), where art thou?

The American Athletic Conference (2-5). South Florida was bullish on the SEC’s South Carolina and Tulsa’s Golden Hurricane blew through Central Michigan, and that was it.

The PAC-12? 3-3. Top dog Washington could not mush its way through a Crimson flood. Upstarts Colorado and Washington State were put in their place. That left Utah, Stanford, and Southern Cal upholding the left coast’s honor.

I am concerned with the SEC in, this, my weekly slot. I am even more concerned after its 6-6 performance in bowl games. It took 5-7 Mississippi State, and its APR, to give the conference a break even finish.

Mountain West (4-3). I’ll wager that that even the least informed college football fan is familiar with the highest profile team in the aggregation. Yes, it’s the Boise State Broncos. But Baylor was its prickly opposition in the Cactus Bowl, winning 31-12.

Conference USA also wound up with a 4-3 record in bowls. If anyone can name all seven of the postseason participants, I will reward them with a ticket to its championship game. No Googling!

Things were brighter in the Sun Belt Conference. It went 4-2. Troy, Appalachian State, Arkansas State, and Idaho were your winners. Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama did not keep it on the sunny side.

Also with a 4-2 record was the much-maligned Big 12. Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and (cough cough) Oklahoma won big indeed. West Virginia and TCU. Nope!

And the conference with the most wins and best winning percentage (.727) in all of FBS football? The Atlantic Coast Conference! This gang of eastern USA squads stands at 8-3.

Here are the complete bowl results.

One more game is left to be played, and I absolutely will not buy a ducat for anyone who can name the two teams that will wage war in the finale.

Prediction momentarily!

But first we will tie a nice bow onto the concluded package of the great gift of games played to this point.

Say what? Yes, the nation’s independents were 100% in the slate of 41 bowl extravaganzas.

BYU and Army were victors over the Wyoming Cowboys and the Mean Green of North Texas State, respectively.

And now, finally! Our SEC will conclude its 2016-17 college football season in the College Football Playoff Championship game!

The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers will face off in a rematch of last season’s inaugural event.

There are places that you can go to get plethora upon plethora of information and analysis on this uber-event. I will only offer you a humble and simple opinion on the outcome.

All things equal, it all boils down to, for me, one final, and ever-important, thing.

Pat Dye once said that, “It all starts at quarterback.” And that is where it both starts and ends in this game.

Deshaun Watson and Jalen Hurts. The seasoned and smooth veteran versus the talented and terrific freshman.

This, from what I can discern, is what Clemson wanted, and this is what it got.

The Clemson Tigers, and Dabo Swinney, will manage, somehow, to defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide, and Nick Saban.

Clemson 28, Alabama 24

 

Tampa photo courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Auburn vs. Alabama: Tough Times at Legion Field

Our Managing Editor, at the behest of our Executive Editor, asked some of us here at Campus Pressbox to do a piece on our chosen team’s rival. Auburn has a few exciting rivalries bubbling and brewing as the 2016 season fast approaches. In the SEC West, LSU has become a very good one since the divisions were aligned in 1992. Arkansas has reared its Hawg head with Bret Bielema making noise out in Fayetteville, and this game has become a little testy at times.

Over in the SEC East, Georgia has and will always be Auburn’s biggest rival. Although, the Bulldogs have had the better of it, by far, lately, winning eight of ten in The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

Ok, ok! You know, as well as I do, where this is going…

Auburn vs. Alabama

The game is better known as… everyone, all at once… The Iron Bowl. But I don’t prefer that designation for the greatest and grandest rivalry in college football today. It’s the Auburn-Alabama game, or the Alabama-Auburn game, depending on which side you are affiliated with. Here is my take on that subject.

Back to the business at hand. We were asked to speak to which of these games are our team’s best and worst losses in the series, which ones we would like to live, re-live, do over, or delete; and the implications any changes in the outcomes would have on the current teams or traditions.

Auburn’s Best Loss

The 1981 game would have to be my choice as the Tigers’ best loss to the Crimson Tide. Pat Dye was in his first year as Auburn’s head coach. His record was 5-5 coming into this game and a win would have put Auburn in a bowl game for the first time since 1974, when Auburn annihilated Darrel Royal’s Texas Longhorns, in the Gator Bowl, to the tune of 27-3.

To heighten the drama, Alabama head coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, stood at 314 total wins which had him tied with Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most ever in college football history. No one gave Auburn much of a chance to deny Bryant his place as the winningest coach ever. Bama was an 11.5-point favorite.

Somebody forgot to tell Auburn.

Bama scored first to take a 7-0 lead, but the Tigers knotted it on a 63-yard touchdown run by George Peoples in the second quarter.

Both teams tallied a touchdown in quarter number three and it stood 14-14 entering the final stanza. Auburn kicked a field goal to take a 17-14 lead early, and the Legion Field crowd held its collective breath as the often non-functional clock continued to tick. A shovel pass to Jesse Bendross put Bama in front 21-17 and Linnie Patrick ran for a 15-yard TD to cap the scoring and give Bryant his 315th win, by the hardest.

The mood of Auburn fans, after the game, was not dejection, at least from those whom we interacted with at that time. Optimism was palpable as Coach Dye’s team had laid the foundation for what was about to become the Golden Era of Auburn football.

The Tigers did indeed upset the Tide the following year, to end a nine game losing streak, as a young freshman named Vincent “Bo” Jackson went “over the top” late in the fourth quarter to give Auburn a 23-22 victory. Starting with that monumental win, Auburn’s record against Alabama stands at 18-16 in this classic football series.

And so, if I had to re-live a loss to our arch-rivals, it would have to be this 1981 game. I could full well live with that knowing what was in the offing. If we got a do-over on it, I would have Auburn pick off that shovel pass and run it back the other way for a touchdown, take a 10-point lead, and win by a field goal, 24-21. The Bear would not have gotten his 315th win that day, and it would have been the beginning of a three-game winning streak for Auburn.

This would not have huge implications on the current team or traditions, but it would provide an immense sense of satisfaction for Tiger players and fans, and put Auburn one game closer to tying the overall series record.

Auburn’s Worst Loss(es)

Oh me, oh my. I’d rather not go there. Sigh. Ok.

Well, I don’t know how you can separate the ’84 and ’85 games. Both were last-second, gut-wrenching losses for my Tigers.

’84: Auburn was 8-3, with their only conference loss coming to Florida. The Gators were SEC Champions on the field that year, but they were on probation. If Auburn had won the game it would play in its second consecutive Sugar Bowl. Alabama was 4-6 and about to suffer their first losing season since before Paul Bryant began coaching the Tide.

Auburn came out flat that day for some odd reason. It scored first, but Alabama, the designated home team at “neutral” Legion Field, rallied and led 17-7 as the fourth quarter began to wind down. Then the Tigers’ Brent Fullwood streaked for a 60-yard TD and the two-point conversion was successful, 17-15. Later in the quarter, on fourth down, Auburn found itself at the Alabama one-yard line. I jumped up and began screaming at the TV, “Kick the field goal. Kick the damn field goal. Let’s get outta here.” Dye opted to go for it and Fullwood was stuffed for a three-yard loss when Bo Jackson thought he was going to get the ball, went the wrong way, and did not block for his teammate.

Auburn did have an opportunity to kick a last second field goal which missed badly. Game over. Nightmare.

’85: Nightmare Deux, in spite of Bo Jackson making a final, emphatic case for the Heisman Trophy. He put forth a brilliantly gallant effort, and he was playing with two broken ribs. The game went back and forth like a heavyweight prize fight. Auburn went up 23-22 very late in the game. The prospects of a win looked quite promising, especially when Alabama found itself at its own 12 yard-line with 37 seconds remaining and no timeouts on the board. A couple of plays later Mike Shula got off a pass to Greg Richardson coming across the middle, and he managed to somehow get out-of-bounds with six seconds left on the clock.

Van Tiffin then nailed a 52-yard field goal and that was that. 25-23, Alabama.

Alrighty then! That was a nice exercise in masochism.

Let’s go right to the do-overs. In ’85, either Richardson does not get out-of-bounds or Tiffin misses the field goal, and Auburn wins, 23-22, for the second time in four years. Back to ’84, Auburn kicks the 18-yard chip shot and wins, 18-17. The Tigers now, with my ’81, ’84, and ’85 do-overs, win nine-in-a-row. This trumps what would now be an eight-game winning streak for Alabama, ’73- ’80, in the series. Auburn goes 18-8 over these next 26 games, through 2006, and Nick Saban is not hired in 2007 as he wants no part of the turmoil in Tuscaloosa.

The implications? Auburn continues as the dominant team in the state, Alabama doesn’t win four more Natties, and all is well on the Plains.

Revisionist history. Pretty sweet, right?

Fame! Which Nominees Will Deck The Hall?

The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame released the ballot for the 2017 class of inductees last week. There were 75 players and six coaches from the FBS included on the ballot, and there were 95 players and 29 coaches named from the divisional ranks. The announcement of the class will take place live on January 6, 2017. This will coincide with the College Football Playoff National Championship Weekend.

Before we go any further, let me say this. If you have not yet visited the College Football Hall of Fame, located right here in Atlanta, do so at your earliest convenience. It is excellent, incredible, and amazing. You will smile broadly and you just might shed a tear or two during your experience, and I emphasize the word “experience.” Also, if you need an escort or friend to accompany you, I will be more than happy to do that. I am always looking for any excuse to go down there. It is great fun, and there are plenty of first class lodgings and restaurants within the distance of a tossed or kicked pigskin.

For the purposes of this blog, I am only going to list, and speak to, a small handful of the candidates that somehow impacted or struck me personally.

The bios provided come directly off the press release. I’ll provide my brief take in the second paragraph following each player or coach.

If you would like to see a complete list then click here.

2017 FBS PLAYER CANDIDATE CAPSULE BIOS

Tim Couch, Quarterback, Kentucky – 1998 consensus First Team All-American who finished fourth in Heisman voting in 1998 and ninth in 1997… 1998 SEC Player of the Year who led Cats to first win over Alabama in 75 years… Set seven NCAA, 14 SEC and 26 school records.

Auburn never played against Couch and I should probably be thankful for that. I also remember that Bill Curry, the coach at Kentucky when Couch arrived, did not start him right away. He shared quarterback duties with Billy Jack Haskins. That probably was one of many factors that contributed to Curry only lasting in Lexington through seven games of Couch’s freshman year. The Wildcats were 1-6 during that stretch. Hal Mumme replaced Curry and immediately started Couch. The Cats went 3-1 in those last four games.

Eric Dickerson, Running Back, SMU – Named unanimous First Team All-American and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1982… Twice named SWC Player of the Year, he holds 14 SMU records including career rushing yards (4,450).

Dickerson and Craig James were backfield mates at SMU and were touted the “Pony Express.” They actually alternated for much of their four years together in Dallas. My wife, baby son and I made our residence in Ft. Worth for two of those years and we saw a lot of this duo. How did SMU, not a football power in those days, pull of that recruiting coup? Most of us know the answer to that question. The Mustangs received the “Death Penalty” before the 1987 season and they have yet to return to form in the aftermath of that debacle.

Bobby Humphrey, Running Back, Alabama – Named First Team All-American in 1987… Led Tide to victories in Aloha Bowl and two Sun Bowls… Named UPI Offensive Player of the Year in 1987… Ended career with 4,958 all-purpose yards and 40 TDs.

Mercy! Number 26 was a great one and, obviously, a thorn in the flesh of my Auburn Tigers for three years. He only played in two games his senior year, 1988. ’86 and ’87 were his big years as he rushed for just over 2,700 yards in those two seasons. I saw the ’86 game on TV, we were living in California at the time, and I was able to attend the ’87 Auburn-Alabama game as our residence was in Auburn, Alabama. The Tigers were fortunate to win both of those games, 21-17 and 10-0, respectively.

Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Tennessee – 1997 consensus First Team All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up who won the NFF Campbell Trophy and the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards… Three-time All-SEC selection and 1997 SEC Player of the Year while guiding Vols to SEC title… Tennessee’s all-time leader in wins (39), passing yards (11,201) and TD passes (89), among others.

I so enjoyed following Peyton’s career while he quarterbacked the Vols. Auburn had no regular season games against Tennessee during his four years in Knoxville, but the two teams did square off in the SEC Championship Game in 1997. Auburn jumped out to a 20-10 lead at the half and led 29-23 after three stanzas, but Manning hit Marcus Nash, early in the fourth quarter, and Tennessee hung on for a 30-29 victory. That was a tough pill to swallow but I was very proud of my Tigers’ effort.

Buddy McClinton, Defensive Back, Auburn – Three-time All-American who earned consensus First Team honors in 1969… Auburn’s all-time leader in interceptions (18) and holds record for interceptions in a season (9 in 1969)… Set SEC career interception record (18).

McClinton is, most assuredly, my favorite on the list of this class of Hall of Fame nominees. He has been overlooked and is long overdue to make it in to the Hall. Buddy, #27, played safety beautifully. He was quite the ball hawk. His biggest game was, probably, the 1968 Sun Bowl. He intercepted four passes in that contest and was named the game’s MVP. Also, he started every game in his Auburn career.

2017 FBS COACH CANDIDATE CAPSULE BIOS

Danny Ford – Clemson (1978-89), Arkansas (1993-97) – Led Tigers to perfect 12-0 season and national title in 1981… Won five ACC championships and twice named conference coach of the year… Boasts four of the top five winningest seasons in school history and set Clemson record with 41 consecutive weeks in AP Top 20… Led Arkansas to first SEC West title in 1995.

Ford played offensive tackle at Alabama from 1967-1969 under coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. That was how I came to know of him initially. But he is best known, by far, for his time at Clemson. During that 1981 national title run, Clemson was the only team to defeat the University of Georgia and Herschel Walker in the regular season. That was quite an accomplishment as it was the only regular season loss the Bulldogs suffered in Walker’s entire there years in Athens.

Notably, Ford’s first game as head coach at Clemson was the 1978 Gator Bowl against Ohio State. He replaced Charley Pell who left for the Florida Gators. That was also Woody Hayes’ last game as coach of the Buckeyes. If you’re a serious fan of college football, you might remember that Hayes punched Clemson nose guard, Charlie Bauman, and that was the undoing of the legendary coach.

Steve Spurrier – Duke (1987-89), Florida (1990-01), South Carolina (2005-15) – Winningest head coach in both University of Florida and University of South Carolina history, ranking second all-time in wins in SEC annals… Led Gators to 1996 National Championship and six SEC titles… Posted seven conference championships, nine conference coach of the year honors and 21 bowl appearances in 26-year career.

This one makes me smile. I have always enjoyed Spurrier, first as a player and then as a coach. I miss him. You know the story. Here is my take on the “Head Ball Coach.”

I eagerly look forward to the selection of the Hall of Famers. And, once again, come on down to Hotlanta and join me for an up close and personal look at this next class, and all of the greats who have gone before them.

The March To Tampa: Let The Hype Begin

It’s that time of year. On Monday, three major college football publications, Lindy’s, Athlon, and The Sporting News, released their Preseason College Football rankings for the 2016 season. Ever since I was a kid, waiting for Street and Smith’s to publish their preseason magazine, this has been a much-anticipated time for me.

Where is Auburn? Alabama! Again? That refrain rings true once more as Auburn is nowhere to be found in any of the three polls and Alabama resides in the top spot in all of them. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

There are a great many of the usual suspects, from years past, that also find themselves in the hunt. Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, and USC would count among those teams. There are also a few teams that would not have been rated back in my younger days. They would include Baylor, TCU, Louisville, Clemson, Houston, Oklahoma State and Oregon.

And here they are with links:

Lindy’s Athlon The Sporting News
1. Alabama 1. Alabama 1. Alabama
2. Clemson 2. Florida State 2. Clemson
3. Oklahoma 3. Ohio State 3. Oklahoma
4. Ohio State 4. Clemson 4. Ohio State
5. Baylor 5. Michigan 5. Baylor
6. Tennessee 6. Oklahoma 6. Florida State
7. Michigan 7. Tennessee 7. Ole Miss
8. Florida State 8. Notre Dame 8. Michigan
9. LSU 9. LSU 9. Stanford
10. Stanford 10. Ole Miss 10. Notre Dame
11. Notre Dame 11. Washington 11. Michigan State
12. Houston 12. Stanford 12. LSU
13. Ole Miss 13. Michigan State 13. Tennessee
14. Louisville 14. Baylor 14. Houston
15. Iowa 15. UCLA 15. USC
16. Oklahoma State 16. Houston 16. Oklahoma State
17. USC 17. Georgia 17. Iowa
18. Georgia 18. TCU 18. North Carolina
19. San Diego State 19. Louisville 19. Oregon
20. TCU 20. Iowa 20. Georgia
21. Washington 21. Florida 21. Washington
22. Michigan State 22. North Carolina 22. Louisville
23. UCLA 23. USC 23. Arkansas
24. Oregon 24. Oregon 24. Texas
25. North Carolina 25. Oklahoma State 25. TCU
In the SEC, we have Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas. That’s half of the league in and half of the league out. Auburn would be the most prominent exception. Now, lets take a look at all of the SEC teams that made their way in and what the average ranking of each, between the three magazines, would be. We will divide the total of each team’s ranking by three, thus, Alabama 3 divided by 3 = 1. I was hell in arithmetic.

Alabama – 1.0

Tennessee – 8.67

Ole Miss – 10

LSU – 10
( A tie. Interesting.)

Georgia – 18.3

Florida was ranked just once, at 21 by Athlon. Arkansas was also ranked only once and that was at 23 by the Sporting News. I suppose they would both fall into the “others receiving votes” in our combined poll.

And so, that leaves only four teams, Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU as being unanimously ranked. That is not what the SEC is accustomed to. Does that mean it will be a down year for the SEC? I don’t know. I could see Auburn making it in when all is said and done. But Missouri, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M? No.

The way I’m looking at it, there would be a maximum of seven SEC teams being ranked when the final poll results are in. A maximum, but there, obviously, could be fewer than that.

I mentioned only four teams that are unanimously ranked in the three publications, and they all fall within the top ten. There is certainly a chance that some of those four teams do not meet expectations.

Will Alabama, truly, be as good as they were last year or in years before? Danny Sheridan, oddsmaker and Bama grad, thinks the Tide could lose a couple of games and finish behind LSU. Alabama also lost Kirby Smart to Georgia. How about them Dawgs? There is an entire new coaching staff, and system, that the Bulldogs have to adjust to.

What about LSU? And Tennessee? There are pundits who are beginning to surmise that these teams are overrated. I disagree. In fact, the more I think about these two, the more I like them.

Tennessee, and Butch Jones, have been steadily building this program and those freshmen that were talented, but green, back in 2013 are bigger, stronger, and experienced. The Vols are also deep. I fully expect them to win the East and play for the SEC Championship.

LSU? Same thing with Brandon Harris, Leonard Fournette and their fellow Tigers. I’m beginning to see Danny Sheridan’s point of view and I understand why he thinks the Bayou Bengals will win the SEC West. It could happen.

Hype! Hype! Hype! That’s all we’ve got until September 1 when South Carolina and Vanderbilt open SEC play. And that, my friends, is only 98 days away!

Is It Possible To Repair A Ruptured Recruiting System?

Recruiting high school kids to play college football has always been a maddening, vile, cut-throat business. I use the word “business”, intentionally, as people often throw the word around, loosely, when attempting to justify an action or transaction, that blurs the boundaries of integrity.

How many times have you, or I, heard some say, “Well, it’s business.” Or they might pronounce the word “bidness”, as if its mispronunciation somehow lightens their burden of responsibility. It could be that they’re not overly astute in grammatical matters. Whatever, if an action or transaction is less than savory, then it “ain’t” right.

To hell with ethics and grammar, right? We’re doing “bidness.” And folks, recruiting is big “bidness.”

So, what in the world can be done to sanitize the, too often, seamier side of recruiting?

Andy Staples, senior writer at Sports Illustrated, spoke to a few coaches from four conferences who were meeting in Phoenix, a few days ago, about the matter.

I am of the opinion that some of what these coaches had to say, when weighing in on the ins and outs of recruiting, makes good sense. Much of it, probably, makes too much sense considering the logic-defying decisions that have, sometimes, made their way forth from NCAA and conference gatherings.

The satellite camp hot potato now has a temporary “solution.” It will, undoubtedly be tweaked and re-tweaked in the months and years to come. Will sanity or insanity prevail? Most likely it will be a little of both. There are coaches, like Patterson and Rodriguez who appear to be moving in the direction of a fair and enlightened approach to all of this madness.

Did I just use the terms fair and enlightened in discussing college football recruiting? Is that even a remote possibility? It could be if coaches truly have the very best interests of the “student-athlete” in mind, and not pushing the envelope, living in gray areas, getting an edge and, sometimes, but sadly, winning at all costs.

Back to Patterson and Rodriguez. The TCU coach has thoughtful, rational ideas like rules that propose a specific number of days that coaches could work camps that take place on their own campuses or in another location.

Rodriguez comes with a solution that is far more radical and I find it a swimmingly good one. Eliminate National Signing Day! Say what?

When one begins to milk sacred cows and the baggage that they udder, one is treading in treacherous territory.

Now people, consider that we gone from one such cow, which was the antiquated bowl system that patriarchs such as Paul “Bear” Bryant and Bob Devaney, to name a couple, often dominated, to the BCS to the College Football Playoff.

It can happen.

But here’s the rub, the Almighty Dollar. And with “In God We Trust” remaining proudly emblazoned on said dollar, it reigns supreme. It is in Ben Franklin that we trust and if anyone tells you any differently, they are deluded.

Follow the money. That’s what makes this world, and the world of college football, go round.

The bottom line is the bottom line.

Cars, houses, prostitutes, meals, bag men, and hundred-dollar handshakes. These things, and other dubious practices, to whatever degree, have been a part of college football recruiting for as long as there has been college football recruiting.

Then you come back to ridiculous coaches salaries, massive stadiums to fill, and ticket prices that continue to spiral out of control.

Houston, we have a problem.

I, for one, have more questions than answers about all of this, and there are answers.

But…

Who is willing to sit down and, honestly and evenhandedly, make the hard decisions that could provide some relief to a system that is, often, bloated, bigoted, and blind?

Is it possible?

My Favorite SEC Football Players of All-Time

Last week was a busy one for SEC football. Coaches wish it weren’t so, but it seems as though there is never a dull moment when it comes to headlines that don’t spotlight the positives in and around their programs.

Hugh Freeze got blindsided (pun intended) with the resurrection of the Laremy Tunsil debacle just as Ole Miss is about to hear from the NCAA and its investigation into their program. Also, it appears that Freeze and Jim Harbaugh will attend the same satellite camp in Mississippi.

As the football world turns. These soap operas are highly entertaining and they give people like me something to write about.

Speaking of smoking weed with a gas mask device, four Auburn players were arrested on the Plains Saturday night for, you guessed it, ganja possession, and much to the chagrin of Gus Malzahn and the rest of us in the Auburn family. How long, oh Lord?

Then there was the NFL draft. Ohio State had the most first round picks with five and Alabama had only one, which surprised many “experts”, but the SEC, once again, had more players drafted than any other conference. So there! Nanny nanny poo poo!

So much for all of that. In my last couple of blogs I, subjectively ranked, in order, SEC head coaching jobs and power rankings of the fourteen schools in the conference.

I like lists. From top tens to favorites to whatever. I think most people do enjoy these.

That being said, this week I’m going to give you my top ten favorite SEC players of all time, excluding Auburn. If I allowed my Tigers’ players on the list you would have Pat Sullivan, Terry Beasley, Bo Jackson, Cam Newton, Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Phil Gargis, James Brooks, Joe Cribbs, Cadillac Williams, Bobby Hunt, Travis Tidwell, and the like to dominate it.

Here we go! My top ten favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. I will do them alphabetically.

Billy Cannon – LSU – 1957-59. Cannon is most remembered for his 89-yard punt return against Ole Miss, in Tiger Stadium on Halloween night in 1959, to give the Tigers a 7-3 win. He won the Heisman that year, as well. Cannon was also named the SEC player of the year in both 1958 and 1959. LSU won the National Championship in ’58.

Randall Cobb – Kentucky – 2008-10. Cobb was an electrifying player at multiple positions for the Wildcats including quarterback, wide receiver and return specialist. He could do it all. He is not to be confused with boxer, Randall “Tex” Cobb.

Archie Manning – Ole Miss – 1968-70. Archie is, actually, one of my favorite players in any sport at any level. I never enjoyed watching a player from a team, not named Auburn, more. Just go back and watch some of the old clips from his days as a Rebel. Simply amazing!

Peyton Manning – Tennessee – 1994-97. Does anyone really need to be familiarized with Peyton? He led the Vols to an SEC Championship in 1997. He was a consensus All-American that year and also won the Maxwell Award. He should have won the Heisman Trophy.

Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M – 2012- 13. Has there ever been a more exciting college football player than “Johnny Football”? Incredible. Love him or hate him, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. The 2012 Heisman winner pulled off more incredible escapes than Houdini. I truly hope his story turns out to be one of redemption.

Darren McFadden – Arkansas – 2005-07. McFadden could flat out tote the rock. He rushed for 4,590 yards at a 5.8 yards per carry clip during his years as a Razorback. He tied the SEC record for most yards rushing in one game, in 2007, with 321 against South Carolina. McFadden won the Doak Walker Award twice, 2006-07, and the Walter Camp Award, given to the nation’s best overall player, once, in 2007.

Joe Namath – Alabama – 1962-64. “Joe Willie”, “Broadway Joe.” These are two of the monikers that Namath was known by during his playing days with the Crimson Tide. I loved him. Most boys loved him. All the girls loved him. Bama won the National Championship, with Joe under center, in 1964. But he is most famous for guaranteeing that his New York Jets would win Super Bowl III, and they did.

Dak Prescott – Mississippi State. The best player in the history of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, no? He was a gifted athlete who could both run and throw the ball. He carried the Bulldogs to heights henceforth unknown as they topped the polls for several weeks during the 2014 season. That season he also passed for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns, and accumulated 4,435 total yards. He rushed for 2,411 yards in his time at State and that is third all-time, by a quarterback, in SEC history.

Steve Spurrier – Florida – 1964-66. Spurrier may be best known as the Head Ball Coach, but he was also a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for the Gators in 1966. There may have never been a more competitive, driven player and coach in the annals of the SEC. Football, golf, tiddlywinks, Spurrier just wants to beat you. And, he was always good for a great quote.

Herschel Walker – Walker is, arguably, the greatest running back in the history of college football. Bo Jackson is my choice for the greatest athlete of all-time, but Herschel, both a Heisman winner and a national champion, carried the mail. He rushed for 5,259 yards in only three years as a Bulldog. And he was a sprinter, mixed martial artist and bobsledder!

There is my list of favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. Why not come up with your own list? I am also open to suggestions for future lists as they are a lot of fun, and great conversation centerpieces at home, or at your favorite sports bar.

Now, who was the greatest fighter that ever lived? 😉

What’s the Best Coaching Job in the SEC?

Quick! Off the top of your head, what’s the best job in the SEC? We’re talking football, of course. That’s what we do here.

So, what is it?

Did I hear a goodly number of ‘Alabamas’ out there? Ok, that would be fair. But here is what the head coach at the University of Alabama, Nick Saban, thinks. In an article written by Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, Saban compliments his former pupil, Kirby Smart, and also questions him as to why Georgia does not win on a grander scale. That is something that has left many pundits and fans scratching their collective heads over the years. That has been debated, ad nauseum, over the past eleven years. It’s how long it has been since the Bulldogs won an SEC championship. They haven’t won the Big Enchilada, a natty, since 1980.

Smart now finds himself in the big chair, in Athens, and Dawg fans are howling… with glee. Time will tell if Georgia returns as a dominant power in the SEC East. We shall see.

Now back to Saban. He thinks Georgia and LSU should be the top jobs in the conference. And that brings us back to our original question… What is the best head coaching job in the Southeastern Conference?

Barrett Sallee make a a very solid and strong argument for Alabama. He thinks that is, pretty much, a no-brainer. It is difficult to disagree with him, whether you love or hate the Crimson Tide. The “Process” is hitting on all eight in T-Town and it doesn’t look like things are going to change in the near future.

What about the rest of the league?

I’m going to start at the bottom and work my way up to the top. This is what I think and you should take it with the very smallest grain of salt you can locate with a magnifying glass.

Onward!

14. Vanderbilt

A gimme, right? You don’t have to be Carnac The Magnificent to figure that one out. Vandy is the graveyard of coaching jobs in the SEC and it ain’t even close.

13. Kentucky
They play basketball exceptionally well in Lexington.

12. Mississippi State
StarkVegas. It holds no similarity, whatsoever, to the derivation of its, now popular, nick-namesake.

11. South Carolina
We’re about to be reminded, once again, how great a football coach Steve Spurrier really was.

10. Arkansas
Ole Bret Bielema has done some good things in Fayetteville but he will never win the SEC West.

9. Ole Miss
Hugh Freeze has proven the Rebels can contend but Oxford is a place where no one will win, consistently, over an extended period of time.

8. Missouri
The Tigers have won two out of the last three East division titles but it doesn’t appear that is going to happen again any time soon.

7. Tennessee

A lot of coaches around the country wish that they were up on Rocky Top.

6. Auburn

They have both won a national championship and played for another, in the last six years, down on the Plains.

5. Texas A&M

The resources in College Station are limitless.

4. LSU

I don’t think it’s one of the top two jobs in the conference but one could certainly argue that point.

3. Georgia

A great, great job that is begging to be the top one.

2. Florida

It’s been done here, one more than one occasion, and it, probably, will be done again.

1. Alabama

In the SEC? How about the country?

That’s my two cents on how head coaching jobs rank in the Southeastern Conference. It’s entirely subjective and that’s one reason we love to spend much of our time, as SEC fans, debating countless subjects related to college football. Everybody has an opinion and, quite often, they are strong ones. Mull it over. Chime in!

Hey! Only 127 days remain until Vanderbilt hosts South Carolina on a Thursday night!