Big Jeff on 
Football 
Current
 
9/11/97 
 
LET'S GET READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL.  Well folks, here 'tis. As a friend of mine says, "the big halftime is over." Everybody has played at least one game (except for those goldbrickers at Michigan). With that in mind, here's my take on all of the SEC teams (in no particular order). 
TENNESSEE  
2-0 
One word, Peyton Manning. OK, so that's two words. One more word, Heismann Trophy. Oops, that's two words too. This could be the year that the Vols make their move to contend for the Nat'l Champs. With Manning back, and it looks like Peerless Price may be back from his injury sooner than expected, the Tennessee offense should be poised to put up some big numbers this year. Leonard Little returns to a defensive unit that could be the best in the SEC this year. Put all that together in you can pretty much guarantee a New Year's Day bowl game. 
ARKANSAS  
1-0
This is a team which has a multitude of question marks going in to the season, most notably at quarterback. As long as Madre Hill and Chrys Chukwuma can stay healthy, the Hogs won't suffer for a running game. However, the starting QB (whoever he is) is going to have a load on his shoulders. His job may be made a little easier with the hiring of co-offensive coordinators Kay Stevenson and former NFL QB Joe Ferguson (Stevenson was Ferguson's OC at the Buffalo Bills). To make it even tougher, the Hogs in '97 will play all 5 teams that went bowling last year. If they can come through that, and with a little luck, Danny Ford may see the turn-around that he's looking for (but don't bet on it). 
GEORGIA  
1-0
This team is tough to figure. When you look at the athletes they have, you gotta think they should have been contending with Tennessee trying to knock off the Gators. However, it looks like coach Jim Donnan may be the biggest reason they aren't. This year we'll see if he can turn that around. With Robert Edwards carrying the ball (and if he can stay healthy) and Hines Ward catching/ running/ passing/ returning/ anything-else-he-wants-to-do with the ball, the Bulldog offense should be able to move downfield. This could be the make or break year for Donnan as I don't think Dooley is going to wait around for him to learn how to coach in the big leagues. 
ALABAMA  
1-0
Mike DuBose starts what could be a very long career as the head football coach in Tuscaloosa this year. I keep reading where people say that 'Bama is going to have a down year this year with the new coach and the scholarship reductions coming to roost. That may be, but for the Tide, a down year may be 8-3. The more interesting aspects of this team is going to be watching how the defense shapes up. Michael Myers is still out there giving opposing QB nightmares (I love that pun), but the success of stopping opposing offenses is going to be the rebuilt linebacking corps. It appears that this years crop has a lot of talent but just doesn't have the experience that past squads have been able to rely upon. On offense, DuBose says he'll open up from the up-the-gut ground game that Stallings liked. However, that all rests upon the capability of Freddie Kitchens. If the O-Line can give him the time that he needs to set up and read the field, Kitchens may make Crimson Tide fans forget all about those 20-10 blowouts that 'Bama seemed to win each and every week. Of course, if they still want to run the ball, there's Alexander, Riddle, and Alexander (that does have a good ring to it, don't it). Add it all up, and even with a loss of some of their usual depth, you have to look for the Tide to be in the thick of all year long. 
VANDERBILT  
1-0
With new head coach Woody Widenhofer promising he'll go with a wide open offense, the Commodore fans are all excited about making waves this year. Forget it. Even though once again the 'Dores will have a defense, thanks to Widenhofer, that can stand up to just about anybody in the league (I said "just" about, OK), trying to run a pro-set offense with athletes that were recruited to run the option flat ain't gwine work. Sure Lionel Richie's team (I love that one too) will put a scare into a few teams, and may even upset some of the lower echelon teams in the league, don't look for them to have a winning season for at least a couple more years. 
OLE MISS  
2-0
The question that Tommy Tuberville and the Rebs have to answer this year is, can they compete? With the loss of scholarships that have decimated the depth of this team, Tuberville's job is really cut out for him this year. However, with the signing of highly touted QB Romero Miller and the return of Mississippi HS player of the year in RB Joe Gunn (I can't wait to see highlights of this guy with the Peter Gunn theme in the background), Tommy may be able to spring a few surprises this year. Unfortunately, they also have to play at Auburn, Tennessee, LSU and Miss State in addition to having 'Bama come to Oxford. 
SOUTH CAROLINA  
1-0
Excitement is high in the Palmetto State this year, as Brad Scott's team dons the black jerseys for their football forays this fall. With returning QB Anthony Wright tossing to Zola Davis, the Cocks offense is seeking the balance between the running and passing games that lead to success. However, the league schedule ain't looking all that great. Look for USC to throw in an upset or 2 and maybe end the year at 7-4. 
LSU  
1-0
This is a team on the rise. With Kevin Faulk, Rondell Mealey, Kendall Cleveland, Cecil (the Diesel) Collins, Robert Tyler, and freshman Tommy Banks at running back, anybody who plays the Tigers has to respect the running game. Dinardo says he will try to open up the passing game this year behind Herb Tyler, but the young receiver corps have to prove that they can catch the ball. On defense, the Tigers have to replace a slew of linebackers, but have the talent (yet, like 'Bama, inexperience) to do so. In addition, with the depth in the secondary, most teams are going to have a fit throwing the ball. It looks like the magic really is back! 
FLORIDA  
2-0
Weurffel, Hilliard, et. al. playing on Sundays. Looks like a long year. Yeah, maybe for Gator opponents. Spurrier has reloaded the fun-n-gun behind Doug Johnson and Jaquez Green for another year playing for the national championship. Yes, the Gator's lost a lot of offense to the NFL draft, but really, really beware of the defense. This could be the best defense Florida has had in years (and I include last years nat'l champ defense in that too!). Scary part about it is, they get 9 of their defensive starters back NEXT year. 
MISSISSIPPI STATE  
2-0
With the untimely death of Keffer McGee, the Bulldog program suffered a huge sucker punch this year. Jackie Sherrill, already fighting for his job, really has his work cut out for him this year. Fortunately, he has one of the best in Defensive Coordinator Joe Lee Dunn to work his magic on that side of the ball. Joe Lee's defenses are some of the hardest to prepare for by opposing offenses. He throws multiple formation blitzes (and Greg Favors) at any time and at any point on the field. Unfortunately for Sherrill, he has (in my humble opinion) one of the all time worst, and I mean worst Offensive Coordinators in Lynn Amadee (I do not question whether the man knows football, I simply do not believe he should be allowed to coach and shape young men). This is OC that when at LSU and leading Auburn by 3 TDs late in the 4th quarter, kept calling for the Tiger QB to throw the ball. Result, 3 INTs returned for touchdowns and lose the game. After the game Amadee, in his classiest style, put every bit of the blame on the QB and said that he did not execute the plays that he called correctly. Loser! (Sorry about that, but I'm down off my soapbox now) Anyway, unless some of the JC transfers gel early and perform at SEC caliber, this just might be Sherrill's last season running the Dawgs. NOTE: Obviously, I did not know Keffer McGee personally. However, everything that I have seen and heard about this young man shows that we lost more than just a talent on the field. Keffer was a good person and a leader, both on and off the field. He will be missed by fans of all schools this year. 
KENTUCKY  
1-1
Hal Mumme, in his first year as a head coach at a Div-I school, has said that with QB Tim Couch he will throw the ball 50 or 60 times a game. Good thing too, cause they for damn sure ain't going to win by running it. This new offense, a perfect match for the talents of Couch, should be real exciting and fun to watch. I've even seen some predictions that KU could average 40 points per game. They better, cause with their undersized and outmanned defense, they could be giving up 50! 
AUBURN  
1-0
11-0, 11-1, 8-4, 8-4. That adds up to 38-9 over 4 seasons. Tain't bad. Yet, some Auburn faithful are crying out that if Bowden doesn't go 10-2 or better, he should lose his job! With this years schedule, that could be tough. The Tigers have almost everybody back from last year's team which usually bodes well. However, for a defense that finished last in the SEC, getting everybody back may not help much. What will help, though, is if they can avoid all of the injuries that piled on last year. Toward the end of the year, Brother Oliver was starting as many as 6 true freshman (with only true freshman as backups, too!). On offense, Auburn faithful don't have a whole lot to worry about. With senior Dameyeune Craig running the show, look to the Tigers to put up a lot of numbers this year. 

SEC Predictions
 
East West
1) Florida 
2) Tennessee 
3) South Carolina 
4) Georgia 
5) Vanderbilt 
6) Kentucky
1) LSU 
2) Alabama 
3) Auburn 
4) Arkansas 
5) Miss State 
6) Ole Miss

As the season rolls on, I will create a top 10 or top 25 list. I don't want to do that right now, 'cause with the exception of the first 5 or 6, nobody really knows how things are going to turn out. By waiting until the end of September, I can see everybody play 4 or 5 times and get a good feel about who's better than who.

 I am also in the process of putting together a computer ranking system. Right now the only computer ranking system I have is typing in the rankings on the computer!! But I'm working on putting something together that will be ready later in the year (I'll have to wait until then to get enough data on each team to enter into the system).

The Archives of picks and articles.
 Bowl Picks 1996