Tennessee fans shouldn't be disheartened following the Vols 37-20 loss to Florida Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. The Vols could still have a big season, despite their fourth quarter dismantling by the Gators, which brings me to today's topic; Florida is among the....pleasant surprises in the Southeastern Conference so far.
SEC's Pleasant Surprises:
1. Florida Gators- Hardly anybody thought the Gators would be a great football team before the season started. There were just too many question marks. After three games however, Florida stands 3-0, and in first place in the SEC East with a perfect 2-0 mark. Both SEC wins came on the road in very hostile environments. (Texas A&M and Tennessee) And in both games, Florida rallied to win after trailing at halftime. Florida is one of the very toughest teams in America and they obviously take after their head coach, Will Muschamp. The Gators will be hard to beat the rest of the way. They still must play three teams currently ranked in the top ten,(#2 LSU, #6 Georgia and #7 South Carolina) but all three will be in the state of Florida.
2. Mississippi State Bulldogs- Coach Dan Mullen is hoping for a break-out season in Starkville, and 2012 could be it. The Bulldogs are currently 3-0, and will likely be 5-0 when Tennessee visits on October 13th. A win over the Vols, and the Bullies will probably be 7-0, when they play at top-ranked Alabama on Oct. 27th. Mississippi State must also play at #2 LSU this season, but a 9-3 or even a 10-2 season is very well within reach.
Not So Pleasant Surprises:
1. Arkansas Razorbacks- Things are not well at all in "Hog" Country. Interim Head Coach John L. Smith has all but locked up the "interim" title in Fayetteville, as the Hogs will soon be looking for a permanent replacement for the ousted Bobby Petrino. Losing to Alabama was no disgrace at all, but losing 52-0 at home to anyone is disgraceful, especially following a loss to a better than expected Louisiana-Monroe team the week before. Before Bobby Petrino's discretions became public knowledge, there was talk of challenging for a national championship. A lot has happened since then, and it's all negative.
2. Vanderbilt Commodores- A 1-2 start to the season is not what Vandy Coach James Franklin imagined. A tough loss at home to South Carolina in the season opener, put the black and gold in an 0-1 SEC hole. This week, Vandy plays at #6 Georgia and it will take a monumental effort to pull off an upset.
3. Auburn Tigers: Fans on the plains are more and more disgruntled with Coach Gene Chizk's offense, which hasn't been the same since Cam Newton led the Tigers to the National Championship in 2010. Things will get better, but Auburn is just not very good.
No Surprise At All; Teams Doing What We Thought:
1. Alabama and LSU: This week, The Crimson Tide and Bengal Tigers are ranked #1 and #2 in the polls, that's about where we thought they would be. These two teams have seperated themselves from the rest of the SEC and most of the rest of college football. It's still too early to predict a repeat of last year's BCS Title match-up, but as they continue to win impressively, the stakes become much bigger in that November 3rd match-up in Baton Rouge.
2. Missouri, Georgia, Kentucky, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas A&M: These teams still have some question marks, but Georgia and South Carolina are much better than the rest of this group. As for the Volunteers, they still have not played hard or smart for sixty minutes. When that happens, they can compete with anybody. Until it does, they will remain an average, run of the mill SEC team.
Randy Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Red Bank High School in Chattanooga. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).