As I ponder about the New Year’s resolutions I will make and then quickly forget about, I wanted to take a few moments to focus on things that could happen in the world of Southeastern Conference Football over the next 360 days or so.
1. SEC football teams on the rise: Auburn, Ole Miss, Missouri, and Tennessee. Whether the Tigers win an eighth straight national championship for the SEC or not, Gus Malzahn is a definite plus. The quick rise from 0-8 in league play a year ago, to 7-1 and a shot at the final BCS crown means Auburn’s recent success will last a while. Ole Miss will be a factor in the SEC West race next fall and in the East, Tennessee will soon be back to challenging for a divisional title every season, as the Vols were in the 1990s and the early 2000’s. (Of course, Butch Jones must now be able to coach the great talent he will sign next month) As for Missouri, the Tigers will contend for the next several seasons as Gary Pinkel has his program right where he wants it.
2. SEC football teams on the decline: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. (This section will definitely ruffle some feathers) With the loss of quarterback A.J. McCarron and a few others, there is no way Alabama can be as good as they have been for the last four seasons. The Crimson Tide will enter 2014 on a two-game losing skid; one that still has ‘Bama fans shaking their heads. McCarron said it best following the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma. “We’ve got a lot of guys who don’t buy in….some selfish guys. It’s all about them.” I’ve seen this before and in sports other than just football. (Tennessee basketball comes to mind) If anyone can turn things around quickly, however, it’s most definitely Nick Saban. The Tide may actually have to rebuild a bit instead of simply reloading. As for Florida and Georgia, both those schools have done very little in the past three seasons with great talent, and the already hot seat under Gator’s Coach Will Muschamp could get white hot in the next year. Coach Mark Richt is faced with a big rebuilding chore as is South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier.
3. SEC football teams stuck in neutral: LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. Three of the six teams that are stuck in neutral are actually pretty good programs right now, and could fool everyone. Vandy is headed toward a decline if James Franklin takes the Penn State job this weekend, while the Aggies could be much better next fall if Johnny Manziel chooses to stay for his junior season rather than jump to the NFL. Mississippi State has been stuck in neutral for several years and, even though Dan Mullen has done a good job in Starkville, I can’t foresee much improvement. LSU will be good again, but I can’t see them contending for an SEC Championship in the next few seasons. Arkansas and Kentucky are just bad programs right now that can’t decline because they’re about as bad as it can get.
Though some of these long-term projections may sound a bit off, they can’t be any worse than the SEC Media pre-season predictions for 2013. They picked Alabama and Georgia to meet for the SEC Title. As for Monday night’s BCS Championship event, I’m picking Florida State to end the SEC’s national winning streak at seven in a row. The Seminoles 42, Auburn 24.
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.
His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.
He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.
In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson, TN. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.
To contact Randy: firstname.lastname@example.org