Sully's Big Blog! Commentary on College Football, Weekly Games, And Strange Statistics!

Travel Leaders of Wausau Presents: SEC West Review / Preview for 22 / 23 seasons

No matter where in the world you want to go, Travel Leaders of Wausau can help get you there. Their experienced agents will take the time to answer your questions and listen to your ideas, before making expert recommendations that fit your budget. Their philosophy is extraordinary vacations begin with careful planning, that guides their commitment to ensuring you always have the best possible experience—both before your departure and during your travel, be it leisure or business.

Travel Leaders Network has been assisting travelers for nearly 30 years through our international alliance of agencies big and small. Backed by Travel Leaders Group – a powerful leader in both leisure and business travel – they represent all facets and styles of travel, giving them the unique advantage to plan every detail of your vacation or business trip to perfection.

Travels Leaders is located @ 120 Clark Street, Wausau, WI 54401, Phone 715-355-4437! Ro e-mail use the Web -Address provided below:

In the last 14 years Alabama has won the West division 9 of 14, LSU has won three (3) titles, while Auburn has won two (2) West Divisions Crowns! Here are the last 14 SEC West Division Champs (Bama’s 9 in bold) by year & record: 2009: Alabama; 9-0; 2010: Auburn 9-0; 2011: LSU 9-1; 2012: Alabama 8-1; 2013: Auburn 8-1; 2014: Alabama 8-1; 2015: Alabama 8-1; 2016: Alabama 9-0; 2017: Alabama 8-1; 2018: Alabama 9-0; 2019: LSU 9-0; 2020: Alabama 11-0 (Covid-19 played only a conference schedule); 2021: Alabama 8-1; 2022: LSU 6-2.

Last year, LSU & Alabama had identical records (6-2) in division/conference play, the Tigers lost to Tennessee, 40-17 & Texas A&M 38-23, while Bama was out scored by Tennessee, 52-49 and fell to LSU, 32-31, in OT. Georgia beat LSU in the SEC Championship game, 50-30. The Tide & Tigers were the only teams in the West that had winning records; the Mississippi schools were 500 @ 4-4, Arkansas 3-5, while Auburn and Texas A&M rolled up-hill, finishing 2-6! Of note: Tennessee beat both Bama & LSU!!

The West, had a losing record vs the SEC East Division, 6-8! For the 1st time in the 8 year history of the CFP, the West Division of the SEC, failed to have a member qualify for the tournament and only the 2nd time, they were absent from the Championship Game! A failure (Failure in this sense … if they are who they like to think they are … Elite) This absence is a fact that will be rehashed many times, in the thoughts & actions of coaches and players, as they prepare for their return to the CFP in 2023.

7. Auburn: The Tigers return 17 starters (8* on offense & 9 on defense) and their QB, Robby Ashford (passed for 1,613 yards, completed 49% of his passes, & has a ratio of 7 TDs / 7 INTs) his/these numbers will need to significantly improve, if Auburn is to get out of the SEC’s cellar! While their D is experienced, it lacks the star power of recent Auburn defenses, while they certainly will be improved, to what extent, remains the question? HC Bryan Harsin was dismissed, on Oct 21, after a 41-27, loss to Arkansas. Harsin was a ‘Gone Gosling’ almost from the beginning of the season and his absence will end the ‘weekly coach drama’ that plagued the team’s focus in 2022. Enter new HC, Hugh Freeze, an experienced coach, who had a good run @ Ole Miss, minus some bazaar off-field decisions. The key to their season will be how they recover from a difficult, four week/three game slate (@ Texas A&M, UGA @ Home, a BYE, & at LSU). If they are still playing hard when they emerge, the next five games; (@ home vs the Mississippi schools, {Ole Miss & State}, @ Vandy, @ Arkansas, & New Mexico State @ home, are all winnable! Then comes the Iron Bowl & Alabama, the Tigers are 2-4 in the last six games, including a 2-point loss in 2021 (24-22), translated, to a shocking fact, Auburn is an eyelash away from being 500 vs Mighty Alabama in the last 6 Iron Bowls! SCFP is predicting Auburn will make a bowl game in 2023!

6. Mississippi State: Any conversation about MSU in 2023, has to begin with a moment of reflection for Coach Mike Leach, who unexpected passed away this past December 12, 2022. The MSU Coach experienced a massive heart attach and died @ the University of Mississippi Medical Center! Mike Leach, a quirky, blunt-spoken head coach at three universities (Texas Tech, Washington State, & Mississippi State) who constructed an innovative, high-powered, often miss identified as pass-happy, Air Raid offense. His attack insights have and continue to influenced football offenses from Pop Warner thru the N.F.L. Leach passed at the young age of 61! To carry on Coach Leach’s offensive legacy, I could not imagine a better person/player then Will Rogers. Rogers is the only freshmen in Leach’s long career to master the intricacies of his offensive schemes and start as a freshmen! In 2021, Rogers threw for a record setting 4,739 yards, completing 74% of his passes, with an impressive ratio of 36 TDs to 9 INTs! Last year, his numbers dipped to 3,975 yards, 68% completion rate, and a ratio of 35 to 8! Unlike many of the high powered programs in the SEC, the Bulldogs have 8 seniors starting on D and 6 more on O! While they may not have the star power of other programs in the SEC West, they will more then outmatch them with their experience in the coming season. Playing for their fallen coach and coupled with their seasoned roster, MSU can be the most dangerous team, on any given Saturday, in all of the SEC!

5. Arkansas: QB KJ Jefferson (6’3 & 242) is a true duel threat, who passed for 2,648 (68% completion rate & 24-5 ratio) and rushed for 640 yards (9 TDs & a 4.1 YPC). Unlike many of his contemporaries, KJ played thru injuries in 2022, which hurt his overall stats, yet, clearly helped the Razorbacks win some of those games! RB, Raheim ‘Rocket’ Sanders ( 1,443 yards, 10 TD & 6.5 YP) is a preseason, 2nd team All-American and a 1st team all SEC pre-season selection! Their WR unit could be an issue, that said, they have size @ this position, Jaedon Wilson is 6’3″, Andrew Armstrong is 6’4″, & Bowling Green transfer, Tyrone Borden is 6’7″. The D line has 10 players back with playing experience & Coach Pittman thinks this is the best D line he has had as the Hogs HC! The LB have zero returnees & lost one of the great names in all of college football: ‘Bumper Pool’! While they did hit the transfer pool, this unit will be down from a year ago! The secondary has 4 transfers that will have to help immediately. The defense has a number of questions and as a result, the offense will need to play well early as the D gains experience in the back seven (7)! QB, KJ Jefferson & RB, Rocket Sanders are great places to start!

4. Ole Miss: Lane Kiffin is back for his 4th year, despite all the ‘noise’ about his defection to Auburn! Kiffin announced that he was staying in Oxford on Nov. 25 and the next day, the Rebels lost the Egg Bowl, 22-20, to arch-rival Mississippi State! These coach change speculations mid/late season are always major distractions. Yet, to Kiffin’s credit, he never came out and said he was staying @ Ole Miss, honorable, as he did not know if he was staying and did not want to mislead anyone. Many coaches in these types of situation do (mislead), to simply quiet the chatter, they state: ‘I’m staying’ here, blessed to be here … and then leave the next week! Lets give Pecks Bad Boy some credit, Lane was honest!! The Rebels return 9* starters (* means QB is back) on offense & 7 on defense. QB, Jaxon Dart had a ratio of 20 TDs to 11 INTs in 2022, way to many picks, if Ole Miss is going to challenge in the West in ’23. That said, RB Quinshon Judkins (1,567 Yards, 16 TDs, & 5.7 YPC, all Ole Miss records) is the best back in the SEC and one of the top 3 in all of college football! They return 4 of their top 6 receivers and restocked their receiver room with three transfers. All three of these transfers accounted for over 600 receiving yards in 2022! Their O-Line returns 4 of its 5 starters and should be a Joe Moore (best O-line award) finalist! New defensive coordinator, Pete Golding, will be changing the defense configuration from a 4-3 set to a 3-4 look. The D-line returns 2 starters, 5 more who were in the rotation, and added 3 transfers, who will provide depth. At LB, they will be playing 4 (switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 look) and while they return only 1 starter, they have added 3 transfers, who all have starting experience! Their secondary, also returns only one starter, however they have added 5 transfers and have a shot at being as good or better than a year ago! We should get a good insight into this team on Sept. 9, as the Rebels travel to New Orleans, to take on Tulane, who beat USC, in last year’s Cotton Bowl, 46-45!

3. Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher is entering his 6th year in College Station, while he has won big in the living room (recruiting) evidenced by the fact that A&M is currently the 7th best recruiting program on SCFP (3 sites/4 year average) recruiting page. Yet, his winning percentage of 65%, the 25th best in the country is not reflective of his success on the recruiting trail. Fisher is 39-21 overall & 23-18 in the SEC. This discrepancy (recruiting & games won) coupled with Fisher annual salary is 9.15 million & his buyout in 2023 @ 76,800,000, let me say that again, 76.8 million, WOW! These facts essentially mean two (2) things, he is failing in his HC role and he will not be fired! For perspective, incoming Texas A&M President, M. Katherine Banks, was offered a salary $925,000, who, because of the the affects of the pandemics, Banks negotiated her salary down to 575,000 to help with A&M’s recovery! Wonder it the football staff will do something similar? Hopefully they have! Sorry , I cannot talk about A&M football, without leading with the absurdity of Fisher’s contract! The Aggies return 20 starters for the 2023 season! Ten (10) on offense, including their QB, Conner Weigman (started last 4 games, 896 yards, 55% completion rate. & a ratio of 8 TDs to 0 INTs). While the offense has talent (especially on the O-line), their defense has the 2nd best D-line & secondary in SEC preseason rankings, while the LBs are ranked 3rd. Finally Fisher has hired Robby Petrino as his new Offensive Co-Ordinator (OC), which should bring a new level of energy to the Aggies offensive! The interesting thing about A&M is tanking them 3rd may be to low or to high with equal accuracy? Last year they hammered LSU, 38-23 and in 2023 are capable of beating the Tigers, Baton Rouge and the Tide in College Station (lost last year on the last play of the game, 24-20); while they could fall to Auburn, the Mississippi schools & the Hogs and no one would be shocked!

2. Alabama: Saban enters hid 17th year at Alabama (194-27 over-all & 112 -18 in the SEC), he has won 6 National Championships @ Bama, 8 SEC Championships, & 13 West Divisions Crowns (if you include LSU, his #’s increase to 7, 10, & 15 respectively)! Saban will make 11.7 million in 2023, while the President of the University of Alabama, Stuart Bell, salary in 2021, was $698,407! Apparently Saban had a better year @ an institution whose primary function is Academics, a little strange that a coach would make 16.75 times as much as the academic leader in an academic environment! Ok, I’ll shut about salary! Bama returns 10 starters (5 on offense & 5 on defense) and is breaking in a new QB (who, is yet TBD & were in August). That said, per-usual, the Tide has abundance talent & un-usual for them, a scarcity of experience … as they enter the 2023 season! Their game on Sept. 9, in Tuscaloosa (that’s right; not a neutral site game … a Non-Conference (NC) home game … WOW that a-boy Nick)! As a result, the average, ‘blue collar’, Alabama Fan(s) do/does not have to mortgage the house to fly to ‘Moscow‘, (many of them would consider it) to see the game! This year, he or she gets to see Texas run on to the field @ Bryant-Denny! This Texas game, winning this game, will be critical to Bama’s return to the CFP! Early drama for the Tide! In 2023, Alabama travels to A&M (OCT. 7), plays host to LSU (Nov. 4), & the ‘Iron Bowl’ is at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium! Last year, Bama was a few plays away from losing 5 games, (Texas 20-19, A&M 24-20, & Ole Miss 30-24 / + losses to Tenn. 52-49 & LSU 32-31) In 2023, the Tide’s journey is going to be really interesting to follow and fun to watch! I cannot speak for you, yet, if I were you, I would ‘Tune-In’ , Alabama’s 2023 season will be one of the best stories in all of college football!

1 LSU: The last three coaches @ LSU have all had winning percentages over 70%. Nick Saban (2000-2004 / 48-16) 75%; Les Miles 2005-2014 / 114-34) 77%; & Ed Orgeron (2016 2021 / 71-51) 74%! Brian Kelly has hit the field running, winning the best division in football (SEC West), going 10-4 in doing so, and winning 72% of the games he coached in 2022! The Tigers took down Alabama, 32-31 in OT! The Tide scored 1st in OT, to go up, 31-24. LSU then scored cutting the lead to 31-30 and instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game, they elected to go for 2, made it, and beat the Tide, 32-31! LSU, after the Alabama win, at least in part, lost some their focus. They survived Arkansas, 13-10, they did hammer UAB, 41-10, before losing to A&M, 38-23 & UGA, 50-30, in the SEC Championship Game! The Tigers, re-grouped, ending their season on a high, blasting B-10 runner-up, Purdue, in the Citrus Bowl, 63-7! This year the Bengal Tigers return 15 starters (8* on offense & 7 on D), including their QB, Jayden Daniels (2913 yards, 68.9% completion rate and a ratio of 17 TDs to 3 picks). The Tigers hit the transfer portal for an upgrade @ Running Back and landed, ND’s Logan Diggs (824 Yards, 4 TDs & 5.0 YPC), a Louisiana native and their projected starter @ RB. Last year QB, Jayden Daniels, was their leading rusher (885 Yards, 11 TDs, & 4.8 YPC). LSU’s leading receiver, Malik Nabers (1017 Yards, 14.1 YPR, & 3 TDs), a pre-season 1st team all SEC & a 2nd team pre-season All-American, is back. They also return three (3) other receivers, who combined for 93 receptions and over 1,000 yards! The O-Line returns 4 players with starting experience and is regarded as one of the best in the SEC. The strength of their 2023 defense is in the front seven. D-Line is led by DT Mekhi Wingo (3rd team All American) & DE Ovie Oghoufu, while the LB position features, a pre-season All American, SLB, Harold Perkins & 3rd team All- SEC, Omar Speights. The secondary returns only one starter, SS, Greg Brooks, however, they have added 5 transfers, who, on paper, appear to be better then those who departed the program. The Tigers open up against Florida State, while the game has impact zero on their SEC asperations it will have major implications within the CFP landscape! In November, the Tigers play Bama (NOV. 4), crossover rival. Florida (Nov. 11) & Texas A&M on Nov. 25th! A stretch that should determine who wins the West!

This entry was posted in #1 Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *