Quick. There’s still time. Go run out to the store, get your significant other a Valentine’s Day present, come back and continue reading this story.
I can wait.
You got it? Good. I apologize if reading “Valentine’s Day” in a headline caused your stomach to drop. Now that we got the real stuff out of the way, let’s discuss your first love, SEC football.
There are plenty of things to love about SEC football. Valentine’s Day is a good time to remind you about what specifically you should love about your team in 2018.
So I did just that:
Alabama — Mispronunciations of “Tua Tagovailoa”
I’m so ready for this. There’s something about names with a lot of vowels that cause people to freak out. They get in their own heads. You’re going to hear so many different pronunciations of the Alabama quarterback’s name that by October, he’ll be known everywhere as just “Tua.” I’ll probably do the same. That is, when I’m not calling him by the nickname I have for him: “Steve Young.”
Arkansas — All the points, please
I don’t know how much defense Arkansas is going to play, but I feel pretty confident about Chad Morris lighting up his fair share of SEC scoreboards. Think 2017 Mizzou. That’s the type of attack that Morris brought to SMU, and while there’s no guarantee it’ll yield the same results against SEC defenses, it has to be more entertaining than whatever offense that was in Fayetteville last year.
Auburn — Loose as a goose Gus
So you know how Malzahn tends to have that nervous look when he crosses his arms and looks like he’s awaiting a verdict?
Yep, that’s the look.
I’m thinking this new contract changes that a little bit. With a new 7-year deal that’ll pay him $7 million annually, I think Malzahn can finally loosen up a bit. That means we see some personality from him in moments besides beating the No. 1 team and saying “we whipped the dog crap” out of them. I mean, even Saban is good for the occasional ripped jeans rant. I’d love to hear Malzahn rant on why hats are dumb and visors are the best.
Florida — Todd Grantham + Cece Jefferson
I would have loved to have seen another year of Grantham working with Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat at Mississippi State, but I’ll gladly take a year of Grantham and Jefferson. The Florida defensive lineman is already one of the premier run-stopping defensive ends in college football. Add in Grantham and that’s only going to cement that belief even more. The new 3-4 will have an adjustment period, but I’m excited to see just how dominant Jefferson can be working with a defensive mind like Grantham.
Georgia — The D’Andre Swift Show
Don’t get me wrong. I loved watching Nick Chubb and Sony Michel when they got rolling. But I couldn’t stop watching Georgia in blowouts last year because it meant Swift got a heavier workload. The true freshman showed me enough as a do-it-all back to lead me believe that he’s worth being in the Heisman Trophy discussion to start the season. That offensive line is still going to be solid, and with a veteran Jake Fromm having more offensive freedom, I think those running lanes are going to open up for Swift to become a monster in that offense.
Kentucky — Benny Snell’s chip
Speaking of running backs, Snell is going to be a joy to watch in 2018. Shoot, he was a joy to watch in 2017. You know, when he wasn’t ejected for refusing help up from an official.
Kentucky RB Benny Snell Jr. was ejected for this. What a bleeping joke pic.twitter.com/5M0KV24DGi
— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) December 29, 2017
I think for a fiery guy like Snell, a moment like that can set the tone for an entire offseason. It’ll be a different story for the Kentucky tailback this year coming off the first-team All-SEC selection, but I’d still expect Snell to be the player that we saw down the stretch in 2017.
LSU — That season opener against The U in Dallas
Is it Sept. 2 yet? I’m all in on the big opening week showdowns. Non-conference clashes like this one are too good to wait until bowl season. Given what both squads have on defense, it’d be surprising to see a shootout in Dallas. That’s OK. There will be defensive stars all over the field with Devin White, Rashard Lawrence, Jaquan Johnson and Michael Jackson. This could wind up being the best opening weekend game, and even better, everyone will get to watch it because it’s on Sunday night.
Mississippi State — Joe Moorhead’s swagger
I’ve been telling people this from the moment Moorhead was hired. The dude has some East Coast swagger about him. It shows up in his personality and it shows up in his play-calling. Moorhead was talking about ring sizes the first time he met with MSU players. The guy has an ability to keep defenses off-balanced like few in the sport can. He might actually do a better job of that than his predecessor Dan Mullen. StarkVegas is going to still be all sorts of entertaining with Moorhead running the show.
Missouri — Another year of Drew Lock
There haven’t been many SEC quarterbacks like Lock in recent memory. That’s not to say that Lock is the best SEC quarterback we’ve seen lately, but the degree of difficult of some of his throws are a sight to see.
— Máximo Avance NCAA (@tazoniza) December 28, 2017
Lock has the ability to drop dimes like an NFL quarterback, which is why he was getting next-level pressure to enter the draft early. I thought he was ready to do that. Instead, he decided to return for another year to improve his accuracy and perhaps insert himself into the first-round conversation. Lucky for us, we’ll get to see plenty more dimes from Lock in 2018.
Ole Miss — That season opener in Houston
In case you can’t tell, I’m a fan of points. Needless to say, I’m expecting to see lots of them when Ole Miss and Texas Tech face off. The two high-powered offenses will trigger the phrase “Texas shootout” more times than you can count. Ole Miss, in many ways, is the SEC’s version of Texas Tech. Well, at least the Rebels were last year. Call me crazy, but something tells me the battle in Houston will have a different feel than the LSU-Miami showdown in Dallas the following day.
South Carolina — The return of Deebo Samuel
In a season that was loaded with brutal season-enders, Samuel’s was right up there with the worst of them. Samuel was electric in those first 3 games for the Gamecocks, which that offense desperately needed. With Christian Kirk gone, one could argue that Samuel is the top returning weapon in the SEC.
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) September 9, 2017
That is, of course, assuming that his broken leg is back to 100 percent. Either way, the Gamecocks will have a more experienced supporting cast, as well as an improved Jake Bentley under center. That should yield some big results for Samuel’s final season in Columbia.
Tennessee — Jeremy Pruitt’s approach
In case you missed it, I wrote about this the other day. So far, I love what Pruitt is doing to clean up Tennessee. He assembled an ideal staff with three former Vols, and he paid up to get his offensive coordinator. Pruitt’s handling of the Jauan Jennings situation is right on the money so far, and his dismissal of the Smokey Greys was a wise move, too. Yeah, Pruitt missed out on some big-time recruits and some of which were in viral fashion. Still, Pruitt at least got those recruits on campus for a visit and made it to the table. Pruitt finishing with a top-20 class still capped off what’s been an impressive first 2 months on the job.
Texas A&M — Jimbo Fisher vs. Nick Saban in the SEC West
Remember how we all questioned why Fisher would leave Florida State for Texas A&M to face Saban in a divisional game instead of a Playoff game? Well, those SEC West showdowns are happening starting this year. Half of the active college football coaches with national titles will battle every season. That should make for great theater. Fisher lost his only previous meeting against Saban in that “Greatest Opener Ever” last year, which ultimately was the beginning of the end for the former Florida State coach in Tallahassee. I’ve got a feeling Fisher will have more success than Kevin Sumlin did against the Tide in his final 5 years.
Vanderbilt — Jason Tarver’s presence
Jason Tarver’s presence means that Derek Mason is no longer his own defensive coordinator. I love that move. Why? Even the best defensive minds in the sport aren’t their own defensive coordinators. Nick Saban isn’t. Kirby Smart isn’t. Shoot, not even Bill Belichick does that job himself. Mason’s willingness to pass that duty to Tarver, someone with college and NFL experience running a defense, suggests that he’s willing to admit fault. I love it when a coach who allows 43.3 points per SEC game realizes that changes need to be made. Warms my heart.
Source: Saturday Down South