Randy Smith: Way Too Early Thoughts On SEC Football

Thursday, May 18, 2017 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
We're still more than three months away from the start of the college football season and, while that three months will pass by agonizingly slow to most college football fans, I thought I would give you an early insight into what we might expect this fall. Note that a lot of these thoughts will be subject to change between now and September 2nd when the season officially begins. That's why I'm calling it the "Way Too Early" Thoughts on SEC Football.

Despite what you may hear from Knoxville, the quarterback situation will be in good shape when the Vols open up with Georgia Tech.
Quinton Dormady will win the starting position and, while he won't make fans forget Josh Dobbs, he will be good enough to guide the Tennessee offense. While Coach Butch Jones' seat will remain extremely hot until at least mid-season, debates will take place all summer long regarding his future. If Tennessee can beat a very good Georgia Tech squad in their opener in Atlanta, they have a chance to be 8-4 again or even 9-3. It remains to be seen if that will be good enough to keep Jones on as head coach, but Vols fans need to be aware of what they wish for. Even 7-5 is not enough to fire a head coach, considering where the program was when Butch took over. That opener with the Yellow Jackets holds a lot of significance.     

As for the rest of the SEC East, I look for Florida to edge Georgia for the title, with Kentucky making a big run to finish in the top three or four teams. South Carolina will also be better, in fact from top to bottom the East will be better than what we've seen in the past few seasons.

In the SEC West, Alabama will likely be picked to win it again and rightly so. The Crimson Tide will have a definite chip on the shoulder due to that last second loss to Clemson in the National Championship Game back in January.  Head coach Nick Saban has already stated that loss was one of the toughest he's ever had to face. That means trouble for everyone on the Tide's schedule this fall. In fact, I'm making an early prediction that 'Bama will win the 2017 national title.

Auburn should be better which means they will challenge Alabama and LSU for the West championship. Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are all trending down in the SEC pecking order, while Texas A&M is about where they were a year ago. Unless the Aggies can truly challenge for the West title, Coach Kevin Sumlin's seat could become as hot as the seat under Butch Jones.

Finally, believe it or not the SEC may no longer be the best conference in college football. After what happened in 2016, that honor should likely go to the ACC. At this point in time, if you chose the top five programs from the two leagues combined, Alabama might be the only SEC school mentioned. Clemson, Florida State, Louisville and possibly Virginia Tech are all better right now than the other thirteen teams in the SEC. The record between the two conferences in head to head match ups last season was 10-4 in favor of the ACC.  I know that could cause some debate but that's what the next three months are mostly good for.

* * *

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.  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 30 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. They have two married children, Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith. They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.


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