No matter what I write, never a week goes by without visceral reactions from regular readers in the comments section.

That’s sort of the point, of course. While I don’t publish anything with the specific intention of riling up any particular fan base, some topics simply make such a response inevitable. We all love our teams.

What I can’t help but notice is that stories with positive spin are largely ignored from a comments perspective. However, when I take a tone that can even loosely be construed as critical, keyboards start to be mashed from Columbia (S.C) to Columbia (Mo.). There is a stronger instinct to broadcast disagreement than agreement.

It’s a chicken-or-the-egg argument. Is the media to blame for slanting too negative with its coverage, or are readers to blame for consuming more bad news than good? There’s no correct answer to that age-old question.

Here are some of the my favorite comments from this past week. The Magnolia State was especially boisterous the past few days:


After the Crimson Tide turned a 24-3 deficit into a 48-43 victory at Ole Miss, I proclaimed them the SEC’s only CFP contender.

Crazy as it seems coming off a fourth national championship in seven years, I think Alabama might be better than ever in 2016 under coach Nick Saban. The offense is now catching up to what is always a dominant defense.

But aside from ‘Bama being so terrifying, what other team is capable of winning the conference with no more than one loss? In the West, Ole Miss is already dead and buried. LSU doesn’t appear to have what it takes to get past the Tide. While Texas A&M and Arkansas have been nice stories so far, 11-1 seems like a long shot.

With Tennessee not making the leap and Georgia perhaps a year away, Florida can surely win the East again. But remember how badly the Gators were throttled by Florida State, Alabama and Michigan when we thought they were good last season.

Also, a two-loss SEC champ likely wouldn’t make the playoff. There will be too many zero- and one-loss squads with better résumés.

(As coincidence would have it, I actually did write for my middle school newspaper. No comments section back then, though.)


In my weekly installment of The Hangover, I questioned Ole Miss for coming out in shotgun formation with 1st-and-goal at Alabama’s 1-yard line.

Predictably, the Rebels settled for a field goal after not being able to punch it into the end zone from the shadow of the goal line. Spread offense or not, sometimes you just have to go heavy and be physical up front.

Back in the ’90s, when NFL franchises like the Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons were employing the run-and-shoot, they literally eliminated fullbacks and tight ends off their rosters entirely. Between the 20s, they could throw it on anyone. But in short-yardage and goal-line situations, they were a disaster.

Sep 17, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze walks onto the field to check on an injured player during the first quarter of the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

As far as not mentioning any of the excuses Mississippi fans are using for their 1-2 start, some of them are indeed valid. But The Hangover is a place for singular observations, and that 1st-and-goal failure resonated with me.

The Rebs have shown through three weeks that they can play with anybody. However, they haven’t proven that they can beat anybody.


Considering how quickly all of Chad Kelly’s stated goals for 2016 went up in smoke, I wondered if returning to Ole Miss was a mistake.

The consensus in the comments section was that it wasn’t, even from Mississippi State fans. But he didn’t come back to “have a good season.” He came back to win a title — no chance now, of course — and improve his stock for the NFL.

Had Kelly declared for the draft as a junior, he would’ve been considered a mid-round prospect, so Rounds 3-5. The knocks against him were his less-than-ideal size and propensity for turnovers, plus scouts really don’t like spread-style schemes. He’s still the same size, obviously. He’s also still turning it over. He’s still in the same system, too.

Why would a franchise suddenly take Kelly in Round 1 or 2 now? Just because he’s a year older? What good does more experience at the college level do him if he’s the same exact player on tape that he was before?

Not only did Dak Prescott improve junior to senior, but MSU’s offense incorporated more pro-style concepts to help him develop. Neither is the case for Kelly.


I wrote a column Sunday suggesting that Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio’s unavailability put a damper on the upcoming Tennessee game.

He may not have exactly been setting the world on fire in Gainesville, but he was showing improvement from week to week. Considering how bad Treon Harris was in 2015, Del Rio had been light years better under center.

To some degree, yes, Volunteers cornerback Cameron Sutton got “a token mention” for also being sidelined for this SEC East showdown. Along with linebackers Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, UT has been bitten by the injury bug, too. Vols were dropping like flies this past Saturday against lowly Ohio.

Sep 17, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Ohio Bobcats wide receiver Sebastian Smith (6) and Tennessee Volunteers defensive back Cameron Sutton (23) during the first quarter at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Nevertheless, while Sutton (above) is no doubt a better player than Del Rio, that doesn’t mean his absence is more significant. Teez Tabor is similarly superior to Joshua Dobbs, but no Dobbs would be more troubling for Tennessee than no Tabor for UF.

It’s not a matter of picking protagonists. The topic was Florida-focused. Had it been Volunteers-centric, Sutton would have gotten more space.


My weekly quarterback rankings always spark colorful commentary. That’s what rankings do, especially at the game’s most important position.

Previously, Kelly had occupied the top spot by a wide margin. But two epic collapses in three weeks is hard to ignore. QBs always get too much praise and too much blame. At 1-2, it’s time for less of the former and more of the latter.

Strictly from a statistical perspective, Trevor Knight has been somewhat mediocre for Texas A&M. His completion percentage (52.9) is low. His TD-to-INT ratio (5-to-2) is average. Still, the Aggies are 3-0 and have looked impressive aside from that fourth-quarter nap they took against UCLA. And that was the defense, not Knight.

Under coach Kevin Sumlin, A&M has had a handful of signal callers put up ridiculous numbers in the passing game. Besides that epic upset at Alabama four years ago, has it won him anything? Knight’s team-first leadership has been refreshing.

Honestly, Knight is sort of like the valedictorian of summer school. There aren’t a lot of honor-roll passers in the SEC these days.

John Crist is the senior writer for Saturday Down South, a member of the FWAA and a voter for the Heisman Trophy. Send him an e-mail, like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.