Now that the 2018 college football season is over, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2019. Also, we can shift some of our focus to the basketball court, where SEC play is just getting underway.
There have already been some crazy upsets this year, including South Carolina’s 2-0 start to the SEC schedule with a road win at Florida and a home victory against a ranked Mississippi State squad.
What the future holds is uncertain, but one thing is for sure — this is going to be a fun basketball season. The next round of games is on Saturday, so tune in then to see how your team performs.
Without further ado, here are your questions for this week’s SDS Mailbag:
Just now transitioning from college football to college basketball season. What did I miss? Are there any teams other than Duke? And are there any players other than Zion Williamson?
I had to do some pretty extensive research for this question, but I did determine that there are indeed a few teams other than Duke out there in the college basketball world.
In fact, one of those teams resides in Knoxville, Tennessee, and goes by the unusual nickname of the “Volunteers.” Rick Barnes’ squad is one of the tops in the country, and has been cruising through its schedule so far.
While the rest of the conference is a mess right now (Auburn losing at Ole Miss, Mississippi State losing at South Carolina, Kentucky losing at Alabama, etc.), the Vols continue to dominate, and even have a win over then-No. 1 Gonzaga on their non-conference resume.
If you’re tired of Zion Williamson and Duke dominating the highlights on sports networks, I’d recommend checking out Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield leading the Vols without much fanfare. They deserve more attention nationally, and we can get that started with you, Robert.
Is Georgia back on the decline?
The Bulldogs had a rough end to the 2018 season, getting thumped by Texas in the Sugar Bowl, losing 5-star QB Justin Fields to Ohio State and several playmakers early to the NFL Draft, and watching both coordinators take other jobs. However, I don’t think this is the signal of any sort of decline.
Yes, it’ll be important for coach Kirby Smart to manage this offseason right, but look at Alabama. Nick Saban loses top assistants all the time (including Smart a few years ago), has players transfer out of the program and even loses bowl/College Football Playoff games (like this year’s beatdown against Clemson).
Yet, the Tide have the No. 1 2019 recruiting class and will simply reload and contend for an SEC title again next fall. Who has the No. 2 class, you ask? Why, it’s the Georgia Bulldogs.
Smart has two very important hires to make this offseason, and if he pushes the right buttons there, expect the Dawgs to win the SEC East once again in 2019.
Who’s your favorite SEC mascot?
There are several great SEC mascots, but I’m going to have to go with my school’s mascot — Truman the Tiger. Aubie is a good one, too, but Truman has that Hobbes-like quality that makes him the top tiger.
Here’s my top five when it comes to mascots across the conference (mascots only, not live animals):
- Truman (Mizzou)
- Smokey (Tennessee)
- Aubie (Auburn)
- Al the Elephant (Alabama)
- Hairy Dawg (Georgia)
In last place is Ole Miss’s new shark mascot. I mean, come on.
How many different teams do you see having a chance to compete for division titles next year?
Well, Alabama and Georgia will certainly be the favorites once again in 2019, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see them have a rematch in Atlanta the first weekend in December. That doesn’t mean there will be no challengers, though.
In the SEC West, I think Texas A&M might prove to be the biggest challenger to the Crimson Tide’s throne. In Jimbo Fisher’s second year, the Aggies will have plenty of talent returning to the field and, after taking a step forward in 2018, another step in that direction could have them competing for the West crown. Additionally, I think LSU is going to be a strong program again, and that Auburn-LSU game could decide which team is Alabama’s biggest challenger.
Auburn usually plays the Tide well, and if the Tigers find the right quarterback, they’ll be a tough out in the Iron Bowl.
Over in the East, you have Georgia, followed by Florida. The Gators took a huge step forward in Dan Mullen’s first year in charge, winning 10 games and spanking Michigan in the Peach Bowl. With a number of key players on both sides of the ball returning, they could be even better in 2019.
Tennessee is still a year or two away, I think, so that leaves me with my SEC East dark horse — Mizzou. Call me a homer if you want, but the Tigers offense returns RB Larry Rountree III, TE Albert Okwuegbunam, WRs Jalen Knox, Johnathon Johnson, Kam Scott and others and adds former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant. The Tigers may not end up winning the East, but they’ll be a team no one wants to face (just ask Florida).
So that’s seven teams — half of the conference — that I see as having decent chances at division titles.
Have a question for the SDS Mailbag? Tweet at us using #SDSMailbag or email ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.