SDS Week 15 Mailbag: Where Kelly Bryant ranks among returning SEC QBs, ranking the Chick-fil-A sauces, blasting UCF and more
With the SEC Championship Game behind us and bowl season still a couple of weeks away, this is a bit of a dead period for SEC football. However, the early signing period is just a couple of weeks away, so there’s some important recruiting time coming up.
Still, it’s a great time to dive into the world of college basketball for a couple of weeks before turning your attention back to football. Currently, the SEC has four ranked teams, including three in the top 10 — No. 7 Tennessee, No. 8 Auburn and No. 9 Kentucky.
Here are our SEC basketball power rankings for this week, and they could undergo a big shakeup this weekend. Be sure to check out Tennessee taking on No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday.
Here are this week’s top questions for the #SDSMailbag:
After Mizzou landed Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant this week, where does he rank on the list of quarterbacks returning to the SEC next year?
Christmas came early for Mizzou fans this year, as Kelly Bryant decided to use his final year of eligibility to replace Drew Lock as the Tigers’ starting quarterback in 2019. Bryant led the Clemson Tigers to the College Football Playoff last year before losing his job this year to 5-star freshman Trevor Lawrence, so he is an elite talent.
He’s definitely an immediate top-five quarterback in the SEC next season, and here’s how I’d rank those top handful of quarterbacks coming back:
- Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama — This one is obvious. If Tagovailoa were draft-eligible, he’d be the first quarterback off the board this year.
- Jake Fromm, Georgia — Fromm doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, but he has been even better than he was last year for the Bulldogs. He’s another guy who could be a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
- Kelly Bryant, Mizzou — As mentioned above, Bryant has led a top team to a Playoff berth, so he’s a good quarterback. He probably most resembles a guy like Jalen Hurts, and that’s a good thing for Mizzou.
- Kellen Mond, Texas A&M — With a year in Jimbo Fisher’s system under his belt, the sky’s the limit for Mond next year. I expect big things from him on a weekly basis in 2019.
- Jake Bentley, South Carolina — This is assuming Bentley doesn’t declare for the NFL Draft, but he’d be wise to stay in school for another year to improve his stock.
Honorable mention to Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano, who really impressed me with how much he improved this year. Of course, if Hurts ends up at Auburn (or somewhere else in the SEC), he’d be a worthy inclusion on this list, too.
How will the Big Ten and Pac-12 both missing out on the CFP again in 2018 affect the rest of the bowl season? Should we expect inflated bowl records due to favorable matchups from “punching down” (like the Big 10 in 2017) or will we see one or both conferences extend their underwhelming regular seasons into the postseason (like the Pac-12 in 2017), more or less justifying their CFP exclusion?
Interestingly, the SEC and Pac-12 don’t have any specific bowl agreements to face each other, so the Pac-12 dodges a huge bullet there. Since it doesn’t involve the SEC, I’m not overly qualified to judge how they’ll do, but I’d expect them to do well (outside of the Rose Bowl, where I think Ohio State will beat Washington handily).
The Big Ten, on the other hand, should have another year of inflated bowl stats due to the SEC’s dominance. Because four SEC teams are in either the Playoff or the New Year’s Six games, the other bowl matchups — of which there are four between the conferences — are favorable to the Big Ten.
Florida has never beaten Michigan, and now the Wolverines will play the Gators in the Peach Bowl. Meanwhile, Mississippi State has a seemingly bad matchup against Iowa, and Penn State should be a tough game for Kentucky. I don’t even feel particularly comfortable with the Auburn-Purdue matchup, although I think Auburn’s defense is the best the Boilermakers will have faced this year.
The Big Ten finished 7-1 last season, though, with Michigan collapsing late against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl as the only loss. I’d expect the conference to do worse this time around.
To answer your other question, I don’t think that bowl records refute or justify a conference’s exclusion from the Playoff. If Washington State had beaten Washington and won the Pac-12, I would have been irate if they didn’t get in. However, Ohio State’s blowout road loss to an inferior foe was once again what kept the Big Ten out. Oklahoma’s loss was by only three points, so it is completely justifiable that the Sooners got the final Playoff spot.
If the Big Ten could have its top team win the games it is supposed to (cough, Michigan at Ohio State, cough, Ohio State at Purdue, cough), then the conference would be a shoo-in to every Playoff. Alabama kept its loss to two scores at Auburn last year, while Ohio State got blown out at Iowa. This year, the Buckeyes got hammered by Purdue. Win those games and you’re in — it’s that simple for the Big Ten.
Everyone gives UCF crap for their strength of schedule. But why haven’t SEC teams been given the same scrutiny with their non-conference scheduling? Yes, there are good matchups to be found every year, but why are SEC teams ever scheduling FCS opponents?
Well, for one, the SEC teams play eight games a year against other SEC teams. To be fair, I don’t like the “Cupcake Week” in Week 12, either, but we need to stop acting like UCF’s nonconference schedule is great, too.
What has UCF done in nonconference play the past two seasons? A win over Pitt this year is fine, but just because the Panthers made it to the ACC title game doesn’t mean that’s a “quality” win, per se. In 2017, they had a game against Maine canceled and beat up on Austin Peay — both FCS squads.
If the Knights want to be taken more seriously (and believe me, I’d love to see UCF get a chance in the Playoff, just not at the expense of an elite Power 5 team), then they should be embarrassed to ever have an FCS team on their schedule. There’s no reason for the Knights to have a game scheduled against Florida A&M in 2019.
Before we criticize the SEC teams for scheduling an FCS opponent, we need to really question why a team like UCF isn’t taking advantage of every single opportunity it has to bolster its strength of schedule to get on par with the big boys.
And now for your non-football question of the week:
After watching a million Chick-fil-A ads this year during SEC games, please rank the seven sauces.
As we all know, you really can’t go wrong when you’re talking about Chick-fil-A, so I do enjoy a lot of these sauces. However, I have a bit of a bold pick for No. 1:
- Garlic & Herb Ranch — I know this is going to be contentious, but I’m an unapologetic ranch fanatic, so of course it’s going to be No. 1 on my list. I won’t hear any arguments otherwise!
- Chick-fil-A sauce — Naturally, this is why many people come to Chick-fil-A, and if I weren’t such a huge fan of ranch, this would easily be the best sauce on the list.
- Barbecue sauce — Chicken and barbecue go together like peanut butter and jelly. This sweet-and-smoky sauce is a great addition to any Chick-fil-A item.
- Honey mustard sauce — Why get the regular honey mustard sauce when you can get the same flavor and much more in the Chick-fil-A sauce?
- Zesty buffalo sauce — Buffalo chicken is one of my favorite things. This sauce is a little more watery than other buffalo sauces, but it is still absolutely delicious.
- Sriracha sauce — I like sriracha, I just don’t really need it on my chicken. I much prefer it on eggs, so I’d stick with putting it on the breakfast items.
- Polynesian sauce — I know a lot of people like this, but it’s a bit too sweet for me. No way I’m getting it when there are so many other great sauces on the menu.
In case you feel the need to yell at me for my love of ranch, my Twitter is @AdamSpencer4. Bring it.
BONUS: Last week was brutal for Dobbe’s Locks of the Week, but he’ll try to enter bowl season with an above-.500 with this pick for the Army-Navy game on Saturday (line via MyBookie):
- Navy (+230) vs. Army — Great value there. Army is getting all the uniform hype, but Navy has some slick ones as well. Plus, George H.W. Bush was a Navy Lieutenant, so there’s a big-time storyline for the Midshipmen.
Dobbe’s Locks season record: 11-11-1
Have questions for next week’s SDS Mailbag? Tweet at us using #SDSMailbag or email ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.