Warning signs: Teams that could take a step back
Sustained success in the SEC is perhaps the hardest thing to accomplish in college football.
Too many times, we see teams have spectacular seasons or multiple division-winning seasons, only to come crashing down and have a reality check. It’s happens. That’s why college football is so beautiful; it’s cyclical. It’s the best regular season in all of sports.
We look at three programs that could take a step back in 2015:
Mississippi State Bulldogs
The 2014 season will be talked about for many years in Starkville. Even when glancing at last year’s SEC West division standings, it’s incredible to relive the journey Mississippi State’s team went on. It was Dan Mullen’s first-ever 10-win season, and it propelled Dak Prescott into one of the most talked about players in the country. Reaching No. 1 in the country was such an accomplishment in college football’s toughest division. It was chaotic and impressive on so many levels.
But the reality check could set in this season. The storm clouds started brewing during the Egg Bowl. MSU went into the Egg Bowl as one of the hottest teams in the country, only to lose to Ole Miss then to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
The Bulldogs also lost three of five starters along the offensive line and lost eight starters on defense, as well as coordinator Geoff Collins. My fear is the offense will lean on Dak Prescott too much, and the offense will have to play from behind too often.
Can Mississippi State duplicate its 2014 success? Can they cash in on the momentum? Questions loom ahead of 2015.
That stranglehold Missouri has had on the SEC East the last two seasons could be gone. The Tigers have made it look easy the last two season, clawing their way to Atlanta only to lose to the SEC West champion two straight seasons.
Most have made a mockery of the East because Missouri has taken other teams to the woodshed. Great timing, favorable schedules and good coaching are all part of winning division crowns. College football is all about timing and the schedule, and Missouri has another favorable schedule in 2015.
But it’s not been a good offseason. Maty Mauk hasn’t progressed in the passing game the way many have hoped. In fact, he may have regressed. Missouri has also lost two defensive linemen for the season in Marcus Loud, who was dismissed earlier this spring, and Harold Brantley, who has several injuries from his recent car wreck. Combine that with losing many receiving weapons, and Markus Golden and Shane Ray, and Missouri could be in for a setback this season.
South Carolina Gamecocks
My colleague Brad Crawford recently warned everyone that you simply can’t count South Carolina out in the SEC East race. Unfortunately, I don’t share the same optimism. The Gamecocks are hurting at quarterback, and they return a defense that was brutal at times. Yes, they have added some key pieces at defensive line, and the linebackers are pretty dang good. The offense, however, may not look anything like a Steve Spurrier-coached offense in 2015. Quarterback, tackling and defensive line questions are casting a dark shadow over the Ol’ Ball Coach’s team this season. Now, that’s not to say they can’t surprise; I just don’t see that happening.