Top Five in SEC Football with the Most to Prove

Top Five in SEC Football with the Most to Prove

SEC Defenders with the Most to Prove

Every football player who commits to an SEC football team is greeted with opened arms and unrealistic expectations.  But when he commits with five stars tacked to his name, he’s an instant rock star.  And when he commits on an SEC Defense, oh boy, he’s got a lot to prove.

The Cornerback in SEC Football with the Most To Prove

Highly recruited five-star cornerback out of Tampa, Florida, Vernon Hargreaves III finished his second year ranked number one in the SEC for breaking up passes.  He made three interceptions each year he wore the Gator uni.  He improved from 26 tackles his first year and got 31 last year.

Is Hargreaves living up to his potential?

Total domination reigned in the Alabama game when much of the day fans watched Hargreaves get burned by Amari Cooper.  The game ended in a 41 – 21 home game win for Alabama and put Amari Cooper on course to break several school records that season.  Simply stated, Alabama made Hargreaves look really bad.   Sims threw for 445 yards, the second-best passing performance in school history, and Cooper scored three touchdowns.

When asked how he was able to dominate his defender, Hargreaves, Alabama Wide Receiver, Amari Cooper said, “I just took what I watched on film and tried to take advantage of it.” But when asked what he saw that he could take advantage of, he replied, “I don’t want to share that.”  Cooper isn’t telling but Hargreaves better figure it out fast, because he is the Cornerback in the SEC with the most to prove this year.

The Defensive Lineman with the most to prove in the SEC

Auburn’s no. 55, Carl Lawson, makes fiery game-winning plays, the kind that are talked about around churches and bar stools across the great state of Alabama forever.  Really?  Not exactly.  Oh, it’s true the 6’2” superstar wins games for Auburn, but they’re the type of plays that get out-shined by the sparklers shooting off the skill position players.  Plays like Lawson’s key fourth down, fourth quarter, red zone stop of Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon in the 2013 Iron Bowl, which won the game before anybody knew what “Kick Six” was.

Recruited to Auburn with those heavy five stars to his name, Lawson was the third highest ranked Freshman in the SEC for Sacks.  Missing the 2014 season with an ACL season-ending injury, Lawson is a redshirt sophomore.

Insert new Defensive Coordinator, Will Muschamp returning to Auburn after being fired from his job as the head coach at Florida after four seasons in the Gator’s shade of orange and blue.  Muschamp coached Gator’s Defensive End, Dante Fowler all the way to third overall in the NFL Draft.  In Lawson’s first year with Auburn, he outranked then Sophomore Fowler in number of Sacks among the ranking of SEC football players, Fowler was ranked 25th behind true freshman, Carl Lawson who was ranked 19th.

Highly recruited, missing his second season, comparisons to a third overall NFL Draft player, a new D-Core and an Auburn football team desperate to find an identity on defense, Carl Lawson is the Defensive Lineman with the most to prove.

The Defense in SEC Football with the most to prove

Every southerner is raised knowing a thing or two about college football and one of the basics learned early on is, “Defense wins Championships.”  Alabama makes a living on defense and its defense has won a lot of championships.  So let’s take a little True or False Test to see how well we know Alabama’s Defense.

True or False?

In each of the last five Alabama football seasons

1. Alabama ranked number one in SEC football for allowing the fewest points scored by their opponents on the season.

2. Alabama was ranked in the top two in the SEC in defending long passing plays.

3. Alabama lead the SEC in Red Zone Defense.

4. Alabama was number one in the SEC in allowing the fewest long plays from the line of scrimmage.

5. The Tide was ranked in the top two in SEC football for allowing the fewest plays by their opponents each season.

6. For the last four years, Alabama had the number one or two passing defense in the conference.

If you answered True, you are correct if you excluded the 2014 season.  Last year Alabama’s ranking severely dropped to the bottom half of SEC football in each of these six categories.  They fell to ninth in allowing the fewest long plays from the line of scrimmage.  They dropped to eleventh in allowing the fewest plays by their opponents.  The finished dead last in the SEC football ranking defending long passing plays.

In championship years, Alabama allows as few as six and as many as eleven TD passes per season.  Last year they allowed seventeen, including three by Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace who completed three to hand Alabama their only regular season loss in 2014.

Despite the backward trend of the defense last year, Alabama’s Defensive Coordinator, Kirby Smart, in his eighth season with the Tide was given a sweet $200,000 per year raise making him the highest paid assistant coach in SEC football and second highest paid overall.

Dropping from first to almost worst in the SEC last year, the Alabama Defense is the team with the most to prove.

The  Quarterback in SEC Football with the Most To Prove

A second round NFL Draft hopeful, Mississippi State’s QB, Dak Prescott could have left school for the NFL Draft last year and instead, returned to Starkville.  Why did Dak come back?

Prescott missed part of his sophomore year in 2013, including Mississippi State’s home game against No. 1 Alabama, where the Bulldog’s offense failed to score.  The year prior, Prescott’s freshman year, playing back-up to Tyler Wilson, Prescott’s two yard TD pass in the fourth quarter was the only touchdown the Bulldogs hung on Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2012.  So last year, leading up to his first time to face Alabama as a starter, Prescott said, “if I can score in there as a freshman, than it can happen again.”  He did score there, but it wasn’t enough and the Tide gave No. 1 Mississippi State their first loss on the 2014 season that day.

The Bulldogs went on to win all their regular season games except their in-state rival, Ole Miss, when Prescott was sacked three times by the Ole Miss “Sharks” defense and held to 48 yards rushing.  Final Egg Bowl score, 31 – 17.  Prescott had a pretty good outing in the Orange Bowl, but the team came up short losing to ACC’s Georgia Tech, 49 – 34.  Finishing eighth in the Heisman voting gave Dak Prescott the best placement of any player in the history of Mississippi State football.

Finishing high, but still coming up short in the Heisman voting and three big games.  Dak Prescott is the quarterback with the most to prove.

The State with the Most to Prove in SEC Football

How horrible is it when a team you overlooked, considered a cupcake, beats your team and ruins your perfect undefeated season?  For Auburn and Alabama fans, those blows were delivered by the teams of the Egg Bowl, one state to the west, Mississippi State and Ole Miss in two consecutive weeks of the 2014 college football season.  The first two weeks of October last year, Alabama fell victim to the Ole Miss Sharks, 23 – 17, for the first time in ten seasons.  Auburn didn’t get the memo in time, that Mississippi State was not the SEC West bottom dweller of years gone by either and was beat in an away game, 38 – 28, the following week.

The memo might have looked like this,

“Prepare hard, the two teams in Mississippi don’t suck anymore.”

Both teams in the catfish state took what seemed to be a meteoric rise to prominence when in the seventh week of the 2014 season, they were tied with each other for third in the AP Poll of Top 25 College Football teams where they remained in the top ten for five consecutive weeks.  The Mississippi State Bulldogs made history when they were ranked number one by the first ever released college football poll by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.  It must have felt like football nirvana for the Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans.  Even Katy Perry showed up and threw some corn dogs around The Grove.  Hail State held the number one position in the country for six weeks until going down in a big mid-November loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  Even with a pair of bad bowl appearances, Mississippi State and Ole Miss earned some cred in 2014.

As SEC football fans spend their summer basking on the white sandy beaches of the beautiful Gulf Coast or sucking on Steel City Pops to stay cool in the hot and dry Birmingham climate they discuss their various 2015 football schedules across the conference.  While they circle the big games and ignore the gimmie wins, where do they put Mississippi State and Ole Miss among their priorities of things to worry about this year?

State’s RB, Josh Robinson was selected No. 209 overall by Indianapolis Colts in the NFL Draft and QB, Dak Prescott returned for his senior year playing behind an offensive line that lost three starters.  Ole Miss will have a new QB, but junior defensive end, Robert Nkemdiche is swimming with the sharks and looking to take a bite out of some unsuspecting offensive coordinator’s plan.

Just the fact that Alabama could lose to Ole Miss and still make it to the first ever College Football Playoff, substantiates The Sharks were respected.  Will it be business as usual with the Mississippi teams pulling in last ahead of only Vandy and Kentucky?  Or will the Sharks and Bulldogs build on their newly acclaimed respect in the SEC?  The State in the SEC with the most to prove is the state of Mississippi.  Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty will they win this year?


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