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Around the SEC: The Three Beasts of the West


This week we’re focusing on the three beasts of the west (Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn) as the teams are now in overdrive preparing for the season. We’ll also examine the early September games that could define the season for these three front runners as well as others.

Over in Tuscaloosa, Bama just held a two-hour, 110 play scrimmage. Coach Saban said he was pleased with the “big hitting” with the defense outshining the offense. Bama is looking at a number of options at quarterback similar to Ole Miss. Unlike the Rebels, the Tide will be tested out of the chute with the 7:30 p.m. matchup on September 5th in Arlington versus Wisconsin. This is not the type of opener that you would prefer with a new quarterback at the helm. I would anticipate Bama will be relying on their defense and running game to prevail.

Auburn may have the more explosive offense this year of these three western top dogs. Gus Malzahn is apparently liking what he is seeing in the progress of his Air Force with Jeremy Johnson hitting his mark more often than not. Running backs Roc Thomas, Peyton Barber and JUCO transfer Joron Robinson are all turning heads. Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium is electric as the War Eagles prepare for their season opener in Atlanta against Louisville.

Recently on The Student Section roundtable, the discussion was centered on the most overrated team in the SEC. One of their associate editors and a staff writer both singled out Auburn. They mentioned last season’s 8-5 record, Jeremy Johnson’s inexperience, the loss of 33 lettermen, and the question marks concerning their defense despite the start of the Muschamp era now in effect. All are valid concerns for a team facing Arkansas and LSU away and hosting Ole Miss and Alabama.

Back in Oxford, I’m hearing many positive things coming out of fall prep. Regarding the defense, many are getting noticed such as defensive tackle Breeland Speaks, defensive tackle D.J. Jones and linebacker Terry Caldwell. This could be leadership by committee this season as CJ Johnson, Tee Shepherd; Mike Hilton, Tony Bridges, and Trae Elston (among others) are leading the charge. It’s great to learn that Denzel is back at full speed for his senior year. The individual competition in practice is exciting as we haven’t seen this depth of talent in recent memory. One player worthy of singling out is junior running back (#21) Akeem Judd from Durham, North Carolina. The Rebs are in critical need of a ground attack and Akeem appears to be a major part of the solution.

Looking at the early September matchups, we’ve already mentioned the two September 5th challenges, however, the next week (9/12) there is LSU at State and Oklahoma at Tennessee. Then on September 19th, what a lineup….ESPN’s marquee game Ole Miss at Alabama, Auburn at LSU, South Carolina at Georgia, Texas Tech at Arkansas, and a game of interest to Ole Miss fans — Florida at Kentucky. If you would like to have a “powder puff” September, Missouri’s schedule includes Southeastern Missouri State, Arkansas State; Connecticut, and Kentucky. If they don’t come out
of this 4-0, 2015 will be a long, long season.

There you have it for this week. We’ll continue to explore what’s happening in the other camps as the 2015 season is drawing near.

Steve Vassallo

Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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