Tag Archives: Florida Gators

Oklahoma Wins Epic Extra Inning Championship Series Game One

The opening game of the 2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series was an all-time classic with Oklahoma winning 7-5 in 17 innings. (Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Softball on Twitter)

Oklahoma Wins Epic Extra Inning Championship Series Game One

A close and enthralling contest needed more than two full games to decide a victor. Oklahoma won 7-5 over Florida in 17 innings as they took a 1-0 lead in the 2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series. Shay Knighten’s three run home run in the top of the 17th put the Sooners in front for good after the Gators battled back not once, but twice on their final strike.

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when the Gators got on the board with a single by Aleshia Ocasio that brought home Nicole DeWitt. The Sooners responded right away in the top of the fifth with Sydney Romero driving home Nicole Pendley on a single.

Oklahoma took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth on a solo shot by Nicole Mendes. The Gators were down to their final out (and strike) when Sophia Reynoso hit a blooper into left-center field. The Sooners were deep in the outfield and could not come up with the catch as Ocasio came around to tie the game up and send the game into extra innings.

The teams failed to get much going in the eighth through eleventh innings as neither team had a runner get to second base in those innings. In the twelfth inning, Oklahoma’s Shay Knighten led off with a double and was followed by Fale Aviu, who crushed a two run shot to give Oklahoma a 4-2 lead.

The Gators started the bottom of the twelfth with a walk and a hit to put two on with no outs. The Gators then popped out on a bunt and struck out with back-to-back pinch hitters. Amanda Lorenz came up with two outs as Oklahoma went from Paige Parker back to starter Paige Lowary. Lowary got Lorenz to her final strike, but Lorenz was able to drive a ball to the left center field wall for a triple to bring home both runners and keep the game going.

The Sooners were able to get runners on first and second in the top of the 15th inning after Delanie Gourley hit Lea Wodach and a wild pitch followed to move the runners up a base. The next pitch was a ball to load the bases, but a ground out ended the threat.

In the top of the 16th, Oklahoma put two runners on with no outs and saw them both sacrificed up a base on a fly out to right center. A walk loaded the bases but a force out at home and strikeout left the bases loaded for the second straight inning.

The Sooners once again put two runners on base in the 17th and Shay Knighten finally put the runs across for Oklahoma with a three run home run.  The Gators were able to load the bases with one out and Lorenz at the plate where she hit a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 7-5. A strikeout from Lowary ended the game to give the Sooners the win after an incredible game.

Lowary started and ended the game as she went 10 1/3 innings giving up two runs on eight hits while striking out seven to earn the win. Parker went 6 2/3 innings giving up three runs on four hits with seven strikeouts. Mendes, Knighten, Aviu, and Romero were the only Oklahoma hitters to finish with multiple hits.

Barnhill also started and ended the game for Florida, but she took the loss. She pitched 9 innings giving up five runs on nine hits with 13 strikeouts. Gourley threw 8 innings of relief ball giving up two runs on four hits with 13 strikeouts. Justine McLean, Reynoso, and Lorenz all finished with multiple hits for the Gators.

The Oklahoma Sooners are one victory away from their second straight national championship. Game 2 is Tuesday, June 6 at 8 PM Eastern Time and can be seen on ESPN.

2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series Schedule

Florida advances to their third WCWS Championship Series in the past four season and will face Oklahoma. (Photo courtesy of Florida Gators Softball on Twitter)

2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series Schedule

The final two teams for the 2017 Women’s College World Series have reached the pinnacle of the season. The Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners are the two teams that will play in best of three series to determine the 2017 NCAA Division 1 Softball National Champion.

Results for the Regional round are here, Super Regional Round are here, and the Women’s College World Series are here. The Oklahoma Sooners are going for their second straight National Championship while the Florida Gators are playing for their third title in the last four seasons.

The best of three series will start on Monday, June 5 at 7 PM Eastern Time. All three games can be seen on ESPN and we take a look at the path to the Championship Series for both teams.

Florida Gators (58-8 Overall)

Regular Season: SEC Champions (50-5 Overall and 20-3 SEC)

Conference Tournament: Lost in Quarterfinals to Ole Miss 2-0

Regional: Defeated Florida A&M 9-0, defeated Oklahoma State     2-0, lost to Oklahoma State 1-0, defeated Oklahoma State 5-0

Super Regional: Lost to Alabama 3-0, defeated Alabama 2-0, defeated Alabama 2-1

Women’s College World Series: Defeated Texas A&M 8-0, defeated LSU 7-0, defeated Washington 5-2

The Gators were the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and were one of the best teams all season especially in the circle. Florida has been on the brink of elimination a couple of times in this tournament, but they responded resolutely against Oklahoma State in the regionals and Alabama in the Super Regionals.

In Oklahoma City, the Gators hit another gear posting back-to-back shutouts against SEC foes Texas A&M and LSU. They nearly had a third against Washington, but gave up a home run when the Huskies were down to their final out. Nevertheless, Kelly Barnhill and Delanie Gourley pose an extremely formidable duo against the Sooners in what should be a series showcasing great pitching.

Oklahoma Sooners (59-9 Overall)

Regular Season: Big 12 Champions (50-8 Overall and 17-1 Big 12)

Conference Tournament: Won Big 12 Tournament (Defeated Texas 3-0, defeated Texas Tech 8-0, defeated Oklahoma State 2-0)

Regional: Lost to North Dakota State 3-2, defeated Arkansas 5-3, defeated North Dakota State 10-2, defeated Tulsa 6-4, defeated Tulsa 3-0

Super Regional: Defeated Auburn 4-0, defeated Auburn 5-2

Women’s College World Series: Defeated Baylor 6-3, defeated Washington 3-1, defeated Oregon 4-2

Oklahoma began the season as the top team, but hit a rough patch early on. Since the Sooners lost back-to-back games against Cal Poly in mid-March, they have been on a tear losing just twice: once to Baylor in the regular season and to North Dakota State in the opening game of the regional.

Since the loss to NDSU, the Sooners have not dropped a game though they were nearly eliminated against Tulsa in the regional. However, their last five games against Auburn (twice on the road), Baylor, Washington, and Oregon have been nothing short of impressive. Paige Parker and Paige Lowary will be key in the circle in the same manner as Barnhill and Gourley for the Gators.

2017 Women’s College World Series Championship Series

Below is the schedule for the 2017 Women’s College World Series Champions Series. This is set to be an excellent matchup between Florida and Oklahoma particularly in the circle with four excellent pitchers. This will mark the fifth straight season that either the Gators or Sooners will go home with the NCAA Championship.

DateGameTime (EST)
TV
Team #1Team #2Score
6/5/17Game 17 PM
ESPN
#10 Oklahoma#1 Florida7-5
(17 Innings)
6/6/17Game 28 PM
ESPN
#1 Florida#10 Oklahoma4-5
6/7/17Game 38 PM
ESPN
#10 Oklahoma#1 Florida

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 7

Jamaal Williams had another big game against Michigan State. He and BYU face Mississippi State at home on Friday night. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)
Jamaal Williams had another big game against Michigan State. He and BYU face Mississippi State at home on Friday night. (Leon Halip/Getty Images North America)

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 7

Week six has come and gone (along with nuisance of Hurricane Matthew we hope). Week seven has some big games including NC State at #3 Clemson, Kansas State at #19 Oklahoma, #20 West Virginia at Texas Tech, North Carolina at #16 Miami (FL), #12 Ole Miss at #22 Arkansas, and #2 Ohio State at #8 Wisconsin.

We will take a look at some of the games not listed above for week seven. Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played and all times listed are Eastern.

1. Mississippi State at BYU (10/14 at 10:15 PM) – The Bulldogs enter this game off a horrendous performance against Auburn at home. They were run off the field in the first half after giving up 35 points. They played better in the second half, but that is not a consolation after the first 30 minutes they played.

BYU comes in at the opposite end of the spectrum. The went into East Lansing and won 31-14. They were close with the Spartans through three quarters, but really wore them down in the final frame scoring 21 points to Michigan State’s 7. It was a familiar scene with Jamaal Williams toting the rock quite a bit in the final quarter.

In the Bulldogs’ last two losses to LSU and Auburn, they allowed 177 yards rushing and 228 yards rushing, respectively. Williams has put up four games of at least 160 yards rushing this year and BYU is 3-1 in those games. Mississippi State will need to stop Williams if they want to have a chance of winning. Even then, though, they will have to deal with Taysom Hill.

The Bulldogs will need their A+ game in this one, but will also need Nick Fitzgerald to play better. In their two wins, he has put up at least 110 yards (305 total) and 5 touchdowns against 1 interception. In their three losses, he has managed just 85 yards total on 32 carries and just 2 touchdowns against 1 interception. If the Bulldogs get Fitzgerald going, they can stay in striking distance.

BYU sits and 3-3 while Mississippi State is 2-3 so far in 2016. A win for either team will help their bowl chances, but more so for the Bulldogs.

2. Illinois at Rutgers (10/15 at 12 PM) – This game is way under the radar and has no impact on the rest of the season. So why is it on this list? Because both teams are trending in a bad direction under first year head coaches and this is the kind of game that give a team something to build on if they win. Plus, one of these teams can say they did not go winless in conference play at the end of the year.

Illinois (1-4) is on a four game losing streak and last week’s game against Purdue was there for the taking. They had a chance to defeat Purdue, but Chase McLaughlin’s 41 yard kick at the end of the game hit the right upright and Purdue won 34-31 in overtime.

Rutgers (2-4) is well known for their past two performances. They were crushed 58-0 on the road at Ohio State, but last week’s game put them on the map. They were drubbed 78-0 at home to Michigan, who basically ran the ball the final 20 minutes and still ended up with 481 yards on the ground and 9 rushing touchdowns. The duo of Chris Laviano and Zach Allen combined to go 2 for 18 for 5 yards passing for the Scarlet Knights in the passing game. Rutgers managed 34 yards rushing on 36 carries.

One of these teams has to win this game and while it may not get either one to a bowl game, at least they can build off of this game. Hopefully.

3. Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech (10/15 at 12:30 PM) – This is the battle of which Georgia Triple Option offense is better. Both teams have about 67% of their offense from the ground game while both enter on losing streaks with Georgia Southern at two and Georgia Tech at three.

Georgia Southern will have the benefit of an extra three days of preparation due to playing Arkansas State on Wednesday. The Eagles will spread the ball around to their backs. Five players have at least 200 yards and another one has over 100 yards: Matt Breida (279 yards and 1 touchdown), Wesley Fields (279 and 3 TDs), Favian Upshaw (254 and 2 TDs), Kevin Ellison (252 yards and 3 TDs), L.A. Ramsby (208 and 3 TDs), and Demarcus Godfrey (124 yards).

Georgia Tech has lost three in a row, but they have faced some tough opponents in Clemson, Miami (FL), and Pittsburgh with only Pittsburgh on the road. The ball will usually go into the hands of Dedrick Mills (82 carries for 357 yards and 7 TDs) or quarterback Justin Thomas (64 carries for 206 yards and 1 TD). Another one to watch out for is Clinton Lynch. He only has 19 carries, but has gone for 254 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He also has 6 catches for 134 yards and another touchdown. If he breaks one, it might be the difference.

This game will be old school triple option offense with a lot of running and sporadic amounts passing. Georgia Southern sits at 3-2 and while a loss here does not crush their bowl hopes, a win would give them a confidence boost going back into Sun Belt play. A win here would be bigger for Georgia Tech because their run in consists of Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Georgia. There is no margin for error with a loss here.

4. New Mexico at Air Force (10/15 at 3:30 PM) – A Mountain West battle ensues as the Lobos will travel to face Air Force. New Mexico comes off a big loss to Boise State at home where the offense racked up a ton of yards on the ground, but not much on the scoreboard. They got crushed 49-21 with two late scores flattering the scoreline.

Air Force lost their first game of the season last week to Wyoming on the road 35-26. The Falcons were forced to rely on the passing attack, which ended badly as Nate Romine went 6 of 19 for 188 yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. They may be facing a poor pass defense in New Mexico, but Air Force football is a triple option first with some passing sprinkled in.

This game should feature a lot of running. Air Force only managed 149 yards on 39 carries against Wyoming, but they like to pass the ball closer to 15 times a game instead of 20. New Mexico averages 354 rushing yards per game from their version of the triple option between Teriyon Gipson (399 yards and 5 TDs on 31 carries in only 3 games), Tyrone Owens (390 yards and 2 TDs on 63 carries), Lamar Jordan (287 yards and 1 TD on 50 carries in basically 3 games), and Richard McQuarley (242 yards and 7 TDs on 47 carries). Gipson missed the game versus Boise State due to hamstring. He is expected to be back for this game and it will be worth watching to see how effective he is against Air Force.

Both teams have a loss in conference play, but Air Force has not played Boise State yet this season. New Mexico could use a win going into the back half of their schedule while Air Force could use this game to get the run game back on track (last two games have seen the offense finish with more passing yards than rushing yards).

5. Northwestern at Michigan St (10/15 at 3:30 PM) – This game will feature both teams at 2-3, which was not expected before the season. Northwestern got a big win before their bye week with a 38-31 win on the road over Iowa. The offense easily looked the best they have all year against Iowa with Justin Jackson getting 171 yards on 26 carries and Austin Carr catching 3 touchdown passes (6 catches for 73 yards total) from Clayton Thorson (164 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions).

Michigan State has not looked anything like the Spartans of the past 5 years during their three game losing streak. Against Wisconsin and BYU they were physically dominated. BYU ran wild on the Spartans in the fourth quarter while Indiana put up 437 yards of offense on them.

The loser of this game drops to 2-4, which will be very difficult to navigate the final half of the year. Northwestern will face Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois. Michigan State plays Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Rutgers, Ohio State, and Penn State. This is a big game for both teams.

6. Missouri at Florida (10/15 at 4 PM) – Missouri is 2-3 on the season alternating between losses and wins to start the campaign. They most recently lost to LSU 42-7 on the road and they were dominated in that game. Florida comes in off a win against Vanderbilt, but it was an ugly win. They also had to deal with the postponement of their contest against LSU due to Hurricane Matthew.

Florida’s defense has been very good against every team except Tennessee. They have given up a total of 20 points in their four wins and only 163.5 total yards per game in those four as well. Meanwhile, Missouri’s offense put up a lot yards prior to the LSU game and that will be an interesting matchup for them against the Florida defense. Drew Lock has thrown for 1,675 yards with 14 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He will find this group to be a big step up compared to some of his other opponents.

This game could help shape the SEC East. Florida has just one loss and can still win the division with some help. Missouri already has two losses in conference play and is now looking to make a bowl game. A win here would help and really put a dent in Florida’s SEC East hopes.

Check back next week for the week eight edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 2

James Conner returned from cancer to rush for 53 yards and a touchdown against Villanova in week one. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America)
James Conner returned from cancer to rush for 53 yards and a touchdown against Villanova in week one. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America)

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 2

The first full weekend of college football is in the books and it was exciting. Two top five teams went down with #15 Houston defeating #3 Oklahoma 33-23 and unranked Wisconsin beating #5 LSU 16-14. While there are not nearly as many marquee games after the opening week feast we were given, there are still some interesting matchups in the second week of games.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the under the radar games for week 2. Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played.

1. Penn State (1-0) at Pittsburgh (1-0) (9/10 at 12 PM EST) – An intrastate battle ensues with Penn State traveling to face Pittsburgh. This will be the first game between the two rivals since 2000 when Pittsburgh won 12-0 at home. These two teams are scheduled to meet each year from 2017 through 2019 as well so there will not be a long hiatus for the time being.

The Nittany Lions won their opening game against Kent State at home, but did not put them away until the second half. They led 16-13 at the break, but won comfortably 33-13 with Saquon Barkley finishing with 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. The Panthers won 28-7 over Villanova in a game that saw James Conner return from his cancer battle to score a touchdown. This game has a feel of run first and gritty defense being played. It might be a low scoring and drab affair, but there is nothing wrong with a game like that if it is close.

2. Cincinnati (1-0) at Purdue (1-0) (9/10 12 PM EST) – Both teams won last week against FCS opponents. Cincinnati trailed Tennessee-Martin 7-6 at halftime before pulling away in the fourth quarter to win 28-7. Purdue defeated Eastern Kentucky 45-24 with over 500 yards of offense and four takeaways on defense. Can the Boilermakers make that same recipe to defeat Cincinnati? Or will the defense struggle like they did in the first half when they allowed 284 yards of offense to Eastern Kentucky? This could be a game for Cincinnati to get the offense going, but also could be a game for Purdue to gain some confidence going towards their Big 10 schedule.

3. Rice (0-1) at Army (1-0) (9/10 12 PM EST) – This game could be important to both team’s season. Rice is coming off a walloping at the hands of Western Kentucky 46-14 and their next opponent is Baylor. Army defeated Temple on the road 28-13 with a great effort and they are looking to get back to a bowl game for the first time since 2010. Rice better have their run defense in top form because that is nearly all they are going to see against Army. A loss here and Rice starts 0-3 while an Army win may seem them start 3-1 or even 4-0.

4. Kentucky (0-1) at Florida (1-0) (9/10 3:30 PM EST) – This is probably the last opponent Kentucky wants to see right now because they have not beaten Florida since 1986. In addition, Kentucky has not won in Gainesville since 1979. Oh and they blew 35-10 second quarter lead last week in their 44-35 loss to Southern Miss. That, however, was just a microcosm for Kentucky in the past two seasons when they began 5-1 in 2014 and 4-1 in 2015 only to finish 5-7 both seasons.

Florida looked putrid on offense for much of their game against Massachusetts. They clung to a 10-7 lead until nearly 11 minutes remained in the game. They did win 24-7, but it was hardly convincing. Both teams have a lot of work to do and there is potential for Florida to get something going on offense against this Kentucky defense. The same can be said for that Kentucky defense against Florida’s offense. We shall see which side wins that battle.

5. Georgia Southern (1-0) at South Alabama (1-0) (9/10 7 PM EST) – Probably did not expect this, right? Well, this game looks a lot bigger now than it did a week ago. Georgia Southern had no issues with Savannah State as expected, but the big shock was South Alabama. They went to Starkville and upset Mississippi State 21-20 as four touchdown underdogs. How will they ride that wave of confidence against one of the preseason favorites in the Sun Belt? This could have a big impact on the Sun Belt race by season’s end.

6. Northern Illinois (0-1) at South Florida (1-0) (9/10 7 PM EST) – This was a game that looked pretty interesting during the preseason. NIU lost their opening game on the road to Wyoming 40-34 in triple overtime after the start was delayed nearly two hours due to storms. South Florida had no trouble with FCS Towson winning easily by a score of 56-20. Both teams are expected to be contenders to make their respective conference championship games in December. It is worth watching to see how Drew Hare and the Northern Illinois offense can fare against the USF defense that forced four turnovers and allowed less than 300 yards last week.

7. FCS Teams versus FBS Teams As mentioned in last week’s edition, this is always worth keeping an eye on and it did not disappoint. There were four upsets from last week’s 46 FCS versus FBS games. There are 29 games featuring FCS versus FBS opponents in week two and a few more upsets look possible.

Check back next week for the week three edition of under the radar games.

Five Predictions For Southeastern Conference In 2016

Nick Saban has led Alabama to four National Championships in his time at the school. (ean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America)
Nick Saban has led Alabama to four National Championships in his time at the school. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America)

Five Predictions For Southeastern Conference In 2016

The 2016 College Football season began last night with California defeating Hawaii 51-31 in Sydney, Australia. Below are five predictions for Southeastern Conference for the 2016 season. Some predictions will be right, some predictions will be wrong, and some will be spectacularly awful (or correct) by the end of the season.

There are no changes to the teams for the Southeastern Conference as the fourteen teams remain the same and are split into East and West Divisions. The seven teams in the East Division are Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. The seven teams in the West Division are Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M.

Here are five predictions for the Southeastern Conference in 2016:

1. Every SEC West team will make a bowl game – The SEC West has done this two years in a row already with every team going to a bowl in both 2014 and 2015. In both of those years, every team finished with a winning record as well. The SEC West sets up well again for it to be three straight years with every team making a bowl game. No time needs to be spent on Alabama, LSU, or Ole Miss as they should easily reach six wins.

Arkansas – They play Louisiana Tech, Texas State, and Alcorn State in the state of Arkansas (the Alcorn State game is played in Little Rock), and TCU on the road for their non-conference schedule. From the East, they draw Florida at home and Missouri on the road. They may need two or three wins against SEC West opponents to reach six wins.

Auburn – They face Clemson, Arkansas State, Louisiana Monroe, and Alabama A&M at home in their non-conference schedule. They also draw Vanderbilt out of the East, which means they only need two wins against fellow SEC West opponents if they go 4-1 against the aforementioned opponents.

Mississippi State – Their non-conference schedule consists of South Alabama and Samford at home while facing Massachusetts and BYU on the road. A 3-1 record looks like the worst case scenario for the Bulldogs and they draw South Carolina (home) and Kentucky (road) from the East.

Texas A&M – They have to face UCLA, Prairie View, New Mexico State, and UT-San Antonio out of conference all at home. They will play South Carolina (away) and Tennessee from the East. Like Auburn, if they go 4-2 in those games, they will only need two wins against the SEC West.

It looks likely the SEC West will make it three straight seasons with every team making a bowl if each of the teams above only require two wins to reach six wins. Every team is capable of grabbing a couple of wins against fellow SEC West teams.

2. Kentucky will not reach that elusive bowl game – Kentucky has not been to a bowl game since 2010 when they lost to Pittsburgh 27-10 in the Compass Bowl. This will be Mark Stoops’ fourth year and the seat will be a lot hotter if the season unravels as it has the past two years.

In 2014, Kentucky opened with a 5-1 record that included a triple overtime loss to Florida on the road. The final six games featured five losses by double digits and a close loss on the road to rival Louisville (44-40). In 2015, Kentucky had another strong start going 4-1 with another close loss to Florida. They went 1-6 in their final seven games with a victory over Charlotte and two close losses to Auburn (30-27) and Vanderbilt (21-17).

There are nine starters back on the offensive unit after putting up 24.7 points and 372 yards per game last year (both down from 2014). One of those two starters being replaced is at quarterback where Drew Barker is expected to take over. He only threw for 364 yards with a touchdown and two picks in just two starts last season. He has the top four running backs as well as the top ten receivers from 2015 returning. The offense should be more efficient and there are plenty of reasons for Barker to succeed.

The defense returns just five starters from their unit that allowed 27.4 points and 394 yards per game in 2015. That was an improvement of nearly four points and 13 yards per game over 2014’s defense. However, this year the losses are heavy as seven of the top eight tacklers have left. This is the area of concern for the Wildcats and may prevent them from getting to six wins.

2016 starts with Southern Miss at home and then Florida on the road before back-to-back home games against New Mexico State and South Carolina. A 3-1 record is mandatory for Kentucky to have a chance at making a bowl. Alabama (road) and Vanderbilt (home) are the next two games before a bye. The final half of the season only gets harder. They finish with Mississippi State (home), Missouri (away), Georgia (home), Tennessee (away), Austin Peay (home), and Louisville (away). The Wildcats are going to need a few upsets (and avoid that second half of the season swoon) if they are to end the bowl drought.

3. Vanderbilt will make a bowl game – 2016 will be Derek Mason’s third year and it is clear that the team is heading in the right direction. They went 3-9 in 2014 and 4-8 in 2015 with a huge improvement on defense. After allowing 33.3 points per game in 2014, they only allowed 21 points per game last year. The offense needs improvement after putting up just 15.2 points and 327 yards per game. That side of the ball will have running back Ralph Webb again after rushing for 1,152 yards and 5 touchdowns. The quarterback play will be better regardless of who wins after throwing for just 172 yards per game in 2015. There are eight starters back on offense and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is in his second year.

The defense will have seven starters back with Mason running the unit again. Four of the top five tacklers are back while nearly all of the secondary returns. It would not be surprising to see the Commodores have another very good season on defense and it will need to be if they are to make a bowl appearance.

The schedule is challenging for Vanderbilt, but not overwhelming to start the season. They have South Carolina and Middle Tennessee at home before back-to-back road games at Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky. Up next are Florida (home), Kentucky (road), Georgia (road), and Tennessee State (home) before their final four games in November. They take on Auburn and Missouri on the road while facing Ole Miss and Tennessee at home. Vandy can start no worse than 3-1 if they are to have a shot at making a bowl game, but that start is very doable.

4. The Arkansas-Mississippi State game will determine the last place finisher in the SEC West – These two teams appear to be the weakest on paper, but that is why they play the games. Both teams lost their quarterback from last year (Dak Prescott for MSU and Brandon Allen for Arkansas). Both teams also lost their leading rusher (Prescott for MSU and Alex Collins for Arkansas). However, both teams return their top receiver from a year ago (Fred Ross for MSU and Drew Morgan for Arkansas).

The key for this prediction is how well the teams have come together and there will be plenty of time for that as Arkansas travels to Starkville on November 19 (the tenth game of the year for both teams). The Bulldogs having won four straight in the series, but the last three have been decided by a touchdown or less. While both teams have rivalry games the next week (MSU in the Egg Bowl vs Ole Miss and Arkansas versus Missouri), no game in the SEC West can be classified as a trap game this year.

5. Missouri will win the SEC East – This seems preposterous with the amount of hype around Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida, but let’s take a look outside the box. Missouri lost long time head coach Gary Pinkel as he retired after 15 years at the helm. Taking over is defensive coordinator Barry Odom who was with the team in 2015 and also played as a linebacker the school from 1995 to 1999.

The offense returns just five starters, but last year’s unit was abysmal averaging just 13.6 points (only Kent State’s 13.1 points per game were worse in the FBS) and 281 yards of offense per game. Former Oklahoma Sooner quarterback Josh Heupel is the offensive coordinator and a fellow Sooner is in the backfield in Alex Ross to give the rushing attack a spark. Drew Lock is back at quarterback after throwing for 1,322 yards with 4 touchdowns and 8 interceptions (49%) while starting the last eight games. The top receivers are back as well and the only place this offense can go is up.

The real crux of this team is the defense, which a large part of the reason the team did not end up worse than 5-7 last year. They gave up just 16.2 points and 302 yards per game in 2015 and now have eight starters back. Six of the top seven tacklers return as well as the entire defensive line and two of the three linebackers from last year. The defense has given up 133 and 134 yards rushing per game the last two years and they should duplicate that again in 2016.

Missouri does not have the friendliest SEC schedule. They start with Georgia at home on September 17 before a road game at LSU on October 1. Up next are the Gators on the road again October 15, but at least they have a bye week to prepare for that contest. Middle Tennessee (home), Kentucky (home), South Carolina (road), and Vanderbilt (home) all lead up to their final pair of games: on the road at Tennessee and home to Arkansas.

Since joining the SEC, Missouri is 2-2 against Florida, 1-3 against Georgia, and 3-1 against Tennessee. Perhaps the biggest test is not their penultimate game (Tenn), but the third game of the season against Georgia. If the offense improves by a touchdown or ten points a game along with the defense that should be very tough and keep them in every game, then these Tigers could surprise some teams this year.

The Predictions

With the SEC predictions above, predictions have been made for every conference. Links to all the predictions for each conference are provided below.

July 17 – FBS Independents

July 17 – Sun Belt

July 23 – C-USA

July 24 – MAC

July 30 – American Athletic

July 31 – Mountain West

August 7 – Big 12

August 13 – Atlantic Coast

August 14 – Pac-12

August 20 – Big Ten

August 27 – SEC

2016 College World Series Schedule

CWS

2016 College World Series Schedule

The 2016 NCAA Division 1 Baseball Tournament has reached the final venue with the 2016 College World Series ready to begin. The eight teams that won their Super Regional will meet in Omaha, Nebraska to play in a double elimination format until two teams are left standing. Those two teams will then play in a best of three Championship Series to determine the National Champion.

The College World Series will begin on Saturday, June 18 and the double elimination portion will end on Saturday, June 25. The Championship Series will begin on Monday, June 27. Below are the eight teams that made the 2016 College World Series with both Coastal Carolina and UC Santa Barbara making their first appearance.

All games at the 2016 College World Series will take place at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

SeedTeamRecordConferenceCWS Appearances
(Including 2016)
1Florida52-14SEC10th
3Miami (FL)50-12ACC25th
5Texas Tech46-18Big 122nd
UnseededArizona44-21Pac-1217th
UnseededCoastal Carolina49-16Big South1st
UnseededOklahoma State41-20Big 1220th
UnseededTCU47-16Big 124th
UnseededUC Santa Barbara42-18-1Big West1st

Schedule

Below is the schedule for the 2016 College World Series. An updated bracket can be found here. Super Regional scores can be found here while Regional scores can be found here. The Championship Series Schedule can be found at the bottom. The schedules below are subject to change due to weather or NCAA decisions.

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)
TV
Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/18/2016Game #13 PM
ESPN2
UC Santa BarbaraOklahoma State0-1
6/18/2016Game #28 PM
ESPN2
Arizona#3 Miami (FL)5-1
6/19/2016Game #33 PM
ESPNU
TCU#5 Texas Tech5-3
6/19/2016Game #48 PM
ESPN2
Coastal Carolina#1 Florida2-1
6/20/2016Game #52 PM
ESPNU
#3 Miami (FL)UC Santa Barbara3-5Miami (FL) Eliminated
6/20/2016Game #67 PM
ESPN
Oklahoma StateArizona1-0
6/21/2016Game #75 PM
ESPN2
#5 Texas Tech#1 Florida3-2Florida Eliminated
6/21/2016Game #89 PM
ESPN
TCUCoastal Carolina6-1
6/22/2016Game #97 PM
ESPN
UC Santa BarbaraArizona0-3UC Santa Barbara Eliminated
6/23/2016Game #108 PM
ESPN2
Coastal Carolina#5 Texas Tech7-5Texas Tech Eliminated
6/24/2016Game #113 PM
ESPN2
ArizonaOklahoma State9-3
6/24/2016Game #128 PM
ESPN
Coastal CarolinaTCU4-1
6/25/2016Game #133 PM
ESPN2
Oklahoma StateArizona1-5Oklahoma State Eliminated
6/25/2016Game #148 PM
ESPN
TCUCoastal Carolina5-7TCU Eliminated

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)
TV
Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/27/2016Game #18 PM
ESPN
ArizonaCoastal Carolina3-0
6/28/2016Game #29 PM
ESPN
Coastal CarolinaArizona5-4
6/30/2016Game #33 PM
ESPN
Coastal CarolinaArizona4-3Coastal Carolina Wins 2016 NCAA Baseball Title

2016 NCAA Division 1 Baseball Super Regional Schedule

CWS

2016 NCAA Division 1 Baseball Super Regional Schedule

The 2016 NCAA Division 1 Baseball tournament has been cut down to 16 teams after the Regional round. Seven of the top eight National Seeds remain with only the Clemson Tigers falling in the Regional round. The Super Regionals will take place between Friday, June 10 and Monday, June 13 as long as the weather cooperates.

All 16 teams are listed in the table below. The first eight teams are the Super Regional hosts while the following eight teams will be visitors. The Super Regionals employ a best of three format with the eight winners advancing to the College World Series.

SeedTeamRecordConference
1Florida50-13SEC
2Louisville50-12ACC
3Miami (FL)48-11ACC
4Texas A&M48-14SEC
5Texas Tech45-17Big 12
6Mississippi State44-16-1SEC
8LSU45-19SEC
Unseeded Host
(Regional Winner)
South Carolina46-16SEC
Regional WinnerOklahoma State39-20Big 12
Regional WinnerCoastal Carolina47-16Big South
Regional WinnerArizona42-21Pac-12
Regional WinnerEast Carolina37-21-1American
Regional WinnerTCU45-15Big 12
Regional WinnerBoston College34-20ACC
Regional WinnerUC Santa Barbara40-18-1Big West
Regional WinnerFlorida State40-20ACC

Super Regional Schedules

Below are the schedules for each of the 8 Super Regionals. Game times are subject to change and will be updated as soon as they are known. There is also a daily schedule of all the games below the final Super Regional.

Gainesville Super Regional

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/11/2016Game #16 PMFlorida State#1 Florida3-0
6/12/2016Game #26 PM#1 FloridaFlorida State5-0
6/13/2016Game #37 PMFlorida State#1 Florida0-7Florida State Eliminated

Baton Rouge Super Regional

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/11/2016Game #19 PMCoastal Carolina#8 LSU11-8
6/12/2016Game #29 PM#8 LSUCoastal Carolina3-4Coastal Carolina Eliminated
6/13/2016Game #3TBDCoastal Carolina#8 LSUIf Necessary

Lubbock Super Regional

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/10/2016Game #18 PMEast Carolina#5 Texas Tech8-6
6/11/2016Game #23 PM#5 Texas TechEast Carolina3-1 (13 Innings)
6/12/2016Game #33 PMEast Carolina#5 Texas Tech0-11East Carolina Eliminated

College Station Super Regional

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/10/2016Game #19 PMTCU#4 Texas A&M8-2
6/11/2016Game #29 PM#4 Texas A&MTCU7-1
6/12/2016Game #39 PMTCU#4 Texas A&M4-1Texas A&M Eliminated

Louisville Super Regional

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/11/2016Game #112 PMUC Santa Barbara#2 Louisville4-2
6/12/2016Game #212 PM#2 LouisvilleUC Santa Barbara3-4Louisville Eliminated
6/13/2016Game #3TBDUC Santa Barbara#2 LouisvilleIf Necessary

Columbia Super Regional

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/11/2016Game #13 PMOklahoma StateSouth Carolina5-1
6/12/2016Game #23 PMSouth CarolinaOklahoma State1-3South Carolina Eliminated
6/13/2016Game #3TBDOklahoma StateSouth CarolinaIf Necessary

Starkville Super Regional

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/10/2016Game #16 PMArizona#6 Mississippi State1-0
6/11/2016Game #26 PM#6 Mississippi StateArizona5-6 (11 Innings)Mississippi State Eliminated
6/12/2016Game #36 PMArizona#6 Mississippi StateIf Necessary

Coral Gables Super Regional

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/10/2016Game #15 PMBoston College#3 Miami (FL)7-12
6/11/2016Game #212 PM#3 Miami (FL)Boston College3-5
6/12/2016Game #312 PMBoston College#3 Miami (FL)4-9Boston College
Eliminated

Friday Schedule by Game Time

DateTimeTeam #1Team #2Final ScoreNotesSuper Regional
6/10/20165 PMBoston College#3 Miami (FL)7-12Game #1Coral Gables
6/10/20166 PMArizona#6 Mississippi State1-0Game #1Starkville
6/10/20168 PMEast Carolina#5 Texas Tech8-6Game #1Lubbock
6/10/20169 PMTCU#4 Texas A&M8-2Game #1College Station

Saturday Schedule by Game Time

DateTimeTeam #1Team #2Final ScoreNotesSuper Regional
6/11/201612 PM#3 Miami (FL)Boston College3-5Game #2; Possible Elimination GameCoral Gables
6/11/201612 PMUC Santa Barbara#2 Louisville4-2Game #1Louisville
6/11/20163 PM#5 Texas TechEast Carolina3-1 (13 Innings)Game #2; Possible Elimination GameLubbock
6/11/20163 PMOklahoma StateSouth Carolina5-1Game #1Columbia
6/11/20166 PM#6 Mississippi StateArizona5-6 (11 Innings)Game #2;
Mississippi State Eliminated
Starkville
6/11/20166 PMFlorida State#1 Florida3-0Game #1Gainesville
6/11/20169 PM#4 Texas A&MTCU7-1Game #2; Possible Elimination GameCollege Station
6/11/20169 PMCoastal Carolina#8 LSU11-8Game #1Baton Rouge

Sunday Schedule by Game Time

DateTimeTeam #1Team #2Final ScoreNotesSuper Regional
6/12/201612 PM#2 LouisvilleUC Santa Barbara3-4Game #2
Louisville Eliminated
Louisville
6/12/201612 PMBoston College#3 Miami (FL)4-9Game #3;
Boston College Eliminated
Coral Gables
6/12/20163 PMEast Carolina#5 Texas Tech0-11Game #3;
East Carolina Eliminated
Lubbock
6/12/20163 PMSouth CarolinaOklahoma State1-3Game #2;
South Carolina Eliminated
Columbia
6/12/20166 PM#1 FloridaFlorida State5-0Game #2; Possible Elimination GameGainesville
6/12/20169 PMTCU#4 Texas A&M4-1Game #3;
Texas A&M Eliminated
College Station
6/12/20169 PM#8 LSUCoastal Carolina3-4Game #2; LSU EliminatedBaton Rouge

Monday Schedule by Game Time

DateTimeTeam #1Team #2Final ScoreNotesSuper Regional
6/13/20167 PMFlorida State#1 Florida0-7Game #3;
Florida State Eliminated
Gainesville

College World Series

The 2016 College World Series will be start on Saturday, June 18 and end on June 28 or 29. The College World Series is held at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska. The eight teams that make the CWS will play until two teams remain with those two teams then playing a best of three Championship Series to determine the National Champion.

2016 Women’s College World Series Schedule

Softball pic

2016 Women’s College World Series Schedule

The final eight teams in the 2016 NCAA Division 1 Softball season will be playing for the chance to win the Women’s College World Series with an updated bracket here. Each game of the 2016 Women’s College World Series will take place from ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The 8 teams will compete in a double elimination format until only two teams are left. Those two remaining teams will then play in a best of three championship series to determine the National Champion.

The two-time defending National Champions, the Florida Gators, were knocked out in the Super Regional round by Georgia so there will be a new Champion crowned in 2016. All of the schools in the 2016 WCWS have previously been to the Women’s College World Series. Results for the Regional round can be found here while the Super Regional results can be found here.

Returning from the 2015 WCWS are Michigan, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, and UCLA.

Below are the eight teams that made the 2016 Women’s College World Series.

SeedTeamRecordConferenceWCWS Appearances (Including 2016)
2Michigan51-5Big Ten12th
3Oklahoma52-7Big 1210th
4Auburn54-10SEC2nd
6Alabama51-12SEC11th
8Florida State53-8ACC9th
10LSU50-16SEC5th
12UCLA40-14-1Pac-1226th
16Georgia45-18SEC3rd

The Women’s College World Series will get underway on Thursday, June 2 with four games scheduled for the opening day. The entire schedule can be found in the table below with the Championship Series located in a separate table. The tables below will be updated with final scores as the games go final each day.

6/2/2016 Update: The final two games scheduled for Thursday, June 2 were postponed to Friday due to weather. If games 13 and/or 14 are needed to be played, they will take place on Monday, June 6, pushing back the start to the Championship Series to Tuesday, June 7. If games 13 and/or 14 are not needed, the Championship Series will begin on Monday, June 6 as scheduled.

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)
TV
Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/2/2016Game #112 PM
ESPN
#16 Georgia#8 Florida State5-4
6/2/2016Game #22:45 PM
ESPN
#12 UCLA#4 Auburn3-10
6/3/2016Game #37 PM
ESPN2
#6 Alabama#3 Oklahoma0-3 (8 Innings)Postponed to 6/3 due to weather
6/3/2016Game #49:30 PM
ESPN2
#10 LSU#2 Michigan0-2Postponed to 6/3 due to weather
6/4/2016Game #57 PM
ESPN2
#4 Auburn#16 Georgia4-3
6/4/2016Game #69:30 PM
ESPN2
#3 Oklahoma#2 Michigan7-5
6/4/2016Game #712 PM
ESPN
#8 Florida State#12 UCLA8-4UCLA Eliminated
6/4/2016Game #83:20 PM
ESPN
#10 LSU#6 Alabama6-4Alabama Eliminated
6/5/2016Game #91 PM
ESPN
#2 Michigan#8 Florida State0-1Michigan Eliminated
6/5/2016Game #103:35 PM
ESPN2
#16 Georgia#10 LSU1-4Georgia Eliminated
6/5/2016Game #117 PM
ESPN2
#8 Florida State#4 Auburn7-8 (8 Innings)Florida State Eliminated
6/5/2016Game #1210:40 PM
ESPN2
#3 Oklahoma#10 LSU7-3LSU Eliminated
6/6/2016Game #137 PM
ESPN2
Game #11 LoserGame #11 WinnerIf Necessary
6/6/2016Game #149:30 PM
ESPN2
Game #12 LoserGame #12 WinnerIf Necessary

2016 Women’s College World Series Championship Series

DateGame NumberTime (Eastern)
TV
Team #1Team #2Final ScoreNotes
6/6/2016Game #18 PM
ESPN
#4 Auburn#3 Oklahoma2-3Recap
6/7/2016Game #28 PM
ESPN
#3 Oklahoma#4 Auburn7-11 (8 Innings)Recap
6/8/2016Game #37 PM
ESPN
#4 Auburn#3 Oklahoma1-2Oklahoma Wins 2016 National Championship

2015 College Football Preview: SEC East

Maty Mauk has been an integral part of Missouri making back-to-back SEC Championship games in 2013 and 2014. Will it be a third in a row for the Tigers? (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)
Maty Mauk has been an integral part of Missouri making back-to-back SEC Championship games in 2013 and 2014. Will it be a third in a row for the Tigers? (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

2015 College Football Preview: SEC East

Part 18 of Sports Enthusiasts’ 2015 College Football preview looks at the SEC East in the penultimate preview. As usual, the SEC East is wide open with talented teams and an up and coming team all in the mix. Below are the previews completed and the SEC West preview scheduled for Friday, August 28.

MAC East Division – July 1

MAC West Division – July 3

Mountain West, Mountain Division – July 7

Mountain West, West Division – July 10

C-USA East Division – July 14

C-USA West Division – July 17

The American East Division – July 21

The American West Division – July 24

FBS Independents – July 28

Sun Belt – July 28

Big 12 – July 31

ACC Coastal Division – August 4

ACC Atlantic Division – August 7

Big 10 West Division – August 11

Big 10 East Division – August 14

Pac-12 North Division – August 18

Pac-12 South Division – August 21

SEC East Division – August 25

SEC West Division – August 28

Let’s take a closer look at how the SEC East will shake out.

1. Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee has fallen on hard times in recent years. Between 2008 and 2012, the Volunteers had four losing seasons with only two bowl appearances and they lost both of those games. Butch Jones came in for the 2013 season after three years at Central Michigan (2007 through 2009) and Cincinnati (2010 through 2012). Tennessee went 5-7 in his first year (2013) and improved to 7-6 in 2014 with smashing 45-28 victory in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Iowa. 2015 provides Jones with his most experienced team.

The offense will have 10 starters back, which is double the number from both 2013 and 2014. In 2013, the offense put up 23.8 points and 353 yards per game while that number went up to 28.9 points and 371 yards per game in 2014. The quarterback position was hampered by injuries in 2014 with Joshua Dobbs the top returning guy after throwing for 1,209 yards with 9 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. At running back will be Jalen Hurd (899 yards and 5 touchdowns) and former Alabama commit Alvin Kamara. Dobbs also has some wheels after rushing for 469 yards and 8 touchdowns. The entire receiving unit is back with Pig Howard (54 catches for 618 yards and a touchdown), Von Pearson (38 catches for 393 yards and 5 touchdowns), Marquez North (30 catches for 320 yards and 4 touchdowns), and Jason Croom (21 catches for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns). The offensive line has four starter back and the offense should be able to easily produce the highest numbers under Jones.

The defense will have eight starters back from a unit that allowed 24.2 points and 365 yards per game. The defensive line will have two starters back led by Derek Barnett, who was a monster in 2014 with 72 tackles, 10 sacks, and 10.5 tackles for loss. Three linebackers return in Jalen Reeves-Maybin (101 tackles, 2 sacks, and 9 tackles for loss), Curt Maggitt (48 tackles, 11 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss), and Corey Vereen (24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss). The secondary will also have three starters back including both safeties in Brian Randolph (88 tackles and 2 interceptions) and LaDarrell McNeil (76 tackles and 2 interceptions). Cameron Sutton will be at cornerback after recording 37 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 13 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions. The defense should be even better in 2015, which is a scary thought.

Tennessee opens the year with Bowling Green in Nashville before a big game against Oklahoma at home. They will also face Western Carolina and North Texas at home to close out their non-conference schedule. In conference, the Vols will play Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri on the road while staying home to face Georgia, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. From the West, Tennessee has Arkansas at home and will face their rival Alabama on the road. Despite the tough draw from the West, Tennessee has the ability to win those games and have a great chance against the biggest contenders in the East. Tennessee is the pick to win the East in a surely contentious and open division.

2. Missouri Tigers

Missouri was in the Big 12 Championship in the 2007 season with a chance to make the National Championship, but were demolished 38-17 and ended up being left out of the BCS altogether. The Tigers still had really good seasons in 2008 (10-4) and 2010 (10-3), but began their SEC life with a 5-7 record. That changed in a hurry as the Tigers have been to back-to-back SEC Championship games under Gary Pinkel.

The offense took a big step back in 2014 with only 27.8 points and 367 yards per game of output. Compared to 2013, when they put up 39.1 points and 491 yards, it was tough year even with four starters back. In 2015, there will be six starters back led by quarterback Maty Mauk, who had 2,648 yards with 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Russell Hansbrough returns after rushing for 1,084 yards and 10 touchdowns and Mauk can run the ball if needed as well (373 yards and 2 touchdowns). Wide receiver is a concern with the top four gone. The top returning receiver is tight end Sean Culkin, who had 20 catches for 187 yards and 1 touchdown. Others who may have an impact are J’Mon Moore (2 catches for 33 yards), Nate Brown (5 catches for 45 yards), and Wesley Leftwich (3 catches for 36 yards), but are light on experience. The offensive line will have four starters back, which will create plenty of protection for Mauk and running lanes. The concern is the receivers, but Missouri has the ability to produce higher totals this year despite that.

The defense has been very solid the last two years. In 2013, the defense gave up 23.1 points and 418 yards per game while those numbers went down to 21.1 points and 346 yards per game in 2014 (only 4 starters back). There will six starters back in 2015 including the top two tackles. On the line, only Harold Brantley returns after recording 54 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, and 3 pass breakups. The top tacklers from 2015 reside in the linebacking unit. Kentrell Brothers had 122 tackles, 1 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss while Michael Scherer had 114 tackles and 3 tackles for loss. The secondary has three starters back from a unit that allowed 213 passing yards per game and 60.8% completions. Aarion Penton (36 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions), Kenya Dennis (61 tackles, 9 pass breakups, and an interception), and Ian Simon (54 tackles and 1 interception) are the returners. The defensive line is the obvious worry, but the Tigers could match last year’s numbers and possibly improve them.

The Tigers have only one real test on the non-conference slate. They will face Southeast Missouri State (home), Arkansas State (road), Connecticut (home), and BYU (in Kansas City, Missouri). Within their division, Missouri will face Kentucky, Georgia, and Vanderbilt on the road while playing South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee at home. They have to play Mississippi State (home) and Arkansas (road) from the West, but they can win both of those games. The schedule sets up well for Missouri to have a serious shot at winning a third straight East Division title and another big bowl game.

3. Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia is consistently one of the better teams in the SEC under Mark Richt. The Bulldogs have made a bowl game in all 14 years under Richt and have only one losing season in 2010 when they went 6-7. More impressively, Georgia has won at last 10 games nine times with Richt at the helm. The Bulldogs have also won 2 SEC Championship under Richt, however, the last one came in 2005. The Bulldogs went 10-3 in 2014 without Aaron Murray and will look to do the same without their starter from last year.

The offense has seven starters back, but as alluded to earlier, Hutson Mason (2,168 yards with 21 touchdowns and 4 interceptions) is not one of them. Brice Ramsey seems to be in line to start (333 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions), but he will have competition from Faton Bauta and Greyson Lambert. Nick Chubb will be the top running back after rushing for 1,547 yards with 14 touchdowns while Todd Gurley (911 yards and 9 touchdowns) was hampered by an NCAA investigation and eventually a torn ACL. The top two receivers are gone as well, but Jeb Blazevich (18 catches for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Malcolm Mitchell (31 catches for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns) are set to step up. The offensive line has four starters back, but the losses at quarterback and receiver are worrisome. The Bulldogs put up 41.3 points and 458 yards per game in 2014 and will probably not match that in 2015.

The defense was stout last year by giving up only 20.7 points and 337 yards per game with eight starters back. There will be six starters back in 2015 with one starter back on the line in Jordan Jenkins from linebacker. Jenkins had 70 tackles, 5 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss. Two linebackers return in Lorenzo Carter (41 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss) and Leonard Floyd (55 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss). The secondary will have three starters back from a group that allowed only 170 passing yards per game and 53.8% completions. The trio returning are Aaron Davis (40 tackles, 5 pass breakups, and an interception), Quincy Mauger (51 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions), and Dominick Sanders (34 tackles, 5 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions). The defense should be solid again and while they may not match or top last year’s numbers, they could come close.

Georgia faces Louisiana-Monroe, Southern, Georgia Southern, and Georgia Tech in non-conference action with the only road game against the Yellow Jackets. In conference, Georgia has to face Vanderbilt and Tennessee on the road while playing Florida in Jacksonville, as usual. They will also face South Carolina, Missouri, and Kentucky at home. From the West, Georgia will take on Alabama (home) and Auburn (road) to give them another tough draw. Georgia has the talent to win the East and the division is certainly there for the taking.

4. Florida Gators

Since Urban Meyer’s departure after the 2010 season, there have been more bad times than good for the Florida Gators. They went 7-6 in 2011 before a slight resurgence to 11-2 and a Sugar Bowl appearances, but they were crushed in that game and it was all downhill after that. They missed a bowl game entire in 2013 with a terrible 4-8 record and went 7-5 last year. Will Muschamp was in charge for the last four seasons, but he was let go. Jim McElwain has been installed as the head coach after three seasons at Colorado State where he went 22-16.

The offense in 2013 for Florida was atrocious. They put up a paltry 18.8 points and 317 yards per game while the numbers improved drastically in 2014 with 30.3 points and 368 yards per game. Enter McElwain, who nearly 35 points and 500 yards per game in his final two years at Colorado State. The quarterback position was unsettled last year due to injuries, suspensions, and ineffectiveness. Treon Harris threw for 1,019 yards with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, but will be competing with Will Grier for the QB duties. The running back position is led by Kelvin Taylor, who had 565 yards and 6 touchdowns, but the loss of Adam Lane (181 yards and 1 touchdown) will hurt the depth. Demarcus Robinson (53 catches for 810 yards and 7 touchdowns) was the top receiver last year and returns for 2015 along with Ahmad Fulwood (12 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown), Latroy Pittman (15 catches for 164 yards), and Brandon Powell (15 catches for 147 yards and a touchdown). There is only one offensive lineman returning and the offense is also learning new schemes. With all that in mind, it is tough to see the Gators putting up a high amount of points, but there is serious talent left over from Muschamp’s tenure.

The defense was very good to excellent under Muschamp, which is no surprise. In 2012, the defense allowed 14.5 points and 287 yards per game in their 11-2 season. The numbers rose to 21.1 points per game in both 2013 and 2014 while the yards per game were 314 in 2013 and 330 in 2014. This year, there will be seven starters back with two on the line in Bryan Cox (29 tackles and 4 sacks) and Jonathan Bullard (52 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 6 tackles for loss) while highly rated freshman Cece JeffersonAntonio Morrison is the lone linebacker returning, but he is a good one after leading team in tackles with 101. The secondary is clearly the strength of the defense with all four starters back led by Vernon Hargreaves (50 tackles, 13 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions). Brian Poole (45 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions), Keanu Neal (45 tackles and 3 interceptions), and Marcus Maye (62 tackles) all return as well. The secondary should be one of the best, if not the top, secondaries in the nation. Overall, the defense should be stout again with that back four leading the way.

Florida faces New Mexico State, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, and Florida State as part of their non-conference schedule and all four of those games are at home. Within their division, Florida faces Kentucky, Missouri, and South Carolina on the road while playing both Tennessee and Vanderbilt at home. The Gators also face Georgia in their annual clash in Jacksonville. From the West, Florida will play Ole Miss (home) and LSU (road) in two tough games. The talent is there for the Gators to win the East, but a new coach and some losses on the offense leave some worries about actually getting it done.

5. South Carolina Gamecocks

It is hard to believe that Steve Spurrier will be entering his 11th year at South Carolina. He has led South Carolina to an overall record of 84-45 and has not had a losing season. However, the Gamecocks have not won the SEC Championship and have only played in the SEC Championship game once in 2010 when they were lit up 56-17. Still, South Carolina had three straight years of 11-2 records from 2011 through 2013 and Spurrier looks to get them back to those heights after a 7-6 record in 2014.

The offense put up 32.6 points and 443 yards per game, but will only return four starters from last seasons. The quartet of Connor Mitch, Perry Orth, Lorenzo Nunez, and Michael Scarnecchia will battle it out to replace Dylan Thompson (3,564 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions). The top returning rusher is Brandon Wilds (570 yards and 4 touchdowns) and he will be joined by David Williams (256 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Shon Carson (141 yards with 2 touchdowns). Pharoh Cooper returns at wide receiver after leading the team in 2014 with 69 catches for 1,136 yards and 9 touchdowns. Tight end Jerell Adams is the second leading returning receiver with 21 catches for 279 yards and 1 touchdown. There are three starters back on the line as well. The lack of experience is a huge concern for the offense and the last time this few of starters returned, they only put up 20.6 points and 347 yards per game.

The defense is in better shape than the offense with eight starters returning including three on the offensive line. The duo of Gerald Dixon (42 tackles and 2 sacks) and Gerald Dixon Jr. (29 tackles) will be joined by Darius English (24 tackles) and junior college transfer Marquavius Lewis. The top three linebackers return in Skai Moore (93 tackles and 3 interceptions), TJ Gurley (80 tackles), and Jonathan Walton (61 tackles). The secondary is the concern here with two starters back in Chris Lammons (21 tackles) and Chris Moody (37 tackles). The defense allowed 30.4 points and 433 yards per game in 2014, but those numbers should improve in 2015 with more experience returning.

South Carolina opens the year with a game against North Carolina in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their three other non-conference games are against Central Florida, The Citadel, and Clemson with all of those games at home. They will face Georgia, Missouri, and Tennessee on the road in three tough games while playing Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida at home. From the West, the Gamecocks have LSU (home) and Texas A&M on the road. If the offense can get its act together quickly and perform well above expectations, then South Carolina has a great chance at contending in the East.

6. Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky has been a middle of the road SEC team at best for a long while. With Joker Phillips at the helm, the Wildcats went 6-7 in year one before falling off to 5-7 and 2-10 in his final two years. Mark Stoops was brought in and produced the same 2-10 record in his first year. 2014 was a step in the right direction with a 5-1 that included a brutal triple overtime loss to Florida, 36-30. They finished the year with six straight losses preventing them from making a bowl game.

Kentucky’s offense put up 29.2 points and 384 yards per game in 2014, a step up from the 20.5 points and 341 yards per game they produced in 2013. This year, seven starters are back led by quarterback Patrick Towles, who threw for 2,718 yards with 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. The running game has Stanley Williams back after he ran for 486 yards and 5 touchdowns as the leading rusher, though that will need to go up in 2015. Jojo Kemp (323 yards and 4 touchdowns) and Mikel Horton (306 yards and 2 touchdowns) are also at running back. Ryan Timmons is back after leading the team with 45 receptions for 536 yards and 2 touchdowns. Also returning are Garrett Johnson (22 catches for 271 yards and 2 touchdowns), Dorian Baker (19 catches for 199 yards and 1 touchdown), and Blake Bone (14 catches for 194 yards with 2 touchdowns). The offensive line has four starters back and the offense should continue its upward trend in points and yards per game in 2015.

The defense has been consistently sub par in Stoops’ first two years. In 2013, the defense gave up 31.2 points and 427 yards per game and those numbers were nearly the same in 2014 when they allowed 31.3 points and 407 yards per game. In 2015, the number of starters returning is seven including four of the top six tacklers. On the line, Melvin Lewis is the lone returning starter after recording 37 tackles last year. The three linebackers all return in Ryan Flannigan (57 tackles), Khalid Henderson (53 tackles), and Josh Forrest (110 tackles and 7 tackles for loss). The secondary has three starters back led by Cody Quinn (35 tackles), Fred Tiller (46 tackles, 9 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions), and AJ Stamps (56 tackles and 4 interceptions). Year three of the Stoops era should produce the best defense yet.

Kentucky has a non-conference schedule that consists of Louisiana-Lafayette, Eastern Kentucky, Charlotte, and Louisville with all those at home. They will face South Carolina, Georgia, and Vanderbilt on the road while taking on Florida, Missouri, and Tennessee at home. From the West, Kentucky will play Auburn (home) and Mississippi State (road). Kentucky is the wild card team in the East due to their ability to completely shake up the standings.

7. Vanderbilt Commodores

Vanderbilt was undoubtedly going in the right direction under James Franklin. He led them to three straight bowls between 2011 and 2013 while going 9-4 in his final two years. Unfortunately, Derek Mason was not able to produce the same results in his first year with Vanderbilt going backward to 3-9 including 0-8 in the SEC last year.

The offense for Vandy in 2014 was poor gaining only 288 yards per game and scoring just 17.2 points per contest. There will be in starters back from that group led by quarterback Johnny McCrary, who was the leading passer in 2014 with only 985 yards with 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Wade Freeback threw for 365 yards with 1 touchdown and 5 interceptions. At running back will be Ralph Webb, who was a bright spot as a freshman with 912 yards and 4 touchdowns. The top three receivers are back in Steven Scheu (39 catches for 525 yards and 4 touchdowns), CJ Duncan (28 catches for 441 yards with 4 touchdowns), and Latevius Rayford (36 catches for 350 yards and a touchdown). The offensive line has four starters back and the offense should produce better in 2015.

The defense has nine starters back from a group that allowed 33.3 points and 402 yards per game. There are two back on the line led by Caleb Azubike (39 tackles and 4 sacks) and Adam Butler (35 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss). The linebackers have three returning starters in Nigel Bowden (78 tackles), Stephen Weatherly (55 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 8 tackles for loss), and Darreon Herring (45 tackles). The secondary has all four starters back with Torren McGaster leading the way with 66 tackles and 2 interceptions. The defense should improve in 2015 with the experience and depth returning.

Vanderbilt will play Western Kentucky, Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, and Houston with the first two at home and the second two on the road. In their division, Vandy will take on South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee on the road and play Georgia, Missouri, and Kentucky at home. From the West, they will play Ole Miss (road) and Texas A&M (home). Vanderbilt will be struggling for wins again in 2015, but they will be a tough out in some games this year.

Overview

The SEC East is wide open with Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina all having enough talent to win the division. Kentucky is a dangerous team that can spoil the hopes of any of the top five teams with an upset while Vanderbilt is still lagging behind. Below is the predicted order of finish.

1. Tennessee

2. Missouri

3. Georgia

4. Florida

5. South Carolina

6. Kentucky

7. Vanderbilt

Check back on Friday for the final preview of this series with the SEC West. We will also predict the winner of the SEC Championship.

Florida Wins Second Straight Softball Championship

2015 Women's College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)
2015 Women’s College World Series Logo (NCAA.com)

Florida Wins Second Straight Softball Championship

The Florida Gators won their second straight softball National Championship thanks to Lauren Haeger‘s dominant pitching performance. She had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning to lead the Gators to a 4-1 victory.

After struggling against Haylie Wagner on Tuesday, the Gators jumped on her right away in the bottom of the first. Kelsey Stewart was hit by a pitch and was sacrificed to second on a bunt that also allowed Nicole DeWitt to reach safely. Haeger singled her home to put runners on the corners while Kirsti Merritt put both runners in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Taylor Schwarz brought those two runners home for a 3-0 Florida lead after one inning.

Florida drove Wagner out of the game early in the bottom of the second. Justine McLean was able to get to second base after a throwing error and then moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt. Stewart brought her home with a double to left field and Wagner was then taken out in favor of Megan Betsa with Florida leading 4-0.

Betsa struggled with her control as she hit the next two batters to load the bases with only one out. However, she soon found her control by striking out the next two batters to end the bases loaded jam.

Michigan had two bases runners in the top of the third thanks to back-to-back hitters being hit by a pitch. A strike out and foul out did not help the cause while Sierra Romero drew a walk to load the bases. Haeger ended the top of the third with a strike out of Kelly Christner.

Florida had another chance to put up runs in the bottom of the fourth. Kelsey Stewart hit into a fielder’s choice that threw out the lead runner at second, but she was able to steal second with only out. A strike out was followed by an intentional walk of Haeger before a foul out ended the inning for the Gators. After four innings, Florida still led 4-0.

Michigan would finally get their first hit in the top of the fifth. Tera Blanco hit a one out single to left field and Abby Ramirez reached on an infield single. Sierra Lawrence flied out to right field before Romero delivered an RBI single to center that scored Blanco. Christner flied out to center field to end the threat and Michigan trailing 4-1.

The Gators saw Merritt hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the fifth and she stole second on a strike out. Two batters later, McLean hit a single to first and stole second to put both runners in scoring position. Once again, Wagner was able to shut the door with a strike out.

Michigan tried to start a two out rally in the sixth. Amanda Vargas singled to center and Wagner was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. Unfortunately for Michigan, Blanco grounded out to short to end the inning.

Florida began the bottom half of the sixth with Stewart being hit by a pitch and stealing second on a DeWitt strike out. After another intentional walk to Haeger, Taylore Fuller was hit by a pitch to load the bases while Haylie Wagner came back into the circle for Michigan. She was able to prevent any runs from getting across thanks to a foul out to the catcher and ground out to second. Michigan still trailed 4-1 after six innings with one final chance.

Michigan’s final half inning began with a single by Abby Ramirez. Sierra Lawrence struck out looking while Sierra Romero hit a ground ball to the shortstop that threw Ramirez out at second. Christner came up and hit a ground ball to first base for an easy put out that gave Florida their second straight National Championship.

Lauren Haeger pitched another good game going seven innings while giving up one run on five hits. She also allowed one walk and struck out five Wolverines. For her incredible performances throughout the last week, Haeger was named the Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player.

Florida became the first team since the Arizona Wildcats in 2006 and 2007 to win back-to-back National Championships in Division 1 Softball. Arizona also won back-to-back titles in 1993-94 and 1996-97. The only other program to do so has been the UCLA Bruins who have done it three times in 1984-85, 1988-90, and 2003-04.