Back before all heck broke loose, I began counting down the 25 things I am most looking forward to this coming season in the SEC. I am now pleased to continue that list, with this installment featuring mascot continuity, players looking for breakout seasons, and 100,000+ brown liquor-fueled cajuns in an animalistic fury. Or, what's known around New Orleans as "Wednesday." Among other things, I'm seriously looking forward to:
20. Florida at Tennessee, September 18th. It's just not going to be the same as last year, without General Peachfuzz, Jr. basking in a moral victory of epic proportions. Tennessee will be coming off a home date with Oregon which they will not be favored to win, while Florida will be coming off what passes for murderer's row in Jeremy Foley scheduling land: back-to-back home dates against Miami of Ohio and South Florida. Both of those games are noon starts in the Swamp, by the way, meaning that if you're an enterprising intravenous saline salesman, the Redhawk sideline on September 4th will be the place to be. I'm betting they run short in the 3rd quarter and will need a rush reorder.
The Gators should be a solid touchdown-plus favorite on Rocky Top (which will feel like the breezy shores of Lake Michigan after the prior two weeks' outings), but I'll be curious to see what Derek Dooley has put together by the third game of the season. I don't think I'm in the minority among Bulldog fans in thinking that Georgia's October 9th contest with the Vols will be a critical barometer at the season's midpoint, and a game that we really, really want to win given last season's debacle in Knoxville. I'll be watching this one in a feeble attempt to read the SEC East tea leaves going forward. My early guess is that the Vols will be full of fight, but will go down swinging.
19. Morgan Newton.The sophomore from Carmel, Indiana started the last eight games of the 2009 season for the Wildcats after Mike Hartline went down, and responded by completing 56% of his passes and being named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. You may remember him stinging the Bulldogs for 3 TD's in Kentucky's upset victory. When I first saw Newton as a high school senior, I thought the kid might be special. Nothing I saw last season changed my mind. While he'll battle for the starting job with the now-healthy Hartline, Morgan Newton has the physical tools of an NFL quarterback, and it will be interesting to see if he can take charge as the quarterback of the future for Joker Phillips.
18. Hold That Tiger. I am a bit of a chauvinist regarding college marching bands and happen to believe that the Redcoats are as good as it gets. Nevertheless, ahem:
Say this for LSU fans: it takes a lot of noise to drown out a band that big from only a few yards away. Baton Rouge + brown liquor + darkness > jet engine. Yet another reason to love SEC football.
17. Cornelius Washington. While I don't believe for one second that he runs a sub 4.3 second 40 yard dash, I do believe that he could have a big year rushing the passer off the edge. I also think that Washington's size/speed combination might allow him to cover tight ends and H-backs, something we've sorely missed at times in the past. Washington could also prove to be a valuable recruiting tool for guys like Griffin's Xzavier Dickson, who may still want to see Todd Grantham's defense in action before fully committing to play in it.
16. UGA VIII. I love Russ, and he’s done admirable work which should never be forgotten. But it just doesn’t seem right going into a football season without an UGA on the sideline. It's just not the same. Though the gap may be shrinking, mascots are one of the things that still differentiate the college game from the NFL. I take ours seriously, and while Russ will almost certainly (in true bulldog fashion) continue to wallow out a special place in the hearts of the Bulldog faithful, I just don't think equilibrium will be restored to Bulldog Nation until the UGA line is back in place.
I'll be back later with items 15-11. Until then . . .