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Interesting Flight Companion
I boarded a flight from Atlanta to New Orleans Sunday evening and noticed an SEC theme among the passengers.
  • In addition to numerous passengers with SEC caps or shirts, the Tennessee women's basketball coach was sitting in the 2nd row of 1st class. (I recognized her face, then, as I got closer, confirmed my assessment from her UT shirt.)
  • When I got to my seat in the middle of three, the gentleman oin the aisle stood up to let me in. He had an SEC logo over the pocket of his white shirt. He also looked familiar although I didn't immediately recall who he was.
  • "Is there an SEC event going on in New Orleans tomorrow?" I wondered.
  • So I asked him that question. He laughed and said he didn't know why the UT basketball coach was going to New Orleans but that he worked for the SEC and was heading to New Orleans for the Sun Belt Conference meeting Monday and then to LSU Tuesday.
  • Looking at him up close, I knew I had seen him before. My first hunch was that he was a broadcaster. But that proved not to be the case.
  • The tipoff came when I asked him what his job was at the SEC. He said he was the Supervisor of Football Officials.
  • Bingo! I had seen him many times refereeing football games, including several BCS Championship tilts - Steve Shaw (although I didn't come up with his full name until we landed and he said he enjoyed our conversation and gave his name).
  • Why is the SEC Supervisor of Officials going to the Sun Belt meeting?
    The SEC has a partnership with the Sun Belt whereby Steve also supervises their officials. He has a staff to review the videos of the games and grade the officials in order to improve them.
  • Why are you going to Baton Rouge?
    To meet with the football staff and explain the new rules and points of emphasis
    for this coming season.
  • Can you give me the Cliff Notes version of your presentation?
    The SEC will implement a collaborative process for instant replay on an experimental basis. Personnel operating from SEC Headquarters will assist the in-stadium Instant Replay Officials when replay decisions are made.
    The review booth can initiate a targeting review in addition to reviewing all targeting calls by the officiating crew. Steve said his staff had reviewed the videos of all the SEC games in 2015 and came up with only two instances where a targeting foul was not called by the crew.
    Deliberate tripping of the ball carrier is now a foul.
    Two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties already result in a player's disqualification. But now that rule will be applied to coaches as well. However, there is no carry over to the next game.
  • Will the day come when we will no longer have kickoffs in football?
    That's more likely to happen in the NFL than in the NCAA. The Ivy League asked the NCAA for permission to experiment with putting the kickoff line back at the 40 where it was for a half century or more. Ivy League kickers may employ "sky kicks" that will may make kickoffs more like punts in terms of allowing defenders to get closer to the returner.
  • He didn't play football at Alabama but graduated with a degree in math (a bound between us that we discovered early in our conversation). He want to be a Graduate Assistant in football but couldn't make money at that. So he used his math degree to get a job with AT&T in Birmingham. (Another bond - my father worked for AT&T in Birmingham when I was a small child.) He continued to work for AT&T until he became SEC Supervisor of Officials several years ago. He began as a high school official, becoming a referee after three years. He moved to the Gulf States Conference as a referee for a number of years. The SEC hired him to be a back judge but, that summer, legendary referee Jimmy Harper decided to retire. So he immediately became a referee in the SEC.
  • When he learned early on that I was an LSU fan, he replied, "I love your coach!"
  • He was a pleasant travel companion, and we shared many other stories. He talked about officiating a Tennessee game at Notre Dame and, since I had told him about my football trips to Michigan and other venues, strongly urged me to attend a game there. (Maybe it'll happen now that Notre Dame is renewing its series with Michigan.)
  • He said the LSU-Florida game at Tiger Stadium in 2007 was one of the most exciting he's every officiated. He recalled how loud the cheer was when it was announced late in the game that Stanford had upset USC, opening the door for LSU to become #1.
2016 College Football Preview: Lindy's Sports

Lindy’s Top 10

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Ohio State
  5. Baylor [This was before Art Briles's firing.]
  6. Tennessee
  7. Michigan
  8. Florida State
  9. LSU
    THE GOOD NEWS: LSU had 22 underclassmen declare for the NFL Draft from 2012 to 2015. This year, just one. The passing game maybe, kind of, looked a bit better in the spring, but QB Brandon Harris knows he doesn’t have to be Deshaun Watson since Miles will get as much mileage out of Fournette as he can.
    THE BAD NEWS: Can Harris – or backup Danny Ettling – hit the deep pass and be error resistant? Defensively, LSU is adjusting to a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Dave Aranda.
    OUR CALL: LSU fans expect championships. Beat Alabama at home on Nov. 5, and the Tigers are on their way.
  10. Stanford

Interesting Facts

  • Last season was the highest scoring in history – 29.65 points per game per team.
  • There have been two 2,000y rushers each of the last two seasons:
    2014 – Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman
    2015 – Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry
  • Alabama faces a third consecutive season when the QB position is up for grabs.
  • LSU punter Josh Growden, a freshman, is the team’s third straight punter from Australia.

Five Hot Seat Coaches

  1. Charlie Strong, Texas
    Merely showing "progress" in a third year at a national powerhouse, when fans are carrying torches ready to storm the castle, just isn’t good enough. Strong needs to go from “good” to “2005 Vince Young-good,” like, right now.
  2. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
    This is a fantastic job because only the Aggies coach can sell Texas kids on the SEC experience while also staying in-state. Sumlin and A&M debuted in the SEC with a sexy 6-2 record and a Heisman Trophy-winner. Since then, 11-13 in the league and a packed highway of transfers.
  3. Les Miles, LSU
    After what happened late last season, we don’t know nuthin’ about nuthin’ when it comes to Miles' job security. It wouldn’t shock us if he won the 2016 national title and was the 2017 Mardi Gras king. And we wouldn’t be blown over if he won, say, just eight games and all of Louisiana chipped in to buy itself a big helping of Jimbo Fisher.
  4. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
    When the school dumps $120 million on stadium renovations and another $45 million on a new team facility, a smart guy like Stoops can see the writing on those shiny new walls saying that someone else will play with all the new toys if he doesn’t at least get to the teeniest, tiniest of bowl games in his fourth year.
  5. Darrell Hazell, Purdue
    Too obvious? Well, the 6-30 record in four years says "See ya!" but the reported $4.6 million buyout after this season says, "Hey, you know, if we turn down the lights a bit, this guy looks pretty good."

Interesting Quotations

  • Nick Saban on his QB controversy last year: "He's really not the starter until everybody thinks he should be the starter. That didn't happen last year until Jake (Coker) got pissed in the Ole Miss game when he didn’t start. He went in there and played like he should have played. That's when he won the team."
  • ESPN's Mark May on which coaching hire most intrigues him: "I would like to see what Kirby Smart does at Georgia. And the other thing is I want to see what Mark Richt does. Is he energized enough at Miami? It was one of those situations at Georgia where he had been there so long and had been good but not great."
  • "Jim Harbaugh knows how to hook you. … Go on, admit it. You at least slowed down during the offseason to see the car wreck on the side of the highway: Michigan’s coach ripping Ohio State’s athletic director, or taking a shine to being called the Donald Trump of college football. In Harbaugh's mind, that meant someone willing to rock the establishment. ‘You can get as mad as you want about him, but he doesn’t care …' said one Power 5 conference coach.”

Lindy's Top Five New Coaching Hires (in alphabetical order by college)

  • GeorgiaKirby Smart
    This is a fascinating hire. Smart is a Georgia alum, which is big. But he is a first-time head coach, which is tricky in the no-room-for-error SEC. His years coaching Alabama’s defense clearly proved him to be an elite coordinator, but running the show is a whole new animal. Bottom line, though: Everyone wanted Smart, but only Georgia got him.
  • MiamiMark Richt
    It’s difficult to imagine how Miami could’ve done any better with this hire. Richt is a tremendous recruiter, a proven winner (if he didn’t win quite enough at Georgia, so be it) and – important to all involved – an alum. Culturally, this is a seismic shift for the Hurricanes. In every other way, it seems to signal a return to the big-time.
  • SyracuseDino Babers
    Rather incredibly, Syracuse is the 15th stop on Babers' tour of America's college football programs. He fared very well as head coach at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green, but stepping up to the ACC will be fraught with challenges. Babers' offenses have been pedal-to-the-metal and QB-friendly, which should at least make Orange football more fun to watch.
  • VirginiaBronco Mendenhall
    Huge hire for Virginia, which gets a guy who won 99 games and coached in 11 bowl games in 11 seasons at BYU. The Cavaliers will be expected to ramp up their defensive toughness and instantly become a tougher out in the ACC Coastal. Of course, the idea is to start competing for titles in the weak-sister Coastal and eventually stand toe-to-toe with Atlantic powers Florida State and Clemson. Mendenhall gives UVA much more than a dash of hope.
  • Virginia TechJustin Fuente
    The Hokies got their home-run restart with Fuente, who’ll be only 40 in his debut season in Blacksburg. Fuente’s offenses at Memphis were enormously productive; he’s a proven developer of QBs and has an aggressive style that Hokie fans will welcome with open arms. With longtime Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster still on board, this could be the start of something big.

Top 12 Non-Conference Games

  • Alabama vs USC – Arlington TX – Sep. 3
  • Ohio State @ Oklahoma – Sep. 17
  • Clemson @ Auburn – Sep.3
  • Ole Miss vs Florida State – Orlando FL – Sep. 5
  • LSU vs Wisconsin – Green Bay – Sep. 3
  • Notre Dame @ USC– Nov. 26
  • Michigan State @ Notre Dame – Sep. 17
  • Stanford @ Notre Dame – Oct. 15
  • Oklahoma @ Houston – Sep. 3
  • UCLA @ Texas A&M – Sep. 3
  • Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee – Bristol TN – Sep. 10
  • Florida @ Florida State – Nov. 26

Top 10 Conference Games

  • Alabama @ LSU – Nov. 5
  • Clemson @ Florida State – Oct. 29
  • Michigan @ Ohio State – Nov. 26
  • Alabama @ Ole Miss – Sep. 17
  • Baylor @ Oklahoma – Nov. 12
  • Alabama @ Tennessee – Oct. 15
  • Stanford @ Oregon – Nov. 12
  • TCU @ Baylor – Nov. 5
  • Michigan @ Michigan State – Oct. 29
  • Auburn @ Alabama – Nov. 26

QUICK QUIZ
Who are the only two FBS coaches who have been at their current schools continuously since the previous century?


TOP 100 INCOMING FRESHMENLSU players

21. Kristian Fulton CB
23. Rashard Lawrence DT
47. Salvion Smith CB
55. Eric Monroe S
63. Michael Divinity OLB
65. Edwin Alexander DT

TOP 100 HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS 2016-17 – Louisiana players

2. Dylan Moses OLB (playing at IMG Academy, Bradenton FL)
11. Tyler Shelvin DT Northside (Lafayette)
58. Todd Harris S Plaquemine
88. Devonta Smith WR Amite
91. Christopher Allen OLB Southern Lab
94. Bruce Jordan-Swilling OLB Brother Martin

LSU Players on Preseason All-America Team

First team offense – RB Leonard Fournette
First team defense – DB Jamal Adams

SEC PICKS

SEC WEST SEC EAST
  1. Alabama
  2. LSU
    Good News: Tigers are very talented at RB and WR; QB play should be improved.
    Bad News: Yeah, but the pass game is still unproven; can defense adjust to new 3-4 scheme?
    Our call: If QB play stabilizes, the Tigers could win the West for first time since 2011.
  3. Ole Miss
  4. Auburn
  5. Texas A&M
  6. Arkansas
  7. Mississippi State
  1. Tennessee
  2. Georgia
  3. Florida
  4. South Carolina
  5. Missouri
  6. Kentucky
  7. Vanderbilt

Excerpts from full page write-up on LSU

  • Strong-armed QB Brandon Harris started all of last season but showed inconsistency on touch passes and couldn’t do enough to help make up the difference when Fournette’s productivity dropped during a stupefying three-game losing streak. … If he can’t improve upon [his 2015] numbers, Purdue transfer QB Danny Etling is itching for playing time. He’s smart and hard-working, and Etling seemed to mesh with the offense in the spring.
  • Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural are NFL-bound receivers while TE Colin Jeter made the most of an opportunity last season when injury thrust him into a starting role.
  • Coordinator David Aranda … had the nation’s top scoring defense and second-leading total defense at Wisconsin last season. … While Aranda is primed to have his LBs and linemen overpower opponents, he’s prepared to employ his veteran DBs in clamp-down mode.
  • OVERVIEW: Not only is LSU blessed with talent, but it has an abundance of veteran leadership that has heightened expectations. After the disappointment of last year, the fan base is anticipating nothing short of contention for SEC and national titles. LSU has the experience and ability to do it, but it won’t come easy against a challenging schedule.

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About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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