Can Tanner Mordecai make Wisconsin a contender again?
Picture this: it’s 2017. Fidget spinners are all the rage, but more importantly, Wisconsin is one of the best college football teams in the nation. The Badgers were coming off three straight seasons with ten or more wins, but 2017 took that to a whole new level.
Although they fell just short of a playoff berth after a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, Wisconsin ended up finishing 13-1. That was essentially the last time the Badgers were relevant in the college football world.
It was a swift fall for Wisconsin and Paul Chryst, who was fired last season after years of mediocrity. However, a new era has begun for the Badgers. Luke Fickell has finally taken the jump to a Power 5 program.
With Graham Mertz transferring to Florida, the job looked to be wide open. Mertz had his ups and downs, but his departure left Fickell with a sparse group at QB. Cue transfer Tanner Mordecai.
Coming out of Midway High School in Waco, Texas, Tanner Mordecai was a four star prospect and the 11th ranked dual threat QB in the 2018 class according to 247. With numerous Power 5 options on the table, Mordecai committed to Oklahoma. It made sense. Lincoln Riley and the Sooners had a reputation of producing quarterbacks: Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray both shined in Norman.
The same things that made Oklahoma a desirable destination soon forced Mordecai out. After Jalen Hurts transferred from Alabama and Spencer Rattler drew playing time as a Freshman, Mordecai decided to transfer to SMU.
SMU was a great fit for Mordecai. He was able to get consistent playing time and show off his talent in two seasons with the Mustangs. Rather than enter the NFL draft, he opted to transfer to Wisconsin and prove he can see the same success at a higher level.
Mordecai dominated defenses in the AAC, throwing for 7,152 yards, 72 touchdowns and only 22 interceptions. He put of video game numbers and also flashed his arm strength with plays like this:
Tanner Mordecai looks to be the perfect fit for Luke Fickell’s offensive scheme. At Cincinnati, Fickell valued dual-threat quarterbacks and heavily utilized the run-pass option. Although the stats don’t reflect it, Mordecai is perfectly capable of running the ball when needed. Just check out this huge run he broke off while at SMU:
So, can Mordecai bring Wisconsin back to their glory days? This year is as good as any. In a lackluster Big Ten West, the Badgers could take advantage of an easy schedule and advance to the conference championship.
The Badgers offense looks to be potent this year, with Mordecai throwing to some new receivers, including C.J. Williams and Bryson Green. Williams, a top ten WR in the 2022 class, transfers over from USC while Bryson Green comes to Madison from Oklahoma State. If the offensive line is sufficient, look for this offense to be high-octane.
It remains to be seen whether Wisconsin can reach the heights they did in 2017. However, Luke Fickell and Tanner Mordecai will ensure that the Badgers will be a sneaky team in 2023.
Inside Ireland’s surprisingly deep history with American Football
American Football in Ireland has come a long way since broadcasting week-old NFL highlights on national television in the 80s. There have been seven Division 1 college football games in the country, plus a few FCS games and an NFL preseason game.
In August, the Aer Lingus College Football Classic will continue as Notre Dame takes on Navy. Last year’s matchup between Northwestern and Nebraska at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium drew an attendance of 42,699.
While the College Football Classic looks to be a consistent presence for the sport internationally, it’s been a long time in the making. Colum Cronin, co-founder and co-host of The Irish NFL Show, details how he got invested in the sport.
“I got into it because I saw the highlights,” said Cronin. “There was this team that played in neon orange, and they had a number seven who was here, there, and everywhere. He was Patrick Mahomes before Patrick Mahomes existed: he was John Elway. I fell in love with John Elway and the Denver Broncos.”
According to Cronin, UK television broadcasted football highlights beginning in the early 1980s. Ireland’s national broadcasting station followed suit in the mid-80s. There’s a catch– the highlights, broadcast on a Monday, were not of that week’s game. They were from the week prior.
Highlights weren’t the only reason behind Ireland’s craving for American football: heritage plays a large part in that as well. The United States Census Bureau reports that over 31.5 million American residents claim Irish heritage.
“You’d obviously have people who have relations in America,” said Cronin. “They hear about American sports. I had aunts and uncles and cousins who would’ve sent me over gear for Christmas, and I think that in particular plays a role [in the growth of the sport]”
The history of college football in Ireland can be traced all the way back to 1988, where a massive crowd of 42,525 flocked to Lansdowne Road Stadium to watch Boston College take down Army. Although there was another game in the same venue the next year, attendance severely dipped.
It didn’t take long for college football to find its way back to Ireland, though. The Wild Geese Classic in 1991 and 1993 pitted FCS schools against one another.
“I actually went to see my first live American football experience at the Wild Geese Classic in Limerick,” said Cronin. “I saw Fordham take on Holy Cross. Even back then, people were interested and wondering what this game was.”
1996 saw another D1 game, with Notre Dame and Navy (sound familiar?) drawing a sizable crowd for the Shamrock Classic. That was it for college football in Ireland up until 2012, when Notre Dame and Navy met yet again on international soil. Games were also played in 2014 and 2016.
In 2022, the Aer Lingus Football Classic finally kicked off after some COVID difficulties and cancellations from previous years. Northwestern defeated Nebraska 31-28 in what turned out to be a tight matchup. With COVID clearing up, the series looks to be more of a mainstay in Dublin.
“Now what you have is a recommitment to these college games and to growth,” said Cronin. “Last year, the stadium was almost full.”
The games don’t only draw Irish fans. College teams have brought crowds with them, especially those who want to see the sights and scenery that Ireland has to offer.
“I’m sure Tourism Ireland are delighted by the numbers and the revenue that [the games] bring in, and as someone who loves the sport I’m delighted that we get games,” said Cronin. “It brings a huge number of people into Ireland.”
Colum believes that as the games have grown in importance, interest will remain high. Compared to FCS games, a Power 5 conference showdown has massive implications towards the College Football Playoff, especially with an expanded field on the horizon.
“The games matter, and I think that makes a huge difference in terms of attracting people to it,” said Cronin. “If there’s something on the line, people will get into it a lot more.”
College football is known for its pageantry and traditions, and that seems to mesh well with Ireland and its storied history. Colum recounts seeing Notre Dame visiting in 2012 and staying in the area while he worked at Trinity College.
“You could see the pep rally they did there, and they had the cheerleaders in the front square of Trinity College,” said Cronin. “There was a real interest there. People went from the pep rally to listening to Irish music.”
Overall, the prospect of more college football in Ireland looks promising. The eyes of the college football world will be on Aviva Stadium as Notre Dame and Navy square off this August.
“It’s great for Dublin and great for Ireland that they have become the college football capital of Europe,” said Cronin. “The fans in Ireland understand the game. Fans here know what’s going on, and they’re able to follow.”
Besides just hosting games, Ireland also has tackle football and flag football leagues that are growing in popularity.
“Across the spectrum in Ireland, you’re seeing interest grow in the NFL, you’re seeing the interest grow in the college game, but you’re also seeing the interest grow in the domestic game,” said Cronin. “It’s a really exciting time to be a fan of the sport and be present in Ireland when all of this is building and growing.”
Huge thanks to Colum for taking the time to interview. Drop him a follow on Twitter @ColumFromCork, and make sure to check his podcast out @IreNFL.
Naismith Player of the Year Race
Who are the top players in the league? Which players stand out the most? With conference play heating up, let’s take a deep dive looking at some of the best players on the best teams to see who will win the Naismith player of the year award, which was named after the father of basketball, James Naismith.
The last players to win this award were Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky and Aliyah Boston of South Carolina. Who will win it this year? Let’s break down the top contenders for the award this season.
There’s the obvious current leaders in Zach Edey, Brandon Miller, and Tshiebwe, but there are some stars going under the radar for the award this season.
The current favorite is Purdue’s big man Zach Edey. The 7’4 center has been giving defenses nightmares all season long and led Purdue to a 17-1 record. This is by far the best season of his career as he his averaging 21.9 points on 62% shooting from the field. His scoring is not the only aspect of the game he dominates in, he also grabs rebounds like no other. His 13.4 rebound per game average is second in the country. Without Edey, Purdue would be nowhere as good as their 17-1 record and this why he his the current leader for the POTY race. In his January 16th performance against Michigan State, Edey scored 32 points with 17 rebounds to compliment it. Zach will have another chance to hit the court January 19th against Minnesota.
My personal favorite to win the Naismith is Alabama’s freshman power forward Brandon Miller. Miller is without a doubt the best player on the Crimson Tide and is arguably the best player in the SEC. Alabama has needed every single one of his performances to win their biggest games this season. Miller averages 20.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game along with leading Alabama to a 16-2 record. In the last two games combined against LSU and Vanderbilt, Miller scored 61 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. Miller’s only disadvantage is his shooting percentage. The 6’9 forward only shoots 42% from the field but has a high three point percentage of 45%. To improve his odds, Miller needs to find a better shooting rhythm inside the arch. SEC defenses have been put on notice with the power of Brandon Miller, but the gauntlet of the best SEC defenses awaits with Tennessee and Auburn still on the schedule.
Drew Timme has been in college for what seems like forever and has had championship hype almost every single season, but this year he has flown under the radar. His performances for Gonzaga have been exactly the same as the past couple seasons, but the Bulldogs are not as good of a team collectively this season and have lost that preseason hype. The Senior forward averages 21.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Timme has one of the most lethal step back turn around jumpers in the league. He has come to develop this as his signature move and defenses have game planned to not let him get to his dominant hand, but their plans have always been foiled by the athleticism of Timme. With the weak conference schedule of Gonzaga, I think Timme’s odds fall even further down the list as the season progresses.
A star that I believe should get more recognition despite being at a smaller school is Jordan “Jelly” Walker, a point guard at UAB. Walker’s 23.8 points per game average is second in the nation. His freak athleticism and speed combined have given defenses a fit. The small guard has thrived under the Blazers leadership after transferring from Tulane two seasons ago. Walker led the Blazers to March Madness last season as a 12 seed and almost upset the 5 seed Houston Cougars in the first round. Walker has the Blazers on the path towards the tournament once again as UAB currently has a 13-6 record. An automatic bid is awarded to the C-USA champion at the end of the season. Walker will never be considered for the player of the year award because of the size of the school he attends, but I think he should at least be noticed by the voters despite this.
Now that I have explained the top three odds in Men’s basketball, let’s take a look at the other side of basketball, the women’s league. Last season Boston won the award on the star studded Gamecocks team that won the national championship. Boston is still the current favorite to repeat as POTY with Caitlin Clark, and Haley Jones falling right behind her.
Aliyah Boston dominated the college basketball world last season in route to a National Championship and has not let her foot off the gas. Despite this being a down season for her stats, The Gamecocks still sit at 18-0. Boston hasn’t had to carry the team as much, as most of her teammates have improved around her. Boston is averaging 12.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game this season, which is nothing compared to her 16.8 points and 12.5 rebounds last season. Despite this fall in production, she still currently leads the POTY race.
Caitlin Clark has caught the attention of many NBA stars in the past for her sharpshooting ability, but can she finally capture the attention of the Naismith voters? The point guard from Iowa averages a staggering 26.8 points per game which is currently third in the nation. Along with that point average, she also averages 7.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. That stat line is one of the most complete stat lines in the league and definitely worthy of a Naismith nomination. Her three point percentage has gone up from last season as she is connecting on 38% from beyond the arch for the Hawkeyes. Can Clark finally get over the mountain that is winning the POTY award?
Haley Jones is third in the odds for the POTY award in NCAAW basketball. The senior guard has led Stanford to a number 4 national ranking and 17-2 record. The history of the Cardinal is enough to put pressure on any player, but Jones seems to live in this pressure. She averages 13.1 points 3.8 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game this season for the Cardinal. Her 44.8% field goal percentage leads the entire team. Despite some tough losses this season, under Jones’ leadership the Cardinal remain one of the top teams in the league, which is why she has the third best odds to win the POTY.
College Baseball Showdown set to kick off NCAA Baseball
About a month from now, college baseball will be back. The race to Omaha begins with a fairly quiet opening weekend, with most Power Five teams opening against lesser-known schools. However, there is one high-profile event set to kick off the season– the College Baseball Showdown.
The showcase, hosted at Globe Life Field, is set to feature some of the best teams from the area. SEC teams Arkansas, Missouri and Vanderbilt will face off against the Big 12’s Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas.
Five out of the six squads traveling to Arlington are ranked in the preseason top 25, with Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State and TCU all falling inside the top 15. Both Arkansas and Texas made last year’s College World Series, and Arkansas advanced to the semifinals before being eliminated by the future champion Ole Miss.
It just means more
Although most think of the SEC as a football conference, they have long dominated the baseball world as well. Out of the top 10 teams in the preseason rankings, six of them are SEC members. Conference play later in the year could prove to be a bloodbath as 12 of 14 SEC teams are ranked in the preseason top 50. Let’s see how Arkansas, Missouri and Vanderbilt stack up.
Arkansas comes into the 2023 season after a spectacular run last season, ending in a 46-21 record. The Razorbacks may not return a ton of their roster, but coach Dave Van Horn inked the number one signing class, featuring seven MLB Pipeline top 100 prospects. Arkansas may be unproven, but the team’s potential is limitless.
Not everyone can win in SEC baseball. Last year, Missouri was one of the teams that struggled to consistently win in conference play. The Tigers finished 2022 with a 28-23 record, and a 10-20 tally in SEC games. Additionally, the Tigers lost a few players in the draft. It could be another tough season for Missouri, but the College Baseball Showdown should prove to be a good litmus test for this squad.
Vanderbilt baseball has been dominant under Tim Corbin. Since he took the helm in 2003, the Commodores have missed the postseason only twice– both in his first three seasons. 2014 and 2019 saw the trophy headed back to Nashville. The resume speaks for itself, and playing into the Summer seems like a safe bet for Vandy. This year, three preseason All-Americans– Enrique Bradfield Jr, Thomas Shultz and Carter Holton– look to lead the team as it starts the 2023 campaign.
Big 12 Teams
Oklahoma State, ranked number 12 going into the season, is coming off of a 42-22 season. Last year’s edition of the team was already elite, and the Cowboys managed to keep most of their team intact. Headlining the returning players is two-way star Nolan McLean, who is back despite being drafted in the third round of the MLB draft by the Orioles. McLean recorded a .992 OPS at the dish while racking up nearly 14 strikeouts per nine innings out of the bullpen. Oklahoma State looks to head into 2023 with a hot start at the showcase.
2022 was a solid year for TCU, seeing them obtain a 38-22 record and make the NCAA Regionals. However, the team has done nothing but improve since last year. The Horned Frogs added a top 10 transfer class. Flamethrower Ryan Vanderhei joins the pitching staff and outfielder Austin Davis brings his baserunning prowess to the lineup. The preseason number 15 team looks to prove themselves against some tough competition in Arlington.
Texas looks to follow up a College World Series appearance in 2022 with a strong start to the season in the College Baseball Showdown. Last year, the Longhorns went 47-22. However, Texas has lost a ton of talent from next year, and this year’s squad is an unknown. There’s no better way to see what a team has than to pit them against some of the nation’s top championship contenders, which is how Texas will open the season in about a month.
Overall, the College Baseball Showdown should be an exciting event. It’s great to see collegiate baseball follow some of the models of college basketball, now known for exhilarating non-conference matchups to kick off the season.
Keyontae Johnson’s impressive turnaround
Damar Hamlin’s frightening collapse was reminiscent of a similar incident, one that has taken an impressive turn in recent months. Our website specializes in collegiate sports, and the first name that comes to mind was Kansas State senior Keyontae Johnson.
Let’s explore Johnson’s story. Johnson started his high school career playing for Northview High School in Norfolk, Virginia and transferred to IMG Academy before his junior season. He played one season before transferring to Oak Hill Academy. Johnson was an unstoppable force, averaging 12.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in the EYBL Finals and scoring at least 18 points in 19 different occasions for Oak Hill. Johnson was listed as a 4-star recruit and made the ESPN Top 100 list.
Keyontae Johnson committed to play for the Florida Gators and started his career as a reserve. However, his utter determination and his incredible talent earned him the starting job for the remaining 20 games in the 2018-19 season. In the 2019 SEC tournament, Johnson averaged a double-double and was key to the Gators’ semifinal run. During his sophomore season, Johnson averaged 14 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
However, on December 12, 2020, tragedy struck. The Gators were playing the Florida State Seminoles. Keyontae Johnson finished an explosive ally-oop dunk with 16:18 left in the first half which caused the Seminoles to take a timeout. During this timeout, the television broadcast went to commercial break and when they returned, Johnson had collapsed on the court and was not responding. Johnson was rushed to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital where he was induced into a coma. After 3 days, Johnson was transferred back to Gainesville where he received more medical treatment. Johnson would not play basketball again for the Gators, but he joined the coaching staff. In 2022, Johnson was announced as an honorary starter on Senior Day and received a standing ovation before the opening tip.
On August 20th, 2022, Johnson flipped the page and began a new chapter in his story. Johnson transferred to Kansas State University. Johnson’s career has exploded into second gear, leading the Wildcats in points and rebounds per game while being second in steals and shooting 56.4% from the floor. Johnson averages 18.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Johnson has been one of the main reasons for the Wildcats’ success.
After the scary incident, Johnson’s dominance on the court has been no small feat. Prior to his injury, he was receiving NBA buzz, and there could easily be more talks about a professional career after this season. Through it all, Johnson has been an outstanding player, teammate, and coach.
@ #6 Texas: 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists in a 116-103 win
vs Nebraska: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals in a 71-56 win
vs Nevada: 28 points and 9 rebounds in a 96-87 overtime victory
@ #19 Baylor: 24 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal in a 97-95 overtime win
vs #24 West Virginia: 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists in a 82-76 overtime victory
@ #17 TCU: 18 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 2 steals in a 82-68 loss
As of right now, the Kansas State Wildcats are 15-2. The Wildcats are ranked 11th in the nation, and 2nd in the Big 12, only behind #2 Kansas. These two Big 12 powerhouses have an upcoming matchup on January 17th and I expect Johnson to shine in another key matchup. Keep an eye on Johnson throughout the rest of this season while he puts his name back on NBA draft boards.
Baseball: Quarterback Max Brown becomes the next two-sport athlete
University of Florida quarterback Max Brown has begun practicing with the baseball team, becoming the latest college two-sport athlete. According to 247 Sports, Brown is listed as an outfielder for Florida, although he played most positions in high school.
At Oklahoma’s Lincoln Christian High School, Max Brown excelled in both baseball and football, despite not picking up football until his Junior year. On the gridiron, Brown won his district MVP after accruing over 4,000 total yards and 61 touchdowns in his Senior year. 247 ranked him as the number 96 QB prospect in the nation, and a top 25 prospect out of Oklahoma.
Brown signed with Florida under new head coach Billy Napier. Napier was bullish on Brown, saying that the quarterback was underrated. With Anthony Richardson declaring for the draft, five-star prospect Jaden Rashada considering leaving and Jalen Kitna being rightfully dismissed from the program, Florida has no clear cut starter lined up. While Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz will likely start, there’s no doubt Max Brown will compete for the job.
On the baseball side of things, Brown was a star in high school. He played every position but catcher. The 6’3” utility player was ranked as the number ten overall prospect in Oklahoma, and the third best shortstop in the state.
Brown joins a Florida team that has been a perennial contender under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. Florida won a College World Series in 2017 and has produced numerous MLB players under O’Sullivan. Pete Alonso, Jonathan India, Dane Dunning and Brady Singer are just a few of the current MLB players that played under the current coach. Could Max Brown be the next?
Becoming a two-sport collegiate athlete is no small feat, especially at a Power Five school like Florida. Brown joins a prestigious group including legends such as Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. There are plenty of players who are able to succeed in both sports– while Brown may not see a ton of playing time with the football team, he could certainly make an impact on the diamond.
SBC Men’s Basketball “Week 0” Preview
The beginning of the collegiate basketball season is always very interesting for Division I programs. In what I consider as “Week 0”, these teams often face FCS or NAIA schools to get the players warmed up for the gruesome season that they will soon endure. Of course, there are a few exceptions, and we will be highlighting key matchups and predicting how “Week 0” will go for all Sun Belt teams.
Monday, November 7th
Texas State vs Washington State (6:30 p.m. CST)
The reigning Sun Belt regular season champions travel to Pullman, Washington to face the Cougars in each program’s season opener. The Cougars are coming off an impressive 22-15 season where they maintained a +6.6 scoring margin. However, the Bobcats are looking to ride the momentum of their 21-8 season where they absolutely dominated their opponents on both sides of the court.
ULM vs Texas A&M (7 p.m. CST)
Although this matchup is strongly in favor of the Aggies, it is always exciting for a group-of-5 team to have the opportunity to compete against an SEC program. Texas A&M are looking to repeat or improve on their 27-13 season against a ULM program that has nothing to lose based off their 13-18 season last year.
Friday, November 11th
Southern Miss vs Vanderbilt (6 p.m. CST)
Similar to the previous matchup, the only thing appealing about this game is the Sun Belt competing against the SEC. Southern Miss is entering their first season in the Sun Belt and is trying to wipe their previous 7-26 season completely from memory. On the other hand, Vandy is looking to improve on a disappointing 19-17 season.
Saturday, November 12th
Georgia Tech vs Georgia State (6 p.m. CST)
A matchup between 2 prestigious programs that pride themselves on competition. These 2 in-state rivals are very familiar with one another, with 8 games between the 2 programs. The series is heavily in Tech’s favor with a 7-1 record over State, however, State is hot off a Sun Belt championship win and a March Madness appearance and has all the tools necessary to swat the Yellow Jackets.
Arkansas State vs LSU (5 p.m. CST)
This matchup is way more impressive than the previous SBC vs SEC schools. Arkansas State is coming off a 18-11 season and is looking to prove that they are ready to stay competitive against one of the best SEC schools. The Tigers finished 22-12 last season and expect to start off hot.
Monday, November 14th
Troy vs Florida State (6 p.m. CST)
The Trojans are in a very weird state within their program. With an almost completely new roster, they will be traveling to Tallahassee to compete against the Seminoles. The Seminoles finished 17-14 last season, competing in arguably the best basketball conference in the world. If Troy can pull off the upset, the Trojans will have the biggest amount of momentum in all of the conference and will quickly become the favorite to win the Sun Belt.
College Football Playoff Top 25
The first playoff poll of the season released on Tuesday night with some crazy places for some teams, a new number one, three teams ranked for the very first time, and madness in the top 10. The first week’s playoff poll has it all. Let’s dive right into it.
Week 10 College Football Playoff Rankings
- Ohio State
- Ole Miss
- Kansas St.
- Penn State
- Oklahoma State
- Wake Forest
- Nc State
- Oregon State
These are the first rankings for the College Football Playoff Poll. Tennessee leads the way with 5 ranked wins and an undefeated record. This is Tennessee’s first time being ranked number one in the playoff poll. Ohio State comes in at number two in the spot many fans thought Georgia should have been ranked. Ohio State’s resume includes two ranked wins and an undefeated record. Georgia is number three after only having one ranked win on the year and struggling with lesser opponents. Clemson is number four with a resume of four ranked wins and an undefeated record.
The biggest matchup this weekend within the top 4 is Tennessee vs Georgia. Hendon Hooker looks to continue his Heisman level season against the stout Georgia defense. Georgia is the home team and is favored by 8.5 points. The dogs did lose defender Nolan Smith for the season, however, so someone will have to step up in his spot against the high powered Volunteer offense. Tennessee and UGA are fighting for the first place spot in the SEC East and a chance at SEC glory in Atlanta.
Another huge matchup this weekend is number 6 Alabama vs number 10 LSU. LSU got ranked really high for the resume they present. LSU has two losses on the year, one being against unranked FSU and the other to Tennessee. LSU has two quality wins by 20 plus points over Florida and Ole Miss which is why the committee thought they deserved the number ten spot. Alabama is ranked number six because of strength of schedule and only having one loss on the year, to Tennessee by three. Both teams look to prove where they stand in the playoff race with a heavyweight SEC West battle this weekend in Baton Rouge. Whichever team wins, is first place in the SEC West.
Three new teams entered the polls this year, #16 Illinois, #19 Tulane, and #23 Oregon State. Illinois has put together an impressive season behind quarterback Tommy Devito and running back Chase Brown. The fighting Illini also sport the number one scoring defense in the country only allowing an average of 8.9 points per game. Illinois does not have a ranked win this season, but they have a record of 7-1 making them first place in the Big10 West. #19 Tulane comes from the American Athletic Conference and is the biggest surprise team in the country currently. Tulane has a 7-1 record and sits at first place in the AAC while averaging 33.6 points per game. Quarterback Michael Pratt has led the Green Wave to their first ever college football playoff ranking, and their best season in a very long time. Tulane’s most impressive win on the season came in week 3 with a 17-10 victory of Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas. The third and final team to be ranked for the first time is Oregon State. Oregon State comes in at number 23 with a resume of a 6-2 record and conference record of 3-2. Oregon State’s only two losses came in conference to Utah and USC. The Beavers lost to USC 17-14 and Utah 42-16, but they have beat everyone else they have played. They definitely deserve the number 23 spot after bouncing back from that two game skid to win three in a row behind quarterback Ben Gulbranson.
The next poll will be revealed on November 8th, and it should have plenty of shake up. Tune into Quad Sports for an update and reaction to the new poll next week.
Sun Belt WBB Power Rankings (7-1)
I know the wait is long overdue, however this is the second installment of our SBC WBB power rankings. The second half of this list was very difficult to rank with many teams close in the race. All of these programs have the potential to win the conference this season, but before any action begins, here are the breakdowns of what to expect.
7. Georgia State
Although a 10-16 record is not a good foundation to build on, the addition of Tia Lewis and Jon Bollier to their coaching staff increases the ceiling of this program tremendously. Lewis was formerly the assistant coach to Georgia Southern, reaching an 18-10 record which was a decade-high for the program. Jon Bollier was the former associate head coach at Samford University and became back-to-back regular season champions. The Panthers have all the pieces in place, and I expect major improvement, I just believe they are one or two seasons away from reaching their true potential.
6. Appalachian State
The state of this program is very interesting. After a team loses their two top scorers it normally drops the strength in the team. However, the three-headed weapon of Janay Sanders, Faith Alston, and Emily Carver have all the tools needed to run the offensive system and will continue off their success from last season. You can also expect true freshmen Nadiyah Bird to be a defensive anchor after being named defensive player of the year her senior year of high school and Alexis Black to make an impact after averaging 21 points per game, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists her senior season.
5. Old Dominion
Coming off a 24-10 season, the Lady Monarchs look to be at the top of the SBC in their first season after joining the conference. Last season, the Lady Monarchs dominated their competition defensively, only allowing 55.8 points per game, averaged 10.6 steals per game, and 3.9 blocks per game. The term “defense wins championships” will define this program’s success this season and I expect a top 5 finish.
4. Texas State
I know that the 15-14 record is not appealing whatsoever. However, this program has only 2 players that are underclassmen. All but 4 players have returned for another season and this season is all-or-nothing. Transfer Timia Jefferson averaged 12.7 points last season and transfer Taelour Pruitt averaged 9.9 points per game will both look to improve an already successful offense.
3. Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern shocked everyone in the SBC last season. After going 21-33 from 2019-2021, head coach Anita Brown went 18-10 in her third season, which was the program’s highest since the 2009-2010 season. The majority of the roster from last season is returning and graduate transfer Andreana Wrister is ready to take this offense to a whole new level.
Louisiana is incredibly dominant on both sides of the court. Louisiana held their opponents to only 57.9 points per game last season while also having 6 players average more than 9 points per game. While many of the top scorers have returned, the most exciting include Nubia Benedith who has recorded double digit steals every season and averaged 5.6 points per game for North Florida. I expect a deep run in the SBC tournament with the possibility of a championship appearance.
As the number 1 seed and the regular season SBC champions, the Trojans will look to maintain their dominance that has occurred throughout the Chanda Rigby era. Former 5th overall pick in the WNBA, Chelsea Dungee has joined the Trojan staff as Rigby’s assistant coach. Felmas Koranga was the scoring leader for the Trojans, averaging 12.6 points per game. A total of 8 transfers have been brought in to the program to join Koranga at the top of the conference. The top transfers include former Rajin’ Cajun Makayia Hallmon (11.8 points per game) and former Crimson Tide Nia Daniel.
The SBC women’s basketball season tips-off on Monday, November 7th with 11 out of 15 teams competing.
Week 6 Preview
Week 6 is right around the corner with some heavyweight matchups on the slate. Lawrence, Kansas is featured on the big stage for the first time in over 13 years. Baton Rouge is set to host to a massive SEC battle. Los Angeles will feature not just one, but two significant battles in the PAC-12. Ames, Iowa, is home to a less likely candidate for a massive change up in the Big 12 standings. Which games will have the highest impact on the playoff and conference title races? Well, let us find out.
The most open conference in college football is the Big 12. There are several good teams and many mediocre teams within this conference, but only one single team has shown themselves as the clear favorite, Oklahoma State. The other spot in the Big 12 title game is completely up for grabs. There are three key matchups in the Big 12 this weekend to decide who will run for the championship against Oklahoma State. Lawrence, Kansas is hosting College Gameday for the first time ever as 5-0 Kansas plays against 4-0 TCU. Both teams are looking to prove they can make a deep run in the Big 12, and that their fast starts to the season are not a fluke. The quarterback battle is one to look at in this game as Kansas’s QB Jalon Daniels leads the country in passer rating (QBR). TCU’s QB Max Duggan is a major dual threat as he proved last weekend against Oklahoma. This matchup will shape the Big 12 title race for the rest of the year. Two other matchups that will shake up the race are Kansas State vs Iowa State and Texas vs Oklahoma. Kansas State is looking to solidify themselves as the clear number 2 in the Big 12 after strong outings two weeks in a row. Iowa State has played quality opponents close the whole year. This game will be a tight one in Ames. The Red River Showdown is the biggest rivalry in the southwest, but this year the teams have not lived up to par. Oklahoma has had a slow start to the season dropping out of the rankings after a beat down against TCU, and Texas looked very good until QB Quinn Ewers got hurt against Alabama. Ewers eyes his return this weekend in Dallas looking to get the Longhorns back on track.
The SEC games this weekend have the biggest implication on the college football playoff race, but less on the SEC championship race. Four contenders have arose for the championship after a crazy week 5. Many thought Arkansas and Texas A&M would take Alabama’s crown this year, but these two teams have done more than just disappoint. The SEC West runs through Tuscaloosa, so in order to win the West crown, a team must take down the Tide. The only team I see being able to do this is Ole Miss from the West and Tennessee from the East. The SEC East runs through the defending national champions, but Georgia does not have as strong of a grip on their conference as many suspect. Tennessee is the runaway favorite to win the East after a lousy showing from UGA against Missouri, but the Vols have to survive the toughest gauntlet of games on their schedule. This week Tennessee travels to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. The Vols will have top receiver Cedric Tillman back from injury, and Heisman hopeful Hendon Hooker will be looking his way a lot against a very stout LSU defensive line. Another game in the SEC with implications is Mississippi State against Arkansas. Mississippi State is slowly becoming the dark horse SEC candidate everyone thought Arkansas would be. Mike Leach has the Bulldogs air raid attack working to perfection behind his QB Will Rogers. Arkansas has the worst passing defense in the entire country, and I think we can put the equation together. This game will be a shootout or a blowout depending on if the Bulldogs defense decides to show up.
The PAC-12 has shocked many college analysts and fans by actually being a good conference this year. For the past four years, only one team has been decent out of the 12. This last year and this year about 5 or 6 teams have finally put it together to bring back the west coast power conference. Two matchups this weekend will most likely decide one of the PAC-12 championship contenders at the end of the year. Both of these matchups take place in Los Angeles, California. UCLA hosts Utah after a massive win over Washington last week. Both schools are led by outstanding QB talent and gritty defenses. Cam Rising for the Utes has passed for 1153 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and has Utah on a 4 game winning streak. Dorian Thompson-Robinson of UCLA has passed for 1211 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, and has UCLA sitting at 5-0. The difference maker in this game will be the ability for Utah to stop UCLA’s run game. Thompson-Robinson is one the top dual-threat Qb’s in the league and looks to damage the Utes defense with his elusiveness and power. Zach Charbonnet is also no pushover. The Bruins running back has 417 yards and 5 touchdowns on the year while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The Utes can win this game by containing the run game of UCLA, but that is a tough task to accomplish. The other game is USC vs Washington State. USC is a no brainer. New head coach Lincoln Riley has the Trojans ranked in the top 10 and undefeated in his first campaign. Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison add to that explosive offensive scheme Riley likes to run. Washington State is a surprise in the PAC-12: the Cougars have started their season 4-1 after impressive games from their Quarterback Cameron Ward. Ward was a star at his former college Incarnate Word before transferring to Washington State, but the average fan would not know this. Ward has 1445 passing yards on the year along with 13 touchdowns, but his 7 interceptions have caused the Cougars to be in some tight games. USC has a strong cornerback room, so in order for Washington State to pull off an upset Ward needs to keep his mistakes to a minimum.
Week 6 kicks off this Saturday October 8th with College Gameday live from Lawrence, Kansas. Look for more previews and reactions in upcoming articles.