You might have noticed that I write a whole lot about football for someone who’s not technically a member of the sporting press, but let me assure you I only take up the topics people are talking about. Division I college football kicks off tomorrow night and the first regular season NFL game is on the 10th. Like it or not, football is here.
You might be wondering about my sports writing credentials. Why, just last year I won my rookie season of fantasy football in a league that featured at least two professional sportswriters. Yeah, my transitive credentials are legitimate.
Let’s start with the two-time defending SEC East Champion Missouri Football Tigers. The collective SEC media voted and predicted that Mizzou would be third in the SEC East this year — and I’m sad to say that they might be right.
The loss of defensive lineman Harold Brantley is a serious blow, and it seems like all manner of Tigers are coming down with various ailments that are going to keep them out of at least the opening game against Southeast Missouri State. Maty Mauk hopefully made some more progress as a quarterback since last season, but he’s probably still not good enough to make a star receiver out of anyone he might happen to be throwing to. The receiving corps is a little thin.
On the other hand, Gary Pinkel’s coaching staff is one of the best in the SEC — if not the country at large — at working with what they’ve got and given enough time they can probably mold just about anyone into a serviceable team. The Tigers are fortunate that the beginning of their schedule is stocked with cupcakes and Kentucky because they might need all of that time to work up to an SEC level of play.
But the strange thing to me is the team that ended up second in the East in the eyes of the SEC media. For years I’ve been hearing that Butch Jones’ Tennessee Volunteers are on the verge of breaking out as a power in the SEC East again. I’ve also been hearing it about the Kentucky Wildcats, minus the “again” part; to hear most people tell it, just about anyone could win the East in any given year except for Vanderbilt.
Missouri is 6-0 against Tennessee and Kentucky in their three years in the SEC. Vanderbilt managed to take down the Tigers once, but those two teams have not. I’m predicting 9-3 in the regular season with a loss to Georgia, South Carolina and at least one of their last four. But not Tennessee or Kentucky, their resurgence is largely wishful thinking — and in Tennessee’s case, a field that helps the team by injuring opposing players. Thankfully, the Volunteers come to Columbia this year.
As far as the Chiefs go, I’m a little more bullish — I think they’re going to win the AFC West. They’ve pretty much got the same team from last year, but now they’ve got Eric Berry back and De’Anthony Thomas is evolving into a serious receiving threat. Sadly, they did lose Dwayne Bowe (Have fun being a Brown, I guess), but I think his role will be filled even better by Jeremy Maclin, who has been building a good receiving relationship with Alex Smith and will hopefully be invigorated by playing in the state where he was born and the state where he played high school and college ball. J-Mac is all Missouri, and it is good to have him back.
Let’s face it, Peyton Manning might be done being a literal football deity and I think Oakland is still a year or two away from challenging for the division. They’re going to be real scary real soon, though. The Chargers are still legitimate contenders, though. One of the Chargers or Chiefs is going to win the AFC West and the other will secure one of the wildcard spots – but I think it will be the Chiefs at 11-5.
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.