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Matt’s Monday Morning Musings: Week One – Rattler and Hum.

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Each week, our Executive Director, Matthew Redding (5’11, 185, 4.78 40-yard dash, $4.99 on Wish), sits down with a cup of coffee and ponders life in the world of College Football and beyond. Ask him anything on Twitter (@TheBarningMan) and he may answer it next week over his musings. This week, he wonders why Gamecock QB Spencer Rattler isn’t getting the star treatment in a dim SEC QB class.

Is it just me or does this year feel “off” in the SEC? Not because of the impending addition of former Big XII powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas, or not even the uncertainty around Nick Saban’s time at Alabama. I’m thinking more of the current question marks around the SEC’s upcoming quarterback play.

Last season we were graced with NFL talents such as Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis, and Hendon Hooker also burst onto the scene. All four were taken within the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft, with Young and Richardson going #1 and #4 overall. Jayden Daniels won the West with LSU, and Spencer Rattler had another breakout stretch that hopefully doesn’t go away any time soon. Both of them are returning.

After that… Well, who knows.

I don’t know about you, but I’m used to America’s best conference hosting America’s best players at the game's most important position. 2014 had champions and Heisman contenders (and a winner) with Nick Marshall (Auburn), Aaron Murray (Georgia), Dak Prescott (Miss. State), AJ McCarron (Alabama) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M, 2013 Heisman winner). If you want to go more recent, look at 2019 with the likes of Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Kyle Trask (Florida), Jake Fromm (Georgia), Matt Corral (Ole Miss) and some guy named Joe Burrow (LSU). Heck, Stetson Bennett and Mac Jones were future NFL picks and they were on the bench at the time. Bo Nix was freshman of the year and Jalen Hurts was ballin’ out at… Oklahoma? I thought he was a Bama quarterback?

This year, there are returning starters, unproven commodities and a bevy of transfers. Something we shouldn’t be used to in the conference.

Trying to find answers, I’ve been looking over the rosters. Devin Leary and Peyton Thorne were both fine quarterbacks at NC State and Michigan State, but we have yet to see them play a meaningful snap in either a Kentucky or an Auburn uniform. Tyler Buchner at Bama doesn’t generate much excitement as a prospect, but neither did Stetson Bennett before he won back-to-back titles. Graham Mertz at Florida is… Well, Graham Mertz at Florida.

Joe Milton could have a breakout year, and KJ Jefferson should do well, assuming he stays healthy. I DO wonder if it was his health or the loss of Treylon Burks that caused Jefferson to take a step back though, but Sam Pittman should still find ways to get the best out of him.

Jayden Daniels could be in line for another solid season under Brian Kelly in year two, but I think the defense will be a bigger reason LSU repeats as SEC West champions should they return to Atlanta, but for now, he remains the best option across the conference.

My question after that is, who is number two - and why isn’t Spencer Rattler getting more love?

Allow me to explain.

At 6-1, 198 pounds, Rattler was the nation’s best quarterback in the 2019 class. He held offers from everyone, ranging from Texas to Alabama to Utah, and his play style was reminiscent of Mahomes when he played at Texas Tech. Ultimately, Rattler signed with Oklahoma to learn under QB guru Lincoln Riley.

Rattler was by no means a bust at Oklahoma. His 2020 stat line (3,031 yds, 28 touchdowns, 7 interceptions) had Draft experts penciling him in as the next #1 overall pick in the 2021 class, following along in the footsteps of fellow Sooner QB’s Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

I suppose that’s where the pressure got to him. Everyone from ESPN to CBS labeled him the next Heisman winner, then quickly turned against him when they saw the picks and the errant throws. As quickly as they turned against Rattler, they fell in love with his backup – future Heisman winner Caleb Williams. His completion percentage dipped and kept opponents in games that should’ve been over by halftime. With no other choice, Riley turned to Williams, and Rattler was labeled an NFL bust before he even made it to the NFL.

It’s amazing what a fresh start can do.

Transferring to South Carolina, in a splash addition by coach Shane Beamer, Rattler tried to take advantage of his new start by throwing two interceptions against Georgia State. Okay, so not the best start, and plenty of Gamecock faithful had seen enough after a 2-5 touchdown to interception ratio after three games. Beamer still saw the five-star prospect somewhere in there and exercised patience.

It took a few games, but after the Missouri loss in week 8 something… Clicked? Suddenly, Spencer remembered how to play football again, and didn’t throw another interception until the Clemson upset, going 3-1 in the regular season, spoiling Tennessee’s Playoff hopes and almost defeating mighty Notre Dame in a record-setting Gator Bowl.

That epic Tennessee game was also incredible. Months of frustration taken out on the #5 overall team. SIX touchdowns, NO picks.

I’m a believer in the change we saw late last season, and I think more people should be as well. Antwan Wells, the Gamecocks leading receiver with over 900 yards, is back and the team has bought in fully to Shane’s vision, which could make them a darkhorse in the race to catch UGA in the East. There’s a good chance Cocky is 3-1 entering the Tennessee game, and 9-3 isn’t out of the question. When that offense hums, it roars.

So in about a thousand words, you can agree with me about the potential in Spencer Rattler. As a Draft analyst, I’ll be watching his stock closely to see if that 2019 five-star phenom ever returns to reclaim his seat at the table of first-round prospects.

If the November Spencer stays throughout the full season, then welcome back to the first round, Mr. Rattler.

Matt’s Monday Morning Mailbag –

“Why’s it taken so long for the College Football Playoff to even happen anyways?” – Andrew

The simple answer is money. Demands for some type of playoff that truly let the field crown a champion and let the opinions of sports writers simply be just that. Opinions.

My Auburn Tigers were left out of the BCS National Championship Game in 2004 after going undefeated, and TCU had to watch Auburn play for it all in 2010 after going an identical 12-0. Imagine if the playoff existed then and we got to see Jason Campbell vs Matt Lienart, or Cam Newton vs Andy Dalton.

Unfortunately, the saying “if it ain't broke, don’t fix it” was a justifiable excuse to not spend the money to make more money, and in the BCS computer system we trusted. Letting a machine do the work of thousands of journalists and declaring the best two teams based on numbers and math.

It worked fine, until it put two SEC teams in the 2011 Big Game, when Alabama and LSU played for all the marbles, and Saban won his second championship in the early days of the Tide’s dynasty.

How infuriating!! the other conferences said, that millions of dollars generated from the most watched game in the college football season, goes to one conference. That was six national titles in a row for the SEC, giving them claim to the “best conference in America” and the other schools were desperately trying to slow down the train.

So, shortly after the 21-0 “Beatdown on Bourbon Street”, a committee was formed, the coaches signed off and the playoff was born. With the top four teams playing, surely we would never have controversy again in deciding a champion, right?

Wrong. In the Playoffs first year in 2014, TCU went on an impressive, high-scoring 11-1 record as Big XII co-champions, but they were left out in favor of other one-loss teams that had played a championship game. TCU responded by hanging 52 on Ole Miss in frustration, and the “they should’ve been in” arguments have been flying ever since. Playoff expansion was inevitable after a couple of controversies like TCU’s, and the only reason the committee finally agreed to 12 teams in 2024 was because of, you guessed it, more money.

Well, that and having to watch the SEC play for the championship every year is starting to get old, especially after round two of Georgia-Alabama, eh B1G?



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