Last week, official Braves social media began pushing a hashtag campaign for #MVFree to create some buzz around Freddie Freeman’s MVP campaign. This made me think, how good really are Freeman’s chances of winning the MVP this season?
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 18, 2020
The common fan might be surprised to see Freeman as an MVP candidate since he really has not gotten a lot of media hype, but he certainly has the numbers to back one up this season. Freeman is third in the National League with a .340 batting average (with significantly more at-bats than the two guys ahead of him), second in the league in total hits with 66, leading the league in doubles with 20, and tied for the league lead in both walks with 41 and RBI with 48. It is also worth noting that Freeman is no slouch when it comes to power, as he has 11 homers on the year.
With all of that said, Freeman is really seen as a super steady and reliable bat, but he probably is not seen as flashy as many younger players in the league which probably is a bit of a disadvantage. It would be really interesting to see voters not give consideration to a guy that is batting .340, but according to the latest MVP Poll, that might be the case.
The latest poll of 30 reporters had the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. with 28 first-place votes. The poll had Tatis, Mookie Betts, Mike Yastrzemski, Ian Happ, and Trea Turner as the top five in the league. Tatis definitely deserves a lot of love for the season he has had to this point, but Freeman at least deserves enough recognition to be in the top five.
The Braves first baseman is very quietly having arguably the best season in his entire career, but maybe a little too quiet to be considered for the MVP. In short, it seems that the only people that really understand Freeman’s value are people that watch the Braves often- and Chipper Jones.
For those of you who are on the fence or undecided as to who you would vote for for NL MVP…..here are some numbers through 50 games, to help u out! pic.twitter.com/b53BIKKWf4
— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) September 19, 2020
At the end of the day, Fernando Tatis Jr. or Mookie Betts probably deserves to come away with the award, but it would be a shame if Freeman, who has been rock solid both at the field and at the plate for a division winning team, to not be one of the finalists for this season’s MVP and receive consideration from the voters. The numbers are all there- it’s just that the media hype is not.
Even though it is a few weeks later than usual, the 2020 SEC Football season is almost here! In the spirit of college football returning, ESPN 106.7 is proud to announce our 2020 College Football broadcast schedule. Sean Kelley and former Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones will be back in the booth for the call to bring you all of the action this season.
Each of these high-profile games can be heard on air, online at espnau.com, on the ESPN 106.7 app, or on your Alexa smart speaker.
|9/26/2020||FLORIDA||@||OLE MISS||11:30 AM|
|11/7/2020||TEXAS A&M||@||SOUTH CAROLINA||7:00 PM|
|12/12/2020||BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP||TBD|
|12/12 or 12/19||ACC CHAMPIONSHIP||TBD|
On The Drive today, David Paschall joined Bill and Dan on the show. While on the show, they talked about Cade Mays being eligible to play at Tennessee this season after transferring from Georgia.
Follow (@DavidSPaschall). Listen to The Drive weekly on ESPN 106.7 from 4-6PM.
36 year old Cole Hamels made his much anticipated Braves debut on Wednesday night and it was not much to write home about, but there are a few takeaways from the start. Expectations were pretty high for a guy that had not pitched in a major league game since 2019. We knew going into the start that Hamels would not throw more than about 50-60 pitches (he finished with 52), but the fact that he only went 3.1 innings and gave up three earned runs is not promising.
However, this was just his first start in 2020 and overall the velocity was a respectable 88.9 and he attacked the zone well. Worst thing for Hamels is that he will likely only get two regular season starts before the Postseason begins.
Braves fans need to be very hopeful that his next start is a more successful one because otherwise the team will be throwing out even more of a question mark to start in the postseason. Under normal circumstances, Hamels would certainly not be concentered as a postseason starter, but the Braves are happy to have anyone with an “SP” next to their name on the roster at this point.
The Wednesday start was a little discouraging, but the next start will go a long way in foreshadowing if the team can rely on Hamels to get through the first four or so innings and get the ball to a strong bullpen in a position to win the game when the postseason starts. In reality, that is all that Brian Snitker will be asking the 36-year-old to do in October, which would be a huge advantage.
A former MVP, a SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a first string NFL corner walk in to a bar. What do they all have in common? Well, they are all former Auburn Tiger football players of course.The MVP (Cam Newton), the Defensive Player of the Year (Derrick Brown) and the first string corner (Carlton Davis) were impressive but not the only former Tigers to make an impact this weekend. Familiar faces on new teams, unproven rookies making their debut and wily vets making an impact – Auburn was all over the NFL in week one.
Cam Newton | New England Patriots
On Sunday, Cam Newton posted his best QB rating (79.7) since week 11 of the 2018 season. Newton went 15-of-19 with 155 passing yards and ran for 75 yards on 15 carries. Is his touchdown celebration ode to the Wakandan king a symbol for his return to superhuman, MVP levels of play? Perhaps not, but the eccentric QB looked collected when passing the ball and flashy when running it – leading the Patriots to a 21-11 victory over the Dolphins. If anything, it does not appear that Bill Belichick and Co. will be bereft of any creativity in terms of how to use the versatile QB. However, they were playing the Dolphins; and while Newton played a near flawless game, the Patriots left much to be desired in terms of the passing game. Next week’s matchup against the Seattle Seahawks – with Bobby Wagner and newly acquired safety Jamal Adams surely keying in on Newton – will be a true glimpse into the trajectory of the Patriots’ season.
Darius Slayton | New York Giants
Probably the second best performance from an Auburn alumnus over the weekend goes to Slayton. The 2018 graduate brought in two touchdown grabs en route to his six-catch, 102-yard performance on Monday night. As a 5th round draft pick, Slayton has delightfully inserted himself into the No. 1 receiver conversation – recording team highs in both reception yards and touchdowns since being drafted. He has to put together a more complete body of work to solidify himself as a go-to receiver, something that will prove difficult in a Giants offense which is loaded with weapons. Still, Slayton is emerging as one of the best deep threats in the game and looks like one the biggest steals of the 2019 draft.
Peyton Barber | The Washington Football Team
Barber is what he is: a good running back who can thrive in goal-line carry situations. The Washington Football Team appears to already know that, as Barber rushed for 29 yards and two touchdowns in their upset win over the Eagles on Sunday. Barber will never be a bell cow running back but can provide value for a team that is limited in backfield depth.
Noah Igbinoghene | Miami Dolphins
Igbinoghene’s impact didn’t show up on the stat sheet Sunday. The 2020 first round pick registered only two tackles for the whole game. Even though Miami lost the game, the Igbinoghene and the secondary held Newton and the Patriots offense to a pedestrian 155 yards passing. If Igbinoghene can develop into a reliable third cover option, the Dolphins could have one of the best secondaries in the league.
Daniel Carlson | Las Vegas Raiders
Auburn fans know. Daniel Carlson is to kickers what Iron Man is to blockbuster superhero movies. The standard. He’s reliable with a big leg and doesn’t let a missed kick or slump get into his head. Carlson went 2-for-2 on field goals, including a career long 54-yarder in Sunday’s win versus the Panthers. Take that Mike Zimmer.
Derrick Brown | Carolina Panthers
So, Brown didn’t post Aaron Donald-type numbers in his NFL debut. Bummer. But, when he made his first professional tackle, I’m pretty sure I felt a shift in the tectonic plates. The mountainous defensive lineman probably felt like he was right back in college, facing double teams for most of the game. However, he still managed to flash his first-round draft quality with three tackles, one for loss, and a swatted pass.
Carlton Davis & Jamel Dean | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs may have lost the game, but the starting defensive back pair of Davis and Dean performed better than expected in their week one matchup versus the New Orleans Saints. Last year, Saints receiver Michael Thomas presented a matchup nightmare for all opposing defenses that he faced. Davis took his assignment for most of the game and turned the near indefensible Thomas into a non-factor – holding the premier pass-catcher to three receptions for 17 yards. Combined, the pair had 11 solo tackles, and Dean just nearly missed intercepting Drew Brees as the 41-year-old’s diminishing arm strength was just enough to get the ball over his outstretched fingertips.
C.J. Uzomah, Carl Lawson & Josh Bynes | Cincinnati Bengals
The last time we saw Joe Burrow he was dominating the college world with the swagger of an unbeaten heavyweight champ. He looked rather average in his NFL debut sunday – a Bengals jersey can bring anyone down. Still, however, former Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah proved to be a reliable set of hands for the often pressured Burrow. Uzomah caught four passes for 45 yards; solid numbers for the six-year vet. His teammate and former Auburn standout at defensive end, Carl Lawson, recorded five tackles, one for loss, and one sack. Bynes, in his 10th season in the NFL, finished with eight tackles and a sack in the Bengals’ 16-13 loss to the Chargers.
Rookies Daniel Thomas (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Jack Driscoll (Philadelphia Eagles) both made their NFL debuts – technically – but failed to see the field. Likewise, 2020 second round pick Marlon Davidson (Atlanta Falcons) missed action as he is still recovering from a knee injury.
With two and a half weeks until Auburn open the season against Kentucky, the hype for this unusual 2020 campaign is approaching its peak. The Tigers only return five starters from last year’s defense, while the bulk of Kentucky’s defense returns. But they must replace some losses too. A breakdown of the offenses can be found here. The Tigers won four out of five position battles on that side of the ball. Here’s a look at how the defensive breakdown – and special teams – shapes out:
Auburn | Losses: Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson.
Replacing these guys up front will be near impossible for the Tigers this season. Instead, they will have to rely on an experienced linebacker corps and secondary that is untested but loaded with potential. The Tigers ranked No. 17 in scoring defense and No. 27 in total defense in 2019. It’s hard to imagine those numbers improving in 2020, but linebacker K.J. Britt and defensive ends Big Kat Bryant and Tyrone Truesdell could be the catalyst to another top-25 campaign. Even so, the youth of the defensive front is enough to provide the usual levels of optimism that comes with each Kevin Steele defense.
Kentucky | While Auburn had the big names in 2019, the Wildcats defense quietly finished No. 20 in the country in total defense and No. 14 in scoring defense. Seven of the top nine tacklers return. Senior defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna anchors the Wildcat defensive line. Sixth year senior Phil Hoskins, Marquan McCall and Josh Paschal surround the tackle and are pass rushing threats who helped UK finish No. 4 in team sacks in the SEC last year. There’s depth there too. Five-star 2020 signing defensive lineman Justin Rodgers will be looking to make an immediate impact.
Auburn | I already alluded to senior K.J. Britt. He could very well be the best middle linebacker in the SEC this year. The guys around him are no scrubs either. Owen Pappoe started every game last season as a true freshman and Zakoby McClain famously returned a 100-yard pick-six for a touchdown in last year’s Iron Bowl. The position is lacking in depth, but there’s a reason Lindy’s Sports ranked the unit the best in the SEC heading into 2020.
Kentucky | DeAndre Square, last year’s leading tackler at linebacker (69) and Jamar Watson, returning sack leader (6.5), lead the way for the Wildcats in 2020. Jamin Davis and Chris Oats are other names to watch, but unless two of the UK linebackers make a big jump in production, they will be the thinnest and least intimidating unit on this defense.
Auburn | The Tigers finished with the No. 7 pass defense in the SEC last season. Now, they have to replace all four full-time starters. The good news is that Smoke Monday, Jamien Sherwood and Christian Tutt were all highly rated recruits who already have a decent amount of experience under their belt. Jordyn Peters and Nehemiah Pritchett provide good depth and the Tigers enlisted help from JUCO corner Marco Domio – who may have the inside track on the No.2 starting cornerback role. This unit will be better than expected but there remains much to be proven.
Kentucky | The Wildcats finished with the No. 1 pass defense in the SEC last season. However, this ranking was certainly boosted by the Wildcats avoiding Joe Burrow and the record breaking LSU offense on their 2019 schedule. Still, the corner combination of Cedric Dort and Brandin Echols returns to provide one of the best 1-2 coverage options in the SEC. Furthermore, safety Yusef Corker led the team in tackles in 2019 and anchors the 2020 secondary. Davonte Johnson – who missed 2019 due to injury – and LSU transfer corner Kelvin Joseph round out the back line and make this UK’s deepest positional unit on defense.
Auburn | The Tigers return junior kicker Anders Carlson, who showed his full potential in last year’s Iron Bowl, going 5-5, including a 50-yarder. They also have a new Australian punter, Oscar Chapman, after fellow Aussie Arryn Siposs left the program early after one season on the Plains – his junior year.
Kentucky | The Wildcats return Ray Guy Award winner Max Duffy at punter. After having troubles in the kicking game all season in 2019, there are still questions, but Chance Poore looks next in line for the job unless walk-on Matt Ruffolo steals the show in fall camp.
The Wildcats win the defensive side of the ball in this matchup – with two of three units edging the Tigers and a tie on special teams. With the Tigers winning four of five positions on offense, that brings the total to: Auburn 5 | Kentucky 3 with special teams looking like an even matchup. If this doesn’t get you ready for Auburn football, I don’t know what will. The seats at Jordan-Hare Stadium will look unusually cavernous without the full 87,451 supporters attending. But come Sept. 26 at 11 a.m., Auburn fans across the country will be glued to their televisions to see how the Tigers start their 2020 season.
The Auburn Tigers open their season Sept. 26 at home against the Kentucky Wildcats. The boys in orange and blue bring a revamped defensive unit and loaded offensive arsenal into 2020. While the Tigers will likely mourn the departures of All-Americans Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson on defense, the Wildcats have some big shoes to fill as well – namely Lynn Bowden Jr., the receiver turned quarterback who led the SEC in rushing last year. The following is a position group v. position group breakdown – straight street fighter style – of which team is better prepared for the start of the 2020 season.
Auburn | Bo Nix – 2019 stats: 2,542 yards, 16 touchdowns; 313 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns; 6 interceptions
Kentucky | The Wildcats return former starter Terry Wilson, who spent 2019 sidelined because of injury, and Troy graduate transfer Sawyer Smith, who has one year of eligibility remaining after injuries also forced him to the bench last year.
Nix returns for his second season with a stacked running back group and experienced wide receivers. No matter who starts for Kentucky, the Wildcat quarterbacks do not possess the upside anywhere close to the level of Nix.
Auburn | After losing their leading rusher from 2018-19 – Boobee Whitlow – the Tigers actually appear better off at the ball carrier position. Sophomore D.J. Williams is now the lead returning rusher from last season and has already earned the trust of the coaching staff after a solid 2019. However, he won’t be able to walk into the starting role. Talented redshirt freshman and freshman runners Mark-Anthony Richards and Tank Bigsby are already turning heads at fall camp, and Shaun Shiver and Harold Joiner both carved out niche roles for themselves last season.
Kentucky | Senior A.J. Rose and sophomores Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke all return after each averaged over five yards per carry in 2019. The Wildcats will most likely rely heavily on the experienced run game in week one – and all season – with the lingering uncertainty at quarterback.
While the Wildcats hold the edge in experience, the Tigers more than make up for that in depth. All of the Tigers’ rushers were 4-star recruits coming out of high school, and all of the Wildcats’ were 3-star. Plus, Auburn has alumni and 2005 NFL Rookie of the Year Cadillac Williams as the position group’s coach. That counts for something.
Auburn | Seth Williams was rated the fifth best SEC receiver in Pipeline.com’s preseason rankings. Anthony Schwartz is one of the fastest – if not the fastest – pass catchers in all of football and senior Eli Stove returns as the program’s 18th leading reception-getter of all-time. Not to mention the four 4-star recruits the Tigers signed at the position in the 2020 recruiting class.
Kentucky | In their own right, the Wildcats return a receiving core loaded with experience. Senior Josh Ali, juniors Allen Dailey and Clevan Thomas and sophomore Bryce Oliver all played key roles for Kentucky in 2019. Junior Isaiah Epps could provide a much needed deep threat ability as well.
Even with a group as experienced as what Kentucky has, it’s hard to imagine any one of the pass catchers breaking out in 2020 with the unconvincing options at QB. Nix will have an expanded playbook of passing options under new offensive coordinator and barring regression, will upgrade all of the Tigers weapons to coincide with his growth.
Auburn | Junior John Samuel Shenker is the Tigers’ lead returning tight end, finishing with 3 receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown in 2019. However, it’s the new guys who pose the biggest threat for Auburn this season. 6-foot-7 freshman Brendan Frazier is scary big and 300-pound J.J. Pegues has been marketed as an athletic specimen who can run, catch and even pass the ball. The Tigers also have Luke Deal and Tyler Fromm, redshirt freshmen who were highly rated coming out of high school.
Kentucky | Senior Justin Rigg and sophomore Keaton Upshaw return as two of the more dangerous receiving threats on the roster, bringing in 11 catches for 128 yards and 7 catches for 78 yards, respectively.
I mentioned Bo Nix’s expanded playbook under first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris; it’s likely to include a plethora of new play designs featuring the tight ends. Kentucky does have a formidable tight end group but with the Quarterback play likely being a weak spot in the Wildcat offense, it’s hard to envision any of the hybrid pass catchers and blockers having a big season out for the Wildcats in 2020.
Auburn | The Tigers lost four of five starters from the 2019 offensive line. To combat that, Auburn brought in three junior college transfers and signed three more in their 2020 class. There are also a couple guys already on the roster, Brodarious Hamm and Austin Troxell, who are looking to slide into starting roles.
Kentucky | Center Drake Jackson, right guard Luke Fortner, left tackle Landon Young and right tackle Darrian Kennard all return to a unit that helped lead Kentucky to an SEC best 278.8 rushing yards per contest in 2019. The Wildcats also brought in an offensive line JUCO transfer of their own – Jeremy Flax – who should compete for immediate snaps next season.
The Wildcats will lean heavily on the run again this season and look for their established guys to set the tone up front. After having a disappointing rushing attack in 2019, the Tigers have a motley crew of unproven guys up front. There’s reason for optimism, but Kentucky can hang their hats on proven results.
You know how the saying goes, ‘Offense wins games, defense wins championships.’ Well, if this was a championship race, the Tigers are looking like the Jamaican national team heading straight for gold and Kentucky look like a pee-wee team running completely the wrong way. Auburn clearly has the better offense heading into 2020. Stay tuned for the defensive and special teams position breakdowns as the unglamorous side of the ball could swing this week one matchup.