Actually, it might not be either. There's a report out there that Mississippi State could be the pick for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, which would be interesting, because the Bulldogs are 6-6 while Vanderbilt is 8-4. The Liberty Bowl and the BBVA Compass Bowl share the eighth and ninth selections in the SEC pecking order but don't have a specific order and consult the SEC office on those picks.
To me, location makes Vanderbilt a sensible pick, but it's not just about who the better team is. Bowl games often choose on who's going to sell tickets, and if the Liberty chooses Mississippi State, it's clearly banking on the fact that Bulldogs fans will make the trip in droves.
Brandon Tyler (@BrandonTyler): It is all about the Bowls! Who is going where? Especially Texas A&M. Thanks.
The SEC's automatic bid, the AllState Sugar Bowl, still has to be decided, of course, based on what happens this weekend. As for our full bowl projections for SEC teams through Week 14, you can find them here. And a couple of our experts, Brad Edwards and Mark Schlabach, take a stab at them right here.
But in the spirit of playing prognosticator, I'll take a guess and say one of the undefeated teams lose, and the Auburn/Missouri winner goes to the BCS title game. That likely would put Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and the Auburn/Missouri loser into the Capital One Bowl. (For the record, I'm predicting a Missouri win over Auburn.)
LSU is probably headed to the AT&T Cotton Bowl, South Carolina to the Outback Bowl and your beloved Aggies likely are bound for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. I mentioned the Liberty Bowl situation above, which probably kicks Vanderbilt to the BBVA Compass Bowl. The TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl probably claims Georgia, and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl probably nabs Ole Miss.
I think the chances of him going to the NFL are high. I tend not to speak in absolutes when it comes to Manziel, because he's unpredictable, but I honestly would be shocked if he returned for another season at Texas A&M, based on all the vibes I get. If the NFL evaluation he receives says he has a good shot to be a first-round pick, he's gone. I guess if he doesn't get rated as highly and scouts are down on him after his final two games, where he played hurt, then who knows? But honestly, I think the bowl game will be his last in the maroon-and-white.
As for him landing in Houston with the Texans, I think he'd have to be around in the second round for him to land there. The Texans are on track for the No. 1 pick in the draft, and I find it unlikely that they would take him first overall (though, they clearly need a quarterback, and I would imagine they'll consider taking one). Let's say they pick someone at another position, like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or perhaps even offensive tackle Jake Matthews with their first pick. Then I think you could see them debating choosing Manziel, if -- again if -- he's around when they pick in round two.
All it takes is one team to fall in love with you for you to wind up a first-round pick. It also depends on what head coach the Texans hire, since whoever is in that position is going to have his own specific vision and desires for who his quarterback should be.
Nathan Goldstein (@nathan0223): What's the latest with Jamal Adams?
Adams, the No. 23 player in the ESPN 300 and the nation's No. 3 safety, is definitely an SEC recruit of note, with Florida and LSU among the teams making a play for him. My main man Damon Sayles caught up with Adams recently after he hosted LSU for an in-home visit, so check that out here. Florida has been the longtime favorite for Adams (receivers coach Joker Phillips is his godfather); Ole Miss has been considered a contender; Texas A&M once was but isn't anymore. I think Texas is still in the mix, but my guess is he still winds up at Florida.
- Auburn AD responds to Sports Illustrated story about Texas being Gus Malzahn's dream job.
- Should Malzahn or Missouri's Gary Pinkel be SEC coach of the year? Discuss!
- Mizzou and Auburn have to regroup from huge wins last week.
- Texas president Bill Powers on Thursday tried to quash the rumors about the Horns going after Nick Saban, saying, "We don't have an opening."
- Alabama DB tweets that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played the Iron Bowl with a torn meniscus that he said needed surgery this week.
- LSU dismisses freshman RB Jeryl Brazil.
- Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin, who was just named Missouri's Chancellor-elect, takes a look back on the Aggies' move to the SEC and the Kevin Sumlin hire.
- Two years ago, Missouri RB Henry Josey tore up his knee. His comeback typifies the Tigers' season.
- What did we learn in the SEC this season? The West is no longer just Bama and LSU.
- Gamecocks fans are campaigning for an AT&T Cotton Bowl berth.
- The TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl has emerged as an option for LSU.
- Scanning bowl projections for Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
- A report in the Columbus (Miss.) Dispatch claims the Bulldogs, who finished the year with a 6-6 record, have a deal to go to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. ... That would drop 8-4 Vanderbilt to the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4.
- Narrowing the field in the search for Florida's next offensive coordinator.
- Former UGA standout Tim Worley believes Todd Gurley is "right there with Herschel Walker."
- Bret Bielema and his staff are meticulous about recruiting. His message to prospects: "We came here to win the SEC."
- Top UK quarterback recruit clarifies that he didn't drive Mark Stoops' Mercedes. Well, OK then.
That's how it ended for the previously invincible Alabama Crimson Tide last Saturday, falling to those charmed Auburn Tigers who stayed alive in the SEC West thanks to not one, but two last-second miracles. Chris Davis' fateful sprint to the end zone led to AJ McCarron's unceremonious jog to the locker room, one vaulting his team to the conference title game while another was sent silently away to ponder a future absent another championship ring.
It's still hard to fathom that Alabama's run to Pasadena, Calif., was thrown off course so quickly. One second a game-winning field goal was within reach, the next Davis was racing out of Alabama's grasp and toward history. A sea of Auburn fans flooded the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium and moments later Alabama's players exited the visitor's locker room stunned, shocked that their dreams were dashed in such an unlikely fashion.
The look in their eyes: How could it have been?
Alabama had everything lined up to make history of its own this season. The quarterback was in place, the defense was unstoppable, and the coach was pulling all the right strings.
Hurdling Texas A&M in College Station and LSU at home in Tuscaloosa wasn't easy, but the Tide found a way. McCarron, with 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions, led the offense back on both occasions. C.J. Mosley, who completed a second consecutive 100-tackle season, led the defense to stops when it needed them most. And Saban, despite being without some of the key parts from previous championship teams, guided the ship with a steady hand.
With some of the top talent in college football, would Alabama have beaten No. 1-ranked Florida State in the VIZIO BCS National Championship? Saban might think so. He said after Saturday's loss that, "I still think we have one of the best teams in the country." Most Vegas oddsmakers agree, even today having the Tide as favorites over the Seminoles in a hypothetical matchup.
Alabama athletic director Bill Battle penned a blog on the school's website this week that began, "It's hard to win 12 games!" He later wrote, "There was never a time during the game that I didn't feel confident Alabama would win -- until we lost!"
In most instances, you'd call Battle's use of exclamation marks over the top. But in this case, it was well deserved. Battle, like the rest of the program, is still reeling from the collapse, the hard fall from championship hopes to longing for a shot at redemption that's at best a year away. He had the coach. He had the team. He just didn't have fate on its side. It's unclear whether any of those components will be on his side come 2014.
As Battle would write toward the end of his essay, "We're all counting on you to show up 'loud and proud' for our next game" -- whatever that game may be. It could be the Discover Orange Bowl, the Allstate Sugar Bowl or some other well-slotted bowl game, but it won't be the BCS title game.
Auburn and Missouri are now the SEC's best hope at reaching Pasadena and the chance of an eighth straight national champion from the conference. And even so, their résumés may not be enough to unseat Florida State or Ohio State. Alabama, for its part, would have had no such problem had it survived the final seconds in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
So while Saban and the Tide may watch Saturday's title game thinking, "what if?" the rest of the SEC might be thinking the same thing on Sunday when the bowl pairings are revealed.
If only Auburn -- and seemingly destiny -- hadn't interfered.
Petersen agreed to become the Huskies' new football coach on Friday, leaving behind an unprecedented run of success with the Broncos. The Huskies made the announcement Friday morning after Petersen met with Washington athletic director Scott Woodward and senior associate AD Jennifer Cohen in Boise, ESPN sources said.
Washington gave Petersen a guaranteed five-year, $18 million contract, a source confirmed to ESPN's Joe Schad.
Petersen met with Boise State players Friday morning before the announcement was made.
"Coach Petersen's success and record are extraordinary, but even more impressive is the man himself," Woodward said in a statement released by the school. "His integrity, work ethic and character make him an outstanding fit and leader of our student-athletes at UW. We are thrilled and proud to call Coach Petersen a Husky."
Petersen will replace Steve Sarkisian, who went 34-29 in five seasons at Washington before leaving earlier this week to take the job at USC. Petersen was 92-12 in his eight seasons at Boise State, turning the Broncos into a national program with two Fiesta Bowl titles. But he's coming off the worst regular season in his tenure with the Broncos after going 8-4, including a 38-6 loss at Washington in the season opener.
The Huskies zeroed in on Petersen from the outset.
Once Woodward set quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo in place as interim coach, he turned his attention toward Petersen. A representative of Petersen's said the meeting Thursday night in Boise was "not an interview."
"Representatives from both sides spent all day Thursday working out the agreement," the source said.
"I've never met Nick Saban. I've never talked to Nick Saban. We have not hired Nick Saban," Powers told the Austin American-Statesman. "Mack's our coach, and I can say flatly that the rumors we have hired or come to an agreement with Nick Saban or even talked to him are false."
In October, The Associated Press reported that regent Wallace Hall, one of Powers' top critics, and former regent Tom Hicks spoke with Saban's agent in January about the possibility of Saban coaching at Texas. Tom Hicks is the brother of current regent Steve Hicks, one of the board's two athletic liaisons and a key Powers ally. That conversation took place just a few days after Alabama won the national championship and Texas had wrapped up a 9-4 season that included a bowl victory under Brown.
Powers on Thursday acknowledged that meeting to the American-Statesman.
"There was an outreach to his agent, and I exempt that from this discussion," he told the newspaper. "Whatever happened then happened. We don't have any plans one way or the other (to replace Brown). And we don't have an opening."
According to the newspaper, Tom Hicks spoke with Brown after that meeting about Saban potentially being his replacement, and Brown said he did not plan on resigning, so the conversation with Saban's camp ended.
Brown came under fire early this season as the Longhorns lost two of their first three games. However, they then won six straight before falling to No. 6 Oklahoma State, and they remain in contention for the Big 12 title as they prepare to face No. 9 Baylor on Saturday.
Washington was set to interview Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier on Thursday and is scheduled to meet Friday with Boise State coach Chris Petersen about its head coach opening, according to a source.
The Huskies are seeking a replacement for Steve Sarkisian, who left for USC.
Nussmeier was the offensive coordinator at Washington under Sarkisian from 2009 to 2011 before being lured away by Nick Saban. In Nussmeier's two seasons at Alabama, the Crimson Tide have averaged almost 39 points a game.
Petersen, who is 92-12 at Boise State since 2006, was a candidate for the Huskies job in 2009 before Washington hired Sarkisian. He also had been linked to openings at USC and UCLA.
Boise State slipped to an 8-4 mark this season, including a loss to Washington.
Year of dominance: The top 15 prospects in the ESPN 300 are all scheduled to take part. That means that all 13 five-star prospects in the class will be competing, including No. 1 Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine). All told, 28 of the top 30 prospects in the ESPN 300 are on an UA All-America roster.
SEC leads the way: It comes without surprise that the SEC has the most committed prospects taking part, with 34. The Big Ten and ACC have 13 each, the Big 12 has three and the Pac-12 has two. Notre Dame has five commits in the game.
The SEC West alone has 25.
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- The Seattle Times reports that Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is one of two frontrunners for the Washington head coaching vacancy.
- Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson warns his Tigers about allowing big plays. ... After a slight concussion, linebacker JaViere Mitchell returned to practice and is expected to play on Saturday.
- Missouri's defense knows it will take discipline to slow down Auburn's running game.
- Steve Spurrier says the AT&T Cotton Bowl is at the top of South Carolina's list. But BCS rules will limit the Gamecocks' bowl possibilities this year.
- What are Zach Mettenberger's NFL prospects with a torn ACL?
- Texas' new athletics director addressed the challenges of reviving the Longhorns' rivalry with Texas A&M.
- Nothing less than a bowl appearance in Year 2 will be acceptable for Tennessee. ... The Vols picked up an ESPN 300 wide receiver commit on Wednesday. And he might have tipped UT's hand when it comes to next year's QB battle.
- Where will the Commodores be bowling after an 8-4 season?
- In a season that saw Florida lose its top three offensive tackles for significant time to injury, a former Gator OT is ironically enjoying good health as he plays his sixth and final season for Boston College.
- Two of the top running backs in the Magnolia State, one an Ole Miss commit and the other a Mississippi State pledge, will square off on Saturday with a state title on the line.
- Mark Stoops knows it won't be an easy task to build his Wildcat program.
- An 0-8 season did nothing to shake Bret Bielema's faith in his plan to revive the Razorbacks.
UT adds 11th ESPN 300 prospect
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The latest update to the RecruitingNation class rankings features a number of moves due in large part to the release of the ESPN Junior College 50 rankings. Within the conference, Alabama still has a strong grasp on the top spot with all 14 schools in the top 35 classes nationally. Here's a look at the conference's rankings .
Trending up: Both Texas A&M and Auburn are trending up thanks to the release of the ESPN JC 50. The Aggies jumped from No. 5 to No. 4 and into the top 3 in the conference rankings with junior college offensive linemen Avery Gennesy (Southhaven, Miss./East Mississippi Community College) and Jermaine Eluemunor (Rockaway, N.J./Lackawanna College) coming in at No. 13 and 15 in the ESPN JC 50. Auburn junior college commitment D'haquille Williams (Reserve, La./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College) and Dalvon Stuckey (De Funiak Springs, Fla./Pearl River Community College) came in at No. 1 and 9 in the JC 50. Auburn jumped from No. 14 nationally to No. 12, and the Tigers are in striking position on several other highly-ranked prospects.
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It's been a few days since the debacle on The Plains and nothing is going to take the sting away from watching Chris Davis outrun the field goal team for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. The shock is still wearing off. Auburn is moving on to the SEC Championship Game and you're probably still questioning whether Nick Saban should have tried that long field goal from Adam Griffith, or better yet, whether he should have kicked it on fourth-and-one a few drives earlier. Maybe you're still reeling over Amari Cooper's dropped touchdown or the false start that negated what would have been a made field goal from Cade Foster.
Instead, what's most troubling was how Saban and Kirby Smart's defense once again failed to stop a spread, uptempo offense. Tre Mason ran inside and outside the tackles at will and Nick Marshall was able to evade the pass rush too easily. After that and what we saw earlier this season from Texas A&M, isn't it time to come to grips with the fact that Alabama needs to do something to slow down these types of attacks?
Gus Malzahn might indeed be the best offensive play-caller in the country. And, yes, Johnny Manziel is a freak of nature and arguably worthy of a second straight Heisman Trophy. Sometimes these things can't be helped. But the body of evidence is growing to suggest that Alabama has a real problem on its hands.
It's not like Saban and Smart didn't know what they were getting into. We heard all during the offseason how they were working to slow down Johnny Football and adjust to the tempo of no-huddle schemes. Alabama is nothing if not familiar with the work of Malzahn. There was more than enough tape from his time at Auburn and Arkansas State to know the zone-read was going to be a focal point of the game. Nothing they saw from either Auburn or Texas A&M was unfamiliar, except maybe the remarkable production their offenses gained on what's supposedly the best defense in college football.
"Their running game has had a lot of success against everybody all year long," Saban said after the loss at Auburn. "They have a very difficult offense to defend. Like I said, it takes a lot of discipline."
But discipline is what Saban's defenses have been known for all along. They don't go for the sack or the big play. Players are told to maintain their gaps and let the scheme work its magic. More often than not it does. Not against Auburn, though, which rushed for 296 yards, the most Alabama has given up since 2011. Auburn averaged 4.2 yards before contact on designed rushes, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Alabama entered Saturday averaging an SEC-best 1.5 yards before contact per rush.
"You certainly have to stop the run a little better than we did today to have a chance to beat a team like this."
Mason's 164 yards rushing was the third most of any player against Alabama in the last decade. Marshall's 99 yards on the ground was the most allowed by a quarterback in the Saban era. The zone-read Mason and Marshall ran accounted for 270 yards on 38 attempts. That 7.1 yards per carry average was nearly double what Alabama entered the game allowing on zone-read plays (3.4).
Said veteran linebacker C.J. Mosley: "On some plays we messed up on our technique and [Marshall] made us pay, and some plays he made on his own."
In short, Alabama didn't have an answer for Auburn, just as it didn't against Texas A&M earlier this season.
Lost in the Alabama's sprint toward an undefeated season was how the defense gave up a school-record 628 yards of offense that day in September. Manziel threw for 464 yards, many of which came on plays where he scrambled to buy time for his receivers. He ran for 98 more yards of his own. Mike Evans abused Alabama's cornerbacks to the tune of 279 yards receiving, the most in Texas A&M's history and the most the Tide had allowed since 2001. When the Aggies got on a roll, they couldn't be stopped.
Making sense of what Texas A&M and Auburn did to Alabama's defense won't be easy, but it's a job that must be done. If not, repeat performances will come next year and the year after that.
If Alabama wants to retain the mantle of the best defense in college football, it has work to do. Saban and Smart have shown they're some of the top minds in the game, but now maybe more than ever they have to prove it.
ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Goldsboro, N.C./East Mississippi Community College) committed to the Crimson Tide following an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa last week.
“I committed to Alabama,” Reed said via text message. “The relationship with the coaches, and the opportunity to join a great team. It’s a great way to become a better person and player.”
Reed, who ranks No. 30 in the recently released ESPN JC 50, made official visits to Kentucky on Oct. 11, Tennessee on Oct. 18, Ole Miss on Nov. 10 and Mississippi State on Nov. 15.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Reed has been a nationally recruited prospect for the better part of three years. He signed with Florida last year after his freshman season at East Mississippi Community College, but failed to meet entrance requirements. He returned to EMCC, and this season and has continued to be a force in the middle for the Lions, who will play for the NJCAA National Championship Dec. 8 in Biloxi, Miss. Reed is on schedule to graduate in December and plans to enroll at Alabama in January.
Reed is a teammate of former Alabama defensive end D.J. Pettway (Pensacola, Fla./East Mississippi Community College), who was dismissed after being charged with second-degree robbery. Pettway was on campus in Tuscaloosa with Reed last week, and could possibly return to the Crimson Tide.
Reed is Alabama's 24th commitment, including 18 ESPN 300 prospects. The class is headlined by No. 3-overall Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe) and No. 6 Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), both five-star prospects.
Alabama remains in the running for No. 1-ranked Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover), No. 11 Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), No. 12 Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) and No. 13 Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), among others.