SEC Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
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It was a wild week in the SEC. Mississippi State dominated in Death Valley and then had to hold on as Les Miles and LSU tried to cook up another miracle. Alabama shook off some sloppy play early to outclass Florida in Tuscaloosa. And Missouri suffered a shocking home loss to an Indiana team coming off a loss to Bowling Green.

Edward Aschoff, Jeff Barlis, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.

Best of the visits: SEC

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
1:12
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There were some great games around the SEC over the weekend. Several prospects attended the games while others watched on television and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend:

Auburn commit D’Anfernee McGriff took an unofficial visit to Alabama for it’s impressive 42-21 victory over Florida on Saturday. The ESPN 300 member has been committed to Auburn since April but it appears the Alabama visit made quite an impression on him.
Here is a photo of five-star Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett, his father Lance Barnett and Nick Saban during an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa, Alabama over the summer. Barnett did attend the game on Saturday and his father tweeted out his thoughts on how Alabama's offense looked in the first half against the Gators. ESPN 300 outside linebacker Adonis Thomas, a Florida commit, was scheduled to visit Alabama but was not able to attend. Thomas chose Florida over Alabama back at the beginning of August, but after the game yesterday, it appears things could be changing based on a tweet he sent out. Though LSU suffered a disappointing 34-29 home loss to Mississippi State, the Tigers still had several visitors on campus. ESPN Jr. 300 cornerback Chad Clay Tweeted a photo of himself along with who appears to be former NBA great Karl Malone in the background. With Mississippi State's big win, several recruits were impressed with what the Bulldogs were able to do in Death Valley. Florida commit Tre Jackson was impressed with what he saw from MSU as was current commit Keith Mixon. 2016 cornerback prospect Elijah Pankey attended Vanderbilt's game against South Carolina. Even though the Commodores fell short against the Gamecocks they still put on a impressive performance in front of several recruits.

SEC Stock Watch: Bama up, Florida down

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
11:00
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ESPN reporters Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough break down Alabama's 42-21 win over Florida and what it means for each program moving forward.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
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Can you feel the drama building? We're just starting to get into the meat of the SEC schedule and already the league is spinning off its axis with excitement. Here are this week's best performances:

Blake Sims and Amari Cooper, Alabama: Everyone suspected Cooper might be the nation's best receiver, but who saw this coming from Sims? The Crimson Tide dismantled Florida 42-21 and Sims' 445 yards passing -- second best in the school's storied history -- was the biggest reason why. Equally unstoppable was Cooper, who caught 10 passes for 201 yards and three TDs. Much of Cooper's production came against the defense of UF cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, thought to be one of the nation's finest.

Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson, Mississippi State: Time after time this dynamic duo sliced through the heart of the LSU defense en route to the Bulldogs' first win in Baton Rouge in nearly 23 years. LSU's late rally made the final score 34-29, which diminished State's dominance for most of the game. Prescott passed for 268 yards and two TDs. He ran 22 times for 105 yards and another score in building MSU's 34-10 lead. Meanwhile, Robinson was a deadly efficient complement, running for a career-high 197 yards and a TD on 16 carries (12.3 yards per carry). The Bulldogs' offense was firing on all cylinders and racked up 570 yards with standouts all around. The empty seats in Death Valley were a testament to just how demoralizing Mississippi State's performance was for the No. 8 Tigers and their fans.

Auburn's run defense: Holding a run-heavy team like Kansas State to 40 yards on the ground is exactly how you win huge nonconference road games. The Tigers did that in Thursday's 20-14 win in Manhattan, Kansas. The Wildcats came in averaging 236 yards a game on the ground, but Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson had his front seven ready. When called upon, safeties Joshua Holsey (11 tackles) and Rudy Ford (eight tackles) cleaned up the leftovers.

Arkansas' run game: We might want to reserve a weekly spot for this unit, as it seems there is absolutely no slowing down Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and their under-appreciated blockers. The Razorbacks were rolling once again in their 52-14 rout of Northern Illinois on Saturday. Collins, Williams and Korliss Marshall combined to rush for 188 yards on 36 carries. Right guard Denver Kirkland (6-foot-5, 330 pounds), left tackle Dan Skipper (6-10, 316) -- both sophomores -- and senior tight end AJ Derby (6-5, 255) had great success opening some gaping holes.

Sony Michel, Georgia: We knew the heralded true freshman was good, but in garbage time against Troy he laid any doubt to rest. Michel needed just 10 carries to pile up 155 yards (15.5 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. Occasionally running out of the Wildcat, he's already proven to be more than a backup. The future is looking bright for a Bulldogs team that suffocated Troy in a 66-0 romp.

Drawing conclusions from Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
12:00
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Week 4: Oregon vs. Washington StateChris Morris for ESPN

Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.

Mississippi State 34, No. 8 LSU 29

Louisiana native Dak Prescott passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 105 and a TD at Tiger Stadium as the Bulldogs snapped a 14-game losing streak to LSU.


No. 1 Florida State 23, No. 22 Clemson 17 (OT)

Jameis Winston, suspended for the game after making "offensive and vulgar" comments earlier this week on campus, was reduced to cheerleader as Karlos Williams scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to rally Florida State past Clemson in overtime.


No. 2 Oregon 38, Washington State 31

Marcus Mariota threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 58 net yards despite being sacked seven times as the Ducks scraped by the Cougars 38-31.


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What we learned in the SEC: Week 4

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
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Well, that was an interesting day in the SEC. Here's what we learned:

1. The SEC West is clearly the best ... again: It's the same story in the SEC: The West is the best. None of these teams are perfect, but they are the best of the bunch in the SEC. Alabama throttled Florida at home, Auburn went on the road and gutted out a tough win over No. 20 Kansas State, Texas A&M just continues to roll over everyone, Arkansas can run on anyone, Ole Miss is a top-10 team, and Mississippi State walked into Death Valley at night and beat No. 8 LSU team in what turned into a late thriller. We know this LSU team has issues with its passing game and young defense, but give Mississippi State a lot of credit for that performance. There's a reason the West entered the weekend with five ranked teams -- all in the top 10. On the other side of the conference, everyone in the East has issues. The thing about the West is no team is really sticking out as the dominant team in the division, and every one of them is a work in progress, but they've all had really good moments. This is easily the toughest division in all of college football. Whoever comes out of this division might have an automatic ticket to the playoff on principle alone.

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertDak Prescott had 373 yards of offense and three touchdowns in a return to his home state.
2. Florida's offense and defense have issues: Where do you even start with Florida's performance in that 42-21 loss to third-ranked Alabama? Despite plenty of opportunities afforded to the offense, the Gators continuously stalled with the ball. Quarterback Jeff Driskel struggled with the same issues that have plagued him his entire career. He was off with his deep throws and had trouble with his reads and threw for just 93 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions on 9-of-28 passing. Even with decent protection for most of the day, Driskel never got into a rhythm and couldn't take advantage of an Alabama secondary trying to find its identity. The defense gave up some big plays in the passing game, especially when the ball went to Amari Cooper (10 catches, 201 yards and three touchdowns). Blake Sims torched Florida's secondary, which struggled with coverage issues all day, for 445 passing yards and four touchdowns, including one of 87 and 79 yards. Yes, Florida's defense was on the field for a very long team, but the Gators allowed 645 total yards ... the most allowed in school history.

3. Mississippi State will challenge for the West title: I wondered why this team wasn't ranked in the Top 25 to begin the season, and then the defense fell asleep in Week 2 and I started to wonder if Mississippi State was for real. Now, after a 34-29 win over LSU in Baton Rouge, you can't sleep on Dan Mullen and his Bulldogs. Sure, this was a rout that got pretty tight late in the fourth quarter, but this is a win the Bulldogs should be ecstatic about. And how about quarterback Dak Prescott? He had his best performance to date in his home state with 373 yards of offense and three touchdowns. Fellow Louisiana native Josh Robinson wasn't too shabby either, as he rushed for 197 yards and a score. Take the Bulldogs lightly at your own risk.

4. The East race is a total crapshoot: Besides a dominating performance from Georgia over Troy, the SEC East didn't have a great day. Florida was blown out by Alabama, Missouri was stunned at home by unranked Big Ten representative Indiana 31-27, and South Carolina slogged through a 48-34 win at Vanderbilt. We saw that Florida's offense still has major issues and Missouri's interior defensive linemen need a lot of work, as Indiana ran for 241 yards on the Tigers. South Carolina still controls its own destiny when it comes to going to Atlanta for the SEC title game, but no one would be shocked to see the Gamecocks drop another one. Will Georgia's defense get better? Will Florida have an offense? Was this a fluke loss for Mizzou? Is Tennessee a real sleeper? A two-loss SEC East champ is not out of the question with so many uncertainties.

5. Will Muschamp's seat is hotter than ever: I have a feeling Bill from Gainesville won't be calling into many radio shows this week. With a loss in which the Gators faded quickly in the second half, Muschamp's seat is roasting in Gainesville. Last year's injury-riddled, 4-8 season was one thing, but Florida has regressed in the past two games this season, which means the Gators have to show vast improvement in two weeks at Tennessee in order to perk an already downtrodden and disheartened fan base. You have to let the season play out, but this was a bad loss for Muschamp's squad, even if Alabama was the No. 3 team in the country. Florida should be competitive in games such as this, and the Gators just weren't after Alabama cleaned up its mistakes in the second half. There were plenty of opportunities for Florida in this one, but the Gators just didn't execute. Florida fans are frustrated with their coach and their quarterback, who are both in their fourth years at UF.

Bama failed the process, won anyway

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
10:32
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 3 Alabama gained 645 total yards Saturday, the fourth highest total in 123 years of Crimson Tide football, and limited Florida to 200 yards, and Nick Saban tried to be happy about it.

Blake Sims, the senior quarterback who has surprised everyone outside of the Alabama program and no one inside it, threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns, and his head coach praised that.

But Alabama coughed up the ball four times and allowed a team with a listless offense to score three touchdowns. The Crimson Tide committed 11 penalties for 80 yards, an uncharacteristic display of mistakes. That's why a game that had no business being close remained in doubt late into the third quarter, before Alabama pulled away to a 42-21 victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

In other words, people, Alabama won the game but lost "the process."

The process is shorthand for Saban's coaching. It combines outlandish physical talent with a watchmaker's precision. The Crimson Tide had a lot of the former and not enough of the latter, which led to Saban debating himself throughout his postgame press conference.

"Obviously, everybody that watched the game could tell that there were some things that we did extremely well and some things were pretty sloppy," Saban said.

Saban regards sloppiness as the devil's playground, somewhere between a character deficiency and leprosy. Particularly in the first half, Alabama couldn't have looked less like a Saban-coached team if it had come out in the single-wing. Or leather helmets. Or orange and blue.

"I felt we could have had 900 yards," Alabama offensive tackle Austin Shepherd said. "Just minor things that we've got to fix, uncharacteristic things of us."

Take the penalties. Alabama had three false starts and two snap infractions.

"All of it is game management and execution." Saban said, "We're second-and-1 at the 1, and the quarterback calls the wrong cadence. Everybody might think that, 'Hey, the offensive line messed up.' That's the kind of stuff that we have to be consistent and trust in and believe in and do the right way. It's attention to detail. We've had far too many of those this year, and we've got to get it corrected."

Saban stopped and moved to the other podium in his internal debate.

"But there's also been a tremendous amount of production offensively this year ..."

Saban hired Lane Kiffin because he believed in the controversial coach's ability to run an offense. On Alabama's first play from scrimmage at the Tide's 13-yard line, Kiffin shifted tailback Kenyan Drake


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Video: Bama's Blake Sims, Amari Cooper

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
8:57
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Quarterback Blake Sims and receiver Amari Cooper talk about their on-field chemistry after No. 3 Alabama's 42-21 win over Florida on Saturday.

Top stats on Alabama’s dominant win

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
8:27
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AP Photo/Brynn AndersonAmari Cooper's three touchdowns gave him 20 receiving TDs in his career, a school record.


Alabama beat Florida 42-21 Saturday in its SEC opener and did so with an uncharacteristically dominant passing attack. We tell you what you need to know about Alabama’s awesome offense and some ignominious Florida records.

Alabama piles up yards
Alabama had 645 yards of total offense, its second-most under Nick Saban behind last season’s 668 yards against Duke in a 48-7 win. It’s also the most ever allowed by Florida in a single game, topping the 629 allowed to Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

Blake Sims’ rare Tide QB performance
Alabama quarterback Blake Sims threw for 445 yards, the second Alabama quarterback to ever top 400 yards in a game. The school record is held by Scott Hunter, who threw for 484 against Auburn in 1969. It’s also the third-most by an opponent against the Gators and most since Peyton Manning threw for 492 yards in 1996. Sims threw four touchdown passes, the fifth Alabama quarterback to do so.

Amari Cooper sets school record
Amari Cooper’s three receiving touchdowns helped him set the school record for most career touchdown receptions with 20. Cooper became just the fourth Alabama player to have 200 receiving yards in a single game. This leaves him just 532 yards shy of tying DJ Hall’s school record for most receiving yards in a career (2,923). Cooper has 655 yards receiving this season, more than halfway to the school single-season record of 1,133 set by Hall in 2010.



Is Cooper the next Julio Jones?
Cooper has more receptions, receiving yards, 100-yard receiving games and touchdowns through the first 29 games of his career at Alabama than Julio Jones. Jones would finish his Alabama career with 179 catches, 2,653 yards and 15 TD.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Blake Sims recorded Alabama's second-best passing day with 445 yards and the third-ranked Crimson Tide overcame a sloppy performance to beat Florida 42-21 on Saturday.

The Tide (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) committed four turnovers that turned into 21 points for the Gators (2-1, 1-1), who still couldn't handle the Sims-to-Amari Cooper connection.

Sims threw touchdown passes of 87 yards to Kenyan Drake on the opening play and 79 to Cooper later in the first quarter. Cooper, who came in leading the nation in receptions, caught 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

The Tide's turnovers and other miscues kept the game close into the fourth quarter. Alabama's 645 total yards was the most the Gators have allowed.

Florida's Jeff Driskel was harassed and ineffective passing. He was 9-of-28 passing for 93 yards and was intercepted twice while the offense produced just 200 yards.


(Read full post)


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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Florida took its best shot at No. 3 Alabama on Saturday, but between near-perfect quarterback play, a Heisman-esque performance from Amari Cooper and a solid effort from the defense, the Crimson Tide proved to be too much. Nick Saban's bunch overpowered the Gators in the second half en route to a 42-21 home victory.

It was over when: The Gators had no answer for Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense in the second half, and the clincher came early in the fourth quarter when Tide safety Landon Collins intercepted Jeff Driskel on third and long. It was Driskel’s second pick of the game, and Alabama turned it into seven points on a TD pass to Cooper, extending the lead to 21 points.

Game ball goes to: It’s not hard not to give it to Blake Sims, who answered the critics with Saturday’s performance, but Cooper was simply uncoverable. The junior finished with 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns. It didn’t matter which Alabama quarterback was throwing him the ball. If Cooper wasn’t at or near the top of the Heisman Trophy watch before this week, he will be now.

Stat of the game: Think Sims was good? How about this stat? Sims accounted for 457 total yards, second-most in Alabama history, and the most since Scott Hunter’s 484 yards in 1969. The Tide quarterback finished 23-of-33 for 445 yards and four touchdowns through the air, and he added 12 yards on the ground. He wasn’t perfect, fumbling once and throwing an interception on a tipped pass, but he was darn near close.

What it means: After the first three games, nobody really knew how good Sims and this offense could be. How would they fare against a historically strong SEC defense? That question was answered and then some Saturday. The Tide finished with 648 yards of offense, and Sims put an end to any quarterback controversy in Tuscaloosa. For Florida, the defense just ran out of gas in the second half, but the bigger concern is with Driskel, who finished 7-of-25 for 80 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. If the Gators expect to compete in the SEC East, they must have better quarterback play.

Video: Inside The Drive -- Florida-Alabama

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
11:21
AM ET

Alabama coach Nick Saban discusses the key matchups as the Florida Gators visit the Crimson Tide.

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Alabama Pulls Away From Florida
Alabama used big days from Blake Sims and Amari Cooper to pull away from Florida in the second half for a 42-21 win.
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