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Alabama's Amari Cooper visited with SEC Now Tuesday night.

CFL Extra: Gurley Or Cooper?

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
4:01
PM ET


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Danny Kanell and Joey Galloway debate which player they would start up a team with: Todd Gurley or Amari Cooper.

SEC West strong in AP top 25

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
3:33
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SEC Now hosts DariNowkhah and Maria Taylor break down the 6 SEC West teams in the AP top 25

SEC Weekend Wrap: Sept. 23

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
1:01
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Recruiting reporter Derek Tyson breaks down the top weekend storylines from the SEC.

SEC Heisman watch: Week 4

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
1:00
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Todd Gurley needed just six carries on Saturday.

Georgia's game with Troy was over before Gurley suited up, but the coaching staff wanted him to at least sweat in his uniform, so he touched the ball six times and ended up with 73 yards, including a pretty 48-yard run, on just two drives.

With that, your Heisman Trophy favorite from the SEC has 402 rushing yards with four touchdowns in three games and is averaging 9.8 yards per carry.

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
AP Photo/Brynn AndersonAmari Cooper put on quite a show against Florida.
We know what Gurley can do, so today we'll focus on someone whom I had on my ESPN.com Heisman ballot after Week 2: Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.

All he's doing is leading the nation with 43 receptions and 655 yards. He's tied for first in the SEC with five receiving touchdowns.

Stats are great to look at, but you know what's even prettier? That grown-man performance in Tuscaloosa against Florida's defense. Now, let's not kid ourselves and think this is the same ol' elite Florida defense the league has grown accustomed to, but this defense has arguably the nation's best cornerback in Vernon Hargreaves. Cooper faced his toughest test yet and might have had his best performance of the season.

What exactly did this magnificent football specimen do in front of the entire country? Well, how about 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns, including a 79-yarder in which Florida's defense somehow lost him. Florida tried different ways to contain Cooper and failed more often than not. Hargreaves did what he could, and it wasn't enough. Just check out that fade to the end zone where Cooper mossed Hargreaves, who couldn't have been in better position, for a touchdown.

At this rate, there's no way Cooper won't be traveling to New York for the Heisman ceremony in December. The kid is too good, too talented and is on pace to get far too many catches (129), yards (1,965) and touchdowns (15) not to party in the city that never sleeps in early December.

Cooper has yet to be held under 130 yards receiving this season and has just started his run of embarrassing defenses.

Godspeed, SEC West secondaries. Godspeed.

Here are four other SEC players to keep an eye on in our Heisman watch:

  • Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M: He finally showed that he's human by throwing his first interception of the season in a blowout win over SMU, but still leads the SEC with 1,359 passing yards and has 13 touchdown passes.
  • Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: What a performance on the road and at night in Tiger Stadium. Prescott was the force to be reckoned with Saturday, not that environment, as he registered 373 total yards and three touchdowns. This was the signature win Prescott needed to vault himself into real Heisman contender talk. He has thrown for 964 yards and is fifth in the SEC with 378 rushing yards. He has 14 total touchdowns on the season.
  • Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas: Collins had only 79 rushing yards and was held out of the end zone in the Hogs' route of Northern Illinois, but like Gurley, his team didn't really need much out of him. Collins leads the SEC with 490 rushing yards and has five touchdowns.
  • Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State: Who? Oh, how about the bowling ball who rammed his way through LSU's defense for 197 yards and a touchdown. He stands just 5 feet 9 inches, and short folks need love, too. He's second in the SEC with 485 rushing yards and is averaging 7.8 yards per carry.
video

Heather Dinich looks at who she thinks should be in the playoffs after four weeks of the season.

Drive Through: Heisman Race

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
12:04
PM ET


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A quarter of the season is in the books. Who are the leading candidates for the Heisman? Prim Siripipat and Adam Rittenberg look at the field of candidates.

Kanell's Top Four Teams

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
11:51
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Danny Kanell ranks the top four teams in college football.
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If you tilt your head ever so slightly toward the city of Birmingham, Alabama, you might be able to hear the light, yet almost sinister, cackle of Mike Slive, his fingertips rippling toward one another as the word "excellent" slithers through his teeth.

What has the SEC commissioner so happy? Well, just take a look at the most recent top 25 and all the chaos erupting around him in college football. The SEC leads all conferences with eight representatives in the top 25. Four of those teams are ranked inside the top 10: Alabama (three), Auburn (five), Texas A&M (six) and Ole Miss (10).

So can the SEC realistically get two teams into the College Football Playoff?

For now, that answer has to be yes. While the rest of the Power 5 conferences -- ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 -- have lost steam or suffered losses to start the year, the SEC is sitting very pretty in the national rankings. It also helps that five of the SEC's eight ranked teams are unbeaten.

That's not going to last, as all five of those teams, which are in the SEC Western Division, will face each other in a bloody round-robin in the coming weeks.

Hello, strength of schedule!

Oh, what's that? The SEC faced soft nonconference opponents to start the season? Well, not so fast, my SEC-hating friend. The league has a 5-2 record against nonconference Power 5 opponents and is 3-1 vs. the top 25.

  • Alabama beat West Virginia, which held tight with No. 4 Oklahoma on Saturday.
  • LSU roared back from a 24-7 deficit to beat Wisconsin.
  • Auburn went on the road to Kansas State and won with its passing game ... and maybe some knowledge of the Wildcats' signals.
  • Georgia thumped a Clemson team that took No. 1 Florida State -- sans Jameis Winston -- to overtime, thanks to Clemsoning to the max!*
  • Arkansas is still running over and through Texas Tech after a 49-28 drubbing of the Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas.
*Only true home win.

To put that in comparison with, oh, let's just say the Big Ten, the SEC is light years ahead. Through the first three weeks, the Big Ten went 23-13, including 1-10 against the Power 5 and 0-8 against the FPI Top 50.

[+] EnlargeGarrett
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsMyles Garrett (15) and the Aggies are just one of four SEC West teams in the AP Top 10.
The FPI (Football Power Index) measures team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance going forward for the rest of the season. Its top four teams are in the SEC: Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn and Georgia.

With the exception of the Big 12, the other Power 5 conferences really haven't done themselves any favors. Florida State has survived two games it could have easily lost, while suspected darling Virginia Tech went from beating Ohio State in Week 2 to promptly losing to ECU and Georgia Tech. USC upset Stanford on the road then lost 37-31 to -- wait for it -- Boston College.

The SEC has received plenty of help from the other conferences, and I think it's very safe to assume the SEC champion is getting into the playoff, regardless, but here are some scenarios that could put two SEC teams in the playoff:

The wild, wild West
Before we go on, check out these notes provided by ESPN Stats & Information about the SEC West:

  • The SEC West is 22-0 outside the West, winning by an average of 34 points.
  • All seven West teams rank in the top 20 of the FPI, which is more teams than the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC combined.
  • Six West teams are ranked in the top 20 of the AP Poll. Arkansas isn't, but has won its last three games by 41.7 points per game.

Strength of schedule isn't going to be a problem for the West champ. For as tough as the West is, don't rule out an undefeated run or a one-loss run. We've seen it before ...

Let's just say an undefeated Alabama beats an undefeated Texas A&M close at home on Oct. 18. Alabama runs the table and wins the SEC. A&M runs the table afterward and sits in the top 10. Chances are that if A&M has just one loss, it has won some pretty good games, so you're looking at a potential top-five finish.

Alabama is in and with the other conferences in such disarray, it'd be tough to keep an A&M team out that would have (according to current rankings) five wins over ranked opponents.

Swap these two out for any West teams and it works, even Arkansas.

The LEast
The East isn't close to what its Western counterpart is this season, but that doesn't mean that an Eastern representative can't make it in. The easiest way is for the champ to win in Atlanta.

But look at Georgia for a possible two-team appearance. Let's say that South Carolina and Georgia run the table and South Carolina loses in Atlanta. Georgia, which lost only to South Carolina and is ahead of the Gamecocks in the polls, has a good shot at making it in with the West champ.

If both of these teams win out and South Carolina wins the SEC, I dare you to keep Georgia out.

Atlanta upset
You have an undefeated West champ upset by the East champ. The East champ is in, and after everything that West team did to make it through the gantlet, how do you keep that team out? Even if the East champ has two losses, I don't see how the committee could keep the West champ out based on body of work alone.

Hey, these are all hypotheticals, but they aren't impossible. The SEC got two teams into the BCS national title game in 2011 and almost got two in 2012.

Based on past BCS standings to determine a four-team playoff, the SEC would have gotten two teams in five times since 2005.

Don't count out the SEC.

SEC morning links

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
8:00
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1. The SEC is all over the Top 25 this week, but let's just come right out and say it -- there's no dominant team. Oh, a few of the West's best will have their chances to make a case, but right now there isn't a team without some warts. Take Texas A&M for instance. The Aggie offense with Kenny Trill pulling the trigger is a nightmare to game plan against. But A&M's defense is scary, too, and not in a good way. This unit was the worst in the SEC last season in total defense and run defense. Sure, the Aggies have improved since then. Maybe a lot. But who have they played for us to be sure? Aside from the season-opening ambush of South Carolina (a game in which the Gamecocks piled up 433 yards), A&M has played Lamar, Rice and SMU. Kevin Sumlin and Co. would be wise to not overlook the Razorbacks. Since their loss to Auburn in Week 1, the Hogs have averaged 58 points of offense in winning their last three. Their SEC-best rushing attack has the potential to give Texas A&M some nightmares as well.

2. Despite the roller coaster the Gamecocks have already been on in the season's first month of games (you can just see it on Steve Spurrier's face), it should be noted that South Carolina leads the SEC East. Does anybody want to win this division? Maybe we'll get an answer on Saturday when Missouri visits USC. Spurrier isn't sounding too confident after the way his team looked against what had been a dreadful Vanderbilt team. On the other hand, Mizzou is banged up. Starting left guard and fifth-year senior Anthony Gatti tore his ACL and MCL in the Tigers' loss to Indiana. And second-leading receiver Darius White will be out with a strained groin. This one isn't exactly shaping up to be the epic battle for East supremacy that some thought it could be a month ago.

3. ESPN's "College GameDay" is headed to Columbia, South Carolina. Not to be outdone, the other big game in the SEC East -- Tennessee at Georgia -- will be the site of the SEC Network's pregame show "SEC Nation". The Vols have something to prove and will hit the road with a much-improved defense. UT is sixth in the SEC in total defense, giving up 343 yards a game. That should give Tennessee some hope in preparing to face Georgia's star running back Todd Gurley and his SEC freshman of the week understudy, Sony Michel. The Bulldogs are also short-handed with Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley among the injured. The biggest challenge for Tennessee, however, is likely to come on the other side of the ball. Georgia has an intimidating pass rush, and the Vols O-line has given up an SEC-worst nine sacks already this seasons. Buckle up.

Around the SEC
  • LSU's stunning pratfall in Saturday's home loss to Mississippi State will prompt some changes. Most notably, the QB battle is back on.
  • Mississippi State center Dillon Day, accused of stomping on two LSU players, wrote a letter to Bulldogs fans to defend himself. Day has some history, though. He was suspended for a half last year after he stomped on an Auburn player.
  • File this under "Oh, they're friends now." Arkansas coach Bret Bielema to Gus Malzahn after Auburn's win at Kansas State: "Some of you may faint. I shot Gus a congrats text and just said, 'Hey I know how tough that place is. Congrats.' "
  • Will Muschamp has fallen off the hot seat and directly into the fire. Here are some ideas for fixing Florida.
Tweet of the day

Early Offer: What a win for Wilson 

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
11:00
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Missouri and Indiana often tangle on the recruiting trail, but now Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson has a big victory to recruit against the Tigers with. Plus, UCLA and Notre Dame are locked in a battle for the nation's top tight end prospect.

[+] EnlargeKevin Wilson
AJ Mast/Icon SportswireKevin Wilson and Indiana hope to get a recruiting boost from Saturday's 31-27 win against Missouri.
1. Indiana's 31-27 victory against No. 18 Missouri this past Saturday is the type of win that can go a long way on the recruiting trail. Because of its location, Missouri is one of the few SEC schools that actively targets players in the Midwest, and it is quite common for the Hoosiers and Tigers to tangle over players in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and even in St. Louis. For the most part, Mizzou has had its way with IU, but now Hoosier coach Kevin Wilson has a breakthrough win to recruit with. As one Big Ten recruiter told me on Monday, "that's the type of win that can change recruits' minds."

2. On Monday RecruitingNation released the latest edition of the Recruiter Power rankings and UCLA’s Adrian Klemm came in at No. 2 on the list. A big reason why Klemm is ranked so high is because he was able to land ESPN 300 tight end Alize Jones, the No. 1 tight end in the country. However, there’s some legitimate concern in Westwood that Jones could end up at Notre Dame. A source indicated the Bruins are doing everything they can to "fight off Notre Dame's advances." Jones continues to say he’s still with the Bruins and is only looking around at the Irish as a security blanket, but insiders believe the interest is much more than just that.

3. What an interesting few days it’s been for Draper (Utah) Corner Canyon offensive tackle Branden Bowen. On Saturday, Bowen, the No. 5 player in Utah, committed to the Utes to give Kyle Whittingham a nice in-state recruiting victory. Then hours later on Sunday, he tweeted he had picked up an offer from Ohio State, a school he admitted he was hoping to receive an offer from earlier in the process. It will be interesting to see if the Utes can keep Bowen on board, or if the Buckeyes' offer is too tempting to pass up.

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Social Studies

Often players link their highlight videos on their social media accounts, but you almost never see them posting their grades or test scores. So give Alabama commit Christian Bell a whole lot of credit for posting his ACT score for everybody to see. It's the type of highlight that also should be cheered.

Sometimes there is more to sports than who wins or loses, and sometimes even the most heated rivalry in college football can be put aside for the greater good.

Saturday was one of those times.

When Alabama quarterback Blake Sims took the field against Florida, he wore a new accessory on his right wrist, a purple bracelet that simply read “Kayla.” It was a tribute to Kayla Perry, a 19-year-old college student who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of pediatric cancer that typically presents itself in very young children and infants, 18 months ago.

[+] EnlargeAlabama's Blake Sims
AP Photo/Brynn AndersonAlabama quarterback Blake Sims wears a purple bracelet with the name "Kayla" on it -- a tribute to Kayla Perry, a 19-year-old Auburn student diagnosed with neuroblastoma -- during the Florida game.
Perry is currently a freshman at Auburn University.

"Hey guys, you know I'm an Auburn Tiger, but even college rivalries can come together when it matters," Perry posted Saturday on Facebook with a picture of Sims. "Many thanks to University of Alabama QB Blake Sims for seeing my story, and asking to wear my bracelet this week, and today, especially!"

With the bracelet on, Sims played the best game of his college career. The senior threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns in the Crimson Tide’s 42-21 win over Florida.

Perry, who grew up in a household divided by the rivalry, put her fandom aside Saturday and admitted that she was rooting for the Alabama quarterback.

“People always say the players aren’t the ones that are so into the rivalry, it’s the fans,” Perry told ESPN.com. “And I think that’s really true. Sometimes as fans, we get caught up in what team we pull for the games themselves, but the players, they know what’s important and they know when to be rivals and when to be friends.”

On Saturday, Sims was simply a friend.

The two haven’t met yet, but Perry has a mutual acquaintance who is trying to set up a meeting. In the meantime, she’s just happy that by wearing the bracelet, Sims was able to raise awareness to childhood cancer research and the lack of funding that is going into it.

“We really want people to see this and see this as a problem and take a stand and step up and do something,” Perry said. “When people like Blake step up and they show their support for a cause, it makes other people want to get involved, too. So we’re really glad that he did that and thankful.”

Sims isn’t the only player to show support. Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates wore the same bracelet last Thursday when the Tigers played Kansas State, and his head coach Gus Malzahn has asked to meet with Perry on Tuesday.

Perry, who launched a website to raise funds for pediatric cancer research on Sept. 1, has already raised over $50,000, her mother said.
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Everything will be better with a playoff, right? With no clear-cut top teams and just four spots in the playoff, Gene Wojciechowski explains the playoff selection committee has their work cut out for them.
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With four teams in the top 10, the SEC West is dominating the college football landscape early in the season. Following Mississippi State's win over LSU, we look at where the Tigers now fall in the race and who the frontrunner in the division is.

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Tide WR Cooper, Heisman hopeful
Alabama's Amari Cooper visited with SEC Now Tuesday night.
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