Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s a preview of this Saturday’s slate. All times ET.
Eastern Kentucky at Florida, SEC Network: It might be a bit strange to see Will Muschamp on the sideline Saturday considering he won’t be back at Florida next season, but he’s staying on to coach the team’s last two regular-season games. How will the players respond to a coach who’s on his way out? Based on Dante Fowler Jr.'s tweet this week, I'd expect them to come out and play hard for their coach. Also, the Gators become bowl eligible with a win.
South Alabama at South Carolina, ESPN3: Raise your hand if you had South Alabama becoming bowl eligible before South Carolina this season. If your hand is raised, you’re lying. Credit the job Joey Jones has done in his sixth season with the Jaguars, but don’t expect an upset on Saturday. The Gamecocks bounced back from that excruciating overtime loss to Tennessee with a solid, come-from-behind win in the Swamp last weekend.
Charleston Southern at No. 10 Georgia, SEC Network: If there was ever a week to give Nick Chubb a break, this would be it. With Todd Gurley out for the season, Chubb is once again the man in Georgia’s backfield, but fellow freshman Sony Michel is expected to return Saturday, and both he and Brendan Douglas should see plenty of carries. All three backs could be in for a big day against the Buccaneers.
No. 8 Ole Miss at Arkansas, CBS: After last weekend, Ole Miss still has a chance to win the SEC West. Auburn knocking off Alabama isn’t likely, but crazier things have happened. First, though, the Rebels have to take care of business Saturday against an Arkansas team that is dangerous at home and confident after winning its first conference game in over two years. The Razorbacks allowed a total of 31 points to Alabama, Mississippi State and LSU this season. That doesn’t bode well for Bo Wallace, who will be without top target Laquon Treadwell. With rain in the forecast, points might be hard to come by in this one.
Western Carolina at No. 1 Alabama, SEC Network: The Alabama basketball team had trouble with the Catamounts earlier this week, but I don’t expect much of a struggle for the football team on Saturday. Western Carolina might be a “good little team,” as Nick Saban put it, but the Crimson Tide have dominated all three previous meetings and should do the same this season. If anything, it will give us another look at backup quarterback Jake Coker.
Samford at No. 14 Auburn, ESPNU: There are a lot of connections between these two in-state schools. Samford coach Pat Sullivan won a Heisman Trophy at Auburn back in 1971. Samford assistant coach Kodi Burns played and coached at Auburn. And Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee spent a year at Samford before joining Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State. The game itself won’t be very entertaining, but it should get the Tigers back on track.
No. 20 Missouri at Tennessee, ESPN: Missouri has to lose, right? There’s no way the Tigers can get back to Atlanta for the second straight season. Consider this -- Gary Pinkel’s team has won 12 of its past 14 conference games and has won nine straight road games, including seven straight in the SEC. Maybe it’s time we start taking this team seriously. The Tigers are going to have their hands full Saturday against a Tennessee team on the rise. The Volunteers have won back-to-back games with Joshua Dobbs under center, and a win over Missouri would make them bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
Vanderbilt at No. 4 Mississippi State, SEC Network: Dan Mullen was a happy man Tuesday when the latest College Football Playoff rankings came out, as his Bulldogs were still among the four playoff teams despite losing to Alabama the week before. Now the question is: Can they stay in the top four and hold off teams such as TCU, Ohio State and Baylor? Mississippi State has two chances left to impress the committee, beginning with Saturday’s tilt against the Commodores. It’s important the Bulldogs not only win, but win big.
Why Arkansas wins: Arkansas had been knocking at the door for weeks and the Razorbacks finally broke it down last Saturday when they shut out LSU to secure Bret Bielema's first SEC win. Now can they make it two in a row? Ole Miss is favored to record a key road win, but Arkansas' progress this season has impressed me. I'm tiptoeing out on a limb and rolling with the home team. Arkansas 20, Ole Miss 14 -- David Ching
Why Ole Miss wins: This is the definition of a trap game for the Rebels. They’re playing a hungry Arkansas team, fresh off its first SEC win, and they have the Egg Bowl next week. They can’t afford to start looking ahead. There’s just too much on the line for Ole Miss, though. I think the Landsharks defense will come out inspired and Bo Wallace will make just enough plays to win the game. Ole Miss 24, Arkansas 14 -- Greg Ostendorf
Why Tennessee wins: The Volunteers have played great on offense since inserting Josh Dobbs as the starting quarterback. In the last three games, he's averaging 263 passing yards per game and has thrown seven touchdowns and two interceptions, plus he's averaging 96 rushing yards per game and has rushed for four scores. Will that be enough for the Vols to notch just their second win against a ranked team under Butch Jones? Tennessee 24, Missouri 21 -- David Ching
Why Missouri wins: The Tigers haven't lost a road game in nearly two full years, a streak of nine in a row. Neyland Stadium holds quite the crowd, but so does Kyle Field, which drew more than 100,000 last week when Missouri beat the Aggies. And now that Markus Golden's nagging hamstring injury seems to be a nonfactor, the pass rush led by SEC-leading sacker Shane Ray and Golden is at full speed again, which will be a challenge for Josh Dobbs & Co. Missouri 31, Tennessee 27 -- Sam Khan Jr.
Mississippi State over Vanderbilt: The Bulldogs are coming off their first loss, but look for Dak Prescott & Co. to get back on track this week against the struggling Commodores, who are still searching for their first SEC win. Mississippi State 48, Vanderbilt 14
Alabama over Western Carolina: Alabama usually puts these games to bed quickly (and beat Western Carolina 49-0 when they last met in 2012) so expect the similar results here as the Crimson Tide get a tune-up before the Iron Bowl. Alabama 49, Western Carolina 7
Auburn over Samford: Auburn holds a 26-0-1 all-time series advantage over Samford, so don't expect the 28th meeting to buck that trend on the Tigers' senior day at Jordan-Hare. Auburn 52, Samford 6
Georgia over Charleston Southern: Georgia thumped Auburn at home last week to wrap up its SEC campaign, so now the Bulldogs must wait to see if Missouri loses. In the meantime, expect them to make quick work of this Big South foe. Georgia 49, Charleston Southern 3
Florida over Eastern Kentucky: Now that Will Muschamp's job status is clear, the pressure's off. The Gators still have bowl eligibility to play for and look to coast to a win over a quality FCS squad in Eastern Kentucky, which actually beat an FBS team this year: Miami (Ohio). Florida 42, Eastern Kentucky 7
South Carolina over South Alabama: The Gamecocks are looking to secure bowl eligibility. Expect them to build off the momentum of the comeback overtime win over Florida. South Carolina 45, South Alabama 10
Greg Ostendorf 77-17
Edward Aschoff 74-20
Chris Low 74-20
David Ching 73-21
Alex Scarborough 70-24
Sam Khan Jr. 69-25
The SEC already has five commitments from players ranked in the top 25 of the ESPN Junior 300. That list includes Greg Little, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2016 and a Texas A&M commit. As a whole, the SEC has 27 commitments in the updated ESPN Junior 300. Here’s a closer look at the updated rankings.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Let’s recap how the dynamic duo, and several other members of the SEC’s true freshman class, performed last Saturday:
DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
What he did: Barnett notched seven tackles, four tackles for loss and a pair of sacks in the Volunteers’ blowout win against Kentucky.
What it means: He probably wasn’t getting enough attention before, but Barnett is getting it now. Barnett is tied for fifth nationally in tackles for loss with Missouri’s Shane Ray. They share the SEC lead with 18 apiece. Barnett is also third in the SEC with nine sacks.
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
What he did: The return of -- and subsequent injury to -- Todd Gurley generated most of the attention in Saturday’s win against Auburn, but the Chubb Train kept rolling. Georgia’s star freshman ran 19 times for 144 yards and scored touchdowns of 9 and 11 yards. He also caught two passes for 48 yards.
What it means: Chubb has rushed for at least 140 yards in all five games since Gurley was initially suspended. During that time, he has been arguably the SEC’s most dynamic running back. He has run for 815 yards in the past five games and pushed his season total past the 1,000-yard mark (to 1,039) against Auburn.
RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee
What he did: He hasn’t put up comparable numbers to Chubb, but Hurd has been impressive while running behind a much less experienced offensive line. He rushed 23 times for 118 yards and scored a 4-yard touchdown against Kentucky. He also made a reception for an 11-yard gain.
What it means: Through 10 games, Hurd has rushed for 716 yards and three touchdowns and ranks third on the team with 27 catches for 177 yards and two more scores. He is easily one of the Volunteers' most valuable offensive players and he’s only getting started.
QB Treon Harris, Florida
What he did: The South Carolina game ended terribly for Florida -- with the Gamecocks tying the score late and winning in overtime -- but Harris is a clear upgrade over Jeff Driskel at quarterback. He completed just 5 of 11 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, but Harris also ran 20 times for 111 yards.
What it means: Starting for the third straight game, Harris suffered his first loss as a starter against the Gamecocks. Nonetheless, Florida has become a more competitive team with him under center. His 100-yard outing was the first by a Florida quarterback since Driskel in 2012.
S Armani Watts, Texas A&M
What he did: The freshman safety made four tackles and broke up two passes in a loss against Missouri, but his biggest play came late in the second quarter when he picked off a Maty Mauk pass at the Texas A&M 12-yard line and returned it 36 yards to the Aggies 48. A&M then drove to Mizzou’s 13 and kicked a field goal at the buzzer to go up 13-6 at halftime.
What it means: Other A&M freshmen like Myles Garrett, Speedy Noil and Kyle Allen have garnered more attention, but Watts has become a solid contributor on defense. He leads the team with three interceptions and 10 passes defended, is second with seven pass breakups and sixth with 52 tackles. It’s shaping up to be a strong rookie season for the young defensive back.
QB Kyle Allen, Texas A&M: Completed 24 of 35 passes for 237 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a loss to Missouri.
LB Bryson Allen-Williams, South Carolina: Made three tackles, a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble while combining for a sack in a win against Florida.
DB/KR Evan Berry, Tennessee: Vols legend Eric Berry’s younger brother made two tackles and returned three kickoffs for 91 yards (30.3 ypr) with a long of 39 against Kentucky.
WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M: Caught three passes for 36 yards and totaled 95 yards on two kickoff returns in a loss to Missouri.
DB Malkom Parrish, Georgia: Made five tackles and forced a fourth-quarter fumble that outside linebacker Davin Bellamy recovered in a win against Auburn.
P J.K. Scott, Alabama: Punted seven times for 319 yards (45.6 ypp) in a win against Mississippi State with a long of 56.
RB Ish Witter, Missouri: Ran four times for 34 yards and rushed for a key third-quarter touchdown that gave the Tigers a 14-point lead in a 34-27 win over Texas A&M.
Here’s a look at where all four SEC playoff contenders stand heading into Week 13.
Record: 9-1 (6-1)
Rank: No. 1
Next big obstacle: Nov. 29 vs. Auburn
Reason for optimism: It's all there for the taking. Thanks to Saturday's win over then-No. 1 Mississippi State, Bama is in the driver's seat to win the West and reach the playoff. With this weekend's game against FCS Western Carolina, the Crimson Tide get a chance to rest up for the following week's Iron Bowl against Auburn.
Cause for concern: Play-in scenarios can be tricky, especially when you're staring down a regular-season finale against your rival. If Alabama loses to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, all bets are off. Either Mississippi State or Ole Miss would then win the West and Alabama would be left out in the cold.
Who they’ll be rooting for: Boston College over Florida State
-- Alex Scarborough
Record: 9-1 (5-1)
Rank: No. 4
Next big obstacle: Nov. 29 at Ole Miss
Reason for optimism: The Bulldogs didn’t fall that far in the polls -- dropping from No. 1 to 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings -- after losing their first game of the season Saturday against Alabama. Mississippi State still has two conference games remaining in the regular season, and beating one in particular -- No. 8 Ole Miss on Nov. 29 -- would strengthen its case as a playoff contender.
Cause for concern: Ohio State is among the programs lurking right behind the Bulldogs in the rankings. At this point, it doesn’t appear that the Bulldogs will play in the SEC championship game while other contenders like the Buckeyes or UCLA might. If those teams win out -- same with Big 12 juggernauts TCU and Baylor -- it might be difficult for State to hold on to one of the top four spots.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Indiana over Ohio State, Oklahoma State over Baylor, Boston College over Florida State
-- David Ching
Record: 8-2 (4-2)
Rank: No. 8
Next big obstacle: Saturday at Arkansas
Reason for optimism: The weekend couldn’t have gone better for Ole Miss. The Rebels got to sit home, rest up and watch as Alabama beat Mississippi State and Georgia beat Auburn, keeping the door open for them to win the SEC West. If they win out and Auburn upsets Alabama in the Iron Bowl, they’re headed to Atlanta for the conference championship game. And with that could come a spot in the playoff.
Cause for concern: We still haven’t seen this Ole Miss team in a meaningful game without its star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. How will the offense look? Can Bo Wallace keep playing at a high level sans his favorite target? The Rebels also have to avoid losing Saturday’s trap game at Arkansas. The Razorbacks are confident, coming off their first SEC win, and will be a dangerous opponent at home.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Oklahoma State over Baylor
-- Greg Ostendorf
Record: 8-2 (6-2)
Rank: No. 10
Next big obstacle: Nov. 29 vs. Georgia Tech
Reason for optimism: Blowing out Auburn at home has restored faith in the playoff committee. The Bulldogs are back to playing like they should and if they win out, which would include making it to and winning the SEC championship game in Atlanta, there's a chance they'll make it in. Georgia is almost guaranteed to play a top-4 team in Atlanta, so a win would make it tough to keep the Dawgs out.
Cause for concern: Losses to South Carolina and Florida aren't great. They've combined to lose nine SEC games, and Florida is parting ways with coach Will Muschamp. The Bulldogs need help, though. There are a lot of teams in front of them that would need to lose. TCU, Baylor and Ohio State pose the biggest threats, but don't exactly have the most challenging schedules remaining. Georgia would have to win out and take the SEC.
Who they'll be rooting for this week: Tennessee over Missouri
-- Edward Aschoff
On Saturday, arguably the country's best player basically ended his career with a devastating ACL injury in his first game back from a four-game NCAA suspension. Sunday brought us the firing of a coach who did everything right, but win. The work week brought more attention to autograph issues with Florida State's star, and two schools are dealing with horrific allegations away from the field.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
That's why Nick Saban and his team have to be ecstatic with their No. 1 ranking in the latest playoff rankings. As long as they win out and win the SEC title, they're headed to New Orleans for the first semifinal game.
Meanwhile, if everything plays out as it should -- and it never does -- the Tide's opponent in the Sugar Bowl would be none other than Mississippi State. That's right. The Bulldogs only dropped to No. 4 after Saturday's loss to Alabama, and that means they're still in good shape for the playoff if they can take care of business against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.
The next two weeks should also be interesting for the rest of the conference as a number of teams are fighting for that sixth win and bowl eligibility. Both Florida and South Carolina should get there this Saturday as they play Eastern Kentucky and South Alabama, respectively. It won't be as easy, though, for teams like of Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.
We predict a total of 12 SEC teams becoming bowl eligible by season's end.
College Football Playoff semifinal (Sugar Bowl): Alabama
College Football Playoff semifinal (Sugar Bowl): Mississippi State
Capital One Orange Bowl: Ole Miss
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Georgia
Citrus Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: Florida
Outback Bowl: Missouri
AdvoCare 100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Tennessee
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: LSU
Belk Bowl: South Carolina
Birmingham Bowl: Arkansas
Roll Tide -- all the way to No. 1.
Following its win over Mississippi State -- currently the best win in the country -- Alabama ascended to No. 1 in the latest ranking by the College Football Playoff’s 12-member selection committee.
The Crimson Tide jumped No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Mississippi State, which remained one of the top four teams in the country in spite of its loss. For the second time this season, the committee has placed more than one team from the SEC West in its top four.
Here’s what the bracket would look like today:
Beyond the top four, there were some perplexing moves made by the committee. Among the more eyebrow-raising decisions:
- Undefeated Marshall is still unranked after its biggest win of the season, yet No. 25 Minnesota, which just lost at home, is still No. 25.
- Louisville, USC, Missouri and Oklahoma -- all unranked a week ago -- are ranked again.
- USC climbed to No. 19 on the back of a home win over 5-5 California.
- Clemson, in spite of a convincing 28-6 loss to Georgia Tech in which it was held to 190 total yards and had three turnovers, only dropped three spots.
- Utah jumped from No. 23 to No. 17 after a double-overtime win against five-loss Stanford, and still has a home loss to Washington State on its resume.
One of the biggest movers was LSU, which dropped from No. 17 out of the ranking after it was shut out at Arkansas. Arizona State dropped seven spots after an embarrassing loss to Oregon State. Georgia moved up five spots after thumping Auburn 34-7, and Wisconsin jumped from No. 20 to No. 16 after beating Nebraska. That bodes well for Ohio State’s playoff hopes, should the Buckeyes and Badgers meet in the Big Ten title game.
As for the other major bowls, here’s a projection based on the current rankings:
The Orange Bowl lost the ACC champion (FSU) so it gets the next highest-ranked ACC team, No. 18 Georgia Tech. Then the Orange selects the next highest-ranked non-conference champion team from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame. By contract, displaced conference champs from the SEC and Big Ten don't go to the Orange Bowl. That would pit the Yellow Jackets against No. 8 Ole Miss.
Here’s what New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day could look like, based on today’s ranking:
12:30 p.m. ET, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 10 Georgia vs. Marshall
4 p.m. ET, VIZIO Fiesta Bowl: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 9 UCLA
8 p.m. ET, Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 18 Georgia Tech vs. No. 8 Ole Miss
12:30 p.m. ET, Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: No. 5 TCU vs. No. 6 Ohio State
5 p.m. ET, Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State
8:30 p.m. ET, Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Mississippi State
Marshall is still projected in a New Year’s Six bowl even though it didn’t crack the selection committee’s top 25. If a Group of 5 conference champion does not play its way into the ranking by Dec. 7, the committee will evaluate all five conference champions before selecting one for a New Year’s Six bowl.
As always there was a ton of recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference. Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced he will step down from his position at the end of the season, there were key visits and new offers over the weekend. Here's a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Among them, dotting the "i" at Ohio State, lighting the Tower at Texas and rolling Toomer's Corner at Auburn. All fine events, but no list of such customs in the sport is complete without the latest craze: the wait for Tuesday night.
I say that somewhat jokingly, so refrain from the angry tweets. No, I don't really think it's more fun to dream about the details of a five-minute interview with Jeff Long than to decorate an intersection with toilet paper.
But it's close.
So welcome to the fourth of seven Tuesday College Football Playoff poll unveils, where it finally gets real in the selection-committee room.
Why is this Tuesday different? Because after last Saturday, none of the remaining unbeaten or one-loss Power 5 contenders will meet in the regular season or in conference-title games.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
2. Rushing the field after a win over the No. 17 team in the country? That's what happens when you haven't won a conference game in over two years. Arkansas paid the price, though. On Monday, the school was fined $25,000 by the SEC for the post-game celebration, a fine I'm guessing coach Bret Bielema would be happy to pay back after Saturday's win against LSU. The atmosphere hasn't been as jubilant in Baton Rouge this week. It was a historically bad performance by the offense, and Glenn Guilbeau of the Shreveport Times writes that it's time for change and more specifically, time for a new quarterback and new offensive coordinator at LSU. The Tigers should fare better next Thursday against a bad Texas A&M defense.
3. What's the one thing we can almost always count on when Alabama plays an FCS team? Nick Saban going off during his weekly news conference about the quality of the opponent and how it doesn't matter. He didn't let us down this week. Saban got a little heated Monday when a reporter asked about the possibility of looking ahead to the rest of the season, aka the Iron Bowl. I think the Crimson Tide should be pretty safe this weekend against Western Carolina. On a different note, Saban was also asked about the music selection in Bryant-Denny Stadium and the updated playlist from Saturday's win against No. 1 Mississippi State. Unfortunately, he's not the DJ. He has nothing to do with what songs play or don't play during games.
Around the SEC
- Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson unfazed by criticism during brutal stretch.
- Running back Todd Gurley goes out the same way he came in at Georgia: A superstar.
- Steve Spurrier laments firing of Muschamp, shoots down rumors of his return to Florida.
We don't need a new DC we just need to Man up, do our jobs and win our 1on1's coaches coach players make plays!— Deshazor Everett (@DeUcE2NiNa9) November 17, 2014
College Football Minute
12:00 PM ET Eastern Kentucky Florida 12:00 PM ET Charleston Southern 10 Georgia 12:00 PM ET South Alabama South Carolina 3:30 PM ET 8 Ole Miss Arkansas 4:00 PM ET Western Carolina 1 Alabama 7:00 PM ET Samford 14 Auburn 7:30 PM ET 20 Missouri Tennessee 7:30 PM ET Vanderbilt 4 Mississippi State