SEC on Week 1 upset alert

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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So just how many SEC teams will play in the inaugural College Football Playoff? The conference utterly dominated the top of the BCS standings over the last decade and claimed seven of the last eight national titles. Eight SEC teams were voted into the preseason Associated Press Top 25 released, five among the top 15.

According to our Football Outsiders projections, six SEC teams have at least a 5 percent likelihood to reach the playoff -- Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M. No other conference has more than three teams with odds that high. In fact, our projections show an 81 percent likelihood that at least one SEC team will reach the playoff, outpacing the ACC (78 percent), Pac-12 (61), Big 12 (45) and Big Ten (45).

But there is still a 19 percent chance the SEC will be shut out of the CFP in 2014. Inconceivable? Perceptions will shift quickly if the league doesn't dominate its non-conference opponents. And our numbers indicate that five SEC teams have to be particularly wary of an upset this week, starting tomorrow night with Boise State versus Ole Miss at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

There is a 65 percent chance that the SEC is going to be on the wrong end of at least two of the following games in Week 1, and only an 8 percent chance they'll sweep them all. This list, of course, doesn't include Alabama's neutral site game against West Virginia, in which Football Outsiders' projections have the Crimson Tide as a 25-point favorite. 

Utah State Aggies at Tennessee Volunteers

53.6 percent chance the Vols lose

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National recruiting analyst Craig Haubert discusses Georgia's latest ESPN 300 recruit: WR Van Jefferson. It's the fourth consecutive week the Bulldogs added a ranked prospect and their third straight week rising in the class rankings top 10.

SEC morning links

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
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1. The college football season is just a day away, and what better way to kick things off then with a premier matchup in the SEC between South Carolina and Texas A&M. In fact, it’s just one of many intriguing games during the first weekend. Feel blessed. In 2004, the best SEC game from the opening weekend was No. 3 LSU against a mediocre Oregon State team. Matchups like Alabama-Utah State or Georgia-Georgia Southern were more the norm. But let's get back to this season. Athlon Sports previewed the top five college football games of Week 1, and four of the five included SEC teams. I tend to agree that LSU-Wisconsin is at the top of my list just because I have no idea what to expect from the Tigers.

2. The other major matchup this weekend takes place between the hedges where Georgia will host Clemson in a clash of Top 25 teams. The two played a shootout last year, but both starting quarterbacks have moved on to the next level. To me, one of the bigger storylines from this game will be if Deshaun Watson takes the field for Clemson, and if so, how much will the talented freshman quarterback play? Georgia expects to see Watson at some point even though Cole Stoudt will start for the Tigers. Don’t forget that it’s somewhat of a homecoming for Watson. The nation’s top dual-threat quarterback hails from Gainesville, Georgia, and Mark Richt made a strong push to flip the in-state recruit.

3. We’ve already seen Greg McElroy take center stage on the SEC Network. How about analysis from another former Alabama quarterback? John Parker Wilson gives his take on the current quarterback battle going on in Tuscaloosa as part of AL.com’s “Film Room” series. Wilson goes over some plays that might help make like easer for both Blake Sims and Jacob Coker, and if there’s anybody who would know, it’s him. He played two seasons for Nick Saban. Meanwhile, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen isn’t amused with the ongoing quarterback competition. Holgorsen said too much has been made about the position and that the offense won’t change much regardless of who’s under center. He’s probably right.

Around the SEC
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: Notre Dame has the No. 15 class in the country, but the Irish could quickly climb into the top 10 with a monster recruiting weekend on the horizon. Plus, after Georgia landed star junior quarterback Jacob Eason, the Dawgs have been on a recruiting run at receiver, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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Preseason predictions and betting guide

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
5:59
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ESPN's college football experts offer their predictions for the 2014 conference winners, which four teams will make the final four and which team will win the first College Football Playoff.

Alabama is the most popular pick to win the SEC crown, with Georgia, South Carolina and Auburn also receiving support. The Crimson Tide are the only conference team picked to win it all, although only two of the panel's 23 experts picked Nick Saban's crew to win it all.

Click here for the full list of predictions.

And make sure to check out our comprehensive betting guide Insider from Phil Steele and Will Harris.

Watch: Wait is over for UGA QB Mason

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
1:31
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Chris Conley has a problem today. Actually, Conley has a problem with today. It lasts only 24 hours. There is so much to do.

When you're a starting senior flanker on a top-10 team and a college senior, a film director and a screenwriter, a budding athletic administrator and a coffeehouse musician, a Bible-quoting honor student and a superhero-loving, "Star Wars" geek, time is not something you waste. "Madden" can wait.

Take July 17, when Conley boarded a plane in Athens at 7:30 a.m., flew to Birmingham for SEC media days, spent several hours bouncing from one interview room to the next, flew back to Athens, went through a seven-on-seven session with his teammates, showered and ate dinner.

And then worked on his next film into the wee hours.

"I'll sleep when I'm dead," Conley said that day in Birmingham.

Click here to read more from Ivan Maisel on Conley balances football, filmmaking and more.

SEC fearless predictions

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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Believe it or not, we are two days away from SEC football officially kicking off the 2014 season. And you thought we'd never get here!

Each season we make perfect prediction after perfect prediction. From weekly game picks to preseason teams, we think we've got this whole prognostication thing down to a science!

It's become a tradition here on the SEC blog to release our fearless predictions for the season ahead. I'm riding solo on them this year, but they shouldn't be any less correct this time around.

Here are my 10 fearless predictions for the SEC in 2014:

1. The SEC champion will have two losses ... but still make the playoff: With the talent gap between the teams at the top and the middle of the pack growing tighter, the SEC might be in store for the most exciting divisional races we've seen in a long time. No team is perfect. I've said this since the end of last season: No team will go undefeated in the SEC and no team will leave Atlanta with fewer than two losses. But with how strong the conference is this year, there's no way the SEC champ will be left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesMike Davis rushed for 1,183 yards on 203 carries and 11 scores in 2013.
2. Mike Davis will lead the conference in rushing: He can steamroll over you or just run by you. Davis has everything you'd want in a back and even though he's dealing with a rib injury, he'll lead the SEC in rushing yards this season. It won't hurt that he has arguably the nation's best offensive line in front of him. Georgia's Todd Gurley has yet to make it through an entire season healthy, while T.J. Yeldon will undoubtedly have his carries eaten into by Derrick Henry. With what should be a solid passing game taking some pressure off him, Davis will blow by the 1,183 yards he had last year.

3. The SEC will have 12 bowl-eligible teams: Last year, the SEC saw 10 teams go bowling. This year, Florida and Tennessee will reach at least six wins this fall and join the teams that made bowl games last year. Yes, a Tennessee team with brand-new offensive and defensive lines will go bowling, and yes, Florida's offense will be much better.

4. Will Muschamp will finally beat Georgia: After going 0-3 against his alma mater, Muschamp will finally get a win at the World's Largest Outdoor, eh, Party. It's a rebound year in Gainesville with a better offense. Of course, the game will be close, but quarterback Jeff Driskel will engineer a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to end the bleeding the Bulldogs have caused the Gators the past three years. That means the SEC East title will come down to the Gators' home game with South Carolina on Nov. 15.

5. Arkansas will have two 1,000-yard rushers: The Razorbacks came close last year after Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams combined to rush for 1,926 yards. With so many unknowns still lurking in the passing game, coach Bret Bielema will have no problem handing the ball off to his duo as much as possible. Williams might even lead the Hogs in rushing this year after an impressive offseason. Stacking the box won't stop this duo.

6. The Mississippi schools will reach nine wins: It seems like whenever Mississippi State and Ole Miss have higher expectations, they fail to live up to the hype. Well, that ain't happening this season. With two very manageable seasons, and a host of talent returning, both of these schools will reach at least nine wins this season. Ole Miss gets Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State at home and should sweep nonconference play. Mississippi State has an extremely soft nonconference slate and gets Auburn and Texas A&M at home. Both Mississippi teams will pull a big upset on their way to nine wins.

7. Leonard Floyd will lead the SEC in sacks: Last year, Floyd led the Bulldogs with 6.5 sacks. This year, Georgia's best pass-rusher will push for All-American status by reaching double-digit sacks and leading the league. He's fast, strong and terrifying off the edge. Floyd had a great offseason and will be a nightmare for quarterbacks.

8. Vanderbilt will make it four bowl trips in a row: No James Franklin? No problem. What Franklin didn't take was the talented core of players the Commodores have. The Commodores return a strong offensive line and a deep, talented group of running backs. New coach Derek Mason also likes what he has defensively. The new 3-4 scheme will make the Dores faster off the edge with Kyle Woestmann and Caleb Azubike moving to outside linebacker. Vandy should win its four nonconference games and will find two more wins to make it back to the postseason.

9. The SEC won't win the national championship: Look at prediction No. 1. While I think the SEC is stronger than ever as a whole, the winner of this league (I'm predicting Alabama) will be pretty beat-up come playoff time -- monthlong break and all. But it isn't just that. I think the country has a great set of teams at the top this year, and I don't see one SEC team really sticking out like seasons past. The seven straight titles were good for the league, but the conference will hit a two-year snag.

10. Ohio State will lose to another SEC team: The loss of quarterback Braxton Miller might have spoiled the Buckeyes' playoff hopes, but they'll find a way to meet an SEC team during the postseason and continue their time-honored tradition of losing to the SEC. Come January, the Buckeyes will be 0-11 against the SEC in bowl games.

Scout's Take: Van Jefferson to UGA 

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
5:40
PM ET
The Georgia Bulldogs ' latest addition, ESPN 300 wide receiver Van Jefferson, is a deceptively fast player with terrific fundamentals.


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Chris Conley's direction in life

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
5:24
PM ET
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Editor's note: We're counting down the days until the start of college football by taking a look at 25 of the most interesting people in the game. Click here to find the rest of the series.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Chris Conley has a problem today. Actually, Conley has a problem with today. It lasts only 24 hours. There is so much to do.

When you're a starting senior flanker on a top-10 team and a college senior, a film director and a screenwriter, a budding athletic administrator and a coffeehouse musician, a Bible-quoting honor student and a superhero-loving, "Star Wars" geek, time is not something you waste. "Madden" can wait.

Take July 17, when Conley boarded a plane in Athens at 7:30 a.m., flew to Birmingham for SEC media days, spent several hours bouncing from one interview room to the next, flew back to Athens, went through a seven-on-seven session with his teammates, showered and ate dinner.

And then worked on his next film into the wee hours.

"I'll sleep when I'm dead," Conley said that day in Birmingham.

If you have any question about the talent and dedication of the college generation, spend a day with Conley. He will leave you shaking your head, just as he does the men and women who spend every day with him.

"I think everybody who's ever met him wants to hire him," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Whoever coaches him is going to fall in love with this guy, because of his ability, because of his coachability, because of his leadership, how he'll affect the locker room."


(Read full post)


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Danny Kanell and Joey Galloway make their picks for which teams will make the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.
No. 12 Georgia is favored to beat No. 16 Clemson by more than a touchdown. Tigers fans have got to be thinking:

When did the Bulldogs become such an automatic to win?

Clemson has its own spot in Urban Dictionary for its varied "failures," but Georgia has had its own stumbles over the last six years.

The Bulldogs have almost become synonymous with unmet expectations. Since 2008, they have started every season ranked in the preseason AP Top 25. Three times, they ended the season unranked. Only once did they finish the season ranked higher than where they started. They have lost three or more games five times over that six-year span.

Clemson has its own issues to get past (cough ,cough Florida State and South Carolina). But high preseason expectations have only come into play over the last few years. This is only the third time since 2008 that Clemson will start the season ranked in the preseason Top 25. In the previous two seasons, their only losses came to the aforementioned Seminoles and Gamecocks.

So maybe Clemson deserves some serious consideration heading into this game. The Tigers did beat Georgia last year -- a game in which the Bulldogs were road favorites and at full strength. They did beat Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl as an underdog.

Clemson has won its last four games against SEC teams NOT named South Carolina. Three times, the Tigers were the underdog.

“I haven’t paid any attention, but I’m pretty sure nobody has given us a chance to win the game,” Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony said. “That’s fine. Nothing wrong with being the underdog. We don’t feel like we’re the underdog. We’re going to come in ready to go.”

There are obvious reasons why Georgia is favored. The Bulldogs have a preseason Heisman candidate in running back Todd Gurley, terrific receivers and a talented quarterback in Hutson Mason. Home-field advantage is obviously big.

On the other side, we all know that Clemson lost its offensive superstars Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, so there are significant question marks there. But it is impossible to overlook this defense, which should be the strength of this team going into the season.

That means advantage Clemson. Think about it. If you had to open the season on the road against a Top 25 team, would you want a stronger offense or stronger defense?

I would want a stronger defense. You know all the old adages. Yes, Clemson gave up 545 yards to Georgia a year ago, but the Tigers will be better up front and in the back end. If Clemson can hold Gurley and Mason in check, then its offense will not have to get into a shootout the way it did a year ago. This offense cannot afford that, not with all the new starters.

Georgia, meanwhile, has questions of its own. Top receiver Malcolm Mitchell’s status is up in the air. And last week, the Bulldogs had two first-year players and a walk-on running with the first team in the secondary.

Clemson might not have veteran starters on offense, but it has veterans. Senior Cole Stoudt will be given an opportunity to take advantage of some of these mismatches on the outside to help get the offense going. Watkins is gone, but the Tigers have some fast, athletic receivers who will have an opportunity to make some big plays in this Chad Morris offense.

So the Clemson game plan is laid out pretty plainly. If the Tigers can exploit these matchups to their advantage, keep the turnovers to zero, and rely on what should be a solid defense, they will have every opportunity to win.

"We have a chance to start our season strong and just prove a lot of doubters wrong from the beginning," Clemson linebacker Tony Steward said. "Just having that opportunity is awesome."

It is an opportunity Clemson has for the third straight season, after opening with wins against Auburn and Georgia in the last two. Maybe the opener this year will follow the same winning script.
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In preseason balloting, the reigning Heisman winner is second to Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Heather Dinich wonders why Jameis Winston isn't getting more respect.

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Dawgs Continue Class Rankings Climb
National recruiting analyst Craig Haubert discusses Georgia's latest ESPN 300 recruit: WR Van Jefferson. It's the fourth consecutive week the Bulldogs added a ranked prospect and their third straight week rising in the class rankings top 10.
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SEC SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
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