Coach: Todd Gurley going pro

December, 26, 2014
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Georgia Bulldogs junior running back Todd Gurley has informed coach Mark Richt that he plans to enter the NFL draft.

Richt made the announcement after the Bulldogs' practice Friday for the Belk Bowl. The 13th-ranked Bulldogs face No. 20 Louisville on Tuesday.

"He will be a very high draft pick," said Richt, adding that Gurley's rehabilitation from a knee injury was going well. "I wouldn't be shocked to see him doing a lot of things for the scouts before the draft."

Gurley was a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and got off to a strong start, but a four-game suspension and a knee injury derailed his season.

ESPN NFL draft Insider Mel Kiper Jr. has Gurley as his No. 2-rated running back and projected as an early second-round draft pick. ESPN NFL draft Insider Todd McShay, in his first mock draft, has Gurley slated as a late first-round pick.

Gurley attended practice with his teammates Friday but was not made available for interviews.

The 6-foot-1, 236-pound Gurley ran for 911 yards and nine touchdowns in six games this season, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. He was suspended four games in October by the NCAA for taking $3,000 for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years. In Gurley's first game back against Auburn, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, ending his season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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A small but vocal percentage of Georgia football fans couldn’t wait to get rid of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

Now they’ll get to learn whether the Bulldogs will be as potent on the field -- and on the recruiting trail -- without him.

[+] EnlargeMike Bobo
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsNot only did Mike Bobo prove to be an effective playcaller at Georgia, he also was a strong recruiter.
Bobo, a former Georgia quarterback and assistant coach at his alma mater since 2001, was named Colorado State’s new coach on Tuesday. Bobo, 40, replaces former Rams coach Jim McElwain, who left earlier this month to become Florida’s new coach.

It’s a calculated risk for the Rams. Like McElwain, Bobo directed a pro-style offense at an SEC school and doesn’t have any head-coaching experience.

Unlike McElwain, though, Bobo has spent his entire life in the Southeast and has few connections in the West. McElwain was a former assistant at Eastern Washington, Montana State and Fresno State, among other schools, before leaving his job as Alabama’s offensive coordinator to coach the Rams in 2012.

Bobo was regarded as one of the top recruiters in the SEC, helping the Bulldogs land star players like tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray, and receiver Malcolm Mitchell, among others. He’ll have to hire assistants familiar with California and Texas, which are traditional recruiting grounds for Mountain West Conference schools. At the same time, he’ll be able to extend Colorado State’s recruiting grounds into the Southeast.

Colorado State’s offense under Bobo will probably look familiar to the system McElwain installed there. After Bobo became Georgia’s offensive coordinator in 2007, the Bulldogs showed the ability to both throw and run the ball as well as anyone. This past season, the Bulldogs ran a hurry-up offense after losing Gurley to a suspension and knee injury.

With Murray under center, the Bulldogs set school records for points and touchdowns in 2012 and averaged 36.7 points in 2013. This season, No. 13 Georgia is on pace to shatter the school scoring record with 41.7 points per game, despite having a first-year starting quarterback, senior Hutson Mason, and having Gurley for only six games.

Still, Bobo’s work never seemed good enough for part of Georgia’s fickle fan base. He was heavily criticized for his play calling late in the fourth quarter of the Bulldogs’ 38-35 loss at South Carolina on Sept. 13.

Trailing by three points with 5:24 left, the Bulldogs faced first-and-goal at the South Carolina 4 after cornerback Damian Swann’s interception. On first down, Bobo called a play-action pass, and Mason was penalized for intentional grounding after being hurried. After Georgia gained only three yards on the next two plays, kicker Marshall Morgan missed a 28-yard field goal that would have tied the game.

Two days after the loss, Bobo accepted blame for the defeat.

“This is what I think: It’s a bottom-line business, and the bottom line is we had a chance to score and we didn’t get it done,” Bobo said. "We had three shots at it and we didn’t get it in the end zone. And so that’s ultimately my responsibility and my fault. But it was something that we thought would work at the time and it obviously didn’t work.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt defended Bobo, while admitting the Bulldogs should have tried to hammer the ball into the end zone with their running game.

“I just want to make it real clear that I think Mike Bobo is one of the best coordinators in America and one of the best playcallers, and I’ve got full faith in the guy,” Richt said.

Now the Rams are putting their faith in another SEC offensive coordinator. After 14 seasons at Georgia, it was time for Bobo to leave his alma mater. He earned $575,000 last year (after receiving a $240,000 raise in 2013), which ranked 40th among FBS assistants, according to a recent survey of salaries by USA Today.

Richt is expected to call Georgia’s offensive plays against Louisville in the Dec. 30 Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s already started a search for Bobo’s replacement, and former Florida and Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is on his radar. Former Alabama and Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is another possibility; he’s also a potential target for McElwain.

Georgia fans who wanted Bobo to leave had better hope his replacement is as good.

SEC rivalries that need to happen

December, 23, 2014
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With the Allstate Sugar Bowl rekindling a great coaching rivalry in Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer, it got me to thinking (shocker, I know): There are some SEC rivalries that I'd love to see take off in the near future.

What Saban and Meyer did -- and what Saban keeps doing -- in the SEC has changed the landscape of the league. And even though they met just three times in the SEC, we all wanted to watch when they did. So why not have a few games that we all get hyped up for when they come around?

I came up with five games that I want to see turn into or turn back into great rivalries to get your popcorn ready for. Of course, scheduling hurts most of these games, but maybe the right people will hear me out ...

Have a few of your own rivalries you want to see in the SEC? List them below!

1. Alabama vs. Florida: Remember when these two just couldn't stop playing each other in the SEC championship games in the 90s? Remember the Meyer-Saban days? Now, there's another ex-Saban assistant -- Jim McElwain -- coaching the Gators, and a chance of redemption in Gainesville. Saban and Alabama are the class of the SEC, just like Florida was in the 90s. Having these guys good at the same time and playing against each other, more often than not, is good for the league.

2. Arkansas vs. Auburn: OK, so these two play every year, but, man, amping up the Gus Malzahn-Bret Bielema storyline would be great. They've both exchanged words with each other, there's been controversy, and they are both the antithesis of each other when it comes to offensive philosophies. This game has the chance to be fun for everyone who cares anything concerned with SEC football. The quiet Malzahn vs. the brash Bielema is too good not to be on everyone's radar each year.

3. Georgia vs. LSU: The Tigers hold a 16-13-1 series lead over Georgia, and that 44-41 Georgia win in 2013 was one for the ages. These two are two of the best in their respective divisions, and should play a lot more than they do, but with the new scheduling format, we have to wait and wait. I mean who wouldn't want to see the laid back Mark Richt in his signature sunglasses taking on the Mad Hatter more? Two very different, yet very successful coaching styles meeting more often just needs to happen.

4. Ole Miss vs. Tennessee: These two went back-and-forth in the 1970s, but Tennessee has dominated the series. However, with Hugh Freeze at the helm in Oxford, this has the chance to be a fun little rivalry to keep an eye on. Why? Well, Freeze coached in the state of Tennessee for more than a decade and can recruit in Butch Jones' backyard when needed. The two played in a lopsided Ole Miss win this year, but with Tennessee trending up with its young talent, these two could have much more competitive games in the future.

5. Missouri vs. Texas A&M: I mean, they were together in the Big 12, and it only makes sense that they ignite those old bitter feelings for each other. Honestly, this game should be played every year because of that. You have two very impressive coaching résumés and two schools that entered the SEC poking their own chests out at the SEC elite. It's been great, so let's get them back on the schedule!

Honorable mention

Auburn vs. Florida: This was one of the great rivalries in the league before it was basically discontinued in 2003. There have been classics in the past and the 2000s brought us some nail-biters in this game, as well. It was sad for both fan bases when this game got cut from both schools' regular schedules, but now Will Muschamp is at Auburn, so hopefully these two can meet while he's still on the Plains.
Of the Power 5 conferences, the only remaining head-coaching vacancies are at Michigan and Pitt. But don't underestimate how important coordinator hires can be for the future of a program.

After all, it was a year ago that TCU’s Gary Patterson hired Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to run an up-tempo offense in Fort Worth -- and it nearly resulted in a playoff berth. Another: Lane Kiffin’s addition to the Alabama staff worked out better than many imagined. The Tide is favored to win the initial playoff.

Here’s an update on many of the Power 5 coordinator vacancies. I didn’t include Baylor or Ohio State’s offensive coordinator positions, since the Bears will likely promote Kendal Briles and OSU will elevate Ed Warinner. That still leaves attractive offensive assistant jobs open at both schools, however.

Florida offensive coordinator
Florida AD Jeremy Foley hired Jim McElwain because of his background as an OC
We asked college football fans what recruits they want under the Christmas tree for their favorite school. Here are the best answers in this special Christmas edition of the Early Offer. The Early Offer will return next week from the Under Armour Game practices in Orlando, Florida.

1. What the Miami Beach Bowl lacked in artistry and defense -- BYU and Memphis combined for nine turnovers and more than 900 yards – it more than made up for in excitement. Memphis won 55-48 in double overtime in a game that featured five ties and four lead changes. In the fourth quarter, Memphis had three punts and committed three turnovers until quarterback Paxton Lynch scrambled and threw a fourth-down, game-tying touchdown in the final minute. It’s too bad that the postgame brawl that grabbed headlines obscured a wildly entertaining bowl game.

2. One of the biggest reasons for Mark Richt’s enduring success at Georgia apparently is leaving for Colorado State. Mike Bobo has been on Richt’s staff for all 14 of his seasons in Athens, the last eight as offensive coordinator. In the last three season, Georgia has averaged at least 36 points and 450 yards per game. Colorado State had good success the last time it hired an SEC offensive coordinator. But Jim McElwain came from Alabama with a western pedigree. Bobo, 40, played at Georgia and has worked there for all but one year of his coaching career. It’s a gamble, but Bobo has credentials worth gambling on.

3. No offense to my colleague Adam Schefter, who covers the NFL like white on rice. But a story that Stanford head coach David Shaw is not interested in coaching in the NFL is only news if you’re in the NFL. It’s like a story reporting that Bill Belichick is not interested in coaching at Michigan. Shaw has repeatedly made it clear that he is emotionally invested in Stanford. Getting out the message is a problem that’s not unique to Shaw -- ask Bob Stoops how many times he has dealt with questions about leaving Oklahoma. So Schefter’s story is one that may be written again next year.

Colorado State hires Mike Bobo

December, 22, 2014
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Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has agreed to be the head coach at Colorado State, the school announced Monday night.

Bobo's deal is expected to be for five years, a source told Schad.

Colorado State feels Bobo's recruiting plan, personality and demeanor are an excellent fit for the program.

The Rams' previous head coach, Jim McElwain, was hired by the Gators this offseason to fill the same role at Florida.

Bobo's Bulldogs ranked 30th in the nation in yards per game this season, 11 spots behind Colorado State's potent attack. Bobo was named Georgia's offensive coordinator in 2007 after joining head coach Mark Richt's staff in 2001.

Information from ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.


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Top sleeper commits: SEC 

December, 19, 2014
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Five-star and ESPN 300 prospects create the most buzz, but with more than a hundred FBS programs competing for talent it takes more than just those top-rated prospects to have success. Rosters are built largely with prospects which enter college with little fanfare, but their development and contributions are key. Every year we see prospects that flew under the radar but developed into some of their conference's top players.

Throughout our evaluations we've come across many players who show promise and are great additions based on their upside for development and/or scheme fit.

Here are five commitments in the SEC that we feel are unheralded, but great additions worth keeping an eye on.


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SEC bowl predictions

December, 19, 2014
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Bowl season is almost upon us. Alabama's still playing for a national title, while plenty of other SEC teams still have lots to prove. So let's get right to the picks.

Duck Commander Independence Bowl
December 27, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Why Miami wins: My question is: How motivated will this South Carolina team be? The same can be said for Miami, but the Hurricanes have Duke Johnson, arguably the best player on the field. Miami is 6-1 when it rushes for more than 125 yards. Don’t be surprised if Johnson reaches that number on his own. Miami 34, South Carolina 24 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why South Carolina wins: So the Gamecocks have one of the SEC’s worst defenses and let Clemson walk over them to end the season? Steve Spurrier and his crew are getting a few weeks to regroup and forget such a bad regular season. Plus, Miami lost five of its six games by 10 or more points, so just do the math. South Carolina 27, Miami 24 -- Edward Aschoff

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
December 29, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why West Virginia wins: Call me crazy, but I don't see bowl practice yielding a dramatic turnaround for Texas A&M. While I expect Kyle Allen and the offense to be fine, I don't know how that defense gets any better -- especially without a coordinator in place. In the end, Dana Holgorsen and Clint Trickett light up the Aggies' secondary and win. West Virginia 45, Texas A&M 35 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Texas A&M wins: Texas A&M was hard to figure this season. The Aggies were all over the place, pretty good one game and pretty bad the next. West Virginia likes to play hurry-up offense the way Texas A&M does, so get ready for a shootout. The Aggies still haven't proved that they're ready for prime time defensively, but will score enough points in this one that it won't matter. Texas A&M 45, West Virginia 38 -- Chris Low

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
December 29, 9 p.m., ESPN

Why Arkansas wins big: Which team led the SEC in points allowed per game for the month of November? Alabama? Ole Miss? Missouri? None of the above. It was the Razorbacks, who allowed an FBS-best 9.5 points per game. I just can’t see Tyrone Swoopes and the Longhorns bucking that trend in this one. Arkansas 28, Texas 10 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why Texas keeps it close: This is a matchup of two teams that played better down the stretch. Texas won four of its last six games to reach bowl eligibility and played some decent defense along the way. I’m still going with Arkansas because of the way the Hogs finished the season, but I think Texas will make it interesting. Arkansas 21, Texas 14 -- David Ching

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
December 30, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why LSU wins big: Notre Dame has quarterback issues and LSU has a secondary that is one of the best nationally at defending the pass. If Leonard Fournette & Co. can run the ball the way they did on Thanksgiving against Texas A&M against Notre Dame's banged-up D, the Tigers should be able to cruise to a win. LSU 27, Notre Dame 17 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Why Notre Dame keeps it close: With the exception of Kentucky, LSU hasn’t blown out a Power 5 team all season. This team simply is not built for that. As bad as Notre Dame’s defense has played down the stretch -- and they have been bad -- the Fighting Irish will hang around. If only LSU had a quarterback. LSU 24, Notre Dame 21 -- Greg Ostendorf

Belk Bowl
December 30, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why Louisville wins: Oh, the fun we’ll have with Todd Grantham facing his old team. Both Grantham and Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo want a shot at each other, which means this one will be back-and-forth and plenty fun. Something tells me Bobby Petrino’s offense proves to be too much in the fourth, and a late Georgia turnover seals it. Louisville 27, Georgia 23 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Georgia wins: Sure, Todd Grantham knows this team well, but Mark Richt knows Grantham well, too. And if Georgia blocks up front as well as it has and Nick Chubb runs like he has been running, that's not easy to defend. The Bulldogs average 41 points per game for a reason; I suspect they're headed that way again. Georgia 41, Louisville 31 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
December 31, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why TCU wins big: TCU hasn’t seen anything like Ole Miss’ defense, which leads the nation by allowing 13.8 points per game. But I don’t think the Rebels will be able to shut down (or keep up with) Trevone Boykin and an explosive TCU offense that averages 46.8 ppg. Not without injured receiver Laquon Treadwell. TCU 40, Ole Miss 24 -- David Ching

Why Ole Miss keeps it close: The popular storyline for the Peach Bowl is TCU's high-powered offense versus Ole Miss' talented Landshark defense. But let's not forget about Bo Wallace and the Rebels' offense. Even without Laquon Treadwell, I expect Ole Miss to put up enough points to make it a ballgame. TCU 42, Ole Miss 38 -- Alex Scarborough

Capital One Orange Bowl
December 31, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why Georgia Tech wins: Georgia Tech's option offense is never a lot of fun to prepare for. The Bulldogs have had some extra time to get ready during the bowl practices, but will be without defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, who left to take the Florida defensive coordinator job. The Yellow Jackets were an offensive machine the last month of the season, and that won't change in Miami. Georgia Tech 31, Mississippi State 30 -- Chris Low

Why Mississippi State wins: Generally when opponents have time to practice for Georgia Tech’s option offense, they fare well. Paul Johnson is 1-5 in bowl games since arriving at Tech in 2008. Although they’ll have to function without defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, the Bulldogs will still get the job done. Mississippi State 28, Georgia Tech 21 -- David Ching

Outback Bowl
January 1, Noon ET, ESPN2

Why Auburn wins big: Wisconsin's strength is running the ball. While Auburn's defense leaves much to be desired, that's one area where they're decent, ranking 46th nationally in rushing yardage allowed. And though Barry Alvarez is a Hall of Fame coach, I'll take Gus Malzahn over someone coaching his second game in eight years. Auburn 45, Wisconsin 28 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Why Wisconsin keeps it close: Something tells me Melvin Gordon is going to go out with a bang. And, frankly, nothing I've seen from Auburn makes me believe it will be able to stop him. While the Tigers ultimately should win, Gordon and the Badgers will have enough success running the football to keep things close. Auburn 35, Wisconsin 30 -- Alex Scarborough

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
January 1, 1 p.m. ET, ABC

Why Missouri wins big: Forget the SEC championship game; there's still something about Missouri. Like last season, the Tigers continued to find ways to win. And when they lost in Atlanta in 2013, they went out and beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. I expect more of the same this time around. Missouri 24, Minnesota 14 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Minnesota keeps it close: Weird things always happen during bowl season, and while Minnesota doesn’t exactly wow me, I think this game will be much closer than it should be. The Tigers still have an offense that can drag, while the Gophers are trying to win their first bowl game since 2004, which incidentally came against another SEC team (Alabama). I have a feeling this one will hurt our eyes at times. Missouri 23, Minnesota 21 -- Edward Aschoff

Allstate Sugar Bowl
College Football Playoff semifinal
January 1, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why Alabama wins big: The last thing we remember is Ohio State blowing out Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, and Cardale Jones doing his best Troy Smith impersonation. I’m not sold. I think the young quarterback struggles against this stout Alabama defense. And good luck shutting out the Crimson Tide. That’s not happening with Lane Kiffin calling plays. Alabama has too many playmakers. Alabama 31, Ohio State 7 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why Ohio State keeps it close: The Buckeyes didn't get here by being an average team. This is a really good team. Urban Meyer knows what to expect from a Saban-coached team thanks to his days in the SEC. Cardale Jones showed he can throw the ball well, and that's one thing Alabama had trouble defending in the Iron Bowl. Alabama 31, Ohio State 24 -- Sam Khan Jr.

TaxSlayer Bowl
January 2, 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why Tennessee wins: On one sideline, you have Tennessee, which won three of its last four games to reach bowl eligibility for the first time in years. On the other side, Iowa lost three of its last four. Iowa is better than its record, but I’m putting some faith in Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs. Tennessee 23, Iowa 21 -- David Ching

Why Iowa wins: Butch Jones really appears to have Tennessee moving in the right direction. The Vols probably could -- and should -- have won a couple more games in 2014, but that's why Jones is building. And while there’s absolutely nothing flashy about anything that Iowa does on offense, I think the grinding nature of the Hawkeyes will eventually wear Tennessee’s line down. Expect a couple of costly turnovers from the Vols as well. Iowa 21, Tennessee 17 -- Edward Aschoff

Birmingham Bowl
January 3, Noon ET, ESPN

Why Florida wins: East Carolina is great at throwing the ball -- the Pirates are second nationally with 367.3 passing yards per game -- but Florida is equipped to defend that style of offense pretty effectively. It’s hard to know what to expect from a team playing with an interim coach, but I’ll give the Gators a slight edge. Florida 17, East Carolina 14 -- David Ching

Why East Carolina wins: The big question in this one: How genuinely excited is Florida to be in this game? East Carolina, on the other hand, would love to take home an SEC pelt and has the kind of high-scoring offense that could give the Gators' smothering defense trouble. Better days are ahead for Florida's program, but this won't be one of them. East Carolina 27, Florida 21 -- Chris Low

Standings
Greg Ostendorf: 89-23
Edward Aschoff: 87-25
David Ching: 86-26
Chris Low: 86-26
Sam Khan Jr.: 84-28
Alex Scarborough: 83-29

SEC morning links

December, 18, 2014
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Plenty of recruiting news flying across the wire on Wednesday, which was signing day for midterm junior college prospects. Several SEC teams did well in inking JUCOs, led by Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn, three teams that were considered "winners" in Wednesday's junior college sweepstakes. Another SEC winner in recruiting on Wednesday was Texas A&M after it landed ESPN 300 receiver Christian Kirk, the No. 30 overall player in the ESPN 300. The Aggies have done well in the state of Arizona, where Kirk is from, recently, landing quarterback Kyle Allen (now the Aggies' starter) and defensive end Qualen Cunningham (who played as a true freshman) in the 2014 class. Kirk, who brings a strong skill set to College Station, Texas, will be able to join his good buddy Allen in the Aggies' offense next fall.

The Football Writers Association of America released its All-America team and there is plenty of SEC representation on it, including six members on the first team (Amari Cooper, Reese Dismukes, Shane Ray, Benardrick McKinney, Landon Collins and Senquez Golson. The SEC got seven total players on the two teams. On Tuesday, The Associated Press All-America teams were released and the SEC got 15 players across the three squads.

Kentucky had a void to fill at offensive coordinator when Neal Brown left the Wildcats to become the head coach at Troy and it looks like Mark Stoops has his man. Several reports point to West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson as Stoops' pick to replace Brown at the position. It ensures some continuity for the Wildcats, who ran the well-known Air Raid offense under Brown the last two seasons. Dawson is also an Air Raid disciple, having worked under Dana Holgorsen. At West Virginia, Holgorsen was the playcaller, but Dawson has been in the offense long enough to be well-versed in it so the transition to handling those duties at Kentucky should be smooth. West Virginia averaged 502 offensive yards per game (11th nationally) while Kentucky averaged 384.5 yards per game (75th).

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

Leonard Floyd won't play Belk Bowl

December, 17, 2014
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[+] EnlargeLeonard Floyd
AP Photo/Danny JohnstonLeonard Floyd (84) was named Georgia's defensive MVP this season after recording six sacks and 55 tackles.

Georgia will be without linebacker Leonard Floyd when it takes on Louisville in the Belk Bowl later this month.

Floyd had surgery Tuesday to "clean up his shoulder," according to Georgia coach Mark Richt.

"We wanted to give [Floyd] the maximum amount of time to be prepared for his senior year," Richt said Wednesday during his Belk Bowl news conference.

Richt announced Saturday at a team function that Floyd would be coming back to Georgia for his senior year rather than entering the NFL draft.

Floyd, named the defense's most valuable player in 2014, led the Bulldogs with six sacks and finished with 55 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

Richt said a timetable for Floyd's return to the field has not yet been set.


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Georgia season review

December, 16, 2014
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Should it cap the season with a win against Louisville in the Belk Bowl, Georgia (9-3, 6-2 SEC) has a chance to finish in the top 10 in the final polls. But this will go down as another season where the Bulldogs are left to consider what might have been.

What could they have done if star running back Todd Gurley hadn’t missed half the season -- first because of an NCAA eligibility case and later because of a season-ending knee injury? What might have happened if they had finished better in winnable games against South Carolina and Georgia Tech?

An SEC East title and a playoff spot were attainable goals for Georgia this season, so the Bulldogs have to feel some disappointment after the regular season because of their missed opportunities.

Let’s recap:

Best win: Only days after Georgia coach Mark Richt first sat down Gurley about the eligibility issue, the Bulldogs traveled to Missouri and blasted the Tigers 34-0. The Bulldogs picked off four Maty Mauk passes and held Mizzou to 147 yards of total offense, and freshman Nick Chubb proved to be a capable replacement for Gurley, rushing 38 times for 143 yards and a score. Honorable mention goes to Georgia’s 34-7 win against Auburn, when Gurley and Chubb led a rushing attack that accumulated 289 yards. Jeremy Pruitt’s defense also limited Auburn’s explosive offense to 292 total yards.

Worst loss: The circumstances behind Georgia’s 38-20 loss to Florida on Nov. 1 made the loss even more painful. The writing was on the wall that Gators coach Will Muschamp was on his way out, and Florida’s offense seemingly couldn’t do anything right leading into its trip to Jacksonville. But the Gators ran all over Georgia that day, posting 418 rushing yards -- the second most ever against a UGA defense -- en route to an enormous upset of then-No. 9 Georgia. Florida’s win stopped Georgia’s three-game series winning streak, and briefly gave Muschamp hope of staying on as head coach.

Player of year: Chubb. Gurley would have cruised to this honor since he was once the leading candidate to win the Heisman Trophy. But you can’t win for half a season of work. Chubb was a force once the opportunity arrived. With Gurley available for the first five games, Chubb ran just 31 times for 224 yards. Over the final seven games, the freshman ran 155 times for 1,057 yards. Chubb ranks second in the SEC in rushing (1,281 yards), was named SEC Freshman of the Year, and made the first-team All-SEC squad for both the coaches and media.

Breakout player: Isaiah McKenzie. Since we have already discussed Chubb, how about a guy who breathed life into Georgia’s awful return game? Georgia hadn’t returned a punt for a touchdown since the 2011 season when McKenzie took one to the house against Troy. He repeated the feat with a 59-yard runback against Kentucky, on a day when he also took the opening kickoff back 90 yards for a score. At the end of the regular season, the freshman nicknamed "The Human Joystick" because of his slippery moves is averaging 12.1 yards per punt return and 28.1 yards per kickoff return.

Play of year: Instead of narrowing it down to one play, let’s recap five of Gurley’s greatest hits from the season. His UGA career ended in disappointment, but he’ll still go down as one of the greatest Bulldogs running backs ever. Here’s a reminder of why:

A 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Clemson.

His 51-yard touchdown run against Tennessee.

A 26-yard run against Tennessee where he hurdled a defender.

When he took a direct snap in the Wildcat and floated a 50-yard pass to tight end Jeb Blazevich against Vanderbilt.

His first touch upon his return from suspension, when he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Auburn (although it was called back on a penalty).

2015 outlook: Even without Gurley and some important seniors -- namely linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, cornerback Damian Swann, receivers Michael Bennett and Chris Conley, and quarterback Hutson Mason -- Georgia still has reason for optimism next season. For starters, Richt announced over the weekend that outside linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins, receiver Malcolm Mitchell and left tackle John Theus will all return. If Georgia can find a consistent replacement for Mason under center, Chubb and the returning skill talent should help the offense remain productive. It’s reasonable to expect the defense to keep improving in Year 2 under Pruitt, as well.

College football quotes of the year

December, 16, 2014
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Gary Patterson, Bob Bowlsby, Art BrilesUSA TODAY Sports, AP PhotoBob Bowlsby enjoyed crowning one true champion in the afternoon so much, he did it again that night.

The first year of the College Football Playoff brought with it a whole new series of politicking. Several coaches felt compelled to remind us that we live in America. An Oregon seventh-grader provided us an eight-word mantra to live by. And while Steve Spurrier didn't have much to say during a disappointing 6-6 season, his preseason performance solidified his reputation as the game's most quotable coach -- even if Art Briles is closing quickly on the outside.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

"'One True Champion' is really about everybody playing everybody," -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby

It's not exactly "Win one for the Gipper," but sure

"Sometimes you have to embrace the suck." -- Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald

In a van down by the Brazos River?

"I'll fight a man with three children and a nice house any day over a man that's living out of a car." -- Baylor coach Art Briles

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

"You know what? What country do we live in? I think it's America. You know, that's always kind of been the American way. If there's a conflict or a doubt, you put two people in a ring, they fight, there's a winner." -- Briles on TCU vs. Baylor

Baylor should be fixin' to improve its nonconference schedule

"Let's get somebody that understands what fixin' means." -- Briles on playoff committee diversity


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Four future playoff hopefuls

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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Each of the four teams that will play in the inaugural College Football Playoff this year had an outstanding 2014 season, which was no surprise considering their recent success. Over the past four years, only four major conference programs have an overall FBS winning percentage of at least 80 percent: Alabama (44-5, .898), Oregon (43-6, .878), Florida State (43-6, .878) and Ohio State (41-10, .804).

Our annual Football Outsiders projections are based in part on program success, four-year and five-year measures of efficiency that our research indicates has a strong correlation with next-year success. The Crimson Tide, Ducks, Seminoles and Buckeyes will certainly carry strong program ratings into next season, but which programs are on the doorstep?

The four programs we identified have three common traits. They each have a four-year FBS winning percentage of at least 70 percent, they each improved their program rating from last season to this season, and they each have a higher program rating today than they did four years ago. If multiple years of success are a key to playoff contention, these four programs -- two in the Big 12 -- are well-positioned to take the next step.

Georgia Bulldogs

35-14 (.714) four-year FBS record
No. 7 program rating (up from No. 12 four years ago)

The Bulldogs had a peculiar year in terms of efficiency versus results. Georgia crushed Missouri by 34 points on the road but finished one game behind the Tigers in the SEC East standings with head-scratching losses to middle-of-the-road conference foes South Carolina and Florida. They ended the year with an overtime loss to nonconference rival Georgia Tech after taking a 24-21 lead with only 18 seconds left in regulation. Georgia ranked eighth nationally in overall game efficiency but every other team ranked that highly finished the year with two or fewer losses.

The good news is that the Bulldogs finished the year with their best ranking in four years in a number of metrics.


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