SEC playoff tracker: Nov. 26

November, 26, 2014
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For the first time all season, there was no movement among the top four teams in this week's College Football Playoff rankings. In fact, the only movement in the top 10 was Ole Miss plummeting from No. 8 to No. 19 after its loss to Arkansas last Saturday. It's no surprise the Rebels also dropped out of this week’s playoff tracker.

Here's a look at where the three remaining SEC playoff contenders stand heading into the final week of the regular season:

Alabama
Record: 10-1 (6-1 SEC)
Rank: No. 1
Next big obstacle: Saturday versus No. 15 Auburn

Reason for optimism: It all comes down to this. Beat Auburn this weekend and Alabama wins the West, has a shot at the conference title and a trip to the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide should be heavy favorites, too, seeing as Auburn has hit the skids ever since beating Ole Miss in dramatic fashion.

Cause for concern: Could last weekend's game against Western Carolina have gone any worse? Alabama started sluggish and saw a number of starters sidelined with injuries, the most alarming of which were Amari Cooper and Cam Robinson. Both should be fine for Auburn, but it would have been better to escape Western Carolina without the bruises.

Who they'll be rooting for: Missouri over Arkansas. It's hard to believe Alabama would rather see Georgia than Missouri in the SEC championship game.

-- Alex Scarborough

Mississippi State
Record: 10-1 (6-1 SEC)
Rank: No. 4
Next big obstacle: Saturday at No. 19 Ole Miss

Reason for optimism: Saturday's Egg Bowl looked like a much tougher challenge for Mississippi State before Ole Miss absorbed a 30-0 beating from Arkansas last weekend. This probably won't be a cakewalk, but Ole Miss has to be demoralized because of the way things have gone downhill over the past month.

Cause for concern: The home team typically dominates in the Egg Bowl. And even if State wins, numerous teams can claim conference titles and possibly jump the Bulldogs in the playoff rankings. Remember, though, that State can still play for an SEC title if it wins Saturday and Alabama loses to Auburn. An unlikely outcome, but still a possibility.

Who they'll be rooting for this week: Auburn over Alabama, Texas over TCU, Michigan over Ohio State, Texas Tech over Baylor

-- David Ching

Georgia
Record: 9-2 (6-2 SEC)
Rank: No. 9
Next big obstacle: Saturday versus No. 16 Georgia Tech

Reason for optimism: Georgia is a double-digit favorite over Georgia Tech on Saturday, but a win over the rival Yellow Jackets will still impress the committee. It would be the Bulldogs' fourth win over a Top 25 opponent, and right now they need all the help they can get. A win Saturday and a win in the SEC title game should give them a shot.

Cause for concern: There's no guarantee Georgia will even play for the SEC championship. The Bulldogs need Missouri to lose to Arkansas first before they can book their trip to Atlanta next weekend. And even if everything falls in place, they're still not a lock for the playoff. They probably need at least one of the one-loss teams in front of them to go down.

Who they'll be rooting for this week: Arkansas over Missouri. The SEC East is on the line. Georgia has done its part. Now it's up to the Razorbacks to provide an assist.

-- Greg Ostendorf

SEC morning links

November, 26, 2014
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1. The new College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday, and there were very few changes at the top. Alabama remained No. 1; Mississippi State held strong at No. 4 (but for how long?); and Georgia is still clinging to hope, up one spot to No. 9. ESPN’s Heather Dinich broke down every playoff scenario for all nine remaining contenders. She says that Mississippi State has the “most precarious” position of the top four teams as the Bulldogs need the Big Ten and/or the Big 12 to stumble if they hope to stay in the playoff. I tend to agree. When the committee chairman talks about the importance of conference championships and how they will be weighed heavily on selection weekend, that doesn’t bode well for MSU.

2. Tired of the “kick-six” yet? I promise this will be the last link. But if you haven’t already, I suggest you go and read Jon Solomon’s piece on how the effects of one of the wildest finishes in college football history are still being felt. It will be worth your time. The Iron Bowl rivalry itself is known for the passion and animosity felt between the two fan bases, but it’s not always that way. Earlier this season, I wrote a story on Alabama quarterback Blake Sims and how he wore a bracelet in support of Kayla Perry, an Auburn student with a rare form of pediatric cancer. Well now, Perry and an Alabama student who has a similar condition will attend Saturday’s game thanks to Kristi Malzahn, wife of Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. Kristi surprised the two girls by inviting them to attend the game with her. Watch their story here.

3. Arkansas and Missouri might be cross-division foes that will meet every season unless the SEC changes its schedule. They might have a huge game this Friday with SEC title hopes on the line. But they’re not rivals, not yet at least. The two sides haven’t played in the regular season since 1963, and they have only met five times ever. Give it time, though. It’s already catching on with some of the players. “Arkansas, they have the word Kansas in it, so it’s got to be a rival,” said Missouri center Evan Boehm. One team who will be directed by Friday’s game is Georgia. If Missouri loses, the Bulldogs are headed to Atlanta for the SEC championship. However, Mark Richt is not planning any Arkansas-Missouri viewing parties for his team.

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SEC bowl projections: Week 13

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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After taking care of business against teams they were favored against, Alabama and Mississippi State hung on to their No. 1 and No. 4 spots, respectively, in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.

And the SEC got another team bowl eligible, as Arkansas earned its sixth win with a 30-0 victory over Ole Miss. So that's 11 bowl-eligible teams and counting in the SEC, including the entire SEC West.

As we head into the final week of regular-season play ahead of the SEC championship game, two teams have a shot at claiming bowl eligibility that haven't already: Kentucky and Tennessee. Kentucky's task is tough, going to No. 22 Louisville, Tennessee's is considerably more feasible, as the Volunteers travel to Vanderbilt.

Georgia, if it wins this weekend against Georgia Tech, looks to be in good position for a New Year's Six bid. There's still much to be decided, with the Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl on deck. Alabama and Mississippi State must win to maintain their spots, if they don't, chaos will ensue.

But assuming the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs prevail, here's how we think it'll pan out as of today, with 12 SEC bowl-eligible teams projected:

College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
College Football Playoff semifinal (Sugar Bowl): Mississippi State
Capital One Orange Bowl: Georgia
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Auburn
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Ole Miss
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
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For the first time this season, the top seven teams in the College Football Playoff Top 25 have remained the same, as determined by 11 members of the 12-member selection committee (Mike Tranghese was sick and unable to travel to Dallas for the meetings).

No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Mississippi State each won in Week 13, and in spite of another close win for the Seminoles, FSU did not drop another spot. The only difference at the top was that No. 8 UCLA, No. 9 Georgia and No. 10 Michigan State all slid up one notch to take the spot of Ole Miss, which sank nine spots to No. 19 after being shut out by Arkansas.

Here's what the bracket would look like today:

NCF Playoffespn


TCU is still the first team on the bubble at No. 5, followed by No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Baylor. No. 11 Arizona jumped four spots, and No. 17 Missouri is up three spots. Another big mover was No. 18 Minnesota, which rose seven spots after beating Nebraska.

The biggest surprise this week was that not one but two Group of 5 teams were ranked: No. 23 Boise State and No. 24 Marshall. It was a controversial call, as Boise State is a two-loss team just one win away from clinching the Mountain West's Mountain Division, and Marshall is the only undefeated team remaining in the Group of 5. Marshall has already clinched the Conference USA East title.

Marshall is ranked No. 19 in the latest Associated Press poll, followed by No. 21 Colorado State and No. 25 Boise State. This is the first time since Week 10, when East Carolina was ranked in the selection committee's first Top 25, that the Group of 5 has been represented in the CFP rankings.

That would make Boise State the frontrunner to represent the Group of 5 in a New Year's Six Bowl.

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. 16 Georgia Tech. The Orange Bowl then selects the next highest-ranked nonconference championship 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. 10 Michigan State because the committee would look to avoid a rematch with No. 9 Georgia.

Here's what New Year's Eve and New Year's Day could look like, based on today's rankings:

Dec. 31

12:30 p.m. ET -- Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl -- No. 9 Georgia vs. No. 7 Baylor

4 p.m. ET -- VIZIO Fiesta Bowl -- No. 23 Boise State vs. No. 8 UCLA

8 p.m. ET -- Capital One Orange Bowl -- No. 16 Georgia Tech vs. No. 10 Michigan State

Jan. 1

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

Rebel fell: Ole Miss plummets to 19

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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Things remained the same at the top of the latest unveiling of the College Football Playoff rankings, but one team took quite the tumble down the list.

Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State are again the top four teams in the CFP rankings; in fact, the top seven teams from last week's rankings remained unchanged. TCU, Ohio State and Baylor held steady at the Nos. 5-7 spots.

Mississippi, however, took a spill, going from No. 8 last week all the way down to No. 19 following an embarrassing 30-0 road loss to Arkansas that was the Rebels' third straight SEC defeat.

As a result of Ole Miss' fall, UCLA, fresh off its win over rival USC, moved up to No. 8. Georgia and Michigan State rounded out the top 10. The Spartans benefited from the Rebels' fall, moving back into the top 10 after landing at No. 11 the previous week.

Further down the rankings is the battle to see which school from outside the Power 5 conferences will earn a guaranteed spot in a New Year's bowl. Boise State


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In Georgia, they call the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate” because of the mutual dislike between the two schools.

The dislike remains as strong as ever, but the rivalry has lost some of its luster since Mark Richt became Georgia’s coach in 2001. The Bulldogs (9-2) are 12-1 against the Yellow Jackets (9-2) under Richt, and it will be an upset if they lose this week. Richt’s tenure is full of close games, however, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see another hotly contested matchup between the two rivals.

ESPN football writers Matt Fortuna and David Ching break down the classic ACC-SEC rivalry below:

[+] EnlargeJustin Thomas
Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesWhile Justin Thomas has shown an ability to throw the ball, Georgia Tech's offensive gameplan still involves pounding its opposition on the ground.
Key to victory for Georgia Tech:There is nothing fancy on the agenda of the Yellow Jackets entering Athens: They must win the turnover battle. Georgia Tech is tied for No. 9 nationally in turnover margin (plus-10); Georgia is No. 2 (plus-16). The difference between the two teams is that the Bulldogs have a pretty good defense, one that is ranked No. 13 nationally. The same cannot exactly be said for the Jackets (61st nationally), who have made up for that by regularly taking the ball away. The triple-option offense, of course, is only painful for the opposition to defend when it's efficient, as Georgia Tech can shorten the game and limit the other offense's scoring opportunities.

Key to victory for Georgia: Sure, Tech is more versatile on offense this season, but the No. 1 task in beating the Jackets is slowing down its option rushing game. Tech ranks third nationally with 327.9 rushing yards per game. Tech is better at passing -- Georgia learned that lesson the hard way last season -- but the Jackets won’t bother putting the ball in the air if their running game is moving the chains and eating clock. Georgia has to keep Justin Thomas, Synjyn Days and Zach Laskey on the sidelines as long as possible.

X-factor for Georgia Tech:Georgia Tech's offense is typically capable of beating you with its arm when you least expect it, but this year's outfit can do some serious damage in the passing game. Thomas has surprised everyone under center, and a big key to that has been his favorite target: DeAndre Smelter, a 6-foot-3, 222-pounder who is second in the ACC in yards per catch (21.0).

X-Factor for Georgia: It’s not only on the defensive front to slow down Tech’s running game and keep the Jackets’ offense on the sidelines. If the Bulldogs’ offensive line gives freshman sensation Nick Chubb (161 carries, 1,152 yards, 11 TDs) room to run and quarterback Hutson Mason can put together some long scoring drives, that would be another way to neutralize what Tech does best.

Fortuna’s favorite moment from the rivalry:It's not every day you lose the passing game battle by a 407-19 margin and still win, but that's exactly what happened to Georgia Tech in its 2008 trip to Sanford Stadium. The Jackets beat Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the following spring's NFL Draft, 45-42 behind 409 yards on the ground. It was coach Paul Johnson's first game in the rivalry, and his team came back from 16 down at the half to pull off the upset and break a seven-game losing streak in the series. It is Georgia Tech's only win in the rivalry in the last 13 years.

Ching’s favorite moment from the rivalry: I covered this game nine times and there were plenty of memorable moments on the field: Tony Taylor, Paul Oliver and Mohamed Massaquoi’s heroics in Georgia’s 2006 comeback win; the “We Run This State” game where Georgia backs Caleb King and Washaun Ealey combined for 349 rushing yards in 2009; a wild 2010 contest that Georgia eventually won 42-34; last year’s double-overtime classic where Tech broke out to a 20-0 lead and the Bulldogs rallied back to win 41-34. But the moment I remember most probably also came in the 2008 game. It was when beloved radio announcer Larry Munson -- who had retired earlier that season -- made his final appearance at Sanford Stadium and Georgia’s fans chanted the 86-year-old legend’s name during an in-game ceremony honoring his four decades as the Bulldogs’ play-by-play man. It was cool to see the fans show their appreciation to a man who had enriched their lives for so many years.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

November, 25, 2014
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As always there was a ton of recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference. There was a big commitment, there were key visits and new offers over the weekend. Here's a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.

Planning for success: Georgia Tech

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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For those planning to watch the Georgia Tech-Georgia game from the comforts of home, make sure all requisite snacks and libations are within arm’s reach. If both coaches have their way, this game will move quickly from start to finish.

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson and Georgia’s Mark Richt are going to run the football, eat up clock and shorten the game. The result could be one of the quickest games this season, and the Yellow Jackets (second quickest) and Bulldogs (16th) average some of the shortest games in the country among Power 5 schools.

[+] EnlargeNick Chubb
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsSlowing down Nick Chubb and the Georgia running game will be a big challenge for Georgia Tech.
“That’s going to be a big part of the game -- who can hold onto the ball and who can intercept it or disrupt it through making a good, physical tackle,” Richt told reporters.

The No. 18 Yellow Jackets rank fourth in the country in average rushes per game with 54.6 attempts. The 10th-ranked Bulldogs average 42.1 attempts per game, which is the most a Georgia team has averaged since the turn of the century.

Georgia Tech has been predicated on the run since Johnson took over as coach, but the Bulldogs are not as balanced as they have been in previous seasons with first-year starter Hutson Mason, who is more limited as a passer than recent predecessors Aaron Murray and Matthew Stafford. The Bulldogs have thrown 270 passes compared to 463 rushing attempts this season.

Defense has been an issue much of the season in Atlanta, but it seems as if defensive coordinator Ted Roof has at least partially shored up Georgia Tech’s unit. Through the team’s first eight games, it allowed opponents to rush for 189 yards or more five times. In the last three games, opponents are averaging a little more than 100 rushing yards.

The rush defense will face one of its biggest tests of the season Saturday despite the Bulldogs losing Todd Gurley to a torn ACL. True freshman Nick Chubb has filled in admirably for Gurley, averaging 155 rushing yards per game over his last six games.

“Chubb’s a fantastic back,” Roof told reporters. “They’ve got a lot of fantastic backs. We know they’re going to be extremely talented and extremely explosive.”

Stopping Chubb is only half of the equation for the Yellow Jackets. They also need to be able to run the ball effectively, win on third down and control time of possession. Georgia Tech has been able to do that much of the season, and Georgia is middle of the pack in rush defense (and so is Georgia Tech). Quarterback Justin Thomas is a capable passer, but an ideal game plan would look similar to the one used against Miami: 65 rushes, 9 of 14 on third downs, and nearly 41 minutes of possession.

A stat line such as that would almost certainly give Georgia Tech its 10th win of the season, a plateau few saw the Yellow Jackets reaching. However, beating Georgia will mean more than getting to double-digit wins.

Although Johnson has silenced several local critics and is a coach of the year candidate, the naysayers will return if he loses to Georgia. Johnson has not defeated the Bulldogs since 2008, his inaugural season in Atlanta.

“It’s a big game,” Johnson told reporters. “Our fans definitely want to win the game. I think everybody involved wants to win. It’s a rival game. I tend to try to stay away from saying one game defines a program in a season. To this point we’ve had a really nice season. Probably better than most of you guys expected or thought we were going to have. And it would be the icing on the cake if we could find a way to go to Athens and win a game.”

National links: Calm before the storm 

November, 25, 2014
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Let’s just get this out of the way: Last week in college football was kind of dull.

Unless, that is, you’re into watching the single-game FBS rushing record fall for the second straight Saturday. (So who breaks it this week?) Yes, last week was dull, unless, of course, you’re into Florida State’s weekly high-wire act, re-awakenings at Arkansas and Minnesota or UCLA’s continued stranglehold on Los Angeles.

My point is, the latest set of games didn’t significantly impact the College Football Playoff picture -- at least in comparison to the past few weeks. Barring some craziness at the selection-committee table, the top four on Tuesday night is going to look no different than last week’s edition.

But Week 13 was simply the calm before the storm. Not so sure? Check out first nine paragraphs Gene Wojciechowski’s BMOC column. The rocky road to Dec. 9 is enough to make a fan of any playoff contender choke on his or her turkey dinner.

And it starts in two days.


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SEC morning links

November, 25, 2014
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1. It's been 359 days since the "kick-six" in last year's Iron Bowl. And yet, nobody has forgotten what happened -- not the coaches, not the players, not the fans, and certainly not the state of Alabama. In Tuscaloosa, the players have found different ways to cope with the gut-wrenching finish to last year's game. Some use it as motivation. Others turn off the TV when the replay comes on. But for the most part, they have all moved on. It's a new year. That's the same message Gus Malzahn is telling his Auburn team. "I know it will be talked about all week," Malzahn said Monday night on his weekly radio show. "But last year is last year. This is a new year." With or without the "kick-six," this is still the Iron Bowl. As Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said, there's no point in acting like it's "the same as every other game." It's not.

2. The Egg Bowl might not be the Iron Bowl, but there are more than just bragging rights on the line when Mississippi State and Ole Miss square off this Saturday. For the Bulldogs, it will have a direct effect on their playoff aspirations. They not only have to win but win big in order to impress the committee and try and hang on to a spot in the top four. Ole Miss did them no favors this past week with a 30-0 loss to Arkansas. It didn't help that quarterback Bo Wallace sprained his ankle in the first half and never looked like himself after that. But a sprained ankle won't keep Wallace away from Saturday's game, not in his final home game. He's going to give his best Dak Prescott impersonation and play even if he's not 100 percent. It worked out OK for Prescott in last year's Egg Bowl.

3. The season is nearing the end which means it's time to hand out awards and All-American honors. ESPN Insiders Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay got a jump start Monday, putting out their NFL prospect All-America team Insider. Basically, it's a look at what the All-America team would like if voted on by NFL scouts. The team included 10 players from the SEC, more than any other conference. Obvious names like Amari Cooper and Shane Ray were on there, but so were names like Todd Gurley, despite his recent injury, and Alabama fullback Jalston Fowler even though he has just seven carries on the season. Prescott was not on there (because of some quarterback named Marcus Mariota), and both Kiper and McShay agreed on Twitter that it would benefit the Mississippi State quarterback to come back next year.

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Early Offer: Malik Jefferson's final 7 

November, 24, 2014
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Malik Jefferson reduced his list to seven schools on Monday, and though the list is hardly a surprise, recruiters think there are still some in store with the No. 35 player in the country.

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There's only one week left in the regular season before the conference championship games begin (everywhere but the Big 12, that is). That leaves two more auditions for teams to make their final impressions on the 12 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee.

A handful of teams can control their playoff hopes, but more often than not, the teams on the bubble could use a little help down the stretch. The good news? There's still time. Here's a playoff road map to help illustrate how the leading candidates can get there in the final two weeks:

1. Alabama

What the Tide controls: If Alabama beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl, it wins the SEC West and is one step closer to the playoff. Win the SEC and they're in.

Where they need help: If Mississippi State loses to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, Alabama will clinch the division regardless of what happens in the Iron Bowl.

2. Oregon

What the Ducks control: They've already clinched the Pac-12 North Division, earning a spot in the conference title game. All Oregon has to do is avoid an upset in the regular-season finale against Oregon State -- a 5-6 team that somehow found a way to upset then-No. 6 Arizona State.

Where they need help: If Stanford could knock off UCLA, it would eliminate the highest-ranked team in the Pac-12 South from facing Oregon in the league title game. That doesn't mean Arizona or Arizona State couldn't upset Oregon in the title game. After all, Arizona handed the Ducks the only loss of the season. But it would mean the Pac-12's best hope at a two-loss league champ in the playoff is out of the picture.

3. Florida State


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Florida State SeminolesTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsLosing to Florida would surely knock the Seminoles out of the College Football Playoff conversation.
The story line gets regurgitated the last weekend in November, every single season. At this point, does it really need to be said just how badly the ACC has to beat its SEC rivals come Saturday?

Well, yes. Because the results carry even more significance now that we are in in the College Football Playoff era. Just look at the way the ACC has been dismissed as a conference. Unbeaten Florida State is ranked behind two one-loss teams in the only rankings that matter -- as much an indictment about the Seminoles’ close wins as it is about the perception of the ACC as a whole.

While it has been convenient for many to dismiss what Florida State has accomplished, it has been just as convenient to dismiss the accomplishments of No. 18 Georgia Tech, No. 22 Louisville and No. 24 Clemson. But it may be less difficult to do so if all four teams come through and all win this weekend.

The last time Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson swept their SEC rivals was in 2000. The last time they posted a winning record against them was in 2008, when Georgia Tech and Clemson came out victorious. That also happens to be the last time both teams won their SEC rivalry game.

This might be their best shot at a sweep in years. With Kentucky-Louisville now added into the mix, the Cards, Florida State and Clemson are favored to win. All three are at home; all three are the only teams ranked in the matchup. Georgia Tech is the only underdog, though the Jackets go into their game off a bye, with a four-game winning streak under their belts.

To take it one step further, the FPI game projections show:

  • Florida State with a predicted 73 percent win percentage over Florida.
  • Louisville with a predicted 77 percent win percentage over Kentucky.
  • Clemson with a predicted 62.5 percent win percentage over South Carolina.
  • Georgia with a predicted 80 percent win percentage over Georgia Tech.

“Winning would help the league a lot but it’s going to be how does the media portray it?” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “When I was here in ’08, my first year, we beat Georgia and Clemson beat South Carolina … but nobody said much about it. It was like, ‘Oh.’ Now the next year when they beat us, it was a big deal so would it help the league? Sure. Anytime we can go head to head with the SEC and win a game it helps the league.”

Johnson brings up an excellent point. Will a potential sweep be diminished in value because they are all against SEC East teams? Georgia is the only ranked SEC squad in the group. Florida and South Carolina have been disappointments; Kentucky is not bowl eligible. Georgia is the only school among the four with a winning record in SEC play.

So the East is not even close to its counterparts in the West, creating a no-win situation. If the ACC does well in these games, people may not dish out as much credit as they should. If the ACC winds up with a losing record, get ready for more finger pointing and laughter.

If we are looking a little closer at the matchups, there are two teams that cannot afford to lose: Florida State and Clemson. If Florida pulls the upset, Florida State will be out of the College Football Playoff, the worst result imaginable for a league that only has the Noles in the mix.

The stakes are high for Dabo Swinney and Clemson, too. After beating South Carolina as interim coach in 2008, he has gone 0-5. For the first time since 2009, Clemson will be the only ranked team in the matchup. Clemson has the No. 1 defense in the nation; South Carolina has the No. 87 defense in the nation. While Deshaun Watson’s status remains up in the air, the feeling is that Clemson simply cannot afford to lose this game again, not when it has so many obvious advantages.

“The last five years, we’ve had 15 turnovers and they’ve had three,” Swinney said. “That affects everything. That affects your plays per game, it affects your time of possession, it affects the way things are called, field position, on and on and on and on. That’s definitely something we have to get changed for us to have a chance to win the game. There’s no doubt about it.”

Georgia Tech also has lost five straight to Georgia, and 12 of the last 13. Last season, the Jackets blew an early 20-0 lead and lost 41-34 in double overtime. Todd Gurley scored both overtime touchdowns for the Bulldogs. He won't play Saturday.

While Georgia Tech has a Top 25 ranking and spot in the ACC championship game, a win over Georgia would only add to an already stellar season.

“The atmosphere is different about this week because it’s a must-win game,” Georgia Tech safety Jamal Golden said. “You don’t want to give them bragging rights for the next 365 days. You just have to hear it over and over again that you can’t beat them. It’s one of those games you look forward to playing.”

It’s one of those games that has to fall in the ACC win column this year.

SEC has been entertaining in 2014

November, 24, 2014
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Whether you love the SEC or not, it's hard to argue against its entertainment value in 2014. The cannibalization of the SEC West and the mostly miserable play of the SEC East provided followers with two hotly contested divisional races that are coming down to the final weekend.

We saw the state of Mississippi take over the state of Alabama in one weekend. We saw the rise of Bulldogs and the fall of Gators. The West was wild and the East was,well, there.

There's SEC bias everywhere and still a chance for two SEC teams to make it into the inaugural College Football Playoff.

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFor Dak Prescott and Mississippi State, plenty will be on the line in the Egg Bowl on Saturday.
 Offense was supposed to be down with so many seasoned quarterbacks gone, but 13 teams are scoring more than 27 points per game and eight are averaging more than 421 yards per game.

The SEC had two legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates in Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, who both still have at least another weekend to impress everyone.

The league started the season with seven teams ranked in the AP Poll. Six are ranked in the AP Poll now, and Alabama and Mississippi State are ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff Rankings. Both are also still in the running for the SEC West title.

From top to bottom, this league has been way more competitive than usual. Just think about this for a second: The West will be decided by the Iron Bowl and the Egg Bowl. The Iron Bowl made plenty of sense at the beginning of the year because you had the defending SEC champs in Auburn returning just about everyone, while Alabama was Alabama.

But the Egg Bowl? Mississippi State and Ole Miss? Sure, these two teams had the personnel to compete in the West, but to have the Egg Bowl actually mean something when you think of Atlanta is great for the league. Both serious playoff aspirations, and now Ole Miss is set up to play major spoiler for the Bulldogs.

Arkansas is relevant again. Bret Bielema's Hogs are rejuvenated and dangerous. After losing 17 straight SEC games, Arkansas has now won two straight by a combined 47-0. Those wins came against LSU and Ole Miss, both ranked. And Ole Miss was still in line for a spot in Atlanta and maybe a trip to the playoff, but the Hogs saw to it that Ole Miss' special run ended in a 30-0 romp.

Texas A&M fooled us with that commanding opening victory, but then it suffered three straight SEC losses before beating Auburn, who at the time was playing like one of the nation's best teams. LSU has a slew of young talent and beat Ole Miss before taking Alabama to overtime. Just wait until next year ...

The East hasn't exactly wowed anyone all year, but with things so even, the race to Atlanta has been a fun one to follow. Georgia -- clearly the most talented team on that side of the division -- might not even make it to the title game because of losses to South Carolina and Florida, who have combined to lose nine SEC games. Those pesky Missouri Tigers are now a win away from back-to-back Atlanta trips. The team that barely had an offensive pulse for most of the SEC season just doesn't know how to lose anymore. Remember when it was embarrassed by a bad Indiana team at home and then got trounced 34-0 at home to Georgia? Well, Missouri is 5-0 since.

Mizzou isn't as good as it was last year, but that doesn't matter one bit. The defense has been outstanding in SEC play, allowing just 302.6 yards and 19.9 points per game in seven league games. With the defense being so good, Maty Mauk's inconsistent play at quarterback gets considerably overshadowed. The defense turned it up 10 notches, thanks in large part by ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden, who have combined for 22 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss.

Mizzou ain't pretty, but it's winning. Deal with it.

South Carolina was supposed to win the East, but owns the division's worst defense and loved blowing fourth-quarter leads. Then, the Gamecocks somehow beat a slightly surging Florida team in comeback fashion that cost Will Muschamp his job.

Kentucky's offense had bite during a 5-1 start, but after five straight losses, it's pumpkin time for the Wildcats. Tennessee has been so up-and-down, but the emergence of quarterback Joshua Dobbs at least makes the offense watchable. Florida had a rain out, a couple of bad blowouts, two quarterbacks, nearly three overtime games, plenty of heartache and blew out Georgia.

Go figure.

The SEC has been a blast. It hasn't always been great, and there's no dominant team, but there's been plenty of fun drama along the way ... and two weekends still remain.

SEC morning links

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
8:00
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Florida probably needs all the help it can get if it is to have a chance against Florida State on Saturday.

The Gators got some good news on that front when they learned that quarterback Treon Harris, who injured his knee Saturday against Eastern Kentucky, should be able to practice this week and start against the Seminoles.

FSU might not be the juggernaut it was last season, but not much has been able to slow down the Seminoles. Not even the game officials.

Beating FSU would be a poetic ending for Will Muschamp in his final season as Florida’s head coach, who had to work to keep the team together after the news broke that he will not return in 2015.

Razorbacks playing spoiler: Bret Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks are suddenly the darlings of the SEC following back-to-back shutouts against LSU and Ole Miss that ended a two-year conference losing streak. Some are already discussing the Hogs as potential SEC contenders in 2015, but they still have work to do this season. They could play spoiler again with a win this weekend at Missouri. The Tigers must win to represent the SEC East in the conference championship game. Otherwise Georgia will be the Eastern Division team in Atlanta. Missouri believes it has come into its own in the second half of the season, and it’s hard to argue with a team that’s riding a five-game winning streak. In fact, the Tigers seem to be handling the underdog role fairly well.

Rocky road for Auburn: Coordinators Rhett Lashlee and Ellis Johnson made their weekly visits with reporters on Sunday night and acknowledged they’ll have their work cut out when Auburn visits No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. For one thing, they’re not entirely sure whether all of their most valuable personnel will be available. Johnson said that team sack leader DaVonte Lambert probably will not play after suffering a leg injury against Samford over the weekend. On the offensive side, Lashlee said Duke Williams is still day to day, but he’s optimistic that the star receiver will be able to play. On a separate note, Lashlee said he had a laugh afterward over Samford -- where he coached in 2011 -- using play-calling placards that featured pictures of him in Saturday’s game.

Around the SEC:

" Oxford, Mississippi, is bracing for a massive crowd for Saturday’s Ole Miss-Mississippi State game -- a matchup that could be the most pivotal game in Egg Bowl history.

" The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Ross Dellenger examines LSU’s issues at quarterback and the parallels between this season and 2008, Les Miles’ least successful season as the Tigers’ coach to this point.

" Looking toward the future, a number of young reserves got a chance to shine in Alabama’s win against Western Carolina on Saturday.

" Arkansas coach Bielema said running back Korliss Marshall will likely not return to the Razorbacks' program.

" By the numbers, rivals Georgia and Georgia Tech appear to be closely matched.

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