Only a week after Georgia senior Aaron Murray tore his ACL against Kentucky, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, who was once a teammate of Murray's at Georgia, suffered the same fate against Arkansas. Mettenberger's left knee bent back after he was hit by Arkansas defensive tackle Byran Jones in the fourth quarter of LSU's 31-27 win over the Razorbacks last Friday.
Known more for his dismissal from Georgia after he was arrested outside of a bar back in 2010, Mettenberger truly turned things around during his time with the Tigers. He stayed quiet off the field, and excelled on it. After an up-and-down first season as a starter in 2012, Mettenberger appeared to be in line to be an early pick in the 2014 NFL draft. He went from 2,609 yards and 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions to 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns to eight picks in 2013. His QBR rose by nearly 40 points, he helped guide the Tigers to nine wins again, and he helped direct an LSU offense that ended the regular season averaging 465.9 yards per game.
Mettenberger stayed on the sideline during the Tigers' comeback win over Arkansas and was visibly moved after the game when he joined his teammates and LSU's band for one last song inside Tiger Stadium. Maybe he knew his LSU career was over. Maybe he was so overcome with the joy of winning and the sadness of leaving the purple and gold behind that tears were his only release.
Maybe it was all of the above, but to see the laid back, easy-going Mettenberger break down emotionally showed the college football world just how much he loved his team and the program that took a big chance on him.
His improvements under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron showed that, too. Mettenberger always had the physical tools and smarts to be an elite quarterback, but he knew he needed to be challenged. Cameron helped him see the field better and understand the game more. Mettenberger could have coasted because of his natural talent and the inexperience behind him, but he soaked up every drop of knowledge Cameron had in order to become a more well-rounded player.
He shed weight in order to move better in the pocket. He took to longer film room sessions. He became more of a vocal leader with his teammates. And he impressed in games, throwing for 200-plus yards in nine games in 2013, after failing to have back-to-back 200-yard outings last season until November.
While Mettenberger will miss LSU's bowl game, there are some positives for him and his team. There's a chance he could still throw at LSU's pro day next spring, and the Tigers will get another chance to see the future of the position: Anthony Jennings.
It was Jennings who calmly drove the Tigers 99-yards and won the game with a 49-yard touchdown pass against Arkansas after Mettenberger's departure. More practice and more game action can only benefit the freshman.
It'll be a bittersweet feeling for Mettenberger to watch his team play without him, but this season will go a long way to ensuring that his NFL future will be brighter than expected coming out of 2012. It's a long road back for Mettenberger, but he's been through this before.
Mettenberger was hit on his left knee during the fourth quarter by Arkansas defensive tackle Byran Jones. The senior quarterback was wearing a brace on the knee as a precautionary measure, but the force of the hit bent his knee back, causing the damage.
A source said that once the sprain heals -- in an estimated two weeks -- Mettenberger would have surgery to repair his ACL.
Mettenberger, who is known for his outstanding arm strength, was thought to be no worse than a mid-first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft before he suffered the injury, two high-ranking league personnel sources said.
Backup quarterback Anthony Jennings, who took over for Mettenberger against the Razorbacks and led LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC) to victory late in the game, will be the starter for the team's bowl appearance.
Mettenberger could be able to throw at LSU's pro day (likely in March), assuming no further issues come up during the ACL surgery, according to sources in the scouting community.
LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said Tuesday night via Twitter that the school will release an update on Mettenberger's condition Wednesday.
Adam Caplan is an ESPN NFL Insider.
Looking over the newly released ESPN JC 50, there are several recruits on that list already committed to SEC schools. There are also many that still remain undecided. With signing day quickly approaching, here’s a closer look at five prospects, who’s destination is still unknown.
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- Of course, Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis is now the big man on Auburn's campus. He received a standing ovation in class on Monday. Also, head coach Gus Malzahn stumped for his star quarterback, Nick Marshall, to be included in the Heisman Trophy discussion.
- Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel wants to guard against the kind of letdown his team experienced in the Big 12 championship game in 2007. Meanwhile, the school sold out of its allotment of 16,000 tickets by 8 a.m. on Monday.
- Get ready for Saturday with some SEC championship numbers to know.
- Vanderbilt fans are breathing easier about coach James Franklin after Washington's Steve Sarkisian was hired to take over at Southern Cal. Franklin reportedly was a finalist at USC.
- More than two dozen members of the media voted in their weekly Heisman poll, and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel received just two second-place votes.
- The Crimson Tide are taking the week off of practice to regroup and get over the shock of losing the Iron Bowl in historic, last-second fashion.
- The Gamecocks are likely headed to one of three bowl games -- either the Capital One Bowl, the Outback Bowl or the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
- Georgia's AD is confident that Bulldog Nation will travel well to whatever bowl game they end up with. ... The players are feeling good after winning yet another close game.
- Florida lost to archrival FSU on the field but got some payback on the recruiting trail Monday as the Gators flipped four-star WR Ryan Sousa, who had been committed to the Seminoles since June.
- Bowl-eligible for the fourth straight year, Mississippi State is hoping for either the AutoZone Liberty Bowl or the BBVA Compass Bowl.
- The Razorbacks’ 31-27 loss to LSU last week was just more evidence of Arkansas' fourth-quarter troubles.
- Even after a winless season in the SEC, there are reasons for optimism at Kentucky.
While most recruiting attention goes to the nation's top high school prospects, mining junior colleges for elite talent can be the difference between a BCS bowl and mediocrity. Just ask Auburn, which went 11-14 in the two seasons between juco phenom QBs Cam Newton and Nick Marshall.
With the new ESPN JC 50 player rankings out, here's a look at the recruits who could be making a difference for your favorite team at this time next year.
The fight for No. 1
The No. 1 prospect in the ESPN JC 50 is uberathletic wide receiver D'haquille Williams (Reserve, La./Mississippi Gulf Coast). The vertical threat with instant-impact talent and elite ball skills was once committed to LSU but is now an Auburn pledge. It continues to be a battle between the two SEC West programs with a final decision possibly coming soon. Williams was on campus at Auburn over the weekend for the historic Iron Bowl. His Mississippi Gulf Coast teammate Derrick Moncrief is No. 14 in the JC 50 and an Auburn commit.
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That was during the summer. Fast forward a few months, and Iheanacho is now preparing for in-home visits from three SEC programs this week. Iheanacho, No. 89 in the ESPN 300, will host Arkansas on Tuesday, LSU on Wednesday and Texas A&M on Thursday. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound receiver, a U.S. Army All-American, will announce where he’ll take his talents at the game on Jan. 4 in San Antonio.
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- Auburn coach Gus Malzahn skipped the postgame celebration at Toomer's Corner to study film and start working on his game plan for Missouri.
- Missouri has already topped its fans' highest hopes in its second SEC season and has a chance for even loftier heights.
- Crimson Tide kicker Cade Foster, who missed two field goals and had another blocked in the Iron Bowl loss to Auburn, had to take his Twitter profile down after receiving death threats. His teammates took to the social media platform to defend him.
- The Gamecocks (10-2) missed an SEC championship game appearance by a half a game and could end up in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
- LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is expected to recover from a left knee injury in time for the Tigers' bowl game.
- In an indirect way, Georgia coach Mark Richt said he wants defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to return next season. Richt expressed support for Grantham, even with the Bulldogs finishing 10th in the SEC in total defense.
- Vanderbilt has incorporated quarterbacks Austyn Carta-Samuels and Patton Robinette into its running game, and it gave the team a lift in its 23-21 victory against Wake Forest. More pressing news, however, is that head coach James Franklin is a finalist for the USC Trojans job.
- Despite its loss in the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss still has a chance at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.
- In the wake of two firings, the big news for Florida is that top-rated QB recruit Will Grier remains firmly committed . Other offensive recruits expressed varying levels of surprise at the news, but more interesting is that some are being told the Gators will look to install an uptempo offense next season.
- Tennessee is looking to bring the big play back in 2014 if the Vols are going to reach their first bowl game since 2010.
- First-year head coach Mark Stoops said he is "disappointed" and takes responsibility for Kentucky's 2-10 record (winless in the SEC).
- Oh no! Mississippi State's mascot, "Bully," was reportedly injured during the Egg Bowl after getting clipped by an ESPN TV cart.
- Another first-year head coach, Arkansas' Bret Bielema, and his staff will hit the road and do some much-needed recruiting after their own 0-8 season in league play.
So where will LSU turn now?
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The four-star recruit and No. 2 safety chose the Crimson Tide over LSU on Monday.
Jones continues Alabama's dominance in northern Louisiana, following ESPN 300 recruits such as No. 3 Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe), No. 63 Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish) and No. 221 O.J. Smith (Bossier City, La./Airline).
LSU was thought to be the favorite for Jones heading into the season. But Nick Saban and his staff chipped away by getting the defensive back on campus three times since August, and they received quite a bit of recruiting help from Robinson after his commitment.
Jones hosted Saban and LSU's Les Miles on Sunday for in-home visits before deciding.
For Alabama, the nation's top-ranked class gets even stronger. The pledge gives the Crimson Tide 23 verbals, including 18 ESPN 300 commits. Also included among those 18 are five-stars Robinson and DE Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge).
1. Auburn (11-1, 7-1 SEC; last week: 3): Call it luck, but don't forget to call the Tigers good. Auburn won the Iron Bowl 34-28 over No. 1 Alabama on a last-second field goal return for a touchdown by Chris Davis. It was another improbable win for the Cardiac Cats, but Auburn also ran for 296 yards on the SEC's best rush defense. Back-to-back thrillers have Auburn No. 3 in the BCS standings and SEC Western Division champions.
2. Missouri (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 2): These Tigers will meet those Tigers in the SEC championship game on Saturday. After beating Texas A&M 28-21 at home, Mizzou completed its own improbable season in its second year in the league. Missouri now has five wins over opponents that were ranked when it played them. Like Auburn, Mizzou is very much in the national championship picture. The Tigers need help, but a win over Auburn would push a team that was left for dead last season a step closer to Pasadena, Calif.
3. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 1): The three-peat is likely over after Alabama was bested by its archrival. Why Nick Saban would attempt a 57-yard field goal with a second left without any speedy athletes on the field is mind-blowing. Saban rarely makes mistakes, but this one will sting for a very long time. Alabama is still very much in the hunt for a BCS bowl game, but a return to the title game is a long shot.
4. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC; LW: 4): Another year, another win over Clemson. That makes five in a row for Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks after his guys walked over the Tigers 31-17. South Carolina forced six turnovers, and quarterback Connor Shaw impressed yet again with 246 yards of offense and two touchdowns. The BCS is out of reach for the Gamecocks, but they have a shot at three straight 11-win seasons.
5. LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC; LW: 5): This is easily the most confusing team to follow in 2013. The Tigers started hot, hit some bumps and then finished strong with an exciting 31-27 win over Arkansas. LSU was without starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger (knee) late, but it didn't matter, as freshman Anthony Jennings drove the Tigers 99 yards, with a 49-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:15 left. This could be another double-digit-win season for the Tigers.
6. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 6): Johnny Manziel went from carving up defenses to being smothered in his last two outings. In Saturday's loss to Mizzou, Manziel was held to a season-low 216 total yards and a touchdown. The defense was gutted -- again -- allowing 225 rushing yards, including a 57-yard Henry Josey touchdown run with 3:34 remaining. It's been a long November in College Station, but at least Kevin Sumlin is locked up for the long haul.
7. Vanderbilt (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 8): Coach James Franklin might be near the top of USC's coaching list, but for now, he's doing a heck of a job as Vandy's coach. There's no wonder he's on the Trojans' radar. Vandy has won four straight, will make its third straight bowl game and is in line to win nine in back-to-back seasons. The Commodores didn't make it look easy against Wake Forest, but a Carey Spear field goal with 39 seconds left kept the Dores' winning streak alive.
8. Georgia (8-4, 5-3 SEC; LW: 9): Another team that didn't want things to be easy over the weekend, Georgia needed double overtime to beat rival Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs' defense was pushed around for 495 yards, but the offense was there to bring the Dawgs back from deficits of 20-0 and 27-17. When you have a guy like Todd Gurley (158 total yards and four touchdowns), it doesn't matter who you have at quarterback.
9. Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5 SEC; LW: 10): After being on the outside of the bowl picture just a couple of weeks ago, the Bulldogs rallied to win their last two, including an overtime victory against bitter rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving. It wasn't the prettiest of games, but injured quarterback Dak Prescott came into the fourth quarter and threw for 115 yards, while running for 29, including the eventual winning 3-yard score. Dan Mullen has Mississippi State in the postseason for the fourth straight season.
10. Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC; LW: 7): Oh, what could have been for this team. Not only have the Rebels lost two straight, but they allowed their archrivals to make it to the postseason. For a season that started 3-0, some poor play in the red zone -- especially near the goal line -- against Missouri and turnovers against Mississippi State cost Ole Miss in its final two games.
11. Tennessee (5-7, 2-6 SEC; LW: 11): A long first year for Butch Jones ended with a nice 27-14 win over Kentucky. The Vols aren't going bowling, but now is the time when Jones has to ramp up the development phase and keep an already stellar recruiting class together. Remember, this team was a fake Vandy jump pass from a bowl berth.
12. Florida (4-8, 3-5 SEC; LW: 12): The Gators' nightmare of a season ended with a 37-7 rout by rival Florida State inside the Swamp. Florida then fired embattled offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis. Florida lost seven straight to end the season without scoring more than 20 points. And it isn't going bowling for the first time in 22 years and has its first losing season since 1979.
13. Arkansas (3-9, 0-8 SEC; LW: 13): With that heartbreaking loss to LSU, the Razorbacks have dropped a school-record nine straight and went 0-8 in conference play for the first time. This team fought hard in its final act, but it's clear that development and recruiting need to amp up during the offseason if Bret Bielema is going to have a chance at really competing in this league.
14. Kentucky (2-10, 0-8 SEC; LW: 14): The Wildcats have now gone 0-8 in SEC play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1941-42 and have lost 16 straight SEC games. Mark Stoops is building a pretty impressive recruiting class right now, but we all know it takes more than recruiting. The Wildcats need more than talent, as they took steps back on both sides of the ball late in the season.
As the regular season winds down, there was a lot of news around the SEC over the weekend. Texas A&M received a big commitment on Thanksgiving at a position of need, and Auburn hosted several visitors for its incredible last-second victory over Alabama. Here’s a closer look at some of the top storylines in the SEC this weekend.
Biggest commitment: Though Texas A&M suffered a tough loss to Missouri on Saturday night, the Aggies did have something to be thankful for when junior college offensive tackle Avery Gennesy (Southhaven, Miss./East Mississippi CC) verbally committed to Texas A&M on Thursday.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound tackle chose the Aggies over Ole Miss, Tennessee and Ohio State.
Texas A&M now has 18 commitments, including 10 from in the ESPN 300. The Aggies have the fifth-ranked recruiting class in the country.
Georgia, Tennessee lose commitments: ESPN 300 defensive tackle Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton), after visiting Auburn over the weekend, decided to open back up his recruitment. The four-star defensive lineman announced his decision on Twitter.
I'm reopening my Recruitment.Auburn now appears to be the team to beat for Russell. Tennessee lost another wide receiver commit from ESPN 300 wideout Dominique Booth (Indianapolis/Pike) on Sunday. Booth is the third pass-catcher to decommit from the Vols this year. Junior college prospects Eric Lauderdale (Fayettville, Ga./Saddlebrook) and Kameel Jackson (Arlington, Texas/Blinn) also backed off their pledges to Tennessee earlier in the season.
— Dontavius Russell (@Russ_Dont98) December 2, 2013
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Alabama is no longer No. 1 in the BCS standings, thanks to Saturday's heartbreaking loss on the road at Auburn. Instead, Florida State sits atop the latest standings, Ohio State trails at No. 2 and Auburn elevates to third, while Alabama takes the short, yet precipitous fall to fourth overall.
The Crimson Tide isn't completely out of the title hunt, but it's certainly on the far fringe of any championship conversation. The Buckeyes would have to lose to No. 10 Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Seminoles would have to lose to No. 20 Duke in the ACC Championship Game and then Alabama would have to hope that the voters would allow an all-SEC title game to happen for the second time in three years.
Eastern Division champion Missouri, by virtue of its win over Texas A&M, is a solid No. 5 and the top one-loss teams in the country. Saturday's conference tilt between Missouri and Auburn -- an all-Tigers matchup -- will determine who stays in the top five and who has a shot at a trip to Pasadena, Calif., to compete in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.
All told, seven SEC teams made the top 25. South Carolina, which narrowly missed out on the East crown, sits at No. 8. LSU, which rebounded nicely in the final weeks with wins over Texas A&M and Arkansas, comes in at No. 15. And finally, Georgia and Texas A&M round out the top 25 at No. 22 and No. 24, respectively.
Alabama is not out of the picture either. If this crazy season keeps spinning off its axis, next week's games could feature another slew of upsets and surprises. For now, we'll pencil the Tide into the Sugar Bowl. By beating Texas A&M on Saturday, Missouri actually has a chance to get into the national championship debate as well, but it has to start by beating Auburn this week in Atlanta. If that doesn't happen, a two-loss Missouri might still have raised its national profile enough to be an attractive choice for the Capital One Bowl.
The Cotton Bowl picks next, and while many see the potential for a Johnny Manziel draw, A&M's four losses now move it behind LSU in the pecking order. The Bayou Bengals have plenty of pull at ticket offices in their neighboring Lone Star State, by the way.
The rest of the SEC projections haven't changed. Georgia is clinging to a New Year's Day bowl thanks to a double-overtime win against Georgia Tech on Saturday. Ole Miss is still holding on to its spot in Nashville thanks to its seven wins this year. Vanderbilt is stuck with the Liberty Bowl because the Music City Bowl is not expected to make the Dores repeat last year's appearance. And Mississippi State is now bowl eligible thanks to its upset in Thursday's Egg Bowl.
VIZIO BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 6: Auburn
Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2: Alabama
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Missouri
AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 3: LSU
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: South Carolina
Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31: Texas A&M
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Georgia
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30: Ole Miss
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31: Vanderbilt
BBVA Compass Bowl, Jan. 4: Mississippi State
No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Ohio State have taken over the top spots in the BCS standings with just one week to go before the final pairing for the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game is announced.
The Seminoles and Buckeyes are the only two remaining undefeated teams from the automatic qualifying conferences and have the inside track to play for the title.
Auburn moved up to No. 3 by winning the Iron Bowl, while Alabama dropped to No. 4, barely ahead of No. 5 Missouri.
Auburn will play Missouri on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game, but both teams will likely need either Florida State or Ohio State to lose in order to move into the top two.
Florida State is ranked first in both polls used by the BCS and is also first in the computer ratings. The Seminoles need only beat No. 20 Duke in the ACC Championship Game to remain at the top of the standings.
Ohio State needed to stop Michigan on a two-point conversion in the final minute to stay unbeaten, but the Buckeyes' ugly win doesn't seem to have hurt them too badly. They are second in both polls as well as the computers.