Video: X factor for Texas A&M

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
3:00
PM ET
video
ESPN.com writer Sam Khan Jr. talks about linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni and what makes him the Aggies' X factor in 2014.

SEC lunchtime links

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
12:00
PM ET
Alabama might be focusing on their potential starting quarterback this season (Jacob Coker) but one of the Tide's future signal-callers had a great week in Beaverton, Oregon, as 2015 ESPN 300 quarterback Blake Barnett, a Tide commit, was named Elite 11 MVP on Thursday. But one Tennessee commit isn't hearing it about Alabama commits. That and much more good stuff in today's lunch links:
Another day, another college football watch list.

The 2014 Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list debuted Thursday, along with the 2014 Outland Trophy watch list.

The SEC made its presence known again by ranking second out of all the major conferences with 16 players on the Nagurski watch list. The Nagurski Trophy is given out annually to college football's top defensive player.

The SEC led the nation with 19 players on the watch list for the Outland Trophy, which is given annually to the nation's top interior lineman. Eighty-one players make up the watch list for the Nagurski Trophy, and 64 are on the Outland Trophy's watch list.

The SEC players who made each list:

Nagurski
Outland
Yesterday we combed through the ESPN Stats & Information group's preseason predictions for SEC teams which established Alabama as the leading contender to win the conference championship.

The data -- based on the group's preseason Football Power Index -- uses statistical analysis to predict teams' win totals (overall and in conference play), chances of going undefeated, individual game results and point differentials, among other categories. Think of it as our own little version of preseason Vegas odds.

In yesterday's post, we focused on the big picture, breaking down the Stats & Information's predicted win totals and chances of winning the SEC and divisions for each team. Today we'll take a closer look at the predictions for each team's individual games.

In addition to conference play, we'll also focus on at least one key nonconference game per team since there are so many premium games featuring SEC clubs this season.

Most play at least one marquee nonconference game, often at a neutral site (like LSU-Wisconsin, Alabama-West Virginia and Ole Miss-Boise State). Tennessee and Auburn are taking ambitious midseason road trips to Oklahoma and Kansas State, respectively. Some SEC teams face two top-tier nonconference opponents (Georgia hosts Clemson and Georgia Tech) or will travel to face a tough traditional opponent (Kentucky to Louisville and Florida to Florida State). And some should be ashamed of themselves. (They know who they are).

Let's see what the numbers say:

Alabama
Nonconference: The Crimson Tide is predicted to have a 94.1 percent chance of beating West Virginia in the opener, winning by a predicted 20.0-point differential.
Otherwise: Alabama has at least a 64.5 percent chance of victory in every game except LSU (57.5 percent, 2.9-point win differential) and Auburn (57.8, 3.0). The Tide is predicted to win by at least 10.1 points in every game except Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M (7.9) and Ole Miss (5.7).

Arkansas
Nonconference: The Razorbacks have a 34.2 percent chance of victory against Texas Tech, which is favored to win by 6.3 points on Sept. 13 in Lubbock.
Otherwise: Arkansas has better than a 50 percent predicted chance of victory in three games: Nicholls State, Northern Illinois and UAB. It's an underdog in every SEC game, with its low being a 9.2 percent chance to win the opener at Auburn, which is a 20.6-point favorite in that game.

Auburn
Nonconference: The Tigers have an 81.0 percent chance to win the Sept. 18 visit to Kansas State and are predicted to win by 13.5 points.
Otherwise: Auburn is favored in every game except the rematch of last season's memorable Iron Bowl. Auburn has a 42.2 percent chance at Alabama but has at least a 60 percent chance in every game except Alabama and Georgia (54.4, 1.7). Among the highlights are predicted wins against LSU (73.2, 9.6), Mississippi State (60.0, 3.9) and Texas A&M (69.9, 8.1).

Florida
Nonconference: The Gators are a heavy underdog against defending national champion Florida State, which the Stats & Information group says has the best chance to go unbeaten of any team in the nation. Florida has an 8.9 percent chance of victory on Nov. 29 in Tallahassee and is a 20.8-point underdog.
Otherwise: Florida has at least a 50 percent chance to win seven games, but there are several that look like they could go either way. Florida is a double-digit underdog against Alabama (20.7, 12.6) and FSU. Key games include what is essentially a toss-up against LSU (49.9, 0.1-point underdog), South Carolina (45.6, 1.7-point underdog), Georgia (35.7, 4.7-point underdog), Tennessee (64.1, 5.6-point favorite) and Missouri (67.7, 7.1-point favorite).

Georgia
Nonconference: The Bulldogs are the favorites against both Clemson (63.4 percent, 5.3 points) and Georgia Tech (84.9, 16.0) in the opening and closing games of the regular season.
Otherwise: Georgia has at least a 63.4 percent chance of winning every game except its visit to South Carolina (41.1, 3.5) and Auburn (45.6, 1.7). The Bulldogs are favored by double digits against Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Charleston Southern, Troy, Tennessee and Vanderbilt and are a 9.3-point favorite at Arkansas.

Kentucky
Nonconference: Kentucky has a 37.8 percent chance of winning at Louisville on Nov. 29 and is a 4.8-point underdog.
Otherwise: The Wildcats are favored against UT-Martin, Ohio, Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Monroe. They have no better than a 37.8-percent (Louisville) or 37.9-percent (Tennessee) chance in any other game according to ESPN's predictions. Kentucky is a double-digit underdog against Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Florida, is a 9.6-point underdog against Mississippi State and a 9.7-underdog against Missouri.

LSU
Nonconference: LSU has a 63.7 percent chance of beating Wisconsin by a predicted 4.5-point differential in the opener.
Otherwise: Like Florida, there are a handful of games that could go either way for LSU. As previously mentioned, the Oct. 11 visit to Gainesville is essentially a toss-up, with LSU enjoying a 50.1 percent chance to win by only a 0.1-point margin. The Tigers have at least a 60.3 percent chance of winning the other seven games where it is the favorite. LSU is the underdog against Auburn (26.8, 9.6), Texas A&M (38.0, 4.7) and Alabama (42.5, 2.9).

Mississippi State
Nonconference: Mississippi State is a huge favorite in its first three games (Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama), including a 98.7 percent chance of victory against USM, by a predicted 20.6 points.
Otherwise: The Bulldogs are underdogs in four SEC games: LSU (39.7, 4.0), Auburn (40.0, 3.9), Alabama (25.5, 10.1) and Ole Miss (47.0, 1.2). They're a narrow favorite against Texas A&M (52.4, 0.9).

Missouri
Nonconference: The Tigers are favored in all four nonconference games, with the closest predicted to be wins against Central Florida (69.4, 7.8) and Indiana (63.7, 5.4).
Otherwise: Missouri is the favorite in eight games overall, while it's an underdog against South Carolina (21.9, 12.0), Georgia (36.6, 5.3), Florida (32.3, 7.1) and Texas A&M (22.2, 11.8). It's a small favorite against Tennessee (54.5, 1.7).

Ole Miss
Nonconference: The Rebels are a comfortable favorite (79.6 percent) to beat Boise State by a projected 10.6 points in the opener.
Otherwise: Ole Miss has at least a 77.7 percent chance of victory and is predicted to win by at least 10.6 points in each of the first four games (Boise State, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis) but is an underdog in four of the next five -- Alabama (35.5, 5.7), Texas A&M (31.2, 7.6), LSU (34.7, 6.1) and Auburn (35.0, 5.9). The Egg Bowl looks like another toss-up, with Ole Miss slightly favored (53.0, 1.2) over Mississippi State.

South Carolina
Nonconference: Although it has controlled the series lately, South Carolina is a narrow underdog on Nov. 29 at Clemson (47.5, 1.0).
Otherwise: The Gamecocks are favored in 10 games, although there could be some close ones, starting with Texas A&M (58.6, 3.4), Georgia (58.9, 3.5) and Florida (54.4, 1.7). In addition to Clemson, South Carolina is an underdog at Auburn (30.4, 7.9) on Oct. 25.

Tennessee
Nonconference: Tennessee is a huge underdog in its Sept. 13 visit to Oklahoma (13.0, 17.4).
Otherwise: The Volunteers are favored in five games, but its chances of victory are 21.0 percent of less against Oklahoma, Georgia (14.0), Ole Miss (21.0), Alabama (16.8) and South Carolina (13.7). The Vols are a narrow underdog against Missouri (45.5, 1.7) and a narrow favorite against Vanderbilt (56.7, 2.6).

Texas A&M
Nonconference: The Aggies have at least a 91.5 percent chance of victory in each of their four nonconference games (Lamar, Rice, SMU, Louisiana-Monroe), with the closest projected to be SMU (91.5, 21.2).
Otherwise: Texas A&M is an underdog against South Carolina (41.4, 3.4), Mississippi State (47.6, 0.9), Alabama (30.5, 7.9) and Auburn (30.1, 8.1). It's the favorite to beat LSU (62.0, 4.7) in the regular-season finale at Kyle Field.

Vanderbilt
Nonconference: The Commodores are favored to win all four nonconference games (Temple, UMass, Old Dominion, Charleston Southern), with the closest projected to be against Old Dominion (65.2, 6.0).
Otherwise: Vandy is an underdog in every SEC game. The worst odds are against Mississippi State (9.5, 20.2) and Georgia (7.4, 22.4). The closest are Tennessee (43.3, 2.6) and Kentucky (31.3, 7.5).

 
video

Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray and UCLA commit Josh Rosen - the top two quarterbacks in the ESPN 300 - shined in 7ON pool play Wednesday at Nike's The Opening. National recruiting analysts Craig Haubert and Gerry Hamilton break down the action.
The annual SEC media days begin Monday, which means we are in for another preseason circus in Hoover, Alabama.

It also means we are that much closer to the start of fall camp and the college football season. I wonder if any fan base will dwarf the Alabama fans who'll be lined up inside the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel. Probably not. That's Tide turf, and everyone knows it.

Media days run from July 14-17. The SEC's official website, ESPN, ESPNU and WatchESPN will have continuous coverage of all the festivities.

MONDAY

Session I: 12–3:30 p.m. ET

Commissioner Mike Slive

Auburn
Session II: 3:40–6:40 p.m. ET

Florida
Vanderbilt
TUESDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

South Carolina
Mississippi State
Session II: 2–5 p.m. ET

Texas A&M
Tennessee
WEDNESDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

Steve Shaw (SEC coordinator of officials) / Justin Connolly (ESPN Senior Vice President of College Networks)

Missouri
Session II: 2–5 p.m. ET

LSU
Arkansas
THURSDAY

Session I: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

Georgia
Ole Miss
Session II: 1–4 p.m. ET

Alabama
Kentucky
Today's college football award watch lists are all about the kickers.

The lists for both the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation's top place-kicker, and the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the top punter, were released Wednesday. Players from SEC schools are in the mix for both awards with the conference claiming three of the 30 names on the list for the Groza Award and three of the 25 for the Guy Award.

Texas A&M's Drew Kaser is back on the list for the Guy Award after finishing as one of three finalists last season, when he averaged 47.4 yards per punt. Georgia's Marshall Morgan was one of 20 semifinalists for the Groza last season after leading SEC kickers in scoring at 10.3 points per game and making 22 of 24 field-goal tries.

Here is a rundown of the SEC names on the lists:

Groza
Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
Elliott Fry, South Carolina
Marshall Morgan, Georgia

Guy
Taylor Hudson, Vanderbilt
Sam Irwin-Hill, Arkansas
Drew Kaser, Texas A&M

SEC lunchtime links

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
12:00
PM ET
How about that World Cup match yesterday? Germany 7, Brazil 1. As our esteemed colleague Chris Low tweeted yesterday -- he just started his own Twitter account, so follow him here -- “And we thought the defenses were down in the SEC last season.”
Auburn is the favorite to win every game this season except the Iron Bowl, but the Tigers have only the fourth-best odds of winning the SEC title for a second straight season. This according to the preseason projections that ESPN’s Stats and Information team released on Tuesday.

Using its preseason Football Power Index as a guide, the Stats and Information group’s projections covered a wide range of categories including likelihood of going undefeated, odds of winning conference and division titles, likelihood of winning individual games and projected win totals.

The data showed Florida State as a heavy favorite to repeat as the national champion, with the Seminoles having a 40 percent chance of going undefeated and at least an 87 percent chance of winning each of its games. The next-closest team, Oregon, has a 13 percent chance of going undefeated.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kansas (projection of 3.3 wins), Purdue (3.6), Wake Forest (3.6) and California (3.8) are the teams from the Big Five conferences that are projected to win the fewest games.

The projections covered every FBS program, but we’re here to discuss the SEC, where -- surprise, surprise -- Alabama is the favorite to hoist the conference championship trophy in Atlanta. Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide has a 23 percent chance to win the conference title according to ESPN’s projections, leading South Carolina (17 percent), Georgia (17) and Auburn (16), which was certainly a much bigger underdog at this point a season ago.

Obviously Gus Malzahn's 2013 club proved that things can change a great deal between July and December -- and the Stats and Information group’s projections will be updated throughout the season -- but here’s where each SEC team sits for now, a little less than a month away from the start of preseason practice.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide is projected to win 9.9 games and has a 4 percent chance of going undefeated. In addition to its 22.6 percent chance of winning the SEC, Alabama has a 38 percent chance of winning the SEC West. Alabama is the favorite in every game and has at least a 64.5 percent chance of winning all but the LSU (57.5) and Auburn (57.8) games.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks play the SEC’s toughest schedule (No. 4 in the nation) and are projected to win 4.9 games. They have a 0 percent chance to win the conference title and a 0.01 percent chance of winning the West. In individual games, however, Arkansas is favored to win only against UAB (96.8 percent chance of a win), Nicholls State (96.7) and Northern Illinois (71.7).

Auburn: The only other team in the nation’s top 10 in strength of schedule (the Tigers are 10th), Auburn is projected to win 9.2 games. They have a 1 percent chance of going undefeated, a 16.3 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 26.7 percent chance of winning the West. The Tigers have at least a 60 percent chance to win every game except Alabama (42.2) and Georgia (54.4).

Florida: Projected to win 7.6 games, Florida has a 6.2 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 16.3 percent chance of winning the SEC East. The Gators are favored in seven games and underdogs against LSU (49.9), South Carolina (45.6), Georgia (35.7), Alabama (20.7) and Florida State (8.9).

Georgia: Oddly enough, while South Carolina has a slightly better chance of winning the SEC according to ESPN’s projections, Georgia has a small edge over the Gamecocks with a projection of 9.1 wins. The Bulldogs have a 17.1 percent chance of winning the conference and a 37.5 percent chance of winning the East. They have at least at 63.4 percent chance of beating every opponent except South Carolina (41.1) and Auburn (45.6).

Kentucky: ESPN’s projections have Kentucky making a step forward in Year 2 under Mark Stoops, winning 5.5 games this fall. The Wildcats have a 0.03 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 0.09 percent chance of winning the East. They are favored to beat Tennessee-Martin, Ohio, Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Monroe, but there next-best chance of winning is 37.9 percent against Tennessee.

LSU: Les Miles’ Tigers are projected to win 8.0 games, with a 4.6 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 9.5 percent chance of winning the West. However, the Tigers are favored in nine games -- all but Auburn (26.8), Texas A&M (38.0) and Alabama (42.5).

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are projected to win 8.5 games, with a 4.7 percent chance of winning the conference and 9.7 percent chance of winning the West. Mississippi State is favored in eight games -- all but Ole Miss (47.0), Auburn (40.0), LSU (39.7) and Alabama (25.5).

Missouri: Projected to win 7.0 games, Missouri has a 2.3 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 7.1 percent chance of representing the East in Atlanta for a second straight season. The Tigers are favored in eight games and underdogs against Georgia (36.6), Florida (32.3), Texas A&M (22.2) and South Carolina (21.9).

Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze’s club is projected to win 7.7 games and has a 2.9 percent chance of winning the conference and a 6.5 percent chance of winning the West. The Rebels are favored in eight games and are underdogs against Alabama (35.5), Auburn (35.0), LSU (34.7) and Texas A&M (31.2).

South Carolina: The Gamecocks are projected to win 8.9 games, have a 17.9 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 37.2 percent chance of winning the East. South Carolina is favored in all games except Clemson (47.5) and Auburn (30.4).

Tennessee: Projected to win 5.4 games, Butch Jones’ Volunteers have a 0.02 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 0.1 percent chance of winning the East. The Vols are favored to win five games: Utah State, Arkansas State, Chattanooga, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

Texas A&M: The Aggies are projected to win 8.3 games and have a 4.8 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 9.5 percent chance of winning the West. Texas A&M is favored in eight games and is an underdog against Mississippi State (47.6), South Carolina (41.4), Alabama (30.5) and Auburn (30.1).

Vanderbilt: The James Franklin-less Commodores are projected to drop to 4.9 wins under first-year coach Derek Mason. They have a 0 percent chance of winning the SEC and a 0.02 percent chance of winning the East. Vandy is favored against UMass, Charleston Southern, Temple and Old Dominion.

Kyler Murray: Happy Manziel on side

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
9:58
AM ET
video

Kyler Murray is ready to be the next big thing at Texas A&M.

And if that means following in the giant footsteps that Johnny Manziel left behind, so be it.

Murray, the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the ESPN 300 who committed to the Aggies in late May, says he feels no pressure being what many call the heir apparent to "Johnny Football" when he arrives in College Station next year.

"If anything, it's all cool," Murray told NFL.com this week at the Elite 11 Finals at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. "Johnny is Johnny, and he does his thing. We do play similar, and I can't deny that. But pressure? No, there's none of that going to A&M. Johnny left some big shoes to fill, and they're going to miss him for sure and what he brought to the table."

The comparisons between the two famed Texas high school quarterbacks are expected.

Manziel starred as a multidimensional quarterback at Tivy High in Kerrville.

Murray has done the same for Allen High, leading it to back-to-back state titles and being named the Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior.

The fact that their paths have crossed is no surprise.

The two QBs met at the Elite 11 competition two years ago, and they've been friendly ever since, even crossing paths at this week's event.

And when Murray's recruiting battle came down to Texas A&M and Oregon


(Read full post)


Another day, another two college football award watch lists arrive.

Today we have the lists for the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end, and the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the top center.

The SEC well represented on both lists, with seven players on the Mackey list and 11 on the Rimington. Here is a rundown:

Mackey
Rory Anderson, South Carolina
Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Hunter Henry, Arkansas
O.J. Howard, Alabama
Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State
Jay Rome, Georgia
C.J. Uzomah, Auburn

Rimington
David Andrews, Georgia
Evan Boehm, Missouri
Dillon Day, Mississippi State
Reese Dismukes, Auburn
Max Garcia, Florida
Ryan Kelly, Alabama
Mike Matthews, Texas A&M
Elliott Porter, LSU
Jon Toth, Kentucky
Joe Townsend, Vanderbilt
Cody Waldrop, South Carolina

SEC lunchtime links

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
12:00
PM ET
SEC media days will be in full swing by this time next week. But if baseball and the World Cup won't provide your sports fix until then, check out coverage of The Opening and Elite 11 on ESPNU and ESPN.com. (Like this story that features several future SEC quarterbacks.)

" Two more college football award watch lists will debut today: those for the Mackey Award (best tight end) and Rimington Trophy (best center). Check out the lists as they update on the National College Football Awards Association website.

" The NCAA on Monday suggested new safety guidelines that would limit teams to two full-contact practices per week during the season.

" Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason considered a transfer when he was stuck behind Aaron Murray on the depth chart. But that was nothing compared to what his coach, Mark Richt, faced as a player at Miami. Richt discussed that 1982 logjam at quarterback -- when he was a teammate of Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde and Bernie Kosar -- in a story for the Buffalo News.

" Mock-up magazine covers, cereal boxes, movie posters and more. All of those items are included in how college programs are getting creative with their recruiting pitches to high school prospects.

" Sean Lester of the Dallas Morning News examines Texas A&M's depth chart at receiver and tight end and projects the starters.

" Five more freshman signees started classes in South Carolina's second summer semester on Monday, bringing the total of 2014 Gamecock signees who have enrolled to 15.

" Ole Miss safety Anthony Alford is enjoying success in limited work as a minor league baseball player. In his five games with the Toronto Blue Jays' Class-A affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts, he batted .320.

" Among those participating at The Opening in Oregon are arguably the top prospect in the state of Kentucky -- running back Damien Harris -- and many other players whom Kentucky's football program is recruiting.

" Athlon Sports polled 15 national college football media members on which programs have the best stadiums and game-day atmospheres. LSU's Tiger Stadium was the runaway winner, and five SEC programs ranked in the top 8.

" In its list of the 25 most important figures in Alabama's 2014 season, AL.com turns today to new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

" The Gainesville Sun's Pat Dooley lists his top 10 nonconference games of the upcoming season.
video
While recruiting remains a marathon and not a sprint, recent trends have shown that it is never too early to look ahead. With the release of the ESPN Junior 300 it is a perfect time to see which programs are having early success. With roughly 10 percent of the prospects in the ESPN Junior 300 committed well over a year and a half before national signing day for the Class of 2016, plenty is still to be determined. Here are five programs, in alphabetical order, standing out early for the 2016 class:

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Video: X factor for Texas A&M
ESPN.com writer Sam Khan Jr. talks about linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni and what makes him the Aggies' X factor in 2014.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

SEC SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/28
Saturday, 8/30
Sunday, 8/31