Four quarterbacks and two running backs were named Heisman Trophy finalists on Monday.
Quarterbacks Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, AJ McCarron of Alabama and Jameis Winston of Florida State were all invited to the Heisman ceremony on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
The six finalists invited to the ceremony in New York are the most since 1994.
Winston is the overwhelming favorite to win the award Saturday night in New York now that a sexual assault complaint against him in Tallahassee, Fla., has been closed without charges being filed.
He could become the second straight freshman to win the award as the top player in college football after Manziel won it last season.
Winston set freshman records by passing for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns while leading No. 1 Florida State into the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. The Alabama native is on pace to break the NCAA record for passer efficiency rating (190.1).
Manziel passed for 3,732 yards, 255 more than in his Heisman-winning regular season last year. He also threw for nine more touchdowns, but his rushing stats were way down.
Manziel ran for 686 yards, down from 1,181 a year ago, and just eight touchdowns, down from 19.
Gus Malzahn, who has Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game in his first season, was named the SEC Coach of the Year.
There were some interesting selections, not to mention omissions, on the first and second teams.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who was named the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner on Monday, didn't make first- or second-team All-SEC. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel was the first-team quarterback in voting by the media, and Georgia's Aaron Murray was second team.
McCarron earned honorable mention along fellow SEC quarterbacks Nick Marshall of Auburn and Zach Mettenberger of LSU, but South Carolina's Connor Shaw didn't even receive honorable mention despite throwing 21 touchdown passes and only one interception this season in leading the Gamecocks to 10 wins.
Mason and Sam were the only unanimous selections along with Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Once again, the SEC has Urban Meyer to thank for more conference gold ... or should I say orange and blue ...
Here's this season's SEC bowl lineup:
VIZIO BCS National Championship game, Jan. 6: Auburn vs. Florida State
Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: South Carolina vs. Wisconsin
AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 3: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: LSU vs. Iowa
Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31: Texas A&M vs. Duke
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Georgia vs. Nebraska
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30: Ole Miss vs. Georgia Tech
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31: Mississippi State vs. Rice
BBVA Compass Bowl, Jan. 4: Vanderbilt vs. Houston
I'm sure we'll have more on all of these bowl games in the coming weeks, but here are our first impressions of this season's lineup:
Best game: VIZIO BCS National Championship game. This one is for all the marbles, and once again the SEC is involved. Real shocker there, even if it is Auburn. Somehow, the SEC found a way, and we now get to see the nation's best rushing offense (335.7 yards per game) take on Florida State's vaunted passing game, which is led by Heisman favorite Jameis Winston. The Noles own the country's 14th-ranked pass defense and rank third nationally in total defense. Auburn is on a special run this season and, with a month to rest and look over things, you have to wonder if coach Gus Malzahn will throw a couple more items into his playbook just for Florida State.
Worst game: TaxSlayer.com Gator. On paper, watching Georgia and Nebraska play each other looks pretty fun. But we've seen this matchup before. We saw it last season in the Capital One Bowl. Obviously, these are different teams, but they have the same uniforms on and the bowl season is about seeing something new and different. This isn't, and Georgia fans will let you know it. It'll probably be a pretty good game, but it would have been a lot better to see both of these two with different opponents.
Sneaky good game: Franklin American Mortgage Music City. The triple option vs. Hugh Freeze's fun spread? Yes, please! The Rebels didn't end the season the way they wanted, but you can see a lot of growth at Ole Miss. The Rebels owned one of the SEC's best offensive attacks, while the Yellow Jackets mirrored Auburn at times on the ground, averaging 311 rushing yards a game. But don't forget that Georgia Tech's defense only gave up an average 350 total yards per game. This should be a good one that has fourth-quarter drama written all over it.
The bowl season will be a success if: All the SEC cares about is bringing home an eighth straight crystal football. Commissioner Mike Slive is looking right at you, Auburn. Beat Florida State, and the SEC ends the BCS right where it started: with a national championship. The league can have a losing record in bowl play, but if it wins the one out in Pasadena, Calif., the conference will be all smiles (even folks in Tuscaloosa) and will still claim its perch atop the college football world.
Chris Low's first impressions
Worst game: BBVA Compass. What does Vanderbilt have to do to get a bowl game higher in the SEC’s pecking order? The Commodores are sitting there with eight regular-season wins for the second straight season and will be making the short trip to Birmingham, Ala. They get a Houston team that enters the postseason having lost three of its last four games. A close second goes to the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, where we get a rematch of last season’s Georgia-Nebraska game from the Capital One Bowl.
Sneaky good game: AT&T Cotton. Two old Big 12 rivals will get it on in Arlington, Texas, and if you like offense, this is your kind of game. Missouri’s passing game, especially now that James Franklin is healthy again, is both balanced and explosive. Dorial Green-Beckham and L’Damian Washington combined for 22 touchdown catches this season. The Tigers’ defense gets a chance for redemption after being shredded by Auburn’s running game, but faces an Oklahoma State offense averaging 39.8 points per game.
The bowl season will be a success if: It’s all about the bling in the SEC. In other words, the onus is on Auburn to make it eight straight national championships. If the streak remains intact, the SEC will have bragging rights for another year. Counting the BCS National Championship game, 10 SEC teams are playing in bowl games. The league went 6-3 last season, so 7-3 sounds about right this season. Then we can all drum up some more propaganda, although Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops might have more to worry about than propaganda -- real or perceived -- when his Sooners take on Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
1. Florida State
4. Michigan State
7. South Carolina
9. Ohio State
14. Oklahoma State
17. Arizona State
20. Texas A&M
21. Fresno State
24. Northern Illinois
1. Florida State
4. Michigan State
7. South Carolina
8. Ohio State
12. Oklahoma State
16. Arizona State
20. Fresno State
21. Texas A&M
24. Northern Illinois
- Tre Mason was on the outside looking in on this Heisman race before running 46 times for 304 yards in Saturday's SEC championship game against Missouri. With ballots due today at 5 p.m., he's in the thick of it.
- Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on his new contract: “This is where I want to be.”
- The SEC issues a statement on oversigning loopholes.
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops -- whose team will play Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl -- bristled Sunday when reminded of his comments questioning the overall strength of the SEC.
- An AT&T Cotton Bowl berth and a matchup against Oklahoma State is a worthy prize for SEC runner-up Missouri, which won its division in just its second season in the conference.
- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said the Capital One Bowl is “by far is the best bowl for our university” to play in on Jan. 1.
- The Advocate's Matthew Harris writes that there's not much sizzle in this Outback steak for LSU.
- Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Duke's David Cutcliffe discuss their upcoming Chick-fil-A Bowl matchup.
- With Texas rumors circulating, Sumlin must still sign his new contract with the Aggies.
- Alabama named CJ Mosley, AJ McCarron and Kevin Norwood as its permanent team captains for this season.
- Georgia will face Nebraska for the second straight year in its bowl game.
- Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen break down their upcoming bowl matchups.
- Vanderbilt will play out of state in its bowl game for the first time under James Franklin when it faces Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Duke Blue Devils (10-3) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (8-4)
Dec. 31, 8 p.m. ET, Atlanta (ESPN)
DUKE BLUE DEVILS BREAKDOWN
As expected, Duke was overmatched in the ACC championship game and lost convincingly to Florida State, but the loss didn’t define the season, which includes a school-record 10 wins.
Although Duke lost to Florida State for the 19th time and remains winless against the Noles, what happened in that game wasn’t reminiscent of the “old Duke.” Instead, Duke just got a taste of what FSU had been doing to its opponents all season. Duke still has a much-improved defense, which was evident in the first quarter, when it held the Noles scoreless for the first time since they played Florida in 2012. Duke also forced Florida State into three turnovers, including one fumble in the red zone and two interceptions. Duke has now had four takeaways in the red zone this season. Duke’s biggest problem was that it couldn’t capitalize on Florida State’s mistakes or sustain a drive.
That wasn’t the case for most of the season, as Duke was able to score more than 20 touchdowns on the ground and in the passing game for the first time in school history. Despite the loss to FSU, it was an unprecedented season for Duke and coach David Cutcliffe, who was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year. -- Heather Dinich
TEXAS A&M AGGIES BREAKDOWN
This is not quite where Aggies fans thought their team might end up when they were previewing the season.
But an extremely young defense that was hit hard by graduation (at least in terms of key players) struggled throughout the season, and a beaten-up Manziel lost steam in the final two regular-season games, which led the offense to do the same.
All that being said, 8-4 isn't bad, and the fact that it's a "disappointment" in Aggieland speaks to how much progress the program has made in a short time. This team still has a high-powered offense, ranking sixth in the nation in points per game (43.6) and fourth in yards per game (538.2).
The defense has had its ups and downs but ended the regular season on a solid note on the road against a talented Missouri team, keeping the game within reach for its offense.
And this could be the last hurrah for Manziel, who seems destined to declare for early entry into the 2014 NFL draft. It could also be the final salvo for Evans, a Biletnikoff Award finalist, who is also draft-eligible. -- Sam Khan Jr.
The No. 19 Badgers (9-3) are playing in a non-BCS bowl for the first time in three seasons following three consecutive appearances in the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin lost those games, though, and will be looking for its first bowl win under coach Gary Andersen.
South Carolina (10-2) won its final five games of the season, including a double-overtime victory against then-unbeaten Missouri.
The Gamecocks are making their second Capital One Bowl appearance in three seasons, having beaten Nebraska in 2012.
South Carolina is also the only team to beat Fiesta Bowl-bound UCF, rallying in the final three quarters to claim a three-point victory.
It is the first meeting between the schools.
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
SEC runner-up Missouri is headed to the Cotton Bowl, where the No. 8 Tigers will play No. 13 Oklahoma State on Jan. 3.
Missouri (11-2) is coming off a 59-42 loss to Auburn in the SEC championship game in only its second season in that league.
Oklahoma State (10-2) was on track for a Big 12 title and a spot in the Bowl Championship Series before a 33-24 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday.
SEC teams have won the last five Cotton Bowls, and nine of the last 10, over Big 12 teams. The lone exception was the 2008 game when Missouri, then in the Big 12, beat Arkansas 38-7.
Unbelievable isn't it? The Tigers were 3-9 a year ago. Now they're 12-1 and SEC champions, and things broke their way to open the door for them to head back to the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game for the second time in four seasons. What an incredible story. As a result of its 59-42 win over Missouri in the SEC championship game on Saturday at the Georgia Dome and Ohio State's loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, Auburn is BCS title-game bound.
What does that mean for the rest of the league and those teams' bowl destinations? Alabama is almost certainly headed to the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The next pick belongs to the Capital One Bowl, and South Carolina should be headed to Orlando for that one. As for the AT&T Cotton Bowl, it's looking like Mizzou is the favorite to land that spot.
That leaves an interesting sequence for the next few bowls in the pecking order. The Outback Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl and the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl are each potential destinations for LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia. The selections could go a couple different ways, but we take a stab at how we think it'll shake out below.
As for the next tier, it appears the AutoZone Liberty Bowl has its sights set on Mississippi State, which would kick Vanderbilt to the BBVA Compass Bowl. Here are our full projections for bowl selection Sunday, and soon enough, we'll find out the fate for each of these squads.
VIZIO BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 6: Auburn
Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2: Alabama
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: South Carolina
AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 3: Missouri
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: LSU
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: Mississippi State
BBVA Compass Bowl, Jan. 4: Vanderbilt
Actually, it might not be either. There's a report out there that Mississippi State could be the pick for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, which would be interesting, because the Bulldogs are 6-6 while Vanderbilt is 8-4. The Liberty Bowl and the BBVA Compass Bowl share the eighth and ninth selections in the SEC pecking order but don't have a specific order and consult the SEC office on those picks.
To me, location makes Vanderbilt a sensible pick, but it's not just about who the better team is. Bowl games often choose on who's going to sell tickets, and if the Liberty chooses Mississippi State, it's clearly banking on the fact that Bulldogs fans will make the trip in droves.
Brandon Tyler (@BrandonTyler): It is all about the Bowls! Who is going where? Especially Texas A&M. Thanks.
The SEC's automatic bid, the AllState Sugar Bowl, still has to be decided, of course, based on what happens this weekend. As for our full bowl projections for SEC teams through Week 14, you can find them here. And a couple of our experts, Brad Edwards and Mark Schlabach, take a stab at them right here.
But in the spirit of playing prognosticator, I'll take a guess and say one of the undefeated teams lose, and the Auburn/Missouri winner goes to the BCS title game. That likely would put Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and the Auburn/Missouri loser into the Capital One Bowl. (For the record, I'm predicting a Missouri win over Auburn.)
LSU is probably headed to the AT&T Cotton Bowl, South Carolina to the Outback Bowl and your beloved Aggies likely are bound for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. I mentioned the Liberty Bowl situation above, which probably kicks Vanderbilt to the BBVA Compass Bowl. The TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl probably claims Georgia, and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl probably nabs Ole Miss.
I think the chances of him going to the NFL are high. I tend not to speak in absolutes when it comes to Manziel, because he's unpredictable, but I honestly would be shocked if he returned for another season at Texas A&M, based on all the vibes I get. If the NFL evaluation he receives says he has a good shot to be a first-round pick, he's gone. I guess if he doesn't get rated as highly and scouts are down on him after his final two games, where he played hurt, then who knows? But honestly, I think the bowl game will be his last in the maroon-and-white.
As for him landing in Houston with the Texans, I think he'd have to be around in the second round for him to land there. The Texans are on track for the No. 1 pick in the draft, and I find it unlikely that they would take him first overall (though, they clearly need a quarterback, and I would imagine they'll consider taking one). Let's say they pick someone at another position, like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or perhaps even offensive tackle Jake Matthews with their first pick. Then I think you could see them debating choosing Manziel, if -- again if -- he's around when they pick in round two.
All it takes is one team to fall in love with you for you to wind up a first-round pick. It also depends on what head coach the Texans hire, since whoever is in that position is going to have his own specific vision and desires for who his quarterback should be.
Nathan Goldstein (@nathan0223): What's the latest with Jamal Adams?
Adams, the No. 23 player in the ESPN 300 and the nation's No. 3 safety, is definitely an SEC recruit of note, with Florida and LSU among the teams making a play for him. My main man Damon Sayles caught up with Adams recently after he hosted LSU for an in-home visit, so check that out here. Florida has been the longtime favorite for Adams (receivers coach Joker Phillips is his godfather); Ole Miss has been considered a contender; Texas A&M once was but isn't anymore. I think Texas is still in the mix, but my guess is he still winds up at Florida.
Snyder breaks down the game from his vantage point, looks back at Texas A&M’s season and explains why he thinks the SEC will be more defensive next year:
It was Texas A&M’s second year in the SEC. How'd you feel like it went?
Mark Snyder: Obviously, we had some big standards going into the season, but we were so young defensively. We had some injuries, like a lot of teams in the SEC, but I thought as the year went, I saw our defense getting better each and every week. We played pretty decent and had our opportunities against Missouri. Give credit to those guys; they’re good and they got us.
Snyder: Just get better. Get our younger guys better on my side of the ball. It’s huge getting to a bowl game and having this extra practice time because typically you get into bowl practice and the first week or so you work your young guys to get them ready for next year. For us, those kids are all playing for us. They’re starting. We’re going to have to be careful about how much we do with them, but we’re getting the chance to continue to get better on defense.
Auburn and Missouri will play for the SEC title Saturday. What stands out to you about both of those teams?
Snyder: They got us at different times. Auburn got us earlier than Missouri did. Both have got really good quarterbacks. Nick’s playing well. Obviously, Missouri’s quarterback has played a lot. The difference in the teams I think is Missouri, they’re a very veteran offense -- veteran offensive line, big, tall wide receivers, a quarterback that’s played a lot, a running back that’s back. It’s a very veteran team where Auburn is very, very athletic. They’re just speed across the board from the receiver [Sammie] Coates to Nick Marshall to -- I really like their tailback (Tre Mason), I think he’s really good. If you look at the teams, one’s probably a little bit more experienced, been in the system longer. The other team has tremendous athleticism.
What are your thoughts on Auburn coach Gus Malzahn?
Snyder: He’s done a good job of instilling some beliefs, him and Coach [Gary] Pinkel both. If you look at both of these teams, right now they’re playing with a lot of confidence, so they’re doing a great job instilling some beliefs in their system. For Coach Pinkel, it was a little easier because those guys had been with him for four years. The trick with Gus is this is his first year with some of these guys, and he’s got them to buy in. You need to make a play here or there in those special seasons, and that’s what they’ve done.
Are you surprised with Missouri's run this early in the SEC?
Snyder: Not really. Coach Pinkel has had a culture of success everywhere he’s been. They were pretty beat up last year. You look at a team like Florida, they’re going through it this year, Georgia a little bit, us a little bit. You go through those. The teams with those magical seasons are staying healthy. We were able to do that last year. We didn’t have much depth, but we stayed healthy. That’s half the battle, and that’s hard in this league. There’s got to be some luck involved in there, especially on our side. If you look at the West, it’s every week.
This season was all about the offense in the SEC. A lot of good quarterbacks, a lot of good offenses. Do you see the power shifting back to the defense next season?
Snyder: I would think so. Things are cyclical, there’s no doubt. LSU lost a lot of people on defense. We lost some people, and we were already young, playing with a bunch of freshmen -- Todd [Grantham] was playing with a bunch of freshmen at Georgia -- against some really good quarterbacks. A lot of those guys are moving on now, and it’s not just the quarterbacks. There are going to be some tailbacks, some offensive linemen, just offense in general. And then you’re going to see some of the teams I just mentioned not lose anybody (on defense) and continue to grow up. I will be surprised if you didn’t see better defensive numbers come next year from a bunch of us.
- Auburn AD responds to Sports Illustrated story about Texas being Gus Malzahn's dream job.
- Should Malzahn or Missouri's Gary Pinkel be SEC coach of the year? Discuss!
- Mizzou and Auburn have to regroup from huge wins last week.
- Texas president Bill Powers on Thursday tried to quash the rumors about the Horns going after Nick Saban, saying, "We don't have an opening."
- Alabama DB tweets that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played the Iron Bowl with a torn meniscus that he said needed surgery this week.
- LSU dismisses freshman RB Jeryl Brazil.
- Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin, who was just named Missouri's Chancellor-elect, takes a look back on the Aggies' move to the SEC and the Kevin Sumlin hire.
- Two years ago, Missouri RB Henry Josey tore up his knee. His comeback typifies the Tigers' season.
- What did we learn in the SEC this season? The West is no longer just Bama and LSU.
- Gamecocks fans are campaigning for an AT&T Cotton Bowl berth.
- The TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl has emerged as an option for LSU.
- Scanning bowl projections for Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
- A report in the Columbus (Miss.) Dispatch claims the Bulldogs, who finished the year with a 6-6 record, have a deal to go to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. ... That would drop 8-4 Vanderbilt to the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4.
- Narrowing the field in the search for Florida's next offensive coordinator.
- Former UGA standout Tim Worley believes Todd Gurley is "right there with Herschel Walker."
- Bret Bielema and his staff are meticulous about recruiting. His message to prospects: "We came here to win the SEC."
- Top UK quarterback recruit clarifies that he didn't drive Mark Stoops' Mercedes. Well, OK then.
The 6-foot-3, 178-pound receiver is the second receiver in the Aggies' 2014 class, joining Lufkin (Texas) High School receiver Jamal Jeffery. Tyler Junior College associate head coach Ryan Muhon confirmed the news of Reynolds' commitment to ESPN.com.
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Once again we're presented with a tale – a parable, really – involving men who demand loyalty, devotion and persistence from others while displaying none themselves.
Steve Sarkisian left his job as coach of Washington on Monday to take the same job at USC. No big deal, right? It's the way the game is played. It's unfortunate but inevitable. It's a business, and this is how business gets done.
Ed Orgeron left his job as interim coach of USC on Monday because Sarkisian was given the permanent job. No big deal, right? Coach O was 6-2 as a head coach. He brought the Trojans back to relevance after the firing of Lane Kiffin. He was bypassed by athletic director Pat Haden despite the vocal support of his players, so it only makes sense that he would go somewhere else to soak his hurt feelings.
This kind of thing happens every December. Why fight it?
But consider this: A hypothetical Washington Huskies' player, recruited by Sarkisian under the assumption that he would get four years of his coaching, might be sitting in his dorm room thinking about transferring to follow his coach. He can do that, of course, providing he's willing and able to sit out the mandatory Pac 12 "academic year-in-residence" -- euphemisms, arise! -- during which he is not eligible to receive an athletic scholarship.