SEC West strong in AP top 25

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
3:30
PM ET


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SEC Now hosts DariNowkhah and Maria Taylor break down the 6 SEC West teams in the AP top 25

SEC Heisman watch: Week 4

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
1:00
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Todd Gurley needed just six carries on Saturday.

Georgia's game with Troy was over before Gurley suited up, but the coaching staff wanted him to at least sweat in his uniform, so he touched the ball six times and ended up with 73 yards, including a pretty 48-yard run, on just two drives.

With that, your Heisman Trophy favorite from the SEC has 402 rushing yards with four touchdowns in three games and is averaging 9.8 yards per carry.

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
AP Photo/Brynn AndersonAmari Cooper put on quite a show against Florida.
We know what Gurley can do, so today we'll focus on someone whom I had on my ESPN.com Heisman ballot after Week 2: Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.

All he's doing is leading the nation with 43 receptions and 655 yards. He's tied for first in the SEC with five receiving touchdowns.

Stats are great to look at, but you know what's even prettier? That grown-man performance in Tuscaloosa against Florida's defense. Now, let's not kid ourselves and think this is the same ol' elite Florida defense the league has grown accustomed to, but this defense has arguably the nation's best cornerback in Vernon Hargreaves. Cooper faced his toughest test yet and might have had his best performance of the season.

What exactly did this magnificent football specimen do in front of the entire country? Well, how about 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns, including a 79-yarder in which Florida's defense somehow lost him. Florida tried different ways to contain Cooper and failed more often than not. Hargreaves did what he could, and it wasn't enough. Just check out that fade to the end zone where Cooper mossed Hargreaves, who couldn't have been in better position, for a touchdown.

At this rate, there's no way Cooper won't be traveling to New York for the Heisman ceremony in December. The kid is too good, too talented and is on pace to get far too many catches (129), yards (1,965) and touchdowns (15) not to party in the city that never sleeps in early December.

Cooper has yet to be held under 130 yards receiving this season and has just started his run of embarrassing defenses.

Godspeed, SEC West secondaries. Godspeed.

Here are four other SEC players to keep an eye on in our Heisman watch:

  • Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M: He finally showed that he's human by throwing his first interception of the season in a blowout win over SMU, but still leads the SEC with 1,359 passing yards and has 13 touchdown passes.
  • Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: What a performance on the road and at night in Tiger Stadium. Prescott was the force to be reckoned with Saturday, not that environment, as he registered 373 total yards and three touchdowns. This was the signature win Prescott needed to vault himself into real Heisman contender talk. He has thrown for 964 yards and is fifth in the SEC with 378 rushing yards. He has 14 total touchdowns on the season.
  • Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas: Collins had only 79 rushing yards and was held out of the end zone in the Hogs' route of Northern Illinois, but like Gurley, his team didn't really need much out of him. Collins leads the SEC with 490 rushing yards and has five touchdowns.
  • Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State: Who? Oh, how about the bowling ball who rammed his way through LSU's defense for 197 yards and a touchdown. He stands just 5 feet 9 inches, and short folks need love, too. He's second in the SEC with 485 rushing yards and is averaging 7.8 yards per carry.

Cadet lauded for protecting mascot

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
12:43
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- A member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets who threw a block to protect the school's canine mascot from an out-of-bounds SMU player will get his $1,300 senior boots for free.

Sophomore Ryan Kreider deflected Mustangs receiver Der'rikk Thompson away from the dog, Reveille VIII, during Texas A&M's 58-6 win Saturday. Kreider said Monday he was just doing his job to protect the 8-year-old collie.

Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez Jr., the commandant of the Corps, was watching the game on TV when he saw Kreider's action. He later offered to pay for Kreider's custom-made boots, a footwear tradition for Aggie seniors.

Albert Caudillo owns Victor's Shoe & Boot Repair in Bryan. He said Tuesday the average cost for the boots, with tax, is $1,326.


(Read full post)


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Heather Dinich looks at who she thinks should be in the playoffs after four weeks of the season.

Drive Through: Heisman Race

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
12:00
PM ET


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A quarter of the season is in the books. Who are the leading candidates for the Heisman? Prim Siripipat and Adam Rittenberg look at the field of candidates.
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If you tilt your head ever so slightly toward the city of Birmingham, Alabama, you might be able to hear the light, yet almost sinister, cackle of Mike Slive, his fingertips rippling toward one another as the word "excellent" slithers through his teeth.

What has the SEC commissioner so happy? Well, just take a look at the most recent top 25 and all the chaos erupting around him in college football. The SEC leads all conferences with eight representatives in the top 25. Four of those teams are ranked inside the top 10: Alabama (three), Auburn (five), Texas A&M (six) and Ole Miss (10).

So can the SEC realistically get two teams into the College Football Playoff?

For now, that answer has to be yes. While the rest of the Power 5 conferences -- ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 -- have lost steam or suffered losses to start the year, the SEC is sitting very pretty in the national rankings. It also helps that five of the SEC's eight ranked teams are unbeaten.

That's not going to last, as all five of those teams, which are in the SEC Western Division, will face each other in a bloody round-robin in the coming weeks.

Hello, strength of schedule!

Oh, what's that? The SEC faced soft nonconference opponents to start the season? Well, not so fast, my SEC-hating friend. The league has a 5-2 record against nonconference Power 5 opponents and is 3-1 vs. the top 25.

  • Alabama beat West Virginia, which held tight with No. 4 Oklahoma on Saturday.
  • LSU roared back from a 24-7 deficit to beat Wisconsin.
  • Auburn went on the road to Kansas State and won with its passing game ... and maybe some knowledge of the Wildcats' signals.
  • Georgia thumped a Clemson team that took No. 1 Florida State -- sans Jameis Winston -- to overtime, thanks to Clemsoning to the max!*
  • Arkansas is still running over and through Texas Tech after a 49-28 drubbing of the Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas.
*Only true home win.

To put that in comparison with, oh, let's just say the Big Ten, the SEC is light years ahead. Through the first three weeks, the Big Ten went 23-13, including 1-10 against the Power 5 and 0-8 against the FPI Top 50.

[+] EnlargeGarrett
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsMyles Garrett (15) and the Aggies are just one of four SEC West teams in the AP Top 10.
The FPI (Football Power Index) measures team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance going forward for the rest of the season. Its top four teams are in the SEC: Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn and Georgia.

With the exception of the Big 12, the other Power 5 conferences really haven't done themselves any favors. Florida State has survived two games it could have easily lost, while suspected darling Virginia Tech went from beating Ohio State in Week 2 to promptly losing to ECU and Georgia Tech. USC upset Stanford on the road then lost 37-31 to -- wait for it -- Boston College.

The SEC has received plenty of help from the other conferences, and I think it's very safe to assume the SEC champion is getting into the playoff, regardless, but here are some scenarios that could put two SEC teams in the playoff:

The wild, wild West
Before we go on, check out these notes provided by ESPN Stats & Information about the SEC West:

  • The SEC West is 22-0 outside the West, winning by an average of 34 points.
  • All seven West teams rank in the top 20 of the FPI, which is more teams than the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC combined.
  • Six West teams are ranked in the top 20 of the AP Poll. Arkansas isn't, but has won its last three games by 41.7 points per game.

Strength of schedule isn't going to be a problem for the West champ. For as tough as the West is, don't rule out an undefeated run or a one-loss run. We've seen it before ...

Let's just say an undefeated Alabama beats an undefeated Texas A&M close at home on Oct. 18. Alabama runs the table and wins the SEC. A&M runs the table afterward and sits in the top 10. Chances are that if A&M has just one loss, it has won some pretty good games, so you're looking at a potential top-five finish.

Alabama is in and with the other conferences in such disarray, it'd be tough to keep an A&M team out that would have (according to current rankings) five wins over ranked opponents.

Swap these two out for any West teams and it works, even Arkansas.

The LEast
The East isn't close to what its Western counterpart is this season, but that doesn't mean that an Eastern representative can't make it in. The easiest way is for the champ to win in Atlanta.

But look at Georgia for a possible two-team appearance. Let's say that South Carolina and Georgia run the table and South Carolina loses in Atlanta. Georgia, which lost only to South Carolina and is ahead of the Gamecocks in the polls, has a good shot at making it in with the West champ.

If both of these teams win out and South Carolina wins the SEC, I dare you to keep Georgia out.

Atlanta upset
You have an undefeated West champ upset by the East champ. The East champ is in, and after everything that West team did to make it through the gantlet, how do you keep that team out? Even if the East champ has two losses, I don't see how the committee could keep the West champ out based on body of work alone.

Hey, these are all hypotheticals, but they aren't impossible. The SEC got two teams into the BCS national title game in 2011 and almost got two in 2012.

Based on past BCS standings to determine a four-team playoff, the SEC would have gotten two teams in five times since 2005.

Don't count out the SEC.

College football's top 10 QBs

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
10:00
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Week 4 provided yet another reminder of the wonderful uncertainty and unpredictability of the college game.

And suffice to say, the drama tends to center on the guys taking the snaps. Shortcomings at quarterback have leveled the playing field among Power 5 and Group of 5 programs, and several breakout performers on under-the-radar teams have emerged to steal the spotlight.

So as we pass the season's one-quarter mark, my updated list of the top 10 quarterbacks in college football will reflect all of the upheaval, from the emergence of Kenny "Trill" Hill to the unfortunate decisions of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

While current productivity remains at the forefront of my thought process when compiling this list, each passer's NFL projection is equally important.

With that in mind ... Seeeet. Hut.


1. Marcus Mariota | Class: Jr. | Oregon Ducks

College production: 9.5
NFL skills: 10
Preseason rank: 2

SEC morning links

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
8:00
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1. The SEC is all over the Top 25 this week, but let's just come right out and say it -- there's no dominant team. Oh, a few of the West's best will have their chances to make a case, but right now there isn't a team without some warts. Take Texas A&M for instance. The Aggie offense with Kenny Trill pulling the trigger is a nightmare to game plan against. But A&M's defense is scary, too, and not in a good way. This unit was the worst in the SEC last season in total defense and run defense. Sure, the Aggies have improved since then. Maybe a lot. But who have they played for us to be sure? Aside from the season-opening ambush of South Carolina (a game in which the Gamecocks piled up 433 yards), A&M has played Lamar, Rice and SMU. Kevin Sumlin and Co. would be wise to not overlook the Razorbacks. Since their loss to Auburn in Week 1, the Hogs have averaged 58 points of offense in winning their last three. Their SEC-best rushing attack has the potential to give Texas A&M some nightmares as well.

2. Despite the roller coaster the Gamecocks have already been on in the season's first month of games (you can just see it on Steve Spurrier's face), it should be noted that South Carolina leads the SEC East. Does anybody want to win this division? Maybe we'll get an answer on Saturday when Missouri visits USC. Spurrier isn't sounding too confident after the way his team looked against what had been a dreadful Vanderbilt team. On the other hand, Mizzou is banged up. Starting left guard and fifth-year senior Anthony Gatti tore his ACL and MCL in the Tigers' loss to Indiana. And second-leading receiver Darius White will be out with a strained groin. This one isn't exactly shaping up to be the epic battle for East supremacy that some thought it could be a month ago.

3. ESPN's "College GameDay" is headed to Columbia, South Carolina. Not to be outdone, the other big game in the SEC East -- Tennessee at Georgia -- will be the site of the SEC Network's pregame show "SEC Nation". The Vols have something to prove and will hit the road with a much-improved defense. UT is sixth in the SEC in total defense, giving up 343 yards a game. That should give Tennessee some hope in preparing to face Georgia's star running back Todd Gurley and his SEC freshman of the week understudy, Sony Michel. The Bulldogs are also short-handed with Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley among the injured. The biggest challenge for Tennessee, however, is likely to come on the other side of the ball. Georgia has an intimidating pass rush, and the Vols O-line has given up an SEC-worst nine sacks already this seasons. Buckle up.

Around the SEC
  • LSU's stunning pratfall in Saturday's home loss to Mississippi State will prompt some changes. Most notably, the QB battle is back on.
  • Mississippi State center Dillon Day, accused of stomping on two LSU players, wrote a letter to Bulldogs fans to defend himself. Day has some history, though. He was suspended for a half last year after he stomped on an Auburn player.
  • File this under "Oh, they're friends now." Arkansas coach Bret Bielema to Gus Malzahn after Auburn's win at Kansas State: "Some of you may faint. I shot Gus a congrats text and just said, 'Hey I know how tough that place is. Congrats.' "
  • Will Muschamp has fallen off the hot seat and directly into the fire. Here are some ideas for fixing Florida.
Tweet of the day

DALLAS — One of the most asked questions by Texas A&M fans after the Aggies' 38-10 win over Rice on Sept. 13 surrounded the health of true freshman receiver Speedy Noil. When a five-star recruit who comes in with the kind of hype and expectation that Noil did gets injured, the concern is understandable.

Noil, who was carted off the sideline during the Rice game, missed the Aggies’ most recent victory -- a 58-6 rout of SMU -- because of an undisclosed injury and his status for Texas A&M’s upcoming game against Arkansas isn’t yet publicly known. But if Saturday’s game was any evidence, he can take all the time he needs.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Tabuyo
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsSophomore receiver Jeremy Tabuyo, No. 19, had a breakout game for Texas A&M last Saturday.
The Aggies have plenty of receiver depth.

Without their starting “X” receiver, the Aggies were just fine in the passing game as seven different receivers (and one running back) caught passes in the win and a few lesser-known names stepped into the spotlight. Case in point: Jeremy Tabuyo.

The true sophomore from Hawaii made the most of his opportunity, catching two passes and turning them into catch-and-run touchdowns, evading SMU tacklers to the tune of a 30-yard score and a 50-yard score. They were the first two touchdowns of his career.

“It was pretty big for me, just to get my confidence level up,” Tabuyo said Saturday. “Today was a good day for me.”

Boone Niederhofer, a walk-on receiver who won a spot in the two-deep during preseason training camp, also had a solid day against the Mustangs, catching six passes for 73 yards. Only senior Malcome Kennedy (six catches, 73 yards) had as many catches as Niederhofer last Saturday.

That’s life in the Aggie receiving corps these days. Starting quarterback Kenny Hill is not discriminatory when distributing the football and it showed from his first start of the season, when he connected with 12 different players -- eight receivers, one tight end and three running backs. A dozen receivers and tight ends have recorded at least one catch this season.

“Our receiver position is good but we play all of them,” coach Kevin Sumlin said Saturday. “They like playing. Just like running back. Our guys understand that to play the way we play, in an uptempo style and try to get as many plays as we can, those guys are running like crazy. So we have to be eight deep to play games. I think right now we're pretty close to that.”

Kennedy leads the team with 30 catches this season, but after him no other Aggie has more than 16 receptions. Six Texas A&M receivers (Kennedy, Noil, Niederhofer, Joshua Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones and Edward Pope) all have double-digit catches this year.

So the Aggies’ quest to going eight deep at the receiver position is closer to coming to fruition. They continue to recruit the position at a high level (the decommitment of 2015 ESPN 300 prospect Damarkus Lodge notwithstanding) and if they continue to haul in talent at the pace they have in recent recruiting classes, the Aggie quarterbacks will continue to enjoy the numerous options afforded them.

Does anybody have more wide receivers in the country to throw to than Hill? When the question was posed to him Saturday, Hill took a deep breath, allowed a sly smile to emerge and answered definitively.

“No,” Hill said. “Nobody in the country has more receivers than we do.”
video

Everything will be better with a playoff, right? With no clear-cut top teams and just four spots in the playoff, Gene Wojciechowski explains the playoff selection committee has their work cut out for them.
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With four teams in the top 10, the SEC West is dominating the college football landscape early in the season. Following Mississippi State's win over LSU, we look at where the Tigers now fall in the race and who the frontrunner in the division is.

SEC morning links

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
8:00
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1. Missouri is still reeling from its surprising home loss to Indiana, a middling Big Ten team. Let that sink in for a minute. The Tigers were favored by 14 or 15 points in most spreads. And lost. For a team that was starting to look like a strong contender in the East Division, it was a shocking upset. Mizzou's worst loss in years. There is no panacea on the horizon. Up next is a road trip to South Carolina, which has ongoing problems of its own after barely escaping Nashville with a win against the Dores. As one would expect, Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier threw around some choice adjectives. The word embarrassing came up a lot. After giving up two kickoff returns for touchdowns, Spurrier announced on Sunday that he will be the Gamecocks' new assistant kickoff coverage coach. That oughta fix it. College GameDay will be in Columbia, S.C., this weekend, which prompted yet more Spurrier being Spurrier:

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2. There wasn't much to learn about Georgia in its 66-0 win against Troy. Or was there? We already knew Todd Gurley was one of the nation's finest players. He hardly broke a sweat on Saturday with six carries for 73 yards, but Georgia hasn't had to overwork Gurley, and still his 9.8 yards per carry leads the FBS. We knew the Bulldogs had some talented youngsters, but who knew true freshmen Sony Michel and Isaiah McKenzie were ready to completely overshadow another injury to former five-star running back Keith Marshall? It seems the only question surrounding Georgia is wither the passing game, fellas? Georgia welcomes Tennessee this weekend along with the chance to see if Hutson Mason needs to do anything other than hand off. For their part, the Vols enjoyed a perfectly timed bye week after three nonconference games and can now go about the business of clawing their way back to SEC relevance.

3. That sound of laughter you're hearing off in the distance? It's Lane Kiffin basking in the afterglow of Alabama's 42-21 smackdown of the Gators. His offense so thoroughly dominated Florida's defense, the Gators set a record for the most yards allowed in school history. Dating to his time as head coach at Tennessee, that kind of performance against the hated Gators was something Kiffin could only dream about. On Saturday, his quarterback threw for 445 yards -- second only to Scott Hunter's 484 in Alabama history -- and his money wide receiver was the clear winner in a much-anticipated matchup with one of the best cover cornerbacks in college football. Today, receiver Amari Cooper is a legitimate Heisman candidate. We suspected he might be the best wideout in the country, but there is now a totally different perception of quarterback Blake Sims (who deflected some of the praise to Kiffin, by the way). If Alabama's offense can keep up this kind of balance and ruthless efficiency, the only sound we'll be hearing will be the chattering teeth of defensive coordinators.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

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SEC bowl projections: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
8:00
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Alabama reinforced its position as a College Football Playoff contender by obliterating Florida on Saturday, while Mississippi State and Georgia also jumped in this week’s SEC bowl projections.

We’re also adding a 12th team -- Arkansas -- to the list after the Razorbacks crushed Northern Illinois to improve to 3-1. Arkansas has an awfully difficult schedule down the stretch, but we will give Bret Bielema's club the benefit of the doubt for now and project it to reach at least six wins.

Here is our full SEC list entering the fifth week of the season:

College Football Playoff semifinal (Rose Bowl): Alabama
Orange Bowl: Texas A&M
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Auburn
Capital One Bowl: Georgia
TaxSlayer Bowl: South Carolina
Outback Bowl: Mississippi State
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Ole Miss
Belk Bowl: Missouri
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Tennessee
Birmingham Bowl: Arkansas
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Florida

SEC Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
2:00
PM ET
It was a wild week in the SEC. Mississippi State dominated in Death Valley and then had to hold on as Les Miles and LSU tried to cook up another miracle. Alabama shook off some sloppy play early to outclass Florida in Tuscaloosa. And Missouri suffered a shocking home loss to an Indiana team coming off a loss to Bowling Green.

Edward Aschoff, Jeff Barlis, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.

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SEC West strong in AP top 25
SEC Now hosts DariNowkhah and Maria Taylor break down the 6 SEC West teams in the AP top 25
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