SEC Week 14 predictions

November, 26, 2014
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After a quiet Week 13, the SEC closes out the 2014 regular season with a flourish. It starts with LSU vs. Texas A&M tomorrow and is followed by at least two rivalry games -- the Iron Bowl and Egg Bowl -- with playoff implications. Meanwhile, can Florida send Will Muschamp off with a huge upset of Florida State? Can Missouri win another East division crown? And will Arkansas ever lose again? Let's get on with the picks:

Why LSU wins: The game coming in College Station, Texas, worries me. So does that shutout at Arkansas two weeks ago. But in the end, I believe in John Chavis and the LSU defense. I think he's got Texas A&M's number. Without a strong inside running game, I expect the burden to fall on Kyle Allen's shoulders, and that's good news for an opportunistic LSU secondary. LSU 24, Texas A&M 20 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Texas A&M wins: Did you know Les Miles has never lost three straight games in his nine seasons at LSU? Crazy, right? Knowing that, the safe pick is the Tigers. But I simply don't trust this LSU offense. I haven't all season and I'm not about to now. Meanwhile, I think Texas A&M has too much firepower on offense, especially when you give Kevin Sumlin an extra couple of days to prepare. Texas A&M 27, LSU 24 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why Alabama wins big: Maybe if Auburn receiver Duke Williams plays -- and it sounds like he will -- Auburn can keep this thing competitive. But it's difficult to imagine this struggling team going into Tuscaloosa and finding a way to win. Not with a defense that seems to have regressed over the course of the season. With Auburn's offense slowing down a bit, too, it seems like Alabama will win comfortably. Alabama 38, Auburn 17 -- David Ching

Why Auburn keeps it close: It's the Iron Bowl. Just because Auburn hasn't played so hot recently doesn't mean we should expect the Tigers to roll over and play dead. Expect Auburn to put up a strong fight in hopes of spoiling the Tide's season. Alabama 28, Auburn 24 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Why Mississippi State wins big: One team won 51-0, the other lost 30-0. So it seems fairly obvious which is headed in the right direction. Ole Miss still seems to be reeling from the Auburn loss and the Laquon Treadwell injury, while Mississippi State has bounced back and has the look of a team still playing for a future. Mississippi State 35, Ole Miss 17 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Ole Miss keeps it close: This is the Egg Bowl. For as beaten down as Ole Miss is -- physically and mentally -- the Rebels will be fired up to ruin the Bulldogs' season. Bo Wallace is ready to erase the images of #Wallacing, and Hugh Freeze wants the Egg back in Oxford. Both quarterbacks will turn it over, but Mississippi State's power run game will be the difference. Mississippi State 27, Ole Miss 24 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Florida State wins big: Florida should have the emotional edge entering the game, wanting to send its coach out on the right note. But that's a short-term proposition. On the road in Tallahassee, Florida State might have to weather an early storm, but I expect the Noles to take control of the game late and run away for a double-digit lead before the fourth quarter ever begins. Florida State 40, Florida 14 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Florida keeps it close: Florida has nothing to lose in this one. This is Muschamp's last game with the Gators, and those players want to send him out on their shoulders, a la Ron Zook in 2004. Florida's running game will keep FSU's defense in check, but Jameis Winston will prove to be the difference late, yet again. Florida State 24, Florida 21 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Arkansas wins: While watching Missouri's last couple of games, it became apparent that running east and west against the Tigers is not a recipe for success. But north and south? Ask Georgia how that works. If Missouri can stop Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and Arkansas' downhill running game, it will win -- especially if Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen is unable to play. Gary Pinkel deserves a ton of credit for dragging a mediocre team to another SEC East title if the Tigers win. Arkansas 30, Missouri 27 -- David Ching

Why Missouri wins: This was easily the toughest game to pick. Arkansas is another team with nothing to lose and no pressure, while EVERYTHING is on the line and there's a mountain of pressure for Mizzou. Arkansas is hot and Mizzou has forgotten how to lose. It doesn't matter who I picked in this one, I'll probably be wrong, but I'm going to assume Mizzou takes advantage of being at home this time. Missouri 20, Arkansas 17 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Georgia wins big: No offense to Georgia Tech, but if nobody in the SEC has been able to slow down Georgia this season, I don't see an ACC team doing it. The Bulldogs lead the conference, averaging 43.3 points per game, and they've done it primarily without star running back Todd Gurley. I expect another big day from his replacement Nick Chubb and this offense against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 28 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why Georgia Tech keeps it close: The frustration of having beaten Georgia just once over the past 13 seasons is without question a motivator for Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets are also playing their best football of the season -- and they can run the ball. Did you see Georgia's run defense against Florida? Georgia has too much firepower on offense to drop this one at home and has played better on defense the past few weeks, but Georgia Tech will keep it close with its option attack that gives everybody fits. Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 27 -- Chris Low

Why South Carolina wins: To be clear, I think Clemson has the better team here. I've thought that other times in the past five years, too, and South Carolina still won by double digits every time. Even home-field advantage hasn't helped the Tigers, as Steve Spurrier is 3-1 in Death Valley since taking over as the Gamecocks' coach in 2005. Until Dabo Swinney shakes his Spurrier curse, I'm riding with the HBC. South Carolina 31, Clemson 20 -- David Ching

Why Clemson wins: If the Tigers are going to end their losing streak to South Carolina, this is the team to do it against. South Carolina's defense has been its Achilles' heel all season and though it has had two good performances of late, they came against Florida and South Alabama. The health of Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is key here for the Tigers. Clemson 34, South Carolina 31 -- Sam Khan Jr.

More unanimous picks:

Louisville over Kentucky: This year's Governor's Cup features two teams trending in opposite directions. The Wildcats have lost five straight while their in-state rival has won three of its last four. Louisville 31, Kentucky 14

Tennessee over Vanderbilt: Tennessee's motto the "Power of One" has become the "Power of Six'" as in six wins and bowl eligibility. That's the goal now for the Volunteers. A win and they play in a bowl game. That's motivation enough. Tennessee 31, Vanderbilt 10

Standings
Greg Ostendorf 84-18
Edward Aschoff 81-21
David Ching 80-22
Chris Low 80-22
Sam Khan Jr. 76-26
Alex Scarborough 76-26
On the day her son was set to make the biggest decision of his life, Lechelle Noil was nervous.

Speedy Noil -- only his mom and a few others close to him call him by his given name, Devante -- was a five-star prospect from New Orleans Edna Karr and was about to choose between Texas A&M and hometown LSU on national television at the 2014 Under Armour All-America game. Noil’s grandmother, Monica, made a joke that summed up what many were feeling.

“'If he doesn't pick LSU, I'm going to pass out,” Lechelle recalls Monica saying. “I had to tell her, 'No, you're not.'”

Lechelle waited until the absolute last moment to reveal to family that her son, the No. 7 player in the 2014 class, bypassed the home-state powerhouse in favor of SEC West foe Texas A&M. At that point, she had no choice but inform family in hopes of avoiding a YouTube recruiting moment on national television a la Landon Collins.

“We felt a lot of pressure family-wise,” Lechelle said. “We had people in our family that said, 'It would be wrong if you don't go [to LSU].'”

More than 10 months later, Noil prepares to face the school he spurned for the first time when Texas A&M hosts LSU on Thanksgiving night at Kyle Field.

* * *

[+] EnlargeSpeedy Noil
Sam Khan Jr./ESPNSpeedy Noil turned heads with this spectacular one-handed grab in his first practice with the Aggies.
Noil, who’s enjoying a solid freshman season for the Aggies, is the type of player who is difficult for out-of-state schools to pull from Louisiana. LSU keeps almost all of the top-level Louisiana talent in state.

"It was one-in-a-million for a kid like Devante to leave, to pass up playing for the home state,” said Louisiana Tech running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, who was Karr’s head coach through Noil’s junior season. “It certainly wasn't anything that LSU did not do. I thought they did an outstanding job of recruiting them.”

“I look at him every now and then and say, 'I can't believe he is here,'” Texas A&M receivers coach David Beaty said in February. “He was so unattainable. But with Kevin [Sumlin], I've learned that there's nothing unattainable.”

LSU first offered Noil a scholarship as a sophomore. Growing up in Orleans Parish, he earned his nickname from dominating youth leagues at Cut-Off Park.

Sumlin and his staff overcame not only the natural pull LSU has over home-state prospects but also a family tie to the LSU coaching staff.

Lechelle noted that some schools stopped recruiting Noil when they discovered his cousin was LSU running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson.

“It made some of the other coaches back away from him because they were like, 'It doesn't make no sense to go after him if he has his cousin as the recruiting coach [at LSU],” she said.

Texas A&M didn’t back off. Sumlin, Beaty and then-defensive backs coach Marcel Yates [now at Boise State], who was the recruiter assigned to Louisiana, pressed on.

* * *

Noil zeroed in on five schools: Florida, LSU, Oregon, Texas A&M and USC. LSU was always a factor, but the Aggies, with Sumlin, SEC membership, their high-powered spread offense, Johnny Manziel and a Heisman Trophy, held a certain appeal to Noil.

The Aggies’ presence in the SEC can’t be overstated.

“Kids down this way, they respect SEC football,” said Karr coach Nathaniel Jones, who was Noil’s head coach his senior season. “Other than that, everything else is secondary. If it's not SEC, it's secondary football as far as the college ranks are concerned.”

His official visit to Texas A&M -- the weekend of the Aggies’ 2013 showdown with Alabama -- blew him away, according to his mother. (Like all freshmen at Texas A&M, Noil is prohibited from speaking to the media by Sumlin.) He received ample one-on-one time with the coaching staff, including Sumlin. The Aggies laid out a clear, detailed plan on where they envisioned him fitting in on the field and on the depth chart.

Another critical factor was the fact the Aggies signed one of his Karr teammates, Noel Ellis, in the 2013 class. Ellis served as his official visit host and gave Noil the comfort of having someone he trusted nearby.

“The official visit pretty much showed him that A&M gave him the opportunity that yes, A&M may be the best choice for him,” Noil’s mother said.

The visit went so well that Noil told his mom a month later he wanted to go to Texas A&M. Concerned he was rushing into the decision, she encouraged him to take more time.

He never took officials to Florida, USC or Oregon. That left LSU and his official visit in December 2013, which didn’t go quite like he hoped.

[+] EnlargeKevin Sumlin
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesKevin Sumlin didn't give up in his pursuit of Speedy Noil and pulled a huge recruiting upset.
“The main thing Speedy stressed to everybody was that he didn't want to do an official visit [to LSU] with a lot of people,” Lechelle said. “But for LSU, I think the mistake was we did it with all their top recruiting players and we didn't have enough time. We had a limited time with Les Miles. We didn't even have much of a sit down with the offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron. The wide receivers coach, whatever I threw at him, he pretty much agreed with. He didn't have the depth chart laid out, nothing. [Speedy] paid attention to that.”

* * *

When decision day arrived, Noil called his mom’s hotel room before the game. He needed either a hat or the gloves of the school he was going to choose.

“Tell me again, have you changed your mind?” Lechelle asked.

Noil told her he was sticking with the Aggies.

Since his arrival in College Station, Texas, Noil earned numerous fans. His confidence was clear from the first day of spring practice, donning a No. 2 jersey mere months after Manziel finished wearing it (Noil wore No. 2 at Karr High also) and catching a one-handed pass during his first Aggies’ practice. In 10 games, Noil leads the team with 1,225 all-purpose yards and has made his mark as both a receiver (513 yards, four touchdowns) and a returner (25 yards per kickoff return, 13.6 yards per punt return).

Noil is not yet where he wants to be as a player or where the Aggies expect him to be in time. Sumlin said Noil is still learning to run routes and read coverages since most of his prep career was spent behind center, not at receiver.

"He's an explosive player in the return game, but he's got to continue to improve as a route-runner and when that happens, it'll be something exciting to see," Sumlin said.

So far, things have worked out well. While he might not be wearing the colors some hoped he would, they’ve been supportive of him and his success in Aggieland.

“A lot of family didn't like it, but once they saw him doing what he's doing at A&M, they said, 'I think that was the best fit for him,’” Lechelle Noil said. “’He made a great decision.'”

Noil is definitely anticipating Thursday’s game, according to his position coach.

“He is quiet by nature, but I can see that he is focused,” Beaty said. “He always wants to play well but I know this is a big game for him personally. He just wants to contribute and get the W.”

With a world of talent, the future is bright for Noil. Friends and family might have long thought that future was at LSU, but the Aggies turned out to be the right fit.

“I think it happened to be the perfect storm,” Jones said. “You have Kevin Sumlin, phenomenal coach, proven, making waves in the SEC. Another big factor is that Texas A&M went to the SEC. Having a teammate there already, having a system there already, Johnny Manziel, Heisman Trophy, it was just a perfect storm that came together at the right time. All things worked out for him. That played a big factor in him choosing Texas A&M.”

SEC bowl projections: Week 13

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

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

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

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

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

College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
College Football Playoff semifinal (Sugar Bowl): Mississippi State
Capital One Orange Bowl: Georgia
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Auburn
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Ole Miss
TaxSlayer Bowl: Florida
Outback Bowl: Missouri
AdvoCare 100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Tennessee
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: LSU
Belk Bowl: South Carolina
Birmingham Bowl: Arkansas

A Burning Tradition

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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Survivors of the Texas A&M University Bonfire collapse relive the moments of that fateful day that killed 12 and injured 27 in November 1999, and they share their thoughts on the current students carrying on the tradition off the university's campus.

Student Bonfire Burns On

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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Current Texas A&M University students working on the nonuniversity-sanctioned Student Bonfire discuss the importance of carrying on the Bonfire tradition.
Whether recruits are attending games this holiday weekend or watching on television, all eyes around the recruiting world will be focused on several rivalry games. From the Iron Bowl to the Egg Bowl there will be recruiting implications throughout the conference this weekend. Here’s a closer look at how these game might affect the top remaining recruits.

Early Offer: Malik Jefferson's final 7 

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

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Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin addressed the media about the Aggies' Thanksgiving game against LSU.
John ChavisDerick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsJohn Chavis' defense has stymied the Aggies for the past two seasons.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Since joining the SEC, Texas A&M enjoyed victory against every team in the SEC West -- except one.

LSU.

The Tigers were the thorn in the Aggies' side the last two seasons and Les Miles' bunch is the one team that one could say truly has Texas A&M's number so far. The Aggies' next opportunity to flip the script comes Thanksgiving night when they host LSU at Kyle Field.

The reasons LSU ruled the Aggies are numerous, but it starts with the Tigers' defense. LSU had answers for whatever the Aggies threw at them, including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. In 2012, LSU held Texas A&M to its second-fewest offensive yards in a game (410) that season. Only Florida, who squared off against the Aggies' in Manziel's college debut, were better. But the Tigers had three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and sacked Manziel three times in a 24-19 victory.

In 2013, a physically beat-up Manziel led the Aggies into Death Valley and the offense sputtered, posting a season-low 299 yards and only 10 points in a 24-point loss.

"We talked about that a little bit," Texas A&M center Ben Compton said. "It's been bugging us the past couple years that they've gotten the best of us the last two years. They played hard and kicked our butt the last two years. We hope to be able to change some of that."

Texas A&M featured one of the nation's top offenses the last two seasons and the Aggies led the SEC in scoring offense and yards per game both seasons. So what did LSU do to quiet the A&M attack? Look no further than the talent on the roster and its utilization by "The Chief," LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis.

"I think it's just our talent and the 'Mustang' package that Chief has come with over at LSU," Tigers' defensive back Jalen Mills said. "It's been run ever since, and that helps a lot."

LSU's Mustang package is basically a dime formation with three defensive linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs. The Tigers use the defense against teams that spread it out like Texas A&M and given LSU's defensive talent and speed, Chavis' bunch has experienced much success with it.

This season, LSU leads the SEC in pass-efficiency defense (97.57) and passing yards allowed (164). They're second nationally in the former category, sixth in the latter. That bodes well against a Texas A&M team that is 10th in passing yards per game (first in the SEC) and is 13th nationally in pass attempts (452).

"They've been very effective," Sumlin said of the LSU defense. "They've been athletic, had some different people on the field, they've done a nice job. [Chavis] has done a nice job this year too.

"John Chavis' record stands for itself defensively and he's as good as there is in the country."

The challenge will be different this year for LSU. The Tigers were charged with corralling Manziel, but since he's gone, the Aggies now have a true freshman behind center: Kyle Allen. The four-star recruit will make his fourth career start on Thursday and the Tigers know to expect a more patient pocket passer than the player they faced the last two years.

"He's not Johnny Manziel with all the scrambling," Mills said. "He's a dual-threat guy, but he's not doing as much running around as Johnny did. You really see him sitting in there and trying to fling it, so with that, you have to play a little more coverage and just play all the routes down the field."

The Tigers aren't underestimating Allen, though.

"You say a true freshman, when we talked about Johnny Manziel, he was considered a freshman and he came in and won the Heisman," Mills said. "So you can't go in a game thinking a guy, 'Oh he's a freshman' and you have to try to wait on his mistakes. You have to go in and play your football."

In order to win, the Aggies will have to solve Chavis, the Mustang package and perform better offensively than they did the last two seasons. They're aware of it.

"Great defense," Texas A&M senior receiver Malcome Kennedy said. "I've watched them play a few times and I know they have one of the top passing defenses and they have a great secondary. All those guys are pretty athletic, pretty physical... . We know we're going to have a task. They have a good front and we're going to have to run fast routes, do what we do as an offense, tempo-style."

SEC has been entertaining in 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go figure.

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

SEC Power Rankings: Week 13

November, 23, 2014
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Will Arkansas ever give up another point? For the second consecutive week, the surging Razorbacks shut out a Top 25 team, as they continue to move up the SEC Power Rankings. Outside of that, the day mostly held true to form, as most squads got ready for rivalry week by hosting FCS teams.

Edward Aschoff, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.
Head-coaching changes are on the way, certainly at Florida and likely at Michigan, but do not overlook key coordinator moves potentially on the horizon.

Which programs should make a hire, and which are the likeliest to do so?

Virginia Tech fits both. Those close to the program were unsure last month about offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s future, but failure to score in four quarters Saturday against Wake Forest is a death knell.

The Hokies lost 6-3 in double overtime to the Deacons, an inexcusable and improbable loss that drops them to 5-6. With only Virginia remaining, the rivalry game will determine whether the program’s streak of 21 consecutive bowl games will extend another year.

You’d think Loeffler would get a pass for the offense’s issues, given the magnitude of injuries and youth Virginia Tech has dealt with this fall. I’m told, however, that head coach Frank Beamer has concerns about the inconsistency of the play-calling and flow. Beamer has become more vocal in recent weeks and implored Loeffler to call more run plays and make the offense more digestible for all the young, inexperienced players forced into action.

In 24 games (13-11 record), Loeffler’s offense has averaged 4.94 yards per play. That’s 109th in the FBS. Last in that span? Wake Forest.

Beamer, embattled at this point, has to make a move for one final run at the ACC.

With a number of returning offensive players, including several returns from injuries, there are reasons for hope in 2015. Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer was serviceable before his injury. With a new offensive plan and consistency, the Hokies could give Beamer that rebound run.

Where would I start? Well, Kurt Roper is on the market, and Florida’s demise had very little to do with him. He might be more spread-oriented than recent machinations, but perhaps that divergent philosophy is what the Hokies need.

Knowing the division from his Duke days, he’d be an asset. Having spent some time around him, I think he’d be a snug cultural fit.

Here are a few other coordinator spots to monitor

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Latest Dish: Five things I learned

November, 21, 2014
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Here are five things I learned in college football this week:

1. Might Georgia Tech end up being the fly in the ointment in the race to the inaugural College Football Playoff?

The No. 18 Yellow Jackets (9-2, 6-2 ACC) have won four games in a row, and they captured the ACC's Coastal Division after Duke lost to North Carolina 45-20 on Thursday night. Georgia Tech will play No. 3 Florida State in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Dec. 6, and might end up being the last big obstacle for the Seminoles in their quest to reach the playoff.

[+] EnlargeJustin Thomas
Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesWith Duke's loss Thursday night, Justin Thomas and the Yellow Jackets won the Coastal and are slated to play FSU in the ACC championship game.
After Duke lost, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Proud to see hard work our team has put in all year pay off with Coastal title!! Lots of work to do next 2 weeks!!”

Before playing the Seminoles for the ACC title, the Yellow Jackets will play at No. 10 Georgia on Nov. 29. The Bulldogs are still trying to reach the SEC championship game, but need No. 20 Missouri to drop one of its two remaining SEC games (at Tennessee on Saturday or home against Arkansas on Nov. 28) to win the SEC East.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher might be happier if his team was playing the Blue Devils instead for the ACC championship. The Seminoles beat Duke 45-7 in the 2013 ACC title game, and Tech’s triple-option spread offense isn’t much fun to prepare for on short notice. FSU already has won the ACC's Atlantic Division title and hosts Boston College on Saturday and intrastate rival Florida next week.

Tech’s triple-option spread offense also can take a toll on an opponent’s defensive line because of its use of cut blocks. The Seminoles lost three defensive linemen -- Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and reserve Justin Shanks -- after they suffered lower-leg injuries in the first half of a 37-12 win over The Citadel on Sept. 6. The Citadel also runs the triple-option and uses cut blocks, which are designed to knock down defensive linemen by hitting them at the knees.

“Those guys that cut and chop like this, it’s crazy,” Fisher said after that game. “I’d rather play more conventional teams. Just because of the chance of injuries that occurred.”

Of course, Florida State, assuming it reaches the College Football Playoff, would have about a month to recover from playing Georgia Tech before its semifinal game.

2. FSU quarterback Jameis Winston's student conduct-code hearing is still scheduled for Dec. 2, and his attorney, David Cornwell, continues to plead his case on Twitter.

On Friday morning, Cornwell tweeted four times, apparently in response to the accuser’s attorney, John Clune, filing a legal brief to FSU officials. Under the school's student conduct code rules and procedures, Clune and Cornwell will be able to attend the hearing and counsel their clients, but won’t be allowed to speak on their clients’ behalf.

Winston and the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her in December 2012 will be required to present evidence, question witnesses, and answer questions posed by retired Florida State Supreme Court Chief Justice Major Harding, who will hear the case.

Under the rules and regulations in place, Winston isn’t required to answer any or all of Harding’s questions. Winston faces four potential student conduct code violations, including two related to sexual misconduct.

On Friday morning, Cornwell tweeted:

3. There seems to be a possibility that Texas and Texas A&M could meet in a postseason bowl game because of where they currently sit in their respective conference standings.

The rivalry was one of the biggest casualties in college football’s realignment, and the best chance for a meeting would be at the Dec. 29 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston.

Earlier this week, Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com reported that the Aggies and the SEC would block a postseason matchup against the Longhorns.

But Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said the SEC will determine the bowl lineup, and he insists the Aggies won’t try to duck the Longhorns. Under the SEC’s new bowl selection process, schools rank the available bowls, and bowls rank the available teams, in order of preference, and then the league slots its teams.

“Quite frankly, that’s a decision made by the conference,” Hyman told the Houston Chronicle. “The configuration is so different than it’s been in the past.

“It doesn’t matter if I speculate about playing this team or that team in a bowl. It’s out of our control . . . Wherever they tee us up, we’ll play.”

4. A Georgia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make it an aggravated misdemeanor to jeopardize the eligibility of a college student-athlete by providing him or her with illegal benefits.

Under the terms of House Bill 3, anyone who causes a student-athlete to lose his or her eligibility would face a potential $5,000 fine.

State Rep. Barry Fleming told the Athens Banner-Herald that he introduced the bill for consideration next year at the request of House Speaker David Ralston. In October, University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley was suspended four games for improperly accepting $3,000 to sign autographs.

“A 20-year-old in college is not a child, but that 20-year-old is [vulnerable], particularly if they are from a humble background, if someone waves hundred-dollar bills in front of his face,” Fleming told the Athens Banner-Herald.

The bill, if it passes, wouldn’t take effect until next year, so the memorabilia dealers who paid Gurley couldn’t be punished.

5. UCLA had to cancel Thursday night's bonfire at a pep rally.

The Bruins play USC on Saturday, but the annual rally was shut down by students protesting a proposed tuition hike at the school.

That didn’t stop UCLA coach Jim Mora from, uh, fanning the flames. (Warning: His language might not be suitable for all ages.)

SEC morning links

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
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Arkansas' continued progress has been interesting to see this season and one area they showed significant progress in is third-down success. Last season the Razorbacks were 54th nationally in offensive third-down success rate (41.7 percent) but this season, they're 10th (49.3 percent). That's a huge improvement and it was evident in their 17-0 win over LSU when the Hogs were 10-of-17 against the Tigers on third down, a team that usually stops teams on third down (the Tigers are second in the SEC allowing only a 33.1 percent third-down conversion rate to opponents).

Nobody's happy with the defensive performances this season at South Carolina, but the same can be said at other places around the conference, or the country for that matter. The Gamecocks aren't alone. Texas A&M has seen its fair share of struggles that has its defensive coordinator under the microscope. Auburn has had a rough go lately too, though Gus Malzahn showed support for Ellis Johnson. Still, fans want results and they haven't been good for the Gamecocks, who are last in the league in scoring defense (32.7 points per game).

Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs is the Volunteers' present and future at the position but his predecessor, Justin Worley celebrated his 22nd birthday on Thursday by sharing words with Tennessee fans in an open letter. Worley, whose senior season was cut short after he underwent surgery for a torn labrum earlier this month, shares plenty of candid words and vivid images of his time in Knoxville, which is pretty cool to see.

Around the SEC

Early Offer: Who will land Soso Jamabo? 

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
11:00
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Soso Jamabo loved visits to UCLA and Notre Dame, but is it too early to count out the Texas schools? Plus, NC State added a key pledge on Wednesday that should give the Wolfpack much-needed help on the offensive line.

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A Burning Tradition
Survivors of the Texas A&M University Bonfire collapse relive the moments of that fateful day that killed 12 and injured 27 in November 1999, and they share their thoughts on the current students carrying on the tradition off the university's campus.
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