AutoZone Liberty Bowl primer: West Virginia vs. Texas A&M

December, 24, 2014
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One week into the season, expectations soared for Texas A&M after the Aggies destroyed South Carolina on the road. That result, however, proved to be a bit of a mirage, as the Aggies struggled through the heart of their SEC schedule.

In Morgantown, expectations also ballooned after the Mountaineers knocked off fourth-ranked Baylor on Oct. 18. But two weeks later with ESPN "College GameDay" in the house, West Virginia couldn't hold on to a nine-point fourth quarter lead against TCU, which ignited a three-game November losing streak for the Mountaineers.

Still, in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, both teams have the chance to finish their roller-coaster seasons with an eighth win and on a high note heading into 2015.

Below, SEC reporter Sam Kahn Jr. and Big 12 reporter Jake Trotter break down this Memphis matchup:

[+] EnlargeKevin White
AP Photo/Chris JacksonReceiver Kevin White has been the catalyst for West Virginia's offense this season.
How West Virginia can control the game: Getting All-American wideout Kevin White going early and often is key for the Mountaineers. As White goes, so go the Mountaineers. During White’s amazing seven-game 100-yard receiving streak to begin the season, the Mountaineers claimed one of the top offenses in the country. But late in the season, as White cooled off, so did the West Virginia offense, prompting the Mountaineers to drop three of their final four games. The Aggies are hardly effective defending the pass, with the SEC’s 12th-ranked pass defense. So West Virginia should be able to get White the ball in the opening quarter. That in turn should open up the rest of the offensive attack. -- Trotter

How Texas A&M can control the game: Getting off to a fast start is important for the Aggies. This season, when the Aggies have led after the first quarter, they are 5-1; when they’ve trailed after a quarter, they are 0-3. A team with young players at many key positions, particularly quarterback, the Aggies feed off the confidence of having a lead. Beyond that, though it’s known as a pass-happy offense, getting the running game going is critical for Texas A&M. In the Aggies’ seven wins, they averaged 182.8 rushing yards; in their five losses, they averaged only 86.8. Having success in the run game gives the Aggies some semblance of balance offensively and opens things up for quarterback Kyle Allen and his group of receivers to attack all areas of the field. -- Kahn

West Virginia's X factor: After suffering a concussion against Kansas State on Nov. 18, quarterback Clint Trickett is finally expected to play again in the bowl. Still, it remains unclear whether he will start, how much he will play and how effective he can be coming off the head injury. Trickett struggled late in the year before the concussion, but he was also a major reason why the Mountaineers were so successful during the first half of the season. If he can get back to that level when he was among the nation’s leaders in completion percentage, West Virginia will be tough to beat. But if Trickett is ineffective or can’t reclaim his early-season accuracy, the Mountaineers could be in trouble. – Trotter

Texas A&M's X factor: Run defense. The Aggies were been atrocious in this area in their final three games, allowing a whopping 360.6 rushing yards per game. They are 111th nationally and last in the SEC in rush defense, and though West Virginia throws it quite a bit, coach Dana Holgorsen won’t hesitate to run the football (the Mountaineers gained 195 or more rushing yards in four of their final five games this season). The Aggies moved true freshmen Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker into the starting lineup late in the season and saw linebacker play improve, but Walker will miss the Liberty Bowl with an injury, meaning someone like Shaan Washington will have to step up. If the Aggies can’t stop the run, they won’t be able to stop the Mountaineers, period.-- Kahn

What a win would mean for the Mountaineers: All in all, the Mountaineers have already exceeded preseason expectations. Given last season’s struggles and a brutal schedule, just getting to a bowl game seemed like it would be a stretch for this team. But after the surprisingly fast start to conference play, followed by the disappointing three losses in November, this season has a slight sour taste to it for West Virginia fans. A season-ending win against Texas A&M, however, would remove most of that bitterness while giving the program a boost going into the offseason. -- Trotter

What a win would mean for the Aggies: Ending the season on a positive note would be huge for Texas A&M, given how turbulent this season was. The season went sideways after 5-0 start, and there has been plenty of angst from fans in Aggieland as coach Kevin Sumlin has sought out, but has yet to hire, a defensive coordinator and lost out on two key defensive recruits in the process. Sumlin must also find new offensive line and receiver coaches, and next season is shaping up to be a critical one in College Station, as fans are looking for results from three consecutive top-10 recruiting classes as well as the investment of $500 million in football facilities upgrades and $5 million a year to Sumlin. Texas A&M needs to begin taking real, tangible steps toward SEC West and SEC title contention starting next season, and a win in the Liberty Bowl against a good West Virginia team would be a nice springboard into 2015.-- Kahn

SEC rivalries that need to happen

December, 23, 2014
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With the Allstate Sugar Bowl rekindling a great coaching rivalry in Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer, it got me to thinking (shocker, I know): There are some SEC rivalries that I'd love to see take off in the near future.

What Saban and Meyer did -- and what Saban keeps doing -- in the SEC has changed the landscape of the league. And even though they met just three times in the SEC, we all wanted to watch when they did. So why not have a few games that we all get hyped up for when they come around?

I came up with five games that I want to see turn into or turn back into great rivalries to get your popcorn ready for. Of course, scheduling hurts most of these games, but maybe the right people will hear me out ...

Have a few of your own rivalries you want to see in the SEC? List them below!

1. Alabama vs. Florida: Remember when these two just couldn't stop playing each other in the SEC championship games in the 90s? Remember the Meyer-Saban days? Now, there's another ex-Saban assistant -- Jim McElwain -- coaching the Gators, and a chance of redemption in Gainesville. Saban and Alabama are the class of the SEC, just like Florida was in the 90s. Having these guys good at the same time and playing against each other, more often than not, is good for the league.

2. Arkansas vs. Auburn: OK, so these two play every year, but, man, amping up the Gus Malzahn-Bret Bielema storyline would be great. They've both exchanged words with each other, there's been controversy, and they are both the antithesis of each other when it comes to offensive philosophies. This game has the chance to be fun for everyone who cares anything concerned with SEC football. The quiet Malzahn vs. the brash Bielema is too good not to be on everyone's radar each year.

3. Georgia vs. LSU: The Tigers hold a 16-13-1 series lead over Georgia, and that 44-41 Georgia win in 2013 was one for the ages. These two are two of the best in their respective divisions, and should play a lot more than they do, but with the new scheduling format, we have to wait and wait. I mean who wouldn't want to see the laid back Mark Richt in his signature sunglasses taking on the Mad Hatter more? Two very different, yet very successful coaching styles meeting more often just needs to happen.

4. Ole Miss vs. Tennessee: These two went back-and-forth in the 1970s, but Tennessee has dominated the series. However, with Hugh Freeze at the helm in Oxford, this has the chance to be a fun little rivalry to keep an eye on. Why? Well, Freeze coached in the state of Tennessee for more than a decade and can recruit in Butch Jones' backyard when needed. The two played in a lopsided Ole Miss win this year, but with Tennessee trending up with its young talent, these two could have much more competitive games in the future.

5. Missouri vs. Texas A&M: I mean, they were together in the Big 12, and it only makes sense that they ignite those old bitter feelings for each other. Honestly, this game should be played every year because of that. You have two very impressive coaching résumés and two schools that entered the SEC poking their own chests out at the SEC elite. It's been great, so let's get them back on the schedule!

Honorable mention

Auburn vs. Florida: This was one of the great rivalries in the league before it was basically discontinued in 2003. There have been classics in the past and the 2000s brought us some nail-biters in this game, as well. It was sad for both fan bases when this game got cut from both schools' regular schedules, but now Will Muschamp is at Auburn, so hopefully these two can meet while he's still on the Plains.
Of the Power 5 conferences, the only remaining head-coaching vacancies are at Michigan and Pitt. But don't underestimate how important coordinator hires can be for the future of a program.

After all, it was a year ago that TCU’s Gary Patterson hired Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to run an up-tempo offense in Fort Worth -- and it nearly resulted in a playoff berth. Another: Lane Kiffin’s addition to the Alabama staff worked out better than many imagined. The Tide is favored to win the initial playoff.

Here’s an update on many of the Power 5 coordinator vacancies. I didn’t include Baylor or Ohio State’s offensive coordinator positions, since the Bears will likely promote Kendal Briles and OSU will elevate Ed Warinner. That still leaves attractive offensive assistant jobs open at both schools, however.

Florida offensive coordinator
Florida AD Jeremy Foley hired Jim McElwain because of his background as an OC
In the 100 days leading up to signing day 2015, RecruitingNation will looking back at our ESPN recruiting rankings from 2006 to the present and count down the best player of the past 10 years at each ranking position, No. 100 to No. 1.

Michael Goodson, No. 45 in 2006 class

Goodson came out of Klein Collins High in the Houston area as a battle between Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and USC. After being committed to the Cowboys for six months, he backed out on his verbal and came down to the Aggies and Trojans with the close to home Aggies winning out.

Goodson was expected to be an impact player in College Station and was just that as a freshman. In 2006, the speedy back took home Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors after rushing for nearly 850 yards and four touchdowns along with 17 receptions for 113 yards.

Goodson posted another solid, but unspectacular season as a sophomore 2007 finishing with 711 yards for the 7-6 Aggies. He added 36 receptions for 361 yards and four scores.

Goodson’s last season at Texas A&M would prove to be his least productive as a runner with 406 yards, but continued to flash his all-around ability to the tune of 37 receptions for 386 yards out of the backfield. The leading receiver that season for the Aggies was future first round quarterback selection Ryan Tannehill.

Goodson entered the NFL draft following his junior season. He was selected in the fourth round, No. 111-overall, byt the Carolina Panthers.

Honorable mention: DeAngelo Tyson, No. 45 in 2008 class, Malcolm Mitchell, No. 45 in 2011 class and O.J. Howard, No. 45 in 2013 class. Tyson played at Georgia and is now in the NFL, while Mitchell is currently at Georgia and has a chance to be drafted following the 2015 season. Howard, a sophomore tight end at Alabama, has the opportunity to be selected high in the NFL draft in the next two seasons.
We asked college football fans what recruits they want under the Christmas tree for their favorite school. Here are the best answers in this special Christmas edition of the Early Offer. The Early Offer will return next week from the Under Armour Game practices in Orlando, Florida.

video Malik Jefferson's commitment could alter recruiting landscape in Texas, says one Big 12 coach. Plus, where do the Power 5 conferences stack up when it comes to ESPN 300 commitments.

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Section of Kyle Field imploded

December, 21, 2014
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The west side of Texas A&M University's Kyle Field has been imploded as part of football stadium improvements.

The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports that about 5,000 cheering spectators watched the Sunday morning implosion from a nearby parking lot. Police say another 2,000 were scattered across campus.

The updated west side of the Aggie stadium will include new suites and premium areas for fans, the Hall of Champions and upgraded TV broadcast facilities.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said during a ceremony before the implosion that another $35 million in donations have been collected for the project, which now tops $485 million.

The redevelopment is expected to be finished in time for the 2015 football season, pushing Kyle Field seating capacity above 102,500.


(Read full post)


On Friday shortly after noon, following the 8 a.m. commitment of ESPN 300 No. 35 Malik Jefferson to Texas over Texas A&M, No. 15 and five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack sent another shock wave in the Lone Star state decommitting from Texas A&M in what would turn out to be a Friday to forget for Aggie fans.

Just minutes ago, Mack followed through on his Friday tweet, releasing his top two teams.


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Daylon Mack decommits from A&M

December, 19, 2014
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Hours after the commitment of No. 35-ranked Malik Jefferson to the Texas Longhorns over Texas A&M and UCLA, the Aggies seemingly have lost their top defensive commitment in the class.

Five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, No. 15 in the ESPN 300 and a friend of Jefferson's, announced on Twitter that he has decommitted from Texas A&M.

Mack took an official visit to TCU on Oct. 24 and an unofficial one to LSU on Nov. 8, and the Under Armour All-American announced via Twitter on Saturday they are his top two schools.

Mack has been a dominant performer at Gladewater (Texas) High, racking up 241 tackles, 89 tackles for loss and 20 sacks the past three seasons.


(Read full post)


It might be time for Texas A&M to retire -- at least for a few days -- the hashtag Aggies often used on social media this year in relation to recruiting: #WRTS.

“We Run This State”? Not today.

Texas won a critical head-to-head recruiting battle over Texas A&M on Friday morning when a pair of Mesquite (Texas) Poteet High teammates, ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson and four-star athlete DeAndre McNeal, announced that they’re Austin-bound.

[+] EnlargeMalik Jefferson
Max Olson/ESPNNot having a defensive coordinator put A&M at a disadvantage is the race to woo Malik Jefferson.
It’s impossible to win them all, but this was one Kevin Sumlin and his staff needed to win.

Jefferson, the No. 35 player in the country, was a priority recruit for the Aggies, while landing McNeal -- who would have likely projected to receiver, a talent-rich position at A&M -- would have been a bonus. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jefferson was the one that Sumlin and linebackers coach Mark Hagen have spent nearly two years developing a relationship with and pinning their hopes on as a game-changer at a position of need: linebacker.

The Aggies offered Jefferson a scholarship 632 days ago. Over that time, as Texas A&M’s defense struggled and Jefferson’s profile rose, the need to land him increased. What’s worse for A&M is that the Aggies seemed in prime position to do so only to lose momentum in the final days of the recruitment for myriad reasons, but none more glaring than the fact that Sumlin has yet to hire a defensive coordinator to replace Mark Snyder, whom he fired on Nov. 28. Jefferson stated as much in talking about the final weeks of his recruitment.

The famed maroon helicopter Sumlin once touted as “undefeated”? No more.

Sumlin took said helicopter to Rockwall, Texas, to watch Jefferson and McNeal on Sept. 25 when they played Rockwall-Heath High. It was that night that he became sold enough on McNeal to later offer the versatile, 6-foot-2, 200-pound prospect and at the time, it seemed to be a safe bet that Jefferson was leaning toward A&M.

The Aggies were quietly confident they’d land Jefferson after his official visit to Texas A&M the weekend of their Nov. 15 loss to Missouri, which Jefferson attended. The nation's third-ranked outside linebacker was wowed during his time there. He also was impressed on visits to Texas and UCLA, but ultimately, Sumlin was confident.

Sumlin’s pitch to Jefferson? He’s the missing piece the Aggies need on defense to pair with star-in-the-making freshman defensive end Myles Garrett. The need for quality linebacker depth was clear when Texas A&M’s two true freshmen starters at the position -- Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker -- suffered injuries in that loss. That night, the Aggies promptly saw their run defense go to hell in a handbasket, as the Tigers rolled up 202 rushing yards in the third quarter alone with Alaka and Walker sidelined en route to a 34-27 Missouri win. A&M made the decision midseason to move Alaka and Walker into starting linebacker spots after ineffectiveness from their predecessors in the season’s first half.

The Aggies struggled getting (or keeping) quality linebackers on campus since Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart graduated after the 2012 season. In their 2013 recruiting class, they seemed to find a future star in Darian Claiborne, but dismissed him from the team after multiple arrests. Injuries affected 2013 recruits Shaan Washington and A.J. Hilliard this season and other linebacker prospects from that class either played sparingly or haven't been effective.

The 2014 linebacker haul included Alaka and Walker, but ESPN 300 linebacker Hoza Scott -- once ranked the No. 1 outside linebacker in the nation -- was a nonqualifier and thus wasn't signed, never made it to campus and the Aggies weren’t able to land other ESPN 300 linebackers they targeted in the class like Kenny Young or Zach Whitley Jr. Add Jefferson to the list of “what ifs” should he stick with Texas until classes begin in January, as he is a midyear enrollee.

Jefferson would have been a key piece to the defensive puzzle, one the Aggies sorely needed. Could a splash defensive coordinator make enough of a difference to flip Jefferson? Possible, but unlikely. Jefferson took great time and care in this decision and it will be difficult to reverse, especially with his family's support in him choosing Texas.


The lack of a defensive coordinator was key here, but regardless of recruiting, Sumlin has to get that hire right. After two seasons of atrocious defense and a sixth-place finish in the SEC West this season, the pressure is on to get someone who will produce elite results and help the Aggies turn into contenders in the nation’s most talked-about conference. Sumlin and the Aggies are about to enter Year 4 in the SEC and it’s time to see results of the recruiting the Aggies have been talking about producing.

The Aggies still have a top-10 recruiting class (they’re ranked sixth in the ESPN Class Rankings currently) and there are still big targets on the board that they’re strongly in the mix for, like five-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield. But with the news of ESPN 300 defensive tackle Daylon Mack's decommitment breaking mere hours after Jefferson's decision, it's clear Texas A&M has to finish strong.

No matter the reasoning, two days after landing the nation's No. 30 player, ESPN 300 receiver Christian Kirk and three junior college prospects, Friday goes down as a loss for the Aggies and a win for the Longhorns. Sumlin said Thursday that missing a defensive coordinator or receivers coach hadn’t affected recruiting yet.

On Friday, it did.

The Longhorns ran the state on Friday morning. The Aggies have work to do in the final seven weeks of the 2014 recruiting cycle.

Texas A&M season review

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
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Texas A&M had a hot start (5-0) and a not-so-hot ending (losing five of their final seven) to wind up 7-5. It was a year of change, for sure, with a midseason quarterback switch, shuffling at key positions such as linebacker, receiver and offensive line and a defensive coordinator firing at the end of the season. There is plenty to digest before the Aggies meet West Virginia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 29 to close out 2014. Let us look back at the regular season:

Best win: When the Aggies traveled to Auburn on Nov. 8, they did so as 23-point underdogs, with few convinced they could leave Jordan-Hare Stadium with a victory. They had barely beaten Louisiana-Monroe at home the previous week and that came after an ugly, three-game losing streak. Freshman quarterback Kyle Allen was on fire early, the Aggies blocked a field goal return and returned it for a touchdown to end the first half and hung on in the second half for a 41-38 victory. It required some good fortune (two lost Auburn fumbles in the final three minutes and three overall) but it served as the signature win for Texas A&M this season.

Worst loss: Texas A&M’s first road game at Alabama in 2012 was the stuff dreams are made of for the Aggies; this year it was an unequivocal nightmare. The Aggies were whipped six ways to Sunday by the Crimson Tide, 59-0. Texas A&M was never competitive in the game. The Aggies allowed 602 yards, only managed 172 yards itself and it was the program’s worst loss since the 77-0 defeat at the hands of Oklahoma in 2003. It was a jarring loss -- it prompted personnel changes soon after and began raising questions about where exactly this program was headed, three years into SEC membership.

Player of year: Myles Garrett. It’s strange to see a true freshman in this spot, but he was the team’s best player this season in terms of production. He led the Aggies with 11 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and was a second-team All-SEC selection. Even when he wasn’t sacking quarterbacks, he was wreaking havoc (ask Auburn’s Shon Coleman) and Garrett’s presence was missed when he sat out the Missouri game because of a concussion. He had nine quarterback hurries, a blocked kick that was huge in the victory over Auburn, a pass breakup and 50 total tackles.

Breakout player: Josh Reynolds was one of the least-heralded recruits in the Aggies’ 2014 recruiting class, but he turned out to be a gamer. The former Tyler (Texas) Junior College player tied the school’s single-season record for touchdown receptions with 12, led the team with 762 receiving yards and was second on the team in catches with 47. A player few were talking about coming into the season -- much of the preseason hype at receiver centered around Ricky Seals-Jones, Speedy Noil andMalcome Kennedy -- turned out to be one of the most productive for Texas A&M in 2014.

Play of year: It's Garrett's blocked field goal against Auburn, which Deshazor Everett returned for a key touchdown in the Aggies’ upset of Auburn. But the most “wow-worthy" play has to be the one Noil made in the Aggies’ loss at Mississippi State. In a ridiculous display of athleticism, Noil leaped to catch the ball near the sideline over a defender, got two feet down while falling out of bounds and made sure to reach over the goal line. The true freshman showed why he was a five-star recruit.

video 2015 outlook: This season was one of growing pains; next season is one the Aggies must take a big step forward. They’ll return most of their starting skill-position players on offense and most of the front seven on defense. Allen, who ended the regular season as the starting quarterback, should be better with some experience under his belt (so should Kenny Hill, if by chance he returns to the starting job) and how the defense performs will hinge on who is in charge of it, as Kevin Sumlin has yet to hire a defensive coordinator to replace Mark Snyder. The schedule starts with a big game early (against Arizona State at Houston’s NRG Stadium) but it’s favorable because the Aggies don’t have to leave the state until October. With another top-10 recruiting class on the way, the Aggies should show improvement.

SEC bowl predictions

December, 19, 2014
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Bowl season is almost upon us. Alabama's still playing for a national title, while plenty of other SEC teams still have lots to prove. So let's get right to the picks.

Duck Commander Independence Bowl
December 27, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Why Miami wins: My question is: How motivated will this South Carolina team be? The same can be said for Miami, but the Hurricanes have Duke Johnson, arguably the best player on the field. Miami is 6-1 when it rushes for more than 125 yards. Don’t be surprised if Johnson reaches that number on his own. Miami 34, South Carolina 24 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why South Carolina wins: So the Gamecocks have one of the SEC’s worst defenses and let Clemson walk over them to end the season? Steve Spurrier and his crew are getting a few weeks to regroup and forget such a bad regular season. Plus, Miami lost five of its six games by 10 or more points, so just do the math. South Carolina 27, Miami 24 -- Edward Aschoff

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
December 29, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why West Virginia wins: Call me crazy, but I don't see bowl practice yielding a dramatic turnaround for Texas A&M. While I expect Kyle Allen and the offense to be fine, I don't know how that defense gets any better -- especially without a coordinator in place. In the end, Dana Holgorsen and Clint Trickett light up the Aggies' secondary and win. West Virginia 45, Texas A&M 35 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Texas A&M wins: Texas A&M was hard to figure this season. The Aggies were all over the place, pretty good one game and pretty bad the next. West Virginia likes to play hurry-up offense the way Texas A&M does, so get ready for a shootout. The Aggies still haven't proved that they're ready for prime time defensively, but will score enough points in this one that it won't matter. Texas A&M 45, West Virginia 38 -- Chris Low

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
December 29, 9 p.m., ESPN

Why Arkansas wins big: Which team led the SEC in points allowed per game for the month of November? Alabama? Ole Miss? Missouri? None of the above. It was the Razorbacks, who allowed an FBS-best 9.5 points per game. I just can’t see Tyrone Swoopes and the Longhorns bucking that trend in this one. Arkansas 28, Texas 10 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why Texas keeps it close: This is a matchup of two teams that played better down the stretch. Texas won four of its last six games to reach bowl eligibility and played some decent defense along the way. I’m still going with Arkansas because of the way the Hogs finished the season, but I think Texas will make it interesting. Arkansas 21, Texas 14 -- David Ching

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
December 30, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why LSU wins big: Notre Dame has quarterback issues and LSU has a secondary that is one of the best nationally at defending the pass. If Leonard Fournette & Co. can run the ball the way they did on Thanksgiving against Texas A&M against Notre Dame's banged-up D, the Tigers should be able to cruise to a win. LSU 27, Notre Dame 17 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Why Notre Dame keeps it close: With the exception of Kentucky, LSU hasn’t blown out a Power 5 team all season. This team simply is not built for that. As bad as Notre Dame’s defense has played down the stretch -- and they have been bad -- the Fighting Irish will hang around. If only LSU had a quarterback. LSU 24, Notre Dame 21 -- Greg Ostendorf

Belk Bowl
December 30, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why Louisville wins: Oh, the fun we’ll have with Todd Grantham facing his old team. Both Grantham and Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo want a shot at each other, which means this one will be back-and-forth and plenty fun. Something tells me Bobby Petrino’s offense proves to be too much in the fourth, and a late Georgia turnover seals it. Louisville 27, Georgia 23 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Georgia wins: Sure, Todd Grantham knows this team well, but Mark Richt knows Grantham well, too. And if Georgia blocks up front as well as it has and Nick Chubb runs like he has been running, that's not easy to defend. The Bulldogs average 41 points per game for a reason; I suspect they're headed that way again. Georgia 41, Louisville 31 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
December 31, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why TCU wins big: TCU hasn’t seen anything like Ole Miss’ defense, which leads the nation by allowing 13.8 points per game. But I don’t think the Rebels will be able to shut down (or keep up with) Trevone Boykin and an explosive TCU offense that averages 46.8 ppg. Not without injured receiver Laquon Treadwell. TCU 40, Ole Miss 24 -- David Ching

Why Ole Miss keeps it close: The popular storyline for the Peach Bowl is TCU's high-powered offense versus Ole Miss' talented Landshark defense. But let's not forget about Bo Wallace and the Rebels' offense. Even without Laquon Treadwell, I expect Ole Miss to put up enough points to make it a ballgame. TCU 42, Ole Miss 38 -- Alex Scarborough

Capital One Orange Bowl
December 31, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why Georgia Tech wins: Georgia Tech's option offense is never a lot of fun to prepare for. The Bulldogs have had some extra time to get ready during the bowl practices, but will be without defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, who left to take the Florida defensive coordinator job. The Yellow Jackets were an offensive machine the last month of the season, and that won't change in Miami. Georgia Tech 31, Mississippi State 30 -- Chris Low

Why Mississippi State wins: Generally when opponents have time to practice for Georgia Tech’s option offense, they fare well. Paul Johnson is 1-5 in bowl games since arriving at Tech in 2008. Although they’ll have to function without defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, the Bulldogs will still get the job done. Mississippi State 28, Georgia Tech 21 -- David Ching

Outback Bowl
January 1, Noon ET, ESPN2

Why Auburn wins big: Wisconsin's strength is running the ball. While Auburn's defense leaves much to be desired, that's one area where they're decent, ranking 46th nationally in rushing yardage allowed. And though Barry Alvarez is a Hall of Fame coach, I'll take Gus Malzahn over someone coaching his second game in eight years. Auburn 45, Wisconsin 28 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Why Wisconsin keeps it close: Something tells me Melvin Gordon is going to go out with a bang. And, frankly, nothing I've seen from Auburn makes me believe it will be able to stop him. While the Tigers ultimately should win, Gordon and the Badgers will have enough success running the football to keep things close. Auburn 35, Wisconsin 30 -- Alex Scarborough

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
January 1, 1 p.m. ET, ABC

Why Missouri wins big: Forget the SEC championship game; there's still something about Missouri. Like last season, the Tigers continued to find ways to win. And when they lost in Atlanta in 2013, they went out and beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. I expect more of the same this time around. Missouri 24, Minnesota 14 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Minnesota keeps it close: Weird things always happen during bowl season, and while Minnesota doesn’t exactly wow me, I think this game will be much closer than it should be. The Tigers still have an offense that can drag, while the Gophers are trying to win their first bowl game since 2004, which incidentally came against another SEC team (Alabama). I have a feeling this one will hurt our eyes at times. Missouri 23, Minnesota 21 -- Edward Aschoff

Allstate Sugar Bowl
College Football Playoff semifinal
January 1, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why Alabama wins big: The last thing we remember is Ohio State blowing out Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, and Cardale Jones doing his best Troy Smith impersonation. I’m not sold. I think the young quarterback struggles against this stout Alabama defense. And good luck shutting out the Crimson Tide. That’s not happening with Lane Kiffin calling plays. Alabama has too many playmakers. Alabama 31, Ohio State 7 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why Ohio State keeps it close: The Buckeyes didn't get here by being an average team. This is a really good team. Urban Meyer knows what to expect from a Saban-coached team thanks to his days in the SEC. Cardale Jones showed he can throw the ball well, and that's one thing Alabama had trouble defending in the Iron Bowl. Alabama 31, Ohio State 24 -- Sam Khan Jr.

TaxSlayer Bowl
January 2, 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why Tennessee wins: On one sideline, you have Tennessee, which won three of its last four games to reach bowl eligibility for the first time in years. On the other side, Iowa lost three of its last four. Iowa is better than its record, but I’m putting some faith in Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs. Tennessee 23, Iowa 21 -- David Ching

Why Iowa wins: Butch Jones really appears to have Tennessee moving in the right direction. The Vols probably could -- and should -- have won a couple more games in 2014, but that's why Jones is building. And while there’s absolutely nothing flashy about anything that Iowa does on offense, I think the grinding nature of the Hawkeyes will eventually wear Tennessee’s line down. Expect a couple of costly turnovers from the Vols as well. Iowa 21, Tennessee 17 -- Edward Aschoff

Birmingham Bowl
January 3, Noon ET, ESPN

Why Florida wins: East Carolina is great at throwing the ball -- the Pirates are second nationally with 367.3 passing yards per game -- but Florida is equipped to defend that style of offense pretty effectively. It’s hard to know what to expect from a team playing with an interim coach, but I’ll give the Gators a slight edge. Florida 17, East Carolina 14 -- David Ching

Why East Carolina wins: The big question in this one: How genuinely excited is Florida to be in this game? East Carolina, on the other hand, would love to take home an SEC pelt and has the kind of high-scoring offense that could give the Gators' smothering defense trouble. Better days are ahead for Florida's program, but this won't be one of them. East Carolina 27, Florida 21 -- Chris Low

Standings
Greg Ostendorf: 89-23
Edward Aschoff: 87-25
David Ching: 86-26
Chris Low: 86-26
Sam Khan Jr.: 84-28
Alex Scarborough: 83-29

SEC morning links

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
8:00
AM ET
1. After freshman running back Jalen Hurd was arrested by citation for underage drinking earlier this month, Tennessee coach Butch Jones said that Hurd was disciplined internally. According to a police report, police found a car with its lights on in a university dorm parking garage with an unconscious male inside. The man wasn't identified. It was a dumb mistake by a young player, and it sounds like Jones and his staff have or will take care of the up-and-coming standout for the Vols. Whether he'll miss any time in the Taxslayer Bowl against Iowa in Jacksonville, Florida, is unknown, but Jones did say that Hurd's arrest won't affect his status with the team.

2. Ole Miss will say goodbye to one of the school's most accomplished quarterbacks after the Rebels' Peach Bowl clash with No. 6 TCU in Atlanta on New Year's Eve. That quarterback is Bo Wallace, who as embattled as he has been has a chance to pass Eli Manning on the all-time wins list at Ole Miss, and he could be the first quarterback in school history to start and win three bowl games. That means that the Rebels will break in a new quarterback in 2015. You have three relatively inexperienced and inconsistent quarterbacks in Ryan Buchanan, DeVante Kincade and Jeremy Liggins. They'll all compete for that starting spot this spring, but they now have solid competition coming in junior college national champion Chad Kelly, who started his career at Clemson. The arrival of Kelly has ignited a little bit of a fire under those young quarterbacks during bowl prep week. Competition breeds excellence, right?

3. Texas A&M is still looking for a new defensive coordinator and will also be looking for a new offensive line coach. Coach Kevin Sumlin announced Thursday that offensive line coach B.J. Anderson won't return and won’t coach against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 29. A line that was mostly dominant through the first two years of the Aggies' move to the SEC fell off considerably in 2014. Not having as talented a quarterback as Johnny Manziel under center didn't help, but the Aggies gave up 25 sacks and 61 tackles for loss. Also, don't forget that wide receivers coach David Beaty took the head-coaching job at Kansas. That leaves three openings for Sumlin to fill, but he said he's closer to making a decision on his next defensive coordinator and that the process has "picked up speed." So let the rumors fly! At least we know Will Muschamp won't be taking his talent to College Station ... well, not as wearing Aggies colors.

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Section Of Kyle Field Imploded For Renovations
The west side of Texas A&M's Kyle Field has been imploded as part of football stadium improvements that will push seating capacity above 102,500.
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SEC SCOREBOARD

Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12