Dallas Colleges: South Carolina Gamecocks

SEC bowl projections: Week 15

December, 7, 2014
12/07/14
11:04
AM CT
Today we finally get to put an end to the speculation, as college football's postseason picture will become clear this afternoon.

We knew the SEC would get one team into the inaugural College Football Playoff when Alabama beat Missouri on Saturday. Nailing down the destinations for the conference's other 11 bowl-eligible teams is much more difficult.

Here are our best guesses in the final hours before we will know for sure:

College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Mississippi State
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri
Outback Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: Texas A&M
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Arkansas
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU
Belk Bowl: Georgia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Tennessee
Birmingham Bowl: Florida
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: South Carolina

SEC morning links

December, 1, 2014
12/01/14
7:00
AM CT
1. The season of coaching changes is upon us. Florida's Will Muschamp is the only head coaching change in the conference so far, but there is coordinator turnover, with perhaps the most notable move coming Sunday when Auburn fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. So who is next for the Tigers? Al.com lists five possible candidates. The most intriguing name on that list is clearly Muschamp. He was a graduate assistant there in 1995-96 and defensive coordinator in 2006-07, and the idea of a partnership between himself and Gus Malzahn is enticing. Auburn won't be the only team vying for Muschamp, though; you can bet Texas A&M (who just fired defensive coordinator Mark Snyder) will take a swing at the former Florida coach, too.

2. Remember when Jacob Coker transferred to Alabama this offseason? It seemed like everybody who followed the Crimson Tide expected the former Florida State backup to walk in and take the starting job. Blake Sims, the ever-patient fifth-year senior, waited his turn behind AJ McCarron, battled Coker and the patience paid off. After throwing three interceptions that opened the door for Auburn to take the lead, Sims remained poised and finished strong with 312 passing yards and four touchdowns in the Crimson Tide's 55-44 Iron Bowl victory over Auburn. Throughout this season, Sims has earned Saban's confidence, and rightfully so. Sims and the Tide are a victory away from the College Football Playoff.

3. To the surprise of just about nobody, Missouri is a 14-point underdog heading into its SEC championship game matchup against Alabama. The Tigers (10-2), winners of six in a row, aren't going to be expected by many to beat Alabama. That seems to be OK by them. "“We love it,” sophomore linebacker Michael Scherer said. “We don’t want people to believe in us." The Tigers are of the mind that the more doubters they have, the bigger the proverbial chip on their shoulder will be heading into the game. This will be Missouri's second consecutive SEC East title game, so the Tigers have an idea of what to expect.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

SEC morning links

November, 5, 2014
11/05/14
7:00
AM CT
1. The new College Football Playoff rankings are out. Ole Miss dropped down to No. 11 after its loss to Auburn, but the SEC West still has three teams in the top 5. No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Auburn stayed in place, but Alabama moved up a spot to No. 5. Too high? Some might argue that TCU belongs ahead of the Tide, but as Brad Edwards explains, the committee used the eye test (In) when choosing between the two teams. Don’t worry. There’s still plenty of football left to be played. In fact, here’s a look at the top 10 remaining games that will have the most impact on the playoff. Not surprisingly, five of the 10 come from the SEC including Saturday’s tilt in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, between Alabama and LSU.

2. After Saturday’s loss to Florida, Georgia dropped to No. 20 in the latest playoff rankings. The good news, though, is that star running back Todd Gurley will be reinstated next weekend when the Bulldogs host Auburn. On Tuesday, UGA athletic director Greg McGarity made his first public comments since Gurley’s suspension and provided a detailed look into how the university handled the case. McGarity also said that Gurley never considered quitting the team to focus on his pro prospects. The All-SEC back will miss Saturday's game at Kentucky which means a heavy dose of freshman Nick Chubb. However, Mark Richt indicated that fellow freshman Sony Michel might be ready to return to the backfield against the Wildcats.

3. Tennessee might have found its quarterback of the future (I’ll get to that), but senior Justin Worley has played his final game as a Volunteer. The Week 1 starter got hurt a couple weeks ago at Ole Miss, and head coach Butch Jones announced Tuesday that Worley will miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum. He remained upbeat despite the news, tweeting his gratitude to the fans. A thumb injury cost Worley the last four games of last year, too. Now to the future and Joshua Dobbs. The sophomore lit up South Carolina this past Saturday, and some are already tabbing him as an emerging superstar in college football. That might be jumping the gun, but UT fans should certainly be excited about the kid.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

 

Watch: SEC plays of the week

November, 2, 2014
11/02/14
1:45
PM CT
Quite an interesting weekend in the SEC, with four games decided by one score and a surprising result in Jacksonville. There were plenty of great plays to make it all happen -- too many to list here -- but here are our picks for the top six plays involving SEC teams in Week 10.

Carson's long journey to 5 yards
Five-yard touchdown runs aren't usually the type you find on a highlight reel, but Texas A&M running back Tra Carson found a way to make his special by changing direction. Carson went right and when it was clear nothing was there, he went left, evaded a few tackles and dove in for one of the more impressive 5-yard runs we've seen.
video

Cooper does it all
It's always fun when a trick play works out well. South Carolina receiver Pharoh Cooper, who put in strong work in the Gamecocks' loss to Tennessee (233 receiving yards, 23 rushing yards, 30 passing yards and four total touchdowns) showed off his passing accuracy on this 30-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Wilds.
video

Hurd with a spin move
Tennessee put together quite an effort to come from behind and beat South Carolina on the road. Part of the comeback was powered by this 21-yard screen pass from Joshua Dobbs to Jalen Hurd, who made some nifty moves to avoid tackles and get into the end zone.
video

Big arm, big catch for Marshall, Coates
Auburn picked up a huge win over Ole Miss on Saturday night, and there were several dazzling plays, but perhaps none quite as spectacular as this one. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall scrambled away from pressure before heaving a 57-yard bomb (which in actuality traveled about 65 yards in the air) to Sammie Coates for a touchdown to square the game at 14-14 late in the first half.
video

A free play for six
Speedy Noil is no stranger to nice catches, as seen in this space earlier this season. This particular one was both difficult and clutch in timing. On fourth-and-1, the Aggies went for it, drew Louisiana-Monroe offside and quarterback Kyle Allen took advantage of the free play by heaving it deep to Noil, who was well defended but still used one hand to haul in the deflection for a 39-yard touchdown catch.
video

The "Bowling Ball" can catch, too
Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson has made a name for himself with his tackle-breaking ability and big-time production this season. On Saturday against Arkansas, Robinson showed off his receiving ability with an impressive one-handed catch from quarterback Dak Prescott for 47 yards.
video

ESPN 300: Five things to know in the SEC 

October, 22, 2014
10/22/14
10:45
AM CT
video
The SEC has an impressive 89 committed prospects in the updated ESPN 300 rankings. While the SEC West has been dominant on the field, 13 of the 14 SEC schools are ranked in the top 40 of the RecruitingNation class rankings. Here’s a closer look at five things to know in the SEC from the new recruiting rankings.

SEC viewer's guide: Week 8

October, 17, 2014
10/17/14
10:00
AM CT
A look ahead to Saturday's games in the Southeastern Conference. All times Eastern:

Noon

Furman at South Carolina, SEC Network: Poor Furman, you couldn’t have picked a worse time to play South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been stewing the past two weeks about their loss at Kentucky. You think they will play with something to prove Saturday at home? For Mike Davis, Dylan Thompson and that offense, it’s a chance to put up a bunch of points and gain some much-needed confidence. For the defense, it’s a chance to take a step in the right direction and actually stop an opponent with some consistency. In reality, this game might as well be a scrimmage for South Carolina. But nonetheless, it’s an important springboard into the second half of the schedule, when the Gamecocks can either continue to circle the drain or rebound and regain the respect they have lost this season.

3:30 p.m.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesNick Saban and Alabama will have their hands full against Texas A&M on Saturday.
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 7 Alabama, CBS: Only one team will leave Bryant-Denny Stadium with hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. The Aggies, coming off back-to-back losses, are on the razor’s edge, and the Crimson Tide, coming off a loss at Ole Miss and a one-point win at unranked Arkansas, are teetering. Alabama’s defense has played much better of late, but its secondary will be put to the test by Kenny Hill and the A&M passing game. Conversely, Hill could feel the pressure considering his line hasn’t played well the past two games and Alabama’s defensive front has the size and talent to get into the backfield. One thing is certain, though: Emotions should be running high come kickoff as both teams have something to prove.

4 p.m.

No. 10 Georgia at Arkansas, SEC Network: Time to find out the answer to the question that has been on the mind of SEC fans everywhere: How would Arkansas do in the dreadful East Division? The Hogs have played well this season, but haven't been able to overcome Texas A&M and Alabama. Against Georgia, will Bret Bielema’s squad break through? The Bulldogs, on the other hand, are riding high after a dominant performance at Missouri in which the absence of Todd Gurley was hardly felt in the final outcome. They now lead the East, and the race hardly appears close. Leonard Floyd and that defense will be put to the test, though. And Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason won’t face as porous a secondary as Missouri’s this time around.

7 p.m.

Missouri at Florida, ESPN2: Watch out for turnovers. Florida and Missouri have combined to give the ball away 11 times in October alone. Just last week, Maty Mauk threw four interceptions against Georgia, and Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel had two costly interceptions against LSU. In other words, both defenses should be licking their chops. The difference in this game, however, could be the running backs. If Florida can establish the run and negate the pressure from Missouri’s Shane Ray and Markus Golden, the Gators should be in good shape. However, if Missouri can get Russell Hansbrough & Co. going, the pressure should fall off Mauk’s shoulders. It’s a lot of what-ifs, but for two teams headed in the wrong direction, should that really surprise you?

Tennessee at No. 3 Ole Miss, ESPN: The Vols have been knocking on the door this season, but the divide between competitive football and winning football has been tough to cross. Will they do it against No. 3-ranked Ole Miss? On the road? Now that’s asking a lot of Butch Jones' young squad, which is high on talent (Jalen Hurd, Cameron Sutton, etc.) but low on experience. The Rebs, meanwhile, have both confidence and experience on their side. If anyone thought their home win against Alabama was a fluke, they changed their mind after watching them go on the road and destroy Texas A&M. So long as quarterback Bo Wallace continues to take care of the football and that defense stays healthy, it’s hard to imagine Ole Miss having a hiccup game.

Kentucky at LSU, SEC Network: This game feels a lot like a battle of youth and momentum. On the one side, you have Kentucky, which has surprised many with the way it jumped out to a 5-1 record, most recently beating South Carolina at home. Patrick Towles has played well and the defense has been aggressive. But the Cats are young and don’t have pedigree on their side. On the other hand, you have LSU, which has gone from a dark horse playoff contender to unranked and outside the conversation in the West. But don’t count out Les Miles’ squad just yet. After beating Florida in The Swamp, the Tigers could have confidence going for them. And considering all the young talent in Baton Rouge, that is a scary thought.

SEC midseason overview

October, 14, 2014
10/14/14
10:30
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The Magnolia State has turned the college football world upside down.

Yes, the emergence of Mississippi State and Ole Miss, two schools that can count their trips to Atlanta for the SEC championship game on exactly one finger, is currently the face of the sport. After becoming just the fifth team in AP poll history to defeat three straight top-10 opponents, Mississippi State is the nation's No. 1 team, its highest ranking ever. After wins against Alabama and Texas A&M, the Rebels rank third.

[+] EnlargeD'haquille Williams
Mike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesAuburn wide receiver D'haquille Williams earns ESPN's newcomer of the year award at the midseason mark for the SEC.
There's a chance that the Egg Bowl could mean more at season's end than the Iron Bowl. There's still a lot of football left, but as things stand now, the road to Atlanta -- and maybe the playoff -- goes through Mississippi.

That isn't to say other teams don't have a chance to detour that trip. Alabama still hosts Mississippi State, and Ole Miss still has to host Auburn and travel to LSU and Arkansas, two teams that are better than you think.

Then there's the East, well, there's Georgia. Before you throw that side of the conference into an active volcano, realize that Georgia is quietly gaining steam after a 34-0 win at Missouri without Todd Gurley, arguably the nation's best player. He's currently suspended for possible violations of NCAA rules, but this team can win the East without him. Just imagine what could happen if he returns.

Let's check out our SEC midseason awards:

Offensive MVP: Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
There hasn't been a better, more consistent quarterback in the SEC. Prescott has 2,089 total yards of offense with 23 touchdowns and has taken down three straight top-10 opponents. He's passed for 200 yards and rushed for 100 yards in four of his past five games. -- Edward Aschoff

Defensive MVP: Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State
He's made a major impact in every game this season for the Bulldogs. He has 19 tackles, including a team-high 6.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks. Smith also has two interceptions, three passes defended, nine quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and blocked two kicks. -- Edward Aschoff

Biggest surprise: Kentucky
Mark Stoops' recruiting success made it clear that the future was becoming brighter in Lexington, but it would be hard to say we expected the Wildcats to be 5-1 right now. They've performed well beyond preseason expectations and are poised to become bowl-bound for the first time since the 2010 season. -- Sam Khan

Biggest disappointment: South Carolina
After winning 11 games in three straight seasons and opening 2014 with a No. 9 national ranking, it all came crashing down quickly for the Gamecocks. Kenny Hill and Texas A&M routed South Carolina in the opener, and the Gamecocks have since lost their last two to Missouri and Kentucky. -- David Ching

Newcomer of the year: D'haquille Williams, WR, Auburn
In his first game, Williams hauled in nine catches for 154 yards and a touchdown. He hasn't looked back since. The junior college transfer has quickly become the favorite target for Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns. At this rate, he might only be on the Plains for one season. -- Greg Ostendorf

Best coach: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
It was a slow and steady rise. Mullen had to change everything from the culture to the coaching. It took five years, but he's absolutely changed the perception of Mississippi State football. Ranked No. 1 with a solid defense and a Heisman Trophy contender at QB, Mullen has built a program no one thought possible. -- Alex Scarborough

Game of the year: Bama-Ole Miss
The goal posts left the building. Hotty Toddy did it. Not only did Ole Miss finally beat Alabama, it did so on the biggest stage. Bo Wallace played his best late, Senquez Golson sealed the win with an interception and Oxford partied like it never had before. Katy Perry wasn't surprised -- she was impressed. -- Alex Scarborough

Biggest games of the second half
Mississippi State-Ole Miss
Auburn-Alabama
Auburn-Georgia
Mississippi State-Alabama
Auburn-Ole Miss

SEC bowl projections: Week 6

October, 5, 2014
10/05/14
8:00
PM CT
There are big changes in this week's bowl projections thanks in large part to the Magnolia State.

For starters, there's a new SEC team headed to the playoff, and no, it's not Mississippi State or Ole Miss, though both are knocking on the door. It's Auburn, the league's defending champion, which played its best game of the season against LSU on Saturday.

The Tigers' in-state rival, Alabama, dropped from the No. 1 spot after its loss to Ole Miss, but Texas A&M took an even bigger fall after the Aggies were dominated at Mississippi State.

The lone team to fall out of our projections this week is Tennessee, which likely cost itself a bowl game with Saturday's 10-9 loss to Florida. The Volunteers are going to have a hard time winning four more games with the schedule they have remaining. Meanwhile, SEC East counterpart Kentucky made a big jump and needs just two wins to become bowl eligible.

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

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

SEC viewer's guide: Week 6

October, 4, 2014
10/04/14
8:00
AM CT
A look ahead to Saturday's games in the Southeastern Conference. All times Eastern:

Noon

No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State, ESPN: The biggest football day in the history of the Magnolia State kicks off early with a dandy matchup between unbeaten teams that should go a long way in defining the SEC West race. This one features a delicious quarterback clash with two of the best the SEC has to offer. The Bulldogs' Dak Prescott is a dual-threat surgeon who has scored through the air and on the ground in each of MSU's past three games. The Aggies' Kenny Hill operates mostly via air assault. His 17 touchdown passes are tied for second in the FBS. Both teams have too many offensive weapons to list here.

Florida at Tennessee, SEC Network: What used to be one of the SEC's glamour games has been reduced to a desperate struggle between two programs that appear to be headed in different directions. Florida could turn around that perception and stop some of the bleeding with a comfortable victory, while Tennessee is hungry for respect and needs something more nourishing than moral victories. It all comes down to quarterback play, as usual, and these two starters also appear to be headed in opposite directions. Florida's Jeff Driskel has been under siege after struggling against Kentucky and Alabama. Justin Worley, on the other hand, has been impressive despite the Vols' 2-2 record.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Yeldon
AP Photo/Dave MartinT.J. Yeldon will try to extend Alabama's winning streak against Ole Miss to 11.
3:30 p.m.

No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss, CBS: The unbeaten Rebels take on the unbeaten empire. If you'll pardon the "Star Wars" reference, this game has everyone's attention, including ESPN's "College GameDay," which will be at The Grove for the first time. Ole Miss has a huge opportunity to make a statement of its own against the West division's biggest bully. Let's call this the battle of the Kiffins, because the best matchup here is older brother Lane Kiffin's Alabama offense against the Ole Miss defense, for which Chris Kiffin is the defensive line coach. The Tide have racked up 2,377 yards, breaking the school record through the first four games of a season. The Rebs have the No. 1 defense in the SEC, allowing 248 yards a game. They've yielded just two red zone TDs in 10 opponents' chances, second best in the FBS this season. Something's got to give.

4 p.m.

Vanderbilt at No. 13 Georgia, SEC Network: The Commodores have been improving steadily since the Derek Mason era got off to a nightmarish start. Vandy's 3-4 defense has grown especially toothy, but do the Commodores have enough to slow the Heisman Trophy campaign of Georgia tailback Todd Gurley? Probably not. Gurley is coming off a career-high 208-yard effort last week in Georgia's win over Tennessee. History certainly isn't on Vanderbilt's side here. The Bulldogs have beaten the Commodores in 17 of their past 19 meetings.

7 p.m.

No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, ESPN: The annual clash of SEC West Tigers features a decided contrast at the all-important quarterback position. Auburn has the veteran Nick Marshall, while LSU is giving true freshman Brandon Harris his first career start. Harris has won LSU's QB derby (for now), and if scoring is the best factor in determining such things (as it should be), then LSU coach Les Miles didn't have a very difficult decision. Anthony Jennings, the previous starter, led LSU to scores on 13 of his 51 possessions, while Harris has put points on the board in 13 of 19 drives. LSU was the last SEC team to beat Auburn, but success on the Plains could be another story altogether.

7:30 p.m.

South Carolina at Kentucky, SEC Network: The Wildcats took care of business last week, breaking their 17-game SEC losing streak with a win over Vanderbilt. Next on the to-do list for Kentucky is to win consecutive SEC games for the first time since 2009. The Gamecocks have lost just one of their past 14 games to the Cats, but this Kentucky team is starting to change perceptions in Mark Stoops' second season. They could be getting South Carolina at just the right time. The Gamecocks are out of the top 25 for the first time since the 2010 preseason and they have the worst defense in the SEC, giving up 440 yards a game. An upset might not shock UK fans, but it would turn the SEC East upside down.

SEC slant: Dissecting the running game

October, 2, 2014
10/02/14
2:00
PM CT
The SEC is getting back to its roots. Led by Bret Bielema’s smashmouth football revolution in Arkansas, the league is running the ball more than it has in recent years. In fact, if the current trends hold, the conference will have more rushes per game (40.7) and more rushing yards per game (208.1) than any season in the past decade.

With that said, who is running the ball best? Let’s look and see.

The good

[+] EnlargeAlex Collins
Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY SportsArkansas' Alex Collins has seven runs of 20 yards or longer this season.
The Razorbacks are committed to the running game with Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall toting the rock. In fact, Collins and Williams are the only teammates who both rank in the top 20 nationally in rushing yards. Combined, they’ve run for 1,107 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The Crimson Tide might not have the same eye-popping statistics, but between T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, there’s plenty of production. As a team, Alabama has the 18th-most productive running game in the country in terms of yards per game (258.5).

But it’s not just quantity with these two programs. Alabama and Arkansas have been the two most efficient running games in the SEC, with the Tide averaging 5.68 yards per carry and the Razorbacks averaging 6.91. Alabama and Arkansas are the only two teams in the conference to have more than half of its rushes result in 5 or more yards gained. At the same time, both teams rank in the top five in the conference in lowest percentage of rush attempts gaining zero or negative yards.

Arkansas has 42 runs of 10 or more yards this season, ranking fifth nationally in that category.

The bad

Mississippi fans should be worried about their running game this weekend. There’s not much to feel good about when you look at the statistics.

The Rebs have the highest percentage of rushes resulting in zero or negative yards (28.0), the fourth-fewest total rushing yards (643) and are tied for the fewest number of rushes for 10 or more yards (13) in the SEC.

Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss’ lead tailback, has been all or nothing this season. Of his 30 total carries, eight times he’s been stopped before crossing the line of scrimmage and nine times he’s gained 0-5 yards. He’s had a few big runs (20, 23 and 71 yards), but does the good outweigh the bad?

Lest we pick on the Rebs too much, Ole Miss isn’t the only underachieving running offense in the SEC. Tennessee, thanks to its youthful offensive line, has the fewest rushing yards (507) in the conference. It’s no wonder that Tennessee and Vanderbilt are the only teams in the SEC with less than 600 rushing yards and under 3.7 yards per carry.

The least physical running teams, in terms of the fewest yards after contact, are Florida (240), Vanderbilt (245) and South Carolina (296).

The teams with the biggest fumbling problems: LSU and Vanderbilt, which boot the ball on 3 percent of their carries.

And the best

You thought we would go this entire post without mentioning Todd Gurley ’s name? Wrong. Let’s take a quick look at the top individual performers in the SEC.

  • Most productive: Collins leads the way with 621 yards rushing, followed by Gurley (610), Jonathan Williams (486), Josh Robinson (485) and Cameron Artis-Payne (468)
  • Most explosive: Gurley has the most runs of 20 or more yards (8), followed by Collins (7), Robinson (6), Artis-Payne (4), Russell Hansbrough (4) and Leonard Fournette (4)
  • Most physical: Gurley has the most yards after contact (299), followed by Collins (284), Robinson (248), Williams 224) and Hansbrough (219)
  • Most elusive: Collins has the most yards before contact (337), followed by Gurley (311), Artis-Payne (268), Williams (262) and Ralph Webb (252)
  • Most likely to score: Tra Carson has the highest touchdown-per-rush percentage (12.5), followed by Jonathan Williams (12.1), Trey Williams (10.5), Jaylen Walton (10.3) and Darrel Williams (9.1)

SEC morning links

September, 29, 2014
9/29/14
8:00
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1. Fresh off its win over Memphis on Saturday, Ole Miss was already taking shots at Alabama. Safety Cody Prewitt said he doesn’t believe the Crimson Tide are as good as they have been in recent years. It might be a little early to say that; after all, just last year, Prewitt’s Rebels were shut out in Tuscaloosa, 25-0. A lot has changed since that game, though. The Ole Miss defense, which has allowed just two touchdowns through the first four games, is much improved, and quarterback Bo Wallace is a year older. At Alabama, the offense looks more balanced under new coordinator Lane Kiffin, and they’re even using their own version of the no-huddle offense. It’s one of many intriguing matchups in the SEC this weekend.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Harris
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertWill LSU turn to Brandon Harris in hostile territory at Auburn?
2. Speaking of intriguing matchups, how about LSU traveling to Auburn on Saturday? Les Miles' team has won six of the last seven against Auburn, but his Tigers opened up as 7.5-point underdogs on the road. A big reason for that is the uncertainty at quarterback. Miles has yet to name a starter, but after Saturday’s victory over New Mexico State, it was pretty clear who played better. The question will be whether Miles wants to give freshman Brandon Harris his first start on the road, in a hostile environment. The Auburn defense isn’t worried as much about the opposing quarterback; it’s worried about getting healthy after three starters were banged up in a 45-17 victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

3. What happened to South Carolina on Saturday? It looked like the Gamecocks were well on their way to beating Missouri and grabbing hold of the SEC East. Then, all of a sudden, it all slipped away. A day later, Steve Spurrier saw his team’s streak of 69 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25 come to an end. The good news is that despite the loss to Missouri and despite dropping out of the polls, South Carolina is still not out of the SEC race. The bad news is that they have to travel to Lexington this weekend to face much-improved Kentucky team, and the local beat writers are already saying that Spurrier’s team looks beatable again this week. We’ll know a lot more about both teams following Saturday’s game.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the Weekend

SEC viewer's guide: Week 4

September, 20, 2014
9/20/14
8:00
AM CT
Noon ET

Troy at No. 13 Georgia, SEC Network: Georgia is coming off a 38-35 loss at South Carolina and is looking for a resounding victory here. The last time these teams met (2007), Georgia won 44-34. This Troy team, however, is 0-3 and allowing 40 points per game while averaging only 20.7. Look for the Bulldogs to jump out early in this one.

3:30 p.m. ET

No. 6 Texas A&M at SMU, ABC/ESPN2: The Aggies come in at 3-0 and they’ve been rolling so far this season. SMU has been a mess, 0-2 and with a new coach: June Jones resigned last week; Tom Mason is serving as the interim head coach and is making his debut. Perhaps the Mustangs are fired up and have a renewed energy, but even if they do, the Aggies are in position for a convincing victory. These teams' past three meetings, dating to 2011, have resulted in a 35.3-point average margin of victory for A&M.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp, Nick Saban
Gary W. Green/Getty ImagesNick Saban and Alabama own a three-game winning streak over Florida. The teams haven't played since 2011, Will Muschamp's first season.
Florida at No. 3 Alabama, CBS: Few are likely giving the Gators much of a shot here because they were pushed to their limits by Kentucky. How well they operate their no-huddle, up-tempo offense will go a long way in determining how well they fare. Meanwhile, eyes continue to focus on the Alabama quarterback situation with Blake Sims and Jacob Coker, and it will be worth watching to see what develops. The Crimson Tide own a three-game winning streak over Florida.

4 p.m. ET

Indiana at No. 18 Missouri, SEC Network: The Tigers are quietly getting it done and look to close out their nonconference schedule 4-0. If they do, it would be the eighth 4-0 start under Gary Pinkel and seventh in nine seasons. Maty Mauk is coming off a four-touchdown-pass performance and Shane Ray is coming off a two-sack, four-tackles-for-loss performance.

7 p.m. ET

Northern Illinois at Arkansas, ESPNU: A victory would give the Razorbacks as many wins this season (three) as they had in all of 2013. That would be a big step forward for Bret Bielema's crew. Northern Illinois is a quality road team, having won 17 in a row in opponents' home stadiums, including one at Northwestern on Sept. 6. Arkansas brings in a second-best-in-the-nation 362 rushing yards per game.

Mississippi State at No. 8 LSU, ESPN: Saturday nights in Death Valley are always fun -- typically for the Tigers. They're 43-2 under Les Miles in Saturday night games at Tiger Stadium. This is a big "prove-it" game for Mississippi State, a team that's 3-0 and trying to take a big step into SEC West contention. Last year's meeting between these two was competitive until a 28-point fourth quarter by LSU.

7:30 p.m. ET

No. 14 South Carolina at Vanderbilt, SEC Network: The Gamecocks got a huge win versus Georgia and are looking to go to 2-1 in league play with a victory here. South Carolina jumped out to a big lead over Vandy the last time these teams met and it's likely to happen again if the Commodores don't get on track quickly. They've struggled mightily out of the gate and had to rally to beat UMass last week. Patton Robinette will start at QB; will coach Derek Mason stick with him this time?

SEC bowl projections: Week 2

September, 7, 2014
9/07/14
8:00
PM CT
It wasn't much of an eventful week in the SEC with so many teams playing weaker opponents and only one conference game, with Ole Miss routing Vanderbilt. As a result, there are no major shakeups in this week's bowl projections from last week's. Georgia had the weekend off, so it is still riding its impressive Week 1 victory to sit atop the list. We are still projecting only one SEC team in the College Football Playoff at the moment, though that could change down the road.

We are still projecting 11 SEC teams to make the postseason. Noting that these projections will fluctuate quite a bit throughout the season, here's our best guess after Week 2:

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

SEC bowl projections: Week 1

September, 2, 2014
9/02/14
5:00
PM CT
It didn't take long for the bowl projections to see a major shake-up with South Carolina's loss to Texas A&M on opening night. There's also a new SEC team headed to the College Football Playoff in the latest forecast after Georgia had what many are calling the most impressive win from Week 1. We still believe it's unlikely the league gets two teams in the playoff, though.

At this point, we have 11 SEC teams in all making the postseason, but there is still plenty of football left to be played. The projections will fluctuate throughout the season, but here's our best guess after Week 1.

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

SEC lacks a front-runner after Week 1

September, 1, 2014
9/01/14
10:00
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The Alabama Crimson Tide couldn’t handle the hurry-up. Clint Trickett might as well have blown kisses to Nick Saban the way he paraded West Virginia's offense up and down the field.

The Auburn Tigers struggled with the power running game. The same Arkansas Razorbacks' offense that ranked last in the SEC a year ago manhandled the Tigers’ front seven, posting 21 points by halftime.

The South Carolina Gamecocks just didn’t show up. Steve Spurrier’s defense laid down for the Texas A&M Aggies. His star running back, Mike Davis, shouldn’t have bothered dressing out.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsLes Miles and LSU joined several SEC teams who won their openers, but looked flawed in the process.
They all entered their season-openers with hopes of competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but the SEC’s three highest-ranked teams showed significant flaws in Week 1. The Gamecocks had their doors blown off. The Tide and Tigers won, but it wasn’t pretty. Even the LSU Tigers, a popular dark horse pick to reach the final four, had to be bailed out by a bit of Les Miles magic and the Wisconsin's' abrupt aversion to the running game.

By the time Monday rolled around, the dust settled and the big picture of the SEC became clear, it wasn’t what anyone expected. Somehow it was the Georgia Bulldogs and Texas A&M left standing as seemingly the league’s best hope of reaching the playoff.

But with all due respect to Todd Gurley’s inhuman exploits and Kenny Hill’s inspired performance, should we be sold? For that matter, should we be ready to call anyone the class of the SEC?

Right now there are far more questions than answers. Everyone, it seems, has flaws.

The East is a toss-up. Georgia certainly holds promise, but quarterback Hutson Mason still needs to show he can carry an offense, Gurley has to stay healthy and the secondary must continue improving despite missing so many starters from a season ago. South Carolina, meanwhile, has to do a complete 180 or it will lose to Georgia in two weeks and find itself in an insurmountable hole. Then there are the Florida Gators, who are a complete unknown given Mother Nature’s refusal to let them finally turn the page on 2013.

The West is even more convoluted. Texas A&M might be the real deal, but its offense is so young and it is still too early to say whether Mark Snyder has orchestrated the most impressive turnaround in history with that defense. Alabama has serious questions on defense, too, and at quarterback we might be jumping the gun a bit in proclaiming Blake Sims the answer. LSU could very well settle on Anthony Jennings under center, but he has the potential to be a reboot of Jordan Jefferson, which isn’t a good thing. Then there is Auburn, stuck with too many quarterbacks and not enough defenders, not to mention its brutal schedule.

If you’re looking for one of the favorites to run away with it, don’t hold your breath. In fact, if Week 1 showed us anything, it’s that while there are a bunch of good teams in the SEC, there is no one dominant team like in years past.

The Missouri Tigers won handily, the Ole Miss Rebels turned it on in the second half and the Mississippi State Bulldogs cruised to victory. All three should feel good about their dreams of reaching Atlanta.

Arkansas looked improved. So did the Kentucky Wildcats and Tennessee Volunteers. Though none of the them should go booking trips for the postseason, they could play the role of spoilers.

The only real slouch is the Vanderbilt Commodores.

When it comes time for playoff jockeying and the "my conference vs. your conference" disputes, parity will be the SEC’s No. 1 point of emphasis. But it will also be the reason it doesn’t yield an undefeated or even a one-loss team.

Alabama will get better. So will LSU and Auburn. Even South Carolina should improve with time. It is, in fact, only Week 1 we’re talking about.

But first impressions do mean something, and the first look we had of the SEC revealed a pack of teams loaded with potential but saddled with problems.

Until we find out who is ready to take a step forward and lead, it will continue to be a wide open race.

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