Dallas Colleges: Dorial Green-Beckham
We’re counting down the five most pressing questions facing the SEC this spring, in no particular order of importance. First, how do you replace all the veteran quarterbacks the league enjoyed in 2013?
When spring camps open over the next few weeks -- the first being Texas A&M on Friday -- that question will begin to be answered. With each snap and each team meeting, leaders will emerge. Some staffs will look for a winner heading into the summer so they can avoid a quarterback controversy come fall, while others will have to sweat it out through the offseason.
Texas A&M: Surprises will undoubtedly occur, as we saw only a few years ago when a scrappy freshman from Kerrville, Texas, beat out the presumptive favorite to land the starting job at Texas A&M. The Aggies stumbled upon Manziel, and Jameill Showers was quickly forgotten. Kenny Hill and Matt Joeckel are this year’s frontrunners, but they’ll have competition in another freshman nipping at their heels in Kyle Allen. The Arizona native is more of a pure passer than a running quarterback, but he has the tools to sling the ball around in Kevin Sumlin’s offense.
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier didn’t mince words when he saidDylan Thompson is “without question going to be our quarterback.” He even asked, “Why open it up when he’s the only one who’s played?” Thompson, a rising senior, doesn’t have the athleticism to break containment quite like Shaw, but Thompson can still move the chains with his feet when necessary. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound South Carolina native doesn’t lack for arm strength and might even have more pure throwing ability than Shaw. But where Thompson must match Shaw is intangibles. There wasn’t a more dynamic leader in the SEC than Shaw last year, and the Gamecocks will miss that kind of will power under center in 2014. While the starting job is Thompson’s to lose, don’t sleep on redshirt freshman Connor Mitch. The former four-star recruit could push Thompson this spring.
Missouri: The race to replace Franklin comes down to one quarterback and one quarterback alone: Maty Mauk. The rising redshirt sophomore showed last season that he can control the offense, starting four games in which he averaged 227.5 yards, 2.5 touchdowns and 0.5 interceptions per game. More importantly, he won three of the four games with the only loss coming in double overtime against South Carolina. He’ll learn from that experience and take over a team that will be moving on from the loss of big-time playmakers Henry Josey, L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas. Having the ultra-talented Dorial Green-Beckham back will help, but an arrest on drug charges in January has clouded his future.
Georgia: Despite what wasn’t a great performance to end last season -- 21-of-39 for 320 yards, a touchdown and an interception against Nebraska -- Hutson Mason is still the overwhelming favorite to replace Murray. Why? Because Mark Richt and the coaching staff have essentially been grooming Mason to take over for years now, redshirting him in 2012 so he would have a year left to play in 2014. Mason was once a three-star quarterback who put up huge numbers running the spread at Lassiter High School in nearby Marietta, and with Todd Gurley behind him, he won’t be asked to do too much his first year starting. While he might be a year away, don’t write off Faton Bauta just yet. The 6-3, 216-pound redshirt sophomore has impressed the staff with his work ethic and could find his way into some playing time.
Alabama: Oddly enough, the quarterback many presume will take over for McCarron won’t actually arrive until the summer. Jacob Coker, the heralded transfer from Florida State, will be a little late finishing his degree in Tallahassee, which leaves a big opportunity for the rest of Alabama’s quarterbacks to make a first impression. New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will instead have his focus on Blake Sims, Alec Morris, Parker McLeod and Cooper Bateman this spring. Sims, who best fits the mold of a run-first quarterback, has a lot of work ahead of him to prove he can play from the pocket. Morris, meanwhile, didn’t get much time as a redshirt freshman last season and needs to improve his decision-making from the last time we saw him at A-Day. Bateman and McLeod are relative unknowns after redshirting last season, but Bateman, a four-star recruit, does come with a lofty pedigree. The wild card is David Cornwell, the four-star recruit who enrolled in January and will benefit from the fresh start all of the quarterbacks will get under Kiffin.
“It was crazy, it came down to what team wanted it most,” Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham said of the Sooners' 45-31 win. “You looked at Oklahoma and they wanted to win the game, they wanted to be Sugar Bowl champs, they went out and took what was theirs.”
Thus, Missouri players woke up on Friday morning with the knowledge that the weight of an entire conference was on their shoulders. Missouri needed to grab immediate revenge with a victory over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl if it wanted to defend its conference’s reputation.
The SEC took a punch from the Big 12 in the Sugar Bowl, but the Tigers punched back Friday night with a 41-31 win over Big 12 foe Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium.
The Tigers used a combination of a relentless pass-rushing defensive line, strong running game and timely plays to earn their school record-tying 12th victory of the season, equaling the win total of the 2007 team.
Led by Cotton Bowl offensive MVP Henry Josey, Missouri rushed for 256 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry against a Cowboys’ defense that allowed 132.9 rushing yards and 3.46 per carry during the regular season. OSU quarterback Clint Chelf will have nightmares featuring Tigers pass-rushing duo Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Missouri got to Chelf for three sacks, but the Cowboys quarterback was constantly flushed out of the pocket and forced to make plays on the move thanks to the Tigers defensive line, which cemented the win when Sam forced a Chelf fumble that was returned 73 yards for a touchdown by Shane Ray to halt OSU’s hopes of a game-winning touchdown in the final minutes.
“First-team All-American makes an All-American play,” Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said.
SEC teams rejoiced as the conference escaped back-to-back losses to Big 12 opponents.
“We believe we’re the best conference,” said Andrew Wilson, who finished with a game-high 15 tackles. “And if you want to be the best conference you have to prove it, that’s why everyone is rooting for each other in these bowl games for everyone to go out and do what they can do.”
Make no mistake, the Tigers wanted the win for themselves, but they also wanted it for their conference.
“That’s something real big, representing the SEC,” Josey said. “The SEC is such a powerful conference, that’s the conference everybody looks to, that’s where the attention is. Coming into this game, that was in the back of our mind, that is always in the back of our mind that we had to hold up the rep for the SEC.”
Now, with its job done, Missouri passes the mantle to Auburn, which has the opportunity to win the eighth consecutive BCS title for the SEC when it takes on Florida State in the BCS National Championship on Monday night.
“Right now it’s up to Auburn to bring it home,” Ealy said. “We want to keep it in the SEC, that’s the most important thing as far as this conference goes.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Missouri sent a message for the SEC with a 41-31 win over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Friday Night at AT&T Stadium. Here’s how it happened.
It was over when: Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray returned a fumble 73 yards for a touchdown. Oklahoma State was driving to try to take the lead or tie the game in the final minutes when Missouri’s Michael Sam stripped OSU quarterback Clint Chelf of the ball, which Ray picked up for the scoop and score.
How the game was won: After Oklahoma State drove down to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, Missouri responded on its next drive to score the game-winning points. James Franklin led the Tigers down the field to jump right back on top after running back Henry Josey's 16-yard touchdown run made the score 34-31 with 3:08 remaining. Josey’s touchdown capped off a 7-play, 69-yard drive and gave the Tigers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Turning point: Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham made a key 27-yard catch on the Tigers' final drive on 3rd-and-9 from the OSU 43-yard line. Green-Beckham used his size and ball skills to outfight OSU’s Tyler Patmon for the key third down conversion. Josey rumbled 16 yards for the game-deciding touchdown on the next play.
Stat of the game: 256. Mizzou ran for 256 yards on the Cowboys, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Josey was shifty and solid while backup quarterback Maty Mauk was explosive with three carries for 73 yards in spot duty. OSU simply didn’t have an answer for Missouri’s running game, particularly when it needed one in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Josey. He didn’t have outstanding numbers, but his quickness and cutback ability gave OSU’s defense fits. He finished with 12 carries for 92 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
What it means for Oklahoma State: The Cowboys end the season with back-to-back disappointing losses after falling to the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl and losing to Oklahoma in their regular-season finale. OSU heads into the offseason with very little momentum and looking to replace several starters while opening the 2014 season with Florida State.
What it means for Missouri: The Tigers rebounded well from their SEC championship loss to Auburn. Missouri finishes 12-2 with the Cotton Bowl victory and will head into 2014 with plenty of confidence and momentum.
OSU and Missouri battle in the AT&T Cotton Bowl (7:30 pm ET, FOX) on Friday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Here’s a preview of one of the most evenly matched games of this bowl season.
Who to Watch: Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. Look out Clint Chelf, Sam is coming for you and he’s been a terror for opposing offenses throughout the year. He led the SEC with 10.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. The senior brings a combination of acceleration and athleticism to the table that is very difficult for offenses to stop. If OSU has any hope to win, it can’t let Sam spend his holiday season in the backfield in hot pursuit of Chelf, the Cowboys quarterback, and OSU's running backs.
What to Watch: The interior lines. Missouri has a strong group in the trenches, and OSU’s success has mirrored its ability to control the line of scrimmage. Whoever wins the battle of the big fellas will probably win the game. Both teams have very talented skill players, like OSU receiver Josh Stewart and Missouri running back Henry Josey, who can make plays if given the chance. How do you take those explosive players out of the equation? Win the battle up front.
Why to Watch: The matchup between OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert and Mizzou receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is one reason. The battle between former Big 12 foes is another. These two teams know each other better than the normal bowl matchup, and the Cowboys will be looking to strike another blow for the Big 12 after Oklahoma’s Sugar Bowl win, while the Tigers will be looking to redeem the SEC. The Sooners’ win over Alabama could very well ramp up the intensity in this one.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, Missouri 34. The Cowboys prevail in one of the best games of the bowl season. Neither team dominates in the trenches, so this one is decided by turnovers and key plays on special teams. A late turnover by the Tigers helps OSU score a late touchdown to snatch the victory out of the hands of their former conference rival.
They stepped on campus as raw athletes with unique talent, they flashed that ability as true freshmen and they began to turn their potential into production as sophomores.
Gilbert, a senior, is projected to be a first round NFL draft pick after a stellar final season for the Cowboys. Green-Beckham, a sophomore, will play on Sundays someday and ranks No. 6 on ESPN.com’s list of top 25 non-eligible NFL prospects ($) in college football.
The Cotton Bowl provides Gilbert one last opportunity against an NFL-level talent in Green-Beckham after a disappointing junior year. He was a star as a sophomore and looked like a guy who would be NFL-bound when he initially arrived at OSU but the struggles in 2012 led to his return for his final season.
“I felt I owed this team a lot more than I gave them last year,” Gilbert said. “During the season last year Coach [Mike] Gundy brought me in and had a little talk about the production I wasn’t having and how they expected more out of me and they knew what I could do.”
Gilbert took those words to heart, becoming one of the nation’s best cornerbacks and a finalist for the Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive back. Gilbert’s stellar play has made OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer’s job easier during his first year running the Cowboys’ defense. For opposing receivers, Gilbert has been like the fly you can’t get rid, keeps showing up at the most inopportune times and making life much more unpleasant than it should be.
“I’ve asked him to do some more difficult things this year than I have in the past, played more aggressive out there on the corner, some stuff schematically we’ve never done here at Oklahoma State before,” Spencer said. “I would not have been able to do those things if it wasn’t for [Gilbert].”
Now Gilbert faces one of his most difficult tests in his final college game. Green-Beckham, also known as DGB, was the No. 3 player in the ESPN 300 for the Class of 2012. At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, DGB combines the size of a tight end with the speed and athleticism of a man half his size. In the SEC title game against Auburn, Green-Beckham had six receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He gave SEC defensive coordinators nightmares with 55 receptions for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, taking a clear step forward during his second collegiate season.
“It’s just being comfortable really,” he said of his improvement. “Looking at last year’s season [I had] that freshman mind, but this year I felt like I came out here and used last year as more of an experience to come out here and play a lot harder.”
Fortunately for the Cowboys, Gilbert seems to rise to the occasion against the best. He battled NFL top-10 pick Justin Blackmon in practice during his first two years in Stillwater and won his share of those one-on-one battles. As a sophomore, he had picks against future NFL starting quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.
If the Cowboys hope to knock off the Tigers, Gilbert will have to play a major role in slowing DGB and the Missouri passing game.
“Justin has gotten the national accolades and well-deserved,” Spencer said. “He’s in a [high] profile position, is going to get tested many times during the bowl game.”
For our all-underclassmen team, we decided to use players who are true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or true sophomores. That means Johnny Manziel, a redshirt sophomore, wasn't eligible. I mean he can't make every list!
The criteria for our other lists once again apply. We're basing things on the season they had in 2013, not who will be the better draft prospect in the future.
Here's what we came up with:
QB: Maty Mauk, Missouri
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Jerald Hawkins, LSU
OL: Denver Kirkland, Arkansas
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
C: Evan Boehm, Missouri
AP: Mike Davis, South Carolina
DL: Carl Lawson, Auburn
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DL: Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
DL: Chris Jones, Miss. State
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Darian Claiborne, Texas A&M
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Rashard Robinson, LSU
DB: Josh Harvey-Clemons, Georgia
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama
PK: Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
P: Landon Foster, Kentucky
RS: Trey Williams, Texas A&M
It was the kind of ending A&M would have loved to experienced for itself. Coming into the season with a preseason top-10 ranking, those were the goals the Aggies set for themselves.
The primary goal was simple: Get to Atlanta.
After the impressive 11-2 debut season in the SEC that the Aggies put together in 2012, you probably would have been hard pressed to find anyone predicting that Mizzou would be getting to the Georgia Dome before Texas A&M. But that's how quickly things can change in college football.
Rather than play for a championship, the Aggies finished a somewhat underwhelming 8-4 overall and 4-4 in SEC play. They didn't beat a single ranked team this season. They lost their final two games, both on pretty big stages. That's the cold reality of the situation. Now they're simply left to play in whatever bowl game they wind up in, possibly the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, but not quite a BCS bowl like they once hoped.
"We're going to have one more opportunity with this group of guys to go out and win a football game, and we're not happy about what happened the last couple of weeks, obviously," head coach Kevin Sumlin said late Saturday. "But we've still got one more opportunity and it's probably going to be [against] another really, really good team."
There are a few reasons why the Aggies faltered at certain points this season. The young defense, which was inconsistent and downright bad in several games, made the offense work in losses to Alabama and Auburn.
However, in the past two weeks, the unit began to make some strides. Considering how high-powered the Aggies offense has been the past two seasons, the defense played well enough -- at least in the first half of the past two games -- to give Texas A&M a chance to take control of the game. But the offense sputtered, having an ugly showing at LSU and simply being inconsistent against Missouri.
Johnny Manziel's health status didn't help. The Heisman Trophy winner is not 100 percent -- though many players aren't at this point in the season -- and even Missouri players noticed that he was hurting. With a nagging thumb injury on his throwing hand and a pair of taped ankles, Johnny Football looked human the past two weeks, not like the magician that has captivated the college football world for two seasons. If he was too hurt, Sumlin wasn't saying it.
"If he wasn't healthy enough to play, he wouldn't have played," Sumlin said.
A player as talented as Manziel can help mask deficiencies. Seemingly unable to do so these past two weeks, it uncovered several issues against two talented defenses. LSU and Missouri were certainly quality defensive teams that made life difficult for Manziel.
"He's had better performances, he's had worse performances," Sumlin said. "There's a lot of pressure on him to perform at a high level all the time. I've said before, quarterbacks are like the head coach. You get too much credit when you win, you get most of the blame when you lose. Whenever you don't win, everything focuses on that. There's a lot of people out there playing besides him. For us to be effective, there has to be more than one guy that's going to have to make plays. We made some, we didn't make some, and that was across the board."
It would have been impossible to make this statement a season ago when the Aggies were all the rage and Missouri was getting through a 5-7 season, but the Tigers are where the Aggies want to be. Across the sideline they saw a savvy, veteran group, led by strong seniors and playmakers on both sides of the football. The Tigers, who lead the SEC in sacks and interceptions, have an athletic front seven and a solid secondary.
Offensively, senior quarterback James Franklin provides a steady hand and gets the ball to the myriad playmakers around him, running back Henry Josey and receivers L'Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham among them. Coach Gary Pinkel has provided stability as the head coach, having been with the Tigers for 13 years now. They won three division titles in their final five years in the Big 12, so Saturday's victory is just continued success under Pinkel, albeit in a new league.
The good news for the Aggies? The fact that finishing 8-4 is a disappointment speaks to the progress that the program has made in a short time under Sumlin. Expectations have been raised significantly in Aggieland, and that will continue after Sumlin agreed to a new six-year contract on Saturday. The last time the Aggies even won eight games in back-to-back seasons was 1998 and 1999.
Sumlin's on the way to signing his second consecutive top-10 recruiting class. The school has begun work on a $450 million renovation of Kyle Field, and the Aggies continue to improve facilities. So the commitment to getting where they want to be is there.
Now, it's simply a matter of making it happen. But for now, Missouri gets the bragging rights among the SEC newbies because it's the Tigers who will be playing for a championship in the Georgia Dome on Saturday.
It will take some time for the Aggies to write the ending they're looking for.
1. High stakes for Mizzou: It's pretty simple. If the Tigers win, they're in the SEC championship game. If they don't, South Carolina goes and the Tigers have to watch. So the task at hand is clear. There's a ton of buildup, buzz and pageantry to go with this one: a capacity crowd is expected, it's senior night for 18 Tigers and it's "blackout" night for Missouri with all-black unis. Fitting for what could be a historic night. And the 10-1 Tigers get to do it at home against the Aggies for the first time in a while. The last time A&M traveled to Columbia was 2007 and the team's last three meetings were in Aggieland.
2. Missouri DEs vs. Texas A&M OTs: This should be one of the fun matchups to watch tonight. Missouri defensive ends Michael Sam (10 sacks) and Kony Ealy (6.5 sacks) lead a defense that is tops in the SEC in sacks this season (35). They'll go up against a pair of talented offensive tackles in Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi. Matthews is a projected first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft and Ogbuehi figures to have an NFL future as well when his time at Texas A&M is up.
3. Bounce back for Manziel?: Last week was a rough one for Johnny Manziel and the Aggies as they took a 34-10 beating at LSU. It was the team's worst loss in the Kevin Sumlin era and probably Manziel's worst performance. The Heisman Trophy winner usually thrives on big stages and the stage will be huge on Saturday. His chances for a second Heisman seemed almost wiped out by LSU, but if he has a big performance and leads A&M to a win, who knows?
4. When the Tigers have the ball: Missouri has numerous offensive weapons, from quarterbacks James Franklin and Maty Mauk to a trio of running backs led by Henry Josey to several tall, athletic receivers led by the trio of Marcus Lucas, Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington. Texas A&M's defense, well, it hasn't been good this season. The Aggies rank 107th in yards allowed per game (460.1) and they're in the bottom 40 in both rushing and passing yards allowed per game. Missouri ranks 16th in offensive yards per game (491.9) and tied for 13th in scoring (39.7). On paper, it's a mismatch. Will it play out that way on the field?
5. A&M running game: Aside from a few called runs and several scrambles by Manziel, there wasn't much of a running game for Texas A&M last week. Only six times did a running back carry the football. Sumlin said they could have "done some things differently," and it'll be interesting to see if the Aggies use the ground attack more this week, especially considering the pass rush that Missouri possesses.
It’s that time again. Who’s hot and who’s not?
Missouri receiver Dorial-Green Beckham: Sort of flying along under the radar this season, Green-Beckham delivered a record-breaking day on Saturday in the 48-17 win over Kentucky. Green-Beckham set a school record with four touchdown catches. In just one game, he nearly doubled his touchdown output for the entire season. He came into the game with five touchdown catches in his previous nine contests.
Tennessee’s run defense: The Vols are bringing up the rear in the SEC when it comes to stopping the run, and by a wide margin. They gave up 444 yards on the ground last week in a 55-23 loss to Auburn and 339 yards the week before in a 31-3 loss to Missouri. That’s 783 yards in two games. The Vols are allowing 225.9 yards per game on the ground, which is 27 more yards per game than they averaged giving up a year ago in what was one of the worst defensive performances in school history.
Alabama’s schedule: Until last weekend, Alabama’s schedule was an easy target. The Crimson Tide really hadn’t beaten anybody other than Texas A&M, and perhaps tired of hearing about their cushy schedule, they went out and beat up on then-No. 13 LSU 38-17 thanks to a dominant second half. To be fair to the Tide, when you look at their entire schedule and extend it out through a potential SEC championship game appearance, it will end up being more demanding than the schedules of the other unbeaten contenders in the national championship race. Alabama has already played two top-15 teams in the BCS standings (LSU and Texas A&M) and could face two more -- No. 7 Auburn and either No. 9 Missouri or No. 10 South Carolina in the SEC championship game. Compare that with Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor.
Manziel’s chances to return: Nobody is really coming out and saying it, but Johnny Manziel’s five-touchdown performance last week in the win over Mississippi State was almost certainly his final game at Kyle Field. For that matter, it was likely the last game star receiver Mike Evans will play at Kyle Field as well. Even back in the summer, the feeling in and around the Texas A&M program was that Manziel would take his shot at the NFL following this season. I’m not sure Kyle Field will ever see another one quite like Johnny Football. The only thing more fun than watching him play would be partying with him. That is, assuming you’re a partier.
LSU’s ball security: The Tigers have lost their last two SEC games, to Alabama and Ole Miss, and have turned the ball over five times in those two losses. Three of the five turnovers have come with LSU driving, too. J.C. Copeland’s fumble against Alabama came on second-and-goal at the 3 and completely changed the complexion of that game. Against Ole Miss, two of Zach Mettenberger’s three interceptions occurred in the end zone for touchbacks, both coming on first down.
Florida’s bowl streak: This is obviously not what anybody is used to at Florida right now. The reeling Gators are 4-5 and have lost four straight after losing 34-17 at home last weekend to Vanderbilt, Florida’s first loss at home to Vanderbilt since the end of World War II. The Gators’ 22-year bowl streak -- the longest in the SEC -- is in serious jeopardy. They will need to win two of their last three games to qualify for a bowl, which means they would have to upset No. 10 South Carolina in Columbia this Saturday and then take down No. 2 Florida State at home the final weekend of the regular season. In other words, the Gators can plan to spend this postseason at home. Of course, given the halfhearted turnout by Florida fans at the Sugar Bowl last season, I can’t imagine they will be stewing over not having the chance to spend a few days in Memphis or Birmingham this December. But what they are stewing over is the direction of the program right now, and in particular the continued struggles on offense. It’s not just the offense, either. Some of the dumb penalties have been inexplicable. Third-year coach Will Muschamp is as mentally tough as they come, but he faces an uphill climb. Unless there’s a sudden change of heart at the top at Florida, Muschamp is going to get a fourth year. And with all the injuries the Gators have suffered this season, he should get a fourth year. Muschamp and his staff did a super job in 2012 of squeezing out 11 wins and getting to a BCS bowl game. But now he has to prove to athletic director Jeremy Foley that he’s the long-term answer for this program. That’s going to take some doing, but at the very least, it appears that Muschamp is going to get a fourth year to prove it.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: With two touchdown passes in an easy 45-6 rout of Appalachian State on Saturday, Murray broke the 17-year-old SEC record of Florida's Danny Wuerffel (1993-96) for the most career TD passes. Murray entered the game already holding the SEC career marks for total offense and passing yards. The senior completed 19 of 26 passes for 281 yards in three quarters of work.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Ho-hum. Another week, another compelling argument in the sophomore's case for a second straight Heisman Trophy. Against Mississippi State on Saturday, Johnny Football threw for 446 yards with five touchdown passes (never mind those three interceptions). Honorable mention goes to senior Travis Labhart, once a walk-on, now a scholarship guy who has emerged as a key contributor at receiver. Manziel completed six passes to Labhart for a career-high 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn: The former Georgia Bulldog and former juco quarterback accounted for 214 of Auburn's 444 rushing yards, running for two touchdowns and passing for another in the No. 9 Tigers' 55-23 dismantling of the home-standing Volunteers. Marshall posted a 99.6 Total QBR despite completing only 3 of 7 passes, but Gus Malzahn didn't need to throw with the success the Tigers were having on the ground. Marshall's 214 yards were the third-most by an SEC quarterback in a game over the last 10 seasons, behind only Heisman winners Manziel (229 yards vs. Oklahoma in 2012) and Cam Newton (217 vs. LSU in 2010).
Missouri's offense: The No. 8 Tigers encountered little resistance in their first league game in the Bluegrass State. Freshman quarterback Maty Mauk threw five touchdown passes to tie Chase Daniel's school record in Mizzou's 48-17 romp past Kentucky. Dorial Green-Beckham broke through in a big way. The 6-foot-6 sophomore, who was the nation's No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the Class of 2012, had seven catches for 100 yards and four touchdowns. Not to be outdone, running back Henry Josey ran 11 times for 113 yards and two TDs, including an 86-yarder. The Tigers remain a half-game ahead of idle South Carolina in the East division.
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: Even in a 51-41 road loss to Texas A&M, a special heartfelt helmet sticker goes out to Prescott, who lost his mother last Sunday to her battle with cancer. Tyler Russell got the start after Prescott missed the week of practice before Saturday's game, but the two rotated, with Prescott getting the majority of the snaps. The Aggies had difficulty slowing him in the running game, as Prescott ran 16 times for 154 yards (9.6 yards per carry). He was 14-of-26 passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns. It was certainly a determined and inspiring performance under the most difficult of circumstances.
Alabama still king: For the first 30 minutes, it looked like it was going to be another epic clash between the Tide and the Tigers. However, the nation's No. 1 team imposed its will in the second half and rolled to a 38-17 victory. AJ McCarron threw three touchdown passes; T.J. Yeldon rushed for 133 yards and two scores, and the defense held LSU to 43 yards on the ground, sacking quarterback Zach Mettenberger four times. It was the first challenging game the Tide have played in more than a month, and it proved why they are still the No. 1 team. On a weekend when Oregon suffered its first loss, Alabama not only remained unbeaten but showed why it's the favorite to win a third consecutive national championship.
Year of the Tiger: Who would've guessed Auburn and Missouri would be No. 2 and No. 3 in the SEC, chasing down Alabama? Both Tigers teams have had terrific seasons, and they continued Saturday with impressive road wins. Ninth-ranked Auburn went to Tennessee and blew out a Volunteers team that had been dangerous at home. Quarterback Nick Marshall rushed for 214 yards and two scores as the SEC's top-rushing offense put up 444 yards on the ground. Missouri also took care of business against a struggling Kentucky team. Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, a former five-star recruit, caught seven passes for 100 yards and four touchdowns. Both teams should remain in the top 10 when the BCS standings come out Sunday.
Trouble in Gainesville: Florida's season went from bad to worse Saturday. The Gators, who have been decimated by injuries, were on a three-game losing streak but hopeful they could turn it around at home against Vanderbilt. It didn't happen. Despite giving up nearly twice as many yards, the Commodores knocked off Florida 34-17 for their first win in Gainesville since 1945. The Gators turned the ball over four times. What does this mean for head coach Will Muschamp? He should get a pass because of all the injuries, but this is the type of loss that could lead to unemployment. Florida now has to win at South Carolina or at home against Florida State just to reach a bowl game.
Gaining momentum: It seems like a long time since Ole Miss lost those three consecutive games to Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M. The Rebels have quietly righted the ship, and they have a legitimate chance to win out. On Saturday, they looked impressive in a 34-24 win over Arkansas. Quarterback Bo Wallace finished 26-of-33 and threw for a career-high 407 yards. The win made Ole Miss bowl eligible for the second straight year under coach Hugh Freeze, but this team wants more. They want to finish with nine wins and play in a New Year's Day bowl game. That means the Rebels will have to upset Missouri at home in two weeks and finish the season with a win over Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Neither is out of the question.
The most productive receiving tandem in the league a year ago was the Vanderbilt combo of Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. They combined for 2,097 receiving yards, 144 catches and 13 touchdown receptions.
The good news for the Commodores is that they’re both back.
It’s tough to pick against a proven twosome like Matthews and Boyd, but Texas A&M also has a tandem to watch next season.
Mike Evans/Malcome Kennedy (Texas A&M): The Aggies also signed a trio of talented freshmen who will be on campus this summer. Evans has built off a terrific redshirt freshman season and has been a force this spring. He had more than 200 yards receiving in the scrimmage last weekend. Kennedy had the big catch against Alabama last season and is one of those guys who could really blossom as a fourth-year junior.
In a year that was supposed to be a fine welcome for the Tigers and a rude awakening for the Aggies, both programs have switched roles as they prepare for Saturday's matchup against each other.
But these new kids on the block aren't putting out many hits in their first year in the SEC.
Instead, No. 9 Texas A&M (9-2, 5-2) is a national darling and is equipped with a Heisman frontrunner in quarterback Johnny Manziel. Even with a brand new coaching staff, brand new offense, brand new defense and a brand new quarterback, the Aggies are in line for a BCS bowl. They even took down No. 1 Alabama ... in Tuscaloosa.
Roles really have reversed here. Missouri's James Franklin, who broke out onto the college football scene last year with his 2,865 passing yards and 981 rushing yards, was supposed to be the SEC's top dual-threat QB. But he's been held together by bandages this season and won't come close to his 2011 numbers, as he's averaging 1.4 yards per carry this season.
Johnny Football, who has become the first freshman and fifth NCAA FBS player to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season, now owns Franklin's old title, as he looks to extend his eight-game streak of having 300 or more total yards of offense.
The offenses flipped as well. Missouri returned so much experience and speed. The offensive line had good experience and the wide receivers were supposed to make Dave Yost's spread offense a challenge for SEC defenses.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, injuries piled up on the offensive line. All five preseason starters have gone down -- some for the season. Add inconsistency at wide receiver, and Mizzou's offense has gone in reverse, averaging just 316 yards in SEC games (12th in the conference).
Coach Gary Pinkel said he expected the SEC to be tough, but he never thought Mizzou would limp through the season like this. You have to wonder if the physicality of this league really has affected the Tigers.
Remember how the Aggies lost their starting quarterback and were completely changing the offense? Well, A&M leads the SEC in total offense (543.7 yards per game) rushing (234.9) and scoring (43.5). A&M is also second in passing (308.8). Kevin Sumlin has done a phenomenal job in his first year and many hats have to go off to offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury for the job he's done with Manziel and that offense.
Having receivers like Ryan Swope, who could have left for the NFL this spring, and Mike Evans combine for 124 catches, 1,681 yards and 10 touchdowns helps, but it's also nice to have a stout offensive line with two future first-rounder at the tackle spots in Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.
Both defenses have played well, but the Aggies were expected to struggle mightily with a brand new secondary. Instead, the Aggies have done enough to be about even with Tigers in pass defense.
Overall, these two teams just aren't what we expected. A&M has swag, Missouri has bruises.
Sumlin kept his guys working out for two extra weeks before spring practice and it has obviously helped with endurance and health. This team hasn't slowed down, even though it hasn't had a bye week, and that extra work is a major reason why.
Texas A&M is clearly on the rise, and this season should only help recruiting, where the Aggies will really be able to hit Texas -- and the southeast -- even harder with their success and popularity.
Sumlin has already been cleaning up with his 12th-ranked recruiting class that has four ESPN 150 members and seven ESPN 300 members. Missouri has 17 commits with one ESPN 300 member.
It's too early to tell what impact this season will have in the long run in recruiting, but it's clear that 2012 has really helped A&M, and the Aggies are leaving Mizzou behind. They've done it on the football field and if they do it in recruiting, these roles won't change.
Who are you most excited to see in the years to come? We'll include Mizzou and A&M recruits in this poll.
Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas
Gray comes to Texas as the national player of the year, the No. 2 overall recruit and top running back, as well as the record holder for career rushing touchdowns with 205. The shifty, powerful back was named Mr. Football USA by ESPNHS.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
Beckham was the biggest prize left late in the recruiting sweepstakes, and the nation's No. 1 receiver is headed to his home state's school, Mizzou. He, like Gray, was dominant at his position. He holds the national record for career high school receiving yards with 6,353 and caught 300 passes and 75 touchdowns in his career.
Trey Williams, RB, Texas A&M
Despite Gray's gaudy stats, there's at least a few folks who think Williams could be just as good or better. He heads to Aggieland via Houston as the nation's No. 5 running back and rushed for 3,890 yards on 427 carries, scoring 48 touchdowns as a senior. Not bad, eh?
Dominique Wheeler, WR, Texas Tech
Wheeler would love to be the next in a long line of great receivers from Texas Tech. He's the nation's No. 8 receiver and at 6-foot-1, 176 pounds, possesses 4.4 speed and a feel for space, with the ability to make plays in open space with the ball in his hands. He played some Wildcat QB in high school.
Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma
Metoyer is on campus and enrolled for spring. He had to wait an extra year to enroll after failing to qualify and enrolling at military school, but the No. 8 receiver in the 2011 class was one of the top signees for the Sooners in 2011. Now, he'll get his chance and an extra spring to prepare at a position of need for OU.
This will change quickly in the next couple days, but here's how they look before things get real crazy. Here's how the rankings looked two weeks ago, when we last updated the Big 12 scorecard.
This scorecard is written in pencil. Tomorrow, players will sign in ink.
1. Texas Longhorns
National ranking: No. 3
Total commits: 27
ESPNU 150 commits: 11
Key commits: RB Johnathan Gray, DT Malcom Brown, WR Cayleb Jones, QB Connor Brewer
Latest news: Texas recently added the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker, former Tennessee commit Dalton Santos. That may help its national ranking, which fell from No. 2 to No. 3 since our last update. The Longhorns also added No. 14 ATH Daje Johnson, a former TCU commit. Both were ESPNU 150 prospects. Texas also added defensive end Bryce Cottrell, who had previously been committed to Oregon.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
National ranking: No. 10
Total commits: 20
ESPNU 150 commits: 5
Key commits: RB Alex Ross, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Durron Neal, OL Ty Darlington, WR Trey Metoyer
Latest news: Oklahoma surpassed Texas A&M since our last update, and added Sam Grant, the nation's No. 18 TE. David Smith, the nation's No. 124 ATH, also joined the fold for the Sooners. One of the nation's top juco offensive tackles, Will Latu also pledged to Oklahoma and could make an immediate impact. Oklahoma swiped Zack Sanchez on Monday, a cornerback who had been committed to Baylor since July.
3. Texas A&M Aggies
National ranking: No. 12
Total commits: 22
ESPNU 150 commits: 5
Key commits: OLB Jordan Richmond, RB Trey Williams, ATH Bralon Addison, QB Matt Davis
Latest news: The nation's No. 33 defensive end, Polo Manukainiu, became a late addition to the Aggies' class, and the nation's No. 30 safety, Edward Pope, also gave new coach Kevin Sumlin a commitment.
4. Texas Tech Red Raiders
National ranking: No. 17
Total commits: 26
ESPNU 150 commits: 3
Key commits: WR Reginald Davis, WR Dominique Wheeler, OT Michael Starts, QB Clayton Nicholas
Latest news: The Red Raiders added juco cornerback Ola Falemi to their class, but look out for Tuberville on signing day. Switches on the big day are no surprises with him at Tech.
5. Baylor Bears
Total commits: 22
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: ATH Corey Coleman, OT Kyle Fuller, DT Javonte Magee, OLB Brian Nance
Latest news: Baylor swiped Kansas QB commit Seth Russell, No. 47 nationally at the position, to make a big wave across the Big 12. It also grabbed cornerback Patrick Levels out of Dallas. Nance and Magee both pledged to Baylor after the new year.
6. Missouri Tigers
Total commits: 18
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: OG Evan Boehm, QB Maty Mauk, ILB Donavin Newsom, OLB Torey Boozer
Latest news: Missouri may be in the lead in the DGB sweepstakes after hosting the nation's No. 1 receiver on a visit on the final weekend of the recruiting season. The nation's No. 105 ATH John Gibson and No. 151 DT, Harold Brantley, are the latest additions to Mizzou's class.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Total commits: 21
ESPNU 150 commits: 1
Key commits: TE Dominic Ramacher, OLB Jeremiah Tshimanga, OT Michael Wilson, QB Wes Lunt
Latest news: OSU has added five commits since our last update, including Wilson, the nation's No. 22 offensive tackle. Receiver Chance Allen (No. 141) joins the squad as well. CB Kevin Peterson came to OSU after originally committing to Oklahoma. OSU also added receiver Jhajuan Seales. Juco offensive tackle Chris Grishby committed on Jan. 22.
8. Iowa State Cyclones
Total commits: 21
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: OT Daniel Burton, WR P.J. Harris, WR Quan West, ATH Damien Lawry
Latest news: The Cyclones have two fewer commits than the last time we checked in, but added Devlyn Cousin, the nation's No. 154 defensive tackle.
9. Kansas State Wildcats
Total commits: 18
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: WR Vernon Vaughn, DT Travis Britz, RB Jarvis Leverett, QB Tavarius Bender
Latest news: Kansas State added five commitments in the last two weeks, highlighted by Demonte Hood, the nation's No. 111 DT. RB Charles Jones is headed to Manhattan via Louisiana, too. S Donovan Starks is coming from Crosby, Texas, and receiver Judah Jones is a Wildcat after wrapping his high school career at power Evangel Christian in Louisiana. OT Ellwood Clement gave K-State five juco players in this class, low by Bill Snyder's standards.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
Total commits: 18
ESPNU 150 commits: 0
Key commits: TE Jordan Smith, OG Brian Beckmann, S Gregg Allen, DT Tyler Holmes
Latest news: New coach Charlie Weis has added four commits since our last update. QB Seth Russell, the team's top commit, is gone, but the Jayhawks have the QB spot settled for the next three years with transfers Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps. Greg Allen (No. 89 safety) is the top new addition, and Charles Brooks gives the class a second tight end. The Jayhawks also added a pair of juco defensive tackles that figure to have immediate impacts, Chaquil Reed and Jordan Tavai.
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