NCF Nation: Jeremy Shelley


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama trailed for the first time all season when Ole Miss scored a touchdown early in the second quarter, but the Crimson Tide answered with two quick scores and held off the Rebels to win 33-14 Saturday night.


The offense looked efficient but not outstanding. The Tide never hit on the big play they’ve become accustomed to this season. Still, it was a coming-out party for freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper, and quarterback AJ McCarron was sharp yet again for the Tide.

Alabama’s defense gave up 218 yards to the Rebels’ up-tempo offense, but it continued to force turnovers with three interceptions. On the season, the Tide have forced 15 turnovers while giving the ball away only twice.

It was over when: Leading 30-14 in the fourth quarter, Alabama put the game away with a 13-play drive that resuled in a 24-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley. The drive took more than six minutes and eliminated any chance for an Ole Miss comeback. Eddie Lacy started it with a big run, and Coooper made two key catches to convert on third down.

Game ball goes to: When wide receiver DeAndrew White went down with an injury in the first quarter, Alabama needed somebody to step up in his absence, and Cooper answered the challenge. The freshman wide receiver finished with eight catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper’s performance shows how deep the Tide’s wide receiver corps is this year.

Stat of the game: McCarron passed Brody Croyle’s Alabama record of 190 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception when he connected with Brent Calloway on a short pass in the first half. McCarron finished 22-of-30 for 180 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He now has 206 consecutive pass attempts without a pick.

Unsung hero: Starting cornerback Deion Belue never returned from the locker room for the second half due to a shoulder injury, but he made his presence felt in the first half. Belue had five tackles, including one for a loss, and one of the Tide’s three first-half interceptions. His loss was a clear blow to UA’s defense, as Ole Miss moved the ball better in the second half.

What it means for Alabama: The nation’s No. 1 team had its moments. McCarron continued to be efficient. The defense gave up yards but forced turnovers. Even the special teams got a lift from Christion Jones’ 99-yard kick return for a touchdown. Still, it wasn’t a flawless game. The biggest thing to take away might be the injuries, though. No word yet on the severity, but both White and Belue left the game.

What it means for Ole Miss: The Rebels came into the game as a heavy underdog, but they weren’t intimidated by the hostile environment or the opponent. Ole Miss hung with the Tide throughout the game and put together quite a drive in the third quarter against Alabama’s defense. More than anything, the game should give Ole Miss confidence as it dives into SEC play.

SEC postseason position rankings: ST

February, 10, 2012
2/10/12
4:42
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We've come to the end of our postseason position rankings. Special teams don't get a ton of credit when things go right, but we all know how much grief they get when things go wrong. Just look at all those shanks we saw from kickers last season.

Fortunately, there are other aspects of special teams that involve more exciting plays, like returns that can change the dynamic of a game or are just really easy on the eyes (just take a look at what Joe Adams did to Tennessee last fall).

You can see how we ranked the SEC's special teams units before the season here.

Here are our final rankings:

[+] EnlargeTyrann Mathieu
AP Photo/John BazemoreTyrann Mathieu's punt return for a touchdown against Georgia turned the momentum in the game.
1. LSU: All-American punter Brad Wing averaged 44.4 yards per kick, had 20 punts of 50-plus yards and pinned 27 kicks inside the opposing 20-yard line. His long of 73 yards completely changed LSU's first game with Alabama. Tyrann Mathieu had two clutch punt returns for touchdowns against Arkansas and Georgia at the end of the season and was fifth nationally averaging 15.6 yards per return. Morris Claiborne also returned a kickoff for a touchdown and averaged 25.1 yards per return. Opponents averaged 3.7 yards per punt return and just 20 yards per kickoff against LSU. Drew Alleman led the SEC in field goal percentage (88.9), hitting 16-of-18 kicks.

2. Arkansas: Adams was one of the best punt returners in the country, averaging 16.9 yards per return and taking four to the house for scores. The Hogs were just as dangerous on kickoffs, as Dennis Johnson and Marquel Wade both returned kicks for touchdowns and ranked in the top five in the SEC in return average. Zach Hocker hit 21-of-27 kicks and led all kickers by averaging 9.1 points per game. Dylan Breeding led the SEC in punting (45.3) and downed 16 inside the 20. Arkansas was one of the best in the SEC in kickoff coverage, but did allow two punt returns to go for scores in the two biggest games of the season.

3. Auburn: Auburn had Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason take kickoffs back for touchdowns, as the Tigers led the SEC in kickoff return average (24.7) and also in kickoff coverage. Auburn wasn't great returning punts, but punter Steven Clark was a Ray Guy Award finalist and pinned 33 punts inside the 20. Cody Parkey ranked sixth in the league in field-goal kicking, connecting on 13-of-18 kicks (72.2).

4. Florida: Even without Urban Meyer running the show, the Gators were still pretty successful in this department. Florida was first in the SEC and tied for sixth nationally with six blocked kicks. Two punt blocks went for touchdowns. Caleb Sturgis was a Lou Groza Award finalist, hitting 22-of-26 field goals, including three from 50-plus yards. Florida was also solid in kickoff coverage and got kickoff touchdowns of their own from Andre Debose, who was third in the league in return average, and Jeff Demps. Florida averaged 7.2 yards per punt return and averaged 39.8 yards per punt.

5. Ole Miss: If not for special teams, Ole Miss would have been even worse in 2011. Tyler Campbell averaged 43.6 yards per punt on his 72 attempts and pinned 28 inside the 20. The Rebels also had two different players -- Nickolas Brassell and Jeff Scott -- return punts for touchdowns and Ole Miss was near the top of the league in kickoff coverage and had a net punting average of 38 yards. Bryson Rose also hit nine of his 11 field-goal attempts.

6. Vanderbilt: It was a mixed bag for the Commodores when it came to special teams. Vanderbilt was second in the league in opponent punt return average (3.9), but allowed a touchdown, and gave up another touchdown on kickoff coverage. Vanderbilt also blocked two kicks. Missed field goals haunted Vanderbilt, as the Commodores missed two in the six-point loss to Tennessee and one at the end of regulation in a three-point loss to Arkansas. Andre Hal logged a kickoff touchdown, but Vandy was 11th in the league in punt return average.

7. Alabama: Before the national championship game, Alabama's field-goal kicking game received a ton of criticism, especially for the four misses in the 9-6 loss to LSU. But Jeremy Shelley redeemed the unit by hitting 5-of-7 in the rematch. Alabama's kickers missed 13 kicks. Marquis Maze only had 12 kickoff returns, but averaged 28.5 yards per return, was third in the SEC in punt return average (13.2) and had that nifty touchdown against Arkansas. However, Alabama was 11th in the league in kickoff coverage and 10th in punt average.

8. Kentucky: Punter Ryan Tydlacka was fourth in the league in punting (43.6), had 20 punts of 50-plus yards and had 19 of his punts downed inside the 20. Craig McIntosh connected on 12-of-14 field-goal attempts (.857). Kentucky was in the middle of the pack in kickoff coverage. The Wildcats weren't so good at returning kicks, ranking 11th in the SEC in kickoff returns and last in punt returns, averaging 1.8 yards per return.

9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were last in the league in kickoff returns and were the only team to average fewer than 20 yards a return. The Bulldogs were better on punts, getting touchdowns from Chad Bumphis and Johnthan Banks, and ranked fifth in the league in punt return average. Punter Baker Swedenburg ranked seventh in punting and pinned 19 punts inside the 20. Derek DePasquale hit 12-of-18 field goals.

10. Tennessee: The Vols didn't record any special teams touchdowns, but were fifth in the league in kickoff returns and seventh in punt returns. As far as defending returns, Tennessee allowed just 18.1 yards per return, but was 10th in punt return coverage and gave up a touchdown. Michael Palardy hit of nine of his 14 field-goal attempts and punter Matt Darr was 10th in the SEC in punt average (38.1).

11. South Carolina: The Gamecocks struggled in the kicking game, but did have a bright spot in Ace Sanders recording a touchdown on a punt return and South Carolina blocked two kicks. However, South Carolina was seventh and eighth in the SEC in kickoff and punt returns, respectively. South Carolina was last in kickoff coverage and gave up a touchdown. Jay Wooten missed four field goals and three extra points, while punter Joey Scribner-Howard was ninth in the SEC in punting, averaging 38.9 yards per punt.

12. Georgia: Outside of Brandon Boykin's 92-yard touchdown return in the Outback Bowl, his 22.4-yard average on kick returns and Drew Butler's 44.2 yards per punt, Georgia didn't do much at all on special teams. The group that was supposed to be first in the league allowed two kickoffs and punts to go for touchdowns and allowed a fake punt for a touchdown against South Carolina. Blair Walsh entered the season as one of the nation's top kickers, but hit just 21-of-35 kicks, including missing two in overtime in the bowl loss to Michigan State.

The 2011 SEC All-Bowl team

January, 13, 2012
1/13/12
11:18
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We're taking one last look at the SEC's postseason by putting together our All-SEC bowl team:

OFFENSE

QB: Connor Shaw, South Carolina: Shaw didn't seem to feel the pressure of a bowl game, completing 11 of 17 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 42 yards and another score in the Gamecocks' win against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. He even gave South Carolina the momentum going into the second half with a touchdown on a Hail Mary to end the first half.

[+] EnlargeVick Ballard
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyMississippi State's Vick Ballard rushed for 180 yards against Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl.
RB: Vick Ballard, Mississippi State: Ballard ended his career with the Bulldogs with one of his best performances, as he rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries in Mississippi State's win against Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl. His touchdowns went for 72 and 60 yards.

RB: Onterio McCalebb, Auburn: As the Tigers' lead back in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, McCalebb had a game-high 109 rushing yards, including a long of 60. He also recorded a three-yard touchdown run and caught two passes for 53 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown in Auburn's win against Virginia.

WR: Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina: Jeffery's day would have been even better if he hadn't been ejected. However, he still caught four passes for a game-high 148 yards and snagged Shaw's Hail Mary touchdown pass at the end of the first half. He also had a 78-yard reception.

WR: Tavarres King, Georgia: King tried his best to get Georgia a victory in the Outback Bowl against Michigan State. He was Aaron Murray's best friend, catching six passes for a career-high 205 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown pass that at one point stood as the longest play in Outback Bowl history.

TE: Brad Smelley, Alabama: The Crimson Tide got its passing game going with Smelley in Monday's Allstate BCS National Championship win against LSU. He was AJ McCarron's safety net when plays broke down, and the young quarterback also used Smelley on rollouts. Smelley finished the game with seven catches for 39 yards.

OL: Barrett Jones, Alabama: Behind one of the most versatile linemen in the entire country, Alabama's line held back LSU's defensive front for most of Monday night's game. Alabama ran for 150 yards against LSU's vaunted defense. He also kept McCarron safe, as the youngster was sacked only twice while throwing for 234 yards.

OL: Alvin Bailey, Arkansas: He just keeps looking better and better for the Razorbacks. In Arkansas' AT&T Cotton Bowl victory against Kansas State, he helped Arkansas churn out 129 rushing yards on 4.3 yards per carry and helped give quarterback Tyler Wilson enough time to pass for 216 yards and two touchdowns.

OL: Kyle Nunn, South Carolina: The Gamecocks' offensive line gave up four sacks to Nebraska, but Shaw was still able to throw for 230 yards and two touchdowns. With Nunn's help, the Gamecocks also rushed for 121 yards against the Cornhuskers.

OL: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State: Ballard's outstanding performance for the Bulldogs wouldn't have been possible if not for some solid line play. Jackson had one of his best outings, as he helped Mississippi State rush for 253 yards and pass for another 129. Mississippi State gave up just one sack to Wake Forest.

C: William Vlachos, Alabama: Vlachos had his hands full with the interior of LSU's defensive line, but he more than held his own. He battled all night with LSU's Michael Brockers and allowed him to assist on just one tackle for loss. He provided a ton of protection in the passing game and helped Alabama rush for 150 yards on LSU's defense.

DEFENSE

DE: Jake Bequette, Arkansas: Bequette said before Arkansas' bowl game that the Hogs' defense needed to make a statement. Bequette certainly made a few in his final game with the Razorbacks, registering two sacks, forcing a fumble and totaling three tackles.

DE: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: The freshman put a nice bow on his first season with the Gamecocks. He put a ton of pressure on Nebraska's backfield with two sacks for a loss of 13 yards and finished the game with four tackles.

DT: Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State: Cox wanted to make a lasting impression in his final game with the Bulldogs, and he certainly did by disrupting Wake Forest's offensive line in the Music City Bowl. He finished the game with seven tackles, including two for loss and a sack, and blocked his fifth career kick, which is a Mississippi State record.

DT: Michael Brockers, LSU: Brockers had a tough time with Vlachos in the middle, but that didn't stop him from making plays. He did a tremendous job of clogging holes in the middle for the Tigers and finished the game with seven tackles, assisting on one for loss, and blocked a field goal attempt.

LB: Courtney Upshaw, Alabama: It came as no surprise that Upshaw was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. He was nearly unblockable for LSU on Monday night. He put immense pressure on LSU's backfield and finished the game with six tackles, including a sack.

LB: Archibald Barnes, Vanderbilt: Barnes was a true rover for Vanderbilt against Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl. He had a game-high 10 tackles, assisting on one for a loss, and blocked a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter that gave Vandy some life late.

LB: Alec Ogletree, Georgia: Georgia might not have come up with the win in the Outback Bowl, but it wasn't because of how Ogletree played. He was all over the field for the Bulldogs, grabbing a game-high 13 tackles, including two for loss, breaking up two passes and getting a sack.

CB: Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt: Yet again, Hayward was tremendous in coverage for the Commodores. He grabbed two interceptions and broke up another pass. He was also second on the team with eight tackles, including one for loss. Cincinnati threw for just 80 yards against the Commodores.

CB: Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina: Gilmore ended his South Carolina career on a high note. He recorded five tackles, including one for loss, and an interception. He also returned a blocked extra point for South Carolina's first points of the game. Nebraska threw for just 116 yards on the Gamecocks' secondary.

S: Mark Barron, Alabama: Barron recorded just two tackles, including a sack, but he was outstanding in coverage. He roamed the back part of the field for the Crimson Tide and didn't allow LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson to stretch the field at all because of his positioning. Jefferson threw for just 53 yards on Alabama.

S: Matt Elam, Florida: Elam was Florida's most consistent player during the regular season, and he was all over the field for the Gators in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl against Ohio State. He finished the game with six tackles, two for loss and a sack.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK: Jeremy Shelley, Alabama: Talk about redeeming the position that spoiled Alabama's first game against LSU. Shelley hit five of his seven field goal attempts against the Tigers and even rebounded to hit four of his final five after having his second attempt blocked in the second quarter.

P: Dylan Breeding, Arkansas: He punted four times for an average of 46.8 yards per kick. He had a long of 63 yards and dropped two inside the 20-yard line against Kansas State.

RS: Joe Adams, Arkansas: Surprise, surprise, Adams made another special teams unit look silly. Against Kansas State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, Adams got things started for the Hogs with a nifty 51-yard punt return for a touchdown. His return sparked a 16-point second quarter for the Hogs.

AP: Brandon Boykin, Georgia: Boykin found a way to put points on the board three different ways in the Outback Bowl. He forced a safety when he stuffed Michigan State's Keshawn Martin on the Spartans' first offensive play, returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown and caught a 13-yard touchdown late. His punt return was the longest play in Outback Bowl history.

This time, Shelley gets his kicks

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
4:19
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NEW ORLEANS -- After Alabama tailback Trent Richardson finally broke the ice against No. 1 LSU in Monday night's Allstate BCS National Championship Game, scoring the first touchdown in more than 105 minutes of football played between the schools this season, Crimson Tide kicker Jeremy Shelley lined up for his easiest kick of the night.

Shelley missed the extra point.

But it didn't even matter.

After Shelley and fellow kicker Cade Foster combined to miss four field goals in the Crimson Tide's 9-6 loss in overtime to LSU on Nov. 5, Shelley made five field goals in Alabama's 21-0 victory over the Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday night.

For Mark Schlabach's full story, click here.

Video: Alabama's Jeremy Shelley

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
2:06
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Chris Low interviews Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley following Alabama's victory in the Allstate BCS National Championship.

NEW ORLEANS -- College football has a new national champion and its name is Alabama. The second-ranked Crimson Tide (12-1, 7-1) totally dominated the night as Alabama came away with the 21-0 win over No. 1 LSU (13-1, 8-0) in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.

We even had a touchdown in the rematch, as Alabama running back Trent Richardson put the game away with his 34-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. After kicking killed the Tide in the first go-round between these two teams, Jeremy Shelley hit five of his seven field-goal attempts.

How it was won: Alabama's defense entered the game as the nation's best and it showed exactly why Monday night. LSU's offense did absolutely nothing for four quarters. The Crimson Tide contained LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson all night and forced him to have his worst game of the year. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was outstanding as well. He was cool and collected in the huddle and never looked like the youngster that he is. He finished the game with 234 yards passing. LSU's defense wasn't bad either, allowing only the five field goals before Richardson's touchdown run with 4:36 left.

Turning point: Jefferson's interception in the third quarter stopped any chance of LSU making any sort of run in the second half. Honestly, the turning point might have been when LSU coach Les Miles sent Jefferson out to take the snaps at quarterback in the second half.

Stat of the game: LSU ran the ball so well against Alabama earlier this year, but the Crimson Tide's defense absolutely manhandled LSU's offensive line and held the Tigers to a season-low 39 yards rushing.

Player of the game: Shelley tied a bowl record with five field goals and scored the only points of the game until late in the fourth. After Alabama's kicking game was a disaster last time these teams played, he was the Tide's best offensive player.

Unsung hero: Courtney Upshaw was a monster on Monday. He recorded seven tackles, six solo and a sack. He couldn't be contained by LSU's offensive line.

Second guessing: Miles always has been very loyal to Jefferson, but it cost him Monday. He should have turned to Jarrett Lee at some point in the second half after a simply awful performance by Jefferson. Lee struggled against Alabama earlier this year, but he couldn't have been worse than Jefferson, right? Jefferson passed for 53 yards and an interception and ran for 15 yards.

What it means: Alabama now enters the offseason with Nick Saban's second national championship as the Tide's head coach. That's No. 13 in the Alabama record books. The Tide will lose some key pieces to this team, especially on defense, but the offense might be better with four of five linemen coming back and McCarron being much improved. Alabama should also have some better play at wide receiver. For LSU, this was a great season until Monday night. But the Tigers return the core of this team and will most certainly get better quarterback play from junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger. Both of these teams will be ranked right at the top of the polls to begin next season.

Record performance: Shelley's five field goals tied the record for most in a bowl game. His seven attempts set a bowl record.
NEW ORLEANS -- Greetings from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome!

If you're looking for a confident bunch Monday night, look no further than Alabama's kickers. Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley took the field by storm. Along with punter Cody Mandell and snapper Caron Tinker, Alabama's specialists rushed out on the field, taunted some LSU players and were chest bumping all the way to their side of the field.

All the confidence this group lost in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 5, must have been found on the bus ride in tonight. These two are looking to make up for the awful showing they had the last time these two teams met. You know all those kicks have been running through their brains all week, so it's time to come out strong for these guys.

Both have been nailing kicks, so far, but there aren't any Tigers in their faces this time ...

There are also a few celebrities in the house. Cedric the Entertainer rode with me on the elevator up to his seat. No word from him on which team he's rooting for.

So far, it's hard to tell which side has more fans, but this place exploded when the Alabama kickers ran out onto the field. It got even louder when Alabama's skill players ran out onto the field. We'll see what it looks like come kickoff.

This place is going to be electric come kickoff. It helps that music from the movie "Inception" is blaring through the stadium loudspeakers.

Did you just get goosebumps? I know I did.

Who has the most to prove in the bowls?

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
10:23
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Later this week, the bowl season kicks off for the SEC with three games.

On Friday, Mississippi State faces Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. And on Saturday, Vanderbilt takes on Cincinnati in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, while Auburn meets Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Who in the SEC has the most to prove this season in the bowl games? And we’re talking head coaches, assistant coaches, players, teams and particular units on teams.

[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
AP Photo/Brett FlashnickCan coach Steve Spurrier get the Gamecocks their fifth overall bowl win in school history?
Here’s a look:

South Carolina: Don’t bother looking up South Carolina’s bowl record. It’s ugly. Try 4-12 all-time, and the Gamecocks have lost four of their last five, including three straight. They’ve played some real stinkers in the postseason, too. Steve Spurrier has knocked down a lot of barriers at South Carolina. Here’s a chance to knock down another one against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. He and his ball team need to prove they can get it done in the postseason.

Alabama: Second chances are rare in college football. The Crimson Tide are getting one in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game against LSU. There was a lot of chatter coming out of Tuscaloosa the first time about Alabama being the better football team despite what the scoreboard said. Well, this time, there’s a lot of chatter nationally about the Crimson Tide not belonging in the national title game. There’s only one way to quell that.

Mississippi State: It wasn’t a bad season in Starkville. Unfulfilling is probably a better way to put it. The Bulldogs had high expectations, but wound up 6-6. It’s true they were a few plays away from being 8-4, but they didn’t make those plays. Making them against Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and completing a second straight winning season would make everybody in Bulldog Land feel a lot better.

Bobby Petrino: It’s not so much that Petrino has a lot to prove. After all, he’s turned Arkansas into one of the SEC’s elite programs in four seasons. But here’s a chance to get to 11 wins and do it against a top-10 team — Kansas State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. The Hogs have lost five of their last seven games to top-10 opponents. If they’re going to take that proverbial next step, this is the kind of game they need to win, and a victory would generate a ton of momentum heading into next season.

James Franklin: The coach has already done what nobody (outside the guys in that Vanderbilt locker room) expected -- he's guided the Commodores to a bowl game. But if they don’t win it against Cincinnati in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, it’s just going to go down as another losing season, which would be the 28th at Vanderbilt in the last 29 seasons. The difference between winning and losing this game for Franklin and the Commodores is huge.

Alabama's place-kickers: Not much needs to be said here. If the Crimson Tide had made a couple of field goals back on Nov. 5, they would be unbeaten right now. Cade Foster is the one who’s struggled the most, but he handles the longer attempts. In Jeremy Shelley’s defense, he ended the regular season by making his last four attempts. Alabama fans hope they’re saving up all their big kicks for the Big Easy.

Jordan Jefferson: There are a lot of folks who don’t think the LSU quarterback can beat Alabama standing in the pocket and throwing the ball. Obviously, a big part of Jefferson’s game is running the ball. But something says Alabama will be a bit more prepared for the option this time. If LSU is going to win its second national championship in five years, Jefferson will have to make a few big plays in the passing game.

Isaiah Crowell: For a true freshman who flirted with 1,000 yards in the regular season, Crowell sure has been a lightning rod. He still has a lot of growing up to do, but the talent is there to be a great one in a long line of great Georgia tailbacks. Maybe he'll put it all together for four quarters in the Outback Bowl versus Michigan State.

Auburn's defense: Not that head coach Gene Chizik is prone to point the finger, but if he’s looking for somebody to blame about the way Auburn plays on defense after the Chick-fil-A Bowl, he’ll have to point it at himself. Chizik is in charge of the Tigers’ defense for the bowl game, and this is their last chance to get that sour taste out of their mouths from the regular season. Auburn was one of two SEC teams to give up an average of 400 yards per game and allowed 34 or more points in seven of 12 games.

Florida's offense: Charlie Weis has taken off for Kansas, meaning Brian White moves in as the Gators’ interim offensive coordinator. He could be auditioning for the full-time job. The thing he has going for him is that it can’t get much worse than the regular season. Not counting the Furman game, the Gators scored more than one offensive touchdown in a game only once in their last seven contests. The other bit of good news is that Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey should both be as healthy as they’ve been.

At the half: Alabama 3, LSU 3

November, 5, 2011
11/05/11
9:56
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama and LSU traded field goals in the first half and went into halftime Saturday night tied at 3-3 in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Here's a quick halftime analysis:

Turning point: After missing three long field goal attempts, Alabama got a 34-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley to take a 3-0 lead with 3:53 left in the half. LSU answered with its only extended drive of the half, marching 74 yards in 11 plays for Drew Alleman's 19-yard field goal as the second-quarter clock expired. The big play for the Tigers was Jordan Jefferson's 29-yard completion to Russell Shepard down to the Alabama 8-yard line.

Stat of the half: LSU had managed just 50 yards of total offense in the first half until driving for the late field goal.

Stat of the half II: The Tigers committed their first turnover since the third week of the season when Jarrett Lee was intercepted by Robert Lester late in the first quarter. Jefferson came in at quarterback for LSU after that and played the rest of the way.

Player of the half: LSU punter Brad Wing has pinned Alabama at its own 5 and its own 4.

Special teams killing Alabama

November, 5, 2011
11/05/11
9:08
PM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Remember that special-teams advantage LSU supposedly had coming into this game?

So far, it's the part of the game that has kept the Tigers in this game.

Alabama has missed three field goals, the last a 49-yarder that was blocked by LSU's Bennie Logan.

Cade Foster missed the first two (a 44-yarder and 50-yarder), and the Tide gave Jeremy Shelley a shot on the third one. The results were even worse. Logan blocked it, and Eric Reid returned it to the Alabama 48.

Missing out on nine potential points is one thing, but there's also an emotional punch to the gut when you move within striking distance three times and come up empty all three times.

The game's scoreless, but LSU has to feel like it's ahead at this point.
We're pulling double-duty with the kickers today. Instead of ranking 10 place-kickers and 10 punters, we're doing the top five for each position.

These aren't the workout warriors that grab all of the headlines, but try to find a team that would go through a season without using them. Last season, 15 games involving SEC teams were determined by three points or fewer.

Here are our top five place-kickers:

[+] EnlargeBlair Walsh
Dale Zanine/US PresswireBlair Walsh already has missed five field goals this season, the same amount he missed across his sophomore and junior seasons combined.
1. Blair Walsh, Georgia, Sr.: Walsh was very reliable for the Bulldogs last season, making 20 of 23 (87 percent) field goals. For his career, he’s hit 55 of 68 kicks in his career, including 22-of-29 from 40 yards and beyond. He has missed just two kicks within 30 yards in his career.

2. Zach Hocker, Arkansas, So.: He was only a freshman last season, but Hocker nailed 16 of 19 field goals, with seven from 40 yards or better. With the high-powered offense the Razorbacks have, Hocker will get plenty of opportunities again. Now that he’s gone through a year of learning in the SEC, he should be even better, which is scary.

3. Bryson Rose, Ole Miss, Jr.: Rose returns with the highest kicking percent in the league after connecting on 16 of 18 (89 percent) field goals in 2010. He only attempted two kicks from 40 or more yards last year, but he hit both and might see more long attempts this season if the offense is slow out of the gate.

4. Derek DePasquale, Mississippi State, Sr.: He shared time with Sean Brauchle last season, but was still 10-of-12 kicking with a long of 43 yards. The Bulldogs’ offense should get him more attempts this season and the coaches were pleased with his range this spring.

5. Jeremy Shelley, Alabama, Jr.: Shelley was used for kicks within 40 yards, while Cade Foster dealt with the long ball. The two should be utilized the same way this fall, but Shelley will again get more attempts to score points. He was 12-of-16 in 2010.

Here are our top five punters:

1. Tyler Campbell, Ole Miss, Jr.: Campbell led the nation with a punting average of 46.4 yards per kick in 2010. He had 19 punts of more than 50 yards and five were launched 60 or more yards. Campbell is the ultimate field-position changer.

2. Drew Butler, Georgia, Sr.: Butler completes the dynamic kicking duo in Athens. He ranked fourth in the league, averaging 44.5 yards per punt last season. Nineteen of his 50 punts landed inside the 20-yard line.

3. Dylan Breeding, Arkansas, Jr.: Breeding will help out Arkansas’ defense with his extremely strong leg. He pinned 18 punts inside the 20 a year ago and averaged 42.5 yards per kick, which the coaches expect to increase after a solid spring.

4. Ryan Tydlacka, Kentucky, Sr.: He’s been a kicker of all trades during his time at Kentucky. He started as a pooch punter, kicked a few field goals and has now been a two-year starter at punter. He averaged 43.8 yards per punt in 2010 with a net average of 35.3 yards.

5. Richard Kent, Vanderbilt, Jr.: It’s hard to believe he still has a leg after the year he had in 2010. Kent kicked a nation-leading 84 punts last season and had 27 downed inside the 20. He only had a 41.8 yard-per-kick average, but that’s to be expected with all those kicks.
We’re finally at the end of our position rankings and we’ll finish up with special teams. This group does a lot more than people think and teams are starting to put their best athletes out here.

Kickers and punters don’t get a lot of respect in the athletic department, but they are crucial assets to teams.

Let’s see how the SEC special-teams units stack up:

1. Georgia: It would be hard to find another special-teams unit better than the one in Athens. The Bulldogs return the dependable Blair Walsh at kicker, who kicked a league-high 20 field goals on 23 attempts (87 percent). Punter Drew Butler averaged 44.5 yards on 50 punts, with 19 landing inside the 20-yard line. Georgia also has a talented returning duo in Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith. Boykin is the school’s all-time leader in kick return yards and averaged 24.3 yards per return with a touchdown in 2010. Smith only returned 10 punts last year, but is dynamic in space.

[+] EnlargeJoe Adams
Paul Abell/US PresswireJoe Adams was fifth in the nation in punt returns last season, averaging 15.6 yards per return.
2. Arkansas: Joe Adams might be one of the most fun guys to watch in the return game. He was fifth in the nation, averaging 15.6 yards per return last year, and is one of the shiftiest returners out there. He also had a touchdown. Dennis Johnson is back from injury and when he was healthy, he was one of the best kicker returners in the league. In the kicking game, sophomore Zach Hocker had an impressive freshman year where he connected on 16 of 19 field goals, with seven from 40 or better. Punter Dylan Breeding averaged 42.5 yards per kick and pinned 18 inside the 20.

3. Alabama: Trent Richardson not only heads the Tide’s offense, but he’s extremely dangerous as a kick returner. He averaged 26.4 yards per return and had a touchdown last year. Marquis Maze, who grabbed 21 punt returns last year, has great speed to break one at any time. Alabama actually returns two kickers in Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster. Shelley handled kicks with the 40-yard range, while Foster had long distance duty. The job at punter hasn’t been settled, with Cody Mandell and Jay Williams battling it out.

4. Florida: Caleb Sturgis is finally healthy after suffering a back injury last season. He was solid from farther out as a freshman, but struggled to stay consistent closer to the end zone. Ray Guy winner Chas Henry is gone, but freshman Kyle Christy enrolled early and immediately took over punting duties, launching a punt 55 yards in the spring game. Andre Debose was named the nation’s top kick returner by the College Football Performance Awards in 2010 after returning two kicks for touchdowns and Chris Rainey could be the slipperiest punt returner in the SEC. Florida also has been the best punt/kick blocking team around the last few years.

5. Ole Miss: Place-kicker Bryson Rose made 16 of 18 kicks last year and should be just as solid and might have to come up with even more kicks this fall. His kicking partner, punter Tyler Campbell, had a nation-leading 46.4 yards per punt average in 2010. He launched 19 punts over 50 yards and five of 60 or more yards. Jeff Scott was solid on kick returns, but Ole Miss’ staff will look to junior college transfer Philander Moore for kick and punt returns. Last season at Blinn (Texas) College, Moore had 811 total return yards and six touchdowns.

6. Vanderbilt: Kicker Ryan Fowler and punter Richard Kent return in 2011. Fowler was solid as a freshman, but took a few steps backward in 2010 kicking 8-of-13 and missing all of his kicks from beyond 35 yards. Carey Spear, who handled kickoffs last season, could push Fowler. Kent had one of the strongest and most durable legs in the country last season, leading the nation with 84 punts and averaged 41.8 yards per kick. Twenty-seven of them were downed inside the 20. Vanderbilt did, however, have four punts blocked. When healthy, Warren Norman is one of the most dynamic returners in the league. As a freshman, he took three kickoffs back for touchdowns and averaged 25.4 yards per return before his injury last season.

7. LSU: The Tigers had one of the most exciting place-kickers to watch in Josh Jasper because he not only kicked but he was the master of the trick play. LSU will now look to Drew Alleman, who has had issues with consistency. Jasper also punted here and there, but regular punter Derek Helton is gone, leaving redshirt freshman Brad Wing in charge. The Australian-born athlete has a lot to learn about the SEC. Now that Patrick Peterson is gone, LSU is starting over in the return game. No one on the roster is as dynamic, but the Tigers will look at Rueben Randle, Tyrann Mathieu and Ron Brooks to carry the load by committee.

8. Mississippi State: Kicker shouldn’t be an issue for the Bulldogs. Derek Depasquale has hit 20-of-24 field goals in his two seasons in Starkville and nailed a 54-yarder in the spring game. Mississippi State must replace punter Heath Hutchins, but Baker Swedenburg should fill in nicely. The Bulldogs have a lot of athletes to throw out into the kicking game this year. LaDarius Perkins, who is Mississippi State’s talented backup to running back Vick Ballard, will be used on kicks, along with receiver Brandon Heavens. Chad Bumphis returned punts last season, but Heavens could take over that role.

9. Kentucky: Returners Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke are gone, but there are some athletes ready to fill in. Randall Burden, Winston Guy and Martavius Neloms got looks at punt returner this spring and there are a few options at kick returner. Both Raymond Sanders and Jerrell Priester fielded a few last season. Both kickers are back. Walk-on Craig McIntosh made 11 of 15 field goals last season, with a long of 50, while punter Ryan Tydlacka averaged 43.8 yards per kick.

10.Tennessee: Kicker Michael Palardy only attempted seven kicks last year while backing up Daniel Lincoln. His only three misses were from beyond 40 yards. Tennessee will also be breaking in new punter Matt Darr this fall. The Volunteers were in the middle of the SEC pack in kick returns last year, but were 11th in the league in punt returns, totaling just 73 punt returns. Da’Rick Rogers will return punts and showed improvements there, while the Vols have yet to find their punt returner.

11. Auburn: Record-setting kicker Wes Byrum is finally gone, so the Tigers’ new kicker literally has big shoes to fill. That person should be Cody Parkey, who primarily kicked off last year. Auburn also lost punter Ryan Shoemaker. His replacement, Steven Clark had nine punts in 2010, with two dropping inside the 20. Onterio McCalebb should return more kicks this season and dynamic redshirt freshman Trovon Reed could be used on punt returns, where the Tigers averaged just 6.2 yards per return a year ago.

12. South Carolina: Gone is dual-threat kicker Spencer Lanning, who kicked field goals and punts. Jay Wooten impressed at times this spring and can place-kick and punt. There’s a chance the Gamecocks might end up having two kickers as Patrick Fish competed for the punting spot this spring. The Gamecocks were last in the SEC with a 3.4-yard average on punt returns, while the tiny Bryce Sherman averaged 20.4 yards on kicks, with a long of 37. The shifty Ace Sanders and newcomer Damiere Byrd could compete for time at punt returner.

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