NCF Nation: Mike Gillislee

Video: Florida Gators' X factor

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
4:45
PM ET

 
Running back Matt Jones is Florida's X factor for the 2013 season.
This marks the final year of the BCS, and you better believe the SEC would love to close the BCS era with eight straight titles. It would also ensure that the league has even more momentum going into the playoff, which starts during the 2014 season.

Colleague Travis Haney took a look at which conference has the best playoff path starting next year. He makes a pretty good case for the SEC, which should be able to get its conference champion in every year.

But who can wait for 2014 title talk? Yeah, me either, so why not take a look at SEC teams with the best BCS title paths in 2013? Spring practice begins this month, so we might as well throw out some very, very early thoughts on teams' championship hopes.

Let's take a look at which SEC teams have real BCS title shots in 2013:

ALABAMA

Pros: The Crimson Tide still have Nick Saban. That should be reason enough to make Alabama the odds on favorite to win its third straight national championship and fourth in five years. But there are many other reasons why Alabama tops our list. The offensive line might have to be rebuilt, but Alabama returns the nation's most efficient quarterback in AJ McCarron, who could have easily opted for the NFL after his junior year, a beast at running back in rising sophomore T.J. Yeldon, a host of talent -- and explosiveness -- at wide receiver, and most of the pieces to last year's top-ranked defense. Some big names have to be replaced on both sides, but this team really is reloading in 2013. Also, if the Tide can escape Virginia Tech (in Atlanta) and Texas A&M (in College Station) early, Alabama could go through the year unscathed, with road games coming against Kentucky, Mississippi State and Auburn.

Cons: Forget the pressure. Saban doesn't allow pressure to eat at his players. What Alabama has to do is replace three studs on that offensive line. Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker are all gone. Winning the battle in the trenches is essential to competing in the SEC, so Alabama's less experienced linemen have to grow up in a hurry. Also, no team can do it three times in a row, right?

TEXAS A&M

Pros: Johnny Manziel is back and last year proved that the Aggies are tough enough to compete in the big, bad SEC. Kliff Kingsbury might not be calling the plays anymore, but there is a lot of young talent on offense, including wide receiver Mike Evans and running backs Brandon Williams and Trey Williams, that should still give SEC defenses fits. A&M gets Alabama at home in Week 3 and trade Florida for Vanderbilt.

Cons: The Aggies lost a lot from their 2012 team. Left tackle Luke Joeckel is gone, along with receivers Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu, who combined for 98 catches for 1,398 yards and 15 touchdowns. The front seven has a lot to replace, including All-American defensive end Damontre Moore and linebackers Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter. Kingsbury's sideline work with Manziel will be missed, and the Aggies have to play LSU, Ole Miss and Arkansas on the road.

GEORGIA

Pros: Georgia will be down wide receiver Tavarres King on offense, but it shouldn't be too hard to find someone to help make up for the loss of his production with all those talented receivers. "Gurshall" returns and so does quarterback Aaron Murray, who could become the first SEC quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in each of his four years on campus. Bringing back the entire starting five on offense will also keep this offense trending upward.

Cons: The Bulldogs lost 12 players who either started or saw significant time on defense. Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo are just a few of the big names that are gone. There certainly is talent remaining, but replacing all those players would be tough for anyone. Also, look at that schedule. The Dawgs start the year with Clemson, South Carolina and LSU before September even arrives. Losing more than one game during that stretch could all but end Georgia's title hopes.

FLORIDA

Pros: The Gators lost some key players on defense, but coach Will Muschamp is bringing back a host of defensive talent that should do just fine in 2013. Marcus Roberson could be an All-SEC performer at cornerback, and incoming freshman Vernon Hargreaves III has the talent to start opposite him immediately. Ronald Powell returns to help out a young but very talented front seven that includes rising sophomores Dante Fowler Jr. and Jonathan Bullard. Also, the Gators should be very deep at running back and have a more complete offensive line in 2013.

Cons: No one is quite sure what to make of that offense. Sure, the Gators should be able to run the ball, even without workhorse Mike Gillislee, but what about throwing it? Jeff Driskel really struggled last year, and the Gators lost their best receiving option in tight end Jordan Reed. Florida will have to rely on five true freshmen to help at receiver, but Driskel has to increase his confidence and become a better presense in the huddle for this offense to improve at all. Florida also takes on Miami, LSU and South Carolina on the road.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Pros: The Gamecocks might be without Marcus Lattimore and Ace Sanders, but they should be very balanced on offense in 2013. South Carolina has two very capable quarterbacks to work with in Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, a talented group of running backs returning, led by rising sophomore Mike Davis, and more experience at receiver. One-man wrecking crew Jadeveon Clowney is back, and could be a legit Heisman candidate. South Carolina also spends the final month of the season at home.

Cons: Replacing Sanders will be tough because he did so much on offense and special teams. Clowney will have help up front, but South Carolina must replace its two-deep at linebacker. That's going to be quite the chore. Also, stud safety D.J. Swearinger, Spur DeVonte Holloman and cornerback Akeem Auguste all have to be replaced. Right now, this staff will have to rely on a handful of youngsters to help out this spring. The Gamecocks must also go to Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas.

LSU

Pros: The offense has to be more well-rounded in 2013. Cam Cameron is in at offensive coordinator, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger made major strides during the last month of the season. All of his receiving weapons are back, the offensive line should be better and there is a wealth of talent still at running back. The Tigers also get Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas at home.

Cons: The defense was gutted after the 2012 season. The defensive line has to be rebuilt, someone has to step in for Kevin Minter at middle linebacker and the secondary must fill in the holes left by Eric Reid and Tharold Simon. There is a lot of young talent on defense, but guys have to grow up quickly in Baton Rouge this year. Playing Alabama and Georgia on the road will be very tough as well.

Where they ranked as recruits: Offense

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
2:02
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We’ve done this exercise for the past several years and it’s always interesting.

Where did the players on the 2012 Associated Press All-SEC team rank as high school prospects by the ESPN recruiting folks?

We’ll start with the offense and take a look at the defense later today.

Notice that some of the most accomplished and decorated players on offense weren’t ESPN 150 members. That includes Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, as well as Barrett Jones, who won the Outland Trophy in 2011 and the Rimington Trophy in 2012.

In fact, of the 12 first-team players on offense, eight were not ranked as ESPN 150 prospects.

Here’s a look back:

OFFENSE

QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M – Three-star prospect and unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2011. Ranked as the No. 39 quarterback prospect nationally. Nine other quarterbacks who signed with SEC schools that year were ranked higher. Among them: Kiehl Frazier (Auburn), Christian LeMay (Georgia), Jerrard Randall (LSU), Justin Worley (Tennessee), Maikhail Miller (Ole Miss), Brandon Allen (Arkansas) and Jacoby Brissett (Florida). Manziel was ranked as the No. 97 prospect overall in the state of Texas.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley
Rick Scuteri/AP ImagesTodd Gurley was a four-star prospect coming out of high school.
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia – Four-star prospect and unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2012. Ranked as the No. 22 athlete nationally and the No. 10 prospect overall in the state of North Carolina. Six other players who signed with SEC schools were ranked ahead of Gurley in the state of North Carolina.

RB: Mike Gillislee, Florida – Ranked No. 129 in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 14 running back prospect nationally and the No. 20 prospect overall in the state of Florida. Andre Debose was the Gators’ highest ranked signee from the state of Florida that year at No. 4. Gary Brown was the second highest at No. 7.

WR: Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas – Unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 50 receiver prospect nationally. That same year, LSU signee Russell Shepard was ranked as No. 1 overall athlete nationally. Among the receivers signing with SEC schools that were ranked higher than Hamilton that year were Andre Debose (Florida), James Green (Tennessee), Zach Rogers (Tennessee), Nu’Keese Richardson (Tennessee), LaVoyd James (Auburn), Lamar Scruggs (South Carolina), Brandon Heavens (Mississippi State), Pat Patterson (Ole Miss) and Kendall Kelly (Alabama).

WR: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt –Two-star prospect and unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 153 receiver prospect nationally. Matthews became the first student from Madison Academy in Huntsville, Ala., to sign with an SEC program. His other finalists were Mississippi State and Kansas.

TE: Jordan Reed, Florida – Ranked No. 141 in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 14 quarterback prospect nationally. Reed started his career at Florida as a quarterback, and after redshirting in 2009, rotated with John Brantley and Trey Burton in 2010. He shifted to tight end in 2011 despite having never played the position before.

AP: Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee – Unranked nationally overall or as a receiver coming out of high school in 2009. He attended North Carolina Tech in 2009, but didn’t play football. He spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College and came to Tennessee as the No. 1-ranked junior college receiver prospect in the country.

OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M – A four-star prospect and ranked No. 83 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 6 offensive tackle prospect nationally. Three tackle prospects who signed with SEC schools that year were ranked ahead of him – Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee), Ian Silberman (Florida) and Chaz Green (Florida).

OL: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M – A four-star prospect and ranked No. 90 in the ESPN 150 in 2010. Ranked as the No. 7 offensive tackle prospect nationally and one spot behind eventual teammate Luke Joeckel.

OL: Chance Warmack, Alabama – Unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 16 offensive guard prospect nationally and ranked as the No. 35 prospect overall that year in the state of Georgia. There were 18 players from the state of Georgia that year signing with SEC schools who were ranked ahead of Warmack.

OL: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State – Unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2009. Ranked as the No. 125 offensive tackle prospect nationally. Among Southeast recruits that year, Jackson was ranked No. 553. Three players signing with SEC schools that year were ranked in the top 10 nationally among tackle prospects – No. 1 D.J. Fluker (Alabama), No. 5 Austin Long (Georgia) and No. 7 Xavier Nixon (Florida).

C: Barrett Jones, Alabama – Unranked in the ESPN 150 in 2008. Ranked as the No. 28 offensive tackle prospect nationally. Among Southeast recruits that year, Jones was ranked No. 157. The 2008 class for Alabama was ranked No. 3 nationally and included seven ESPN 150 players, but Jones wasn’t one of them.
We checked on the SEC's 3,000-yard passers from 2012 on Thursday, so we're taking a look at the running backs who hit the coveted 1,000-yard mark last fall.

Last summer, we looked at 10 running backs we thought could eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark. The SEC had four players reach 1,000 yards on the ground in 2011, and had nine, including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, in 2012. I thought it was supposed to be the Year of the Quarterback?

Here's how the 10 running backs we looked at last year did in 2012:

1. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: Well, maybe if he actually played a down for the Bulldogs this year he might have had a chance to reach 1,000 yards. Instead, Crowell was dismissed before the season and spent 2012 rushing for 842 yards and 15 touchdowns at Alabama State.

2. Knile Davis, Arkansas: Davis said he was 100 percent after missing all of 2011 with an ankle injury, but he never displayed the explosiveness and strength that made him a star in 2010. Davis was still hesitant at times and carried the ball only 112 times for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

3. James Franklin, Missouri: His laundry list of injuries and a banged-up offensive line didn't really help the dual-threat quarterback when it came to running the ball. A year removed from almost getting to 1,000 yards, Franklin rushed for just 122 yards and averaged 1.4 yards per carry in the process.

4. Eddie Lacy, Alabama: Real shocker that an Alabama running back bulldozed his way past 1,000 yards. Lacy overpowered defenders and left plenty looking silly with his patented spin move all year, finishing the season ranking third in the SEC with 1,322 yards and tying for second with 17 touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry.

5. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: For the second straight year, Lattimore's pursuit of 1,000 yards was cut short by a devastating knee injury. He rushed for 662 yards and 11 touchdowns on 143 attempts before dislocating his right knee and tearing multiple ligaments against Tennessee on Oct. 27.

6. Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Like Lattimore, Michael was coming off of an ACL injury this fall, but he never seemed to really fit in the Aggies' new spread scheme. Eventually, he really wasn't Texas A&M's first option at running back and he finished the season with 417 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games of action.

7. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State: Perkins spent most of the year near the top of the SEC in all-purpose yards and was one of the toughest runners in the league. He averaged a stout 5 yards per carry and finished the year with 1,024 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

8. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt: For the second straight year, Stacy finished the season with more than 1,000 yards for the Commodores. Even with a few more weapons to use on the offensive side, Stacy rushed for 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns on 207 carries.

9. Spencer Ware, LSU: Ware wasn't the same workhorse that he was for the Tigers in 2011. He played in 12 games, but only started four and carried the ball just 94 times for 367 yards (that's just 3.9 yards per carry). He finished fourth on the team in rushing and scored just one touchdown in 2012.

10. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: Pretty good assumption last summer. Yeldon made sure he and Lacy were a migraine for defenses, as he pounded and darted his way to 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and 74.1 yards in SEC games. Lacy packed the punch, while Yeldon showcased the moves last fall.

Who was overlooked:
  • Mike Gillislee, Florida: He proclaimed before the season that he'd rush for 1,500 yards and more than 20 touchdowns. He didn't get there, but he did become the first Gator to rush for 1,000 yards (1,152) since 2004. He basically was Florida's offense and added 10 touchdowns on the ground.
  • Todd Gurley, Georgia: We looked at the wrong Bulldog last summer. Gurley made more of an impact for Georgia as a freshman than Crowell did in 2011, finishing second in the SEC in rushing (first among running backs) with 1,385 yards and added 17 touchdowns to his 6.2 yards per carry.
  • Kendial Lawrence, Missouri: He was almost forgotten because of the year Henry Josey had for most of the 2011 season, but Lawrence was Mizzou's most consistent offensive weapon last fall, rushing for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
  • Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The Heisman winner was arguably the nation's most elusive player in the country when he took off running. He shredded defenses all season and led the SEC with 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also averaged 7 yards per carry.
  • Tre Mason, Auburn: There wasn't a lot to smile about on the Plains this past fall, but Mason was the best weapon the Tigers had, as he rushed for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging an impressive 5.9 yards per carry.
Our group of ESPN scouts are down in Mobile, Ala., checking out all those lovely Senior Bowl practices. A bunch of SEC players are out competing and here's a little of what people are saying about them:
  • It appears that Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson made up for a shaky second day of Senior Bowl practices. After fluttering a few passes and struggling with his accuracy earlier in the week, Wilson was more on point Wednesday. He might not have the best arm strength, but he will certainly help his draft stock if he continues to zip the ball down the field like he did Wednesday.
  • SEC linebackers continue to make noise down in Mobile. Missouri's Zaviar Gooden was described by ESPN scouts as "an absolute freak of an athlete" and really impressed people with his speed. He might have impressive athleticism, but our scouts noted that he still finds himself out of position at times. Gooden played in and started in 10 games last fall, collecting 61 total tackles, including four for loss. Texas A&M's Sean Porter continues to impress, according to scouts, while Alabama's Nico Johnson has shown flashes against the run, but has struggled in coverage.
  • On the offensive side, Alabama tight end Michael Williams might have separated himself as the top blocking tight end, but he's having issues getting that same separation when it comes to making catches and plays. Florida running back Mike Gillislee is showing the same sort of toughness on his runs that he showed during the season and was praised for his "instincts and quickness."
Jimbo Fisher, Will Muschamp USA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesCoaches Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp led their respective teams to double-digit wins in 2012.
The good ol' days returned to the Sunshine State in 2012, as both Florida and Florida State were nationally relevant again. Both teams finished ranked in the AP Top 10 for the first time since the 2000 season as Florida State won 12 games, and Florida won 11.

But who had the better season? Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi asked that question earlier this week. Now, SEC blogger Edward Aschoff and I are here to settle the debate once and for all.

Adelson says: Chop over Chomp

The answer to this question is as easy as 1+1. There is no way Florida had a better year than Florida State. Not with that big fat L tattooed all over Florida. Make that a double LL tattoo: LOUISVILLE LOSS.

Here is what Florida State did in 2012 that the mighty Gators did not do:

  • Florida State won its BCS game, avoiding the shame and embarrassment that still stings in Gainesville.
  • Florida State tied the school record for wins in a season with 12.
  • Florida State won its conference.
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That is a winning trifecta right there, and should deem any argument from the SEC moot.

What? Florida beat Florida State head-to-head? Noles fans cannot hear you because they have championship rings plugging up their ears. Still one of my favorite comeback lines of all time.

I watched that game in Tally. Florida was the better team that day, and deserved to win. Florida had the more surprising season, too, considering nobody expected the Gators in a BCS game. Will Muschamp did a terrific job turning around a seven-win team into an 11-win team. I give them credit for all that.

But a head-to-head win against Florida State does not automatically mean the Gators had a better season. A season where expectations were exceeded is not better than a year in which every single expectation was met. Did folks think Florida State could compete for a national championship this year? Yes. Was it disappointing when Florida State fell short of that? Yes.

That disappointment does not define a season, however. At the start of every single season, coaches will tell you the goal is to win a conference championship. Bigger goals follow. Florida may have beaten Florida State on the scoreboard, but the Seminoles won in the much bigger category.

They are champions, two times over.

Aschoff says: Chomp, chomp!

If you turned on your computer for the first time since August and saw just the final records of Florida and Florida State, I guess you could say the Seminoles had a better season in 2012. If you look at the final games for both schools, you’d probably go with the Noles again, considering they blew out Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl, while Florida was beaten down by Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Seems easy enough, but when you look at the total body of work, Florida clearly had the better year in 2012. For starters, this team wasn’t even supposed to win nine games. It was an eight-win team at best but won 11, was a win away from going to the SEC title game in Atlanta, went to a BCS bowl game and handily beat Florida State IN Tallahassee in the process. Despite having the worst passing game in the SEC, the Gators went 7-1 in the country’s toughest football conference, with that lone loss coming to a Georgia team that was 5 yards away from taking Alabama’s spot in the BCS title game. Oh, and Florida was a missed Pittsburgh field goal away from playing in the national championship.

Florida State was supposed to be in a BCS bowl. The Noles were supposed to be national title contenders and they fell flat against NC State (the same NC State that was pummeled by Vanderbilt in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl) and were roughed up 37-26 by Florida at home. If anything, 2012 was a major disappointment for the Noles.

Florida took down Johnny Football IN College Station and beat up LSU at home before blowing out South Carolina by 33. Florida beat four top-10 teams with basically an elite defense and a running game led by a first-year starter in Mike Gillislee.

Florida had some ugly wins, but this team found ways to win and ended the regular season No. 3 in the BCS standings.

Did I mention that Florida did all of this in the SEC, while Florida State underachieved in the ACC?

What we learned in the SEC bowls

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
11:00
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Now that the bowl season is over, it's time to take a look back at what we learned in the SEC during the postseason:

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesNick Saban and Alabama will be among the favorites to win the national title again next season.
1. It really is Alabama's world: For the second straight year and for the third time in four years, Alabama took home college football's crystal hardware. After the first 15 minutes of the Discover BCS National Championship, it didn't even look like No. 1 Notre Dame deserved to be on the same field as the Crimson Tide. Alabama wore down the Irish defense in the first half, and its defense tormented Notre Dame's offense for about 90 percent of Monday night's game. Nick Saban didn't have his most talented team, but he had his squad way more prepared than Brian Kelly did. Saban's way of making sure his players approach every game the same way proved to be excellent again. Notre Dame was completely overmatched, and with the talent coming back in 2013, Alabama should again be the favorite to win it all. Three-peat?

2. The SEC's dominance is still being challenged: Even though Alabama brought home the SEC's seventh straight BCS title, the SEC's perception is still being challenged. Social media has been buzzing with chants of "overrated" directed toward the SEC because Mississippi State, LSU and Florida all fell flat in their bowl games. Mississippi State lost by 14 to Northwestern, LSU lost to Clemson on a last-second field goal and Florida was run ragged by Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Heading into bowl season, Florida and LSU weren't expected to lose, but they got away from their ground games and paid for it dearly. Still, the SEC went 6-3 (.667) in bowl games, including Texas A&M's 41-13 rout of Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, and Georgia and South Carolina downing Big Ten teams. Only the WAC (2-0) and C-USA (4-1) had better winning percentages, and neither had nearly as many bowl teams. So is the SEC down? Well, while the SEC took a couple of bad losses in bowl season, seven teams finished the year in the Associated Press Top 25, including five in the top 10. The Big Ten and Big 12 had losing bowl records, the Pac-12 went 4-4 and the ACC was 4-2. So, if the SEC is overrated, what are the other conferences?

3. Florida's offensive issues are still a major problem: All season, we wondered what we'd see from Florida's offense. However, for 11 games, even if the offense came up short, the Gators found ways to win. Against Louisville, the Gators went in reverse and never got right again. Jeff Driskel threw a pick-six on the first possession, and the offense imploded from there. Mike Gillislee, who was easily Florida's best offensive weapon, carried the ball just nine times. The Gators panicked, but when they had to pass, they couldn't.

This has to be a major concern for the Gators going forward, because Gillislee is graduating and tight end Jordan Reed declared for the NFL draft. Driskel has to find some major help in the passing game this spring/summer, or Florida's offense will get pummeled again. Driskel's health is now a major concern because backup Jacoby Brissett is transferring, leaving the Gators with no experience behind Driskel.

4. More eyes will be on Ole Miss ... and Vanderbilt: Before the season, no one gave Ole Miss a chance at the postseason -- or even five wins -- but the Rebels went out and had a tremendous first year under Hugh Freeze. If not for a couple of horrendous second halves, the Rebels might have won eight games during the regular season. After a dominating performance in their BBVA Compass Bowl win against Pittsburgh, the Rebels could be looking at a spot in preseason Top 25 polls. Most of this team, including what could be a stellar recruiting class, will be in Oxford next fall, so expectations will be much higher.

The same can be said about James Franklin's Vanderbilt Commodores. After a historic nine-win season that ended with a commanding bowl win over NC State, the Commodores will be expected to keep up this act after being even better in Year 2 of the Franklin era. Vandy will lose some talent up front defensively, and Jordan Rodgers and Zac Stacy will be gone, but a host of playmakers will return, including receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd.

5. Johnny Football's legend just keeps growing: After Texas A&M lost offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury to Texas Tech, Johnny Manziel's field maturity was really going to be judged in the AT&T Cotton Bowl against the Sooners. Well, all he did without one of his best mentors was set a bowl record for total yards (516) in the Aggies' rout inside Jerry's World. Manziel zigged and zagged as though Kingsbury was feeding him info through an earpiece. People don't understand how much Kingsbury helped Manziel with his composure during games, but Manziel did just fine without him. It shows how much he's grown during his Heisman year. Things will be different next season with some key players also missing on offense, but to see Manziel play like that without Kingsbury has to be very encouraging for Kevin Sumlin and the rest of the Aggies' coaching staff.

Sugar Bowl X factors

January, 2, 2013
1/02/13
2:00
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We're officially in BCS mode here on the SEC blog, and with No. 3 Florida taking on No. 21 Louisville in tonight's Allstate Sugar Bowl, we've asked for a little assistance when it comes to checking out tonight's X factors.

Big East/ACC blogger Andrea Adelson dropped by to examine Louisville's X factor, while I'll take a look at the Gators' key player:

Lorenzo Mauldin, So., DE: Florida has had its problems passing this season, and its problems protecting the quarterback. So you have to figure the Cardinals' game plan on defense is going to be to load up the box to stop Mike Gillislee and contain Jeff Driskel. If Florida is forced to pass more than it wants, watch out for Mauldin, who leads the Cardinals with 4.5 sacks on the season. He did miss some time this year with a knee injury, but he is now completely healthy and could very well be an X factor in this game. Florida has given up 36 sacks this season to rank No. 106 in the nation. In a loss to Georgia, Florida gave up five sacks. In a near-loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, Florida gave up five sacks. So the Gators offense can be slowed down. Mauldin is not an every-down player, but a sack specialist. So his role will be even more magnified playing on the end because he will also be relied on to try to seal off the edges should Driskel try to run away from pressure.

Jordan Reed, Jr., TE: Throwing the ball hasn't been the Gators' strength all year, but Reed is easily Florida's best pass-catcher and he was one of the top tight ends in the SEC during the regular season. Reed caught 44 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns, and if the Gators are going to balance things out offensively tonight, Reed has to make some plays. Louisville's defense doesn't give up a ton of yards and ranks 19th nationally in pass defense, giving up just 193.8 yards per game. The Gators had the SEC's worst passing game, so you know the Cardinals are going to load the box to stop running back Mike Gillislee. That means Florida will need to mix in more passes, and for Driskel to find some sort of comfort on the field, he'll have to get the ball into Reed's hands because he's such a mismatch for Louisville's linebackers. It's a group that could get overwhelmed with a guy like Reed because of his size and speed, and if Reed can make some plays underneath, it will open up the deep ball for Driskel, which is something the Gators haven't had much of this whole season.

Florida-Louisville game preview

January, 2, 2013
1/02/13
11:00
AM ET
No. 3 Florida (11-1) vs. No. 21 Louisville (10-2)
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Mercedes-Benz Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
ESPN

Gators to watch

QB Jeff Driskel: The 6-foot-4, 237-pound sophomore played his best game of the season in the regular-season finale against Florida State. Even though he was still bothered by an ankle injury, Driskel remained composed -- despite being sacked four times and harassed by a pair of NFL defensive ends -- and hurt the Seminoles on rollout passes. It’ll be interesting to see how much he has benefited from the 15 bowl practices in which he didn’t have to evenly split reps with Jacoby Brissett. A lot of players make significant jumps during bowl practices, as CB Loucheiz Purifoy did last season. Is Driskel next?

DT Sharrif Floyd: This might be Floyd’s final game with the Gators because the 6-3, 303-pound junior is considering leaving early for the NFL. Floyd has been a disruptive force all season, with 11 tackles for loss, a sack, and six quarterback hurries (one shy of the team lead). He’ll be matched up against a pair of sophomore guards, John Miller and Jake Smith. The Cardinals average just 127.1 yards per game rushing and are without RB Senorise Perry, who tore his right ACL. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and still leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns. Floyd will be a big part of the Gators’ plan to make the Cardinals one-dimensional.

S Matt Elam: Elam is another player who could be appearing in his last game for Florida. The 5-10, 202-pound junior also is considering leaving early for the NFL after putting together an All-American season (65 tackles, four interceptions). He’s a rarity in that he can play safety but also has the one-on-one coverage skills to line up at nickel back. He made perhaps the biggest play of the season when he stripped LSU WR Odell Beckham after a 56-yard gain. The Gators went on to score a game-clinching touchdown and beat the Tigers.

Cardinals to watch

QB Teddy Bridgewater: The 6-foot-3, 220-pound sophomore ended the regular season ranked eighth nationally in pass efficiency. He was named the Big East’s Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was fantastic in the regular-season finale against Rutgers, when he came off the bench and rallied the Cardinals to a 20-17 victory to win the Big East title in one of the gutsiest performances of the season. Bridgewater had a broken left wrist and a severely sprained left ankle but he still managed to complete 20 of 28 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

CB Adrian Bushell: Bushell transferred from Florida after the 2009 season, spent a year at a junior college, and enrolled at Louisville just before the Cardinals started practices in 2011. It turned out to be a good move for the 5-11, 184-pounder from DeSoto, Texas, and the Cardinals. Bushell is a two-time first-team All-Big East selection and had a team-high 11 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and an interception to go along with 59 tackles.

WR DeVante Parker: Parker has 38 catches for 712 yards and nine touchdowns this season. That’s a team-high 18.7 yards per catch. The 6-3, 204-pound sophomore is a touchdown machine. He has 15 touchdown catches on only 56 career receptions, which means he’s averaging a touchdown every 3.7 receptions. He’s also a big-play machine, because his 15 touchdown catches are averaging 29.5 yards.

Key matchup

Florida RB Mike Gillislee vs. Louisville LB Preston Brown

Expect a heavy dose of Gillislee today, especially with the state of the Cardinals’ rush defense. Louisville is giving up an average of 151.1 yards per game rushing and opponents have rushed for at least 196 yards in five of the past eight games. The 6-0, 257-pound Brown, who anchors the middle and leads the team with 96 tackles, is averaging 11.3 tackles in his last six games. Gillislee, a first-team All-SEC selection, has rushed for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns to become the first UF back to surpass 1,000 yards since 2004. Gillislee is coming off his best performance: 140 yards and two TDs against Florida State, which had the nation’s No. 1 rush defense.

By the numbers

2: Number of victories Louisville has posted over top-five teams. The Cardinals beat No. 3 West Virginia in 2006 and No. 4 Florida State in 2002.

3: Number of victories for Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Gators are 3-5, with victories over West Virginia (1994), Florida State (1997) and Cincinnati (2010).

12.9: Number of points per game Florida is allowing. It’s the fewest allowed in a season since 1964 (9.8).
The off-field life of Florida running back Mike Gillislee is far from glamorous.

While the senior had a legitimate MVP-like year with the best season by a Gators running back since 2004, away from the field he’s your typical boring college student -- go to class, eat, sleep, play video games.

The 5-foot-11, 209-pound bruiser would rather keep to himself before talking with his pads on Saturdays.

[+] EnlargeMike Gillislee
Kevin Liles/US PresswireMike Gillislee became the first Gators running back to top 1,000 yards in a season since Ciatrick Fason.
“It’s not that much to do,” said Gillislee, who became the first Florida running back to rush for 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason did so in 2004. “It’s a lot of trouble, but that ain't for me. I like to do positive things.”

According to redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison, who was a part of Florida’s 2009 recruiting class with Gillislee, Gillislee is a homebody who prefers eating on campus rather than going out in public. He’d rather play "Madden" or "NCAA Football" with his teammates or in the comfort of his own home instead of hitting the bar. The most excitement in his life usually takes place on either the practice field or on game day.

“He doesn’t do much outside of that,” Harrison said.

And while it might seem like Gillislee is wasting prime social time with his peers, his teammates and coaches couldn’t be happier with his uneventful social life.

He truly has taken on the nature of second-year coach Will Muschamp. His cliché mantra of actions speaking louder than words really took hold for Gillislee, who spent his first three years playing backup to Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. And Muschamp loves that about Gillislee.

He’s quiet, but speaks volumes with his play. His hushed demeanor, coupled with an extremely unselfish attitude and an unquestioned thrust for yardage are main reasons he rushed for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns this fall, after he accumulated just 920 rushing yard and 10 touchdowns in the three previous seasons combined.

“I think any time in our society we suffer from the disease of me,” Muschamp said. “How does it affect me? And most people suffer from that. And Mike doesn’t. He’s a team guy. He’s a consummate team guy. He’s one of my favorites of all-time. He’s a guy that’s a great example.”

Harrison said he really admires Gillislee’s game and, while he’s known more for bullying his way to extra yards, his vision and intellect are two often-overlooked qualities in Gillislee’s arsenal. Harrison said there were numerous times when linemen would be blocking zone to the right and out of nowhere they’d see linebackers chasing Gillislee left because he’d found another hole.

Harrison said it’s a pleasure blocking for Gillislee because he understands how to read blocks and he’ll make a hole by lowering his shoulders and punching his way through when needed.

“It’s a real good deal this season that we have such a determined back in the backfield,” Harrison said.

That determination paved the way to 1,000 yards, but Gillislee had much more in mind before the season. He stunned media members during July’s SEC media days when he confidently stated that he wanted 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns.

While he fell short, Gillislee will gladly take the season he had.

“It’s a great feeling [to rush for 1,000 yards],” he said. “It’s something that I always wanted to do. I always wanted to be remembered and getting 1,000 yards I think I’m going to be remembered.”

He’ll be remembered for a lot of things. He’ll be remembered for the 148-yard opener that had fans buzzing about his potential. He’ll be remembered for the 12-yard, game-winning touchdown run against Texas A&M in Week 2, a play on which he was clearly injured. No one will forget him churning out 146 yards and two touchdowns on 34 demanding carries in Florida’s 14-6 win over LSU in October.

(No wonder he wore that “Damn I’m Good” T-shirt afterward.)

And his 140-yard, two-score performance in the win over archrival Florida State in Tallahassee won’t escape Gators fans’ minds for years.

It’s been a heck of a season for Gillislee, who went from quiet reserve to ranking fourth in the SEC in rushing yards and helping Florida ascend to No. 3 in the BCS standings, but he isn’t done.

Gillislee will walk into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with the usual restrained look on his face ready for business against No. 21 Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Wednesday. That look will galvanize his teammates, especially his offensive line, as they look to send him out with one last unforgettable performance.

“When the whole offense works together, it’s really difficult to stop him,” Harrison said.

“He’s great at what he does.”

Rushing for 1,000 yards in the SEC

December, 18, 2012
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This season, there were eight 1,000-yard rushers in the SEC, which ties for the most in league history.

There’s a chance that record, which was set in 2007, could be broken in the bowl games. Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins has 940 yards and needs 60 more against Northwestern in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl to reach the 1,000-yard plateau.

The Alabama duo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon made history by becoming the first two players in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. Lacy has 1,182 yards and Yeldon 1,000 yards. They’re the first two running backs in the SEC to accomplish that feat since Arkansas’ Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in 2007.

Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy went over 1,000 yards for the second year in a row. He’s one of only nine players in the SEC over the last decade to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, joining the likes of Carnell Williams, Knowshon Moreno, McFadden and Jones.

Before Stacy showed up, Vanderbilt hadn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Jermaine Johnson rushed for 1,072 yards in 1995.

Mike Gillislee, with 1,104 yards, became Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Ciatrick Faison had 1,267 yards in 2004.

And when it came to talented freshman runners, this was absolutely a season to remember in the SEC. Georgia’s Todd Gurley leads the league with 1,260 rushing yards. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is not too far behind him with 1,181 yards and actually leads the league in rushing yards per game (98.4). He’s the first quarterback to do so since Cam Newton in 2004. Yeldon makes it three SEC freshmen with at least 1,000 yards.

To put that number in perspective, prior to this season, only nine freshmen in the history of the SEC had rushed for 1,000 yards, a list highlighted by Herschel Walker with 1,616 yards in 1980. Tennessee’s Jamal Lewis is second on that list with 1,364 yards in 1997, and Florida’s Emmitt Smith is third with 1,341 yards in 1987.

So, some pretty exclusive company.

Over the last five seasons, Alabama and Auburn lead the SEC with five 1,000-yard rushers apiece. The only year during that stretch that the Crimson Tide didn’t have a player to rush for 1,000 yards was 2010. The Tigers didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2008, but have produced one each of the last four seasons. Michael Dyer and Newton both topped the 1,000-yard mark during the 2010 national championship season.

Below is a look at all of the league’s 1,000-yard rushers over the last five seasons. The only school in the league that hasn’t produced one during that stretch (not counting first-year league member Missouri) is Kentucky:

2012
  • Todd Gurley, Georgia – 1,260
  • Eddie Lacy, Alabama – 1,182
  • Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M – 1,181
  • Mike Gillislee, Florida – 1,104
  • Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt – 1,034
  • Kendial Lawrence, Missouri – 1,025
  • Tre Mason, Auburn – 1,002
  • T.J. Yeldon, Alabama – 1,000
2011
  • Trent Richardson, Alabama – 1,679
  • Michael Dyer, Auburn – 1,242
  • Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt – 1,193
  • Vick Ballard, Mississippi State – 1,189
2010
  • Cam Newton, Auburn – 1,473
  • Knile Davis, Arkansas – 1,322
  • Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina – 1,197
  • Stevan Ridley, LSU – 1,147
  • Michael Dyer, Auburn – 1,093
  • Tauren Poole, Tennessee – 1,034
2009
  • Mark Ingram, Alabama – 1,658
  • Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State – 1,391
  • Ben Tate, Auburn – 1,362
  • Montario Hardesty, Tennessee – 1,345
  • Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss – 1,169
2008
  • Knowshon Moreno, Georgia – 1,400
  • Glen Coffee, Alabama – 1,383
  • Charles Scott, LSU – 1,174

SEC coaches All-SEC team announced

December, 5, 2012
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The 2012 All-SEC coaches' team was announced on Tuesday, and Alabama was well represented.

The SEC champions led the league with eight members, including six on the first team. Florida was second with seven, while Georgia and Tennessee had six each.

Ten SEC schools had a member on the first team. Alabama led with six, while Florida had five and Texas A&M with four. LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M had five apiece among the two first- and second-teams, while Mississippi State was next with four.

Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Georgia running back Todd Gurley were the only freshmen to make the All-SEC team. Manziel was the only newcomer to make the first team. Florida's Mike Gillislee and Alabama's Eddie Lacy shared the first-team running back spots, despite Gurley finishing the year as the SEC's top rusher (1,260 yards).

Ole Miss was the only team not represented. Not even wide receiver Donte Moncrief made the cut, despite catching 60 passes and ranking fifth in the SEC with 948 yards. Hed was second in the league with 10 receiving touchdowns. Moncrief was left off the Associated Press All-SEC team as well.

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

TE -- Mychal Rivera, Tennessee
OL -- Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
OL -- Chance Warmack, Alabama
OL -- D.J. Fluker, Alabama
OL -- Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
C -- Barrett Jones, Alabama
WR -- Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas
WR -- Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
QB -- Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB -- Mike Gillislee, Florida
RB -- Eddie Lacy, Alabama
AP -- Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

DEFENSE

DE -- Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DE -- Sam Montgomery, LSU
DE -- Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
DT -- Sharrif Floyd, Florida
LB -- Jarvis Jones, Georgia
LB -- C.J. Mosley, Alabama
LB -- Kevin Minter, LSU
CB -- Dee Milliner, Alabama
S -- Matt Elam, Florida
S -- Eric Reid, LSU
CB -- Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

SPECIAL TEAMS

K -- Caleb Sturgis, Florida
P -- Kyle Christy, Florida
RS –- Ace Sanders, South Carolina

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

TE -- Jordan Reed, Florida
OL -- Larry Warford, Kentucky
OL -- Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
OL -- Chris Burnette, Georgia
OL -- Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
C -- T.J. Johnson, South Carolina
WR -- Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
WR -- Justin Hunter, Tennessee
QB -- AJ McCarron, Alabama
RB -- Todd Gurley, Georgia
RB -- Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt

AP -- Ace Sanders, South Carolina

DEFENSE

DE -- Barkevious Mingo, LSU
DT -- Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
DT -- John Jenkins, Georgia
DE -- Corey Lemonier, Auburn
LB -- A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
LB -- Jon Bostic, Florida
LB -- *Cameron Lawrence, Mississippi State
LB -- *Alec Ogletree, Georgia
S -- D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
S -- Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
S -- Robert Lester, Alabama
CB -- Darius Slay, Mississippi State

SPECIAL TEAMS

K -- Drew Alleman, LSU
P -- * Dylan Breeding, Arkansas
P -- * Richard Kent, Vanderbilt
RS -- Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

* Denotes a tie

Allstate Sugar Bowl

December, 2, 2012
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Louisville Cardinals (10-2) vs. Florida Gators (11-1)

Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, New Orleans (ESPN)

Louisville take from Big East blogger Andrea Adelson: The Cardinals were the overwhelming preseason choice to win the Big East because they returned just about everybody off a team that won a share of the league title last season. The star among the bunch lived up to his top billing, as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater knocked just about everybody’s socks off with his performance in 2012. He is the biggest reason why Louisville is headed to the BCS and not a second-tier bowl game.

But this team had major adversity to overcome. Louisville survived one close call after another en route to a school-record 9-0 start. Then came loss No. 1 on the season, a stunning 45-26 blowout on the road to Syracuse in which the Orange outplayed the Cardinals in every single phase of the game. Then came loss No. 2, an inexplicable triple-overtime home defeat to UConn -- a team with one of the worst offenses in the nation. In that game, Bridgewater broke his wrist and sprained his ankle, yet nearly led a comeback win.

Louisville went into its regular-season finale at Rutgers without many people giving the Cards much of a shot to win. Rutgers jumped out to a 14-3 lead. But Bridgewater refused to be denied. Playing through his injuries, he led Louisville to a 20-17 comeback win to clinch the BCS spot. Bridgewater ended up throwing for 3,452 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season and was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the entire nation. He may have been an unknown outside the Big East before the season began; that is no longer the case.

Bridgewater allowed his team to survive the loss of leading rusher Senorise Perry, who tore his ACL against Syracuse and is out for the season. He allowed his team to win games it struggled in for a large chunk of time. And he allowed his team to survive some pretty shaky play on defense. It’s safe to say that many expected Louisville to be better than it was defensively this season, particularly up front. But for a majority of the season, the Cardinals had a hard time consistently stopping the run or consistently getting a pass rush going.

And yet, Louisville found a way to win 10 games and get back to a BCS game. In Teddy, Louisville trusts.




Florida take from GatorNation's Michael DiRocco: The Gators were one of the nation’s biggest surprises this season.

They followed up a 7-6 mark in coach Will Muschamp’s debut season with an 11-1 record in 2012, highlighted by victories over Texas A&M, South Carolina, LSU and Florida State. And if USC had upset Notre Dame, Florida could possibly be playing for the national title.

Florida’s turnaround was led by a smothering defense, which isn’t surprising considering Muschamp’s background. The Gators rank in the top six nationally in total defense, rush defense and scoring defense and have allowed opponents to throw just five touchdown passes. Safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and linebacker Jon Bostic have had career years.

But the biggest change is how good the Gators have been at forcing turnovers this season. UF forced just 14 in 2011, which was the lowest single-season total in school history since the school began compiling fumble stats in 1950. This year, UF has forced 29, which includes 19 interceptions (four by Elam), and the Gators have a plus-17 turnover margin.

UF’s offense hasn’t been pretty, but coordinator Brent Pease did a good job of compensating for a lack of playmakers at receiver and injuries along the offensive line. Running back Mike Gillislee finally got his chance to be the feature back, and he responded with 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns to become the first UF player to surpass 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.

After finally settling on Jeff Driskel as the starter, Pease put together game plans that took advantage of Driskel’s mobility and didn’t ask the sophomore to do too much. Manage the game and stay away from mistakes were the goals, and Driskel did that this season with one exception (Georgia). He ended up throwing for 1,471 yards and 11 TDs -- many of those yards to tight end Jordan Reed (44 catches for 552 yards) -- with only three interceptions while running for 409 yards and four touchdowns.

The Gators could play conservatively on offense because of their outstanding defense, but also because of punter Kyle Christy and kicker Caleb Sturgis. Christy, a Ray Guy Award finalist, was a field-position weapon with a 46.1-yard average (fifth nationally) and 25 punts of 50 or more yards. Sturgis, a Lou Groza Award finalist, made 23 of 27 field goal attempts and is the school’s all-time leader in field goals (69) and field goals of 50 or more yards (eight).

SEC helmet stickers: Week 13

November, 25, 2012
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Now that we're through the final weekend of the regular season, it's time to check out the best from the weekend that was:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: I seem to remember someone feeling very confident about Clowney's chances of really tearing things up on Saturday. Clowney certainly didn't disappoint. Even though he was dealing with a sprained foot/bruised knee, Clowney led the Gamecocks with seven total tackles, but really made his mark in Clemson's backfield, recording 4.5 sacks in the 27-17 win over Clemson. He recorded two of those sacks on Clemson's final two possessions. Clowney set the South Carolina single-season record for sacks with 13 on the season.

Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: If the Gators were going to beat Florida State on Saturday, they had to establish their running game. That meant that Gillislee had to the the running back who grabbed so much attention at the beginning of the season. Well, that Gillislee showed up, carrying the ball 24 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the 37-26 win over Florida State. His 9-yard run gave the Gators a 13-0 lead in the second quarter, but his 37-yard scamper gave Florida a 23-20 lead in the fourth quarter. It was Florida's first lead since the Seminoles went on a 20-0 run in the second and third quarter. It also gave the Gators a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: The legend continues to grow with Johnny Football. Even though he injured his left knee in the first quarter and had to wear a brace for the rest of the night, Manziel passed for 372 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies' 59-29 drubbing of Missouri. He also ran for 67 yards and two more scores on 12 carries. He might have been tougher to stop with the brace on. With his 439 yards of offense on Saturday, Manziel has 4,600 total yards for the season, which is a new SEC record for total offense.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: The Rebels put on an offensive clinic in Oxford in their 41-24 win over archrival Mississippi State to win the Egg Bowl for the first time since 2008. Moncrief was a big reason why that happened. He caught seven passes for a career-high 173 yards and had three touchdowns. His 173 receiving yards are the fourth-most in a single game in Ole Miss history, and he's now tied for the most touchdown receptions in a single season for the Rebels with 10. Moncrief scored all three of the Rebels' touchdowns in the second and third quarter, including a 77-yard catch-and-run in the second that made it 17-14 Ole Miss.

Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia: Rambo left Sanford Stadium the right way Saturday. He registered eight tackles on the day, but on Georgia Tech's first drive of the game, he forced two fumbles, recovering one of them. His recovery came from the Yellow Jackets' running back Robert Godhigh at Georgia's 1-yard line. Rambo then returned the fumble 49 yards to help set up the Bulldogs' second touchdown. He also grabbed an interception on a deep pass toward the end zone by Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee that helped set up the Bulldogs' fourth touchdown of the first half. That interception tied the Georgia school record for interceptions in a career (16).

Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt: Stacy made work of Wake Forest's defense Saturday. He carried the ball 21 times for 180 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Commodores' 55-21 win. His second touchdown came on a 90-yard run with the game in the fourth quarter and he left the game with 1,034 rushing yards for the season. That makes him the first Vanderbilt player to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Here's a quick look back at No. 4 Florida's 37-26 victory over No. 10 Florida State on Saturday in Doak S. Campbell Stadium:

It was over when: With seven minutes left in the game, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Quinton Dunbar to put the Gators ahead 30-20. In five plays, the Gators went 32 yards to score -- a short field that was set up by Marcus Roberson's 50-yard punt return. It was a huge special-teams play that put Florida in position to separate itself and gave the Gators the momentum.

Game ball goes to: Florida's defense. It lived up to the billing, as the Gators forced five turnovers, and held Florida State to just 112 rushing yards and well under its season average of 42.91 points per game.

Stat of the game: Florida State turned the ball over five times -- two lost fumbles and three interceptions. Overall, Florida scored 10 points off FSU's turnovers. EJ Manuel's fumble in the fourth quarter led to an immediate score for running back Mike Gillislee, a 37-yard run that put the Gators up 23-20.

What it means: Florida still has an outside shot at playing for the national championship and further stated its case for a BCS bowl. It also snapped a two-game losing streak to coach Jimbo Fisher. For Florida State, it was a squandered opportunity to prove it deserves to be higher in the BCS standings and make an argument against the computers. It also was another letdown for the ACC on a national stage.

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