NCF Nation: Tyler Wilson

The first round of the 2013 NFL draft tonight figures to reinforce how talented the league has been over the past few years.

As many as 13 SEC players could go in the first round.

But what about those guys not projected to go in the first round? Who are those players from the SEC expected to go later in the draft who will end up having successful NFL careers?

Keep in mind that Houston Texans All-Pro running back Arian Foster wasn’t even drafted.

Edward Aschoff has come up with five SEC players not on everybody’s first-round radar that he thinks he will go on to have successful NFL careers, and I’ve come up with five of my own.

The ATL Kid gets to go first:

1. D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina: He's long, rangy and saw his stock rise after a solid senior season. Swearinger, who has very good bulk for either safety spot, can be a ballhawk/quarterback of the defense and make plays close to the line inside the box.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Jim Dedmon/Icon SMIMarcus Lattimore has struggled with injuries, but when healthy he's the type of playmaker teams covet.
2. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: He might have had two major knee injuries, but Lattimore will be an absolute steal for any team that drafts him. It might take him a while to get back up to speed, but we all know that a healthy Lattimore is a tremendous every-down back and is exactly what NFL teams want.

3. Cornelius Washington, DE, Georgia: Washington didn't get a ton of publicity with all the other big names on Georgia's defense, but pro scouts are excited about his potential because of all that athleticism and speed. He'll move to outside linebacker in the NFL and has all the pass-rushing tools to be a stud at the pro level.

4. Jon Bostic, LB, Florida: It's not every day that a former high school cornerback/safety prepares for playing middle linebacker in the NFL, but that's exactly what Bostic is doing. He has good speed in coverage, can blitz and play the run. He also has great field instincts.

5. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: Last season wasn't great for Wilson, but he was still able to pass for more than 3,300 yards. He has great mechanics and a real NFL arm. He might start off as a backup, but has the potential to be a solid starter down the road.

Now, it’s my turn:

1. D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina: We agree on the top guy. Swearinger might have been the most underrated player in the SEC last season. He can play strong or free safety and has a knack for making plays whether he’s in run support or in coverage.

2. Dallas Thomas, OG, Tennessee: Thomas unselfishly moved inside to guard as a senior after starting 25 straight games at left tackle. He’s versatile, tough and has more than held his own against some of the best defensive linemen in the country.

3. Barrett Jones, C, Alabama: He’s certainly not the strongest offensive lineman in the draft and is also coming off foot surgery after gutting it out in the BCS National Championship Game. But you win with people like Jones, who’s proved he can play anywhere you put him on the offensive line.

4. Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky: Yes, another offensive lineman and one who probably didn’t get his due the last couple of years because of the Wildcats’ struggles. But he’s a big, powerful guy who will fight you on every down and will play for a long time in the NFL.

5. Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M: This may be a bit of a gamble because Michael has had injury issues and some off-the-field problems. But he has the blend of size, speed and power that all NFL teams are looking for. If he gets in the right situation, look out.
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."

Best/worst in 2012: Arkansas

December, 21, 2012
A closer look at the best and worst moments for Arkansas in 2012:


After four straight losses and the season unraveling, Arkansas managed to stop the bleeding -- at least temporarily -- with a 24-7 win at Auburn. It was easily Arkansas' most impressive performance of the season defensively. The Hogs collected eight sacks, forced five turnovers and held Auburn to 40 rushing yards. That's after giving up a total of 145 points in their previous three games. Trey Flowers had 3.5 sacks for the Hogs, who followed up the win at Auburn with a 49-7 rout of Kentucky the next week. But those would end up being the only two wins of the season in SEC play, as Arkansas finished 4-8 overall.


Take your pick. A season of hope went down the drain really about the time former coach Bobby Petrino skidded off the road on his motorcycle last spring with his mistress on the back. About 10 days later, he was out as the Hogs' coach, and they were never the same. The second game of the season was an indicator of how bad it would get. Arkansas, ranked No. 8 at the time, blew a 21-point lead in the second half and lost 34-31 in overtime to Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock. Quarterback Tyler Wilson was knocked out of that game with a concussion and was unable to play the next week against No. 1 Alabama. That 52-0 drubbing at the hands of the Crimson Tide was the low point for the Hogs, who suffered their first shutout at Razorback Stadium in more than 40 years. Afterward, Wilson asked to speak to the media even though he didn't play and referenced some of his teammates giving up in the game. The next week, Arkansas responded by losing at home to Rutgers.

Instant analysis: LSU 20, Arkansas 13

November, 23, 2012

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Jarvis Landry's highlight-reel, one-handed 22-yard touchdown catch from Zach Mettenberger looked like a big play in what was going to lead to a blowout.

Not so much.

No. 7 LSU ended up fighting for its BCS-bowl life in what was likely John L. Smith's final game at Arkansas, holding on for a 20-13 win at Razorback Stadium.

It will be argued that Smith was too conservative in this one. Down 17-10 and facing fourth-and-goal inside the 1-yard line, Smith opted to kick an 18-yard field goal rather than go for it.

But the Razorbacks still had a chance later on. The last play was a throw from Tyler Wilson to Mekale McKay into the end zone, but the throw was high and into tight coverage. It fell incomplete after Arkansas (4-8) had driven to the LSU 18.

It was over when: It looked over when Odell Beckham caught a 47-yard pass, which converted a third-and-11 at the LSU 36, from Mettenberger with less than two minutes remaining.

Beckham, who had 112 receiving yards on four receptions, broke a tackle and streaked down the right sideline for the biggest gain of the day for the Tigers.

That led to a field goal by Drew Alleman with 1:24 left, but Arkansas had one more drive from Wilson, who finished 31-for-52 for 359 yards, the most thrown against LSU this season.

Game ball goes to: Landry, whose twisting catch in the back of the end zone was likely the play of the year for LSU.

He caught eight passes for 75 yards. Mettenberger completed 16 of 29 pass attempts for 217 yards.

Key play: The key decision. Arkansas (4-8), playing with nothing to lose, stayed conservative on the John Henson 18-yard field goal.

It seemed everybody in the stadium was begging for the Razorbacks to try for the tying touchdown. Smith played it conservative and lost.

Key stat: 462-306, Arkansas' edge on total offense. Yet the Tigers found a way to win, much like they did in last week's 41-35 win over Ole Miss.

What it means for LSU: The Tigers finish 10-2 and await Saturday's Iron Bowl result to see whether they get a chance to play for the SEC championship. That's unlikely, considering it would require an Auburn upset of Alabama.

Short of that, LSU must hope for a BCS bowl berth, probably to the Sugar Bowl.

What it means for Arkansas: It's time to move on to the next chapter. Arkansas went 4-8 just months after it opened the season as a top-10 team.

Ranking the SEC's quarterbacks

November, 15, 2012
In a few weeks, we’re going to have to pick our first-, second- and third-team quarterbacks on the All-SEC team.

That’s going to be difficult enough. A number of different quarterbacks in this league have had their moments this season.

But what if you had to rank the SEC’s top 10 starting quarterbacks based on how they’re playing right now, how they’ve played in key games, how they’ve performed during clutch situations and how they’ve impacted their teams overall?

We’ll attempt to do just that, so let the second-guessing commence:

[+] EnlargeManziel
John David Mercer/US PresswireTexas A&M's Johnny Manziel has passed for 2,780 yards and rushed for 1,014.
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Johnny Football might top this list nationally. With 3,794 yards of total offense, he’s on track to shatter the SEC record of 4,327 yards set by Cam Newton in 2010. The clincher was Manziel’s performance in the win over Alabama on the road.

2. AJ McCarron, Alabama: OK, McCarron wasn’t at his best in the Texas A&M loss, but he’s still thrown 20 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, engineered the game-winning drive at LSU and done everything the coaches have asked him to do this season.

3. Aaron Murray, Georgia: Murray has been red-hot the past two weeks with seven touchdown passes and leads the SEC with a 170.7 efficiency rating. He didn’t play well in the 17-9 win over Florida and struggled even more in the 35-7 loss at South Carolina. The SEC championship game will be huge for Murray.

4. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas: It hasn’t been the kind of season anybody in Arkansas was anticipating, and Wilson has taken his share of lumps. But he’s hung in there and is closing in on his second straight 3,000-yard season.

5. Tyler Bray, Tennessee: Bray’s overall numbers are outstanding with 3,216 yards and 29 touchdowns, and he’s probably playing his best football right now. That said, he simply hasn’t delivered in clutch situations and has thrown an SEC-high nine interceptions in league games.

6. Connor Shaw, South Carolina: Easily one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league, Shaw has played through a fracture in his throwing shoulder and thrown 13 of his 14 touchdown passes against SEC competition. He’s responded like a champ ever since his benching in the Florida loss.

7. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State: His season has mirrored that of the Mississippi State team. He started on fire, but has cooled considerably. Even so, Russell has thrown nine touchdown passes and only three interceptions in SEC games and has given the Bulldogs a legitimate threat throwing the football.

8. Zach Mettenberger, LSU: Mettenberger can thank his past two performances for being this high on the list. He’s looked liked the quarterback everybody thought he would be in the win over Mississippi State and loss to Alabama. He’s passed for 571 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in those two contests.

9. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt: There were some shaky moments early, but Rodgers has settled into a groove and was terrific in leading the Commodores on their game-winning drive last week at Ole Miss. He’s thrown six of his nine touchdown passes in the past three games.

10. Jeff Driskel, Florida: The Gators’ passing game has been anything but dynamic this season, but Driskel has made a ton of big plays in key games both running and passing. He’s accounted for 12 touchdowns in eight league games and has been intercepted only three times. He was sidelined last week with a sprained ankle.

SEC predictions: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
Before we get into this week's picks, I think it's only fair that we give Chris a round of applause.

After weeks and weeks of failing to pick up any sort of ground on yours truly, the seasoned vet finally gained a game on me last week by picking Vanderbilt over Ole Miss.

I'll give you time to stand up and clap wherever you are. Don't be shy.


OK, now that we're done with that, it's time to realize that while Chris might have picked up a game, he's still pretty much out of this one. When he said last week that it wasn't over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor (did you know some people still don't know what Chris is referencing?!), he said that just to make himself feel better and maybe raise the spirits of those in his fan club.

I'm sorry to disappoint you, but this one's over. Like, "Twilight" franchise over. (Oh, thank goodness!) Like, Tokyo versus Godzilla over. There are two weekends left of regular-season play, and with my five-game lead, Chris will have to hope for a miracle or pray that I let my cat make my picks from here on out.

Heading into the weekend, Chris now sits at 77-15 (.837) after going 5-2 last week, missing on Texas A&M and Missouri. I'm comfortably sitting at 82-10 (.891) after going 4-3, missing the Aggies (goodness, Johnny Football), Missouri (defense, anyone?) and Vanderbilt (second-half Rebels letdown).

With such a down weekend in the SEC, the cupcakes made it really, really easy on us.

Let's get to the picks:


Edward Aschoff: The Wildcats are coming off a bye and Joker Phillips will say goodbye to Commonwealth Stadium. It's been a rough three years for him, but he'll go out with one more win. ... Kentucky 34, Samford 14

Chris Low: The Wildcats haven’t won since the second week of the season. They’d like to send Joker Phillips out a winner in his final game as coach at Commonwealth Stadium. … Kentucky 28, Samford 13


Edward Aschoff: It's been an ugly year on the Plains, but nonconference games have been pretty good to the Tigers this year. Honestly, that's not saying much, but Gene Chizik will at least grab what could be his last home win here. ... Auburn 38, Alabama A&M 14

Chris Low: It’s the final home game for the Auburn seniors in what has been a forgettable season. The question everybody’s asking on the Plains: Is it the final home game for coach Gene Chizik? Either way, the Tigers will get win No. 3 on the season. … Auburn 41, Alabama A&M 10


Edward Aschoff: The Gamecocks were really clicking on offense last week against Arkansas, and I expect to see much of the same this week, as they tune up before Clemson. ... South Carolina 45, Wofford 7

Chris Low: South Carolina ends the regular season with the first of two straight matchups against in-state foes. A trip to Clemson is looming in the distance, but the Gamecocks had better not sleep on the Terriers and their option offense. … South Carolina 38, Wofford 14


Edward Aschoff: The Aggies might be coming off a historic win over Alabama, but don't expect them to slow down this weekend. They'll roll right over the Bearkats. ... Texas A&M 61, Sam Houston State 10

Chris Low: After playing five of its past six games away from home, Texas A&M returns to what should be a festive Kyle Field in light of the Aggies’ upset win at Alabama last week. Two more wins could land the Aggies in a BCS bowl. … Texas A&M 56, Sam Houston State 20


Edward Aschoff: All of a sudden, you can't say this is a gimme for the Gators after last week's offensive disaster against Louisiana-Lafayette. Jeff Driskel is out, but Jacoby Brissett will do more than enough to ensure Florida gets to 10 wins. ... Florida 31, Jacksonville State 10

Chris Low: The Gamecocks (the Jacksonville State version) gave Arkansas fits in the season opener, and Florida starting quarterback Jeff Driskel is out for this game. Even so, the Gators aren’t going to flirt with disaster for a second week in a row. … Florida 37, Jacksonville State 7


Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs are headed to Athens and are riding a wave of momentum that started way back in Jacksonville, Fla. The triple option will give the Dawgs fits early, but there's just too much talent on Georgia's side. ... Georgia 45, Georgia Southern 13

Chris Low: The Bulldogs have been practicing all week in full pads to get ready for Georgia Southern’s triple-option offense. It’s never a lot of fun to play against that style of offense, especially this late in the season. The real trick for Georgia will be not getting anybody hurt. … Georgia 42, Georgia Southern 17


Edward Aschoff: You have to think that the Tide won't be as emotionally charged this week after losing to the Aggies. There's still a ton for Alabama to play for, and Nick Saban will have his team more than prepared. ... Alabama 45, Western Carolina 10

Chris Low: Talk about ugly matchups. Western Carolina has lost nine straight games and given up 38 or more points in eight of those losses. What’s more, think the Crimson Tide may be looking to blow off a little steam after last week? … Alabama 52, Western Carolina 3


Edward Aschoff: The Tigers are teetering on the bowl-eligibility line right now and are in total must-win mode this weekend. Syracuse might have handily beaten Louisville, but Missouri's defense will hold the Orange in the fourth quarter. ... Missouri 28, Syracuse 24

Chris Low: Missouri is coming off an emotional four-overtime win at Tennessee and gets a Syracuse team playing its best football. The winner of this game qualifies for a bowl game. The Tigers have hung in there despite a glut of injuries this season and will make enough plays on defense to win a close one. … Missouri 28, Syracuse 24


Edward Aschoff: This is one of the more interesting matchups of the weekend. Both teams are really struggling, and Arkansas is fighting for a bowl berth. But the Bulldogs' offense will be much healthier this week, and that's not good for the Hogs. ... Mississippi State 37, Arkansas 34

Chris Low: After a 7-0 start, Mississippi State has hit the skids with three straight losses of 20 points or more. But back home against the Hogs, the Bulldogs will find a way to scratch out their eighth win of the season. … Mississippi State 28, Arkansas 23


Edward Aschoff: Weird things happen in this rivalry, and the Rebels are desperately seeking that elusive sixth win. However, LSU's offense is playing at its best and that's very bad news for Ole Miss' exhausted defense ... LSU 31, Ole Miss 17

Chris Low: Ole Miss is running out of chances to get that sixth win and qualify for a bowl game. The assignment only gets more difficult this week at Tiger Stadium against an LSU team that’s suddenly found itself offensively. … LSU 34, Ole Miss 17


Edward Aschoff: Remember how there was that big locker room scene in Knoxville after this game and some coach said something about always beating Vandy? Yeah, that will change this weekend. ... Vanderbilt 31, Tennessee 27

Chris Low: The last time Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in Nashville, James Franklin was still in elementary school. It’s been 30 years. And while the Vols have dominated this series, these are not your same old Commodores. Franklin & Co. have been pointing toward this one ever since the loss in overtime last season in Knoxville. … Vanderbilt 37, Tennessee 30

Mizzou, South Carolina, victorious

November, 10, 2012
Missouri 51, Tennessee 48 (4 OT): Redshirt freshman kicker Andrew Baggett connected on a 35-yard field goal, lifting the Tigers to a thrilling four-overtime road victory at Neyland Stadium.

Missouri needed a near-miracle just to get the game to overtime, trailing 28-21 in the final minute of regulation. The Tigers converted two fourth downs, including a 25-yard touchdown pass from James Franklin to Dorial Green-Beckham on 4th-and-12 to tie the game at 28-28 with 47 seconds left.

Boos rained down from the fans at Neyland when the Volunteers decided to run out the clock and go to overtime.

The teams exchanged touchdowns in the first two overtimes, and Missouri receiver Marcus Lucas made another impressive catch, an 18-yard reception reminiscent of Green-Beckham's regulation haul, to send it to a third overtime tied at 42.

The teams exchanged touchdowns and failed two-point conversion attempts in the third overtime, then Tennessee coach Derek Dooley made an interesting decision in the fourth overtime, electing to go for it on fourth-and-3 at the Missouri 18. Quarterback Tyler Bray's pass to Zach Rogers fell incomplete and the Vols paid for it when the Tigers capitalized with Baggett's game-winning kick.

The loss keeps Tennessee (4-6, 0-6 SEC) winless in conference play while the Tigers (5-5, 2-5) picked up their second SEC win.

Franklin's day was a good one, as he went 19-of-32 for 226 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He also picked up 43 yards on the ground, and senior running back Kendial Lawrence rolled to a 153-yard, two-touchdown day on 21 carries, which included a 77-yard third-quarter touchdown run.

Tennessee was awful in the penalty department, committing 11 for 80 yards.

South Carolina 38, Arkansas 20: Connor Shaw and the Gamecocks receivers found plenty of room downfield en route to the resounding victory against the Razorbacks at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Shaw, the Gamecocks' junior quarterback, was 14-of-22 passing for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to hit on big plays down the field early and often -- the first coming on a 29-yard pass to a wide-open freshman tight end Jerell Adams.

The Razorbacks moved the ball well themselves in the first half, getting inside the Gamecocks' 10 on three straight drives, but only yielded 10 points from those three trips. The first ended in a lost fumble by Dennis Johnson, the second resulted in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Wilson to Keon Hatcher, and the third stalled before becoming a short Zach Hocker field goal.

Shaw continued his downfield assault before the half, hitting a wide open Bruce Ellington for a 42-yard touchdown at the 1:30 mark, giving South Carolina a 21-10 lead going into halftime.

The defense got in on the act in the third quarter when D.J. Swearinger stepped in front of a Wilson pass and returned it 69 yards for a score and a 31-10 lead.

The Gamecocks put ample pressure on Wilson, sacking him four times and picking up four hurries as well. Wilson was productive when he did have time (26-of-41, 277 yards) but threw two interceptions with his two touchdowns.

South Carolina was able to keep the chains moving fairly well, converting 7-of-13 attempts on third down. That's an area where Arkansas struggled mightily (3-of-17). The turnover battle went in the Gamecocks' favor also, 3-1, with the only South Carolina turnover coming with Shaw taking a shot in the end zone holding a 38-13 lead in the fourth.

Johnson, Arkansas survive Tulsa test

November, 3, 2012
Arkansas' bowl hopes are slim, but they're still there.

It wasn't pretty, but with the Razorbacks' 19-15 win over Tulsa on Saturday, they are now two wins away from becoming bowl eligible after going 1-4 in September.

With running back Knile Davis dealing with a hamstring injury, Arkansas (4-5, 2-3 SEC) got another big day from Dennis Johnson. He carried the ball 22 times for a game-high 109 yards and had two touchdowns. His 1-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter gave Arkansas the lead for good.

Tyler Wilson threw for 272 yards and an interception, but got a major lift from wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who caught 11 passes for a game-high 177 yards. Hamilton now has 69 catches for 1,077 yards this season. His 69 receptions break Jarius Wright's school record of 66 catches in a season.

Arkansas' defense had a solid outing against a pretty good offense. The Razorbacks held Tulsa to just 328 yards of offense and three second-half points.

This was a game that Arkansas absolutely had to have. If the Razorbacks are going to make it to a bowl game, a win had to happen on Saturday. The rest of November is going to be very tough, with two road games against Mississippi State and South Carolina before the season finale against LSU. Finding wins in the next three weeks definitely won't be easy, but there's definitely still some pride left in Fayetteville.

SEC predictions: Week 10

November, 1, 2012
It's as if it's been Halloween all year for Chris when it comes to the picks.

I've been scary good, and he's been scary bad, as he finds himself in quite the hole entering the final month of the regular season. All that "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" he's been watching must be distracting him.

Thanks to some smart picks, I'm liking the view from the penthouse suite here in the ATL. As one of my fellow celebrities once said, "It's good to be king."

We both went 5-2 last week, missing on Ole Miss and Georgia. The good news is that with a 70-7 (.909) record, I still have a five-game lead with Chris being 65-12 (.844) on the season.

There's a chance for my lead to widen even more, so I hope Chris takes his lucky rabbit's foot down to Baton Rouge, La., this weekend.


Edward Aschoff: Auburn coach Gene Chizik made the right move when he made Jonathan Wallace the new starting quarterback. Nothing was working, but Wallace will Saturday. ... Auburn 31, New Mexico 24

Chris Low: After five straight losses, including the humiliating 63-21 rout at the hands of Texas A&M last week, Auburn can’t afford to be choosy. The Tigers just need a win, and it doesn’t matter if they have to step outside the SEC to get it. … Auburn 30, New Mexico State 14


Edward Aschoff: The Vols have lost four straight games, and things in Knoxville are very ... rocky. But this isn't an SEC team, and Tennessee has had its way with nonconference foes this season. ... Tennessee 38, Troy 21

Chris Low: Never has a team been so glad to see October come and go. Tennessee went 0-for-October for pretty much the second straight year; it hasn't won in October since Oct. 1 last year. The Vols will face Troy at home this weekend, and while they’re a train wreck on defense right now, they can score points in bunches. ... Tennessee 41, Troy 21


Edward Aschoff: The Razorbacks' bowl chances took a major hit last week with the loss to Ole Miss, and Tulsa is no pushover. This will be a tough game for the Hogs, but expect late-game magic from Tyler Wilson. ... Arkansas 34, Tulsa 30

Chris Low: The loss last week to Ole Miss might have been the final blow to Arkansas’ season. The Hogs had better not mess around with Tulsa, or it could really get ugly. Winning this game is a must if Arkansas is going to have any shot at a bowl game. ... Arkansas 35, Tulsa 31


Edward Aschoff: Vandy is looking to win its third straight, while Kentucky is just looking to stay afloat during a season that has been ravaged by injuries. Unfortunately for the Cats, the Commodores will get one step closer to being bowl-eligible come Saturday afternoon. ... Vanderbilt 27, Kentucky 14

Chris Low: Not only is Vanderbilt eyeing a third SEC win, but the Commodores could win their second away from home in the league. It’s indeed a new day for the Commodores, who could move within a game of qualifying for their second straight bowl appearance. … Vanderbilt 23, Kentucky 14


Edward Aschoff: The Gators dropped a tough one to Georgia last week, handing over the East. You have to think that this team will be sulking a little to start, but with how bad Mizzou's offense has been, Florida's defense will keep the Gators in control. ... Florida 27, Missouri 13

Chris Low: At one point, it looked like this game would crown the Gators as Eastern Division champs. Those hopes were snowed under by six turnovers last week in the loss to Georgia. Florida still has a chance for an 11-1 season, which would be a heck of an accomplishment. … Florida 27, Missouri 13


Edward Aschoff: This turns into one of those perfect trap games for the Bulldogs after such an emotional win over the Gators. Ole Miss is riding high off its win over Arkansas and could end Georgia's SEC title game hopes. The Rebels will take this one down to the wire, but Georgia prevails. ... Georgia 31, Ole Miss 24

Chris Low: Ole Miss has been the surprise of the league and is one win from becoming bowl-eligible, but Georgia has the inside track to the Eastern Division championship after taking down Florida last week. The Bulldogs aren’t about to slip up now. ... Georgia 31, Ole Miss 21


Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs are yet again looking to prove themselves after a blowout loss to Alabama. That defense will have its hands full with Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel, who went back to being Johnny Football against Auburn. A&M has struggled offensively against good defenses in the second half this season, but that changes Saturday. ... Texas A&M 31, Mississippi State 27

Chris Low: Talk about a springboard game. The winner Saturday in Starkville has a chance to go on and have a big season. Both offenses are explosive, and while Mississippi State may still be smarting some from its loss at Alabama last week, the Bulldogs are a different team at home amid the cowbells. ... Mississippi State 34, Texas A&M 30


Edward Aschoff: It's the game everyone will watch. Not only is the SEC West on the line, but a spot in the national championship could be as well. Alabama has looked unstoppable, while LSU has a fantastic defense and an ugly passing game. Expect a mixture of the two games last year, with Alabama controlling the fourth quarter. ... Alabama 23, LSU 13

Chris Low: LSU has the talent on defense to go after Alabama and force the Crimson Tide out of their comfort zone, and Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night is a nightmare for any opposing team. The difference, though, will be Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and an Alabama defense that simply doesn’t give up any points. ... Alabama 21, LSU 10

Long: New coach wanted by December

October, 16, 2012
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long wants to hire a new coach for the Razorbacks shortly after the season ends in late November.

While speaking to the Touchdown Club in Little Rock, Ark., Long told Razorbacks fans that he wouldn't discuss coaching candidates, but didn't rule out considering current interim coach John L. Smith for the job. It's clear the coaching search is up and running and Long wants to move very quickly once the regular season is finished.

[+] EnlargeJohn L. Smith
AP Photo/Pat SullivanArkansas seeks a coach who will fix the Razorbacks' woes. Is John L. Smith the long-term solution?
Sure, the Razorbacks have won back-to-back games and have new life, but chances are Smith is way down on Long's list. This team stumbled into the month of October with a 1-4 record and a defense that was gutted by just about everyone it faced. The team looked like it had checked out and its leader, quarterback Tyler Wilson, had criticzied his team for quitting against Alabama -- a game in which Wilson didn't play in because of a head injury.

This team looked lost and Smith was the guy in charge, so bringing him back is quite the long shot.

But he must be complimented for helping to get this team back together. The Razorbacks could have just shut it down and let the season play out. They didn't and ran over Auburn. They came to play and obliterated Kentucky before a rainstorm cut the game short. The offense is clicking again and this team has shown tremendous heart and character the last two weeks.

"I think we've seen in the last couple weeks a program that's starting to get better," Long said.

It is, and big-time coaches will see that. This is still a very attractive job to coaches, and don't forget that Long has a boatload of money to toss at a big-name coach's way.

Long is also looking for someone who has "discipline and accountability" and with "honesty and integrity on and off the field." Meaning: he doesn't want someone with the baggage, like former coach Bobby Petrino who was fired in April after his affair/motorcycle incident that began the destruction of Arkansas' 2012 season.

So those Razorbacks fans clamoring for Petrino to come back, don't hold your breathe. It's not worth it and it isn't happening. Long is above that, and he's ready to take this program in a better direction.

Long is looking for a winner and someone who won't be afraid to brush up against the SEC's best. He'll have a good chance to find him in the next couple of months.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 7

October, 14, 2012
Let’s hand out the helmet stickers for Week 7 in the SEC:

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel: Proving yet again that he can make big plays with his arm and legs, Driskel did it Saturday with his legs in rushing for a career-high 177 yards and three touchdowns in Florida’s 37-17 win over Vanderbilt. His 70-yard touchdown run sealed the Gators’ sixth consecutive victory with 2 minutes, 20 seconds to play after the Commodores had pulled within a touchdown. Driskel also had touchdown runs of 37 and 13 yards.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze: Had Ole Miss held on last week to beat Texas A&M, Freeze would be getting some serious consideration for midseason Coach of the Year honors in the SEC. Still, it says volumes about the direction in which this program is headed that Ole Miss could come back from that bitter loss last week and spank Auburn 41-20 on Saturday to end the Rebels’ 16-game SEC losing streak. Freeze has this young team believing right now, and the Rebels have their sights set on a bowl trip in his first season.

LSU offensive line: The Tigers underwent another shakeup in their offensive line Saturday, as tackle Alex Hurst missed the game. Keep in mind that they’ve been playing without their best tackle, Chris Faulk, since the first week. None of that mattered against a South Carolina defensive line that was hailed as one of the best in the country. The Tigers won the battle up front all night in their 23-21 victory over the Gamecocks and paved the way for 258 rushing yards. Coming into the game, South Carolina was ranked second in the SEC against the run and was giving up just 83.8 yards per game.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel: They might as well start calling the SEC total offense record the “Johnny Football” record. He broke his own record Saturday in Texas A&M’s wild 59-57 win over Louisiana Tech with 576 yards in total offense. Manziel accounted for six touchdowns. He passed for 395 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns. His final touchdown was a 72-yard romp to put the Aggies ahead 59-44 with 2:04 to play.

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson: In only two and a half quarters, Wilson put up the kind of numbers a lot of quarterbacks would take over a three-game stretch. He was 23-of-31 for 372 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes in the weather-shortened 49-7 rout of Kentucky. He hit 10 different receivers and was 11-of-12 in the first quarter for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson now has 14 touchdown passes in six games.

Hogs make abbreviated work of Wildcats

October, 14, 2012
Maybe Arkansas is getting its second wind.

Then again, maybe Kentucky has called it a season.

Mercifully for the Wildcats, this one didn’t go the distance. The game was delayed a couple of different times because of bad weather and was finally called in the third quarter with the Hogs winning 49-7.

Despite the abbreviated game, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson put up monster numbers. He was 23-of-31 for 371 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes. Freshman Jonathan Williams had touchdown catches of 77 and 74 yards.

Arkansas, which has now won two consecutive games, led 42-0 at the half and outgained Kentucky 444 yards to 88 yards in the first half. Wilson was 19-of-25 for 331 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone.

If ever a game needed to be stopped, it was this one … even had the weather been perfect.

It looks like the Hogs (3-4, 2-2 SEC) might be getting their stinger back as they point toward the second half of the season. They’re off next week and then take on Ole Miss in Little Rock on Oct. 27, a game that will be pivotal for both teams’ bowl hopes.

For the Wildcats (1-6, 0-4), the season can’t get over soon enough. They’ve lost five in a row, and their four SEC losses have been by a combined margin of 114 points.

Tyler Wilson OK after car accident

October, 9, 2012
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson is fine after a car accident on Interstate 540 Tuesday morning.

Team spokesman Zack Higbee said that Wilson should practice Tuesday with the Hogs.

"Tyler Wilson was in a car accident and has been checked out," Higbee said in a statement. "He is fine and we anticipate him to practice this afternoon."

I'm sure there was some sort of concern with Wilson considering the head injury he suffered earlier this year, but it sounds like he'll be fine.

Obviously, that's very good news. But what isn't so good is that the Razorbacks will be without linebacker Alonzo Highsmith for the rest of the season after he suffered a foot injury in the first half of the Auburn game. Coach John L. Smith said that Highsmith will require surgery.

Highsmith is a big loss for a defense that already couldn't afford anymore injuries. He was leading the team in tackles (54) with four for loss and two sacks. He was a dynamic player who had the ability to make plays all over the field with his speed.

Freshman Otha Peters lined up next to Terrell Williams after Highsmith left last Saturday, but backups Jarrett Lake and Matt Marshall could see some time with Highsmith gone.

With a team that has struggled all season with its defense, losing Highsmith really hurts for a unit trying to put the first half of the season behind it and regroup.

Stifling pass rush sparks Arkansas

October, 6, 2012

Even with a new quarterback, Auburn couldn't manage to find much semblance of an offense in its third SEC loss of the season.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik replaced starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier with backup Clint Moseley at halftime of the Tigers' 24-7 loss to Arkansas on Saturday. Frazier threw an interception and failed to register any points in another abysmal first half for the Auburn offense.

Moseley couldn't manage much better against an unstoppable Razorbacks pass rush, however. Arkansas came into the game allowing 40.6 points per game -- last in the SEC. That average will drop all the way down to 35 points after holding Auburn to one touchdown, largely thanks to a pass rush that generated a whopping eight sacks against a completely overmatched Auburn offensive line.

Even when the Tigers could keep their quarterbacks upright, they still committed five turnovers on the afternoon. Moseley fired two interceptions along with Frazier's one, and the Tigers coughed up a pair of fumbles.

Those horrific stats made a stop-and-start Arkansas performance look masterful by comparison. It looked like the Razorbacks would blow Auburn off the field early when they racked up 224 yards on the way to a 10-0 lead at halftime. But ugly miscues -- such as a missed 26-yard field goal and a muffed third-quarter punt -- allowed the Tigers to hang around and cut the lead as close as 10-7 at the end of the third quarter.

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who finished the day with 216 yards on 20-of-27 passing, led the Razorbacks into the Auburn red zone on his first drive of the fourth quarter. From there wide receiver Brandon Mitchell fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to fellow wideout Javontee Herndon on a trick play, putting Auburn in what proved to be an inescapable 10-point hole.

Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson carried the bulk of the ground game in place of starter Knile Davis, who did not appear to be injured. Johnson toted the rock 16 times for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His second touchdown of the day put Arkansas up 24-7 with 8:20 to play.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 6

October, 4, 2012
It’s the biggest weekend of the season so far in the SEC, and here’s a look at what to watch in Week 6:

1. Lassoing Lattimore: There’s no other way to say it. South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore has owned Georgia. Lattimore rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown last season against the Bulldogs, and he racked up 182 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. Most notably, he’s been money in the fourth quarter. He had 94 of his yards last season in the fourth quarter. And in 2010, he had 56 yards in South Carolina’s final drive to ice the game. The Bulldogs simply haven’t been able to get Lattimore on the ground when it’s counted. Of his 358 rushing yards the last two years against the Bulldogs, 152 have come after contact. If they’re going to win this game, they need to put the clamps on Lattimore early and not allow South Carolina to ride him in the second half. He’s already had a pair of 100-yard rushing games this season against SEC foes Vanderbilt and Kentucky and combined for 145 rushing/receiving yards against Missouri. He’s answered a lot of the questions about whether he could regain his old form post-ACL surgery, but can make a resounding statement Saturday that he’s all the way back.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Zuma Press/Icon SMIWhile Vanderbilt couldn't slow down RB Marcus Lattimore, Georgia plans to give it a try this week.
2. Battle in the trenches I: Georgia’s offensive line faces its toughest test of the season against a South Carolina defensive line that hasn’t given up much of anything this season. Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most explosive pass-rushers in the country and is second in the SEC with 5.5 sacks. Georgia junior left tackle Kenarious Gates will be matched up most of the game against Clowney. The other matchup to keep an eye on is Georgia’s true freshman right tackle, John Theus, against South Carolina senior defensive end Devin Taylor, who’s a fierce pass-rusher in his own right. The Gamecocks have also been a brick wall against the run and are allowing just 2.2 yards per carry. The Bulldogs will need their best game of the season up front offensively.

3. Battle in the trenches II: Similar to Georgia’s offensive line, Florida’s guys up front will also encounter their toughest test of the season. LSU will rotate eight or nine players in the defensive line, and there’s not a lot of drop-off when the starters are resting. Florida has made it known that it wants to run the football, and the Gators will need to if they’re going to keep LSU honest on defense. Not only do the Tigers have a pair of potential first-round draft picks at end in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, but they’re equally stout in the middle with Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson. The offensive line has been the most improved part of Florida’s team this season, but the stakes (and the level of competition) go up considerably on Saturday.

4. October grinder: Nobody in the SEC has a tougher October than South Carolina, especially when you consider the Gamecocks don’t have their bye until Nov. 3. It’s the major reason that picking South Carolina to win the East is hard to do. Even if they can pull out a win over No. 5 Georgia on Saturday, they still have to go to No. 4 LSU and to No. 10 Florida the next two weeks followed by a home game with Tennessee to close out the month. LSU’s October slate isn’t a walk in the park. After playing at No. 10 Florida this weekend, the Tigers return home to face No. 6 South Carolina and then hit the road to play Texas A&M the following week. After a bye week, LSU takes on Alabama at home to kick off November. The Gators are also embarking on a grueling stretch. After LSU’s visit, they travel to Vanderbilt and then get No. 6 South Carolina at home and No. 5 Georgia in Jacksonville in back-to-back weeks. Can any of the three get through October unscathed?

5. Gators’ signature moment: Will Muschamp earned his first win over a nationally ranked foe as Florida’s coach back in September when the Gators went into Knoxville and defeated Tennessee. That was a big step for the program, but taking down No. 4 LSU will make a resounding statement to the entire college football world that Florida is indeed back. This is a game the Gators lost by 30 points a year ago. It’s a chance to show how far they’ve progressed since that blowout, not to mention a chance to prove they can play their best football on the biggest of stages.

6. Taking back the Swamp: There was a time, not too long ago, when the Swamp was the best home-field advantage in the SEC. The Gators didn’t just beat teams at home. They buried them amid a deafening roar and usually sweltering heat. It was a lot like walking into the lion’s den for the opposing team, and that’s something the Gators have to get back if they’re going to start winning championships again. They lost five games at home during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. That’s the same number of games they lost at home in Steve Spurrier’s 12 seasons as coach from 1990-2001. And in Urban Meyer’s first five seasons, they only lost twice at home. This Saturday should be a great atmosphere, the first top-10 matchup at the Swamp since the 2006 LSU game.

7. Defenseless defenses: If you’re an old-school defensive junkie, you might want to avoid the Arkansas-Auburn affair. Defense hasn’t been either team’s cup of tea this season, although the Tigers were much better in their last outing two weeks ago against LSU. In nine games, the two defenses have combined to give up 4,228 yards. The one saving grace for Arkansas is that senior quarterback Tyler Wilson has feasted on Auburn. With the way it’s gone for the Hogs this season on defense, they’re going to have to score 35 points to even have a chance. Wilson passed for 262 yards and two touchdowns last season against Auburn and came off the bench in relief of Ryan Mallett in 2010 to pass for 332 yards and four touchdowns.

8. Manziel for Heisman: As a senior at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, Johnny Manziel put up some outrageous numbers. He passed for 45 touchdowns and ran for 30 touchdowns. The Texas A&M fans couldn’t wait to see “Johnny Football” in maroon. He makes his fifth start for the Aggies on Saturday against Ole Miss and is still cranking out unreal numbers, especially for a redshirt freshman. He set an SEC record last week with 557 yards of total offense in the 58-10 drubbing of Arkansas and leads the SEC in total offense with an average of 365 yards per game. How long can he keep up this pace? Well, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says Manziel is becoming a better quarterback every game, and while Ole Miss isn’t as bad as Arkansas on defense, the Rebels have still given up some big numbers this season. Either way, Manziel’s playing at a level right now that he could easily have close to 2,000 yards in total offense through his first five games as a starter.

9. Not turning it over: Not only is Mississippi State not turning the ball over, but the Bulldogs are also tied for the SEC lead in forcing turnovers. Through four games, they’ve forced 15 turnovers and committed only two, which is a big reason they’re unbeaten. A plus-13 turnover ratio, which is No. 1 nationally among all FBS teams, is going to mask a lot of other issues. The Bulldogs, who travel to Kentucky on Saturday, have played well to this point and have been resourceful, but they’ve by no means been dominant. What they’ve done is win the turnover battle in all four of their games, and they’ve been at least plus-three in the turnover department in three of those games. That’s a recipe for a lot of wins regardless of where you rank statistically in other areas. Case in point: Mississippi State is 10th in the SEC right now in total offense and eighth in total defense.

10. Finding some offense: Missouri and Vanderbilt meet on Saturday in Columbia, Mo., and both teams hope to cure some serious offensive ills. The Tigers have scored just 24 points on offense in their last two games, and one of those touchdowns came at garbage time in the waning seconds of a 31-10 loss to South Carolina two weeks ago. It’s been even more difficult for the Commodores to score points. In fact, they’ve yet to score a touchdown in the second half in any of their three games against FBS foes this season and have managed just two field goals after the break in those three games. One of the common denominators for both teams has been the inability to sustain drives. Missouri is next-to-last in the SEC in third-down conversion (20-of-73) and Vanderbilt is last (13-of-56).