Alabama will begin the season against West Virginia on Saturday without starting inside linebacker Trey DePriest due to an undisclosed NCAA infraction, coach Nick Saban announced.

DePriest, a senior who has started 26 games the past two seasons, is expected to return Week 2 against Florida Atlantic, Saban told reporters in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Wednesday.

Saban pointed out that since DePriest was limited for much of fall camp with an injury, his backups were able to get plenty of reps.

"Even though this wasn't something we anticipated, it was something we were able to prepare for," he said.

Reuben Foster and Reggie Ragland will fill in for DePriest against West Virginia, Saban said. Dillon Lee and Shaun Dion Hamilton will be next in line.

Saban doesn't expect DePriest's absence to have a noticeable impact on the game plan because West Virginia likes to go with multiple-receiver sets on offense that require fewer linebackers on the field.

"We'll probably be in nickel or dime in this game 70 percent or more," Saban said, "so there won't be a lot of regular [base defenses]."

Alabama and West Virginia are set to kick off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in Atlanta.

An inside look at Steve Spurrier's office

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
5:06
PM ET
Spurrier officeFloto + WarnerSteve Spurrier's office paints a unique portrait of the legendary coach.

As Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks get ready to kick off the 2014 season tomorrow night, it's as good a time as any to examine what makes the Head Ball Coach tick.

To learn more about Spurrier, take a step inside his office. It will come as no surprise that it's not your typical coach's office. From the golf clubs to the Attila the Hun books to his high school coach's whistle, Spurrier's digs tell a very specific story that's essential to understanding the legendary coach.

For more on Spurrier, check out the SEC Network's "The Believer," which airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET. (Check out a trailer here.)
video
Back in July at SEC media days, Bret Bielema predicted that his Arkansas team would see Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall in the season opener despite Marshall’s run-in with the law just days prior to the event.

“I think knowing what I know as a head coach, Nick will be there,” Bielema said. “I think we want to play against the best, and I’m sure he’ll be there.”

Bielema was right. His counterpart Gus Malzahn announced Tuesday that Jeremy Johnson was the starter but that Marshall would definitely play.

[+] EnlargeNick Marshall
AP Photo/John BazemoreArkansas can expect to face QB Nick Marshall, but how much is unclear.
What does that mean? Nobody knows for sure, but Malzahn made it clear that he and his staff have a plan for the quarterbacks in Week 1. Well, the Razorbacks have a plan too. They’re preparing the same regardless of who’s under center.

“We can only control what we can control,” defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. “We’re preparing for the Auburn Tigers. No matter who’s in there at quarterback, they’re going to have a great scheme. At the end of the day, it’s going to be about our discipline, our eye discipline, the effort in which we play, and that’s kind of the attitude that we’re taking.”

In last year’s game, Auburn won 35-17 and Marshall was nearly perfect through the air, going 7-of-8 for 118 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed nine times for 59 yards. Meanwhile, Johnson threw one pass and completed it for 15 yards.

Despite those splits, the Arkansas defense wants another crack at Marshall.

“I would rather see the starter (Marshall) because we would always want to play their best,” Hogs safety Alan Turner said. “I feel like he’s a good player, and he makes their offense go.”

Turner, along with All-SEC defensive end Trey Flowers, lead a defense that hopes to be much improved in 2014. The Razorbacks finished toward the bottom of the SEC in both total defense (410 yards per game) and scoring defense (31 points per game) last year, but Smith is hoping to turn that around in his first year as coordinator.

“The biggest thing for our defense has been the attitude and the effort in which we play,” Smith said. “That’s what we’ve got to hang our hat on in order to be successful. We’ve got to run to the football. We’ve got to play with great passion.

“The term that we use for that here at Arkansas is 'smart swarm.' That ties in everything that Coach B believes in and hangs his hat on. It’s playing through the whistle and being mentally and physically tough. That’s the No. 1 thing we ask our guys.”

Saturday’s game will be a prime opportunity for Arkansas, opening against the defending SEC champions and facing one of the top offenses in all of college football a season ago. Even the players say they’ve had a little extra spring in their step during fall camp.

“It does give us a little extra motivation to start the season off against the defending SEC champions,” Turner said. “Right off the bat, you get a quality opponent. I know a lot of people are doubting us, but if we can go in and play like I think we can, we can prove them wrong.”

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback for Auburn. The goal for Arkansas remains the same.

SEC Week 1 upset alert

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
3:28
PM ET
So just how many SEC teams will play in the inaugural College Football Playoff? The conference utterly dominated the top of the BCS standings over the past decade and claimed seven of the last eight national titles. Eight SEC teams were voted into the preseason Associated Press Top 25; five among the top 15.

According to our Football Outsiders projections, six SEC teams have at least a 5 percent likelihood to reach the playoff: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M. No other conference has more than three teams with odds that high. In fact, our projections show an 81 percent likelihood that at least one SEC team will reach the playoff, outpacing the ACC (78 percent), Pac-12 (61), Big 12 (45) and Big Ten (45).

But there is still a 19 percent chance the SEC will be shut out of the CFP in 2014. Inconceivable? Perceptions will shift quickly if the league doesn't dominate its nonconference opponents. And our numbers indicate that five SEC teams have to be particularly wary of an upset this week, starting Thursday with Boise State versus Ole Miss at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

Click here Insider to read more from Brian Fremeau on the five SEC favorites that could go down this weekend, starting with the Tennessee Volunteers.

Prove it: Mason or Thompson

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
3:00
PM ET
video
In the first installment of a weekly series, Alex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf debate which quarterback will have the better senior season, Hutson Mason or Dylan Thompson?
The Head Ball Coach works modest hours, plays golf, says what he wants and still wins at historic levels. And he might just be around long enough to challenge Bear Bryant's record for SEC wins, once thought unbreakable.

Click here for more from Chris Low on what makes Spurrier unique from the people that know him best, including his wife, Jerri, Bob Stoops, Philip Fulmer and more.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Perhaps the second-most popular question about this season’s edition of Texas A&M -- after the obligatory “What’s life without Johnny Manziel going to be like?” -- centers around the Aggies’ defense.

Will they be better? And if so, by how much?

After a disastrous 2013, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder is confident that improvement is on the horizon. He might not flatly state it, but witness the bounce in his step at practice, the energy in his voice and it’s easy to surmise that Snyder is looking forward to Year 3 in Aggieland.

[+] EnlargeMark Snyder
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsMark Snyder's defense struggled last season, particularly against the run, ranking 110th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game.
“If Coach Snyder's in a good mood, I feel like everyone's in a good mood,” middle linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni said. “He watches [the video], diagnoses it more than anyone else so if he's happy, I feel like we're doing something right.”

His unit’s first test, which comes against No. 9 South Carolina and a stout running game powered by one of the nation’s best running backs, Mike Davis, is first on the horizon. Stopping the run was one of the Aggies’ biggest challenges last year, as they ranked last in the SEC and 110th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (222.31).

Snyder isn’t interested in talking up expectations or why he might be confident No. 21 Texas A&M can improve in that area.

“Well, we’ll see when we get there,” Snyder said. “Talk is cheap. We’ll all know that night at the end of the game.”

Indeed they will.

No matter the measure, the Aggies were bad on defense last year. They were last in the SEC in yards allowed per game (475.8), yards per play (6.36), yards per carry (5.38), first downs allowed per game (23.4) and red zone efficiency (71.4 percent) in addition to the aforementioned run defense. In every one of those categories, they were worse than 100th nationally.

“We weren't playing Snyder defense,” senior cornerback Deshazor Everett said last month. “He sets us up to make plays. All we have to do is do what he tells us to, and we weren't doing that last year. So if we come back this year and we're doing what we did this spring, we're going to be a good defense.”

Youth and inexperience were the heart of the issues for the Aggies. Difficulties the defense had included simply getting lined up correctly, fitting the correct gaps and identifying their correct assignments. Earlier this month linebackers coach Mark Hagen called the difference “night and day” when it comes to the defense’s communication and ability to accomplish the basics.

Whether that will translate to the field when the Aggies take on a South Carolina team that averaged 198.4 rushing yards per game last season remains to be seen. The players seem optimistic, though.

“It’s been a completely different mentality,” junior defensive end Julien Obioha said. “Last year was unacceptable. There’s just been so much growth in the last year and so much growth in leadership.”

Added speed and athleticism are among the sources of optimism for the Aggies. So is increased depth, particularly along the defensive line. The 2014 recruiting class included six defensive linemen, four of whom are on the initial two-deep and will see action early, including highly regarded defensive end recruit Myles Garrett, the No. 4 overall player in last year’s class.

Snyder is careful not to heap too much praise on Garrett, but the buzz surrounding training camp made it clear that the true freshman will be a factor. Teammates have been more effusive in their praise of Garrett.

"I have never really seen anything like him,” Mastrogiovanni said. “In the weight room he's already one of the top three strongest guys as a true freshman. He's fast, he's long, he gets to the quarterback just about every play. I think teams are going to have a very hard time blocking him this year.”

There will be plenty of youth on the field this season as well. Snyder estimated that seven true freshmen will see the field on Thursday. Last season the Aggies had a dozen freshman (redshirt or true) in their two deep. But unlike last season, the Aggies are able to be strategic with how and where they are placed.

“We'll try to do our best as we sub and get them in that they're in next to an older guy,” Snyder said. “These guys won't go in unless an older guy is beside them. We didn't have that luxury last year, we just had to play them all together.”

The questions linger and won’t stop until the Aggies take the field. And Snyder’s waiting for them to be answered with results instead of words.

These SEC openers are getting pretty routine for Clemson. The past two years, the Tigers started the season with wins against Auburn and Georgia. On Saturday, they face the Bulldogs again, this time in Athens, Georgia. Who has the edge? SEC reporter Edward Aschoff and ACC reporter Andrea Adelson debate.

Andrea Adelson: In the buildup to this game, nobody is giving Clemson a shot to win. I find that amusing, considering Georgia's reputation to underachieve. I know that Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins are gone, but the Tigers bring back several key players on defense -- including All-American Vic Beasley. Nobody wants to hear that since offenses generate all the headlines. And, well, Georgia has Heisman hopeful running back Todd Gurley coming back. But the Bulldogs have their own issues headed into this game. So tell me, Edward, why is Georgia such a clear-cut favorite?

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia running back Todd Gurley is healthy and primed for a big junior season.
Edward Aschoff: Clemson's defense got better last season, but Georgia's offense will be too much for the Tigers between the hedges. This is an offense that returns most of the pieces to an offense that notched 484.2 yards per game and 6.7 yards per play in 2013. Yes, record-setting quarterback Aaron Murray is gone, but fifth-year senior Hutson Mason knows the offense backward and forward. He might not have the resume Murray had, but he's run the offense in practice over and over and over for years. He has great chemistry with that stacked receiving corps, has a solid offensive line to protect him and is working with one of the deepest running games in the country.

Mason doesn't have to be perfect on Saturday, he just has to find his targets. Receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are dealing with injuries, but Chris Conley, who led the team with 45 receptions and 651 receiving yards last season, has the potential to be one of the SEC's best this fall. He's tough enough to make plays over the middle and is a deep-play threat. Michael Bennett is tough and catches everything thrown this way, and the Bulldogs won't hesitate to use Gurley and Keith Marshall more in the passing game.

Speaking of Marshall, he's cutting and sprinting like he did before last season's knee injury, so that doesn't bode well for Clemson's defense, either.

While the Bulldogs will be able to throw, run and score for days, I do have concerns about the defense, especially that secondary. But what should help make up for the shortcomings is the nation's best linebacker group. Watch out for Leonard Floyd. He should have a breakout year and could be the SEC's best pass-rusher.

The game is also in Athens, where Georgia has lost just two games since the start of the 2011 season.

AA: Georgia definitely has the edge on offense. Nobody is going to argue that. Clemson players have repeatedly praised Gurley, who had a monster game against the Tigers a year ago with 154 yards and two touchdowns. But the running game seems to be the only real certainty on the offense. If Mitchell and Scott-Wesley don't play, who becomes the home-run threat to stretch the field? That is one key aspect in this game that cannot be overlooked. Gurley and Marshall are fantastic. But if Clemson clogs the box and slows them down, does Mason have enough playmakers around him to keep the Tigers honest?

[+] EnlargeCole Stoudt
AP Photo/Rainier EhrhardtClemson QB Cole Stoudt will look to throw often to his experienced receiving corps against Georgia.
Let's not forget, Clemson made a living in the opposing team's backfield a season ago, leading the nation in tackles for loss (122). The D had four sacks and five tackles for loss a year ago against the Bulldogs. Players who accounted for 96.5 of those TFLs return in 2014. When you are the underdog, going on the road to open the season, surely you want to be able to rely on a strong defense to help set the tone -- especially at the outset. Clemson has the ability to do that in this matchup given the return of guys such as Beasley, Grady Jarrett and Stephone Anthony.

The secondary should be a concern for Georgia. Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt is a senior with game experience (he owns the school record for single-game completion percentage) and years spent learning the Chad Morris offense. Freshman Deshaun Watson should throw a nice curve into the offensive mix as well, something not even new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt can properly anticipate. Pruitt may have flustered the Clemson offense a year ago when he was at Florida State, but he has new personnel to coach and new personnel to plan for on the other side.

Now that we laid out our points, what is your prediction and why?

EA: I think this one will be tight until the end, with Georgia pulling away, 31-24. You might question Georgia's deep-play ability, but Conley will come up with the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth before Georgia's defense makes a last-minute stop. I'm going out on a limb to say Floyd will be a major part of that final defensive drive for the Bulldogs.

AA: I am going with the upset in this one. I think Clemson's defense will make a huge difference, forcing several turnovers. Stoudt, Watson and the Clemson receivers will make their names known against a patchwork secondary. Clemson wins, 28-27.

LSU-Wisconsin primer

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
12:00
PM ET
For more than a decade, no FBS programs have experienced more success in out-of-conference games during the regular season than LSU and Wisconsin -- programs that open the season against one another on Saturday in Houston.

LSU has not lost a nonconference game in the regular season since falling to Virginia Tech on Sept. 7, 2002. Since then it has won 45 straight, while Wisconsin’s record in that same time period is 43-3, the nation’s second-best winning percentage (.935).

Obviously one of them is going to lose on Saturday, though, so let’s take a look at some of the key factors in the LSU-Wisconsin game and what a win might mean for their respective conferences.

Key to victory for Wisconsin: Dominate the line of scrimmage. That’s always the motto for the Badgers, who showed they could fare just fine against an SEC defense when they ran for 293 yards against South Carolina (and Jadeveon Clowney) in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl. Controlling the game on the ground with Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement and a talented offensive line becomes an even higher priority given Wisconsin’s inexperience at receiver and quarterback, where Tanner McEvoy makes his first FBS start. And the Badgers’ 3-4 defense has to win battles up front and make LSU beat it through the air.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Harris
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsLSU may need Anthony Jennings (10) and Brandon Harris (6) to have success against Wisconsin.
Key to victory for LSU: With a talented backfield and experienced offensive line, the Tigers figure to run the ball effectively against a retooled Wisconsin defensive front. But it will be up to LSU quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris to do just enough with the pass to prevent the Badgers from crowding the box to defend the run. Regardless of which quarterback is on the field, he will have either little or no college experience. If the Tigers throw the ball as ineffectively as Jennings did in his lone start -- LSU’s 21-14 Outback Bowl win over Iowa, where he was 7-for-19 for 82 yards, no touchdowns and one interception -- it might become difficult to move the ball even against an inexperienced Wisconsin defense.

Keep an eye on: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore could give the Badgers the pass-rushing and playmaking presence they desperately need from their completely revamped defensive front seven. Biegel will be critical in both helping against the run and creating havoc in the LSU backfield from his outside linebacker spot. Like many players at his position for Wisconsin, he has been nicked up in fall practice. But after a breakout spring, Biegel could be a guy who announces himself as an up-and-coming star on this national stage.

Keep an eye on: LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander. One of the Tigers’ top playmakers at linebacker last season, Alexander has shifted from strongside linebacker to Lamin Barrow's old spot on the weak side, which should allow him to be even more active on defense. His sideline-to-sideline speed and tackling ability should make him a great fit for the new role. Alexander and the LSU defense will have their hands full with a powerful Wisconsin running game that features Heisman Trophy contender Gordon. But if Alexander lives up to the reputation he’s already started building at his new position, he’s in line for a huge season, starting Saturday.

What win will mean for Big Ten: Marquee nonconference wins have been in short supply for the Big Ten in recent years, and there would be no better way to build instant credibility than by gaining a win over an established SEC power. Wisconsin would become an immediate playoff contender, as the rest of its schedule is extremely favorable. Other league teams would also get a boost in terms of conference perception. The doom-and-gloom outlook for the Big Ten since Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller's season-ending shoulder injury would fade away quickly with a Badgers victory in Houston.

What win will mean for SEC: LSU has been the SEC’s standard bearer in the past decade when it comes to these marquee nonconference openers. LSU's aforementioned 45 straight nonconference wins in the regular season is the nation’s longest streak. That includes wins in 11 straight openers, against such opponents as TCU, Oregon, North Carolina, Washington, Oregon State and Arizona State. LSU beating Wisconsin would be another feather in the SEC’s cap, solidifying its status as the nation’s best conference.
video
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If you ask Kurt Roper the coach to go back in time and evaluate Kurt Roper the quarterback, you'll get a belly laugh as he describes himself essentially as a recruiting whiff.

"Not good enough!" he chortles. "A miss!"

It's easy for Roper, now the offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators, to wax nostalgic about his all-too-brief career as a college quarterback since he's carved out a reputation as something of a quarterback whisperer more than two decades later.

A winning quarterback at Ardmore (Okla.) High School, Roper was good enough to earn a scholarship to play quarterback for the Rice Owls. His first meeting with his offensive coordinator, the late Mike Heimerdinger, brought a sense of inadequacy that offense was something far more complex than what he was used to.

[+] EnlargeFlorida's Kurt Roper
AP Photo/Phil Sandlin"He's always a positive guy, and we need that around here," Jeff Driskel said of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
"We're having a meeting the night before the first practice and he starts talking to me about defenses," Roper says. "And I had never even thought about defenses. I'm sitting there going, ‘Hey wait a second, what play are we running? Tell me the play.'

"And he's talking to me about how a defense is going to be manipulated by this formation and it's going to remove this guy. And I'm already looking out the window and I see the other guys going to eat dinner. I'm thinking, ‘What am I doing? What's going on here?' "

A week later Roper was moved to defensive back.

The irony that he is now known for being a coordinator, QB coach and play caller is not lost on Roper. His vivid recollection of that first meeting illustrates how far he's come.

"It was all eye opening," Roper said last week. "I don't really know that I start getting a huge understanding of [offense] until I really started coaching it and Coach Cut started teaching me how to coach it."

Coach Cut is David Cutcliffe, a graybeard of Southern football who's been head coach at Duke since 2008.

Cutcliffe became a mentor to Roper, and the two worked side by side at Ole Miss, Tennessee and Duke. Their long partnership came to an end when Roper was hired in December to fix Florida's ailing offense.

"When I called Coach Cutcliffe about Kurt, he wasn't happy I was calling about Kurt," said Florida coach Will Muschamp, Roper's new boss. "But he certainly endorsed him as a football coach and a man."

Roper gives plenty of credit to Cutcliffe for the no-huddle spread offense he is installing at UF. But there were other key influences that have shaped his approach to coaching.

His father, Bobby Roper, brought intensity to his son's football upbringing.

"He was a defensive coordinator," Kurt said. "He was really a no-nonsense guy. He was really intense and tough to grow up around if things weren't necessarily going well all the time on the football field."

Roper also counts two of his position coaches at Ole Miss -- offensive line coach John Latina and running backs coach Rich Bisaccia -- as influences. Latina showed Roper how a sound offensive system helps make a sound line. Bisaccia helped foster Roper's ability to connect in his relationships with players and head coaches.

Joker Phillips, under whom Roper worked as the QBs coach at Kentucky in 2005, added the uptempo element Roper brought to Duke and now Florida.

The amalgamation of his past and the present opportunity to redefine and revive an offense that floundered for the previous three years are what make Roper the Gators' most important offseason addition.

After what Duke accomplished last season, Roper's presence commanded immediate respect. His personality brought a sense of calm and instilled confidence in his new players.

“He's always a positive guy, and we needed that around here," said starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, a fourth-year junior who has witnessed most of Florida's recent struggles from under center.

To a man, Florida's offensive players beam when they speak about their relationships with Roper. They say he's fun and funny and always has a story to tell from his football past.

"He's like a player out there," receiver Valdez Showers said. "He loves the game. He's always got energy. There's not one day where he comes out there down. You feed off his energy.

"He's always uptempo, so you want to be uptempo. That's the way the offense goes.”

On the verge of a crucial season, the Gators' offensive players are exuding the kind of attitude that hasn't been seen at UF since Tim Tebow's days.

They say they owe it to Roper and his offense. It's made them believers from early in spring practice when installation began to more recently in preseason camp and into their preparation for the fall.

"We've made a lot of big plays against a really good defense," Driskel said of facing Florida's vaunted D. " When that happens, you start to feel a little bit more excited and a little bit more confident. ...

"We had a really great, great camp. We protected the ball and made big plays. When you put those two things together, you're going to be looking at a pretty good offense.”

And a pretty good offensive mind behind it.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Once Les Miles publicly reveals LSU's starting quarterback -- probably sometime right before kickoff on Saturday -- that will settle ... exactly nothing.

Perhaps the most persistent question surrounding the Tigers since spring practice opened was whether sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris would take the first snap in Saturday's opener against Wisconsin. But no matter which inexperienced quarterback Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron choose to start against the Badgers -- Miles has already said both will play in the game -- that will resolve only the first phase of this competition.

Since neither player has run away with the job, their battle will play out publicly over the next several Saturdays.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Harris
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsBrandon Harris has a good arm that may be a better compliment to the Tigers' running game.
"Our team understands that we have talented quarterbacks and we have guys that can play," Miles said at his Monday news conference. "But right now they have not separated themselves, and we are not certain. If we were certain, then I promise you, we would play the one guy that would give us all the advantage. But if two guys can give us greater advantage than one guy, then let's certainly play two."

Here's the main dilemma No. 13 LSU's coaches face against a difficult opening opponent like No. 14 Wisconsin. This isn't some directional school that the Tigers are likely to push around regardless of who plays quarterback. Wisconsin is capable of beating LSU, which is why the Tigers probably can't afford to take many chances with this decision.

Advantage Jennings.

Despite some unimpressive performances in his first couple of starts, Jennings at least has actual game experience. He came off the bench to lead the Tigers' game-winning, 99-yard touchdown drive to beat Arkansas and appeared in a total of nine games against opponents like TCU, Florida and Ole Miss. But he also went 7-for-19 for 82 yards and tossed an interception that should have been a pick-six as a starter in LSU's 21-14 Outback Bowl win over Iowa. In the Tigers' spring game, Jennings had two interceptions that went back for touchdowns.

"I know a lot more of the offense [than last season], I'm more comfortable in my skin, I have guys around me that I've known for a year now," Jennings said. "So it's easier now to talk to the guys and to get them going as opposed to last year when I didn't really know anybody and I was staying to myself."

Without question, Jennings possesses the intangibles to become a successful college quarterback. But at some point, the Tigers will need someone under center who is capable of striking fear in opposing defenses.

The running game should be superb, but the Tigers must pose at least a threat with the pass to keep opponents from focusing solely on stopping Leonard Fournette & Co. on the ground. During LSU's spring game, it didn't require a coach with Cameron's experience at molding quarterbacks to see which player possessed the more electric skillset.

Advantage Harris.

The freshman boasts a next-level arm and is also a shifty runner, providing a nice balance to the bigger Jennings, who can bowl over a defender if necessary. But he's also a true freshman quarterback -- a group not known for their down-to-down consistency.

"You know any young quarterback is going to have a setback at some point in time and that's where the team comes in," Cameron said. "We've got to make sure that when they have that setback, it's not one that gets us beat."

So, for now at least, plan on seeing both quarterbacks play until one of them shows he deserves to take the lion's share -- or maybe even all -- of the snaps.

"I think eventually one of them is going to end up separating himself, but right now I think they're on an equal playing field and both having great success throughout fall camp and the scrimmages we've been having," running back Terrence Magee said.

Beyond Wisconsin, LSU plays Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State in September -- with the Sept. 20 SEC opener against Mississippi State crammed in between -- so the next several weeks will play a huge role in settling this battle before the Tigers fully dive into conference play. They can compete in real games without the probability of a major screwup costing LSU a victory.

That won't be the case on Saturday, so if Miles' history with such decisions is any indication, he might play it close to the vest against the Badgers and then let the competition continue in the ensuing weeks.

"I think our system lends itself to allowing young quarterbacks to play well against quality opponents because we believe in the running game and we believe that we can take the ball back, hand it off to a running back, give him a three-way break and we can be successful running the football in a way some people can't," Cameron said.

"Les and I cut our teeth in this system that way. We believe in it."
For everything Steve Spurrier has done at South Carolina, one thing has escaped the Head Ball Coach’s grasp in Columbia: an SEC championship.

After winning six SEC championships during his 12 years at Florida, including his first in his second year, Spurrier has yet to claim that coveted prize during his nine years as the Gamecocks’ coach.

Spurrier certainly had more to work with right away when he arrived in Gainesville, but chasing an SEC title in Columbia is eating at him.

“He’s one of the most competitive people I know, so yes, he wants that championship,” running backs coach Everette Sands said.

[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsSteve Spurrier has guided South Carolina to three consecutive 11-win seasons.
Spurrier was asked this summer if he felt unfulfilled without an SEC championship at South Carolina, and he shrugged it off. Spurrier doesn’t feel unsatisfied, but you can tell that an SEC title with a program he has built into a nationally relevant entity is something he craves.

But he’s also proud that he has taken the Gamecocks to new heights. The Gamecocks are coming off their third straight 11-win season and are one of only three teams to finish the past three seasons ranked inside the top 10 in the country. Spurrier’s 77 wins are the most by a coach in school history, and he has a winning record against rivals Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, including going 13-3 against them in the past four seasons. South Carolina was also picked by the media to win the SEC Eastern Division this fall.

Spurrier might not have an SEC title on his South Carolina résumé, but the Gamecocks have been a force in the SEC over the last few years. They’ve also owned their home state, going 6-3 against Clemson with five straight wins.

“What I've also learned at South Carolina, our fans realize there's more to life than winning the SEC championship,” Spurrier said. “They really do. We're in a state with Clemson. Clemson used to pretty much own South Carolina in football, no question about it. We have a state championship trophy. If you ask our fans at South Carolina, I can assure you a majority would say, ‘We would rather beat Clemson than win the SEC.’ That is how big it is to them, that one game.

“Personally I'd rather win the SEC. I don't mind saying that. Personally, that's the bigger trophy.”

And his players want the bigger trophy, too.

Redshirt senior defensive tackle J.T. Surratt knows the pain of missing out on an SEC title all too well. Having to watch the SEC championship from home during the Gamecocks' impressive three-year run, Surratt hasn’t had the stomach to complete an entire game. He has started to watch, but he cuts it off halfway through the first quarter each year.

Surratt will turn it back on in the fourth quarter, but not without a sick feeling in his stomach, he said.

“It always feels like we’re one or two games short,” Surratt said of continually missing out on the SEC title game.

“All those 11 wins are great, but 11 wins is still not enough. We’re still not satisfied.”

What gnaws at Surratt and Spurrier even more is the fact the Gamecocks have beaten the eventual SEC East champ the last three years only to, as quarterback Dylan Thompson said, “not get in the stinking game.”

Last year, the Gamecocks upset Missouri on the road in double overtime, but an earlier loss to Tennessee thwarted their SEC title hopes. A year earlier, South Carolina beat East champ Georgia 35-7, only to lose back-to-back games to Florida and LSU. And in 2011, the Gamecocks swept the East but lost to Auburn and Arkansas, sending Georgia to the SEC championship.

That 2010 trip to Atlanta seems so long ago, but Spurrier thinks he has another special group in Columbia. Stars like Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw are gone, but Spurrier has an offense that shouldn’t have trouble scoring with bullish running back Mike Davis, one of the nation’s best offensive lines and an experienced quarterback in Thompson. There are questions on defense, but the linebacker unit is solid and the defensive line is oozing underrated talent.

And with what Spurrier calls a “beautiful schedule,” the Gamecocks could find themselves back in Atlanta this December, nudging the Head Ball Coach another step closer to that elusive title.

“Hopefully we can add an SEC championship,” Spurrier said. “I can assure you, I tell those recruits, ‘If you come here, hopefully you'll be on the firstever SEC championship team ever.’ That's still our goal. We haven't quite done it. I think we've been close, but not close enough.

“We’re probably going to have to upset someone to win the SEC, I know that.”

SEC morning links

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
8:00
AM ET
1. The college football season is just a day away, and what better way to kick things off than with a premier matchup in the SEC between South Carolina and Texas A&M. In fact, it’s just one of many intriguing games during the first weekend. Feel blessed. In 2004, the best SEC game from the opening weekend was No. 3 LSU against a mediocre Oregon State team. Matchups like Alabama-Utah State or Georgia-Georgia Southern were more the norm. But let's get back to this season. Athlon Sports previewed the top five college football games of Week 1, and four of the five included SEC teams. LSU-Wisconsin is at the top of my list just because I have no idea what to expect from the Tigers.

2. The other major matchup this weekend takes place between the hedges where Georgia will host Clemson in a clash of Top 25 teams. The two played a shootout last year, but both starting quarterbacks have moved on to the next level. To me, one of the bigger storylines from this game will be if Deshaun Watson takes the field for Clemson, and if so, how much will the talented freshman quarterback play? Georgia expects to see Watson at some point even though Cole Stoudt will start for the Tigers. Don’t forget that it’s somewhat of a homecoming for Watson. The nation’s top dual-threat quarterback hails from Gainesville, Georgia, and Mark Richt made a strong push to flip the in-state recruit.

3. We’ve already seen Greg McElroy take center stage on the SEC Network. How about analysis from another former Alabama quarterback? John Parker Wilson gives his take on the current quarterback battle going on in Tuscaloosa as part of AL.com’s “Film Room” series. Wilson goes over some plays that might help make like easer for both Blake Sims and Jacob Coker, and if there’s anybody who would know, it’s him. He played two seasons for Nick Saban. Meanwhile, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen isn’t amused with the ongoing quarterback competition. Holgorsen said too much has been made about the position and that the offense won’t change much regardless of who’s under center. He’s probably right.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

video
West Virginia's opener with Alabama this weekend took an interesting turn Tuesday when Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett was asked after practice about his relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Trickett's father, Rick, who is currently Florida State's offensive line coach, worked at LSU under Saban in 2000.

Trickett, however, apparently had a relationship with another Saban, as well.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Trickett, when prompted that he probably knows Saban well: "His daughter was my first kiss back in the day. So yeah... I don't know if I should have said that [laughs]. She's actually engaged now. Coach Nick is one of the greatest there is. My brother (Travis Trickett) worked for him. He was a GA for him when he first got to Alabama. And we've known him for years, family friends and just one of the best coaches out there."

Trickett cut off the next question to add one more tidbit: "For clarification, we were like six years old! Just so everyone knows that."

It's unclear at the moment whether this news will affect how many blitzes Saban dials up on Saturday.

Preseason predictions and betting guide

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
5:59
PM ET
ESPN's college football experts offer their predictions for the 2014 conference winners, which four teams will make the final four and which team will win the first College Football Playoff.

Alabama is the most popular pick to win the SEC crown, with Georgia, South Carolina and Auburn also receiving support. The Crimson Tide are the only conference team picked to win it all, although only two of the panel's 23 experts picked Nick Saban's crew to win it all.

Click here for the full list of predictions.

And make sure to check out our comprehensive betting guide Insider from Phil Steele and Will Harris.

SPONSORED HEADLINES