SEC: Arkansas Razorbacks
- The Seattle Times reports that Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is one of two frontrunners for the Washington head coaching vacancy.
- Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson warns his Tigers about allowing big plays. ... After a slight concussion, linebacker JaViere Mitchell returned to practice and is expected to play on Saturday.
- Missouri's defense knows it will take discipline to slow down Auburn's running game.
- Steve Spurrier says the AT&T Cotton Bowl is at the top of South Carolina's list. But BCS rules will limit the Gamecocks' bowl possibilities this year.
- What are Zach Mettenberger's NFL prospects with a torn ACL?
- Texas' new athletics director addressed the challenges of reviving the Longhorns' rivalry with Texas A&M.
- Nothing less than a bowl appearance in Year 2 will be acceptable for Tennessee. ... The Vols picked up an ESPN 300 wide receiver commit on Wednesday. And he might have tipped UT's hand when it comes to next year's QB battle.
- Where will the Commodores be bowling after an 8-4 season?
- In a season that saw Florida lose its top three offensive tackles for significant time to injury, a former Gator OT is ironically enjoying good health as he plays his sixth and final season for Boston College.
- Two of the top running backs in the Magnolia State, one an Ole Miss commit and the other a Mississippi State pledge, will square off on Saturday with a state title on the line.
- Mark Stoops knows it won't be an easy task to build his Wildcat program.
- An 0-8 season did nothing to shake Bret Bielema's faith in his plan to revive the Razorbacks.
Looking over the newly released ESPN JC 50, there are several recruits on that list already committed to SEC schools. There are also many that still remain undecided. With signing day quickly approaching, here’s a closer look at five prospects, who’s destination is still unknown.
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- Of course, Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis is now the big man on Auburn's campus. He received a standing ovation in class on Monday. Also, head coach Gus Malzahn stumped for his star quarterback, Nick Marshall, to be included in the Heisman Trophy discussion.
- Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel wants to guard against the kind of letdown his team experienced in the Big 12 championship game in 2007. Meanwhile, the school sold out of its allotment of 16,000 tickets by 8 a.m. on Monday.
- Get ready for Saturday with some SEC championship numbers to know.
- Vanderbilt fans are breathing easier about coach James Franklin after Washington's Steve Sarkisian was hired to take over at Southern Cal. Franklin reportedly was a finalist at USC.
- More than two dozen members of the media voted in their weekly Heisman poll, and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel received just two second-place votes.
- The Crimson Tide are taking the week off of practice to regroup and get over the shock of losing the Iron Bowl in historic, last-second fashion.
- The Gamecocks are likely headed to one of three bowl games -- either the Capital One Bowl, the Outback Bowl or the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
- Georgia's AD is confident that Bulldog Nation will travel well to whatever bowl game they end up with. ... The players are feeling good after winning yet another close game.
- Florida lost to archrival FSU on the field but got some payback on the recruiting trail Monday as the Gators flipped four-star WR Ryan Sousa, who had been committed to the Seminoles since June.
- Bowl-eligible for the fourth straight year, Mississippi State is hoping for either the AutoZone Liberty Bowl or the BBVA Compass Bowl.
- The Razorbacks’ 31-27 loss to LSU last week was just more evidence of Arkansas' fourth-quarter troubles.
- Even after a winless season in the SEC, there are reasons for optimism at Kentucky.
- Auburn coach Gus Malzahn skipped the postgame celebration at Toomer's Corner to study film and start working on his game plan for Missouri.
- Missouri has already topped its fans' highest hopes in its second SEC season and has a chance for even loftier heights.
- Crimson Tide kicker Cade Foster, who missed two field goals and had another blocked in the Iron Bowl loss to Auburn, had to take his Twitter profile down after receiving death threats. His teammates took to the social media platform to defend him.
- The Gamecocks (10-2) missed an SEC championship game appearance by a half a game and could end up in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
- LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is expected to recover from a left knee injury in time for the Tigers' bowl game.
- In an indirect way, Georgia coach Mark Richt said he wants defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to return next season. Richt expressed support for Grantham, even with the Bulldogs finishing 10th in the SEC in total defense.
- Vanderbilt has incorporated quarterbacks Austyn Carta-Samuels and Patton Robinette into its running game, and it gave the team a lift in its 23-21 victory against Wake Forest. More pressing news, however, is that head coach James Franklin is a finalist for the USC Trojans job.
- Despite its loss in the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss still has a chance at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.
- In the wake of two firings, the big news for Florida is that top-rated QB recruit Will Grier remains firmly committed . Other offensive recruits expressed varying levels of surprise at the news, but more interesting is that some are being told the Gators will look to install an uptempo offense next season.
- Tennessee is looking to bring the big play back in 2014 if the Vols are going to reach their first bowl game since 2010.
- First-year head coach Mark Stoops said he is "disappointed" and takes responsibility for Kentucky's 2-10 record (winless in the SEC).
- Oh no! Mississippi State's mascot, "Bully," was reportedly injured during the Egg Bowl after getting clipped by an ESPN TV cart.
- Another first-year head coach, Arkansas' Bret Bielema, and his staff will hit the road and do some much-needed recruiting after their own 0-8 season in league play.
1. Auburn (11-1, 7-1 SEC; last week: 3): Call it luck, but don't forget to call the Tigers good. Auburn won the Iron Bowl 34-28 over No. 1 Alabama on a last-second field goal return for a touchdown by Chris Davis. It was another improbable win for the Cardiac Cats, but Auburn also ran for 296 yards on the SEC's best rush defense. Back-to-back thrillers have Auburn No. 3 in the BCS standings and SEC Western Division champions.
2. Missouri (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 2): These Tigers will meet those Tigers in the SEC championship game on Saturday. After beating Texas A&M 28-21 at home, Mizzou completed its own improbable season in its second year in the league. Missouri now has five wins over opponents that were ranked when it played them. Like Auburn, Mizzou is very much in the national championship picture. The Tigers need help, but a win over Auburn would push a team that was left for dead last season a step closer to Pasadena, Calif.
3. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 1): The three-peat is likely over after Alabama was bested by its archrival. Why Nick Saban would attempt a 57-yard field goal with a second left without any speedy athletes on the field is mind-blowing. Saban rarely makes mistakes, but this one will sting for a very long time. Alabama is still very much in the hunt for a BCS bowl game, but a return to the title game is a long shot.
4. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC; LW: 4): Another year, another win over Clemson. That makes five in a row for Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks after his guys walked over the Tigers 31-17. South Carolina forced six turnovers, and quarterback Connor Shaw impressed yet again with 246 yards of offense and two touchdowns. The BCS is out of reach for the Gamecocks, but they have a shot at three straight 11-win seasons.
5. LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC; LW: 5): This is easily the most confusing team to follow in 2013. The Tigers started hot, hit some bumps and then finished strong with an exciting 31-27 win over Arkansas. LSU was without starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger (knee) late, but it didn't matter, as freshman Anthony Jennings drove the Tigers 99 yards, with a 49-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:15 left. This could be another double-digit-win season for the Tigers.
6. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 6): Johnny Manziel went from carving up defenses to being smothered in his last two outings. In Saturday's loss to Mizzou, Manziel was held to a season-low 216 total yards and a touchdown. The defense was gutted -- again -- allowing 225 rushing yards, including a 57-yard Henry Josey touchdown run with 3:34 remaining. It's been a long November in College Station, but at least Kevin Sumlin is locked up for the long haul.
7. Vanderbilt (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 8): Coach James Franklin might be near the top of USC's coaching list, but for now, he's doing a heck of a job as Vandy's coach. There's no wonder he's on the Trojans' radar. Vandy has won four straight, will make its third straight bowl game and is in line to win nine in back-to-back seasons. The Commodores didn't make it look easy against Wake Forest, but a Carey Spear field goal with 39 seconds left kept the Dores' winning streak alive.
8. Georgia (8-4, 5-3 SEC; LW: 9): Another team that didn't want things to be easy over the weekend, Georgia needed double overtime to beat rival Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs' defense was pushed around for 495 yards, but the offense was there to bring the Dawgs back from deficits of 20-0 and 27-17. When you have a guy like Todd Gurley (158 total yards and four touchdowns), it doesn't matter who you have at quarterback.
9. Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5 SEC; LW: 10): After being on the outside of the bowl picture just a couple of weeks ago, the Bulldogs rallied to win their last two, including an overtime victory against bitter rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving. It wasn't the prettiest of games, but injured quarterback Dak Prescott came into the fourth quarter and threw for 115 yards, while running for 29, including the eventual winning 3-yard score. Dan Mullen has Mississippi State in the postseason for the fourth straight season.
10. Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC; LW: 7): Oh, what could have been for this team. Not only have the Rebels lost two straight, but they allowed their archrivals to make it to the postseason. For a season that started 3-0, some poor play in the red zone -- especially near the goal line -- against Missouri and turnovers against Mississippi State cost Ole Miss in its final two games.
11. Tennessee (5-7, 2-6 SEC; LW: 11): A long first year for Butch Jones ended with a nice 27-14 win over Kentucky. The Vols aren't going bowling, but now is the time when Jones has to ramp up the development phase and keep an already stellar recruiting class together. Remember, this team was a fake Vandy jump pass from a bowl berth.
12. Florida (4-8, 3-5 SEC; LW: 12): The Gators' nightmare of a season ended with a 37-7 rout by rival Florida State inside the Swamp. Florida then fired embattled offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis. Florida lost seven straight to end the season without scoring more than 20 points. And it isn't going bowling for the first time in 22 years and has its first losing season since 1979.
13. Arkansas (3-9, 0-8 SEC; LW: 13): With that heartbreaking loss to LSU, the Razorbacks have dropped a school-record nine straight and went 0-8 in conference play for the first time. This team fought hard in its final act, but it's clear that development and recruiting need to amp up during the offseason if Bret Bielema is going to have a chance at really competing in this league.
14. Kentucky (2-10, 0-8 SEC; LW: 14): The Wildcats have now gone 0-8 in SEC play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1941-42 and have lost 16 straight SEC games. Mark Stoops is building a pretty impressive recruiting class right now, but we all know it takes more than recruiting. The Wildcats need more than talent, as they took steps back on both sides of the ball late in the season.
One weekend, two games to determine the fate of the SEC divisional titles. One chance for teams to punch their ticket to Atlanta.
Let's take a look at how the division races sit going into the final weekend of regular season games:
- For the first time the Iron Bowl is a play-in game for the SEC Championship game. That's helping to make it the "Iron Bowl of all Iron Bowls," with No. 1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC) heading to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on No. 4 Auburn (10-1, 6-1). The winner takes the SEC West and goes to the championship game. The loser finishes second and gets to watch. Simple as that.
- The next grouping has LSU (8-3, 4-3) and Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3) tied for third in the division, though LSU defeated A&M head-to-head last week. LSU has last-place Arkansas (3-8, 0-7) this weekend while A&M travels to Missouri. Ole Miss (7-4, 3-4) is a game behind LSU and Texas A&M in the division and plays sixth-place Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5) in the Egg Bowl.
- No. 5 Missouri (10-1, 6-1) holds its fate in its own hands. If the Tigers beat Texas A&M, they win the SEC East and go to Atlanta for the SEC championship game. If the Tigers lose to the Aggies, South Carolina (9-2, 6-2) waltzes in and takes the SEC title game berth by virtue of its win over the Mizzou on Oct. 26, which serves as the head-to-head tiebreaker. South Carolina's conference schedule is wrapped; the Gamecocks play No. 6 Clemson this weekend.
- Georgia (7-4, 5-3) finishes in third place in the division and faces nonconference foe Georgia Tech. Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4) closed out its SEC play last week with a win over Tennessee and the Commodores conclude the year fourth in the division and finish up against nonconference foe Wake Forest. Florida (4-7, 3-5) will conclude a nightmarish season against rival Florida State and the Gators are fifth in the league. Tennessee (4-7, 1-6) and Kentucky (2-9, 0-7) are sixth and seventh and play each other this weekend.
1. For all the marbles: Have you heard the Iron Bowl is this weekend? If not, you probably don't live in Alabama. Allow me to fill you in. Top-ranked Alabama will visit No. 4 Auburn on Saturday. It's a game with major conference and BCS implications, as the winner will represent the SEC West in the league championship game. Likewise, the Eastern Division remains up for grabs. No. 5 Missouri leads, but must defeat No. 21 Texas A&M in order to represent the division in Atlanta. With an A&M win, No. 10 South Carolina will win the East thanks to its victory against Mizzou.
2. In-state hate: The Iron Bowl, which is likely the nastiest in-state rivalry of them all, will receive the most national attention this week because of its championship implications. However, it's certainly not the only place you'll find distaste for the cross-state enemy. It kicks off with Thursday's Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Then you've got Auburn-Alabama, Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Florida-Florida State all on Saturday.
3. ACC vs. SEC: The ACC thought last season that it might finally break through in rivalry games against opponents from the mighty SEC. Then Georgia wiped the floor with Georgia Tech, South Carolina controlled its game against Clemson, and Florida used a 24-point fourth quarter to beat FSU 37-26. This weekend might be a different story, however. At 4-7, Florida is enduring its worst season in decades and enters as a decided underdog against unbeaten FSU. Georgia faces uncertainty with quarterback Aaron Murray sidelined when it visits Tech. And while South Carolina is favored by five points, No. 6 Clemson is ranked higher and is certainly capable of winning in Columbia.
5. Battle for the boot: How can it be that No. 17 LSU and Arkansas ranked first and third nationally just two seasons ago when they met? When the Razorbacks visit Baton Rouge on Friday with the Golden Boot trophy at stake, they will be 25-point underdogs. Certainly some of that point spread has to do with the Tigers' impressive 34-10 win against Texas A&M. More of it is that Arkansas has been awful for most of the season. The Razorbacks have lost eight straight games, by an average margin of 21 points, as they enter this weekend's finale. While the Battle for the Boot has often ended in crazy fashion, it would be a surprise to see this installment remain competitive into the fourth quarter.
6. Murray's replacement: For the first time since the 2009 season, someone other than Murray will start at quarterback for Georgia. The SEC's all-time leading passer underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that he tore Saturday against Kentucky. The starting nod will go to Hutson Mason, who led Georgia to four touchdowns and a field goal in five possessions against the Wildcats. Georgia Tech has to like seeing a different quarterback under center for the Bulldogs, as Murray was 48-for-65 for 738 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception in three career starts against the Yellow Jackets.
8. Bowl bid at stake in Starkville: Not only will Dan Mullen's Mississippi State club (5-6) be playing Thursday to recapture some of the in-state mojo it lost to Ole Miss in the past year, the Bulldogs must beat the Rebels in order to achieve bowl eligibility. Mullen's three-game winning streak against the Rebels ended last fall when Hugh Freeze's club won handily, 41-24, and then Ole Miss added insult to injury by signing one of the most heralded recruiting classes in school history. It would be another embarrassing blow if Ole Miss beats the Bulldogs to prevent them from reaching the postseason.
9. Clowney vs. Boyd: South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney harassed Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd in last season's win, earning Boyd 4.5 sacks as the Gamecocks beat the Tigers for the fourth time in a row. Boyd finished 11-for-24 for 183 yards and tossed two interceptions -- one of which led to Dylan Thompson's win-clinching touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington. Boyd has been terrible in two starts against South Carolina, and he'll have to perform more consistently against Clowney & Co. in order to end the losing streak.
10. Tennessee tumble: There was a point when Tennessee was 4-3 and looked like an SEC East darkhorse after the Volunteers nearly beat Georgia and shocked South Carolina at Neyland Stadium. Then came a run of lopsided losses to three consecutive top-10 teams (Alabama, Missouri and Auburn) and a last-minute defeat against Vanderbilt. With Tennessee now 4-7, we know first-year coach Butch Jones won't lead the Vols to a bowl game, but his team could at least remove some of the bitter taste from its mouth by beating Kentucky, which has lost 15 straight SEC games.
Some might say our prognostications on the SEC blog would fall into a similar category.
It was all I could do to break even and finish 4-4 for the week. Edward was 5-3, which means he extended his lead over me to two games.
The ATL Kid is now 89-15 (.856), while I’m 87-17 (.837). We both missed Georgia Southern’s upset of Florida last week. Who did get that one right? We also both whiffed on LSU’s win over Texas A&M.
In addition, I missed Mississippi State’s win over Arkansas and Vanderbilt’s win over Tennessee. Edward missed Missouri’s win over Ole Miss.
So not a pretty showing by either one of us last week.
There are several toss-ups on the docket this week as well as some heated rivalry games. It’s the final week of the regular season, meaning all that’s left are the SEC championship game and bowl games.
Unless I want to finish with the silver medal for the second straight year, I need to bring my “A” game these last few weeks. The Kid, of course, thinks he has it won. He's even talking about letting his cat pick a few games going forward.
Here’s how we see things shaking out in Week 14:
OLE MISS at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Chris Low: Mississippi State needs this game if the Bulldogs are going to extend their bowl streak to four straight years. They gave themselves a chance last week with their overtime win at Arkansas, and Dan Mullen and crew will get their biggest win of the season on Thanksgiving Night over the “school up north.” Mississippi State 30, Ole Miss 27
Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs have all the momentum after an overtime win against Arkansas and Ole Miss' dreary loss to Missouri. Mississippi State needs a win to make its fourth-straight bowl game, while the Rebels are playing for pride and a second straight win over their arch-rival. Ole Miss 27, Mississippi State 24
ARKANSAS at LSU
Low: The end of this season can’t get here soon enough for Arkansas, which has lost a school-worst eight straight games and looking down the barrel of its first nine-loss season in school history. Tiger Stadium is no place to try to get well all of a sudden. LSU 35, Arkansas 16
Aschoff: All of a sudden, LSU looks like its old self. The defense stood tall against Johnny Manziel and there's an outside chance that the Tigers could make a BCS bowl game. The Hogs have lost eight straight and just don't have the talent to match up with LSU. LSU 38, Arkansas 17
WAKE FOREST at VANDERBILT
Low: Bowl games are quickly becoming old hat for the Commodores. They’re thinking eight regular-season wins again after taking down Tennessee last week. In the past, this might have been a game Vanderbilt would lose. But not anymore. Vanderbilt 31, Wake Forest 17
Aschoff: Once again, the Commodores are red-hot in the month of November and are looking for back-to-back nine-win seasons. They'll take yet another step forward, as they head to the postseason without a blemish in November. Vanderbilt 31, Wake Forest 14
FLORIDA STATE at FLORIDA
Low: Talk about two rivals going in opposite directions. Florida has lost six in a row and is headed for its first losing season since 1979. Florida State is two wins away from wrapping up a berth in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. The Seminoles will be doing the chomping in this one. Florida State 37, Florida 14
Aschoff: Nothing is going right in Gainesville, while the Seminoles are fighting for a spot in the BCS title game. Florida State hasn't scored less than 41 points this season. In the past four games, the Noles have scored 27 touchdowns, while Florida has just 26 touchdowns on the season. Enough said. Florida State 34, Florida 6
TENNESSEE at KENTUCKY
Low: Between them, Kentucky and Tennessee are a combined 5-41 in SEC play dating back to the start of the 2011 season. The Wildcats’ last SEC win came over Tennessee to close out the 2011 season. They’ve lost 15 in a row in the league. Both teams are limping to the finish, but the Vols will squeeze out an ugly one. Tennessee 23, Kentucky 21
Aschoff: Neither one of these teams is going to a bowl and both are in major rebuilding modes. But neither team has quit, and that's a good sign for the future. As for Saturday, Tennessee's edge in overall talent will push the Vols to their fifth win of the season. Tennessee 27, Kentucky 23
GEORGIA at GEORGIA TECH
Low: The Bulldogs will have to finish the season without senior quarterback Aaron Murray, who tore his ACL last week. It’s Hutson Mason’s show now, and he’ll get just enough help from his defense to slip out of Atlanta with a win. Georgia 34, Georgia Tech 27
Aschoff: The Bulldogs might be down Murray at quarterback, but Mason shouldn't have much of a problem filling in this weekend. Georgia Tech's defense has gotten better and they'd love to leave another dent in the Bulldogs' season, but expect Georgia's run defense to answer the call late. Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 24
TEXAS A&M at MISSOURI
Low: Seeing Johnny Manziel struggle the way he did last week at LSU was surprising enough. But good luck in shutting him down two weeks in a row. He’ll bounce back with a vintage Johnny Football performance, and Texas A&M will throw a dagger into Missouri’s Eastern Division championship hopes with a wild shootout win. Texas A&M 41, Missouri 38
Aschoff: If the Tigers win, they are headed to the SEC championship game in their second year in the conference. Manziel's slim Heisman chances could get a major boost with a win in a hostile Mizzou environment. Pressure hasn't gotten to the Tigers all season, and it still won't even with the most exciting player in the country in town. Missouri 38, Texas A&M 34
CLEMSON at SOUTH CAROLINA
Low: This is one of the more underrated rivalries in college football. And lately, South Carolina has made it a one-sided rivalry with four straight victories in the series. No team has won five straight since Clemson won seven in a row from 1934-40. The Head Ball Coach, though, has had Clemson’s number, and it sounds as though Jadeveon Clowney will be healthy for this game. That’s bad news for the Tigers. South Carolina 34, Clemson 24
Aschoff: The Gamecocks might not make it to the SEC championship game, but a BCS bowl is still on the line. South Carolina has won four straight against Clemson, but the Tigers are also fighting for a BCS berth. Clowney might not be on the same level as he was last year, but we'll find out if Tajh Boyd truly is scared of him. South Carolina 31, Clemson 24
ALABAMA at AUBURN
Low: Raise your hand if you predicted back in August that this game would determine the Western Division championship and also have national championship implications for both teams. It’s been an incredible turnaround for Auburn, but even at home on the Plains, the Tigers won’t be able to stymie Alabama’s march to a third straight national title. Alabama 31, Auburn 21
Aschoff: This is exactly what the Iron Bowl should feel like. The SEC Western Division is on the line and so is the BCS title game. Auburn has made the biggest turnaround in college football, while Alabama has been steady during its run to three straight BCS titles. The Tigers have the SEC's best running game, while Alabama has the league's best rush defense. Something has to give, but Alabama will keep the Tigers one-dimensional and continue its unbeaten run. Alabama 34, Auburn 23
1. Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC; last week: 1): The Crimson Tide had no trouble gobbling up Chattanooga on Saturday. The Tide got a shutout, almost reached 50 points and didn't sustain any serious injuries. Great, because Alabama finishes the season with a trip to Auburn to decide the SEC Western Division.
2. Missouri (10-1, 6-1 SEC; LW: 3): Once again, Mizzou made me look foolish. The Tigers are now 2-1 when I pick against them. Even in an elimination game in the Eastern Division race, the Tigers showed zero nerves in their dominating 24-10 win at Ole Miss. Mizzou improved to 3-1 versus ranked opponents and 5-0 on the road. A win over Texas A&M this weekend clinches the East for Mizzou.
3. Auburn (10-1, 6-1 SEC; LW: 2): The Tigers were off and dropped only because of Mizzou's major win in a hostile environment against the 24th-ranked Rebels. Auburn got some much-needed rest and relaxation before ending the regular season with a colossal Iron Bowl matchup with archrival Alabama. Something will have to give when Auburn's spread rushing attack (320.3 yards per game) meets Alabama's rushing defense (91.3 yards per game).
4. South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC; LW: 5): In what could have been a sloppy outing for the Gamecocks in a tuneup against Coastal Carolina before rival Clemson heads to town, South Carolina was utterly dominant. The Gamecocks rolled 70-10 behind 639 yards and three takeaways. It has been a fun season for the Gamecocks, but now they become part-time Aggies fans this weekend. An A&M win over Mizzou would lock up the East for South Carolina.
5. LSU (8-3, 4-3 SEC; LW: 7): Just when we think LSU might stumble with the nation's best player and the SEC's best offense in town, the Tigers pull what should be considered a shocker in a 34-10 win over A&M. The most impressive part was how the LSU defense contained Johnny Manziel for the second straight year. Manziel totaled just 278 yards of offense, threw two interceptions and completed 16 of 41 pass attempts. A win over Arkansas on Friday could put the Tigers in line for an appearance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
6. Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC; LW: 4): The Aggies' 24-point loss in Death Valley stopped a nine-game road winning streak for A&M. Manziel was again bested by Les Miles and that LSU defense. Once again, the Aggies had few answers on defense as they surrendered 517 yards, including 324 rushing, and allowed LSU to convert 11 of 17 third-down attempts. The Aggies had the ball for less than 20 minutes.
7. Ole Miss (7-4, 3-4 SEC; LW: 6): Sure, Missouri was the better team in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, but some baffling play-calling really cost the Rebels at key moments in their 14-point loss to the Tigers. You can't get cute near the goal line, and you can't get only three points on three trips to the red zone. Quarterback Bo Wallace really struggled in the second half and was battling illness all night.
8. Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 9): Coach James Franklin has won eight straight games in the month of November and now has beaten Florida, Georgia and Tennessee in the same season (first time in school history). For the third year in a row, the Commodores are going bowling and could win nine games for the second straight season. A fake jump pass to win with 16 seconds remaining? Wow!
9. Georgia (7-4, 5-3 SEC; LW: 9): The Bulldogs took care of a struggling Kentucky team, but lost their best player in Aaron Murray to a torn ACL. It had to be a bittersweet senior night in Athens. While Georgia registered 602 yards and 59 points, the loss of Murray is absolutely heartbreaking. He has been more than just a great player during his career and will be greatly missed. The Hutson Mason era officially begins at Georgia.
10. Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5 SEC; LW: 12): And just like that, these Bulldogs are back in the bowl hunt. It might have taken overtime against Arkansas, but Mississippi State is now a win over Ole Miss in Thursday's Egg Bowl away from making it back to the postseason for the fourth year in a row. The Bulldogs certainly have momentum going into Thursday, but the situation at quarterback is still concerning with Tyler Russell's injury issues.
11. Tennessee (4-7, 1-6 SEC; LW: 11): It had to be gut-wrenching for the Vols on Saturday. A last-second, fake jump pass by Vandy stunned a team that is now eliminated from the postseason for the third straight season. Tennessee hung tough and dealt with a little late controversy, but it's good to see that this team isn't afraid to fight. The Vols lost to Vandy in consecutive years for the first time since the 1920s.
12. Florida (4-7, 3-5 SEC; LW: 10): It has just gone from bad to worse in Gainesville. The Gators were officially knocked out of bowl contention with a stunning 26-20 loss to FCS foe Georgia Southern, which failed to complete any passes. It was easily the worst loss in school history and it's obvious this team has quit. This is Florida's first losing season since 1979 and the Gators' 22-year bowl streak is over.
13. Arkansas (3-8, 0-7 SEC; LW: 13): The Razorbacks put up a good fight in their overtime loss to Mississippi State, but eight straight losses will keep you behind a Florida team coming off an embarrassing home loss. This is the first time the Hogs have ever lost eight straight and they are very much in danger of suffering their first winless SEC season with the year ending Friday at LSU.
14. Kentucky (2-9, 0-7 SEC; LW: 14): The Wildcats have now lost 15 straight SEC games and a loss to Tennessee this weekend would give Kentucky back-to-back 0-8 records in league play. The Wildcats mustered only 211 yards of offense and converted just 3 of 12 third-down attempts against Georgia's young defense.
As the regular season winds down, there was a lot of news around the Southeastern Conference over the weekend. There were a few big commitments, and LSU hosted several visitors for its dominating win over Texas A&M. Here’s a closer look at some of the top story lines in the SEC this weekend.
Biggest commitment: Ole Miss might have a lost a home game to Missouri on Saturday night, but the Rebels received some good news earlier in the day as ESPN 300 wide receiver Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss./Purvis) flipped his commitment from Florida State to Ole Miss. The Oxford (Miss.) Clarion Ledger first reported his switch and Pack later confirmed his decision in a text message.
The Rebels now have 23 verbal commitments, including three ranked in the ESPN 300.
In addition to Pack’s commitment, there was another ESPN 300 commitment in the SEC on Saturday. Defensive tackle Joshua Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Har Ber) verbally committed to Alabama over Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M and USC.
Biggest weekend performance: Several SEC-committed prospects put up impressive numbers but Florida quarterback commit Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day) might have had the best performance of the season for prospects who are committed to SEC schools.
Grier set a season-high for passing yards with 592 passing yards and added six touchdowns through the air in a 69-28 victory in his teams state championship game on Friday. Grier finished the season just 18 yards shy of 5,000 passing yards on the year. He is set to enroll at Florida in January.
Most Important visit: LSU hosted several top visitors for its big 34-10 victory over Texas A&M. The group was headlined by Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine), the No. 1-ranked player in the country, and linebacker Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South), who was in Baton Rouge on an official visit.
Garrett was impressed with what he saw from the LSU fans.
“LSU has a great fan base,” Garrett said. “They have coaches [who] know exactly what to do in big-game situations and against great players like [Johnny] Manziel. It’s just a great place.”
This visit is significant for the Tigers. Garrett has taken four official visits and will likely make his decision in the near future. LSU has certainly put themselves in a good position to land the talented linebacker.
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Here are five things we learned around the league:
Division races going down to the wire: Both the Eastern and Western Division races will go down to the final weekend. Missouri's 24-10 win over Ole Miss means the Tigers can clinch the East -- in its second season in the conference -- by beating Texas A&M Saturday in Columbia. If the Tigers lose, South Carolina will win the division by virtue of its head-to-head win against Mizzou. In the West, Saturday's Iron Bowl will settle the division when Alabama visits Auburn. Right now the unbeaten Crimson Tide have the edge, but the one-loss Tigers would win the tiebreaker if they can upset the Tide.
Vandy's rabbit's foot still working: Vanderbilt backup quarterback Patton Robinette faked a jump pass to freeze a defender and ran for the game-winning touchdown against rival Tennessee with 16 seconds to play. This after Tennessee nearly stopped Commodores quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels on fourth-and-inches, only to have the initial call that he was stopped short overturned on replay. Vandy now has back-to-back wins over its in-state rival for the first time since a run of six consecutive wins over the Volunteers from 1920 to '26. The Commodores (7-4, 4-4 SEC) have won four of their last five games after sitting at 3-3 early in the season.
Murray's starting streak could end: Georgia laid a vicious 59-17 beating on Kentucky a week after a devastating loss at Auburn, but an injury to Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray put a damper on senior night. He injured his left knee in the second quarter and did not return, and coach Mark Richt said afterward that the SEC's all-time leading passer is unlikely to play Saturday against Georgia Tech. Murray has started every game of his college career so far -- he matched David Greene's school record for career starts by a non-kicker (52) -- but the Bulldogs might have to rely on backup Hutson Mason against the rival Yellow Jackets.
More mayhem for Florida: Will Muschamp's job status at Florida already seemed to be in jeopardy -- despite recent assurances to the contrary from his bosses -- even before Saturday's 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern. But the Gators fell to 4-7 with Saturday's defeat -- the program's first to a current FCS program since losing against Villanova in 1946 -- even though Georgia Southern didn't complete any of its three passes. The Eagles ran for 429 yards and held off a final Florida drive to pull the upset. That doesn't bode well for the embattled coaching staff. Florida will fail to play in a bowl game for the first time since 1990 -- Steve Spurrier's first season in Gainesville when the Gators were ineligible to go to a bowl because they were on probation.
The West will be decided next weekend, when Alabama and Auburn get together for the Iron Bowl, but the East could be decided this Saturday in Oxford, Miss. Missouri currently has a one-game lead over South Carolina, but if the Tigers slip up on the road at Ole Miss, the Gamecocks can punch their ticket to Atlanta for the SEC title game. Missouri will welcome back quarterback James Franklin who hasn't made a start in over the month because of a shoulder injury. The senior threw for 1,577 yards and 14 touchdowns in the team's first six games. However, he faces an Ole Miss team that has lost only once at home, in the final minutes against Texas A&M.
Speaking of Texas A&M, the Aggies will visit LSU on Saturday in what could be the weekend's most exciting game. Quarterback Johnny Manziel is gunning for his second straight Heisman Trophy, and his performance in Death Valley could go a long way in helping secure the prestigious award. He has better numbers than he did a year ago, but he has yet to beat a ranked team. The main reason for that has been Texas A&M's porous defense, and LSU has plenty of firepower to outscore Manziel and company if the game turns into a shootout. Between the two teams, there will be plenty of NFL talent on hand, with skill players such as Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Jeremy Hill.
The weekend's biggest rivalry game will take take place in Knoxville, Tenn., where Tennessee will host Vanderbilt in the battle for the Volunteer State. It never has been much of a rivalry because of how dominant Tennessee has been, but the Commodores are quickly changing that under coach James Franklin. They won big last year, and they have been the better team this season, winning three of their last four games. Tennessee has played better at home, though, and the Vols need to win out if they want to reach a bowl game.
Elsewhere in the East, Georgia will return home to face Kentucky, looking to bounce back from last week's heartbreaking defeat at Auburn. The biggest question will be whether Mark Richt goes with the black jerseys as a tribute to quarterback Aaron Murray and the rest of the seniors in their final home game. There have been rumors all week in Athens. Regardless of what color jersey he wears, expect Murray to go out on a high note.
The Arkansas-Mississippi State game doesn't rank too high on the docket for Saturday, but it should make for an interesting contest. The Razorbacks are at home and searching for their first SEC win under first-year coach Bret Bielema. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs still have a shot to make a bowl game if they win their last two games. A loss, though, could spell trouble for coach Dan Mullen. It doesn't help that MSU's quarterback situation is so up in the air. Both Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell are battling injuries, and there's a chance neither will be able to play against Arkansas. That leaves freshman Damian Williams to start on the road. Mullen said he wouldn't announce a starter until right before kickoff.
The rest of the conference is either off this week or facing FCS opponents. Here's the rundown of today's games.
- Mississippi State at Arkansas, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC TV
- Coastal Carolina at South Carolina, 1 p.m. ET, PPV or ESPN3
- Chattanooga at Alabama, 2 p.m. ET, PPV or ESPN3
- Georgia Southern at Florida, 2 p.m. ET, PPV or ESPN3
- Texas A&M at LSU, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
- Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
- Kentucky at Georgia, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
- Missouri at Ole Miss, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Alabama has its senior day on Saturday and there might not be a tighter trio than the one that connects the Alabama passing game between quarterback A.J. McCarron and receivers Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood.
- Auburn middle linebacker Jake Holland looks to build on the strong outing he had against Georgia, one where he thought he might have stopped Aaron Murray short of the goal line on Murray's late touchdown.
- Missouri defensive end Michael Sam has been one of the nation's best and he's beginning to get some recognition, being named a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy and the Lombardi Award.
- After a breakout game against Florida, South Carolina's Shon Carson will get his first career start at running back on Saturday for the Gamecocks vs. Coastal Carolina.
- Johnny Manziel's ride at Texas A&M has been an eventful one, but his days with the program could be numbered with the carrot of the 2014 NFL draft dangling in front of him.
- When LSU hosts Texas A&M on Saturday, we could see a shootout in Death Valley.
- The Ole Miss offensive line will be tested by a talented Missouri defensive front on Saturday.
- Arkansas freshman running back Alex Collins needs just 54 yards to become the second true freshman in Razorbacks history to reach 1,000.
- Kentucky suspended three key players, one indefinitely, before its game at Georgia.
- Mississippi State has struggled on third-and-short situations in recent weeks, but the Bulldogs look to reverse that trend.
- Vanderbilt's defense, and particularly its defensive line, will be a key for the Commodores when they face Tennessee.
1. Franklin’s return: It has been over a month since quarterback James Franklin last threw a pass for Missouri, but his return couldn't have come at a better time. The Tigers visit No. 24 Ole Miss on Saturday, and it's a must-win game if they want to stay atop the SEC East standings. Before the injury, Franklin had thrown for 1,577 yards with 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also rushed for 290 yards and three scores. Missouri fans hope he can return to form in time to keep the Tigers on track for Atlanta.
3. The battle of Tennessee: Who thought the day would come where Vanderbilt would be favored over Tennessee? But with a win, the Commodores have a chance to make it two in a row over their in-state rival for the first time since 1926. James Franklin's squad has won three of its past four and became bowl eligible last weekend with a win over Kentucky. Meanwhile, the Volunteers still have to win their last two games if they want reach the postseason.
4. How Georgia responds: There are devastating losses, and then there's Georgia's loss to Auburn last weekend. The Bulldogs had the game won until Nick Marshall connected with Ricardo Louis on a 73-yard prayer in the final minute. It's the type of loss that stays with you. But fortunately, the Dawgs have Aaron Murray at quarterback, and he's too much of a competitor to dwell on it. He'll be ready when Kentucky comes to town Saturday.
5. How LSU responds: It's not the same hangover that Georgia is experiencing, but LSU suffered its own hard-fought loss to No. 1 Alabama the last time out. It was a make-or-break game for the Tigers, and they came up short. Now, after an off week, they have to get up once again to play No. 12 Texas A&M. LSU has had a tendency to fall apart when the BCS is no longer an option, but Les Miles is hoping to buck that trend this season, beginning Saturday.
6. A Rebel upset: Ole Miss might be the best team in the SEC that nobody is talking about. The Rebels have won four in a row and are up to seven wins on the season. Their only losses came to Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M -- three teams ranked in the top 12. They will have to keep quarterback Bo Wallace upright against a tenacious defensive line for Missouri, but they have a chance to knock off another top-10 team at home this weekend.
7. First-year coaches: Outside of Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, the first-year coaches in the SEC have not fared well. Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Kentucky'’s Mark Stoops have yet to win a conference game, while it's still a mystery how Butch Jones and his Tennessee team upset South Carolina. The trio has a combined record of 1-17 in the SEC. On Saturday, they hope to find better results.
8. Coaches on the hot seat: The seats are getting warmer each week for both Will Muschamp and Dan Mullen. Muschamp’s Florida team has had its fair share of injuries, but they're in a downward spiral. The Gators will get a short reprieve Saturday against Georgia Southern. It won't be as easy for Mullen and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs travel to Arkansas in what could be a must-win game for their coach. Both teams need to win out to make a bowl game.
9. More FCS opponents: There are plenty of intriguing matchups on the docket for Saturday, but there are also a couple of snoozers. Florida plays Georgia Southern, as mentioned above. Alabama welcomes Chattanooga, and South Carolina will host Coastal Carolina. The days of playing FCS opponents might be numbered, but the fans will have to endure them for at least one more week.
10. Are we there yet? It's still a week away from the Iron Bowl, but everybody is already talking about the matchup between Alabama and Auburn. The state of Alabama might not make it though Thanksgiving at this rate. Auburn is off this weekend, giving Malzahn and the Tigers two weeks to prepare. In Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide might as well have two weeks to prepare with a game against Chattanooga on Saturday.
But the SEC's Western Division cycle just doesn't seem to be running out. During the league's magical run of seven straight BCS national titles, the East has been represented twice, both by Florida in 2006 and 2008. All five other titles have been won by Alabama (three), Auburn and LSU.
Of the seven SEC teams ranked in the BCS standings, five reside in the West, and as we get closer to bowl season, the West currently has five bowl eligible teams to the East's four. The East also has four teams with losing conference records, while the West has just two.
"It's a really tough game every week, and the only way you have a chance to be successful in our league, or in this division, is to play well every week and be very, very consistent in how you prepare and how your players [use] their mental edge they go into every game with," Alabama coach Nick Saban said of playing in the SEC West. "You're being successful because you really can't afford to lose a game."
With the state of the West now and in the future, it appears that it will only continue to be the SEC's breadwinner.
The East has been more exciting with its divisional races in the past couple years, but it just hasn't matched the West's overall strength. And with the division likely having even more questions in 2014 with perceived powers Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, the East could fall behind yet again.
In the West, things are only looking up. Alabama and LSU are still recruiting like elite teams do, as both hold top-11 recruiting classes in ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings, but they aren't alone. Texas A&M, Auburn and Ole Miss are all ranked within the top 15. The East does have three teams ranked in the top 10, but Kentucky (No. 17) is the only other East member ranked in the Top 25.
Last season, the West had six teams ranked inside the Top 25 of the class rankings, while the East had four. The year before, both divisions had four teams ranked in the Top 25 of the rankings.
So the future is very bright for the West, which is both good and bad for the division. The East hasn't won the conference since Florida did in 2008 and was ravaged by injuries this season. It continues to swirl into the unknown, while the West is plowing ahead.
There's the resurgence of Ole Miss and Auburn, and the arrival of Texas A&M. The Aggies have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the league's best offense two years running and a very impressive 19-4 record since joining the SEC in 2012.
I think the challenge is tremendous. It's a responsibility, if you will, to be ready to roll. You better be able to pick that helmet up and play full-on, hard-nosed football.
-- LSU coach Les Miles, on playing in the SEC West
Auburn rose from below mediocrity this season to rank sixth in the BCS standings with a 10-1 record and a shot at both the West crown and a return to the BCS title game.
And after winning just six games combined during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Ole Miss ranks 24th nationally and has won seven games in back-to-back years, with a chance to win 10 with a bowl victory this season.
If recruiting holds, those teams don't appear to be vanishing anytime soon, along with traditional powers Alabama (searching for its third straight BCS title) and LSU. So the bad news is that the division will only continue to get stronger.
"I think the challenge is tremendous," LSU coach Les Miles said. "It's a responsibility, if you will, to be ready to roll. You better be able to pick that helmet up and play full-on, hard-nosed football. It's every week, and I can't imagine anybody wanting to play in another division that's as exciting and competitive as there is."
Just like the East held the edge during the 90s, the West has its own stranglehold on the conference and is continuing the trend as the toughest division in college football.
"I think this Western Division is going to be a dynamic group of football teams," Miles said of the division's future. "We look forward to competing in it.
"They make you play in it. It doesn't make any difference who it is, it's a quality team."