SEC: Big 10

Injuries impacted UGA, Nebraska seasons

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
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This season's similarities are striking for the combatants in this season's TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Georgia and Nebraska. Perhaps the most notable similarity between the Bulldogs (8-4) and Cornhuskers (8-4), though, is the numerous injuries that helped prevent them from playing up to their potential.

ESPN.com's David Ching and Mitch Sherman discussed how injuries affected the teams' seasons and what might have been if not for all the physical ailments.

1. Out of all of the injuries they sustained this season, which one was the costliest and why?

Ching: There are a lot of directions you could go here, but Todd Gurley's ankle injury and ensuing three-and-a-half-game absence probably hurt the most. Gurley is one of the biggest difference-makers in the country, and Georgia's potent offense simply wasn't as good without him in the lineup -- particularly when fellow tailback Keith Marshall suffered a season-ending knee injury the week after Gurley went down against LSU. It's not a coincidence that Georgia bounced back from a two-game losing streak upon Gurley's return, nor that the Bulldogs went 4-1 down the stretch once he was back. He totaled 755 yards and 10 touchdowns in those five games.

Sherman: Taylor Martinez began this season as most indispensable Husker -- and by November, we saw why. Without the fifth-year senior, who started a school-record 43 games at quarterback, including four this season, the Nebraska offense shifted from the strength of this team to a liability. The Huskers failed to gain 400 yards in each of their final four games. Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III performed admirably, but their numbers paled in comparison to the production expected from a healthy Martinez. In good position to become the second QB in FBS history to surpass 9,000 career passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards, he suffered the fateful foot injury in Nebraska’s season opener. By mid-September, his limitations were painfully apparent, stamped into the record books with losses to UCLA and Minnesota in Martinez’s final two starts.

2. Which position group dealt with the most injury issues?

Sherman: Problems on the offensive line began on the opening series of the sixth game against Purdue as All-Big Ten right guard Spencer Long went down with a season-ending knee injury. Long was the leader of the line and a motivating force for the entire team as a senior captain and former walk-on turned solid NFL prospect. As soon as his linemates began to wear Long’s jersey No. 61 as a tribute, the injury bug spread. First, it was left guard Jake Cotton. Tackles Jeremiah Sirles and Brent Qvale, despite staying in the lineup, dealt with injuries, too, as did center-turned-guard Cole Pensick. Long’s replacement, Mike Moudy, missed the final four games. The injuries hurt most in practice, and Long’s injury got the snowball rolling. Before the Purdue game, Nebraska rushed for 285 yards or more in four of five games. After Purdue, it never topped 195 on the ground.

Ching: Georgia's safeties could make a reasonable argument here, but let's go with the receivers. Malcolm Mitchell suffered perhaps the most bizarre injury of the season when he tore an ACL while leaping into the air to celebrate Gurley's 75-yard touchdown run against Clemson on the Bulldogs' second offensive possession of the fall. Justin Scott-Wesley, who essentially caught the game-winning touchdown passes in the fourth quarter against South Carolina and LSU, tore an ACL while covering a punt against Tennessee. Michael Bennett and Chris Conley also missed multiple games with midseason injuries, and junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph didn't play until Game 8 against Florida after injuring his hamstring in August. Because of the regular lineup shuffling, six Bulldogs have at least 20 catches this season.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIGeorgia went 4-1 after sophomore RB Todd Gurley returned to the lineup, and the only loss was the 'Miracle at Jordan-Hare.'
3. What do you think this team might have accomplished if health hadn't become such a factor?

Ching: I hesitate to say Georgia would have been a BCS title contender because its defense was probably not championship caliber. But it's hard to predict what might have been with any certainty since the Bulldogs started losing key contributors in the first quarter of the first game. I'll go so far as to say the Bulldogs at least would have won a third straight SEC East title and been in the running for an at-large BCS bowl spot. With Aaron Murray, who suffered a season-ending knee injury of his own against Kentucky, at the trigger and an impressive array of skill talent, this had the potential to be the scariest offense Georgia has ever put on the field, but we never saw the full complement for even one full game.

Sherman: It’s difficult to quantify in wins and losses, considering the other problems that plagued these Huskers, notably with turnovers and on special teams. Nebraska could have outscored Minnesota with a healthy Martinez and Long. And it’s likely that the second-half meltdown against UCLA never would have happened if Martinez was operating at full strength. The Huskers moved the ball well in a 41-28 loss to Michigan State. Injuries weren’t the issue against the Spartans; turnovers were, but freshmen committed all five. And Martinez, while turnover-prone since his freshman season, torched the Spartans a year ago. But even at 10-2, Nebraska would have missed a repeat trip to the Big Ten title game.

Video: RecruitingNation 411

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
1:00
PM ET


In this episode of RecruitingNation 411, we look at the big recruiting weekends for Michigan, Florida, and Texas A&M. We also look into the bizarre day for Davonte Neal, a ESPNU 150 prospect for the 2012 class.
Tags:

Big 10

Live chat: College GameDay

November, 25, 2011
11/25/11
7:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com college football experts as they preview Week 13.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 10 a.m. ET. See you there.

Live chat: GameDay Live

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
8:00
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com college football experts as they look ahead to Week 11.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 10 a.m. ET. See you there.

Video: College Football Final Extra

October, 9, 2011
10/09/11
3:15
AM ET

From a Red River blowout to a comeback in Lincoln, ESPN.com bloggers wrap up Week 6.
Tags:

Big 10, SEC, Big 12

When it comes to talking about brute strength in college football, you're bound to run across a few names from the SEC. Honestly, it would be a crime if you didn't.

Well, ESPN senior writer Bruce Feldman certainly doesn't disappoint in his new blog listing the 10 strongest players in college football. Insider The SEC tied the Big 10 for the most representatives with three. Alabama was the only school to have two on the list, including the strongest of them all, defensive tackle Josh Chapman.

The 305-pound mound of defensive power benches 580 pounds and squats 630. Talk about a body guard!

The other Crimson Tide member to make it is running back Trent Richardson, who came in at No. 7. He benches nearly 500 pounds and power cleans 350.

LSU running back Michael Ford ranks ninth. Ford benches 425 pounds, which is second-best on the team.

AllState Sugar Bowl

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
1:42
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Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)

Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Arkansas take by SEC blogger Chris Low: Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino joins two of his SEC colleagues (Nick Saban and Urban Meyer) in becoming only the third coach to take two different schools to BCS bowl games. Petrino led Louisville to a victory in the 2007 Orange Bowl.

The Hogs (10-2) charge into their Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup with Ohio State playing their best football of the season. They’ve won their past six games and are averaging 42.5 points in those six contests.

Arkansas’ résumé is equally impressive. The Hogs own four wins over teams ranked in the top 25 of the final BCS standings. They’re the only team in the country with a quarterback (Ryan Mallett) who has passed for 3,000 yards, a running back (Knile Davis) who has rushed for 1,000 yards and five receivers (Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton, Jarius Wright and D.J. Williams) who have at least 500 receiving yards.

While known for its explosive offense, Arkansas’ defensive improvement has been the real story to its success. The Hogs were 89th in the country in total defense a year ago, but enter the bowl game ranked 34th nationally this season.

This is a team playing with a lot of confidence right now and a team that showed a lot of resilience after losing a close game at home to Alabama in September and then getting toasted in the fourth quarter by Auburn a month later.


Ohio State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Ohio State ended its three-game slide in BCS bowls last January in Pasadena. Now the Buckeyes’ take aim at snapping a more sobering streak.

Most Buckeyes fans know what 0-9 means, and if they don’t, SEC fans will happily remind them. Ohio State is 0-9 against SEC teams in bowl games, including back-to-back losses in the BCS title games in 2007 and 2008 that continue to blotch the Buckeyes’ national reputation. Jim Tressel’s crew will try to overcome its SEC blues in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.

Ohio State has been a slow-starting, strong-finishing team, both in games and throughout the season. The Buckeyes’ early stumbles against Wisconsin led to their only loss, but they won their final five regular-season games, all but one contest by 24 points or more.

Aside from the Wisconsin setback, Ohio State’s defense allowed no more than 17 points in a conference game and overcame some key injuries, particularly in the secondary. Containing Mallett is clearly Ohio State’s top priority, and the Buckeyes boast a top 10 pass defense led by cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and safety Jermale Hines.

Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor took a major step forward in the Rose Bowl and looks for another big performance on the big stage. Pryor’s mobility could be key against an Arkansas defense that applies a lot of pressure.

Capital One Bowl

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
11:11
PM ET
Alabama Crimson Tide (9-3) vs. Michigan State Spartans (11-1)

Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Alabama take by SEC blogger Chris Low: National championships don’t come easily, and back-to-back national championships in college football are practically unheard of.

Alabama (9-3) fell short in its goal to repeat this season, which isn’t stunning given how rarely that’s happened in this sport. But seeing the Crimson Tide lose two of their last three SEC games was certainly different, especially when you consider that Nick Saban’s club had won 16 straight regular-season SEC games coming into this season.

Inconsistency plagued the Crimson Tide, who had trouble putting four quarters together. Never was that more apparent than in the final regular-season game when they built a 24-0 lead on No. 1 Auburn in the first half, only to unravel across the board and drop a bitter 28-27 decision at home.

This is still an extremely talented team with three guys who will probably go in the first round of the NFL draft next April. Nonetheless, the Crimson Tide’s inexperience in the secondary caught up with them this season. They will be even more inexperienced in the bowl game. Junior safety Mark Barron underwent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle after being injured in the Auburn game and won’t be able to play against Michigan State.

Senior quarterback Greg McElroy suffered a concussion against Auburn, but he should be fine for the bowl game. Probably the most surprising thing about this season for the Crimson Tide was that they weren’t able to run the ball better, although Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson battled injuries.


Michigan State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: A BCS bowl appearance would have been huge for Michigan State, but a matchup against Alabama in the Capital One Bowl is the next best thing.

As expected, the Spartans were snubbed from the big bowls despite a BCS-worthy résumé: a team-record 11 wins, a co-Big Ten championship, a victory against Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin. Instead, they get an opportunity to prove just how worthy they are against the defending national champions, who are led by a man who used to coach in East Lansing.

The Nick Saban-Michigan State connection certainly adds intrigue to arguably the nation’s best non-BCS bowl. Saban coached the Spartans from 1995-99, compiling a 34-24-1 record before bolting for LSU before the 2000 Citrus Bowl (now Capital One Bowl). Current Spartans coach Mark Dantonio served as Saban’s secondary coach in East Lansing.

The game pairs two of the nation’s smartest and classiest quarterbacks in Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Alabama’s Greg McElroy as well as two of the nation’s most accomplished defenders in Michigan State’s Greg Jones and Alabama’s Marcell Dareus. Jones and the Spartans’ run defense face arguably their biggest test of the season against reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, a native of Flint, Mich., as well as dynamic sophomore Trent Richardson.

After setting so many milestones this fall, Michigan State aims for one more. The Spartans look for their first bowl win since 2001 and their first Jan. 1 bowl win since the Citrus in 2000.

Video: the decade that was in the SEC

January, 22, 2010
1/22/10
2:00
PM ET
video
SEC blogger Chris Low looks back at the 2000s and ahead to the next 10 years in the conference.

Did you know, SEC style

November, 13, 2009
11/13/09
9:30
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A little bit of this and a little bit of that as we point toward Week 11 in the SEC:

  • Florida’s winning streak of 19 games is the longest in the SEC since Auburn won 20 straight from 1993-94. Alabama holds the longest winning streak in the SEC since 1960, winning 28 straight games twice. The Crimson Tide did it from 1978-80 and again from 1991-93.
  • Florida has won 17 of the past 18 games against South Carolina with the one loss coming in Columbia four years ago. Steve Spurrier is 1-3 against his former team.
  • Mississippi State running back Anthony Dixon is eighth nationally in rushing with an average of 125.1 yards per game, but he’ll have his work cut out for him Saturday. Alabama’s defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 29 consecutive games.
  • With a win at Mississippi State, Alabama would extend a couple of its NCAA records by (No. 1) starting a season 10-0 for the 17th time and (No. 2) recording its 22nd winning streak of 10 or more games.
  • Alabama coach Nick Saban has never won 10 or more games in back-to-back seasons as a head coach. That changes with a win over Mississippi State on Saturday night in Starkville.
  • Alabama sophomore running back Mark Ingram is tied for second nationally with 38 rushes of 10 yards or more and has nine receptions of 10 yards or more for a total of 47 plays of 10 yards or more. Of Ingram’s 199 touches (175 rushes, 24 receptions), almost a quarter (23.6 percent) have gone for at least 10 yards.
  • Ingram has gained 752 of his 1,364 rushing/receiving yards after contact this season, accounting for 55.1 percent of his total yards. He reeled off a season-best 167 total yards after contact against South Carolina on 24 rushes and two receptions. He also broke the 100-yard barrier on yards after contact against Virginia Tech (115) and LSU (107) and got close at Ole Miss (95).
  • Over its last four games, Alabama has kicked 14 field goals and scored only four offensive touchdowns (two last week against LSU). In those games, the Crimson Tide have managed just one touchdown in 12 red zone trips. For the season, Alabama ranks 116th nationally in red zone touchdown percentage (41 percent).
  • Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett has 2,477 passing yards and needs 152 yards Saturday against Troy to break Clint Stoerner’s school record for most passing yards in a season. Mallett also has 123 pass attempts without an interception and is 12 attempts away from breaking Stoerner’s mark, which was set during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
  • Vanderbilt’s Warren Norman needs 110 more yards to break Herschel Walker’s SEC freshman record of 1,805 all-purpose yards in a season. Walker set the record almost 30 years ago – 1980.
  • LSU has a nation’s best 22-game win streak against nonconference opponents. The Tigers’ last nonconference loss was to Iowa in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. LSU has also won 27 consecutive nonconference games at home.
  • Returning punts has been a nightmare for Auburn, which ranks 114th out of 120 teams nationally with a 3.8-yard average. The Tigers have used five different players back deep to return punts and have six fumble/muffs this season, three of those leading to turnovers.
  • Auburn sophomore receiver Darvin Adams has 10 catches for 183 yards and four touchdowns in his last two games. He leads the SEC with nine touchdown catches.
  • Tennessee senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton leads the SEC with 21 touchdown passes. The only other players in Tennessee history to have thrown more touchdown passes in a season are Peyton Manning (36 in 1997 and 22 in 1995), Eric Ainge (31 in 2007), Heath Shuler (25 in 1993) and Casey Clausen (27 in 2003 and 22 in 2001).

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