SEC: Gonzaga Bulldogs

SEC helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 16, 2014
11/16/14
9:00
AM ET
Week 12 in the SEC featured everything from last-minute comebacks to bitter rivalries to the fall of No. 1. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to hand out the helmet stickers from the weekend that was. Here are the five we think are most deserving.

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: The return of Todd Gurley didn’t get in the way of Chubb doing what he’s been doing the past four weeks. Gurley rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from suspension, but he was overshadowed by the freshman Chubb, who finished with 144 yards rushing, 48 yards receiving and two touchdowns in Georgia’s 34-7 win over Auburn. The two form one of the top backfield duos in college football, though depending on the severity of Gurley’s knee injury, Chubb might be carrying the load on his own again next week.

Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee: The South Carolina game was no fluke: Dobbs is the real deal, and he has the Volunteers rolling. On Saturday, Dobbs went 19 of 27 for 297 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions to lead Tennessee past Kentucky, 50-16. He also rushed for 48 yards and a score. The sophomore quarterback has now accounted for 1,079 total yards and 11 touchdowns in his last three games, and the Volunteers are one win away from becoming bowl eligible with Missouri and Vanderbilt left on the schedule.

Russell Hansbrough, RB, Missouri: Coming off maybe his worst career performance last week against Kentucky, Hansbrough rushed for a career-high 199 yards Saturday at Texas A&M. He had back-to-back long touchdown runs (45, 49) in the third quarter to first tie the game and then take the lead, a lead the Tigers never relinquished in their 34-27 win over the Aggies. As a team, Missouri rushed for 335 yards, but Hansbrough was the star. He now leads the Tigers with 591 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the season.

Nick Perry, DB, Alabama: The entire Alabama defense deserves a helmet sticker for its performance against Dak Prescott and No. 1 Mississippi State, but if we’re giving it to one guy, it has to be Perry. The senior led the team with 12 tackles, and he also pulled down one of three Crimson Tide interceptions on the day. Though Jameon Lewis caught a touchdown for the Bulldogs, it was Perry who helped keep him in check for most of the game. At the end of the day, Alabama has its defense to thank for Saturday’s 25-20 win over the top-ranked Bulldogs.

Martrell Spaight, LB, Arkansas: Two defensive players on this list? That must be what happens when the temperature drops and teams start playing defense in the SEC. It’s also a credit to Spaight, who was the best player on the field Saturday in the Razorbacks’ 17-0 shutout win over LSU. The senior linebacker finished with 10 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry to lead this much-improved Arkansas defense against the Tigers. Spaight now has a team-high 97 tackles on the season with two games left to play.
If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s that SEC teams with one loss are still very capable of reaching the national championship game. There is an even greater chance of that happening this season with the debut of the College Football Playoff. That’s good news for teams like Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and Missouri.

With that said, all four of those one-loss teams still have deficiencies they need to overcome to get back in the playoff conversation.

Alabama: A compliment to Cooper

Amari Cooper has been exceptional this season. Through the first five games, he leads the SEC in receptions (52) and yards (746), and is tied for second in the league with five touchdowns. But despite Cooper’s best efforts against Ole Miss, nine catches for 91 yards, the Alabama passing game still struggled in last Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss.

That is because the Crimson Tide need somebody else to step up.

There is no lack of talent in Tuscaloosa. Tight end O.J. Howard is as gifted athletically as you will find at the position, but he is hardly used. Howard finally made a big play last weekend, but he was also responsible for a critical holding penalty on the last drive.

The bigger surprise has been wide receiver Christion Jones. The senior was expected to play a bigger role this season, but he is averaging two catches per game, and his season-high in yards is 52 against Southern Miss. To make matters worse, it was his fumble on a kickoff return that led to Ole Miss scoring the game-winning touchdown.

The loss of Kenyan Drake didn’t help either. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin had been using him out wide in certain sets, and no other back on the team provides that type of versatility.

Georgia: Help in the secondary

At this point, do we even know who’s playing in Georgia’s secondary? The scarier question might be who comes in if one of the starters goes down with injury.

It hasn’t been easy for first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The Bulldogs dismissed two starting defensive backs this offseason, and a third transferred to Louisville. In the past week and a half, the team lost three more defensive backs for various reasons.

Rico Johnson was given a medical disqualification because of a spinal cord injury, Sheldon Dawson is no longer with the team, and Shaquille Jones was dismissed from the team after he was charged with shoplifting. The mass exodus in the secondary leaves Georgia with 10 scholarship defensive backs and very little experience among them.

It didn’t hurt them last week in a win against Vanderbilt, but both Dylan Thompson and Justin Worley have thrown for more than 250 yards and three touchdowns against the Bulldogs already this season. On Saturday, they travel to Missouri to face Maty Mauk, one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks.

It’s too late to add depth at this point, but this UGA secondary is going to have to grow up in a hurry if it wants to reach the playoff.

Missouri: More options for Mauk

Speaking of Mauk, he played his worst game of the season the last time out against South Carolina. At one point in the fourth quarter, he was 9 of 29 for just 52 yards passing. He did lead the Tigers to a stunning come-from-behind victory, but it wasn’t pretty.

The biggest reason for Mauk’s struggles? He was missing two of his top wide receivers -- Jimmie Hunt and Darius White. The two had combined for more than 400 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in the first four games, but the offense wasn’t the same without them. As talented as Mauk is, he still needs playmakers to throw to, and Bud Sasser can’t do it all by himself.

Both Hunt and White are likely to return this Saturday against Georgia in what has become a critical game in the SEC East. That will certainly help, but can you imagine if Missouri still had Dorial Green-Beckham on its roster? It would take an above average position group and make it exceptional.

Instead, the Tigers are going to have to make do with what they have and hope everybody remains healthy the rest of this season.

Texas A&M: Somebody who can tackle

OK, that might seem a bit harsh, but the Aggies' defense looked downright awful last week against Mississippi State. It’s not everybody. Freshman Myles Garrett is a star in this league, and the defensive line has actually played pretty decent this season. The same can’t be said for the linebackers and the secondary, though.

It’s typically not a good sign when three of your top four tacklers are defensive backs. That means running backs are getting to the second level and wide receivers are catching their fair share of passes. It also means your linebackers aren’t making plays.

Justin Bass is second on the team in tackles, but he was a walk-on prior to this season. Jordan Mastrogiovanni is a solid captain for the defense, but he’s missed time because of injury and the jury is still out as to whether he can be a good SEC linebacker.

Texas A&M is missing players like Darian Claiborne, who was dismissed from the team in June. He was third on the team last season with 89 tackles. The loss of TCU transfer A.J. Hilliard, who dislocated his ankle in the season opener at South Carolina, was another big blow to this defense. The staff had high expectations for him.

With three of the next four games against top-10 opponents, the Aggies need to play better on defense to have any chance of making the playoff.

SEC morning links

September, 3, 2014
9/03/14
8:00
AM ET
1. The biggest concern for Alabama's football team might not be at quarterback. After the Crimson Tide gave up 365 passing yards and 29 completions to West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett, many gave the Tide's secondary some nasty looks. Cornerback Bradley Sylve drew most of the ire, as he was consistently beaten all night. Not the biggest defensive back, Sylve had a tough time with West Virginia's bigger, more physical receivers, especially Kevin White, who finished with 11 catches for 143 yards. Well, coach Nick Saban made a change Monday, having Eddie Jackson, who was recovering from a knee injury, run with the first-team defense alongside Cyrus Jones. Sylve ran with the second-team defense with freshman Tony Brown, who could see some time in the next few weeks.

2. Mississippi State's football team was met with tragedy this weekend after wide receiver Jameon Lewis' brother, Tyriunce, was shot and killed Sunday morning in their hometown of Tylertown, Mississippi. Lewis, who is Mississippi State's top returning receiver, returned to campus on Monday, but his availability for Saturday's game against UAB is still uncertain. Coach Dan Mullen made it clear that he wasn't worried about Lewis taking the field Saturday. His concern is with Lewis' emotions. Our thoughts are with Lewis and his family.

3. Last weekend, we saw Saban face West Virginia. Why was that significant? Well, Saban is from West Virginia, so there was a little bit of a storyline there. But for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, Saturday's game with Toledo actually means a lot to him. Why, you ask? Well, he coached at Toledo from 1991-2000, becoming the school's all-time leader in wins after going 73-37-3 with the Rockets. Man, three ties? That's so old school. Toledo might hold a special place in Pinkel's heart, but he won't let that get to him this weekend. “Great people, great community. It was a big part of my life, big part of my career,” Pinkel said. “I’ll always be a Toledo Rocket. Not this weekend, but I’ll always be a Toledo Rocket.”

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
8:00
AM ET
We are one week into the dead period that runs through Jan. 15. While the dead period limits contact, it doesn’t stop prospects from announcing decisions. As is always the case, recruiting doesn’t stop during Christmas vacation, and that was certainly the case last week.

SPONSORED HEADLINES