SEC: Clemson Tigers

Video: Week 1 games to watch

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
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Mike Bellotti and Matt Stinchcomb offer up the Week 1 matchups they are most excited to watch: Georgia vs. Clemson and LSU vs. TCU.

Georgia-Clemson picked as top opener

June, 24, 2013
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We asked you in our SportsNation poll which of the 2013 season openers involving SEC teams was the most attractive, and the Georgia-Clemson tilt was a runaway winner.

With more than 11,000 votes cast, the Aug. 31 matchup between the Bulldogs and Tigers in Death Valley (the ACC version) received 51 percent of the vote.

The Georgia-Clemson game would be my pick, too. For one, this will be the first meeting between the old rivals since 2003, and there have been some memorable games in the series, which dates back to 1897.

I can still hear the late Larry Munson bellowing, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" after Kevin Butler kicked a 60-yard field goal in the waning seconds to lift Georgia to a 26-23 win in 1984.

The Bulldogs have won the past five in the series. But in the 12 meetings prior to that, Clemson held a 6-5-1 advantage.

It's a great rivalry. The two campuses are separated by about 75 miles, and it's a game that means a great deal to both fan bases.

The season opener that came in second in our poll was LSU vs. TCU in Arlington, Texas. That game received 15 percent of the vote, and a close third was Alabama vs. Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, which received 14 percent of the vote.

LSU needs to get it fixed on offense

January, 1, 2013
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LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger made a solemn promise just as 2012 was giving way to 2013 early Tuesday morning.

He was trying to explain the inexplicable -- how the Tigers could be so dysfunctional offensively in a 25-24 Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Clemson that included a lot of the same warts that have popped up in LSU’s other losses over the last couple of years.

“Trust me when I say this is going to eat at everybody on this offense all year and all offseason,” Mettenberger said. “You’re going to see a totally different animal next year.

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
AP Photo/David GoldmanLSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger says the loss to Clemson will eat at the offensive players all offseason.
“We’re going to get this right for next year.”

They better, particularly if they plan on keeping pace with Alabama in the Western Division and remaining a fixture in the national championship equation.

Nobody’s saying that LSU’s defense has been perfect over the past two seasons, but the Tigers have been good enough and talented enough on that side of the ball to win a national title.

On offense … it’s been a complete crap shoot. Some good and some really, really bad.

The frustrating thing for those on the Bayou is that LSU closed the regular season this year with a flurry on offense. Mettenberger got better. So did his receivers, and the combination of the young talent in the offensive line along with freshman running back Jeremy Hill made for a promising future.

But then comes the New Year’s Eve dud in Atlanta that evoked memories of last season’s epic meltdown offensively against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.

It’s everything, too.

It’s not just the play-calling, although the decision to throw the ball on second and third down when LSU needed just 2 yards to pick up a clinching first down played right into Clemson’s hands.

You have to force Clemson to use its timeouts right there, and pounding the ball in that situation has been a hallmark of Les Miles’ program at LSU.

Moreover, where was Hill in the fourth quarter? He rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, and didn’t get a single carry in the fourth quarter.

And eight three-and-outs on offense, not to mention 219 total yards, against a Clemson defense ranked 74th nationally in total defense?

Again, it was everything -- questionable play-calling, poor execution, not manning up in the offensive line and not delivering in key situations.

LSU probably could have finished Clemson late in the third quarter after a Clemson fumble gave LSU possession at the Clemson 29-yard line, but LSU had to settle for a Drew Alleman 20-yard field goal.

Go back to the 21-17 loss to Alabama this season. LSU came alive offensively in that game and surged ahead 17-14 in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers were on the brink of finishing Alabama after driving to the Crimson Tide 32. But they opted for three straight running plays in that situation and came up empty when Alleman missed a 45-yard field goal, opening the door for Alabama’s game-winning drive.

In the 14-6 loss to Florida this season, LSU was held to a season-low 200 yards and didn’t score a touchdown, along with turning the ball over three times.

Of course, nothing compares to last season’s 21-0 stinker against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. LSU mustered just 92 total yards and didn’t cross midfield until its second possession of the fourth quarter. The worst part was that the Tigers never made any adjustments.

Every loss stings the most in the immediate aftermath. And let’s be real here. There are a ton of programs out there who would love to trade places with LSU. This has been one of the best runs in the history of the school.

But as impressive as this run has been -- and the Tigers have established themselves as a top 10 program nationally -- they’re going to hit a ceiling unless they can get it fixed on offense.

Miles hinted that some changes could be coming with his “adjustment has to be made” declaration following the loss to Clemson, which was LSU’s third postseason setback in the past four years.

With as many as six underclassmen on defense considering a jump to the NFL, the Tigers might face a bit of a rebuilding project on that side of the ball next season.

So more than ever, they need to find some consistency on offense, and probably more importantly, find a way to deliver on offense when it counts.

Otherwise, the Tigers’ best football under Miles might be behind them.

Chick-fil-A Bowl

December, 2, 2012
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LSU Tigers (10-2) vs. Clemson Tigers (10-2)

Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, Atlanta (ESPN)

LSU take by GeauxTigerNation's Gary Laney: How does one judge LSU's season?

At 10-2, the Tigers fell short of their preseason No. 1 ranking. They failed to make the SEC championship game, much less defend their conference title.

On the other hand, LSU masterfully overcame a ton of problems.

Tyrann Mathieu, the Tigers' Heisman Trophy finalist at cornerback, was dismissed from the team in August. Chris Faulk, the left tackle who seemed destined to be drafted by the second round, was lost to a knee injury after one game, and running back Alfred Blue was also lost to a knee injury a couple of weeks later. The Tigers finished the season with three offensive line starters who weren't starters at the beginning of the season.

Yet, by the end of the regular season, LSU seemed to have it figured out. Zach Mettenberger was much improved in the passing game, and Jeremy Hill emerged as one of the nation's best freshmen running backs. And the defense, though it gave up passing yards late in the season, remained solid, led by end Sam Montgomery and linebacker Kevin Minter.

So how LSU's season is perceived might come down to how the Tigers play in the bowl. If the offense continues its resurgence and the Tigers win, they will go into the offseason with a rosy outlook. If the Tigers lose and the defense continues to give up passing yards, followed by the seemingly inevitable loss of underclassmen like Montgomery and free safety Eric Reid to the NFL draft, it could be an offseason of worry on the bayou.




Clemson take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Clemson, much like Florida State this year, was oh-so-close to something bigger than the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but the Tigers’ losses to the Seminoles and rival South Carolina ruined the program’s chances at a second straight appearance in the ACC championship and a BCS bowl.

That’s not to say this wasn’t a successful season for coach Dabo Swinney. The Tigers maintained their position as a top 15 team all year, and have thrived behind a high-scoring offense led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, who was named the ACC’s Player of the Year. In his second season as a starter, Boyd helped lead Clemson to back-to-back 10-win seasons, the first Clemson quarterback to do that since Rodney Williams in1987-88. Clemson had the No. 6 scoring offense in the country this year (42.33) points per game, but was smothered in a 27-17 loss to South Carolina. The defense under first-year coordinator Brent Venables was better, but it wasn’t championship-caliber, finishing No. 47 in the county, allowing 24.92 points per game.

Clemson’s only ACC loss this year was in Tallahassee to a Florida State team that was ranked No. 4 in the country at the time. Clemson reeled off seven straight wins after that loss and had momentum heading into its regular-season finale against the Gamecocks, but for the fourth straight season, Clemson was outplayed and outcoached by its in-state rival.

Clemson will forever be remembered for its abysmal performance in last year’s Discover Orange Bowl, but this matchup against LSU will be a chance for the Tigers to take a monumental step towards redeeming their postseason image.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 13

November, 25, 2012
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With the 2012 regular season now in our rearview mirror, let’s take a look at what we learned in the SEC in Week 13:

1. Play-in game is set: Alabama and Georgia both did their part on Saturday with blowout wins over rivals. Alabama thumped Auburn 49-0, while Georgia routed Georgia Tech 42-7. What that means is that a lot more than just the SEC championship will be at stake on Saturday in the SEC championship game. The winner will earn a spot in the Discover BCS National Championship Game to face Notre Dame, which beat USC on Saturday night and will remain No. 1 in the BCS standings. So in other words, the SEC championship game becomes a play-in game for the right to play for the national championship. It’s similar to both of the 2008 and 2009 SEC championship games, when Alabama and Florida squared off in back-to-back years in Atlanta. This is the first time that Alabama has faced somebody other than Florida in the SEC championship game.

2. Conquering quarterbacks: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel made one final compelling argument for the Heisman Trophy with five more touchdowns in the Aggies’ 59-29 battering of Missouri. He’s accounted for 43 touchdowns this season and set an SEC record with 4,600 yards of total offense. He has six games this season with at least two touchdowns rushing and two touchdowns passing. Nobody else has more than three. He’s only a redshirt freshman, but Manziel has put up Heisman numbers all season. At this point, it would seem like it’s his trophy to lose. And while we’re on the subject of SEC quarterbacks, Georgia’s Aaron Murray deserves some props, too. He became the first quarterback in SEC history to pass for 3,000 yards in three straight seasons. Murray threw two more touchdown passes Saturday and now has 89 for his career, tying him with Peyton Manning for second on the SEC career chart. Florida’s Danny Wuerffel holds the record with 114 career touchdown passes.

[+] EnlargeSaban/Chizik
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesGene Chizik is likely done after Auburn was drubbed 49-0 by Alabama on Saturday.
3. Chizik era is over: Two years removed from winning a national championship at Auburn, Gene Chizik is on his way out as coach. An announcement could come as early as Sunday or Monday. Auburn was drubbed 49-0 by Alabama on Saturday, the second most lopsided Iron Bowl in history. The Tigers looked like they wanted to be anywhere but Bryant-Denny Stadium, another telling indictment against Chizik and how far this program has fallen in just two years. The Tigers have lost 10 straight SEC games dating back to last season and finished winless in the SEC for the first time since 1980. One of the names sure to be mentioned as a possible replacement for Chizik is former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who’s in his first season as the Arkansas State head coach. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart could also be a potential target for Auburn.

4. Tight race for coach of the year honors: How do you pick just one SEC Coach of the Year? There are at least four coaches who deserve serious consideration. Take a look at what Kevin Sumlin has done in his first season at Texas A&M and the Aggies’ first season in the SEC. As soon as you think Sumlin is the guy, you realize that Florida's Will Muschamp has also done an amazing job. The Gators are 11-1 in his second season in Gainesville and have the best overall resume in college football with four wins over top-10 teams. Who had Ole Miss being bowl eligible in Hugh Freeze’s first season as coach? The Rebels whipped bitter rival Mississippi State on Saturday to qualify for a bowl. This is the same Ole Miss team that entered the season on a 14-game SEC losing streak and behind the eight-ball in scholarship numbers. Finally, anybody notice that Vanderbilt has eight wins and is headed back to a bowl game for the second year in a row? James Franklin is enough of a commodity that Vanderbilt is prepared to pay some serious cash to keep him. Good luck in picking this year’s SEC Coach of the Year.

5. Spurrier owns Clemson: During the course of his Hall of Fame career, Steve Spurrier has owned more than a few teams and more than a few coaches. He might as well start paying taxes on Dabo Swinney and Clemson. Not only did South Carolina beat Clemson 27-17 on Saturday for the fourth straight time -- the first time that’s happened in the series since 1951-54 -- but the Gamecocks won it with their backup quarterback, Dylan Thompson, going the whole way and passing for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Starter Connor Shaw missed the game with a sprained foot. Consider, too, that South Carolina snapped Clemson’s 13-game home winning streak and won for the second year in a row with its best player, running back Marcus Lattimore, out of the lineup. Lattimore also missed last season’s game with a knee injury. Think we’ll hear any “Real Carolina” rants from Swinney this week?

Video: SEC vs. ACC blogger debate

August, 30, 2012
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SEC blogger Chris Low and ACC blogger Heather Dinich debate the big games this week between the two conferences.
The last thing Auburn needed this close to next Saturday's season opener against Clemson was an off-the-field incident.

Moreover, one of the last players Auburn could afford to lose was sophomore center Reese Dismukes, who was a freshman All-American last season and the closest to a sure thing on Auburn's inexperienced offensive line.

As fate would have it, Auburn will be without Dismukes next Saturday when it faces Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in Atlanta. Auburn coach Gene Chizik suspended Dismukes on Saturday following Dismukes' arrest early Saturday morning on a charge of public intoxication.

Chizik's statement didn't specify how long Dismukes would be suspended, but it will at least be for the opener. Auburn plays at Mississippi State the second week of the season.

That Chizik would suspend such a key player for such a key game over a relatively minor charge tells you all you need to know about where Chizik's tolerance level is for off-the-field nonsense. He's obviously sending a message to his team for the long term. After all, it hasn't been the rosiest of offseasons for the Tigers.

Props to Chizik for taking a strong stand. It takes guts to put your best offensive lineman on the bench for an opener as pivotal as this one. Then again, Clemson will be in the same boat. All-America receiver Sammy Watkins will miss the first two games following his drug-related arrest in May.

The loss of Dismukes presents a couple of different problems for Auburn, which was already lacking experience on its offensive line. Dismukes started all 13 games at center last season, and his backup, sophomore Tunde Fariyike, has never started in a game. That means Auburn could have as many as three or four offensive linemen making their first career starts against Clemson. Three freshmen are in the rotation -- redshirt freshman Greg Robinson at left tackle, true freshman Avery Young at right tackle and true freshman Alex Kozan at guard.

There's also a chance that Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes could do some shuffling. Senior guard John Sullen and Kozan could be possibilities at center, and if Sullen does makes the move to center, redshirt freshman Christian Westerman would then move up the depth chart at guard.

However it shakes out, Auburn is going to open the season with a handful of guys seeing their first meaningful action in the offensive line.

The other thing to consider is that sophomore Kiehl Frazier will be making his first start at quarterback, which is unnerving enough. Now, he's going to be taking snaps from somebody other than the starting center and the center he worked the most with this preseason.

That's never an ideal combination -- a first-time starter at quarterback and a new center.
Has something seemed odd to you about the BCS bowls this year? Does it seem like ... oh wait, West Virginia just scored again.

Does it seem like ... wait, there goes De'Anthony Thomas. Don't think he'll get caught from behind.

Does it seem like ... wait, would somebody please tackle Justin Blackmon?

Does it seem like there have been a lot of points this bowl season?

It's not just you. There have been a lot of points. More points than ever before. And by huge quantities.

So far, BCS bowl teams have averaged a total of 77 points in the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls. That, folks, is nearly 26 points more than last year (51.6). And it's nearly 11 points better than the previous high of 66.3 from 2001-02.

Perhaps pairing two SEC teams in the title game has created a black hole sucking all defensive stinginess into the LSU-Alabama rematch, which you might recall went 9-6 with no touchdowns in their first meeting. West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns -- 10! -- against Clemson. Alabama gave up 12 TDs all season.

Speaking of Clemson: ACC. Well, well, well.

After the Tigers ingloriously fell 70-33 to the Mountaineers, we got our second story from the BCS bowl season: The ACC's insistence on throwing up on itself in BCS bowl games.

The conference that was once expected to challenge the SEC is now 2-13 in BCS bowl games. That's hard to do. You'd think in 15 BCS bowls the conference could get lucky at least five or six times. But no, it insists on making ACC blogger Heather Dinich, a genuinely nice person, into some sort of Grim Reaper every bowl season.

Heck, the Big East has won seven BCS bowls -- second fewest among AQ conferences -- but it's 7-7.

Of course, this all ties together, and we're here to bring out a bow, but first a warning: If you don't want to read about how good the SEC is for the 56,314th time this year, then stop reading. I'd recommend an episode of "South Park" or perhaps a John le Carré thriller as an alternative for passing the time.

We can all agree the SEC plays great defense right? Alabama and LSU will play for the title Monday with the nation's top-two defenses. Do you think perhaps that it's not a coincidence that the conference that is 16-7 in BCS bowl games plays great defense?

The only other AQ conference with a winning record in BCS bowl games is the Pac-12, which is 11-7. The Pac-12 isn't known for defense, either, but USC was when it won the conference's last national title in 2004.

The only team to win a BCS national title without an elite defense was Auburn in 2010, but the Tigers' defense seemed to find itself late in the season. Since 1999, eight national champions had a top-10 defense. Other than Auburn, the lowest-rated defense to win a BCS national title was Ohio State in 2002. It ranked 23rd in the nation in total defense.

Three of the four BCS bowl games have been thrillers. Two went to overtime. We've seen big plays all over the field in the passing game and running game. Yet, if things go according to script in the title game, we'll see none of that. We might not see more than a couple of plays that go for more than 20 yards. We might not see any.

Some might call that boring. It might seem that both offenses are so paranoid of making a mistake that they are stuck in mud, both in game plan and execution.

But, snoozefest or not, when the clock strikes zero a team from the SEC will hoist the crystal football for a sixth consecutive time.

That might say something about playing better defense.

Video: Auburn-Clemson preview

September, 17, 2011
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Chris Low previews the Auburn-Clemson matchup.

Press Coverage: Oregon vs. Auburn

November, 10, 2010
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It's time for a blogger debate! And it doesn't get much better than when we match the SEC and Pac-10.

Our topic: No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Auburn. Who's better and why?

Both are unbeaten, and if the season ended today, they'd play for the national title.

We've got lots of football left, and probably many more plot twists in the hunt for the national title, but there's no reason we can't engage in a hypothetical, is there?

So the Pac-10 blog -- Ted Miller -- and the SEC blog -- Chris Low -- have decided to meet for some civilized debate on Auburn versus Oregon.

Ted Miller: Chris, since things are so quiet in the sleepy SEC, I think we should spice things up with a Pac-10-SEC blogger debate! It seems like a long time since we last had a debate between our two conferences. How’d that one go? Let’s see I championed Taylor Mays and you celebrated Eric Berry. Wait. Why did I bring that up?

Anyway, our topic is Oregon and Auburn: Who’s better and why.

[+] EnlargeGene Chizik
John Reed/US PresswireGene Chizik has silenced those critical of his hiring last year but getting Auburn off to a 10-0 start this season.
This is a potential national title game between the No. 1 Ducks and No. 2 Tigers, who are both unbeaten and feature Heisman Trophy candidates leading high-powered offenses.

You get first blood. Tell me about Auburn. It seems like it wasn’t too long ago that Jay Jacobs was getting hounded for hiring Gene Chizik. Guessing that’s died down a wee-bit.

Chris Low: No doubt, Ted. I wonder where that obnoxious guy is now, the one yelling at Jacobs as he was leaving the airport after finalizing the deal with Chizik? Maybe Jacobs knew what he was doing after all. The guy with the 5-19 record at Iowa State has done all right by himself on the Plains. He has a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback and the SEC's leading rusher in Cam Newton, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound freak of nature who runs like Bo Jackson and also has an NFL arm. Keep your eyes, too, on freshman running back Mike Dyer, who they haven't had to lean on much this season, but is oozing with talent and has fresh legs for this stretch run. The Tigers' defensive numbers are nothing to write home about, but they do have the kind of dominant interior defensive lineman, Nick Fairley, who can take over games. Georgia coach Mark Richt said Fairley's the closest thing he's seen to Warren Sapp. Auburn's calling card defensively has been making plays at key times in the fourth quarter. The Tigers have been a serviceable defense through three quarters this season, but they've been a championship-caliber defense in the fourth quarter -- which is why they're 10-0.

So tell me about Oregon?

[+] EnlargeDarron Thomas
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireSophomore Darron Thomas was thrust into the starting quarterback job and has performed admirably.
Ted Miller: Speaking of coaches: How about Oregon’s Chip Kelly? How could he possibly expect to top winning the Pac-10 and playing in the Rose Bowl his first season? How about contending for a national title in his second? The Ducks, however, expected to be here when the 2009 season ended because just about everybody was coming back from the Pac-10 champions. That is until a guy you are now familiar with -- quarterback Jeremiah Masoli -- got caught up in some off-field issues and eventual got himself booted from the team. That seemingly left a void behind center, but sophomore Darron Thomas has not only filled Masoli’s shoes, he’s gone up a few sizes: He’s 15th in the nation in passing efficiency and 21st in the nation in total yardage. Meanwhile, speedy running back LaMichael James is the top Heisman alternative to your guy, Newton. As for the defense, it’s like the offense: Extremely fast. It ranks 13th in the nation in scoring defense and it has forced 28 turnovers, second-most in the nation. Folks often underestimate the Ducks' defense because it gives up some yards -- it ranks 29th in the nation in total defense -- but that’s because the offense scores so quickly: The nation’s No. 1 offense ranks 115th in the nation in time of possession. But the Ducks only give up 4.45 yards per play. Our factoid of the day is that number would rank No. 1 in ... wait for it ... the SEC!

Obviously, we're talking about two very good teams that have done impressive things on their way to remaining unbeaten. I know we both have Oregon ahead of Auburn in our power rankings, but give me the case for Auburn.

Chris Low: Ted, I think what separates Auburn is Newton. Nobody has been able to stop him. If you commit to taking away the run, he's proved he can beat people throwing the ball. And if you come after him and/or don't have enough people in the box, he's been magic running the ball. Keep in mind, too, that we're not talking about a 220-pound guy running the ball. We're talking about a 250-pound guy who's physical, tough and doesn't run out of bounds. In the red zone, he's the great equalizer, because he gains 3 yards when he falls forward and has the size and the strength to push the pile. On top of it all, he's always a threat to throw the ball. Similar to Oregon, Auburn doesn't flinch if somebody puts 30-plus points on the board, because the Tigers' mentality is that they're going to score 50. Their offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, will make you defend everything -- reverses, throwback passes, passes to the backs, even passes to Newton. He caught a touchdown pass two weeks ago against Ole Miss. The Tigers also play at a tempo on offense that has opposing defenses gasping for air in the fourth quarter. But when they have to, they can put teams away and finish games by running the ball. They're fourth nationally (one spot ahead of Oregon) this week in rushing offense with an average of 307.2 yards per game. Auburn's top four rushers -- Newton, Dyer, Onterio McCalebb and Mario Fannin -- are all averaging at least 6.4 yards per carry. Do the Ducks have any answers for that running game?

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Paul Abell/US PresswireAuburn's Cam Newton is just as dangerous with his arm as he is on his feet.
Ted Miller: That’s what’s so interesting about this as a potential national title game match -- there’s an odd familiarity that both teams will have with each other despite never crossing paths. My guess is Malzahn and Kelly already have studied each other, just in terms of mutual admiration. And both defenses will be familiar with up-tempo, no-huddle, spread-option offenses that can power you and finesse you and throw downfield. Further, the Ducks have played against a number of big, fast, capable quarterbacks with NFL futures: Washington’s Jake Locker, Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and Stanford’s Andrew Luck. The results have been mixed. Last year, Luck and Pryor got them. Luck beat the Ducks with uncanny downfield accuracy, which is why he’ll go No. 1 in this spring’s NFL draft. Pryor shocked them with the best passing game of his career in the Rose Bowl. Locker missed this year’s game, but he’s never had much luck against Oregon. In general, Oregon has a good run defense: Opponents are averaging 3.38 yards per rush. But the Ducks are undersized. A physical Stanford team had some success, rushing for 177 yards. But one thing about Oregon on both sides of the ball: It is masterful with halftime adjustments. They shutout Stanford, owners of the nation’s No. 5 scoring offense, in the second half, and have given up just 48 points in the second half this year -- just seven in the fourth quarter!

Obviously, two very good teams that have done impressive things on their way to remaining unbeaten. I know we both have Oregon ahead of Auburn in our power rankings, but give me the case for Auburn if it played Oregon in the national title game. How do you see it going?

Chris Low: Well, if that happens, the first thing we all better make sure we have is a calculator. That and make sure there's no danger of a power surge to the scoreboard. You're right about Oregon. Nobody in the country has been better in the second half. The Ducks' ability to score points in bunches is amazing, but the Tigers are equally adept at going on head-spinning scoring sprees. Just ask Arkansas, which saw Auburn roll up 28 points in the fourth quarter in Xbox-like fashion. I have no doubt that an Auburn-Oregon matchup would be played in the 40s. I think the difference, though, would be Auburn's ability to put the breaks on the track meet and run the football in the fourth quarter, especially with Newton being so good at converting on third down. So I'm going Auburn 45, Oregon 41 in a game that rates up there with the Texas-USC classic to decide the 2005 national title.

Ted Miller: That's clearly something we can all agree on: This likely would be a highly entertaining, offensively driven national title game if these two teams manage to get themselves there. Further, I think, after never getting a USC-SEC title game, folks on both coasts would enjoy an SEC-Pac-10 matchup. No trash-talking there, right? And I do see a clear advantage for Auburn: It has been tested. It's played five games decided by eight points or fewer, and three decided by a field goal. The Ducks closest game? An 11-point win at Arizona State. But that's also why I'd pick Oregon in this one. Oregon beat the No. 6 team in the nation, Stanford, by 21 points. It shut Andrew Luck out in the second half. And I look at all of Auburn's close games: Mississippi State, Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky and LSU, and think: None of them would be within 10 points of the Ducks. Maybe LSU, because any game Les Miles touches is surprising. And I think Vegas would agree with me. So if we ended up with an Oregon-Auburn national title game, my guess is the Tigers would go TD for TD with the Ducks in the first half, then the Ducks would pour it on late for a 50-35 win. But I reserve the right to change my mind, particularly because I think the Tigers' toughest test -- Alabama -- is ahead.

Moreover, both teams should be advised: You probably should get to the Jan. 10 date in Glendale before you start trash-talking each other. At least before you use your best stuff.

Video: Music City Bowl's best matchup

December, 17, 2009
12/17/09
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SEC blogger Chris Low looks at the marquee Music City Bowl matchup between Kentucky’s Randall Cobb and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller.

Steele headed to Clemson after Sugar Bowl

January, 1, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

It's been in the works now for a couple of weeks, but it appears that Kevin Steele's move from Alabama to Clemson is imminent.

New Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is expected to announce on Saturday that Steele will be his defensive coordinator next season. Steele has been with Nick Saban for the last two seasons on the Alabama staff. He was the defensive coordinator in 2007 and had his title changed to defensive head coach this season.

Kirby Smart was named the Crimson Tide's defensive coordinator this season, and Nick Saban is also heavily involved in coordinating the Alabama defense.

At Clemson, it will be Steele's defense. He'll coordinate the defense and make all the calls. He's also expected to receive a raise from the $360,000 he was paid at Alabama this season.

Ironically, Steele will take over at Clemson after his longtime friend, former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis, declined the Tigers' overtures and instead agreed to become the defensive coordinator at LSU. Steele and Chavis go back to their high school days together in Dillon, S.C.

Steele on the move from Alabama?

December, 29, 2008
12/29/08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

With coordinators, associate head coaches and the like coming and going in the SEC, the next one on the move could be Alabama's Kevin Steele.

The Crimson Tide's associate head coach and head defensive coach has emerged as the leading candidate to be Clemson's defensive coordinator. Look for a quick decision from Steele following the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.

Former Tennessee coach John Chavis was one of the first guys new Clemson coach Dabo Swinney targeted, but Chavis has agreed to join the LSU staff and is expected to be named the Tigers' new defensive coordinator later this week.

Steele went to high school in Dillon, S.C., and has coached everywhere from Tennessee, to Nebraska, to Florida State before joining Nick Saban at Alabama in 2007. He also spent four years in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and was the head coach at Baylor from 1999-2002.

A renowned recruiter, Steele has also developed several standout linebackers, including Ernie Sims and Lawrence Timmons at Florida State and Rolando McClain at Alabama.

Some might wonder why Steele would leave Alabama for Clemson. For one, he would be fully in charge of the defense at Clemson, whereas it's more of a collaborative effort at Alabama among Nick Saban, Kirby Smart and Steele.   

After long run at Tennessee, Chavis to talk with Clemson

December, 3, 2008
12/03/08
3:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

John Chavis has been one of the SEC's best defensive coordinators for a long time.

So it's no surprise that his phone is starting to ring.

Chavis, who headed up Tennessee's defense for the past 14 years under Phillip Fulmer, will interview for the Clemson defensive coordinator's job on Thursday. New Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is looking for somebody to take over the Tigers' defense after parting ways with Vic Koenning.

Chavis, who's from Dillon, S.C., is likely to be in play at several places. He had multiple opportunities during his time at Tennessee to leave for NFL assistant jobs, but always elected to stay. Former South Carolina coach Lou Holtz also wooed Chavis earlier this decade, but Chavis remained loyal to Fulmer.

New Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin didn't retain Chavis because he plans to bring his father, Monte Kiffin, to Knoxville as his defensive coordinator. But Chavis might have done one of his better coaching jobs this season. His unit finished the regular season ranked fourth nationally in total defense, just one spot below Alabama in the SEC.

That's despite being on the field most of the season thanks to an offense that couldn't move the ball and couldn't score points. The Vols (5-7) held seven of their 12 opponents to 14 or fewer points.

Spurrier doesn't look like he's having much fun

November, 29, 2008
11/29/08
6:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Just when you thought Steve Spurrier was starting to have some fun again coaching this South Carolina football team, the Gamecocks go and lay an egg to end the regular season.

They were beaten up and down the field Saturday by Clemson in a 31-14 loss, two weeks removed from their embarrassing 56-6 beating at Florida.

The frustration was etched all over the Head Ball Coach's face Saturday and has been for most of this season. His quarterback, Chris Smelley, threw four interceptions Saturday -- three in the first half.

The Gamecocks' quarterback play has tormented Spurrier all season, and it remains to be seen whether he will ever have complete confidence in redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia, who didn't play at all against Clemson.

Spurrier, 63, has insisted several times this season that he's not ready to punt on his challenge of winning an SEC championship at South Carolina.

But those who know him best also know that he's not wired to lose almost as many games as he wins each year.

And since coming to South Carolina in 2005, Spurrier has lost at least five games all four seasons.

He knew this job would be hard. But not this hard.

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