SEC: Earl Bennett
Nick Marshall and Ricardo Louis (and Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons): Let's be clear. It was nothing more than a 1-in-1-million occurrence that allowed Louis to catch a 73-yard pass from Marshall, deflected between Matthews and Harvey-Clemons, to score the game-winning touchdown with 25 seconds remaining on Saturday. But the Tigers scored that touchdown, and kept their SEC championship hopes alive in the process. Marshall finished the day with 229 passing yards against his old team, plus 89 rushing yards and two more scores. And Louis had 131 receiving yards, 66 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was certainly a winning combination.
Aaron Murray: The Georgia quarterback's ridiculous second half will fade in relevance over time, but the only reason Marshall even needed to complete the last-minute touchdown pass to Louis was because Murray carried his team into the lead in the second half. Georgia stunk it up in the first half, but Murray rallied the Bulldogs to a 38-37 lead with 1:49 to play after trailing by 20 points early in the fourth quarter. Murray finished with 415 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while also rushing for 37 yards and two more scores -- including a diving go-ahead touchdown in the closing minutes -- although Auburn's Hail Mary minimized the importance of Georgia's rally.
Alabama's defense: By this point, this should be obvious. The reason anyone is talking about AJ McCarron contending for the Heisman Trophy is that we can't collectively give it to his defense. Alabama turned the ball over four times Saturday against Mississippi State -- including two interceptions from McCarron -- but the defense allowed just seven points and 197 total yards. Heck, State's one touchdown came on a fumble forward into the end zone. Alabama led 10-7 at one point in a mediocre third quarter, but the defense didn't allow things to get truly scary. McCarron should be taking THOSE guys out to dinner this week.
Jordan Matthews: The Vanderbilt receiver caught 12 passes for 141 yards, becoming the first Commodores wideout to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and rushed twice for 31 yards in Vandy's 22-6 win over Kentucky. He's within three catches of former Vandy receiver Earl Bennett's SEC record of 236 career catches. And the Commodores (6-4) are bowl eligible for three straight years for the first time in program history -- thanks in large part to the contributions from their senior receiver.
Elliott Fry: I almost went with Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace here -- his four touchdowns in Ole Miss' 751-yard effort against Troy were impressive -- but place-kicker Fry's four field goals in Saturday's 19-14 win against Florida were much more important. The Gators led 14-13 entering the fourth quarter on Saturday, but Fry knocked down a 22-yard kick with 6:43 remaining and a 43-yard field goal with 2:16 to play to extend the Gamecocks' lead to five points. Fry went 4-for-5 on field goals Saturday and hit his only PAT as South Carolina put pressure on Missouri to claim the SEC East title.
- Georgia kicker Blair Walsh and punter Drew Butler both hope to hear their names called at the NFL draft.
- Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen likes his team's attitude coming out of the spring.
- Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has a little fun while campaigning for the cover of "Madden 13."
- Alabama coach Nick Saban talks up his players heading into the NFL draft.
- Plan B has worked out just fine for former Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett.
- South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore's draft stock is soaring.
- Arkansas' players welcome John L. Smith's return.
- Joel Erickson of The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer has a Q&A with Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
- Missouri looks ahead to its SEC football debut.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Scour the national recruiting rankings, and you won't find Vanderbilt's class anywhere in the Top 25.
Heck, you're lucky to find it in the Top 75, whatever that means. The Commodores won seven games last season and won a bowl game.
That's as many games as South Carolina won (and the Gamecocks lost their bowl game) and more games than Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee won in 2008.
Anybody taking bets that Vanderbilt's classes weren't ranked as highly as the classes of Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina or Tennessee three and four years ago?
Recruiting at Vanderbilt is a whole different animal than anywhere else in the SEC. For one, the Commodores rarely go head-to-head with other SEC schools on recruits. Then there's the whole matter of finding kids who not only can get into Vanderbilt academically, but have what it takes to keep up with that curriculum and also play SEC football.
Under Bobby Johnson, the Commodores have been exceptionally good at evaluating kids who might have flown under the radar a little bit during the recruiting process. In a lot of cases, they're going into talent-rich states in the SEC region and getting players the marquee programs don't want for various reasons ... and then turning around and beating those programs with those same kids.
Some recent examples: Earl Bennett (Birmingham, Ala.), Chris Nickson (Brundidge, Ala.), D.J. Moore (Spartanburg, S.C.), Chris Williams (Glynn, La.), Broderick Stewart (Newnan, Ga.), Myron Lewis (Pompano Beach, Fla.), Reshard Langford (Tanner, Ala.) and Marcus Buggs (Madison, Tenn.).
This year's Vanderbilt class was highlighted by three running back prospects -- Warren Norman (Stone Mountain, Ga.), Zac Stacy (Centreville, Ala.) and Wesley Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn.). The Commodores also landed Parade All-America quarterback Charlie Goro (Park Ridge, Ill.).
Here are some of Johnson's overall thoughts on the class. The Commodores have 18 starters returning next season:
"We felt like certain needs were met. Of course we always talk about that, but defensive backs, offensive linemen and running backs were high priorities for us. We feel like we addressed those positions. Offensive line was especially important. We were also able to get some high quality talent in just about every position, so we feel good about it."
On the impact of the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl win:
"I think it's probably going to help us more this (next) year than it did this year. We had probably about 12 commitments almost halfway through the season, almost the first part of the season. I think the bowl victory helped us finish off this class and keep them interested in Vanderbilt and wanting to come to Vanderbilt. But I think the biggest push we'll get out of that bowl victory is when we start recruiting this year's juniors and hopefully help us get them on campus this spring and maybe get them to commit earlier to our program this coming season."
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Vanderbilt has done a nice job the last few years of recruiting in the state of Alabama, and the point man has been Charlie Fisher, the Commodores' receivers coach and passing game co-coordinator.
Fisher has carved out a niche of going into that talent-laden state and landing players that Alabama and Auburn weren't really recruiting and having them come to Nashville and carve out successful careers.
Receiver Earl Bennett, who set an SEC record with 236 career catches before leaving school early and going in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft, went to West End High School in Birmingham and was a first-team 5A all-state player.
Quarterback Chris Nickson, who was a very respectable 13-14 as the Commodores' starter, starred at Pike County High School in Brundidge, Ala., where he was named the state's Mr. Football in 2003.
Quarterback Larry Smith, a redshirt freshman last season for the Commodores, was also named the state of Alabama's Mr. Football in 2006 while leading his Prattville, Ala., team to a 6A state title. Smith threw the ball well during stretches of the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl win over Boston College and will battle Mackenzi Adams for the starting job next season.
There could be another one to add to that list from the state of Alabama.
Running back Zac Stacy of Centerville, Ala., has flown under the recruiting radar, but was extremely productive at Bibb County High School. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Stacy rushed for more than 2,400 yards last season and 36 touchdowns and runs a lot bigger than his size. He's been committed to the Commodores since last July, which is probably one reason he hasn't received a lot of pub this recruiting period.
But given the Commodores' recent track record with players from the state of Alabama, look for Stacy to be plenty productive.
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State