SEC: Emory Blake
Before last season, we looked at seven receivers we thought could reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2012. At season's end, the SEC had five players reach 1,000 receiving yards. That's three more than in 2011.
Here's a look at how the seven wide receivers we looked at before the season did in 2012:
1. Emory Blake, Auburn: Without much of an offense to speak of on the Plains last fall, Blake was the only bright spot in the receiving corps. He led the team with 50 catches for 789 yards and three touchdowns. He was Auburn's only player to catch more than 18 passes last fall.
2. Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas: He certainly made us look really good in 2012. Hamilton was one of the best receivers in the league, catching 90 passes for a league-high 1,335 yards and recorded five touchdowns. He also led the SEC by averaging 111.2 receiving yards per game.
3. Justin Hunter, Tennessee: Hunter seemed to get better as the year progressed. He seemed hesitant at first after coming off his knee injury, but his knee didn't seem to bother him after the first few games, and he finished the year leading the Vols with 73 catches for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns.
4. Tavarres King, Georgia: Quarterback Aaron Murray had a lot of targets to throw to in 2012, but King proved to be his most reliable. King led the Bulldogs with 42 catches for 950 yards and nine touchdowns. His 22.6 yards per catch weren't too shabby, either.
5. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: He could have easily forgone his senior season with the year he had in 2012. Matthews was arguably Vanderbilt's best offensive weapon, leading the SEC with 94 catches and registering 1,323 yards with eight touchdowns. He also collected seven 100-yard receiving games.
6. Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee: Rogers might have cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year, but he was dismissed from Tennessee's football team before the season. He ended his college career at Tennessee Tech, catching 61 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns.
7. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Swope ended his Aggies career with a very productive senior season. He was second on the team with 72 catches for 913 yards and led the Aggies with eight touchdowns. He had five 100-yard receiving games last fall.
Who was overlooked:
- Amari Cooper, Alabama: He wasn't even supposed to be the Crimson Tide's best freshman receiver, but he looked like the league's best receiver during the latter part of the season. He finished the year with 59 catches for 1,000 yards and was second in the SEC with 11 receiving touchdowns. He registered 100 yards receiving in four of Alabama's final five games.
- Mike Evans, Texas A&M: Even with Swope lining up with him, Evans broke onto the SEC scene during his freshman year with a monster season. He led the Aggies with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and also had five touchdowns. He caught at least four passes in all 13 of Texas A&M's games.
Arkansas at Mississippi State
- Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell has tossed 30 career TD passes, good for fifth on the school’s all-time list. Last weekend, Russell broke the MSU single-season record with his 17th TD pass of the year.
- Arkansas wide receiver Cobi Hamilton holds the Arkansas single-season records for receptions (73) and receiving yards (1,149).
- Arkansas has 18 players who have made their first collegiate start this season, the most in the SEC and tied for the fifth-highest total in the country.
- Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis, with 144 career catches, needs 18 receptions to tie the school record of 162 set by David Smith in 1970. His 2,024 career receiving yards are ninth in school history.
- Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, with 7,181 career passing yards, needs 241 yards to move into second on the school’s career list and 312 yards to become the school’s career leader (7,493 yards by Ryan Mallett, 2009-10).
- Alabama enters the game 39-for-42 in its red zone trips, tied for fifth nationally (93 percent).
- Over the past four years, Alabama’s starting quarterbacks have thrown 16 interceptions in 1,205 pass attempts (one interception every 75.3 pass attempts), while the defense has recorded 73 interceptions in 50 games.
- Jeremy Shelley is the only kicker in the nation yet to miss an extra point (46-46) or field goal (10-10) this season.
- Alabama is third in the nation in three-and-outs on defense per game at 5.2 (52 in 10 games).
- Alabama averaged 4.7 yards per rush on designed running plays against Texas A&M, its second lowest in a game this season (Ole Miss, 4.2). The Tide averaged 3.2 yards on such plays in the second half, their lowest for any half this season.
- AJ McCarron has one career interception in 88 red zone attempts (20 TD). McCarron’s one interception came on his last red zone attempt last Saturday against Texas A&M.
- McCarron has completed 64 percent of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer this season, including 7 of 8 attempts when targeting freshman Amari Cooper. McCarron completed 38.6 percent of such throws last season.
- Alabama has allowed just 11 100-plus-yard rushers since 2005, least in NCAA FBS.
- In school history, 14 Florida teams have started a season 9-1 or better through 10 games. Before this season, the most recent year was 2009, going 10-0.
- According to the NCAA, Florida currently has the No. 1 strength of schedule. The opponents’ record tally is 60-30 (.667).
- Florida's four-win improvement in conference play matches the best in program history.
- Florida has the fourth fewest receptions (29) in the FBS that gained at least 15 yards.
- Florida has 43 missed tackles this season, 15 fewer than any other SEC team.
- Florida’s offense has had 83 plays that lost yards this season, tied for the ninth most in the FBS.
- With a win over Wofford, Steve Spurrier would tie Rex Enright for the Carolina school record with 64 coaching wins.
- South Carolina is eighth in the nation in sacks (33) and 13th in total defense (308.90 yards per game allowed). The 33 sacks this season for Carolina is second in school history (41, 2010).
- Connor Shaw is averaging 5.3 yards per carry on designed runs in South Carolina’s wins this season and 0.9 the Gamecocks’ losses.
- South Carolina has scored 10 touchdowns in one minute or less, tied for the most in the SEC (Tennessee, Alabama).
- Auburn’s field goal defense unit has blocked three kicks this season. The Tigers have 12 blocked kicks (four FGs, three punts, five PATs) in the Gene Chizik era at Auburn.
- Auburn wide receiver Emory Blake is fifth in school history with 123 receptions and tied for seventh in reception yardage with 1,946.
- A win Saturday would mark the 20th time in school history that the Bulldogs have reached 10 wins in a season. Georgia last had back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2007-08.
- Georgia has 34 plays of 30 yards or more this season, the third most in FBS. The Bulldogs had 23 all of last season. The only game that the Bulldogs did not have at least one such play was at South Carolina in their only loss of the season.
- Aaron Murray has completed 75.2 percent of his passes on first downs this season with 10 touchdowns. Of his 96 completions, 26 (27.7 percent) have resulted in a gain of 20 or more yards.
- Georgia averages 8.2 yards on first down, tied for the highest average in FBS this season (Oklahoma State).
- Running back Todd Gurley is third in school history for rushing yards by a freshman with 973. Gurley has had seven 100-plus-yard rushing games this season.
- Ole Miss has scored in 33 of its 35 red zone trips (94.3 percent) this season, second-best in the nation and tops in the SEC. Ole Miss is the only SEC team without a turnover in the red zone this year and has gone 22-for-22 in the red zone against league opponents.
- LSU has sent five or more pass-rushers on 22.8 percent of its opponents’ drop-backs this season. When blitzing, the Tigers have allowed six passing touchdowns, including two touchdowns in their past two games. When dropping seven into coverage, LSU has allowed just four pass touchdowns in 243 attempts.
- With an 8-2 mark, LSU has now won at least eight games for a school-record 13 straight seasons. That ties Boise State for the longest current streak in college football.
- Ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery have combined for 31 of the Tigers’ 58 quarterback hurries, including four hurries on passes that were intercepted. Additionally, they have nine sacks when LSU does not blitz.
- LSU has allowed opponents to complete just two of 21 passes thrown 25 yards or longer and have not allowed a touchdown on such a pass this season.
- LSU has gone 46 straight offensive possessions without a turnover (284 total plays).
- Quarterback Johnny Manziel is ranked in the top three of all FBS freshmen in eight major statistical categories (1st – Passing Yards per game/Total Passing Yards/Completions/Total Offense per game/Points Responsibility per game; 2nd – Rushing Yards per game/Scoring per game; 3rd – Passing Efficiency).
- Manziel has gained 728 of his SEC-leading 1,014 rush yards on scrambles. That is 51 more yards scrambling than Marcus Mariota, Denard Robinson, Braxton Miller and Collin Klein have combined. Manziel has scrambled for 31 first downs this season, including 20 first downs on third down.
- Manziel is 56-of-73 (76.7 percent) with six touchdowns and no interceptions when targeting Ryan Swope this season.
- Texas A&M has five touchdown drives that lasted at least five minutes. The Aggies had one such drive in 2011.
- A&M’s 545.4 total offensive yards per game is ahead of SEC record pace, set by Florida in 1995 (534.4 ypg).
- The A&M defense has had 29 sacks this season from 13 different players.
- Tennessee has scored at least 40 points five times in 2012, the most in a season since the 196 team also recorded five 40-plus games.
- Vanderbilt is searching for its fifth straight win this season, which last happened in 2008 and before that, 1982.
- UT quarterback Tyler Bray has 64 career passing TDs, which is fourth in school history. Bray also has 509 career completions, which is fifth in UT history (with five more completions, would move to fourth).
- The Tigers are looking for its sixth win of the season and hopes of achieving bowl eligibility for a school-record eighth-straight season.
- Missouri has won a school-record 18 straight games against nonconference foes at home. Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel is 25-2 (.926) in his Tigers career at home against nonconference teams.
- The Missouri defense has had a takeaway in 28 straight games (last game was Oct. 30, 2010 at Nebraska).
- Quarterback James Franklin is eighth in Missouri history with 4,254 passing yards and eighth in total offensive yards (5,498).
- Kentucky is looking for its third consecutive win in a home finale.
- Kentucky is sixth in the nation in most true freshmen played with 14, only two behind the national leader . Of Kentucky’s 80 recruiting scholarship players, 55 are freshmen or sophomores.
- Kentucky is fourth in the nation for most total freshmen (true and redshirt frosh) played with 26, only two behind the national leader.
- Linebacker Avery Williamson leads Kentucky and the SEC in total tackles with 115 and tackles per game with 11.5. Williamson ranks third nationally in tackles per game and has double-figure tackles in seven of 10 games this season, including three in a row.
- In his 20th season as a head coach in the SEC, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier has accumulated 120 victories against conference foes, an average of six per season. The 120 wins are second in SEC history and his .736 against conference teams is sixth in league history.
- The SEC leads all conferences in passing yards per completions. SEC teams are averaging 12.91 yards per completion, which is just ahead of the Big East (12.77) and ACC (12.75). SEC teams have completed 1,584-of-2,635 passes this season (60.1 percent) for 20,456 yards.
- SEC offenses run the fewest plays per game than any other conference in FBS. SEC teams average 67.5 plays per game (38.2 rushing / 29.3 passing), which is just ahead of the Big East at 68.8 plays per game.
- SEC teams have attempted the second fewest passes of all FBS conferences (29.3 per game). The Mountain West has attempted the fewest passes per game (28.7) and the Big East (30.7) is just behind the SEC.
- SEC teams have given up just one punt return for a touchdown on 124 attempts this season -- South Carolina’s Ace Sanders 70-yard return for a touchdown against Georgia.
- Alabama is averaging an SEC-best 3.18 points per offensive drive (229 points in 72 drives) while Texas A&M is second at 3.10 points per offensive drive (254 points in 82 drives). Since the stat has been kept in the SEC (2000 season), the SEC best is 3.54 points per offensive drive by Florida in 2008 (545 points in 154 drives). Only four times has a team finished the season better than 3.00 points per offensive drive – Florida, 2008; Auburn, 2010 (3.50); Florida, 2007 (3.49); and, Florida, 2001 (3.27).
- Alabama has scored an SEC-high 98 points when receiving the ball off opponents' turnovers and has not given up any points when it turns it over. South Carolina is second in number of points off opponent’s turnovers (56) and Ole Miss is third (55) in the SEC. Mississippi State and Florida have allowed only three points each by opponents off its turnovers.
- SEC teams have 169 scoring drives of two minutes or less and 49 scoring drives of more than five minutes. Arkansas, Missouri and Vanderbilt have not had a scoring drive of more than five minutes this season while Mississippi State and Florida lead the SEC (eight). Texas A&M leads the SEC with 17 scoring drives of less than two minutes followed closely by Alabama (16) and South Carolina (15).
- Alabama is averaging 6.2 yards per carry on designed running plays this season with 4.6 yards coming before contact. The Tide have made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage without being touched on 38.8 percent of their designed runs, including on 20 of 42 such runs against Missouri last week.
- Tennessee is allowing an SEC-worst 6.2 yards per rush in conference play this season. The Vols’ run defense gave up season highs in yards (336), yards after contact (148) and missed tackles (12) in their first conference game against Florida.
- AJ McCarron is completing 70.6 percent of his passes against the blitz on third down this season. He completed less than half of such passes last season.
- When Alabama sends five or more pass-rushers on a play this season, opponents are completing 42.9 percent of their passes with more sacks (11) and interceptions (2) than first downs (12).
- Tyler Bray is completing 50.7 percent of his passes when opponents send five or more pass-rushers on a play, including 43.3 percent in SEC games.
- In Tennessee’s three wins this season, Bray completed 66.7 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer with no interceptions and at least two touchdowns in every game. In the Vols' losses, all SEC games, Bray struggled with those passes, completing less than 33 percent with at least one interception in all three games.
- Mike Gillislee and Marcus Lattimore have averaged over 90 yards per game and 4.4 yards per rush in conference play this season. Lattimore has gained over 40 percent of his yards after contact in every game this season and is averaging over two yards after contact per rush in his career against SEC opponents.
- Lattimore has gained 109 of his 144 (75.7 percent) fourth-quarter rush yards after contact this season.
- The Gators tightened its defense in the second half against these opponents, allowing just 6 of 80 plays to gain 10 yards or more.
- LSU has sent five or more pass-rushers on 23 percent of its opponents’ drop-backs this season. When blitzing, the Tigers have allowed four passing touchdowns this season, compared to just three when dropping at least seven into coverage.
- LSU has shut down opponents in the first quarter this season, allowing just one touchdown, 10 points and an FBS-low 191 yards in seven games (27.3 per game). South Carolina managed just 23 yards in the first quarter last week. On the flip side, Texas A&M averages 139.0 yards per game in the first quarter this season.
- Kevin Sumlin is the first Texas A&M head coach to start 5-1 or better in his first six games since Dana Bible in 1917 (8-0). It’s something that Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings, Jackie Sherrill and R.C. Slocum didn’t do.
LSU leads the series 27-20-3 … Texas A&M is 7-1-1 in games played in College Station with the last game coming in 1995 (A&M, 33-17) … It is also the last regular-season game in the series … The two teams played in the 2011 AT&T Cotton Bowl with LSU claiming a 41-24 win … Les Miles is 3-2 in his coaching career against A&M (1-0 while at LSU) … Sumlin has never competed against LSU as a head coach … LSU leads the SEC in defensive three-and-outs, holding opponents 45.2 percent of the time (42-of-93) … A&M leads the SEC in touchdowns per offensive drives, hitting paydirt 40.2 percent of its drives (33-of-82) … LSU has played 15 true freshmen this season -- most in the nation.
Auburn at Vanderbilt
The series is tied between the two schools, 20-20-1 … Auburn has won 13 of the past 14 meetings with Vanderbilt winning the last meeting, 14-13, in 2008 in Nashville … It is the second straight sellout for Vandy, the first time in 16 seasons since the school has hosted back-to-back capacity crowds … Vandy’s Zac Stacy is second in school history with 2,501 career rushing yards, needing 131 more to become the school’s all-time leader … Emory Blake is just the ninth receiver in Auburn history to record 100 career catches (104 for 1,611 yards).
South Carolina at Florida
Florida holds a 23-6-3 series advantage over South Carolina … In games played in Gainesville, the Gators lead, 12-1-0 … South Carolina has won the past two in the series (2012, 17-12, in Columbia; 2011, 36-14, in Gainesville) … This week’s game against Florida will mark the third straight top-10 opponent for South Carolina (Georgia, LSU) … Florida has never lost three straight to South Carolina in the series history … For the first time in series history, both teams are ranked in the top 10 … Spurrier is 3-4 as head coach against his alma mater, while Will Muschamp is 0-1 as head coach against the Gamecocks, but was part of coaching staffs at Auburn (1996, 2006) and LSU (2002, 2003) that defeated them.
Middle Tennessee at Mississippi State
Mississippi State leads series, 4-0 … Last meeting was in 2009 in Murfreesboro, with State winning, 27-6 … The first three meetings were in Starkville … State has won its past eight games, which is tied for the third-longest win streak in the nation and tied for third-longest win streak in school history … The 6-0 start is tied for the second best in school history (1999, 8-0) … Through six games, State has trailed only 16 minutes and 11 seconds of game action … Only four teams have trailed for less time than the Bulldogs (0:15, Alabama; 1:51, Oregon; 12:43, Notre Dame; 15:30, Oregon State).
Alabama at Tennessee
This will be the 95th meeting between the two schools with Alabama leading the series, 49-37-8 … Alabama has won the past five meetings in the series with the last Vol win coming in 2006 in Knoxville (16-13) … In games played in Knoxville, the Tide leads, 22-20-1 ... Alabama is 27-for-28 in red zone trips, tied for fourth in the nation at 96 percent … McCarron has attempted 227 straight passes without an interception, which is the second longest streak in SEC history (325 by Andre Woodson, Kentucky, 2006-07) … Tennessee last defeated a No. 1 team on Sept. 28, 1985 against Auburn (38-20).
Georgia at Kentucky
Georgia leads the series 51-12-2 … In games played in Lexington, the Bulldogs hold a 24-7 advantage … The Bulldogs have won the last two meetings with the last Kentucky win coming in 2009 in Athens (34-27) … The Wildcats last defeated Georgia in Lexington in 2006 (24-20) … It’s Homecoming on the UK campus as well as Dermontti Dawson Day, honoring the past UK and Pittsburgh Steeler great and recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee … Kentucky has played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to Anderson and Hester and the Colley Matrix, two components of the BCS rankings … Kentucky is fourth in the nation in most total freshmen (true and redshirt) played this season (26) … The Bulldogs are 13-4 under Mark Richt after an open date … Georgia's freshman running back tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall has totaled 1,040 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns this season (best freshman RB tandem by stats in UGA history is Thomas Brown and Danny Ware in 2004 with 1,567 yards and 12 TDs).
Record: (1-5, 0-4 SEC)
Things can obviously change very quickly in the SEC, but it’s stunning to see how far Auburn has fallen just two years removed from winning a national championship. That 2010 title is but a fleeting memory these days on the Plains. Auburn has won just one game this season and had to hold on for dear life to win that one over Louisiana-Monroe. It’s been a struggle the entire way on offense, as the Tigers haven’t been able to generate any firepower in first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler’s new system. They made a change at quarterback this past week and replaced Kiehl Frazier with Clint Moseley, but the results were the same. In six games, the Tigers’ quarterbacks have combined for three touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Auburn’s also the only team in the SEC averaging fewer than 300 yards per game in total offense. All of the Tigers’ woes can’t be blamed on the quarterback position, either. The offensive line has had its own issues and has allowed 19 sacks, which is tied for last in the league. Defensively, it hasn’t been much better. The Tigers are ranked 12th in the league in total defense. They played their best game against LSU in a 12-10 loss, but have given up an average of 31 points in their other three SEC contests. Going back to last season, the Tigers have now lost six straight SEC games and seven of their last eight. Fourth-year coach Gene Chizik is hearing it from the fans, too, and it’s only going to get worse if the Tigers limp to the finish. It’s telling that they’re a touchdown underdog to Vanderbilt this week. A loss in Nashville would likely mean a winless season in the SEC, which hasn’t happen at Auburn in more than 30 years.
Offensive MVP: WR Emory Blake. There just hasn’t been much to get excited about on offense. The Tigers have scored only nine offensive touchdowns in their first six games. The only semblance of consistency has come from Blake. That is, when the Tigers have been able to get him the ball. He leads the team with 26 catches for 378 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive MVP: LB Daren Bates. Junior defensive end Corey Lemonier has the best sack totals, but Bates has been a better all-around defender to this point. He has an SEC-leading 70 total tackles and leads the Tigers with 5.5 tackles for loss. He also has an interception and has recovered a fumble.
- Vanderbilt's punt returns fall short this season.
- Georgia wide receiver Michael Bennett plays with a chip on his shoulder.
- Justin Coleman replaces Marsalis Teague at cornerback for Tennessee.
- Punishing quarterbacks turns on Alabama's Xzavier Dickson.
- Texas A&M found a slam dunk of a catch in wide receiver Mike Evans.
- Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen are trying to make the most of their limited chances.
- Florida could be without two defensive starters against Kentucky on Saturday.
- Former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen is still throwing darts at Florida on Kentucky's behalf.
- Even without Alfred Blue, LSU still has enough talent to get the job done at running back.
- Missouri quarterback Corbin Berkstresser impresses with arm strength and toughness.
- Ole Miss is shuffling its secondary after the loss to Texas.
- Mississippi State is looking to shore up some defensive concerns.
- With Tyler Wilson, perception at Arkansas changes.
- In eight home conference games, SEC total attendance in Week 1 was 546,463, an average of 68,308 fans per game. SEC stadiums were filled to 95.49 percent capacity for the first week of games.
- SEC teams scored first in eight of 11 nonconference games in Week 1. Five SEC teams scored on their first offensive drive of the 2012 season.
- SEC teams scored 60 touchdowns in Week 1, giving up 30. SEC teams scored nine non-offensive touchdowns (five defensive, one kickoff return, three punt returns) and did not give up any in Week 1.
- SEC offenses had 30 scoring drives of less than two minutes and nine of more than five minutes in Week 1. SEC offenses scored on 41.4 percent of its offensive drives in Week 1 (field goals and touchdowns). They scored TDs on 31 percent of their drives. SEC teams scored 92 points off of opponents turnovers in Week 1.
- Since the preseason AP poll began in 1950, only two teams have ascended to No. 1 in the poll after Week 1 and then stayed there the rest of the season. In 1971, Notre Dame was preseason No. 1, but Nebraska took over in the next poll and stayed the entire season. In 1972, Nebraska was preseason No. 1, and USC took over in the next poll and stayed the entire season. Alabama will try to become the third this season.
- Arkansas has won 20 straight nonconference games in Little Rock, Ark., which the longest streak in school history (previous high: 15 from 1974-83). Arkansas has won 10 straight games in Little Rock, tied for the fourth-longest winning streak in Little Rock in Arkansas history.
- The Razorbacks are 166-65-4 (.715) all time in Little Rock and boast a 148-52-2 record inside War Memorial Stadium. The Razorbacks are 14-1 in Fayetteville and Little Rock since 2010. The Hogs have won 12 home games in a row, the fifth-longest active streak in the country.
- Auburn wide receiver Emory Blake and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen are now seventh in Auburn history in career touchdown catches with 14 and Blake is 13th in receiving yards with 1,342. Running back Onterio McCalebb is 13th in school history in rushing yards with 2,098 and his 47 catches is the fourth highest among Tiger running backs in school history. His 494 receiving yards are fifth all-time among Tiger running backs. Lutzenkirchen is fourth in career receiving yards by an AU tight end at 560.
- Florida senior running back Mike Gillislee rushed for 148 yards last week against Bowling Green, for his first career 100-yard rushing performance. Gillislee and junior Trey Burton are the only two active Gators to have 100-yard rushing games in their Gator careers. The last Gator to rush for more than 100 yards was Chris Rainey on Nov. 12, 2011, against South Carolina (17-132). Gillislee’s 148 yards marked the most yards for a Gator since Jeff Demps’ 158 against Vanderbilt (Nov. 5, 2011).
- Kentucky senior receiver La’Rod King has 1,295 career receiving yards and needs 29 more to tie Rafael Little and James Whalen for 13th place on the UK career list. King also has 14 career touchdowns and needs one more to move into a tie for sixth place on UK’s career TD list with Quentin McCord (15, 1996-2000).
- LSU is one victory shy of the FBS all-time record for consecutive victories over nonconference opponents in the regular season. Kansas State owns the record of 39 wins from 1993-2003. LSU has won 38 consecutive regular-season nonconference contests. The Tigers' streak began on Sept. 7, 2002, in a 35-10 win against The Citadel. The last 28 games of the streak has been while Les Miles has been the coach at LSU.
- After Ole Miss’ 49-27 season-opening win against Central Arkansas, Hugh Freeze became the fourth straight Ole Miss head coach to be victorious in his first game on the Rebel sideline. Of those who have coached since joining the SEC in 1933, the Rebels are now 10-4 in their debut.
- Over the last three-plus seasons, Mississippi State has won 17 of 18 games when victorious in the turnover column. Conversely, the Bulldogs have won just four times out of 12 when losing the turnover battle. Last week, against Jackson State, the Bulldogs forced three turnovers while not turning the ball over.
- Missouri is 24-15-1 in its history against current SEC members, including 8-6-1 in Columbia, Mo. As head coach at Missouri, Gary Pinkel is 9-2 against current SEC schools, including 5-1 against Texas A&M as members of the Big 12 and 4-1 against other SEC foes. The UGA game marks the first game for Missouri against an SEC Eastern Division foe since defeating South Carolina 38-31 in the 2005 Independence Bowl.
- The Gamecocks have won five straight games, dating back to last season. It ties for the seventh longest streak in school history. It is the longest win streak since putting together a six-game winning streak at the end of the 2006 season and the start of the 2007 season. The school record for consecutive wins is nine, set during the 1984 season.
- Tennessee posted 333 passing yards against NC State last week, snapping an eight-game streak in which the Vols' passing total was less than 300 yards. Tennessee had a TD pass of 72 yards and a TD run of 67 yards, marking the first time it has had two 60-plus-yard plays in one game since Oct. 30, 2010 at South Carolina.
- Tennessee is 7-2 under Derek Dooley when passing for 300 yards, including four consecutive wins. Tennessee is 9-1 under Dooley when scoring 25 or more points and 12-3 when scoring 20 or more points.
- Texas A&M and Florida have played twice, with the Gators winning 42-6 in Gainesville in 1962 and the Aggies taking a 37-14 Sun Bowl win on Jan. 2, 1977. The Aggies have opened their season five previous times against SEC foes (all LSU), winning all five. The most recent game was in 1995, with A&M winning, 33-17.
- Kevin Sumlin will also be making his A&M coaching debut against the Gators. A&M head coaches have compiled a 17-9-1 record in their debut games with the Aggies.
- Vanderbilt senior running back Zac Stacy moved into seventh place on the Vanderbilt career rushing list. Stacy has 2,050 career yards, which is 46 yards shy of sixth place Lonnie Sadler (2,096 yards, 1972-75) and 101 yards shy of 5th place Jared McGrath (2,151 yards, 1997-2000). Stacy is tied for fourth in career rushing touchdowns at Vandy with 20. The school record is 26, set by Dean Davidson (1947-50).
- Junior receiver Jordan Matthews had 147 receiving yards on eight catches against South Carolina and has now had more than 100 receiving yards in four games -- all against SEC teams.
It's Kiehl Frazier's time on the Plains.
The sophomore quarterback arrived at Auburn with a load of hype attached to his shoulder pads, but never looked ready to lead the Tigers. Now, he has that chance, as he'll walk onto the Georgia Dome turf in Atlanta on Saturday as Auburn's starting quarterback against No. 14 Clemson in the second game of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff.
The fans have been waiting. His coaches have been waiting. And he has been waiting. Now is his chance -- on a national stage, no less.
It wasn't easy for Frazier to get here. He was used more as a runner as a freshman, throwing the ball just 12 times with five completions and two interceptions. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Frazier hasn't completed a pass that traveled past the line of scrimmage in seven attempts -- unless you count his interceptions. It's no wonder Auburn's staff was so set on running him last year, as he carried the ball 76 times for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
But new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler arrived with his pro-style offense and pledged to turn Frazier into more of a passer. And it appears he has, as Frazier beat out junior Clint Moseley and freshman Jonathan Wallace during fall camp.
Frazier has all of the tools to be sucessful in this league, and now he'll really get to show if he's ready to guide the Tigers. Coach Gene Chizik seems to think so.
“We expect Kiehl to be a leader for this team and to continue to work hard every day," Chizik said. "I am confident in his ability and leadership skills and look forward to watching him progress in both areas.”
And what a stage to do it on. Not only is Auburn playing on national television, but it's against the defending ACC champs. You know, the same champs who are still giving up points to West Virginia. Those Tigers might have a new defensive coordinator in Brent Venables, but questions still remain for a unit that surrendered 70 points to the Mountaineers in last year's Orange Bowl, and ranked 71st nationally in total defense and 81st in scoring defense.
Frazier's job now is to control Auburn's offense. We know how athletic he is. If the pocket breaks down, he knows how to use his feet to get out of trouble. It's time for him to use his arm more and create receiving targets for himself. He'll get plenty of help from Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen, but he'll need to get others involved, such as Trovon Reed, Quan Bray or Travante Stallworth.
He'll have the chances to do that and we'll see a new and improved Frazier Saturday. We saw a one-deminsional Frazier in 2011. He'll be more of a threat to run and throw this fall and that maturation begins Saturday inside the Georgia Dome.
We are just days away from the college football season, so it's time to unveil our first batch of power rankings for the regular season.
A lot goes into our power rankings. It isn't just about how strong teams are right now. We look into our crystal ball as well to get a good read on how each team will finish the season -- before it has even started.
For each school, we look at talent coming back, coaching, roster changes, how teams have looked in practice now compared to the spring and uniform style. Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the point.
Here are our season-opening SEC power rankings for 2012:
1. LSU: The gap between the Tigers and Alabama got a lot smaller after Tyrann Mathieu's dismissal, so this could be viewed as 1A and 1B. Mathieu is a big loss for LSU on defense and special teams, but there is just way too much talent for this team not to make another title run. LSU's offense still has one of the best/deepest running games around and gets an upgrade with quarterback Zach Mettenberger. LSU also might have the best offensive line/defensive line combo in the nation.
2. Alabama: The defending champs lost a lot of star power on defense, but that unit should still be pretty darn good this fall. There could be some growing pains at times, but the Tide should still have one of the league's best defensive units this fall. The offense might be better and more balanced this fall, even without Trent Richardson. There is a good stable of backs, the nation's top offensive line and quarterback AJ McCarron has a little more explosiveness and athleticism to work with at receiver.
3. Arkansas: Bobby Petrino is gone, and that could be tough for the Razorbacks to overcome in the long run, but the team has bought in to what interim coach John L. Smith is saying. We still need to see how this team -- and Smith -- acts when adversity enters the picture. The offense has two of the league's best in quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis, who is back from a serious ankle injury. Wilson lost three NFL receivers, but his receiving corps doesn't lack talent. Questions still surround the defense, which lacked depth last season.
4. Georgia: A load of talent returns on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Aaron Murray could be a Heisman candidate, while linebacker Jarvis Jones might be one the country's best players, regardless of position. Isaiah Crowell is gone, but the Bulldogs seem happy with their stable of running backs and were probably going to run by committee again this season anyway. The defense will take a hit with a couple of key stars suspended to start the year, but this group has elite status. The schedule is set up again for a run to Atlanta.
5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks return a filthy defense headlined by sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The defensive line should be one of the best in the league with Clowney and Devin Taylor on the ends and Kelcy Quarles coming back in the middle. The secondary has issues, especially with Akeem Auguste going down, but safety D.J. Swearinger and hybrid safety/linebacker DeVonte Holloman are studs. Marcus Lattimore is one of the nation's best, and he appears to be 100 percent after his ACL injury. The hope is that quarterback Connor Shaw will help take some pressure off of him.
6. Florida: The Gators return a fierce defense that should be strong across the board. End/tackle Dominique Easley is coming off an ACL injury, but has the ability to be one of the top linemen in this league. But for Will Muschamp, his second-year success will be determined by what the offense can do. Questions are everywhere, starting with a quarterback battle that isn't close to being settled. There are unproven pieces at receiver and the offensive line, which returns most of last year's parts, struggled mightily in 2011.
7. Tennessee: The Vols have a chance to challenge Arkansas for the league's best passing game. Tyler Bray can throw it all around a bit and has two potential stars in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to throw to. However, Da'Rick Rogers is gone, which means the pressure is on Hunter, who is coming off an ACL injury, and Patterson, who is in from the juco ranks. The defense has a lot of experience and talent, but four new coaches are on board, including defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri. Seven new coaches are in Knoxville, and it's no secret that Derek Dooley's seat is very hot there.
8. Mississippi State: There is a lot of confidence in quarterback Tyler Russell, who can finally call this team his. He'll have quite a bit of experienced weapons to throw to, including seniors Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Chris Smith, who have combined to catch 221 passes for 2,782 yards and 22 touchdowns in their careers. The running game should be strong with LaDarius Perkins and Nick Griffin, while the offensive line is just hoping to stay healthy this year. The defense should be solid with a talented front seven and a very gifted secondary, starring potential All-American Johnthan Banks. The schedule is also very favorable in September and October.
9. Missouri: The newbies don't lack confidence, but on paper they lack size up front -- on both sides. The staff and players say it's not a problem, but let's see come mid-October. Quarterback James Franklin appears to be 100 percent after undergoing shoulder surgery and might be the league's best dual-threat QB. He's the key to a spread offense that returns a lot of speed. The defense is experienced and has a strong linebacker group. Ends Brad Madison and Kony Ealy could form a pretty good tandem this fall.
10. Auburn: The Tigers are still a young team and there are two new coordinators in town. Now that Kiehl Frazier has been named the starting quarterback, the offense can start molding around him. He'll have a solid group of running backs to work with, but the line is young and he needs more reliable receiving targets alongside Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen. The defense is loaded up front, headlined by end Corey Lemonier. But the defense as a whole still has a lot of questionable parts for new coordinator Brian VanGorder to work with.
11. Texas A&M: The Aggies have a new coaching staff, have to replace some key starters from last year and will be working with a very green quarterback in redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. The good news for him is that the offensive line is very strong, starting with tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Helping Manziel will be senior receivers Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu and stud running back Christine Michael, who is coming back from an ACL injury. The defense is moving to a 4-3, but is stacked at linebacker. The secondary is dangerously young and thin.
12. Vanderbilt: This team surprised a lot of people last year, but opponents won't be caught off guard by the Commodores in 2012. There is good offensive firepower coming back, with quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy and receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Plus, there is some good, young offensive talent. But the offensive line has depth issues and will have to use a lot of young guys this fall. The defense is also replacing some key components from last year's team.
13. Kentucky: The Wildcats saw their five-year postseason run end after having the SEC's worst statistical offense in 2011. Joker Phillips thinks he has more potential playmakers this fall and is excited about quarterback Maxwell Smith's potential. The offensive line is younger and can't afford an injury to either Matt Smith or Larry Warford. The defense will be strong up front, but is replacing all four linebackers and two starters in the secondary.
14. Ole Miss: New coach Hugh Freeze isn't working with a lot of numbers, as attrition from the past few years is catching up. The offense was one of the league's worst last year, and still has a quarterback battle between Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti going on. The offensive line struggled mightily to grasp Freeze's spread this spring and has to improve quickly. Receivers Donte Moncrief and Ja-Mes Logan have a lot of upside, while the defense should be better, especially in the secondary. Still, depth is an issue overall.
Yes, Mathieu was a big play waiting to happen whenever he was on the field last year, but was he so special that LSU's chances at competing for and winning a national championship should be considerably hindered? I think not. There's just too much talent on both sides of the ball in Baton Rouge.
Mathieu's playmaking ability and knack for creating turnovers will be deeply missed on defense, as will his ability to generate a huge play in the punt return game, but there are enough pieces to fill in and keep the Tigers in the hunt for multiple championships this season.
By that logic, Mathieue doesn't qualify as one of the SEC's most indispensable players. The Tigers might be better with him, but they certainly aren't slouches without him.
So who are the players teams can't survive without? Who are the most indispensable players for each team in the SEC?
Let's take a look:
- AJ McCarron, QB: The Crimson Tide certainly has a wealth of talent on offense, but take McCarron out of the equation and Alabama would be sunk. Last year’s backup, Phillip Sims, transferred to Virginia, and there isn’t any experience behind McCarron. Alabama might have to put its offense in the hands of a freshman if McCarron went down.
- Tyler Wilson, QB: Like Alabama, Arkansas’ offense would suffer without Wilson, who enters the fall as the league’s top quarterback. Wilson not only has elite skill but he’s an exceptional game manager. Backup Brandon Mitchell has game reps under his belt, but he’s still unproven and has spent fall camp working at receiver. Redshirt freshman Brandon Allen could be the future of the position, but is he ready to guide Arkansas through the SEC West?
- Emory Blake, WR: Blake is one of the league’s best receivers and without him, Auburn lacks a true game-changing receiving threat. The Tigers have depth at wide receiver, but no one has made close to the impact Blake has in the Tigers’ offense. Without him, Auburn’s quarterback might have trouble finding a consistent target outside of tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen.
- Mike Gillislee, RB: While he’s had an up-and-down career as a backup thus far, Gillislee has a ton of support from his coaches, who think he’s Florida’s most important offensive player. Florida has two young QBs working this fall and they’ll need all they can get from the running game to help ease the pressure. Gillislee is the best option at running back and without him the Gators would be in trouble.
- Kenarious Gates, OT: Aaron Murray might be the face of the program, but the coaches like the potential backup Hutson Mason has. The offensive line, on the other hand, has little room for error and Gates is Georgia’s most talented and versatile lineman. If he were to go down, the Dawgs would have to reorganize an already fragile line and would lose its linchpin up front, causing the offense to regress.
- Larry Warford, OG: Like Georgia, Kentucky can’t afford to lose anyone up front, especially not Warford. He’s the Wildcats’ best lineman and has the ability to move around if needed. This offense already has its issues and there are too many young, inexperienced bodies up front. Losing a talented vet like Warford could cost Kentucky’s offense a lot.
- Eric Reid, S: The loss of the Honey Badger will sting, but to lose Reid as well means LSU would be without two All-American talents in its secondary. Reid takes the deep ball away and can make plays all over the field. Take him out of the lineup, and the Tigers would have to turn to sophomore Ronald Martin, who filled in when Reid was hurt last year, and redshirt frosh Micah Eugene.
- Gabe Jackson, OG: The Bulldogs’ left guard is the most talented lineman on the team, and if last season proved anything, this line can’t afford to lose a key piece. Injuries rocked this line and Mississippi State’s offense last season. Losing Jackson, who has started 26 games, might be even worse for the Bulldogs and might cause the offense to take another dip in production.
- James Franklin, QB: He enjoyed a breakout season last year and enters his first season in the SEC as the Tigers’ most experienced quarterbacks. He’s probably the SEC’s best dual-threat QB as well. Offensive coordinator David Yost said Franklin is so important to Mizzou’s offensive scheme because he’s such a good runner and passer and understands the offense better than anyone. Losing him would put a dent in the Tigers’ first SEC season.
- Randall Mackey, WR: The former quarterback has quickly become very popular with Ole Miss’ coaches. They think he’s the Rebels’ most versatile offensive player and could be a nightmare for defenses to defend this fall. He’ll lineup all over, and the Rebels just don’t have anyone else who fits in the offense like Mackey.
- Connor Shaw, QB: He’s turning more and more into the quarterback Steve Spurrier wants for his offense. Losing him now would be devastating, especially with the unproven players at wide receiver. The Gamecocks have depth at quarterback, but neither Andrew Clifford nor Dylan Thompson have much game experience at all.
- Tyler Bray, QB: The Vols found out the hard way what life would be like without Bray in the lineup last year. Matt Sims and Justin Worley struggled mightily in relief, as the Vols went 1-4 without Bray. During that span, Tennessee scored more than seven points just once. Worley has grown and has solid weapons to work with, but not having Bray could cost Tennessee yet another bowl appearance.
- Luke Joeckel, OT: He’s one of the league’s top left tackles and is a future first-round draft pick. For a team working with young, inexperienced quarterbacks, losing Joeckel would be devastating. And experience is lacking behind him, as redshirt freshman Nathan Gutekunst is listed the No. 2 left tackle on the depth chart. You might see some rearranging in order to make up for the loss of Joeckel.
- Wesley Johnson, OT: The left tackle is easily Vanderbilt’s top lineman. He can move around if needed and is more than solid at the most important position up front. The Commodores are already struggling with depth along the line, so having to replace Johnson would definitely halt its development and would set Vandy’s offense back in 2012.
Here's the list of all six SEC players on the list:
- Knile Davis, Jr., Arkansas
- Eddie Lacy, Sr., Alabama
- Marcus Lattimore, Jr., South Carolina
- Onterio McCalebb, Sr. Auburn
- Christine Michael, Sr., Texas A&M
- Zac Stacy, Sr., Vanderbilt
For a complete look at the Doak Walker watch list go here.
Alabama's Trent Richardson won the award last year.
The SEC also had 10 players on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top wide receiver.
Here are the 10 SEC players on the Biletnikoff watch list:
- Emory Blake, Sr., Auburn
- Andre Debose, Jr., Florida
- Cobi Hamilton, Sr., Arkansas
- Justin Hunter, Jr., Tennessee
- Tavarres King, Sr., Georgia
- Jordan Matthews, Jr., Vanderbilt
- T.J. Moe, Sr., Missouri
- Uzoma Nwachukwu, Sr., Texas A&M
- Da'Rick Rogers, Jr., Tennessee
- Ryan Swope, Sr., Texas A&M
For the complete Biletnikoff watch list, go here.
Auburn finished ninth in the SEC in passing offense, and opposing defenses dared the Tigers to go down the field most of the season.
“Getting Emory back healthy is one of the best things that can happen for our passing game,” Chizik said.
Indeed, Blake caught eight touchdown passes during Auburn’s 2010 national championship season. He dropped off to five touchdown catches last season and missed three entire games during the middle of the season.
Blake has embraced first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler’s new offensive system and said it won’t be as dependent on one or two players.
“Our passing game will be completely revamped,” Blake said. “With coach Loeffler’s style of offense, it has to be. It’s going to be a lot better than it was last year.
“I believe the system itself allows more people to be more involved, and when you’ve got more people involved, that opens me up.”
Blake, one of the more underrated receivers in the SEC, said he’s not caught up in who wins the quarterback job and thinks the competition will be close this preseason between junior Clint Moseley and sophomore Kiehl Frazier.
“Kiehl has come a long way and Clint has the experience. We’ll see what happens,” Blake said.
It might be a couple of games into the season before Auburn hits its stride -- as an offense and as a team.
“Even the 2010 team didn’t know what we were capable of until we started rolling,” Blake said. “But once we started rolling, we felt like we couldn’t be beat. I still think it takes a couple of games for you to realize what you can do. But the chemistry is there and the leadership is there. We just have to put it all together.”
Let's see what Auburn could do in 2012:
Auburn will play the role of spoiler this fall: That young talent is more mature and experienced.
Gene Chizik seemed pretty excited about the team he had coming back this spring. Yes, star running back Michael Dyer is gone and two new coordinators are in town, but Chizik was very happy with the maturity he saw from his younger players. This is a team that Chizik still considers pretty young all around, but the maturation this group showed this spring wowed the coaches. And a lot of that young talent got some good field experience last year. Defensive end Corey Lemonier is a budding star and was one of the top pass-rushers in the league last fall. Running back Onterio McCalebb is the old reliable one in the backfield, but he'll be assisted by three youngsters in Tre Mason, Mike Blakely and Corey Grant who should make the Tigers' running game pretty solid this fall.
Auburn's defensive line is stacked with talent and the secondary returns three experienced starters. Chizik has stocked up well in the past could of years, meaning Auburn has the talent to compete with the favorites in this league. Winning the West will be quite the uphill battle for Auburn, but if the talent proves its worth, the Tigers could ruin a true contender's season. A major run might be tough, but with the talent Chizik has on his squad, you can't count Auburn out for a chance to pull a big upset this fall.
Why it won't: Lots of questions remain on offense and defense.
Growth and maturation are great, but it has to translate to the field, and until the games are played, we don't know if that will happen. On offense, the Tigers are without their centerpiece from last year in Dyer, who followed former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Arkansas State. Without him last year, what was Auburn's offense? McCalebb is one of the league's best home-run threats, but his work isn't done up the middle. That's where those younger backs will come in handy, but can one put the bulk of the carries on his back? Wide receiver Emory Blake is very talented and is certainly a downfield threat, but he needs help. While there's depth at receiver, it's pretty unproven, starting with Trovon Reed, who was expected to have a much better year than he did in 2011. Seniors Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have years but hardly any valuable experience.
And the quarterback situation is still up in the air. Kiehl Frazier had a good spring and left with the edge, but we still haven't seen him throw comfortably in real games. Clint Moseley was also very inconsistent as a starter last year and missed part of the spring with a sore shoulder. And who knows where Zeke Pike's head will be this fall.
The defense seems to be a little more stable and new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has experience in the SEC, but this unit allowed more than 400 yards of offense each game and ranked 11th or worse in the SEC in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense. The defense has to be considerably better for this team to make a real upset possible.
Who's the next Urban Meyer? The next Chris Petersen? What about another Brady Hoke?
Who's that next great assistant who rises up the ranks and takes over a major program ... and succeeds?
I'm not completely sure, but I have a few ideas. Here are some coaches lurking in the SEC who could be on their way to bigger and better things or are ready to take the next step with their current teams:
- James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Franklin became the only first-year coach in Vandy history to guide the Commodores to a bowl game. He surpassed the program's win totals in each of its previous two seasons and signed arguably the school's best recruiting class in 2012. He brought attitude, confidence and a bit of swagger to the program. He could have left after one year but is really looking to turn things around at Vanderbilt.
- Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: Bulldogs fans probably don't like hearing this, but Mullen is becoming a hot name among the coaching ranks. In his three seasons in Starkville, he has guided Mississippi State to two straight bowl wins. In 2010, he led the Bulldogs to nine wins for the first time since 1999. Mullen says he is happy in Starkville, but if he continues to win, bigger schools won't hesitate to go after him.
- Shawn Elliott, South Carolina offensive line coach/running game coordinator: Steve Spurrier has raved about Elliott's impact on offense and bringing in the zone read package. Elliott has done wonders for South Carolina's offensive line, which was a continual sore spot in Spurrier's early years at the school. Elliott is also a dogged recruiter. Having grown up in Camden, S.C., Elliott is somebody to watch when Spurrier hangs it up. If he doesn't get that job, somebody is going to snap him up.
- Rodney Garner, Georgia defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator: He has been at Georgia for a while and has been wooed several times by other schools. LSU went after him several years ago, and Lane Kiffin was interested in bringing him to Tennessee. In the past 12 years, he has coached plenty of NFL talent, including four first-round draft picks. He has consistently been one of the league's best recruiters as well.
- Todd Grantham, Georgia defensive coordinator/associate head coach: He could start getting more looks for head-coaching gigs. He has vast NFL experience, including being a defensive coordinator at that level, and more schools are looking for coaches with NFL experience. Grantham has proven himself as a recruiter and worked under two of the best in the college ranks -- Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech and Nick Saban at Michigan State. He has made a tremendous difference in turning around Georgia's defense and has an edge about him that successful head coaches possess.
- Chris Kiffin, Ole Miss defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator for defense: He is one of the bright young names among the assistant ranks. As the defensive line coach at Arkansas State, he coached up Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Joiner, who tied for third in the nation in sacks and 10th in tackles for loss. Arkansas State also led the conference and ranked eighth nationally in tackles for loss (7.62 per game) and tied for 15th in sacks (2.69 per game). He is a tremendous recruiter and helped bring in a solid defensive class in a short amount of time this spring.
- Kliff Kingsbury, Texas A&M offensive coordinator: After being a standout quarterback at Texas Tech, he is considered one of the top young assistants in college football. He came over with Kevin Sumlin from Houston, where he helped guide the Cougars' offense to its record-setting year in 2011. Houston led the nation in total offense, passing offense and scoring in 2011 behind quarterback Case Keenum. The Cougars averaged 599.1 total yards per game, including 450.1 through the air, while scoring more than 49 points per game.
- Paul Petrino, Arkansas offensive coordinator: He came over to help run Arkansas' offense with his brother, but after Bobby Petrino was fired this spring, Paul Petrino assumed the role as primary playcaller. In 2010, he guided an Illinois offense that broke school records for total points (423) and points per game (32.54). The Illini averaged 42.1 points and 448.9 total yards over the final seven games of the season. If he can keep Arkansas' offense going this year, his phone might start ringing a little more.
- Bob Shoop, Vanderbilt defensive coordinator/safeties coach: He has been a head coach at Columbia and is innovative on defense, playing the kind of attacking style that attracts great players. He helped orchestrate one of the most impressive defensive turnarounds in the country last year, as Vanderbilt ranked ninth nationally in pass defense efficiency and 18th in total defense. Vandy's defense also ranked among the nation's top units in interceptions, points allowed and rush defense.
- Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator: He is one of the best defensive coordinators around, and it seems like only a matter of time before he is a head coach somewhere. Smart has already passed on a few head-coaching opportunities. He is making $950,000 a year and is in a position to be picky with coaching jobs.
- Trooper Taylor, Auburn wide receivers coach/assistant head coach: He is one of the hottest and most successful recruiters in the SEC. He brought in and trained some elite receivers at Oklahoma State and Tennessee before making his way to Auburn. He is continuing that trend and has turned Emory Blake into one of the SEC's best pass-catchers. He was co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, and if Auburn's receivers make another jump, Taylor could be waving his towel elsewhere soon.
- Frank Wilson, LSU running backs coach/recruiting coordinator: He has emerged as one of the sport's top recruiters. As a running backs coach, he has done a tremendous job with the Tigers. Last season, LSU averaged 202.6 rushing yards per game and tied a school record with 35 rushing touchdowns. Three backs eclipsed the 500-yard rushing mark. Wilson commands tremendous respect from his players.
- David Yost, Missouri offensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator: He has been at Missouri for 11 years, but he has to start getting more attention as an exceptional playcaller. He has a great eye for talent and pointing out mismatches in his spread scheme. In 2011, Mizzou ranked ninth nationally in rushing (244 yards per game) and had one of the most balanced offenses, as Mizzou was one of only two schools in the country to average at least 230 yards rushing and passing in each game.
Here are our top 10 SEC wide receivers:
2. Justin Hunter, Jr., Tennessee: Yes, his teammate was second in the league in receiving, but a healthy Hunter is arguably the league's best deep threat and he's incredibly athletic. He should be 100 percent this fall after tearing his ACL last year, and showed some pretty good flashes of being close to normal this spring. He has averaged 22.1 yards on just 33 career catches.
3. Da'Rick Rogers, Jr., Tennessee: There's no question that Rogers has elite receiving talent, but his off-field behavior has been repeatedly questioned. He was second in the SEC with 1,040 receiving yards and had nine touchdowns, but his production could be cut into by Hunter. Still, when he's focused he's one of the best out there.
4. Ryan Swope, Sr., Texas A&M: Swope was third in the Big 12 in receiving (1,207 yards) last year and could have easily left for the NFL draft. Kevin Sumlin said Swope was his top recruit in his first class and he'll be the centerpiece of the Aggies' passing game. Having a proven vet like Swope will only make A&M's young quarterbacks more comfortable.
5. Emory Blake, Sr., Auburn: He might be one of the more underrated players in the SEC. He isn't the biggest wideout, but he isn't afraid of contact, and he actually likes it. He's a burner as well. He was Auburn's most consistent receiving threat last year, registering 613 yards and 17 yards per catch.
6. Odell Beckham Jr., So., LSU: He challenged Malcolm Mitchell for top rookie receiver last year, hauling in 41 catches and was extremely consistent for the Tigers. He can stretch the field with his speed, but isn't afraid to go over the middle and get physical with opposing defensive backs.
7. Tavarres King, Sr., Georgia: Old Faithful could see his production increase depending on where Mitchell lines up more. King was sixth in the SEC in receiving last year and capped things off with record day against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, where he grabbed six passes for 205 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown.
8. Jordan Matthews, Jr., Vanderbilt: Matthews was expected to have a breakout year in 2011 and he didn't disappoint. He racked up 778 yards and averaged an SEC-best 19 yards per catch along the way. Matthews is a big, physical receiver and can run right by defenders.
9. Malcolm Mitchell, So., Georgia: Mitchell would be much higher, but we just aren't sure how much offense he'll play this fall. He moved to corner this spring to help with depth and should start the season there as well, but coach Mark Richt has said that he would like to play Mitchell 50-50 this season. When he's at receiver, he's Georgia's top offensive weapon.
10. Donte Moncrief, So., Ole Miss: He really was the Rebels' best offensive player last year, catching 31 passes for 454 yards and four touchdowns, and would have started for a few teams in this league. He's very excited about Hugh Freeze's spread offense, and thinks he'll be even more effective with all the space he expects to have in the new scheme.