SEC: Jordan Rodgers

SEC's lunch links

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
12:00
PM ET
The Super Bowl is just days away, but we know you college football fans are just as excited, if not more, about what comes after that. National signing day. Notably, stories relating to both are a part of today's lunchtime links:

SEC lunchtime links

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
12:00
PM ET
Hope everyone is staying safe and warm out in SEC country with all the strong winter storms affecting the region. Stay inside and read up on the interesting nuggets from around the league, of which there are plenty today:
Looking at the NFL draft, it's easy to see how some of the SEC teams had so much success in 2012.

Alabama and LSU led the way for the conference with nine draft picks each and both registered double-digit wins last season. Alabama won 13 games and a national championship last year, while LSU went 10-3.

Georgia, which went 12-2 last year, and 11-2 Florida both had eight draft picks, while 11-2 South Carolina had seven.

But take a gander at Vanderbilt. The Commodores went 9-4 in James Franklin's second year, but did it with just two future NFL draft picks -- running back Zac Stacy (first Vandy running back drafted since 1980) and offensive lineman Ryan Seymour. Vandy had eight draft-eligible players this year.

It's clear Franklin and his staff were able to do a lot -- including making it to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history -- with less than the other big boys around the league.

Three SEC teams with less wins in 2012 had more draft picks than Vandy this year:
  • Arkansas (4-8) -- 4
  • Mississippi State (8-5) -- 3
  • Tennessee (5-7) -- 4

Granted, the Commodores return two top-flight wide receivers in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, and have some solid defensive players coming back in 2013, but they lost some key starters from last season, including quarterback Jordan Rodgers, Stacy and Seymour on offense. They also lost their top corner in Trey Wilson, a solid defensive tackle in Rob Lohr and hard-nosed linebacker Archibald Barnes.

Vandy will likely have more draft picks next year, but you have to commend the coaching job Franklin and his crew have done in their two years. Only two Commodores were drafted in the 2012 draft, too, and this program hasn't had near the success it's having now in a very, very long time.

Players have completely bought into Franklin's philosophy and the coaches are doing a very good job developing players. The offensive line was one of the most improved units in the SEC in 2012, thanks to line coach Herb Hand's teachings, and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has totally turned this defense around. Vandy is one of five SEC schools to finish in the top 20 nationally each of the past two seasons in total defense.

The Commodores have also showcased a pretty explosive offense during the past two seasons and won five conference games in 2012 for the first time since 1935.

It's been a pretty impressive two-year run for Franklin and his Commodores, and they've done it without the same amount of top-grade talent as the bigger guys.

Offseason spotlight: Vanderbilt

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
1:46
PM ET
We’re kicking off our offseason spotlight series today.

As we did a year ago at this time, we’re taking a closer look at those players facing important offseasons and/or springs for all 14 SEC teams.

It could be that a player is recovering from an injury or perhaps coming off a so-so season. In other cases, the player might be filling some big shoes or stepping into a position of need next season.

The common denominator is that all of the players we highlight need to have big offseasons. We’ll follow up our blog posts each day with a video that expands on other players.

Up first is Vanderbilt, which is coming off its best season in nearly 100 years.

Spotlight: Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, 6-1, 220, rising senior

2012 summary: Carta-Samuels served as Jordan Rodgers' backup last season and played in six games. His only start came in the Presbyterian game in the third week, and he played the whole way in that contest. For the season, Carta-Samuels was 14-of-25 for 208 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. It was his first season with the Commodores after sitting out in 2011. Carta-Samuels started his career at Wyoming before transferring to Vanderbilt following the 2010 season.

The skinny: Other than the 58-0 rout of Presbyterian a year ago, Carta-Samuels didn't see a lot of meaningful game action, particularly in SEC contests. So it's been a while since he threw a pass in a game that really mattered. The good news is that he's no stranger to leading a football team. He was the starter at Wyoming his first two seasons, and threw for 3,655 yards and ran for 758 yards, while accounting for 25 touchdowns. He also threw 13 interceptions. Like Rodgers, Carta-Samuels is a good athlete and capable of making things happen with his feet. He might not be quite as quick as Rodgers, but has a big, strong frame and isn't afraid to mix it up. He also has the arm strength to make all of the throws, and a much better feel for the Commodores' offense now that he's been in the program for two years. What Carta-Samuels has to prove to Vanderbilt coach James Franklin is that he can effectively lead this football team. Franklin is not going to ask Carta-Samuels to go out and win games by himself, but the Commodores' third-year coach won't tolerate his quarterback doing things to put his team in a hole. The Vanderbilt coaches love Carta-Samuels' fierce competitiveness, and are eager to see what he can do this spring and how much he's improved. He'll get a stiff challenge for the starting job from promising redshirt freshman Patton Robinette. Carta-Samuels should be plenty motivated. This is his last shot after doing more watching than playing the past two years. His younger brother, Kyle Carta-Samuels, is one of the top junior quarterbacks in the state of California and already committed to the Commodores for the 2014 class. So if things go well, there could be a Carta-Samuels pipeline at quarterback the next few years at Vanderbilt.

Departing starters in the SEC: East

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
4:15
PM ET
We shift our attention to the Eastern Division now and take a look at who’s losing the most starters.

Florida and Georgia are each losing 12 full-time/regular starters, and that counts specialists.

Tennessee is losing the fewest starters in the East with eight, and four of those were underclassmen who left early for the NFL draft.

FLORIDA (12)

Offense: 4
Defense: 7
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Running back Mike Gillislee, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Jelani Jenkins, linebacker Jon Bostic, safety Matt Elam, place-kicker Caleb Sturgis

Of note: The Gators are losing five of their top six tacklers on defense.

GEORGIA (12)

Offense: 2
Defense: 10
Specialists: 0

Key losses: Receiver Tavarres King, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, nose guard John Jenkins, safety Shawn Williams, safety Bacarri Rambo, cornerback Sanders Commings

Of note: The Bulldogs are losing 12 players on defense who started in at least two games this past season.

SOUTH CAROLINA (11)

Offense: 4
Defense: 6
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Running back Marcus Lattimore, receiver Ace Sanders, center T.J. Johnson, linebacker Shaq Wilson, spur DeVonte Holloman, safety D.J. Swearinger

Of note: The Gamecocks are losing their top four tacklers on defense.

KENTUCKY (9)

Offense: 4
Defense: 4
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Receiver La’Rod King, offensive guard Larry Warford, center Matt Smith, defensive end Collins Ukwu, safety Martavius Neloms

Of note: The Wildcats return four of their top five tacklers on defense. On offense, they don’t return anybody who caught more than two touchdown passes this past season.

MISSOURI (9)

Offense: 3
Defense: 5
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Running back Kendial Lawrence, receiver T.J. Moe, offensive tackle Elvis Fisher, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, linebacker Zaviar Gooden, linebacker Will Ebner

Of note: The Tigers lose five of their top eight tacklers on defense. On offense, the only player departing who caught a touchdown pass last season is Moe, and he caught just one.

VANDERBILT (9)

Offense: 4
Defense: 4
Specialists: 1

Key losses: Quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy, offensive tackle Ryan Seymour, defensive tackle Rob Lohr, cornerback Trey Wilson

Of note: The Commodores lose their top passer and top rusher, but return their top two pass-catches, Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, who combined for 13 touchdown receptions. On defense, they return six of their top seven tacklers.

TENNESSEE (8)

Offense: 5
Defense: 3
Specialists: 0

Key losses: Quarterback Tyler Bray, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, receiver Justin Hunter, offensive guard Dallas Thomas, tight end Mychal Rivera, linebacker Herman Lathers

Of note: The Vols are losing their top four receivers, who combined to catch 26 touchdown passes this past season. On defense, they’re returning 12 of their top 14 tacklers.

Season report card: Vanderbilt

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
10:30
AM ET
We finish up our grading of all 14 SEC teams by checking out how the Vanderbilt Commodores did in 2012:

OFFENSE: A year ago, Vanderbilt had one of the most improved offenses, and even with some younger parts to work with, the Commodores still had a very solid offensive attack in 2012. For starters, quarterback Jordan Rodgers made a big leap from his junior season. Rodgers threw for 2,539 yards and 15 touchdown to just five interceptions. He was more efficient and more settled in the pocket in 2012, which was a major boost for the Commodores' offense last fall. Vandy wasn't a juggernaut on offense, but it was effective enough to help produce a nine-win season that included seven straight wins to end the season. Vandy finished the year eighth in the SEC in total offense (379.7 yards per game) and was seventh in scoring (30). Helping Rodgers in 2012 were dynamic receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Matthews led the SEC with 94 catches and registered 1,323 yards with eight touchdowns. Boyd caught 50 passes for 774 yards and five scores. Running back Zac Stacy produced his second straight 1,000-yard season (1,141) and scored 10 touchdowns. Again, the Commodores weren't flashy when they had the ball and registered middle-of-the-road numbers in SEC play, including averaging just 22.1 points per game against conference foes. Grade: B

DEFENSE: Year 2 under defensive coordinator Bob Shoop was another success for the Commodores. Even though some key components -- and leaders -- were missing from last year's team, the Commodores' defense was one of the more underrated units in the league last fall. Vandy finished the season ranked fifth in the SEC in total defense (333.9) and had one of the top pass defenses, ranking 14th nationally, allowing 191.8 yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt. The Commodores also grabbed 11 interceptions, while allowing seven passing touchdowns. Defensive backs Kenny Ladler and Andre Hal made real names for themselves in 2012. Ladler led the team with 90 tackles (60 solo) and Hal recorded two interceptions and was second in the SEC with 16 passes defended. Vandy did have its issues against the run in SEC play. The Commodores allowed 173.9 yards per game in SEC play and 12 touchdowns. In losses to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, they allowed an average of 277.7 yards and surrendered 10 touchdowns. In their five other SEC games, they gave up just two rushing touchdowns. Grade: B

OVERALL: James Franklin seems to really know what he's doing in Nashville. Year 1 was nice, but his second year was much better. Even after an 0-2 start, the Commodores rolled through the second half of the season. The close loss to South Carolina didn't hurt, but blowing a lead and losing by 10 on the road to Northwestern was a bad loss. The Commodores were then blown out by Georgia and lost to Florida to start 2-4, but those were the final low moments for the Commodores. They ripped off seven straight wins to finish the year and won nine games for the first time since 1915. They also won five conference games for the first time since 1935, routed rival Tennessee and soundly beat NC State in their bowl game to finish the year at No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll. Grade: A-

Past grades:

 
Heading into the 2012 season, a lot of attention was paid to the quarterback position. Some proven studs were returning and a few that lacked in experience made up for it in hype.

So, before the year got underway, we took at look at nine players we thought had a chance to hit the 3,000-yard passing mark. Chris predicted that at least four would actually hit it, and he was right. The SEC produced just four 3,000-yards passers, which was two more than 2011.

Here's a look back at what our original nine did in 2012:

1. Tyler Bray, Tennessee: He was finally healthy for an entire season and cleared the 3,000-yard mark by a wide margin. Bray finished his year third in the SEC with 3,612 yards and was second in the league with 34 touchdowns. He averaged 301 yards per game and 8 yards per attempt.

2. James Franklin, Missouri: Injuries ruined Franklin's first year in the SEC. Thanks to two separate shoulder injuries, a concussion and a knee injury, Franklin played in just nine games and threw for 1,562 yards and only 10 touchdowns. He averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt in 2012.

3. AJ McCarron, Alabama: McCarron might have ended the year as a national champion (again) and the country's most efficient passer, but he just missed out on getting 3,000 yards. McCarron threw for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Really, not bad at all.

4. Zach Mettenberger, LSU: His hype certainly made it seem like he would have no problem reaching 3,000 yards, but we forgot that he actually had to play games first. Mettenberger didn't get going until late in the year, but that has to be encouraging for 2013. Mettenberger finished with 2,609 yards and 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions.

5. Aaron Murray, Georgia: Once again, Murray didn't disappoint on the stats sheet. Murray became the first SEC quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in three straight seasons when he threw for a league-high 3,893 yards and 36 touchdowns. He averaged 278.1 yards per game.

6. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt: Rodgers made a lot of improvement from 2011 to 2012. He was a much more patient player and passed for 2,539 yards, which surpassed his 2011 total by more than 1,000 yards. He also had 15 touchdowns to just five interceptions.

7. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State: He quietly had a very productive year through the first seven games of the season, but the teeth of the schedule hurt his production during the last month of play. Still, he had a good year overall, passing for 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns (single-season school record) to 10 interceptions.

8. Connor Shaw, South Carolina: If not for all of those injuries (shoulder and foot) Shaw would have had a much more productive season. He just couldn't stay healthy in 2012 and finished the year with 1,956 yards, but had 17 touchdowns. Not bad for a walking Band-Aid.

9. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas: Even with his head injury and the absence of Bobby Petrino, Wilson still managed 3,387 yards and 21 touchdowns. It was a very up-and-down year for Wilson, who threw 13 interceptions, but he still managed 308 passing yards per game.

Who was overlooked:
  • Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: I mean, come on. No one saw this coming! He wasn't even supposed to be the starter until fall practice got underway. But the redshirt freshman shocked everyone with his record-setting, Heisman-winning year. Johnny Football passed for 3,706 yards, which was good enough for second in the SEC. He also threw 26 touchdown passes.

Franklin building Vandy's program to last

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
5:15
PM ET
James Franklin AP Photo/Mark HumphreyJames Franklin led the Commodores to their first nine-win season in nearly a century.
Merely reciting a long list of firsts doesn’t do justice to what Vanderbilt’s football program has accomplished under second-year coach James Franklin.

Sure, it helps when you process that Vanderbilt -- thanks to its 38-24 beatdown of North Carolina State on Monday in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl -- is basking in its first nine-win season since 1915.

To put into perspective how long ago that’s been, the Titanic sank to her watery grave only three years earlier in the North Atlantic.

The Commodores (9-4) also ended the season with a seven-game winning streak, the longest in the SEC and their longest since closing the 1948 season with eight straight wins.

We could sit here all day and talk history.

But Franklin’s crowning achievement is that he’s made Vanderbilt relevant in the big, bad SEC, and don’t think for a minute that his work is done.

If he thought it was, he would have undoubtedly jumped on one of the numerous overtures that came his way to go elsewhere this year. Refreshingly, in an age when college coaches change jobs about as often as most of us change socks, Franklin was more interested in finding a way to enhance the job that he already has.

That’s why his new contract, which will pay him more than $3 million per year, has language in it that requires Vanderbilt to continue to upgrade its stadium, its football complex and other facilities and player amenities that are crucial if the Commodores are going to recruit at a level that will make them a consistent winner in the SEC.

Franklin has already made some serious waves on the recruiting trail. He’s bringing in four-star prospects, which was once a fantasy at Vanderbilt.

The other thing he’s done is embrace Vanderbilt’s stringent academic standards. He’s selling them rather than trying to work around them.

Franklin has also been masterful at assembling his staff, a group of coaches who’ve done as good a job the past two years as any staff in the league.

The Commodores still have a ways to go in terms of stockpiling the caliber and number of offensive and defensive linemen that it takes to be a contender in the SEC.

Nonetheless, turn on the tape and watch the way their guys play up front -- their technique, their smarts and their toughness.

That’s a credit to the coaches on Vanderbilt’s staff and their ability to develop players and get them in the right spots.

The Commodores will miss the seniors on this team. Guys like Zac Stacy, Jordan Rodgers, Trey Wilson, Ryan Seymour, Rob Lohr and Archibald Barnes were a huge part of Vanderbilt’s climb the past two years.

But so were Chris Marve, Casey Hayward and Tim Fugger the year before, and Vanderbilt still managed to take it to another level this season.

That’s because Franklin is building this thing to last, and he plans on sticking around long enough to see a few more firsts.

Lunchtime links

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
12:05
PM ET
Snow in Iowa, then snow in the South? It must be my birthday! Oh, yeah, it was ...

Best/worst in 2012: Ole Miss

December, 17, 2012
12/17/12
10:00
AM ET
Our look at the best and worst moments of the year for all 14 SEC teams continues with the Ole Miss Rebels:

BEST

When Ole Miss beat Auburn on Oct. 13, the Rebels snapped a 14-game SEC losing streak. It was one of the best moments in more than two years for Ole Miss, but the best of the best came at the end of the season, when the Rebels blew archrival Mississippi State out of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with a 41-24 win. It was Ole Miss' first win over the Bulldogs since 2008 and it officially made the Rebels bowl eligible for the first time since 2009. Any sort of win against Mississippi State to bring the Golden Egg back to Oxford would have sufficed, but to dominate the game was even better for a team that had fallen on very hard times in the past two years. Headlined by a monster game by sophomore Donte Moncrief, the Rebels rolled up 527 yards of offense and outscored the Bulldogs 34-10 after trailing 14-7 after the first quarter. Moncrief caught seven passes for a career-high 173 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 294 yards and five touchdowns. It was easily the biggest win of the year for the Rebels and first-year coach Hugh Freeze.

WORST

The second half wasn't so kind to the Rebels during a few games this season. First, there was the three-point loss to Texas A&M at home after leading the Aggies by 10 in the fourth. Then, Ole Miss blew a 23-6 third-quarter lead to lose to Vanderbilt 27-26 in Oxford. The loss to the Aggies hurt, but wasting that 17-point lead to the Commodores was heartbreaking for the Rebels. If Ole Miss had won that game, the Rebels would have been bowl eligible weeks before taking on Mississippi State. Instead, Freeze painfully watched as his defense slipped away in the final two quarters. It started with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews early in the third. The Commodores then cut Ole Miss' lead to just three points with an 11-play, 51-yard touchdown drive. Vandy put the game away with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Chris Boyd with a little less than three minutes remaining. The loss put the Rebels' bowl hopes in real question with LSU and Mississippi State remaining on the schedule.

Prior Best/Worst:

Vandy rolls to sixth straight win

November, 24, 2012
11/24/12
7:00
PM ET
Vanderbilt 55 Wake Forest 21: Remember back to Oct. 13, when Florida had just dropped Vanderbilt to 2-4 and bowl eligibility seemed like a fantasy?

Neither do the Commodores. Don't look now, but since they were left for dead in mid-October, the 'Dores have reeled off six straight wins and have just finished the regular season at 8-4 -- their best regular season record since 1982.

The latest victim on Vanderbilt's roll through November was an overmatched Wake Forest squad hoping to reach bowl eligibility in its own right. The Commodores cruised to a 28-7 halftime lead behind a 14-of-17, 211-yard first half performance from quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who threw two touchdowns on the day. When Rodgers wasn't winging it around, senior tailback Zac Stacy put in a workmanlike 89 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. That would have been a solid outing on its own, but Stacy put an exclamation point on his career with a 90-yard fourth quarter touchdown scamper to give him 180 yards and two scores on the day.

The Demon Deacons entered the game determined to move the ball on the ground, but they found no such luck. Wake Forest rushed 44 times for a mere 128 yards

The final nail went into Wake Forest's coffin just one minute into the third quarter, when Vanderbilt blocked a punt on the first series of the half and recovered it for a Commodore touchdown. The win was a cap to what has been a stunning run through the final six weeks of the regular season. The 'Dores have blown through November in every kind of fashion -- whether it was a close stand to hold off Auburn in October, a furious comeback to stun Ole Miss two weeks ago or any number of blowouts against the likes of Massachusetts, Kentucky or Tennessee.

SEC: Who will transform tomorrow?

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
9:00
AM ET
Last season, Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers was buried in inconsistency most of the time. This time around, he's been steady, but not too exciting.

That will change Saturday when Tennessee limps into Nashville with the SEC's last-place defense.

Rodgers, who is averaging 217.4 passing yards per game and has thrown nine touchdowns to three interceptions this season, will look more like his older brother, Aaron, against the Vols' struggling defense.

Rodgers hasn't been asked to do a lot this season, but the Commodores (6-4, 4-3) have a chance to get closer to eight regular-season wins and bounce the Vols from a shot at postseason play, and he can really hurt Tennessee's defense with his arm and his legs. Remember, he's quite the athlete, so he'll be able to extend some plays when the Vols bring pressure.

Tennessee (4-6, 0-6) is last in the SEC in total defense (480.2 yards per game) and scoring defense (37), and is 13th in rushing defense (190.5) and passing defense (289.7). Rodgers will take full advantage of that with his excellent receiving targets in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, who have combined to catch 110 passes for 1,689 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

With running back Zac Stacy banged up, more will be put on Rodgers' plate this weekend, and he won't shy away from the added responsibility. He's grown so much this season that he won't be fazed at all. Tennessee's defense also will allow him the time and space to get very comfortable inside Vanderbilt Stadium.

If he wants to, Rodgers can rely on his arm all day, but there are plays to be made with his feet, and he'll do it Saturday. He has only rushed for 62 net yards this season, but if he needs to scamper off to make plays this weekend, he will. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel and Missouri's James Franklin rushed for 81 and 43 yards, respectively, against Tennessee's defense this year.

Rodgers will come out of his shell Saturday in a game that means so much to both sides. The Vols are a loss away from not making it to a bowl game in back-to-back seasons, while the Commodores are looking for eight regular-season wins (they play Wake Forest Nov. 24). They'd also love nothing more than to spoil the Vols' postseason chances.

With a lot of help from Rodgers, the Commodores will do just that, and maybe coach James Franklin will carry him off the field instead of Mr. Commodore.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 11

November, 11, 2012
11/11/12
9:00
AM ET
Now that Week 11 in the SEC is over with, it's time to take a look back the top performers from the weekend:

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: After a very subpar start to his SEC career, Franklin kept the Tigers' bowl hopes alive with his best performance of the year. He finished Mizzou's 51-48 four-overtime victory over Tennessee with 226 passing yards and four touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns came in overtime -- all of the Tigers' TDs in the extra sessions. He also tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dorial Green-Beckham with 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter to send the game into OT.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: When the Commodores needed big plays in their 27-26 comeback win over Ole Miss, Matthews was there. He was quarterback Jordan Rodgers' favorite target Saturday night, as he caught a game-high nine passes for 153 yards and a touchdown. His 52-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter gave the Commodores some nice offensive momentum and helped fuel the 21-3 run that stole victory away from the bowl-hungry Rebels. The Commodores are now bowl-eligible for the second consecutive year.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU: We all wondered what Mettenberger would look like after such a good outing against Alabama. He didn't seem to miss a beat in the Tigers' 37-17 win over Mississippi State. He completed 19 of his 30 pass attempts for 273 yards and a two touchdowns. He came up with some big passes Saturday night, getting 12 of LSU's 22 first downs through the air and avearging 9.1 yards per pass. And for the second straight game, he didn't turn the ball over

D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina: He was all over the place for the Gamecocks on Saturday. Swearinger finished South Carolina's 38-20 win over Arkansas with a game-high 13 tackles (10 solo), including one for loss. He also got on the scoreboard by returning an interception 69 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to give the Gamecocks a 31-10 lead.

Texas A&M's defense: All season, the Aggies' offense has received most of the attention. But it was Texas A&M's defense that really stepped up Saturday. Johnny Manziel and his high-flying offensive friends did their job inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, but without some clutch plays from the defense, the Aggies probably don't leave Tuscaloosa, Ala., with the 29-24 upset of the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Texas A&M's defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions after quarterback AJ McCarron entered the weekend with none on the season. The defense contained the running game in the second half, put a healthy amount of pressure on McCarron and came up with the play of the night when cornerback Deshazor Everett picked off McCarron at the goal line with 1 minute, 36 remaining in the fourth.

Commodores bowl-eligible again

November, 10, 2012
11/10/12
11:54
PM ET
The Commodores are going bowling. Again.

For the second straight season, Vanderbilt became bowl-eligible after coming from behind to secure a 27-26 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Vanderbilt (6-4, 3-3 SEC) is bowl eligible in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

It required a comeback from a double-digit deficit, as Vanderbilt trailed Ole Miss 23-6 at the 11:46 mark of the third quarter. But Jordan Rodgers hit Jordan Matthews for a 52-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 10, then Wesley Tate capped an 11-play, 52-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to pull to within three, 23-20 at the 2:33 mark in the third.

Trailing by six in the final stages, Rodgers engineered a nine-play, 79-yard drive that resulted in a 26-yard touchdown pass to Chris Boyd down the left sideline for the game-winning score with 52 seconds.

Rodgers was 20-of-35 passing for 267 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Matthews caught nine passes for 153 yards. The Commodores were able to pull out the win despite not having their all-time leading rusher, Zac Stacy, who was injured on his second carry of the game and didn't return.

In the loss, Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace was impressive, completing 31-of-49 passes for 403 yards and a touchdown and receiver Ja-Mes Logan caught eight of those passes for 160 yards.

The Rebels (5-5, 2-4) still need another win to become bowl eligible. They have two ranked foes to face in the next two weeks and will have to beat one of them to get their sixth win -- next week they go to LSU before returning home to host Mississippi State.
Vanderbilt is now one win away from becoming bowl eligible for back-to-back season for the first time in school history, as the Commodores completely dismantled Kentucky 40-0 in front of a very sparse crowd in Lexington, Ky.

Vandy (5-4, 3-3 SEC), which has now won three straight games, wasted no time punching the Wildcats in the mouth with an offensive explosion in the first half. Kentucky (1-9, 0-7) talked all week about being a more physical team on Saturday, but had absolutely no answer for a Commodores offense that scored 27 first-half points and racked up 269 yards of offense before heading into halftime.

Vanderbilt's 27-0 lead at the half is its largest over an SEC opponent since 1969 when the Commodores led Kentucky 35-0.

The Commodores were extremely balanced, churning out 227 rushing yards, with three running backs registering 11 carries or more, and quarterback Jordan Rodgers threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Receivers Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews combined to catch 11 passes for 156 yards and two scores. Zac Stacy, Brian Kimbrow and Wesley Tate each scored a rushing touchdown against a battered Kentucky defense.

For Vandy coach James Franklin, he's showing more and more just how far this Vanderbilt program has come under his watch. This team has risen out of the SEC's cellar to deliver some quality football during Franklin's two-year tenure. The offense had been looking to rediscover the spark it had for most of the season and appears to have found it during its three-game winning streak.

One more win will take this program to new heights.

While everyone is all smiles in Nashville, things are just getting worse and worse for Joker Phillips and Kentucky. The Wildcats have been ravaged by injuries and have had to play a handful of youngsters, but those youngsters just aren't getting it done on the field. They might be getting valuable experience, but a loss like this just shows how behind Kentucky is in this league.

All those empty seats inside Commonwealth Stadium say it all.

Phillips' coaching seat has been hot all year, and now there's little he can do to cool things in Lexington. This team made five straight bowls before last season, and now the Wildcats will be missing out on the postseason for the second straight year. It certainly hasn't helped that the Commodores are just getting better and better, and the Wildcats are looking up at them.

You have to expect changes at Kentucky, but how significant those changes will be is still unknown.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

SEC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12