SEC: Mackenzi Adams

Adams to step in for Vanderbilt

November, 2, 2009
11/02/09
10:07
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson hadn't wavered this season in his support of sophomore Larry Smith as the Commodores' starting quarterback.

But it looks like the Commodores will have to go another direction the rest of the way out of necessity.

Smith suffered what Johnson said may be a tear of his left hamstring last week against Georgia Tech, meaning senior Mackenzi Adams will step in for Vanderbilt the rest of the season. Adams hasn't started since the Florida game last season, and that just happens to be who the Gators get this Saturday in Gainesville.

The Commodores had their best offensive showing of the season against a quality opponent last weekend, although they were outscored 28-0 to end the game.

Freshman Warren Norman also made history. He returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, his third of the season. He and former Tennessee star Willie Gault are the only players in SEC history to return three kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season.

Only two SEC players in history have finished their careers with four kickoff returns for touchdowns -- Arkansas' Felix Jones and Gault.

Lunchtime links: No time to wallow for Hogs

September, 21, 2009
9/21/09
12:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


A check of what's making headlines around the SEC:

Smith, Vanderbilt offense need to step up

September, 1, 2009
9/01/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


Now that Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson has settled on sophomore Larry Smith as his starting quarterback for Saturday's opener against Western Carolina, there's still the bigger-picture question regarding the Commodores on offense.

 
 Don McPeak/US PRESSWIRE
 Larry Smith will be the starting quarterback for Saturday's opener against Western Carolina.


Will they be able to take some of the pressure off the defense this season?

For Vanderbilt to win seven games last season and finish 117th out of 119 FBS teams in total offense is one of those things that just doesn't happen in college football. The Commodores ranked 105th nationally in scoring offense and 112th in passing offense.

Granted, they kept their turnovers down for much of the season. But to get back to a bowl game this season, they have to be more effective and more diverse on offense, which is a big reason Johnson is going with Smith.

"Larry gives us the whole package," Johnson said. "He's got a big-time arm, no doubt about it, and gives us a chance to go down the field. But he's a big guy and can still run."

The Commodores are going to a no-huddle attack, which is similar to what the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Smith ran in high school. Johnson said he won't hesitate to go with senior Mackenzi Adams if things bog down offensively. Adams is also mobile and has been effective each of the last two seasons coming off the bench.

"You've got to have both of those guys ready, and it doesn't mean we'll finish the season with Larry," Johnson said. "He's got to produce and do what we ask him to do. This is just the first game and no different than any other position on the field."

Speaking of the other positions, it's still very much a wait-and-see proposition for the Commodores on offense, even for Johnson.

"We don't know anything right now," Johnson said. "We've got to play and find out and see how good we are and see how some of these younger guys are going to do."

There's growing concern about senior running back Jared Hawkins' surgically repaired foot, which has plagued him most of the preseason. When he's been out there, he's looked good. But it's just been hit and miss.

"When Jared Hawkins is well, we feel like he's as good as anybody in the conference," Johnson said. "But he'll practice well one day and then it gets sore, and we'll have to rest it. We just haven't had had him like we've wanted to."

Johnson said freshman running backs Zac Stacy, Wesley Tate and Warren Norman have all been impressive during preseason camp.

There are a lot of unknowns at receiver, too. The Commodores need big seasons from senior Alex Washington and sophomore Udom Umoh. There's just not a proven go-to guy on the team right now. If redshirt freshman John Cole can stay healthy, he has the speed and the hands to be a difference-maker at receiver.

Even with all five starters back on the offensive line, Johnson has been pleased with some of the competition up front. Most notably, sophomore James Williams has won the starting right tackle job after barely playing a year ago.

Smith to lead Vanderbilt offense

August, 31, 2009
8/31/09
4:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson isn't necessarily a proponent of playing two quarterbacks.

But when he has two (or three) that he thinks are pretty close, he's going to let the situation sort itself out.

That's what he did this preseason with sophomore Larry Smith and senior Mackenzi Adams. From the outset, the Commodores' coaches felt like Smith and his big right arm probably gave them the best chance to effectively throw the ball, but they were also going to make him win the job on the practice field.

There's more to playing quarterback in this league than just throwing the ball, too.

Smith has worked with the first-team offense most of August, so it's not a big surprise that Johnson named him the starter for this Saturday's opener against Western Carolina.

Smith has the ability to make plays down the field and keep defenses honest. He's also a nice fit for the hurry-up, no-huddle offense the Commodores are employing. It's very similar to the offense he ran in high school in Prattville, Ala., when he never lost a regular-season game as a starter and passed for 6,011 yards and 54 touchdowns during his career.

While Smith is clearly the guy, Johnson has made it clear that he won't be hesitant to call on Adams if needed. The Commodores have done so in each of the past two seasons. He came off the bench last season to engineer one of their biggest wins, a 14-13 victory over then-No. 13 Auburn.

There's no plan to play two quarterbacks this season. But, then, there was no plan to play three last season. Once Chris Nickson injured his shoulder, he wasn't as effective, and the Commodores turned to Adams and then Smith late in the season.

Johnson isn't one of those coaches who frets over how a guy might react if he's not named the starter. He's comforted by the fact that he has two quarterbacks who've won for him.

And if the situation calls for it, he'll use them both again this season.

Commodores not sitting pat

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Not content. Hardly satisfied. Looking to take that next step.

Spend any time around Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson or any of his players, and you'll almost certainly hear one of the above phrases.

Maybe all of them.

The Commodores, coming off their first bowl victory in 53 years, open preseason practice on Friday night with high hopes and the kind of momentum this program hasn't seen since Johnson was a defensive backs coach at Furman.

The year was 1982, and Vanderbilt was coming off an eight-win season. But the Commodores went 26 years before they had another winning season.

Nobody in black and gold plans on waiting around that long again.

During the SEC media days last month, Johnson said he thinks the "sky's the limit" for the Vanderbilt football program. And that's not just coach-speak, either. He means it.

The Commodores are starting to beat some of their SEC brethren for players. They're closing the talent gap with the rest of the league, and they've been able to build some depth under Johnson.

They're also not afraid to try things.

Their defense last season was perhaps the most aggressive in the league. They blitzed from everywhere and were continually mixing things up.

They also plan to try something new on offense this season -- a hurry-up, no-huddle attack. The Commodores used it most of the spring and liked what they saw.

It's a good fit for sophomore quarterback Larry Smith, who still has to win the starting job. His ability to throw the ball probably gives him an edge over senior Mackenzi Adams, but Johnson insists it will be an open competition. Junior Jared Funk also got a lot of reps in the spring.

The Commodores played three quarterbacks last season, but Johnson said that was more out of necessity because of injuries.

"We're not going to decide anything that early," Johnson said. "I think it would be crazy to tell a guy he couldn't have a chance to compete for a starting position when you start practice. So we're gonna go out there, let them work at it and try to make them better. If I know our guys, they'll try to get better."

The Vanderbilt quarterbacks won't know if they'll have talented transfer Terence Jeffers-Harris to throw to this season until probably the first part of next week. Jeffers-Harris has been working toward getting eligible and finishes up his summer school exams this weekend.

To be eligible in the fall, a player has to meet the NCAA's progress-toward-degree requirements, and Jeffers-Harris was hurt by some of his credit hours not transferring from Connecticut.

Also, senior linebacker Brandon Bryant will not practice. He's been trying to battle back from injuries for much of the last two years and may have to finish out his career as a medical redshirt.

Lunchtime links: Another QB battle for Adams

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

A look at what's shaking around the SEC:

  • Vanderbilt's Mackenzi Adams is accustomed to being in the middle of a quarterback battle. He finds himself in one again entering the start of preseason camp.
  • Ole Miss defensive back signee Darius "Tig" Barksdale was arrested early Thursday morning on a DUI charge, David Brandt of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports. Barksdale is still waiting to be cleared academically.

Hope and concern: Vanderbilt

July, 2, 2009
7/02/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Biggest reason for hope: Experience, coaching and belief

Take a look at the depth chart, and you'll see that the Commodores have experience in key spots. On defense, Patrick Benoist, Myron Lewis, Chris Marve, Greg Billinger, Broderick Stewart and Ryan Hamilton have all played a lot of football, while everybody is back on the offensive line along with a healthy Jared Hawkins at tailback. It also goes without saying that Bobby Johnson has proven he can coach them up pretty well. Does any other staff in the SEC get as much out of their talent as the Commodores? There's also a belief on this team now that it can compete in the SEC, and much of that goes back to Johnson and the way he's elevated the program and elevated the talent level. Remember, Vanderbilt won four games in the SEC last season, and only Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Ole Miss won more.

Biggest reason for concern: Not enough punch on offense

There's still the matter of sorting out who's going to be the quarterback, and the reality is that Larry Smith and Mackenzi Adams are both going to play. There wasn't enough separation in the spring to name a starter. A bigger question is: Who are they going to throw to? Justin Wheeler blew out his knee during spring practice, and talented transfer Terence Jeffers is still working to be eligible this fall. On paper anyway, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of big-play capability on this offense, and having to drive the field all the time for touchdowns is risky business against SEC defenses. The Commodores should be a little better at running the ball this season and controlling the clock, but they're going to have to find a way to score more points if they want to get back to a bowl game.

Vanderbilt spring wrap-up

May, 5, 2009
5/05/09
9:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt Commodores
2008 overall record: 7-6

2008 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 8; Defense: 9; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Mackenzi Adams, QB Larry Smith, RB Jared Hawkins, C Bradley Vierling, DE Broderick Stewart, LB Patrick Benoist, LB Chris Marve, CB Myron Lewis, S Ryan Hamilton

Key losses

QB Chris Nickson, WR George Smith, WR Sean Walker, CB D.J. Moore, S Reshard Langford

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jared Hawkins* (593 yards)
Passing: Mackenzi Adams* (882 yards)
Receiving: Sean Walker (520 yards)
Tackles: Patrick Benoist* (109)
Sacks: Broderick Stewart* and Myron Lewis* (5)
Interceptions: D.J. Moore (6)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Western Carolina
Sept. 12 at LSU
Sept. 19 Mississippi State
Sept. 26 at Rice
Oct. 3 Ole Miss
Oct. 10 at Army
Oct. 17 Georgia
Oct. 24 at South Carolina
Oct. 31 Georgia Tech
Nov. 7 at Florida
Nov. 14 Kentucky
Nov. 21 at Tennessee
Spring answers

No contentment: As historic as last season was for the Commodores, nobody on West End is satisfied. In fact, senior center and team captain Bradley Vierling said this spring that Vanderbilt underachieved last year in his mind. Obviously, winning seven games (including a bowl game) was just a start for this bunch.

Attacking defense: Don't look for Vanderbilt to change its style on defense. The Commodores were one of only two teams in the SEC last season (Florida was the other) to have 30 sacks and 20 interceptions. Speed is the name of their game on defense, and Vanderbilt will continue to pressure every chance it gets.

Jeffers makes splash: Having led Connecticut in receiving two years ago, Terence Jeffers was exactly what Vanderbilt needed at wideout. Packing 225 pounds, he has the strength to break tackles and turn short passes into big gains and also has the speed to get deep. He was the Commodores' most consistent playmaker this spring.

Fall questions

Smith or Adams? For the second year in a row, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson wasn't ready to make a call on his starting quarterback situation coming out of the spring. Sophomore Larry Smith and senior Mackenzi Adams will continue their duel in the preseason. Smith is probably the better pure passer, but Adams led the Commodores to some key wins last season.

Passing game: Regardless of who wins the quarterback job, the Commodores have to find a way to generate more of a passing game than they did a year ago. Much of that falls on the shoulders of the receivers. Alex Washington had a nice spring, but Justin Wheeler tore his ACL and will miss the 2009 season. The biggest key is making sure Jeffers passes enough credit hours to be eligible.

New faces in secondary: D.J. Moore made so many plays for the Commodores the last few years, and Reshard Langford's leadership at safety was equally invaluable. Sophomores Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson are next in line to step in for those two and got plenty of work this spring. Jamie Graham is also making the move from receiver to defensive back.

Vanderbilt speeds it up with no-huddle attack

April, 1, 2009
4/01/09
7:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Watching the Vanderbilt offense next season will require a little bit more stamina.

There won't be much wasted time between plays, because the Commodores are going to a no-huddle attack and have been in that mode all spring.

"The tempo's going to be a lot different," senior center Bradley Vierling said. "But it's going to be different for the defense, too."

The question that won't be answered this spring is who the Commodores' starting quarterback will be. Sophomore Larry Smith, fifth-year senior Mackenzi Adams and junior Jared Funk have slugged it out during practice, and Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said there simply hasn't been enough separation to name a starter.

He's in no rush, either.

"We've had 13 practices. You don't get a chance to separate yourself from the others in that amount of time," Johnson said. "We'll have almost twice that many (practices) before we play our first game. We've got a lot of stuff to do and learn and see if they can execute it and who knows it the best.

"So we've got plenty of time to see who's going to be the best guy to start."

Johnson said his biggest concern with the passing game right now is finding enough receivers, especially with the Commodores going to the no-huddle.

Senior Justin Wheeler tore his ACL earlier this spring and isn't likely to be back next season. But one of the bright spots this spring has been another senior who's coming off a knee injury of his own.

Alex Washington, who tore up his knee last spring, is back to 100 percent and looking even faster than he did before his injury. He joined the team five games into last season, but never had full confidence in his knee.

"With us going to the no-huddle, there's going to have to be a lot of receivers ready to play," said Washington, who caught a 75-yard touchdown pass in last Saturday's Black & Gold Scrimmage. "It's not going to be like the Vanderbilt offense of old where we're playing just three receivers a game. There's going to be constant rotation as we keep the ball moving.

"We're still getting our hands around the (no-huddle). There's a lot of motions and stuff, and getting the signs and signals from the sideline is the hardest thing about it. But I like the fact that we're always on the move. That just puts more pressure on the defense."

Checking in on the Vanderbilt Commodores

April, 1, 2009
4/01/09
11:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

I'm off to Nashville to catch up with Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson and several of the players.

The Commodores are wrapping up their spring this week with some final practices after holding the Black & Gold Scrimmage last Saturday.

The quarterback race remains a battle between Larry Smith and Mackenzi Adams. At this point, it sounds like that race will probably go into preseason practice in August.

I'll be traveling for the next few hours and will check in later this afternoon from Nashville with some updates from the Vanderbilt camp.

The Commodores held their 2008 banquet last Sunday, and the team was presented with rings commemorating their 16-14 victory over Boston College in the Music City Bowl -- the school's first bowl victory since 1955.

Departing seniors Reshard Langford and George Smith received standing ovations after picking up awards. Langford received the Vanderbilt Hustle Award, and Smith, who came back from a life-threatening illness, was presented with the coaches' Dedication Award.

Hayward stepping up for Commodores

March, 23, 2009
3/23/09
9:51
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt moved a step closer to finding a replacement for D.J. Moore at one of the cornerback spots in Saturday's scrimmage.

Sophomore Casey Hayward intercepted a Larry Smith pass in the end zone and raced 100 yards the other way for a touchdown. This was a big spring for Hayward, who played in nickel situations last season as a true freshman.

But the Vanderbilt coaches wanted to see how he handled being an every-down cornerback, and so far, he's been up to the challenge. He's not only made big plays this spring, but he's also been consistent.

Junior quarterback Jared Funk threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Udom Umoh, who appeared to catch a second 68-yard touchdown pass from Mackenzi Adams earlier in the scrimmage, but it was nullified by a penalty.

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson alternated his three quarterbacks (Smith, Adams and Funk) with the first unit. Adams directed the second scoring drive for the offense on the final possession of the scrimmage. He hit Minnesota transfer Tray Herndon twice during the drive. One of Herndon's catches was a fingertip grab.

Tailback Ryan van Rensburg capped things with a 3-yard touchdown run.

"I was very pleased with the scrimmage, and I thought we were active and moving around real well as a team," Johnson said. "We are finding a lot of guys wanting to make plays."

Vanderbilt will have its annual Black & Gold scrimmage Saturday at 11 a.m., and will close the spring next week with a few final practices.

One of the things the Commodores used last weekend on offense was a no-huddle attack, something Johnson said they want to have as part of their repertoire next season.

The interception by Smith was something he's got to avoid, but he did have his moments in the scrimmage. He was 4-for-4 on the opening drive of the scrimmage, hitting four different receivers. But the coaches stopped the drive in the red zone.

Johnson has been especially pleased this spring with the progress of placekickers Ryan Fowler, senior Brett Upson and senior John Laughrey. They are competing to replace four-year starter and Music City Bowl hero Bryant Hahnfeldt.

"Those guys were impressive," Johnson said. "Ryan really kicked the ball well, and John had his best day yet. I think Brett missed one field goal, and that's about the first one he's missed this spring."

Adams throws touchdown in Vanderbilt scrimmage

March, 20, 2009
3/20/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Quarterbacks Mackenzi Adams and Jared Funk each threw touchdown passes in Vanderbilt's 35-play scrimmage on Thursday.

Adams, competing with sophomore Larry Smith for the starting job, hit tight end Justin Green with a 28-yard touchdown pass. Funk connected wide receiver Turner Wimberly on a 32-yard sideline route resulting in another score.

Several defenders, including cornerback Casey Hayward, linebacker Chris Marve and defensive end Theron Kadri, made key individual plays to stop possessions.

Other highlights included:

  • Physical running by tailback Kennard Reeves, who punished Hayward at the end of a 11-yard carry. Earlier in the practice, Reeves broke two tackles on an impressive 30-yard rush.
  • Receiver John Cole showed continued progress returning from injury, catching five passes, including a pair of acrobatic passes. Cole also dodged tackles on three of the receptions for extra yardage.
  • Before colliding with Reeves on the sidelines, Hayward made an impressive third-down tackle for loss of tailback Ryan van Rensburg to halt the first possession.
  • A quarterback sack by Marve and tackle for loss by tackle Billinger helped the defense stop two other drives.

Smith a surprise starter for Vanderbilt

December, 31, 2008
12/31/08
3:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson shook things up a little bit and went with redshirt freshman Larry Smith as his starting quarterback Wednesday in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.

It was Smith's first start of his career, although he played extensively in the regular-season finale against Wake Forest. Johnson said it was a game-time decision to start Smith, who's probably the Commodores' strongest passer.

Even though Smith started, fifth-year senior Chris Nickson entered the game on Vanderbilt's first possession, which resulted in a 42-yard field goal and 3-0 lead over Boston College.

There's also a chance that junior quarterback Mackenzi Adams could see action for Vanderbilt. Adams has been nursing a couple of different injuries.

What to watch: Chick-fil-A and Music City bowls

December, 24, 2008
12/24/08
8:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

A few things to watch as the first SEC teams kick off their portion of the bowl season on New Year's Eve. Vanderbilt takes on Boston College in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET), and LSU faces Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET):

1. Angry or apathetic?: LSU coach Les Miles has talked a lot about how the Tigers are ready to come out and fight in this bowl game, how they're primed and ready to put a bow on an otherwise disappointing season. Honestly, it's been a while since we've seen that version of the Tigers. The defending national champions enter the matchup with Georgia Tech having lost three of their last four games. If they're genuinely ready to get it on, this has a chance to be one of the more interesting bowl games. If they're ready to get it over with, the Yellow Jackets and everybody else in the Georgia Dome may be asking what the rushing record is by the start of the second half. Remember, the last time the Yellow Jackets and their triple-option offense faced an SEC defense, they rolled up 409 rushing yards against Georgia to end the regular season.

2. Defensive distractions: The LSU defense didn't play very well this season when there were no distractions. But the Tigers go into this game knowing one co-defensive coordinator, Bradley Dale Peveto, is headed to Northwestern State, where he's been named the head coach, while the other co-defensive coordinator, Doug Mallory, is headed to New Mexico to be the Lobos' defensive coordinator. It's called finding other employment before you're demoted or fired, and both of the Tigers' embattled co-defensive coordinators did just that. Now that they're on their way out and everybody knows so, let's see how an LSU defense that gave up 30 or more points in its last three games responds.

3. Proving ground for Eagles: Talk about a battle of bowl neophytes vs. bowl veterans. Boston College will be gunning for its ninth straight bowl victory, the longest such streak in the country. This is the Eagles' 10th straight bowl appearance. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is making its first bowl appearance in 26 years. Nothing against the Music City Bowl, but you know the Eagles had hoped for more this year, losing for the second straight year in the ACC Championship Game. They've just missed on some chances to land BCS berths in recent years and are annually passed over by other bowls because their fans don't typically travel well. Will they be determined to prove they deserve better, or will they be bummed to even be in the Music City in the first place?

4. Quarterback carousel: Who won't line up at quarterback for the Commodores? Senior Chris Nickson will likely get the start, but he's been wildly inconsistent this season. In his defense, he hasn't been the same since hurting his throwing shoulder, the same injury that plagued him all of last season. Junior Mackenzi Adams was strong in relief several times this season and took over the starting duties toward the end of the season, but he went down with injuries to his knee and chest. Redshirt freshman Larry Smith showed enough promise in the regular-season finale against Wake Forest that Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson has said that Smith will figure into the mix in the bowl game. Smith's reps during the pre-Christmas practices went up considerably. Boston College has its own issues at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Dominique Davis will be making just his third career start after taking over for injured fifth-year senior Chris Crane. Davis threw a pair of interceptions in the ACC Championship Game loss to Virginia Tech.

5. Points at a premium: The first team to 20 is probably going to win this one. Boston College is sixth nationally in total defense, so few teams have taken the ball and driven it down the Eagles' throats. The Commodores haven't driven it down anybody's throat in a long time. They had a terrible time scoring points after starting out 5-0 this season. In fact, they were held to 14 or fewer points in seven of their last eight games. In addition to the uncertainty at quarterback, Vanderbilt is also shorthanded at running back. Jamie Graham, a receiver and return specialist this season, could see most of his time in the backfield depending on how much Jared Hawkins is able to play. There's also All-America cornerback D.J. Moore, who's proven he can make plays wherever the Commodores put him.

The SEC's 10 best games in 2008

December, 22, 2008
12/22/08
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The ballots have come in from near and far. I even received one from Heidelberg. With your help, I've managed to rank the top 10 games and the top 20 plays from the SEC this season. So sit back and enjoy a look back at a year that just may produce the fourth national champion from this conference in the past six years. We'll do the games first and then the plays a little bit later in the day. Thanks again for all you input. Here goes:

 
 Dale Zanine/US Presswire
 Quarterback Tim Tebow led Florida past then-No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game.

1. Florida 31, Alabama 20, Atlanta, Dec. 6: In one of the most anticipated SEC games of the last quarter century, Florida played a near-perfect fourth quarter to rally past previously unbeaten and then No. 1-ranked Alabama in the SEC championship game. The showdown between two teams that had won a combined 20 straight games was essentially a play-in for a berth in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game. Florida earned that right and will take on Oklahoma on Jan. 8 in Miami. The game was extremely well-played. The only turnover was a meaningless one and came in the final seconds. Alabama's offensive line and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow each had points where they took over the game, but two long drives by the Gators in the fourth quarter after falling behind 20-17 were the difference. Tebow finished with three touchdown passes, and all three came on third down. The Crimson Tide only had the ball for six offensive plays in the fourth quarter, as Florida defensive end Jermaine Cunningham had a key third-down sack of Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson. The Gators showed their mettle by winning without their most dynamic playmaker, Percy Harvin, who missed the game with a sprained ankle.

2. Alabama 27, LSU 21 (OT), Baton Rouge, Nov. 8: The return of Nick Saban to Baton Rouge was pretty uneventful off the field, but the game itself was filled with drama. It was a disappointing season for the defending national champion Tigers, but they were ready to play in this one. The two teams slugged it out for four quarters, and Alabama had a chance to win it with three seconds left in regulation. But LSU's Ricky Jean-Francois blocked Leigh Tiffin's 29-yard field goal attempt. With Tiger Stadium rocking, LSU redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee put a damper on things by throwing his fourth interception of the game on the Tigers' first possession in overtime. Fittingly, Alabama safety Rashad Johnson was there in the back of the end zone to collar the pick. It was his third of the game, and he took one of those back for a 54-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Alabama went right to freshman receiver Julio Jones on its first play in overtime, and Jones went up high and made a sweet adjustment in the air for a 24-yard catch at the 1. Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson plunged in for the touchdown to keep the Tide unbeaten and clinch a trip to the SEC championship game.

3. Ole Miss 31, Florida 30, Gainesville, Sept. 27: The upset of the year in the SEC doesn't look like quite the shocker now that it did back in September. The Rebels, who were a three-touchdown underdog when they went into the Swamp, ended the season on a five-game winning streak and head to the Cotton Bowl playing some of the best football in the league. But nobody saw their upset of the Gators coming. They'd just lost to Vanderbilt at home a week earlier. Quarterback Jevan Snead, though, grew up in a hurry with two touchdown passes, including an 86-yarder to Shay Hodge, with 5:26 to play, and the Rebels came up big on special teams and defense in the final minutes to snap a 14-game SEC road losing streak. Kentrell Lockett blocked the Gators' extra point attempt when it appeared they had tied the game with 3:28 left, and then Peria Jerry and a host of his Ole Miss defensive mates smothered Florida quarterback Tim Tebow on fourth-and-short at the Rebels' 32-yard line with 41 seconds remaining to seal the upset. Tebow and the Gators were fueled by the gut-wrenching setback and haven't lost since. In fact, nobody has come within double figures of them.

4. Arkansas 31, LSU 30, Little Rock, Nov. 28: After being decimated by Alabama, Texas and Florida earlier in the season, the Razorbacks hung on under first-year coach Bobby Petrino and improved greatly during the second half of the season. They caught an LSU team that was teetering on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and senior quarterback Casey Dick came off the bench in his final college game to deliver a memorable performance. A starter for the first 11 games of the season, Dick relieved his younger brother, Nathan Dick, who'd been injured. Casey Dick entered the game in the second half and rallied the Razorbacks from a 30-14 deficit. His 24-yard touchdown pass to London Crawford on a fourth-down play with 22 seconds remaining won it for the Hogs, who still had to sweat out a Colt David 63-yard field goal attempt with 2.4 seconds to play that was no good.

(Read full post)

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