SEC: Onterio McCalebb

The NFL Combine is in full swing, and after some chatting, running and lifting, prospects are starting to see their draft stocks rise and fall.

The SEC had 79 players invited to Indianapolis, and a few really turned some heads over the weekend.

Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg might have really helped his chances in this year's draft after posting the fastest 40-yard dash time among tight ends with a time of 4.50. He blew away the competition, as the second-fastest time for a tight end was Maryland's Matt Furstenburg and his 4.62. He also led all tight ends with a vertical jump of 37.5 inches and a broad jump of 125 inches. Florida's Jordan Reed was sixth among tight ends with a time of 4.72, while Tennessee's Mychal Rivera was 10th with his 4.81 time.

Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel, who could be the top pick in April's NFL draft, bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times, ran a 5.3 in the 40, had a vertical jump of 28.5 inches, had a broad jump of 106 inches and was clocked at 7.4 seconds in the three-cone drill.

SEC skill position players showed off some pretty good speed on Sunday. Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb was clocked at an unofficial time of 4.21 in the 40, which beat Chris Johnson's record-setting time of 4.24 in 2008. His official time was 4.34, which led all running backs and is still a little faster than what I could churn out. Arkansas' Knile Davis was second to McCalebb with a time of 4.37. He was also second in the bench press among running backs (31 reps), while Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy and Texas A&M's Christine Michael tied for four with 27 reps.

Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope was the fastest of the SEC receivers and was third among wideouts with a time of 4.34. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson ran a 4.42. Fellow Vols wide receiver Justin Hunter was clocked at 4.44 in the 40.

South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders, who shocked many with his decision to leave school early, didn't exactly help himself with his 40 time or his bench press. He ran a 4.58 40 and had just seven reps on the bench.

Missouri receiver T.J. Moe ran only a 4.74 in the 40, but led all receivers with 26 reps in the bench press.

You can check out how all the former SEC players did over the weekend at NFL.com.

Lunchtime links

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
12:30
PM ET
Congrats to "Argo" and "Django." Two great movies and both earned big honors last night.

Lunchtime links

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
12:00
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There is one thing the NBA does better than the NFL: the All-Star Game.

Did you know?

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
10:00
AM ET
It's that time when we check out news and notes from the SEC and ESPN Stats & Information:
  • The Texas A&M at Alabama matchup is one of the two most efficient offenses in the SEC. The Aggies lead the SEC in highest average points per drive (3.09 / 336 points in 110 offensive drives) with the Tide second at 3.07 (332 in 108) points per drive. The Tide leads the SEC in overall scoring-efficiency percentage (50.9 percent / 55 scoring drives out of 108 total drives) and the Aggies are second at 49.6 percent (60 of 121). In touchdown scoring efficiency, the Aggies lead the SEC at 40.5 percent (49 TD drives out of 121 overall drives) while the Tide are second at 38.9 percent (42 of 108).
  • The Vanderbilt at Ole Miss game is the fourth most competitive series in the SEC since 2000, with an average winning margin of 11.17 points per game. Seven of the 12 games in the series since 2000 have been decided by nine-points-or-less.
  • At its current pace, SEC offenses are passing for more yards per game (227.7) since the 2001 season (245.1). Since 1992, the 227.7 average would be fourth highest in SEC behind 2001 (245.1), 1997 (234.7) and 1998 (232.4). Passing is accounting for 57.5 percent of SEC offenses this season while running (168.5 yards per game) is 42.5 percent.
  • There have been 215 scoring drives in the SEC this season that have been less than two minutes compared to 59 scoring drives of more than five minutes.
  • Of the 22 offensive drives that have been for 15-plays-or-more, eight have ended in touchdowns, nine in field goals, two in missed field goals, one in a turnover and two on downs.
  • Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton has 14 plays of more than 20 yards this season against FBS teams with winning records. That total is third in the nation (Austin Hill, Arizona, 1st with 17; Terrance Williams, Baylor, second with 16).
  • The SEC had the top three in sacks against teams that are ranked in the AP Top 25-- Damontre Moore, Texas A&M, 1st with 6.5 sacks; Corey Lemonier, Auburn, 2nd with 5.0 sacks; Jarvis Jones, Georgia, 3rd with 4.0 sacks.
GAME NOTES

Arkansas at South Carolina: These teams have played every year since they came into the league in 1992, with Arkansas leading the series, 13-7. In games played in Columbia, the series is tied, 5-5.
  • Arkansas has won eight straight games against opponents from the SEC Eastern Division, the longest current interdivisional streak in the SEC and the longest win streak against Eastern Division foes in school history.
  • Arkansas has 17 players who have made their first collegiate start this season, the most in the SEC and tied for seventh-highest in the nation.
  • Connor Shaw is 14-3 as a starting Gamecock QB, which, at 82.4 percent, is the highest winning percentage for a Carolina starting QB since 1971.
Missouri at Tennessee: This is the first meeting between the two teams.
  • Tennessee has won eight consecutive November games against SEC opponents at Neyland Stadium since a 17-12 win over Kentucky on Nov. 25, 2006. The Vols have won eight consecutive home games in the month of November, dating to a 28-10 win over Kentucky on Nov. 29, 2008.
  • Mizzou is 3-0 this year in games which it gains a fourth-quarter turnover, while the Tigers are 0-3 this season when committing a fourth-quarter turnover.
  • T.J. Moe is sixth in Mizzou history with 178 career catches and 8th in career receiving yards with 1,972.
  • Tennessee has scored 42 touchdowns in 2012, 11 more than the 2011 full-season total of 31.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida: Florida is 4-0 all-time against the Ragin’ Cajuns. The last meeting was in 1996, when the Gators took a 55-21 decision. In that game, Florida scored four defensive touchdowns.
  • The Gators are 64-22-2 all-time in Homecoming games.
  • Florida has been held under 15 points in each of its past two games, and overall in two seasons under Will Muschamp the Gators have been held under 15 points eight times. Consider that in Urban Meyer's six seasons at Floirda, the Gators were held under 15 points eight times.
  • This season, Florida is plus-11 turnover margin, improving on last season’s minus-12 turnover margin.
  • Through nine games, Florida has outscored its opposition, 138-38, in the second half. The defense is averaging 64.4 yards allowed in the third quarter and 75.8 yards allowed in the fourth.
Texas A&M at Alabama: Alabama leads the series history, 3-1. It’s the first visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Aggies. The teams played in the 1942 and 1968 Cotton Bowls, in 1985 at Legion Field in Birmingham and 1988 in College Station.
  • Alabama’s Jeremy Shelley is the only kicker in the nation not to miss an extra-point (40-40) or field goal (9-9) this season.
  • The Aggies are 1-10 in games against No. 1 ranked teams, with the lone victory being a 30-26 win over Oklahoma in 2002.
  • A&M has scored first in every game in 2012, and in 14 straight games dating back to 2011.
  • Johnny Manziel has already broken A&M’s record for quarterback rushing yards in a season (922).
  • Manziel is the only player in FBS to average at least 10 yards per rush and 10 yards per pass attempt in those situations, and his 11 touchdowns responsible for in those situations are three more than any other FBS player. He has gained 634 rushing yards on scrambles. That is 182 more yards scrambling than Denard Robinson, Braxton Miller and Collin Klein have combined. Manziel has scrambled for 28 first downs this season, including 18 first downs on third down.
  • Manziel is completing 71.8 percent of his passes on first down this season, one of only six players to complete at least 70 percent of his passes on first down this season (min. 140 attempts).
  • Alabama is 21-6 against the AP Top 25 during the last four seasons and 12-4 against AP Top 10 teams.
  • Alabama QB AJ McCarron has gone 204 pass attempts this season and 289 dating back to last season without an interception. Since 2000, he is the only player in FBS with at least 25 career touchdown passes (38) and as few as five interceptions.
  • The Tide defense averages 5.44 three-and-outs per game and its 45.4 percent rate is second highest in the nation.
  • The Aggies and Tide have shared three head coaches in their histories -- Bear Bryant (A&M 1954-57; Alabama 1958-82), Gene Stallings (A&M 1965-71; Alabama 1990-96) and Dennis Franchione (A&M 2003-07; Alabama 2001-02).
Georgia at Auburn: Georgia leads the South’s Oldest Rivalry, 54-53-8. The teams have played every year since 1944. Georgia has won seven of the last 10 matchups in the series.
  • The Bulldogs defense ranks third nationally forcing 50 three-and-outs, an average of 5.5 per game.
  • Auburn is 97-139-6 all-time against ranked opponents.
  • Auburn is 3-for-11 passing for 14 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the red zone this season. That's a passer-efficiency mark of 1.6.
  • Georgia has 31 plays of 30 yards or more this season, tied for third most in FBS. They had 23 in all of last season. The only game that the Bulldogs did not have at least one such play was in their only loss of the season at South Carolina.
  • Auburn’s Onterio McCalebb is just the second player in SEC history to tally more than 2,000 yards rushing (2,469), 1,000 kick return yards (1,246) and 500 receiving yards (528).
  • Georgia’s Todd Gurley is fifth in school history for most rushing yards by a freshman (857).
  • Auburn has blocked three field goals this season, two by Angelo Blackson and one by Corey Lemonier.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss: Ole Miss leads the series 47-37-2. In games played in Oxford, the Rebels lead, 22-5. Ole Miss has won 13 of the past 19 meetings dating back to 1992.
  • Ole Miss has already surpassed last year’s total number of wins, points, touchdowns and yards.
  • Vanderbilt has won its past three games. The last time Vandy have won four in a row was in 2008.
  • Ole Miss has scored in 28 of its 30 red zone trips (93.3 percent), which is tied for fourth-best in the SEC and second in the SEC. Ole Miss is the only SEC team without a turnover in the red zone this year.
Mississippi State at LSU: LSU leads the series 69-33-3.
  • In games played in Baton Rouge, the Tigers lead, 46-18-1. LSU has won 10 straight in the series and 19 of the last 20 meetings.
  • LSU faces a Top 25 team for the fifth straight game -- a first in school history.
  • The Mississippi State offense has scored 277 points through its first nine games, its most through the first nine contests since the 2000 squad scored 307 points.
  • Bulldogs QB Tyler Russell is one of seven QBs nationally with 15-plus passing TDs and three or fewer interceptions this season.
  • LSU’s Les Miles is 18-1 in games following a loss. Last time LSU lost back-to-back games under Miles was in 2008 (Ole Miss, Arkansas). LSU hasn’t lost back-to-back games in Tiger Stadium since 2001 (Florida, Ole Miss).
  • The Bulldogs have lost 21 straight games against AP Top-10 teams. Their last win against an AP Top-10 team came against third-ranked Florida in 2000.
After a very slow start in the first half, Auburn scored a season-high 42 points in a crucial 42-7 win over New Mexico State.

The Tigers (2-7, 0-6 SEC) finally found big plays from both sides of the field. Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace, who made his first-career start, was shaky at times, but finished with 164 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. He really didn't have to do a ton for the Tigers with the running game moving so well.

Auburn racked up a season-high 311 rushing yards, with Tre Mason leading all rushers with 152 yards and Onterio McCalebb notching 113 yards on the ground. Mason ran for one touchdown and McCalebb had two.

The defense even showed some progress. The Tigers limited New Mexico State to just 305 yards of offense and 83 yards on the ground. Linebacker Daren Bates really helped spark Auburn's big second half when he recovered a New Mexico State fumble and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown to give Auburn a 21-0 lead.

In what has been a disaster of a season for the Tigers, this was about as big of a must-win as you could find. Coach Gene Chizik was feeling monster heat coming into the weekend, and while this win won't propel Auburn onto a road to a bowl game, it adds a "W" in the win column and it was one that Chizik desperately needed when it comes to his job security.

Will it keep Chizik's job? That's yet to be seen, but a loss might have made pressure from Auburn supports unbearable. Auburn still has a few tough decisions to make when it comes to the future of this program, but right now, everyone at Auburn should be happy to finally see another win come back to the Plains.

Did you know?

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12
10:00
AM ET
Here are some notes and numbers from ESPN Stats & Info and the SEC:
  • An SEC team has been ranked first in 13 straight BCS Standings, dating back to Nov. 21, 2010 (Oregon). This week broke a streak of five straight rankings in which the SEC was 1-2 in the BCS Rankings (Nov. 13, 2011).
  • An SEC team has been in the top two of 38 of the past 40 BCS Standings releases. In the first release of the BCS Standings in 2010, Auburn was the highest ranked SEC team at fourth. In the Nov. 25, 2007 release of the BCS Standings, Georgia was fourth. The first week of the 40 starts with the Nov. 4, 2007 release of the standings.
  • Since 2006, the average percent of capacity for SEC home games has been 97.40 percent.
  • Since 2004, the average margin of SEC intra-conference games has been 14.86 points, which is fourth closest of all FBS conferences. (ACC 13.46; Sun Belt 13.79; Big East 14.32). Since 2004, the SEC has had 197 of 430 intra-conference games decided by 10-points-or-less (45.8 percent). The percentage is fifth highest of FBS conferences (ACC 53.4 percent; Sun Belt 49.8 percent; Big East 48 percent; MAC 46.2 percent).
  • This season, SEC intra-conference games have a 18.86 margin, which is the highest the league has had since the stat has been kept in 2004. However, 11 of the 37 SEC intra-conference games have been decided by 5-points-or-less (29.7 percent), which is the second highest of FBS conferences this season (Big East 35.7 percent).
  • The SEC has the nation’s top three teams in NCAA statistics for pass efficiency-defense (Alabama -- 1st; LSU -- 2nd; Florida -- 3rd). In pass defense, the SEC has three of the top 5 (Alabama -- 1st; LSU -- 4th; Vanderbilt -- 5th). In total defense, the SEC has seven of the top 30 (Alabama -- 1st; LSU -- 3rd; Florida -- 6th; South Carolina -- 13th; Vanderbilt -- 21st; Missouri -- 25th; Mississippi State -- 28th).
  • SEC offenses are averaging 30.1 points per game this season, which is the third-highest average for the league since 1992 and the most since 2010 (31.0). SEC offenses also averaged 30.3 points per game in 2007.
  • SEC offenses have averaged 168.6 rushing yards and 225.0 passing yards this season. Passing yards have accounted for 57.2 percent of SEC offenses this season, which is the most for the league since 2006 (60.1 percent).
  • SEC teams have allowed just 14 non-offensive touchdowns this season. Florida, LSU, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt have yet to allow a non-offensive touchdown this season.
  • Alabama has scored 126 points when starting drives after opponent’s turnovers. The 126 point total is more than any two other SEC teams combined (Highest: Florida, 65, & Ole Miss, 58). Alabama opponents have only scored 3 points when receiving ball after Crimson Tide turnovers.
  • Only three of the 10 longest drives (by time on clock) have resulted in touchdowns. Four have been decided by field goals, one was a missed field goal, one was ended by turnover and one by a failed fourth-down conversion. The longest drive in the SEC this season was 9:28 by South Carolina against Georgia and resulted in a touchdown. A 9:03 drive by Florida vs. Kentucky and a 8:25 drive by Vanderbilt against Auburn also resulted in touchdowns.
Records to keep an eye on:
Arkansas’ running back Dennis Johnson needs 136 all-purpose yards to move into 10th on the SEC career list. Johnson has 4,948 yards. Auburn’s Carnell Williams (2001-04) is 10th at 5,084 yards. Johnson is also the SEC career leader in kickoff return yards with 2,755.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is ninth in SEC history with 76 career touchdown passes. Florida’s Rex Grossman (2000-02) is 8th at 77; Kentucky’s Jared Lorenzen (2000-03) is 7th at 78; and, Kentucky’s Andre Woodson (2004-07) is 6th at 79.

Florida’s Caleb Sturgis is tied for 9th in the SEC record books for career field goals made (61). Alabama’s Michael Proctor (1992-95) is 8th at 65.

Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks is tied for seventh in SEC history with 16 career interceptions. Auburn’s Buddy McClinton (1967-69) and Tennessee’s Tim Priest (1968-70) are tied for 5th with 18.
  • Since Week 2 of the 1993 season, LSU has been shut out three times in 244 games. All three of those blankings came at the hands of Alabama, took place in the state of Louisiana, and occurred at night. The Tide shut out the Tigers 26-0 in 1996 and 31-0 in 2002, both in Baton Rouge. The third shutout came in the 2012 BCS Championship Game, 21-0 in New Orleans. Dating back to 1975, LSU has been shut out nine times. Seven of those have been in the state of Louisiana (six in Baton Rouge) and four have come at the hands of Alabama.
  • History says that Alabama, coming off a home win against a top-20 opponent in Mississippi State, has a tough test this weekend. Nine previous times the AP No. 1 team has faced a top-20 opponent on the road the week after a home win against another top-20 opponent. The AP No. 1 team is just 2-7 in those nine previous road games, including the Crimson Tide themselves losing in that situation at South Carolina just two years ago.
  • The last FBS team to reach 100 yards rushing against ‘Bama was LSU in last year’s regular-season meeting, when the Tigers ran for 148 yards. However, they managed just 39 yards in the BCS Championship Game.
  • According to the NCAA’s strength of schedule rankings, Alabama has the 10th toughest schedule among the 14 SEC teams based on opponents cumulative record and the 34th toughest in FBS. Keep in mind, the Tide avoid Georgia, Florida and South Carolina this season. Those teams are a combined 21-4 and one of them will win the SEC East.
  • An interesting pattern developed in the two meetings of these teams last year. Alabama passed on 20 of its 32 first-down plays against LSU in the BCS Championship Game. The Tide averaged 6.9 yards per play on first down in that game, which was almost twice what they averaged (3.8) in their loss on Nov. 5.
  • Since 2000, AJ McCarron is the only player in FBS with at least 20 career touchdown passes and as few as five interceptions. What’s more amazing is that he’s at 37 touchdowns and only five interceptions! Next in line is Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly (19/5) and Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (19/3).
  • LSU is giving up 2.9 yards per rush in conference games this season, the second-lowest average in the SEC. Conference opponents have not had much room to run, as the Tigers allow less than one yard before contact per rush. To put that in perspective, SEC teams average 2.4 yards before contact per rush.
  • Opponents have completed one of their 18 passes thrown 25 yards or longer against LSU with two interceptions and no touchdowns. The only completion was by Johnny Manziel in the fourth quarter with his team trailing by 12 points with less than two minutes remaining.
  • Ole Miss hasn’t defeated Georgia since 1996 when the Rebels won 31-27 in Athens. Georgia has won nine straight meetings and is 5-0 against Ole Miss under Mark Richt. The longest win streak in the history of this series is 12 straight by Georgia from 1977 to 1988.
  • Ole Miss has already surpassed last year’s total number of wins, points, touchdowns, passing yards and total yards. The Rebels have scored in 26 of its 28 red zone trips (92.9 percent), sixth best in the nation and second in the SEC.
  • Georgia already has more plays that have gained 30 yards or more (25) this season than they had all of last season (23). The only game that the Bulldogs did not have at least one 30-yard play was in their only loss of the season at South Carolina.
  • Jarvis Jones has been a dominant force on the Georgia defense. Jones leads the country in tackles for loss with 2.3 per game and is second in the country in sacks with 1.4 per game.
  • In three SEC home games, Florida has allowed a combined total of 17 points and haven’t allowed a touchdown.
  • Missouri’s defense leads the nation in forced fumbles with 17. The Tigers have 26 straight games with at least one takeaway
  • Missouri has had a lot of trouble scoring points against SEC teams this season. They did score 33 points last week against the Wildcats. However, the Tigers have combined to score 55 points in their four SEC losses.
  • Tennessee has scored 33 touchdowns in 2012, eclipsing the 2011 full-season total of 31 … The Vols have scored 276 points in eight games this season, the fourth-highest point total in school history through eight games and the most since 1995.
  • Playing on the road shouldn’t bother Texas A&M or its head coach Kevin Sumlin. His teams have won 10 straight road games, including a 4-0 mark on the road this season. His Houston team went 6-0 on the road last season.
  • Mississippi State's first seven opponents this season (all MSU wins) have a current combined record of 20-37 (including a 4-4 record by FCS member Jackson State). The combined record of the three ranked teams A&M is now facing is 21-3.
  • Manziel is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes on first down this season. He completes less than 60 percent on all other downs combined. Manziel will face a Mississippi State defense Saturday that leads FBS with eight interceptions on first down.
  • Four times this season the Bulldogs have surpassed the 600-yard mark and last week rushed for a season-high 352 yards against Auburn. The Aggies lead the SEC in rushing offense (237.6 YPG) and have scored first in every game this season.
  • Third down has been big for the Aggies this season, both on offense and defense. They rank third nationally in third-down efficiency, converting over 54 percent. On defense, the Aggies are holding opponents to just 27.7 percent, good for eighth in FBS.
  • Mississippi State will counter with an opportunistic defense that ranks sixth nationally in turnover margin.
  • Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb is just the second player in SEC history to tally more than 2,000 yards rushing (2,356), 1,000 kick return yards (1,186) and 500 receiving yards (528).

Did you know?

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
10:00
AM ET
It's time to take a look at some weekly notes from the SEC and ESPN Stats & Information:
  • Alabama and LSU are tied for the longest active streak of being ranked in the top five of the AP Top 25 poll at 22 weeks each. Georgia is fifth at three weeks.
  • Alabama and LSU are tied for the longest active streak of being ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 poll at 23 weeks each. South Carolina is fourth at eight weeks and Georgia tied for fifth (with Florida State) at six weeks.
  • On offense, the SEC teams run the ball 56.0 percent of the time, which is the third highest percentage of all FBS conferences. The Mountain West runs the ball 59.6 percent of the time while the Big Ten is at 56.6 percent. In the SEC, teams run the ball an average of 38.1 times per game and pass the ball 29.9 times per game.
  • SEC teams are scoring an average of 33.2 points per game, which is third among all FBS conferences. The Big 12 leads the nation at 41.0 points per game and the ACC is second at 33.9 points per game. Last year, the SEC scored at an average of 27.3 points per game, which was the lowest since 2008 (25.6 points per game). After five weeks last season, SEC teams were scoring at a 31.2 points per game clip.
  • SEC defenses are allowing an average of 20.86 points per game, which is third among all FBS conferences. The Big Ten leads the nation at 19.84 points per game and the Big East is second at 20.33 points per game. Last year, the SEC defenses gave up an average of 20.7 points per game, which was the lowest since 2008 (20.5). After five weeks last season, SEC teams were giving up an average of 20.0 points per game.
  • In nonconference games this season, SEC defenses are allowing 17.03 points per game.
  • Arkansas’ Dennis Johnson became the SEC career record holder for kickoff return yardage last week. In his career, he has 2,755 yards (on 115 returns), which surpassed Brandon James of Florida’s total of 2,718 yards (112 returns).
  • Zach Mettenberger has completed 60.7 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or more downfield and has been worse than 50 percent in only one game (Auburn). The Tigers are 13-0 since the start of 2010 when they complete more than 50 percent of their throws of 15 yards or more.
  • LSU’s defense has pressured the quarterback on 59 of 161 (36.6 pct) of opponents’ drop-backs this season. Barkevious Mingo leads the Tigers in pressuring the opposing quarterback 13 times. Sam Montgomery is second with eight. Of those 59 plays, 41 of them (69.5 pct) came when the Tigers sent four or fewer pass-rushers.
  • Jeff Driskel has at least one rush that gained 20 yards or more in each game this season. Driskel gained two of the four 20-yard runs on bootlegs. For the season, Driskel is averaging 11.1 yards per carry on designed running plays and 9.4 yards per rush on scrambles.
  • Georgia already has 11 touchdowns of 30 yards or longer this season which is one fewer than they had all of last season. The Bulldogs have 43 plays that have gained 20 yards or more, six more than any other FBS team.
  • Todd Gurley has eight rushes of 20 yards or longer this season, tied for the most in FBS. Fellow freshman, Keith Marshall, has five such runs. Last season no Georgia player had more than six rushes of 20 yards or longer and as a team they had a combined three 20-yard rushing touchdowns. Gurley (four) and Marshall (three) have a combined seven 20-yard rushing touchdowns already this season.
  • Georgia has run the ball on 62.8 percent of its first-down plays, averaging 6.9 yards per rush.
  • Marcus Lattimore has run for 358 yards and three touchdowns in two games against Georgia in his career. Lattimore is averaging 3.2 yards before contact against Georgia and has more 10-plus yard rushes against the Bulldogs than any other opponent.
  • Mississippi State’s opponents have converted a first down on third and at least 7 yards on just 3 of 28 attempts this season (10.7 percent), tied for the lowest percentage in FBS.
  • Tyler Russell completed 7 of 9 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown after a play-action fake last year against Kentucky.
Arkansas at Auburn
Auburn holds an 11-9-1 advantage in the series … Teams have split the last 10 meetings with Arkansas winning four of the last six matchups … Auburn is tied for fourth in the nation in kickoff returns with Onterio McCalebb third in the nation … Tiger linebacker Daren Bates leads the SEC and is tied for fifth in the nation in tackles per game … Arkansas wide receiver Cobi Hamilton is ninth in the nation in receiving yards per game and Dylan Breeding is ninth in the nation in punting … Arkansas ran 98 plays on offense at Texas A&M last week, the most by an SEC team since 2007 and tied for the ninth-highest single-game total in SEC history.

Mississippi State at Kentucky
The Wildcats lead the series with the Bulldogs 21-18 … UK leads 13-7 in games played in Lexington … State is making the trip to Lexington in back-to-back years (State won, 28-16, last year) … Wildcats made the trip to Starkville in back-to-back years in 2001 and 2002 … State has scored 144 points through the first four games, which is the most by a Bulldog team since 1994 … Bulldogs lead nation in turnover margin (3.25 margin) and interceptions per game (2.25) … MSU’s Darius Slay leads nation in interceptions (four) and teammate Johnthan Banks (three) is sixth .. Wildcats’ Avery Williamson is tied for 19th in the nation in tackles per game.

LSU at Florida
Florida leads series with LSU, 30-25-3 … The teams have met every year since 1971 … Since 2000, the teams have split the last 12 meetings … LSU has won the last two meetings, 41-11 last year at LSU, and 33-29, in 2010 at the Swamp … Florida’s last win over LSU came in 2009 at Tiger Stadium (13-3), which is the last loss by LSU at home … Gators are fifth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and 10th in scoring defense … Florida and LSU’s special teams excel -- Gators’ Caleb Sturgis is tied for fifth in the nation in field goals and Kyle Christy is 10th in punting; Tigers’ Brad Wing is 13th in the nation in punting.

Vanderbilt at Missouri
The Tigers lead the series, 2-1-1 … This is the first meeting between the two schools since 1958 (Vandy, 12-8) … The game was the first game at Missouri for then-head coach Dan Devine … Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy has 2,343 career rushing yards, which is third in school history … His 21 career rushing TDs is fourth in school history … The Tigers, behind Marcus Murphy, are fourth in the nation in punt returns with Murphy seventh … Missouri is also tied for ninth in the nation in tackles for loss per game … Vandy is eighth in the nation in pass defense and Carey Spear is tied for fifth in the nation in field goals per game … Vandy is one of four teams (Florida, Miss. State and Texas A&M) to lead SEC this season in least amount of passing TDs allowed (two).

Texas A&M at Ole Miss
The Aggies lead the series with Rebels, 4-0 … A&M is the third team from state of Texas to play at Ole Miss this season … Rebs looking to break seven-game loss streak in SEC home openers (last win was versus Vanderbilt in 2004) … Texas A&M leads nation in net punting … Aggies defensive end Damontre Moore is second in the nation in tackles for loss per game and tied for second in sacks per game … Texas A&M and Ole Miss are tied for third in SEC with 13 rushing TDs this season (19-UGA; 16-LSU) … A&M is tied for SEC lead in least TDs allowed (five with Alabama and South Carolina).

Georgia at South Carolina
For the first time in the Georgia-South Carolina series, both teams are ranked in the top 10 coming into the matchup … Georgia leads series, 46-16-2, and 19-8-2 in games played at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia … The Gamecocks have won the last two meetings … USC head coach Steve Spurrier is 14-5 lifetime against Georgia while UGA head coach Mark Richt is 7-4 against South Carolina … The Gamecocks have won nine straight games (Florida, Citadel, Clemson, Nebraska, Vanderbilt, East Carolina, UAB, Missouri, Kentucky) dating back to last season. It matches the longest winning streak in school history, set in 1984 … The Bulldogs are second in the nation in passing efficiency, eighth in scoring offense, 11th in rushing offense and 11th in total offense … UGA quarterback Aaron Murray is third in the nation in passing efficiency while freshman tailback Todd Gurley is fifth in kickoff returns, tied for sixth in scoring and tied for 19th in rushing and all-purpose rushing … The Gamecocks are second in the nation in sacks, sixth in scoring defense, seventh in rushing defense, eighth in passing efficiency and tied for ninth in tackles for loss … Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is 10th in the nation in passing efficiency and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is tied for 12th in tackles for loss and tied for 18th in sacks.

Auburn with a new sense of urgency

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
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Gene Chizik is hoping that his Tigers used their bye week to their full advantage.

With all the issues Auburn had through the first four weeks of the season, Chizik made sure players and coaches saw all the glaring mistakes that put his team in bad situations. He wanted them to see those mistakes and learn from them before the bye was over with.

[+] EnlargeChizik
AP Photo/Dave MartinFollowing his team's 1-3 start, Gene Chizik said there's an "urgency to win" around Auburn.
Changes and tweaks were made, and Chizik hopes they work on Saturday, especially against an Arkansas team that really has nothing to lose with its 1-4 record.

Chizik said his team knows where it stands with its own 1-3 record. Auburn is on the verge of being on the outside when it comes to the postseason. Chizik said neither he nor his team are running from the realization of how big Saturday's game against the Razorbacks is.

"There's an urgency around Auburn, without question, when you're 1-3," Chizik said. "And there's an urgency to win."

With a loss, Auburn will likely miss out on a bowl game for the first time since 2008 and it doesn't help that the Tigers own the SEC's worst offense (297.8 yards per game) and the third-worst defense (419.3).

But the defense looked much better against LSU last week, holding the Tigers to just 12 points and forced LSU into a handful of mistakes.

Chizik said his team was more than energized in that game, and the hope is that it carries over to this weekend.

"Our kids are hungry and they want to win," he said. "That's the expectation this Saturday as well."

He's even seen an increase in leadership. Guys like Corey Lemonier, Jeff Whitaker, Onterio McCalebb and T'Sharven Bell have all stepped up to guide this team. Having these vets step up will go a long way if they can really take hold of their teammates.

Even with all the issues Auburn has had, the Tigers have to feel confident facing the SEC's worst defense. Arkansas is allowing more than 500 yards and 40 points a game. Even Auburn's offense should be able to do something with that.

And a fast start against a reeling team is what Chizik said his team needs if it's going to pull out a must-win on the Plains. Arkansas' offensive talent can't be forgotten, and Chizik doesn't want to have to play catchup with the Hogs.

"Certainly for us, forget about the opponent, we need to have a great start," he said. "We need to have something good happen. We need to be able to get a little bit of momentum for our football team."

Did you know?

September, 7, 2012
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Time for some fun facts from the SEC to get your weekend started:
  • 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.

SEC power rankings: Week 2

September, 4, 2012
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The first weekend of the college football season brought some changes to our power rankings. As we enter Week 2, some teams are trending down, while others are on the up. And some look pretty much like we thought they'd look in their first games.

It's still early, but this weekend could help to better shape the conference race, especially in the SEC East where Florida travels to Texas A&M and Georgia heads to Missouri. Also, keep an eye on Mississippi State's home game with Auburn.

OK, time for the rankings:

1. Alabama (1-0): The Crimson Tide made quite the statement by absolutely dominating No. 8 Michigan inside Cowboys Stadium. The defense, which lost a host of top talent from last year's national championship team, took Denard Robinson out of the game from the start. The offense should be fun to watch this fall with freshman T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy carrying the ball and AJ McCarron throwing to those young, explosive receivers.

2. LSU (1-0): It's not like the Tigers looked bad against overmatched North Texas, but Alabama's performance was just that good. Zach Mettenberger did well in his LSU debut, passing for 192 yards and a touchdown, while running backs Kenny Hilliard (141 yards) and Alfred Blue (123) pounded away at North Texas' defense. The Tigers racked up 508 total yards and limited North Texas to just nine first downs and 219 total yards.

3. Arkansas (1-0): We know Arkansas can score and churn out yards. The Hogs made both of those things look very easy against Jacksonville State, especially quarterback Tyler Wilson, who threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns Saturday. But the defense still has some questions surrounding it, as the Hogs gave up 24 points. The defense settled down the second half and gave up 322 total yards, which was one yard less than the average given up by top 15 teams this weekend.

4. Georgia (1-0): The Bulldogs' defense is obviously hurting without Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree and it showed in the win over Buffalo. There was a lot of give in the pass defense and the Bulldogs struggled stopping quarterback runs. Improving in both of those areas will be crucial heading into the Missouri game. The offense looked pretty good, especially with freshman running back Todd Gurley carrying the ball. He registered 100 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.

5. South Carolina (1-0): The offense was shaky when it came to throwing the ball, and it certainly wasn't any better after quarterback Connor Shaw went down with that shoulder injury. His health is critical, as there isn't much experience at all behind him. Running back Marcus Lattimore looked solid in his return and was back to his workhorse ways. The defense played well overall, but the secondary still has concerns.

6. Tennessee (1-0): Everything went right for the Vols against NC State. It became blatenly obvious that they have more depth across the board now than they've had during Derek Dooley's tenure. Getting the tough yards running the ball was still an issue at times, but Marlin Lane showed that he might have what it takes to be that explosive running back Tennessee needs. Tyler Bray had no issue throwing the ball with Justin Hunter back and newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson going off.

7. Florida (1-0): There was more bend in Florida's defense than the coaches would like, but it looked like players were more disinterested than anything else. Expect a little more enthusiasm from that group this week. The offense, however, has major work to do. Mike Gillislee can run, but the passing game was nonexistent. Jeff Driskel was named the starting quarterback and the Gators should open things up more this weekend at Texas A&M, but it'll be a tough road game.

8. Mississippi State (1-0): The Bulldogs were pretty balanced on offense against Jackson State, getting 193 passing yards and 202 rushing yards in their 56-9 win. The Bulldogs have a major test this Saturday with Auburn coming to town. Dan Mullen has yet to win a game in the West against someone not named Ole Miss. This game could go a long way to shaping the Bulldogs' season, kind of like last year's game at Auburn.

9. Missouri (1-0): The Tigers might not have all the size that other SEC teams possess, but this team showed it has some quality speed -- and some quality playmakers. The defense displayed some grit as well, forcing four turnovers in the blowout win over Southeastern Louisiana. But the real test is this weekend with Georgia coming to town. We'll see that high-flying spread offense battle one of the SEC's top defenses. Should be fun.

10. Texas A&M (0-0): The Aggies had their opener with Louisiana Tech postponed because of Hurricane Isaac. That gave Texas A&M a couple more days to game plan for Florida, but all the kinks and mistakes that you'd like to get out of the way early will now come in the Aggies' SEC opener against Florida. The Gators might not have much offense, but expect that defense to put a lot of pressure on first-year starting quarterback Johnny Manziel.

11. Auburn (0-1): These Tigers have clearly improved on defense under Brian VanGorder, but their "tackling" in Week 1 was ugly. Just ask Clemson running back Andre Ellington, who rushed for 231 yards in the win over Auburn Saturday. Kiehl Frazier looked more comfortable throwing the ball, and Auburn has a solid rushing tandem in Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb, but offensive efficiency has to improve. Auburn settled for too many field goals Saturday.

12. Vanderbilt (0-1): Thursday's loss to South Carolina was tough for this team to swallow. The swagger and talent is there in Nashville, but the little things that have plagued this program continue. Still, you can tell that with the offensive weapons and a hungry defense, this team has what it takes to beat one of the top teams in the SEC East. A trip to Northwestern this weekend is a must-win for the Commodores as far as confidence and making a bowl are concerned.

13. Ole Miss (1-0): The Rebels ended a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season in Hugh Freeze's debut. For the first time in a long time, Ole Miss' offense showed up, as the Rebels registered 565 yards of offense against Central Arkansas. Quarterback Bo Wallace also had a tremendous debut for the Rebels, with his 264 passing yards and 82 rushing yards. UTEP provides a bigger test, as the Rebels look for their first two-game winning streak since September 2010.

14. Kentucky (0-1): Not a lot went right for the Wildcats in their loss to Louisville. The offense moved the ball through the air at times, but couldn't make plays when it had to and rushed for just 93 yards. The defense was gutted up front, as two of Louisville's backs rushed for more than 100 yards. As far as making it back to the postseason, this was a game that Joker Phillips' team had to have. Line work on both sides has to get better if Kentucky is going to improve on last year's 5-7 season.
The Mississippi State duo of Johnthan Banks and Chad Bumphis leads a contingent of 12 SEC players on the preseason watch list for the 2012 Paul Hornung Award, which is presented to the most versatile player in major college football.

Georgia's Brandon Boykin was the 2011 winner.

There are 49 players on the preseason watch list. The SEC leads the way with 12 players. The Pac-12 is second with 10 players on the list.

Here's a complete rundown of the SEC players on the list:
Players from all FBS teams are eligible, and appearing on the Paul Hornung Award watch list is not a prerequisite for winning the award. That said, look for Georgia's Malcolm Mitchell to play his way into consideration this season as both a cornerback and receiver for the Bulldogs.

Opening preseason camp: Auburn

July, 31, 2012
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Schedule: The Tigers’ first practice is on Wednesday at 4:55 p.m. ET, and their first day in full pads is next Monday. They open the season on Sept. 1 against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. Kickoff is 7 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised by ESPN.

Returning starters: Seven on offense, nine on defense and the place-kicker and punter on special teams.

Star power: Senior tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is one of the most polished tight ends in college football and just has a knack for getting open.

New faces: Junior fullback Jay Prosch, a transfer from Illinois, should make a big impact in the running game with his ability to open up running lanes. True freshman Jovon Robinson, the biggest tailback the Tigers have at 220 pounds, may be the banger they need. True freshman Patrick Miller, who went through the spring, could see some time at right offensive tackle, while redshirt freshman receiver Sammie Coates has a huge upside. He just needs to be more consistent.

Don’t forget about: Junior defensive end Dee Ford was done after the first three games a year ago. He underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc last September, but came back with a vengeance this spring and was one of the Tigers’ best defenders. Ford and Corey Lemonier generated some serious pressure off the edge, and Ford won Defensive MVP honors in Auburn’s A-Day spring game.

Big shoes to fill: Despite Michael Dyer’s issues off the field, he was Auburn’s only offense for much of last season and finished second in the SEC with 1,242 rushing yards. Now that he’s gone, sophomore Tre Mason will probably get first shot at being the feature back, although senior Onterio McCalebb remains one of the league’s best outside running threats. Sophomore Corey Grant, who originally signed with Alabama, will also get a look as will redshirt freshman Mike Blakely, a transfer from Florida.

Key battle: The Tigers still haven’t settled on a starting quarterback. Sophomore Kiehl Frazier is probably the favorite, but he still has to prove himself as a passer. Junior Clint Moseley started in six games after taking over for Barrett Trotter last season, so he has experience on his side. However it shakes out, this will be the fourth different starting quarterback in as many years to open the season for Auburn coach Gene Chizik.

Rising star: Sophomore Jermaine Whitehead will make his home at safety this season, but he’s versatile enough to also play the nickel position. The Tigers need some stability in their defensive backfield, and Whitehead showed enough as a true freshman last season that he can be a real difference-maker back there.

Bottom line: The two coordinators (Scot Loeffler on offense and Brian VanGorder on defense) are new, but there are a lot of familiar faces returning on the roster. The Tigers welcome back 18 starters, and that’s after they returned just seven from their 2010 national championship team. Auburn was young on both lines of scrimmage last season. The Tigers’ strength this season should be up front on defense, which should help cut down on the number of big plays they gave up a year ago. It’s equally important that they improve up front on offense, and the development of redshirt freshman left tackle Greg Robinson will be critical. There won’t be any warm-ups for the Tigers. The month of September opens with the Clemson matchup in Atlanta and ends with LSU paying a visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium. In other words, we’ll have a pretty good feel for this Auburn team by the time the calendar flips to October.
The SEC's top kickers and punters have been ranked, so now it's time to rank some of the most exciting players in the league.

Past rankings:
Here are our top return men in the SEC:

[+] EnlargeTyrann Mathieu
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireTyrann Mathieu was a big-play machine for LSU last season.
1. Tyrann Mathieu, Jr., LSU: When he got the ball in his hands on punt returns you never knew what might happen. He showed excellent vision and movement and really drew more praise as a returner with his three game-changing returns against Arkansas and Georgia, with two going for scores. He finished the year averaging 15.6 yards on 27 returns, with a long of 92 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Dennis Johnson, Sr., Arkansas: He was one of the top returners out there before an injury cut his 2010 season short. He returned in 2011 to average 25.6 yards on 18 returns and had a 98-yard touchdown. Johnson will have even more energy on returns with Knile Davis returning to the backfield. For his career, Johnson enters the fall as the SEC’s active leader in career kickoff return yards and total return yards with 2,475.

3. Dustin Harris, Sr., Texas A&M: He was one of the country's best punt returners last year, with a nation-leading 18.6 average per return. He had a long return of 72 yards that went for a touchdown and set a school record with 162 punt return yards against Kansas.

4. Andre Debose, Jr., Florida: Two years ago he was one of the nation's best when it came to returning kicks because of his speed and vision, but inconsistency has held him back at times. Last year, he returned 19 kicks for an average of 26.1 yards per return and had a long of 99 yards that went for a touchdown.

5. Onterio McCalebb, Sr., Auburn: He's one of the league's best home run threats and all that space on kickoffs makes him even more dangerous. He only returned 11 kicks, but averaged 30.1 yards per return, had a long of 83 yards and registered one touchdown. The Tigers rotated a few players in the kick return game, so McCalebb will continue to get his chances to make big plays back there.

6. Warren Norman, Jr., Vanderbilt: As a freshman, he put up historic numbers as a return man. He set the SEC record for kickoff return yards for a freshman (1,050) and tied a league record with three touchdowns on kickoff returns and averaged 26.3 yards along the way. An injury cut his sophomore season short and he missed all of last season, but if he's totally healthy he's one of the best out there returning kicks.

7. Tre Mason, Soph., Auburn: He returns as the league's top statisitical kickoff returner, averaging 26.4 yards per return last year. He had a long of 97 yards that went for a touchdown. After a very successful start to the year, Mason saw his production decrease as the season went on and eventually lost his spot because of injuries and fumbling issues. Mason has the talent to be a special returner, but he has to get his job back first.

8. Jeff Scott, Jr., Ole Miss: Two years ago, he averaged 27.7 yards per return on kickoffs. Last year he spent time on both kickoffs and punts, registering a touchdown on one of his eight punt returns. He is Ole Miss' top all-purpose weapon and will be expected to do more in the return game to get Ole Miss in better field position, as it brings in a new offense.

9. Andre Hal, Jr., Vanderbilt: He'll share time with Norman now, but Hal did a solid job in his place last season, averaging 23.8 yards per return with a long of 96 yards that went for a touchdown. Having Norman alongside him might make him that much more productive because kickers might want to direct kicks away from Norman.

10. Johnthan Banks, Sr., Mississippi State: He averaged 10.4 yards on his 16 punt returns and had one go for a score last year. He might have been even more successful in the return game if fellow Bulldog Chad Bumphis didn't have eight returns of his own last season. Banks has great vision and elusiveness to be a top return man again if he gets enough touches.
The SEC has six members on the 52-man watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which is given annually to the nation's top running back.

Here's the list of all six SEC players on the list:
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:
For the complete Biletnikoff watch list, go here.
Earlier, we ranked all 14 SEC running back groups, so it's time to look at the league's top 10 rushers heading into the 2012 season. As usual, there are some pretty talented backs in the league, so narrowing it down to just 10 backs wasn't easy to say the least. But someone had to do it!

Past rankings:
Like all the other positions, we're looking at overall talent, game-changing ability and experience. We also looked at past performances and projections for 2012.

Here are our top 10 SEC running backs:

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMarcus Lattimore is apparently ahead of schedule with his rehab after tearing his ACL last season.
1. Marcus Lattimore, Jr., South Carolina: He might be the nation's best all-around running back, and all indications are that he's ahead of schedule with his rehab after tearing his ACL halfway through last season. Before his injury, he led the SEC in rushing and has a tremendous combination of size, speed and strength that make him one of the toughest players to stop.

2. Knile Davis, Jr., Arkansas: Like Lattimore, Davis is coming off of a devastating injury from last year. He had yet another ankle injury that cost him all of his 2011 season, but it sounds like he's more than ready to return to the playing field. He's one of the most dynamic rushers in the country, and when he was healthy in 2010 he averaged 146.9 yards in the last seven games of the season.

3. Christine Michael, Sr., Texas A&M: He's another back coming off a season-ending injury. Before he tore his ACL last fall, Michael rushed for 899 yards and is a true workhorse. His punch-you-in-the-mouth, explosive, downhill running style will fit right in in the SEC. He should be good to go this fall, and if he's 100 percent he'll certainly challenge for the rushing title.

4. Zac Stacy, Sr., Vanderbilt: He was a real surprise in the SEC last season and returns as the league's top statistical rusher, with 1,193 yards from a year ago. He isn't the fastest back, but he's strong, works hard and has excellent vision. Last season, Stacy tied for the SEC lead with runs of 40 or more yards, and averaged 5.7 yards per carry against SEC defenses.

5. Eddie Lacy, Jr., Alabama: Lacy takes over for the very talented Trent Richardson, but he's no slouch. Lacy has shown pretty good explosion and strength when he's had the ball, averaging 7.1 yards per carry last season. Nagging injuries have slowed him in the past, but if he's healthy he'll make plenty of defenders miserable -- and sore -- this fall.

6. Spencer Ware, Jr., LSU: Ware was one of the top backs in the league during the first part of last season, but was never the same after his midseason suspension. Word is that he's very determined to redeem himself this fall. He's a true bruiser who can soften defenses, and has a knack for pushing through for an extra yard or three.

7. Michael Ford, Jr., LSU: He's considered the fastest of LSU's five-headed rushing monster and ended up leading the Tigers in rushing last season (756), after starting just three games. Ford might be LSU's best big-play threat at running back, but he's also not afraid to put his head down and knock someone over.

8. Onterio McCalebb, Sr., Auburn: McCalebb might not be the every-down back the Tigers need in replacing Michael Dyer, but he's one of the best home run threats in the league. He's at his best when he takes runs to the outside, and can be deadly in the passing game, too.

9. Dennis Johnson, Sr., Arkansas: After taking over for Davis last season, Johnson led the Hogs with 670 yards on just 106 carries. He might be known more for his kick return ability, but Johnson could probably start at running back for a few teams in the SEC. He has a solid blend of power and speed, but has to get over his fumbling issues.

10. Nick Griffin, So, Mississippi State: LaDarius Perkins might be the starter to open the season and has big-time speed, but Griffin is the complete package and is probably the closest thing the Bulldogs have on their roster to the departed Vick Ballard. The coaches are especially excited about his potential, and it would be no surprise if Griffin eventually takes the bulk of the carries for the Bulldogs this fall.

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