SEC: treon harris

Florida season review

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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Florida's 2014 season didn't exactly live up to the preseason hype. The arrival of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper brought excitement, but the offense never really got off the ground, and head coach Will Muschamp was fired before the end of the Gators' disappointing 6-5 regular season.

The Gators owned one of the SEC's best defenses, but ranked near the bottom of the league in passing (180.7 yards per game) and total offense (370.2). The Gators averaged just 269.8 yards in their five losses. This should have been a much different year for the Gators, but the offense never really took off, and Florida suffered some ugly losses along the way. There was the blowout at Alabama, a last-second lost to an LSU team that rallied in the Swamp, getting thrashed by Missouri on Homecoming, and an ugly overtime loss at home to South Carolina. The Gators lost three games at home, and will be handing over the keys to the Swamp to former Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain soon.

Best win: That would have to be the Gators’ thunderous 38-20 drubbing of Georgia. Two weeks after that embarrassing loss to Mizzou, the Gators bounced back with new starting quarterback Treon Harris and an ferocious running game to blow out then-No. 11 Georgia. Thanks to some masterful running by the duo of Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones, the Gators piled up 418 rushing yards, averaging 7.0 yards per carry. Harris, in his first start of the season, threw the ball just six times for 27 yards, with a long of 13 yards. The loss eventually knocked the Bulldogs out of the SEC title game.

Worst loss: While the overtime loss to South Carolina eventually cost Muschamp his job, that 42-13 home loss to Mizzou was just awful. It was a night game a week after that heartbreaking loss to LSU, and you would have thought the Gators would have come out with some inspiration. Instead, the special teams completely imploded alongside the offense. Florida allowed two kick returns for touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns, while holding Mizzou to just 119 yards of offense, including 20 passing yards. Florida mustered 283 yards and six turnovers in a shameful Homecoming loss.

Player of year: Florida’s defense was pretty solid all season, and while cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was fantastic yet again, defensive end/linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. was an absolute terror for the Gators. He was one of the league’s best pass-rushers and seemed to be involved on almost every play that was near the line of scrimmage. Fowler, who has declared for the NFL draft and will likely be a first-round pick, led Florida with 12 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries and was second with 5.5 sacks. He was also third on the team with 57 tackles, had 26 solo stops and forced two fumbles.

Breakout player: A year after being a major disappointment as a freshman, Demarcus Robinson was easily the Gators best wide receiver in 2014. Robinson’s 774 yards and seven touchdowns were the most by a Florida receiver since 2009. At one point, Robinson, who finished the regular season with 47 catches and four 100-yard games, was near the top of the SEC in receiving, and really was Florida’s only true go-to receiver all year. He’s still raw and had some inconsistency issues, but Robinson is a great athlete and should only grow as a player if he can stay focused off the field, something that hampered his first season.

Play of year: With the Gators on fourth-and-7 and down 27-20 in overtime to Kentucky at home, the Gators pulled off a miracle of a touchdown pass. There was pre-snap confusion, a play clock that clearly hit double zeros and a fantastic backpedaling catch by Robinson over a Kentucky defender. However, the play never should have happened because quarterback Jeff Driskel didn’t get the snap off before the play clock ran out. However, the refs never saw it and Driskel was able to deliver a beautiful pass to Robinson to the left side of the end zone. The score kept the Gators alive in a thriller they eventually won.

video 2015 outlook: Right now, it’s one of the great unknowns in the SEC. McElwain’s tenure will officially begin after the bowl game, which will be coached by defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. We don’t even know what assistants will stay or go from the previous staff, so Florida truly is an enigma. A lot of talent returns on defense, and there are certainly pieces to work with on offense for such an offensive-minded coach, but it's yet another year of offensive change for the Gators. Is Harris the guy at quarterback, or will redshirt freshman Will Grier get a good crack at it? All we know is that Florida has to have a pulse on offense to compete.

Ranking the SEC bowl games

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
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1. Allstate Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Ohio State

This game is the top one for obvious reasons, primarily, it’s the one bowl game involving the SEC that has real stakes -- the winner goes to the national championship game. If the College Football Playoff semifinal wasn’t strong enough for you, it matches two of the most well-known head coaches in the game right now, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. Those two did battle before when Meyer was at Florida, so the reunion should be plenty compelling.

2. Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. TCU

This is the only other SEC bowl that matches up two top-10 teams. TCU was one of the teams left at the altar by the selection committee, so it’s probable that the Horned Frogs would like to stomp a highly-regarded SEC team to make a statement. Ole Miss has had an impressive season and can secure only its seventh 10-win campaign in school history and its third since 1971.

3. Belk Bowl: Georgia vs. Louisville

It’s the Grantham Bowl. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s current team (Louisville) takes on his previous team (Georgia). It’s a safe bet he’d like to have his unit excel en route to a Cardinal win. The Cardinal defense is sixth nationally in yards per game allowed (293.2) but it’ll get tested by the Georgia running game, led by freshman sensation Nick Chubb (1,281 yards), who leads Georgia’s 12th-ranked rushing attack (255 yards per game).

4. Outback Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin

You have two of the nation’s top rushing teams as well as two pretty good running backs in this one. There’s the nation’s top individual rusher, Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon (2,336 yards) against Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne (1,482) who leads the SEC. Wisconsin averages a whopping 314 rushing yards per game, third in the nation while Auburn posts a hefty 258.5 (11th).

5. AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas A&M vs. West Virginia

If you like scoring, you’ll enjoy this one. Both teams average more than 33 points per game and they each throw it around a lot, averaging more than 300 passing yards per game. There are familiar faces on the coaching staffs as well. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen worked for Kevin Sumlin for two seasons at Houston and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital worked for Holgorsen at Oklahoma State and West Virginia before going to A&M. It’s Air Raid everywhere.

6. Capital One Orange Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech

He wasn’t a Heisman finalist but Dak Prescott was in the Heisman conversation for much of the season. It’s definitely worth tuning in to see Prescott and his partner-in-crime, running back Josh Robinson, who is aptly nicknamed “Bowling ball.” Georgia Tech is worth a watch for traditionalists, as the Yellow Jackets run the triple option well: just ask Georgia (who they beat in overtime) or Florida State (a team they stayed step-for-step with for much of the night).

7. Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: Arkansas vs. Texas

Long live the Southwest Conference. This is a throwback battle if there ever was one. These teams are both in the top 30 nationally in defense, each allowing fewer than 350 yards per game. The job Bret Bielema has done to get the Razorbacks to a bowl this season is noteworthy, while Charlie Strong seems to be laying the foundation for future success at Texas. Also, Strong has history in Arkansas -- he was born in Batesville and played for Central Arkansas. He said Tuesday this will be the first time he’ll root against the Hogs.

8. Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: LSU vs. Notre Dame

Considering the profile of these two programs, you wouldn’t expect this game to be this far down the list. While the two teams have strong histories, this season hasn’t been stellar for either. There’s plenty of intrigue, though, from getting to see LSU’s star freshmen (Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre, Jamal Adams, etc.) to the quarterback situation at Notre Dame, where Brian Kelly has opened up competition between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire. For what it’s worth, Les Miles said bowl prep will also be an important evaluation time for his quarterbacks, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris.

9. Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri vs. Minnesota

This one may not have the sizzle on the surface but it matches two quality teams, both ranked in the Top 25. Missouri features two of the league’s best pass-rushers, Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Those two are worth watching alone, even if the Tigers’ offense isn’t always. Minnesota features one of the nation’s top rushers, running back David Cobb, who is ninth in rushing yards this season (1,548).

10. Duck Commander Independence Bowl: South Carolina vs. Miami

This game could become a feeding frenzy for Miami running back Duke Johnson, who is 12th in the country in rushing yards (1,520). South Carolina allows 214.4 rushing yards per game, 107th nationally. But the Gamecocks can score plenty of points, they average 33.3. Keep an eye on Pharoh Cooper, a dynamic receiver and returner who can do it all, including pass, and has 1,164 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns this season.

11. TaxSlayer Bowl: Tennessee vs. Iowa

Tennessee is thrilled to be in a bowl. You might even say they’re happy. It’s the first time in a bowl since 2010 for the Volunteers. There’s still a long way to go to get this proud program back to where it wants to be but they’re moving in the right direction. The Vols have a ton of talented freshmen on the roster who played key roles this season and sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who came on strong late in the season, seems to have a bright future in Knoxville.

12. Birmingham Bowl: Florida vs. East Carolina

Any time you go into a game with an interim coach, it’s not ideal. That’s what the Gators have to do after firing Will Muschamp. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will serve as the interim coach. For Florida fans, this is a chance to scout a future opponent -- the Gators and Pirates meet Sept. 12 next season. East Carolina brings a high-powered offense led by quarterback Shane Carden, who is second nationally in passing yards (4,309). That should be a good test for a talented Florida defense. The continued development of true freshman quarterback Treon Harris is also worth keeping an eye on.
Florida's trip to Birmingham, Alabama, for the aptly named Birmingham Bowl is more than just a trip for one final game, it's about making a good first impression with the new man in charge.

The embattled Gators' end to the 2014 season probably can't come soon enough for fans -- or the players, for that matter -- but it will serve as more than just a way to officially usher out the Will Muschamp era. This is the first major tryout for players in front of new head coach Jim McElwain. More than just pride is on the line for a team looking to get back on track with new leadership taking over at the conclusion of the game.

[+] EnlargeTreon Harris
AP Images/John RaouxNew Florida coach Jim McElwain will surely have his eye on the passing ability of Treon Harris this month.
McElwain won't roam the sidelines on Jan. 3, but he will be in attendance to watch what some of his future players have when the ball is live, especially on the offensive side. That's where most of the pressure is, and that's where most of the improvement has to come from once McElwain starts directing this team during spring practice.

For a team that could return just five starters on offense, Florida's game against East Carolina is an important one for players looking to revamp their careers under a more offensive direction.

Of course, it starts with freshman quarterback Treon Harris, who assumed the starting role in November after veteran Jeff Driskel failed to improve or win games. The young and very green quarterback has shown flashes of special ability here and there, but against better competition, Harris hasn't exactly been a world beater. Maybe that was because of perplexing conservative play calling in key moments, but, honestly, Harris the passer isn't as dangerous as Harris the runner. And if Harris is going to keep the starting job under McElwain's watch, he'll have to get that right arm going in a hurry.

That starts in Birmingham. Harris, who went 3-2 as a starter and threw for 896 yards and seven touchdowns, doesn't have to become an overnight passing sensation against the Pirates, but this is a chance for him to show his new coach some development from a little less than a month of work. The Harris who couldn't hit anyone late against Florida State won't win a starting job in a Jim McElwain offense. But Harris can prove that he's better than that and get a leg up on spring practice before getting a total reboot from the quarterback whisperer.

Then, you look at Florida's young receiving corps and running backs. All of them will be battling for jobs next spring with some veterans departing. Demarcus Robinson is easily the Gators' most talented receiver, but he needs to be more consistent and that will come with some help. This would be a great opportunity for Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson to show something in a meaningful game. The same goes for seniors-to-be Latroy Pittman, who proved to be a safety net at times on third down this fall, and Valdez Showers, who never really found a role in Kurt Roper's offense.

As for running backs, the future definitely begins with Kelvin Taylor and Brandon Powell, who could compliment each other well in McElwain's offense.

Defensively, McElwain will likely just be interested in seeing what he has to work off of in 2015. Being an offensive guy, he probably won't spend extensive time on the other side, but when you're a new, offensive-minded coach playing to your strengths, it's good to know what chances you can and can't take because of the guys lining up on the other side. And with Florida possibly returning seven defensive starters, McElwain will have a little buffer to start with.

This game isn't the end all when it comes to impressing McElwain. Everything will change once he implements his plan, but the bowl game will provide McElwain with some good intel on the team he'll have once he's officially handed the keys to the program, and it's much better to start on the new boss' good side.

State of the team: Florida

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
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Florida hasn't exactly been the titan of college football that we were used to seeing in the not-so-distant past, and the better part of the past four years hasn't been great for the Gators. The firing of Will Muschamp, who went 10-13 in his last two seasons, brings new order to Gainesville. That order starts with former Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, who will be working with a lot more than Muschamp first started with:

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Rob Foldy/Getty ImagesQuarterback Jeff Driskel's future is uncertain as Florida brings in a new coaching staff.
Offense: The Gators have lacked any sort of substantial production at the quarterback spot, but could return as many as three quarterbacks with collegiate experience in Treon Harris, Skyler Mornhinweg and Jeff Driskel. Driskel is an interesting piece to the puzzle, because with an extra year of eligibility, he could transfer or pursue a Major League Baseball career. There is also redshirt freshman Will Grier, who arrived at Florida as the No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school, according to ESPN's RecruitingNation. With Matt Jones declaring for the NFL draft and Mack Brown graduating, Florida returns junior-to-be Kelvin Taylor and sophomores-to-be Brandon Powell and Adam Lane. Taylor improved drastically from his freshman season, rushing for 565 yards and six touchdowns. Powell made an impact at both running back and as a receiver, and Lane should see an increased role at running back. Receiver needs a lot of development. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (team-high 47 catches for 774 yards and seven touchdowns) is Florida's best offensive weapon, but he has to be more consistent, and he needs help. Youngsters Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson have potential, but neither made much of an impact this season. Florida will lose senior Quinton Dunbar, the Gators second-most productive receiver, and will have to see vast improvement from freshmen C.J. Worton, Ryan Sousa and Alvin Bailey. The offensive line takes a big hit, losing seniors Trenton Brown, Max Garcia and Chaz Green, and junior Tyler Moore, who declared for the NFL draft. Junior D.J. Humphries is also contemplating an early move to the NFL. Guys like Roderick Johnson, David Sharpe and Trip Thurman return with adequate experience from this season, but Florida's depth is lacking.

Defense: Florida's secondary returns the most talent for McElwain's staff to work with. The Gators only lose senior safety Jabari Gorman, but return a solid contingent of cover cornerbacks in Vernon Hargreaves III, Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson. Sophomore Keanu Neal returns as the Gators' top safety, and freshman Duke Dawson can play safety and cornerback. Marcus Maye and Brian Poole, who improved greatly this season, return to the nickel spot. Expect to see more from redshirt freshmen Marcell Harris, a special teams beast, and Nick Washington. Also, true freshman J.C. Jackson returns from a season-ending shoulder injury. The Gators lose seniors Neiron Ball and Michael Taylor, but could return senior-to-be Antonio Morrison, who is coming off his best season with the Gators and is considering a jump to the NFL. Florida returns good depth, starting with sophomores Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone. Redshirt freshman Matt Rolin could also have a bigger impact on the defense next fall. The defensive line will lose the defense's best player in end Dante Fowler Jr., along with starting nose tackle Darious Cummings, but could return junior tackle Jonathan Bullard, who is also flirting with the NFL. Ends Alex McCalister and Bryan Cox Jr. have the potential for bright futures, as do young tackles Caleb Brantley and Joey Ivie.

Special teams: The Gators went back and forth with their kickers, but lose senior Francisco Velez, who hit 12 of 14 field goals this fall. That means sophomore Austin Hardin (7 of 10), who finished the season as the starter, will have all eyes on him. Incredibly efficient punter Kyle Christy will be gone, but Johnny Townsend returns after starting ahead of Christy in 2013. Finding a return man to replace Andre Debose won't be easy. He had four kickoff returns for touchdowns and one punt return for a touchdown in his career.

Fan base: Gator Nation isn't happy. There was a toxic atmosphere within the fan base for the past couple of seasons because the product on the field just wasn't adequate. Is this fan base excited about McElwain's hire? That is to be determined, but fans have to be happy about the prospect of having some sort of real offensive pulse going forward. Obviously, fans want wins, and the Gators didn't deliver enough of those during Muschamp's tenure. These fans also want a competent offense, and that was clear when there wasn't a ton of buzz around the program during an 11-win 2012 season that featured a run-heavy, defensive Florida team.

Administrative support: Athletic director Jeremy Foley is one of the most loyal athletic directors out there. He stuck with Muschamp after an embarrassing 4-8 season for crying out loud. But he also knew exactly the direction his program needed to go in 2014, and it never went the right way. Foley isn't afraid to stand up for his coaches publicly, and he's always willing to work with his coaches to find ways to improve everything around them. He's one of the smartest athletic directors around, and Florida's athletic program isn't short for cash. The program has been incredibly successful under Foley's watch, and he will make sure his new coach is taken care of and put on the right path for success.

Recruiting: Florida's current recruiting class only holds nine players. Four are offensive linemen, who have to stay committed to the Gators going forward because of how thin that line will be in 2015. Two of those linemen -- Mike Horton and George Brown Jr. -- have visited other schools. The Gators also only have a couple of offensive skill players committed. Dual-threat quarterback Sheriron Jones is committed and will have to see if he works within McElwain's offense. McElwain has to snag some solid offensive talent to help the Gators in 2015, because Florida has somehow failed to sign elite offensive talent for years now. With Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris taking the SMU job, the Gators could get in on Clemson athlete commits Deon Cain and Ray Ray-Ray McCloud III, who have interest in Florida. Miami running back commit Dexter Williams has flirted with Florida before, and his family likes what Florida has to offer, so keep an eye on him. Uncommitted five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey is still high on the Gators, and Florida is still looking at receiver Antonio Callaway, who was a teammate of Treon Harris' at Booker T. Washington High. Defensive ends CeCe Jefferson and Byron Cowart are also high priorities for McElwain.

SEC Freshman Tracker: Week 14

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
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The SEC’s true freshmen sent out the regular season with a bang, creating some of the most memorable plays of the entire season in the final weekend.

Here is a recap of how some of the league’s first-year players fared in their final games of the regular season:

DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

What he did: Barnett added to his impressive season totals against Vanderbilt by recording five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack in the Volunteers’ 24-17 win.

What it means: Barnett is tied for 13th nationally with 10 sacks and is tied for third with 20.5 TFLs. Not a bad rookie season -- one in which he deserves to become the rare true freshman to earn All-SEC honors as a defensive lineman.

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia

What he did: Chubb had yet another 100-yard game, this time rushing 25 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 36 yards. On the negative side, he lost a fumble at the goal line, which came back to bite Georgia when rival Georgia Tech rallied to win in overtime.

What it means: Considering how he didn’t become Georgia’s feature back until midseason, Chubb’s 1,281 rushing yards (good for second in the SEC) and 12 touchdowns are all the more impressive. He and fellow freshman Sony Michel both lost costly fumbles inside the Tech 5-yard line, but both backs have been impressive overall.

RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

What he did: Fournette earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his efforts against Texas A&M. The star freshman ran 19 times for 146 yards and scored a highlight-reel touchdown when he ran over A&M safety Howard Matthews. Fournette also returned three kickoffs for 34 yards.

What it means: The touchdown run -- highly reminiscent of a memorable run Georgia legend Herschel Walker made against Tennessee as a freshman -- was one of the plays of the year in the SEC. Fournette has had an up-and-down first season, but he has still posted four 100-yard games and has a respectable 891 rushing yards and eight touchdowns entering bowl season.

video WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M

What he did: Not to be outdone by his fellow New Orleans native Fournette, Noil also made highlight reels with his leaping 27-yard touchdown catch over LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White. Noil finished with four catches for 46 yards, returned four kickoffs for 50 yards and returned one punt for 1 yard.

What it means: Noil also lost a fumble on a kickoff return, which LSU recovered and turned into a field goal (and a 17-7 lead) just before halftime. The freshman proved once again he is one of the Aggies’ most explosive players, but that was a costly turnover in A&M's 23-17 loss.

video RB Stanley Williams, Kentucky

What he did: Williams concluded an impressive freshman season with 126 rushing yards and touchdowns of 11 and 14 yards on 18 carries against Louisville. He also caught three passes for 13 yards in the Wildcats’ 44-40 loss.

What it means: One of Kentucky’s highlights came midway through the fourth quarter when Williams bulled his way through three Louisville defenders to score the go-ahead touchdown. The defense couldn’t preserve the lead, meaning the Wildcats fell short of bowl eligibility, but Williams still finished the season with 488 rushing yards, 162 receiving yards and an average of 116.1 all-purpose yards per game.

video Other notables:

DB Jamal Adams, LSU: Recorded a team-high eight tackles, one tackle for loss and broke up a pass in LSU’s win over Texas A&M.

OLB Lorenzo Carter, Georgia: Made eight tackles and one tackle for loss against Georgia Tech.

WR Malachi Dupre, LSU: Caught one pass for 41 yards against Texas A&M.

QB Treon Harris, Florida: Completed 13 of 32 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and also ran nine times for 41 yards against Florida State.

DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M: Recorded four tackles against LSU.

DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss: Made five tackles and a sack against Mississippi State.

DB Todd Kelly Jr., Tennessee: Intercepted a pass and made one tackle against Vanderbilt.

PK Aaron Medley, Tennessee: Made a 36-yard field goal and all three of his PATs in a win against Vanderbilt.

RB Sony Michel, Georgia: Ran nine times for 49 yards but also lost a key fumble at the goal line in the loss to Georgia Tech.

P J.K. Scott, Alabama: Punted twice against Auburn and averaged 55.5 yards per attempt, including a long of 70.

DB Devin Voorhies, LSU: Forced Noil’s fumbled kickoff return that led to an LSU field goal before halftime against Texas A&M.

DB Quincy Wilson, Florida: Recorded one tackle for a two-yard loss and also intercepted a Jameis Winston pass in the Gators’ loss to Florida State.

PK Gary Wunderlich, Ole Miss: Made a 39-yard field goal, all four of his PATs and punted once for 46 yards in a win against Mississippi State.

SEC Freshman Tracker: Week 13

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
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Compared to two weekends ago, when the SEC's true freshmen collectively had their best Saturday of the season, last weekend was relatively quiet for the group. Still, several of the rookies had big games on Saturday.

Here are five who stood out and six more notables:

DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

What he did: In the Volunteers' loss to Missouri, Barnett finished second on the team with eight tackles, plus he posted half a tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries.

What it means: The freshman continues to be one of the SEC's most consistent pass-rushers, increasing his total of tackles for loss to 18.5 against Mizzou. He is second in the SEC in TFLs and his nine sacks are tied for third with teammate Curt Maggitt.

KOR Evan Berry, Tennessee

What he did: The little brother of Volunteers legend Eric Berry, Evan returned four kickoffs for 121 yards (30.3 yards per return) against Missouri, including a 58-yard runback in the second quarter that set up a field goal.

What it means: The freshman speedster took over the kickoff return duties around midseason and has handled the job extremely well. In 13 returns, Berry is averaging 30.9 yards per return with a long of 68 yards against Chattanooga. He has a return of at least 33 yards in each of the six games where he has returned a kick.

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia

What he did: Chubb's string of games with at least 140 rushing yards ended at five, but only because the Bulldogs didn't need to use Chubb after the earlygoing against Charleston Southern. He accumulated 113 rushing yards on just nine carries and scored on touchdown runs of 83 and 8 yards.

What it means: He piled up all of that yardage in the first half alone, so it's not like Chubb's production dropped off at all in the blowout win. In fact, the 83-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was Georgia's longest since 1985 and the eighth-longest in school history. Entering this weekend's game against Georgia Tech, Chubb has 1,152 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns and is a full-fledged star who no longer sits in Todd Gurley's shadow.

QB Treon Harris, Florida

What he did: Harris suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of Florida's blowout win against Eastern Kentucky and sat out most of the second half of the 52-3 victory. To that point, he was 4-for-12 passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns, plus he had run five times for 8 yards.

What it means: The good news is that Harris' knee contusion will not keep him out of this week's game against Florida State. Harris has helped the Gators' offense become more effective since he entered the starting lineup four games ago -- a stretch where Florida is 3-1.

DL Gerald Willis, Florida

What he did: Willis recovered a fumble that set up a touchdown and also recorded five tackles and a quarterback hurry in Florida's blowout win against Eastern Kentucky.

What it means: Willis was a huge recruit for the Gators, but has had a quiet first season for the most part. He has just 10 tackles in six games this fall. Willis and several youngsters on the defensive line had good games on Saturday, showing that the future should be bright along the line of scrimmage in 2015 and beyond.

Other notables:

DB Todd Kelly Jr., Tennessee: Recorded a career-high six tackles against Missouri.

PK Aaron Medley, Tennessee: Made field goals of 38 and 39 yards and hit his only PAT try against Missouri.

DB Malkom Parrish, Georgia: Recorded four tackles and a tackle for loss against Charleston Southern.

PK Gunnar Raborn, Alabama: Made field goals of 20 and 28 yards and went 6-for-6 on PATs in a 48-14 win against Western Carolina.

WR Cam Sims, Alabama: Caught a 4-yard touchdown pass for Alabama's first score and finished with three receptions for 33 yards against Western Carolina.

RB Roc Thomas, Auburn: Ran five times for 26 yards against Samford and scored on a 1-yard run, plus he made two receptions for 2 yards.

SEC morning links

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
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Florida probably needs all the help it can get if it is to have a chance against Florida State on Saturday.

The Gators got some good news on that front when they learned that quarterback Treon Harris, who injured his knee Saturday against Eastern Kentucky, should be able to practice this week and start against the Seminoles.

FSU might not be the juggernaut it was last season, but not much has been able to slow down the Seminoles. Not even the game officials.

Beating FSU would be a poetic ending for Will Muschamp in his final season as Florida’s head coach, who had to work to keep the team together after the news broke that he will not return in 2015.

Razorbacks playing spoiler: Bret Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks are suddenly the darlings of the SEC following back-to-back shutouts against LSU and Ole Miss that ended a two-year conference losing streak. Some are already discussing the Hogs as potential SEC contenders in 2015, but they still have work to do this season. They could play spoiler again with a win this weekend at Missouri. The Tigers must win to represent the SEC East in the conference championship game. Otherwise Georgia will be the Eastern Division team in Atlanta. Missouri believes it has come into its own in the second half of the season, and it’s hard to argue with a team that’s riding a five-game winning streak. In fact, the Tigers seem to be handling the underdog role fairly well.

Rocky road for Auburn: Coordinators Rhett Lashlee and Ellis Johnson made their weekly visits with reporters on Sunday night and acknowledged they’ll have their work cut out when Auburn visits No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. For one thing, they’re not entirely sure whether all of their most valuable personnel will be available. Johnson said that team sack leader DaVonte Lambert probably will not play after suffering a leg injury against Samford over the weekend. On the offensive side, Lashlee said Duke Williams is still day to day, but he’s optimistic that the star receiver will be able to play. On a separate note, Lashlee said he had a laugh afterward over Samford -- where he coached in 2011 -- using play-calling placards that featured pictures of him in Saturday’s game.

Around the SEC:

" Oxford, Mississippi, is bracing for a massive crowd for Saturday’s Ole Miss-Mississippi State game -- a matchup that could be the most pivotal game in Egg Bowl history.

" The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Ross Dellenger examines LSU’s issues at quarterback and the parallels between this season and 2008, Les Miles’ least successful season as the Tigers’ coach to this point.

" Looking toward the future, a number of young reserves got a chance to shine in Alabama’s win against Western Carolina on Saturday.

" Arkansas coach Bielema said running back Korliss Marshall will likely not return to the Razorbacks' program.

" By the numbers, rivals Georgia and Georgia Tech appear to be closely matched.

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SEC Freshman Tracker: Week 12

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
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Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Tennessee’s Derek Barnett were once again the stars of the weekend among the SEC’s true freshmen, with both rookies helping their teams earn blowout wins against conference competitors.

Let’s recap how the dynamic duo, and several other members of the SEC’s true freshman class, performed last Saturday:

DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

What he did: Barnett notched seven tackles, four tackles for loss and a pair of sacks in the Volunteers’ blowout win against Kentucky.

What it means: He probably wasn’t getting enough attention before, but Barnett is getting it now. Barnett is tied for fifth nationally in tackles for loss with Missouri’s Shane Ray. They share the SEC lead with 18 apiece. Barnett is also third in the SEC with nine sacks.

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia

What he did: The return of -- and subsequent injury to -- Todd Gurley generated most of the attention in Saturday’s win against Auburn, but the Chubb Train kept rolling. Georgia’s star freshman ran 19 times for 144 yards and scored touchdowns of 9 and 11 yards. He also caught two passes for 48 yards.

What it means: Chubb has rushed for at least 140 yards in all five games since Gurley was initially suspended. During that time, he has been arguably the SEC’s most dynamic running back. He has run for 815 yards in the past five games and pushed his season total past the 1,000-yard mark (to 1,039) against Auburn.

RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee

What he did: He hasn’t put up comparable numbers to Chubb, but Hurd has been impressive while running behind a much less experienced offensive line. He rushed 23 times for 118 yards and scored a 4-yard touchdown against Kentucky. He also made a reception for an 11-yard gain.

What it means: Through 10 games, Hurd has rushed for 716 yards and three touchdowns and ranks third on the team with 27 catches for 177 yards and two more scores. He is easily one of the Volunteers' most valuable offensive players and he’s only getting started.

QB Treon Harris, Florida

What he did: The South Carolina game ended terribly for Florida -- with the Gamecocks tying the score late and winning in overtime -- but Harris is a clear upgrade over Jeff Driskel at quarterback. He completed just 5 of 11 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, but Harris also ran 20 times for 111 yards.

What it means: Starting for the third straight game, Harris suffered his first loss as a starter against the Gamecocks. Nonetheless, Florida has become a more competitive team with him under center. His 100-yard outing was the first by a Florida quarterback since Driskel in 2012.

S Armani Watts, Texas A&M

What he did: The freshman safety made four tackles and broke up two passes in a loss against Missouri, but his biggest play came late in the second quarter when he picked off a Maty Mauk pass at the Texas A&M 12-yard line and returned it 36 yards to the Aggies 48. A&M then drove to Mizzou’s 13 and kicked a field goal at the buzzer to go up 13-6 at halftime.

What it means: Other A&M freshmen like Myles Garrett, Speedy Noil and Kyle Allen have garnered more attention, but Watts has become a solid contributor on defense. He leads the team with three interceptions and 10 passes defended, is second with seven pass breakups and sixth with 52 tackles. It’s shaping up to be a strong rookie season for the young defensive back.

Other notables:

QB Kyle Allen, Texas A&M: Completed 24 of 35 passes for 237 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a loss to Missouri.

LB Bryson Allen-Williams, South Carolina: Made three tackles, a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble while combining for a sack in a win against Florida.

DB/KR Evan Berry, Tennessee: Vols legend Eric Berry’s younger brother made two tackles and returned three kickoffs for 91 yards (30.3 ypr) with a long of 39 against Kentucky.

WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M: Caught three passes for 36 yards and totaled 95 yards on two kickoff returns in a loss to Missouri.

DB Malkom Parrish, Georgia: Made five tackles and forced a fourth-quarter fumble that outside linebacker Davin Bellamy recovered in a win against Auburn.

P J.K. Scott, Alabama: Punted seven times for 319 yards (45.6 ypp) in a win against Mississippi State with a long of 56.

RB Ish Witter, Missouri: Ran four times for 34 yards and rushed for a key third-quarter touchdown that gave the Tigers a 14-point lead in a 34-27 win over Texas A&M.
video
The simple answer for why things didn’t work out for Will Muschamp at Florida is the fact that he could never figure things out on offense.

For as great as his teams were at executing on defense, they were equally as bad on offense. Charlie Weis’ one-year offense did nothing. Brent Pease’s Boise State magic never made it to Gainesville. Kurt Roper’s explosive spread offense has been anything but that this season.

All that really needs to be said is that Muschamp lost two games when his defense allowed less than 120 yards of offense.

Whether Muschamp ever really got out of his own way when it came to offensive play calling or not, the truth is that there was never continuity. Having three offensive coordinators in four years didn’t help, but there was no creativity or adequate development on that side of the ball.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsWill Muschamp built a great defense at Florida but could never find the offense to match.
While Muschamp signed some hefty defensive classes during his Florida tenure, he missed on a lot of offensive guys and never brought in the type of game-changers the Gators should be consistently reeling in with the school nestled in the middle of a recruiting hotbed.

For Florida not to sign more than one elite wide receiver or have any consistency at quarterback in four years is inexcusable.

But here Florida is. Muschamp is stepping down at the end of the season, and a program that won two national championships under Urban Meyer and was a consistent SEC title threat under Steve Spurrier in the 1990s is spiraling.

Even Ron Zook’s offenses had more of a pulse.

During Muschamp’s 27-20 run at Florida, the Gators have yet to finish a season ranked higher than 103rd nationally in total offense. Currently, the Gators rank 88th nationally in total offense, averaging a paltry 373.3 yards per game. They are 63rd nationally in scoring offense, averaging 29.3 points per game. Both are highs during Muschamp’s tenure.

While Florida’s offense has been statistically better this season, the losses have shown just how inept this offense has been for the majority of the past four years.

In Florida’s four losses this season, the Gators have averaged just 266.8 yards and 20.2 points per game. Conservative play calling with a talent pool lacking substance has continually kept the Gators from advancing.

Even in Muschamp’s most successful season -- Year 2 in 2012 that featured 11 wins and an Allstate Sugar Bowl appearance -- the Gators won with great defense and a power running game. Yet they still ranked 103rd nationally in total offense and scored only 26.5 points per game.

Bad misses on guys like Stefon Diggs (Maryland) and Nelson Agholor (USC) set Florida’s receiver corps back. Two current running backs struggle with blocking, and legitimate playmaker Demarcus Robinson isn't consistent enough but appears to be the only real receiving threat on the team.

Not having the right pieces in place in Year 4 is on the coaching. Not expanding the playbook or having more looks for your young quarterback at this point in the season is on the coaching.

Clinging to embattled quarterback Jeff Driskel for too long is on the coaching. Driskel showed strides in practice and other coaches have said he has NFL talent, but it never translated to the field.

Even in a new spread offense that was supposed to suit Driskel’s skill set better, the junior looked lost and regressed this fall. Bad losses at home to LSU and Missouri were mired in awful offensive execution that goes back to the quarterback position.

The move to freshman Treon Harris was appropriate but might have come too late. That temporary spark faded Saturday when a limited playbook led to an overly conservative plan that contributed to the final backbreaking loss against South Carolina.

There were no mass injuries to lean on. Muschamp had time to find his quarterback. The excuses are gone, and change is coming.

How Florida goes about this is crucial. This is an incredibly important hire for Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, who has to bring in a more offensive-minded and established head coach. There needs to be a new, offensive-friendly philosophy in Gainesville, and coaches with real winning experience should clutter Foley's list.

Foley also has to sell more than just the notion that “This is Florida.” That no longer carries the weight it once did. The facilities aren’t up to par with a lot of other SEC schools, and name alone won’t win over a coach good enough to bring Florida back to relevancy.

Florida will have to dip into its wallet and improve the look of the program from the inside out. The funds are there, and Foley is smart enough to know he has a critical search on his hands as he looks to start a new chapter in Gainesville.

SEC morning links

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
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In a piece posted Thursday on Grantland, writer Matt Hinton asked the question that all SEC fans are asking entering Saturday’s games: "Is Mississippi State really the best team, or just another victim for the Alabama Death Star?"

This is put-up-or-shut-up time for the unbeaten Bulldogs, who earned their No. 1 ranking by beating three straight top-10 teams this season. Winning at Alabama, where it has won twice since 1957, is a different animal entirely for a program with a history filled with long periods of mediocrity -- and worse.

This is where the Bulldogs can truly prove they belong among the sport’s heavyweights, much like Cam Newton and the 2010 Auburn team did when it won in Tuscaloosa en route to the BCS championship. In fact, there are several similarities between 2014 Mississippi State and 2010 Auburn, as identified by AL.com’s Kevin Scarbinsky on Thursday.

Nick Saban’s Alabama teams have made a habit of winning games like this, especially at home, which might be why the MSU program turned to a superhero to provide the theme for its pregame hype video. In the video, Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman character says, "I’m not afraid, I’m angry."

The Bulldogs probably need to summon all the anger inside of them to make it through this weekend unbeaten. Never mind beating LSU in Tiger Stadium or outlasting Auburn in Starkville, this is the biggest test of their season, and most college football prognosticators expect them to fail.

They will either prove them right or they’ll prove that they’re legit, just like Newton and Auburn did in 2010.

Around the SEC

The last time Missouri and BYU met -- as they will next November according to a scheduling arrangement announced Thursday -- was when BYU quarterback Steve Young led the Cougars past Mizzou in the 1983 Holiday Bowl.

The Tennessean’s Matt Slovin asks if Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs can lead the Vols (4-5) to a bowl game. They might need a win against Kentucky on Saturday to keep their hopes alive.

Texas A&M receivers Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones returned to form in last week’s upset win at Auburn.

His Florida State team edged Auburn 34-31 in last season’s BCS championship game despite Auburn gaining 449 yards of total offense. Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt gets another shot at the Tigers on Saturday.

Former LSU football and baseball player and MLB all-star Alvin Dark died Thursday at age 92.

The State’s "Big Game Graphic" reminds us that Florida was averaging 255 yards per game and 17.5 points per game before Treon Harris became the Gators’ starting quarterback, and 437 yards and 36 points in the two games since he entered the starting lineup.

Tweet of the day

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Will Muschamp’s decision to bench Jeff Driskel for Treon Harris had to be an emotionally difficult one for Florida’s head coach, but it’s proved to be the right move.

With the Gators floundering at 3-3 and regressing offensively, Muschamp had no choice but to replace his embattled redshirt junior quarterback for the true freshman, who has led the Gators into the SEC East Division race with back-to-back wins.

[+] EnlargeTreon Harris
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsFlorida has looked like a different team with Treon Harris at quarterback.
Harris has brought a spark to a Florida team that began the month in danger of missing a bowl game in consecutive years. But after routing Georgia by 18 and handling Vanderbilt by 24 on the road, there’s renewed energy in Gainesville, as the Gators have rallied around their new signal-caller.

“Sometimes it takes a drastic decision like that to get the team going,” senior center Max Garcia said.

Harris, who won back-to-back state championships at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, is far from a savior, but there’s something about him that has invigorated this team. In the four games prior to Harris’ ascent, Florida averaged just 255 yards and 17.5 points per contest. In Florida’s last two wins, the Gators have averaged 437 yards and 36 points.

Harris has galvanized his teammates, who are playing better around their silent leader. Guys naturally gravitate toward the 5-foot-11 sparkplug, who is standing tall and slowly developing as more responsibility is thrust on his shoulders.

"Treon is a guy that has been overly coachable since he's been on campus,” Muschamp said. “He continues to work hard. He's a guy that the game comes easy to him.”

Harris certainly has a long way to go with his progression as a starter, but as Garcia sees it, Harris has pushed the team to play better. There’s more urgency because he’s so green.

The playbook was simplified for Harris against Georgia, leading him to throw just six times and the Gators to run for 418 yards. The playbook expanded some against Vandy, and Harris threw for 215 yards and six first downs on 13 of 21 passing. He also ran for 49 yards and two touchdowns, including a nifty 33-yarder in the Gators’ 17-point fourth quarter.

Muschamp says Harris has “it.” We saw “it” when he rescued the Gators from a 9-0 hole early in the season at Tennessee. We saw “it” when his first two collegiate passes went for 148 yards and two touchdowns. We saw “it” when he waved Muschamp off Saturday after taking a shot to his throwing shoulder.

“I went over, said, 'You all right?' He said, 'Go over and worry about someone else, I'm fine,’” Muschamp said. “That's part of the physical part of it, but also the mental side of it, the toughness aspect of it you've got to have at that position, especially here.”

“It” isn’t overwhelming, but it’s working.

“He’s just a playmaker,” Garcia said. “That’s just what he does naturally.”

While dangerous with his arm and legs, Harris’ best attribute might be how he deals with pressure. Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said Harris does a great job of "not seeing" the pass rush while simultaneously seeing downfield and buying time.

What hindered Driskel so much was his incessant pressing against the rush or when things broke down. Harris has had better composure in those situations, extending plays more and not forcing mistakes.

“He has an incredible pocket presence," Garcia said. "He feels when the pressure is coming left or right.

“He’s so calm and his demeanor is something that I haven’t seen in a freshman. He’s so cool, calm and collected. It’s crazy to see.”

It’s really paid off on third down, where Harris has completed 9 of 15 passes (.600) for 120 yards. A few times against Vandy, Harris stood in the pocket and found receivers when the Commodores brought heat. He stayed relaxed and evaluated his options, like when he hit Quinton Dunbar for a 60-yard bomb on a play designed for an intermediate route.

For someone so young, Harris has an innate ability to avoid pressure, read defenses and go through his progressions.

“I think he enjoys playing so much that he doesn’t feel the outside pressures,” Roper said.

“Obviously, he understands the role, but I think he just goes and plays and doesn’t let the other things influence him.”

And here the Gators are, a win over South Carolina and some help away from a trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game. There’s more cohesion, and Harris is a major part of that. It was a painful process to get to this point, but change has gone a long way.

“It’s unfortunate that we went through three losses to get to where we are now, but I have full confidence in this team and we’re peaking at the right time,” Garcia said.

“Now that we are producing on the field, like we are on the practice field and in the locker room, I don’t think anyone can stop us.”

SEC Freshman Tracker: Week 11

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
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In a season where true freshmen have been regular contributors for SEC teams, last Saturday might have been the biggest weekend yet for the league’s newcomers.

Not only did true freshman quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Treon Harris lead their teams to key conference victories, but their fellow first-year players also made huge differences in all three phases of the game. Heck, the Georgia-Kentucky game alone could have filled out this week’s five most notable performers.

At any rate, here are five SEC true freshmen who stood out last Saturday and then 11 more who deserve recognition:

QB Kyle Allen, Texas A&M

What he did: Making his first SEC start, Allen led the Aggies to an upset win at Auburn by completing 19 of 29 passes for 277 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Allen tossed a touchdown pass on four of Texas A&M’s first five drives.

What it means: The freshman wasn’t great in his first start against Louisiana-Monroe, but he got off to a hot start against Auburn and helped the Aggies save face somewhat after a brutal October slump. It’s safe to say that Kenny Hill put his starting status in serious jeopardy by getting himself suspended and allowing Allen to get some valuable playing time.

OLB Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

What he did: Carter started for the first time against Kentucky, taking Leonard Floyd’s spot in the starting lineup, and had easily his best game as a Bulldog. He posted nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries in Georgia’s blowout win.

What it means: We’ll see whether Floyd gets back into the starting lineup at some point. He played very little against Kentucky after a disappointing performance the previous week against Florida. Regardless, Carter has already started to make an impact as a pass rusher. He’s second on the team with 3.5 sacks, third with 13 quarterback hurries and fifth with five TFLs.

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia

What he did: In his fourth game filling in for Todd Gurley as the Bulldogs’ starting tailback, Chubb posted his fourth game with at least 140 rushing yards – matching the longest such streak for any back in the nation this season. Chubb ran 13 times for 170 yards and scored on an 18-yard touchdown run against Kentucky.

What it means: Gurley will return this week against Auburn, and Sony Michel is also back from a four-game injury absence, so Chubb won’t have to carry the load alone. By this point, though, he has certainly proven himself as a capable runner, leading the Bulldogs with 895 rushing yards and scoring seven times on the ground.

KR/WR Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia
What he did:
The shifty return man took a kickoff back 90 yards for Georgia’s first touchdown against Kentucky and brought back a punt 59 yards for a score in the third quarter. He finished with two kickoff returns for 116 yards. McKenzie also ran once for a 12-yard gain.

What it means: McKenzie continues to breathe life into Georgia’s formerly stagnant return game. The Bulldogs had gone two seasons without a punt return touchdown before McKenzie took one back for a score earlier this season against Troy. He’s averaging 15.1 yards per punt return with two touchdowns and 29.7 yards per kickoff return with one score.

RB/KR Stanley Williams, Kentucky

What he did: Not to be outdone by his opponents from Georgia, Williams also had a big game against his home-state team on Saturday. He ran 10 times for 100 yards and scored on a 56-yard burst in the second quarter. He also caught a pass for a 1-yard gain and returned five kickoffs for 135 yards with a long of 37.

What it means: Williams has established himself as one of the SEC’s top young all-purpose players. He’s averaging a team-best 110.6 all-purpose yards per game and is averaging 6.9 yards per carry while sharing carries in Kentucky’s four-man backfield rotation.

Other notables:

TE Jeb Blazevich, Georgia: Caught three passes for 29 yards and touchdowns of 10 and 8 yards against Kentucky.

S Duke Dawson, Florida: Tied for the team lead with six tackles and also recorded a tackle for loss and a pass breakup in a win against Vanderbilt.

WR Malachi Dupre, LSU: Made a one-handed, 14-yard touchdown catch in a loss to Alabama.

RB Leonard Fournette, LSU: Ran 21 times for 79 yards in a loss to Alabama.

DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M: Recorded four tackles and blocked a field goal which Deshazor Everett returned 65 yards for a touchdown to give the Aggies a 35-17 halftime lead in a win against Auburn.

WR Jamoral Graham, Mississippi State: Caught a 44-yard touchdown pass in a win against Tennessee-Martin.

QB Treon Harris, Florida: Completed 13 of 21 passes for 215 yards and ran 10 times for 49 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Vanderbilt.

RB Sony Michel, Georgia: Ran 16 times for 84 yards and scored on a 23-yard touchdown against Kentucky.

WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M: Caught a pass for 16 yards, returned two punts for 2 yards and returned three kickoffs for 81 yards (with a long of 36) in a win against Auburn.

P J.K. Scott, Alabama: Punted nine times for 437 yards (48.6 per punt) with a long of 66 yards and placed two punts inside the 20 in a win against LSU.

CB Jalen Tabor, Florida: Recorded two tackles, broke up a pass and made a leaping, one-handed interception in a win against Vanderbilt.

SEC morning links

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
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Good Monday to you all. It's another big week in the SEC highlighted by the biggest game to date this season on the docket: No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama. Both teams control their own destiny in the playoff race considering the strength of their schedules in the final weeks of the season. What an afternoon it should be. Mississippi State is eager. You can believe that Alabama will be, too, although the Crimson Tide are coming off a more taxing affair, having to grind out a 20-13 overtime win over LSU in Death Valley, one that prompted a lot of OMGs to one Terry Saban. It was a night that wasn't pretty for Blake Sims, until the end when it mattered most, when he got the job done. Quarterback play is always critical but is even more magnified in big games and close games. Expect the same Saturday when Sims and Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott square off.

Spurrier
Spurrier
This season hasn't turned out as planned for South Carolina. A preseason top-10 ranking which followed three consecutive seasons of at least 11 wins set expectations high, but the Gamecocks have come nowhere near meeting them, limping along at 4-5 (2-5 in the SEC). One can only wonder the affect it has on veteran coach Steve Spurrier, whose frustration was visible after the normally talkative coach left his news conference after his team's loss to Tennessee after less than a minute. What of the 69-year-old coach's future? Spurrier declined to elaborate on his plans for next season when asked Sunday, saying he's going to "quit commenting on that." (For what it's worth, he told TheState.com last week that he plans to return in 2015). Next up for the Gamecocks is a clash with Florida, a team that has won two straight.

It was only one performance, but it was a memorable one for Texas A&M true freshman quarterback Kyle Allen. All he did was throw four touchdowns and lead the Aggies to a 41-38 win over No. 3 Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Allen was the top-ranked pocket passer in the 2014 recruiting class. He showed why he was so highly regarded on ”That is why we recruited him and that is why he is here,” Texas A&M receiver Malcome Kennedy said afterward. Based on his play Saturday, Allen likely earned himself the chance to start the Aggies' next game against Missouri and perhaps the rest of the season. And the win? It salvaged a season that was turning ugly.

Around the SEC
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SEC helmet stickers: Week 11

November, 9, 2014
Nov 9
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Separation Saturday lived up to its billing in the SEC with a shocking upset followed by an overtime thriller. It also provided plenty of memorable individual performances across the conference. Here are five who we think are most deserving of a helmet sticker.

Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M: He might only look 16, but Allen played a heck of a game on the road at Auburn in his first ever SEC start. The true freshman went 19 of 29 for 277 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He was the primary reason the Aggies jumped out to a 35-17 halftime lead as he threw four touchdowns to three different wide receivers in the first 30 minutes. The offense got more conservative in the second half, but he still showed poise down the stretch, protecting the football in a hostile environment and helping his team escape with a 41-38 upset victory.

Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Auburn: The loss stings, but Artis-Payne had a game to remember. The senior, who had rushed for over 100 yards in six of Auburn’s first eight games, eclipsed the 200-yard mark Saturday against Texas A&M. He finished with 30 carries for a career-high 221 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 1,190 yards on the season, becoming the 18th different Auburn player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. Had he gained one more yard late in the fourth quarter, the Tigers might have won.

Treon Harris, QB, Florida: Who says Florida can’t pass? A week after attempting six passes in the blowout win over Georgia, Harris went 13 of 21 for 215 yards on the road at Vanderbilt. The freshman quarterback also rushed for 49 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Gators to a 34-10 win, their second win in as many weeks, but what stood out was Harris' accuracy. He showed he could make throws if called upon. It was easily the best performance of his young career at Florida, and maybe a sign of things to come for Gators fans.

Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Georgia: Take your pick from this game. Hutson Mason threw for 174 yards and four touchdowns. Nick Chubb rushed for 170 yards and a touchdown. But McKenzie was a human highlight reel in Georgia’s 63-31 win over Kentucky. The freshman wide receiver took the opening kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown and later returned a punt 59 yards for his second score of the game. He is believed to be the first Bulldog in the modern era to do both in the same game. McKenzie finished with 187 all-purpose yards.

Blake Sims, QB, Alabama: It wasn’t pretty for three-and-a-half quarters, but when the game was on the line, Sims came through. The senior orchestrated a terrific drive in the final minute to set up a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation, and his touchdown pass to DeAndrew White in the first overtime session proved to be the game-winner in Alabama’s 20-13 win over LSU on Saturday. Sims finished 20 of 45 for 209 yards and two touchdowns, but it was his late-game heroics that stood out in a classic defensive battle.
Another eventful Saturday in the SEC. Here’s what we learned:

Bama is still alive but needs work: It wasn’t pretty, but Alabama’s playoff hopes are still intact after the Crimson Tide survived a thriller in Death Valley 20-13 in overtime. Despite a critical T.J. Yeldon fumble in the final minutes of regulation, the Tide were able to hold LSU to a field goal then benefited from a special-teams miscue as Trent Domingue booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. Blake Sims came up big by directing a game-tying drive then threw a picturesque pass to DeAndrew White for the game-winning touchdown in overtime. With No. 3 Auburn losing on Saturday, Alabama looks poised to move into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, and with No. 1 Mississippi State coming to town next week and the Iron Bowl in three weeks, the Crimson Tide control their own destiny. One thing is clear though: They can’t make the mistakes they did Saturday if they’re going to win out. Sims has to be better in the earlier portions of the game (he missed some open receivers), they can’t drop the football (Amari Cooper had one in crunch time) and surviving a late turnover like the one they had Saturday is hard to replicate against elite teams. They were fortunate to win Saturday; now they must turn the page and improve before the Bulldogs come to Tuscaloosa.

[+] EnlargeKyle Allen
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesTexas A&M's Kyle Allen helped diminish Auburn's playoff hopes with a four-touchdown effort.
Auburn’s playoff hopes are likely done: There are a lot of quality one-loss teams remaining in the field; a second loss is a killer for Auburn -- especially coming at home to an unranked team that hadn’t played well since September. For a little bit, it looked like the Tigers would pull off some of the late-game magic that has become a signature trait of theirs in the Gus Malzahn era, but two late fourth-quarter fumbles squashed their hopes and left them with a 41-38 loss. “It hurts,” Malzahn said. “It hurts our team. We have goals and dreams, and we did not get it done tonight.” The turnovers on offense late were one factor, but there were others: the first-half defense was poor and the secondary was torched in the first two quarters. On special teams, an Auburn field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown to end the first half. The Tigers were sloppy quite a bit on Saturday and they paid for it in the end. Now the Tigers must turn around and head to Georgia next week and close out at Alabama in three weeks, so the road remains tough down the stretch.

No hangover for Georgia: If you thought the Bulldogs were going to let the upset loss to Florida affect them moving forward, think again. Mark Richt’s crew responded emphatically, jumping out to a quick three-touchdown lead in Lexington and rolling to a 63-31 win over Kentucky. Georgia had success in all three phases, rolling up 559 offensive yards, holding Kentucky to 139 passing yards on 16 of 31 attempts and scored two special-teams touchdowns -- a kickoff return (90 yards) and punt return (59 yards) for scores by Isaiah McKenzie. Nick Chubb had another great performance at running back (13 carries, 170 yards) and Hutson Mason threw for four scores. The Bulldogs still need help from Missouri in the form of a loss, but they’re still very much alive in the SEC East.

Treon Harris can throw it around: Last week, the Florida quarterback attempted only six passes versus Georgia but on Saturday, the Gators trusted their true freshman more and Harris delivered, completing 13 of 21 passes for 215 yards. There were no touchdown passes, but more importantly, no interceptions and Harris was accurate and showed off his deep ball with this 59-yard beauty to Quinton Dunbar. Harris did solid work on the ground, too, rushing for 49 yards and two touchdowns in Florida’s 34-10 win over Vanderbilt. The Gators need to continue to win and need help from others, but they still have a pulse in the SEC East race.

Kevin Sumlin can still pull a rabbit out of his visor: Texas A&M was a 23-point underdog going into Jordan-Hare Stadium, lost its past three SEC games, had a true freshman quarterback, a beat up offensive line and a defense with a lot of youngsters starting. All the Aggies did was jump out to a 35-17 halftime lead and hang on for dear life to upset the No. 3 team in the nation in its own house. Sumlin’s Aggies pulled off a similar stunt almost two years to the day when they went into Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and took down the No. 1 Crimson Tide 29-24 behind freshman quarterback and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Is Kyle Allen (four touchdown passes) the next star quarterback in Aggieland? It’s too early to say but he had a memorable performance on Saturday at Auburn and he gives the seemingly left-for-dead Aggies some reason for optimism in the final weeks of the regular season. Sure, Auburn made a lot of mistakes, but Texas A&M played better than it had in more than a month, showing flashes of the team that started 5-0 this season.

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