EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's championship week in college football and it's a safe bet that NFL locker rooms around the league are enjoying heated debates about the BCS and the various conference championship games that will help decide where teams go bowling.
Here at Rams Park, there's always plenty of interest in college games as is custom in most NFL locker rooms. But for the St. Louis Rams, it's the SEC championship game that's drawing most of the attention. The Missouri Tigers carry the local angle with the support of Mizzou product Tim Barnes (also this week's starting center for the Rams) not to mention the many fans and alums (present company included) in the area.
But there are also some close ties to the Auburn version of the Tigers as well in Ramsland. General manager Les Snead played his college football at Auburn. Linebacker Daren Bates and practice squad receiver Emory Blake are also Tigers of the Auburn variety.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher has an even closer tie to Auburn: his son Trent is a backup safety for the Tigers. Fisher has been impressed with the turnarounds both teams have enjoyed to get them to where they are.
“I said this the other day, what a great accomplishment on behalf of both programs," Fisher said. "For Mizzou to be only in their second year in the SEC to have a shot at the SEC Championship and the way both programs have turned things around in just a year is pretty impressive. So, I will be watching it as a dad, however, so you’ll know which way I’m leaning.”
In other words, Fisher will be rooting for Auburn but it is worth noting he's taken notice of what Missouri and coach Gary Pinkel have done this year. He mentioned watching Mizzou a few times this year and coming away believing the Tigers are a legitimate contender rather than a squad benefiting from a down year in the SEC East.
“Not surprised [by them]," Fisher said. "I got to watch a couple ball games when we were on the road and stuff and look at the talent level that they had. The quarterback’s playing great, the receivers are huge and they’re running the football and playing good defense. Like I said, it’s not going to be a 6-3 game this weekend.”
Of course, this reporter has his own leanings but there's no doubt that plenty of Rams' eyes will be on the SEC championship game Saturday afternoon in the Phoenix area.
A roundup of Wednesday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. … In the Ram-blings, we discussed the decision of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to return to school and how that could affect the Rams' draft. … Next, we discussed this week's hot topics in NFL Nation Buzz. … Next, we looked at the return of safety T.J. McDonald and his continued efforts to knock off the rust after a leg injury. … Finally, it was time for an injury update with the potential for a return for guard Harvey Dahl from a knee injury.
At stltoday.com, Jim Thomas details the botched fake punt that put Sunday's loss to San Francisco out of reach.
Columnist Bernie Miklasz says the Rams need to raise the bar on their expectations on a weekly basis.
At Foxsportsmidwest.com, Nate Latsch provides an entertaining look at one of the most talented players on the Rams, punter Johnny Hekker, who recently pulled off his best Ron Burgundy impression on local television.
Turf Show Times takes a look back at the Rams' draft class of 2012 and how it's faring this season.