The latest update to the RecruitingNation class rankings features a number of moves due in large part to the release of the ESPN Junior College 50 rankings. Within the conference, Alabama still has a strong grasp on the top spot with all 14 schools in the top 35 classes nationally. Here's a look at the conference's rankings .
Trending up: Both Texas A&M and Auburn are trending up thanks to the release of the ESPN JC 50. The Aggies jumped from No. 5 to No. 4 and into the top 3 in the conference rankings with junior college offensive linemen Avery Gennesy (Southhaven, Miss./East Mississippi Community College) and Jermaine Eluemunor (Rockaway, N.J./Lackawanna College) coming in at No. 13 and 15 in the ESPN JC 50. Auburn junior college commitment D'haquille Williams (Reserve, La./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College) and Dalvon Stuckey (De Funiak Springs, Fla./Pearl River Community College) came in at No. 1 and 9 in the JC 50. Auburn jumped from No. 14 nationally to No. 12, and the Tigers are in striking position on several other highly-ranked prospects.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
It's been a few days since the debacle on The Plains and nothing is going to take the sting away from watching Chris Davis outrun the field goal team for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. The shock is still wearing off. Auburn is moving on to the SEC Championship Game and you're probably still questioning whether Nick Saban should have tried that long field goal from Adam Griffith, or better yet, whether he should have kicked it on fourth-and-one a few drives earlier. Maybe you're still reeling over Amari Cooper's dropped touchdown or the false start that negated what would have been a made field goal from Cade Foster.
Instead, what's most troubling was how Saban and Kirby Smart's defense once again failed to stop a spread, uptempo offense. Tre Mason ran inside and outside the tackles at will and Nick Marshall was able to evade the pass rush too easily. After that and what we saw earlier this season from Texas A&M, isn't it time to come to grips with the fact that Alabama needs to do something to slow down these types of attacks?
Gus Malzahn might indeed be the best offensive play-caller in the country. And, yes, Johnny Manziel is a freak of nature and arguably worthy of a second straight Heisman Trophy. Sometimes these things can't be helped. But the body of evidence is growing to suggest that Alabama has a real problem on its hands.
It's not like Saban and Smart didn't know what they were getting into. We heard all during the offseason how they were working to slow down Johnny Football and adjust to the tempo of no-huddle schemes. Alabama is nothing if not familiar with the work of Malzahn. There was more than enough tape from his time at Auburn and Arkansas State to know the zone-read was going to be a focal point of the game. Nothing they saw from either Auburn or Texas A&M was unfamiliar, except maybe the remarkable production their offenses gained on what's supposedly the best defense in college football.
"Their running game has had a lot of success against everybody all year long," Saban said after the loss at Auburn. "They have a very difficult offense to defend. Like I said, it takes a lot of discipline."
But discipline is what Saban's defenses have been known for all along. They don't go for the sack or the big play. Players are told to maintain their gaps and let the scheme work its magic. More often than not it does. Not against Auburn, though, which rushed for 296 yards, the most Alabama has given up since 2011. Auburn averaged 4.2 yards before contact on designed rushes, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Alabama entered Saturday averaging an SEC-best 1.5 yards before contact per rush.
"You certainly have to stop the run a little better than we did today to have a chance to beat a team like this."
Mason's 164 yards rushing was the third most of any player against Alabama in the last decade. Marshall's 99 yards on the ground was the most allowed by a quarterback in the Saban era. The zone-read Mason and Marshall ran accounted for 270 yards on 38 attempts. That 7.1 yards per carry average was nearly double what Alabama entered the game allowing on zone-read plays (3.4).
Said veteran linebacker C.J. Mosley: "On some plays we messed up on our technique and [Marshall] made us pay, and some plays he made on his own."
In short, Alabama didn't have an answer for Auburn, just as it didn't against Texas A&M earlier this season.
Lost in the Alabama's sprint toward an undefeated season was how the defense gave up a school-record 628 yards of offense that day in September. Manziel threw for 464 yards, many of which came on plays where he scrambled to buy time for his receivers. He ran for 98 more yards of his own. Mike Evans abused Alabama's cornerbacks to the tune of 279 yards receiving, the most in Texas A&M's history and the most the Tide had allowed since 2001. When the Aggies got on a roll, they couldn't be stopped.
Making sense of what Texas A&M and Auburn did to Alabama's defense won't be easy, but it's a job that must be done. If not, repeat performances will come next year and the year after that.
If Alabama wants to retain the mantle of the best defense in college football, it has work to do. Saban and Smart have shown they're some of the top minds in the game, but now maybe more than ever they have to prove it.
ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Goldsboro, N.C./East Mississippi Community College) committed to the Crimson Tide following an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa last week.
“I committed to Alabama,” Reed said via text message. “The relationship with the coaches, and the opportunity to join a great team. It’s a great way to become a better person and player.”
Reed, who ranks No. 30 in the recently released ESPN JC 50, made official visits to Kentucky on Oct. 11, Tennessee on Oct. 18, Ole Miss on Nov. 10 and Mississippi State on Nov. 15.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Reed has been a nationally recruited prospect for the better part of three years. He signed with Florida last year after his freshman season at East Mississippi Community College, but failed to meet entrance requirements. He returned to EMCC, and this season and has continued to be a force in the middle for the Lions, who will play for the NJCAA National Championship Dec. 8 in Biloxi, Miss. Reed is on schedule to graduate in December and plans to enroll at Alabama in January.
Reed is a teammate of former Alabama defensive end D.J. Pettway (Pensacola, Fla./East Mississippi Community College), who was dismissed after being charged with second-degree robbery. Pettway was on campus in Tuscaloosa with Reed last week, and could possibly return to the Crimson Tide.
Reed is Alabama's 24th commitment, including 18 ESPN 300 prospects. The class is headlined by No. 3-overall Cameron Robinson (Monroe, La./West Monroe) and No. 6 Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), both five-star prospects.
Alabama remains in the running for No. 1-ranked Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover), No. 11 Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), No. 12 Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) and No. 13 Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), among others.
- When he was at Florida, Urban Meyer touted the SEC's strength of schedule as a reason for his Gators to jump over a Big Ten school to play in the national championship. Can the case he made be used against his Buckeyes this season?
- Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville says he has Ohio State ranked No. 2 ... for now. After attending the Iron Bowl last week, he'll be watching Saturday's championship games intently.
- Missouri coach Gary Pinkel isn't lobbying for his Tigers' chances to reach the BCS national championship game if they win on Saturday. He's focused on Auburn.
- Two years ago there was some discord over the Alabama-LSU rematch for the national title. Would an Auburn-Alabama rematch draw even more ire this season?
- Florida's search for a new offensive coordinator will continue through bowl season.
- After South Carolina beat Clemson last Saturday, Steve Spurrier declared Connor Shaw the Gamecocks' best QB ever. Now others are agreeing.
- LSU is familiar with the scenario of losing its starting QB just before its bowl game. The same situation occurred in 2005 and 2008.
- Some scouts say Johnny Manziel will be a top-12 NFL draft pick.
- Mississippi State senior safety Nickoe Whitley will miss the Bulldogs' bowl game after surgery on Monday to repair a torn ACL.
- And finally, Georgia WR Chris Conley is a Star Wars nerd. Awesome.
Auburn, Alabama and Missouri are all in the top five of the BCS standings, all have one loss on their records and all are in danger of missing out on the title game in Pasadena, Calif. For a conference that has won seven straight national championships, it has to be an odd feeling being on the outside looking in.
One has to wonder what Gus Malzahn, Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel think of the College Football Playoff coming next year and not this postseason. Would we even be having these debates?
Where it all started: Alabama was a given from the start. Before Auburn was a "team of destiny," the top-ranked Crimson Tide was a team eyeing a date with history. A third straight national championship seemed like a foregone conclusion as long as AJ McCarron was throwing passes and C.J. Mosley was leading the defense. Beating Texas A&M and LSU was the only hiccup, and beyond that it was smooth sailing for Alabama as it carved through a relatively easy schedule with a string of seven games that included Colorado State, Ole Miss, Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee. Alabama emerged in November undefeated and the presumptive favorite to run the season start to finish No. 1.
For Auburn, it was understood that seven or eight wins would be a good season for Malzahn's first year as coach on The Plains. After what former coach Gene Chizik and his staff left behind -- dissent and an utter lack of confidence being the biggest of baggage -- it would be a miracle if Auburn was simply competitive. But when Nick Marshall transferred from Garden City Community College in August and won the starting quarterback job, everything changed. And the come-from-behind game-winning drive he led against Mississippi State would forever turn the course of the Tigers' season. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen told me that if they won maybe "the seasons could have been reversed. We might have had the confidence they're having and the great run they're having right now." Fans and prognosticators didn't fully embrace Auburn's title hopes until wins over Texas A&M and Georgia, though. Both involved coming from behind and both showed the tenacity of a program with a chip on its shoulder. Saturday's win over Alabama further solidified their billing as a "team of destiny" and a serious contender to reach Pasadena.
No one thought Missouri could turn things around so quickly, either. Pinkel's foray into the SEC yielded a mountain of injuries and a smattering of wins -- two to be exact. Missouri looked years away and the preseason polls reflected that. The Tigers weren't in the top 25 and many predicted they'd finish near the bottom of the SEC West. But scheduling helped ease Missouri into contention. Pinkel was able to start the season off 3-0 with easy non-conference wins over Toledo, Indiana and Arkansas State. And instead of backfiring, the diminutive competition early on paid off in confidence as the Tigers beat then SEC East powers Georgia and Florida back-to-back to start the conference slate. Wins over Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, coupled with a drop off from the rest of their division, landed the Tigers atop the East and in line for a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
Where it went wrong: Missouri has to be kicking itself for losing at home to South Carolina on Oct. 26. It took an overtime period and starting quarterback James Franklin being out, but the Tigers fell. Connor Shaw came off the bench for the Gamecocks and led an improbable comeback, bringing his team back from 13 points down in the fourth quarter. If Missouri had held on, it would be undefeated and there would be a much different conversation going on today as a win over Auburn in the SEC title game would almost automatically mean a trip to the national championship game.
One-loss teams generally have their best shot of making it back into the championship picture when that one loss comes early. And luckily for Auburn, it followed that mold. After early wins against Arkansas State and Mississippi State, the Tigers went on the road to LSU and one of the most difficult visitor's environments in Death Valley. As Les Miles would say, "It was a very stiff, wind-driven dew." In other words, it rained cats and dogs, and Auburn's offense staggered early on. LSU jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead and never looked back. Auburn tried to mount a comeback with 21 second-half points, but LSU running back Jeremy Hill & Co. were too much. The loss didn't seem like much at the time -- Auburn was still in the infancy of its title run -- but looking back, it meant everything. Had the game at LSU come later in the year when Auburn had more confidence and Marshall was more familiar with the offense, who knows if it would have turned out differently.
Conversely, Alabama had a loss at the exact moment when it couldn't afford one: the final game of the regular season. By falling to Auburn on the road and losing out on a shot at playing in the SEC Championship Game, Saban's squad has no second chance to impress voters before the bowl games are determined. There will be no opportunity to show the loss to the Tigers was a fluke. Even though it was No. 1 versus No. 4 and the game literally came down to the final second on the road, Alabama won't be forgiven. But such is life when you're the top team in college football.
Where it got back on track: As just noted, there hasn't been a bounce-back moment for Alabama yet. But if you're a fan of the Crimson Tide, you have to appreciate the way your quarterback handled the aftermath of the loss at Auburn. McCarron, as fierce a competitor as he is, provided context to the defeat when he told reporters that at the end of the day it's just a game. When fans came after kicker Cade Foster for missing three field goals, McCarron said, "Times like this people need to realize the sun's going to rise tomorrow." Where it sets, however, remains to be determined. There's a chance Alabama makes it to the Orange Bowl or even the Sugar Bowl, but until Missouri and Auburn play in the SEC Championship Game, it's anyone's guess how it plays out.
Auburn, meanwhile, got back on track almost immediately after losing on the road at LSU. How games against Ole Miss and Western Carolina provided the perfect remedy for defeat as Auburn went 2-0 before heading out to College Station, Texas, to take on the then-top 10 Aggies and Johnny Football. The defense rose up late and Marshall lead the Tigers on the come from behind win that solidified Auburn's standing and vaunted them into the top 15 of most rankings. Winning against Florida Atlantic, Arkansas and Tennessee was a breeze, and last-second wins over Georgia and Alabama were the final dominoes to propel Auburn to an 11-1 record and a berth in the SEC title game.
Give Missouri credit for weathering the storm like it did. Losing to South Carolina at home was bad enough, but it had to move on not knowing when Franklin would be back under center. Maty Mauk didn't let the offense miss a beat, however. Missouri's freshman quarterback came out the next week against Tennessee and threw for 163 yards and three touchdowns, running for 114 yards as well. The next week against Kentucky he passed for 203 yards and five touchdowns. Franklin would come back and lead the offense in wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M to close out the regular season, but without Mauk, who knows where Missouri would be today? Mauk may not play anymore this year, but he'll go down as an unsung hero in the Tigers' run to the SEC title game.
The Bottom 10 inspirational thought of the week:
Brian Griffin: "Oh, my God! What are you doing?"
Stewie Griffin: "This time machine has almost killed us a hundred times, Brian. And yesterday was just too close a call. So I've decided to get rid of it before something irreparable happens."
Brian: "Stewie, your time machine. It was like your crowning achievement. I can't believe you'd just destroy it."
Stewie: "Trust me, Brian. It's for the best. And, hey, at least I've had some fun with it. You know what I did last week? I time-traveled ahead to Christmas so I wouldn't have to wait all year for the new toys to come out."
--"Family Guy," Season 12, Episode 6, "Life of Brian"
If only the Alabama Crimson Tide could go back in time.
Oh, wait, they actually did.
In last week's Iron Bowl, time travel did irreparable damage to the Crimson Tide's hopes of winning an unprecedented third consecutive BCS National Championship. After officials put 1 second back on the clock at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, No. 1 Alabama lined up for a 57-yard field goal that would have broken a 28-28 tie against the No. 4 Tigers, instead of taking a knee and testing its chances in overtime.
Alabama freshman place-kicker Adam Griffith's attempt fell short of the goalposts, and Auburn's Chris Davis returned the kick more than 100 yards for a touchdown, giving the Tigers a 34-28 victory in one of the most unbelievable endings in college football history. Auburn won the SEC West and will play No. 5 Missouri in Saturday's SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Will Rocky Top be home sweet home?
Four-star receiver Josh Malone, the nation’s No. 48 player out of Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp, has already signed financial aid agreements with Tennessee, Georgia, Clemson and Florida State, but he will announce his decision at noon ET Wednesday on NBC Sports Network. The RecruitingNation Hot Board has Malone projected to select Tennessee. The Volunteers were smart and were the first to use the signing of the financial aid paperwork as a tool in the recruiting process. Because he was technically “signed” UT coaches were able to have regular contact with him. Shortly after, the three other schools followed suit.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Looking over the newly released ESPN JC 50, there are several recruits on that list already committed to SEC schools. There are also many that still remain undecided. With signing day quickly approaching, here’s a closer look at five prospects, who’s destination is still unknown.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Workers busy cleaning and repairing the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Monday came across cremated remains near the 40-yard line along the Tigers' sideline. No one is certain whether the remains are human, but school officials did say bone fragments were confirmed to be within the ashes.
"It could have been grandma or it could have been grandma's dog," Scott McElroy, associate professor for turfgrass and weed science at Auburn, told al.com.
McElroy went as far as saying that people releasing remains at the stadium isn't uncommon.
"It happens a lot more than you think," he said, according to al.com. "People want their final resting place to be Jordan-Hare Stadium."
This wasn't any old Iron Bowl victory for Auburn, as Chris Davis returned a missed Crimson Tide field goal attempt on the final play 100-plus yards for the game-winning touchdown. The 34-28 win over the two-time national defending champions gave the Tigers a spot in Saturday's SEC championship game opposite Missouri.
McElroy is not sure what became of the remains once his crew removed them.
"You don't know if it's human. Hopefully it's not," he told al.com. "Hopefully it's someone's long-loved pet."
- Of course, Iron Bowl hero Chris Davis is now the big man on Auburn's campus. He received a standing ovation in class on Monday. Also, head coach Gus Malzahn stumped for his star quarterback, Nick Marshall, to be included in the Heisman Trophy discussion.
- Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel wants to guard against the kind of letdown his team experienced in the Big 12 championship game in 2007. Meanwhile, the school sold out of its allotment of 16,000 tickets by 8 a.m. on Monday.
- Get ready for Saturday with some SEC championship numbers to know.
- Vanderbilt fans are breathing easier about coach James Franklin after Washington's Steve Sarkisian was hired to take over at Southern Cal. Franklin reportedly was a finalist at USC.
- More than two dozen members of the media voted in their weekly Heisman poll, and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel received just two second-place votes.
- The Crimson Tide are taking the week off of practice to regroup and get over the shock of losing the Iron Bowl in historic, last-second fashion.
- The Gamecocks are likely headed to one of three bowl games -- either the Capital One Bowl, the Outback Bowl or the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
- Georgia's AD is confident that Bulldog Nation will travel well to whatever bowl game they end up with. ... The players are feeling good after winning yet another close game.
- Florida lost to archrival FSU on the field but got some payback on the recruiting trail Monday as the Gators flipped four-star WR Ryan Sousa, who had been committed to the Seminoles since June.
- Bowl-eligible for the fourth straight year, Mississippi State is hoping for either the AutoZone Liberty Bowl or the BBVA Compass Bowl.
- The Razorbacks’ 31-27 loss to LSU last week was just more evidence of Arkansas' fourth-quarter troubles.
- Even after a winless season in the SEC, there are reasons for optimism at Kentucky.
A thrilling Iron Bowl victory by Auburn on Saturday shook up the BCS standings and left only two undefeated AQ teams at the top of the polls. The Florida State Seminoles and Ohio State Buckeyes appear to control their own destiny as they prepare for their respective conference championship games. But three SEC teams -- Auburn, Alabama and Missouri -- also are ranked in the top five in the BCS standings and are in position to seize a title-game bid if the Seminoles and/or the Buckeyes are upset.
Those five teams are all ranked highly in our latest FEI ratings, although not in the same pecking order as the BCS standings. FEI is an opponent-adjusted drive-based system designed not to select a national champion but rather to measure overall team efficiency, the success of a team maximizing its own possessions and limiting the possession success of its opponents.
Team records are a function of performance and the strength of the opposition faced. Ohio State ranks ahead of Auburn in our FEI ratings, for instance, but, if the two teams swapped schedules, they likely also would swap records. According to our data, the Buckeyes would be 11-1 against Auburn's schedule and the Tigers would be 12-0 against Ohio State's schedule. (It should be noted that, in this alternate scenario, Ohio State would still be ranked just ahead of Auburn according to FEI).
The possession efficiency data is also useful in projecting what might lie ahead for the remaining BCS title contenders. We compared each of the top five teams in the BCS against every team in the 2007 to 2012 seasons across five key measures -- opponent-adjusted offense, opponent-adjusted defense, special-teams efficiency, field-position advantage and overall FEI rating.
Which teams from the recent past are most similar statistically to the BCS front-runners, and where might each end up when the dust settles this weekend?
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the best performances of Week 14 and the decisions of Nick Saban and Brady Hoke at the end of those games.
Best individual performances
• Brett Hundley had a career-high 98.4 opponent-adjusted QBR in UCLA's 35-14 win at USC. Hundley converted 7-of-13 third-down plays, including four rushes for 57 yards and a touchdown.
• David Fales posted a 97.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in San Jose State's 62-52 upset of Fresno State. Fales passed for a school-record 547 yards and was responsible for seven touchdowns. He is the fourth FBS player in the last 10 seasons to throw for at least 500 yards, account for seven touchdowns and not turn the ball over in a game.
• Nick Marshall had a 95.0 opponent-adjusted QBR in Auburn’s 34-28 win against Alabama. Marshall ran for 99 yards and one touchdown against the Tide, the most rushing yards Alabama has allowed by a quarterback in the Nick Saban era.
• Braxton Miller posted a 95.0 opponent-adjusted QBR in Ohio State’s 42-41 win at Michigan despite completing just six passes. Miller ran for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 16 rush attempts, resulting in a 98.2 Total QBR on running plays. Since the middle of October (Week 8), Miller has the second-highest opponent-adjusted QBR in the nation behind Jameis Winston.
Best team performances
Offense - San Jose State added 36.7 expected points on offense in its 62-52 win against Fresno State. The Spartans scored a touchdown on seven of their first 10 drives, including six passing touchdowns longer than 15 yards. They are the ninth team in the last 10 seasons to have six passing touchdowns of this distance in a game.
Defense – Houston held SMU (which had previously averaged 30.8 points per game) scoreless in its 34-0 win on Friday. The Cougars forced four turnovers and held the Mustangs without a first down on 53.3 percent of their drives. As a result, Houston added 33.3 expected points to its net scoring margin on defense, its most defensive EPA in the last 10 seasons.
Special Teams – Auburn added 11.5 expected points to its net scoring margin on special teams, the highest special teams EPA allowed by Alabama under Nick Saban. The Tigers were the beneficiaries of four missed field goals, a blocked punt and a missed field goal returned 100 yards for a game-winning touchdown. Additionally, Auburn punter Steven Clark had two punts downed at the 1 yard line.
Analysis of Saban/Hoke decisions
Saban’s decision to attempt a 57-yard field goal: Given that Nick Saban was trying to win the game in regulation, he made the correct decision in attempting the long field goal. In the last 10 seasons, teams have made 28 percent of their fourth-quarter go-ahead field goals from around this distance and none had been returned for a touchdown by the opponent prior to this game. In comparison, only two percent of all Hail Mary attempts have been converted at the end of games. So, Alabama had a better chance of winning by attempting a long field goal than by throwing a Hail Mary, or kneeling and going to overtime.
Hoke’s decision to attempt a two-point conversion: With an extra point pending and Michigan trailing 42-41, Brady Hoke elected to attempt a two-point conversion with 32 seconds remaining. Based on analysis of similar situations, Hoke slightly increased Michigan’s chance of winning with this decision. Had the Wolverines tried a point-after kick, they would have had about a 44 percent chance of winning. With the Wolverines going for two points after the touchdown, they had about a 45 percent chance of winning based on the success rates of similar situations in the past 10 seasons. Given the Wolverines’ status as a heavy underdog against their rival, Brady Hoke’s decision should not be questioned.