ESPN.com's All-SEC team

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
9:00
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Now that the Associated Press and the league coaches have spoken and cast their votes for their All-SEC teams, it's time for us to get in on the fun.

We here at the ESPN.com's SEC blog put our heads together for days trying to come up with what we thought was the perfect team, and, of course, we think we got it all right. Correction: We KNOW we got it right.

Here's what we came up with:

OFFENSE

QB: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: Prescott directed the Bulldogs to their first 10-win season since 1999. He led the SEC with 3,970 yards of offense and was responsible for 228 points (38 touchdowns), which ranks fifth nationally.

RB: Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn: Like Tre Mason before him, Artis-Payne finished the regular season leading the SEC in rushing. The senior rushed for 1,482 yards and 11 touchdowns.

RB: Nick Chubb, Georgia: Only a true freshman, Chubb was second in the SEC with 1,281 rushing yards and tied for first in the league with 12 rushing touchdowns. Chubb rushed for at least 113 yards in the seven games he started.

WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama: The record-breaking athlete and SEC Offensive Player of the Year is easily the nation's best wide receiver and led the nation with 115 receptions for 1,656 yards. He had seven 100-yard receiving games.

WR: D'haquille Williams, Auburn: Just a freak of an athlete, Williams led the Tigers with 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns despite missing two games near the end of the season.

TE: Evan Engram, Ole Miss: Engram became the Rebels' top receiving target after Laquon Treadwell went down and finished second on the team with 37 receptions. His 651 receiving yards led all SEC tight ends.

OT/G: Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas: He was one of the SEC's best linemen with his ability to play both inside and outside for the Razorbacks, and he even provided us with a touchdown pass this season.

OG: A.J. Cann, South Carolina: The four-year starter has started 50 of the 51 games he's played in at South Carolina and is a top NFL draft guard prospect who is excellent blocking both the pass and rush.

C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn: The two-time first-team All-SEC member has been the linchpin of the Tigers' offensive line the last two seasons and was excellent in 2014.

OG: Ben Beckwith, Mississippi State: The burly Beckwith was the only player to be named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week three times this season.

OT: La'el Collins, LSU: Another top NFL draft prospect at his position, Collins was good enough to leave early last year, but got even better protecting LSU quarterbacks in 2014.

All-purpose: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina: Cooper finished the regular season with 1,242 all-purpose yards and was second in the SEC with 966 receiving yards.

DEFENSE

DL: Shane Ray, Missouri: The SEC Defensive Player of the Year led the league with 14 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. Ray registered at least half a tackle for loss in 12 games this season.

DL: A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama: He might not have had the numbers of other defensive linemen around him in this league because of a slow start, but Robinson proved to be one of the league's most disruptive defenders up front.

DL: Dante Fowler Jr., Florida: The hybrid defender was one of the SEC's best pass-rushers this season, leading the Gators with 5.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries.

DL: Trey Flowers, Arkansas: The Hogs' lineman faced more double-teams this season but still cranked out a productive season, leading the team with five sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He also totaled 63 tackles.

LB: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State: Another guy who didn't put up monster stats, the possible first-round draft pick was the leader of Mississippi State's defense, the most consistent player for the Bulldogs and the unquestioned quarterback of the defense.

LB: Martrell Spaight, Arkansas: He led the league with 123 total tackles and tied for the league lead with 60 solo stops. Spaight also forced two fumbles and recorded 8.5 tackles for loss.

LB: Kwon Alexander, LSU: One of the SEC's most athletic linebackers, Alexander was the ultimate playmaker for the Tigers, leading LSU with 79 tackles with 32 being solo.

CB: Senquez Golson, Ole Miss: Golson did a complete 180 in 2014, becoming one of the nation's best cover corners, as he was second nationally with nine interceptions and first in the SEC with 17 passes defensed.

S: Landon Collins, Alabama: Another top NFL draft prospect, Collins played the role of dynamic ball hawk for the Crimson Tide and was able to make plays all over the field. He led the team with 91 tackles and three interceptions.

S: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss: An All-American last season, Prewitt didn't fall off. While he only registered two interceptions, Prewitt made plays all over the field for the Rebels, not shying away from combat in the box.

CB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida: The youngster just keeps getting better. He grabbed just two interceptions, but was an excellent one-on-one defender, defending 15 passes.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P: JK Scott, Alabama: There's a reason Alabama's fans joked about a potential Heisman run for Scott. He averaged 47 yards per punt with a long of 70 yards, downing 26 inside the 20-yard line and had 18 kicks go 50-plus yards.

K: Austin MacGinnis, Kentucky: He connected on 21 of his 27 attempts and hit 8 of 12 from 40 yards and beyond, including a long of 54 yards.

KR: Marcus Murphy, Missouri: Murphy averaged 29.9 yards per kickoff return (478 yards) and scored two touchdowns. He also had 273 punt return yards and a touchdown.

Which SEC bowl team will benefit most?

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
2:00
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video
ESPN SEC reporters Alex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf discuss which two SEC teams will benefit the most from the extra practice time and playing in a bowl game.
Jim McElwain didn’t exactly give away the plans to his new operation at Florida, but his first order of business in the recruiting world has made it pretty clear: He has got to get things going on offense.

 OK, that’s painfully obvious in Gainesville, and McElwain has wasted no time on the recruiting front getting in front of the right people and formulating his plan for the immediate future. It sounds like losing four-star quarterback commit Sheriron Jones, who was never even contacted by McElwain, and three-star offensive lineman George Brown Jr. a few days ago hasn’t fazed McElwain or derailed his plan in the least bit.

Recruiting seemed to be the first, second and third thing on McElwain’s mind when he was officially introduced as the Gators’ new coach, and that’s very, very smart for the man picked to right one of the country’s premier programs.

“We'll hit the road next week, get to as many places as humanly possible from the recruiting standpoint because it's one of those things recruit daily or die now,” McElwain said at his press conference Saturday. “We've got to make sure we secure a great class.”

He gets it. He has some southeastern football blood pumping through those veins, so he understands that if you get too far behind when it comes to wrangling talent in this part of the country -- no matter what school logo is on your shirt -- you’re toast.

Before he could even get on the road and start recruiting face-to-face, he had ESPN 300 offensive lineman commit Tyler Jordan drive over from Jacksonville, Florida, to meet with him Sunday. According to Jordan’s Twitter feed, things went well.

 

McElwain also called fellow ESPN 300 offensive line commit Mike Horton before using his first day of recruiting travel to see ESPN 300 offensive linemen Jalen Merrick, Christian Pellage (South Carolina commit) and Martez Ivey, who is the nation’s No. 1 offensive lineman.

When you return minimal depth on the offensive line, it’s probably a good idea to snag some more big bodies before you really get going at your new gig, and that’s exactly what McElwain is trying to do. He even took offensive line coach Mike Summers with him. While McElwain hasn’t made any decisions when it comes to his staff at Florida, Summers did do a very good job in developing Florida’s line and has been solid in recruiting.

Then, there’s the hunt for some offensive playmakers, something the Gators have been inconsistent in getting over the past five years.

The loss of Jones looked like a big one at first, but it sounds like McElwain is looking for more of a pocket passer to bring to Gainesville. What that means for running types like Treon Harris and Will Grier who are already firmly on campus? Who knows? But McElwain stressed on Saturday that he’ll play to his current roster’s strengths.

And he’d like to add a little more strength before national signing day at the skill positions. Already, McElwain has been looking to upgrade Florida’s running back position, offering Miami commit Mark Walton. The Gators are also in the mix with fellow Miami running back commits Dexter Williams and Jordan Scarlett, who are clearly looking around at other schools.

Clemson athlete commits Ray-Ray McCloud III, who McElwain visited this week, and Deon Cain will get a lot of attention from the Gators in the next two months, as will uncommitted ESPN 300 athlete Ryan Davis, who also met with McElwain this week. Three-star tight end prospect Daniel Imatorbhebhe and three-star Florida State receiver commit Auden Tate also got visits from McElwain.

So while McElwain’s introduction to the Gator Nation has been brief, he’s taken every opportunity to really introduce himself to guys he wants to build a future with at Florida.

This class won’t make or break McElwain’s legacy at Florida, but getting a few solid offensive pieces is a must in his first year, and McElwain knows that.

SEC morning links

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
8:00
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1. The race to replace senior Bo Wallace as Ole Miss’ quarterback just got a bit more interesting. ESPN JC50 prospect Chad Kelly committed to the Rebels on Wednesday, and the former Clemson backup will have two years to play two at Ole Miss. With Wallace, a three-year starter, leaving the team after the 2014 season, the Rebels had a huge question at quarterback for 2015. DeVante Kincade, Ryan Buchanan and Kendrick Doss are all freshmen with limited game experience at best. Kelly adds a veteran presence to the group, having played in five games at Clemson in 2013, and he might become an immediate frontrunner Insider to claim the job once he arrives on campus.

2. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that three of the five FBS assistant coaches who make more than $1 million per year reside in the SEC: Alabama’s Kirby Smart and LSU’s Cam Cameron and John Chavis. This according to USA Today’s assistant coach salary database that it published on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, the SEC also had three of the top four highest-paid coaching staffs (LSU, Alabama and Auburn) and six of the top 13 (adding Texas A&M, South Carolina and Georgia). Take a look. They also have a database for head coaches (eight SEC coaches are in the top 20, led by Alabama’s Nick Saban) and a multiple-byline feature on assistants like Dennis Erickson and Greg Robinson who now make a comfortable living after once serving as head coaches.

3. The Jacobs Blocking Trophy -- which goes to the player selected by the SEC’s coaches as the league’s top blocker -- is one of the conference's oldest awards. LSU’s La’el Collins won the award on Wednesday, joining a list of dozens of winners who wound up playing in the NFL. Collins could already be doing that if he wanted. It was an option after he earned All-SEC honors as a junior, but unlike many of his teammates in recent seasons, Collins opted to play his senior season at LSU. It seems to have been a wise decision. Several publications have covered this territory already, but with college football’s underclassmen preparing to make their announcements on whether they will make early jumps to the pros, Collins serves as a good reminder of how players who return can sometimes help their cause. Because of an outstanding senior season, Collins will almost certainly be a much wealthier man for having waited than he would have been had he entered the 2014 draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Insider and Todd McShay Insider both include Collins among their top 27 overall prospects. That leap doesn’t happen for every draft prospect who stays, but it’s a nice story -- and it’s a valuable lesson for players who are in similar positions this year.

Around the SEC

" More all-conference honors went out on Wednesday, with the SEC’s coaches naming their individual award winners and Athlon Sports posting its All-SEC team.

" With defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin preparing to coach Florida’s bowl game, the Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley examines how interim coaches have fared in the past with the Gators.

" The Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jennifer Smith explores whether Kentucky’s six-game losing streak to end the season will hurt the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

" Tennessee coach Butch Jones’ new contract extension increases his buyout to $4 million should he choose to leave before March 2016.

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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.

SEC Weekend Wrap: Dec. 9

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
1:17
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video

Recruiting reporter Derek Tyson breaks down the top weekend storylines from the SEC.

The 2014 AP All-SEC team

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
12:00
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The 2014 Associated Press All-SEC team was announced on Monday, and it's a pretty strong team overall.

Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper was named Offensive Player of the Year, Missouri defensive end Shane Ray was named Defensive Player of the Year (second straight year for a Missouri defensive end), Mississippi State's Dan Mullen was named Coach of the Year, and Georgia running back Nick Chubb was named Freshman of the Year.

I doubt you'll get much argument on any of those award winners, so congrats to them. They all had tremendous years and deserved some extra accolades at the end of the regular season.

Here's the first team in its entirety:

OFFENSE

QB: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
RB: Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
RB: Nick Chubb, Georgia
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama (unanimous)
WR: Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina (tie)
WR: Bud Sasser, Missouri (tie)
TE: Evan Engram, Ole Miss
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: Ben Beckwith, Mississippi State
OL: Arie Kouandjio, Alabama
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
AP: Marcus Murphy, Missouri

DEFENSE

DE: Shane Ray, Missouri
DE: Bud Dupree, Kentucky
DT: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DT: Jonathan Allen, Alabama
LB: Martrell Spaight, Arkansas
LB: Reggie Ragland, Alabama
LB: Amarlo Herrera, Georgia
CB: Senquez Golson, Ole Miss (unanimous)
CB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
S: Landon Collins, Alabama (unanimous)
S: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Austin MacGinnis, Kentucky
P: JK Scott, Alabama

There were a couple of players on defense I was surprised about not seeing. No Dante Fowler or even Myles Garrett at one of the defensive end spots? Garrett was tied for second in the SEC with 11 sacks, while Fowler was one of the league's most disruptive linemen, registering 12 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hurries.

Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney didn't have the numbers he had last year, but he was the leader of the Bulldogs' defense and always the Bulldogs' best defender when he stepped on the field. Even with Mississippi State having more of a rotation at linebacker this season he still led the team with 61 tackles and had three sacks.

To see all three teams, click here.

SEC morning links

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
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1. Monday was a pretty good day for Alabama wide receivers, past and present. Julio Jones finished with 11 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Green Bay on Monday Night Football, and Amari Cooper was named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Cooper, who leads the SEC with 115 receptions for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns, becomes the first wide receiver to be invited to New York City since Larry Fitzgerald in 2003. Most believe he’ll be battling it out with Melvin Gordon for runner-up as Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the favorite to win the award, but at least he’s a lock for the Biletkinoff Award, right? For a closer look at all three Heisman finalists, click here.



2. With the playoff news and bowl selections, Jim McElwain’s introductory press conference at Florida got lost in the news Sunday, but here’s a look back. He was charming, funny, and while he doesn’t have a nickname for his offense just yet, he did say that “it will be a blast.” That should be music to the ears of Florida fans. Some might be a little skeptical, but others believe he’s the SEC's next superstar coach and the right fit in Gainesville. The Gators will play in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3, and though McElwain isn’t allowed to coach the team, he plans to be there for the game and watch bowl practices to evaluate the players. He’s also keeping busy on the recruiting trail, putting together what could be a significant first class.

3. The Associated Press released its All-SEC team on Monday. A couple things stood out. First, I was a tad surprised Dak Prescott edged out Blake Sims as the first-team quarterback. Both had sensational seasons, but I just felt like Sims played better in bigger games, especially down the stretch. Also, the only three unanimous selections were Cooper, Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson and Alabama safety Landon Collins. Those three names didn’t surprise me, but I thought there’d be more than three unanimous picks. As for the numbers, Alabama led the way with nine players making the list, including six on the first team. Ole Miss, who had five first-team selections, was second with six All-SEC players in all.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

David Cutcliffe of Duke said young coaches should turn to Kenny Rogers for advice on how to get ahead on the recruiting trail. Plus, Florida's Jim McElwain has been busy since he was hired.
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.

SEC season recruiting superlatives 

December, 8, 2014
Dec 8
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Looking back at the just-completed regular season, it has been another wild year in the SEC, both on the field and in recruiting. There have been several huge commitments, some big decommitments and, as always, a few surprises. Here’s a closer look at the the SEC’s recruiting superlatives.


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SEC morning links

December, 8, 2014
Dec 8
8:00
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1. The four-team field for the first-ever College Football Playoff is set. Did the committee get it right? The Big 12 might disagree, but ESPN’s Ivan Maisel believes they did get it right. And who’s to complain? The matchups are fantastic. The SEC will go in with Alabama as its only representative, but the Crimson Tide did get the No. 1 seed. Their opponent in the first semifinal game? None other than Nick Saban’s old nemesis Urban Meyer and his Ohio State team. How great is that? It hasn’t been that long since the two were on top of the SEC, battling it out for supremacy every year. Some say Saban was the reason Meyer left Florida after the 2010 season. Either way, he’s back now.

2. The playoff is great, but that’s just the beginning. The new way of bowl selections might have been confusing, but it worked. There are plenty of intriguing matchups for SEC teams beginning with Ole Miss-TCU and Mississippi State-Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve as a part of the New Year's Six bowl games. Dan Mullen will return to Miami for the first time since he won the national championship there in 2007 with Florida, and in an unlikely matchup, the Rebels face a TCU team that has to be upset after getting snubbed from the top four. Other bowl games that jumped out to me included Auburn-Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl, LSU-Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl, and Arkansas-Texas in the Texas Bowl.

3. The only “loser” in the SEC from Sunday’s bowl selections was Georgia. The Bulldogs didn’t end up in the Sunshine State like many predicted they would. Instead, they will make the short three-hour drive to Charlotte for the Belk Bowl. However, the SEC and ACC had to know what they were doing when they paired Georgia up with Louisville. For one, Todd Grantham will face his former team. The Louisville defensive coordinator held the same position at Georgia for four seasons under Mark Richt. The Cardinals also have a pair of former Bulldogs, Josh Harvery-Clemson and Shaq Wiggins. Georgia linebacker Ryne Rankin reached out to Wiggins on Sunday, tweeting “see ya over the holidays big dawg!” This should be fun.

Around the SEC
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video

Greg McElroy, Gene Chizik and Booger McFarland rank the SEC Bowl Games they are most looking forward to.
EAST CAROLINA PIRATES (8-4) vs. FLORIDA GATORS (6-5)
JAN. 3, NOON ET, LEGION FIELD, BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (ESPN)


ECU BREAKDOWN

Season highlights: If only ECU had played in the ACC Coastal, the Pirates might have won the division. After a tough loss to South Carolina, ECU spent back-to-back weeks demolishing Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Shane Carden threw for 865 yards and accounted for 10 touchdowns in those wins, which vaulted ECU into the national spotlight. For much of the next month, the Pirates were considered the cream of the crop of the Group of 5.

Season lowlights: The loss to South Carolina was understandable. ECU controlled much of the game, but it slipped away late. The back-to-back losses to Temple and Cincinnati were tougher to swallow. Carden struggled against Temple, failing to throw or run for a TD for the first time since his third career start in 2012. A week later, Carden threw for 425 yards but was outdueled by Gunner Kiel in a 54-46 win by the Bearcats. When it was over, ECU’s hopes for a New Year’s Six game had evaporated. The regular season ended on a particularly sour note with a defeat to UCF on a last-second Hail Mary.

Players to watch: Carden and receiver Justin Hardy are the backbone of ECU’s offense and among the most dangerous QB-WR combos in the country. Carden finished second in the nation in passing yards (4,309), and Hardy was fifth in receiving (1,334), setting the NCAA record for career receptions in the process.

Motivation factor: From the start of the season, ECU has been hoping to win some national acclaim for its success. The Pirates have four wins over Power 5 teams in the past two years (more than any other non-Power 5 school, save BYU), but they have rarely gotten to showcase their success on a national stage. A bowl berth will certainly give them an opportunity, but more importantly, it will be a sendoff to Carden and Hardy, two of the best players to ever come through the program. ECU will surely want to say goodbye in style.
--David Hale

vs.
FLORIDA BREAKDOWN

Season highlights: While Florida’s offense still wasn’t very impressive in Will Muschamp’s final year in Gainesville, the defense really evolved as the season went on. After rough showings against Kentucky and Alabama, the Gators finished the regular season ranked second in the SEC in total defense, allowing just 311 yards per game. Dante Fowler Jr. proved to be one of the nation’s best pass-rushers, registering 5.5 sacks and 15 quarterback hurries. The Gators essentially clinched a bowl berth by blowing out rival Georgia 38-20. It was the first time Florida had beaten the Bulldogs since 2010.

Season lowlights: Well, losing five games is never appropriate at Florida. The Gators got creamed at Alabama 42-21, lost in the closing seconds to an offensively inept LSU team, got blown out 42-13 -- on homecoming -- to a Missouri team that registered just 119 yards of offense, lost in overtime to a bad South Carolina team and forced four interceptions at Florida State only to lose by five. The offense ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in scoring, passing and total offense. Florida got no consistency at quarterback or receiver, and Muschamp resigned after the South Carolina game.

Player to watch: Quarterback Treon Harris has his first audition for new coach Jim McElwain. It’s likely that the quarterback spot will be up for grabs. While Harris took the starting job from Jeff Driskel during the last month of the season, he is raw and has a lot of work to do when it comes to his development. Harris finished the year with 896 passing yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions. He is pretty dangerous on the ground, registering 291 yards and three scores.

Motivation factor: Who would have thought that getting to seven wins and having a winning record would be an accomplishment at Florida? The Gators haven’t done either since 2012. They also haven’t won a bowl game since the 2011 season. A lot of guys are trying to impress their new coach. This will be one of many tryouts for players whom McElwain will be monitoring carefully.
-- Edward Aschoff

SEC bowl projections: Week 15

December, 7, 2014
Dec 7
11:04
AM ET
Today we finally get to put an end to the speculation, as college football's postseason picture will become clear this afternoon.

We knew the SEC would get one team into the inaugural College Football Playoff when Alabama beat Missouri on Saturday. Nailing down the destinations for the conference's other 11 bowl-eligible teams is much more difficult.

Here are our best guesses in the final hours before we will know for sure:

College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Mississippi State
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri
Outback Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: Texas A&M
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Arkansas
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU
Belk Bowl: Georgia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Tennessee
Birmingham Bowl: Florida
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: South Carolina

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Florida AD Jeremy Foley joins Finebaum
Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley called into The Paul Finebaum Show to discuss the Florida football program, including their new coach.
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SEC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12