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:
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
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
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.
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
- Bret Bielema earned a $50K bowl bonus for leading Arkansas to the postseason.
- Georgia safety J.J. Green is transferring to Georgia Tech so he can play offense again.
- Tennessee committed to Butch Jones, giving him a big raise, contract extension.
- Derek Mason fired his friend and mentor, Vandy defensive coordinator David Kotulski.
There's always next year #kaser4heisman— Drew Kaser (@drewkaser) December 9, 2014
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.
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.
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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
- Muschamp to Auburn? Gus Malzahn updates the search for a new defensive coordinator.
- After Saturday’s SEC championship, the gap remains wide between Missouri and the elite.
- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has not closed the door on Muschamp, staff changes.
- With rumors swirling, Tennessee and coach Butch Jones are closing in on a new contract.
JAN. 3, NOON ET, LEGION FIELD, BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (ESPN)
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.
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
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
Edward Aschoff, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Jim McElwain took playful shots at his alma mater, the Oakland Raiders and himself.
He was friendly, funny, witty and self-deprecating during his introductory news conference Saturday.
More importantly to the Gators, he was ultra-confident that he can and will get what used to be one of the most feared offenses in the Southeastern Conference back to being a juggernaut.
"I believe I can win with my dog Claire-a-bell," McElwain said. "There are good players here. It's our responsibility to get that going."
Florida hired the former Alabama offensive coordinator and Colorado State head coach nicknamed "Mac" on Thursday to get the Gators back to prominence -- maybe even relevance -- in the SEC East. His top priority is revamping an offense that has grown stagnant since former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow left school in 2009.
McElwain declined to specify whether he plans to install a spread scheme, which he had success with at Colorado State and Fresno State, or a pro-style scheme, which he used to help get Alabama to the top of the league.
He also said no decisions have been made about whether to keep some of Florida's current staff. Speculation has centered on retaining defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and recruiting ace Travaris Robinson.
So McElwain provided no real news Saturday, but drew plenty of laughs from a crowded room that included reporters, fans, boosters, his boss, university employees and his wife and three children.
"People like being around him," athletic director Jeremy Foley said. "You can see he's very comfortable, has a good sense of humor."
That was evident Saturday. Here are some of the highlights:
Florida AD Jeremy Foley joins Finebaum
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State