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Maty Mauk run for 19 yds to the 50 yard line for a 1ST down
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Marcus Murphy run for 5 yds for a TD
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Treon Harris sacked by Kentrell Brothers for a loss of 5 yards to the Fla 19 Treon Harris fumbled, recovered by Misso
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Jeff Driskel pass incomplete to Demarcus Robinson
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Maty Mauk pass intercepted Marcus Maye return for 1 yd to the Misso 45
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TEAM run for a loss of 3 yards to the Misso 49 TEAM fumbled, recovered by Misso
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Missouri Tigers RB Marcus Murphy returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, his sixth career kickoff return for a touchdown.

SEC viewer's guide: Week 8

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
10:00
AM ET
A look ahead to Saturday's games in the Southeastern Conference. All times Eastern:

Noon

Furman at South Carolina, SEC Network: Poor Furman, you couldn’t have picked a worse time to play South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been stewing the past two weeks about their loss at Kentucky. You think they will play with something to prove Saturday at home? For Mike Davis, Dylan Thompson and that offense, it’s a chance to put up a bunch of points and gain some much-needed confidence. For the defense, it’s a chance to take a step in the right direction and actually stop an opponent with some consistency. In reality, this game might as well be a scrimmage for South Carolina. But nonetheless, it’s an important springboard into the second half of the schedule, when the Gamecocks can either continue to circle the drain or rebound and regain the respect they have lost this season.

3:30 p.m.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesNick Saban and Alabama will have their hands full against Texas A&M on Saturday.
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 7 Alabama, CBS: Only one team will leave Bryant-Denny Stadium with hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. The Aggies, coming off back-to-back losses, are on the razor’s edge, and the Crimson Tide, coming off a loss at Ole Miss and a one-point win at unranked Arkansas, are teetering. Alabama’s defense has played much better of late, but its secondary will be put to the test by Kenny Hill and the A&M passing game. Conversely, Hill could feel the pressure considering his line hasn’t played well the past two games and Alabama’s defensive front has the size and talent to get into the backfield. One thing is certain, though: Emotions should be running high come kickoff as both teams have something to prove.

4 p.m.

No. 10 Georgia at Arkansas, SEC Network: Time to find out the answer to the question that has been on the mind of SEC fans everywhere: How would Arkansas do in the dreadful East Division? The Hogs have played well this season, but haven't been able to overcome Texas A&M and Alabama. Against Georgia, will Bret Bielema’s squad break through? The Bulldogs, on the other hand, are riding high after a dominant performance at Missouri in which the absence of Todd Gurley was hardly felt in the final outcome. They now lead the East, and the race hardly appears close. Leonard Floyd and that defense will be put to the test, though. And Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason won’t face as porous a secondary as Missouri’s this time around.

7 p.m.

Missouri at Florida, ESPN2: Watch out for turnovers. Florida and Missouri have combined to give the ball away 11 times in October alone. Just last week, Maty Mauk threw four interceptions against Georgia, and Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel had two costly interceptions against LSU. In other words, both defenses should be licking their chops. The difference in this game, however, could be the running backs. If Florida can establish the run and negate the pressure from Missouri’s Shane Ray and Markus Golden, the Gators should be in good shape. However, if Missouri can get Russell Hansbrough & Co. going, the pressure should fall off Mauk’s shoulders. It’s a lot of what-ifs, but for two teams headed in the wrong direction, should that really surprise you?

Tennessee at No. 3 Ole Miss, ESPN: The Vols have been knocking on the door this season, but the divide between competitive football and winning football has been tough to cross. Will they do it against No. 3-ranked Ole Miss? On the road? Now that’s asking a lot of Butch Jones' young squad, which is high on talent (Jalen Hurd, Cameron Sutton, etc.) but low on experience. The Rebs, meanwhile, have both confidence and experience on their side. If anyone thought their home win against Alabama was a fluke, they changed their mind after watching them go on the road and destroy Texas A&M. So long as quarterback Bo Wallace continues to take care of the football and that defense stays healthy, it’s hard to imagine Ole Miss having a hiccup game.

Kentucky at LSU, SEC Network: This game feels a lot like a battle of youth and momentum. On the one side, you have Kentucky, which has surprised many with the way it jumped out to a 5-1 record, most recently beating South Carolina at home. Patrick Towles has played well and the defense has been aggressive. But the Cats are young and don’t have pedigree on their side. On the other hand, you have LSU, which has gone from a dark horse playoff contender to unranked and outside the conversation in the West. But don’t count out Les Miles’ squad just yet. After beating Florida in The Swamp, the Tigers could have confidence going for them. And considering all the young talent in Baton Rouge, that is a scary thought.
A week ago, projecting the top breakout player for the second half of the college football season would have seemed relatively simple. But Deshaun Watson, Clemson’s blossoming freshman quarterback, broke a bone in his right hand last weekend. We will not see Watson for another month or so.

[+] EnlargeJ.T. Barrett
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesSince the loss to Virginia Tech, J.T. Barrett has steadily improved.
However, there’s another first-year quarterback on the rise. Ohio State has quietly improved since its Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech, and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett’s progress is a huge reason why.

Since the loss to Virginia Tech, Ohio State has averaged 56 points per game in its three wins -- six more than anyone else in the country. Barrett has completed 75.3 percent of his passes and thrown 14 touchdowns (one interception). He has run for another 150 yards and a score.

Let’s be clear: Kent State, Cincinnati and Maryland are not the standards for defense, but those numbers are still indicative of a QB finding his way.

It’s no wonder it took some time. Barrett didn’t win the backup job until the middle of camp, and the following week, Braxton Miller’s season-ending injury pressed the youngster into action.

OC Tom Herman didn’t want to lose the zone-read element of the offense after losing Miller, who was adept at making something from nothing. Barrett has been efficient, however. As Big Ten reporter Austin Ward pointed out this week, Barrett is averaging 7.8 yards per rush on his option keeps.

Rutgers, OSU's opponent on Saturday, is 5-1 -- but is next-to-last in the Big Ten in yards-per-play allowed (5.94), so it could be another chance for Barrett and the Buckeyes' offense. Penn State and Illinois are on deck, and then the ultimate measuring stick -- or remeasuring -- for Ohio State comes Nov. 8 at Michigan State.

Here are nine other second-half breakout candidates from Power 5 leagues, players who will shape the playoff race.

SEC morning links

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
8:00
AM ET
It's easy to overreact to the results of one game, and Texas A&M is classic evidence of that this season. One blowout road win over a South Carolina team that was ranked high in the preseason, but has turned out not to be good as advertised, created strong feelings about the Aggies' chances early this season. The same can be said for quarterback Kenny Hill, the Aggies' sophomore who will be making just his eighth career start on Saturday when the Aggies' head to Alabama. Remember the "Johnny Who?" and "Kenny Trill" comments after he broke Johnny Manziel's passing yards record in the win over the Gamecocks? Hill and the rest of Aggieland are learning that life in the SEC West with a young quarterback isn't so easy after two convincing losses to two undefeated Mississippi teams have brought everyone back down to Earth. Six turnovers in those last two games have been one of many factors stalling the Aggies' usually high-powered offense. Whether he and the rest of the offense can bounce back from their issues will go a long way in deciding how competitive a game it will be in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

Speaking of up-and-down quarterbacks, Missouri's Maty Mauk knows the feeling. He had a solid start to the season but had a dismal day in a 34-0 loss to Georgia last week. After a five-turnover performance against the Bulldogs, Mauk said he's aware of the criticism from some fans, who wanted Gary Pinkel to yank him, but it doesn't faze Mauk. Pinkel said it never crossed his mind and offered a vote of confidence to the quarterback, saying "He's our guy." Mauk and the Tigers will have a chance for redemption when they head to The Swamp to take on Florida. The Gators know firsthand that Mauk can play after going for 295 passing yards against Florida last season.

The Todd Gurley autograph saga continues. Georgia officials met with NCAA officials in Indianapolis on Thursday and gave us an update -- in the form of no real update. In a statement, Georgia said "there is no news at this time and no further comment necessary." An NCAA spokesperson did note that it is awaiting a request for reinstatement from Georgia. If the Bulldogs are to make such a request, they have to resolve any issues surrounding his eligibility before doing so. For what it's worth, coach Mark Richt tweeted early Thursday morning that he's "not anticipating [Gurley's status] to change this week."

Around the SEC
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Recruiting reporters Erik McKinney, Damon Sayles, Derek Tyson and Tom VanHaaren join Phil Murphy to break down the college decisions for some of the most sought-after college football recruits in the nation.

Dan Mullen: Fans taking it too far

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
12:55
PM ET
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Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen wasn't flattered to hear the news that Florida fans had started two websites to urge the school to hire Mullen to replace Will Muschamp.

In fact, he considers such websites an insult to college coaches.

Mullen, in an interview with "Head to Head Radio" in Mississippi on Wednesday, was asked to comment on the websites lobbying for Florida to hire him, which were launched this week. Florida is 3-2, 2-2 in the SEC.

"It's really an insult to coaches and to players at institutions. Whether they're putting websites out to hire you or fire you or do all these different things, I don't think that does any good for anybody," he said.

"At the end of every season, there are coaching changes, but people put so much in. You're so committed, yourself, your family, your team, everybody's so committed, that I think it's insulting to the job everybody does.

"I know there are fans that like that stuff. I don't think that stuff is great. People can have their opinions and call in on shows, but to take it that far, I don't think it's good for anybody on either side of the fence."

Mullen said that when he was an assistant at Florida (2005-08), some fans wanted him to be fired. 

"I know there was a website here at Mississippi State to fire Dan Mullen last year. Now there's probably one to keep me here," he said.


(Read full post)


SEC Week 8 predictions

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
9:00
AM ET
Two years ago, Texas A&M-Alabama launched the Aggies and Johnny Manziel onto the national stage. In 2013, it was hyped as the game of the year. This time around, it's a battle of two struggling squads looking to get their good early-season vibes back on track. The winner could use this as a springboard to a late-season run. Who will that be? Let's get on with the picks.

Why Alabama wins: The Crimson Tide haven’t looked anything like those past championship teams, and this team is sick of hearing about it. Coach Nick Saban is, pretty, uh, mad at how his team is being perceived, so there’s plenty of motivation in Tuscaloosa. Alabama cruises against an A&M defense that's giving up almost 35 points a game in conference play. Alabama 31, Texas A&M 21 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Texas A&M wins: This is a good matchup for the Aggies. Nick Saban’s teams traditionally have struggled against up-tempo, no-huddle offenses, and that’s what the Aggies do. Sure, the Aggies have struggled the past two weeks, but they’ve also been missing their best receiver and offensive leader, Malcome Kennedy. He’ll be back, and I’m betting that this team has a chip on its shoulder -- the way it did before going to South Carolina -- after taking two beatings from Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Texas A&M 34, Alabama 28 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Why Georgia wins: The SEC East hasn’t beaten a West team all season, and this might be its best chance. Nobody knows the status of Todd Gurley, but this Georgia team used his absence as motivation in last Saturday’s 34-0 win at Missouri. It was the most complete performance by Mark Richt’s team all season. Another shutout is unlikely against a much-improved Arkansas team, but if the Bulldogs play like they did last week, they’ll be hard to beat. Georgia 31, Arkansas 21 -- Greg Ostendorf

Why Arkansas wins: Call it a gut feeling, but I sense an upset. Georgia, no matter how good it looked against Missouri, isn't the same without Todd Gurley in the backfield. And Arkansas, already with tough losses to Texas A&M and Alabama, has to break through at some point. Arkansas 27, Georgia 24 -- Alex Scarborough

Why LSU wins: Kentucky got off to a 5-1 start by beating South Carolina and nearly upsetting Florida in the Swamp, but this is Saturday night at Tiger Stadium. LSU is not the imposing team it typically has been under Les Miles, yet programs far better than Kentucky’s have been confident prior to a visit to Baton Rouge and still limped home. LSU 28, Kentucky 21 -- David Ching

Why Kentucky wins: These Wildcats are on a roll. They’ve scored more than 40 points in each of their last two games, QB Patrick Towles has been great and they have a new toy to play with: the Wildcat formation. Running back Jojo Kemp has run it to perfection. Defensively, they’ve also been good (18.7 points per game allowed), they get after opposing QBs and they turn teams over (plus-8 turnover margin). Kentucky 28, LSU 24 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Why Ole Miss wins big: One of these days, Butch Jones’ Tennessee team is going to take down a ranked opponent. To date, all the Vols have to show are a near-miss at Georgia and a moral victory at Oklahoma. That landmark win won’t come Saturday at Ole Miss, though. The Rebels will overwhelm the Vols along the line of scrimmage and could win comfortably. Ole Miss 35, Tennessee 17 -- David Ching

How Tennessee can keep it close: Ole Miss is riding high after two huge wins against Alabama and Texas A&M. With a trip to LSU next week, Saturday's home contest against an SEC East bottom-feeder represents your classic trap game. If the Rebels let their guard down, they could easily find themselves in a defensive slugfest with the improving Vols, who have the SEC's second-best pass defense and are giving up just 160.2 yards a game. Ole Miss 24, Tennessee 13 -- Jeff Barlis

More unanimous picks:

Florida over Missouri: The Gators are reeling, but they know a win over Mizzou can turn things around. Being at home and having quarterback Treon Harris back should give Florida enough of a spark to make some plays on a beaten-down Mizzou defense. Florida 24, Missouri 17 -- Edward Aschoff

South Carolina over Furman: After back-to-back crushing losses in the East Division, the Gamecocks have to believe their SEC-worst defense will get well against the FCS Furman Paladins. South Carolina 38, Furman 0 -- Jeff Barlis

Standings
Edward Aschoff 54-9
Jeff Barlis 54-9
Chris Low 54-9
Greg Ostendorf 54-9
David Ching 52-11
Alex Scarborough 52-11
Sam Khan Jr. 50-13

Condi Rice for SEC commissioner

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
7:50
PM ET
video

The most powerful job in intercollegiate athletics will open next summer, when Mike Slive ends his reign as Southeastern Conference commissioner. In his 12 years running the league, all Slive has done is create a dominant competitor, endow a financial behemoth and instill a conscience in his member schools.

Not only do they actually read the NCAA manual these days, they also erased the "Whites Only" stain from the football coaches' offices. During Slive's tenure, SEC schools have hired five African-American head coaches.

All of which is to say it will take a unique candidate to replace him. The SEC needs a personality like Slive, someone with the force, the gravitas and the magnetism to convince 14 institutions to fall in step. The SEC needs a captain whose presence will project a vision to the nation, in and out of the NCAA. The SEC needs a leader who can do all of the above and not need to fake an intimacy with the passion and allure of intercollegiate athletics.

Come home, Condi.

Come home, Condoleezza Rice, a Birmingham native who grew up near the current site of the Southeastern Conference office.

I know, this idea isn't exactly original. Last month, in the wake of Roger Goodell's mishandling of the Ray Rice case, an editorial in The Washington Post described an NFL "in dire need" of the former Secretary of State as commissioner.

She once said that her dream job would be running the NFL. But if this year has proven nothing else, it has proven that Goodell's job is not the gravy train he made it appear to be. The job of NFL commissioner is longer on trappings than on actual power.


(Read full post)


GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It was supposed to be so different. Every story, every prediction, every quote in the offseason said this would be Jeff Driskel's year.

But so far, the Florida quarterback's junior season is no different than his first three.

Criticism, confusion and competition never cease to follow Driskel, the former No. 1 high school quarterback prospect in the nation.

At the midpoint of the season, Florida (3-2, 2-2 in the SEC) just can't seem to shake out of the offensive doldrums that have plagued the program since Driskel's arrival.

Much of the blame has fallen on the fourth-year quarterback.

"Yeah, there's a lot out there so you can't really shield yourself from all of it," Driskel said recently, adding that he tries to stay off of social media. "That's just part of playing quarterback here.

"You've just got to be even-keeled and keep moving forward. I'm grown. I can handle it."

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Rob Foldy/Getty ImagesJeff Driskel has become a scapegoat for the Gators' problems on offense.
Born and raised in Oviedo, Florida, Driskel knew what he was getting into at Florida when he committed to play for Urban Meyer in 2010. What he couldn't have foreseen was three offensive coordinators in a three-year span.

Brent Pease, Florida's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who was fired last December after a 4-8 season, has sympathy for Driskel's situation.

"What life’s all about is finding a comfort zone, a security blanket," Pease said. "You know, I’m sure I was different than Charlie Weis and Kurt Roper is different than me. It’s tough no matter what. I don’t think you can find a lot of success when that happens."

Roper, Florida's current coordinator, and Pease agree that Driskel has the mental toughness to handle the role. But expectations have always been so high.

"Even if you accomplish something well, is it going to be enough at Florida?" Pease said. "It’s hard on him. Eventually all that stuff does wear down on you."

Pease said he still follows all of his Florida QBs. Two who transferred -- Jacoby Brissett and Tyler Murphy -- played against each other last week as starters for NC State and Boston College.

Neither could win the job at Florida, but both have found some success elsewhere. Driskel's career, meanwhile, has been plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness.

Pease, now the wide receivers coach at Washington, said he still thinks about being at Florida right now had Driskel not broken his leg and missed most of the 2013 season.

"I just hope the kid plays with confidence and everyone keeps their confidence and competitive edge around him," said Pease. "He’s definitely got the ability, and there is a lot of talent on the team."

The difference is that at this point in Florida's season and with coach Will Muschamp's job very much on the line, patience is running thin.

The Gators benched Driskel after three turnovers and no points against Tennessee two weeks ago. True freshman Treon Harris quickly turned the game around in a come-from-behind win.

Driskel will start, but both quarterbacks will play on Saturday in Florida's homecoming game, a critical SEC East matchup against Missouri.

"We're both going to work for each other and we're both going to hope that other person does well when they're in," Driskel said Monday. "Obviously that's something that we think that can help the team. So if it's going to help the team, I'm all for it."

Roper remains solidly behind Driskel and has tried to temper the growing expectations that are being heaped upon the 19-year-old Harris.

"He doesn't understand what we're doing quite as well obviously because of his time that he's been here," Roper said of Harris on Tuesday. "The best way that I can say it is that he finds a way to make plays. Hopefully that continues."

Muschamp said there will be an ongoing evaluation during Saturday's game.

"We’re going to see who has the hot hand and see who’s helping move our football team and gives us the best opportunity to win," he said on Wednesday. "We’ll make that decision as we go through the game. Both guys deserve and have earned the opportunity to play."

Driskel says he's never shared snaps in a game before. He isn't sure how it’s all going to shake out, but he hasn't lost faith in himself, the offense or the team.

"Believe it or not, I'm not worried about me; I'm worried about the team," he said. "I want the team to play well. ...

"We’re confident in Treon. I think the guys are confident in me as well. It’s not going to be something that’s going to divide the team or anything like that."

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