Florida Gators: Mike Davis

SEC's lunch links

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
12:15
PM ET
So after all that, Kevin Durant made this insane shot ... and lost? Ouch.

SEC's lunch links

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
12:00
PM ET
There were 80 fires put out and 21 arrests in Lexington on Saturday night after Kentucky defeated Wisconsin to reach Monday night's college basketball national championship game. Whatever happened to "Act like you've been there before?"
AUBURN, Ala. -- There wasn’t much fire in the voice of Gus Malzahn as he stood at the podium following Auburn’s first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. All told, it was a pretty boring scene. No injuries to report. No position changes to speak of. Only one turnover and a handful of big plays. His team had to move indoors because of the threat of rain, but as he said, “It didn’t bother us a bit.”

Watching Malzahn, you got the feeling he wasn’t playing coy. This was the difference a year makes. Last spring was an anxious time for Auburn. There was no quarterback, no depth chart and no sense of expectations. Malzahn and Co. were simply trying to pick up the pieces left behind from the previous staff.

This spring has a much different tone. All one needed to do was look at the long-sleeve, collared shirt Malzahn wore after practice, the one with the SEC championship patch on its left shoulder. The building phase of Malzahn’s tenure is over. The questions are much fewer this year than the last. And with that, the sense of urgency is far more diminished.

“We've got more information now, so we're not as urgent,” Malzahn said. “We pretty much know a lot about the guys returning.”

Not every coach in the SEC is in the same enviable position.

“You've also got to keep in mind next year," Malzahn said. "You want to get your guys as much reps as you can moving forward for next year, because that's what it's all about ... but I would say, probably, for the most part, that we've got guys in the position that we want them to be in."

Not every coach can afford to look ahead this spring. Not every coach has the time.

With that said, let’s take a look at the programs with the most to accomplish this spring, ranking all 14 schools by the length of their to-do list.

Vanderbilt: Any new coaching staff has the most work to do, from determining the roster to installing new schemes on both sides of the ball. Throw in a new starting quarterback and the raid James Franklin put on the recruiting class, and it adds up to an enormously important spring for Derek Mason.

Kentucky: Mark Stoops has done a lot to turn around the culture at Kentucky. In fact, veteran defensive end Alvin Dupree said it feels like more of a football school now. But the fact remains that Stoops has a very young group to deal with, so inexperienced that true freshman Drew Barker is in contention to start at quarterback.

Tennessee: The Vols are facing many of the same challenges in Year 2 under Butch Jones. He has brought in a wealth of talent, including a remarkable 14 early enrollees. Considering the Vols lost all of their starters on both the offensive and defensive lines, there’s a lot of work to do.

Florida: The hot seat knows no reason. All is good in Gator Land right now as a new offense under a new coordinator is installed, injured players -- including starting quarterback Jeff Driskel -- return, and expectations creep upward. But a bad showing in the spring game could change the conversation quickly for Will Muschamp.

Arkansas: There’s nowhere to go but up for Bret Bielema after a 3-9 finish his first year with the program. The good news is he has young playmakers on offense (Hunter Henry, Alex Collins, etc.). The bad news is the quarterback position is unsettled and his defensive coaching staff is almost entirely overhauled from a year ago.

LSU: A depth chart full of question marks is nothing new for Les Miles, who has endured plenty of underclassmen leaving for the NFL before. But missing almost every skill player on offense (Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry) hurts. He has to find replacements at several key positions, and we haven’t even gotten into the defense.

Texas A&M: Cedric Ogbuehi can replace Jake Matthews at left tackle. The combination of Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil can replace Mike Evans at receiver. But who replaces the legend of Johnny Football? Determining a starter under center won’t be easy, but neither will be overhauling a defense that was far and away the worst in the SEC last year.

Georgia: Jeremy Pruitt should breathe some new life into a struggling Georgia defense. Having Hutson Mason to replace Aaron Murray helps as well. But off-the-field problems continue to plague Mark Richt’s program. With stars such as Todd Gurley, the players are there. The pieces just need to come together.

Missouri: After 13 seasons in Columbia, Gary Pinkel knows how to handle the spring. Maty Mauk appears ready to take over for James Franklin at quarterback, and even with the loss of Henry Josey, there are still plenty of weapons on offense. The real challenge will be on defense, where the Tigers must replace six starters, including cornerstones E.J. Gaines, Kony Ealy and Michael Sam.

Alabama: The quarterback position won’t be settled this spring, so we can hold off on that. But still, Nick Saban faces several challenges, including finding two new starters on the offensive line, replacing C.J. Mosley on defense and completely overhauling a secondary that includes Landon Collins and a series of question marks.

Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze has his players. Now he just has to develop them. With emerging stars Robert Nkemdiche, Tony Conner, Laremy Tunsil, Evan Engram and Laquon Treadwell, there’s plenty to build around. Include a veteran starting quarterback in Bo Wallace and there’s a lot to feel good about in Oxford.

Mississippi State: It’s a new day in the state of Mississippi as both state institutions have high expectations this spring. Mississippi State returns a veteran defense, a solid offensive line and a quarterback in Dak Prescott who could turn into a Heisman Trophy contender. A few months after Dan Mullen was on the hot seat, he now appears to be riding high.

Auburn: Losing Tre Mason and Greg Robinson hurts, but outside of those two stars, the roster remains fairly intact. Nick Marshall figures to improve as a passer, the running back corps is well off, and the receivers stand to improve with the addition of D’haquille Williams. The defense should get better as youngsters such as Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson gain experience.

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier would like to remind everyone that Dylan Thompson was the only quarterback in the country to beat Central Florida last season. Sure, Thompson wasn’t the full-time starter last year, but he has plenty of experience and is ready to be the man. Throw in a healthy and eager Mike Davis and an improving set of skill players, and the offense should improve. The defense has some making up to do on the defensive line, but there’s no reason to panic, considering the rotation they used last year.
The Madness is all around us, and while basketball is having all the fun, we thought we’d give football a go at the craziness that this month embodies.

While we’ll have to wait a few months until a playoff takes over college football, we thought we’d have a little fun with our own SEC tournament now that the first weekend of games have concluded in this year’s NCAA tournament.

As a tribute to the Big Dance, Chris Low and I have seeded all 14 SEC teams in a tournament of our own to crown our rightful spring SEC champion(s). We’ll spice things up by having different seedings for all 14 teams in our individual tournaments. We have different sites, the top two seeds will receive an opening-round bye and we’ll have an upset or two.

Our first round will feature the No. 3 seed facing the No. 14 seed and the No. 4 seed playing the No. 13 seed, etc.

I’ll debut my bracket first, while Chris will have his prepared later Monday.

After countless hours of deliberation with the selection committee, namely my cat Meeko, here’s what my seedings look like:
1. Auburn
2. Alabama
3. Georgia
4. Ole Miss
5. Missouri
6. South Carolina
7. Mississippi State
8. Texas A&M
9. LSU
10. Florida
11. Tennessee
12. Vanderbilt
13. Arkansas
14. Kentucky
FIRST ROUND

In Nashville, Tenn.

No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 14 Kentucky: The Bulldogs might be without Aaron Murray for the first time in a long time, but Hutson Mason has plenty of offensive options to pick from. Not having Todd Gurley as an option hurts, but Georgia has enough to get past the Cats in Nashville. Winner: Georgia

No. 6 South Carolina vs. No. 11 Tennessee: You'd better believe the Gamecocks are still fuming after that loss to the Vols that eventually cost them a chance to go to Atlanta for the SEC title game last fall. A lot is different for the Gamecocks, but Dylan Thompson works some magic late to avoid the first upset of the tournament. Winner: South Carolina

In Kansas City, Mo.

No. 4 Ole Miss vs. No. 13 Arkansas: The Rebels could be a dark horse to win the SEC this fall, and with so much talent coming back on both sides, Ole Miss could make a nice run in this tournament. Arkansas just has way too many questions on both sides to pull the shocker. Winner: Ole Miss

No. 5 Missouri vs. No. 12 Vanderbilt: Ah, the classic 12-5 upset. There's always one. But the Tigers still have a lot of firepower returning on offense, a stout defensive line and are playing in front of what should be a home crowd. Also, James Franklin and Jordan Matthews are both gone. Winner: Missouri

In Tampa, Fla.

No. 7 Mississippi State vs. No. 10 Florida: The Bulldogs are a team on the rise after winning their last three to close the 2013 season. They return a lot from their two-deep and could have a special player in quarterback Dak Prescott. The Gators suffered a rash of injuries, but have quarterback Jeff Driskel back with an offense that fits his skills more. Playing close to home will give the Gators an advantage and the defense will make a stop late to pull our first upset. Winner: Florida

No. 8 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 LSU: Both teams are breaking in new quarterbacks and playmakers at receiver. LSU's defense is getting revamped again, but there's still a lot of athleticism across the board. This one is coming down to the wire, but LSU's young, yet stealthy corners will be the difference in another upset. Winner: LSU

SECOND ROUND

In Orlando, Fla.

No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 9 LSU: Last fall, this was the game the served as the emotional turning point for Auburn, even though it was a loss. Auburn has a lot to work with once again on the Plains, and while the defense still has its questions, these Tigers will get revenge in a fun one in the Sunshine State. Winner: Auburn

In New Orleans

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 10 Florida: The Gators will be more consistent on offense in this one. Alabama is still looking to find its defensive playmakers, but will have the advantage in the running game. This one is coming down to the fourth quarter, where corner Vernon Hargreaves III seals it for the Gators with a pick in the end zone on a Cooper Bateman pass intended for Amari Cooper. Winner: Florida

In Houston

No. 4 Ole Miss vs. No. 5 Missouri: Two fast offenses take the field, and the Rebels would love to get back at the Tigers after last season's loss. Maty Mauk has what it takes to direct this Missouri team to a deep run, but Ole Miss' defense is the difference in this one. Keep an eye on that defensive line, which gets a major upgrade in the return of end C.J. Johnson. Winner: Ole Miss

In Charlotte, N.C.

No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 6 South Carolina: The hope in Athens is that the defense will be improved with Jeremy Pruitt running the show, but watch out for Mike Davis. South Carolina's pounding running back gets the edge in this one with Gurley on the mend. Expect a lot of points in this one, but Davis grinds this one out for the Gamecocks in the fourth quarter. Winner: South Carolina

FINAL FOUR

In Miami

No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 4 Ole Miss: You want fast, fast, fast? How about these two teams playing? I mean, Ole Miss got to see tons of speed against Mizzou, and now has to take on Auburn? Expect marathon of scoring, but Bo Wallace is the hero in the end. A gritty fourth-quarter performance puts the Rebels in the title game. Winner: Ole Miss

In Arlington, Texas

No. 6 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Florida: It's been a fun run for this spring's Cinderella. Florida's offense is catching up to its defense, but the Gamecocks will find holes in the Gators defense. Thompson hits a few big plays to receiver Shaq Roland and defensive end Gerald Dixon forces a late fumble on a sack of Driskel to run out the clock. Winner: South Carolina

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP

In Atlanta

No. 4 Ole Miss vs. No. 6 South Carolina: Steve Spurrier is back in Atlanta with a gritty team hungry for a title. The Rebels have the advantage with that high-flying offense and will get some huge catches out of Laquon Treadwell against the inexperienced secondary. Thompson and Davis will keep the Gamecocks in this one for most of the game, but true freshman safety C.J. Hampton seals it for the Rebels with a game-ending interception at midfield. Winner: Ole Miss

Top 2014 SEC games to watch

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
11:00
AM ET
It's never too early to start looking ahead to next season. With that in mind, here's an early stab at the top 10 games to watch next season involving SEC teams, which includes both conference and nonconference games:

Aug. 28, Texas A&M at South Carolina: Life after Johnny Manziel begins for the Aggies in the first-ever meeting between these two teams and the first SEC game of the 2014 season, a Thursday night contest that will be televised on the SEC Network.

Aug. 30, LSU vs. Wisconsin, in Houston: It's not until 2016 that these two teams get it on in historic Lambeau Field, but they'll open next season in Reliant Stadium in what should be a classic Big Ten vs. SEC showdown.

Sept. 13, Georgia at South Carolina: The winner takes a big step forward in the East race, and the Dawgs have lost each of their last two trips to Williams-Brice Stadium. Plus, Todd Gurley vs. Mike Davis always makes for entertaining theater.

Sept. 20, Florida at Alabama: The Gators make a rare appearance in Tuscaloosa, only their fourth trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium since the 1992 expansion and division split. It's the SEC opener for the Crimson Tide, who are unbeaten in league openers under Nick Saban.

Oct. 4, Alabama at Ole Miss: The Rebels had to play at Alabama each of the last two seasons but finally get the Tide in Oxford next season. This could be the year that Ole Miss puts it all together and makes a run in the West, but doing that will mean snapping a 10-game skid against the Tide.

Nov. 8, Alabama at LSU: It got away from the Tigers a little bit this season against Alabama in the second half, but when's the last time this game hasn't meant something? Over the last five or six years, it's hard to find a better and/or more meaningful rivalry in college football than Alabama vs. LSU.

Nov. 15, Auburn at Georgia: Living up to the thriller these two teams played this season on the Plains will be difficult, but we could get a glimpse of the 2014 SEC championship game next November in Sanford Stadium.

Nov. 29, Mississippi State at Ole Miss: Talk about a rivalry that's been revitalized. The Bulldogs won in overtime this season, their fourth victory over the Rebels in the last five years. But the "school up north" will be looking for a little payback next season, particularly quarterback Bo Wallace.

Nov. 29, Auburn at Alabama: Just when you think you've seen it all in the Iron Bowl, Chris Davis delivers a play for the ages with his kick-six. We might never see another ending quite like that one, but it's not too farfetched to think that next season's game could again decide the West race.

Nov. 29, South Carolina at Clemson: When the Head Ball Coach knows he can get under somebody's skin, he just twists the needle that much harder. South Carolina has won five in a row now over Clemson, and it probably feels like 20 in a row to Dabo Swinney and the Tigers.

SEC lunchtime links

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
12:00
PM ET
Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season. We've started bowl season, too, so there are plenty of storylines across the league. Here are a few of them:

Ten SEC surprise players in 2013

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
11:40
AM ET
Today, we're looking at 10 players who surprised us in the SEC.

These are players who didn't enter the season with a ton of hype, weren't big-time recruits in the 2013 recruiting class or made big splashes after pedestrian 2012 seasons.

There were a lot of names that could have made it onto this list, but we put our SEC brains together and came up with these 10:

1. Serderius Bryant, LB, Ole Miss: Heading into the season, Bryant was listed as a reserve behind Denzel Nkemdiche. But after Nkemdiche injured his knee in the season opener, Bryant went on a tear for the Rebels. He started nine games and is tied for the team lead with 70 tackles, leads the Rebels with 10.5 tackles for loss and is second with three sacks.

[+] EnlargeSammie Coates
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesSammie Coates emerged as a playmaker in Auburn's high-scoring offense.
2. Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn: Before the season, no one was quite sure who would be catching the brunt of passes in Auburn's offense. Well, Coates took the lead and went from six catches in 2012 to a team-high 38 with 841 yards and seven touchdowns. The Tigers didn't throw a lot, but when they did, Coates was usually the top target.

3. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina: Everyone knew he was going to be the guy to replace Marcus Lattimore, but Davis looked like a seasoned veteran on the field this season, rushing for 1,134 and 11 touchdowns. He was also very good in the passing game, catching 32 passes for 342 yards.

4. Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia: Fellow linebacker Jordan Jenkins was supposed to be the star on defense, but Floyd looked like the Bulldogs' best pass rusher at times. The former prep schooler led Georgia with 6.5 sacks and finished the year with 8.5 tackles for loss and 47 total tackles.

5. Markus Golden, DT, Missouri: After registering just 10 tackles last season, Golden was one of the Tigers' most active defensive players. He got tons of push up the middle and was second on the team with 13 tackles for loss and had 6.5 sacks. He also took an interception 70 yards for a touchdown.

6. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn: The former Georgia defensive back was one of the nation's biggest surprises. He wasn't asked to do a lot with his arm, but made some big-time throws and got more comfortable with his arm as the season went on. Marshall passed for 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns, but did most of his damage with that deadly read option, rushing for 1,023 yards and 11 more scores on his way to leading Auburn to the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game.

[+] EnlargeSolomon Patton
AP Photo/John RaouxWR Solomon Patton was one of the few bright spots in a down year for the Florida offense.
7. Solomon Patton, WR, Florida: Like Auburn, no one knew who would be the top pass catcher in Gainesville. But after spending most of his career as a role player and more of a gimmick guy, Patton was Florida's most dangerous receiver and the go-to guy for whichever quarterback lined up under center. He was a big-play threat and finished the season leading the Gators with 44 catches, 556 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He also registered 642 yards and a touchdown on kick returns.

8. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: In a year in which the Bulldogs spent a lot of time rotating guys in at the quarterback spot, Prescott came up big when he was in. A reserve in 2012, Prescott led Mississippi State with 1,657 passing yards and seven touchdowns. Where Prescott really did his damage was on the ground, where he bullied his way to 751 yards and 11 touchdowns.

9. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: Last year, Robinson started in 11 games last year, but he exploded in 2013. Helping to protect the nation's best running game, he pushed his way to being an All-American, All-SEC member and someone who could be an early pick in the 2014 NFL draft if he decides to leave school.

10. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri: He was easily the biggest surprise of the league for most of the season. A year after starting nine games and recording 3.5 sacks, Sam took the SEC by storm with 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Both led the SEC. The consensus All-American was named the Associated Press' SEC Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award.
We couldn't finish our lists of SEC all-stars without talking about the youngsters who help make this league go round.

For our all-underclassmen team, we decided to use players who are true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or true sophomores. That means Johnny Manziel, a redshirt sophomore, wasn't eligible. I mean he can't make every list!

The criteria for our other lists once again apply. We're basing things on the season they had in 2013, not who will be the better draft prospect in the future.

Here's what we came up with:

OFFENSE

QB: Maty Mauk, Missouri
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Jerald Hawkins, LSU
OL: Denver Kirkland, Arkansas
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
C: Evan Boehm, Missouri
AP: Mike Davis, South Carolina

DEFENSE

DL: Carl Lawson, Auburn
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DL: Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
DL: Chris Jones, Miss. State
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Darian Claiborne, Texas A&M
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Rashard Robinson, LSU
DB: Josh Harvey-Clemons, Georgia
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK: Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
P: Landon Foster, Kentucky
RS: Trey Williams, Texas A&M

Our All-SEC second team choices

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
2:00
PM ET
On Monday, we gave you guys our All-SEC first team. Today, we thought we'd unveil our second team for 2013. There are so many guys in this league who deserve recognition that we just wouldn't feel good about not having another team to give props to during the holiday season:

OFFENSE

QB: AJ McCarron, Alabama
RB: Jeremy Hill, LSU
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
WR: Jarvis Landry, LSU
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
OL: Justin Britt, Missouri
OL: A.J. Cann, South Carolina
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
AP: Todd Gurley, Georgia

DEFENSE

DL: Kony Ealy, Missouri
DL: Chris Smith, Arkansas
DL: Ego Ferguson, LSU
DL: Markus Golden, Missouri
LB: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
LB: Avery Williamson, Kentucky
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
DB: Chris Davis, Auburn
DB: Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK: Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
PR: Christion Jones, Alabama
KR: Christion Jones, Alabama

Alabama leads coaches All-SEC team

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
5:00
PM ET
The SEC coaches have spoken, and Alabama has once again taken over their end-of-the-year All-SEC team.

The Crimson Tide led the rest of the league with nine representatives on the coaches' teams, including an SEC-leading five first-team selections. LSU followed with eight total representatives. Texas A&M had four first-team members, while Auburn and Georgia both had three each.

Twelve of the league's 14 teams had at least one player on the first team, while every team was represented on at least one team. Coaches weren't allowed to vote for their own players.

Here are the coaches' first- and second-team selections:

First team

OFFENSE
QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB: Tre Mason, Auburn
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
AP: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
TE: Arthur Lynch, Georgia
OL: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
OL: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
OL: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
OL: Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
WR: Mike Evans, Texas A&M
WR: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

DEFENSE
DL: Michael Sam, Missouri
DL: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DL: Dee Ford, Auburn
DL: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
LB: C.J. Mosley, Alabama
LB: Ramik Wilson, Georgia
LB: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
DB: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
DB: E.J. Gaines, Missouri
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

SPECIAL TEAMS
K: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Christion Jones, Alabama *
RS: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU *

Second team

OFFENSE
QB: AJ McCarron, Alabama
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
RB: Jeremy Hill, LSU
TE: Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
OL: Justin Britt, Missouri
OL: Anthony Steen, Alabama
C: Travis Swanson, Arkansas
WR: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
WR: Jarvis Landry, LSU
AP: Marcus Murphy, Missouri

DEFENSE
DL: Anthony Johnson, LSU
DL: Chris Smith, Arkansas
DL: Ed Stinson, Alabama
DL: Trey Flowers, Arkansas
LB: Lamin Barrow, LSU
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: Avery Williamson, Kentucky
DB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
DB: Chris Davis, Auburn
DB: Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State
DB: Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt

SPECIAL TEAMS
K: Michael Palardy, Tennessee
P: Cody Mandell, Alabama
RS: Solomon Patton, Florida

-- (*-ties)

SEC Week 13: Did you know?

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
10:00
AM ET
With SEC rivalry week on deck next week, this might feel like the calm before the storm. But there are still a few games on Saturday that carry major bowl implications -- including Missouri-Ole Miss, LSU-Texas A&M and Tennessee-Vanderbilt.

As we prepare to enter the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, here are a few interesting tidbits from our friends at ESPN Stats and Information concerning this weekend's games.
  • Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel posted eye-popping numbers last season, but he remains on pace to match -- if not surpass -- those stats this season. Through 10 games last fall, he had an 89.5 Opponent-Adjusted Total QBR, while he has an 89.6 this year. His average of 392.4 total yards per game is up from 379.4 last year. And he leads the FBS with an average of 39 touchdowns rushing or passing, which is up from his 33 at this point last season. Entering Saturday's game at LSU, Manziel remains unbeaten in his career away from home. He's 9-0 away from Kyle Field with an opponent-adjusted QBR of at least 85 in every game -- the longest streak for any player in the last 10 seasons.
  • Missouri's James Franklin returns to the starting lineup against Ole Miss for the first time since injuring his shoulder against Georgia in Week 7. He was averaging 6.9 yards per play and boasted an 80.7 QBR when injured. Freshman Maty Mauk did an admirable job in Franklin's absence. He led the Tigers to a 3-1 record, although his average of 6.7 yards per play and 68.7 QBR both trail the totals for Franklin.
  • LSU held Texas A&M to 19 points last season in College Station in the Tigers' 24-19 win. That was the only game in Manziel's career that he did not account for a touchdown. His opponent-adjusted QBR that day was 51.2, the lowest single-game mark of his career by 21.3 points.
  • Chattanooga might as well not even bother blitzing Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron on Saturday. When opponents have sent five or more pass rushers, McCarron has thrown an SEC-high 14 touchdowns against just one interception. Meanwhile, Alabama's pass rush has been consistent, blitz or no blitz. The Crimson Tide has pressured opposing quarterbacks on 26 percent of their dropbacks, the highest percentage in the SEC.
  • LSU running back Jeremy Hill averages an SEC-high 8.0 yards per carry on rushes between the tackles (min. 50 carries). On such runs, Hill had season lows in yards (23) and yards per carry (3.8) in the Tigers' last game, a loss to Alabama.
  • Missouri's pass rush has also been effective without needing to blitz. The Tigers have sent four or fewer pass rushers on 88 percent of opponent dropbacks -- the highest percentage of any AQ defense. Nonetheless, the Tigers have an AQ-high 29 sacks and are tied for the national lead with 81 pressures (hurries plus knockdowns). Michael Sam leads the SEC with 10 sacks and Kony Ealy leads the league with 25 pressures. Sam has 23, which is tied for second with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Georgia's Leonard Floyd.
  • Entering Saturday's game against Coastal Carolina, South Carolina running back Mike Davis has 477 rushing yards after contact this season. Only Auburn's Tre Mason and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon have more among SEC ball carriers.
  • The combination of Jeff Scott's combination of breakaway speed and some good blocking by the Ole Miss offensive line allowed Scott to make it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 45 percent of his carries. That's the highest percentage of any AQ running back who has at least 50 carries.
  • South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is dangerous as a runner, but he has been lethal when passing from the pocket this season. He is completing 67 percent of his pocket passes with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions this season. On throws outside the pocket, Shaw is completing 37.2 percent with five touchdowns and one pick.
  • Texas A&M's defense has allowed an AQ-high 57 runs on which the opponent gained 5 yards or more after first contact. The Aggies are also allowing an SEC-high 5.7 yards per carry on designed runs.
  • LSU is tied for sixth in the FBS with 70 offensive plays that covered 20 yards or more this season. The Tigers had just 59 such plays in all of 2012.
  • Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace's completion percentage is nearly 10 percentage points higher at home (69.2) than on the road (59.6). The Rebels are 5-1 in Oxford versus 2-2 anywhere else, and Wallace has tossed 13 touchdowns against three interceptions at home versus his 4-2 split on the road.

Five things: Florida at South Carolina

November, 16, 2013
11/16/13
7:00
AM ET
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With a little less pressure swirling around the program after the school president and the athletic director gave head coach Will Muschamp their votes of confidence on Wednesday, the Florida Gators (4-5, 3-4 in the SEC) visit Columbia, S.C. to face the No. 10 Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2). Here are five things to watch:

1. Who starts at quarterback? Florida QB Tyler Murphy did not practice all week, Muschamp revealed Thursday night. Murphy is dealing with lingering soreness from an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder suffered against LSU on Oct. 12. If he can't play on Saturday, redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, who has never taken a college snap, will get his first career start. Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease says he's comfortable with Mornhinweg, pronouncing him "ready to go" earlier in the week. The son of New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg also has the confidence of his offensive teammates, although the Florida offense remains mired in a season-long funk. The Gators are last in the SEC in total offense, averaging 335.7 yards a game.

2. SC's defensive front vs. UF's offensive line: With two sacks on the season, Gamecocks junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney hasn't piled up the same flashy numbers as last year (13 sacks). But Clowney remains a focal point of blocking schemes and offensive game plans. South Carolina DT Kelcy Quarles benefits from all that attention and has produced this season (7 sacks). Florida's O-line has been decimated by injuries but at least has the continuity of the same personnel as last week. The problem, however, is those same players yielded five sacks and nine tackles for loss to Vanderbilt.

3. The revenge factor: Williams-Brice Stadium is a tough-enough place to play at night with a national cable TV audience (ESPN2). On Saturday, the Gamecocks ought to be even more motivated by what happened last year. Florida ambushed South Carolina, winning 44-11 with four turnovers (three fumbles and an interception). The Gators won that game without needing much from their offense, as Florida was held to 183 yards but limited USC to 191 yards. Even without the taste of revenge, this year's game should be important enough to South Carolina, which is still alive in the SEC East race. Win, and it's done all they could to apply pressure to division-leading Missouri. Lose, and there's little hope of going to Atlanta.

4. Run defense vs. Mike Davis: One of the more intriguing subplots of this game will take place when Florida plays defense. Steve Spurrier's offense has become known for much more balance at South Carolina compared to his pass-happy days as Head Ball Coach at Florida. It helps to have the SEC's leading rusher in do-it-all sophomore Mike Davis, who is also the team's second-leading receiver with 29 catches. Davis will square off against a UF run defense that has given up 165.5 yards a game in its last four games. And the Gators can expect to run into an amped-up foe, one who was once committed to the orange and blue for nearly a year, as Davis tweeted last weekend how "hungry" he is to beat UF.

5. Streak-breakers? When Michigan lost at home last week to Nebraska, the Gamecocks immediately became owners of the longest home-winning streak in the nation with 15 in a row. Win today, and SC would also set a new school record for consecutive home wins. There's also a major streak on the line for Florida, as the Gators need two wins in their last three games in order to be bowl eligible and extend the nation's second-longest active bowl streak to 23 years. The history of the Florida-South Carolina series favors UF, which won 18 of 19 games from 1964-2009. But the Gamecocks on Saturday will be looking to further turn the tide with a third win in their last four meetings with Florida.

SEC Week 12: Did you know?

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
10:00
AM ET
It's a relatively light week in SEC football with only four intraconference games and one nonconference matchup as teams hit the home stretch of their respective schedules. Here are a few nuggets for readers to chew on in advance of this weekend's SEC action, with an assist from the fine folks at ESPN Stats and Information.
  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron didn't have a terrific start to this season but he's coming on strong lately, especially when it really matters, like on third downs. Since Oct. 1, McCarron's Total QBR on third downs is 96.3, which is fifth best in the FBS (in his first four games, his third down QBR was 57.2). He has completed 72.7 percent of his third-down passes, which is second only to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in that time span and converted 59 percent on third downs with zero turnovers in the last five games. McCarron converted only 33 percent of the time with two turnovers in the first four games of the year.
  • The Crimson Tide's opponent, Mississippi State, is trying to knock off a team ranked No. 1 in the polls. The last time the Bulldogs beat a team atop the Associated Press poll? 1980. The opponent? Coincidentally, it was Alabama. The Bulldogs have had only three shots at a top-ranked team since 1980 and lost all three (1998, 2008, 2012). Also, since Dan Mullen has taken over, Mississippi State is 5-19 against SEC West teams (the Bulldogs are 9-4 against the SEC East).
  • Auburn has more than doubled its average production running the football this season. The Tigers are averaging an SEC-best 320 rushing yards per game, compared to 148.4 last season. They also have 33 touchdowns on the ground, compared with just 16 a year ago. They've also improved yards per carry (6.5 from 4.1) and number of carries gaining 10 or more yards (100 this season, 64 last year).
  • Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has seen his numbers dip some in recent weeks. After averaging 304 passing yards in the first six games of the season, Murray has thrown for just 217.7 yards per game in Georgia's last three outings. His touchdown-to-interception ratio (3-to-2) isn't quite what it was in those first six games (17-to-5) and his opponent-adjusted QBR is down (76.3 from 89.3).
  • Injuries and a struggling offense have been a significant part of Florida's decline this season, but so has the Gators' run defense. Five games into the year, Florida boasted what was one of the country's best run defenses (at one point, the Gators ranked No. 1 in average yards allowed). In the first five games, Florida allowed 65 yards per game, 2.8 yards per carry and three rushing touchdowns. In the last four, the Gators have allowed 165.5 yards per game, 4.3 yards per carry and nine rushing touchdowns. Not a good formula when one of the SEC's best backs, South Carolina's Mike Davis, is on deck.
  • Speaking of Davis, he currently leads the SEC in rushing yards per game with an average of 117.6. That's good for 12th in the FBS. Since joining the SEC, only one Gamecock has finished the season with the league's best rushing average, and that was Duce Staley in 1996, who averaged 124 yards.
  • Ole Miss has its final nonconference game of the year on Saturday, hosting Troy. Traditionally, the Rebels have had great success against teams that currently reside in the Sun Belt, going 28-1-2. The only loss came all the way back in 1915 to Arkansas State. Saturday is the first meeting between Ole Miss and Troy.
  • Vanderbilt has been pretty successful in the month of November under head coach James Franklin. The Commodores are 7-2 in the month since he took over and currently, they've won six straight dating back to Nov. 26, 2011. Vandy will seek its seventh straight November victory against Kentucky. In the 10 years prior to Franklin's arrival in Nashville, Vanderbilt was 3-32 in November games.

Planning for success: Florida

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
8:00
AM ET
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It's come down to this: the once-mighty Gators playing spoiler.

All of their biggest goals have vanished, leaving Florida with two last glimmers of hope. They can upset SEC East rival South Carolina on Saturday night, which would likely end the Gamecocks' hopes of a division crown. A win would also go a long way to getting the Gators bowl eligible.

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Randy Sartin/USA TODAY SportsSlowing down Mike Davis, the SEC's leading rusher, is one of Florida's primary tasks when it faces South Carolina.
Florida (4-5, 3-4 in the Southeastern Conference) must win two of its final three games against No. 10 South Carolina, FCS Georgia Southern and No. 2 Florida State in order to extend the nation's second-longest active bowl streak to 23 years.

To do so, the Gators will have to react better to adversity according to head coach Will Muschamp.

"Right now we're not strong enough mentally to handle [adversity]," he said after last week's stunning loss to Vanderbilt. "A year ago, maybe early [this] year, we were. Right now, we're not. It's a 'woe is me' mentality right now. We gotta overcome that. Our leadership needs to step forward, and we'll move forward with the guys who are wiling to accept challenges and opportunities that sometimes are difficult. Sometimes, they're tough."

Facing the Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2) in Columbia, S.C., will certainly offer some tough challenges.

Headlining the list is star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a player who had all of the Gators defensive players and coaches talking and game-planning during the week. Next to Clowney is defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who is second in the SEC with 11 tackles for loss. They'll match up against a Florida offensive line that has been decimated by injuries.

"I don’t know if you stop Clowney," UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "I think you’ve gotta have a plan that makes him work hard. I mean, the guy is the best player in college football. He’s gonna make plays."

So is Steve Spurrier's balanced offense that averages 456.4 yards per game, which is on pace to shatter the school record (428.8 YPG in 1995).

Sophomore running back Mike Davis, the SEC's leading rusher with 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns, is the foundation. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw (23-5 as a starter) has tormented Florida in the past with his mobility and clutch throws. Speedy junior Damiere Byrd leads the Gamecocks receivers and has come on strong with 22 catches for 451 yards in his last six games.

"They're probably the most complete offense we've played all year in terms of all the different ways they can move the ball effectively," UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. "They've got a really good running back. Their quarterback can run it and throw it. They have good receivers outside. Up front they're really big. They do a good job in both run-blocking and pass protection. They're the complete package, and it will be a great challenge for our defense on Saturday."

Mike Davis takes aim at Florida

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
2:59
PM ET
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For a Florida offense lacking big plays and healthy bodies, Mike Davis' success is a painful symbol of what might have been.

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Jim Dedmon/Icon SMIMike Davis, a one-time Florida commit, is motivated for Saturday's showdown with the Gators.
When Davis and Matt Jones committed to be Gators only days apart in February 2011, many foresaw a "thunder and lightning" running back tandem. Jones, a 6-foot-2, 226-pound battering ram provided the thunder, while the speedy Davis would be the lightning.

Just a few weeks after he was hired as Florida's coach, Will Muschamp had scored a major recruiting victory and two very necessary puzzle pieces for his planned conversion to a pro-style offense.

Davis, rated by ESPN as the No. 6 running back prospect in the nation for the Class of 2012, had been one of the Gators' first commits in the class when he gave his pledge on Feb. 19, 2011.

Two years later, he's the SEC's leading rusher with 1,058 yards in nine games, a consistent and explosive force with 10 touchdowns (6.7 points per game).

The problem for Florida is he's doing it in a South Carolina uniform.

Jones, meanwhile, is out for the season with torn cartilage in his left knee -- another injured Gator in a season of mind-boggling pain, suffering and losses.

Imagining Davis in orange and blue is probably not something Muschamp has time to do these days. After all, a recruiting divorce that played out on Twitter and recruiting blogs two years ago is ancient history in the world of actual college football. But that behind-the-scenes drama could have an effect this Saturday night when Florida visits No. 10 South Carolina.

Davis was committed to Florida for almost a year. But the relationship soured, and he decommitted on Dec. 4, 2011.

"Sometimes stuff happens when you commit a year ahead," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said on Wednesday.

In the world of blue-chip recruiting, there are always two sides to every story. From Florida’s perspective, Davis simply changed his mind and saw a better opportunity elsewhere.

"He's a really good player, a guy we thought a lot of coming out of Stephenson [High School] there in Atlanta," Muschamp said this week. "He is having an outstanding year, certainly has been a huge difference in their run game. …

"Everybody makes their decision on what they want to do [in recruiting], and Mike felt like South Carolina was a better opportunity for him. I wish him well."

Davis' camp sees things a bit differently. Older brother James Davis, who starred at Clemson (2004-07) and played in the NFL, said the Florida coaches "kind of blew it" when they made a promise not to recruit other running backs and then did an about-face.

"I sat in [on the conversation] when they came in [for a visit]," James Davis said. "They said they were done at running back after they had [Mike] and Matt Jones. So I was there.

"It changed his mind because he felt that he was loyal, and those guys weren't. It kind of opened the recruiting process back up for him."

The player Florida went after was five-star running back Keith Marshall, who ended up signing with Georgia. The attention given to Marshall by the UF coaching staff stoked Davis' competitive fire.

"I think it was kind of a slap in the face, and Mike felt the same," James said. "He was committed to those guys, and he doesn't think they were committed to him. For the most part, he got over it. But I think it's still in his mind every time he faces off against Florida."

That much is clear. What happened in the past is over and done with for both parties. But for Mike Davis, the desire to beat the Gators on the field remains.

He got his first chance as a true freshman last season, visiting Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as he had several times when he was a commit. That day, the Gators unleashed a fearsome defense and crushed the Gamecocks 44-11. Davis was South Carolina's leading rusher with 24 yards.

A year later, Davis isn't the only Gamecock itching for revenge. But he might be the most motivated, as his tweets last Sunday can attest.



"He came home [last] weekend during the bye week, and we got to talk about it," said James Davis, who plans to be in Columbia, S.C. on Saturday night. "I think he's definitely excited about this one the most because of the recruiting process, and I think he has a chip on his shoulder coming out this week. I think this will be the biggest chip of any game.

"I think it's almost kind of like a rivalry game to Mike. He's taking this one personal."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
VIDEO PLAYLIST video