Florida Gators: Vinnie Sunseri

SEC's lunch links

April, 9, 2014
Ten of the Top 25 tailgating schools reside in the SEC, including all of the top six. Does this surprise anyone?

SEC's lunch links

April, 8, 2014
The SEC has been pumping out internet memes lately. Over the weekend there was Gene Chizik staring down his daughter's prom date. Then during Monday night's basketball national championship game, rapper Drake's many sports allegiances (Kentucky among them) were on display. Oh, and the kid Cats lost to UConn and then acted like they'd never heard of the NBA draft.

Let's swim back into the friendlier waters of SEC football, shall we?

SEC's lunchtime links

March, 12, 2014
Hard-working reporters put in some long hours for the NFL's first day of free agency. It was so packed with news, it was almost like a mini national signing day.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 9

October, 24, 2013
Here are 10 things to watch in the SEC this week:

1. Thursday night football: It gets started tonight with Mississippi State hosting Kentucky. Both teams are searching for their first SEC win of the season. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has seen his team take some lumps and has shuffled its quarterbacks. Maxwell Smith will get the start because Jalen Whitlow was injured against Alabama. Mississippi State had to turn to Dak Prescott after Tyler Russell was knocked out of the season opener against Oklahoma State with a concussion, and though Russell has since returned, Prescott is still getting playing time.

[+] EnlargeKevin Sumlin
AP Photo/David J. PhillipTexas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is hoping Johnny Manziel will be able to play against Vanderbilt.
2. Manziel: To play or not to play? If it seems that we've been down this road before, it's because we have. People want to know whether Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will play Saturday. He suffered an apparent shoulder injury in a 45-41 loss to Auburn but returned to finish the final 9:06 of the game, playing with pain in that throwing shoulder. Coach Kevin Sumlin isn't tipping his hand, simply calling Manziel "hopeful" for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.

3. Can Mauk and Mizzou keep it going? Missouri freshman quarterback Maty Mauk made his first start last week in place of the injured James Franklin and was solid, completing 18-of-36 passes for 295 yards plus a touchdown and interception in a win over Florida. The Tigers (7-0, 3-0) hold at least a two-game lead in the loss column over the rest of the SEC East and host No. 21 South Carolina on Saturday. It's another test for the Tigers, who passed their last two -- at Georgia and versus Florida -- with flying colors.

4. Dylan Thompson gets the call for the Gamecocks: South Carolina starting quarterback Connor Shaw sprained his left knee, and coach Steve Spurrier said Thompson will get the start Saturday against Missouri. Spurrier said Shaw could potentially be the backup and could take some snaps if the Gamecocks needed it, but Thompson will be the guy at game time. He has appeared in all but one game this season, completing 29-of-51 passes for 421 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

5. Shifting safeties for Bama: Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury and will be replaced by sophomore Landon Collins. He already has two starts under his belt this season (when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was out), but now Collins will be lining up next to Clinton-Dix, who's returning from a suspension. Collins is eager for his chance, though losing the leadership that Sunseri provided isn't ideal.

6. Another Vols upset?: It'll be tough since Tennessee heads to Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on No. 1 Alabama, but the Vols have raised eyebrows in recent weeks. They were within a blink of upsetting Georgia on Oct. 5, taking the Bulldogs to overtime before losing 34-31, and last week they came away with a 23-21 upset of South Carolina. The past two games have been in the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium, and the Vols must now go on the road against a juggernaut. Tennessee already has taken some lumps from Oregon and Florida on the road this season, but there's definitely a renewed optimism and energy permeating the program under Butch Jones right now.

7. Who's at QB for Vanderbilt? Starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels left last week's game in the second quarter with a left-leg injury and coach James Franklin's depth chart reads: Carta-Samuels or Patton Robinette. Robinette was 9-of-15 passing for 107 yards, a rushing touchdown and an interception in place of Carta-Samuels. Franklin hasn't publicly named a starter, as is the case with the Commodores' opponent -- Texas A&M -- so there's some uncertainty about who will take the first snap for each team when they meet at Kyle Field.

8. Nonconference tilts for three: LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss are all heavy favorites as each dips back into nonconference play this weekend. LSU is hosting Furman, Auburn takes on Florida Atlantic, and Ole Miss meets Idaho. LSU is looking to bounce back from last week's narrow loss at Ole Miss, Auburn hopes to continue the positive momentum from this season that hit a peak with a win at Texas A&M last week, and the Rebels (who upset LSU) are looking for their second straight win in the middle of a six-game homestand.

9. Recovery time for Arkansas, Florida, Georgia: Each of these teams has had its fair share of struggles and injuries, and they're getting a chance to shore those up as all three have a bye. Arkansas is searching for answers after getting beaten the past two weeks by a combined score of 104-7. Florida needs to kick-start a sputtering offense that has left the previously ranked team with two straight losses. Georgia, coming off two losses itself, is hoping to get Todd Gurley and Michael Bennett back next week.

10. Keeping the top spot: Alabama started No. 1, and the Crimson Tide occupy the top spot in the debut of this season's BCS standings. Nick Saban & Co. have been downright dominant, with their only close call coming in College Station in a 49-42 win over Texas A&M. Since then, the Tide have allowed just 16 points in five games. They host Tennessee -- a team that's building some momentum itself -- on Saturday and then have a week off before their showdown with LSU on Nov. 9. For now, the Tide continue to carry the torch for the SEC.

Hot and Not in the SEC: Week 3

September, 16, 2013
The temperature is heating up in some locales in the SEC and cooling down in others:


[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsJohnny Manziel is one of the reasons SEC offenses are humming and its defenses are suffering.
SEC offenses: We’ve played three weeks of football, and half the SEC teams are ranked in the top 38 nationally in total offense. No, that’s not a typo. We’re talking offense here, not defense. Not only that, but 10 of the 14 teams are averaging more than 30 points per game. They’re not all rolling up these numbers against lesser competition, either. Alabama and Texas A&M combined for 91 points, 1,196 yards and 62 first downs in their 49-42 classic on Saturday in College Station. In the season opener, we saw Ole Miss defeat Vanderbilt in a wild 39-35 game. Georgia lost 38-35 to Clemson in its opener and came back the next week and beat South Carolina 41-30 in a game that featured 990 yards of total offense. Even LSU is getting into the act. Yep, the same LSU that didn't finish better than ninth in the SEC in passing offense the last four years. The Tigers have thrown it only 70 times in their first three games but are fifth in the league in passing offense (269.3 yards per game). More importantly, they’re making big plays downfield. They’re averaging 11.5 yards per attempt, which is second in the league behind only Georgia. Of course, with all this offense, the SEC’s defensive numbers have taken a hit. Only four teams are in the top 40 nationally in total defense -- Florida (No. 3), Arkansas (No. 6), LSU (No. 10) and Ole Miss (No. 35).


Arkansas running back Alex Collins: Not even Herschel Walker rushed for 100 yards in each of his first three games, so Collins is in rarefied air. He rushed for 115 yards in the win over Southern Miss on Saturday, becoming the first freshman in SEC history to rush for 100 yards in each of his first three games. The last freshman to do it nationally was Adrian Peterson in 2004. Collins’ backfield mate, sophomore Jonathan Williams, has also gained 100 yards each of the first three weeks.


Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon's eardrums: After scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run right before the half, Yeldon was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he gave the old double throat slash and went all Manziel on us with the “money fingers.” Alabama coach Nick Saban then proceeded to go off on Yeldon, who’s probably still having a hard time hearing out of that ear.


LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger: He leads the SEC in passing efficiency and has thrown nine touchdown passes and no interceptions through the Tigers’ first three games. His nine touchdown passes through three games are the most in school history. What’s more, at this point a year ago, Mettenberger had four touchdown passes and two interceptions.


Butch Jones’ road debut: At least Tennessee won’t have to face Oregon again anytime soon. Jones’ first road game as the Vols’ coach produced their worst beating in modern history. The 59-14 drubbing could have been worse, but the Ducks mercifully took their foot off the gas pedal late in the third quarter. It was a reminder that Oregon is off-the-charts good and Tennessee still has a long way to go before being ready to swim in those waters.


[+] EnlargeOdell Beckham
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsOdell Beckham (3) and Jarvis Landry have been the SEC's best receiving tandem so far.
Big-time receivers: It’s hard to beat the lineup of receivers in the SEC. Take your pick. Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews and Alabama’s Amari Cooper are as good as it gets. But what about Ole Miss’ Donte Moncrief? And something says Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham is just getting started. But in terms of combos, LSU’s Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry have combined for 10 touchdowns this season.


Targeting penalties: Thankfully, the ejection of Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on Saturday was overturned by replay, but the 15-yard penalty stuck. It shouldn't have been a penalty; Clinton-Dix was clearly trying to make a play on the ball and there just happened to be some helmet-to-helmet contact. No wonder the coaches hate the rule given how subjective it is.


Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri: There was some concern about Sunseri's ability to cover, and that’s still not his forte. But the guy is a football player. He has played in two games this season and has two interception returns for touchdowns. There’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time, and Sunseri always seems to be in the right places at the right times.


South Carolina’s special teams: The Gamecocks almost made enough special-teams gaffes to let Vanderbilt really make things interesting there at the end last weekend. They’re getting nothing out of their kickoff return game, and Shon Carson fumbled two (losing one) against the Commodores. South Carolina also had a punt go off a player’s heel that set up one of Vanderbilt’s late touchdowns and helped the Commodores rally.


Texas A&M’s defense: Technically, Johnny Manziel is correct. Texas A&M isn't out of the SEC or national championship race. The Aggies will need some help, but Alabama has proven the last two years that a one-loss SEC team (not even a one-loss SEC champion) can rebound to win it all. So with some help, the Aggies can still work their way back onto the guest list for the Vizio BCS National Championship. But where they’re really going to need help is on defense. They’ve got to get better -- and get better in a hurry -- on that side of the ball, or it’s not going to matter how many mesmerizing plays Manziel makes on offense. Having to score 40-plus points every week to win has a way of catching up to you. The Aggies got all their players back on defense against Alabama except for safety Floyd Raven, and while it’s true that playing with different combinations can torment a defense, the Aggies’ problem so far has been that they don’t do anything particularly well on defense and have looked unsound at times through the first three games. We’ll see what kinds of strides the Aggies can make on D, but they’re clearly missing some of the playmakers who helped them play extremely well down the stretch last year.

SEC lunchtime links

August, 28, 2013
We're just a day away until the first game of the college football season and a few days until the season begins en masse. Here's a look at some of the stories from around the SEC to keep you informed:


SEC players featured on Kiper's Big Board
Mel Kiper Jr. discusses SEC players and their NFL combine performances.