Florida Gators: Bobby Petrino

SEC Friday mailbag: Week 7

October, 11, 2013
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Brandon Joyce (@BrandonJoyce_1) writes: What are the Gators’ keys to victory against LSU on Saturday?

Greg Ostendorf: It starts with the defense. Florida is ranked No. 2 in the country in total defense, giving up only 217 yards per game. In a season that has been dominated by the offenses in the SEC, the Gators are winning with defense. If anybody can stop or slow down LSU wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry this season, it’s Florida. They have two NFL-caliber cornerbacks in Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, and maybe the conference’s best freshman, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. On offense, the Gators need to establish the run early and often. LSU ranks in the bottom half of the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 160 yards per game on the ground. That could mean a big day for running back Matt Jones.


Kevin Paul (@KevinJPaul) writes: Does LSU have the best offense in the conference?

Greg Ostendorf: As good as Florida’s defense has been this season, it’s going to be nearly impossible to stop this LSU offense. Sure, Georgia outscored LSU when they met in Athens. And Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel has been the most explosive player in the SEC. But how can you argue against the Tigers’ offense? Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has turned the page and is looking like a first-round draft pick. They have the top wide receiver tandem in the conference. And if you try to shut down the passing game, they can just hand the ball off to Jeremy Hill. There’s not a more balanced offense in the league. LSU is averaging 291 yards per game through the air, and since the return of Hill they’re rushed for more than 200 yards in three of the last four games.


Jerrod Piker (@d1nonlyhogfan) writes: With or without Clowney, does South Carolina struggle in Fayetteville this weekend? Could this be Bielema’s signature win in season No. 1?

Greg Ostendorf: Jadeveon Clowney is expected to pay for South Carolina this weekend, per his defensive coordinator. However, even with the star defensive end on the field, I think the Gamecocks will get all they can handle from Arkansas. Freshman running back Alex Collins is leading the SEC in rushing with 651 yards through the first half of the season, and he’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Meanwhile, South Carolina has struggled in recent weeks against the likes of Vanderbilt, Central Florida and Kentucky. There's no doubt this would be a signature win for Brett Bielema and put them one step closer to making a bowl game.


Adam Hathcock (@adam_hath) writes: Does Tennessee's bye week help or hurt them?

Greg Ostendorf: It all depends on how the Volunteers respond after a gut-wrenching loss to Georgia. You could argue the bye week would be helpful because the team is still devastated after Saturday’s game and might have come out flat this weekend. However, the overtime loss to the Dawgs seemed to re-energize the program and the fans. Butch Jones & Co. could use the game as a springboard for the rest of the season. Ultimately, I think the off week will be helpful. It gives the players a chance to rest up and get healthy, and they will have extra time to prepare for South Carolina. The Gamecocks come to Neyland Stadium a week from Saturday.


Daniel Badger (@badger_daniel) writes: Is Dan Mullen on the hot seat? If so, who are some possible candidates to replace him after the season?

Greg Ostendorf: It’s hard to argue with what Mullen has done for the Mississippi State program. He has taken the Bulldogs to three consecutive bowl games, which is no easy task. But they have seemed to hit a ceiling of sorts and are in danger of missing the postseason this year. I think it’s too early to fire Mullen, but in this day and age in college football, nothing is out of the question. If he were let go, Mississippi State might look at Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris or Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth, who was born in in Mississippi and coached in Starkville once before. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bobby Petrino’s name came up as well.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
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The second week of the college football season is upon us.

Some exceeded expectations in Week 1, others fell short. In the SEC, a few coaches made debuts at new programs, a few key players suffered injuries that will affect their teams and there is buzz, both good and bad, surrounding some of the league’s most visible stars.

Here are 10 things to keep an eye on in the SEC in Week 2:

[+] EnlargeClowney
Gerry Melendez/Getty ImagesAfter his lackluster showing in the season opener, all eyes will be on Jadeveon Clowney when South Carolina faces Georgia.
1. What will Clowney do? South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has endured much criticism after a pedestrian performance in the Gamecocks' season-opening win against North Carolina. After a three-tackle, no-sack performance, some observers questioned Clowney's conditioning and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Clowney was definitely affected by the heat. This week, the No. 6 Gamecocks meet No. 11 Georgia and you can bet people will watch Clowney even more closely as the stakes are raised as each team opens SEC play.

2. What's next for Manziel? Johnny Manziel's return to the field for Texas A&M yielded terrific on-field results (6-of-8 passing, 94 yards, three touchdown passes) as well as a firestorm of media criticism as a result of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he committed and a few celebrations. Whether he likes it or not, all eyes are on him and as Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said, "people want to make a story out of anything that happens on this team right now." Will there be more non-football conversation circulating Manziel after the Aggies play Sam Houston State on Saturday?

3. Jones returns for UF: Sophomore running back Matt Jones returns to the Florida lineup this weekend as the Gators travel to Miami. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound Jones missed three weeks of practice while recovering from a viral infection and offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Jones will see plenty of touches in his return, perhaps as many as 25 carries.

4. Familiar foe for Malzahn: Auburn and new coach Gus Malzahn are hosting a team that he's quite familiar with -- Arkansas State. Malzahn spent last year as the Red Wolves' head coach, leading them to a 9-3 record and a conference championship before departing for Auburn prior to the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Arkansas State's new coach is former Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who led the Red Wolves to a 62-11 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in his debut. Meanwhile, Malzahn's new team escaped with a 31-24 win over Washington State behind new starting quarterback Nick Marshall.

5. Prescott likely to start for Mississippi State: Starting quarterback Tyler Russell sustained a concussion in the Bulldogs' loss Saturday to Oklahoma State and is doubtful to play this weekend against Alcorn State. That means coach Dan Mullen will likely turn to backup Dak Prescott, a 6-2, 230-pound sophomore, to fill in. The dual-threat quarterback brings an ability to run the football to the Bulldogs' offense, recording 131 yards on 32 carries in spot duty last season. Mullen said he's confident in Prescott.

6. Adjustments to be made for Georgia: A season-opening 38-35 loss to talented ACC foe Clemson yielded an injured receiver (Malcolm Mitchell is out for the season after an ACL injury suffered while celebrating a Todd Gurley touchdown) and displayed a struggling offensive line. Quarterback Aaron Murray rarely had time to throw against Clemson and the Bulldogs are facing a talented South Carolina defensive front. But the Clemson loss can be easily forgotten if the Bulldogs open SEC play with a win over a top-10 team and fellow SEC East squad.

7. Can Stoops and Kentucky bounce back? There was a lot of buzz surrounding the debut of new Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops but it was killed by a season-opening loss to Western Kentucky. The Wildcats host Miami (Ohio) and are double-digit favorites. It's imperative to erase the taste of last week's loss with a win this week for UK.

8. Intriguing matchup in Knoxville: Tennessee cruised to a win over FCS foe Austin Peay in the opening week but now get a little bit of a tougher test in Bobby Petrino's Western Kentucky squad, which is fresh off its upset of Kentucky. The Volunteers are favored and rightfully so, and they're a higher caliber opponent than Kentucky. It would be a tough task for the Hilltoppers to pull off in Neyland Stadium, but it's worth at least keeping an eye on as Petrino tries to start 2-0 against SEC foes while Tennessee's Butch Jones looks to keep positive momentum going.

9. Ole Miss looking for others to emerge: The Rebels lost guard Aaron Morris to a season-ending knee injury and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche for 4-6 weeks because of a meniscus tear. Though they have an FCS foe in Southeast Missouri State, the Rebels will need others to step up in their absences.

10. Mettenberger looking to build on Week 1: In his first game under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger did enough to guide the Tigers to a 37-27 win over TCU. This week against UAB, he told reporters he has to be a little more accurate than his 16-for-32 showing, which was otherwise solid, yielding 251 yards and a touchdown pass.
In keeping with our March Madness theme, I decided to take a look at one area everyone loves about the Big Dance and translate it to the football field: upsets.

We saw some good ones last year, like Louisiana-Monroe upending Arkansas, Texas A&M knocking off No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa and Louisville embarrassing Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Since anything -- and everything -- can happen on any given Saturday, we'll probably see some fun upsets yet again this fall.

Here are some potential upsets involving SEC teams to look out for in 2013:

Virginia Tech over Alabama, Aug. 31: The Hokies limped through a 7-6 2012 season, but return nine starters on a defense that finished the year ranking 18th nationally in total defense. With four defensive linemen returning, Virginia Tech could give Alabama's new-look offensive line fits in the opener, while quarterback Logan Thomas could make a few plays here and there inside the Georgia Dome.

TCU over LSU, Aug. 31: The Tigers have a lot of holes to fill on defense, and TCU just happens to bring back nine offensive starters. Plus, quarterback Casey Pachall is back. This game will also be played in Arlington, Texas, which is less than 20 miles away from TCU's campus.

Miami over Florida, Sept. 7: The Gators finally get some more meat on their out-of-conference schedule and you better believe the Canes, who have spent the past few years in the shadow of Florida and Florida State, are itching to pull this upset. The game will be played in Sun Life Stadium, so Canes fans should be out in full force.

Western Kentucky over Tennessee, Sept. 7: Bobby Petrino returns to the SEC with his new team with 13 returning starters, including six on offense. After getting zero love from SEC schools during his job hunt, Petrino will be looking to exact some revenge on the league. The Vols have tons of questions to answer and will be adjusting to a new staff. Also, this is a trap game with Oregon next on the schedule.

UCF over South Carolina, Sept. 28: This would be a major upset for the Golden Knights. South Carolina is clearly the better and more talented team, but this is a road game early in the year. UCF is coming off of a 10-win season and returns 11 total starters, including 3,000-yard passer Blake Bortles and five of its top six receivers. The Gamecocks also have a tendency to play down to their competition.

Ole Miss over Texas A&M, Oct. 12: The Rebels choked away a second-half lead in this game last year, so there's plenty of motivation on Ole Miss' side. This game is in Oxford again, too. The Aggies have to replace five starters in their front seven, and the Rebels' explosive offense, which returns eight starters, could be a bad matchup for a younger defense like that.

Arkansas over South Carolina, Oct. 12: Everything is new in Fayetteville, but the Hogs have won three straight at home against the Gamecocks. A physical Bret Bielema team could catch the Gamecocks off guard, and you know that environment will be rocking.

Missouri over Florida, Oct. 19: The Gators will be coming off of what should be a tough, physical game at LSU, and must stay on the road to play these Tigers. Fatigue could set in and if Mizzou can stay healthy, its offense should be better than what we saw last year. Florida's offense still has a bunch of questions and can't afford to let another road environment rattle it.

Vanderbilt over Georgia, Oct. 19: In 2011, the Commodores came very close to pulling this upset. Last year, Vandy was run out of Athens. And we all know how much James Franklin wants this one. A solid defense returns and with the playmakers Vandy has on offense, this team could put some points up on Georgia's younger defense.

Auburn over Alabama, Nov. 30: Yep. This could happen. Alabama is going to lose again and while most are looking at the Tide's trip to College Station as the most likely loss in 2013, don't sleep on Bama's biggest rival. Auburn will be a better team next year and could be a nuisance late in the season. If that offense gets going, the Tigers could really challenge Alabama on the Plains.

Final 2012 SEC power rankings

January, 8, 2013
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We've reached the end to another college football season, and yet again Alabama is on top. Nick Saban is the king of college football, and his Crimson Tide are looking down at the rest of the sport.

So how does the rest of the SEC stack up? Well, we have our final power rankings of the year right here:

1. Alabama (13-1, 7-1 SEC): Total domination in the championship game and three titles in four years? A load of NFL talent on both sides of the ball? Alabama had it all (again), and even with a team that didn't exactly have the same sort of defensive talent as it did a year ago, the Crimson Tide still made it to the BCS title game and came away with a commanding 42-14 victory over Notre Dame in a game that was over when the Tide arrived on South Beach. With the talent Alabama has coming back, the Tide could once again be in the national championship picture.

2. Texas A&M (11-2, 6-2 SEC): Thanks to Johnny Football, the Aggies ended the season as one of the nation's hottest teams. There are some out there who think A&M might be the best team in the country, despite its two losses. Johnny Manziel was the nation's best player and even without Kliff Kingsbury helping him on the sideline against Oklahoma, he ran all over the Sooners for a bowl-record 516 total yards in a total rout. Imagine if both of those Aggies tackles return in 2013.

3. Georgia (12-2, 7-1 SEC): The Bulldogs capped off the 2012 season with a 45-31 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. It wasn't exactly the bowl the Bulldogs wanted to be in, after coming up just yards short of making it to the BCS title game in Alabama's place, but you have to admire how this team came out and won like it did. Back-to-back SEC title game appearances is nothing for this team to be ashamed of.

4. South Carolina (11-2, 6-2 SEC): The Gamecocks had a legitimate shot at our No. 3 spot, but at the end of the day, Georgia's appearance in Atlanta, coupled with its 14-point bowl win, kept South Carolina behind the Bulldogs. Still, what a year for the Gamecocks. Behind the coaching of Steve Spurrier, South Carolina won 11 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. The Gamecocks also beat back-to-back ranked opponents to close out the season.

5. Florida (11-2, 7-1 SEC): After entering the postseason with arguably the country's best résumé, the Gators fell flat on their faces against Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Their 10-point loss didn't show just how bad the game was for Florida. The Gators might not have wanted to be there and Florida clearly didn't show up for its first BCS bowl since 2009. But you can't discount what Florida did during the regular season. It didn't have a pretty offense, but it defeated four top-10 teams, including ACC champ Florida State in Tallahassee in a year in which the Gators weren't expected to win nine games.

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2012 SEC regular-season wrap

December, 5, 2012
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Here we are again talking about another potential national championship for the SEC.

Weren’t we having this same conversation last year, the year before that and the year before that?

In fact, does anybody really remember the last time we weren’t having this conversation?

The BCS Championship Game festivities will again include an SEC team this season, and once again, it’s Alabama carrying the banner for the league.

If you think everybody else in college football is tired of seeing the SEC win all the time, try taking the temperature of fans in Baton Rouge, La., or Athens, Ga., or Auburn, Ala., over how tired they are of seeing Alabama win all the time.

The Crimson Tide will be chasing history Jan. 7 in the Discover BCS National Championship game against Notre Dame when they go after their third national title in the past four years. The last team to win three outright national titles in a four-year span was Notre Dame in 1946, 1947 and 1949.

An Alabama victory in Miami would mark the seventh consecutive national championship for the SEC, which might have been as balanced and strong across the board this season as any of the seasons during its national championship run.

The final BCS standings looked more like the SEC standings. Six of the top 10 teams were from the SEC, and all six won at least 10 games.

And talk about beating up on each other.

Texas A&M, in its first season in the SEC, waltzed into Bryant-Denny Stadium and upset Alabama 29-24 with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Georgia lost by four touchdowns to South Carolina back in October, but rebounded to make its second consecutive appearance in the SEC championship game. It wasn’t until the final play that Alabama’s 32-28 win over Georgia was decided last weekend in Atlanta.

Florida is headed back to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2009 thanks to a transformation in Will Muschamp’s second season that saw the Gators go from being soft at times in 2011 to one of the most physical teams in the league this season. Florida will meet Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl after collecting four victories over teams that finished in the top 12 of the final BCS standings.

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SEC power rankings: Week 1

August, 27, 2012
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» Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

We are just days away from the college football season, so it's time to unveil our first batch of power rankings for the regular season.

A lot goes into our power rankings. It isn't just about how strong teams are right now. We look into our crystal ball as well to get a good read on how each team will finish the season -- before it has even started.

For each school, we look at talent coming back, coaching, roster changes, how teams have looked in practice now compared to the spring and uniform style. Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the point.

Here are our season-opening SEC power rankings for 2012:

1. LSU: The gap between the Tigers and Alabama got a lot smaller after Tyrann Mathieu's dismissal, so this could be viewed as 1A and 1B. Mathieu is a big loss for LSU on defense and special teams, but there is just way too much talent for this team not to make another title run. LSU's offense still has one of the best/deepest running games around and gets an upgrade with quarterback Zach Mettenberger. LSU also might have the best offensive line/defensive line combo in the nation.

2. Alabama: The defending champs lost a lot of star power on defense, but that unit should still be pretty darn good this fall. There could be some growing pains at times, but the Tide should still have one of the league's best defensive units this fall. The offense might be better and more balanced this fall, even without Trent Richardson. There is a good stable of backs, the nation's top offensive line and quarterback AJ McCarron has a little more explosiveness and athleticism to work with at receiver.

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We're always looking for the next best thing. The coaching world isn't any different.

Who's the next Urban Meyer? The next Chris Petersen? What about another Brady Hoke?

Who's that next great assistant who rises up the ranks and takes over a major program ... and succeeds?

I'm not completely sure, but I have a few ideas. Here are some coaches lurking in the SEC who could be on their way to bigger and better things or are ready to take the next step with their current teams:

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Ranking the SEC coaching jobs

July, 10, 2012
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The SEC has the reputation of being the toughest conference to play/coach in. But what is it like to be in charge of one of these high-profile programs?

That's where we come in. As we take a deeper look into programs around the country this week, we're looking at how each program stacks up in every conference. In the SEC, there's always a fierce arms race going on, and getting left behind can be dangerous.

Today, we're ranking each coaching job in the SEC. We considered a lot of factors, including location, tradition, support, fan bases, facilities and recruiting access.

Here's how we ranked all 14 SEC jobs.

1. Florida: For starters, Florida is all about location, location, location. It's in a state that produces some of the country's top talent and it's a state that players around the country will flock to. Thanks to Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, Florida has become a national brand like Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame and Texas. Recent significant facility upgrades and a tremendous fan base have only helped this be the top job in the SEC.

2. LSU: It's one of just a handful of schools around the country that's considered the school in the state. Every football player in Louisiana grows up wanting to play in Tiger Stadium. Louisiana is also extremely bountiful when it comes to producing football players, and Texas is right around the corner. The facilities are top notch and the program has great tradition and a tremendous fan base.

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SEC post-spring power rankings

May, 18, 2012
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We're putting spring behind us and looking toward the fall with our post-spring power rankings:

1. LSU: The Tigers had one of the best springs around. Things were quiet off the field, and the offense rallied behind quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Coach Les Miles was very impressed with Mettenberger's play and maturity, and expects LSU's offense to be more balanced with him under center. LSU can still use four or five running backs, as well. Defensively, the Tigers are stacked once again, especially up front with two potential first-rounders in ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Questions surround the inexperienced linebackers, but Kevin Minter had a tremendous spring in the middle. On paper, LSU is equipped with the talent to make another title run, and gets Alabama at home this year.

2. Alabama: While the defending national champs saw a lot of "new" faces on defense this spring, coach Nick Saban left happy with where his players were -- but not satisfied. There is still work to be done, especially in the secondary, where the Tide must replace three starters. Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are gone at linebacker, but the coaches were impressed with how Nico Johnson, C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard played this spring. Some think Hubbard, a redshirt sophomore, could be Bama's top pass-rusher. Offensively, quarterback AJ McCarron is back, more mature and surrounded by a very veteran line. He has a group of younger receivers to throw to, but has at least four quality running backs. Alabama's road to repeating is tougher, with games at Arkansas and LSU.

3. South Carolina: A healthy Marcus Lattimore (knee) at RB makes South Carolina an even better contender for the SEC East crown. His status is uncertain, but the pieces around him are pretty impressive. Quarterback Connor Shaw had an impressive spring, and looks ready to be the passer coach Steve Spurrier wants him to be. The defense is once again stacked, especially up front with ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. There are questions in the secondary, with two new, young starters in Victor Hampton (cornerback) and Brison Williams (safety), while senior Akeem Auguste returns after missing last season with a foot injury. Still, Spurrier is chirping about his SEC counterparts, so you know he thinks he's got a good team this year.

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National signing day is almost here and while communication between prospects and coaches has stopped, hoping hasn't. Coaches and fans are sending out as much positive energy as possible before signing day.

So with the days ticking down, we wanted to get your thoughts on which school will have the biggest day Wednesday.

Will it be Alabama? The national champions currently have the top class in the country, according to ESPN.com recruiting services, and 27 verbal commitments. Twelve of those commitments are ESPNU 150 members.

It would take something absolutely catastrophic for Alabama's class to not be ranked near the top, and some top prospects, including No. 1 defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (Washington, D.C./Collegiate Academy), No. 3 outside linebacker Kwon Alexander (Oxford, Ala.) and No. 8 defensive tackle Korren Kirven (Lynchburg, Va./Brookville) are still looking at Alabama, as the Tide could probably bring in one or two more players.

(Remember, while SEC teams can only sign 25 prospects per class, Alabama could ask a couple of prospects to grayshirt or count back to previous years as early enrollees in order to make it to 25 in this one.)

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Early 2012 SEC power rankings

January, 10, 2012
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We officially said goodbye to the 2011 season Monday night and crowned the Alabama Crimson Tide as college football's new champions. Now, it's time to shift our focus to 2012. Here's to hoping the Mayans were wrong:

1. Alabama: The defense will get hit the hardest by graduation and the NFL draft, but Alabama's offense should be better. While it's almost a forgone conclusion that junior running back Trent Richardson will declare for the NFL draft, Alabama returns a veteran offensive line, has a good set of up-and-coming receivers and has some pretty talented running backs to work with, including pounder Eddie Lacy. Oh, and that quarterback ain't too bad, either.

2. LSU: The Tigers might have come up short in the big one, but it's not like LSU is going anywhere. That defense that ranked second nationally was made up by a slew of youngsters. LSU returns double-digit starters next year, including most of its front seven. A major bright spot for this team is that former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger will now get his chance, and has skill that Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee lacked.

3. Georgia: The Bulldogs might return more starters next year than LSU. After surpassing expectations and challenging LSU for the SEC title, the Bulldogs should enter next fall as the favorites in the SEC East. Stud quarterback Aaron Murray returns and so do most of his weapons. With arguably the easiest schedule (again) in the SEC, Mark Richt will be expected to take his Dawgs back to Atlanta.

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Who has the most to prove in the bowls?

December, 26, 2011
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Later this week, the bowl season kicks off for the SEC with three games.

On Friday, Mississippi State faces Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. And on Saturday, Vanderbilt takes on Cincinnati in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, while Auburn meets Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Who in the SEC has the most to prove this season in the bowl games? And we’re talking head coaches, assistant coaches, players, teams and particular units on teams.

[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
AP Photo/Brett FlashnickCan coach Steve Spurrier get the Gamecocks their fifth overall bowl win in school history?
Here’s a look:

Florida's offense: Charlie Weis has taken off for Kansas, meaning Brian White moves in as the Gators’ interim offensive coordinator. He could be auditioning for the full-time job. The thing he has going for him is that it can’t get much worse than the regular season. Not counting the Furman game, the Gators scored more than one offensive touchdown in a game only once in their last seven contests. The other bit of good news is that Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey should both be as healthy as they’ve been.

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SEC predictions: Non-BCS bowls

December, 26, 2011
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We’ve picked nearly 100 football games this season, and we’re dead even.

I’m 83-14 for a .856 percentage, and so is my soccer-loving colleague, Edward Aschoff. You know him best as the ATL Kid.

There was a time, not long ago, that he held a three-game lead. Something says you’re already well aware of that given how much he crowed about it.

But that was then, and this is now.

It’s bowl season, meaning it’s time to separate the pretenders from the contenders … and the rookies from the veterans.

Edward has fought the good fight. He’s learned not to pick his alma mater, Florida, every week, and he’s not basing his picks solely on how his Xbox games turn out anymore.

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Weekend rewind: SEC

November, 28, 2011
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The regular season is behind us, but the good stuff is still to come.

Time to find out who’s hot and who’s not in the SEC:

GLOWING EMBERS

[+] EnlargeConnor Shaw
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireConnor Shaw brought stability to the QB position last season for South Carolina.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw: Calm down Gamecock fans. We didn’t forget about Shaw. The sophomore quarterback was sensational in the 34-13 win against Clemson with a career-high 107 rushing yards while completing 14-of-20 passes for 210 yards. Shaw threw three touchdown passes and wasn’t intercepted, and also ran 15 yards for a touchdown. After everything the Gamecocks went through with Stephen Garcia, Shaw has been a breath of fresh air. He works hard, does it exactly the way Steve Spurrier asks him to do it and plays within himself. It’s a different looking offense with Shaw at the helm, but give him credit for stepping into a tough situation and leading the Gamecocks to just their second 10-win season in school history.

HOT

LSU’s running game: If you really want to know what running the football with a purpose looks like, watch LSU run the ball. The Tigers mash people up front, and they’re so deep at running back that you can’t keep track of who’s in the game. Trying to slow down their running game in the second half is like trying to stop a tidal wave.

NOT

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino: If you’re an accomplished lip reader, the television cameras caught Petrino mouthing some not-so-nice things while gesturing across the field to the LSU sideline in the final minutes of Friday’s game. The post-game handshake was awkward, too, when it looked Petrino sort of pulled away. Asked if they had words, LSU coach Les Miles cracked, “Not many.”

HOT

Vanderbilt’s offense: It’s hard to believe this is the same offense that went back-to-back games against South Carolina and Alabama without scoring a touchdown. The Commodores routed Wake Forest 41-7 last Saturday and rolled up 481 yards in total offense. It’s been a total metamorphosis, and everybody deserves credit -- the offensive coaches, quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy, receiver Jordan Matthews and an offensive line that might be the most improved unit in the league.

NOT

Florida’s offense: The Gators have shown up in this space more than once this season for their offensive ineptitude. Come to think of it, they did last season, too. Surely, it can’t get any worse on that side of the ball in Gainesville, but it’s also difficult to look ahead to next season and make a strong case for why the Gators will be appreciably better.

HOT

LSU’s defense: Even without injured starting safety Eric Reid, the Tigers were dominant in their 41-17 win against Arkansas and the Hogs’ high-powered offense. The Hogs managed just 89 total yards in the second half. LSU’s first-team defense has now gone six straight games without allowing a touchdown in the second half.

NOT

Auburn’s finish: There was a time this season when it looked like Auburn might hang in there and be one of the surprise teams in the league. But the Tigers unraveled down the stretch. Not only did they lose three of their last four SEC games, but they lost those games by a combined 132-31 margin.

FREEZER BURN

The Big Orange Nation: The ground is quaking right now on Rocky Top coming off Tennessee’s first loss to Kentucky since 1984, which ensured the Vols’ second straight losing season. The last time that happened was 1910 and 1911. It’s Tennessee’s fourth losing season in the past seven years, and even though a lot of the fans want to give second-year coach Derek Dooley the benefit of the doubt because of the situation he walked into in terms of player attrition and the NCAA cloud hovering, the gloves have come off after the loss to Kentucky. Several former Tennessee players, some who played on the Vols’ 1998 national championship game, went on a Knoxville radio show the day after the loss and unloaded on Dooley. It’s a broken football program right now, and Dooley’s going to get at least one more year to fix it. But if the Vols don’t make some major strides next season, one more year might be all he gets.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 13

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
10:34
AM ET
Here’s a look at what we learned in the SEC during the final week of the regular season:

1. Alabama, LSU stand supreme: The regular season has come and gone, and Alabama and LSU are exactly what we thought they were. They’re the two best college football teams in the country, and it’s really not even close. Hey, it’s still college football, and upsets are possible. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see one Saturday in Atlanta in the SEC championship game when Georgia takes its shot at LSU. But over the course of this season, when you weigh everything, Alabama and LSU stand alone. And really, it should be LSU and Alabama, in that order. The Tigers are No. 1 for a reason. As coach Les Miles said Friday after LSU's 41-17 win against Arkansas, they’ve taken on all comers, beating seven nationally ranked teams along the way, including three top-3 teams. In a lot of different ways, they’re chasing history. There’s been a lot of chatter around the country about not wanting to see a rematch in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game, and generally, I would agree. Rematches are never ideal. But when it comes to these two teams, and when you consider that nobody else around the country has exactly knocked the door down to secure one of those top two spots in the final BCS standings, a rematch makes perfect sense. The SEC haters won’t like it, because it ensures a sixth straight national title for the league. But if it’s truly about pairing the two best teams in the country in the national title game, then the Big Easy had better get ready. Alabama and LSU are on their way.

2. Richardson is Heisman worthy: Alabama coach Nick Saban was straight to the point Saturday, which he usually is. “To me, Trent Richardson is the best football player in the country,” Saban said following Richardson’s career-best 203-yard rushing performance against Auburn. Everybody has different criteria in voting for the Heisman Trophy. But if you’re looking for the player who’s consistently been the most dominant player in the country and has consistently done it on the biggest stages, then Richardson will walk away next month from New York City as the second Heisman Trophy winner in Alabama history. He’s been a difference-maker for the Crimson Tide all season long, and while everybody likes to knock the offenses in the SEC, he’s done his work against some of the best defenses in the land. Richardson has piled up his 1,583 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns against eight top-50 defenses nationally. Entering the final weekend of the regular season, no other Heisman Trophy contender had faced more than four top-50 defenses.

3. Arkansas falls short: The Hogs have come miles under Bobby Petrino in four seasons and are clearly in that upper echelon of SEC teams. It’s equally clear that they’re not in the same league as Alabama and LSU. Then again, who is? Arkansas has made some strides defensively, but still has to make a lot more to play at the same level as Alabama and LSU. The Hogs were no match for the Tigers’ bruising running game Friday and simply couldn’t get off the field in the second half. And before everybody blames it all on Willy Robinson and the defense, it does the Hogs no good to roll up 450 and 500 yards on everybody else and then shoot blanks offensively against Alabama and LSU. The Hogs finished with 254 yards against LSU and only 226 against Alabama. They managed just three offensive touchdowns against Alabama and LSU, and they also broke down in special teams against both of the West powerhouses. What’s so frustrating about that for the Hogs is that they were very good all season in the kicking game. But they gave up two punt returns for touchdowns -- one to Alabama and one to LSU. Arkansas is a top-10 to top-15 program right now, no doubt. But to take that next step, the Hogs are going to have to figure out a way to play their A-game in the biggest games.

4. Georgia is coming: Not only are the Bulldogs riding a 10-game winning streak and playing their best football heading into Saturday’s SEC championship game matchup with LSU, but this is a program that should be able to ride that momentum into next season. Most of the key pieces on offense and defense will be back, and the Bulldogs will likely start next season as the team to beat in the Eastern Division and could be a top-10 team nationally in the preseason. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones says he’s coming back. Top inside linebacker Alec Ogletree will be back, not to mention quarterback Aaron Murray, who’s thrown 32 touchdown passes this season. Running back Isaiah Crowell and receiver Malcolm Mitchell are just freshmen, and the Bulldogs continue to recruit at a very high level. For a program that was supposedly reeling back in September, the future looks bright.

5. More bowls than eligible teams: The SEC won’t be able to fill all of its bowl obligations this season. Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee all finished with losing records and will be staying home in the postseason. So at this point, it looks like the BBVA Compass Bowl won’t have an SEC representative. It hasn’t been a memorable season for the bottom half of the league. In fact, six teams finished the regular season with non-winning records. In addition to the three teams with losing records, Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are all 6-6. It’s the Gators’ worst regular-season record since 1987. First-year coach Will Muschamp didn’t pull any punches following the 21-7 loss to Florida State. He called the program “soft” and said the Gators were not physically or mentally tough enough. Tennessee, once an Eastern Division heavyweight along with Florida, finished with its second straight losing season, the first time that's happened on Rocky Top since 1910 and 1911.

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Thursday, 8/28
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