Florida Gators: Eddie Lacy

The SEC's successes reach far beyond the college football landscape. Sure, the seven consecutive BCS titles -- which came to an end this year thanks to a pretty darn good Florida State team -- are well-documented, but most of the studs in this league eventually make it to the big leagues, where they continue to strut their stuff.

[+] EnlargeCameron Newton
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesFormer Auburn QB Cam Newton is one of 24 former SEC players in the Pro Bowl.
The NFL has always had an affinity for SEC players, and this year's Pro Bowl rosters blare that loud and clear, as 24 players from the SEC were selected for the all-star game in Hawaii. The SEC was represented by at least one player at every position except kicker and punter.

This year, the Pro Bowl changed its selection format. Former NFL greats Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders drafted from a pool of Pro Bowl players who were selected earlier in the season. Team Rice and Team Sanders went back-and-forth with their picks, and four of the first 10 players in the first Pro Bowl draft were former SEC players, including former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers), who went No. 3 overall to Sanders.

Tennessee led the SEC with four selections. The game is Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

The 24 former SEC players selected to this year's Pro Bowl:


SEC sends several RBs to NFL combine

February, 19, 2013
Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis. Today: Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

LSU Tigers

Perhaps it says something about LSU's offense in 2012 that among a record 13 players invited to the NFL combine from the Tigers, only two are offensive skill players who are generally considered, at this point, marginal talents. Running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are the only skill players invited to Indianapolis, which is understandable when one considers LSU was 10th in the SEC in total offense. It's also a sign of youth. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, fullback J.C. Copeland, running back Jeremy Hill and all of LSU's primary threats at wide receiver will return in 2013.

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We checked on the SEC's 3,000-yard passers from 2012 on Thursday, so we're taking a look at the running backs who hit the coveted 1,000-yard mark last fall.

Last summer, we looked at 10 running backs we thought could eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark. The SEC had four players reach 1,000 yards on the ground in 2011, and had nine, including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, in 2012. I thought it was supposed to be the Year of the Quarterback?

Here's how the 10 running backs we looked at last year did in 2012:

1. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: Well, maybe if he actually played a down for the Bulldogs this year he might have had a chance to reach 1,000 yards. Instead, Crowell was dismissed before the season and spent 2012 rushing for 842 yards and 15 touchdowns at Alabama State.

2. Knile Davis, Arkansas: Davis said he was 100 percent after missing all of 2011 with an ankle injury, but he never displayed the explosiveness and strength that made him a star in 2010. Davis was still hesitant at times and carried the ball only 112 times for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

3. James Franklin, Missouri: His laundry list of injuries and a banged-up offensive line didn't really help the dual-threat quarterback when it came to running the ball. A year removed from almost getting to 1,000 yards, Franklin rushed for just 122 yards and averaged 1.4 yards per carry in the process.

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Well, Nick Saban and his gang of future NFL ballers proved to us once again that it is indeed Alabama's world, after claiming their second consecutive national title and third in four years Monday night. That ringing in your ears is just the sound of "Roll Tide" being repeated over and over in your head. I've learned there's nothing we can do about it.

But will 2013 bring college football a team that can really stop the Tide? I mean, REALLY stop Alabama from winning a third straight national championship? Well, ESPN's Mark Schlabach seems to believe that the road to Pasadena is paved in crimson and white, as he has Alabama No. 1 in his Way-Too-Early-Top 25 for 2013.

It's hard to blame him at this point. Sure, Alabama's offensive line won't be nearly as good with Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack leaving. And it will take even more of a hit if/when D.J. Fluker decides to turn pro. But with quarterback AJ McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon (we're assuming Eddie Lacy and his sweet spin move are headed to the NFL), wide receiver Amari Cooper and a host of studs on the defense returning, Alabama will again be the team to beat.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
John David Mercer-USA Today SportsJohnny Manziel and Texas A&M, ranked fifth by Mark Schlabach, host way-too-early No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 14 in the SEC opener for both teams.
Oh, and a not-so-tretcherous schedule won't hurt the Tide's chances either.

But there are some quality teams in the SEC that will fight to dethrone Alabama, and Schlabach has four in his top 10. Texas A&M, which returns the Heisman-winning Johnny Football, ranks fifth, Georgia is sixth, South Carolina is seventh and Florida is 10th. The thing about all those teams is that they all return their starting quarterbacks, with Georgia's Aaron Murray being one of the best in the country alongside Johnny Manziel.

South Carolina will be one of the more balanced teams in the SEC next fall, and if Florida can actually find a passing game in 2013, watch out because that defense will still be fierce, even with a few junior defections.

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SEC power rankings: Week 2

September, 4, 2012
The first weekend of the college football season brought some changes to our power rankings. As we enter Week 2, some teams are trending down, while others are on the up. And some look pretty much like we thought they'd look in their first games.

It's still early, but this weekend could help to better shape the conference race, especially in the SEC East where Florida travels to Texas A&M and Georgia heads to Missouri. Also, keep an eye on Mississippi State's home game with Auburn.

OK, time for the rankings:

1. Alabama (1-0): The Crimson Tide made quite the statement by absolutely dominating No. 8 Michigan inside Cowboys Stadium. The defense, which lost a host of top talent from last year's national championship team, took Denard Robinson out of the game from the start. The offense should be fun to watch this fall with freshman T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy carrying the ball and AJ McCarron throwing to those young, explosive receivers.

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We all know that there is more to football than just big dudes smashing into each other.

Sure, they provide most of the entertainment, but you can't have a college football season without some fearless predictions to start the year off with. Yes, us media folk are allowed a little fun and some of the attention.

Last year, fellow SEC blogger Chris Low and I split our predictions up, as we came up with 10 each that can be viewed here and here. This year, we're cleaning things up and creating just one list of 10 SEC predictions for the 2012 season.

We both had are share of hits and misses last year. I only got one of my 10 predictions correct when I said that Chris Rainey would score touchdowns three different ways. I crossed that off Week 1. Some I missed on were predicting that the Heisman trophy would stay in the SEC, Brandon Bolden finally getting 1,000 rushing yards, Zach Mettenberger having more touchdowns than Jarrett Lee and the SEC sending 10 teams bowling.

I was pretty close with my prediction that Morris Claiborne would lead the SEC in interceptions and Tyrann Mathieu would lead in defensive touchdowns. Claiborne was third with six, while Mathieu finished with four total touchdowns with two being defensive.

However, Chris showed his veteran ability and hit on seven of his 10. He really is a showoff. But he did whiff on Spencer Ware rushing for 1,200 yards. Ware only got 707 yards.

Enough of the walk down memory lane, here are our 10 fearless predictions for 2012:

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HOOVER, Ala. -- Day 2 of SEC media days sent some media members in to a frenzy, as 24 combined representatives from six teams paraded through The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala.

Arkansas tried to steal the show Wednesday, as Knile Davis anointed himself as the conference's best running back for the second straight year and interim coach John L. Smith sent a barrage of one-liners through the main ballroom.

But get ready for the crowd Friday. That's when Alabama comes to town, meaning a cluster of Crimson Tide faithful will be packing into the Wynfrey and drowning out every bit of noise with a never-ending series of "Roll Tide."

Joining Alabama is Tennessee, Ole Miss and Georgia.

Here are some things to look out for:
  • Nick Saban hates comparisons, but expect him to receive a few questions about comparing his current defense to the one he had in 2010. He'll certainly love those.
  • He and his players will also get a plenty of questions about the offense, especially with quarterback AJ McCarron returning and Eddie Lacy taking over at running back. Unfortunately, neither will be in attendance.
  • It's no secret that Tennessee coach Derek Dooley's seat is pretty hot in Knoxville, so he should expect to receive questions surrounding his job security. But has he really had enough time to right a ship that was sinking when he arrived and is just now patching up the hole?
  • Tyler Bray will be in the house. He's one of the league's best quarterbacks and he's confident in his ability, but let's see just how much maturing he's done heading into Year 3.
  • Georgia has dealt with a handful of offseason distractions thus far, including losing starting running back Isaiah Crowell. Mark Richt and his players should be prepared to answer questions about moving on and where the running game goes from here.
  • Jarvis Jones and his pursuit to be the nation's best linebacker should be a fun subject to tackle.
  • Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is at SEC media days for the first time. He's asked Rebel Nation for patience and is dealing with a roster that has a lot of holes on it. Can he convince people here that the Rebels are ready to turn things around?

Early 2012 SEC power rankings

January, 10, 2012
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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What to watch in the SEC: Week 12

November, 17, 2011
It’s the unofficial week to schedule scrimmages in the SEC.

Even so, we look closer at Week 12 in the league:

1. Winning the East: Even when Georgia was 0-2 back on Sept. 10, coach Mark Richt was trying to tell people that the Bulldogs weren’t out of it and that he felt good about his football team. Obviously, Richt knew what he was talking about. The Bulldogs never panicked, took advantage of a softer schedule the rest of the way and made the necessary improvements to get to where they are right now. They’ve won eight straight games and can secure their first trip to the SEC championship game since 2005 on Saturday by beating Kentucky at home.

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Crowell
Dale Zanine/US PresswireIsaiah Crowell won't reach his vast potential until he gets used to the rigors of a full SEC schedule.
2. Crowell’s toughness: There’s still another level of toughness, both physical and mental, that Georgia freshman running back Isaiah Crowell needs to get to if he’s going to reach his vast potential. He’s an exceptional talent and bearing down on a 1,000-yard season. It’s not every day that a true freshman in this league rushes for 1,000 yards, but Crowell has a chance to be special once he understands that playing with bumps and bruises and being dog-tired in the fourth quarter is simply part of the game. Here’s betting he reports to preseason camp in better shape next season. He’s already had a very good season. But these next three or four games are when Georgia really needs him to turn it up a few notches.

3. Richardson’s campaign: Alabama running back Trent Richardson isn’t going to garner a lot of Heisman Trophy votes this week with the Crimson Tide going against Georgia Southern, but it might be a chance for him to get a little rest heading into next week’s regular-season finale with Auburn and whatever comes after that. The best news for Richardson is that it sounds as if Eddie Lacy is healthier, which means Alabama fans might see more of No. 42 on Saturday. He’s averaging 7.8 yards every time he carries the ball.

4. Running back by committee: There’s such a thing as running back by committee, and then there’s what LSU has done this season. The No. 1 Tigers have four running backs, and they’re using them all. What’s more, with Jordan Jefferson stepping into the starting role at quarterback last week and his ability to run the ball, LSU has a fresh set of legs carrying the ball on every possession. In the last two weeks, Michael Ford and Alfred Blue have gotten more of the work, but 240-pound freshman Kenny Hilliard was the star of the Auburn game a few weeks ago. And until his suspension, Spencer Ware was the workhorse. The bottom line is that LSU is averaging 195.1 rushing yards per game and has three different players (Ware, Ford and Blue) with more than 350 yards. Again, they just keep coming at you with fresh legs.

5. Miles can do without the advice: Speaking of LSU’s quarterback situation, LSU coach Les Miles understands and respects that there are all sorts of opinions out there about who should be starting for the Tigers and how Miles should handle his quarterback situation. Jefferson started last week after Lee had started the previous nine games. Miles said he gets that fans and media are going to analyze the whole quarterback dynamic at LSU, but added. “They’re entitled to their opinion, but that opinion has little effect on the decisions that are made within this program.”

6. Nutt’s last stand: Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt coaches in his final game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday, at least as the Rebels’ head coach, and does so against No. 1 LSU. Nutt has pulled off some of his biggest wins in the past in this type of situation. It’s a little different this time, though. The Rebels already had several players injured, and a few more, including quarterback Randall Mackey, were suspended for this game. With Nutt on his way out, everybody in Oxford wants to know who’s going to replace him. One of the guys to keep an eye on is Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora.

7. Bulldogs’ secondary vs. Hogs’ receivers: One of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend should be Arkansas’ receivers against Mississippi State’s defensive backs. The Hogs have been ripping through pass defenses with Jarius Wright and Joe Adams leading the way, although it hardly stops with just those two. The Bulldogs will counter with a couple of ball hawks in their secondary. Junior cornerback Johnthan Banks is having an All-SEC season with five interceptions and 14 passes defended, while sophomore safety Nickoe Whitley has four picks.

8. Bray’s way: How healthy will Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray be Saturday? Well, his coach, Derek Dooley, has said Bray hasn’t been close to his old self in practice this week after missing five games with a broken thumb. Bray’s teammates have painted a more positive picture, and Bray was ready to go last week against Arkanasas. It remains to be seen how rusty he is, but he had 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions before suffering the injury against Georgia. Even at 75 or 80 percent, he gives the Vols a better chance.

9. Vanderbilt’s offensive awakening: It’s been impressive what first-year coach James Franklin has been able to do with the Commodores’ program this season. They’re one win away from qualifying for a bowl game. Just don’t tell him that. That’s not even on his radar. What has been on his radar is an offense that’s made dramatic improvement during the course of the season. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers deserves a lot of the credit, but the offensive line has gotten much better. Running back Zac Stacy is closing in on the first 1,000-yard rushing season at Vanderbilt since 1995, and sophomore receiver Jordan Matthews has emerged as that big-play threat down the field for the Commodores. This doesn’t look like the same team that was kept out of the end zone in two straight games against South Carolina and Alabama.

10. Blowout City: We’ll end with a trivia question of sorts: How many of the eight games this weekend will be under 30 points? The over/under has been set at two, and that might be a tad high. In fact, we could see four or five in the 40-point range, which is what happens when you have four of your teams (Alabama, Auburn, Florida and South Carolina) playing FCS schools.


McElwain discusses new Florida football
SEC Network's Greg McElory and Booger McFarland sit down to discuss the future of Florida football with head coach Jim McElwain.