Here is a recap of how some of the league’s first-year players fared in their final games of the regular season:
DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
What he did: Barnett added to his impressive season totals against Vanderbilt by recording five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack in the Volunteers’ 24-17 win.
What it means: Barnett is tied for 13th nationally with 10 sacks and is tied for third with 20.5 TFLs. Not a bad rookie season -- one in which he deserves to become the rare true freshman to earn All-SEC honors as a defensive lineman.
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
What he did: Chubb had yet another 100-yard game, this time rushing 25 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 36 yards. On the negative side, he lost a fumble at the goal line, which came back to bite Georgia when rival Georgia Tech rallied to win in overtime.
What it means: Considering how he didn’t become Georgia’s feature back until midseason, Chubb’s 1,281 rushing yards (good for second in the SEC) and 12 touchdowns are all the more impressive. He and fellow freshman Sony Michel both lost costly fumbles inside the Tech 5-yard line, but both backs have been impressive overall.
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
What he did: Fournette earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his efforts against Texas A&M. The star freshman ran 19 times for 146 yards and scored a highlight-reel touchdown when he ran over A&M safety Howard Matthews. Fournette also returned three kickoffs for 34 yards.
What it means: The touchdown run -- highly reminiscent of a memorable run Georgia legend Herschel Walker made against Tennessee as a freshman -- was one of the plays of the year in the SEC. Fournette has had an up-and-down first season, but he has still posted four 100-yard games and has a respectable 891 rushing yards and eight touchdowns entering bowl season.
WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M
What he did: Not to be outdone by his fellow New Orleans native Fournette, Noil also made highlight reels with his leaping 27-yard touchdown catch over LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White. Noil finished with four catches for 46 yards, returned four kickoffs for 50 yards and returned one punt for 1 yard.
What it means: Noil also lost a fumble on a kickoff return, which LSU recovered and turned into a field goal (and a 17-7 lead) just before halftime. The freshman proved once again he is one of the Aggies’ most explosive players, but that was a costly turnover in A&M's 23-17 loss.
RB Stanley Williams, Kentucky
What he did: Williams concluded an impressive freshman season with 126 rushing yards and touchdowns of 11 and 14 yards on 18 carries against Louisville. He also caught three passes for 13 yards in the Wildcats’ 44-40 loss.
What it means: One of Kentucky’s highlights came midway through the fourth quarter when Williams bulled his way through three Louisville defenders to score the go-ahead touchdown. The defense couldn’t preserve the lead, meaning the Wildcats fell short of bowl eligibility, but Williams still finished the season with 488 rushing yards, 162 receiving yards and an average of 116.1 all-purpose yards per game.
DB Jamal Adams, LSU: Recorded a team-high eight tackles, one tackle for loss and broke up a pass in LSU’s win over Texas A&M.
OLB Lorenzo Carter, Georgia: Made eight tackles and one tackle for loss against Georgia Tech.
WR Malachi Dupre, LSU: Caught one pass for 41 yards against Texas A&M.
QB Treon Harris, Florida: Completed 13 of 32 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and also ran nine times for 41 yards against Florida State.
DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M: Recorded four tackles against LSU.
DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss: Made five tackles and a sack against Mississippi State.
DB Todd Kelly Jr., Tennessee: Intercepted a pass and made one tackle against Vanderbilt.
PK Aaron Medley, Tennessee: Made a 36-yard field goal and all three of his PATs in a win against Vanderbilt.
RB Sony Michel, Georgia: Ran nine times for 49 yards but also lost a key fumble at the goal line in the loss to Georgia Tech.
P J.K. Scott, Alabama: Punted twice against Auburn and averaged 55.5 yards per attempt, including a long of 70.
DB Devin Voorhies, LSU: Forced Noil’s fumbled kickoff return that led to an LSU field goal before halftime against Texas A&M.
DB Quincy Wilson, Florida: Recorded one tackle for a two-yard loss and also intercepted a Jameis Winston pass in the Gators’ loss to Florida State.
PK Gary Wunderlich, Ole Miss: Made a 39-yard field goal, all four of his PATs and punted once for 46 yards in a win against Mississippi State.
While administrators, especially UAB president Ray Watts, give vague answers and sip water during the football program's most important meeting, coaches and players are having to reshape their lives and figure out where to go and what to do now.
As UAB players repeated all day, a family has been ripped to shreds by an administration that had apparently been negligent when it came to trying to help/save UAB's football program. There are so many different things being said, but the truth is that the people directly involved -- players and coaches -- are being left out to dry without any real answers from people who just didn't care enough. If you want an in depth look at the day that was, Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com details the day the UAB football program died a painful death. The raw video in the piece has some choice language in it, but it shows true emotion and perfectly captures what these players, who were clearly at the very bottom of the administration's totem pole, are going through.
It really is a sad case for a school that battled financial issues, the lack of a true investment in the program, and what seems like political issues. Here is the full text of the UAB football report, which the university cited the rising costs of running a competitive football program, including cost of attendance stipends to players.
This excerpt from Solomon's piece is especially concerning:
[Consultant] [Bill] Carr calculated the cumulative net deficit at $25.3 million over the next five years. Without football, Carr predicted a five-year net revenue of $2 million and the difference in operating expenses would be $27.3 million over five years with football.
On top of that, UAB determined it needed an incremental capital investment of $22.2 million in football facilities (outdoor practice field, multisport indoor practice facility and a football administration building) to sustain competitiveness. In other words, UAB argued, it needed to invest about $49 million over the next five years to be competitive in Conference USA.
As part of the strategic plan, UAB asked its coaches months ago what it needed to be competitive. Essentially, those responses then got used against the sports that got cut.
Between 2010 and 2013, UAB reported no annual debt service on athletics facilities. That's virtually unheard of in Division I sports. UAB ranks in the middle of its peers for annual financial operating deficits when factoring in subsidies, yet only UAB has so far decided to cut football.
As Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com wrote, Watts and his balance sheet killed UAB's football program and left a handful of people wondering what's next.
UAB head coach Bill Clark is "heartbroken" about the school's decision to end the football program. UAB running back and Brimingham native D.J. Vinson says shutting down the football program is like a dagger in the heart, while defensive back Jimmy Jeans says it was "nothing but numbers and political stuff."
Here's to hoping these players and coaches land on their feet sooner rather than later.
Jameis Winston's student conduct hearing
- Florida State teammates Chris Casher and Ronald Darby refused to testify during Winston's hearing Tuesday. Casher and Darby were Winston's roommates at an off-campus apartment and were there on the night of the alleged sexual assault of an FSU student that Winston is accused of.
- It was an "emotional" first day for the accuser in Winston's conduct hearing.
- Winston's hearing will continue Wednesday.
Here are some links to snack on while you wait for that peppermint mocha with extra whipped cream:
- TCU might be No. 3 in the College Football Playoff Rankings, but Baylor and Ohio State might actually have a distinct advantage over the Horned Frogs on Saturday.
- Here's an interesting column by David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune on how location, location, location is affecting all this coaching coming and going in college football.
- Despite going undefeated in the Sun Belt Conference and winning the conference championship, Georgia Southern won't be allowed to play in a bowl game this season. Because the school is a first-year member in the Football Bowl Subdivision it isn't eligible to play in the postseason. The school filed an appeal, but was denied by the NCAA.
- The family of Kosta Karageorge, the Ohio State football player and wrestler, made its first statement since his death.
- The SEC could knock itself out of the College Football Playoff if Missouri upsets Alabama in the SEC championship game Saturday, but could still still grow rich.
- The man at the center of the Todd Gurley autograph scandal tells his side of the story and says that he never wanted hurt Gurley. Wellllll ...
- Arizona has the blueprint to beat Oregon -- again.
- A day after Georgia defensive back Brendan Langley chose to transfer, fellow defensive back J.J. Green decided to transfer as well. Green says he wants to play running back again.
So what does that mean for Florida, which is still trying to fill its head coaching vacancy and showed interest in Freeze? Colorado State coach Jim McElwain appears to be the target. Though 22-16 at Colorado State, McElwain led the Rams to a terrific 10-2 campaign this season, earning Mountain West Conference coach of the year honors. He also has SEC experience from his days as Alabama's offensive coordinator (2008-11). One hurdle to overcome is McElwain's massive buyout, with is $7.5 million. It can be reduced, however, based on "extenuating circumstances."
In the aftermath of Mississippi State's Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said he didn't think the Bulldogs "were getting in the playoff anyway." Could Tuesday's latest College Football Playoff rankings be evidence of that? Mississippi State was already behind Florida State, who beat Florida, and TCU jumped the Seminoles in the rankings, suggesting that the committee believes TCU's résumé is better than Florida State's. It could be argued that had the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss in Oxford, that the strength of that win would justify moving them above the Seminoles, given how much Florida State struggled to beat a mediocre Florida team, but that would mean the committee would consider leaving FSU out of the top four completely, which seems a tad unlikely.
Around the SEC
- Alabama, once known for stifling defense, could be characterized as "bend but don't break."
- In case you missed it, Bryan Allen -- the man who paidTodd Gurley $400 for autographs -- claims he never meant to hurt Gurley or Georgia.
- Kentucky must replace seven key defensive players, led by Za'Darius Smith and Bud Dupree, next year.
- If it's a bidding war for Will Muschamp, Auburn has a history of opening its checkbook for assistants.
The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 all owe a debt of gratitude to Ole Miss for knocking off Mississippi State this past Saturday, dropping the previously No. 4-ranked Bulldogs to 10-2 and out of the playoff picture.
But it's not all doom and gloom for the SEC. Realistically, the chances of getting two teams in the playoff were slim anyway.
Commissioner Mike Slive can hold his head high knowing that an astounding 12 teams (out of 14) from his conference qualified for bowl games during the regular season.
College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
Capital One Orange Bowl: Mississippi State
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Ole Miss
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri
Outback Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: LSU
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Georgia
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M
Belk Bowl: South Carolina
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Arkansas
Birmingham Bowl: Tennessee
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Florida
The Horned Frogs were ranked third, one spot ahead of the Seminoles, in the rankings released Tuesday night, the final set of rankings before the 12-member committee selects the four teams for the inaugural playoff tournament on Sunday.
"I don't worry about it," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters Tuesday. "We go play Georgia Tech. We take care of business, we'll be fine. I'm not surprised by anything anymore."
TCU routed Texas, 48-10, this past Thursday to win its sixth straight. Florida State held off Florida, 24-19, in Will Muschamp's final game as the Gators' coach, but still slipped a spot in the CFP rankings despite winning its 12th straight this season (and 28th overall).
Each of the top six teams are in action this weekend. Oregon faces Arizona
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia coach Mark Richt says sophomore safety J.J. Green plans to transfer to another school.
Green played at tailback in 2013 before moving to defense. Richt said Tuesday that Green wants to find a school where he can play running back.
Green played in eight games, including one start, and had nine tackles this season for No. 15 Georgia. He played in 13 games at tailback last season and had 384 yards rushing with three touchdowns. He also had 12 catches for 104 yards.
On Monday, Georgia announced sophomore cornerback Brendan Langley will transfer. Richt says Langley is seeking an opportunity for increased playing time.
Langley had four tackles in three games, including one start, this season.
2. Saturday will be Missouri's fourth conference championship game of the Gary Pinkel era, and the Tigers have yet to win one. Last year's 59-42 loss to Auburn was, in fact, the closest they've come to winning in terms of final margin. Missouri plans to ignore that history when it faces No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. “We prepare for this game like we prepare for any game, and we won’t ever change that,” Pinkel said. “This is the fifth divisional championship we have won in the last eight years and we have not won a conference championship in the Big 12 or the SEC. That’s my responsibility, so hopefully we can play well and have an opportunity to do that.”
3. Two SEC assistant coaches who have had strong seasons found themselves named as finalists Monday for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant coach. Those two? Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel. Not coincidentally, both are coaching teams that are playing in the SEC championship game. Steckel's defense has been key for the Tigers, who have endured an inconsistent offense this season. And the work Kiffin has done with starter Blake Sims and the Alabama offense is noteworthy, considering the Crimson Tide have even mixed it up at times, going to a faster tempo, something unusual for Nick Saban.
Around the SEC
- No shocker here, but Georgia coach Mark Richt basically confirmed that Todd Gurley is NFL-draft bound by saying he expected the running back to be a high pick.
- In transfer news, Georgia defensive back Brendan Langley is transferring out of the program. Langley was a class of 2013 recruit who played as a true freshman.
- Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason has reportedly fired offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell.
- The Will Muschamp sweepstakes looks like it will continue for at least a few more days.
- Florida running back Matt Jones is reportedly entering the NFL draft.
Iron Bowl averages 13,529,000 viewers & 7.4 rtg: ESPN's most-viewed & high-rated reg-ssn cfb game on record (since 1990)— Mike Humes (@MikeHumesESPN) December 1, 2014
DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. -- The man who paid Georgia running back Todd Gurley $400 for signing about 80 items in the passenger's seat of a 2002 Lexus earlier this year says he never intended to hurt Gurley or the Georgia football program.
"I can't change any of that stuff -- any of those emails, me talking to the school, how it was handled -- I can't change any of that," Bryan Allen said in his first interview since Gurley was suspended for four games after admitting he accepted money for autographs. "If I could, I would.
"Because I never wanted to screw over Gurley. I never wanted to screw over their fans or anything like that. That was never my intention. I wish I had never even gone down there. It's not worth it."
Allen told ESPN and Sports Illustrated in an interview that Gurley signed anything and everything in the parking lot of his Athens, Georgia, apartment complex: footballs, helmets, jerseys and 8x10 glossy photos.
When Gurley finished signing, Allen pulled $400 from his pocket and placed it on the dash. Gurley took the money and walked away. Seven months later, the NCAA suspended Gurley.
So how did Georgia learn Gurley broke NCAA rules? From Allen, who said he emailed the media and contacted the school because he thought someone was "setting him up" and he wanted to tell his side of the story first.
He insisted his intentions were not financially motivated.
Allen, who was interviewed for more than three hours, provided ESPN and SI a nearly five-minute video documenting Gurley's signing. He also produced 25-30 signed Gurley items that he still owns that the running back signed that day.
Not after Richt’s decision to squib kick with 18 seconds left in regulation against Georgia Tech – a call that he later ranked among his dumbest decisions as Georgia’s coach – gave the Yellow Jackets time to tie the game with a last-second field goal and then win in overtime.
Or after a consistently terrible Florida offense suddenly looked like the mid-90s Nebraska Cornhuskers by running all over Georgia’s defense in an enormous upset, following two road wins where the Bulldogs seemingly could do no wrong.
Such has been the peaks-and-valleys nature of this season for the Bulldogs -- and that’s saying something at UGA, which frequently ranks among the nation’s most schizophrenic programs.
Flash back to Nov. 1, when the Bulldogs rolled into Jacksonville at 6-1. Sure, Georgia had suffered a disappointing loss to South Carolina early in the season, but Richt seemed to have righted the ship even while superstar running back Todd Gurley was suspended.
Richt sat down the Heisman Trophy front-runner only days before the Bulldogs’ key road trip to Missouri, when allegations began to emerge that Gurley accepted payment for signing memorabilia. The junior star eventually received a four-game suspension for breaking NCAA rules, but the daunting two-game road swing to Mizzou and Arkansas at the start of his suspension could not have gone better for Georgia.
The Bulldogs drilled Mizzou 34-0 and then jumped out to a 38-6 halftime lead over Arkansas before winning 45-32, with freshman running back Nick Chubb establishing himself as Georgia’s next backfield superstar.
Things were looking good. Although some Georgia fans were angry that the school didn’t obstruct the NCAA’s investigation as other programs have – thereby keeping their star player eligible to compete despite possible rules violations – Richt looked like a coach who was doing his job the right way and his short-handed team was still succeeding.
But that narrative ended against Florida, when the Gators rushed for 424 yards in a 38-20 victory. Only one Georgia opponent (Auburn with 430 in 1978) had ever rushed for more yards in a game against the Bulldogs.
It was arguably the worst loss in Richt’s 14 seasons at Georgia, and yet somehow the Bulldogs didn’t go into a tailspin. They blew out Kentucky and, more impressively, then-No. 9 Auburn in Gurley’s return to action.
Although Gurley suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the Auburn win, things still seemed to be looking up again for the Bulldogs. Having completed their SEC schedule at 6-2, they stood a good chance of representing the SEC East if Mizzou were to lose another conference game. They had a cupcake opponent left in Charleston Southern, followed by the home finale against Georgia Tech, which had beaten Richt only once in 13 tries.
It looked like Georgia was in good shape to reach Atlanta on a high note and maybe even gain some retribution for its heartbreaking loss to Alabama in the 2012 SEC championship game by knocking the Crimson Tide out of the playoff picture.
Maybe it was Georgia’s renewed optimism that made last weekend even more painful. Mizzou spoiled the Bulldogs’ SEC plans by rallying to beat Arkansas on Friday. Playing for an SEC title was out the window, and the Bulldogs played like a deflated bunch the following afternoon against Georgia Tech.
However, despite a sloppy performance, the Bulldogs were still in position to win after Malcolm Mitchell’s go-ahead touchdown catch with 18 seconds to play. That’s when Georgia’s decision to squib kick helped the Yellow Jackets open their final possession at their own 43-yard line. When quarterback Justin Thomas scrambled for 21 yards on the next play, the Yellow Jackets had a chance to attempt a game-tying field goal at the buzzer, and Harrison Butker was good from 53 yards.
The bungled final minute came back to haunt Richt and Georgia once Tech won in overtime, creating an understandable meltdown within the Bulldogs' fan base. In a matter of about 20 hours, the Bulldogs had slipped from SEC championship – and possible College Football Playoff – contender to likely participant in yet another mid-level bowl game. The weekend could hardly have turned out any worse.
Welcome to Georgia fandom over the last couple of seasons. Richt’s 2013 team entered the season with national title hopes only to have the year derailed by injuries to key players. They came into 2014 with more modest expectations, but the Bulldogs were still the best team in the East when it felt like proving it deserved that label.
Instead, the losses to two of its biggest rivals encapsulated what will go down as a disappointing season for the Bulldogs. They’ll enter bowl season with a 9-3 record, and getting to 10 wins would be a fine accomplishment, but this is a team that was capable of much more.
Georgia certainly good enough to win the East and had a decent shot at cracking the playoff field at one point.
Georgia didn’t accomplish any of those goals, though, and the Bulldogs have only themselves to blame for those failures.
It's been fun, SEC, really fun -- seven consecutive national championships, your own network, the undying enmity of the rest of the country. Really, it's been great. But as you limp into the SEC championship game on Saturday, with No. 1 Alabama playing -- ta-da! -- No. 17 Missouri, I think it's time to sit down and have a little talk.
We still like you. You still put on a great show every week. What the Iron Bowl lacked in, oh, I don't know, defense on Saturday night, it more than made up for in the pageantry and emotion that only a great college football rivalry can produce.
But let's be honest. You're not what you have been. You're not all that. You're not even all that good. And now that the season is concluding, and we can step back and gain the perspective that we lose in the Saturday-to-Saturday frenzy of the regular season, maybe we can figure out how the rest of us got hornswoggled into thinking you hadn't lost a step.
You don't understand? Let me lay it out for you.
For the first time in four seasons, the SEC won't have four 11-win teams. It very easily could have only one. Alabama is 11-1. Missouri and Mississippi State are 10-2.
The best running backs in the FBS play in the Big Ten. The best quarterbacks are in the Pac-12. So are the best defensive linemen. The ACC skunked you 4-0 this past Saturday. The Big 12 is the only conference with a chance of putting two teams in the playoff.
Jordan Jenkins, No. 67 in 2012 class
Jenkins was one of the most highly coveted defensive end prospects in the country coming out of Harris County High in Southwest Georgia. Following official visits to Tennessee, Auburn, Florida, Alabama and Georgia, the long-armed edge talent picked the home state Bulldogs over Alabama, Florida and closest to home Auburn after trailing the Crimson Tide, and Gators for much of the process with Alabama ultimately finishing a very close second. Jenkins was the headliner of the Georgia top 10 class that included Leonard Floyd, Keith Marshall, John Theus, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Todd Gurley.
Jenkins saw action in all 14 games as a true freshman in 2012 recording 31 tackles and five sacks, flashing a glimpse of what was to come in Athens.
The outside linebacker in the Bulldogs' 3-4 moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore. He responded with 45 tackles and 12 tackles for loss earning All-SEC second team honors from the conference coaches.
This season, as a junior, Jenkins again took the next step for Georgia. In 12 starts to date, the Under Armour All-America Game alumnus has 66 tackles, 22 quarterback hurries, nine tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks for the top 25 Bulldogs, and is firmly on the NFL draft radar.
Honorable mention: Damien Mama, No. 67 in the 2014 class. Mama has started three games for USC as a true freshman this season despite missing time with a knee injury. Coming out of St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif., there wasn't much drama with Mama's recruitment other than UCLA trying to make the last push. He chose the Trojans over BYU and Alabama on national signing day in a decision expected by nearly everybody.
The top five freshmen in the SEC
11:00 AM ET Nevada Louisiana-Lafayette 2:20 PM ET Utah State UTEP 3:30 PM ET 22 Utah Colorado State 5:45 PM ET Western Michigan Air Force 9:15 PM ET South Alabama Bowling Green
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State