Georgia Bulldogs: Jeff Scott
As we prepare to enter the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, here are a few interesting tidbits from our friends at ESPN Stats and Information concerning this weekend's games.
- Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel posted eye-popping numbers last season, but he remains on pace to match -- if not surpass -- those stats this season. Through 10 games last fall, he had an 89.5 Opponent-Adjusted Total QBR, while he has an 89.6 this year. His average of 392.4 total yards per game is up from 379.4 last year. And he leads the FBS with an average of 39 touchdowns rushing or passing, which is up from his 33 at this point last season. Entering Saturday's game at LSU, Manziel remains unbeaten in his career away from home. He's 9-0 away from Kyle Field with an opponent-adjusted QBR of at least 85 in every game -- the longest streak for any player in the last 10 seasons.
- Missouri's James Franklin returns to the starting lineup against Ole Miss for the first time since injuring his shoulder against Georgia in Week 7. He was averaging 6.9 yards per play and boasted an 80.7 QBR when injured. Freshman Maty Mauk did an admirable job in Franklin's absence. He led the Tigers to a 3-1 record, although his average of 6.7 yards per play and 68.7 QBR both trail the totals for Franklin.
- LSU held Texas A&M to 19 points last season in College Station in the Tigers' 24-19 win. That was the only game in Manziel's career that he did not account for a touchdown. His opponent-adjusted QBR that day was 51.2, the lowest single-game mark of his career by 21.3 points.
- Chattanooga might as well not even bother blitzing Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron on Saturday. When opponents have sent five or more pass rushers, McCarron has thrown an SEC-high 14 touchdowns against just one interception. Meanwhile, Alabama's pass rush has been consistent, blitz or no blitz. The Crimson Tide has pressured opposing quarterbacks on 26 percent of their dropbacks, the highest percentage in the SEC.
- LSU running back Jeremy Hill averages an SEC-high 8.0 yards per carry on rushes between the tackles (min. 50 carries). On such runs, Hill had season lows in yards (23) and yards per carry (3.8) in the Tigers' last game, a loss to Alabama.
- Missouri's pass rush has also been effective without needing to blitz. The Tigers have sent four or fewer pass rushers on 88 percent of opponent dropbacks -- the highest percentage of any AQ defense. Nonetheless, the Tigers have an AQ-high 29 sacks and are tied for the national lead with 81 pressures (hurries plus knockdowns). Michael Sam leads the SEC with 10 sacks and Kony Ealy leads the league with 25 pressures. Sam has 23, which is tied for second with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Georgia's Leonard Floyd.
- Entering Saturday's game against Coastal Carolina, South Carolina running back Mike Davis has 477 rushing yards after contact this season. Only Auburn's Tre Mason and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon have more among SEC ball carriers.
- The combination of Jeff Scott's combination of breakaway speed and some good blocking by the Ole Miss offensive line allowed Scott to make it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 45 percent of his carries. That's the highest percentage of any AQ running back who has at least 50 carries.
- South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is dangerous as a runner, but he has been lethal when passing from the pocket this season. He is completing 67 percent of his pocket passes with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions this season. On throws outside the pocket, Shaw is completing 37.2 percent with five touchdowns and one pick.
- Texas A&M's defense has allowed an AQ-high 57 runs on which the opponent gained 5 yards or more after first contact. The Aggies are also allowing an SEC-high 5.7 yards per carry on designed runs.
- LSU is tied for sixth in the FBS with 70 offensive plays that covered 20 yards or more this season. The Tigers had just 59 such plays in all of 2012.
- Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace's completion percentage is nearly 10 percentage points higher at home (69.2) than on the road (59.6). The Rebels are 5-1 in Oxford versus 2-2 anywhere else, and Wallace has tossed 13 touchdowns against three interceptions at home versus his 4-2 split on the road.
Georgia and South Carolina are also in the mix for the East, and both play on the road this Saturday. The injury-riddled Bulldogs will look to bounce back with a trip to Vanderbilt. They have won the last six meetings against the Commodores and 17 of the last 18. Quarterback Aaron Murray should pass Tim Tebow for the top spot in total offense in SEC history, as he needs just 30 yards to do so. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks are coming off an impressive victory at Arkansas and will travel to Tennessee this weekend. The Volunteers had the week off after nearly upsetting Georgia their last time out. Neyland Stadium has become a home away from home for Steve Spurrier, who will be coaching his 13th game inside the historic venue.
In the West, the game of the day will be down in College Station, Texas, between a pair of ranked teams -- No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 24 Auburn. It might be 'the first one to score 50 wins' as the game features two of the top offenses in the SEC. The Aggies have Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, who was brilliant last week against Ole Miss, while the Tigers boast the No. 1 rushing attack in the conference. Auburn will also welcome back quarterback Nick Marshall, who missed the last game because of a knee injury. The junior college transfer rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Ole Miss his last time out. When these two teams met a year ago, Texas A&M rolled, 63-21.
The other game to keep an eye on in the West is LSU and Ole Miss. The Tigers had to score a late touchdown last year to survive Hugh Freeze’s upstart team, but will it come down to the wire again this year? The Rebels are pretty banged up after the Texas A&M game. They lost four starters on defense, and running back Jeff Scott is not expected to play because of a thigh bruise he suffered against the Aggies. They’re also catching LSU at the wrong time. The Tigers’ defense played its best game of the season last week in a 17-6 win over Florida. It could spell trouble for Ole Miss, which has been owned by LSU in recent years.
And how can we forget Alabama, the nation’s No. 1 team? The Crimson Tide keep chugging along, and they’re heavy favorites again this week at home against Arkansas. The biggest storyline from this game will be the return of Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. On Friday, it was announced that Clinton-Dix had been reinstated from his two-game suspension after being notified by the NCAA that he is again eligible to play. The question is how much will he play against the Razorbacks? Here’s a rundown of Saturday’s games:
- Georgia at Vanderbilt, Noon ET, CBS
- South Carolina at Tennessee, Noon ET, ESPN
- Florida at Missouri, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC TV
- Auburn at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
- LSU at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
- Arkansas at Alabama, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
3. Mizzou a legitimate contender? It’s safe to say nobody had Missouri as one of the two unbeaten teams in the SEC heading into Week 7. But after an impressive road win at Vanderbilt, the Tigers are 5-0 and finally starting to gain some respect around the league. The next three weeks will be telling, though, as they play Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
4. LSU’s WRs versus Florida’s CBs: It’s a dream matchup for NFL scouts. LSU features what many consider to be the top wide receiver tandem in college football with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. However, Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy is arguably the top cornerback in the SEC, and playing opposite of him is freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, who already has three interceptions. The Gators are also expecting the return of corner Marcus Roberson, another one who could soon be playing on Sundays.
5. Tyler Murphy in Death Valley: Since replacing the injured Jeff Driskel at quarterback, Murphy has exceeded expectations for the Gators. In three games, he has thrown for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception, and he’s progressively gotten better. However, the junior signal-caller is in for his toughest assignment yet when Florida travels to LSU this weekend. How will he perform in a hostile atmosphere?
6. The return of Cooper: When will we see the real Amari Cooper, the one who had 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman for Alabama? The star wide receiver has been slowed by nagging injuries all season, but he expects to play Saturday against Kentucky. Will he be 100 percent? Quarterback AJ McCarron would love to have him back sooner rather than later.
7. Aggies without Ennis: As if Texas A&M’s rush defense wasn’t bad enough, the Aggies lost Kirby Ennis, one of their top interior linemen, for the season with a torn ACL. The injury comes at a bad time for the Aggies, who have to visit Ole Miss this weekend and deal with Rebels running back Jeff Scott, not to mention quarterback Bo Wallace. The staff will turn to freshman Isaiah Golden, who is expected to start alongside Alonzo Williams in the middle.
8. Shootout in Oxford: The SEC has featured its fair share of shootouts early in the college football season, and Saturday’s game between Ole Miss and Texas A&M could be right up there. Both teams feature an up-tempo offense, and neither one likes to waste much time between plays. It could be a long day for both defenses.
9. Big game for Bielema: After a 3-0 start, Arkansas has quickly fallen back to .500 with three consecutive losses. However, first-year coach Brett Bielema has a chance to notch his first signature victory with the Razorbacks this Saturday when they host No. 14 South Carolina. The Gamecocks have struggled in recent weeks and could be prime for an upset. It’s likely a must-win scenario for Arkansas if the Hogs want to reach a bowl game.
10. Auburn’s quarterback: Who will start for the Tigers against Western Carolina? Starter Nick Marshall injured his knee last weekend against Ole Miss, and although he’s expected to play, coach Gus Malzahn hasn’t made a ruling one way or the other. If Marshall can’t go, Auburn will either turn to returning starter Jonathan Wallace or true freshman Jeremy Johnson.
- Alabama looks to fix a running game that has struggled to find consistency in the first four weeks of the season and ranks last in the SEC in rushing yards per game.
- Success is a family matter for LSU running back Odell Beckham Jr., whose father, Odell Sr, was an LSU running back and whose mother, Heather, was a track star.
- Georgia players who got to know LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger when he was a Bulldog are happy he has found success, but obviously, want to beat him and the Tigers.
- Texas A&M senior Nate Askew made the transition from receiver to linebacker a successful one, even though it's a position he never played before this season.
- South Carolina cornerback Jimmy Legree leads by example, both on and off the field.
- After recording his first 100-yard receiving game of his career against LSU, Auburn receiver Sammie Coates appears to be emerging as one of the top deep threats in the SEC.
- Kentucky true freshman running back JoJo Kemp will see his role increased on a week when the Wildcats face the No. 1 run defense in the country in Florida.
- Mississippi State junior right guard Ben Beckwith has worked his way from a walk-on to starting on Saturdays.
- Missouri quarterback James Franklin has learned to let go of the negativity, both on and off the field.
- Florida suffered a tough blow when it got the news that defensive tackle Dominique Easley is out for the season with a torn ACL.
- Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott has shifted his attitude, including "lifestyle" choices off the field to help ensure he has a stellar 2013 season.
- Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews is chasing some SEC receiving records this season.
- Keeping the ball away from Texas A&M's high-powered offense might be the best course of action for Arkansas this weekend.
Arkansas’ offensive line: There were several candidates on Arkansas’ offense in the Hogs' 34-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins each rushed for more than 100 yards. Quarterback Brandon Allen passed for 230 yards and three touchdowns and was sacked only once. When you’re putting up those kinds of numbers on offense and creating that kind of balance, then you’re obviously getting it done on the offensive line. The Hogs finished with 292 rushing yards, their most since churning out 326 yards against UTEP in 2010. First-year coach Bret Bielema is all about a physical running game and was especially complimentary of center Travis Swanson and the way he was able to pull on some plays.
James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Looking healthy and very much in command, Franklin rolled up 362 yards of total offense in leading Missouri to a 58-14 rout of Murray State. Franklin, who struggled through an injury-plagued junior season, finished 26-of-38 for 318 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed six times for 44 yards. It was the most yards he’s accounted for in a game since racking up 392 yards against Baylor in 2011. The best news for Mizzou fans is that Franklin looked a lot more like the 2011 version of himself than he did the 2012 version.
Christion Jones, WR/RS, Alabama: Jones became the first Alabama player in history to score two special teams touchdowns in one game. The junior receiver returned a kickoff 94 yards and a punt 72 yards for touchdowns. He also got into the act on offense by catching a 38-yard touchdown pass. Jones became the first major college football player to score a touchdown on a punt return, kickoff return and pass reception in the same game since Kentucky’s Derek Abney in 2002.
Jeff Scott, RB, Ole Miss: He might be small in stature (5-foot-7 and 167 pounds), but Scott delivered a mammoth play Thursday in the Rebels' 39-35 win over Vanderbilt. The senior running back left everybody in his wake on an electrifying 75-yard touchdown run with 1:07 to play, answering a Vanderbilt touchdown only seconds earlier. Scott finished with 138 rushing yards on 12 carries and averaged 11.5 yards per rush. He also caught four passes for 25 yards.
Robenson Therezie, S, Auburn: Starting in place of the injured Justin Garrett at the hybrid “star” position in the Tigers’ 4-2-5 defense, Therezie intercepted two passes and had seven total tackles in Auburn’s 31-24 win over Washington State. Therezie’s final interception was a leaping grab in the end zone with Washington State driving for the potential game-tying score in the final five minutes. He returned his first interception 24 yards to the Washington State 28 to set up Auburn’s first touchdown. Therezie’s two interceptions in the opener matched Auburn’s total from all of last season.
- There was a lot of offseason buildup for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, but his performance in the Gamecocks' 27-10 win over North Carolina lacked sizzle.
- Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews was resilient, fighting through cramps and taking big hits yet still delivering an impressive performance in the Commodores 39-35 loss to Ole Miss.
- With his father -- who traveled all day to make it -- watching, Jeff Scott's 75-yard touchdown run helped the Rebels to a thrilling win over the Commodores, leading Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze to say "We stole one."
- While there are experienced returnees at several key positions for defending BCS champion Alabama, the Crimson Tide have a rebuilt offensive line, which includes three players who will make their first career starts on Saturday vs. Virginia Tech.
- It has been a long road for LSU senior safety Craig Loston. He reflects on his journey as he readies for his final season in Baton Rouge.
- Despite a "rough" camp that leaves them with just six scholarship players at the position, Arkansas receivers say they're ready for their season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.
- Quarterback James Franklin and new offensive coordinator Josh Henson are ready to show everyone what's in store for Missouri's offense in 2013.
- Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown, a disciple of the "Air Raid" offense, discusses his offense and even diagrams a few plays on video.
- Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is restless and ready for some football.
- When looking back at the family history of Heisman Trophy quarterback Johnny Manziel, one thorough, exhaustive piece was "fundamentally flawed," according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Steele has three SEC teams on his list, with Georgia taking his top spot. Alabama is No. 2, while Texas A&M is 14th.
It's hard to argue against having Georgia No. 1. The Bulldogs bring back the top one-two rushing punch in Todd Gurley, who led SEC running backs with 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, and slasher Keith Marshall. The duo combined for 2,144 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. There isn't much behind these two, but they did just fine with the majority of the carries last year.
As for the Aggies, they're also very deep at running back. Leading rusher Ben Malena (808 yards) is back, and he'll be working with some younger but very talented teammates. Brandon Williams, who transferred from Oklahoma, has the potential to be very special. Then you have Oregon transfer Tra Carson and sophomore Trey Williams. There is a lot of speed and athleticism in Texas A&M's running back stable.
I'd also keep an eye on Florida, LSU and Ole Miss this fall. The Gators will be led by sophomore Matt Jones, who had a very good spring and should pick up right where Mike Gillislee left off. He'll also get help from redshirt junior Mack Brown, who left spring as the No. 2 back, and freshmen Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane. Taylor had a good spring and Lane should come in and help right away.
LSU might have made Steele's list if Jeremy Hill wasn't suspended from the team. Hill's recent arrest has his future at LSU in doubt, but if he plays this fall he'll be one of the league's best. Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue are nothing to sneeze at. Both have shown flashes in the past and Blue should be healed from a knee injury that cost him most of his 2012 season. Losing Hill will really hurt, but the Tigers have a solid duo in Hilliard and Blue to work with.
Ole Miss returns rushing leader Jeff Scott and a talented bunch of youngsters. Scott is a solid all-purpose-type back, while sophomores I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton came on strong late last year and this spring. True freshman Mark Dodson will get his chance to see the field as well after a strong spring.
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
Records: Georgia 8-1 (6-1 SEC), Auburn 2-7 (0-6)
Last week: Georgia beat Ole Miss 37-10, Auburn beat New Mexico State 42-7
What’s the Story?: For the 21st time in the history of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Saturday’s outcome will determine either a division or conference championship. Georgia is 11-8-1 in previous meeting under those circumstances and it needs another win on Saturday in order to claim its second straight SEC East title. Auburn has had a horrible season, but it played No. 7 LSU and No. 13 Clemson close, so there is a precedent for a closer game than the 15-point spread might indicate. An Auburn win would rank among the season’s biggest upsets, however.
Revival of the rooskie
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A 37-10 win against Ole Miss (5-4, 2-3 SEC) keeps Georgia (8-1, 6-1) in the SEC East lead entering its final conference game of the season next week at Auburn (2-7, 0-6). A win sends the Bulldogs back to the SEC championship game for the second consecutive season.
Let’s recap some of the highs and lows of Saturday’s victory:
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“Me and my brother have been playing together since we grew up,” said Zander, a reserve fullback who started for the second time in his career. “And just for us to come to Georgia and play together and just to have a great game like we did, the whole team, it’s a blessing. I think my mom and dad, they just were pushing us and pushing us to play hard and play physical, just play to the best of your ability and play with your heart.”
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Coming off last week’s upset of then-No. 2 Florida, the Bulldogs face a classic trap-game scenario, riding an emotional high with the Rebels, a 14-point underdogs and winners of their last two conference games, coming to town.
The Bulldogs have vowed that they are taking Ole Miss seriously. Their performance on Saturday will reveal whether they actually took a step forward last week and are a more mature club than the one that struggled to maintain its intensity from week to week earlier in the season.
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Record: 5-3 (2-2 SEC)
Coach: Hugh Freeze, first season (5-3)
Series record: Georgia leads 31-12-1
Top players: QB Bo Wallace (136-205, 1,649 yards, 10 TDs, 9 INTs), TB Jeff Scott (113-612, 5.4 YPC, 6 TDs, WR Donte Moncrief (39-540, 13.8 YPC, 5 TDs), LB Denzel Nkemdiche (52 tackles, 9 TFL, 2 INTs) Scouting the offense: Although Ole Miss’ roster numbers keep them from playing at the high tempo Freeze would like, they have picked up his fast-paced offense well enough to become a dangerously balanced offense. With dual-threat quarterback Wallace at the controls, the Rebels average 235.6 yards per game passing and 194.4 rushing. The Rebels had major problems at quarterback last season, but Wallace’s emergence -- he was 29-for-37 for 278 yards, one touchdown and one interception in last Saturday’s 30-27 win at Arkansas -- has paid big dividends for Ole Miss.
Scouting the defense: The Rebels have surrendered at least 20 points in every SEC game and gave up 66 to Texas in a mid-September loss. They have also been an opportunistic bunch, using a couple of Auburn turnovers to score key touchdowns that helped them break a 16-game SEC losing streak. However, they have not been particularly effective at defending the run (they rank ninth in the SEC, allowing 148 yards per game) or the pass (ninth, 221.5).
Three keys to victory
- Continue high-energy play from Florida game: There aren’t many teams in the country that can hang with Georgia if it plays with the intensity that it carried into last weekend’s 17-9 upset of then-No. 2 Florida. But maintaining that edge on a week-to-week basis will be difficult. Georgia doesn’t have to duplicate that effort, but a comparable level of aggression against Ole Miss would probably be enough to win.
- Get in Wallace’s face: Wallace is fifth in the SEC in total offense at 239 yards per game, but he has also made his share of mistakes in his first season as the Rebels’ starting quarterback -- as evidenced by his 10-9 touchdown-interception ratio. The Bulldogs need to rein him in as a runner like they did against Florida’s Jeff Driskel and pressure him into errors that will make a victory easier to achieve.
- Start fast: Ole Miss is a program that is only learning how to win under a new coaching staff. The Bulldogs need to break their will early in this game. Alabama jumped out to a 27-6 halftime lead and was able to cruise to a win, but Texas A&M fell behind in Oxford and had to battle back in the fourth quarter to win. The Rebels are capable of winning this game if Georgia doesn’t come to play.
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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.