Georgia Bulldogs: Tyler Wilson

Ranking the SEC's quarterbacks

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
5:10
PM ET
In a few weeks, we’re going to have to pick our first-, second- and third-team quarterbacks on the All-SEC team.

That’s going to be difficult enough. A number of different quarterbacks in this league have had their moments this season.

But what if you had to rank the SEC’s top 10 starting quarterbacks based on how they’re playing right now, how they’ve played in key games, how they’ve performed during clutch situations and how they’ve impacted their teams overall?

We’ll attempt to do just that, so let the second-guessing commence:

[+] EnlargeManziel
John David Mercer/US PresswireTexas A&M's Johnny Manziel has passed for 2,780 yards and rushed for 1,014.
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Johnny Football might top this list nationally. With 3,794 yards of total offense, he’s on track to shatter the SEC record of 4,327 yards set by Cam Newton in 2010. The clincher was Manziel’s performance in the win over Alabama on the road.

2. AJ McCarron, Alabama: OK, McCarron wasn’t at his best in the Texas A&M loss, but he’s still thrown 20 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, engineered the game-winning drive at LSU and done everything the coaches have asked him to do this season.

3. Aaron Murray, Georgia: Murray has been red-hot the past two weeks with seven touchdown passes and leads the SEC with a 170.7 efficiency rating. He didn’t play well in the 17-9 win over Florida and struggled even more in the 35-7 loss at South Carolina. The SEC championship game will be huge for Murray.

4. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas: It hasn’t been the kind of season anybody in Arkansas was anticipating, and Wilson has taken his share of lumps. But he’s hung in there and is closing in on his second straight 3,000-yard season.

5. Tyler Bray, Tennessee: Bray’s overall numbers are outstanding with 3,216 yards and 29 touchdowns, and he’s probably playing his best football right now. That said, he simply hasn’t delivered in clutch situations and has thrown an SEC-high nine interceptions in league games.

6. Connor Shaw, South Carolina: Easily one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league, Shaw has played through a fracture in his throwing shoulder and thrown 13 of his 14 touchdown passes against SEC competition. He’s responded like a champ ever since his benching in the Florida loss.

7. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State: His season has mirrored that of the Mississippi State team. He started on fire, but has cooled considerably. Even so, Russell has thrown nine touchdown passes and only three interceptions in SEC games and has given the Bulldogs a legitimate threat throwing the football.

8. Zach Mettenberger, LSU: Mettenberger can thank his past two performances for being this high on the list. He’s looked liked the quarterback everybody thought he would be in the win over Mississippi State and loss to Alabama. He’s passed for 571 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in those two contests.

9. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt: There were some shaky moments early, but Rodgers has settled into a groove and was terrific in leading the Commodores on their game-winning drive last week at Ole Miss. He’s thrown six of his nine touchdown passes in the past three games.

10. Jeff Driskel, Florida: The Gators’ passing game has been anything but dynamic this season, but Driskel has made a ton of big plays in key games both running and passing. He’s accounted for 12 touchdowns in eight league games and has been intercepted only three times. He was sidelined last week with a sprained ankle.
Now that you've seen Chris Low's top 25, it's time to see what my list of the top 25 players in the SEC looks like.

I'm not perfect, but I'll try to be:

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Who has been more exciting than Johnny Football? The Aggies aren't 5-1 without him or his 1,600 passing yards, 676 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.

2. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: He's powering Florida's offense and he's been the SEC's best back thus far. He's extremely explosive and is strong enough to bully his way to extra yards and wear down defenses.

(Read full post)

What to watch in the SEC: Week 6

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
10:15
AM ET
It’s the biggest weekend of the season so far in the SEC, and here’s a look at what to watch in Week 6:

1. Lassoing Lattimore: There’s no other way to say it. South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore has owned Georgia. Lattimore rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown last season against the Bulldogs, and he racked up 182 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. Most notably, he’s been money in the fourth quarter. He had 94 of his yards last season in the fourth quarter. And in 2010, he had 56 yards in South Carolina’s final drive to ice the game. The Bulldogs simply haven’t been able to get Lattimore on the ground when it’s counted. Of his 358 rushing yards the last two years against the Bulldogs, 152 have come after contact. If they’re going to win this game, they need to put the clamps on Lattimore early and not allow South Carolina to ride him in the second half. He’s already had a pair of 100-yard rushing games this season against SEC foes Vanderbilt and Kentucky and combined for 145 rushing/receiving yards against Missouri. He’s answered a lot of the questions about whether he could regain his old form post-ACL surgery, but can make a resounding statement Saturday that he’s all the way back.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Zuma Press/Icon SMIWhile Vanderbilt couldn't slow down RB Marcus Lattimore, Georgia plans to give it a try this week.
2. Battle in the trenches I: Georgia’s offensive line faces its toughest test of the season against a South Carolina defensive line that hasn’t given up much of anything this season. Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most explosive pass-rushers in the country and is second in the SEC with 5.5 sacks. Georgia junior left tackle Kenarious Gates will be matched up most of the game against Clowney. The other matchup to keep an eye on is Georgia’s true freshman right tackle, John Theus, against South Carolina senior defensive end Devin Taylor, who’s a fierce pass-rusher in his own right. The Gamecocks have also been a brick wall against the run and are allowing just 2.2 yards per carry. The Bulldogs will need their best game of the season up front offensively.

3. Battle in the trenches II: Similar to Georgia’s offensive line, Florida’s guys up front will also encounter their toughest test of the season. LSU will rotate eight or nine players in the defensive line, and there’s not a lot of drop-off when the starters are resting. Florida has made it known that it wants to run the football, and the Gators will need to if they’re going to keep LSU honest on defense. Not only do the Tigers have a pair of potential first-round draft picks at end in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, but they’re equally stout in the middle with Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson. The offensive line has been the most improved part of Florida’s team this season, but the stakes (and the level of competition) go up considerably on Saturday.

4. October grinder: Nobody in the SEC has a tougher October than South Carolina, especially when you consider the Gamecocks don’t have their bye until Nov. 3. It’s the major reason that picking South Carolina to win the East is hard to do. Even if they can pull out a win over No. 5 Georgia on Saturday, they still have to go to No. 4 LSU and to No. 10 Florida the next two weeks followed by a home game with Tennessee to close out the month. LSU’s October slate isn’t a walk in the park. After playing at No. 10 Florida this weekend, the Tigers return home to face No. 6 South Carolina and then hit the road to play Texas A&M the following week. After a bye week, LSU takes on Alabama at home to kick off November. The Gators are also embarking on a grueling stretch. After LSU’s visit, they travel to Vanderbilt and then get No. 6 South Carolina at home and No. 5 Georgia in Jacksonville in back-to-back weeks. Can any of the three get through October unscathed?

5. Gators’ signature moment: Will Muschamp earned his first win over a nationally ranked foe as Florida’s coach back in September when the Gators went into Knoxville and defeated Tennessee. That was a big step for the program, but taking down No. 4 LSU will make a resounding statement to the entire college football world that Florida is indeed back. This is a game the Gators lost by 30 points a year ago. It’s a chance to show how far they’ve progressed since that blowout, not to mention a chance to prove they can play their best football on the biggest of stages.

6. Taking back the Swamp: There was a time, not too long ago, when the Swamp was the best home-field advantage in the SEC. The Gators didn’t just beat teams at home. They buried them amid a deafening roar and usually sweltering heat. It was a lot like walking into the lion’s den for the opposing team, and that’s something the Gators have to get back if they’re going to start winning championships again. They lost five games at home during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. That’s the same number of games they lost at home in Steve Spurrier’s 12 seasons as coach from 1990-2001. And in Urban Meyer’s first five seasons, they only lost twice at home. This Saturday should be a great atmosphere, the first top-10 matchup at the Swamp since the 2006 LSU game.

7. Defenseless defenses: If you’re an old-school defensive junkie, you might want to avoid the Arkansas-Auburn affair. Defense hasn’t been either team’s cup of tea this season, although the Tigers were much better in their last outing two weeks ago against LSU. In nine games, the two defenses have combined to give up 4,228 yards. The one saving grace for Arkansas is that senior quarterback Tyler Wilson has feasted on Auburn. With the way it’s gone for the Hogs this season on defense, they’re going to have to score 35 points to even have a chance. Wilson passed for 262 yards and two touchdowns last season against Auburn and came off the bench in relief of Ryan Mallett in 2010 to pass for 332 yards and four touchdowns.

8. Manziel for Heisman: As a senior at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas, Johnny Manziel put up some outrageous numbers. He passed for 45 touchdowns and ran for 30 touchdowns. The Texas A&M fans couldn’t wait to see “Johnny Football” in maroon. He makes his fifth start for the Aggies on Saturday against Ole Miss and is still cranking out unreal numbers, especially for a redshirt freshman. He set an SEC record last week with 557 yards of total offense in the 58-10 drubbing of Arkansas and leads the SEC in total offense with an average of 365 yards per game. How long can he keep up this pace? Well, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says Manziel is becoming a better quarterback every game, and while Ole Miss isn’t as bad as Arkansas on defense, the Rebels have still given up some big numbers this season. Either way, Manziel’s playing at a level right now that he could easily have close to 2,000 yards in total offense through his first five games as a starter.

9. Not turning it over: Not only is Mississippi State not turning the ball over, but the Bulldogs are also tied for the SEC lead in forcing turnovers. Through four games, they’ve forced 15 turnovers and committed only two, which is a big reason they’re unbeaten. A plus-13 turnover ratio, which is No. 1 nationally among all FBS teams, is going to mask a lot of other issues. The Bulldogs, who travel to Kentucky on Saturday, have played well to this point and have been resourceful, but they’ve by no means been dominant. What they’ve done is win the turnover battle in all four of their games, and they’ve been at least plus-three in the turnover department in three of those games. That’s a recipe for a lot of wins regardless of where you rank statistically in other areas. Case in point: Mississippi State is 10th in the SEC right now in total offense and eighth in total defense.

10. Finding some offense: Missouri and Vanderbilt meet on Saturday in Columbia, Mo., and both teams hope to cure some serious offensive ills. The Tigers have scored just 24 points on offense in their last two games, and one of those touchdowns came at garbage time in the waning seconds of a 31-10 loss to South Carolina two weeks ago. It’s been even more difficult for the Commodores to score points. In fact, they’ve yet to score a touchdown in the second half in any of their three games against FBS foes this season and have managed just two field goals after the break in those three games. One of the common denominators for both teams has been the inability to sustain drives. Missouri is next-to-last in the SEC in third-down conversion (20-of-73) and Vanderbilt is last (13-of-56).

SEC power rankings: Week 6

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
9:00
AM ET
Separation Saturday is approaching in the SEC ... but here are where our power rankings look to start the week:

1. Alabama (5-0; LW: 1): The Crimson Tide's offense didn't look great against Ole Miss and the defense actually gave up two touchdowns, but Alabama left the weekend with a 19-point win. Alabama looked a little lethargic out on the field, but the Rebels put up a better fight than most expected. This team has talked about cleaning up execution issues on offense and will get an extra week to do that with the bye here.

2. LSU (5-0; LW: 2): The Tigers are skating on thin ice in our power rankings. The previous week's sluggish win over Auburn was one thing, but the Tigers really struggled against Towson. What was most surprising about LSU's performance was how poorly the Tigers defended the run, as Towson gained 188 yards on the ground. One positive was that we finally saw more of a downfield passing game from Zach Mettenberger, and Odell Beckham Jr. stepped up in a big way at receiver.

3. Georgia (5-0; LW: 3): The Bulldogs could be considered 2b after the way LSU played, but Georgia's defense really struggled against Tennessee. We all knew the Vols had the potential to hurt this group, but Georgia's defense was absolutely gutted for 478 yards and gave up 37 of the Vols' 44 points. Things have to be cleaned up, but with the way that offense is playing, it's going to be tough for teams to keep up in a shootout with the Dawgs.

4. South Carolina (5-0; LW: 4): The Gamecocks gave their fans a bit of a scare after being down 10 to Kentucky at the half Saturday. All was forgiven after a dominating second half during which South Carolina outscored the Wildcats 31-0. Connor Shaw continues to throw the ball with splendid accuracy, while Marcus Lattimore is looking stronger and stronger out there. However, the Gamecocks can't afford a sluggish start against Georgia this weekend.

5. Florida (4-0; LW: 5): The Gators were off this weekend, so players got some much-needed rest and time to heal. It also gave Florida a little extra time to scout No. 4 LSU, which travels to the Swamp on Saturday. Florida has to feel a little more confident about this weekend after watching another ugly win by LSU. But expect the intensity to be way up for the Tigers. Saturday should be pretty fun to watch.

6. Mississippi State (4-0; LW: 6): The Bulldogs were on their bye over the weekend. Quietly, the Bulldogs have had a very impressive start to the season. Their past two games should have been won by bigger margins, but this team is still undefeated and has the potential to be a 6-1 or 7-0 team heading into the last weekend of the month. On the season, only five teams have trailed for less time than Mississippi State.

7. Texas A&M (3-1; LW: 8): The Aggies just keep pounding away on offense. Johnny Manziel and his crew walked all over Arkansas' defense, racking up 716 yards of offense and 58 points in their blowout win against the reeling Razorbacks. We know that Texas A&M can score points and generate a lot of yards, but we saw a little too much bend out of A&M's defense against the Hogs, as they surrendered 515 yards to Arkansas.

8. Tennessee (3-2; LW: 7): We saw a lot more fight out of Tennessee when Georgia went up 17 in the second quarter. The Vols had a couple of real chances to win in Athens, Ga., over the weekend, but late turnovers doomed them. Cue the questions surrounding Tyler Bray in big games. The defense looked overwhelmed and lost at times, but this team can take solace in one thing: It appears Tennessee has found a real SEC running back in Rajion Neal.

9. Missouri (3-2; LW: 9): James Franklin was better throwing the ball on Saturday, but this team has some offensive issues. The Tigers converted just 1 of 11 third downs and were outgained 395-346 against UCF on Saturday. Kendial Lawrence rushed for 104 yards, but Mizzou finished the day with a total of 89 rushing yards, thanks to Franklin's minus-18 yards on the ground. There are just too many athletes on this offense for the Tigers not to be explosive. Right now, they are hurting to find consistent firepower.

10. Ole Miss (3-2; LW: 10): Yes, the Rebels lost, but it's clear this team is more invested and tougher than the past two teams Ole Miss has thrown out there. The Rebels gave Alabama a little bit of a challenge and made it to the end zone twice against Alabama's vaunted defense. This team has to clean up a lot on defense, but that offense has the ability to carry this team to a few more wins this season ... maybe even a bowl berth.

11. Auburn (1-3; LW: 11): The good news for the Tigers is that they got to rest this weekend. The hope is that Auburn's defense takes the momentum it gained from its performance against LSU into this weekend's key game against Arkansas. Arkansas can move the ball, and Auburn's defense struggled mightily for most of September. This is a must-win for both teams and with the way Arkansas' defense has played, Auburn has to feel more comfortable with what its struggling offense can do.

12. Vanderbilt (1-3; LW: 13): The Commodores were off as well, and extra time had to be devoted to tweaking some of the offense. Vandy enters its game at Missouri with the SEC's No. 11 offense and we haven't seen the kind of explosion we saw last year. It doesn't help that there's a quarterback controversy in Nashville. Despite what happened in the Georgia game, the Commodores still own one of the league's top defensive units and provide a tough matchup for Missouri this weekend.

13. Arkansas (1-4; LW: 12): Things just get worse and worse for the Razorbacks. If Tyler Wilson thought his team quit against Alabama, you have to wonder how he feels after the way his Hogs were run out of College Station, Texas, over the weekend. That defense is dreadful and this team is just lost. The offense put up a lot of yards against Texas A&M, but couldn't finish drives and never developed any consistency running the ball. Losing to Auburn this weekend would pretty much end any ounce of hope for a bowl game this year.

14. Kentucky (1-4; LW: 14): For two quarters, Kentucky was on top of the world. Then, things fell apart, and South Carolina scored 31 straight points on the Wildcats. Things just aren't clicking for the Wildcats, and quarterback Maxwell Smith is injured again. This time, he has an ankle injury. This offense just can't do much unless he's in, and he can't stay healthy. The defense has to get tougher, as well. Joker Phillips' hot seat in Kentucky isn't cooling off one bit.

SEC power rankings: Week 5

September, 24, 2012
9/24/12
2:51
PM ET
Another week and it still remains pretty clear Alabama is top dog in the SEC and nationally.

But has our No. 2 team fallen after a sloppy win on the road?

1. Alabama (4-0; LW: 1): I feel like a broken record, but Alabama dominated yet again Saturday. It's hard to find any real weaknesses in this team. Although the backups did give up a touchdown to Florida Atlantic, so there's that.

2. LSU (4-0; LW: 2): The Tigers looked pretty sloppy offensively in a tough 12-10 win against Auburn Saturday. LSU probably will have its name dragged through the mud after its play this weekend, but all good teams have those hiccup games. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has to play better, but the defense still looks extremely dominant. The goal now is to not let that hiccup bleed into future games.

3. Georgia (4-0; LW: 3): This Bulldogs offense has been really fun to watch through the first four weeks. Quarterback Aaron Murray has looked like a real Heisman candidate at times, while freshman running back Todd Gurley just gets better every time he gets on the field. Georgia completely overwhelmed Vanderbilt and heads into a fun showdown with Tennessee with a load of confidence.

4. South Carolina (4-0; LW: 4): Connor Shaw has proven he's a true player for the Gamecocks. He battled through a hairline fracture in his throwing shoulder to complete 20-of-21 passes in a blowout win against Missouri. You're starting to see more balance from this Gamecocks offense and that will be very important as SEC play continues. The defensive front is also getting stronger each week.

5. Florida (4-0; LW: 5): The Gators seem to be growing up with each week. After back-to-back tough road wins, Florida shut out Kentucky at home and now has two weeks to prepare for LSU. This really has become more of the blue-collar team Will Muschamp wants, but we'll really find out how tough Florida is when LSU ventures into the Swamp.

6. Mississippi State (4-0; LW: 6): Dan Mullen wasn't exactly pleased with the effort the Bulldogs gave in their lackluster 30-10 win against South Alabama, but a win is a win these days. This team can't be too happy with the way it has played in the past two weeks, but it's still undefeated. It's obvious players are losing focus against lesser opponents, and that should change with SEC play starting back up next week.

7. Tennessee (3-1; LW: 7): There were some tense moments in the Vols' win over Akron Saturday, but the second half belonged to Tennessee. Tyler Bray showed off that cannon of a right arm, passing for 401 yards and four touchdowns. The running game also got going with Rajion Neal rushing for a career-high 151 yards. The key for this team is to duplicate those kinds of efforts against SEC opponents.

8. Texas A&M (2-1; LW: 9): Man, the Aggies know how to use that football, right? In the past two games (both wins), A&M has averaged 526.5 yards and 59 points. Sure, you can point your nose up at the competition, but those are pretty good numbers for a team dealing with a brand new coaching staff and philosophy. Let's see how this offense performs with the SEC slate coming up.

9. Missouri (2-2; LW:8): The Tigers just didn't put up much of a fight against South Carolina. Both the offensive and defensive lines got pushed around and it's looking more and more like the size up front is an issue for this team. Mizzou has too much talent offensively not to get the ball moving, but the Tigers failed to get big plays against South Carolina. You have to wonder what sort of offensive changes might come heading into the Central Florida game.

10. Ole Miss (3-1; LW: 11): The Rebels really rebounded from that Texas blowout with a 39-point shutout of Tulane. Through four games, Ole Miss is third in the SEC in total offense (488 yards per game) and is averaging 36.8 points per game. This team has to cut down on the turnovers and the defense still needs some work, but the product on the field is much better than it has been the past two years.

11. Auburn (1-3; LW: 10): The Tigers suffered a tough loss at home to LSU over the weekend. It was a game in which Auburn played its toughest ball of the season, but just didn't have anything going on offense. Like, absolutely nothing. The defense made strides, but the offense is still a major concern. Defense wins championships, but you have to put points on the board and move the ball, and Auburn has issues doing both, scoring only 20 points in two SEC games.

12. Arkansas (1-3; LW: 12): Things just aren't working in Fayetteville, Ark. Tyler Wilson returned against Rutgers, but he couldn't help a defense that gave up 525 yards in the loss to the Scarlet Knights. Arkansas has now lost three straight -- all in the state of Arkansas -- and it's fair to say that leadership is lacking inside that locker room. There shouldn't be any smiling this week as the Hogs prepare for Texas A&M.

13. Vanderbilt (1-3; LW: 13): The Commodores had nothing in the tank against Georgia. For a team that is supposed to have a different attitude, Vandy lacked any form of passion in its 45-point loss to the Bulldogs. The defense was shredded and the offense just never got into rhythm. This team is also dealing with quarterback issues. You never know who is going to be throwing the ball for the Commodores, and that's not a good thing.

14. Kentucky (1-3; LW: 14): Nothing seems to be going right for the Wildcats. Maxwell Smith missed Saturday's loss to Florida with a bum shoulder and Morgan Newton did noting to help in Smith's place. Kentucky's offense has lacked any sort of consistency this season and the defense has been walked over. The bad news is that things get a lot tougher for the Wildcats with the teeth of the schedule coming up.

Predictions: SEC Week 4

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
11:00
AM ET
Well, well, well. It looks like The Kid knows a little bit about what he’s yapping about these days.

After two weeks of having identical picks, we have some separation after I correctly picked that Florida would walk into Neyland Stadium and snatch a win away from the Vols. I thought the Gators would win because of their defense -- and that unit did just what I thought it would in the second half -- but I didn’t think Florida’s offense would step up like that. My goodness.

Talk about Rocky Bottom.

That’s exactly where Chris sits heading into Week 4 with a record of 31-4 (.886), which is one game behind my 32-3 (.914) record. We both missed on Kentucky losing to Western Kentucky last week, but the most important thing in my eyes is that I have a one-game lead, and I can tell that Chris is scrambling.

You should have heard our conversation after his alma mater let the Gators off the hook Saturday. The mental games for him started when Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter both dropped those key second-half passes for the Vols. They just fueled his realization that he'd leave the weekend a game behind The Kid.

It’s funny how he has time to take jabs at my love for soccer (the world’s most popular sport, I might add), but doesn’t have the time to remember that defense wins championships. Going with offense last week was a true gaffe by the vet.

For the sake of competition, I hope he has learned his lesson.

On to the picks:

OLE MISS AT TULANE

Edward Aschoff: The Rebels are coming off quite the blowout loss to Texas, in which the defense was totally overmatched. The Rebels face one of the nation's worst offenses, so the outcome will be much different. ... Ole Miss 31, Tulane 14

Chris Low: Ole Miss’ defense is reeling following the Texas stampede last weekend. The good news for the Rebels is that Tulane has been anemic offensively in its first two outings. … Ole Miss 31, Tulane 13

FLORIDA ATLANTIC AT ALABAMA

Edward Aschoff: The only real question for Alabama is whether the defense can pitch its third straight shutout. One will get past this defense. ... Alabama 45, Florida Atlantic 3

Chris Low: One of these days, the Crimson Tide are going to have a game where somebody comes within 40 points of them again. But it won’t be this one. … Alabama 56, Florida Atlantic 3

SOUTH ALABAMA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE

Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs got caught sleeping a little bit in last week's win against Troy, but expect to see a little more life out of Mississippi State this weekend. ... Mississippi State 45, South Alabama 14

Chris Low: The Sun Belt Conference tour continues for Mississippi State, although this one is at home. The Bulldogs need to play better after playing just well enough to survive last week at Troy. … Mississippi State 38, South Alabama 10

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE AT TEXAS A&M

Edward Aschoff: We saw a good bit of offense and points from the Aggies last week, and they shouldn't have a problem keeping that up Saturday. ... Texas A&M 51, South Carolina State 7

Chris Low: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel already has established himself as one of the most exciting players in the SEC. Look for him to roll up Xbox numbers for the second straight week. … Texas A&M 45, South Carolina State 14

AKRON AT TENNESSEE

Edward Aschoff: The Vols have to move on from last week's loss to Florida. Getting the offense back on track against the Zips is the best way to do that. ... Tennessee 45, Akron 14

Chris Low: A lot of air came out of the Vols’ Big Orange balloon last weekend following their collapse in the second half against Florida. They ought to have this one in hand well before the second half. … Tennessee 42, Akron 17

KENTUCKY AT FLORIDA

Edward Aschoff: The Gators are brimming with confidence after back-to-back road wins, and offensive coordinator Brent Pease said he wanted to hang 50 on the Cats. He'll come close. ... Florida 45, Kentucky 10

Chris Low: Kentucky has snapped a couple of long losing streaks over the past two years against Tennessee and South Carolina, but the drought against Florida will grow to 26 in a row Saturday. … Florida 38, Kentucky 14

LSU AT AUBURN

Edward Aschoff: LSU has quietly been one of the most impressive teams in the country, while Auburn barely got by Louisiana-Monroe. Auburn has too many questions remaining to hang with the other Tigers. ... LSU 38, Auburn 10

Chris Low: The battle of the Tigers has been one of the most entertaining rivalries in the SEC over the past decade, but a more physical and more talented LSU team is poised to make it two blowouts in a row. … LSU 31, Auburn 13

RUTGERS AT ARKANSAS

Edward Aschoff: The Razorbacks are at a real low point right now, while Rutgers is riding a three-game winning streak. Tyler Wilson is still questionable and Rutgers' running game is much improved. That's bad news for the Hogs. ... Rutgers 24, Arkansas 20

Chris Low: With or without Tyler Wilson, the Hogs have to figure out a way to stop somebody. They’ve given up 110 points in three games, but the bleeding stops Saturday. … Arkansas 34, Rutgers 21

VANDERBILT AT GEORGIA

Edward Aschoff: Last year's game had a very dramatic ending, both in the game and after it. The Commodores are fired up for this one, but Georgia just has more going for it all around. ... Georgia 31, Vanderbilt 14

Chris Low: The game last year ended with James Franklin and Todd Grantham going nose-to-nose. That little dust-up will ensure that the Bulldogs don’t sleepwalk into this game. … Georgia 35, Vanderbilt 14

MISSOURI AT SOUTH CAROLINA

Edward Aschoff: Both teams have banged-up quarterbacks, and while both could play, we aren't sure how long either will be in. This one will come down to line play, and South Carolina has the advantage both ways. ... South Carolina 27, Missouri 20

Chris Low: It’s Columbia versus Columbia. It’s also one banged-up quarterback versus another banged-up quarterback. The difference will be a South Carolina defensive line that takes over in the second half. … South Carolina 27, Missouri 21

What to watch in the SEC: Week 3

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
10:15
AM ET
We're heading into Week 3 in the SEC, so here's what to watch:

1. Quarterback health: The statuses of Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and South Carolina's Connor Shaw are still unknown. Wilson suffered a head injury against Louisiana-Monroe, while Shaw is still nursing a bruised shoulder from Week 1. For the Gamecocks, losing Shaw for the second straight week won't really hurt South Carolina's offense. It was just fine without him against East Carolina. However, Arkansas isn't in the same position. Brandon Allen completed just 6 of 20 passes against Louisiana-Monroe in place of Wilson. Not having Wilson will make Saturday's game against No. 1 Alabama that much tougher for the Razorbacks.

[+] EnlargeJohn L. Smith
AP Photo/Danny JohnstonCoach John L. Smith and his Razorbacks face a formidable foe in No. 1 Alabama this week.
2. Arkansas' defense: Speaking of the Razorbacks, what has happened to that defense? It was supposed to be more aggressive and more disciplined under Paul Haynes. We saw neither in the second half against Louisiana-Monroe, as the Razorbacks blew a 21-point lead. The defense was shredded against a lesser opponent and now has to play one of the most balanced attacks in the SEC. Last year, Alabama wore down this defense. If Arkansas is going to pick itself up, it has to play much tougher than it has in the first two games. Alabama has far more talent than Arkansas' first opponents and has the capability to really beat this unit down.

3. Tennessee’s passing game vs. Florida’s secondary: This game always comes down to the running game, but the difference this time will be Tennessee's passing game against Florida’s secondary. The Gators are loaded with talent back there and made tremendous strides during the second half of the Texas A&M game, while Tennessee might have the best passing game in the SEC, led by quarterback Tyler Bray. The matchups between Justin Hunter and Marcus Roberson and Cordarrelle Patterson and Loucheiz Purifoy should be great. Zach Rogers is another deep threat the Gators have to be careful about, but Matt Elam has the ability to take the deep ball away for Florida. Should be fun.

4. Must-wins: Both Auburn and Vanderbilt are 0-2 and are coming off tough losses. The Commodores blew a halftime lead at Northwestern, while Auburn was overmatched across the board at Mississippi State. The Tigers are struggling with or without the ball this season, and that's a major concern. Quarterback Kiehl Frazier has to get going, and he's facing the team that just knocked off Arkansas. Vandy just can't get anything going on offense. The explosion we expected to see has been mostly absent through two games and the Commodores have to generate some sort of offensive momentum this weekend against Presbyterian.

5. Mississippi State keeping its edge: Now that Dan Mullen and his Bulldogs have gotten over the hump of beating a West opponent not named Ole Miss, the Bulldogs can’t get complacent. That was just one win, and this team has far bigger goals than just beating Auburn. With the schedule Mississippi State has, it’s very possible the Bulldogs could be 6-1 or 7-0 heading into the Alabama game at the end of October. But this team has to focus on Troy and come out strong against a team that won’t be a pushover.

6. Showdown in the Grove: It’s been a long time since a game in Oxford got attention like Saturday’s showdown with Texas has been receiving. It’s eerily similar to the 2003 game with Eli Manning and LSU, although there isn’t hatred in the air. The Grove is gonna be poppin’ and Oxford is expected to double in size. There’s more confidence around that town because Ole Miss is 2-0 for the first time since 2009. The talent difference between Ole Miss and Texas is obvious, but the Rebels have some momentum and some conviction. Can the Rebels stop that burnt orange wave coming to town?

7. The newbie's returns: Missouri and Texas A&M got a nice taste of what life will be like in the SEC last weekend. Now, it's time for both teams to regroup. Both teams lost a lot of steam in the second half, which was expected. Missouri has the challenge of playing Arizona State and its high-flying offense. The Sun Devils have averaged 54 points through two games, averaging 532 offensive yards in the process. The Tigers got into a shootout with Arizona State last year, but can they handle another one after that physical loss to Georgia? The Aggies are taking on SMU in Dallas, and are also recovering from a tough loss to Florida. This is a game where Texas A&M should try to get more out of its running game, which has to generate more production up the middle.

8. Mettenberger’s arm: Through the first two games of the season, we’ve been anxiously waiting to see what Zach Mettenberger could really do in LSU’s offense. So far, he’s yet to eclipse the 200-yard passing mark in a game and has just two touchdowns -- pedestrian numbers compared to what everyone expected. But the Tigers have utilized their running game flawlessly and haven’t needed to send the ball downfield much. Saturday, that should change. It’s time to unleash Mettenberger and get him going more in the offense before LSU gets into conference play.

9. Lattimore’s workload: If Steve Spurrier wanted to push Marcus Lattimore anymore last week, he would have. But the Head Ball Coach gave his workhorse a bit of a rest against East Carolina, running him just 13 times. Maybe Spurrier just wanted to get his new quarterback, Dylan Thompson, a chance to show his stuff in place of Shaw. But as Lattimore continues to return from his knee injury, he’ll need to get more reps and get more comfortable on the field before league play revs up. UAB should provide him the opportunity to do that.

10. Florida’s winning streak: The Gators have had Tennessee’s number for seven straight years now. Not since Dallas Baker’s infamous slap in Knoxville have the Vols bested Florida. This might be Tennessee’s best shot since. There’s no question that this is the best and most complete Vols team Derek Dooley has had. The Vols have cruised through the first two weeks, while Florida’s offense stumbles in with a lot of uncertainty concerning the passing game. Florida might have the edge on defense, but Tennessee’s offense knows how to put up points. Is this the year Tennessee finally gets the Gator off its back?

Predictions: SEC Week 3

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
9:00
AM ET
I’m proud to report that the ATL Kid and I are both 21-2 (.913) two weeks into our picks contest.

What’s regrettable is that all of our picks have been the same to this point. He talks about the NCAA investigating me for taking a sneak peek at whom he’s picking every week.

I’ve already complained to SEC commissioner Mike Slive about the Kid airing his dirty laundry in public. After all, we have a stated protocol for how to handle these things, but kids today aren’t real big on rules.

Maybe that’s why the Kid gets me his picks about 3 o’clock in the morning every Thursday after carousing around Atlanta with his pal, Oscar.

We were both 9-2 last week and missed Louisiana-Monroe’s 34-31 upset of Arkansas and Northwestern’s 23-13 win over Vanderbilt, which didn't score a second-half touchdown in either of its first two games.

We’ll have some separation this week, because our picks aren’t all the same.

It’s grudge time on the SEC blog as the Kid’s alma mater (Florida) takes on my alma mater (Tennessee). There hasn’t been a lot of trash talk, although I told him he should have to sing “Rocky Top” on video if the Vols win.

His Gators have owned this series, so there’s not a lot I can say. They’ve won the past seven games. The last time Tennessee won, the Kid was still playing youth soccer somewhere and sitting on the bench with a juice box on one side of him and his orange slices on the other.

I hear he still rolls that way.

That said, let’s roll through this week’s picks:

PRESBYTERIAN at VANDERBILT

Chris Low: The Commodores are trying to recover from an 0-2 start. This is one they not only need to win, but need to win convincingly. ... Vanderbilt 35, Presbyterian 7

Edward Aschoff: We'll finally see the explosive play we've been waiting on from Vanderbilt's offense in this must-win for the Commodores. ... Vanderbilt 41, Presbyterian 10

UAB at SOUTH CAROLINA

Chris Low: The Gamecocks romped last week with backup quarterback Dylan Thompson passing for three touchdowns. Regardless of who’s at quarterback this week, the Gamecocks will cruise again. ... South Carolina 42, UAB 10

Edward Aschoff: Connor Shaw might not play, but the Gamecocks should be just fine again. Expect a little more Marcus Lattimore this week. ... South Carolina 38, UAB 13

MISSISSIPPI STATE at TROY

Chris Low: Going on the road to play in one of these games is never ideal for an SEC team, but the Bulldogs have built up too much momentum to stumble now. ... Mississippi State 31, Troy 14

Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs are coming off their first SEC-opening win since 1999, but can't lose their edge. They won't this weekend. ... Mississippi State 38, Troy 14

IDAHO at LSU

Chris Low: The Tigers keep losing players, but they keep winning big. Nobody’s really challenged them yet, and that’s not going to change this Saturday. ... LSU 45, Idaho 6

Edward Aschoff: The Tigers looked much better all around in Week 2, and that trend should continue Saturday. This is the weekend we see the passing game really open up. ... LSU 48, Idaho 3

WESTERN KENTUCKY at KENTUCKY

Chris Low: Western Kentucky is one of the Sun Belt Conference’s better teams this season, but Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith is one of the SEC’s hottest quarterbacks right now. ... Kentucky 28, Western Kentucky 21

Edward Aschoff: The Wildcats know they have to win out in nonconference play if they want to make a bowl game. They should have no problem getting past Western Kentucky. ... Kentucky 41, Western Kentucky 13

FLORIDA ATLANTIC at GEORGIA

Chris Low: The Bulldogs are getting two defensive starters back for this game, which will make it an even longer night for the already outmanned Owls. ... Georgia 52, Florida Atlantic 7

Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs get one last tuneup before really diving into SEC play. The Dawgs should roll Saturday. ... Georgia 45, Florida Atlantic 10

TEXAS A&M at SMU

Chris Low: The Aggies stay in Texas but go on the road to face the Mustangs. Johnny Manziel & Co. will see to it that they finish the game this time. ... Texas A&M 34, SMU 21

Edward Aschoff: The jitters are gone, and a game is under the Aggies' belts. Expect to see more of Texas A&M's offense to be unveiled Saturday. ... Texas A&M 34, SMU 14

LOUISIANA-MONROE at AUBURN

Chris Low: Ask Arkansas if the Warhawks should be taken lightly. In fact, the best thing that could have happened to Auburn was seeing what happened to the Hogs last week. ... Auburn 31, La.-Monroe 21

Edward Aschoff: The Tigers are in desperate need of a win and some confidence on both sides of the ball. The Warhawks might have upset Arkansas, but Auburn will rebound Saturday on the Plains. ... Auburn 31, La.-Monroe 17

TEXAS at OLE MISS

Chris Low: The Grove will be at its best Saturday. The Rebels will also need to be at their best to pull the upset. They’ll make it close, but they don’t have quite enough firepower yet to close the deal. ... Texas 28, Ole Miss 24

Edward Aschoff: An epic party is expected in Oxford this weekend, and confidence is high at Ole Miss. The Rebels should hang around early, but Texas just has too much talent. ... Texas 34, Ole Miss 21

ARIZONA STATE at MISSOURI

Chris Low: Loosen up the old neck, because this could turn into a track meet. The Tigers are hurting on their offensive line but have enough playmakers to outlast the Sun Devils. ... Missouri 38, Arizona State 31

Edward Aschoff: The Tigers are coming off of a tough, physical loss to Georgia. Mizzou might be a little banged up, but it'll outlast Arizona State in another shootout Saturday. ... Missouri 31, Arizona State 27

ALABAMA at ARKANSAS

Chris Low: The Hogs were embarrassed by what happened in Little Rock last week. They’ll put up a fight, but the Crimson Tide have too much muscle in the trenches. ... Alabama 37, Arkansas 13

Edward Aschoff: The luster of this game has certainly been lost, but the Hogs have to be extremely motivated underdogs. However, even a healthy Tyler Wilson might not have enough to take down this Alabama team. ... Alabama 31, Arkansas 10

FLORIDA at TENNESSEE

Chris Low: The last time Tennessee beat Florida, Ron Zook was coaching the Gators and Phillip Fulmer was coaching the Vols. Both teams have visions of contending in the East, but Tennessee’s passing game will be the difference in this one. ... Tennessee 31, Florida 28

Edward Aschoff: Tennessee might have the flashiest passing game around, but Florida's defense is riding high after that second half at Texas A&M. The Gators are underdogs, but that defense will keep the Gators and their winning streak going against Tennessee. ... Florida 24, Tennessee 21
The Heisman Pundit has released its 2012 Heisman Trophy Watch List, and six of the 18 players on the list are from the SEC.

Nationally, USC quarterback Matt Barkley is the early favorite. But if you're looking for a favorite out of the SEC, it's probably Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, who passed for 3,639 yards last season.

The other five SEC players making the list were Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Arkansas running back Knile Davis, Missouri quarterback James Franklin, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.

(Read full post)

HOOVER, Ala. -- The 2012 SEC media days All-SEC team was announced Thursday, and LSU led the conference with the most first-team selections with seven. The media has voted for a preseason All-SEC team and predicted the order in which each team would finish since 1992.

It should be noted that the media has only picked the correct SEC champion four times since 1992. Those correct picks were Florida in 1994 and 1995, LSU in 2007 and Florida in 2008.

Here are some notes from the league on the All-SEC team:
    [+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
    Daniel Shirey/US PresswireSEC members are expecting big things this season for South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.

  • The 222 voters is an all-time high for SEC media days. The previous high was 177 voters in 2010.
  • South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was the leading vote-getter this season with 201 of 222 votes. He is the fourth running back in the past six years to be the highest vote-getter (2007 – Darren McFadden, Arkansas; 2008 – Knowshon Moreno, Georgia and Percy Harvin, Florida; 2009 – Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes, Florida; 2010 – Mark Ingram, Alabama; 2011 – Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina).

(Read full post)

The SEC's preseason All-Star teams

July, 17, 2012
7/17/12
10:53
AM ET
Some of my best childhood memories go back to the Major League All-Star Game and sitting around and watching the Midsummer Classic with family members.

That’s what we did last week at our house.

So in keeping with the All-Star theme, we’ll select a preseason SEC All-Star team with the East going up against the West.

Who would win?

EAST

Offense

(Read full post)

Ranking the SEC tight ends

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
7:05
AM ET
Now that we've ranked the top 10 wide receivers, it's time to check out the top tight ends.

Past rankings
Here are our top 10 SEC tight ends:

[+] EnlargePhilip Lutzenkirchen
Butch Dill/Getty ImagesPhilip Lutzenkirchen will be Auburn's go-to guy for game-winning scores this season.
1. Chris Gragg, Sr., Arkansas: Gragg is a big, fast target who can cause mismatches for defenders. He has great hands and with the loss of three NFL wide receivers he'll be one of Tyler Wilson's top targets this fall. Expect him to improve on his 41 catches and 518 yards from last year.

2. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Sr., Auburn: He only caught 24 passes last year, but seven of those catches went for touchdowns. He's a big-time threat in the red zone and is a solid blocker as well. The addition of fullback Jay Prosch will give Lutzenkirchen a chance to be even more active in the receiving game.

3. Jordan Reed, Jr., Florida: There's no doubt that Reed is extremely athletic, but he can lose focus at times on the field. Still, when he's on the ball, he can make plenty of plays. He's the Gators' top returning receiving target and with two young quarterbacks throwing this year, Reed has the chance to rack up receptions as a close-to-the-line safety net.

4. Mychal Rivera, Sr., Tennessee: Rivera is a very reliable and consistent weapon for the Vols. Even with Justin Hunter coming back and Cordarrelle Patterson jumping into the receiving mix, Rivera might not see his production drop too much if Tyler Bray can stay health. This team will throw it around as much as possible.

5. Michael Williams, Sr., Alabama: Williams only caught 17 passes last year, but there were a couple more proven players around him. This time around, his experience will be valued more by quarterback AJ McCarron. He's a solid player and can be a beast on the field, so the coaches are expecting to get a lot more out of him this fall.

6. Malcolm Johnson, So., Mississippi State: He was once a receiver, but has now found a home at tight end. He averaged 18.7 yards on his 11 catches last year and scored three touchdowns. The Bulldogs have a lot of receiving options, but Johnson should have plenty of chances to improve on last year's production.

7. Justice Cunningham, Sr., South Carolina: He'll continue to have Rory Anderson playing on the other side of him, but Cunningham's a bigger, more experienced target in the Gamecocks' passing game and will likely get more looks this fall with Alshon Jeffery gone. He's a solid blocker and will even line up as a fullback in two-back sets.

8. Chase Clement, Sr., LSU: He's on the John Mackey watch list, but has just nine career catches, with seven coming last season as a backup. Clement will be used to block often, which is needed with a team that runs the ball as much as LSU does. And with an offense that's expected to be more pass-friendly, Clement could see the ball thrown his way more often.

9. Nehemiah Hicks, Jr., Texas A&M: The Aggies have three tight ends they can use in their offense, but Hicks might be the most gifted of the bunch. He started seven games last year and is coming off of shoulder surgery, but if he's healthy he'll be a nice looking target for whichever quarterback takes the field for A&M this fall.

10. Jamal Mosley, Sr., Ole Miss: While he only caught 12 passes last year, Mosley is expected to be used more often in Ole Miss' new spread offense. He's another one of those more athletic tight ends and should help the Rebels with their depth issues in the passing game.
Earlier, we ranked all 14 SEC wide receiver/tight end groups. We're splitting receivers and tight ends up just to make things a little more fun and to create a little more discussion.

Past rankings:
Here are our top 10 SEC wide receivers:

[+] EnlargeCobi Hamilton
Beth Hall/US PresswireCobi Hamilton should be among the top returning receivers in the SEC.
1. Cobi Hamilton, Sr., Arkansas: He's now the primary receiver in Fayetteville and might one of the most physically gifted receivers in the league. Hamilton, who is big, fast and moves well in space, developed some pretty good chemistry with quarterback Tyler Wilson this spring and should be on his way to his first 1,000-yard season.

2. Justin Hunter, Jr., Tennessee: Yes, his teammate was second in the league in receiving, but a healthy Hunter is arguably the league's best deep threat and he's incredibly athletic. He should be 100 percent this fall after tearing his ACL last year, and showed some pretty good flashes of being close to normal this spring. He has averaged 22.1 yards on just 33 career catches.

(Read full post)

Earlier, we ranked all 14 quarterback groups in the SEC. Now, it's time to rank the top 10 SEC quarterbacks heading into the 2012 season.

Again, we are looking at overall talent, game-changing ability and experience. We also looked at past performances and projections for 2012.

Here are our top 10 SEC quarterbacks:

[+] EnlargeTyler Wilson
AP Photo/David QuinnArkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson passed for more than 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns last season.
1. Tyler Wilson, Sr., Arkansas: He could have easily left for the NFL after passing for more than 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. His big-time arm and incredible toughness weren't too shabby either. While his decision-making came into question sometimes last season, Wilson made tremendous strides this spring and should be an even smarter passer this fall.

2. Aaron Murray, RJr., Georgia: Murray has a chance to own a few more school and SEC records before his time at Georgia is up, but he does have to get over his turnover issues. Murray has some of the best technique and mechanics around, and when he's on and focused, he is one of the most talented passers out there.

(Read full post)

100 Days Countdown: SEC

May, 22, 2012
5/22/12
12:06
PM ET
As part of "College Football Live's" 100 Days Till Kickoff countdown, we'll take a look at the top-10 players in the SEC heading into the 2012 season.

Keep in mind that these are the guys we project to be the 10 best college football players this coming season in the SEC and not necessarily the 10 best NFL draft prospects. There's a difference.

[+] EnlargeJarvis Jones
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIJarvis Jones started all 14 games last season and led the conference in tackles for loss and sacks.
What's more, a lot can (and will) change between now and November.

So let the second-guessing begin:

1. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: In his first season of action in the SEC after transferring from USC, Jones didn’t need much of a refresher course. He quickly emerged as the most dynamic big-play defender in the SEC and is one of those players who can take over a game. Just ask Florida. Much more than just a pass-rusher, Jones led the league with 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.

2. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: Wilson had shown in flashes what he was capable of while filling in for Ryan Mallett, but put an All-SEC season together last year in his first season as a starter. He passed for 3,638 yards and only threw six interceptions in 438 passing attempts. He’ll be even better his second time through the league.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

VIDEO PLAYLIST video

SEC SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 11/27
Friday, 11/28
Saturday, 11/29