Dillon Day to miss Texas A&M game

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
4:23
PM ET

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State offensive lineman Dillon Day has been suspended one game by the Southeastern Conference for "multiple flagrant and unsportsmanlike acts" during Saturday's 34-29 win over LSU.

The league announced the suspension on Tuesday.

Day was shown on camera stepping on LSU's Davon Godchaux and Rashard Robinson on separate plays. He was not penalized on either play.

The SEC's announcement also said the league took into account previous disciplinary action for similar behavior. Day was suspended for the first half of a game last season after stepping on an Auburn player.

Day posted a statement on Twitter Monday addressing the LSU incidents, saying he did not intentionally try to cause harm.

The team's starting center, Day will miss the 14th-ranked Bulldogs' game against No. 6 Texas A&M on Oct. 4.


(Read full post)


SEC West strong in AP top 25

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
3:35
PM ET


video

SEC Now hosts DariNowkhah and Maria Taylor break down the 6 SEC West teams in the AP top 25

LSU lines searching for consistency

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
2:00
PM ET
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU coach Les Miles and many of his players embraced their roles as good soldiers on Monday, accepting blame for individual failures that allowed Mississippi State to win 34-29 on Saturday at Tiger Stadium.

[+] EnlargeLeonard Fournette
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertLSU's O-line didn't open up much running room for Leonard Fournette against Mississippi State.
 There was plenty of blame to go around, from coverage breakdowns to missed tackles to dropped passes to quarterback misfires. But perhaps the most distressing problems the No. 17 Tigers (3-1) experienced came on the interiors of both lines, where they were simply not consistent enough. At times they were even manhandled by the Bulldogs’ physical fronts.

“Everybody has their times where they go through stuff,” said senior center Elliott Porter, whose group paved the way for LSU to rush for just 89 yards in 35 carries. “But we’re going through it [and] we’re going to get through it. We’ve just got to get our identity and once we get our identity, it’s going to be a good thing for this team.”

And what should that identity be?

“Just [like] the LSU offensive line that we had in the past, last year and years before: tough, hard-nosed, physical offensive linemen [who] finish blocks. Including myself,” Porter continued. “I believe we all have to improve with that. But I’m definitely putting it more on myself than the other guys. I’m the leader. I have to put it on myself more.”

Porter wasn’t the only blocker in need of improvement, however.

Miles said Ethan Pocic should start again at right guard against New Mexico State (2-2) on Saturday after taking a starting spot away from senior Fehoko Fanaika against Mississippi State. Left guard Vadal Alexander’s starting position might also be in jeopardy.

“We may look at a substitute that will go to the left side or to the right side at that guard spot,” Miles said.

Whatever personnel comprises the eventual starting lineup, it must play with far more consistency if LSU’s run-first philosophy will have any effectiveness against the better SEC defenses this season. LSU’s line struggled to get a consistent push at times even against its nonconference opponents, but talent eventually won out in those games.

The Tigers once again struggled to create running space against Mississippi State, and it was more costly this time -- in part because of poor communication, Porter said.

“The lines that we had in the past, including last year and the year before, we executed because we communicated better,” Porter said. “We have to communicate better. It will come. I have a lot of faith that it’s coming. It was there sometimes on Saturday night, but it wasn’t consistent enough.”

On the opposite side of the line, LSU struggled mightily in containing Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. That’s a tall order for any defense, but Prescott made the Tigers look awful at times, rolling up the highest yardage total -- 570 yards -- surrendered by an LSU defense since 2001.

Much of that production came on runs straight up the middle, with the Bulldogs generating 302 rushing yards and 9.1 yards per attempt on runs between the tackles according to ESPN Stats and Information. In LSU’s first three games, opponents averaged 54 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry on runs between the tackles.

Despite what the numbers say, Miles insisted that defensive tackle is not a weakness for his team, and sophomore Christian LaCouture agreed with his coach’s assessment.

 “I don’t see us as a weakness at all,” said LaCouture, who has started all four games at tackle. “We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the hard-working guys. We’ve just got to be on the same page as the defense, and we will. Looking at it, I don’t think we have any weaknesses on this football team. We’ve just got to make sure we play as one.”

Continuity along the defensive front won’t come any easier in the short term. Miles said Quentin Thomas, who started three of the first four games is “nicked” and could miss a week or two. Thomas left LSU’s football facility with his arm in a sling after Monday’s practice.

Meanwhile, redshirt freshmen Frank Herron, Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore -- all of whom seemed to be in line for bigger roles prior to the season -- have barely played. Asked about that group on Monday, Miles also mentioned converted end Lewis Neal as a player who could see more action.

“I do see some of those guys stepping forward even more in this game,” Miles said. “I can tell you that Lewis Neal came in and played late in that game and probably played six or eight snaps, made four tackles. There’s a guy that's going to play a lot of football, and he's just making his case. Some of those guys got onto the field in that game and made a case for more playing time, and that’s what we needed to have happen.”

That is certainly true, as what the Tigers didn’t accomplish much along either line against Mississippi State. New Mexico State does not represent a major threat, but the Tigers need to establish more consistent lineups with road trips to Auburn and Florida fast approaching.

“Somebody’s got to come up and play more,” LaCouture said. “Somebody’s got to step up, and I know they will. We’ve got some great guys back there, and I know they’ll step up to the challenge.”

Prescott's third-down magic key in win

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
12:00
PM ET
BATON ROUGE, La. -- At first glance, Mississippi State’s success rate on third down against LSU doesn’t appear to be anything special.

The Bulldogs were just 5-for-14 on third down Saturday night, a conversion rate that could easily result in defeat instead of the 24-point advantage they built at one point. But in the crucial part of Mississippi State’s 34-29 win at Tiger Stadium – their third-quarter run where they built that enormous lead – quarterback Dak Prescott & Co. ran circles around the Tigers’ defense.

In five third downs in the quarter, Mississippi State scored twice – on a 56-yard Prescott run and a 74-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Jameon Lewis – picked up two more first downs and totaled 154 yards. Only once did they fail to convert for at least a first down.

“I think there are a couple times that Dak improvised,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “I know Jameon’s touchdown, obviously [a] huge improvised play and that’s one of the things that Dak brings to the table.”

Prescott was responsible for a miscue early in the third quarter that allowed LSU to get back into a game the Bulldogs had dominated. On the first play of the quarter, LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander ripped the ball out of Prescott’s hands and defensive end Danielle Hunter recovered the loose ball and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown that cut State’s lead to 17-10.

But check out the damage Prescott did immediately afterward, particularly on third down:
  • On the ensuing drive, Prescott kept the Bulldogs’ possession alive with a 12-yard completion to De’Runnya Wilson on third-and-10. Shortly thereafter, Prescott scrambled for a 56-yard touchdown when the Bulldogs faced third-and-3 near midfield.
  • Mississippi State’s offense didn’t do much on the first two plays of its next drive, but Prescott then created some more third-down magic. LSU pass-rushers Dwayne Thomas and Hunter both had a shot at him, but Prescott escaped as the pocket collapsed and scrambled left to spot a wide-open Lewis near midfield. No Tigers defender laid a fingertip on the Bulldogs receiver as he sprinted 55 yards for a touchdown that pushed State’s lead to 31-10.
  • On State’s final drive of the quarter, LSU had the Bulldogs backed up to their own goal line. Facing third-and-9 from his own 2, Prescott ran for a 12-yard gain and another first down. The Bulldogs drove 88 yards in 14 plays, eventually settling for a 28-yard field goal that made it 34-10.

“You’re going to trust [Prescott]. You’re going to put the ball in his hands to make things happen in that moment in the game. And we did that for the whole game,” Mullen said. “When we needed a play, he stepped up and made the plays that we needed to make – and he did it with his arm and with his legs.”

As Mullen said, that ability to make something out of nothing is part of what makes Prescott special. The Heisman Trophy contender was impressive throughout Saturday’s win, passing for 268 yards and rushing for 105, but those third-down conversions were particularly important in helping Mississippi State put some distance between itself and LSU.

“He is their offense,” LSU safety Jalen Mills said of Prescott. “We knew going into the game that he could run and throw, but we had a couple of miscues on defense.”

And Prescott made the Tigers pay when those miscues occurred – particularly on third downs in the third quarter, when the Bulldogs averaged 30.8 yards per attempt and made the biggest plays that all but locked up the biggest win in Mullen’s tenure.
video
If you tilt your head ever so slightly toward the city of Birmingham, Alabama, you might be able to hear the light, yet almost sinister, cackle of Mike Slive, his fingertips rippling toward one another as the word "excellent" slithers through his teeth.

What has the SEC commissioner so happy? Well, just take a look at the most recent top 25 and all the chaos erupting around him in college football. The SEC leads all conferences with eight representatives in the top 25. Four of those teams are ranked inside the top 10: Alabama (three), Auburn (five), Texas A&M (six) and Ole Miss (10).

So can the SEC realistically get two teams into the College Football Playoff?

For now, that answer has to be yes. While the rest of the Power 5 conferences -- ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 -- have lost steam or suffered losses to start the year, the SEC is sitting very pretty in the national rankings. It also helps that five of the SEC's eight ranked teams are unbeaten.

That's not going to last, as all five of those teams, which are in the SEC Western Division, will face each other in a bloody round-robin in the coming weeks.

Hello, strength of schedule!

Oh, what's that? The SEC faced soft nonconference opponents to start the season? Well, not so fast, my SEC-hating friend. The league has a 5-2 record against nonconference Power 5 opponents and is 3-1 vs. the top 25.

  • Alabama beat West Virginia, which held tight with No. 4 Oklahoma on Saturday.
  • LSU roared back from a 24-7 deficit to beat Wisconsin.
  • Auburn went on the road to Kansas State and won with its passing game ... and maybe some knowledge of the Wildcats' signals.
  • Georgia thumped a Clemson team that took No. 1 Florida State -- sans Jameis Winston -- to overtime, thanks to Clemsoning to the max!*
  • Arkansas is still running over and through Texas Tech after a 49-28 drubbing of the Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas.
*Only true home win.

To put that in comparison with, oh, let's just say the Big Ten, the SEC is light years ahead. Through the first three weeks, the Big Ten went 23-13, including 1-10 against the Power 5 and 0-8 against the FPI Top 50.

[+] EnlargeGarrett
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsMyles Garrett (15) and the Aggies are just one of four SEC West teams in the AP Top 10.
The FPI (Football Power Index) measures team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team's performance going forward for the rest of the season. Its top four teams are in the SEC: Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn and Georgia.

With the exception of the Big 12, the other Power 5 conferences really haven't done themselves any favors. Florida State has survived two games it could have easily lost, while suspected darling Virginia Tech went from beating Ohio State in Week 2 to promptly losing to ECU and Georgia Tech. USC upset Stanford on the road then lost 37-31 to -- wait for it -- Boston College.

The SEC has received plenty of help from the other conferences, and I think it's very safe to assume the SEC champion is getting into the playoff, regardless, but here are some scenarios that could put two SEC teams in the playoff:

The wild, wild West
Before we go on, check out these notes provided by ESPN Stats & Information about the SEC West:

  • The SEC West is 22-0 outside the West, winning by an average of 34 points.
  • All seven West teams rank in the top 20 of the FPI, which is more teams than the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC combined.
  • Six West teams are ranked in the top 20 of the AP Poll. Arkansas isn't, but has won its last three games by 41.7 points per game.

Strength of schedule isn't going to be a problem for the West champ. For as tough as the West is, don't rule out an undefeated run or a one-loss run. We've seen it before ...

Let's just say an undefeated Alabama beats an undefeated Texas A&M close at home on Oct. 18. Alabama runs the table and wins the SEC. A&M runs the table afterward and sits in the top 10. Chances are that if A&M has just one loss, it has won some pretty good games, so you're looking at a potential top-five finish.

Alabama is in and with the other conferences in such disarray, it'd be tough to keep an A&M team out that would have (according to current rankings) five wins over ranked opponents.

Swap these two out for any West teams and it works, even Arkansas.

The LEast
The East isn't close to what its Western counterpart is this season, but that doesn't mean that an Eastern representative can't make it in. The easiest way is for the champ to win in Atlanta.

But look at Georgia for a possible two-team appearance. Let's say that South Carolina and Georgia run the table and South Carolina loses in Atlanta. Georgia, which lost only to South Carolina and is ahead of the Gamecocks in the polls, has a good shot at making it in with the West champ.

If both of these teams win out and South Carolina wins the SEC, I dare you to keep Georgia out.

Atlanta upset
You have an undefeated West champ upset by the East champ. The East champ is in, and after everything that West team did to make it through the gantlet, how do you keep that team out? Even if the East champ has two losses, I don't see how the committee could keep the West champ out based on body of work alone.

Hey, these are all hypotheticals, but they aren't impossible. The SEC got two teams into the BCS national title game in 2011 and almost got two in 2012.

Based on past BCS standings to determine a four-team playoff, the SEC would have gotten two teams in five times since 2005.

Don't count out the SEC.

SEC morning links

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
8:00
AM ET
1. The SEC is all over the Top 25 this week, but let's just come right out and say it -- there's no dominant team. Oh, a few of the West's best will have their chances to make a case, but right now there isn't a team without some warts. Take Texas A&M for instance. The Aggie offense with Kenny Trill pulling the trigger is a nightmare to game plan against. But A&M's defense is scary, too, and not in a good way. This unit was the worst in the SEC last season in total defense and run defense. Sure, the Aggies have improved since then. Maybe a lot. But who have they played for us to be sure? Aside from the season-opening ambush of South Carolina (a game in which the Gamecocks piled up 433 yards), A&M has played Lamar, Rice and SMU. Kevin Sumlin and Co. would be wise to not overlook the Razorbacks. Since their loss to Auburn in Week 1, the Hogs have averaged 58 points of offense in winning their last three. Their SEC-best rushing attack has the potential to give Texas A&M some nightmares as well.

2. Despite the roller coaster the Gamecocks have already been on in the season's first month of games (you can just see it on Steve Spurrier's face), it should be noted that South Carolina leads the SEC East. Does anybody want to win this division? Maybe we'll get an answer on Saturday when Missouri visits USC. Spurrier isn't sounding too confident after the way his team looked against what had been a dreadful Vanderbilt team. On the other hand, Mizzou is banged up. Starting left guard and fifth-year senior Anthony Gatti tore his ACL and MCL in the Tigers' loss to Indiana. And second-leading receiver Darius White will be out with a strained groin. This one isn't exactly shaping up to be the epic battle for East supremacy that some thought it could be a month ago.

3. ESPN's "College GameDay" is headed to Columbia, South Carolina. Not to be outdone, the other big game in the SEC East -- Tennessee at Georgia -- will be the site of the SEC Network's pregame show "SEC Nation". The Vols have something to prove and will hit the road with a much-improved defense. UT is sixth in the SEC in total defense, giving up 343 yards a game. That should give Tennessee some hope in preparing to face Georgia's star running back Todd Gurley and his SEC freshman of the week understudy, Sony Michel. The Bulldogs are also short-handed with Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley among the injured. The biggest challenge for Tennessee, however, is likely to come on the other side of the ball. Georgia has an intimidating pass rush, and the Vols O-line has given up an SEC-worst nine sacks already this seasons. Buckle up.

Around the SEC
  • LSU's stunning pratfall in Saturday's home loss to Mississippi State will prompt some changes. Most notably, the QB battle is back on.
  • Mississippi State center Dillon Day, accused of stomping on two LSU players, wrote a letter to Bulldogs fans to defend himself. Day has some history, though. He was suspended for a half last year after he stomped on an Auburn player.
  • File this under "Oh, they're friends now." Arkansas coach Bret Bielema to Gus Malzahn after Auburn's win at Kansas State: "Some of you may faint. I shot Gus a congrats text and just said, 'Hey I know how tough that place is. Congrats.' "
  • Will Muschamp has fallen off the hot seat and directly into the fire. Here are some ideas for fixing Florida.
Tweet of the day

LSU concerned by Dillon Day's stomp

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
3:08
PM ET

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Coach Les Miles said LSU's football staff has already submitted to the SEC office its concerns over Mississippi State center Dillon Day stomping two Tigers players in Saturday night's game.

"That's already in the works," Miles said at his Monday press luncheon. "I think not only did TV catch that, but that was something that we caught and that we sent in and certainly the conference will do the right thing."

TV cameras caught Day jumping on LSU defensive lineman Davon Godchaux's stomach after a Dak Prescott run, and then later stomping on cornerback Rashard Robinson's leg at the end of a play.

Day also drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty late in the third quarter for a hit well after the whistle.

Mississippi State's senior center was suspended for the first half of last season's game against Troy for stomping on an Auburn player, with Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen saying after the Troy game, "I didn't think that [Day's personal foul] represented what our football program was all about."

Day took to Twitter to defend himself and apologized that it was perceived that he was trying to injure LSU players.


(Read full post)


What now at quarterback for LSU?

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
1:00
PM ET
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Just like that, LSU has a quarterback question on its hands once again.

This was bound to happen eventually, once talented true freshman Brandon Harris gained full command of the Tigers’ offensive scheme. It’s happening now, sooner than Les Miles’ coaching staff might have anticipated, after what happened on the field in Saturday night’s 34-29 loss to Mississippi State.

Sophomore starter Anthony Jennings struggled to do much of anything with the offense for three-plus quarters. Then he left the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury after taking a huge hit at the LSU goal line. Then Harris came on and breathed some life into the Tigers’ offense, nearly sparking a miraculous comeback win.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Harris
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertBrandon Harris provided the LSU offense with a spark against the Bulldogs, completing 6-of-9 passes for 140 yards and two TDs.
“He played real great when he came in,” LSU receiver Travin Dural said. “He came in off the sideline without warming up and threw three, four great passes, made a great run and put us back in this game.”

To be clear, Jennings does not deserve all (or maybe even most) of the blame for LSU’s stagnant offense on Saturday. The Tigers had been a run-heavy team that took occasional shots downfield through the first three games, but Mississippi State’s stout defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage on Saturday.

Outside of a 20-yard Leonard Fournette run early in the second quarter, the Tigers had just one run that covered at least 10 yards and that was on a Harris scramble on the game’s final drive. They averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, which simply wouldn’t cut it when Mississippi State’s offense was carving up LSU’s defense so efficiently. And for the most part, the Bulldogs also took away the downfield throws that had made LSU’s passing game dangerous at times.

Miles said ineffective offensive line play contributed to both issues.

“The protection is something that makes every quarterback struggle,” Miles said. “If you’ve got somebody running in your face, it’s an issue. So for me to say that [playing Harris earlier would] have been any different at that point, I’m not ready to say that.”

This was the kind of game where LSU needed a quarterback who could stretch the field in order to take some pressure off the run, and it was evident that Jennings’ passing skills did not scare Mississippi State’s defense enough to back them out of the box. Harris, however ...

That’s the dilemma here, and let’s do our best not to overreact to what LSU’s offense did late against a Bulldogs team that obviously took its foot off the gas pedal too early. Harris was phenomenal in three possessions, finishing 6-for-9 for 140 yards and two touchdowns, but the pressure was largely off once he entered the game. Playing against State’s starters would have made life tough for Harris, too.

We also can’t overlook that LSU’s offense looked potent for the first time once Harris entered the lineup.

“His performance certainly, in the limited pieces that we asked him to perform, was very positive,” Miles said. “We’re not going to also downplay what was really great throws, the ability to move his feet and those things. That we see. We’re going to make the correct decision, and he made a case for himself today. And we enjoyed the productivity that he gave us.”

Nonetheless, maybe Saturday’s game against New Mexico State is the perfect time to see what the freshman is made of. It remains to be seen how serious Jennings' injury was -- Miles said Jennings was "nicked up" and not available to re-enter the game late once LSU closed the gap -- so the freshman might play more on Saturday out of necessity. But either way, maybe it’s time to start getting Harris valuable game reps.

Playing Jennings makes sense if LSU's coaches believe that their strategy in the first several games -- playing it close to the vest on offense and letting the defense control the game -- will help the Tigers remain in contention in the SEC West. Jennings probably suits that philosophy better than Harris. But Saturday night’s results revealed that might not be an effective strategy against the caliber of opponents that remain on LSU’s schedule.

The Tigers are going to need to score. A lot. As a raw talent, Harris might be more prone to mistakes, but he’s also more likely to make a defensive coordinator think twice about crowding the line of scrimmage. And if he’s LSU’s quarterback of the future (since nearly everyone seems to agree that he is) LSU might as well let Harris start proving whether he can handle the job.

Miles' coaching staff probably wouldn’t publicly admit to thinking beyond this season, especially since the Tigers have played only four games. That’s understandable. The question they must consider this week, and each week moving forward, is whether making Harris their starting quarterback would better prepare the Tigers to win right now as well as in the future.

SEC morning links

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
8:00
AM ET
1. Missouri is still reeling from its surprising home loss to Indiana, a middling Big Ten team. Let that sink in for a minute. The Tigers were favored by 14 or 15 points in most spreads. And lost. For a team that was starting to look like a strong contender in the East Division, it was a shocking upset. Mizzou's worst loss in years. There is no panacea on the horizon. Up next is a road trip to South Carolina, which has ongoing problems of its own after barely escaping Nashville with a win against the Dores. As one would expect, Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier threw around some choice adjectives. The word embarrassing came up a lot. After giving up two kickoff returns for touchdowns, Spurrier announced on Sunday that he will be the Gamecocks' new assistant kickoff coverage coach. That oughta fix it. College GameDay will be in Columbia, S.C., this weekend, which prompted yet more Spurrier being Spurrier:

.

2. There wasn't much to learn about Georgia in its 66-0 win against Troy. Or was there? We already knew Todd Gurley was one of the nation's finest players. He hardly broke a sweat on Saturday with six carries for 73 yards, but Georgia hasn't had to overwork Gurley, and still his 9.8 yards per carry leads the FBS. We knew the Bulldogs had some talented youngsters, but who knew true freshmen Sony Michel and Isaiah McKenzie were ready to completely overshadow another injury to former five-star running back Keith Marshall? It seems the only question surrounding Georgia is wither the passing game, fellas? Georgia welcomes Tennessee this weekend along with the chance to see if Hutson Mason needs to do anything other than hand off. For their part, the Vols enjoyed a perfectly timed bye week after three nonconference games and can now go about the business of clawing their way back to SEC relevance.

3. That sound of laughter you're hearing off in the distance? It's Lane Kiffin basking in the afterglow of Alabama's 42-21 smackdown of the Gators. His offense so thoroughly dominated Florida's defense, the Gators set a record for the most yards allowed in school history. Dating to his time as head coach at Tennessee, that kind of performance against the hated Gators was something Kiffin could only dream about. On Saturday, his quarterback threw for 445 yards -- second only to Scott Hunter's 484 in Alabama history -- and his money wide receiver was the clear winner in a much-anticipated matchup with one of the best cover cornerbacks in college football. Today, receiver Amari Cooper is a legitimate Heisman candidate. We suspected he might be the best wideout in the country, but there is now a totally different perception of quarterback Blake Sims (who deflected some of the praise to Kiffin, by the way). If Alabama's offense can keep up this kind of balance and ruthless efficiency, the only sound we'll be hearing will be the chattering teeth of defensive coordinators.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

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Early Offer: Tough times ahead for UF? 

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
10:45
PM ET
Recruiting in the SEC is already difficult, but the difficulty in Gainesville is about to be ratcheted up even more as rival recruiters are already pressuring Florida recruits to reconsider. Plus, it was clear Saturday night that Oregon needs help on the offensive line, but the good news is that help is on the way.

SEC bowl projections: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
8:00
PM ET
Alabama reinforced its position as a College Football Playoff contender by obliterating Florida on Saturday, while Mississippi State and Georgia also jumped in this week’s SEC bowl projections.

We’re also adding a 12th team -- Arkansas -- to the list after the Razorbacks crushed Northern Illinois to improve to 3-1. Arkansas has an awfully difficult schedule down the stretch, but we will give Bret Bielema's club the benefit of the doubt for now and project it to reach at least six wins.

Here is our full SEC list entering the fifth week of the season:

College Football Playoff semifinal (Rose Bowl): Alabama
Orange Bowl: Texas A&M
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Auburn
Capital One Bowl: Georgia
TaxSlayer Bowl: South Carolina
Outback Bowl: Mississippi State
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Ole Miss
Belk Bowl: Missouri
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Tennessee
Birmingham Bowl: Arkansas
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Florida

SEC Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
2:00
PM ET
It was a wild week in the SEC. Mississippi State dominated in Death Valley and then had to hold on as Les Miles and LSU tried to cook up another miracle. Alabama shook off some sloppy play early to outclass Florida in Tuscaloosa. And Missouri suffered a shocking home loss to an Indiana team coming off a loss to Bowling Green.

Edward Aschoff, Jeff Barlis, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.

Drawing conclusions from Week 4

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
10:02
AM ET

Week 4: Oregon vs. Washington StateChris Morris for ESPN

Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.

Mississippi State 34, No. 8 LSU 29

Louisiana native Dak Prescott passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 105 and a TD at Tiger Stadium as the Bulldogs snapped a 14-game losing streak to LSU.


No. 1 Florida State 23, No. 22 Clemson 17 (OT)

Jameis Winston, suspended for the game after making "offensive and vulgar" comments earlier this week on campus, was reduced to cheerleader as Karlos Williams scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to rally Florida State past Clemson in overtime.


No. 2 Oregon 38, Washington State 31

Marcus Mariota threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 58 net yards despite being sacked seven times as the Ducks scraped by the Cougars 38-31.


(Read full post)


LSU freshman tracker

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
10:00
AM ET
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Saturday’s 34-29 loss to Mississippi State was a night many LSU players probably want to forget, but it was the biggest game yet for one of the Tigers’ key freshmen.

Quarterback Brandon Harris “made a case for himself” according to LSU coach Les Miles by leading the Tigers back from a huge deficit to nearly earn an amazing comeback victory. Suddenly a quarterback battle that seemed to have settled looks wide open again.

Here’s a recap of how Harris and some of the Tigers’ other true freshmen fared on Saturday:

WR MALACHI DUPRE
What he did: Dupre played more than he had in any game to date and notched his first 100-yard outing with four catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter alone, he notched scoring catches of 31 and 30 yards.

What it means: This is what LSU fans expected when Dupre, the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver prospect for 2014, signed with the Tigers in February. He got off to a somewhat slow start, but Dupre formed a solid one-two punch with Travin Dural (six catches, 124 yards) on Saturday. It was the 13th time in LSU history that two receivers enjoyed 100-yard outings.

RB LEONARD FOURNETTE
What he did: Fournette ran seven times for 38 yards in the first half, but didn’t get a carry in the second half once the Tigers fell far behind. He finished with 99 all-purpose yards (38 rushing, 60 on three kickoff returns and 1 on one reception).

What it means: Nobody on LSU’s offense did much in the running game -- the Tigers finished with just 89 yards on 36 carries -- so we can’t read too much into Fournette’s numbers. He had the Tigers’ longest run of the night, a 20-yard burst in the second quarter, but LSU mostly abandoned the run out of necessity once State went up by multiple scores.

QB BRANDON HARRIS
What he did: The game was all but over when Harris replaced Anthony Jennings, but he was highly impressive in his three series under center. Harris finished 6-for-9 for 140 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran twice for 19 yards.

What it means: LSU trailed 34-16 when Harris entered the game with just 3:43 to play. That he was attempting to throw a game-winning touchdown pass on the final play was nothing short of remarkable. Harris led a 95-yard touchdown drive, a 30-yard touchdown drive and had the Tigers in position for a last-gasp shot at the end zone. He earned a shot at more playing time, if not a start next Saturday, by sparking an unbelievable rally.

RB DARREL WILLIAMS
What he did: Williams didn’t play much before the final quarter, but he had a hand in the late comeback, as well. He caught Harris passes of 13 and 25 yards on LSU’s 95-yard touchdown drive that cut Mississippi State’s lead to 34-22.

What it means: It looked like garbage-time production when Williams caught those passes, although they obviously turned out to be more important when the Tigers strung together a couple of late scores. Williams also got a couple of short-yardage runs, totaling 4 yards, but he mostly played a minor role in the backfield on Saturday.
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