Aggies could make big splash Saturday
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He’s coached a few in his two decades as a defensive coordinator in the SEC, both at LSU and Tennessee.
Chavis knew back in the offseason that it was going to be a work in progress with this group, and that some choppy waters were ahead. But seeing his defense shredded the way it was for eight quarters starting with the second half of the Auburn game, extending through the entire Georgia fiasco and then the first half of the Mississippi State game, was nauseating.
“It was difficult, but I always say, ‘We’re going to live in our hopes, not our fears,” Chavis said.
Those hopes have been rekindled thanks to the promise the No. 6 Tigers have shown defensively in their last six quarters of play. And just like that -- with some youngsters growing up in the secondary, some depth developing up front and Chavis making a few tweaks with his combinations -- LSU heads to Ole Miss on Saturday riding the kind of defensive momentum that has been a staple of this program since Chavis took over the defensive reins in 2009.
“But we can’t think that we’ve arrived,” Chavis said.
He’s been around this league long enough to know that it can change in a flash.
He’s also been around long enough to know that playing rock-solid defense and winning championships go hand-in-hand.
Granted, this hasn’t been your typical year in the SEC with so many veteran quarterbacks playing at a high level and 10 of the 14 teams in the league averaging more than 30 points per game.
But somewhere along the way, it always gets down to making key stops at key moments.
The Tigers look a lot more equipped to do that on a consistent basis as they plunge into the second half of the season. They’re coming off their most complete defensive performance of the season in a 17-6 win over Florida and have now gone six straight quarters without allowing a touchdown.
“I feel like the intensity level now is something that it hasn’t been all season, and all 11 guys are on the same page,” junior defensive tackle Ego Ferguson said. “When we’re there, it’s a special unit.”
The 44-41 loss to Georgia was undoubtedly the low point. The Bulldogs had receivers running free all game, and the Tigers just looked out of sorts defensively. They then went out the next week and gave up 23 points in the first half to Mississippi State.
“We just weren’t playing to our potential,” Ferguson said.
They also weren’t playing as many players, particularly up front. So Chavis made it a point to beef up the rotation in the defensive line, and also made some changes in the secondary.
Sophomore Jalen Mills has moved to the nickel position, which has given the Tigers more flexibility on passing downs. True freshmen Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson are now the two cornerbacks outside when Mills moves inside to the nickel, and sophomore Corey Thompson has started at safety the last two games.
Chavis said following the win over Florida that it was the best the Tigers had played at safety all season, and getting back a healthy Craig Loston was also a big part of that.
Robinson probably would have played even more earlier in the season had he not missed preseason camp while waiting to be cleared academically. He has the skill set to be the next great LSU cornerback.
And LSU coach Les Miles really likes what he sees athletically from this defense.
“I think our defense has always been a confident unit,” Miles said. “They just needed to get some things in place. This will be a team that athletically will eventually be one of the more talented defenses that we’ve had.”
Chavis, whose raw emotion is one of the things that endears him to his players, didn’t hold back last week when challenging them to get back to playing LSU football.
This is a team that had finished in the top 12 nationally in total defense and scoring defense each of the last three seasons but gave up 962 yards and 70 points in that two-week stretch leading up to the Florida game.
“Guys are really playing with the attitude and swagger that’s been played here in past years,” Collins said. “Guys are really stepping up and playing their role. We always preach that we haven’t played our best game yet.”
Judging from the way the Tigers have played on defense the last six quarters, they might be just getting started.
- He was asked time and time again this week whether his undefeated, top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide would overlook unranked Arkansas at home. Well Nick Saban answered definitively in the negative last night.
- Auburn cornerback Chris Davis sees Saturday's game against the Aggies as a challenge. He already thinks of himself as one of the best defenders in the SEC and he knows Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans is one of the best at his position in the conference, too.
- Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long steps into a prestigious position leading the College Football Playoff as its committee chairman.
- Tennessee has had its ups and downs this season, but its starting tailback Rajion Neal has continued to improve.
- Why star rapper Wale was on Ole Miss' campus is still something of a mystery. But he was there and Hugh Freeze got to talk about it.
- Normally stout against the run, Florida got gashed up the middle by LSU and Jeremy Hill.
- How healthy is LSU at this point? Considering it's been seven weeks, Les Miles says the Tigers are in a good place.
- What's the sound? That's opportunity knocking for Missouri's Maty Mauk.
2. Record watch in Nashville: In Saturday's Georgia-Vanderbilt game, a handful of SEC career records could fall. With 112 career touchdown passes, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is just two behind Danny Wuerffel's SEC career record. And with 12,203 career yards of total offense, Murray needs 29 yards to match Tim Tebow's SEC mark. On the other sideline, Vandy's Jordan Matthews needs 97 receiving yards to match Terrence Edwards' SEC career record of 3,093 yards. Matthews had 119 receiving yards against the Bulldogs last season.
3. Gators running game: With the news this week that running back Matt Jones became the seventh Florida player to suffer a season-ending injury, the Gators' running game is now largely in the hands of Mack Brown and freshman Kelvin Taylor. Brown has been solid enough thus far, rushing for a team-high 340 yards. But Taylor is the guy many Gators fans are excited about. The son of UF great Fred Taylor, Kelvin Taylor has rushed 16 times for 98 yards (6.1 per carry), including 10 carries for 52 yards in last week's slugfest against LSU. Missouri's run defense ranks third in the SEC at 126.2 YPG, but Georgia freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas ran for 157 yards and averaged 6 yards per carry against the Tigers' last week. The Gators probably need Brown and Taylor to be similarly productive in order to hang with the Tigers' prolific offense.
4. Marshall back for Auburn: After sitting out last week's blowout win against Western Carolina with a knee injury, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall returns to the lineup this week against Texas A&M. Marshall rushed for 140 yards -- the most by an SEC quarterback this season -- in his last game, the Tigers' 30-22 win on Oct. 5 against then-No. 24 Ole Miss. He led the resurgent Tigers to a 4-1 record before taking a seat last week while true freshman Jeremy Johnson played for the first time -- and won SEC Freshman of the Week honors -- against the overmatched Catamounts.
5. Can Georgia recover? With half a dozen starters sidelined last week against Missouri, Georgia lost its first home game since September 2011. Now the Bulldogs limp to Vanderbilt, where they have struggled in two of their last three visits before earning narrow wins. UGA hopes to reach next week's open date with its SEC East hopes still intact. All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley likely still won't play this week, so the Bulldogs' offense must hope Murray, freshman tailbacks Green and Douglas and their crew of replacement wideouts can generate enough offense to outscore the slumping Commodores.
6. Vols back from open date: The last time we saw Tennessee, it came within an eyelash of upsetting then-No. 6 Georgia in overtime. First-year coach Butch Jones' team took last weekend off and now has another enormous test on its hands: a visit from No. 11 South Carolina, which finally seems to be hitting its stride after some early struggles. Volunteers fans are optimistic about the new coaching staff, but their team hasn't beaten a ranked opponent in its last 19 tries. Their next four opponents are all ranked in this week's AP Top 25.
8. Maintaining historic run: The SEC set a record when Auburn jumped into this week's AP Top 25, giving the conference eight ranked teams. But that historic total might be short-lived. At No. 24, Auburn will likely drop out if it loses on Saturday at No. 7 Texas A&M. No. 15 Georgia and No. 22 Florida also can't afford a loss if they want to remain in the poll next week.
9. Repeat performance for Aggies? Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense gained 671 total yards, the most ever allowed by an Auburn defense, in last season's 63-21 win against the Tigers. Those 63 points also represented the third-most points ever scored against the Tigers. If that wasn't the last straw for then-coach Gene Chizik and his staff, it was awfully close. New coach Gus Malzahn has instilled new optimism on the Plains. The Tigers are a ranked team for the first time since November 2011, but the Aggies are still a two-touchdown favorite.
10. Rebs on the ropes: Ole Miss was one of the feel-good stories of the season just a few weeks ago, with the Rebels' Sept. 14 win helping them jump to No. 21 in the polls. But entering Saturday's home game against LSU, Hugh Freeze's club has lost three straight games: a shutout loss to top-ranked Alabama followed by narrow losses to Auburn and Texas A&M. LSU has won nine of the last 11 against the Rebels, although three of the last four have been decided by a touchdown or less. Keep your eyes on Oxford on Saturday night. This game often has a way of remaining surprisingly competitive.
You know, the hammer-and-nail analogy that set Miles off on one of those tirades that makes the Mad Hatter, well, the Mad Hatter.
I won’t go there this week as we look ahead to our SEC picks, but I do believe that my young (and sharply dressed) colleague, Edward Aschoff, would agree that I’m the hammer right now and he’s the nail.
It’s not a matter of “if” I’m going to pass him but “when.”
He’s still one game ahead of me, but waffles a little more each week on his picks. We both went 6-1 last week. He missed South Carolina’s 52-7 win over Arkansas, and I missed Missouri’s 41-26 win over Georgia.
For the season, Edward is 59-6 (.908), and I’m 58-7 (.892).
The second half of the season is where you make your money in the picks business, and I plan on hammering away these next few weeks.
Here are our picks for Week 8:
ARKANSAS at ALABAMA
Chris Low: This stretch of games looked ominous enough for Arkansas back in September. It looks even worse now with Saturday’s trip to Alabama looming on the heels of four straight losses. The Crimson Tide are starting to hit their stride defensively, which means simply getting into the end zone might be a chore for the Hogs. … Alabama 41, Arkansas 6
Edward Aschoff: Last year, the Crimson Tide walked into Fayetteville and blanked the Hogs 52-0. With how well Alabama is playing and how much the Razorbacks are struggling, you could see a similar result in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. … Alabama 45, Arkansas 7
GEORGIA at VANDERBILT
Low: The Dawgs are preparing to play without Todd Gurley for the third straight week, and boy, do they need him. They also need the defense to hold Vandy under 30 points. It won’t be easy, but they’ll climb on Aaron Murray's shoulders (again) and head into the bye week with a very important win. … Georgia 35, Vanderbilt 28
Aschoff: Let's hope there aren't any unnecessary shouting matches between coaches this time. Both of these teams are limping into this matchup, and if Georgia wants a shot at making it back to Atlanta, the Dawgs have to win this one. With Aaron Murray at the helm, Georgia pulls this one out. ... Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 24
SOUTH CAROLINA at TENNESSEE
Low: The Gamecocks hadn’t been able to finish anybody until last week when they clobbered Arkansas on the road. They go back on the road this week and are playing as well as they ever have offensively under Steve Spurrier. The Vols won’t be able to score enough points to keep up in this game. … South Carolina 34, Tennessee 21
Aschoff: And just like that, South Carolina is a real contender in the SEC East again. Tennessee should have some sort of momentum to feed off of after a close loss to Georgia, but the Gamecocks just have too much talent on both sides of the ball. ... South Carolina 34, Tennessee 20
AUBURN at TEXAS A&M
Low: The good news for the Aggies is that they have Johnny Manziel, who’s pretty much been unstoppable. The bad news is that the Aggies haven’t been able to stop anybody on defense. But they’ll find a way to win another shootout, this one at home against the Tigers. … Texas A&M 42, Auburn 30
Aschoff: Expect a lot of points down in College Station when these two get together. Manziel continues to be the country's best and most exciting player, but Auburn has become a really fun team to watch. I'm not sure this Auburn team has the horses to keep up with Johnny Football at Kyle Field. ... Texas A&M 45, Auburn 31
LSU at OLE MISS
Low: The Rebels are hurting physically and emotionally after a bitter, last-second loss to Texas A&M at home last week. Now, they have to face an LSU offense that’s equally explosive, and the Tigers are playing as well as anybody right now in the SEC. … LSU 38, Ole Miss 28
Aschoff: The Rebels have now lost three straight and LSU is coming off a solid defensive performance. These games are always close, so expect some wackiness. Ole Miss needed to get a win during this treacherous stretch, but LSU is playing too well right now and Jeremy Hill will have a field day in the Grove. ... LSU 38, Ole Miss 30
FLORIDA at MISSOURI
Low: Losing starting quarterback James Franklin last week was a tough blow for Missouri, but the Tigers are confident that Maty Mauk can step in and keep them in the East race. Florida’s defense is no picnic, but the Gators have also been decimated by injuries. They just haven’t shown enough offensively to win a game like this on the road. … Missouri 24, Florida 17
Aschoff: These Tigers have one of the hottest offenses in the country, while Florida's offense sputtered at LSU last week. However, Mizzou has been bitten by the injury bug making its rounds in the SEC East, with Franklin out. Florida still owns the SEC's best defense, and the Gators will find a way to make Mauk uncomfortable and force much-needed turnovers to help the offense. ... Florida 21, Missouri 17
Still, Les Miles remained confident in his defense, and they responded this past weekend against Florida. They held the Gators to just 240 total yards and six points.
“I think our defense is improving,” Miles said. “I think they’re working at it every day. I think they’re realizing that they need to take care of their responsibilities, and they got 10 other guys beside them that can really play. That’s how defense has always been played best.
“I think last week allowed them that opportunity to go to the field, do the things we’ve asked them to do and have success.”
The LSU defense will face a much more difficult challenge this weekend when they visit Ole Miss for an SEC West showdown.
Last year, LSU barely escaped against Ole Miss, winning 41-35 in the final seconds, but the Rebels still racked up 463 yards of offense. Quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 54 yards and two scores. It will be up to this Tiger defense to contain Wallace and prove that last week wasn’t a fluke.
What LSU needs to do to win: If the first half of the season is any indication, LSU should have no trouble putting points on the board. They were slowed down last weekend against a stingy Florida defense, but Zach Mettenberger is still playing at a high level. When he has weapons around him like Jeremy Hill, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, it’s a safe bet that they bounce back on Saturday. However, LSU’s ‘improved’ defense still has to stop Ole Miss. If it turns into another shootout like last year, it could come down to who has the ball last.
Players to watch
FB J.C. Copeland: It’s no secret why Hill is averaging 9.2 yards per carry on runs inside the tackles, the highest by any SEC running back this season. He’s running behind Copeland, the league’s top fullback. Against Florida, Copeland finished with a season-high five carries for 20 yards and scored his third touchdown of the year.
DE Jordan Allen: Both Alabama and Auburn showed that if you get pressure on Wallace, he can get rattled. The only problem is LSU hasn’t been able to generate much of a pass rush this season. They lost top defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, and Allen hasn’t stepped up like they thought. This would be an ideal time for a breakout game.
“We go into Tiger Stadium and have never been disappointed, period. It’s as live a venue as there is, and we’re happy about it. But it did appear that some of our faithful stayed out of the heat and kind of stayed in the air-conditioning at the beginning of the game.” -- Les Miles on the attendance at the Florida game
Oregon State coach Mike Riley has more than 18,900 followers and is great communicating with fans on Twitter. So it was no surprise to see him launch a campaign Tuesday called “Tweet Film Tuesday” where he asked recruits to send him links to their film, and he and his staffers will then select 10 recruits to evaluate each week. With only 140 characters to work with, Riley didn’t explain how he and his assistants would pick the 10 recruits to evaluate, but the idea is ingenious. Not only does it help Riley and the Beaver coaches communicate with prospects in a way they’re already familiar with, it also allows the OSU coaches to find prospects they might not have been familiar with who are truly interested in the program. Also with Riley’s track record of uncovering hidden talent, you can all but guarantee there will be a story a few years down the road where the Beavers found a sleeper through this approach.
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Halfway through the 2013 season, sophomores Texas A&M and Missouri have just one loss between them, proving that bigger does mean better in the competitive Southeastern Conference.
When the Aggies and Tigers began SEC play a season ago, few doubted the addition of the two schools would bring more television viewers to the league's games from Texas and Midwest. Still, there were questions about whether adding a pair of Big 12 teams would dilute the quality on the field in the mighty SEC, winner of seven straight football national titles.
"It made our league better," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
The top class in the SEC is also the top class in the nation. Alabama leads a conference where 13 of the 14 members have classes ranked in the top 40 nationally. Tennessee, which recently added a verbal from in-state ESPN 300 DE Derek Barnett, joins Georgia in the top five of the national rankings. Those two are second and third in the SEC. As a conference, the SEC has more than 80 ESPN 300 prospects committed to its member programs.
1. Alabama, 21 commits: The Crimson Tide sit atop the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that features 15 ESPN 300 prospects, including most recent commitment Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera), the No. 96 overall prospect. Alabama remains in the hunt for several five-star prospects, including No. 1 overall Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine) and No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover).
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- ESPN's Mark May and Lou Holtz debated whether Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was the most valuable player in college football this past weekend. What was McCarron's response? Pretty much what you'd expect: "It's an honor but I'd be the first one to tell you I'm nothing without these guys."
- Nick Marshall will start at quarterback for Auburn against Texas A&M this weekend, but Jeremy Johnson is supposed to play too. It will be interesting to see how he's used. As coach Gus Malzahn put it, "We don't want to give all our secrets away."
- Arkansas is standing by its struggling quarterback with a road trip to Alabama coming this Saturday. Brandon Allen hasn't played well of late, but coach Bret Bielema insists, "There's no doubt in my mind that he gives us the best option, 100 percent."
- Steve Spurrier did what any good coach should when he stood up and vouched for his quarterback. South Carolina's Connor Shaw isn't viewed as an NFL prospect, but Spurrier believes he should be.
- "How does he exert control on me?" Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease responded when asked whether coach Will Muschamp, a defensive guy at heart, was handcuffing his play-calling. After struggling offensively, it's easy to see why people are trying to connect the dots as to why.
- A roster decimated by injuries has left Ole Miss with few options.
- "It's really not anything magical," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham explained. There are reasons why the defense has struggled, but it all comes down to execution.
- Texas A&M senior wide receiver Travis Labhart took the long road to College Station. When teammates kidded him about acting like he'd been in the endzone before, his response was classic: "And I was just like 'I haven't.' Not in five years."
- It's easy to look at Johnny Manziel and the wealth of talent in College Station and ask how much coach Kevin Sumlin really has to do with Texas A&M success. When answering that question, though, you come to the conclusion that he's an elite coach.
- Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson is ready for his rematch with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.
- The circumstances are irrelevant. The fact that there were any empty seats in Tigers Stadium when Florida came to town reflected poorly on LSU football.
- In following Missouri's blueprint, Vanderbilt hopes to turn up the pressure on Georgia and quarterback Aaron Murray.
- As reports of his injury status circulated Saturday, Missouri quarterback James Franklin was totally in the dark. His phone dead, he focused solely on what would come next. While he heals, he says he's looking to help Maty Mauk under center.
Senior wide receiver Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) was presented his honorary game jersey during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game at John Curtis Christian High School in River Ridge, La. Tuesday. The event was part of the three-month selection tour for the Under Armour All-America Game.
Dupre, a three-sport star at John Curtis, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh annual Under Armour All-America Game, a nationally televised all-star game spotlighting the country’s top high school seniors. The 2014 Under Armour All-America Game is set for 4 p.m. ET Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.
“I want to thank all of y’all for supporting me today,” Dupre said. “Just thank you Under Armour for the opportunity to play in this game. I know there are so many high school players in the country that work hard, but being selected to play in this game is a huge honor and I’m appreciative for it. I’m blessed, and thank you Coach J.T. [Curtis] for teaching me so many life lessons and things.”
For Dupre, the road to be an Under Armour all-star selection wasn’t an easy one.
"It’s wasn’t the best road…I wasn’t the best player in football, basketball or track,” Dupre said. “I always could jump, I always was pretty fast and athletic, but I never had skills. I probably started developing skills my freshman or sophomore year. I know a lot of it is God just blessed with me the talents because I just grew so much.”
The nation’s top-ranked wide receiver is looking forward to measuring himself against the best prospects in his class in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
“I'm ready to compete and have fun with the guys during game week,” Dupre said. “The Under Armour All-American game is going to be the measuring stick for everyone going to play college football next year, because we're the best guys in the country right now."
Along with being the top wide receiver, the 6-foot-3, 187-pound Dupre is the No. 26 ranked prospect overall. He is considering LSU, UCLA, Alabama, Florida State, and others.
Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.
It's no secret that Southeastern Conference has been the top conference in the country as far as recruiting over the last several years. The league currently has six teams ranked in the top 11 of the team recruiting rankings. Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters around the ultra-competitive conference.
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But the view? Maybe not so much. As a reporter, I've avoided buying binoculars for years. Those who know me would say "frugal" is too kind of a descriptor for my thriftiness. But if I covered that game, I might have to finally give in and purchase a pair to see the field.
- Speaking of football games at race tracks, don't expect to see either Auburn or Alabama at Talladega.
- Bret Bielema's message to his team after losing to South Carolina: Snap out of it.
- LSU is right in the thick of the title hunt, but the Tigers are still looking for a truly complete game.
- Hugh Freeze's animated response to a heckling fan after Saturday's loss to Texas A&M gained some traction over the weekend. On Monday, the Ole Miss' head coach addressed the matter and thankfully Parrish Alford transcribed it for us so we can all read what was a nearly pitch-perfect response, in this humble writer's estimation.
- South Carolina cornerback Victor Hampton was out to prove his doubters wrong this past weekend. Against Arkansas, he did just that.
- Everything about James Franklin's injury at Georgia looked bad. What it meant for Missouri's title hopes looked even worse. But there may be a glimmer of hope as the quarterback's injury prognosis may be better than originally feared.
- Johnny Manziel is Rick Gosselin's front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy, but someone else is ahead of Texas A&M's star quarterback.
- At many schools in the SEC, there's a clamor among fans to see the next man up, the next big thing. Well, Florida fans are getting their wish at a cost now that Matt Jones is out for the season. With a staggering seven season-ending injuries, the Gators are getting used to it.
- An uptempo pace -- and an athletic quarterback -- have helped Mississippi State's offense.
- The bye week comes at the perfect time for Kentucky as coach Mark Stoops looks for his team to recuperate and refocus after a poor performance against Alabama.
- Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has stayed relatively mum about his struggling defense. Seth Emerson writes -- and provides some much needed perspective -- with what Grantham should be saying.
- It took a few more weeks than it probably should have, but LSU is finally getting the message about playing team defense.
The East looks more like a medical ward these days. However, no one will feel sorry for these teams as they attempt to limp into Atlanta for the SEC championship game in December.
Here's to a photo finish in the SEC East!
As for the West, three teams are still vying for that spot in Atlanta. Alabama remains the nation's top team, but LSU and Texas A&M are creeping up. The Crimson Tide control their own destiny, and their showdown with LSU on Nov. 9 will serve as one last major hurdle before they travel to Auburn for the regular-season finale.
LSU plays host to A&M in a game that could decide the West if the Tigers upset Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
We'll also be on bowl watch. It might be safe to say that the eight SEC teams currently sitting inside the AP poll will make bowls, but there are still teams teetering on the edge.
Vanderbilt has made back-to-back bowl games, but with an 0-3 SEC start the Commodores are in danger of missing out on the postseason for the first time under James Franklin.
Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee all have three wins right now, but challenging second halves could spoil postseason trips for all four.
Bold prediction: South Carolina will win the SEC East. That means the Gamecocks will need Georgia to lose at least one more conference game, while they win out. It can, and will, happen. Missouri and Florida pose threats, but South Carolina gets Florida at home and Mizzou is down its starting quarterback.
Looking forward to: The East race is going to be great, but what about the Heisman race? Quarterbacks Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray and even Zach Mettenberger could find themselves deep in the running as the season goes on. McCarron is the only one with less than 1,800 passing yards (1,407), but he's also on the No. 1 team in the country.
Top five games:
1. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 9: This continues to be college football's best rivalry. Two sledgehammers will meet in a game that could decide who represents the West in the SEC championship and could basically serve as a quarterfinal for the national championship. Les Miles versus Nick Saban? Yes, please!
2. Texas A&M at LSU, Nov. 23: If the Tigers do beat Alabama earlier in the month and the Aggies continue their winning ways, then consider this the new semifinal for the SEC championship game. Two great offenses could light up the scoreboard inside Tiger Stadium.
3. Florida vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.), Nov. 2: Even with all the craziness in the SEC East, this game could still decide the East champion. No matter how either team is playing, this game is always exciting, and something crazy always seems to happen.
4. Florida at South Carolina, Nov. 16: Another game that could decide the East. South Carolina is probably still steaming after its turnover-filled slopfest inside the Swamp last year. Now the Gamecocks get a wounded Florida team at home.
5. Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 30: This game could be very interesting on the Plains. Auburn is a team on the rise, while Alabama hasn't been perfect. The Tide's defense is getting better, but expect an amazing atmosphere and a few tricks up Gus Malzahn's sleeves.