LSU Tigers: Marcus Mariota

SEC Week 7: Did you know?

October, 11, 2013
We've reached Week 7 in the SEC. Here are some random tidbits you might not have known.

• The matchup between Florida's stellar defense and LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger should be highly intriguing. The Gators lead the nation in Total QBR allowed, with opposing quarterbacks rating just a 13.0 against Florida and completing just 21.1 percent of their passes of 15 yards or longer. Meanwhile, Mettenberger has completed 60 percent of his throws of 15-plus for eight touchdowns, no interceptions and an average of 15.8 yards per attempt.

• Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy has led an offensive revival since taking over for Jeff Driskel as the Gators' signal-caller. He hasn't played enough snaps to qualify for ESPN's Total QBR rankings, but only Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Baylor's Bryce Petty have higher QBRs than Murphy's 93.7 among QBs who have participated in at least 80 action plays.

• South Carolina expects star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to start this week after missing last week's game with a much-debated injury. ESPN Stats and Information reports that Clowney has played 63 percent of South Carolina's defensive snaps this season. Opponents are averaging 5.9 yards per play with Clowney on the field versus 4.8 ypp when he's off.

• Georgia enters Saturday's game against Missouri riding a 15-game winning streak. That's the longest active home winning streak in the conference and the third-longest such streak in school history. The Bulldogs last lost at home against South Carolina on Sept. 10, 2011.

• Expect Alabama to look to establish the run against Kentucky on Saturday. The Crimson Tide are averaging an SEC-high 6.6 yards per designed run in SEC games. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are allowing 5.2 yards per designed run -- second-most in the league. Kentucky has allowed an SEC-high 629 yards before contact on such runs.

• Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray claimed the SEC's career passing yards lead last week against Tennessee. He's closing in on two more career marks. With 11,908 yards of career total offense, Murray is 324 yards behind Tim Tebow's SEC record (12,232). And with 109 career touchdown passes, he's five behind Danny Wuerffel's SEC record of 114.

• Ole Miss' no-huddle offense has been a mess of late after a strong start. The Rebels averaged just 1.6 yards per play last week against Auburn when employing the no-huddle after averaging 7.6 yards per play through the first four games when operating out of the no-huddle. Quarterback Bo Wallace was 2-for-10 on passes out of the no-huddle against Auburn after going 19-for-23 in the first four games.

• Arkansas freshman Alex Collins leads the SEC with 651 rushing yards, but his workload has decreased in his first two conference games. Collins was averaging 21.5 carries against nonconference opponents, but that average dipped to 13.5 in SEC play. His average yards per game dipped from 120.3 to 85.0 and his yards after contact per game have dropped steeply, from 73.0 to 27.5.

• Aside from its shaky performance in a win against Texas A&M, Alabama's defense has been impressive. Following a shutout against Ole Miss and a 45-3 win last week against Georgia State, the Crimson Tide are now tied with Florida for the SEC lead in scoring defense at 12.2 ppg. Alabama is second in rushing defense (85.8 ypg), second in total defense (299.8) and fifth in pass defense (214.0). The Tide have an SEC-low 25 missed tackles according to ESPN Stats and Information.

• Missouri is first in the SEC in rushing (258.8 ypg) and fourth in passing (285.0). The Tigers rank among only five FBS teams averaging at least 255 yards on the ground and 285 through the air alongside Baylor, Oregon, Washington and UCLA.

• Auburn will hold its 100th observance and 87th homecoming game on Saturday against Western Carolina. The Tigers are 74-8-4 in their previous homecomings. They own a 2-0 all-time record against the Catamounts, winning by a combined 111-6 margin.

• It's also homecoming at Mississippi State and a reunion between three Bulldogs coaches with a program where they once worked: Bowling Green. Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and assistants Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy coached at Bowling Green in 2001-02. Mullen also met his wife Megan while coaching there.

SEC Friday mailbag: Week 6

October, 4, 2013
From Chaz Pike (@a_drpike): Aaron Murray for Heisman!!! When will the nation show him the love and respect he deserves for his body of work?

He’s currently fifth on ESPN’s Heisman Watch, which is too low in my estimation. If Georgia wins the season opener against Clemson, he’s close to the top, if not at the top, but it wasn’t Murray who lost that first game. He threw for 323 yards and ran for a touchdown. Since that loss, he’s helped the Bulldogs knock off two top-10 opponents, throwing for four touchdowns in each game. You can make a strong case for Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, but Murray deserves to be in the conversation with those two. If Georgia keeps winning and makes it to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, expect him to move up on the experts’ poll.

From Ryan Buschmeyer (@rbuschmeyer): Georgia shut down LSU’s running game and put up 196 with Todd Gurley for a half. Concern for Les Miles?

I think there’s more concern with the defense. The talk of Jeremy Hill for Heisman might have been a little premature, but the LSU running back will be fine this season. He still averaged more than four yards per carry against the Bulldogs. However, the defensive woes were troubling. The Tigers lost a lot of talented players off last year’s team. Everybody expected the newcomers to come in and not miss a beat, but it takes time. The unit will improve as the season progresses, but Miles needs to get it fixed before they travel to Ole Miss in two weeks.

From Mike Johnson (@DontAskMeYo): Do you think if Tyler Murphy has a big season that Jeff Driskel gets his job back? What about the recruits’ reaction?

That will be an interesting storyline heading into next season. I would expect the Florida coaches to give Driskel every opportunity to win back the starting quarterback job, but he was less than impressive before he got hurt. As for Murphy, it’s still too early to get a read on him. He’s been solid in his first two appearances, but he has yet to face an upper-echelon team. We’ll know more after the Gators travel to Death Valley next weekend. If Murphy can continue to improve and play well within Florida’s offense, it will be difficult to take the job away. Also, I doubt it has an affect on recruits. It’s still a popular destination for quarterbacks, because the Gators offer the chance to play early.

From Hunter York (@hunteryork1128): Assuming they beat Auburn, if Ole Miss beats Texas A&M, do the Rebels have a realistic chance of going 11-1?

Those are two big ifs. Auburn presents a difficult challenge on the road this weekend, and that Manziel kid at Texas A&M is pretty good. However, if they win both games, I still don’t see the Rebels going 11-1. Right after they play the Aggies, they host LSU, their third top-10 opponent in four weeks. Under the right circumstances, Ole Miss could pull an upset over the Tigers, but not coming off three SEC West games in a row. After that brutal stretch, the schedule does set up nicely for the Rebels the rest of the way. It wouldn’t surprise me if they win out after LSU, but 11-1 is a little too optimistic for this team.

From Joey Smith (@JoeySmithMIZ): Is a road win at Vandy enough for Mizzou to start earning some respect and to be seen as a real threat in the East?

From Jordan Walker (@JabberWalker01): Where do you see Mizzou finishing this year?

Missouri is one of two undefeated teams left in the SEC, but it’s hard to get too excited when the Tigers, who finished 2-6 in the SEC a year ago, have yet to play a conference game. A win at Vanderbilt would definitely be a good start, but the real tests come later in the month when they host Florida and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks. Still, Saturday’s game will be a good measuring stick for this team. If Missouri wins, I think they can finish as high as third in the East, but with a loss, I see them finishing towards the bottom again and possibly looking for a new coach after the season.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 3

September, 15, 2013
The Alabama-Texas A&M game was as exciting as we could have hoped, but it was far from the only entertaining game on the SEC slate this weekend.

Here are five things we learned around the league on Saturday:

[+] EnlargeJonathan Williams
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsJonathan Williams helped power Arkansas to 258 rushing yards against Southern Miss.
The SEC is a defense-first league?: For a minute there, it looked like Alabama (2-0) was preparing to blow out Texas A&M (2-1), as the Tide held a three-touchdown lead at the start of the fourth quarter. But Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel reminded us in the fourth that he's pretty darn good. Manziel tossed three touchdown passes in the final period -- including a 95-yard bomb to Mike Evans -- and helped A&M climb within a touchdown in the final minute. There wasn't much defense on display at Kyle Field -- the teams combined for 1,196 yards, 62 first downs and 91 points -- but Alabama avenged its upset loss last year by holding on at the end for a thrilling 49-42 victory.

Rumors of South Carolina's demise were greatly exaggerated: For South Carolina fans who were concerned that last week's loss to Georgia was a sign of impending doom, the Gamecocks (2-1) provided a reminder that they've still got a strong pulse in the first quarter against Vanderbilt (1-2). Steve Spurrier's team rode strong early performances by quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson to jump out to a 21-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and led 28-0 before a better-than-average Vanderbilt team notched its first points. Vanderbilt mounted a rally in the fourth quarter to make things interesting, but make no mistake, the Gamecocks will still be a force to reckon with in the SEC East race.

Arkansas' running game is worth watching: When quarterback Brandon Allen went down with a shoulder injury in the first quarter, Arkansas (3-0) abandoned the passing game almost entirely against Southern Miss. The Razorbacks didn't need to pass much with Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams in the backfield. Williams had a team-high 116 rushing yards and Collins added 115, making him the first freshman in SEC history to rush for more than 100 yards in each of his first three games, and the first in any conference since Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson in 2004. Collins entered the weekend as the SEC's top rusher and Williams was third, and the duo didn't do anything to damage their standing on Saturday. They haven't faced a powerful defense yet -- next week's game at Rutgers will be their biggest test to date -- but Collins and Williams’ considerable running skills have helped Arkansas jump out to a 3-0 start.

One slide ends, another continues: It's hard to say who needed a win more at Jordan-Hare Stadium: an Auburn team that hadn't won an SEC game since 2011 or a Mississippi State team that had lost six of its last eight games. It was Gus Malzahn's Auburn club (3-0) that rallied for the game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds to play on Saturday, handing Mississippi State (1-2) another gut-wrenching defeat. Auburn's victory ended a 10-game league losing streak that provides an enormous boost with a trip to LSU on tap next weekend.

Vols aren't back yet: Tennessee (2-1) couldn't keep its game with No. 2 Oregon interesting for long, as the promise the Volunteers showed in wins against Austin Peay and Western Kentucky didn't translate into remaining competitive with one of the nation's better teams. The Ducks scored 59 straight points and ran up 687 yards -- 456 passing by quarterback Marcus Mariota -- in blowing new coach Butch Jones' club off the field. In the next five games, the Vols will face four ranked teams: No. 18 Florida, No. 9 Georgia, No. 13 South Carolina and No. 1 Alabama. So the road could get rocky quickly for the Vols.


Recapping Florida Opening Regionals
National recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert discusses top performers from Opening Regionals in Miami and Orlando.