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Greg McElroy, Gene Chizik and Booger McFarland rank the SEC Bowl Games they are most looking forward to.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (7-5) vs. WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (7-5)
DEC. 29, 2 P.M. ET, LIBERTY BOWL MEMORIAL STADIUM, MEMPHIS, TENN. (ESPN)

TEXAS A&M BREAKDOWN

Season highlights: The Aggies started 5-0, including a 52-28 win at the start of the year at then-No. 9 South Carolina, a win that was significant before we knew what kind of team South Carolina really was. Texas A&M also went to then-No. 3 Auburn on Nov. 8 and knocked the Tigers out of the College Football Playoff with a 41-38 victory. There were some impressive individual performances, from Kenny Hill’s quarterbacking debut vs. South Carolina to Kyle Allen’s performance at Auburn. All season long, true freshman defensive end Myles Garrett was a force, breaking Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC freshman sack record with 11.

Season lowlights: Texas A&M endured a brutal three-game losing streak in the middle of the season, getting decisively defeated by Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama. The worst loss was at Alabama, where the Aggies weren’t even competitive and were embarrassed to the tune of 59-0. It was the program’s worst loss since 2003. After winning the next two games, the Aggies lost their final two, though in much closer fashion, to Missouri and LSU. The defense was poor and wound up last in the SEC in yards per game and rushing, leading to the firing of defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. Linebackers coach Mark Hagen is the interim defensive coordinator for the bowl.

Player to watch: There are several young stars, but Garrett is the one to keep an eye on. An injury suffered at Auburn slowed him in his final two games (missing the Missouri game), but the bowl-season rest should serve him well for a strong finale to his debut campaign. With 11 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, nine quarterback hurries and a blocked kick, Garrett has been a force all season. A five-star recruit who was No. 4 overall in the 2014 ESPN 300, the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder has lived up to the hype.

Motivation factor: A win would be good for morale, allowing the Aggies to end a transitional year on a positive note. The season was nightmarish at times, but A&M recovered nicely after the Alabama debacle to win a couple games and be competitive in the final two losses. It may be only one game, but 8-5 looks better than 7-6, and the Aggies are about to enter a 2015 season in which the expectations are going to be raised. The team will be in its fourth SEC season, as will Kevin Sumlin, and tangible results need to follow. Gaining momentum with a bowl victory would be a nice start.
-- Sam Khan Jr.

vs.
WEST VIRGINIA BREAKDOWN

Season highlights: After playing Alabama and Oklahoma tough, the Mountaineers finally broke through on Oct. 18 against then-fourth-ranked Baylor. Clint Trickett and Kevin White hooked up for 132 yards and two touchdowns as West Virginia knocked off the Bears 41-27. It was also a masterful performance from the Tony Gibson/Tom Bradley defense, which sacked quarterback Bryce Petty four times.

Season lowlights: After the win over Baylor, the Mountaineers were a quarter away two weeks later from hopping into the Big 12 title and playoff races against then-No. 7 TCU with ESPN “College GameDay” in town. But after jumping to a 30-21 lead, West Virginia failed to produce a first down in the fourth quarter, and the Horned Frogs drilled a 37-yard field goal as time expired to escape Morgantown with a 31-30 win. The emotional defeat sent West Virginia into a minor tailspin, as the Mountaineers would lose three in a row before rebounding in the regular-season finale with a 37-24 win at Iowa State.

Player to watch: A Biletnikoff Award finalist, White has been one of the top receivers in college football all year. He finished the regular season leading the Big 12 with 102 receptions and 1,318 receiving yards. White opened the year with seven straight games of at least 100 yards receiving, including 143 against Alabama and 173 against Oklahoma.

Motivation factor: Despite the late three-game slide, the Mountaineers outperformed preseason expectations to make a bowl game. A win to put them at 8-5 on the year would give Dana Holgorsen’s program plenty of momentum heading into 2015.
-- Jake Trotter

SEC bowl projections: Week 15

December, 7, 2014
Dec 7
11:04
AM ET
Today we finally get to put an end to the speculation, as college football's postseason picture will become clear this afternoon.

We knew the SEC would get one team into the inaugural College Football Playoff when Alabama beat Missouri on Saturday. Nailing down the destinations for the conference's other 11 bowl-eligible teams is much more difficult.

Here are our best guesses in the final hours before we will know for sure:

College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
Goodyear Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Mississippi State
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri
Outback Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: Texas A&M
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Arkansas
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU
Belk Bowl: Georgia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Tennessee
Birmingham Bowl: Florida
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: South Carolina

SEC Power Rankings: Week 15

December, 7, 2014
Dec 7
10:00
AM ET
A lot has changed from our preseason list -- South Carolina at No. 3? Vanderbilt ahead of Arkansas? We'd prefer to forget those. But one thing that is the same as in our initial rankings is Alabama on top. The Crimson Tide relinquished the top spot at times, but when it mattered, Nick Saban's crew stood tall.



Edward Aschoff, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.
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National recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton offers the latest on five-star cornerbacks Iman Marshall and Kendall Sheffield.

Kansas hires David Beaty as coach

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
12:05
PM ET
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Kansas has hired Texas A&M receivers coach and recruiting coordinator David Beaty to be the program's next head coach, the school announced Friday.

Beaty, 44, had two stints as an assistant coach in Lawrence, Kansas, coaching the Jayhawks' wide receivers from 2008 to '09 before returning for a stint as the co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach in 2011.

The school fired Charlie Weis on Sept. 28, a day after a 23-0 loss to Texas. Weis was in his third season at the school and went 6-22 in his time leading the Jayhawks. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen served as the interim head coach for the final eight games of the season for the 3-9 Jayhawks.

Bowen will remain on the Jayhawks' staff as defensive coordinator, Beaty announced.

"I am very excited to be back at Kansas," Beaty said in a statement. "I am especially excited that Clint Bowen has agreed to stay on as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. Clint will be a huge part of our success going forward and I am fortunate to have him on my staff."

The school will formally introduce Beaty at a news conference at 9:30 a.m. CT Monday.

Beaty spent the past three seasons in College Station, Texas, as the Aggies' receivers coach and added recruiting coordinator to his title in 2013. He oversaw the development of Mike Evans, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft who is enjoying a standout rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was an All-American in 2013 at Texas A&M.


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More than two years ago, when Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin stepped to the dais to begin his first official appearance at SEC media days, he was asked for his assessment of the SEC West, considering the division the Aggies entered produced the previous three BCS champions.

Sumlin’s provided a memorable answer.

“What's my assessment?” Sumlin replied as a smile began to emerge. “It's a pretty damn hard league.”

[+] EnlargeKevin Sumlin
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesWith all that's invested in Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M program, 2015 will be a season with much higher expectations.
The quote elicited laughs from around the room and everyone understood the truth embedded in Sumlin’s retort. Life in the SEC isn’t easy. Texas A&M learned that during the last two seasons in particular, which weren’t nearly as successful as the first one in 2012.

As the Aggies await news of their bowl destination to write the final chapter on their 2014 season, much that can be gathered from their third season in the SEC. Life after "Johnny Football" isn’t easy and it takes time to build a consistent winner. That much is clear.

With the regular season wrapped up and only a bowl remaining, the stage is being set for a critical 2015 season that will go a long way in defining A&M’s time in the SEC and Sumlin’s career in Aggieland.

The Aggies first season post-Johnny Manziel wound up close to what many predicted, with Texas A&M going 7-5 and finishing sixth in the SEC West. (The Aggies were picked sixth in the preseason conference media poll.) How they got there was unexpected. They looked dominant to start the season, racing to 5-0 before losing five of their last seven games, which included a brutal midseason three-game losing streak.

There have been ups and downs: Texas A&M is 27-13 since joining the SEC and 13-11 in conference play. The ups included Manziel’s Heisman Trophy season in the Aggies’ first year in the league in 2012. That team produced three first-round NFL draft picks and was the focus of the college football world often during Manziel’s time there.

Downs included a season that fell below expectations in 2013 and two years of last-in-the-SEC defense that hastened Mark Snyder’s demise as defensive coordinator. Sumlin is searching for a replacement, recruiting is in full swing and the stage is being set for what will be the most important season to date for the Aggies in their SEC tenure and for Sumlin himself.

Going into Year 4, the Aggies are going to be expected to make significant steps forward, given the investment in the program. Nearly $500 million is being spent on football facility renovations. Kyle Field, is undergoing a $450 million renovation to be completed before the 2015 season. Locker rooms and training facilities have been renovated and a football-only weight room was added in 2012. The Bright Football Complex also underwent renovations to its lobby and a nutrition center was added last year. The coaches' offices will be renovated this offseason. The team also invested plenty in Sumlin, rewarding him with raises after each of the last two seasons, bringing his salary to $5 million a year.

Those investments are made with championships in mind, and the expectation is that the Aggies must begin taking steps toward one soon.

When Texas A&M left Tuscaloosa bruised, battered and beaten down on Oct. 18 after an embarrassing 59-0 loss to Alabama, the Aggies appeared to be at a crossroads. It was the program’s worst loss in more than a decade. It was certainly the worst of Kevin Sumlin’s head coaching career, and there were valid questions about whether the Aggies could recover from such a jarring defeat.

Though the regular season didn’t end the way the Aggies hoped, with consecutive losses to Missouri and LSU, the Aggies’ response to the debacle at Alabama quelled a lot of fears that spawned from Oct. 18. The Aggies won two in a row, including a stunning upset at then-No. 3 Auburn, knocking the Tigers out of the College Football Playoff top four. Sumlin appeared to right the ship.

And though they lost their final two, they remained in each game until the final minute. The same couldn’t be said vs. Alabama, Mississippi State or Ole Miss. Their final stretch suggests a willingness to fight, important for a young team as it moves forward.

The coming months are critical for establishing the foundation for a run in 2015. Texas A&M needs to add critical pieces to its recruiting class, which is ranked fifth in the nation. If that holds, it would be the Aggies’ third consecutive top-10 class.

Sumlin must get the right guy, whoever it may be, at defensive coordinator. History suggests the offense will be fine under Sumlin but the defense has been the Achilles’ heel and must improve if the Aggies are to become contenders.

Improved quarterback play is a must. Kyle Allen took the reins after the three-game losing streak and the freshman went 2-2. He’ll have to continue to progress if he is the starter of the future.

The schedule sets up well for the Aggies in 2015. They don’t leave the state of Texas until their seventh game, when they visit Ole Miss. With seven home games (including Alabama and Auburn) and nine total in Texas, the stage is set for the Aggies to take a big next step. If they’re to be true, long-term contenders in the SEC West, 2015 is the season to take tangible steps in that direction.
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Jordan Howard rushed for 1,600 yards at UAB this season, and now that the program has been shuttered, recruiters are lining up to get his transfer. Plus, with the Brady Hoke news, Michigan lost four-star tight end commitment Chris Clark. So where do recruits think he’ll end up?

SEC Freshman Tracker: Week 14

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
10:00
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The SEC’s true freshmen sent out the regular season with a bang, creating some of the most memorable plays of the entire season in the final weekend.

Here is a recap of how some of the league’s first-year players fared in their final games of the regular season:

DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

What he did: Barnett added to his impressive season totals against Vanderbilt by recording five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack in the Volunteers’ 24-17 win.

What it means: Barnett is tied for 13th nationally with 10 sacks and is tied for third with 20.5 TFLs. Not a bad rookie season -- one in which he deserves to become the rare true freshman to earn All-SEC honors as a defensive lineman.

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia

What he did: Chubb had yet another 100-yard game, this time rushing 25 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 36 yards. On the negative side, he lost a fumble at the goal line, which came back to bite Georgia when rival Georgia Tech rallied to win in overtime.

What it means: Considering how he didn’t become Georgia’s feature back until midseason, Chubb’s 1,281 rushing yards (good for second in the SEC) and 12 touchdowns are all the more impressive. He and fellow freshman Sony Michel both lost costly fumbles inside the Tech 5-yard line, but both backs have been impressive overall.

RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

What he did: Fournette earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his efforts against Texas A&M. The star freshman ran 19 times for 146 yards and scored a highlight-reel touchdown when he ran over A&M safety Howard Matthews. Fournette also returned three kickoffs for 34 yards.

What it means: The touchdown run -- highly reminiscent of a memorable run Georgia legend Herschel Walker made against Tennessee as a freshman -- was one of the plays of the year in the SEC. Fournette has had an up-and-down first season, but he has still posted four 100-yard games and has a respectable 891 rushing yards and eight touchdowns entering bowl season.

video WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M

What he did: Not to be outdone by his fellow New Orleans native Fournette, Noil also made highlight reels with his leaping 27-yard touchdown catch over LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White. Noil finished with four catches for 46 yards, returned four kickoffs for 50 yards and returned one punt for 1 yard.

What it means: Noil also lost a fumble on a kickoff return, which LSU recovered and turned into a field goal (and a 17-7 lead) just before halftime. The freshman proved once again he is one of the Aggies’ most explosive players, but that was a costly turnover in A&M's 23-17 loss.

video RB Stanley Williams, Kentucky

What he did: Williams concluded an impressive freshman season with 126 rushing yards and touchdowns of 11 and 14 yards on 18 carries against Louisville. He also caught three passes for 13 yards in the Wildcats’ 44-40 loss.

What it means: One of Kentucky’s highlights came midway through the fourth quarter when Williams bulled his way through three Louisville defenders to score the go-ahead touchdown. The defense couldn’t preserve the lead, meaning the Wildcats fell short of bowl eligibility, but Williams still finished the season with 488 rushing yards, 162 receiving yards and an average of 116.1 all-purpose yards per game.

video Other notables:

DB Jamal Adams, LSU: Recorded a team-high eight tackles, one tackle for loss and broke up a pass in LSU’s win over Texas A&M.

OLB Lorenzo Carter, Georgia: Made eight tackles and one tackle for loss against Georgia Tech.

WR Malachi Dupre, LSU: Caught one pass for 41 yards against Texas A&M.

QB Treon Harris, Florida: Completed 13 of 32 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and also ran nine times for 41 yards against Florida State.

DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M: Recorded four tackles against LSU.

DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss: Made five tackles and a sack against Mississippi State.

DB Todd Kelly Jr., Tennessee: Intercepted a pass and made one tackle against Vanderbilt.

PK Aaron Medley, Tennessee: Made a 36-yard field goal and all three of his PATs in a win against Vanderbilt.

RB Sony Michel, Georgia: Ran nine times for 49 yards but also lost a key fumble at the goal line in the loss to Georgia Tech.

P J.K. Scott, Alabama: Punted twice against Auburn and averaged 55.5 yards per attempt, including a long of 70.

DB Devin Voorhies, LSU: Forced Noil’s fumbled kickoff return that led to an LSU field goal before halftime against Texas A&M.

DB Quincy Wilson, Florida: Recorded one tackle for a two-yard loss and also intercepted a Jameis Winston pass in the Gators’ loss to Florida State.

PK Gary Wunderlich, Ole Miss: Made a 39-yard field goal, all four of his PATs and punted once for 46 yards in a win against Mississippi State.

SEC bowl projections: Week 14

December, 2, 2014
Dec 2
8:00
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Say goodbye to two SEC teams making the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 all owe a debt of gratitude to Ole Miss for knocking off Mississippi State this past Saturday, dropping the previously No. 4-ranked Bulldogs to 10-2 and out of the playoff picture.

But it's not all doom and gloom for the SEC. Realistically, the chances of getting two teams in the playoff were slim anyway.

Commissioner Mike Slive can hold his head high knowing that an astounding 12 teams (out of 14) from his conference qualified for bowl games during the regular season.

College Football Playoff semifinal (Allstate Sugar Bowl): Alabama
Capital One Orange Bowl: Mississippi State
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Ole Miss
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Missouri
Outback Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: LSU
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Georgia
Advocare V100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M
Belk Bowl: South Carolina
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Arkansas
Birmingham Bowl: Tennessee
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Florida
Will Muschamp is a wanted man. The former Florida coach was once a premier defensive coordinator in college football, and now he’s being sought out for the same position by both Auburn and Texas A&M.

Muschamp isn’t the only name to have come up. Others have been linked to the two openings, including former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who won a national championship as LSU’s defensive coordinator in 2007, as well as current Houston defensive coordinator David Gibbs, who spent a year at Auburn in 2005 and is not far from Texas A&M.

The question is – whether it’s Muschamp, Pelini or even Gibbs – which defensive coordinator job is more attractive to potential suitors, Auburn or Texas A&M?

Greg Ostendorf: If the goal is to play for national championships, then this is a no-brainer. Auburn won a national championship in 2010 and played for another one just last season. As long as Gus Malzahn is the head coach, the Tigers will be good enough offensively to make the playoff year in and year out.

They’re also better suited to make a run next year. Despite all the young talent on the Aggies’ roster, I argue that an incoming defensive coordinator will have more to work with at Auburn than he would at Texas A&M.

 Assuming nobody leaves early, the Tigers will have seven starters returning on defense, including the top three leading tacklers (Johnathan Ford, Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost), the team leader in sacks (DaVonte Lambert) and the team leader in interceptions (Jonathan Jones). Can Texas A&M say the same thing?

The defense will also welcome back Carl Lawson, the team’s top pass rusher who missed the entire season due to injury. Lawson didn’t have the same type of production as the Aggies' Myles Garrett did his freshman year, but when healthy, he still has NFL potential written all over him.

That alone is a solid group, especially with Lawson coming back, but when you throw in Tre' Williams, Nick Ruffin and Stephen Roberts, a trio of promising young freshmen who all played this season and gained valuable experience, the potential for a turnaround is there as long as Auburn finds the right guy to take charge.

Some argue that Malzahn focuses primarily on offense when it comes to recruiting, but Auburn’s current 2015 class has three linebackers ranked in the ESPN 300, and the right hire could be just what the Tigers need to land a star like Jeffery Holland or Daron Payne. Can you imagine the success Muschamp would have in Florida, a state Auburn recruits well already? He would have no trouble convincing top defensive targets to join him on the Plains.

The question I have for the future defensive coordinator at Texas A&M is how long will your head coach be around? Kevin Sumlin’s name has been linked to NFL jobs the past two seasons, and it will likely come up again this offseason. Granted, Malzahn might also have a future in the NFL, but Sumlin seems closer to realizing that dream.

Let’s be honest. Both schools have money, both have top-notch facilities, and both have the resources to be successful. The difference is Auburn has better players and a better opportunity to win next year. For a defensive coordinator who might want to coach again soon, i.e. Muschamp or Pelini, there’s not a better job out there.

Sam Khan: Texas A&M’s defensive coordinator position is an appealing opportunity for prospective defensive coaches.

For starters, there is nowhere to go but up. The Aggies ranked last in the SEC in yards per game allowed in each of the past two seasons, so the room for improvement is plentiful.

 The real reason it’s a good opportunity though, is the personnel. The Aggies have ripe young talent to work with. Myles Garrett. Armani Watts. Otaro Alaka. Josh Walker. Zaycoven Henderson. Those are all true freshmen who started games for the Aggies this year.

Garrett is a bonafide star. He shattered Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC freshman sack record (Garrett has 11 sacks this season) and is the type of player the Aggies’ next defensive coordinator can build around the next two seasons (let’s be honest, the chances of Garrett exhausting his college eligibility seem slim given his production so far).

Watts showed promise at safety this season with three interceptions and seven pass breakups. Alaka and Walker performed admirably when inserted into the starting lineup late in the season and look like the linebackers of the future. Henderson is a big body with quickness to plug in the middle. And that’s not to mention a host of other underclassmen who were forced into action each of the past two seasons who will continue to grow in the coming years.

The Aggies have more young talent coming in via the 2015 recruiting class, like 5-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, four-star defensive end James Lockhart and ESPN 300 safeties Larry Pryor Jr. and Justin Dunning. The foundation for future success is there.

Money won’t be an issue for the Aggies when it comes to paying their defensive coordinator of choice. The school is in the middle of spending nearly $500 million on football facilities upgrades and shelled out $5 million per season for Kevin Sumlin. They’re not going to go cheap on the defensive coordinator, which is a pivotal hire heading into Sumlin’s fourth season in Aggieland, just for the sake of saving a few bucks. They have to get this hire right, and they’ll spend what’s necessary to do it.

The resources to attract more defensive talent is there. The player’s locker room and lounge is second-to-none. The Aggies have one of the best weight rooms in the country. Sumlin is a master recruiter who excels at closing the deal with elite recruits.

And Sumlin is willing to give his choice a chance. Auburn has had seven defensive coordinators in the past 10 seasons. Sumlin, who has been a head coach since 2008, is going on his fourth. Sumlin has no problem making changes when necessary, but he usually isn’t the type to overreact to one season’s worth of results.
[+] EnlargeAlabama
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAs the SEC West teams beat up on each other, parity became apparent.

It's been fun, SEC, really fun -- seven consecutive national championships, your own network, the undying enmity of the rest of the country. Really, it's been great. But as you limp into the SEC championship game on Saturday, with No. 1 Alabama playing -- ta-da! -- No. 17 Missouri, I think it's time to sit down and have a little talk.

We still like you. You still put on a great show every week. What the Iron Bowl lacked in, oh, I don't know, defense on Saturday night, it more than made up for in the pageantry and emotion that only a great college football rivalry can produce.

But let's be honest. You're not what you have been. You're not all that. You're not even all that good. And now that the season is concluding, and we can step back and gain the perspective that we lose in the Saturday-to-Saturday frenzy of the regular season, maybe we can figure out how the rest of us got hornswoggled into thinking you hadn't lost a step.

You don't understand? Let me lay it out for you.

For the first time in four seasons, the SEC won't have four 11-win teams. It very easily could have only one. Alabama is 11-1. Missouri and Mississippi State are 10-2.

The best running backs in the FBS play in the Big Ten. The best quarterbacks are in the Pac-12. So are the best defensive linemen. The ACC skunked you 4-0 this past Saturday. The Big 12 is the only conference with a chance of putting two teams in the playoff.


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No. 3 WR Christian Kirk Commits To Aggies
Recruiting reporter Erik McKinney joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to discuss wide receiver Christian Kirk's commitment to Texas A&M. Kirk is the Aggies' first ESPN 300 out-of-state verbal in 2015.
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SEC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12