" Two more college football award watch lists will debut today: those for the Mackey Award (best tight end) and Rimington Trophy (best center). Check out the lists as they update on the National College Football Awards Association website.
" The NCAA on Monday suggested new safety guidelines that would limit teams to two full-contact practices per week during the season.
" Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason considered a transfer when he was stuck behind Aaron Murray on the depth chart. But that was nothing compared to what his coach, Mark Richt, faced as a player at Miami. Richt discussed that 1982 logjam at quarterback -- when he was a teammate of Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde and Bernie Kosar -- in a story for the Buffalo News.
" Mock-up magazine covers, cereal boxes, movie posters and more. All of those items are included in how college programs are getting creative with their recruiting pitches to high school prospects.
" Sean Lester of the Dallas Morning News examines Texas A&M's depth chart at receiver and tight end and projects the starters.
" Five more freshman signees started classes in South Carolina's second summer semester on Monday, bringing the total of 2014 Gamecock signees who have enrolled to 15.
" Ole Miss safety Anthony Alford is enjoying success in limited work as a minor league baseball player. In his five games with the Toronto Blue Jays' Class-A affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts, he batted .320.
" Among those participating at The Opening in Oregon are arguably the top prospect in the state of Kentucky -- running back Damien Harris -- and many other players whom Kentucky's football program is recruiting.
" Athlon Sports polled 15 national college football media members on which programs have the best stadiums and game-day atmospheres. LSU's Tiger Stadium was the runaway winner, and five SEC programs ranked in the top 8.
" In its list of the 25 most important figures in Alabama's 2014 season, AL.com turns today to new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
" The Gainesville Sun's Pat Dooley lists his top 10 nonconference games of the upcoming season.
While recruiting remains a marathon and not a sprint, recent trends have shown that it is never too early to look ahead. With the release of the ESPN Junior 300 it is a perfect time to see which programs are having early success. With roughly 10 percent of the prospects in the ESPN Junior 300 committed well over a year and a half before national signing day for the Class of 2016, plenty is still to be determined. Here are five programs, in alphabetical order, standing out early for the 2016 class:
It's Insider's second go-round projecting college football's next three years in our Future Power Rankings.
What did we learn from our first edition? For one, teams can make a substantive move in just a year's time. Just look at Auburn, which jumped from 23rd to fifth after a run to the championship game. USC, now with coaching stability, made the biggest leap (25th to sixth). Oklahoma, UCLA, FSU and Baylor were among other risers, and you'll soon read why.
On the other side, we were high a year ago on Florida and Michigan. Oops. The Gators' injury-plagued 4-8 season dropped them from No. 4 to No. 14, while the Wolverines, who lost five of their last six games, fell from fifth to 20th. We know Will Muschamp's job is in danger, but is that an omen for Brady Hoke's future in Ann Arbor?
Alabama is again our No. 1 team, but with two losses to end the season, its lead shrank. Is that a subtle signal that the Tide might have peaked under Nick Saban?
We'll examine those topics and more in the Future Power Rankings.
Here's how we compiled it: Our panel -- myself, Brad Edwards, Brock Huard, Tom Luginbill and Mark Schlabach -- provided 1-10 ratings in five different categories that we found to be comprehensive in determining current positioning, as well as a projection for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Here are the top 25 college football teams over the next three years:
SEC FPR RANK: 1
The bar graphs reflect the average points given by the voters for each category. Category averages are weighted by importance to generate overall score.
Coaching: Saban did not receive a perfect 10, as he did a year ago. Maybe the one panelist who gave him a nine dinged him for how he managed the final second of the Iron Bowl.
But seriously, Saban is still well ahead of No. 2 Urban Meyer (9.2) and No. 3 Bill Snyder (9.0). (Have to appreciate that Snyder gets that kind of love, even if K-State didn't break the Top 25.)
Edwards thinks 2014 is a big year for Saban because it will show whether he can adapt his defense to better handle tempo offenses. Look at how Saban's defenses mightily struggled last year against not only Texas A&M, but also Auburn and Oklahoma.
"You put them all together and you realize, 'You know what, Alabama might have an issue with this,'" Edwards said. "I happen to believe Saban and [defensive coordinator] Kirby Smart have done enough to deserve the benefit of the doubt. Let's see what they can come up with this year before I decide the dynasty is over. Saban is now recruiting to find those types of players [to defend tempo offenses]."
As for the best coach in the state?
"I want to see Gus Malzahn beat Nick Saban one more time before I say he's a better coach," Edwards said, "which is a conclusion a lot of people are already making."
Current talent: There are more positional questions than in the past few years, especially the offensive line and cornerback spots. Rival coaches are even rumbling about it. "I don't know about them," one SEC coordinator said. But do not be fooled for an instant into thinking the Tide have suddenly become as barren as a bachelor's refrigerator in terms of talent.
Bama still has the top running back group in the country with T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry, who was a bright spot in the otherwise drab Sugar Bowl performance. The time could be now for LB Reuben Foster and FS Landon Collins to shine on defense. MLB Trey DePriest will be the defense's rock.
And what about QB Jake Coker? His old coach at FSU, Jimbo Fisher, believes Coker is capable, which is why Coker nearly beat out last year's Heisman Trophy winner to start at FSU.
Recruiting: This is why Alabama earned association with the word "dynasty" -- it started winning almost every major recruiting battle, and the program became the closest thing there is on the planet to the NFL's minor league system. It has not dipped, and there's no reason to believe it will as long as Saban is around; he will not let it slide.
Title path: It's going to happen, and it could happen this year: The SEC is going to knock itself out of the playoff. The strength of the top half of the league could turn out to be a bad thing in some seasons.
The Tide are regularly part of a kickoff game of some kind, playing the likes of Clemson, Virginia Tech or West Virginia, but the nonconference slate is typically manageable. The conference schedule always works for and against the SEC. For the Tide, Auburn is the new-slash-old menace.
The rating suggests that it isn't the ideal road to the playoff, but it should not be preventive for a power program such as Alabama.
Program power: Like the coaching category, Bama still received four 10s and a nine. The takeaway: It's hard to remain perfect.
"We all know that every dynasty comes to an end, but when you look back on every dynasty, you know where the turning point was," Edwards said. Will we say it was the Iron Bowl and Sugar Bowl, perhaps? "I think what you have is a lot of people trying to be the first one to predict the end of the dynasty," Edwards said. "They want to be the ones to say they didn't miss it. I think they're jumping the gun a little bit."
Which is why Alabama is still No. 1. But one program is making up ground in a hurry ...
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The Georgia Bulldogs went 10-1-1 the season after they said goodbye to Herschel Walker. Bear Bryant once called Joe Namath the most talented player he had ever seen. And yet, a year after Namath went pro, the Alabama Crimson Tide won a share of the national championship. Archie Griffin was the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy, but in the campaign following his graduation, Woody Hayes was able to lead the Ohio State Buckeyes to a 9-2-1 record and an Orange Bowl win.
These examples offer hope for the Texas A&M Aggies, who will be without Heisman winner Johnny Manziel -- with all due respect to John David Crow, arguably the best player in the storied history of the program -- come this fall.
Indeed, when looking at the entirety of this roster and the circumstances surrounding the SEC, the Aggies seem poised to overcome Manziel's departure and join the club described above.
Here are four reasons:
State of the SEC makes this the perfect time to develop a QB
The Aggies aren't the only program in the SEC who will have a new face under center this coming season. In fact, the majority of the conference is experiencing upheaval at quarterback, with only three passers who started 10 games in 2014 -- Brandon Allen, Nick Marshall and Bo Wallace -- returning this season. If Allen doesn't get the starting job for the Arkansas Razorbacks (a sincere possibility) the list of SEC teams in a state of flux will grow even longer.
As such, whichever teams can develop a strong starter fastest will be positioned for success. Kevin Sumlin's history suggests the Aggies are as good a candidate as any.
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So far we’ve been to some of the usual spots (Athens, Auburn, College Station, Tuscaloosa), and a few outside of the SEC footprint footprint in locals such as Houston and Norman, Oklahoma.
We’ve knocked out 10 weeks of trips in all, which means we’ve got only four more to go. The conference title game in Atlanta is right around the corner.
So without further pause, let’s take a look at the best options for Week 10:
Alabama at LSU
Texas A&M at Auburn
Florida at Vanderbilt
Georgia at Kentucky
Presbyterian at Ole Miss
UT Martin at Mississippi State
Alex Scarborough’s pick: Alabama at LSU
This game sells itself. The fact that it’s in Death Valley this year only makes it more appealing.
When you think of the SEC, you think of physical, smash-mouth football. And Alabama-LSU is routinely an exhibition of those principles. It’s the one game where offenses truly take a back seat to the defense. It’s the one game where big uglies such as Booger McFarland, Terrence Cody and Glenn Dorsey can steal the show. Sure, the quarterbacks have been good at times, but this is a game for defensive backs such as Mark Barron, Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid.
Alabama-LSU has become arguably the most competitive rivalry in all of college football, with only one game decided by double digits since 2007. It’s determined perfect seasons, SEC West championships, and even a national title. It’s showcased countless future NFL draft picks and two of the most successful coaches in the game.
Les Miles versus Nick Saban. That alone is worth the price of admission.
This year’s game has the chance to be another instant classic. The combined talent these two programs have on the defensive line is jaw-dropping. At the same time, the number of gifted running backs on the field will be something to see. And with two first-year starting quarterbacks projected under center, it should be fun to see a heavy dose of the running game for a show of strength versus strength.
Sam Khan's pick: Texas A&M at Auburn
Let's be honest -- the only right answer here is Alabama vs. LSU. Given how often the two are in SEC title (and national title) contention, the amount of talent the two teams have on their rosters, and the personality of the two head coaches, that's the game everyone has their eyes on.
But in the interest of making this diverse and offering a quality alternative option, I offer up the Aggies and the Tigers.
Remember, last season's battle between these two teams was quite intriguing. Auburn ran the ball up and down the field and Texas A&M was proficient itself offensively, led by the always-entertaining Johnny Manziel.
Manziel got injured early in the fourth quarter, adding quite a bit of drama to the proceedings, but was able to re-enter in time to lead a potential game-winning drive. Auburn defense came up with a huge stop though -- capped by a Dee Ford sack -- to secure a 45-41 road win, one that proved crucial in the Tigers' ascent from worst-to-first in the SEC West, which eventually netted them the SEC title and a BCS title game appearance.
Ford and Manziel are among the key players that have moved on to greener pastures in the NFL, but there should still be plenty on the line when these two meet on Nov. 8.
Many feel Auburn is poised for another run at the division and conference titles, so should the Tigers live up to those expectations, every game at this late stage in the regular season will carry significant meaning with the coveted spots to the College Football Playoff up for grabs.
The Aggies, who have said goodbye to their three best offensive players via the NFL draft, won't carry the lofty expectations the Tigers will, but they should still be good enough offensively to make this a competitive and compelling game. If you like offense, this is the game for you, with two of the country's brightest offensive head coaching minds -- Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin. Talents such as Auburn's Nick Marshall and Sammie Coates, Texas A&M's Ricky Seals-Jones and a handful of quality running backs between the two teams could equate another high-scoring affair.
And for any players who were on the Auburn roster back in 2012, there could be yet another score to settle. The Aggies came in and embarrassed Auburn 63-21 in their last trip to The Plains on Oct. 27, 2012, in the midst of a forgettable 3-9 season. So if defending home turf and everything else mentioned above isn't motivation enough for Auburn, that's an added bit of incentive for any young Tigers who were part of or witnessed that showing.
Im proud to suit up w every one of these guys. It's a tremendous honor to represent this country & a ride I'll never forget. Thx for joining— Tim Howard (@TimHowardGK) July 2, 2014
No, thank you Tim Howard. Now on to Wednesday’s lunch links.
- Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is the smartest assistant coach in college football because he’s still an assistant coach.
- The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s Ryan Black visited the site of Philip Lutzenkirchen’s crash this week. It’s a place of tragedy but filled with hope.
- Florida, who has had just one academic casualty in its last four signing classes, does a great job of getting its signees on campus and enrolled.
- In a recent TV interview, LSU freshman Brandon Harris said he’s ‘trying to take full advantage’ of the opportunity to be the team’s starting quarterback.
- Mississippi State added a home-and-home series with North Carolina State in 2020 and 2021, but its nonconference schedule remains hazy for 2016-2019.
- On Tuesday, GoVols247 looked at five reasons why Tennessee will reach a bowl game. Here are five reasons why it might not be bowl-eligible in 2014.
- Texas A&M projected starters: Can another freshman replicate the magic of Johnny Manziel?
- It's only July, but the SEC’s hot seat already belongs to Florida coach Will Muschamp.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Just when it looked like Oregon's efforts to land a quarterback for the 2015 class were lost, the Ducks rallied to land ESPN 300 prospect Travis Waller on Tuesday. The decision was a surprise to some, but Waller called Oregon his "dream school."
So what does Waller's decision do to fast-rising Sam Darnold, and what should Notre Dame do now after missing on Waller and others top 2015 quarterbacks?
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Watch the game here: United States vs Belgium, 4 p.m. ET
In the meantime, get your American football fix in with Tuesday’s SEC lunch links.
- In a rare radio interview, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart ranked the four best players he has coached and the three toughest opponents he’s had to coach against.
- Auburn’s two most memorable plays in 2013, the Kick Six and the Prayer in Jordan-Hare, advanced to the quarterfinals in the ESPY voting.
- Kentucky has expanded its recruiting reach to the nation’s capital after landing two commitments from Washington D.C., this past weekend.
- Will we see LSU-Miami at Cowboys Stadium in 2018? Not yet. A report surfaced again about a possible matchup, but it was shut down by LSU’s associate AD.
- The Clarion Ledger began its countdown of the 25 most important Bulldogs on Monday, and kicking it off at No. 25 is punter Devon Bell.
- Missouri has updated the football roster on the school’s website to include the 2014 signees, numbers and all.
- The State brought you Steve Spurrier’s top 10 wins with South Carolina on Monday. How about his top 10 losses with the Gamecocks?
- Tennessee hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2010. Here are five reasons why the Volunteers might go bowling in 2014.
- Texas vs Texas A&M: Who wins the realignment scorecard? It has been more than two years since the Aggies moved to the SEC, but do the Longhorns still have the edge?
The Opening presented by Nike Football will take place July 7-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Oregon, with 162 of the nation's top high school football prospects set to compete. With four days of dynamic training, coaching and competition among the best of the best, The Opening is the perfect chance for recruits in the Class of 2015 to make big jumps and shine on the national stage.
Here are five prospects with the most to gain at the prestigious event:
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ESPNU will count down the top 25 games and air all but four of them July 21-Aug. 3. Of course the SEC is well-represented. Game Nos. 6-25 have already been determined. Here's a look.
No. 23 -- Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42
Re-airdate: July 22, 7 p.m. ET
This Week 3 contest was a much-anticipated grudge match after Johnny Manziel and the upstart Aggies had upset the mighty Tide in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2012. The return engagement had fireworks from the start, as A&M's 628 yards were the most given up in Alabama's history.
No. 20 -- Georgia 44, LSU 41
Re-airdate: July 23, 10 p.m. ET
Two teams ranked in the top 10 slugged it out to the tune of nearly 1,000 combined yards, as the quarterback performances by Georgia's Aaron Murray and former teammate Zach Mettenberger were among the best of their careers.
Re-airdate: July 25, 7 p.m. ET
Looking back, this huge upset on the road might have fueled Auburn's amazing season. One year after being beaten 63-21 by the Aggies, the Tigers roared back to national prominence behind QB Nick Marshall and RB Tre Mason. The Auburn defense gave up more than 500 yards to Manziel but came through in the end to preserve the win.
Re-airdate: July 28, 7 p.m. ET
Just think of how differently we would have viewed UT's season had the Vols pulled off this upset. Georgia withstood injuries and a determined Tennessee team, and rallied to tie the game with five seconds left when Murray found Rantavious Wooten for a touchdown. UT's Alton Howard fumbled a sure touchdown in overtime, which set up UGA's game-winning field goal.
Re-airdate: July 29, 10 p.m. ET
The opening game of the season set a clear tone for high-scoring offense and thrilling late-game heroics. Vandy raced to a 21-10 halftime lead and then gave up 29 points, including a back-breaking 75-yard touchdown run by Jeff Scott with just over a minute to play.
Re-airdate: July 31, 10 p.m. ET
Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw came off the bench to score 17 fourth-quarter points to send this one into overtime, where the teams traded touchdowns before USC won it with a kick. Missouri was slapped with its first loss of the season, but the Tigers won the rest of their games and the SEC East crown.
Now we need your help choosing a top five, and again the SEC is prominent with four choices available. Voting ends Monday. If you need help deciding, here's how I would rank 'em.
No. 5 -- Texas A&M 52, Duke 48
Manziel penned a memorable swan song in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as the Aggies and Blue Devils piled up more than 1,200 yards of offense. Manziel passed for 382 yards and four touchdowns, ran for 73 yards and one TD, and led his team back from a 21-point halftime deficit.
No. 4 -- Florida State 34, Auburn 31
The Tigers' miracle season came crashing down when FSU rallied from an 18-point deficit, the largest ever overcome in a BCS championship game. A thrilling fourth quarter closed with Heisman winner Jameis Winston leading the Noles 80 yards in 66 seconds for the win.
No. 2 -- Auburn 43, Georgia 38
Any time a game evokes a nickname it has also earned a place in college football lore. This game got two of them -- "The Prayer at Jordan-Hare" and "The Immaculate Deflection" -- thanks to a 73-yard Hail Mary touchdown that Bulldogs safety Josh Harvey-Clemons tipped to Auburn's Ricardo Louis.
No. 1 -- Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Is there any doubt which game transcended the 2013 season into the history books? With his improbable, last-second, missed field-goal return, Chris Davis' 109-yard touchdown run -- the "Kick Six" -- was forever branded on the sport's collective consciousness.
- Auburn assistant Rodney Garner admits he had a lot to do with safety Tray Matthews transferring from Georgia earlier this month, but says he has "no concerns" about Matthews, who was arrested in the spring and then later dismissed.
- After the transfers of two quarterbacks this offseason -- Stephen Rivers (Vanderbilt) and Hayden Rettig (Rutgers) -- Les Miles is looking for some depth. Now that pocket passer Zach Mettenberger is in the NFL, it's clear the Tigers' future at the position lies with dual-threat athletes.
- Georgia's Todd Gurley leads Athlon's rankings of the SEC's top 25 running backs.
- NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah lists Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi as his No. 1 senior offensive tackle for the 2015 draft. LSU's La'El Collins ranks No. 3.
- Alabama' Kirby Smart is the No. 1 coordinator in college football, topping a list that also includes LSU's John Chavis, Texas A&M's Jake Spavital, Georgia's Jeremy Pruitt, and Florida's Kurt Roper.
- Missouri AD Mike Alden talks about taking action this spring when off-the-field incidents piled up to an intolerable level.
- The Knoxville Police Department recently welcomed the Tennessee football team to its training facility in an effort to build a positive relationship. Senior linebacker Curt Maggitt called it a "team-building event."
- Florida’s final 2014 signees have reported.
- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema announced Thursday that he gave scholarships to incoming freshmen defensive end Jake Hall and fullback Tyler Colquitt.
- Mississippi State DE Chris Jones, who has been hauling in plenty of preseason accolades, gives the Bulldogs' line hope in generating more pass rush this fall.
- South Carolina participated in a charity fundraiser while a handful of players, including freshman WR Shaq Davidson, sat out with injuries.
And don't forget to wear your jersey !! #businessattire RT @ussoccer: Need note to get out of work Thurs? #LetsDoThis pic.twitter.com/fa49OKM0hu - Jürgen Klinsmann (@J_Klinsmann) June 25, 2014
Before we get to your daily links, a moment of appreciation for Vanderbilt, the smallest school in the SEC, having finally won its first men’s title in any sport. It wasn’t quite a capacity crowd on the gridiron at Vanderbilt Stadium on Wednesday night, but about 2,000 showed up to watch their Dores win the College World Series.
Another look at the crowd gathered inside Vanderbilt Stadium for the watch party. pic.twitter.com/tlmRm25JvO - Vandy Baseball (@VandyBaseball) June 26, 2014
Another impressive SEC winning streak is therefore still alive. This is ninth straight year that an SEC school has won a national title in football, men’s basketball or baseball.
- Like no one else can, Les Miles grandstands before sinking a putt during LSU’s recent miniature golf outing. Wonder if he ate any of the fake grass. We were clearly inspired by another great moment from the Mad Hatter, so our own Edward Aschoff compiled some of Miles' greatest video hits.
- Want to know which SEC coach and program have the most social media influence? All 14 are ranked here. Shockingly, the leading coach is Miles, who had 133,446 followers as of Thursday morning. The leading football program is Florida, which beat Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and Georgia despite fewer followers.
- Ole Miss starting cornerback Senquez Golson was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
- Mississippi State tight end Artimas Samuel, who started in the Liberty Bowl last December, is no longer with the team.
- Georgia and Notre Dame have agreed to play a home-and-home series starting in 2017. The Irish will visit Athens, in 2019.
- South Carolina's tremendous run of success on the field is paying off at the gate. The Gamecocks have already sold more season tickets than last year and is close to selling out before the 2014 season begins.
- After some slippage in attendance, Florida is serious about upgrading its fan experience. The Gators announced their 13-member Fan Advisory Council on Wednesday. The group of students, graduates and boosters will address fan issues and be charged with making game day better for the customers.
- Aggies great Johnny Manziel has been drafted by the Cleveland Browns, the San Diego Padres, and now the Harlem Globetrotters. It's a safe bet that TV ratings would go through the roof if Johnny Basketball ever shows off those sweet streetball moves you know he has.
- Tennessee is on a recruiting roll with five commitments in three days.
- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is excited about super-strong incoming freshman DT Bijhon Jackson, who measures 6-foot-2 and 340 pounds.
Sumlin Interested To See New QBs
6:00 PM ET Texas A&M South Carolina 8:00 PM ET Boise State Ole Miss 9:15 PM ET Temple Vanderbilt
12:00 PM ET Tennessee-Martin Kentucky 3:30 PM ET West Virginia Alabama 3:30 PM ET South Dakota State Missouri 4:00 PM ET Arkansas Auburn 5:30 PM ET Clemson Georgia 7:00 PM ET Idaho Florida 7:30 PM ET Southern Miss Mississippi State 9:00 PM ET Wisconsin LSU