SEC Power Rankings: Week 13

November, 23, 2014
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Will Arkansas ever give up another point? For the second consecutive week, the surging Razorbacks shut out a Top 25 team, as they continue to move up the SEC Power Rankings. Outside of that, the day mostly held true to form, as most squads got ready for rivalry week by hosting FCS teams.

Edward Aschoff, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.
Head-coaching changes are on the way, certainly at Florida and likely at Michigan, but do not overlook key coordinator moves potentially on the horizon.

Which programs should make a hire, and which are the likeliest to do so?

Virginia Tech fits both. Those close to the program were unsure last month about offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s future, but failure to score in four quarters Saturday against Wake Forest is a death knell.

The Hokies lost 6-3 in double overtime to the Deacons, an inexcusable and improbable loss that drops them to 5-6. With only Virginia remaining, the rivalry game will determine whether the program’s streak of 21 consecutive bowl games will extend another year.

You’d think Loeffler would get a pass for the offense’s issues, given the magnitude of injuries and youth Virginia Tech has dealt with this fall. I’m told, however, that head coach Frank Beamer has concerns about the inconsistency of the play-calling and flow. Beamer has become more vocal in recent weeks and implored Loeffler to call more run plays and make the offense more digestible for all the young, inexperienced players forced into action.

In 24 games (13-11 record), Loeffler’s offense has averaged 4.94 yards per play. That’s 109th in the FBS. Last in that span? Wake Forest.

Beamer, embattled at this point, has to make a move for one final run at the ACC.

With a number of returning offensive players, including several returns from injuries, there are reasons for hope in 2015. Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer was serviceable before his injury. With a new offensive plan and consistency, the Hokies could give Beamer that rebound run.

Where would I start? Well, Kurt Roper is on the market, and Florida’s demise had very little to do with him. He might be more spread-oriented than recent machinations, but perhaps that divergent philosophy is what the Hokies need.

Knowing the division from his Duke days, he’d be an asset. Having spent some time around him, I think he’d be a snug cultural fit.

Here are a few other coordinator spots to monitor

Latest Dish: Five things I learned

November, 21, 2014
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Here are five things I learned in college football this week:

1. Might Georgia Tech end up being the fly in the ointment in the race to the inaugural College Football Playoff?

The No. 18 Yellow Jackets (9-2, 6-2 ACC) have won four games in a row, and they captured the ACC's Coastal Division after Duke lost to North Carolina 45-20 on Thursday night. Georgia Tech will play No. 3 Florida State in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Dec. 6, and might end up being the last big obstacle for the Seminoles in their quest to reach the playoff.

[+] EnlargeJustin Thomas
Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesWith Duke's loss Thursday night, Justin Thomas and the Yellow Jackets won the Coastal and are slated to play FSU in the ACC championship game.
After Duke lost, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Proud to see hard work our team has put in all year pay off with Coastal title!! Lots of work to do next 2 weeks!!”

Before playing the Seminoles for the ACC title, the Yellow Jackets will play at No. 10 Georgia on Nov. 29. The Bulldogs are still trying to reach the SEC championship game, but need No. 20 Missouri to drop one of its two remaining SEC games (at Tennessee on Saturday or home against Arkansas on Nov. 28) to win the SEC East.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher might be happier if his team was playing the Blue Devils instead for the ACC championship. The Seminoles beat Duke 45-7 in the 2013 ACC title game, and Tech’s triple-option spread offense isn’t much fun to prepare for on short notice. FSU already has won the ACC's Atlantic Division title and hosts Boston College on Saturday and intrastate rival Florida next week.

Tech’s triple-option spread offense also can take a toll on an opponent’s defensive line because of its use of cut blocks. The Seminoles lost three defensive linemen -- Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and reserve Justin Shanks -- after they suffered lower-leg injuries in the first half of a 37-12 win over The Citadel on Sept. 6. The Citadel also runs the triple-option and uses cut blocks, which are designed to knock down defensive linemen by hitting them at the knees.

“Those guys that cut and chop like this, it’s crazy,” Fisher said after that game. “I’d rather play more conventional teams. Just because of the chance of injuries that occurred.”

Of course, Florida State, assuming it reaches the College Football Playoff, would have about a month to recover from playing Georgia Tech before its semifinal game.

2. FSU quarterback Jameis Winston's student conduct-code hearing is still scheduled for Dec. 2, and his attorney, David Cornwell, continues to plead his case on Twitter.

On Friday morning, Cornwell tweeted four times, apparently in response to the accuser’s attorney, John Clune, filing a legal brief to FSU officials. Under the school's student conduct code rules and procedures, Clune and Cornwell will be able to attend the hearing and counsel their clients, but won’t be allowed to speak on their clients’ behalf.

Winston and the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her in December 2012 will be required to present evidence, question witnesses, and answer questions posed by retired Florida State Supreme Court Chief Justice Major Harding, who will hear the case.

Under the rules and regulations in place, Winston isn’t required to answer any or all of Harding’s questions. Winston faces four potential student conduct code violations, including two related to sexual misconduct.

On Friday morning, Cornwell tweeted:

3. There seems to be a possibility that Texas and Texas A&M could meet in a postseason bowl game because of where they currently sit in their respective conference standings.

The rivalry was one of the biggest casualties in college football’s realignment, and the best chance for a meeting would be at the Dec. 29 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston.

Earlier this week, Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com reported that the Aggies and the SEC would block a postseason matchup against the Longhorns.

But Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said the SEC will determine the bowl lineup, and he insists the Aggies won’t try to duck the Longhorns. Under the SEC’s new bowl selection process, schools rank the available bowls, and bowls rank the available teams, in order of preference, and then the league slots its teams.

“Quite frankly, that’s a decision made by the conference,” Hyman told the Houston Chronicle. “The configuration is so different than it’s been in the past.

“It doesn’t matter if I speculate about playing this team or that team in a bowl. It’s out of our control . . . Wherever they tee us up, we’ll play.”

4. A Georgia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make it an aggravated misdemeanor to jeopardize the eligibility of a college student-athlete by providing him or her with illegal benefits.

Under the terms of House Bill 3, anyone who causes a student-athlete to lose his or her eligibility would face a potential $5,000 fine.

State Rep. Barry Fleming told the Athens Banner-Herald that he introduced the bill for consideration next year at the request of House Speaker David Ralston. In October, University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley was suspended four games for improperly accepting $3,000 to sign autographs.

“A 20-year-old in college is not a child, but that 20-year-old is [vulnerable], particularly if they are from a humble background, if someone waves hundred-dollar bills in front of his face,” Fleming told the Athens Banner-Herald.

The bill, if it passes, wouldn’t take effect until next year, so the memorabilia dealers who paid Gurley couldn’t be punished.

5. UCLA had to cancel Thursday night's bonfire at a pep rally.

The Bruins play USC on Saturday, but the annual rally was shut down by students protesting a proposed tuition hike at the school.

That didn’t stop UCLA coach Jim Mora from, uh, fanning the flames. (Warning: His language might not be suitable for all ages.)

SEC morning links

November, 21, 2014
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Arkansas' continued progress has been interesting to see this season and one area they showed significant progress in is third-down success. Last season the Razorbacks were 54th nationally in offensive third-down success rate (41.7 percent) but this season, they're 10th (49.3 percent). That's a huge improvement and it was evident in their 17-0 win over LSU when the Hogs were 10-of-17 against the Tigers on third down, a team that usually stops teams on third down (the Tigers are second in the SEC allowing only a 33.1 percent third-down conversion rate to opponents).

Nobody's happy with the defensive performances this season at South Carolina, but the same can be said at other places around the conference, or the country for that matter. The Gamecocks aren't alone. Texas A&M has seen its fair share of struggles that has its defensive coordinator under the microscope. Auburn has had a rough go lately too, though Gus Malzahn showed support for Ellis Johnson. Still, fans want results and they haven't been good for the Gamecocks, who are last in the league in scoring defense (32.7 points per game).

Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs is the Volunteers' present and future at the position but his predecessor, Justin Worley celebrated his 22nd birthday on Thursday by sharing words with Tennessee fans in an open letter. Worley, whose senior season was cut short after he underwent surgery for a torn labrum earlier this month, shares plenty of candid words and vivid images of his time in Knoxville, which is pretty cool to see.

Around the SEC

Early Offer: Who will land Soso Jamabo? 

November, 20, 2014
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Soso Jamabo loved visits to UCLA and Notre Dame, but is it too early to count out the Texas schools? Plus, NC State added a key pledge on Wednesday that should give the Wolfpack much-needed help on the offensive line.

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UA jersey tour: Fred Ulu-Perry Jr.

November, 20, 2014
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The Under Armour All-America Game jersey presentation tour hit the Aloha State for the third day in a row, as ESPN 300 offensive guard Fred Ulu-Perry Jr. was awarded his jersey in front of friends and family in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance.

Ulu-Perry Jr. joins good friends and fellow ESPN 300 prospects Canton Kaumatule and Breiden Fehoko as participants in the game and players to have been honored this week.

"It was great," Ulu-Perry Jr. said of the presentation. "It was great to have all my family here and all my brothers from St. Louis [School]. It was pretty cool and something I'll always remember."

The 6-foot-3, 307-pound Ulu-Perry Jr., the nation's No. 4 guard, committed to UCLA over the summer, but his recruitment rolls on. He will use all five of his official visits and has already gone to UCLA and Texas Tech. He'll visit Oregon State for the Civil War on Nov. 29 and will visit Colorado and Texas A&M in January.

"When I go on trips, I want to take everything," Ulu-Perry Jr. said. "It's supposed to be fun, but it's a business trip. I'm really evaluating the coaches, players the area and how the program is run."

Ulu-Perry Jr. said he'll ultimately have a final decision in late January or early February, whether to stick with his UCLA commitment or flip elsewhere.



Six questions with Fred Ulu-Perry Jr.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class, who would it be?

"There are so many people I would take. Definitely Canton and Breiden. I would take Kanawai Noa from Punahou and Salanoa-alo Wily from Kahuku. There are too many."

What was your earliest football memory?

"I started playing football in sixth grade. I remember I was just a young kid running around trying to learn the game. I got the hang of it my first year and from there it's been fun. My goal from the start was to dominate everyone."

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?

"I really look up to Olin Kreutz and Samson Satele. Those were the best centers out here and Kreutz is probably going to the Hall of Fame."

If you could take on any pro in their sport, who would it be?

"I'd want to take on Haloti Ngata. He's probably the nastiest defensive tackle I've seen."

Why do you wear your number?

"I wear No. 64 because my favorite car is a 1964 Impala."

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

"I'm a pretty basic person. I just love working hard, dedicating myself to the lord, my family, school and football. I think everybody pretty much knows everything about me."

SEC Week 13 predictions

November, 20, 2014
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Of all the weeks in the 2014 season, this is certainly one of them. While most of the conference takes it easy with FCS foes before rivalry week, there are a couple of big games on tap. Missouri looks to take control of the SEC East with a victory over Tennessee, while Arkansas hopes to build on last Saturday's win by knocking Ole Miss completely out of the playoff picture. It might not be the best day of games, but come April, you'll be wishing for a weekend like this one. With that in mind, let's get on with the picks.


Why Arkansas wins: Arkansas had been knocking at the door for weeks and the Razorbacks finally broke it down last Saturday when they shut out LSU to secure Bret Bielema's first SEC win. Now can they make it two in a row? Ole Miss is favored to record a key road win, but Arkansas' progress this season has impressed me. I'm tiptoeing out on a limb and rolling with the home team. Arkansas 20, Ole Miss 14 -- David Ching

Why Ole Miss wins: This is the definition of a trap game for the Rebels. They’re playing a hungry Arkansas team, fresh off its first SEC win, and they have the Egg Bowl next week. They can’t afford to start looking ahead. There’s just too much on the line for Ole Miss, though. I think the Landsharks defense will come out inspired and Bo Wallace will make just enough plays to win the game. Ole Miss 24, Arkansas 14 -- Greg Ostendorf


Why Tennessee wins: The Volunteers have played great on offense since inserting Josh Dobbs as the starting quarterback. In the last three games, he's averaging 263 passing yards per game and has thrown seven touchdowns and two interceptions, plus he's averaging 96 rushing yards per game and has rushed for four scores. Will that be enough for the Vols to notch just their second win against a ranked team under Butch Jones? Tennessee 24, Missouri 21 -- David Ching

Why Missouri wins: The Tigers haven't lost a road game in nearly two full years, a streak of nine in a row. Neyland Stadium holds quite the crowd, but so does Kyle Field, which drew more than 100,000 last week when Missouri beat the Aggies. And now that Markus Golden's nagging hamstring injury seems to be a nonfactor, the pass rush led by SEC-leading sacker Shane Ray and Golden is at full speed again, which will be a challenge for Josh Dobbs & Co. Missouri 31, Tennessee 27 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Unanimous picks

Mississippi State over Vanderbilt: The Bulldogs are coming off their first loss, but look for Dak Prescott & Co. to get back on track this week against the struggling Commodores, who are still searching for their first SEC win. Mississippi State 48, Vanderbilt 14

Alabama over Western Carolina: Alabama usually puts these games to bed quickly (and beat Western Carolina 49-0 when they last met in 2012) so expect the similar results here as the Crimson Tide get a tune-up before the Iron Bowl. Alabama 49, Western Carolina 7

Auburn over Samford: Auburn holds a 26-0-1 all-time series advantage over Samford, so don't expect the 28th meeting to buck that trend on the Tigers' senior day at Jordan-Hare. Auburn 52, Samford 6

Georgia over Charleston Southern: Georgia thumped Auburn at home last week to wrap up its SEC campaign, so now the Bulldogs must wait to see if Missouri loses. In the meantime, expect them to make quick work of this Big South foe. Georgia 49, Charleston Southern 3

Florida over Eastern Kentucky: Now that Will Muschamp's job status is clear, the pressure's off. The Gators still have bowl eligibility to play for and look to coast to a win over a quality FCS squad in Eastern Kentucky, which actually beat an FBS team this year: Miami (Ohio). Florida 42, Eastern Kentucky 7

South Carolina over South Alabama: The Gamecocks are looking to secure bowl eligibility. Expect them to build off the momentum of the comeback overtime win over Florida. South Carolina 45, South Alabama 10

Standings
Greg Ostendorf 77-17
Edward Aschoff 74-20
Chris Low 74-20
David Ching 73-21
Alex Scarborough 70-24
Sam Khan Jr. 69-25
video

Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre is trying to resurrect a program in the midst of what is arguably college football's most treacherous minefield. He knows the dangers of the Pac-12 South firsthand; his Buffaloes are camped out in the cellar of it.

"I think [the Pac-12 South] is the toughest division in college football, period," he proclaimed on Tuesday's conference call.

Uh oh. Those will almost certainly be considered fighting words by many in the Southeast, home of the rugged SEC West.

But MacIntyre's comments bring up a fun chance of examination: What is the toughest division in the country? This season, the argument inevitably boils down to the Pac-12 South -- which is fresh off surpassing its Northern brethren -- and the SEC West, which has maintained the upper hand in that area of the country for several years running now.

Of course, coaches advocate for the division in which they play -- MacIntyre's club is laboring through conference play with an 0-7 record, so we know what camp he's in.

"The [Pac-12 South] is very comparable to the SEC West, and I think people can argue that both ways," he said. "I think we have better quarterbacks. That always makes for a better team, when you have a better quarterback."

We asked for a little help in clarifying the argument from our friends in ESPN Stats and Information and the Football Power Index (FPI).

Although the Pac-12 South has more teams (5) ranked in the AP Top 25 than the SEC West (4), every single team from the SEC West -- including 1-5 Arkansas -- received votes in the most recent AP poll. When accounting for the total amount of poll votes as well as a teams' FPI, the SEC West sum is 97.3, greater than the Pac-12's 90.3.

When it comes to FPI, the SEC West has the advantage with an average rank 10.4, compared to the Pac-12 South, which has an average rank of 30.8. Although there are five teams with .700 or better overall winning percentages in the Pac-12 South, FPI predicts that on a neutral field, every team in the West would have a greater than 50 percent chance to beat two-thirds of the South: Arizona, Utah, Arizona State, and Colorado. According to FPI, UCLA and USC are the only two Pac-12 South teams that would have a better than 50 percent chance of holding their ground against a handful of SEC West teams.

Salt these projections however you like. Perhaps the most important factor in this argument is that Oregon, the Pac-12's top-rated team, resides in the North (Alabama, the SEC's biggest gun, is part of the West, so that gives the division a firepower advantage).

If college football history has taught us anything, this type of debate will rage on unresolved well beyond this season. But MacIntyre, who might know better than most, has cast his vote for the Pac-12 South.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has long been known as an offensive mind. Though he was a linebacker in his playing days at Purdue, Sumlin’s coaching career as an assistant was on the offensive side of the football, a trend that began in his first job under former Washington State coach Mike Price more than two decades ago. Even as a head coach, Sumlin has had a reputation for offensive prowess, including his knack for having star quarterbacks.

As his third season in Aggieland winds down and fans decry the defensive performances Texas A&M has put on the field this season -- which follows a poor 2013 -- it’s worth taking a look at how defenses have fared under Sumlin’s watch. While coordinators and defensive assistants do the heavy lifting, Sumlin ultimately puts those individuals in place by hiring them.

[+] EnlargeMark Snyder
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY SportsMark Snyder's defense is ranked 101st against the pass and 70th against the run this season.
In his seven seasons as a head coach, only two seasons have yielded what could be considered good defensive results: his fourth and final season at Houston in 2011 and his first season at Texas A&M in 2012.

Looking at key categories such as scoring defense, third-down defense and turnover margin, the results were generally good in those areas those seasons. Houston was 35th nationally in scoring defense (22.4 points per game), 44th in third-down conversion rate allowed (37.3 percent) and tied for third nationally in turnover margin (plus-16) in 2011. In Sumlin’s first season at Texas A&M, the Aggies were 26th in scoring defense (21.8), 16th on third downs (32.4 percent) though they weren’t good on turnovers (a minus-five margin tied them for 87th nationally).

In the other five seasons, including this one, Sumlin’s teams have ranked 77th or worse in scoring and 78th or worse on third downs. In four of the previous six seasons, Sumlin's teams have been 92nd nationally or worse in scoring defense and have allowed at least 30 points per game.

Turnover margin has been varied from year to year, though this season the Aggies are 105th in that statistic (minus-six). Aside from 2011 and 2012, Sumlin’s teams have ranked 100th or worse nationally in yards per game (the Aggies are exactly 100th currently, allowing 445.2 yards per game). In 2011 Houston was 62nd (380.3) and in 2012 Texas A&M was 57th (390.2).

Because of the nature of his team’s offensive success and penchant to rank among the top teams nationally in scoring, yards per game and more, Sumlin’s defenses never needed to be perfect. With a potent offense, an elite defense usually hasn’t been necessary to win, evidenced by his 62-27 career record. However, the two best seasons Sumlin’s teams had record-wise were those two: 2011 and 2012 when his teams went a combined 23-3 under his watch.

At Houston, Sumlin made a defensive coordinator change after 2009, his second season, which also meant a scheme change from a base 4-3 alignment to Brian Stewart’s 3-4. The first season under Stewart was difficult but significant improvement was evident in 2011, Sumlin’s final season there as the UH defense posted its best numbers in four years in scoring, yards per game, rushing, passing, third downs, red zone efficiency and turnover margin.

It’s also worth noting that the best season of defense under Sumlin at Houston was one comprised entirely of starters that signed with Sumlin as recruits.

The 2012 season at Texas A&M, Sumlin and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder had the luxury of many veteran defensive players on the roster, such as linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart, defensive linemen Damontre Moore and Spencer Nealy and safety Steven Terrell.

Seemingly the heart of that 2012 unit, once key players graduated (and Moore exited early for the draft) it left a void of leadership and experience. Filled with underclassmen, the 2013 Texas A&M defense struggled mightily, allowing 32.2 points per game (95th in the country) and 475.8 yards per game (109th). The unit ranked last in the SEC in scoring, yards per game, yards per play, rushing yards per game, yards per rush and red zone efficiency.

The 2014 Texas A&M defense showed some improvement early this season during the team’s 5-0 start but has struggled in the second half. The Aggies are still better in most categories than they were a year ago, but not by much and are trending toward the 2013 numbers. The one area the Aggies have posted their best mark in the past three seasons is goal-to-go efficiency (65.4 percent), where they are 26th nationally.

The most eye-opening numbers have come against the best teams they’ve played this season. Against its best five opponents -- Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn and Missouri -- Texas A&M has allowed an average of 533.6 offensive yards per game and 40 points per game. And while there are still some players starting that signed under the previous coaching staff, this unit mostly has players recruited by the current staff.

Recruiting in the past two years has been good, though, especially in the 2014 class, which produced true freshman like defensive end Myles Garrett, who is second in the SEC in sacks this season, safety Armani Watts (three interceptions) and linebackers Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker. Getting that talent to translate to on-field results will be crucial for Sumlin and the Aggies moving forward.

ESPN Jr. 300: What to know in the SEC 

November, 19, 2014
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The SEC already has five commitments from players ranked in the top 25 of the ESPN Junior 300. That list includes Greg Little, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2016 and a Texas A&M commit. As a whole, the SEC has 27 commitments in the updated ESPN Junior 300. Here’s a closer look at the updated rankings.


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SEC Freshman Tracker: Week 12

November, 19, 2014
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Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Tennessee’s Derek Barnett were once again the stars of the weekend among the SEC’s true freshmen, with both rookies helping their teams earn blowout wins against conference competitors.

Let’s recap how the dynamic duo, and several other members of the SEC’s true freshman class, performed last Saturday:

DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

What he did: Barnett notched seven tackles, four tackles for loss and a pair of sacks in the Volunteers’ blowout win against Kentucky.

What it means: He probably wasn’t getting enough attention before, but Barnett is getting it now. Barnett is tied for fifth nationally in tackles for loss with Missouri’s Shane Ray. They share the SEC lead with 18 apiece. Barnett is also third in the SEC with nine sacks.

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia

What he did: The return of -- and subsequent injury to -- Todd Gurley generated most of the attention in Saturday’s win against Auburn, but the Chubb Train kept rolling. Georgia’s star freshman ran 19 times for 144 yards and scored touchdowns of 9 and 11 yards. He also caught two passes for 48 yards.

What it means: Chubb has rushed for at least 140 yards in all five games since Gurley was initially suspended. During that time, he has been arguably the SEC’s most dynamic running back. He has run for 815 yards in the past five games and pushed his season total past the 1,000-yard mark (to 1,039) against Auburn.

RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee

What he did: He hasn’t put up comparable numbers to Chubb, but Hurd has been impressive while running behind a much less experienced offensive line. He rushed 23 times for 118 yards and scored a 4-yard touchdown against Kentucky. He also made a reception for an 11-yard gain.

What it means: Through 10 games, Hurd has rushed for 716 yards and three touchdowns and ranks third on the team with 27 catches for 177 yards and two more scores. He is easily one of the Volunteers' most valuable offensive players and he’s only getting started.

QB Treon Harris, Florida

What he did: The South Carolina game ended terribly for Florida -- with the Gamecocks tying the score late and winning in overtime -- but Harris is a clear upgrade over Jeff Driskel at quarterback. He completed just 5 of 11 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, but Harris also ran 20 times for 111 yards.

What it means: Starting for the third straight game, Harris suffered his first loss as a starter against the Gamecocks. Nonetheless, Florida has become a more competitive team with him under center. His 100-yard outing was the first by a Florida quarterback since Driskel in 2012.

S Armani Watts, Texas A&M

What he did: The freshman safety made four tackles and broke up two passes in a loss against Missouri, but his biggest play came late in the second quarter when he picked off a Maty Mauk pass at the Texas A&M 12-yard line and returned it 36 yards to the Aggies 48. A&M then drove to Mizzou’s 13 and kicked a field goal at the buzzer to go up 13-6 at halftime.

What it means: Other A&M freshmen like Myles Garrett, Speedy Noil and Kyle Allen have garnered more attention, but Watts has become a solid contributor on defense. He leads the team with three interceptions and 10 passes defended, is second with seven pass breakups and sixth with 52 tackles. It’s shaping up to be a strong rookie season for the young defensive back.

Other notables:

QB Kyle Allen, Texas A&M: Completed 24 of 35 passes for 237 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a loss to Missouri.

LB Bryson Allen-Williams, South Carolina: Made three tackles, a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble while combining for a sack in a win against Florida.

DB/KR Evan Berry, Tennessee: Vols legend Eric Berry’s younger brother made two tackles and returned three kickoffs for 91 yards (30.3 ypr) with a long of 39 against Kentucky.

WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M: Caught three passes for 36 yards and totaled 95 yards on two kickoff returns in a loss to Missouri.

DB Malkom Parrish, Georgia: Made five tackles and forced a fourth-quarter fumble that outside linebacker Davin Bellamy recovered in a win against Auburn.

P J.K. Scott, Alabama: Punted seven times for 319 yards (45.6 ypp) in a win against Mississippi State with a long of 56.

RB Ish Witter, Missouri: Ran four times for 34 yards and rushed for a key third-quarter touchdown that gave the Tigers a 14-point lead in a 34-27 win over Texas A&M.
The last few days haven't exactly been the best for college football's image.

On Saturday, arguably the country's best player basically ended his career with a devastating ACL injury in his first game back from a four-game NCAA suspension. Sunday brought us the firing of a coach who did everything right, but win. The work week brought more attention to autograph issues with Florida State's star, and two schools are dealing with horrific allegations away from the field.

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SEC morning links

November, 19, 2014
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1. I had two big takeaways from the latest College Football Playoff rankings that came out Tuesday. First, the committee still likes the SEC. Alabama jumped all the way to No. 1, and despite losing to the Crimson Tide, Mississippi State remained a playoff team at No. 4. Will that last? We’ll see, but for now the Bulldogs have to be happy with where they’re at. The second thing is game control. What is it? It’s basically a calculation of a team’s average in-game win probability or a measure of how exactly a team went about winning (or losing) throughout the game. (Click here if still confused.) Why is it important? The new rankings showed that game control is important to the committee. It’s not just that you win, it’s how you win. For what it’s worth, the SEC has four of the top five teams ranked according to game control.

2. Missouri has a simple path to Atlanta. Win two games and the Tigers are back in the SEC championship game. And yet, everybody is writing them off just like they did last year. Sure, this Missouri team lost to Indiana and got blown out by Georgia, the team that’s currently on their heels for the East crown. But both of those games were at home. Surprisingly the road is where the Tigers have thrived. They have won nine straight road games, including seven straight against conference foes. No other SEC team has won more than three in a row. Not Georgia. Not the two Mississippi schools. Not even Alabama. Don’t be so quick to count out Missouri this Saturday just because the game is at Tennessee. Maybe it’s an advantage.

3. There has been talk this week of a possible Texas-Texas A&M matchup in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. However, it sounds like the Aggies, and maybe more importantly the SEC, want nothing to do with Texas. That got me thinking, though. What are some of the potential bowl matchups that we’d all love to see? And no, I’m not including the semifinal games. They’re going to be must-see TV regardless of who’s playing. These are lesser bowl games involving SEC teams that I’ve seen projected.
  • Auburn vs. Notre Dame in the Belk Bowl (The last two BCS runners-up)
  • Georgia vs. Wisconsin in the Citrus Bowl (Chubb vs. Gordon)
  • Mississippi State vs. TCU in the Fiesta Bowl (Who’s the best team left out?)
  • Missouri vs. Nebraska in the Outback Bowl (An old Big 12 rivalry)
Tweet of the day

There have been some interesting names linked to the Florida opening, but several coaches believe Marshall's Doc Holliday could be a good recruiting fit in Gainesville. Plus, many expected ESPN 300 OT Chuma Edoga to flip from USC to Georgia, but it looks like the Trojans have won the battle in the end.


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SEC bowl projections: Week 12

November, 18, 2014
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How important is earning the top overall seed in the College Football Playoff? For Alabama, it's very important. It would allow the Tide to play a virtual home game in the Sugar Bowl as opposed to going out West to possibly face Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

That's why Nick Saban and his team have to be ecstatic with their No. 1 ranking in the latest playoff rankings. As long as they win out and win the SEC title, they're headed to New Orleans for the first semifinal game.

Meanwhile, if everything plays out as it should -- and it never does -- the Tide's opponent in the Sugar Bowl would be none other than Mississippi State. That's right. The Bulldogs only dropped to No. 4 after Saturday's loss to Alabama, and that means they're still in good shape for the playoff if they can take care of business against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.

The next two weeks should also be interesting for the rest of the conference as a number of teams are fighting for that sixth win and bowl eligibility. Both Florida and South Carolina should get there this Saturday as they play Eastern Kentucky and South Alabama, respectively. It won't be as easy, though, for teams like of Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.

We predict a total of 12 SEC teams becoming bowl eligible by season's end.

College Football Playoff semifinal (Sugar Bowl): Alabama
College Football Playoff semifinal (Sugar Bowl): Mississippi State
Capital One Orange Bowl: Ole Miss
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Georgia
Citrus Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: Florida
Outback Bowl: Missouri
AdvoCare 100 Texas Bowl: Texas A&M
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Tennessee
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: LSU
Belk Bowl: South Carolina
Birmingham Bowl: Arkansas

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