Texas A&M Aggies: Brent Pease

SEC Power Rankings: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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We have a new No. 1 in our Power Rankings, and there's a chance that either of the top two teams on this list could back its way into the BCS title game:

1. Auburn (11-1, 7-1 SEC; last week: 3): Call it luck, but don't forget to call the Tigers good. Auburn won the Iron Bowl 34-28 over No. 1 Alabama on a last-second field goal return for a touchdown by Chris Davis. It was another improbable win for the Cardiac Cats, but Auburn also ran for 296 yards on the SEC's best rush defense. Back-to-back thrillers have Auburn No. 3 in the BCS standings and SEC Western Division champions.

2. Missouri (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 2): These Tigers will meet those Tigers in the SEC championship game on Saturday. After beating Texas A&M 28-21 at home, Mizzou completed its own improbable season in its second year in the league. Missouri now has five wins over opponents that were ranked when it played them. Like Auburn, Mizzou is very much in the national championship picture. The Tigers need help, but a win over Auburn would push a team that was left for dead last season a step closer to Pasadena, Calif.

3. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 1): The three-peat is likely over after Alabama was bested by its archrival. Why Nick Saban would attempt a 57-yard field goal with a second left without any speedy athletes on the field is mind-blowing. Saban rarely makes mistakes, but this one will sting for a very long time. Alabama is still very much in the hunt for a BCS bowl game, but a return to the title game is a long shot.

4. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC; LW: 4): Another year, another win over Clemson. That makes five in a row for Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks after his guys walked over the Tigers 31-17. South Carolina forced six turnovers, and quarterback Connor Shaw impressed yet again with 246 yards of offense and two touchdowns. The BCS is out of reach for the Gamecocks, but they have a shot at three straight 11-win seasons.

5. LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC; LW: 5): This is easily the most confusing team to follow in 2013. The Tigers started hot, hit some bumps and then finished strong with an exciting 31-27 win over Arkansas. LSU was without starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger (knee) late, but it didn't matter, as freshman Anthony Jennings drove the Tigers 99 yards, with a 49-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:15 left. This could be another double-digit-win season for the Tigers.

6. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 6): Johnny Manziel went from carving up defenses to being smothered in his last two outings. In Saturday's loss to Mizzou, Manziel was held to a season-low 216 total yards and a touchdown. The defense was gutted -- again -- allowing 225 rushing yards, including a 57-yard Henry Josey touchdown run with 3:34 remaining. It's been a long November in College Station, but at least Kevin Sumlin is locked up for the long haul.

7. Vanderbilt (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 8): Coach James Franklin might be near the top of USC's coaching list, but for now, he's doing a heck of a job as Vandy's coach. There's no wonder he's on the Trojans' radar. Vandy has won four straight, will make its third straight bowl game and is in line to win nine in back-to-back seasons. The Commodores didn't make it look easy against Wake Forest, but a Carey Spear field goal with 39 seconds left kept the Dores' winning streak alive.

8. Georgia (8-4, 5-3 SEC; LW: 9): Another team that didn't want things to be easy over the weekend, Georgia needed double overtime to beat rival Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs' defense was pushed around for 495 yards, but the offense was there to bring the Dawgs back from deficits of 20-0 and 27-17. When you have a guy like Todd Gurley (158 total yards and four touchdowns), it doesn't matter who you have at quarterback.

9. Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5 SEC; LW: 10): After being on the outside of the bowl picture just a couple of weeks ago, the Bulldogs rallied to win their last two, including an overtime victory against bitter rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving. It wasn't the prettiest of games, but injured quarterback Dak Prescott came into the fourth quarter and threw for 115 yards, while running for 29, including the eventual winning 3-yard score. Dan Mullen has Mississippi State in the postseason for the fourth straight season.

10. Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC; LW: 7): Oh, what could have been for this team. Not only have the Rebels lost two straight, but they allowed their archrivals to make it to the postseason. For a season that started 3-0, some poor play in the red zone -- especially near the goal line -- against Missouri and turnovers against Mississippi State cost Ole Miss in its final two games.

11. Tennessee (5-7, 2-6 SEC; LW: 11): A long first year for Butch Jones ended with a nice 27-14 win over Kentucky. The Vols aren't going bowling, but now is the time when Jones has to ramp up the development phase and keep an already stellar recruiting class together. Remember, this team was a fake Vandy jump pass from a bowl berth.

12. Florida (4-8, 3-5 SEC; LW: 12): The Gators' nightmare of a season ended with a 37-7 rout by rival Florida State inside the Swamp. Florida then fired embattled offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis. Florida lost seven straight to end the season without scoring more than 20 points. And it isn't going bowling for the first time in 22 years and has its first losing season since 1979.

13. Arkansas (3-9, 0-8 SEC; LW: 13): With that heartbreaking loss to LSU, the Razorbacks have dropped a school-record nine straight and went 0-8 in conference play for the first time. This team fought hard in its final act, but it's clear that development and recruiting need to amp up during the offseason if Bret Bielema is going to have a chance at really competing in this league.

14. Kentucky (2-10, 0-8 SEC; LW: 14): The Wildcats have now gone 0-8 in SEC play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1941-42 and have lost 16 straight SEC games. Mark Stoops is building a pretty impressive recruiting class right now, but we all know it takes more than recruiting. The Wildcats need more than talent, as they took steps back on both sides of the ball late in the season.

SEC lunchtime links

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
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We’re just a day away from Thanksgiving and the first SEC game of the week. It’s a good time to check out what’s going on around the league.

SEC lunchtime links

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
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Talking quarterbacks, BCS bowls, penalties, turnovers and even a punter in today's edition of the lunchtime links:

SEC lunchtime links

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
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From defensive struggles to quarterback quandaries to head coach hot-stove talk to even nature walks, there's plenty going on in SEC football this week. Here's a sampling of discussion points from around the league:

SEC lunchtime links

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
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Kirk Herbstreit is excited about the return of college football. Are you? Read up on the SEC this afternoon and don't miss "The Herbie Awards" tonight at 8 ET on ESPNU.
Alabama might have fallen to No. 2 in ESPN colleague Mark Schlabach's Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25, but I'd like to think that most of the college football world still considers the Crimson Tide to be the favorites to win the national championship again.

Alabama lost nine draft picks, including three first-rounders, but Nick Saban has a host of talent returning on both sides of the ball, and the Tide's schedule isn't too daunting after the first two games.

But there are teams that will test the Tide's road to a national championship trifecta in 2013. Colleague Travis Haney picked five teams from around the country that could challenge Alabama's title hopes this fall. Ohio State topped his list, while Texas A&M made it from the SEC.

No surprise there with the Aggies. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel returns with a bundle of riches to accompany him in the Aggies' backfield.

Johnny Football might not have Luke Joeckel protecting him, but Jake Matthews provides quite the safety net with his move to left tackle, and there is still talent and experience up front. Mike Evans leads a young but talented group of pass-catchers.

The defense is a concern, with five members of last season's front seven gone, but the Aggies will still be equipped to win most shootouts.

A&M benefits from getting Alabama at home early in the season, but has to play Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU and Missouri on the road. Even beating Alabama early doesn't guarantee the Aggies will make it to Atlanta over the Tide.

Here are four other SEC teams that could wreck Alabama's title train this fall:

Florida

The Gators will yet again be elite on defense. First-round draft picks Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam might be gone, but Dominique Easley moves back to his more natural position at defensive tackle and could one of the best at his position this fall. Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy could be the top cornerback duo in the SEC, while inside linebacker Antonio Morrison has the makings of being a budding star.

The offense is still a concern, especially with the lack of proven receiving talent, but quarterback Jeff Driskel has found a lot more confidence in his second year under offensive coordinator Brent Pease, and he'll have a much tougher offensive line and another loaded backfield to work with.

Georgia

Sure, the defense is younger and less experienced, but people in Athens are excited about the younger guys taking over. They were very receptive to coaching and showed continued improvement this spring. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins has playmaker written all over him, while freshman Tray Matthews could be the next big thing at safety. Having Damian Swann back at cornerback is huge.

Offensively, Georgia will be able to score on just about everyone. Aaron Murray is looking to be the first SEC quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in four seasons, and should leave with a handful of SEC/Georgia records. He has five offensive linemen returning, the best one-two running back punch (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall) and plenty of receivers to throw to, including Malcolm Mitchell, who has moved back to offense full-time.

LSU

Yes, the Tigers lost a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but Les Miles seemed pretty happy with where his defense was -- especially his defensive line -- at the end of spring. Jermauria Rasco could be a big-time player at defensive end for LSU, while linebacker Lamin Barrow has the talent to be an All-SEC performer. The return of cornerbacks Jalen Collins and Jalen Mills should continue the Tigers' trend of having an elite secondary.

The offense should be better, too. Zach Mettenberger is way more comfortable in the offense and has developed better chemistry with his receiving targets, which all return from last season. He'll have a solid offensive line in front of him and a loaded backfield. Although, it will be important to see what happens to the suspended Jeremy Hill, who could be the Tigers' top offensive weapon.

South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney hasn't left, and the Gamecocks should once again be stacked along their defensive line. South Carolina does have to replace its two-deep at linebacker and has a couple of holes in its secondary, but we all know that a good defensive line can mask weaknesses behind it.

And the offense should be pretty balanced this fall. South Carolina possesses two solid quarterbacks and a talented running back stable led by rising sophomore Mike Davis. Bruce Ellington is back at receiver, and it sounds like the very talented Shaq Roland is finally starting to come around and should be a valuable receiving target this fall. This team has the personnel to make it back to Atlanta.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- There has already been plenty of anticipation for this season at Texas A&M, with the Aggies entering their first year of Southeastern Conference play and all the newness surrounding the program, from the new coaching staff, offensive and defensive schemes, logos, uniforms and more. The payoff for all the waiting was delayed for the Aggies after their originally scheduled season opener against Louisiana Tech was postponed because of Hurricane Isaac.

Players and coaches alike have been asked time and again about playing in the SEC: what they expect, what they think about what others expect, what it means to play in college football's premier conference and so on. For many of the Aggies, they're simply ready to get on the field with Florida and play instead of talking about what's ahead, and at least one said as much when players and coaches met with the media on Tuesday in advance of the Aggies' showdown vs. Florida on Saturday.

(Read full post)


When Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin delivered the news to his team that the Aggies’ opener against Louisiana Tech was postponed because of Hurricane Isaac, he could sense how devastated his players were. But imagine how he felt.

Everything is new for the Aggies, but it's also all new for Sumlin, who left Houston to coach the Aggies. Instead of seeing what his team is made of after a long offseason that consisted of installing a new offense and defense, he has to wait ... for A&M's first SEC game.

“There are pluses and minuses to both sides of this equation, it’s just how you handle it with your team,” Sumlin said last week about the postponement. “It all gets down to preparing and getting your guys ready to play on Saturday.”

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesWith a game under their belt, coach Will Muschamp and Florida could have a slight edge Saturday against Texas A&M.
Instead of having a game under their belts, the Aggies will host No. 24 Florida this Saturday a game behind. Sure, Texas A&M had the benefit of having a couple of more days to prepare for the Gators, but practicing and playing are two different things. Going through the motions against players you’re familiar with just doesn’t match up with playing and seeing someone different.

That’s where Florida has the advantage this weekend. While the Gators’ offense seemed to mirror its struggles from the past two years in its sluggish 27-14 win over Bowling Green, the Gators did have the chance to actually play someone inside of a stadium with fans around them. They were full go, while A&M rested.

"It's an advantage to go in there having played with some new players and a new QB for us, but there will be some new wrinkles in what they do,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

“We are at a little bit of a guessing game from the standpoint of them not playing. But that's always with the first game and you go through that as a coach and you go through that going into a bowl game after you've had some time off, we just need to adjust to what we're doing, we need to play fast, we need to have a great tempo because I know they will offensively. We need to get lined up and get our cleats in the dirt and play."

The Gators will be going into the A&M game a little blind, but it’s not like they gave the Aggies a ton of tape to pore over, either. Florida was incredibly vanilla Saturday. You didn’t see much creativity on offense or defense. First-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease barely opened his playbook, especially in the passing game.

Obviously, having two quarterbacks audition for the starting spot contributed to that. But Saturday gave Pease and his quarterback -- Jeff Driskel -- something to build off of. Driskel wasn’t great, but he's the guy now and the offense can officially mold around him. Expect to see Florida’s playbook open up a little bit to play to Driskel’s strengths.

And look for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to bring a little more heat to A&M’s backfield, especially with first-year starting quarterback Johnny Manziel lining up for his first collegiate game. Unlike Driskel, Manziel doesn't have the luxury of any game experience, so expect some jitters and wide eyes.

It also helps Florida that Bowling Green's offense is similar to Sumlin's when it comes to all of those quick throws and screens. The Gators got a little preview of what to expect Saturday.

Anxiety should be flowing on both sidelines this weekend. The Aggies are playing their first game, and it’s the SEC opener. The Gators are taking an unproven offense into a very hostile environment.

But having a game out of the way is a big advantage for Florida. Not everything went right, and some of Saturday looked mediocre, but a game was played. The Gators have film to critique and build off of. Changes can be made.

A&M has practice film and nerves to work with. The Aggies aren’t sure yet what works and what doesn’t.

Sumlin will have his team prepared as best he can, but he’ll have to deal with watching all of the kinks being worked out in Week 2. He’ll have to suffer through the early mistakes that you expect in Week 1.

Unlike Muschamp, he doesn’t quite know what he’s dealing with in College Station.

Inside look: Q&A with GatorNation

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
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Each week this season, GigEmNation will visit with a reporter that covers Texas A&M's upcoming opponent. This week, we visit Michael DiRocco of ESPN's GatorNation.

Sam Khan Jr.: After playing two quarterbacks -- Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett -- against Bowling Green, coach Will Muschamp named Driskel the starter for Saturday. What's your assessment of the quarterback situation heading into the Texas A&M game?

Michael DiRocco: This will be Driskel’s game from start to finish. Muschamp has elected to go with the more mobile Driskel because that adds an additional element to the Gators’ offense. Driskel was solid against Bowling Green (10-for-16, 114 yards, 1 TD) but he missed several throws and hesitated on several others. That’s normal for all young quarterbacks, though, but getting past that is something that could have been accelerated a bit had he not had to split practice reps with Brissett throughout the spring and in August.

SK: With Texas A&M starting a redshirt freshman quarterback (Johnny Manziel) who will be making his first start, what kind of approach do you think we should expect to see from Florida's defense?

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Kim Klement/US PresswireFlorida sophomore QB Jeff Driskel will be the starter against Texas A&M.
MD: The Gators will play almost exclusively nickel against the Aggies, which allows them to take advantage of their deep and talented secondary. The best way to rattle a young QB is to put pass rushers in his face and make him make quick decisions. UF would love to do that with just the front four, but the Gators were inconsistent with that last week against Bowling Green. If they can’t, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has got several blitz packages designed to get pressure up the middle. Safety Matt Elam is a pretty good blitzer who may figure prominently in those plans.

SK: After piling up 220 rushing yards on the ground against Bowling Green, do you see the Gators continuing to emphasize the run, and particularly Mike Gillislee, when they come to College Station?

MD: Absolutely. Muschamp wants to be a pro-style, power-run team – Alabama is the blueprint – and that means a heavy dose of Gillislee. He’s the Gators’ best back and he’s coming off a 24-carry, 148-yard performance. The question will be whether the Gators will continue to be stubborn and try to run the ball against stacked fronts or if they’ll open the offense up a bit. Muschamp says he’ll take the handcuffs off offensive coordinator Brent Pease this week, but with a young QB making his first career start, the safest play would be to go conservative.

SK: It appeared that the Gators struggled in short-yardage running situations on Saturday. Is that an aberration or do you suspect that could be a lingering issue for Florida?

MD: That’s could be a lingering issue because it’s on the offensive line. The unit didn’t get much movement at all in those short-yardage plays. It’s a group that was supposed to be tougher and stronger this season after working with new strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman. It didn’t look that way against Bowling Green in those short-yardage situations. Maybe that was an aberration, but if the line had trouble with the Falcons, what will it do against SEC defensive lines?

SK: The Gators' defense is clearly fast and athletic. How do you see the unit responding to an accelerated offensive tempo, which Texas A&M is expected to employ?

MD: It’s a concern, but it’s a veteran defense in its second season in Quinn’s system. That should mean better communication from the sideline and on the field between players. The Gators have studied tape of Kevin Sumlin’s Houston teams and should be prepared for the up-tempo style. Plus, it’s Texas A&M’s first game and there’s bound to be glitches, especially with a freshman QB. That might keep the Aggies from being as crisp with the up-tempo pace as they will be later in the season.

SK: Though his tenure hasn't been long, give me your assessment of the job Will Muschamp has done so far.

MD: He’s done a very good job recruiting, although his first class – which he assembled in about two months – hasn’t produced much in the way of significant contributors. This year’s group of freshmen shows promise, specifically defensive ends Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler, offensive linemen Jessamen Dunker and D.J. Humphries, tight end Kent Taylor and receiver Latroy Pittman. His game-day coaching ability remains a question mark.
Heading into the spring, the SEC had a few fun quarterback races to watch in both divisions. Some of those battles have come to an end, while a few still remain.

Let's take a look at each one from the spring and see where they currently stand:

AUBURN

The matchup: Sophomore Kiehl Frazier left the spring with the edge because he took most of the reps, as a sore shoulder sidelined junior Clint Moseley. This fall, freshman Jonathan Wallace entered the race and has continued to impress Auburn's staff.

The winner is: Frazier has the most athleticism and has felt much more comfortable throwing the ball with help from first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. While coach Gene Chizik continues to say the race is even between Frazier and Moseley, who is still dealing with shoulder soreness, we'll go with Frazier because of overall talent. He can make more plays with his feet and if his arm really does improve, he could be a solid dual-threat QB in this league.

FLORIDA

The matchup: This two-horse race between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has been intense since the spring. Brissett has had a little bit of the edge because of his game experience last year, but Driskel has made tremendous strides under the direction of new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

The winner is: Will Muschamp continues to say the race is dead even. Driskel's bruised shoulder didn't even complicate the race. It doesn't sound like anyone really knows who has outperformed the other, but the concensus is the team and the coaches can win with either. With that said, Brissett has more experience and we assume is completely healthy, so we'll go with him, but both should play in the opener.

KENTUCKY

The matchup: Sophomore Maxwell Smith took all of the first-team reps this spring, while senior Morgan Newton recovered from shoulder surgery. However, Newton returned to get back into the race this fall. Joining them this fall were freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow.

The winner is: Smith. Joker Phillips named Smith the starter on Monday, so this race has come to an end. The offense can now focus on running around Smith, who has been the most consistent of Kentucky's quarterbacks since the spring. This isn't a surprise.

OLE MISS

The matchup: Neither of Hugh Freeze's quarterbacks have proven much at all and have struggled with consistency since spring. Barry Brunetti was given the starting job at the beginning of last season, but lost it almost immediately, and Bo Wallace is fresh off a season in the junior college ranks. Wallace, however, did spend a year with Freeze at Arkansas State.

The winner is: Wallace seemed to have the edge for part of the spring, and then lost it as Brunetti got more comfortable with Freeze's offense. Both quarterbacks and Freeze felt things were very even heading into champ, but Wallace has had a much stronger champ. Both could end up playing in the opener, but we'll go with Wallace.

TEXAS A&M

The matchup: Sophomore Jameill Showers, who has the only game experience at quarter, and redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel were nearly neck-and-neck for most of the spring, but Showers seemed to pull away little toward the end. Sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis also competed this spring.

The winner is: Manziel. It seemed as though Showers had the edge in this one, but Manziel outplayed him during fall camp. After a solid outing during one of the Aggies' scrimmages, coach Kevin Sumlin decided to end the battle and give the starting job to Manziel.

VANDERBILT

The matchup: Jordan Rodgers replaced Larry Smith last season, but still showed inconsistency on the field at times. So, this spring, he had a battle on his hands with Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, who was the Mountain West's Freshman of the Year in 2009.

The winner: Rodgers. This was probably always his job to lose, and he didn't. He had a very good spring and fall camp. Rodgers said this summer that he felt way more comfortable with the people around him this spring and is poised to have a much better year this fall.

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