Texas A&M Aggies: Dabo Swinney

SEC's lunch links

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
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Five SEC programs will have opened spring practice by the weekend -- including Ole Miss on Wednesday, Tennessee on Friday and LSU on Saturday. Not surprisingly, the news is picking up a bit around the league.

Here's a quick taste:

• Georgia players are buzzing about how an entirely new set of defensive coaches will give the Bulldogs a fresh start this spring.

• With Auburn's spring practice approaching on March 18, AL.com's Joel Erickson takes a look at the Tigers' quarterback depth chart.

• Quarterback was a subject of discussion at Alabama on Wednesday, too, as Nick Saban said that his staff will be in no hurry to name a starter.

• Florida on Wednesday released the contracts for the three new coaches on Will Muschamp's staff – including a three-year deal for new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.

• LSU's quarterback competition is front and center, as the Tigers prepare for their first spring practice on Saturday.

• DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan are among the candidates to become Ole Miss' backup quarterback behind Bo Wallace.

• Kentucky announced its ticket distribution plan for the April 26 Blue-White spring game.

• Missouri revealed on Wednesday that five players with eligibility remaining have “decided to graduate and not play football going forward” according to a team spokesman.

• Multiple reports on Wednesday night declared that Texas A&M has dismissed safety Kameron Miles.

• Vanderbilt assistant Vavae Tata will not coach with the Commodores in 2014 after pleading guilty on Wednesday to a February DUI charge. His long-term status with the program remains unclear.

• South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Clemson's Dabo Swinney are united on at least one point -- their relief that college football's rules committee withdrew a controversial 10-second rule designed to slow down college offenses.

• The Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown looks at five questions facing the Tennessee football team as it prepared to open spring practice.

• Bret Bielema covered a variety of subjects in speaking with the media at Arkansas' pro day.

Top 2014 SEC games to watch

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
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It's never too early to start looking ahead to next season. With that in mind, here's an early stab at the top 10 games to watch next season involving SEC teams, which includes both conference and nonconference games:

Aug. 28, Texas A&M at South Carolina: Life after Johnny Manziel begins for the Aggies in the first-ever meeting between these two teams and the first SEC game of the 2014 season, a Thursday night contest that will be televised on the SEC Network.

Aug. 30, LSU vs. Wisconsin, in Houston: It's not until 2016 that these two teams get it on in historic Lambeau Field, but they'll open next season in Reliant Stadium in what should be a classic Big Ten vs. SEC showdown.

Sept. 13, Georgia at South Carolina: The winner takes a big step forward in the East race, and the Dawgs have lost each of their last two trips to Williams-Brice Stadium. Plus, Todd Gurley vs. Mike Davis always makes for entertaining theater.

Sept. 20, Florida at Alabama: The Gators make a rare appearance in Tuscaloosa, only their fourth trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium since the 1992 expansion and division split. It's the SEC opener for the Crimson Tide, who are unbeaten in league openers under Nick Saban.

Oct. 4, Alabama at Ole Miss: The Rebels had to play at Alabama each of the last two seasons but finally get the Tide in Oxford next season. This could be the year that Ole Miss puts it all together and makes a run in the West, but doing that will mean snapping a 10-game skid against the Tide.

Nov. 8, Alabama at LSU: It got away from the Tigers a little bit this season against Alabama in the second half, but when's the last time this game hasn't meant something? Over the last five or six years, it's hard to find a better and/or more meaningful rivalry in college football than Alabama vs. LSU.

Nov. 15, Auburn at Georgia: Living up to the thriller these two teams played this season on the Plains will be difficult, but we could get a glimpse of the 2014 SEC championship game next November in Sanford Stadium.

Nov. 29, Mississippi State at Ole Miss: Talk about a rivalry that's been revitalized. The Bulldogs won in overtime this season, their fourth victory over the Rebels in the last five years. But the "school up north" will be looking for a little payback next season, particularly quarterback Bo Wallace.

Nov. 29, Auburn at Alabama: Just when you think you've seen it all in the Iron Bowl, Chris Davis delivers a play for the ages with his kick-six. We might never see another ending quite like that one, but it's not too farfetched to think that next season's game could again decide the West race.

Nov. 29, South Carolina at Clemson: When the Head Ball Coach knows he can get under somebody's skin, he just twists the needle that much harder. South Carolina has won five in a row now over Clemson, and it probably feels like 20 in a row to Dabo Swinney and the Tigers.

It's early, but has SEC lost a few steps?

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
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By the time the sun sets Saturday on the East Coast, another one of the preseason heavyweights in the SEC will be sporting a loss.

And in unison, the rest of the college football world will let out a collective cheer.

One of the ways to look at the Alabama-Texas A&M showdown is that the winner will be in primo position to make a run at the national championship.

But there’s another subplot to the game in College Station: The loser will be the fourth SEC team ranked in the top 10 of the preseason polls to lose -- only three weeks into the season.

After watching Florida fall last week at Miami and Georgia stumble to open the season at Clemson, the anybody-but-the-SEC crowd is starting to rev its engines and ponder the possibilities.

Maybe the big, bad SEC is showing a few cracks in its foundation, and just maybe this is the year that a BCS National Championship -- the last one, as fate would have it -- is played without an SEC team as a participant.

There are still so many ways this season could go, but the feeling coming in was that the surest way for the SEC’s seven-year national championship streak to end was for the league to beat up on itself.

Stay tuned on that front, but it certainly looks like everybody in the SEC has a few warts.

Even Alabama was average at best offensively in its season-opening 35-10 win over Virginia Tech. We’ll find out a lot more about the Crimson Tide this weekend, but part of their issues offensively in the opener can be attributed to how physical Virginia Tech’s front seven was on defense.

The Hokies flat got after Alabama, and unlike past years when the Tide were playing with an NFL-esque offensive line, they didn’t respond particularly well.

Meanwhile, the rest of the college football world is starting to smell blood, SEC blood.

Is that premature?

[+] EnlargeAlabama/Texas A&M
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsSaturday's showdown between Alabama and Texas A&M should provide some answers about the path to the national championship.
Sure it is, but it’s going to be fascinating to see how it all plays out, because more than ever, it’s the SEC versus the rest of college football.

Comparing scores this early in the season is meaningless, but Clemson did beat Georgia, which beat South Carolina.

After Miami took down Florida last week, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney chortled, “How about that ACC? Spunky little old league.”

The best part was Swinney flashing the “U” sign as he walked out of the interview room following Clemson’s 52-13 pasting of South Carolina State.

The gamesmanship makes it a lot more fun, and Clemson is hardly the only team that’s a legitimate threat to the SEC this season.

At first glance, Oregon appears to be faster and more explosive than ever, and nobody’s sleeping on Stanford. Louisville could easily go unbeaten when you look at the Cardinals’ schedule, and it’s not far-fetched to think that an unbeaten team could come out of the Big Ten this season either.

Ultimately, it’s probably going to come down to how much damage is doled out within the SEC’s own parameters.

What’s more, is there another Texas A&M lurking similar to a year ago?

The Aggies went from unranked to taking down Alabama in Tuscaloosa last November and were playing as well as anybody in the country by season’s end.

LSU was sort of the forgotten team in the league to begin this season after losing so many star defensive players, but the Tigers’ passing game has taken flight under first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and it’s hard to see an appreciable drop-off on defense to this point.

Again, though, LSU has to play at Georgia in three weeks and at Alabama in November.

One of the constants in the SEC’s national championship run has been suffocating defense. It’s not a coincidence that six of the seven national champions during the streak have finished in the top 10 nationally in total defense.

The early returns suggest that some of the offenses are perhaps catching up with the defenses in this league. But, then, maybe some of the defenses this season simply aren’t what we’ve grown accustomed to in the SEC.

South Carolina was torched for 536 yards last week in its loss to Georgia, which has given up 68 points in its first two games, albeit to a pair of top 10 teams.

Texas A&M has been playing with a patchwork unit defensively thanks to suspensions, but the Aggies have given up 59 points in their first two games -- to Rice and Sam Houston State.

Florida is a load on defense, but the Gators haven’t shown nearly enough offensively to think that they could be a national championship contender.

LSU’s toughest tests are yet to come defensively, which leads us back to the Crimson Tide.

They’ve won national championships each of the past two seasons despite losing games at home in November.

One of the things that make Saturday’s game so pivotal for both Alabama and Texas A&M is that neither team has a tough draw in the East this season. They both avoid Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

So the path to the national championship gala will clear up considerably for the winner Saturday.

Even so, it’s a race after a few laps around the track that has everybody outside the SEC’s footprint believing, anticipating and hoping that the league everybody has been chasing for the better part of the past decade may finally be losing a few steps.

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Fournette Runs Over Aggie On 22-Yd TD
LSU RB Leonard Fournette rushes 22 yards for a second-quarter touchdown in the Tigers' 23-17 win over Texas A&M.
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SEC SCOREBOARD

Friday, 11/28
Thursday, 11/27
Saturday, 11/29