In an interview session with reporters at the Home Depot College Football Awards in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner fielded questions about whether he'll take his talents to the NFL after this season and whether he's ready to compete at that level.
"In my mind, I think I am [ready]," Manziel told reporters.
The redshirt sophomore said he'll take everything into account when making a decision whether to stay or go, including consulting with Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Jake Spavital and his private quarterback coach that he's worked with the last two summers, George Whitfield Jr.
"More than anything, 'Are you ready for the next level?' That's the big thing," Manziel said. "You don't want to go and be unprepared for the National Football League and leave two years on the table. It all comes down to making the best decision for you. Whether you're ready. Whether teams are quarterback-needy. You look at all your factors."
Manziel did not specify a timetable for when his decision to declare for early entry to the 2014 NFL draft or return to Texas A&M for his junior season will be made. He said he is focusing on the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, where the No. 21 Aggies will meet No. 24 Duke Blue Devils on Dec. 31 at the Georgia Dome.
- Boston College has made an effort to push Andre Williams nationally, ESPNBoston.com's Jack McCluskey writes.
- Count AthlonSports among the group that is looking forward to Clemson-Ohio State more than any other non-title-game bowl.
- It sure sounds like Duke will be Johnny Manziel's last college opponent. (Clemson's Sammy Watkins sounds like a man gone in that same story by NFL.com's Mike Huguenin as well.)
- Florida State leads the nation with five USA Today All-America picks. (And the ACC leads all conferences with 13.)
- Georgia Tech's opponent in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Ole Miss, is upping the ante after giving coach Hugh Freeze a $1 million raise, Hugh Kellenberger writes in the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger.
- The freedom of bowl week could be a distraction for Maryland players, Alex Prewitt writes in the Washington Post. (Also of note: New Albany head coach Greg Gattuso will still coach the Terrapins' defensive line in the Military Bowl.)
- CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman catches up with former Miami and North Carolina coach Butch Davis, who is still waiting for another shot.
- Another day, another award for Pitt's Aaron Donald, Sam Werner writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- The (Syracuse) Post-Standard's Nate Mink looks at Orange underclassmen who could be playing their final college game this month.
- Is this an early look at Virginia Tech's bowl uniform?
• Auburn's assistant coaches should join head coach Gus Malzahn in receiving raises in the near future. A USA Today salary database shows that Auburn's coaching salary pool is already the fifth biggest in the country.
• Speaking of that USA Today salary database, take a look. LSU and Alabama both rank ahead of Auburn on the list and eight of the top 12 are from the SEC.
• Former President George W. Bush sent a letter of support to Alabama kicker Cade Foster, whose missed kicks helped Auburn stay in the game and eventually upset the Crimson Tide.
• Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was announced as a regional coach of the year on Wednesday by the American Football Coaches Association.
• South Carolina is trying to strike the right balance in its bowl prep.
• The Advocate's Scott Rabalais writes that LSU's matchup against Iowa in the Outback Bowl is sexier than it's getting credit for.
• Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel thinks he's ready for the NFL, but says he hasn't made a decision yet about whether to enter the draft.
• Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell was named the conference's top freshman on Wednesday and will almost certainly make the SEC's All-Freshman team, which will be announced today.
• Ten SEC players were named to USA Today's All-America teams on Wednesday.
• Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell's season ended the way it started: with an injury.
• LSU coach Les Miles plans to watch his son (and some other prospects) at today's state championship games at the Louisiana Superdome.
• It has been a monster year for new Georgia recruiting prospect Nate Brown.
• Florida should have enviable backfield depth in 2014.
• Kentucky's big recruiting weekend is missing one who got away.
It isn’t just the SEC. The depth of the outgoing QB class means several other high-end programs, including Clemson and Texas, could have first-time starters next season.
UCLA could lose Brett Hundley, if he decides to go pro, but we’ll exclude him for now. Our draft analysts have told me he would be better off returning to school, like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. But the top of the QB list is weak enough that if the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Hundley has designs on going early, it could be the right time.
Here are the top 10 QB transitions and the succession plans for those teams.
In: Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen
Manziel has not made an announcement about next season, but I’ve been given zero indication that he is even considering a return to school. So how do you go about replacing (this year’s bowl notwithstanding) about 10,000 yards and 88 touchdowns in two seasons? In short, you don’t. Texas A&M’s confidence heading into next year is based on how it has and continues to recruit all positions -- including quarterback.
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On Tuesday, ESPN colleague Mark Schlabach took a look at all 35 bowl games and ranked them. Soon after, we took a look at where all 10 bowl games involving the SEC rank on Schlabach's list.
Now, it's time for a little ranking of our own. And by "our," of course I mean "mine."
Here's how I ranked the SEC's 10 bowl games this season:
2. Missouri-Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl: If you like points then you've come to the right place. These teams are averaging 39 points per game. Mizzou ranks 16th nationally in total offense (492.9 yards per game), while Oklahoma State ranks 41st (440.5). If last Saturday was any indication, defense could be off the table in Jerry's World. The Tigers might have missed out on a BCS bowl, but they get to end a great season in a major bowl against an old Big 12 mate.
3. South Carolina-Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl: Don't you dare overlook this game. It might not have the pizazz of a BCS affair, but you get two teams that want to grind it out and punch you in the mouth on offense. Plus, the last time we saw Jadeveon Clowney in a bowl game, he startled the college football world with "The Hit."
4. Alabama-Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl: OK, so this one is a top-tier game by name, and you get the fun of Bob Stoops vs. the SEC. But I just have a feeling that a frustrated Alabama team won't have much of a problem with an Oklahoma team that has been inconsistent on offense all year. Let's see how Stoops does against the "propaganda machine."
5. Ole Miss-Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: This is a game that features two fun offenses and is in a city that just loves some Southern football. Rebels fans know how to travel, and you better believe they will clog up Nashville. Ole Miss ranks 21st nationally in total offense (473) but faces an improved Yellow Jackets defense that is allowing more than a 100 yards a game below that.
6. LSU-Iowa in the Outback Bowl: Just about everyone from both fan bases remembers Drew Tate's game-winning Hail Mary to beat LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. Funny, the Tigers ended this year's regular season on a last-minute 49-yard touchdown pass to beat Arkansas. Coincidence? Zach Mettenberger might not be in this one, but we get to see Anthony Jennings take another step in his transition as the future at quarterback for LSU.
7. Texas A&M-Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: Johnny Manziel and the Peach Drop? Yeah, I could be down for that. The Aggies didn't finish the season strong (two straight losses), but they get to ring in the New Year in Hotlanta with one of the best stories in college football. Duke might not have the athletes to keep Manziel in check, but being in a bowl like this should serve as plenty of motivation in a game that could be Johnny Football's last in a college uniform.
8. Mississippi State-Rice in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Somehow, the Bulldogs leapfrogged their way into this game. Winning two straight to end the season, including an overtime victory over rival Ole Miss, made Mississippi State a very attractive team for the city of Memphis. Dan Mullen was on the hot seat; now he's getting his team ready for the postseason.
9. Vanderbilt-Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl: Despite going 4-0 in November and beating Florida, Georgia and Tennessee all in the same year, the Commodores were picked last in the SEC bowl pecking order. James Franklin wants Dores fans to pack Birmingham to show that they have no problem with traveling. I wonder if this team will have a bigger chip on its shoulder.
10. Georgia-Nebraska in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: On paper, this is a pretty good game. Take the names away and you see one red team that can usually throw and run at will and another red team that just runs, runs, runs. But we've seen this one before. This was last year's Capital One Bowl, a game the Bulldogs won 45-31. This isn't fresh or new.
The awards were voted on by the league's 14 head coaches, and they weren't allowed to vote for their own players.
In a league that houses Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray, Mason stood above the rest after his record-setting, MVP performance in Auburn's SEC title game win over Missouri. Mason, a junior, ran for a title game-record 304 yards and four touchdowns in Auburn's 59-42 victory over Mizzou.
But that wasn't all Mason did this season. He led the SEC with 1,621 yards and a league-high 22 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry and rushed for 100-plus yards eight times.
Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Missouri defensive end Michael Sam were named Co-Defensive Players of the Year. Mosley leads Alabama and is tied for fourth in the SEC with 102 total tackles, including 56 solo stops. He averaged 8.5 total tackles per game and had a team-high nine tackles for loss and eight quarterback hurries.
Sam leads the SEC with 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He also leads the SEC in sacks per game (0.81) and tackles for loss per game (1.38).
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn also won Coach of the Year after going 12-1 (7-1 SEC) in his first season as the Tigers' head coach. Auburn bounced back from a 3-9 season to beat rival Alabama, claim the SEC and a spot in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game against No. 1 Florida State.
Here are all the awards given out:
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tre Mason, Auburn
CO-DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Michael Sam, Missouri
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Christion Jones, Alabama
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Aaron Murray, Georgia
JACOBS BLOCKING TROPHY
Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
COACH OF THE YEAR
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
With rumors swirling about a possible departure for Texas, Nick Saban needs to reinvest in Alabama, writes AL.com's Kevin Scarbinsky.
Ole Miss upped the ante by reaching a new agreement with coach Hugh Freeze that will pay him $3 million in 2014.
Auburn's Gus Malzahn was named the Home Depot Coach of the Year after leading the Tigers to the championship game against Florida State.
LSU's 2014 quarterback competition begins now, with freshman Anthony Jennings playing the lead role as the Outback Bowl approaches.
Nebraska fans on a rematch against Georgia in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Been there, done that.
Missouri turns its back on its SEC championship game loss.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's Big Apple dream comes sooner rather than later.
Athlon released its SEC postseason awards and all-conference team.
South Carolina's Steve Spurrier: “Every time we win a game around here, it's a record.”
The Texas A&M Board of Regents will discuss a new contract for coach Kevin Sumlin at its Thursday meeting.
Florida's Danny Wuerffel was one of 12 players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday – a group that also includes Kentucky's Steve Meilinger.
The State reported that South Carolina cornerback Ahmad Christian is leaving the team and will not play in the Capital One Bowl.
1. Auburn (12-1, 7-1 SEC; last week: 1): When you beat the No. 1 team in the country, then thump the No. 5 team 59-42 to win the SEC championship and get a spot in the Vizio BCS National Championship, your résumé really speaks for itself. Auburn is the hottest team in the country. Behind RB Tre Mason, a Heisman Trophy candidate, the Tigers have the nation's best running game (335.7 yards per game) and a wave of momentum to ride out to Pasadena, Calif., to take on No. 1 Florida State.
2. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 3): While the Crimson Tide won't be playing for a third straight national championship, they are still one of the best teams in the country. The Allstate Sugar Bowl waits for the Tide, but if the playoffs started this season, Alabama would be right back in the title hunt and might be the favorite to win it all.
3. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2; LW: 4): The Gamecocks ended the season by winning five in a row. They were in the BCS hunt until Alabama lost, but their Capital One Bowl matchup with Wisconsin should be a fun one. Here's hoping that the long layoff helps DE Jadeveon Clowney heal for what will likely be his final game in a South Carolina uniform.
4. Missouri (11-2, 7-1 SEC; LW: 2): The Tigers went to Atlanta with the nation's 14th-best rushing defense (second in the SEC) and left giving up an SEC title game-record 545 rushing yards. Missouri's defense looked far from sturdy against Auburn, but Mizzou still had a very successful season. A year ago, the team was sulking after a five-win season. Now, Missouri has 11 wins and is playing in the AT&T Cotton Bowl after possibly being a win away from the BCS title game.
5. LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC; LW: 5): It was an up-and-down season in Baton Rouge, but the Tigers pulled off two big, late-season wins, including a blowout against QB Johnny Manziel and his Texas A&M Aggies. In the Outback Bowl, LSU will be without QB Zach Mettenberger, who threw for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns this year. But the future looks bright for freshman Anthony Jennings, who orchestrated a game-winning 99-yard touchdown drive to beat Arkansas.
6. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 6): This wasn't the ending Manziel wanted. While he hasn't officially declared early for the NFL draft, it's a foregone conclusion that his days in College Station are numbered. After another successful statistical season, Manziel is headed back to New York for the Heisman ceremony, but two straight poor performances in losses to end the regular season could keep him from winning the award for a second straight year.
7. Vanderbilt (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 7): If any team wants to complain about its bowl game, it's the Commodores. After finishing the season on a four-game winning streak and beating Florida, Georgia and Tennessee in the same year, Vandy is headed to the BBVA Compass Bowl. It was another great season for coach James Franklin and his team, and you better believe this team will be motivated against Houston.
8. Georgia (8-4, 5-3, SEC; LW: 8): The Bulldogs had wins over South Carolina and LSU, but losing QB Aaron Murray to an ACL injury and dropping games to Mizzou and Vandy in consecutive weeks really put a damper on the season. The defense still has a lot of kinks to work out going forward, but surrendered 400-plus yards only twice in November after allowing 400 or more in four of the first five games of the season. And back-to-back bowl games against Nebraska is head-scratching to say the least.
9. Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5 SEC; LW: 9): A season that started on the rocks ended with two must-wins and a bowl berth. Dan Mullen's hot seat suddenly feels cooler, and the Bulldogs even got some love in the postseason by unexpectedly jumping into the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against Rice. Mississippi State clawed its way back to the postseason and should have a lot of fire in Memphis.
10. Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC; LW: 10): The end of the season wasn't great for the Rebels, but this program has come a long way under Hugh Freeze. In his first two seasons, Ole Miss has made back-to-back bowl trips. Last season, the Rebels were a surprise team in Birmingham. This year, Ole Miss is headed to Nashville, where Rebels fans will flock. It'll be fun to watch that spread offense take on Georgia Tech's triple option.
11. Tennessee (5-7, 2-6 SEC; LW: 11): Butch Jones wasn't able to pull a Gus Malzahn in his first season, but he brought some enthusiasm back to a program looking to rediscover its pride. There won't be a bowl game for the Vols, but this is the time for Jones and his staff to hit the recruiting road hard. Tennessee already has the nation's No. 2 recruiting class, but now it's all about keeping that class together and building for the future.
12. Florida (4-8, 3-5 SEC; LW: 12): It's going to be a long offseason in Gainesville after the Gators missed out on a bowl game for the first time in 22 years and had their first losing season since 1979. Things will be uncomfortable and toxic between coach Will Muschamp and the fan base, but he can't let that seep into his program or have it affect his football team. With no bowl prep, Muschamp's first order of business is to keep his recruiting class intact -- especially the offensive weapons -- and get those prospects to Gainesville.
13. Arkansas (3-9, 0-8 SEC; LW: 13): The Razorbacks finished the season with nine straight losses, which was a school record and a new record for coach Bret Bielema, who just completed his first-year at Arkansas (his first head-coaching stop was at Wisconsin). Arkansas had a solid running game, with freshman RB Alex Collins (1,026 yards and four touchdowns) carrying the load, but the passing game was the worst in the SEC (148.5 yards per game).
14. Kentucky (2-10, 0-8 SEC; LW: 14): Mark Stoops' first season in Kentucky was forgettable in the win-loss column, but the hope in Lexington is that his impressive recruiting class brings some real life back to the program in Year 2. What had to really irk the defensive-minded Stoops was that his defense ranked 13th in the league, allowing 427.2 yards per game and an SEC-worst 31.2 points per game. The Wildcats just didn't have the endurance to keep up in SEC play and have now lost 16 straight against SEC competition.
The Crimson Tide led the rest of the league with nine representatives on the coaches' teams, including an SEC-leading five first-team selections. LSU followed with eight total representatives. Texas A&M had four first-team members, while Auburn and Georgia both had three each.
Twelve of the league's 14 teams had at least one player on the first team, while every team was represented on at least one team. Coaches weren't allowed to vote for their own players.
Here are the coaches' first- and second-team selections:
QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
RB: Tre Mason, Auburn
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
AP: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
TE: Arthur Lynch, Georgia
OL: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
OL: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
OL: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
OL: Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
C: Reese Dismukes, Auburn
WR: Mike Evans, Texas A&M
WR: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
DL: Michael Sam, Missouri
DL: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
DL: Dee Ford, Auburn
DL: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
LB: C.J. Mosley, Alabama
LB: Ramik Wilson, Georgia
LB: A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
DB: Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
DB: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
DB: E.J. Gaines, Missouri
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
K: Marshall Morgan, Georgia
P: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
RS: Christion Jones, Alabama *
RS: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU *
QB: AJ McCarron, Alabama
RB: Mike Davis, South Carolina
RB: Jeremy Hill, LSU
TE: Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State
OL: La'el Collins, LSU
OL: Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
OL: Justin Britt, Missouri
OL: Anthony Steen, Alabama
C: Travis Swanson, Arkansas
WR: Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
WR: Jarvis Landry, LSU
AP: Marcus Murphy, Missouri
DL: Anthony Johnson, LSU
DL: Chris Smith, Arkansas
DL: Ed Stinson, Alabama
DL: Trey Flowers, Arkansas
LB: Lamin Barrow, LSU
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: Avery Williamson, Kentucky
DB: Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
DB: Chris Davis, Auburn
DB: Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State
DB: Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt
K: Michael Palardy, Tennessee
P: Cody Mandell, Alabama
RS: Solomon Patton, Florida
Records against ranked opponents at the time of the game provide some insight, but a better gauge is how a team fared against the top 25 in the final BCS standings, which takes into account the two human polls and the computer rankings.
In fact, the Gamecocks were the only team in the country this season with wins over three teams ranked in the top 15 of the final BCS standings.
Of the 10 teams playing in BCS bowls this season, counting the VIZIO BCS National Championship, four failed to record wins over top-15 teams in the final BCS standings: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and UCF.
In the last three seasons, LSU’s 10 victories over teams that finished in the top 25 of the final BCS standings are the most nationally. Alabama, South Carolina and Stanford each have nine wins over the last three seasons.
How does that compare to some other teams nationally during that same three-year span?
Notre Dame has seven wins, which is more than Oklahoma State (six), Clemson, Oregon and Wisconsin (five each), Florida State, Ohio State and Oklahoma (four each) and Texas (two).
Turning back to the SEC, if you extend it out over the last five seasons, Alabama (16-6) has the best record. LSU (14-11) is right behind the Crimson Tide.
They’re the only two SEC teams over the last five seasons with winning records against teams that finished in the top 25 of the final BCS standings.
Les Miles, during his career at LSU, is 27-18 against top-25 teams in the final BCS standings. Alabama’s Nick Saban is 19-10.
Here’s a look at how all 14 teams in the SEC have fared in the last five seasons against top 25 teams in the final BCS standings:
- Alabama: 16-6 (.727)
- LSU: 14-11 (.560)
- Auburn: 13-13 (.500)
- South Carolina: 10-10 (.500)
- Arkansas: 7-17 (.292)
- Missouri: 5-14 (.263)
- Georgia: 6-17 (.261)
- Florida: 6-18 (.250)
- Texas A&M: 5-17 (.227)
- Ole Miss: 3-20 (.130)
- Vanderbilt: 1-15 (.063)
- Kentucky: 1-16 (.059)
- Tennessee: 1-21 (.045)
- Mississippi State 0-24 (.000)
But what about after that fairly obvious choice? ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach attempted to rank them all from 1-35 on the college football homepage.
For our purposes, let's take a look at where Schlabach ranked the bowl games for the nine SEC teams that aren't Auburn that will appear in the postseason.
No. 4: Alabama-Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl: Sooners coach Bob Stoops has talked a big game about how tough the SEC actually is. He's about to get a close look at perhaps the toughest customer in the whole league.
No. 5: Missouri-Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl: This should be a fun matchup between former Big 12 rivals who feature explosive offenses. Just like the old days.
No. 6: South Carolina-Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl: If not for an inexplicable midseason loss to Tennessee, South Carolina would have been in the thick of the BCS picture. A win here would be a proper sendoff in what will almost certainly be Jadeveon Clowney's final game as a Gamecock.
No. 9: LSU-Iowa in the Outback Bowl: No Zach Mettenberger for LSU, but Anthony Jennings' debut at quarterback against a stout Iowa defense could make this one interesting.
No. 10: Georgia-Nebraska in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Yeah, it's a rematch from last season's Capital One Bowl, but it should still be another tight contest between injury-riddled teams that will have had another month to heal.
No. 11: Texas A&M-Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: If this is Johnny Manziel's final game as an Aggie, he'll have an opportunity to throw against a Duke team that is playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. This game delivers an exciting result almost every year, and this season could turn into a shootout.
No. 22: Ole Miss-Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Facing Georgia Tech's option offense is always a challenge, and the young Rebels will need to slow down the Yellow Jackets in order to cap another year of improvement under Hugh Freeze.
No. 23: Vanderbilt-Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl: Commodores fans were angry that they didn't get invited to a more prestigious bowl after Vandy's second straight eight-win regular season. They'll need to turn out at Legion Field to prove their point.
No. 24: Mississippi State-Rice in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl: The Bulldogs barely slipped into bowl season by beating Ole Miss in overtime. Now they'll have to take down Conference USA champ Rice, which won its first outright league title since 1957 when it blasted Marshall last weekend.
- Check out the gift bounty that will be available to the players for participating in the various bowl games.
- Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes says tackle Greg Robinson could become the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick if he opts to stay for his senior season.
- Missouri takes pride in its quick SEC rise.
- Monday was a full day for Alabama's AJ McCarron, who won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and was named one of six Heisman Trophy finalists along with Auburn's Tre Mason, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Florida State's Jameis Winston, Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch and Boston College's Andre Williams.
- A Heisman repeat seems unlikely for Manziel, but he will make the trip to New York this weekend for the trophy presentation ceremony.
- Athlon gives us five reasons why Auburn will beat Florida State for the BCS title.
- Missouri's Michael Sam was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year on Monday (plus full All-SEC team list).
- South Carolina's All-SEC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was ticketed for driving 110 in a 70-mph zone on Saturday.
- Oklahoma's players are reveling in their Sugar Bowl draw against Alabama.
- The Times-Picayune's Ron Higgins writes that at the Outback Bowl, LSU needs a good day, mate.
- In off-field Iron Bowl drama, defensive back Kalvaraz Bessent flipped his commitment from Alabama to Auburn on Monday.
- Closing the book on Georgia in the BCS era.
- Liberty Bowl director Steve Ehrhart concluded his official proposal to Mississippi State with the phrase, “Ring those cowbells,” and Bulldogs fans will most certainly oblige.
- Newly minted SEC Freshman of the Year Alex Collins highlighted Bret Bielema's first recruiting class at Arkansas.
On Monday, the six finalists for this year's award were announced, and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Auburn running back Tre Mason and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel all made the cut. The six finalists invited to New York are the most for the award since 1994.
The other three finalists are Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Boston College running back Andre Williams and Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch.
But does anyone from this SEC trio have a chance at bringing the bronze statue back to the SEC for the fourth time in five years? Let's take a look:
Mason: The Auburn running back was a mere blip on the Heisman radar before he ran over and through Missouri's top-ranked rush defense in Auburn's SEC championship victory over the weekend. Mason ran for 304 yards and four touchdowns against Mizzou to help send Auburn to the VIZIO BCS National Championship. But he was also very good before he stepped into the Georgia Dome. On the season, Mason has rushed for an SEC-high 1,621 yards and a school-record 22 touchdowns. He also holds the Auburn single-season record for all-purpose yards (2,137). Five of the defenses he has faced this season rank in the top 50 against the run, and he rushed for 100-plus yards against each but Mississippi State, which held him to 34 yards. He averaged at least 5 yards per carry in nine games, rushed for 100-plus yards in eight games and had at least one rushing touchdown in 12 games. His stock is trending up.
Manziel: The reigning Heisman Trophy winner had a strong case to become the first repeat winner since Ohio State's Archie Griffin (1974-75), but back-to-back poor performances -- and losses -- to close the season have knocked Manziel down the pecking order. Still, he had a very impressive regular season. He transformed as a passer, going through his progressions, checking down, reading defenses and finding multiple throwing options. He thought to throw first this year, leading the SEC with 3,732 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. He also ran for 686 yards (724 less than last season) and eight more scores (he had 21 rushing TDs last year). Manziel also has two more losses than he did last year and was held to just 494 total yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. His stock is trending down.
McCarron: If this were a lifetime achievement award, McCarron would be a shoo-in for the Heisman this year. During his three years as a starter, McCarron won back-to-back BCS titles and heads into the Allstate Sugar Bowl with a 36-3 record. He's been one of the nation's most efficient passers and has thrown just 13 interceptions to 75 touchdowns during his career. But when it comes to numbers this season, McCarron ranks fifth in the SEC with 2,676 passing yards and has 26 touchdowns to five interceptions. McCarron has been incredibly consistent during his career and is the true definition of the word "winner," but his numbers could hold him back in the Heisman race. His stock is about the same as it was during the season.