NCF Nation: Georgia Bulldogs

Florida State SeminolesTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsLosing to Florida would surely knock the Seminoles out of the College Football Playoff conversation.
The story line gets regurgitated the last weekend in November, every single season. At this point, does it really need to be said just how badly the ACC has to beat its SEC rivals come Saturday?

Well, yes. Because the results carry even more significance now that we are in in the College Football Playoff era. Just look at the way the ACC has been dismissed as a conference. Unbeaten Florida State is ranked behind two one-loss teams in the only rankings that matter -- as much an indictment about the Seminoles’ close wins as it is about the perception of the ACC as a whole.

While it has been convenient for many to dismiss what Florida State has accomplished, it has been just as convenient to dismiss the accomplishments of No. 18 Georgia Tech, No. 22 Louisville and No. 24 Clemson. But it may be less difficult to do so if all four teams come through and all win this weekend.

The last time Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson swept their SEC rivals was in 2000. The last time they posted a winning record against them was in 2008, when Georgia Tech and Clemson came out victorious. That also happens to be the last time both teams won their SEC rivalry game.

This might be their best shot at a sweep in years. With Kentucky-Louisville now added into the mix, the Cards, Florida State and Clemson are favored to win. All three are at home; all three are the only teams ranked in the matchup. Georgia Tech is the only underdog, though the Jackets go into their game off a bye, with a four-game winning streak under their belts.

To take it one step further, the FPI game projections show:

  • Florida State with a predicted 73 percent win percentage over Florida.
  • Louisville with a predicted 77 percent win percentage over Kentucky.
  • Clemson with a predicted 62.5 percent win percentage over South Carolina.
  • Georgia with a predicted 80 percent win percentage over Georgia Tech.

“Winning would help the league a lot but it’s going to be how does the media portray it?” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “When I was here in ’08, my first year, we beat Georgia and Clemson beat South Carolina … but nobody said much about it. It was like, ‘Oh.’ Now the next year when they beat us, it was a big deal so would it help the league? Sure. Anytime we can go head to head with the SEC and win a game it helps the league.”

Johnson brings up an excellent point. Will a potential sweep be diminished in value because they are all against SEC East teams? Georgia is the only ranked SEC squad in the group. Florida and South Carolina have been disappointments; Kentucky is not bowl eligible. Georgia is the only school among the four with a winning record in SEC play.

So the East is not even close to its counterparts in the West, creating a no-win situation. If the ACC does well in these games, people may not dish out as much credit as they should. If the ACC winds up with a losing record, get ready for more finger pointing and laughter.

If we are looking a little closer at the matchups, there are two teams that cannot afford to lose: Florida State and Clemson. If Florida pulls the upset, Florida State will be out of the College Football Playoff, the worst result imaginable for a league that only has the Noles in the mix.

The stakes are high for Dabo Swinney and Clemson, too. After beating South Carolina as interim coach in 2008, he has gone 0-5. For the first time since 2009, Clemson will be the only ranked team in the matchup. Clemson has the No. 1 defense in the nation; South Carolina has the No. 87 defense in the nation. While Deshaun Watson’s status remains up in the air, the feeling is that Clemson simply cannot afford to lose this game again, not when it has so many obvious advantages.

“The last five years, we’ve had 15 turnovers and they’ve had three,” Swinney said. “That affects everything. That affects your plays per game, it affects your time of possession, it affects the way things are called, field position, on and on and on and on. That’s definitely something we have to get changed for us to have a chance to win the game. There’s no doubt about it.”

Georgia Tech also has lost five straight to Georgia, and 12 of the last 13. Last season, the Jackets blew an early 20-0 lead and lost 41-34 in double overtime. Todd Gurley scored both overtime touchdowns for the Bulldogs. He won't play Saturday.

While Georgia Tech has a Top 25 ranking and spot in the ACC championship game, a win over Georgia would only add to an already stellar season.

“The atmosphere is different about this week because it’s a must-win game,” Georgia Tech safety Jamal Golden said. “You don’t want to give them bragging rights for the next 365 days. You just have to hear it over and over again that you can’t beat them. It’s one of those games you look forward to playing.”

It’s one of those games that has to fall in the ACC win column this year.

SEC has been entertaining in 2014

November, 24, 2014
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Whether you love the SEC or not, it's hard to argue against its entertainment value in 2014. The cannibalization of the SEC West and the mostly miserable play of the SEC East provided followers with two hotly contested divisional races that are coming down to the final weekend.

We saw the state of Mississippi take over the state of Alabama in one weekend. We saw the rise of Bulldogs and the fall of Gators. The West was wild and the East was,well, there.

There's SEC bias everywhere and still a chance for two SEC teams to make it into the inaugural College Football Playoff.

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFor Dak Prescott and Mississippi State, plenty will be on the line in the Egg Bowl on Saturday.
 Offense was supposed to be down with so many seasoned quarterbacks gone, but 13 teams are scoring more than 27 points per game and eight are averaging more than 421 yards per game.

The SEC had two legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates in Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, who both still have at least another weekend to impress everyone.

The league started the season with seven teams ranked in the AP Poll. Six are ranked in the AP Poll now, and Alabama and Mississippi State are ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff Rankings. Both are also still in the running for the SEC West title.

From top to bottom, this league has been way more competitive than usual. Just think about this for a second: The West will be decided by the Iron Bowl and the Egg Bowl. The Iron Bowl made plenty of sense at the beginning of the year because you had the defending SEC champs in Auburn returning just about everyone, while Alabama was Alabama.

But the Egg Bowl? Mississippi State and Ole Miss? Sure, these two teams had the personnel to compete in the West, but to have the Egg Bowl actually mean something when you think of Atlanta is great for the league. Both serious playoff aspirations, and now Ole Miss is set up to play major spoiler for the Bulldogs.

Arkansas is relevant again. Bret Bielema's Hogs are rejuvenated and dangerous. After losing 17 straight SEC games, Arkansas has now won two straight by a combined 47-0. Those wins came against LSU and Ole Miss, both ranked. And Ole Miss was still in line for a spot in Atlanta and maybe a trip to the playoff, but the Hogs saw to it that Ole Miss' special run ended in a 30-0 romp.

Texas A&M fooled us with that commanding opening victory, but then it suffered three straight SEC losses before beating Auburn, who at the time was playing like one of the nation's best teams. LSU has a slew of young talent and beat Ole Miss before taking Alabama to overtime. Just wait until next year ...

The East hasn't exactly wowed anyone all year, but with things so even, the race to Atlanta has been a fun one to follow. Georgia -- clearly the most talented team on that side of the division -- might not even make it to the title game because of losses to South Carolina and Florida, who have combined to lose nine SEC games. Those pesky Missouri Tigers are now a win away from back-to-back Atlanta trips. The team that barely had an offensive pulse for most of the SEC season just doesn't know how to lose anymore. Remember when it was embarrassed by a bad Indiana team at home and then got trounced 34-0 at home to Georgia? Well, Missouri is 5-0 since.

Mizzou isn't as good as it was last year, but that doesn't matter one bit. The defense has been outstanding in SEC play, allowing just 302.6 yards and 19.9 points per game in seven league games. With the defense being so good, Maty Mauk's inconsistent play at quarterback gets considerably overshadowed. The defense turned it up 10 notches, thanks in large part by ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden, who have combined for 22 sacks and 33.5 tackles for loss.

Mizzou ain't pretty, but it's winning. Deal with it.

South Carolina was supposed to win the East, but owns the division's worst defense and loved blowing fourth-quarter leads. Then, the Gamecocks somehow beat a slightly surging Florida team in comeback fashion that cost Will Muschamp his job.

Kentucky's offense had bite during a 5-1 start, but after five straight losses, it's pumpkin time for the Wildcats. Tennessee has been so up-and-down, but the emergence of quarterback Joshua Dobbs at least makes the offense watchable. Florida had a rain out, a couple of bad blowouts, two quarterbacks, nearly three overtime games, plenty of heartache and blew out Georgia.

Go figure.

The SEC has been a blast. It hasn't always been great, and there's no dominant team, but there's been plenty of fun drama along the way ... and two weekends still remain.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 13

November, 23, 2014
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The slate of games wasn’t as dramatic as we’ve had in recent weeks but there were still some good individual performances worth highlighting in the SEC on Saturday. Among them:

Nick Chubb, Georgia: The freshman only carried the football in the first half on Saturday, but that’s all the Bulldogs needed in their 55-9 win over Charleston Southern. Chubb had nine carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 12.6 yards per carry. It is Chubb’s sixth consecutive game of more than 100 rushing yards and despite backing up Todd Gurley the first half of the season, he is second in the SEC in rushing yards (1,039) to only Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne (1,276). Only Gurley (7.4 yards per carry) averaged more yards per tote than Chubb has this season (6.8).

Jeff Driskel, Florida: The junior has had more than his fair share of struggles in Gainesville but capped off Florida’s home schedule with a nice performance coming off the bench to relieve Treon Harris, who left with a bruised knee. Driskel scored four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) and was 9-of-11 passing for 164 yards in the Gators’ 52-3 win over Eastern Kentucky. The victory clinched bowl eligibility for Florida.

Markus Golden, Missouri: The senior defensive end said last week that he’s 100 percent healthy after playing through a nagging hamstring injury that bothered him for weeks, and it shows. He picked up two sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, six total tackles, recovered a fumble and had two quarterback hurries in Missouri’s 29-21 win over Tennessee. Golden has four sacks in his last two games and 7.5 for the season. He showed relentless effort, not just in rushing the passer, but pursuing tackles well downfield away from his customary defensive end spot.

Skai Moore, South Carolina: Moore tied for the team-lead with nine tackles and had two interceptions for the Gamecocks on Saturday in their 37-12 win over South Alabama. Moore returned his two interceptions for a combined 71 yards. The effort was part of a five-turnover performance for the South Carolina defense, the first time the Gamecocks have posted that many in a game since last November, when they had six vs. Clemson.

Martrell Spaight, Arkansas: The entire Arkansas defense was great in its 30-0 shutout win over Ole Miss, but the senior linebacker was at the heart of the effort. He had a team-high 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. Spaight was hitting hard and was all over the place in the Razorbacks’ win, which was their second straight shutout and made them bowl-eligible.

SEC viewer's guide: Week 13

November, 21, 2014
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Saturday feels a little like the calm before the storm in the SEC. There are eight games on the docket, including a couple of intriguing matchups, and yet everybody is already talking about the rivalry games next week. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s a preview of this Saturday’s slate. All times ET.

Noon Eastern Kentucky at Florida, SEC Network: It might be a bit strange to see Will Muschamp on the sideline Saturday considering he won’t be back at Florida next season, but he’s staying on to coach the team’s last two regular-season games. How will the players respond to a coach who’s on his way out? Based on Dante Fowler Jr.'s tweet this week, I'd expect them to come out and play hard for their coach. Also, the Gators become bowl eligible with a win.

South Alabama at South Carolina, ESPN3: Raise your hand if you had South Alabama becoming bowl eligible before South Carolina this season. If your hand is raised, you’re lying. Credit the job Joey Jones has done in his sixth season with the Jaguars, but don’t expect an upset on Saturday. The Gamecocks bounced back from that excruciating overtime loss to Tennessee with a solid, come-from-behind win in the Swamp last weekend.

Charleston Southern at No. 10 Georgia, SEC Network: If there was ever a week to give Nick Chubb a break, this would be it. With Todd Gurley out for the season, Chubb is once again the man in Georgia’s backfield, but fellow freshman Sony Michel is expected to return Saturday, and both he and Brendan Douglas should see plenty of carries. All three backs could be in for a big day against the Buccaneers.

[+] EnlargeBo Wallace
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsBo Wallace and Ole Miss will have a tough matchup Saturday against an Arkansas defense fresh off a shutout win over LSU.
3:30 p.m. No. 8 Ole Miss at Arkansas, CBS: After last weekend, Ole Miss still has a chance to win the SEC West. Auburn knocking off Alabama isn’t likely, but crazier things have happened. First, though, the Rebels have to take care of business Saturday against an Arkansas team that is dangerous at home and confident after winning its first conference game in over two years. The Razorbacks allowed a total of 31 points to Alabama, Mississippi State and LSU this season. That doesn’t bode well for Bo Wallace, who will be without top target Laquon Treadwell. With rain in the forecast, points might be hard to come by in this one.

4 p.m. Western Carolina at No. 1 Alabama, SEC Network: The Alabama basketball team had trouble with the Catamounts earlier this week, but I don’t expect much of a struggle for the football team on Saturday. Western Carolina might be a “good little team,” as Nick Saban put it, but the Crimson Tide have dominated all three previous meetings and should do the same this season. If anything, it will give us another look at backup quarterback Jake Coker.

7 p.m. Samford at No. 14 Auburn, ESPNU: There are a lot of connections between these two in-state schools. Samford coach Pat Sullivan won a Heisman Trophy at Auburn back in 1971. Samford assistant coach Kodi Burns played and coached at Auburn. And Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee spent a year at Samford before joining Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State. The game itself won’t be very entertaining, but it should get the Tigers back on track.

7:30 p.m. No. 20 Missouri at Tennessee, ESPN: Missouri has to lose, right? There’s no way the Tigers can get back to Atlanta for the second straight season. Consider this -- Gary Pinkel’s team has won 12 of its past 14 conference games and has won nine straight road games, including seven straight in the SEC. Maybe it’s time we start taking this team seriously. The Tigers are going to have their hands full Saturday against a Tennessee team on the rise. The Volunteers have won back-to-back games with Joshua Dobbs under center, and a win over Missouri would make them bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.

Vanderbilt at No. 4 Mississippi State, SEC Network: Dan Mullen was a happy man Tuesday when the latest College Football Playoff rankings came out, as his Bulldogs were still among the four playoff teams despite losing to Alabama the week before. Now the question is: Can they stay in the top four and hold off teams such as TCU, Ohio State and Baylor? Mississippi State has two chances left to impress the committee, beginning with Saturday’s tilt against the Commodores. It’s important the Bulldogs not only win, but win big.
A few weeks ago, Adam McLean was asked what it would take to back away from his Penn State pledge, and he said “nothing can change my mind.” Well, something happened and the ESPN 300 prospect is back on the market. Plus, Zach Gentry has been committed to Texas since May, but rumors sprouted Tuesday he was considering taking other official visits.

SEC playoff tracker: Nov. 19

November, 19, 2014
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The SEC had to be happy with the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Alabama jumped all the way to No. 1; Mississippi State remained among the top four despite Saturday’s loss to the Tide; and both Ole Miss and Georgia are hanging around in the top 10. It was clear the committee still thinks highly of the conference as a whole.

Here’s a look at where all four SEC playoff contenders stand heading into Week 13.

Alabama
Record: 9-1 (6-1)
Rank: No. 1
Next big obstacle: Nov. 29 vs. Auburn

Reason for optimism: It's all there for the taking. Thanks to Saturday's win over then-No. 1 Mississippi State, Bama is in the driver's seat to win the West and reach the playoff. With this weekend's game against FCS Western Carolina, the Crimson Tide get a chance to rest up for the following week's Iron Bowl against Auburn.

Cause for concern: Play-in scenarios can be tricky, especially when you're staring down a regular-season finale against your rival. If Alabama loses to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, all bets are off. Either Mississippi State or Ole Miss would then win the West and Alabama would be left out in the cold.

Who they’ll be rooting for: Boston College over Florida State

-- Alex Scarborough

Mississippi State
Record: 9-1 (5-1)
Rank: No. 4
Next big obstacle: Nov. 29 at Ole Miss

Reason for optimism: The Bulldogs didn’t fall that far in the polls -- dropping from No. 1 to 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings -- after losing their first game of the season Saturday against Alabama. Mississippi State still has two conference games remaining in the regular season, and beating one in particular -- No. 8 Ole Miss on Nov. 29 -- would strengthen its case as a playoff contender.

Cause for concern: Ohio State is among the programs lurking right behind the Bulldogs in the rankings. At this point, it doesn’t appear that the Bulldogs will play in the SEC championship game while other contenders like the Buckeyes or UCLA might. If those teams win out -- same with Big 12 juggernauts TCU and Baylor -- it might be difficult for State to hold on to one of the top four spots.

Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Indiana over Ohio State, Oklahoma State over Baylor, Boston College over Florida State

-- David Ching


Ole Miss
Record: 8-2 (4-2)
Rank: No. 8
Next big obstacle: Saturday at Arkansas

Reason for optimism: The weekend couldn’t have gone better for Ole Miss. The Rebels got to sit home, rest up and watch as Alabama beat Mississippi State and Georgia beat Auburn, keeping the door open for them to win the SEC West. If they win out and Auburn upsets Alabama in the Iron Bowl, they’re headed to Atlanta for the conference championship game. And with that could come a spot in the playoff.

Cause for concern: We still haven’t seen this Ole Miss team in a meaningful game without its star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. How will the offense look? Can Bo Wallace keep playing at a high level sans his favorite target? The Rebels also have to avoid losing Saturday’s trap game at Arkansas. The Razorbacks are confident, coming off their first SEC win, and will be a dangerous opponent at home.

Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Oklahoma State over Baylor

-- Greg Ostendorf

Georgia
Record: 8-2 (6-2)
Rank: No. 10
Next big obstacle: Nov. 29 vs. Georgia Tech

Reason for optimism: Blowing out Auburn at home has restored faith in the playoff committee. The Bulldogs are back to playing like they should and if they win out, which would include making it to and winning the SEC championship game in Atlanta, there's a chance they'll make it in. Georgia is almost guaranteed to play a top-4 team in Atlanta, so a win would make it tough to keep the Dawgs out.

Cause for concern: Losses to South Carolina and Florida aren't great. They've combined to lose nine SEC games, and Florida is parting ways with coach Will Muschamp. The Bulldogs need help, though. There are a lot of teams in front of them that would need to lose. TCU, Baylor and Ohio State pose the biggest threats, but don't exactly have the most challenging schedules remaining. Georgia would have to win out and take the SEC.

Who they'll be rooting for this week: Tennessee over Missouri

-- Edward Aschoff
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
This week, USA Today, in the latest of its fan index lists, catalogued the top 10 traditions in college football.

Among them, dotting the "i" at Ohio State, lighting the Tower at Texas and rolling Toomer's Corner at Auburn. All fine events, but no list of such customs in the sport is complete without the latest craze: the wait for Tuesday night.

I say that somewhat jokingly, so refrain from the angry tweets. No, I don't really think it's more fun to dream about the details of a five-minute interview with Jeff Long than to decorate an intersection with toilet paper.

But it's close.

So welcome to the fourth of seven Tuesday College Football Playoff poll unveils, where it finally gets real in the selection-committee room.

Why is this Tuesday different? Because after last Saturday, none of the remaining unbeaten or one-loss Power 5 contenders will meet in the regular season or in conference-title games.

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National links: What next for Florida? 

November, 17, 2014
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When an elite football program like Florida -- certainly one of the top destinations in the sport -- has a coaching vacancy, it’s always interesting to see which names surface as possible candidates.

The writing was on the wall that Will Muschamp was on his way out in Gainesvile, and the school made it official on Sunday, the day after the Gators’ late implosion in an overtime loss to South Carolina.

Immediately the rumor mill began to churn out names, like in an Associated Press story that mentioned Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze as possibilities. Insider’s Travis Haney weighed in on why it’s a top-tier job and some candidates that Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley might contact.

Will Foley look for an offensive-minded coach after defensive specialist Muschamp fell flat? Will he be willing to hire a coveted coordinator, as Muschamp was, with no head coaching experience? Might he look to the NFL ranks, or to someone like Mike Shanahan, who once served as an assistant at Florida?

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SEC plays of the week: Week 12

November, 16, 2014
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Another interesting week in the SEC and plenty of great plays league-wide. Let's take a look at our five favorites from Week 12:

Chubb train coming through
This was originally ruled a touchdown but later overturned (correctly) but that doesn’t make the play any less spectacular because Georgia freshman running back Nick Chubb's broken tackle is what makes it. Chubb powers through Auburn’s Jonathon Mincy to stay on his feet and if not for his right foot stepping on the out of bounds, he would have been in for six. As it is, it winds up as a nice 27-yard gain on a screen pass from Hutson Mason

video Heard’s timely block
Florida held a 17-10 lead with less than a minute left and that’s when South Carolina came up with a huge special-teams play. Receiver Carlton Heard sprinted up the middle and got his hands on the Kyle Christy punt, giving South Carolina possession in a prime area for the eventual game-tying score.

video Mizzou magic
Missouri had much success on third down in its win over Texas A&M but this was perhaps the best conversion of the night. On third-and-5, Maty Mauk found himself under pressure, backing up almost 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage before firing a strike to Darius White, who hauled in the pass one-handed for a 21-yard gain and a first down.

video Extra effort
Tennessee is enjoying offensive success since Joshua Dobbs took over as the quarterback. Saturday was a nice day as he threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns and one of them came courtesy of some extra effort by Von Pearson. On this play, Pearson is met by a Kentucky defender near the goal line but Pearson simply continues churning his legs and forcing his way into the end zone for six.

video Cooper’s catch
Amari Cooper is quite simply one of college football’s best receivers and he shows us weekly why he has that status. On Saturday in Alabama’s win over Mississippi State, he caught eight passes for 88 yards but none prettier than his 50-yard reception from Blake Sims in which Cooper high-pointed the ball on a leap in between two Bulldogs defenders. The catch set up a 1-yard Derrick Henry touchdown run that gave Alabama a 19-0 lead.
(No video, CBS game)
Todd GurleyAP Photo/John BazemoreGeorgia running back Todd Gurley's status is unknown following a knee injury against Auburn.

ATHENS, Ga. -- In what was supposed to be a rousing homecoming for Todd Gurley, the Georgia Bulldogs' chilly, late-night celebration felt a little more subdued after their star went down in the fourth quarter.

Gurley's late-game knee injury, which came with Georgia's dominating win over Auburn well in hand, has many wondering if the Bulldogs will yet again have to move on without their best player.

"You never want to see a guy like that go down," cornerback Damian Swann said of Gurley's injury. "We know how much that guy means to our team. … Hopefully, everything will be OK and he'll be back."

For now, Gurley's prognosis is unknown. Coach Mark Richt didn't have an update on the junior after the game, but expects him to take X-rays on the knee soon.

The hope is that Gurley, who rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries in his first game back from his four-game NCAA suspension, will be fine, but if No. 15 Georgia (8-2, 6-2 SEC) has to continue without him for any amount of time, it's clear that this team is more than prepared for such a challenge.

[+] EnlargeNick Chubb
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsNick Chubb has rushed for at least 143 yards in his past five games. He had 144 yards and 2 touchdowns against Auburn.
And if the past four weeks didn't prove that, Saturday's 34-7 rout of No. 9 Auburn (7-3, 4-3) should have made you a believer.

Before the game, Gurley stalked the field during warm-ups, as cheers bellowed throughout Sanford Stadium whenever his face appeared on the scoreboard. You got the sense this would be a storybook comeback for the former Heisman Trophy favorite.

And we almost got it when he took a kickoff 100-plus yards for a touchdown, only to have it called back because of a penalty.

That's how Gurley's return went, but it didn't hurt the Bulldogs one bit. Not with true freshman Nick Chubb -- who more than filled in for Gurley during his four-game absence -- playing out of his mind, and Jeremy Pruitt's defense executing a near-flawless game plan.

With Gurley more the appetizer than the main course, Georgia turned Auburn into a cupcake on a frigid night between the hedges. The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry was hardly close, as Georgia scored 34 straight points after Auburn's opening drive.

Like the Bulldogs had done in three of their past four games, they found ways to dominate opponents without Gurley leading the way. And that's not taking anything away from Gurley, but it was clear he was rusty after not playing in a game in 42 days.

As Gurley slowly regained his football legs, Chubb chugged away to 192 total yards, including a game-high 144 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. He bounced and bullied his way over the 1,000-yard mark for the season and continues to play at superhuman levels despite his age.

"Once he gets a little bit of a head of steam up, I tell you it's just so difficult to get him down with just one person," Richt said of Chubb, who has now rushed for at least 143 yards in each of the past five games. "You see it all the time, guys are just bouncing off of him. You can go low, and you're going to get punished down there, too. He's about as strong as Todd is. ... Guys don't like to go high or low on those guys because they are like a little locomotive going through there."

When Chubb wasn't rambling through or around Auburn's overmatched defense, Georgia's own defense was slowing down one of the SEC's most explosive units. Entering the night, Auburn ranked second in the SEC with an average of 506.9 total yards of offense per game, including an SEC-high 286.44 rushing yards.

Against the Bulldogs, Auburn totaled just 292 yards of offense and 7 points -- the lowest in either category for Gus Malzahn as Auburn's head coach.

A defense that a couple of weeks ago was gashed for 418 rushing yards by Florida made Auburn look nothing like, well, Auburn.

"Coach [Pruitt] put together a great plan and after we executed it, it was hard for those guys to do anything," Swann said.

This was supposed to be a barn burner, but Georgia pushed Auburn around in every phase of the game, showing it has the talent to hang with any of the top teams. When this team is clicking, watch out.

Georgia is now 2-0 against the SEC West, and a Missouri slip away from heading back to Atlanta for the SEC championship game.

But that's where frustration sets in for the Dawgs. Their life is in the hands of a Missouri team they waxed on the road by 34. A Missouri team that has been incredibly inconsistent on offense and lost at home to Indiana, yet just walked out of College Station with a shootout win over Texas A&M.

Georgia needs only one Mizzou loss to get to Atlanta, but after losses to South Carolina and Florida, the Dawgs can only hope.

It's a shame with how well this team has played outside of those two blunders, but if the Dawgs find a seam to Atlanta -- and maybe even the playoff -- quarterback Hutson Mason likes his team's odds.

"The one thing about this team that's special about it is we get better every single game," Mason said.

"When you have a team like that, that's pretty dangerous, because you're gaining a lot of momentum and you're improving every week and you're gaining a lot of confidence. We have a lot of that right now."

video 

What we learned in the SEC: Week 12

November, 15, 2014
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We’re getting close to resolution in the SEC’s division races after another wild weekend of conference play.

Here are five things we learned after the conclusion of Saturday’s games:

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
AP Photo/Butch DillWith their win over Mississippi State, Amari Cooper and Alabama are on track to play for the SEC title.
Georgia-Alabama?: We went through all of that to get to this? After beating No. 1 Mississippi State 25-20 on Saturday, Alabama is back in the driver’s seat in the SEC West, as many prognosticators expected before the season. Meanwhile, Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) destroyed Auburn 34-7 in its final SEC game of the season, which put the pressure on Missouri to win out if it wants to win the SEC East. Otherwise, it’ll be Alabama-Georgia in the SEC championship game, which seemed the most likely outcome before the Mississippi schools and Missouri made unexpected title pushes. Mizzou (8-2, 5-1) still leads the way in the East, though, with games remaining at Tennessee and versus Arkansas. The Tigers can still spoil the Bulldogs’ title hopes, and Georgia tailback Todd Gurley's injury status will also have a bearing on the Bulldogs' prospects moving forward.

It tolls for thee, Muschamp: Maybe there was a way for Will Muschamp to save his job after Florida shocked Georgia a couple weeks ago. But the way the Gators blew a late lead and fell 23-20 in overtime against South Carolina on Saturday -- getting two kicks blocked in the last 3:30 -- probably removed any doubt. The Gators are now 5-4 and can become bowl eligible with a win against Eastern Kentucky next week, but this has to be the end for Muschamp. The Gators should have won this game but imploded at home in the closing minutes.

A breakthrough for Arkansas: It was a long time coming, but Bret Bielema finally got the first league win of his Arkansas tenure when the Razorbacks shut out LSU 17-0 on Saturday. Oddly enough, the win ended a 17-game SEC losing streak. The Hogs came close against several teams this season -- most notably Alabama and Mississippi State -- but they controlled the night against LSU. They even handed the Tigers their first shutout loss since they fell 21-0 to Alabama in the BCS title game to end the 2011 season. Clearly, it meant something to the Razorbacks’ fans, though. They rushed the field to celebrate the win.

Gus Bus hits a speed bump: Saturday’s loss was by far the worst for No. 9 Auburn since Gus Malzahn became head coach last season. The Tigers scored seven points in a loss to Georgia -- well below their previous scoring low (20 points in a win against Kansas State earlier this season) under Malzahn. Auburn came in averaging 506.9 yards and 38.7 points per game and mustered just 292 yards and seven points against a UGA defense that got dominated by lowly Florida two weeks ago. The Tigers also lost for the second straight week and fell out of the SEC West and playoff conversations.

Look out for the Vols: They lost their first four games in SEC play, but here come the Tennessee Volunteers (5-5, 2-4). With quarterback Josh Dobbs leading the charge, the Vols blasted Kentucky 50-16 on Saturday after beating South Carolina in overtime two weeks ago. Dobbs passed for 297 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday and ran for 48 yards and another score. They’ll host Missouri on Saturday with a chance to spoil the Tigers’ hopes of winning the SEC East.
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ATHENS, Ga. -- It was supposed to be all about Todd Gurley and his return Saturday night, and while he was great -- 29 carries for 138 yards before leaving the game with an injury -- it was a complete team effort by No. 15 Georgia that propelled the Bulldogs past No. 9 Auburn, 34-7.

How the game was won: Everybody expected a shootout between two of the top offenses in the SEC, but somebody forgot to tell that to Jeremy Pruitt and his Georgia defense. The Bulldogs held Auburn to 292 total yards and just 7 points. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall went 11-of-23 for 112 yards and an interception in his return to Athens.

Game ball goes to: On the night Gurley returned from a four-game suspension, he was overshadowed by fellow running back Nick Chubb. The freshman, who has been tremendous in place of Gurley, finished with 144 yards rushing, 48 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Chubb became the second back in the SEC to go over 1,000 yards on the season.

What it means: The pressure is on Missouri now to win the East. If the Tigers lose one more game, Georgia will make the short trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship.

Playoff implication: Earlier this month, Auburn was No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings and the top one-loss team in the country. Now, after back-to-back losses to Texas A&M and Georgia, the Tigers are no longer in contention. Georgia is a long shot, but winning the SEC might give Mark Richt’s team a shot.

Best play: Had he not stepped out of bounds, it would have been a "SportsCenter" Top 10-worthy play, but Chubb’s 27-yard catch in the third quarter was still pretty impressive despite stepping out. He took a short middle screen, ran right, bounced off Auburn cornerback Jonathon Mincy and weaved his way into the end zone. Unfortunately, he just stepped out when he bounced off Mincy.

video What's next: Both Auburn and Georgia host FCS schools next Saturday before finishing the regular season against their in-state rivals, Alabama and Georgia Tech.

SEC viewer's guide: Week 12

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
10:00
AM ET
It's now or never for many teams in the SEC.

After Saturday, only two weeks of the regular season remain.

Want to reach Atlanta and play in the conference championship? This is the time to prove it.

Noon

South Carolina at Florida, SEC Network: A win over South Carolina would mean a lot of things for Florida. It would mean an automatic bowl bid, continued hope of winning the East and, possibly, another year for coach Will Muschamp. It's funny how a month ago none of those things seemed likely, but thanks to the spark Treon Harris has provided at quarterback, Florida is in a much different place today. Meanwhile, South Carolina is moving in the opposite direction. Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks have lost two straight, and the coach's future is suddenly a topic for debate.

[+] EnlargeDan Mullen, Nick Saban
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesWill Dan Mullen and No. 1 Mississippi State finally get a win over Nick Saban and No. 5 Alabama?
3:30 p.m.

No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama, CBS: Dan Mullen already got the Texas A&M and LSU monkeys off his back this season. So will he keep up the good work and finally beat Alabama, the only remaining SEC West team that has eluded him as coach of Mississippi State? It won't be easy, and Mullen's Bulldogs won't be favored heading into Tuscaloosa despite their No. 1 overall ranking.

4 p.m.

Kentucky at Tennessee, SEC Network: These are two young teams moving toward a bright future, but which will reach a bowl game ahead of schedule? Because that's what this game ultimately boils down to. Tennessee, at 4-5, must win two of its next three to get into a bowl. Meanwhile, Kentucky either takes care of business against the Volunteers or waits two weeks to try and upset Louisville to reach six wins and a bowl berth.

7:15 p.m.

No. 9 Auburn at No. 15 Georgia, ESPN: We could wind up seeing the most rushing yards in a single game this season when Georgia hosts Auburn between the hedges. After all, neither defense is particularly adept at stopping the run and, at the same time, both offenses are catered to the running game. And that's not to mention the return of Todd Gurley. Georgia's star running back has been itching to get back on the football field after his four-game suspension. He might just try and make up for all those lost carries in one game.

7:30 p.m.

Missouri at No. 24 Texas A&M, SEC Network: It has been a roller-coaster ride for Texas A&M, as it started off 5-0 before losing three straight. The fall from No. 6 in the AP poll to unranked felt devastating. Starting quarterback Kenny Hill was suspended, and it seemed as if the Aggies would throw in the towel on the season. But then last weekend happened. Kyle Allen made some plays in the passing game, and Texas A&M upset Auburn. Now the question becomes where the Aggies go from here. With no hope of reaching the playoff, will they continue their upward climb against a Missouri team that sits atop the SEC East?

8 p.m.

No. 17 LSU at Arkansas, ESPN 2: Fans of old-school football, rejoice! We have the game for you. When Arkansas hosts LSU, there will be fullbacks and offensive linemen galore, plenty of huddling and an abundance of running the football. There will even be freezing temperatures to set the mood. Bret Bielema has to be positively giddy. This is the "normal American football" Arkansas' coach so cherishes. Plus, it's an opportunity for his Razorbacks to break their unlucky streak of 17 conference games without a win.

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