Recruiter Rankings: Oct. update

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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Tony HughesAP Photo/Don Juan MooreMississippi State's Tony Hughes has had a big hand recruiting the team that has risen to No. 1 in the rankings.


The recruiter power rankings examine which assistant coaches have already done damage on the recruiting trail in the 2015 class. Beyond looking at how many four- or five-star recruits a coach lands, the rankings take into account the needs those recruits will fill at the next level.

With the season and official visits off and running and more than 200 players in the ESPN 300 having already committed, the coaches are working extra hard to bolster their classes.

Previous rankings: Feb. 6 | April 17 | June 19 | Aug. 25 | Sept. 22



To read this month's update, click here Insider.
With no game this past weekend, the Auburn coaches gave the players Friday and Saturday off. Some went home. Others stayed around campus, enjoying the two-day break. Sammie Coates did neither. The wide receiver made the two-hour trip to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham to spend Friday with Kenzie Ray, a 12-year-old girl with leukemia.

The two spent hours playing video games. When she got stuck on a level, Coates helped her get through it. He went to dinner with Kenzie’s family before going back to the hospital, where he stayed with her until almost 9 p.m.

"She just gets happy [around Coates]," Kenzie’s mother, Keisha Ray, said. "It’s just like when her family comes up. She gets a little more rambunctious when her brothers are here or her daddy is here. It’s the same thing.

[+] EnlargeSammie Coates
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesSammie Coates on spending time with 12-year-old Kenzie Ray, who has leukemia: "I look up to her and how strong she is and how she fights."
"I think to start with, she kind of looked at Sammie as something bigger. He did make her feel special and that sort of thing, and he still does. But I think it’s grown into something bigger. He’s my family. I feel like he’s one of mine when he’s here."

The relationship began in September 2013, when Kenzie attended the Auburn-Mississippi State game. She was invited by a family friend to meet Auburn offensive tackle and cancer survivor Shon Coleman, and the two talked after the game. But Coleman wasn’t the only player she met that night.

Not knowing who Kenzie was, Coates walked up after the game and began talking with her. The two exchanged wristbands; he gave her a shoutout on Twitter; she sent him a friend request. Now there’s nothing that can separate them.

More than a year later, they don’t go even a day without at least texting one another. Most of the time, they are talking on the phone or through Facetime.

"When I met Kenzie, I thought she was my role model because I look up to her and how strong she is and how she fights," Coates said after the Louisiana Tech game in late September. "That makes me fight harder. It makes me become a better person every day. It’s just a blessing to have her in my life."

With Coates, it’s about more than football. He led Auburn with 42 receptions, 902 yards and 7 touchdowns last season, but he will be the first to tell you that it doesn’t matter how many catches or yards he has. It doesn’t even matter who wins or loses. He just wants to use his abilities to help other people, people like Kenzie.

"Sammie’s got a big heart," Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "Obviously he loves football, loves to compete, but he’s got a big heart for things outside of football.

"Usually if you’re around Sammie and he doesn’t have a big smile or he seems down, it’s because one of those kids that he’s gotten close to is struggling. It gets him in a funk, and that’s how close he gets to them."

Recently, Coates did receive some bad news about Kenzie. The family discovered that despite getting a bone marrow transplant in August, she still has leukemia.

As soon as Coates got the news, he sent Kenzie a text message. They talked briefly, and the same girl who was crying just five minutes earlier came out, told her mom Coates had sent her a message, and said: "I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep fighting."

"I don’t really know what he said," her mother said later. "But he just keeps her fired up. He’s a huge source of inspiration for her."

That’s why when Coates finally got some time away from the football field, he didn’t waste any time, and went to see Kenzie. After all, she’s his source of inspiration, too.

"You can’t get down when you see people like that, that fight every day of their life," Coates said. "That’s one thing I take out there and try to tell my teammates to do. Play this game like you’re happy to play it. Don’t be down about little stuff, like a nick or a bruise. You’ve got people out there fighting for their life every day.

"That’s the attitude you’ve got to have. You’ve got to be happy for every opportunity you get. That’s what I take from [Kenzie]. She means a lot to me."
BATON ROUGE, La. -- After a rocky start in SEC play, LSU is finally starting to accomplish some of its objectives on offense.

The initial spark, according to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, was settling on the starting lineup of offensive linemen that has been in place for each of the past four games.

“It’s a pretty good line,” LSU coach Les Miles said after last Saturday’s 41-3 win against Kentucky. “They’re starting to play like they’re capable.”

[+] EnlargeAnthony Jennings
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Jennings and the LSU offense will surely get a stiff test against Ole Miss on Saturday.
Playing like they’re capable was a lengthier process than most expected for a line that returned four starters. Not only did center Elliott Porter miss the first two games on suspension, but guards Vadal Alexander and Ethan Pocic had struggled with injuries.

“Something that’s overlooked is all the movement we had early in the year,” Cameron said after the Kentucky game. “It was significant, not only with Elliott not starting the season, but with some injuries, with Pocic and so forth, and just our style of wanting to be physical and getting better each week. Our guys played tonight like they practiced all week.”

LSU has long prided itself on a physical, run-first mentality, but the line’s general ineffectiveness was one of the lowlights from a bumpy first half of the season. Perhaps the group has turned a corner after back-to-back solid outings against Florida and Kentucky.

Although it ran the ball reasonably well against Auburn (36 carries, 138 yards), LSU didn’t deliver a strong performance against a good run defense until Leonard Fournette was the driving force in a 195-yard night against Florida. The Tigers followed that by wearing down a mediocre Kentucky run defense, rushing for 231 of their 303 yards in the second half.

The Kentucky game was the first time LSU rushed for 200 yards against a Power 5 opponent after Wisconsin, Mississippi State and Auburn -- all of which rank among the nation’s top 26 defenses against the run, as does Florida -- effectively defended the Tigers’ running game.

“We’re getting better,” said Cameron, who participated in postgame interviews for the first time all season after the Kentucky game. “I think our guys up front really did a nice job. That was the plan coming in. Obviously [Kentucky employs] a pressure front. They bring a lot of field blitzes, a lot of boundary blitzes and I thought our guys did a nice job once we got on track.”

Pinning the Tigers’ offensive improvement solely on improved play from the offensive line would be too simplistic, however. It’s also receivers running better routes and getting separation from defensive backs. It’s running backs hitting the correct holes and making tacklers miss. It’s playing with a full complement of fullbacks for the first time in weeks and having them create consistent running space for the backs.

It also helps that the Tigers (6-2, 2-2 SEC) recently faced two mediocre teams from the SEC East -- clearly the lesser of the conference’s two divisions -- in Florida and Kentucky after opening league play against Mississippi State and Auburn, teams ranked No. 1 and 5, respectively, in the newest Associated Press Top 25.

They’ll move back toward the tougher end of the SEC spectrum on Saturday when No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0, 4-0) visits Tiger Stadium, bringing a run defense that ranks sixth nationally at 97.1 yards per game.

Facing the Rebels’ defense will be the true test of the progress LSU has made recently – and whether quarterback Anthony Jennings can truly be an effective performer against a top-flight defense. Although LSU seems to have settled on sophomore Jennings as the starter after freshman Brandon Harris struggled mightily in his lone start at Auburn, Jennings has hardly scared the major-conference defenses LSU has faced thus far.

“He really can play better than he played [against Kentucky],” Miles said. “There are a number of guys that he could have chosen to throw the ball to early on in the game and I think that he’ll see this and learn from that and I think he will be a better quarterback when we get to next Saturday.”

Jennings was 7-for-14 for 120 yards and a touchdown against Kentucky and 10-for-21 for 110 yards and one score against Florida. Harris threw an interception in his only pass attempt against Kentucky and didn’t play against Florida.

“I don’t know that it’s a competition as much as it’s just guys working to get better,” Cameron said. “It’s two guys that are growing just day by day, snap by snap and just maturing and understanding what we’re trying to get done.”

One objective that Jennings has met is taking care of the football. He briefly lost the starting job with three early turnovers against New Mexico State, but otherwise Jennings has not been plagued by turnovers. He has thrown three interceptions and lost one fumble through eight games, helping LSU tie for 11th nationally with a plus-7 turnover margin.

If all LSU asks of Jennings is to be a game manager, it will probably need to have more games like last Saturday’s, where it made big plays on special teams and controlled the contest with stout defense and a powerful running attack. It was the type of performance that LSU fans have grown accustomed to seeing under Miles.

“We’re trying not to put our defense in a tough position if we can help it. They do a great job of getting us the ball,” Cameron said. “Our special teams got us in great position. They scored tonight. I think it’s a collective effort.

“Anytime you block well and take care of the football, whether it be run blocking, pass protection, you should be successful. ... We’re in the back half of the season and we’re still getting better, and that’s a good thing.”

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In his most recent postgame news conference, Will Muschamp spoke as quickly as ever, but this time his words were hushed.

There's a pall over his Florida football program, and at this point it doesn't matter if words are screamed or whispered.

All that matters are results. The ones Muschamp has not delivered.

[+] EnlargeWill Muschamp
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsWith a 2-8 mark in his past 10 SEC games, one has to wonder how much longer Will Muschamp can survive as Florida's coach.
This past Saturday at the Swamp, with everyone in attendance aware that the coach's job was on the line, the Gators played like his fate was already sealed.

What could have been a stepping-stone game against Missouri to set up an SEC East showdown with Georgia in two weeks was instead a laugher. The Tigers returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then stepped out of the way as Florida self-destructed.

When it was over Muschamp sounded like a coach out of answers.

"I told them anytime you go have one like this, you look in the mirror and figure what we need to do to improve," he said. "... We've just got to nail it down to some things that we do well, which right now is not that much."

Florida has lost 10 of its past 13 games. In the past two seasons, the Gators' only wins have come against Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas.

In four seasons, Muschamp has a 25-19 record. He's 15-14 against SEC competition, including a 2-8 record in his past 10 conference games.

What few supporters were left on Saturday night gave up on their coach in the third quarter. Boos echoed throughout the Swamp, and loud chants of "Fire Muschamp" rained down on the field as fans left in droves.

As usual, the coach took full responsibility and swore to address the issues that are plaguing his team -- a starting quarterback who has had an astonishing 12 turnovers in his past 14 quarters, leaky pass protection, and a corps of receivers who drop balls with frightening regularity.

Reinforcements don't appear to be coming, though, as a lack of player development has compounded Florida's offensive ineptitude.

"It's on me" or something to that effect is what Muschamp has said after every ugly loss, but it's cold comfort to Gators fans who have grown restless and irate as the program has sunk to bottom-tier status in the league it dominated just a few years ago.

Muschamp claimed he did not hear the fans chanting for his ouster, and he vowed to stay focused on his team.

"I'm not going to get concerned about those things I don't have any control of other than this team," he said, "and I think that's the most important thing right now."

What's next for Florida is a tense bye week sure to be filled and fueled by speculation.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley said early in September he would give Muschamp the entire season to show progress before rendering judgement. After last Saturday's loss, Foley reiterated that stance when asked if he would fire his coach midseason.

"C’mon, I’m not going to answer that question," he told Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post. "It’s irrelevant. Any evaluations on this team will be made on the season."

After Saturday's ugly display on the field and in the stands, it's hard to imagine this coach and this team turning this ship around. Like last Saturday's game, the momentum has spiraled out of control.

It's also hard to argue that progress has been made, although one player insisted it has.

"We've improved drastically even if the numbers don't say it," senior center Max Garcia said. "We have. I feel it just as a team chemistry-wise. We're a team this year."

At this point in Muschamp's tenure, progress in the locker room likely won't be enough without the results to back it up.

Whether he coaches Florida against Georgia in two weeks or not, the fans chanting "Fire Muschamp" seem certain to get their wish.

At first glance: SEC Week 9

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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Well, here we are once again after an entire Saturday of lopsided games. What did we learn that we didn't already know? If anything the league revealed itself to be more firmly divided between contenders and pretenders.

We'll just have to look forward to Week 9 for some better SEC entertainment.

Game of the week: No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU
Now this should be fun. Night games at Tiger Stadium usually are. Two straight wins have LSU feeling good and back in the rankings. The Tigers are also back on the fringes of the SEC West race and could throw a giant wrench into the Magnolia State love-fest by upsetting the Rebels. The jury is still out on LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings, who didn't have to do much to beat Florida (110 yards passing) or Kentucky (120 yards passing). The Ole Miss defense, however, promises to give the Tigers their toughest test of the season. This unit is operating at peak performance at just the right time for a visit to Baton Rouge. The Rebs allowed zero rushing yards -- ZERO! -- to Tennessee last Saturday and have given up just six touchdowns in seven games this season. It should be a brawl in the Bayou.

Player under pressure: Maty Mauk, Missouri
The Tigers' gunslinging quarterback has been humbled and harnessed in his last two games -- a disastrous 34-0 home loss to Georgia in which he had five turnovers, and a goofy 42-13 win at Florida in which he was 6-of-18 passing for 20 yards and an interception. Mauk's and Missouri's seasons are nearing a crossroads. After playing what he called the worst game of his life against UGA, Mauk overcame a shaky start at Florida and played in control while the Gators self-destructed. The good news for the Tigers offense is that Mauk & Co. will have a solid chance to work out their issues against Vanderbilt, which will bring one of the worst defenses in the SEC (allowing 415.9 yards a game) to Columbia, Mo.

Coach under the microscope: Lane Kiffin, Alabama
The Tide's offensive coordinator might not have circled the third Saturday in October on his calendar, but you can bet 100,000 ticket-holding Volunteers fans sure did. In 2009 Kiffin coached his one and only season at Tennessee. He was full of promises, bravado and hot air. Other than some solid recruiting, the highlights of his 7-6 season were wins over Georgia and South Carolina and a near-miss at Alabama. Who can forget Bama's Terrance "Mount" Cody swatting away two Tennessee field goals in a 12-10 victory? Well, other than Kiffin? Now that he's back in the SEC, patrolling the Alabama sideline and steering its inconsistent offense, the vitriol is sure to reach a fever pitch on Saturday. Hundreds of students rioted when news broke of Kiffin's sudden departure in 2009. How are they going to treat his return?

Storyline to watch: Division dominance
The SEC West is a powerhouse. The East is a house of cards. So the story goes, and it doesn't seem likely to deviate with No. 1 Mississippi State visiting Kentucky and South Carolina traveling to No. 5 Auburn. The East has lost six of seven cross-division games so far this season, most of them with lopsided results. The much-improved Wildcats were riding high at 5-1 before being thrashed by LSU. Now they'll have to contend with Dak Prescott and his steamrolling MSU offense. South Carolina has the worst defense in the SEC and might need a miracle on the Plains to keep up with Auburn's offense. Don't look for the division script to flip this week.

Intriguing matchup: LSU offense vs. Ole Miss defense
As previously described in our game of the week entry, LSU can't expect much from its quarterback in Saturday's matchup against the fearsome Rebels defense. It gives Ole Miss a tremendous advantage to be able to stack the box against the run, but LSU has the horses to give the Rebel defense its toughest test of the season. Tigers senior RB Terrance Magee is coming off a career game with 220 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He makes a fine pairing with freshman stud Leonard Fournette, LSU's leading rusher with 544 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. If the Tigers can establish the run against Ole Miss it could open up some play-action passing or at least give Jennings a chance to take some shots with the very capable Travin Dural, a sophomore wide receiver with 26 catches, 665 yards and seven touchdowns. It all starts in the trenches.
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The ginormous question surrounding Georgia's football team after news broke of Todd Gurley's suspension has been whether the Bulldogs could win without arguably the nation's best player.

Well, after two games sans Gurley, who still leads the SEC with 773 rushing yards, the Bulldogs haven't really needed him. In two convincing wins -- on the road, mind you -- the Dawgs have put the running game squarely on true freshman Nick Chubb and he's, well, run away with that responsibility.

[+] EnlargeNick Chubb
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsIn 99 carries through Week 8 this season, rookie Nick Chubb has taken over Georgia's rushing load and he isn't showing signs of slowing down.
The bruising, 5-foot-10, 228-pound frosh looked nothing like a youngster when he first stepped on the field and dazzled the country with his moves and strength in the opening win against Clemson, and he transformed into a certified manimal with his 345 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the past two games as the feature back for the Bulldogs.

"Nick's gonna be special. We know that," senior cornerback Damian Swann said. "Right now, he's taking on a very big load and he's handling it well. ... You've seen him on the past two Saturdays. He's got a bright future in Athens."

Unfortunately for the SEC, the future is now, and Chubb has been amazing filling in, especially with how much he has played. In the past two games, Chubb has carried the ball 68 times, eclipsing 30 carries in each outing. Gurley has never even carried the ball 30 times in a single game at Georgia.

After carrying it 38 times for 143 yards at Missouri, Chubb turned right around and ran 30 times for a career-high 202 yards and two touchdowns. How good was that? Chubb became just the third freshman in Georgia history to rush for more than 200 yards in a game (Herschel Walker, Rodney Hampton).

Chubb has five touchdowns and is eighth in the SEC with 569 rushing yards.

"He's taken the majority of the carries and it doesn't seem to faze him," quarterback Hutson Mason said. "The guy's a special cat. He's got to be the best freshman running back in the country. You give it to him 20 or 40 times and it just seems like he's going to keep pounding it. It's awesome."

That's all fine and dandy now, but it certainly begs the question. With Gurley out and running backs Keith Marshall and Sony Michel nursing injuries, are the Bulldogs running their young thoroughbred, who already had thumb surgery, too much? Does the colt need to take some plays off and rest his body with Gurley's return uncertain?

"He's built for it," coach Mark Richt said. "He's very, very tough physically and mentally. He's strong. He came from high school in Cedartown [Georgia] where they're just tough. They coach tough. Their offseason's tough. He didn't get babied in high school at all. He was not one of those guys where you could sit there and say he was given anything because he was a very good football player. He had to earn it every day in practice and every offseason workout."

The bye week will certainly help any sort of fatigue Chubb has, but with the way he has played in back-to-back weeks -- remember: On the road -- I don't know if another game would slow him down. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon on his 43-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter on Saturday, and then he just went back to bulldozing guys for the rest of the game.

If he needs a rest, he isn't showing it.

"It's super impressive because that guy's durable," wide receiver Chris Conley said. "He doesn't complain, he does what he's told and he puts his head down and grinds for the team."

Players aren't surprised at how well Chubb has played. They saw the chiseled snapshots of him running track in high school before he enrolled. They saw him pulverize teammates during offseason drills. They watched him lift, cringed as he squatted ungodly amounts and saw the pain he inflicted during practice.

This was what the Bulldogs expected, and they haven't missed a beat without Gurley leading the pack.

"We know how special that kid is," Swann said.

Yes, and so does the entire country.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Experience means something. If you don’t believe that, look at the SEC this season. Of the four most veteran teams in the league, three are ranked in the top five of the AP and coaches’ polls. South Carolina has flamed out, of course, but Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss are all legitimate playoff contenders.

Then there is Alabama.

According to Phil Steele’s annual Combined Experience Chart, the Crimson Tide entered the season in the bottom half of the SEC and 107th nationally in a formula that breaks down the returning experience of every two-deep depth chart in college football. With AJ McCarron, C.J. Mosley and others graduated or off to the NFL, it made sense. But pundits looked at the run of top-ranked recruiting classes and a coaching staff led by Nick Saban, and trusted it would all work out.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAn up-and-down season for coach Nick Saban and Alabama hit a high note against Texas A&M.
In a way, it has. Sort of.

Alabama is worthy of its current top-five ranking in the polls, but its journey to this point has been a rocky one. Looking at its season has required taking the long view on things, and that has been difficult to do considering all the ups and downs we have witnessed. One week you are looking at a flawed team, the next you are looking at a dominant one. Then it's simple: rinse and repeat.

It all goes back to youth. If you look at Alabama through the lens of a young team finding itself, then it all starts to make sense: the highs and lows, the mistakes, the struggles on the road. This isn’t the dominant, veteran Alabama team of years past, this is one dealing with growing pains and struggling to forge an identity.

Just look at the week-to-week themes:

  • Week 1: Nervousness sets in. The defense isn’t what we expected. During a closer-than-anticipated win against West Virginia, the secondary struggles and the front seven never can seem to get on the same page.
  • Weeks 2 and 3: Anticipation without resolution. Southern Miss and Florida Atlantic roll over, Blake Sims wins the quarterback competition, but we were still unsure about the whole of the team.
  • Week 4: Now we know. Alabama so thoroughly dismantles Florida, you would have thought the Tide had won the SEC. There were some concerning turnovers and penalties, but they were easily overlooked.
  • Week 5: The trumpets of greatness play throughout the bye week.
  • Weeks 6 and 7: Stop the music. Turnovers and penalties catch up with Alabama during a late loss at Ole Miss and a narrow win on the road against Arkansas. Sims is no longer sharp, the offensive line struggles, and special teams become an Achille’s heel.
  • Week 8: Utter confusion. The dynasty isn’t dead. Alabama belittles Texas A&M. Sims returns to form, the offensive line dominates and the defense never yields.

As you can see, it’s been something of a whirlwind following Alabama this season.

"This is as close to the Alabama football that we want to try to get from our players in terms of effort, toughness, emotional excitement and execution that we got throughout the game," Saban said following the 59-0 beatdown on Saturday. "Our approach to this game was that we wanted to find what exactly every position and player has to do, and see if you can go out there and dominate your box and do your job. I don’t think we had many penalties; we played with a lot of discipline. Our quarterback executed the system extremely well, and lots of guys made plays."

It was a championship-caliber performance, one that in itself says Alabama is back in the playoff conversation.

But if we are looking at the season as a whole, then we should know not to rush to judgement. This is a young football team, and no one ages overnight. That pendulum of greatness and mediocrity could swing back in the other direction at any moment.

What Alabama needs now is consistency. Starting with a trip to Tennessee on Saturday, the Tide can show that going on the road is no obstacle. Alabama can show maturity by putting together back-to-back good games against quality opponents.

The team is young, so be patient. The potential for Alabama’s players and coaches is certainly there, but there is no need to jump the gun. Haven’t we done enough of that already?
It wasn’t that long ago that Texas A&M departed Tuscaloosa, Alabama, feeling on top of the college football world.

The Aggies had an eventual Heisman Trophy winner, an up-and-coming coach and made a loud statement after upsetting the then-No. 1 Crimson Tide, 29-24, on Nov. 10, 2012.

[+] EnlargeKenny Hill
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY SportsThe woes of quarterback Kenny Hill and Texas A&M are only growing after a blowout loss at Alabama.
That seminal moment in Texas A&M history was less than two years ago, but it might as well be 1939, because that’s about how long ago it feels after the Aggies returned home from the site of their past triumph, bruised and battered after taking a 59-0 whipping from Alabama this past Saturday.

Suddenly, after their worst defeat since a 77-0 loss to Oklahoma in 2003, the Aggies are at a crossroads in their third SEC season.

Serious questions must be asked. It’s one thing to lose to a top-10 team like Alabama. It’s quite another to be utterly destroyed.

“However you cut it, that performance was unacceptable and embarrassing,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said.

Never in his seven-year head coaching career had Sumlin led a team that got shut out, and how it’s addressed will say a lot about the coach. Last Saturday’s loss was Texas A&M’s third straight and they’ve come by an average margin of 30.3 points. This is uncharted territory for him. Never have Sumlin's teams been dominated like how the Aggies have recently.

“I think we need to evaluate where we are and whenever something like this happens, you can't stick your hand in the sand and say, 'Hey, we're going to keep doing the same stuff,'” Sumlin said. “We've got to make some changes. What those are, I couldn't tell you right now. But the bye week comes at a good time for us.”

Offensively, the Aggies are the worst they’ve been since they entered the SEC. After ranking in the top five nationally each of the past two seasons in scoring offense, yards per game, yards per play and QBR, the Aggies have fallen out of the top 10 in each of those categories. In third-down conversions, an area they were No. 1 in 2012, they’re now 48th. They’re struggling to run the football, ranking 80th in rushing yards per game after ranking 11th nationally in 2012 and 45th last season. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital’s unit doesn’t share any resemblance to the group that dominated South Carolina on Aug. 28.

Defensively, the Aggies couldn’t be worse than they were a year ago, when they were last in the SEC in most major statistical categories, including scoring, yards per game, yards per play, rushing yards per game and red zone efficiency.

After a better start to this season, Texas A&M is beginning to trend in the 2013 direction again. The Aggies are last in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per game, 13th in yards allowed per game, 12th in scoring and 12th in yards per play. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder is staring down a second consecutive season of poor defensive results.

On the field, quarterback Kenny Hill has struggled. So has the Texas A&M offensive line, once considered the strength of this program. The receivers, who looked spry and fierce early in the season, have wilted lately. The running game appears nonexistent.

Defensively, the Aggies have yielded an average of 255.7 rushing yards per game in their past four games. If extrapolated over the whole season, that would rank Texas A&M 121st nationally in the category. That means the job isn’t getting done in the front seven. The Aggies have had their inconsistencies in the secondary as well. Just check out what Alabama’s Amari Cooper did: eight catches, 140 yards, two touchdowns.

It wasn’t even two full months ago when a confident Sumlin sat before reporters in the moments after Texas A&M's 52-28 domination of then-No. 9 South Carolina, presumably sending a message about the future, post-Johnny Manziel.

“I think what we did tonight kind of showed that we’re not a one-trick pony,” Sumlin said that night. “We’re not going anywhere anytime soon.”

The jury may still be out on that one. Those words resonated that night and -- given the perception of what South Carolina, a program coming off three consecutive 11-win seasons, was supposed to be -- it gave initial validation to the words. The Gamecocks turned out to be fool’s gold and the Aggies, once ranked as high as No. 6 in the country but now out of the top 25, look that way, too.

The Aggies, who went 20-6 in their first two SEC seasons, reaped plenty of benefits from their early SEC success. It accelerated the fundraising for a $450 million redevelopment of Kyle Field. Millions were spent to renovate the football complex.

Sumlin received two raises and is getting paid $5 million per season, which is in the tax bracket of head coaches who have rings. The assistant coaches got raises, too. On social media the Aggies say they run this state (#WRTS). It’s hard to justify that claim when they have yet to beat a top-25 team in their home stadium since joining the SEC.

All those resources were spent with building a championship-caliber program in mind. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but this past Saturday’s events and what has transpired the past three weeks is cause for some soul searching.

SEC morning links

October, 20, 2014
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1. Credit goes to Dan Mullen and his coaching staff for turning Mississippi State into a player on the national stage of college football. It was a slow build, which made for a sturdy foundation. But if you're looking at the program's success today, you ought to look at the program before Mullen arrived. You ought to remember Sylvester Croom. No, he never got Mississippi State near the heights it's experiencing today, but he did a standup job during his five seasons as head coach there. Everyone marveled at the eight-win campaign he engineered in 2007 and the day on Nov. 10 when the Bulldogs finally beat Alabama, Croom's alma mater. It's good to know how gratifying it is for him today to watch where Mississippi State has come since his departure. In his own way, he was a part of it.

2. Bye weeks are a great opportunity for most teams to reboot and recharge. Florida, however, is not one of those teams. What's said to be good timing probably couldn't be any worse. There's no game to distract us. There's no opponent to focus on. The only stat to know is 38.9. That's UF's winning percentage since the start of the 2013 season. For the next week-plus, that's all we're going to hear about. We'll see tape of Jeff Driskel's mistakes and the reaction to Saturday's embarrassing loss to Missouri. Sure, a bye week means Florida can't lose another game, but it won't stop the bleeding. It won't stop the steady chorus of boos directed at Will Muschamp. It won't stop websites like HireDanMullen.com from popping up. Nothing about a week away will keep the wolves at bay. If anything, it will make their howls amplified.

3. It was a small nugget. In fact, it didn't even lead the story. But the fact that Korliss Marshall is suspended is news. As Bret Bielema said, he's out three to four weeks for unspecified reasons. But that's not the kicker. What should take you aback is what else Bielema said of the situation: "He’s only got one more opportunity to get it right. If he doesn’t get it right, it will probably be one of the saddest stories in my coaching career because he’s got a lot of talent, he’s got a great heart." Wow. That's sending a message. It sounds like whatever Marshall's done, it's not minor. Or at the very least it's the latest in a string of events. But either way, Bielema's right; if Marshall doesn't get back on the field for the Razorbacks, it's a shame. He has the potential to be an outstanding running back. The fact that we're already questioning the long-term viability of the sophomore's career is troubling to say the least.

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SEC bowl projections: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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The SEC’s ability to get two teams into the College Football Playoff field is what should and will generate the most headlines as we push toward the final month of the season.

Each highly ranked team that loses -- hello, Baylor, Notre Dame and Oklahoma -- makes it seem like more of a possibility, but we’re not yet ready to project that half of the playoff teams will come from the SEC.

We’ll stick with top-ranked Mississippi State as the SEC's playoff pick for now, but Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia remain in the middle of the discussion as well. Those teams still have several key games ahead that will determine the top half of the SEC’s postseason pecking order.

Meanwhile, the bottom half of the pecking order should also become a source of late-season drama. After their losses on Saturday, we’re dropping Arkansas (3-4) and Florida (3-3) from this week’s bowl projections and adding Tennessee (3-4), although none of those teams is a sure bet at this point. Kentucky (5-2) gets to stay in, but the Wildcats are coming off a 41-3 loss at LSU and will face a challenging second half of the schedule where earning another victory (and achieving bowl eligibility) might be tough.

At any rate, there is assuredly plenty of movement ahead in these projections, but here is where we are entering the ninth week of the regular season:

College Football Playoff semifinal (Rose Bowl): Mississippi State
Capital One Orange Bowl: Ole Miss
Cotton Bowl: Alabama
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Georgia
Citrus Bowl: Auburn
TaxSlayer Bowl: LSU
Outback Bowl: Missouri
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Texas A&M
Belk Bowl: South Carolina
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Tennessee
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Kentucky

Vote: SEC play of the week

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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Not quite the excitement we might have hoped for in Week 8. Every game involving an SEC team was decided by double digits and the average margin of victory for the winning teams was 33.5 points. That doesn't mean that there wasn't some spectacular plays seen on the field though. There were quite a few, in fact. Here are our five favorites -- let us know which one you think was the best in the SEC in Week 8.

Davis' sweet stiff arm
South Carolina cruised to a 41-10 win against an overmatched Furman squad and Mike Davis' first touchdown run was evidence of that. In the first quarter, Davis' 5-yard touchdown run included an impressive stiff arm of an unsuspecting Furman defender. He then proceeded to absorb more contact as he dove into the end zone.

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Great return sprung by a great block
Return touchdowns on special teams take great individual effort but also a great team effort from those blocking. That was especially true on this 67-yard punt return for a touchdown by LSU's Tre'Davious White, which was sprung by an impressive block by freshman safety Jamal Adams.

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Who had the play of the week in the SEC?

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    9%
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    24%
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    36%
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Discuss (Total votes: 4,170)

Sims' dazzling run
Alabama was dominant in its 59-0 win against Texas A&M on Saturday and Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims' touchdown run pretty much summed up the kind of day it was in Tuscaloosa. He juked and juked again to make about six Texas A&M defenders miss and sprinted to the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown.

Murphy to the house
It was all about returns for Missouri on Saturday. In its 42-13 win against Florida, the Tigers had two special teams returns for touchdowns and two defensive returns for touchdowns. Marcus Murphy accounted for the special teams scores, a 95-yard kickoff return to open the game and this 82-yard punt return, which was well done.

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Engram stretches out and hauls it in
Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram is one of the league's best at his position and skills like this are why. Bo Wallace was under pressure, had to heave his pass quickly and though it might have been a tad long, Engram stretched out and dove to make a nice catch and a 28-yard touchdown in the front corner of the end zone late in the third quarter of the Rebels' win against Tennessee.

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SEC owns top 5 of AP poll

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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The SEC has been historically dominant this season. Just look at the most recent Associated Press poll where it became the first league to ever boast four teams in the top five.

Look even further, though, and you'll see that all four of those teams hail from the West: Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Auburn's Gus Malzahn said it a few weeks ago and other coaches have echoed the statement since: "It's the best division in college football."

This might be the point where you feel sorry for Texas A&M.

The Aggies were the toast of college football for the first month or so of the season. They they went through three-quarters of the West wringer, losing games to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama -- in consecutive weeks.

How anyone will survive the West unscathed is beyond comprehension.

Already, Alabama has lost to Ole Miss and Auburn has lost to Mississippi State. But we're not through with the jockeying for position. Auburn goes to Ole Miss on Nov. 1 and Mississippi State travels to Alabama on Nov. 15. And lest we forget, the top four might not be decided until the final week of the regular season when the Iron Bowl and Egg Bowl are played.

The SEC is a bear this season. The West just happens to pack the most heat.

It's crazy to consider how we've arrived here, but it's even crazier to look ahead at what's to come.

SEC Power Rankings: Week 8

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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Well, that wasn't a very competitive weekend, was it? Not a single close game, highlighted by the weekend's marquee Alabama-Texas A&M matchup turning into a 59-0 rout for the Crimson Tide. Ole Miss shook off a slow start to run past Tennessee, Georgia kept rolling without Todd Gurley and Missouri put Will Muschamp on the hottest of hot seats. How did it all affect this week's Power Rankings? Let's find out.

Edward Aschoff, Jeff Barlis, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.
Get ready, Death Valley. ESPN "College GameDay" is coming.

Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and the rest of the gang will descend on Baton Rouge, Louisiana, next weekend for No. 3 Ole Miss vs. LSU. The Rebels (7-0), of course, are undefeated, LSU (6-2) has won two in a row.

And better yet, though "GameDay" is in the morning, it's a night game. You have to love Saturday night in Death Valley. The atmosphere will certainly be electric as Tiger fans "welcome" the unbeaten Rebels into Tiger Stadium.

Best of the visits: SEC

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
10:23
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From the Alabama’s dominating 59-0 win over Texas A&M, to Georgia's big win over Arkansas on Saturday, there were some big games around the SEC over the weekend. Several prospects attended the games while others watched on television and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend:

Alabama outside linebacker commit Mekhi Brown tweeted a photo of himself along with five-star Alabama commit Blake Barnett and defensive end Christian Bell. The three players visited Alabama for the Texas A&M game on Saturday.
Barnett also posted another photo of himself along with his dad and head coach Nick Saban before the game. Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart was on an official visit to Alabama this weekend. The No. 2-ranked prospect in the country posted a photo of himself and Saban's wife and a video on Instagram of his experience in Tuscaloosa. Alabama commit Ronnie Harrison tweeted a photo, albeit a sideways photo, of himself in the front row, during the game. ESPN 300 athlete Donte Jackson visited LSU for its big 41-3 win over Kentucky on Saturday night. Jackson came away impressed with how the Tigers played. Ole Miss also had a few visitors including commits Drew Richmond and Ugo Amadi. Both players posted photos on Twitter. Richmond stopped to pose with a fan in his photo. ESPN 300 defensive tackle Kyle Phillips took a visit to Ole Miss this weekend as well and tweeted about his experience. Ole Miss safety commit Cam Ordway posted a photo on Instagram of himself posing with head coach Hugh Freeze and other recruits at the game. Florida suffered a bad 42-13 loss in front of several recruits. ESPN 300 outside linebacker Jeffery Holland was in attendance. Though he didn't say much, his tweet during the game pretty much summed up how everyone else felt about the game.

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