No Todd Gurley for two more weeks and no spot in the top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings for Georgia? Have no fear, Bulldogs, our Edward Aschoff is here with a pep talk.

Hey Georgia Bulldogs, lift those chins up and poke those chests out. You've got a playoff run to make.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesHey Georgia, it's on you to win the next two games. If you are able to do that, you'll get this guy back for the big one against Auburn.
 The past few days haven't been very kind to you guys at all. It started with hope, as rumors swirled that star running back Todd Gurley would be back in time to help trample the Gators in Jacksonville. He was even reportedly taking first-team reps.

Then, the first tattered domino fell Tuesday night. The College Football Playoff committee wasn't very impressed with you. Couple that bad, early-season loss to a less-than-impressive South Carolina team with what the committee must have thought was a soft first-half slate, and you debuted in the College Football Playoff Rankings at No. 11. I even agree that the best win Georgia has is against Clemson, which just happens to be ranked No. 21, but come on. Eleventh? This team is better than that.

However, that wasn't the most disheartening news. On Wednesday, you found out that Gurley will have to sit out two more games for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia. The NCAA then arrogantly boasted that it could have made things even worse for Gurley, adding a little gasoline to the already effervescent flame dancing on the program.

But fear not, Dawgs. Grab those hoses, because there's plenty of time to prove the committee wrong.

Don't like the committee or Twitter tell you that you aren't a beautiful butterfly. Don't let esteemed ESPN colleague Andrea Adelson try and steal your shine! (I heard what she said about you guys on our Spreecast, too.) You guys are the real deal, right now, and you have a chance to really impress the committee with what you have ahead in November.

Plus, you'll start the month without Gurley. Yes, he's out against a struggling Florida team and a Kentucky team still looking to grow, but Nick Chubb will once again have to carry the rushing load with Keith Marshall and Sony Michel sidelined. Hey, if he keeps trucking along without help, the committee will have to take that into account. This kid is a true freshman, yet he's dazzling fans and punishing defenders barely removed from his senior prom. Not to add anymore pressure to his already piled plate, but he does look like a young Gurley.

People want to trash your schedule? You know, the one you were dealt and had no control over this season? Well, you still have No. 3 Auburn (at home), and chances are you're headed to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, unless you get really sloppy. I understand that the East is, well, like an old horror movie, but that's not your fault. Don't beat yourself up because there is no real East challenger at the moment. Just take care of business, and the committee will start to come around. A win over Auburn will have you skyrocketing up the rankings.

 Even though people aren't impressed with your early state, you're a better team now than you were after the South Carolina game.

I was wrong about this defense not having what it took to sustain success through the entire season. The secondary still doesn't exactly wow me, but the front seven is playing better than I thought it would, thanks to new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt deciding to go with a more aggressive plan by getting those linebackers more involved in the backfield. The defensive line has been disruptive at the right times this season.

This is a defense that is getting better each week. Do not dwell on what happened during the second half of the Arkansas game. I get it, you built a commanding 38-6 halftime lead and coasted in the second half. Hey, it happens. Look at Alabama against Tennessee for crying out loud.

Before that game, you shut out Missouri 34-0 on the road in the first of two games without Gurley.

I've learned that this team doesn't need to stretch the ball with the deep pass because it runs so well. Hutson Mason would like to chuck it around, but he hasn't had to, yet, even though he's getting more comfortable with his receivers. And once Gurley gets back for the Auburn game, Mason might be able to do even more with Gurley and Chubb helping out.

The SEC and the Playoff are both there for the taking, Georgia. So ignore the Twitter tough guys. Shake off the hatin' committee. Just continue to do what you're doing, and people will come around.

I know I did.
video
Springdale (Arkansas) Shiloh Christian coach Jeff Conaway has a long list of words he uses to describe Auburn's Gus Malzahn. Memphis Briarcrest Christian coach Brian Stewart uses some of the same terms to define Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze.

Adjectives like dedicated, faithful, inspiring and organized flow quickly from Conaway's and Stewart's mouths. Eventually they find more fitting ways to describe the head coaches at Auburn and Ole Miss.

"They're one of us," said Conaway, who is in his first season at Shiloh Christian, the same school where Malzahn won two state championships in 1998 and 1999.

"Gus and Hugh are both still high school coaches at heart. They're coaching at the pinnacle of college football, but deep down they are just like the rest of us high school coaches that know what Friday night is like and how tough it is to get ready Monday through Thursday for that game."

Stewart, who was an assistant under Freeze at Briarcrest and was a part of two Tennessee state championship and six regional championship teams, agrees.

"They both understand what it's like to teach five or six classes," Stewart said. "They understand what it's like to have to do so many different things and wear so many hats. That's something they immediately have in common with high school coaches throughout the nation."

Read the full story here.
Each week, Adam Rittenberg takes you inside coaches' conversations in Inside Access Insider -- but we can't fit everything everyone said in one place. So here are some nuggets that didn't fit in the column, but are too good to be ignored. In today's notebook: What's the secret to Georgia's improved defense? How does Bill Snyder get Kansas State to play penalty-free football? Why are Michigan State's QBs so successful? And what are ECU's odds of making a New Year's Six bowl game?

[+] EnlargeJeremy Pruitt
AP Photo/Jason GetzJeremy Pruitt has had an immediate impact on Georgia's defense.
I didn’t include first-year Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in last week’s list of top coaching hires, but he certainly belongs. After a season in which defensive deficiencies, particularly in the secondary, cost the Bulldogs games, Pruitt has the Dawgs' D back on track.

Pruitt’s experience working with defensive backs has propelled the upgrade. Georgia is allowing fewer completions of 10 yards or more (41.6 percent) than it did last fall (49.8 percent). It has 10 interceptions and 17 total takeaways, and leads the nation in turnover margin (plus-13).

“We have worked very hard,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt told Inside Access, “on creating turnovers.”

The Bulldogs are the only FBS team not to have allowed a pass play of more than 40 yards this season. They also rank 14th nationally in third-down conversions (30.6 percent).

Pruitt not only has improved the technique of the defensive backs, but he calls plays with them in mind.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M seemed to have an embarrassment of riches at the most important position in football earlier this season.

The Aggies had a starting quarterback, Kenny Hill, who seemed to be a perfect fit for their offense. The sophomore ably filled the shoes of the school’s greatest player ever at the position, Johnny Manziel, who turned in two of the most productive and memorable seasons in college football history.

[+] EnlargeKyle Allen
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsFreshman Kyle Allen could get into the starting quarterback mix sooner than expected.
They have a backup who is young but credentialed in Kyle Allen. He was the country’s No. 1-ranked pocket passer in the 2014 recruiting class and someone the coaching staff said battled Hill neck-and-neck for the starting job in preseason training camp.

Waiting in the wings is the No. 1 ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class, five-star prospect Kyler Murray, son of Kevin Murray, who was a successful Texas A&M quarterback himself in the 1980s.

Leading it all were two highly regarded offensive minds, head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital.

Now, the Aggies are searching for answers everywhere, including quarterback.

After having a three-game losing streak capped by a 59-0 disaster in Alabama, Sumlin indicated the Aggies needed to go back to the drawing board at every position, but naturally, all eyes are on the quarterback situation.

Hill, once 5-0 and getting mention as a Heisman Trophy candidate, saw his numbers regress in the last three outings while the supporting cast around him also struggled. Spavital noted that Hill is fighting to keep his starting job as Allen is being given a chance to compete for the starting job Saturday when the Aggies host Louisiana-Monroe.

Allen is still a largely unknown commodity. He has seen limited action in four games, though he was given some first-half action in the Aggies’ 73-3 win over Lamar. He showed bright spots (12-of-16 passing, two touchdowns) and some not so bright (throwing an interception on his first series).

Who starts Saturday will be revealing. Is Allen ready to take the reins? Is Hill poised enough to pull himself out of the recent slump and return to the form he showed in his first month? What’s in the aftermath either way?

In college football’s current climate, it isn’t uncommon to see the “winner starts, loser transfers” mentality set in when it comes to quarterbacks. Only one can play at a time and waiting your turn can be challenging. Should Allen remain the backup the rest of this season, is he willing to wait around or will he consider heading elsewhere?

And now it’s worth wondering about the strength of Murray’s commitment after he recently took an official visit to Oklahoma. If more visits to other schools follow, it certainly is cause for concern. It’s a long way until signing day and if the Aggies don’t turn the ship in the right direction quickly, recruiting momentum could be affected.

Even if the Aggies are able to hang on to Murray’s commitment and get him to sign a national letter of intent in February, they still must keep their fingers crossed until the summer. Murray is a highly regarded baseball prospect who is projected to be chosen high in the 2015 MLB draft. The Aggies have been down that road before when Sumlin signed two quarterbacks in 2013: Hill and Kohl Stewart, who elected to sign a multimillion dollar deal to pursue pro baseball after being drafted fourth overall by the Minnesota Twins.

How all this plays out will be telling. For Sumlin, this is relatively uncharted territory for him as a head coach. Never has his team been shut out like it was in Tuscaloosa and never has his team gone through a three-game offensive slump like the Aggies have recently.

Turnover at quarterback has been rare under Sumlin. He chose Case Keenum to start in his first year as the coach in Houston and Keenum never relinquished the job, except for an eight-game stretch when he was injured in 2010. Keenum broke eight career FBS passing records.

Manziel won the starting job in Sumlin’s first season in Aggieland and that history is well-documented. A Heisman Trophy, two record-setting seasons and a first-round NFL draft selection later, Manziel never had to be replaced because of his play.

Sumlin is naturally reluctant to yank a quarterback. Having been in the presence of or coached many great college quarterbacks, Sumlin is a believer in confidence. He doesn’t want his starting signal-caller concerned with whether he’ll get yanked from a game for making a mistake.

“It's been our history to be a one [quarterback] team, not a 'one guy in, one guy out' kind of deal” Sumlin said in a July interview. “It's like pitching. You don't like to play looking over your shoulder at that position. Quarterback is a lot different. You have to have confidence.”

Spavital, too, has been fortunate to work with some accomplished college quarterbacks: Keenum, Brandon Weeden and Geno Smith.

He has been through a rough stretch before in this offense: in 2012, Smith's senior year at West Virginia.

“At West Virginia we were 5-0, ranked third in the country and then we lost five straight,” Spavital said. “I've been through this before. The main thing is, it's really nothing to do with scheme or anything like that, it's just the mentality we play with, getting out there and competing and having some pride in what you do."

The search for answers continues. A position where the Aggies seemingly had plenty of answers seems to have some of its biggest questions. How they’re answered will mean a lot toward the direction of Aggies football in the coming weeks and beyond.

Kickoff Show: Week 10 (1 ET)

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
10:24
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ESPN.com reporters Edward Aschoff, Heather Dinich and Jared Shanker join host Chantel Jennings to discuss the Week 10 slate that includes top 25 games in the ACC, SEC and Pac-12. They'll also answer your questions live.
The unveiling of the first set of College Football Playoff Rankings angered many because of the large SEC presence, but it also proved November is going to be extremely fun in the nation's top conference.

Three teams -- Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss -- found their way into the top four of the rankings, nearly causing a viral revolt. Let's get one thing straight, though. There is no SEC bias, but there are some very talented teams in the SEC. The committee sees it and decided three SEC teams were worthy of their high placements.

These folks complaining about the SEC's initial playoff outlook might not have much to gripe about in a few weeks (when the rankings actually matter) because the conference is in for a bloody, bloody month. The SEC West, which owns four of the top six teams in the country, is about to beat its ever-loving brains in.

The SEC now finds itself in an interesting situation. A week ago, everyone was talking about the possibility of the SEC getting two teams in. Then, Ole Miss lost to LSU.

After the first set of rankings were released, it's clear the committee is impressed with what the SEC West has done to this point. But things are about to get a little complicated for the league, as it begins to devour itself even more, starting with No. 4 Ole Miss hosting No. 3 Auburn on Saturday in what is essentially an elimination game in the Grove.

"This is the time of year where the good teams really come up to the top because they've got to be consistently good," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "It's hard to get better this time of year. Most teams can't do it."

There are four regular-season games remaining between top-six teams, and they all involve SEC West teams. Shame on you if you can't get excited about the cannibalization that is about to ensue in the SEC.

With Ole Miss playing Auburn and Mississippi State, Alabama playing LSU and Mississippi State, and Auburn playing Georgia, the SEC will feast on itself during the month that houses our most gluttonous holiday -- Thanksgiving.

As of this moment, what playoff scenarios still lurk for the SEC? Well, let's take a look:

(Note: I think we can all agree that the SEC champion will make the playoff, regardless of if it has one or two losses. Three losses could complicate things, but we're going off the assumption that the SEC champ won't have three losses.)

Magnolia magnificence

This is the simplest scenario. If No. 1 Mississippi State wins out and wins the SEC, the Bulldogs are in. Duh. Same for No. 4 Ole Miss. No questions asked.

Well, what happens if Ole Miss wins out and Mississippi State's only loss is to the Rebels on the road? I think the committee would have a tough decision involving Mississippi State, because its only loss would be an Ole Miss squad that probably wouldn't dip below fourth in the rankings. Mississippi State beat three top-10 teams in a row earlier this season and No. 6 Alabama (on the road) still looms.

Ascending in Alabama

Alabama or Auburn wins out. Now, there's a chance one of these teams could still make it to Atlanta, but they both need help. Auburn needs Mississippi State to lose at least two more games, and Alabama needs Ole Miss to lose at least one more.

But even if neither makes it to Atlanta, a one-loss Alabama or Auburn could make it into the playoff. Think about the gauntlet both teams would have gone through only to escape with one loss to a team currently ranked inside the top four. It's similar to Alabama making it into the BCS title game in 2011 without playing in Atlanta.

Also, Alabama is currently ranked first in ESPN’s Football Power Index and second in ESPN's strength of record metric and Auburn still has to play three teams on the road ranked inside the top 11.

Georgia ... Oh, Georgia

These Bulldogs could really stir things up. If Georgia wins the East, then a win in Atlanta will send the Bulldogs to the playoff. Even with a loss to Auburn in two weeks, an SEC-winning Georgia would make the playoff.

And that's where things get interesting. What if unbeaten Mississippi State loses to Georgia? Is Mississippi State left out? Would a two-loss Georgia team eliminate Mississippi State altogether?

You think that's tricky? What if Alabama or Auburn wins out, but either Mississippi State or Ole Miss goes to Atlanta and loses? Who do you send? Chances are a two-loss Ole Miss team would be eliminated, but how does the committee look at one-loss Mississippi State and one-loss Auburn? Mississippi State won head-to-head, but will the committee care later? You'd think so, but these are imperfect humans we're talking about.

CHAOS!!

Honestly, this is what everyone should be rooting for. There's a chance the SEC might have four two-loss teams from the West before the SEC championship game.

Here you go: LSU wins out, beating Alabama; Alabama beats Mississippi State and Auburn; Ole Miss loses to Auburn and beats Mississippi State; Auburn beats Georgia. Now Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss all have two losses. Or Alabama beats LSU and Mississippi State, but loses to Auburn; Ole Miss beats Auburn and Mississippi State, but loses to Arkansas; Auburn beats Georgia and Alabama. Now, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss all have two losses.

A tiebreaker decides the West, and then the winner of the SEC title goes to the playoff. Chances are the loser, which would have more than one loss, won't make it.

How the committee views the SEC in the coming weeks will be interesting. If everyone starts losing, hold onto your Tiger Rags and pour another hot toddy, because there are going to be a lot of sleepless nights in the month of November.

SEC Week 10 predictions

October, 30, 2014
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After everyone agreed on all of the picks last week (probably the last time we all doubt Les Miles in Death Valley at night), we're back with some differences of opinion. The headliner is obviously Ole Miss-Auburn, but there are several other games worth watching closely, including Florida-Georgia, with Will Muschamp trying to save his job. Let's get on with the picks.

Why Georgia wins big: Even without Todd Gurley lining up for Georgia, the Bulldogs still have an absolute stud in freshman Nick Chubb. In two games as a starter, Chubb has rushed for 345 yards and three touchdowns. The kid just tosses people around out there and certainly has a little Gurley in him. Florida is starting the Treon Harris era at quarterback, but the offense has been lousy for the better part of the season, while Georgia's defense is on a roll. It'll be tight early, but Georgia pounds away in the second half. Georgia 28, Florida 14 -- Edward Aschoff

How Florida keeps it close: This is Harris' game at quarterback, and he certainly provides more of a spark than Jeff Driskel. If Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor can run the football and negate some of the pressure from Georgia's talented pass-rushers, Florida could have some success moving the football. If they can even out the time of possession battle, you'll see a much more effective defense from the Gators. Georgia 21, Florida 13 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Kentucky wins: Missouri just can't seem to get it together. Just look at last weekend's game against Vanderbilt. Sure, the Tigers won, but not convincingly. And Kentucky is no Vanderbilt. The Wildcats gave Mississippi State a run for its money and beat South Carolina a few weeks ago. With a true playmaker at quarterback and a better-than-expected defense, Kentucky will give Missouri fits on both sides of the ball and win on the road. Kentucky 30, Missouri 20 -- Alex Scarborough

Why Missouri wins: Ever since a 34-0 beatdown at the hands of Georgia, the Tigers have looked shaky, especially on offense. But things are gradually getting better as quarterback Maty Mauk re-learns how to take care of the ball. This game offers the improving Wildcats a plum opportunity to show they can win conference games. But look for the home team to squeeze out a hard-fought victory. Missouri 26, Kentucky 23 -- Jeff Barlis

Why Ole Miss wins: The Rebels were injected with some playoff hope after the first batch of College Football Playoff rankings were announced. That should energize a team that lost an ugly one at LSU. Bo Wallace has to regroup, and he has to follow what his coaches tell him. The Rebels haven't had a consistent running game all season, but Auburn's pass defense ranks 75th nationally, and that should help Wallace regroup after a bad showing in Baton Rouge. Watching Ole Miss' defense try to tackle Auburn's running game might be the highlight of the day. A late turnover will seal it for the Rebels. Ole Miss 31, Auburn 28 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Auburn wins: Ole Miss' sideline was like a M*A*S*H unit last week against LSU, with multiple key players leaving with injuries. Even if most of those guys play Saturday -- and it looks like they will -- the Rebels aren't going to be at 100 percent against arguably the best offense they'll face all season. If Wallace doesn't play better than he did a week ago, Auburn might win easily. Ole Miss' quarterback is the X factor here, and I suspect he'll fare well against Auburn's mediocre defense at home, but the Tigers have way more firepower at their disposal right now. Auburn 31, Ole Miss 24 -- David Ching

Why Mississippi State wins big: Playing its first game with the No. 1 ranking, Mississippi State came out tight against Kentucky. Dan Mullen even admitted that. Look for the Bulldogs to play more relaxed at home Saturday in front of the familiar sound of cowbells clanging. They’re the No. 1 team in the country, and Dak Prescott, Josh Robinson and the defense will prove it against the Razorbacks. Mississippi State 35, Arkansas 14 -- Greg Ostendorf

How Arkansas keeps it close: It should be a triumphant return to Davis Wade Stadium for the nation's No. 1 team, but things aren't perfect for the Bulldogs. Kentucky's offense exposed some issues with the MSU secondary. While Arkansas doesn't have the same caliber of passing attack, the Hogs do have a stable of talented runners, a veteran quarterback and two good tight ends. Mississippi State 37, Arkansas 26 -- Jeff Barlis

More unanimous picks:

Texas A&M over UL Monroe: The big storyline will be who starts at quarterback for Texas A&M, Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen? Either way, the Aggies should roll against a lesser opponent. Texas A&M 52, UL Monroe 14

South Carolina over Tennessee: Steve Spurrier won’t have to go for it on every fourth down against the Vols, but don’t be surprised if he still has a few tricks left up his sleeve. The Gamecocks have won three of the past four games in this series. South Carolina 35, Tennessee 24

Vanderbilt over Old Dominion: Vandy is looking for its third win of the season, but it won’t come easy against Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke and his 54 career touchdown passes. Vanderbilt 31, Old Dominion 28

Standings
Edward Aschoff: 64-11
Greg Ostendorf: 64-11
Jeff Barlis: 63-12
Chris Low: 63-12
David Ching: 62-13
Alex Scarborough: 61-14
Sam Khan Jr.: 57-18
With the NCAA's announcement that Georgia running back Todd Gurley has to sit for two games for his NCAA-violating, off-field transgressions is sad for the world of college football. We lost arguably the sport's best player for a couple more weeks because he decided to profit off of his name for what appears to be a few thousand dollars.

More than $3,000 in cash, actually.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SEC morning links

October, 30, 2014
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1. The news broke Wednesday morning that Georgia running back Todd Gurley will miss two more games once the NCAA finally announced its ruling on his eligibility case. He received approximately $3,000 for autographed memorabilia and has been out of action since the Bulldogs' Oct. 11 game at Florida. A subject of ridicule on Twitter was that the NCAA also ordered Gurley to complete 40 hours of community service. But the biggest penalty is obviously that he'll miss Saturday's game against rival Florida and the following week's visit to Kentucky (plus the Mizzou and Arkansas games he already missed). Georgia coach Mark Richt said Gurley will finish his career “with honor” once he returns for the Nov. 15 Auburn game, but what will the Bulldogs do in the meantime? Florida expects the Bulldogs to hand off to Nick Chubb repeatedly, just as they did in the last two games. A college athlete's ability to profit off his or her name is a hot topic these days, with writers like esteemed colleague Chris Low opining that changes are in order. Even the attorney for Bryan Allen, the memorabilia dealer who turned in Gurley, believes that should be the case.

2. Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian echoed Volunteers coach Butch Jones' prediction that senior quarterback Justin Worley will not be available Saturday against South Carolina. Maybe that won't be such a bad outcome. Sophomore Josh Dobbs offered reason to believe he might be the Vols' quarterback of the future with a strong performance off the bench last Saturday against Alabama. But the Crimson Tide had not prepared for the youngster. South Carolina will have the entire week. He might be the X-factor in Saturday's game at Columbia. Or for the superstitious Gamecocks among us, maybe it will be South Carolina's uniforms. South Carolina will wear black jerseys and black pants on Saturday for the first time since losing 24-14 to Florida in 2009.

3. Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) is clearly the favorite to win the SEC East, but Missouri (6-2, 3-1) can still make some noise if the Bulldogs fall into any sort of slump. The Tigers haven't played particularly well lately, but they have only one conference loss as Kentucky (5-3, 2-3) prepares to visit on Saturday. Both teams will be looking to get back on track for the stretch run. Perhaps Mizzou quarterback Maty Mauk found his stride last week against Vanderbilt after several rocky games in a row. Meanwhile, Kentucky needs just one more win to achieve bowl eligibility, but it hasn't won a true road game since the 2010 opener. Not the greatest sign, particularly since its previously productive running game has underperformed lately and coaches are questioning whether they should use fewer backs in the regular rotation.

Around the SEC

" The State asks how South Carolina's disappointing season might impact its 2015 recruiting class.

" Formerly suspended safety Jermaine Whitehead does not appear close to returning to Auburn's starting lineup.

" Derrick Henry is leading an unusually thin group of Alabama running backs this week in practice with an open date ahead.

" LSU is focused on cleaning up its mistakes from last Saturday's Ole Miss game with Alabama ahead next weekend.

" John Kadlec, better known as “Mr. Mizzou” after serving the school as an athlete, coach, administrator and broadcaster, died Wednesday at age 86.

Tweets of the day

Texas A&M and Adidas, its football apparel partner, have come up with some fresh, unique and eye-catching looks for the Aggies in the Kevin Sumlin era.

From the "Icy whites" to zubaz-inspired accessories to chrome helmets, Texas A&M has made bold choices, but the Aggies' latest uniform trick might be their best.

As a tribute to Texas A&M's 1939 national championship team, the Aggies will don throwback uniforms for Saturday's game against Louisiana-Monroe, complete with "leather" helmets and cleats (No, the helmets are not really leather, but they do sport a leather look).

 

The details are impressive, all the way to the rusted-look on the facemask:

 

 

The helmets were produced in concert with Hydro Graphics Inc. and Riddell, and the leather look is courtesy of a hydro film leather-like texture featuring wing and cross graphics. The design was created using high-resolution photos of the actual helmet the 1939 team wore. They even have "AMC" on the back, which stands for "Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas," which was what Texas A&M was known as in 1939.

 

Here's a look at the cleats:

 

The uniform tops and pants were also inspired by the original '39 Aggies uniform:

 
BATON ROUGE, La. -- The problems that LSU's offensive line encountered early in the season seemed as numerous as Leonard Fournette scholarship offers.
  • The Tigers weren't healthy.
  • They played without suspended senior center Elliott Porter for the first two games.
  • Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes needed several games to settle on a starting right guard -- a job that eventually went to sophomore Ethan Pocic.
  • Opposing defenses regularly stacked the box because LSU's passing game isn't exactly intimidating.

It was a mess, and it turned the offensive line -- one that returned four starters from 2013 -- into an early disappointment on an offense that was loaded with inexperience elsewhere.

"At first our chemistry, it was kind of off," said Fournette, LSU's freshman tailback who sometimes struggled to find running room behind the line early in the season. "But as the season's going on, we're getting stronger and we're learning our weaknesses as a whole and just getting better at it."

No doubt about that. Last Saturday's 264-yard rushing performance against Ole Miss, which boasted the nation's No. 5 run defense (97.1 ypg) entering the game, was the line's crowning achievement to date. Although turnovers hampered the Tigers throughout the night, Fournette (23 carries for 113 yards), Terrence Magee (12-74) and Kenny Hilliard (12-63) all found regular creases to exploit against the Rebels.

The Tigers' fourth-quarter drive was an offensive lineman's dream. Thirteen plays, 95 yards, and each of the first 12 plays was a run. LSU coach Les Miles later described it as "a middle-1970s drive."

Finally, once the Tigers had driven to the Ole Miss 3, quarterback Anthony Jennings faked a dive handoff to Hilliard, rolled right and hit wide-open tight end Logan Stokes with the game-winning touchdown.

The Rebels never saw it coming, and why would they?

"I think that [the 12 straight runs] had a lot to do with it," Stokes said, "especially because during a lot of those runs when I was in, I was the back-side tight end cutting off or cutting the guy or doing something like that. So I think that when I sold it and I think that the fact that everybody up front sold it just how we had been learning those plays, it just worked out perfect for me."

This might have been the line's most impressive performance, but it had been building to this point for weeks. Many LSU fans' eyes probably rolled when Miles said the line gave a strong performance in a 41-7 loss at Auburn -- it did, but LSU got down so quickly that depending solely on the run didn't make sense -- but its improvement has been more obvious in the last three games.

Florida came in allowing barely more than 100 yards on the ground when LSU ran for 195 -- including 140 and two touchdowns from Fournette -- against the Gators. The momentum continued the following week when LSU abused Kentucky for 303 rushing yards on 51 attempts.

"We knew last week they figured out who they want to be," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said after LSU handed his Rebels their first loss of the season. "That's the best offensive line we've played and their running backs are very, very good."

This coming from a coach whose team has already faced Alabama, LSU's next opponent, which typically boasts one of the conference's top offensive lines.

The Crimson Tide's defense isn't too shabby, either, as it currently ranks second nationally against the run (78.1 ypg). Moving the ball on the ground against Alabama will be another measuring stick of the line's recent progress.

"From Florida and on, I think we've played a lot better. Auburn, actually, we played a lot better," Porter said. "We keep on improving and keep on being together. That's what we've done a good job at in practice, in the game, talking in meetings -- everything is coming together as one."

It took longer than expected for that to occur, but LSU's line is finally playing at the high level many expected during the summer. The line combined with a stingy defense to lead the Tigers to the Ole Miss upset and will certainly be one of the driving forces if LSU takes down Alabama on Nov. 8.

"Hats off to our offensive linemen," said Stokes, who joined the Tigers last year from Northeast Mississippi Community College. "I remember looking at Elliott Porter one time and just telling him, ‘Last drive, man. Give us all you got.' … For me to come in from a junior college and just walk in and get to be around those guys and see how it's done, it's a great feeling. I don't ever question us when we get in the fourth quarter because of the leadership we have up front."

Class rankings: Oct. 29 update

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
3:30
PM ET
video
National recruiting analyst Craig Haubert breaks down updates to the ESPN class rankings for 2015 football recruiting. College football’s top two teams see fruits of their labor in recruiting.

To see the full class rankings, click here.

Inside Les Miles' office

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
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A great coach's office is like a museum, full of history and mementos, personal and professional.

Each week this season, ESPN.com will give you a tour of a college football coach's inner sanctum.

Today's stop: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the office of Les Miles.
Patience is a virtue Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles is quite familiar with.

It's not easy for college quarterbacks to have these days, as the trend of winner-starts-loser-transfers seems to grow across the country. Since only one can play the position at a time, waiting your turn can be difficult, especially if you were a highly-regarded recruit out of high school.

[+] EnlargePatrick Towles
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesPatrick Towles has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for 204 in Kentucky's eight games.
Towles, however, bleeds Kentucky blue and he's now reaping the rewards of his patience as one of the feel-good stories of this SEC season and a catalyst in Kentucky's marked on-field improvement in 2014. Being able to start -- and star -- for the school he grew up loving in his home state is a joy for the redshirt sophomore signal-caller.

"My entire life I wanted to play quarterback here," Towles said. "I've worked my entire life to get to this point where I am now. I've had a lot of breaks, a lot of balls fall my way, I guess you could say. It's great to just finally start to see the fruits of your labor."

Much labor led to Towles' 2014 success, where he is directing one of the most improved teams in the conference this season and recently went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the nation, as he did Saturday in the Wildcats' loss to Mississippi State.

A class of 2012 recruit, Towles had the type of credentials coaches look for in their quarterback of the future. A four-star prospect, Towles was the No. 1-ranked player in the state of Kentucky, a high school All-American, Gatorade Player of the Year and the state's "Mr. Football" who led Highlands High School to three consecutive state championships while compiling a 44-1 record as a starter.

Upon signing with the Wildcats under then-head coach Joker Phillips, Towles played in five games as a true freshman but was behind Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow on the depth chart.

When Mark Stoops and his new coaching staff arrived in 2013, Towles was again buried on the depth chart and ended up redshirting the season. He could have transferred but decided to stay the course and work on improving enough to win the starting quarterback job.

"I did not [think about transferring]," Towles said. "If I would have felt like I was getting a raw deal or maybe I deserved the job and didn't get it, then maybe I would have started to think about that. But I was treated fairly from the jump, since I've gotten here. A lot of quarterbacks they don't win the job or they're told they're not going to play, they get up and leave and go somewhere else. I want to be here, I wanted to be here and I plan on being here for a little bit.”

So Towles continued to work with Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown and when away from school, Towles hired a private quarterback coach to continue development. By the time spring football arrived this year, Towles' progress was evident. Meanwhile, Whitlow transferred out of the program in April and Smith missed spring practice because of shoulder surgery.

Plenty of competition still awaited Towles, though. The arrival of true freshman Drew Barker, an ESPN 300 prospect and the No. 1 player in the state of Kentucky in the 2014 class, was much anticipated. Reese Phillips, who redshirted in 2013 like Towles, was in the mix, too. And by preseason training camp this August, Smith returned to practice. Still, Towles did enough to win the starting job.

Brown said Towles' fundamentals, among other things, greatly improved.

"He changed his release, he made it much shorter," Brown said. "His preparation is at a much higher level. He did all those things and really competed hard and won the job and once we got into the game action he's really stepped up and done a nice job, not only with his arm but with his legs."

His hard work shows on Saturdays. Against the No. 1 Bulldogs he threw for a career-high 390 yards and ran for a career-high 76 yards with two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns. He kept the Wildcats in the game until the final minutes when Mississippi State returned an onside kick attempt for a touchdown.

He is third in the SEC in passing yards (2,077) and has a solid 12-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He is fifth among SEC quarterbacks in rushing yards (204) and has four rushing scores also.

Most importantly, having good quarterback play has gone a long way in the Wildcats being 5-3 after winning only two total in 2013.

"I think it's very big," Stoops said. "I think you have very little chance with the teams we're competing against without a player there, without a quarterback."

Teammates cite Towles as a leader.

"A lot of guys can learn from him," running back Jojo Kemp said. "He doesn't hang his head. He's very positive all the time on and off the field. He's going to do whatever it takes to win."

He isn't alone -- Kentucky's increased talent level thanks to some veterans, as well as recruiting success under Stoops, has given him quality weapons to work with. A backfield of Kemp, Braylon Heard and Stanley "Boom" Williams complemented by receivers such as Ryan Timmons, Demarco Robinson, Javess Blue, Garrett Johnson and Blake Bone have made Towles' job easier. Working with a creative coach like Brown, who has Air Raid roots but has no problems trying different things like the Wildcat formation which has had success for Kentucky this season, has also been huge for Towles.

There's still much left to do, but Towles & Co. have things looking up in Lexington.

"We're not done yet," Towles said. "We just got started."

Prove It: Is Ole Miss a playoff contender?

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
1:00
PM ET
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In this week's edition of "Prove It," ESPN SEC reporters Alex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf discuss whether Ole Miss and quarterback Bo Wallace can bounce back Saturday against Auburn and stay in the playoff race.

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