SEC: Auburn Tigers

Whether recruits are attending games this holiday weekend or watching on television, all eyes around the recruiting world will be focused on several rivalry games. From the Iron Bowl to the Egg Bowl there will be recruiting implications throughout the conference this weekend. Here’s a closer look at how these game might affect the top remaining recruits.

Nick Saban, Gus MalzahnAP Photo/Brynn AndersonAlabama's Nick Saban and Auburn's Gus Malzahn have more in common than you might think.
It would be easy to portray Gus Malzahn and Nick Saban as two completely different coaches. Different philosophies. Different dispositions. Different sides of one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports.

But while you could cast them as opposites and be done with it, that might not be telling the whole truth. Because they aren't as different as you might think. Whether it's an obsessive drive to win, or a fierce attention to detail, the two coaches share much in common.

One is a defensive mastermind, the other an offensive magician. Whether it's exotic blitzes or misleading pre-snap motions, both attack their respective sides of the ball from unique angles. They try to confuse you. They try to outthink you. And they're both among the best in the game at doing so.

From a certain perspective, you might say Malzahn and Saban are different sides of the same coin.

They share an ingrained work ethic, having grown up in small towns -- Saban in Fairmont, West Virginia, and Malzahn in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Though they're 14 years apart in age, their birthdays fall during the same week of October.

Saban was defensive coordinator at Michigan State, left, and then got his big break when he returned to become the Spartans' head coach.

Malzahn was offensive coordinator at Auburn, left, and then got his big break when he came back to take over as the Tigers' head coach.

Sensing a pattern?

Though Saban dwarfs Malzahn in total wins, their winning percentages aren't that far off, with Saban at 84 percent and Malzahn at 80.

Saban played defensive back in college. Malzahn played receiver. Even today their actions mirror one another, as Saban tries to slow down the tempo of the game while Malzahn does everything he can to pick up the pace.

Personality-wise, they present similar images to the media: guarded, singularly focused, sometimes combative. But behind the scenes, there's more to them. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, we've seen both coaches dance, Saban doing his best "Electric Slide" and Malzahn strutting his stuff to MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This."

Anything for recruiting, you might say.

Alabama presents itself as an NFL factory and Auburn as a place of family, but they both produce results. The Crimson Tide have finished No. 1 in ESPN's class rankings Insider each of the past three years. Auburn, meanwhile, is currently ranked ninth Insider and closed its most recent class at No. 8 overall.

But the biggest similarity between Saban and Malzahn is their attention to detail.

Alabama athletic director Bill Battle was amazed when he first caught a glimpse of the way Saban ran his program. Everything was so efficient, so focused on the task at hand. Watching practice from outside his office, Battle saw there wasn't a wasted moment.

Jay Jacobs, Auburn's AD, noticed the same thing about Malzahn.

"He's not thinking about other things," Jacobs said. "He's not self-serving at all. He's relentless in details, and he's absolutely great to work with because all he's thinking about is how to make Auburn football better."

Tying those two accounts together is Hoover (Ala.) High coach Josh Niblett, who has sent numerous players to both state schools. Whether it's on the recruiting trail or during coaching clinics, Niblett has had the chance to get to know both Saban and Malzahn well.

"They're both very professional," he said. "Both of them are competitors and both of them are driven, and then both of them have attention to detail. You don't have to be around them long to understand that attention to detail is one of the big factors for their success."

What's stood out to Niblett is their businesslike approach and their hands-on style of coaching.

"One of the neatest things about them is they're both good teachers," he said. "It's one of the best common values they have, they're very hands-on. You have a lot of coaches that are the CEO-type that are involved, but they're involved from the outside in. These two guys are involved from the inside out. It means so much to them that they put their stamp on it, that they want to make sure that they continue to do it."

On Saturday, we'll see their systems come to a head.

Auburn, well out of the playoff race with three losses, is out to spoil No. 1-ranked Alabama's season.

The way Malzahn's emphasis on speed matches up with Saban's emphasis on size is so perfectly incongruent. It's like looking in a mirror.

No, they're not exactly alike. But like the reflection in a mirror, everything is reversed. The receiver is the defensive back. Offense is defense.

They're different, but so much of them is the same. It's what makes it so fun to watch.

Differences between SEC West rivals is razor thin 

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
8:30
AM ET
[+] EnlargeChris Davis
AP Photo/Dave MartinWill this year's edition of the Iron Bowl play out like last year's?
Two in-state SEC West rivalry games will be played this weekend, and the stakes for both games are at an all-time high. Alabama and Mississippi State are tied atop the SEC West standings with a 10-1 overall record, and as of last week’s rankings, both are in position to receive a bid to the inaugural College Football Playoff. All that stands in the way of glory is each team’s fiercest rival.

Either Alabama or Mississippi State will play for the SEC championship regardless of how this weekend’s games shake out, but if both teams are saddled with a two-loss record at the end of the year, the door will swing wide open for other playoff contenders. We forecasted the probability of this scenario back in early September, at the time predicting a 14 percent chance that no SEC team will finish the season with fewer than two losses. That number remains 14 percent heading into this weekend, the likelihood that both Alabama and Mississippi State will lose on Saturday, according to our latest FEI ratings projections. There is a 66 percent chance one of the two will lose.

If the schedules had worked out a bit differently, they might all have two losses already.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

National links: Calm before the storm 

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
8:30
AM ET
Let’s just get this out of the way: Last week in college football was kind of dull.

Unless, that is, you’re into watching the single-game FBS rushing record fall for the second straight Saturday. (So who breaks it this week?) Yes, last week was dull, unless, of course, you’re into Florida State’s weekly high-wire act, re-awakenings at Arkansas and Minnesota or UCLA’s continued stranglehold on Los Angeles.

My point is, the latest set of games didn’t significantly impact the College Football Playoff picture -- at least in comparison to the past few weeks. Barring some craziness at the selection-committee table, the top four on Tuesday night is going to look no different than last week’s edition.

But Week 13 was simply the calm before the storm. Not so sure? Check out first nine paragraphs Gene Wojciechowski’s BMOC column. The rocky road to Dec. 9 is enough to make a fan of any playoff contender choke on his or her turkey dinner.

And it starts in two days.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SEC morning links

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
8:00
AM ET
1. It's been 359 days since the "kick-six" in last year's Iron Bowl. And yet, nobody has forgotten what happened -- not the coaches, not the players, not the fans, and certainly not the state of Alabama. In Tuscaloosa, the players have found different ways to cope with the gut-wrenching finish to last year's game. Some use it as motivation. Others turn off the TV when the replay comes on. But for the most part, they have all moved on. It's a new year. That's the same message Gus Malzahn is telling his Auburn team. "I know it will be talked about all week," Malzahn said Monday night on his weekly radio show. "But last year is last year. This is a new year." With or without the "kick-six," this is still the Iron Bowl. As Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said, there's no point in acting like it's "the same as every other game." It's not.

2. The Egg Bowl might not be the Iron Bowl, but there are more than just bragging rights on the line when Mississippi State and Ole Miss square off this Saturday. For the Bulldogs, it will have a direct effect on their playoff aspirations. They not only have to win but win big in order to impress the committee and try and hang on to a spot in the top four. Ole Miss did them no favors this past week with a 30-0 loss to Arkansas. It didn't help that quarterback Bo Wallace sprained his ankle in the first half and never looked like himself after that. But a sprained ankle won't keep Wallace away from Saturday's game, not in his final home game. He's going to give his best Dak Prescott impersonation and play even if he's not 100 percent. It worked out OK for Prescott in last year's Egg Bowl.

3. The season is nearing the end which means it's time to hand out awards and All-American honors. ESPN Insiders Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay got a jump start Monday, putting out their NFL prospect All-America team Insider. Basically, it's a look at what the All-America team would like if voted on by NFL scouts. The team included 10 players from the SEC, more than any other conference. Obvious names like Amari Cooper and Shane Ray were on there, but so were names like Todd Gurley, despite his recent injury, and Alabama fullback Jalston Fowler even though he has just seven carries on the season. Prescott was not on there (because of some quarterback named Marcus Mariota), and both Kiper and McShay agreed on Twitter that it would benefit the Mississippi State quarterback to come back next year.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

 

At first glance: SEC Week 14

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
12:00
PM ET
It all comes down to this.

The regular season ends this week, and it’s poised to close with a flourish as both the Iron Bowl and Egg Bowl have SEC and national implications.

Let’s take a quick look at some of this week’s top storylines in the SEC.

Game of the week: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 14 Auburn

Auburn just isn't a good football team right now. After losing to Texas A&M, the Tigers threw in the towel against Georgia. Meanwhile, Alabama has come on strong of late, winning close games against LSU and then-No. 1 Mississippi State. So the Iron Bowl should be a blowout, right? Maybe. Because when it comes to rivalry games, you can throw out the records. Alabama is playing for a spot in the SEC championship game while Auburn has nothing to lose. Sounds like a recipe for something strange to happen, right?

Lane
Prescott
Player under pressure: Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

The last time we saw Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott on the national stage, it wasn’t pretty. He played arguably his worst game of the year against Alabama as his three interceptions led to the Bulldogs’ first loss of the season and a total knockout of his own Heisman Trophy hopes. In fact, eight of his 10 picks this season have come in his last six games. So it goes without saying that he needs to rebound. That started on Saturday against Vanderbilt, but the real test will come during the nationally televised Egg Bowl. If he plays well and helps beat Ole Miss, the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes remain alive.

Lane
Muschamp
Coach under the microscope: Will Muschamp, Florida

This is it for Will Muschamp. His four tumultuous seasons at Florida will come to a close on Saturday. But what will be the final note of Muschamp’s tenure? Against No. 3 Florida State, it could be wild. It could be an upset. After all, it’s not like the Seminoles are dominant this year. As Louisville, Miami and Boston College have shown us, FSU is beatable. Now will Florida actually do it? Maybe not, but how crazy would that be if it happened in Muschamp’s final game?

Storyline to watch: Who will win the East?

There's nothing Georgia can do about it. If Missouri wins on Saturday, the Eastern Division title will go to the Tigers for a second consecutive season. But a win is far from guaranteed as Missouri must host the suddenly red-hot Arkansas Razorbacks. Bret Bielema's squad has come on strong this season, knocking on the door against the likes of Georgia and Alabama before finally breaking it in the past two weeks with wins over LSU and Ole Miss. So how will Shane Ray and the rest of the Missouri defense handle Alex Collins and the Arkansas running game? And how will Maty Mauk take care of the football against an Arkansas defense that forced Ole Miss into four turnovers this past weekend? A win for Missouri would win a trip to Atlanta. A loss would give Georgia the pleasure.

Intriguing matchup: Alabama front seven vs. Auburn zone-read

Alabama’s defense has been stout up the middle. Just ask Arkansas, LSU and Mississippi State, as the three power running teams had little success between the tackles against the Tide, averaging a combined 3.04 yards per carry. That’s due in no small part to Alabama’s size up front with big linemen like Brandon Ivory and physical inside linebackers like Trey DePriest. But Auburn’s zone-read attack is a different animal. While there’s power components to Gus Malzahn’s offense, it’s predicated on speed, too. Against the fleet-footed Nick Marshall and Corey Grant, Alabama’s front seven will have to pay close attention to the running lanes and not give Auburn room to run on the outside.
Chris DavisJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsAlabama players haven't forgotten how last year's Iron Bowl ended.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Is it Iron Bowl week yet?

That’s what the coaches, players and fans alike had to be asking themselves when Alabama and Auburn both fell behind in the first half against a pair of FCS programs Saturday. No offense to Western Carolina and Samford, both of whom have winning records, but there’s no reason the two SEC powerhouses shouldn’t have been up at least three scores by the end of the first quarter.

Instead, the Catamounts took the opening kickoff, went 75 yards and scored first on the Crimson Tide in their place. They became the first team all season to score multiple offensive touchdowns in the first half against Alabama’s defense.

“We were as flat as a pancake when we went out there today, so I didn’t do a very good job,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after the game. “I really thought our guys practiced pretty well all week and didn’t look at this game as if ... they really tried to keep focus. They tried to keep the momentum of what we’ve been doing.

“But when we went out there for pregame warm-ups [Saturday], I was really surprised that we didn’t have a little more energy and a little more juice than we did. We had to play our way into it.”

It was worse at Auburn where the Tigers had just 23 yards of total offense in the first quarter. Quarterback Nick Marshall, a Heisman Trophy candidate at one time, was sacked twice and threw an interception in those first 15 minutes. The first score didn’t come until midway through the second quarter, and it was Samford who reached the end zone.

“We just weren’t really playing at the beginning of the game,” Marshall told reporters afterwards. “But as the game got going, we got to playing football. It was early; it was an emotional game for the seniors, but we found a way to overcome it.”

Both Alabama and Auburn found a way to overcome their sluggish starts as each won by at least three touchdowns. Now, the attention can finally turn to each other.

It’s officially Iron Bowl week, the week fans look forward to all season and the week that couldn’t come fast enough for Alabama players who were a part of last year’s game. How often do they think about the famous field goal return for a touchdown in the final second?

“Three hundred sixty-five,” linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “The whole year, ever since after that game, it’s been in the back of our minds. And we know we’ve got to come out and fight them. They’re a good ballclub, no doubt about it, so we have to come out and do the things that we’ve got to do to beat them.”

“We’re still reliving it,” added safety Landon Collins. “It shows up on the TV every now and again, and it just breaks our heart every time. That one second took our whole chance away of winning anything. It’s going to be in my head constantly throughout this week when we’re getting prepared to play them.”

The play is remembered in a positive light at Auburn. It made Chris Davis, who returned the missed field goal 109 yards, a legend on the Plains. It won an ESPY over the summer for “Best Play.” And now it’s shown before every home game to pump up the crowd.

But the Auburn coaches and players aren’t dwelling on what happened last year. They’re focused this year’s game.

“We're not going to bring it up or talk about it because it can't help us this year," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Sunday night. "It’s one of those things you've got to deal with. Both sides have to deal with it because it's kind of what comes with the week, just normal distractions and things that are out there.

“I don't think it will bother our guys. That was last year. This year is completely different and we're going to have to play even better this year."

The rest of us should anticipate seeing the “kick-six” a time or two this week in preparation of Saturday’s game. That’s good news for Auburn fans, who will have no problem reliving the play. Alabama fans, meanwhile, might want to wait until Saturday to turn on their TVs.

But the Iron Bowl is finally here, and everybody can agree that that's a good thing.

SEC has been entertaining in 2014

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
9:00
AM ET
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 morning links

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
8:00
AM ET
Florida probably needs all the help it can get if it is to have a chance against Florida State on Saturday.

The Gators got some good news on that front when they learned that quarterback Treon Harris, who injured his knee Saturday against Eastern Kentucky, should be able to practice this week and start against the Seminoles.

FSU might not be the juggernaut it was last season, but not much has been able to slow down the Seminoles. Not even the game officials.

Beating FSU would be a poetic ending for Will Muschamp in his final season as Florida’s head coach, who had to work to keep the team together after the news broke that he will not return in 2015.

Razorbacks playing spoiler: Bret Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks are suddenly the darlings of the SEC following back-to-back shutouts against LSU and Ole Miss that ended a two-year conference losing streak. Some are already discussing the Hogs as potential SEC contenders in 2015, but they still have work to do this season. They could play spoiler again with a win this weekend at Missouri. The Tigers must win to represent the SEC East in the conference championship game. Otherwise Georgia will be the Eastern Division team in Atlanta. Missouri believes it has come into its own in the second half of the season, and it’s hard to argue with a team that’s riding a five-game winning streak. In fact, the Tigers seem to be handling the underdog role fairly well.

Rocky road for Auburn: Coordinators Rhett Lashlee and Ellis Johnson made their weekly visits with reporters on Sunday night and acknowledged they’ll have their work cut out when Auburn visits No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. For one thing, they’re not entirely sure whether all of their most valuable personnel will be available. Johnson said that team sack leader DaVonte Lambert probably will not play after suffering a leg injury against Samford over the weekend. On the offensive side, Lashlee said Duke Williams is still day to day, but he’s optimistic that the star receiver will be able to play. On a separate note, Lashlee said he had a laugh afterward over Samford -- where he coached in 2011 -- using play-calling placards that featured pictures of him in Saturday’s game.

Around the SEC:

" Oxford, Mississippi, is bracing for a massive crowd for Saturday’s Ole Miss-Mississippi State game -- a matchup that could be the most pivotal game in Egg Bowl history.

" The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Ross Dellenger examines LSU’s issues at quarterback and the parallels between this season and 2008, Les Miles’ least successful season as the Tigers’ coach to this point.

" Looking toward the future, a number of young reserves got a chance to shine in Alabama’s win against Western Carolina on Saturday.

" Arkansas coach Bielema said running back Korliss Marshall will likely not return to the Razorbacks' program.

" By the numbers, rivals Georgia and Georgia Tech appear to be closely matched.

Tweet of the day

How will this Auburn team look in 2015? The Tigers will have a new quarterback, new running backs, a new center and a handful of new faces on the defense. Will the offense change? Will Ellis Johnson still be the defensive coordinator?

Obviously we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, not when Auburn still has the Iron Bowl next week. But Saturday’s game against Samford might give us a small glimpse into that future as a number of backups and younger players should get their opportunity to play in the second half. It will be good for both the fans and the coaches to see who’s next on the Plains.

Here are five names to keep an eye on Saturday. They might not be starting yet, but they will be by the time next season rolls around.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Johnson
AP Photo/Butch DillAuburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson should get some chances to throw more on Saturday.
QB Jeremy Johnson: We know the name. There might not be a better backup quarterback in all of college football. But after he lit up Arkansas in the first half of the season opener, Johnson has attempted only 17 passes. In his first action since early October, the sophomore played late in last week’s loss to Georgia and went 4 of 5 for 30 yards. He should play more this week even if it is Nick Marshall’s final home game. The coaches want to give him more reps and make sure he’s ready to go by next season. It’s not the ideal situation for Johnson, who will be handing off more than he normally would, but it’s still an opportunity to get out there and play.

RB Roc Thomas: Ever since the Mississippi State game, Thomas has carved out a bigger role in this offense. The freshman isn’t necessarily getting more carries – Auburn still has Cameron Artis-Payne, the SEC’s leading rusher – but he’s getting more meaningful carries. He’s making an impact in the first and second quarter as opposed to coming in late when the game is out of hand. Artis-Payne’s day could be done early this Saturday which opens the door for Thomas to not only play early but play often. How will his stats look with 10-15 carries? If given the chance, don’t be surprised if he goes over 100 yards against Samford.

OL Braden Smith: The Auburn coaches have been trying to find ways to get Smith on the field all season. They have even used him as a sixth offensive lineman in some sets. That’s how highly they think of him. And to think, he’s just a freshman. Imagine the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Smith after a year in the program. He’ll be bigger, stronger (if possible) and more experienced. Don’t be surprised if he takes over for Shon Coleman at left tackle next season. At the very least, he’ll make it a competition. Coleman will be the starter this Saturday, but Smith should get another audition over there and another chance to impress the coaching staff.

DE Gimel President: Who? Exactly. President was a three-star recruit who signed with Auburn in 2012. He redshirted his first year and played in only three games last year. This season, he’s been forced into action with the injury to Carl Lawson, and he’s responded. He has 24 tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack in nine games. The sophomore hasn’t been as productive as fellow defensive end Davonte Lambert, but his emergence has been a pleasant surprise for a team lacking in that area. With Lawson and Lambert coming back next year, President might not be the first choice to start, but his recent play will put him in the conversation.

DB Nick Ruffin: If Johnson stays on as defensive coordinator, it’s important to find a player who can fill that Star role on the defense. Senior Robenson Therezie has made a ton of plays at the position over the last two years, but he struggles in pass coverage. Ruffin might be a better fit for the future. He’s already played there some this season and while he might not be big enough or strong enough just yet, he’s a natural in pass coverage. If it doesn’t work out at Star, Ruffin could also be an option to replace Jonathon Mincy at cornerback. It will be interesting to see where the coaches play him this Saturday.

SEC viewer's guide: Week 13

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
10:00
AM ET
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.

SEC's top recruiting visits 

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
9:00
AM ET
There aren't a ton of big games on the schedule this week in the SEC but there are still a few key prospects taking visits. Here is a closer look at a few games that are expected to bring in visitors this weekend.

Ole Miss at Arkansas


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SEC morning links

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
8:10
AM ET
Arkansas' continued progress has been interesting to see this season and one area they showed significant progress in is third-down success. Last season the Razorbacks were 54th nationally in offensive third-down success rate (41.7 percent) but this season, they're 10th (49.3 percent). That's a huge improvement and it was evident in their 17-0 win over LSU when the Hogs were 10-of-17 against the Tigers on third down, a team that usually stops teams on third down (the Tigers are second in the SEC allowing only a 33.1 percent third-down conversion rate to opponents).

Nobody's happy with the defensive performances this season at South Carolina, but the same can be said at other places around the conference, or the country for that matter. The Gamecocks aren't alone. Texas A&M has seen its fair share of struggles that has its defensive coordinator under the microscope. Auburn has had a rough go lately too, though Gus Malzahn showed support for Ellis Johnson. Still, fans want results and they haven't been good for the Gamecocks, who are last in the league in scoring defense (32.7 points per game).

Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs is the Volunteers' present and future at the position but his predecessor, Justin Worley celebrated his 22nd birthday on Thursday by sharing words with Tennessee fans in an open letter. Worley, whose senior season was cut short after he underwent surgery for a torn labrum earlier this month, shares plenty of candid words and vivid images of his time in Knoxville, which is pretty cool to see.

Around the SEC

ESPN Jr. 300: What to know in the SEC 

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
10:37
AM ET
video
The SEC already has five commitments from players ranked in the top 25 of the ESPN Junior 300. That list includes Greg Little, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2016 and a Texas A&M commit. As a whole, the SEC has 27 commitments in the updated ESPN Junior 300. Here’s a closer look at the updated rankings.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SEC bowl projections: Week 12

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
8:00
PM ET
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

SPONSORED HEADLINES

SEC SCOREBOARD

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