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October 31, 2011

Auburn punter Steven Clark nominated for Ray Guy Award

Auburn punter Steven Clark has been named a nominee for the Ray Guy Award, traditionally given to the nation’s top punter at the end of the season.

Through nine games, Clark is averaging 40.1 yards-per-punt with 25 punts downed inside the 20. Only eight of his punts have been returned all season.

Clark, who has twice been named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week, is one of 54 candidates vying for the Ray Guy Award, named after the only punter to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. From the initial list, the field will be cut to 10 on Nov. 11, and then a national body of FBS sports information directors, coaches, media representatives and previous winners will vote for the top three finalists, who will be named on Nov. 21.

The same voting body then selects the winner, who will be presented the award at the Home Depot College Football Awards live on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.


Decision on Auburn-Georgia kickoff time postponed

CBS has elected to use a six-day selection for games on Nov. 12, and the network has two time slots to fill on that day, so four SEC games are being held until CBS makes that selection.

Auburn-Georgia is one of the four games.

Because CBS has two time slots, four SEC games — and subsequently, four SEC time slots — still have no time slot for Nov. 12. In addition to Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Mississippi State, Florida-South Carolina and Tennessee-Arkansas have been held for time slots that are open all day long.

CBS has time slots at noon ET and 3:30 ET affected by the six-day selection, ESPN2’s 6 pm ET time slot is still open, and the 7:45 ET slot held by ESPN is also one of the four held games.

Those decisions won’t be finalized until Sunday.

The rest of the schedule is below.

SEC Schedule, Nov. 12

  • Game TBA, CBS, noon ET
  • Kentucky at Vanderbilt, SEC Network, 12:21 p.m. ET
  • Game TBA, CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Game TBA, ESPN2, 6 p.m. ET
  • Louisiana Tech at Ole Miss, CSS, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Game TBA, ESPN, 7:45 p.m. ET
*Games still waiting to be announced: Auburn-Georgia, Alabama-Mississippi State, Tennessee-Arkansas, Florida-South Carolina

Michael Dyer named SEC Offensive Player of the Week

Auburn running back Michael Dyer was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his 27-carry, 177-yard performance in Auburn’s 41-23 win over Ole Miss last Saturday.

Dyer seems to like running against the Rebels. As a freshman, Dyer had 180 yards on 21 carries against Ole Miss, and he followed that up this season with 116 yards in the second half alone. It’s the ninth career 100-yard day of Dyer’s career.

For the season, Dyer leads Auburn with 989 yards rushing, and he ranks third in the SEC at 109.9 yards-per-game. Right now, in terms of total yardage, Dyer is tied with Alabama running back Trent Richardson for the SEC lead at 989 yards, but Richardson has played one less game.

Auburn middle linebacker Eltoro Freeman was named an SEC Outstanding Performer for making 11 tackles, two sacks, two tackles-for-loss and a fumble forced against Ole Miss, and he was joined by kicker Cody Parkey, who had two field goals and five touchbacks against the Rebels.

Upcoming Auburn opponent Georgia earned some recognition in this week’s SEC awards. Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week after recording five tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble in the Bulldogs’ 24-20 win over Florida.

October 30, 2011

The day after: Gene Chizik says the bye week is perfectly timed for Auburn

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Gene Chizik’s team is finally through the month of October.

And the bye week couldn’t come at a better time for a team still trying to get all of its playmakers healthy. Emory Blake said he played against Ole Miss at 75 percent, and the Tigers are battling their fair share of nagging injuries.

“We’ve been playing now for — with four or five weeks of two-a-days — 14 straight weeks,” Chizik said. “With low numbers. We’re a beat-up team. We’re a tired team.”

And the schedule really isn’t any more forgiving after the bye. Auburn still has two rivalry games coming up against a Georgia team that is playing for a shot at the SEC title game and an Alabama team that could be playing for a shot at the national title depending on what happens this weekend.

So Auburn could use a little time to recharge before the schedule picks up again.

“I think it’s coming at the right time,” Chizik said. “I think it’ll be good for our team.”

  • On the defense’s halftime adjustments to shut down a running game that was carving up Auburn’s defense: “We had to play a little more 8-man front, stop some of the counter running game and things coming back away into the boundary. We got that fixed.”
  • After a rough week on special teams against LSU, Chizik was pleased with the way that unit played against Ole Miss: “They had a great punt returner, and Steven put great hight under the ball and letting us get under it. Cody Parkey did an amazing job of giving us field position, and the (kickoffs) that were returnable, we covered well.”
  • Receiver Trovon Reed is fine. Chizik said the game plan changes depending on the opponent, and Reed will get his chances later this season.
  • Freshman receiver Sammie Coates warmed up, but the coaches still plan to redshirt him.
  • Asked about the offense’s run-pass distribution, Chizik stuck to what he has been saying the last couple of weeks, and it echoes one of Malzahn’s favorite statements. Auburn tries to take what the defense is giving. “You may play a team where their front four, because of what they do best, you may run more than you pass. You could get in a situation where you’re playing a 3-4 team that gives you some different challenges when it comes to blocking run plays.” A little later, he said the offense has complete confidence in Clint Moseley. “It really has nothing to do with what the quarterback can or can’t do. We have a lot of faith in Clint.”
  • Like most people thought, middle linebacker Eltoro Freeman really played will with 11 tackles, two sacks, two tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble. Chizik said his work really showed up on the film.
  • Auburn defensive backs have had trouble playing the ball in the air, but the Tigers made some strides against Ole Miss. “It’s been a huge point of emphasis, playing the ball in the air, for the safeties and corners. We’ve been emphasizing that since the beginning of practice. We were so poor at that in 2010. T-Bell does a great job making a play on that ball while it’s in the air.”
  • More on this in tomorrow’s Ledger-Enquirer, but Chizik said Auburn really broke down Randall Mackey’s ability to scramble, and it led to a poor throwing day for the Ole Miss quarterback. Everybody was involved in keeping Mackey from pulling the ball down and running with it.

Links: Auburn slides back into AP poll at No. 25, ranked No. 22 in the BCS

Ah, the evolution of a blog post. For the first week or so, I planned this post to be a simple glance around the SEC, but it’s starting to evolve a little bit. For instance, Auburn’s national rankings fluctuate with each passing week, I’ve been posting it on Twitter, and there is really no reason to keep the numbers out of this space. So I’m going to add another quick look to the blog, beginning with Auburn’s national rankings.

Auburn is still unranked in the coaches poll, but the Tigers moved back into the AP poll at No. 25. Auburn (6-3, 4-2 SEC) also moved up one spot to No. 22 in the BCS standings.


  • Total offense: 89.
  • Rushing offense: 29.
  • Passing yards: 104.
  • Passing efficiency: 67.
  • Scoring: 73.
  • Turnovers: 57.


  • Total defense: 74.
  • Rushing defense: 85.
  • Passing yards: 54.
  • Passing efficiency allowed: 68.
  • Scoring: 74.
  • Turnovers produced: 36.
  • Turnover margin: 49.

I’ll have more on Auburn after Gene Chizik’s teleconference this afternoon, although with the bye week looming, the normal Sunday night media availability will not be happening. On to a glance around the rest of the SEC as the season’s final third gets underway. Vandy had a chance to upset Arkansas and failed. Florida had a chance to pick up some momentum with a win in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and failed. Both Kentucky and Tennessee dropped games and find themselves sitting at 3-5 and needing a late-season push to reach bowl eligibility.

But first, let’s start with what the Mississippi beat writers are saying about Auburn’s win last night.

From the other locker room

Around the SEC

Emptying the Notebook: Auburn-Ole Miss

Photo By Todd Van Emst

When Auburn opened October with four games against ranked opponents and a matchup against Ole Miss looming on the horizon, few observers thought the Tigers would be able to emerge from the month with a winning record. But Saturday night’s 41-23 dismantling of Ole Miss gets Auburn to 3-2 in the month, removes the worry about making a bowl (Auburn is now bowl-eligible) and showed that a young team does have some things to build on going into the final three games of the season and postseason play.

“We’ve come a long way,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “The challenge of the month was certainly out there in front of us, and our guys knew that.”

Now, that doesn’t mean there were no trouble spots in Auburn’s victory over Ole Miss. For one, the Rebels’ defense is ranked near the bottom of the SEC in every category, so Auburn will have to keep its newfound momentum going against better defenses with Georgia and Alabama looming. And No. 2, the Tigers’ defense took a step back. Auburn seemed to regress against the run on Saturday, although the secondary did a much better job against the deep ball.

But overall, the offense’s performance had to be encouraging. After scoring fewer than 20 points in four straight games, Auburn came up with 41 points and its second-highest yardage total of the season (414). That’s something to build on.

Make sure to follow the blog on Twitter. With the game kicking off at 7 ET, there may not be as much coverage as last week, btu I still have plenty written for the paper I’ve linked below.

Four-Down Territory

– First Down – The key to Auburn’s offense should be obvious now. For the Tigers to thrive, Auburn has to have balance. Granted, Ole Miss’s defense is one of the worst in the SEC, but Auburn’s offense had been stuck in such a funk that scoring 41 points, even against an overmatched opponent, seemed a little out of the question. But with Clint Moseley completing 12-of-15 passes for 160 yards and four touchdowns, Auburn finally put together some points Saturday. You can’t scoff at Moseley’s performance, either. Moseley averaged 10.7 yards-per-attempt, a figure any team in football would like to have. Most teams aim to average about 8.0 yards-per-attempt. And with Ole Miss struggling to contain the pass, Auburn’s running game got back to the attack that won games against South Carolina and Florida. Now Gus Malzahn’s constant refrain that he wants to take what the defense is giving them makes plenty of sense. One thing opens up the other.

– Second Down – Auburn’s problems against the run in the first half had to be a little surprising to most fans. After the way the Tigers shut down Florida’s Chris Rainey on the edge two weeks ago, a similar attack featuring the Rebels’ Jeff Scott shouldn’t have had so much success. But Ole Miss carved up Auburn’s defense on the corner, and the Rebels put a scare into the Tigers for a while there heading into the second half. Poor tackling allowed Brandon Bolden to have his best game of the season, and Auburn consistently failed to make Jeff Scott work for yards if Eltoro Freeman wasn’t involved in the play. With good backs left on the schedule in Georgia’s Isaiah Crowell and Alabama’s Trent Richardson, expect the run defense to be a serious point of emphasis over the bye week.

– Third down — Funny, isn’t it, how the presence of Emory Blake suddenly made the rest of Auburn’s receivers look a little better? Quindarius Carr had a chance to do what he does best on his 45-yard touchdown catch, and Quan Bray made a nice play on the outside on a quick throw from Moseley. What was a little puzzling, and it may have had a lot to do with Blake’s emergence in the passing game, was the absence of Trovon Reed. After talking about getting Reed more involved, Auburn never looked in his direction. That being said, if Emory Blake is finding holes and making plays like the double move he put on an Ole Miss defender to score his touchdown, the other guys catching the ball may not matter.

– Fourth down – No defensive coordinator wants to give up 382 yards of total offense, but the big plays created by Auburn’s defense mitigated Ole Miss’s yardage. What really matters is points on the scoreboard, and the Rebels’ inconsequential touchdown in the second half will give Auburn’s defense something to build on heading into the bye week. Auburn produced four sacks, two fumbles and an interception, which is why Ole Miss was held to just 23 points despite rushing for 220 yards. For most of the season, Corey Lemonier has been the Tigers’ only consistent playmaker on defense, but he may have some help in middle linebacker Eltoro Freeman. Freeman finished with a team-high 11 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles-for-loss and a fumble forced in a dominant performance. Special mention, too, to Jawara White, who had nine tackles and appears to be developing into a solid player on the outside.

October 29, 2011

Halftime: Live chat with Auburn beat writer Joel A. Erickson

For anybody who couldn’t make it to Jordan-Hare today, drop by here to chat at halftime of tonight’s game.

Pregame: Auburn vs. Ole Miss

Photo by Todd Van Emst

For the last Saturday in October, the weather is just about right for football at Jordan-Hare Stadium today. With Auburn and Ole Miss getting ready to kick off at 7 p.m. ET, the good folks over at the Weather Channel are reporting clear skies, 62 degrees at the moment, with the temperature dipping down to 56 at kickoff and into the low 50’s by the end of the game. So far it’s been a pretty windy day in Auburn, with winds blowing out of the northwest at more than 15 miles-per-hour, but those winds are supposed to die down as the sun drops and the lights descend on Jordan-Hare.

From today’s paper:

All week long, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik has called Ole Miss “best 2-5 team in the country,” and Houston Nutt has made a career out of coming up with big wins in unlikely situations. From taking a look at the Ole Miss coverage leading up to the game, it’s called his “gotcha” game, and he could sure use one if he wants to keep his job on the heels of a 10-game SEC losing streak.
For more updates once the game gets going, follow the blog on Twitter, and after the way it worked last week, check back here at halftime for a live chat about the first half’s events.


  • The folks over in Las Vegas installed Auburn as a 10.5-point favorite early this week. Whatever you want to do with said information is up to you.
  • Auburn has won 12 straight games at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the longest streak in a decade. In night games, Auburn is 24-4 since the Y2K scare turned out to be absolutely nothing in Sunday.
  • All three losses for Auburn this season have come against top-10 teams. Ole Miss jumped out to a 17-0 lead on Arkansas before crashing back to earth in the third quarter of a 29-24 loss last week.
  • It goes without saying, but Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier could be a major factor in this game. As elusive as Ole Miss quarterback Randall Mackey is, he has been sacked eight times in the last two weeks against Alabama and Arkansas, and Lemonier could throw a huge wrench into the Rebels’ downfield passing game with a couple of big hits on the quarterback.
  • Ole Miss ranks 115th in the nation in rush defense, and Michael Dyer rolled up 180 yards against the Rebels last season. With a chance to find some running room, Dyer may break his streak of two straight games below the 100-yard mark.
  • Dyer almost never gets knocked backwards. In 341 carries, Dyer has only been brought down for  a loss 25 times.
  • Ever since quarterback Clint Moseley has taken over, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen has been given a much longer look in the passing game. Lutzenkirchen has six catches in the last two games, tops on the team. And when he finds the end zone, it’s usually late. 7 of Lutzenkirchen’s 10 touchdowns have come in the fourth quarter.
  •  Seems like I use this stat every week, but it bears mention. In games decided by less than four points, Gene Chizik is 9-0 at Auburn. Chizik has also brought the Tigers back from 10-point deficits six times in three seasons.
  • Ole Miss wideout Donte Moncref is third in the nation among true freshmen with four touchdown catches.
  • Rebels punter Tyler Campbell is 18th in the nation with a 44.3-yard gross average, and he’s sixth in the country with 18 passes downed inside the 20. Auburn should be used to that, though, because Tigers punter Steven Clark is second in the nation with 25 punts inside the 20.
  • Against Alabama, Ole Miss failed to commit a single penalty.
  • Looking for an impact player from the Rebels’ defense? Defensive back Charles Sawyer has four interceptions this season, and he had a 96-yard pick-six against BYU. Another is sophomore linebacker Mike Marry, who is fourth in the SEC at 8.6 tackles-per-game.
Check back here for more updates as the teams come out to warm up.

Update, 6:01 p.m.: Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott, who left last week’s game with an injury, appears to be fine. Nutt said so earlier this week, but whatever injury Scott sustained, it doesn’t appear to be a problem.

Update, 6:04 p.m.: Same goes for Brandon Bolden. Rebels working with full complement of backs.

Update, 6:10 p.m.: Emory Blake is on the field with Auburn’s wideouts. Third straight week he’s warmed up. The question is, will he play?

Update, 6:18 p.m.: Carver graduate Gabe Wright will start in place of Kenneth Carter. A true freshman, Wright has played in all 8 games this season, but this will be his first start. Wright has three tackles, one tackle-for-loss this season in limited time. Last week, defensive line coach Mike Pelton said an injury early in camp had hampered Wright’s development, but he appears to be making strides.

Auburn’s back into the locker room. I’ll be back to the blog at halftime to chat.

Update, 6:32 p.m.: Emory Blake looked better in warmups this week. Until game time, all bets are off, but he may be ready to go.


October 28, 2011

Matching Up: Auburn vs. Ole Miss

Photo by Todd Van Emst

When Auburn’s October gauntlet began, this weekend’s matchup against Ole Miss was seen as the breath of fresh air at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Come now, Auburn has emerged from the stretch 2-2 with two road losses to top-10 teams, and Ole Miss is still mired in a school-record 10-game SEC losing streak. In some ways, the narrative hasn’t changed much. On paper, Ole Miss is easily the weakest team in the SEC West.

But if you’ve been paying attention to the blog and Auburn head coach Gene Chizik this week,  you know the Tigers aren’t taking Ole Miss lightly. Chizik took it as far as saying Ole Miss is probably “the best 2-5 team in the country,” and the rest of the coaching staff, plus the players, have echoed that sentiment this week. Whether or not that’s some version of coachspeak remains to be seen, but Ole Miss did put a 17-0 first-half scare into Arkansas last week before succumbing in the second half.

As for the rest? Time to flesh it out in the matchups below. Remember to follow the blog on Twitter, and after the success of last week’s halftime chat, I’ll have another chat set up for those of you who will be watching the game from home.

On to the matchups…

Auburn vs. Ole Miss

  • Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium.
  • When: 7 p.m. ET, Saturday.
  • TV: ESPNU.
  • Records: Auburn 5-3, 3-2; Ole Miss 2-5, 0-4.
  • Series: Auburn leads 26-9.

When Auburn runs

For the first time in weeks, Auburn’s run game will get to take a break from playing a top-50 run defense. Battered by injuries to the front seven, Ole Miss has been unable to slow anybody down in the running game. The Rebels rank 115th in the country in rush defense, last in the SEC. Ole Miss has given up 222.9 yards-per-game, so Auburn running back Michael Dyer could be in for a big day. Considering Auburn’s problems in the passing game so far this season, expect Ole Miss to stack the box, but it may not matter. With the exception of the first three quarters against LSU, Auburn has been able to churn out yards on the ground against every opponent so far, and the combination of Dyer, Onterrio McCalebb and quarterback Kiehl Frazier could be in for a big day against an Ole Miss team that lost defensive end Wayne Dorsey and cornerback Marcus Temple — both seniors — to season-ending injuries two weeks ago. Edge: Auburn.

When Ole Miss runs

The Rebels try to bring a little bit of thunder (215-pound Brandon Bolden) and lightning (175-pound Jeff Scott) to bear in the running game. Both Ole Miss running backs left the game against Arkansas last week with apparent injuries, but the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported earlier this week that both runners were healthy and ready for action against Auburn. Of the two, Scott has more carries this season, mainly due to Bolden’s problems with injury and a one-game suspension for breaking team rules. Scott is a burner who can get to the outside (he had an 83-yard touchdown run against Auburn last season) and Bolden is a stronger runner inside. Ever since October began, Auburn has been typically pretty strong on the edge against similar speed guys like Florida’s Chris Rainey, and LSU did most of its damage between the tackles last week, so expect Ole Miss to feature Bolden in this game and try to use Scott as the lightning bolt. Even with two backs, though, Ole Miss is ranked 11th in the SEC in rushing, barely cracking 108.9 yards-per-game. Auburn’s rush defense has been on the rise — LSU’s steamroller notwithstanding — and forced LSU to make plays in the passing game before the running game really got going in the second half. Edge: Auburn.

When Auburn throws

So many random variables to consider in this matchup. First of all, LSU’s pass rush rendered most of Auburn’s downfield passing game impossible, but Ole Miss only has 11 sacks on the season, and three of those came from the injured Dorsey. The loss of Temple, Ole Miss’s most experienced defender, can’t help either, but the Rebels held Arkansas to less than 50 percent completions last week. Second, Clint Moseley played pretty solid football when he could the ball away, completing 12-of-20 for 146 yards, although he did throw a bad pick-six to Ron Brooks. Under Moseley, though, Auburn did break the 150-yard mark for the first time in four weeks, and Ole Miss is ranked 11th in the SEC against the pass. Throw in the fact that Trovon Reed is back — and Emory Blake’s status is similarly up in the air — and this matchup’s awfully hard to pin down. Lack of a pass rush really hampers Ole Miss, but Auburn has really struggled to make plays in the passing game lately. Edge: Push.

When Ole Miss throws

In spurts, new starting quarterback Randall Mackey has made the Rebels a threat through the air. In two of the last three games Mackey has gone over the 200-yard mark passing, and that is apparently no easy feat for SEC quarterbacks this season. Even in limited action, Mackey ranks fifth in the SEC in passer rating, and he’s developed an ability to connect on the deep ball, especially with 6-2, 214-pound freshman Donte Moncrief, who has four touchdown catches and averages 19.0 yards-per-catch. Auburn’s secondary, on the other hand, has been susceptible to the big play, especially the over-the-top throw Mackey throws well, and the Tigers’ pass defense ranks dead-last in the SEC at 221.6 yards allowed. What will be key for Auburn in the matchup against Mackey will be to put the quarterback on the ground. Ole Miss has allowed 18 sacks, and Mackey has taken nine of those in the last three games. Defensive end Corey Lemonier should be able to wreak havoc against the Rebels’ offensive line, and if he can get help from the rest of the defense, Mackey could make some mistakes like the interception he tossed against Arkansas last week. Hard to give the edge, though, to the SEC’s worst pass defense. Edge: Ole Miss.

When Auburn fields a kick

Until last week against LSU, Auburn’s kick return game had been one of the most dangerous weapons in the Tigers’ special-teams arsenal, and even after an abysmal performance against LSU, Auburn still ranks first in the SEC in kick returns. Expect Tre Mason and Co. to return to normal this week despite an Ole Miss kick coverage unit that ranks second in the SEC. On the punt, Ole Miss’s Tyler Campbell has been one of the league’s better punters, belting it at better than 44 yards-per-kick, and he carries the third-best mark in the league. Edge: Auburn.

When Ole Miss fields a kick

Chizik’s praise for the Rebels’ punt-return unit is no joke. Ole Miss has brought back two punts for scores this season, and at least one more was called back for a penalty. Scott is a dynamic player in the punt return game, averaging a ridiculous 19 yards-per-punt. Only one problem. Auburn punter Steven Clark does not let teams bring back punts. At all. Over the course of 52 punts this season, return men have only brought back eight, and four came from a Florida team that couldn’t catch the ball. Clark did struggle last week, but LSU still didn’t really have an opportunity to bring it back. Not sure Scott will, either. In the kick return game, Ole Miss has been merely pedestrian, and Auburn has the SEC’s top-ranked kick coverage unit. Edge: Auburn.

Through the uprights

Save for a blip against Florida, Cody Parkey has been extremely reliable for Auburn this season, and he knocked a 40-plus yard field goal through the uprights against LSU to show there were no lingering effects from the Florida game. On the other side of the coin, Ole Miss kicker Bryson Rose has rarely had a chance to kick. He’s only attempted four field goals, but he was 16-of-18 last season. Rose should be fine. Edge: Push.

On the sideline

Houston Nutt’s self-righteous blast at Rivals.com reporter Neal McCready — for the details, check out this link to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal — lacked an awful lot of bite after Ole Miss gave up a 17-0 lead to lose. A win would’ve actually given Nutt some reason to puff out his chest, but 10 straight losses in the SEC and 11 of 12 has made Nutt a likely candidate to get the axe after this season. Chizik said Ole Miss was only  a couple of plays away from a few more wins this season, but teams miss those plays for a reason, and a case can be made that Auburn has made the most of its opportunities, considering that all three losses were to top-10 teams that put the Tigers away early. With Nutt reeling, the edge here is pretty easy to see. Edge: Auburn.


For all of the talk about how dangerous Ole Miss is, particularly in terms of big plays, it’s hard to see the Rebels putting together much of a sustained attack against an Auburn team suited to attacking Ole Miss’s weakness. Bringing the 115th-ranked rush defense in the country into Jordan-Hare at night should be an open invitation for Michael Dyer, who had 180 yards against the Rebels last season, and Onterio McCalebb, who added 99. Compounding the problem, Auburn’s advantage on the ground will keep Mackey, Scott, Bolden and Moncrief on the sideline and limit Ole Miss’s opportunities for the kinds of big plays an upset-minded team desperately needs. In all but two games this season, Ole Miss has given up more than 200 yards on the ground, and both Vanderbilt and Alabama steamrolled the Rebels’ defense.

My pick: Auburn 31, Ole Miss 17.


October 27, 2011

NCAA makes major changes to scholarship rules

The NCAA Division I board of directors approved a sweeping set of changes to scholarship rules that will begin phasing in with the 2012-2013 school year.

Touted as a way to improve academic performance in collegiate athletics, the board approved a plan that mandates a certain level of academic performance necessary to compete in postseason competition. Earlier this year, the board set the minimum academic standard for postseason competition at a 930 Academic Progress Rate. Teams must hit the 930 benchmark to be eligible for postseason play. Transfers will also have to meet a 2.5 GPA to be eligible for transfer.

For failing to meet those academic standards, teams could also be penalized with loss of practice time, competition reduction (loss of games), and a third level that includes coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

In addition, student-athletes who receive full athletic scholarships will now have the opportunity to receive additional athletics aid up to $2,000 or the full cost of attendance, whichever is the smaller amount. That $2,000 was added to help student-athletes address the rising costs of miscellaneous costs of attending college, and it is optional for institutions to offer the added benefit.