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November 30, 2012

“Odd” phone survey confuses Auburn fans

ATLANTA – After hanging up the phone Thursday, Justin Hayles was puzzled.

“I just thought it was odd,” Hayles, 24, of Auburn said. “They never told me who was funding the survey. I even asked for the person’s supervisor, and she didn’t even know what to tell me.”

Hayles was one of 500 Lee County citizens – which encompasses Auburn, Opelika, Smiths Station and parts of Phenix City and Waverly – randomly polled for the hot-button question: who do fans want to see hired as Auburn’s next football coach?

It appears those questioned are all season-ticket holders at Jordan-Hare Stadium or members of Tigers Unlimited Foundation, a university alumni donor system. Hayles, an Auburn grad who works in Valley, Ala., is among the latter group.

Hayles said he was asked for his favorite and least favorite selection as coach, given the options of Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino (ousted by scandal in April) and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

What threw Hayles for a loop was this: it wasn’t clear whether Auburn University was gathering data to actually assist with the search process.

“I can’t remember if (the surveyor) gave me her name or not,” Hayles said. “One question they did ask toward the end, if I went to church, how often was it – every day, a couple of times per month, once a quarter, once a year.”

The Opelika-Auburn News reported Friday that professional pollster David B. Hill, an Auburn grad, was in charge of the mysterious survey.

More fans said they were unsure (26 percent) than selecting any particular individual, the O-A News reported. Malzahn was tops of the quartet with 25 percent of the vote, while Petrino took 18 percent, Fisher had 15 percent and Smart had 12 percent of the vote, with 2 percent selecting a different name.

Friday morning, with a number of fans confused as to the source of the poll, Auburn Director of Public Affairs Brian Keeter was reached by the Ledger-Enquirer, asked if the university was involved.

“We don’t know anything about it,” Keeter said. “I mean, what you just told me is the first I’ve heard of it.”

Rumors have run rampant as to how far along Auburn’s four-man committee of athletic director Jay Jacobs, former Heisman winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson (celebrating his 50th birthday Friday) and famed businessman Mac Crawford have progressed in their search.

“I’m okay with them waiting it out,” Hayles said. “I’d rather they take the time to find the right fit for the job. I know they’ve got recruiting deadlines and that kind of stuff, but I’m hoping they take the extra couple of days or a week to figure it out.”

The Hangover, Part XII: Scouting Georgia and Alabama, with ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff

ATLANTA — No Auburn game this weekend, but I’m still covering football, so we need a breakdown from one of the best in the business.

Instead of traipsing behind enemy lines this weekend – Seth and Mark served us well for the Georgia and Alabama games – we go neutral, catching up with ESPN SEC blogger Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN). Dude knows his stuff, as I found out when he covered Auburn against Mississippi State and LSU … and he’ll be among the masses covering this national semifinal also known as the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Let’s go 5 Questions-style, for old times’ sake.

Aaron Brenner, WarEagleExtra.com: Both Georgia and Alabama had their gut-check moments this year: the Bulldogs got slaughtered at South Carolina and momentum was slow to return, while the Crimson Tide were knocked off on their own field by Texas A&M and nearly taken out of the national title picture. Is there a hidden advantage to being humbled on the way to the postseason?

Edward Aschoff, ESPN.com: I think so. Obviously, no team ever wants to lose, but when you have so much talent and everyone is telling you just how good you are, it can be nice to get humbled in some form or fashion. For Alabama and Georgia, their humbling moments came from losses. Jarvis Jones told me this week that losing that game made the defense realize how great it wasn’t. It made those players realize that talent alone wasn’t going to win games. They had to come together more as a unit and they had to throw away the arrogance. They knew how talented they were, but they weren’t playing like it. For Alabama, I think it just made them mad. They’d heard about how there were holes in the secondary and they showed it against LSU and A&M. You know how much those Alabama players/coaches hate being told they aren’t perfect.

Brenner: AJ McCarron has the big-game clutch gene, but Aaron Murray has the big-time stats. Who has the advantage Saturday at quarterback?

Aschoff: I think McCarron does. The first year that he was a starter, he played in and won the national championship. Remember, he hasn’t been here in the SEC Championship before. He went straight to the big game, but he played arguably his best game in an Alabama uniform. And the coaches told him they wanted him to control the game, not Trent Richardson. That’s huge. Murray has historically struggled in big games. He has just three wins against Top-25 teams and if not for an awful offensive performance from Florida, he wouldn’t even be in Atlanta after he threw three interceptions against the Gators. He told me this spring that he has a tendency to take on too much responsibility in big games and loses trust in his players. That makes him force throws, which lead to turnovers. He can’t be “Big Game Aaron” on Saturday because the pressure is on, and there’s more on him than McCarron.

Brenner: Manti Te’o gets all this talk about Heisman candidacy, but none of that seems to go Jarvis Jones’ way. Where do you rank Jones nationally, and how huge a game does he need to have to give Georgia a chance?

Aschoff: He is a game-changer. He’s like a bigger, stronger, more terrifying version of the Honey Badger. He finds ways to get to every play. He hunts the ball down like the Tyrann Mathieu did at LSU last year. Just look at the Florida game. You could argue that the Bulldogs don’t win that game without Jones making all of those plays. If he hadn’t have been injured this season, I think he’d get a lot more love nationally. Te’o is great, but you could argue that Jones, Damontre Moore (Texas A&M) and Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina) are just as good, if not better in the way that they dominate and change games. Georgia needs him to have a big game because Alabama is extremely balanced and Jones has the ability to take take momentum away.

Brenner: The cheapest ticket on StubHub for the SEC Championship Game is floating around $300. You can get in pretty easily to the ACC title game for 3 bucks. What does this tell us?

Aschoff: That tells you that the SEC championship game is the hottest ticket in the country because it actually means something every year. You’ll see Gators fans, LSU fans and Gamecocks fans at this thing because it is a semi-final for the national championship game and it has been for the last seven years. No other conference can say that, especially the ACC.

Brenner: Straight up, who do you like to run this town Saturday night? Tide or Dawgs?

Aschoff: I have the Tide winning 28-17. I just think that Alabama is angry. The Tide wanted to be undefeated and wanted to prove the doubters wrong. It didn’t help getting into the national championship. It destroyed its last two inferior opponents and it wants to do the same to Georgia. I don’t think Georgia’s line can keep Murray upright all game and I just think that with some of these players seeing two national championships before, the bright lights won’t get to Alabama. Did I mention that Alabama is angry and is ready to prove people wrong again?

Tales from the Comeback Trail … yes, there is precedent for turnarounds after poor seasons

AUBURN, Ala. — It’s been well-documented; Auburn’s freefall from national champion to winless in the SEC is the most rapid collapse any college football program has ever seen.

Good news on the Plains: that’s now in the past. Looking to the future, based on track record, it wouldn’t be uncommon for the Tigers to spring back and have a pleasant season in 2013.

Here are some historic examples from Auburn, the SEC and around the country of when bad teams turned good in a flash.

Auburn

1934: 2-8 (SEC rank: 10th) |  1935: 8-2 (4th)

1973: 6-6 (t-8th) | 1974: 10-2 (t-2nd)

1981: 5-6 (t-6th) | 1982: 9-3 (t-3rd)

1992: 5-5-1 (5th West) | 1993: 11-0 (N/A – season played on NCAA probation)

Auburn’s quickest turnaround is a 6-win improvement: Jack Meagher recovered from a 2-8 rookie effort to go 8-2 in 1935, and Terry Bowden took Pat Dye’s swan song of a 5-5-1 campaign to go 11-0 in 1993 behind veteran quarterback Stan White.

Two legendary Auburn coaches oversaw quick fixes: Ralph “Shug” Jordan at the end of his career in the early 1970s, and Pat Dye in his first two years in Auburn in 1981-82 thanks to the arrival of Bo Jackson.

Alabama

2000: 3-8 (5th West) | 2001: 7-5 (3rd West)

2007: 2-6* (3rd West) | 2008: 12-2 (1st West)

Nick Saban’s first go-around yielded a 7-6 result, with five wins vacated stemming from textbook-related violations before Saban’s arrival. The Tide went 12-2 and lost the Sugar Bowl the very next year, before embarking on two national titles the next three seasons.

Dennis Franchione took over Mike DuBose’s 3-8 squad and, in 2001, went won the Independence Bowl.

Georgia

1990: 4-7 (t-7th) | 1991: 9-3 (t-4th)

1996: 5-6 (t-4th East) | 1997: 10-2 (t-2nd East)

2010: 6-7 (t-3rd East) | 2011: 10-4 (1st East)

Mark Richt had a losing team two years ago, but with quarterback Aaron Murray gaining experience, Georgia bounced back to double-digit victories last year and are 11-1 going into Saturday’s SEC Championship game.

The Dawgs also doubled their victories from 1996 to 1997, and experienced another five-win uptick two decades ago under Ray Goff.

Arkansas

1976: 5-5-1 | 1977: 11-1

2005: 4-7 (4th West) | 2006: 10-4 (1st West)

Under Houston Nutt, the Razorbacks went from losing to Vanderbilt at home one season, to playing in the SEC Championship Game the next.

Lou Holtz inherited Frank Broyles’ 5-5-1 squad, and went 11-1 in 1977, winning the Orange Bowl.

Broyles himself had three different year-over-year improvements of five or more victories (1958-59, 1963-64, 1967-68) for the Hogs.

Florida

1979: 0-10-1 (t-9th) | 1980: 8-4 (t-4th)

Charley Pell quickly turned things around at the turn of the decade, going from zero wins to a Tangerine Bowl victory. It portended great things for the future: Florida hasn’t had a losing season since that winless fall 33 years ago.

South Carolina

1999: 0-11 (6th East) | 2000: 8-4 (t-2nd East)

Lou Holtz inherited a 1-10 team, and went winless his first year of 1999. He promptly won the next two Outback Bowls, both over Ohio State.

Texas A&M

1954: 1-9 | 1955: 7-2-1

2003: 4-8 | 2004: 7-5

It was another rebuilding effort for Dennis Franchione, who turned it around quickly in 2004.

Franchione’s not the only Alabama-bred coach who helped out Texas A&M. Paul “Bear” Bryant started 1-9 with the Aggies in 1954, but went 7-2-1 for a follow-up effort.

Other notable comebacks

Kentucky (1945-46) tasked newly-hired coach Bear Bryant, in his second head coaching season ever, with a 2-8 program in 1945. He led the Wildcats to 7-3 the next year.

Miami (1997-98) hopped from 5-6 to 9-3 under Butch Davis.

Oklahoma (1999-2000) was a meager 7-5 in Bob Stoops’ first year, but roared back to run the table for a national championship.

Notre Dame (2001-02) had Tyrone Willingham take over after Bob Davie put up a 5-6 campaign. Willingham’s Fighting Irish responded with a 10-3 season.

Illinois (2006-07) shrugged off a 2-10 season, still under Ron Zook a year later, to make the Rose Bowl and finish 9-4.

Miami (Ohio) (2009-10) was 1-11 three years ago. The Redhawks ripped off nine more wins in response, going 10-4.

Ohio State (2011-12) went 6-7 last year, the program’s first losing season since 1988. The Buckeyes, knowing they could not play in a bowl in Urban Meyer’s first season, went 12-0, and should finish the year ranked in the Associated Press top three.

November 29, 2012

LIVE CHAT: Thursday at 3 p.m. ET

I’ll share what I know about the current coaching situation. You’ll share what you think Auburn should do. Good times…

Five ingredients in the recipe for disaster

AUBURN, Ala. — As seasons go, there’s good, there’s bad, and there’s ugly.

Ugly might be kind in describing what transpired for the 2012 Auburn football team.

Ranked in the USA Today preseason coaches poll and anticipated to at least compete for a New Year’s Day bowl game berth, Auburn didn’t just fall short of expectations.

The Tigers subjected the program to its worst season in 60 years, not only on the scoreboard or in the standings but in terms of its overall lack of competitiveness within the games. Auburn was outscored by an average of 24 points in its eight SEC losses.

Where did it all go wrong? Five ingredients to a recipe for disaster:

No quarterback development

Remember when nine days before the season, no starting quarterback had been announced? The job began with Kiehl Frazier, but only when Clint Moseley openly admitted his ailing shoulder hadn’t permitted him to throw a football with all his might throughout training camp. And Jonathan Wallace wasn’t quite ready to master the whole playbook yet.

As it turned out, Frazier wasn’t ready either. He continuously feared the pass rush, and even when in doses he found success on rollouts aside from the pocket, the playaction wasn’t called consistently enough. His accuracy dipped to 53.4 percent on the year. When Moseley replaced Frazier at halftime of game six (vs. Arkansas), Moseley at least played pitch and catch with the receivers. Problem was, the receivers weren’t standing very far from the line of scrimmage — Moseley averaged 6.2 yards per attempt. Wallace appears to have the intangibles handy to develop someday into a decent SEC quarterback, but he was never specifically groomed to take the keys to this offense as a true freshman.

Worst defense in history

You thought it couldn’t get any worse than last year’s defense under Ted Roof? Think again. From the very first game, there were red flags when Clemson rolled up 528 yards … and the defenders said they were encouraged. The highlight of the year was holding LSU to 12 points, but those Tigers proved to have an average offense at best. Safety Demetruce McNeal swore after that this year was different, comparing the 2011 unit to “a clown show”.

Well, that would make 2012 comparable to a three-ring circus. Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama combined for 1,651 yards in the final month of the season.

McNeal lost his starting job, and NFL prospect Corey Lemonier made zero impact at defensive end down the stretch. In the end, Auburn reset its own record-setting infamy on defense, allowing an average of 28.3 points and 420.5 yards.

Failure to finish in fourth

Unbelievably, Auburn did not allow a single point in the last three fourth quarters of the season. Well, okay, that’s because Georgia and Alabama were playing third-stringers by that point, which were still better than Alabama A&M’s first-stringers.

The final stats say Auburn was outscored 76-36 in the fourth quarters this year. But that figure was 62-3 in the first half of the season, which honestly can be pointed to as the catalyst to this destructive season. Auburn had a chance to win the game at the end against Clemson, LSU, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, but continually fell short.

Loss of skill players

Quarterback Zeke Pike was arrested in June for public intoxication, and former coach Gene Chizik eventually dismissed him from the team.

Running back Jovon Robinson was in preseason camp, before a Memphis Commercial-Appeal story broke that a high school counselor illegally altered his transcript. He was ruled academically ineligible for the year.

Wide receiver Ja’Quay Williams and tight end Darrion Hutcherson also were banished to prep school for the year. As recently as July, the team expected those incoming freshmen to be cleared by August.

Think any or all of the group might have helped a paltry offense this year?

Lack of playmakers

The coaches persistently asserted, on a daily basis, that practices were going well.

If they were referring to the battles on the perimeter, one wonders what they were watching.

Auburn’s wide receivers and tight ends caught eight touchdowns this year — only four FBS teams had less than that. Auburn’s defensive backs and linebackers made two interceptions this year — the fewest in the nation.

Senior Emory Blake was double-covered all year long, yet he managed to haul in 50 grabs for 789 yards and three scores. Blake prided himself on being a mentor to the younger receivers, but he couldn’t do the job for them. Quan Bray, Trovon Reed, Sammie Coates, Travante Stallworth and the WRs combined for just 42 receptions for 527 yards and three scores.

Read that again: receivers other than Blake, whose job it is to catch passes, averaged 44 yards per game.

Auburn will have to improve in all those areas, and more, to bounce back in 2013.

November 28, 2012

Report: Charlie Strong might be in contact with Auburn reps, denies talks to SI, Yahoo

AUBURN, Ala. — The interview process for Auburn’s next head football coach has begun with Charlie Strong, according to the Birmingham News.

Louisville’s head coach of the past three years, Strong, 52, has spent 21 years as an assistant in the SEC, including 2002-09 as Florida’s defensive coordinator. The News reported Wednesday night it was told by an unnamed sourced an Auburn representative has contacted Strong within the past two days, which might have been over the phone.

Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel tweeted Wednesday night following the report, “Just spoke to Charlie Strong. He’s angry. He says he did not interview at Auburn and has not spoken to them. ‘It’s not true.'” Later, Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde tweeted, “Charlie Strong, just now: ‘I didn’t interview with Auburn, I have a job.'”

The Cardinals (9-2) play at Rutgers Thursday night on ESPN at 7:30 ET. Louisville announced earlier Wednesday it will move from the Big East to the ACC in 2014. Athletic director Tom Jurich has said in recent months he will financially support Strong, currently making a $2.3 million salary, whatever he needs to stay at the school. Six of the highest-paid coaches entering this year in college football belong to the SEC.

Strong is 23-15 since 2010 at Louisville, and previously spent time at South Carolina, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

Gene Chizik was fired Sunday after four years at Auburn.

Jacobs undeterred by high-priced coaches

AUBURN, Ala. – In a span of four years, Tommy Tuberville and Gene Chizik are billing Auburn more than $12 million in buyout money.

That figure will be subsidized if and when Chizik accepts future employment elsewhere, but still, it’s a hefty set of paydays for coaches not working for the university.

Auburn’s not alone. According to research by USA Today’s Dan Wolken – utilizing the newspaper’s coaching salary database – six SEC schools have changed coaches, costing them a combined $26.5 million in severance packages.

“It definitely heightens the pressure to win. There’s more money at stake in terms of ticket revenue and bowl revenue and TV revenue and advertisements,” Nathaniel Grow, an assistant professor legal studies in Georgia’s Terry College of Business, told the Ledger-Enquirer last week.

“You maximize the revenue through winning, so definitely it has caused a more pressure-packed environment for coaches at high-level programs like this. And then, relatedly, it definitely puts more pressure on administrators, the athletic director, maybe all the way up to the university president to have a winning football program, make sure the fans are satisfied with the direction of the program.”

Athletic director Jay Jacobs isn’t worried about the dollars and cents of this next hire, pointing out the spending in college football has never been higher.

“We won’t avoid candidates seeking a buyout if it’s the right candidate for Auburn,” Jacobs said Sunday. “Talking about the buyout, you have to remember on our side, back when we negotiated Gene’s contract after the 2010 year, it was the first national championship in 53 years. He was 22-5. I believe at the time, he was in the top 15 in buyouts. This year’s buyout, I’m not sure it’s even in the top 20.

“That’s the market in which we are living. We are going to go out and get the best candidate possible. Whatever is necessary to make it work, we will make it work.”

Fond memories: Junior defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker recounted his earlier memories of Chizik, as a recruit out of Warner Robins (Ga.) High School.

“I actually told coach Chizik I wasn’t coming to Auburn. All right?” said Whitaker, who was also selecting from Georgia and Miami. “So I’m like,  ‘Hey, listen, I’m not coming, I thank you.’ And he kept calling me in the car, so I was ignoring him. He went on my answering machine, he said, ‘Listen, I don’t’ care if you keep ignoring me, I’m going to keep calling you. They’re going to have to put me in the box because I’m going to bring you to Auburn.’

“We ended up talking and I remember him coming to my high school, and coming in with his head up proud, met everybody, shook hands with everybody.”

Man up: Jacobs was asked Sunday if he had a preference between an offensive or defensive coordinator.

“Not really. Just physical,” Jacobs said. “Statistically speaking, the defensive teams get to the SEC championship. Now you see all the spread offenses and all the people scoring points. Can you find a fine balance for that?”

SEC Power Rankings: Bowl Season Edition

AUBURN, Ala. – I need a break from the words “Gene Chizik”, “sources”, “buyout”, “decommit”, “Bobby Petrino”, “sources” again, “Kirby Smart”, “Jetgate”, “SportsbyBrooks”, “Charles Barkley”, “show cause penalty” and “sources” a third time just because, yeah, seriously, it’s getting repetitive.

We interrupt this lead-in to inform you because I successfully used all those words in one sentence, and tagged this blog post as such, this is now the eighth-highest clicked article in Internet history. (The first seven all just list the word ‘Tebow’ over and over again.)

Anyway, you’ll find none of those words in my final SEC Power Rankings of the year. Enjoy the reprieve. I know I will. It won’t last long.

By the way, unless a new coach is named Friday (don’t do it, Auburn), I will be at the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, joined by L-E preps writer David Mitchell (@leprepsports) and supplementing the already-fine coverage of Mark Edwards (who covers Alabama at @DailyEdwards) and Seth Emerson (Georgia, @SethEmerson). So follow along for that.

It should be a fantastic game. At least, I was told so by reports from an unnamed source with information close to the situation.

Aaron Brenner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 

**All rankings BCS**

1) No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC); Last week, 1

Last week: beat Auburn 49-0

The back eight seems impenetrable. There’s really any number of ‘player of the year’ candidates on this team, which I will go ahead and name for each of the SEC squads. C.J. Mosley, Dee Milliner, Robert Lester, it’s just an uber-dominant defense. Good luck out there, Aaron Murray.

Next: SEC Championship Game vs. No. 3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1), 3 p.m. CT | CBS

Player of the Year: C.J. Mosley, jr., LB

Bowl prediction: BCS National Championship

2) No. 3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1); LW, 2

Last week: beat Georgia Tech 42-10

Oh, but Murray will have plenty of help. Todd Gurley’s the SEC’s best back, Keith Marshall’s the best backup back in the league, Jarvis Jones is maybe the best linebacker in the country. This should be a phenomenal game at the Georgia Dome.

Next: SEC Championship Game vs. No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1), 3 p.m. CT | CBS

Player of the Year: Aaron Murray, jr., QB

Bowl prediction: Capital One Bowl

3) No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 SEC); LW, 3

Last week: beat Missouri 59-29

Manziel, not Boyziel. Despite not speaking once to the media during the year, he’ll handle himself brilliantly in New York City a week from Saturday.

Player of the Year: Johnny Manziel, fr., QB

Bowl prediction: Cotton Bowl

4) No. 4 Florida (11-1, 7-1); LW, 5

Last week: beat No. 10 Florida State 37-26

The Gators have not allowed a single rushing gain longer than 24 yards all year. Filthy. And now they just hung 37 on the Seminoles in Tallahassee? You earned your Sugar Bowl trip.

Player of the Year: Marcus Roberson, so., DB

Bowl prediction: Sugar Bowl

5) No. 7 LSU (10-2, 6-2); LW, 4

Last week: beat Arkansas 20-13

So it sounds like Les Miles will not leave the Bayou for a ridiculous, bluff-type offer at Arkansas. Hopefully LSU gave Miles that raise because he earned it, not because a desperate league rival wants to play poker. Said LSU athletic director Joe Alleva Wednesday: “It’s been my plan all along to give coach a longer contract, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Player of the Year: Kevin Minter, jr., LB

Bowl prediction: Outback Bowl

6) No. 10 South Carolina (10-2, 6-2); LW, 6

Last week: beat No. 11 Clemson 27-17

The Gators and Gamecocks are basically twins this year. Except, well, Florida won the matchup. Which is why South Carolina is the sixth best team in its own conference, and can’t even book a New Year’s Day date in a historically top-heavy league.

Player of the Year: Jadeveon Clowney, so., DE

Bowl prediction: Chick-Fil-A Bowl

 

*****big gap here*****

 

7) Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3); LW, 7

Last week: beat Wake Forest 55-21

If I were to tell you two teams in the SEC have six-game overall winning streaks (currently the longest in the conference), and gave you five guesses, I bet many of you would miss one. Georgia is one. The other is not Texas A&M, it’s not LSU, it’s not South Carolina. The Vanderbilt Commodores have not lost since losing gamely to Florida on Oct. 13.  They’ll trounce someone in a lesser bowl.

Player of the Year: Jordan Matthews, jr., WR

Bowl prediction: Gator Bowl

8) Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5); LW, 9

Last week: beat Mississippi State 41-24

Great bounceback effort after a three-game losing streak, sealing that long-awaited bowl eligibility. How about Bo Wallace, teetering on losing his job earlier this year, and responding by throwing five touchdowns in his biggest game of the year?

Player of the Year: Donte Moncrief, so., WR

Bowl prediction: Liberty Bowl

9) Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4); LW, 8

Last week: lost to Ole Miss 41-24

Chad Bumphis, 12 TDs. For a defensive conference, this certainly was a year for top receivers. Very little momentum though for the Bulldogs, losers of four in their past five.

Player of the Year: Darius Slay, sr., DB

Bowl prediction: Music City Bowl

10) Arkansas (4-8, 2-6); LW, 10

Last week: lost to No. 7 LSU 20-13

Eight months, the school has had, to make a decision on a long-term hire. Offering Les Miles the world shows you where the Razorbacks are at. This is by far the weakest of the three remaining SEC openings.

Player of the Year: Cobi Hamilton, sr., WR

11) Missouri (5-7, 2-6); LW, 11

Last week: lost to No. 9 Texas A&M 59-29

Talk about slinking away quietly. Not a lot of positives to build on going into year two of SEC football. Maybe the Big Ten should have gotten a longer look.

Player of the Year: Kendial Lawrence, sr., RB

12) Tennessee (5-7, 1-7); LW, 12

Last week: beat Kentucky 37-17

Next season hinges heavily on Tyler Bray’s decision whether or not to return.

Player of the Year: Cordarrelle Patterson, jr., WR

13) Auburn (3-9, 0-8); LW, 13

Last week: lost to No. 2 Alabama 49-0

“The Auburn people don’t deserve that.” said a certain former head coach. Was he talking about the three-hour slaughter just finished on the field, or the three-month disaster preceding it?

Player of the Year: Tre Mason, so., RB

14) Kentucky (2-10, 0-8); LW, 14

Last week: lost to Tennessee 37-17

Best of luck, Mark Stoops. If you last three years, it’ll be a modern marvel.

Player of the Year: Avery Williamson, jr., LB

Eight SEC players named AFCA All-America

Eight SEC players were named All-Americans Wednesday by the American Football Coaches Association, including an eye-popping six defenders.

And the conference could have made it even more, except for the coaches pushing for a couple of key Clemson players.

Alabama led the charge with linebacker C.J. Mosley, cornerback Dee Milliner and offensive guard Chance Warmack. But top center Barrett Jones was supplanted by Clemson snapper Dalton Freeman.

Texas A&M landed a pair with defensive end Damontre Moore and offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, though Heisman candidate Johnny Manziel – a redshirt freshman – was outvoted at quarterback by Clemson veteran Tajh Boyd.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, LSU safety Eric Reid and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney rounded out the SEC’s hefty representation on the defensive side of the ball.

Here’s a link to the entire 2012 AFCA FBS All-America team.

What becomes of Auburn’s assistant coaches? Most, if not all, will probably go elsewhere

AUBURN, Ala. — There’s a distinct likelihood none of the nine Auburn assistant coaches are back in 2013.

That’s the nature of regime changes. The coordinators and position coaches have been offered the opportunity to stick around in the interim by athletic director Jay Jacobs, and none have publicly announced their departure. Multiple assistants were spotted at the football facilities Tuesday — business as usual.

Whomever Auburn chooses to replace Gene Chizik, to be clear, will have the final say on who stays and who goes. In fact, Auburn University’s preliminary release announcing Chizik’s firing Sunday had already dictated the total staff’s buyout to tally $11.09 million (a figure which will be mitigated by future employment.

Here is a brief look at the status of the Tigers’ assistants, who collectively are running the show for the time being:

JAY BOULWARE, special teams coordinator/tight ends

Age: 40

Salary: $255,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 16

What his future holds: Boulware is the only man who’s been on staff all six years Chizik has been a head coach. During that time, Boulware’s been an above-average special teams coach, so Chizik’s replacement would be wise to give him a look. Otherwise, maybe Boulware goes back somewhere in his native Texas.

JEFF GRIMES, offensive line

Age: 44

Salary: $400,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 15

What his future holds: Grimes’ unit was plagued by youth and rocky health this year. If Grimes does leave – and he was spotted at the football complex Tuesday – perhaps he hooks up with beleaguered Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, his college coach at UTEP in the late 1980s, who could be looking for work himself.

SCOT LOEFFLER, offensive coordinator

Age: 38

Salary: $500,000

Seasons at Auburn: 1

Seasons in college coaching: 13

What his future holds: His first foray into running a major-college offense did not go well. Auburn finished its season averaging 305 yards a game, ranked 118th in the country and dead-last in the SEC. Quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier couldn’t stop getting sacked, Clint Moseley couldn’t throw downfield or stop getting hurt, and Jonathan Wallace couldn’t score against Georgia or Auburn. Probably a one-and-done on the Plains.

CURTIS LUPER, running backs/recruiting coordinator

Age: 46

Salary: $330,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 15

What his future holds: Four seasons, four 1,000-yard tailbacks. Not too shabby. Luper could help establish Tre Mason as perhaps the SEC’s top runner. Luper is also hard at work to keep this No. 10-ranked recruiting class of 2013 together with Scotch tape. He is reportedly on the road soon, which would indicate Auburn’s not worried about NCAA investigations. Luper’s son, Auburn High quarterback Curtis Echols-Luper, is committed to Texas A&M.

WILLIE MARTINEZ, defensive backs

Age: 49

Salary: $255,000

Seasons at Auburn: 1

Seasons in college coaching: 22

What his future holds: Like Grimes, inexperience and injury proved a nasty combination. Only one interception by the secondary is brutal, but at least the DBs contained top receivers, and Joshua Holsey and Jonathan Jones appear to have solid futures. Martinez is tied to the hip with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, as former colleagues at Georgia. He’s well-traveled, logging time at 11 different institutions since 1985.

MIKE PELTON, defensive line

Age: 41

Salary: $300,000

Seasons at Auburn: 2

Seasons in college coaching: 12

What his future holds: The lone Auburn grad of the group, he may want to stay specifically for that reason. Problem is, his linemen were disastrous in 2012 – the ends were inconsistent, and the tackles were underwhelming. If junior Corey Lemonier doesn’t leave to test the NFL waters, this unit is more enticing. Pelton likely won’t get a third chance to coach ‘em up.

TROOPER TAYLOR, wide receivers/assistant head coach

Age: 42

Salary: $425,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 19

What his future holds: He’s essentially the godfather of the existing and future players. Verbal commits have hinted if Trooper goes, they go. His value is less in his coaching duties – the wide receivers not named Emory Blake were nonexistent in their impact – and more in his recruiting connections. Along with Luper, if Auburn has signed off on them traveling, the reported NCAA inquiries might not be serious. Players love him, but his backward-hat, towel-waving act may be wearing thin on fans.

TOMMY THIGPEN, linebackers

Age: 42

Salary: $320,000

Seasons at Auburn: 4

Seasons in college coaching: 13

What his future holds: Tackling continues to be an issue regardless of the coordinator, which could be a question for Thigpen if he stays on. He’s another employee whose stock remains high on the recruiting front. His kinship with Gus Malzahn could be a factor if the former Auburn offensive coordinator is brought back to the Plains.

BRIAN VANGORDER, defensive coordinator

Age: 53

Salary: $850,000

Seasons at Auburn: 1

Seasons in college/NFL coaching: 24

What his future holds: “I’m more interested in getting better and making sure our culture is one to play championship football in the future.” That was part of VanGorder’s impassioned rant Oct. 13 after Ole Miss hung 41 on the Tigers. He once was spared blame for this horrendous season when the defense at least played somewhat capably against Clemson and LSU. But the way Auburn finished — letting Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama positively have their way with the Tigers — casts doubt on whether VanGorder makes sense to get a reprieve in 2012. He’s got too much cachet not to land on his feet if he is dismissed, but overseeing the worst defense in school history (420.5 yards) is a black mark on the resume.