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August 30, 2013

THE WAIT IS OVER: Predictions on games around the country this weekend

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Everyone likes making predictions.

You do. I do. It’s a fun diversion, especially when you don’t have to worry about losing any money on the outcome of the games. (Well, at least I don’t.) Each Friday afternoon, I’ll make my picks on 15 different games around the country, with scores included for each one. And yes, I’ll even pick Auburn’s game every week, too. (I’m already preparing myself for derision the first time I pick against the Tigers. Such is life.)Auburn Spring Football

Now, to the picks. (Please note that all times listed are Eastern. Thanks in advance.)

Strictly SEC

Toledo at No. 10 Florida, 12:21 p.m.

This game might sound like an easy win for the Gators on paper, but don’t underestimate the Rockets. They return three big-time playmakers in running back David Fluellen, receiver Bernard Reedy and quarterback Terrance Owens. Fluellen is undoubtedly the top threat after rushing for 1,498 yards last season. And be aware Florida will also have five starters missing from the game due to injury, with right tackle Chaz Green and right guard Jon Halapio gone as well as running back Matt Jones. Those losses don’t help a unit already lacking much of a punch.

Florida will be fortunate to escape by the skin of its teeth.

Black picks: Gators 24, Rockets 21

Rice at No. 7 Texas A&M, 1 p.m.

Most years, this game would draw little attention. Then Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel went and won himself a Heisman last year. Throw in all of his off-the-field issues since the end of last season — and the fact he’ll be sitting out the first half of this game due to “secondary violations” of the NCAA rules on allowing an athlete’s likeness to be used for commercial purposes — and anyone who calls themselves a college football fan will be following the happenings in College Station closely. Has the second half of a regular season game ever been more anticipated?

It might not be competitive, but it will be compelling.

Black picks: Aggies 52, Owls 10

Mississippi State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (at Reliant Stadium in Houston), 3:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs’ top three pass-catchers from last season are gone. That’s not good news knowing that you normally have to score points in bunches to beat the Pokes.

Black picks: Cowboys 41, Bulldogs 20

Louisiana-Lafayette at Arkansas, 4 p.m.

“Real American football” gets off to a good start in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday afternoon, but the Ragin’ Cajuns will make them work for it until midway through the fourth quarter.

Black picks: Razorbacks 34, Ragin’ Cajuns 24

Virginia Tech vs. No. 1 Alabama (at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta), 5:30 p.m.

These ain’t your grandfather’s (or your father’s) Hokies. Virginia Tech isn’t ranked and is coming off a lackluster 7-6 showing last season. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, resemble the program people would recall during the halcyon days of Bear Bryant, which is bad news for Frank Beamer’s crew in this contest. Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler — who, you might remember, held the same position at Auburn last year — will once again “match wits” against Nick Saban and Kirby Smart.

This won’t end well.

Black picks: Crimson Tide 41, Hokies 10

Austin Peay at Tennessee, 6 p.m.

The Volunteers help Butch Jones begin his tenure at Tennessee with a ‘W.’ It only gets tougher from here, though, as they’ll have faced Florida and Oregon (on the road in both) before September is over.

Black picks: Volunteers 38, Governors 14

Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky (at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.), 7 p.m.

My head is urging me not to pick against Bobby Petrino. But something tells me that somehow, someway, first-year coach Mark Stoops isn’t going to let the Wildcats lose this game. And for his sake, the result better not be a one-sided loss, lest he wants to hear from a fan base that will wonder why the Wildcats didn’t give Petrino — a former Louisville coach who tortured Kentucky during his time there — a chance to run their program since he was in the market for a job during the offseason.

Black picks: Wildcats 42, Hilltoppers 38

Murray State at Missouri, 7 p.m.

After an injury-plagued 2012 season, Tigers quarterback James Franklin gets back on the right track with this layup game in the season opener. Here’s another mini-prediction: Dorial Beckham-Green goes for 200-plus receiving yards and two touchdowns in this one.

Black picks: Tigers 55, Racers 14

No. 20 TCU vs. No. 12 LSU (at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas), 9 p.m.

Both teams have question marks on offense. For LSU, it’s whether running back Jeremy Hill will start after being reinstated to the team during the offseason — or will he play at all? Tigers head coach Les Miles has played coy all week. TCU still hasn’t announced which quarterback — senior Casey Pachall or sophomore Trevone Boykin — will take the field with the first-team unit. These schools have always been known for their defenses, and it should be no different this year, even with LSU losing eight defenders to the NFL after last season.

It should be a good one, but when in doubt, go with the SEC team. (It usually pays off, after all.)

Black picks: Tigers 31, Horned Frogs 20

Other National Games of Some Renown

Louisiana-Monroe at Oklahoma, 7 p.m.

As many recall, the Warhawks came within a whisker of starting 3-0 last season, dropping Arkansas in the season opener and suffering close losses to Auburn (in overtime) and Baylor (which won 47-42). They’ll push the Sooners for a half or so in this one, but “Big Game Bob” Stoops normally takes care of business in regular season games at home, posting an incredible 81-5  (94.2 percent) record since taking over in 1999.

Black picks: Sooners 52, Warhawks 24

No. 19 Boise State at Washington, 10 p.m.

Isn’t absence supposed to make the heart grow fonder? Heck, these two teams closed last season against each other in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas, with the Broncos coming out on top 28-26. Obviously, Boise State head coach Chris Petersen’s record (84-8 in eight seasons) is impossible to knock, but his team isn’t unbeatable. In fact, it lost its opening game last season to Michigan State. It says here that the Huskies, who return 20 starters from 2012, make that to two years in a row.

Black picks: Huskies 38, Broncos 28

No. 22 Northwestern at California, 10:30 p.m.

Sonny Dykes is an offensive whiz, as he proved last year when his Louisiana Tech squad led the nation in scoring at 51.5 points per game. In the wide-open, pass-happy Pac-12, he’s the perfect fit to turn the Golden Bears around. It just won’t happen against Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who is 7-0 in season openers. This should be a whale of game, but the bigger question is this: Will you stay up to watch it?

Black picks: Wildcats 30, Golden Bears 27

No. 11 Florida State at Pittsburgh (Monday), 8 p.m.

Mark it down: Hueytown, Ala., native (and new Seminoles signal-caller) Jameis Winston will make a few highlight reel plays on Monday en route to leading Florida State to a season-opening victory on the road.

Black picks: Seminoles 31, Panthers 10

The Game You Really Care About

Washington State at Auburn, 7 p.m.

For those who joined the live chat on Thursday, this pick won’t come as a surprise: I predicted the Tigers will win by two touchdowns in Gus Malzahn’s debut as the head coach on the Plains. Yes, the Cougars pass-heavy attack will test a Tigers secondary weakened due to mitigating factors (Jonathan Jones’ injury, Demetruce McNeal’s dismissal). As the game goes on, however, Auburn’s physicality up front will wear its opponent down, creating holes for Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Nick Marshall to gash the Cougars for big plays.

And since everyone always asks about Marshall, I’ll say he ends with just over 300 yards of total offense: 217 passing yards (one touchdown, no interceptions) and 84 rushing yards (one touchdown).

Toomer’s Corner should be rocking.

Black picks: Tigers 31, Cougars 17

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m.

I’ve gone back-and-forth on this matchup. The teams are nearly identical: great on offense and mediocre on defense. Points should be aplenty, but I’ll take the Bulldogs in a nail-biter.

(Though if it comes down to a field goal, Georgia will likely be kicking itself — pardon the pun — since starting kicker Marshall Morgan will likely miss the game due to an offseason arrest for boating under the influence. As Steve Spurrier would point out, Morgan kept up a long tradition of Georgia players doing stupid things to get them suspended for early-season games.)

Black’s pick: Bulldogs 45, Tigers 38

August 28, 2013

7 at 7: Taking a stroll around the SEC

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — In case you didn’t know by now, it’s Wednesday, folks.SEC_new_logo

(Cue up the annoying Geico “Hump Day!!” camel ad. I’m just not a fan. Hope that doesn’t offend anyone, and if it does … well, deal with it.)

But back to more important matters. Now that it’s just three days away from Auburn’s season opener, we’ve already settled into a routine here at War Eagle Extra as far as weekly content is concerned. I’ll post the finalized schedule soon enough, but until that happens, take note: Every Wednesday, “7 at 7″ will consist of links from around the SEC, both Auburn and otherwise.

Without further ado, I give you today’s batch of items from around the league:

1. To keep with a time-honored tradition (dating back to last month), I’ll begin by shamelessly self-promoting the things posted to the blog the previous day, beginning with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s declaration that Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne are neck-and-neck at the top of the running back depth chart heading into Saturday. We also had wire-to-wire video coverage of Malzahn’s 16-minute press conference as well as a feature on left guard Alex Kozan. Oh, and don’t forget Tuesday’s notebook, which detailed Malzahn’s intrigue regarding Nick Marshall’s debut in an Auburn uniform.

2. Josh Kendall, the South Carolina beat writer for The State in Columbia, S.C., had an interesting article on Tuesday. As hard as it is to believe, the Gamecocks have only five seniors (!!!) listed on this year’s roster. Kendall explains how that came to be. And ESPN.com SEC blogger Chris Low had a good piece on Kelcy Quarles, one of South Carolina’s “other” defensive linemen, who is trying to do whatever he can to escape the long shadow of Jadeveon Clowney.

3. You’ve probably heard about the GQ profile on Nick Saban. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s your chance. It doesn’t disappoint, making Saban out to be the maniac everyone would think given his normal joyless demeanor.

4. Just how good is Robert Nkemdiche, the unquestioned top recruit in the Class of 2013? Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger tries to find an answer.

5. Speaking of highly-regarded recruits, LSU picked up a massive commitment for its 2015 class on Monday. The Tigers were able to keep hometown running back Nicholas Brossette to stay in Baton Rouge. An Auburn target, he also had offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Tennessee, UCLA and Vanderbilt — just to name a few — after he rushed for a school-record 2,118 yards and 44 touchdowns as a sophomore last season.

6. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops announced that the Wildcats will play two quarterbacks against Western Kentucky in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday. It consists of the sophomore pair of Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow. And yes, they have settled on a starter — Stoops just refused to reveal it to reporters.

7. Georgia will play in this week’s marquee game when it heads on the road Saturday night to square off against Clemson. For Bulldog tight end Jay Rome, it will be an opportunity to beat his father’s alma mater. (Stan Rome lettered in football in 1975, but he was an even better basketball player, as he still ranks 14th on the Tigers’ all-time scoring list.)

And since I normally like to end these with a video when I can, why not embed a video of one player leaping over another one? Besides, when you have a video like that, I think you’d probably have to find a reason not to post it, right? My colleague at The Telegraph in Macon, Seth Emerson, talked to linebacker (and Harris County graduate) Jordan Jenkins about his leap over freshman running back Brendan Douglas during one of the Bulldogs’ preseason scrimmages.

The video is provided below. And it didn’t end up being all for show — Jenkins’ display of athleticism led quarterback Christian LeMay to throw the ball right into the hands of linebacker Amarlo Herrera.

July 25, 2013

SEC Preseason Rankings: Day 5

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextraSEC_new_logo

It’s Day 5 of our preseason power rankings poll among teams in the SEC, which will end Saturday as the two teams at the top of the league entering the fall are unveiled. Until then, we’ll count down the teams, two at a time, from worst to first. The format will involve a “best-case/worst-case” scenario for each team, taking our cues from former War Eagle Extra beat writer Andy Bitter’s piece from three years ago.

With eight teams down, there are six to go. How will the rankings shake out from here?

Let’s continue answering that question now. (And please, as Bitter said in his preseason power rankings article from 2010, remember all scenarios “are meant to be hyperbolic.) …

6. FLORIDA

Is Will Muschamp done talking yet? He is? OK. We’re good then. All jokes aside, Muschamp delivered arguably the longest opening statement from a coach in SEC Media Days history, clocking in at just over 2,400 words. In it, he went over every change to his coaching staff and every single position on the Gators’ depth chart both offensively and defensively. I’m not making this up.

To save a lot of time, know this: Florida has to replace four defensive playmakers (safety Matt Elam, defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd and linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins) and find someone to match the production of departed running back Mike Gillislee, who ran for nearly half (1,152) of the Gators’ yards on the ground last season (2,445). Oh, and Florida has to discover some semblance of a passing game, after it ranked 114th in the country (and last in the SEC) in 2012 with a miniscule average of 146.31 yards per contest.

The Gators ability to find those answers (or not) will decide whether 2013 is more like Muschamp’s debut season (7-6) in 2011 or last year (11-2).Florida_Gators_logo

  • Best-case scenario: The Gators find a way to win in spite of their pop-gun offense for the second consecutive season. Florida opens the season with four straight victories, beating rivals Miami and Tennessee along the way. LSU hands Florida its first loss of the year in Tiger Stadium in Week 5, but the Gators brush it off to beat Missouri on the road the following week. For the third frustrating year in a row, though, Georgia knocks off Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. Motivated not to lose another game for the rest of the year, the Gators go out and do just that, beating Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Georgia Southern and Florida State to close out the regular season. In a three-way tiebreaker with the Bulldogs and Gamecocks for the SEC East title, it’s the Gators who head to Atlanta to square off against Texas A&M. Just like last season, Florida has an answer for Johnny Manziel, as the Gators drop the undefeated Aggies 27-14 en route to their first SEC title since 2008. In the Sugar Bowl, Florida redeems itself for a pitiful showing against Louisville a year ago. In New Orleans, the Gators gum up the Clemson Tigers’ potent offense, slowing down quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins in a 20-14 victory. Riding high, the Gators sign a top-five recruiting class for 2014, arming themselves for their first national title run under Muschamp the following fall. Gators’ faithful enjoy watching former coach Urban Meyer, now at Ohio State, get torched by Stanford in the Rose Bowl 48-20. Florida fans get further enjoyment from laughing at their two arch-rivals, as Georgia is waxed in the Outback Bowl (losing to Wisconsin) and Florida State falls on its face in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (losing to Ole Miss).
  • Worst-case scenario: Florida’s lack of offensive punch finally catches up to it this fall. The Gators escape in the opener against the Toledo Rockets, a tougher-than-their-name-suggests foe from the MAC. Things don’t work out nearly as well in ensuing weeks, as Florida falls to in-state rival Miami and serve as the first signature win of Butch Jones’ tenure at Tennessee in Game 3. The Gators get their record back over .500 (3-2) following victories over Kentucky and Arkansas, but spend the last seven games of the regular season alternating losses (LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State) and wins (Missouri, Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern). A 6-6 record earns a bowl berth, but the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., is far from Florida’s idea of a “dream destination” for the postseason. And the Gators’ play bears that out, as they lose to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and their triple-option offense 41-10. People start to question whether Muschamp’s physical, grinding style is fit for a Florida program that was built on the foundation of high-flying offensive attacks. It doesn’t help matters that Meyer makes it to the national title game in his second season at Ohio State, either. The Gators’ sign an underwhelming recruiting class for 2014. And Florida fans have to live through an offseason of taunts from its two most hated rivals in Georgia (which won the national title for the first time since 1980) and Florida State (which won the Orange Bowl for the second straight year).

5. LSU

Les Miles was his typical self at SEC Media Days — funny, random, passionate and serious all rolled into one.

The LSU coach went on another spiel about the scheduling inequities that exist in the SEC, as this season will mark the seventh time since 2000 the Tigers play Georgia and Florida in the same season, two teams which combined to go 14-2 in conference play last season. (Miles, of course, could only shake his head when talk turned to Alabama, which gets to play Kentucky and Tennessee, the two teams that finished at the bottom of the SEC East last year after going a combined 1-15 in the SEC.)

Though the Tigers lose a boatload of talent to the NFL every year, the number of defections after last season was unusually high even for them. The defense had seven starters jump to the pros, as well as a few backups who were key contributors. LSU does bring back four starters in linebackers Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones and a pair of players in the secondary in cornerback Jalen Mills and Craig Loston. But the Tigers have to replace the entire front four, including the fantastic defensive end duo of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery along with tackles Bennie Logan and Josh Downs.

If quarterback Zach Mettenberger and LSU’s stable of running backs don’t help prop up a young defense, 2013 could mark the first time in Miles’ nine seasons in Baton Rouge the “Bayou Bengals” don’t win at least eight games.LSU-Logo

  • Best-case scenario: LSU shows that once again, no amount of talent lost can slow its program down, as it tosses aside what was thought to be a game TCU squad in the season opener in Dallas, winning 38-17. The Tigers follow it up with three more easy victories, rolling over Alabama-Birmingham, Kent State and Auburn, all within the confines of Tiger Stadium. But LSU suffers its first — and what turns out to be, only — setback of 2013, falling to Georgia on the road in a classic affair. The lead changes hands six times, and on three occasions in the final period alone. But Todd Gurley, the Bulldogs sensational sophomore running back, comes up with the play of the game, breaking multiple tackles on his way to the end zone from 32 yards out with less than two minutes to go, helping Georgia hold on for a 34-28 victory. LSU, learning from the mistakes it made in that loss, goes undefeated for the rest of the season, beating Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M along the way. In the SEC Championship Game, LSU stymies South Carolina 30-14 to clinch a spot in the national title game. Ironically, the Tigers face off against the Ohio State Buckeyes, the same team they beat when they last won the national title in 2007. Though this Ohio State team is better than the 2007 edition, it means little, as the Tigers win 28-17, picking up their fourth national title — their second under Miles — and extending the SEC’s stranglehold on the crystal football to eight years and counting. In a stroke of luck, LSU doesn’t lose a single underclassman who has the chance to go pro, as all elect to stay for the chance to win the first back-to-back national championships in school history. And of course, the momentum from the national title carries over into National Signing Day, as the Tigers sign the country’s top-rated class. Meanwhile, “Public Enemy No. 1″ in Louisiana, Alabama coach Nick Saban, is unable to get his team to play to the level of its predecessors. The Crimson Tide finish 9-4 after losing to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl.
  • Worst-case scenario: The Tigers’ defense is ill-prepared for a tough opener, as they lose to the Horned Frogs in Cowboys Stadium 34-24. LSU pulls it back together for the next three games, though it has a hard time slipping past Auburn in its SEC opener in Week 4. The “other Tigers” push the Bayou Bengals until the fourth quarter, when Mettenberger hooks up with Odell Beckham on a 56-yard touchdown pass to seal the game and the 28-20 victory. The Tigers then fall to 1-1 in conference play as Georgia and Aaron Murray throw all over Sanford Stadium in a 42-17 thrashing. LSU gets back to its winning ways one week later as it beats Mississippi State on the road, but at 4-2, the Tigers reach the peak of their winning percentage for the season. They lose consecutive games to Florida and Ole Miss, then get back over .500 after sweeping away Furman. The Tigers lose two in a row once more as Alabama and Texas A&M beat them in back-to-back weeks. LSU recovers to capture “The Golden Boot” against Arkansas for the third straight time, but a 6-6 showing in the regular season is far from what the Tigers or their fans expect. LSU is going to the postseason, as it heads to the Advocare V100 Bowl, also known as the “Independence Bowl.” And, of course, it’s in Shreveport. A lethargic LSU goes through the motions and loses 24-10 to a Wake Forest squad just happy to be there. The offseason doesn’t treat the Tigers any better, as their top two receivers in Beckham and Jarvis Landry, as well as Outland Award finalist La’el Collins, leave early. LSU doesn’t sign its usual top-10 recruiting class, and arguably the top prospect in the country, New Orleans running back Leonard Fournette, pulls a stunner by deciding to go out of state after having the Tigers at the top of his list throughout his recruitment. And to top it off, the Tigers’ arch-nemesis and former coach, Saban, continues his dynastic run over the rest of college football, with Alabama winning its third straight national title.

SEC Media Days, Day 3: Mercurial Miles delivers once more

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra

HOOVER, Ala.Les Miles’ appearance at SEC Media Days on Thursday was a mix of the funny, the random and the serious.

Unpredictable LSU coach Les Miles put on another memorable performance at SEC Media Days on Thursday in Hoover, Ala.

Unpredictable LSU coach Les Miles put on another memorable performance at SEC Media Days on Thursday in Hoover, Ala.

All in all, it just another day in the park with the mercurial LSU head coach appropriately nicknamed “The Mad Hatter.”

Miles attempted to speak with an Australian accent and compared cell phones and computers to cars and horse-and-buggies. And that was just the beginning.

He started off his address to the media talking about what he has been up to during the offseason.

“(I) did some hyperbaric oxygen therapy research,” he said. “We have two of the most noteworthy doctors in that field, Paul Harch and Keith Van Meter, in Louisiana. I operated with Our Lady of the Lake as a hospital.”

From there, he touched on rappelling down a building in May to help an adoption campaign and how the Tigers brought back punter Jamie Keehn, a native Australian.

Miles even tried to pull off an “Aussie” accent.

“Well, Australians have a higher voice,” he said, doing his best to speak in something akin to the “Down Under” dialect. “When you just speak regular English, it doesn’t quite get across.”

Miles continued to keep things light when asked about banning players from using social media networks. In an interesting comparison, Miles reasoned that preventing them from accessing the technology available today would be as absurd as not allowing players to drive when cars started to replace horse-and-buggies.

He just wants his players to understand they are accountable for what they post on social media networks, and to do their best to avoid bringing bad publicity upon themselves or the football program.

“What we really are trying to do is educate and give them their brand and the responsibility that they have to understand that this is a media outlet,” he said. ” … (W)hen you put a piece of information that you think you’re just writing to your buddy, you are not.”

Miles took on a stern demeanor when the occasion called for it, though. When asked about the status of running back Jeremy Hill, the coach confirmed the sophomore was still suspended indefinitely following an arrest after a bar fight in Baton Rouge, La., this spring.

“I have a track record with really disciplining my team. We go through the same process that all of my guys will go through,” he said. “Frankly, you know, we’re gathering information as we go.”

Miles remains in contact with Hill “on a routine basis,” but the running back has not been allowed to participate in any team-related functions, be it meetings or workouts. In fact, Hill has not even been permitted to enter the football facility since his arrest.

“It’s been very hard on him, I know,” Miles said. “Again, we recognize there’s an ongoing process that’s going to be fulfilled. We’re going to sit on the perimeter and watch. We certainly are respectful of all that have responsibility there.”

Miles was equally resolute on the topic of scheduling. A reporter brought up that LSU will play Georgia and Florida in its SEC cross-divisional matchups this season, teams that combined to go 14-2 in conference play last season. Alabama, meanwhile, plays Tennessee and Kentucky, the East’s two cellar-dwellers in 2012 who went a combined 1-15.

Miles, not surprisingly, was far from pleased with the scheduling hand he was dealt.

“When I went to the SEC meetings, I brought all these statistics that were not necessarily listened to, but here is a ‘for instance,’” he said. “We play Georgia and Florida for the seventh time this year. I’d have to say there’s some other schools that have not played Georgia and Florida in the same year in my entire time here or since 2000.”

Regardless, Miles is once again ready for the challenge of playing against both the Bulldogs and Gators in the same season.

“I can’t hardly wait to play ‘em,” he said. “We think at LSU that maybe we’re the only team that can have that schedule year after year and play as well as we do.”

July 11, 2013

Auburn Season Preview: Scouting LSU

With the 2013 season drawing closer by the minute, it’s never too early to begin taking a look at Auburn’s opponents in the coming campaign. On Day 2, we continue with the “other” Tigers in the SEC West, LSU. Auburn will head to Baton Rouge, La., to face LSU its road opener in Week 4.

Who: LSU

When: Saturday, Sept. 21LSU-Logo

Where: Tiger Stadium (92,542) | Baton Rouge, La.

All-time series: LSU leads 26-20-1

When last they met: One week after pulling out a squeaker against Louisiana-Monroe to pick up its first win of the season, Auburn nearly did the same against LSU. It was not to be this time, as the visiting Tigers escaped with a 12-10 road victory in Jordan-Hare Stadium. And though the term “slugfest” is wrongly applied all too often, it fits the bill here. The defining play of the game came in the third quarter, when Auburn receiver Quan Bray muffed a punt return that LSU recovered. That miscue set up LSU kicker Drew Alleman’s go-ahead field goal to give the visitors a 12-10 advantage, and more importantly, proved to be the final points of the game. Auburn had one last chance to knock off the No. 2 team in the country after Alleman missed a 34-yard attempt with 39 seconds remaining. Auburn was only able to pick up one first down after the miss, however, and quarterback Kiehl Frazier’s last pass attempt was intercepted by LSU’s Tharold Simon as time expired.

The coach: Les Miles (85-21 in eight seasons at LSU; won national title in 2007; 113-42 record overall after going 28-21 in four seasons at Oklahoma State from 2001-04)

2012 record: 10-3, 6-2 SEC; tied for second in SEC West with Texas A&M (Lost in Chick-fil-A Bowl to Clemson, 25-24

Total offense: 374.23 ypg (85th in Division I, 10th in SEC)

Scoring offense: 29.77 ppg (58th, 8th)

Total defense: 307.62 ypg (8th, 3rd)

Scoring defense: 17.54 ppg (12th, 3rd)

2012 Year-in-Review: There are only a handful of programs in college football where a team can win 10 games in a season and still have the year be considered a disappointment. LSU is part of that select group. After once again being part of the preseason discussion regarding legitimate contenders to win the national title last year, the Tigers weren’t able to live up to the lofty expectations. LSU dropped a close one on the road against Florida, falling 14-6 to end its undefeated season. LSU’s other regular season defeat was another memorable game against Alabama, with the Crimson Tide coming up with some last-minute heroics courtesy of quarterback AJ McCarron and freshman running back T.J. Yeldon. The two connected on a 28-yard touchdown pass with 51 seconds remaining which allowed the top-ranked Crimson Tide to leave Tiger Stadium with a 21-17 victory. LSU’s third and final defeat of 2012 played out in similar come-from-ahead fashion to the Alabama loss. Leading Clemson 24-22 with just 1:39 to go in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, LSU was in good position, with the South Carolinian felines pinned back at their own 20-yard line. But Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd led his band of Tigers on a game-winning final drive, which was sealed by kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who booted a 37-yard field goal through the uprights as the clock hit zero. Again, 10 wins is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just far less than what the Tigers were hoping for at the outset of last season.

Biggest area of concern: This has probably been repeated, oh, about 100,000 times by now, but LSU has to replace six starters on defense next season, chief among them being the defensive end duo of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. Yes, it’s always crazy to question LSU, and especially the magic defensive coordinator John Chavis seems to be able to conjure up every season, regardless of the circumstances. This might be too big of an an obstacle for even Chavis to surmount, though. Along with Mingo and Montgomery, the Tigers lost another defensive end in senior Lavar Edwards, as well as defensive tackle Bennie Logan. Add linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid to that list of departures, too. (This isn’t even mentioning all-everything defensive back and playmaker extraordinaire Tyrann Mathieu, who didn’t play in 2012 after being dismissed from the team last August due to multiple failed drug tests. He did not attempt a comeback at LSU, instead electing to enter this year’s NFL Draft, where he was taken in the third round by the Arizona Cardinals with the 69th overall pick.) So there’s a lot to replace. Now we’ll just have to see if the Tigers can go out and defy the odds once more.

Key returning player/unit: Running backs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware both decided to forgo their senior seasons and put their names into the NFL Draft pool. No worries for the Tigers, though. Even without Ford and Ware, running back is one of the deepest positions on the team. With the pair of would-be seniors gone, it should open up more carries for junior Kenny Hilliard and senior Alfred Blue. Sophomore Jeremy Hill will factor into the rotation if he comes back to the team following his indefinite suspension, the result of getting into a fight at a Baton Rouge bar in April. The Tigers also welcomed Terrence Magee back into the fold after a one-year hiatus. Moved to wide receiver last season due to the depth at running back, the junior made his mark this spring, flashing the kind of versatility out of the backfield that will make him a weapon in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s pro-style offense.

Extra point: Miles began his LSU coaching career winning each of his first four bowl games, highlighted by the 2007 national championship game against Ohio State, which the Tigers won 38-24. But in his last four bowl appearances, things haven’t been quite as fruitful for the mercurial LSU coach, with the Tigers posting a 1-3 record in those matchups. (Lost the Capital One Bowl to Penn State in 2009; won the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M in 2010; fell to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game in 2011; defeated by Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year.)

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March 24, 2013

BACK TO THE FUTURE, Part IV: All the good, the bad & the ugly from LSU 12, Auburn 10 | plus an early preview of (who else?) LSU

Auburn Tigers entrance

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. – Remember dem fightin’ words? From LSU fullback J.C. Copeland, after his team pulverized Auburn 45-10 in the 2011 season?

“After the first couple of hits, everybody was just backing up. They didn’t want to hit at all … before I got to them, they just fell down and just laid on the ground.”

The Auburn defense heard those words repeated by its coaches all week leading up to the 2012 rematch. Daren Bates, Corey Lemonier, Demetruce McNeal … these people didn’t care for that smack talk one bit.

And they played like it.

It wasn’t a victory for the home team six months ago, but Auburn’s 12-10 defeat proved the Tigers had a real SEC defense. Granted, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was wobbly in his first road SEC start, but LSU’s running game had absolutely nothing going for the majority of a Saturday night fight at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Auburn offense … well, that too was ineffective. So, if you like the words “field position”, this was the game for you.

Oh, and Copeland will be a senior next fall. Auburn gets one more shot at him, and LSU, in the rematch six months from Thursday night, down in Baton Rouge. A preview of that game follows our look back at last year’s nail-biter.

LSU 12 Auburn 10 Ware

LSU 12, AUBURN 10 ~ Sept. 22, 2012, ESPN

Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

The Good

Auburn opens the game three-and-out, which includes three passes – a 4-yard loss and two incompletions. Yet, here’s what ESPN color commentator Todd Blackledge says: “I know they didn’t get a first down, but I think Kiehl Frazier looked comfortable on those first three plays.” He’s right. Frazier, who had a phone conversation slash pep talk with Jason Campbell earlier in the week, looked more poised and confident from the get-go. More on that in the first ‘Bad’ entry.

DE Dee Ford really attacked the run in this game. I wrote yesterday he’s only got two sacks in 24 career SEC games, but he did impact this football game in other ways.

On the first-quarter goal-line fumble by LSU, DT Jeffrey Whitaker was looming right on top of backup center Elliott Porter, and Whitaker was the Tiger who fell on the loose ball when Porter mistook a routine snap for a shotgun delivery.

LSU converted four of its first five 3rd-down attempts, before DE Corey Lemonier decides he’s had enough of that. Lemonier just flings quarterback Zach Mettenberger to the ground, DT Angelo Blackson falls on it, and suddenly Auburn’s got excellent field position.

Immediately, a reverse pitch to RB Tre Mason goes for 26 around left end, aided by LT Greg Robinson’s excellent block. RB Onterio McCalebb punches it in two plays later, getting Auburn right back in the game down 9-7.

This play was fun: tailback Spencer Ware, meet DT Gabe Wright’s left forearm. Wright flat-knocks Ware back, allowing a tackle for loss by LB Daren Bates … Mr. Right Place Right Time, Wright celebrates by showing his sideline two tickets to the gun show.

Gabe Wright flex

Wright later had another line-of-scrimmage pass block, getting his big left wrist on a Mettenberger throw.

Then on 3rd-and-6, Mettenberger scrambles looking for the first-down marker, but SS Jermaine Whitehead arrives first with a vicious hit. Whitehead later had some very nice tight deep coverage on a slant-and-go, forcing an Odell Beckham Jr. drop.

FS Erique Florence saw his longest action of the year on this night, absorbing a big hit from Ware, mixing it up with Copeland, and launching his body at receiver Jarvis Landry to allow his mates to arrive and make a third-down stop. Clearly, Florence is physical enough to play safety.

LSU 12 Auburn 10 TherezieCB Robenson Therezie, too. Showed good instinct and tackling ability, though a nice wrap-up on wide receiver Kenny Hilliard was negated by CB Chris Davis’ face-mask away from the play.

CB Joshua Holsey, the true freshman who broke out this game, made a g-r-e-a-t breakup on Russell Shepard in the end zone, saving a touchdown.

FS Demetruce McNeal zooms in to stuff tailback Michael Ford. Where was this physical play all year? There was just no running room inside for LSU once Brian VanGorder made some adjustments.

Coaches raved about QB Jonathan Wallace’s toughness, and he showed it in the Wildcat package, with no fear against one of the meanest defenses around and getting blown up by safety Craig Loston. 

The Bad

On 2nd and 14, Frazier targets WR Sammie Coates in stride deep down the left sideline. The perfect spiral hits Coates directly in his outstretched hands. Coates simply did not catch the football, taking his eye off it for a brief second. Yeah, he took a little tug from LSU corner Tharold Simon, but Coates beat himself up in the next week’s press conference for not coming through in a big moment – and he should have.

Another day, another bad decision by Frazier, lobbing to TE Philip Lutzenkirchen and letting his tight end get roughed up by linebacker Luke Muncie for the pick.

Copeland has his way with LB Jake Holland in the first quarter, trucking the linebacker and clearing an 18-yard run for Ford.

Ware dodges Whitehead on a draw, pinballs through Holsey and CB Jonathan Mincy for a big gain to set up Ford’s touchdown run – beating DE LaDarius Owens to the edge on a goal-to-go run. Auburn’s run defense was shaky early.

Too much dancing in the backfield, Tre Mason. LSU doesn’t play games like that.

PR Quan Bray cost his team this game when he let a low-flying fair catch go through his hands, off his stomach and into a mass of LSU Tigers at midfield. That directly led to the game-winning field goal.

LSU 12 Auburn 10 Frazier

The Ugly

Awarded momentum on LSU’s goal-line fumble, Auburn gave it right back by playing into LSU’s hands. After Robinson’s false start to cram the line of scrimmage back to the 1, Mason hesitates on a stretch play, reading the eyes of defensive tackle Bennie Logan, who’s forcing C Reese Dismukes backwards. In fact, the offensive line was pushed back into the end zone, and when linebacker Kevin Minter knocks FB Jay Prosch to the ground, Mason trips over Prosch for an LSU safety.

Frazier’s helter-skelter improvisation continues to astound, and not in a good way, when Logan’s helmet knocks the ball loose on a rare Frazier scramble. WR Emory Blake fell on it, but still. To Frazier’s credit, he had a nice response – a pinpoint throw leading Lutzenkirchen on a very H-backy route out of the no-huddle.

Doesn’t help the quarterback when RT Patrick Miller (making his first start), RG Chad Slade and TE Brandon Fulse all miss blocks on the same playaction call.

Wallace’s first-ever snap on a college football field? Spoiled by LG John Sullen flinching. False start. Frazier replaces Wallace. So much for that element of surprise.

WR Jaylon Denson, you can’t retaliate by slapping Simon. The refs always catch the second guy.

Notes and tidbits

A week after Auburn’s penalties nearly cost it a victory, LSU made its bed the same way: nine penalties, 80 yards, though none came in the final 18 minutes.

Plays to open first-quarter drives for Auburn: a quick toss to Lutzenkirchen (minus-4 yards), Mason run (minus-1), McCalebb run (minus-4), McCalebb run (minus-4). Scot Loeffler said that week picking up yards on first down was critical. Oops.

More Kiehl Frazier analysis in the final complete game he’d play: somewhere in there lurks a decent quarterback. He just needs a smoother approach – instead of looking at all times for the big play, he needs to make the smart play. Reel him in, Rhett Lashlee.

Florence had a stinger, and returned to the game. We mentioned his toughness, at least physically when he gets his chance in the game.

Lemonier recently said he’s never really played outside linebacker, but he did line up on a 3rd-and-6 standing up. Just to give LSU a different look. It worked; Mettenberger rolled right, had nothing available, and actually nailed Les Miles in the shoulder throwing it away – a ball actually tipped by McNeal.

The missed Drew Alleman field goal in the final minute which would have put away Auburn, instead giving the home team one last gasp? The field-goal unit was confused, forced to race onto the pitch for one of those Chinese-fire-drill attempts. LSU had no timeouts left, but it was a 34-yard attempt; just take the five-year penalty and let Alleman calmly kick it through instead of rushing. Oh, Les Miles, how you fail to get along with clock management.

LSU Mettenberger Dee Ford

THREE STARS

3) Demetruce McNeal, FS. Flies around the field and finds the football.

2) Daren Bates, LB. Rolls out of bed and makes a tackle.

1) Corey Lemonier, DE. I tweeted at halftime how much money Lemonier made in the 30 minutes against LSU. Seeing as he was nonexistent the rest of his season, and he projects as a second-round pick entering the NFL draft as an underclassman, that game (two sacks, a forced fumble) in hindsight was huge for his professional aspirations.

*************

GUS’ GAME 4: Auburn at LSU, Sept. 21, Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.

LSU 2012 record: 10-3, 6-2 SEC (lost 25-24 to Clemson in Chick-Fil-A Bowl)

LSU head coach: Les Miles, ninth year (85-21)

LSU returning starters (o/d): 12 (8/4)

LSU-Auburn series: LSU leads 26-20-1, including 15-5-1 at Tiger Stadium. LSU has won five of the past six meetings.

LSU-Auburn previous meeting: See above.

Notes: The Tigers lost an incredible 11 underclassmen to the NFL Draft, including six – SIX! – defenders: Logan, Mingo, Minter, Montgomery, Reid and Simon. However, LSU still has Mettenberger at quarterback, Hill and Hilliard with him in the backfield, Boone, Beckham and Landry out wide and three offensive linemen back. So that offense should be firing on all cylinders early next year, but the defense could have some question marks still lingering with the Week 4 matchup.

LSU Les Miles

March 22, 2013

Auburn hopes recent success vs. LSU continues this weekend in road series

AUBURN BASEBALL

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. – Having won the past three series against LSU, this would be a good time for recent history to repeat itself for the Auburn baseball team.

The Tigers (15-6, 0-3 SEC) are already fighting an uphill battle in the league standings, the only team in its SEC West division to get swept in the opening weekend. After failing to grab a game from No. 2-ranked Vanderbilt at home, Auburn faces an equally daunting task in three road games at No. 3 LSU (19-2, 2-1).

Should Auburn get two of three, it’d be the first time the program claimed four consecutive series from LSU since 1979-82.

Lefties Daniel Koger (0-1, 3.49 EA) and Michael O’Neal (4-1, 1.99) will get the ball for the opening two games of the series, with a Sunday starter yet to be determined. Koger and O’Neal will be opposed by righties Aaron Nola (2-0, 3.41) and Ryan Eades (4-0, 1.69).

Outfielder Cullen Wacker now has the team’s longest hitting streak at seven, as second baseman Jordan Ebert’s 13-game run was snapped Tuesday night against Kennesaw State. The Tigers are coming off a come-from-behind 4-3 victory in extra innings over Southern Miss in Mobile, Auburn’s tenth rally of the season.

LSU has a team average of .304, second-best in the SEC, and has swatted 18 home runs on the year compared to Auburn’s five.

The series opens Friday at 7 p.m. CT, continues Saturday at 6:30 and finishes Sunday at 1 p.m. All games will be broadcast on the Auburn Radio Network.

January 19, 2013

Nearly half the NFL Draft’s 73 declared underclassmen hail from the SEC

Auburn v. LSU Football Action

The NFL officially released its list Saturday of a record 73 underclassmen who have been granted special eligibility to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, a further commentary on the gap between SEC football and everybody else.

On the list are 32 players hailing from SEC schools.

From LSU alone, there are 11.

From the entire Pac-12, the SEC’s nearest competitor? Nine.

Now, submitting one’s name for the Draft, and thus foregoing any remaining college eligibility, does not guarantee an NFL team will come calling on April 25-27. Many juniors have tried their luck at the Draft, only to find themselves waiting on free agent calls from teams looking through the bargain bin or filling out a practice squad.

However, the NFL provides a service for players who have completed three years in college to submit paperwork to a committee which reviews game film and other factors, sending back an approximated grade of where that player might be taken in the Draft.

LSU’s whopping list of 11 underclassmen leaving the program includes five players who were listed anywhere on the all-SEC squads in the 2012 season – as well as Tyrann Mathieu, the “Honey Badger” and cornerback/returner phenom who was dismissed from the program following the 2011 season for failing drug tests.

Florida and Tennessee each have four Draft hopefuls going out, while Georgia has three, including consensus All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones, nose tackle Kwame Geathers and linebacker Alec Ogletree.

Alabama is bidding adieu to tailback Eddie Lacy and cornerback Dee Milliner, while Auburn sends off defensive end Corey Lemonier.

The NFL’s complete list of declared underclassmen can be found here.

SEC UNDERCLASSMEN DECLARED FOR THE 2013 NFL DRAFT

ALABAMA (2)

Eddie Lacy RB

Dee Milliner DB

ARKANSAS (2)

Alvin Bailey G

Knile Davis RB

AUBURN (1)

Corey Lemonier DE

FLORIDA (4)

Matt Elam DB

Sharrif Floyd DT

Jelani Jenkins LB

Jordan Reed TE

GEORGIA (3)

Kwame Geathers NT

Jarvis Jones LB

Alec Ogletree LB

LSU (11)

Chris Faulk T

Michael Ford RB

Bennie Logan DT

Tyrann Mathieu DB

Barkevious Mingo DE

Kevin Minter LB

Sam Montgomery DE

Eric Reid DB

Tharold Simon DB

Spencer Ware RB

Brad Wing P

MISSOURI (1)

Sheldon Richardson DT

SOUTH CAROLINA (2)

Marcus Lattimore RB

Ace Sanders WR

TENNESSEE (4)

Tyler Bray QB

Justin Hunter WR

Cordarrelle Patterson WR

Darrington Sentimore DT

TEXAS A&M (2)

Luke Joeckel T

Damontre Moore DE

November 28, 2012

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