Fan Sound Off: Auburn fans gain burst of confidence after offensive explosion

Auburn-Auburn football-Ryan Davis

Auburn fans finally saw what they’ve been expecting since Jarrett Stidham arrived on campus — a high-powered offense with a downfield passing game.

The Tigers walloped No. 24 Mississippi State, 42-10, on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. Stidham completed 13 of 16 passes for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns, with numerous downfield completions to different receivers. Kerryon Johnson topped the 100-yard rushing mark and scored 3 TDs.

The 13th-ranked Tigers improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. Mississippi State dropped to 3-2 and 1-2 in the SEC.

All comments are taken from Auburn Tigers-SEC Country. You can join the conversation here.

Editor’s note: All comments are taken verbatim and only edited for spelling. 

Jamie Ward: This showed that we are ready for the rest of the SEC ….we were on point throughout the whole game, the defense and offense were phenomenal, Stidham definitely showed his talent

Ronald Sizemore: I told everyone to pump your brakes they are coming together War Eagle everyone good night


Greg Bell: Are you going to bring on them elephants

Dave Rules: That didn’t suck at all.

Shirley Slaughter: Very proud of my team. WAR EAGLE

Zachary Henderson: Looked great! Good job Auburn!

Russ Evans: Great job, Tigers! This team is coming together.

Mark Driggars: One game at a time, WDE!

Will Sides: O-line getting awesome maybe this our year to beat Alabama

Jeffrey Payne: We still need a running game…sorry…can’t keep playing hurt rbs..obvious Pettway is hurt

Todd Christopher: Ever to conquer, never to yield.

Steve Bruce: Lot better play calling. Run game needs to improve

Jack Eberlein: I am very confident in our team now. Head coach, not so much

Ryan Crist: Offense coming on strong

The post Fan Sound Off: Auburn fans gain burst of confidence after offensive explosion appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country


Our final predictions: Alabama, Georgia or Auburn … SEC Country’s picks for 2018

SEC Championship-predictions-alabama-georgia

As SEC Country shuts it down, we wanted to go out with a final bang.

Not picking Alabama to win the SEC in 2018 would have done the trick.

But that would have been wrong.

In a poll of the SEC Country staff, the Crimson Tide picked up 16 of 20 votes to win the SEC Championship Game. Georgia, which won the SEC title last season by defeating Auburn and lost to Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game, received 2 votes, while Auburn and Mississippi State each picked up 1 vote.

SEC COUNTRY SAYS GOODBYE: Walsh | KirschnerBolin | ShadidFerguson | Shute | WolkHickey | Suss | Spiegelman | Mussatto | Tucker | McGranahanGriffith

Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa received the most votes for SEC Player of the Year. The hero of the National Championship Game victory against the Bulldogs last season, Tagovailoa isn’t even a lock to be coach Nick Saban’s starting quarterback in the season opener Sept. 1 against Louisville in Orlando, Fla. But most expect him to beat out Jalen Hurts and do really big things in Tuscaloosa.

SEC Country sees first-year Florida coach Dan Mullen as Coach of the Year front-runner. He received 8 votes, while South Carolina’s Will Muschamp (4) and Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead (3) and Saban (3) followed.

SEC East predictions

Team Votes 1st
1 Georgia 23 18
2 (tie) South Carolina 51 1
2 (tie) Florida 51 1
4 Missouri 85
5 Kentucky 107
6 Tennessee 110
7 Vanderbilt 133

SEC West predictions

Team Votes 1st
1 Alabama 23 17
2 Auburn 43 2
3 Mississippi State 69 1
4 Texas A&M 83
5 LSU 89
6 Ole Miss 123
7 Arkansas 130

SEC Champion

Alabama: 16 votes
Georgia: 2
Auburn: 1
Mississippi State: 1

Player of the Year

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama: 8 votes
Drew Lock, Missouri: 4
D’Andre Swift, Georgia: 3
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn: 2
Jake Fromm, Georgia: 1
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina: 1
Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss: 1

Coach of the Year

Dan Mullen, Florida: 8 votes
Will Muschamp, South Carolina: 4
Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: 3
Nick Saban, Alabama: 3
Gus Malzahn, Auburn: 1
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M: 1

Freshman of the Year

Zamir White, Georgia: 5 (tie)
Patrick Surtain Jr., Alabama: 5 (tie)
Justin Fields, Georgia: 3
Emory Jones, Florida: 3
Ja’Marr Chase, LSU: 1
Jaylen Waddle, Alabama: 1

The post Our final predictions: Alabama, Georgia or Auburn … SEC Country’s picks for 2018 appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country


Alabama basketball at Auburn: Game information, TV, preview (February 21, 2018)

Alabama basketball-John Petty-Crimson Tide basketball

University of Alabama freshman Collin Sexton has had numerous high-profile matchups this season, but Wednesday night’s will be a little different at No. 12 Auburn.

Auburn sophomore point guard Jared Harper was a former high school teammate. The two have stayed in touch and, one way or another, usually talk every week.

But not this week.

Outside of practices at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, Ga., Sexton guessed that they haven’t faced one other since “probably eighth grade.”

“He can drive as well as he can shoot the ball,” Sexton said of Harper. “He can pass it. He has an all-around game. Just watching him and learning from him has been pretty good.”

Harper averages 13.8 points per game and is just one of three Auburn starting guards who averages over 13 points a game. Bryce Brown (16.4) and Mustapha Heron (16.1) lead the team in scoring, while Harper’s 157 assists (5.8) is second in the SEC.

When Alabama upset Auburn 76-71 on Jan. 17, Sexton was out due an abdominal injury. Freshman guard John Petty made eight 3-pointers to lead the Crimson Tide with 27 points, while sophomore guard Dazon Ingram had 16.

“It hurt me a whole lot because I wanted to be out there with my teammates and help them get the win,” Sexton said. “But I feel like everyone stepped up that game for us and it was a big win.”

Said sophomore forward Braxton Key said: “It’ll be big since he didn’t play last time,”

This time, though, Auburn will without sophomore forward Anfernee McLemore, who suffered a season-ending injury against South Carolina on Saturday. He averaged 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game.

“I don’t think they’re going to change [their approach] at all,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “They are who they are, and they’re a fast team. They shoot a bunch of 3s, and the way they rebound, they get a high percent of those missed 3s back because of their foot speed.”

Game details

  • Records: Alabama (17-10, 8-6 SEC); Auburn (23-4, 11-3 SEC)
  • Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.
  • When: Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 8:30 p.m. ET

What’s the best way to keep up with the game?

Fans have numerous options:

Mike Morgan (play-by-play) and Pat Bradley (analyst) will have the television broadcast, with Chris Stewart (play-by-play) and Bryan Passink (analyst) on radio.

So what are quadrant wins and what do they mean for Alabama?

The NCAA selection committee is emphasizing what it calls a quadrant win-loss system, which is based on victories and winning percentage against quality opponents.

  • Quadrant 1: Home games vs. teams ranked 1-30 in RPI; neutral sites vs. 1-50; away games at 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home 31-75; neutral 51-100; away 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home 76-160; neutral 101-200; away 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home 161-plus; neutral 201-plus; away 241-plus

Alabama is 6-5 in Quadrant 1 games. The wins are third-most in the SEC and are tied for ninth in the nation.

Following the loss at Kentucky on Saturday, Alabama was No. 34 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings that included games through Monday. The Crimson Tide are 3-0 against teams in the top 15, having defeated No. 7 Auburn, No. 8 Rhode Island and No. 14 Tennessee.

What you should know

  • Johnson on seeing Harper play when he was recruiting Sexton: “Two guys who are pretty dynamic in their scoring ability, breaking defenses down and their speed, hand-eye coordination, all the things that we look for, reaction, coachable — and having for what I call high basketball IQ for such a young guy at that time.”
  • Junior forward Donta Hall is averaging 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.3 steals over his last three games. He shot 82.1 percent from the field (23-of-28), while 12 of his 23 field goals were dunks. He leads the SEC with 61 dunks.
  • Alabama has won five straight over AP Top-25 opponents.
  • Auburn is 21-2 when scoring at least 75 points. The Tigers are coming off an 84-75 loss at South Carolina, and have split their last two home games, defeating Kentucky 76-66 and losing to Texas A&M 81-80.
  • Johnson called rebounding his team’s Achilles heel of late, especially after Kentucky had a 44-27 edge last Saturday. It’s been a priority, especially with the guards.
  • A common statistic in all four Auburn losses, the opponent made more 3-pointers. The Tigers lead the SEC in 3-pointers made (9.9), but are fourth in 3-point percentage (.378). They’re also ninth in 3-point percentage defense (.342), while Alabama is third (.313).

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Christopher Walsh – SEC Country


Fan Sound Off: Auburn fans find plenty to be upset about in Peach Bowl loss to UCF


Auburn fans were frustrated this season with inconsistent performances and the loss Monday to UCF in the Peach Bowl did nothing to cure that problem.

The Tigers looked lifeless in the first half, then broke out early in the third only to fall back into familiar patterns in the fourth quarter of their 34-27 loss.

Still, Auburn knocked off two No. 1 teams — rivals Georgia and Alabama — reached the SEC Championship Game and finished with 10 wins. Good, but frustrating it wasn’t better. Just listen to what the Tiger fans had to say.

Check out what Auburn fans are saying about the performance and join the conversation here.

Note: Comments are taken verbatim from Auburn Insiders — SEC Country and only edited for spelling.

John DeLaney: If we treated this like a business trip, we need to rethink the business strategy. Just got out coached and out played by a team that wanted it more.

Glen Knight: Gus and his staff did not do nothing to help them be prepared and motivated properly to play. Holland has been nearly unstoppable all season and did NOTHING TODAY! What the hell…..

Davey Phillips: Thank God the O-Line is graduating because they were 95% the reason we lost this game. They couldn’t stop the pass rush, they couldn’t open holes, they got hurt and allowed the pocket to collapse on Stidham at the end, they were ATROCIOUS. Worst O-line performance by any team I’ve ever seen.

T Miller: Hey hey UCF came to play, this was an undefeated team they out played our boys. Give UCF credit, they have a great coach and they played their asses off. Our QB made some huge mistakes like that last play with 33 seconds left in the game, among other mistakes. Don’t take anything away from UCF they played a hell of a game. If anything we should be embarrassed because our players played like poo poo.

Kim Garrison: War Eagle always and forever! A true Auburn fan loves their team no matter the win or lose. You take the good with the bad. You win as a team and loose as a team. WAR EAGLE 🦅🐯

David Neese: Never been ashamed of an Auburn team until today. They should have turned the invite down and stayed at home.

David- Sarah Blakey: How disappointing. We don’t seem to be able to win on the road. I am still glad we kept Gus Malzahn but we need a new offensive coordinator. For sure Jarrett will not be going to the NFL after 2 interceptions.

William Ujvari: And we just gave Gus more money for a team that plays 1 quarter of football per game in the biggest games. Shame we are stuck with this waste even longer.

Jerry Light: Nothing good to say about this game or the coaching staff. This is embarrassing and sad we bought more years of this lack of guidance. Really getting our extensions money worth. We sucked. War Eagle. Pray for a miracle next year

The post Fan Sound Off: Auburn fans find plenty to be upset about in Peach Bowl loss to UCF appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country


Fan Sound Off: Auburn fans disappointed, now waiting to see what happens with Gus Malzahn

Auburn football-Auburn Tigers-Auburn-Jarrett Stidham-Gus Malzahn

The second-ranked Auburn Tigers had quite the run. They knocked off a pair of No. 1 teams late in the regular season in Georgia and Alabama, but in the rematch against the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, it was all Georgia.

The No. 6 Bulldogs upset Auburn, 28-7, in Atlanta and are expected to be one of four teams selected to the College Football Playoff when the announcement is made Sunday. Auburn should be headed to a New York’s Day Six bowl and speculation the next few days will revolve around coach Gus Malzahn.

Arkansas is expected to offer him its coaching job. Malzahn was asked about it in his postgame press conference.

Auburn fans were disappointed with the loss Saturday, but overall OK with how the season played out and are curious about what happens with Malzahn.

Check out what Auburn fans are saying about the performance and join the conversation here.

Note: Comments are taken verbatim from Auburn Insiders — SEC Country and only edited for spelling.

Paul N Susan Barber: I don’t think Gus is leaving. Arkansas still needs an AD. But If Gus leaves! Does Auburn really want Jacobs who is there until next June, to hire our next Coach? That would be very screwed up.

Pat Albright Bates: I love this team, no matter what. I’m a fan always, not just when they win. They’ve given us a wonderful season. Aaaaand….. WE BEAT BAMA!!!!! That makes me so happy. War Eagle!

Linda Stone Southard: War Eagle forever, get well guys. You beat the 2 number 1 teams this season. That is what counted in my book. It’s hard to win when you are playing with injuries. You did your best that’s all we can ask for.

Patricia Gail: They were ready. Well coached, well prepared, well played and playing mad to avenge the previous loss. On top of competing with injuries, it just wasn’t in the cards for us. Congrats to them. Congrats to us on a good season and an Iron Bowl win.

Chip Potts: Auburn brought the team that played LSU, not the team that beat Georgia and Alabama. Could it be that the Arkansas coaching job is now filled?

Wanda Ryals Roberts: Proud of the season Auburn has had. Beating two #1 teams within three weeks is quite an accomplishment even with a loss to Georgia in championship game there is no reason for Auburn to hang their heads!!! War Eagle!!!

Ricky Knight: Congrats to Georgia, they whipped us and had a better game plan this time around. Congrats to Auburn on a great season and the Sec West title!

Jeremy Barker: I said from the beginning of the game that even though KJ is a star player with probably the most heart of anyone. He should not have been on the field. Beings that he was already hurt. We have 3 other great backs that would have beat down the Ga defense. With that being said congrats to Georgia, but I will always say WDE!

Kelley Nulter Martin: I saw this loss coming the moment Kerryon got injured and our Defense injured as well from last week’s game. Auburn didn’t have an offensive line today and not enough depth with injuries. We will probably lose a coach, just not sure if who it will be…Gus or Chip

Joe Hankins: Good season and didn’t play as well as I wanted to see them play but injuries played a big role in this loss! Hard to beat a good team twice anyway! War Eagle!

Kendall Hughes: Got dominated. What can you say? Poor execution today with crucial bad turnovers.

David Pollock: Gus named Arkansas coach by Monday, Steele to get AU. My Prediction.

Chris Kelser: I can’t put this one on the coaches. Injuries, poor execution, and stupid mistakes killed us.

Ian Ankersen: Well when the wheels fall off the Gus bus they all fall off. I still love my tigers. Very proud of them this season.

The post Fan Sound Off: Auburn fans disappointed, now waiting to see what happens with Gus Malzahn appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country


Week 13 SEC recap: With one win, Gus Malzahn rewrote his entire Auburn legacy

gus malzahn-auburn tigers-winning-coach of the year

Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC football news, notes, quotes and mishaps you might have missed during the weekend. Here’s what we’re stewing over …

First, let’s remember what happened three weeks ago when Auburn and coach Gus Malzahn downright dismantled then-No. 1 Georgia in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers’ 40-17 beatdown was the largest ever handed a No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff era.

It was a win worthy of celebration — one that avenged a crushing loss to the Bulldogs in 2016 and kept Auburn in control of its own destiny. And yet the media chatter was all about Malzahn eyeing a return to his home state, were Arkansas to fire coach Bret Bielema, following an assumed Auburn loss to Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

So much for that. Malzahn would be crazy to leave The Plains now that his team has downed two No. 1 teams in the span of three weeks, both by double-digit margins. Georgia, which has a proclivity to fall short in these sort of make-or-break games, is as good a team as any fielded during the Mark Richt years.

But Alabama, losing by double digits in drama-free fashion? That doesn’t happen under Nick Saban.

The last time the Crimson Tide lost by more than a touchdown was Jan. 2, 2014, in a 45-31 Sugar Bowl defeat against Oklahoma. You’d have to go back three more years, to Oct. 9, 2010, to find the next-most-recent Saban loss of that caliber (South Carolina, 35-21).

Call it a product of Alabama’s insane standards of consistent excellence, but Auburn’s win on Saturday had to be equal parts shocking and refreshing for the average SEC fan. Last year, the conference was clearly a one-team league. In 2017, three SEC programs enter conference championship week with a shot at the College Football Playoff. A fourth team (LSU) could finish ranked inside the top-15.

The other knock — the SEC’s perceived lack of coaching talent — is a bit dicier. Recent whiffs by Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas, along with the downfall of Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss, have followed the departure of some excellent coaches (Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, James Franklin, Mark Richt and Les Miles, to name a few).

But perhaps Malzahn can be one to fill the coaching void. He’s 2-3 against Saban, making Malzahn and Meyer the only active coaches with multiple wins against Alabama’s star coach. Others who have done so: Spurrier, Miles, Bob Stoops and Gene Chizik (who Malzahn helped do so once).

That’s mighty good company.

The coaching carousel: Settling for options C, D and E

The coaching carousel is always a bit of a gamble. Maybe you fire your head football coach with three or four top candidates in mind, and none of them bite or they’re poached by other schools.

Sometimes, that can end up working out alright (see: South Carolina, Will Muschamp). Others, that can work out disastrously.

Florida and Tennessee both seem to be moving onto their No. 3 choices, if reports are to be believed.

The Gators missed on Chip Kelly, who signed on with UCLA, and may have lost in-state darling Scott Frost to his alma mater, Nebraska. There’s also a chance Frost stays at UCF. If Frost is out of the picture, Oregon’s Willie Taggart has to be next.

The Vols, meanwhile, tried and failed to court Jon Gruden (again) as well as Kelly. They’ve now reportedly turned their gaze toward Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, an annual product of the coaching rumor mill. Our guess is he stays in Starkville, as has been the case for the past nine seasons.

Why would Kelly pass up two premier SEC programs like Florida and Tennessee? Think of it this way: UCLA is an easy place to recruit. Jim Mora Jr., an exceedingly mediocre coach, led the Bruins to 10-win seasons twice. UCLA also doesn’t have to compete with Alabama or any of the other SEC powers-that-be. The stiffest competition Kelly would face in his own division is USC, followed by… Arizona? Utah?

Then again, Kelly has always been a West Coast guy. There’s clearly a personal preference. It’d be the same case with Frost if he took the Nebraska job (although the Big Ten West is a mighty weak division, too).

Here’s our updated list of which guys we think will wind up coaching in the SEC next season:

  • Florida: Willie Taggart (Oregon)
  • Tennessee: Greg Schiano (Ohio State)
  • Texas A&M: Chad Morris (SMU)
  • Arkansas: ???
  • Ole Miss: Neal Brown (Troy)

Regarding Arkansas, Malzahn should now be out of the running. Memphis coach Mike Norvell is reportedly negotiating a contract extension. And then there was this gem tweeted out by Football Scoop last night:

Yeah. The Hogs had little choice but to move on from Bret Bielema, but this search could be a barrel of laughs.

Highlight of the week: A fitting metaphor appears

One can only imagine that this is how most fans felt watching Saturday’s thrilling clash between Florida and Florida State. Throwing up now and again, well, it has to happen.

SEC power rankings: Sizing up the conference entering bowl season

  1. Auburn: By beating Georgia again, the Tigers can become the first two-loss team to make the playoff. Jarrett Stidham lived up to the hype this season, completing 68.5 percent of his passes for nearly 2,700 yards, 16 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Kerryon Johnson is a monster. The offensive line found its footing, and the defense remains a top-10 unit. (Last week: 2)
  2. Alabama: The Brian Daboll offense has averaged just 24 points per game against its stiffest competition: Florida State, Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. Jalen Hurts rarely makes mistakes, with just 1 interception all season, but he’s just not the type of passer that can consistently beat teams he’ll face in the postseason. The Crimson Tide needs to commit to its running game again. Somehow, Daboll gave his running backs no more than 6 carries apiece against Auburn. That led to a number of tough third-down situations, where Alabama went just 3-for-11 on attempted conversions. (Last week: 1)
  3. Georgia: All but one of Georgia’s 11 regular season wins came by double digits. Collectively, the Bulldogs outscored the SEC East and rival Georgia Tech, 285-79, in 2017. They’ll get their shot at revenge against Auburn next week. (Last week: 3)
  4. LSU: Dave Aranda’s defense picked off Nick Starkel three times and held the Texas A&M rushing attack to 2 yards per carry. The comeback win against Auburn has aged well, while the Troy loss feels like a distant memory. Ed Orgeron performed well in Year 1, and if Matt Canada can develop Myles Brennan into a top SEC quarterback, the Tigers will be well-positioned in 2018. (Last week: 5)
  5. Mississippi State: Losing Nick Fitzgerald to such a brutal injury is tough, but losing to Ole Miss has to hurt more. The Bulldogs were a field goal away from upsetting Alabama and return a talented core of players in 2018. They’ve just got to make sure Mullen sticks around. (Last week: 4)
  6. South Carolina: The Gamecocks got shut down by Clemson again, but if there’s any consolation, it’s that this one was more competitive. Will Muschamp has delivered a pretty impressive Year 2 at South Carolina, leading the program to an 8-4 record and a second-place finish in the SEC East. Another good recruiting class could give this team what it needs to better compete with Georgia — and let’s not forget the Gamecocks only lost to the Bulldogs by 14 points this season. (Last week: 6)
  7. Missouri: The turnaround of 2017 saw Barry Odom’s squad streamroll through the second half of its schedule. Sure, the competition was weak, but a 7-5 finish is probably better than what Tigers fans expected in September. Drew Lock broke the SEC’s single-season passing touchdown record with 41, and its top three running backs all averaged more than 5.5 yards per carry. (Last week: 8)
  8. Texas A&M: We’re awaiting word of Kevin Sumlin’s reported dismissal, but it’s not shocking that four straight years of at least five losses doesn’t quite cut it in College Station. Ending the season with double-digit losses to Mississippi State, Auburn and LSU doesn’t help. (Last week: 7)
  9. Ole Miss: Have to say, Matt Luke and offensive coordinator Phil Longo did a great job given the circumstances, and beating Mississippi State in Starkville is no joke. Whoever takes over will have a decent nucleus to build around. (Last week: 9)
  10. Florida: Gave Florida State a fight for three quarters, but the same ugly offensive problems did the Gators in once again. How far we’ve come since the days of Spurrier and Meyer. (Last week: 10)
  11. Kentucky: As my colleague Kyle Tucker points out, we should expect more from Mark Stoops’ defense in Year 5; Louisville, Georgia, Ole Miss and Mississippi State torched this unit. (Last week: 11)
  12. Arkansas: Lost another heartbreaker and sent Bielema packing. The rebuild may not be a quick one. (Last week: 12)
  13. Vanderbilt: Another losing season for the Commodores, albeit one capped off with another win over the rival Vols. Vandy has now won four of the last six games in this series. (Last week: 13)
  14. Tennessee: Rock bottom. A historic low point. It does not get any worse than this, folks. John Currie better make the right call. (Last week: 14)

Hittin’ the links: SEC Country news you may have missed

Tweet of the year: All for naught 

The post Week 13 SEC recap: With one win, Gus Malzahn rewrote his entire Auburn legacy appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country


Week 11 SEC recap: Auburn 1 step closer to playoff, and flawed Alabama may not stop it

Auburn bowl projections-Auburn football-Georgia-Alabama-SEC

Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC football news, notes, quotes and mishaps you might have missed during the weekend. Here’s what we’re stewing over …

Already we can envision the hordes of agitated Alabama fans flocking to the SEC Country Facebook pages, decrying the notion that their undefeated, soon-to-be No. 1 Crimson Tide are anything but perfect.

Technically, they are an unblemished 10-0 headed into a Week 12 tune-up against Mercer. But the Tide’s scare in Starkville on Saturday laid bare the weaknesses we only caught glimpses of against Texas A&M and LSU. The offense looked disjointed and at times failed to sustain drives; three of its five first-half possessions ended in punts. A thin group of Crimson Tide linebackers looked pedestrian against MSU’s rushing attack, as the defense let Aeris Williams run for 97 yards.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts hit big plays and, of course, came up in the clutch. However, he only completed 10 of 19 pass attempts and was inconsistent from drive to drive. Many times, when MSU brought the blitz, he looked like he had no clue what to do as the Bulldogs proceeded to sack him 5 times.

Auburn, meanwhile, looked fantastic against a Georgia team that entered the weekend unbeaten. Tigers workhorse Kerryon Johnson powered it up the middle, beat UGA linebackers around the perimeter and generally made life hell for the No. 1-ranked team’s defense. And Kevin Steele’s defense has been a clear top 10 unit.

The Iron Bowl now seems like the only SEC game anyone needs to pay attention to before the winner plays Georgia in Atlanta. It’ll be a good game on The Plains, and a much closer one than any Alabama fan wants, unless the 2017 Tide can learn from Mississippi State. Auburn can likely make the playoff as a two-loss conference champion if they don’t.

Did Butch Jones leave Tennessee better off than he found it?

Short answer: Probably.

We’re not highlighting Jones’ unceremonious dismissal because it was a foregone conclusion. Vols athletic director John Currie clearly wanted to wait until the end of the regular season to send Jones packing, but the sad state of Tennessee football and fan outrage warranted a dismissal that probably happened two weeks too late.

Regardless, that’s not why we’re discussing Jones, the Rocky Top coach-turned-pariah who brought the Vols from Derek Dooley depths to, well, a respectable 9-4 peak. The problem was how he never really maximized the talent he lured to his own program and, subsequently, tried to deflect blame to things out of his control — injuries, scheduling, etc.

The “brick-by-brick” mantra Jones made his own didn’t hold up in 2017, when a lack of roster depth and quarterbacking talent, as well as ill-fated coaching decisions, doomed the Vols. Naming Larry Scott offensive coordinator and Mike Canales quarterbacks coach certainly didn’t help matters. As former colleague Jesse Simonton so aptly put it, the 2017 Tennessee offensive is comparable to the hapless 2012 Sal Sunseri defense, and that’s ultimately what kicked Jones to the curb.

Consider this: Tennessee has scored a combined 116 points since the Week 3 loss to Florida. That’s 14.5 points per game. That’s awful.

Did Jones leave Tennessee better off than he found it? It sure seems like he did, but then again, Dooley set the bar oh so low.

Even with Auburn loss, Georgia is well ahead of schedule

Consider where Jones and many other SEC coaches were in Year 2. Yes, Mark Richt left Kirby Smart with a cupboard pretty well-stocked with talent (and he’s doing OK at Miami, I guess). But Smart has capitalized quickly in a way few other recent head-coaching newbies haven’t.

The Auburn loss is a setback, of course, and it served as a painful reminder to Georgia’s players that they are absolutely beatable. But this defeat also doesn’t end their remarkable 2017 run.

Take care of Kentucky and Georgia Tech over the next two weeks, and the Bulldogs will either get a shot at Alabama or a rematch with Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. Win that game and they’re in the playoff, for sure — maybe even as the No. 1 seed.

But like Alabama, Georgia needs to correct its mistakes from this past Saturday. The dumb penalties are the easiest fix for Smart and his staff. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm didn’t play his most crisp game, but it no doubt served as a learning experience. The play of the offensive and defensive lines isn’t so easily addressed, but it’ll give the coaches some motivational fodder when they’re going at it in practice.

Bottom line: Georgia lost on the road against a top 10 team. There’s no shame in that. Smart still has this team in a good place.

Highlight of the week: Stayin’ alive

Alabama’s star quarterback remains cool, calm and collected in the biggest moments. Jalen Hurts only completed 10 of 19 passes, but he made them count, racking up 282 total yards and 2 touchdowns.

Interesting SEC stats from Week 11

  1. Georgia’s 23-point loss to Auburn is the worst by a No. 1-ranked teams since the playoff system was instituted in 2014.
  2. The Bulldogs entered their matchup with Auburn averaging 279.3 yards rushing per game. The Tigers held them to 46 yards on 32 carries. That’s what domination looks like.
  3. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock has thrown 35 touchdown passes in 10 games, putting him within clear striking distance of single-season SEC record-holder Andre Woodson (40 touchdowns in 2007). Especially if the Tigers make a bowl game.
  4. Mizzou, by the way, is averaging 7.35 yards per play, which is fifth-best in the FBS behind Oklahoma, UCF, Arizona and Oklahoma State.
  5. Mississippi State possessed the football for a few seconds shy of 39 minutes in its loss to Alabama. The Bulldogs lead the SEC in time of possession with a 33-minute per-game average.
  6. Missouri entered Week 11 allowing more than 440 total yards of offense per game, along with just 9 takeaways in nine games. Then, the Tigers held Tennessee to 285 offensive yards and forced 4 turnovers. Yeesh.

SEC power rankings after Week 11

  1. Alabama: Flawed though they may be, we’re no Tide-haters. They remain the class of the SEC. (Last week: 1)
  2. Auburn: That the Tigers offense did that to a top-ranked defense is scary, and a huge credit to Gus Malzahn. (Last week: 2)
  3. Georgia: Ground and pound had been the Bulldogs’ bread and butter, and they’ll have to regain their confidence there in the coming weeks. (Last week: 3)
  4. Mississippi State: Gave Alabama all it could handle and should finish a nice 9-3. Todd Grantham’s defense has certainly taken a step forward since the Georgia and Auburn losses. (Last week: 4)
  5. LSU: The Auburn and Syracuse wins have aged well, and the loss to Troy feels like it happened ages ago. (Last week: 5)
  6. South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won a bunch of close games this season, but they also haven’t lost by more than 14 points — and that was at Georgia during Week 10. Will Muschamp is getting the job done, ugly though it may be. (Last week: 6)
  7. Texas A&M: Now bowl eligible, but the Aggies are probably looking for a new coach regardless of where they finish. (Last week: 7)
  8. Ole Miss: Not a bad team, underneath it all, now that Jordan Ta’amu has quickly found his rhythm under center. The Rebels should give A&M a game next Saturday night. (Last week: 9)
  9. Kentucky: The Wildcats are 7-3, but their best win is South Carolina. Here’s guessing they won’t be adding Georgia to the victory list next week. (Last week: 8)
  10. Missouri: Dropped 50 points on Tennessee for its fourth consecutive win. The Tigers have a real shot at finishing 7-5, if you can believe it. (Last week: 11)
  11. Florida: The Gators at least gave South Carolina a game after looking downright lifeless against Missouri. (Last week: 12)
  12. Arkansas: Put together a competitive first-half performance against LSU, but a 23-point loss further underscores how far the Hogs have fallen in the SEC West. (Last week: 14)
  13. Vanderbilt: Kentucky manhandled the Commodores, and we expect Missouri to do the same next weekend. This team simply doesn’t have the muscle to compete in the SEC. (Last week: 10)
  14. Tennessee: The Vols’ annual matchup with Vandy will feature the worst two teams in the conference — a matchup we’re not so sure Tennessee can win at this rate. (Last week: 13)

Hittin’ the links: SEC Country news you may have missed

Tweet of the week: Another sad night on Rocky Top

Jones has always praised players for consistency. Apparently, he’s not so fond of seeing it out of the UT media, and responded by chowing down on a big plate of his favorite dish: cliché spaghetti. This might as well be our lasting image of Jones at Tennessee.

The post Week 11 SEC recap: Auburn 1 step closer to playoff, and flawed Alabama may not stop it appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country


Fan Sound Off: What’s not to love? Auburn fans ecstatic over rout of No. 1 Georgia


How about that, Auburn fans?

No. 10 Auburn walloped No. 1 Georgia on Saturday inside Jordan-Hare Stadium, 40-17. The Tigers outgained the Bulldogs 488 to 230 and held Georgia’s elite running game to 46 yards on 32 attempts. Jarrett Stidham threw for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns and Kerryon Johnson ran 32 times for 167 yards and had a 55-yard touchdown reception.

The win sets up a winner-goes-to-Atlanta matchup against Alabama in two weeks. The winner of that game takes the SEC West crown and will meet Georgia on Dec. 2 in the SEC Championship Game.

Check out what Auburn fans are saying about the performance and join the conversation here.

Note: Comments are taken verbatim from Auburn Tigers — SEC Country and only edited for spelling.

Jerry Light: Let’s not make this another coaching debate today. This was a great win and they deserve all the credit in the world for what they just did. Great balanced game and good play calling. War Eagle 🦅!!

Ricky Knight: Proud of our boys tonight! They didn’t falter after the opening score from GA, they played a FULL game on both sides of the ball. Kudos to the coaches for never taking their foot off the gas. It’s great! To be! An Auburn Tiger!!

Amanda Long: Sooo pumped!!!! On to Bama next to take that number one spot!! #WDE

Vickie Lynn Krouse: I’m an Auburn fan, and I didn’t expect that…. War Eagle !!!

Ted Shoop: So proud of my Auburn Tigers and alma mater. War Eagle!

Norbert Sprunger: Amazing !!!!!!! WAR EAGLE !!!!!! We finally beat the stuffing out of Georgia !!!!

Tracey N Tammie McMahan: Awesome job guys! Offense and defense did great!

Teri Robison Philips: Do it two more times Tigers!!!!!

Jonathan Sebren: That was the best game Auburn has played in a long time it was complete from beginning to end wde

Britt Martin: We should fire Gus, yeah?

Mary Maleski: Florida Keys yelling WAR EAGLE .. Big Pine Key needed a reason to scream and holler. Thanks Tigers


Bettyann Annamunthodo: What a game..BEST GAME FOR THE SEASON!!!!

Susan Steadman: What a game!!! Couldn’t have asked for better!!!!

Pam Owens: Knew they could play like that. Now continue that way rest of season, especially against Bama

June Thames: Great job Auburn, y’all played with ❤️!

The post Fan Sound Off: What’s not to love? Auburn fans ecstatic over rout of No. 1 Georgia appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country


Week 10 SEC recap: Auburn controls its own destiny; can Gus Malzahn revive 2013 magic?


Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC football news, notes, quotes and mishaps you might have missed during the weekend. Here’s what we’re stewing over …

Let’s get a cold truth out of the way right now: The SEC has rarely been worse than what we’ve seen in 2017.

Now, last season was pretty bad. You had a bunch of mediocre-to-awful offenses, a cluster of weak defenses on top of that and a bunch of inexperienced head coaches trying to develop young quarterbacks. The end result was Auburn, a team without any sort of difference maker at quarterback, making the Sugar Bowl as the conference’s second-best team.

But let’s focus on the present, where we’re less than a week into November, and there are only about five games left that truly matter in the conference race. All of them involve some combination of Alabama, Georgia and Auburn. That’s it.

Florida and Tennessee are atrocious messes. Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri and Vanderbilt are varying degrees of bad. Kentucky just lost to the Rebels, and Texas A&M looks mediocre once again. South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU are the only respectably good teams outside this top 3, but they’ve all had their bad moments. The Gamecocks lost to Kentucky at home. MSU struggled to dispatch UMass. LSU lost to Troy!

The SEC is top-heavy, but the league’s elite trio will all butt heads within the next month. Georgia plays at Auburn this weekend, the Iron Bowl takes place two weeks after that and, finally, Georgia and (probably) Alabama clash in Atlanta.

Lost in all of the focus on the country’s No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams is Auburn, which still has a shot at winning the conference. The Tigers will have to beat Georgia, Alabama and Georgia again to do it, but isn’t this exactly the sort of wild run Gus Malzahn helped orchestrate in 2013?

Granted, he had Nick Marshall making all sorts of plays under center back then, and Jarrett Stidham is a completely different sort of quarterback. However, Stidham has quietly come into his own since the Week 2 disaster at Clemson, which was mostly the fault of his offensive line, anyway.

The highlight to date was Stidham’s Week 10 performance against Texas A&M: 20-of-27 passing, 268 yards and 3 touchdowns. More impressively, he completed passes to six different players during the game. On the season, five different receivers have at least 200 yards.

Uncoincidentally, Auburn’s offensive line has also improved in pass protection across recent weeks. Clemson, which has the second-highest sack total in the nation this season, dropped Stidham 11 times during Week 2. Texas A&M and LSU, the No. 3 and No. 6-ranked sack artists in FBS, combined for 5 sacks against Auburn — not perfect by any means, but a marked improvement.

Now, consider Georgia, an elite defense despite only recording 17 sacks in nine games. Three of those came against FCS Samford, and another 5 against the god-awful Gators offensive line. It’s not an area of strength for the Bulldogs, to be sure.

If Stidham gets time to read the field in Jordan-Hare next Saturday, he can exploit the Georgia secondary and give Auburn a fighting chance to upset the No. 1 team in the country. The Bulldogs have not given up many long passing plays at all in 2017, but they’ve come close to doing so and saw South Carolina’s Jake Bentley test them deep several times last weekend.

It’s likely Will Muschamp and his staff saw something there. Missouri, we should note, hit two 63-yard passing touchdowns against Georgia in October. Stidham is easily the best quarterback Georgia will have faced since Drew Lock.

We’re not going to be on Malzahn making some magic happen on The Plains this Saturday, but it’s happened before.

3 more things you might have missed in Week 10: Hot seats, hot seats everywhere

Things have escalated very quickly on the SEC coaching front, where Jim McElwain has already been fired and as many as five more coaching jobs could open up within the coming weeks. Let’s break them down for the purpose of everyone already looking ahead to 2018.

1. The no-doubt openings: Florida, Tennessee and Ole Miss

McElwain is gone. Butch Jones is, for all intents and purposes, also gone; Vols athletic director John Currie is waiting until the end of the season, much to the chagrin of most fans. Ole Miss will include interim coach Matt Luke in its search, but he’s almost certainly a fail-safe option if a potentially wild coaching cycle falls in the Rebels’ favor.

Florida and Tennessee are premier jobs, of course, but it’s unlikely either school manages to land anyone who’s retired, currently working a media gig or a program icon (see: Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Chip Kelly, Jon Gruden, Steve Spurrier, Peyton Manning). Dan Mullen certainly isn’t leaving Mississippi State for Tennessee, and unless athletic director Scott Stricklin is ready to write his former charge a blank check, Florida seems like a real reach, as well.

Bobby Petrino makes sense from the Louisville coach’s perspective, given the uncertain future of the Cardinals’ athletic department. But is either program really willing to take that sort of public relations risk? Doubtful.

The most likely answers also are the most obvious: Scott Frost to Florida and Mike Norvell to Tennessee. Both have head coaching experience. They know their respective state’s recruiting grounds. And, most importantly, Norvell and Frost have shown the ability to win quickly. Frost’s play-calling acumen in particular makes him a great fit for the Gators, who have endured seven consecutive seasons of pitiful offensive football.

Ole Miss is a trickier hire to project. Norvell makes plenty of sense. So do Troy coach Neal Brown and University of Texas at San Antonio’s Frank Wilson. Obviously, whoever it is has to be comfortable with a rebuild and talking about “culture change” ad nauseam.

2. Very likely to reboot: Arkansas and Texas A&M

The Hogs almost lost to 1-7 Coastal Carolina on Saturday. Fans are more than fed up with Bret Bielema — and not just the crazy ones who frequent Hogville! In their defense, they should be fed up. He is 29-31 in almost five seasons, including 11-26 in the SEC, and nothing about 2017 suggests the program is trending upward.

Texas A&M has long been a suspected coaching vacancy, given what athletic director Scott Woodward publicly said about Kevin Sumlin’s 2017 expectations. Media outlets are now reporting that the Aggies are preparing for life without Sumlin once the season ends.

Texas A&M might be an even more appealing job than Florida or Tennessee, depending on the coach in question. The Aggies have invested boatloads of money into their facilities and branding. They’re also in the heart of prime Texas ‘crootin territory. Chad Morris seems to make too much sense, but there’s also the oft-discussed cast of Frost, Norvell and Willie Taggart in play here, we’d guess.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long might be inclined to hold onto Bielema, if only because of the ultra-competitive job market that’s going to exist this year. Tennessee, Florida, Texas A&M, UCLA and Nebraska could all be looking for new coaches. Where does Arkansas rank among those schools? Probably behind all of them. Couple that market with Bielema’s buyout and it’s not crazy to see him sticking around, even amid a truly embarrassing season for the Hogs.

3. If things go awry (and maybe even if they don’t): Auburn

Athletic director Jay Jacobs’ “decision” to step down complicates matters, because it’s no longer truly his decision whether Malzahn stays or goes. He and Malzahn reportedly weren’t on the best of terms during recent seasons, which led some to speculate that the longtime Arkansas high school coach might leave for Fayetteville if Bielema was fired.

It’s possible Malzahn is tired of Auburn and eager to get out of town. More likely is we’ll see him around for at least one more season, at which point Jacobs’ eventual replacement makes a long-term call regarding the Gus Bus.

Highlight of the week: Football alley-oop

Kyle Shurmur finished 14-of-21 passing for 220 yards during Vanderbilt’s 31-17 win against Western Kentucky, and perhaps no play was more impressive (lucky?) than this PBU-turned-touchdown courtesy of the football gods. Hilltoppers can’t catch a break, man.

Interesting SEC stats from Week 10

  1. Georgia no longer sports a perfect red zone offense in 2017 after wideout Terry Godwin fumbled inside the South Carolina 20 on Saturday. But the Bulldogs still lead the nation in red zone conversion, scoring 35 times in 36 attempts. The next-best SEC teams are Ole Miss (34 of 36) and Auburn (37 of 40). Alabama is 41 of 46.
  2. Even with star quarterback Shea Patterson sidelined for the rest of the season, Ole Miss receiver A.J. Brown remains head and shoulders above his SEC peers. The sophomore from Starkville leads the conference in yards with 830, which puts him more than 200 yards ahead of the SEC’s No. 3 receiver Emanuel Hall. Brown is also tied for the conference lead in catches (48) and second in touchdown grabs (7). He caught 7 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown against Kentucky with backup Jordan Ta’amu under center for the Rebels.
  3. Speaking of Ta’amu, he straight-out torched Kentucky for 382 yards passing and 4 touchdowns on Saturday. Mark Stoops’ Wildcats are now the SEC’s worst passing defense, allowing nearly 280 yards per game in a conference without many elite passers.
  4. A great stat from SEC Country colleague Jordan McPherson:

SEC power rankings after Week 10

  1. Alabama: Unlike the playoff committee, we’re more than satisfied with what Alabama has accomplished to date, and a pedestrian offensive game against LSU doesn’t really move the needle much. (Last week: 1)
  2. Georgia: South Carolina is a pesky, well-coached team — the sort that’s in good position to upset the nation’s top-ranked team — and as coach Kirby Smart noted after the game, the Gamecocks outplayed the Bulldogs at times. Still, Georgia rolled up 242 yards rushing and held South Carolina to 42 on the ground. (Last week: 2)
  3. Auburn: Texas A&M has one of the SEC’s better defenses this season, so it must be heartening for fans to see Stidham enjoy one of his best games in a Tigers uniform at Kyle Field (20 of 27, 268 yards, 3 touchdowns). Up next: Georgia. (Last week: 3)
  4. Mississippi State: Looked groggy against UMass and will no doubt lose to Alabama by double-digits. But 9-3 is within Dan Mullen’s reach. (Last week: 4)
  5. LSU: The rivalry game played out much like the last four or five have: A low-scoring, Big Ten-esque affair where the Tigers were once again done in by their lack of weapons in the passing game. D.J. Chark can’t do it alone. (Last week: 5)
  6. South Carolina: The Gamecocks can finish 8-4 if they beat an imploding Florida squad at home next weekend, and should that happen, they’ll finish No. 2 in the SEC East if Kentucky loses to Georgia. (Last week: 7)
  7. Texas A&M: The Aggies are now 5-4 after getting manhandled by Auburn at home, where they haven’t beaten an SEC West opponent since 2015. At this point, Sumlin probably needs to win out to keep his job secure. (Last week: 6)
  8. Kentucky: Giving up 37 points to Ole Miss at home, when the bowl-ineligible Rebels are playing their backup quarterback, is inexcusable for coach Mark Stoops. Few teams are more confounding than the 2017 Wildcats. Had Ole Miss not lost to Arkansas, we’d have UK lower. (Last week: 8)
  9. Ole Miss: Phil Longo’s offense is fun as heck to watch, and on the right day, it makes the Rebels a fantastic spoiler. Who’s to say they couldn’t beat Texas A&M in two weeks? Were it not for the Arkansas loss, Ole Miss would be higher. (Last week: 12)
  10. Vanderbilt: The Commodores, like Mizzou, are playing for bowl eligibility. They draw Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee over the final three weeks, and need to beat two. That’s do-able. (Last week: 10)
  11. Missouri: Well, how about that? Barry Odom’s defense finally showed up, and against a team with clearly superior talent. The Tigers need only beat two of Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas to make a bowl. (Last week: 13)
  12. Florida: So, this is what rock bottom looks like. Not even the 2013 squad that went 4-8 under Muschamp suffered a loss this bad. Time to reboot the machine. (Last week: 9)
  13. Tennessee: Two defensive takeaways masked another sad performance by the Vols offense, which averaged 2.5 yards per carry and went 2 for 13 on third down. Jarrett Guarantano’s injury obviously influenced that, but still … yuck. Missouri should be favored next Saturday. (Last week: 11)
  14. Arkansas: Two words: Coastal Carolina. When the team Twitter account is celebrating a one-point home win against a team that lost to Western Illinois, 52-10, you know the program has lost its way. (Last week: 14)

Hittin’ the links: SEC Country news you may have missed

Tweets of the week: Move aside, savage pads

God bless Kennesaw State football, the true winners of the weekend.

As a bonus: Here’s a good, old-fashioned coaching freakout, which in this case was completely warranted.

The post Week 10 SEC recap: Auburn controls its own destiny; can Gus Malzahn revive 2013 magic? appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country


Week 8 SEC recap: Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn all could have new coaches in 2018

bret bielema-arkansas-razorbacks-football-sec

Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC football news, notes, quotes and mishaps you might have missed during the weekend. Here’s what we’re stewing over …

Week 8 didn’t give the SEC football faithful much to watch. With five different teams on bye, the conference only played five games on Saturday — and one of those was Missouri’s noon clash with Idaho. Get pumped!

Only one game was decided by fewer than 20 points (LSU-Ole Miss), but the results could have some interesting ramifications with regard to the future of some floundering programs. Struggling Tennessee, as expected, was throttled by Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Auburn dished out the same treatment to an Arkansas team that has been, in a word, bad.

Nobody would be surprised if the Vols parted ways with Butch Jones after five seasons. The noted Life Champion and Brick-Layer-in-Chief has lost eight of his last 15 games, including a 2-8 mark against SEC teams during that span. Tennessee already has lost to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina this season, and a road game against Kentucky could see that conference losing streak continue.

Increasingly, the same could be said for Arkansas and fellow fifth-year coach Bret Bielema, whose SEC record at Arkansas now sits at 10-26. The Hogs may not win a conference game this season, even with Ole Miss losing its star quarterback for the year, and the general vibe coming from the fan base is, “We’re tired of this shtick.”

But the coaching changes might not end there. Auburn is 6-2, with its only losses at Clemson and at LSU. But if the Tigers lose to Georgia and Alabama in November, which is entirely possible, do you think the restless Auburn fan base will be happy with 8-4 and the Outback Bowl? We’re not saying Malzahn deserves to be fired; this is more a reflection of athletic director Jay Jacobs and a fan base, who might be losing patience with a coach who hasn’t eclipsed 8-5 since reaching the BCS title game in Year 1.

Two more names on the list are Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Florida’s Jim McElwain.

The Aggies are 5-2 but still have to face Mississippi State, Auburn and LSU. Athletic director Scott Woodward made his expectations quite clear this summer, and Sumlin still has to shake the “can’t win in November” narrative. He’s done a good job in 2017, all things considered, but he’ll probably need to win one or two of those bigger SEC matchups to stay.

As for McElwain, he might be the safest of the bunch even though the offense still looks like it came out of a dusty 1990s playbook. The Gators might only finish 6-5 or even 5-6, with losses to Georgia, Florida State and possibly South Carolina on the table, but McElwain surely has bought himself time with consecutive SEC East championships and the foundation of a great 2018 recruiting class.

What’s more likely, in our opinion, is that McElwain stays but is pushed to fire offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, whose career of mediocrity has already been chronicled in detail.

If we had to put these guys in some sort of order, it might look like this…

SEC hot seat rankings entering the stretch run

1. Butch Jones

How hot? 5 out of 5 flames

Must-win: At Kentucky next week

Will anything save him? SEC Country’s Mike Griffith reports that winning out is the only way Jones keeps his job. And with LSU coming to town, the chances of that happening seem extraordinarily slim. Interestingly, the report also reveals Tennessee’s loss to Vanderbilt last year cost Jones a two-year extension.

Possible replacements: JON GRUDEN, CHIP KELLY, PEYTON MANNING, LANE KIFFIN… Just kidding. Actual candidates would in all likelihood be Group of 5 or lower-tier Power 5 coaches on the rise, such as Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and Memphis’ Mike Norvell.

2. Bret Bielema

How hot? 4.5 out of 5 flames

Must-win: At least three of his next five games; Ole Miss, Missouri and Coastal Carolina make that feat quite possible.

Will anything save him? Upsetting LSU in Week 11 would restore some faith in his program. As Eric Bolin notes, “only about 10,000 people — at most — stayed beyond the midway point of the third quarter” during the Saturday night loss to Auburn. When fans are checking out at home, and affecting athletic department revenue, that becomes a problem for Jeff Long.

Possible replacements: Dare we say Gus Malzahn? If he and Auburn part ways, it could work, given Malzahn’s roots as an Arkansas high school football coach.

3. Kevin Sumlin

How hot? 3.5 out of 5 flames

Must-win: At LSU during Rivalry Week

Will anything save him? Absolutely. As noted above, Sumlin has to finish strong to dispel the running criticism that his teams collapse in November. Coming off a bye week, beating Mississippi State would be an excellent start, and there are two very winnable games after that in New Mexico and Ole Miss. That’d have the Aggies at eight wins. Upset Auburn or LSU and you have to think Woodward considers keeping Sumlin around; he should, at least.

Possible replacements: Again, Sumlin is trending toward holding onto this job. But if A&M does fire him, this would become one of the most attractive openings in the country; Woodward would have a boatload of options.

4. Gus Malzahn

How hot? 3.5 out of 5 flames

Must-win: Georgia, Texas A&M or Alabama

Will anything get him fired? Losing to Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M might do the trick. More important than the win-loss record, however, is the context of those games. If the Tigers drop a couple of 13-7, 20-10 games, as they have been wont to do of late under Malzahn, lackluster offense could be what gets him canned. Auburn has enough talent that we’re unlikely to see that happen.

Possible replacements: Like A&M, this is one of the top postings in the country.

5. Jim McElwain

How hot? 3 out of 5 flames

Must-win: UAB

Will anything get him fired? Unless the Gators lose all of their remaining games in embarrassing fashion, including UAB, I don’t see how UF gets rid of McElwain. Sorry, Florida fans, but that’s just not a prudent move at this point. The school almost certainly will give him at least one more season to right the ship. Whether he rebounds in 2018 will more likely decide his fate.

3 other things you may have missed in Week 8

A heart of gold (and orange)

The now-infamous Butch Jones term joined a growing list of such phrases this February, when the Tennessee coach boasted that his program was only concerned with “5-star hearts and 5-star competitors.”

Fast forward to Saturday, when the Vols — trailing 28-0 midway through the third quarter — picked off a pass from Tide freshman backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown. Linebacker Daniel Bituli made the play, but defensive back Rashaan Gaulden added some, uh, competitive flair by flipping Alabama fans the double-bird.

Five-star hearts, indeed.

Derrius Guice and Nick Fitzgerald, record-smashers

Facing the porous Ole Miss defense, LSU’s star tailback romped for 276 yards rushing on just 22 carries Saturday night. In doing so, Guice accomplished a feat matched by no other SEC player: Three career games with at least 250 yards on the ground. Last year, he ran for 285 against Texas A&M and 252 against Arkansas.

Guice now sits in second place on the SEC’s rushing leaderboard with 711 yards through seven games played. As far as career rushing yards go, he’s 10th on the Tigers’ all-time list with 2,258, but needs only 320 yards to surpass Joseph Addai for sixth place. With Tennessee and Arkansas left on the schedule, it seems likely he’ll make that happen.

Elsewhere in the SEC West, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald became the sixth quarterback in conference history to top 2,000 career rushing yards. The junior ran for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns against Kentucky this weekend. With 107 more yards, he’ll pass Johnny Manziel for fifth place, but all-time leader Tim Tebow (2,947) and Bulldogs legend Dak Prescott (2,521) are within reach if Fitzgerald returns in 2018.

Missouri shows life

There was a funny moment Saturday afternoon when Idaho led Missouri, 7-0, after Drew Lock threw an interception that set up a quick Vandals touchdown drive. That didn’t last long, however, as the Tigers reeled off 37 unanswered points after that.

It’s been easy to dismiss Mizzou all season because its defense, which saw coordinator DeMontie Cross fired two weeks into the season, has been awful. But the Lock-led offense remains potent, having dropped 34 points against a decent Kentucky defense and another 28 against No. 3 Georgia. In fact, the junior quarterback connected on some absolute bombs while facing the Bulldogs.

In the past three weeks combined, Lock has thrown for 1,075 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging more than 10 yards per attempt. Three of his receivers, meanwhile, rank among the SEC’s top nine producers: J’Mon Moore (580 yards), Emanuel Hall (454 yards) and Johnathon Johnson (407 yards). And keep in mind, much of this has been without top tailback Damarea Crockett, who is out with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Point being, Missouri is poised to cause some trouble for the SEC in November with Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas left on the schedule. ESPN’s FPI rating system gives the Tigers a 30-plus percent chance of winning each of those matchups, and given the caliber of offenses they’d be playing, we like their chances even more.

So don’t sleep on coach Barry Odom just yet. Missouri might not be ready to play with the big boys just yet, but in a bad SEC, this team can do damage.

Highlight of the week: Group of 5 edition

We love college football in all its various iterations here at SEC Country, and few teams have been more impressive this season that the Scott Frost-led UCF Knights. On Saturday, they improved to 6-0 against a very good Navy team that runs a well-oiled, triple-option machine.

An aggressive UCF defense, however, held the Midshipmen to 4.2 yards per carry thanks to plays like this:

SEC power rankings after Week 7

  1. Alabama: Methodically disassembled “rival” Tennessee, 45-7, in what was the Crimson Tide’s 11th straight victory against the Vols. (Last week: 1)
  2. Georgia: Enjoyed a week of prep ahead of the annual Florida game in Jacksonville, Fla. (Last week: 2)
  3. Auburn: Convincingly dispatched an inferior Arkansas squad, 52-20, and the offense looked great all the while. Jarrett Stidham played well and the play-calling had to feel refreshing for Tigers fans. (Last week: 3)
  4. Mississippi State: Throttled one-loss Kentucky, 45-7, further distancing itself from those two big losses to Georgia and Auburn. A 9-3 finish is within reach for Fitzgerald and Co. (Last week: 4)
  5. LSU: We’re moving the Tigers up a notch on the back of three consecutive SEC wins. The Bayou Bengals weren’t perfect against the Rebels, but Guice sure looks healthy. (Last week: 6)
  6. Texas A&M: Coming off a bye, the Aggies have a potential statement game on deck in the primetime-spotlight matchup vs. Mississippi State. (Last week: 5)
  7. South Carolina: The Gamecocks could finish with eight wins if they knock off Florida at home, and they still have that N.C. State win in their back pocket. (Last week: 8)
  8. Kentucky: Mississippi State exposed the Wildcats defense in a big way, although UK did keep things close through the first half. Mark Stoops can get his team back on its feet as early as this Saturday, however, with a winnable clash against Tennessee on tap. (Last week: 7)
  9. Florida: McElwain isn’t going anywhere once the season mercifully ends for Gators fans, but the growing discontent will only get louder if Florida can’t put up a competitive fight against Georgia. (Last week: 9)
  10. Ole Miss: Held LSU to 13 points through the first two quarters, but losing quarterback Shea Patterson for the season is an absolutely brutal blow in an already off-the-rails season. Fortunately for the Rebels, they get Arkansas at home next week. (Last week: 10)
  11. Vanderbilt: Another SEC team on bye. The Commodores move up by virtue of not getting blown out this weekend. (Last week: 12)
  12. Tennessee: The Alabama game went as poorly as expected for Butch Jones, whose days in Knoxville seem numbered. (Last week: 11)
  13. Missouri: The Tigers are (very slowly) trending up, relative to where they were at the beginning of the season. The Idaho win was a nice start. (Last week: 14)
  14. Arkansas: Has not beaten a Power 5 team this season. The Hogs also have lost their last three games by a combined 90 points. Right now, I have them losing their Week 13 matchup at Missouri. Earth to Bret Bielema, you there? (Last week: 13)

Hittin’ the links: SEC Country news you may have missed

Tweet of the week


The post Week 8 SEC recap: Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn all could have new coaches in 2018 appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country