SEC Weekend Recap
By Jeremy Hillman
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Alabama, Georgia and Florida are all now back in the national championship discussion.
With seven SEC teams playing FCS opponents, it was a bit of a calm football weekend in the Southeastern Conference. However, thrillers in Columbia and Baton Rouge gave us plenty to enjoy, before watching the SEC move back into the national championship picture with losses by Kansas State and Oregon later in the day.
Here is my weekly review of the SEC action from week 12:
Biggest Win: Mississippi State 45 Arkansas 14. After three straight losses, the Bulldogs seemed to be on a free-fall from the top. However, Mississippi State stood strong on Saturday and reclaimed its winning ways, holding on to its top 25 national ranking with a big win over Arkansas.
Worst Loss: Syracuse 31 Missouri 27. The Tigers needed this win to qualify for a bowl game, as their last game of the season is versus heavy favorite Texas A&M. Missouri had the lead and looked like it would get win number six. However, Syracuse rallied late and put a big damper on Mizzou’s inaugural SEC season.
Offensive Player of The Week: Mississippi State QB Tyler Russell. Russell has quietly had a very nice season for the Bulldogs. His four touchdown performance in Saturday’s lopsided win over Arkansas gives the junior QB an impressive 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions on the year.
Defensive Player of The Week: LSU LB Kevin Minter. The Tiger linebacker was all over the field on Saturday, helping LSU avoid an upset by Ole Miss. Minter racked up an impressive 11 tackles in the game, including two for a loss.
1. Georgia and Alabama. Both teams blew out FCS opponents on Saturday, which is nothing to celebrate. However, the celebration came on Saturday night when the nation’s top two teams lost and made the SEC Championship Dame a defacto play-in game for the BCS National Championship game — assuming Georgia beats Georgia Tech and Alabama beats Auburn. Even the Florida Gators are rumbling about how they may slide into a title game spot, so this was truly a good day for the conference, as the seventh consecutive national title is still possible for the SEC.
2. Mississippi State turnover ratio. The Bulldog defense picked off two more passes in the win over the Razorbacks and improved their SEC leading turnover margin to an incredible +16. That is good for fourth nationally in this important statistical category.
3. Vanderbilt. Who would have guessed that Vanderbilt would have finished this season with an 8-4 record? With a win over a very beatable Wake Forest team next week, the Commodores will do just that. Fresh off a rout of in-state Tennessee, Vanderbilt looks to have truly turned the corner under the direction of intense head coach James Franklin.
1. Tennessee. Another year without qualifying for a bowl, more probation from the Lane Kiffin era, a 23-point home loss to Vanderbilt, a fired head coach, and a lack of talent coming back next season, all point to very down times in Knoxville. Volunteer Nation hopes this upcoming hire is a home run that can turn this ship around. Stay tuned.
2. Missouri. This is not how the Missouri faithful saw this season going. It is likely the Tigers will finish with just five wins and miss a bowl game in their first season as an SEC member. With other conference newbie Texas A&M having a banner year, ranked among the top teams in the nation, it has to be even more frustrating for the Tigers.
3. Ole Miss. In what has been an improved and better-than-expected Ole Miss team under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, the Rebels have to be heartbroken that they weren’t able to pull out a win in the close game down in Baton Rouge on Saturday. Ole Miss had a shot at the win and allowed a long kick-off return which let LSU back in the game. The Rebels now must beat a good Mississippi State team to earn six wins and receive a bowl invite.
Updated Bowl Projections:
BCS National Championship Game: Georgia Vs Notre Dame
BCS Sugar Bowl: Alabama Vs Oklahoma
Capital One Bowl: LSU Vs Northwestern
Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M Vs Texas
Outback Bowl: Florida Vs Michigan
Chick-fil-A Bowl: Mississippi State Vs NC State
Gator Bowl: South Carolina Vs Michigan State
Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt Vs Virginia Tech
Liberty Bowl: No SEC team available, Central Michigan Vs Tulsa
Compass Bowl: No SEC team available, Western Kentucky Vs La. Tech
Updated Top 10 Players Ranking (based on performance, not potential):
1. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
2. Georgia LB Jarvis Jones
3. Texas A&M DL Damontre Moore
4. South Carolina DL Jadeveon Clowney
5. Arkansas WR Cobi Hamilton
6. Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
7. Georgia QB Aaron Murray
8. Alabama QB A.J. McCarron
9. LSU LB Kevin Minter
10. Tennessee WR Justin Hunter
Updated Awards Projections:
SEC Coach of The Year: James Franklin, Vanderbilt
SEC Offensive Player Of The Year: Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
SEC Defensive Player Of The Year: Georgia LB Jarvis Jones