SEC wrap: West again home to champion
As expected, the West was best in the SEC, and for the fourth time in six seasons – and the third season in a row – a West Division team is going to win the national title.
Alabama and LSU will meet for the national title Jan. 9 in New Orleans, which will be a bit more than two months after their epic defensive struggle in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5, when LSU prevailed 9-6 in overtime.
That was the only game this season that LSU did not win by double-digits. LSU enters the national title game off beatdowns of Arkansas (by 24) and Georgia (by 32 in the league title game). The Tigers also beat Pac-12 champ Oregon by 13 points and Big East tri-champ West Virginia by 26 points. LSU scored at least 35 points in every game but two and had more than 40 nine times.
Each of Alabama’s wins was by double-digits. The Tide reached the 30-point plateau nine times and scored at least 40 in five games.
Perhaps the most impressive stat is that in the 23 games combined played by Alabama and LSU, the opposing team managed at least 10 points just 11 times.
Three other league teams, including East Division champ Georgia, won at least 10 games, but those three were no match for the “Big Two.” Arkansas lost twice, to Alabama and LSU – and by 24 points to each foe. LSU blasted Georgia by 32. And Arkansas beat South Carolina – which had edged Georgia – by 16.
Alabama and LSU each have a Heisman finalist, the Tide with tailback Trent Richardson and the Tigers with cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.
Player of year: LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu. He was good as a true freshman last season, earning Rivals.com freshman All-America honors as a reserve corner and nickelback. But did anyone really see this coming? “The Honey Badger” is a big-play machine for the Tigers. He went from being a question mark – i.e., Can he adequately replace Patrick Peterson in the starting lineup? – to a star. How much of a star is evidenced by his pending trip to New York as a Heisman finalist.
Freshman of year: Georgia TB Isaiah Crowell. He had some injury issues and there were some off-field concerns, but when healthy and motivated, he ran hard and gained yards. He had four 100-yard games and gave Georgia a rushing threat that other teams had to respect.
Coach of year: LSU’s Les Miles. His team played the toughest schedule in the nation, and it won all 13 games. Twelve of the wins – all but the OT victory at Alabama - came by double-digits. He also had to deal with his offensive coordinator giving up those duties in August because of Parkinson’s Disease and with his starting quarterback being suspended before the season for a bar fight.
Coordinator of year: LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. Chavis built some nasty defenses at Tennessee in the 1990s, but this LSU unit is special. It’s a relentless group, and “The Chief” always seems to make the right call at the right time. Of course, it helps that he has depth that is the envy of every coach in the country.
Biggest surprise, team: Vanderbilt. Once new coach James Franklin arrived from Maryland, he never stopped selling his program or motivating his players. Vandy still has work to do on offense, but the Commodores are 6-6 – each of their past four losses was by six or fewer points, including a five-point setback to Georgia and a three-point loss to Arkansas – and going bowling for just the second time since 1982.
[Video: Bowl games to watch ]
Biggest disappointment, team: Florida. No one expected a division title for the new coaching staff. But the Gators’ offense was a disaster and the defense was overrun at times. Florida is 6-6 with its Gator Bowl date with Ohio State pending (man, a ton of irony there, huh?), and the Gators are in danger of finishing with a losing record for the first time since 1979.
Biggest surprise, player: LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu. We talked about him earlier. Again, no one questioned his talent. But his production has been off the charts.
Biggest disappointment, player: South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia. Garcia was like a cat with nine lives - except this cat had about 100. But after five games this season, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier finally ran out of patience and Garcia, a senior, was kicked off the team. Garcia had played steady football last season, and the hope was continued improvement could lead to a dark-horse run at the league title. That didn’t happen. But the Gamecocks still won 10 games, proof that Spurrier can coach and that Ellis Johnson’s defense is strong.
Best game: Nov. 5, LSU 9, Alabama 6 (OT). Hey, it was so good, they’re playing again. No, there wasn’t much offense. But who expected a shootout? Instead, it was a fierce defensive struggle, with big-timers on that side of the ball for both teams dominating. Special teams played a huge role, too. If the rematch in the national title game is this close, everyone will be happy.
Biggest upset: Oct. 1, Auburn 16, South Carolina 13. The Gamecocks were 4-0 when they welcomed in the Tigers that day, but South Carolina’s offense was shut down by a mediocre Auburn defense (just 289 total yards). South Carolina’s loss at Arkansas later in the season isn’t hard to understand. But this one is. South Carolina beat Georgia, Georgia crushed Auburn – and Auburn edged South Carolina.
Underclassmen liable to turn pro: Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks, Georgia TE Orson Charles, LSU CB Morris Claiborne, Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox, South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore, Alabama LB Dont’a Hightower, South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery, Georgia LB Jarvis Jones, Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama S Robert Lester, LSU WR Rueben Randle, Alabama TB Trent Richardson.
Bowl outlook: The overriding story is that the SEC is guaranteed its sixth national titlist in a row. On the flipside, the league’s depth has been questioned, and while there are five SEC teams with at least 10 wins in the postseason, there also is one 7-5 team and three that are 6-6. Each of the 7-5/6-6 teams is matched up against a Big Six conference opponent.
|FIRST TEAM OFFENSE|
|QB||Aaron Murray, Georgia; 6-1/211, Soph.; Tampa Plant|
|RB||Michael Dyer, Auburn; 5-9/210, Soph.; Little Rock (Ark.) Little Rock Christian|
|RB||Trent Richardson, Alabama; 5-11/224, Jr.; Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia|
|WR||Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee; 6-3/215, Soph.; Calhoun (Ga.) High|
|WR||Jarius Wright, Arkansas; 5-10/180, Sr.; Warren (Ark.) High|
|TE||Orson Charles, Georgia; 6-3/241, Jr.; Tampa Plant|
|T||Alex Hurst, LSU; 6-6/340, Jr.; Arlington (Tenn.) High|
|T||Barrett Jones, Alabama; 6-5/311, Jr.; Memphis> Evangelical Christian|
|G||Will Blackwell, LSU; 6-4/290, Sr.; West Monroe (La.) High|
|G||Chance Warmack, Alabama; 6-3/320, Jr.; Atlanta Westlake|
|C||Ben Jones, Georgia; 6-3/316, Sr.; Centreville (Ala.) Bibb County|
|FIRST TEAM DEFENSE|
|E||Melvin Ingram, South Carolina; 6-2/276, Sr.; Hamlet (N.C.) Richmond County|
|T||Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State; 6-4/295, Jr.; Yazoo City (Miss.) High|
|E||Sam Montgomery, LSU; 6-4/245, Soph.; Greenwood (S.C.) High|
|LB||Dont'a Hightower, Alabama; 6-4/260, Jr.; Lewisburg (Tenn.) Marshall County|
|LB||Jarvis Jones, Georgia; 6-3/241, Soph.; USC transfer, preceded by Columbus (Ga.) Carver|
|LB||Danny Trevathan, Kentucky; 6-1/232, Sr.; Leesburg (Fla.) High|
|LB||Courtney Upshaw, Alabama; 6-2/265, Sr.; Eufaula (Ala.) High|
|CB||Morris Claiborne, LSU; 6-0/185, Jr.; Shreveport (La.) Fair Park|
|CB||Tyrann Mathieu, LSU; 5-9/175, Soph.; New Orleans St. Augustine|
|FS||Bacarri Rambo, Georgia; 6-0/218, Jr.; Donalsonville (Ga.) Seminole County|
|SS||Mark Barron, Alabama; 6-2/218, Sr.; Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's|
|FIRST TEAM SPECIAL TEAMS|
|K||Caleb Sturgis, Florida; 5-11/183, Jr.; St. Augustine (Fla.) High|
|P||Brad Wing, LSU; 6-3/184, R-Fr.; Baton Rouge (La.) Parkview Baptist|
|KR||Dennis Johnson, Arkansas; 5-9/213, Jr.; Texarkana (Ark.) Arkansas|
|PR||Tyrann Mathieu, LSU; 5-9/175, Soph.; New Orleans St. Augustine|
|SECOND TEAM OFFENSE|
|QB||Tyler Wilson, Arkansas; 6-3/220, Jr.; Greenwood (Ark.) High|
|RB||Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina; 6-0/232, Soph.; Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes|
|RB||Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt; 5-9/208, Jr.; Centreville (Ala.) Bibb County|
|WR||Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina; 6-4/229, Jr.; St. Matthews (S.C.) Calhoun County|
|WR||Rueben Randle, LSU; 6-4/208, Jr.; Bastrop (La.) High|
|TE||Chris Gragg, Arkansas; 6-3/236, Jr.; Warren (Ark.) High|
|T||Cordy Glenn, Georgia; 6-5/348, Sr.; Riverdale (Ga.) High|
|T||Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina; 6-4/340, Sr.; Georgia Military Institute, preceded by Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside|
|G||Alvin Bailey, Arkansas; 6-5/319, Soph.; Broken Arrow (Okla.) High|
|G||Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State; 6-4/320, Soph.; Liberty (Miss.) Amite County|
|C||William Vlachos, Alabama; 6-1/294, Sr.; Mountain Brooks (Ala.) High|
|SECOND TEAM DEFENSE|
|E||Jake Bequette, Arkansas; 6-5/271, Sr.; Little Rock (Ark.) Catholic|
|T||Michael Brockers, LSU; 6-6/306, Soph.; Houston Chavez|
|T||Malik Jackson, Tennessee; 6-5/270, Sr.; transfer from USC, preceded by Van Nuys (Calif.) Birmingham|
|E||Corey Lemonier, Auburn; 6-4/240, Soph.; Hialeah (Fla.) High|
|LB||Jerry Franklin, Arkansas; 6-1/245, Sr.; Marion (Ark.) High|
|LB||Cameron Lawrence, Mississippi State; 6-2/230, Jr.; Senatobia (Miss.) Magnolia Heights|
|LB||Chris Marve, Vanderbilt; 6-0/238, Sr.; Memphis White Station|
|CB||Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt; 5-11/188, Sr.; Perry (Ga.) High|
|CB||DeQuan Menzie, Alabama; 6-0/198, Sr.; Copiah-Lincoln CC (Miss.), preceded by Columbus (Ga.) Carver|
|FS||Eric Reid, LSU; 6-2/208, Soph.; Geismar (La.) Dutchtown|
|SS||Antonio Allen, South Carolina; 6-2/202, Sr.; Fork Union (Va.) Fork Union Military Academy, preceded by Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic|
|SECOND TEAM SPECIAL TEAMS|
|K||Zach Hocker, Arkansas; 6-0/180, Soph.; Russellville (Ark.) High|
|P||Ryan Tydlacka, Kentucky; 6-1/190, Sr.; Louisville (Ky.) Trinity|
|KR||Andre Hal, Vanderbilt; 5-11/184, Soph.; Port Allen (La.) High|
|PR||Joe Adams, Arkansas; 5-11/190, Sr.; Little Rock (Ark.) Central Arkansas Christian|
|SEC ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM OFFENSE|
|QB||Maxwell Smith, Kentucky; 6-4/220, true freshman; Van Nuys (Calif.) Birmingham|
|RB||Isaiah Crowell, Georgia; 5-11/215, true freshman; Columbus (Ga.) Carver|
|RB||Kenny Hilliard, LSU; 5-11/240, true freshman; Patterson (La.) High|
|WR||Odell Beckham Jr., LSU; 5-11/183, true freshman; New Orleans Newman|
|WR||Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia; 6-1/184, true freshman; Valdosta (Ga.) High|
|WR||Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss; 6-2/214, true freshman; Raleigh (Miss.) High|
|T||Chaz Green, Florida; 6-5/306, redshirt freshman; Tampa Catholic|
|T||Mitch Smothers, Arkansas; 6-4/296, true freshman; Springdale (Ark.) High|
|G||A.J. Cann, South Carolina; 6-3/299, redshirt freshman; Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt|
|G||Chad Slade, Auburn; 6-5/308, redshirt freshman; Moody (Ala.) High|
|C||Reese Dismukes, Auburn; 6-3/300, true freshman; Spanish Fort (Ala.) High|
|SEC ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM DEFENSE|
|E||Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; 6-6/254, redshirt freshman; Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe|
|T||Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina ; 6-4/271, true freshman; Fork Union (Va.) Fork Union Military Academy, preceded by Greenwood (S.C.) High|
|E||C.J. Johnson, Ole Miss; 6-1/231, true freshman; Philadelphia (Miss.) High|
|LB||Serderius Bryant, Ole Miss; 5-10/223, true freshman; Sanford (Fla.) Seminole|
|LB||Amarlo Herrera, Georgia; 6-2/231, true freshman; College Park (Ga.) North Clayton|
|LB||A.J. Johnson, Tennessee; 6-3/245, true freshman; Gainesville (Ga.) High|
|LB||Curt Maggitt, Tennessee; 6-3/215, true freshman; Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Dwyer|
|CB||Tevin Mitchel, Arkansas; 6-0/185, true freshman; Mansfield (Texas) Legacy|
|CB||Marcus Roberson, Florida; 6-0/184, true freshman; Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas|
|S||De'Ante Saunders, Florida; 5-8/192, true freshman; DeLand (Fla.) High|
|S||Brian Randolph, Tennessee; 6-0/190, true freshman; Marietta (Ga.) Kell|
|SEC ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM SPECIAL TEAMS|
|P||Brad Wing, LSU; 6-3/184, redshirt freshman; Baton Rouge (La.) Parkview Baptist|
|KR||Tre Mason, Auburn; 5-10/190, true freshman; Lake Worth (Fla.) Park Vista|
|PR||Marquel Wade, Arkansas; 5-11/185, true freshman; Milford (N.J.) Milford Academy, preceded by Jacksonville Jackson|
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