Around the SEC Week 15
Will the New Year bring the Southeastern Conference an unprecedented third consecutive national championship?
After Alabama and Florida finished up the regular season with wins in rivalry games, the opportunity for a conference three-peat appears imminent.
Barring a bizarre twist in BCS rankings (gosh, when does that ever happen), the winner of the SEC title game in Atlanta this weekend will play in the BCS Championship game in Miami on January 8th. The opponent will probably be the Big 12 champion, but don’t discount USC (and Penn State deserves consideration too).
The annual coaching carousel has again hit the SEC full force.
Sylvester Croom resigned at Mississippi State after the Bulldogs suffered a 45-0 beating from Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. What a difference a year has made in Starkville; last season Croom and the Bullies finished up an eight-win season with a Liberty Bowl victory in front of about 40,000 Maroon supporters.
Croom joins previously deposed Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee and recently removed Tommy Tuberville of Auburn as the SEC coaches to lose their positions this gridiron season.
The Big Orange moved quickly to fill the vacancy on Rocky Top, naming former USC assistant and Oakland Raider head coach Lane Kiffin as top Vol.
At Miss State several names have been bandied about including Derek Dooley of Louisiana Tech, Chris Hatcher of Georgia Southern, and Gus Malzahn (OC) of Tulsa. Might as well put Tuberville’s name on the list now.
On the Plains, Mike Leach of Texas Tech appears to be a target and Will Muschamp (coach in waiting at Texas) figures to get a call too. Dooley might warrant attention as well.
Here are one man’s picks for SEC end-of-the regular season awards.
Coach of the Year
1. Nick Saban (Alabama): Everybody thought he’d turn the Tide into national title contenders. Few thought he’d do it so soon.
2. Houston Nutt (Ole Miss): Sweet redemption for the former Arkansas head hog, as his Ole Miss Rebels made giant strides on the way to an 8-4 season.
3. Urban Meyer (Florida): The no-nonsense Meyer has assembled a juggernaut of talent and speed with the Gators.
Player of the Year (Offense)
1. Tim Tebow (QB Florida): A throwback, the Florida QB is the best and most valuable player in college football.
2. Percy Harvin (WR Florida): The Gators best runner and receiver, if he cannot play in SEC title game it is a huge blow.
3. Glen Coffee (RB Alabama): The unsung hero of the Crimson Tide’s undefeated season. This workhorse has piled up over 1200 yards rushing.
Player of the Year (Defense)
1. Eric Berry (S Tennessee): This All-American intercepted seven passes and returned two for TDs. The sophomore is a future All-Pro in waiting.
2. Rennie Curran (LB Georgia): The little tackling machine was often the only resistance in an otherwise soft Georgia defense.
3. Rolando McClain (LB Alabama): The emotional leader of the nation’s top team.
Newcomer of the Year
1. Jevan Snead (QB Ole Miss): The Texas transfer overcame some shaky moments early to be a big-time threat for the vastly improved Rebels.
2. Terrence Cody (DT Alabama): Mount Cody became a cult hero to Tide fans … and a nightmare for opposing centers.
3. Tie- A.J. Green (Georgia) and Julio Jones (Alabama): These rookie wide receiver mega-recruits more than lived up to their billing.
Game of the Year
1. Alabama 27-LSU 21 (OT): The Crimson Tide won the biggest challenge of the regular season by beating the defending national champs on the road.
2. Ole Miss 31-Florida 30: At the Swamp, the Rebels overcame a ten-point third quarter deficit for the first signature win of the Houston Nutt era.
3. Vanderbilt 31-Kentucky 24: The Commodores jumped out to a 24-7 lead on the road, then hung on to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1982.
SEC Bowl Projections
Remember to check back soon to see Professor’s Picks for all the bowl games (last year’s record of 24-8 will be tough to top and a 5-0 streak in BCS title games will also be on the line). All bowl selections will be finalized after championship Saturday. Here is an early set of SEC projections.
BCS NCG: Alabama/Florida Winner vs. Oklahoma
Sugar: Alabama/Florida Loser vs. Utah
Capital One: Georgia vs. Michigan State
Cotton: Ole Miss vs. Missouri
Outback: South Carolina vs. Iowa
Chick-fil-A: LSU vs. Georgia Tech
Music City: Vanderbilt vs. Maryland
Liberty: Kentucky vs. Tulsa
Independence: No SEC Eligible Team
Papa John’s: No SEC Eligible Team
Last Week’s Record 6-2
2008 Regular Season Record 68-24
The pigskin prognostication ended with a strong week to land at forty-six games over .500 for the season. Be sure to check back throughout December for analysis and predictions for all 34 bowls!
* All times Eastern
Ball State vs. Buffalo
Ford Field Detroit
Friday December 5th at 8:00 ESPN
The Ball State Cardinals (12-0) look to continue a perfect season behind star QB Nate Davis. Coach Turner Gill (former Nebraska great) deserves kudos for leading the Bulls (7-5) to a division title but expect Ball State to get the victory.
Prof’s Pick: Ball State
Conference USA Championship
East Carolina at Tulsa
Saturday December 6th at Noon ESPN
Skip Holtz’s ECU Pirates started the season with tremendous wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia, faltered in the middle of the season, but rebounded to win the East. Tulsa, behind stellar QB play from David Johnson, looked like a BCS buster type team during an 8-0 start before road losses at Arkansas and Houston ended such dreams. I like ECU’s toughness, but the Tulsa offense and home crowd should be too much to overcome.
Prof’s Pick: Tulsa
Boston College vs. Virginia Tech
Raymond James Stadium Tampa
Saturday December 6th at 1:00 ABC
After an up and down ACC season, the league ended up right back where it was at this time last year … with a BC-VT rematch. Last year, Tech earned the BCS bowl berth (Orange) by avenging a regular season loss, and the Hokies hope to do the same this season since BC beat them 28-23 on October 18th. Winner figures to take on Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl.
Prof’s Pick: Virginia Tech
Alabama vs. Florida
Georgia Dome Atlanta
Saturday December 6th at 4:00 CBS
See SEC Game of the Week Article
Prof’s Pick: Florida
Big 12 Championship
Missouri vs. Oklahoma
Arrowhead Stadium Kansas City
Saturday December 6th at 8:00 ABC
The red-hot Sooners are hanging 60 on everybody they play lately and have scored less than 40 only once all season (35 against TCU in Week 2). The weather in KC figures to cause more problems than the Missouri defense, but keep in mind the Tigers will almost be playing a home game. Stakes are high for OU as a national championship date with the SEC champ is there for the taking.
Prof’s Pick: Oklahoma