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SEC Bowl Previews – 12/31/12 Through 1/5/12

mrsec game previewWith the SEC kicking off its bowl schedule today, we wanted to get you up to speed with the television listings, latest lines, keys to victory and our own predictions for each of the league’s first eight contests.

Naturally, next week’s BCS Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame will get its own breakdown a bit later.

But without further ado, here’s your holiday gridiron primer for all the SEC action this week…


Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN)

Vanderbilt (8-4) vs NC State (7-5)

12:00pm ET, Today on ESPN

Opening Line:  VU -5

Current Line:  VU -7.5

Sidenotes:  Vanderbilt has the SEC’s longest win streak at six games and it’s won those six games by an average of 24 points, scoring more than 40 points in four of those six contests.  NCSU lost three of its last five games allowing 43 to North Carolina, 33 to Virginia, and 62 to Clemson in those defeats.

Key for Vanderbilt:  Own the air.  NC State had the ACC’s second-best passing attack this season, but Vanderbilt had the third-best pass defense in the SEC.  In the all-important opponent’s passer rating statistic, Vandy actually placed second in the league.  While Commodore QB Jordan Rodgers didn’t match the numbers of Wolfpack QB Mike Glennon, Rodgers protected the football — just five INTs all season — against superior defenses.  NCSU’s pass defense ranked just ninth in the ACC.

Pick:  Vanderbilt 27, NC State 17


Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta, GA)

LSU (10-2) vs Clemson (10-2)

7:30pm ET, Tonight on ESPN

Opening Line:  LSU -3

Current Line:  LSU -6

Sidenotes:  Clemson had the best offense in the ACC rolling up 518 yards per game.  But in a 27-17 loss to South Carolina to end the season, the Tigers put up just 328 yards of offense (145 rushing, 183 passing).  LSU ranked just ahead of Carolina in total defense in the SEC this year.

Key for LSU:  Show up.  The Tigers aren’t thrilled to be heading to Atlanta when slots in more prestigious bowls were available.  The last time a Top 10 SEC team moaned so much about landing in Atlanta, #6 Tennessee was whipped 27-14 by unranked Clemson in 2004.  LSU has the superior defense and the superior team.  But if the Bayou Bengals aren’t fired up for this one, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd will surprise.

Pick:  Clemson 24, LSU 23

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Slive On Expansion: “For Us It’s Not About Numbers”

Mike Slive sat down for an extended chat with USA Today this week and the paper/website continues to roll out snippets from their Q&A with the SEC’s commissioner.  This morning, they share the portion of the conversation dealing with conference expansion and realignment.

Here are a few of the highlights from their piece — which you should read in its entirety right here — as well as our thoughts on Slive’s comments…


“Q: What’s your take on the recent events in the Big East? Is there further realignment coming?

A: Really, just following it. We read what you read and we read what you write. And maybe to go back a little bit, because this is probably where you’re going, we were very comfortable at 12 (member schools). We were successful. We weren’t looking to expand. And then Texas A&M came to us and subsequently Missouri, and at that point our folks evaluated the institutions. We were obviously looking to the future, and decided to take them.

We’re pleased to have 14 (members). Scheduling is not easy and we’re integrating that into our planning. But I think we’re at the same place at 14 that we were at 12. So needless to say, we’re aware, we watch what’s going on around us with interest. At this point in time that’s all we’re doing.

Q: Is 14 members viable for the long haul?

A: Yeah, we think so. You know, scheduling is not easy with 14. But we’re well down the road (scheduling).”


The SEC was well down the road with 12-team scheduling, too, when Texas A&M and then Missouri came aboard.  If the landscape changes and forces the league to move… and if the SEC can find a way to move that would add money and power to the conference, you better believe it will do so.


“Q: We’re all chasing realignment now. Where do you think college sports will be in five years? Would we be talking about super conferences? Could we see a separate subdivision or a breakaway from the NCAA?

A: When the question gets asked about super conferences, the sense I get is it’s not asked about the quality of the conference, it’s about a number (of members). For us it’s not about numbers. It’s about the quality of the conference and the institutions. From my observation, is there a concerted effort among conferences to get to a (certain) number? I don’t think so. I can’t speak for individual conferences, but to me, I don’t have any sense that there’s this master plan that governs the athletic universe that’s marching toward getting conferences with 16 teams. We’re all very different, we’re all very competitive, we all have different cultures.”


“For us it’s not about numbers.”  Well, the commish is obviously talking about hitting a specific number of schools and teams and we believe he’s right that there is no “master plan” driving every league to a 16-school limit.  We’ve been saying that for a few weeks now.  If things continue to move — and at this point it certainly looks like we’re headed in that direction — there could be some leagues with 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 or more schools.

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Big East Has Talked To BYU, Fresno State, And UNLV

According to’s Dennis Dodd, new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco has either reached out to or had informal conversations with BYU (football independent), Fresno State (MWC), and UNLV (MWC).  The league and schools have spoken about bringing their football programs to that revolving door of a conference.

In theory, the Big East will have 13 schools playing football by 2015.  Barring more changes — ha! — the league’s football roster will include Connecticut, Memphis, South Florida, SMU, Cincinnati, Temple, San Diego State, UCF, East Carolina, Houston, Boise State, Tulane and Navy.

The Big East’s schools are all looking to move up the food chain and make more money.  The league itself is trying to hold on as a football conference because that sport is what drives television revenue.  But it’s hard to hold on as a league when everyone in the league is either new, looking to get out, or — remarkably — both.

Poor Aresco.  When he accepted the role of Big East commissioner in August he might as well have been taking the wheel from Titanic’s captain Edward Smith.  No one’s had more reason to cry since this guy:


The Crying Indian – full commercial – Keep America Beautiful

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Big Bang Theories: The Countdown To Super-Conferences (Part 1)

As the power brokers of the college football world steered their sport toward a brave new world featuring a four-team playoff, it was widely believed that most conferences would slow down a bit on the expansion and realignment front.  Instead, the Big Ten craftily nabbed Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East last month, setting off yet another wave of changes, long before the new playoff format and revenue split had even been fully fleshed out.

After the Big Ten’s shocking move, it was only a matter of time before more dominoes began to fall.  And with seven Big East basketball schools deciding last week that they would break away from the Big Whatever, we believe the Big Bang is here.  We mean the big, Big Bang, too.  Super-conferences rising.  Small leagues folding or partnering with one another for survival.  A super-division of the richest four or five conferences separating itself along a haves and have-nots border.  Television executives dropping stone dead from exhaustion as they negotiate, renegotiate, and then renogotiate again major TV deals worth billions of dollars.

In other words, we’re on the brink of a full-on, A-1, top-drawer madhouse.

We’ve examined conference expansion at dating back three-plus years now.  We’ve taken a by-the-numbers approach each time because that’s what all this mess has been about — numbers.  Last October we put together a 10-part series on the math of conference expansion/realignment and you can find the final summary to that series here (as well as links to all the other nine parts).

But this latest burst of expansion is an even simpler breakdown.  This time, you can just follow the money.  Schools are looking for new homes because they want to guarantee themselves larger revenue streams.  Many would like to find some stability, too, but the key factor is the cash.

A seat is nice.  A comfy throne is better.

Meanwhile, conferences are trying to cash in on television deals and playoff revenue.  With the Big East on the verge of being adios’ed, it’s already been snipped from the list of major football conferences.  Instead of six big conferences splitting the lion’s share of postseason cash, in the future just five leagues will dominate the playoff era.  And that’s only if the ACC survives.  If it gets picked apart a la the Big East — and money suggests it will be — then there will be but four big-time leagues to horde the majority of playoff cash.

Those four conferences will also dominate the television landscape.  For half a decade, folks have debated whether the SEC got things right by inking huge contracts with CBS and ESPN or whether the Big Ten made the shrewdest move in launching its own TV network.  Turns out, they were both smarter than the rest of the pack.  To make the haul of greenbacks as big as possible, a conference wants both huge, national television contracts and its own network.

So this round of moves comes down to much simpler math than anything we’ve seen before in the expansion/realignment game.  It’s about revenue and it’s about cable households.  Sure, some leagues won’t take schools if they don’t fit a certain academic profile, but now more than ever academics are taking a bigger backseat to cash and television ratings.

With that in mind, this week, we’re going to provide you with some very simple data.  Today, we’ll look at the schools that might be interested in switching conferences.  It’s not hard to figure out which schools would listen to another league’s offer.  Just look at the revenue.

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WOW headlines – 12/14/12

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is getting a $500,000 raise and will make $2 million next year
Reports state that seven non-FBS members of the Big East are planning to leave that struggling league
Cincinnati and UConn of the Big East are discussing starting a new conference as realignment issues continue
The SEC will not suspend Alabama DE Quinton Dial for his hit on Georgia QB Aaron Murray in SEC title game
The SEC will not suspend Georgia CB Sheldon Dawson for his eye-gouge of Alabama CB Dee Milliner in the SEC title game
11 of the 26 players on the FWAA All-America team come from the SEC
A Pac-12 officiating crew will work the BCS Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame
The Gator Bowl will allow Mississippi State fans to bring their cowbells to the MSU-Northwestern matchup
Tennessee’s basketball team defeated #23 Wichita State 69-60 in Knoxville on Thursday night
Follow the SEC every single day at and

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With Seven Schools Exiting The Big East, Get Ready For The Big Bang

Earlier this week we told you that the revenue split coming from the new college football playoff would act as an accelerant for the drive to a new “super-division” of FBS-level heavyweights within the NCAA.  We also told you that we’d learned from a source inside the athletic supplier industry that at least one Pac-12 athletic director had already told all his coaches that the day of 16-school super-conferences is at hand.

Now toss in the word that seven non-FBS schools will be pulling out of the Big East — a conference that’s been plugging leaks for two straight years — and the chain reaction is clearly underway.  Whether NCAA presidents or conference commissioners want it or not, the countdown has begun and the race is on when it comes to landing new schools.  This is the Big Bang, folks.  With DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Villanova planning their exit from the Big East, that league’s football roster is scheduled to look like this by 2015: Boise State, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Navy, San Diego State, SMU, South Florida, Temple, Tulane, UCF.

Uh, yeah.

So the Big East — or whatever it will be called — will likely continue to lose schools before they even actually join.  That league will move forward as a new version of Conference USA at best.

It will be interesting to watch the ACC’s next move.  Will that league try to strengthen itself by adding Cincinnati or UConn, two schools that desperately want in?  Will Boston College finally drop its fight to keep UConn out if it feels it’s a matter of survival for the ACC?  And even if the ACC added those two schools, would it be enough to fend off raiding parties from elsewhere?  We’re looking at you, Big Ten (since you started this latest round of realignment by nabbing Maryland and Rutgers from the ACC and Big East, respectively).  We’re looking at you, Big XII.  And, yes, we’re looking at you, SEC.

While many believe we’ll end up with a nice, neat football universe consisting of four 16-school super-conferences — heck, that’s been talked about since the 1980s — there’s no guarantee that all leagues will balloon to 16 or that all conferences will stop growing at the point.

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SEC Headlines 12/11/2012

Coaching News & Rumors

1. Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury on the radar at Texas Tech.  One of the “top two targets.”

2. 13 schools have paid $31 million to buy out coaches this year.  When you factor in assistant coaches and other items, price tag rises to more than $50 million.

3. Western Kentucky AD Todd Stewart on hiring Bobby Petrino: “We hired him because he’s an outstanding football coach.”

4. Petrino: “One thing I’ve learned from this is I can be even more of an influence on a young man’s life than just on the football field.” Jeff Schultz: “That’s the problem.”

5. Stewart Mandel: “The surprise to me is that so many desperate, higher-profile programs showed such restraint.”

6. Mike Lopresti:  ”Atonement can’t be rushed. And what does it say when it is?”

7. Tim Couch on new Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown: ”The quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, they’re all going to see the football a lot.”

8. John Clay: ”Neal Brown is back. Bobby Petrino is back. And Charlie Strong never left.”

9. What it boils down to in the coaching profession: ”You win, you win them over. You lose, you lose your job.”

10. Options for a couple of Arkansas assistants - stay with the Razorbacks or go to work for one of the Petrinos – Bobby or Paul.

11. Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken is the new coach at Southern Miss.

12. Tommy Tuberville leading an exodus out of Lubbock?

13. Charlie Strong’s contract extension at Louisville “getting close” to being done.

 SEC/College News

14. Thanks to Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M is reaping the benefits of a public relations bonanza.  A&M marketing VP: “This is truly unparalleled in terms of the broad scope of national media exposure A&M is receiving,”

15. With Marcus Lattimore reportedly turning pro, South Carolina will turn to running back Mike Davis.

16. Steve Spurrier on Lattimore:  ”When he’s ready, I’m sure they will have a press conference.”

17. Plenty of decisions facing Georgia football.  No. 1  on the list - will Aaron Murray stay or go?

18. Bulldogs defense expected to lose 12 players who started games this year.

19. Notre Dame over Alabama - because of its goal-line defense?

20. Notre Dame t-shirts - made in Auburn. For only the fourth time in school history, names on jerseys for Notre Dame when it plays Alabama.

21. Pat Forde: “The world’s most famous Catholic university aspires to win like a football factory while educating like an elite institution, and it largely succeeds.”

22. Alabama redshirt freshman quarterback Alec Morris: “It’s been different sitting out a year. But I love it,

23. A good year at LSU - $18 million in profits for the athletic department, before donations to the academic side.

24. Chad Bumphis needs 96 yards to become only the second wide receiver in Mississippi State history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards.

25. The talented and humble Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State could be a first -round pick in the NFL draft.

26. Florida’s running game looks to be in good shape next season -thanks to the emergence of freshman Matt Jones

27. Missouri names running back Kendial Lawrence team MVP.

**Update** AP All-America team.


28. Urban Meyer’s sister works at the University of Cincinnati.  UC tried to enlist him in their attempt to bolt the Big East. School looked at ACC and Big 12.

29. The seven Catholic basketball schools of the Big East met over the weekend to ponder their future.

30. “The truth is that the ACC is the next conference that is going to be torn apart.” 


31. Football teams with the best TV ratings this year.

32. “You Don’t Know Bo” - highest ratings ever for an ESPN documentary. (It’s re-airing on ESPN2 Wednesday night – if you haven’t seen it, well worth your time)

33. “One Night in March” - documentary on 1963 Mississippi State team now available online.

34. The Sporting News says goodbye as a print publication.

35. A Bleacher Report editor lashes out at his $5-a-post writers. Language/Satire Alert, NSFW.

SEC Basketball

36. With point guard Anthony Hickey suspended, freshman Corban Collins gets his shot for LSU. Hickey could be back soon.

37. Coming back off a season-ending knee injury, Missouri forward Laurence Bowers is better than ever.

38. After a 10-day layoff, 2-5 Auburn is back in action tonight against Grambling State.

39. Jerry Palm has Kentucky No. 84 in his Ratings Percentage Index. John Calipari: “If we’re in the NIT, it’s a good run to New York.”

40. Mike DeCourcy on Georgia: “In one of the richest talent-producing states in the nation, the Bulldogs are shooting 38.8 percent from the floor (312th in Division I) and average 56.8 points (331st).”

41. Last year’s JUCO Player of the Year, Ole Miss Rebel Marshall Henderson is learning to adjust his game to the next level.

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SEC Headlines 12/7/2012

Coaching News/Rumors

1. Auburn’s new offensive coordinator, Rhett Lashlee, is joining head coach Gus Malzahn in making the move from Arkansas State.

2. Do Bobby Petrino and Houston Nutt want the job Malzahn just left?

3. The house cleaning at Auburn continues - strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall is out – 10th assistant under Gene Chizik to be let go.  Auburn may owe last year’s staff as much as $11 million.

4. Auburn’s new defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson, has the blessing of Gene Stallings: ”He’s a good person, a good recruiter and a good football coach. I think Auburn made a good hire.”

5. What’s the future of assistant coach Trooper Taylor at Auburn?

6. Assembling a staff now a focus of Bret Bielema at Arkansas.

7. The question about new Tennessee coach Butch Jones – we know he can cook dinner but can he buy the groceries?

8. With new coaches in place in bordering SEC states, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel’s job just got tougher.

9. Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown rumored to be in line for the same spot at Kentucky. But with head coaching jobs open at mid-major programs, Brown may have other options.

10. New Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot is already out on the recruiting trail for UK.

11. South Carolina assistant Shawn Elliott was rumored to be interested in the head coaching  job at Appalachian State, but he’s staying in Columbia.

12. Mike Bianchi on Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher: “If FSU fans don’t think Fisher would leave Tallahassee for an SEC job, they are delusional.”

13. The “farm system” for big-time programs?  ”In the 2013 season, at least 13 of the 57 BCS automatic-qualifier teams will have head coaches who have been head coaches in the MAC.”

14. New Cal coach Sonny Dykes gives the fans a reality check: “It’s going to be a long, arduous process.”


15. SEC All-Freshman Team – Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M lead the way with four selections each.

16. More hardware for Johnny Football.  Johnny Manziel wins Davey O’Brien Award given to the nation’s top quarterback.  Manziel’s top 10 plays of the year.  Footballs and helmets signed by Manziel (many believed to be fake) have sold for more than $400.

17. Five of the last six O’Brien winners have gone on to win the Heisman. The case for each of the three finalists.

18. Manziel teammate and offensive lineman Luke Joeckel wins the Outland Award, prevents Alabama’s Barrett Jones from becoming repeat winner, but Jones does win Remington Trophy.

19. Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks wins the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back.

20. Top ten Heisman seasons of the last 40 years?

SEC/College News

21. Arkansas juniors ponder the possibilities of leaving early for the NFL.

22. Mississippi State will open bowl practices to fans next week as the Bulldogs gear up for the Gator Bowl.

23. Ron Morris comes to the defense of the ACC conference: “(W)hy pick on the ACC because it does not compete at the same level (as the SEC)? Neither does the Big Ten, or the Big 12, or the Pac-12, or the Big East.”

SEC Basketball

24. Vanderbilt 66 – Xavier 64 (OT). Career-high 25 points for Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller.

24. Back-to-back games for Tennessee under 40 points - first time since 1946. 

25. Missouri has talent but can all these new parts learn to play together?


26. Does Mike Kryzewski’s unhappiness with realignment mean he’s worried that Duke could be next?

27. Mark Story: Will the ACC that exists now be the one Louisville ultimately joins in 2014 and the one in which it is still playing a decade from now?

28. Realignment taking its toll on the Big East - could take $20 million to $40 million hit on new television deals.


29. Fired-up coach head-butted player.  Player had helmet on…coach did not.

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Vols To Hire Strong Today? Gundy Not Out Of The Picture Yet

With one coaching search still rolling along, we’ll start right there this morning.

Tennessee is continuing its search for a new coach today and many Volunteer fans — at least judging by their emails to us — aren’t happy to be the last school with a vacancy.  They shouldn’t be upset at all.  Not yet anyway.

Auburn hired Gus Malzahn yesterday, a coach that makes sense for the Tigers as he knows most of that school’s players as well as the full landscape of the program.  But he was not on Tennessee’ list.

Arkansas made a splashy hire by convincing Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema to move south and enter a league that he famously dissed a year ago.  Coaches from successful programs don’t often move, so that surprise hire was a coup for the Hogs.  But Beilema was not on Tennessee’s list.

On Monday we told you Volunteer AD Dave Hart’s list looked like this: Jimbo Fisher, Mike Gundy, Charlie Strong, and Larry Fedora.  Three of those coaches are still on the table.  There’s no need for Hart to panic or rush — something that UT did three years ago in finding and signing Derek Dooley in a week’s time.  As we’ve stated before, schools should take their time and not rush.  Nick Saban didn’t meet with Alabama officials until January 1st, 2007 before taking that job.  Schools need to get the right guy, not the first guy.

Auburn and Arkansas believe they found the right guys for their jobs.  Tennessee needs to make sure it does the same.

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Louisville To The ACC, But What’s That Aftershock Mean For The SEC?

The Big Ten’s move to nab Maryland and Rutgers earlier this month set off shockwaves — again — across the world of college athletics.  The Big East ran out and grabbed Tulane and East Carolina yesterday.  One would replace Rutgers, the other would replace whichever school would be plucked from the Big East to join the ACC and take Maryland’s place.

The latest aftershock came today when the ACC officially announced that Louisville would be joining its ranks.  That’s a great move for Louisville as it leaves a financially weak conference for a tad richer one.  But what domino will fall next?

The ACC could expand further by grabbing UConn and Cincinnati (who fought hard to gain entry into the ACC this week).  Such a move would stretch the league to 16 full-time members plus Notre Dame in all sports but football.  But would adding those markets and households drive up television viewership for ACC football?  Most likely not.  Therefore, we believe it’s doubtful the ACC will grab those schools now.  (Boston College has fought in the past to keep UConn out of the ACC, for what that’s worth).

Might the Big 12 try to expand toward the East and grab Cincinnati or siphon off one or more unhappy ACC schools?  Possibly.  But the ACC filed suit this week against Maryland in an attempt to collect its full $50 million exit fee from the Terrapins.  To date, no school has had to actually pay a full exit fee and if the Terps can escape without having to pay $50 million, schools like Florida State, Clemson or others might look at the potential to make more TV money in the Big 12 and actually ditch the ACC.  It was rumored this summer that FSU and Clemson (and then Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech) all were “done deals” to join the Big 12, but obviously, those deals weren’t done.  In fact, they weren’t even deals.  But they could be someday.

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