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What A Weekend In The SEC

Now how was that for a weekend?

* LSU tops Alabama in the what was an absolute classic game in Tuscaloosa.

* The Tide fell only to #3 in the BCS standings, meaning a rematch with LSU in the title game remains a possibility.

* Even before Saturday’s game, several Crimson Tide and Tiger fans brawled drunkenly and stupidly on Bama’s campus.

* With Arkansas’ big win over South Carolina, Georgia and Mark Richt are now in the driver’s seat in the SEC East.

* Houston Nutt had to dispel rumors of his own demise at Ole Miss.

* And the Missouri Tigers were officially welcomed into the SEC with little fanfare… ticketed for the “East initially” as Arkansas AD Jeff Long tweeted.

A busy weekend means a busy wrap-up from us today.  We’ll get started shortly.  Until then, enjoy the video of a few morons putting a black eye (literally) on the past 72 hours.

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Houston Nutt Rumors

1. SB Nation report: “The Rebel head coach was informed that he would not be retained beyond the Egg Bowl and will, perhaps, be dismissed as early as Monday.”

2. Parrish Alford: “There’s no confirmation that Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has been fired.”

3. Here’s what Nutt had to say last night after the game when asked if he would be back next year. “I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s not for me to decide. I’d like to be. I plan on being. But that’s not for me to decide.”

4. Ron Higgins: “(I)t’s time to write the check for Nutt’s $6 million buyout, say “next” and move on.”

UPDATE: Nutt hasn’t talked to school about job status.

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The Rebels’ Run Defense Just Gets Worse And Worse

For three weeks running, the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Week honor has gone to a running back that had just faced the Ole Miss defense.  Each topped the 150-yard mark while the Rebel run continued its fall to the bottom of the conference’s stat table.  Mississippi has allowed 1,814 yards rushing this season and 5.48 yards per carry.

“(Opponents’) tailbacks are getting too many yards,” Houston Nutt said, stating the obvious.  “There are too many explosive plays.  We have to be better.  I think out guys know that.”

Here’s a look at how Tyrone Nix’s unit has been bludgeoned on the ground:

Total Rushing Yards
Leading Rusher
J. DiLuigi, 12 for 56
S. Illinois
S. Strother, 10 for 116
Z. Stacy, 11 for 169
I. Crowell, 30 for 147
Fresno State
R. Rouse, 28 for 123
T. Richardson, 17 for 183
D. Johnson, 15 for 160
M. Dyer, 27 for 177

Horrible, right?  Well, it gets worse.

Crowell, Richardson, Johnson and Dyer all recorded their season high in rushing yards against the Rebels.  And Vandy’s Stacy ran for more yards only against Army.

Lucky for Ole Miss Kentucky is banged up at running back and ranks just ninth in the SEC in rushing yards per game (139.7).  Then again, Arkansas cranked out 206 on the ground against UM and they rank one slot behind Kentucky.

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Arkansas Native On Houston Nutt: “Confident He’ll Turn It Around”

Evin Demirel

At age 24, Clark Irwin finally has a normal life.

The Little Rock native works fairly normal hours, has plenty of time for his wife and parents and occasionally catches NFL games on TV. In the last eight months, he’s even found time to shoot hoops in a Little Rock park, not too far from the neighborhood where he grew up.

So far, so good with this normal adult life stuff.

The way Irwin sees it, he jumped into it just in time.

Until February, Irwin had essentially coached under Houston Nutt for half a decade. Irwin spent three years seeing spot action as a backup Razorback quarterback and special teams player, but his real value was as an understudy to the coaches. He signaled plays to the offense and helped run passing drills with fellow quarterbacks Casey Dick and Mitch Mustain, both of whom were roommates at different times.

“I was getting my minor in graduate assistantship if you want to look at it that way,” Irwin says.

He officially took that position in early 2009 after following Nutt to Oxford, Miss., where Nutt had started as head coach at Ole Miss the season before. There, Clark spent late summers and falls immersed in game planning, film study and practice seven days a week. “It’s almost like you can ever do enough,” he says. Game days – with the crowds, the adrenaline and the constant in-game chess match between coaches – were the most fun part of it all.

Everything seemed primed for Irwin to take the next step up the coaching ranks, to one day possibly follow in his mentor’s footsteps as a head coach himself.

Irwin felt himself drawn closer to the point of no return for a game he’d deeply loved since childhood.

(Full disclosure: My younger brother was Irwin’s friend in childhood, and I knew Irwin when he was in grade school I recall my brother talking about Irwin’s lunch recess exploits on the playground field there and, a few years later, at middle school)

By the time Irwin started leading Little Rock Central High School’s ninth grade team to an undefeated season, he was a fairly seasoned young quarterback who knew his squad could be special on the varsity level. “We had Antwain Robinson [who would play for the Razorbacks], Mickey Dean and Kevin Thornton [both would play for Arkansas-Pine Bluff]. It was such a good group of guys, and we had all known each other from AAU basketball.”

Their chemistry was evident as sophomores, when they finished 7-4 with a share of a conference championship. In the next two years, though, the group finished 27-1 and won two state championships. In his career, Irwin passed for 3,000 yards, rushed for 700 yards and was the first quarterback to start every game in former Central coach Bernie Cox’s 37 years there.

Irwin, at 5-feet-11 and 180 pounds, knew he wouldn’t get many scholarship offers. But he did get an offer to play for Nutt, with whom he shared similarities. Both had been quarterbacks leading Central to state championships while starring in multiple sports – Irwin in baseball, Nutt in basketball. “I think he had some pride in that … He had a role for me help him and kind of assist him in coaching and signaling.”

Irwin felt loyalty to Nutt and his staff tug at him in the winter of 2008, when they suggested he become a GA in Oxford. He’ll feel it again when he travels to Mississippi to watch Saturday’s game Razorbacks-Rebels game. “Me and Danny Nutt [Houston’s brother] were very close. I’d love to say hello to them. Haven’t seen them in close to eight to 10 months.”

Last Saturday, Ole Miss (2-4) lost at home 52-7 to No. 2 Alabama, the Rebels’ worst defeat in 30 years. Ole Miss (2-4) has lost nine consecutive SEC games dating back to last season, and Irwin’s aware of the talk about Houston Nutt being on the hot seat. “I don’t think it would bother him, just because he doesn’t like to read any of that stuff. During the season, he’s focused on one thing.”

“I hate it that they had a rough start, but coach Nutt’s upset too many teams in his career to be worried. I know he’s got those kids ready to run through a brick wall for him. I mean, that’s the type of motivator he is… I’m confident he’ll turn it around and try to get them to a bowl and make the season a success.”

Without doubt, when Irwin visits his old haunts and co-workers in Oxford, he’ll remember all he loved from his past life. But he and his wife, Megan, decided that career didn’t allow the stability they wanted. Young coaches, lrwin says, need to move often “to learn other people’s schemes and philosophies.”

“I knew down the road if I got too much into it, I wouldn’t want to get out. I thought right now would be a good time for me to try the business world a little bit and see what I thought.”

So Irwin left coaching in February and now works as a broker for Irwin Partners, a commercial and investment real estate firm in which his father is a principal broker. He’s surrounded by familiar faces in the hometown of him and his wife.

Settling down, for the long haul, seems so easy. That’s the likely route, but it’s too early to tell, Irwin says. If working in business “turns out not to be for me, I may try coaching again.”

No. 10 Arkansas will be heavily favored on the road against Ole Miss. But Houston Nutt, God bless ‘em, has this habit of springing big upsets at the unlikeliest of times. Plus, he beat Arkansas in 2008 and 2009. Who’s taking this one and by how much? Share game predictions at Sync magazine.

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Rebels Lose 2 Defensive Starters For The Season

Alabama doesn’t just beat teams.  The Tide beat teams up.

Following a 52-7 throttling at the hands of Bama, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt announced yesterday that senior captains Marcus Temple (cornerback) and Wayne Dorsey (defensive end) have been lost for the season.  Temple broke his right ankle, Dorsey his right arm during Saturday’s loss.

“Two really good players and two captains that have done a lot for us,” Nutt said.”

The Rebels now rank dead last in the SEC in total defense allowing 442 yards per game.  They are 10th in pass defense, but their rush defense sits in 12th place following Alabama’s 389-yard explosion on Saturday.

With Temple and Dorsey now out, it’s probably time to make the following introduction: Bad, meet Worse.

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UM Suspends 4 Prior To Date With Bama

If there’s one thing Houston Nutt didn’t need on the eve of a game with brutal, beastly Alabama it was the suspension of four offensive players.  But that’s exactly what the Ole Miss program is dealing with today.

Running back Brandon Bolden, center AJ Hawkins, guard Alex Washington and receiver Philander Moore will all sit out tomorrow’s game due to a violation of team rules.  Bolden is a senior, a team captain, and arguably Mississippi’s best player on offense.  The other three players have all started at least one game.

“It’s just disappointing,” Nutt told The Jackson Clarion-Ledger yesterday.  But he still put on a brave face regarding his team’s Thursday practice session.  ”Right now it’s the next (game).  It’s the next one and I like the way we went about business today.”

We’ll see how well the Rebels are able to go about business without Bolden and the others and against one of nation’s most ferocious defenses.

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Richt Thinks UGA Is “A Team On The Rise”

Sure, Georgia was facing a tomato can in Coastal Carolina on Saturday.  And sure the Dawgs are still just 1-2 overall.  But Mark Richt’s team has shown improvement each week following its opening night loss to Top 5 Boise State.

For Richt, there are some positives to be found:

“The thing I like is, we’re a team that is getting better as we go.  We do have a lot of room to grow yet.  The last couple of performances, minus the huge mistakes, four or five plays that really got us (against South Carolina), I felt we were making a lot of progress.  As you watch tape, it’s still pretty obvious we’ve got some youth and inexperience that still needs to improve.

Overall, I think we’re a team that is on the rise, but we’ll see.  We’re going to play that first SEC game away from home and get a better feel for what kind of progress we have really made.”

That first road game is at Ole Miss on Saturday.  Considering the hot-seat status of both coaches, some fans will no doubt view the game as some type of elimination game. 

“Our coach couldn’t even beat that guy’s team… and that guy’s in decline.”

If Richt’s team really is making progress, it desperately needs to prove it Saturday in Oxford against Houston Nutt.

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Report: Golson Headed To Back To UM After All

It looks like Ole Miss had dodged a bullet.  Again.

Senquez Golson — who the Rebels thought had turned down a baseball offer from the Boston Red Sox earlier this summer — apparently decided late yesterday not to ink with the baseball team.  After practicing with the UM football team, Golson traveled to Boston yesterday for one last negotiating session.

According to reports, Golson turned down a “substantial” signing bonus from the Sox just before the midnight signing deadline. 

That’s great news for Houston Nutt as the true freshman has already established himself as one of the Rebels’ best four cornerbacks. 

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SEC Headlines – 8/15/11 Part Two

1.  Houston Nutt says Ole Miss still has a long way to go in preseason camp.

2.  This writer wonders why UM is planning to add seats at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium when it’s not currently filling its existing seats.

3.  Dan Mullen says his offense has been lazy and “pathetic” in recent practices.

4.  Florida is still working to develop a pass rush.

5.  Georgia linebacker signee Kent Turene is going to Fork Union Military Academy to get his grades up.

6.  The young guns on UGA’s offensive line are starting to feel some pressure.

7.  Placekicker Blair Walsh wants to go out in style.

8.  A number of SEC teams might have to use multi-quarterback systems this year.

9.’s Mark Schlabach says Alabama’s come-from-ahead loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl is motivating the Crimson Tide.

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SEC Headlines – 8/8/11 Part Four

1.  Juco transfer linebacker Alonzo Highsmith is already running with Arkansas’ first-team defense.

2.  This writer says running back Knile Davis “looks much quicker,” which if great news for the Hogs, bad news for the rest of the SEC.

3.  Bobby Petrino is ready to start mixing his newcomers with his veterans in practice.

4.  In case you missed it, LSU’s first full-squad practice was “sloppy as sin” over the weekend.

5.  Rehabbing a knee injury taught Tiger O-lineman Sam Montgomery discipline.

6.  The Ole Miss defense is showing signs of improvement in practice.  (For Tyrone Nix’s sake, it had better.)

7.  Despite signs — literal signs — to the contrary, Houston Nutt says his team’s defense is the 4-3, not a 4-2-5.

8.  Rick Stansbury was happy with the effort his newcomers gave in an exhibition game in Amsterdam this weekend.

9.  Dan Mullen is shaking up his team’s practice location.

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