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MSU Sells Out Its Season Tickets Once Again

davis-wade-stadium-insideIt’s not hard to figure out why Mississippi State is working on an expansion project at Davis Wade Stadium… the Bulldogs are selling out their season tickets every year.  Yesterday, the MSU ticket office sold the last of 43,300 season tickets for the upcoming football season.  That’s a tad fewer tickets sold than last year, but only because State will face Alabama and LSU at home this year and both schools requested a few more seats.

This marks the fourth consecutive season of sold out season-tickets in Starkville.  According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the Bulldogs have sold out 23 games in a row as they enter the new season.  And of the 20 biggest crowds in Mississippi State football history, 19 have come during Dan Mullen’s reign which began in 2009.

The expansion project at MSU is scheduled to be completed next summer and will increase total capacity at Davis Wade Stadium from 55,082 to 61,337.  The project will also add more concession stands and it will nearly double the number or restroom fixtures.  The project is expected to cost $75 million.

Yesterday we examined trends in ticket sales across the Southeastern Conference.

 

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MSU’s Mullen Upbeat; Will He Get A Tough Question?

MSU MEDIA DAYSThe disappointing end to Mississippi State’s 2012 season — the Bulldogs lost five of their last six games — has created a greater “sense of urgency” among MSU’s players, according to Dan Mullen.  That was the coach’s answer to the first question hurled at him during his main session today.  The question dealt not with State’s last six games, but just the last couple.  It was pointed out that Mullen’s teams had previously won the Egg Bowl and done well in their bowls.  Last year that didn’t happen and that prompted the question.  But the bigger five-of-the-last-six thing was not mentioned.

We’ll see if anyone is willing to throw a tough one to Mullen.

For example, State’s coach has had no problem throwing some jabs in the direction of Ole Miss over the years.  It would be interesting to see if anyone asks him about UM’s strong finish and the momentum the Rebels seem to be gathering.

At this point, Mullen seems to be very upbeat and positive.  Would his mood change if he had to answer an Ole Miss query?

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UM, MSU: Masters Of Cupcakery… UGA, VU: SEC’s Toughest Schedulers

cupcakes1When it comes to pastries, no SEC school takes as many trips to the corner bakery as Ole Miss.  Over the past five years, the Rebels have played a whopping six schools from the FCS level.  Worse, their non-conference schedule has featured just two schools — two in five years — from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, and Pac-12).

No one in the SEC — not even Mississippi State — has feasted on as many cupcakes and creampuffs as the gang from Oxford.  And MSU has nibbled on its share of sponge cake.

On the other end of the spectrum are Vanderbilt and Georgia.  Some might say that the BCS-level foes they’ve scheduled haven’t always been atop their conferences, but at least they’re playing power-conference competition.  Both schools have scheduled 10 games against squads from BCS automatic-qualifiers over the last five seasons.

For comparison’s sake, we’ve gone back through the 2008 season to see which SEC schools have done the best and worst jobs of non-conference scheduling.  We’ve decided to include Missouri and Texas A&M even though they’ve spent just one year in the SEC.  But keep in mind the Big XII played nine league games in 2011.  So both A&M and Mizzou faced one less non-conference foe between ’08 and ’12 than their new SEC roomies.

In addition, please remember that those recent matchups between Texas A&M and Arkansas were non-conference games until last season.

One last note: We’re well aware of the schedule quirks, broken contracts, and state legislators’ desires that have forced your favorite school to line up games with tin cans on occasion.  And to paraphrase a Tommy Lee Jones’ line from “The Fugitive,” we don’t care.  Below is a simple look at how the SEC’s teams have handled non-conference scheduling in recent years.  It is what it is.

The categories used are “actual competition” (BCS conference foes), “cannon fodder” (teams from non-AQ FBS leagues or independents), and “cupcakes” (FCS-level opponents).

Enjoy…

 

Alabama

Actual Competition: 6 — Clemson, Duke, Michigan, Penn State (2), Virginia Tech

Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Kent State, North Texas (2), San Jose State, Tulane, Western Kentucky (2)

Cupcakes: 4 — Georgia State, Georgia Southern, UT-Chattanooga, Western Carolina

Thoughts: Nick Saban has been pushing the SEC to add another conference game.  He’s also in favor power-conference teams playing only other power-conference teams.  But he’s not an idiot.  Until everyone gets on the same page, he won’t be trying to lead the way with Bama’s schedule.  Still, he’s been more than willing to open seasons against name competition.

2013 Schedule: Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Georgia State, UT-Chattanooga

 

Arkansas

Actual Competition: 5 — Rutgers, Texas, Texas A&M (3)

Cannon Fodder: 10 — Eastern Michigan, Louisiana-Monroe (3), New Mexico, Troy (2), Tulsa (2), UTEP

Cupcakes: 5 — Jacksonville State, Missouri State (2), Tennessee Tech, Western Illinois

Thoughts: Meh.  The Hogs haven’t exactly lined up the best of the best of the best over the last few years.  (Hey, another line from a Tommy Lee Jones’ flick.)  Texas and pre-SEC Texas A&M were good games, but Arkansas’ cannon fodder games were truly that.  Then you toss in five games against FCS cupcakes.  Was any Razorback fan happy to plunk down cash to see any of the last 10 schools on that list?  Happily Bret Bielema and AD Jeff Long are locking up future non-conference games against quality foes from the Hogs’ old Southwest Conference days.

2013 Schedule: Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss, Rutgers

 

Auburn

Actual Competition: 5 — Clemson (3), West Virginia (2)

Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Ball State, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Monroe (3), Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, Utah State

Cupcakes: 5 — Alabama A&M, Furman, Samford, UT-Chattanooga, UT-Martin

Thoughts: The same as above.  Auburn had five marquee non-conference games in the last five years.  Their remaining 15 non-conference contests were dreck.  This year’s non-con slate looks to provide more of the same.

2013 Schedule: Washington State, Arkansas State, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic

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Reports: NCAA Infractions Coming Friday For Mississippi State

gavelThe NCAA has announced an 11:00 a.m Eastern conference call for Friday morning.  The reason is the expected announcement of infractions against Mississippi State.

According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, “the infractions are considered major in nature and are likely to include some elements of self-imposed penalties related to recruiting.”  While head coach Dan Mullen is not expected to be directly implicated, it’s thought that former wide receivers coach Angelo Mirando played a key role.  He resigned in August, less than two weeks before the 2012 season opener.

According to The Dispatch, part of the investigation involves an automobile purchased for MSU freshman defensive back Will Redmond. A Ford Mustang was purchased before Redmond signed with MSU in February of 2012 from a dealer in Memphis.

Redmond’s 7-on-7 summer team coach, Byron De’Vinner, described to Yahoo! Sports last September how former Mississippi State booster Robert Denton Herring broke multiple NCAA rules an effort to land the Memphis East High School defensive back. Redmond did not play in the 2012 season.

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NFL Draft Rewind: The SEC’s Power Shifts Over Two Decades

gfx - by the numbersWith the NFL draft behind us — and 63 more ex-SEC’ers selected to stock professional rosters — we can now take a look back over the past 20 years to see how the league’s current members have risen or fallen in terms of talent.  We’ll keep things nice and simple and show you the draft numbers from the past 10 years as compared to the 10 years prior.  Some of the changes are eye-popping.

Below you’ll find the picks from this past week’s draft on the left side of the table, just for comparison’s sake.  To the right of that, you’ll see the pick totals for each SEC school between 1994 and 2003.  Beside that column, the totals from 2004 through 2013 are listed.

Then, on the far right we’ve listed the change in draft numbers from one decade to the next for each school.  We warn you, some fans will have a hard time wiping away their smiles… others might just spend the day weeping in the office storage closet.

The numbers:

 

  2013 Picks   1994-2003 Picks   2004-2013 Picks   Change from 94-03 to 04-13
  ALA (9)   UT (68)   LSU (61)   LSU +31
  LSU (9)   UF (56)   UGA (57)   USC +18
  UF (8)   UGA (48)   ALA (49)   ARK +13
  UGA (8)   A&M (44)   UF (48)   MU +12
  USC (7)   ALA (39)   USC (35)   ALA +10
  A&M (5)   LSU (30)   UT (35)   UGA +9
  ARK (4)   MSU (30)   AUB (34)   AUB +8
  UT (4)   AUB (26)   ARK (32)   UM +3
  MSU (3)   ARK (19)   A&M (24)   VU +3
  MU (2)   UK (18)   MU (21)   UK -4
  VU (2)   UM (17)   UM (20)   UF -8
  AUB (1)   USC (17)   MSU (16)   MSU -14
  UK (1)   VU (10)   UK (14)   A&M -20
  UM (0)   MU (9)   VU (13)   UT -33

 

Observations:

*  Let’s start with the fastest riser — LSU.  The Tigers were middle of the pack in terms of NFL production between ’94 and ’03, but once Nick Saban opened all the valves on the Tigers’ Louisiana talent pipeline… forget about it.  LSU has produced 31 more NFL picks in the past decade than it did in the decade prior.  That’s three more pros per year on the Tiger roster.  Given that players are usually on a roster for four years that number is even more impressive.  In terms of a ballpark number, LSU has about 12 more NFL-capable players on its roster in a given year than it did a decade ago.  Even when those players are freshman or reserves, they’re still providing greater overall depth.  And that even raises the level of LSU’s practices.  Kudos to the Tigers.  Plus-31 is darn impressive.

*  If you’re wondering how Steve Spurrier (and Lou Holtz before him) began to raise South Carolina from the bottom of the SEC to the top just check USC’s roster.  The Gamecocks no longer cede the best players in their home state to Clemson and raiding SEC rivals.  They now go into Georgia and nab prospects just as Auburn and Tennessee have, traditionally.  Carolina has had 18 more players picked by NFL teams in the past decade than in the previous decade.  It’s not hard to make the correlation between a more talented roster and more victories.

*  Other schools seeing boosts of 10 or more pro picks?  Arkansas (plus-13), Missouri (plus-12), and Alabama (plus-10).  Hog fans need to credit Bobby Petrino and — though it might make a few of them sick — Houston Nutt for raising the talent level in Fayetteville.  Nutt was driven out of town with torches and pitchforks, but he began the Razorbacks’ talent swell.  A coach on the hot seat this year is Gary Pinkel, but he’s taken Mizzou from the bottom of the ’94-’03 column and increased the school’s draftees by 12 over the past decade.  Whether fans feel he’s worn out his welcome or not, Pinkel deserves many thanks for lifting Tiger football to the point that it no longer lags behind Kentucky and Vanderbilt in terms of talent.  Finally, there’s Alabama.  As he did at LSU, Saban has turned the Tide into one of the nation’s strongest football factories, cranking out pro prospects in bulk.  Anyone think that plus-10 number for Bama won’t grow larger when we run through this exercise again next year?

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A Tip For Rebel Fans: You Don’t Blow Up The Best Coach You’ve Ever Had

andy-kennedy-hands-upAndy Kennedy’s Ole Miss Rebels just can’t seem to get over the hump (or “The Hump,” considering the Rebs’ loss at Mississippi State’s Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday.)  Year after year Kennedy’s squads manage to win 20 games… and still miss out on the NCAA Tournament.  With a terrible strength of schedule number and some gut-punch losses this season (like the one to MSU), it looks like history will repeat itself once more.

But for those UM fans who feel Andy is the worst Kennedy to impact Ole Miss since Jack, a quick look across state should work as a calming tonic, as a soothing balm, and as a warning.

Rick Stansbury had led Mississippi State to 293 wins in 14 seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach.  He’d won 20 games 10 times, including in 2011-12.  A perfect coach?  No.  His last three teams failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.  Also, the turbulence in and around his program during his final two seasons was self-created as the coach chose to sign and coddle controversial team-killer Renardo Sidney.

State fans had had enough.  Stansbury saw the writing on the wall and resigned last spring as MSU’s all-time winningest coach and the SEC’s ninth-winningest coach all-time.

Despite dreams of landing a big-name coach, the best MSU could do was hire Clemson assistant Rick Ray as Stansbury’s replacement.  Ray inherited a mess as most of the Bulldog team pulled up stakes and left as soon as their old coach stepped down.  This season has been one of misery in Starkville — an 8-20 record, a 3-13 mark in the SEC, and a 13-game losing streak that was finally snapped on Saturday.

Ray might turn out to be the best coach in history of college basketball, but it appears the rebuilding job before him will be a difficult one.  Certainly more difficult than what Stansbury would have faced had he not been pressured to resign.

If Ole Miss fans are upset that Ray finally ended his team’s long losing streak against their Rebels, that’s perfectly fair.  But they should compare the two squads’ overall records — 8-20 versus 21-8 — before dialing up a call-in show to demand Kennedy’s scalp.

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SEC Headlines 1/16/2013

headlines-wedSEC Football

1. Twice next season Georgia could face opposing quarterbacks kicked off its team.

2. 28-year old former major league baseball player Jai Miller has enrolled at Alabama and will be eligibile for spring workouts.  He’s listed as a defensive back.

3. Group of nine early enrollees at Alabama includes three quarterbacks.

4. Eight early enrollees at Florida include running back Kelvin Taylor, son of former Gator Fred Taylor.

5. The quarterback situation at Missouri – unusually uncertain.  Will feature plenty of competition this spring.

6. Little QB uncertainty at Florida with Jeff Driskel returning. Former Gator Jacoby Brissett expected to transfer to either West Virginia or North Carolina State.

7. Seven members of Tennessee’s signing class of 2012 are no longer with the program.

8. Know the name Vincent Smith?  That’s the Michigan player on the other end of the legendary Jadeveon Clowney collision. Says the hit looked worse than it was. 

9. Top game of the 2012 season?  How about Texas A&M’s upset win at Alabama.

NFL Draft Prospects

10. South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders took to Twitter last night to say he’s going pro. Size raises questions about his chances in early rounds of draft.

11. Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd’s thank you to Gator Nation.

12. A record 74 underclassmen have declared for the NFL draft. That list includes 33 players from the SEC. Mel Kiper’s mock draft has Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Damontre Moore as the top two picks.

Coaching News

13. New Mississippi State cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend will be the second-highest paid position coach on staff at $250,000. Salary pool for MSU assistants could rise by as much as 10 percent.

14. A big reason why Geoff Collins was promoted to defensive coordinator at MSU - defensive production dropped in seven of the eight major NCAA statistical categories last season.

15. Check out James Franklin’s business card.

16. Why Auburn coach Gus Malzahn should go to bat for an early signing period in college football.

17. “Malzahn was arguably the winter’s most obvious hire.”

18. Fifteen BCS-conference schools have hired a new head coach this offseason.  Stewart Mandel grades them.

Update: Another head coach needed?  Oregon’s Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles?

Expansion/Realignment

19. Duke basketball coach Mike  Krzyzewski: “This is an assault on tradition.”

20. See our earlier story with comments from Texas A.D. Deloss Dodds.

SEC Basketball

21. Alabama at Mississippi State. Alabama guard Trevor Releford turned an ankle in practice Monday. The team’s leading scorer called “doubtful” for tonight by coach Anthony Grant. With Mississippi State banged up and shorthanded, staff, assistants, even coach Rick Ray have practiced this season.

22. Auburn at Arkansas. Auburn guard Josh Wallace on playing at Bud Walton Arena: “They have a great home atmosphere, but there’s nothing like crushing up a home crowd.” Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson looks to find some scoring beyond BJ Young and Marshawn Powell.

23. South Carolina at LSU. Gamecocks still trying to learn Frank Martin’s aggressive man-to-man defense. Depth an issue at LSU, especially with Johnny O’Bryant battling a lingering ankle sprain.

24. Georgia at Missouri. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope accounts for 28.4 percent of Georgia’s scoring – only Bulldog to average double-figures. Tigers discovering life isn’t easy without leading scorer Laurence Bowers - need someone to fill the offensive void.

25. Raising some questions about the future of Georgia coach Mark Fox.

26. Florida travels to Texas A&M Thursday. Gators are third-best in the conference in rebound margin.

27. John Calipari on the physical play last night between Kentucky and Tennessee: “This is a man’s game and this is a man’s league we play in.”

28. Tennessee sophomore Jarnell Stokes played just 15 minutes last night against Kentucky – had more fouls than points.

29. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner: “I’d expect Kentucky to scrape through enough SEC games to make it into the eventual Field of 68, but its margin for error isn’t great.”

Extras

30. Katherine Webb will cover the Super Bowl for Inside Edition.

31. Brent Musberger, the man who helped launch Webb’s career, on ESPN’s apology for his comments: ”Individuals say what individuals say. And corporations do what corporations do.”

32. The golden age of Texas quarterbacks.

33. The NCAA will meet and vote on reducing the size of its rulebook.

34. Study: Emergency room visits tied to energy drinks have doubled since 2007.

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Top MrSEC Clicks For The Week

 

 

SEC Bowl Observations: VU, LSU, MSU, USC, And UGA

observation-pointJust a few thoughts that ran through this writer’s head while watching the SEC’s first five bowl games this week:

 

*  Vanderbilt won its ninth game of the season on Monday.  As you know by now, the Commodores’ win in the Music City Bowl secured the program its best season since way back in 1915.  But the win over NC State did something else, too — it produced James Franklin’s first win over a solid FBS opponent.

Going into Monday’s game, Vandy under Franklin had gone 0-10 against FBS teams with winning records, 11-1 against FBS teams with losing records, and 2-0 against FCS foes.  (If 6-6 Ole Miss wins its bowl game against Pittsburgh, VU will have won two contests against FBS teams with winning records.)

Now, heading into Monday’s game, North Carolina State was a 7-5 team that had just gotten its coach fired.  So this was not akin to Vandy knocking off Alabama or Florida.  But just as Dan Mullen had to finally beat a West Division team not named Ole Miss to keep people from repeatedly bringing that criticism up, Franklin has now silenced one of the barbs lobbed at him by rival fans.

 

*  Not only did Vanderbilt finish 9-4 this season, but the Dores won seven games in a row to end the year.  That’s currently the longest winning streak in the SEC.  Just let that one roll around in your head for a bit.

Matter of fact, after an 0-2 start to the season, Vandy finished 9-2 the rest of the way.  The Commodores also scored 38 or more points in five of their last six games.

Regardless of schedule strength, those are some solid accomplishments.  Fantastic accomplishments for a traditional cellar-dweller like Vanderbilt.

 

*  With every step forward, there’s always a new challenge.  After a 6-7 first year, many wondered if Franklin could build on his surprising start.  He did.  Now he’ll have to start winning with the guys he’s been recruiting.

Bobby Johnson — as we’ve noted several times before — deserves credit for leaving Franklin a roster stacked with redshirt juniors and seniors.  Now those players have had their run and the recruits Franklin and his staff have brought in will have to take their place.  Franklin has been able to get more out of Johnson’s leftovers than expected, so he should do well with some of the higher-profile recruits he’s wooed to Nashville.  But his team will be a bit younger moving forward.  Winning with a less experienced roster will be his next challenge.

 

*  Say, did you see our prediction for the Chick-fil-A Bowl?  We had Clemson edging past LSU 24-23.  Turns out they edged past them 25-24.  Currently we’re 5-0 picking SEC bowl games and 3-2 against the spread.  Hey, we’ll take 60% against the spread.  The rest of our SEC bowl picks (minus the BCS title game) can be found right here.  

And in case you’re wondering, we’ve got Florida to cover even though we think tonight’s Sugar Bowl will look a lot like last night’s Orange Bowl… with the deeper team pulling away late.

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Crimson Tide Bash Bulldogs, Vanderbilt Gets Second Straight Win

Alabama 38 – Mississippi State 7

1. In five SEC victories, Alabama has outscored its opponents 209-34.

2. Nick Saban upset when second-team defense loses shutout.  ”I got upset with the backup players because they are better than that.”

3. Kevin Scarbinsky: “Alabama doesn’t just win football games. Alabama puts everyone to sleep.”

4. MSU cornerback Johnthan Banks: “I haven’t played a team like them since I’ve been in college.”

5. Largest margin of defeat for Bulldogs under Dan Mullen.

6. Alabama fans chant in fourth quarter: “L-S-U, L-S-U…”

Vanderbilt 49 – UMass 7

7. Commodores put game away with four touchdowns in just over five minutes in third quarter.

8. Both defense and special teams get a touchdown.

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