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Charlotte Linebacker Chooses South Carolina

Linebacker Larenz Bryant from Zebulon B. Vance High School in Charlotte, N.C., committed to South Carolina on Monday.

Bryant, who’s considered the nation’s 10th-best inside linebacker by ESPN RecruitingNation, chose South Carolina over Florida, Clemson, Virginia and Wake Forest.

The timing of Bryant’s commitment is somewhat surprising. He told Rivals.com earlier this month that he would likely make his decision near the end of his senior season. It’s possible Bryant could still take visits this fall, which would leave open the possibility of him changing his mind.

Bryant is the 18th prospect to commit to South Carolina’s class of 2013.

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The 50 Best SEC Games To Watch In 2012: 10-1

All week we’ve been counting down the 50 SEC games that this writer is most interested in watching this fall.  It hasn’t been a pure countdown as we’ve done things week-by-week… and if you want a full breakdown on how/why games were chosen, you can scroll back on our homepage and read Part One of the series.

But as it shakes out, our final 10 games are the final 10 games scheduled for the SEC’s regular season.  Perfect.

Here’s how those games stack up in yours truly’s eyes:

 

Week Thirteen (weekend of November 24th)

10.  Vanderbilt at Wake Forest — A meeting of these two fine universities’ teams has become an annual affair.  By this point, James Franklin’s reputation will have either fallen back to earth a bit… or he’ll be mentioned in connection with jobs all over the place.

9.  Missouri at Texas A&M — Scheduling oddity: Mizzou will be traveling to College Station for the third-straight year and looking for its third-straight win.  Unfortunately, this one will probably still feel more like a Big 12 game than an SEC contest.

8.  Mississippi State at Ole Miss — Dan Mullen has owned Ole Miss since he arrived in Starkville and he’s been happy to let everyone know it.  Can Hugh Freeze pull a surprise upset in his first season and recapture the The Golden Egg?

7.  Kentucky at Tennessee — It’s entirely possible that one or both of the coaches in this game will be coaching for his job.  After snapping a 26-year losing streak to the Vols last fall, can the Cats actually start a streak of their own?

6.  Georgia at Georgia Tech — When it comes to “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” anything can happen.  But with Mark Richt’s buyout dropping and expectations rising, UGA’s coach needs step on the Insects from the Institute (hat tip to the late, great “Leonard Postosties.”)

5.  South Carolina at Clemson — This classic rival could be even more heated than usual after Dabo Swinney’s December rant claiming that USC is “never going to be Clemson” regardless of its current three-game win streak.  “My kids’ grandkids won’t live long enough to ever see this really become a rivalry,” he said.  Game on.

4.  Florida at Florida State — Two ex-Nick Saban assistants who both left their fans feeling a bit disappointed last season will meet up in Tallahassee.  So which team’s fans will feel better about their future after this game?

3.  Auburn at Alabama — The Iron Bowl.  Enough said.

2.  LSU at Arkansas — It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving and this clash between the Hogs and Tigers could decide — or help decide — who goes to Atlanta from the SEC West.  Also, if you believe Jackie Sherrill, this could be one of the last times these teams meet so late in the season.

 

Week Fourteen (weekend of December 1st)

1.  The SEC Championship Game — Well, duh.  Expect the favorite in Atlanta to be right in thick of the national championship picture at kickoff time.

 

If you want to see the SEC’s complete grid schedule, click right here.

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Push Begins For Regular-Season Big 12-SEC Games, But SEC-ACC Games May Make More Sense

Last Friday, the Big 12 and the SEC announced that the two leagues would come together to create their own bowl game featuring the champions of both conferences (in the unlikely event one or both should fail to reach college football’s new four-team playoff).

Almost immediately, emails started to pour in here at MrSEC.com.  The gist was as follows: “If the Pac-12 and Big Ten can partner in the Rose Bowl and in a new round-robin regular-season scheduling agreement, why can’t the SEC and Big 12 do the same?”

Makes sense.  And the press has started getting behind the idea, too.

Yesterday, Cecil Hurt of TideSports.com — a hybrid of Rivals.com and The Tuscaloosa News — wrote the following:

 

“But with all the talk about the changes in postseason football, and particularly the new SEC-Big 12 ‘champions’ matchup, doesn’t it seem sensible that the conferences – especially what now appear to be the four soon-to-be super conferences (the SEC, the Big 10, the Big 12 and the Pac-12) should take charge of opening weekend as well. With the coming playoff, even a four-team playoff, it makes more sense than ever.

To be honest, a Georgia-Oklahoma game would seem far more compelling to me on Labor Day than New Year’s Day, if those teams are out of the playoff picture. Not every matchup can be Alabama-Michigan, and not every one can sell out an NFL-sized stadium in a neutral city in a matter of hours.”

 

It’s a good piece.  You should read it.  But there are two things standing between the plan Hurt and many fans support and reality.  And both are already being used by people inside the SEC as reasons to avoid adding a ninth conference game.

 

* First, if SEC coaches don’t want play a ninth league game, why would they be in favor of playing a ninth game against a team from the second-most successful league of the BCS era?

* Second, if SEC athletic directors don’t want to play a ninth conference game because it would mean giving up a home game every other season, why would they want to give up a home game every other season in order to play a team from the Big 12?

 

While schools in the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 are fine with playing a minimum of nine BCS-level foes per year, many SEC schools want to cap things at eight for bowl eligibility purposes.  (Southern Cal, for example, will play nine Pac-12 games, one game against a Big Ten foe each year, as well as its yearly tilt with Notre Dame.  That makes 11 BCS-level games per year.)

Additionally, the folks in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have pointed out often that they already have a built-in BCS-level game as part of their schedules thanks to their in-state rivalries with Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson.  (Kentucky fans would argue that Louisville is a major conference team as well, but the Big East is far from a major conference anymore.)

This brings us to what could be a better option altogether for the SEC… if the league actually wants to help tap the brakes on conference expansion.

Last year, the SEC welcomed in Texas A&M and then Missouri from the Big 12.  That move destabilized the Big 12 until ESPN and FOX stepped in to dole out major cash to the league in an effort to hold it together.

Just last week, the SEC aided the Big 12′s rejuvenation process with the aforementioned bowl partnership.  That gave the Big 12 more stability moving forward, but in turn, it made the ACC appear even more vulnerable.  If the ACC is vulnerable, then massive realignment is still a possibility.

We’ve been told repeatedly from sources at just about every SEC school that no one in the league is anxious to become a 15- or 16-team conference.  Just this week, interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told an Austin, Texas radio station that an “SEC colleague” had told him not to expand past 12 because 14 is “unruly.”

So how could the SEC make more money, fend off “strength of schedule” attacks from rival leagues (by guaranteeing nine BCS-level games per year), and help save the ACC?  All the while making sure those folks already playing ACC schools don’t balk?

The answer is pretty clear.

In his column yesterday, Hurt suggested a series of Big 12-SEC games be played on opening weekend each year.  Not bad.  But if the SEC truly wants to slow expansion, we believe it should set up a series of annual games against the 14 ACC schools instead.

SEC coaches would likely be less worried about an ACC game tacked onto the schedule than a game against a Big 12 foe.  Playing most of those games at neutral sites and grabbing a sponsor and an overall television partner would quiet SEC AD’s groans regarding lost income from lost home games every other year, too.

The SEC’s television partners have already asked the league to start scheduling better games toward the end of the season.  For that reason — as well as the fact that USC-CU, UF-FSU, and UGA-GT already play at the end of the season — we would suggest lining up neutral site ACC-SEC rivalry games over the final two weeks of the season.

The ACC and SEC share a major corporate partner in AT&T.   Now let’s say ESPN, AT&T and nine NFL cities/stadiums all cough up dough to create the AT&T SEC-ACC Football Challenge each season?  How much money would that be worth?  How much would that help the SEC in answering cries that its teams only play eight guaranteed BCS-level foes per season?  How much would such income — and a partnership with the SEC — help stabilize the ACC.

Answer to all: A bunch.

As a hypothetical, let’s imagine that Carolina-Clemson, Florida-FSU, and Georgia-Georgia Tech continue to play each other on a home-and-home basis.  Ditto Vanderbilt and Wake Forest which are winding down a seven-year home-and-home contract themselves.  If Kentucky squawked over having to play both Louisville and an ACC foe, give them a permanent home-and-home rivalry with the ACC’s traditional cellar-dweller, Duke.  There’s already a hoops rivalry there between the fanbases.

That leaves nine schools from each league to pair with one another each season.  Those schools could rotate foes on a regular basis, always meeting on neutral sites.  Here’s an example of what might be possible in a single season:

 

Alabama vs Pittsburgh at LP Field in Nashville, TN

Arkansas vs North Carolina at The Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA

Auburn vs Syracuse at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ

Clemson at South Carolina (permanent foe, home and home)

Kentucky at Duke (permanent foe, home and home)

Florida State at Florida (permanent foe, home and home)

Georgia at Georgia Tech (permanent foe, home and home)

Kentucky at Duke (permanent foe, home and home)

LSU vs Virginia Tech at FedEx Field in Washington, DC

Missouri vs Virginia at The Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO

Mississippi State vs North Carolina State at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC

Ole Miss vs Maryland at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD

Tennessee vs Boston College at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA

Texas A&M vs Miami at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX

Wake Forest at Vanderbilt (permanent foe, home and home)

 

Other stadiums and cities could be used based upon a bidding process and availability — Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, the Superdome in New Orleans, Reliant Stadium in Houston, Yankee Stadium in New York, etc, etc.  Those sites could rotate in and out, too.  The above is just an example of what’s possible.

 

Lining up a year-in, year-out sponsored series of late-season football games against the ACC would accomplish three things:

 

1.  It would bring in more dollars for both leagues (which should be enough to get the ACC on board with such a plan).

2.  Those dollars and the credibility of partnering with the SEC could help hold the ACC together (and prevent the SEC from having to expand again so soon after going two new teams).

3.  It would guarantee each SEC foe at least nine BCS-level contests per season, which would aid the league in the polls and computer rankings.

 

We at MrSEC.com understand the thinking behind a Big 12-SEC regular-season partnership to rival the Big Ten’s new deal with the Pac-12.  But we believe the better play would be in setting up an annual SEC-ACC partnership.  Better for the ACC.  Better for the SEC.  Better for the stability of the college football landscape.

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Franklin Wants An Easier Schedule At Vandy

This fall, Vanderbilt will have non-conference games against Northwestern, Presbyterian, UMass, and Wake Forest.  James Franklin wishes the Dores’ schedule were even easier:


“Most people in this league are playing one BCS game or one tough game and then three games they should win.  We’re playing two.  We should just be playing one of those.  I can make an argument, if you studied our schedule, that we have one of the toughest out-of-conference schedules, and we shouldn’t.”

Missouri is the only other SEC school scheduled to face two BCS-member teams this fall — Arizona State and Syracuse.  The Tigers will also play Southeastern Louisiana and Central Florida.

Fans want wins and bowls, but for $50+ a ticket they also want to see something more than a glorified sparring session with a tomato can.  Coaches would line up 12 such chumps if they could.

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“Moose” Johnson Commits To Georgia

Georgia has received a commitment from defensive tackle DeAndre “Moose” Johnson from Northgate High School in Newnan, Ga.

Johnson told Georgia coach Mark Richt of his decision on Tuesday.

“Coach Richt was really excited when I told him that,” Johnson said. “He said he couldn’t wait for me to get back up there so he could give me a hug. It made me think that he really wanted me and everything.”

Johnson is Georgia’s seventh commitment for the class of 2013.

Johnson received offers from such schools as Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Georgia Tech was Johnson’s second choice behind Georgia.

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MSU Fans’ Spending Spree At Music City Bowl Should Help In The Future

College football bowl games were started for one reason — to bring in tourist dollars by inviting two groups of fans to town for a football game.  That was the gist.  All of it.  Nothing more.  And that remains the case today.  Bowl selection committees look at a lot of factors, but in the end they will pick the schools that they believe will draw the most fans to town and catch the most eyeballs on television.

For that reason, Mississippi State fans did their school a big favor this past December.  The Music City Bowl drew more than 55,000 fans and an estimated 37,000 of them came from out of town to fill up more than 26,000 hotel rooms.  MSU’s enrollment is more than 20,000.  Wake Forest — the Dogs’ opponent — has an enrollment of less than 5,000.  It’s safe to say that most of the people traveling to Tennessee for the game had ties to State, not Wake.

Now figure in how much food, booze, gasoline, souvenirs, and other items those people purchased and you can grasp why Music City Bowl officials claim their game had a $22.2 million economic impact on the city of Nashville.

And you can be certain that other bowl committees will consider those numbers the next time Mississippi State becomes available to their postseason exhibition.

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If Bowl Eligibility Standards Are Raised, The Impact On The SEC Will Be Big

According to a very interesting report by Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com yesterday, there is “growing support” among college football’s power brokers to raise from six to seven the number of wins necessary for bowl eligibility.  Obviously, nixing all six-win teams from the postseason mix would mean a culling of the bowl herd, too.

McMurphy states that “conference commissioners, athletic directors and bowl officials” are looking at instituting the change when the new BCS cycle begins in 2014.

“The 7-5 discussion is percolating” one bowl official told the website.  “I don’t know of many athletic directors or conference commissioners who think a 6-6 team has earned a bowl berth.”

Probably not.  But it’s hard to imagine many bowl officials who would want to see their bowls (and their jobs) vanish.  It’s hard to imagine athletic directors who would want to give up the opportunity — even at 6-6 — to schmooze their boosters with a bowl trip.  And it’s equally hard to imagine conference commissioners who would want to cut down on the amount of revenue and exposure the bowls provide for their leagues.

Currently there are many, many bowls that hold no interest for traveling fans or television viewers.  Whacking a few and getting back to the 25-30 range for bowls would be viewed as a positive step by most fans.  (This writer as well, on the surface.)  But after arguing for decades about “the sanctity of the bowl system,” wouldn’t it be an about-face for college football’s powers-that-be to suddenly tell team after team and student-athlete after student-athlete that there’s no reward for them?  Not sure that lives up to the oft-repeated line: “The bowls are for the kids.”

From an SEC standpoint, moving to a seven-win eligibility standard would have a number of impacts:

1.  Though coaches and athletic directors do not want a nine-game league schedule, we have stated repeatedly that eventually a nine-game slate would be viewed as a necessity if the SEC wants to maintain its close-knit, rivalry-rich feel.

But if seven becomes the new magic number, forget the nine-game league schedule.  Forever.  If coaches are squawking now that a tough SEC slate might knock them out of bowls, imagine how much they would yelp — and rightfully so — if six-win teams could no longer earn bids.

2.  If the requirement moves to seven wins, expect to see more cupcakes, do-nothings and pipsqueaks rolling into your favorite team’s stadium.  For example, look at this year’s Mississippi State squad.  The Bulldogs finished just 2-6 in the SEC but won their four non-conference games to achieve the six wins necessary for bowl eligibility.  Their non-conference games included: Memphis, Louisiana Tech, UAB and Tennessee-Martin.  That’s the type of schedule many more SEC schools would begin playing.

Vanderbilt was also 2-6 in the SEC last season, but the Commodores achieved bowl eligibility with a non-con docket that included Elon, UConn, Army and Wake Forest.  Would Vandy schedule BCS-level UConn and Wake Forest in the future if the bowl cut-off were seven instead of six?  Would Auburn schedule Clemson?

The guess here is no, and there’s evidence to back up that guess.  Tennessee was scared that it wouldn’t reach bowl eligibility in Derek Dooley’s second year so the Vols bought out a road game to North Carolina and replaced the Tar Heels with a home date featuring Buffalo.  UT’s 2011 non-conference slate consisted of the aforementioned Bulls, Cincinnati, MTSU and Montana.  Not reaching bowl eligibility anyway, the Vols might want to buy out a team like Cincinnati, too, in the future… just to make that non-conference schedule even easier.

Here’s another nugget — while several schools would have the ability to schedule four non-con games against non-BCS foes, schools like Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have built-in rivalry games with BCS-level competition every year (Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson, respectively).  If everyone else takes an easier path, UF, UGA and USC will be at a bit of a disadvantage.

3.  Guess which leagues have sent the most 6-6 teams to bowl games over the past few years.  Yep, the BCS leagues.  The SEC and Big Ten have each sent nine six-win teams to bowls since 2006.  The ACC has sent eight.  The Big 12 has sent seven.

If the standard for bowl eligibility is raised, it will cost the big conferences the most.  That’s less bowl revenue, less bowl practice (15 sessions for each team going bowling), and less bowl bids for league schools to tout to prospects and recruits.

In terms of bowl revenue, there’s no question schools going to smaller-end bowls lose money on the actual trip.  They have to buy tickets that go unsold.  They have to pay for the school band and the official travel party.  It’s expensive.  But those official travel parties include big boosters who are expected to pony up more cash in the future if they feel the program is achieving something.  So while straight revenue from the bowls might not amount to much, there’s a reason the boosters are wined and dined in cities from Shreveport to Boise.  There’s big picture revenue that can come as a result of bowl trips.

In the end, it will be interesting to see how much traction the move to seven-win eligibility gains… and who is actually for it.  If it’s the BCS leagues who are in favor of it, they will be cutting down on their own schools’ opportunities and they will be limiting the “rewards” for a large number of student-athletes who they’ve always claimed to hold in high regard.

And if this idea does become a reality it will have a hefty impact on your very own SEC from in-conference schedules to non-conference schedules, from recruiting pitches to practice sessions, and from revenue to exposure.

Need to keep an eye on this one, folks.

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MSU’s Mullen: 2011 Was “A Great Season”

Talk about positive spin.  Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen said the following after his team won the Music City Bowl to insure a winning record:


“You know what?  To me, it’s a great season.”


That’s a rather liberal use of the word “great” isn’t it?  We are talking about a veteran team that entered 2011 with big expectations following a 9-4 season in 2010.  But the Bulldogs failed once again to knock off a single SEC West foe that doesn’t have the word “Ole” in its title.  State had to win its last regular-season game just to become bowl eligible and then had to snuff out Wake Forest 23-17 in Nashville to finish 7-6.

Here’s guessing most MSU fans don’t view that as a great season.  But it was another step forward in Mullen’s overall rebuilding job.  And that much is positive.

The Bulldogs slid backwards from year-to-year, yes, but they didn’t slide as far back as State has slud — thank ya, Dizzy Dean — in past years.  They reached a second-straight bowl game for the first time since 1999-2000.  They continued their recent mastery over rival Ole Miss, winning a third-straight Egg Bowl for the first time since 1942.

Those are signs of growth.  They’re reasons for Mullen and MSU fans to remain upbeat moving forward.

But great?  That’s a bit of a stretch.

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MSU Officially Kicks Off SEC Bowl Season Tonight

With a win tonight in the Music City Bowl against Wake Forest, Mississippi State will have its first back-to-back winning seasons since 1999 and 2000.  Lose and the Dogs will finish with a losing record… and Dan Mullen will have to deal with some offseason doubts for the first time. 

That’s the razor’s edge that now exists when 6-6 teams (and even 6-7 UCLA) can go bowling.

We at MrSEC.com believe the Bulldogs will get their seventh win.  An undersized Wake Forest club cobbled together a 5-3 record inside the ACC, but outside the league they lost to seven-loss Syracuse in overtime, five-loss Notre Dame at home, and six-loss Vanderbilt absolutely thrashed them 41-7 in the season finale.

In that final game, the Commodores rolled up 481 yards of total offense including 297 on the ground.  If Vandy can run on the Demon Deacons, State should be able to run on them, too.  The Bulldogs and Commodores had nearly identical rushing stats on the season with MSU averaging 168 yards per game and Vandy averaging 167.

The Demon Deacons also lost five of their last seven games.

In the ACC, Wake Forest had a middle-of-the-pack offense and a below-average defense.  But what they have been able to do well is pass the football.  And pass defense hasn’t been a strong suit for Mullen’s squad this season.

But if the Bulldogs win the battles in the trenches — where they have a considerable size advantage — and if they avoid turnovers, State fans should enjoy a nice start to their New Year’s weekend.

A few headlines…


Wake Forest ready for physical State squad

Favored State is no lock vs. Wake Forest

Mullen, Grobe Speak on Eve of Game

One final fling: Big game could help Relf’s legacy

Mighty SEC confronts mild ACC in football culture clash

Wake Forest relishes SEC test of Mississippi State in Music City Bowl

Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen no stranger to job rumors

Mississippi State fans hear pride in cowbell clank

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MSU Won’t Have A 3rd QB In Music City Bowl

When Mississippi State lines up against Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl, Tyler Russell and Chris Relf had better stay healthy.  That’s because third-string quarterback Dylan Favre has left the team.

Favre — a redshirt freshman and the nephew of NFL legend Brett Favre — left the MSU squad on Saturday with the intention of transferring to Pearl River Community College for a year.  After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

For State, Favre played sparingly in 2010.  He completed 13 of his 26 pass attempts or 119 yards and a touchdown.  He rushed 12 times for 8 yards and 2 TDs.

Mullen says of the emergency quarterback situation, “We’ll figure it out”  And Relf and Russell are reportedly happy that they’ll be getting additional practice reps.

The only other quarterback on scholarship in Starkville is Dak Prescott, but Mullen isn’t going to pull his redshirt in this month’s bowl game.  If Russell and Relf get hurt against Wake Forest, it’s likely a player from another position will take over in some sort of variation of the Wildcat.

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