Georgia v Missouri

SEC Championship: Auburn, Missouri are even but took different roads to Atlanta

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If there is one song that seems to sum up the recent wild ride the Auburn Tigers have taken the past few weeks, it may be Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. At least, the title of the song seems to be most appropriate to describe Auburn’s journey to the SEC Championship Game this weekend in Atlanta. Missouri hasn’t exactly had to rely on a power from above as much as Auburn, but they will be lining up on the other side of the field of Auburn this weekend after a similar one-year turnaround in SEC play.

For as similar as these two teams appear to be when you start to look at the numbers, Auburn and Missouri could not have had much different paths to Atlanta. Auburn’s season started with a breath of fresh air with the hiring of head coach Gus Malzahn, who took over for his former boss Gene Chizik. Malzahn was previously one of the hottest assistants in the game while helping to lead Auburn to a BCS championship a few years ago. He picked up some head coaching experience last year at Arkansas State before rejoining the Tigers. The optimism was high for Malzahn at Auburn, but even the most loyal of Auburn supporters would probably admit they didn’t quite see this coming. Auburn was ranked 118th in total offense a year ago, but Malzahn quickly helped improve that. The Tigers enter this weekend with the nation’s 15th best offense in total offense. Much of that is a credit to the incredible running game the Tigers have relied on.

The SEC’s top rushing offense is grinding up 318.25 yards per game on the ground, which should make for a great battle with Missouri. Missouri ranks second in the SEC in rushing defense, but Auburn ran for 218 yards and a touchdown against the SEC’s top rushing defense (Alabama) last weekend. As if stopping Tre Mason is not a tough enough task for Missouri, focus must also be given to quarterback Nick Marshall, who is a threat to throw and run any time. He may not have impressive passing numbers, but Marshall proved last weekend he has a good eye and an ability to wait for a play to develop. Doing that against Missouri will be a key for Auburn.

All this talk about Auburn though and you might be thinking Missouri is a complete afterthought. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Missouri’s turnaround this season has been just as surprising as Auburn’s to most. In their first year in the SEC, while Texas A&M was enjoying the national spotlight, Missouri was slugging through their initiation in the new conference with a 5-7 record. Gary Pinkell‘s team missed out on the postseason for the first time since 2004, which helped to validate the criticisms some seemed to have about Missouri’s place in the SEC. The tables were turned this season though, as Auburn ripped through the SEC East except for an overtime setback at home against South Carolina. These Tigers managed to do it with two different quarterbacks leading the offense without losing much of a step along the way.

James Franklin got things rolling with a 6-0 start under center, throwing 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions as Missouri set the bar high for the rest of the season. A shoulder injury to the starting quarterback in a big win at Georgia, which made it clear Missouri was a serious contender in the division as opposed to a pretender, put the fortune of the season in limbo, but Maty Mauk stepped in to keep the Missouri Tigers roaring.Mauk calmed the nerves of Missouri fans for the most part by avoiding mistakes, throwing 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions in Franklin’s absence. That was highlighted by a five-touchdown performance against Kentucky. Mauk was in command for Missouri’s only loss of the season, but if Franklin should happen to be taken out the Tigers know they have a competent replacement ready to jump right in. Whoever ends up playing quarterback at any given time for Missouri, they will have one of the top targets in the SEC in Dorial Green-Beckham, the receiver who shocked the college football world by committing to Missouri a few years ago. Green-Beckham commands plenty of attention, which opens up the field for the complimentary L’Damian Washington. The two receivers combined for 20 touchdowns this season, so Auburn will have their work cut out for them in the secondary.

It is often turnovers that become the difference of a game. If that is going to be the case for the SEC Championship Game, the Missouri Tigers figure to have the advantage. Missouri has a turnover margin of +15 entering the championship game, which looms large over +1 owned by Auburn. Will Auburn have to rely on some improbable sequence to pick up one more win and an SEC championship?

War Eagle, Auburn’s half way there.

AFCA and NFL agree on expanded access for scouting college underclassmen

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 28: Scouts look on as a player runs the 40-yard dash during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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The NFL and most NCAA schools have been trying for years to whittle away at the high number of players who declare early for the NFL Draft and then go undrafted.

To that end, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and the NFL announced Monday that the two entities have reached an agreement on new guidelines involving scouting underclassmen. This will eventually allow for more information to be shared with both prospects and their potential employers at the pro level.

Beginning this upcoming February, each FBS school can designate up to five underclassmen who will be eligible for additional scouting (some schools may be allowed to designate more). Those players will then be allowed to be tested and interviewed by scouts at a school’s pro day prior to the 2017 NFL Draft.

While it is not quite an “underclassmen combine” that some have advanced, it essentially means talented soon-to-be redshirt sophomores and juniors who are not eligible to declare for the draft will be able to perform at their school’s pro days for scouts.

“The more information our college advisory committee has, the better evaluations they can make for student-athletes who are at a critical juncture of their lives,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said in the statement. “While there is no question that obtaining a college degree is a transformative experience for so many people in society and a goal to which we encourage everyone to aspire to, for those talented few individuals that have the ability to succeed in the NFL prior to exhausting their college football eligibility, this new agreement will ensure they have better information with which to make their decision. We appreciate the efforts of our partners at the AFCA in making this new agreement a reality.”

The change is one many top coaches have been clamoring for over the years, from Ohio State’s Urban Meyer to Alabama’s Nick Saban. It should lead to more information for those players who may be thinking about leaving school before their senior season and allow the underclass advisory committee to get a better idea of where they might get drafted.

It may not be a perfect solution for some but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Pro Football Talk also has a little more on this subject right here.

Rutgers loses play-making Janarion Grant to season-ending ankle injury

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 17:  Janarion Grant #1 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights carries the ball in the first half against the New Mexico Lobos at High Point Solutions Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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If there was one player Rutgers may not have been able to afford to lose this season, it was Janarion Grant. Unfortunately for Rutgers, Grant has indeed ben lost for the season due to an ankle injury suffered Saturday in a home loss against Iowa.

Grant injured his right ankle on Saturday and returned to the Rutgers sideline on crutches later in the game. That was an ominous sign itself, but Rutgers head coach Chris Ash confirmed the unfortunate news on Monday when addressing the media. Ash did not reveal the specific details of Grant’s injury, but confirming he will miss the rest of the season is a pretty tough pill to swallow for the entire Rutgers program.

Rutgers will look to petition for an extra year of eligibility for Grant.

But wait, there’s more injury news for Rutgers. Ash also announced defensive end Quanzell Lambert will be out for the remainder of the 2016 season due to a knee injury.

Texas suspends OL Kent Perkins following DWI arrest

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Texas has suspended senior offensive guard Kent Perkins for one game after he was arrested for a DWI charge last week.

The suspension will be served during Texas’ next game this weekend against Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have lost two out of the last three games, including last weekend’s game at Baylor to drop to 0-1 in Big 12 play to start the season.

The loss of Perkins for one game is a blow to the Texas offensive line, as he is one of the most experienced players in the trenches for the Longhorns. He has started 26 games, with all 26 coming on the right side of the offensive line.

Alex Anderson and Jake McMillon are expected to fill the vacancy at right guard this weekend and Perkins is expected to return to the field next week.

Former Buckeyes head coach Earle Bruce to dot the “i” on Saturday

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  The Ohio State Buckeyes marching band spells out Ohio to the cheers of fans before their game against the Michigan Wolverines on November 20, 2004 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  Ohio State upset Michigan 37-21.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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One of the great traditions college football has to offer is when an Ohio State senior sousaphone player parades out to “dot the ‘i'” in The Best Damn Band In The Land’s signature pregame show. On a rare occasion, the honor of completing the script goes to a very special guest. On Saturday, that honor will be given to former Buckeyes head coach Earle Bruce.

“I was floored… I couldn’t believe it,” Bruce said to WTVN in response to the news of the special invite. “I always like to talk about the band. The band is so great.”

A total of 13 people have had the privilege of being the special guest to perform the final piece of Ohio State’s patented pregame routine. He will be the second former Ohio State coach to do so, joining Woody Hayes. Other notable people to have the honor include John Glenn, Jack Nicklaus, and Bob Hope. Perhaps one day Jim Tressel will join the list of special guests.

Bruce was a big influence for current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer was a graduate assistant under Bruce from 1986 through 1987.

Helmet sticker to Eleven Warriors.