No. 3 Auburn (12-1, 8-1 SEC) running back Tre Mason was unstoppable. You know the expression “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him?” That wasn’t even the case for No. 5 Missouri (11-2, 7-2 SEC) Saturday night in Atlanta. Mason earned game MVP honors in leading Auburn to a 59-42 victory by rushing for 303 yards and four touchdowns to lead Auburn to the SEC Championship.
In the most offensive SEC Championship Game in the history of the game, Auburn and Missouri traded scores for most fo the night but Auburn put the clamps down in the fourth quarter, outscoring the sEC East champs 14-0 to pull away for the conference title. Mason accounted for both touchdowns. Not to be forgotten, but Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall also rushed for 100 yards in the game, going for 101 yards and a touchdown while also completing nine of his 11 pass attempts for 132 yards and another touchdown. Missouri quarterback James Franklin ended with a 303 passing yards and three touchdowns and Dorial Green-Beckham led the receivers with 144 yards and a pair of touchdown catches.
Missouri simply could not stop Mason and the Auburn running game, which has been the clear strength of Auburn this season. Why bother throwing when you can pound it out on the ground with ease?
It’s not as if Auburn has done this against teams incapable of stopping the run. The last two weeks Auburn has thrived on the ground in a big way against the top two rushing defenses in the SEC, against Alabama last week and against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Missouri did plenty on offense as well, but was unable to come up with some plays in the fourth quarter to keep pace with Auburn. This is just the way Auburn likes it. Auburn went up-tempo as often as possible and it gassed Missouri over time. Not many teams in the country are able to slow this offense down, but now we wait to see who will have the unenviable task of attempting to try.
Auburn will also wait to see what happens in the ACC and Big Ten championship games this evening. If Florida State or Ohio State are upset in their respective conference championship games, a spot in the BCS Championship Game will be opened up for the SEC’s champion. It is not likely Auburn will be able to pass an undefeated Florida State or Ohio State in the final BCS standings if the Seminoles and Buckeyes each win tonight.
Missouri will still be eligible for a BCS at-large spot, although it is more likely they will be playing in the Capital One Bowl against a Big Ten opponent (Nebraska?) Bowl at this point. Alabama is also eligible for an at-large bid, and the Crimson Tide could likely be the first at-large team selected by a bowl game, perhaps the Orange Bowl. If Auburn does advance to the BCS Championship Game, it is still probable Alabama would be selected by the Sugar Bowl to maintain the SEC tie-in.
An off-field incident involving alcohol has unofficially cost an assistant coach a job.
It had been reported that Gerad Parker, who served as Purdue’s interim head coach last season, decided to leave his new job at Cincinnati to take another at East Carolina. That reported move was complicated after reports surfaced that, following a going-away party in West Lafayette early Tuesday morning, the coach was pulled over and charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Parker had been expected to take over the wide receivers coach job at ECU; Wednesday, multiple reports indicated that the Pirates are moving on from the coach in light of the recent development.
In a tweet that has since been deleted from his Twitter account, Parker apologized. “I’m sorry to all my friends and family,” the coach wrote. “Thanks to all that have reached out and shown support.”
Parker would’ve replaced Phil McGeoghan, who left ECU in late January for a job with the Buffalo Bills. ECU’s search for a replacement will continue.
After making some changes to the coaching staff this offseason, Kentucky is locking in offensive coordinator Eddie Gran for the next few seasons. Kentucky has signed Gran to a contract extension good through the 2019 season, according to The Courier-Journal.
According to the reported contract extension, Gran will be paid $825,000 in the 2017 season and will be given a $25,000 raise each of the next two seasons. A buyout cost of $150,000 per years is also added to the contract should he leave for another job during that span. Gran was originally under contract through the 2018 season, so his new deal tacks on an extra year in Lexington. The extended contract also bumps Gran’s pay by $175,000 compared to his previous contract.
Kentucky may have finished the 2017 season ranked 9th in the SEC in total scoring, but the Wildcats bumped up their average points per game by roughly six points in 2016 compared to the 2015 season. Kentucky also had the SEC’s third-most productive rushing attack with an average of 234.15 rushing yards per game and 30 rushing touchdowns. Only Auburn and Alabama had better averages and touchdown totals (and Alabama had two more games to pad the stats).
Kentucky has room to improve in the passing game after finishing the 2016 season ranked 13th in passing offense in the 14-team SEC. Kentucky also had an SEC-high 28 turnovers lost in 2016, with 16 fumbles and 12 interceptions thrown.
Gran joined the Kentucky program last year after a three-year stint at Cincinnati as offensive coordinator. Gran has previously been an assistant at Florida State, Tennessee, Auburn, and Ole Miss as well.
Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams pled no contest to charges from a DUI incident last August. On Wednesday, he received his sentence from a county judge and learned he would be sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of probation.
According to The Lincoln Journal-Star, Williams was also fined $1,000 for his latest DUI charge. Williams has until March 3 to apply for house arrest, although prosecutors made a push for Williams to serve his time behind bars after not being locked up for two prior DUI charges.
Nebraska opens spring football practices on March 4. If he is ruled eligible for house arrest, that would allow Williams to continue coaching in the spring. Otherwise, he could have to miss at least some of Nebraska’s spring practices depending on when his jail sentence would begin.
Williams was pulled over for driving under the influence last August with a BAC above .15. Further complicating things was the fact Williams also had two previous convictions for DUI. Nebraska head coach Mike Riley suspended Williams without pay through the end of August and was prohibited from coaching in Nebraska’s first four games of the 2016 season.
Former Hawaii defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa has landed in Ann arbor with a new job. Michigan announced Lempa has joined the staff as a senior defensive analyst under Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown.
“Kevin is a great addition to our football program and defensive staff,” said Harbaugh in a released statement. “He adds a wealth of experience and knowledge on the defensive side of the ball, and Kevin’s working relationship with Coach (Don) Brown will be a big asset for our team.”
“I am very excited and honored to become part of Coach Harbaugh’s staff,” Lempa said in his released statement. “I am also fired up to be working with Coach Brown again.”
Lempa resigned from his position with the Hawaii program following the 2016 season. He previously served as a defensive backs coach at Boston College from 2013 through 2015, when Brown was the defensive coordinator of the Eagles.
As a defensive analyst, Lempa will not have any hands-on instruction with the Michigan roster but will assist in film breakdown and other orders of business in preparing Michigan’s game plan.