In a conference full of great rivalries, which one is the SEC’s best?

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The SEC’s new scheduling policy was designed in part with a goal of keeping traditional rivalries thriving for years to come. The cross-division rivalries in the SEC more important to some than others of course, but Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is happy to see the rivalry with Alabama will continue. Alabama and Tennessee were locked together, keeping the series dating back to 1901 a part of the SEC tradition. Say what you will about the Iron Bowl, because Jones says it is Alabama-Tennessee that is the best rivalry in the SEC.

“I think the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry is one of the best rivalries in the country, and I think it’s the best rivalry in the Southeastern Conference,” Jones said in an interview on 105.1 The Zone in Chattanooga on Monday. “To be able to maintain that rivalry is something that we are very excited about.”

The other cross-division match-ups set by the SEC are Arkansas-Missouri, Auburn-Georgia, LSU-Florida, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt, Mississippi State-Kentucky, and Texas A&M-South Carolina. Of the cross-division match-ups protected by the SEC, the Alabama vs. Tennessee and Auburn vs. Georgia match-ups are certainly ahead of some of the other pairings, specifically Texas A&M vs. South Carolina. But is the Third Saturday in October that far ahead of the rivalry games between Alabama and Auburn or Florida and Georgia? As with most college football issues, this probably depends on your rooting interests.

So, what is the best rivalry in the SEC? Here is my top five to get you started…

1. Iron Bowl: Alabama vs. Auburn

Last year was great, but this rivalry has offered plenty of great moments in college football history and is fueled by some of the strongest rooting interests in the country all within one state’s borders. This really is the biggest game of the year in the state for a reason.

2. Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Auburn vs. Georgia

There is something to be said for the deep history in this one. After 117 meetings, Auburn leads the series 55-54-8 dating back to 1892.

3. Florida-Georgia Football Rivalry

The rivalry may have moved away from the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, but no worries here. This game is played on a neutral field and has its own Hall of Fame. The two schools cannot even agree on when the series started. A stake in the SEC East also tends to be on the line more often than not.

4. Third Saturday in October: Alabama vs. Tennessee

The series tends to swing back and forth in chunks but it started with a tie in 1901. Here’s hoping Tennessee can get closer to making this series mean something again soon, and perhaps serve as a preview of a future SEC Championship Game.

5. Egg Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State

The two teams may not be SEC powers, but they play for one of the coolest trophies in college football. The game has become a Thanksgiving tradition over time, and there is just something about it that feels right.

Helmet sticker to Times Free Press for the transcribed quotes. Another helmet sticker to Saturday Down South.

Ex-Miami DT Courtel Jenkins no longer at Houston

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That certainly didn’t last long.

In mid-June, Houston announced former Miami defensive lineman Courtel Jenkins was one of four Power Five transfers who had been added to Major Applewhite‘s roster.  A little over three months later?  Jenkins is no longer on the roster.

No reason for the departure was given.

While Jenkins was not eligible to play in games this season, he had been practicing with his Cougar teammates. After this year, he has one year of eligibility remaining.

The past three seasons, Jenkins, a three-star member of the Hurricanes’ 2014 recruiting class, appeared in 34 games at The U.  He started seven of those contests, with all seven of those coming in 2015.

In 2016, he was credited with 11 tackles in 10 games.  4.5 of those were tackles for loss, a total that was tied for 10th on the team.

In early February, Miami announced that Jenkins had been dismissed from the football program for violating unspecified team rules.

Rutgers avoids scholarship reductions, other harsh sanctions as NCAA issues ruling

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The Rutgers football program can officially breathe a huge sigh of relief.

As the culmination of a two-year investigation into the football program, the NCAA on Friday announced its final ruling on a case involving Rutgers.  Despite a failure to monitor charge, the NCAA essentially accepted the sanctions the university had previously self-imposed on itself for violations ranging from academic improprieties to drug-testing irregularities to lack of oversight in the recruiting ambassador program.

Below are the original penalties self-imposed by the program:

  • a 1-year probation period
  • a $5,000 fine
  • a reduction of 10 off-campus recruiting days (five in the fall of 2017-18 and five in the spring)
  • a limit of 36 official visits hosted, 26 lower than the limit
  • a 1-week ban on initiating phone calls, contact on social media and written correspondence to recruits

The only change made by the NCAA was bumping the probation period from one year to two.  Additionally, former head coach Kyle Flood, now an assistant with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, received a one-year show-cause.

The NCAA had particularly pointed words for Flood.

“The former head coach took a casual approach to compliance as it relates to the host program,” the panel said in its decision. “He exercised little, if any, oversight of the group, permitting recruiting staff to administer the program with no supervision. As the individual who had ultimate oversight of all aspects of the football program, it is implicit that the head coach was also responsible for the actions of football hosts and, ultimately, the violations they committed.”

In September of 2015, Flood was suspended for three games in the wake of a university investigation into his alleged actions.  The probe centered on an email that Flood sent from a private email account to an RU faculty member regarding the eligibility of one of his former football players.

That situation was highlighted in the committee’s decision:

In the last instance of not following university policy, the former head coach contacted a student-athlete’s instructor, contrary to university policy, to arrange for extra coursework after the conclusion of the term so the student-athlete could pass the class and be eligible for the fall 2015 season. After contacting the instructor and before meeting with her, the former head coach reached out to an academic support administrator, who warned against contacting the instructor. The former head coach stated he was unaware of university policy prohibiting him from contacting faculty members.

The former head coach provided the student-athlete with an impermissible academic extra benefit when he contacted the instructor to arrange extra coursework, an arrangement that is not available generally to the student body. The instructor ultimately did not accept the extra coursework, and the student-athlete was ineligible for the fall 2015 season.

The NCAA kicked off its probe of the football program in the spring of 2015, prior to Flood’s suspension.  The head coach, along with athletic director Julie Hermannwas dismissed in late November of 2015.

Ex-A&M AD: ‘I had nothing to do with’ Kevin Sumlin’s massive contract extension

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If you’re a fan of honesty — or at least one man’s version of what he honestly thinks is reality — this one’s in your wheelhouse.

In 2012, the first season for both Kevin Sumlin in College Station and Texas A&M in the SEC, the Aggies went 11-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play, largely behind the play of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. In February of 2013, and after Sumlin had been mentioned in connection to a couple of NFL jobs, a six-year, $30 million contract extension was approved by the university.

Since that reworked contract and the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the football program? A&M has gone a middling 35-20 and, more importantly, just 15-17 in conference play. More to the point, the Aggies have finished fourth, sixth, fifth and fourth the past four seasons in the even-more hyper-competitive SEC West. An even finer point? They are 9-15 against divisional foes in that same span.

Following the historic season-opening collapse to UCLA in the 2017 opener, one A&M regent — part of the same body that approved the extension — very publicly called for the immediate firing of Sumlin, who was still the seventh-highest-paid head coach in college football in 2016. That came on the heels of Sumlin’s boss, athletic director Scott Woodward, very publicly putting his head football coach on the hot seat this offseason by stating that Sumlin “knows he has to win and he has to win this year.”

This week, Woodward’s predecessor, Eric Hyman, washed his hands of the contract that’s seemingly saddling the university, telling Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that, in essence, he had absolutely nothing to do with the contract extension. At all. That those above his paygrade gave him his marching orders when it came to the new deal.

From Engel’s piece:

Was That Contract Hyman’s decision?

“No. I had nothing to do with it,” Hyman told me in an interview on Wednesday morning at a Starbucks near his home in Fort Worth.

“I have done this job a long time and I don’t blame Kevin Sumlin. If someone is going to give you $5 million a year for six years, it would have been stupid of him to turn it down,” Hyman said. “But the contract was given to me, and it was ‘This is what we are going to do.’ I looked at myself and I was stunned.

“I had no say so over it. I’ve been doing this job for a long time. I had worked with Steve Spurrier for years, and he was paid a heck of a lot less than Coach Sumlin. And he won national championships after conference championships. And then you are making this commitment to a person, and again I don’t blame Kevin, that’s never won a conference championship.

“When the original contract was given to me, if Kevin were to leave the next day there was no buyout provision.

There’s literally no gray area there. If Hyman’s version of events is correct, and A&M is forced to oust Sumlin at some point in the next couple of months, any financial ramifications the university faces can be placed squarely at the feet of those who forced the contract on Hyman.

As for those financial ramifications? It would reportedly cost A&M in excess of $11 million to get rid of Sumlin.

About-face: Derrius Guice will play vs. Syracuse after all

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Never mind, I guess.

Wednesday night, Ed Orgeron flatly stated on his radio show that Derrius Guicewill not play this week” against Syracuse because of a left knee injury sustained in Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Mississippi State. Thursday, there was a complete 180-degree reversal.

“We got some good news today, at the beginning of the week, Derrius was ruled out, up to yesterday he wouldn’t be able to play,” Orgeron said according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “He came to us today and said ‘Coach, I’m feeling better, I want to practice.’ He practiced pretty good today so he’s going to get some snaps. He will play.”

OK then.

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns. His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.