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Kirby Smart sends Alabama to SEC title game as Georgia upsets No. 9 Auburn

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Kirby Smart no longer coaches for Alabama, just as Maurice Smith no longer plays for them. But a former Tide coach and player did a major favor for their former team as Georgia upended No. 9 Auburn 13-7 in Athens. The loss dropped Auburn to 5-2 in SEC play, thereby clinching the SEC West championship for the undefeated Tide.

Of far more importance, of course, for Smart is what this means for his new team. The win sends Georgia (6-4, 4-4 SEC) to a bowl game, extending the program’s streak to 20 consecutive seasons. It’s Smart’s first win over a top-10 team, and the program’s first since beating a similarly-ranked No. 9 Auburn team in 2014. And it provides an image of what this program wants to become under Smart, an image for the new staff to point players, fans and recruits to and say “this is where we’re going, now hop aboard.”

It didn’t look that way through one half, though. Georgia’s offense was stuck in mud and the defense played well but still permitted 109 rushing yards and the game’s only score, a 3-yard Kerryon Johnson rush with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.

But Smart’s defense completely smothered Auburn in the second half.

The half started when, after two incomplete passes, Auburn quarterback Sean White fired an interception directly into Smith’s gut, who returned the ball 34 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

Every other Auburn possession ended after just three plays except the final one. And that one only lasted four because the Tigers ran out of time to punt. When accounting for Smith’s 34-yard return and the seven points it produced, Auburn’s second half produced a net of minus-2 yards and minus-7 points.

That’s not to say the Georgia offense found success against its Auburn counterparts, however. The Bulldogs never found the end zone, but two Rodrigo Blankenship field goals — a 45-yarder at the 13:44 mark of the fourth quarter and a 21-yard chip shot with 2:25 to play — on the heels of 13- and 14-play drives provided enough offense.

And, unlike Auburn, Georgia’s offense avoided the crucial mistake. Freshman Jacob Eason completed 2o-of-31 passes for 208 yards (and narrowly missed catching a reverse pass from Terry Godwin that would’ve provided a clinching touchdown before Blankenship’s final field goal) while Nick Chubb carried 23 times for 101 yards and Sony Michel added 55 yards on 10 attempts.

The Tigers’ offensive numbers finished as ugly as their drive chart. White completed 6-of-20 passes for 27 yards and that pick six, while six Auburn rushers managed only 14 rushing yards in the second half.

With a closing kick of Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech before the bowl game, Georgia can now reasonably point toward a possible 5-game winning streak to send Smart’s first season out with a bang.

Auburn, meanwhile, must regroup after this dud and use next week’s working vacation against Alabama A&M to prepare for Alabama without a possible SEC championship on the line.

Phil Fulmer can feel Butch Jones’ hot-seat pain

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With each passing week, the heat underneath Butch Jones‘ coaching seat only intensifies. One former Tennessee head coach, for what it’s worth, can feel the pain of a man who many feel will join him in the ex-UT coach’s club sooner rather than later.

Phil Fulmer, who played his college football for the Vols, was the head coach at his alma mater from 1992 to 2008, finishing with a 152-52 record, nine double-digit win seasons, two conference championships, six division titles and one national championship. Despite that success, Fulmer was fired following a 5-7 2008 season.

Butch Jones, in the midst of his fifth season at the school, has a 33-24 overall record and a 14-21 mark in SEC play, including an 0-3 start this season. The Vols have yet to place higher than tied for second in the SEC East under Jones, one of myriad factors that have him facing the firing squad at season’s end, if not before.

Asked this week about the storm of criticism enveloping the beleaguered coach, the former coach commiserated with one of his Rocky Top predecessors.

“I understand exactly where he is,” Fulmer told the Citizen Tribune of Morristown, Tenn. “It’s a tough time for him. …

“Nobody ever promised anybody that every day is going to be good. Everybody has difficulties, it’s just that in athletics, and particularly at a place like Tennessee, it is so exposed.”

When asked about quality replacements should the trigger be pulled on Jones, Fulmer told the paper “I wouldn’t begin to go there.”

“There’s so much football to be played and that’s not my responsibility anyway,” Fulmer said, adding, “My hope is that the players will run out, and make a good year out of it.”

For the record, the Vols are 56-51 and are on their third head coach since Fulmer was fired. That’s the worst 10-year stretch, winning percentage-wise, for the football program since the early 1900s.

Florida loses starting DE to season-ending hip surgery

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The injury-plagued career of Jordan Sherit (pictured, right) has come to an end because of, you guessed it, another injury.

Sherit suffered an injury in last Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M that dropped Florida 1½ games behind Georgia in the SEC’s East division.  Wednesday, Jim McElwain confirmed that the starting defensive end will miss the remainder of the year after undergoing season-ending hip surgery because of the injury sustained in that game.

As this is the lineman’s final season of eligibility, the collegiate portion of his playing career is over as well.

It’s a bad deal, man,” the head coach said of the situation.

Sherit’s 2.5 sacks are currently second on the Gators, while his five tackles for loss are tied for third.  The redshirt senior missed a handful of games in the 2014 and 2016 seasons because of a variety of injuries.  He also missed the last half of his senior season of high school because of a torn ACL

‘Health-related issue’ to sideline Oregon State WR Seth Collins indefinitely

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Over the past calendar year, Seth Collins hasn’t caught many breaks health-wise. This week, that unfortunate luck continued.

Oregon State has announced that Collins will be sidelined indefinitely because of what was described as a health-related issue by the football program. The wide receiver did not play in last Saturday’s game because of an unspecified illness.

Per the school, this illness is not related to the unspecified health event last season that left him hospitalized and caused him to miss not only the last two games of 2016 but spring practice this year as well.

“Losing Seth sucks,” quarterback Darell Garretson said according to The Oregonian. “I love that kid to death. It brings me a bunch of pain and a lot of emotion thinking about it. Obviously, I hope he gets his year back. I think he is going to.”

The good news, such as it is, is that Collins, a true junior, could pick up another season of eligibility as he missed the first three games of this year because of an injury unrelated to the twin illnesses.

Despite missing more than half of the Beavers’ games, Collins is currently tied for fifth on the team in receptions with 12 and sixth in receiving yards with 130. Prior to the latest illness cropping up, he set a season-high with 91 yards in the Week 6 loss to USC.

Last season, his first as a receiver after converting from quarterback, Collins was second on the team in catches (36) and yards (418).

VIDEO: UCF head coach Scott Frost shows off wheels running the option as scout team QB

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In terms of accomplishments as a college football player, few coaches have the resume of Scott Frost.

After all, the now-UCF head coach won a national title back in 1997 with Nebraska and compiled a 24-2 record as a starter with the Cornhuskers. What made him so dangerous? Well, he was the perfect fit for the team’s triple option offense and was one of the best in terms of using his arm and his legs in leading the team to all those wins.

“I love option football,” Frost told the Associated Press “I lived it. I feel like option quarterbacks now are kind of like giant pandas, they only exist in zoos and military academies now.”

That’s particularly relevant this week, as his Knights are set to play Navy on Saturday in a huge AAC matchup that will have an impact on who receives this year’s Group of Five bid. Given how well the boss is at running the option, it seems he decided to put on a helmet and run the scout team offense to better prepare his defense for what they’ll see out of the Midshipmen and signal-caller Zach Abey.

From the looks of things, Frost still has it even if he’s got 20 years on his players.