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Georgia flips five-star WR George Pickens from Auburn

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And now we have our first five-star flip of National Signing Day 2019, and it not surprisingly involves a pair of teams from the SEC.

In July of last year, George Pickens announced his verbal commitment to Auburn and had seemed like a fairly solid get for Gus Malzahn‘s program.  The star wide receiver’s final visit, an unofficial one, came to The Plains on Feb. 3.

Three days later, however, the Alabama high schooler stunned many recruiting observers by announcing his commitment to Georgia.

“Every year, we usually know what’s going to happen, but this is one came a little bit out of left field,” Director of Scouting Barton Simmons said. “High-profile kid commits to a team that we weren’t necessarily monitoring significantly as a program that was going to steal him. What a pick up for Georgia.”

Pickens is easily the highest-rated flip of signing day, ranked as the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama and the No. 4 receiver in the country as well as being slotted as the No. 24 prospect overall on‘s composite board. The flip also means that UGA has pulled in the top two prospects from the state of Alabama.

UPDATED 11:29 a.m. ET: The Georgia football program has subsequently confirmed they have received Pickens’ signed National Letter of Intent.

From undecided recruits and potential flips, still some prizes to be won on National Signing Day this week

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The confetti in Atlanta has just been swept off the floor in Atlanta following the Super Bowl, but we are a little more than 36 hours away from the next big day on football’s calendar. That’s right, National Signing Day takes place this Wednesday, Feb. 6 as college football’s recruiting process looks to put the final pieces of puzzles in place for the Class of 2019. For the second straight year, an early signing period on the recruiting calendar has taken much of the steam out of the fun of signing day, but there are still some good players available as programs look to polish off their recruiting efforts on a high note this week.

According to a top 100 ranking of the Class of 2019, just seven players are classified as undecided. That includes five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright of Huntington, West Virginia. Tennessee appears to be the leader in the clubhouse for his commitment of the nation’s No. 16 player overall, although West Virginia is in the mix as expected. Mack Brown and North Carolina are also apparently high on Wright’s radar, with Penn State and Georgia likely fading. It’s worth noting the Vols got the last official visit on the schedule over the weekend, giving the Vols the last chance to make their sales pitch on campus.

Other notable undecided players include four-star athlete Jerrion Ealy of Mississippi (Clemson, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State all had official visits recently), four-star cornerback Kaiir Elam of Florida (expected to be a battle between Florida and Georgia), and four-star defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher of Louisiana (LSU is probably the favorite ahead of Alabama and Ole Miss).

Five more players on the board are labeled as verbal commitments, although you never know if one of those players could potentially flip. Four-star safety Nick Cross is currently verbally committed to Florida State, but Rivals notes a few programs have been busy trying to lure him away from heading to Tallahassee. The DeMatha product has been getting some heavy attention from within the state by the Maryland Terrapins. Maryland has some competition just north of the Mason-Dixon Line from Penn State, with the Nittany Lions getting a late official visit on the books and seemingly the most likely program to potentially get Cross to flip his commitment from Florida State. Georgia is also in hot pursuit, and the Bulldogs are not to be overlooked in this recruiting battle as it comes down the final stretch.

Another Florida State verbal commit, four-star defensive end Quashon Fuller, is also on flip-watch according to Rivals. Alabama and Florida are thought to be in the running before Fuller signs his letter of intent. Alabama is always a threat to snatch a talented recruit away from a school, and Dan Mullen and Florida turned in a solid recruiting effort within the state of Florida. Adding one more in-state recruit would bode well for the Gators, if there is any second-guessing from the Florida State commit.

Perhaps the most notable verbal commitment to watch for a potential flip could be Auburn commit George Pickens. The five-star wide receiver and the No. 7 recruit in the nation has been committed to the Tigers for a while but a late visit to Tennessee appears to be throwing some curveballs in the final days before signing day. Once again, Georgia is also thought to be in the mix as well. Keeping Pickens, a Hoover, Alabama recruit, in the pack for the Tigers would be a significant recruiting victory for Gus Malzahn and company.

Will we see any surprises? That remains to be seen. With many programs pretty much having their recruiting classes in good order after the early signing period in January, there could be a pretty light day of recruiting headlines coming our way this week. But even though the traditional signing day may have lost a bit of the shine it once had, that doesn’t mean it is any less important. There are some good football players still looking to bring an end to their recruiting process, and many programs would love to be able to add some of these players to their recruiting class.

Prince Tega Wanogho is second Auburn player to put NFL on hold, return to Tigers for another season

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One of the best names in college football will back for one more college football season.

Over the weekend, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown announced via Instagram that he would be returning to The Plains for another season.  A day later, and on the same social media site, a teammate on the other side of the line, Prince Tega Wanogho, confirmed that he too will be eschewing an early leap into the April draft and returning to the Tigers for his senior season.

After starting seven games as a redshirt sophomore in 2017, Wanogho started all 13 games at left tackle this past season.

While two key components will return next season, the Tigers did lose three big pieces to early entry into the draft over the last month: starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham (HERE), receiving yards leader Darius Slayton (HERE) and starting defensive back Jamel Dean (HERE).

Auburn dominates first B1G-SEC bowl matchup in historic rout of Purdue

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The good news for the Big Ten?  They still have three more matchups with the SEC this postseason, and they couldn’t possibly go worse than this one. Right?

It was a record-setting first two quarters of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl for Auburn (8-5) as they took a 56-7 lead on overmatched and overwhelmed Purdue (6-7) into the halftime locker room.  After scoring on all seven of its first-half offensive possessions (if you take away a kneel down to end the second quarter), the Tigers scored on its first possession of the second half as well before throwing it in cruise control and easing its way to a 63-14 win over the Boilermakers.

To put a finer point on the dominance, the Tigers didn’t punt the ball until there were just over three minutes left in the third quarter.  That punt came after Gus Malzahn, in the head coach’s first game since reassuming the play-calling duties, commenced to removing a handful of starters on both sides of the ball.

With the 63 points, Auburn broke the SEC bowl scoring record previously held by rival Alabama in its 61-6 win over Syracuse in the 1953 Orange Bowl.  The Tigers had already broken the Music City Bowl record for points in a game, previously the 49 by West Virginia in the 2000 game, with its 56 first-half points that also broke the FBS postseason record for two quarters of play.

Auburn had the chance to tie the record for points in a bowl game, but opted to kneel twice inside the five-yard line with less than a minute remaining in the game.  That means West Virginia’s record of 70 put up in the 2012 Orange Bowl rout of Clemson remains the postseason points standard.

In the last game of Jarrett Stidham‘s collegiate career — he announced earlier this month that he is leaving The Plains early for the NFL — the quarterback put on quite the show in just two-and-a-half quarters worth of work, throwing for 373 yards and five touchdowns in the rout.  He’s just the third player in AU history with five touchdown passes in a single game, joining Chris Todd in 2009 and Daniel Cobb in 2001, but the first to do so in a bowl.

Not surprisingly, Stidham was named as the Music City Bowl Player of the Game.

Darius Slayton caught three of Stidham’s touchdown passes for 160 yards, all of which came in the first half.  The yardage broke the old school record of 159 by Herbert Casey in the 1990 Peach Bowl.

With two rushing and one receiving (all in the first half), JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow is the first Tiger football player to score three touchdowns in a bowl game.

In a losing effort, All-American true freshman Rondale Moore, who came into the game leading the FBS in receptions with 103, added 11 more catches for 94 yards.

The Big Ten and SEC will square off three more times over the next four days: the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Florida-Michigan, Dec. 29), the Outback Bowl (Mississippi State-Iowa, New Year’s Day) and the VRBO Citrus Bowl (Kentucky-Penn State, New Year’s Day).

With Auburn’s win, the SEC is now an even 1-1 in the 2018-19 bowl season with nine more games remaining.  The Big Ten suffered its first defeat of the postseason and is 2-1 with six games left on its bowl schedule.

Auburn scores on first seven possessions, adds pick-six in blowing doors off Purdue at halftime of Music City Bowl

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At least for the first two quarters, Tyler Trent‘s special kind of inspirational magic hasn’t traveled well from West Lafayette to Nashville.  At all.

Thanks to a startling, historic offensive outburst and a stifling defensive effort throughout, Auburn has taken a dominating 56-7 lead on Purdue into halftime of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Saturday afternoon.  This marked the first time in more than two years that head coach Gus Malzahn, who is either on the hot seat or he’s not, called the offensive plays during a game, and the impact was immediate as the Tigers scored touchdowns on their first seven possessions en route to 398 yards of first-half offense.

 JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow set the tone early on as, on Auburn’s first offensive possession, the running back took a wheel route from Jarrett Stidham on third-and-one and turned it into a 66-yard touchdown just a little over a minute into the postseason contest.  That was the first of three Whitlow touchdowns in the first half, the second coming on a two-yard run in the middle of the first quarter to push the Tigers’ lead to 14-0 and a third two minutes later, following a David Blough interception, from a yard out to make it a 21-0 game.

After a Rondale Moore touchdown pulled the Boilermakers to within 14 at 21-7, Stidham hit Darius Slayton on a 74-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing possession to push the lead back out to 21 with just under three minutes left in the first quarter.  Stidham would finish the half with 335 yards and four touchdown tosses on 13-of-18 passing, while Slayton added another touchdown catch early in the second quarter, this one from 52 yards out on a second-and-18 screen pass, that stretched Auburn’s advantage to 35-7.  Slayton then added a third touchdown catch with two minutes left in the half.

Stidham’s first-half quarterback rating, incidentally, was an astronomical 301.8.

A second Blough interception was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Big Kat Bryant three minutes into the second quarter to push the Boilermakers further into the abyss at 42-7.  Blough finished the half 18-of-28 passing for 142 yards and the two picks for a rating of 92.6.  The Boilermakers’ offense as a whole managed just 180 yards and were 3-9 on third downs (and 1-3 on fourth downs).

Just once this season did Auburn score more points in an entire game than they did in the first half today — 63-9 over FCS Alabama State in early September.  AU’s high-water mark against an SEC team in 2018 came in a 34-3 win over Arkansas Sept. 22 as they came into the game today 102nd nationally averaging 28.3 points per game.

The 56 points also breaks the Music City Bowl record for points set by West Virginia against Ole Miss in a 49-38 win in the 2000 game.  It also breaks the old FBS record of 49 points in a half in any bowl game (West Virginia vs. Clemson, 2012 Orange Bowl).