ALABAMA: The best news for the Tide since coming to Miami for the BCS National Title game is the return of center Barrett Jones (ankle injury) to working with the first team offense. Further good news is receiver Kenny Bell, who broke his leg in the Auburn game, returning to practice. Jones will play, but Bell will likely be a game time decision. Looking to the future, The Tuscaloosa News has learned that Alabama’s 2015 opponent in the annual Cowboys Classic is expected to be Wisconsin.
ARKANSAS: Former Miami head coach Randy Shannon is leaving TCU to go to Arkansas according to the school. Shannon will serve as linebackers coach.
AUBURN: Auburn announced Thursday evening that former Florida State assistant Dameyune Craig has been hired as Gus Malzahn’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
FLORIDA: Louisville outplayed Florida in every phase of the game. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was precise on his throws. Coach Charlie Strong had a very effective game plan that took advantage of the Gator secondary. The Cardinals wanted to be in New Orleans. Florida did not. The Gators were surprisingly undisciplined. Florida’s offensive staff quit running the ball too early in the game. Too many of the defensive players were more concerned about the NFL and the coaching staff might have been too preoccupied with recruiting. With that said, the Gators had a fine season. They will be SEC title contenders over the next few years. They will have a top three recruiting class in February. The Sugar Bowl loss will soon be just a bad memory in a few months. Gator fans need to remember that Alabama lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl in 2009. Their record since then is 49-5. Safety Matt Elam and defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd are entering the NFL Draft.
GEORGIA: Georgia will finish this season ranked in the Top 10 for the first time since 2007 and achieved 12 wins in a season for only the third time in school history. For all the accolades the Bulldog offense receives, it was actually a series of five consecutive stands by Georgia’s defense that allowed the Bulldogs’ powerful offense to utilize some new looks and pull away from Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
Aaron Murray has not made up his mind about returning next season, but linebacker Alec Ogletree said he is going to the NFL. There are reports out Friday that linebacker Jarvis Jones will also forego his senior season. Georgia’s recruiting class of 2011 – better known as the “Dream Team”— has won 22 games and two SEC Eastern Division championship the past two seasons.
LSU: The Tigers loss to Clemson was mystifying in many ways. Jeremy Hill, who gained 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in the first three quarters, did not carry the ball in the fourth quarter. Clemson ran 34 offensive plays in the fourth quarter and LSU had six. The Tigers were outgained 169-1 in the fourth quarter. Clemson had the ball 100 plays and LSU ran 48. Many observers believe the offensive coordinator job is too much for Greg Studrawa, who is also the offensive line coach. Linebacker Kevin Minter, one of the best linebacker in the SEC, will enter the NFL draft.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Northwestern and State combined for seven turnovers after both teams were ranked in the top 10 in turnover margin during the regular season. State quarterback Tyler Russell threw four picks after throwing just six in the regular season. Has coach Dan Mullen reached the ceiling of wins for his team? In fairness, the Bulldogs, partly due to NCAA sanctions, managed just one winning season from 2001-08. Since he took over in 2009, Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to three straight winning seasons. Still, after starting out 7-0 and climbing to No. 11 in the BCS standings, Mississippi State lost five of its last six games. The Bulldogs haven’t beaten an SEC team that finished the season with a winning record since a win at Florida in 2010. Per ESPN.com, State, who has lost 11 straight games to nationally ranked opponents, is 2-17 against ranked foes under Mullen. In their four losses to ranked teams this season, they were outscored 147-57 and gave up 34 or more points in all four games.
OLE MISS: Also according to the djournal.com, backup quarterback Barry Brunetti said he has no plans to transfer to become a one-year starter elsewhere. According to the Biloxi Sun-Herald, Rebel tight end Jamal Mosley is academically ineligible and will not play in the bowl game against Pittsburgh. Mosley, who caught 15 passes for 171 yards, is the lone Rebel who will not play due to academic issues.
SOUTH CAROLINA: How many schools have the luxury of two competent quarterbacks? South Carolina has Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, who bailed the Gamecocks out of the Outback Bowl against Michigan and led the win over Clemson. Receiver Ace Sanders scored on a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown and had nine catches for 92 yards against Michigan. The game will be remembered for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney separating Vincent Smith from the ball sending his helmet flying and causing a fumble that Clowney recovered.
TEXAS A&M: Junior defensive end Damontre Moore is declaring for the NFL draft after the Cotton Bowl. Moore led the Aggies with 80 tackles, finishing tied for third in the nation in sacks with 12.5 and tied for fifth in tackles for loss with 20.
VANDERBILT: Despite a 2-4 start, Vandy owns the longest winning streak in the SEC at seven games. Senior running back Zac Stacy ran for 107 yards, and the Commodores forced five North Carolina State turnovers in the Music City Bowl win. Vandy won nine games for the first time since 1915. They are poised to make the Associated Press Top 25 rankings for the first time since 1948.
CLEMSON: The MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl for Clemson was defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Clemson’s defense, that allowed an average of 411 yards a game during the regular season, held LSU to just 219 yards and nine first downs. Eight of LSU’s 14 offensive series ended in three-and-outs. LSU gained three first downs in the second half. It was also the first bowl win for Clemson since beating Kentucky 21-13 in the 2009 Music City Bowl.
GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jacket defense played above their head holding USC to only a touchdown in the Sun Bowl win. Tech’s defense was allowing up to 30 points per game and USC was averaging over 34 points per game. The Yellow Jackets limited USC star receiver Marqise Lee to six catches for 41 yards. Tech finished with seven wins including its first bowl victory in eight years.
FLORIDA STATE: FSU deserves credit for winning 12 games for the first time since the program’s unbeaten 1999 season, winning the ACC title and its first BCS bowl game since 2009. Still, Nole fans wanted more than an ACC title. A loss to N. C. State and Florida and a lackluster performance in the ACC Title game against Georgia Tech meant an underachieving season in the minds of FSU fans. Defensive tackle Brandon Jenkins, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive end Bjoern Werner have announced their intentions to leave early for the NFL. Safety LaMarcus Joyner is returning for his senior season.
VIRGINIA TECH: There are plenty of rumors that coach Frank Beamer will shake up his offensive staff. He has good reason after The Russell Athletic Bowl featured more punts (21 for both teams) than Virginia Tech had rushing yards (4). The bowl win over Rutgers meant Virginia Tech avoided its first losing season since 1992.