In & around the SEC Week 14

By Cole FrederickBy Cole Frederick

Iron Bowl recap

Second-ranked Alabama embarrassed Auburn 49-0 in Bryant Denny Stadium last Saturday (Nov. 24). The Crimson Tide led 42-0 at halftime, and Auburn never challenged Alabama at any point throughout the game. With the win, Alabama clinched the SEC West and improved to 11-1 overall and 7-1 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn dropped to 3-9 overall, which is the most losses for the Tigers since 1950. The Tigers also finished 0-8 in SEC play, which is the first time Auburn has gone winless in conference play since 1980. The two programs are in two totally different places, and it showed on the field. Alabama takes on Georgia in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta this Saturday (Dec. 1).

SEC Power Poll 

    1. Alabama (11-1, 7-1)
    2. Georgia (11-1, 7-1)
    3. Florida (11-1, 7-1)
    4. LSU (10-2, 6-2)
    5. Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2)
    6. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2)
    7. Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3)
    8. Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5)
    9. Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4)
    10. Missouri (5-7, 2-6)
    11. Tennessee (5-7, 1-7)
    12. Arkansas (4-8, 2-6)
    13. Auburn (3-9, 0-8)
    14. Kentucky (2-10, 0-8)

SEC championship game preview

For the seventh straight season, the winner of the SEC championship game will play for the national title. Alabama takes on Georgia Saturday afternoon in the Georgia Dome, with the winner squaring off with Notre Dame for the national championship in Miami. Both SEC teams are loaded with NFL talent and feature championship-caliber quarterbacks. Alabama’s A.J. McCarron has already won a national title, and Georgia’s Aaron Murray played in last year’s SEC title game. Nick Saban has won three SEC titles, while Mark Richt has won two. Both Alabama and Georgia benefited from relatively easy schedules, at least by SEC standards.Alabama did not play any of the top four teams in the East Division, while Georgia did not play any of the top four teams in the West. The road to Atlanta certainly was not easy for either team, as both teams lost one conference game. Georgia lost 35-7 on the road at South Carolina, while Alabama lost 29-24 at home to Texas A&M. Alabama’s most impressive victory came on the road in Baton Rouge when the Crimson Tide defeated LSU, 21-17. Georgia’s most impressive win was a 17-9 victory over Florida.

(Week 13: 8-1; Season: 94-16)

Alabama vs. Georgia (+7.5). These teams are equally talented, and either team is capable of winning a national title. Georgia’s front seven on defense is among the best in college football. Alabama’s offensive line has been dominant all season long. As usual, whichever team can establish the run and make the fewest mistakes will win. When it comes to big games, however, the Nick Saban Factor is just too hard to ignore. ALABAMA 27, Georgia 13

Who’s next up on The Plains?

As expected, Auburn relieved Gene Chizik of his head coaching duties following the Tigers’ 49-0 loss to Alabama last Saturday. Just two years after leading Auburn to a national title, Chizik and the Tigers submitted one of the worst seasons in Auburn history. Auburn made the decision to fire Chizik despite his $7.5 million buyout. Although no official interviews have been conducted, the Tigers are rumored to be interested in the following candidates:

Gus Malzahn
Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Auburn from 2009-2011 and helped lead the Tigers to the 2010 national title. Malzahn currently is the head coach at Arkansas State, and his Red Wolves currently are 8-3 and in first place in the Sun Belt Conference. His familiarity with Auburn makes Malzahn  an easy target for athletic director Jay Jacobs, and he would likely take the job if offered.

Kirby Smart
Smart is the current defensive coordinator at Alabama, and while it may seem unlikely that he would leave for the Crimson Tide’s archrival, the Tigers would be willing to pay him much more than his current salary of $950,000 a year. Smart is familiar with the SEC, and his defensive background would be more than welcomed in Auburn.

Jimbo Fisher
Fisher was Auburn’s quarterbacks’ coach from 1993-1998 and was very fond of his time with the Tigers. Fisher is in his third season as head coach at Florida State, and his Seminoles face Georgia Tech Saturday in the ACC championship game. If Auburn has a chance at landing Fisher, the Tigers will have to offer around $4 million a year. Even then, it may be unlikely that he leaves Florida State.

Bobby Petrino
Petrino’s name already has surfaced as one of the leading candidates for the Auburn job. Petrino’s head coaching record is solid with a combined 75-26 mark at Arkansas and Louisville. The problem with Petrino is his off-the-field issues. Petrino was fired from Arkansas after he admitted to having an extramarital affair with a member of the Arkansas Athletic Club.

Petrino was almost Auburn’s head coach in 2003 after the Tigers secretly met with him while he was still the head coach at Louisville. While his off-the-field antics have certainly been questionable, he may be the Tigers’ best option when their search is completed.

Gary Patterson
Patterson would be considered a long shot, although he said he “would listen” to an offer from the Tigers. Patterson is 116-34 at Texas Christian, and he interviewed for the Auburn job in 2008. While Auburn could probably pay him more than TCU, the price would be very steep compared to some of the other candidates.

Charlie Strong
The Louisville coach has strong SEC ties, as he was the defensive coordinator at Florida under both Ron Zook and Urban Meyer. According to several media reports, Strong spoke with Auburn officials over the phone earlier this week. Strong later denied these claims, stating “I have a job.” Louisville’s move to the ACC might give Strong more incentive to stay put, although the Cardinals might not be able to compete with the salary level from a SEC school.

The favorite: Petrino

Extra Points
    * Kentucky this week hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops as its head coach. Stoops has never been a head coach, but his defensive pedigree enabled him to land a job in the defensive-minded SEC. Stoops replaced Joker Phillips, who was 13-24 with the Wildcats.
    * Alabama is playing in its eighth SEC championship game. Alabama played Florida in each of the seven previous games. The Crimson Tide is 3-4 in SEC title games.
    * Alabama’s 49-0 win over Auburn was the most lopsided Iron Bowl victory since the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers 55-0 in 1948.
    * Georgia and Alabama will meet for the 66th time on Saturday. Alabama leads the series, 36-25-4.
    * Aaron Murray leads the nation in passing efficiency with a passer rating of 177.15. A.J. McCarron is second with a rating of 176.26.
    * Other conference championship week picks: Northern Illinois over Kent State, Rutgers over Louisville, Stanford over UCLA, Florida State over Georgia Tech, Arkansas State over Middle Tennessee, Tulsa over UCF, Nebraska over Wisconsin, Kansas State over Texas.

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