In & around SEC football


SEC Championship Game recap 

Alabama won its 24th SEC championship last Saturday (Dec. 6) with a 42-13 victory over Missouri in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide has now won five conference titles since the league began playing a championship game in 1992, second only to Flo-rida’s seven championships. 

Alabama led Saturday’s contest from start to finish. After an impressive opening drive capped with a T.J. Yeldon touchdown run, UA quarterback Blake Sims took over and played one of the best games of his career. Sims – who was named the game’s MVP – completed 23 of  27 pass attempts for 262 yards and two touchdowns. His 85 percent completion percentage was the highest in SEC Championship Game history.

Sims’ primary target once again was Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper. Cooper had a modest 83 yards on the game but his 12 receptions set a SEC Championship Game record. Fellow UA receiver DeAndrew White caught four passes for 101 yards and a score. Running back Derrick Henry ran the ball 20 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns, most of his production coming in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, Alabama limited Missouri to only 41 yards on the ground. The Tigers completed a few long passes but failed to reach the end zone for most of the game. 

With the win, Alabama earned a bid to the inaugural College Football Playoffs. The Crimson Tide will face Big 10 champion Ohio State on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. If Alabama wins the semifinal game, it will play the winner of Oregon and Florida State in Dallas on Jan. 12. 

SEC Rankings

1. Alabama (12-1, 8-1)

2. Mississippi State (10-2, 6-2)

3. Georgia (9-3, 6-2)

4. Auburn (8-4, 4-4)

5. Ole Miss (9-3, 5-3)

6. Missouri (10-3, 7-2)

7. LSU (8-4, 4-4)

8. Texas A&M (7-5, 3-5)

9. Arkansas (6-6, 2-6)

10. South Carolia (6-6, 3-5)

11. Florida (6-5, 4-4)

12. Tennessee (6-6, 3-5)

13. Kentucky (5-7, 2-6)

14. Vanderbilt (3-9, 0-8)

Heisman Trophy candidate profiles

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, and Alabama’s Amari Cooper were announced as the three Heisman Trophy finalists earlier in the week.

Mariota led Oregon to the College Football Playoffs and has been spectacular throughout the season, throwing for 3,373 yards and 38 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He also ran for 669 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Ducks are 12-1 mainly due to Mariota’s consistency, and he is the frontrunner to win the award. 

Gordon rushed for 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns on 309 carries. Earlier in the season, Gordon set the NCAA single game rushing record after he ran for 408 yards in three quarters. Although the record was broken again a week later by Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, Gordon’s overall resume catapulted him into the Heisman discussion. 

Cooper shattered several Alabama receiving records en route to being named the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year. He has 115 receptions on the year, which broke Julio Jones’s record of 78 set in 2010. Cooper also is Alabama’s career leader in receptions with 219. 

Jones held the UA record for receiving yards in a single season with 1,133 but Cooper topped that mark with 1,656 yards this season. Cooper thrived in first year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense and has been nearly unstoppable throughout the entire season. 

Heisman Trophy predicted order of finish

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

2. Amari Cooper, Alabama

3. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

4. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

5. Trevone Boykin, TCU

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