Sports, Thrill of Victory

SEC football storylines to watch in Week 13

We’re one week from the Southeastern Conference title game, but the week’s biggest story has nothing to do with that. Chris Lee catches you up on all the key happenings heading to the league’s final regular-season weekend.

Miles to go?

LSU head coach Les Miles in the 2014 Music City Bowl. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Will LSU head coach Les Miles be coaching his last game in Tiger Stadium this week? PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Here’s the thing about the SEC: no matter how good the league is, its teams will collectively have at least 49 losses, if you include the conference title game. That makes for an average of just over four a year per team.

Here’s the problem with that: there only two schools whose fan bases consider a four-loss season a success, those being Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

So, do the math: in the SEC, someone’s always unhappy.

And right now, after a stretch of three losses in a row, it’s the LSU fan base—or maybe more importantly, a few well-heeled boosters who are evidently ready to fork over a buyout that’s reportedly in the $15-20 million range, just to get Miles out of Baton Rouge.

Okay, I get that all doesn’t feel well in Baton Rouge. The Tigers have lost three straight games by 10 or more, the first time that’s happened since 1966.

But let’s look at the bigger picture.

Miles is 110-32 at LSU. That’s a 77.4 winning percentage. Only six SEC coaches have ever had a better overall mark, by percentage, than Miles. Four ahead of him—Bob Neyland, Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas and Bear Bryant—are in the College Football hall of Fame, and the other two (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer) will be.

Furthermore, he’s 60-27 in the SEC (68.9 percent), good for 11th all-time.

There’s also a national title (2007) and a runner-up finish (2011) during a year in which Miles was a consensus National Coach of the Year.

No doubt, LSU’s hit a valley. But with LSU having the second-ranked recruiting class in the country according to Rivals right now, and Leonard Fournette back for 2016, better days may be coming soon.

Miles may not be Saban or Meyer as an Xs and Os guy. But the Tigers lose as many early entrees to the NFL Draft every year as perhaps anyone save Alabama, and yet LSU is competitive on a national level more often than not.

Miles seems to be like a victim of nearly impossible expectations while competing in the most hyper-competitive era of what’s probably the best league in college football history, more so than he is a coach who deserves to be axed.

An announcement on his future is expected this weekend.

Vanderbilt was left wondering after it couldn't find any offense against Texas A&M. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Vanderbilt was left wondering after it couldn’t find any offense against Texas A&M. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

SEC East hits a historical low

Right now, the SEC West is almost in another universe from the East. To wit: the East has won just two of 13 games with the West this year, with those 11 losses coming by an average of 14 points.

The East been embarrassed outside of the league, too.

The league’s worst moment came on Saturday, when South Carolina suffered an embarrassing 23-22 loss to The Citadel.

Florida needed overtime to beat a 2-9 Florida Atlantic, enough to make the Gators drop from eight to 12 in the College Football Playoff Poll.

Meanwhile, Georgia needed overtime to beat Georgia Southern.

More bad stuff ‘bout the East: it has exactly one win against a Power Five conference team outside the SEC, that ironically coming when South Carolina handed No. 14 North Carolina its only loss in the season opener.

Yes, it’s true that there haven’t been many opportunities, and Missouri did get a nice win over BYU last weekend. But the division has probably never sunk lower than it did last weekend.

POWER RANKINGS (Overall record, SEC record)

  1. Alabama (10-1, 6-1): Crimson Tide may get backup RB Kenyan Drake back for Auburn.
  2. Florida (10-1, 7-1): Battered and bruised, Gators went from field-goal favorites to two-point underdogs against Florida State in two days.
  3. Ole Miss (8-3, 5-2)
  4. Arkansas (6-5, 4-3): QB Brandon Allen threw four TD passes in less than a nine-minute span on Saturday, and seven for the game… and the Razorbacks still lost to Mississippi State.
  5. LSU (7-3, 4-3): Once-potent Tiger defense gave up 508 yards to Ole Miss in a loss.
  6. Mississippi St. (8-3, 4-3): Bulldogs ranked No. 21 in latest College Football Playoff voting.
  7. Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3): Aggies got a nice game from QB Kyle Allen (339 passing yards) in a 25-0 romp over Vandy.
  8. Tennessee (7-4, 4-3): Vols have given up 30 or more points a game just three times this year, their lowest number since 2009.
  9. Georgia (8-3, 5-3): Star return man Isaiah McKenzie (foot) questionable for Georgia Tech, but RB Keith Marshall should be back.
  10. Auburn (6-5, 2-5): Coach Gus Malzahn’s still deciding on a QB starter between Sean White and Jeremy Johnson.
  11. Vanderbilt (4-7, 2-5): Less sacks, VU has 189 net passing yards on 88 plays in its last four contests.
  12. Missouri (5-6, 1-6): The Tigers average 10 points per SEC contest.
  13. Kentucky (5-6, 2-6): QB Drew Barker has overtaken Patrick Towles, to the relief of many UK fans.
  14. South Carolina (3-8, 1-7): Gamecocks got robbed by officials in the final minute when a Pharoh Cooper touchdown was taken off the board, but that doesn’t make folks in Columbia feel better about losing to The Citadel.



Alabama's Derek Henry can leapfrog LSU's Leonard Fournett with a big performance Saturday. PHOTO COURTESY ALABAMA ATHLETICS

Alabama’s Derek Henry has begun to run away with the SEC Player of the Year race. PHOTO COURTESY ALABAMA ATHLETICS

OFFENSE (with key stats)

  1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: 1,623 yards from scrimmage, 6.1 yards per carry, 21 TDs
  2. Dak Prescott, QB, MSU: 3,159 passing yards (8.0 per throw), 23 TDs/3 INTs, 467 rushing yards (3.7 per carry), 9 rushing TDs
  3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: 1,748 yards from scrimmage, 6.6 per carry, 17 TDs
  4. Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas: 3,023 yards passing (9.2), 29 TDs/6 INTs, 118 yards rushing (2.6), 1 rushing TD
  5. Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas: 1,359 yards from scrimmage, 5.8 yards per carry, 14 TD

DEFENSE (assists count as a half-tackle)

  1. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida: 20 tackles, 4 interceptions for 152 yards, 2 break-ups, 1 forced fumble
  2. Kentrell Brothers, LB, Missouri: 103.5 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 3 blocked kicks
  3. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama: 66 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 5 pass break-ups, 2 forced fumbles
  4. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama: 21 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 break-ups, 1 forced fumble, 1 blocked kick
  5. Myles Garrett, DE, TAMU (42 tackles, 17 for loss); DL Jon Bullard, Florida (40.5 tackles, 13.5 for loss) and Florida CB Jalen Tabor (19.5 tackles, 4 interceptions, 14 break-ups)

THIS WEEK’S PICKS (74-21 overall, 42-44 vs. the point spread)

RightHogArkansas 20, Missouri 10 (Arkansas -14): Tigers would like to give coach Gary Pinkel a going-away present, but lack the offense to do so.

louisville-cardinals-logoLouisville 27, Kentucky 24 (Louisville -4):
Almost too close to call, given how poorly Louisville’s played on the road, but I can’t completely trust ‘Cats defense or passing game.


ClemsonClemson 35, South Carolina 17 (Clemson -16.5): How times change: Carolina entered this game a year ago with a five-game winning streak in the series.


PrintGeorgia 27, Georgia Tech 17 (Georgia -5): Bulldogs hope practice makes perfect after facing a triple-option attack last weekend.


2000px-Alabama_Crimson_Tide_Logo.svgAlabama 41, Auburn 17 (Alabama -14): Tigers can’t stop the run, and ‘Bama RB Derrick Henry is the best in the country.


Tennessee Power TTennessee 17, Vanderbilt 10 (Tennessee -17.5): Special teams play, complete lack of a passing attack do ‘Dores in.


Ole Miss stackedOle Miss 34, Mississippi St. 30 (Ole Miss -1): Rebels have better defensive talent and that’s the difference.


lsu-logoLSU 27, Texas A&M 24 (LSU -5.5): Both teams are inconsistent, but A&M can’t contain Leonard Fournette.


FSU_SeminolesFlorida State 20, Florida 10 (Florida State -2): Gators, limping to the finish line, see their losing streak in the series extend to six.