Sports, Thrill of Victory

Around the SEC: Championship week edition

Jonathan Allen leads a dominant Alabama defense into Saturday's SEC title game with Florida. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

Chris Lee’s Around the SEC for Dec. 2

BIGGEST STORIES

The regular season is in the books, and the SEC Championship Game is upon us. Here’s a look at what’s going on, in and around the league, heading to championship weekend.

Orgeron named coach at LSU

How strange a weekend it was for LSU coach Ed Orgeron. As his team was dismantling Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night, much of the TV broadcast of that game was devoted to reports that Houston’s Tom Herman was going to be LSU’s next coach. But that didn’t happen, and by the end of the weekend, Oregon went from interim coach to permanent head coach in Baton Rouge. 

Orgeron took over after LSU’s loss to Auburn, and led LSU to a 5-2 record thereafter. He’ll reportedly make $3.5 million per year for the next five seasons. 

Derrius Guice and LSU ran over Texas A&M on Thanksgiving. PHOTO COURTESY LSU

Derrius Guice and LSU ran over Texas A&M on Thanksgiving. PHOTO COURTESY LSU

Bowl situation

Much is in flux until Championship Weekend is settled, which includes the SEC’s championship game (more on that in a moment). But presuming nothing crazy happens, here’s my pick for what’s coming next for SEC teams.

College Football Playoff: Alabama

Sugar Bowl: Auburn

Citrus Bowl: LSU

Texas Bowl: Texas A&M

Outback Bowl: Florida

Liberty Bowl: Kentucky

Belk Bowl: Tennessee

Tax Slayer Bowl: Arkansas

Music City Bowl: Georgia

Birmingham Bowl: South Carolina

Independence Bowl: Vanderbilt

Military Bowl: Mississippi St.

Weatherspoon back

According to Ken Pomeroy, Mississippi State has the youngest college basketball team in America. So, it was going to really be a tough season for coach Ben Howland when the Bulldogs learned a week ago that Quinndary Weatherspoon, expected to be the team’s best player, was lost for the year with a wrist injury.

It turned out those reports were premature.

Weatherspoon elected not to have surgery, and wore a brace on his wrist in scoring 21 points in MSU’s 74-57 win over Oregon State on Thursday evening.

The sophomore will still have surgery, but instead, it’ll be in the offseason. 

POWER RANKINGS

  1. Alabama (12-0, 8-0)
  2. LSU (7-4, 5-3)
  3. Auburn (8-4, 5-3)
  4. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4)
  5. Florida (8-3, 6-2)
  6. Tennessee (8-4, 4-4)
  7. Arkansas (7-5, 3-5)
  8. Georgia (7-5, 4-4)
  9. Kentucky (7-5, 4-4)
  10. Vanderbilt (6-6, 3-5)
  11. Mississippi St. (5-7, 3-6)
  12. Ole Miss (5-7, 2-6)
  13. South Carolina (6-6, 3-5)
  14. Missouri (4-8, 2-6)
Derek Mason and Vandy are going bowling after knocking off Tennessee. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Derek Mason and Vandy are going bowling after knocking off Tennessee. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama
  2. Josh Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
  3. Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Miss. St.
  4. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
  5. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
  6. Rawleigh Williams III, RB, Arkansas
  7. Trevor Knight, QB, Texas A&M
  8. Ralph Webb, RB, Vanderbilt
  9. Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
  10. Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  1. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
  2. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
  3. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
  4. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
  5. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
  6. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
  7. Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
  8. Ryan Anderson, LB, Alabama
  9. Arden Key, LB, LSU
  10. Myles Garrett, DE, TAMU

SEC Championship Game preview

Alabama has taken defense to a new level: in four November games, the Crimson Tide has yet to allow a touchdown in contests against LSU, Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn. 

That’s a problem for Florida, which didn’t score an offensive touchdown in its 31-13 defeat by Florida State, and failed to score more than one offensive TD in two of its previous three games before that.

Making matters worse, the Gators are still banged up, and will be without defensive stars Marcus Maye and Jarrad Davis, plus, UF’s banged up along the offensive line. 

As a result, Alabama is a 24-point favorite.

So, the Gators need to make big plays. Their best hope comes with wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who hasn’t gotten the ball enough this season.

UF also has a better special teams unit, and with Alabama missing punt returner Eddie Jackson, that tilts the scales more in the Gators’ favor. Callaway played a huge role in the return game in last year’s matchup between the two.

UF’s chances hinge on the aforementioned items, plus, the ability to force Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts into mistakes. Hurts can be sensational at times, but, he’s also been picked nine times and lost five fumbles. 

And, Alabama’s offense hasn’t ben explosive in recent weeks, scoring 10 against LSU in Game 9, 31 vs. Chattanooga two weeks ago, and 30 against Auburn last week.

The Gators have the defense to keep it close, but, not enough firepower to get a win.

Alabama 30, Florida 10