Sports, Thrill of Victory

‘Bama playing for a title, and SEC football and hoops power rankings

Malik Monk and Kentucky are the league's best player and team, respectively. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY

Here’s news and notes around the Southeastern Conference football and basketball.

Alabama to play for a national title

It wasn’t always pretty; coach Nick Saban said that 25 of Alabama’s 66 offensive snaps went for negative yardage, and the Crimson Tide also allowed Washington a touchdown on its first possession.

Besides that, it was all Alabama in the Crimson Tide’s 24-7 win over Washington in the College Football Playoff semifinals. The script was familiar, as Alabama had its 11th defensive touchdown of the season (a pick-6 by linebacker Ryan Anderson) and a big rushing day, this one, by Bo Scarbrough.

Next up: a rematch with Clemson in Monday night’s title game. If ‘Bama wins, it’ll be the fifth national title in eight years for Saban. 

Out of his Lane

As one national writer put it this week, only Lane Kiffin can get fired from a job from which he already resigned.

Lane Kiffin got an early exit from Alabama. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

That’s essentially what happened earlier this week when Alabama announced Kiffin would move on to Florida Atlantic now, rather than serve as Alabama’s offensive coordinator for the Clemson game

Former Southern Cal head coach Steve Sarkiasian takes over Kiffin’s vacated position. 

A bad run in the bowls

Just a few years ago, the talk of the college football world was the SEC’s dominance in bowl games. It’s been acknowledged that the league has dipped a bit despite last year’s historic nine bowl wins, and this year saw the league decline a bit in the regular season (we’re talking to you, SEC East): as well as in the bowls. The league registered a pedestrian 6-6 mark, which, of course, included Alabama’s win over Washington.

Let’s start with the good things.

LSU whipped Louisville, 29-9, as running back Derrius Guice ran wild, and the Tigers limited Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson to 186 yards of total offense between 60 rushing and passing plays.

Florida was almost as impressive, destroying a good Iowa team, 30-3, thanks to big plays like running back Mark Thompson’s 85-yard touchdown catch

Tennessee ended its season on a high note in the Music City Bowl, with quarterback Josh Dobbs turning in another epic performance in out-gaining Nebraska, 409-318, by himself

Josh Dobbs’s Tennessee career ended on a high note with a Music City Bowl victory. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE

Georgia running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel ended 2016 in a good way, as the Bulldogs came from behind to knock off TCU, 31-23.

Mississippi State’s performance left much to be desired, but the Bulldogs blocked a field goal in the game’s final moments to preserve a 17-16 win over Miami (Ohio).

Six schools didn’t see their seasons end well.

North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels had three TDs and was too much for Vanderbilt in the Wolfpack’s 41-17 rout of Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl.

Arkansas has been great in the first half and abysmal in the second, which was the case again as Virginia Tech recorded the biggest comeback in school history in a 35-24 win over the Razorbacks.

Auburn has been dependent on quarterback Shawn White all year, and when White broke his arm in the Sugar Bowl, that opened the door for Oklahoma to smack the Tigers, 35-19.

Texas A&M, which had a disastrous season from mid-October on, lost its third-straight bowl game in a 33-28 defeat at the hands of Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.

Turnovers were the story in a few South Carolina victories this year, and unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they were the story in Birmingham Bowl loss to South Florida.

Kentucky had moved the ball almost at will in a regular-season-ending upset of Louisville, but that was a problem in Tax Slayer Bowl loss to Georgia Tech.

FINAL FOOTBALL POWER RANKINGS

Overall and SEC records in parenthesis, with my pick for each team’s offensive and defensive MVP.

  1. Alabama (14-0, 8-0): QB Jalen Hurts, DL Jonathan Allen
  2. LSU (8-4, 5-3): RB Derrius Guice, DE Arden Key
  3. Auburn (8-5, 5-3): RB Kamryn Pettway, DE Carl Lawson
  4. Florida (9-4, 6-2): WR Antonio Callaway, CB Jalen Tabor
  5. Tennessee (9-4, 4-4): QB Josh Dobbs, DE Derek Barnett
  6. Texas A&M (8-5, 4-4): QB Trevor Knight, DB Justin Evans
  7. Georgia (8-5, 4-4): RB Nick Chubb, RB Trenton Thompson
  8. Arkansas (7-6, 3-5): RB Rawleigh Williams III, DE Jeremiah Ledbetter
  9. Kentucky (7-6, 4-4): C Jon Toth, LB Jordan Jones
  10. Vanderbilt (6-7, 3-5): RB Ralph Webb, ILB Zach Cunningham
  11. Mississippi St. (6-7, 3-5): QB Nick Fitzgerald, DE Johnathan Calvin
  12. Ole Miss (5-7, 2-6): QB Chad Kelly, DE Marquis Haynes
  13. South Carolina (6-7, 3-5): WR Deebo Samuel, DL Darius English
  14. Missouri (2-6, 4-8): RB Demarea Crockett, CB Aarion Penton 

BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS

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

BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  1. Malik Monk, G, Kentucky
  2. Yante Maten, F, Georgia
  3. De’Aron Fox, PG, Kentucky
  4. Isaiah Briscoe, G, Kentucky
  5. Devin Robinson, F, Florida
  6. Sebastian Saiz, F, Ole Miss
  7. P.J. Dozier, G, South Carolina
  8. J.J. Frazier, PG, Georgia
  9. Matthew Fisher-Davis, G, Vanderbilt
  10. Tyler Davis, C, Texas A&M
  11. Dazon Ingram, PG, Alabama
  12. Bam Adebayo, F, Kentucky
  13. Daryl Macon, G, Arkansas
  14. Sindarius Thornwell, PG, South Carolina
  15. Moses Kingsley, C, Arkansas