This is the CBS Local SEC Football Report. Every week, this space will recap the results and top performances from the Southeastern Conference and look ahead to key match-ups the following week.
Auburn Dominates Alabama
There are many stats that you can point to on Nick Saban’s resume to illustrate the dominance with which he has presided over college football during the course of his coaching career. However, one trend looks to be a blemish on that record of dominance, and it’s Saban’s losing streak against good Auburn teams. Heading into Saturday, Saban coached teams were 0-6 (0-3 LSU, 0-3 ‘Bama) against Auburn teams that had won nine or more games. That trend continued as Gus Malzahn and the Tigers turned in a dominant second half to beat the Tide 26-14 and clinch the SEC West title.
The Tigers racked up 168 yards on the ground, 104 of those coming from workhorse back Kerryon Johnson who toted the ball 30 times in the contest. QB Jarrett Stidham also played brilliantly, consistently hitting big passes when Auburn needed to convert, going 21/28 for 237 yards with just one turnover (fumble lost).
The biggest difference in the game though, was the Tigers’ ability to sustain drives on third down. Auburn was 9-18 on third down (50%), well above the Tide’s season-long third-down conversion percentage allowed, which was at 31% heading into the game. Thanks to the win, Auburn now heads to Atlanta for the SEC championship game against Georgia this upcoming Saturday.
Florida Finds Its Next Coach, Tennessee Backs Off Its Deal Due To Fan Backlash
Two of the SEC East’s most prominent programs have been on the coaching search for several weeks now after letting go of their previous head coaches. Rumors have abounded in that time, with names like Chip Kelly and Jon Gruden being attached to the jobs. On Sunday, news of deals with new coaches came out of both programs, but one deal has now seemingly been blown up due to fan backlash.
We’ll start with the deal that is actually going to happen. Reports surfaced on Sunday that Florida had tabbed Mississippi State head coach and former Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to be their next head coach. Since then, the deal has become finalized as Mullen flew to Gainesville earlier today to be introduced as the next head coach. He seems pretty excited about it.
Mullen has been impressive in his time with the Bulldogs, going 69-46 in nine years at the helm, including reaching the number one spot in the first year of the College Football Playoff rankings. He did all of that at MSU, which is one arguably the toughest place to win in the SEC. Seems like the Gators won here.
Now, Tennessee. The Volunteers reportedly were in the process of finalizing a deal with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to become their next head coach. However, almost immediately after the reports surfaced, the fan backlash began on social media and on the U-T campus.
The message references this Washington Post story from 2016. None of those allegations were ever proven, but it was enough for fans to voice their displeasure. Now, Schiano and Tennessee are backing off of the deal and new reports say prominent Tennessee boosters are calling for Athletic Director John Currie’s head.
Things are a mess in Knoxville right now, and the team just finished 0-8 in conference play for the first time since joining the conference in 1933.
Other Notable Performances/Storylines
Jordan Ta’amu continued his strong play for Ole Miss, completing 10 of 22 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns as the Rebels upset the rival Mississippi State Bulldogs 31-28 on Thanksgiving night in the Egg Bowl. The bigger story line from this game though is Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald going down with a dislocated ankle. Fitzgerald was the leader for the Bulldogs all season, losing him is big for a team that will be headed to a bowl game.
LSU got a huge performance from QB Danny Etling, who completed 19 of 30 pass attempts for 347 yards and three touchdowns against Texas A&M in the Tigers 45-21 win over the Aggies. It’s only the third time that Etling has gone over 300 passing yards in his career, and two of those games have come against A&M. The tigers finish the year at 9-3 in prime spot for a good bowl game.
Other Results: Missouri 48 Arkansas 45, #3 Clemson 34 #24 South Carolina 10, #7 Georgia 38 Georgia Tech 7, Florida State 38 Florida 22, Louisville 44 Kentucky 17, Vanderbilt 42 Tennessee 24
Games To Watch: SEC Championship Game: #7 Georgia vs. #6 Auburn, Saturday 4:00 p.m.
We get the rematch. Three weeks ago, Georgia entered the weekend as the #1 team in the country and Auburn dominated them to the tune of a 40-17 final score. The Tigers held the Bulldogs to just 46 yards on 32 carries (1.4 YPC) while rushing for 237 yards of their own on 46 carries (5.2 YPC).
Auburn has won five straight games, including that Georgia game, and look to have found their rhythm on offense and defense. Georgia will need to find ways to be successful on the ground this time around, while also getting a bit more out of QB Jake Fromm (13/28 184 yards 1 TD) if they are going to overcome the Tigers this time around. Both teams are playing for their playoff lives in this one, so there is plenty on the line aside from the SEC title and bragging rights within the conference.