SEC report:

Mullen's elephant is Bama

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, November 9, 2017
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen calls out to a player during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Massachusetts in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen calls out to a player during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Massachusetts in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Dan Mullen has beaten every SEC team at least once in his nine seasons as Mississippi State's coach except for one.

Alabama, of course.

Mullen's Bulldogs are 32-37 in SEC play, but 0-8 against the Crimson Tide.

Mississippi State will go for its first victory over Alabama in the Mullen era when the Bulldogs -- No. 16 in the College Football Playoff poll -- play No. 2 Crimson Tide at Scott Field.

The Tide have won nine in a row over Mississippi State, starting with a 32-7 victory in 2008 when Sylvester Croom was in his last season as the Bulldogs' coach.

Mississippi State last beat Alabama 17-12 in 2007 during Coach Nick Saban's first season with the Tide.

Since then, Alabama has been ranked in the top five in every game against Mississippi State except 2010, when the No. 11 Tide won 30-10.

So how does Mullen convince his players Mississippi State can beat Alabama?

"Same way we've done it all along. Mississippi State's never been able to go to a lot of bowl games, never been the No. 1 team in the country, never had a lot of winning records," Mullen said. "It's just what we've done."

Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2) is bowl eligible for a school-record eighth consecutive season, was ranked No. 1 for four consecutive weeks in 2014 and has an overall record 0f 68-44 under Mullen.

"That's what the program is, and we've tried to build here," Mullen said of doing what many believed couldn't be done at Mississippi State. "That's what the whole thing is based on."

Muschamp and Florida

Will Muschamp, in his second season as South Carolina's coach, will face some of his old Florida players when the Gamecocks play the Gators on Saturday.

After Florida beat South Carolina 20-7 last season, several Gators hugged Muschamp, who was Florida's coach for four seasons from 2011-2014.

Muschamp was fired at Florida because of a 28-21 record.

"I always will have an affection for Florida," Muschamp said this week. "I had a wonderful experience there, regardless of how things ended. I had a great opportunity.

"It's a wonderful university. They've got a lot of great people there."

Randy Shannon, Florida's interim coach, said he understands why the Gators who played for Muschamp hold him in high regard.

"There are a lot of feelings that are a part of this game," Shannon said. "You don't take anything away from young men who were recruited by another opponent.

"That guy spent a lot of time putting faith in a guy that recruited him to come to Florida. He has a right to go over there and hug him and shake his hand.

"By the time football comes on, he's going to turn another switch and compete for the Florida Gators and compete against South Carolina."

More to do

Georgia clinched its first SEC East title since 2012 when the Bulldogs beat South Carolina 24-10 last week, but there hasn't been a lot of jumping for joy in Athens, Ga.

"There's really no celebration," Bulldogs senior tailback Sony Michel said. "We really didn't know until after the game, and now it's like there's no time for celebration.

"We've got a great team in front of us, and we've got to prepare for it."

Georgia, ranked No. 1 in the CFP poll, plays at No. 10 Auburn on Saturday.

Bulldogs senior linebacker Reggie Carter said he learned Georgia had clinched the East from his mother.

Along with the Bulldogs' victory over South Carolina, they clinched the division last week because Ole Miss rallied to beat Kentucky 37-34 on Jordan Ta'amu's 7-yard touchdown pass to D.K. Metcalf with five seconds left.

"My mom told me. I was like, 'Oh, that's good. We've got Auburn next,' " Carter said. "I told her she can do the cheerleading, and leave it up to me to keep playing."

Georgia Coach Kirby Smart downplayed winning the East.

"That has not been a major concern for us," Smart said. "Our concern has always been on the next opponent, and this is really where we are now."

Hall going long

Junior Emanuel Hall has become a big-play receiver for Missouri since regaining his starting job.

Hall started six games last season, but he was a second-teamer behind Dimetrios Smith when this season started. Smith was dismissed from the team Sept. 30, which put Hall back as a starter.

In the past five games, Hall has 21 receptions for 500 yards and 4 touchdowns. He had five catches for 113 yards against Florida last week.

"He didn't get down on himself," Missouri senior receiver J'Mon Moore told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He didn't have a negative attitude. He came out and competed. He just waited for his time."

For the season, Hall has 26 receptions for 604 yards. His 23.2 yards per catch average ranks fifth nationally.

Chubb chasing Bo

Georgia senior Nick Chubb, who has 4,291 rushing yards, can move ahead of Bo Jackson -- Auburn's 1985 Heisman Trophy winner -- when the Bulldogs play the Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Chubb is 13 yards shy of passing Jackson, who ranks fourth on the SEC's all-time rushing list with 4,303 yards.

If Chubb, averaging 96.3 yards per game, stays healthy, he figures to have a shot to move ahead of LSU's Kevin Faulk (4,557 yards) and Arkansas' Darren McFadden (4,590 yards) on the SEC's all-time list.

No one is likely to catch Herschel Walker, Georgia's 1982 Heisman Trophy winner who is the SEC's leader with 5,259 yards.

Florida roster issues

Florida is down to 56 available scholarship players going into the South Carolina game, according to the Gainesville Sun.

The Gators were without 28 scholarship players last week, the Sun reported, because of injuries and suspensions.

"The injuries come," said Randy Shannon, Florida's interim coach. "Whoever's on that football field at that time, we have to coach them.

"I hate to say it that way, not making excuses, but that's just part of what we've got. We are depleted, but ... we've still got pride and we've got guys who believe in Florida."

Alabama injuries

Alabama has 14 scholarship linebackers on its roster, which is a good thing for the Crimson Tide considering how hard the position has been hit by injuries this season.

Four Alabama linebackers -- Shaun Dion Hamilton (knee), Terrell Lewis (elbow), Christian Miller (biceps) and Mack Wilson (foot) -- are out.

"It's unfortunate, but it's next man up here," sophomore linebacker Anfernee Jennings said.

The Tide's top linebackers now along with Jennings include Keith Holcombe, Dylan Moses, Rashann Evans, VanDarius Cowan, Christopher Allen, Jamey Mosely and Mekhi Brown.

Booger on Gruden

With Butch Jones' days as Tennessee's coach looking like they're winding down, rumors are back that Jon Gruden will be a candidate to lead the Vols.

Despite Gruden being out of coaching since 2008, speculation about he and the Vols persists because he was a graduate assistant at Tennessee, his wife was a cheerleader for the Vols and their son attends Tennessee.

ESPN analyst Booger McFarland, a former LSU star who played in the NFL for Tampa Bay, said he doesn't expect his old coach with the Buccaneers to leave his job as the color analyst for Monday Night Football.

"Jon Gruden makes $6 million a year and works three days a week," McFarland told AL.com this week. "Why would he leave?"

Been awhile

Florida's losses to Georgia 42-7 and to Missouri 45-16 the previous two weeks are the first time the Gators have allowed 40 or more points in back-to-back games in 46 years.

Florida lost to Auburn 40-7 and to Georgia 49-7 in consecutive games in 1971.

Miles out west?

Can you picture Les Miles chewing grass at Oregon State's stadium?

The former LSU coach, who was known to sample some blades of grass from the Tiger Stadium field, has expressed interest in the Oregon State opening, according to a report in the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

Oregon State is looking for a head coach after Gary Andersen resigned in October.

Miles, 63, went 114-34 in 10-plus seasons at LSU.

Two-minute drill

• Mississippi State has allowed five sacks this season. That's the fewest by a team in a Power 5 conference and the third-fewest nationally behind Army (one sack allowed) and Marshall (four).

• Auburn is tied with Hawaii for the longest current streak nationally of games without having a punt blocked at 112 games. The Tigers last had a punt blocked against Mississippi State in 2009.

• Kentucky running back Benny Snell has rushed for 356 yards in the past two games, with 180 against Tennessee and 176 against Ole Miss.

SEC TOP TO BOTTOM

Rank(prev);record;comment

1(1);Alabama;9-0;Short road trip to Starkville

2(2);Georgia;9-0;No. 1 in College Football Playoff poll

3(4);Auburn;7-2;Gus hasn't beaten Georgia since 2013

4(3);LSU;6-3;7 consecutive losses to Alabama

5(5);Mississippi State;7-2;Four-game winning streak

6(6);South Carolina,6-3;Muschamp can beat team that sacked him

7(8);Texas A&M;5-4;Break from SEC play vs. New Mexico

8(7);Kentucky;6-3;Lost to Ole Miss on last-second TD pass

9(12);Missouri;4-5;Going for four victories in a row

10(10);Tennessee;4-5;Aiming to cool off Mizzou

11(11);Arkansas;4-5;Hoping to bring Golden Boot home

12(13);Ole Miss;4-5;Can't overlook Louisiana-Lafayette

13(14);Vanderbilt;4-5;Looking to beat Kentucky

14(9);Florida;3-5;Can't remember when Florida was this bad

PLAYER TO WATCH

Junior tailback Kerryon Johnson has had to carry the load for Auburn's rushing game rather than share the work with Kamryn Pettway as expected.

With Pettway -- last year's SEC rushing leader with 1,224 yards -- slowed by injuries and now out for possibly the rest of the season because of a fractured shoulder he suffered against Arkansas, Johnson has become the Tigers' feature back.

Johnson is averaging 124 rushing yards in seven games to lead the SEC. He has 166 carries for 868 yards and 15 touchdowns to tie Cam Newton's single-season Auburn record.

The Tigers will need a strong game from Johnson against Georgia on Saturday, but it figures to be a challenge for him to hit his average with the Bulldogs holding opponents to 89.0 rushing yards per game.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Georgia vs. Auburn

WHEN 2:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS)

WHERE Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

RECORDS Georgia is 9-0, 6-0 SEC; Auburn is 7-2, 5-1

RANKINGS Georgia is No. 1 in the College Football Playoff poll and No. 2 in The Associated Press and USA Today polls; Auburn is No. 10 in the CFP, AP and USA Today polls.

LINE Georgia by 2½ points

Georgia and Auburn will meet for just the fourth time when both teams are ranked among the top 10 in The AP poll.

The previous three times No. 6 Auburn beat No. 7 Georgia 35-20 in 1971; No. 3 Auburn beat No. 4 Georgia 13-7 in 1983; and No. 3 Auburn beat No. 8 Georgia 24-6.

This time Georgia is the higher ranked team for a change, and the Bulldogs are going for their fourth in a row over the Tigers.

Georgia has won 11 of the teams' past 15 meetings to take a 57-55-2 series lead.

BY THE NUMBERS

1982 -- Last season Georgia started 9-0 prior to this one.

484.1 -- SEC-leading yards in total offense per game by Missouri.

114-9 -- Alabama's scoring advantage over opponents in the first quarter this season.

OVERHEARD

"This is a big game, but it's not about me. It's about our team. It's a great opportunity in a huge game for our team for this year. I don't get into for me, personally, big games. I've been fortunate to coach in quite a few of them."

-- Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn on playing Georgia

"We can't have appearances like we just had today. That's unacceptable. We've just got to find guys that are still willing to give it all for one another."

-- Florida linebacker David Reese after the Gators' 45-16 loss at Missouri.

Sports on 11/09/2017

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