SEC report:

Chronicle: Sumlin set to be fired

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, November 24, 2017
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is seen against UCLA during an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. UCLA won 45-44. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is seen against UCLA during an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. UCLA won 45-44. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin will be fired after Saturday night's game at LSU, the Houston Chronicle reported, even if the Aggies beat the Tigers.

Sumlin said on Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference he hasn't talked to Texas A&M Athletic Director Scott Woodward about his future, but the report of his imminent firing doesn't come as a surprise.

Woodward said on the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum Show last spring that Sumlin knew he had to win more games after three consecutive 8-5 finishes, and the Aggies are 7-4.

So Sumlin went into this season on the hot seat and the speculation about his job security intensified after UCLA rallied from a 34-point deficit to beat Texas A&M 45-44 in the season opener.

"It's not like we haven't dealt with this since the spring," Sumlin said when asked about the Chronicle report. "I think our team has done a really nice job of focusing on the games at hand, and we'll continue to do that.

"We'll deal with it the way we've dealt with everything this year, and we'll continue with business as usual."

Sumlin said the situation he's found himself in all season has been a good learning experience for his players.

"This isn't just about football," he said. "You try to teach lessons, and dealing with adversity. That's what life's about."

According to the Chronicle, Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher is Texas A&M's top choice to replace Sumlin, who will be owed a $10 million buyout if he's fired.

LSU Coach Ed Orgeron said he's aware of the report Sumlin will be fired.

"You hear it, but I don't pay attention to it," Orgeron said. "I wish the best for Kevin Sumlin. He's a good man. I know a lot of the coaches on that staff. They've done a good job.

"But those are things I stay out of. We've got a big game to play and I know we're going to get their best effort.

"So I need to focus on the LSU football team and us only."

Gus wants West

Reports have begun swirling that Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn will be a leading candidate to be the Arkansas Razorbacks' next coach if the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville administration decides to make a coaching change.

The rumors intensified last week when Jeff Long was fired as Arkansas' athletic director.

Malzahn grew up in Fort Smith, rose to prominence as a high school coach in the state and was the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator and head coach at Arkansas State, so taking the Arkansas job would be a homecoming.

But it's not a subject Malzahn would care to talk about ever, but especially with the No. 6 Tigers playing No. 1 Alabama on Saturday with the winner claiming the SEC West title.

So Malzahn didn't have a lot to say about Arkansas when asked after the Tigers beat Louisiana-Monroe 42-14 Saturday if it's best to ignore coaching carousel talk.

"Yeah," Malzahn said. "One week you're getting fired, one week you're taking another job.

"I'm worried about the durn SEC West championship."

According to the USA Today database of FBS coaching salaries, Malzahn has a buyout of $6.9 million if he choose to leave Auburn voluntarily.

Kelly ponders Florida

Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin led a group of school administrators who flew to New Hampshire last Sunday to meet with Chip Kelly -- the former Oregon coach and NFL coach with Philadelphia and San Francisco -- to interview him about being the Gators' next coach, the Gainesville Sun reported.

Kelly had a 28-35 record in five seasons in the NFL, including 2-14 in 2016 during his only year with San Francisco, but he was 46-7 at Oregon from 2009-2012.

UCLA also is talking to Kelly about its opening, USA Today reported, and he is expected to either become Florida's or the Bruins' coach. He has turned down Tennessee, according to USA Today.

"I think Florida is an outstanding program and has had so much success with Urban [Meyer] and Steve Spurrier," Kelly said when asked about the Florida job on ESPN, where he works as an analyst. "I think whoever gets that job would be really lucky."

GAMECOCKS RANKED

Two years after South Carolina finished 3-9, the Gamecocks are 8-3 and ranked No. 24 in the College Football Playoff going into Saturday's game against No. 3 Clemson.

"I think polls don't really matter until the season's over, but it does show progress in our program," said Will Muschamp, who is 14-10 in his second season as South Carolina's coach. "We've made a lot of progress and I'm proud of the effort that our guys have put in, and our staff, and the positive direction this program is headed."

HEY, I KNOW YOU

LSU Coach Ed Orgeron will see a familiar face when Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Starkel plays against the Tigers.

Starkel was good friends with Orgeron's twin sons, Parker and Cody, the LSU coach said, when they all lived in Mandeville, La., before Starkel moved to Texas.

"Believe it or not, Nick Starkel, grew up with my kids playing football and has been to my house several times as a young man," Orgeron said. "So proud to see him grow up. He's a tremendous quarterback. Proud for him and his family."

COULD GET WORSE

As tough as this season has been for Tennessee (4-7, 0-7 SEC), it could get historically bad if the Vols lose at home to Vanderbilt.

If Tennessee can't beat the Commodores, the Vols will suffer eight losses in a season for the first time ever and lose all their SEC games for the first time since joining the conference in 1933.

Tennessee's worst SEC records have been 1-7 under Derek Dooley in 2011 and 2012.

AIN'T NO SUNSHINE

The Florida-Florida State game often has carried national title implications -- sometimes for both teams -- but that won't be the case when they play Saturday at The Swamp in Gainesville.

The Seminoles and Gators, who were ranked ranked No. 3 and No. 17 respectively, in The Associated Press preseason poll, are both 4-6.

It's the first time both teams are going into the game with losing records since 1959 when Florida was 3-4-1 and Florida State 3-5.

Despite the losing records, Florida interim Coach Randy Shannon said the Gators-Seminoles game still carries significance.

"It's always important when you play a state game," said Shannon, a former Miami player and coach. "Anytime you play Miami-Florida State, Florida State-Miami, Florida-Miami, Florida-Florida State, it's always big. It's a game that you have bragging rights."

QUICK TURNAROUND

With Mississippi State playing Ole Miss Thursday night, Bulldogs Coach Dan Mullen said there was no time to enjoy his team's 28-21 victory at Arkansas last Saturday.

The coaches flew back to Starkville, Miss., immediately after the game, Mullen said, so they could get into the office as quickly as possible to begin preparing for Ole Miss.

Mullen said the coaches arrived in Starkville about four hours ahead of the team plane.

"When you have the team with all the security screening it makes a little bit longer of a journey," Mullen said. "So it was great we could all the coaches back and get in the office to work on Saturday night.

"Unfortunately, we didn't get to enjoy the win. On the plane ride home, all the coaches were grading the film already and trying to wrap that game up."

Mullen thanked Mississippi State's administration for having school planes available for the coaches.

"All of a sudden the game ends on Saturday and it's like it's already Monday night," Mullen said. "You lose a lot of time with 48 hours missing. Having to play a road game right before you're going to play on Thursday night is certainly tricky."

LOOKING AHEAD

Georgia plays Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale Saturday, but Bulldogs Coach Kirby Smart said this week his team has been working on defending the Yellow Jackets' triple-option offense at times throughout the season and during preseason camp as well.

Smart said Georgia has devoted a couple of periods during its Monday practices each week to Georgia Tech preparation.

"Those Mondays have been critical for our young players who haven't been exposed to it," he said of the triple option. "We have worked really hard on that. And then we spent some time in the off week."

Georgia Tech is one of the few college teams running the triple option as its base offense.

"They're not the norm any more," Smart said. "People don't prepare to play that. It used to be that people ran the triple [option] in high school and a lot of the most successful programs in this state had been a part of that.

"It's slowly gone the other way, where it's almost like a dinosaur."

LIKE THE IRON BOWL

Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney, who was involved with 17 Alabama-Auburn games as a player and assistant coach for the Crimson Tide, said the Clemson-South Carolina is every bit as heated of a rivalry as the Iron Bowl.

Swinney said he learned about the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry in 2003 when he was a Tigers assistant and went recruiting around the state.

"I didn't know anything about the state of South Carolina ... and I quickly figured it out," said Swinney, who will be involved in his 15th Clemson-South Carolina game this year. "Everywhere I went people were either really happy to see me or they just kind of looked at me like I had a big wart on my nose.

"It didn't take me long to figure out that this rivalry is as intense as there is anywhere in the country."

Will Muschamp, in his second season as South Carolina's coach, took part in several Alabama-Auburn games as an Auburn assistant coach. He agreed with Swinney that the Clemson-South Carolina game doesn't take a backseat to the Iron Bowl.

"Absolutely, there's no question," Muschamp said. "We don't have any pro teams in our state, so there's a lot of similarities as far as that's concerned.

"In our state you're either a Gamecock or a Tiger and it's extremely important to win this game."

BARKLEY'S PICKS

It's a pretty safe bet the celebrity guest picker Saturday on ESPN's College GameDay show is going with Auburn to beat Alabama.

Charles Barkley, the former Auburn All-American and NBA All-Star forward, will be the picker. He's well known as a booster for the Tigers.

TWO-MINUTE DRILL

• Georgia senior Nick Chubb, with 1,045 rushing yards this season, has become the fifth SEC player with three seasons of 1,000 or more yards along with Georgia's Herschel Walker (1980-82), LSU's Kevin Faulk (1996-98) and Arkansas' Darren McFadden (2005-07) and Alex Collins (2013-15).

• LSU has beaten Texas A&M six consecutive times, including the Cotton Bowl to cap the 2010 season and five times in SEC play. The Aggies last beat the Tigers 33-17 in 1995.

• Auburn's 49-14 victory over Louisiana-Monroe was the Tigers' school-record sixth game this season in which they scored 40 or more points. Their previous high was five games in 2010 when they won the national championship.

• Texas A&M and Ole Miss each gained 391 yards in the Aggies' 31-24 victory over the Rebels.

SEC TOP TO BOTTOM

Rank(prev);record;comment

1(1);Alabama;11-0;Looking for 4th consecutive victory over Auburn

2(2);Auburn;9-2;Will win the SEC West by beating Alabama

3(3);Georgia;10-1;Kirby doesn't want to lose to Georgia Tech again

4(4);Mississippi State;8-3;Rallies to win at Arkansas

5(4);LSU;8-3;Never has lost to Sumlin's Aggies

6(6);South Carolina;8-3;Hoping to upset Clemson

7(7);Texas A&M;7-4;Beating LSU can't save Sumlin

8(9);Missouri;6-5;Five consecutive victories

9(8);Kentucky;7-4;Rivalry game against Petrino

10(10);Arkansas;4-7;Hoping for happy Senior Day

11(11);Ole Miss;5-6;Luke did solid job as interim coach

12(12);Florida;4-6;Hasn't beaten FSU since 2012

13(13);Vanderbilt;4-7;Last shot for SEC victory vs. Vols

14(14);Tennessee;4-7;Last shot for SEC victory vs. 'Dores

PLAYER TO WATCH

Jarrett Stidham could become the third junior college transfer quarterback to help lead Auburn to the SEC championship since 2010.

Stidham is leading the SEC in completion percentage at 67.8 (181 of 267). He's thrown for 2,445 yards -- 222.3 per game -- and 16 touchdowns. Against Georgia he completed 16 of 23 passes for 213 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Stidham transferred to Auburn from McLennan (Texas) Community College, where he sat out last season -- so he wouldn't lose a year of eligibility -- after transferring from Baylor.

Other junior college quarterbacks to play for SEC championship teams are Cam Newton (2010) and Nick Marshall (2013).

GAME OF THE WEEK

Alabama at Auburn

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

WHERE Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

RECORDS Alabama is 11-0, 7-0 SEC. Auburn is 9-2, 6-1.

RANKINGS Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff. Auburn is ranked No. 6.

LINE Alabama is favored by 4 1/2 points.

The SEC West title and possibly a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff will be on the line in the 82nd edition of the Iron Bowl.

Alabama and Auburn will meet for just the eighth time with both teams ranked in the top 10 nationally. Auburn is 4-3 in the previous seven top 10 matchups, most recently beating the Crimson Tide 34-28 in 2013 on the "Kick Six" return for a touchdown on the game's final play after a missed field goal by Alabama.

If Auburn wins the Tigers will get a rematch with Georgia in the SEC Championship Game three weeks after they beat the Bulldogs 40-17.

Beating Alabama and Georgia again would surely put the Tigers in the playoff.

Alabama conceivably could lose to Auburn and still make the playoff, but the Crimson Tide would prefer to win and advance to the SEC Championship Game.

It's possible the Tide could lose to Auburn and make the playoff, though Alabama's strength of schedule might come into question considering the down years of several SEC teams it has beaten and Florida State's fall.

If Alabama loses to Auburn, the only Power 5 teams with winning records the Tide will have beaten in nine games are LSU, Mississippi State and Texas A&M.

BY THE NUMBERS

751 -- Offensive plays by Mississippi State without losing a fumble until last week at Arkansas, when McTelvin "Sosa" Agim stripped the ball from running back Nick Gibson. The fumble was recovered in the end zone by defensive lineman Briston Guidry for a touchdown.

55-6 -- Alabama Coach Nick Saban's record when the Crimson Tide are ranked No. 1.

OVERHEARD

"Why wouldn't I?"

-- Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin when asked this week if he expects to be back next season.

"He's not going to Tennessee. I would be shocked if he did. I think he's very happy doing what he's doing, and I think -- in my opinion, he hasn't said this to me, but just being around him -- I would think if he was going to go back to coaching, it would probably be in the NFL."

-- Monday Night Football play-by-play man Sean McDonough on whether color analyst Jon Gruden would take the Tennessee job.

Sports on 11/23/2017

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