Thursday, December 5, 2013

SEC Championship Game XXII

The 22nd annual SEC Championship game features two very unlikely opponents in Atlanta: The East champion Missouri Tigers (11-1, 7-1) against the West champion Auburn Tigers (11-1, 7-1).

Both were coming off a poor season in 2012 particularly Auburn which posted a 3-9 record forcing former HC Gene Chizik out after four years on the job and just two years after winning the BCS National title game.

Missouri, in only its second season in the SEC, was not expected to win the division with established programs such as back-to-back East champion Georgia, defending co-East champ Florida and Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks in the way but Missouri managed to beat both Georgia and Florida and came close to beating South Carolina.

Meanwhile Auburn punched its ticket to Atlanta on what is probably the most unlikely play in football history on a missed field goal return against Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide dynasty.

Missouri HC Gary Pinkel has done a fine job since he arrived 14 years ago with nine bowl appearances, two Big-12 North titles and four bowl victories.

    Auburn will be making its fifth SEC title game appearance (1997, 2000, 2004, 2010, 2013) . The Tigers won in 2004 and 2010. The 2004 team went on to win the BCS Sugar Bowl and an undefeated season under Tommy Tuberville and the 2010 team went on to the BCS National Title game.

  Missouri will be making its third conference title game appearance (2007, 2008, 2013) but its first SEC title game.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

AFC and NFC South Updates

At the three quarter mark of the season one of the NFL's southern divisions are almost decided while the other is still up for grabs.

The Indianapolis Colts (8-4) led by QB Andrew Luck have a three-game lead over the Tennessee Titans with four games left. Any combination of an Indy win or Tennessee defeat will give the Colts the division. The Colts look to return to its domination of the AFC South after the 2011 transition year. Since 2012 Indianapolis is 19-9 overall and not dropped consecutive games since Andrew Luck was drafted two years ago.

The Titans (5-7) have an outside chance at a wild card but will travel to Denver to face the Broncos and Peyton Manning this sunday. Jacksonville (3-9) has won three straight games and will host the Houston Texans on Thursday night (2-9). After two straight AFC South titles (2011-2012) Houston is having their worst season since the arrival of HC Gary Kubiak eight years ago.

Meanwhile in the NFC South the co-leaders Carolina Panthers (9-3) and New Orleans Saints (9-3) face each other on sunday night in the Superdome in the first of two "mano to mano" games in the next three weeks.

Carolina has clinched its first winning season since 2008 while New Orleans hopes to make it back to the playoffs after a one year absence.

The unusual stat about the defending NFC South champion continues which is no defending NFC South champ has repeated since the division began in 2002. The Atlanta Falcons, the 2012 NFC South winner, is experiencing its worst season in the Mike Smith/ Matt Ryan era.

2002: Tampa Bay
2003: Carolina
2004:  Atlanta
2005: Tampa Bay/Carolina
2006: New Orleans
2007: Tampa Bay
2008: Carolina
2009: New Orleans
2010: Atlanta
2011: New Orleans
2012: Atlanta

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers come off a 27-6 loss to Carolina after winning three straight games following an 0-8 start.