SEC expansion gives conference new look


SEC expansion gives conference new look

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) The Southeastern Conference's first expansion since 1991 has added not only new travel and experiences for newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri, but also the rest of the league.

The new look of the SEC isn't limited to the changes in its geography, though, as the Aggies have remained one of the top offenses in the country, shaking up things in a league long known for defense.

The Aggies are third in the nation in scoring (45.5 ppg) and tied for fifth in total offense (542.88 ypg). It's nothing new for first-year Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, whose Houston team topped the country in scoring and total offense last season.

Despite that success in Conference USA, many doubted he could replicate it in a league where five teams finished in the top 10 nationally in defense last season.

Sumlin was matter-of-fact when asked if he ever questioned whether his offense could succeed in the SEC.

``If we didn't think it could work, we wouldn't run it,'' he said.

Still, he understands why people were reticent to believe this offense could put up huge numbers against much tougher competition. Especially in a conference where no team has finished in the top 5 nationally in scoring since Florida was fourth in 2008, or total offense since the Gators finished second in 2000.

``People have the right,'' Sumlin said. ``We're the new guys in the league so I don't see that as derogatory or anything like that. You're always going to be skeptical of anything that's new or that you don't know about.''

Auburn coach Gene Chizik saw just how powerful A&M's offense could be on Saturday in a 63-21 A&M win. Texas A&M had 34 first downs, 671 yards and scored touchdowns on seven of eight possessions with quarterback Johnny Manziel before he was replaced after the first possession of the third quarter.

``I think that his is a different type of offense,'' Chizik said. ``They are spread, no-huddle offenses that are obviously difficult to defend. Some are very different than others. This one is very unique.''

Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, who worked with Sumlin at Oklahoma from 2005-07, is one person in the SEC that isn't a bit surprised by Sumlin's success at A&M. No. 17 Mississippi State hosts 16th-ranked A&M on Saturday.

``Kevin is a guy who knows what he wants to do. He's got a great plan,'' Wilson said. ``The biggest thing is he's a good communicator - communicating with his coaches, with the administration and with the players. That makes a good teacher. And when you can deliver your message and do it with accurate information, it definitely speeds up the process. He does that as well as anybody.''

Sumlin believes some of Texas A&M's success comes from his team having a chip on its shoulder because of those who expected the Aggies to fail in their move from the Big 12 to the SEC.

``We do have something to prove,'' he said. ``I've said that from the beginning, we're in the best league in the country for football and as new guys to the league we've got to prove ourselves. I think our guys understand that, I think as coaches we understand it.''

The Aggies have enjoyed the travel that has come with the move as well. They've switched in-state trips to places like Austin, Lubbock and Waco for jaunts to Oxford, Miss. and Auburn, Ala. They'll travel to Starkville, Miss. this week before next Saturday's visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

``Every one of these games is new to these guys and I think last week was a prime example of being excited to play,'' Sumlin said. ``We're going places we've never been and guys are excited to go there.''

Georgia coach Mark Richt has also enjoyed the change in scenery that came with adding the new teams this season.

``In life, change is good sometimes,'' he said. ``You start doing the same thing over and over again, and sometimes that can be tiresome.''

Second-year Vanderbilt coach James Franklin's team picked up its only road win this season on its first trip to Missouri on Oct. 6. Still, he's more worried about his team than how Missouri and A&M have changed the SEC.

``I think it's great for the league,'' Franklin said of the expansion. ``It's something new, exciting and different. I haven't been in the league long enough to have a great perspective. The venue I'm concerned about making the best in the SEC is right here in Nashville at Vanderbilt. It's getting better every single week and we just have to keep building on that.''

The Tigers, who got their first SEC win last week against Kentucky, have a similar mindset as they prepare for a trip to No. 8 Florida on Saturday.

``It's a great experience, and we're not there for the experience, we're there to win,'' Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. ``That's how we look at it.''


AP Sports Writers David Brandt, R.B. Fallstrom, Charles Odum, Teresa Walker and John Zenor contributed to this story.

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Looking at the details of Zach Brown's contract with the Redskins

Looking at the details of Zach Brown's contract with the Redskins

The Redskins and linebacker Zach Brown agreed to a three-year contract that will require Brown to continue to play at a high level if he is going to collect all of the $21 million the deal contains.

Brown’s camp reportedly was shopping for a contract that had some $20 million in guaranteed money. The actual deal fell well short of that.

Brown, who was leading the league in tackles before an assortment of injuries forced him to sit out the last three games, got a total of $5.5 million in fully guaranteed money. He got a $4.5 million signing bonus and his $1 million salary for 2018 is fully guaranteed.


After that, the remaining two seasons essentially are team options. In 2019 he has a $6.75 million salary and $4.5 million of that is guaranteed for injury. His 2020 salary is $7.5 million with no guarantees of any kind.

The contract also has per-game roster bonuses available at a rate of $15,625 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster in 2018 (total of $250,000 for the year) and $31,250 per game in 2019 and 2020 ($500,000 total).

The salary cap hits per year are as follows:

2018: $2.75 million
2019: $8.75 million
2020: $9.5 million

The average annual value of $7 million ranks ninth among inside linebackers.

Brown will need to continue to play well to collect on the contract. The team will be able to save $5.75 million on the 2019 cap if they terminate the deal after one season and $8 million if they do it in 2020.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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