SEC feeling impact of No. 9 Texas A&M, Missouri

SEC feeling impact of No. 9 Texas A&M, Missouri

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) The Southeastern Conference's six-year streak of national championships could be in jeopardy.

And the SEC has expansion to thank for making it happen.

No. 9 Texas A&M and Missouri are making their presence felt since the SEC invited them into the fold.

The Aggies (8-2, 5-2 SEC) rolled into Tuscaloosa and knocked off defending champion Alabama 29-24 and now the SEC is by no means a lock to get into the BCS title game. The Tigers (5-5, 2-5) have beaten Kentucky and Tennessee, adding to the coaching chaos at those schools.

Auburn's Gene Chizik is one of several SEC coaches who aren't surprised by either school's impact. He said the signs were there even before they left the Big 12.

``If you go back to SEC media day and what I said there, I don't change one thing that I said then,'' said Chizik, a former Texas defensive coordinator who was also Iowa State's head coach. ``No one's teaching (coach) Kevin Sumlin how to coach football; no one's teaching Texas A&M how to play or win; no one's teaching Texas A&M about tradition.

``Missouri's had their ups and downs this year at times but they're another good football team. (Coach) Gary (Pinkel) does a great job. ... They're here to compete and they're here to win championships just like the rest of them. That's why I said it was a good fit.''

Actually, the Aggies have become quite comfortable in the SEC.

Texas A&M was picked to finish fifth in the seven-team SEC West and has raised a few eyebrows with just how well its playing.

``I don't think a lot of people expected Texas A&M to do what they're doing now,'' Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter said. ``They've got a real good quarterback (Johnny Manziel), a freshman coming out and running the ball like he did and beating the No. 1 team. It's real exciting.''

The Aggies are a game behind West-leading Alabama entering Saturday's contest against Sam Houston State. They are tied with the Crimson Tide for the league-lead in scoring at 36.3 points per game. Texas A&M stands alone in several other offensive categories, including rushing offense (236.3 yards), passing offense (295.6) and total yards (531.9).

Sumlin said his Aggies benefited from the disappointing close home losses to Florida (20-17) and LSU (24-19) and that knocked Texas A&M out of any national championship discussions.

``I think in a way we drew some confidence from those games because those were top-tier teams, not only in this league but in the country,'' Sumlin said. ``We didn't have the offense available in the first part of the year that we do now.''

Leading the way is redshirt freshman phenom Manziel, also known as ``Johnny Football.''

Manziel is second in SEC rushing (631 yards, eight touchdowns) and passing (1,917 yards, eight TDs, five interceptions).

``Obviously, he did a great job against us,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``To a large degree some of those plays he was able to make made a huge difference in the game.''

Missouri's transition into the SEC has been tougher.

The Tigers lost their first four SEC games, but their two conference victories have contributed to Kentucky's Joker Phillips being fired and are part of the reason why coach Derek Dooley's future at Tennessee is uncertain.

Missouri's first SEC victory on Oct. 27 was a 33-10 rout of Kentucky, which also entered the game winless. The Wildcats fired Phillips on Nov. 4.

The Tigers' victory Saturday at Tennessee (4-6, 0-6) might have sealed Dooley's fate.

After seeing Missouri firsthand and watching Texas A&M last weekend, Phillips believes both schools just came in prepared to compete in the SEC.

``It's a really tough, tough league,'' said Phillips, who will coach Kentucky's final two regular games. ``All of them that are winning have quarterbacks. They don't have true freshmen quarterbacks, they have quarterbacks and I think that gives everybody a chance.''

Still, the Aggies' success is unprecedented in the SEC.

The conference's only other expansion was 1991 when then-independent South Carolina and Arkansas left the Southwest Conference to join the SEC. Both struggled in their 1992 debuts: The Gamecocks finished 5-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC; the Razorbacks were 3-7-1 and 3-4-1.

Some SEC coaches say Texas A&M's impact is good for the league.

They don't believe the Aggies' win at Alabama should cost the conference champion a shot at the national title - an argument based mainly on five SEC teams being ranked in the top nine and six in the top 12.

South Carolina's Steve Spurrier is one of those coaches.

He said one loss shouldn't hurt East champion Georgia (9-1, 7-1) or Alabama (9-1, 6-1), if the Tide can clinch the West with a win against Auburn. Spurrier said the strong conference schedule stacks up against the unbeaten records of Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame.

``Isn't that what the BCS is for, to sort of go by strength of schedule and all that?'' Spurrier said this week.

LSU coach Les Miles agrees with Spurrier.

``Some teams do not play the style of schedule we play week in and week out in this conference,'' Miles said. ``The team that stands on that podium (after the SEC championship game) should have a chance to play for the national championship.''

Thanks to expansion, that's now out of the SEC's control.


AP Sports Writers Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C., Brett Martell in Baton Rouge, La., Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn., and John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

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Eagles' Michael Bennett allegedly injured elderly worker; arrest warrant issued

Philadelphia Eagles lineman Michael Bennett has been indicted on felony abuse for allegedly pushing an elderly NRG Stadium worker during Super Bowl LI.

Bennett was indicted by the Harris County, Texas district attorney's office for injury to the elderly — which is intentionally and knowingly causing injury to a person 65 years or older, according to a press release from the Harris County Sheriffs' Office.

A warrant has been issued for Bennett's arrest.

The 66-year-old paraplegic stadium worker was attempting to control field access when Bennett allegedly pushed her. 

The maximum penalty Bennett faces is ten years in prison in addition to a $10,000 fine.


Bennett — whose brother Martellus played in that Super Bowl for New England — was a member of the Seattle Seahawks during the incident and was in attendance as a noncompetitive player.

The NFL has been made aware of the situation and is looking into the matter, according to Pro Football Talk.

The 32-year-old 10-year NFL veteran could potentially face NFL discipline under the league's personal conduct policy. 


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Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

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Wizards host students from Stoneman Douglas High School ahead of 'March For Our Lives'

With a march on Washington planned for this weekend following the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were invited by the Wizards to attend their Friday morning practice at Capital One Arena.

About 20 of the kids showed up to watch the Wizards practice, took pictures with players, got a tour of the facilities and walked away with Wizards hats and gear. It was a small break away from what has been a tumultous time ever since the massacre at their school on Feb. 14.

Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis was on hand to speak with the students, who are set to lead the 'March For Our Lives' through downtown Washington on Saturday.


Wizards guard Bradley Beal met with the media after taking photos with the students.

"For us to be able to take their mind off of it for just a few minutes is always a great feeling," Beal said. "At the end of the day, we're all human beings regardless of our careers are and what our jobs are. A lot of us have families, kids, brothers and sisters. The last thing that you want to happen is what happened to several of those families. You can never imagine."

Beal went to college in Florida and has participated in his own forms of activism. He has found inspiration in the efforts by Stoneman Douglas students. They have taken what happened to their school as a catalyst for what they hope produces change in the ability to protect similar attacks from happening again.


Beal, 24, finds that admirable.

"It's amazing sometimes to learn from the youth on how to do things," Beal said. "It's a testament to where our world needs to lead to, to where we need to get to and to come together as a society. It starts with us as the younger generation. We've gotta come together with love and do things like this. I think what they're doing is awesome. It's spreading positive vibes and it's true humanitarian work that they're doing."

The Stoneman Douglas students are expected to attend Friday night's Wizards-Nuggets game as well.

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