ATLANTA — The player they used to call “Big Nasty” is having a big year.
First, former LSU All-America guard Alan Faneca learned over the summer that he would be LSU’s SEC Legends honoree during SEC Championship Game weekend. Last week, the 13-year NFL veteran and nine-time Pro Bowler was named a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
“It’s an honor to be mentioned,” said Faneca, 38, of his Hall of Fame nomination.
If possible, the call from LSU athletic director Joe Alleva that he would be part of this year’s SEC Legends class was more surprising.
“It caught me more off guard,” he said. “It’s not something I was expecting.”
Faneca played at LSU from 1995-97 before becoming a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He earned the Jacobs Trophy as the SEC’s best blocker in 1997.
This year’s SEC Legends class was honored at a banquet here Friday night and will be recognized on the field before Saturday’s kickoff.
Alabama running back Derrick Henry would have to rush for 261 yards Saturday to eclipse the SEC-best rushing average of LSU’s Leonard Fournette.
Fournette has 1,741 yards in 11 games for a 158.27-yard average. Henry has 1,797 yards in 12 games for a 149.8-yard average. If Henry rushes for 261 yards, it would put him at 150.31 yards per game.
Though Henry rushed 46 times for 271 yards last week at Auburn, he’s more likely to eclipse Herschel Walker’s SEC rushing record of 1,891 yards set at Georgia in 1981. Henry needs only 95 yards to do that.
Record in jeopardy
Florida’s streak of avoiding shutouts lived for another game last week — but just barely.
The Gators only got on the scoreboard against Florida State thanks to a late safety. Florida’s streak is now at 346 games dating to 1988, the longest active run without a shutout in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Gators’ streak is in no less peril a week later. Florida’s offense is slumping badly: It averaged just 13.8 points in four November contests. Meanwhile, Alabama leads the SEC in scoring, total, rushing and passing defense.
Fans attending this year’s game and SEC FanFare at the adjacent Georgia World Congress Center face tighter security than ever before.
The SEC will follow the NFL’s clear bag policy for both events. Gates will open a half-hour earlier than normal — 2½ hours before kickoff — to accommodate early-arriving fans who will need to go through an extra perimeter of security checks.
“Greater cooperation from our fans will enhance the convenience and safety for everyone in attendance,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “Although we are currently not aware of any specific threats, these measures are important. Some security measures will be very visible, and others will be behind the scenes and not evident to the public.”
Alabama is attempting to become the first school to win back-to-back SEC titles since Tennessee in 1997-98. ... Florida has the most appearances (10) and most wins (seven) of any team in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama is second at 5-4. ... This will be the ninth meeting in the SEC Championship Game between the Gators and Crimson Tide. Florida holds a 5-3 edge. ... Jim McElwain was named Florida’s coach a year ago Friday.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.