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Tag:Florida
Posted on: November 6, 2011 10:59 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 11:36 am
 

SEC officially announces Missouri joins in 2012

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The worst kept secret in the south became official Sunday morning, as the Southeastern Conference officially announced that Missouri would join the league in 2012 along with Texas A&M. The announcement from the SEC is below.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (November 6, 2011) – The Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors, acting unanimously, announced today that the University of Missouri will join the Southeastern Conference effective July 1, 2012, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2012-13 academic year. 

The addition of Missouri will increase SEC membership to 14 institutions.  The additions of Texas A&M, announced on September 25, 2011, and Missouri, are the first expansions for the SEC since September of 1991 when the University of South Carolina joined the league.  The University of Arkansas joined the SEC in August of 1991.  With the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina, the SEC was the first conference to split into divisions and add a conference championship game in 1992.

“The Presidents and Chancellors of the Southeastern Conference are pleased to welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC,” said Dr. Bernie Machen, President of the SEC Presidents and Chancellors and president of the University of Florida.  “The University of Missouri is a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions.”

“The Southeastern Conference is a highly successful, stable, premier athletic conference that offers exciting opportunities for the University of Missouri,” said Chancellor Brady J. Deaton. “In joining the SEC, MU partners with universities distinguished for their academic programs and their emphasis on student success. The SEC will provide our student-athletes with top flight competition and unparalleled visibility. We came to this decision after careful consideration of the long term best interests of our university.  We believe the Southeastern Conference is an outstanding home for the Mizzou Tigers, and we take great pride in our association with this distinguished league.”

Missouri, located in Columbia, will also be the fourth institution in the Southeastern Conference to hold membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, joining University of Florida, Texas A&M University and Vanderbilt University.  Missouri has an enrollment of 33,800 students, which would be the fourth largest institution in the SEC, with Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M having a larger student body.  There are more than 260,000 “Mizzou” alumni around the world.  The State of Missouri borders three SEC states: Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas, and they bring an existing rivalry with former conference foe Texas A&M.

Missouri athletic teams have excelled recently.  Its men’s basketball team has made it to the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons and 24 times overall.  The Tiger football team has been to post-season bowl games for six straight years and 28 times overall.  The softball team has participated in the College World Series each of the last three seasons.  The Tigers have won Big 12 Championships in men’s basketball, soccer and softball. 

“I am pleased to officially welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC family on behalf of our presidents, chancellors, athletics directors, students and fans,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.  “Missouri is an outstanding academic institution with a strong athletic program.  We look forward to having the Tigers compete in our league starting in 2012.”

The Tigers sponsor 20 varsity sports.  Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, football, golf, swimming and diving, wrestling, indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country.  Women’s sports include basketball, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country and volleyball.  Missouri participates in every sport sponsored by the SEC except men’s tennis and the SEC sponsors every sport the Tigers participate in except wrestling.

Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:45 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 10

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: LSU. 

Usually, we'd find some specific angle to take within the team or the coaching staff when naming our "top" winner. Saying LSU was your big winner this SEC Saturday is like saying fire is hot.

But the stakes were so high for their win over Alabama, the rewards so lavish, that there's no real need to split those kind of hairs. LSU will now be the unquestioned, unanimous No. 1 team in the nation in every available poll, BCS standings included; they are only two games away from clinching the SEC West championship, one of which is against a team that's lost 12 straight SEC games and the other at home against a team whose last two road trips ended in death-defying escapes from that same 12-game losing streak team and Vanderbilt; they are three SEC games, then, from playing for the national championship in their own home state, at the same site where they won it in 2003 and 2007. And they accomplished all of that by defeating what might be their bitterest rival's best team in 20 years in that rival's own stadium and forced their forme head coach under the .500 mark against their current head coach. It's 100 percent possible LSU just cleared the highest hurdle between themselves and the national championship and did so in the sweetest possible fashion.

Not bad for 60-plus minutes of work.

LOSER: "Make his ass quit." 

That's the phrase Nick Saban used in a pregame speech to his players before the 2008 meeting with LSU, and one popularized as a kind of motto amongst Tide fans for the program's philosophy of oustanding conditioning work, physical play, perfect execution, and -- specifically -- the combination of all three forcing the opponent to surrender as the second half drags on. It's worked spectacularly for the most part under Saban, and until Saturday 2011 was no exception: the Tide didn't even allow a second-half point in the month of October. 

But in recent big games, the Tide have been strangely unable to force anyone on the other side to "quit"--and in fact, have come closer to doing it themselves. There was the fourth-quarter failures against LSU in Baton Rouge last season. Then the fall from 24 points ahead against Auburn. And tonight, there was this in the second half: five first downs, 104 yards, two turnovers and three three-and-outs, the last of which was the disastrous overtime possession which covered minus-10 yards.  LSU did next-to-nothing on offense in regulation too, of course, but in overtime their Jordan Jefferson/Michael Ford speed option still worked as well as it ever did.

Result: another championship-level game in which it was the other team outplaying the Tide over the final 30 minutes-plus and walking off the winners. It's not conditioning (we have little doubt every team at this level is as fit as they're going to be), but those second-half woes are something Saban's going to have to figure out all the same if he wants his teams hoisting trophies again.

WINNER: the Baton Rouge ticket market. 

Oh, Arkansas's visit on Nov. 25 won't be a second "Game of the Century" ... but with the Hogs seeing off the Gamecocks and LSU triumphing in Tuscaloosa, that game now becomes the biggest tilt remaining in the SEC's 2011 season by some margin. Despite the Razorback road woes mentioned above, Arkansas's history with LSU makes them the only realistic obstacle standing between the Tigers and Atlanta ... maybe even the BCS title game. The hype starts now. Can Dennis Johnson also bring that wood?



LOSERS: Rematch advocates. 

The stipulation was always that the best scenario for a rematch was for Alabama to win a narrow, competitive game over the Tigers that left voters wondering what would happen on a neutral field. We got the "narrow, competitive game" part, but voters won't need to see LSU on a neutral field ... since they've already beaten the Tide on Bryant-Denny Stadium's highly hostile field. Beyond that, while the first half featured plenty of smart offensive football countered only by outstanding defense, the second more often seemed like a sloppy, grind-it-out affair with neither team taking much in the way of offensive risks or producing anything resembling attacking "flair." Aesthetic value shouldn't play a part when deciding who gets to play for a national title, but voters are human all the same--and they may not be thrilled by the prospect of a second touchdown-less meeting.

WINNER: Joker Phillips.

There were more than a few people who saw Kentucky's opening-week slog against Western Kentucky, their wipeout against Florida, the epic pratfall at South Carolina, and pegged them for an 0-8 season in the SEC. Even as recently as last week, a dispiriting double-digit home loss to Mississippi State didn't suggest a corner was about to be turned.

But Phillips kept his team believing, and Saturday they comprehensively outplayed an Ole Miss team that -- at the very least -- has more offensive playmakers and comparable defensive talent. No one, Phillips included, would claim he's done a great coaching job this season, but likewise no one would argue he and his staff didn't badly outprepare the staff on the opposite sideline. 

LOSER: Pete Boone.

Whether he chooses between them now or at the end of what will likely be an 0-8 SEC campaign, the Ole Miss athletic director has two choices ahead of him after today's Rebel loss in Lexington: he can either stand behind Houston Nutt and make his own less-than-popular hold on the AD's chair that much less popular, or he can swallow Nutt's gigantic contractual bullet and go in search of a new coach even as he also fundraises for a new basketball facility and other capital improvements. Before today, Boone could entertain the possibility that a big finish by Nutt would allow him to put the ax away for at least one more year and still save face. Not any more--Nutt will enter 2012 as a virtual lame duck, or employed somewhere else, and there's nothing else Boone can realistically hope for any longer.

WINNER: Jeff Demps. 

For weeks, Demps has been nagged by various injuries. And not coincidentally -- though God knows the Gators' issues weren't that simple -- for weeks the Gators' ground game has all the effectiveness of the proverbial submarine's screen door. Against Vanderbilt, Demps finally looked like his old self, and not just on the juke-the-first-tackler-out-of-his-j
ock 52-yard touchdown that all-but-clinched the Gator victory. Also not a coincidence: with a little bit of help from Mike Gillislee, the Gators ran for 197 yards -- 158 of them Demps' -- and won their first game since September. 

LOSERS: Mark Richt's circadian rhythms. 

You know, sleep patterns. Not that college football coaches ever have particularly regular ones, but Richt's might have stayed within shouting of distance of normal if he'd known his Bulldogs didn't have everything to lose against Auburn this coming Saturday. That's not to say there's any worries about the Dawgs' total dismantling of New Mexico State -- if anything, that was a calming performance, especially where Aaron Murray's return to his usual accurate form was concerned -- but when the day started, his team didn't have to worry about the pressure that comes with being two winnable home games away from a return to Atlanta. Thanks to South Carolina's loss, that's the case, but it's also the case that Richt's teams have not performed particularly well under this new kind of pressure the last few seasons.

That's not to say, of course, that Richt wouldn't take having his team control its own destiny in a heartbeat over the alternative. But we're guessing there's a few more exhausted stares at the digital clock at 2:47 a.m. this week, too, now that Richt knows the fallout from a loss will be greater than ever.

Posted on: November 6, 2011 1:24 am
 

QUICK HITS: Arkansas 44, South Carolina 28

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

ARKANSAS WON: 
On the stat sheet -- where the Razorbacks outgained the visiting Gamecocks 435-206 and won the turnover battle 4-to-1 -- this was an easy victory. But the Gamecocks found a way to make the Hogs sweat, scoring on a Devin Taylor pick-six, a short field following a long kickoff return, and two out-of-nowhere long touchdown drives to pull within 30-28 early in the fourth quarter. But Tyler Wilson answered with a decisive 8-play, 63-yard touchdown drive to put the home team back in control, and the Hogs weren't threatened again.

WHY ARKANSAS WON: Because eventually, even with the help it got from Taylor and special teams, the Gamecock offense just wasn't built to keep pace with Arkansas's. Connor Shaw had led Carolina to 28 points total in his team's two previous games--getting them to 28 in this one game alone was a huge step forward, and a nod is due even if the Gamecocks somehow got there on only those barely-more-than-200 yards.

Arkansas, meanwhile, twice settled for field goals after driving inside the Gamecock 15, were stopped on 4th-and-goal at the 2, and had two other drives end in a missed field goal. And they'd still scored 37 points when Shaw stepped back to pass inside his own 10 late in the fourth -- no time any more for trying to grind out drives -- and was buried by Hog defensive end Jake Bequette. Shaw fumbled, the Hogs recovered, ballgame.

Coming from behind was never really an option for an offense like this ... and given the way Wilson was playing, that Dennis Johnson is running angry these days, and that the Hogs were at home, that was always going to happen eventually. This was just an offensive mismatch.

WHEN ARKANSAS WON: when Bequette made that sack. But we suppose getting Broderick Green into the end zone two plays later (pushing the lead to 16 points with only 4:07 to play), as opposed to a second goalline stuff, made it official.

WHAT ARKANSAS WON: Combined with Alabama's loss, a ticket directly back into the SEC west race. If the Hogs win out -- a tall task, since that would include taking down LSU in Baton Rouge -- they would force a three-way tie atop the division that would be broken by the BCS standings. It's a long shot, but it's a shot nonetheless.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA LOST: their grip on the SEC East. The Gamecocks now slip a game behind Georgia in the loss column, and will need beat Florida at home next week and have the Dawgs to lose to either Auburn or Kentucky to make it back to Atlanta. Their shot is probably better than the Hogs', truthfully, but it probably doesn't feel that way with their destiny controlled by someone else.

Posted on: November 5, 2011 3:43 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 18 Georgia 63 New Mexico St. 16

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

GEORGIA WON: 
No scholarship running backs, no problem. Despite missing Richard Samuel to injury and three other tailbacks -- including Isaiah Crowell -- due to one-game suspensions, the Bulldogs had the very definition of "no problem" with visiting New Mexico State, scoring six second quarter touchdowns and coasting from there. (The 42 points in a quarter is an FBS high this season.) With the tailbacks out, corners Branden Smith and Brandon Boykin both got time on offense and both scored long touchdowns, Smith on a 56-yard run and Boykin a 42-yard pass reception. The Bulldogs finished the game with 628 offensive yards.

WHY GEORGIA WON: "They're Georgia, and the opponent was New Mexico State" pretty much covers it. But whatever hope the Aggies had of making this a competitive game likely required Aaron Murray to have been as erratic and scattershot as he'd been the previous week in the Bulldogs' win over Florida. No such luck for NMSU: Murray only played the first half, but that was long enough to go 18-of-23 for better than 10 yards an attempt and five touchdowns without an interception.

Obviously, Auburn's pass defense is going to offer a lot more resistance than NMSU's when the Dawgs host the Tigers next week. But Murray's big day has to give his team a lot of encouragement after his lackluster outing vs. the Gators.

WHEN GEORGIA WON: Oh, just pick a second quarter touchdown. We'll go with the Brandon Harton four-yard TD run to push the lead to 14-3, since it was immediately preceded by a questionable pass interference flag on a 3rd-and-4 incompletion. You knew that if NMSU couldn't even catch a break from the officials, they weren't going to hang around long.

WHAT GEORGIA WON: An entire second half of rest for their starters, and for a team with as many thin areas as the Bulldogs, they couldn't ask for anything more than that from this game.

WHAT NEW MEXICO STATE LOST: Lost? We suspect Dewayne Walker will wish his team had been more competitive and much sharper defensively, but no doubt the check from Georgia will soothe a lot of ills.

Posted on: November 4, 2011 3:04 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 10

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

Listen, we know what you're planning on having for dinner on Saturday night. The only college football fans who won't be tuning into Alabama and LSU on Saturday night are the ones who have their favorite teams playing at the same time. And even most of those people will be flipping back and forth.

Still, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other strong options out there on Saturday. I mean, every main course needs an appetizer or 8, right?

BREAKFAST

Iowa vs. #13 Michigan - ESPN, 12pm ET

Let's face it: it's not very fun to watch games with dynamic performers if those guys get shut down by a defense. Fortunately for Michigan, that's probably not a fate awaiting Denard Robinson against Iowa. The Hawkeye defense has been jarringly bad all season long, and "Shoelace" is likely to get in the end zone several times. What more can you ask for from an early game? - Adam Jacobi

Texas vs. Texas Tech - FX, 12pm ET

The word is that beginning next season these two teams will begin playing on Thanksgiving Day, so this may be the last time you watch this game without a turkey leg in your mouth. Both are looking to make a statement on Saturday, as the Longhorns would like the world to know that they're a good team that has lost to great teams. Texas Tech, meanwhile, would like to prove that the win over Oklahoma wasn't just a fluke and it wants to wash the stench of Iowa State off. - Tom Fornelli

Florida vs. Vanderbilt - SEC Network, 12:21pm ET

Is this the week the Commodores finish the deal? After playing Georgia tough and Arkansas tougher, it would seem the reeling Gators, losers of four straight, would be ripe for the picking. But with John Brantley another week removed from his ankle injury and Will Muschamp's team now in desperation mode, the upset won't come easy. Vandy's struggled on the road, too, having lost their two SEC games away from Nashville (to South Carolina and Alabama) by combined 55-3. Can the Gators rebound? - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

Oregon State vs. #4 Stanford - ABC, 3:30pm ET

Let down game? We'll see if Stanford struggles on the road after their big, overtime win at USC last week. Strange things have been known to happen up in Corvallis with highly ranked teams so keep your eye on this one even though it's a complete mismatch in favor of the Cardinal. - Bryan Fischer

#7 Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

With its slim hopes of winning the Big 12 dashed last week by Missouri, the Aggies are now resigned to playing the role of spoiler. What better way to say goodbye to Oklahoma than by killing its chances at a Big 12 title as well? Both of these teams have strong offenses, and we could be in store for quite the shootout in Norman on Saturday. - TF

#19 Wisconsin vs. Purdue - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

We're not saying this game won't be competitive, but before the third quarter is over, Russell Wilson will probably throw a sword at the press box then scream, "Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you have come out here?!" And then, if we haven't stretched the Gladiator reference past credulity and good taste, the Camp Randall crowd will begin chanting, "Caroliniard!" over and over. - AJ

Air Force vs. Army - CBS, 3:30pm ET

Air Force already withstood an 18-point comeback from Navy before winning 35-34 in overtime, and it would be a huge let down to follow that performance with a loss against Army at home.  The Falcons can capture their 18th outright win for the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy if they can win the ground attack battle against the Black Knights.  Army and Air Force rank 1st and 3rd nationally in rushing offense, and Saturday's battle will be a test of defense and ball control as the two service academies square off in the annual rivalry.  With Air Force starting quarterback Tim Jefferson reportedly playing with a broken nose, I expect senior Asher Clark to step up in the backfield with a big performance at home.  The Falcons are favored to win this nationally televised battle, but in these rivalry games with the service academies you never know what to expect.  - Chip Patterson

DINNER

Pitt vs. #23 Cincinnati - ESPNU, 7pm ET

The Bearcats have quietly made themselves Big East frontrunners, as the only team without a loss in conference play.  Two years ago Cincinnati came from behind to beat Pittsburgh 45-44 on Heinz Field to cap off an undefeated regular season and earn a berth to the Sugar Bowl.  Now with Butch Jones at the helm, they control their own destiny to return to a BCS bowl.  Their five-game home stretch starts with the Panthers, who will be looking to rebound from losing Ray Graham for the season with a knee injury.  Quarterback Tino Sunseri delivered one of his best performances of the season after Graham went down against UConn, and they'll need it again to take down the conference leaders. - CP

#8 Arkansas vs. #10 South Carolina - ESPN, 7:15pm ET 

Believe it or not, there's going to be two matchups of BCS top 10 teams in the SEC Saturday night. The Hogs and Gamecocks might have been able to draw a little more attention away from that other game if Carolina had done anything on offense of late, but -- go figure -- scoring just 28 points in their past two games doesn't seem to have done much to move the national needle. If Tyler Wilson can avoid getting an early shower courtesy of Melvin Ingram and the rest of the outstanding Gamecock pass rush, Carolina should be hard-pressed to keep pace with the Raozrback offense in Fayetteville. - JH

#3 Oklahoma State vs. #17 Kansas State - ABC/ESPN2, 8pm ET

Consider this Kansas State's last stand. The Wildcats were finally starting to gain the respect they deserved for their strong start to the season only to get trounced by Oklahoma last weekend. They either get off the mat and fight back against a very good Oklahoma State team or they'll just be a footnote in the 2011 season. As for Oklahoma State, they've got plenty to play for, as a berth in the BCS title game is very much in play. - TF

#2 Alabama vs. #1 LSU - CBS, 8pm ET

So, is it possible to sum up two solid weeks of previews and thousands and thousands of words in just a couple of sentences? We'll try: if AJ McCarron doesn't hand the Tigers big plays on defense and Rueben Randle doesn't break free for some big plays on offense, Alabama's brutal run game and equally brutal run defense will eventually wear down the Tigers in Tuscaloosa. But if McCarron does get sloppy and Randle does keep the Tide D off-balance, the matchup's close enough that just those handful of plays could swing it. - JH 

LATE NIGHT SNACK

Washington vs. #6 Oregon - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET

Washington fans hate Oregon. Oregon fans hate Washington. This Northwest rivalry is underrated by many nationally and has been one-sided as of late but this year's game should be very competitive. The Huskies can score some points on the Ducks defense but can UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt stop the fast-paced Oregon attack? - BF 
Posted on: November 4, 2011 12:13 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 12:14 pm
 

Gators' DT Easley won't face charges

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A long night for Florida against Alabama back on Oct. 1 seemed to be that much longer when the news surfaced that former Tide player Reggie Myles had accused starting Gator defensive lineman Dominique Easley of assaulting him outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Last week, the University Police Department that investigated the accusations filed a complaint against both Easley and Myles, charging the former with misdemeanor assault and the latter with criminal mischief, larceny and disorderly intoxication. But fortunately for the Gators (and Myles), state attorney Bill Cervone has elected not to press charges against either party.

Perhaps recognizing the target audience for interest in the case, Cervone drew on a time-honored football metaphor in an official statement announcing his office's decision (emphasis added):
“There are no clean hands in this situation. There is also no harm done, despite protestations to the contrary, that outweighs these factors. Any harm to either party is in essence canceled out by the harm to the other party.

“To use an appropriate analogy, I am therefore calling offsetting penalties and declining to file any criminal charges against either Easley, Myles, or anyone else.”

Myles had claimed that Easley tackled him on a stadium walkway in what he described as an unprovoked attack. That he wound up with the heavier burden of charges, however, would seem to indicate neither UPD nor Cervone were able to take his story at face value.

The news will be highly welcomed by Florida fans who might have seen filed charges result in the suspension of their team's leading tackler-for-loss. Particularly with run-heavy Vanderbilt on the schedule this wek, Easley's ability to close down running lanes could prove vital as the Gators attempt to claw their way out of a four-game losing streak.

But even if Easley was a third-string special teamer, the way the past month has gone for Will Muschamp's team -- and the way the Gators' arrest record has remained in headlines of late -- the news would still be greeted just as warmly. At this point, the Gators will take every possible positive they can get.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 6:06 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 6:07 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Nov. 1: Run game breakdown

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.




DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 4, or the number of special teams and defensive touchdowns scored this season by LSU: two fumble returns for scores by Tyrann Mathieu, a kickoff return by Morris Claiborne, and pick-six by Ron Brooks. The Tide have three: a Marquis Maze punt return, and pick-sixes by Courtney Upshaw and DeQuan Menzie. Also the number worn (as you can see) by Tide All-American safety Mark Barron, who (despite our raving about the Alabama linebackers yesterday) leads the Tide defense in solo tackles with 25.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: We know both these teams can run the ball. But which one does it better?

You might be surprised just how decisively the statistics will tell you that answer is "Alabama."

Yes, the Bayou Bengals have an out-and-out stud carrying the ball in Spencer Ware, a veteran offensive line loaded with former blue-chips playing its best football in years, solid backups in Alfred Blue and Michael Ford (not to mention bruising freshman fullback Kenny Hilliard, who collected 65 yards and two touchdowns vs. Auburn), and a successful vertical passing game to keep defenses honest. But it hasn't added up to statistical dominance just yet: the Tigers rank a respectable-but-not-spectacular 31st in rushing offense, but a downright middle-of-the-pack 55th in yards per-carry. Ware's 73 yards per-game rank him 66th in the country, sandwiched between Nevada's Cody Fajardo and USF's Darrell Scott.

The Tide, meanwhile, have the numbers to back up Trent Richardson and Co.'s reputation: 14th nationally in rushing yards, but sixth in yards per-carry at 5.84 an attempt and fourth in touchdowns with 27. Richardson ranks seventh at 123 yards per-game, third in touchdowns, and first in yards per-carry (6.64) among backs with more than 125 attempts. And given that backups Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler are averaging a fairly ridiculous 7.6 yards per-carry between them, it's not just the Heisman candidate guy; Barrett Jones and the rest of the Alabama offensive line are, as the kids say, bringing the wood.

So would we agree with the numbers that this is that major an edge for the Tide? Not in the slightest, for two reasons:

1. LSU's stats are being dragged down by an usually slow start to the season; through their first five weeks, the Tigers were averaging just 3.96 yards per attempt despite facing the likes of Kentucky and FCS Northwestern State. That's changed in a big way over their past three games, with the Tigers gashing Florida, Tennessee and Auburn to the tune of 216 yards per game and 4.8 yards per-carry. That 4.8 is even more impressive when you consider ...

2. the Tigers simply don't get huge gains on the ground. The Tigers have just one run of 30 yards or more this season, tying them for the lowest mark in the SEC. 20 yards or more? They're still ninth, and those numbers are despite attempting the second-most runs in the league.

The Tide, by contrast, already have 12 30-plus yard runs; only four teams nationally have more, and two of them are option squads. When comparing the two sides, yes, it's fair to say that Richardon's explosiveness and LSU's confirmed lack of an out-and-out breakway threat make the Tide more likely to bust a long one.

But how likely is one of those long ones? Given the quality of both teams' secondaries in run support, not all that likely. Which running game gets the upper hand is going to come down to which team can slug forward for four, five, six yards at a time, which line can create just the slightest creases for their backs, which backs can consistently wriggle and drive for the extra yard here and there.

No one in the SEC -- not even Alabama -- does those things better than a focused Ware and the Tigers. We still have to give the Tide's ground game the slimmest of edges due to Richardson's extraordinary ability and the higher likelihood of a big gainer ... but in a game like this one, we do mean "slimmest."

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: Judging from his Twitter feed, Mathieu already plays with a decent-size chip on his shoulder. So we're curious to see how he responds to being snubbed from the list of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, announced Monday. The Thorpe is given annually to the nation's best defensive back, and while all 15 are worthy candidates, it's hard to see how Mathieu isn't one of them ... unless the Thorpe organization is punishing him for his recent drug-related suspension. Fair or not, we wonder if a big day Saturday won't result in some Thorpe-related chirping from Mathieu in the near future.

Speaking of chirping, remember when Claiborne said he'd go for Richardson's legs if asked to tackle him one-on-one? Ryan Baker doesn't sound quite so impressed:
"Oh yeah, I can tackle him. I can tackle anybody in the country," Baker said of Richardson. "Don't need any help."
Wonder if Mr. Richardson will make any note of that. Other LSU defenders, for what it's worth, were not quite so brash. (For more from Baker, check out this well-done brief interview clip from the SEC Digital Network.)

If anyone ever decides to make another Australian fish-out-of-water comedy, we'd suggest they start with the story of LSU punter Brad Wing. Not only did Wing express bemusement at the exorbitant sums now being requested for tickets to the game in which his punting could make a dramatic difference -- "I think a Grand Final ticket in Australia might be 200 bucks. That’s crazy" -- but he's also getting a quick education in the history of the game he's stumbled into. Asked about Bear Bryant, Wing responded that the name "sounds familiar" before asking "Should I know [him]?"

Actually, Brad, it's more funny if you don't.

VIDEO BREAK: CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart appears on the Tim Brando Show to preview the game:



THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA:
Taking cues from their head coach, the Tide players have been admirably steadfast in their refusal to say anything other than boilerplate one-game-at-a-time-LSU's-a-great-team comments to reporters.

Examples from Monday: "We want to win every game, and LSU is the next team standing in our way, but I wouldn’t say ‘revenge'"; "They have a great defense. They also have a great offense, and we have a great offense and a great offense. It’s just about going out there and playing at our standards and not anybody else’s standards"; "I pay no attention to who the (LSU) coaches play (at quarterback). Having other factors at play just kind of throws us off, and we don’t want that to happen."

Richardson also had praise for the Tiger defense, saying they "don’t back down for anyone. They are going to come for me." But he also admitted that the game is hugely important to him personally--not just because of the stakes involved, but because he wasn't able to help prevent last year's defeat in Baton Rouge.

"I tore an abdominal muscle and I had a slightly torn MCL," he said. "This game means a lot to me, because I didn't get to play in it last year except for about one quarter. So I really can't wait to showcase what a healthy Trent can do in this game."

There's a lot of people, we would guess, that would love to see what a healthy Trent can do in this game. As for what his coach might do, we wrote Sunday that we shouldn't be too shocked if Nick Saban defies his reputation and pulls a trick out of the bag. So we were intrigued to find out that former Tide player and current Houston Texan DeMeco Ryans told the Sporting News that he wouldn't be surprised, either:
"I think the X factor could be a trick play. If you look at coach (Nick) Saban's history, he's got some tricks up his sleeve. I could see him calling a fake punt or an option pass or something like that to break open a close game. He's known for doing that. I hate to admit it, but when I played, he got me on one (fake punt) of those (when Saban was at LSU). As a defensive player or a special teams player, you've got to be aware of the possibility, but you can't let it affect your aggressiveness."
Ryans was one of four current NFL players and LSU/Bama program alums to offer their take on the game; you'll be shocked, shocked to learn that all four picked their former teams to win the game.

Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 3:12 pm
 

Georgia RB crisis: Samuel out, Crowell suspended

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Ever dreamed of toting the rock for the Georgia Bulldogs, random UGA student? Now may be your chance.

In the space of one afternoon, the Bulldogs have lost four scholarship tailbacks for this Saturday's game against New Mexico State. Starter Isaiah Crowell and backups Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome have all been suspended for one game for a violation of team rules, the program has announced.

But even that's not the worst news of the day from the Bulldog tailback perspective. Mark Richt announced earlier Tuesday that Richard Samuel, Crowell's immediate backup and the Dawgs' initial 2011 starter, underwent surgery on his ankle Tuesday morning and will miss the remaining four games of the regular season.

Samuel scored the winning touchdown against Florida last Saturday in the junior's career highlight to date, then was injured in the game's closing moments.

"We don't know exactly when he'll be back, but it obviously won't be anytime soon," Richt said. ""Richard really had probably his finest performance, in a really big game. For it to happen on the last play is just sad for him."

With all the absences, the tailback job will likely fall to redshirt sophomore Brandon Harton, a former walk-on who received a scholarship this fall. Harton has 11 carries for 33 yards this season, all against Coastal Carolina. Another former walk-on, senior Wes Van Dyk, could see time; Van Dyk has two career carries, both vs. FCS competition.

Against the 3-5 Aggies, all the running back absences shouldn't matter too much (though NMSU does have one BCS conference scalp to their credit this year ... if you count Minnesota, and we're not sure you should). The Georgia line should still be able to open holes nearly anyone could run through, Aaron Murray should still have little problem finding receivers, and or Jarvis Jones should still live in the Aggie backfield. We shouldn't oversell the damage here as long as the suspended three return as expected for a potentially make-or-break visit from Auburn Nov. 12.

But losing Samuel hurts -- his surge against the Gators might have taken him back into the starter's role -- and a topsy-turvy first several months in Athens has made Crowell seem less-than-100-percent reliable. Georgia's OK for the present, but the future looks much murkier than it did 24 hours ago.

 
 
 
 
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