Tag:Les Miles
Posted on: September 22, 2011 2:56 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 4



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

Woman, she is proving to be a tough nut to crack. After her dominance in Week 1 of MWM, I chalked it up to beginner's luck. Then when she had another strong performance in Week 2 I didn't mind that much because I had a better week. But then she went and had another winning week last weekend, which means she's yet to get more games wrong than right.

This is becoming somewhat worrisome. Sure, it's still early in the season, but I've had to deal with her walking around talking smack for those three weeks, and it starts to wear on you. Which is why I'm clinging to the fact that after getting 11 games right in the first week, she picked 7 correct the next week and 6 last week. That's a downward progression! There is hope!

Could this finally be the week where she suffers the pain of a losing week, and has to hear me boast all day and all night? God I hope so.

Michigan (-8 1/2) vs. San Diego State - Saturday 12pm (All times Eastern)

Man - It's hard for me to truly predict what Michigan is going to do on any given weekend because I'm just not sure how serious Brady Hoke is about making Denard Robinson a passing quarterback. Yes, he makes some nice throws from time to time, but it's like buying a Ferrari and then only using it to go to the grocery store. That being said, I'll still take the Wolverines at home in this one. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "What better payback for the coach who deserted you than beating him up in his new house?  Unfortunately, he's the same coach who personally recruited you and designed your playbook. Don Corleone > Sonny Corleone." Pick: Michigan

Machine - Machines do not experience human emotion, so The Machine has no concept of Brady Hoke calling off the dogs against his former players as the Wolverines roll 45-17. Pick: Michigan

Alabama (-12 1/2) vs. Arkansas - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks offense has had a nice start to the season, even without Knile Davis. Which makes that spread seem so very large, but at the same time, Arkansas hasn't faced a defense anywhere near the caliber of Alabama's. I'm not entirely comfortable with this pick, but I'll take the Tide defense at home and give up the points. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "The Tide rams and jams to a victory but Bobby Petrino's got a score to settle from last season, so I'll take the points.  (Some stormy personalities. You may be want to watch this from the comfort of your root cellar.) " Pick: Arkansas

Machine - The Machine sees a big upset this weekend, as Arkansas comes into Tuscaloosa and takes down Nick Saban's squad 35-24. Pick: Arkansas

Texas A&M (-3 1/2) vs. Oklahoma State - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - This is one of the tougher games to figure out this weekend. You have a high-powered offense in Oklahoma State going against a Texas A&M offense that has been incredibly efficient so far this season. It's somewhat of a coin toss, and when that's the case, I have to go with the team I think has the better defense along with homefield advantage. Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "First time in over 35 years that two top 10 teams meet at Kyle Field.  Aggies coach Mike Sherman knows that revenge for an 0-3 record against OSU is best served red hot in front of 82,000 rabid fans." Pick: Texas A&M

Machine - The Machine has a lot of respect for Justin Blackmon and his tendency to destroy secondaries without remorse. Blackmon blows up for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Cowboys say goodbye to Kyle Field and win 41-31. Pick: Oklahoma State

Clemson vs. Florida State (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - With the question mark surrounding E.J. Manuel's availability this week, along with Florida State's recent track record in Death Valley, I have a very hard time giving up points with the Seminoles this weekend. I have to go with Clemson. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "With FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel questionable (and a ground game that's even more questionable), I have to take home field advantage + residual Tiger swagger from last week's victory + points." Pick: Clemson

Machine - This game was simulated with Manuel playing for Florida State, and it didn't matter. Clemson wins big, 38-14. Pick: Clemson

South Carolina (-16 1/2) vs. Vanderbilt - Saturday, 7pm

Man - Every part of me feels like I should pick South Carolina in this matchup because Marcus Lattimore is an absolute beast, and Vanderbilt is freaking Vanderbilt. But so far this year Vandy has looked pretty stout on defense, and the Gamecocks are giving up 33 points a game. Football gods help me, but I have to go with the Commodores. Pick: Vanderbilt

Woman - "Not sure how a team that's ranked 10th nationally in defense ends up with this spread.. Maybe it's a point for every three minutes Vandy's D is going to be on the field?  Regardless, I'll take 'em." Pick: Vanderbilt

Machine - The Machine recognize machines, and it does not care about this new Vanderbilt. Lattimore runs for over 200 yards and the Gamecocks roll 45-17. Pick: South Carolina

Kentucky vs. Florida (-17 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - Giving up that many points as a road team in an SEC conference game? That's insane, right? No, it's not because I've seen Kentucky play football this season, and insanity would be watching it again. Pick: Florida

Woman - "I hate these picks. Will Florida win by two touchdowns? Three?  Ten?  It's like playing roulette.  C'mon, lucky 18, 19, 20..." Pick: Florida

Machine - Bloodbath in Lexington. Florida wins 54-10. Pick: Florida

Oklahoma (-21 1/2) vs. Missouri - Saturday, 8pm

Man - This spread seems abnormally large to me given that Missouri isn't some doormat, and the Tigers did beat Oklahoma last season. That being said, I don't see a lot of the passes James Franklin completed against Arizona State a couple weeks ago finding their way to the hands of his receivers against this secondary. Plus I just don't see Oklahoma's offense struggling two weeks in a row. So I guess it's Boomer Sooner. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "Missouri, you and your bonnie Prince Gabbert kept Oklahoma from achieving its rightful place as heir to the BCS throne last season.  Well, it's time for you to apologize." Pick: Oklahoma

Machine - The Machine doesn't think Oklahoma will have too much trouble with Missouri this week, but it does feel that spread is a bit ridiculous as Oklahoma wins 34-21. Pick: Missouri

West Virginia vs. LSU (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Forget the actual game, I just wanna hang out with Les Miles and Dana Holgorsen for a night. You know that would be a good time. As for the game, though, I've seen what LSU's defense can do to high-powered offenses before, so I'm reauxling with the Tigers. Pick: LSU

Woman - "I'm gonna be honest with y'all.  I don't care who it is, until the Tigers lose, I'm picking Les." Pick: LSU

Machine - West Virginia's offense will definitely struggle against LSU, but the Mountaineers keep it close in a 24-20 loss. Pick: West Virginia

Arizona vs. Oregon (-16 1/2) - Saturday, 10:15pm

Man - I've seen Arizona play a few times already this season, and to be honest, I'm just not nearly as impressed with Nick Foles and the offense as I have been before this season. I just have a hard time believing that from what I've seen so far that this Wildcats offense can hang with Oregon for a full 60 minutes. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "Another year, another dogfight.  Question is, will it be like the 2009 squeaker or the 2010 2nd half blowout?   I'm picking Wildcats QB wonderboy Nick Foles to keep it close.  Oregon wins but doesn't cover." Pick: Arizona

Machine - Yeah, The Machine is pretty sure you're going to want to stay up late and watch this one. It's going to be rather fun to watch. Oregon wins 45-42. Pick: Arizona

Arizona State (-2 1/2) vs. USC - Saturday, 10:15pm

Man - I remember watching this game last season, and it was one of the crazier, more entertaining games of the year. USC eventually squeaked by with a 34-33 win, which was their 11th straight win over Arizona State. Five of those wins have come in Tempe, so as close as a lot of these games have been in recent years, until Arizona State proves to me that it can actually beat USC, I can't go any other way. Pick: USC

Woman - "Here's a sure bet:  Most Silicone At Any Football Game This Season.  Meanwhile, the Sun Devils haven't beaten the Trojans since 1999.  I'll go with that streak." Pick: USC

Machine - The Machine does not see a game like the one we all witnessed last year, as the Trojans win rather easily 27-14. Pick: USC

Season Record (Last week)



1. Woman 24-11 (6-4)

2. Man 21-14 (5-5)

3. Machine 17-18 (4-6) 
 

Posted on: September 16, 2011 3:47 pm
 

PODCAST: The Doddcast, Week 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

If LSU wasn't already on the shortlist of national title contenders, they certainly are after Thursday's dominating victory at Mississippi State. In this edition of the weekly Doddcast, CBSSports.com senior writer Dennis Dodd talks with Adam Aizer and Eye on Recruiting expert Bryan Fischer about that snarling Tiger defense and whether Les Miles's offense is good enough to take them all the way.

Dodd also offers his thoughts on conference expansion, the gimmick uniform craze, and the big picks for this weekend. Listen below, download the mp3, or popout the player for continued browsing. And if you want to make sure you don't miss next week's Doddcast, subscribe in iTunes.


Posted on: September 15, 2011 11:27 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 1:22 am
 

QUICK HITS: No. 3 LSU 19, No. 25 Miss. St. 6

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

LSU WON: The Tigers took their first drive 77 yards over 16 plays for a 3-0 lead, and though the homestanding Bulldogs tied the game twice, the ultimate outcome never seemed in doubt. Behind a steady, punishing ground game (148 yards) and a surprisingly efficient performance from Jarrett Lee (21-of-27, 213 yards), the Tiger offense eventually wore down the State defense and put the game out of reach with Lee's 19-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle with 11:56 left. The terror-inducing LSU defense, meanwhile, held the Bulldogs to 21 total yards in the second half and recorded an incredible 14 tackles-for-loss. 

WHY LSU WON: Obviously, it's tough to lose a football game when you only allow six points. The lion's share of the credit goes to John Chavis's defense and in particular the outrageous Tiger secondary, which held the Bulldogs to a miserable 5.6 yards per-attempt, saw Morris Claiborne come up with a highlight-reel interception, and forced multiple coverage sacks as Chris Relf dropped back and found no one to throw to.

But Lee deserves a round of applause as well. While the ground game (and tailback Spencer Ware in particular) slowly piled up the yards, the senior quarterback started out an impressive 10-of-11 and kept the Tiger offense balanced with a series of precision, chain-moving throws. Aside from one late ill-advised interception, Lee put together the kind of controlled, efficient performance that further cements the Tigers as legitimate national title contenders. If LSU vs. Alabama is a "mirror matchup" of ruthless defenses and powerful rushing attacks decided by which team has the better quarterback, the evidence of tonight's outing tilts it in favor of the Tigers.

WHEN LSU WON: The touchdown pass to Randle made it all but official, but the game turned on three State possessions in the third quarter--drives starting at the State 40, midfield, and the State 44, respectively. A touchdown on any of the three would have given the Bulldogs the lead, but instead the drives covered zero, 25, and 7 yards and generated just three points. The Randle TD followed immediately, and State was done.

WHAT LSU WON: The argument against LSU's national title bona fides (aside from the one that notes the Bayou Bengals have to go to Tuscaloosa later this season) has been that there was a loss waiting somewhere in the three-out-of-first-four stretch that included Oregon, Mississippi State and West Virginia. Now two of those three are behind Les Miles's team, and Chavis and his secondary will have an extra two days to prepare for Dana Holgorsen's aerial assault.

WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE LOST: Between Thursday night's loss and last week's defeat in Auburn, it's official: State is once again out of the SEC West running and will be, at best, just another "dangerous" team hanging around the bottom half of the divisional standings. There's worse things to be (that's what they were in 2010, too, and they finished the year with a Gator Bowl championship), but this was supposed to be the season Dan Mullen turned the Bulldogs into something else. Not yet, as it turns out.



Posted on: September 15, 2011 3:23 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 3



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

Last week will go down in history as one of two things, depending on the eventual winner of this contest. It's either going to be the week that man stood back up after being knocked down early in the fight, or the week that machine completely blew a gasket, never regaining its dominance over the human race. Whichever one is remembered, I have no control over at this point as history is and always has been written by the victor, and at this point in time, that victor is woman.

I am not worried, however. Last week I was able to overcome artificial intelligence. How much harder can it be to overthrow estrogen?

Mississippi State vs. LSU (-3 1/2) - Thursday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - I'm a big fan of Chris Relf, Vick Ballard and the Mississippi State offense, and I really enjoyed watching last week's game against Auburn. Even if Relf and the Bulldogs came up just short. I'd like to pick them here because it'd be nice for Dan Mullen to finally get a win over the SEC West -- non-Ole Miss division -- and to do it at home. The problem is I saw what LSU's defense did to Oregon, and I'm terrified to pick against Les Miles. Pick: LSU

Woman - "Both teams are in the top 25 and, sure, the way Mississippi State marches down the field, they probably could have won World War One a year sooner. But it's a night game. In front of a national TV audience. Did you hear that, Les? It's just you, your Houdini playbook and millions of adoring fans. 'All right, ESPN, I'm ready for my close-up.'" Pick: LSU

Machine - Mississippi State has a fan in The Machine, as it sees the LSU offense having a much tougher time with the Bulldogs defense, and MSU wins 20-14. Pick: Mississippi State

Maryland (-1 1/2) vs. West Virginia - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I don't care who wins this game, just as long as Maryland promises to never wear those uniforms it wore against Miami ever again. Thankfully Randy Edsall confirmed the Terps would be sporting a much cleaner looking black jersey on Saturday. Out of sheer gratitude for this decision, and my childhood love of the Ninja Turtles, I'm going with Turtle Power. Pick: Maryland

Woman - "With an extra week to prepare and their stylish Nike 'I Like Turtles' home uniforms, the Terps hold an advantage over the slightly shaky Mountaineers." Pick: Maryland

Machine - Man, Woman or Machine, it seems we all read our fables in our developmental stages. The Machine makes it a clean sweep by choosing the turtle over the hare that is the West Virginia offense, 38-24. Pick: Maryland

Clemson (-3 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I know that Clemson is at home in this one, but it's hard for me to pick the Tigers to cover this spread. After all, Clemson was at home against Troy and it struggled during the first half. Then last week at home Clemson could only beat Wofford by 8 points. Meanwhile Auburn has shown that it's resilient and it won a tough conference game already. I just have to go with the defending champs here. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "You giving me points? Then I'll take the team with 17 consecutive wins. Just be sure to keep your snacks and potables within arm's reach, because these twin hurry-up offenses will produce a game that's the football equivalent of a high-speed chase." Pick: Auburn

Machine - Clemson may rub Howard's Rock for good luck before each game, but The Machine sees Auburn taking that rock and beating Clemson over the head with hit for 60 minutes. Auburn wins 31-7. Pick: Auburn

Nebraska (-16.5) vs. Washington - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - These teams meet for the third time in a year, and last year at Washington Taylor Martinez and the Cornhuskers destroyed the Huskies. Then when the teams met again in the Holiday Bowl, Nebraska looked like a team that just wanted its season to end and to move on to the Big Ten. I have a feeling we'll see the regular season version of this squad once more, and in Lincoln, I'll take Big Red. Pick: Nebraska

Woman - "'Bo mad. Bo want revenge. Bo remember Holiday Bowl.' Yeah, but we remember the last two weeks. Huskers win but don't cover." Pick: Washington

Machine - The Taylor Martinez that went crazy at Husky Stadium last season? Yeah, he performs an encore for the home folk this week, and Nebraska rolls 34-3. Pick: Nebraska

Notre Dame (-4 1/2) vs. Michigan State - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I don't actually bet on college football games, but Notre Dame fans may be the greatest gift to those who do. How many weeks will delusional Domers allow the Irish to be favored? Until Notre Dame proves to me that it can beat an average team, there's no way I'm picking them to beat a good one. Pick: Michigan State

Woman - "My first girly moment of the season. Is this a pity pick? Yes. Yes, it is." Pick: Notre Dame

Machine - If you remember last year's game between these two teams, it ended with a fake field goal and a heart attack for Mark Dantonio. The Machine doesn't see things being quite as stressful this year, though it's possible Brian Kelly is hospitalized afterward. Michigan State destroys the Irish 54-17. Pick: Michigan State

Florida (-9 1/2) vs. Tennessee - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Florida's offense has looked pretty good through two games, even with John Brantley being John Brantley. Still, the Gators haven't faced much in the way of resistance in those first two contests. At the same time, Tennessee's defense doesn't really impress me, and the Gators are giving up 1.5 points per game. I have to go with that Florida defense at home in The Swamp. Pick: Florida

Woman - "MOVIE PREVIEW VOICEOVER: In a world where two brothers, Derek and Will, sons of Saban, an evil overlord, go their separate ways only to meet on the battlefield as adversaries, only one will prevail. And one will die. (Or fail to cover.)" Pick: Tennessee

Machine - Not even The Machine finds itself immune to the charm and wisdom of the great Derek Dooley and his orange pants. That being said, Dooley's charisma only carries him so far, as the Vols lose 29-21 but that's good enough for a cover. Pick: Tennessee

UCLA vs. Texas (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - This game should not be so hard to pick! On one side (Texas) there's a team looking for revenge, but one that's also on the road with two new quarterbacks making their first starts. On the other side is a team coached by Rick Neuheisel. I feel like this is a game that will end on a fumble that both teams fail to jump on ten times before somebody finally lands on it in the end zone. But who finally falls on it!? Oh man, I'll just take the home dog in this one, though I'm going to need to hold onto Rick's pistol while watching. Pick: UCLA

Woman - "I want to say UCLA (Lord knows, their student body has paid enough in increased tuition to earn a win), but they're struggling with injuries and a head coach whose playbook is more Chaka Khan than Genghis. Meanwhile, the Longhorns have some good ole fashioned on-the-road rage brewing against a team that embarrassed them last season. Clear eyes, furious hearts..." Pick: Texas

Machine - The Machine loves post-Garrett Gilbert Texas, and the Longhorns offense finally clicks in Los Angeles. Texas wins 30-6. Pick: Texas

Miami (-1 1/2) vs. Ohio State - Saturday, 7:30pm

Man - If history has taught me anything it's that giving up points with a team led by Jacory Harris is an extremely scary proposition, and every fiber of my being is telling me to stay away. Unfortunately, I just can't get over how unimposing Ohio State's offense looked last week under Joe Bauserman. So in Jacory I begrudgingly trust. Pick: Miami

Woman - "Buoyed by a home crowd and inspired by their new fight song, the U digs deep and wins the first annual NCAA Shame Bowl." Pick: Miami

Machine - The Machine sees a long day for Joe Bauserman, as he's sacked 4 times and throws 2 interceptions and no touchdowns. Jacory throws 2 interceptions of his own, but the 3 touchdowns help. Miami 27-7. Pick: Miami

Florida State vs. Oklahoma (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - College football just seems better when Florida State is really good, so part of me wants to pick the Seminoles in this one. Unfortunately, thanks to a fake Austin Box Twitter account and some rather unfortunate photoshops I've seen created by FSU fans this week, I'm going to side with karma and the team that had an extra week to prepare for this one. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "Another huge game. This one took me awhile. But then I realized it probably wasn't an accident FSU legend Bobby Bowden picked this week to go public with his successful battle against prostate cancer. And don't forget Chief Osceola, Renegade and 82,000 fans shaking the very foundation of Doak Campbell Stadium." Pick: Florida State

Machine - Attention Florida State: The Machine is impressed with the turnaround it has seen in Tallahassee the last few years, but it wants you to know there's still a lot of work left to do. Oklahoma wins 42-14. Pick: Oklahoma

Arizona vs. Stanford (-10 1/2) - Saturday, 10:45pm

Man - Stanford didn't exactly look like Stanford during the first half of its game against Duke last week, but then rolled in the second half. I have a feeling the Cardinal won't be as slow out of the gate on the road in its first conference game of the season, and the Andrew Luck Heisman campaign begins in full force this weekend. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "If this was a Beer Bong Smackdown, Stanford wouldn't stand a chance. But unless the Wildcats secondary can Krazy Glue itself to the prolific Cardinal tight ends - heck, even if it can - I don't see this ending any other way." Pick - Stanford

Machine - The Machine doesn't even think Stanford needs Andrew Luck that much this week, as Stepfan Taylor runs all over Arizona for 197 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Cardinal roll 47-17. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 18-7 (7-3)
2. Man 16-9 (8-2)
3. Machine 13-12 (2-8)
Posted on: September 15, 2011 2:24 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Each Thursday we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:




Mississippi State: can you finally avoid losing an SEC West game with turnovers and/or special teams breakdowns? More than a few wags skeptical of Dan Mullen's burgeoning reputation in Starkville have noted that he has yet to beat any division opponent other than downtrodden in-state rival Ole Miss, dropping to 0-9 after last week's loss in Auburn. But that agonizing defeat wasn't the first time Mullen has come tantalizingly close to making the breakthrough, and never has he been closer than LSU's last visit to Starkville.

In that 2009 meeting, the Bulldogs outgained the Bayou Bengals 374-263, held LSU to one (1!) yard per their 31 carries, and enjoyed a first-and-goal at the Tiger 2, down six, with under three minutes to play. But that possession ended with quarterback Tyson Lee tackled at the 1 on a botched option play (sound familiar?) and the Bulldogs fell 30-26. While much of the postgame chatter focused on that late goal-line failure, the larger story was State's four critical turnovers (one of them an interception returned for a touchdown) and a punt that bounced inside the 10 and was somehow still returned by LSU's Chad Jones for a backbreaking touchdown.

Those kinds of breakdowns have been a recurring theme for the Bulldogs, as last week's performance proved again. Chris Relf maybe could have scored on the game's final play, but the Bulldogs wouldn't have even been in that situation if Relf hadn't bounced a first-quarter pass off a defender's helmet (a pass eventually picked and housed), or if the Bulldogs hadn't allowed Auburn kick returner Tre Mason to repeatedly set his team up in excellent field position. Even in last year's 29-7 loss to LSU, the Bulldogs played the Tigers to a dead heat in the box score ... except for the 5-to-1 negative turnover margin that broke the game open.

With LSU's offense again unimpressive statistically in their week 1 win against Oregon (273 yards total, 3.9 yards per-play), Jarrett Lee unlikely to make major headway against a veteran Bulldog secondary, and State getting a boost from what should be a rabid Thursday night home crowd, the Bulldogs seem a good bet to once again play an SEC West opponent to a statistical stalemate ... or better. But if they once again lose the turnover and special teams battle that Les Miles's team specializes in winning, it's not going to matter any more than it did the first nine times.


Tyler Bray: can you do to the Gators anything like what you did to Cincinnati?
Let's be up front about this: Florida is going to score points against Tennessee Saturday. The injury-ridden, inexperienced Vol front seven gave up an incredible 6.4 yards per-carry against Cincinnati, and the combination of a revitalized-looking Gator offensive line and the Jeff Demps-Chris Rainey tag-team is far more fearsome than anything the Bearcats had to offer. And the Vols likely won't be able to answer with a strong ground game of their own; despite having faced Cincy and FCS Montana their first two weeks, Tennessee ranks dead-last in the SEC in yards-per-carry. Facing the Gators' loaded defensive front -- now including the newly-reinstated Sharrif Floyd -- is hardly going to be the cure for those issues.

Which means whatever hope the Vols have of keeping pace rests firmly on the shoulders of Bray. But to look at his remarkable performance last week -- 34-of-41, 405 yards, 4 TDs, no INTs -- he might be capable of fulfilling that hope all the same. It won't hurt that the matchup of dynamic sophomore duo of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers against a Gator secondary starting two true freshman is one that overwhelmingly favors the Vols.

Attempting to win a shootout on the road with a one-dimensional offense isn't the typical recipe for victory in the SEC. But if Bray comes out as on fire as he has been the first two weeks of this season, we're not going to put it past him.



Auburn's defense: are you actually improving? Ask any Auburn fan (or coach, or maybe even player) about the team's defense before the season, and they'd have told you that with just two starters back and underclassmen all over the two-deep, it was going to be a work-in-progress. But no one expected it to be quite as much "in progress" as it's been through two weeks; the Tiger D ranks last in the SEC in yards allowed per-game by nearly 100 yards over next-to-last-place Georgia.

Some of that is the quick pace of the Auburn offense, but much more of it is the Tiger defense's near-total inability to get off the field. Utah State converted a mind-boggling 13-of-20 third- and fourth-downs, and Mississippi State wasn't far behind after going 12-of-21. The result? Auburn's D has been on the field for 181 plays already this season, the highest total in the nation. Until the Tigers start getting some stops on third down -- despite the presence of pass-rushers Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae, Auburn has just two sacks on nearly 70 opponents' dropbacks -- the defense isn't going to get legitimately better, and eventually an opponent is going to make the Tigers pay for that weakness.

Clemson may or may not be that opponent; the South Carolina-bred Tigers have flashed issues of their own in sluggish wins over Troy and Wofford. But Chad Morris's Gus Malzahn-like offense should provide a good measuring stick regardless.

Also worth asking: Is Ole Miss, Vanderbilt or Kentucky the SEC's worst team? (With the Rebels and Commodores battling in Nashville and the Wildcats taking on a reeling Louisville team, someone is going to be a definitive No. 12 by the weekend's end.) What does Arkansas look like against an opponent that almost-sorta has a pulse? (Troy isn't great, but they're better than Missouri State or New Mexico. The Hogs should break a sweat, at least. Anything more could spell trouble down the road.) What on earth is Georgia going to do at inside linebacker? (Coastal Carolina won't be anything more than cannon fodder, but the Dawgs have to figure out what they have at their injury-gutted ILB positions.)

Posted on: September 14, 2011 6:53 pm
 

SEC RapidReport Roundup, 9/14: Gators ready

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Running down everything you need to know from the week's news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters.



FLORIDA. Just in time for the Gators to face their first opponent of 2011 with a definable pulse -- and judging by their comprehensive smackdown of Cincinnati, Tennessee has more than just a pulse at the moment -- Will Muschamp will have his most complete roster to date. Defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd will officially be in uniform after serving his NCAA-mandated two-game suspension, and running back Jeff Demps will be able to go after missing most of the Gators' drubbing of UAB with a shoulder problem.

"He's fine," Muschamp said of Demps. "He's playing. He's been practicing." The one question mark is backup linebacker Dee Finley, arrested earlier this week on multiple misdemeanor charges; Muschamp would not say whether Finley had been suspended or not.

TENNESSEE. On the other side of the rivalry, Derek Dooley has several nicked-up players -- including pivotal defensive back Prentiss Waggner -- practicing in non-contact jerseys, but only as a "precautionary" measure. For senior starting defensive end Ben Martin, though, even a precautionary non-contact jersey would be an improvement; an ankle injury means Dooley would "like to get 15 plays from him" but may have to keep him on the sideline entirely.

In other Vol lineup news, struggling freshman Justin Coleman is holding off senior Art Evans at starting corner ... for now. On the scheduling front, Tennessee will play third-year FCS program Georgia State in 2012.

AUBURN. Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris, the offensive coordinator for Auburn Week 3 opponent Clemson, have something unusual in common besides their similar schemes: both came up through the high school coaching ranks. Malzahn hopes the matchup will help other teams look at high school coaches when filling out their staffs. "Hopefully, things like this will give more high school coaches opportunities that we've been fortunate enough to both have," Malzahn said.

The Tigers have been using as many as 12 defensive linemen and won't change those plans against Clemson, though redshirt freshman end Justin Delaine's season-ending knee injury may limit that number by one. True freshman kickoff returner Tre Mason is hoping Clemson kicks to him after Mississippi State began using squib kicks last week.

SOUTH CAROLINA. Despite the Gamecocks' 2-0 record, Steve Spurrier isn't thrilled with his team's defense. "We don’t look like we know what we are doing or we have some bad players, one or the other," he said. "I have been reading about all these great athletes we have on defense, but we don’t play great that’s for sure right now." He had similar comments for his wide receivers, who he said "are getting a lot of publicity, but need to start doing something." Wideouts other than Alshon Jeffery have combined for only five receptions so far this season.

Despite the Gamecocks' struggles in the passing game (on both sides of the ball), Spurrier said he won't be rotating Stephen Garcia with Connor Shaw. "The competition was over," Spurrier said. "[Garcia]’s got every opportunity to take us as far as he can because we firmly believe he’s our best quarterback on the team."

ELSEWHERE: Alabama senior wide receiver Darius Hanks will return for the Tide's meeting with North Texas after missing the first two weeks with a redshirting issue. "I don’t think his transition back will be a problem," Nick Saban said ... Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden is surprisingly already practicing again after his broken ankle was found to be only a hairline fracture. Bolden could see the field as early as this week ...

Mississippi State
head coach Dan Mullen says his players have practiced "angry" this week after last week's loss to Auburn. "They felt we should have won that football game," he said ... As for the Bulldogs' Thursday night opponent, LSU head coach Les Miles would not rule out backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger making an apparance after a successful debut against Northwestern State. "I would anticipate playing Jarrett Lee really start to finish," Miles said, but added "You just never can tell when you may turn to him and see if we can get a hot hand and go." Lee is nursing an ankle injury but should be fine against MSU ...

Starting Georgia safety Shawn Williams could get a look at inside linebacker after the position has been hard-hit by injuries ... Vanderbilt's surprising recruiting renaissance has continued with the commitment of a top-25 wide receiver from Minnesota.
Posted on: September 8, 2011 10:59 am
Edited on: September 8, 2011 9:50 pm
 

Report: LSU WR Shepard serving 3-game suspension

Posted by Chip Patterson

UPDATE: The suspension and Shepard's eligibility for the West Virginia game were confirmed by Michael Bonnette, LSU's SID, on Thursday.

After uncertain compliance issues held LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard out of the Tigers' opener against Oregon, local reports suggest the talented wide receiver is serving a three-game suspension and will return for the Tigers Sept. 24 matchup with West Virginia.

Sources have confirmed to both The Times Picayune and the Associated Press that Shepard's punishment for violation of an NCAA rule will be three games, including the opener against the Ducks. Shepard jeopardized his eligibility by discussing the details of an NCAA investigation with teammate Craig Loston. The investigation was centered around the infamous Will Lyles, who was paid by LSU - along with Oregon, Cal, and others - for recruiting services.

The touted junior will be an immediate upgrade to the Tigers' offense, which currently lacks that big-play threat that you would want on a National Championship contender. Everything else about the Tigers' performance on Saturday suggested that they deserve to be in that discussion, but there was not evidence that the offense is prepared to put up points quickly. Getting him back for the trip to Morgantown to face Dana Holgorsen and the high-powered West Virginia offense could end up being a difference-maker in an otherwise trap-game scenario.
Posted on: September 6, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 7:17 pm
 

SEC Poll Reactions, Week 1

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the SEC fared, from the top of the polls to its bottom, and what it means.


LSU. The Tigers were this week's big SEC winners in the balloting, moving from fourth in both polls to third in the Coaches and leapfrogging Alabama for second in the AP. It's something of a surprising move by the media, given that the Crimson Tide were hardly disappointing in defeating Kent State 48-7. But as long as you're not a Tide fan, it's a welcome one; the more voters are willing to pay attention to strength-of-schedule over rote preseason positioning and cupcake victories, the better.

But it's possible Les Miles will wind up wishing the voters hadn't noticed that was Oregon his team was whipping Saturday night. If Oklahoma falls to Florida State in two weeks and the Tigers survive their Thursday night trip to Starkville that same weekend, LSU could move all the way up to No. 1--just in time for a potential ambush at West Virginia.

ALABAMA. Tide fans will no doubt be livid at the media's LSU bump, but in the end, it doesn't much matter. The Tide will have ample opportunity to leapfrog the Tigers themselves this Saturday, when they travel to Penn State for one of the week's highest-profile matchups. LSU? They'll be busy getting a light workout against FCS Northwestern State, a team the Tigers have outscored 417-0 in 10 all-time meetings.

If Alabama can put together its own dominating performance against a name-brand opponent while the Bayou Bengals are off the radar, it won't be surprising if the Tide regain the No. 2 slot in both polls. (As for overtaking the Sooners, it won't happen for either team until at least OU's trip to Tallahassee; the margin in No. 1 votes seems far too wide still for either team to make the top slot without an Oklahoma loss.)

SOUTH CAROLINA.
The Connor Shaw experiment is over, but it may not have passed by without costing the Gamecocks some standing in the polls; Carolina was jumped over by Virginia Tech, overpowering winners over FCS power Appalachian State. Voters may have been punishing the Gamecocks for their slow Shaw-led start against East Carolina, one that led to a 17-0 deficit before a 56-14 gave SC a comfortable 19-point victory.

Frankly, we'll take a 19-point win over a potential Conference USA bowl team over a victory over an FCS team by any margin, even one as respected as Appalachian State. But the voters feeling otherwise hasn't done any real damage to the Gamecocks; they maintained their No. 12 spot despite the Tech preference, thanks to the Ducks falling all the way to No. 13.

ARKANSAS. Our personal opinion is that the Hogs are too low at No. 13 (Coaches) and No. 14 (AP), and having them ranked behind Oregon after the Ducks' relatively meek performance vs. LSU seems particularly shortsighted. But Arkansas also can't have any complaints about not moving up when their opener came against hapless FCS opponent Missouri State.

MISSISSIPPI STATE.
The Bulldogs were another big mover for the SEC, leaping from 20th in each poll to 16th in the AP and 17th in the Coaches. That (and ranking higher than a Baylor team with TCU's scalp already on its wall) seems like quite a reward for beating a terrible Memphis team, but when you score 58 points and put up a school-record 645 total yards, some commendation is certainly in order.

FLORIDA.
The Gators moved up four places in the AP and a full five in the Coaches to rank No. 18 in both--as with the Bulldogs, quite a bump for dismantling a Sun Belt also-ran like FAU. Teams like Baylor and South Florida have no doubt accomplished more. But even after the 8-5 disappointment of a year ago, clearly the Gators' cachet remains mostly intact. Then again, after seeing Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey run wild against the Owls, Florida's ceiling does seem high enough to justify a top-20 position.

AUBURN. The Tigers paid for their stunningly close call against Utah State by dropping out of the AP poll entirely, and slipping three places to No. 22 in the Coaches. On the one hand, this seems like a stunning amount of disrespect for a team that's won 16 straight games and won the national title less than nine months ago. On the other, the Tigers simply didn't look anything like a top-25 team against the Aggies, and when teams like USC (in the AP) and USF (in the coaches) remain unranked, at least they've got good company.

On top of that, only one more week will solve the pollsters' dilemma of what to do with the Tigers. If Auburn beats Mississippi State Saturday, it will certainly -- and justifiably -- return to both polls. If the Tigers lose, they will certainly and justifably be unranked in both.

GEORGIA. The Bulldogs naturally dropped out of both polls after their comprehensive defeat against Boise State; that they're still receiving a smattering of votes in each poll is surprising, and not particularly sensible. Beat Carolina, and the Dawgs can bark.

EVERYONE ELSE. Tennessee received a tiny handful of points in both polls. It makes sense, but they're getting fewer than Georgia; Montana or not, we'd still take the Vols' convincing W over the Dawgs' deeply worrying L.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com