Tag:Ole Miss
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 9, 2011 3:02 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 2

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.

Admittedly the menu this week is not as artery-clogging as last week's, but that's probably a good thing. After the five-day all-you-can-eat buffet that was the first week of the season, we should all eat a bit lighter this week. Of course, just because we won't be feasting on meals guaranteed to shorten our life spans, that doesn't mean there aren't some tasty entrees at our disposal.

Let's take a look at what we have to dine on this Saturday.

BREAKFAST

#8 Wisconsin vs. Oregon State - ESPN 12pm ET

It's hard to imagine two seasons starting in such opposite directions. Oregon State dropped an overtime thriller to Sacramento State, while Wisconsin breezed to victory over UNLV. If these teams play at the same level tomorrow, this could be a historic blowout. And we all like watching touchdowns by the bucket, don't we? - Adam Jacobi

#17 Michigan State vs. FAU - ESPN2 12pm ET

Howard Schnellenberger's five-game road trip to kick off his farewell season rolls into Detroit to face a Spartan team looking to rebound from a sluggish start. This was supposed to be a home game for FAU, but with the $70-million stadium in Boca Raton still under construction the contest was moved to Ford Field.  After coaching from the press box last week due to complications from hip surgery, Schnellenberger will return to the sideline and try to inspire more than 137 yards of offense for the Owls.  Michigan State fans will also want to see more cohesion out of the Spartans, who committed eight penalties and never really hit their stride against an inferior Youngstown State squad. - Chip Patterson

Auburn vs. #16 Mississippi State - SEC Network 12:21pm ET 

It won't have the divisional title implications of the Georgia-South Carolina matchup, but both the Tigers and Bulldogs will be fighting every bit as tooth-and-nail for a victory here as their Eastern counterparts will later in the day. Dan Mullen's State team wants to cement its status as a legitimate West division factor but simply can't without a win over the brutally inexperienced Tigers; Auburn, meanwhile, is in desperate danger of being branded a one-year wonder if they follow up their escape from Utah State with a loss in one of the most winnable games on their SEC slate. - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

#23 Penn State vs. #3 Alabama - ABC 3:30pm ET

If Penn State fans want some respect from the national media for this team, the Nittany Lions are going to have to earn it on the national stage, hosting No. 2 Alabama. The Tide is loaded again this year, but like PSU, there's some QB drama at Bama. Watch to see if McCarron or whoever else the Tide throws out there on Saturday can handle what promises to be a maniacally loud Beaver Stadium. - AJ

#13 Oregon vs. Nevada - FX 3:30pm ET

After getting embarrassed by LSU's defense in the opener, I expect Mark Helfrich to have the attack meter all the way turned up against the Wolf Pack. Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and Co. have not derailed from their 2010 form, it just seems these massive SEC defenses are the Ducks' kryptonite.  After a frustrating loss, coaches will want to take advantage of every single snap against their next opponent.  You will want to watch this game because Oregon will put the foot on the gas pedal (Cliff Harris!) and never let up for four quarters. - CP 

Air Force vs. #25 TCU - Versus 3:30pm ET

You can be sure that TCU didn't exactly enjoy having the entire country see Baylor tear its defense apart last Friday, and the unit is going to look to save some face against Air Force on Saturday afternoon. This game will also mark the beginning of the final year of Mountain West conference play for the Horned Frogs, and I'm sure they'd like to go out with quite a bang. - Tom Fornelli

Georgia vs. #12 South Carolina - ESPN 4:30pm ET

Well, this is it: the defining game of Mark Richt's Georgia tenure. Lose it, and any shred of momentum from the "Dream Team" offseason or hope of a divisional title (most likely) is gone. Win it, and the Dawgs suddenly sit in the East catbird seat with the SEC's easiest schedule on tap. It's either the miserable end for one of the sport's most visible coaches, or the giddy start to a stunning reclamation project, with no in-between ... and Stephen Garcia's involved, too. A must-watch. - JH

DINNER

#24 Texas vs. BYU - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Big 12 of the future! Does BYU win the game in hopes of gaining a Big 12 invite, or does it show its true Big 12 street cred by allowing Texas to walk all over it? Tune in to find out! Seriously, though, this will be a much better indication of how improved Texas is this year than last week's game against Rice. BYU is fresh off a nice road win against Ole Miss and should provide a much tougher test for the Longhorns. - TF

USC vs. Utah - Versus 7:30pm ET

The Pac-12 officially kicks off conference play and it should be a good one as former BCS busters Utah will try and prove they can play with the conference's most storied program from the get-go. USC's record-setting pair of quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods won't have much time to throw the ball around as the Utes have a very good front seven this year. Old friend Norm Chow also returns to the Coliseum, this time with a solid quarterback in Jordan Wynn, so it should be a fun league opener. - Bryan Fischer

Michigan vs. Notre Dame - ESPN 8pm ET

The first night game in the history of the Big House has plenty to offer everyone. How will Michigan's defense perform this week now that it might have to play an entire 60 minutes, and do so against a Notre Dame offense that features a lot more weapons than Western Michigan's did. Also, will Denard Robinson have an encore performance of his game against the Irish last year? That's the one that made him a household name last September when he accounted for 502 yards of total offense and 3 touchdowns. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

UCLA vs. San Jose State - 10pm ET

Rick Neuheisel cares. He might be the only one at UCLA who cares, but he really does care passionately about his alma matter. The Bruins hope to turn things around after their disappointing loss to Houston in which the defense looked like a mess. San Jose State isn't the most appealing opponent but it's the only late night game on Saturday and the Bruins should get the offense going no matter who's in the backfield. - BF
Posted on: September 8, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 5:44 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 2

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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




Mike Bobo: do you know what you're doing with an up-tempo shotgun offense?  After rumblings from fall camp that Georgia would unveil a no-huddle spread offense gainst Boise State, the Bulldogs didn't quite go the full Dana Holgorsen ... but they definitely flirted with it, breaking away from their traditional pro-style I-formation look for a multitude of quick snaps, multi-receiver sets, and shotgun handoffs. The results were occasionally spectacular (see Brandon Boykin's 80-yard touchdown run) but more frequently sputterrific (see the other 25 rushes for all of 57 yards, or Boise's six sacks).

So why the change? "We wanted to get more plays, which we didn’t do on Saturday,” Bulldog coordinator Bobo said. “But we’re committed to doing it, and more plays equals more opportunities, and more chances to score.”

This is true, technically speaking. A faster tempo does lead to more possessions and plays packed into a game, and more scoring chances. But that's true for both teams, not just the one running the no-huddle; barring onside kick shenanigans or the occasional odd break at the end of a half, possessions in football are always going to be equal. For seasoned practitioners of the no-huddle like Holgorsen or Gus Malzahn, tempo is partially about giving their offense as many opportunities as possible, but it's also about making it more efficient by keeping an opposing defense off-balance and wearing it down over the course of 60 minutes.

Bobo is not one of those seasoned practitioners. As the Athens Banner-Herald points out, in 2010 Georgia ran fewer plays than any other team in the SEC. Suddenly lurching into a part-time, only-half-committed shotgun spread outfit seems from here to be a good way to neither execute that plan well nor the Bulldogs' traditional power-running and play-action bread-and-butter. One Georgia blogger has cleverly referred to Bobo's plan as the Cheesecake Factory offense--one that attempts to do everything, and in the end does none of it well enough to win.

Mark Richt, for what it's worth, is firmly on board with Bobo's approach. But if it doesn't pay far more dividends against South Carolina than it did against Boise (and if there's a bigger red flag than giving up six sacks to the Broncos the week before facing Devin Taylor, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney, we haven't seen it), Richt may pay for that support with an 0-2 start and the hottest seat in the country.



Auburn's defensive line: what can you do with Mississippi State? The surprising thing about Utah State's 84-play slice-and-dice job on the Tiger defense wasn't the 22-of-31 passing from true freshman Chuckie Keeton, or the resulting 13-of-20 mark for the Aggies on third- and fourth-down conversions; Ted Roof's Tiger teams have always had issues with a tight, controlled passing game like USU's. But they've also usually been stout enough against the run to make up for that Achilles heel -- Auburn led the SEC in rush defense last year -- making the true stunner the Aggies' 227 yards on the ground.

Unfortunately for Roof and the Tigers, things only get tougher this week. State boasts the league's best dual-threat quarterback in Chris Relf, a veteran line featuring three senior starters, Dan Mullen's tried-and-true option schemes, and one of the nation's most underrated tailbacks in Vick Ballard. Even Auburn is obviously a far cry from Memphis, but the 309 rushing yards and 8.1 yard per-carry average racked up by the Bulldogs in Week 1 still make for a hell of a warning shot across the bow of the Tiger front seven.

That front seven should get a boost with the return of suspended senior linebacker Eltoro Freeman, and Roof's long track record of run-stuffing success suggests some level of improvement is due. But the Tiger front remains so young -- all four starting defensive linemen are sophomores -- that it will take a major, major leap forward for Auburn to avoid getting steamrolled. Are they up to it?



Alabama: is your offense good enough to stake a claim to No. 1? Maybe we'll be proven wrong about this. But the guess here is that despite the change of venue to Happy Valley, there won't be any more competitive drama in Saturday's Alabama-Penn State clash than there was in last year's 24-3 Tide throttling in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban's loaded roster of future pros dominated the Nittany Lions physically in nearly every aspect of the 2010 meeting, and that's not a problem we see Joe Paterno repairing in the space of one offseason.

Which means the burning question is one of degree: does the Tide offense have the chops to go on the road and put together a performance worthy of putting the team in the top-of-the-polls discussion? Underrated though Kent State's defense may be (10th in FBS total defense in 2010), the Tide still looked surprisingly sloppy on attack, despite the 48-7 final. The quarterbacks threw four interceptions; the offensive line missed a handful of assignments; the Tide receivers and quarterbacks put the ball on the ground four times.

Were those opening-week jitters ... or something more serious that might deprive the Tide of championships once the 2011 season is finished? A dominant performance against a Lion team with plenty of questions of its own in the front seven would go a long way towards affirming it was the former.

Also worth asking: Can Tennessee's Janzen Jackson-less secondary hold up against Cincinnati's lively passing game? (The league's most underrated Week 2 matchup could be decided here.) Can Vanderbilt  look like a real team another real team? (Despite their 45-14 win over FCS Elon, the 'Dores were outgained by 14 yards. Jury's well out.) Will Kentucky or Ole Miss show any signs of life on offense? (If the 'Cats and Rebels can't get better against Central Michigan and Southern Illinois, respectively, it's going to be a long season.)
Posted on: September 7, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 2:51 pm
 

SEC expansion: Who's No. 14?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Baylor's
last-ditch legal effort to save the Big 12 is cute and all, but let's be realistic: Texas A&M to the SEC is something that A&M wants, the SEC wants, and even the Big 12 seems to want in an effort to put the Aggies behind them. Baylor, being Baylor, is not going to be able to hold back a tide that strong for very long. (For a visual representation of the effectiveness of the Bears' efforts, click here.*)

Which means, yes, A&M is going to become SEC school No. 13 and yes, before long the SEC is going to add school No. 14. No. 14 may not be able to join the Aggies in their new digs as soon as 2012 (it's possible -- arguably even likely at this late stage -- the SEC goes one season with an unbalanced divisional setup), but there's no way Mike Slive and Co. will stay at 13 one day longer than they have to.

So who's got next in the SEC expansion race? Breaking down the candidates in no particular order (and reminding you that a "gentleman's agreement" is in place that will prevent any expansion into states where the SEC already has a school):

MISSOURI

Pros: Excellent academics is a major plus for SEC presidents. Ties to both St. Louis and Kansas City television markets. Could be a candidate for Big Ten expansion as well. Well-supported basketball program.

Cons: Despite recent successes, not a traditionally nationally-relevent football program. Zero competitive history with any current SEC member and not even much with A&M. Little to gain in SEC recruiting by expanding to Missouri. Debatable how much impact in those major markets Mizzou actually has. Trickier to add team to West than East; would either require ignoring geography or moving current West team (Auburn?**) to the East.

WEST VIRGINIA

Pros:
Rabidly supported, traditionally strong football program with plenty of success vs. SEC. Hoops program would give SEC a boost, too. Adding school for East division would bring geographic balance opposite A&M.

Cons: Not connected to any major market and expanding into West Virginia does nothing for SEC recruiting. Presidents sensitive to SEC's reputation may not want a university not considered a strong academic school.

N.C. STATE

Pros:
Access to Raleigh TV market and fertile North Carolina recruiting grounds. More geographically accessible than other candidates. "Sleeper" football program enjoys high level of financial/fan support. Would join the East.

Cons: Despite that support, school has rarely fielded championship-level teams and won't move national needle. Academics aren't a minus, but may not be a Mizzou-style plus, either.

VIRGINIA TECH

Pros:
Most powerful, recognizable football program among potential/likely candidates; would hypthetically compete for East championships from moment of arrival. Sizable (if not national) following in Virginia and along Eastern seaboard. Could offer potential inroads in Virginia recruiting. Would join the East.

Cons: Swears up and down school is loyal to ACC. No real history with any SEC school.

OKLAHOMA

Pros:
Just hear out the scenario here: with the Sooners poised to force Texas's hand by jumping to the Pac-12 -- taking Oklahoma State with them and destroying the Big 12 in the process -- Mike Slive makes a preemptive strike against the potential Longhorn/Sooner Pac-16 by inviting the Sooners, Cowboys, and a third Big 12 castoff (Mizzou?) to form a 16-team SEC. Auburn and Alabama both move East and leaving the new SEC West looking like this: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Missouri. The blockbuster move secures the SEC a gigantic new TV rights deal, keeps the Sooners and Aggies out from under the Longhorns' thumb, and even approaches competitive divisional balance.

Cons: This is exceedingly unlikely.

But if Texas really is planning to join the Sooners in the Pac-12, that may be Slive's best option. With all due respect to the other four teams mentioned here, not one is a slam-dunk choice to justify its addition as a 14th team, much less a 15th or 16th if Larry Scott's new league redefines the college landscape. When all is said and done, the guess here is that either Missouri (or possibly N.C. State) gets the invite ... and then the SEC stops to catch its breath to figure out if 16 is a luxury or a necessity.

*Via CBSSports.com's own Will Brinson.

**The Tigers are the easternmost West team and most of their traditional rivalries -- Georgia, Tennessee, Florida -- are in the East. The issue would be what to do with the Iron Bowl with Auburn and Alabama in separate divisions; would the league risk having the Tigers and Tide play each other on consecutive weeks?




Posted on: September 5, 2011 7:09 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 7:25 pm
 

An SEC team in Big 10 country is pretty rare

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The SEC has, perhaps rightfully so, taken flak over the years for their non-conference scheduling philosophy. Yes, the league is tough but there are only so many directional schools a team can play. That's what makes this week's match up between Penn State and Alabama so rare. Two power conference teams playing each other and, perhaps most notably, the SEC team traveling to Big Ten country.

This will be the 15th meeting between the two schools but the first time ever the Crimson Tide will travel to Happy Valley when Penn State is a member of the Big Ten conference, previous trips north were when the Nittany Lions were a football independent. Even more interesting due is the fact that this is the first time Alabama has played at a Big Ten team while a member of the SEC. Yes, the first time ever.

That got me to thinking (and researching), when was the last time the rest of the SEC teams played at a Big Ten opponent? Turns out, only Kentucky and Vanderbilt have been willing to play up north during the regular season. The pair are actually the only SEC teams to play at a Big Ten school in the last 23 years until the Tide take the field on Saturday.

Here's the full list of when every current SEC team last played at a Big Ten team during the regular season:

Alabama

at Wisconsin, Nov. 3, 1928, lost 15-0. (Alabama did not join the SEC until 1932)

Arkansas

at Iowa, Oct. 3, 1925, lost 28-0. (Arkansas did not join the SEC until 1991)

Auburn

at Wisconsin, Oct. 10, 1931, tied 7-7.  (Auburn did not join the SEC until 1932)

Florida

at Northwestern, Sep. 18, 1965, won 24-14.

Georgia

at Michigan, Oct. 2, 1965, won 15-7.

Kentucky

at Indiana, Sep. 19, 2005, lost 38-14.

LSU

at Ohio State, Sep. 24, 1988, lost 36-33.

Ole Miss

at Minnesota, Nov. 5, 1932, lost 26-0. (Ole Miss did not join the SEC until 1932)

Mississippi State

at Illinois, Oct. 4, 1980, won 28-21.

South Carolina

at Michigan, Sep. 27, 1980, won 17-4 (South Carolina did not join the SEC until 1991)

Tennessee

Never played at a Big Ten school.

Vanderbilt

at Michigan, Sep. 2, 2006, lost 27-7.



Posted on: September 5, 2011 12:58 pm
 

SEC injuries: Rebels' Bolden, UGA's Ogletree out

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Georgia
and Ole Miss both suffered demoralizing losses on the field Saturday, and even worse for Mark Richt and Houston Nutt, a pair of key injuries have been added to those insults.

In Athens, sophomore linebacker Alec Ogletree had been one of the stars of the Bulldogs' offseason after his move from safety. But Ogletree broke his foot against Boise State and will be out four-to-six weeks, Richt said.

"That's a big blow," Richt added. "With the depth we have there, we couldn’t afford that type of injury." Senior walk-on Jeremy Sulek replaced Ogletree against the Broncos, tying for the team lead with seven tackles. But freshman Amarlo Herrera and junior Mike Gilliard will have a chance to compete for the job this week as the Bulldogs prepare for South Carolina.

But if Ogletree's injury hurts, the one suffered by Rebel running back Brandon Bolden could be downright devastating. With nearly 1,600 career yards under his belt and a veteran offensive line in front of him, the senior was expected to be the linchpin of the Ole Miss offense and a potential All-SEC-caliber performer for an attack that desperately needed one.

But Bolden left the Rebels' 14-13 loss to BYU with an ankle injury after just four carries, and Nutt told reporters afterward that he believed Bolden had fractured the ankle.

Bolden is scheduled for an MRI that could rule him out for the season. He was replaced against the Cougars by backups Jeff Scott and Enrique Davis, who each left Saturday's game for periods with injuries. But both are believed to be healthy enough to play this week, when the Rebels take on FCS Southern Illinois.

Sitting at 0-1 following disappointing 2010 seasons and with their coaches under fire, neither the Bulldogs nor Rebels look capable of affording any further setbacks. But unless they can find quality replacements for Ogletree and Bolden, they may find out exactly how capable they are.

 
 
 
 
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