Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Vanderbilt
Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:20 pm
 

SEC RapidReport Roundup: It's all on Lattimore

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).



SOUTH CAROLINA. It doesn't seem possible that Marcus Lattimore could take on even more of a burden for the Gamecock offense, but that's how things look as his team prepares for Saturday's visit from Auburn. Lattimore's top two backups are both doubtful for the game with injuries; Kenny Miles is struggling with a sprained wrist, third-stringer Eric Baker might miss the game as well, and freshman Shon Carson tore his ACL in mid-September. Freshman Brandon Wilds could be the only scholarship running back available for Steve Spurrier other than Lattimore, but even if Baker is healthy, the junior has just five carries combined the previous three seasons.

Lattimore already leads the nation in rushing attempts with a whopping 26.75 per game. But given the problems Carolina must deal with when either anyone other then Lattimore rushes the ball or Stephen Garcia drops back to pass, that workload doesn't seem likely at all to decrease this week.

In other Gamecock news, true freshman receiver Damiere Byrd will make his long-awaited debut this week after all. His four-game NCAA suspension has been served, but in midweek Spurrier said he hadn't been "cleared" just yet. Now he has.

AUBURN. If the Gamecocks start to feel sorry for themselves, though, all they'll have to do is look to the opposite sideline this week. After already losing receiver Trovon Reed to a shoulder injury for this week and possibly longer, the Tigers also confirmed this week that defensive end Dee Ford will miss the remainder of the season with a herniated disk. Though technically a backup, Ford was the only junior in the entire Tiger defensive line's two-deep; his spot in the rotation will be filled by two players with a combined 23 career snaps.

It's those kinds of defensive issues that have forced Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn to slow down Malzahn's preferred up-tempo style during his Auburn tenure; the Tigers have averaged only one more play per-game under Malzahn than they did in the 12 seasons before his arrival.

OLE MISS. Things in Oxford are ugly off the field, with the Ole Miss chancellor himself writing open letters in response to anonymous "threats" and the Rebel community seemingly divided over the status of athletic director Pete Boone and coach Houston Nutt. But they might be even uglier on it right now, which is why Randall Mackey seems set to become the Rebels' third starter under center in five games as the Rebels travel to take on Fresno State.

And speaking of ugly, more than a few wags on Twitter had something to say about Nutt's decision to wear a flat-brimmed blue baseball cap during his team's loss to Georgia. He explained himself in straightforward fashion this week: he wanted to protect his face from the sun, and he couldn't wear both his preferred straw hat and a headset at the same time. Works for us.



ARKANSAS. Even after losing Tenarius Wright for 4-to-6 weeks, there is some good news for the Hogs on the injury front. Senior corner Isaac Madison is expected to play against Texas A&M after leaving the Alabama game with an injury, and running back Broderick Green has made startling progress from the ACL tear suffered during spring practice--so much progress that Green is already practicing and is now expected before the season's end, possibly as soon as this week.

On the downside, defensive coordinator Willy Robinson is less-than-thrilled with the performance of senior safety Tramain Thomas at the moment. "I'm not going to sit down there and allow what was going on during the course of the game to continue, so I made a switch there," Robinson said of pulling Thomas against Alabama. "This week he knows he's under fire, and he'd better give us better effort."

ELSEWHERE: Nick Saban said five-star running back recruit Dee Hart has made substantial progress since preseason ACL surgery, but remains highly likely to redshirt ... Vanderbilt starting linebacker Tristan Strong will miss the rest of the 2011 season after tearing an ACL against South Carolina. He was third on the team in tackles ...

Georgia
linebacker Christian Robinson is expecting to play "15-20 plays" in his return from injury. His partner in rehab? None other than Barbara Dooley, who Robinson promised he'd wear Derek Dooley-style orange pants if his Dawgs beat Derek's Vols later this season ... After initially asking to leave the team, Bulldog backup running back Ken Malcome changed his mind and rejoined the squad on Thursday ...

Tennessee freshman running back and returner Devrin Young is set to make his season debut after missing the Volunteers' first three games with a broken collarbone ... Fans at the Vols' game against Buffalo will be able to wave pink shakers in exhcnage for a donation to breast cancer research ... Mississippi State isn't unhappy with defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd, but would like to see more production from them all the same ... Why, yes, Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders is "frustrated" with his team's offensive struggles. We doubt you're surprised.

Posted on: September 30, 2011 3:19 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 4:41 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 5

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. 

I respect you all too much to lie to you, so I'll be upfront about the fact that outside of our dinner menu this week, we're a little light on the calories this weekend. Yes, having a matchup between two ranked non-conference opponents to kick things off in the morning is a wonderful way to start you day, but after that, it's kinda thin.

Of course, none of this means you shouldn't eat lunch. Many times the simplest meals turn out to be the best ones of the day. So keep an open eye while perusing this week's Meal Plan.

BREAKFAST

#18 Arkansas vs. #14 Texas A&M (in Dallas) - ESPN 12pm ET

The final meeting between these two schools as non-conference foes, and both teams are coming into the game with a bit of a limp. Texas A&M blew a halftime lead at home against Oklahoma State last weekend, and Arkansas did not enjoy its trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama. What better way to move on from a defeat than by beating one of your oldest rivals? It's not often that we're given a matchup like this so early in the morning, so take advantage of it while you can. - Tom Fornelli

#24 Illinois vs. Northwestern - ESPN2 12pm ET

You want points? You're going to get points. Northwestern finally welcomes 2010 dynamo Dan Persa back from his Achilles injury, and the Illinois pass/option attack led by Nathan Scheelhaase has led the Illini to over 32 points a game -- and a 4-0 record. Both teams are looking to make a darkhorse run at their respective Big Ten division crowns, and each would welcome a hard-fought win to begin the conference slate. I know it's an early kickoff, but don't sleep on this game. - Adam Jacobi

Navy vs. Air Force - CBS 12pm ET

Restaurants of all kinds tend to offer "alternative" meals for customers, so think of this matchup of two of our nation's military branches to be our vegan offering of the week. Just replace animal products with passing game, and that's exactly what this is. When these two teams meet it's like looking through a window back in time as both teams employ option attacks. - TF

LUNCH

#10 South Carolina vs. Auburn - CBS 3:30pm ET

Neither team enters this game feeling particularly good about itself, not after the Tigers wheezed their way past an awful FAU team 30-16 and Carolina watched Stephen Garcia throw four hideous interceptions against Vanderbilt. But given Auburn's persistent tackling issues, even Garcia shouldn't be able to keep Marcus Lattimore from racking up another Heisman-type day on the ground. - Jerry Hinnen

Kansas State vs. #15 Baylor - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

I don't think many people saw this game on the schedule at the beginning of the year and envisioned a battle of unbeatens in Manhattan, but that's exactly what we're getting. Even if that weren't the case, this one would still be worthy of your attention for the prospect of seeing Robert Griffin play football for three hours on its own. It's the first time Griffin and Baylor have had to venture outside of Waco this season, so it'll be interesting to see how he performs in hostile territory. - TF

Ohio State vs. Michigan State - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

The Big Ten's night game is going to get all the attention, but this game could prove to be the most ruinous for whoever loses it. Michigan State is reeling after seeing its vaunted offensive attack shut down by Notre Dame's, um, inconsistent defense. Meanwhile, OSU hasn't looked great since Week 2, and if Braxton Miller can't get the Buckeyes moving against the MSU defense, that QB controversy is firing right back up and we haven't seen the last of Joe Bauserman. - AJ

N.C. State vs. #21 Georgia Tech - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

The days of Paul Johnson's offense being defined as "three yards and a cloud of dust" are long gone in Atlanta.  The Rambling Wreck lead the nation in plays of 30 yards or more, and they passed their first conference test putting up 312 rushing yards against North Carolina's touted front seven. N.C. State did not pass their first conference test, allowing 438 yards of total offense against Wake Forest.  The Wolfpack are banged up on defense, and enter the game with only one of their top three running backs (not good for keeping the opposing offense off the field).  But Tom O'Brien's squad had their number a year ago in Atlanta, forcing some turnovers and blocking a punt on the way to a 45-28 win.  Unfortunately for the struggling Wolfpack, the Yellow Jackets remember that game all too well. - Chip Patterson

DINNER

#11 Virginia Tech vs. #13 Clemson - ESPN2 6pm ET

Two undefeated Top 15 ACC foes face off under the lights in Lane Stadium, and both have a lot to prove in this game.  The Hokies haven't been tested by any kind of noteworthy competition, and the development of sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas has taken a bit longer than some expected.  Clemson, on the other hand, is trying to win their third straight game against a ranked opponent - something an ACC member school has never done.  But the Tigers' undefeated record has all come in the comfy confines of Death Valley.  Before anyone anoints Dabo Swinney's squad as contenders, they need to prove themselves on the road.  Chad Morris' offense against Bud Foster's defense.  The young Dabo Swinney against the winningest active coach in the conference.  It's the premiere game in the conference and should live up to the hype.  Make sure you tune in early for a chance to see "Enter Sandman" in action. - CP

Iowa State vs. #17 Texas - FX 7pm ET

Another battle of unbeatens in the Big 12 takes place in Ames on Saturday night. Normally a matchup between Texas and Iowa State wouldn't seem like something you'd want to try, but remember that Iowa State went into Austin last season and beat the Longhorns. So Texas is going to want to return the favor this season, and if either team wants to have any legitimate chance to win the Big 12 this season, then this is one they'll have to win. - TF

#12 Florida vs. #3 Alabama - CBS 8pm ET

Another week, another serious challenge to Alabama's potential national title campaign. And given the environment (as hostile as you'll see in college football this season, most likely), the weaponry on the opponent's defensive line (Ronald Powell, Jaye Howard, Sharrif Floyd, etc.), and the big-play capability represented by Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, the Gators should prove an even more substantial challenge than Arkansas did. But it's going to take the performance of John Brantley's life to keep the Tide from collapsing on Demps and Rainey, and something similar from the Gator back seven to keep Trent Richardson from uncorking another 60-plus-yard game-changing run. Are they up to it? - JH

#7 Wisconsin vs. #8 Nebraska - ABC 8pm ET

Saturday is the day of reckoning for one of the Big Ten's two divisional favorites; Nebraska is ranked eighth, but has not looked like a world-beater in any of its non-conference games, whereas No. 7 Wisconsin has rolled in early play, but against clearly inferior competition. Wisconsin's the only team of the two that's been able to run and pass at will, but with Nebraska's defense at its healthiest all year, it remains to be seen whether the Badgers can move the ball reliably this week. What a great way to finish the first week of Big Ten play. - AJ [Video Preview]

LATE NIGHT SNACK

#6 Stanford vs. UCLA - FSN 10:30pm ET

Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel said earlier in the week that one of the biggest differences between his program and what the Cardinal have been doing is easy: Andrew Luck. No doubt Rick, no doubt. The Heisman front runner should enjoy facing a UCLA defense ranked 98th in the country. This is also Stanford's first game without linebacker Shayne Skov so keep an eye on how they handle UCLA's Pistol offense. - Bryan Fischer [Video Preview]
Posted on: September 29, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 12:14 am
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 5


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.

Good news, my fellow containers of the Y chromosome: while we have yet to overtake her, we have crept ever closer to Woman this week in the standings. Woman is reeling from her first losing week of the season, and it has her shaken to the core. She's looking over her shoulder and she sees us drawing nearer. Her confidence is shaken. 

She knows it's only a matter of time before Man rises up and takes his rightful place atop the throne.

And that time is now.

Pitt vs. South Florida (-2 1/2) - Thursday, 8pm (All Times Eastern)

Man - Is there anything more exciting than the beginning of Big East football season? Of course there is, in fact, there are a lot of things more exciting. I'll still watch anyway, and since I had to suffer through 60 minutes of a Pitt game last weekend, I'm picking South Florida on principle. Pick: South Florida

Woman - "Skip Holtz's Bulls smacked Notre Dame around who, in turn, smacked Pitt around.  That should make this pick easy but a short week + travel for South Florida and Heinz Field + two embarrassing losses in a row + points for the Panthers makes me waver.  (By the way, am I the last person to realize the Holtz family are living the song 'SKIP to my LOU'?  Ewwww.)" Pick: Pitt

Machine - The Machine foresees a bad night for B.J. Daniels in Ketchup Stadium on Thursday night, as he throws 3 costly interceptions and the Panthers emerge victorious, 27-20. Pick: Pitt

Michigan (-20 1/2) vs. Minnesota - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This is a tough one to call. Not because I don't think Michigan is going to win, but because I'm not sure I trust Michigan's defense enough to give up nearly three touchdowns in the spread. Though I suppose that if Michigan could beat San Diego State by 21, then it should be able to handle Minnesota. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "Ah, yes, that storied rivalry known as the Little Brown Jug Bowl. Word is, next year they're changing it to the 'Little Brown Change Dish You Made for Your Dad at Summer Camp'.Bowl." Pick: Michigan

Machine - It seems the Machine is more committed to making Denard Robinson a pocket passer than Brady Hoke is, as Robinson throws for over 300 yards while rushing for only 27. Michigan wins rather easily, but Minnesota covers the spread, 38-20. Pick: Minnesota

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - The last meeting between these two teams before they're conference rivals once again. I picked Texas A&M to end its losing streak against Oklahoma State last week, and the Aggies let me down. I don't know if I'm ready to make that mistake again. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "'Welcome to the SEC, Aggies! Please accept these brass knuckles in your nether regions from Bobby Petrino.' 'Why, thank you, Razorbacks! Please enjoy our blood curdling practice cheers outside your hotel window at 3am.'" Pick: Texas A&M

Machine - You may want to reconsider the SEC, Aggies. The Machine tells us of a ritual sacrifice taking place in Dallas on Saturday morning, as Arkansas wins 42-21. Pick: Arkansas

Illinois (-6 1/2) vs. Northwestern - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I was at the meeting between these two teams last season at Wrigley Field and I still remember Mikel LeShoure running wild on the Northwestern defense. I'm not a big fan of trusting Ron Zook with anything, but even if Dan Persa does play this weekend, he's going to have a bit of rust to shake off. Pick: Illinois

Woman - "Oh, Sweet Sioux, here we - yawn - go again.  With or without Persa, the Wildcats are a strong team with the extra bye week to prepare. And give me the points from a Ron Zook-coached team any day." Pick: Northwestern

Machine - The Machine believes in the Fighting Zooks, but it also knows that Pat Fitzgerald's teams always keep things close. Illinois wins 24-21. Pick: Northwestern

South Carolina (-10 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Before last week's game against Vanderbilt, South Carolina had failed to cover in any of its first three games this season. Which makes that spread seem a bit large, because although I know Auburn isn't the same team this season, it's offense has still proved to be pretty potent. I'm going to go with Auburn to at least keep it interesting. Or, more accurately, I'm going with Stephen Garcia allowing Auburn to keep it interesting. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "Seems like a mighty big line for an offense whose quarterback has thrown nearly as many picks as passes, until you realize he's up against a team who would have their hands full defensing this." Pick: South Carolina

Machine - Remember the Georgia Dome! South Carolina gets its revenge for the SEC title game last season, kicking the defending champs while they're down, 34-20. Pick: South Carolina

Kansas State vs. Baylor (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - At some point this year you're likely to see the "Robert Griffin For Heisman" bandwagon rolling through your town, and when you do see it, I'll be the guy driving it. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "I don't care what record Kansas State brings to this contest, until Robert Griffin III does something - anything - to prove otherwise, I'm doubling down on the amazing Baylor QB. A game I will not miss." Pick: Baylor

Machine - Not even the Machine is impervious to RG3, though it sees Griffin only being able to complete 70% of his passes this week. Baylor rolls 38-14. Pick: Baylor

Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 6pm

Man - I understand that expecting a Clemson meltdown is the natural thing to do, but at the same time, this Clemson team has already survived contests against Florida State and Auburn. Virginia Tech hasn't played anybody yet, and while I think playing at home gives Tech the edge, I don't think it's going to come easy, either. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Virginia Tech should be stuffed on cupcakes by now and ready for some real football. Meanwhile, despite tougher opposition, I haven't been overwhelmed by Clemson's play and think the bubble will burst on Saturday. But I'm going to guess they'll cover." Pick: Clemson

Machine - It won't be very high-scoring, but the Machine sees an exciting game in our future. After a touchdown run by Andre Ellington gives Clemson a 21-20 lead with less than two minutes left, Logan Thomas leads a nice drive to set up a game-winning field goal in the final seconds to give the Hokies a 23-21 victory. Pick: Clemson

Florida vs. Alabama (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - I haven't seen much of the Gators this season, but from what I'm told, John Brantley hasn't been completely terrible at all. Which is definitely a bonus for Florida. That being said, Brantley hasn't had to face this Alabama defense yet. I expect a tough, low-scoring battle in this one, but I feel like Trent Richardson will break through at some point, and it may be all Alabama needs. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "Florida under Will Muschamp and his offensive coach Charlie Weis is strong in new, exciting ways, but I just can't seen them holding back Satan Saban and the Crimson juggernaut. Maybe next year." Pick: Alabama

Machine - I hope you like defense, because the Machine says there will be a lot of it in The Swamp on Saturday night. The Tide doesn't exactly roll as much as it drowns. Alabama wins 13-7. Pick: Alabama

Wisconsin (-9 1/2) vs. Nebraska - Saturday, 8pm

Man - This seems like a trap. That spread just feels really big considering this game is between the two teams who are supposed to be the best in the Big Ten. Then you start thinking about how Nebraska has looked so far this season compared to Wisconsin, and it makes a bit more sense. That being said, who exactly has Wisconsin played? It's hard to make this call, but I think Taylor Martinez makes some key mistakes in a hostile environment on Saturday night and the Badgers capitalize. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Welcome to the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, Round One. Of course, this version is going to be played in the cacaphonous craziness that is Camp Randall, led by a Badgers team with a dominant defense and a sterling new QB. By January, Nebraska should have the kinks worked out but this week they will yield to a superior home team." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - The Machine says "If there's one Big Ten game you're going to watch this weekend, make it this one, because it's going to be crazy! Wisconsin holds off Nebraska 35-34." In other news, if your Playstation starts talking to you, it's probably time to turn it off or get some sleep. Pick: Nebraska

Stanford (-20 1/2) vs. UCLA - Saturday, 10:30pm

Man - If Jim Harbuagh were still around, this one would be easy to pick. With David Shaw in charge, I'm just not as sure that Stanford won't slow things down a bit once this game is in hand late, and UCLA has been somewhat bi-polar this season, so I'm not sure which team to expect. Screw it, I'll go with Stanford. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Through some hard-hitting investigative journalism, I've procured copies of Stanford's playbook and UCLA's. So... yeah. Stanford wins but without star linebacker Shayne Skov, I think they won't quite cover." Pick: UCLA 

Machine - Andrew Luck is an unstoppable killing machine. He throws for 6 touchdowns and runs for another as Stanford obliterates the Bruins, 52-17. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 28-17 (4-6)
2. Man 27-18 (6-4)
3. Machine 23-22 (6-4)
Posted on: September 26, 2011 6:18 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2011 4:04 pm
 

The Poll Attacks: Week 4

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.

With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.

AP Poll           Coaches Poll

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)

Poll reactions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC

Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team of the week: Georgia Tech

Paul Johnson's team is undefeated and the triple option is humming down in Atlanta so far this season. The Yellow Jackets are ranked 21st in both polls and beat a solid North Carolina team this past weekend. They have been rolling over their competition with the number one offense in college football, a key component of which is actually the passing game with receiver Stephen Hill looking a bit like Calvin Johnson. The Tar Heels were the toughest team they have faced so far and they were able to move the ball on the defense so it's not like anybody is arguing they're a top 10 teams. The schedule is very manageable going forward and they should be a few spots higher than they are, perhaps ahead of one-loss TCU and directional school-playing Michigan. Four voters left the Yellow Jackets off their ballots. It's probably a little bit of a reach for Kyle Ringo to have them at 14 this week too.

Overrated: South Carolina

  Four interceptions. That's how many quarterback Stephen Garcia threw against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Thankfully the Commodores couldn't move the ball at all against the Gamecocks' defense which, along with running back Marcus Lattimore, are the only reasons why South Carolina is currently undefeated. Currently sitting at 10th in the AP Poll and 9th in the coach, Steve Spurrier's ball club needs to look a little better if they're to live up to their ranking.

My colleague Tony Barnhart said it best in his column Monday: Here is South Carolina's reality: It is overrated as the No. 10 team in the nation and is living on borrowed time. The Gamecocks will be favored at home in their next two games against Auburn and Kentucky. But then Spurrier takes his team on the road to Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas. 

California Craziness

A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.

Mr. Wolf finally decides to send in a ballot worse than his peers from the great state of California. He's the only voter to rank Navy and is one of two to rank Auburn, which he has 19th despite having one of the worst defenses in college football. Despite going on the road and beating a top 10 team at the time, Oklahoma State finds itself 15th. Apparently one of the best offenses in college football and a quarterback who has never lost on the road is not enough to be a top 10 team according to Wolf. He also ranked Nebraska 5th and has West Virginia, Oregon and South Florida ahead of Wisconsin. So... um... yeah, not so much.

What were you thinking? Coaches Poll and Colley Matrix Poll

First off, before getting into the BCS mess, we have to call out the coaches/sports information directors who vote for moving Stanford ahead of Boise State despite the Cardinal being off this week and the Broncos rolling Tulsa. Really, there's no excuses for such things. A big thanks to Peter Burns for bring up the Colley Matrix Poll to us on Twitter. You can view the entire poll here. Colley Matrix is one of the polls that make up the BCS computer rankings and frankly, judging by where they have some teams ranked right now, that's very concerning. Of course there's Michigan being ranked #1 but that's not as big of a head scratcher as LSU not having any top 25 wins. Not sure how Texas is 10th or Illinois 7th either. Louisiana-Lafayette is also in the top 25 so there's that too.

Team bias

Our tech team at CBSSports.com is pretty awesome and came up with this neat tool to take a look at team and region bias in the AP Poll. Check it out below, it's a fun thing to play around with.



Posted on: September 26, 2011 6:16 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 6:17 pm
 

PHOTO: Texas A&M included in redone SEC logo

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The SEC has gone through a few different iterations of its principal logo over the years (before settling on the current version, that is), but one constant has been the conference's pinwheel-style logo with pennants of all 10 and eventually 12 members surrounding the logo at center.

But after Sunday's announcement that Texas A&M has officially become the SEC's 13th team, that logo was out-of-date. But judging by a photo tweeted by SEC Assistant Media Relations Director Sean Cartell, it appears out the league has wasted no time repairing that issue:



That's right: nestled between Vanderbilt and Tennessee in alphabetical, there's your Texas A&M pennant. The logo disks are apparently being delivered to A&M ahead of the Aggies' introductory press conference, with Cartell present on the ground in College Station.

We're not going very far out on a limb with this, but based on the quickness with which those disks were prepared, we're guessing the SEC knew A&M was coming aboard before yesterday's announcement. Call it a hunch.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 5:34 pm
 

SEC Poll Reactions, Week 4

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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

LSU. We wrote late Saturday that you couldn't go wrong with either the Bayou Bengals or the Crimson Tide at the top of a ballot, so yes, from here LSU's ascension to the No. 1 spot in the AP poll looks entirely deserved. What's interesting is that the voting wasn't even that close; Les Miles's team drew more the double the first-place votes of previous No. 1 Oklahoma and the Tide combined.

Two points to be made from this development:

1. Aggressive nonconference scheduling can pay off. The "three victories over ranked teams on the road" soundbite is a bit of an exaggeration -- the "neutral" site in Dallas was far closer and cozier to LSU than Oregon, and Mississippi State, only No. 25 at the time, is deservedly nowhere near the polls now -- but there's still no question which team has the best overall resume in the country right now. That LSU is now in poll position to potentially lose a game somewhere and still reclaim their BCS title-game spot with a win over Alabama is a just reward for their willingness to challenge themselves.

2. The AP poll deserves kudos for their voters' willingness to respond to results on the field and adjust accordingly. It wasn't that long ago the Sooners would have held the top spot come hell or high water, as long as they didn't lose. Thankfully, where the AP is concerned, those times are behind us.

ALABAMA. As much fun as the polls are to track and debate, when you're in the Tide's position, it doesn't honestly matter where you're ranked at this stage. If Alabama continues winning -- particularly against LSU -- it will reach the No. 1 spot, no questions asked.

But it remains odd to see the Tide badly trailing LSU and Oklahoma in first-place votes, leaving them third in the AP and tied for second with LSU in the Coaches. If the Tide don't have LSU's overall body of work, in Saturday's total domination of Arkansas they also put together the most complete single-game performance of any team in the FBS this year, considering the opponent. With Oklahoma struggling to put away Missouri at home and Florida State absorbing a second loss (and in turn making the Sooners' win in Tallahassee less impressive), it's a close call ... but after watching Saturday's performance, we'd favor the Tide, and we find it surprising more voters don't.

SOUTH CAROLINA. The Gamecocks are now officially a top-10 team in both polls, moving up to 9th in the Coaches and 10th in the AP. But they're still not doing it by overwhelming the voters' impression of them; they simply moved up one spot to account for Texas A&M's loss in the Coaches and two for that and Florida State's in the AP.

No one in Columbia's going to complain about occupying a top-10 slot when Stephen Garcia's playing as poorly as he is, but we asked last week why the Gamecocks were ranked behind an Oregon team with a worse record and worse resume, and that still stands. Carolina is undefeated, the Ducks aren't; Carolina has beaten Georgia on the road, Navy and Vanderbilt all teams with better records than anyone the Ducks have beaten. To rank Oregon higher means voters are simply guessing that they're better--and at this point of the season, shouldn't they be relying on something other than guesswork?

FLORIDA. The Gators continue to rise, moving from 15th to 12th in both polls thanks to losses from the Aggies, 'Noles, and Razorbacks. The same complaint regarding Oregon could maybe be repeated here (the Ducks are one spot ahead in the Coaches, three in the AP), but with wins over FAU, UAB and a terrible Kentucky team, the Gators don't have nearly the quality-of-victory the Gamecocks do.

ARKANSAS. The Razorbacks fell to 18th in both polls, a slide of six spots in the Coaches and just four in the AP. This seems extremely generous on the part of the voters--yes, the Hogs are likely good enough to eventually win their way back into the top 15 or even top 10 by season's end, but at this point their entire resume consists of: 1. Blowing out an FCS team; 2. Blowing out New Mexico, potentially the worst team in the FBS; 3. Beating Troy by 10 points 4. Being routed by Alabama.

The Razorbacks are a good team. But until they prove it by beating quality competition, they have no business being ranked in front of teams like Michigan, Georgia Tech or Illinois, all of which have victories (or two) over likely bowl teams tucked away. Again: guesswork should be for preseason polls, not for those in Week 4.

EVERYBODY ELSE: In the Coaches, no other SEC team is receiving more than the 3 points pulled by Tennessee, good enough to make the Vols "No. 37." Auburn somehow checks in the third-team-out position in the AP -- clearly, not media members saw the Tigers wheeze past awful FAU Saturday night, when they outgained the Owls by all of eight yards -- but aren't quite "knocking on the door" of the poll yet; they're still 97 points behind No. 25 Arizona State.

Still, a win at South Carolina this weekend (however unlikely that seems after Saturday) would seem to lock up an AP spot for Auburn next week.


Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:07 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 4



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as it frustrates the rest of the country, there's a reason why the SEC is continually touted as the nation's best conference. There's a reason why they've won five straight BCS championships.There's a reason why the league is so competitive. And it's not hard to figure out either.

Defense, and lots of it. S-E-C Speed, S-E-C D.

With nearly half the league ranked 75th or worse in total offense through four games, five ranked teams and a 25-4 non-conference record don't happen by accident. Six teams are in the top 30 in scoring defense, including Alabama and Florida in the top five.

For LSU, the fearsome part of their defense is the backend. Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu repeated as Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week thanks to six tackles and two turnovers against West Virginia. A week earlier, his teammate Morris Claiborne was tabbed for the award after two interceptions against Mississippi State. If there's a better pair of corners in the country on one team, they're in the NFL. Mathieu's interception that he took down to the one right before halftime helped stretch the Tigers' lead to 20 and Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown ended all hopes of a Mountaineers rally and kept momentum planted firmly on the LSU sideline.

"West Virginia did a very good job, but our defense showed up to play and we got off to a nice start," Les Miles said after the game. " Morris Claiborne’s return was right on time, and we were able to finish it off. We made some mistakes, but we overcame that adversity."

What was surprising Saturday was just how little pressure LSU's front seven were able to get on opposing quarterback Geno Smith. He finished with a school-record 468 yards of total offense as the Tigers game up more yards in a game than they had since 2005. Giving up chunks of yards to a Dana Holgorsen-led offense is nothing new, but what kept the game in LSU's favor was the big play ability of coordinator John Chavis' defense.

Ultimately, the Tigers don't win by scoring, they win by scoring on defense.

Mathieu, who wears Patrick Peterson's old number seven, is as ball-hawking as you can get. Peterson was a one-man island last season, often taking away half of the field by himself in zone coverage if he wasn't locking up his man one-on-one. While Mathieu isn't as good in coverage as the man he took over for, he has a great feel for the game and reads plays as well as anybody on the back half. When he roams or blitzes, things just happen - as they did in Morgantown on Saturday. Despite losing Peterson, this secondary is better and deeper than it was a year ago as Claiborne and others have elevated their game. As one NFL scout told CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel, there are actually more than four NFL players among this group.

Read more about Tyrann Mathieu in Bruce Feldman's Big Picture

"The offensive game plan was not a problem," Holgorsen said. "Turning the ball over four times is a problem, and they have something to do with that too. They have a pretty good defense."

LSU has scored first and led at halftime in each of the Tigers' games this year. It's all part of the plan: Score first, play defense, be opporunistic and win the fourth quarter.

Alabama uses a similar strategy. Before the season, one person inside the program said what many had been saying: this defense was better than 2009's championship squad and might be one of the most talented ever under Nick Saban. They might have an even faster secondary than LSU and use the speed to play everything in front of them, swarming to ball seconds after the snap.

Against Arkansas, they also delivered shot, after shot, after shot on quarterback Tyler Wilson. The 3-4 the team runs allows Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart to mix in plenty of zone blitzes to create pressure on quarterbacks who rarely can tell where it's coming from before the snap. The Tide recruit athletes who can move well in they scheme more than anything and that's translated into a fearsome unit that is living up to their reputation as the best in the country. They play smart and play well.

"Well we set out to establish that we were going against the best offense in the SEC and a lot of people were labeling us as the best defense in the SEC, so we wanted to go out and show people what we were capable of with all cylinders turning," linebacker Dont'a Hightower said.

Though the highlight of the game with Arkansas was Marquis Maze's punt return for a touchdown, that was nearly the straw that broke the razorback's back. As Saban and others admitted it was a defensive play, DeQuan Menzie's interception, that shifted the momentum after the offense couldn't convert on the goal line.

"That was a big turning point in the game from a momentum stand point, and you know, we need to make more plays like that, get more turnovers," Saban said. "People are going to see what we do and figure out ways to deal with it. Our challenge is to get better every day."

That's a scary thought - for Alabama or for any SEC defense. Can't wait to see them match up with LSU on November 5 as much as the offensive coordinators do not.

Stat of the week

After wrapping up a 56-31 win over Rice, just about everybody was talking about Heisman candidate and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Look up the box score and it's easy to see why: he went a ho-hum 29-33 for 338 yards and five touchdowns as the Bears racked up 673 yards of offense. Even more eye-popping was the fact that he threw more touchdowns than incompletions for the second consecutive game. Griffin has also thrown more touchdowns (13) than incompletions (12) this season. He is completing 85% of his passes, hasn't thrown an interception and is throwing for nearly 12 yards per attempt. As one would expect, he tops the NCAA efficiency rankings, just ahead of Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.

Other stats of note

- Florida beat Kentucky for the 25th time in a row and by at least 34 points for the fourth straight year.  The Wildcats are on the losing end of the two longest active losing streaks to one team, the other being the 26 game streak to Tennessee.

- Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz set a school record and tied the NCAA record by throwing seven touchdown passes against UC Davis over the weekend. He sat out the second half after the Warriors led 49-0 at half but not before he also passed for a school record 424 yards in a half.

- Notre Dame is dead last in the country in turnover margin at -2.50 a game. The Irish have given the ball away 15 times in four games, more than they did in all of 2009 and 2006. The defense has forced just five this year.

- Quarterback Denard Robinson is the nation's leading rusher at 168.7 yards per game, over 15 yards a game more than runner up LaMichael James. While that's pretty impressive, he wouldn't be in the top spot were it not for the NCAA not counting his stats from the game against Western Michigan - which was stopped early. Of course, who knows, he might have been able to pad his stats during that game and still be in the lead a few weeks later like he is now.

- Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray had his nine-game streak of at least 100 yards rushing broken. The Aggies really went away from the ground game in the second half and never did establish Gray against Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden set school records for completions (47) and passing yardage (438).

- James was back to putting up video game numbers for Oregon against Arizona this weekend. He rushed for a school record 288 yards and also set the all-purpose mark. His first quarter touchdown run also gave him the Ducks record for career touchdowns as well. His 288 yards were more than the Wildcats have rushed for all year (249).

- Florida Atlantic had just one first down against Michigan State but racked up 20 against Auburn's defense in a 30-14 loss. The Owls are dead last in the country in offense and have scored only 17 points all year. 62% of FAU's offensive yardage this year came against Auburn.

- South Carolina's defense allowed just 77 yards to Vanderbilt and only five first downs all game. Defensive stud Melvin Ingram scored yet another touchdown, his third in as many weeks. By reaching the end zone, Ingram is tied for third on the team for points scored with quarterback Stephen Garcia.

- A few miles away from Columbia, Clemson receiver and freshman sensation Sammy Watkins is leading the Tigers in scoring after 141 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a victory over Florida State. Through four games this year he has 433 yards receiving and six touchdowns, marks that would have placed him second and third on the team respectively in each category last year.

- Four teams topped the 400 yard rushing mark last Saturday, led by Air Force rolling up 595 yards against hapless Tennessee State. Oregon had 415 yards against Arizona, Florida rushed for 405 against Kentucky and Army pounded Ball State for 402 yards. A team has rushed for over 400 yards 10 times this year while a team has passed for over 400 yards 22 times through week four.

- According to SI.com's Stewart Mandel, Illinois is 4-0 for the first time since 1951. I'm with him, how is that possible?

- Georgia Tech has six plays of 70+ yards this year and seven one-play scoring drives.

Yard-by-yard

-  Hats off to Mike Gundy's halftime adjustments. After being held about 1,000 points below their average in the first half to trail by 17, the Cowboys offense exploded as Brandon Weeden started picking apart Texas A&M's secondary with intermediate passes on their way to a comeback win. The Aggies turned the ball over three times and anytime you give Weeden the ball on a short field, watch out. The most telling sign was the lack of panic on the OSU sidelines as they fell behind. Though they hadn't been in the position before, it was as if they knew what to do and went out and executed. The defense isn't quite as good as Oklahoma's but they'll be able to ride the offense quite far in Big 12 play.

- I'm not quite ready to say the Michigan defense is good but it's certainly much improved and solid enough in a weaker Big Ten for new coordinator Greg Mattison. After the much maligned unit struggled all of last year, they seemed to turn a corner against a very good offense in San Diego State. The Wolverines shutout talented running back Ronnie Hillman and the Aztecs in the first half, the first time they've pulled off the feat in the first half in over two years. Hillman hadn't fumbled since the first carry of his freshmen season last year and yet coughed it up twice. We've been in this position with the Wolverines before last year - a fast start, Denard Robinson being Denard Robinson - before fading badly at the end in Rich Rodriguez' last year as head coach. This year, though, might be different. The schedule is manageable and with the defense being more opportunistic than they have been in the past, Michigan could have a much different ending.

- Michigan's archival Ohio State doesn't have the kind of stability that the Wolverines have but they had to be encouraged with the solid first start for quarterback Braxton Miller. He didn't cause anybody to label him the "next" anything after going 5-13 for 83 yards and rushing for 83 yards but it looks like he's the future after a disastrous passing game for the Buckeyes I saw firsthand against Miami. What's funny is the last time I saw Ohio State play on the road was a couple of years ago at USC. The offense struggled and the next game a talented true freshman by the name of Terrelle Pryor started for the first time. Pryor tossed four touchdowns in that game and led the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record as a starter. While Miller didn't come anywhere close to looking like his predecessor, he looked comfortable running the offense and playing with what the defense was giving him. No one's saying he'll be able to replicate what Pryor did on the field but it looks like yet again the Buckeyes have another true freshman ready to lead them into Big Ten play this year.

"I slept pretty good," he said of his first start. "I really didn't have any jitters at all."

With improved play from Miller and the rest of the offense, head coach Luke Fickell might sleep better too.

- There's no offense quite like Georgia Tech's. It's an option attack but one that has a dangerous passing game that is part of the reason the Yellow Jackets are leading the nation in yards per game. They piled up 496 yards on Saturday in a nice win over North Carolina. Quarterback Tevin Washington is the triggerman but unlike previous players at the position under Paul Johnson, he looks like he can legitimately get the ball down the field accurately. Of course, it helps to throw the ball to 6-foot-5 receiver Steven Hill. There were times where he looked just like Calvin Johnson while making one-handed catches on his way to 151 yards and a touchdown. Hill might be the best receiver no one's really talking about but with Washington throwing the ball and running back Orwin Smith helping out on the ground, expect to hear more about Georgia Tech going forward.

- Poor N.C. State fans. As if it weren't enough to see former quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm for a top 10 team, Thursday's blowout loss to Cincinnati couldn't have given anybody any confidence in what's to come this season. The offensive line gave up six sacks to go on top of three turnovers, two of which were interceptions thrown by Wilson's replacement Mike Glennon without much thought. There's some talent on the team but clearly not enough in a much tougher ACC this year. It's going to be a long season until North Carolina's Committee on Infractions hearing for Wolfpack fans.

- I thought the Clemson game would be a bit of a letdown game for Florida State and while they made it close, the execution just was not there for the Seminoles. Of course they wanted to win and definitely were without some key players, but they invested so much into the game against Oklahoma one would have to think that they spent a little too much time watching film from last week instead of film of the Tigers. Just when it seemed like the defense was ready to make a stop or the offense get going, there'd be a penalty (they finished with 11 for 124 yards). On the other side, it finally appears that Clemson is getting the hang of offensive coordinator Chad Morris' new hurry-up system. Tajh Boyd still has moments that must make Morris rip out some hair but he is looking much more comfortable behind center. With electric freshman Sammy Watkins making plays every time you tune in, it's easy to see why there's plenty of optimism in Death Valley.

"I'm super excited about how our players keep growing this offense and executing. And we're only four games into this offense," Morris said. "It's crazy."

- Penn State beat Eastern Michigan 34-6 as part of the Big Ten's weekend of home games against directional schools to raise money for themselves. The Nittany Lions might have come out with a victory but it was a costly one - starting outside linebacker Mike Mauti will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Considered to be the team's best backer, this is needless to say a big blow to a team that already has struggled some on both sides of the ball. Mauti missed the 2009 season with an ACL injury to his other knee and was limited at times last year due to a shoulder injury. Senior corner D'Anton Lynn was also hurt and had to be transported to the hospital to have his head and neck examined after a hit.

- Speaking of Penn State, the team that almost beat them last week, Temple, ended up routing Maryland 38-7. Steve Addazio has quietly taken what Al Golden left him and turned the Owls in a forced to be reckoned with. Junior back Bernard Pierce is the Northeast's best kept secret, as he rushed for five touchdowns and 149 yards to power Temple's first road win over a BCS foe in nine years.

- How bad is Oregon State? The Beavers lost 27-19 to a UCLA team that is not without their own issues on both sides of the ball. Many expected them to get a boost - they were favored at home - with the return of all-purpose threat James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni but it was to no avail. It's the worst start of the Mike Riley era and unlike many of his previous teams, there's just no execution. There's been issues behind the scenes and at quarterback on offense while the defense is still breaking in plenty of new players. As Pac-12 play continues, don't expect things to get any easier until the Beavers get back to their roots of playing smart football and keeping the turnovers to a minimum. For UCLA, it was a game they just had to have if they're to sneak into a bowl game this year. According to the LA Daily News , a joyous Rick Neuheisel told a group of fans after the game  "Anybody have fun on the flight here? Not as much as you'll have on the flight home!" Of course, he also added that the Bruins haven't been 1-0 in the conference, "in a long time."

More on College Football
Analysis
Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
That Okie State rallies past Texas A&M is insult enough. That the Aggies cough up a 17-point halftime lead to a Big 12 power on their way to SEC is more than Dennis Dodd can stand.
Read >>
Brett McMurphy Brett McMurphy
LSU proves worthy No. 1 by beating three ranked teams on the road, whipping West Virginia on Saturday. Read >
Gregg Doyel Gregg Doyel
Notre Dame's Brian Kelly is an offensive genius and generally a wise man. Gregg Doyel says that intellect pushes Kelly to rely on defense. Read >>
Related links
Video
Quote of the week

"Big 12! Big 12! Big 12!" - Oklahoma State fans after their victory at Kyle Field. Perhaps it was also fitting that Texas A&M had two 12th man penalties on defense early in the game.

Quote of the week, part II

"The speed of the game, it's kind of lighting struck the outhouse and we were in it." - Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter after the Wildcats' 48-10 loss to Florida.

Tweets of the week

"Arizona will always be a basketball school.. So Child please!" and "If one more person EVER tells me Arizona is turning into a "football" school .. Can kiss the baby"

- Former Arizona forward Derrick Williams during his football team's blowout loss to Oregon. Ouch.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Boise State

5. Stanford

6. Wisconsin

7. Oklahoma State

8. Oregon

9. Virginia Tech

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

The big CBS primetime matchup between Alabama and Florida from the Swamp will have Mr. College Football himself, Tony Barnhart, in attendance. Dennis Dodd will be at Camp Randall for Nebraska's first Big Ten conference game against Wisconsin while Brett McMurphy will be listening to 'Enter Sandman' as Clemson plays at Virginia Tech. I've got early duty as I'll be at Texas A&M's first SEC conference game (well, first unofficial one anyway) against Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium.

Leaning this way

Alabama at Florida (8 p.m. ET, CBS)

The past three meetings has featured one of two teams ranked number one overall and while neither will be in the top spot in the polls this year, a top 12 matchup awaits down in the Swamp. Both the Gators and Tide have tough defenses that are ranked in the top five nationally in the three big defensive categories (total/rushing/scoring defense) so each offense figures to have a little more trouble moving the ball than they have so far this year. Alabama's speed will be the difference as they bottle up Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to come out with a victory.

Nebraska at Wisconsin

Welcome to the Big Ten Nebraska. Camp Randall should be jumping around as they welcome in the Cornhuskers and Taylor Martinez. Look for Russell Wilson to continue to be sharp and not turn the ball over and the Badgers' defense to make just enough plays to win. Martinez should be able to move the ball though, Wisconsin's defense hasn't really been tested - much less by an offense like Nebraska's.

Clemson at Virginia Tech

The first big test for both teams as Clemson goes on the road to take on Frank Beamer's squad. Clemson made several key mistakes that kept Florida State in the game last week and if they turn the ball over, that plays right into the Hokies game plan. Virginia Tech should win but don't be surprised if this is a close ACC battle.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: ACC, Air Force, Al Golden, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Army, Ball State, Baylor, BCS, Bernard Pierce, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Braxton Miller, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Bryant Moniz, Calvin Johnson, Camp Randall, Chad Morris, Chris Rainey, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cowboys Stadium, Cyrus Gray, D'Anton Lynn, Dana Holgorsen, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, DeQuan Menzie, Derrick Williams, Dont'a Hightower, Eastern Michigan, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Geno Smith, Georgia Tech, Greg Mattison, Gregg Doyel, Hawaii, Heisman, Illinois, James Rodgers, Jeff Demps, Joe Halahuni, John Chavis, Kentucky, Kirby Smart, Kyle Field, LaMichael James, Les Miles, LSU, Luke Fickell, Marquis Maze, Maryland, Melvin Inrgam, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Mike Mauti, Mike Riley, Mississippi State, Morris Claiborne, N.C. State, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Orwin Smith, Pac-12, Patrick Peterson, Paul Johnson, Penn State, Rice, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Minter, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Ronnie Hillman, Russell Wilson, Sammy Watkins, San Diego State, SEC, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Steve Addazio, Steven Hill, Stewart Mandel, Tajh Boyd, Taylor Martinez, Temple, Tennessee, Terrelle Pryor, Tevin Washington, Texas A&M, Tony Barnhart, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
 
Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:06 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 4:11 am
 

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 4

Posted by Jerry Hinnen


1. LSU and Alabama are the SEC's No. 1 and No. 2, or No. 2 and No. 1, and no one else is close. Yes: Arkansas could recover from today's beatdown in Tuscaloosa and still head to Baton Rouge at the end of the year with a chance to sneak off with the West title. Yes: South Carolina has the league's best player in Marcus Lattimore and more than enough weapons on both sides of the ball to beat anyone, LSU and 'Bama included, if Stephen Garcia's head is screwed on correctly. Yes: with Charlie Weis rediscovering the Gators' lost running attack behind Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, Florida looks like the most dangerous team in the East and could do anything in the Atlanta one-off.

But until one of those teams actually beats one of the two Goliaths currently standing atop the conference, we're going to assume the gap between LSU and Alabama and the rest of the conference is even wider than it was purported to be at season's beginning. In fact, this blogger would argue these are the two teams that belong atop the polls as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation.

Why? LSU has the best overall body of work of any team in the FBS, having beaten three ranked teams away from the friendly confines of Death Valley. And if Mississippi State doesn't look like they're going to live up to their preseason ranking, beating Oregon and West Virginia by a combined 39 points (and largely throttling a Duck offense that's rolled in its usual fashion ever since) should only look better as the season progresses.

But if LSU has the best body of work, it's Alabama that after Saturday has the single most impressive performance of the season. Not many SEC fans have doubts about Arkansas's offensive personnel (running back excepted), and even fewer would question Bobby Petrino's offensive scheming. But the Tide made the Hog attack look utterly ordinary, all while showing off the kind of explosiveness in the offensive backfield (hi, Trent Richardson!) and special teams (hey, Marquis Maze!) that should give them all the scoring firepower they'll need. If Arkansas goes on to be the top-15 team they've been supposed to be this offseason -- and we don't see any reason to doubt them yet -- then drubbing that top-15 team by 24 points that felt like 44 makes for the best single-game showing of the year so far.

So ... which do you choose? The team that's flashed the highest ceiling, or the team with the best scalps on the wall? We don't know. And fortunately, we don't have to choose--their meeting on Nov. 5 (barring an upset between now and then) will choose for us. We just know that choosing any other SEC team at this point is denying the obvious.

2. Florida is the East favorite, and Stephen Garcia is the reason. It's not that the Gators wiped the floor with Kentucky, though their willingness to keep the pedal to the proverbial metal was impressive. (They do wipe the floor with the 'Cats every year, after all.) It's not that the Gamecocks' issues in the secondary can't be overcome -- after collecting a pair of key sack-and-strips against Vanderbilt, Jadeveon Clowney can apparently do a lot of the overcoming by himself -- or that the slow start for Alshon Jeffery can't become a fast finish if he gets better quarterbacking.

What it is is, well, that quarterbacking. Garcia didn't just throw four interceptions Saturday against the 'Dores; he threw four awful, braindead, hilarious, Steve Spurrier aneurysm-inducing interceptions. Vandy has an outstanding secondary, but when you run straight backwards on 3rd-and-15 and blindly launch a pass so aimless and floated even the Wounded Duck Association of America immediately asks to be disassociated from it (as Garcia did for his first), an outstanding secondary isn't necessary. Garcia was terrible, plain-and-simple, and frankly lucky he hadn't already been pulled by the time Connor Shaw entered in the fourth quarter.

South Carolina can do a lot of things even when Garcia is terrible. They can do even more if he's hovering around "passable." (Like beat Georgia, for instance.) But they can't win the East if he's not playing somewhere near the top of his game, and judging by Saturday's performance, the top of his game is far, far away from him.

3. The SEC West might not be quite that brutal. Is it still the roughest, toughest division in college football? Probably. But part of its preseason reputation was due to the presence of both Auburn and Mississippi State in the preseason polls, and right now neither squad is playing like they deserve so much as a spot at the bottom of the "Also Receiving Votes" barrel.

The Bulldogs were supposed to lick their wounds this week against Louisiana Tech after crushing losses to Auburn and LSU. But the Bulldogs from Ruston nearly inflicted the biggest wound yet, tying the game at 20 on a late field goal and driving to the State 20 with under four minutes to play before a Garciaesque interception from true freshman QB Nick Isham ended the threat. Another pick would help MSU escape in overtime, despite Tech's 359-340 yardage advantage. 

But at least hard-luck Tech had already taken Southern Miss and Houston to the wire. FAU hadn't scored a touchdown in their two games, losing to Florida and Michigan State by a combined score of 85-3. And yet the Owls found themselves down just 10-6 to Auburn at halftime and finished the game with just eight fewer yards. While most of the frustration from Auburn fans has been centered on the Tiger defense, this time it was the offense doing most of the struggling, as they finished with just 315 total yards (the second-lowest total of Gus Malzahn's tenure) and two offensive touchdowns.

Both teams will no doubt play much better games against competition they take more seriously, in weeks where they're not recovering from emotional losses. But even if they do, neither the Bulldogs nor Tigers currently look like a threat to any of the five teams at the top of either division. 

4. Houston Nutt's odds of coaching in 2012 are now less than 50/50. A 27-13 home loss to Georgia isn't great no matter how you slice it. But the Rebels' performance was even more deflating than the scoreline suggests. The Dawgs outgained their hosts by nearly 300 yards (475 to 183), held them without a second-half point, and only kept them in the game via Blair Walsh's uncharacteristic three missed field goals. The Rebel passing game continued to be the sorest of sore spots, as Zack Stoudt and Randall Mackey combined to complete just 12 of their 30 passes for just 149 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. If not for an 82-yard punt return reverse for a touchdown pulled out of Nutt's bag, the Rebels likely would have finished in the single digits in scoring for a second straight week.

So maybe it looked better on the scoreboard than the 30-7 defeat at Vandy. But Ole Miss still didn't offer any reason to think they're not on their way to 1-7 (or worse) in the SEC.


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