Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:53 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 12:54 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Florida head coach Will Muschamp said Monday he expects his team to get the biggest possible boost as they face Georgia in the 2011 edition of the World's Larget Outdoor Cocktail Party Saturday: the return of starting senior quarterback John Brantley.
Though not officially official just yet -- Brantley's availability could be affected by how his ankle responds during the week of practice -- Muschamp described Brantley's current status as probable and said he expects Brantley to get the start against the Bulldogs.
"I feel like John will be ready to go for the game, Muschamp said. "Getting him back is going to be a huge psychological shot for our football team."
Brantley has yet to participate in a full practice and will be limited Monday, but Muschamp said that based on Brantley's recovery trajectory since suffering the high ankle sprain against Alabama Oct. 1, he should be ready by Saturday. Brantley was able to put weight on the ankle the day after the injury and has been aiming since then to return the week of the Cocktail Party.
While Brantley's return would be bad news for Georgia, at least they have a better understanding of who they'll be facing; Mark Richt called preparing for Florida's wide range of quarterback possibilities a "pain in the rear" Sunday, and that he wasn't expecting to find out the identity of the Gator starter until kickoff.
(Frankly, we're surprised Muschamp didn't play things more coy about the status of Brantley's injury. It's hard to imagine Muschamp mentor Nick Saban, for instance, telling his opponent which of his quarterback options they ought to spend the most time preparing for.)
There is one area of uncertainty for Muschamp: the Gators have not yet decided whether Jeff Driskel or Jacoby Brissett will serve as the team's backup (or replace Brantley as the starter in the event he can't go). The two true freshmen have struggled in Brantley's absence, for the season combining to complete only 19-of-58 passes (33 percent) for less than 5 yards an attempt and a 1-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. With Brantley out, the Gators lost to LSU and Auburn by a combined 41 points.
"The production when he was not in the game went down," Muschamp said of Brantley. "You've got to give our opponents some credit for that."
Some, yes. But no one who watched the start of the Alabama game and the next five halves of Brantley-less Gator football would say Florida was anything like the same team once the senior went down. If Brantley is indeed back under center Saturday, Georgia is going to get a much, much stiffer test from Muschamp's team than the one the Tide, Tigers, and Tigers got.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2011 5:11 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Tim Tebow might have been playing against the Miami Dolphins today in Miami, but as you can see from the crowd shot above, he wasn't exactly lacking for fan support.
Part of that is because he is -- almost without question -- the most popular athlete in Florida Gator history, and while Miami isn't the state's biggest stronghold of Gator fans, they're there. And if you missed this in the run-up, the Dolphins ironically helped ensure that as many of them would be on hand to cheer for the opponent's starting quarterback by naming today "Gator Day" at Sun Life Stadium.
Tebow's first start was, obviously, the main event. But Gator Day also included a celebration of the 2008 Florida national title team, with Urban Meyer and Gator All-American Mike Pouncey in the stadium. Ticket packages sold through Gator alumni clubs included "a Post Game Photo Opportunity with current and former Gator Alumni players from both teams."
Not surprisingly, the Dolphin organization's efforts to pack the stands with fans there to root against the Phins hasn't gone over well with Dolphins diehards, and that bitterness is only going to harden after Tebow threw for two touchdowns, ran for 65 yards, and led the Broncos to an 18-15 win. (We're guessing Hurricanes fans aren't thrilled about the local professional franchise throwing a party for a college fooball team 337 miles to the north, either.)
The show of support may not have been the deciding factor in Tebow's victorious performance Sunday, but it surely didn't hurt--and that's all that will matter to the bevy of Gator fans in the stands, Gator players on hand to offer their support, and the irritated Dolphin fans having to deal with both.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 12:51 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 1:12 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Thursday is reportedly the day Missouri begins the process of applying for membership in the SEC, an application that virtually no one expects to be rejected--even if the last we heard from the Tigers' conference-of-choice, Mizzou didn't yet have the nine positive votes to join.
The major sticking point for alleged Mizzou-opponent Alabama? The Crimson Tide's cherished "Third Saturday in October" rivalry with Tennessee, which could become a non-annual game if Missouri is added to the (geographically sensible) West division. And with former Alabama athletic staffer Dave Hart now the AD in Knoxville, the Tigers won't get the Volunteers' support, either, if their admission puts the Third Saturday in jeopardy.
Though Hart doesn't spell that out specifically, it doesn't take a lot of reading between the lines in his Thursday interview with the Birmingham News to see that's the case:
By which Hart means returning the game to its rightful place on the calendar on the actual third Saturday in October; the game is currently played on that exact date occasionally (and falls on the fourth Saturday this season).
But first and foremost, the game has to be played at all. If Missouri is added to the West division, one current West team will have to move to the East--and the far-and-away most logical candidate is Auburn, whose president has already stated publicly his Tigers would be happy to make the switch. But that would put Alabama in the position of having both their major annual rivals in the opposite division, with only of those rivalries "protected" as an annual game.
As the News's Jon Solomon points out, the SEC has two options for preserving Vols-Tide: either assign Missouri to the East and keep Auburn in the West (keeping the Vols as the Tide's lone cross-divisional rival), or expand the SEC schedule to nine games and give each team an extra cross-division rival.
Since the latter means unbalanced home-away schedules and a maximum seven home games every other year, don't expect it to get much in the way of support (even if it works for the Pac-12, Big 12, etc.). At this point, the most sensible approach for including Mizzou seems to be to toss the Tigers in with Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, as little geographical sense as that makes.
Because as Hart's comments illustrate, adding the Tigers to the West means push would have to come to shove somewhere--and that somewhere might be Missouri not getting added to the SEC at all.
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 1:13 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Want to know how things wound up so heated between Georgia and Vanderbilt Saturday night? This video from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution should help explain things:
That's Commodore center Logan Stewart diving into the back of Bulldog nose tackle Kwame Geathers' legs after the play was over, and Geathers throwing a punch in retaliation. The SEC has responded by suspending both players for their teams' next half-game, as well as Georgia safety Shawn Williams, flagged for multiple personal fouls during the game.
The league is also officially reviewing the postgame fracas between the two coaching staffs, and it stood to reason they'd want to take a closer look at any plays that might have led to it ... particularly when one of those plays includes a thrown punch. Both retaliations like Geathers' and egregious clips like Stewart's resulted in half-game suspensions for other players in 2010, so it's not a surprise to see something similar for Geathers and Stewart here.
Vandy head coach James Franklin said he expected to hear on a possible punishment for Stewart sometime Wednesday.
Though the 'Dores won't be happy losing Stewart for any period of time against a tricky Army program this Saturday, the suspensions are an even greater blow for Geathers, Williams and the Dawgs--with a bye on tap for Saturday, the defenders will be forced to sit for the first half of the World's Largest Cocktail Party showdown against Florida.
We don't blame the SEC for suspending either Geathers or Stewart; while Geathers is fully justified in being angry (and even in reacting angirly in some fashion) a thrown punch is by this point universally recognized as just cause for a suspension. But it would have been nice if the SEC sent a message about Stewart's play by handing him a greater punishment than Geathers'--say, a full game to Geather's half. If we're comparing the two offenses, there's no question in this blogger's mind which one is more likely to result in an injury, which is more premeditated and less emotional, or which falls further outside the bounds of acceptable conduct on the football field. Geathers' punch probably hurt, but Stewart's clip might have ended Geathers' career, and came far too late to have anything to do with the play.
However things finally shake out, this much is certain: next year's meeting between the Dawgs and 'Dores is going to be far spicier than any game featuring Vandy and an SEC East power typically is.
Posted on: October 19, 2011 11:34 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Urban Meyer has moved on. But Florida's penchant for minor arrests has not.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday that true freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was arrested and charged with underage alcohol possession Sept. 14, the week of the Gators' game against Tennessee. Roberson was the second Floriday player arrested by the University Police Department that week, following now former Gator linebacker Dee Finley's misdemeanor arrest two days earlier.
Roberson was arrested outside a campus residence hall after police officers reportedly spotted him with a can of Four Loko. He is being represented by Gainesville attorney Huntley Johnson, who (per the Sentinel, in a bit of an understatement) "frequently represents UF athletes." Underage alcohol possession is a misdemeanor charge.
Roberson is the seventh Gator arrested this calendar year and the second to be cited for underage alcohol possession.
Will Muschamp has yet to comment on Roberson's arrest and what punishment, if any, he might receive. Finley was suspended for the Tennessee meeting following his arrest. Roberson has started all seven games for the Gators this season.
Florida has a bye this week but will face Georgia Oct. 29 in Jacksonville, a game for which the reeling Gators will need all hands o nthe proverbial deck. Freshman or not, a suspension for one of the Gators' steadiest performers at one of their thinnest positiosn would be a major blow for their chances in the Cocktail Party.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 11:41 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
For the third time in three games, LSU will be facing a quarterback making his first start of the year. But unlike the injury-forced situations at Florida and Tennessee, Auburn will be debuting a new signal-caller by choice.
Gene Chizik announced Tuesday that after leading the previously moribund Auburn offense to 10 second-half points against Florida, redshirt sophomore Cint Moseley would get the call Saturday against the Bayou Bengals. For the season, Moseley has completed 6 of 9 passes for 120 yards.
"We need a spark there," Chizik said of the quarterback position. "He made some throws in the [Florida] game that were good throws. They came at the right time. Putting it all together, giving us the spark we need, we feel he’s earned the opportunity," Chizik added.
Of course, that opportunity is coming on the road against one of the nation's best defenses--not the best way for a new quarterback to get his feet udnerneath him, as the Gators' Jacoby Brissett found out two weeks ago. Moseley at least didn't seem to have any illusions about the size of the task he was facing.
"Maybe it's the best defense I'll probably ever face in my first start. But that's why you come to Auburn, " he said. "I know they're probably going to come right for me. It couldn't get any better."
No doubt that Chizik and Gus Malzahn wish they had an easier opponent for Moseley to test himself against first. But they also must have felt like they didn't have much choice after Barrett Trotter's performance had steadily declined in recent weeks following a bright start. At halftime of the Tigers' Week 3 matchup against Clemson, Trotter was completing 68 percent of his passes for the season for 8.9 yards an attempt, with a 6-to-1 touchdown-to-interception. Since that point, the junior has completed just 45 percent of his passes for 5.3 yards an attempt and more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4).
Moseley was a lightly-regarded recruit coming out of Leroy (Ala.) High School in 2009, but drew positive reviews as the Tigers' scout team QB that fall. He battled Trotter throughout spring and fall camp this year for the starting job, only for Chizik and Malzahn to settle on Trotter some two weeks before the start of the season.
Unfortunately for Moseley -- particularly given the opponent he's about to face -- his offensive line could be in better health. Chizik also announced Tuesday that starting senior guard Jared Cooper has had surgery on his injured ankle and will miss the remainder of the season. The surgery will end Cooper's Auburn career. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Chad Slade.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 2:53 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
OLE MISS WILL WIN IF: Houston Nutt reaches into the deepest crevices of his bag of magic tricks to find the last remaining pixie dust that produced results like his 2007 upset of No. 1 LSU or the 2008 upset of Florida. Jeff Scott may not be able to bring that wood like Darren McFadden, but the Razorback defense hasn't exactly been stout against the run, giving up an average of 290 yards on the ground through their last three games. If Scott can break a couple of long runs ... and quarterback Randall Mackey can use his legs and the occasional accurate throw to keep the Hog back seven off balance ... and the injury-ravaged Ole Miss defense can make the handful of big plays necessary to avoid getting swamped ... then realistically speaking, the Rebels might lose by only two touchdowns. But that's discounting the effect of that Nutt pixie dust, which has made the highly unrealistic happen before and could again.
ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they simply play their game. If Tyler Wilson performs like the high-quality quarterback he's established himself to be, and the Hog offensive line gets the sort of push against the banged-up Rebel front it's capable of getting, and the nation's deepest receiving corps avoids dropping a handful of receptions directly into the Ole Miss secondary's hands, Arkansas will have entirely too much firepower for the lo-fi Rebel offense to keep pace. Add in the advantages of home field and the Razorbacks' bye week, and the only thing that can really stop Arkansas this week is Arkansas.
THE X-FACTOR: It would be an enormous help to the Rebels if the most likely source of lightning-in-a-bottle points was on their side ... but in this matchup, that honor belongs to Joe Adams, the senior jitterbug who added to his early-season collection of punt returns for touchdown with a game-changing 93-yard scoring run against Auburn two weeks ago. Ole Miss has a hard enough task preventing the Hogs from driving the length of the field for points; if an Adams score (or two) keeps the Hogs from having to make even that much effort, the Rebels won't have a prayer.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
AUBURN WILL WIN IF: they catch the kind of game-turning cavalcade of breaks that Les Miles's team is the one usually known for receiving ... and creating. With the visiting Tigers' offense firmly in milk-clock-don't-turn-it-over-play-field-position mode thanks to its first-time starter at quarterback, the chances are awfully, awfully slim that Auburn is going to go into Death Valley and beat LSU straight-up. But Auburn's underclassmen-laden defense has showed some legitimate spark in the previous few weeks, particularly against offenses similar to LSU's pro-style ground-pound attack (see: South Carolina and Florida). If Auburn has some success holding the line against Spencer Ware and Co. (and they should), a sudden reversion to Jarrett Lee's turnover-happy 2008 form or a series of uncharacteristic special teams gaffes could keep Gene Chizik's team competitive into the fourth quarter. And then ... who knows?
LSU WILL WIN IF: they do anything other than commit that catastrophic series of mistakes. The host Tigers are three-touchdown favorites for a reason, namely that Auburn's likely strategy of winning the field-position battle and capitalizing opponent mistakes is what LSU does--and how likely are the Bayoun Bengals to be beaten at their own game in their own house? As long as Lee continues to play error-free football, the defense continues to make up for its occasional lapses with twice as many big plays, and the special teams continues to pin opponents deep, LSU has precious little to worry about from any team that's not championship-caliber--and Auburn is far too young to have earned that label yet.
THE X-FACTOR: Lee. All LSU fans were hoping from their senior signal-caller this season was for him to -- to put it politely -- not screw things up for the running game and defense. But the former turnover machine has suddenly become a legitimate weapon, completing 71 percent of his passes the previous two weeks for an eye-popping 11.2 yards an attempt (a number which, stretched over the season, would have him second in the nation)--and against quality SEC competition in Florida and Tennessee at that. Lee hasn't thrown an interception since Week 3 and sports a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the season. It's simple: if he even comes close to playing up to his recent standards, Auburn's not going to stand a chance.