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Tag:Ole Miss
Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:53 am
 

What I Learned in the SEC (Sept. 3)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. LSU isn't going anywhere, even with Jarrett Lee at the controls. The expectation is that one of these years, one of these games, putting out a quarterback scarcely more competent than your average Sun Belt starter is going to finally catch up with Les Miles and the Tigers. Saturday night's 40-27 thumping of Oregon wasn't that game, though, and this may not be that year.

As my collegue Bryan Fischer wrote, Lee didn't do anything to lose the Tigers the game; the flipside is that he barely did anything to win the game, either, putting together a 10-for-22, 98-yard effort that we promise you'll see referred to in the dictionary next week in the entry for "pedestrian." Aside from one well-thrown fade to Rueben Randle for his only touchdown pass of the evening, Lee's primary instruction for the night was just to stay the hell out of the way.

And, as it always seems to for Miles, that instruction worked to perfection. The Tiger defense and special teams forced four turnovers, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground, the LSU secondary held Darron Thomas to a miserable 4.4 yards per his 54 attempts, and only a last-second Duck touchdown prevented the final from being a three-touchdown rout ... even though Oregon finished with more total yards than the Tigers.

We still don't think it's likely LSU wins an SEC championship with Lee at the helm and completion percentages just over 45 percent in the stat book. But looking at what the Tigers did against one of the nation's best teams Saturday, you can't rule it out, either.

2. Florida will have a say in who wins the East. First, the caveat: FAU is bad. Really, really bad. As in, "may finish dead last in the Sun Belt" bad. But still: the casual ease with which the Gators brushed the Owls aside -- scoring 24 points over the first four possessions, holding FAU to 30 rushing yards on 30 carries, outgaining the Owls by 331 yards -- was the farthest of far cries from last year's opening-week wheeze past Miami (Ohio). Bad team or not, Florida pounded the Owls the way an SEC contender ought to pound them.

Meanwhile, the two teams expected by many to top the East standings had less-than-comfortable Saturday nights. Georgia, of course, began 2011 looking for all the world like the same team that ended 2010. South Carolina spotted East Carolina a 17-0 lead by starting Connor Shaw, then ran off 56 of the game's next 70 points behind Stephen Garcia. Still, there's little doubt that being caught in a four-point game late in the third quarter and outgaining the Pirates by all of six yards wasn't what Steve Spurrier had in mind.

It's still too early to anoint the Gators East favorites, or even on even footing with the Gamecocks. (As for the Bulldogs, well, maybe if they'd just kept things close ...) But it's not too soon to recognize this as a three-team race until such time the SEC standings say otherwise.

3. Auburn should be happy, but it shouldn't be confused. Somewhat lost in analyzing the rampant flaws that led to the defending national champions' 38-28 deficit to Utah State has been the resolve and determination that led to their stunning comeback; for Gene Chizik to hold his senior-laden 2010 team together in the face of staggering deficits is one thing, to do so with his all-but senior-free 2011 team another. Going back to the 2009 Outback Bowl, Chizik has now won nine straight one-possession games, a testament to his team's remarkable fourth-quarter focus and resilience.

But being a resilient team is nice. Being a good team is better, and even the cardiac-inducing Tigers of last year didn't bother to let the likes of Utah State take them to the wire. Thrilled as Auburn fans have a right to be with the comeback, it also shouldn't make them blind to the kind of major issues that result in needing a borderline-miraculous comeback against a 4-8 WAC team in the first place. Much as the aforementioned Miami (Ohio) struggles proved an accurate foreshadowing of 2010's Gator troubles, so it's now safe to say Auburn will not challenge for the West title ... and against their brutal schedule, might need every ounce of that resilience just to make a bowl.  

4. Jacksonville State didn't show up to this year's party. The three SEC-on-FCS matchups Saturday were every bit as lopsided as the SEC might have hoped, with Arkansas blasting Missouri State, Tennessee handling Montana by an impressive 26-point margin, and even Vanderbilt getting into the act with a 45-14 thumping of Elon in James Franklin's debut. Exactly how much these victories mean is a matter of conjecture -- FCS schools, after all -- but at the very least the conference avoided the kind of egg on its face Ole Miss's infamous loss to JSU's Gamecocks produced in last year's opening week. (That egg is perhaps being saved for Jacksonville State's visit to Kentucky.)

5. Speaking of the Rebels, they still don't have a quarterback--or an offense. There's no shame in losing to a solid-enough team like BYU by a point, even at home. But totaling barely more than 200 yards and averaging all of 3.6 yards per-play, 2.2 yards per-rush, and 5.1 yards per-pass ... there's some shame in that. And the quarterback issues that have plagued the Rebels for years showed no signs of abating; Houston Nutt turned to JUCO pocket-passer Zack Stoudt for the bulk of the second half, and Stoudt rewarded him by fumbling the game away on the goalline. The road back to relevance for Nutt and the Rebels still looks plenty long.

6. AJ McCarron is Alabama's quarterback. The battle might continue officially, but we're ready to declare a winner.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:17 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 1

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.

While Thursday and Friday night serve as delicious appetizers for the new college football season, one that feels like it took forever to get here, the big games start on Saturday. Since it's been a while since you planted your behind on a couch on a Saturday morning and stayed there all day, you're probably going to need some help navigating through the day.

So lucky for you, the Eye On College Football crew has brought the Saturday Meal Plan back. It's your weekly menu of which games should be on your plate and where you can find them.

BREAKFAST

#18 Ohio State vs. Akron - ESPN, 12pm ET

So many questions for Ohio State on Saturday. Will the Luke Fickell-era offense look any different? Who's going to shine between QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller? How much will the team miss its eight suspended players? Does Akron stand a chance anyway? - Adam Jacobi

#23 Auburn vs. Utah State - ESPN2, 12pm ET

Despite some close calls, Auburn hasn't lost to a school outside the current BCS conferences since Southern Miss upset the Tigers back in 1991. (USM's quarterback that day was a guy named Brett Favre, who would later become famous for inventing the cell phone camera.) So it's going to take a very good team by WAC standards to break that streak, and the Aggies -- the WAC's sixth-place finisher a year ago, now without star quarterback Diondre Borel -- very likely aren't that team. Most of the drama on the Auburn sidelines should concern which of their FBS-high 16 new starters look ready for their close-up, most notably new quarterback Barrett Trotter. But if Trotter and the other Tiger cubs come out nervous -- particularly the true sophomore defensive tackle pairing of Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter, who could have their hands full with USU's veteran line -- things could stay competitive for longer than Gene Chizik would like. - Jerry Hinnen

Boston College vs. Northwestern - ESPNU, 12pm ET

You never like to start the season with injury concerns, and that this case for the star player on both these rosters. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa was listed as "questionable" for Saturday's opener as he continues to recover from an achilles injury that ended his 2010 campaign, but popular belief seems to be that he will see the field. Boston College running back Montel Harris underwent his second arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss the game. Making matters even more difficult for the Eagles was an ankle sprain to talented backup Andre Williams. Williams will start and appears ready to go, but there will be more pressure on quarterback Chase Rettig to establish a passing attack against the Northwestern defense. Don't expect Persa to get any easy looks from the Boston College defense, led by All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly. - Chip Patterson

LUNCH

#16 Notre Dame vs. South Florida - NBC, 3:30pm ET

Year Two of the Brian Kelly Era in South Bend gets under way in a game against a former Notre Dame coach, and the son of the man who last brought a national championship to the school, Skip Holtz. There's a lot to look at in this game for both teams. Namely, will Notre Dame finally start to live up to the expectations placed on it every season, and which B.J. Daniels is going to show up for South Florida? - Tom Fornelli

#25 USC vs. Minnesota - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

Perhaps it is saying something about how quiet Lane Kiffin has been at USC that one of the more notable things about this game is actually about the opposing coach. The Jerry Kill era begins in earnest on the road and he brings a Minnesota team that barely resembles the one that lost to the Trojans a year ago. The Gophers will compete with dual-threat MarQueis Gray at quarterback and a solid linebacking corps but it will be a tough task to pull of the upset against the firepower of the USC offense. Matt Barkley and Robert Woods are a fun pair to watch while Trojan fans will be nervous to see if the defense looks any better than it did last year. - Bryan Fischer

Michigan vs. Western Michigan - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 pm ET

It's a new era for Michigan -- again -- and Brady Hoke's charges are going to face a stiff challenge from MAC stalwarts Western Michigan. Yes, seriously. The Wolverines probably won't be suffering for points with Denard Robinson leading the new offense, but the Broncos are more than capable of hanging around in this one, as standout QB Alex Carder should find plenty of opportunities to advance the ball through the air. Keep an eye on this one for some possible afternoon fireworks. - AJ

Ole Miss vs. BYU - ESPN, 4:45pm ET

Life in the SEC West isn't easy for anybody, but if Ole Miss is going to get to six wins and back to a bowl game this year, then this is one of those games the Rebels need to win. Though it's not like BYU is just going to hand the game to them, as the Cougars would like to get their new life as an independent off on the right foot, and what better way to do that than by getting a win against the SEC? - TF

DINNER

#22 Florida vs. FAU - ESPNU, 7pm ET

The first sign that not everything was well in Gatorland in 2010 was Florida's season opener vs. Miami (Ohio), when Urban Meyer's team gained all of 25 yards through three quarters and wheezed their way to a 34-12 victory. Unfortunately for Meyer, the RedHawks wound up one of the nation's most surprising teams. But just as fortunately for Will Muschamp, his debut as Gator head coach shouldn't be nearly so stressful--FAU has been pegged for the bottom rungs of the Sun Belt, and will be breaking in a new quarterback and six new defensive starters in the Swamp. Most Gator fans should wind up watching quarterback John Brantley rather than the scoreboard, as a steady, solid outing by the much-maligned senior would boost his and his team's confidence considerably. - JH

#1 Oklahoma vs. Tulsa - FX, 8pm ET

The Sooners are the preseason favorite of many people throughout the country, and Saturday night will be their first chance to show people why. This game had a lot more upset potential before the arrest and suspension of Tulsa wide receiver Damaris Johnson, but the possibility that it's a lot closer than most would expect is still there. - TF

#4 LSU vs. #3 Oregon - ABC, 8pm ET

It's not just the game of this year's opening week; it would be the game of every year's opening week. And that's just looking at the rankings of the two teams--add in the Will Lyles drama at both schools, the Tigers' August bar brawl and subsequent Jordan Jefferson suspension, Cliff Harris' and Russell Shepard's respective troubles, Chip Kelly's history of nonconference woes, Jarrett Lee's potential redemption, LaMichael James kicking off his Heisman campaign, the bevy of other All-American candidates on both rosters, and the one-and-only Les Miles, and this game is as intriguing as intriguing gets. For the Ducks, victory may come down to their revamped offensive front giving Darron Thomas enough space to get Kelly's option-game going. Tiger end Sam Montgomery, though, is the kind of elite defensive lineman the Ducks have struggled with even with veteran lines. For LSU, if Lee can avoid turnovers, the Tigers' advantage on both lines-of-scrimmage should eventually prove decisive. But given the Ducks' ball-hawking ways, that's much easier said than done. The one thing we can say for certain: we'll be watching. - JH

#19 Georgia vs. #5 Boise State - ESPN, 8pm ET

Another year, another high profile season opener for the Broncos. Heisman candidate Kellen Moore will lead Boise State into a not-so-neutral Georgia Dome to face the Bulldogs in the annual Chick fil-A Kickoff. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who said this week he hopes to emulate Moore's success, will be trying to make his own statement after an impressive freshman season in 2010. The Georgia-heavy crowd in Atlanta will not be the only uphill battle for the Broncos. Boise State is undersized defensively in comparison to the Bulldogs offensive line, and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is sure to use the 3-4 scheme to put some added pressure on Moore. However, Moore does take care of the ball (74-9 TD:Int ratio last two seasons) and Georgia will be counting on the unproven true freshman Isaiah Crowell to anchor the running game. Get the "LAST" button ready, because you'll want to see both Top 25 showdowns in the primetime slot. - CP

LATE NIGHT SNACK

Hawaii vs. Colorado - ESPN2, 10:15pm ET

This Pac-12 life isn't too bad, is it, Colorado? Your very first game and you get a trip to Hawaii to show for it. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, they still have to face a Hawaii offense featuring dark horse Heisman candidate Bryant Moniz that puts up points in bunches. This game should be an entertaining way to end your Saturday. - TF 
Posted on: September 1, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 5:56 pm
 

SEC Interrogation: Week 1

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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

Steve Spurrier: are you really going to voluntarily saddle his team with a full-blown quarterback controversy? The Ol' Ball Coach has always done things his way, and it's safe to say very few other coaches' ways would include telling a fourth-year senior starter he's going to share snaps in a potentially challenging season opener, threatening to bench him if his competition outplays in said opener, and publicly declaring said competiton has outplayed him in preseason scrimmages.

Stephen Garcia has seen and heard it all from his head coach before, of course, and given his off-field history, it makes a certain amount of sense for Spurrier to keep Connor Shaw's confidence and focus at its highest possible point at all times. If the Gamecock schedule gave the team a few weeks' worth of breathers, it would make sense to keep Shaw engaged and Garcia on his toes.

But Spurrier doesn't have that luxury; East Carolina isn't Western Carolina, and the Gamecocks' critical trip to Georgia arrives right on its heels in Week 2. If Shaw (pictured) plays well enough Saturday to force another week's worth of Spurrier waffling, Carolina is going to enter the single most important game of its entire season with a colossal question mark still hanging over the team's collective head. And though we're not Steve Spurrier, we retain serious doubts as to whether that's the best way for it to prepare.

Jarrett Lee: can you avoid making the killer turnover? We won't hide from it: when we wrote in this space not long ago that Les Miles had failed his LSU team by not finding a better replacement for Jordan Jefferson than Zach Mettenberger in his first year out of JUCO or fifth-year senior Lee, yes, that was a knock against Lee. To this point, Lee's career -- a 53.5 career completion percentage, those nation-leading 16 picks in 2008 -- is the sort which, frankly, has to be knocked.

But if Lee has matured into the kind of under-control, safety-first game manager that always seems to be under center at LSU's rivals at Alabama, there's nothing stopping the Tigers from being, well, Alabama; the overpowering line, breakout running back (we see you, Spencer Ware), and lockdown defense are all in place.

Now we just have to find out about Lee, and fortunately, we won't have to wait long. Oregon forced 37 turnovers a year ago, the second-highest total in the nation; even without Cliff Harris, if Lee is loose with the ball, the Ducks are going to take it the other way.

Georgia: how comfortable are you in Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense? Much of the pregame chatter regarding Georgia's chances against Boise State have revolved around whether Isaiah Crowell can live up to his considerable hype, and there's no question Crowell's potential impact would give the Dawsg a huge boost.

But just as key -- if not moreso -- will be how the Bulldog defense handles a Bronco offense that's going to come out guns blazing. Chris Petersen and his staff have always been at their best with extra time to prepare, and if the Bulldogs haven't shored up what was an improved-but-hardly-airtight defense from 2010, Kellen Moore and Doug Martin are going to punish those leaks with a quickness. Some of the Dawgs' personnel issues with the 3-4 have been resolved (starting with the ascension of nose tackle Kwame Geathers and the shift of hard-hitting safety Alec Ogletree to inside linebacker), but that doesn't mean all the kinks are ironed out just yet.

And if there's one or two too many kinks remaining, the Broncos could be up big before the Dawgs even know what hit them, much as Virginia Tech discovered a year ago. The Hokies were able to mount a full comeback behind Tyrod Taylor, but with an angry Dawg crowd "behind" a psychologially-fragile 6-7 team, Mark Richt may not be so lucky. Grantham's unit had best be prepared.

Also worth asking: What can Ole Miss accomplish in the air, either offensively or defensively? (Some measure of competence from Barry Brunetti and the rebuilt Rebel secondary would go a long way towards SEC competitiveness.) Does Kentucky have any offensive playmakers? (No Randall Cobb, no Derrick Locke, no Mike Hartline, no Chris Matthews. What's left?) Quarterbacks: how do they look? (In addition to Ole Miss and LSU, there's some level of uncertainty at Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt ... the number of teams in the league that know what they're getting from under center are vastly outnumbered by the ones that don't.)



Posted on: September 1, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 1



Posted by Tom Fornelli


For thousands of peaceful, happy years the world was ruled by men. But no longer. Between women and machines, men watch helplessly as our power is tragically wrested away. Surely it can't be true. A world men no longer are in complete control of? Insanity. But how best to prove it?

That, my friends, is where Man vs Woman vs Machine comes in.

I am standing up for men everywhere, yelling from the mountaintops, "You can't take our football from us!" That's right. Every week, I will compete against my girlfriend, Lynn, and a machine, my Playstation 3, as we go head to head to yet another head picking winners of 15 of the biggest college football games of the week.

I will prevail. The fate of our gender and our species depends on it. I shan't let you down.

Let the reclamation of our throne begin.

Wisconsin (-35 1/2) vs. UNLV - Thursday 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - The excitement of a new season is going to end rather quickly when Wisconsin has this one wrapped up before the end of the second quarter. While I'm a bit leery of spreads this large, I'm also fully aware of the brand of American Football that Bret Bielema likes to play, and I don't doubt for a second that the Badgers will go for 100 points if the possibility is there. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "I hate a spread this big, especially when it's being set by some button man UNLV alum named Mo at Caeser's Palace." Pick: UNLV

Machine - The Machine doesn't seem to have a "Crush, Kill, Destroy" philosophy that is as strong as Bielema's. Though the machine really believes in the power of Russell Wilson, as he throws for 4 touchdowns and then runs for another to cap off the scoring in the third quarter. Wisconsin wins 35-7. Pick: UNLV

Baylor vs. TCU (-5 1/2) - Friday 8pm

Man -  This game was a lot tougher for me to call than you would normally think it would be. I'm not sure how TCU's offense will look this season without Andy Dalton around, but I do know that this will still be one of the top defenses in the country. I also know that Baylor's defense is rather porous, which should help TCU because no matter how good Robert Griffin III is, the Horned Frogs defense will make a stop when it needs to. Pick: TCU

Woman - "Home field advantage won't win the game, but it will help cover the spread." Pick: Baylor

Machine - The Machine likes the upset! Apparently there is no defense that Robert Griffin cannot solve, as he throws for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead Baylor to a 34-30 victory. Pick: Baylor

Ohio State (-33 1/2) vs Akron - Saturday 12pm

Man - What should we expect from an Ohio State team this season that doesn't have Terrelle Pryor or Jim Tressel? I don't know yet, and odds are this game won't give us much of a clue either. Ohio State should still win rather easily, but with two quarterbacks and the team's top running back and wide receiver sitting this one out, I don't think the offense will be running too smoothly. Pick: Akron

Woman - "Little known fact: A pair of Goodyear rubber zipper boots inspired Akron's nickname "The Zips."  Coincidentally, the same chance it has of beating the spread." Pick: Ohio State

Machine - Suspensions? What suspension? The Machine has Ohio State winning this one 49-14, and that was with Joe Bauserman taking all the snaps. Pick: Ohio State

Alabama (-36 1/2) vs. Kent State - Saturday 12:20pm

Man - Is Alabama replacing a lot of star power on offense this season? Yes. Is Kent State still Kent State? Yes. Trent Richardson may rack up close to 200 yards in the first half and then sit out the second half, and though I'm somewhat scared that the Tide will call off the dogs a bit late in the game, I still like them to cover this spread. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "Hey, Kent State, do you really want to take the chance? I didn't think so." Pick: Alabama

Machine - Well, Kent State, at least you're going to get some points out of it. The Tide rolls 56-3. Pick: Alabama

Notre Dame (-10.5) vs. South Florida - Saturday 3:30pm

Man - It's a new year and the expectations for Notre Dame are high, so there's nothing new to report. Which is why I'm incredibly leery of Notre Dame being a double-digit favorite because this is a team that hasn't lived up to those expectations for a while, and I'm not going to buy in until the Irish show it on the field. I think Notre Dame starts its season 1-0, but it's going to be close. Pick: South Florida

Woman - "If Skip Holtz has any unresolved daddy issues, now's the time for payback." Pick: South Florida

Machine - Much like the Woman and I, The Machine isn't buying the Notre Dame hype either, and Brian Kelly is going to start feeling some pressure after the Irish lose 23-10 to the Bulls. Pick: South Florida

Florida State (-29 1/2) vs. Louisiana-Monroe - Saturday 3:30pm

Man - I'm not entirely sold on Florida State being ranked as high as it is to start the season, but I don't foresee the Seminoles having any trouble with Louisiana-Monroe this weekend. There's a chance the 'Noles will get caught looking ahead to their date against Oklahoma, but it's a small one. Pick: Florida State

Woman - "F-L-O-R-I-D-A-S-T-A-T-E cupCAKE cupCAKE cupCAKE" Pick: Florida State

Machine - It's a clean sweep as The Machine believes Chief Osceola will send his spear right through the heart of the Warhawks, 42-6. Pick: Florida State

Ole Miss vs. BYU (-3) - Saturday 4:45pm

Man - I know Ole Miss started its 2010 season with a loss at home against Jacksonville State, but to be an underdog at home against a BYU team that wasn't exactly a world beater itself in 2010? Why I'll gladly take the points and put my faith in the Reverend Houston Nutt. Pick: Ole Miss

Woman - "Is it just me or does "Ole Miss" sound like somebody's pet dairy cow or an arthritic spinster? Whatever, Spinster squeaks by at home. (And serves up a delicious applesauce crumb cake.)" Pick: Ole Miss

Machine - The Machine is not religious, but even it succumbs to the powerful words of the Reverend Nutt. There will be no Jacksonville State repeat, Ole Miss wins 44-20. Pick: Ole Miss

Florida (-34 1/2) vs. Florida Atlantic - Saturday 7pm

Man - While I have no doubt that Will Muschamp will have the Florida defense looking as strong as ever before the year is done, I have plenty of doubts about John Brantley and the Gators offense. Because of these doubts I have a hard time believing the Gators will blow Howard Schnellenberger's boys out of The Swamp on Saturday. Florida wins comfortably, but not by a blowout. Pick: Florida Atlantic

Woman - "The Schnellenberger's Last Season Effect: FAU will just beat the spread, which Charlie Weis will promptly schmear on some bagels." Pick: Florida Atlantic

Machine - A new offense? The same questionable quarterback? The Machine fears not these things, and the Gators roll 59-10. Pick: Florida

Oklahoma State (-37 1/2) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette - Saturday 7pm

Man - I'm of the opinion that Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon could end up with 2,000 yards receiving this season, and he's going to get a large chunk of those yards on Saturday night in Stillwater. The Ragin' Cajuns will come after Mike Gundy, but he's a man, he's over 40 and he has an offense that will put up at least 40. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "The only Louisiana Lafayette I know hates vampires and wears false eyelashes." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine - While The Machine believes in the prowess of Justin Blackmon (8 catches, 238 yards, 3 TDs) it is not nearly as confident in the Oklahoma State defense. Cowboys win 38-17. Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette

Texas (-23) vs. Rice - Saturday 8pm

Man - This game has me torn. On the one hand, I don't know that I want to count on Garrett Gilbert being able to limit turnovers enough to keep the Longhorns comfortably in the lead. On the other hand, Rice. After flipping a coin I've decided to believe that since this game is on the Longhorn Network and nobody will be watching it, Gilbert will feel much more relaxed and the Longhorns will win easily. Pick: Texas

Woman - "The Longhorns enjoy a rebound effect from last year's nightmare season and take out all their frustration on those wise old Owls." Pick: Texas

Machine - Garrett Gilbert for Heisman! Gilbert throws for 278 yards, 5 touchdowns -- half his total from last year -- and only 1 interception as the Longhorns roll 38-7. Pick: Texas

Oklahoma (-24 1/2) vs. Tulsa - Saturday 8pm

Man - This spread is pretty big for an offense that was as potent as Tulsa's last season, but I'm not sure the Hurricanes can put up astounding numbers against the Oklahoma defense without Damaris Johnson and Todd Graham. Landry Jones gets his Heisman campaign off on the right foot. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "Seriously, can someone explain why a school located in the heart of Tornado Alley calls itself the Golden Hurricanes?  Tulsa loses but covers." Pick: Tulsa

Machine - The Machine believes in the Tulsa offense a lot more than I do right now, but the Golden Tornadoes fall just short in a 31-24 loss. Pick: Tulsa

Georgia vs. Boise State (-3 1/2) - Saturday 8pm in Atlanta

Man - There are many who believe that Mark Richt is coaching to save his job with Georgia this fall, and his hold on the position will be a bit more tenuous after this one. Kellen Moore and Boise State are going to claim another BCS scalp on Saturday night in front of a packed Georgia Dome, and I don't think it'll be interesting in the fourth quarter. Pick: Boise State

Woman - "Sorry, adorable l'il Uga the Fiftieth, it's not happening." Pick: Boise State

Machine - Wow, I think Boise State's going to win this one comfortably, but The Machine doesn't even think Georgia should bother showing up. Boise State wins 48-9. Pick: Boise State

LSU (-2 1/2) vs. Oregon - Saturday 8pm in Dallas

Man - Is this game going to be played in a parking lot or a football field? To be honest, I'm not sure if being without Jordan Jefferson hurts LSU or helps it, and I hate going against the magic of Les Miles, but I just have fewer questions about Oregon right now. LSU may pull off another insane last second victory, but I still see the Ducks covering that spread. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "Les Miles will be flossing with Cowboy Stadium's Matrix turf." Pick: LSU

Machine - The Machine feels that Jordan Jefferson is incredibly important, and it shows in the final score. Oregon racks up 598 yards of total offense against the LSU defense and wins rather easily, 42-23. Pick: Oregon

Texas A&M (-15 1/2) vs. SMU - Sunday 7:30pm

Man - The team that's leaving the Big 12 against the team that would like to take its place. If SMU wins do they get in? I'm not sure, and I don't think they'll find out on Saturday. While I expect the Mustangs offense to keep things interesting, I think the Aggies will have too much in the end. Still, SMU covers and then Craig James will claim he doesn't remember a thing that happened during the game. Pick: SMU

Woman - "Aggies starting off what could be a great season and a Big 12 swan song with a win, but they won't cover." Pick: SMU 

Machine - The Machine sees a barnburner in our future on Sunday night. The Aggies narrowly escape with a victory thanks to a field goal in the final minutes, but it's not good enough for a cover. A&M wins 34-31. Pick: SMU

Maryland vs. Miami (-5 1/2) - Monday 8pm

Man - Randy Edsall's dream becomes a reality in his first game at Maryland against whatever is left of the Miami Hurricanes by the time the ball is kicked off. All I know is that I wouldn't be shocked if Miami won this game, but there's just no way I'm going to pick the Canes after the amount of work I had to put in to remove all the ineligible and suspended players from the roster before simulating this game. I hope Nevin Shapiro's yacht stalls in the middle of the ocean while you're out there watching the game. Pick: Maryland

Woman: "Instant karma and home field gives the edge to Maryland." Pick: Maryland

Machine: The Dream Job turns into an early nightmare. Despite having to pull players from the stands to complete its roster, the Machine still sees Miami pulling this one off 28-20. Pick: Miami 
Posted on: August 24, 2011 2:39 pm
 

Barry Brunetti officially Ole Miss QB starter

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It won't be a surprise to anyone who noticed Houston Nutt's plan to suspend Randall Mackey in the wake of the junior's disorderly conduct arrest, but Nutt made it official Tuesday night all the same: West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti will be the Rebels' starting quarterback when Nutt's team opens the season against BYU.

But according to this report from the Clarion-Ledger, Brunetti shouldn't feel too comfortable just yet. Nutt also said that pocket-passing JUCO transfer Zack Stoudt would see time against the Cougars, and that Brunetti's ascension to the starter's role for Game 1 doesn't mean he's guaranteed the same for Game 2 against FCS Southern Illinois.

That said, Mackey's arrest has clearly given Brunetti a substantial leg up. A top dual-threat quarterbacking recruit in the class of 2010, Brunetti spent one year in Morgantown, appearing in four games. But the Memphis product elected to transfer closer to home to help his ailing mother, and earned a waiver from the NCAA to skip the usual penalty year. Thanks to that decision, a productive spring camp, and Brunetti's Jeremiah Masoli-like skill-set, Nutt said over the summer that Brunetti entered the fall with a slight edge on his competition.

That edge now appears to be a more substantial one, and the BYU game represents a golden opportunity for Brunetti to make it even more decisive. The big question regarding Brunetti's play will be his poise in the pocket and throwing accuracy, and the combination of the Rebels' veteran pass protectors (including senior All-SEC left tackle Bradley Sowell) and the Cougars' rebuilding secondary (three starters gone, including two All-Mountain West performers) should give him plenty of chances to make plays in the passing game.

But if he doesn't, it's clear that Stoudt will be ready to take advantage, and despite being in Nutt's doghouse -- "You have to think. The bottom line is it was not a good decision made," Nutt said -- Mackey will have the chance to work his way back into the mix if the other two struggle. Brunetti is the clear victor this week from Mackey's mistake, but we doubt seriously this will be the last time we write about the Ole Miss quarterbacking depth chart this fall.

Posted on: August 23, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Updating the SEC quarterback races

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With lots of movement on the SEC quarterback front the last few days, now seems a good time to update the entire league's worth of races, team-by-team. Here's the latest, in alphabetical order:

ALABAMA: The Tide's season opener against Kent State is just 11 days away, but Nick Saban hasn't given any more indication towards his staff's decision between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims than he did when spring practice opened. In fact, his last comment on the situation was to say that one of them might play a position other than qurterback. McCarron remains the slightest of favorites due to his extra year of experience, but the closer the opener grows, the more likely it becomes that Saban makes good on his April threat to platoon the two. And given that not even the most catastrophic of quarterback outings could submarine the Tide against the overmatched Golden Flashes, it might make some sense to use the opener as one final audition for both.

ARKANSAS: Believe it or not, the Hogs still don't have an official starting quarterback, as Bobby Petrino has refused to name Tyler Wilson the starter over sophomore Brandon Mitchell. That's despite the fact that anyone not directly related to Mitchell believes the job is 100 percent Wilson's and the junior has been lighting the practice fields up all camp. This one appears to be a formality designed to keep the carrot in front of Mitchell for as long as possible, but stranger things have happened, we guess.

AUBURN: As you probably know, junior Barrett Trotter has been named Cam Newton's successor, with redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley the backup and true freshman Kiehl Frazier third-string. But Gus Malzahn hasn't ruled out using Frazier in some capacity, and gave the four-star recruit every snap in last weekend's scrimmage. A late-season appearance might be in the cards, particularly if Trotter struggles.

FLORIDA: No controversy here: John Brantley has been the unquestioned starter since fall camp broke, with both coaches and players seeming to go out of their way to praise the much-maligned senior and downgrade the chances of five-star freshman Jeff Driskel. "John’s our starter, and he’s our quarterback, and I don’t have any anticipation of (Driskel playing)," Will Muschamp said when discussing the Gators' opener against Florida Atlantic. Driskel has, nonetheless, won the backup's role.

GEORGIA:
The Bulldogs don't have any drama, with Aaron Murray the unquestioned starter and sophomore Hutson Mason the established backup ahead of true freshman Christian LeMay. Mason has had an up-and-down fall camp, though, with some reportedly sharp practices offset by outings like one four-interception practice he called "my worst day ever — in football, period."

KENTUCKY: Morgan Newton
has long since been anointed the Wildcat starter, but Kentucky may need him to stay healthy even more than the Bulldogs' need the same for Murray. Newton and the Wildcat coaches have both had ample praise for backup Maxwell Smith's ability to pick up the offense after just one spring camp and one fall practice ... but the reason Smith's had just one of each is because he's a true freshman, and not a particularly highly-regarded one (according to recruiting experts) at that.

LSU:
Now here's some drama. Much to many Tiger fans' chagrin, as of this moment not even the threat of a second-degree battery arrest is enough to move the gauge-needle on Jordan Jefferson's starting job away from "likely." Now here's the even more depressing news for those bayou residents hoping strong-armed JUCO (and former Georgia backup) Zach Mettenberger would assume the top spot: Mettenberger still hasn't even supplanted Jarrett Lee as the Tigers' backup. According to Lee himself, Jefferson is still running with the "ones" in practice, Lee the twos, and Mettenberger is left with whatever reps Lee doesn't take. If Jefferson does miss the opener against Oregon, it will now be quite the shock if Mettenberger gets the call over Lee, who does say he's had the best camp of his long career.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: 
We know that Chris Relf will be the Bulldog' starter. The question is: will backup Tyler Russell borrow any of Relf's snaps, as he did early in 2010 as the designated pocket quarterback? The consensus seems to be that he won't, with third-stringer Dylan Favre (yes, the nephew of that other Favre) reportedly closer to Russell than Russell is to Relf. Dan Mullen hasn't entirely ruled out a return to a quarterback rotation, but we'll be surprised if we see Russell in the event of anything other than a Relf injury.

OLE MISS:
We touched on this earlier today in the wake of Randall Mackey's arrest and "likely" suspension for the Rebels' season opener, but it appears Barry Brunetti -- always the narrow favorite to win the starting job coming out of spring practice -- is now the most likely candidate to begin Ole Miss's 2011 season under center. But will he stay there? The Rebel coaching staff seems genuine in their repeated statements that none of their three candidates has separated himself from the other two, and former Houston Nutt doghouse resident Zack Stoudt offers a stronger-armed passing element that both Brunetti and Mackey lack. Unless Brunetti shines out of the gate, expect Stoudt to get a serious look at some point. And if Mackey avoids the doghouse himself, the same could go for him, too.

SOUTH CAROLINA:
Steve Spurrier promised a legitimate quarterback battle back at SEC Media Days, but whatever slim chance Connor Shaw actually had of unseating Stephen Garcia, it likely evaporated last week when Shaw injured his thumb and missed three practices. Never say never with Spurrier, but it will likely take some truly egregious play on Garcia's part (or another off-field incident) for Shaw to see any meaningful playing time.

TENNESSEE: Tyler Bray hasn't always pleased his coaches or put his best foot forward this fall, but he appears to have done plenty enough to hold off Matt Simms, who sounds as if he's resigned himself to being the backup. All the same, having Montana as an opening-week tune-up should be an excellent opportunity for Bray to make sure the Vols' two-headed QB wounds of 2010 don't reopen.

VANDERBILT:
The biggest news for Vandy's quarterbacks this week won't actually have any impact until 2012, when newly official Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels becomes eligible. Until then, Vandy will make do with either senior Larry Smith or junior Jordan Rogers, who together directed an offensive performance at Saturday's scrimmage one disappointed Vanderbilt blog described as "Vanderbilt-like." It may take more than one season (or the arrival of Carta-Samuels, who spearheaded the Cowboys' bowl run in 2009) for James Franklin to get the 'Dores' long-simmering quarterback woes ironed out.


Posted on: August 23, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Updating the SEC quarterback races

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With lots of movement on the SEC quarterback front the last few days, now seems a good time to update the entire league's worth of races, team-by-team. Here's the latest, in alphabetical order:

ALABAMA: The Tide's season opener against Kent State is just 11 days away, but Nick Saban hasn't given any more indication towards his staff's decision between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims than he did when spring practice opened. In fact, his last comment on the situation was to say that one of them might play a position other than qurterback. McCarron remains the slightest of favorites due to his extra year of experience, but the closer the opener grows, the more likely it becomes that Saban makes good on his April threat to platoon the two. And given that not even the most catastrophic of quarterback outings could submarine the Tide against the overmatched Golden Flashes, it might make some sense to use the opener as one final audition for both.

ARKANSAS: Believe it or not, the Hogs still don't have an official starting quarterback, as Bobby Petrino has refused to name Tyler Wilson the starter over sophomore Brandon Mitchell. That's despite the fact that anyone not directly related to Mitchell believes the job is 100 percent Wilson's and the junior has been lighting the practice fields up all camp. This one appears to be a formality designed to keep the carrot in front of Mitchell for as long as possible, but stranger things have happened, we guess.

AUBURN: As you probably know, junior Barrett Trotter has been named Cam Newton's successor, with redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley the backup and true freshman Kiehl Frazier third-string. But Gus Malzahn hasn't ruled out using Frazier in some capacity, and gave the four-star recruit every snap in last weekend's scrimmage. A late-season appearance might be in the cards, particularly if Trotter struggles.

FLORIDA: No controversy here: John Brantley has been the unquestioned starter since fall camp broke, with both coaches and players seeming to go out of their way to praise the much-maligned senior and downgrade the chances of five-star freshman Jeff Driskel. "John’s our starter, and he’s our quarterback, and I don’t have any anticipation of (Driskel playing)," Will Muschamp said when discussing the Gators' opener against Florida Atlantic. Driskel has, nonetheless, won the backup's role.

GEORGIA:
The Bulldogs don't have any drama, with Aaron Murray the unquestioned starter and sophomore Hutson Mason the established backup ahead of true freshman Christian LeMay. Mason has had an up-and-down fall camp, though, with some reportedly sharp practices offset by outings like one four-interception practice he called "my worst day ever — in football, period."

KENTUCKY: Morgan Newton
has long since been anointed the Wildcat starter, but Kentucky may need him to stay healthy even more than the Bulldogs' need the same for Murray. Newton and the Wildcat coaches have both had ample praise for backup Maxwell Smith's ability to pick up the offense after just one spring camp and one fall practice ... but the reason Smith's had just one of each is because he's a true freshman, and not a particularly highly-regarded one (according to recruiting experts) at that.

LSU:
Now here's some drama. Much to many Tiger fans' chagrin, as of this moment not even the threat of a second-degree battery arrest is enough to move the gauge-needle on Jordan Jefferson's starting job away from "likely." Now here's the even more depressing news for those bayou residents hoping strong-armed JUCO (and former Georgia backup) Zach Mettenberger would assume the top spot: Mettenberger still hasn't even supplanted Jarrett Lee as the Tigers' backup. According to Lee himself, Jefferson is still running with the "ones" in practice, Lee the twos, and Mettenberger is left with whatever reps Lee doesn't take. If Jefferson does miss the opener against Oregon, it will now be quite the shock if Mettenberger gets the call over Lee, who does say he's had the best camp of his long career.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: 
We know that Chris Relf will be the Bulldog' starter. The question is: will backup Tyler Russell borrow any of Relf's snaps, as he did early in 2010 as the designated pocket quarterback? The consensus seems to be that he won't, with third-stringer Dylan Favre (yes, the nephew of that other Favre) reportedly closer to Russell than Russell is to Relf. Dan Mullen hasn't entirely ruled out a return to a quarterback rotation, but we'll be surprised if we see Russell in the event of anything other than a Relf injury.

OLE MISS:
We touched on this earlier today in the wake of Randall Mackey's arrest and "likely" suspension for the Rebels' season opener, but it appears Barry Brunetti -- always the narrow favorite to win the starting job coming out of spring practice -- is now the most likely candidate to begin Ole Miss's 2011 season under center. But will he stay there? The Rebel coaching staff seems genuine in their repeated statements that none of their three candidates has separated himself from the other two, and former Houston Nutt doghouse resident Zack Stoudt offers a stronger-armed passing element that both Brunetti and Mackey lack. Unless Brunetti shines out of the gate, expect Stoudt to get a serious look at some point. And if Mackey avoids the doghouse himself, the same could go for him, too.

SOUTH CAROLINA:
Steve Spurrier promised a legitimate quarterback battle back at SEC Media Days, but whatever slim chance Connor Shaw actually had of unseating Stephen Garcia, it likely evaporated last week when Shaw injured his thumb and missed three practices. Never say never with Spurrier, but it will likely take some truly egregious play on Garcia's part (or another off-field incident) for Shaw to see any meaningful playing time.

TENNESSEE: Tyler Bray hasn't always pleased his coaches or put his best foot forward this fall, but he appears to have done plenty enough to hold off Matt Simms, who sounds as if he's resigned himself to being the backup. All the same, having Montana as an opening-week tune-up should be an excellent opportunity for Bray to make sure the Vols' two-headed QB wounds of 2010 don't reopen.

VANDERBILT:
The biggest news for Vandy's quarterbacks this week won't actually have any impact until 2012, when newly official Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels becomes eligible. Until then, Vandy will make do with either senior Larry Smith or junior Jordan Rogers, who together directed an offensive performance at Saturday's scrimmage one disappointed Vanderbilt blog described as "Vanderbilt-like." It may take more than one season (or the arrival of Carta-Samuels, who spearheaded the Cowboys' bowl run in 2009) for James Franklin to get the 'Dores' long-simmering quarterback woes ironed out.


Posted on: August 23, 2011 11:45 am
Edited on: August 23, 2011 12:49 pm
 

Ole Miss QB Randall Mackey arrested, suspended

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

If you're locked in a down-to-the-wire battle for a starting quarterback job in the SEC, the last thing you'll want to do is get in some kind of off-field hot water that gives your coaches an excuse to look elsewhere. The last thing. Right?

Apparently Ole Miss's Randall Mackey didn't get the memo. The Clarion-Ledger is reporting that Mackey was involved in a fight at a local bar/music venue and arrested by Oxford police. He was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and released.

Houston Nutt then announced today that Mackey would "likely" be suspended for the Rebels' season opener against BYU.

On the scale of 1 to serious, an arrest for disorderly conduct following what seems to be a minor fracas falls somewhere in the 2-to-2.5 range, we're thinking; a Jordan Jefferson situation, this is not. But unlike Jefferson, Mackey had no margin for error where his efforts to win a starting job were concerned. His coaches have said multiple times this offseason that West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti would take the first snap if the season "began today," and fellow former JUCO Zack Stoudt has brought a pocket-passing game that Mackey can't match.

After a Saturday scrimmage in which all three candidates had their positive and negative moments, Nutt was still playing coy about who he would ultimately name the starter--and it's entirely possible the Rebels could settle on a rotation once Mackey returns from suspension. (If we had to lay down a wager on the starter, we'd stick with Brunetti, the player whose skill set most closely resembles that of 2010 starter Jeremiah Masoli and who is now a heavy favorite to get the start against the Cougars.)

However you slice it, though, Mackey clearly already had a substantial challenge earning the No. 1 nod, and proving his leadership qualities -- or lack thereof -- by getting arrested hasn't done a thing to help him meet it.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com