Posted on: October 12, 2011 1:55 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 1:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
You wouldn't think things could get any worse for the Kentucky offense, already the worst scoring offense in the SEC by a full touchdown, the 119th-ranked offense in the FBS in total yardage, and possessors of one of the most hideous offensive displays of the entier college football season in last week's 54-3 loss to South Carolina. But it's gotten worse.
Head coach Joker Phillips announced Tuesday that starting tailback Josh Clemons will miss the rest of the season after tearing the meniscus in his right knee during the loss to the Gamecocks. Clemson underwent surgery Tuesday morning, the Courier-Journal reported.
Clemons had been one of the precious few bright spots on the Wildcat offense, leading the team with 279 yards rushing and a 4.29 per-carry average as a true freshman. Combined with his 53 yards receiving (also fourth on the team), Clemons' yards-from-scrimmage account for just under a quarter (24 percent) of his team's total yardage for the season.
“If there’s ever a year that it doesn’t shock you, it’s probably this one,” offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said in response to Clemons' injury. “It seems things like that just keep piling up.”
There is some good news for the Wildcats; sophomore Raymond Sanders, the de facto tailback starter until he missed three games with an injury, is healthy again. And with Kentucky on a bye this week, he'll have another week to get back to full speed before the 'Cats host FCS Jacksonville State Oct. 29.
But if that even qualifies as a silver lining, it's not going to distract anyone from the giantic black storm cloud that has enveloped this Kentucky season. The Wildcat's ground game is the only part of their offense that isn't rock-bottom in the SEC--their rush offense ranks 11th in both per-carry average and yards per-game (thanks, Tennessee!).
But even that meager "success" was largely due to Clemons' hard running. If Sanders isn't up to filling his shoes -- hard as it is to imagine -- the 'Cat attack could get even more toothless.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 5:12 pm
Posted by Eye on College Football staff
Tags: ACC, Adam Jacobi, Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Bryan Fischer, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Florida, Indiana, Jerry Hinnen, Kansas, Keys to the Game, LSU, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Pac-12, SEC, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Washington State, Week 7, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 1:45 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
FLORIDA WILL WIN IF: their young secondary can continue to make Auburn's suddenly woebegone passing game as inefficient as it's been the past few weeks. The Tigers ran for 290 yards against Arkansas and it still didn't keep them within three touchdowns of the Razorbacks, thanks to a passing game that completed just 9-of-25 attempts and threw three interceptions without a touchdown. But Barrett Trotter has been much more comfortable at home than on the road -- his QB rating of 160.71 at Jordan-Hare Stadium dwarfs his 88.88 rating elsewhere, albeit against substantially lesser competition -- and the Gators didn't respond well to their first road test last week, allowing LSU quarterbacks to complete 10 of 14 passes for a whopping 15.4 yards an attempt and two scores. Despite starting a true freshman at both corner and safety (and a true sophomore, Matt Elam, at the other safety position), the Gator secondary showed in effective performances against Tennessee and Alabama that they have the potential to keep Trotter and Co. on continued lockdown--if they bounce back from their outing in Baton Rouge and do, Auburn will have a difficult time putting points on the board no matter how well they run.
AUBURN WILL WIN IF: they can keep Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey under wraps. Easier said than done, of course, and as Joe Adams' 93-yard touchdown run for Arkansas showed, the Tigers remain highly vulnerable to giving up the big play on the ground to quick, elusive runners ... like, say, Demps and Rainey. But after some early-season difficulties, the Tiger run defense has improved to the point of adequacy the past two weeks; remove Adams' 93 yards from the equation, and Auburn allowed a combined 3.59 yards per-carry against the Razorbacks and South Carolina. Numbers anything close to that mark will mean Auburn will have shifted a big chunk of the offensive burden
to Jacoby Brissett (or, possibly, Jeff Driskel); judging by the LSU game, that's a burden Brissett isn't yet ready to carry.
THE X-FACTOR: Night games against Florida -- a traditional rival of the Tigers, who thanks to the divisional split now visits only rarely -- have been known to bring out the best (read: loudest, rowdiest) in the Jordan-Hare crowd, as evidenced by the Gators' last visit: 2006, when the cauldron of noise helped Tommy Tuberville engineer an upset of the then No. 1 team in the nation (and the only defeat suffered that season by Urban Meyer's eventual national champions). If a hot Auburn start can get its fans past last week's disappointment and back into the full voice of that 2006 victory, it remains to be seen how the inexperienced Gators will react.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 5:17 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 5:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
LSU safety Tyrann Mathieu has quickly made LSU fans forget all about former cornerback Patrick Peterson by dominating games on defense. Quite simply, the Honey Badger is out there taking whatever he wants, when he wants. Still, it seems Mathieu is not content being the single biggest playmaker on defense in all of college football, but he wants to take over Twitter as well.
Which is fine by me, because when players take to Twitter to talk smack rather than just spew cliches, it makes for free blog posts. Like this tweet from Mathieu directed at Florida's Trey Burton, who made a comment about LSU's secondary not being all that good.
Now, admittedly, this does go a bit against Mathieu's honey badger persona. After all, the honey badger don't care, so the honey badger should probably just ignore Burton's comments. That being said, if Mathieu wants to tweet about Tennessee this week, that's cool with me too.
Also, when asked for comment about Mathieu's tweet, head coach Les Miles had this to say.
Posted on: October 10, 2011 9:36 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 4:44 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
There wasn't a particularly appetizing slate of college football games this week. Sure there was the Red River Shootout Beatdown Blowout Rivalry and a few other entertaining match ups but there truly was not a must watch game from kickoff to the final whistle most of the day. AP Top 25 teams in week 6 won by an average of 24.8 points, with Florida State being the lone upset to an unranked team.
It was another good week of college football, don't get me wrong, but the drama was a bit lacking until late Saturday night when Ohio State-Nebraska took the stage down in Lincoln. The game itself was nothing to write home about in terms of style points but it made up for it in second half theatrics. Taylor Martinez helped lead the storied program's biggest comeback ever, from down 21 points, with three scores, 102 yards rushing and an efficient 191 yards on 16 of 22 passing.
When I watched OSU against Miami, I saw a team that was half a step slower than the Hurricanes and looked like they were going through their first spring practice execution-wise. They were a solid Big Ten team but one who just couldn't execute like previous years. It was much different from when my colleague Gregg Doyel watched the Buckeyes in their opener in early September. There was a sense of relief then after a tumultuous offseason and, just as important to the OSU faithful, hope that they would be ok until most of the 'Buckeye Five' returned from their suspensions. Luke Fickell was a coach to believe in and this was a team that still had seemed to have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, according to Doyel:
It was Akron, so who really can say, but what the heck -- I'll go ahead and say it:Well, that was Akron and things certainly have changed since Doyel wrote that column (one he'd love to have back, I'm sure), including the step up in competition with Nebraska. Granted this isn't your father's Cornhuskers team. They're 46th in total offense and, even more surprising with the Pelini brothers patrolling the sidelines, 59th in total defense. They got whacked by Wisconsin and have flirted with several close games before putting inferior opponents away late. They are no Akron but they're not a top 10 team either.
The Buckeyes looked like they were on their way to a win Saturday by a surprising margin, ruining the Big Ten debut of Memorial Stadium. Things weren't going great but they were at least good. Freshman Braxton Miller looked comfortable running the offense, making plays with his feet and doing plenty to stake the team to a 27-6 lead in the 3rd. After the offense had looked pitiful against Miami and Michigan State the previous two weeks, there were signs of life for the scarlet and gray. With about five minutes left in the third quarter, Ohio State led 27-13 and had rolled up 312 yards of offense.
Then Miller sprained his ankle and all hell seemed to break lose.
"I'd like to say no," tight end Reid Fragel told the Cleveland Plain Dealer when asked if Miller's absence affected the whole team, "but it's one of those things at the back of everybody's mind. I'd like to say no, but at the same time, everybody cares about our quarterback and was kind of worried about him."
Senior Joe Bauserman came on to replace him and went 1 of 10 for 13 yards while the team as a whole had just 39 yards of offense the rest of the game. The Buckeyes went from grabbing an uplifting win on the road to a devastating loss; from a good team to mediocre to bad in a span of about 20 minutes of game time. There were mistakes in every phase of the game and at every level. Execution was lacking and any playmakers on the team seemed to be sitting on the bench drinking Gatorade.
Who deserves blame for it? Well there's plenty to go around. Bauserman, certainly, for the interception and stagnant offense. The defense too, for allowing Nebraska to rush for nearly 200 yards in the second half after holding them to just 37 in the first half. Many OSU fans are quick to blame offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and he rightfully deserves the lion's share for one reason: he didn't have a game plan for Bauserman. At all. He bet big on Miller and when it came time for Bauserman to take over at a key point in the game, Bollman seemed to panic and out-think himself.
What makes it interesting is that Bauserman was at one time the starter and he's played in every game this year. You'd think they would adjust the play calling so that he could nurse the lead and allow the senior to manage the game. Following Miller's injury, there were eight rushes and 10 passes, one of which was intercepted.
"No, Joe is not as mobile," Fickell said after the game. "We have to do a better job of putting him in situations he can handle a little better."
"The floodgates kind of opened and we started to panic a little bit and we never got ourselves back on track."
Those are not the words of a head coach. Jim Tressel - despite his compliance issues - was a terrific head coach because he had everybody buy in to what he was doing. More importantly, he knew what he was doing.
Fickell, a Buckeye through and through, seems to be in over his head and the inexperience really came through Saturday. There are plenty of people rooting for him to succeed but there's a reason why so many other names have been mentioned as the head coach of the team in 2012. Fickell has been thrown into the fire, a very hot one, and is doing the best that he can. Knowing how to manage a program, especially one like this, is not something many know how to do. It takes time and it takes a very good coach, one who is in control of everything and knows just what button to push at the right time. At this point in the season, it's hard to say Fickell has total control nor knows what to do. It's unfortunate but it's also life.
Ohio State's 3-3 with six games left, four of which they'll likely be decided underdogs. A bowl game is probably still likely but the program seems like it's adrift and capable of falling off the cliff if the staff isn't careful.
"You've got to rely on some guys," Fickell said. "And it's about leadership. But I don't know. That's what we're going to have to really look back at."
The leadership has to come from Fickell and the upperclassmen on the team, it shouldn't be 'I don't know' coming from the head coach or something that they'll 'have to look at.' There will be a lot of soul-searching going on in Columbus this week as well as some growing up for Fickell and company.
Stat of the week
According to the Associated Press, the state of Florida has been shut out of the AP poll for the first time since December 6, 1982. Not just the big three of Florida, Florida State and Miami, the entire state. There's just one California team (7. Stanford) and four from the state of Texas (20. Baylor, 21. Texas A&M, 22. Texas, 25. Houston).
Stats of the week
- Florida's loss to LSU was the worst loss for the program since 1996.
- Texas A&M is ranked in the top 25 but feature the nation's worst pass defense at 347.6 yards per game. They're behind Kansas and UNLV who have three wins between them.
- There were five SEC conference games and the winning quarterbacks had a combined 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
- Mark Richt earned his 100th win at Georgia and has a 100-36 overall record with the program.
- 27 players across the country are averaging over 100 yards rushing per game. Last year, just 19 finished with an average over the century mark.
- Arizona's Nick Foles leads the country in completions per game, is third in yards per game, second in total yards, fourth in total offense and has a 5-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Yet his team is 1-5 because the defense is 115th in total defense, 117th in scoring defense and second to last in the country in sacks.
- With a touchdown catch against Texas, Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles is the active leader in career receiving touchdowns with 10 more than the next guy, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.
- Surprisingly Illinois is tied for the nation's third longest winning streak at seven games. Stanford has the longest (13) followed by Oklahoma (10). Alabama and LSU both have seven game streaks as well but obviously will play each other in November. New Mexico and Florida Atlantic have the longest losing streaks at eight games, while Memphis has lost 15 straight in conference.
- The Pac-12 leads the country in passing and has 31 more passing touchdowns than any other conference (153 total). The Big Ten leads the country in rushing and has 11 more rushing touchdowns than any other conference.
- UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel improved to 9-0 against Washington State at three different schools (Colorado, Washington, UCLA). One of the wins came as a non-conference win while at Colorado. With eight wins in conference play, that would mean 25% of Neuheisel's Pac-12 conference victories have come at the expense of the Cougars.
- According to the Big Ten Network, every time Michigan has started 6-0, they've gone to the Rose Bowl.
- There was plenty of Boomer Sooner at the Cotton Bowl this weekend, enough to cause Bevo to turn away from the field of play so he didn't have to see anymore of the Longhorns. Most saw Texas as overrated, moving into the top 10 largely because they hadn't lost and because they're, well, Texas. They had some momentum coming into the game and thought they had a solid backfield that would be able to make a few plays in Bryan Harsin's offense. Nope. The story of the game wasn't Oklahoma's potent offense, but its spectacular defense that had a coming out party and reminding everyone that though they might not be Alabama or LSU's, they are still pretty good. The Sooners set six defensive school records against the Horns, including eight sacks. Final score: Oklahoma's offense 34, Oklahoma defense 21, Texas 17.
- It really didn't matter what true freshman quarterback took snaps under center for Florida, they were getting fed to the wolves. Or at least one Honey Badger, who picked off starter Jacoby Brissett's deep pass in the third quarter. It's rare for LSU to have the advantage at the quarterback position but it was pretty clear they had the advantage at just about every position in their 41-11 rout at home. The Gators have issues but they're still a solid football that's just trying to find some footing. The Tigers, meanwhile, look like they used the weekend to tune up every phase of their game, controlling throughout and limiting their opponent to 2 of 11 on third down and 213 total yards. The lasting images of the game might have come from a punter and a back up quarterback. Much-maligned quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw a touchdown pass in a manner Florida fans are quite familiar with - a jump pass near the goal line. Brad Wing became an overnight sensation after faking a punt and taking it 52 yards to the house late in the first. Wing, however, raised his arms slightly before crossing the goal line and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag that took the points off the board. That was about the only thing that went wrong all day for Les Miles' crew.
"We showed everybody that we are capable of some special things against a really good Florida team," said Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery. "I want more. I want a National Championship. I want to play the best ever."
- Virginia Tech just doesn't lose back-to-back games at home under Frank Beamer. Perhaps it's the 'Enter Sandman' music the PA announcer puts on late in games but there's not much you can do to stop the Hokies. Miami thought they did thanks to Lamar Miller, who broke off several big runs in the fourth quarter before catching a throwback pass for a touchdown to pull the Hurricanes to within three. He gave them the lead with a 30 yard run late in the game before Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said 'Sorry, I'll take that' on an option on fourth-and-one to scamper 19 yards for the game-winning score. The comeback by Thomas capped an overall great day for him, going 23 of 25 for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
- Staying in the ACC, the surprise team in the league might be Georgia Tech, not Clemson. The 6-0 Yellow Jackets held off a late charge from Maryland after building a 21-3 lead going into the fourth. "They whipped our tail pretty good in the end," Tech coach Bobby Johnson said. Still, his squad is undefeated and among the top 10 in a good number of offensive categories. The passing game wasn't there against the Terrapins like it was in previous games but they still managed to eek out a victory. By the way, it's ok if you missed watching this game on account of Maryland's uniform combination, which featured mustard yellow pants.
- Arizona State has finally started to live up to expectations while Utah hasn't even come close to them. The Sun Devils defense forced three straight turnovers at one point in the third quarter, quick enough that quarterback Brock Osweiler couldn't even get his jersey cleaned in time. "They were cleaning it one second and the next second it was, 'Hey, you got to go,"' he said. "But that's a credit to our defense. They were staying focused, playing with a lot of intensity, creating turnovers." As sharp as the defense has looked the past few games, the offense has shown off an explosive side as well, scoring 18 straight points in four minutes. Dennis Erickson's squad also won a road game, big because they have a showdown and possible championship game preview with Oregon this week. For the Utes, we all worried about the grind of a BCS conference and it does seem like they're wearing down in the second half of games after starting relativly strong. Of course, it helps to have a healthy quarterback but they just haven't had one as Jordan Wynn missed yet another game. They've lost six of their last 10 and need to do something against the back half of their conference schedule to make a bowl.
- Remember when Florida State was fifth in the country and everybody was whispering they were back? Me neither. The only ranked team to lose to an unranked foe, the Seminoles had their issues with Wake Forest. After a previously injured E.J. Manuel returned in the second quarter to replace starter Clint Trickett, he threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene and many expected FSU to start moving from there. Wake running back Josh Harris had other ideas, breaking off big run after big run on his way to 136 yards and an upset. The Demon Deacons have now won four straight and are undefeated in ACC play even if they are flying under most people's radar. Wake has only five wins against Florida State all-time but have won four of them since 2006 and four of the last six.
- On one hand, it was Kentucky. On the other hand, it was an impressive showing by South Carolina. Steve Spurrier made a change at quarterback and Connor Shaw paid off as the Gamecocks had more yards on offense since the Old Ball Coach started calling plays in Columbia. The 54-3 win was also South Carolina's biggest victory since joining the SEC, thanks in large part to the sharp play of Shaw, who went 26 of 39 for 311 yards and four touchdowns. About the only one who didn't score was running back Marcus Lattimore.
"That #11 ranking was such a farce. If Texas had Complete Scouting Services they wouldn't lose to OU so bad."
- Infamous recruiting scout Willie Lyles.
Like the AP poll, my top 10 does not change.
4. Boise State
7. Oklahoma State
10. Georgia Tech
Where we'll be this week
Mr. College Football Tony Barnhart will see if Connor Shaw is the real deal as South Carolina heads to Starkvegas to play Mississippi State. Dennis Dodd will take in the sights and sounds of Knoxville as LSU plays Tennessee. Brett McMurphy will see if Texas shows any improvement as they host Oklahoma State while Bruce Feldman will head to the Pacific Northwest to see a possible Pac-12 Championship Game preview with Arizona State and Oregon.
Leaning this way
Michigan at Michigan State
Anything can happen in rivalry games and it would certainly make the Spartans' season if they pulled off an upset of Big Blue and a top 10 team. Mark Dantonio has had a bye week to help prepare to stop Denard Robinson but Michigan's improved defense will be enough to help squeak by in a close game in East Lansing.
Oklahoma State at Texas
Those 55 points Oklahoma scored? Oklahoma State had that by halftime last week. The young Texas defense will have their hands full again this week with what might be an even better passing offense. The defense for the Cowboys is nothing special so the Horns should be able to put up some points of their own but there's just too many weapons for Brandon Weeden to keep it close.
Arizona State at Oregon
Dennis Erickson's squad got a road win and have been playing as well as anyone on defense the past couple of weeks. They've been forcing turnovers left and right and will need to continue that if they're to have a shot against the Ducks. LaMichael James won't play but the offense is still potent with Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas coming out of the backfield. This could be a championship game preview and Oregon wins thanks to another big second half.
Tags: ACC, Akron, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bobby Johnson, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Braxton Miller, Brett McMurphy, Brock Osweiler, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Buckeye Five, Celmson, Clint Trickett, Colorado, Connor Shaw, Cotton Bowl, DeAnthony Thomas, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, Dennis Erickson, E.J. Manuel, FAU, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Gregg Doyel, Houston, Illinois, Jacoby Brissett, Jim Bollman, Jim Tressel, Joe Bauserman, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Wynn, Josh Harris, Kansas, Kenjon Barner, Kentucky, Lamar Miller, LaMichael James, LSU, Luke Fickell, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Dantonio, Mark Richt, Maryland, Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Miami, Michael Floyd, Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nick Foles, Non-BCS, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, Rashad Greene, Red River Rivalry, Reid Fragel, Rick Neuheisel, Rose Bowl, Ryan Broyles, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Steve Spurrier, Taylor Martinez, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Oklahoma, Tony Barnhart, UCLA, UNLV, Utah, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Washington, Washington STate, Willie Lyles, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 9, 2011 10:30 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Tennessee's bowl hopes took a hit this week with the announcement that QB Tyler Bray will miss most, if not all, of the rest of the regular season. Bray suffered a broken thumb in the 4th quarter of the Vols' 20-12 loss to Georgia on Saturday, and according to RapidReporter Daniel Lewis, the team expects Bray to miss six weeks with the injury.
The injury puts a halt to what had begun as a brilliant sophomore campaign for the Vols' signal-caller; Bray is currently ranked 11th in the nation in passing efficiency, having thrown for 1579 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions on 116-176 passing for the year.
Matt Simms came on in relief of Bray during Saturday's loss, and he wasn't bad; coming into the game cold with the ball on Georgia's 23 yard line, Simms kept the touchdown drive going -- even converting a first down after an intenional grounding penalty gave Tennessee a 2nd and 25. At the same time, it took Simms seven plays to get those 23 yards. Yes, that's a small sample size, but we're still not talking about a great deal of efficiency here.
If the six-week figure is accurate, that means Bray won't be healthy until the season finale, when Tennessee travels to Kentucky with what might well be bowl eligibility on the line. Tennessee is 3-2 right now, and it's unlikely (though not impossible) that the Vols get any wins out of the upcoming stretch of LSU, @Alabama, and South Carolina. If Bray's under center, perhaps that changes, but he won't be. At an rate, if Tennessee loses its next three, it's 3-5, and needing to get three wins out of Middle Tennesse State, @Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and the aforementioned @Kentucky. That's certainly doable, but it's going to be at least incrementally more difficult with Simms at QB until Simms proves otherwise.
So while it's pretty much a dead lock that Bray can return in time to lead Tennessee in its bowl game, it's also going to be up to Matt Simms to get the Vols there in the first place.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 3:43 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 6.
WINNER: Les Miles.
For years, college football fans have come up with excuse after excuse for why Miles has been less than a terrifiic head football coach, despite his gaudy records and 2007 national title. He's just lucky. Anyone can recruit that kind of talent to LSU. His clock management is terrible. Never lost fewer than two games in a season. He can't get his offense fixed. Did we mention he's lucky? This offseason, one prominent blogger went so far as to place Miles No. 1 on a list of "the Worst Coaches in College Football."
But after today's dominating 41-11 win over Florida and the Tigers' 6-0 start to the 2011 season -- a start that includes wins over four different ranked teams -- even Miles's most ardent detractors have to admit the Mad Hatter has put together the kind of upper-upper-echelon team that can't be explained by recruiting or luck or happenstance alone. Yes, it helps to have Ryan Baker and Tyrann Mathieu and Michael Brockers around, but even superstars like those don't make the kind of terror-inducing defense LSU has today without the guidance of John Chavis, who Miles recruited to Baton Rouge personally. Yes, it's tough to not have a strong running game with Spencer Ware and a veteran line, but that running game wouldn't be nearly so effective if Jarrett Lee hadn't shaken off a career's worth of failures to become exactly the steady, accurate (and vs. the Gators, bomb-tossing) quarterback the offense needs--a development that can be directly traced to Miles's much-derided hire of Steve Kragthorpe as his team's new quarterbacks coach. The Tigers have been special teams killers for far too long under Miles to dismiss their contributions as mere "luck," as evidenced once again Saturday when punter Brad Wing noticed the lack of a Gator punt safety and took off for what should have been a 44-yard touchdown.
In short: to watch the Tigers' rise to 6-0 and their dismantling of the Gators and not see Miles's fingerprints all over them is an exercise in willful ignorance. Luck can explain some of his successes, and the natural advantages of being LSU does explain a little more. But these Tigers? They are only explained by having a coach at the very, very top of his field.
LOSERS: Auburn's wide receivers.
Tiger quarterback Barrett Trotter hasn't played well of late, and has the numbers to prove it--6 of 19 for 81 yards and a pick against Arkansas, to be specific. But he also hasn't gotten much help from his wideouts with leading receiver Emory Blake out ... if he's gotten any at all. Remove a 44-yard reception for Travante Stallworth on a second-half flea flicker completion, and Auburn's wideouts combined for all of three receptions for 21 yards. DeAngelo Benton had a particularly rough evening, dropping one late first-half pass that could have set up an Auburn field goal, getting called for a hold that would eventually force an Auburn punt, and letting a late Trotter pass whistle through his hands for the aformentioned interception.
WINNERS: Backup quarterbacks.
Jacoby Brissett aside, it was a good day to be a current (or recent) second-stringer in the SEC. Connor Shaw cemented himself as the new South Carolina starter and then some with his 311-yard, 4-touchdown, zero-pick performance vs. Kentucky. Mississippi State's Tyler Russell came off the bench to complete 11 of his 13 passes, three of them going for second-half touchdowns that turned what had been a 3-0 halftime deficit into a 21-3 win over UAB. Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers didn't have much of an impact statistically (11-of-18, 104 yards, 2 INTs), but led a couple of decent drives and looked as composed vs. the Alabama pass rush as you could hope.
And then there's Lee, who you'll remember was not only Jordan Jefferson's backup with just days remaining before the season, but many fans' favorite to drop to third-string behind JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. Against Florida Lee completed only 7 passes--but he also only attempted 10, and those 7 completions averaged a gain of 22 yards.
LOSER: Stephen Garcia.
The career of one of the SEC's most recognizable stars, magnetic talents, and frustrating enigmas appears poised to end not with a bang, but with a whimper. Though you can't ever say never with Steve Spurrier, Shaw's confident command performance against Kentucky suggests he's going to be the Gamecock quarterback for quite some time to come. There's going to be much more difficult opponents ahead for him than the hapless Wildcats, but does it matter? Spurrier's surprising patience with Garcia through his awkward start to this season now looks poised to be turned against him as Spurrier lets Shaw work through the same rough patches Garcia endured.
Which means that in the end, Garcia's senior season hasn't been undone by the off-field troubles that so many have expected to be his downfall. It's gone south because he simply hasn't produced on the field, because aside from one half against East Carolina, he's never looked as good in 2011 as Shaw looked Saturday. It's not how we expected things to come to an end for Garcia (if this is the end), but nothing about Garcia's time in Columbia has ever played out as expected, has it?
LOSERS: Kentucky fans.
The Wildcats kicked off to open their game against the Gamecocks, forced a fumble on the return, and recovered just outside the Carolina 20. Cue the shots in the stands of overjoyed Kentucky fans high-fiving each other and celebrating the best possible start.
60 minutes later -- and only 96 Wildcat yards, 6 Wildcat first downs, and 3 Wildcat points which came immediately following that fumble recovery later -- those same fans had to be some of the most miserable in the country. It's one thing to watch a poor football team; it's another to watch a team that seems so hopelessly outmatched on offense and doesn't seem to be showing any kind of week-to-week improvement. After failing to top 300 total yards against Louisville or Florida, the Wildcats have now failed to top 300 yards in their games against LSU and Carolina combined.
So about that kickoff: were those fans happy to have that one moment of joy? Or all the angrier for that joy being so completely misleading?
WINNER: Georgia's defense.
Before the game, we asked if the Bulldog secondary could live up its gaudy post-Boise State numbers against the likes of Tyler Bray and Da'Rick Rogers on the road at Tennessee. The answer: mostly. Bray and late-game injury replacement Matt Simms did throw for 290 yards at a perfectly respectable 7.3 yards-per-attempt clip, and without an interception.
But they never did throw a touchdown, either; in fact, the Volunteers were kept out of the end zone entirely until Simms snuck in from a yard out with only 2:45 to play in the game. Thanks to the Dawg defensive backs keeping the Vols in front of them, and the UGA front seven stuffing the pathetic Tennessee ground game to the tune of .4 yards per rush (yes, .4), Bray and Co. finished the game with all of 12 points on the scoreboard. The Bulldogs offense wasn't much to write home about -- Isaiah Crowell didn't even hit the 60-yard mark on the ground, the red zone offense sputtered, and like his Vol counterparts Aaron Murray threw neither an interception nor touchdown pass -- but after years of seeing their team score like a pinball machine only to lose after another lackluster defensive display, we expect Dawg fans will take it.
LOSER: Clarity in the SEC East.
South Carolina was the preseason favorite. They were the favorite after they beat Georgia. But then Garcia struggled and Florida beat Tennessee, and the Gators were the favorite. And then Carolina lost to Auburn and Florida lost to both Alabama, and lots of people considered Georgia as the new favorite. But now that Shaw looks to have healed the Gamecocks' Achilles heel ... are they the favorites? Or is Georgia, still, after beating Tennessee? Or is Florida just ripe to return once their schedule eases up? All we really know is that none of the other three teams is winning the division, and that the East winner is going to be a two-touchdown underdog to the West's come December. Past that? your guess is as good as ours.
WINNERS: Everyone who loves college football. Let's not go crazy by saying something like "LSU and Alabama isn't going to be the only game that matters in college football this season"; with Wisconsin, Stanford, Clemson, Boise State and of course Oklahoma all looking at potential undefeated seasons, it's too hasty to even lay claim to LSU and Alabama as the nation's best two teams.
That said: if you're a college football fan, and you've watched Alabama and LSU play this season, and you know how good they are, and you've considered how much fun it would be to watch them meet, undefeated, with a trip to Atlanta on the line on Nov. 5 ... then every week that passes with the two of them still unblemished is a good thing. This was one such week.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Boise State, Brad Wing, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Da'Rick Rogers, DeAngelo Benton, East Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Isaiah Crowell, Jacoby Brissett, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen, John Chavis, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Rodgers, Kentucky, Les Miles, Louisville, LSU, Matt Simms, Michael Brockers, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Ryan Baker, SEC, South Carolina, Spencer Ware, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Steve Kragthorpe, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Travante Stallworth, Tyler Bray, Tyler Russell, Tyrann Mathieu, UAB, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Zach Mettenberger
Posted on: October 7, 2011 4:26 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 4:45 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
If it's the week of the Georgia-Tennessee game, that means it's time for the Dooleys to be in the headlines.
There's Bulldog coaching (and administrative) legend Vince; there's his son Derek, who we don't have to remind you is now coaching the rival Volunteers; and then there's Vince's wife/Derek's mother Barbara. Between the irresistible "house divided" angle and quotability of both the elder Dooley and his son, it's going to be a long time before the Dawgs and Vols get together without a flurry of Dooley-related coverage the week prior.
This week, of course, is no exception; here's one Derek interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for instance, where he admits he "bled red and black" as a child growing up in Athens. But maybe the best zinger in the interview comes, indirectly, from Barbara, who Derek says told him his new orange pants are "awful-looking." When reminded that Vince wore red pants on the sidelines, she replied "yeah, but that’s red."
But if Barbara hasn't yet come around to Volunteer orange or her son's fashion choices, that doesn't mean Derek doesn't have her full support ... and then some. For evidence, look no further than Barbara's unscheduled appearance on an Athens radio show Thursday morning. Upon hearing a pair of Knoxville-based sportswriters discussing Derek's presence on (or absence from) the proverbial "hot seat," Barbara drove to the station, walked into the studio, and let her feelings on her son's job status be known. Via the AJC, an excerpt:
Somehow, we doubt Derek wants his mother barging into radio shows to take up for him, which would explain why -- even if she remains a veteran presence on Southern airwaves -- he's already asked her to limit her radio appearances.
But it could always be worse; next time she could bring her photo albums with her. We bet there's even a shot out there, somewhere, where Derek's wearing red pants.