Tag:Les Miles
Posted on: July 21, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 3:55 pm
 

LSU to start brewing LSU beer

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

File it under "ideas we can't believe haven't been put into practice already."

LSU -- never exactly a school known for Ivy League decorum and teetotaling tailgates -- has announced that it will be partnering with a local brewery to brand and sell its own LSU beer.

Tin Roof Brewing Co. and Mockler Beverage will be working with a recipe created by LSU's own food science department, with the school reportedly working on logos and labels for the new brew. An LSU spokesman said he hopes to have the beer "on store shelves by fall."

Between this decision and West Virginia's to allow beer sales inside their stadium during Mountaineer games, it's been a good summer for institutionally approved beer. Now if we find out the LSU brew will carry Les Miles's face on the label as well of "hints of grass, sod, and last-minute victory," we'll be set.


Posted on: July 21, 2011 3:01 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Derek Dooley at SEC Media Days

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Tennesse head coach Derek Dooley hasn't been at Tennessee all that long, but he's routinely one of the more entertaining coaches to listen to every summer during SEC Media Days. Much like his father, Vince Dooley, Derek isn't exactly afraid to speak his opinion on a subject, particularly when he feels strongly about something.

When Dooley faced the media on Thursday, there was one topic that sent him off onto a long, thoughtful answer. Dooley was asked what he thought about the SEC's new policy of having a uniform discipline policy when it comes to players, and also on the idea of one-year renewable scholarships to multi-year scholarships.

Dooley started by addressing the scholarship issue.

"You know, I get a kick out of a lot of these issues. They're fun to read about. A scholarship is a contract. I mean, that's what it is. It's a contract between two parties. Both parties have obligations to do things to continue the contract.

"I hear about how it's so awful when a player gets a scholarship taken away. I'm sitting there going, Universities give academic scholarships all the time, and if a student doesn't meet certain academic requirements, they take it away from them.

"It's no different to me in athletics. We have a commitment to them, and they have a commitment to us. So we're giving them a benefit and they're giving us a benefit. That's why it's a contract.

"So I think how we have things is good, it's fair. It is one year. It's renewable. I think the market takes place when a team is abusing that situation. If a coach is just taking away scholarships, kicking people off the team, the market is going to take care of it in recruiting. Who is going to want to go play for the guy? Allow the market to act."

Obviously, there are some differences between academic scholarships and athletic scholarships. For starters, while both can be taken away, academic scholarships come with set guidelines for what you need to do to keep that scholarship. Athletic scholarships have a lot more gray area. Still, Dooley did make some interesting points in his response.

Just like he did when he tackled the player discipline issue.

"It goes back to what you believe philosophically. Are we going to allow the institutions and programs to set their rules, then allow the market to handle which way they go and the success they have, or are we going to take over and define what everybody does all the time? I think it's absurd to have across-the-board disciplinary measures when you're talking about dealing with young people.

"Otherwise what we need to do is get off the campuses and form us a little college league like the NFL if we're going to go in that direction. Then it's one group, we represent the college football league, not the school, we're all the same, we all wear the same sideline gear except the color of everything. It's all uniform.

"That's what makes college unique. We got programs that have $100 million competing with programs that have $10 million. Things aren't level. Things aren't equal. That's just the way it is. I think that's a unique thing, fun. Makes great fodder for the fans, brings pride to the institution because of their uniqueness. I don't think that's something we should be ashamed of."

Dooley then finished his answer in typical Dooley fashion, drawing a laugh from the entire room.

"I don't even know if I answered your question."

No doubt Dooley's comments about forming "a little college league like the NFL" caused a few ears across the country to perk up, as there are some who believe that may be the direction that college sports are taking. The idea that sometime in the not-too-distant future, the BCS will separate from the NCAA entirely to form its own league.

Some other highlights from Derek Dooley's session:

On his relationship with Will Muschamp - "Will and I are good friends. Of course, we talked a lot. I know he told you guys that prior to him getting the job at Florida. We still stay in touch. Not as much, obviously. We certainly don't talk about the same things we did before." 

"Of course, I had mixed feelings. I was proud of him. He deserved it. He's earned it. But I'd rather him been at Texas because he's a friend of mine. I mean, that's just how it is. "

On Tennessee's search for a new athletic director, and the performance of interim AD Joan Cronan - "Yeah, I've had a lot of contact with Joan. Joan has been phenomenal. When Joan took over at interim athletics director, I thought it was very important to try to define for her three or four things where she could help us before we hired a new athletics director. She has responded beautifully. She has done a phenomenal job of kind of running the ship in the interim phase. "

"I am not involved in the hiring process, nor should I be, because it's going to be my boss. I've appreciated Dr. [Jimmy] Cheek's communication with me at every step, which he has. I've appreciated his asking questions on what I thought was important. I know that he's going to make a great decision for Tennessee." 

On recruiting services - "The biggest role they play is providing video to evaluate players. You know, in the old days, I say 'the old days,' I'm a young guy. The old days were like 10 years ago to me. You got your film from a high school coach. So when you went to the schools, you would share video.

"With technology, with digital, it's been a lot easier. There's a better way where the high school coach can one time send his games to a service, and then that service can send it out to all the colleges."

"We spend a lot of money on it. I don't apologize for that. We recruit across the country. We have to stretch our wings out pretty far and need to get video from a lot of areas to build our board.

"But we do try to stay fiscally responsible that the services we are using are giving us a little return on the back end." 

On the SEC East's decline compared to the SEC West - "I don't have a theory other than to say I've been watching SEC football all of my life, as you guys know, and everything goes in cycles, it always does. Programs have their great runs. Programs have their bumps along the way. I don't think that's ever going to change. I mean, that's the competitive nature of our sport.

"So certainly the east looked a little different last year than it has in the past. But we'll see how it turns out this year." 

"Here is what I do know: every time you think a team is down, they emerge and they whip your tail. Every time you think a team's on top, things probably don't go their way.

"What I can't do is concern myself with where the other programs are. We have to concern ourselves with where we are as a program, and each week try to figure out a way to beat that team because we only have to be better than them on one day of the year. That's what our focus is."

SEC Media Days will conclude tomorrow with Nick Saban, James Franklin, Houston Nutt and Les Miles all scheduled to address the media. Keep reading CBSSports.com and the Eye On College Football Blog for continued coverage.
Posted on: July 19, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:17 pm
 

NCAA gives LSU probation, scholarship reductions

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Oh, what a difference proactivity makes. The NCAA announced today that it accepted LSU's one-year probation and scholarship and recruiting reductions in the wake of self-reported recruiting violations. The NCAA praised LSU's compliance department for its role in bringing the NCAA's attention to the matter, and with that, nothing more severe than that year of probation will be levied on the Tigers.

The violation still qualifies as major, however, and as Cecil Hurt points out, that makes every single member of the SEC short of Vanderbilt to be hit with a major violation since 1990.

The NCAA notes that the prospect in question (not named in the report, but known to be former LSU defensive lineman Akiem Hicks) was provided illegal transportation and lodging benefits from a former LSU assistant coach -- again, not named in the report, but known to be D.J. McCarthy, who resigned abruptly in late 2009 after the NCAA's investigation into LSU began. McCarthy also admitted to using a second cell phone, which he never revealed to the LSU compliance department, to make impermissible recruiting calls to Nicks (who has also since left the team).

As for the scholarship and recruiting reductions, they're relatively minor; LSU's recruiting visits will be reduced by 10% over the next two academic years, and the Tigers will be down two scholarships for this year and next. Both reductions were self-imposed by LSU ahead of time, as was the probation.

Here's what the NCAA had to say in favor of the LSU compliance office:

The committee lauds the institution's compliance office for its efforts to investigate and uncover the violations. The compliance office, and particularly the senior associate director of athletics, continued to ask questions regarding prospect 1's living arrangements throughout the summer of 2009 and into the fall. It refused to certify prospect 1's eligibility and allow him to depart for an away contest on September 3, 2009, because those questions had not yet been answered. Had prospect 1 been allowed to travel and compete before the investigation into his pre-enrollment activities was complete, the institution would likely have committed further serious violations. Because the compliance office was proactive, fully investigated and cooperated with the enforcement staff to uncover the full range of the violations, the institution is entitled to relief as set forth in Penalty C-2 below. Further, the committee imposed no additional penalties on the institution.

The NCAA reserved its harshest penalties for McCarthy, who was given a one-year show-cause penalty effective today, which if he is hired by any other NCAA institution during the time, bars him from doing any recruiting via telephone and requires various administrative duties for himself and the hiring institution. It's functionally a year-long ban, as schools almost never put themselves through such rigorous oversight for the sake of a new assistant coach.

Here's the entire 22-page report from the NCAA on the matter. It's made abundantly clear that McCarthy knowingly and repeatedly violated NCAA rules, even involving two student workers in the process, and that he intentionally misled LSU's compliance efforts on several occasions. For his rather singular involvement, and for LSU's proactive approach to the problem, the Tigers avoided the true wrath of the NCAA, and that is no insignificant achievement.

Posted on: July 19, 2011 11:33 am
Edited on: July 19, 2011 11:50 am
 

NCAA to discuss COI decision on LSU today

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Yesterday LSU head coach Les Miles talked about how important it is to cooperate with the NCAA in any investigation, saying that it was "fundamental" and "necessary." Miles said that when asked about LSU's recent discussion with the NCAA regarding its relationship with Will Lyles. While that's a situation that likely won't be resolved for some time, LSU may find out shortly how cooperating with the NCAA can be beneficial to a program when it comes to possible penalties.

In 2010 LSU self-reported recruiting violations that took place in 2009 to the NCAA and had a hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions this past April. Now, according to a tweet from Yahoo's Charles Robinson, the NCAA has a conference call this afternoon to discuss the committee's decision in regards to LSU's case.



The violations LSU reported stem from the recruitment of former defensive tackle signee Akiem Hicks and former assistant coach D.J. McCarthy.  LSU found that McCarthy's recruitment of Hicks included improper phone contact, transportation and housing. Hicks never attended LSU and McCarthy was relieved of his duties after the violations were found. LSU also self-imposed recruiting sanctions on the program by docking two scholarships in its 2011 recruiting class along with its 2012 class.

Whether the NCAA will impose any further sanctions against LSU, well, we'll find out soon enough it seems. Though since LSU self-reported the issue, imposed its own sanctions and cooperated with the NCAA, I wouldn't expect any possible further punishment to be too severe.
Posted on: July 18, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: July 18, 2011 12:39 pm
 

Les Miles talks about the Will Lyles situation

Posted by Tom Fornelli

As the NCAA continues to investigate Will Lyles and his ties with schools across the country -- with his relationship with Oregon garnering the most attention -- it's not just keeping its nose in the Pacific Northwest. The NCAA has also taken the time to talk with LSU and head coach Les Miles, as LSU has paid Lyles $26,000 since the 2008 season, including $6,000 in 2010. The same year that Oregon paid Lyles $25,000.

While there's no evidence to show that LSU's relationship with Lyles has been anything other than school and scout, it's not exactly the kind of attention any program wants right now, especially when most of what you hear or read about with Lyles has to do with him steering recruits to Oregon.

Les Miles spoke about the NCAA's visit to Baton Rouge on Sunday night while in New Orleans on a speaking tour.

"I think it's fundamental. I think it's necessary. We're going to comply. We're going to be very cooperative," Miles told the USA Today. "That's really all I can say."

Which, if we've learned anything about NCAA investigations around the country for the last year or so, is probably the best route to take. It's clear at this point that the best thing any school or coach can do is be honest with the NCAA. It's a lesson Jim Tressel had to learn the hard way recently at Ohio State, and could be one that Chip Kelly learns in the future depending on how the NCAA investigation at Oregon turns out. 

Posted on: July 14, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:45 pm
 

The entire 2011 season simulated on NCAA 12

Posted by Tom Fornelli

After getting my new copy of EA Sports' NCAA Football 12 on Tuesday, I took the time to simulate the entire 2012 season to see what the video game thinks is going to happen this year. In order to make things realistic, I even went through all the trouble of updating rosters to reflect what they currently look like.

That meant moving Russell Wilson from NC State to Wisconsin, removing Terrelle Pryor -- not to mention benching the suspended Buckeyes for the first five games of the season -- removing WaShaun Ealey and Caleb King from Georgia's backfield and so on and so forth.

No need to thank me, it was a labor of love.

So how did things turn out?

Well, it looks as if we'll once again have a non-BCS school finish the year undefeated -- the only school to do so -- but it's not Boise State or TCU. In fact, Boise State finally got its shot at a national title, but it couldn't come through.

Who did?

Let's find out. First we'll start with the conference champions (Records don't include conference championships or bowl games).

ACC -- North Carolina 9-3 (6-2)

Big 12 -- Texas A&M 10-2 (8-1)

Big East -- South Florida 9-3 (6-1)

Big Ten -- Wisconsin 11-1 (7-1)

C-USA -- Houston 12-0 (8-0)

MAC -- Western Michigan 10-2 (7-1)

MWC -- Boise State 12-0 (7-0)

Pac 12 -- Oregon 9-3 (7-2)

SEC -- South Carolina 11-1 (7-1)

Sun Belt -- Troy 10-2 (8-0)

WAC -- Fresno State 8-4 (7-0)

And how about those BCS bowl games? Well I'm glad you asked.

Rose Bowl -- Wisconsin 49, Oregon 46 OT

Fiesta Bowl -- Texas A&M 38, Ohio State 17

Orange Bowl -- North Carolina 28, Alabama 20

Sugar Bowl -- Houston 48, South Florida 13

BCS National Championship -- South Carolina 24, Boise State 22

Yes, that's right, the Ol' Ball Coach has added another national title to his resume. Boise State did have a chance to topple the BCS machine, but couldn't pull through. Trailing 24-16, Kellen Moore hit Kyle Efaw on a 16-yard touchdown with 3 minutes left, but the Broncos couldn't convert the two-point conversion. The Gamecocks ran out the clock and celebrated a national title. Oh, and Stephen Garcia was the game's MVP. Let that marinate in your brain for a minute or two.

As for awards, I hope Houston quarterback Case Keenum used all that time off last season to build himself a trophy case because it looks as if he's going to need one. Keenum not only won the Heisman Trophy, but the Maxwell, Walter Camp and Davey O'Brien trophies to boot. That's what happens when you lead Houston to a 14-0 record yet still finish second in both polls.

Now, if that's not enough info for you, let's take a look at some of the season storylines by conference.

ACC

-- Jimbo Fisher hits the sophomore slump. Florida State doesn't even qualify for a bowl berth after finishing the year 5-7 with a 3-5 mark within the ACC. FSU loses to Oklahoma, Wake Forest, Maryland, NC State, Boston College, Miami and Florida. And of those losses, only the loss to Florida was by less than 10 points.

-- Al Golden has Miami on the right track. Sure, the Canes only went 8-5 during the season, but they did finish 6-2 in ACC play, just missing the ACC title game thanks to a 27-17 loss to North Carolina

-- Duke goes bowling! That's right, Duke finishes the year 7-6 with a 4-4 mark in the ACC, including a two-point win over UNC. Though the Dukies do lose to Florida in the Music City Bowl. I have no idea who Steve Spurrier was rooting for while watching.

-- Boston College is the "best" team in the Atlantic Division. The Eagles finish the year 8-6 with a 5-3 mark in the conference. They even nearly beat UNC in the title game, losing 29-27.

Big 12

-- Oklahoma can't handle the pressure. The Sooners started out the year 7-0 before getting shocked by Kansas State on the road -- where else? -- 24-21. They also lost at Oklahoma State 38-24 to end the regular season and kill their hopes of a BCS berth.

-- Texas won't be terrible two years in a row. The Longhorns finish the season 11-2 with a 7-2 mark in the Big 12. Though they do lose to Oklahoma and Texas A&M, which stings a bit.

-- Where have you gone, Blaine Gabbert? Missouri needs you. The Tigers finished the season 4-8 with a 2-7 mark in the conference. Seems they're going to miss Colorado, Nebraska and the North Division.

Big East

-- The Big East is respectable. While no team in the conference finished the season with less than three losses (Pitt being the only with three), seven of the eight Big East schools won at least seven games, with Rutgers holding the only losing record.

-- Louisville can't finish. The Cardinals led the Big East most of the season before losing four of their last five games to finish 3-4 in the conference.

-- Casino or football field, Dana Holgorsen has a tough time winning anywhere this year. The Mountaineers went 2-5 in the Big East during his inaugural campaign.

Big Ten

-- Who needs Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor? Ohio State went 4-1 in its first five games of the season while so many of its playmakers sat out, and though the Buckeyes struggled in Big Ten play, they still finished the year 9-4 and got an at-large berth to the Fiesta Bowl. Oh, and they still beat Michigan.

-- Not that Michigan minded all that much, because Brady Hoke made believers out of the faithful in his first year. That Michigan loss to Ohio State? That was the Wolverines only Big Ten loss of the regular season, as they went 7-1 to win the Legends Division.

-- Wisconsin loves Russell Wilson. Wilson and the Badgers tore up the Big Ten all year long until the final week of the regular season. Then, after being 11-0 and ranked #1 for the majority of the regular season, the Badgers fell at home to Penn State 42-28. Though I guess beating Michigan 34-13 in the first Big Ten Championship Game and then Oregon in the Rose Bowl took some of the sting out of it.

-- New kid Nebraska gets picked on. The Huskers went 3-5 in Big Ten play, even losing to Minnesota. Though that wasn't as embarrassing as the 13-7 loss to Ohio -- University, not State -- in the Texas Bowl.

Pac-12

-- USC isn't on probation in virtual reality. So the Trojans were able to win the Pac-12 South division, even if they did lose to Oregon 35-14 in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship.

-- Utah enjoyed their move more than Colorado. The Utes finished the season 5-4 in conference play while Colorado went 3-6.

-- Andrew Luck should have gone pro. Stanford and Luck were off to a very nice start to the season, opening 7-0. Then Luck broke his arm, missed the rest of the year and Stanford finished 10-3.

SEC

-- The East still stinks. Sure, South Carolina wins the national title, but no other SEC East team managed to win more than four games in the conference. Meanwhile, in the West, LSU had the worst season of anyone, going 7-6 with a 3-5 mark in the SEC. Les Miles needs to eat more grass.

-- Will Muschamp did OK. Florida finished the season 9-4 with a 4-4 mark in the SEC, though Charlie Weis' offense needs some work. The Gators never scored more than 21 points against a SEC opponent not named Vanderbilt.

-- Alabama needs to fire Nick Saban, PAAAAWWWWWWWL. Oh the indignity of Alabama's 2012 season. Not only did the Tide lose the SEC title game to South Carolina, but then they went and lost to North Carolina in the Orange Bowl. Since when does Alabama play in the Orange Bowl, PAAWWWWL? NICK SABAN HAS GOT TO GO.

-- Auburn doesn't miss Cam Newton as much as you'd think. Even without their Heisman winning quarterback, the Tigers still manage to go 8-5 with a 4-4 mark in the conference. Not great, but not terrible either.

Non-BCS

-- TCU would like to get to the Big East ASAP. The Horned Frogs lose twice in 2012, and not just to Boise State. Unlike 2011, TCU wasn't able to escape San Diego State, losing 33-30 at Qualcomm Stadium.

-- Notre Dame is back! The Irish finish the year 10-3, and feature one of the most potent offenses in college football. Why they're painting Brian Kelly over Touchdown Jesus as you read this.

-- BYU finds independence to be constricting. The Cougars first season free of the shackles of conferencedom does not work out very well, as BYU finishes the year 4-8 and even loses to Utah State along the way.

-- While I already went over the disrespect Houston received, what about conference mate Southern Miss? The Golden Eagles finished the regular season 11-1 before losing to Houston in the C-USA title game, and they couldn't even sniff the Top 25.

And that's it. There's the entire 2011 season right there according to a video game. I suppose at this point there's no point in even watching any of the games. Now, if you don't mind me, I'm going to go try and wrap my head around Stephen Garcia leading South Carolina to a national championship.

Can you imagine that party?
Posted on: July 11, 2011 2:29 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 2:57 pm
 

LSU's Jefferson: 'I'm the starter, hands-down'

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It was quite the interesting weekend for LSU's Jordan Jefferson at the prestigious Manning Passing Academy. On the (training) field, Jefferson made waves by performing well enough for no less an authority than Chris Mortensen to include him in the same Twitter breath with Landry Jones and Andrew Luck.

But what Jefferson did off the field Friday afternoon might have had even more impact. Asked about the possibility of yielding his starting position to JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger, Jefferson had this to say (emphasis added):
“You hear it a lot, but in reality, I will be the starter, hands down,” Jefferson said.
He continued.
“Even though I know I’m the starter, you also have to stay humble at times because you never know what can happen,” Jefferson said. “I’m doing the best of my abilities to teach Mettenberger the full game since I’ve been here for three years. There’s going to come a point of time where he will be the starter so just passing down the knowledge will benefit him a lot.”
Clearly, Jefferson doesn't see the LSU quarterback "battle" as one between colleagues in which he's only a favorite; he sees it as something other than a battle entirely, a mentor-pupil relationship in which Mettenberger's ascension (barring injury) is as unlikely as Josh Nunes usupring Luck at Stanford.

Based on Les Miles's comments this past spring, he may not be entirely wrong, and there's no question Jefferson will begin LSU's 2011 season under center. But we nonetheless have to question whether Jefferson doesn't seem to be overcompensating for some legitimate, nagging worry with an attitude that -- we feel -- borders on cockiness.

Of course, if Jefferson shows the improvement shown off at the Manning Academy (and Mortenson wasn't alone in his assessment), he really won't have anything to worry about. But the last time LSU fans got a look at him, he was busy going 4-of-14 in the Bayou Bengals' spring game without a touchdown. Until he takes the field against Oregon and proves that performance -- and all the other mediocre performances of the past three seasons -- are behind him, the doubts are going to persist.

Posted on: July 5, 2011 5:53 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 6:22 pm
 

SEC math says back Bulldogs, doubt Tigers

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Click over to the "expanded" version of the Major League Baseball standings here at CBSsports.com, and you'll see something interesting: Each team's record in one-run games.

Even 10 years ago, casual baseball fans would have shrugged at those records every bit as forcefully as they would have at "record in day games played west of the Mississippi River in which both starting pitchers wore mustaches." But thanks to baseball's stats revolution, even your average CBSSports.com-reading seamhead likely knows that over 162 games, every team's record in such close games will gravitate to .500.

This is an outgrowth of Bill James' pythagorean theorem for baseball, which, if you 've never heard of it, isn't nearly as complicated as its name might make it sound; the idea is simply that total runs scored and allowed (i.e., winning by many runs rather than just one) is a better indicator of future performance than straight win-loss record.

And though college football isn't nearly as stats-obsessed a sport as baseball has become, concepts like these are hardly new to dedicated followers of the pigskin, either. Numbers-driven magazine guru Phil Steele has been tracking "net close wins" for years, finding that teams that win or lose an unusually high number of one-possession games one season tend to lose or win a corresponding number the next season. (The current poster children for this phenomenon are the Iowa Hawkeyes, who lost four games in 2008 by a total of 12 points, went 11-2 in 2009 by winning four games by a total of eight points, then slipped back to 8-5 last year with all five losses coming by seven points or less.)

One Alabama blog, RollBamaRoll, has taken the next step where the SEC is concerned, actually performing the Pythagorean calculations for the 2010 SEC conference season. Though eight games is a tiny sample size for this kind of statistical work, the same calculations predicted (or would have) the downfall of such notable disappointments as 2005 Tennessee, 2000 Alabama, and 2009 Georgia.

So what do these approaches have to say about the SEC in 2011? Several things:

Georgia should be taken seriously in the East. Both Steele and the pythagorean wins agree: the Bulldogs were the unluckiest team in the SEC last season. Mark Richt's team suffered a league-high four "net close losses," and per their points scored/allowed should have won nearly two more games than they did in 2010.

Combine better fortune in competitive games with the Bulldogs' manageable schedule, and the numbers say Georgia should be poised to take a big step forward in 2011. (Steele pegs them as this year's East champions.) If they don't, the question has to be asked: if Richt can't engineer a turnaround this year, when can he?

Auburn is due for a sizable tumble. The next team to win a national championship without a healthy dose of luck will be the first, but Auburn might have enjoyed a little more than most last season; its seven net close wins were the highest in the nation, according to Steele. The pythagorean wins marked them as overachievers by nearly 2.5 games in SEC play alone. In other words, Gene Chizik and company shouldn't expect quite so many friendly bounces of the ball in 2011--and should in fact expect the opposite.

Of course, the numbers can't account for the expertise of Gus Malzahn or the fine recruiting classes assembled under Chizik's watch. But it's safe to say that between less good fortune, the Tigers' massive losses, and a brutal schedule, another top-25 season on the Plains will have been earned.

LSU remains the ultimate wild card. Steele tabulates the Bayou Bengals at five net close wins for 2010 -- usually an indicator of an impending backslide. But thanks to blowouts of Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, the pythagorean wins saw LSU as only slight overachievers in 2010, and (as we've noted before) Les Miles has an unusual knack for late-game decision-making that's given him a 22-9 record at LSU in close games. (Is it the grass?)

In other words, LSU could see Miles' dice-rolls come up snake eyes and the bottom drop out. They could continue to ride the Mad Hatter's hot streak back to a BCS bowl. Any and all possibilities seem to be in play.

Mississippi State may have to run to stay in the same place. With Dan Mullen still in Starkville and plenty of starters returning on both sides of the ball, State may seem poised to take the next step and challenge for a West championship. But there's also some indications the Bulldogs weren't quite as good as their 9-4 record last fall might indicate. Despite going 4-4 in league play they were outscored by 30 points over those eight games, making them the SEC's second-biggest overachiever according to pythagorean wins. And while Steele's net close wins indicator doesn't feel strongly about them, his magazine does note that State's average yardage margin of -36.5 yards per SEC game was third-worst in the conference.

Steele also recently introduced a new metric which shows that teams that take a big leap forward (or backward) over (or under) the baseline of their previous two seasons usually -- though not always -- regress back towards their previously-established mean. Aside from Auburn, no team in the SEC fits that profile better than the Bulldogs.

No reason here to not buy Alabama or South Carolina. Though the above "slipping and sliding" Steele metric is mildly doubtful of Carolina's ability to maintain last year's gains, neither presumptive divisional favorite has anything to worry about from this statistical perspective. In fact, thanks to several blowout wins and their losses to LSU and Auburn by a combined four points, Alabama was the second-most unfortunate team in the league last year behind Georgia.

If the Tide get a handful more breaks and have the defense we're all expecting? Look out.


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