Posted on: October 30, 2011 5:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.
DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 6, or the number of red zone scores allowed by Alabama this season, one of the many, many statistics in which the Tide defense leads the nation ... and in which LSU trails just a bit behind, tied for 12th with 15. The bad news for Alabama, such as it is? Five of those six scores -- out of nine opponents' red zone attempts total, also the lowest total in the nation -- have been touchdowns. Meaning Alabama's rate of allowing red zone touchdowns (55.6 percent) is essentially identical to the Tigers' (56.3, 9 of 16).
Does any of that matter? Not necessarily--it's a tiny sample size and red zone percentage is notoriously fluky stat anyway. But it also could be an indication that if LSU can break through to the Tide red zone, they're not doomed to settle for field goals no matter how strong the Tide D might be.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: We know we're going to see plenty of smashmouth running, aggressive calls from Les Miles, and huge hits from the nation's two best defenses. But what might we see that we wouldn't think we'd see?
In other words: if we're going to "expect the unexpected," what would we expect? And while that's a tough question to answer (it wouldn't be completely "unexpected" if we saw it coming, right?), here's a few guesses at potential events during Saturday's showdown that might defy conventional wisdom:
AJ McCarron airing it out. For a given definition of "air it out," of course; this is still Trent Richardson's offense first, second, and probably third. But Jim McElwain and Nick Saban have never been averse to letting their quarterbacks put the ball in the air when the situation calls for it. McCarron's already thrown 30 or more times twice this season, vs. Penn State and Vanderbilt. Likewise, though the common memory of Greg McElroy's role in the Tide's 2009 national title is as a low-use "game manager," he, too, surpassed the 30-pass mark four times, including against -- you guessed it -- LSU. With the Tigers ever-so-slightly softer against the pass than the run (10th nationally vs. 3rd), it won't be a huge surprise if McElwain turns to McCarron to handle a sizable chunk of the offense.
LSU connecting on the deep ball. We know the Tigers are going to try and go deep; when you have Rueben Randle and a quarterback in Jarrett Lee whose deep touch is his greatest strength, it's a no-brainer. The question is whether they'll have any success, and given that only Texas has allowed fewer than the Tide's 13 passes given up longer than 20 yards, it won't come easy. But the Tigers themselves lead the SEC in passes of 40 yards or more and rank second in those of 30 or more. There's some history of success for LSU vs. the Tide, too--just last year Randle caught balls of 76 yards (for a TD) and 47 yards, and the Tigers finished averaging 10.4 yards an attempt. Strong as the Tide secondary is, don't be shocked if the Tigers get over the top once or twice.
An Alabama trick play. It's Miles, of course, who's famous for diving into the bag of tricks. But over the past few seasons Saban has proven he's not afraid to call for some trickeration, either, especially in big games. Remember the fake punt that opened up the 2009 BCS national championship against the Longhorns? Then there was the Arkansas game earlier this season, in which the Tide took the lead by motioning out of a field goal formation into an offensive set that scored a touchdown. Given that Saban knows exactly what's at stake Saturday, we could see something similar.
VIDEO BREAK: Gary Danielson will, of course, be calling the game for CBS this Saturday (8 p.m. ET, don't forget). Here he previews the game with Tim Brando:
THE LATEST: With both teams taking Saturday off, the biggest news on the game didn't come out of either Baton Rouge or Tuscaloosa--it arrived from Vegas, where the Tide opened as a consensus 4.5-point favorite and were shortly bet down to a current consensus of 4 points.
If you buy the conventional wisdom that home-field advantage is automatically worth a field goal, this could be seen as Vegas stating their belief that the Tide is the better team ... though by all of a single point. Even the Vegas experts, it seems, have to split hairs when choosing between the two sides.
Posted on: October 30, 2011 1:20 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's that in many ways, this victory belonged to Richt. It was Richt who was able to keep his struggling team mentally afloat when the Gators took a 17-3 lead and the Dawg half of the stadium couldn't help but think "here we go again." It was Richt who made the calls to go for it on 4th-and-long inside the red zone once Blair Walsh showed himself unreliable, calls that resulted in two of the Dawgs' three scores in a game where points came as easily as pulled teeth. And it was Richt who showed enough faith in the flailing Aaron Murray -- who'd missed nine straight attempts -- to endorse a throw on 2nd-and-9 as the Dawgs tried to run out the clock.
That decision worked, as did nearly every move Richt made Saturday. That's what it was, and why Georgia won.
LOSER: Charlie Weis. We don't want to be too hard on Mr. Decided Schematic Advantage, since the quarterbacks he's worked with the past few weeks have been 1. true freshmen 2. still kind of hurt 3. more inherited than hand-picked. But still: between weapons like Chris Rainey, Jordan Reed, Trey Burton, Deonte Thompson and even a half-speed Jeff Demps, we're not sure there's excuses enough to explain 10 second-half points across four games, one first down in the second half against Georgia, or 175 total rushing yards in this four-game losing streak on all of 1.5 yards a carry. Weis arrived at Florida with a reputation for expertly handling quarterbacks and passing games but perhaps not having a good idea of how to operate a rushing attack with smaller backs like Rainey and Demps ... and with Brantley's downfield accuracy gone and the field shrunk, Weis has lived up to every bit of that reputation.
WINNER: Vanderbilt. We know, we know, they lost. But they also outgained the nation's No. 8 team (and one of its most explosive offenses) by 74 yards. Their years of wandering the wilderness at the quarterback position appears over, thanks to Jordan Rodgers' outstanding 15-of-27, 240 yard, 66 rushing yards, 3 touchdown, zero turnovers performance. They took over down 3 at their own 9 with 3 minutes remaining, a situation in which Vandy has accomplished nothing since the days of Jay Cutler, and promptly drove 80 yards for what should have been the game-tying field goal. Top-to-bottom, Vanderbilt was a better team than Arkansas Saturday.
In short, in so many, many ways, James Franklin's Vanderbilt is not the same old Vanderbilt
LOSER: Vanderbilt. Of course, there were even more ways in which Vanderbilt was precisely the same Vanderbilt they've been for decades. Shall we count the ways? The four or five easy interceptions which Commodore defenders let slip through their hands ... the backbreaking 15-point fourth-quarter swing as their best offensive player, running back Zac Stacy, fumbles the ball at the opponent's 3-yard line (without being touched) for a touchdown fumble return the other way ... with a chance to go in at halftime up 21-7 and in firm control of the game, the touchdown allowed with five seconds remaining ... and, yes, the shanked 27-yard field goal at the bitter, bitter end.
Until further notice: same old Vandy.
WINNER: South Carolina offensive tackle Cody Gibson. Gibson is a big fella: 6'6", 285 pounds. And when Tennessee's Prentiss Wagner picked off a third-quarter pass from Connor Shaw and bolted clear for the Gamecock end zone 56 yards away, Gibson probably could have been forgiven for ... well, not quitting on the play, but only making a token effort; the odds of the tackle being made by a tackle among the Gamecocks' receivers and running backs and the quarterback was insanely low, right? But Gibson made much more of an effort than that, going all-out in pursuit of Waggner until the corner cut back towards the middle of the field, cut again, had to slow up one last time ... and Gibson caught him, flattening him at the Gamecock 2-yard line.
Against most offenses, that might not have mattered much. But vs. Tennessee's? It mattered a ton: only two plays later, Vol freshman QB Justin Worley threw an ugly interception, and Gibson's play had saved his team seven points in a game which only totaled 17. Instead of being down 10-7 with a wobbly Shaw in front of a fired-up Knoxville crowd, Carolina drove 98 yards for their own touchdown and (for all intents and purposes) the win. Gibson's play won't make him a star, but Saturday, there's no question it made him a winner.
LOSER: Barrett Trotter. This might a touch unfair to Trotter, who didn't even see the field Saturday. But whatever hope he had of reclaiming the starting quarterback job he lost at halftime of Auburn's win over Florida was extinguished for the foreseeable future by Clint Moseley's outing against Ole Miss. The redshirt sophomore (left)connected on 12 of his 15 attempts for 10.7 yards a pass and four touchdowns ... all without an interception. More importantly, the Auburn offense looked like the Auburn offense for the first time in weeks, rolling up 414 yards and 41 points on a Rebel defense that caused real problems for Arkansas last week. Remember those Snickers commercials? Where the Tiger pecking order under center is concerned, neither Trotter nor Moseley are going anywhere for a while.
WINNER: The Liberty Bowl. With LSU and Alabama surely off to the BCS and a pair of teams with precious little bowl eligibility hope in Kentucky and Ole Miss, the SEC was already in danger of not fulfilling all its bowl tie-ins ... and a Wildcat win against Mississippi State would have made things even more dire for the last couple of bowls at the end of the food chain, as that result would likely leave neither team in striking distance of the postseason. As is, the BBVA Compass Bowl is still likely out of luck, but the venerable Liberty can live in hope--the Bulldogs have both FCS patsy UT-Martin and the Rebels on the schedule.
LOSER: The rest of the SEC. It's now officially LSU-Alabama week. We'll see the other 10 of you next Sunday*.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, BBVA Compass Bowl, Blair Walsh, Charlie Weis, Chris Rainey, Clint Moseley, Cody Gibson, Connor Shaw, Deonte Thompson, Florida, Georgia, James Franklin, James Franklin the Vanderbilt coach not the Missouri quarterback, Jay Cutler, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Reed, Jordan Rodgers, Justin Worley, Kentucky, Liberty Bowl, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Prentiss Waggner, SEC Winners and Losers, South Carolina, Tennessee, Trey Burton, UT-Martin, Vanderbilt, Zac Stacy
Posted on: October 30, 2011 12:22 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: Oklahoma State's title chances
Coming into Saturday's action, Oklahoma State joined LSU, Alabama, Stanford, Clemson, Kansas State, Boise State and Houston as the only unbeaten teams remaining in the country. It was also ranked third in the BCS. Well, after a full day of action, you can scratch both Clemson and Kansas State off the list. With LSU and Alabama playing again next week, one more unbeaten will fall and should Oklahoma State beat Kansas State, it's going to move into the top two of the BCS rankings.
There's a long way to go in this season still, but things are lining up nicely for Mike Gundy's team, especially since Oklahoma State won't have to play in a conference title game (like Alabama, LSU or Stanford) and it'd certainly be ranked ahead of Boise State and Houston if all three of those schools finish unbeaten. So all Oklahoma State has to do is keep winning. That shouldn't be that hard, right?
LOSER: The Kansas State mystique
Did I ever really feel that Kansas State was a legitimate contender for the Big 12 title this season? No, not really, but I wanted to. It was just such a great story for the program and Bill Snyder in his second stint in Manhattan, and I wanted it to last as long as possible. If for nothing more than the story. Unfortunately Oklahoma closed the book on Kansas State in the second half on Saturday, taking what had been a close game in the first half and turning it into a laugher with 35 unanswered second half points. Considering that Kansas State has to travel to Stillwater next week, I don't think things will get much better.
WINNER: James Franklin
Admittedly, I've been a bit rough on the Missouri quarterback this season. Though, in my defense, he's been tough on himself too, pinning the blame for last week's loss against Oklahoma State on himself thanks to turnovers. Well, Franklin can still be a bit up and down at times for my taste, but he's only a sophomore and he showed us all how good things can be when he's on an upswing against Texas A&M. Franklin finished the day with 295 yards and 4 total touchdowns in Missouri's comeback overtime win against the Aggies. Most importantly, Franklin didn't turn the ball over a single time.
LOSER: Texas A&M's chances in the SEC
You know, following the loss against Missouri on Saturday and including the loss against Arkansas earlier this season, Texas A&M is 0-2 in the SEC this season. It's 3-1 in the Big 12. Might want to reconsider that move, Aggies.
WINNER: Freshman running backs in Austin
Texas didn't exactly have much trouble against Kansas on Saturday night, and a big reason why was the combination of two of Texas' freshman running backs. Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron combined to carry the ball 41 times for 255 yards and 4 touchdowns. Yes, it was against Kansas, but that kind of performance has to make Mack Brown and Bryan Harsin feel pretty good about the future of the Longhorn backfield.
LOSER: Kansas football fans
It has not been a fun season to be a fan of Kansas football in 2011. In fact, it's been pretty horrific for the most part. Still, even though the Jayhawks defense has been terrible, the Kansas offense has played pretty well. The Jayhawks came into Saturday night's game averaging 30 points and 400 yards of offense per game. Those numbers are going to drop after Saturday night's game. The Kansas offense didn't record a single point against Texas, though in its defense, it's really hard to score points when you only manage 46 yards of total offense. No, I didn't miss a number there, it was 46 yards. In the entire game. Sorry, Kansas fans, but basketball season starts soon enough. Until then, I suggest whiskey.
WINNER: Jared Barnett
He took a vicious blow to the head in his first career start, and I didn't think he should return to the game, but it will still be hard for Jared Barnett to forget his first career start at Iowa State. He wasn't the most efficient quarterback throwing the ball, completing 14 of his 26 passes for 155 yards and a score, but he kept the chains moving plenty of times with his legs. Barnett rushed for 92 yards and another score, as Iowa State pulled off one of the biggest surprises I've seen in the Big 12 this season, knocking off Texas Tech 41-7 in Lubbock. I think it's safe to say that the QB job is Barnett's to keep.
LOSER: Sam Bradford
I don't think the former Oklahoma quarterback will be all that upset about it, but Sam Bradford saw his name erased from the Oklahoma record books on Saturday afternoon. Landry Jones shattered Bradford's record for most passing yards in a single game by an Oklahoma quarterback. Bradford's mark of 468 yards fell to Bradford's 505-yard performance, and it wasn't the only record Jones broke on the day. His five touchdown passes on Saturday gave Jones 90 career touchdown passes, more than any Oklahoma quarterback in history.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Big 12, Bill Snyder, Boise State, Bryan Harsin, Clemson, Houston, Iowa State, Jared Barnett, Joe Bergeron, Kansas, Kansas State, Landry Jones, LSU, Mack Brown, Malcolm Brown, Mike Gundy, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Sam Bradford, Stanford, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Winners And Losers
Posted on: October 29, 2011 10:44 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 10:44 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SOUTH CAROLINA WON: For the second straight week, the Gamecock offense sputtered in the kind of decisive fashion that would have spelled road game doom in the SEC most years. But this is 2011, so Carolina's gone 2-0 in those games. The Justin Worley experiment at quarterback was a miserable failure for Tennessee, as the true freshman hit just 10-of-26 passes for 4 yards an attempt and two interceptions--including a backbreaking pick at the Carolina 2 after a Prentiss Waggner interception had set up the Vols inside the Gamecock 5. Freshman Brandon Wilds picked up a solid 137 yards on just under 5 a carry in relief of Marcus Lattimore.
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: It's pretty simple: in a game in which the two starting quarterbacks combined to average all of 4.4 yards an attempt and less than 200 yards total, the winner was always going to be the team that could run the ball. That team was the Gamecocks, who racked up 231 yards on 53 carries and -- in a stunning display of old school power -- put together a 20-play, 98 yard, 11 minute and 35 second touchdown drive in the third quarter. When you rush for 74 yards on one drive alone, you are (as the kids say) doing work.
The Vols? After a couple of small steps forward in their putresecent running game the last few weeks, tonight was a sizable step backward: 21 rushes, 35 yards, no scores. Ick.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Of course, maybe the Vol ground game would show some spark if the coaches seemed to trust it at all. Facing a 4th-and-1 at the Carolina 27, down 14-3 and less than 7 minutes left in the game, the Vols put the ball in the hands of Matt Simms--the same quarterback, you may recall, who the staff just benched in favor of a true freshman. Wildly incomplete pass, turnover on downs, game well and truly over.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: The right to stay just a nose out in front of Georgia in the SEC East race with next week's trip to Arkansas looming large. Having Wilds prove he's a capable replacement isn't such a bad bonus, either.
WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: Despite Carolina's gaudy ranking, this was an offensively-hamstrung team coming to Neyland Stadium for a night game that helped the Vols with three turnovers ... and Derek Dooley's team couldn't even stay within 11 points of them as the Worley decision appeared to backfire badly. At 3-5 and with the Vols' own trip to Fayetteville forthcoming, Dooley is one upset away from seeing his team stay home for the holidays.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 8:01 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
GEORGIA WON: Objectively speaking, it wasn't a thing of aesthetic beauty, but we won't dare tell Georgia fans that any win over Florida ain't pretty. The Bulldogs fell into an early 17-3 hole, gained just 354 total yards, saw Aaron Murray miss nine straight passes in the second half, and committed far too many special teams gaffes to list in this short a space. But after a hot start, in the second half John Brantley played like the injured, rusty quarterback he was (missing 11 of 12 himself at one point) and the Gators were held to just three points after the break. A pair of fourth-down Murray touchdown tosses and a bruising four-yard TD run by Richard Samuel (pictured) early in the fourth quarter would be all the offense the Dawgs needed.
WHY GEORGIA WON: Because Florida simply cannot find the key to getting the ball moving after halftime. In eight second-half quarters since their win over Kentucky on Sept. 24, Charlie Weis's offense has scored a total of 10 points: seven against LSU on a lightning-in-a-bottle downfield bomb, and three today when Chris Rainey's long kickoff return meant the Gators could gain three yards in three plays and still kick a field goal. Across seven second-half possessions vs. the Bulldogs, Florida earned one first down, gained 12 yards, and started drives at the Dawg 26, 45, and 36 that totaled, yep, three points. While the Bulldogs deserve a lot of credit for putting the clamps down -- particularly outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who finished with four sacks -- that kind of week-in-week-out futility isn't going to win many games in the SEC. Or anywhere.
A nod is also due to Mark Richt's aggressive red zone play-calling. After Blair Walsh missed a 33-yard chippie (his ninth miss of the season; he would add a tenth later), Richt twice passed on makeable field goals to have Murray throw to the end zone on 4th down. Results: 1. massive touchdown pass to Michael Bennett to close halftime gap to 17-10 2. equally massive touchdown pass to Tavarres King to tie game at 17 early second half. Without Richt's willingness to take those risks, the Bulldogs lose.
WHEN GEORGIA WON: A 24-yard punt by Drew Butler (we mentioned the special teams disasters, right?) set the Gators up at the Georgia 36 with just under 6 minutes to play. The ensuing drive: incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, sack. Even if the Gator defense had been able to get the ball back (they weren't), there wasn't any way the shellshocked Florida offense was getting a better opportunity than that.
WHAT GEORGIA WON: The inside track to Atlanta. Only home dates against Auburn and Kentucky stand between the Dawgs and a 7-1 SEC mark, and the only help they need if they win out is a single loss from South Carolina ... who's losing 3-0 to Tennessee as we type this and still have a road date against Arkansas to come. But if becoming the de facto East favorite wasn't sweet enough, that was just the Dawgs' fourth win over Florida in 21 tries and may have even saved Richt's job. Not bad for 60 minutes of work.
WHAT FLORIDA LOST: the Gators' fourth straight SEC game and any distant hope of winning the division. At 4-4 and with only one "gimme" left on the schedule (and dates vs. Carolina and Florida State still to come), Florida isn't even guaranteed of making a bowl game just yet.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 4:28 pm
Posted by Jerry HinnenARKANSAS WON: In the wildest, most unpredictable, best game in the SEC in weeks, the Razorbacks scored the contest's final 14 points for their second upset-avoiding comeback victory in as many weeks. But this one was an even closer shave than the one at Ole Miss, as Vandy's Carey Spear missed a 27-yard field goal with less than 10 seconds remaining that would have sent the game into overtime. The difference in the placekicking made the difference in the game, as the Hogs' Zach Hocker made three tries from 35 yards out or further, including the game-winner from 42 yards with 6:53 to play.
WHY ARKANSAS WON: The continued brilliance of Tyler Wilson had an awful lot to do with it. Despite taking yet another pounding from an opposing defensive front (especially late in the first half), Wilson connected on 27 of his 43 passes for 316 yards, one huge late first-half touchdown, and no interceptions. With the Hog ground game reverting to its usual sputtering self (71 yards on 26 carries, 2.7 an attempt), Arkansas doesn't come close to winning this game without Wilson.
But the largest factor in Vanderbilt's defeat was that Vanderbilt -- for all of James Franklin's culture-changing confidence, bravado, and game-planning -- is still Vanderbilt. Opening up the second half with the ball and a 21-14 lead, Zac Stacy threw a halfback pass into excellent coverage that was picked and turned into a Hocker field goal. Stacy redeemed himself with a tackle-breaking 62-yard third quarter touchdown run and could have salted the game away when he took an early-fourth quarter handoff from the Arkansas 3, with his team up 28-20. But he fumbled without being touched, and Jerry Franklin scooped and scored from 94 yards on the game's biggest play. And then Spear capped what should have been an inspirational 8 play, 80-yard drive with the game on the line -- the sort of thing Vandy never does -- with the sort of thing Vandy always does.
Franklin clearly has the 'Dores on the right path, and faster than anyone could have imagined. But the exorcism isn't complete yet.
WHEN ARKANSAS WON: Spear's miss and Stacy's backbreaking fumbles were huge plays. But they might not have been any bigger than the touchdown thrown from Wilson to Jarius Wright (pictured) with five seconds remaining in the first half. The Hogs had taken over on their own 38 with just over 90 seconds left in the half, down 21-7, with Vandy having scored three long touchdown drives in four first-half attempts and getting the ball to start the third quarter. All the momentum was with the home team. But Wilson hit Wright for a 30-yard gain on 4th-and-10, and on the next play Wilson and Wright connected again from 11 yards out. The Commodores were never fully in control of the game again.
WHAT ARKANSAS WON: A continued spot in the polls' top 10, a 7-1 overall record, a 3-1 SEC record, and the knowledge that no matter how poorly they might play over the first 30 minutes, the Razorbacks always have a second-half comeback in them. But if one escape from a heavy underdog is a fluke, two is a trend, meaning that it's hard to argue the Hogs are playing like a top-10 team right now.
WHAT VANDERBILT LOST: As with the Rebels a week ago, this wasn't one of the games the 'Dores would have had circled as a must-win for bowl eligiblity. But to play as well as Vandy did and have the game so ... close in hand only to lose on a handful of mistakes must be crushing. Franklin will have his work cut out for him keeping his players' positive and focused after this kind of heartbreaker.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:53 pm
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.
Last week's menu was full of surprises as both Wisconsin and Oklahoma fell from the ranks of the unbeatens, and this weekend could include a lot more of the same as Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Clemson all face challenges. Yes, we'll have to wait another week before LSU and Alabama are available, but there's plenty here this week that should help stem that hunger.
#13 Nebraska vs. #9 Michigan State - ESPN, 12pm ET
It's not often that the marquee matchup of the Big Ten kicks off before noon local time, but that's what we've got this week with Michigan State visiting Nebraska with an 11:00 CT kickoff time. The Spartans come off a stunning 37-31 win against Wisconsin, and Nebraska comes off a bye week; those factors combined with an early kickoff means it's going to be difficult not to come out flat in this contest. Whoever sustains a high effort from the first to the fourth quarter seems likely to get the win here. - Adam Jacobi
#16 Texas A&M vs. Missouri - FX, 12pm ET
These two teams will meet for the final time as Big 12 rivals, but that doesn't mean it will the the last time they meet in a conference game does it, Mizzou? Wink, wink, nudge. It's a big game for both teams as Texas A&M still has an outside chance at a Big 12 title and BCS game but can't afford another loss, and Missouri really needs a win or its bowl hopes could be in some trouble. - Tom Fornelli
Florida State vs. North Carolina State - ESPNU, 12pm ET
Florida State played themselves out of the national picture with three straight losses, dropping them from the polls and the ACC title race. The Seminoles redemption tour welcomes N.C. State to Tallahassee on Saturday, with both teams at 4-3 hoping to move one step closer to bowl eligibility. Since EJ Manuel's return to the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury in the loss to Oklahoma, the Seminoles offense has regained some the early-season production that had pundits talking "title contender." But N.C. State boasts one of the league's best defensive playmakers in sophomore David Amerson. Amerson leads the nation with eight interceptions, even returning one for a touchdown. The Seminoles have a lot of talent on the outside, but Manuel (seven interceptions in six games) needs to be wary of where #1 is at all times. - Chip Patterson
Vanderbilt vs. #8 Arkansas - SEC Network, 12:21pm ET
At 4-3, the Commodores are just two wins away from doing something in one year under James Franklin they've done only one other time in their past 29 seasons--go to a bowl game. And with potential All-American corner Casey Hayward leading a secondary capable of keeping Jarius Wright and the Hog receivers (mostly) under wraps, the potential for a stunner is there. Is new quarterback Jordan Rodgers really up to moving the ball consistently against an SEC defense, though? - Jerry Hinnen
#3 Oklahoma State vs. Baylor - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET
Do you like to see a lot of points scored and very little defense getting in the way? Well then I've got good news for you, because Oklahoma State and Baylor are going to score a lot of points and not play much defense. This could truly be one of those games in which the first team to score 50 wins, and Baylor is just as capable of put points up in bunches. There's a chance that another Oklahoma school could suffer its first lost this Saturday. - TF
#10 Kansas State vs. #11 Oklahoma - ESPN, 3:30pm ET
Kansas State has been one of the biggest surprises in college football this season, getting off to a 7-0 start and even winning a couple of shootouts along the way. That being said, the real test for Bill Snyder and the Wildcats begins on Saturday when they face Oklahoma. The Sooners are likely to be a bit cranky following last week's loss, and will be looking to end Kansas State's unbeaten season as well. - TF
#22 Georgia vs. Florida - CBS, 3:30pm ET
CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart has written that Mark Richt's job is on the line in this one, and given that the Dawgs won't win this year's well-water SEC East without a win Saturday -- begging the question of when he ever would win the East again -- we're inclined to agree. The good news is that unless John Brantley provides a serious spark to the Gator offense, he has the team to get the job done; the Gator front hasn't looked its best against straight-ahead power running games, and Isaiah Crowell gives Georgia plenty of pop in that department. - JH
#21 Penn State vs. Illinois - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET
Coming into the season, it seemed far more likely that these two teams would have three losses apiece eight games in than three combined. But even with the Illini fading, they're still 6-2, and PSU currently leads the Big Ten with a 7-1 (4-0) mark. As such, there are major consequences for both the Legends Division race and bowl positioning here -- not to mention two of the Big Ten's best wideouts in A.J. Jenkins and Derek Moye. Don't sleep on this game -- there'll probably be some late-game theatrics, and when Ron Zook's involved, that's a recipe for chaos. - AJ
Tennessee vs. #14 South Carolina - ESPN2, 7:15pm ET
Can Justin Worley hack it? If the Vols' new true freshman starter can hang in there against Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Gamecock pass rush (no mean feat), the pieces could be in place for an upset. Carolina's ground game could be completely MIA without Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looked awfully wobbly his last road game, and Tauren Poole has finally given the Vols a rushing game with a pulse. With Derek Dooley's seat growing ever-slightly-warmer and Carolina's East hopes on the line, this is a big one for both teams. - JH
Georgia Tech vs. #6 Clemson - ABC, 8pm ET
The primetime rematch of the 2009 ACC title game (which the NCAA will tell you "didn't happen") was a possible selection for ESPN's College Gameday two weeks ago when both teams were undefeated. But since two straight Georgia Tech losses, this game has lost some of the luster it once carried. That does not make it any less of a trap game for the undefeated Tigers. Clemson's BCS dreams could be erased in the dust clouds of Paul Johnson's grinding option attack, which when run effectively can eat up game clock and wear down opposing defenses. If ABC is broadcasting this game in your region, it should definitely be worth your time to watch for fireworks. - CP
#20 USC vs. #4 Stanford - ABC, 8pm ET
The first top 20 match up in the Coliseum in over three years, this has turned into the game of the week thanks to a marquee quarterback showdown featuring Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley. This game likely comes down to defense - as in who can stop who - as the Cardinal has a trio of talented tight ends 6-foot-6 or taller and the Trojans have All-American candidate in wide receiver Robert Woods. - Bryan Fischer
Ohio State vs. #12 Wisconsin - ESPN, 8pm ET
If this game were in Madison, the Badgers would probably cruise. It ain't. Fresh off their first loss in their first game in a truly hostile environment, Russell Wilson and crew have to travel to Columbus to face a Buckeye team that's just finding its stride after injuries and suspensions rocked its first half of the season. And just to up the ante even further, this one's under the lights. What a way to end a great slate of Big Ten action. - AJ
LATE NIGHT SNACK
Washington vs. Arizona - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET
Looking for a good old fashioned, late night, Pac-12 shootout? Look no further than the Huskies and Wildcats. Both teams have struggled defensively and Washington gave up over 400 yards rushing to Stanford last week. Keith Price and Nick Foles are two quarterbacks who are a joy to watch and they have plenty of weapons to get the ball to. Like offense? This is your game. - BF
Tags: A.J. Jenkins, ACC, Adam Jacobi, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arkansas, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bryan Fischer, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Derek Dooley, Derek Moye, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Isaiah Crowell, Jadeveon Clowney, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Justin Worley, Kansas State, Keith Price, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Richt, Matt Barkley, Melvin Ingram, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Nick Foles, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Pac-12, Paul Johnson, Penn State, Robert Woods, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Tauren Poole, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, Tony Barnhart, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 25, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 4:41 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.
DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 11, or the number of points (or fewer) to which LSU and Alabama have held 13 of their combined 16 opponents in 2011. (The exceptions: Oregon and West Virginia scored 27 and 21, respectively, against LSU, and Arkansas netted 14 against the Tide.) It's also the number worn this year by LSU starting tailback Spencer Ware, who we can now safely say will be playing against the Tide. (See below).
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Everyone thought Ohio State and Michigan were the nation's clearcut two best teams when they went 1-vs.-2 in 2006, and both of them crashed and burned in their bowl games. What are the odds LSU and Alabama aren't as good as the hype and rankings suggests they are, either?
The truth is that there's no way to guarantee the winner of LSU-Alabama will finish the national championship job the way the 2009 1-vs-2 SEC championship game winners did and the Buckeyes didn't, or that they'll even make the BCS title game. (Facing Georgia in the Georgia Dome might be tricky, for instance.) But there's two things we can say with certainty: 1. after the past five years, the SEC champion deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to playing for national titles 2. LSU and Alabama are both SEC championship-caliber teams.
In fact, both might be a good bit better than your typical SEC champion--or (with one exception) even any of the league's national titlists in its current streak. How can we say that? Here's how those five teams stacked up in terms of average margin-of-victory across their nine games vs. SEC opposition:
2010 Auburn: 13.4 pointsAnd with five SEC games already behind both the 2011 Tide and Tigers, here's where they stand in the same statistic:
2011 Alabama: 32.4 pointsNow, a few caveats: this year's injury- and inexperience-ravaged SEC is in many ways not as tough top-to-bottom as the SEC of several of these previous five seasons; obviously, neither LSU nor Alabama has played the most difficult game on their SEC schedule yet (meaning each other), so those numbers will no doubt drop; and even the mighty '08 Gators slipped up against Ole Miss but still made the national title game, a luxury the winner on Nov. 5 (probably) won't have.
But caveats or not, those margins aren't just impressive; they're nearly twice what any team besides those 2008 Gators managed. Offering any "yeah, but" ojections is to ignore the obvious conclusion from everything we know about these two teams to date: whoever wins this is game is deserving of being the league's heavy favorite, they are the likeliest candidate to win the 2011 national title, and yes, whatever happened in 2006, this game deserves the hype.
THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: We'll let Tyrann Mathieu break the biggest news of the past 24 hours himself:
That's no doubt Mathieu celebrating the fact that he and two other members of the "Synthetic Three" were reinstated as expected Tuesday. It was just yesterday LSU's chancellor was saying Mathieu, Ware, and Tharold Simon would have to "get their act together" for A.D. Joe Alleva to give them the OK to play against the Tide; apparently Alleva didn't need that much convincing said acts have come together.
Speaking of Alleva, an open letter from the LSU A.D. to LSU fans announced the news that as part of moving this year's LSU-Alabama game to a prime-time kickoff, CBS has already agreed to air next year's Tide and Tigers showdown in Death Valley as a prime-time game. In this video, CBS Sports executive vice president Mike Aresco talks on the Tim Brando Show about the process of moving both this year's kickoff to 8 p.m. ET:
THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: Nick Saban's parking ticket might have gotten the most attention out of his public appearance in Birmingham yesterday, but it was also Saban's first opportunity to say more about his Nov. 5 opponent than saying he wasn't going to say anything about them yet. His assessment:
"I think they've got great team speed, (they're) very athletic ... They've got good depth. They play a lot of players. Their ability to execute on a consistent basis has been good. The one thing they've been able to do offensively, they've run the ball effectively on everybody that they've played, and they've played very well on defense, pretty consistently against everybody that they've played. Because of the team speed that they have they're always a little bit of a matchup issue when it comes to special teams."Parsing exactly what a master of press-conference speak like Saban really means is always tricky, but we think two things here are telling: 1. he doesn't bother praising the rejuvenated LSU passing game, saying the "one thing" LSU's done is run the ball well 2. while the other areas of the team are praised as "effective" or "consistent," the Tiger special teams is a "matchup issue." Despite Saban's protestations to the contrary, we'd wager a large sum of money some of his staff's man-hours the past coupel of weeks have been spent breaking down LSU film, and a substantially lesser amount of money that those special teams areas are where Saban's concerned.
It's been a busy week of award-collecting for Dont'a Hightower. The junior linebacker was named this week's SEC Defensive player of the week, the Lott IMPACT Player of the Week, and Tuesday one of 12 Butkus Award finalists, along with teammate Courtney Upshaw. A big game against LSU could make Hightower -- already arguably the most visible member of the Tide defense, along with safety Mark Barron -- a Butkus favorite.