Tag:Auburn
Posted on: October 29, 2011 8:01 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 22 Georgia 24, Florida 20

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 28, 2011 11:30 am
 

DODDCAST: Talking NCAA changes and NCAA records

Posted by Chip Patterson

In this week's edition of the Doddcast, Dennis Dodd and Adam Aizer review Miami's first home loss ever on a Thursday, and credit Mike London for the recent success at Virginia. History was also made in Houston, with Case Keenum breaking Graham Harrell's career touchdown record in a nine-touchdown performance against Rice. Dodd breaks down the NCAA reforms approved this week, discuss Kansas State's chances against Oklahoma, and the crazy state of SEC/Big 12/SEC/Big 12 Missouri.

Nothing is off limits this week as Dodd, an admitted die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, even weighs in on the historic Game 6 Thursday night. They also answer some listener emails, so be sure to submit your question to podcast [at] cbsinteractive [dot] com 
Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer.




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Posted on: October 26, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 10:14 pm
 

Q&A with NCAA VP for Enforcement Julie Roe Lach

Posted by Bryan Fischer

NCAA Vice President of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach has been on the job nearly a year as the NCAA's top cop and made a number of changes to her department. She sat down with CBSSports.com to discuss several of the reforms that are currently making their way through the legislative process ahead of this week's meetings.

CBSSports.com: What are some of the ways you're looking to streamline the enforcement process?

"I think we're accomplishing what we set out to do in terms of focusing on the sports and issues that need a lot of attention; football, men's basketball and agents in both of those sports. The different approach to cases too, we've talked about surge, which is sending people out and sounds more dramatic than it is, but more people and hands on deck when needed. With some of our cases, we just have a lot of people working it with different roles. Multiple investigators are on a case but now we've got this information group. I was talking with a guy who heads up an investigative group somewhere else and he has a whole corps of what they call 'desktop investigators.' That's basically what our information group does, they are there to mine the internet for information and to help us when we go through thousands of phone records.

"That group is helping with some of the higher profile cases and that is starting to pay dividends by finding the information and connecting the dots."

It seems like there's an emphasis on compliance recently, what's the genesis of this new culture and all these new ideas?

"That was part of the vision coming out of the Presidential Retreat, the idea that we need some reform. It's under the auspices of the idea of risk-reward, both in terms of coaches and administrators, with people saying I'll take the risk because I'm not going to get caught and if I do, the penalty is not going to be that grave. The idea is how do we address that. The working group I have the privilege to work with, those presidents have said that we need to take a look at the violation structure because there's a pretty wide disparity between secondary and major. Those are two extremes, what about the stuff in the middle? Once we figure that out, what penalties need to be in place for each level. I think there will be some significant reform or change - it will be different."

Is there more of an emphasis on fixing your division?

"I've not spent a lot of time thinking about the other groups because I think we have a challenge from an enforcement perspective. Having said that, I know Kevin and his team are spending a lot of resources and time on looking at the rules, figuring out which rules make sense and which ones we need and which ones we do we not. That's a huge undertaking. Important but huge. I would not venture to say that we've got more work than somebody else, I know we've got our fair share."

Is there a new penalty structure forthcoming?

"I think it's too early to predict. Our group has met on the phone and they've rolled up their sleeves and done their homework. We're three meetings in and will continue that, including a lengthy in-person meeting in December. I think after that we'll have a better idea of where we'll end up."

We've seen some of the membership openly question some decisions, will this address some of the concerns from those at schools?

"I don't know if it's designed to address membership critique, I think that's healthy. But if there's a problem with the decision, that's what I've been asking in my travels and outreach. I'm asking what are we as an enforcement program doing well or not doing well. I prefer they tell me directly but they obviously can voice their opinions elsewhere and have the ability to do that. This reform isn't a knee-jerk reaction, it's more of a momentum from saying that we have a certain type of violation or mentality out there and what we need to do to address.

Will we see more financial penalties, taking away TV revenue from major rules violators?

"Financial penalties are on the menu of options the Committee on Infractions can impose. Even the enforcement staff can for secondaries infractions, obviously a lesser dollar value. In recent cases the committee had imposed financial penalties. There are two types of financial penalties, the flat-out fine and the requirement that schools receive from playing in - for instance - the tournament. I have a case in mind that the committee required that and the amount was well beyond $100,000. I don't foresee that penalty come off the table but I think we'll see a discussion as to when does that penalty, for corrective action, more appropriate. Does it make an impact or not? If it does, in what way? And who? That's what there's been a lot of talk about, what are effective penalties. Let's use the ones that work, if that means narrowing the list or you widen it, you do it. It's premature though to say what's in or what's out."

You have been looking to update the definition of the agent, will that close loopholes?

"We don't have jurisdiction over agents, that's the players associations and the states - according to laws and the (Uniform Athletes Agents Act).  It is the definition of the agent in the UAAA and the 42 states that have stepped up and adopted it. Does that capture more than just the typical sports agent? That's what many states are asking right now. We certainly think that definition from an NCAA standpoint, as far as student-athletes taking benefits from or not, should they not be entering into agreements verbally or in writing. That expanded definition is a reflection of what's going on in the world more than a typical, registered, sports agent. The former definition, it worked for the time when it was adopted, but times changes. We've got to figure out the rules change too."

The state of North Carolina is suing for access to records, is there a reason it's resulted to this?

"We have cooperated with them and have given them the information that we can give them under the law. We've shared insights of the investigations when we could share them, not just within the law but within our own procedures. Not just generally but this is specifically who we're looking into and what we've learned. It's one thing to say that - which we've done in conversations - it's another to give documentary evidence. You have federal law that says you can't give education records because those student-athletes signed the FERPA release. They don't provide those documents for us to then provide to the world. We can only do that if we get a valid subpoena and that's really where the lynchpin is right now, what's a valid subpoena and what's not. We're not trying to play games but we need to make sure that if we're going to provide records protected under law, we do so when however we're being asked is a viable legal request.

"Make no mistake, we want states to enforce the UAAA. The fact that we're being represented as standing in the way of that is just flat out wrong."

Will we see open COI hearings or a more transparent process in the future?

"Whether or not that can happen will be a membership decision. I don't see that happening anytime soon. I was talking with somebody the other day about this, I don't know of any other private association that opens up its disciplinary hearings."

Are you worried about Congress getting involved and looking at things?

"It's interesting because I've gone back and looked at the historical enforcement files. As early as the 1970's, was one of the first congressional reviews of just enforcement and there have been several since then. That includes one that led to the Rex-Lee Report. There have been other individuals from the Supreme Court who have been involved in our review and come out with constructive suggestions that have shaped the fair process we have today. Many of the changes that have occurred, especially over the last 20 years, have been a result of membership asking strong legal minds to review the process and how to make it fair. I don't think congressional interest is new when you look at history. I wouldn't say it's in the back of my mind it's just a recognition that there is an interest in how we operate. Time and time again when a person reviews the reports, they say what you have works and it's fair and here are some ideas to improve it some more. No one has said that you need to blow this thing up and start over."

The SEC meetings, do you regret the run-in with Gene Chizik?

"I have no regrets. I think a run-in is really a mischaracterization, it was a discussion."

To his point, what is being done about concluding speedier investigations?

"When I've asked people what are we doing well, what are we not doing well from an enforcement standpoint. A common thread was investigations take too long. It's not from a lack of effort or energy from out staff. I can tell you that, our people work nights, work the weekends and take the red eyes. It has been what resources are we getting and when? Are we getting the right records, are people talking to us? How many doors get slammed in our face and how many tries to take before we say this person just won't talk to us? That obviously carries from case to case. The things we can control we demand it - putting more people, having people focus on heavy evidence review. There are somethings within our control that we are really track and improve on and we need to acknowledge what's beyond our control and is there anyway we can exert more influence over that."

Are things changing to where you will see major violations, secondaries go down?

"I don't know. I don't think secondaries going down are necessarily a reflection of risk-reward. Some secondaries, the intentional ones, yes. Some secondaries, it's a good thing because that means our schools are watching and monitoring and reporting. I think you can interpret those numbers in several ways. Same thing with majors, it depends on which types of cases we're talking about. I think it's too early to predict what sort of changes will happen. You hear anecdotally from some people, we never saw you before and now there's an enforcement presence. Does that mean there's a change in behavior or is it just driving it outside where it used to be? It's a big early to predict the impact."


Posted on: October 25, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 4:41 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 25: They're that good

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 points
2009 Alabama: 15.8 points
2008 Florida: 30.0 points
2007 LSU: 10.0 points
2006 Florida: 6.9 points
And 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 points
2011 LSU: 27.4 points
Now, 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.

Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:03 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Florida vs. Georgia

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

FLORIDA WILL WIN IF: John Brantley
is indeed back under center, and if he plays like the quarterback he had been this 2011 season before the high-ankle sprain against Alabama. The 10 quarters of football the Gators played without him against the Tide, LSU and Auburn were all the evidence we needed to dismiss their chances without him, but if Florida gets back the QB who'd posted a QB rating of 152.58 for the year (good for second in the SEC if he had enough attempts), they'll be able to get their licks in. Not necessarily because Brantley's going to go Robert Griffin on the Bulldogs or anything, mind--between the inevitable rust and the Dawgs' excellent secondary (top-10 nationally in both yards and opponent's QB rating allowed), the Gators are going to have to work for their passing yards no matter who's the quarterback. But with Brantley, that work should have some payoff, and that in turn should open some holes for Chris Rainey and the under-used Mike Gillislee. That balance could make a game of things, and if there's anything we've learned about the Cocktail Party over the years, it's that a tight game in the fourth quarter always favors the Gators.

GEORGIA WILL WIN IF:  The Dawgs play their game. On paper, this should be Georgia's year: they have the more coherent offensive identity, the brightest (or at least most consistent) offensive star in Isaiah Crowell, the steadier front seven now that Jarvis Jones has solidified the linebacking, and what appears to be an aerial edge on both sides of the ball. If the Bulldogs were preparing to face an opponent named the Schmorida Schmators in the World's Largest Outdoor Costume Party, we'd call them heavy favorites. But since it's Florida, and the Cocktail Party, all that on paper stuff doesn't matter much. The Dawgs almost never "play their game" against the Gators, with the 3 wins in 20 years to prove it. If Mark Richt can finally get his team right mentally, they'll get the win. But in this rivalry, that's always been a titanic "if."

THE X-FACTOR: the catastrophic quarterbacking error. Curiously, while Aaron Murray's overall performance hasn't regressed from his freshman year, the frequency of his "freshman mistakes" actually has; Stephen Garcia excluded, Murray's as many interceptions (seven) as any other SEC quarterback, and his backbreaking fumble against South Carolina doomed the Dawgs to defeat in that game. Brantley, likewise, may be more prone to the interception bug after his three-week layoff (not to mention facing a secondary in the national top-10 in picks, too). Whichever team can force the opposing singal-caller into a game-changing error is going to have a huge leg up.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 4:17 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:20 pm
 

The Poll Attacks: Week 8

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.

With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.

AP Poll           Coaches Poll           Harris Poll           BCS

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)

Poll reactions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC

Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team of the week: Southern Miss

  The Golden Eagles are ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2004 in the Coaches Poll but are just "receiving votes" in the AP. Voters must not be aware of them shutting down June Jones' offense on Saturday, holding SMU to just three points and 330 yards. They're behind teams like West Virginia (blown out by Syracuse) and Arizona State (lost to Illinois, blown out by Oregon) for some reason. Yes, they're a Conference USA team so they have to fight for respect a lot more than others but they should be on everyone's ballot at 6-1.

Overrated: Nebraska

  To be fair, it's hard to figure out where to slot Nebraska because of the mediocre group of teams outside of the top 10-12 or so. The blowout loss to Wisconsin looks even worse now and having to come back and beat Ohio State is not a ringing endorsement for a top 15 team given their troubles in the passing game. We'll figure out if they deserve a high-ranking after Saturday but until then, they probably should be behind Virginia Tech and even Texas A&M.

California Craziness

A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.

  I swear that Wilner just likes being the one in this space in order to gloat to his Bay Area compatriot Ratto. First off, teams that are on his ballot that shouldn't be: Auburn (17th), Washington (21st), Texas (23rd). Teams not on his ballot that should be: Houston, Michigan, Penn State. Also head-scratching: Auburn above USC, Kansas State 19th, Virginia Tech one spot behind Washington, Arkansas ahead of Stanford, South Carolina in the top 12, Georgia in the top 15.

What were you thinking? Desmond Conner, Hartford Courant

  Conner's top 20 isn't bad at all, aside from Nebraska being ahead of both Michigan State and Wisconsin. The bottom five is disastrous however. Arizona State is 20th, followed by West Virginia, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Illinois and Penn State. He was the only voter to rank the Fighting Zookers despite losing back-to-back games to Ohio State and Purdue and has one-loss Penn State dead last on his ballot. Conner is also the only one to leave USC unranked.


Posted on: October 23, 2011 7:52 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2011 9:17 pm
 

SEC poll reactions, Week 8

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the SEC fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.


(AP/Coaches)

1/1. LSU

We'd like to think that even if Oklahoma had completed their failed comeback against Texas Tech, the Bayou Bengals' annihilation of a top-20 Auburn team (as opposed to a mighty struggle at home vs. an unranked team with two home losses) would finally resulted in their taking over as a consensus No. 1. But fortunately for clarity's sake, the Red Raiders finished the job. And even if Alabama wasn't on a bye themselves, that consensus wasn't going to change during LSU's off-week--the Tigers have a 49-10 advantage in first place votes in the AP, and a 41-18 edge in the Coaches.

2/2. ALABAMA

The Crimson Tide should have passed the decisively less-impressive Sooners weeks back, but there's no doubt plenty of thanks being sent Lubbockward after the Red Raiders made the Tide's consensus move to No. 2 it official. (Then again, knowing the relationship between the Tide fanbase and Tommy Tuberville, maybe not.) What's interesting is that the Tide have enough support for a short fall in the event of a loss to LSU--the 122-point margin between the Tide and No. 3 Oklahoma State is wider than the margin between the Cowboys and No. 6 Clemson.

8/8. ARKANSAS

The Razorbacks move up two spots in both polls but find themselves in the same broad position as last week: the second-highest one-loss team behind Oregon. It's a strong show of support for the Hogs that even after an unimpressive win over Ole Miss -- one that required overcoming a 17-0 first-half deficit and a last-minute interception to preserve the victory -- Arkansas still moved past plummeting Oklahoma and Wisconsin. But as we said last week, if forced to pick between the Hogs and Ducks in a one-loss head-to-head, we think the Hogs deserve the nod.
14/14. SOUTH CAROLINA

Oh, Coaches poll. We wish there was a better explanation for jumping Kansas State past the Gamecocks on the basis of a win over Kansas and Carolina's bye week than "Oops, we kind of messed up by having that undefeated team so low last week, better fix it" ... but we know there isn't. At least Michigan State's leapfrog past the Gamecocks makes more sense. The Spartans jumped the Gamecocks in the AP, too, but Carolina stayed put thanks to West Virginia's freefall. Given that the Gamecocks' loss came to a now three-loss team at home and that their signature win is a three-point escape at Georgia, they can't have any complaints about sticking at 14th.

22/21. GEORGIA

The Bulldogs didn't play this week, but still got a two-slot bump in the AP and leapt into the Coaches at No. 21. Guess it helps when so many bottom-rung top-25 teams -- Auburn, Illinois, Washington, Georiga Tech -- absorbed lopsided and/or embarrassing losses. But the Dawgs can't gripe about not being higher, not when their best win is still over 3-4 Tennessee.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:03 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 3:11 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 8


Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 8.

WINNERS: Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson. On the eve of the 2011 season, the LSU quarterback situation was supposed to be the team's Achilles heel. The senior Lee had spent his entire career as erratic at best and a turnover machine at worst; Jefferson was suspended and might never return; and despite intense fan interest, Zach Mettenberger hadn't been able to beat either out for so much as the backup's job. But after the Tigers' demolition of Auburn, it's time to give the Bayou Bengal quarterbacks their due: not only are they not a weakness, they're a major reason LSU is 8-0 and now preparing for an undefeated megatilt against Alabama.

The stats are argument enough: a combined 16-of-23 for 219 yards (9.5 an attempt), three touchdowns, and no interceptions. (This was LSU's fifth straight game without a turnover, by the way.) But the two touchdown throws they made in the second quarter -- one by each, both of 40-plus yards, both to the rapidly-improving Rueben Randle -- are an even better argument. On the first, Jefferson was leveled by an Auburn blitzer and stood strong in the pocket to deliver Randle a precision strike; on the second, Lee "dropped it in a bucket," as they say, allowing Randle to beat double coverage. The end result was that a quarter that began 7-3 and with Auburn in a dogfight ended with LSU up 21-3 and the game over. If those two throws are examples of what LSU can expect in two weeks, even Alabama might not be good enough to beat the Tigers. At this point, it seems obvious no one else in the SEC can.

LOSER: Houston Nutt. Honestly, this isn't entirely fair to Nutt, who just coaxed the best performance from his team all season and has nothing to hang his head about, final score-wise; losing to a legitimate top-10 outfit like the Razorbacks by five points is an accomplishment, especially when the outcome is still in doubt in the final minute. Still: a 17-0 second-quarter lead over that kind of opponent -- not only one of the best teams in the country, but an opponent whose fans enjoy needling Nutt and the Rebels about their failures -- is the kind of golden opportunity that Nutt and his team simply couldn't afford to let slip through their fingers. In the end, solid performance or not, it's just Nutt's 10th straight SEC loss ... and another few before the year's end could be the end for Nutt.

WINNER: James Franklin. On the other end of the spectrum, we've got a coach for whom beating Army isn't really that big a deal ... but beating them by a comprehensive 23 points is. The Commodores had only one week of study for the Black Knights' triple option and held them to 288 total yards anyway, forcing three turnovers in the process. The 'Dore running game racked up a stout 344 yards and Vandy may have finally found a quarterback in Jordan Rodgers, who didn't set the world on fire (10-of-27, one touchdown, two interceptions) but whose 10 completions did go for better than 18 yards a pop. In short: this was the kind of performance that suggests the 'Dores 3-3 record wasn't a fluke, and that they could go bowling in Franklin's first year. It won't be enough to win him Coach of the Year with Miles and Saban around, but it's still a heck of a job.

LOSER: Drama. Another week, another series of blowouts in the SEC. Save for Arkansas's escape from Oxford, the average score of the four Week 8 games involving SEC teams was 41-13. After another week of winning their two games by some outrageous combined score -- 66 points' worth this go-round -- LSU's and Alabama's average margin of victory has ballooned to a full 30 points. It's a good thing the Tide and Tigers have next week off; not only will it give us another week to savor the buildup to the Game of the Century of the Year, but maybe it'll give us a chance to enjoy more than a single helping of competitive SEC football.

WINNERS: Alabama's receiving corps. The Tide's wideouts were alleged to be the team's one weakness entering this season, and doubly so once Duron Carter was ruled ineligible. But Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks and Kenny Bell made that expectation look more ridiculous than ever in the second half Saturday night, hauling in acrobatic circus grab after acrobatic circus grab and eventually totaling 11 receptions, 213 yards, and Bell's game-clinching touchdown. AJ McCarron didn't have his best night, but Maze, Hanks, and Bell made him look awfully good all the same.

LOSERS: Auburn's special teams. The way LSU (and their quarterbacks in particular) are playing, it didn't matter what Auburn did today. But the one area where you can't show any weakness vs. Les Miles's team is in special teams, where they will kill you with field position if given the opportunity. Given the Tigers' strength in this area so far in 2011, Gene Chizik was probably expecting a draw in this phase, at least. Nope: punter Steven Clark had his worst game of the year, repeatedly failing to pin LSU deep when given the chance, and dynamic freshman kick returner Tre Mason fumbled away a second-half return to turn the game from decisive LSU advantage to full-on rout.

LOSER: Matt Simms. Ugly as Simms' final line in the box score was (8-of-17, 3.4 yards an attempt, no touchdowns, one interception), he was facing Alabama on the road; lots of quarterbacks would have looked just as bad, and Simms did play a role in getting the Vols to a 6-6 halftime tie. But Derek Dooley's decision to burn Justin Worley's redshirt late could indicate a move towards getting the freshman snaps at Simms' expense, and though he had a lot of company on the Tennessee sideline, he wasn't able to do much in preventing the Tide onslaught in the second half.

WINNER: College football. No. 1 LSU and (now consensus) No. 2 Alabama are going to meet in two weeks, both undefeated, both extremely heavy favorites to finish their regular season schedule perfect and run a way with the SEC East with a win over the other, both having established their national championship contender's bona fides weeks ago. It really, really, really shouldn't get any better than what we now know we'll see Nov. 5.


 
 
 
 
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