Posted on: October 18, 2011 2:53 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
OLE MISS WILL WIN IF: Houston Nutt reaches into the deepest crevices of his bag of magic tricks to find the last remaining pixie dust that produced results like his 2007 upset of No. 1 LSU or the 2008 upset of Florida. Jeff Scott may not be able to bring that wood like Darren McFadden, but the Razorback defense hasn't exactly been stout against the run, giving up an average of 290 yards on the ground through their last three games. If Scott can break a couple of long runs ... and quarterback Randall Mackey can use his legs and the occasional accurate throw to keep the Hog back seven off balance ... and the injury-ravaged Ole Miss defense can make the handful of big plays necessary to avoid getting swamped ... then realistically speaking, the Rebels might lose by only two touchdowns. But that's discounting the effect of that Nutt pixie dust, which has made the highly unrealistic happen before and could again.
ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they simply play their game. If Tyler Wilson performs like the high-quality quarterback he's established himself to be, and the Hog offensive line gets the sort of push against the banged-up Rebel front it's capable of getting, and the nation's deepest receiving corps avoids dropping a handful of receptions directly into the Ole Miss secondary's hands, Arkansas will have entirely too much firepower for the lo-fi Rebel offense to keep pace. Add in the advantages of home field and the Razorbacks' bye week, and the only thing that can really stop Arkansas this week is Arkansas.
THE X-FACTOR: It would be an enormous help to the Rebels if the most likely source of lightning-in-a-bottle points was on their side ... but in this matchup, that honor belongs to Joe Adams, the senior jitterbug who added to his early-season collection of punt returns for touchdown with a game-changing 93-yard scoring run against Auburn two weeks ago. Ole Miss has a hard enough task preventing the Hogs from driving the length of the field for points; if an Adams score (or two) keeps the Hogs from having to make even that much effort, the Rebels won't have a prayer.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 2:57 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
At the top, midseason 2011 remains the best of times for the SEC. Alabama and LSU have given the conference not one but two highly viable -- some might even say favored -- candidates for a sixth straight national title. It's not even such bad news that one seems all-but-destined to eliminate the other from the title race when they meet in Tuscaloosa Nov. 5; assuming both clear their final hurdles this week, that game should arrive with more hype, more anticipation, more coverage and more viewers than any regular season college football game since Ohio State and Michigan clashed as undefeateds the final week of 2006. From a national title perspective, the SEC has never mattered more.
But anywhere other than the top, these are the worst times for the SEC in a while. A plague of injuries, inexperience, and ineffective coaching has gutted much of the league's offensive bite and turned what used to be riveting battles amongst the league's wealthier-than-thou middle class into glorified slapfights. Take this past weekend: Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina combined for a total of 49 points across two hideous games; lambs-to-the-slaughter Tennessee and Ole Miss lost to the league's top two by a combined 76 points; and Georgia and Vanderbilt played a game most notable for the screaming match between its coaches afterwards. It was ugliness all the way around--and that's with the conference's worst offense, Kentucky, on a bye.
Alabama vs. LSU should be a classic. And Arkansas, still easily top-10 caliber and as exciting as ever, is blameless. But are the hobbled back-nine of the SEC capable of giving us anything else deserving of that label in 2011's second half?
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama. It's easy to forget Richardson's 2011 season actually got off to a slow start, with only 148 yards on a 3.8 per-carry average through the Crimson Tide's first two games. Since then: five games, 764 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 8.2 yards-per-carry, the sort of per-attempt number starting tailbacks for national title contenders achieve only in video games. It's not just the production, either; Richardson has showed off the proverbial total package and then some, flashing breakaway speed, bone-rattling power, and startling elusiveness, sometimes -- as in his Heisman-reel tour de force against Ole Miss -- all on the same play.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback, LSU. The only serious defensive candidate for the 2011 Heisman, the Honey Badger has stormed onto the national scene on the back of a wave of big plays: the strip-and-fumble-return for touchdown against Oregon, the dazzling interception-and-return-to-the-1 against West Virginia, the sack-strip-and-fumble-return for touchdown against Kentucky. But those game-changing efforts shouldn't obscure what Mathieu does on an every-down basis: namely, lead the nation's No. 4 defense in solo tackles and spearhead the nation's No. 6 secondary in opponent's passer rating.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Les Miles, LSU. Nick Saban obviously deserves commendation as well, but with the ridiculous stockpile of defensive talent in Tuscaloosa and the rock-steady stability of Saban's program, the Tide were never in any danger of not being really, really good. Miles, however, had to navigate a major offseason shakeup of his offensive coaching staff, the Jordan Jefferson barfight brouhaha on the eve of the season (amongst other distractions), and a handful of offensive line injuries to have his team where it is now--atop the AP poll and well on their way to bringing an 8-0 record to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
SURPRISE: Auburn. Few SEC teams have legitimately exceeded expectations in 2011 -- LSU and Vandy are the only other two, frankly -- but none has been as big a shock as the Tigers, who had been predicted by many to sink to fifth (or worse) in the West and general irrelevancy in Year One A.C. (i.e., after Cam). But despite being a Vegas underdog in all four of their SEC games (and scoring 20 points or fewer in their most recent three), a newly-energized defense and timely plays on offense and special teams have Auburn sitting at 3-1 in the league and 5-2 overall. If Miles's and Saban's teams hadn't run so far away from the pack, Gene Chizik would be a hot favorite for SEC Coach of the Year.
DISAPPOINTMENT: Mississippi State. The 0-4 SEC record isn't that bad, honestly; at Auburn, vs. LSU, at Georgia, and vs. South Carolina is a reasonably tough road to hoe. What is that bad is that Dan Mullen's veteran offense has looked so lost, scoring just one offensive touchdown over its last three conference games. This was supposed to be the season Mullen started winning games against the heavier hitters of the SEC, but thanks to his team's offensive struggles, the Bulldogs are now losing games (and in uglier fashion) to the same caliber of team they defeated in 2010.
GAME OF THE YEAR--SO FAR: South Carolina 45, Georgia 42, Sept. 10. Thanks to the lack of offensive fireworks and Alabama and LSU horse-whipping opponents on a weekly basis, candidates for this honor are few and far between, But back in Week 2 the Gamecocks and Bulldogs played a back-and-forth thriller that may still wind up deciding the SEC East. Marcus Lattimore powered for 176 bruising yards, but the player of the game was Gamecock defensive end Melvin Ingram, who scored touchdowns on both defense and special teams and capped his breakout performance by snaring the Dawgs' last-gasp onsides kick.
GAME OF THE YEAR TO COME: Alabama vs. LSU, Nov. 5. Do we even have to spell out why? Consider that the average score to-date between one of these two behemoths and an SEC opponent has been 37-8, and the only thing keeping either one from being heavy, heavy favorites to win the league title is the other. With the pair currently ranked No. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings, it's not an exaggeration to think of this as a BCS championship semifinal.
AND YOUR SEC CHAMPIONS ARE: Alabama out of the West, purely on the basis of getting to host the Game of the Century of the Year, and Georgia out of the East--the Bulldogs have far fewer offensive question marks than the Gamecocks and the easier schedule down the stretch. And as for the SEC Championship Game, well, when the best of this year's West meets the best of this year's East, there's only one outcome worth predicting. We like Alabama to win this year's SEC title and advance to the BCS national championship.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Dan Mullen, Florida, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Jefferson, Kentucky, Les Miles, LSU, Marcus Lattimore, Melvin Ingram, Michigan, Midseason Report, Midseason Reports, Mississippi State, Nick Saban, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oregon, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Trent Richardson, Tyrann Mathieu, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
Posted on: October 17, 2011 2:34 pm
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: Michigan State
Smash-mouth, hard-hitting defense and a solid (but certainly not spectacular) offense but Sparty just can't get much respect. They beat Michigan and held Denard Robinson and his explosive offense to just 250 total yards and 14 points. Edwin Baker, the touchdown maker, ran for 167 yards against an improved Wolverines defense too. We'll really see what they're made of this week but they should be higher than 15th in the AP and Harris Polls after their performance last week. They've proven more than Nebraska or South Carolina and probably should be in the 11-13 range.
Overrated: South Carolina
The Gamecocks are ranked 14th in the AP, 12th in the Coaches and 13th in the Harris Poll. First off, let's say that they lost their quarterback, top offensive player and running back Marcus Lattimore and struggled to beat Mississippi State 14-12. They really haven't beaten anybody convincingly outside of Kentucky before the injuries so it's safe to assume they're probably going to struggle in the near future. Is this a one-loss top 25 team? Sure. Top 15? Ehh...
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.
Welcome back Jon, it's been a while since you found yourself in this space. We've got several issues with the ballot you turned in, starting with putting Clemson 3rd. In case you didn't watch (and you probably didn't), the Tigers needed a late 4th quarter rally from 18 down to beat Maryland. The Terps also rolled up 468 yards and 45 points on the defense, not exactly top three caliber. It's also concerning to see Stanford ranked behind Oregon and Arkansas at 10th, two spots ahead of a way to highly ranked Auburn team. Wilner doesn't respect Kansas State much either, putting them 20th behind 11 teams with at least one loss. Oh yeah, Texas is still ranked too, as is USC.
What were you thinking? Craig James
Is there a more maligned broadcaster than James? Judging by Twitter, I'd say no. Either way, he's also an AP voter despite the issue of having an active lawsuit against him by a former coach. Perhaps that was what was weighing on his mind when he turned in his AP ballot this week. It's not terrible but there are a few interesting choices. Of course he has SMU ranked 25th but that looks good considering he put Wake Forest 23rd overall. Yes, the Demon Deacons have had a nice season but they lost to Virginia Tech 38-17 this weekend and their other loss is to Syracuse. Not a top 25 resume at all. James also has Oregon 7th, higher than anybody and higher than undefeated Wisconsin.
Tags: ACC, AP Poll, Arkansas, Auburn, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bryan Fischer, Clemson, Coaches Poll, Craig James, Denard Robinson, Edwin Baker, Harris Poll, Jon Wilner, Kansas State, Kentucky, Marcus Lattimore, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Oregon, Pac-12, Poll Attacks, Poll Reactions, Ray Ratto, Scott Wolf, SEC, SMU, South Carolina, Stanford, Syracuse, Texas, The Poll Attacks, USC, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 17, 2011 12:25 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
If you're an Ole Miss fan, you probably entered Saturday's ritualized slaughter against Alabama thinking things would be bad ... but that after losing 30-7 to Vanderbilt earlier in the year, nothing the Tide could do to you would actually make things worse.
Sorry, Ole Miss fan: things have gotten worse. Houston Nutt announced Sunday that senior defenders Wayne Dorsey and Marcus Temple, both of whom left the Alabama game with injuries, will now miss the rest of the season. Both players' Rebel careers are over.
"Two really good players and two captains that have done a lot for us," Nutt said.
Temple broke his right ankle early in the game, while Dorsey fractured his right arm in the fourth quarter.
Both players had taken on pivotal roles for the improved (really) Ole Miss defense this season, and not only in the leadership roles Nutt mentioned. Temple had nabbed two of the team's eight interceptions and was a major part of the Rebel pass defense moving into the top half of the FBS in yardage allowed after finishing 103rd a year ago.
But Dorsey is, almost without question, the even bigger loss. The former JUCO transfer had led the Rebels in both sacks (with three) and tackles-for-loss (five), and not surprisingly was leading the defensive line in tackles as well. As pointed out by the Clarion-Ledger, Dorsey's production had essentially doubled the production from the other defensive end spot.
The Rebels' 2011 season already in a deep, deep hole; at 2-4 overall (0-3 SEC) and with their only remaining conference home games coming against heavy favorites LSU and Arkansas, Nutt faces a steep uphill battle just to hit four or five wins, much less bowl eligibility. And with Temple and Dorsey gone, that hill has now gotten just that much steeper.
Posted on: October 17, 2011 12:39 am
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.
At this point, the Tigers clearly care more about what's going on in the BCS standings -- where they also rank No. 1, by the slimmest of margins over their Tuscaloosa rivals -- than in the AP or Caoches polls. But since the AP does crown half of the national championship and the Coaches poll is a full third of the BCS formula and the Harris Poll tends to track both traditional polls closely, no one's going to start ignoring the AP or coaches in Baton Rouge (or anywhere else) anytime soon.
As for those polls' treatment of the Tigers this week, it was mostly the same-ol'-same-ol'; LSU is still No. 1 in the media balloting by a relatively comfortable margin, No. 2 in the Coaches behind Oklahoma, and ahead of No. 3 Alabama in that poll by a slim margin. But worth noting this week is that LSU and Alabama have dramatically closed the gap on the Sooners. Despite Oklahoma still commanding the lion's share of first-place votes (31 to LSU's 15 and Alabama's 12), LSU stands only 16 points out of first place, and Alabama only 7 additional points behind LSU. The 23 points separating the top three teams is nearly seven times smaller the margin between the Tide and No. 4 Wisconsin.
In other words: the way LSU and Alabama are annihilating opponents right now, the Sooners had best not put anything less than their best foot forward if they want to stay atop the Coaches.
Aside from the same closing of the gap in the Coaches just described for LSU, it was business-as-usual for the Tide after their 52-7 demolition of Ole Miss. We've said for many weeks that both of the SEC's top dogs deserve to get the nod over the Sooners, since the Tide and Tigers have each been every bit as dominant while playing decisively more difficult schedules than Oklahoma's; it's nice to see the BCS agree.
The Hogs enjoyed a bye week but still moved up a spot in the Coaches, thanks to previous No. 10 Michigan falling from the ranks of the unbeaten. No movement in the AP, though, with teams 1-through-9 all winning. Arkansas remains the second-highest-ranked team with a loss, behind Oregon ... but shouldn't they be ahead of the Ducks? Both teams' only loss came to one of the LSU/Alabama juggernauts, but while the Hogs have defeated two other top-25 teams in Texas A&M and Auburn, Arizona State is the only Duck victory of note. The Hogs should move up.
14/12. SOUTH CAROLINA
The Wolverines' fall results in the Gamecocks moving up a slot in both polls. But we're not sure anyone who watched Carolina survive Mississippi State by the skin of their teeth truly believes the Gamecocks are one of the top 15 teams in the country. Of the seven collective losses suffered by the polls' consensus top 16 teams, Carolina's is the only one that didn't either come 1. to an undefeated team 2. on the road.
With the Tigers' offense still sputtering, the eye test suggests Auburn is ranked about where it deserves to be at 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the SEC. But does that give Gene Chizik's team enough credit for its schedule-to-date? Between handing South Carolina its only loss so far (and in Columbia, no less), beating two other middle-of-the-pack SEC teams, and only losing to two top-10 teams at those team's places, it's not surprising the BCS computers call Auburn the nation's No. 14 team.
24 (tie)/unranked. GEORGIA
The Bulldogs reenter the AP poll at its very bottom, one notch ahead of Penn State. But while we'd like to give the Dawgs credit for losing their two games to a pair of top-15 teams, we think the Coaches have it right in selecting the Nittany Lions instead; PSU has one fewer loss, their win over Iowa is just as impressive as any on UGA's resume so far, and it's not like the Lions' only loss of the season (a 27-11 defeat to Alabama) isn't entirely understandable.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 9:18 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 12:01 pm
Posted by Eye On College Football
On Sunday night the first BCS standings of the season were released. While the Coaches Poll and AP remain divided on the order of the top three, the most important rankings have LSU with a slight numerical advantage over Alabama for the No. 1 spot. The Bedlam rivals hold down 3 and 4, while Boise State is holding down the familiar position of the outside looking in.
You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.
1. LSU : Les Miles' team is in the drivers seat, so it's pretty simple. Keep winning and the Tigers are playing for a national title. Though with games against Alabama, Arkansas and the SEC title game left, it won't be easy. - Tom Fornelli
2. Alabama: The Crimson Tide have faced three ranked opponents, played four SEC conference games, and still are only allowing 7.0 points per game. The methodical beatdowns of Alabama's opponents have set up the armageddon match against LSU on Nov. 5. If the Tide win that game and continue their high level of play, they will find themselves competing for Nick Saban's third championship in New Orleans come January. - Chip Patterson
3. Oklahoma: The Sooners find themselves behind both LSU and Alabama, which means that Oklahoma wouldn't be playing for a national title if the season ended now. The good news for Oklahoma is that LSU and Alabama still have to play each other, so if the Sooners win out, they'll likely finish in the top two. - TF
4. Oklahoma State : The computers love the Cowboys, but that's not enough to get them into the top two spots. Good news for them, though, is they still control their own destiny as they get to play Oklahoma and LSU will play Alabama. - TF
5. Boise State: The Broncos' best chance for a late quality win was assumed to be their one-time MWC showdown with TCU. With the Horned Frogs suffering a significant drop-off from 2010, Boise could easily finish the season undefeated and find themselves outside the top 2 (or 4) in the polls and BCS rankings. Boise State's best chance to make their first appearance in a title game is to get a lot of upset help from the Big 12 and SEC - CP
6. Wisconsin: While it's certainly disappointing to see a team of Wisconsin's caliber rated this low in the BCS, it's not exactly surprising; Wisconsin's first half of the season has been one blowout after another, and in a rating system that's not allowed to consider margin of victory, the only thing that matters is the teams you play. At the very least, Wisconsin is set to face some tougher competition in the coming weeks, so don't expect to see the Badgers ranked at 10th or lower in as many polls by the time November rolls around. - Adam Jacobi
7. Clemson: While the nation waits for Clemson's suspected collapse, Dabo Swinney's squad continues to grind out victories and hang out just inside the Top 10. Tajh Boyd's development and Sammy Watkins' arrival have come at the perfect time for the Tigers, who are four victories away from running the table in the ACC. - CP
8. Stanford:The Cardinal find themselves eighth in the initial BCS standings this year, an improvement from the 13th spot they debuted at last season. While some expected Andrew Luck and company to be slightly higher, their schedule has hurt them in the computer rankings because they have not played a ranked team yet. Stanford still controls their own destiny for the Rose Bowl but have a remote national title shot unless they get some help. - Bryan Fischer
9. Arkansas:The highest ranked one-loss team in the initial BCS standings, the Razorbacks could wind up in a BCS bowl again this year. They also have the chance to play spoiler for top ranked LSU and Alabama and cause some serious chaos in the national title race.- BF
10. Oregon: Fresh off a victory over probably Pac-12 South division winner Arizona State, the Ducks are in a good spot in the top 10 of the initial standings. They are the second highest one-loss team, right behind Arkansas, and their only loss is to top-ranked LSU. The computers send a mixed message about Oregon but as long as they keep winning, they have nowhere to go but up. - BF
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Tags: ACC, Adam Jacobi, Alabama, Andre Ellington, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, BCS Formula, BCS Order, BCS Rankings, BCS Standings, BCS Standings, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bob Stoops, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Bryan Fischer, Chip Kelly, Chip Patterson, Chris Peterson, Clemson, College Football Order, College Football Rankings, College Football Standings, Dabo Swinney, Jerry Hinnen, LaMichael James, Landry Jones, Les Miles, LSU, Mike Gundy, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, Russell Wilson, Sammy Watkins, SEC, Stanford, Tajh Boyd, Tom Fornelli
Posted on: October 16, 2011 6:59 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 7:00 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big 12 fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.
Another win and another week where Oklahoma doesn't move in either poll. I've already made my argument about how I feel that LSU and Alabama should be ahead of the Sooners in both polls, but if you actually saw how Oklahoma played against Kansas on Saturday night, then maybe a few more of you agree with me. Oklahoma spent the first half of the game sleepwalking like it expected Kansas just to get out of its way and let the Sooners score all the touchdowns they wanted. Given the way the Kansas defense played most of the year, it's hard to blame Oklahoma for feeling that way. Still, if you're the best team in the country, you come out and play like it every week for a full 60 minutes no matter who the opponent is.
6/6. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys moved up a spot in the Coaches Poll this week, and I'm guessing it's because the Cowboys beat Texas while Boise State destroyed Colorado State. One of those wins is a bit more impressive than the other, don't you think? The only beef I have with Oklahoma State's spot in the coaches' poll is that it's behind Stanford, and I think the Cowboys have a stronger resume than the Cardinal at this point. Of course, Oklahoma State still controls its own destiny, so as long as it keeps winning, it'll get near the top of the poll at the best time to be there: the end of the season.
12/16 Kansas State
Kansas State moves up five spots in the AP poll following its win over Texas Tech, but only two spots in the coaches' poll. I feel like we could change the name of this post to "Tom Hates The Coaches Poll." How a 6-0 team in a BCS conference can find itself behind seven other teams with a loss on its record will forever baffle me. The AP poll doesn't escape from this entirely, either, as there are three teams with a loss ahead of Kansas State in that poll as well. Will Kansas State be a top ten team when the year is finished? There's no way to know for sure, but I do know that there are only ten FBS schools with an unbeaten record left and Kansas State is one of them right now.
17/18 Texas A&M
If Texas A&M's offense plays like it did against Baylor for the rest of the season then the Aggies are going to crush a lot of dreams in the Big 12 before this season is over. That being said, as impressive as the Aggies looked, a two-loss team probably shouldn't be this high right now. Though I won't offer that much of an argument against it since the two teams A&M lost to are 6-0 Oklahoma State and 5-1 Arkansas. So I may feel that the Aggies are a bit too high, but I also can understand the argument for it.
Others Receiving Votes
Baylor (19 AP votes/9 Coaches votes), Texas (12 AP votes/26 Coaches votes)
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:42 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 6.
WINNER: Trent Richardson. On a day when the SEC failed mightily to produce anything resembling a classic game -- of the league's five matchups, two were won in overpowering fashion by its resident pair of 500-pound gorillas, and the other three were all varying degrees of "slopfest" -- Richardson nonetheless delivered a classic performance. The career highs in yards (183 yards) and touchdowns (four) were nice, but lots of running backs can amass gaudy numbers. What made Richardson's night special was the fury with which he punished Ole Miss's defenders on his runs between the tackles, and then the startling elusiveness he flashed once he found the open field; this juke is going to be a staple of highlight reels for weeks to come. The statistic that best reflects Richardson's night? The 11.2 yards he averaged across his relatively meager 19 touches.
With Marcus Lattimore going down with an injury today (more on this in a moment) and Tyrann Mathieu having a quiet day by his standards despite the total domination shown by his LSU secondary (1 pass broken up, 1 tackle, nothing in special teams), Richardson is now the SEC's far-and-away most viable Heisman candidate. And if the Ole Miss game is any indication, his campaign might just be getting warmed up.
LOSER: the SEC East. Thanks to the decline of Mississippi State, the East's record vs. the West isn't quite as lopsided as it was last year. But that doesn't mean the top of the division is any stronger than it was last year; based on the evidence of Saturday, it's even worse. South Carolina scored a total of two touchdowns while wheezing their way to a four-point win over a State team in offensive disarray. Georgia collected four turnovers from Vanderbilt and outgained the 'Dores by nearly 100 yards and still came within one Hail Mary off a receiver's hands from losing in Nashville. And Florida gained all of 194 yards against the nation's 105th-ranked defense at Auburn. Sure, the East champion won't have a prayer against LSU or Alabama, but with two of its title contenders having already lost to Gene Chizik's team and the third barely any less convincing-looking, the East champion might not even be any better than fifth-place in the West. Still.
WINNER: Ted Roof. After his Tiger defense was eviscerated for more than 1,150 yards in just two weeks by Mississippi State and Clemson, Roof was the most unpopular person on the Plains this side of Harvey Updyke. But thanks to the rapid maturation of players like sophomore defensive end Corey Lemonier (three tackles-for-loss, two sacks, four QB hurries vs. Florida) and sophomore cornerback Chris Davis (five tackles, one pass breakup), Roof's unit suddenly looks in much better shape than celebrated coordinating counterpart Gus Malzahn's--and was largely responsible for both Auburn's win in South Carolina and over Florida Saturday. The Gators' quarterbacking woes no doubt helped, but short, quick running backs like Chris Rainey have given Roof's defenses fits in the past. In the present, Rainey was bottled up to the tune of just 33 yards on 16 carries.
LOSER: South Carolina's offense. Let's get the obvious out of the way first: if Lattimore's injury keeps him out for any extended length of time, that's a massive, massive blow for the Gamecocks. Players of the big sophomore's ability simply aren't replaceable in midseason (if ever), and Carolina doesn't have much depth behind Lattimore to begin with; his substitute against the Bulldogs was true freshman Brandon Wilds, who entered the game with all of eight career carries.
But there's even more worries for Steve Spurrier past his running back situation. Connor Shaw's explosive performance against Kentucky looked like a mirage after he threw for an average of just 5.5 yards on his 28 attempts, with two interceptions; his banged-up offensive line opened holes for just 2.6 yards a carry, two weeks after Lattimore averaged less than 4 vs. Auburn; and Alshon Jeffery continues to be nearly invisible, collecting the game-winning TD vs. State but just four other receptions for all of 20 yards. If Spurrier can't fix things -- and likely do it without Lattimore -- his team may not win again until the Citadel visits on Nov. 19.
WINNER: Rueben Randle. Is anyone happier about Jarrett Lee's late-career renaissance than LSU's No. 1 receiver? The former five-star struggled to make an impact his first two years in Baton Rouge, but with Lee at the controls Randle has become one of the league's biggest deep threats. After 5 more receptions for 86 yards and a score against Tennessee, Randle is averaging an even 19 yards per reception--the best mark in the SEC for any receiver with more than 20 catches for the year.
LOSERS: Anyone who tuned away from Georgia-Vanderbilt. Though it was too sloppy by half to qualify as a good game, the ending of Bulldogs-Commodores was as wild as any game in the SEC this season. Up 33-28, the Dawgs drove deep into Vandy territory and looked to have the game salted away before Aaron Murray was picked off by Casey Hayward at the Vandy 2 with 2:30 to play. But Jordan Rodgers was only able to drive the 'Dores to their own 25 before being picked off himself with 1:10 left. The Bulldogs weren't able to run out the entire clock, though, and had their punt blocked, almost returned for a game-winning touchdown, and eventually recovered by Vandy at the Bulldog 20 with 7 seconds left. Rodgers' Hail Mary hit a falling Chris Boyd in the hands, but Boyd was unable to bring it in, and one final desperation play fell short ... after which Vandy head coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham nearly sparked a brawl by angrily yelling at each other at midfield.
Not a bad bit of drama for a game the few people who were watching potentially turned off once Georgia went up 33-21 early in the fourth quarter.
LOSERS: Gamblers who took South Carolina to cover the 3.5 points against Mississippi State. The Gamecocks' voluntary safety on the final play of the game -- reducing a four-point margin to two and flipping the result of the game against the spread -- cost worldwide bettors as much as $30 million, according to one report. We're skeptical the numbers for your run-of-the-mill SEC game run quite that high, but we'd still advise Spurrier not to walk down any dark alleys this week.
WINNERS: Hearts belonging to fans of Alabama and LSU. While fans in Columbia and Auburn and Athens and Starkville have all had their turns reaching for the blood pressure medication (Auburn's more than once), those in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge haven't had to worry. After winning their two games Saturday by a combined 90-14 score, the Tide and Tigers have now won their eight total SEC games by an average score of 37-8. The closest call? LSU's 19-6 "escape" at Mississippi State, which at the time was viewed as a disappointment for the Bulldogs.
Now, we're wondering if maybe they ought to put up a plaque to commemorate the achievement.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Arkansas, Auburn, Brandon Wilds, Casey Hayward, Chris Boyd, Chris Davis, Chris Rainey, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Corey Lemonier, Florida, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Harvey Updyke, James Franklin, James Franklin the Vanderbilt coach not the Missouri quarterback, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Rodgers, Kentucky, LSU, Marcus Lattimore, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Ruden Randle, SEC, South Carolina, Steve Spurrier, Ted Roof, Tennessee, The Citadel, Todd Grantham, Trent Richardson, Tyrann Mathieu, Vanderbilt, Winners and Losers