Posted on: November 13, 2010 11:06 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. South Carolina and Auburn will battle for the SEC title in Atlanta. It's official, even though the game is three weeks away, we know that no matter what happens from here on out, South Carolina and Auburn are headed to Atlanta to square off for the SEC Championship. It'll be the first time since 2004 that the game didn't feature Florida, Alabama or LSU. Coincidentally, that's also the last time Auburn played in the game, beating Tennessee 38-28.
2. Sources tell me Cam Newton is still awesome. Distractions? What the hell is a distraction? Cam Newton sure didn't play like a kid who spent the last week dealing with the media circus surrounding his NCAA investigation. Newton finished the day with 299 total yards and four touchdowns during Auburn's 49-31 win over Georgia.
3. I worry about Marcus Lattimore's future. Listen, I totally understand why Steve Spurrier and South Carolina choose to ride Lattimore's back. The kid is a beast, and he completely changes the Gamecocks offense. Still, when I see him get 41 carries on Saturday night -- along with 38 against Georgia earlier this season -- I do worry that he'll be worn out by the end of his college career. We've all seen in the past at places like Wisconsin what happens to running backs who carry the ball hundreds of times in their college career when they get to the NFL. I just hope Lattimore doesn't suffer the same fate.
4. The Cam Newton Saga seemed to have a bigger effect on Mississippi State. Newton played like Cam Newton against Georgia, but Mississippi State played like a team that should have coughed up the dough on Saturday night. Sure, Alabama -- a ticked off Alabama team at that -- had a lot to do with it, but the Bulldogs didn't look very good in their 30-10 loss.
5. Tennessee has its quarterback. Who would have thought back in September or early October that Tennessee would have a chance to go bowling this season? I certainly didn't, but thanks to the continued rise of Tyler Bray and his back tattoo, the Vols have played incredibly well the last few weeks. Bray threw for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns as Tennessee destroyed Ole Miss 52-14. Now, if the Vols can manage to win their last two games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky -- which isn't all that crazy -- they'll finish the season 6-6 and be bowl eligible.
6. Florida's offense is still terrible. Listen, you may have been fooled by seeing Florida score 41 points against Vanderbilt last week, and some pollsters might have been as well, but I wasn't. An offense that has struggled all season did so again on Saturday night, managing a paltry 226 yards and 14 points against a Gamecocks defense that gave up 24 points to Tennessee, and 31 to Kentucky. If Steve Addazzio survives this season, then somebody is going to burn Gainesville to the ground.
Posted on: November 9, 2010 12:22 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Two weeks ago, Vanderbilt made an unusual midseason change at the offensive coordinator's position , elevating running backs coach Des Kitchings to the role of play-caller and demoting previous OC Johnny Kiser . The results have been, unfortunately, right in line with what you'd expect from Vandy following a Titanic deck-chair rearrangement: 156 total yards against Arkansas , a miserable 109 against Florida . Total first downs those two weeks: 15. Total punts those weeks: 19. Oy.
So if there's any team that deserves a break on the injury front, it's Vandy. But this being, you know, Vandy (which apparently used up all the luck they'd missed out on in the lean years before and all the luck they may ever have in their miraculous bowl season of 2008), they are not getting those breaks . In a sentence:
Vanderbilt will be without its top two running backs Saturday at Kentucky, and its No. 3 back is questionable.Those first two backs are Warren Norman , already out for the season following wrist surgery, and Zac Stacy , who started in Norman's place but left the Florida game in the second quarter following a concussion that has left him doubtful for the remainder of the season. Stacy's replacement, Wesley Tate , didn't even make it to halftime before injuring his ankle and remains questionable for the Commodores' matchup this weekend against Kentucky .
All of this attrition leaves senior Kennard Reeves as the team's likely starting tailback for Saturday. Reeves has 271 career yards in his four years at Vanderbilt, his 77 yards this year representing 6.4 percent of his team's total for the year. Norman and Stacy, Vandy's top two leading rushers? 67 percent.
If there's any good news for Vandy, it's that the Wildcat defense ranks ninth in conference play in total defense, so maybe Kitchings and the 'Dores can start to make some headway even without their most dangerous offensive players. But there's little doubt at this stage that Kentucky's still the ones getting the better news.
Posted on: November 9, 2010 12:01 am
Edited on: November 9, 2010 12:13 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The latest BCS rankings are out, and there's not much to be surprised about; Auburn is No. 1, Oregon is No. 2, and TCU is No. 3. In the human polls, Oregon's easily the top-ranked team. and anyone who actually watches the games can see why: the Ducks play football at an undeniably higher level than anybody else in college football. It's that simple.
Ah, but this column is not to argue that Oregon deserves the top spot in the BCS rankings over Auburn; not only is that argument obvious, it's immaterial, because it wouldn't alter the BCS Championship Game in any way. No, the real issue here is that as of right now, Auburn doesn't belong in the national title game; TCU does.
Here's the deal. First off, there is no single-game performance Auburn has under its belt this season that is as impressive as TCU's 47-7 dismantling of Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Yes, Auburn beat LSU by a whole touchdown after rushing for 440 yards. Auburn also played every single non-conference game at home, against Chattanooga, UL-Monroe, Arkansas State, and Clemson (who, not surprisingly, took Auburn to overtime and likely would have won at Clemson). Auburn's best road win? 17-14 over Mississippi State. The fact that Auburn has gotten away with such scaredy-cat scheduling is a testament to the water carried by SEC apologists more than any serious examination of the Tigers' schedule. Auburn's strength of schedule is 40th in the Sagarin ratings. Granted, TCU's is 62nd, but that's not exactly the chasm of competition that any college football fan south of the Mason-Dixon would have you believe.
Second, and more to the point of deserving the No. 2 ranking: TCU would beat Auburn, and maybe by double-digits. Sure, TCU has never seen an offense like Auburn's or a quarterback like Cam Newton. By the same token, the Auburn offense has never seen a defense like TCU's, which is head-and-shoulders above everybody else's -- even LSU's.
In fact, between the two teams' offensive and defensive units, there's only one spot of mediocrity, and that's Auburn's defense. The Tigers gave up 43 points to Arkansas at Auburn -- and most of those points were to the Razorbacks' backup quarterback. The Auburn starters gave up two first-half touchdowns to Chattanooga, 16 first-half points to Arkansas State, 34 points to Kentucky, and 31 to Ole Miss. What's more likely: TCU puts up 30 on the Auburn defense, or Auburn scores 30 on TCU's? There's no way Auburn's the right answer there.
Look again at the Sagarin ratings linked above. TCU is ranked second. Auburn is fourth. In terms of the predictor (which uses point differential, which is strictly verboten in the BCS), TCU is still second. Auburn? 11th. On a neutral field -- like, say, a bowl game -- TCU would be favored in this matchup. Why? Because right now, TCU is better than Auburn.
Of course, this is all academic; as Dennis Dodd has correctly pointed out, if Auburn wins at Alabama two weeks from now then dispatches its SEC East opponent for the conference crown, the Tigers will likely have proven that they deserve the BCS Championship Game berth. Those are both big ifs; Auburn hasn't proven itself as a serious title contender away from Jordan-Hare yet. The Tigers win both of those, and they've earned a top spot. Until then, though, the TCU Horned Frogs deserve the title shot -- not Auburn -- and it would thus be erroneous to act disappointed if the Tigers stumble and "let" TCU into the BCS Championship spot they've earned so far.
Also, it's obviously worth mentioning that the fact that this debate even needs to take place at all is ludicrous; there should be a four-team playoff. A plus-one, if you will. TCU and Auburn deserve to settle this score on the field, and Auburn fans deserve to watch the real title contender through 10 weeks prove its mettle.
Posted on: November 7, 2010 12:31 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. Les Miles loves the taste of grass and victory. Seriously, he loves the taste of grass. We have video to prove it and Russell Sheppard says he does it all the time because it's filled with protein. But as any mad genius herbivore can tell you, the grass always tastes sweeter when you win, and that's what LSU did on Saturday to keep its SEC title hopes alive and end those of Alabama at the same time. Miles did it in his usual crazy manner, too. Making sure his team looked horrible for the first 30 minutes before coming out firing in the second half. I'm really starting to wonder if Miles is just so insane he's actually sane. Like, he's done the complete 360 degrees of insanity, and the rest of us just can't comprehend it.
2. The SEC West > The SEC East. Okay, so the Mississippi State Bulldogs are 7-2 overall, and 3-2 in conference play. This is good enough to earn them fifth place in the six team SEC West. You know where this would put them in the East? They'd be tied with Florida and South Carolina for the lead with one less loss -- but one less win as well -- and they'd have the best overall record in the division. For further proof of the West's dominance, look what fourth place Arkansas did to South Carolina on Saturday night.
3. Cam Newton is not easily distracted. Here's what I know about Cam Newton after watching Saturday's game. He either knows he's 100% innocent of any of the allegations about selling himself to the highest bidder, or he just doesn't give a poop. Newton threw for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns on Saturday, and granted, it was against Tennessee-Chattanooga, but those are still very impressive numbers. Now he has the Tigers only one win shy of the SEC West title, and a few more wins away from the title game.
4. Cupcakes are delicious. Listen, I don't like the annual sacrifices of FCS schools to BCS schools that we see every year, but the fact of the matter is that as long as the BCS reigns, we are stuck with them. And, to be honest, I can't really blame SEC schools for wanting to schedule them in the middle of conference play and taking a break. Georgia, Auburn, Kentucky and Florida -- I'M KIDDING, VANDERBILT* -- all feasted on them, while Ole Miss and Tennessee enjoyed some slightly heavier Sun Belt and Conference USA fare.
*No I'm not
Posted on: November 4, 2010 3:42 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
As the regular season winds to a close, we'll break down the conference races and let you know what scenarios are needed for your favorite team to grasp that automatic BCS berth. In the SEC, we'll shake down each division race first then make a mostly premature prediction. Agree? Disagree? Got any good haikus? Leave 'em all in the comments section below.
West DivisionAuburn (9-0) (6-0)
Alabama (7-1) (4-1)
LSU (7-1) (4-1)
Mississippi State (7-2) (3-2)
Arkansas (6-2) (3-2)
Ole Miss (3-5) (1-4)
Week 9 Preview
With their convincing victory over Ole Miss last weekend, Auburn has eliminated both Arkansas and Mississippi State from the West race. Thanks to a head-to-head loss to Auburn and a second loss for both the Razorbacks and Bulldogs within the division (where Auburn finishes 4-1 at worst), it appears that's it's impossible for either team to win a tiebreaker against the Tigers, whether it be two-way, three-way, or even four-way. Since the Tigers are already two games up in the loss column with only two to play, the Hogs and Dogs cannot do better than a tie and are done where Atlanta is concerned. A share of the West will be as good as it gets.
But that's not the case for either LSU or Alabama , who will play what will very likely amount to an elimination game Saturday in Baton Rouge. The Tide could still make Atlanta after a loss by winning out, having Auburn lose to Georgia , and watching LSU drop one of their final two SEC games; they'd win the three or four-way tie at 6-2. But that's a lot of breaks to catch. LSU, on the other hand, has no way back in the event of a loss, as they'd fall into the no-way-past-Auburn boat shared by Arkansas and MSU.
For the winner of LSU-Alabama, though hope remains very much alive. LSU would need a pair of Auburn losses, but if they got them they would control their own destiny for Atlanta. Things would be even rosier for the Tide, who control their own destiny already and would be only two home games away from the divisional title.
Which is why Auburn will be rooting hard for LSU (not, of course, that they wouldn't be anyway). A Bayou Bengal win would mean that after dispensing with FCS Chattanooga this week, Auburn would have the golden opportunity to clinch the division at home next week against Georgia. The opinion here is that they won't get it, however; unless Patrick Peterson can produce some game-changing plays in the return game, it's hard to see how LSU's feeble passing attack makes enough hay against the Tide's defense to put a game-winning number of points on the board.
Week 10 West winners: Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss
West Favorite: Auburn
East DivisionSouth Carolina (6-2) (4-2)
Florida (5-3) (3-3)
Georgia (4-5) (3-4)
Vanderbilt (2-6) (1-5)
Kentucky (4-5) (1-5)
Tennessee (2-6) (0-5)
Week 9 Preview
Thanks to form holding in the South Carolina vs. Tennessee , Vanderbilt vs. Arkansas, and Kentucky vs. Mississippi State games, what once appeared to be an incomprehensible mess will almost certainly come down to one game: South Carolina at Florida, Nov. 13, for all the division's marbles.
It's "almost" because there's one remaining possible fly in the ointment: Vanderbilt, who hosts the Gators at noon Eastern this Saturday. If the Commodores can pull off the shocker, Carolina will go into their evening game against Arkansas knowing that a win will send them to Atlanta for the first time in the program's history.
Much more likely, of course, is that the Gators take care of business and render the tilt between the Gamecocks and Razorbacks completely meaningless where the East title is concerned. Even in the event of a Gator win and Carolina loss -- a likelihood, given the downtrodden state of the Carolina secondary and the skills of Ryan Mallett -- the Gamecocks will still have the tiebreaking upper hand if they can win in the Swamp, and Florida will have no way past that tiebreak after that fourth loss. It will be 100 percent winner-take-all.
(Note that Georgia has been eliminated; even the Vandy-over-Florida / Arkansas-and-Florida-over-Carolina / Georgia-over-Auburn series of events that leads to a three-way tie at 4-4 doesn't help them, since Florida would take it on the strength of head-to-head wins over both the Dawgs and Gamecocks.)
Week 10 East winners: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee
East Favorite: Florida
Mostly Premature SEC Championship Game Prediction - Auburn 34, Florida 28
Posted on: November 3, 2010 4:16 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2010 4:21 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Though it's been described in some quarters as a "down year" for the SEC , the polls would beg to differ; the league still hogs a third of the BCS top six and more than a quarter of the BCS top 20. A year after Alabama and Florida staged a de facto play-in game for the right to play for the BCS national championship, most bowl projections --- including CBSSports.com's -- currently see this year's meeting between a potentially undefeated Auburn and a potentially one-loss Alabama to be just as critical. Charges that the league's lack of depth was being masked by the Tide's and Gators' dominance have been answered this season as up-and-comers like Auburn, South Carolina , Arkansas , and Mississippi State have more than filled the vacuum left by the decline of Florida and Georgia .
In short, at the top of the standings, it's as good to be the SEC as ever. Too bad the story is a different one in the league's other half, where several teams will have to scratch and claw their way to bowl eligiblity. While fewer bowl teams would be something of a black mark for the league's record, it would be even worse news for the bowls on the back end of the SEC's 9-game bowl tie-in pecking order.
With the league all but guaranteed a second spot in the BCS (likely to go to either the Auburn-Alabama loser or LSU in the event the Bayou Bengals knock off Alabama at home this weekend), the SEC will need 10 bowl-eligible teams to fulfill all of those tie-ins. If they fall short, the struggling Birmingham Bowl -- having already lost its papajohns.com title sponsor and sitting on the ninth and final choice from the SEC pool -- could be forced to invite a Sun Belt also-ran that would almost certainly lead to diminished attendance and TV ratings. The bowls with the SEC's No. 7 and No. 8 choices, the Liberty Bowl and Music City Bowl , are more stable but would no doubt take some form of hit from being forced to choose a lower-rung Big East team or non-AQ at-large squad.
So there's more at stake in the race for bowl eligiblity for the SEC's bottom half than just gift bags and extra practices. CBS projects nine of the conference's teams to make it across the line to the postseason, but this assumes a few results break the SEC's way. Taking a look at the league's eligibility picture ...
Team-by-TeamAuburn, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Arkansas : Each of these teams has already earned postseason eligibility.
Florida : The Gators need only more one win, and if the exceedingly unlikely event they don't get it this week against Vanderbilt , they will Nov. 20 against FCS Appalachian State .
Kentucky : This is where things start getting at least a little dicey. The Wildcats have used the four-mediocre-nonconference-wins plus-two-SEC-victories blueprint to eligibility before and, with only four wins to date, could need it again. Charleston Southern will get them to five, but if the 'Cats botch their Nov. 13 home date with Vandy, they'll have to end their 25-game losing streak to Tennessee (the NCAA's longest between two teams) in Knoxville to make the postseason.
Georgia : With Idaho State on tap this week but a trip to Auburn the following Saturday, the 4-5 Bulldogs are likely to be at 5-6 and in need a win at home over Georgia Tech in the season's final week to go bowling. The 5-3 Yellow Jackets have taken a step back this season but won their last trip to Athens.
Ole Miss: This is where the shots at eligibilty get legitimately long. The 3-5 Rebels will need three wins out of a slate that includes a home dates against Louisiana-Lafayette and Mississippi State and trips to Tennessee and LSU. The Ragin' Cajuns are a gimme, but the Rebels will likely be underdogs in the other three and will need a pair of upsets to make up for their season-opening stunner against FCS Jacksonville State .
Tennessee: At 2-6, the Vols must win out to grab a bowl berth. But they have the schedule to make it happen, at least: vs. Memphis , Ole Miss, and Kentucky at home with only Vandy on the road. But at 0-5 in the SEC and dealing with a quarterback controversy, it's hard to see the Vols running the table even against that soft slate.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores also sit at 2-6, but with Florida up this week, they will very likely be the first SEC team officially eliminated from postseason consideration.
Best-Case ScenarioKentucky beats Vandy, Georgia beats either Auburn or Tech, Tennessee wins out, and Ole Miss shocks both LSU and Mississippi State to send every SEC team but Vandy into the postseason (four of them at 6-6).
Worst-Case ScenarioKentucky loses to Vandy and Tennessee. Tennessee loses to Ole Miss. Ole Miss loses to LSU and Mississippi State. Georgia loses to Auburn and Georgia Tech. And only seven SEC teams go bowling.
A PredictionWe'll stick with the CBS line for now: the Dawgs and 'Cats do enough to keep the Music City and Liberty happy, but neither the Rebels nor Vols make it and the Birmingham Bowl scrambles. But should Kentucky lose to Vanderbilt or Georgia to their in-state rivals from Atlanta, there's going to be some very unhappy bowl executives in either Memphis or Nashville.
Posted on: October 28, 2010 4:10 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2010 4:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
As the regular season winds to a close, we'll break down the conference races and let you know what scenarios are needed for your favorite team to grasp that automatic BCS berth. In the SEC, we'll shake down each division race first then make an insanely premature prediction. Agree? Disagree? Got any good haikus? Leave 'em all in the comments section below. For the ACC edition, click here .
West DivisionAuburn (8-0) (5-0)
Alabama (7-1) (4-1)
LSU (7-1) (4-1)
Mississippi State (6-2) (2-2)
Arkansas (5-2) (2-2)
Ole Miss (3-4) (1-3)
Week 9 Preview
With Auburn sitting a game up on their bitter Alabama rivals but a full two or more on the rest of the field -- thanks to head-to-head tiebreakers over LSU , Arkansas , and Mississippi State -- it looks like there's not much stopping an Iron Bowl meeting (Nov. 26, only on CBS!) for all the Western marbles. But we're not there yet. There are plenty of reasons a team calling itself the No. 1 team in the country has lost on the road each of the last three weeks, and an awful lot of those reasons are in play again this week as emotionally-drained Auburn travels to Ole Miss . Houston Nutt has enjoyed a ton of success against favored Auburn teams over the years, and with Jeremiah Masoli now in what appears to be firm command of Nutt's offense, the Rebels have the ability to take advantage of the Tigers' often-porous defense.
But the Rebels are also struggling to stop the run in SEC play, giving up 162 yards per game, and that's after playing Vanderbilt and before playing Auburn (who has rushed for more than 300 yards in their last four SEC outings). If the Tigers come out focused enough to execute in their punishing ground game, they should wear down a Rebel defense that has sagged in several second halves.
If Auburn does come away with the win, Arkansas and Mississippi State will be all but eliminated even with wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky , respectively; they would need to run the table, see Auburn to lose to both Georgia and Alabama , and get enough other help to squeeze into a three-way tie that would avoid the head-to-head dilemma. Much more likely is that when the smoke clears, next week's critical game between LSU and Alabama (both of whom are on byes this week) will either help set up a winner-take-all Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa ... or, if LSU wins, bring Auburn within one win of clinching the West.
Week 9 West Winners -- Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State
West Favorite -- Auburn
East DivisionSouth Carolina (5-2) (3-2)
Georgia (4-3) (3-3)
Florida (4-3) (2-3)
Vanderbilt (2-5) (1-4)
Kentucky (4-4) (1-4)
Tennessee (2-5) (0-4)
Week 9 Preview
The most muddled division in all of college football should gain some clarity this week when Georgia and Florida play a de facto elimination game in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (3:30 ET this Saturday--only on CBS!). Assuming South Carolina holds serve at home against reeling, winless Tennessee , the loser will find themselves at least two games behind the Gamecocks with only two games remaining on Carolina's slate. Though either team could still hope for a three-team (or even four-team) tie at 4-4, there doesn't appear to be a way for this Saturday's loser to win that tiebreak.*
The Gators do have the advantage of controlling their own destiny, while Georgia will need help even with a win. But it's Mark Richt 's team that comes in as the Vegas favorite after destroying the Volunteers, Commodores, and Wildcats over the previous three weeks. The Dawg offense looks rejuvenated with A.J. Green back in uniform, changes along the offensive line leading to better holes for Washaun Ealey and the rest of the Dawg ground game, and Aaron Murray coming into his own as the trigger-man in charge. The Gators remain mired at 89th in the country in total offense, and unless Urban Meyer has worked some miracles during his team's bye week or the Gator return game reprises its magic from the LSU loss, it's difficult to see how Florida scores often enough to keep pace.
If Georgia does win, there's still a long road to the division title, though; they'd have to either defeat Auburn on the road in Week 11 or hope Carolina loses to Florida in Gainesville and Arkansas at home. But neither scenario is that far-fetched, meaning the East would stay muddled for at least a few more weeks.
One thing we can say: with Kentucky and Vanderbilt both major road underdogs this week (at Miss. St. and Arkansas, respectively), their brief run as legitimate players for the divisional title appears to be over.
*Since South Carolina would be the first team eliminated from that tiebreak, thanks to their divisional loss to Kentucky. After that, it's Florida vs. Georgia head-to-head.
Week 9 East Winners -- South Carolina, Georgia
East Favorite -- South Carolina
Insanely Premature ACC Championship Game Prediction - Auburn 35, South Carolina 31
Posted on: October 27, 2010 1:44 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
If you missed Georgia defeating Kentucky 44-31 last Saturday night, you missed a dominating special teams performance by the visiting Bulldogs. Brandon Boykin broke loose for a 100-yard kick return touchdown, a surprise Wildcat onsides kick was recovered by Georgia, and dangerous Kentucky punt returner Randall Cobb was held without a return yard on three Georgia punts.
The performance was all the more impressive considering that behind Cobb and players like excellent punter Ryan Tydlacka , Kentucky ranked -- and still ranks -- No. 1 in statistical guru Phil Steel 's cumulative special teams ratings . And after Saturday, the Bulldogs themselves have movd all the way up to sixth.
What's the secret of Georgia's success? According to interviews with players before the Kentucky game, it's as simple as the dog-bone pride stickers on the back of Georgia's helmets:
Seems a little over-simplified, right? Award helmet stickers, get better players for the special teams, have better special teams? If it was that easy, wouldn't every program in the country would be awarding pride stickers?
Maybe. But maybe not. According to a (100 percent accurate and comprehensive) list of sticker-employing programs on Wikipedia , 24 teams offer pride stickers for good play, or exactly 20 percent of the FBS. Of those 24, however, eight rank in Steele's special teams top 25, or 32 percent. If we take Steele's ratings at face value, it's true: teams with helmet stickers represent a greater share of teams excelling on special teams than we would expect from a random, equal distribution.
Admittedly, the correlation isn't that strong; it's likely the phenomenon examined here is simply coincidence. But unless keeping the team's helmet unspoiled is a top priority, isn't it evidence enough (along with Georgia's testimony) for programs to at least consider offering pride stickers? If one minor uniform tweak might be all it takes to get one minor upgrade at one special teams position, couldn't the benefit over the course of the season be worth the attempt?
HT: GTP .