Tag:AJ McCarron
Posted on: January 10, 2012 3:32 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 6:32 pm
 

2012 BCS Championship: Last thoughts from NOLA

Posted by Adam Jacobi

NEW ORLEANS -- Hey, folks. If you haven't read my feature on AJ McCarron, the first quarterback to win the BCS Championship as a sophomore or freshman, please do so here. Generally, when you think of the phrase "game manager" in relation to a quarterback, it sounds like a euphemism for "guy who can't throw more than 20 yards," but McCarron was phenomenal in his guidance of the Alabama offense against an insanely tough LSU defense, and a most deserving Offensive MVP for the Championship Game (see McCarron at right, accepting his award). So the fact that he's a redshirt sophomore playing like a four-year starter can't be celebrated enough. 

Here are a few more thoughts from New Orleans while I'm down here.

Honey badgers aren't cornerbacks: The "honey badger" nickname works for Tyrann Mathieu. It totally works. People complaining about Brent Musberger using it on television (I didn't watch the game on TV, but there were a lot of tweets grousing about it) (UPDATE: he did it 14 times) need to realize that this is a hipster's argument about music or a big-city homebuyer's argument amount gentrification, writ completely small. If something is enjoyable and underused, people will flock to it and you don't get to claim it to yourself anymore. Social nature abhors a fun vacuum.

That all said, Tyrann Mathieu is fantastic at injecting himself into plays that he's not supposed to be involved in and forcing turnovers and touchdowns. He is also 5'9" and LSU's third-best cover corner. So Alabama decided to run and throw right at this small defender, and surprise! He wasn't nearly as good on an island, without an opportunity to wreak havoc in the backfield.

When Alabama wasn't gearing its offensive attack toward Mathieu, it was using timing and blocking to ensure that he couldn't provide much value to LSU unless he was in coverage, and even then, he was routinely targeted to great success. Alabama basically didn't let him play Honey Badger, they made him play cornerback, and Mathieu is not a good cornerback yet. If Mathieu is running away from the line of scrimmage, he's probably not about to accomplish much. Lots of teams never figured that out this year. Alabama and Nick Saban did.

The peanut butter burger at Yo Mama's is a life-changer: I had several recommendations to go to Yo Mama's right off of Bourbon Street and try a burger that featured a combination of toppings I had never even thought to mix together by themselves, much less on top of a hamburger: peanut butter and bacon.



People. You can't even imagine. Why is the inventor of that sandwich not President of Foodworld? Foodworld is a country I just imagined in my head right now but it needs to be a real thing and this hamburger is why.

Oh, they're all really just friends in the SEC!: Speaking of Bourbon Street, I spent a few hours there over the course of the week (as pretty much the only person between 12 and 55 practicing moderation) and it's akin to being a blood cell in a clogged artery. To be surrounded by people who by and large don't share your mental state is a disorienting feeling, and if someone had a phobia about being accidentally jostled by a drunk frat boy who doesn't know where he's walking, Bourbon Street would probably set off a life-altering panic attack within a matter of seconds.

And yet, even for the tens of thousands of people I walked by, I never saw anybody lose their temper at an opposing fan. Oh, there were plenty of "ROLL TIDE"s and "TIGAH BAIT"s and "BAMA NUMBER ONE"s and "GEAUX LSU"s, but generally that was the full extent of communication between the two fanbases: one catchphrase at a high volume directed at an opposing fan's face with a smile, the other fan returning with his own catchphrase, and off the two go -- usually without so much as breaking stride.

It's not terribly intellectually stimulating conversation -- heck, "conversation" is a stretch to describe it at all -- but to give so many people from these two fanbases the drunkest nights of their lives and cram them all together into one crowded quarter ought to be a recipe for testosterone-fueled disaster, and that just didn't happen. Clearly, New Orleans is magical.

The AJ McCarron effigy idea didn't really work out too well: If you missed it on the Eye on College Football Twitter feed or the Eye on College Football Facebook page, here's a photo from Monday's tailgate of an AJ McCarron effigy, laid out on a stretcher with a pair of crutches, giving that poor, lonesome Bama fan a sad:


(Right click, open picture in a new tab for bigger version. Photo via US Presswire)

Now, I'm having a hard time deciding if I don't like this. Rooting for injuries is something that's pretty uniformly against the code of football fandom (exception that proves the rule: Oakland Raiders fans). As gallows humor goes, though, it's pretty well-executed, while being cartoonish and inattentive to detail enough that it doesn't come across like a warning from a serial killer. Plus, there are crutches there, so clearly this was a lower-body injury they foreboded for McCarron and not something life-threatening.

Now, "you're still not supposed to cheer for someone to mess up their leg, either" is still a perfectly valid argument, but it should also be noted that someone for Alabama did in fact have a nasty leg injury during the game: C.J. Mosely, who suffered a dislocated hip as he was tackled after making an interception in the second half. LSU fans didn't stand up and applaud Mosely's agony at that point, so it's not as if the McCarron injury proves that LSU fans are all bloodthirsty morons. They're not. This was just a dark taunt by one particularly resourceful tailgate, and while it's not particularly tasteful, the notion of SEC football fans never expressing any enmity for an opponent, not even in jest, also seems antithetical to the sport. This isn't the Pac-12!

(Quick aside: I only heard this idea advanced in passing conversations a couple times, but let's put it to bed right now: the notion that Jordan Jefferson intentionally injured Mosely is preposterous. Bas Rutten himself can't tackle someone who's running and wreck the person's hip on command, and to suggest a quarterback could do so just beggars belief. We all on the same page there? Good.)

And finally, I will miss you, NOLA. I've never been down here before. The motive has been there for years and years, but I never had the means and opportunity until now. The city did not disappoint. Case in point: on the first night I came down here, I sat in a bar full of gregarious men, beautiful women, and dogs. Literally, there were at least five dogs on leashes, right there in the open-air bar, watching the Saints game with the rest of us. A room in back held a $7 buffet, and the food was terrific. Of course it was. It's that night -- the locals, their bar, their dogs, their team, their food, their joie de vivre, their everything that I'll miss about this city when it's time to head back north.

I could never live down here, of course. The summers are sweltering enough in Iowa, and one resident's protestation to me that "you get used to it in no time" sounds like textbook Stockholm Syndrome. But the next time it's -10 and my eyes are frozen like Audrey Griswold's -- knowing Iowa, that'll be in about two or three weeks -- there's going to be one happy place my mind goes from now on: New Orleans.

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Posted on: January 9, 2012 11:35 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Alabama 21, LSU 0



Posted by Adam Jacobi


ALABAMA WON. The Alabama Crimson Tide captured the 2012 BCS Championship with a suffocating 21-0 victory over LSU.

HOW ALABAMA WON: Alabama's defense held LSU to a paltry 92 yards, and Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley hit five field goals out of a bowl record seven attempts. That, put together, was more than enough for Alabama to get the win and the title.

WHEN ALABAMA WON: The moment Les Miles decided he was never going to use Jarrett Lee in the game. Jordan Jefferson was downright abysmal as LSU's quarterback, going 11-17 for 53 yards and gaining 15 yards on 14 rushes, and while Alabama's defense deserves a great deal of credit for that, it should also be noted that Jefferson was equal parts indecisive and ineffective even when he did have time to throw the ball or run. True, Alabama victimized Lee in the two teams' first meeting, but Jefferson was much more productive in that game. Miles needed to make a change, and he didn't do it.

WHAT ALABAMA WON: Alabama takes home a well-earned BCS Championship, and Nick Saban has solidified his standing as the best coach in college football. AJ McCarron became the first sophomore or younger to win a BCS Championship, and Trent Richardson reminded everyone why he's the best back in college football by finishing the game off with a 34-yard touchdown scamper.

WHAT LSU LOST: As mentioned before, LSU was victimized by Les Miles' stubborn insistence on keeping Jordan Jefferson at quarterback, and LSU just never brought anything at Alabama that caught the Tide off guard. LSU didn't convert any third downs until the fourth quarter, and going into the fourth, LSU had two first downs to its name. The LSU defense could have played the game of its life and not overcome that kind of ineptitude on the other side of the ball. And for that, the crystal football eludes Les Miles and his charges this year.

THAT WAS CRAZY: In the game's first big play, Marquis Maze took a punt back 54 yards -- quite a feat considering LSU had allowed six punt return yards all season. Unfortunately, the return could have been even longer, but Maze pulled up lame in the middle of the return with a hurt hamstring. The injury kept him out for the rest of the game, but Maze's return set a tone that LSU couldn't match all game long.

FINAL GRADE: C. Alabama's defensive performance was the stuff of legend, but that doesn't change the fact that in eight games and an overtime, these two teams combined for 10 field goals and one touchdown. LSU looked downright inept at times -- which happens often against the Alabama defense -- and Oklahoma State fans must be wondering how hard it would have been for the Cowboys to beat LSU. But at least someone scored a touchdown.
Posted on: December 7, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 11:53 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-SEC team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the SEC.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. No SEC player was more electrifying to watch on a weekly basis than the Tide workhorse, whose raw strength and unmatched determination could turn an average four-yard gain (usually into the teeth of half the opposing defense) into must-see TV. Of course, the elusive, explosive 70-plus-yard bursts -- like his showstoppers against Ole Miss and Auburn -- weren't too shabby, either. Few have ever combined those gifts like Richardson, and no one in the SEC was any better this season.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. Claiborne wasn't just the best one-on-one man-coverage corner we saw this season, bar-none, SEC or elsewhere--he might have been the best defender we saw this season, SEC or elsewhere. By erasing his side of the field (except for those lone occasions when he was tested and -- as AJ McCarron found out -- usually ready to make a pick), Claiborne set the tone for the best secondary in the country and played arguably the biggest role of any LSU defender in getting the Tigers to the national title game.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Les Miles, LSU. James Franklin 
has earned legitimate consideration for his work at Vanderbilt. But when you look at not only the juggernaut constructed by Miles in Baton Rouge but his ability in steering it through the storms of the preseason bar fight incident, suspensions, and quarterback controversy, there's not really any other choice to make in this slot.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Brad Wing, P, LSU. A punter, over a running back like Isaiah Crowell? When we're talking about the nation's third-best net punting average for a No. 1-ranked prfect-record team that thrived on field position, you bet. That Wing's best two games came at the best possible times -- at Alabama and vs. Georgia in Atlanta -- makes his selection even easier.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Tyler Wilson, Jr., Arkansas. It was far from a banner year for quarterbacking in the SEC -- only three teams were even able to keep the same starter for all 12 games -- but you wouldn't know it from watching Wilson, whose 3,422 passing yards led the league by nearly 600 yards. No team in the conference was more dependent on their quarterback, but despite taking frequent poundings behind a suspect line Wilson repaid that faith to the tune of a 10-2 record.

Honorable mention: Georgia's Aaron Murray led the league with 33 touchdowns and was the East champions' clearcut best offensive player, but his 12 interceptions were also an SEC high. AJ McCarron struggled for Alabama in the LSU showdown but still finished the year with an SEC-best QB rating and that spot in the BCS title game.

RUNNING BACK

Trent Richardson, Jr., Alabama. It won't win him the Heisman Trophy, but Richardson's brilliant 2011 season -- 1,583 yards, 23 total touchdowns, an eye-popping 6.0 per-carry average despite a league-high 263 carries, and more highlight-reel runs than any running back in the country -- deserves to have cemented his status among the SEC's all-time backfield greats. Not even his predecessor Mark Ingram was ever better.

Michael Dyer, Soph., Auburn. The only back besides Richardson to average more than 100 yards per SEC game, Dyer was often the only thing the sputtering Auburn offense had going for it--and he still finished with 1,242 yards while averaging better than 5 yards a carry.

Honorable mention: Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy quietly enjoyed a breakout season as the league's second-most explosive back behind Richardson, scoring 13 touchdowns and averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

WIDE RECEIVER

Jarius Wright, Sr. Arkansas. Though not the most heralded of the Hogs' star-studded receiving corps entering the season, Wright quickly established himself as Wilson's go-to receiver and arguably the league's top wideout, finishing in the SEC's top two in receptions (63), yards (1,029), touchdowns (11), and average per reception (16.3).

Da'Rick Rogers, Soph., Tennessee. Like Wright, Rogers was supposed to take a back seat to fellow Vol wideout Justin Hunter. But when Hunter went down with an ACL injury in Week 3, Hunter stepped forward to lead the SEC with 1,040 receiving yards and 67 receptions--despite often being the woeful Volunteer offense's only threatening playmaker.

Rueben Randle, Jr., LSU. Rather than take a tight end, we're promoting a third receiver to our first team to make room for the SEC's biggest downfield threat. Randle caught "only" 50 passes (fourth in the conference) but saw eight of them go for touchdowns and averaged 18.1 yards per completion, making him one of only three BCS-conference receivers nationally to clear both 50 total catches and 18 yards a reception.

Honorable mention: If we'd gone with a tight end, Georgia's Orson Charles (44 receptions, 572 yards, 5 TDs) would have been an easy choice. Alshon Jeffery didn't have anything like the All-American season expected of him at South Carolina, but he was still the only receiver outside Wright, Rogers, and Randle to finish in the league's top seven in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

OFFENSIVE LINE

OT/OG Barrett Jones, Sr., Alabama. Whether at guard or tackle, Jones was hands-down one of the nation's best offensive linemen and a deserving All-American who's about to become quite the wealthy individual in the NFL. An easy selection.

OG Will Blackwell, Sr., LSU. The league's best prototype guard this season, Blackwell punished opponents in run blocking and played a major role in LSU's weekly second-half bulldozings on the ground.

C William Vlachos, Sr., Alabama. The SEC's best center, Vlachos put both his considerable strength and veteran guile to use in leading Alabama to the SEC's most productive rushing attack.

OT Alex Hurst, Sr., LSU. As effective as the LSU ground game was, the line also had to give Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson time to uncork those bombs to Randle. And thanks in large part to senior tackle Hurst, they did; the Tigers allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC.

OT Rokevious Watkins, Sr., South Carolina. Even without Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks averaged more yards per-carry and scored more rushing touchdowns than any team in the league outside of Alabama and LSU, and the much-improved Watkins was a huge reason why.

Honorable mention: Both Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones had strong senior campaigns (following) iffier junior seasons and have strong arguments for first-team inclusion. Kentucky never got anything going on offense, but guard Larry Warford was a bright spot.

ALL-PURPOSE

PR/WR/KR Joe Adams, Sr., Arkansas. Instead of reading this comment or looking up his stats, just watch this video:
 

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Melvin Ingram, Sr, South Carolina. His 13.5 sacks and 8.5 sacks -- both among the SEC's top five totals -- might have been enough anyway. Add in his two defensive touchdowns, critical fake punt touchdown rumble vs. Georgia, and skill at kick-blocking, and he's a total no-brainer.

DT Josh Chapman, Sr., Alabama. When you're the nose tackle that anchors a run defense that not only finishes No. 1 in the nation but allows an unbelievable three rushing touchdowns all season, yes, you've had quite the campaign.

DT Malik Jackson, Sr., Tennessee. Don't hold the Vols' poor team numbers (or record) against Jackson; the ever-active veteran finished with 11 tackles-for-loss (second among SEC tackles) despite receiving constant attention from opposing offensive lines.

DE Sam Montgomery, Soph., LSU. Picking the best LSU defensive lineman is like picking which cast member of Arrested Development How I Met Your Mother is your favorite, but we'll go with Montgomery, who combined incredible disruption (9 sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss) with stout down-to-down run defense.

Honorable mention: Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox led all SEC tackles in tackles-for-loss with 12.5 and Auburn's Corey Lemonier led all SEC ends with 9.5 sacks; both deserve a tip of the cap.

LINEBACKERS

Jarvis Jones, Soph., Georgia. Todd Grantham's 3-4 system made a star out of Justin Houston a year ago, but it paid even bigger dividends for Jones, who led the SEC in both tackles-for-loss and sacks and his Georgia defense -- one of the nation's best -- in tackles overall.

Courtney Upshaw, Sr., Alabama. Of the many terrors in the Tide linebacking corps, Upshaw may have been the biggest, collecting 17.5 tackles-for-loss, 8.5 sacks, and as much general havoc caused as any player in the country.

Danny Trevathan, Sr., Kentucky. No SEC player filled the whirling-dervish tackling-machine middle linebacker role better than the veteran Wildcat, who led the league in tackles for a second straight year and seemed to be three or four places at once late in the season.

Honorable mention: We're pretty sure that Crimson Tide inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower makes the first team in any other league in the nation; given the Tide's unreal rushing defense numbers and Hightower's role in them, we won't argue if you want to put him first in this league, too.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Jr., Alabama. Much as we've talked up Alabama's run defense, the Tide's pass defense was No. 1, too, and Kirkpatrick was the best player in pass coverage Nick Saban had in 2011--quite the accomplishment considering the competition.

CB Morris Claiborne, Jr., LSU. As much as we admire Claiborne's mustelid teammate in the LSU secondary, Claiborne's outrageous cover-corner skills means that if forced to pick one or the other to build our secondary (or team) around, we don't even have to think very long before taking Claiborne.

S Mark Barron, Sr., Alabama. Ho-hum, just another All-American season as the leader of the nation's top pass defense and the second-leading tackler on the nation's top rush defense.

CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, Soph., LSU. The Honey Badger is a tad overrated as a corner--which is why he wound up playing safety late in the year when Eric Reid suffered an injury. But it's pretty much impossible to overrate his nose for the ball or knack for the big play, which stands alone as the best in the nation.

Honorable mention: Casey Hayward and his five interceptions (and outstanding ball skills) for Vandy could and maybe should have him in the All-American discussion ... but since this is the SEC secondary we're talking about, he's here. The same goes for Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo and LSU's Reid, and though not quite in that class, Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks had a season worth mentioning as well.

SPECIALISTS

P Brad Wing, rFr., LSU. We're assuming the Ray Guy Award voters left him off because they expected to simply hand the thing over each of the next two seasons.

PK Caleb Sturgis, Jr. Florida. His 21-of-25 season was a rare positive for the Gators in difficult season.
Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:59 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 13

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: The Rematch. Before LSU and Alabama ever took the field Nov. 5, one of the hottest topics in college football was already whether the Tigers and Tide were so far out in front of the rest of the field that they could -- and maybe should -- meet again in New Orleans for the BCS championship. At that point, it seemed like outsized SEC hubris--not only did LSU and Alabama have to run the rest of the respective tables, but somewhere in the neighborhood of half a dozen teams had to suffer major upset losses.

But however you feel about the Tigers and Tide throwing out the results of their first experiment and starting from scratch for almost all the marbles (their loss in Tuscaloosa will at least cost the Tide a shot at an SEC title), the arguments at this stage are
all but academic; regardless of the results of championship weekend, LSU and Alabama are such clearcut Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings that they'll almost certainly stay that way even if LSU falls to Georgia in Atlanta this Saturday. The tables have been run, right up through Friday's rout of Arkansas by the Tigers and Alabama's bludgeoning of Auburn Saturday. The half-dozen teams have suffered those upsets. Whatever hope Oklahoma State had of getting the nod from voters was probably extinguished by the overwhelming matter in which LSU and Alabama won. It's done.

LOSERS: SEC haters. All of which means the SEC is going to win its sixth consecutive national championship. And while maybe the league has gotten a little too much credit for that achievement -- the conference's reputation has helped mask that behind the LSU/Alabama/Arkansas/Georgia triumvirate, there's precious little real quality -- is anyone really going to argue that the Tigers and Tide aren't the nation's two best teams right now? That the season shouldn't end with one team or the other hoisting the crystal football? It ain't bragging if you can back it up, and when it comes to assembling national title-caliber teams, the SEC has backed it up. Again. Sorry, rest of the country.

WINNER: James Franklin. Since George MacIntyre left the Vanderbilt head coaching job in 1985, five different Commodores head coaches came and went with a combined 17 seasons in Nashville ... and no bowl berths. The one coach who has taken Vandy to a bowl game since MacIntyre managed it in 1982, Bobby Johnson, did it just once in one (utterly charmed) season out of eight. So how fantastic of a job has Franklin done to not only take the 'Dores to a bowl, not only do it in his first season, but do it in out-and-out style, with a 41-7 road win over Wake Forest that cemented that Vandy -- with its 0-4 record in one-possession SEC games -- was better than its record?

A fantastic enough of a job that we'll call it a shame if Les Miles wins the SEC Coach of the Year in unanimous fashion. Miles deserves the award ... but Franklin deserves to be part of the conversation.

LOSER: Derek Dooley. We've picked on Dooley a couple of times in Winners and Losers recently, and take no joy in singling him out again. But facts are facts: if we were ranking the 11 employed SEC coaches in terms of who we'd want to fill a hypothetical SEC coaching vacancy starting tomorrow, Dooley would be ranked dead last, 11th out of 11. 

The contrast Saturday vs. Kentucky couldn't be starker. With his offense struggling horrifically, Joker Phillips pulled the trigger on a crazy scheme change, moved Matt Roark to quarterback, gave up on the pass entirely ... and won the game. With his offense struggling horrifically, Dooley declared "steady as she goes" ... and will be at home for the bowl season. 

WINNER: Connor Shaw. It was only four games ago that Shaw took his Gamecocks into Knoxville and threw for fewer than 100 yards, just 4.8 yards an attempt, and an even 1-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio as the running game and defense did all the heavy lifting. Against Clemson, it was Shaw doing nearly all the lifting, and then some. In the air the sophomore hit 14-of-20 for 10.5 yards an attempt and a three-to-zero TD-to-INT ratio, but he was even more dangerous on the ground: 19 carries, 108 yards, and another touchdown. No one's about to mistake Shaw for Cam Newton, but if the only comparison you made was Shaw's stat line from Saturday to one from Newton's last season ... well then, you, might be forgiven. 

LOSER: The overall state of quarterbacking in the SEC. Oh, AJ McCarron was excellent vs. Auburn, Aaron Murray deadly vs. Georgia Tech, and Shaw you just read about. But in the nether regions of the conference ... yeesh. Clint Moseley was disastrous for Auburn vs. the Tide, and seemed to have lost the confidence of a subdued Gus Malzahn. John Brantley threw three first-half interceptions before being sidelined with a concussion, whereupon Jacoby Brissett entered to throw a pick-six. Tyler Bray threw one 53-yard touchdown bomb ... and on his other 37 passes averaged just 4.4 yards a pass attempt and tossed a pair of interceptions. Ole Miss's Barry Brunetti was barely there. And Kentucky, of course, didn't even use a quarterback.

Lots of SEC defenses have outstanding pass defense numbers. Some of that is because they are good. Much of that, though, is because of play like the above. 

WINNER: the Ole Miss Rebels. Not on the field, of course; on the field, the Rebels lost their third straight to their in-state archrivals at Mississippi State in a 31-3 laugher that was never competitive. But on the plus side, this apocalyptic 2-10, 0-8 SEC season is finally, mercifully over and the search for a replacement for Houston Nutt can start in earnest. And that is the best thing that's happened for the Rebels in weeks.

LOSER: the Florida Gators. Unlike the Rebels, Will Muschamp's team will head to a bowl at 6-6. And Muschamp will no doubt say that that will give him and his staff a key opportunity to develop his young, still scheme-adjusting team during postseason practice. But the abject misery of the Gators' offensive showing against Florida State -- 21 points essentially yielded on interceptions to 7 points scored -- and flood of injuries made the team  look for all the world like one that would simply welcome the end of this punishing season. They'll trod on to the Music City Bowl or something similar, but we can't imagine anyone in Gainesville is all that excited about it.

Posted on: November 26, 2011 7:22 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 2 Alabama 42, Auburn 14

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



ALABAMA WON: 
Barring the beatdown to end all beatdowns by Oklahoma State against Oklahoma next week and a stunning change-of-heart from the poll voters, the Crimson Tide strangled the life out of the Auburn offense to punch their ticket to the BCS title game. The Tigers collected just 30 yards of offense through three quarters and failed to score any offensive points--their touchdowns came via a fumble recovery in the end zone and an 83-yard Onterio McCalebb kickoff return. AJ McCarron hit 14-of-18 for three touchdowns in a huge first half and Trent Richardson finished with 203 yards in a Heisman-quality performance.

WHY ALABAMA WON: Alabama's front seven and their rush defense is awfully, awfully good--No. 1 in the nation for a reason, mostly a reason like "held Auburn to 78 rushing yards, and less than 25 before two late garbage-time drives." But their pass defense? That's even better: Clint Moseley completed 11 of his 18 passes, but for just 3.4 yards an attempt and with just one completion beyond the line-of-scrimmage, a 15-yard fourth-quarter pass to Phillip Lutzenkirchen. When Auburn did finally come out of their shell with three deep passes in the third quarter, Dee Milliner responded by promptly picking off Moseley for a game-clinching pick-six.

Again: the front seven is good. Milliner, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron, Robert Lester, DeQuan Menzie and the rest of the Tide secondary is better. 

WHEN ALABAMA WON: The 27-14 lead Alabama took into the fourth quarter was probably safe given Auburn's offensive struggles. The 35-14 lead given by Milliner's pick-six was entirely insurmountable. 

WHAT ALABAMA WON: We mentioned that whole "99 percent chance of a BCS title opportunity," right? But this being the Iron Bowl, a third win over Auburn in four years ain't too shabby a consolation prize all by itself ... if it's a "consolation prize" at all.

WHAT AUBURN LOST: Any belief this wasn't the worst Auburn season in Gene Chizik's three years. His 2009 team also finished 7-5 but finished their season with a stirring everything-on-the-field battle at home against a Tide team that would go on to win a national title. Today's bludgeoning -- one of four in a series against the Tigers' four biggest annual rivals -- was a far cry from that effort and cements the feeling that Chizik may look towards a shakeup on his coaching staff.

Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:06 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 13

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

So you're been eating turkey and Thanksgiving leftovers for two days now, you've still got an entire Saturday of football to get through. And really, is there any better way to work off all the weight you've gained over the holiday than by sitting on a couch watching football?

Of course not.

So strap yourselves in and prepare for one of the last Saturdays you'll have this season.

BREAKFAST

#9 Oklahoma vs. Iowa State - FX 12pm ET

Who'd have known this game could hold so much intrigue? Iowa State is coming off a huge win of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma is coming off a loss to Baylor. Is it possible that Oklahoma could get upset two weeks in a row, or that Iowa State could pull off consecutive upsets? Your first reaction is to probably think not, but then again, how many of us thought Iowa State would beat Oklahoma State last week? - Tom Fornelli

#23 Georgia Tech vs. #13 Georgia - ESPN 12pm ET

The Jackets simply can't ask for a better week to play the Dawgs. Todd Grantham only has a week to prepare his defense for the Tech triple-option; how focused that defense will be with the SEC Championship on deck is entirely debatable; and we're guessing Tech didn't spend all of their nine days between their Nov. 10 game vs. Virginia Tech and last Saturday's vs. Duke prepping for the Devils. But against Jarvis Jones and a Bulldog defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense, will any of that matter? - Jerry Hinnen

#15 Michigan vs. Ohio State - ABC 12pm ET

This would appear to be a prime opportunity for Michigan to exorcise the demons of Jim Tressel's dominance; for one, Tressel's not even there anymore, and more importantly, the Wolverines are probably better than the Buckeyes. Of course, "better" doesn't always equal "victorious" in a sport as maniacally unpredictable as college football, but we're sure Denard Robinson and his (intermittently) high-powered offense are just as eager to take this matchup off paper and onto the gridiron as OSU is. - Adam Jacobi

UConn vs. Rutgers - ESPN2 12pm ET

The schedule has worked out well for Rutgers to put themselves in a position to win a share of the Big East title for the first time in school history.  But accomplishing that feat still requires one more win to finish at 5-2 in league play.  Paul Pasqualoni's Connecticut squad is out of the hunt for a BCS bowl berth, but with Rutgers and Cincinnati left on the schedule they have two great opportunities to spoil someone else's fun. This game has been played close the last several years, and Connecticut's players will be looking for revenge after giving up a close 27-24 game to the Scarlet Knights a year ago.  Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison has emerged as the star in the offensive backfield in the second half of the season, and if he can get going early it should open up the defense for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pick on a struggling Huskies secondary. - Chip Patterson

LUNCH

#24 Auburn vs. #2 Alabama - CBS 3:30pm ET

If this game was being played on paper -- or a neutral venue -- there wouldn't be much intrigue to it. Alabama has the more efficient offense, has the far superior defense, and is favored by three full touchdowns in a series that (for all the "throw out the records" talk) rarely produces upsets. But the game's being played in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tigers nearly ruined the Tide's national championship hopes two seasons ago and where AJ McCarron may not be the steady quarterback he's been at home. So don't send the Tide to New Orleans just yet. - JH 

Virginia vs. #5 Virginia Tech - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

Virginia Tech's move to the ACC received some significant help from Virginia during the ACC's expansion in 2004.  The Hokies have repaid their Commonwealth brothers by winning four of six division titles and beating the Cavaliers every season since joining the conference.  Second-year head coach Mike London has Virginia playing their best football at the right time, winning six of their last seven contests.  There aren't a lot of stars on the roster, but they play smash-mouth football and have been incredibly opportunistic.  Virginia Tech must avoid turning the ball over and try to jump out to an early lead to force Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco to move the ball through the air.  Logan Thomas and David Wilson will be the key to the Hokies' ground game, as ball control will be necessary for either team to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and a berth to the ACC Championship Game. - CP

#16 Wisconsin vs. #19 Penn State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

This one's for half the Big Ten Tostitos, folks. Penn State's basically never been taken seriously as a division contender, yet here it is one win away from a trip to Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Wisconsin gets to continue its path to redemption if it wins here--and then there's just a rematch with MSU with the Rose Bowl on the line. It's a great offense vs. a great defense, and a lousy offense vs. a lousy defense. Compelling viewing all around. By the way, I think I owe Brent Musberger AND Frito-Lay royalties for that opening line. A rare tandem, that. - AJ

#10 Oregon vs. Oregon State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

This isn't a rivalry, this is Civil War. The Ducks are looking to close out the Pac-12 regular season as North champions and host the first ever conference title game so who better to do so against than their rival up the highway? The Beavers are banged up but should put up a fight with quarterback Sean Mannion likely throwing the ball all over. - Bryan Fischer

DINNER

Florida vs. Florida State - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Gators and 'Noles are both living in a Sunshine State of Disappointment at the moment, but one team will get to head off to a bowl game with some measure of solace. Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks -- both teams' offenses have lagged behind their defenses this year, with FSU's 14-13 home loss to Virginia last week the latest evidence -- but 6-5 Gator record or not, the atmosphere at Florida Field should still be plenty hostile and relations between the teams still plenty frosty. - JH

#12 South Carolina vs. #17 Clemson - ESPN 7:45pm ET

Clemson enters the annual rivalry reeling after three frustrating performances that resulted in road losses to Georgia Tech and NC State. The Tigers have clinched a berth to the ACC Championship Game, but need to get a strong performance to get back on track. The Gamecocks on the other hand are just starting to put the pieces back together after a frustrating stretch of injuries and dismissals have revamped the offense. Connor Shaw had one of his best games of the season against Furman, but it was also Furman. The matchup to watch here will be South Carolina's dominating - but slightly banged up - defense against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. The Tigers get star freshman Sammy Watkins back, after missing the NC State loss with a shoulder injury, but will it be enough to make up for a sputtering unit that was exposed by the Wolfpack in the 37-13 loss? - CP

#6 Stanford vs. #22 Notre Dame - ABC 8pm ET

This will be Andrew Luck's final chance to impress Heisman voters this season, and it could be his final game in Palo Alto. Luck will also be facing a team that he's had some trouble with, as in his two games against Notre Dame, Luck has thrown one touchdown and two interceptions. Though Stanford is also 2-0 in both of those games.  As for the Irish, a win over Stanford in Palo Alto to finish the regular season would be an excellent way to cap a season that started off poorly but has redeemed itself a bit since. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

USC vs. UCLA - Fox Sports 10pm ET

USC returns to the Coliseum after their big upset win over Oregon and can end their season with a big win over crosstown rival UCLA. This might be the last game in the cardinal and gold for quarterback Matt Barkley and he'll want nothing more than to have a great game to secure a 10-win year despite sanctions. The Bruins are not only playing to beat the Trojans but also for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and a South division title. - BF 
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 7:46 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Mississippi St. at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF: their secondary gets some help. The Bulldogs were hoping to be sitting prettier than 5-5 at this stage when the season began, but it hasn't been the defensive backfield's fault; led by a pair of senior safeties and junior corner Johnthan Banks's All-SEC caliber performance, State ranks 14th in the nation in pass defense and in the top 30 in opposing passer rating. Even on the road, even without injured safety Nickoe Whitley, the Bulldogs figure to cause Tyler Wilson as many headaches as any team he's faced since Alabama; it was just last week the Tide's AJ McCarron posted the second-lowest QB rating of his season in Starkville, lower even than his performance vs. LSU. But just keeping Wilson (relatively) in check won't be enough. The rapidly improving front seven has to prevent the boom-or-bust Dennis Johnson from getting rolling; the State running game has to move the chains and keep the low-fi Bulldog offense from getting in field position trouble; and of course the Bulldog special teams can't give up cheap to scores to Joe Adams on punt returns or Johnson on kickoffs.

Do all of those things, and the secondary should provide enough of a defensive foundation to build an upset win around.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they keep coming up with big plays. Mississippi State is a team simply not built to win a shootout on the road; since their Week 2 explosion vs. Auburn, they've averaged just 12.6 points per their five SEC games. Meanwhile, the Hogs have scored 49 and 44 points against their last two SEC opponents, many of them coming via the home run. Against Tennessee there was Adams' ridiculous punt return, a 70-yard Johnson sprint, and a 40-yard bomb, again, to Adams; against South Carolina the Hogs got a Johnson kickoff return for TD, a 68-yard strike to Jarius Wright, and the game-icing sack-and-strip from Jake Bequette that set the offense up at the 1. Big plays like those not only demoralize the opposition and put points on the board in a hurry, they represent quick possessions that pack more possessions and plays into a game and offer the Hog offense even more chances at pushing their total in the 30s or 40s. Do that against MSU, and the Bulldogs won't have a prayer of keeping up.

THE X-FACTOR: Johnson. The junior has struggled the past two years with injuries and thanks in part to fumbling issues, didn't break into the Hog lineup immediately this season even after the loss of Knile Davis. But Johnson's combination of power and explosiveness offers the Arkansas running game a spark it just doesn't have otherwise, and Bobby Petrino has shown for years that if he can pair some kind of legitimate ground attack with his aerial fireworks ... watch out.
Posted on: November 12, 2011 11:36 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 4 Alabama 24, Mississippi St. 7

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



ALABAMA WON: It was in many ways the Tide's unprettiest win of the year, one marked by much of the same questionable quarterbacking, kicking woes, and missed opportunities that plagued them against LSU. But when you have the Trent Richardson-Eddie Lacy tag team at running back and a defense that holds your opponent to just 131 total yards, it takes a lot more unpretty than that to drop one against Mississippi State. Richardson and Lacy combined for 223 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

WHY ALABAMA WON: As good as Richardson and Lacy were, this win wasn't much about the Tide offense; by going an even-quieter-than-the-numbers-sugge
st 14-of-24 for 163 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception, AJ McCarron reduced the Tide offense to one dimension for much of the night. (One very, very good dimension, but still.) Two more missed field goals (one a makeable 31-yarder that Jeremy Shelley usually converts without much drama) put an even bigger onus on the Tide defense to come up big.

Which they did, of course. The numbers tell most of the tale -- those 131 total yards for the Bulldogs, the 12 rushing yards given up on 29 carries, the 4 yards allowed per Mississippi State passing attempt -- but they don't quite explain how well the Tide stiffened the few times the offense put them in a bad position ... for instance, when McCarron's inexplicable second-quarter interception set MSU up at the Tide 4. First down: blanketed receiver, incomplete. Second: Vick Ballard rush, loss of 3. Third: under-pressure incompletion. And then, just to make the Tide defense feel really good about itself, the missed chip shot field goal on fourth. Spread that kind of domination out over four quarters, and it seems somewhat strange State even got on the board.

WHEN ALABAMA WON: The Tide took over on their own 27 up 17-7 in the fourth quarter with 6:26 remaining, and we suppose weirder things have happened than teams -- even great teams like Alabama -- losing in that situation. Nothing weirder has ever happened, though, than a hypothetical State win once the Tide plowed downfield for an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown drive -- every inch of it coming on the ground via Richardson and Lacy -- that took up all but the final 78 seconds.

WHAT ALABAMA WON: Nothing where the SEC West is concerned, but thanks to Oregon (and TCU, to a lesser extent), the Tide finished the day in better shape for a second shot at LSU than ever. Ugly win in Starkville or not, they'll take it.

WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE LOST: a shot at bowl eligibility, technically speaking, and we're not sure the Bulldogs are going to get it at Arkansas next week, either. But with Ole Miss coming in two weeks and apparently having given up on the season for good, a competitive loss to a potential national champion isn't the worst thing in the world.

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