Posted on: November 19, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 3:52 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
GEORGIA WON. In arguably their most important conference game of the season, Georgia overcame a slow start to beat Kentucky 19-10 and win the SEC East outright. The Bulldogs needed a win to avoid a tie in the standings with South Carolina, because the Gamecocks owned head-to-head tiebreaker. Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell injured his ankle early in the first half, and Carlton Thomas was absent for "personal reasons," so it was Brandon Harton who led the way on the ground with 23 carries for 101 yards.
HOW GEORGIA WON: Kentucky controlled the line of the scrimmage early in the game on both sides of the ball, but the story of the game for both teams was turnovers. Even when the Wildcats seemed to have the momentum early, turnovers kept them from being able to take advantage of the Bulldogs' slow start. Eventually the Bulldogs got their rushing game rolling, and Kentucky began to break down. Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith was replaced by Morgan Newton after a hard hit put him on the sideline in the third quarter, and Kentucky's passing game never recovered.
WHEN GEORGIA WON: Maxwell Smith was able to find some success passing on Georgia's defense, which only allowed allowed 1.1 yards per carry all afternoon. But that passing attack left when Smith did, As Newton only attempted two passes for the rest of the game.
WHAT GEORGIA WON: Their first SEC East title and Championship Game appearance since 2005. After starting the season 0-2, the Bulldogs have ripped off nine straight wins to put themselves in contention for a BCS bowl game.
WHAT KENTUCKY LOST: The Wildcats caught Georgia sleepwalking early in the game, but mistakes and the inability to run the ball kept Kentucky from pulling off the upset. Bowl eligibility was not completely out of reach until Saturday's loss, which was the seventh of the season for Joker Phillips' squad.
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Posted on: October 8, 2011 4:25 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Barring injury, the Stephen Garcia era came to its all-but-official end as Connor Shaw shredded the Wildcat defense for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns without throwing an interception. That was more than enough help for the Gamecock defense, which held the utterly feeble Kentucky offense to all of 96 total yards and forced five turnovers. At one point in the fourth quarter, Kentucky quarterbacks had thrown as many interceptions -- four -- as completions.
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Shaw's confident, in-control performance had a lot to do with it. The sophomore looked little like the overwhelmed player that started the season opener against East Carolina, making sharp passes, correct reads, and even some hay on the ground on the zone read (42 rushing yards, even after accounting for several sacks). So effective was Shaw that the Carolina offense barely even needed Marcus Lattimore, who had the quietest 100-yard rushing day (4.6 yards per-carry, no touchdowns) it's possible to have.
But as big a story as the Gamecocks' offensive success was, even it might have been eclipsed by the endless whirlpool of horror that was the Kentucky offense. Carolina's defense is solid enough (and even had Melvin Ingram available after the SEC's leader in sacks overcame an ankle injury), but Joker Phillips can't have many excuses for this kind of wretched display: 4-of-26 passing for 17 yards, 2.9 yards averaged over 27 carries, as many turnovers -- six -- as first downs. Morgan Newton gave the Wildcats nothing through the air, forcing Phillips to turn to freshman Maxwell Smith in the second half ... only for Smith to throw interceptions on his first two passes.
With Shaw in command, the Gamecock offense once again looks like a unit capable of powering the team to an SEC East title. But even accounting for their competition, Kentucky's barely looks capable of taking the Wildcats to, say, the middle of the Sun Belt standings.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: As soon as Shaw proved he wasn't going to follow in Garcia's scattershot, interception-prone footsteps, which he did on the Gamecocks' first possession: 7 plays, 80 yards, capped with a 20-yard touchdown strike to Alshon Jeffery. With Kentucky's offense, that was Game Already Over.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: After weeks of listless performances and sleepwalks past overmatched competition -- not to mention the ugly 16-13 loss to Auburn --dispatching an SEC opponent in such ruthless fashion will be a huge jolt of confidence. With Florida looking totally overmatched at LSU, the Gamecocks have reestablished themselves as a favorite -- and maybe the favorite -- in the East.
WHAT KENTUCKY LOST: In the win/loss column, just another game they were supposed to lose. But after another horrific blowout, the Wildcats' confidence and morale looks to have been blown into a million tiny, tiny pieces. Kentucky looks far more like a future 0-8 SEC team than even a 2-6 one.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Up 33-3 early in the fourth quarter and driving, Steve Spurrier called for a Lattimore-to-Shaw-to-Ace Sanders flea flicker that gained 25 yards. A nice play, but why use it at that stage of this game? Spurrier's never been known for his mercy when it comes to blowouts, and that call won't do anything to change that reputation.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 3:41 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
LSU WON: SEC wins simply don't get more ho-hum than this. Kentucky gained just 59 yards of offense through three quarters and didn't penetrate any further than the LSU 47 until fewer than nine minutes remained, meaning that even as the LSU offense sputtered -- 8-of-21 passing for Jarrett Lee and fewer than 4 yards per-carry probably weren't what the home crowd had in mind -- their 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter was never remotely threatened. The game had two bursts of excitement: when Jordan Jefferson came off the bench to sneak in from a yard out for that first LSU touchdown, and when budding Heisman candidate Tyrann Mathieu stripped replacement Wildcat quarterback Maxwell Smith, recovered the fumble, and returned it for his second touchdown of the season.
WHY LSU WON: Because the collision of the impotent Kentucky offense and the ruthless LSU defense was as brutally one-sided as you'd expect. The Wildcats' first five drives all ended in three-and-outs as the Tiger defensive line crushed any efforts at running the ball -- their first nine attempts went for five yards or fewer -- and Kentucky starting quarterback Morgan Newton had been sacked twice before he completed his first pass ... on his 10th attempt. That Joker Phillips sent the true freshman Smith on for the second half ... against LSU ... down 14 ... in Death Valley should tell you the depths of the Wildcats' desperation.
The Wildcats' only realistic hope of getting on the board against LSU's first string was a turnover or huge special teams play. But the Tigers never lost a fumble or threw an interception, and committed just four penalties. The list of teams that can beat the Tigers when they commit that few mistakes is very, very short, and Kentucky most assuredly isn't on it.
WHEN LSU WON: The Tigers' 14-0 lead at halftime was more-or-less unassailable, but the win might as well have gone into the record books when they took their first drive of the second half 68 yards in 10 plays, capping it with a one-yard Alfred Blue plunge. At 21-0, Kentucky's chances of coming back were identical to their chances of coming back if the score was 437-0.
WHAT LSU WON: Another boost to Mathieu's All-American campaign, another notch in the win column, plenty of rest for the Tiger starters in the late-going. Aside from a little more crispness on offense, Les Miles couldn't have asked for much more.
WHAT KENTUCKY LOST: Just another bit of confidence in their offense to do anything against top-notch defensive competition. But given how little was expected of the Wildcats going on the road to face the No. 1 team in the nation, not much else.
Posted on: August 23, 2011 5:36 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
With lots of movement on the SEC quarterback front the last few days, now seems a good time to update the entire league's worth of races, team-by-team. Here's the latest, in alphabetical order:
ALABAMA: The Tide's season opener against Kent State is just 11 days away, but Nick Saban hasn't given any more indication towards his staff's decision between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims than he did when spring practice opened. In fact, his last comment on the situation was to say that one of them might play a position other than qurterback. McCarron remains the slightest of favorites due to his extra year of experience, but the closer the opener grows, the more likely it becomes that Saban makes good on his April threat to platoon the two. And given that not even the most catastrophic of quarterback outings could submarine the Tide against the overmatched Golden Flashes, it might make some sense to use the opener as one final audition for both.
ARKANSAS: Believe it or not, the Hogs still don't have an official starting quarterback, as Bobby Petrino has refused to name Tyler Wilson the starter over sophomore Brandon Mitchell. That's despite the fact that anyone not directly related to Mitchell believes the job is 100 percent Wilson's and the junior has been lighting the practice fields up all camp. This one appears to be a formality designed to keep the carrot in front of Mitchell for as long as possible, but stranger things have happened, we guess.
AUBURN: As you probably know, junior Barrett Trotter has been named Cam Newton's successor, with redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley the backup and true freshman Kiehl Frazier third-string. But Gus Malzahn hasn't ruled out using Frazier in some capacity, and gave the four-star recruit every snap in last weekend's scrimmage. A late-season appearance might be in the cards, particularly if Trotter struggles.
FLORIDA: No controversy here: John Brantley has been the unquestioned starter since fall camp broke, with both coaches and players seeming to go out of their way to praise the much-maligned senior and downgrade the chances of five-star freshman Jeff Driskel. "John’s our starter, and he’s our quarterback, and I don’t have any anticipation of (Driskel playing)," Will Muschamp said when discussing the Gators' opener against Florida Atlantic. Driskel has, nonetheless, won the backup's role.
GEORGIA: The Bulldogs don't have any drama, with Aaron Murray the unquestioned starter and sophomore Hutson Mason the established backup ahead of true freshman Christian LeMay. Mason has had an up-and-down fall camp, though, with some reportedly sharp practices offset by outings like one four-interception practice he called "my worst day ever — in football, period."
KENTUCKY: Morgan Newton has long since been anointed the Wildcat starter, but Kentucky may need him to stay healthy even more than the Bulldogs' need the same for Murray. Newton and the Wildcat coaches have both had ample praise for backup Maxwell Smith's ability to pick up the offense after just one spring camp and one fall practice ... but the reason Smith's had just one of each is because he's a true freshman, and not a particularly highly-regarded one (according to recruiting experts) at that.
LSU: Now here's some drama. Much to many Tiger fans' chagrin, as of this moment not even the threat of a second-degree battery arrest is enough to move the gauge-needle on Jordan Jefferson's starting job away from "likely." Now here's the even more depressing news for those bayou residents hoping strong-armed JUCO (and former Georgia backup) Zach Mettenberger would assume the top spot: Mettenberger still hasn't even supplanted Jarrett Lee as the Tigers' backup. According to Lee himself, Jefferson is still running with the "ones" in practice, Lee the twos, and Mettenberger is left with whatever reps Lee doesn't take. If Jefferson does miss the opener against Oregon, it will now be quite the shock if Mettenberger gets the call over Lee, who does say he's had the best camp of his long career.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: We know that Chris Relf will be the Bulldog' starter. The question is: will backup Tyler Russell borrow any of Relf's snaps, as he did early in 2010 as the designated pocket quarterback? The consensus seems to be that he won't, with third-stringer Dylan Favre (yes, the nephew of that other Favre) reportedly closer to Russell than Russell is to Relf. Dan Mullen hasn't entirely ruled out a return to a quarterback rotation, but we'll be surprised if we see Russell in the event of anything other than a Relf injury.
OLE MISS: We touched on this earlier today in the wake of Randall Mackey's arrest and "likely" suspension for the Rebels' season opener, but it appears Barry Brunetti -- always the narrow favorite to win the starting job coming out of spring practice -- is now the most likely candidate to begin Ole Miss's 2011 season under center. But will he stay there? The Rebel coaching staff seems genuine in their repeated statements that none of their three candidates has separated himself from the other two, and former Houston Nutt doghouse resident Zack Stoudt offers a stronger-armed passing element that both Brunetti and Mackey lack. Unless Brunetti shines out of the gate, expect Stoudt to get a serious look at some point. And if Mackey avoids the doghouse himself, the same could go for him, too.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Steve Spurrier promised a legitimate quarterback battle back at SEC Media Days, but whatever slim chance Connor Shaw actually had of unseating Stephen Garcia, it likely evaporated last week when Shaw injured his thumb and missed three practices. Never say never with Spurrier, but it will likely take some truly egregious play on Garcia's part (or another off-field incident) for Shaw to see any meaningful playing time.
TENNESSEE: Tyler Bray hasn't always pleased his coaches or put his best foot forward this fall, but he appears to have done plenty enough to hold off Matt Simms, who sounds as if he's resigned himself to being the backup. All the same, having Montana as an opening-week tune-up should be an excellent opportunity for Bray to make sure the Vols' two-headed QB wounds of 2010 don't reopen.
VANDERBILT: The biggest news for Vandy's quarterbacks this week won't actually have any impact until 2012, when newly official Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels becomes eligible. Until then, Vandy will make do with either senior Larry Smith or junior Jordan Rogers, who together directed an offensive performance at Saturday's scrimmage one disappointed Vanderbilt blog described as "Vanderbilt-like." It may take more than one season (or the arrival of Carta-Samuels, who spearheaded the Cowboys' bowl run in 2009) for James Franklin to get the 'Dores' long-simmering quarterback woes ironed out.
Tags: A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Austyn Carta-Samuels, Barrett Trotter, Barry Brunetti, Bobby Petrino, Brandon Mitchell, Chris Relf, Christian LeMay, Connor Shaw, Dan Mullen, Dylan Favre, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Houston Nutt, Hutson Mason, Jarrett Lee, Jeff Driskel, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Jordan Jefferson, Kent State, Kiehl Frazier, LSU, LSU, Matt Simms, Maxwell Smith, Mississippi State, Morgan Newton, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Ole Miss, Oregon, Phillip Sims, Randall Mackey, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Tyler Bray, Tyler Russell, Tyler Wilson, Vanderbilt, Will Muschamp, Zach Mettenberger, Zack Stoudt