Posted on: November 20, 2010 11:42 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. South Carolina learned its lesson. The last time Carolina won a game as big as last week's SEC East-clinching victory over Florida , they had downed No. 1 Alabama before going out the following week and laying their biggest egg of the season against Kentucky . Now, sure, the Gamecocks got a lot of help early on from a Troy team that for some reason played like a nervous team with lots to lose rather than the massive underdog with nothing to lose they were. But the previously-hapless Gamecock secondary held a statistically potent Trojan passing attack entirely in check, the Marcus Lattimore -led offense ruthlessly punished every Troy mistake, and by halftime it was already 56-7, 'Cocks . Not only did Carolina avoid the letdown, but they looked ready to give Auburn all they want and more when the SEC championship game rolls around in two weeks.
2. It's time to put the defense-first image of the SEC to bed for good. Maybe the SEC really is home to better athletes, maybe they really do hire better coaches, maybe they take defense more seriously than some other conferences ... but none of that, even if true, is making a lick of difference on the field at the moment. This week gave us only four games between SEC teams and FBS competition, and those four games produced 268 total points (in regulation) and as average score of 42-25. And that 's with Tennessee and Vanderbilt battling to a low-fi 24-10 Volunteer win, and the conference's best offense and ninth-ranked defense at Auburn taking the week off.
You get the point: very few teams in this league are playing defense. When even the consensus best unit in the league -- LSU's entered the weekend No. 1 in total defense at 274 yards per-game -- is getting gashed for 36 points and 420 yards at home against the conference's No. 5 offense, the SEC's image as a collection of grind-it-out attacks and impregnable defenses is officially as current as Bob Dole . If SEC fans want to argue their conference is superior, fine. If they want to argue their conference is superior because of the SEC's brand of defense, they need to acquire a clue.
3. LSU should be an underdog going to Arkansas. Full kudos to Les Miles for exorcising his clock management demons , but it's the Hogs who appear to be playing the better football at the moment after surviving what might have been Mississippi State 's best performance of the season on the road in Starkville while the previously stout LSU defense was busy getting gashed by the up-and-down Rebels. If Masoli and Co. can do that in Baton Rouge, what can Ryan Mallett and the suddenly scorching-hot Knile Davis do in Fayetteville?
(And while we're playing the transitive property game, the latest compelling evidence of how much stronger the West is than the East? The Razorbacks went to the East champion three weeks ago and rolled to an easy win. Then they went to the fifth-place team in the West tonight and were fortunate to escape with a double-overtime win.)
4. This Tyler Bray kid might just be one worth watching. Not that you'd expect it from his taste in tattoos , but the skinny kid from California has taken to SEC football like a duck to some very forgiving water. No, the pass defenses of South Carolina, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt aren't the most intimidating the conference has to offer. But after another productive outing in Nashville (16-of-27, 232 yards, 8.6 yards-per-attempt, 2 touchdowns), Bray has collected some seriously impressive numbers in his last three league performances: 43-of-76 (57 percent completion rate), 714 yards (9.4 YPA), 7 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.
And he's a true freshman. If Derek Dooley can keep his head on straight and his brittle-looking body remains intact, Bray should be one of the SEC's best in due time ... and maybe as soon as 2011. (As for 2010,the Vols are one win against Kentucky away from scraping their way to a bowl berth. Not bad considering they stood at 2-6 not so long ago.)
Posted on: November 20, 2010 7:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Maybe it's fitting that Les Miles ' best job of clock management in ages -- maybe ever -- came against Ole Miss today in his Tigers' 43-36 win . After all, it was the spike-with-one-second fiasco against the Rebels last season that took the "Miles can't manage the clock" meme from the ravings of embittered LSU fans to an accepted mainstream fact.
But not today. Today it was Miles whose team took over on their own 49 with 4:57 to play, down 36-35, and cooly drove the ball into the endzone and -- just as importantly in a game that at times resembled a ping-pong match as much as football -- the clock under 35 seconds as the Rebels watched helplessly. Why helplessly? Because Houston Nutt 's charges had wasted two timeouts comiong out of the huddle slowly earlier in the half. Combine that with some hard running from Jordan Jefferson , Michael Ford , and Stevan Ridley , and the outcome of the drive (and the game) was a foregone conclusion from the minute LSU crossed the Rebel 20.
Yes, advancing that far was made a much more manageable goal by the questionable unsportsmanlike flag on the Rebels' Markeith Summers , who had been penalized for somersaulting into the end zone despite the fact he was being pursued by an LSU defender. (How exactly it's Summers responsibility to know precisely how far behind him the defender was, we're not sure.) But the flag only hastened the inevitable; the way the game had been going and as tired as the Rebels' defense had to have been, LSU was putting points on the board there.
Those points keep LSU in the dead middle of the hunt for a Sugar Bowl berth, one they'll all but clinch if Arkansas lose to Mississippi State tonight. But even if it comes down to Razorbacks vs. Tigers next week, LSU can sleep a little better knowing their coach has started to put some of his biggest past mistakes behind him.
Posted on: November 20, 2010 5:26 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After dominating Florida in the box score, hanging with Auburn for 58 minutes on the road, and then earning a decisive victory over Alabama , LSU had finally shed the "just lucky" label that had dogged them for much of the early part of the season. But a sloppy first half defensively against Ole Miss is threatening to reapply it.
The much-maligned Tiger offense has nothing to apologize for, having put up 221 total yards and 20 points in the first half. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson has enjoyed one of his best games of the season, throwing just 7 passes but completing 5 of them for more than 20 yards a completion. But the usually-reliable Tiger defense has been gashed on occasion by the Rebels, as on this 50-yard Branden Bolden touchdown on Ole Miss's first play from scrimmage:
The Rebels ran for 142 yards on just 21 carries -- 6.8 per -- and got a late Jeremiah Masoli rushing touchdown to pull within 20-17 at halftime. If Ole Miss can pull the upset, the Tigers will be officially eliminated from the national title race and could see their potential BCS bowl berth go up in smoke -- especially with much more formidable Arkansas on tap next week.
At least the Tigers can hang their hate on this: a crushin special teams block on the Rebels' Lionel Breaux that didn't spring Patrick Peterson for a big return, but got their sideline fired up all the same:
HT: @bubbaprog .
Posted on: November 20, 2010 4:07 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2010 4:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Ole Miss , you'll recall, went searching for a new mascot this season (after parting ways with the notorious Colonel Reb a little while back), eventually settling on the Rebel Black Bear. But unless the Rebels bother to bring in an actual, live black bear from parts distant and unknown, they'll have a ways to go to match up to the effort being made by their LSU opponents today, as this video illustrating the life of Riley led by LSU's Mike the Tiger makes clear:
Following LSU's example and hosting the bear wouldn't just make Ole Miss that much cooler; it might have some benefits on the football field, at least if LSU's intimidating home-field advantage at Tiger Stadium is any indication. The Tigers lead 10-7 midway through the first. And Mike approves.
Posted on: November 19, 2010 6:24 pm
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.
We're less than a week away from Thanksgiving, and apparently the NCAA has taken that into consideration with this week's schedule. It seems they're kind enough not to give us anything too heavy this weekend so that we're able to gorge ourselves to death on Thursday.
The NCAA: always concerned about the fan and their digestive limitations.
Main Course - Michigan vs. #6 Wisconsin - Noon - ESPNListen, people, if Bret Bielema can put up 83 points on Indiana, then surely he can do the same against a Michigan defense that has been the polar-opposite of stout this season. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Badgers shoot for 100 this weekend.
First of all, they need a win a win to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive, and second of all, the Badgers have some BCS computers to impress. What's more impressive than 100 points?
There's also the fact that Bielema has already gotten Tim Brewster fired this season, and may have added Bill Lynch to his tally last week as well. Why wouldn't he take a shot at Rich Rodriguez?
Side Orders: Not much else of importance on Saturday morning, but there are options. Oklahoma State goes to Kansas looking to stay atop the Big 12 South division, and West Virginia will try to keep its slim BCS hopes alive on the road against Louisville. There's also the battle of North Carolina when the Tar Heels take on N.C. State. Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Michigan State looks to maintain its spot on top of the Big Ten hosting Purdue.
Main Course - #21 Iowa vs. #8 Ohio State - 3:30pm - ABCWe have a couple of games featuring ranked teams during the afternoon, but in my opinion, this one should grab top-billing. Iowa saw its chances at winning the Big Ten ruined by Northwestern last week, so what could be better for the Hawkeyes than to ruin Ohio State's chances?
After all, it was Ohio State that beat the Hawkeyes last season and ended their hopes of going to the Rose Bowl, so why not return the favor?
If nothing else, it's just another chance for Ricky Stanzi to spread the message of loving America and hating hippies throughout the country.
Side Orders: The other ranked game this afternoon features Miami and Virginia Tech. Miami has a very slim chance to win the ACC Coastal division, but in order to keep those hopes alive, they have to knock off a Hokies team that's won eight straight since dropping that game to James Madison. There's also some Les Miles fun on the mothership when LSU hosts Ole Miss, and seriously, after all that's gone on surrounding the game, how can you not tune in to Illinois and Northwestern at Wrigley Field? I'll be at that game witnessing the insanity from the press box.
Main Course - Maryland vs. Florida State - 8pm - ABCThe game that would decide the ACC Atlantic!
Who saw this one coming? Essentially, the winner of this game will be going to the ACC Championship Game in a few weeks. Now, while seeing Florida State in this position doesn't come as much of a shock, the fact that Maryland is here is rather surprising.
Though that's just the way the ACC rolls these days. One minute you're terrible, and then the next you still aren't very good, but you're good enough. Seriously the ACC should adopt the motto of "Hey, at least we aren't the Big East!"
Side Orders: If ranked teams are more your thing, then you can check out Texas A&M and Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers look to hold on to their ticket to Dallas while the Aggies -- who have done a 180 this season -- still want a chance to buy one. Mississippi State and Arkansas will be going at it in Starkville as well. Also, if you're into football games being played in baseball stadiums that use two end zones, Notre Dame and Army continue their annual rivalry on Saturday night, but this time from Yankee Stadium. Show up and chant Derek Jeter's name for no reason!
Late Night SnackUtah has not had a good November. One week its getting pasted by TCU at home, and the next it's getting beat up on the road by a mediocre Notre Dame team missing half of its offense. Now they get to take on a San Diego State team that played TCU much better than the Utes did.
Tags: Arkansas, Army, Bill Lynch, Bret Bielema, Florida State, Illinois, Iowa, James Madison, Kansas, Les Miles, Louisville, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, NC State, Nebraska, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Purdue, Rich Rodriguez, Ricky Stanzi, San Diego State, Saturday Meal Plan, TCU, Texas A&M, Tim Brewster, Utah, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 16, 2010 12:18 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The nice thing about being a head football coach in the SEC is that if you succeed, you're a god. The bad thing is that if you don't, the minute you're out the door (or well before, of course), you're everything that is wrong with modern society. Also, an absolutely terrible football coach.
The league gave us not one but two examples of this phenomenon yesterday, the first (not surprisingly) where the success of previously-ignored running back Tauren Poole gave the current Volunteers the chance to shovel some more dirt on the grave of Lane Kiffin 's Tennessee tenure :
The vocal show of support for Poole from his teammate came after he had point-blank refused to enter a blowout against Memphis in the game's dying minutes, even under Kiffin's orders. Quite the tight ship Kiffin was running in Knoxville, huh?
But at least that ship didn't run aground on the shoals of a winless SEC season, as did the final team under Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss . Houston Nutt was all too happy to remind Rebel fans of that fact in his deliciously entertaining press conference/one-man pep rally/big tent revival sermon yesterday:
Again, I don’t want to, let’s make sure we clear up, I’m not blaming anything on the previous staff, because I appreciate the players that I inherited. Even though they didn’t win a conference game, the players that I inherited, that Ed Orgeron recruited, were very, very good players, now. I want to make it real clear. They did a good job of getting a Peria Jerry, Jerrell Powe, and all these young men in here, man. I mean, Michael Wallace. Shay Hodge. All those guys. Awesome. But the bottom line is, they didn’t know how to win and they were used to losing and they accepted it. I don’t want to get to that point. I don’t ever want to go back. Again, I’m just harping on, don’t ever get used to losing. Don’t ever get to where it’s a little bit easier to let go of the rope.Let's shorten this a bit: "I’m not blaming anything on the previous staff ... Even though they didn’t win a conference game ... [and] the bottom line is, they didn’t know how to win and they were used to losing and they accepted it." Got it, coach. (The College Football Blog nonetheless heartily recommends reading the entire transcript of the press conference linked above.)
Seeing reactions like these and knowing how much scorn he took after moving on from jobs at Notre Dame and Washington , it's probably for the best that Ty Willingham never got an SEC job. Someone would have taken to a mic yesterday to blame him for, say, Steve Addazio . And botulism.
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 13, 2010 2:14 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 2:32 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Jeremiah Masoli was listed as an injury question mark all week after a head injury suffered in last week's win over UL-Lafayette , with the consensus wisdom being that the Rebels wouldn't have much of a chance on the road at Tennessee . So it appeared to be good news for the Rebels when Masoli was cleared to play and took the field in Knoxville.
In practice, though, the Rebels might have been better off simply going with backup Nathan Stanley . Masoli has suffered through a miserable first half, going 6-of-15 for just 72 yards (4.8 yards-per-attempt), rushing for just 15 yards on 6 attempts, and throwing one interception without a touchdown. That interception wasn't your garden-variety pick, either -- it was a horrific duck into the flat that Tennessee's Eric Gordon gratefully plucked with ease and returned 46 yards for a Vol score. Several other makeable quick throws have sailed on him in ugly fashion. A big first half for Rebel running back Branden Bolden (81 yards on 8 carries, two touchdowns) has kept Ole Miss from being run out of Neyland Stadium, but at this point he's the only thing the Ole Miss offense has going for it.
To be fair, Masoli hasn't been the Rebels' only problem; the eminently flammable Rebel secondary has been torched by Tyler Bray (yes, that Tyler Bray, the fencepost-thin true freshman) for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Giving up 24 offensive points in a half to the usually-low-fi Volunteer offense has to be a performance every bit as disappointing for Houston Nutt as his quarterbacks'.
But whether the greater share of blame falls on the defense or Masoli doesn't much matter: either way Tennessee has a 31-14 lead at halftime and barring a total collapse by the thin Volunteer defense, it's going to be the home team taking another critical step towards bowl eligibility.
UPDATE, 1:31 EST: And Masoli begins the second half by throwing another abomination of a pick-six, an easy lob well above his receiver's head and returned 10 yards for the Vol score. 38-14, and the Rebels now appear done.