Posted on: November 12, 2010 1:03 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
It may be firmly implanted in last place in the SEC West, but if Ole Miss can somehow manage to win two of its last three games, the Rebels will become bowl eligible this season. Of course, considering that after this week's tilt against Tennessee that the Rebels have to travel to LSU before taking on Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, winning two games isn't going to be easy.
Which means that, realistically, if the Rebels don't beat Tennessee this weekend, they can forget about going to a bowl game. So it would be nice if they had their starting quarterback available, though nobody is quite sure whether that will be the case.
Jeremiah Masoli suffered a concussion last week against Louisiana-Lafayette, and is yet to be cleared to play against the Volunteers on Saturday. Still, Houston Nutt is keeping his fingers crossed.
"I'm hoping (tonight, trainer Tim Mullins) can say he's going to be all right," Nutt told the Clarion-Ledger. "That's what I'm hoping."
Masoli has participated in practice this week, though he has been limited. While Nutt is hoping that Mullins will clear Masoli to play on Friday night, he also said that it could come on Saturday morning, and that if that is the case, then Masoli will be prepared to play. If Masoli can't go, Nathan Stanley will start in his place.
Stanley replaced Masoli last week and completed only 6-of-14 passes for 108 yards. Odds are that if Stanley does play, you can expect another heavy dose of Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis, as both running backs rushed for over 100 yards last week.
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 8:17 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Yesterday at the College Football Blog, we noted that multiple SEC teams were struggling to become bowl eligible with only a handful of weeks left in the season, and that this was going to be bad business for the league, the teams and maybe most of all, the newly SEC-less bowls involved. One of those teams with an uphill road to 6-6 was Ole Miss , and one of the bowls potentially affected was the Liberty Bowl .
So if you're the Rebels or the Memphis-based Liberty brass, what to do? Hopefully win three games and make the speculation moot. But failing that, as Kyle Veazey of the Clarion-Ledger writes, hope the entirety of FBS falls short in prodcuing bowl-eligible teams and the NCAA opens the door for 5-7 teams to taste the postseason for the first time:
The NCAA's approval in April of 35 bowls and the possibility of a dearth of teams to fill the 70 slots at the end of this season are making some observers wonder if the NCAA will relax its six-win requirement for bowl eligibility.Trying to project the bowl picture for all of FBS is beyond the scope of this post (that's what this is for), but remove bowl-ineligible USC from the picture, reduce the number of SEC teams available from 2009's 10 to 2010's probable nine, keep everything else the same, and you're already at 69 eligible candidates ... and those same 70 slots.
So if it comes to it, would the Liberty Bowl be above taking a 5-7 Rebels team from just down the road in Oxford?
Regardless of record, the Rebels would be an attractive team for the nearby Liberty Bowl, spokesman Harold Graeter said.That's a no. (It's worth questioning whether this would be fair to a potential Conference USA champion whose reward for a championship season would be an SEC squad that couldn't even reach .500, but when there's rear ends to be put in seats, that's well beside the point.)
This is the kind of story that's not making a lot of waves right now, since there's still plenty of time for the FBS to hit the magic number of 70 6-6-or-better teams. (Particularly if the NCAA allows teams like Virginia to count a second victory over FCS competition.) But it will be worth keeping a close eye on the final few weeks of the season as the final tally either wheezes across the line or falls short, and as bowls left with unappealing scraps jockey for whatever halfway-interesting match-up they can find.
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 30, 2010 11:29 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2010 11:32 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. The SEC East will be decided on November 13. A few weeks ago the SEC was up for grabs with just about every team in the division still in contention to win it. Now, after Saturday's events, only two teams remain. With their wins on Saturday, only South Carolina and Florida have a realistic shot, and they play in Gainesville in two weeks. Florida has Vanderbilt before that, which they should win, and while South Carolina has a tough test with Arkansas next week, they can withstand one more loss. Either way, the winner of that game on the 13th is going to Atlanta.
2. Auburn cares not for the BCS curse. Oklahoma couldn't overcome it last week, and some folks wondered if Auburn would be the next #1 team in the BCS to suffer a loss, but it didn't happen this week. The Tigers took care of Ole Miss 51-31 on Saturday night in Oxford, and the Cam Newton Heisman Locomotive kept on barreling down the tracks. In fact, Newton decided he was tired of merely passing and running for touchdowns, so he decided to catch one this week as well.
3. Tennessee found a new quarterback. And his name is Tyler Bray. The freshman saw his first action last week, and came on in relief of Matt Simms against South Carolina this week as well, and it looks like he may have wrestled the starting job away. Bray was far from perfect for the Vols, but he did throw for 159 yards and two touchdowns, getting the Vols back into the game before South Carolina pulled away late. Considering that Bray is the future for Tennessee, and the Vols have nothing left to play for, it only makes sense to roll with Bray the rest of the way.
4. Aaron Murray is going to be very good one day. It's just not going to be this season. At times on Saturday, Murray made fantastic plays to help lead Georgia back from a 21-10 deficit and force overtime against Florida. Unfortunately, he also turned the ball over four times, including the back breaker in overtime. Even so, Murray showed the kind of flashes on Saturday that have to make Georgia fans very optimistic about the future.
5. Chas Henry will rest peacefully tonight. I've felt incredibly sympathetic for Florida punter Chas Henry this season. He's had to fill in for an injured Caleb Sturgis, and has missed a few huge kicks for the Gators, including one that led to a loss against Mississippi State. Still, he made a very big one on Saturday night, nailing a 37-yarder to win the game in overtime.
Posted on: October 30, 2010 8:30 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Several of the much-ballyhooed six undefeated teams going on the road today have struggled and struggled mightily (we're looking at you , Michigan State .) With just under eight minutes left in the third quarter, it's safe to say Auburn is not one of them .
The Tigers have raced out to a 44-17 lead on the road at Ole Miss thanks to another dominating offensive effort. Auburn has enjoyed nine possessions and scored on eight of them, fumbling the ball away on the other. Cam Newton has done most of his damage in this game through the air, connecting on 15-of-21 passes for 188 yards and a score, while also catching Auburn's first touchdown on a Kodi Burns fade to the back of the end zone. Rest assured that that play, too, will be going on the Heisman highlight reel.
But he's hardly been a one-man show, as Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb have combined for 205 rushing yards and Demond Washington returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
All in all, it's been all Auburn ever since the Rebels' Jeff Scott scored a touchdown on their second play from scrimmage. We'll see what happens with Oregon , but at least one team today has played up to their gaudy record and the No. 1 ranking.