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Tag:Vanderbilt
Posted on: October 18, 2010 7:20 pm
 

Midseason Report: SEC

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Now that we've reached the halfway point of the season, we have a lot better idea of which teams to take seriously, and which ones we can forget about.  Of course, there's still a lot of football to be played this season, so in the Midseason Report we'll be taking a look at what each team has remaining in front of them, and what they'll have to do to call themselves conference champions.  In this post, we'll take a look at the SEC.

East


1. South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) - The Gamecocks may only be 2-2 in conference play this season, but in the 2010 version of the SEC East, that's all it takes to be on top.  The question is whether or not Steve Spurrier and South Carolina can stay there.  A question that is hard to answer when your quarterback is the completely unreliable and unpredictable Stephen Garcia.   As we saw against Kentucky, the Gamecocks need Marcus Lattimore to stay healthy down the stretch if they're going to hold on  and reach the SEC title game.  The good news is that they have two very winnable games up next on the schedule in Vanderbilt and Tennessee.   After that, however, they get Arkansas and Florida in The Swamp.  All four are winnable games, but if the SEC has taught us anything this season, it's that every game is losable as well.

2. Florida (4-3, 2-3) - Oh the SEC East, the one place in the country where losing three straight conference games still leaves you in control of your own destiny.  Sure, the Gators are 2-3 in the SEC, but all three of those losses came against SEC West teams.  Which means that if Florida wins out it'll be going to Atlanta.   The Gators play Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina to finish out their SEC slate over the next three weeks, and both of the tough games (Sorry, Vandy)  either come at home or at a "neutral" site.  What will determine whether Florida can get it done is which offense shows up.  Will it be the unit that managed to put up 29 points against a tough LSU defense, or the one that couldn't break double-digits against Alabama and Mississippi State ?  I wish I could say I knew, but getting Chris Rainey back can't hurt.

3. Georgia (3-4, 2-3) - Yes, that's right, Georgia is still alive in the SEC East.  Forget about those four straight losses that left us all wondering if Mark Richt would survive the season, the Bulldogs have exploded the last two weeks and are right in the thick of things.  The problem for Georgia is they have no room for error, and have already lost to South Carolina this season.  So even if they do survive a trip to Lexington this weekend -- something Auburn barely did, and South Carolina couldn't -- they still have to play Florida in Jacksonville and travel to Auburn.  Yes, seeing the Bulldogs outscore Tennessee and Vanderbilt 84-14 over the last two weeks was encouraging, but let's not forget that Tennessee and Vanderbilt are horrible.

4. Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-2) - Listen, I'm not going to pretend that Vanderbilt has any chance of winning the SEC East.  It's just I have to include them because the way the dominoes have fallen thus far in the season, they're not out of contention yet.  So, yes, Vandy has a chance to win the SEC East.  I also have a chance at convincing Megan Fox to drop the dude from 90210 and marry me instead.  Let's see which one happens first.

5. Kentucky (4-3, 1-3) - Kentucky is in the same boat as Vanderbilt in that it's alive, but barely.  Though to Kentucky's credit, they've been a lot more impressive than Vanderbilt.  The Wildcats nearly knocked off Auburn and did take down South Carolina, and the tough part of the schedule is done.  The problem is that not only would Kentucky need to win out, but they'd also need quite a bit of help from everybody else.

WEST


1. Auburn (7-0, 4-0) - Cam Newton is the new Tim Tebow, but this kid isn't nearly as interested in quoting the Bible as he is in running over defenses.  I have no doubt that Newton is good enough to lead this Auburn team to the SEC title game, but the Auburn defense leaves me incredibly concerned, as does its remaining schedule.  The Tigers get LSU at home this week, and then have three winnable games before finishing the season in Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl.  If Auburn can overcome its defense and win out then I don't think there's any question that this team will be playing in Arizona come January with a crystal football on the line.

2. LSU (7-0, 4-0) - Can you comfortably say that you can predict what Les Miles is going to do next?  No, of course not.  The man is insane, and his team seems to have taken on the identity of its bi-polar head coach.   The most worrisome aspect of the Tigers is obviously the offense, and you have to figure that at some point Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee are going to throw that back-breaking interception to end this team's hopes.  Considering that the Tigers still have Auburn and Alabama back-to-back over the next few weeks before finishing the season in Fayetteville, there will be plenty of chances for them to do just that.

3. Alabama (6-1, 3-1) -
You didn't make the mistake of thinking this team was dead, did you?  Is this Alabama team as good as last year's national champion?  No, there's no way the 2009 Alabama defense lets Stephen Garcia tear it apart.  Still, even if this defense isn't as strong as last season's unit, it's pretty darn good.  The Tide have an easy game with Tennessee this week before having to travel to Baton Rouge, but then they have their last three games at home with Georgia State sandwiched by Mississippi State and Auburn.  If Alabama wins out, it's going to Atlanta, and barring some catastrophic injury, I can see it happening.

Prediction: Trying to predict what's going to happen in the SEC is a fruitless exercise in that come Sunday morning, the entire conference could be turned upside down.  Still, a prediction is what is asked of me, and a prediction is what ye shall receive.

Two teams will travel to Atlanta to play for the SEC title, and I believe those two teams will be Alabama and Florida.  Yep, again.  As far as Alabama is concerned, I just think they'll win out, with the SEC West being decided on the final Saturday when they end Auburn's bid at an undefeated season and a national title.

Florida?  Well, I don't have that much faith in the Gators at this point, but that's still more faith than I'll ever be willing to put in Stephen Garcia.  So they'll be the lucky recipient of a second beating by the Tide in December.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 2:07 pm
 

Georgia isn't having any trouble with Vanderbilt

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The debut of Uga VIII has been going pretty well for the Georgia Bulldogs this weekend.  While Uga is chilling on the sidelines the Bulldogs are off to a very nice start against Vanderbilt, holding a 22-0 lead at halftime.

Things didn't start out all that smoothly, as the Bulldogs needed all three of their first-half timeouts on their opening drive and still had to settle for a field goal, but the ride hasn't been nearly as bumpy since then.  The Bulldogs have put up 297 yards of offense against Vandy, while limiting the Commodores to 76 yards on defense.

Washaun Ealey is enjoying all the extra carries he's getting with Caleb King suspended for the game, outgaining Vanderbilt by himself with 89 yards on 10 carries, including a 58-yard run to set up a 15-yard touchdown by Carlton Thomas.   Aaron Murray hasn't been fantastic, completing 9-of-17 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, but he's making the plays he needs to with his arm and legs.

Still, even if it hasn't been all that pretty, the Bulldogs will happily take what looks like an easy victory this week.  Given the way things started in 2010, the idea of being 3-4 and 2-3 in the SEC after today means that a bowl appearance is still a possibility.
Posted on: October 13, 2010 2:27 pm
 

Georgia turning to true freshman on line

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Back in August, the Georgia offensive line was, to say the least, well-regarded; the players combined for 155 starts coming into the season, which was tops in the nation. Phil Steele ranked the Dawgs' front five as the best in the NCAA in his preseason magazine. Georgia placed two linemen in the SEC's preseason all-conference teams this season, which doesn't sound fantastic, but no SEC school had three. It's a good year for linemen in the SEC, and Georgia looked like they were at the top of the heap.

But along the way, ugh. Josh Davis was ineffective at right tackle, forcing head coach Mark Richt to move LT Clint Boling to the right side and install Trinton Sturdivant (who's coming off two knee injuries) at RT. Chris Davis and Tanner Strickland both struggled at right guard, so that paved the way for true freshman Kenarious Gates to start at RG last Saturday.

“Gates did a nice job,” Richt told the Athens Banner-Herald. “He did not have a bunch of busted assignments. Being next to [center Ben Jones] and Clint [Boling] helped him a lot, I’m sure, for those guys to get him where he’s supposed to be. … He pass protected pretty good. There might have been one pressure or one sack that was attributed to him. Overall, he did well.”

From the top O-line to only two of the five starters keeping their original assignments, all in the first week of the season. Not good form, Dawgmollies.

It's worth noting that Gates wasn't even Georgia's most highly-regarded offensive lineman by a longshot; Rivals and Scout both gave Gates a 3-star rating, and his only other major college offers were from the drecks of the SEC. That isn't to point out that Richt took the redshirt off the wrong true freshman, but just to further illustrate the folly of strictly adhering to the arbitrary 5-star ranking system. Gates is playing because he was best-suited to the task, and once camp starts, those ratings don't really mean much of anything.

At any rate, Georgia's 2-4 and facing a road test at Vanderbilt this Saturday. A win puts them one step closer to .500 -- and a bowl berth. No, sneaking into the Music City Bowl at 6-6 to face, like, Maryland wasn't really ideal for the Dawgs at the outset of the season, but Georgia's not really in a position to get choosy about their postseason prospects at this point.

Posted on: October 13, 2010 12:52 pm
 

Jerrell Powe knows how to stop Alabama

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Man, you lose one game in two years and suddenly everybody thinks they know how to beat you.

Alabama is hoping to rebound from its loss against South Carolina last weekend when they host Ole Miss this weekend, but according to the Rebels' defensive tackle Jerrell Powe, it isn't going to happen.  You see, Mr. Powe watched the game against South Carolina and now he knows the secret formula for beating the Crimson Tide.

"I think they got exposed, you know what I mean? Showed that they're a one-dimensional team, that they run the ball really well, and I think South Carolina did a good job of stuffing the run and they really couldn't get nothing going after they got stopped," Powe said. "I think they tried to come out and do the same thing they did against Arkansas - tried to wear South Carolina down with the run - but I think South Carolina did a great job of persevering through the whole game."

Wow, Powe cracked the secret code.  Who knew Alabama was a running team?  I always thought that Mark Ingram won the Heisman last season for his tremendous pass-blocking skills.

Listen, figuring out that stuffing Alabama's ground game is the key to beating them isn't a revelation.  It's actually doing it that matters, which is something that nobody had done until the Gamecocks did it last week.  So you'll have to excuse me if I don't have much faith in Powe and the Rebels this weekend, as last I checked the Rebel defense was 103rd in the nation allowing 32.6 points per game. 

And those games include losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt.   Something tells me that if you can't stop Jacksonville State at home, you aren't going to be able to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Posted on: October 6, 2010 4:20 pm
 

Feinstein: Duke should leave ACC football

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As a program, Duke is terrible at football. Currently, historically, inexorably terrible. Duke football had more seasons with two wins or fewer in the last decade (seven such seasons) than they've had bowl game invitations in the nearly 60 years they've been in the ACC (five). They are so, so bad.

In spite of this crushing haplessness, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe told one local radio station recently, "We have a struggling team, but we don't have a struggling program."

Noted sports author (and Duke alum) John Feinstein felt compelled to respond to WRAL in Raleigh:

"Is this team not part of the program? I said years ago, I got shouted down. And I'll still be shouted down, that Duke should not play ACC football."

He went on to claim that if Duke had a president with any leadership ability, he would get together with the presidents at Tulane, Army, Navy, Rice and Vanderbilt and form "Conference SAT" - a league for good academic schools that haven't been competitive in their current football leagues.

First of all, leave it to a Duke fan to turn sucking at football into an elitist activity. Bravo, Feinstein. Second, on its face, this seems like a good idea (and how about Northwestern not making the list? Congrats, Wildcats fans!); excepting the rare and fleeting moments of success, these programs typically struggle, and their unusual admissions standards certainly don't help matters.

The only problem is that nobody's going to want to watch that league. Their television ratings would just be "NO." And if they're not going to get good ratings, they're not going to make money, and really the only reason for a school to ever field a football team is to finance the rest of its athletic department. What Feinstein's really making the case for is that these schools should stop fielding football teams, but that's probably a little too uncomfortable for a Duke partisan to consider rationally at this point.

Posted on: September 27, 2010 8:00 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 11:53 pm
 

For the Big Ten, the fight begins this weekend

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Big Ten Conference play begins this weekend*, and the race for the conference title is either already over (Ohio State) or wide open (the six other teams seemingly capable of winning the conference). We'll quickly find out whether many of the presumptive challengers to the Buckeyes' supremacy have what it takes to put together a great season. Considering the questions surrounding so many of them, the answer seems to be "maybe, but it's unlikely." In no particular order ...

Michigan (4-0): On one hand, Denard Robinson is a near-lock for Heisman candidacy this December; his stat lines are other-worldly, and there are few defenses in the conference that seem capable of containing this Michigan offense. But that defense. Ye gods, the defense. Michigan allowed 37 points to FCS stalwart UMass, and has given up more points thus far than every Big Ten team except Minnesota. Can Robinson and his teammates outscore enough conference opponents to justify the team's No. 19 ranking? They'll find out soon enough against Indiana this weekend; the Hoosiers have scored more than 40 points a game this season and have talent everywhere on offense.

Iowa (3-1): The good news: the Iowa Hawkeyes look materially better than last season, as wins that were close last year are blowouts now. Ricky Stanzi is far more efficient as a passer, and the only interception he's thrown all season came on a deflection. The bad news: the Hawkeyes have three kickers, which is to say they have none, and their cornerbacks are still rather suspect. And good heavens, that Arizona game. Iowa committed mistake after mistake in the first half, found themselves down 20 points at the break, then imploded on the offensive line with the game on the line. So what's there to make of the Arizona game? Was it an aberration, or is Iowa merely a bully of plainly inferior competition? Penn State comes to town this weekend, and intends to find out exactly how good the Hawkeyes actually are.

Wisconsin (4-0): No undefeated Big Ten team is more of an enigma than Wisconsin, who looks like it should be a Rose Bowl contender on paper -- and may very well be so -- but has underwhelmed against FBS competition. The Badgers needed a blocked extra point and a miraculous tackle at the 1-yard line at the end of the first half to help preserve a 20-19 win against Arizona State, and only beat an unimpressive San Jose State team 27-14. Yes, they won 70-3 over Austin Peay. Whatever. Wisconsin has the hogs up front and the stable of running backs (led by All-American candidate John Clay) to run over just about anybody in the conference, and Scott Tolzein is having another impressive and efficient season. Their defense isn't a weakness, and they get Ohio State (whom they've usually given fits) in Madison. But lo and behold, they face Michigan State in East Lansing this week, and it's basically a toss-up. Which Wisconsin will show up this Saturday -- and this season? 

Penn State (3-1): Joe Paterno made waves when he installed true freshman Rob Bolden at quarterback to begin the season, and for the most part, the decision has worked out; Bolden hasn't looked great, but he's playing with a maturity beyond his years, and he's certainly not a weak link in the offense. That weak link, however, would be the offensive line; Penn State hasn't blown anyone off the ball with any regularity yet this season, and that includes the likes of Youngstown State and Temple. That Penn State is still ranked after its somewhat underwhelming non-conference schedule demonstrates the deep level of trust voters have in JoePa to field a competitive team, and that's a trust that's rarely betrayed. Still, the Nittany Lions had better start playing like a quality team very soon, or they could find themselves in line for something like the Texas Bowl.

Northwestern (4-0): The Cardiac 'Cats have the inside track to a 6-0 record right now; they're two-thirds of the way there at 4-0, and their next two opponents are absolute doormats Minnesota and Purdue. Quarterback Dan Persa is one of the highest rated passers in the NCAA, and he's also Northwestern's leading rusher. That's sort of a bad thing. In fact, Persa and his stable of running backs all average less than 4 yards per carry, and they haven't even faced great rush defenses: of their three FBS opponents, only Central Michigan is in the top half of the nation's rush defenses. Let's face it: if you can't run on Vanderbilt (143 yards on 46 carries most certainly does not qualify), you can't run on most of the Big Ten. Can Persa keep up his efficient passing in the conference season, or is that 6-0 start going to turn into 8-4 and a mediocre December bowl bid?

Michigan State (4-0): Here's what's scary: The relatively underhyped, unheralded Michigan State squad could end up being better than all the teams mentioned above. Kirk Cousins is 17th in passing efficiency in the FBS. True freshman Le'Veon Bell is a dynamo in the Spartans' backfield (and pancaked two defenders at once on MSU's game-winning fake field goal). Also, unlike Michigan, MSU doesn't have a giant honking RED ALERT attached to its defense. Oh, and the Spartans miss Ohio State on this year's schedule. Ten wins or more for Sparty? It's happened all of once (1999) since the NCAA went to 11-game regular seasons, but it could easily happen this year. Or MSU could revert to its usual self and drop four or five games in the conference. We'll start finding out when the Spartans and Badgers lock horns -- if, y'know, ancient Greek warriors and badgers had horns -- this Saturday.

So who's legit and who's not? To be honest, right now, nobody really knows. That's why this weekend's going to be vitally important for all the teams mentioned above. No more excuses, no hiding behind cupcake schedules; it's Big Ten season now.

*It's worth pointing out that the Big Ten is still something of a dinosaur in this respect; it's the only conference with an eight-game schedule that has yet to begin conference play. Sure, thanks to bye weeks, Indiana and Illinois each still have a non-con to squeeze in during the conference slate, but that's it; for the rest, it's the tried and true formula of out-of-conference, in-conference, bowl. A bit stale, to be sure, but it's somewhat nice to not have your conference title hopes completely ruined before it's even October; Georgia, after all, has already gone 0-3 in the SEC. Hopeless in September. That's no way for a fan to be, is it?

Posted on: September 14, 2010 11:40 am
Edited on: September 14, 2010 11:44 am
 

Masoli will start against Vandy

Posted by Tom Fornelli

When the NCAA reversed their decision to force Jeremiah Masoli to sit out a season following the troubled player's transfer from Oregon to Ole Miss , it was only a matter of time until Masoli took over the starting job in Oxford.  Masoli got the start against Tulane this past weekend thanks to an injury to Nathan Stanley , and he played pretty well.

Masoli completed 14 of 20 passes for 281 yards while picking up another 27 yards on the ground, and most importantly, he didn't lose to Jacksonville State .  A huge step forward for Houston Nutt 's program.  So it's not surprising that Nutt named Masoli his starting quarterback for their SEC opener on Saturday against Vanderbilt .

“Right now we’re going to start Jeremiah,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “In order to get the flow of things, and get that chemistry, it is probably best to have one quarterback.

“Jeremiah played very well (against Tulane),” Nutt said. “We have to continue to get better. We are playing a very good team in Vanderbilt. They played well against LSU and it was close all the way up until the fourth quarter.”


I don't know if I'd go as far as labeling Vanderbilt as a "very good" team.  I mean, yes, Vandy hung around with LSU until the fourth quarter but they did end up losing the game 27-3 and only managed to pick up 135 yards of total offense in the process.  But, hey, if I lost to Jacksonville State then Vanderbilt would probably look like a title contender to me too.

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