Tag:Aaron Murray
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 3:31 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 13 Georgia 31, No. 25 Ga. Tech 17

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

GEORGIA WON: 
If the Bulldogs were looking forward to the SEC championship in any form or fashion, in never showed Saturday in Atlanta. Aaron Murray had another supremely efficient day (19-of-29, 252 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception) and the Dawg secondary picked off Tevin Washington twice on Tech's first three possessions of the second half to turn what had been a close game at halftime into a comfortable victory.

WHY GEORGIA WON: For all of Murray's brilliance -- and even his glittering statistics didn't do justice to how cleanly he picked apart the helpless Tech secondary, or how little answer the Jackets had for tight end Orson Charles (5 catches, 95 yards, all of them wiiiiiide open) -- this game belonged to the Georgia defense. The Bulldogs have slowly become one of the nation's best defenses since their early breakdowns against Boise State and South Carolina, and in the second half they showed it. 

The Jackets racked up nearly 200 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes and could have been within a field goal if they'd scored on a botched 3rd-and-goal option from the 2, but their first four second half possessions went like this: three plays, interception; four plays, punt; one play, interception; 13 plays, turnover on downs. Not only has the light come on for the Dawgs in Todd Grantham's schemes, but a handful of legitimate stars have emerged: linebacker Jarvis Jones, safety Shawn Williams, corner Brandon Boykin (who limited Tech top target Stephen Hill to just one reception). Add that kind of back seven talent to a major offseason increase in beef along the 3-4 line, and you're looking at a defense that's not going to make things easy next week for LSU.

WHEN GEORGIA WON: That second Washington pick -- a brilliant diving effort by Williams -- was quickly turned into six points by Murray, putting Tech in a 21-point hole their option offense had no prayer of erasing.

WHAT GEORGIA WON: Their 10th game of the season in Mark Richt's "make or break" year; we're fairly confident he's off the hot seat by now. The Dawgs also cemented their total domination of the series under Richt, having now won 10 of their last 11 over the Jackets. For all Paul Johnson's brilliance, aside from the shocker in Athens his debut season, he hasn't had any better luck solving Tech's archrival than his predecessors.

WHAT GEORGIA TECH LOST: Their fourth game of the season and maybe some juice in the bowl pecking order. But more to the point: any illusion that Johnson's arrival might mean a turn in fortunes in the rivalry.

Posted on: November 24, 2011 12:52 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 13


Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

It's Thanksgiving, and if you were to wonder what I'm thankful for this time of year I'd tell you that I'm thankful I'm only a few games behind Woman in this contest and that I still have two weeks to catch her. Of course, I'd be a lot more grateful if I was beating her already at this point and just had to hold her off, but knowing what we don't have makes us more thankful for what we do have, I guess.

Enjoy your turkey, folks, and Happy Thanksgiving. 

LSU (-13 1/2) vs. Arkansas - Friday, 2:30pm (All times Eastern)

Man - I really don't like picking against Les Miles because it seldom works out for me, and although I don't really think Arkansas is going to win this game, it's still a rivalry game and this is still the best offense LSU has faced since Oregon and it hasn't had an entire offseason to prepare for it. So I think the Hogs can keep things close enough. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "Today, I offer my special Thanksgiving picks. This first one's easy. I give thanks for another LSU magical mystery tour season led by my guru  favorite coach, Les Miles. But while the Tigers will confound Arkansas with relentless D and some superfantasmalicious trick plays, I'm taking a knee on this spread." Pick: Arkansas

Machine - According to the Machine, we all get really close to total BCS chaos but Les Miles and LSU are able to overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Arkansas 27-24. Pick: Arkansas 

Georgia Tech vs. Georgia (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - The Bulldogs have been playing their best football of the season over the last month, and though things were a bit close against Kentucky last week I think that had a lot more to do with Georgia not taking the Wildcats all that seriously. Which isn't going to happen with their rival. Pick: Georgia

Woman - "I'm giving thanks for an in-state rivalry that features the nation's number two team in rushing offense versus the nation's number two team in rushing defense. With a 56% third down success rate, home field advantage and points, the scales tip to the Yellow Jackets." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - Georgia keeps on rolling as it prepares for the SEC Championship, as Aaron Murray throws for 4 touchdowns and the Dawgs pick up a pretty easy 31-20 win. Pick: Georgia

Michigan (-8 1/2) vs. Ohio State - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Yes, Michigan fans, your long nightmare is going to come to an end on Saturday. You are finally going to see your Wolverines beat the Buckeyes, and I don't think it's going to be all that close come the fourth quarter. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "Grateful this season is nearly over for OSU. Stacked up against Denard Robinson on the road, and still reeling from personnel losses and NCAA sanctions, I think the Buckeyes will be content to stagger across the finish line and call it a year." Pick: Michigan

Machine - This may be the best chance that Michigan has had to beat Ohio State in years, but The Machine want the Wolverines to know that there's always next year. Ohio State wins 27-20. Pick: Ohio State

Virginia vs. Virginia Tech (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I've actually picked Virginia to win this game outright. Virginia Tech hasn't beaten anybody of consequence this season, and it hasn't blown anybody out aside from Appalachian State. I mean, this Hokies team beat Duke 14-10 earlier this season, and Duke missed three field goals in that game. Sometimes the BCS corrects itself, and this will be one of those occasions. Pick: Virginia

Woman - "I am thankful I was able to suppress the gag reflex when the BCS ranked Virginia Tech at number five. I love the Hokies but don't think they've played a schedule worthy of that spot and am betting on a steady Virginia offensive line to put them back where they belong. Wahoowa!" Pick: Virginia 

Machine - It's been a nice season Virginia, but you're not quite there yet. Virginia Tech wins 34-13. Pick: Virginia Tech

Auburn vs. Alabama (-20 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I really don't see Auburn knocking off the Tide for a second year in a row, and I don't have a lot of confidence in this Auburn offense to put up many points against this Alabama defense. That being said, this is still one of the greatest rivalries in the sport, and a three-touchdown spread is an awful lot of points to give up between these two teams. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "I really can't even talk about what I'm thankful for here due to, like they say, an ongoing investigation. So, let's look at what we know. Alabama is a national championship contender. Meanwhile, Auburn lost nearly all its players last year and is starting over. No doubt, they'll soon mature into fierce competitors but in the meantime, I located footage of the Tigers' latest practice. Not pretty." Pick: Alabama 

Machine - The Machine seems to think that Trent Richardson could put the finishing touches on a possible Heisman Trophy, as he rushes for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns and the Tide take the state of Alabama back, winning 31-13. Pick: Auburn

Wisconsin (-14 1/2) vs. Penn State - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Wisconsin has been the best team in the Big Ten all season, with its only two losses coming via prayers at the end of consecutive games. That's not going to happen in Madison, and I don't see the Penn State offense as being capable of exploiting the weaknesses in the Wisconsin defense. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has a couple different ways to beat you on offense, and their names are Montee Ball and Russell Wilson. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "I'm grateful for an eighty-something grandma who tried Pop Rocks for the first time, giving me an excuse not to write anything more about the Big Ten." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - Penn State doesn't do much to keep Wisconsin from heading to Indianapolis, as the Badgers steamroll the Nittany Lions 38-17. Pick: Wisconsin

Baylor (-12 1/2) vs. Texas Tech - Saturday, 7pm

Man - This is going to be a fun, exciting game in which we see both teams go back and forth down the field putting up points. So while I'm going to give the edge to Robert Griffin in this matchup, the Baylor defense hasn't shown me anything this season that would make me want to give up nearly two touchdowns. Pick: Texas Tech

Woman - "I'm thankful I get to see Robert Griffin play again, this time on the grand stage at Jerry's World. The Raiders are playing for bowl eligibility (which they haven't missed since 1993), and neither of these teams have any defense to speak of, so plan on lots of action. Baylor wins but just by ten." Pick: Texas Tech

Machine - Baylor rides the momentum from last weekend all the way to Arlington and knocks off Texas Tech 45-31. Pick: Baylor

South Carolina (-4 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 7:45pm

Man - Last week was exactly the kind of thing you'd expect Clemson to do. It was the Clemsoning we'd been waiting for all season, and the next logical step in a Clemsoning is for the Tigers to come back the next week and play like nothing ever happened. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Giving thanks I don't have to think about, much less pick, either of these teams again after this week. I'm going to roll the dice and guess Clemson plays a game that masks the stench of their atrocious loss to North Carolina State last week." Pick: Clemson

Machine - It's not the prettiest game every played, but the Machine sees South Carolina managing to eek this one out. Gamecocks hold on to keep control of the Palmetto State, beating Clemson 21-16. Pick: South Carolina

Stanford (-6 1/2) vs. Notre Dame - Saturday, 8pm

Man - After covering every spread for over a year, Stanford has gone 0-2 against the number the last two weeks. So am I going to go against the Cardinal this week? No, because, you see, this is a Notre Dame spread and Notre Dame spreads never resemble reality. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Stanford loses one game and suddenly it's not even a one-touchdown favorite at home against Notre Dame. Really? I'm grateful for how much this spread made me laugh." Pick: Stanford

Machine - Andrew Luck and the Stanford Machine get it rolling once again, taking care of Notre Dame 38-17. Pick: Stanford

USC (-14 1/2) vs. UCLA - Saturday, 10pm

Man - USC can't go to the Pac-12 Championship this year, so for the Trojans the next best thing would be to keep crosstown rival UCLA from being able to take advantage of it. Oh, and there's also the fact that USC is just a much better team than UCLA is, so rivalry or not, the Trojans will put an end to this one early. Pick: USC

Woman - "USC is going to tattoo the Bruins, so let me just give thanks for a great short video about toys that escape a dreary office prison to the wondrous world where this game will be played on Saturday. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone." Pick: USC

Machine - Los Angeles still belongs to the Trojans, as USC knocks off UCLA 42-21. Pick: USC

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 69-56 (4-6)
2. Man 67-58 (4-6)
3. Machine 64-61 (3-7)
Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 12:47 pm
 

ACC-SEC Grudge Week Preview



Posted by Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson


There's no formal conference-vs.-conference challenge in college football, but this week is as close as we're going to come: four contests matching up SEC and ACC opponents, all of them competitive matchups on paper. Here, our resident ACC and SEC bloggers break down why each team can (or should) expect to win and offer their predictions.

No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA: Regardless of motivation or prep time (neither of which favors the Bulldogs, admittedly), the antidote to Georgia Tech's triple-option is the same as it's always been: a powerful defensive line and a running game that keeps the Tech offense off the field. In immovable nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers and whirling-dervish 3-4 outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Bulldogs can put a check mark by the former, and the combination of Crowell and a rapidly improving offensive line should be able to provide the latter. If the Dawgs are at all focused, they've got the better, more talented team. But are they at all focused?

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA TECH: While the in-state athletes have made a point to do their barking in the media, I'm not entirely sure the Bulldogs will have their total focus on Georgia Tech.  With the SEC Championship Game a week away, some have suggested that Mark Richt rest banged up players like star running back Isaiah Crowell to keep them fresh for the SEC West representative in Atlanta.  Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Championship Game hunt, and now has refocused on a goal of achieving a 10-win season.  With the game in Atlanta, it just seems like the Yellow Jackets have more to play for and less to lose.

Jerry's Pick: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27
Chip's Pick: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 24

Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET. TV: ESPNU

THE CASE FOR VANDERBILT: A 5-6 record is a fine, fine start for James Franklin, but even more impressive is that the 'Dores have arguably been even better than that record: their last four SEC losses have come by a total of 19 points. Jordan Rodgers has been a revelation since taking over as starting quarterback, and potential All-SEC corner Casey Hayward leads a top-notch secondary that will pose major matchup problems for the Deacon passing attack. That Vandy's been better at home than on the road (and that the same goes for Wake) could be troubling, but this Commodore team is easily good enough to be a bowl team, and they should be plenty fired up to prove it.

THE CASE FOR WAKE FOREST: Wake Forest can expect to get Vanderbilt's best shot, particularly with bowl eligibility on the line for James Franklin's squad.  Perhaps the best matchup for Wake Forest is neutralizing one of the Commodores' strengths.  Vanderbilt has an opportunistic defense that has forced 17 interceptions on the season (T-1 in the SEC), but Tanner Price has one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC at taking care of the ball.  Price has thrown for 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions, and has nearly doubled his 2010 output with 2,646 yards on the year.  Still, especially after last week's debacle against Tennessee you have think Vanderbilt will be an inspired team on Saturday.

Jerry's Pick: Vanderbilt 30, Wake Forest 27
Chip's Pick: Vanderbilt 34, Wake Forest 31

Florida State at Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN2

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA: The (surprisingly difficult) win over Furman got the Gators into a bowl, but the only way to genuinely salvage Will Muschamp's rocky debut season is to beat the 'Noles, and Muschamp's team knows it. Playing hated FSU at home should wake up the dormant Florida Field crowd, and it's not like the Gators don't have the talent to win this game: a healthy John Brantley at quarterback, the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps tag team at tailback, Jelani Jenkins at linebacker. The Gators' top-20 defense should be plenty enough of a match for an FSU offense that's scored a total of 36 points the last two weeks. If the 'Noles can lose to Virginia at home, they're certainly vulnerable enough to lose to the motivated Gators in Gainesville.

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA STATE: Unlike the Gators, the Seminoles have shown the potential of a Top 10-caliber team when they are healthy and have all the pieces working together.  Unfortunately for Florida State, they are like Florida with their inconsistent performances throughout the season.  When EJ Manuel has time to throw and is able to get in rhythm, the Seminoles becomes dangerous and potent very quickly.  The Gators' defense presents arguably their toughest challenge on the schedule, but at least Florida State has played at an elite level at times this year.

Jerry's Pick: Florida 24, Florida State 21
Chip's Pick: Florida State 28, Florida 16

No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina, 7:45 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks haven't seen many offenses like Clemson's, but the Tigers also haven't seen many defenses like Carolina's. Melvin Ingram has been one of the nation's best defensive ends, Jadeveon Clowney has lived up to the hype and more, and what was one of the FBS's most flammable secondaries in 2010 has turned into one of its stingiest in 2011. The buttoned-down Gamecock offense won't put a lot of points on the board, but they should put up some against the roller-coaster Tiger defense. They could easily be enough opposite that defense.

THE CASE FOR CLEMSON: Sammy. Watkins. When healthy, his presence on the field changes so many aspects of the game.  The superstar freshman has been cleared to play after sitting out last week with a shoulder injury, and if he is at full speed Steve Spurrier will have some difficult special teams decisions to make.  The Gamecocks' kick coverage has been less than stellar, so OBC will need to figure out whether he'd rather set up the potent Tigers offense with a short field or put the ball in the hands of arguably the most explosive player in the ACC.  He returns kicks, punts, and offensive coordinator Chad Morris moves him all around in the offense.  The Tigers' offense was missing a spark in the loss to NC State, but he'll be ready to go for this rivalry game.

Jerry's Pick: Clemson 27, South Carolina 21
Chip's Pick: Clemson 45, South Carolina 38


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Posted on: November 22, 2011 5:46 pm
 

Keys to the game: Alabama at Auburn

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

ALABAMA WILL WIN IF:
they shut down Michael Dyer and the rest of the Auburn running game. Because the hard truth for the Tigers is that there's little-to-no reason to believe Clint Moseley and the Tiger passing game are going to get anything going against the Tide. Though Moseley has been a slight improvement on Barrett Trotter, neither QB has had much success against any SEC opponent not named Ole Miss--over those six games, Auburn's averaged just 131 yards per-game and 5.8 per attempt, and a 5-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. And unfortunately for the Tigers, the Tide are as good-if-not-better than any of the teams they've faced yet, ranking No. 1 in the FBS in both straight pass defense and opponent's QB rating.

Dyer and the Tiger running game will pose a much more formidable challenge; the speedy Onterio McCalebb may be particularly troubling for the Tide, given their struggle to hold the edge against the option looks of LSU and even Georgia Southern. But if the Tide do keep the Auburn ground game in check, it's hard to see how the Tigers ever more the ball enough to pull out the win.

AUBURN WILL WIN IF: they get some help from AJ McCarron. In our "Keys to the Game" prior to the Tigers' contest against Georgia, we noted that Auburn had been oustanding vs. teams with questionable quarterbacking and terrible vs. teams with anyone decent under center. Aaron Murray? He was far better than decent (14-of-18, 12.4 YPA, 4 TDs) and Auburn was naturally shelled to the tune of 45 points and 528 total yards. Can McCarron reprise anything like Murray's domination? Certain early-season performances suggest he can, but the redshirt sophomore has been noticeably less effcient on the road (three non-Ole Miss games have yielded a combined 5.8 YPA and just one touchdown pass), and his past three SEC games anywhere have yielded just a 1-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

If McCarron is on his game, everything about the Tigers' season-to-date suggests they'll give up major yards and points. But that's a big if given the kind of environment McCarron will face and his erratic play of late.

THE X-FACTOR: the Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd. It's often said that a given football team is "a different team on the road" than at home, and that goes double for one as young as Auburn has been this season. That's how it's played out for Gene Chizik's team, which has dodged a few close scrapes (and played a couple of terrible teams) but nonetheless enters the Iron Bowl with a perfect 6-0 home record. It was just two years ago Alabama came to the Plains to face a 7-4 Tiger team with a national title game berth on the line, and left needing a last-minute touchdown and knocked-down Hail Mary to escape with the win. The Auburn team that's shown up for most of the season may not be quite as fierce as the one the Tide has to tangle with Saturday. 
Posted on: November 22, 2011 3:39 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Georgia at Georgia Tech

Posted by Chip Patterson

GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: The Bulldogs can establish their running game. In this contest, making the most of every possession will be crucial. Georgia has had a revolving door at running back recently because of health and personal issues, but to win Saturday they will just need SOMEONE to be productive out of the backfield. Freshman sensation Isaiah Crowell is questionable with an ankle injury, Carlton Thomas's status after another one-game suspension is murky, Richard Samuel is still recovering from Nov. 1 ankle surgery, while backups Brandon Harton and Ken Malcome combined for three fumbles against Kentucky. The questions of "who" and "how many" running backs play against Georgia Tech do not matter as long as the Bulldogs offense can establish a consistent ground attack.

GEORGIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They catch the Bulldogs off guard between crucial SEC contests. Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Coastal Division race, and has nothing to save themselves for in their new mission for 10 wins. Two of Georgia Tech's losses this season have come against teams that have had extended time to prepare for defending Paul Johnson's offense. Extra time isn't the only way to beat Georgia Tech, but both of those coaches and/or players credited the extra time as a helpful advantage after the fact. Georgia enters the game having just wrapped up the SEC East with the SEC Championship in Atlanta just a week away. If there is any scheduling advantage here, it favors the Yellow Jackets.

X-FACTOR: Isaiah Crowell's availability. In Georgia Tech's three losses this season the defense allowed an average of over 220 yards per game on the ground, in wins that number is 145.5. Early reports make it appear that Mark Richt will have up to four of his tailbacks ready to go against the Yellow Jackets, and some have suggested the Bulldogs rest their star freshman to allow his ankle to fully heal in preparation for the SEC Championship Game. If the Bulldogs run all four backs, they will be able to limit Georgia Tech's time on the field and likely have an opportunity to eat up yards against the 3-4 defense already concerned with stopping Murray through the air.

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Posted on: November 19, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 3:52 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 13 Georgia 19, Kentucky 10

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: November 18, 2011 4:12 pm
 

PODCAST: Big Ten/Heisman/Thursday's Games

Posted by Adam Jacobi

I'm the guest on the College Football Podcast today as we debate: Who would you rather have going forward - Denard Robinson or Taylor Martinez? We break down the Nebraska-Michigan and Penn State-Ohio State games, talk about Russell Wilson's Heisman chances and wonder why in the world I have Aaron Murray on my Heisman Ballot. Plus, we analyze Virginia Tech's win over UNC and UAB's shocking win over Southern Miss

For the record, if I had the ballot to do all over again, I'm putting Collin Klein on it instead of Murray if for no other reason than to shield myself from the withering scrutiny of Mr. Aizer. Still, we're talking about a fifth place Heisman vote; why not go a little bit off the reservation to give it to someone you don't think is getting enough recognition? It's harmless. Plus, let's not start pretending Murray isn't CRUSHING FOOLS right now. Best QB in the SEC by far, and the Boise State and South Carolina losses aren't exactly on him.

I hope Georgia pulls the SEC Title upset while Murray puts up middling stats if for no other reason than I want to see people come around on Murray even after he has his worst game of the season, then pretend the Heisman isn't all about the team record. Please. 

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