Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:45 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.
It's been one of the longest weeks that I can remember in the world of college football because of what has been going in in State College this week, and I don't know about you, but I could really use a day to just immerse myself in football games and nothing else at this point.
So, thankfully, we've got a pretty decent slate of games on tap this weekend, though the schedule does get a bit thin toward the end of the day.
Texas Tech vs. #2 Oklahoma State - ABC, 12pm ET
Texas Tech has already spoiled the party for Oklahoma this season, and now it will be looking to finish off another Oklahoma school with BCS championship dreams. Of course, considering the way that Texas Tech has looked the last two weeks since that Oklahoma win, a victory against Oklahoma State in this one might be even more of a shocker. - Tom Fornelli
#13 South Carolina vs. Florida - CBS, 12pm ET
Steve Spurrier facing the program built by Steve Spurrier is always a headline-maker, but the bigger story is whether the Gamecocks can stay afloat in the SEC East title race. As in command as Georgia appears to be, a Carolina win over the Gators paired with an Auburn win over the Dawgs would have the East crown clinched for the Gamecocks by the end of the day. Florida may have something to say about that, though, after their previously moribund offense came to life with 410 total yards and 26 points vs. Vandy. - Jerry Hinnen
Iowa vs. #17 Michigan State - ESPN2, 12pm ET
There are approximately three games left (barring disastrous upsets) that will decide the Big Ten Legends Division race. This is one of them. Iowa, even with three losses, still controls its own destiny in the race, and has been undefeated at home. Meanwhile, Michigan State is the putative leader of the division, and a win here puts the Spartans in great shape to make it to Indianapolis in December. MSU hasn't been able to run on anybody, and Iowa hasn't been able to stop anybody on the ground. Something's gotta give. - Adam Jacobi
#5 Boise State vs. TCU - Versus, 3:30pm ET
Here it is, Boise State's Mountain West Super Bowl. With no conference championship, and a soft finish to the regular season schedule, this is the Broncos last chance to make a statement against an opponent with any national recognition. The Horned Frogs aren't the power they have been the last two seasons, but they definitely present the most difficult challenge to Boise State in the conference. Bad news for TCU though, the defense that is giving up 200+ yards per game through the air has to face Kellen Moore on the Smurf Turf. I expect Moore and Co. to take the opportunity to make a statement to the nation, so get the scoreboard warmed up now. - Chip Patterson
#14 Kansas State vs. Texas A&M - ABC, 3:30pm ET
If last week was any indication, we were all a bit early in writing off Kansas State following it's loss to Oklahoma. The Wildcats nearly put an end to Oklahoma State's BCS hopes last weekend, and they will be looking to put another nail in the coffin of Texas A&M this weekend. The Aggies have lost two in a row coming into this game, and lost running back Christine Michael for the season last week. Will the A&M offense be capable of making up for his absence? Also, will it even matter if Collin Klein has another amazing game for the Wildcats? - TF
#15 Georgia vs. #20 Auburn - CBS, 3:30pm ET
Can Mark Richt's team handle the pressure? Win this game, and the Bulldogs will be one home gimme over Kentucky from their first trip to the SEC Championship game since 2005--the sort of stakes under which Richt's team has repeatedly shriveled in those five preceding years. If Aaron Murray plays his game, the Dawg defense forces Clint Moseley to look like the sophomore making a third career start he is, and Isaiah Crowell can find a hole or two, Georgia should be home and dry. But if they don't? The Tigers showed against Carolina and Florida that they're perfectly happy dragging opposing pro-style offenses into a low-scoring slugfest where Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb dominate things ... and the Tigers win. - JH
Florida State vs. Miami - ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm ET
The in-state rivalry enters a new chapter with both Miami and Florida State making coaching changes in the last two seasons. With EJ Manuel healthy again, the Seminoles are on a four-game winning streak averaging 38.5 points per game. They are likely out of the ACC Atlantic race, but there is still plenty to play for for these two Florida programs. Players from both locker rooms have made a point to mention this game meaning a little more, as you can feel the intensity returning to the rivalry. High profile recruits will be in the house, bragging rights will be on the line, and the Hurricanes are no doubt looking to get revenge after last season's embarrassing 45-17 loss at home. - CP
USC vs. Washington - FX, 3:45pm ET
Although USC can't play in a Pac-12 Championship game this season, it would still like to show the rest of the conference that it's the best team in the Pac-12 South this season, and if it continues to play like it has been the last few weeks, then Washington may be in for a long day. Of course, on the other side of the field is a Washington team that is improving but still doesn't have that signature win under Steve Sarkisian. Going to The Coliseum and handing USC a loss would be just that. - TF
Illinois vs. #24 Michigan - ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm ET
The last two times these teams squared off, the final score was a 67-65 3OT masterpiece in Michigan's favor. We might not see 132 total points scored (or even 100; quelle horreur!), as both defenses have been miles ahead of last year. That said, both teams' exciting quarterbacks are back and putting up solid numbers, and each squad should be extremely motivated to snap a losing streak with a big victory. Folks, it's Denard vs. Scheelhaase; why wouldn't you watch this game? - AJ
Maryland vs. Notre Dame - NBC, 7:30pm ET
Do you ever think to yourself that you hate your eyes? Well, if so, then this will be the game for you. Maryland will be breaking out the infamous uniforms we saw in their season opener against Miami earlier this year, and they'll be combined with Notre Dame's Trapper Keeper helmets. By the time the third quarter begins you'll feel like you've been trapped inside a Jackson Pollock painting. - TF
Mississippi State vs. #3 Alabama - ESPN, 7:45pm ET
Oh, Bulldogs, you did not pick the right time to face Alabama. Not that it likely would have any difference--since back-to-back shockers over the Tide in 2006 and 2007, State has lost three straight to Nick Saban's team by a combined score of 93-20. But catching Alabama the week after the wicked sting of losing to LSU won't do much for their chances. Unless Chris Relf and Tyler Russell took some seriously ginormous strides during last week's clobbering of FCS UT-Martin, it's doubtful a Bulldog offense that's had its share of troubles this season will find many solutions against the angry Tide. - JH
#4 Stanford vs. #7 Oregon - ABC, 8pm ET
The Game of the Century may have been in Tuscaloosa this past weekend but the Game of the Century, Western edition will take place Saturday in Palo Alto as Oregon puts their 18 game conference streak against Stanford's nation-leading 17 game winning streak. This was a close game last season before the Ducks pulled away late, something Andrew Luck and company are intent on correcting in order to come out of the game with a win and their national title hopes alive. - Bryan Fischer
LATE NIGHT SNACK
Washington State vs. Arizona State - Versus, 10:30pm ET
Both teams are looking to make a statement and pick up a win but more is on the line for Arizona State after losing control of the Pac-12 South after last week's loss to UCLA. The Cougars are improved but will have to deal with Vontaze Burfict on defense and an offense with plenty of weapons to contain. - BF
Tags: Aaron Murray, ACC, Adam Jacobi, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Auburn, Big 12, Big Ten, Boise State, Chip Patterson, Chris Relf, Christine Michael, Clint Moseley, Collin Klein, Denard Robinson, E.J. Manuel, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Isaiah Crowell, Jackson Pollock, Jerry Hinnen, Kansas State, Kellen Moore, Kentucky, LSU, Mark Richt, Maryland, Miami, Michael Dyer, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Mountain West, Nathan Scheelhaase, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Onterrio McCalebb, Oregon, Pac-12, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, Steve Spurrier, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Tyler Russell, UCLA, USC, Vontaze Burfict, Washington, Washington State
Posted on: November 9, 2011 1:38 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2011 3:13 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
High school teammates Isaiah Crowell and Gabe Wright made waves at their Signing Day announcement last spring, when Crowell hoisted a Bulldog puppy to pledge his allegiance to Georgia and Wright promised to fill Nick Fairley's shoes at Auburn with a hat that read "Nick Who?"
With Crowell's Bulldogs and Wright's Tigers set to renew the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry this Saturday, neither player has been shy about discussing their former teammate ... or their new team. Here's what Crowell had to say about the Tigers:
“I never liked Auburn. Point blank, I never liked (them),” he said. “I just never liked Auburn, I don’t know why.”Why the hostility for a player who grew up just 35 miles from Auburn in Columbus, Ga.? It may have something to do with Wright's comments earlier this weekabout Crowell, which (ahem) didn't quite seem to come from a place of humble respect:
“Isaiah can be explosive just like every other back, but he also can be stopped,” Wright said. “That’s one thing I know how to do. That’s one thing I’ve been practicing to do."Crowell had something specific to say about that, too:
“I know he’s been talking, telling the media he knows how to stop me or whatever,” Crowell said. “But we’re just going to have to see.”Well, then. Gene Chizik said this week he doesn't expect a repeat of last year's Georgia meeting, which ended in thrown punches, a flurry of personal foul calls, and suspensions. But if that's the case, it's hard to say Crowell and Wright are getting things off on the right foot.
ELSEWHERE in Georgia players talking to the press, Crowell wasn't the only Dawg to get a jibe in at a rival this week, though Aaron Murray was much, much more subtle about it. Speaking as to how his team stayed motivated after their ugly first two weeks, Murray said this (emphasis added)
“We knew we still had a chance, even when we went 0-2, and people were like, ‘Oh the season’s over with,' ... South Carolina has never gone a season without losing at least three SEC games. So we’re like, ‘Hey just because we’re one behind them you never know what could happen.’ They could lose one, two, three.”
That is 100 percent accurate, and 100 percent funny coming out of a Georgia player's mouth. Well done, Mr.Murray.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 2:40 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
AUBURN WILL WIN IF: Clint Moseley's performance against Ole Miss wasn't a mirage. Against the Rebels the redshirt sophomore hit 12-of-15 for better than 10 yards an attempt, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. It looked like a breakout game for a player still making just his second-ever start, but after watching the Rebels give up 30 points to Kentucky's dead-offense-walking, it's fair to ask if Moseley's numbers weren't a product of Moseley as much as an Ole Miss defense that's throwing in the towel. We'll find out for certain against Georgia: the Dawgs are sixth in the country in opposing QB rating and have held their six SEC opponents to a collective 44 percent completion rate and a 4-to-9 TD-to-INT ratio. If Moseley can hold his own on the road against that kind of secondary, Auburn will have found themselves a quarterback--and the same running game that took adavantage of his precision to roll up 254 yards vs. the Rebels could find space to dominate again.
GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: Aaron Murray plays like Aaron Murray. No one's going to confuse the 2011 Auburn defense for the '85 Bears, but against teams without a legitimate threat at quarterback, the Tigers have done just fine: 13 points allowed to South Carolina in a win, 6 to Florida in a win, 17 to Ole Miss before a meaningless TD on the game's final play. If Murray plays like the erratic quarterback who missed 9 straight passes against Florida two weeks ago, the Tigers have shown they'll be just fine concentrating on Isaiah Crowell and turning the game into another low-scoring slugfest like the ones they won vs. Carolina and the Gators ... and that was back when Barrett Trotter was flailing wildly as the Tiger QB.
Despite Moseley's ascension, a solid game from Murray would still likely leave Auburn unable to keep pace offensively, especially on the road. But after Murray's Florida performance, it's not a given.
THE X-FACTOR: Auburn freshman kick returner Tre Mason started the season like gangbusters, housing one against Utah State and looking poised to break another any minute through the first quarter of the Tigers' season. He's since cooled off (thanks in part to a nagging injury) but still ranks among the nation's top 25 per-return. The Dawgs, meanwhile, have often been atrocious in kick coverage this year -- Mark Richt openly campaigned for starters to volunteer for coverage duty recently, with several responding -- and have up a kickoff score to Auburn's Demond Washington last time the teams played in Athens. A similar big play from Mason (or Dawg returner Brandon Boykin the other way) might decisively tilt what shapes up as a tight contest.
Posted on: November 5, 2011 3:43 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
WHY GEORGIA WON: "They're Georgia, and the opponent was New Mexico State" pretty much covers it. But whatever hope the Aggies had of making this a competitive game likely required Aaron Murray to have been as erratic and scattershot as he'd been the previous week in the Bulldogs' win over Florida. No such luck for NMSU: Murray only played the first half, but that was long enough to go 18-of-23 for better than 10 yards an attempt and five touchdowns without an interception.
Obviously, Auburn's pass defense is going to offer a lot more resistance than NMSU's when the Dawgs host the Tigers next week. But Murray's big day has to give his team a lot of encouragement after his lackluster outing vs. the Gators.
WHEN GEORGIA WON: Oh, just pick a second quarter touchdown. We'll go with the Brandon Harton four-yard TD run to push the lead to 14-3, since it was immediately preceded by a questionable pass interference flag on a 3rd-and-4 incompletion. You knew that if NMSU couldn't even catch a break from the officials, they weren't going to hang around long.
WHAT GEORGIA WON: An entire second half of rest for their starters, and for a team with as many thin areas as the Bulldogs, they couldn't ask for anything more than that from this game.
WHAT NEW MEXICO STATE LOST: Lost? We suspect Dewayne Walker will wish his team had been more competitive and much sharper defensively, but no doubt the check from Georgia will soothe a lot of ills.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 3:12 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Ever dreamed of toting the rock for the Georgia Bulldogs, random UGA student? Now may be your chance.
In the space of one afternoon, the Bulldogs have lost four scholarship tailbacks for this Saturday's game against New Mexico State. Starter Isaiah Crowell and backups Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome have all been suspended for one game for a violation of team rules, the program has announced.
But even that's not the worst news of the day from the Bulldog tailback perspective. Mark Richt announced earlier Tuesday that Richard Samuel, Crowell's immediate backup and the Dawgs' initial 2011 starter, underwent surgery on his ankle Tuesday morning and will miss the remaining four games of the regular season.
Samuel scored the winning touchdown against Florida last Saturday in the junior's career highlight to date, then was injured in the game's closing moments.
"We don't know exactly when he'll be back, but it obviously won't be anytime soon," Richt said. ""Richard really had probably his finest performance, in a really big game. For it to happen on the last play is just sad for him."
With all the absences, the tailback job will likely fall to redshirt sophomore Brandon Harton, a former walk-on who received a scholarship this fall. Harton has 11 carries for 33 yards this season, all against Coastal Carolina. Another former walk-on, senior Wes Van Dyk, could see time; Van Dyk has two career carries, both vs. FCS competition.
Against the 3-5 Aggies, all the running back absences shouldn't matter too much (though NMSU does have one BCS conference scalp to their credit this year ... if you count Minnesota, and we're not sure you should). The Georgia line should still be able to open holes nearly anyone could run through, Aaron Murray should still have little problem finding receivers, and or Jarvis Jones should still live in the Aggie backfield. We shouldn't oversell the damage here as long as the suspended three return as expected for a potentially make-or-break visit from Auburn Nov. 12.
But losing Samuel hurts -- his surge against the Gators might have taken him back into the starter's role -- and a topsy-turvy first several months in Athens has made Crowell seem less-than-100-percent reliable. Georgia's OK for the present, but the future looks much murkier than it did 24 hours ago.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:53 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.
Last week's menu was full of surprises as both Wisconsin and Oklahoma fell from the ranks of the unbeatens, and this weekend could include a lot more of the same as Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Clemson all face challenges. Yes, we'll have to wait another week before LSU and Alabama are available, but there's plenty here this week that should help stem that hunger.
#13 Nebraska vs. #9 Michigan State - ESPN, 12pm ET
It's not often that the marquee matchup of the Big Ten kicks off before noon local time, but that's what we've got this week with Michigan State visiting Nebraska with an 11:00 CT kickoff time. The Spartans come off a stunning 37-31 win against Wisconsin, and Nebraska comes off a bye week; those factors combined with an early kickoff means it's going to be difficult not to come out flat in this contest. Whoever sustains a high effort from the first to the fourth quarter seems likely to get the win here. - Adam Jacobi
#16 Texas A&M vs. Missouri - FX, 12pm ET
These two teams will meet for the final time as Big 12 rivals, but that doesn't mean it will the the last time they meet in a conference game does it, Mizzou? Wink, wink, nudge. It's a big game for both teams as Texas A&M still has an outside chance at a Big 12 title and BCS game but can't afford another loss, and Missouri really needs a win or its bowl hopes could be in some trouble. - Tom Fornelli
Florida State vs. North Carolina State - ESPNU, 12pm ET
Florida State played themselves out of the national picture with three straight losses, dropping them from the polls and the ACC title race. The Seminoles redemption tour welcomes N.C. State to Tallahassee on Saturday, with both teams at 4-3 hoping to move one step closer to bowl eligibility. Since EJ Manuel's return to the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury in the loss to Oklahoma, the Seminoles offense has regained some the early-season production that had pundits talking "title contender." But N.C. State boasts one of the league's best defensive playmakers in sophomore David Amerson. Amerson leads the nation with eight interceptions, even returning one for a touchdown. The Seminoles have a lot of talent on the outside, but Manuel (seven interceptions in six games) needs to be wary of where #1 is at all times. - Chip Patterson
Vanderbilt vs. #8 Arkansas - SEC Network, 12:21pm ET
At 4-3, the Commodores are just two wins away from doing something in one year under James Franklin they've done only one other time in their past 29 seasons--go to a bowl game. And with potential All-American corner Casey Hayward leading a secondary capable of keeping Jarius Wright and the Hog receivers (mostly) under wraps, the potential for a stunner is there. Is new quarterback Jordan Rodgers really up to moving the ball consistently against an SEC defense, though? - Jerry Hinnen
#3 Oklahoma State vs. Baylor - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET
Do you like to see a lot of points scored and very little defense getting in the way? Well then I've got good news for you, because Oklahoma State and Baylor are going to score a lot of points and not play much defense. This could truly be one of those games in which the first team to score 50 wins, and Baylor is just as capable of put points up in bunches. There's a chance that another Oklahoma school could suffer its first lost this Saturday. - TF
#10 Kansas State vs. #11 Oklahoma - ESPN, 3:30pm ET
Kansas State has been one of the biggest surprises in college football this season, getting off to a 7-0 start and even winning a couple of shootouts along the way. That being said, the real test for Bill Snyder and the Wildcats begins on Saturday when they face Oklahoma. The Sooners are likely to be a bit cranky following last week's loss, and will be looking to end Kansas State's unbeaten season as well. - TF
#22 Georgia vs. Florida - CBS, 3:30pm ET
CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart has written that Mark Richt's job is on the line in this one, and given that the Dawgs won't win this year's well-water SEC East without a win Saturday -- begging the question of when he ever would win the East again -- we're inclined to agree. The good news is that unless John Brantley provides a serious spark to the Gator offense, he has the team to get the job done; the Gator front hasn't looked its best against straight-ahead power running games, and Isaiah Crowell gives Georgia plenty of pop in that department. - JH
#21 Penn State vs. Illinois - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET
Coming into the season, it seemed far more likely that these two teams would have three losses apiece eight games in than three combined. But even with the Illini fading, they're still 6-2, and PSU currently leads the Big Ten with a 7-1 (4-0) mark. As such, there are major consequences for both the Legends Division race and bowl positioning here -- not to mention two of the Big Ten's best wideouts in A.J. Jenkins and Derek Moye. Don't sleep on this game -- there'll probably be some late-game theatrics, and when Ron Zook's involved, that's a recipe for chaos. - AJ
Tennessee vs. #14 South Carolina - ESPN2, 7:15pm ET
Can Justin Worley hack it? If the Vols' new true freshman starter can hang in there against Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Gamecock pass rush (no mean feat), the pieces could be in place for an upset. Carolina's ground game could be completely MIA without Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looked awfully wobbly his last road game, and Tauren Poole has finally given the Vols a rushing game with a pulse. With Derek Dooley's seat growing ever-slightly-warmer and Carolina's East hopes on the line, this is a big one for both teams. - JH
Georgia Tech vs. #6 Clemson - ABC, 8pm ET
The primetime rematch of the 2009 ACC title game (which the NCAA will tell you "didn't happen") was a possible selection for ESPN's College Gameday two weeks ago when both teams were undefeated. But since two straight Georgia Tech losses, this game has lost some of the luster it once carried. That does not make it any less of a trap game for the undefeated Tigers. Clemson's BCS dreams could be erased in the dust clouds of Paul Johnson's grinding option attack, which when run effectively can eat up game clock and wear down opposing defenses. If ABC is broadcasting this game in your region, it should definitely be worth your time to watch for fireworks. - CP
#20 USC vs. #4 Stanford - ABC, 8pm ET
The first top 20 match up in the Coliseum in over three years, this has turned into the game of the week thanks to a marquee quarterback showdown featuring Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley. This game likely comes down to defense - as in who can stop who - as the Cardinal has a trio of talented tight ends 6-foot-6 or taller and the Trojans have All-American candidate in wide receiver Robert Woods. - Bryan Fischer
Ohio State vs. #12 Wisconsin - ESPN, 8pm ET
If this game were in Madison, the Badgers would probably cruise. It ain't. Fresh off their first loss in their first game in a truly hostile environment, Russell Wilson and crew have to travel to Columbus to face a Buckeye team that's just finding its stride after injuries and suspensions rocked its first half of the season. And just to up the ante even further, this one's under the lights. What a way to end a great slate of Big Ten action. - AJ
LATE NIGHT SNACK
Washington vs. Arizona - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET
Looking for a good old fashioned, late night, Pac-12 shootout? Look no further than the Huskies and Wildcats. Both teams have struggled defensively and Washington gave up over 400 yards rushing to Stanford last week. Keith Price and Nick Foles are two quarterbacks who are a joy to watch and they have plenty of weapons to get the ball to. Like offense? This is your game. - BF
Tags: A.J. Jenkins, ACC, Adam Jacobi, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arkansas, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bryan Fischer, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Derek Dooley, Derek Moye, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Isaiah Crowell, Jadeveon Clowney, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Justin Worley, Kansas State, Keith Price, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Richt, Matt Barkley, Melvin Ingram, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Nick Foles, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Pac-12, Paul Johnson, Penn State, Robert Woods, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Tauren Poole, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, Tony Barnhart, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:03 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
FLORIDA WILL WIN IF: John Brantley is indeed back under center, and if he plays like the quarterback he had been this 2011 season before the high-ankle sprain against Alabama. The 10 quarters of football the Gators played without him against the Tide, LSU and Auburn were all the evidence we needed to dismiss their chances without him, but if Florida gets back the QB who'd posted a QB rating of 152.58 for the year (good for second in the SEC if he had enough attempts), they'll be able to get their licks in. Not necessarily because Brantley's going to go Robert Griffin on the Bulldogs or anything, mind--between the inevitable rust and the Dawgs' excellent secondary (top-10 nationally in both yards and opponent's QB rating allowed), the Gators are going to have to work for their passing yards no matter who's the quarterback. But with Brantley, that work should have some payoff, and that in turn should open some holes for Chris Rainey and the under-used Mike Gillislee. That balance could make a game of things, and if there's anything we've learned about the Cocktail Party over the years, it's that a tight game in the fourth quarter always favors the Gators.
GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: The Dawgs play their game. On paper, this should be Georgia's year: they have the more coherent offensive identity, the brightest (or at least most consistent) offensive star in Isaiah Crowell, the steadier front seven now that Jarvis Jones has solidified the linebacking, and what appears to be an aerial edge on both sides of the ball. If the Bulldogs were preparing to face an opponent named the Schmorida Schmators in the World's Largest Outdoor Costume Party, we'd call them heavy favorites. But since it's Florida, and the Cocktail Party, all that on paper stuff doesn't matter much. The Dawgs almost never "play their game" against the Gators, with the 3 wins in 20 years to prove it. If Mark Richt can finally get his team right mentally, they'll get the win. But in this rivalry, that's always been a titanic "if."
THE X-FACTOR: the catastrophic quarterbacking error. Curiously, while Aaron Murray's overall performance hasn't regressed from his freshman year, the frequency of his "freshman mistakes" actually has; Stephen Garcia excluded, Murray's as many interceptions (seven) as any other SEC quarterback, and his backbreaking fumble against South Carolina doomed the Dawgs to defeat in that game. Brantley, likewise, may be more prone to the interception bug after his three-week layoff (not to mention facing a secondary in the national top-10 in picks, too). Whichever team can force the opposing singal-caller into a game-changing error is going to have a huge leg up.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 3:43 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 6.
WINNER: Les Miles.
For years, college football fans have come up with excuse after excuse for why Miles has been less than a terrifiic head football coach, despite his gaudy records and 2007 national title. He's just lucky. Anyone can recruit that kind of talent to LSU. His clock management is terrible. Never lost fewer than two games in a season. He can't get his offense fixed. Did we mention he's lucky? This offseason, one prominent blogger went so far as to place Miles No. 1 on a list of "the Worst Coaches in College Football."
But after today's dominating 41-11 win over Florida and the Tigers' 6-0 start to the 2011 season -- a start that includes wins over four different ranked teams -- even Miles's most ardent detractors have to admit the Mad Hatter has put together the kind of upper-upper-echelon team that can't be explained by recruiting or luck or happenstance alone. Yes, it helps to have Ryan Baker and Tyrann Mathieu and Michael Brockers around, but even superstars like those don't make the kind of terror-inducing defense LSU has today without the guidance of John Chavis, who Miles recruited to Baton Rouge personally. Yes, it's tough to not have a strong running game with Spencer Ware and a veteran line, but that running game wouldn't be nearly so effective if Jarrett Lee hadn't shaken off a career's worth of failures to become exactly the steady, accurate (and vs. the Gators, bomb-tossing) quarterback the offense needs--a development that can be directly traced to Miles's much-derided hire of Steve Kragthorpe as his team's new quarterbacks coach. The Tigers have been special teams killers for far too long under Miles to dismiss their contributions as mere "luck," as evidenced once again Saturday when punter Brad Wing noticed the lack of a Gator punt safety and took off for what should have been a 44-yard touchdown.
In short: to watch the Tigers' rise to 6-0 and their dismantling of the Gators and not see Miles's fingerprints all over them is an exercise in willful ignorance. Luck can explain some of his successes, and the natural advantages of being LSU does explain a little more. But these Tigers? They are only explained by having a coach at the very, very top of his field.
LOSERS: Auburn's wide receivers.
Tiger quarterback Barrett Trotter hasn't played well of late, and has the numbers to prove it--6 of 19 for 81 yards and a pick against Arkansas, to be specific. But he also hasn't gotten much help from his wideouts with leading receiver Emory Blake out ... if he's gotten any at all. Remove a 44-yard reception for Travante Stallworth on a second-half flea flicker completion, and Auburn's wideouts combined for all of three receptions for 21 yards. DeAngelo Benton had a particularly rough evening, dropping one late first-half pass that could have set up an Auburn field goal, getting called for a hold that would eventually force an Auburn punt, and letting a late Trotter pass whistle through his hands for the aformentioned interception.
WINNERS: Backup quarterbacks.
Jacoby Brissett aside, it was a good day to be a current (or recent) second-stringer in the SEC. Connor Shaw cemented himself as the new South Carolina starter and then some with his 311-yard, 4-touchdown, zero-pick performance vs. Kentucky. Mississippi State's Tyler Russell came off the bench to complete 11 of his 13 passes, three of them going for second-half touchdowns that turned what had been a 3-0 halftime deficit into a 21-3 win over UAB. Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers didn't have much of an impact statistically (11-of-18, 104 yards, 2 INTs), but led a couple of decent drives and looked as composed vs. the Alabama pass rush as you could hope.
And then there's Lee, who you'll remember was not only Jordan Jefferson's backup with just days remaining before the season, but many fans' favorite to drop to third-string behind JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. Against Florida Lee completed only 7 passes--but he also only attempted 10, and those 7 completions averaged a gain of 22 yards.
LOSER: Stephen Garcia.
The career of one of the SEC's most recognizable stars, magnetic talents, and frustrating enigmas appears poised to end not with a bang, but with a whimper. Though you can't ever say never with Steve Spurrier, Shaw's confident command performance against Kentucky suggests he's going to be the Gamecock quarterback for quite some time to come. There's going to be much more difficult opponents ahead for him than the hapless Wildcats, but does it matter? Spurrier's surprising patience with Garcia through his awkward start to this season now looks poised to be turned against him as Spurrier lets Shaw work through the same rough patches Garcia endured.
Which means that in the end, Garcia's senior season hasn't been undone by the off-field troubles that so many have expected to be his downfall. It's gone south because he simply hasn't produced on the field, because aside from one half against East Carolina, he's never looked as good in 2011 as Shaw looked Saturday. It's not how we expected things to come to an end for Garcia (if this is the end), but nothing about Garcia's time in Columbia has ever played out as expected, has it?
LOSERS: Kentucky fans.
The Wildcats kicked off to open their game against the Gamecocks, forced a fumble on the return, and recovered just outside the Carolina 20. Cue the shots in the stands of overjoyed Kentucky fans high-fiving each other and celebrating the best possible start.
60 minutes later -- and only 96 Wildcat yards, 6 Wildcat first downs, and 3 Wildcat points which came immediately following that fumble recovery later -- those same fans had to be some of the most miserable in the country. It's one thing to watch a poor football team; it's another to watch a team that seems so hopelessly outmatched on offense and doesn't seem to be showing any kind of week-to-week improvement. After failing to top 300 total yards against Louisville or Florida, the Wildcats have now failed to top 300 yards in their games against LSU and Carolina combined.
So about that kickoff: were those fans happy to have that one moment of joy? Or all the angrier for that joy being so completely misleading?
WINNER: Georgia's defense.
Before the game, we asked if the Bulldog secondary could live up its gaudy post-Boise State numbers against the likes of Tyler Bray and Da'Rick Rogers on the road at Tennessee. The answer: mostly. Bray and late-game injury replacement Matt Simms did throw for 290 yards at a perfectly respectable 7.3 yards-per-attempt clip, and without an interception.
But they never did throw a touchdown, either; in fact, the Volunteers were kept out of the end zone entirely until Simms snuck in from a yard out with only 2:45 to play in the game. Thanks to the Dawg defensive backs keeping the Vols in front of them, and the UGA front seven stuffing the pathetic Tennessee ground game to the tune of .4 yards per rush (yes, .4), Bray and Co. finished the game with all of 12 points on the scoreboard. The Bulldogs offense wasn't much to write home about -- Isaiah Crowell didn't even hit the 60-yard mark on the ground, the red zone offense sputtered, and like his Vol counterparts Aaron Murray threw neither an interception nor touchdown pass -- but after years of seeing their team score like a pinball machine only to lose after another lackluster defensive display, we expect Dawg fans will take it.
LOSER: Clarity in the SEC East.
South Carolina was the preseason favorite. They were the favorite after they beat Georgia. But then Garcia struggled and Florida beat Tennessee, and the Gators were the favorite. And then Carolina lost to Auburn and Florida lost to both Alabama, and lots of people considered Georgia as the new favorite. But now that Shaw looks to have healed the Gamecocks' Achilles heel ... are they the favorites? Or is Georgia, still, after beating Tennessee? Or is Florida just ripe to return once their schedule eases up? All we really know is that none of the other three teams is winning the division, and that the East winner is going to be a two-touchdown underdog to the West's come December. Past that? your guess is as good as ours.
WINNERS: Everyone who loves college football. Let's not go crazy by saying something like "LSU and Alabama isn't going to be the only game that matters in college football this season"; with Wisconsin, Stanford, Clemson, Boise State and of course Oklahoma all looking at potential undefeated seasons, it's too hasty to even lay claim to LSU and Alabama as the nation's best two teams.
That said: if you're a college football fan, and you've watched Alabama and LSU play this season, and you know how good they are, and you've considered how much fun it would be to watch them meet, undefeated, with a trip to Atlanta on the line on Nov. 5 ... then every week that passes with the two of them still unblemished is a good thing. This was one such week.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Boise State, Brad Wing, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Da'Rick Rogers, DeAngelo Benton, East Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Isaiah Crowell, Jacoby Brissett, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen, John Chavis, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Rodgers, Kentucky, Les Miles, Louisville, LSU, Matt Simms, Michael Brockers, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Ryan Baker, SEC, South Carolina, Spencer Ware, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Steve Kragthorpe, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Travante Stallworth, Tyler Bray, Tyler Russell, Tyrann Mathieu, UAB, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Zach Mettenberger