Posted on: September 27, 2011 3:13 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).
AUBURN. After last week's decidedly ho-hum display against FAU, it's safe to say the Tigers will need every offensive weapon they can get facing South Carolina this Saturday in Columbia. But one weapon they won't have is redshirt freshman receiver Trovon Reed, who Gene Chizik said yesterday was doubtful for the game with a shoulder injury suffered vs. the Owls. He then confirmed today that Reed will not play against the Gamecocks. Reed has collected 13 receptions so far this season for 91 yards, making him Auburn's second-most productive receiver to date.
The matchup against Carolina will be broadcast on CBS at 3:30 ET Saturday. The Tigers will likely stick with the simplified cover 2 defensive schemes that led to (somewhat) better results against FAU. The inexperienced Tiger offensive line doesn't have its chemistry perfected yet, says senior guard Jared Cooper--potentially a major issue confronting the Gamecocks' beastly defensive line.
ALABAMA. The Tigers' cross-state rivals have their own injury worry with linebacker C.J. Mosley "questionable" for the Tide's showdown with Florida (8 p.m. ET Saturday, also on CBS). Nick Saban said Mosley would be replaced by committee, with Dont'a Hightower adding that no one would be "the equivalent" of Mosley, but that he has confidence in the Tide's linebacking depth.
The game is a homecoming of sorts for Florida native Trent Richardson, whose high school team's nickname was the Gators. Richardson said he raced against Gator speedster Jeff Demps in high school. "For the first 40 meters we were going at it. After that, it wasn’t a race. I think after 80 meters he was 10 meters, maybe 20 meters in front of me," he said.
FLORIDA. The story of the Gators' season so far has been the revitalization of the Jeff Demps-Chris Rainey tag team, but Will Muschamp says there's still more to see. "They’re going to touch the ball," Muschamp said Monday. "The touches we get them could be different and not as conventional as we’ve seen." But Muschamp said that despite those tweaks, the strength of Alabama's run defense meant John Brantley would throw the ball more often as well.
Muschamp said he knows former mentor Saban well--but that it won't help the Gators' preparation, since Saban knows him just as well.
GEORGIA. Bulldog center Ben Jones clipped Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox during the two teams' 2010 meeting, and revealed in advance of this week's rematch that he felt poorly enough about it to write Cox a letter of apology. "I felt bad when I got home," Jones said. "I was like, `Man, that’s wrong.’ "
On the Dawg injury front, linebacker Christian Robinson could return from the foot injury that's kept him out the past two weeks, but lineman Chris Burnette may be out longer than initially thought with his knee injury.
ELSEWHERE: Arkansas senior corner Isaac Madison left the Alabama game with a minor injury, but will return against Texas A&M. Fellow senior defensive back Tramain Thomas also left the game, but for reasons Bobby Petrino said were performance-related ... Despite his strong start to his career (team-high four sacks, five tackles-for-loss, three forced fumbles), Jadeveon Clowney still won't start just yet. Melvin Ingram (the SEC's reigning Defensive Player of the Week ) and Devin Taylor remain the team's bookend DEs in their base defense ...
Tennessee all-purpose back Raijon Neal will focus on the wide receiver position for now ... Injured Vol teammate Herman Lathers was able to jog for 20 minutes at practice Monday. The veteran linebacker is working his way back from breaking his ankle in the spring ... While acknowledging that Texas A&M's move to the SEC was "great for the Southeastern Conference and great for us," Les Miles also added that he found the splintering of the Big 12 "inconceivable." "It's hard for me to figure this," he said. "You're taking the traditional rivalries and throwing them out the window" ... None of the four players who left the West Virginia game with injuries have been ruled out of this Saturday's game against Kentucky ...
Mississippi State is reshuffling its offensive line in advance of their trip to Georgia, with former left tackle James Carmon working at right guard after his recent MCL injury ... Last year, Ole Miss ran for more yards in one game against this week's opponent -- Fresno State -- than they have this year in all four games combined ... One bright spot for Kentucky as they get ready for their trip to Death Valley: senior defensive tackle Mark Crawford will return from a four-game suspension.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Ben Jones, Bobby Petrino, C.J. Mosley, Chris Rainey, Christian Robinson, Devin Taylor, Dont'a Hightower, FAU, Fletcher Cox, Florida, Fresno State, Geen Chizik, Georgia, Herman Lathers, Isaac Madison, Jadeveon Clowney, James Carmon, Jared Cooper, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Kentucky, Les Miles, LSU, Melvin Ingram, Mississippi State, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Raijon Neal, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tramain Thomas, Trent Richardson, Trovon Reed, West Virginia, Will Muschamp
Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:06 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 4:11 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. LSU and Alabama are the SEC's No. 1 and No. 2, or No. 2 and No. 1, and no one else is close. Yes: Arkansas could recover from today's beatdown in Tuscaloosa and still head to Baton Rouge at the end of the year with a chance to sneak off with the West title. Yes: South Carolina has the league's best player in Marcus Lattimore and more than enough weapons on both sides of the ball to beat anyone, LSU and 'Bama included, if Stephen Garcia's head is screwed on correctly. Yes: with Charlie Weis rediscovering the Gators' lost running attack behind Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, Florida looks like the most dangerous team in the East and could do anything in the Atlanta one-off.
But until one of those teams actually beats one of the two Goliaths currently standing atop the conference, we're going to assume the gap between LSU and Alabama and the rest of the conference is even wider than it was purported to be at season's beginning. In fact, this blogger would argue these are the two teams that belong atop the polls as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation.
Why? LSU has the best overall body of work of any team in the FBS, having beaten three ranked teams away from the friendly confines of Death Valley. And if Mississippi State doesn't look like they're going to live up to their preseason ranking, beating Oregon and West Virginia by a combined 39 points (and largely throttling a Duck offense that's rolled in its usual fashion ever since) should only look better as the season progresses.
But if LSU has the best body of work, it's Alabama that after Saturday has the single most impressive performance of the season. Not many SEC fans have doubts about Arkansas's offensive personnel (running back excepted), and even fewer would question Bobby Petrino's offensive scheming. But the Tide made the Hog attack look utterly ordinary, all while showing off the kind of explosiveness in the offensive backfield (hi, Trent Richardson!) and special teams (hey, Marquis Maze!) that should give them all the scoring firepower they'll need. If Arkansas goes on to be the top-15 team they've been supposed to be this offseason -- and we don't see any reason to doubt them yet -- then drubbing that top-15 team by 24 points that felt like 44 makes for the best single-game showing of the year so far.
So ... which do you choose? The team that's flashed the highest ceiling, or the team with the best scalps on the wall? We don't know. And fortunately, we don't have to choose--their meeting on Nov. 5 (barring an upset between now and then) will choose for us. We just know that choosing any other SEC team at this point is denying the obvious.
2. Florida is the East favorite, and Stephen Garcia is the reason. It's not that the Gators wiped the floor with Kentucky, though their willingness to keep the pedal to the proverbial metal was impressive. (They do wipe the floor with the 'Cats every year, after all.) It's not that the Gamecocks' issues in the secondary can't be overcome -- after collecting a pair of key sack-and-strips against Vanderbilt, Jadeveon Clowney can apparently do a lot of the overcoming by himself -- or that the slow start for Alshon Jeffery can't become a fast finish if he gets better quarterbacking.
What it is is, well, that quarterbacking. Garcia didn't just throw four interceptions Saturday against the 'Dores; he threw four awful, braindead, hilarious, Steve Spurrier aneurysm-inducing interceptions. Vandy has an outstanding secondary, but when you run straight backwards on 3rd-and-15 and blindly launch a pass so aimless and floated even the Wounded Duck Association of America immediately asks to be disassociated from it (as Garcia did for his first), an outstanding secondary isn't necessary. Garcia was terrible, plain-and-simple, and frankly lucky he hadn't already been pulled by the time Connor Shaw entered in the fourth quarter.
South Carolina can do a lot of things even when Garcia is terrible. They can do even more if he's hovering around "passable." (Like beat Georgia, for instance.) But they can't win the East if he's not playing somewhere near the top of his game, and judging by Saturday's performance, the top of his game is far, far away from him.
3. The SEC West might not be quite that brutal. Is it still the roughest, toughest division in college football? Probably. But part of its preseason reputation was due to the presence of both Auburn and Mississippi State in the preseason polls, and right now neither squad is playing like they deserve so much as a spot at the bottom of the "Also Receiving Votes" barrel.
The Bulldogs were supposed to lick their wounds this week against Louisiana Tech after crushing losses to Auburn and LSU. But the Bulldogs from Ruston nearly inflicted the biggest wound yet, tying the game at 20 on a late field goal and driving to the State 20 with under four minutes to play before a Garciaesque interception from true freshman QB Nick Isham ended the threat. Another pick would help MSU escape in overtime, despite Tech's 359-340 yardage advantage.
But at least hard-luck Tech had already taken Southern Miss and Houston to the wire. FAU hadn't scored a touchdown in their two games, losing to Florida and Michigan State by a combined score of 85-3. And yet the Owls found themselves down just 10-6 to Auburn at halftime and finished the game with just eight fewer yards. While most of the frustration from Auburn fans has been centered on the Tiger defense, this time it was the offense doing most of the struggling, as they finished with just 315 total yards (the second-lowest total of Gus Malzahn's tenure) and two offensive touchdowns.
Both teams will no doubt play much better games against competition they take more seriously, in weeks where they're not recovering from emotional losses. But even if they do, neither the Bulldogs nor Tigers currently look like a threat to any of the five teams at the top of either division.
4. Houston Nutt's odds of coaching in 2012 are now less than 50/50. A 27-13 home loss to Georgia isn't great no matter how you slice it. But the Rebels' performance was even more deflating than the scoreline suggests. The Dawgs outgained their hosts by nearly 300 yards (475 to 183), held them without a second-half point, and only kept them in the game via Blair Walsh's uncharacteristic three missed field goals. The Rebel passing game continued to be the sorest of sore spots, as Zack Stoudt and Randall Mackey combined to complete just 12 of their 30 passes for just 149 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. If not for an 82-yard punt return reverse for a touchdown pulled out of Nutt's bag, the Rebels likely would have finished in the single digits in scoring for a second straight week.
So maybe it looked better on the scoreboard than the 30-7 defeat at Vandy. But Ole Miss still didn't offer any reason to think they're not on their way to 1-7 (or worse) in the SEC.
Tags: Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Arkansas, Auburn, Blair Walsh, Bobby Petrino, Charlie Weis, Chris Rainey, Connor Shaw, FAU, Florida, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Houston, Houston Nutt, Jadeveon Clowney, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Marcus Lattimore, Marquis Maze, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Nick Isham, Ole Miss, Oregon, Randall Mackey, SEC, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stephen Garcia, Steve Spurrier, Trent Richardson, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Zack Stoudt
Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:05 am
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Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:02 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 4:15 am
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Posted on: September 24, 2011 10:33 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Despite a first half from Stephen Garcia that even a half-completed Jenga tower would describe as "oh, way too damn shaky," the Gamecock defense showed that it still knows how to put the clamps on -- and that Vandy, for all its progress, still has a long way to go -- by holding the visiting 'Dores to 71 total yards, 5 first downs, and no scoring drive longer than ... wait for it ... six yards. That Marcus Lattimore kid continued proving he might be an all-right player, too--he collected 151 yards from scrimmage (78 rushing, 73 receiving) and two touchdowns, doing nothing to hurt his budding Heisman campaign.
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Because if it's Vanderbilt and Jay Cutler isn't under center, it doesn't matter how energetic or shrewd the Commodore coaching staff might be: the offense is not going to do a whole lot.
Oh, James Franklin might change that eventually, but he hasn't been able to yet. Even against a questionable Gamecock secondary, Larry Smith was his usual inefficient, wobbly self, completing 13-of-17 but for a nonexistent 2.8 yards an attempt. The offensive line struggled all night against Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and Co., yielding six sacks and rushing for negative-1 yards for the night. And turnovers were, unsurprisingly, a major problem. Clowney stripped Smith twice -- once of those fumbles returned by a combination of Antonio Allen and Ingram for Ingram's third touchdown of the season -- and a Smith interception ended one of the 'Dores few forays across midfield.
Full credit goes to Ellis Johnson for his ever-consistent defensive coaching and the Gamecocks as a unit for a dominant display. But Vandy got a dream performance from Garcia -- an awful four-interception night that got him pulled for Connor Shaw in the fourth quarter and repeatedly set the 'Dores up in great field position -- and still couldn't even stay competitive. Until Franklin can find something to hang his offense's hat on, Vandy might move out of the East cellar (and we won't say that's not an accomplishment), but opponents like the Gamecocks are going to remain well, well out of reach.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Despite their offensive struggles, Garcia's generosity had the visitors poised to regroup at halftime only down 7-3. But with less than 30 seconds remaining and the ball still on the Gamecock side of the 50, Garcia flipped a screen pass to Lattimore ... and he was gone, slaloming through defenders for a Heisman-quality 52-yard score. The way the Carolina defense was locked in, that 11-point deficit might as well have been 30 or 40.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: A comfortable victory after a few weeks of drama, and a reminder that when their defensive line is on its game, they can cause enough havoc to win games nearly singlehandedly. Good thing, too, since Garcia did his best to lose it the same way.
WHAT VANDERBILT LOST: A little of the shine off their 3-0 start -- they won't be pulling any votes in next week's polls -- but not many were expecting them to pull this one out.
Posted on: September 17, 2011 9:25 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 1:32 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Just one reason, in the end, and we'll give you a hint: it rhymes with "Blarcus Blattiblore."
Sure, the Gamecocks got an efficient-enough performance from Stephen Garcia (18-of-25, 204 yards), minus one wretched second-half red zone interception; sure, they committed just that one turnover and won the time-of-possession battle against a team that thrives on burning clock; sure, new placekicker Jay Wooten further cemented a hot start with a key 48-yarder. But given all the success the Midshipmen enjoyed in the option and the palpable sense of pressure in Williams-Brice Stadium once the visitors took their late four-point lead, it's safe to say the Gamecocks simply don't win this game without the nation's best running back (yeah, we said it) seizing the game by the throat and refusing to let it go.
Carolina's game-winning touchdown drive spanned 15 plays; Lattimore touched the ball on 11 of those. He is, as the kids say, the man.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Though Navy was never likely to drive from their own 6 into field goal range after taking over with just 5:36 to play, no one in Columbia breathed easy until quarterback Kriss Proctor's 4th-and-7 pass was picked off by Antonio Allen with under 2 minutes to play. Proctor had already bailed the Mids out once on the possession with a 4th-and-15 conversion, but Jadeveon Clowney wreaking havoc in the backfield meant a second miracle was out of reach.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Won? Well, they're 3-0, and they "won" the right to not have a matched set of upsets at the hands of Navy shoved in their face for forever. But Steve Spurrier can't be happy after such a narrow escape at home--particularly after he admitted his team was "outplayed" a week ago at Georgia.
WHAT NAVY LOST: A chance at a potential season-making upset and arguably the biggest win of Ken Niumatalolo's career. But there's no doubt the Midshipmen gained a ton of respect, both in Columbia and across the SEC, for having pushed a top-10 team to its limit.
Posted on: September 8, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 5:44 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Each Thursday we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:
Mike Bobo: do you know what you're doing with an up-tempo shotgun offense? After rumblings from fall camp that Georgia would unveil a no-huddle spread offense gainst Boise State, the Bulldogs didn't quite go the full Dana Holgorsen ... but they definitely flirted with it, breaking away from their traditional pro-style I-formation look for a multitude of quick snaps, multi-receiver sets, and shotgun handoffs. The results were occasionally spectacular (see Brandon Boykin's 80-yard touchdown run) but more frequently sputterrific (see the other 25 rushes for all of 57 yards, or Boise's six sacks).
So why the change? "We wanted to get more plays, which we didn’t do on Saturday,” Bulldog coordinator Bobo said. “But we’re committed to doing it, and more plays equals more opportunities, and more chances to score.”
This is true, technically speaking. A faster tempo does lead to more possessions and plays packed into a game, and more scoring chances. But that's true for both teams, not just the one running the no-huddle; barring onside kick shenanigans or the occasional odd break at the end of a half, possessions in football are always going to be equal. For seasoned practitioners of the no-huddle like Holgorsen or Gus Malzahn, tempo is partially about giving their offense as many opportunities as possible, but it's also about making it more efficient by keeping an opposing defense off-balance and wearing it down over the course of 60 minutes.
Bobo is not one of those seasoned practitioners. As the Athens Banner-Herald points out, in 2010 Georgia ran fewer plays than any other team in the SEC. Suddenly lurching into a part-time, only-half-committed shotgun spread outfit seems from here to be a good way to neither execute that plan well nor the Bulldogs' traditional power-running and play-action bread-and-butter. One Georgia blogger has cleverly referred to Bobo's plan as the Cheesecake Factory offense--one that attempts to do everything, and in the end does none of it well enough to win.
Mark Richt, for what it's worth, is firmly on board with Bobo's approach. But if it doesn't pay far more dividends against South Carolina than it did against Boise (and if there's a bigger red flag than giving up six sacks to the Broncos the week before facing Devin Taylor, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney, we haven't seen it), Richt may pay for that support with an 0-2 start and the hottest seat in the country.
Auburn's defensive line: what can you do with Mississippi State? The surprising thing about Utah State's 84-play slice-and-dice job on the Tiger defense wasn't the 22-of-31 passing from true freshman Chuckie Keeton, or the resulting 13-of-20 mark for the Aggies on third- and fourth-down conversions; Ted Roof's Tiger teams have always had issues with a tight, controlled passing game like USU's. But they've also usually been stout enough against the run to make up for that Achilles heel -- Auburn led the SEC in rush defense last year -- making the true stunner the Aggies' 227 yards on the ground.
Unfortunately for Roof and the Tigers, things only get tougher this week. State boasts the league's best dual-threat quarterback in Chris Relf, a veteran line featuring three senior starters, Dan Mullen's tried-and-true option schemes, and one of the nation's most underrated tailbacks in Vick Ballard. Even Auburn is obviously a far cry from Memphis, but the 309 rushing yards and 8.1 yard per-carry average racked up by the Bulldogs in Week 1 still make for a hell of a warning shot across the bow of the Tiger front seven.
That front seven should get a boost with the return of suspended senior linebacker Eltoro Freeman, and Roof's long track record of run-stuffing success suggests some level of improvement is due. But the Tiger front remains so young -- all four starting defensive linemen are sophomores -- that it will take a major, major leap forward for Auburn to avoid getting steamrolled. Are they up to it?
Alabama: is your offense good enough to stake a claim to No. 1? Maybe we'll be proven wrong about this. But the guess here is that despite the change of venue to Happy Valley, there won't be any more competitive drama in Saturday's Alabama-Penn State clash than there was in last year's 24-3 Tide throttling in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban's loaded roster of future pros dominated the Nittany Lions physically in nearly every aspect of the 2010 meeting, and that's not a problem we see Joe Paterno repairing in the space of one offseason.
Which means the burning question is one of degree: does the Tide offense have the chops to go on the road and put together a performance worthy of putting the team in the top-of-the-polls discussion? Underrated though Kent State's defense may be (10th in FBS total defense in 2010), the Tide still looked surprisingly sloppy on attack, despite the 48-7 final. The quarterbacks threw four interceptions; the offensive line missed a handful of assignments; the Tide receivers and quarterbacks put the ball on the ground four times.
Were those opening-week jitters ... or something more serious that might deprive the Tide of championships once the 2011 season is finished? A dominant performance against a Lion team with plenty of questions of its own in the front seven would go a long way towards affirming it was the former.
Also worth asking: Can Tennessee's Janzen Jackson-less secondary hold up against Cincinnati's lively passing game? (The league's most underrated Week 2 matchup could be decided here.) Can Vanderbilt look like a real team another real team? (Despite their 45-14 win over FCS Elon, the 'Dores were outgained by 14 yards. Jury's well out.) Will Kentucky or Ole Miss show any signs of life on offense? (If the 'Cats and Rebels can't get better against Central Michigan and Southern Illinois, respectively, it's going to be a long season.)
Tags: Alabama, Auburn, Boise State, Brandon Boykin, Central Michigan, Cheesecake Factory, Chris Relf, Chuckie Keeton, Cincinnati, Dan Mullen, Dana Holgorsen, Devin Taylor, Eltoro Freeman, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Jadeveon Clowney, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Paterno, Kent State, Kentucky, Mark Richt, Melvin Ingram, Memphis, Mike Bobo, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Penn State, SEC, SEC Interrogation, South Carolina, Southern Illinois, Ted Roof, Tennessee, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Vick Ballard
Posted on: August 31, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 3:42 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Steve Spurrier has positioned South Carolina to not only make to a run at another SEC East title, but a BCS bowl as well in 2011.
Key to the Old Ball Coach transforming the Gamecocks into a - gulp - perennial contender? Impact freshman from in-state.
In 2009, wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey signed with the program and wound up a consensus Freshman All-American. Last year running back Marcus Lattimore picked South Carolina and was a unanimous pick for National Freshman of the Year as the Gamecocks rolled to a division title.
This year, with perhaps his most talented team returning, Spurrier has added the consensus number one overall recruit in the country in Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-foot-6 defensive end racked up 29.5 sacks his final year in high school and pretty much lived in the opponent's back field. While his dominance is unlikely to translate right away at the collegiate level, it's clear South Carolina is going to incorporate Clowney in their defensive line rotation right from the get-go to see what he can do.
"We're trying to let him learn," Spurrier said Wednesday. "Obviously there's a lot of attention if you're the number one recruit in the nation. He's not listed as the starter but he'll be in there a whole lot, early and often."
An ankle injury has slowed him down some during fall camp but he's abused his fair share of offensive lineman during the month of August. It's unclear how exactly defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will use his newest weapon but don't be surprised if Clowney rushes the passer as a stand up linebacker on occasion. He'll likely take the field behind senior Melvin Ingram but starting the opener versus East Carolina hasn't been ruled out.
"He may start or he may not, I'm not sure what our line coach wants to do right now," Spurrier said. "He's certainly in the mix and a player who is going to play a lot."
Clowney won't just be a speed rusher off the edge for the Gamecocks either. Spurrier notes the freshman has added a few tricks to his repertoire.
"He's also a power rusher," Spurrier added. "In high school, he flew all over the place, fast, ran around everyone. But he's actually gained about 10 pounds or so and is up to 260 or so. He can use a power move also. That's obviously very good for defensive ends."
A scary proposition for opposing left tackles this season and a reason why several quarterbacks are bracing for his impact.