Posted on: October 6, 2011 3:33 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
In which we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:
Florida's running game: can you give your quarterback(s) any breathing room? Any team that can start Chris Rainey or Jeff Demps at tailback and then substitute the other in for the first is going to be a threat on the ground, regardless of who their team faces; when the tiniest sliver of a crease could equal an 80-yard touchdown before the coaches have their headsets correctly adjusted, the Gator ground game is where a defense's focus is going to start ... and probably finish.
That probably goes double for LSU this Saturday, since with John Brantley out and some combination of true freshman Jeff Driskel and other true freshman Jacoby Brissett taking over at quarterback, the Gators' passing game is the most glaring of question marks. But it doesn't matter how badly the Tigers stack the box, how fearsome LSU's defensive front is, how well John Chavis has his charges prepared--Florida must find a way to get Demps, Rainey, and possibly Trey Burton moving forward on the ground. Even with Brantley looking as sharp as he ever has in the first half, the Gators still couldn't rush the ball at all vs. Alabama; Rainey, Demps, and Mike Gillislee carried 17 times for 13 yards, and the end result was zero points over Florida's final 10 drives.
If Driskel and Brissett have any prayer of completing passes consistently against the carnival of athletic freaks that make up LSU's secondary -- in Baton Rouge, no less -- that secondary is going to have to be not just concerned but downright obsessed with the Florida running game. That won't happen if that running game doesn't pick up some good early gains, maybe break a 20-to-30-yarder somewhere, and keep the Gators out of anything but the occasional third-and-long. Otherwise, Chavis's Tigers will spend all afternoon teeing off on the newbies under center and generally choking the life out of Charlie Weis's attack. Weis failed miserably in his first attempt at finding a way to run the ball against an elite SEC defense; a second failure will equal a potentially even-more-miserable defeat.
Barrett Trotter: are you up to giving Auburn a passing attack again? The Tigers' 4-1 record and road upset of South Carolina has helped mask a major, major flaw in the Tiger offense, and a surprising one given Gus Malzahn's track record: Auburn's vertical passing game has all but vanished. In the five quarters since the start of the second half against Clemson, junior QB Trotter has completed just 52 percent of his passes, for only 5.9 yards an attempt, while throwing 4 (often ugly) interceptions to just 3 touchdowns. That's not to mention the eight sacks taken by Trotter the last two games or that neither FAU nor the Gamecocks are going to be mistaken for having world-class secondaries any time soon.
Judging by Arkansas's efforts to stop the run against Texas A&M (or lack thereof), Trotter should get plenty of help from Michael Dyer and the Auburn running game. But that alone won't be enough for the Tigers to keep pace with the Hogs, not given the way Bobby Petrino's quarterbacks have shredded the Auburn defense the past two seasons (702 combined yards, 7 touchdowns) and the kind of form Tyler Wilson and Jarius Wright are in right now. With the Tiger secondary as flammable as ever (provided your quarterback isn't Stephen Garcia), Arkansas is going to score a boatload of points.
Which is why the injuries to receivers to Trovon Reed and Emory Blake couldn't have come at a worse time for Auburn. Trotter already needed to take a substantial step forward to keep the Tigers within striking distance on the road; now he'll have to do it without two of his top three receivers. If there was ever a week for Malzahn to earn his substantial assistant's salary, this looks to be it.
Georgia secondary: are you for real? When Kellen Moore gouged the Bulldogs for 28-of-34 passing and 3 touchdowns Week 1, it looked like the Bulldog defensive backs had regressed back to their dark Wille Martinez-led days. But with safety Bacarri Rambo returning from suspension, the Dawgs have held their last four opponents to team QB ratings under 86 and rank 11th in the country in opponent's pass efficiency despite the Moore carpet-bombing.
Those past results are no guarantee of future performance, since facing Tyler Bray in Neyland Stadium represents a vast step up in competition from the likes of Garcia, Zack Stoudt, the slumping Chris Relf and whoever it was Coastal Carolina trotted out. But it's worth remembering that the Vols still have next-to-nothing going on the ground; even after totaling 199 yards against Buffalo, the Vols rank a horrid 109th in the country in yards per-carry. If the Dawg defensive backs can slow down Bray at all, the Vol offense could grind to a halt ... and barring another turnover-fest from Aaron Murray, Georgia should be able to walk out of Neyland with the victory.
So: can those Dawg DBs slow down Bray or not? The evidence to date is encouraging, but with the memory of Moore's night at the Georgia Dome still lingering, it's not compelling just yet.
Other SEC questions worth asking: How does AJ McCarron look against the Vanderbilt secondary? (Don't laugh; this is the best set of defensive backs McCarron has faced yet. A strong showing would further cement the belief that the Tide have no Achilles heels.) Can Marcus Lattimore keep pace in the Heisman race? (Sure, most of the attention on Carolina is focused on new quarterback starter Connor Shaw. But a second straight subpar outing against a Kentucky defense that kept LSU's ground game bottled up for a half would put the sophomore badly behind at the midseason mark.) Does Mississippi State have any fight left? (The Bulldogs have looked utterly listless and deflated ever since losing to LSU. Is there any indication that could change down the road vs. UAB?)
Tags: Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Bacarri Rambo, Barrett Trotter, Bobby Petrino, Buffalo, Charlie Weis, Chris Rainey, Chris Relf, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Connor Shaw, Emory Blake, FAU, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Jacoby Brissett, Jarius Wright, Jeff Demps, Jeff Driskel, Jerry Hinnen, John Chavis, Kellen Moore, Kentucky, LSU, Marcua Lattimore, Michael Dyer, Mike Gillislee, Mississippi State, SEC, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Trey Burton, Trovon Reed, Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson, UAB, Vanderbilt, Willie Martinez, Zack Stoudt
Posted on: October 6, 2011 3:06 pm
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.
I dug a pretty deep hole for myself in the first week of the season. After picking 15 games that week, I found myself three games behind both Woman and Machine. I don't know what happened that week, maybe it was because I hadn't seen any teams play this season, and I didn't have much to base my selections on. Maybe I just wanted to make this competition more challenging.
I don't know.
All I do know is that I'm out of the hole. Yes, it took a month, but after Machine imploded on its own, I have now caught Woman. This week I overtake her and reclaim the throne for men everywhere.
Oregon (-24 1/2) vs. Cal - Thurday, 9pm (All times Eastern)Man - Ever since losing to LSU the Ducks offense seems to be on a mission to prove that the opening night debacle was a fluke. I don't think it was, but I also don't doubt Oregon's ability to put up 60 on Cal. So while I'm leery of this spread, I'm rolling with it anyway. Pick: Oregon
Woman - "How am I supposed to make this pick without an advance peek at the Ducks new sexy-time home jerseys? Here's how: Eight of the last 11 games between the two schools have been decided by 10 points or less." Pick: Cal
Machine - The Machine prefers the hippies who live amongst the trees, not in them. Oregon in a rout, 49-17. Pick: Oregon
Georgia Tech (-15 1/2) vs. Maryland - Saturday, 12pmMan - I don't think Maryland is going to win this game, but I really feel that at some point the Terps are going to play a game on offense that is much better than anything we've seen the last few weeks. I'm hoping that it's this Saturday, because I'm taking those two touchdowns. Pick: Maryland
Woman - "Maryland, you're up against a team averaging 50 points a game, half your defense is sidelined, you have freshmen playing in their places, and your offense is still trying to 'find itself' - kinda hard when it can't stay on the field for more than thirty seconds. But hey, how 'bout them uniforms!" Pick: Georgia Tech
Machine - The option offense that Georgia Tech runs is a reminder of a world in which The Machine did not exist, therefore The Machine refuses to acknowledge it even exists. Maryland wins 27-20. Pick: Maryland
Oklahoma (-9 1/2) vs. Texas - Saturday, 12pmMan - There's a part of me hoping that Texas can pick up a win this weekend just because I think it'd make the rest of the Big 12 season incredibly interesting, but even though we already know Bryan Harsin knows how to beat Oklahoma, I'm just not convinced that the Longhorns are ready for this yet. Pick: Oklahoma
Woman - "Just heard an analyst say the Red River Rivalry is a traditionally close game. Really? I checked scores and the winner has prevailed by 10 or more points 7 times out of the last 10 years. With an experienced Landry Jones pitted against a QB committee, it's gonna be 8 out of 11." Pick: Oklahoma
Machine - We have a clean sweep here, as The Machine tells us that Landry Jones will throw for 428 yards and 4 touchdowns as Oklahoma knocks off Texas 37-20. Pick: Oklahoma
Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Miami - Saturday, 3:30pmMan - I feel like I'm reading a story about another Miami player being lost for the season every day, and even though the Hokies got a wake-up call from Clemson last week, I still think Virginia Tech is a superior team to Miami. Pick: Virginia Tech
Woman - "A blood rivalry in one of the toughest venues in the country. Miami's got a strong defense but the Hokies need to get the taste of Clemson out of their mouths. They'll win but it won't be a runaway. (And hey, Hokies: bonus points for anyone who posts a pic of David Wilson's tricked-out maroon and burnt orange 1978 Thunderbird. I am jonesing to see it.)" Pick: Miami
Machine - The Machine isn't worried about Virginia Tech's performance last week, but it does seem concerned about all the "viruses" that Miami is dealing with on its injury report. Tech wins 31-17. Pick: Virginia Tech
Kansas State vs. Missouri (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pmMan - Bill Snyder has made me a believer in the Wildcats, as has Arthur Brown and that defense. James Franklin has not done the same for the Missouri offense. You want to give me points with a team I believe in at home? I'll take them. Pick: Kansas State
Woman - "So, Vegas is picking a .500 team on the road over an undefeated top-20 team? I guess not enough people were betting." Pick: Kansas State
Machine - James Franklin goes off for 410 total yards and 4 touchdowns as Mizzou puts an end to Kansas State's unbeaten season, 38-14. Pick: Missouri
LSU (-13 1/2) vs. Florida - Saturday, 3:30pmMan - Here's a better bet for this game: How long until Jeff Driskel decides he doesn't want to play football. I mean, the freshman began his career last week coming on for an injured John Brantley against Alabama. This week he gets the LSU defense. That is no way to begin a career. Pick: LSU
Woman - "Les is more." Pick: LSU
Machine - The Machine has no concept of fear, so it obviously has no idea what Jeff Driskel is going to be dealing with on Saturday night. Florida wins 24-20. Pick: Florida
Arkansas (-10 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 7pmMan - If this game is anything like the contest between these two schools that we saw last year, it's going to be very fun, and it's not going to be over before midnight. Still, the more I think about it the less I feel like I can trust the Auburn offense to keep up with Arkansas after Michael Dyer collapses from exhaustion following his 83rd carry in the third quarter. Pick: Arkansas
Woman - "Auburn pulled it out against a scattered South Carolina last week but they were just staving off the inevitable. The Tigers are still last in the SEC in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense and first in the hearts of an Arkansas team that wants revenge. (By the way, I have unearthed some rare NSFW archival footage of native Auburn fans watching last year's Auburn/Arkansas game. Particularly fascinating are the propane tanks inside the house. Now I know how Margaret Mead must have felt when she first set foot in Samoa.)" Pick: Arkansas
Machine - The Machine doesn't see quite the same shootout we saw last year, but there's not a whole lot of defense in this one either. Arkansas overpowers the Tigers in the end and wins 41-30. Pick: Arkansas
Northwestern vs. Michigan (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 7pmMan - Northwestern is just a different team with Dan Persa, and I feel like this could be the toughest test the Michigan defense has faced all year. I'm not sure who is going to win or lose, but I'm pretty sure it's going to come down to the final minutes, so I'm taking the points. Pick: Northwestern
Woman - "Northwestern has committed a lot to its 'Persa Strong' campaign. Maybe too much. They'll slap on some Kinesio and stick him out there again but I'm betting he's sidelined before the end of the third quarter and this becomes a blowout." Pick: Michigan
Machine - Apparently The Machine reads Denard Robinson's now deleted Twitter account, as Denard struggles on Saturday night and Northwestern prevails 33-20. Pick: Northwestern
Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 7pmMan - So far this season I've seen Texas Tech struggle at times with Kansas and Nevada the last two weeks. Sure, I've also seen Texas A&M collapse against Oklahoma State and Arkansas, but Texas Tech isn't Arkansas or Oklahoma State. The Aggies right the ship this week. Pick: Texas A&M
Woman - "Before the pick: After 70 years, we need a little sad goodbye music to commemorate the end of this historic rivalry. Okay, back to business. Hey, Aggies, once burned, shame on you. Twice burned, are you flipping kidding? I'm not putting my hand into the flames a third time, especially when I'm getting points." Pick: Texas Tech
Machine - The second half collapses end this week, as the Aggies have a relatively easy time in Lubbock, winning 45-27. Pick: Texas A&M
Nebraska (-10 1/2) vs. Ohio State - Saturday, 8pmMan - I honestly have no faith in either one of these offenses right now, but I'm more confident that Nebraska actually has an offense. I'm not sure I can say the same about Ohio State. Pick: Nebraska
Woman - "After last week's respective debacles, this game feels like I'll be watching two bloodied fighters hoping the other taps the canvas first. The Buckeyes might put up a fight for the first five minutes but the Huskers ground and pound will drop them soon enough." Pick: Nebraska
Machine - Nebraska enjoys Big Ten games at home a lot more than it does on the road, and the Huskers knock off Ohio State 24-20. Pick: Ohio State
StandingsSeason Record (Last week)
1. Woman 34-21 (6-4)
2. Man 34-21 (7-3)
3. Machine 29-26 (6-4)
Tags: ACC, Alabama, Arkansas, Arthur Brown, Auburn, Big 12, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bryan Harsin, Cal, Clemson, Dan Persa, David Wilson, Denard Robinson, Florida, Georgia Tech, James Franklin, Jeff Driskel, John Brantley, Kansas, Kansas State, Landry Jones, LSU, Man vs Woman vs Machine, Maryland, Miami, Michael Dyer, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, SEC, South Carolina, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Virginia Tech
Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:08 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).
FLORIDA. It's been a busy few days down in Gainesville since the Tide swept the Gators away, even moreso for starting defensive lineman Dominique Easley, who was accused by a former Alabama player of assaulting him on a stadium walkway post-game. Though Easley has not been charged with any crime (nor even named as a suspect), he has hired notable criminal defense attorney Huntley Johnson. Johnson on why Easley retained his services: "Probably because he read the Constitution. It's his right."
A Gator spokesman had no comment on the situation.
As for the Gators' quarterback situation in the wake of John Brantley's right leg injury -- reportedly confirmed as a high ankle sprain -- freshman Jacoby Brissett is firmly in the mix, with Charlie Weis saying he could have won the backup's job if he had been enrolled for spring practice. Fellow true freshman Jeff Driskel has served as Brantley's backup to-date and is the other option to start with Tyler Murphy likely third string.
LSU. Jordan Jefferson had quite the interview with the media late Monday evening, and while most of it's covered in this wire report, it's also worth noting this gem of a quote: "I didn't have to apologize because we all were there (at the bar fight)," he said. "So I didn't have to apologize for anything." We're not sure that really applies when you're a senior leader breaking curfew and inadvertently setting off a media circus that still hasn't subsided, but we'll take his word for it.
Les Miles addressed the CBSSports.com report that NFL teams would be interested in hiring him, saying he was flattered but "I am happy where I am." He also confirmed that the hamstring injury which removed tailback Spencer Ware from last Saturday's win over Kentucky would not keep him out of this week's matchup vs. the Gators.
AUBURN. An already-shaky injury situation for the Tigers at wide receiver has only gotten worse. Trovon Reed is still out with a shoulder injury, but the bigger blow is that junior Emory Blake is in a protective boot and doubtful for Auburn's trip to Arkansas. Between them, Blake and Reed have accounted for 32 of the Tiger wideouts' 48 receptions on the season.
The good news for Auburn is that Michael Dyer's ankle injury won't prevent him from taking the field vs. the Razorbacks. Dyer blamed South Carolina for intentionally causing the injury, saying a Gamecock player had twisted his ankle after the whistle. (A replay of the play is available here.)
SOUTH CAROLINA. Speaking of the Gamecocks and injuries, Carolina likely won't need Melvin Ingram to beat Kentucky. But they're likely to find out all the same, as the SEC's leading pass rusher and tackler-for-loss has been on crutches and is a question mark for Saturday.
Also potentially out: left tackle Kyle Nunn, which won't help an offensive line Steve Spurrier said has backslid the last few games. "Our blocking has been a little on the bad side lately," he said.
ELSEWHERE. He wouldn't be Nick Saban if he wasn't disappointed in some aspect of his team's play, and this week it's first quarters. “We really haven’t played worth a damn in the first quarter ... that was certainly the case in this last game [vs. Florida], where we gave up half the yards," Saban said. He also had some choice wordsfor the practice of trash talking. " “You should never talk to the guy you are playing against," he said. "You’ve got nothing to say to that guy" ...
Arkansas has several candidates for their starting tailback slot, and will use them all ... Mark Richt is one victory away from 100, but he'll have to earn it without Da'Rick Rogers, the receiver who eventually signed with (and now stars for) his Saturday opponent, Tennessee. "We thought we had him," Richt said. "Then, it changed. It happens in recruiting" ...
Meanwhile, in Knoxville, true freshman Devrin Young made two long special teams returns in his Vol debut vs. Buffalo, but a fumble has meant spending this week working on his ball security ... Embattled Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone received a standing ovation at a Jackson (Miss.) speaking engagement ... The remarks of Boone's head coach on Auburn cornerback Jermaine Whitehead's recruitment have been much less well-received ... Morgan Newton is still taking all the first-team quarterback reps at Kentucky practice this week.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Buffalo, Charlie Weis, Da'Rick Rogers, Devrin Young, Dominique Easley, Emory Blake, Florida, Georgia, Huntley Johnson, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Jermaine Whitehead, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Jordan Jefferson, Kentucky, Kyle Nunn, Les Miles, LSU, Mark Richt, Melvin Ingram, Michael Dyer, Morgan Newton, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Pete Boone, RapidReport Roundup, SEC, South Carolina, Spencer Ware, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Trovon Reed, Tyler Murphy
Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:10 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Each week, the CBSSports.com college football staff offer their choice for the week's Expert Picks. But before we make our selections for Week 6, we spin the wheel o' games to select a handful of contests we want your take on.
Check the poll below to pick an outcome for the 10 games our wheel landed on, including Florida at LSU on CBS, Oklahoma vs. Texas in the Red River Rivalry, and Auburn traveling to Arkansas in a matchup of ranked teams. Also on tap: Southern Miss taking on Navy at 3:30 ET on the CBS Sports Network. To see the results of the poll, tune in to Inside College Football, 8 p.m. ET on CBSSN.
As a sneak peek of this week's Expert Picks, here's this blogger's early impressions of the week's slate:
Southern Miss at Navy: The Golden Eagles have recovered nicely from an early-season loss to Marshall, but still have to prove their defense is at all capable of stopping the Midshipmen triple-option. At home in Annapolis, Navy should have the edge.
Army at Miami (Ohio): It's been an up-and-down season for the Knights, who upset Northwestern but have been clubbed by a total of 50 points in two previous trips to MAC teams Ball State and Northern Illinois. With the Redhawks winless and going nowhere on offense, though, Army should be OK this time.
Missouri at Kansas State: The Wildcats are flying high after upsetting Baylor, but the Tigers promise to be much stingier on defense than the Bears and are coming off a bye. We like the Tigers to bring KSU back to earth a bit.
Iowa at Penn State: Kirk Ferentz has owned Joe Paterno's squad in recent years, and with the Nittany Lions seemingly going backwards on offense as James Vandenberg has woken up the Hawkeye attack, that may not change this season.
Georgia at Tennessee: All bets are off if Tyler Bray catches fire. But Mark Richt has always been an outstanding coach on the road, and until the Vols show some ability to get some push for the running game, we'll take the team with Isaiah Crowell.
Arizona State at Utah: The Utes got a rude welcome to the Pac-12 in their conference home opener against Washington last week, and the Sun Devils are a more complete team than the Huskies. An injury to Jordan Wynn won't help matters, either.
Texas A&M at Texas Tech: There's no more myserious undefeated team in the FBS than the Red Raiders, whose 4-0 record has been complied against an FCS tomato can, hopeless New Mexico, Nevada (in a nail-biter) and Kansas. We're not sure they've been impressive enough to take them over what should be an angry Aggies squad.
Florida at LSU: There's not a college football fan alive who wouldn't tell you the same thing, but it's true: the matchup of true freshman Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel against LSU's defense in Baton Rouge should not be pretty.
Auburn at Arkansas: Last year, Tyler Wilson ripped the Auburn defense for 330-plus yards and four touchdowns in relief of Ryan Mallett, and that was on the road at the defending national champions. At home vs. an even more wobbly Tiger defense, Wilson may make it 1,000 yards in two weeks.
Oklahoma vs. Texas: Ever since Garrett Gilbert went to the sidelines, the Longhorns have been scorching hot, roaring back against BYU and thumping UCLA and Iowa State on the road. The Sooners are still a bridge too far for a team this young, but the Red River Rivalry should me much closer than many expect.
Tags: Arizona State, Arkansas, Army, Auburn, Ball State, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, BYU, Conference USA, Florida, Garrett Gilbert, Georgia, ICF picks, Iowa, Iowa State, Isaiah Crowell, James Vandenberg, Jeff Driskel, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Paterno, Jordan Wynn, Kansas, Kansas State, Kirk Ferentz, LSU, MAC, Mark Richt, Marshall, Miamo (Ohio), Missouri, Navy, Nevada, New Mexico, non-BCS, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Pac-12, Penn State, Ryan Mallett, SEC, Southern Miss, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson, UCLA, Utah, Washington
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:36 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Florida will go on the road to face LSU this week without injured senior quarterback John Brantley, Will Muschamp confirmed at his Monday press conference.
Muschamp told reporters that Brantley would be unavailable for the trip to Baton Rouge with what Muschamp called a "lower right leg" injury suffered in the Gators' 38-10 loss to Alabama. Muschamp also offered no timetable for Brantley's potential return, telling reporters "I will update you each Monday on his status."
Brantley had been spotted on campus earlier Monday walking in a large boot with crutches. But there is some good news for the Gators: Muschamp said doctors had ruled out surgery on the injury, substantially reducing the odds the injury is season-ending.
Of course, that won't do the Gators any good against LSU. Muschamp declined to name struggling backup Jeff Driskel the full-time quarterback for Saturday's game, saying the true freshman would start but that fellow freshman Jacoby Brissett and Tyler Murphy would each receiver practice reps this week and could see the field.
For the season, Driskel has completed just 6 of 17 passes for no touchdowns and two interceptions. We here at Eye on CFB wish him the best of luck as he and the other Florida quarterbacks prepare to face Tyrann Mathieu and the Bayou Bengal defense in Death Valley, because we feel certain they will need it.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:04 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A buddy of mine was talking about how college football right now has a few elite teams and a bunch of others that could be grouped into a couple of classes. After a lengthy discussion, I decided to run with that after week five to see how everyone shapes up. Feel free to get angry at me in the comments.
(In no particular order)
Wisconsin: It's all Russell Wilson for the frontrunners in the Big Ten title race but this is a very good squad that has balance on offense and a very well coached defense.
Alabama: Best defense Nick Saban's ever had plus two great running backs and an efficient offense. The Tide will continue to roll this year.
Oklahoma: Another win, another week they lose some ground in the polls despite being the best team not playing in the SEC.
LSU: They have a Honey Badger so who cares how mediocre the offense has been?
Boise State: Kellen Moore and the offense get all the press but the defensive line is among the best in college football.
We're still not sure how good they are:
Stanford: They have the best quarterback in the country but haven't played anyone of note and lost their best linebacker to a knee injury.
Oregon: Still the class of the conference, they might be better on offense then they were last year.
Oklahoma State: Questions still remain about the defense but Brandon Weeden and company are legit.
Florida: They're a top 25 team but haven't played anyone besides Alabama and will trot out a true freshman in their first road trip against LSU. Yikes.
Notre Dame: The Irish have rolled up 500 yard games like they're no big deal but turnovers are the difference between 5-0 and 3-2.
Nebraska: The defense should be better than what they've shown so far but their struggles are reflective in the team as a whole.
Texas: Undefeated heading into the Red River Shootout, this young team will have their hands full this week but have come along nicely under their two young coordinators.
Clemson: An impressive victory on the road against Virginia Tech but there's no denying that everyone thinks Clemson will be Clemson at some point this year.
Virginia Tech: Many had pegged them as a national title dark horse but that is no more after losing to Clemson at home.
Kansas State: Bill Snyder is a miracle worker but the Wildcats haven't faced a big time opponent until this week.
South Carolina: They have a great running back, a great defense, a great wide receiver but the team itself is a giant question mark week-to-week.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have an explosive offense that's difficult to prepare for but the defense remains questionable at best.
Arkansas: The stunning comeback this week proved one thing: the defense is average but the offense can carry this team.
Illinois: Ron Zook is their head coach so there is that but both the offense and the defense have responded when needed to keep the Illini undefeated.
Michigan: The defense does look better but they haven't really been tested by a good team and have yet to play a game outside the Big House.
Good not great group:
Arizona State: Injuries have hurt on defense but they're the class of the Pac-12 South.
North Carolina: Perhaps a little surprising at 4-1 but they've played solid football and bonded as a team with all that has gone on around the program.
Southern Miss: They've lost to Marshall which hurts them in conference play but this is an ok football team that could breakthrough.
Hawaii: Their offense gives everyone fits but it's really hard to comprehend how they lost to UNLV.
Washington: Perhaps the surprise of the Pac-12 North division, the defense isn't super but Keith Price and the offense are very dangerous.
SMU: A big win over a ranked TCU is a huge sign of progress under June Jones.
West Virginia: The loss to LSU was a setback but this is a very good football team that can score some points.
Baylor: They have a quarterback who's among the best at his position this year in Robert Griffin III but the defense has issues.
Auburn: They're winners, that's for sure, but the defense struggles every game and the offense has been inconsistent.
Michigan State: They've got the defense but the offense hasn't clicked like it should under Kirk Cousins.
Cincinnati: There's plenty of questions about this team but they're solid and can beat any Big East team.
Tennessee: They can't run the ball at all but they sure can throw it.
Texas Tech: Undefeated but have struggled in the first half just about every game they've played.
Georgia: SEC East is wide open and the Bulldogs are fighting hard each game so don't be surprised if they make a run for it.
Florida State: Injuries have made them thin but Jimbo Fisher should regroup them and turn them into a good team by the end of the year.
Houston: Best offense to watch in college football is good because the defense will allow points galore.
Looking forward to 2012:
UCLA, Oregon State, New Mexico State, East Carolina, Rice, Louisiana Tech, Utah, North Texas, Tulsa, Ball State, Ole Miss, Purdue, New Mexico, UAB, Troy, FAU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Duke, FIU, Iowa State, Colorado State, TCU, USC, Arizona, Washington State, Colorado, Bowling Green, Virginia, Idaho, N.C. State, Ohio State, Maryland, Miami, UConn, Western Michigan, Louisville, Marshall, Nevada, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Akron, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Wake Forest, Boston College, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Navy, Air Force, Army, Tulane, Kansas, Northwestern, Temple, Toledo, Minnesota, Rutgers, Syracuse, Penn State, Indiana, Mississippi State, BYU, Utah State, USF, Pitt, UTEP.
Stat of the week
Via the blog Hustle Belt, the last time Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Central Michigan all won on the same day: November 5, 1994. Add in the fact that the Detroit Lions won on Sunday and it's a pretty good weekend for football in the state of Michigan.
Stats of the week
- With four touchdowns against Nebraska, Wisconsin's Montee Ball now has 13 on the ground this season. That's halfway to the Big 10 record of 26 (by week 5) and his 14 total touchdowns leads the country. Ball has scored 14 points more than the next person on the scoring list.
- Oklahoma had the ball 15 times against Ball State and scored seven touchdowns. Wisconsin had the ball 10 times against Nebraska and scored seven touchdowns (via Brian Fremeau)
- USC has allowed 40 points in consecutive games for the first time in 119 seasons. Matt Barkley did set a school record for passing yards and total offense against Arizona however.
- Arkansas had nine plays of 20 or more yards against Texas A&M. At one point, receiver Jarius Wright had more yards of total offense than Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota and Kentucky as well as 80% of the Razorbacks' offense at halftime.
- Tyrann Mathieu has the LSU record for career forced fumbles with eight in 18 games (via Scott Rabalais).
- RussellMania is indeed here. Wilson's masterful performance against Nebraska really was something to behold as he made play after play. The knock on Wisconsin was that they haven't played anyone (they still haven't on the road). That question seems to have been answered with their resounding victory against Nebraska on Saturday however. Wilson was efficient once again, going 14-20 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He had some beautiful throws, placing the ball perfectly into the hands of his receivers on a few big gains. Though Wilson doesn't look to run like other quarterbacks, he can and will if need be. That added dimension is what separates this Badgers team from previous iterations. On the other side, Nebraska's B1G moment - their first ever conference game - very much exposed them as a team with serious issues.
- Coming into their primetime game, both Florida and Alabama featured top 10 defenses and plenty of future NFL draft picks. Yet, you just got the feeling as Trent Richardson was running through players like a battering ram that the Gators were boys among men. There's plenty of talented four- and five-star recruits but they're still young and almost seemed overwhelmed by the big stage. The swarming Tide defense, meanwhile, was punishing Florida players left and right - including quarterback John Brantley. With a true freshman seeing his first significant game action, plenty of people on Twitter were calling for Charlie Weis to call plays that simply didn't get Jeff Driskel killed by an Alabama defender. Richardson ran for a career-high 181 yards and two touchdowns and was pretty much the offense. Good defense, good running game and a big, big road victory for Nick Saban's squad.
- Poor, poor Utah State. The team has been minutes from being 4-0 and likely ranked in the top 25 but instead they're 1-3 thanks to a last second loss to BYU on Friday. They lost to a backup quarterback who threw a pass that was deflected by an Aggie defensive back right into the hands of Marcus Matthews for the game-winning touchdown; which pretty much sums up what Utah State has gone through, coming close to a win before tipping it into the hands of the opponent. They nearly upset Auburn before a perfect onside kick and subsequent score and lost to Colorado State on a failed two-point conversion in OT last week. The Aggies might be the best, unluckiest team in college football.
- I'm still not sure how Arkansas pulled off that comeback other than to say Texas A&M allowed them to. Mike Sherman seemed to deflect some blame for the loss but one has to put this one (and last week's) solely on his shoulders. His first half play-calling has been great but it's like the Aggies go into the locker room and fail to make a single adjustment. They had great success rushing the ball but failed to go for it on a key 4th down in Arkansas territory and punted the ball instead. At that point, the momentum had fully shifted to the Razorbacks, who made play after play to rally from 18 down. A&M looked like they'd be fine in the SEC if you watched that first half but if you watched the second... they looked more like Ole Miss.
- Melvin Ingram had 11 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception but that just wasn't enough for South Carolina, who lost to Auburn thanks to an anemic offense that was actually playing one of the worst defenses in the SEC. I listened to part of the game on radio and I'm glad I did because it saved me having to see some terrible quarterback play on both sides. The Gamecocks' defense is good but the offense has been puzzling - not something one would expect with Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey. But then again, they do have Stephen Garcia at quarterback.
- Michigan State's defense is well coached and the best in the Big Ten so far this year but that doesn't explain the offensive ineptitude of Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes had negative yardage for most of the game before getting a 4th quarter touchdown in the final 10 seconds to avoid the program's first shutout in nearly 18 years. As much as people mocked Tresselball, Buckeyes fans would welcome a return to those days in a heartbeat.
- Notre Dame's win over Purdue is best summed up by two words: Michael Floyd. After grabbing just four catches against Pitt, Floyd grabbed 12 for 137 yards and a touchdown against the Boilermakers. As one would expect given the competition, the Irish were rolling on offense and racked up 551 yards with Cierre Wood running for a career-high 191 yards on 20 carries. Most importantly, there were no turnovers after 15 in Notre Dame's first four games.
- It's rare for an SEC team to leave the South so props to Ole Miss for traveling to Fresno State to play. Randall Mackey had an ok day but made the big play when needed, including an 88 yard drive to seal the win. This is the Rebels' first win over and FBS team and, with more SEC West play ahead of them, could be their last for a while.
- Playing so late, it's doubtful that many in the Eastern or Central time zones stayed up to catch Stanford crush UCLA 45-19 so here's a quick recap: Andrew Luck is really, really good. He had a Heisman highlight moment with a spectacular one-handed catch and somehow managed to stay in bounds. Just as impressive as Luck (23-27, 227 yards, 3 TDs), the Cardinal played before a sellout crowd and looked solid on defense against the Bruins' Pistol offense that looked like it had some life. Still, the story in this game was Luck, who surprisingly called his own plays on a couple of drives Peyton Manning-style. "He called better plays than me," head coach David Shaw said after the game.
Quote of the week
"I apologize to the fans of Nebraska because that was a joke."
- Huskers head coach Bo Pelini on his team's embarrassing loss to Wisconsin and the state of the defense.
4. Boise State
7. Oklahoma State
10. Georgia Tech
Where we'll be this week
Senior writer Dennis Dodd will head to Dallas for one of the best events you can go to, the Red River Shootout (or, if being politically correct, Rivalry) between undefeated Texas and Oklahoma. While he's trying the fried beer, Tony Barnhart will be in Baton Rouge for a LSU night game against Florida. Brett McMurphy will pack his bags for Manhattan (Kansas) to see Missouri play undefeated Kansas State and see first hand how good a coaching job Bill Snyder has been doing.
Leaning this way
Oklahoma vs. Texas
I have to imagine that Dan Beebe, from his comfortable Dallas home, will have this game on his television set rooting for both teams to end this in a tie. Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has done some very good things with some young talent and without a doubt has some surprises up his sleeve for OU. That said, the Sooners are the top team in the country and will be scoring enough points to keep the fans singing 'Boomer Sooner' well into the afternoon.
Florida at LSU
This will be the coming out party for true freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel with the injury to Jeff Brantley. And by coming out, I mean just that he'll come out. Having seen his film and him throw in person, I think Driskel will be a good quarterback but he's just going to be overwhelmed by the scenery in Death Valley. LSU makes several plays on defense to blow this one open and let the Tigers push the Gators around.
Ohio State at Nebraska
After both teams lost, I didn't really consider this game in this spot until I remembered this was a B1G game not only in terms of conference standings, but the fact that the Tattoo Four will make their return to the Buckeyes. Nebraska was embarrassed on the road but I don't think they'll allow that at home as the Ohio State returns several much-needed starters. In the end though, there's just been such a lack of execution by the Buckeyes as a whole to pick anyone but Nebraska by more than a touchdown.
Tags: Alabama, Alshon Jeffrey, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Ball State, Baylor, Bill Snyder, Bo Pelini, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Fischer, Bryan Harsin, Central Michigan, Charlie Weis, Cincinnati, Clemson, Dan Beebe, David Shaw, Detroit Lions, Eastern Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Heisman Trophy, Houston, Illinois, Jarius Wright, Jeff Driskel, Jimbo Fisher, John Brantley, June Jones, Kansas State, Keith Price, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, LSU, Marcus Lattimore, Marcus Matthews, Marshall, Matt Barkley, Melvin Ingram, Michael Floyd, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Sherman, Montee Ball, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Peyton Manning, Randall Mackey, RGIII, Robert Griffin III, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, SMU, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stanford, Stehpen Garcia, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech, Trent Richardson, Tyrann Mathieu, UNLV, USC, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 1, 2011 11:39 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:04 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Check, check, check, checkmate.
WHY ALABAMA WON: Here's a statistic that illustrates the Tide's physical dominance over a team that itself had gotten off to a mighty physical start: Florida has outrushed its first four opponents by an average of 259 to 56, then was outrushed itself 226 to 15 by the Tide. Until an opponent finds some way of standing up to the Tide on both lines of scrimmage, three-touchdown victories are going to continue to be the norm.
But even so, an opponent like Florida might have at least been able to stay competitive if AJ McCarron had continued living up to his preseason (and early-season) reputation for the occasional wayward pass or poor decision. Sorry, Gators: McCarron only threw for 5.6 yards an attempt, but he continued to make nothing but safe, effective throws and the Tide finished the game without a turnover.
WHEN ALABAMA WON: The Tide likely already had all the points and all the lead they would need once they went up 24-10 in the second quarter. But Brantley's injury -- on yet another huge play by Upshaw -- made that all but official. At that point the only questions were how many yards Richardson could rack up and how many touchdowns the Tide would win by.
WHAT ALABAMA WON: Surely, a few more first-place votes. But unless Tyler Bray plays the game of his life in a few weeks, the Tide have also now cleared the only serious hurdle between themselves and rolling undefeated into the Game of the Year against LSU in November.
WHAT FLORIDA LOST: In the record books and SEC standings, not all that much, really; South Carolina's loss means they could maintain the favorite's role in the SEC East, and this was never the sort of team that could really dream about running the table to a crystal football.
But if Brantley is out for any extended period of time, that is as major a loss as they come. Jeff Driskel is a fine, fine prospect, but he's shown little to date that indicates he's ready to navigate the final three-quarters of an SEC schedule. As iffy as Carolina and Georgia have looked, if the Gators are forced to make do without their starting quarterback, the East door will be wide, wide open.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 10:11 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 10:26 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
As also reported by CBSSports.com RapidReporter Lyle Fitzsimmons, Florida starting senior quarterback Jeff Brantley left his team's game against Alabama late in the first half with an apparent knee injury. And according to offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, he will not return, having departed on a golf cart.
On 3rd-and-20 deep inside Crimson Tide territory, Brantley was sacked by Alabama's Courtney Upshaw and had his right knee buckle awkwardly underneath him. Brantley immediately clutched the knee and was unable to get up under his own power. He was helped directly to the locker room, without a visit to the sideline, with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half. Head coach Will Muschamp said as he left the field he had no immediate knowledge of Brantley's potential status.
Save for one ill-advised short throw that Upshaw intercepted and returned 45 yards for a touchdown, Brantley had been impressive, completing 11 of his 16 passes against one of the nation's best secondaries. The first of those completions was a 65-yard touchdown to Andre Debose on the Gators' first play from scrimmage.
Brantley will be replaced by true freshman backup Jeff Driskel. Driskel has thrown 10 passes in his young career, completing 5 of them with 2 interceptions.
At halftime, Florida trailed the Tide 24-10.