Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:57 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:57 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: They can manage any kind of running game in the absence of Marcus Lattimore. The only fully healthy tailback on the Gamecock roster is freshman Brandon Wilds, who started the season on the fifth string. Wilds looked competent against Mississippi State in emergency duty but will no doubt need help--most likely from Bruce Ellington in Wildcat sets and from Connor Shaw himself on the zone read option and other quarterback keepers. (Though not known for mobility, Shaw has totaled 70 yards rushing in his two starts--and that's after removing sack yardage.) Shaw looked more than a little uneasy in the pocket against the Bulldogs and that was with Lattimore around; if Steve Spurrier can't find some sort of offensive balance, it seems unlikely Shaw's ready to quarterback the Gamecocks to a road SEC win singlehandedly.
TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Justin Worley is ready. Derek Dooley proved once again this week he isn't scared of rolling the dice, naming the true freshman the Vols' starting quarterback even after the veteran Matt Simms showed some command of the offense against Alabama. If Worley can hack it, the Vols will have a lot going for them: the backing of the Neyland Stadium home crowd, a previously moribund running game that inexplicably found its footing against LSU and Alabama behind tailback Tauren Poole, the abundant question marks on the Carolina offense, and a defense that for all its second-half woes did keep the Tide entirely in check for a half. But none of that will matter if Worley completes more passes the ball-hawking Gamecock secondary (fifth in the FBS with 14 picks) than he does to his own receivers, and a Carolina pass rush featuring Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney won't make things easy on him.
THE X-FACTOR: Neyland. It's been a house of horrors for opponents in the past -- particularly ones quarterbacked by, say, a sophomore making just his second road start without his All-American running back security blanket -- but the recent downturn in the Vols' fortunes has left a lot of unhappy customers in the crowd, dulling UT's formerly fearsome holme-field advantage. If Dooley's team can get out to a fast start and engage the orange masses, Shaw may not be able to get the boulder rolling back in the other direction. If a slow start brings out the boo-birds, though, it's Worley who might wind up wishing he was somewhere very different.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:25 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 12:25 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Tennessee freshman quarterback Justin Worley was supposed to redshirt this season, but after an injury to Tyler Bray and an ineffective performance from Matt Simms against Alabama on Saturday, Worley found himself on the field late in Tennessee's 37-6 loss. Worley didn't throw a pass while in the game, but I guess Derek Dooley has seen enough of Matt Simms.
When the new Tennessee depth chart was released on Monday, Worley's name was listed as QB1 with Simms backing him up.
"I know (QB) will be the main storyline. It's just something we have to do," said Dooley. The Tennessee head coach also went on to say that he doesn't "know what it will look like on Saturday."
Neither do we, but it won't be easy against a South Carolina defense allowing less than 20 points a game and gets after the quarterback.
Still, considering that Tennessee is now 0-4 in the SEC this season and Worley's redshirt has already been burned, Dooley and the Vols might as well see what they have in the freshman. He's already seen plenty of Matt Simms the last two years, and he hasn't been enough.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:03 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 3:11 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 8.
WINNERS: Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson. On the eve of the 2011 season, the LSU quarterback situation was supposed to be the team's Achilles heel. The senior Lee had spent his entire career as erratic at best and a turnover machine at worst; Jefferson was suspended and might never return; and despite intense fan interest, Zach Mettenberger hadn't been able to beat either out for so much as the backup's job. But after the Tigers' demolition of Auburn, it's time to give the Bayou Bengal quarterbacks their due: not only are they not a weakness, they're a major reason LSU is 8-0 and now preparing for an undefeated megatilt against Alabama.
The stats are argument enough: a combined 16-of-23 for 219 yards (9.5 an attempt), three touchdowns, and no interceptions. (This was LSU's fifth straight game without a turnover, by the way.) But the two touchdown throws they made in the second quarter -- one by each, both of 40-plus yards, both to the rapidly-improving Rueben Randle -- are an even better argument. On the first, Jefferson was leveled by an Auburn blitzer and stood strong in the pocket to deliver Randle a precision strike; on the second, Lee "dropped it in a bucket," as they say, allowing Randle to beat double coverage. The end result was that a quarter that began 7-3 and with Auburn in a dogfight ended with LSU up 21-3 and the game over. If those two throws are examples of what LSU can expect in two weeks, even Alabama might not be good enough to beat the Tigers. At this point, it seems obvious no one else in the SEC can.
LOSER: Houston Nutt. Honestly, this isn't entirely fair to Nutt, who just coaxed the best performance from his team all season and has nothing to hang his head about, final score-wise; losing to a legitimate top-10 outfit like the Razorbacks by five points is an accomplishment, especially when the outcome is still in doubt in the final minute. Still: a 17-0 second-quarter lead over that kind of opponent -- not only one of the best teams in the country, but an opponent whose fans enjoy needling Nutt and the Rebels about their failures -- is the kind of golden opportunity that Nutt and his team simply couldn't afford to let slip through their fingers. In the end, solid performance or not, it's just Nutt's 10th straight SEC loss ... and another few before the year's end could be the end for Nutt.
WINNER: James Franklin. On the other end of the spectrum, we've got a coach for whom beating Army isn't really that big a deal ... but beating them by a comprehensive 23 points is. The Commodores had only one week of study for the Black Knights' triple option and held them to 288 total yards anyway, forcing three turnovers in the process. The 'Dore running game racked up a stout 344 yards and Vandy may have finally found a quarterback in Jordan Rodgers, who didn't set the world on fire (10-of-27, one touchdown, two interceptions) but whose 10 completions did go for better than 18 yards a pop. In short: this was the kind of performance that suggests the 'Dores 3-3 record wasn't a fluke, and that they could go bowling in Franklin's first year. It won't be enough to win him Coach of the Year with Miles and Saban around, but it's still a heck of a job.
LOSER: Drama. Another week, another series of blowouts in the SEC. Save for Arkansas's escape from Oxford, the average score of the four Week 8 games involving SEC teams was 41-13. After another week of winning their two games by some outrageous combined score -- 66 points' worth this go-round -- LSU's and Alabama's average margin of victory has ballooned to a full 30 points. It's a good thing the Tide and Tigers have next week off; not only will it give us another week to savor the buildup to the Game of the Century of the Year, but maybe it'll give us a chance to enjoy more than a single helping of competitive SEC football.
WINNERS: Alabama's receiving corps. The Tide's wideouts were alleged to be the team's one weakness entering this season, and doubly so once Duron Carter was ruled ineligible. But Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks and Kenny Bell made that expectation look more ridiculous than ever in the second half Saturday night, hauling in acrobatic circus grab after acrobatic circus grab and eventually totaling 11 receptions, 213 yards, and Bell's game-clinching touchdown. AJ McCarron didn't have his best night, but Maze, Hanks, and Bell made him look awfully good all the same.
LOSERS: Auburn's special teams. The way LSU (and their quarterbacks in particular) are playing, it didn't matter what Auburn did today. But the one area where you can't show any weakness vs. Les Miles's team is in special teams, where they will kill you with field position if given the opportunity. Given the Tigers' strength in this area so far in 2011, Gene Chizik was probably expecting a draw in this phase, at least. Nope: punter Steven Clark had his worst game of the year, repeatedly failing to pin LSU deep when given the chance, and dynamic freshman kick returner Tre Mason fumbled away a second-half return to turn the game from decisive LSU advantage to full-on rout.
LOSER: Matt Simms. Ugly as Simms' final line in the box score was (8-of-17, 3.4 yards an attempt, no touchdowns, one interception), he was facing Alabama on the road; lots of quarterbacks would have looked just as bad, and Simms did play a role in getting the Vols to a 6-6 halftime tie. But Derek Dooley's decision to burn Justin Worley's redshirt late could indicate a move towards getting the freshman snaps at Simms' expense, and though he had a lot of company on the Tennessee sideline, he wasn't able to do much in preventing the Tide onslaught in the second half.
WINNER: College football. No. 1 LSU and (now consensus) No. 2 Alabama are going to meet in two weeks, both undefeated, both extremely heavy favorites to finish their regular season schedule perfect and run a way with the SEC East with a win over the other, both having established their national championship contender's bona fides weeks ago. It really, really, really shouldn't get any better than what we now know we'll see Nov. 5.
Tags: AJ McCarron, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Darius Hanks, Derek Dooley, Duron Carter, Gene Chizik, Houston Nutt, James Franklin, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Rodgers, Justin Worley, Kenny Bell, Les Miles, LSU, Marquis Maze, Matt Simms, Ole Miss, Rueben Randle, SEC, Steven Clark, Tennessee, Tre Mason, Vanderbilt, Winners and Losers
Posted on: October 22, 2011 11:02 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 11:03 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
ALABAMA WON: The halftime score in Tuscaloosa was one of the most stunning of the season: Alabama 6, Tennessee 6. The score at the end of the third quarter -- after a 75-yard Tide TD drive, a stop of the Vols on 4th-and-inches, and two more quick touchdowns -- made a lot more sense. Still, lopsided final score or not, Nick Saban won't be happy--particularly with a rushing attack that only accumulated 35 first-half yards and finished averaging barely more than 4 a carry. Trent Richardson had his streak of five straight 100-yard games snapped, finishing with 77.
WHY ALABAMA WON: Because in the end, the Alabama defense is still the Alabama defense. Sure, the Vols got more push up front and more done on the ground than expected--those 61 first-half yards represented more than the Tide had given up in their first three SEC games combined. And Matt Simms was able to make the occasional play through the first 30 minutes, despite his expectedly ugly final line (8-of-17, 58 yards, 0 TDs, 1 pick).
But the Volunteers' second-half possessions went like this: three plays, punt; four plays, turnover on downs; three plays, punt; three plays, punt; one play, interception; one play, fumble recovery; four plays, turnover on downs. For the Tide defense for the half, that's infinity more turnovers forced (two) than first downs allowed (zero). When the night was over, despite the "strong" start, the Vols had gained all of 154 total yards. How good is the Tide defense? The team played its worst game overall in weeks--and still won by 31
WHEN ALABAMA WON: Give Derek Dooley credit: he came to Tuscaloosa aiming to win. And that's why, down 13-6 and facing a 4th-and-inches on his own 39 early in the third quarter, he kept his offense on the field. Simms appears to have earned the first down with the sneak, but a controversial spot put the ball just short of the marker and was upheld by replay. The very next snap, McCarron threw 39 yards to Kenny Bell, touchdown, 20-6. And in terms of deciding a winner, that was that.
WHAT ALABAMA WON: An undefeated record as they prepare to host undefeated LSU in two weeks in the Game of the Century of the Year. Whatever else you want to say about the Tide's performance tonight (and in the end, most of those things should be positive), that's all they really needed.
WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: The redshirt on freshman quarterback Justin Worley, surprisingly, who entered the game in the fourth quarter to hand off and nothing else; it may be an indication Dooley is planning on handing Worley a start in the Vols' next game. Other than that, not much--the Vols gave Alabama something close to their best shot. It just wasn't enough.