Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Marcus LAttimore
Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:50 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:02 pm
 

Vol S Brewer, UGA OL Lee both done for year

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

From Marcus Lattimore to John Brantley to Tyler Bray, the SEC East race has in many ways already become a battle of attrition. And last Saturday's action did nothing to change that, with both Tennessee and Georgia losing starters to injury for the remainder of the 2011 season.

The news is worse for Derek Dooley, who confirmed Monday that starting strong safety Brent Brewer tore his ACL against South Carolina and is done for the year. The sophomore had recently been moved into the starting lineup after injuries and poor play had already necessitated a reshuffling of the Vol secondary, and responded with 24 tackles and three tackles-for-loss.

Brewer will likely be replaced by freshman Brian Randolph, sliding over from free safety. That hole will by filled by experienced junior Prentiss Waggner, who's already moved from safety to corner this season is moving back again. There are few places where the Vols could less afford to sustain an injury like Brewer's -- struggling corner Marsalis Teague is likely to draw back into the starting lineup -- but that's the way the season has gone for Dooley, unfortunately.

"We've got to move some guys back in at corner and they need to play better," the Vols' embattled head coach said.

Meanwhile, the Vols' rivals in Athens will have to play the rest of the regular season, at least, without starting redshirt sophomore guard Dallas Lee. Lee broke his ankle against Florida and will not be able to help the Dawgs' push for a division title, but could be able to return for the postseason.

“I would think he’d have a very good opportunity to play in the bowl, would be my guess," Mark Richt said.

Fortunately for the Dawgs, Lee has a highly-experienced backup in Kenarious Gates, who began the season in the starting lineup before an injury dropped him to the second-string. Gates replaced Lee during the win over the Gators and is expected to get the start Saturday when the Dawgs host New Mexico State.


Posted on: October 30, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 9:36 pm
 

BCS Standings Top 10 Reactions, Week 9



Posted by Eye On College Football


On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. There were some shakeups at the top with the losses of Clemson and Kansas State, and Stanford also leapt in front of Boise State following its win over USC.  

You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.

1. LSU: The Tigers hold steady at the top of the BCS standings after their first off-week of the season. SEC partisans hoping for a rematch between the combatants in this week's Game to End All Games will be rooting for Alabama; thanks to LSU's top-notch nonconference schedule giving them a computer boost, their pre-loaded positioning at the No. 1 team in the country and -- most importantly -- that they're forced to play the Crimson Tide on the road, they loom as much more likely to leap back into the BCS top two following a loss Saturday than their Tuscaloosa counterparts. - Jerry Hinnen

2. Alabama: No change this week for the Crimson Tide, either, as they stay in the No. 2 spot following a bye of their own. But we doubt the Tide minds all that much. For one thing, they know they don't have to worry about ascending to the top spot if they come out victorious this week; Oklahoma State already has the best computer rankings in the formula and still isn't within real striking distance of the top two. They have no chance of leapfrogging the LSU-Alabama winner as long as that team stays perfect. For another, the No. 2 slot has some nice precedent for Alabama--that's where they stayed in the BCS standings throughout the 2009 season, too, behind Florida ... until smashing the Gators personally and going on to win the national title. Is their a repeat in the cards for 2011? - JH

3. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State currently sits in the best position amongst anybody to climb into the top two next week. With Alabama and LSU playing on Saturday, somebody is going to move into that second spot, and the Cowboys will be that team if they beat Kansas State. If Oklahoma State can get through its final four games without a setback, then it's the favorite to be playing for a national title. Of course, getting through those games is a lot easier said than done. - Tom Fornelli

4. Stanford: The Cardinal got their toughest test of the season on Saturday night, but they were able to knock off USC and remain unbeaten. Aside from Oregon, I don't see much of a threat for Stanford remaining in the Pac-12. Maybe, and I mean maaaaybe, Notre Dame can get to them, but if Stanford gets by Oregon I don't see a loss on the schedule. Stanford is a very real threat to get to New Orleans. - TF

5. Boise State: Good news for Boise State: Clemson took a loss and is out of the way! Not good news: Stanford has passed the Broncos after a 3-OT win over USC on Saturday, so Boise's still stuck at 5. Still, of the top five teams, the Broncos have the lowest probability of sustaining a loss from here on out in the regular season, so it's likely that Boise's not finished rising up the standings -- even if going undefeated may, once again, not be enough to satisfy the BCS. - Adam Jacobi

6. Oklahoma: It's not the same as being in the top three, but Oklahoma climbs back up to six following a big win over Kansas State. The Sooners are still very much a darkhorse to play for the BCS title this January as a one-loss team, with games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State still on the schedule. They also don't have a conference championship to get through, so if the Sooners can win out, they're going to climb even further. - TF

7. Arkansas: You might expect the third-best team in the SEC to be entirely deserving of the No. 7 spot in the FBS. But the Hogs haven't come close to playing the part the past two weeks, struggling at hapless Ole Miss and getting straight-up outplayed on the road at Vanderbilt last Saturday. Thanks to Tyler Wilson the Razorbacks have the offensive horses to play with anyone, and their season-ending visit to LSU still has the potential to turn the entire college football season on its head. But after yielding 462 yards (and 6.6 per play) to the previously low-fi Commodore offense, it's hard to see the Hog defense getting nearly enough stops to challenge the Tigers. - JH

8. Oregon: Oregon's hanging tough at No. 8, and that's fine, but it's going to take multiple quantum leaps for the Ducks to get into the national championship conversation. Step 1 is obviously a win over Stanford in two weeks, but even if they pull that off, it's going to take a LOT of help for Oregon to get any higher than fourth or fifth. The secondary's going to get tested over the next few weeks with games against Keith Price, Matt Barkley, and of course Andrew Luck. No pressure, Ducks. - AJ

9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks benefit from the losses of both Kansas State and Clemson this week by climbing into the top ten of the BCS, but is this really a team we can expect to be here much longer? Take away a 54-3 blowout of Kentucky, and this is an offense that's been struggling to score points for over a month now, and Marcus Lattimore is out for the season. Add in a road game against Arkansas this weekend and Clemson at the end of the season, and I don't like South Carolina's odds. - TF

10. Nebraska: A few weeks ago, it didn't seem like Nebraska was ever going to be the top team in the Big Ten this season; the Huskers were sorely lacking in big wins, while Wisconsin and Michigan looked like the class of each division. How quickly circumstances change, however, and now the Big Ten's only representation in the Top 12 of automatic bids is Big Red. The real fun for Nebraska begins on November 12, when the Huskers travel to Penn State and follow that up with a road date at Michigan. Two wins, and Nebraska's got a case for being a Top 5 team. Another loss, and it's back to chaos in the Big Ten. - AJ
Posted on: October 29, 2011 10:44 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 10:44 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 14 South Carolina 14, Tennessee 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WON:
For the second straight week, the Gamecock offense sputtered in the kind of decisive fashion that would have spelled road game doom in the SEC most years. But this is 2011, so Carolina's gone 2-0 in those games. The Justin Worley experiment at quarterback was a miserable failure for Tennessee, as the true freshman hit just 10-of-26 passes for 4 yards an attempt and two interceptions--including a backbreaking pick at the Carolina 2 after a Prentiss Waggner interception had set up the Vols inside the Gamecock 5. Freshman Brandon Wilds picked up a solid 137 yards on just under 5 a carry in relief of Marcus Lattimore.

WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: It's pretty simple: in a game in which the two starting quarterbacks combined to average all of 4.4 yards an attempt and less than 200 yards total, the winner was always going to be the team that could run the ball. That team was the Gamecocks, who racked up 231 yards on 53 carries and -- in a stunning display of old school power -- put together a 20-play, 98 yard, 11 minute and 35 second touchdown drive in the third quarter. When you rush for 74 yards on one drive alone, you are (as the kids say) doing work.

The Vols? After a couple of small steps forward in their putresecent running game the last few weeks, tonight was a sizable step backward: 21 rushes, 35 yards, no scores. Ick.

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Of course, maybe the Vol ground game would show some spark if the coaches seemed to trust it at all. Facing a 4th-and-1 at the Carolina 27, down 14-3 and less than 7 minutes left in the game, the Vols put the ball in the hands of Matt Simms--the same quarterback, you may recall, who the staff just benched in favor of a true freshman. Wildly incomplete pass, turnover on downs, game well and truly over.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: The right to stay just a nose out in front of Georgia in the SEC East race with next week's trip to Arkansas looming large. Having Wilds prove he's a capable replacement isn't such a bad bonus, either.

WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: Despite Carolina's gaudy ranking, this was an offensively-hamstrung team coming to Neyland Stadium for a night game that helped the Vols with three turnovers ... and Derek Dooley's team couldn't even stay within 11 points of them as the Worley decision appeared to backfire badly. At 3-5 and with the Vols' own trip to Fayetteville forthcoming, Dooley is one upset away from seeing his team stay home for the holidays.


Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:53 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 9

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.

BREAKFAST

#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

LUNCH

#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

DINNER

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 
Posted on: October 27, 2011 4:07 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 9



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 learned a few things about myself last weekend. First of all, I learned that passing my girlfriend in the standings of our year-long picks competition brought me more satisfaction than I ever thought possible. In fact, probably a lot more than it should. I mean, should I be so thrilled with myself at being able to pick college football games -- a sport I cover for a living -- better than my girlfriend who kinda-sorta pays attention alongside me on Saturday afternoons?

Probably not.

The other thing I learned is that the girlfriend is taking this competition very seriously. There wasn't much joy in Womanville on Saturday as she kept seeing the teams she picked fail, knowing that I was overtaking her in the standings. I've been sleeping with one eye open all week.

Nebraska (-4 1/2) vs. Michigan State - Saturday, 12pm (All times Eastern)

Man - This is not the easiest game to pick, as I'm never sure what to expect from Nebraska in any given week, and this is still the same Michigan State team that lost to Notre Dame. That being said, sometimes things happen for a reason, so I'm going to ride the momentum of Michigan State's win last week. Pick: Michigan State

Woman - "After watching the Spartans rewrite the ending of '300' against both Michigan and Wisconsin, I just can't go against them, especially if I'm getting points. (Given my recent track record, congratulations, Nebraska!)" Pick: Michigan State

Machine - The Machine has no concept of religion, therefore no Hail Marys can save Sparta this weekend. Nebraska wins 27-17. Pick: Nebraska

Texas A&M (-11 1/2) vs. Missouri - Saturday, 12pm

Man - While I admire the way James Franklin stood up after last week's turnover-laden performance to take the blame for Missouri's woes, I'm not putting any faith in Franklin or the Tigers offense until they give me a real reason to. Oh, and SEC! SEC! SEC! Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "Hey, Mizzou, as you prepare to make your high-drama Big 12 exit, thinking you might want to come up with something better than falling on your butt and having your skirt fly up over your head." Pick: Texas A&M 

Machine - Texas A&M left first, and therefore it has the upper hand. Aggies roll 34-21. Pick: Texas A&M

Rutgers vs. West Virginia (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Before last weekend I thought West Virginia was the only thing you could count on in the Big East. Now? Good luck. While I don't want to underestimate the impact of Eric LeGrand's appearance before the game starts, I can't help but feel it will wear off by halftime and West Virginia will get rolling. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "When picking a Big East game, I have learned that the best strategy is a coin, a hard surface and a stiff shot of whiskey. West Virginia should win but with paralyzed player Eric LeGrand miraculously leading the Scarlet Knights onto the field, I'll call "tails" and hope it stays close." Pick: Rutgers

Machine - The Machine knows nothing of human emotions or the lifts they can provide. West Virginia stomps all over Rutgers, winning 44-13. Pick: West Virginia

Kansas State vs. Oklahoma (-13 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I have this nagging feeling that Oklahoma's loss last weekend may have woken a sleeping giant, and that the Sooners are going to take it out on Kansas State this weekend. I just can't shake it. Still, sometimes you have to go with your heart, and since Kansas State is one of my favorite stories so far this season, I'm not giving up on it. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I know the Sooners are looking for someone to beat up on after that shameful loss to Texas Tech last week.  But giving thirteen and a half points to a 7-0 team playing at home, the same team who beat the team that beat Oklahoma? Ooooooo-kay." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Well, it was fun while it lasted, Wildcats. Oklahoma wins 47-17. Pick: Oklahoma

Oklahoma State (-15 1/2) vs. Baylor - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Quite simply, there is no game this weekend I'm looking forward to more than this one. The over/under on this game was set at 79.5 and my original reaction was "That's WAY too low." I don't know who wins, but I know there's going to be a lot of points and very little defense. So I have to take the points. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Not much else to say here." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine -  The Machine seems to agree with me about the lack of defense and the overabundance of real good times in this one. This is Pitbull's Dr. Pepper Lock Of The Week. Oklahoma State 51-45. Pick: Baylor

Florida vs. Georgia (-2 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I'm way too confident in Georgia to win this game, and that worries me a bit, but I'm still going with the Bulldogs. Pick: Georgia

Woman - "Uncertain who will prevail but I will bet that the average blood alcohol content of the tailgaters will be the reverse equivalent of that spread." Pick: Georgia 

Machine - Everybody in the club getting tipsy, especially the offenses. Georgia wins 16-10. Pick: Georgia

Tennessee vs. South Carolina (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 7:15pm

Man - I have no idea what to expect from a South Carolina offense that is now without both Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore. Throw in the fact that this game is in Knoxville and things get even more confusing. That being said, Tennessee is starting a quarterback this week who wasn't even supposed to play this season, so I'm going with Steve Spurrier. Pick: South Carolina

Woman - "All four of Tennessee's losses have been against SEC teams, which is to say, good teams.  The Vols will go down fighting. In a bad wig." Pick: South Carolina 

Machine - The Machine recognizes Marcus Lattimore as one of its own, but The Machine also knows that it was built to be replaced. South Carolina wins 23-17. Pick: South Carolina

Georgia Tech vs. Clemson (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Georgia Tech's been in a bit of a freefall the last few weeks, and while I think that the Jackets will be able to move the ball with relative ease against the Clemson defense, I can't help but feel like the Tigers just have too many weapons on offense. Tech won't be able to keep up. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "For the first six weeks, the Yellow Jackets were stinging everything in their path. Then came two dismal away games and lots of questions. Yeah, they're up against 8-0 Clemson but they're also at home, and with a rivalry where 14 of the last 16 games have been decided by an average of 4.6 points, well..." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - Down goes Dabo! Down goes Dabo! Georgia Tech wins 31-27. Pick: Georgia Tech

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - The Ohio State of late October is much better than the one we saw to begin the season thanks to the return of some key suspended players. That being said, the offense still isn't anything wonderful, and though I expect that Russell Wilson and the Badgers will have some trouble on Saturday night, I still feel they'll pull off the win. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Both teams have their seasons on the line and the loser can kiss the Rose Bowl goodbye. But until last week's stunning loss, the Badgers won each of their games this season by at least 31 points. They won't get close to that number but will beat the spread and keep this magic year going." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - Ohio State will manage to cover, but The Machine doesn't think you should expect a lot of excitement in this one as Wisconsin escapes Columbus with a 13-10 win. Pick: Ohio State

USC vs. Stanford (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Listen, I have no problem taking Stanford against anybody when the Cardinal are giving up 20 points in the spread. You think I'm not going to jump on a spread this small? Sorry, USC, but just because Stanford hasn't played a great team yet this season doesn't mean they're playing one this weekend, either. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Hey, look, it's the One Percent Bowl! Stanford is LSU plus 300 more SAT points and a tan.  Pick against them at your own peril." Pick: Stanford

Machine - Hope you enjoyed that win in South Bend, Trojans, because the good times end on Saturday night. Stanford wins 31-14. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Man 51-34 (6-4)
2. Woman 50-35 (3-7)
3. Machine 44-41 (6-4)
Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:57 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:57 pm
 

Keys to the Game: South Carolina at Tennessee

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 18, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 2:57 pm
 

Eye on College Football Midseason Report: SEC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

At the top, midseason 2011 remains the best of times for the SEC. Alabama and LSU have given the conference not one but two highly viable -- some might even say favored -- candidates for a sixth straight national title. It's not even such bad news that one seems all-but-destined to eliminate the other from the title race when they meet in Tuscaloosa Nov. 5; assuming both clear their final hurdles this week, that game should arrive with more hype, more anticipation, more coverage and more viewers than any regular season college football game since Ohio State and Michigan clashed as undefeateds the final week of 2006. From a national title perspective, the SEC has never mattered more.

But anywhere other than the top, these are the worst times for the SEC in a while. A plague of injuries, inexperience, and ineffective coaching has gutted much of the league's offensive bite and turned what used to be riveting battles amongst the league's wealthier-than-thou middle class into glorified slapfights. Take this past weekend: Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina combined for a total of 49 points across two hideous games; lambs-to-the-slaughter Tennessee and Ole Miss lost to the league's top two by a combined 76 points; and Georgia and Vanderbilt played a game most notable for the screaming match between its coaches afterwards. It was ugliness all the way around--and that's with the conference's worst offense, Kentucky, on a bye. 

Alabama vs. LSU should be a classic. And Arkansas, still easily top-10 caliber and as exciting as ever, is blameless. But are the hobbled back-nine of the SEC capable of giving us anything else deserving of that label in 2011's second half?

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama. It's easy to forget Richardson's 2011 season actually got off to a slow start, with only 148 yards on a 3.8 per-carry average through the Crimson Tide's first two games. Since then: five games, 764 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 8.2 yards-per-carry, the sort of per-attempt number starting tailbacks for national title contenders achieve only in video games. It's not just the production, either; Richardson has showed off the proverbial total package and then some, flashing breakaway speed, bone-rattling power, and startling elusiveness, sometimes -- as in his Heisman-reel tour de force against Ole Miss -- all on the same play.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback, LSU. The only serious defensive candidate for the 2011 Heisman, the Honey Badger has stormed onto the national scene on the back of a wave of big plays: the strip-and-fumble-return for touchdown against Oregon, the dazzling interception-and-return-to-the-1 against West Virginia, the sack-strip-and-fumble-return for touchdown against Kentucky. But those game-changing efforts shouldn't obscure what Mathieu does on an every-down basis: namely, lead the nation's No. 4 defense in solo tackles and spearhead the nation's No. 6 secondary in opponent's passer rating.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Les Miles, LSU. Nick Saban obviously deserves commendation as well, but with the ridiculous stockpile of defensive talent in Tuscaloosa and the rock-steady stability of Saban's program, the Tide were never in any danger of not being really, really good. Miles, however, had to navigate a major offseason shakeup of his offensive coaching staff, the Jordan Jefferson barfight brouhaha on the eve of the season (amongst other distractions), and a handful of offensive line injuries to have his team where it is now--atop the AP poll and well on their way to bringing an 8-0 record to Bryant-Denny Stadium.

SURPRISE: Auburn. Few SEC teams have legitimately exceeded expectations in 2011 -- LSU and Vandy are the only other two, frankly -- but none has been as big a shock as the Tigers, who had been predicted by many to sink to fifth (or worse) in the West and general irrelevancy in Year One A.C. (i.e., after Cam). But despite being a Vegas underdog in all four of their SEC games (and scoring 20 points or fewer in their most recent three), a newly-energized defense and timely plays on offense and special teams have Auburn sitting at 3-1 in the league and 5-2 overall. If Miles's and Saban's teams hadn't run so far away from the pack, Gene Chizik would be a hot favorite for SEC Coach of the Year.

DISAPPOINTMENT: Mississippi State. The 0-4 SEC record isn't that bad, honestly; at Auburn, vs. LSU, at Georgia, and vs. South Carolina is a reasonably tough road to hoe. What is that bad is that Dan Mullen's veteran offense has looked so lost, scoring just one offensive touchdown over its last three conference games. This was supposed to be the season Mullen started winning games against the heavier hitters of the SEC, but thanks to his team's offensive struggles, the Bulldogs are now losing games (and in uglier fashion) to the same caliber of team they defeated in 2010.

GAME OF THE YEAR--SO FAR: South Carolina 45, Georgia 42, Sept. 10. Thanks to the lack of offensive fireworks and Alabama and LSU horse-whipping opponents on a weekly basis, candidates for this honor are few and far between, But back in Week 2 the Gamecocks and Bulldogs played a back-and-forth thriller that may still wind up deciding the SEC East. Marcus Lattimore powered for 176 bruising yards, but the player of the game was Gamecock defensive end Melvin Ingram, who scored touchdowns on both defense and special teams and capped his breakout performance by snaring the Dawgs' last-gasp onsides kick. 

More Midseason Coverage
Related links

GAME OF THE YEAR TO COME: Alabama vs. LSU, Nov. 5. Do we even have to spell out why? Consider that the average score to-date between one of these two behemoths and an SEC opponent has been 37-8, and the only thing keeping either one from being heavy, heavy favorites to win the league title is the other. With the pair currently ranked No. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings, it's not an exaggeration to think of this as a BCS championship semifinal.

AND YOUR SEC CHAMPIONS ARE: Alabama out of the West, purely on the basis of getting to host the Game of the Century of the Year, and Georgia out of the East--the Bulldogs have far fewer offensive question marks than the Gamecocks and the easier schedule down the stretch. And as for the SEC Championship Game, well, when the best of this year's West meets the best of this year's East, there's only one outcome worth predicting. We like Alabama to win this year's SEC title and advance to the BCS national championship.

Posted on: October 17, 2011 2:34 pm
 

The Poll Attacks: Week 7

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.

With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.

AP Poll           Coaches Poll           Harris Poll           BCS

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)

Poll reactions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC

Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team of the week: Michigan State

  Smash-mouth, hard-hitting defense and a solid (but certainly not spectacular) offense but Sparty just can't get much respect. They beat Michigan and held Denard Robinson and his explosive offense to just 250 total yards and 14 points. Edwin Baker, the touchdown maker, ran for 167 yards against an improved Wolverines defense too. We'll really see what they're made of this week but they should be higher than 15th in the AP and Harris Polls after their performance last week. They've proven more than Nebraska or South Carolina and probably should be in the 11-13 range.

Overrated: South Carolina

  The Gamecocks are ranked 14th in the AP, 12th in the Coaches and 13th in the Harris Poll. First off, let's say that they lost their quarterback, top offensive player and running back Marcus Lattimore and struggled to beat Mississippi State 14-12. They really haven't beaten anybody convincingly outside of Kentucky before the injuries so it's safe to assume they're probably going to struggle in the near future. Is this a one-loss top 25 team? Sure. Top 15? Ehh...

California Craziness

A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.

  Welcome back Jon, it's been a while since you found yourself in this space. We've got several issues with the ballot you turned in, starting with putting Clemson 3rd. In case you didn't watch (and you probably didn't), the Tigers needed a late 4th quarter rally from 18 down to beat Maryland. The Terps also rolled up 468 yards and 45 points on the defense, not exactly top three caliber. It's also concerning to see Stanford ranked behind Oregon and Arkansas at 10th, two spots ahead of a way to highly ranked Auburn team. Wilner doesn't respect Kansas State much either, putting them 20th behind 11 teams with at least one loss. Oh yeah, Texas is still ranked too, as is USC.

What were you thinking? Craig James

  Is there a more maligned broadcaster than James? Judging by Twitter, I'd say no. Either way, he's also an AP voter despite the issue of having an active lawsuit against him by a former coach. Perhaps that was what was weighing on his mind when he turned in his AP ballot this week. It's not terrible but there are a few interesting choices. Of course he has SMU ranked 25th but that looks good considering he put Wake Forest 23rd overall. Yes, the Demon Deacons have had a nice season but they lost to Virginia Tech 38-17 this weekend and their other loss is to Syracuse. Not a top 25 resume at all. James also has Oregon 7th, higher than anybody and higher than undefeated Wisconsin.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com