Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:25 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: the Hog defensive line plays the game of its collective life. As noted here in the run-up to LSU-Alabama, the Tigers' big plays come almost exclusively in the passing game; even with Spencer Ware and Michael Ford around, LSU ranks among the nation's lowest producers of long runs even as they rank among its most consistent in grinding out 4, 5, or 6 yards a carry. Without that steady diet of chain-moving runs, though, what happens? Against Alabama, what happened was that Jarrett Lee found Rueben Randle blanketed, the LSU passing game got neither big plays nor small ones, and the Bayou Bengal offense as a whole (even in victory) limped to its worst offensive showing of the year.
Obviously, the Hog defense isn't going to be able to do the things Alabama's did, and there's a danger it could get run over completely; already, the Razorbacks have given up 197 rushing yards to Alabama, 381 to Texas A&M, 291 to Auburn, 222 to Vanderbilt. But in players like ends Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright and tackles D.D. Jones and Byran Jones, the Hogs have the potential to play much better than those numbers would suggest. If they can occasionally slow down Ware and Ford and force the LSU passing game to methodically move down the field rather than pop the big one to Randle on second- or third-and-short, their offense will have a chance at outscoring an LSU unit that -- for all its many strengths -- isn't as consistently explosive.
LSU WILL WIN IF: their secondary comes to play. Let's be honest: Dennis Johnson has given the Razorback running game a real spark over the past several weeks, and the potential return of Knile Davis might spark them further still. But against the nation's No. 4 run defense, the Hogs simply aren't going to win the game on the ground. Tyler Wilson, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Co. are going to have to get theirs. And they've got some hope--against the only other truly dedicated pass-first offense they've faced this year, LSU gave up 463 yards, 7.1 an attempt, and two touchdowns to West Virginia.
But since then, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, Ron Brooks, Brandon Taylor (and the rest) have been on lockdown, allowing zero touchdown passes over their last seven games while collecting seven interceptions. Nationally, only Alabama boasts a lower opposing QB rating. If the LSU defensive backs do anything similar to Wilson like they'd done to everyone else this season that wasn't West Virginia, the Hogs won't stand a chance.
THE X-FACTOR: Adams has long since proven his ability to change a game with his punt returns, but Brad Wing and the elite LSU punt coverage unit mean he may not get much of a chance. The bigger issue: if the Hogs can avoid the backbreaking turnover. Wilson has been largely careful with the ball but may face heavy pressure and has had a brainfart or two here or there; see his gift-wrapped pick-six vs. South Carolina. And Johnson has already given up a handful of critical fumbles this season. If the Hogs hand an LSU team that thrives on field position those kinds of early Christmas presents, forget winning--they'll be lucky to keep the game competitive.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Brad Wing, Brandon Taylor, Byran Jones, D.D. Jones, Dennis Johnson, Eric Reid, Jake Bequette, Jarius Wright, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Adams, Keys to the Game, Knile Davis, LSU, Michael Ford, Morris Claiborne, Ron Brooks, Rueben Randle, SEC, South Carolina, Spencer Ware, Tenarius Wright, Texas A&M, Tyler Wilson, Tyrann Mathieu, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:17 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
On Saturday it stops.
The bylaws, the scandals, the arrests, the arguing, the issues - the scars of college football - it's all gone and it becomes just a game. When the whistle is blown there are no rankings or underdogs, just a game between the lines, two teams with 11 on either side.
Saturday seemed like a perfect reminder of that. Looking at the schedule earlier in the week, the lack of marquee match ups - just three involving two ranked teams - made it seem more like a bye week than Week 12.
As the season made - to borrow a metaphor from another sport - its final turn and moved onto the home stretch, it was looking like we were indeed destined for a week off of drama. Wisconsin beat Illinois, Michigan State rolled Indiana, Michigan put on a clinic against Nebraska, Georgia had a close but ugly win over Kentucky, Houston beat SMU handily, Arkansas steamrolled Mississippi State and shockingly N.C. State had beaten Clemson before halftime.
Then consider what happened as night fell and some of the late games got interesting, with plays happening just about every minute. A quick sampling in case you missed the drama:
- Matt Barkley hit Randall Telfer for a touchdown to put USC up 38-14 over Oregon.
- De'Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 96 yards, and showed why he's one of the fastest players in college football.
- Eric Gordon picked off Jordan Rodgers and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to seal a 27-21 Tennessee win over Vanderbilt. Only there was mass confusion thanks to the officials.
- A Robert Griffin III pass is deflected right into the arms of a streaking Kendall Wright for a 87-yard touchdown to tie Oklahoma 24-24.
- Kenjon Barner caps a 75-yard drive to pull Oregon to within 38-27 with over 12 minutes left in the game.
- Michael Rocco caps off a 75-yard drive in less than a minute to give Virginia a 14-13 lead over Florida State.
- Zach Maynard tosses a perfectly thrown pass to Keenan Allen to take a 10-7 lead over Stanford.
- Baylor retakes the lead 31-24 after a 10 play, 85-yard drive after another RGIII touchdown pass.
- Texas' drive stalls and the Longhorns settle for a field goal to trail 17-13.
- Barkley is picked off by the Ducks defense then score a touchdown. Two-point conversion is good (barely) and they cut USC's lead to 38-35 with 7:05 left.
- A crazy play involving Florida State's Bert Reed happens. He was ruled to have caught a ball but inbounds, running out the clock. A five minute replay takes place.
- Landry Jones throws an interception, setting up a Terrence Ganaway touchdown as Baylor goes up 38-24 on Oklahoma.
- Case McCoy is sacked on 4th-and-10 at midfield, Kansas State takes over but has to punt.
- The replay overturns Reed's play, ruling it incomplete. FSU sets up for a 48-yard field goal but Virginia players bark out signals drawing a flag. Shorter kick misses anyway, giving the Cavilers their first ever victory at Doak Walker as Mike London screams at his team to get to the locker room.
- The Trojans are in the red zone when Barkley and Marc Tyler fumble an exchange, leading to Oregon getting the ball back.
- Oklahoma can't convert a 4th-and-14, Baylor gets the ball back.
- Kansas State barely holds on but beats Texas 17-13.
- Cal hits a short field goal to extend their lead to 13-7 in the Big Game against Stanford.
- The Ducks march right down the field but Chip Kelly fails to use his timeouts leaving a 42-yard field goal to tie the game with five seconds left. It's no good allowing USC to escape with a 38-35 upset to further shake up the BCS.
- The Belldozer formation (with backup quarterback Blake Bell) scores a TD to make it 38-31 Sooners with six minutes left.
- Oklahoma gets the ball back then Bell scores his 4th touchdown of the night and the Sooners look like they're going for two. They don't but tie the game up at 38 with 51 seconds on the clock.
- RGIII finds Terrence Williams in the back of the end zone for a perfect 34-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left to give Baylor their first ever win against Oklahoma 45-38.
- Andrew Luck leads two scoring drives coming out of halftime to take a 28-13 lead over Cal.
- The Bears come right back down the field and score a touchdown, connecting on a two-point conversion to pull to within 28-21 in the 4th quarter.
- Stanford takes over seven minutes off the clock with a drive that ends in a field goal and 31-21 lead.
- Cal makes things interesting with a touchdown to pull to within 31-28 with 14 seconds left.
- Onside kick recovered, Stanford beats Cal 31-28 to win the Big Game.
That. Was. Fun.
We probably should have guessed something was up this week. Northern Illinois kicked a field goal with eight seconds left to beat Ball State 41-38 on Tuesday, rolling up 710 yards of offense in a little midweek MACtion. The story was much the same the next night as Ohio made a chip shot field goal as the gun went off to beat Bowling Green 29-28. Also on Wednesday, Western Michigan held on to beat Miami (Ohio) with both starting quarterbacks topping the 400 yard passing mark. Thursday produced a huge - relatively - CUSA upset as a terrible UAB team upset #22 Southern Miss to beat a ranked team for just the second time in school history.
North Carolina, with an interim head coach and not much to play for, gave Virginia Tech a fight with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter before the Hokies decided to pay attention on defense. It was an off night for David Wilson, who never could get going, but a solid one for quarterback Logan Thomas. He tossed two touchdowns and ran for a third to provide most of the Hokies scoring to setup a showdown next week with rival Virginia for a trip to the ACC championship. The late comeback from UNC should have been a warning that no one was safe, home or road, regardless of the conditions.
Oklahoma State rolled into Ames, Iowa as 27-point favorites but holding a heavy heart just a day after a plane crash killed the women's basketball coach and three others. It was an unspeakable tragedy for a school that had already suffered a similar one a decade before. Friday was supposed to be about the second-ranked Cowboys giving their fans something - anything - to cheer about.
But it's a game between the lines and though Iowa State came into the match up 2-4 in Big 12 play and winless in 58 tries against teams ranked sixth or better, head coach Paul Rhoads knows a thing or two about upsets. He had pulled off at least one shocker each year he was in charge of the Cyclones and was defensive coordinator of a lowly 4-7 Pittsburgh team four years ago that helped cause BCS chaos with an upset of then-No. 2 West Virginia. He threw a similar wrench into the Cowboys' plans in large part by shutting down the ground game and forcing five turnovers. Brandon Weeden put some big numbers - 42-of-58, a quiet 476 yards and three touchdowns - but threw three interceptions, his last in the second overtime to lose the game.
"We got a group of young men that put their hard hats on every day and just continue to go to work," Rhoads said. "I could not be prouder of the effort they put out tonight."
The field storming after the upset was well deserved, with Rhoads even getting hit by a fan who spilled his drink on the emotional head coach at midfield. The Iowa native took over the program from Gene Chizik after serving as Auburn's defensive coordinator the season before Chizik headed to the plains. Ironically, his upset sent cheers up in Tuscaloosa because no program stood to benefit more from the loss than Alabama.
It was the first of many on a topsy-turvy week that saw the #2, #4, #5, #7, #17, #22 and #23 in the BCS suffer a loss. As you can tell from the boom-boom nature of the plays listed above, the drama and action seemed to culminate in another perfect weekend in college football. Fitting, perhaps, that on the sport's supposed week off, it gave us the most drama-filled few days of the year.
As the Big Game was wrapping up late on the West Coast, I was trying to think of another time there was so much craziness, so much excitement, packed into just a few hours. It thought about the NCAA tournament but MLB's final day this year immediately popped into my mind right after. The country was glued to the television as pitch after pitch carried more meaning than the last. Four games determined two wild cards (and the eventual World Series winner) and three of them were tied. Three blown saves and two incredible walk-off wins had produced one of baseball's finest nights.
This weekend, and late Saturday in particular, was not quite what that Wednesday in late September was. That night for baseball does contrast however, and serve as a reminder of how great a regular season can be with a playoff still to come. The BCS proponents out there had no problem coming out and saying the system enhanced the upsets because they somehow mean more. As baseball showed us, even after 162 games and plenty more to play, nothing takes away from the drama. We're still going to watch Baylor try and beat Oklahoma for the first time ever with RGIII taking snaps. People will still tune in to see USC make an emphatic statement to the country that their time out of the spotlight is over.
It does however make the losses that much more painful. Boise State has lost three games in three years by five points thanks to walk-on kickers missing field goals. They never get a shot at playing for the national title. Oklahoma just hopes they can beat their rival and get to the same old exhibition (the Fiesta Bowl) they're used to playing in.
'Every week is a playoff' is the line you'll see often in BCS literature. If that's the case then, Alabama would not be sitting at No. 2 in the country and set to play LSU - again - for the national title. They lost their playoff game at Bryant-Denny in the Field Goal Festival of the Century. Talk of another rematch involving Oregon was put to bed thanks to the conquering Trojans but had they won, they should have taken note that no, they can't be playing in New Orleans after losing a game earlier in the season.
Now we are left with a BCS beauty pageant. Boise could be a top five team at the end of the year but will likely play right before Christmas. Stanford might be passed over for Michigan despite the Cardinal being in the top 10 all season. The SEC is strong at the top but weak all over - as evidenced by FCS Southern Conference teams having a combined 52-34 lead on SEC teams at one point Saturday. Alas, this is the system we have.
The modeling still isn't over with a few more weeks left in the season and that should provide clarity on the situation, especially with Arkansas traveling to Baton Rouge and Alabama playing the Iron Bowl at Auburn. There's still Bedlam and championship games. This show will go on.
But a Saturday that didn't shape up to be much ended up being quite a bit thanks to what happened on the field. It's why we all love college football and why we put up with six days of arguing and rankings. 60 minutes between the lines never looked so good in week 12.
Stat of the week
USC is the first loss Chip Kelly has suffered as head coach when the opposing team has just one week to prepare. It was also his first ever home loss and the Trojans win snapped a 19 game conference winning streak and the longest home winning streak in the country.
Stats of the week
- The SEC has 9 offenses ranked 75th or worse in the country but four of the top five defenses. The former is responsible for the latter more than the other way around.
- Wisconsin had a 12 play, 27 yard drive against Illinois that took 7:11 off the clock before Montee Ball scored a touchdown. At that point, Texas A&M had scored 44 points in 8:24 against Kansas.
- FCS Georgia Southern scored 21 points and ran for 302 yards on Alabama's defense, which led the country in just about every major defensive category. Dominique Swope had an 82-yard touchdown and finished with 18 carries for 153 yards (8.5 yd ave.). In the process, Swope became just the fifth back to rush for over 100 yards against Nick Saban in his five seasons in Tuscaloosa. Alabama's scoring defense went from 7.1 points per game to 8.36 ppg afterward and the rush defense jumped from 51.9 ypg to 74.64 just from the one game.
- This is the first time since Bo Pelini's first year that Nebraska has allowed more than 40 points in a game twice in a season.
- Oregon's 24-point deficit they faced against USC was the biggest they faced since October 4, 2008, also against the Trojans.
- Via the AP, before Miami did it yesterday, no FBS team had scored less than seven points and won a road game since Auburn topped Mississippi State 3-2 in 2008.
- Five starts for David Ash, six interceptions. Ouch.
- LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1, 2, 3 in the AP Poll. The only other time one conference has done that in the poll era is Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado of the Big 8 in 1971.
- Kansas has - by far - the worst defense in the country. It is dead last in three major categories and is giving up 45.55 points per game and 531.45 yards per game. A sampling of the worst defenses since 2001 for comparison:
2001: Idaho 45 ppg, (Worst BCS defense: Duke 44.6 ppg)
2002: Eastern Michigan 47.2 ppg, (Kansas 42.3 ppg)
2003: Mississippi State 39.3 ppg
2004: San Jose State 42.6 ppg, (Baylor 36.9 ppg)
2005: Temple 45.3 ppg, (Illinois 39.5 ppg)
2006: Louisiana Tech 41.7 ppg, (Duke 33.8 ppg)
2007: North Texas 45.1 ppg, (Nebraska 37.9 ppg)
2008: North Texas 47.58 ppg, (Washington State 43.85 ppg)
2009: Rice 43.08 ppg, (Washington State 38.5 ppg)
2010: New Mexico 44.33 ppg, (Washington State 35.83 ppg)
Tweet of the week
"Down 22-7 in Q1, Gators DE Sharrif Floyd told teammates, "Listen it's Furman. No disrespect but it's Furman."
- Via Jason Lieser, Palm Beach Post.
3. Oklahoma State
6. Boise State
10. Virginia Tech
Where we'll be this week
Dennis Dodd will be at two games this week, starting with the big showdown on CBS between Arkansas and LSU on Friday and Missouri-Kansas on Saturday, the final game in the second-longest rivalry west of the Mississippi. I will cover two games as well, with the final Texas-Texas A&M game on Thursday (Thanksgiving) and end with the crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA. Brett McMurphy will be at the Iron Bowl as Alabama looks for revenge on Auburn and to keep their name in the national title race.
Leaning this way
Penn State at Wisconsin
This is for a trip to the Big Ten title game and there's no doubt that commissioner Jim Delany hopes Wisconsin can win and hopefully cover the two touchdowns+ spread. Penn State's offense showed signs of life in the first half against Ohio State but managed to throttle back down to nothing in the second half against an ok defense. Montee Ball and Russell Wilson have this thing over early though and the Nittany Lions can't claw their way back.
Alabama at Auburn
The Tide are ranked second in the country, the Tigers are unranked. Normally that doesn't matter when these two get together but that's just one indication of how good/bad these teams are. Neither team looked impressive against FCS foes so you wonder if they were saving a few things for this game. Still, hard to see an upset when Alabama is in the top three in the conference in every major category.
Arkansas at LSU
BCS chaos can rain supreme if the Razorbacks are able to go into Baton Rouge and pull off the upset. They will certainly be the best passing offense LSU's fantastic secondary has faced but the key will come down to protecting Tyler Wilson. If LSU turns it over a few times there is certainly a chance at a loss but it all seems unlikely for 'The Hat' to lose this close to taking a trip to Atlanta.
Tags: ACC, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, Arkansas, Auburn, Ball State, Baylor, BCS, Bert Reed, Big 8, Blake Bell, Bo Pelini, Boise State, Bowling Green, Brandon Weeden, Brett McMurphy, Bryan Fischer, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Cal, California, Case McCoy, Chip Kelly, Clemson, Colorado, Conference USA, David Ash, David Wilson, De'Anthony Thomas, Dennis Dodd, Doak Walker, Dominique Swope, Eastern Michigan, Eric Gordon, FCS, Fiesta Bowl, Florida State, Florida State, Furman, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Houston, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Iron Bowl, Jim Delany, Jordan Rodgers, Kansas, Kansas State, Keenan Allen, Kendall Wright, Kenjon Barner, Kentucky, Landry Jones, Logan Thomas, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Marc Tyler, Matt Barkley Randall Telfer, Miami, Miami (Ohio), Michael Rocco, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike London, Mississippi State, Missouri, MLB, Montee Ball, N.C. State, NCAA, Nebraska, Nick Saban, North Carolina, North Texas, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Paul Rhoads, Penn State, Pitt, Pittsburgh, Rice, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, San Jose State, Sharrif Floyd, SMU, Southern Conference, Southern Miss, Stanford, Stanford, Surveying the Field, Temple, Tennessee, Terrence Ganaway, Terrence Williams, Texas, Texas A&M, Tyler Wilson, UAB, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington State, Week 12, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin, World Series, Zach Maynard
Posted on: November 19, 2011 7:09 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 7:09 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
ARKANSAS WINS. For the first 30 minutes of this contest it looked as though we might have a game. While Mississippi State's offense was struggling to move the ball, its defense had forced a turnover and blocked a field goal to keep the Bulldogs in the game. Unfortunately for Dan Mullen and his team, then the second half started. The Razorbacks outscored the Bulldogs 20-7 in the second half, with the lone Mississippi State touchdown coming in the final seconds.
The game was over long before that however, as Arkansas had 540 yards of total offense on the day compared to Mississippi State's 210. Tyler Wilson finished the afternoon with 365 yards through the air and 3 touchdowns. Chris Gragg and Jarius Wright were his favorite targets, as the duo combined for 16 receptions and 215 yards. Mississippi State's offensive "leader" was Dylan Favre, who finished with 80 total yards and 2 touchdowns on the day.
WHY ARKANSAS WON. Just way too much offense for Mississippi State to handle. If the Bulldogs were going to have a chance in this game than it needed the game of its life from the defense, and though the defense played well, the Arkansas offense had just too much firepower to be held in check for a full 60 minutes.
WHEN ARKANSAS WON. When the Razorbacks put together a long 12-play 78-yard drive on their first possession of the second half to make the score 31-10, it was hard to imagine that the Mississippi State offense was going to be able to muster 21 points to get the Bulldogs back into this one.
WHAT ARKANSAS WON. Arkansas remains a darkhorse candidate to get to the national championship game, but by winning on Saturday it keeps the dream alive. Of course, considering that Arkansas lost to Alabama earlier this season, you'd think that the Hogs would need another Alabama loss to climb over the Tide in the BCS standings. Still, if Arkansas can manage to knock off LSU next week and then win the SEC title, it'll end up in a BCS bowl at the very least. Also, Bobby Petrino's team has now won ten games for the second straight season.
WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE LOST. There are two trends that continued on Saturday with Mississippi State. First, the Bulldogs still haven't won a game against Arkansas in Little Rock, and second, Dan Mullen is still looking for his first win over an SEC West opponent that isn't Ole Miss. More importantly, this loss knocks State to 5-6 on the season meaning that the Bulldogs have to beat Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to go bowling this season.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 4:26 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet. Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.
It's a bit of a low-carb diet this week thanks to most of the SEC deciding to take the week off and test itself against stalwarts like Georgia Southern and Furman, but that doesn't mean there aren't games out there worthy of your time. Besides, let's be honest with ourselves. We didn't really want to say anything to you about it, but you've been gorging on some great games the last few months and you're starting to get a bit pudgy around the edges.
You could use some lighter fare this weekend.
#18 Michigan vs. #16 Nebraska - ESPN 12pm ET
Michigan State may have the Legends division title all but sewn up, but if there's an at-large BCS bid to be had, it'll probably come from the winner of this game. As for reasons to watch instead of just care, come on. It's Denard Robinson. It's Rex Burkhead. There'll be some highlight plays in this one. - Adam Jacobi
Illinois vs. #17 Wisconsin - ESPN2 12pm ET
It's probably no exaggeration to say that Ron Zook's job at Illinois is on the line in this game; Zook, now the second-most tenured coach in the Big Ten, has seen his team drop four straight games and look listless in the process. Montee Ball would be happy to contribute a touchdown or five to Zook's going-away party, but can Illinois' stout defense save the day -- and the coach? - AJ
Rutgers vs. Cincinnati - ESPNU 12pm ET
After only winning one conference game in 2010 (Greg Schiano's worst conference record since 2004) and finishing dead last, the Scarlet Knights are in the hunt for BCS bowl bid. The Bearcats have lost starting quarterback Zach Collaros for the season to an ankle injury, and now sophomore Munchie Legaux will face a the best defense in the conference to try and bounce back from their first league loss. Cincinnati still holds one game on the rest of the conference, and can win the title outright if they win out. Rutgers needs to win out as well, but also get some help to win the tie-breaker. The Big East slate is thin this weekend, but there will be enough on the line to expect the best effort from both teams. - Chip Patterson
#14 Georgia vs. Kentucky - SEC Network 12:21pm ET
There's one reason to tune into this game and one reason alone: to see how the Bulldogs react to winning the SEC East for the first time since 2005. As a competitive contest, well, one of these teams defeated Auburn by 38 points last week, while the other lost by 30 to Vanderbilt. Still, it's not every day you get to see how Mark Richt reacts to a Gatorade shower. - Jerry Hinnen
#6 Arkansas vs. Mississippi State - CBS 3:30pm ET
Dan Mullen's Bulldogs gave Bobby Petrino's Razorbacks fits last season, taking the eventual Sugar Bowl representatives into overtime. Could they do the same this year, with a potential SEC West title still on the line for the Hogs and the game in Little Rock? A somnabulant offense says "probably not", but in corner Johnathan Banks and tackle Fletcher Cox, the Bulldogs do have the defensive weapons to at least slow down Tyler Wilson and Co. - JH
Ohio State vs. #21 Penn State - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET
For the multitudes of distractions facing Penn State, it still has two tough games to play, and it still has a division lead to protect. The Nittany Lions' first step is taking on an up-and-down Ohio State team that's going to try to wear down the PSU defense with its troika of tailbacks and dual-threat (if you can call his arm a threat) QB Braxton Miller. This'll be a classic Big Ten game, with pads a-popping, defenses a-stifling, and running backs a-barreling for four quarters. - AJ
N.C. State vs. #7 Clemson - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET
This all be the ultimate test of focus for Dabo Swinney's young squad. The Tigers set goals to win the division, state championship, and ACC Championship. With the division clinched and South Carolina waiting next week, Clemson could lose to the Wolfpack and still accomplish their goals. NC State needs to beat Clemson and Maryland in order to be bowl eligible for the second straight season. The Tigers have an outside shot to still make a BCS bowl game if they lose in the ACC Championship, but even those long odds would be erased with a loss on Saturday. Both teams are explosive and capable of scoring quickly, so expect the unexpected in this ACC battle. - CP
Missouri vs. Texas Tech - ABC 3:30pm ET
A bit of a last stand for Texas Tech, which has lost five of its last six games after starting the season 4-0. The Red Raiders still need one more win to become bowl eligible, and it won't be easy to get there. Missouri is a team that's proven it's capable of beating anybody in the Big 12 on any given Saturday, though you do have to wonder how this team will perform on its Senior Day without Gary Pinkel who is serving a suspension for a DWI arrest earlier this week. - Tom Fornelli
#25 Florida State vs. Virginia - ESPN2 7:30pm ET
The Seminoles are on a five-game game winning streak since EJ Manuel returned to the starting lineup, averaging over 35 points per game. But the "turnaround" from the early season setbacks has been not only the result of improved play from Florida State, but also the advantage of facing much more favorable competition. Four the teams in the streak have defenses ranked in the bottom half of the ACC, and other game was the 34-0 shutout of NC State at home. Virginia's defense ranks third in the ACC, and the Cavaliers are arguably just as hot winning five of their last six. Mike London's new power rushing attack has helped the team reach bowl eligibility in just his second year, but Saturday will be a true test of how "legit" this ACC Coastal contender is heading into the postseason. - CP
#4 Oregon vs. USC - ABC 8pm ET
Like offense? This game is for you. The Ducks are well on their way to another conference title and can clinch hosting the first ever Pac-12 Championship game with a win. The Trojans have designs on an upset however and it's not out of the realm of possibilities with Matt Barkley and Robert Woods on the field. - Bryan Fischer
#22 Baylor vs. #5 Oklahoma - ABC 8pm ET
So far this season Baylor has lived on beating the lower-tiered teams of the Big 12 and struggling against the conference's best. This is the Bears last chance at a marquee victory in 2011, and it's probably catching Oklahoma at the best possible time. The Sooners have lost Dominique Whaley and Ryan Broyles to knee injuries the last couple of weeks, and while there's never a good time to suffer such blows on offense, it hurts a bit more when you have to go head-to-head with Baylor's offense. There could be a big upset brewing in Waco. - TF
#23 Texas vs. #13 Kansas State - FX 8pm ET
Here's something you might not know: Kansas State has beaten Texas the last three times the schools have met, with Texas' last victory over the Wildcats coming in 2003. It's a losing streak that the Longhorns would really like to put an end to, though it won't be easy against a Kansas State offense built around Collin Klein. This should be a pretty interesting matchup boasting the Big 12's best run defense and its best running quarterback/battering ram. - TF
LATE NIGHT SNACK
#9 Stanford vs. Cal - ESPN 10:15pm ET
The band won't be on the field for this one (well, they will, but at halftime not on the final play) but the Big Game will still have plenty of memorable moments when you consider that Andrew Luck is playing and looking to make up for last week's loss. - BF
Tags: ACC, Adam Jacobi, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bobby Petrino, Braxton Miller, Bryan Fischer, Cal, Chip Patterson, Cincinnati, Clemson, Collin Klein, Dabo Swinney, Dan Mullen, Denard Robinson, Dominique Whaley, E.J. Manuel, Fletcher Cox, Florida State, Gary Pinkel, Georgia, Greg Schiano, Illinois, Jerry Hinnen, Johnathan Banks, Kansas State, Kentucky, Mark Richt, Maryland, Matt Barkley, Michigan, Mike London, Mississippi State, Missouri, Montee Ball, Munchie Legaux, N.C. State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pac-12, Penn State, Rex Burkhead, Robert Woods, Ron Zook, Rutgers, Ryan Broyles, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Tyler Wilson, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin, Zach Collaros
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 7:46 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF: their secondary gets some help. The Bulldogs were hoping to be sitting prettier than 5-5 at this stage when the season began, but it hasn't been the defensive backfield's fault; led by a pair of senior safeties and junior corner Johnthan Banks's All-SEC caliber performance, State ranks 14th in the nation in pass defense and in the top 30 in opposing passer rating. Even on the road, even without injured safety Nickoe Whitley, the Bulldogs figure to cause Tyler Wilson as many headaches as any team he's faced since Alabama; it was just last week the Tide's AJ McCarron posted the second-lowest QB rating of his season in Starkville, lower even than his performance vs. LSU. But just keeping Wilson (relatively) in check won't be enough. The rapidly improving front seven has to prevent the boom-or-bust Dennis Johnson from getting rolling; the State running game has to move the chains and keep the low-fi Bulldog offense from getting in field position trouble; and of course the Bulldog special teams can't give up cheap to scores to Joe Adams on punt returns or Johnson on kickoffs.
Do all of those things, and the secondary should provide enough of a defensive foundation to build an upset win around.
ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they keep coming up with big plays. Mississippi State is a team simply not built to win a shootout on the road; since their Week 2 explosion vs. Auburn, they've averaged just 12.6 points per their five SEC games. Meanwhile, the Hogs have scored 49 and 44 points against their last two SEC opponents, many of them coming via the home run. Against Tennessee there was Adams' ridiculous punt return, a 70-yard Johnson sprint, and a 40-yard bomb, again, to Adams; against South Carolina the Hogs got a Johnson kickoff return for TD, a 68-yard strike to Jarius Wright, and the game-icing sack-and-strip from Jake Bequette that set the offense up at the 1. Big plays like those not only demoralize the opposition and put points on the board in a hurry, they represent quick possessions that pack more possessions and plays into a game and offer the Hog offense even more chances at pushing their total in the 30s or 40s. Do that against MSU, and the Bulldogs won't have a prayer of keeping up.
THE X-FACTOR: Johnson. The junior has struggled the past two years with injuries and thanks in part to fumbling issues, didn't break into the Hog lineup immediately this season even after the loss of Knile Davis. But Johnson's combination of power and explosiveness offers the Arkansas running game a spark it just doesn't have otherwise, and Bobby Petrino has shown for years that if he can pair some kind of legitimate ground attack with his aerial fireworks ... watch out.
Posted on: November 12, 2011 9:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
WHY ARKANSAS WON: Tennessee knew the Hogs would throw the ball around and score points, so they really couldn't afford to do things like cap a 14-play second-quarter with a goalline interception (hi, Justin Worley!) or let Adams break free for a special teams score or turn the ball over on downs twice across the Razorback 30. But what they really, really couldn't afford to do was let the Hogs go wild on the ground. Which Arkansas did: 236 rushing yards, three touchdowns, and a ridiculous 8.7 yards per-carry average as a team as the Razorback line simply overwhelmed the injury-ridden, inexperienced Tennessee front seven.
Combine that sort of success on the ground with a passing game headed up by the likes of Wilson and called by Bobby Petrino, and 49 points is right about what you'd expect.
WHEN ARKANSAS WON: The Vols were probably already no-hopers down 28-7 in the third quarter, but when they failed to convert a 4th-and-1 on their own 40, that was pretty much the final nail in the coffin. When Wilson hit Adams for a 40-yard touchdown on the very next play, that was the coffin getting strafed by a staple gun, just for kicks.
WHAT ARKANSAS WON: Lots of late time for their backups, and one fewer hurdle cleared between themselves and a season-ending showdown with LSU.
WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: Their very last shred of margin-for-error if they want to make a bowl game. At 4-6 overall (and 0-6 in the SEC), the Vols must sweep Vanderbilt and Kentucky to return to the postseason.
Posted on: November 12, 2011 6:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
WHY GEORGIA WON: When you're talking about a 38-point victory, there's a lot of things to point to. But there's this, more than anything: against competent quarterbacking, Auburn's secondary simply hasn't been up to the task in 2011. Tajh Boyd? 386 yards, 4 scores, 0 INTs. Tyler Wilson? 262, 2, 0. The Jarrett Lee/ Jordan Jefferson tag team? 219, 3, 0. When not going up against Stephen Garcia at his lowest point or Florida's freshman backups, the Tiger defensive backs may as well have been had "TORCH US" signs pinned to their backs.
Murray looked like he might not quite rise to that "competent" level in an erratic performance against the Gators two weeks ago, but he was razor-sharp from the gun against Auburn--and duly shredded the Tiger defensive backs, with corner T'Sharvan Bell (among others) burned again and again by Murray's accurate back-shoulder throws. For all the things done well by the Dawg defense, running game and special teams (whose sore-spot kick return coverage totally shut down the Tiger return game), as soon as Murray showed his brief midseason slump was behind him, the Tigers were done. Until Gene Chizik and Ted Roof can solve their woes in stopping the pass, the Tiger defense -- as it has been since Chizik's hire -- will remain an up-and-down, roller coaster proposition at best.
WHEN GEORGIA WON: Auburn was already in a deep hole midway through the second quarter, down 21-7 and facing a 3rd-and-7 on their own 17. Clint Moseley's gift of a pick-six to Bacarri Rambo, however, made it the kind of hole that the Tigers wouldn't be able to climb out of if they had all week.
WHAT GEORGIA WON: the right to play Kentucky next Saturday with the SEC East on the line. But you know what? Given that Kentucky lost by 30 points to Vanderbilt, let's go ahead and call a spade a spade: the Bulldogs won the division today. They're going to go to Atlanta.
WHAT AUBURN LOST: any sense of defensive improvement over the course of the season for one thing. Likewise, any illusion that the Tigers belonged in the top third of the SEC this season. To lose to teams like Arkansas, LSU and Georgia, all on the road, is one thing--and given how incredibly young the Tigers remain, probably forgivable. But for Auburn to not even be able to stay competitive shows how far Chizik's team will have to go between 2011 and 2012 to return to the conference's elite.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 3:43 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Tyler Bray finds the broken thumb miracle cure between now and Saturday. The Vols' sophomore starter hasn't played since his team's loss to Georgia Oct. 8, and though he got his hard cast off this week, it doesn't sound like he's going to be nearly ready to play against the Hogs. But the Vols might not have a prayer without him: in the three SEC games Bray has missed, backups Matt Simms and Justin Worley have combined to complete 39.5 percent of their passes and post a 0-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio. Yes, those three SEC games came against teams with far better defenses than Arkansas's -- LSU's, Alabama's, and South Carolina's, in fact -- but two of them also came at home. It's also not like the Vols' 118th-ranked rushing game (fresh off averaging all of 2.67 yards per-carry vs. Middle Tennessee State) is going to be much help. Unless Bray can find a witch doctor or mad scientist or special magnetic wristband that fixes his thumb in time, it's awfully hard -- and just about impossible -- to see the Vols winning this game.
ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they can just avoid catastrophic mistakes. Maybe easier said than done, of course, if you saw Tyler Wilson do this vs. Carolina last Saturday:
Wilson isn't the only Hog to have turnover issues of late: Dennis Johnson's fumbles helped keep both Vanderbilt and Ole Miss in those respective games. If Wilson, Johnson or any other butter-fingered Hog set the Vols up with short fields or throw away scoring opportunities, the Vols have shown -- in their 6-6 halftime tie with Alabama -- that they can hang around with better teams, even on the road.
Hang around long enough to win it? Probably not, but where turnovers are involved, never say never. Wilson and Co. have to make sure they aren't.
THE X-FACTOR: Jake Bequette. The Razorbacks' preseason All-SEC defensive end had suffered an injury-plagued and disappointing season until last Saturday, when he roared to life with three sacks of Connor Shaw and the game-clinching forced fumble. If Bequette terrorizes poor Worley or Simms the way he terrorized Shaw, the Vols really, really have no hope.