Posted on: January 11, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 3:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. The SEC is still the best conference in college football. Yes, the conference may have only gone 5-5 in bowl games this season, and it may have included a couple losses against a Conference USA team and a Big East team, but here is the stat that actually mattered: for the fifth straight year, the national champion calls the SEC home. Oh, and let's not just ignore the fact that a twelve team league had ten teams playing in bowl games to begin with. Fans of other conferences around the country may have been hoping the conference would get knocked down a peg this postseason, but prepare yourselves for plenty more "ESSSS EEEEEEE SEEEEEE" chants in 2011.
2. The 2010 season belonged to Cam Newton and Auburn. Whether the headlines were good or bad this season, the college football world seemed to revolve around a tiny town in eastern Alabama and the quarterback that caught a nation's eye. It's somewhat fitting that on the final drive of the season, the one that gave Auburn its national championship, the one player who put the team on his back for most of the season had to play a secondary role thanks to being banged up. For once, Cam Newton 's defense and his offense decided to carry him to the finish line. We don't know for sure what Cam Newton's future will hold, but odds are that Newton is bound for the NFL. How will Auburn fare next season without its Superman?
3. Alabama is still really good . Honestly, if college football did have a playoff system in place of the bowls, would any of you have been shocked to see Alabama make it to another title game? The Tide suffered three losses this season. They came at the hands of South Carolina , LSU and Auburn . When the worst loss of your season is against the SEC East champion, you didn't have a bad season. Then the Tide went out and put an exclamation point on the year by pasting Michigan State -- a team with one loss and ranked in the top ten -- by 42 points.
4. The SEC East should be better next season. While the SEC may have gone 5-5 as a whole during the bowl season, the SEC East was responsible for four of those losses. The good news for the division is that things should improve a bit next year, as Georgia and Tennessee aren't likely to suffer two losing seasons in a row, South Carolina will still have Marcus Lattimore and won't have Stephen Garcia , and Florida might actually have an offensive system suited for its quarterback. Well, if John Brantley stays. Plus, with all the key players that Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU will be losing to the NFL this spring, the West shouldn't be nearly as dominant.
Posted on: January 1, 2011 1:35 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
South Carolina loses Marcus Lattimore to an early head injury and can't rally from a 13-0 hole, falling 26-17 to Florida State.
Offense: The Seminole offense rarely looked like a well-oiled machine, particularly after quarterback Christian Ponder left the game for good with a first-quarter concussion, and a few more touchdowns in place of field goals would have salted the game away sometime in the third quarter. But in a game defined by blown chances and mistakes on both sides, that the 'Noles managed not to screw up four potential (and eventually converted) Dustin Hopkins field goal opportunities counts for a lot, and backup E.J. Manuel's two clutch throws on FSU's game-clinching fourth-quarter drive -- one on third-and-eight to set up first-and-goal, the other to score the touchdown -- count for even more.
But what counts the most was the 218 yards rushing stunningly piled up on what had been the nation's eighth-ranked run defense. Even without any real passing threat once Ponder left the game, the Seminole line blasted hole after hole in the Gamecock front seven, and Chris Thompson took advantage to the tune of 147 game-changing yards. GRADE: B
Defense: When FSU corner Greg Reid -- the game's best player by a wide, wide margin -- walloped Lattimore on Carolina's first drive to dislodge the ball, end a Gamecock scoring threat, and (cleanly) knock Steve Spurrier's biggest weapon out of the game, the tone was set. Maybe the Seminoles were going to give up some yards here and there (414 in all by the time the whistle blew), but it wasn't going to matter as long as they had a big play waiting ... and they nearly always did. The 'Nole pass rush recorded only two official sacks but harassed Stephen Garcia into poor throws all game long; the defensive backs turned three of those throws into interceptions; and Reid, a demon all night, separated Alshon Jeffery from the ball as well late in the third quarter for another crucial turnover, Carolina's fifth of the game. In short: yardage allowed, schmardage schmallowed. GRADE: A-
Coaching: In a game where both teams appeared equally motivated and (almost) equally sloppy, the star of the game from a coaching standpoint was FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, whose blitz packages the Carolina offensive line never developed an answer for. But credit also goes to Jimbo Fisher and his offensive staff for never asking the clearly-limited Manuel to do too much. GRADE: A-
Offense: Particularly considering they were forced to play nearly the entire game without the linchpin of their offense -- a situation that had already seen the Carolina offense roll over and die a couple of times this season -- the Gamecocks as a whole weren't that bad. 414 yards of offense ought to be worth a lot more than 17 points. But it's not when your quarterback has the kind of nightmare game Garcia had, throwing three picks-to-zero touchdowns, missing multiple open receivers, and generally looking every bit as lost as he'd looked in his previous two bowl starts (blowout losses to Iowa and UConn).
He didn't get a whole lot of help -- no Lattimore, Jeffrey's fumble, blown assignments in pass protection, etc. -- but it was Garcia's loose screws that first let the Gamecocks' wheels come off. GRADE: C-
Defense: There shouldn't be much shame in the Gamecocks' defensive performance; allowing only 308 yards of total offense should be enough to win most games, and if not for a whole series of huge stands from the Carolina D following offensive (and special teams) miscues, the game would have been well out of hand before the halftime whistle.
At the same time, there might have been more time for a Gamecock comeback if not for all the clock burned off by Thompson's runs, and allowing Manuel to go 7-for-7 on the deciding touchdown drive directly after the offense had scored to cut the lead to 19-17 will stick in coordinator Ellis Thompson's craw all offseason. The Gamecocks were good, but it's not true to say they were good enough. GRADE: B
Coaching: Spurrier's perenially lackadaisical approach to blitz protection caught up to him again, but aside from that, there's not much to take issue with in Carolina's coaching performance; the coaches can't be held responsible for Lattimore's sudden injury, Garcia having one of those games, the defensive line getting beat straight up in the running game, etc. Unlike the last two years, the Gamecocks at leats played like they wanted to be at their bowl game. GRADE: B+
FINAL GRADE: The 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl provided some drama in the late-going, but between the insistence on South Carolina's part to hand the game over to Florida State and FSU's insistence on politely kicking another field goal to keep the Gamecocks in it anyway, you can't call it a classic. And with the final five minutes an anticlimax following Manuel's final touchdown toss, this blogger isn't sure he'd even call it "good." Grade: B
Posted on: December 31, 2010 2:12 am
Edited on: December 31, 2010 2:16 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
North Carolina uses a blocked extra point, three personal fouls, and two overtimes to knock off Tennessee 30-27 in the Music City Bowl.
Offense: The gift North Carolina fans got for Christmas was a healthy Shaun Draughn. Draughn has been battling an ankle injury since early November, but returned to make his first start of the season against Tennesee. The senior from Tarboro, N.C. had his second best outing for the season - rushing 16 times for 127 yards and a touchdown. Knowing that Tennessee was weak against the run, and both Elzy and Johnny White would be out, there was doubt as to if the Tar Heels would be able to take advantage of the weakness. Clearly they did, and clearly it worked out okay. GRADE: B
Defense: While North Carolina did give up 312 passing yards to Tyler Bray, they did limit the entire Vols offense to just 27 yards rushing. Forcing Tennessee to become one dimensional allowed the Heels to drop linebackers into coverage, particularly in overtime. Linebackers like Quan Sturdivant, who picked off Bray in overtime to set up the game winning field goal. The most impressive defensive performance might have come from Donte Paige-Moss. Paige-Moss returned from a busted nose he received from making a helmet-less sack to block the extra point to keep the score at 20-17 late in the fourth quarter. If that kick sails through and Tennessee claims a 21-17 lead, Barth's clutch leg would not have been an option. Big play after big play (not to mention Zach Brown's interception return), and this is a defensive squad lacking 3 future NFL draft picks. GRADE: A
Coaching: North Carolina head coach Butch Davis admitted after the game that the too many men on the field penalty was his fault. The offense had been told to clock the ball after Draughn's run, while the field goal team hustled out to try and kick it before time expired. The confusion was epic and the result, while the right call, will haunt Tennessee fans for a while. If anything, this was another example of Davis getting this team to battle back. It may be from suspension, it may be from injury, or in this case it was facing an impossible deficit in a not-so-neutral stadium. Somehow, the Tar Heels got it done this season - the newest Music City Miracle was just another example. GRADE: B
Offense: I know it stings for Tennessee fans right now, but there is plenty of good things to take away from the Music City Bowl. More than anything, the future is very bright with Tyler Bray under center. The freshman quarterback lived up to his late season charge against a tough Tar Heel defense and had a field day. Bray completed 27 passes to nine different receivers for 312 yards and four touchdowns. The deficiency in the running game (27 net yards) has to be a concern, and the three interceptions (particularly the last one) weren't fantastic, but there is plenty to be hopeful for with Tyler Bray leading the offense. GRADE: B-
Defense: Any positive things the defense did before the end of regulation will be completely forgotten thanks to some brutal decision-making in the final minutes. From Janzen Jackson's penalty on Harrelson to defensive end Gerald Williams' unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that set up North Carolina on the 12 yard line to start overtime. Additionally, giving up the touchdown drive before halftime was another huge momentum swinger, but after the way the game ended it seems like a moot point. GRADE: F
Coaching: It was mentioned earlier, but Derek Dooley will probably never want to play the end of close games ever again. After suffering this and the LSU clock debacle earlier this season, Dooley will lead the charge for a rules overhaul in regards to the punishments for substitutions I'm sure. But the blame will have to fall on Dooley as well for the penalties that cost them the game. Discipline issues in the college game will fall on the coaches as much as the players, and those three personal fouls in roughly a minute of gameplay changed the game entirely. GRADE: D
FINAL GRADE: Are you kidding me? Not to go all "standardized test," but if this game is graded in comparison to it's peers it is easily an A++. Not many games before today have carried this kind of impact on the entire college football community. Not to blow anything out of proportion, but this may the spark that gets the last minute run-off instituted in college football for offensive penalties. It does not belittle what North Carolina did in any way (the rule isn't in place), but it may be the last time it occurs ever again in college football. At least you have that kind of potential for historic significance. GRADE: A
Posted on: December 30, 2010 12:33 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2010 4:04 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
UPDATE: Shaun Draughn, who has been dealing with an ankle injury since early November, will start for North Carolina at running back. Draughn is the team's second leading rusher and was a starter in 2009 until suffering a season ending shoulder surgery.
The Basics: North Carolina (7-5) takes on Tennessee (6-6) in the Music City Bowl in Nashville at 6:40 p.m. on Thursday.
Why to watch: Earlier in the season, Tennessee made headlines by dropping their home-and-home agreement with North Carolina from the 2011 and 2012 schedule. North Carolina fans were upset to miss the opportunity to square off with their neighboring flagship university, and the Vols were upset to see a BCS opponent leave the non-conference slate. Both sides are coming in ready to make a statement, with the Volunteers fans looking to pack Nashville's LP Field for the Music City Bowl. Both teams have undergone major transformations since the preseason. North Carolina had the much-publicized agent and academic issues that saw as many as 13 starters missing time throughout the season. In addition to the suspensions, the Tar Heels have caught no breaks with personnel. Starting linebacker Bruce Carter, starting guard Alan Pelc, and the top three rushers, among others, are all out for the Music City Bowl.
Tennessee has undergone major changes as well, most notably at the quarterback position. True freshman Tyler Bray finally hit his stride in the second half of the season, helping lead the Vols to four straight victories to become bowl eligible. Bray began sharing snaps with starter Matt Simms in the middle of the season, but head coach Derek Dooley's gamble paid off when he gave the frosh the keys to the offense. In those final four games, Bray through for 1,234 yards and 12 touchdowns. North Carolina won't be guaranteed to see the Vols in the future, but they will get to see the future of the Vols on Thursday.
Keys to victory for North Carolina: Tennessee has a pretty poor rushing defense, giving up over five yards per carry. This would be a great time for Johnny White, Anthony Elzy, or Shaun Draughn to help set up T.J. Yates and the passing game by pounding the ball on the ground. With White and Draughn hurt, and Elzy scratched for academics, the running responsibilities will fall on Hunter Furr. That puts even more pressure on Yates, who will continue to pad his lead in the UNC record books in several major categories. The Volunteers defense does not give up the long ball often, but they also do not get a lot of interceptions. Yates performs well when he can pitch and catch the ball down the field, and they will need him to do it in order to score with a limited rushing game.
Keys to victory for Tennessee: Once Tyler Bray got in sync with his receiving corps, everything changed for the Volunteers. Tennessee finished the season ranked fourth in the SEC in passing, and several receivers all capable of making the big play. North Carolina's secondary, though loaded with talent, has not delivered the same shut-down performances from years past. Virginia Tech and North Carolina State exposed North Carolina's weaknesses in the pass defense, and Bray will be looking to exploit that. Another major opportunity for the Volunteers will present itself in the special teams play. North Carolina, mostly due to a shortage of players, has been weak in the special teams department all season. If they can get one or two game-changing plays out of special teams, it could mean a victory for the in-state underdogs.
The Music City Bowl is like: A MTV/VH1/Bravo reality series. Both Tennessee and North Carolina are "big names" in college athletics, but neither team has been able to stand out on the field this season. But off the field? Oh man, the storylines! Obviously there is plenty of juicy scandal in Chapel Hill, and Tennessee still has some lingering bitterness towards their ex (Kiffin). Imagine the Derek Dooley confessionals as he defends his support for "the new guy" Tyler Bray. Butch Davis hitting the Nashville streets to GTL? Okay, we are getting ahead of ourselves here.
Posted on: December 26, 2010 11:50 am
Edited on: December 26, 2010 11:52 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Lane Kiffin has been out of the Tennessee head coaching job for nearly as long as was ever in it, but his legacy of petty discord and minor violations of both the letter and spirit of institutional law lives on, as evidenced by this lawsuit filed in a Tennessee court.
Kiffin isn't named as a defendant in the suit and isn't in any kind of criminal jeopardy, but it's still his accident in a dealership-owned Lexus -- first reported last January -- that's at the heart of the suit. Plaintiff Mark Boling has filed a claim against the dealership and the supervisor who fired him, stating that he was dismissed because he had knowledge that the dealership had committed insurance fraud and taken other steps to cover Kiffin's tracks in the wake of the incident.
As summarized by Knoxville TV station WBIR :
At this point, it's all water under the bridge where Kiffin is concerned. But the suit just reconfirms that the aftereffects of his supernova of a year in Knoxville -- for both ill and good, both within the Volunteer program and without -- are continuing to reverberate. In part because no other coach seems quaite as capable of causing so much havoc in such little time, we're not likely to see anything like it again soon.
HT: GTP .
Posted on: December 21, 2010 4:11 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2010 4:11 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Okay, so here are some new rules for the Tennessee athletic department. All student-athletes should avoid bars for the time being, and coaches need to stay off Facebook. Even if they're just tending to their farm or whatever it is you kids are doing on Facebook these days. Both of those activities have led to secondary violations at the school in recent days.
The latest ones come courtesy of head coach Derek Dooley, who, when trying to reply to a recruit via a Facebook message, accidentally posted the message on the player's wall for the whole world to see.
Dooley violated NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124 on June 3 when he inadvertently posted a message on four-star high school tight end Nick O’Leary’s Facebook wall.
According to the bylaw, “electronically transmitted correspondence that may be sent to a prospective student-athlete (or the prospective student-athlete’s parents or legal guardians) is limited to electronic mail and facsimiles.”
This secondary violation, coupled with another recently learned self-reported transgression involving 26 football players receiving improper benefits from Bar Knoxville, constitute the first known violations involving the UT football team since Dooley took over as coach in January. Under Lane Kiffin in 2009, the Vols committed at least six secondary violations.
The recruit, Nick O'Leary, also happens to be the grandson of some former golfer. His name is Jack Nicklaus or something like that. After finding out about their mistake and reporting it, Dooley and his staff weren't allowed to contact O'Leary for two weeks, which left his Facebook wall mighty empty and no doubt made him feel incredibly lonely.
As for why Dooley left the message on O'Leary's wall, it seems that it was all a mistake because Dooley knows that was against the rules. It's just he was answering the message on his cell phone and thought he was answering O'Leary's message, not posting it on the wall.
In other words, life at Tennessee is like a bad sitcom that gets inexplicably high ratings. Something we wouldn't know about here at CBS.
Posted on: December 20, 2010 2:39 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Over the weekend reports surfaced that Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox had been offered the same position at Texas, where he would be replacing Will Muschamp who left Austin to take over at Florida. Wilcox is in his first season at Tennessee and spent the previous three years at Boise State, and it seems the 34-year old's star is on the rise.
Of course, if Wilcox is going to leave Tennessee for Texas, Texas would have to offer him the job first. Which, according to Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, hasn't happened yet.
"Here's all I can tell you," Dooley told Vols Xtra. "Nobody on our staff has been offered any jobs, I don't anticipate any staff changes and I'm going to reiterate exactly what I said in (Wednesday's) press conference - it's a fluid industry, and it always is. But I don't anticipate any changes, and nobody on our staff has been offered a job.
"That's where we are. I'm never going to beg people to stay at Tennessee, because this is a great job and there are thousands of coaches that would kill to be here and we're never going to have one coach that's going to be bigger than the program. I think we should expect this every year, so get used to it because it's a good thing. When programs want your coaches, it means your coaches are doing a good job."
Also, if Wilcox was getting ready to leave for Texas, he sure has a funny way of showing it considering he was at Vols practice on Monday as the team prepares to take on North Carolina in the Music City Bowl. Of course, just because Wilcox hasn't been offered the Texas job yet, that doesn't mean he isn't going to be. Which, depending on the way you interpret Dooley's words, would either make the head coach extremely happy or ticked off.
Posted on: December 17, 2010 4:32 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's hard to criticize much about the first year of Derek Dooley's tenure at Tennessee. After the sudden departure of Lane Kiffin from Knoxville and Dooley's whirwind hire, he still managed to hire a well-respected staff, salvage an impressive recruiting class, and drag the least-experienced Volunteer team in years to a bowl game behind rapidly-developing quarterback Tyler Bray.
Perhaps the only truly debatable decision Dooley has made has been to play hardball with a handful of Volunteers who asked for transfer requests in the wake of Kiffin's departure, notably former No. 1 overall recruit Bryce Brown and former freshman All-America lineman Aaron Douglas. Dooley denied Brown his release, apparently keeping him off scholarship at his hometown Kansas State program, and responded to Douglas's claims that he needed to get away from certain influences in Knoxville by granting him a waiver only on the condition that Douglas transfer somewhere eight hours' drive or further away. Those highly unusual steps -- taken to "protect the program " in Dooley's words -- may have successfuly sent the message that any future Volunteers who wish to transfer will need to be in good standing with Dooley ahead of time, but it also created a good deal of enmity between the program and Brown and Douglas.
Now that enmity may be coming home to roost in Douglas's case. After spending this season at community college Arizona Western, Douglas has transferred back into the SEC, and at the last school Vol supporters would want: Alabama.
For his part, Dooley says he's happy that Douglas has landed on his feet:
But to hear Douglas say that he didn't originally want to play against Tennessee but that "the stipulations with my release opened up everything," it doesn't take a whole lot of reading between the lines to see that responding in kind to Dooley's less-than-accomodating decision was a motivating factor in his choice of new school.
If so, then certainly Douglas is opening himself up to his own charges of pettiness. But that wouldn't change the fact that if Dooley had simply approved a standard release, Douglas likely would have ended up somewhere that wasn't Tuscaloosa. Maybe the message sent to future potential transferees was worth it, but if Douglas plays a role in maintaining the Crimson Tide's recent success in the series (and judging by his play in his one season on Rocky Top, he does), it will have to be asked of Dooley if, maybe, it wasn't.