Tag:Louisiana Tech
Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 5:25 pm
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SEC Winners and Losers, Week 11

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: Atlanta ticket brokers. Not that there's ever any shortage of demand for the SEC championship game, but with the A-T-L's biggest college football team (sorry, Georgia Tech) officially on their way to the Georgia Dome, that hometown demand should drive prices clean through the roof.

Wait, whaddya mean, "not officially"? The only thing standing between Georgia and their trip to Atlanta is a home game against Kentucky, the same team that spent its Saturday getting drilled 38-8 by Vanderbilt. It's more likely some sort of bizarre last-minute eligibility scandal -- Bacarri Rambo busted for selling prime Sanford Stadium hedge clippings, or something -- keeps the Dawgs from the East crown than the Wildcats do. Arrange the days off, book the hotels, scalp the tickets--for the first time since 2005, Georgia's going to play for the SEC title. 

LOSER: The ghost of Willie Martinez. So why have the Dawgs made the leap? The friendliest possible league schedule has had a lot to do with it -- if Georgia goes to Arkansas and it's South Carolina who gets to visit Ole Miss, the Gamecocks are booking their tickets today -- but it's also true that as much hand-wringing as there's been over the Dawgs' struggles since 2005 at quarterback, the offensive line, running back, play-calling, etc, their biggest problem has always been on the defensive side of the ball. And in his second season after replacing the exiled, despised Willie Martinez as Georgia's defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham has those problems nearly solved. His unit ranks in the national top 10 in rush defense, pass defense, and total defense, and showed why vs. Auburn. Clint Moseley got no time to throw, Michael Dyer found precious little room to run, Rambo made the biggest play of the game with a pick-six, and the bottom line was that a Tiger offense that had scored 41 points two weeks earlier got none after their opening drive.

After that performance, it's safe to declare the specter of Mr. Martinez's failures fully exorcised.

WINNER: Hangovers. You play the Game of the Century one week, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise you don't quite play with your hair on fire the next. So even though they're LSU and Alabama, LSU and Alabama still took their leisurely time putting away outmatched opponents in Western Kentucky and Mississippi State, respectively. (The Hilltoppers a little more outmatched than the Bulldogs, obviously.) No one's immune to the week-after effect, apparently.

LOSER: The Rematch Resistance. Hangovers or no hangovers, though, LSU-Alabama II: Rematch of the Century took a big step closer to reality Saturday with both Stanford and Boise State falling from the ranks of the unbeaten. With Oregon unlikely to be any more palatable a rematch opponent for the Tigers than the Tide is, the only hurdle for Alabama to clear appears to be whichever team wins Bedlam: Oklahoma State would be undefeated and home-free, of course, but Oklahoma might also stake a claim with plenty of computer power and the voters' aversion to a sequel. But with that Texas Tech loss looking less and less explicable by the day, the educated guess here is that a Sooner win would send the Tide on for a second crack at the Tigers.

WINNER: Joe Adams. Because seriously:

LOSERS: Ole Miss supporters. Facing a substantially less-talented Louisiana Tech squad at home Saturday, the Rebels had a terrific opportunity to 1. rally for their fired head coach Houston Nutt 2. snap their six-game losing streak 3. show some kind of pride in their program and themselves regardless of the off-field distractions and coaching turnover. Instead they lost to the visitors from Ruston by three full touchdowns in what has to go down as the worst, most embarrassing nonconference loss for an SEC team this season. The Rebels still have two games to play this season -- at home to LSU and at Mississippi State -- and we don't envy anyone from Oxford compelled to watch either one.

WINNER: Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks won't be going back to Atlanta. They won't make any kind of dent in the national title race. They won't go down in history as some great team gone unrewarded, not having now won three SEC games in which they scored 17 points or fewer and having been the only SEC team to host Auburn and not blow the Tigers out of the water. Marcus Lattimore won't win the Heisman, Alshon Jeffery won't be named All-American or even All-SEC (today's tally: 2 receptions, 17 yards), and the less said about Stephen Garcia the better. 

So on many, many levels, this 2011 season is a disappointment ... and on the other, even for all of those struggles, the Gamecocks have just won 6 SEC games for the first time ever. As Spurrier noted, they've gone 6-0 the past two seasons vs. their main East rivals at Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. And in players like Jadeveon Clowney, Brandon Wilds and tackle Cody Gibson, there's still plenty of young talent to groom. The specific goal was to win another East title, and Spurrier failed at that. But maybe the larger, more important goal was to prove that 2010 wasn't a fluke  --  that the old annual November swoon, perpetual also-ran Gamecocks were gone for good -- and on that count Spurrier has succeeded, without question. If he wasn't already the best coach in the Gamecocks' history, this 2011 season means he is now. 

LOSER: Derek Dooley. Any talk of removing the second-year head man at Tennessee is wildly premature; if Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter are still healthy, who knows what the Vols' record is? And Dooley of course had nothing to do with a schedule that handed his team LSU, Arkansas, and Alabama out of the west. But it's one thing to lose a lot of games -- even SEC games, even six such games in a row -- and another to look as hopeless as the Vols did in their drubbing at Arkansas. Dooley's already been more good than outstanding on the recruiting trail, and if he loses next week to James Franklin and Vandy, the knives are going to really come out among the Vol faithful ... and that recruiting job is only going to get harder. 

(Gene Chizik isn't in the same boat, but he deserves a mention here all the same. The 4-3 SEC record isn't bad, but in the non-Ole Miss portion of the schedule, those three wins have come by a total of 21 points and the three losses by 97. With a defense that Chizik has a major hand in the main culprit, those blowouts suggest last year's national champion has a lot of work to do between now and 2012.)


Posted on: November 8, 2011 11:35 am
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 11

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (5-1)(7-2)
2. South Carolina (5-2)(7-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (6-0)(9-0)
2. Alabama (5-1)(8-1)
3. Arkansas (4-1)(8-1)

Week 11 Key Games: Florida at South Carolina; Tennessee at Arkansas; Auburn at Georgia

Pick: LSU. The Tigers take control of the SEC with their 9-6 overtime victory in the "Game of the Century" (tag now debatable), but the home stretch won't be a cakewalk. Arkansas will get their shot at the No. 1 team in the nation in the regular season finale, causing a mind-numbing three-way tie for the division title. If Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas all finish with one conference loss (against each other), the SEC title game representative will be decided by BCS standings. For now I'm liking LSU's chances against Arkansas and Georgian in the title game, assuming the Bulldogs can lock up the East down the stretch.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (6-0)(9-0)
2. Oklahoma (5-1)(8-1)
3. Kansas State (4-2)(7-2)
4. Texas (3-2)(6-2)

Week 11 Key Games: Texas at Missouri; Oklahoma State at Texas Tech; Texas A&M at Kansas State

Pick: Oklahoma State. Week 11 serves as a "Separation Saturday" of sorts in the Big 12, with Kansas State and Texas facing elimination from title contention. If the Cowboys can avoid the Texas Tech trap that caught their Bedlam brethren, they will be just an Iowa State win away from a possible unofficial Big 12 title game against the Sooners. Oklahoma still has to beat Baylor on the road, and does not get the advantage of a week off prior to the big game in December. I like Mike Gundy to have his team focused down the stretch, and outscoring anyone they face.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (7-0)(9-0)
2. Oregon (6-0)(8-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-2)(7-2)
1. UCLA (4-2)(5-4)

Key Week 11 Games: Oregon at Stanford; UCLA at Utah; Arizona State at Washington State

Pick: Stanford. UCLA's victory over Arizona State has made the Pac-12 South suddenly a heated race in November. Without owning the head-to-head against UCLA, the Sun Devils must remain perfect down the stretch and hope the Bruins falter to earn that bid to the Pac-12 title game. Arguably the biggest conference matchup of the season will be Stanford's showdown with Oregon at home on Saturday night. Knocking off the Ducks will give create enough separation to feel good about winning the Pac-12 North. If the banged-up Cardinal can get it done against Oregon, I like their chances against California the following week.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (4-1)(7-2)
2. Michigan (3-2)(7-2)
2. Nebraska (3-2)(7-2)
2. Iowa (3-2)(6-3)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(8-1)
2. Ohio State (3-2)(6-3)
2. Wisconsin (3-2)(7-2)

Key Week 11 Games: Nebraska at Penn State; Michigan State at Iowa; Michigan at Illinois; Wisconsin at Minnesota; Ohio State at Purdue

Pick: Michigan State. Week 10's results have left the Big Ten title race in a chaotic state. The good news for a Big Ten fan is that now almost every game on the schedule has a potential conference championship implication. Interestingly enough, one of the team with the most control in the jumbled Legends race is Iowa. The Hawkeyes defeated Michigan on Saturday, and face both Michigan State and Nebraska in the final three weeks of the season. Michigan State, with a game up on Iowa, can also lock up the division by winning out and faces an easier slate. Penn State has the toughest road in the Leaders division, and the off-field issues will be impossible for those around the program to ignore. Owning the head-to-head against Wisconsin, Ohio State is actually in the best position to leap ahead of Penn State should they fall along the way.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-4)
2. Florida State (4-2)(6-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)
3. Virginia (3-2)(6-3)

Key Week 11 Games: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech; Wake Forest at Clemson; Duke at Virginia; Miami at Florida State

Pick: Clemson. Week 11 provides the ACC with some huge matchups with conference title implications. Clemson can lock up the ACC Atlantic Division with a win over Wake Forest, and the winner of Thursday night's showdown between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech moves into the driver's seat for the ACC Coastal. I like the Tigers to take care of business with a week off following their loss to the Yellow Jackets, and Dabo Swinney's team will play to a Tiger-friendly crowd at the title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (3-0)(7-1)
2. Louisville (3-1)(5-4)
3. Rutgers (3-2)(6-3)
4. West Virginia (2-2)(6-3)
4. Pittsburgh (2-2)(4-5)
4. Connecticut (2-2)(4-5)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 11 Games: West Virginia at Cincinnati; Pittsburgh at Louisville

Pick: Cincinnati. The Bearcats' surprising 7-1 campaign runs into arguably the biggest road block on Saturday, facing a steaming-mad West Virginia team in Paul Brown Stadium. A loss knocks the Mountaineers from title contention, and Dana Holgorsen will be looking for improvements on all sides of the ball after the loss to Louisville. The Cardinals can also knock out a contender this weekend with a win over Pittsburgh.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (4-1)(8-1)
2. East Carolina (3-2)(4-5)
2. Marshall (3-2)(4-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (5-0)(9-0)
1. Tulsa (5-0)(6-3)
3. SMU (4-2)(6-3)

Key Week 11 Games: Houston at Tulane; Marshall at Tulsa; UCF at Southern Miss; East Carolina at UTEP

Pick: Houston. No one in the league has been as impressive as Houston this season, but Tulsa's five-game win streak is nothing to ignore. The two teams are on a collision course to meet in Houston on Thanksgiving Friday, likely for the West Division crown. UCF gave the Golden Hurricanes a challenge in Week 10, and Southern Miss should be on alert after picking up a game on East Carolina.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (4-0)(7-2)
2. Boise State (3-0)(8-0)
2. Wyoming (2-1)(5-3)

Key Week 11 Games: TCU at Boise State; Wyoming at Air Force

Pick: Boise State. My question is not if Boise State will beat TCU this weekend on the Smurf Turf, but how they beat TCU. The Broncos have once again found themselves in a position where they might be on the outside looking in of the BCS title game, and TCU presents their last quality opponent on the schedule. It would favor the Broncos to end this game early, and keep the foot on the accelerator to draw the attention of as many human voters as possible to help their BCS chances.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (4-1)(5-4)
2. Hawaii (3-2)(5-4)
4. Fresno State (2-2)(3-6)

Key Week 11 Games: Hawaii at Nevada; Fresno State at New Mexico State

Pick: Nevada. Louisiana Tech takes a break from conference play to face Ole Miss while Nevada gets a shot to eliminate Hawaii from title contention. I like the Wolf Pack coming in from a week off to knock the Warriors off at home, setting up a huge WAC showdown with Louisiana Tech in Week 12. Nevada plays to a favorable schedule down the stretch, and I like their chances to keep a hold on the top spot in the conference.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (3-2)(6-3)
1. MIami (OH) (3-2)(4-5)
3. Temple (3-3)(5-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Ball State (4-2)(6-4)

Key Week 11 Games: Northern Illinois at Bowling Green; Western Michigan at Toledo; Miami (OH) at Temple; Ohio at Central Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. While NBA fans are complaining about missed games, the MAC is seizing the opportunity to show off their mid-week fireworks. Week 11 is another Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday slate of contests with conference title implications, so get the scoreboard warmed up. The East leaders will each have to hit the road to protect their spot, with a Miami - Ohio rivalry game still left on the schedule. If Northern Illinois can avoid the upset at Bowling Green, their remaining schedule sets up well for a strong finish and plenty of rest for the conference title game.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (5-0)(7-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (6-1)(8-2)
3. Western Kentucky (5-1)(5-4)

Key Week 11 Games: La.-Lafayette at Arkansas State; Western Kentucky at LSU

Pick: Arkansas State. The Red Wolves have been on a tear for nearly two months, and now their opportunity to lock up the Sun Belt Conference comes right to their front door with Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin' Cajuns are fresh off a thrilling battle with Louisiana-Monroe that required two touchdowns in the final three minutes to secure the 36-35 victory. I like Arkansas State on Saturday, and to lock things up down the stretch in the Sun Belt.

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Posted on: November 2, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 10

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. South Carolina (5-1)(7-1)
1. Georgia (5-1)(6-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Alabama (5-0)(8-0)
1. LSU (5-0)(8-0)
3. Arkansas (3-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: South Carolina at Arkansas, LSU at Alabama

Pick: LSU. This could easily be Alabama, but right now I've got the Bayou Bengals winning 21-17 in Tuscaloosa. Regardless, whoever wins the SEC West will likely be the one to win the SEC Championship in Atlanta. Even with a victory over Alabama, LSU would still need to beat Arkansas in the regular season finale in Baton Rouge. South Carolina owns the head-to-head against Georgia, so the Bulldogs will need to win out and hope for a Gamecocks loss this weekend to win the East.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (5-0)(8-0)
2. Oklahoma (4-1)(7-1)
2. Kansas State (4-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: Kansas State at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M at Oklahoma

Pick: Oklahoma. I like the way the Sooners responded to getting upset by Texas Tech in their performance against Kansas State. Unless the Cowboys continue to showcase the defense that was on the field against Baylor - which they might - I have a hard time seeing the Sooners' offense getting stopped in the Bedlam Rivalry. Oklahoma State also has a tough road against Kansas State and on the road against Texas Tech before that season finale. Could be the Cowboys, but right now I'll take the Sooners.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (6-0)(8-0)
2. Oregon (5-0)(7-1)
3. Washington (4-1)(6-2)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-1)(6-2)
2. UCLA (3-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Arizona State at UCLA, Oregon at Washington

Pick: Stanford. If Arizona State beats UCLA this weekend it should basically lock up the USC-less South Division for that bid to the inaugural Pac-12 title game. The North will be a more difficult challenge for the Cardinal, but the resiliency showed by Andrew Luck and the offense after the pick-six in fourth quarter was just one of those moments that makes you believe this is their year to win the league.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan (3-1)(7-1)
1. Nebraska (3-1)(7-1)
1. Michigan State (3-1)(6-2)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(6-2)
2. Wisconsin (2-2)(6-2)
2. Ohio State (2-2)(5-3)
2. Purdue (2-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Michigan at Iowa, Northwestern at Nebraska, Purdue at Wisconsin, Indiana at Ohio State 

Pick: Wisconsin. Penn State has been the surprise of the league, now sitting as the only team undefeated in conference play. But with Nebraska and road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin on the schedule, I think the Badgers will have a chance to win the division in the regular season finale. The Legends Division is a little more cloudy, but right now Michigan State's remaining schedule is the most favorable among the three contenders. I like the Badgers to exact their revenge on Sparty in a rematch from the upset in East Lansing.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-3)
3. Florida State (3-2)(5-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)

Key Week 10 Game: Florida State at Boston College

Pick: Clemson. This weekend won't reveal much more about the ACC title race, with the top teams in the conference sitting this out this first weekend in November. But the Hokies and Yellow Jackets will square off in Atlanta next Thursday, a game that could seal the division for either team. Wake Forest will get their shot at the Tigers, but a Clemson win should st them up for a return to the ACC title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (2-0)(6-1)
2. West Virginia (2-1)(6-2)
2. Louisville (2-1)(4-4)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisville at West Virginia, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Pick: Cincinnati. The league-leading Bearcats do play three of their final five conference games on the road, but they will get to play host when West Virginia comes to town. If Cincinnati can get another game on the Mountaineers, I like their chances to emerge as a 1-loss Big East champion. West Virginia has to finish their season on the road against South Florida on a Thursday night. So far in 2011, Big East home teams are 6-0 when playing conference games on a weekday night.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (3-1)(7-1)
1. East Carolina (3-1)(4-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (4-0)(8-0)
1. Tulsa (4-0)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Tulsa at UCF, Southern Miss at East Carolina

Pick: Houston. Winner of this weekends East Division showdown should take front seat for the Conference USA title game. Either way I'm not sure either team could beat Houston. Tulsa will have their chance to play spoiler to the Cougars, hosting Case Keenum and Co. in the final game of the regular season, but they'll have to get by UCF and Marshall to have that opportunity.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (3-0)(6-2)
2. Boise State (2-0)(7-0)
2. Wyoming (2-0)(5-2)

Key Week 10 Games: TCU at Wyoming, Boise State at UNLV

Pick: Boise State. The only hurdle left for the Broncos is TCU, and the Horned Frogs' defensive drop-off from 2010 has been well documented. The game also will be played on the Smurf Turf in Boise, and I like Kellen Moore's chances to dissect that defense from under center at home. With the possibility of the Broncos earning a BCS bid, there is also significant competition for those extra bowl spots. I do like TCU to finish ahead of Wyoming for the second-place spot.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Hawaii (3-1)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (3-1)(4-4)
4. Fresno State (2-1)(3-5)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisiana Tech at Fresno State, Utah State at Hawaii

Pick: Nevada. The Wolf Pack bounced back from a 1-3 start with four straight wins to jump out ahead of the conference. The ground attack has been grooving, and they will have a week off before hosting Hawaii in a crucial battle for the top spot in the league. With Week 10 off and three of their final four contests at home, I like Nevada's chance to emerge as the top team in the WAC.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1, Temple (3-2)(5-3)
2. Ohio (2-2)(5-3)
2. MIami (OH) (2-2)(3-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Eastern Michigan (3-1)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Northern Illinois 63, Toledo 60. Temple at Ohio, Ball State at Eastern Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. Tuesday night's 123-point touchdown extravaganza provided thrilling mid-week action for college football fans, but it was also a huge win for the Huskies in the battle for the West Division title. Temple and Ohio will have a similar battle on Wednesday night, as the division races should have much more clarity heading into the weekend.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (4-0)(6-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (5-1)(7-2)
3. Western Kentucky (4-1)(4-4)
4. Florida International (2-2)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Florida International at Western Kentucky, Arkansas State at Florida Atlantic, La.-Monroe at La.-Lafayette

Pick: Arkansas State. Both La.-Lafayette and the Red Wolves have winnable Week 10 games before facing each other Nov. 12 in a game that could decide the Sun Belt Champion. With no conference title game you can never count out ties, but I like Arkansas State next week to at least pick up the head-to-head tie breaker in the final standings.


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Posted on: October 2, 2011 1:32 am
 

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The gap between the Big Two and the Smaller Ten is even wider than we thought. Last week in this space, we wrote that Alabama and LSU were the top two teams in the SEC and that no one else was close. That's not exactly right; the Crimson Tide and Bayou Bengals are indeed the top two teams, but no one else is even within the same stratosphere.

After all, if there was ever a situation where one team or the other was going to be challenged, it was going to be Saturday night in Gainesville, right? The Tide were on the road, at an undefeated Florida team, in prime-time, in an atmosphere just about as hostile as it's possible to have in college football and they fell behind 7-0 in the first 20 seconds ... and casually laughed all of it off on their way to a 38-10 romp.

So who's going to challenge either of those Big Two? The Gators have already been crushed by one and may not have John Brantley for the other. Arkansas? Kudos for their resilience today, but they also looked overmatched in their one attempt and gave up 381 yards rushing (628 total) vs. Texas A&M. South Carolina looks totally lost (see below), but not so lost they couldn't beat Georgia in Athens. Tennessee? Lost to Florida. Auburn? Still the same team that needed a miracle to beat Utah State.

We don't want to write things that look silly later, so for now we'll hold off on declaring the potential college football Game of the Year Nov. 5 between the Tide and Tigers a mortal lock to decide the SEC champion. But it may not be long until it looks silly to write anything else.

The Sports Illustrated curse has its first victim, and that victim is South Carolina. Back in August, we detailed how teams that have a player or players appear on the Sports Illustrated college football preview cover wind up limping to disappointing seasons more often than not. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Alshon Jeffery was one of those players this year.

And so surprise, surprise, guess who's well on their way to playing out exactly that disappointment. It's not just the loss to Auburn, either; after the big first-half deficit to East Carolina, the wheeze past Navy, the "putrid" offensive display against Vanderbilt, the only thing left to complete the Gamecock backslide was the nigh-inexplicable loss at home to a double-digit underdog coming off a 316-yard display against hapless FAU. Arguably the most surprising thing about the Tiger victory today was how unsurprising the rest of Carolina's season had already made it.

2011 was supposed to the confirmation of the lessons of 2010, that the old bait-and-switch Gamecocks were gone and the new East-winning, top-15, nationally-relevant Gamecocks were here to stay. Instead, 2011 has seemed to confirm that South Carolina is still South Carolina: talented, dangerous, capable of big things ... but always too erratic, too unfocused to accomplish them. It must particularly rankle to have that confirmed against Auburn, which beat Carolina twice last season. That the Tigers lost seemingly half their roster while the Gamecocks returned the likes of Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore, Devin Taylor and the incredible Melvin Ingram -- not to mention a senior quarterback coming off his best season yet -- should have turned the tables. But even at home, even with Auburn committing four turnovers, even with Barrett Trotter utterly unable to complete a pass longer than five yards downfield, the tables stayed unturned. 

There's still time to turn things around and get to Atlanta, thanks to John Brantley's injury potentially crippling the Florida offense and the tiebreak over Georgia. But if not? If we're a Carolina fan, we're blaming SI.

Mississippi State is in a similar, even-leakier boat. The Bulldogs were also looking to 2011 as the season they proved their old haunts at or near the SEC West cellar were behind them, thanks to an offense that returned nine starters and had another year of Dan Mullen's tutelage under it. But that offense hit its lowest point yet in what looks like another ho-hum season, going without an offensive touchdown at Georgia and scoring just three points in a dispirited (and dispiriting) 24-10 loss. Coming only a week after only putting up 20 regulation points against Lousiana Tech -- and given that Georgia's not exactly a defensive juggernaut just yet -- something appears to be seriously amiss with Mullen's unit. When the schedule still offers visits from Carolina and Alabama and a trip to Arkansas, he'd better have it fixed in a hurry--or his team could be one upset loss from missing the postseason entirely.

The SEC's roster of Heisman candidates goes much deeper than Marcus Lattimore. One less-than-overpowering performance from the big sophomore shouldn't douse his Heisman hopes too badly, but it did open up the floor for the rest of the league's stars to make their statements ... and they did. 

Trent Richardson put his slow 2011 start even further behind him with a punishing 181-yard, 2-touchdown performance. Tyrann Mathieu further cemented his status as the leading defensive candidate with another highlight-reel play -- a quarterback strip, fumble recovery, and touchdown return -- as well as keying another lockdown performance from the LSU secondary. Tyler Wilson isn't on anyone's shortlist yet, but a few more 510-yard passing days might change that. Melvin Ingram had an absurd game, collecting 3.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles-for-loss and an interception. And it seems unfair to mention Lattimore without also mentioning Michael Dyer, the Auburn running back who outrushed him 141-to-66 Saturday -- grinding out many of those yards in the face of poor blocking and a second-half ankle sprain -- and has now outrushed him 305-183 over their three head-to-head meetings.

For all that, if the Heisman vote were held today, Lattimore would still likely top the SEC's list. (As badly as his team is struggling, where on earth would it be without him?) But the SEC's roster of stars is deep enough that that could change as soon as next week.

Houston Nutt won't be fired this week. He still has a long way to go to guarantee himself a spot on the Ole Miss sideline in 2012. But flying cross-country to get a 10-point win over a likely bowl team in Fresno State isn't a bad first step.

Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:06 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 4:11 am
 

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 4

Posted by Jerry Hinnen


1. LSU and Alabama are the SEC's No. 1 and No. 2, or No. 2 and No. 1, and no one else is close. Yes: Arkansas could recover from today's beatdown in Tuscaloosa and still head to Baton Rouge at the end of the year with a chance to sneak off with the West title. Yes: South Carolina has the league's best player in Marcus Lattimore and more than enough weapons on both sides of the ball to beat anyone, LSU and 'Bama included, if Stephen Garcia's head is screwed on correctly. Yes: with Charlie Weis rediscovering the Gators' lost running attack behind Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, Florida looks like the most dangerous team in the East and could do anything in the Atlanta one-off.

But until one of those teams actually beats one of the two Goliaths currently standing atop the conference, we're going to assume the gap between LSU and Alabama and the rest of the conference is even wider than it was purported to be at season's beginning. In fact, this blogger would argue these are the two teams that belong atop the polls as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation.

Why? LSU has the best overall body of work of any team in the FBS, having beaten three ranked teams away from the friendly confines of Death Valley. And if Mississippi State doesn't look like they're going to live up to their preseason ranking, beating Oregon and West Virginia by a combined 39 points (and largely throttling a Duck offense that's rolled in its usual fashion ever since) should only look better as the season progresses.

But if LSU has the best body of work, it's Alabama that after Saturday has the single most impressive performance of the season. Not many SEC fans have doubts about Arkansas's offensive personnel (running back excepted), and even fewer would question Bobby Petrino's offensive scheming. But the Tide made the Hog attack look utterly ordinary, all while showing off the kind of explosiveness in the offensive backfield (hi, Trent Richardson!) and special teams (hey, Marquis Maze!) that should give them all the scoring firepower they'll need. If Arkansas goes on to be the top-15 team they've been supposed to be this offseason -- and we don't see any reason to doubt them yet -- then drubbing that top-15 team by 24 points that felt like 44 makes for the best single-game showing of the year so far.

So ... which do you choose? The team that's flashed the highest ceiling, or the team with the best scalps on the wall? We don't know. And fortunately, we don't have to choose--their meeting on Nov. 5 (barring an upset between now and then) will choose for us. We just know that choosing any other SEC team at this point is denying the obvious.

2. Florida is the East favorite, and Stephen Garcia is the reason. It's not that the Gators wiped the floor with Kentucky, though their willingness to keep the pedal to the proverbial metal was impressive. (They do wipe the floor with the 'Cats every year, after all.) It's not that the Gamecocks' issues in the secondary can't be overcome -- after collecting a pair of key sack-and-strips against Vanderbilt, Jadeveon Clowney can apparently do a lot of the overcoming by himself -- or that the slow start for Alshon Jeffery can't become a fast finish if he gets better quarterbacking.

What it is is, well, that quarterbacking. Garcia didn't just throw four interceptions Saturday against the 'Dores; he threw four awful, braindead, hilarious, Steve Spurrier aneurysm-inducing interceptions. Vandy has an outstanding secondary, but when you run straight backwards on 3rd-and-15 and blindly launch a pass so aimless and floated even the Wounded Duck Association of America immediately asks to be disassociated from it (as Garcia did for his first), an outstanding secondary isn't necessary. Garcia was terrible, plain-and-simple, and frankly lucky he hadn't already been pulled by the time Connor Shaw entered in the fourth quarter.

South Carolina can do a lot of things even when Garcia is terrible. They can do even more if he's hovering around "passable." (Like beat Georgia, for instance.) But they can't win the East if he's not playing somewhere near the top of his game, and judging by Saturday's performance, the top of his game is far, far away from him.

3. The SEC West might not be quite that brutal. Is it still the roughest, toughest division in college football? Probably. But part of its preseason reputation was due to the presence of both Auburn and Mississippi State in the preseason polls, and right now neither squad is playing like they deserve so much as a spot at the bottom of the "Also Receiving Votes" barrel.

The Bulldogs were supposed to lick their wounds this week against Louisiana Tech after crushing losses to Auburn and LSU. But the Bulldogs from Ruston nearly inflicted the biggest wound yet, tying the game at 20 on a late field goal and driving to the State 20 with under four minutes to play before a Garciaesque interception from true freshman QB Nick Isham ended the threat. Another pick would help MSU escape in overtime, despite Tech's 359-340 yardage advantage. 

But at least hard-luck Tech had already taken Southern Miss and Houston to the wire. FAU hadn't scored a touchdown in their two games, losing to Florida and Michigan State by a combined score of 85-3. And yet the Owls found themselves down just 10-6 to Auburn at halftime and finished the game with just eight fewer yards. While most of the frustration from Auburn fans has been centered on the Tiger defense, this time it was the offense doing most of the struggling, as they finished with just 315 total yards (the second-lowest total of Gus Malzahn's tenure) and two offensive touchdowns.

Both teams will no doubt play much better games against competition they take more seriously, in weeks where they're not recovering from emotional losses. But even if they do, neither the Bulldogs nor Tigers currently look like a threat to any of the five teams at the top of either division. 

4. Houston Nutt's odds of coaching in 2012 are now less than 50/50. A 27-13 home loss to Georgia isn't great no matter how you slice it. But the Rebels' performance was even more deflating than the scoreline suggests. The Dawgs outgained their hosts by nearly 300 yards (475 to 183), held them without a second-half point, and only kept them in the game via Blair Walsh's uncharacteristic three missed field goals. The Rebel passing game continued to be the sorest of sore spots, as Zack Stoudt and Randall Mackey combined to complete just 12 of their 30 passes for just 149 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. If not for an 82-yard punt return reverse for a touchdown pulled out of Nutt's bag, the Rebels likely would have finished in the single digits in scoring for a second straight week.

So maybe it looked better on the scoreboard than the 30-7 defeat at Vandy. But Ole Miss still didn't offer any reason to think they're not on their way to 1-7 (or worse) in the SEC.


Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:05 am
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Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:02 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 4:15 am
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Posted on: August 18, 2011 12:03 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-WAC Team

Posted by Tom Fornelli

As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here are my choices for the Preseason All-Big 12 team.

Offense


QUARTERBACK

Bryant Moniz, Senior, Hawaii

Moniz is the latest in a long line of quarterbacks to rack up insane yardage totals out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In 2010 he threw for 5,040 yards and led the country with 39 touchdown passes. He also led the nation in total offense, and "Mighty Mo" will look to do the same things in 2011 as he makes a Heisman push.

Also watch for: While Moniz gets the most attention in the WAC, don't forget about Fresno State's Derek Carr -- you may remember his older brother David -- and Idaho's Brian Reader. Those two could put up some nice numbers as well.

RUNNING BACK

Robbie Rouse, Junior, Fresno State

Rouse showed a lot promise in his first two seasons with the Bulldogs, rushing for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he'll be looking to continue to impress in 2011. If he can, it will be a big boost to Fresno State's chances of winning the WAC.

Robert Turbin, Junior, Utah State

After missing all of the 2010 season with an injury, the only person who wants to see Robert Turbin on the football field more than Aggie fans is Turbin himself. As a sophomore Turbin started 11 games and rushed for 108 yards per game to become Utah State's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2001. Along with being a threat carrying the ball, Turbin is also dangerous catching balls out of the backfield and contributing in the passing game.

Also watch for: There are a number of good running backs in the WAC, but there are two that come immediately to mind. Nevada's Mike Ball will get plenty of carries with the Wolfpack now that Vai Taua is no longer around. Then there's Louisiana Tech's Lennon Creer.

WIDE RECEIVER

Rishard Matthews, Senior, Nevada

I do not envy the position that Nevada quarterback Tyler Lantrip is in trying to replace Colin Kaepernick at Nevada, but he could certainly do a lot worse than having Rishard Matthews around to throw the ball to. Matthews led Nevada with 55 receptions and 873 yards last season, and will be Lantrip's go-to option in the passing game.

Royce Pollard, Senior, Hawaii

With both Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares no longer playing wide receiver for Hawaii, somebody is going to have to step up and catch all those passes, and Pollard is the best bet. As Hawaii's third receiving option in 2010 Pollard finished the year with 64 catches, 901 yards and 7 touchdowns. Imagine the numbers he'll put up as a number one!

Also watch for: Louisiana Tech has a talented duo in Taulib Ikharo and Ahmad Paige. Of course, when it comes to receivers, just about everybody on Hawaii's depth chart is a candidate to excel this season.

TIGHT END:

Ryan Otten, Junior, San Jose State

Otten missed a lot of time for San Jose State thanks to injuries in 2010, but he came on strong at the end of the season. His three touchdown receptions came in the final two games of the season, and he still finished third on the team in touchdown catches even though he missed half the year. He'll be looking to build on the momentum he picked up after getting healthy in 2011.

Also watch for: Idaho sophomore Taylor Elmo and Utah State's Kellen Bartlett are two other tight ends capable of putting up some nice numbers this season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Center Jeff Meads, Senior, Nevada

Meads earned the starting job at center last season, starting all 13 games, and played a key role on an offensive line that helped the Wolfpack finish third in the nation in rushing offense.

Guard Chris Barker, Junior, Nevada

Since redshirting in 2008, there hasn't been a single game that the Wolfpack guard hasn't been in the starting lineup. He's another big reason that Nevada ran the ball on everyone it came across last season.

Guard Kevin Saia, Junior, Louisiana Tech

Saia earned the starting job at left guard at the end of 2009 and held onto it during the 2010 year, helping open plenty of holes for running back Lennon Creer.

Tackle Austin Hansen, Senior, Hawaii

When you have an offense that drops back to pass as often as Hawaii's does, you're going to need a left tackle you can count on to keep your quarterback on his feet. Hansen has been just that for the Warriors, starting 22 games the last two seasons.

Tackle Tyrone Novikoff, Senior, Idaho

Novikoff has seen time on the Idaho offensive line since his freshman season, and has started 25 games the last two years at left tackle. There's a reason for it too, as the 6-foot-7 tackle is not the easiest man to get by.

Also watch for: Utah State boasts a nice pair on its line in Funaki Asisi and Philip Gapelu. There's also Stephen Warner at Louisiana Tech. New Mexico State's Sioeli Fakalata and Hawaii's Chauncey Winchester-Makainai deserve your attention for their names alone, but both are talented as well.

Defense


DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Matt Broha, Senior, Louisiana Tech

Broha is one of the most prolific pass rushers in Louisiana Tech history. His 9 sacks in 2010 moved him into third all-time on the schools sack leaders, and he'll be looking to climb to the top in 2011.

DE Travis Johnson, Junior, San Jose State

Johnson has started 17 games in his career as a Spartan, and he's only entering his third season with the team. In 2010 he led all SJSU defensive lineman with 62 tackles and led the team in sacks with 7.5. He also had 9.5 tackles for a loss.

DT Logan Harrell, Senior, Fresno State

Logan Harrell was a monster for the Bulldogs on the interior of the defensive line. Though defensive tackles aren't generally known to be pass rush specialists, that still didn't stop Harrell from leading the WAC with 10.5 sacks and racking up another 14 tackles for loss.

DT Brett Roy, Senior, Nevada

Nevada's Brett Roy also proved to be problematic for offensive lines in 2010, tallying 8 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss with the Wolfpack.

Also watch for: Hawaii's Kaniela Tuipulotu and Idaho's Michael Cosgrove were also terrors on the inside and should continue to improve this season. Also on Hawaii's defensive line is Vaughn Meatoga -- mmmmm, meat toga -- and Donte Savage lives up to his last name for New Mexico State.

LINEBACKERS

Bobby Wagner, Senior, Utah State

Wagner has already been named First Team All-WAC in his career at Utah State so why not go for a third? While he has other talented players around him, at times you get the sense that Wagner is the Utah State defense, as there is rarely a play run that he isn't a part of.

Corey Paredes, Senior, Hawaii

Corey Paredes is to tackles what Hawaii wide receivers are to receptions. He makes all of them. Paredes finished with 151 tackles last season, which was the second-highest total in school history. Paredes also showed that he could possibly play some wide receiver for Hawaii if he had to, picking off 4 passes during the year.

Adrien Cole, Senior, Louisiana Tech

Cole started only 6 games for the Bulldogs in 2010, but he made the most of the opportunity given to him. He finished the year as a second-team All-WAC selection, and I feel that if he shows the effort and skill that he did while making 80 tackles in limited time last year, he'll be making the leap to the first team this season.

Also watch for: The WAC is home to quite a few linebackers worthy of your attention. Keith Smith (San Jose State), Jay Dudley (Louisiana Tech) Aaron Brown (Hawaii), Kyle Gallagher (Utah State), James-Michael Johnson (Nevada), and Robert Siavil (Idaho) are just a few.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Isaiah Frey, Senior, Nevada

Frey's 2010 season was good enough to have him named second team All-WAC, and he's looking to move up this year. He may be the most consistent corner in the entire conference, and finished 2010 with 14 passes broken up. He's also not afraid to stick his nose into the fray and make a tackle on a running back coming around the corner.

S Walter McClenton, Senior, Utah State

McClenton made ten starts at safety for the Aggies last seson and finished the year third on the team in tackles with 62. He also broke up 2 passes and had a sack. He's somebody I'd consider more of a run-stuffer than a coverage safety, but if he can improve on his pass defense in 2011 his stock will soar.

S Duke Ihenacho, Senior, San Jose State

Since San Jose State joined the WAC in 1996 its never had a player named first team All-WAC. This season Ihenacho will look to be the first. Unfortunately he didn't have the chance last season after missing the last ten games of the season with an injury, but he's back and healthy this year and will be a force once again.

S Phillip Thomas, Junior, Fresno State

Thomas is a safety that is loaded with potential and he flashed signs of it last season, finishing the year with 64 tackles, 9 passes broken up, 2 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions. Now, as a junior, he'll be looking to fulfill that potential even more, and I fully expect him to.

Also watch for: Given the amount of passing offenses in the WAC, safeties play an important role in slowing down offenses, and the WAC has a few who are more than capable. Players like Louisiana Tech's Chad Boyd, New Mexico State's Donyae Coleman, Richard Torres at Hawaii and Nevada's Duke Williams play key roles for their teams.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Kevin Goessling, Senior, Fresno State

P Bobby Cowan, Junior, Idaho

KR Kerwynn Williams, Junior, Utah State

PR Rishard Matthews, Senior, Nevada
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com