Tag:Mark Richt
Posted on: November 26, 2011 4:50 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 12:41 am
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VIDEO: Les Miles talks SEC Championship game

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It must be a fun day to be Les Miles. While he sits back and basks in the glow of his team's 41-17 bludgeoning of Arkansas, 12-0 regular season, and unanimous No. 1 ranking, the rest of college football scrambles and rambles to try and be the team that meets Miles's in New Orleans.

In any case, Miles knew even before today's action that his Tigers would be facing Mark Richt's Georgia in next week's SEC championship game. In this clip, he talks to Tim Brando about that game, the Bulldogs, his 2011 season, and more.

Posted on: November 26, 2011 3:31 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 13 Georgia 31, No. 25 Ga. Tech 17

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

GEORGIA WON: 
If the Bulldogs were looking forward to the SEC championship in any form or fashion, in never showed Saturday in Atlanta. Aaron Murray had another supremely efficient day (19-of-29, 252 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception) and the Dawg secondary picked off Tevin Washington twice on Tech's first three possessions of the second half to turn what had been a close game at halftime into a comfortable victory.

WHY GEORGIA WON: For all of Murray's brilliance -- and even his glittering statistics didn't do justice to how cleanly he picked apart the helpless Tech secondary, or how little answer the Jackets had for tight end Orson Charles (5 catches, 95 yards, all of them wiiiiiide open) -- this game belonged to the Georgia defense. The Bulldogs have slowly become one of the nation's best defenses since their early breakdowns against Boise State and South Carolina, and in the second half they showed it. 

The Jackets racked up nearly 200 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes and could have been within a field goal if they'd scored on a botched 3rd-and-goal option from the 2, but their first four second half possessions went like this: three plays, interception; four plays, punt; one play, interception; 13 plays, turnover on downs. Not only has the light come on for the Dawgs in Todd Grantham's schemes, but a handful of legitimate stars have emerged: linebacker Jarvis Jones, safety Shawn Williams, corner Brandon Boykin (who limited Tech top target Stephen Hill to just one reception). Add that kind of back seven talent to a major offseason increase in beef along the 3-4 line, and you're looking at a defense that's not going to make things easy next week for LSU.

WHEN GEORGIA WON: That second Washington pick -- a brilliant diving effort by Williams -- was quickly turned into six points by Murray, putting Tech in a 21-point hole their option offense had no prayer of erasing.

WHAT GEORGIA WON: Their 10th game of the season in Mark Richt's "make or break" year; we're fairly confident he's off the hot seat by now. The Dawgs also cemented their total domination of the series under Richt, having now won 10 of their last 11 over the Jackets. For all Paul Johnson's brilliance, aside from the shocker in Athens his debut season, he hasn't had any better luck solving Tech's archrival than his predecessors.

WHAT GEORGIA TECH LOST: Their fourth game of the season and maybe some juice in the bowl pecking order. But more to the point: any illusion that Johnson's arrival might mean a turn in fortunes in the rivalry.

Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 12:47 pm
 

ACC-SEC Grudge Week Preview



Posted by Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson


There's no formal conference-vs.-conference challenge in college football, but this week is as close as we're going to come: four contests matching up SEC and ACC opponents, all of them competitive matchups on paper. Here, our resident ACC and SEC bloggers break down why each team can (or should) expect to win and offer their predictions.

No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA: Regardless of motivation or prep time (neither of which favors the Bulldogs, admittedly), the antidote to Georgia Tech's triple-option is the same as it's always been: a powerful defensive line and a running game that keeps the Tech offense off the field. In immovable nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers and whirling-dervish 3-4 outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Bulldogs can put a check mark by the former, and the combination of Crowell and a rapidly improving offensive line should be able to provide the latter. If the Dawgs are at all focused, they've got the better, more talented team. But are they at all focused?

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA TECH: While the in-state athletes have made a point to do their barking in the media, I'm not entirely sure the Bulldogs will have their total focus on Georgia Tech.  With the SEC Championship Game a week away, some have suggested that Mark Richt rest banged up players like star running back Isaiah Crowell to keep them fresh for the SEC West representative in Atlanta.  Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Championship Game hunt, and now has refocused on a goal of achieving a 10-win season.  With the game in Atlanta, it just seems like the Yellow Jackets have more to play for and less to lose.

Jerry's Pick: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27
Chip's Pick: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 24

Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET. TV: ESPNU

THE CASE FOR VANDERBILT: A 5-6 record is a fine, fine start for James Franklin, but even more impressive is that the 'Dores have arguably been even better than that record: their last four SEC losses have come by a total of 19 points. Jordan Rodgers has been a revelation since taking over as starting quarterback, and potential All-SEC corner Casey Hayward leads a top-notch secondary that will pose major matchup problems for the Deacon passing attack. That Vandy's been better at home than on the road (and that the same goes for Wake) could be troubling, but this Commodore team is easily good enough to be a bowl team, and they should be plenty fired up to prove it.

THE CASE FOR WAKE FOREST: Wake Forest can expect to get Vanderbilt's best shot, particularly with bowl eligibility on the line for James Franklin's squad.  Perhaps the best matchup for Wake Forest is neutralizing one of the Commodores' strengths.  Vanderbilt has an opportunistic defense that has forced 17 interceptions on the season (T-1 in the SEC), but Tanner Price has one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC at taking care of the ball.  Price has thrown for 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions, and has nearly doubled his 2010 output with 2,646 yards on the year.  Still, especially after last week's debacle against Tennessee you have think Vanderbilt will be an inspired team on Saturday.

Jerry's Pick: Vanderbilt 30, Wake Forest 27
Chip's Pick: Vanderbilt 34, Wake Forest 31

Florida State at Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN2

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA: The (surprisingly difficult) win over Furman got the Gators into a bowl, but the only way to genuinely salvage Will Muschamp's rocky debut season is to beat the 'Noles, and Muschamp's team knows it. Playing hated FSU at home should wake up the dormant Florida Field crowd, and it's not like the Gators don't have the talent to win this game: a healthy John Brantley at quarterback, the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps tag team at tailback, Jelani Jenkins at linebacker. The Gators' top-20 defense should be plenty enough of a match for an FSU offense that's scored a total of 36 points the last two weeks. If the 'Noles can lose to Virginia at home, they're certainly vulnerable enough to lose to the motivated Gators in Gainesville.

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA STATE: Unlike the Gators, the Seminoles have shown the potential of a Top 10-caliber team when they are healthy and have all the pieces working together.  Unfortunately for Florida State, they are like Florida with their inconsistent performances throughout the season.  When EJ Manuel has time to throw and is able to get in rhythm, the Seminoles becomes dangerous and potent very quickly.  The Gators' defense presents arguably their toughest challenge on the schedule, but at least Florida State has played at an elite level at times this year.

Jerry's Pick: Florida 24, Florida State 21
Chip's Pick: Florida State 28, Florida 16

No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina, 7:45 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks haven't seen many offenses like Clemson's, but the Tigers also haven't seen many defenses like Carolina's. Melvin Ingram has been one of the nation's best defensive ends, Jadeveon Clowney has lived up to the hype and more, and what was one of the FBS's most flammable secondaries in 2010 has turned into one of its stingiest in 2011. The buttoned-down Gamecock offense won't put a lot of points on the board, but they should put up some against the roller-coaster Tiger defense. They could easily be enough opposite that defense.

THE CASE FOR CLEMSON: Sammy. Watkins. When healthy, his presence on the field changes so many aspects of the game.  The superstar freshman has been cleared to play after sitting out last week with a shoulder injury, and if he is at full speed Steve Spurrier will have some difficult special teams decisions to make.  The Gamecocks' kick coverage has been less than stellar, so OBC will need to figure out whether he'd rather set up the potent Tigers offense with a short field or put the ball in the hands of arguably the most explosive player in the ACC.  He returns kicks, punts, and offensive coordinator Chad Morris moves him all around in the offense.  The Tigers' offense was missing a spark in the loss to NC State, but he'll be ready to go for this rivalry game.

Jerry's Pick: Clemson 27, South Carolina 21
Chip's Pick: Clemson 45, South Carolina 38


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Posted on: November 22, 2011 3:39 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Georgia at Georgia Tech

Posted by Chip Patterson

GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: The Bulldogs can establish their running game. In this contest, making the most of every possession will be crucial. Georgia has had a revolving door at running back recently because of health and personal issues, but to win Saturday they will just need SOMEONE to be productive out of the backfield. Freshman sensation Isaiah Crowell is questionable with an ankle injury, Carlton Thomas's status after another one-game suspension is murky, Richard Samuel is still recovering from Nov. 1 ankle surgery, while backups Brandon Harton and Ken Malcome combined for three fumbles against Kentucky. The questions of "who" and "how many" running backs play against Georgia Tech do not matter as long as the Bulldogs offense can establish a consistent ground attack.

GEORGIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They catch the Bulldogs off guard between crucial SEC contests. Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Coastal Division race, and has nothing to save themselves for in their new mission for 10 wins. Two of Georgia Tech's losses this season have come against teams that have had extended time to prepare for defending Paul Johnson's offense. Extra time isn't the only way to beat Georgia Tech, but both of those coaches and/or players credited the extra time as a helpful advantage after the fact. Georgia enters the game having just wrapped up the SEC East with the SEC Championship in Atlanta just a week away. If there is any scheduling advantage here, it favors the Yellow Jackets.

X-FACTOR: Isaiah Crowell's availability. In Georgia Tech's three losses this season the defense allowed an average of over 220 yards per game on the ground, in wins that number is 145.5. Early reports make it appear that Mark Richt will have up to four of his tailbacks ready to go against the Yellow Jackets, and some have suggested the Bulldogs rest their star freshman to allow his ankle to fully heal in preparation for the SEC Championship Game. If the Bulldogs run all four backs, they will be able to limit Georgia Tech's time on the field and likely have an opportunity to eat up yards against the 3-4 defense already concerned with stopping Murray through the air.

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Posted on: November 18, 2011 4:26 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 12

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.

BREAKFAST

#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

LUNCH

#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

DINNER

#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 
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:45 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 11

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 been one of the longest weeks that I can remember in the world of college football because of what has been going in in State College this week, and I don't know about you, but I could really use a day to just immerse myself in football games and nothing else at this point.

So, thankfully, we've got a pretty decent slate of games on tap this weekend, though the schedule does get a bit thin toward the end of the day.

BREAKFAST

Texas Tech vs. #2 Oklahoma State - ABC, 12pm ET

Texas Tech has already spoiled the party for Oklahoma this season, and now it will be looking to finish off another Oklahoma school with BCS championship dreams. Of course, considering the way that Texas Tech has looked the last two weeks since that Oklahoma win, a victory against Oklahoma State in this one might be even more of a shocker. - Tom Fornelli

#13 South Carolina vs. Florida - CBS, 12pm ET

Steve Spurrier facing the program built by Steve Spurrier is always a headline-maker, but the bigger story is whether the Gamecocks can stay afloat in the SEC East title race. As in command as Georgia appears to be, a Carolina win over the Gators paired with an Auburn win over the Dawgs would have the East crown clinched for the Gamecocks by the end of the day. Florida may have something to say about that, though, after their previously moribund offense came to life with 410 total yards and 26 points vs. Vandy. - Jerry Hinnen

Iowa vs. #17 Michigan State - ESPN2, 12pm ET

There are approximately three games left (barring disastrous upsets) that will decide the Big Ten Legends Division race. This is one of them. Iowa, even with three losses, still controls its own destiny in the race, and has been undefeated at home. Meanwhile, Michigan State is the putative leader of the division, and a win here puts the Spartans in great shape to make it to Indianapolis in December. MSU hasn't been able to run on anybody, and Iowa hasn't been able to stop anybody on the ground. Something's gotta give. - Adam Jacobi

LUNCH

#5 Boise State vs. TCU - Versus, 3:30pm ET

Here it is, Boise State's Mountain West Super Bowl. With no conference championship, and a soft finish to the regular season schedule, this is the Broncos last chance to make a statement against an opponent with any national recognition.  The Horned Frogs aren't the power they have been the last two seasons, but they definitely present the most difficult challenge to Boise State in the conference.  Bad news for TCU though, the defense that is giving up 200+ yards per game through the air has to face Kellen Moore on the Smurf Turf.  I expect Moore and Co. to take the opportunity to make a statement to the nation, so get the scoreboard warmed up now. - Chip Patterson

#14 Kansas State vs. Texas A&M - ABC, 3:30pm ET

If last week was any indication, we were all a bit early in writing off Kansas State following it's loss to Oklahoma. The Wildcats nearly put an end to Oklahoma State's BCS hopes last weekend, and they will be looking to put another nail in the coffin of Texas A&M this weekend. The Aggies have lost two in a row coming into this game, and lost running back Christine Michael for the season last week. Will the A&M offense be capable of making up for his absence? Also, will it even matter if Collin Klein has another amazing game for the Wildcats? - TF

#15 Georgia vs. #20 Auburn - CBS, 3:30pm ET

Can Mark Richt's team handle the pressure? Win this game, and the Bulldogs will be one home gimme over Kentucky from their first trip to the SEC Championship game since 2005--the sort of stakes under which Richt's team has repeatedly shriveled in those five preceding years. If Aaron Murray plays his game, the Dawg defense forces Clint Moseley to look like the sophomore making a third career start he is, and Isaiah Crowell can find a hole or two, Georgia should be home and dry. But if they don't? The Tigers showed against Carolina and Florida that they're perfectly happy dragging opposing pro-style offenses into a low-scoring slugfest where Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb dominate things ... and the Tigers win. - JH

Florida State vs. Miami - ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm ET

The in-state rivalry enters a new chapter with both Miami and Florida State making coaching changes in the last two seasons.  With EJ Manuel healthy again, the Seminoles are on a four-game winning streak averaging 38.5 points per game.  They are likely out of the ACC Atlantic race, but there is still plenty to play for for these two Florida programs.  Players from both locker rooms have made a point to mention this game meaning a little more, as you can feel the intensity returning to the rivalry.  High profile recruits will be in the house, bragging rights will be on the line, and the Hurricanes are no doubt looking to get revenge after last season's embarrassing 45-17 loss at home. - CP

USC vs. Washington - FX, 3:45pm ET

Although USC can't play in a Pac-12 Championship game this season, it would still like to show the rest of the conference that it's the best team in the Pac-12 South this season, and if it continues to play like it has been the last few weeks, then Washington may be in for a long day. Of course, on the other side of the field is a Washington team that is improving but still doesn't have that signature win under Steve Sarkisian. Going to The Coliseum and handing USC a loss would be just that. - TF

Illinois vs. #24 Michigan - ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm ET


The last two times these teams squared off, the final score was a 67-65 3OT masterpiece in Michigan's favor. We might not see 132 total points scored (or even 100; quelle horreur!), as both defenses have been miles ahead of last year. That said, both teams' exciting quarterbacks are back and putting up solid numbers, and each squad should be extremely motivated to snap a losing streak with a big victory. Folks, it's Denard vs. Scheelhaase; why wouldn't you watch this game? - AJ

DINNER

Maryland vs. Notre Dame - NBC, 7:30pm ET

Do you ever think to yourself that you hate your eyes? Well, if so, then this will be the game for you. Maryland will be breaking out the infamous uniforms we saw in their season opener against Miami earlier this year, and they'll be combined with Notre Dame's Trapper Keeper helmets. By the time the third quarter begins you'll feel like you've been trapped inside a Jackson Pollock painting. - TF

Mississippi State vs. #3 Alabama - ESPN, 7:45pm ET

Oh, Bulldogs, you did not pick the right time to face Alabama. Not that it likely would have any difference--since back-to-back shockers over the Tide in 2006 and 2007, State has lost three straight to Nick Saban's team by a combined score of 93-20. But catching Alabama the week after the wicked sting of losing to LSU won't do much for their chances. Unless Chris Relf and Tyler Russell took some seriously ginormous strides during last week's clobbering of FCS UT-Martin, it's doubtful a Bulldog offense that's had its share of troubles this season will find many solutions against the angry Tide. - JH

#4 Stanford vs. #7 Oregon - ABC, 8pm ET

The Game of the Century may have been in Tuscaloosa this past weekend but the Game of the Century, Western edition will take place Saturday in Palo Alto as Oregon puts their 18 game conference streak against Stanford's nation-leading 17 game winning streak. This was a close game last season before the Ducks pulled away late, something Andrew Luck and company are intent on correcting in order to come out of the game with a win and their national title hopes alive. - Bryan Fischer

LATE NIGHT SNACK

Washington State vs. Arizona State - Versus, 10:30pm ET

Both teams are looking to make a statement and pick up a win but more is on the line for Arizona State after losing control of the Pac-12 South after last week's loss to UCLA. The Cougars are improved but will have to deal with Vontaze Burfict on defense and an offense with plenty of weapons to contain. - BF 
Posted on: November 8, 2011 2:40 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Auburn at Georgia

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

AUBURN WILL WIN IF: Clint Moseley's performance against Ole Miss wasn't a mirage. Against the Rebels the redshirt sophomore hit 12-of-15 for better than 10 yards an attempt, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. It looked like a breakout game for a player still making just his second-ever start, but after watching the Rebels give up 30 points to Kentucky's dead-offense-walking, it's fair to ask if Moseley's numbers weren't a product of Moseley as much as an Ole Miss defense that's throwing in the towel. We'll find out for certain against Georgia: the Dawgs are sixth in the country in opposing QB rating and have held their six SEC opponents to a collective 44 percent completion rate and a 4-to-9 TD-to-INT ratio. If Moseley can hold his own on the road against that kind of secondary, Auburn will have found themselves a quarterback--and the same running game that took adavantage of his precision to roll up 254 yards vs. the Rebels could find space to dominate again.

GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: Aaron Murray plays like Aaron Murray. No one's going to confuse the 2011 Auburn defense for the '85 Bears, but against teams without a legitimate threat at quarterback, the Tigers have done just fine: 13 points allowed to South Carolina in a win, 6 to Florida in a win, 17 to Ole Miss before a meaningless TD on the game's final play. If Murray plays like the erratic quarterback who missed 9 straight passes against Florida two weeks ago, the Tigers have shown they'll be just fine concentrating on Isaiah Crowell and turning the game into another low-scoring slugfest like the ones they won vs. Carolina and the Gators ... and that was back when Barrett Trotter was flailing wildly as the Tiger QB.

Despite Moseley's ascension, a solid game from Murray would still likely leave Auburn unable to keep pace offensively, especially on the road. But after Murray's Florida performance, it's not a given.

THE X-FACTOR: Auburn freshman kick returner Tre Mason started the season like gangbusters, housing one against Utah State and looking poised to break another any minute through the first quarter of the Tigers' season. He's since cooled off (thanks in part to a nagging injury) but still ranks among the nation's top 25 per-return. The Dawgs, meanwhile, have often been atrocious in kick coverage this year -- Mark Richt openly campaigned for starters to volunteer for coverage duty recently, with several responding -- and have up a kickoff score to Auburn's Demond Washington last time the teams played in Athens. A similar big play from Mason (or Dawg returner Brandon Boykin the other way) might decisively tilt what shapes up as a tight contest.
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:45 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 10

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: LSU. 

Usually, we'd find some specific angle to take within the team or the coaching staff when naming our "top" winner. Saying LSU was your big winner this SEC Saturday is like saying fire is hot.

But the stakes were so high for their win over Alabama, the rewards so lavish, that there's no real need to split those kind of hairs. LSU will now be the unquestioned, unanimous No. 1 team in the nation in every available poll, BCS standings included; they are only two games away from clinching the SEC West championship, one of which is against a team that's lost 12 straight SEC games and the other at home against a team whose last two road trips ended in death-defying escapes from that same 12-game losing streak team and Vanderbilt; they are three SEC games, then, from playing for the national championship in their own home state, at the same site where they won it in 2003 and 2007. And they accomplished all of that by defeating what might be their bitterest rival's best team in 20 years in that rival's own stadium and forced their forme head coach under the .500 mark against their current head coach. It's 100 percent possible LSU just cleared the highest hurdle between themselves and the national championship and did so in the sweetest possible fashion.

Not bad for 60-plus minutes of work.

LOSER: "Make his ass quit." 

That's the phrase Nick Saban used in a pregame speech to his players before the 2008 meeting with LSU, and one popularized as a kind of motto amongst Tide fans for the program's philosophy of oustanding conditioning work, physical play, perfect execution, and -- specifically -- the combination of all three forcing the opponent to surrender as the second half drags on. It's worked spectacularly for the most part under Saban, and until Saturday 2011 was no exception: the Tide didn't even allow a second-half point in the month of October. 

But in recent big games, the Tide have been strangely unable to force anyone on the other side to "quit"--and in fact, have come closer to doing it themselves. There was the fourth-quarter failures against LSU in Baton Rouge last season. Then the fall from 24 points ahead against Auburn. And tonight, there was this in the second half: five first downs, 104 yards, two turnovers and three three-and-outs, the last of which was the disastrous overtime possession which covered minus-10 yards.  LSU did next-to-nothing on offense in regulation too, of course, but in overtime their Jordan Jefferson/Michael Ford speed option still worked as well as it ever did.

Result: another championship-level game in which it was the other team outplaying the Tide over the final 30 minutes-plus and walking off the winners. It's not conditioning (we have little doubt every team at this level is as fit as they're going to be), but those second-half woes are something Saban's going to have to figure out all the same if he wants his teams hoisting trophies again.

WINNER: the Baton Rouge ticket market. 

Oh, Arkansas's visit on Nov. 25 won't be a second "Game of the Century" ... but with the Hogs seeing off the Gamecocks and LSU triumphing in Tuscaloosa, that game now becomes the biggest tilt remaining in the SEC's 2011 season by some margin. Despite the Razorback road woes mentioned above, Arkansas's history with LSU makes them the only realistic obstacle standing between the Tigers and Atlanta ... maybe even the BCS title game. The hype starts now. Can Dennis Johnson also bring that wood?



LOSERS: Rematch advocates. 

The stipulation was always that the best scenario for a rematch was for Alabama to win a narrow, competitive game over the Tigers that left voters wondering what would happen on a neutral field. We got the "narrow, competitive game" part, but voters won't need to see LSU on a neutral field ... since they've already beaten the Tide on Bryant-Denny Stadium's highly hostile field. Beyond that, while the first half featured plenty of smart offensive football countered only by outstanding defense, the second more often seemed like a sloppy, grind-it-out affair with neither team taking much in the way of offensive risks or producing anything resembling attacking "flair." Aesthetic value shouldn't play a part when deciding who gets to play for a national title, but voters are human all the same--and they may not be thrilled by the prospect of a second touchdown-less meeting.

WINNER: Joker Phillips.

There were more than a few people who saw Kentucky's opening-week slog against Western Kentucky, their wipeout against Florida, the epic pratfall at South Carolina, and pegged them for an 0-8 season in the SEC. Even as recently as last week, a dispiriting double-digit home loss to Mississippi State didn't suggest a corner was about to be turned.

But Phillips kept his team believing, and Saturday they comprehensively outplayed an Ole Miss team that -- at the very least -- has more offensive playmakers and comparable defensive talent. No one, Phillips included, would claim he's done a great coaching job this season, but likewise no one would argue he and his staff didn't badly outprepare the staff on the opposite sideline. 

LOSER: Pete Boone.

Whether he chooses between them now or at the end of what will likely be an 0-8 SEC campaign, the Ole Miss athletic director has two choices ahead of him after today's Rebel loss in Lexington: he can either stand behind Houston Nutt and make his own less-than-popular hold on the AD's chair that much less popular, or he can swallow Nutt's gigantic contractual bullet and go in search of a new coach even as he also fundraises for a new basketball facility and other capital improvements. Before today, Boone could entertain the possibility that a big finish by Nutt would allow him to put the ax away for at least one more year and still save face. Not any more--Nutt will enter 2012 as a virtual lame duck, or employed somewhere else, and there's nothing else Boone can realistically hope for any longer.

WINNER: Jeff Demps. 

For weeks, Demps has been nagged by various injuries. And not coincidentally -- though God knows the Gators' issues weren't that simple -- for weeks the Gators' ground game has all the effectiveness of the proverbial submarine's screen door. Against Vanderbilt, Demps finally looked like his old self, and not just on the juke-the-first-tackler-out-of-his-j
ock 52-yard touchdown that all-but-clinched the Gator victory. Also not a coincidence: with a little bit of help from Mike Gillislee, the Gators ran for 197 yards -- 158 of them Demps' -- and won their first game since September. 

LOSERS: Mark Richt's circadian rhythms. 

You know, sleep patterns. Not that college football coaches ever have particularly regular ones, but Richt's might have stayed within shouting of distance of normal if he'd known his Bulldogs didn't have everything to lose against Auburn this coming Saturday. That's not to say there's any worries about the Dawgs' total dismantling of New Mexico State -- if anything, that was a calming performance, especially where Aaron Murray's return to his usual accurate form was concerned -- but when the day started, his team didn't have to worry about the pressure that comes with being two winnable home games away from a return to Atlanta. Thanks to South Carolina's loss, that's the case, but it's also the case that Richt's teams have not performed particularly well under this new kind of pressure the last few seasons.

That's not to say, of course, that Richt wouldn't take having his team control its own destiny in a heartbeat over the alternative. But we're guessing there's a few more exhausted stares at the digital clock at 2:47 a.m. this week, too, now that Richt knows the fallout from a loss will be greater than ever.

 
 
 
 
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