Posted on: October 28, 2010 7:36 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2010 7:39 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
There's obviously still a long way to go before this year's edition of the Iron Bowl , with plenty of pitfalls for both teams involved: Ole Miss and resurgent Georgia for Auburn , LSU in Baton Rouge and Mississippi State at home for Alabama .
But if both teams can navigate their way through those troubled waters without a loss, the battle royale between 11-0 Auburn and 10-1 Alabama for not only 1. the right to go to Atlanta and play (a heavy SEC East underdog) for the SEC championship but 2. potentially a spot in the BCS national championship game would make it, hands-down, the biggest game in college football this season.
So maybe it's not a surprise that even with the game still a month away, the Crimson Tide are -- allegedly -- already beginning their preparations :
That's a tweet from Travis Reier of BamaOnline.com , and if he's right that those numbers don't correspond to players from the Tide's next opponent (LSU ), it seems an incredibly good bet that they do correspond to Auburn starting wideouts Kodi Burns (18) and Terrell Zachery (81).
Of course, this wouldn't be the first sign that Nick Saban was taking the Auburn game extremely seriously; the Tide rescheduled the week prior's matchup against fledgling FCS program Georgia State for Thursday rather than Saturday all the way back in July. According to Reier it's not unusual for 'Bama to use bye weeks to look further ahead down the schedule, and certainly no one will be surprised if word leaks that Auburn is using next week's game against FCS Chattanooga to begin studying for the Tide.
But all the same, with LSU as formidable an opponent (particularly in Tiger Stadium) as they promise to be, and with the Georgia State week also looming as an opportunity to focus on Auburn, there seems little question that the Tide wouldn't be breaking out the 18's and 81's already if so much didn't promise to be on the line.
HT: From the Bleachers .
Posted on: October 28, 2010 4:10 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2010 4:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
As the regular season winds to a close, we'll break down the conference races and let you know what scenarios are needed for your favorite team to grasp that automatic BCS berth. In the SEC, we'll shake down each division race first then make an insanely premature prediction. Agree? Disagree? Got any good haikus? Leave 'em all in the comments section below. For the ACC edition, click here .
West DivisionAuburn (8-0) (5-0)
Alabama (7-1) (4-1)
LSU (7-1) (4-1)
Mississippi State (6-2) (2-2)
Arkansas (5-2) (2-2)
Ole Miss (3-4) (1-3)
Week 9 Preview
With Auburn sitting a game up on their bitter Alabama rivals but a full two or more on the rest of the field -- thanks to head-to-head tiebreakers over LSU , Arkansas , and Mississippi State -- it looks like there's not much stopping an Iron Bowl meeting (Nov. 26, only on CBS!) for all the Western marbles. But we're not there yet. There are plenty of reasons a team calling itself the No. 1 team in the country has lost on the road each of the last three weeks, and an awful lot of those reasons are in play again this week as emotionally-drained Auburn travels to Ole Miss . Houston Nutt has enjoyed a ton of success against favored Auburn teams over the years, and with Jeremiah Masoli now in what appears to be firm command of Nutt's offense, the Rebels have the ability to take advantage of the Tigers' often-porous defense.
But the Rebels are also struggling to stop the run in SEC play, giving up 162 yards per game, and that's after playing Vanderbilt and before playing Auburn (who has rushed for more than 300 yards in their last four SEC outings). If the Tigers come out focused enough to execute in their punishing ground game, they should wear down a Rebel defense that has sagged in several second halves.
If Auburn does come away with the win, Arkansas and Mississippi State will be all but eliminated even with wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky , respectively; they would need to run the table, see Auburn to lose to both Georgia and Alabama , and get enough other help to squeeze into a three-way tie that would avoid the head-to-head dilemma. Much more likely is that when the smoke clears, next week's critical game between LSU and Alabama (both of whom are on byes this week) will either help set up a winner-take-all Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa ... or, if LSU wins, bring Auburn within one win of clinching the West.
Week 9 West Winners -- Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State
West Favorite -- Auburn
East DivisionSouth Carolina (5-2) (3-2)
Georgia (4-3) (3-3)
Florida (4-3) (2-3)
Vanderbilt (2-5) (1-4)
Kentucky (4-4) (1-4)
Tennessee (2-5) (0-4)
Week 9 Preview
The most muddled division in all of college football should gain some clarity this week when Georgia and Florida play a de facto elimination game in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (3:30 ET this Saturday--only on CBS!). Assuming South Carolina holds serve at home against reeling, winless Tennessee , the loser will find themselves at least two games behind the Gamecocks with only two games remaining on Carolina's slate. Though either team could still hope for a three-team (or even four-team) tie at 4-4, there doesn't appear to be a way for this Saturday's loser to win that tiebreak.*
The Gators do have the advantage of controlling their own destiny, while Georgia will need help even with a win. But it's Mark Richt 's team that comes in as the Vegas favorite after destroying the Volunteers, Commodores, and Wildcats over the previous three weeks. The Dawg offense looks rejuvenated with A.J. Green back in uniform, changes along the offensive line leading to better holes for Washaun Ealey and the rest of the Dawg ground game, and Aaron Murray coming into his own as the trigger-man in charge. The Gators remain mired at 89th in the country in total offense, and unless Urban Meyer has worked some miracles during his team's bye week or the Gator return game reprises its magic from the LSU loss, it's difficult to see how Florida scores often enough to keep pace.
If Georgia does win, there's still a long road to the division title, though; they'd have to either defeat Auburn on the road in Week 11 or hope Carolina loses to Florida in Gainesville and Arkansas at home. But neither scenario is that far-fetched, meaning the East would stay muddled for at least a few more weeks.
One thing we can say: with Kentucky and Vanderbilt both major road underdogs this week (at Miss. St. and Arkansas, respectively), their brief run as legitimate players for the divisional title appears to be over.
*Since South Carolina would be the first team eliminated from that tiebreak, thanks to their divisional loss to Kentucky. After that, it's Florida vs. Georgia head-to-head.
Week 9 East Winners -- South Carolina, Georgia
East Favorite -- South Carolina
Insanely Premature ACC Championship Game Prediction - Auburn 35, South Carolina 31
Posted on: October 27, 2010 1:44 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
If you missed Georgia defeating Kentucky 44-31 last Saturday night, you missed a dominating special teams performance by the visiting Bulldogs. Brandon Boykin broke loose for a 100-yard kick return touchdown, a surprise Wildcat onsides kick was recovered by Georgia, and dangerous Kentucky punt returner Randall Cobb was held without a return yard on three Georgia punts.
The performance was all the more impressive considering that behind Cobb and players like excellent punter Ryan Tydlacka , Kentucky ranked -- and still ranks -- No. 1 in statistical guru Phil Steel 's cumulative special teams ratings . And after Saturday, the Bulldogs themselves have movd all the way up to sixth.
What's the secret of Georgia's success? According to interviews with players before the Kentucky game, it's as simple as the dog-bone pride stickers on the back of Georgia's helmets:
Seems a little over-simplified, right? Award helmet stickers, get better players for the special teams, have better special teams? If it was that easy, wouldn't every program in the country would be awarding pride stickers?
Maybe. But maybe not. According to a (100 percent accurate and comprehensive) list of sticker-employing programs on Wikipedia , 24 teams offer pride stickers for good play, or exactly 20 percent of the FBS. Of those 24, however, eight rank in Steele's special teams top 25, or 32 percent. If we take Steele's ratings at face value, it's true: teams with helmet stickers represent a greater share of teams excelling on special teams than we would expect from a random, equal distribution.
Admittedly, the correlation isn't that strong; it's likely the phenomenon examined here is simply coincidence. But unless keeping the team's helmet unspoiled is a top priority, isn't it evidence enough (along with Georgia's testimony) for programs to at least consider offering pride stickers? If one minor uniform tweak might be all it takes to get one minor upgrade at one special teams position, couldn't the benefit over the course of the season be worth the attempt?
HT: GTP .
Posted on: October 27, 2010 11:04 am
Edited on: October 27, 2010 11:07 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
The Georgia Bulldogs have turned their season around since a 1-4 start that had fans in Athens calling for Mark Richt's head and scratching their own. But after rattling off three straight wins that have all included 40+ point performances by Georgia's offense, the Bulldogs are preparing to make an improbable run at an SEC East Division title. The improvement has been visible on both sides of the ball, but the offensive production can be credited as arguably one of the most pivotal factors in Georgia's turnaround.
Which is why the thought of not having leading rusher Washaun Ealey for Saturday's annual battle with Florida in Jacksonville evokes concern from Athens. Ealey suffered what was called an MCL sprain during the middle of the fourth quarter of Geogia's 44-31 victory over Kentucky. Fear not Dawgs fans, Ealey will play against the Gators. He said so himself.
"It's really nothing," Ealey said Tuesday night. "It's basically just a bruise."
Ealey went on to refer to his knee as "100 percent," and deflected any concern that being held out of some drills on Tuesday has anything to do with his playing status for Saturday. Of course, having a sore knee is not surprising after his 28 carry, 157 yard performance that included a school-record five rushing touchdowns. After sputtering a few weeks ago, Ealey bounced back with 123 yards against Vanderbilt before his career day against the Wildcats. The sophomore entered the season with high expectations, and Saturday will provide the opportunity to write himself into the hearts of Georgia fans with a victory in Jacksonville.
Posted on: October 25, 2010 1:00 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It was just three weeks ago, after a humuliating 29-27 defeat at Colorado (the same Colorado, incidentally, that's currently sharing the Big 12 North basement with winless Kansas ) that the question wasn't if Mark Richt would be relieved of his head coaching duties at Georgia , it was when : midseason, after another flogging at the hands of Florida in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party? Or at year's end, after defeats to bitter rivals Auburn and/or Georgia Tech ?
Richt might still find himself in hot water if he can't get past the Gators, Tigers or Yellow Jackets, but after three emphatic wins over fellow SEC East rivals Tennessee , Vanderbilt , and Kentucky , Richt's ship officially appears righted and the Dawgs find themselves just a game out of the divisional lead. How complete has the Dawg overhaul been? Despite Georgia's 3-17 record against Florida since 1990 and losses by a combined 90-27 score the past two seasons, Vegas oddsmakers have installed the Dawgs as 3-point favorites over Urban Meyer 's reeling Gators for this week's annual grudge match.
The odds on that decision were probably off the board following the defeat in Boulder, a loss that newly-installed Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity doesn't seem to have entirely forgotten about just yet. From the Department of Backhanded Compliments, McGarity's thoughts on the Dawgs' season to-date :
No doubt McGarity is sincere in his respect for Richt's ability to change course and willingness to (successfully) improvise once that improvisation became necessary.
But his recognition that Richt failed to have the program going in "the right direction" coming out of preseason practice (particularly given Richt's track record for slow starts) suggests that as far as Richt has brought the Bulldogs the last three weeks, if he can't bring them past the worst Florida team of Meyer's tenure with a squad playing as well as any in the SEC (Auburn excepted), we still won't be certain how much longer Richt will be allowed to bring them anywhere. If a coach who can admit his mistakes is nice, a coach who doesn't make them in the first place is better.
Posted on: October 24, 2010 1:01 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. Cam Newton is the greatest thing to happen to college football since Denard Robinson. So this isn't exactly breaking news, but OMG CAM NEWTON IS FREAKING AWESOME. I knew going into Saturday's game that the only way LSU could beat Auburn would be if they stopped Cam Newton, but I also knew that stopping Cam Newton is like trying to stop the Earth from spinning. Unless Les Miles had control over a meteor -- and he might -- it just wasn't going to happen. We're only 8 weeks into the season and Newton has already set the single-season rushing mark for a quarterback in the SEC with 1,077 yards. If he keeps playing like this he should be allowed to take any laptop he wants. Hell, he can have mine.
2. Nick Fairley is pretty special too. I said it during the game on Saturday, and I'll say it again here. Nick Fairley just isn't going to stop until he has the head of every quarterback in the SEC mounted on his wall. As great as Newton played on Saturday, the reason Auburn won was because every time LSU dropped back to pass, Nick Fairley was in the back field flinging people around like bean bags.
3. LSU only has so much "luck." I knew it was going to be hard for LSU to survive the entire season without a loss with a passing attack that works more like a retreat, and it came to a head on Saturday in Auburn. Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson were only able to complete 15-of-28 passes for 89 yards. That's 3.2 yards per attempt. Against an Auburn secondary that was absolutely torched by Kentucky and Arkansas over the last two weeks.
4. South Carolina really needs Marcus Lattimore. We saw South Carolina struggle without Marcus Lattimore last week, succumbing to Kentucky and blowing an 18-point lead in the second half, and the Gamecocks struggled again against Vanderbilt without Lattimore this week. Yes, South Carolina won the game, but it had a lot harder time handling Vandy than it should have. The Gamecocks were only able to manage 2.9 yards per carry, and had to rely on Stephen Garcia. That may work against Vanderbilt, but trust me, having to rely on Stephen Garcia to win games is rarely a good idea.
5. Georgia may just win the SEC East. It's hard to believe that the Bulldogs are still alive, but they are, and they're dangerous. They hung 40 points on an SEC opponent for the third straight week and thanks to four Kentucky turnovers, only needed 290 yards of offense to do it. Oh, and if Washaun Ealey scores five touchdowns in every game, Georgia is going to be tough to beat.
Posted on: October 22, 2010 5:49 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet. Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.
BreakfastMain Course - Northwestern vs. #8 Michigan State - Noon - ESPN
Michigan State leads the way for breakfast for the second straight week, which is what happens when you're the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten. Be forewarned, though, just because this matchup doesn't seem all that appealing, it...ok, it isn't really. It's just that the morning slate is light again because that's just the way things work in this television dominated world.
Still, the Spartans shouldn't take Northwestern all that lightly. First of all, no road game is easy, even if it's being played in a stadium with 35 people in it. Yes, Northwestern inexplicably dropped a game to Purdue last week, but that's Northwestern's style. It has a tendency to play to its opponents. So there's a chance that the Wildcats could hand MSU it's first "Sparty, no!" of the season.
Side Orders: Ohio State hosts Purdue, and this game may be interesting for a few reasons. First of all, it's our first chance to see how the Buckeyes will respond following a loss, and they'll also be looking for revenge for last season's loss in West Lafayette. Speaking of revenge, I'm sure Notre Dame wouldn't mind beating Navy and starting a new trend there as well. Or you can just watch Texas, West Virginia and Virginia Tech romp over some conference foes.
LunchMain Course - #5 Auburn vs. #6 LSU - 3:30pm - CBS
Two undefeated Tigers roll into Jordan-Hare on Saturday, and only one will emerge. Who is it going to be? Well, there are going to be two different games being played in this one. There's the game between each team's strength -- Auburn's offense and LSU's defense -- and their weakness -- Auburn's defense and LSU's offense.
Odds are that whichever team's weakness best resembles a strength is going to emerge victorious, and have a much easier path to the SEC title and possibly a BCS game. If you're wondering which way I'm leaning, well, I'll just say that one team has Cam Newton at quarterback and the other has some indecipherable combination of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.
Also, I'll be doing a live-chat during this game over at our Facebook page, so stop on by and make fun of Les Miles for four hours with me, won't you?
Side Orders: The afternoon is packed with some big games this week. If for some reason two undefeated teams battling it out isn't good enough for you, you can always go with Iowa and Wisconsin or the also undefeated Oklahoma State taking on previously undefeated Nebraska.
Main Course - #18 Missouri vs. #3 Oklahoma - 8pm - ABC
Personally, I've been waiting to dig in to this one for a while. I've seen Missouri play a few times this season, and as I've said here before, I'm just not sure what to make of them. The Tigers are a good team, but are they really 11th in the BCS good? Is that what a couple of victories over some 3-3 BCS teams and nobody else gets you these days?
Whatever the case, we'll find out on Saturday night. If the Tigers can knock off the team that sits atop the current BCS standings, then I guess we have to take them seriously.
Though, I feel I should point this out as well, just so Missouri fans can hate me a little less, I think Oklahoma is a bit overrated as well. Still, I think the Sooners will prove to be better on Saturday night.
Side Orders: Bit of an light night on the menu this week. There really aren't any other marquee matchups being played on Saturday night. Kentucky and Georgia could be interesting seeing as how both teams are still alive in the SEC East, but other than that the only game that even catches my eye is TCU and Air Force. Though, if you hate yourself, you could always tune in to Texas A&M and Kansas.
Late Night SnackThe Washington Huskies have found a home as a late-night snack here. I've featured them here twice in the last few weeks, and they're undefeated in those games. Can they run the streak to three on the road against an Arizona team that is without Nick Foles?
Tags: Air Force, Arizona, Auburn, Cam Newton, Georgia, Iowa, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Navy, Nebraska, Nick Foles, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Saturday Meal Plan, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 22, 2010 3:14 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's easy to pick out this weekend's biggest games: LSU and Auburn , Iowa and Wisconsin , Oklahoma and Missouri . But every week there's plenty of interesting matchups -- no, really -- that don't feature ranked teams and don't make anyone's "must-watch" list other than the team's fans. Here's four of them you should keep an eye on regardless (all times Eastern):
Penn State (3-3, 0-2) at Minnesota (1-6, 0-3), 12 p.m. This one won't feature a ton of points (the Gophers and Nittany Lions rank 76th and 108th in scoring offense, respectively), and obviously it's not going to have much impact on the Big Ten race, either. But this is the game that could legitimately be the beginning of the end of the Joe Paterno era; the Lions might be able to stomach one humiliating loss (last week's 20-point home shellacking at the hands of Illinois ), but a second at the hands of the reeling, coach-less Gophers -- not to mention the accompanying 0-3 conference record and dwindling hopes of bowl eligibility -- could start the succession planning in earnest. The long-term implications alone make this contest critical.
Rutgers (4-2, 1-0) at Pitt (3-3, 1-0), 12 p.m. Both the Scarlet Knights and Panthers have suffered some serious nonconference pratfalls --- Rutgers' unthinkable loss to Tulane , Pitt's home bludgeoning at the hands of Miami -- but both got off to 1-0 starts in Big East play with big wins over UConn and Syracuse , respectively. This is the Big East, after all: once you get to 2-0, it's impossible not to call you a serious contender in the conference. The key matchup will be Pitt's fast-rising Ray Graham (118 rushing yards per game) against Greg Schiano 's 15th-ranked defense.
Kansas State (5-1, 2-1) at Baylor (5-2, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. There's honest-to-God Big 12 implications here; if Mizzou loses to Oklahoma late Saturday, the Wildcats could forge a three-way tie atop the Big 12 North with their own date against the Tigers still to come. But the stakes are probably higher for the Bears anyway; a win would push Baylor to six wins and a postseason berth for the first time since they played the 1994 Alamo Bowl. There's surprising talent on display here, too: Wildcat back Daniel Thomas is the conference's second-leading rusher at 130 yards a game, and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin (14 TDs, 3 INT) has a Denard Robinson -esque blend of rushing speed and throwing accuracy.
Georgia (3-4, 2-3) at Kentucky (4-3, 1-3), 7:30 p.m. The storyline for this one is simple: the winner stays in the dead thick of the muddled SEC East race. Beyond that, last November the Wildcats used a bevy of Georgia turnovers to upset the Dawgs in Athens and have generally given Mark Richt 's team fits the past few seasons. If Richt wants to permanently silence the bleating for his head that began after Georgia's 1-4 start, he can't afford a second straight defeat at the hands of a team that's been Georgia's traditional inferior. Too bad for him the Wildcats have been feisty at home thus far this season, pulling one major upset against South Carolina last week and coming within one stop of doing the same to Auburn the week before. As long as Randall Cobb is around (even if Derrick Locke isn't), expect more feistiness to come, and for this one to come down to the wire.