Tag:Charlie Weis
Posted on: November 22, 2011 9:49 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Florida State at Florida

Posted by Chip Patterson

FLORIDA STATE WILL WIN IF: They can get a strong performance from the offensive line. Not only has Florida State given up more sacks than anyone in the ACC (31), but the offensive line has also repeatedly been guilty of committing penalties that negate a big play. Many of the offensive line's faults have been blamed on injury issues, forcing the staff to constantly rotate players in and out of different positions. But regardless of health or depth, the Seminoles offensive woes always begin up front. Florida's defense presents on of their toughest challenges all season, and with that kind of athleticism on the other side of the ball Florida State has to bring their best performance.

FLORIDA WILL WIN IF: Florida's defense can frustrate EJ Manuel and force turnovers. Florida's defense has been fantastic against the run this season, and the Gators should have a chance to make Florida State one-dimensional. Creating more possessions for John Brantley, Chris Rainey, and Jeff Demps gives more chances for the home-run play. Unfortunately, that seems to be one of the best forms of offense Florida can create. The Seminoles have struggled offensively for long periods in each of the last two games, and keeping them out of rhythm will be essential for Will Muschamp to get his first win over longtime friend Jimbo Fisher.

X-FACTOR: Penalties. Only two teams (Arizona and Colorado) have committed more penalties this season than Florida and Florida State. Their 89 penalties each ranks for No. 117 in the nation, and has been cited by each coach as a reason for frustrating losses. Whichever team can maintain their focus and limit their penalties will have an edge in this matchup. Nothing crushes the momentum of a Chris Rainey run or long EJ Manuel pass play quite like a holding penalty, particularly in the an emotionally-charged rivalry matchup like this one.

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Posted on: November 20, 2011 2:32 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 12

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: The top quarter of the SEC. Things are as good for the three teams that have perched at the top the SEC all season as they've been, well, all season. LSU? Just another ho-hum 49-point pounding of some hapless overmatched opponent, and now just two wins away from the BCS national championship game. Arkansas? A 27-point thumping of a team that's given them fits in the past, and thanks to the carnage across the country a certain spot in the BCS top five--potentially setting up the Hogs for an SEC West title if they knock off the Tigers. (We think. Maybe.)

But neither the Tigers nor the Razorbacks are as happy this weekend as is Alabama. Thanks to Oklahoma State's pratfall in Ames, Oregon's loss to USC, and Oklahoma's defeat in Waco, the Tide has now seen every conceivable obstacle between themselves and a hypothetical BCS rematch against the Tigers fall by the wayside. Win next week against Auburn, and the Tide are all but guaranteed to head to New Orleans ... one way or another.

LOSER: The other three quarters of the SEC. No one who's watched the SEC week-in and week-out would argue this is a vintage year for the league's depth, but the conference reached a new 2011 low on Saturday morning. With three SEC teams taking on three representatives from the FCS Southern Conference, the combined score of the three games midway through the collective second quarter was a tight 42-34 ... in favor of the SoCon.

Yes, Auburn eventually pulled away from Samford, Florida from Furman, and South Carolina from the Citadel. But when the conference's de facto No. 5/6/7 (in some order) teams have those kinds of struggles with FCS competition, "down year" doesn't totally cover it. And team No. 4 -- Georgia -- may have won the East, but anything similar to their sloppy, flat, lackluster performance against Kentucky will get them annihilated in Atlanta in two weeks.

WINNERS: Tauren Poole and Da'Rick Rogers. Even as Tennessee collapsed to a 0-6 SEC record, a handful of Vols continued to shine amongst the wreckage, and Poole and Rogers were two of the brightest spots. With a chance to salvage a bowl berth at home against a Vanderbilt team that some would argue had surpassed the Vols -- in the coaching department, on the recruiting trails, and on the field -- Poole and Rogers put the team on their back. Poole ran 19 times for 107 big yards and added 21 more in the receiving game. Rogers was even bigger--10 catches, 116 yards and two touchdowns, including a sensational one-handed grab to tie the game at 21 in the fourth quarter. The two late interceptions of Jordan Rodgers -- the game-winner obviously included -- were the Vols' biggest plays. But with Tyler Bray rusty, Poole and Rogers were their biggest players.

LOSERS: The officials at Tennessee-Vanderbilt. We want to be kind to college football officials, who have a thankless job we would never, ever volunteer for ourselves. But kindness only extends so far, and it doesn't extend past the phenomenal botch-job in the first overtime of 'Dores-Vols. If you missed it: Rodgers threw an interception to Eric Gordon, who returned it for an apparent game-winning touchdown. But Gordon was whistled down by the line judgeeven with replay showing he wasn't close to having his knee down. Unfortunately for the Vols, that play isn't reviewable ... except that the officials reviewed it anyway under the pretense of checking if the whistle blew. And even though it did, the call was overturned anyway. It's not just us saying this either--the official SEC response confirms that the call was butchered six ways from Sunday.

To be fair, the officials eventually arrived at the right call; Tennessee won the game fair-and-square on Gordon's play. But that it took two dreadful wrongs to get there was an embarrassment.

WINNER: Blair Walsh. Sure, the longest of his four field goals vs. Kentucky was just 39 yards. But Walsh has been so erratic this season -- just 13-of-23 coming into this game --that Georgia will take four routine makes in a heartbeat. The Dawgs won't feel better about their chances of winning the SEC after their outing today, but a Walsh with his head screwed on correctly will be a big positive nonetheless.

LOSER: Will Muschamp's defensive reputation. The transition from Urban Meyer's spread looks to Charlie Weis's pro-style schemes was always going to be a problem for the Gators. But with the bevy of athletes at their disposal in the front seven, Muschamp's coaching acumen, and a defense that ranked ninth in the country in total defense a year ago, the Florida defense shouldn't have taken that much of step back, right? Statistically, they haven't; entering this week, the Gators were still 11th in the FBS. But Muschamp's and coordinator Dan Quinn's defense has had a few notable lapses this season, maybe none bigger than somehow allowing Furman 446 yards and 32 points. Motivation couldn't have been easy to come by, but that's simply not the sort of defensive numbers put up by a top-notch SEC defense.

WINNERS/LOSERS: Rematch lovers/haters. The bottom line about one of the wildest weeks in BCS history: LSU vs. Alabama is now the clearcut most likely outcome for the BCS title game. Love it or hate it, we can at least say this: you'd better get used to it. 

Posted on: November 12, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 4:32 pm
 

QUICK HITS: South Carolina 17, Florida 12

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WON: 
The Gators had to know that after the Gamecocks' struggles in the passing game the past three weeks, their offense at home today would be run-first, run-second, throw-third. But if they did, it didn't show in the first half: Carolina dominated Florida along the line-of-scrimmage in the first 30 minutes, eventually rolling up 215 rushing yards to the Gators' 142. Connor Shaw completed only 6 passes for only 81 yards, but picked up 88 on the ground and ran for two first-half scores that would be all the Gamecock defense -- and their four sacks -- would need.

WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: More than anything, their burst of physical running in the second quarter that gave the Gamecocks both their touchdowns, allowed them to play with the lead throughout the second half, and forced the Gators just that far out of their ground-based offensive comfort zone.

But 17 points shouldn't really be enough to win an SEC game, should it? Kudos are in order for the Gamecock defense, which hounded John Brantley in the pocket, kept the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps largely under wraps, and gave the Gators nothing in the downfield passing game. (We're not sure if any individual SEC unit has improved as much from 2010 to 2011 as the Carolina secondary, so eminently flammable in 2010 but one of the league's better defensive backfields in 2011. Of course, facing a steady diet of SEC quarterbacks tends to make any secondary look good.) But it's become obvious that the Gators' offensive troubles -- which many pinned on Brantley's absence or poor health in their four-game losing streak -- go much deeper than the quarterback position.

Brantley may not be 100 percent, but he wasn't all that far off in Columbia, and he still finished the day a mediocre 13-of-21 for just 119 yards and no touchdowns, And between his line's struggles in pass protection, his receiver's occasional butterfingers, and the continued boom-or-bust nature of the Gators' less-than-physical rushing game, he didn't get a lot of help. End result for the Gator attack: just 261 total offensive yards, just 12 points -- the Gators' fifth time at 20 points or fewer in six games -- and a final SEC record of 3-5, the program's first losing league record since 1979. Dear Charlie Weis: year 2 had better be a lot better if you'd like to get out of Gainesville alive. 

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Shaw basically made one important play all game in the passing department, but it was a biggie: facing first-and-15 at his own 37 immediately following a fourth-quarter Gator touchdown that cut the Carolina lead to two, Shaw threw deep to Ace Sanders for 46 yards. That was more than half of Shaw's passing total for the day, but more important it set up the Gamecocks for a short field goal and a 17-12 lead. The way the Gator offense had sputtered, asking them to score a second touchdown in the space of a quarter was always going to be too much.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: A shot at the SEC East. If Georgia loses today to Auburn or next week to Kentucky (OK, if they lose today to Auburn), Carolina will go to Atlanta for the second time in two years.

WHAT FLORIDA LOST: a fifth SEC game for the first time in 32 years. Last week's win against Vanderbilt ensured the Gators won't miss a bowl game, but there's no way to color Will Muschamp's first season at the Gator helm as anything other than a disappointment now.

Posted on: November 10, 2011 4:12 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 4:19 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 11



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

You know, when you're in a weekly competition of any kind, there's never really a good week to have your WORST WEEK EVER, but I have to believe that having mine in Week 10 was a pretty terrible idea. From the very beginning of the season I was in a 3-game hole behind Woman, and I spent weeks digging myself out of it. Well, I'm right back where I started now after a terrible Saturday last week.

Making matters worse, The Machine is now closer to me than I am to The Woman. Needless to say, it's been a long week. Hopefully I can work my way out of this mess quickly because I really don't have any other choice. I either get myself back in the game or I'm the college football blogger who knows less than his girlfriend.

Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech (-1 1/2) - Thursday, 8pm (All time Eastern)

Man - So far this season Virginia Tech's most impressive win has been against Miami, and in reality that's not really all that impressive of a win. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech had an bye week before this game and is coming off a win against Clemson. So why am I picking Virginia Tech? I have no idea. Because Virginia Tech had a better bye week? I don't know, I think I'm on tilt. Pick: Virginia Tech

Woman - "Yeah, the Hokies had an extra week to prepare, but I'm going with GaTech's 5-0 home record, their multi-talented QB Tevin Washington and deep threat Stephen Hill, who makes would-be defenders look like Lilliputians." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - The Machine thinks this will be an interesting matchup for three quarters, but then Virginia Tech pulls away in the fourth quarter and wins 35-20. Pick: Virginia Tech

Cincinnati (-3 1/2) vs. West Virginia - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I have a new philosophy when it comes to picking Big East games, and that philosophy is always go with chaos. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "Those Mountaineers burn me every time I pick them and I do love Cincinnati, but in their last two games they've had to come from behind to win with last-ditch field goals. So, God help me, I'm taking the points." Pick: West Virginia

Machine - It's unanimous, and that's usually a good thing for the team all three of us pick. West Virginia takes it to the Bearcats, winning 44-20. Pick: West Virginia

South Carolina (-3 1/2) vs. Florida - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I really don't like putting my fate in the hands of this Florida offense, but with Connor Shaw coming off of a concussion and his status for this weekend somewhat in doubt, I'm going to cross my fingers and hope that the Florida defense and special teams can come through for me. Pick: Florida

Woman - "This is like watching two drunk coeds sitting on barstools and betting which one's going to fall off first." Pick: South Carolina

Machine - According to The Machine, this is the week where Charlie Weis finally shows off that decided schematic advantage he's been threatening to unleash for years now. Florida wins 35-17. Pick: Florida

Iowa vs. Michigan State (-2 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Last week I said I was going against my initial instinct by picking against Iowa at home against Michigan. I'm not making that mistake again, which means the Hawkeyes home winning streak will likely come to an end. Pick: Iowa

Woman - "The Hawkeyes haven't lost at Kinnick Stadium this year. That ends Saturday, as the Spartans become this season's Big 10 Legend." Pick: Michigan State

Machine - The Machine sees Michigan State coming to Iowa City and destroying the place as the Spartans win 38-13. Pick: Michigan State

Missouri vs. Texas (-1 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - The Longhorns are starting to make a real believer out of me the last few weeks as Bryan Harsin has this running attack humming and firing on all cylinders. So even against a Missouri team that seems to do the opposite of what I expect every week, I'm going with Texas on the road. Pick: Texas

Woman - "Despite the Tigers' craptastic season, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson found time this week to taunt the Longhorns, saying, 'I hate Texas. I just do. I do. I hate Texas. Any other overrated state in football I pretty much hate. That's how I feel about it. Overrated. Overrated. Overrated.'  After an exhaustive search, I've located Sheldon's (NSFW) mother and now I see where he gets it from." Pick: Texas

Machine - It seems that not everybody is a believer in the Longhorns just yet, as The Machine sees Mizzou squeaking by in this one 23-21. Pick Missouri

Georgia (-13 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I'm really not all that confident in this pick, but for some reason I see Georgia announcing to the world that it is by far the team to beat in the SEC East this season and with last week's game against New Mexico State, it kind of served as a scrimmage/bye week to prepare for Auburn. Pick: Georgia

Woman - "Erase last week's cupcake romp and over the past month the Bulldogs have beaten Florida by a meager 4, Vanderbilt by 5 and Tennessee by 8.  Meanwhile, Auburn's three season losses have been against Arkansas, Clemson and LSU.  Thinking the oddsmakers might have undervalued the Tigers." Pick: Auburn

Machine - The Machine sees Georgia taking a firm grasp of the top place in the SEC East this week. It already picked South Carolina to lose, and now it has Georgia beating Auburn 34-21, though the Tigers do cover. Pick: Auburn

Kansas State vs. Texas A&M (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Seriously? What in the world does Kansas State have to do to finally start getting some respect from gamblers? I mean, it nearly beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater last week and Texas A&M has spent the entire season failing to reach expectations. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I had high hopes for Kansas State.  So... much... hope.  Now this team just makes me sad. Thank goodness for Hope E. Young, Board Certified Music Therapist. Her musical healing (which really gets going at around minute 3:25) combined with four or five Rumple Minze jello shots, helps me travel through this world of woe, take the spread and get on with my day." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - The Machine continues its existence blissfully unaware of what Texas A&M has done this season and sees the Aggies rolling in this game, 49-17. Pick: Texas A&M

Boise State (-15 1/2) vs. TCU - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - This matchup seemed a lot more appealing before the season started than it does now, as TCU may be a good team, but it's not the same team we've seen the last few years. So with Kellen Moore still being Kellen Moore and Bronco Stadium still being impossible for road teams to solve, I have to go with the Broncos. Pick: Boise State

Woman - "Since their season-opening win over Georgia, I have not watched a minute of Boise State football. Apparently, they've been doing pretty well, beating every team they've played by an average of 27 points. Okay, then." Pick: Boise State

Machine - Nobody plays football on the blue turf and survives! Boise State wins 41-24. Pick: Boise State

USC (-13 1/2) vs. Washington - Saturday, 3:45pm

Man - Washington is a nice story this year and Steve Sarkisian has the Huskies on the right track, but this is still a team that has lost to every ranked team it's faced. Plus, when facing the elite of the Pac-12 (Oregon and Stanford) it's been beaten pretty soundly. USC isn't quite elite, yet, but it's still pretty good and it's at home. Pick: USC

Woman - "Here's how a husky makes a baby stop crying.  On Saturday we'll see how a husky makes a baby start crying." Pick: Washington

Machine - Hey, Steve Sarkisian may have been a coach at USC, but he wasn't on Lane Kiffin's staff, so Kiffin doesn't care. USC wins 49-20. Pick: USC

Stanford (-3 1/2) vs. Oregon - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Listen, Stanford doesn't just win every week, it covers the spread every week. Until that trend changes I'm not picking against the Cardinal. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Enjoy this dramatic interpretation of Andrew Luck leaving his mark at Stanford and securing home field advantage for the Pac 12 championship. Oh yeah, and getting his Heisman. (NBA fans who hear the score of this one might wonder if the strike is over.)" Pick: Stanford

Machine - Machine recognize Machine. Stanford wins 42-35. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 61-44 (6-4)
2. Man 58-47 (3-7)
3. Machine 56-49 (4-6)

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 1:20 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 9

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: Mark Richt. 
It's not just that the victory today was only Richt's third in 10 tries against the team most Georgia fans want to beat more than any other. It's not just that with the win, the Dawgs are two home victories over a middle-of-the-pack Auburn and far-below-the-pack Kentucky from a 7-1 SEC record ... and with a little help from someone vs. South Carolina, a trip to Atlanta. It's not just that after today, it seems close-to-impossible that Richt won't return for an 11th season on the Georgia sideline. 

It's that in many ways, this victory belonged to Richt. It was Richt who was able to keep his struggling team mentally afloat when the Gators took a 17-3 lead and the Dawg half of the stadium couldn't help but think "here we go again." It was Richt who made the calls to go for it on 4th-and-long inside the red zone once Blair Walsh showed himself unreliable, calls that resulted in two of the Dawgs' three scores in a game where points came as easily as pulled teeth. And it was Richt who showed enough faith in the flailing Aaron Murray -- who'd missed nine straight attempts -- to endorse a throw on 2nd-and-9 as the Dawgs tried to run out the clock.

That decision worked, as did nearly every move Richt made Saturday. That's what it was, and why Georgia won.

LOSER: Charlie Weis. We don't want to be too hard on Mr. Decided Schematic Advantage, since the quarterbacks he's worked with the past few weeks have been 1. true freshmen 2. still kind of hurt 3. more inherited than hand-picked. But still: between weapons like Chris Rainey, Jordan Reed, Trey Burton, Deonte Thompson and even a half-speed Jeff Demps, we're not sure there's excuses enough to explain 10 second-half points across four games, one first down in the second half against Georgia, or 175 total rushing yards in this four-game losing streak on all of 1.5 yards a carry. Weis arrived at Florida with a reputation for expertly handling quarterbacks and passing games but perhaps not having a good idea of how to operate a rushing attack with smaller backs like Rainey and Demps ... and with Brantley's downfield accuracy gone and the field shrunk, Weis has lived up to every bit of that reputation.

WINNER: Vanderbilt. We know, we know, they lost. But they also outgained the nation's No. 8 team (and one of its most explosive offenses) by 74 yards. Their years of wandering the wilderness at the quarterback position appears over, thanks to Jordan Rodgers' outstanding 15-of-27, 240 yard, 66 rushing yards, 3 touchdown, zero turnovers performance. They took over down 3 at their own 9 with 3 minutes remaining, a situation in which Vandy has accomplished nothing since the days of Jay Cutler, and promptly drove 80 yards for what should have been the game-tying field goal. Top-to-bottom, Vanderbilt was a better team than Arkansas Saturday.

In short, in so many, many ways, James Franklin's Vanderbilt is not the same old Vanderbilt

LOSER: Vanderbilt. Of course, there were even more ways in which Vanderbilt was precisely the same Vanderbilt they've been for decades. Shall we count the ways? The four or five easy interceptions which Commodore defenders let slip through their hands ... the backbreaking 15-point fourth-quarter swing as their best offensive player, running back Zac Stacy, fumbles the ball at the opponent's 3-yard line (without being touched) for a touchdown fumble return the other way ... with a chance to go in at halftime up 21-7 and in firm control of the game, the touchdown allowed with five seconds remaining ... and, yes, the shanked 27-yard field goal at the bitter, bitter end.

Until further notice: same old Vandy.

WINNER: South Carolina offensive tackle Cody Gibson. Gibson is a big fella: 6'6", 285 pounds. And when Tennessee's Prentiss Wagner picked off a third-quarter pass from Connor Shaw and bolted clear for the Gamecock end zone 56 yards away, Gibson probably could have been forgiven for ... well, not quitting on the play, but only making a token effort; the odds of the tackle being made by a tackle among the Gamecocks' receivers and running backs and the quarterback was insanely low, right? But Gibson made much more of an effort than that, going all-out in pursuit of Waggner until the corner cut back towards the middle of the field, cut again, had to slow up one last time ... and Gibson caught him, flattening him at the Gamecock 2-yard line. 

Against most offenses, that might not have mattered much. But vs. Tennessee's? It mattered a ton: only two plays later, Vol freshman QB Justin Worley threw an ugly interception, and Gibson's play had saved his team seven points in a game which only totaled 17. Instead of being down 10-7 with a wobbly Shaw in front of a fired-up Knoxville crowd, Carolina drove 98 yards for their own touchdown and (for all intents and purposes) the win. Gibson's play won't make him a star, but Saturday, there's no question it made him a winner.

LOSER: Barrett Trotter. This might a touch unfair to Trotter, who didn't even see the field Saturday. But whatever hope he had of reclaiming the starting quarterback job he lost at halftime of Auburn's win over Florida was extinguished for the foreseeable future by Clint Moseley's outing against Ole Miss. The redshirt sophomore (left)connected on 12 of his 15 attempts for 10.7 yards a pass and four touchdowns ... all without an interception. More importantly, the Auburn offense looked like the Auburn offense for the first time in weeks, rolling up 414 yards and 41 points on a Rebel defense that caused real problems for Arkansas last week. Remember those Snickers commercials? Where the Tiger pecking order under center is concerned, neither Trotter nor Moseley are going anywhere for a while.

WINNER: The Liberty Bowl. With LSU and Alabama surely off to the BCS and a pair of teams with precious little bowl eligibility hope in Kentucky and Ole Miss, the SEC was already in danger of not fulfilling all its bowl tie-ins ... and a Wildcat win against Mississippi State would have made things even more dire for the last couple of bowls at the end of the food chain, as that result would likely leave neither team in striking distance of the postseason. As is, the BBVA Compass Bowl is still likely out of luck, but the venerable Liberty can live in hope--the Bulldogs have both FCS patsy UT-Martin and the Rebels on the schedule.

LOSER: The rest of the SEC. It's now officially LSU-Alabama week. We'll see the other 10 of you next Sunday*.

*We're kidding, geez. Mostly kidding, anyway. 

Posted on: October 8, 2011 11:29 am
 

Report: Jacoby Brissett to start at QB for Gators

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We already knew Florida was going to start a true freshman on the road today at LSU. But if multiple reports are to be believed, it won't even be the Gators' more experienced true freshman.

Via CBSSports.com Florida RapidReporter Lyle Fitzsimmons, several sources (including an Orlando TV station and LSU beat writer Randy Rosetta) are reporting that Jeff Driskel's ankle sprain is more severe than initially feared and that Jacoby Brissett will get the start in Baton Rouge. Brissett has yet to attempt a pass in his Gator career.

The good news for Brissett is that he has the full support of his teammates, ample talent if his recruiting evaluations are to be believed, and an endorsement of those evaluations from none other than Charlie Weis, who said the only reason Brissett started the season on the third string was because he hadn't been able to enroll until over the summer.

But all the same, there's a reason Driskel won the backup job in practice and was the first (and only) quarterback off the bench when starter John Brantley went down with his high ankle sprain against Alabama. Talented as he may be, a true freshman third-stringer is a true freshman third-stringer.

So if the reports prove correct and Driskel is unable to go today, whatever slim hopes the Gator offense had of competing with the Tigers' ferocious defense may be extinguished entirely. Florida fans are about to have a very long wait until their team comes out for warmups and some kind of confirmation is offered.

Posted on: October 6, 2011 3:33 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 6

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

In which we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:



Florida's running game: can you give your quarterback(s) any breathing room?
Any team that can start Chris Rainey or Jeff Demps at tailback and then substitute the other in for the first is going to be a threat on the ground, regardless of who their team faces; when the tiniest sliver of a crease could equal an 80-yard touchdown before the coaches have their headsets correctly adjusted, the Gator ground game is where a defense's focus is going to start ... and probably finish.

That probably goes double for LSU this Saturday, since with John Brantley out and some combination of true freshman Jeff Driskel and other true freshman Jacoby Brissett taking over at quarterback, the Gators' passing game is the most glaring of question marks. But it doesn't matter how badly the Tigers stack the box, how fearsome LSU's defensive front is, how well John Chavis has his charges prepared--Florida must find a way to get Demps, Rainey, and possibly Trey Burton moving forward on the ground. Even with Brantley looking as sharp as he ever has in the first half, the Gators still couldn't rush the ball at all vs. Alabama; Rainey, Demps, and Mike Gillislee carried 17 times for 13 yards, and the end result was zero points over Florida's final 10 drives.

If Driskel and Brissett have any prayer of completing passes consistently against the carnival of athletic freaks that make up LSU's secondary -- in Baton Rouge, no less -- that secondary is going to have to be not just concerned but downright obsessed with the Florida running game. That won't happen if that running game doesn't pick up some good early gains, maybe break a 20-to-30-yarder somewhere, and keep the Gators out of anything but the occasional third-and-long. Otherwise, Chavis's Tigers will spend all afternoon teeing off on the newbies under center and generally choking the life out of Charlie Weis's attack. Weis failed miserably in his first attempt at finding a way to run the ball against an elite SEC defense; a second failure will equal a potentially even-more-miserable defeat.



Barrett Trotter: are you up to giving Auburn a passing attack again? The Tigers' 4-1 record and road upset of South Carolina has helped mask a major, major flaw in the Tiger offense, and a surprising one given Gus Malzahn's track record: Auburn's vertical passing game has all but vanished. In the five quarters since the start of the second half against Clemson, junior QB Trotter has completed just 52 percent of his passes, for only 5.9 yards an attempt, while throwing 4 (often ugly) interceptions to just 3 touchdowns. That's not to mention the eight sacks taken by Trotter the last two games or that neither FAU nor the Gamecocks are going to be mistaken for having world-class secondaries any time soon.

Judging by Arkansas's efforts to stop the run against Texas A&M (or lack thereof), Trotter should get plenty of help from Michael Dyer and the Auburn running game. But that alone won't be enough for the Tigers to keep pace with the Hogs, not given the way Bobby Petrino's quarterbacks have shredded the Auburn defense the past two seasons (702 combined yards, 7 touchdowns) and the kind of form Tyler Wilson and Jarius Wright are in right now. With the Tiger secondary as flammable as ever (provided your quarterback isn't Stephen Garcia), Arkansas is going to score a boatload of points.

Which is why the injuries to receivers to Trovon Reed and Emory Blake couldn't have come at a worse time for Auburn. Trotter already needed to take a substantial step forward to keep the Tigers within striking distance on the road; now he'll have to do it without two of his top three receivers. If there was ever a week for Malzahn to earn his substantial assistant's salary, this looks to be it.



Georgia secondary: are you for real? When Kellen Moore gouged the Bulldogs for 28-of-34 passing and 3 touchdowns Week 1, it looked like the Bulldog defensive backs had regressed back to their dark Wille Martinez-led days. But with safety Bacarri Rambo returning from suspension, the Dawgs have held their last four opponents to team QB ratings under 86 and rank 11th in the country in opponent's pass efficiency despite the Moore carpet-bombing.

Those past results are no guarantee of future performance, since facing Tyler Bray in Neyland Stadium represents a vast step up in competition from the likes of Garcia, Zack Stoudt, the slumping Chris Relf and whoever it was Coastal Carolina trotted out. But it's worth remembering that the Vols still have next-to-nothing going on the ground; even after totaling 199 yards against Buffalo, the Vols rank a horrid 109th in the country in yards per-carry. If the Dawg defensive backs can slow down Bray at all, the Vol offense could grind to a halt ... and barring another turnover-fest from Aaron Murray, Georgia should be able to walk out of Neyland with the victory.

So: can those Dawg DBs slow down Bray or not? The evidence to date is encouraging, but with the memory of Moore's night at the Georgia Dome still lingering, it's not compelling just yet.

Other SEC questions worth asking: How does AJ McCarron look against the Vanderbilt secondary? (Don't laugh; this is the best set of defensive backs McCarron has faced yet. A strong showing would further cement the belief that the Tide have no Achilles heels.) Can Marcus Lattimore keep pace in the Heisman race? (Sure, most of the attention on Carolina is focused on new quarterback starter Connor Shaw. But a second straight subpar outing against a Kentucky defense that kept LSU's ground game bottled up for a half would put the sophomore badly behind at the midseason mark.) Does Mississippi State have any fight left? (The Bulldogs have looked utterly listless and deflated ever since losing to LSU. Is there any indication that could change down the road vs. UAB?)

Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:08 pm
 

SEC RapidReport Roundup: Easley hires attorney

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).

FLORIDA. It's been a busy few days down in Gainesville since the Tide swept the Gators away, even moreso for starting defensive lineman Dominique Easley, who was accused by a former Alabama player of assaulting him on a stadium walkway post-game. Though Easley has not been charged with any crime (nor even named as a suspect), he has hired notable criminal defense attorney Huntley Johnson. Johnson on why Easley retained his services: "Probably because he read the Constitution. It's his right.

A Gator spokesman had no comment on the situation.

As for the Gators' quarterback situation in the wake of John Brantley's right leg injury -- reportedly confirmed as a high ankle sprain -- freshman Jacoby Brissett is firmly in the mix, with Charlie Weis saying he could have won the backup's job if he had been enrolled for spring practice. Fellow true freshman Jeff Driskel has served as Brantley's backup to-date and is the other option to start with Tyler Murphy likely third string.

LSU. Jordan Jefferson had quite the interview with the media late Monday evening, and while most of it's covered in this wire report, it's also worth noting this gem of a quote: "I didn't have to apologize because we all were there (at the bar fight)," he said. "So I didn't have to apologize for anything." We're not sure that really applies when you're a senior leader breaking curfew and inadvertently setting off a media circus that still hasn't subsided, but we'll take his word for it.

Les Miles addressed the CBSSports.com report that NFL teams would be interested in hiring him, saying he was flattered but "I am happy where I am." He also confirmed that the hamstring injury which removed tailback Spencer Ware from last Saturday's win over Kentucky would not keep him out of this week's matchup vs. the Gators.

AUBURN. An already-shaky injury situation for the Tigers at wide receiver has only gotten worse. Trovon Reed is still out with a shoulder injury, but the bigger blow is that junior Emory Blake is in a protective boot and doubtful for Auburn's trip to Arkansas. Between them, Blake and Reed have accounted for 32 of the Tiger wideouts' 48 receptions on the season.

The good news for Auburn is that Michael Dyer's ankle injury won't prevent him from taking the field vs. the Razorbacks. Dyer blamed South Carolina for intentionally causing the injury, saying a Gamecock player had twisted his ankle after the whistle. (A replay of the play is available here.)

SOUTH CAROLINA. Speaking of the Gamecocks and injuries, Carolina likely won't need Melvin Ingram to beat Kentucky. But they're likely to find out all the same, as the SEC's leading pass rusher and tackler-for-loss has been on crutches and is a question mark for Saturday.

Also potentially out: left tackle Kyle Nunn, which won't help an offensive line Steve Spurrier said has backslid the last few games. "Our blocking has been a little on the bad side lately," he said.

ELSEWHERE. He wouldn't be Nick Saban if he wasn't disappointed in some aspect of his team's play, and this week it's first quarters. “We really haven’t played worth a damn in the first quarter ... that was certainly the case in this last game [vs. Florida], where we gave up half the yards," Saban said. He also had some choice wordsfor the practice of trash talking. " “You should never talk to the guy you are playing against," he said. "You’ve got nothing to say to that guy" ...

Arkansas has several candidates for their starting tailback slot, and will use them all ... Mark Richt is one victory away from 100, but he'll have to earn it without Da'Rick Rogers, the receiver who eventually signed with (and now stars for) his Saturday opponent, Tennessee. "We thought we had him," Richt said. "Then, it changed. It happens in recruiting" ...

Meanwhile, in Knoxville, true freshman Devrin Young made two long special teams returns in his Vol debut vs. Buffalo, but a fumble has meant spending this week working on his ball security ... Embattled Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone received a standing ovation at a Jackson (Miss.) speaking engagement ... The remarks of Boone's head coach on Auburn cornerback Jermaine Whitehead's recruitment have been much less well-received ... Morgan Newton is still taking all the first-team quarterback reps at Kentucky practice this week.
 
 
 
 
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