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Tag:Chris Rainey
Posted on: September 18, 2011 1:44 am
 

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Until proven otherwise, yes, Arkansas is a step behind LSU and Alabama. Thursday, the Bayou Bengals put together what we'd confidently call the most impressive defensive performance by any FBS team this season. Saturday, well, Alabama didn't do a whole lot in their 41-0 workout against North Texas. But we know what the Tide are capable of with that defense, as the previous week's throttling of Penn State proved.

But Arkansas? Their Saturday performance against Troy might be the first one by any of the consensus top three teams in the West you could legitimately describe as "disappointing." After scrimmages against FCS Missouri State and FBS-in-name-only New Mexico, the Trojans were the first Hog opponent of the year capable of doing much more than meekly rolling over ... and Troy did much more than that in Fayetteville, rolling to 457 total yards (three more than the Hogs) and cutting a 31-7 deficit to 31-21 midway through the third quarter. Bobby Petrino's teams made major mistakes on both sides of the ball, turning it over three times on offense -- including a pick-six from Tyler Wilson -- and allowing the Trojans seven plays of 20 yards or more.

It might be just a one-week fluke; it might be the Hogs looking ahead to next week's showdown against the Tide; it might be something more serious. Whatever it is, it's the kind of sloppiness we haven't seen yet from the Tide or Tigers--and reason enough to doubt the Hogs can upset the LSU-Alabama apple cart until they do.

Florida is a frightening, frightening football team. The old adage says that to win in the SEC, you have to run and stop the run, and everything else will take care of itself. So maybe it's time to start taking the Gators as a serious conference contender--and not just on the East divisional side of things. Defensively, Will Muschamp's team held Tennessee to minus-9 yards on the ground and their tailbacks to less than two yards a carry; offensively, they netted 134 themselves with Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey averaging 5 yards an attempt.

No doubt there will be stronger running games to shut down and stronger front sevens to run against down the road. But as long as Florida stays anywhere near this productive on the ground, their hat will remain in the ring.

Houston Nutt is on the hottest seat in the SEC. It's one thing to lose to Vanderbilt; the Commodores don't do it often, but occasionally they do leap up like those crocodiles in a Discovery Channel documentary about African water holes and drag some unsuspecting SEC wildebeest into the mud. And with James Franklin having instilled a stunning amount of confidence in the downtrodden 'Dores and NFL-bound corner Casey Hayward leading one of the league's best secondaries (one that now has three pick-sixes in three weeks), that's an occurrence you can expect to happen more often.

But to lose to Vandy 30-7? To go without a single point against Vandy for 57 minutes? To be outgained by the 'Dores by 153 yards? There's no other word for it than "embarrassment," one that without question ranks along the very lowest points of the Ed Orgeron era. Nutt's biggest misstep has been his butchering of the Rebel quarterback situation; after waffling all offseason between Randall Mackey and Barry Brunetti, Nutt seemed to settle on JUCO Zack Stoudt against BYU on little more than a whim. Stoudt responded by fumbling away that game, then topping himself with five interceptions Saturday in Nashville.

With the Rebel offense in total disarray and what seems like the team's only potential SEC win on the road (at Kentucky in November), an Oregeron-esque 0-8 mark in the conference -- and a 2-10 or 3-9 overall record -- is entirely in play. And as much support as Nutt earned in his back-to-back Cotton Bowl seasons, last year's loss to Jacksonville State and Saturday's horrorshow has burned through virtually all of it with the Rebel fanbase ... and maybe even Nutt's boss. When Georgia comes to Oxford next week, Mark Richt will clearly need a win in almost the worst possible way. But we'd argue Nutt will, somehow, need one even more badly.

Auburn's defense is even worse than it should be. Yes, the Tigers are ridiculously, fatally young. Yes, Clemson is loaded with explosive playmakers that will give more veteran units fits, too. Yes, the up-tempo nature of Gus Malzahn's offense --particularly when it struggles, as it did for the final two-and-a-half quarters Saturday -- puts a hefty portion of extra pressure on that defense.

But that's still no excuse for numbers like Clemson's 14-of-18 mark on third-down conversions or 624 total yards, numbers far beyond what Dabo Swinney's squad managed against either Troy or Wofford. While Ted Roof is public enemy No. 1 among Auburn fans right now, Gene Chizik also has some questions to answer. As many, many positive things as he's done at Auburn (for which he's rarely received enough credit), Chizik also has yet to translate the acumen that made him such a successful assistant into any kind of defensive consistency on the Plains.

South Carolina hasn't put it together yet. A week after edging Georgia as much on Georgia's fatal mistakes as the Gamecocks' own play, Carolina needed a last-minute stop to hold off Navy. The talent in Columbia demands that the Gamecocks remain the SEC East favorites, but they haven't played like it yet.

Kentucky's bowl streak is in serious, serious jeopardy. With the Wildcats unable to overcome an inexperienced Louisville team in Lexington, it's a difficult, difficult thing to find four more wins on the UK schedule. Jacksonville State, you'd hope. Home to Ole Miss, sure. And after that? Best of luck, Joker Phillips.

Posted on: September 17, 2011 7:42 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 16 Florida 33, Tennessee 23

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

FLORIDA WON: It wasn't quite as overpowering a victory as it looked to be late in the third quarter (when they were up 30-7), but the Gators nonetheless established their SEC East bona fides with a comfortable 10-point victory over the visiting Vols. Running back-slash-special teams extraordinaire Chris Rainey might have earned a few Heisman Watch-type nods with another scintillating all-around performance: 108 yards rushing, 104 receiving (including the touchdown above), and a second-quarter blocked punt -- the fifth of his career -- for good measure. 

WHY FLORIDA WON: For years and years, the Florida-Tennessee rivalry has been decided by which team could run the ball. And today, it was no contest: the Gators ran for 134 yards while stuffing the Vol run game to the tune of minus-9 yards (yes, 9 yards fewer than no yards at all) on 21 attempts. Even with sacks removed, the Florida defensive line of Jaye Howard, Ronald Powell, Dominique Easley and the newly-reinstated Sharrif Floyd held Volunteer tailbacks to a miserable 27 yards on 14 carries, an average of less than 2 yards an attempt.

Tyler Bray and his talented Vol receivers got their licks in from time to time against the inexperienced Gator secondary (and forced Florida into seven different pass interference penalties in the process), but keeping pace with Rainey and the Florida attack was always going to be too tall a task for such a one-dimensional offense. And it didn't help -- to say the least -- for star sophomore wideout Justin Hunter to leave the game in the first quarter with a knee injury. Whatever hopes Tennessee had of winning a shootout on the strength of Bray's arm likely left the game with him.

WHEN FLORIDA WON: Tennessee went into the locker room with ample momentum, going 89 yards in 6 plays to cut a 16-0 lead to 16-7 just ahead of halftime. And with the first possession of the second half, the Vols had to like their chances of cutting into that lead even further.

But that possession lasted all of one play--Bray threw his worst pass of the day, an ill-advised gunsling that was picked off by Josh Evans. Florida scored on a one-yard Trey Burton touchdown run seven plays later, and Tennessee would be forced to play in desperation mode for the remainder of the game.

WHAT FLORIDA WON: Even if the challenge presented by Tennessee wasn't nearly as stiff as the one to be presented later by the likes of Alabama, LSU, or South Carolina, that the Gators handled it as comfortably as they did (their 15 penalties aside) suggests the malaise of Urban Meyer's final season is firmly behind the program. Will Muschamp's team may or may not win the East, but they have the kind of defensive front and explosive playmakers that will give them as potent a chance to do as anyone.

WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: Whatever you might say about the less tangible losses in a defeat like this -- the air of belief that sprung up after last week's win over Cincinnati, the longshot hopes of an East title -- they pale in comparison to the potential long-term loss of a talent like Hunter. With him, the Vols looked capable of being so powerful in the passing game they could play with anyone; the evidence of today's game suggests that without him, they simply won't be able to hang with the SEC's reigning heavyweights.

Posted on: September 16, 2011 3:28 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 3

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.

We're in the third week of the regular season which means that we're finishing up with the appetizers of the college football menu and getting to the main courses. This week we've got plenty of entrees guaranteed to keep your cardiologist's savings account healthy, as plenty of BCS schools clash and conferences like the SEC continue to delve into conference play. So prepare yourself for an endless bounty taste and bold flavors, and for the love of Bear Bryant, make sure you wear pants with an elastic waistband.

BREAKFAST

Maryland vs. #18 West Virginia - ESPNU 12pm ET

The Terps will be donning their all black uniform combination for their first outing since taking down Miami on Labor Day evening. West Virginia's potent offense has been scoring on nearly 70% of their drives, so it will be on sophomore Danny O'Brien to keep up with the high-powered Mountaineers. Unfortunately, he lost two of his top weapons when Ronnie Tyler and Quinton McCree were suspended indefinitely on Thursday. - Chip Patterson

Clemson vs. #21 Auburn - ABC 12pm ET

There won't be much in the way of offensive surprises for either defense this game: Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris learned his offensive schemes from Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn when both were high school coaches, and both vaulted to their current jobs after operating that same scheme at Tulsa. If that would seem to favor Malzahn's Tigers (who have three years of familiarity with the offense over Clemson's one), remember that this is also the exceptionally green Auburn lineup's first game away from the Plains. Can the Tiger cubs handle Death Valley? - Jerry Hinnen

Iowa vs. Pitt - ESPN2 - 12pm ET

This should be quite the interesting game. Both teams are coming off subpar Week 2 performances, with Iowa dropping a 44-41 thriller to Iowa State in 3OT, and Pitt holding off a late Maine rally to win 35-29. Iowa would appear to hold the advantage here, being that the game is at Kinnick Stadium, but since neither team is playing at a high level, no result would be a shocker. Plus, if anything, Michigan and Notre Dame just demonstrated how fun games can be when both teams are trying to lose. - Adam Jacobi

LUNCH

#11 Nebraska vs. Washington - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

Incredibly, this will be the third meeting between Nebraska and Washington in the last year; the two teams met on September 18 last year, then held a rematch in the Holiday Bowl. The rubber match here should tell us plenty about where both teams stand as we near conference play -- does Washington have what it takes to hang with a ranked foe this year? Will the Cornhuskers finally live up to their preseason hype and No. 11 ranking? Let's find out. - AJ

#16 Florida vs. Tennessee - CBS 3:30pm ET

Don't expect Week 2's trend of high-scoring shootouts in the SEC's highest-profile games to change in Gainesville. The Vols are banged-up and inexperienced in the front seven, and seem like little match for a Gator ground game featuring Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps; the Gators start two true freshmen in their secondary and could be lit up by quarterback Tyler Bray and explosive receiving duo Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. First team to 40 wins. - JH

UCLA vs. #23 Texas - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

Much like the city of Los Angeles itself, Rick Neuheisel forever finds himself standing on shaky ground at UCLA. The Bruins haven't quite become Los Angeles' team like the program boasted it would when Rick came to town, but a second straight win over the Texas Longhorns could go a long way toward making it a reality. Meanwhile the Longhorns will unleash the quarterbacking duo of Case McCoy and David Ash this weekend, so tune in to see what the Texas offense might look like when it isn't tossing out interceptions like Tootsie Rolls on Halloween. - Tom Fornelli

Notre Dame vs. #15 Michigan State - NBC 3:30pm ET

The first two weeks of the season have been a nightmare for Notre Dame. Ten turnovers and two losses are not the way the Irish had planned on starting the return to glory, and things may get even worse before they get better. Michigan State has yet to be truly tested so far in 2011 but if Sparty can go into South Bend and get a win then Brian Kelly will have some pretty big fires to put out. - TF

DINNER

Kentucky vs. Louisville - ESPNU 7pm ET

While this game might fall short of marquee status, it still pits two hated rivals against each other early in the year. Louisville needs to bounce back from a home loss to FIU, and Kentucky needed a 4th quarter comeback to defeat Central Michigan. I expect a lot of passion, and possible hilarity to ensue as both the Cardinals and Wildcats will be starting true freshman on the offensive line. Though, as Morgan Newton has proven this year, you don't need defensive linemen for a sack. - CP

Illinois vs. #22 Arizona State - Big Ten Network 7pm ET

Fresh off an overtime win, Arizona State heads on the road for the first time of the year to take on undefeated Illinois. This game features an underrated quarterback match up between 6-foot-8 signal-caller Brock Osweiler and dual-threat Nathan Scheelhaase. Of course you'll also want to tune in for one of the best linebackers in college football in Vontaze Burfict trying to stop the Illini. - Bryan Fischer

Miami vs. #17 Ohio State - ESPN 7:30pm ET

One team prefers to trade memorabilia for tattoos and cash, the other has enjoyed cover charges and open bars at adult entertainment nightclubs.  What better idea than to get them all together in South Beach on a Saturday night?  Al Golden and Luke Fickell navigate two programs under NCAA investigation into a primetime heavyweight bout with both teams needing a strong performance to live up to expectations. Get your "LAST" button greased up so you can bounce between this game and OU-FSU. - CP

#5 Florida State vs. #1 Oklahoma - ABC 8pm ET

In a weekend full of wonderful games, this one is the marquee matchup. Two top five teams clash in Tallahassee as Florida State tries to show the world that it is indeed back and a national title contender, while Oklahoma looks to prove to the world that it is the best team in the country. This one should be an exciting battle, and one of the key areas to watch will be how Florida State's offensive line handles the Sooners' defensive line. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

Arizona vs. #6 Stanford - ESPN 10:45pm ET

Do you like quarterbacks? Do you like offense? If so, the Stanford-Arizona game will offer plenty of both as Andrew Luck roles into the desert to take on Nick Foles.  While the Cardinal are not quite as explosive as the Wildcats' opponent last week (Oklahoma State), they bring in a trio of tight ends to watch out for and running back Stepfan Taylor to pound away in the running game. - BF
Posted on: September 15, 2011 2:24 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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




Mississippi State: can you finally avoid losing an SEC West game with turnovers and/or special teams breakdowns? More than a few wags skeptical of Dan Mullen's burgeoning reputation in Starkville have noted that he has yet to beat any division opponent other than downtrodden in-state rival Ole Miss, dropping to 0-9 after last week's loss in Auburn. But that agonizing defeat wasn't the first time Mullen has come tantalizingly close to making the breakthrough, and never has he been closer than LSU's last visit to Starkville.

In that 2009 meeting, the Bulldogs outgained the Bayou Bengals 374-263, held LSU to one (1!) yard per their 31 carries, and enjoyed a first-and-goal at the Tiger 2, down six, with under three minutes to play. But that possession ended with quarterback Tyson Lee tackled at the 1 on a botched option play (sound familiar?) and the Bulldogs fell 30-26. While much of the postgame chatter focused on that late goal-line failure, the larger story was State's four critical turnovers (one of them an interception returned for a touchdown) and a punt that bounced inside the 10 and was somehow still returned by LSU's Chad Jones for a backbreaking touchdown.

Those kinds of breakdowns have been a recurring theme for the Bulldogs, as last week's performance proved again. Chris Relf maybe could have scored on the game's final play, but the Bulldogs wouldn't have even been in that situation if Relf hadn't bounced a first-quarter pass off a defender's helmet (a pass eventually picked and housed), or if the Bulldogs hadn't allowed Auburn kick returner Tre Mason to repeatedly set his team up in excellent field position. Even in last year's 29-7 loss to LSU, the Bulldogs played the Tigers to a dead heat in the box score ... except for the 5-to-1 negative turnover margin that broke the game open.

With LSU's offense again unimpressive statistically in their week 1 win against Oregon (273 yards total, 3.9 yards per-play), Jarrett Lee unlikely to make major headway against a veteran Bulldog secondary, and State getting a boost from what should be a rabid Thursday night home crowd, the Bulldogs seem a good bet to once again play an SEC West opponent to a statistical stalemate ... or better. But if they once again lose the turnover and special teams battle that Les Miles's team specializes in winning, it's not going to matter any more than it did the first nine times.


Tyler Bray: can you do to the Gators anything like what you did to Cincinnati?
Let's be up front about this: Florida is going to score points against Tennessee Saturday. The injury-ridden, inexperienced Vol front seven gave up an incredible 6.4 yards per-carry against Cincinnati, and the combination of a revitalized-looking Gator offensive line and the Jeff Demps-Chris Rainey tag-team is far more fearsome than anything the Bearcats had to offer. And the Vols likely won't be able to answer with a strong ground game of their own; despite having faced Cincy and FCS Montana their first two weeks, Tennessee ranks dead-last in the SEC in yards-per-carry. Facing the Gators' loaded defensive front -- now including the newly-reinstated Sharrif Floyd -- is hardly going to be the cure for those issues.

Which means whatever hope the Vols have of keeping pace rests firmly on the shoulders of Bray. But to look at his remarkable performance last week -- 34-of-41, 405 yards, 4 TDs, no INTs -- he might be capable of fulfilling that hope all the same. It won't hurt that the matchup of dynamic sophomore duo of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers against a Gator secondary starting two true freshman is one that overwhelmingly favors the Vols.

Attempting to win a shootout on the road with a one-dimensional offense isn't the typical recipe for victory in the SEC. But if Bray comes out as on fire as he has been the first two weeks of this season, we're not going to put it past him.



Auburn's defense: are you actually improving? Ask any Auburn fan (or coach, or maybe even player) about the team's defense before the season, and they'd have told you that with just two starters back and underclassmen all over the two-deep, it was going to be a work-in-progress. But no one expected it to be quite as much "in progress" as it's been through two weeks; the Tiger D ranks last in the SEC in yards allowed per-game by nearly 100 yards over next-to-last-place Georgia.

Some of that is the quick pace of the Auburn offense, but much more of it is the Tiger defense's near-total inability to get off the field. Utah State converted a mind-boggling 13-of-20 third- and fourth-downs, and Mississippi State wasn't far behind after going 12-of-21. The result? Auburn's D has been on the field for 181 plays already this season, the highest total in the nation. Until the Tigers start getting some stops on third down -- despite the presence of pass-rushers Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae, Auburn has just two sacks on nearly 70 opponents' dropbacks -- the defense isn't going to get legitimately better, and eventually an opponent is going to make the Tigers pay for that weakness.

Clemson may or may not be that opponent; the South Carolina-bred Tigers have flashed issues of their own in sluggish wins over Troy and Wofford. But Chad Morris's Gus Malzahn-like offense should provide a good measuring stick regardless.

Also worth asking: Is Ole Miss, Vanderbilt or Kentucky the SEC's worst team? (With the Rebels and Commodores battling in Nashville and the Wildcats taking on a reeling Louisville team, someone is going to be a definitive No. 12 by the weekend's end.) What does Arkansas look like against an opponent that almost-sorta has a pulse? (Troy isn't great, but they're better than Missouri State or New Mexico. The Hogs should break a sweat, at least. Anything more could spell trouble down the road.) What on earth is Georgia going to do at inside linebacker? (Coastal Carolina won't be anything more than cannon fodder, but the Dawgs have to figure out what they have at their injury-gutted ILB positions.)

Posted on: September 6, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 7:17 pm
 

SEC Poll Reactions, Week 1

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the SEC fared, from the top of the polls to its bottom, and what it means.


LSU. The Tigers were this week's big SEC winners in the balloting, moving from fourth in both polls to third in the Coaches and leapfrogging Alabama for second in the AP. It's something of a surprising move by the media, given that the Crimson Tide were hardly disappointing in defeating Kent State 48-7. But as long as you're not a Tide fan, it's a welcome one; the more voters are willing to pay attention to strength-of-schedule over rote preseason positioning and cupcake victories, the better.

But it's possible Les Miles will wind up wishing the voters hadn't noticed that was Oregon his team was whipping Saturday night. If Oklahoma falls to Florida State in two weeks and the Tigers survive their Thursday night trip to Starkville that same weekend, LSU could move all the way up to No. 1--just in time for a potential ambush at West Virginia.

ALABAMA. Tide fans will no doubt be livid at the media's LSU bump, but in the end, it doesn't much matter. The Tide will have ample opportunity to leapfrog the Tigers themselves this Saturday, when they travel to Penn State for one of the week's highest-profile matchups. LSU? They'll be busy getting a light workout against FCS Northwestern State, a team the Tigers have outscored 417-0 in 10 all-time meetings.

If Alabama can put together its own dominating performance against a name-brand opponent while the Bayou Bengals are off the radar, it won't be surprising if the Tide regain the No. 2 slot in both polls. (As for overtaking the Sooners, it won't happen for either team until at least OU's trip to Tallahassee; the margin in No. 1 votes seems far too wide still for either team to make the top slot without an Oklahoma loss.)

SOUTH CAROLINA.
The Connor Shaw experiment is over, but it may not have passed by without costing the Gamecocks some standing in the polls; Carolina was jumped over by Virginia Tech, overpowering winners over FCS power Appalachian State. Voters may have been punishing the Gamecocks for their slow Shaw-led start against East Carolina, one that led to a 17-0 deficit before a 56-14 gave SC a comfortable 19-point victory.

Frankly, we'll take a 19-point win over a potential Conference USA bowl team over a victory over an FCS team by any margin, even one as respected as Appalachian State. But the voters feeling otherwise hasn't done any real damage to the Gamecocks; they maintained their No. 12 spot despite the Tech preference, thanks to the Ducks falling all the way to No. 13.

ARKANSAS. Our personal opinion is that the Hogs are too low at No. 13 (Coaches) and No. 14 (AP), and having them ranked behind Oregon after the Ducks' relatively meek performance vs. LSU seems particularly shortsighted. But Arkansas also can't have any complaints about not moving up when their opener came against hapless FCS opponent Missouri State.

MISSISSIPPI STATE.
The Bulldogs were another big mover for the SEC, leaping from 20th in each poll to 16th in the AP and 17th in the Coaches. That (and ranking higher than a Baylor team with TCU's scalp already on its wall) seems like quite a reward for beating a terrible Memphis team, but when you score 58 points and put up a school-record 645 total yards, some commendation is certainly in order.

FLORIDA.
The Gators moved up four places in the AP and a full five in the Coaches to rank No. 18 in both--as with the Bulldogs, quite a bump for dismantling a Sun Belt also-ran like FAU. Teams like Baylor and South Florida have no doubt accomplished more. But even after the 8-5 disappointment of a year ago, clearly the Gators' cachet remains mostly intact. Then again, after seeing Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey run wild against the Owls, Florida's ceiling does seem high enough to justify a top-20 position.

AUBURN. The Tigers paid for their stunningly close call against Utah State by dropping out of the AP poll entirely, and slipping three places to No. 22 in the Coaches. On the one hand, this seems like a stunning amount of disrespect for a team that's won 16 straight games and won the national title less than nine months ago. On the other, the Tigers simply didn't look anything like a top-25 team against the Aggies, and when teams like USC (in the AP) and USF (in the coaches) remain unranked, at least they've got good company.

On top of that, only one more week will solve the pollsters' dilemma of what to do with the Tigers. If Auburn beats Mississippi State Saturday, it will certainly -- and justifiably -- return to both polls. If the Tigers lose, they will certainly and justifably be unranked in both.

GEORGIA. The Bulldogs naturally dropped out of both polls after their comprehensive defeat against Boise State; that they're still receiving a smattering of votes in each poll is surprising, and not particularly sensible. Beat Carolina, and the Dawgs can bark.

EVERYONE ELSE. Tennessee received a tiny handful of points in both polls. It makes sense, but they're getting fewer than Georgia; Montana or not, we'd still take the Vols' convincing W over the Dawgs' deeply worrying L.


Posted on: September 5, 2011 12:33 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 12:39 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 1

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Yes, it's back.

234 days after Auburn defeated Oregon in Glendale, college football has returned. And did it ever.

At some point during Russell Wilson's return at Wisconsin, Baylor and TCU's shootout, Auburn's furious comeback or Texas A&M's blowout of SMU, one just had to take a deep breath, take in everything that was going on around the country and say, yes, the sport is back.

As Washington beat writer Bob Condotta summed up, "College football spent 9 months trying to drive everyone away and in about 18 hours has brought everyone back."

Three straight days worth of games (and one more tonight) couldn't have come at a better time either after, as Condotta alluded to, a rough offseason. Realignment and infractions were in most writers' computer clipboards just from all that went on. Ohio State, Oregon, USC, Miami, etc., were the schools being talked about in lieu of directional schools being beat up by state schools.

The newest addition to the great CBSSports.com crew, senior columnist Bruce Feldman, broke down The Big Picture from opening weekend and now it's time to dive into the details.

Stat of the week

Admission: I'm a passionate baseball fan. I write, live and breath college football for a living but to me, there's nothing like the intricacies of a baseball game. There's Vin Scully in the booth, phenom call-ups, the DH debate and John Sterling going as over the top as you can get on a home run call. The sport isn't for everyone though, and the biggest reason most point to is the pace of the games.

Turns out, the baseball players have come around to that point too. I've watched a ton of Red Sox-Yankees games over the years and still enjoy every pitch despite them routinely taking around four hours to play.

"It's brutal. I can't stand playing a nine-inning game in four hours. It's not baseball," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "I don't even know how to describe it. If I was a fan, why would I want to come watch people sitting around and talking back and forth, going to the mound, 2-0 sliders in the dirt? Four-hour games can't be fun for a fan, either?"

On Thursday, the opening day of college football, the Yankees and Red Sox played nine innings in four hours and 21 minutes. 4:21. Not one football game all week took longer than four hours during week one that wasn't extended due to weather. Heck, out of 1,526 games during the 2010 season, the average length of a game was 3:12.

Stats like this make me glad I cover football and am just a fan of baseball. The excessive TV timeouts in the college game might make some angry but do keep things in perspective: at least it's not baseball.

Other stats of note

- SEC teams scored 63 touchdowns, 22 through the air, five on defense and five through returns.

- Florida running back Jeff Demps broke the 2,000 yard rushing mark for his career while his teammate Chris Rainey (left) scored a touchdown receiving, rushing and via a punt return. He was the first Gator to ever score in those three ways in one game.

- Arkansas's Joe Adams managed to return two punt returns for touchdowns against Missouri State.

- The 53 pass attempts from by Oregon's Darron Thomas were the most by a Ducks quarterback since Kellen Clemons on October 9, 2004.

- North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner had a great debut for the Tar Heels, going 22-23 for a 95.7% completion percentage. That's an ACC record and is the second best mark in NCAA history behind Tennessee's Tee Martin at 95.8%.

- USC's Robert Woods caught a school-record 17 passes and Matt Barkley threw a school-record 34 completions.

- Kellen Moore has 102 career touchdown passes against just 20 interceptions after his game in the Georgia Dome. According to Tony Barnhart, 10 of those interceptions came in his first year.

- UCLA hadn't lost in the state of Texas in 34 years (to Houston) before falling to the Cougars on Saturday. They also hadn't lost to a team from Texas since Houston beat them at the Rose Bowl in 1979. More than the record books though, Rick Neuheisel badly needed a win for this year's record.

- Oregon State true freshman Malcolm Agnew is the nation's leading rusher after a 223 yard performance... but his team still lost to an average FCS team this weekend.

- No surprise to see FIU's T.Y. Hilton turn in another great all-around performance, racking up a nation's-best 283 all-purpose yards against North Texas.

- Amazingly, Oregon-LSU was only the seventh time two ranked Pac-12 and SEC teams met on the field in the last 10 years. The SEC has a 4-3 edge after the Tigers took care of business in Arlington.

The NCAA is following Miami

The NCAA taking a road trip to see Miami tonight…. NCAA.com that is.

The site is wrapping up a five game, five state, five day road trip to kick off the season and is taking a behind the scenes look at several programs along the way. They were in Charlotte, N.C. to check in on student-athlete Stephen Garcia leading South Carolina to a win over ECU. The were soaked after rain storms shortened West Virginia's victory over Marshall. Tonight they'll be in College Park to see Maryland and Miami play.

While the trip is noble, there's a tinge of irony that the NCAA is taking their talents to see the team from South Beach play. Either way, check it out here.

I'm not sure which of the 16 different uniform combinations Maryland is using Monday night either but maybe they can figure out a way to wear the all white ones despite it being a home game. After all, seems like this would be their only chance since you certainly can't wear (all) white after Labor Day.

Don't forget about these guys

- Notre Dame was as sloppy as the field they played on and there's not much else to say beyond that. Yes it was rainy, yes it was the first game of the year but all that shouldn't matter for the Irish - looking to finally live up to expectations and be a top 10 team this year. There's still plenty of time for them to get it together but their lack of fundamentals and now very real quarterback controversy will be something Brian Kelly will have to figure out quickly. On the bright side, Michael Floyd (right) had 12 catches, 154 yards and two touchdowns.

- Auburn is a young team and they're going to take some lumps given their difficult schedule. Let's get that statement out of the way. They can - and should - be better than what everybody is saying they'll be but still, it was a bit shocking to see the Tigers on the brink of a loss at Jordan Hare Stadium to Utah State. It will take some time for this young team to gel and get caught up to the pace of the game. Auburn got a very real wake up call that Cam Newton wasn't taking the snap, now it's time to see how they'll respond.

"We are a long way off from being able to win very many games right now," head coach Gene Chizik said.

Aggies true freshman Chuckie Keeton was the star of the show if you look beyond the box score (21-30, 213 yards) thanks to the tremendous poise he had in his first game ever at the collegiate level. He'll be one to keep an eye on in the future.

- If you were a Michigan fan who managed to stay dry at the Big House, you had to be somewhat encouraged at the progress your defense made. Yes there's nowhere to go but up from last year but Greg Mattison looked like he had the team being much more aggressive. The players still aren't the caliber they once were but there are some bright spots, such as linebacker Brandon Herron.

- It's hard to read too much into Alabama's game against Kent State other than that their defense is nasty (90 total yards allowed) and they have an unfair advantage with Eddie Lacy and Trent Richardson in the backfield. It appears AJ McCarron has the edge at quarterback but both him and Phillip Sims tossed two interceptions. The real test comes when both go into a hostile Happy Valley to take on Penn State. That's when Nick Saban will truly find out which is his "guy."

- Memo to Bob Stoops: walk-on transfer Dominique Whaley needs a scholarship. It's the least Oklahoma's head coach can do after Whaley ran for 131 yards and four touchdowns in the Sooners opener against Tulsa. It's the Sooners bye week, perhaps Stoops can find the cash lying around for a full-ride.

- A so-so debut for Missouri quarterback James Franklin on Saturday. There were positives and negatives for Blaine Gabbert's replacement as he seemed about a half-step behind where he should have been in the passing game, failing to hit open receivers at times. Third down conversions (3 of 13) is one area that has to be concerning but certainly his skills running the ball have to be somewhat exciting to Tigers fans but there will have to be a bit of polishing going on before they take on the big boys like Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

- No surprise to see LSU corner Tyrann Mathieu named as SEC player of the week. He was all over Cowboys Stadium for the Tigers and made one of the biggest plays of the game when he recovered/forced a muff punt and scooped and scored.

More on College Football
Analysis
Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
LSU's Tigers sink teeth into Ducks, show they could be in running for No. 1 ranking. Read >>
Brett McMurphy Brett McMurphy
A changed Garcia makes all the difference for Gamecocks. Read >>
Tony Barnhart Tony Barnhart
Boise State's dominant win over Georgia proves they're ready to run the table. Read >>
Related links
Video
Pulling Rank

The AP and coaches polls don't come out until Tuesday with a game being played on Monday. Here's Dennis Dodd's latest power poll top 10 however.

1. Oklahoma, 2. LSU, 3. Boise State, 4. Alabama, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Virginia Tech, 7. Florida State, 8. Stanford, 9. Texas A&M, 10. Nebraska.

Not a big disagreement with that group, but perhaps the Cardinal is a bit undervalued at number eight.

Links for later

- With plenty of time to talk about conference realignment before the games begin again, be sure to check out Dallas Mavericks owner - and Indiana alum - Mark Cuban's thoughts on what Big 12 schools should do. Namely, just say no.

- The video of the week comes out of Lubbock, as Texas Tech's head coach Tommy Tuberville gets the Red Raider fans fired up in this pre-game intro. It didn't work as well as the second half intro, as Tech pulled away 50-10.

- A precision attack from Kellen Moore and his receivers picked apart Georgia's defense. Here's how they did it.
 
- Good column from Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde, who gets Al Golden to open up and share his view of the scandal that has engulfed his program.

- Is The Longhorn Network the sticking point for Texas going to the Pac-16? Yes, but it appears they can get out of it if they want.

Where We'll Be This Week

Looking ahead, Dennis Dodd will be on-hand to see Joe Paterno can try and pull of a massive upset as Alabama travels to Penn State. Tony Barnhart will be seeing if Georgia can bounce back and save Mark Richt's job as the Bulldogs take on South Carolina while Brett McMurphy travels to Ann Arbor for the big night game between Michigan and Notre Dame. Gregg Doyel is going to see one independent take on a possible future independent as BYU travels to play Texas. Finally, myself and Bruce Feldman will carpool to the Coliseum and witness the first ever Pac-12 conference game between Utah and USC.

Across the goal line

Finally, let's not forget how the first day of Oh-thank-goodness-college-football-
is back ended for most of us. I'm really not sure why a game between two commonwealth schools would be played in the state of Tennessee in the first place, but it was. I understand wins in the state are hard to come by, but just how bad was the Kentucky-Western Kentucky game?

The highlight of the night was pretty much Hilltoppers linebacker (and first-team All-Namer) Andrew Jackson telling the nation, "They supposed to be in the SEC?" Of course his team was down at the time but you understood why he chose to make the remarks.

Wildcats' punter Ryan Tydlacka said afterwards, "I'm kind of exhausted." If your punter says he's exhausted after a game, it better be because he ran more than two fake punts, not because he averaged 47 yards on seven punts.

But it was football. The game we love so, so much has returned.

And good, bad, ugly or Kentucky, we'll take it.


Posted on: September 3, 2011 10:21 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 22 Florida 41, FAU 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

FLORIDA WON: Nevermind the 8-5 disappointment, the coaching transition, the questions surrounding John Brantley: Florida against a bottom-rung Sun Belt team is still a total mismatch. The Gators scored 24 points over their first four possessions in Will Muschamp's debut, already feeling confident enough at that point to pull Brantley and give true freshman backup Jeff Driskel a series. Brantley finished 22-of-31 for 236 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions.

WHY FLORIDA WON: Playing an FAU team that went 2-10 last year and lost its quarterback has a lot to do with it. But the Gators nonetheless went a long way towards dispelling the doubts that a Charlie Weis offense combined with a green offensive line and backs recruited for the Urban Meyer spread wouldn't be able to find a running game. Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey combined for 110 first-half yards on the ground on just 14 carries, with three long touchdowns (one a screen reception by Rainey) to boot. For the game, the Gators ran for 197 yards on a healthy 6 yards a pop.

Maybe it's not the offense Demps and Rainey were recruited for, but as long as the line can give them a crease -- and for a week, at least, they did -- they remain as explosive a running back tandem as there is in the SEC, and maybe the country. If Brantley can continue keeping defenses honest (and there will be defenses far, far more difficult to keep honest than the Owls'), the Florida running game could return to something approximating its 2007-2009 heyday.

And oh, the Gator defense--always expected to be the team's strength--performed to expectations, completely stuffing the Owl running game (30 yards on 30 attempts) and holding FAU to 137 yards overall.

WHEN FLORIDA WON: Like so many first-week paycheck games, any honest competitive drama was sucked out of the contest early. But after a second-quarter FAU field goal, we'll say an Owl comeback remained within the furthest realms of mathematical possibility until Rainey returned a blocked punt for a touchdown -- his third, via three different methods -- with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. At 31-3, things were well and truly over.

WHAT FLORIDA WON: A big boost of confidence for an offense that must have needed it after their various 2010 disasters (not to mention a spring game described by nearly all as just this side of unwatchable) and confirmation the hyped defensive line will be a load for future opponents to handle, even without Shariff Floyd. With another likely tune-up against UAB on deck, the Gator machine could find itself positively well-oiled by the time Tennessee visit Sept. 17.

Posted on: August 10, 2011 11:49 am
 

SEC RapidReport Roundup, 8/10: Dooley unhappy

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Running down everything you need to know from the day's news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters.


TENNESSEE: Derek Dooley was less-than-thrilled with the Volunteers' first scrimmage of fall camp, saying of the offense "they just weren't working together, they looked like 11 individuals out there." And though quarterback Tyler Bray had his moments, Dooley wanted more out of his sophomore signal-caller.

"He made some throws, made a couple of big plays," Dooley said. "But the consistency was nonexistent, it's enough to drive you crazy." For the scrimmage, Bray went 13-of-29 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Former blue-chip receiver Da'Rick Rogers had a productive scrimmage, catching six balls for 77 yards and a touchdown.

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs have named their three new starters on the offensive line, joining senior holdovers Cordy Glenn at tackle and Ben Jones at center: sophomore guards Kenarious Gates (left) and Chris Burnette (right), and senior left tackle Justin Anderson. Of thre three, only Gates made a start in 2010; Anderson was playing on the defensive line.

Two names impressing in the early going are converted linebacker Richard Samuel at running back -- at 6'2, 243 now a much more imposing physical presence than in his first stint at RB -- and wide receiver Marlon Brown. "“Coach (Mark) Richt asked me the other day if I could name one receiver that’s caught my eye," said quarterback Aaron Murray. "I said Marlon. He’s having a tremendous camp. He’s making plays, looks fluid and is real consistent.”

But the highlight of yesterday's practice? 6'4", 330-pound nose tackle Johnathan Jenkins taking an interception back for a score. Also, starting CB Brandon Boykin and potential starting S Jakar Hamilton continue to be held out of practice with hamstring inuries.

AUBURN: Gene Chizik confirmed yesterday that after offseason shoulder surgery, five-star linebacker signee Kris Frost will miss the entirety of the season. Frost likely would have began his Auburn career on the two-deep at outside linebacker. He becomes the second five-star Tiger recruit in as many seasons to miss his freshman year, following tackle Shon Coleman's leukemia diagnosis in 2010.

It doesn't sound like fan favorite fullback Ladarious Phillips will be a major contributor anytime soon for the Tigers; Chizik said he hasn't "bought any stock in his development yet" and that Phillips "has a long way to go."

ALABAMA: To hear wide receiver Brandon Gibson tell it, the rest of the Tide offense isn't taking sides in the QB battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims. " “They both come out with a great attitude, they help each other out, and they're both competitive," Gibson said. "So with either one of them, we're going to be fine.”

As for third quarterback Blake Sims, Nick Saban said he could see the field as the Tide's designated Wildcat quarterback, or even at tailback. After missing Monday's practice with a leg injury, backup offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio (brother of five-star Tide tackle signee Cyrus Kouandjio) participated in drills Tuesday.

AND ELSEWHERE: Starting senior guard Grant Cook was held out of Tuesday's Arkansas practice with a leg injury, but Bobby Petrino doesn't believe the injury is serious. True freshman Brey Cook (no relation, we think) is filling in with aplomb ... At South Carolina, No. 1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney returned to practice after a one-day absence due to a "personal matter." Clowney ran with the Gamecocks' first-team line in practice ... The Florida offensive line wants under-fire quarterback John Brantley to know they've got his back. And though we're not sure about the thoughts of speed-backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey on the switch, Gator powerback Mike Gillislee likes the move to a pro-style scheme ... Sixth-year defensive end Kentrell Lockett sat out Tuesday's practice as Rebel coaches exercised caution with their oft-injured star. Houston Nutt also praised JUCO quarterback transfer Zack Stoudt, saying that after his spring game suspension he had done what he needed to do over the summer.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com