Tag:Houston Nutt
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 5, 2011 12:58 pm
 

SEC injuries: Rebels' Bolden, UGA's Ogletree out

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Georgia
and Ole Miss both suffered demoralizing losses on the field Saturday, and even worse for Mark Richt and Houston Nutt, a pair of key injuries have been added to those insults.

In Athens, sophomore linebacker Alec Ogletree had been one of the stars of the Bulldogs' offseason after his move from safety. But Ogletree broke his foot against Boise State and will be out four-to-six weeks, Richt said.

"That's a big blow," Richt added. "With the depth we have there, we couldn’t afford that type of injury." Senior walk-on Jeremy Sulek replaced Ogletree against the Broncos, tying for the team lead with seven tackles. But freshman Amarlo Herrera and junior Mike Gilliard will have a chance to compete for the job this week as the Bulldogs prepare for South Carolina.

But if Ogletree's injury hurts, the one suffered by Rebel running back Brandon Bolden could be downright devastating. With nearly 1,600 career yards under his belt and a veteran offensive line in front of him, the senior was expected to be the linchpin of the Ole Miss offense and a potential All-SEC-caliber performer for an attack that desperately needed one.

But Bolden left the Rebels' 14-13 loss to BYU with an ankle injury after just four carries, and Nutt told reporters afterward that he believed Bolden had fractured the ankle.

Bolden is scheduled for an MRI that could rule him out for the season. He was replaced against the Cougars by backups Jeff Scott and Enrique Davis, who each left Saturday's game for periods with injuries. But both are believed to be healthy enough to play this week, when the Rebels take on FCS Southern Illinois.

Sitting at 0-1 following disappointing 2010 seasons and with their coaches under fire, neither the Bulldogs nor Rebels look capable of affording any further setbacks. But unless they can find quality replacements for Ogletree and Bolden, they may find out exactly how capable they are.

Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:53 am
 

What I Learned in the SEC (Sept. 3)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. LSU isn't going anywhere, even with Jarrett Lee at the controls. The expectation is that one of these years, one of these games, putting out a quarterback scarcely more competent than your average Sun Belt starter is going to finally catch up with Les Miles and the Tigers. Saturday night's 40-27 thumping of Oregon wasn't that game, though, and this may not be that year.

As my collegue Bryan Fischer wrote, Lee didn't do anything to lose the Tigers the game; the flipside is that he barely did anything to win the game, either, putting together a 10-for-22, 98-yard effort that we promise you'll see referred to in the dictionary next week in the entry for "pedestrian." Aside from one well-thrown fade to Rueben Randle for his only touchdown pass of the evening, Lee's primary instruction for the night was just to stay the hell out of the way.

And, as it always seems to for Miles, that instruction worked to perfection. The Tiger defense and special teams forced four turnovers, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground, the LSU secondary held Darron Thomas to a miserable 4.4 yards per his 54 attempts, and only a last-second Duck touchdown prevented the final from being a three-touchdown rout ... even though Oregon finished with more total yards than the Tigers.

We still don't think it's likely LSU wins an SEC championship with Lee at the helm and completion percentages just over 45 percent in the stat book. But looking at what the Tigers did against one of the nation's best teams Saturday, you can't rule it out, either.

2. Florida will have a say in who wins the East. First, the caveat: FAU is bad. Really, really bad. As in, "may finish dead last in the Sun Belt" bad. But still: the casual ease with which the Gators brushed the Owls aside -- scoring 24 points over the first four possessions, holding FAU to 30 rushing yards on 30 carries, outgaining the Owls by 331 yards -- was the farthest of far cries from last year's opening-week wheeze past Miami (Ohio). Bad team or not, Florida pounded the Owls the way an SEC contender ought to pound them.

Meanwhile, the two teams expected by many to top the East standings had less-than-comfortable Saturday nights. Georgia, of course, began 2011 looking for all the world like the same team that ended 2010. South Carolina spotted East Carolina a 17-0 lead by starting Connor Shaw, then ran off 56 of the game's next 70 points behind Stephen Garcia. Still, there's little doubt that being caught in a four-point game late in the third quarter and outgaining the Pirates by all of six yards wasn't what Steve Spurrier had in mind.

It's still too early to anoint the Gators East favorites, or even on even footing with the Gamecocks. (As for the Bulldogs, well, maybe if they'd just kept things close ...) But it's not too soon to recognize this as a three-team race until such time the SEC standings say otherwise.

3. Auburn should be happy, but it shouldn't be confused. Somewhat lost in analyzing the rampant flaws that led to the defending national champions' 38-28 deficit to Utah State has been the resolve and determination that led to their stunning comeback; for Gene Chizik to hold his senior-laden 2010 team together in the face of staggering deficits is one thing, to do so with his all-but senior-free 2011 team another. Going back to the 2009 Outback Bowl, Chizik has now won nine straight one-possession games, a testament to his team's remarkable fourth-quarter focus and resilience.

But being a resilient team is nice. Being a good team is better, and even the cardiac-inducing Tigers of last year didn't bother to let the likes of Utah State take them to the wire. Thrilled as Auburn fans have a right to be with the comeback, it also shouldn't make them blind to the kind of major issues that result in needing a borderline-miraculous comeback against a 4-8 WAC team in the first place. Much as the aforementioned Miami (Ohio) struggles proved an accurate foreshadowing of 2010's Gator troubles, so it's now safe to say Auburn will not challenge for the West title ... and against their brutal schedule, might need every ounce of that resilience just to make a bowl.  

4. Jacksonville State didn't show up to this year's party. The three SEC-on-FCS matchups Saturday were every bit as lopsided as the SEC might have hoped, with Arkansas blasting Missouri State, Tennessee handling Montana by an impressive 26-point margin, and even Vanderbilt getting into the act with a 45-14 thumping of Elon in James Franklin's debut. Exactly how much these victories mean is a matter of conjecture -- FCS schools, after all -- but at the very least the conference avoided the kind of egg on its face Ole Miss's infamous loss to JSU's Gamecocks produced in last year's opening week. (That egg is perhaps being saved for Jacksonville State's visit to Kentucky.)

5. Speaking of the Rebels, they still don't have a quarterback--or an offense. There's no shame in losing to a solid-enough team like BYU by a point, even at home. But totaling barely more than 200 yards and averaging all of 3.6 yards per-play, 2.2 yards per-rush, and 5.1 yards per-pass ... there's some shame in that. And the quarterback issues that have plagued the Rebels for years showed no signs of abating; Houston Nutt turned to JUCO pocket-passer Zack Stoudt for the bulk of the second half, and Stoudt rewarded him by fumbling the game away on the goalline. The road back to relevance for Nutt and the Rebels still looks plenty long.

6. AJ McCarron is Alabama's quarterback. The battle might continue officially, but we're ready to declare a winner.

Posted on: September 1, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 1



Posted by Tom Fornelli


For thousands of peaceful, happy years the world was ruled by men. But no longer. Between women and machines, men watch helplessly as our power is tragically wrested away. Surely it can't be true. A world men no longer are in complete control of? Insanity. But how best to prove it?

That, my friends, is where Man vs Woman vs Machine comes in.

I am standing up for men everywhere, yelling from the mountaintops, "You can't take our football from us!" That's right. Every week, I will compete against my girlfriend, Lynn, and a machine, my Playstation 3, as we go head to head to yet another head picking winners of 15 of the biggest college football games of the week.

I will prevail. The fate of our gender and our species depends on it. I shan't let you down.

Let the reclamation of our throne begin.

Wisconsin (-35 1/2) vs. UNLV - Thursday 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - The excitement of a new season is going to end rather quickly when Wisconsin has this one wrapped up before the end of the second quarter. While I'm a bit leery of spreads this large, I'm also fully aware of the brand of American Football that Bret Bielema likes to play, and I don't doubt for a second that the Badgers will go for 100 points if the possibility is there. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "I hate a spread this big, especially when it's being set by some button man UNLV alum named Mo at Caeser's Palace." Pick: UNLV

Machine - The Machine doesn't seem to have a "Crush, Kill, Destroy" philosophy that is as strong as Bielema's. Though the machine really believes in the power of Russell Wilson, as he throws for 4 touchdowns and then runs for another to cap off the scoring in the third quarter. Wisconsin wins 35-7. Pick: UNLV

Baylor vs. TCU (-5 1/2) - Friday 8pm

Man -  This game was a lot tougher for me to call than you would normally think it would be. I'm not sure how TCU's offense will look this season without Andy Dalton around, but I do know that this will still be one of the top defenses in the country. I also know that Baylor's defense is rather porous, which should help TCU because no matter how good Robert Griffin III is, the Horned Frogs defense will make a stop when it needs to. Pick: TCU

Woman - "Home field advantage won't win the game, but it will help cover the spread." Pick: Baylor

Machine - The Machine likes the upset! Apparently there is no defense that Robert Griffin cannot solve, as he throws for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead Baylor to a 34-30 victory. Pick: Baylor

Ohio State (-33 1/2) vs Akron - Saturday 12pm

Man - What should we expect from an Ohio State team this season that doesn't have Terrelle Pryor or Jim Tressel? I don't know yet, and odds are this game won't give us much of a clue either. Ohio State should still win rather easily, but with two quarterbacks and the team's top running back and wide receiver sitting this one out, I don't think the offense will be running too smoothly. Pick: Akron

Woman - "Little known fact: A pair of Goodyear rubber zipper boots inspired Akron's nickname "The Zips."  Coincidentally, the same chance it has of beating the spread." Pick: Ohio State

Machine - Suspensions? What suspension? The Machine has Ohio State winning this one 49-14, and that was with Joe Bauserman taking all the snaps. Pick: Ohio State

Alabama (-36 1/2) vs. Kent State - Saturday 12:20pm

Man - Is Alabama replacing a lot of star power on offense this season? Yes. Is Kent State still Kent State? Yes. Trent Richardson may rack up close to 200 yards in the first half and then sit out the second half, and though I'm somewhat scared that the Tide will call off the dogs a bit late in the game, I still like them to cover this spread. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "Hey, Kent State, do you really want to take the chance? I didn't think so." Pick: Alabama

Machine - Well, Kent State, at least you're going to get some points out of it. The Tide rolls 56-3. Pick: Alabama

Notre Dame (-10.5) vs. South Florida - Saturday 3:30pm

Man - It's a new year and the expectations for Notre Dame are high, so there's nothing new to report. Which is why I'm incredibly leery of Notre Dame being a double-digit favorite because this is a team that hasn't lived up to those expectations for a while, and I'm not going to buy in until the Irish show it on the field. I think Notre Dame starts its season 1-0, but it's going to be close. Pick: South Florida

Woman - "If Skip Holtz has any unresolved daddy issues, now's the time for payback." Pick: South Florida

Machine - Much like the Woman and I, The Machine isn't buying the Notre Dame hype either, and Brian Kelly is going to start feeling some pressure after the Irish lose 23-10 to the Bulls. Pick: South Florida

Florida State (-29 1/2) vs. Louisiana-Monroe - Saturday 3:30pm

Man - I'm not entirely sold on Florida State being ranked as high as it is to start the season, but I don't foresee the Seminoles having any trouble with Louisiana-Monroe this weekend. There's a chance the 'Noles will get caught looking ahead to their date against Oklahoma, but it's a small one. Pick: Florida State

Woman - "F-L-O-R-I-D-A-S-T-A-T-E cupCAKE cupCAKE cupCAKE" Pick: Florida State

Machine - It's a clean sweep as The Machine believes Chief Osceola will send his spear right through the heart of the Warhawks, 42-6. Pick: Florida State

Ole Miss vs. BYU (-3) - Saturday 4:45pm

Man - I know Ole Miss started its 2010 season with a loss at home against Jacksonville State, but to be an underdog at home against a BYU team that wasn't exactly a world beater itself in 2010? Why I'll gladly take the points and put my faith in the Reverend Houston Nutt. Pick: Ole Miss

Woman - "Is it just me or does "Ole Miss" sound like somebody's pet dairy cow or an arthritic spinster? Whatever, Spinster squeaks by at home. (And serves up a delicious applesauce crumb cake.)" Pick: Ole Miss

Machine - The Machine is not religious, but even it succumbs to the powerful words of the Reverend Nutt. There will be no Jacksonville State repeat, Ole Miss wins 44-20. Pick: Ole Miss

Florida (-34 1/2) vs. Florida Atlantic - Saturday 7pm

Man - While I have no doubt that Will Muschamp will have the Florida defense looking as strong as ever before the year is done, I have plenty of doubts about John Brantley and the Gators offense. Because of these doubts I have a hard time believing the Gators will blow Howard Schnellenberger's boys out of The Swamp on Saturday. Florida wins comfortably, but not by a blowout. Pick: Florida Atlantic

Woman - "The Schnellenberger's Last Season Effect: FAU will just beat the spread, which Charlie Weis will promptly schmear on some bagels." Pick: Florida Atlantic

Machine - A new offense? The same questionable quarterback? The Machine fears not these things, and the Gators roll 59-10. Pick: Florida

Oklahoma State (-37 1/2) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette - Saturday 7pm

Man - I'm of the opinion that Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon could end up with 2,000 yards receiving this season, and he's going to get a large chunk of those yards on Saturday night in Stillwater. The Ragin' Cajuns will come after Mike Gundy, but he's a man, he's over 40 and he has an offense that will put up at least 40. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "The only Louisiana Lafayette I know hates vampires and wears false eyelashes." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine - While The Machine believes in the prowess of Justin Blackmon (8 catches, 238 yards, 3 TDs) it is not nearly as confident in the Oklahoma State defense. Cowboys win 38-17. Pick: Louisiana-Lafayette

Texas (-23) vs. Rice - Saturday 8pm

Man - This game has me torn. On the one hand, I don't know that I want to count on Garrett Gilbert being able to limit turnovers enough to keep the Longhorns comfortably in the lead. On the other hand, Rice. After flipping a coin I've decided to believe that since this game is on the Longhorn Network and nobody will be watching it, Gilbert will feel much more relaxed and the Longhorns will win easily. Pick: Texas

Woman - "The Longhorns enjoy a rebound effect from last year's nightmare season and take out all their frustration on those wise old Owls." Pick: Texas

Machine - Garrett Gilbert for Heisman! Gilbert throws for 278 yards, 5 touchdowns -- half his total from last year -- and only 1 interception as the Longhorns roll 38-7. Pick: Texas

Oklahoma (-24 1/2) vs. Tulsa - Saturday 8pm

Man - This spread is pretty big for an offense that was as potent as Tulsa's last season, but I'm not sure the Hurricanes can put up astounding numbers against the Oklahoma defense without Damaris Johnson and Todd Graham. Landry Jones gets his Heisman campaign off on the right foot. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "Seriously, can someone explain why a school located in the heart of Tornado Alley calls itself the Golden Hurricanes?  Tulsa loses but covers." Pick: Tulsa

Machine - The Machine believes in the Tulsa offense a lot more than I do right now, but the Golden Tornadoes fall just short in a 31-24 loss. Pick: Tulsa

Georgia vs. Boise State (-3 1/2) - Saturday 8pm in Atlanta

Man - There are many who believe that Mark Richt is coaching to save his job with Georgia this fall, and his hold on the position will be a bit more tenuous after this one. Kellen Moore and Boise State are going to claim another BCS scalp on Saturday night in front of a packed Georgia Dome, and I don't think it'll be interesting in the fourth quarter. Pick: Boise State

Woman - "Sorry, adorable l'il Uga the Fiftieth, it's not happening." Pick: Boise State

Machine - Wow, I think Boise State's going to win this one comfortably, but The Machine doesn't even think Georgia should bother showing up. Boise State wins 48-9. Pick: Boise State

LSU (-2 1/2) vs. Oregon - Saturday 8pm in Dallas

Man - Is this game going to be played in a parking lot or a football field? To be honest, I'm not sure if being without Jordan Jefferson hurts LSU or helps it, and I hate going against the magic of Les Miles, but I just have fewer questions about Oregon right now. LSU may pull off another insane last second victory, but I still see the Ducks covering that spread. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "Les Miles will be flossing with Cowboy Stadium's Matrix turf." Pick: LSU

Machine - The Machine feels that Jordan Jefferson is incredibly important, and it shows in the final score. Oregon racks up 598 yards of total offense against the LSU defense and wins rather easily, 42-23. Pick: Oregon

Texas A&M (-15 1/2) vs. SMU - Sunday 7:30pm

Man - The team that's leaving the Big 12 against the team that would like to take its place. If SMU wins do they get in? I'm not sure, and I don't think they'll find out on Saturday. While I expect the Mustangs offense to keep things interesting, I think the Aggies will have too much in the end. Still, SMU covers and then Craig James will claim he doesn't remember a thing that happened during the game. Pick: SMU

Woman - "Aggies starting off what could be a great season and a Big 12 swan song with a win, but they won't cover." Pick: SMU 

Machine - The Machine sees a barnburner in our future on Sunday night. The Aggies narrowly escape with a victory thanks to a field goal in the final minutes, but it's not good enough for a cover. A&M wins 34-31. Pick: SMU

Maryland vs. Miami (-5 1/2) - Monday 8pm

Man - Randy Edsall's dream becomes a reality in his first game at Maryland against whatever is left of the Miami Hurricanes by the time the ball is kicked off. All I know is that I wouldn't be shocked if Miami won this game, but there's just no way I'm going to pick the Canes after the amount of work I had to put in to remove all the ineligible and suspended players from the roster before simulating this game. I hope Nevin Shapiro's yacht stalls in the middle of the ocean while you're out there watching the game. Pick: Maryland

Woman: "Instant karma and home field gives the edge to Maryland." Pick: Maryland

Machine: The Dream Job turns into an early nightmare. Despite having to pull players from the stands to complete its roster, the Machine still sees Miami pulling this one off 28-20. Pick: Miami 
Posted on: August 24, 2011 2:39 pm
 

Barry Brunetti officially Ole Miss QB starter

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It won't be a surprise to anyone who noticed Houston Nutt's plan to suspend Randall Mackey in the wake of the junior's disorderly conduct arrest, but Nutt made it official Tuesday night all the same: West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti will be the Rebels' starting quarterback when Nutt's team opens the season against BYU.

But according to this report from the Clarion-Ledger, Brunetti shouldn't feel too comfortable just yet. Nutt also said that pocket-passing JUCO transfer Zack Stoudt would see time against the Cougars, and that Brunetti's ascension to the starter's role for Game 1 doesn't mean he's guaranteed the same for Game 2 against FCS Southern Illinois.

That said, Mackey's arrest has clearly given Brunetti a substantial leg up. A top dual-threat quarterbacking recruit in the class of 2010, Brunetti spent one year in Morgantown, appearing in four games. But the Memphis product elected to transfer closer to home to help his ailing mother, and earned a waiver from the NCAA to skip the usual penalty year. Thanks to that decision, a productive spring camp, and Brunetti's Jeremiah Masoli-like skill-set, Nutt said over the summer that Brunetti entered the fall with a slight edge on his competition.

That edge now appears to be a more substantial one, and the BYU game represents a golden opportunity for Brunetti to make it even more decisive. The big question regarding Brunetti's play will be his poise in the pocket and throwing accuracy, and the combination of the Rebels' veteran pass protectors (including senior All-SEC left tackle Bradley Sowell) and the Cougars' rebuilding secondary (three starters gone, including two All-Mountain West performers) should give him plenty of chances to make plays in the passing game.

But if he doesn't, it's clear that Stoudt will be ready to take advantage, and despite being in Nutt's doghouse -- "You have to think. The bottom line is it was not a good decision made," Nutt said -- Mackey will have the chance to work his way back into the mix if the other two struggle. Brunetti is the clear victor this week from Mackey's mistake, but we doubt seriously this will be the last time we write about the Ole Miss quarterbacking depth chart this fall.

Posted on: August 23, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Updating the SEC quarterback races

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With lots of movement on the SEC quarterback front the last few days, now seems a good time to update the entire league's worth of races, team-by-team. Here's the latest, in alphabetical order:

ALABAMA: The Tide's season opener against Kent State is just 11 days away, but Nick Saban hasn't given any more indication towards his staff's decision between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims than he did when spring practice opened. In fact, his last comment on the situation was to say that one of them might play a position other than qurterback. McCarron remains the slightest of favorites due to his extra year of experience, but the closer the opener grows, the more likely it becomes that Saban makes good on his April threat to platoon the two. And given that not even the most catastrophic of quarterback outings could submarine the Tide against the overmatched Golden Flashes, it might make some sense to use the opener as one final audition for both.

ARKANSAS: Believe it or not, the Hogs still don't have an official starting quarterback, as Bobby Petrino has refused to name Tyler Wilson the starter over sophomore Brandon Mitchell. That's despite the fact that anyone not directly related to Mitchell believes the job is 100 percent Wilson's and the junior has been lighting the practice fields up all camp. This one appears to be a formality designed to keep the carrot in front of Mitchell for as long as possible, but stranger things have happened, we guess.

AUBURN: As you probably know, junior Barrett Trotter has been named Cam Newton's successor, with redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley the backup and true freshman Kiehl Frazier third-string. But Gus Malzahn hasn't ruled out using Frazier in some capacity, and gave the four-star recruit every snap in last weekend's scrimmage. A late-season appearance might be in the cards, particularly if Trotter struggles.

FLORIDA: No controversy here: John Brantley has been the unquestioned starter since fall camp broke, with both coaches and players seeming to go out of their way to praise the much-maligned senior and downgrade the chances of five-star freshman Jeff Driskel. "John’s our starter, and he’s our quarterback, and I don’t have any anticipation of (Driskel playing)," Will Muschamp said when discussing the Gators' opener against Florida Atlantic. Driskel has, nonetheless, won the backup's role.

GEORGIA:
The Bulldogs don't have any drama, with Aaron Murray the unquestioned starter and sophomore Hutson Mason the established backup ahead of true freshman Christian LeMay. Mason has had an up-and-down fall camp, though, with some reportedly sharp practices offset by outings like one four-interception practice he called "my worst day ever — in football, period."

KENTUCKY: Morgan Newton
has long since been anointed the Wildcat starter, but Kentucky may need him to stay healthy even more than the Bulldogs' need the same for Murray. Newton and the Wildcat coaches have both had ample praise for backup Maxwell Smith's ability to pick up the offense after just one spring camp and one fall practice ... but the reason Smith's had just one of each is because he's a true freshman, and not a particularly highly-regarded one (according to recruiting experts) at that.

LSU:
Now here's some drama. Much to many Tiger fans' chagrin, as of this moment not even the threat of a second-degree battery arrest is enough to move the gauge-needle on Jordan Jefferson's starting job away from "likely." Now here's the even more depressing news for those bayou residents hoping strong-armed JUCO (and former Georgia backup) Zach Mettenberger would assume the top spot: Mettenberger still hasn't even supplanted Jarrett Lee as the Tigers' backup. According to Lee himself, Jefferson is still running with the "ones" in practice, Lee the twos, and Mettenberger is left with whatever reps Lee doesn't take. If Jefferson does miss the opener against Oregon, it will now be quite the shock if Mettenberger gets the call over Lee, who does say he's had the best camp of his long career.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: 
We know that Chris Relf will be the Bulldog' starter. The question is: will backup Tyler Russell borrow any of Relf's snaps, as he did early in 2010 as the designated pocket quarterback? The consensus seems to be that he won't, with third-stringer Dylan Favre (yes, the nephew of that other Favre) reportedly closer to Russell than Russell is to Relf. Dan Mullen hasn't entirely ruled out a return to a quarterback rotation, but we'll be surprised if we see Russell in the event of anything other than a Relf injury.

OLE MISS:
We touched on this earlier today in the wake of Randall Mackey's arrest and "likely" suspension for the Rebels' season opener, but it appears Barry Brunetti -- always the narrow favorite to win the starting job coming out of spring practice -- is now the most likely candidate to begin Ole Miss's 2011 season under center. But will he stay there? The Rebel coaching staff seems genuine in their repeated statements that none of their three candidates has separated himself from the other two, and former Houston Nutt doghouse resident Zack Stoudt offers a stronger-armed passing element that both Brunetti and Mackey lack. Unless Brunetti shines out of the gate, expect Stoudt to get a serious look at some point. And if Mackey avoids the doghouse himself, the same could go for him, too.

SOUTH CAROLINA:
Steve Spurrier promised a legitimate quarterback battle back at SEC Media Days, but whatever slim chance Connor Shaw actually had of unseating Stephen Garcia, it likely evaporated last week when Shaw injured his thumb and missed three practices. Never say never with Spurrier, but it will likely take some truly egregious play on Garcia's part (or another off-field incident) for Shaw to see any meaningful playing time.

TENNESSEE: Tyler Bray hasn't always pleased his coaches or put his best foot forward this fall, but he appears to have done plenty enough to hold off Matt Simms, who sounds as if he's resigned himself to being the backup. All the same, having Montana as an opening-week tune-up should be an excellent opportunity for Bray to make sure the Vols' two-headed QB wounds of 2010 don't reopen.

VANDERBILT:
The biggest news for Vandy's quarterbacks this week won't actually have any impact until 2012, when newly official Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels becomes eligible. Until then, Vandy will make do with either senior Larry Smith or junior Jordan Rogers, who together directed an offensive performance at Saturday's scrimmage one disappointed Vanderbilt blog described as "Vanderbilt-like." It may take more than one season (or the arrival of Carta-Samuels, who spearheaded the Cowboys' bowl run in 2009) for James Franklin to get the 'Dores' long-simmering quarterback woes ironed out.


Posted on: August 23, 2011 11:45 am
Edited on: August 23, 2011 12:49 pm
 

Ole Miss QB Randall Mackey arrested, suspended

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

If you're locked in a down-to-the-wire battle for a starting quarterback job in the SEC, the last thing you'll want to do is get in some kind of off-field hot water that gives your coaches an excuse to look elsewhere. The last thing. Right?

Apparently Ole Miss's Randall Mackey didn't get the memo. The Clarion-Ledger is reporting that Mackey was involved in a fight at a local bar/music venue and arrested by Oxford police. He was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and released.

Houston Nutt then announced today that Mackey would "likely" be suspended for the Rebels' season opener against BYU.

On the scale of 1 to serious, an arrest for disorderly conduct following what seems to be a minor fracas falls somewhere in the 2-to-2.5 range, we're thinking; a Jordan Jefferson situation, this is not. But unlike Jefferson, Mackey had no margin for error where his efforts to win a starting job were concerned. His coaches have said multiple times this offseason that West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti would take the first snap if the season "began today," and fellow former JUCO Zack Stoudt has brought a pocket-passing game that Mackey can't match.

After a Saturday scrimmage in which all three candidates had their positive and negative moments, Nutt was still playing coy about who he would ultimately name the starter--and it's entirely possible the Rebels could settle on a rotation once Mackey returns from suspension. (If we had to lay down a wager on the starter, we'd stick with Brunetti, the player whose skill set most closely resembles that of 2010 starter Jeremiah Masoli and who is now a heavy favorite to get the start against the Cougars.)

However you slice it, though, Mackey clearly already had a substantial challenge earning the No. 1 nod, and proving his leadership qualities -- or lack thereof -- by getting arrested hasn't done a thing to help him meet it.
Posted on: August 22, 2011 4:52 am
 

Nevin Shapiro tried to land Houston Nutt in 2006

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Former Miami head coach Randy Shannon isn't listed in the exhaustive Yahoo! Sports report* on Nevin Shapiro's extensive expose on impermissble player benefits, unlike the numerous assistants and contemporaries of his. That's not by accident; Shannon is by-the-book to a fault, and it's ironically that disdain for shenanigans that led to the Miami fanbase abandoning the 'Canes by the droves in the weeks preceding Shannon's firing after the 2010 season.

Imagine then, if you will, an alternate reality where instead of straight-laced Shannon running the Miami program, the head coach is current Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. Heads are now exploding nationwide. And according to the Orlando Sentinel, it came closer to happening than you would expect:

As the Sentinel reported late Sunday, Nevin Shapiro was personally involved in trying to recruit Nutt to coach the Hurricanes -- and his contact with the coach preceded several discussions between Nutt and university brass:

According to Nutt’s cell phone records obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette through the Freedom of Information Act, Nutt spoke with Shapiro, in addition to UM assistant AD Tony Hernandez.

According to records, Nutt called Shapiro at 10:17 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2006 and the call lasted 30 minutes. Nutt then hung up and called his agent, Jimmy Sexton, before contacting Shapiro again that same day. Nutt also called Hernandez four times in a span of four hours that day.

That alternate reality almost came true! The theoretical NCAA violations are almost certainly even worse, aren't they? That's not an attack specifically on Nutt, who was head coach of Ole Miss at the time of the report, but Shannon brought a deep and abiding respect for the University of Miami and the rules it (ostensibly) operates under, and Insert Any Big-Name Coach With No Miami Ties Here almost certainly wouldn't bring that same approach. Get that same coach from the SEC, and the rules are going to get bent beyond recognition, like so many flat sheets of paper turned into origami swans.

Still, it's worth noting that Shapiro's influence did not get Nutt the Miami job. Not only that, Miami hired the most anti-Shapiro coach fathomable, and Shapiro was so angry at the Hurricanes' new adherence to the rules that he tried to pick a fight with Miami's director of compliance during a bowl game. If anything saves the program during the impending NCAA bloodshed, it's the fact that in the middle of Shapiro's influence on the program, it ignored Shapiro's contact with an in-demand coach that flirted with multiple BCS programs before eventually landing at Arkansas, where Nutt has since led the program to a BCS bowl game.

So imagining Houston Nutt as the Miami coach post-Larry Coker is nothing more than a thought exercise, because absent some evidence that not even Yahoo! could conjure up -- and lord knows they tried -- there's nothing the NCAA can point to that would suggest the Miami administrators valued anything about Shapiro or Nutt over what Shannon and his compliance-centric approach offered the program. That's small comfort for a football program trying to distance itself from the excesses of Shapiro and his well-documented interaction with the team, but it's also a fact that just might save the Hurricanes' program from the death penalty.


*For the record, Shapiro's lawyer, Maria Elena Perez, said in a phone interview that she believed Shannon had direct knowledge of Shapiro's dealings, but even her statement was phrased in a way that it wasn't entirely credible; it seems much more likely that Perez misremembered the facts than that Yahoo!'s 11-month investigation missed or omitted evidence that Shannon was directly involved, doesn't it? 

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