Posted on: November 20, 2010 11:42 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. South Carolina learned its lesson. The last time Carolina won a game as big as last week's SEC East-clinching victory over Florida , they had downed No. 1 Alabama before going out the following week and laying their biggest egg of the season against Kentucky . Now, sure, the Gamecocks got a lot of help early on from a Troy team that for some reason played like a nervous team with lots to lose rather than the massive underdog with nothing to lose they were. But the previously-hapless Gamecock secondary held a statistically potent Trojan passing attack entirely in check, the Marcus Lattimore -led offense ruthlessly punished every Troy mistake, and by halftime it was already 56-7, 'Cocks . Not only did Carolina avoid the letdown, but they looked ready to give Auburn all they want and more when the SEC championship game rolls around in two weeks.
2. It's time to put the defense-first image of the SEC to bed for good. Maybe the SEC really is home to better athletes, maybe they really do hire better coaches, maybe they take defense more seriously than some other conferences ... but none of that, even if true, is making a lick of difference on the field at the moment. This week gave us only four games between SEC teams and FBS competition, and those four games produced 268 total points (in regulation) and as average score of 42-25. And that 's with Tennessee and Vanderbilt battling to a low-fi 24-10 Volunteer win, and the conference's best offense and ninth-ranked defense at Auburn taking the week off.
You get the point: very few teams in this league are playing defense. When even the consensus best unit in the league -- LSU's entered the weekend No. 1 in total defense at 274 yards per-game -- is getting gashed for 36 points and 420 yards at home against the conference's No. 5 offense, the SEC's image as a collection of grind-it-out attacks and impregnable defenses is officially as current as Bob Dole . If SEC fans want to argue their conference is superior, fine. If they want to argue their conference is superior because of the SEC's brand of defense, they need to acquire a clue.
3. LSU should be an underdog going to Arkansas. Full kudos to Les Miles for exorcising his clock management demons , but it's the Hogs who appear to be playing the better football at the moment after surviving what might have been Mississippi State 's best performance of the season on the road in Starkville while the previously stout LSU defense was busy getting gashed by the up-and-down Rebels. If Masoli and Co. can do that in Baton Rouge, what can Ryan Mallett and the suddenly scorching-hot Knile Davis do in Fayetteville?
(And while we're playing the transitive property game, the latest compelling evidence of how much stronger the West is than the East? The Razorbacks went to the East champion three weeks ago and rolled to an easy win. Then they went to the fifth-place team in the West tonight and were fortunate to escape with a double-overtime win.)
4. This Tyler Bray kid might just be one worth watching. Not that you'd expect it from his taste in tattoos , but the skinny kid from California has taken to SEC football like a duck to some very forgiving water. No, the pass defenses of South Carolina, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt aren't the most intimidating the conference has to offer. But after another productive outing in Nashville (16-of-27, 232 yards, 8.6 yards-per-attempt, 2 touchdowns), Bray has collected some seriously impressive numbers in his last three league performances: 43-of-76 (57 percent completion rate), 714 yards (9.4 YPA), 7 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.
And he's a true freshman. If Derek Dooley can keep his head on straight and his brittle-looking body remains intact, Bray should be one of the SEC's best in due time ... and maybe as soon as 2011. (As for 2010,the Vols are one win against Kentucky away from scraping their way to a bowl berth. Not bad considering they stood at 2-6 not so long ago.)
Posted on: November 20, 2010 7:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Maybe it's fitting that Les Miles ' best job of clock management in ages -- maybe ever -- came against Ole Miss today in his Tigers' 43-36 win . After all, it was the spike-with-one-second fiasco against the Rebels last season that took the "Miles can't manage the clock" meme from the ravings of embittered LSU fans to an accepted mainstream fact.
But not today. Today it was Miles whose team took over on their own 49 with 4:57 to play, down 36-35, and cooly drove the ball into the endzone and -- just as importantly in a game that at times resembled a ping-pong match as much as football -- the clock under 35 seconds as the Rebels watched helplessly. Why helplessly? Because Houston Nutt 's charges had wasted two timeouts comiong out of the huddle slowly earlier in the half. Combine that with some hard running from Jordan Jefferson , Michael Ford , and Stevan Ridley , and the outcome of the drive (and the game) was a foregone conclusion from the minute LSU crossed the Rebel 20.
Yes, advancing that far was made a much more manageable goal by the questionable unsportsmanlike flag on the Rebels' Markeith Summers , who had been penalized for somersaulting into the end zone despite the fact he was being pursued by an LSU defender. (How exactly it's Summers responsibility to know precisely how far behind him the defender was, we're not sure.) But the flag only hastened the inevitable; the way the game had been going and as tired as the Rebels' defense had to have been, LSU was putting points on the board there.
Those points keep LSU in the dead middle of the hunt for a Sugar Bowl berth, one they'll all but clinch if Arkansas lose to Mississippi State tonight. But even if it comes down to Razorbacks vs. Tigers next week, LSU can sleep a little better knowing their coach has started to put some of his biggest past mistakes behind him.
Posted on: November 20, 2010 5:26 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After dominating Florida in the box score, hanging with Auburn for 58 minutes on the road, and then earning a decisive victory over Alabama , LSU had finally shed the "just lucky" label that had dogged them for much of the early part of the season. But a sloppy first half defensively against Ole Miss is threatening to reapply it.
The much-maligned Tiger offense has nothing to apologize for, having put up 221 total yards and 20 points in the first half. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson has enjoyed one of his best games of the season, throwing just 7 passes but completing 5 of them for more than 20 yards a completion. But the usually-reliable Tiger defense has been gashed on occasion by the Rebels, as on this 50-yard Branden Bolden touchdown on Ole Miss's first play from scrimmage:
The Rebels ran for 142 yards on just 21 carries -- 6.8 per -- and got a late Jeremiah Masoli rushing touchdown to pull within 20-17 at halftime. If Ole Miss can pull the upset, the Tigers will be officially eliminated from the national title race and could see their potential BCS bowl berth go up in smoke -- especially with much more formidable Arkansas on tap next week.
At least the Tigers can hang their hate on this: a crushin special teams block on the Rebels' Lionel Breaux that didn't spring Patrick Peterson for a big return, but got their sideline fired up all the same:
HT: @bubbaprog .
Posted on: November 20, 2010 4:07 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2010 4:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Ole Miss , you'll recall, went searching for a new mascot this season (after parting ways with the notorious Colonel Reb a little while back), eventually settling on the Rebel Black Bear. But unless the Rebels bother to bring in an actual, live black bear from parts distant and unknown, they'll have a ways to go to match up to the effort being made by their LSU opponents today, as this video illustrating the life of Riley led by LSU's Mike the Tiger makes clear:
Following LSU's example and hosting the bear wouldn't just make Ole Miss that much cooler; it might have some benefits on the football field, at least if LSU's intimidating home-field advantage at Tiger Stadium is any indication. The Tigers lead 10-7 midway through the first. And Mike approves.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 3:07 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2010 3:08 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
You may have thought you were finally in the clear. After weeks of being bombarded by campaign advertisements on your television, the elections have finally happened and you can now get back to your normal diet of beer commercials and erectile dysfunction ads. Still, just because the campaigning may be over on your television, the country's true campaign is just getting started, one that is far more important than who do you want to send to Washington.
No, this one is about who you want to send to Arizona to play for the BCS title.
Coaches have hit the campaign trail in full force, including LSU head coach Les Miles. The Mad Hatter has talked his team's way into a BCS title game before, so he figures he may as well give it another shot, once again explaining to the world that the SEC is just harder than any other conference to play in.
"I only know this about this conference," Miles said. "The highest ranked team to come out of this conference should well have an opportunity to play in the national championship game."
As of now, that team would be Auburn, and unless its wins are vacated, Auburn controls its own destiny. Beat Alabama and South Carolina, and nothing will keep them from playing for the national title. But what if Auburn loses one, or even both of those games? You know who would likely be the highest rated team in the SEC then?
That's right, LSU.
Still, this isn't a tactic solely being utilized by the boys in the big time conference. No, TCU head coach Gary Patterson is on the trail as well. Patterson will be at ESPN headquarters on Friday to run the gamut of the network's eleventy billion media outlets to make sure that the world understands that TCU deserves to play for a title if it's undefeated.
"You won't see me beat my chest," Patterson told the Dallas Morning News. "I'll state the case of what TCU has to offer; the culmination of what we've done the last six years. Sometimes that gets lost.
"I think Boise and TCU both have proven over the last five years that no matter what conference you play in, we can play at a high level."
You can tell that Patterson is new to all this, because a seasoned vet would realize you don't say flattering things about your competition during a campaign. The only time he should be mentioning Boise State is when he's alleging that Kellen Moore is on the take.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 12:10 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Nagurski Trophy is handed out annually to the nation's best defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America , and if there's no slam-dunk choice for the FWAA this year like Ndamukong Suh in 2009, it's hard to argue -- depending on how you feel about the under-fire Nick Fairley -- that any of the five finalists for the award wouldn't be entirely deserving. They are:
Da'Quan Bowers, End, Clemson, 6-4, 275, Jr. (Bamberg, S.C)
Nick Fairley, Tackle, Auburn, 6-5, 298, Jr. (Mobile, Ala.)
Justin Houston, Linebacker, Georgia, 6-3, 258, Jr. (Statesboro, Ga.)
Luke Kuechly, Linebacker, Boston College, 6-3, 235, So. (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Patrick Peterson, Cornerback, LSU 6-1, 222, Jr. (Pompano Beach, Fla.)
You know Bowers as the nation's leading sackmaster with 13.5 takedowns of opposing quarterbacks, but he's also added 22 tackles-for-loss, second in the nation; Fairley as the SEC 's most purely disruptive defender (with possible apologies to Houston and LSU tackle Drake Nevis ), and his 18 tackles-for-loss rank first in the country amongst defensive tackles; Peterson as the nation's consensus best cover corner, the absolute prototype for the next level with his combination of size and breathtaking speed; and Houston as the SEC's leader in both sacks (11) and tackles-for-loss (18.5) from his position as a rush linebacker in Georgia 'a new-for-2010 3-4 defense.
But you may not know Kuechly at all, and not without reason; when you share not just a team or a defense but a linebacking unit with an incredible story like fellow Eagle Mark Herzlich and his recovery from cancer, it's hard to get noticed in the national press no matter what you do on the field. But as the nationa's most efficient, productive tackling machine, what Kuechly has accomplished has been no less impressive than the achievements of any of the other four Nagurski finalists. He leads the nation in both total tackles with 146 (or 14.6 per game ) and solo stops with 83; no other player in college football has yet crossed the 80 threshold. Kuechly is also the only player in the country to make 20 or more tackles in one game, and has done so twice: once against North Carolina State and again against Duke this past Saturday, when he also added two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and recovered fumble just for good measure.
So even if the most under-the-radar finalist for the Nagurski goes home with the hardware, complaints should be kept to a minimum. Though anyone other than Suh would have been a mistake a year ago, this year the FWAA cannot go wrong.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 9:47 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Arkansas' has not had any trouble continuing to put up big numbers even without leading receiver Greg Childs, out for the season with a patellar tendon injury. Since Childs was injured in the fourth quarter against Vanderbilt, the Razorbacks scored 41 on South Carolina in Columbia, then dropped 58 on the helpless UTEP Miners. But heading into a crucial two-game stretch to finish the season, quarterback Ryan Mallett will need as many healthy weapons as he can get. After leaving UTEP game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury, there was some question as to the health of tight end D.J. Williams.
Head coach Bobby Petrino said Williams' status is probable for Saturday's game at Mississippi State. Williams is second on the team in receptions behind the injured Childs, so having the senior tight end on the field is a big boost for the Mallett and the Arkansas offense. After Mississippi State, the Razorbacks host LSU for their regular season finale. Their chances for the SEC Championship Game have come and gone, but the Razorbacks are high enough in the BCS Standings to make a case for the Sugar Bowl should they win out. Granted, taking down Mississippi State in Starkville and LSU is a tall order for this Razorbacks squad. But considering their only losses have come against Auburn and Alabama, there is no reason to think that it is not out of their reach.
Posted on: November 13, 2010 11:06 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. South Carolina and Auburn will battle for the SEC title in Atlanta. It's official, even though the game is three weeks away, we know that no matter what happens from here on out, South Carolina and Auburn are headed to Atlanta to square off for the SEC Championship. It'll be the first time since 2004 that the game didn't feature Florida, Alabama or LSU. Coincidentally, that's also the last time Auburn played in the game, beating Tennessee 38-28.
2. Sources tell me Cam Newton is still awesome. Distractions? What the hell is a distraction? Cam Newton sure didn't play like a kid who spent the last week dealing with the media circus surrounding his NCAA investigation. Newton finished the day with 299 total yards and four touchdowns during Auburn's 49-31 win over Georgia.
3. I worry about Marcus Lattimore's future. Listen, I totally understand why Steve Spurrier and South Carolina choose to ride Lattimore's back. The kid is a beast, and he completely changes the Gamecocks offense. Still, when I see him get 41 carries on Saturday night -- along with 38 against Georgia earlier this season -- I do worry that he'll be worn out by the end of his college career. We've all seen in the past at places like Wisconsin what happens to running backs who carry the ball hundreds of times in their college career when they get to the NFL. I just hope Lattimore doesn't suffer the same fate.
4. The Cam Newton Saga seemed to have a bigger effect on Mississippi State. Newton played like Cam Newton against Georgia, but Mississippi State played like a team that should have coughed up the dough on Saturday night. Sure, Alabama -- a ticked off Alabama team at that -- had a lot to do with it, but the Bulldogs didn't look very good in their 30-10 loss.
5. Tennessee has its quarterback. Who would have thought back in September or early October that Tennessee would have a chance to go bowling this season? I certainly didn't, but thanks to the continued rise of Tyler Bray and his back tattoo, the Vols have played incredibly well the last few weeks. Bray threw for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns as Tennessee destroyed Ole Miss 52-14. Now, if the Vols can manage to win their last two games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky -- which isn't all that crazy -- they'll finish the season 6-6 and be bowl eligible.
6. Florida's offense is still terrible. Listen, you may have been fooled by seeing Florida score 41 points against Vanderbilt last week, and some pollsters might have been as well, but I wasn't. An offense that has struggled all season did so again on Saturday night, managing a paltry 226 yards and 14 points against a Gamecocks defense that gave up 24 points to Tennessee, and 31 to Kentucky. If Steve Addazzio survives this season, then somebody is going to burn Gainesville to the ground.