Tag:John Brantley
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 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 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.

Posted on: August 4, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 4:49 pm
 

Preseason Coaches Poll Reactions: SEC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Whatever you think about preseason polls -- such as the USA Today Coaches version, released earlier today -- the one thing you cannot argue is that they don't matter. For Oklahoma and Alabama, the news became official today that if they win all their games this 2011 season, they will be in the BCS national championship game--no ifs, ands, or buts. And though they'll start the season No. 4, the same can now be said of LSU, since they'll face two of the three teams ranked ahead of them.

So with that fact about their importance in mind, it's time to break down where each of the SEC's 12 teams landed in (or outside of) the first Coaches Poll of the year, and decide whether the pollsters placed them too high, or too low, or just right:

ALABAMA (No. 2): So much for defense winning championships, apparently. The Tide allowed a full half-yard less per-play than the Sooners did in 2011 (ranking seventh in the FBS to Oklahoma's 33rd) and return 10 defensive starters, while Oklahoma has said good-bye to All-American safety Quinton Carter and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Beal. There's also the little matter of Nick Saban's recent defensive pedigree over the much, much iffier Sooners'.

Given that Saban is still deciding between two inexperienced quarterbacks while the Sooners return Heisman candidate Landry Jones, we can understand the coaches' thinking here. But we don't agree with it.

Verdict? Even at No. 2, too low.

LSU (No. 4): It's not often you see the nation's 86th-ranked offense rewarded with the No. 4 ranking the following season, but such is the buzz surrounding the Tigers after their bludgeoning of Texas A&M in last year's Cotton Bowl.

But until Jordan Jefferson proves he's as improved as he appeared to be that night in Dallas and the new (and, unfortunately, newly reshuffled) offensive staff prove they're genuinely capable of putting all the Bayou Bengals' weapons to use, we're still foreseeing a lot of tight, competitive, coin-flip-style ball games. And as excellent as Les Miles is in those kinds of contests, that's still not the recipe for the one-loss season required to finish in the final top-five.

Verdict? Top 10 makes sense, but top 5 is too high.

SOUTH CAROLINA  (No. 12): There's no question that with Stephen Garcia back in the fold, the Gamecocks have the talent to live up to this lofty billing. And the schedule, while difficult, isn't that difficult; no LSU or Alabama means trips to Georgia and Arkansas are the trickiest dates on the slate. If Carolina can survive the week 2 trip to Athens, a 10- or even 11-win season beckons.

Of course, the Gamecocks have also been the kind of program that traditionally loses trap games like their roadies at Mississippi State or Tennessee, so it's also possible they drop three or four regular-season games and wind up nowhere near No. 12. Splitting the difference seems reasonable.

Verdict? About right.

ARKANSAS (No. 14): We'll make this simple: a talented, veteran defense opposite a Bobby Petrino offense featuring his long sought-after plowhorse running back and the nation's best wide receiving corps? They're going to be really, really good. 10-2 good, second straight BCS bowl berth good, we're thinking.

Verdict? Too low.

AUBURN (No. 19): As we mentioned earlier today, the old adage that you shouldn't drop the previous No. 1 until they lose might suggest the Tigers have been slapped in the face being as low as No. 19. And indeed, no defending national champion has been ranked this low to start the season since Minnesota went unranked in the 1961 preseason top 20.

But almost none of those defending national champions have faced either the kind of talent exodus the Tigers do or the savage slate that sees Auburn face all seven of the other SEC teams in the poll. If Gene Chizik can win the nine games that are likely necessary to finish the season in the top 20, he'll have done nearly as good a job as he did in 2010.

Verdict? It's a nice gesture towards the defending champs. But performance-wise? Too high.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (No. 20): Dan Mullen's Bulldogs will be good enough (and will have enough opportunity, with home dates against Alabama, LSU, and South Carolina) to impact the SEC race and make the top 25. They don't seem to have enough horses (particularly in a graduation-damaged front seven) to actually challenge for a title in a division as completely stacked as the West. 20 is jus tabout where we'd have them, too.

Verdict? About right.

GEORGIA (No. 22): Mark Richt's Bulldogs, on the other hand, are the SEC's biggest 2011 wild card. They might start 0-2 and collapse in an under-.500, Richt-finishing heap. They might start 2-0 and ride the league's cushiest schedule all the way to an undefeated regular season. (Seriously. Look at their slate and tell me which game after the Carolina tilt they won't be favored in if they can get past the Gamecocks.)

That would suggest a cautious 22 might be about right, but we're betting Richt has turned the tide with this spring's "Dream Team" recruiting class and the focus that comes with a make-or-break season.

Verdict? Too low. We think. Maybe.

FLORIDA (No. 24): It's easy to forget that for all of the disappointment and frustration of Urban Meyer's final season in Gainesville, the Gators still won eight games--and could have even snagged a few more if not for some unfortunate bounces against teams like LSU and Mississippi State. So even though we're firmly in wait-and-see mode where the John Brantley-Charlie Weis shotgun marriage is concerned, having the SEC's second-best defense from a year ago getting the added boost of Will Muschamp's arrival seems like reason enough to take a flyer on the Gators at the bottom of the ballot.

Verdict? About right.

THE OTHER FOUR (n/a): Tennessee pulled seven voting points to land in the "Others receiving votes" category at "No. 41" overall, with none of the other three SEC teams receiving even a token vote. We're surprised the Volunteers didn't get a little more love -- after their late-season surge in 2010, there was some measure of buzz pegging them as 2011 sleepers -- but after Tyler Bray's up-and-down spring, we don't blame the pollsters for their skepticism.

Verdict? About right.


Posted on: July 22, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 3:12 pm
 

PODCAST: Florida LB Jon Bostic

Posted by Chip Patterson

Florida faces several challenges heading into the 2011 season. With a brand new coaching staff, new schemes on both sides of the ball, the Gators find themselves looking up to South Carolina in the SEC East. But Will Muschamp knows the Gators expect to be fighting for that SEC title, and this year's squad will try to reclaim that division crown.

CBSSports.com's Adam Aizer talks with junior linebacker Jon Bostic about the struggles of 2010, the hopes for 2011, and his thoughts on the new head coach.

Don't forget to Subscribe to the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast on iTunes


Posted on: July 20, 2011 4:03 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 5:24 pm
 

Florida's Will Muschamp at SEC Media Days

Posted by Chip Patterson

Florida head coach Will Muschamp has never been confused as one to lack emotion. In fact, some have even said that the former Texas defensive coordinator would have to "tone down" some of his sideline behavior now serving as the head coach - particularly at one with the prestige of the Gators. But making his first appearance at SEC Media Days, a fire was lit under Muschamp when he was asked about the roster status of Jeff Demps.

Muschamp addressed Demps as one of the few unknowns on the roster, but said it was only because of his involvement with track and field. Demps has won a national championship already this offseason, and is currently competing overseas in Italy. A reporter asked Muschamp to address some rumors regarding Demps' status and why there were no certain answers.

"I don't deal in rumors and I don't deal in message boards, I don't know any good coach who does," Muschamp snapped. "I deal with people eyeball to eyeball, and I ain't ever been to Italy."

Boom.

Other highlights from Mushcamp's first day on the microphone:

- Muschamp repeated several times that "you can't be someone you are not." Which is his reasons for hiring Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator. "I've coached defense, I've coached special teams, I hired Charlie to coach our offense." Muschamp believes that the SEC is a "line-of scrimmage" league, which only further supports the hiring of a multiple/pro-style offensive mind like Weis. In the words of Muschamp, "you have to be multiple, or your quarterback won't survive the season."

- Other than Demps, the only other roster question is Neiron Ball who will not compete in 2011 after being diagnosed with a vascular condition. He said that Ball is going to be a member of the program, and they will have a better idea about his future in January or February.

- Early in the day, Muschamp deflected much of the John Brantley criticism by acknowledging that "we need play better around him." The new system will be a better fit, but he knows that Brantley needs to play better for the Gators to succeed in 2011.

- In comparing the Big 12 and SEC, Muschamp mentioned that there is much more spread offense in the Big 12. He once again returned to his recurring theme of complimenting SEC defensive lines, and how they dictate what offenses can and can't do in the conference.

- Muschamp's email inbox has been "filled with suggestions for the Gators," but the new head coach went out of his way to mention former head coach Urban Meyer early. He thanked Meyer for his suggestion and called the former coach and current commentator a "first class" help to his transition into the head coaching ranks.

- "Let's play hard, fast, and physical. We'll be a blue-collar unit that can play well enough. When the tough decisions come we'll figure that out" (Not a ton of commentary there, just sounded really cool when he said it)
Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:20 pm
 

Hot Seat Ratings: Happy marriages or honeymoons?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Dennis Dodd posted his annual list of Hot Seat Ratings today, so if you haven't perused them all, do so at once. At once, I say! Right now, let's focus on some of the untouchables, the 32 coaches who scored a 0.0-0.5 rating. Suffice it to say none of them are getting fired this year (or even next) without a major, unforeseeable catastrophe befalling the program. But past that, what coaches are truly untouchable, and who's just still on a honeymoon? Here's a look at 15 of those coaches, five for each category in the schools' alphabetical order, listed with Dodd's hot seat ratings.

THE HONEYMOONERS

Gene Chizik, Auburn, 0.0: Hear me out. Chizik is absolutely a 0.0 on Dodd's scale this year, and he would be even if the NCAA somehow finds a way to make Auburn vacate the 2010 BCS Championship (though that seems extremely unlikely at this juncture). But Auburn is expected to struggle this year, and while it's easy now to say that the title has earned Chizik a five-year grace period, what happens if Gus Malzahn gets a high-major head coaching offer and Kiehl Frazier doesn't pan out? If Auburn struggles through two straight .500 seasons and Malzahn takes off, that 0.0 turns into a 2.0 pretty soon.
Will Muschamp, Florida, 0.5: Muschamp is one of the most dynamic and promising new head coaches in the last decade or so, but the fact remains that he's a 39-year-old, first-year head coach at a "win right now" program. Oh, and John Brantley is still his quarterback. If Muschamp can't get his Gators back above the South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC East pecking order, his seat's going to ignite in a hurry.
Chip Kelly, Oregon, 0.0: The other coach coming off a 2010 BCS Championship berth also has two things working against him: a track record of only two seasons as head coach, and the possibility of major NCAA violations. For Kelly, the worry is more the latter than the former, and depending on where this business with Willie Lyles and Lache Seastrunk's recruitment ends up, Kelly could find himself in way more hot water than a 22-4 coach has any right to be. That's all "ifs" right now though, so for now, the honeymoon is still on.
Doug Marrone, Syracuse, 0.5: Marrone enters his third year with the Orange after guiding the once-proud program to a 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Kansas State last year -- Syracuse's first bowl win since 2001. He's got a solid core of skill players back, but the overall talent level at Syracuse is still low enough that a moderate rash of injuries could be enough to plunge Syracuse back to the level of 3-5 wins in 2011, and that's a good way to snap fans back into remembering that the Pinstripe Bowl is just... the Pinstripe Bowl. Marrone's still got a lot of work to do.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington, 0.5: Like Marrone, Sarkisian has performed the rather remarkable feat of turning around a program that had been mired in sub-mediocrity for the majority of the '00s. But like Marrone, the program's talent level isn't BCS-caliber yet, and unlike Marrone, Sark has to contend with losing a first-round draft pick senior quarterback, Jake Locker. Further, Washington's road schedule is brutal this year; the Huskies'll probably have to win at least two home games between California, Arizona, and Oregon just to get back to .500.

HAPPILY MARRIED

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State, 0.5: That Bobby Bowden transition wasn't so bad after all, was it? That's because Fisher guided FSU to 10 wins in his very first year... unlike the last six years of the Bowden era. Seminole fans are going to start raising expectations to the levels of the mid-'90s, so four losses and an ACC Championship loss aren't going to cut it forever, but Fisher's recruiting well enough to restore FSU to glory quickly.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa, 0.5: How comfortably ensconced at Iowa is Ferentz? He's been coaching at Iowa for 12 years, and in seven of them, Iowa has suffered at least five losses. Ferentz runs a clean coaching staff, but there have been a couple isolated stretches of off-field embarrassments for the Hawkeyes -- and the rhabdo case certainly didn't help matters. But he's well-loved in Iowa City all the same, and the fact that he has turned down offers from Michigan and several NFL teams is not lost on Iowa fans or administrators. Moreover, his teams haven't been bad since his first two years on campus, and he's producing a double-digit win season once per three years; if he keeps that pace up, he'll be at Iowa for as long as he wants.
Charlie Strong, Louisville, 0.5: Strong has only been at Louisville for one season, but he's already got a winning season under his belt (unlike the disastrous reign of his predecessor, Steve Kragthorpe), and he's recruiting well enough (in particular, QB signee Teddy Bridgewater) to keep Louisville winning in perpetuity. If Strong leaves, it's because a powerhouse came calling; he's legit, and everybody at Louisville knows it. If he delivers a BCS win, you can move him into the last category here.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State, 0.5: Dantonio has been more successful at Michigan State than Nick Saban was. Mark Dantonio is therefore a better coach than Nick Saban. QED. If Dantonio can avoid any more health scares and start routinely challenging for Big Ten (sigh) Legends division championships, he's set for life in East Lansing. Easier said than done with Nebraska coming to town and Michigan likely to rebound from the recent swoon, though.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska, 0.5: Bo Pelini has done a fine job in his first three years as Nebraska head coach, and on first glance, it appears the young coach is the perfect candidate to lead the Huskers into the Big Ten. There's been an odd sense of impermanence from Pelini's stay at Nebraska though; it's unclear whether it comes from his tempermental sideline behavior (and his brother's) or his itinerant career thus far -- this fourth season as Huskers head coach makes this the longest coaching job Pelini has ever held. Whatever it is, he seems to lack the stable, staid nature of his longer-tenured fellow coaches. That's not insignificant; if a coach can make his fans and boosters believe he's got everything under control when things go south for a year or two, his seat can stay nice and cool for longer. Pelini is respected, but he's not quite there yet.

YOU'LL HAVE TO PRY THEM FROM OUR COLD DEAD HANDS

Nick Saban, Alabama, 0.0: Saban delivered a national championship to Tuscaloosa in his second year there, and his Crimson Tide have finished with three straight AP Top 10 finishes. He's the highest-paid coach in college football for a reason: he earns it.
Chris Peterson, Boise State, 0.5: Peterson basically ruined the WAC for everybody else, going 61-5 as Boise's head man. Sure, you can wonder where he'd be without Kellen Moore, but Peterson did beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl with Jared Zabransky behind center. Now that Utah and TCU are both running off to BCS conferences, expect Boise to dominate the Mountain West for as long as Peterson's there.
Chris Ault, Nevada, 0.0: If this scale could go into negative numbers, Ault would be at least a -10. He's a College Football Hall of Famer who has overseen Nevada's rise from Division II to the upper echelon of the FBS mid-majors. Ault is a true Nevada lifer: he played QB for the Wolfpack in the '60s, and he's on his 26th year as a head coach with the program (his 39th overall in some facet with the Nevada athletic department). He is never, ever, ever getting fired. 
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern, 0.0: Fitzgerald just signed a contract extension that has 10 years on it, but is a de facto lifetime contract. He'll probably be in Evanston for at least the next 20 years. Seems crazy to say something like that about Northwestern football, doesn't it? But here it is and here we are.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, 0.0: The Hokies owe as much to Beamer as just about any program and current coach in the country (other than the aforementioned Nevada and Ault or Penn State and Joe Paterno, who might as well get the school named after him upon retirement). When the ACC realigned in 2005 to include a championship game, the divisions were set up to ensure the possibility of Miami and FSU meeting every season. Instead, it's been Virginia Tech dominating the conference, appearing in four of six championship games and winning three. The ACC is Frank Beamer's conference, so the very notion of a hot seat for Beamer is essentially unimaginable.
Posted on: April 27, 2011 5:49 pm
 

What I Learned This Spring: SEC East

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC East, team by team. In alphabetical order:


FLORIDA: When spring began, we said the Gators might have the most interesting offense in the country. Urban Meyer's former spread-option death machine, destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up, by none other than Charlie Weis, in the image of the steady no-frills pro-style attacks Will Muschamp saw work for old boss Nick Saban, as piloted by 2011-or-bust quarterback John Brantley? That's quite the storyline they've got going there.

But the Gators will have to hope it's a story that will be rewritten come the fall. While no one was expecting the offense to look like Weis's old New England Patriot attacks after three weeks of practice, no one was expecting it to put on a 13-10 spring game universally panned as a hideous eyesore, either. Brantley went an ugly 4-of-14 after missing his first six passes, the leading rusher was a walk-on defensive back, and the entire offensive output for the game amounted to 340 yards.

Much of that can be pinned on a wicked rash of injuries that took out most of the offensive line, an entire stable of running backs, multiple receivers, etc.; encouragingly, much of it can also be pinned on a rampaging defensive line led by Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell, all members of Meyer's loaded 2010 class and all looking posied to make good on their five-star hype. But the bottom line is that much of it can also be pinned squarely on Brantley, who Muschamp and his other coaches universally lauded for an excellent spring but who showed little of that alleged improvement when playing in public.

Does it matter? Give him a solid summer and a solid fall camp, and it may not. But until Brantley proves he's something other than what he's appeared to be since the moment Tim Tebow left -- in over his head -- skepticism is in order.

GEORGIA: The biggest question entering the most critical spring of Mark Richt's spring tenure concerned the Bulldogs' biggest players: could their offensive line bounce back? When you have Aaron Murray, Orson Charles, a fleet of talented (if still unproven) receivers, and eventually Isaiah Crowell, if you have a line, you're going to have a heck of an offense.

There was good news and bad news on that front, the latter a devastating torn ACL suffered by fifth-senior and projected starting tackle Trinton Sturdivant. But there were positives, too, namely a terrific spring from potential All-SEC  center Ben Jones and guard-to-tackle position switch Cordy Glenn. G-day primary tailbacks Ken Malcome and Caleb King combined for 69 yards on 12 carries, a not-so-shabby 5.8 yards per-carry. Overall, the line was impressive enough this spring that senior Justin Anderson -- billed as a potential starter on the OL -- has been moved to defense.

The Dawgs had themselves a fine spring on the defensive front as well, with newly bulked-up nose tackle Kwame Geathers the talk of the Bulldogs' spring camp and converted safety Alec Ogletree providing a big boost the linebacking corps. The secondary is unsettled and one of those aforementioned receivers needs to emerge as a go-to target for Murray, but if the improvements in the front seven and offensive line aren't mirages, the Bulldogs wil be back in the thick of the East race all the same.

KENTUCKY: Consider it a successful second spring for Joker Phillips and the Wildcats. We noted that with nearly all of the major players from 2010's surprisingly effective Wildcat passing game gone, Phillips would want to make rebuilding that passing attack around junior quarterback Morgan Newton priority No. 1 in spring camp. And though we'll have to wait until fall to see the finished results, for now it looks like Mission Accomplished: Newton had a terrific spring, capped by a 23-of-44, 256-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Wildcats' Blue-White Game.

Things weren't perfect: the Wildcat receivers were plagued by drops, and a defense still adjusting to new co-coordinator Rick Minter's aggressive schemes paired several big plays with several breakdowns. But with Newton cementing himself as a reliable option under center and a veteran line paving the way for new tailback Raymond Sanders to average better than 7 yards a carry, there's far more optimism for the Wildcat offense coming out of spring than going in.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Whatever storyline you might have constructed ahead of time for the Gamecocks' spring, it was always going to overshadowed by the continuing Stephen Garcia circus. Until Carolina receives a definitive word one way or the other on Garcia's return (though as we wrote earlier today, that return seems likely), the team is going to be in something close to suspended football animation.  The lack of developments aside from Garcia was only enhanced by the fact that so many of Carolina's key players -- Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, an offensive line with four returning starters -- are known commodities.

That said, the Garnet-Black Game showed that if Garcia doesn't come back, the Gamecocks won't be totally lost at quarterback. Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson combined to go a productive 23-of-40 for 344 yards (though Thompson threw a pair of picks), and on an offense with weapons like Lattimore, Jeffery, and tailback Kenny Miles (43 yards on just 6 carries in the spring game), "productive" should be enough.

The downside: those passing numbers came against a Gamecock secondary that got routinely torched in 2010 (FBS 97th in pass defense). Garcia or no Garcia, more improvement in that secondary will be necessary to take Carolina back to Atlanta.

TENNESSEE: Entering spring, the road to improvement for the Volunteers was clear: get stronger, more physical, better along each line of scrimmage, then let the Vols' cadre of up-and-coming skill position stars -- led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray -- do the rest.

The Vols made plenty of headway on the first part of that equation; the White team earned a dominant victory over the more starter-heavy Orange in the Vol spring game thanks in no small part to a bruising run game led by second-string tailback Raijon Neal; defensive linemen on both squads were able to get consistent quarterback pressure; and offensive lineman Alex Bullard and defensive tackle Daniel Hood won the team's top awards for spring performance. Both lines remain so young that there's still a long way to go to SEC dominance, but it seems unlikely they'll be pushed around the way they were at times in 2010, either.

But as for the other part of the equation, stay tuned. Bray went a miserable 5-for-30 quarterbacking the defeated Orange side, with Derek Dooley suggesting afterwards that perhaps Bray had been overconfident. Bray is expected to take a major step forward in his first full season as the Vols' starter, but if that step winds up as minor as the spring game proposes it might be, all the line improvement in the world won't push the Vols back into relevance in the SEC East.

VANDERBILT: When you finished last season dead last in the conference in both total offense and total defense -- and you are Vanderbilt -- any kind of improvement in any area will be music to new coach James Franklin's ears. But fortunately for the 'Dores, they saw some green shoots in two positions that have been partocularly troublesome the past few seasons.

One is quarterback , where previously scattershot senior Larry Smith completed 16-of-26 for 233 yards and a touchdown, leading his Black side to a 19-7 win over the Gold. The other is the defensive line , where defensive tackle Colt Nichter recorded a pair of sacks and defensive end Kyle Woestmann collected a sack and an interception. But when you're Vandy, you'll take whatever you can get.

"The big thing," Franklin said, "is that we stayed healthy."

For the same review of the SEC West, click here.

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