Tag:Auburn
Posted on: October 20, 2010 3:02 pm
 

Les Miles' next trick: invisible spies

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Let's start with the actual college football information provided by Les Miles ' appearance at today's SEC coaches media teleconference, namely, that he and defensive coordinator John Chavis are not planning on deploying a quarterback spy to help keep Auburn quarterback/hellbeast Cameron Newton in check:

 

"He's a guy you can focus on him and get beat by the other very talented perimeter. Auburn looks with that quarterback as playmaker. When he dishes the ball, when he throws it or hands it off, it's a very talented group.

"If you take a spy and play him up and in, you're getting blocked. If you take a spy and play him in the center of the field and allow the deception in the perimeter to be divided, can you tackle Cam Newton in a position where you stop him from being a first down carry.

"It becomes a very difficult situation to put one guy on Cam Newton. It just doesn't seem to pay any dividends to me."

No, I'm not sure what "other very talented perimeter" means. Or "when he throws it or hands it off, it's a very talented group," either, exactly. But the point is clear enough: Miles isn't going to assign a spy to Newton, which makes some sense when you consider that the most effective defense against him to date has been to drop as many players into zone coverage as possible.

Of course, all we really know is that Miles isn't going to assign a visible spy. Since he makes it clear that if he can find a way to put a transparent 12th defender on the field, he will:

When asked how he would defend Newton otherwise, Miles respnded, "If I could have a spy no one could see, a guy on the field that didn't count, that would be a great answer."
If this was any other head coach, we'd all have a good laugh at his debonair wit and move along to the next question. But since this is Les Miles we're talking about, there's no point in pretending we're not going to be watching very carefully Saturday to see if Newton suddenly falls to the ground for no apparent reason. If he can win that North Carolina game ... and that Tennessee game ... and that Flordia game ... well, finding a way to turn a defender invisible and sneaking him onto the Jordan-Hare Stadium field doesn't seem like such an impossible task.

 



Posted on: October 19, 2010 5:13 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 5:19 pm
 

SEC refs can get free LASIK in Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

If you watched Auburn 's mad, mad, mad, mad 65-43 win over Arkansas Saturday, you know that SEC replay officials upheld a pair of highly questionable calls that both resulted in Tiger touchdowns: one, an apparent Mario Fannin fumble at the Razorback goal line that had been ruled to have crossed the plane of the goal, and two, a Broderick Green fumble that may have occurred after his knee was down and was returned by Auburn's Zac Etheridge for a backbreaking fourth-quarter score.

So, if you also have some tiny inkling of human nature and the nature of college football fans in the SEC in particular, you have an idea of what's coming next: all manner of rage, invective, and mockery directed in the officials-in-question's direction. The Razorback powers-that-be wasted no time in registering their complaints to the league :

Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long said Monday in a release the school is petitioning the Southeastern Conference concerning “several officiating calls and review decisions” made Saturday in a 65-43 loss at Auburn ...

“We have taken all appropriate steps to thoroughly review the plays through the process provided by the SEC to do so,” Long said in the release. “While we were proactive in sharing our thoughts on the plays in question with the league office, we will conduct our affairs with the appropriate decorum that is expected of University of Arkansas representatives and members of the SEC.”
Translation: Dude, we are so freaking ticked off right now, you have no idea . But of course, Hog fans aren't bound to follow any rules of "decorum" in getting their gripe on, and if you're as enterprising as Fayetteville's McDonald Eye Associates , you can even score some sweet free publicity in the process :

Fayetteville-based McDonald Eye Associates is taking it upon itself to make sure Arkansas doesn’t have any more questionable officiating. The company said in a release Tuesday it will offer free laser vision surgery to any on-field or replay booth official from Saturday’s Arkansas-Auburn game ...

“The officiating of the game has come under much scrutiny among Arkansas fans because of two controversial calls that went against the Razorbacks,” the McDonald release said. “Both plays directly led to Auburn touchdowns.

“Errors and incorrect calls from the game could have possibly been avoided with better vision. McDonald Eye Associates believes that a laser vision correction procedure will result in fewer mistakes in the future .”

There's really only three words to type in response, right? Well Played, Sirs .

Posted on: October 19, 2010 4:29 am
Edited on: October 19, 2010 5:30 am
 

Midseason Report: Big Ten

Posted by Adam Jacobi

We're halfway through the regular season, so it's time for the Midseason Report. Who the real contenders are in the Big Ten is pretty clear. Who'll actually win the conference, however, is a little more muddled. This certainly looked like Ohio State's conference to lose seven days ago -- and it still might be -- but Wisconsin's superlative 31-18 upset of the Buckeyes in Madison muddled the picture somewhat. Here's a list of the contenders for the conference crown thus far.

Michigan State (7-0, 3-0): It's generally lazy analysis to assume that a current front-runner -- especially one without any recent history of success -- will maintain its place atop the conference. And yet, Michigan State has, essentially, a two-game schedule to sew up a trip to Pasadena. After all, of the Big Ten teams with one conference loss or fewer, Michigan State has already beaten one (Wisconsin), won't face another (Ohio State), and gets another at home (Purdue, who, yeah). The only games left are visits to Northwestern and Iowa in the next two weeks. If the Spartans win these, they'll have the tie-breaker over everyone in the conference. Add a loss anywhere, and the prospects get a little dicey -- especially since if it comes down to Michigan State and Ohio State both at 11-1. More on that in a bit.

Iowa (5-1, 2-0): If the Spartans are the new frontrunners to the Big Ten title, then the Hawkeyes are the gatekeepers. Iowa has three home games remaining, and they're against the other three teams on this list: Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Will the Hawkeyes beat all three of these teams? That'll depend on the leadership of Ricky Stanzi, the senior quarterback who's playing at a level few would have expected after last season. The Hawkeyes' defense, anchored by Adrian Clayborn and the rest of the line, is still their strong spot. But if Stanzi malfunctions like he did on occasion in 2008 and '09, the Hawkeyes could take a very damaging loss and (probably) watch their Big Ten title hopes evaporate.

Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1): Which Wisconsin team will show up in Iowa City on Saturday? The high-octane world-beaters that ran Ohio State out of the stadium last weekend? Or the semi-suspect squad that looked sluggish against plainly inferior non-conference competition and got outgained by 150 yards in a 10-point loss to the Spartans? Granted, 2009 Iowa demonstrated the folly of reading too much into low margins of victory against putative cupcakes, but Iowa won the majority of their games against upper-level Big Ten competition, and Wisconsin hasn't reached that plateau quite yet. A win in Iowa City changes that outlook substantially. Still, when the Badger rush offense is struggling, QB Scott Tolzien's track record isn't promising. It's probably wise to expect one more loss from the Badgers before the season's said and done. 

Ohio State (6-1, 2-1): Ever thought you'd see the day when a 6-1 Ohio State had arguably the fourth-best chance to win the Big Ten crown? Here we are, though; for as good as Michigan State's prospects look, the Buckeyes' seem to be on the other end of the spectrum. Of the contenders, they've already lost to one (Wisconsin), they play another on the road (Iowa), and the last they miss entirely (Michigan State), which means OSU can't take matters into their own hands and put a loss in the Spartans' column. Essentially, to win the conference, Ohio State needs every other team to lose at least once -- and the Buckeyes only play Iowa in the second half of the season. That's a lot of help needed. The Buckeyes have the talent to keep up their own end of the bargain, of course; that defense is still stellar across all 11 positions, and OSU's offensive line will keep their offense humming. But for all his otherworldly physical talent, Terrelle Pryor still isn't taking over games at the level that, let's say, Cam Newton is. Further, this is Pryor's third year in Tressel's offense. It's Newton's first with Auburn OC Gus Malzahn. Either this trend gets corrected, or Pryor's collegiate career becomes a relative disappointment; it's not as if OSU's a seven-win team without Pryor at the helm, is it? 

Any of these four teams could go to the Rose Bowl without any surprises; Wisconsin's an underdog at Iowa, but not prohibitively so. Yes, technically, Northwestern and Purdue are in the mix for now too, but they're definitely longshots next to these four teams. My prediction is that Iowa effectively eliminates the Badgers from the discussion by beating them this weekend, while MSU handles Northwestern. Iowa then hands Michigan State their first conference loss in Iowa City, all while Ohio State keeps winning. Then, Ohio State knocks off the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. All three teams win out otherwise, and there's a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings at 7-1. Tiebreaker time!

Iowa will be the first team to be eliminated from consideration, as the Hawkeyes will be 10-2 while OSU and Michigan State are 11-1. Now, a few years ago, the Big Ten had a Rose Bowl tiebreaker after head-to-head competition and overall record that gave the bid to the team that hadn't been to Pasadena in the longest amount of time. This would obviously be Michigan State. But! That tiebreaker was ditched a few years ago and replaced with a Big XII-style stipulation that the highest BCS ranking is awarded the bid. So here we go again. Ohio State, having been ranked ahead of Michigan State when both were undefeated and having an earlier loss than the Spartans, is likely ranked higher at the end of the regular season and sent to Pasadena. Spartan faithful cry foul, but they're rewarded with an Orange Bowl bid in consolation. Iowa represents the conference in the Capital One Bowl, and Wisconsin goes to the Outback for the third time in the last seven years.

Of course, watch Northwestern beat Michigan State this Saturday and render this entire prediction worthless.

Posted on: October 18, 2010 7:20 pm
 

Midseason Report: SEC

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Now that we've reached the halfway point of the season, we have a lot better idea of which teams to take seriously, and which ones we can forget about.  Of course, there's still a lot of football to be played this season, so in the Midseason Report we'll be taking a look at what each team has remaining in front of them, and what they'll have to do to call themselves conference champions.  In this post, we'll take a look at the SEC.

East


1. South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) - The Gamecocks may only be 2-2 in conference play this season, but in the 2010 version of the SEC East, that's all it takes to be on top.  The question is whether or not Steve Spurrier and South Carolina can stay there.  A question that is hard to answer when your quarterback is the completely unreliable and unpredictable Stephen Garcia.   As we saw against Kentucky, the Gamecocks need Marcus Lattimore to stay healthy down the stretch if they're going to hold on  and reach the SEC title game.  The good news is that they have two very winnable games up next on the schedule in Vanderbilt and Tennessee.   After that, however, they get Arkansas and Florida in The Swamp.  All four are winnable games, but if the SEC has taught us anything this season, it's that every game is losable as well.

2. Florida (4-3, 2-3) - Oh the SEC East, the one place in the country where losing three straight conference games still leaves you in control of your own destiny.  Sure, the Gators are 2-3 in the SEC, but all three of those losses came against SEC West teams.  Which means that if Florida wins out it'll be going to Atlanta.   The Gators play Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina to finish out their SEC slate over the next three weeks, and both of the tough games (Sorry, Vandy)  either come at home or at a "neutral" site.  What will determine whether Florida can get it done is which offense shows up.  Will it be the unit that managed to put up 29 points against a tough LSU defense, or the one that couldn't break double-digits against Alabama and Mississippi State ?  I wish I could say I knew, but getting Chris Rainey back can't hurt.

3. Georgia (3-4, 2-3) - Yes, that's right, Georgia is still alive in the SEC East.  Forget about those four straight losses that left us all wondering if Mark Richt would survive the season, the Bulldogs have exploded the last two weeks and are right in the thick of things.  The problem for Georgia is they have no room for error, and have already lost to South Carolina this season.  So even if they do survive a trip to Lexington this weekend -- something Auburn barely did, and South Carolina couldn't -- they still have to play Florida in Jacksonville and travel to Auburn.  Yes, seeing the Bulldogs outscore Tennessee and Vanderbilt 84-14 over the last two weeks was encouraging, but let's not forget that Tennessee and Vanderbilt are horrible.

4. Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-2) - Listen, I'm not going to pretend that Vanderbilt has any chance of winning the SEC East.  It's just I have to include them because the way the dominoes have fallen thus far in the season, they're not out of contention yet.  So, yes, Vandy has a chance to win the SEC East.  I also have a chance at convincing Megan Fox to drop the dude from 90210 and marry me instead.  Let's see which one happens first.

5. Kentucky (4-3, 1-3) - Kentucky is in the same boat as Vanderbilt in that it's alive, but barely.  Though to Kentucky's credit, they've been a lot more impressive than Vanderbilt.  The Wildcats nearly knocked off Auburn and did take down South Carolina, and the tough part of the schedule is done.  The problem is that not only would Kentucky need to win out, but they'd also need quite a bit of help from everybody else.

WEST


1. Auburn (7-0, 4-0) - Cam Newton is the new Tim Tebow, but this kid isn't nearly as interested in quoting the Bible as he is in running over defenses.  I have no doubt that Newton is good enough to lead this Auburn team to the SEC title game, but the Auburn defense leaves me incredibly concerned, as does its remaining schedule.  The Tigers get LSU at home this week, and then have three winnable games before finishing the season in Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl.  If Auburn can overcome its defense and win out then I don't think there's any question that this team will be playing in Arizona come January with a crystal football on the line.

2. LSU (7-0, 4-0) - Can you comfortably say that you can predict what Les Miles is going to do next?  No, of course not.  The man is insane, and his team seems to have taken on the identity of its bi-polar head coach.   The most worrisome aspect of the Tigers is obviously the offense, and you have to figure that at some point Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee are going to throw that back-breaking interception to end this team's hopes.  Considering that the Tigers still have Auburn and Alabama back-to-back over the next few weeks before finishing the season in Fayetteville, there will be plenty of chances for them to do just that.

3. Alabama (6-1, 3-1) -
You didn't make the mistake of thinking this team was dead, did you?  Is this Alabama team as good as last year's national champion?  No, there's no way the 2009 Alabama defense lets Stephen Garcia tear it apart.  Still, even if this defense isn't as strong as last season's unit, it's pretty darn good.  The Tide have an easy game with Tennessee this week before having to travel to Baton Rouge, but then they have their last three games at home with Georgia State sandwiched by Mississippi State and Auburn.  If Alabama wins out, it's going to Atlanta, and barring some catastrophic injury, I can see it happening.

Prediction: Trying to predict what's going to happen in the SEC is a fruitless exercise in that come Sunday morning, the entire conference could be turned upside down.  Still, a prediction is what is asked of me, and a prediction is what ye shall receive.

Two teams will travel to Atlanta to play for the SEC title, and I believe those two teams will be Alabama and Florida.  Yep, again.  As far as Alabama is concerned, I just think they'll win out, with the SEC West being decided on the final Saturday when they end Auburn's bid at an undefeated season and a national title.

Florida?  Well, I don't have that much faith in the Gators at this point, but that's still more faith than I'll ever be willing to put in Stephen Garcia.  So they'll be the lucky recipient of a second beating by the Tide in December.
Posted on: October 18, 2010 12:57 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2010 3:24 pm
 

Banged-up Auburn secondary goes from bad to worse

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

By any measure, Auburn 's 2010 season to-date has been a stunning success. Gene Chizik 's Tigers are sporting a surprising 7-0 record, the No. 4 ranking in the initial BCS rankings, and potentially sole possession of first place in the rugged SEC West after this week's visit from fellow unbeaten LSU . (Which, by the by, you can watch at 3:30 ET this Saturday, only on ... wait for it ... CBS!)

But those accomplishments have all been earned despite the struggles of an increasingly flammable secondary, one that suffered a 428-yard, five-touchdown carpet bombing at the hands of Arkansas last week and now ranks 108th in the country against the pass. Auburn fans might have argued that things couldn't possibly get worse after that performance, but no, things can actually get worse: Chizik has announced that injured starting safety Aairon Savage will have surgery today and is officially "out for a while."

Unofficially, however -- according to other reliable reports out of Auburn , anyway [Nevermind--see below.--ed.] -- Savage has broken multiple bones in his leg and is unlikely to return this season. It's a heartbreaking development for Savage, a sixth-year senior who had already lost consecutive seasons to a torn Achilles tendon and an ACL tear before being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.

But it's hardly good news for Auburn, either. The Tigers will likely replace Savage with fourth-year junior Mike McNeil , who missed all of 2009 himself with a broken leg suffered during Auburn's spring game. The next safety up in the rotation? Either sophomore walk-on Ikeem Means or true freshman Demetruce McNeal , neither of whom have ever started a collegiate game.

It gets even worse for the Tigers from there. Current nickelback T'Sharvan Bell was forced to leave the Arkansas game with what's reported to be a hamstring injury and might not be ready for LSU, forcing Auburn to turn to either converted high school quarterback Chris Davis (also a true freshman) or sophomore Anthony Morgan . Again: neither has ever started a game at Auburn. Take one of the worst secondaries in the nation, subtract two of its top five players, replace them with underclassmen, and what do you get? Auburn may really, really not want to find out.

If there's any silver lining to this thunderhead, it's that LSU's 113th-ranked passing offense -- fresh off throwing for all of 54 yards against FCS McNeese St. -- doesn't look poised to take advantage of Auburn's issues this particular week. But if Auburn wants to stay undefeated and in the thick of the BCS race, McNeil is going to have to step into the void with authority, and Chizik will have to find some way of keeping his beleaguered unit afloat.

UPDATE: According to a report in Savage's hometown Albany Herald , Savage has broken a bone in his ankle and could return as soon as six weeks. That would give him a chance to be ready for the season-ending Iron Bowl or potential SEC Championship game, and certainly by Auburn's bowl game. Good news.


Posted on: October 17, 2010 10:57 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 11:31 pm
 

Can Oregon make the BCS Championship Game?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Certainly, one of the teams that got the best news tonight is Oregon, ranked second in the initial BCS rankings. While there's only so much that can be read into these rankings with six games of play remaining, of course, the fact remains that as of right now Oregon is projected to go to Glendale to play for the BCS Championship.

So, those six games. There's no such thing as an automatic win in college football these days, but the Ducks should be heavily favored in the majority of these contests.

October 21, vs. UCLA: UCLA is of the most schizophrenic teams in the country, blowing out Houston and Texas but getting crushed by Stanford and a truly mediocre California. Still, even with the Bruins playing at their best, it's hard to imagine they can put up enough points to keep pace with the Oregon offense.

October 30, at USC: If there's any team left on Oregon's schedule that has the sheer talent to run with the Ducks for 60 minutes, it's likely USC. Lane Kiffin's team, led by emerging star Matt Barkley, is young and lacking in depth, but still explosively athletic. If Oregon's really a championship team, it'll handle the Trojans.

November 6 vs. Washington: Anyone think Jake Locker can lead the Huskies to eight touchdowns against Oregon's defense? Because the Ducks are probably putting up at least a 50-spot on the Washington defense.  

November 13 at California: It's a road game, which means the Ducks have no business looking past the Bears. They probably won't, and on paper, they'll probably win by about five or six touchdowns here. But you never know -- there's no such thing as a safe road game anymore. We'll see if the game on paper resembles the game on the field.

November 26 vs. Arizona: Here's another potential roadblock for the Ducks; Arizona quarterback (and the Pac-10's leading passer up until his knee injury) Nick Foles should be healthy by the time this game rolls around, and Arizona is one of the few teams that has an offense that might keep pace with the Ducks. Might. 

December 4, at Oregon State: Oregon State QB Ryan Katz is developing as a passer game by game, but the Beavers surely miss wideout James Rodgers, lost for the year with an awful knee injury. But that Oregon State defense doesn't have the horses or the discipline to keep Oregon down, so even though this is a rivalry game and anything can happen -- especially with a BCS championship at stake -- this is a probable win.

So yes, Oregon's road to an unbeaten record is relatively safe. Now, there's another question of whether Oregon can stave off Oklahoma and Auburn if they both go unbeaten, too. But that's a question the BCS will be tasked with answering, isn't it?

Posted on: October 17, 2010 8:43 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 9:20 pm
 

BCS rankings bad news for Boise State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The BCS rankings were just released on ESPN, and seeing Boise State at No. 3 is, at this point, trouble for the Broncos.

What's important to note here is that the BCS standings are, for the most part, resume rankings, and unlike teams in the power conferences, the cream of Boise's resume is done. Yes, the Broncos play in the WAC, but they've only played two of those eight games against that WAC competition thus far. Meanwhile, cupcake non-conference schedules are still being more heavily considered than conference games at this point in the season.

In other words, Boise State's not going to make its case on the field any better than it already has from here on out.

Now, this isn't to say that Boise State's chances are completely doomed; far from it. The Broncos are still ranked third in the BCS rankings, and there isn't much chance of them dropping any games and submarining their title chances from here until the end of the season. If Oregon or Oklahoma lose, the Broncos are in decent position. Their problem is that if teams like Auburn or LSU go undefeated, those teams are basically locks to pass Boise State -- and TCU's certainly not out of the picture, with its high-profile Mountain West Conference schedule still yet to come.

Still, though, the fact remains that Ohio State, Alabama, and Nebraska have all lost, and Boise State still needs help to get into the title game. That's not good news for the Bronco faithful in Idaho tonight.

Posted on: October 17, 2010 12:23 am
 

What I learned from the SEC (Oct 16)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. Parity has wrought havoc in the SEC.
  Remember the days when there was no question that the SEC was the class conference in college football?  Well, that either no longer applies to the conference, or everybody has become so good that everybody can beat everybody.  No matter which side of the argument you fall on, one thing is clear: when it comes to who is going to win the conference, none of us know anything.

2. The SEC East is up for grabs. Sticking with the parity theme, while we know that the SEC West is going to finish with either LSU, Auburn or Alabama on top, the SEC East can be had for the taking by anybody who wants it.  South Carolina may have lost to Kentucky on Saturday night, but no matter, if it wins out it's still theirs.  Right behind the Gamecocks is Florida, who have lost three in a row, and Georgia.   The same Georgia team that we all thought might have a new head coach by the end of the season.

3. Cam Newton is a monster.   Newton had a monster performance against Arkansas on Saturday, leading the Tigers to 65 points -- the first time that Auburn's hung 60 on an SEC opponent since they did it to Florida in 1970.  With all the losses in the top 10 this week, it's safe to say that Newton will be on top of the Heisman list come Monday.  The only question is how long will his defense let him stay there?

4. Florida REALLY wishes it still had Cam Newton.
You really do have to wonder how much time Steve Addazio has left in Gainesville following another anemic performance from the Gators offense against Mississippi State.   Anytime your defense holds an opponent to 10 points in your building, you have to win that game.  Florida just couldn't get it done.  It's time to go back to the drawing board, and the Gators may need to put the dry erase marker in somebody else's hand.

5. Marcus Lattimore is the key to South Carolina's offense.
  Lattimore had 212 yards and three touchdowns in the first half against Kentucky, and South Carolina had a 28-10 lead.  Then Lattimore spent the second half on the bench on the second half, and the Gamecocks couldn't do anything on offense, getting outscored 21-0 in the second half and losing.  Leaving the ball in the hands of Stephen Garcia is just not a winning formula.
 
 
 
 
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