Posted on: September 27, 2010 5:53 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 5:57 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
For the last four years, the winner of the SEC Championship game has gone on to compete and win the National Championship. With the conference play heating up and a rematch of Florida-Alabama ahead in Week 5, here is a breakdown of the division races in the SEC.
SEC EAST -- CONTENDERS
Florida Gators (4-0, 2-0)
So far...: The Gators got a slow start with a lot of questions after uninspiring victories over Miami and South Florida, but the last two games have shown a relentless defense and an offense that is beginning to find an identity. That identity is looking like it includes the multi-talented freshman quarterback Trey Burton, who scored six times (5 times rushing, once receiving) against Kentucky.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 2 - at Alabama; October 9 - vs. LSU; November 13 - vs. South Carolina
Outlook: The biggest game of the season for the Gators will be their visit to Tuscaloosa on Saturday. The rematch of the last two SEC Championship games has huge implications for both division races. If the Gators fall to the Tide, they will likely need to win the rest of their division games to ensure a trip back to Atlanta for the title game. An upset win over Alabama puts the Gators in the drivers seat for the title game, and likely would bring the Gators back into the national title discussion.
South Carolina Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1)
So far...: The Gamecocks burst on the scene with impressive victories and an improved offense that had Ol' Ball Coach running his mouth around the conference once again. Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore has proven to be a game-changing back already, and until the 35-27 loss to Auburn, quarterback Stephen Garcia finally looked ready for a true breakout season. Now the Gamecocks have a quarterback controversy on their hands, and their toughest challenges of the year left on the schedule.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 9 - vs. Alabama; November 6 - vs. Arkansas; November 13 - at Florida
Outlook: If they had been able to knock off Auburn on Saturday night, South Carolina would have been a frontrunner to knock Florida off its throne atop the SEC East. Unfortunately, the loss has put them in a can't-lose scenario if they want to get reach their first SEC Championship Game in school history. Looming dates against Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida in the Swamp will make it difficult to keep the loss column thin. If they can get pull off an upset or two and get some help from, they could enter the Florida game with a chance to steal the division.
Pretenders: Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia
SEC WEST -- CONTENDERS
Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0)
So far...: Alabama left very little doubt on Saturday who is the best team in the nation. Being pushed up against the ropes on the road by a very talented Arkansas team, the defending champs battled back into the game and escaped Fayetteville with a victory. After being down 17-7 at halftime, the Alabama defense (which had not allowed a TD all season until that game) tormented Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas offense in the second half. Mallet was picked off three times and the Tide defense only allowed three points after halftime while Mark Ingram led the charge for Alabama to reclaim the lead and a win.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 2 - vs. Florida; October 9 - at South Carolina; November 6 - at LSU; November 26 - vs. Auburn
Outlook: The tests are far from done for Alabama, but thankfully the two most threatening opponents remaining on the schedule (Florida and Auburn) both have to travel to Tuscaloosa. After watching their performance on Saturday, it is hard to imagine many situations that don't involve Alabama back in the SEC Championship game. However, South Carolina and LSU are both talented teams playing in hostile territory and those games should not be taken lightly. If Auburn and Alabama don't slip, they could enter the Iron Bowl with the division title on the line.
Auburn Tigers (4-0, 2-0)
So far...: The Tigers are quickly becoming one of the darlings of the SEC. For the third week in a row, Auburn has been locked in a nationally televised nail-biter and emerged victorious. The 17-14 win over Mississippi State was not impressive by any means, but the overtime victory against Clemson and Saturday's upset of South Carolina have bumped the Tigers to No. 10 in the nation and now a relevant part of the SEC Championship discussion.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 16 - vs. Arkansas; October 23 - vs. LSU; November 26 - at Alabama
Outlook: Cam Newton has officially arrived as one of the premiere quarterbacks in college football this season, and as long as the 6-6 250 pound signal-caller is scoring five total touchdowns like he did against South Carolina, Auburn will always have a chance. The Tigers have the benefit of getting Arkansas and LSU at home, but this team cannot afford another performance like Mississippi State and expect to win. If they play to their potential, Auburn could find themselves heading into the Iron Bowl with a shot to return to the SEC title game for the first time since 2004.
LSU Tigers (4-0, 2-0)
So far...: LSU's defense has proven to be one of the best units in the nation. Their offense, on the other hand, is about as productive as a late Friday afternoon. With no good option at quarterback (Jarrett Lee is not a "good" option, just not as a bad) the Tigers have relied on their defense and return game to spring them out to an early No. 12 national ranking.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 9 - at Florida; October 23 - at Auburn; November 6 - vs. Alabama; November 27 - at Arkansas
Outlook: If the Bayou Bengals are for real, they will get a chance to prove it in October in their road games against Florida and Auburn. If LSU can take care of business away from Death Valley, they will make the November 6 show down with with Alabama a lot more interesting. It is hard to support a team with no offense as a conference title contender, but they have at least earned the right to be in the discussion.
Arkansas Razorbacks (3-1, 1-1)
So far...: Until halftime of Saturday's game against Alabama, Ryan Mallet looked like the best pro quarterback in college football, and the Razorbacks looked ready to have one of the most successful seasons in the programs history. Unfortunately, the second half unraveling has temporarily overshadowed Arkansas' impressive start.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 16 - at Auburn; November 6 - at South Carolina; November 27 - vs. LSU
Outlook: Arkansas had not played a truly challenging team before Alabama, so there is a lot left for this team to prove. The defense looked fired up and strong in the first half against the Tide, but it is unknown if they will be able to repeat the same performance on the road against a team like Auburn or South Carolina. The Razorbacks made for a good story, but it is hard to believe that Alabama's comeback did not break their spirits a little. Difficult to imagine that they will be able to reach that level of energy the rest of the season.
Pretenders: Mississippi State, Ole Miss
Posted on: September 27, 2010 4:17 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 5:50 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Now that Boise State has gotten past Oregon State it's entirely possible that when the regular season ends both Boise and TCU could be undefeated. Which, depending on how the rest of the college football landscape unfolds, could create some BCS chaos. For argument's sake, let's pretend that Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon all finish the season with a loss and TCU and Boise are the only unbeatens left standing. Also known as The Doomsday Scenario amongst the BCS.
Would you put them in the BCS title game?
A lot of people wouldn't, preferring a one-loss Alabama or what have you, as they'd argue that Boise State and TCU didn't play the same quality of competition. Which is a valid argument -- unless you've seen a Tennessee or Georgia game this year -- that has a lot of merit, and one that I might be inclined to agree with.
Still, if either school is looking for someone to stand up and sing their praises, they won't have to look further than the head coach of the team that both of them have beaten this year: Mike Riley.
Although Riley artfully dodged choosing between them Saturday, he did make a fairly significant statement after the news media scrum dissipated. Riley said that Boise State and T.C.U. were worthy of their top-five rankings, something that some coaches from high-profile programs have been hesitant to admit.
Riley even went on to say that both Boise and TCU's defenses are "about as quick and fast as we've played against ever." Considering some of the USC defenses Riley has faced during his years in Corvallis, that's not praise to be taken lightly.
Neither are Boise State and TCU.
Posted on: September 25, 2010 8:02 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
If Ryan Mallett's Heisman candidacy was kick-started by his game-winning touchdown drive at Georgia last week, it was just as surely ruined by his 4th quarter collapse, as top-ranked Alabama escaped No. 10 Arkanas with a 24-20 win.
Mallett's first three quarters were perhaps his most impressive as a Razorback; he carved the Alabama defense to the tune of 21-28 passing, 313 yards, one passing touchdown (and another on the ground), and one rather ill-advised interception in Alabama's end zone. His fourth quarter? 4-10, 44 yards, and two back-breaking interceptions. One was returned by Robert Lester to the Arkansas 11 yard line and led to Alabama's go-ahead touchdown; the next would seal the game, as Arkansas never got the ball back.
If anybody's Heisman candidacy was helped in today's game, it's probably Mark Ingram; people assumed Ingram's campaign to repeat as Heisman winner was completely derailed by his two games missed at the beginning of the season. Ingram rushed for 157 yards on 24 carries today, including an electric 54-yard touchdown in the first half, and he added 27 receiving yards on two catches. If he was feeling any ill effects from his knee surgery from before the season, it wasn't immediately evident today.
Posted on: September 25, 2010 6:49 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 6:52 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
As expected, No. 1 Alabama has made a game of it in Fayetteville. No. 10 Arkansas held 'Bama to a field goal, pushing the score to 20-17 Arkansas.
Holding Alabama to three was critical for the Razorbacks, because Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett just threw a horror show of an interception, one that Robert Lester returned to the Arkansas red zone. Three rushes later, Mark Ingram plowed into the end zone, and all of a sudden, it's 24-20 Alabama, marking the Crimson Tide's first lead of the entire game.
Now, for the second week in a row, Mallett is being tasked with putting together a game-winning drive against SEC competition. He succeeded against Georgia. Can he now against one of the best defenses in the country?
[Update, 6:49 p.m.: No sir! Mallett has just thrown another interception, his third on the day. Barring disaster, Alabama will come away with a win.]
Posted on: September 25, 2010 5:37 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 6:09 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The blockbuster matchup between No. 1 Alabama and host No. 10 Arkansas has, at the half, tilted in the Razorbacks' favor. Arkansas leads 17-7 on the strength of two Ryan Mallett touchdowns, and Alabama has been hurt by two uncharacteristic interceptions by QB Greg McElroy.
Early in the game, Arkansas drew first blood with a magnificent pitch-and-catch from Mallett to Ronnie Wingo:
At that point, Alabama responded with an equal display of force, as Mark Ingram reminded everybody that he is, in fact, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner:
But both quarterbacks threw awful end zone interceptions, killing great scoring chances for both teams, and another bad pick for Alabama gave Arkansas the ball near midfield late in the second half. Mallett drove the team down the field with his rifle of an arm, and the 6'6" quarterback stretched across the goal line on a 1-yard sneak to push the lead to 17-7 with under 20 seconds left.
And that's where we stand now.
The game's not over, not by a long shot; both Ingram and Trent Richardson are running with a purpose for the Crimson Tide, and Mallett's probably still got some head-scratching throws left in him today. But we're 30 minutes in, and Arkansas has a double-digit lead. Coming into this game, the Razorbacks would have been thrilled to be where they are now.
Posted on: September 25, 2010 11:55 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Here's the weather outlook for all of today's important matchups. Conditions look ideal everywhere but Auburn and LSU. All times are Eastern.
Georgia Tech at North Carolina State, 12:00, Raleigh, NC: Lower 90s, partly cloudy
No. 16 Stanford at Notre Dame, 3:30, South Bend, IN: Lower 60s, partly cloudy, breezy
No. 1 Alabama at No. 10 Arkansas, 3:30, Little Rock, AR: Lower 80s, partly cloudy
No. 8 Oklahoma at Cincinnati, 6:00, Cincinnati, OH: Upper 60s, clear
No. 12 South Carolina at No. 17 Auburn, 7:45, Auburn, AL: Lower 80s/Upper 70s, scattered thunderstorms
No. 24 Oregon State at No. 3 Boise State, 8:00, Boise, ID: Mid 80s at kickoff, lower 70s by halftime, clear
No. 22 West Virginia at No. 15 LSU, 9:00, Baton Rouge, LA: Upper 70s, chance of thunderstorms
California at No. 14 Arizona, 10:00, Tucson, AZ: Mid 80s, clear
No. 5 Oregon at Arizona State, 10:30, Tempe, AZ: Lower 90s, clear
Posted on: September 24, 2010 5:22 pm
Posted by the College Football Blog staff
Every season, every month, every week, there are several outcomes and achievements that, frankly, nobody operating within reason would ever predict. Who could have predicted Nebraska would beat Florida for the title by 38 points, or that Boise State would pull off three late trick plays to knock off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, or that Mike Pouncey would screw up a baker's dozen worth of snaps in one game? Nobody... until now. We're going to try capture that lightning in a bottle by making similarly absurd predictions every week. Are they at all likely to come true? No. Do we even believe the words we're writing? No. But if we make even one correct call on these, we will never stop gloating. Ever.
The Michigan State Spartans lose Kirk Cousins to an injury during the first quarter of their game against Northern Colorado. His replacement, freshman Andrew Maxwell is dealt the same fate early in the second quarter and the Spartans go into the half trailing 21-10. After quarterback-turned-WR-turned-back-i
Temple upsets Penn State in Happy Valley. There's really no excuse for this happening; even with Temple starting out 3-0 and PSU looking average with true freshman Robert Bolden at QB, Penn State is still highly favored in this contest. But the Temple front seven (led by returning MAC Defensive Player of the Year DE Adrian Robinson) gives the Nittany Lions' enough fits that Temple goes into halftime leading by 10, Bolden gets benched, Kevin Newsome performs worse in relief, and the Owls shock Happy Valley, 27-20. -- Adam Jacobi
Marcus Lattimore is held to less than 70 yards rushing by the Auburn defense. Lattimore only ran for 57 yards against Southern Miss, but when the Gamecocks have really needed yards this season, they turn to number 21. He will likely get at least 18 carries, and the Tigers did give up 140 yards to Clemson's Andre Ellington, but look for the defensive line to step up and shut down Lattimore at home in primetime. -- Chip Patterson
Mike Leach makes it through the entire broadcast of the Houston - Tulane game without some reference to "symptoms of concussion" followed by awkward silence that lasts as long as an equipment shed is wide. -- Chip Patterson
With his team trailing 24-21 late in the fourth quarter against Arkansas, Nick Saban calls a timeout as his team is marching down the field looking for the go-ahead touchdown. "I've had an epiphany, gentleman. I'm not here to win football games, I'm here to make you all better men and better human beings. Sometimes being the bigger man means letting the other man have his moment in the spotlight." Saban then forces Greg McElroy to kneel four straight times to end the game. -- Tom Fornelli
Boise State sets the post-WW2 single-game record for most team yardage (pre-WW2 may be a touch out of reach) in their victory over Oregon State, 94-0. Kellen Moore and the rest of the Broncos' starters play every snap, even after Oregon State puts in their second stringers in the 4th quarter. Following the game, Chris Peterson then throws his headset at the press box and yells, "Are you not entertained?!" Boise does not budge in the polls. --Adam Jacobi
During the third quarter of a listless win at Washington State, USC head coach Lane Kiffin will disappear from the sideline for several minutes, and television cameras will catch him talking on his cell phone. He will claim to have been speaking with old college friends since the game was "boring," but anonymous sources with knowledge of Kiffin's cell phone records will later tell reporters that Kiffin was trying to negotiate a deal to rejoin Pete Carroll in Seattle as an assistant with the Seattle Seahawks. The deal falls through when Kiffin asks for $17.5 million a year. -- Adam Jacobi
Oregon State takes Boise State to overtime on the legendary Smurf Turf. In overtime, Chris Peterson calls a trick play that finishes with Kellen Moore crossing into the end zone to win the game. Upon crossing the goal line, Moore rushes over to the cheerleaders and drops to one knee... where he proposes to Buster Bronco. The horse says "neigh." -- Chip Patterson
With the USC Trojans up 14-0 on Washington State in the first quarter, Matt Barkley finds Ronald Johnson for a 67-yard touchdown to make the score 20-0. Lane Kiffin then decides to just kick the extra point. -- Tom Fornelli
Tags: Aaron Bates, Adrian Robinson, Alabama, Andre Ellington, Andrew Maxwell, Auburn, Auburn, Boise State, Chris Peterson, Clemson, Don Treadwill, Greg McElroy, Houston, Insane Predictions, Keith Nichol, Kellen Moore, Kevin Newsome, Kirk Cousins, Lane Kiffin, Marcus Lattimore, Matt Barkley, Michigan State, Mike Leach, Mike Pouncey, Nick Saban, Northern Colorado, Oregon State, Penn State, Pete Carroll, Robert Bolden, Ronald Johnson, South Carolina, Temple, Tulane, USC, Washington State
Posted on: September 24, 2010 11:05 am
Edited on: September 24, 2010 11:08 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
It had been rumored several weeks back that there were discussions between Alabama and Michigan to arrange a neutral-field game in the future, likely in the monstrous 100,000+ seat Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
On Thursday night, Alabama head coach Nick Saban all but confirmed that the match up between the two legendary programs, and even spoke about other negotiations for future non-conference arrangements.
“It hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re going to play Michigan in Dallas probably for sure,” Saban said.
Saban also said the Crimson Tide will look to set up Atlantic Coast Conference opponents for neutral-site games in Atlanta for 2013 and ’14. Alabama has been in search of a marquee opponent for the 2012 season for months, with speculation ranging from Miami to Texas Tech, from Notre Dame to the Wolverines, and potential venues in Atlanta, Dallas or even Jacksonville, Fla.
"Probably for sure" is about as much of an 8th grade confirmation as you are going to get out of Saban, who has been in this game long enough to know how to say things without saying them. This falls right in line with the trends of recent years that have top-tier programs facing each other in early season non-conference battles.
These marquee matchups in September are great for the sport, giving fans a reason to get hooked from week one rather than ease their way into the schedule. The games also are chances for teams to get on the national radar early, especially if they have plans of competing for a national championship.