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Tag:Vanderbilt
Posted on: November 12, 2011 9:51 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 8 Arkansas 49, Tennessee 7

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



ARKANSAS WON: 
Another week, another comfortable home win for what's still the SEC's clearcut third-best team ... particularly in Fayetteville. Tyler Wilson hit 16-of-26 for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns, Dennis Johnson ran for 8.8 yards a carry and two long TDsand Joe Adams chipped in a punt return for touchdown that ranks among the plays of the year. The sputtering Tennessee offense continued to do its sputtering thing, totaling 377 yards but translating them into just 7 points thanks to shoddy execution in Razorback territory.

WHY ARKANSAS WON: Tennessee knew the Hogs would throw the ball around and score points, so they really couldn't afford to do things like cap a 14-play second-quarter with a goalline interception (hi, Justin Worley!) or let Adams break free for a special teams score or turn the ball over on downs twice across the Razorback 30. But what they really, really couldn't afford to do was let the Hogs go wild on the ground. Which Arkansas did: 236 rushing yards, three touchdowns, and a ridiculous 8.7 yards per-carry average as a team as the Razorback line simply overwhelmed the injury-ridden, inexperienced Tennessee front seven.

Combine that sort of success on the ground with a passing game headed up by the likes of Wilson and called by Bobby Petrino, and 49 points is right about what you'd expect.

WHEN ARKANSAS WON: The Vols were probably already no-hopers down 28-7 in the third quarter, but when they failed to convert a 4th-and-1 on their own 40, that was pretty much the final nail in the coffin. When Wilson hit Adams for a 40-yard touchdown on the very next play, that was the coffin getting strafed by a staple gun, just for kicks.

WHAT ARKANSAS WON: Lots of late time for their backups, and one fewer hurdle cleared between themselves and a season-ending showdown with LSU.

WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: Their very last shred of margin-for-error if they want to make a bowl game. At 4-6 overall (and 0-6 in the SEC), the Vols must sweep Vanderbilt and Kentucky to return to the postseason.

Posted on: November 12, 2011 6:55 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 14 Georgia 45, No. 24 Auburn 7

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

GEORGIA WON: 
The Bulldogs are one should-be gimme vs. Kentucky from going to Atlanta--and they took Saturday's step towards that SEC East title in some style, running their Auburn rivals clean out of Sanford Stadium with a 28-0 first-half burst. Aaron Murray looked every bit the league's preseason first-team quarterback, totaling more first-half touchdowns (four) than incompletions (three) and finishing 14-of-18 for 224 yards and no interceptions. The Bulldog defense continued to cement themselves as one of the nation's best, holding Auburn to 89 first-half yards and turning the Tigers over three times for the game.

WHY GEORGIA WON: When you're talking about a 38-point victory, there's a lot of things to point to. But there's this, more than anything: against competent quarterbacking, Auburn's secondary simply hasn't been up to the task in 2011. Tajh Boyd? 386 yards, 4 scores, 0 INTs. Tyler Wilson? 262, 2, 0. The Jarrett Lee/ Jordan Jefferson tag team? 219, 3, 0. When not going up against Stephen Garcia at his lowest point or Florida's freshman backups, the Tiger defensive backs may as well have been had "TORCH US" signs pinned to their backs.

Murray looked like he might not quite rise to that "competent" level in an erratic performance against the Gators two weeks ago, but he was razor-sharp from the gun against Auburn--and duly shredded the Tiger defensive backs, with corner T'Sharvan Bell (among others) burned again and again by Murray's accurate back-shoulder throws. For all the things done well by the Dawg defense, running game and special teams (whose sore-spot kick return coverage totally shut down the Tiger return game), as soon as Murray showed his brief midseason slump was behind him, the Tigers were done. Until Gene Chizik and Ted Roof can solve their woes in stopping the pass, the Tiger defense -- as it has been since Chizik's hire -- will remain an up-and-down, roller coaster proposition at best.

WHEN GEORGIA WON: Auburn was already in a deep hole midway through the second quarter, down 21-7 and facing a 3rd-and-7 on their own 17. Clint Moseley's gift of a pick-six to Bacarri Rambo, however, made it the kind of hole that the Tigers wouldn't be able to climb out of if they had all week.

WHAT GEORGIA WON: the right to play Kentucky next Saturday with the SEC East on the line. But you know what? Given that Kentucky lost by 30 points to Vanderbilt, let's go ahead and call a spade a spade: the Bulldogs won the division today. They're going to go to Atlanta.

WHAT AUBURN LOST: any sense of defensive improvement over the course of the season for one thing. Likewise, any illusion that the Tigers belonged in the top third of the SEC this season. To lose to teams like Arkansas, LSU and Georgia, all on the road, is one thing--and given how incredibly young the Tigers remain, probably forgivable. But for Auburn to not even be able to stay competitive shows how far Chizik's team will have to go between 2011 and 2012 to return to the conference's elite.

Posted on: November 12, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 4:32 pm
 

QUICK HITS: South Carolina 17, Florida 12

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WON: 
The Gators had to know that after the Gamecocks' struggles in the passing game the past three weeks, their offense at home today would be run-first, run-second, throw-third. But if they did, it didn't show in the first half: Carolina dominated Florida along the line-of-scrimmage in the first 30 minutes, eventually rolling up 215 rushing yards to the Gators' 142. Connor Shaw completed only 6 passes for only 81 yards, but picked up 88 on the ground and ran for two first-half scores that would be all the Gamecock defense -- and their four sacks -- would need.

WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: More than anything, their burst of physical running in the second quarter that gave the Gamecocks both their touchdowns, allowed them to play with the lead throughout the second half, and forced the Gators just that far out of their ground-based offensive comfort zone.

But 17 points shouldn't really be enough to win an SEC game, should it? Kudos are in order for the Gamecock defense, which hounded John Brantley in the pocket, kept the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps largely under wraps, and gave the Gators nothing in the downfield passing game. (We're not sure if any individual SEC unit has improved as much from 2010 to 2011 as the Carolina secondary, so eminently flammable in 2010 but one of the league's better defensive backfields in 2011. Of course, facing a steady diet of SEC quarterbacks tends to make any secondary look good.) But it's become obvious that the Gators' offensive troubles -- which many pinned on Brantley's absence or poor health in their four-game losing streak -- go much deeper than the quarterback position.

Brantley may not be 100 percent, but he wasn't all that far off in Columbia, and he still finished the day a mediocre 13-of-21 for just 119 yards and no touchdowns, And between his line's struggles in pass protection, his receiver's occasional butterfingers, and the continued boom-or-bust nature of the Gators' less-than-physical rushing game, he didn't get a lot of help. End result for the Gator attack: just 261 total offensive yards, just 12 points -- the Gators' fifth time at 20 points or fewer in six games -- and a final SEC record of 3-5, the program's first losing league record since 1979. Dear Charlie Weis: year 2 had better be a lot better if you'd like to get out of Gainesville alive. 

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Shaw basically made one important play all game in the passing department, but it was a biggie: facing first-and-15 at his own 37 immediately following a fourth-quarter Gator touchdown that cut the Carolina lead to two, Shaw threw deep to Ace Sanders for 46 yards. That was more than half of Shaw's passing total for the day, but more important it set up the Gamecocks for a short field goal and a 17-12 lead. The way the Gator offense had sputtered, asking them to score a second touchdown in the space of a quarter was always going to be too much.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: A shot at the SEC East. If Georgia loses today to Auburn or next week to Kentucky (OK, if they lose today to Auburn), Carolina will go to Atlanta for the second time in two years.

WHAT FLORIDA LOST: a fifth SEC game for the first time in 32 years. Last week's win against Vanderbilt ensured the Gators won't miss a bowl game, but there's no way to color Will Muschamp's first season at the Gator helm as anything other than a disappointment now.

Posted on: November 10, 2011 4:12 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 4:19 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 11



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

You know, when you're in a weekly competition of any kind, there's never really a good week to have your WORST WEEK EVER, but I have to believe that having mine in Week 10 was a pretty terrible idea. From the very beginning of the season I was in a 3-game hole behind Woman, and I spent weeks digging myself out of it. Well, I'm right back where I started now after a terrible Saturday last week.

Making matters worse, The Machine is now closer to me than I am to The Woman. Needless to say, it's been a long week. Hopefully I can work my way out of this mess quickly because I really don't have any other choice. I either get myself back in the game or I'm the college football blogger who knows less than his girlfriend.

Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech (-1 1/2) - Thursday, 8pm (All time Eastern)

Man - So far this season Virginia Tech's most impressive win has been against Miami, and in reality that's not really all that impressive of a win. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech had an bye week before this game and is coming off a win against Clemson. So why am I picking Virginia Tech? I have no idea. Because Virginia Tech had a better bye week? I don't know, I think I'm on tilt. Pick: Virginia Tech

Woman - "Yeah, the Hokies had an extra week to prepare, but I'm going with GaTech's 5-0 home record, their multi-talented QB Tevin Washington and deep threat Stephen Hill, who makes would-be defenders look like Lilliputians." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - The Machine thinks this will be an interesting matchup for three quarters, but then Virginia Tech pulls away in the fourth quarter and wins 35-20. Pick: Virginia Tech

Cincinnati (-3 1/2) vs. West Virginia - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I have a new philosophy when it comes to picking Big East games, and that philosophy is always go with chaos. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "Those Mountaineers burn me every time I pick them and I do love Cincinnati, but in their last two games they've had to come from behind to win with last-ditch field goals. So, God help me, I'm taking the points." Pick: West Virginia

Machine - It's unanimous, and that's usually a good thing for the team all three of us pick. West Virginia takes it to the Bearcats, winning 44-20. Pick: West Virginia

South Carolina (-3 1/2) vs. Florida - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I really don't like putting my fate in the hands of this Florida offense, but with Connor Shaw coming off of a concussion and his status for this weekend somewhat in doubt, I'm going to cross my fingers and hope that the Florida defense and special teams can come through for me. Pick: Florida

Woman - "This is like watching two drunk coeds sitting on barstools and betting which one's going to fall off first." Pick: South Carolina

Machine - According to The Machine, this is the week where Charlie Weis finally shows off that decided schematic advantage he's been threatening to unleash for years now. Florida wins 35-17. Pick: Florida

Iowa vs. Michigan State (-2 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Last week I said I was going against my initial instinct by picking against Iowa at home against Michigan. I'm not making that mistake again, which means the Hawkeyes home winning streak will likely come to an end. Pick: Iowa

Woman - "The Hawkeyes haven't lost at Kinnick Stadium this year. That ends Saturday, as the Spartans become this season's Big 10 Legend." Pick: Michigan State

Machine - The Machine sees Michigan State coming to Iowa City and destroying the place as the Spartans win 38-13. Pick: Michigan State

Missouri vs. Texas (-1 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - The Longhorns are starting to make a real believer out of me the last few weeks as Bryan Harsin has this running attack humming and firing on all cylinders. So even against a Missouri team that seems to do the opposite of what I expect every week, I'm going with Texas on the road. Pick: Texas

Woman - "Despite the Tigers' craptastic season, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson found time this week to taunt the Longhorns, saying, 'I hate Texas. I just do. I do. I hate Texas. Any other overrated state in football I pretty much hate. That's how I feel about it. Overrated. Overrated. Overrated.'  After an exhaustive search, I've located Sheldon's (NSFW) mother and now I see where he gets it from." Pick: Texas

Machine - It seems that not everybody is a believer in the Longhorns just yet, as The Machine sees Mizzou squeaking by in this one 23-21. Pick Missouri

Georgia (-13 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I'm really not all that confident in this pick, but for some reason I see Georgia announcing to the world that it is by far the team to beat in the SEC East this season and with last week's game against New Mexico State, it kind of served as a scrimmage/bye week to prepare for Auburn. Pick: Georgia

Woman - "Erase last week's cupcake romp and over the past month the Bulldogs have beaten Florida by a meager 4, Vanderbilt by 5 and Tennessee by 8.  Meanwhile, Auburn's three season losses have been against Arkansas, Clemson and LSU.  Thinking the oddsmakers might have undervalued the Tigers." Pick: Auburn

Machine - The Machine sees Georgia taking a firm grasp of the top place in the SEC East this week. It already picked South Carolina to lose, and now it has Georgia beating Auburn 34-21, though the Tigers do cover. Pick: Auburn

Kansas State vs. Texas A&M (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Seriously? What in the world does Kansas State have to do to finally start getting some respect from gamblers? I mean, it nearly beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater last week and Texas A&M has spent the entire season failing to reach expectations. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I had high hopes for Kansas State.  So... much... hope.  Now this team just makes me sad. Thank goodness for Hope E. Young, Board Certified Music Therapist. Her musical healing (which really gets going at around minute 3:25) combined with four or five Rumple Minze jello shots, helps me travel through this world of woe, take the spread and get on with my day." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - The Machine continues its existence blissfully unaware of what Texas A&M has done this season and sees the Aggies rolling in this game, 49-17. Pick: Texas A&M

Boise State (-15 1/2) vs. TCU - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - This matchup seemed a lot more appealing before the season started than it does now, as TCU may be a good team, but it's not the same team we've seen the last few years. So with Kellen Moore still being Kellen Moore and Bronco Stadium still being impossible for road teams to solve, I have to go with the Broncos. Pick: Boise State

Woman - "Since their season-opening win over Georgia, I have not watched a minute of Boise State football. Apparently, they've been doing pretty well, beating every team they've played by an average of 27 points. Okay, then." Pick: Boise State

Machine - Nobody plays football on the blue turf and survives! Boise State wins 41-24. Pick: Boise State

USC (-13 1/2) vs. Washington - Saturday, 3:45pm

Man - Washington is a nice story this year and Steve Sarkisian has the Huskies on the right track, but this is still a team that has lost to every ranked team it's faced. Plus, when facing the elite of the Pac-12 (Oregon and Stanford) it's been beaten pretty soundly. USC isn't quite elite, yet, but it's still pretty good and it's at home. Pick: USC

Woman - "Here's how a husky makes a baby stop crying.  On Saturday we'll see how a husky makes a baby start crying." Pick: Washington

Machine - Hey, Steve Sarkisian may have been a coach at USC, but he wasn't on Lane Kiffin's staff, so Kiffin doesn't care. USC wins 49-20. Pick: USC

Stanford (-3 1/2) vs. Oregon - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Listen, Stanford doesn't just win every week, it covers the spread every week. Until that trend changes I'm not picking against the Cardinal. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Enjoy this dramatic interpretation of Andrew Luck leaving his mark at Stanford and securing home field advantage for the Pac 12 championship. Oh yeah, and getting his Heisman. (NBA fans who hear the score of this one might wonder if the strike is over.)" Pick: Stanford

Machine - Machine recognize Machine. Stanford wins 42-35. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 61-44 (6-4)
2. Man 58-47 (3-7)
3. Machine 56-49 (4-6)

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: November 10, 2011 1:23 pm
 

Phillips vs. Franklin a coaching landmark for SEC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's not No. 1 vs. No. 2. But with virtually nothing in the way of fanfare, Vanderbilt and Kentucky will become just as big a part of SEC history when they meet in Nashville this Saturday.

Why? Because thanks to the Commodores' James Franklin and the Wildcats' Joker Phillips, the game will mark the first-ever SEC matchup between two African-American head coaches.

Sylvester Croom
famously became the league's first African-American head coach at Mississippi State in 2004, but resigned the position before any other minority hires were made in the conference--Phillips is the league's second, Franklin the third.

Speaking to SBNation's Steven Godfrey after practice Wednesday, Franklin said that with his team fighting for bowl eligibility, the historic nature of the game hasn't even occurred to him:
"Today is the first time I've heard or thought about it, honestly ... I hope we can get to the point real soon where it's not even a discussion point. But I also understand the signifigance of it, and I'm proud to be here with Vanderbilt, and proud that it's Joker. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him. I've known him for a long time and I know who he is as a man."

"If this was 20 years ago, this game would be a bigger story, but that only means we're headed in the right direction."
This is true, but the fact that this particular bit of history is being made in a Vanderbilt-Kentucky game is a sign that there's still a long way to go; it's simply not a coincidence that the SEC's three African-American coaches to date have gotten their shot at the three universally acknowledged least-desirable jobs in the league. Still only 8 of 66 BCS conference head coaching positions (12 percent) are held by African-Americans.

But as Franklin points out, that it's taken until Thursday for anyone to notice that this substantial a milestone is being passed is a good indication that progress is being made. Given where the SEC was not so long ago, we think the league will take it.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 3:43 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Tennessee at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Tyler Bray finds the broken thumb miracle cure between now and Saturday. The Vols' sophomore starter hasn't played since his team's loss to Georgia Oct. 8, and though he got his hard cast off this week, it doesn't sound like he's going to be nearly ready to play against the Hogs. But the Vols might not have a prayer without him: in the three SEC games Bray has missed, backups Matt Simms and Justin Worley have combined to complete 39.5 percent of their passes and post a 0-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio. Yes, those three SEC games came against teams with far better defenses than Arkansas's -- LSU's, Alabama's, and South Carolina's, in fact -- but two of them also came at home. It's also not like the Vols' 118th-ranked rushing game (fresh off averaging all of 2.67 yards per-carry vs. Middle Tennessee State) is going to be much help. Unless Bray can find a witch doctor or mad scientist or special magnetic wristband that fixes his thumb in time, it's awfully hard -- and just about impossible -- to see the Vols winning this game.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they can just avoid catastrophic mistakes. Maybe easier said than done, of course, if you saw Tyler Wilson do this vs. Carolina last Saturday:



Wilson isn't the only Hog to have turnover issues of late: Dennis Johnson's fumbles helped keep both Vanderbilt and Ole Miss in those respective games. If Wilson, Johnson or any other butter-fingered Hog set the Vols up with short fields or throw away scoring opportunities, the Vols have shown -- in their 6-6 halftime tie with Alabama -- that they can hang around with better teams, even on the road.

Hang around long enough to win it? Probably not, but where turnovers are involved, never say never. Wilson and Co. have to make sure they aren't.

THE X-FACTOR: Jake Bequette. The Razorbacks' preseason All-SEC defensive end had suffered an injury-plagued and disappointing season until last Saturday, when he roared to life with three sacks of Connor Shaw and the game-clinching forced fumble. If Bequette terrorizes poor Worley or Simms the way he terrorized Shaw, the Vols really, really have no hope.

Posted on: November 6, 2011 10:59 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 11:36 am
 

SEC officially announces Missouri joins in 2012

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The worst kept secret in the south became official Sunday morning, as the Southeastern Conference officially announced that Missouri would join the league in 2012 along with Texas A&M. The announcement from the SEC is below.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (November 6, 2011) – The Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors, acting unanimously, announced today that the University of Missouri will join the Southeastern Conference effective July 1, 2012, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2012-13 academic year. 

The addition of Missouri will increase SEC membership to 14 institutions.  The additions of Texas A&M, announced on September 25, 2011, and Missouri, are the first expansions for the SEC since September of 1991 when the University of South Carolina joined the league.  The University of Arkansas joined the SEC in August of 1991.  With the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina, the SEC was the first conference to split into divisions and add a conference championship game in 1992.

“The Presidents and Chancellors of the Southeastern Conference are pleased to welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC,” said Dr. Bernie Machen, President of the SEC Presidents and Chancellors and president of the University of Florida.  “The University of Missouri is a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions.”

“The Southeastern Conference is a highly successful, stable, premier athletic conference that offers exciting opportunities for the University of Missouri,” said Chancellor Brady J. Deaton. “In joining the SEC, MU partners with universities distinguished for their academic programs and their emphasis on student success. The SEC will provide our student-athletes with top flight competition and unparalleled visibility. We came to this decision after careful consideration of the long term best interests of our university.  We believe the Southeastern Conference is an outstanding home for the Mizzou Tigers, and we take great pride in our association with this distinguished league.”

Missouri, located in Columbia, will also be the fourth institution in the Southeastern Conference to hold membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, joining University of Florida, Texas A&M University and Vanderbilt University.  Missouri has an enrollment of 33,800 students, which would be the fourth largest institution in the SEC, with Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M having a larger student body.  There are more than 260,000 “Mizzou” alumni around the world.  The State of Missouri borders three SEC states: Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas, and they bring an existing rivalry with former conference foe Texas A&M.

Missouri athletic teams have excelled recently.  Its men’s basketball team has made it to the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons and 24 times overall.  The Tiger football team has been to post-season bowl games for six straight years and 28 times overall.  The softball team has participated in the College World Series each of the last three seasons.  The Tigers have won Big 12 Championships in men’s basketball, soccer and softball. 

“I am pleased to officially welcome the University of Missouri to the SEC family on behalf of our presidents, chancellors, athletics directors, students and fans,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.  “Missouri is an outstanding academic institution with a strong athletic program.  We look forward to having the Tigers compete in our league starting in 2012.”

The Tigers sponsor 20 varsity sports.  Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, football, golf, swimming and diving, wrestling, indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country.  Women’s sports include basketball, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country and volleyball.  Missouri participates in every sport sponsored by the SEC except men’s tennis and the SEC sponsors every sport the Tigers participate in except wrestling.

Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:45 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 10

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: LSU. 

Usually, we'd find some specific angle to take within the team or the coaching staff when naming our "top" winner. Saying LSU was your big winner this SEC Saturday is like saying fire is hot.

But the stakes were so high for their win over Alabama, the rewards so lavish, that there's no real need to split those kind of hairs. LSU will now be the unquestioned, unanimous No. 1 team in the nation in every available poll, BCS standings included; they are only two games away from clinching the SEC West championship, one of which is against a team that's lost 12 straight SEC games and the other at home against a team whose last two road trips ended in death-defying escapes from that same 12-game losing streak team and Vanderbilt; they are three SEC games, then, from playing for the national championship in their own home state, at the same site where they won it in 2003 and 2007. And they accomplished all of that by defeating what might be their bitterest rival's best team in 20 years in that rival's own stadium and forced their forme head coach under the .500 mark against their current head coach. It's 100 percent possible LSU just cleared the highest hurdle between themselves and the national championship and did so in the sweetest possible fashion.

Not bad for 60-plus minutes of work.

LOSER: "Make his ass quit." 

That's the phrase Nick Saban used in a pregame speech to his players before the 2008 meeting with LSU, and one popularized as a kind of motto amongst Tide fans for the program's philosophy of oustanding conditioning work, physical play, perfect execution, and -- specifically -- the combination of all three forcing the opponent to surrender as the second half drags on. It's worked spectacularly for the most part under Saban, and until Saturday 2011 was no exception: the Tide didn't even allow a second-half point in the month of October. 

But in recent big games, the Tide have been strangely unable to force anyone on the other side to "quit"--and in fact, have come closer to doing it themselves. There was the fourth-quarter failures against LSU in Baton Rouge last season. Then the fall from 24 points ahead against Auburn. And tonight, there was this in the second half: five first downs, 104 yards, two turnovers and three three-and-outs, the last of which was the disastrous overtime possession which covered minus-10 yards.  LSU did next-to-nothing on offense in regulation too, of course, but in overtime their Jordan Jefferson/Michael Ford speed option still worked as well as it ever did.

Result: another championship-level game in which it was the other team outplaying the Tide over the final 30 minutes-plus and walking off the winners. It's not conditioning (we have little doubt every team at this level is as fit as they're going to be), but those second-half woes are something Saban's going to have to figure out all the same if he wants his teams hoisting trophies again.

WINNER: the Baton Rouge ticket market. 

Oh, Arkansas's visit on Nov. 25 won't be a second "Game of the Century" ... but with the Hogs seeing off the Gamecocks and LSU triumphing in Tuscaloosa, that game now becomes the biggest tilt remaining in the SEC's 2011 season by some margin. Despite the Razorback road woes mentioned above, Arkansas's history with LSU makes them the only realistic obstacle standing between the Tigers and Atlanta ... maybe even the BCS title game. The hype starts now. Can Dennis Johnson also bring that wood?



LOSERS: Rematch advocates. 

The stipulation was always that the best scenario for a rematch was for Alabama to win a narrow, competitive game over the Tigers that left voters wondering what would happen on a neutral field. We got the "narrow, competitive game" part, but voters won't need to see LSU on a neutral field ... since they've already beaten the Tide on Bryant-Denny Stadium's highly hostile field. Beyond that, while the first half featured plenty of smart offensive football countered only by outstanding defense, the second more often seemed like a sloppy, grind-it-out affair with neither team taking much in the way of offensive risks or producing anything resembling attacking "flair." Aesthetic value shouldn't play a part when deciding who gets to play for a national title, but voters are human all the same--and they may not be thrilled by the prospect of a second touchdown-less meeting.

WINNER: Joker Phillips.

There were more than a few people who saw Kentucky's opening-week slog against Western Kentucky, their wipeout against Florida, the epic pratfall at South Carolina, and pegged them for an 0-8 season in the SEC. Even as recently as last week, a dispiriting double-digit home loss to Mississippi State didn't suggest a corner was about to be turned.

But Phillips kept his team believing, and Saturday they comprehensively outplayed an Ole Miss team that -- at the very least -- has more offensive playmakers and comparable defensive talent. No one, Phillips included, would claim he's done a great coaching job this season, but likewise no one would argue he and his staff didn't badly outprepare the staff on the opposite sideline. 

LOSER: Pete Boone.

Whether he chooses between them now or at the end of what will likely be an 0-8 SEC campaign, the Ole Miss athletic director has two choices ahead of him after today's Rebel loss in Lexington: he can either stand behind Houston Nutt and make his own less-than-popular hold on the AD's chair that much less popular, or he can swallow Nutt's gigantic contractual bullet and go in search of a new coach even as he also fundraises for a new basketball facility and other capital improvements. Before today, Boone could entertain the possibility that a big finish by Nutt would allow him to put the ax away for at least one more year and still save face. Not any more--Nutt will enter 2012 as a virtual lame duck, or employed somewhere else, and there's nothing else Boone can realistically hope for any longer.

WINNER: Jeff Demps. 

For weeks, Demps has been nagged by various injuries. And not coincidentally -- though God knows the Gators' issues weren't that simple -- for weeks the Gators' ground game has all the effectiveness of the proverbial submarine's screen door. Against Vanderbilt, Demps finally looked like his old self, and not just on the juke-the-first-tackler-out-of-his-j
ock 52-yard touchdown that all-but-clinched the Gator victory. Also not a coincidence: with a little bit of help from Mike Gillislee, the Gators ran for 197 yards -- 158 of them Demps' -- and won their first game since September. 

LOSERS: Mark Richt's circadian rhythms. 

You know, sleep patterns. Not that college football coaches ever have particularly regular ones, but Richt's might have stayed within shouting of distance of normal if he'd known his Bulldogs didn't have everything to lose against Auburn this coming Saturday. That's not to say there's any worries about the Dawgs' total dismantling of New Mexico State -- if anything, that was a calming performance, especially where Aaron Murray's return to his usual accurate form was concerned -- but when the day started, his team didn't have to worry about the pressure that comes with being two winnable home games away from a return to Atlanta. Thanks to South Carolina's loss, that's the case, but it's also the case that Richt's teams have not performed particularly well under this new kind of pressure the last few seasons.

That's not to say, of course, that Richt wouldn't take having his team control its own destiny in a heartbeat over the alternative. But we're guessing there's a few more exhausted stares at the digital clock at 2:47 a.m. this week, too, now that Richt knows the fallout from a loss will be greater than ever.

 
 
 
 
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