Posted on: October 19, 2011 11:34 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Urban Meyer has moved on. But Florida's penchant for minor arrests has not.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday that true freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was arrested and charged with underage alcohol possession Sept. 14, the week of the Gators' game against Tennessee. Roberson was the second Floriday player arrested by the University Police Department that week, following now former Gator linebacker Dee Finley's misdemeanor arrest two days earlier.
Roberson was arrested outside a campus residence hall after police officers reportedly spotted him with a can of Four Loko. He is being represented by Gainesville attorney Huntley Johnson, who (per the Sentinel, in a bit of an understatement) "frequently represents UF athletes." Underage alcohol possession is a misdemeanor charge.
Roberson is the seventh Gator arrested this calendar year and the second to be cited for underage alcohol possession.
Will Muschamp has yet to comment on Roberson's arrest and what punishment, if any, he might receive. Finley was suspended for the Tennessee meeting following his arrest. Roberson has started all seven games for the Gators this season.
Florida has a bye this week but will face Georgia Oct. 29 in Jacksonville, a game for which the reeling Gators will need all hands o nthe proverbial deck. Freshman or not, a suspension for one of the Gators' steadiest performers at one of their thinnest positiosn would be a major blow for their chances in the Cocktail Party.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 1:42 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 1:43 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Former Florida head coach Urban Meyer seems to be enjoying his time away from the sidelines, but given his age and accomplishments, the fact is that the subject of him returning to the coaching ranks is one that's just never going to go away. As soon as Jim Tressel stepped down at Ohio State, Meyer's name popped up as a possible replacement. Last week there were reports that Penn State had been in contact with Meyer about succeeding the legendary Joe Paterno.
What's Meyer actually thinking? Well, while appearing at an Outback Bowl luncheon on Wednesday, Meyer talked to the St. Petersburg Times about his time at Florida and a possible return to coaching. He also addressed the rumors about both Ohio State and Penn State.
"I have to show respect for coaches that have jobs," Meyer said. "Most of those programs have coaches. When rumors are out there — last week, a guy hit me with something, 'Did you meet with so and so?' Of course not. I don't know how those things get printed, just, 'Source says.' Who's your source? A guy walking down the street? Those things bother me, but it comes with the job, I guess."
Meyer also talked about balancing his life and his job if he ever went back into coaching, saying that he went off the "deep end" while at Florida.
"If I ever went back, I'd have to get back a little bit of balance I used to have. I don't know if I'm there yet. I went off the deep end. When I first went to Florida, my first Tennessee game, first SEC game, my son was playing that (Friday) night, was going to pitch. I'm in a hotel. I looked at the police officers: 'I can't take this. Will you get in a car and drive me to go watch my son pitch?' Everybody thought I was nuts. I'm not going to let a job consume me. I think it did. I would have never done that at the end. I was so consumed about perfection. We created a monster. If I ever did get back, I would not let that control my life."
As for whether or not Meyer ever actually does take a coaching job again, I don't know. He seems serious about needing to get away from it all, and with the health problems that he reportedly suffered due to the stress of the job, I tend to believe him when he says he's happy where he is right now. At the same time, you'll also notice how he didn't come out and say no to the possibility either. Which leads me to think that the same passion that caused him to go off the "deep end" while at Florida could eventually lead him right back to the job.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 1:45 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
FLORIDA WILL WIN IF: their young secondary can continue to make Auburn's suddenly woebegone passing game as inefficient as it's been the past few weeks. The Tigers ran for 290 yards against Arkansas and it still didn't keep them within three touchdowns of the Razorbacks, thanks to a passing game that completed just 9-of-25 attempts and threw three interceptions without a touchdown. But Barrett Trotter has been much more comfortable at home than on the road -- his QB rating of 160.71 at Jordan-Hare Stadium dwarfs his 88.88 rating elsewhere, albeit against substantially lesser competition -- and the Gators didn't respond well to their first road test last week, allowing LSU quarterbacks to complete 10 of 14 passes for a whopping 15.4 yards an attempt and two scores. Despite starting a true freshman at both corner and safety (and a true sophomore, Matt Elam, at the other safety position), the Gator secondary showed in effective performances against Tennessee and Alabama that they have the potential to keep Trotter and Co. on continued lockdown--if they bounce back from their outing in Baton Rouge and do, Auburn will have a difficult time putting points on the board no matter how well they run.
AUBURN WILL WIN IF: they can keep Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey under wraps. Easier said than done, of course, and as Joe Adams' 93-yard touchdown run for Arkansas showed, the Tigers remain highly vulnerable to giving up the big play on the ground to quick, elusive runners ... like, say, Demps and Rainey. But after some early-season difficulties, the Tiger run defense has improved to the point of adequacy the past two weeks; remove Adams' 93 yards from the equation, and Auburn allowed a combined 3.59 yards per-carry against the Razorbacks and South Carolina. Numbers anything close to that mark will mean Auburn will have shifted a big chunk of the offensive burden
to Jacoby Brissett (or, possibly, Jeff Driskel); judging by the LSU game, that's a burden Brissett isn't yet ready to carry.
THE X-FACTOR: Night games against Florida -- a traditional rival of the Tigers, who thanks to the divisional split now visits only rarely -- have been known to bring out the best (read: loudest, rowdiest) in the Jordan-Hare crowd, as evidenced by the Gators' last visit: 2006, when the cauldron of noise helped Tommy Tuberville engineer an upset of the then No. 1 team in the nation (and the only defeat suffered that season by Urban Meyer's eventual national champions). If a hot Auburn start can get its fans past last week's disappointment and back into the full voice of that 2006 victory, it remains to be seen how the inexperienced Gators will react.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:39 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
If you enjoyed this podcast -- and let's be honest, you did -- be sure to subscribe to the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast on iTunes.
Posted on: September 17, 2011 7:42 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
FLORIDA WON: It wasn't quite as overpowering a victory as it looked to be late in the third quarter (when they were up 30-7), but the Gators nonetheless established their SEC East bona fides with a comfortable 10-point victory over the visiting Vols. Running back-slash-special teams extraordinaire Chris Rainey might have earned a few Heisman Watch-type nods with another scintillating all-around performance: 108 yards rushing, 104 receiving (including the touchdown above), and a second-quarter blocked punt -- the fifth of his career -- for good measure.
WHY FLORIDA WON: For years and years, the Florida-Tennessee rivalry has been decided by which team could run the ball. And today, it was no contest: the Gators ran for 134 yards while stuffing the Vol run game to the tune of minus-9 yards (yes, 9 yards fewer than no yards at all) on 21 attempts. Even with sacks removed, the Florida defensive line of Jaye Howard, Ronald Powell, Dominique Easley and the newly-reinstated Sharrif Floyd held Volunteer tailbacks to a miserable 27 yards on 14 carries, an average of less than 2 yards an attempt.
Tyler Bray and his talented Vol receivers got their licks in from time to time against the inexperienced Gator secondary (and forced Florida into seven different pass interference penalties in the process), but keeping pace with Rainey and the Florida attack was always going to be too tall a task for such a one-dimensional offense. And it didn't help -- to say the least -- for star sophomore wideout Justin Hunter to leave the game in the first quarter with a knee injury. Whatever hopes Tennessee had of winning a shootout on the strength of Bray's arm likely left the game with him.
WHEN FLORIDA WON: Tennessee went into the locker room with ample momentum, going 89 yards in 6 plays to cut a 16-0 lead to 16-7 just ahead of halftime. And with the first possession of the second half, the Vols had to like their chances of cutting into that lead even further.
But that possession lasted all of one play--Bray threw his worst pass of the day, an ill-advised gunsling that was picked off by Josh Evans. Florida scored on a one-yard Trey Burton touchdown run seven plays later, and Tennessee would be forced to play in desperation mode for the remainder of the game.
WHAT FLORIDA WON: Even if the challenge presented by Tennessee wasn't nearly as stiff as the one to be presented later by the likes of Alabama, LSU, or South Carolina, that the Gators handled it as comfortably as they did (their 15 penalties aside) suggests the malaise of Urban Meyer's final season is firmly behind the program. Will Muschamp's team may or may not win the East, but they have the kind of defensive front and explosive playmakers that will give them as potent a chance to do as anyone.
WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: Whatever you might say about the less tangible losses in a defeat like this -- the air of belief that sprung up after last week's win over Cincinnati, the longshot hopes of an East title -- they pale in comparison to the potential long-term loss of a talent like Hunter. With him, the Vols looked capable of being so powerful in the passing game they could play with anyone; the evidence of today's game suggests that without him, they simply won't be able to hang with the SEC's reigning heavyweights.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:17 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet. Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.
While Thursday and Friday night serve as delicious appetizers for the new college football season, one that feels like it took forever to get here, the big games start on Saturday. Since it's been a while since you planted your behind on a couch on a Saturday morning and stayed there all day, you're probably going to need some help navigating through the day.
So lucky for you, the Eye On College Football crew has brought the Saturday Meal Plan back. It's your weekly menu of which games should be on your plate and where you can find them.
#18 Ohio State vs. Akron - ESPN, 12pm ET
So many questions for Ohio State on Saturday. Will the Luke Fickell-era offense look any different? Who's going to shine between QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller? How much will the team miss its eight suspended players? Does Akron stand a chance anyway? - Adam Jacobi
#23 Auburn vs. Utah State - ESPN2, 12pm ET
Despite some close calls, Auburn hasn't lost to a school outside the current BCS conferences since Southern Miss upset the Tigers back in 1991. (USM's quarterback that day was a guy named Brett Favre, who would later become famous for inventing the cell phone camera.) So it's going to take a very good team by WAC standards to break that streak, and the Aggies -- the WAC's sixth-place finisher a year ago, now without star quarterback Diondre Borel -- very likely aren't that team. Most of the drama on the Auburn sidelines should concern which of their FBS-high 16 new starters look ready for their close-up, most notably new quarterback Barrett Trotter. But if Trotter and the other Tiger cubs come out nervous -- particularly the true sophomore defensive tackle pairing of Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter, who could have their hands full with USU's veteran line -- things could stay competitive for longer than Gene Chizik would like. - Jerry Hinnen
Boston College vs. Northwestern - ESPNU, 12pm ET
You never like to start the season with injury concerns, and that this case for the star player on both these rosters. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa was listed as "questionable" for Saturday's opener as he continues to recover from an achilles injury that ended his 2010 campaign, but popular belief seems to be that he will see the field. Boston College running back Montel Harris underwent his second arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss the game. Making matters even more difficult for the Eagles was an ankle sprain to talented backup Andre Williams. Williams will start and appears ready to go, but there will be more pressure on quarterback Chase Rettig to establish a passing attack against the Northwestern defense. Don't expect Persa to get any easy looks from the Boston College defense, led by All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly. - Chip Patterson
#16 Notre Dame vs. South Florida - NBC, 3:30pm ET
Year Two of the Brian Kelly Era in South Bend gets under way in a game against a former Notre Dame coach, and the son of the man who last brought a national championship to the school, Skip Holtz. There's a lot to look at in this game for both teams. Namely, will Notre Dame finally start to live up to the expectations placed on it every season, and which B.J. Daniels is going to show up for South Florida? - Tom Fornelli
#25 USC vs. Minnesota - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET
Perhaps it is saying something about how quiet Lane Kiffin has been at USC that one of the more notable things about this game is actually about the opposing coach. The Jerry Kill era begins in earnest on the road and he brings a Minnesota team that barely resembles the one that lost to the Trojans a year ago. The Gophers will compete with dual-threat MarQueis Gray at quarterback and a solid linebacking corps but it will be a tough task to pull of the upset against the firepower of the USC offense. Matt Barkley and Robert Woods are a fun pair to watch while Trojan fans will be nervous to see if the defense looks any better than it did last year. - Bryan Fischer
Michigan vs. Western Michigan - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 pm ET
It's a new era for Michigan -- again -- and Brady Hoke's charges are going to face a stiff challenge from MAC stalwarts Western Michigan. Yes, seriously. The Wolverines probably won't be suffering for points with Denard Robinson leading the new offense, but the Broncos are more than capable of hanging around in this one, as standout QB Alex Carder should find plenty of opportunities to advance the ball through the air. Keep an eye on this one for some possible afternoon fireworks. - AJ
Ole Miss vs. BYU - ESPN, 4:45pm ET
Life in the SEC West isn't easy for anybody, but if Ole Miss is going to get to six wins and back to a bowl game this year, then this is one of those games the Rebels need to win. Though it's not like BYU is just going to hand the game to them, as the Cougars would like to get their new life as an independent off on the right foot, and what better way to do that than by getting a win against the SEC? - TF
#22 Florida vs. FAU - ESPNU, 7pm ET
The first sign that not everything was well in Gatorland in 2010 was Florida's season opener vs. Miami (Ohio), when Urban Meyer's team gained all of 25 yards through three quarters and wheezed their way to a 34-12 victory. Unfortunately for Meyer, the RedHawks wound up one of the nation's most surprising teams. But just as fortunately for Will Muschamp, his debut as Gator head coach shouldn't be nearly so stressful--FAU has been pegged for the bottom rungs of the Sun Belt, and will be breaking in a new quarterback and six new defensive starters in the Swamp. Most Gator fans should wind up watching quarterback John Brantley rather than the scoreboard, as a steady, solid outing by the much-maligned senior would boost his and his team's confidence considerably. - JH
#1 Oklahoma vs. Tulsa - FX, 8pm ET
The Sooners are the preseason favorite of many people throughout the country, and Saturday night will be their first chance to show people why. This game had a lot more upset potential before the arrest and suspension of Tulsa wide receiver Damaris Johnson, but the possibility that it's a lot closer than most would expect is still there. - TF
#4 LSU vs. #3 Oregon - ABC, 8pm ET
It's not just the game of this year's opening week; it would be the game of every year's opening week. And that's just looking at the rankings of the two teams--add in the Will Lyles drama at both schools, the Tigers' August bar brawl and subsequent Jordan Jefferson suspension, Cliff Harris' and Russell Shepard's respective troubles, Chip Kelly's history of nonconference woes, Jarrett Lee's potential redemption, LaMichael James kicking off his Heisman campaign, the bevy of other All-American candidates on both rosters, and the one-and-only Les Miles, and this game is as intriguing as intriguing gets. For the Ducks, victory may come down to their revamped offensive front giving Darron Thomas enough space to get Kelly's option-game going. Tiger end Sam Montgomery, though, is the kind of elite defensive lineman the Ducks have struggled with even with veteran lines. For LSU, if Lee can avoid turnovers, the Tigers' advantage on both lines-of-scrimmage should eventually prove decisive. But given the Ducks' ball-hawking ways, that's much easier said than done. The one thing we can say for certain: we'll be watching. - JH
#19 Georgia vs. #5 Boise State - ESPN, 8pm ET
Another year, another high profile season opener for the Broncos. Heisman candidate Kellen Moore will lead Boise State into a not-so-neutral Georgia Dome to face the Bulldogs in the annual Chick fil-A Kickoff. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who said this week he hopes to emulate Moore's success, will be trying to make his own statement after an impressive freshman season in 2010. The Georgia-heavy crowd in Atlanta will not be the only uphill battle for the Broncos. Boise State is undersized defensively in comparison to the Bulldogs offensive line, and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is sure to use the 3-4 scheme to put some added pressure on Moore. However, Moore does take care of the ball (74-9 TD:Int ratio last two seasons) and Georgia will be counting on the unproven true freshman Isaiah Crowell to anchor the running game. Get the "LAST" button ready, because you'll want to see both Top 25 showdowns in the primetime slot. - CP
LATE NIGHT SNACK
Hawaii vs. Colorado - ESPN2, 10:15pm ET
This Pac-12 life isn't too bad, is it, Colorado? Your very first game and you get a trip to Hawaii to show for it. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, they still have to face a Hawaii offense featuring dark horse Heisman candidate Bryant Moniz that puts up points in bunches. This game should be an entertaining way to end your Saturday. - TF
Tags: Aaron Murray, ACC, Adam Jacobi, Akron, Alex Carder, Andre Williams, Auburn, B.J. Daniels, Barrett Trotter, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Boston College, Brady Hoke, Braxton Miller, Brett Favre, Brian Kelly, Bryan Fischer, Bryant Moniz, BYU, C-USA, Chase Rettig, Chip Kelly, Chip Patterson, Cliff Harris, Colorado, Conference USA, Damaris Johnson, Dan Persa, Darron Thomas, Denard Robinson, Diondre Borel, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Hawaii, Isaiah Crowell, Jarrett Lee, Jeffrey Whitaker, Jerry Hinnen, Jerry Kill, Joe Bauserman, John Brantley, Jordan Jefferson, Kellen Moore, Kenneth Carter, LaMichael James, Lane Kiffin, Les Miles, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Kuechly, MAC, MarQueis Gray, Matt Barkley, Michigan, Minnesota, Montel Harris, Mountain West, MWC, Non-BCS, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Pac-12, Robert Woods, Russell Shepard, Sam Montgomery, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, Skip Holtz, South Florida, Southern Miss, Sun Belt, Todd Grantham, Tom Fornelli, Tulsa, Urban Meyer, USC, Utah State, WAC, Western Michigan, Will Lyles, Will Muschamp
Posted on: August 17, 2011 4:50 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 5:38 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Despite the best efforts of the Worst ... Offseason ... Ever, it appears the 2011 college football season really is on the verge of getting underway. Your latest evidence? The Sports Illustrated season preview is on its way to newsstands, featuring five regional covers that look something like this:
That's the South Carolina/Alshon Jeffery version, but also available will be covers featuring (left to right), Stanford's Andrew Luck, Alabama's Trent Richardson, Nebraska's Jared Crick and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.
Much of the initial Internet reaction has focused on Jeffery looking, ahem, not quite as svelte as Gamecock fans might like, but the much bigger issue (no pun intended) is that Jeffery's on the cover at all. SI has been producing their multi-pronged regional covers since 2005, and in those six years the fortunes of the teams that have appeared there have been up-and-down, to put it politely. You might even say that these regional covers seem to be ... you know ... cursed.
But don't just take my word for it. Here's the year-by-year breakdown, with a tally of how many teams finished their cover season happy with how it played out:
2010: Boy, did SI pick the wrong year to spotlight defense in its preview coverage; Auburn and Oregon faced off for the national championship with the two most statistically generous defenses in BCS title game history. SI didn't do so hot picking out the right teams to feature, either; Alabama finished fourth in their own division, Boise State saw its most talented team yet finish the year in the Las Vegas Bowl, and Texas, of course, collapsed in a 5-7 heap. We'll be generous and give SI the benefit of the doubt on Ohio State, thanks to the Buckeyes' Sugar Bowl victory. Happy tally: 1 of 4
2009: This year, SI picked out four "party crashers" who would "shake up the BCS." Oops: this was the season the Longhorns and the SEC champion (be it Alabama or No. 1 Florida) seemed destined for their eventual title tilt by the end of September. Double oops: of the four teams picked, only Pac-10 champion Oregon earned a BCS berth at all. Ole Miss and Oklahoma State met in the Cotton Bowl after losing a combined seven games and finishing outside the top 20; Penn State finished a distant third in the Big Ten, having been blown out by both Iowa and the Buckeyes. Happy tally: 1 of 4
2008: SI did have the good sense to spend their final cover of five on Tim Tebow's Gators, the eventual national champions. But three of their other four were duds: preseason No. 1 Georgia lost three games, including routs at the hands of the Tide and Gators; Missouri plummeted from No. 3 to No. 25 after losing three in the regular season and getting drilled by 41 in the Big 12 championship game; and Ohio State was blasted out of the national title race via a 35-3 beatdown from USC, then lost the Big Ten title at home to the Nittany Lions. The Trojans' 12-1 Rose Bowl season wasn't half-bad, though. Happy tally: 2 of 5
2007: We're not sure curse evidence gets more compelling than SI putting Michigan's Mike Hart on one of its covers, then having the Wolverines lose to Appalachian State right out of the gate. But there's still USC losing to Stanford as a 41-point favorite, five-loss Arkansas finishing the season unranked (and with Houston Nutt fired), and Oklahoma laying a pair of colossal eggs against Colorado and West Virginia. In fact, it's only that Fiesta Bowl victory over the Sooners that keeps the Mountaineers -- themselves one stunning loss to Pitt away from the national title game -- out of the unhappy tally themselves. Happy tally: 1 of 5
2006: No less than six regional covers this season. Among the good calls, LSU finished their season with a dominant Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame and Ohio State rolled to a national title game berth. But the Irish never looked like living up to their preseason No. 2 billing, both Texas and USC blew shots at the BCS championship with inexplicable late-season losses, and though 11-2 wasn't a bad year for West Virginia, a pivotal upset at USF and the Gator Bowl wasn't what they had in mind, either. Since we're nice people, though, we'll give WVU half-credit and USC half-credit after their Rose Bowl spanking of Michigan. Happy tally: 3 of 6
2005: The first year of the regional plan was the best one for SI, as Vince Young and Reggie Bush both lived up to that "unstoppable" tagline on their way to the BCS championship game. Florida's Chris Leak, though, not so much; the Gators limped to third in the SEC East in their first year under Urban Meyer. Happy tally: 2 of 3
FINAL VERDICT: Only 10 teams out of the 27 spotlighted by SI's regional covers went on to have satisfying seasons--meaning a whopping 63 percent finished their cover year disappointed. And it's even worse in recent seasons, since half the happy teams came in the first two years of the regional approach. Since then, the ratio of successful-to-unsuccessful campaigns is just 5-to-13. Only twice in these six years have one of those 27 teams -- 2005 Texas and 2008 Florida -- gone on to win the national title.
There's only one word to accurately sum up those kind of results: cursed. Cardinal? Gamecocks? Sooners? Huskers? Tide? Consider yourselves warned.
Tags: Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Andrew Luck, Appalachian State, Arkansas, Auburn, Boise State, Chris Leak, Colorado, curses, Fiesta Bowl, Florida, Gator Bowl, Georgia, Houston Nutt, Iowa, Jared Crick, Jerry Hinnen, Landry Jones, Las Vegas Bowl, Michigan, Mike Hart, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Pac-10, Penn State, Reggie Bush, Rose Bowl, South Carolina, Stanford, Sugar Bowl, Texas, Tim Tebow, Trent Richardson, Urban Meyer, USC, USF, Vince Young, West Virginia
Posted on: August 4, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 4:49 pm
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.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Bobby Petrino, Charlie Weis, Cotton Bowl, Dan Mullen, Florida, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Jeremy Beal, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Jordan Jefferson, Landry Jones, Les Miles, LSU, Mark Richt, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Nick Saban, Oklahoma, Quinton Carter, SEC, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tyler Bray, Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp