Tag:Nick Saban
Posted on: September 22, 2011 2:56 pm
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Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 4



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.

Woman, she is proving to be a tough nut to crack. After her dominance in Week 1 of MWM, I chalked it up to beginner's luck. Then when she had another strong performance in Week 2 I didn't mind that much because I had a better week. But then she went and had another winning week last weekend, which means she's yet to get more games wrong than right.

This is becoming somewhat worrisome. Sure, it's still early in the season, but I've had to deal with her walking around talking smack for those three weeks, and it starts to wear on you. Which is why I'm clinging to the fact that after getting 11 games right in the first week, she picked 7 correct the next week and 6 last week. That's a downward progression! There is hope!

Could this finally be the week where she suffers the pain of a losing week, and has to hear me boast all day and all night? God I hope so.

Michigan (-8 1/2) vs. San Diego State - Saturday 12pm (All times Eastern)

Man - It's hard for me to truly predict what Michigan is going to do on any given weekend because I'm just not sure how serious Brady Hoke is about making Denard Robinson a passing quarterback. Yes, he makes some nice throws from time to time, but it's like buying a Ferrari and then only using it to go to the grocery store. That being said, I'll still take the Wolverines at home in this one. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "What better payback for the coach who deserted you than beating him up in his new house?  Unfortunately, he's the same coach who personally recruited you and designed your playbook. Don Corleone > Sonny Corleone." Pick: Michigan

Machine - Machines do not experience human emotion, so The Machine has no concept of Brady Hoke calling off the dogs against his former players as the Wolverines roll 45-17. Pick: Michigan

Alabama (-12 1/2) vs. Arkansas - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks offense has had a nice start to the season, even without Knile Davis. Which makes that spread seem so very large, but at the same time, Arkansas hasn't faced a defense anywhere near the caliber of Alabama's. I'm not entirely comfortable with this pick, but I'll take the Tide defense at home and give up the points. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "The Tide rams and jams to a victory but Bobby Petrino's got a score to settle from last season, so I'll take the points.  (Some stormy personalities. You may be want to watch this from the comfort of your root cellar.) " Pick: Arkansas

Machine - The Machine sees a big upset this weekend, as Arkansas comes into Tuscaloosa and takes down Nick Saban's squad 35-24. Pick: Arkansas

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

Man - This is one of the tougher games to figure out this weekend. You have a high-powered offense in Oklahoma State going against a Texas A&M offense that has been incredibly efficient so far this season. It's somewhat of a coin toss, and when that's the case, I have to go with the team I think has the better defense along with homefield advantage. Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "First time in over 35 years that two top 10 teams meet at Kyle Field.  Aggies coach Mike Sherman knows that revenge for an 0-3 record against OSU is best served red hot in front of 82,000 rabid fans." Pick: Texas A&M

Machine - The Machine has a lot of respect for Justin Blackmon and his tendency to destroy secondaries without remorse. Blackmon blows up for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Cowboys say goodbye to Kyle Field and win 41-31. Pick: Oklahoma State

Clemson vs. Florida State (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - With the question mark surrounding E.J. Manuel's availability this week, along with Florida State's recent track record in Death Valley, I have a very hard time giving up points with the Seminoles this weekend. I have to go with Clemson. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "With FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel questionable (and a ground game that's even more questionable), I have to take home field advantage + residual Tiger swagger from last week's victory + points." Pick: Clemson

Machine - This game was simulated with Manuel playing for Florida State, and it didn't matter. Clemson wins big, 38-14. Pick: Clemson

South Carolina (-16 1/2) vs. Vanderbilt - Saturday, 7pm

Man - Every part of me feels like I should pick South Carolina in this matchup because Marcus Lattimore is an absolute beast, and Vanderbilt is freaking Vanderbilt. But so far this year Vandy has looked pretty stout on defense, and the Gamecocks are giving up 33 points a game. Football gods help me, but I have to go with the Commodores. Pick: Vanderbilt

Woman - "Not sure how a team that's ranked 10th nationally in defense ends up with this spread.. Maybe it's a point for every three minutes Vandy's D is going to be on the field?  Regardless, I'll take 'em." Pick: Vanderbilt

Machine - The Machine recognize machines, and it does not care about this new Vanderbilt. Lattimore runs for over 200 yards and the Gamecocks roll 45-17. Pick: South Carolina

Kentucky vs. Florida (-17 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - Giving up that many points as a road team in an SEC conference game? That's insane, right? No, it's not because I've seen Kentucky play football this season, and insanity would be watching it again. Pick: Florida

Woman - "I hate these picks. Will Florida win by two touchdowns? Three?  Ten?  It's like playing roulette.  C'mon, lucky 18, 19, 20..." Pick: Florida

Machine - Bloodbath in Lexington. Florida wins 54-10. Pick: Florida

Oklahoma (-21 1/2) vs. Missouri - Saturday, 8pm

Man - This spread seems abnormally large to me given that Missouri isn't some doormat, and the Tigers did beat Oklahoma last season. That being said, I don't see a lot of the passes James Franklin completed against Arizona State a couple weeks ago finding their way to the hands of his receivers against this secondary. Plus I just don't see Oklahoma's offense struggling two weeks in a row. So I guess it's Boomer Sooner. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "Missouri, you and your bonnie Prince Gabbert kept Oklahoma from achieving its rightful place as heir to the BCS throne last season.  Well, it's time for you to apologize." Pick: Oklahoma

Machine - The Machine doesn't think Oklahoma will have too much trouble with Missouri this week, but it does feel that spread is a bit ridiculous as Oklahoma wins 34-21. Pick: Missouri

West Virginia vs. LSU (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Forget the actual game, I just wanna hang out with Les Miles and Dana Holgorsen for a night. You know that would be a good time. As for the game, though, I've seen what LSU's defense can do to high-powered offenses before, so I'm reauxling with the Tigers. Pick: LSU

Woman - "I'm gonna be honest with y'all.  I don't care who it is, until the Tigers lose, I'm picking Les." Pick: LSU

Machine - West Virginia's offense will definitely struggle against LSU, but the Mountaineers keep it close in a 24-20 loss. Pick: West Virginia

Arizona vs. Oregon (-16 1/2) - Saturday, 10:15pm

Man - I've seen Arizona play a few times already this season, and to be honest, I'm just not nearly as impressed with Nick Foles and the offense as I have been before this season. I just have a hard time believing that from what I've seen so far that this Wildcats offense can hang with Oregon for a full 60 minutes. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "Another year, another dogfight.  Question is, will it be like the 2009 squeaker or the 2010 2nd half blowout?   I'm picking Wildcats QB wonderboy Nick Foles to keep it close.  Oregon wins but doesn't cover." Pick: Arizona

Machine - Yeah, The Machine is pretty sure you're going to want to stay up late and watch this one. It's going to be rather fun to watch. Oregon wins 45-42. Pick: Arizona

Arizona State (-2 1/2) vs. USC - Saturday, 10:15pm

Man - I remember watching this game last season, and it was one of the crazier, more entertaining games of the year. USC eventually squeaked by with a 34-33 win, which was their 11th straight win over Arizona State. Five of those wins have come in Tempe, so as close as a lot of these games have been in recent years, until Arizona State proves to me that it can actually beat USC, I can't go any other way. Pick: USC

Woman - "Here's a sure bet:  Most Silicone At Any Football Game This Season.  Meanwhile, the Sun Devils haven't beaten the Trojans since 1999.  I'll go with that streak." Pick: USC

Machine - The Machine does not see a game like the one we all witnessed last year, as the Trojans win rather easily 27-14. Pick: USC

Season Record (Last week)



1. Woman 24-11 (6-4)

2. Man 21-14 (5-5)

3. Machine 17-18 (4-6) 
 

Posted on: September 22, 2011 9:43 am
 

Duron Carter to redshirt for Alabama

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Barring a major surprise, the season-long Duron Carter Watch is officially over for 2011.

The JUCO wide receiver transfer to Alabama (and son of NFL legend Cris Carter) has been waiting for full academic clearance since the day of his enrollment in Tuscaloosa, having eventually received the go-ahead to practice but still not to play. That clearance has been believed to have been an "any day now" development for weeks, but Nick Saban told reporters Wednesday that he no longer expects it to arrive this season.

"There's one piece of information that we did not receive, have not ever received and may not ever receive," Saban said. "It doesn't look like he will be eligible for this season."

Carter remains enrolled in school, available for practice and, according to Saban, will be eligible after a year of residency. He will redshirt in 2011 and still have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2012.

How big a blow Carter's ineligibility will prove to be for the Tide depends on how you view two factors: how good he might be, and how badly the Tide need him. On the downside, Carter was a former blue-chip recruit who contributed (if not quite "shone") during a true freshman season at Ohio State and flashed further potential in his single year at Coffeyville (Kan.) C.C. And aside from senior Marquis Maze, the Tide have few proven downfield threats of the kind Carter represents.

On the upside, though, Maze's season is off to an outstanding start, steady senior Darius Hanks has returned from a two-game suspension and had two receptions a week ago, and there's still time for young wideouts like Kenny Bell or DeAndrew White to develop into legitimate playmakers. And even if the Tide's need for Carter was desperate, there's no guarantee that after missing much of fall camp and the first several games of the season, he'd be capable of making more than a token impact.

At this point, we're leading more towards the latter viewpoint than the former; the way the Tide defense has begun the year, the offense could start a collection of well-trained collies at wideout and still be a national title contender. But if Alabama does find itself locked in a tight battle against Arkansas this Saturday and needs that extra bit of playmaking oomph Carter might have been able to offer him, that missing "piece of information" could prove costly all the same.
Posted on: September 17, 2011 11:03 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 2 Alabama 41, North Texas 0

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

ALABAMA WON: 
It amounted to little more than a light scrimmage for the Tide, but Nick Saban's team handled its business in its typically professional manner, outgaining the Mean Green 586-169 and holding them without a point. And in the weekly "how good is AJ McCarron?" watch, the Tide starter under center went a solid 15-of-21 for 190 yards and -- most importantly -- no interceptions.

WHY ALABAMA WON: We'll go with the decades of winning tradition yielding the kind of multi-million dollar budget and five-star-packed roster that teams like North Texas can only dream of, first and foremost. But as for specific on-field advantages tonight, nowhere was the Tide more dominant than at the running back position. No matter who you play, two tailbacks collecting 328 yards on just 20 carries -- an average of 16.4 yards per-attempt -- is mighty impressive.

Those were the numbers for Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, with both players breaking loose for emphatic long scores; Richardson went to the house from 58 and 71 yards, Lacy from 43 and 67. Richardson's 167 yards, 3 touchdownss, and 15.2 yard average would do a lot of good for his Heisman campaign ... but he likely could have done even more for it if Lacy's strong play didn't continue to demand a chunk of carries that might otherwise go to the starter.

WHEN ALABAMA WON: When Jeremy Shelley kicked a short field goal with 9:56 left in the first quarter. North Texas could have played for the better part of a month against the Tide starters without scoring.

WHAT ALABAMA WON: A healthy portion of rest for the starters, and only a week before the Tide open their SEC schedule against highly dangerous Arkansas. And maybe just that extra ounce of preparation and confidence for McCarron as he gets ready for the biggest game of his young career.


Posted on: September 15, 2011 3:23 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 3



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.

Last week will go down in history as one of two things, depending on the eventual winner of this contest. It's either going to be the week that man stood back up after being knocked down early in the fight, or the week that machine completely blew a gasket, never regaining its dominance over the human race. Whichever one is remembered, I have no control over at this point as history is and always has been written by the victor, and at this point in time, that victor is woman.

I am not worried, however. Last week I was able to overcome artificial intelligence. How much harder can it be to overthrow estrogen?

Mississippi State vs. LSU (-3 1/2) - Thursday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - I'm a big fan of Chris Relf, Vick Ballard and the Mississippi State offense, and I really enjoyed watching last week's game against Auburn. Even if Relf and the Bulldogs came up just short. I'd like to pick them here because it'd be nice for Dan Mullen to finally get a win over the SEC West -- non-Ole Miss division -- and to do it at home. The problem is I saw what LSU's defense did to Oregon, and I'm terrified to pick against Les Miles. Pick: LSU

Woman - "Both teams are in the top 25 and, sure, the way Mississippi State marches down the field, they probably could have won World War One a year sooner. But it's a night game. In front of a national TV audience. Did you hear that, Les? It's just you, your Houdini playbook and millions of adoring fans. 'All right, ESPN, I'm ready for my close-up.'" Pick: LSU

Machine - Mississippi State has a fan in The Machine, as it sees the LSU offense having a much tougher time with the Bulldogs defense, and MSU wins 20-14. Pick: Mississippi State

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

Man - I don't care who wins this game, just as long as Maryland promises to never wear those uniforms it wore against Miami ever again. Thankfully Randy Edsall confirmed the Terps would be sporting a much cleaner looking black jersey on Saturday. Out of sheer gratitude for this decision, and my childhood love of the Ninja Turtles, I'm going with Turtle Power. Pick: Maryland

Woman - "With an extra week to prepare and their stylish Nike 'I Like Turtles' home uniforms, the Terps hold an advantage over the slightly shaky Mountaineers." Pick: Maryland

Machine - Man, Woman or Machine, it seems we all read our fables in our developmental stages. The Machine makes it a clean sweep by choosing the turtle over the hare that is the West Virginia offense, 38-24. Pick: Maryland

Clemson (-3 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I know that Clemson is at home in this one, but it's hard for me to pick the Tigers to cover this spread. After all, Clemson was at home against Troy and it struggled during the first half. Then last week at home Clemson could only beat Wofford by 8 points. Meanwhile Auburn has shown that it's resilient and it won a tough conference game already. I just have to go with the defending champs here. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "You giving me points? Then I'll take the team with 17 consecutive wins. Just be sure to keep your snacks and potables within arm's reach, because these twin hurry-up offenses will produce a game that's the football equivalent of a high-speed chase." Pick: Auburn

Machine - Clemson may rub Howard's Rock for good luck before each game, but The Machine sees Auburn taking that rock and beating Clemson over the head with hit for 60 minutes. Auburn wins 31-7. Pick: Auburn

Nebraska (-16.5) vs. Washington - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - These teams meet for the third time in a year, and last year at Washington Taylor Martinez and the Cornhuskers destroyed the Huskies. Then when the teams met again in the Holiday Bowl, Nebraska looked like a team that just wanted its season to end and to move on to the Big Ten. I have a feeling we'll see the regular season version of this squad once more, and in Lincoln, I'll take Big Red. Pick: Nebraska

Woman - "'Bo mad. Bo want revenge. Bo remember Holiday Bowl.' Yeah, but we remember the last two weeks. Huskers win but don't cover." Pick: Washington

Machine - The Taylor Martinez that went crazy at Husky Stadium last season? Yeah, he performs an encore for the home folk this week, and Nebraska rolls 34-3. Pick: Nebraska

Notre Dame (-4 1/2) vs. Michigan State - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I don't actually bet on college football games, but Notre Dame fans may be the greatest gift to those who do. How many weeks will delusional Domers allow the Irish to be favored? Until Notre Dame proves to me that it can beat an average team, there's no way I'm picking them to beat a good one. Pick: Michigan State

Woman - "My first girly moment of the season. Is this a pity pick? Yes. Yes, it is." Pick: Notre Dame

Machine - If you remember last year's game between these two teams, it ended with a fake field goal and a heart attack for Mark Dantonio. The Machine doesn't see things being quite as stressful this year, though it's possible Brian Kelly is hospitalized afterward. Michigan State destroys the Irish 54-17. Pick: Michigan State

Florida (-9 1/2) vs. Tennessee - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Florida's offense has looked pretty good through two games, even with John Brantley being John Brantley. Still, the Gators haven't faced much in the way of resistance in those first two contests. At the same time, Tennessee's defense doesn't really impress me, and the Gators are giving up 1.5 points per game. I have to go with that Florida defense at home in The Swamp. Pick: Florida

Woman - "MOVIE PREVIEW VOICEOVER: In a world where two brothers, Derek and Will, sons of Saban, an evil overlord, go their separate ways only to meet on the battlefield as adversaries, only one will prevail. And one will die. (Or fail to cover.)" Pick: Tennessee

Machine - Not even The Machine finds itself immune to the charm and wisdom of the great Derek Dooley and his orange pants. That being said, Dooley's charisma only carries him so far, as the Vols lose 29-21 but that's good enough for a cover. Pick: Tennessee

UCLA vs. Texas (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - This game should not be so hard to pick! On one side (Texas) there's a team looking for revenge, but one that's also on the road with two new quarterbacks making their first starts. On the other side is a team coached by Rick Neuheisel. I feel like this is a game that will end on a fumble that both teams fail to jump on ten times before somebody finally lands on it in the end zone. But who finally falls on it!? Oh man, I'll just take the home dog in this one, though I'm going to need to hold onto Rick's pistol while watching. Pick: UCLA

Woman - "I want to say UCLA (Lord knows, their student body has paid enough in increased tuition to earn a win), but they're struggling with injuries and a head coach whose playbook is more Chaka Khan than Genghis. Meanwhile, the Longhorns have some good ole fashioned on-the-road rage brewing against a team that embarrassed them last season. Clear eyes, furious hearts..." Pick: Texas

Machine - The Machine loves post-Garrett Gilbert Texas, and the Longhorns offense finally clicks in Los Angeles. Texas wins 30-6. Pick: Texas

Miami (-1 1/2) vs. Ohio State - Saturday, 7:30pm

Man - If history has taught me anything it's that giving up points with a team led by Jacory Harris is an extremely scary proposition, and every fiber of my being is telling me to stay away. Unfortunately, I just can't get over how unimposing Ohio State's offense looked last week under Joe Bauserman. So in Jacory I begrudgingly trust. Pick: Miami

Woman - "Buoyed by a home crowd and inspired by their new fight song, the U digs deep and wins the first annual NCAA Shame Bowl." Pick: Miami

Machine - The Machine sees a long day for Joe Bauserman, as he's sacked 4 times and throws 2 interceptions and no touchdowns. Jacory throws 2 interceptions of his own, but the 3 touchdowns help. Miami 27-7. Pick: Miami

Florida State vs. Oklahoma (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - College football just seems better when Florida State is really good, so part of me wants to pick the Seminoles in this one. Unfortunately, thanks to a fake Austin Box Twitter account and some rather unfortunate photoshops I've seen created by FSU fans this week, I'm going to side with karma and the team that had an extra week to prepare for this one. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "Another huge game. This one took me awhile. But then I realized it probably wasn't an accident FSU legend Bobby Bowden picked this week to go public with his successful battle against prostate cancer. And don't forget Chief Osceola, Renegade and 82,000 fans shaking the very foundation of Doak Campbell Stadium." Pick: Florida State

Machine - Attention Florida State: The Machine is impressed with the turnaround it has seen in Tallahassee the last few years, but it wants you to know there's still a lot of work left to do. Oklahoma wins 42-14. Pick: Oklahoma

Arizona vs. Stanford (-10 1/2) - Saturday, 10:45pm

Man - Stanford didn't exactly look like Stanford during the first half of its game against Duke last week, but then rolled in the second half. I have a feeling the Cardinal won't be as slow out of the gate on the road in its first conference game of the season, and the Andrew Luck Heisman campaign begins in full force this weekend. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "If this was a Beer Bong Smackdown, Stanford wouldn't stand a chance. But unless the Wildcats secondary can Krazy Glue itself to the prolific Cardinal tight ends - heck, even if it can - I don't see this ending any other way." Pick - Stanford

Machine - The Machine doesn't even think Stanford needs Andrew Luck that much this week, as Stepfan Taylor runs all over Arizona for 197 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Cardinal roll 47-17. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 18-7 (7-3)
2. Man 16-9 (8-2)
3. Machine 13-12 (2-8)
Posted on: September 14, 2011 6:53 pm
 

SEC RapidReport Roundup, 9/14: Gators ready

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Running down everything you need to know from the week's news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters.



FLORIDA. Just in time for the Gators to face their first opponent of 2011 with a definable pulse -- and judging by their comprehensive smackdown of Cincinnati, Tennessee has more than just a pulse at the moment -- Will Muschamp will have his most complete roster to date. Defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd will officially be in uniform after serving his NCAA-mandated two-game suspension, and running back Jeff Demps will be able to go after missing most of the Gators' drubbing of UAB with a shoulder problem.

"He's fine," Muschamp said of Demps. "He's playing. He's been practicing." The one question mark is backup linebacker Dee Finley, arrested earlier this week on multiple misdemeanor charges; Muschamp would not say whether Finley had been suspended or not.

TENNESSEE. On the other side of the rivalry, Derek Dooley has several nicked-up players -- including pivotal defensive back Prentiss Waggner -- practicing in non-contact jerseys, but only as a "precautionary" measure. For senior starting defensive end Ben Martin, though, even a precautionary non-contact jersey would be an improvement; an ankle injury means Dooley would "like to get 15 plays from him" but may have to keep him on the sideline entirely.

In other Vol lineup news, struggling freshman Justin Coleman is holding off senior Art Evans at starting corner ... for now. On the scheduling front, Tennessee will play third-year FCS program Georgia State in 2012.

AUBURN. Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris, the offensive coordinator for Auburn Week 3 opponent Clemson, have something unusual in common besides their similar schemes: both came up through the high school coaching ranks. Malzahn hopes the matchup will help other teams look at high school coaches when filling out their staffs. "Hopefully, things like this will give more high school coaches opportunities that we've been fortunate enough to both have," Malzahn said.

The Tigers have been using as many as 12 defensive linemen and won't change those plans against Clemson, though redshirt freshman end Justin Delaine's season-ending knee injury may limit that number by one. True freshman kickoff returner Tre Mason is hoping Clemson kicks to him after Mississippi State began using squib kicks last week.

SOUTH CAROLINA. Despite the Gamecocks' 2-0 record, Steve Spurrier isn't thrilled with his team's defense. "We don’t look like we know what we are doing or we have some bad players, one or the other," he said. "I have been reading about all these great athletes we have on defense, but we don’t play great that’s for sure right now." He had similar comments for his wide receivers, who he said "are getting a lot of publicity, but need to start doing something." Wideouts other than Alshon Jeffery have combined for only five receptions so far this season.

Despite the Gamecocks' struggles in the passing game (on both sides of the ball), Spurrier said he won't be rotating Stephen Garcia with Connor Shaw. "The competition was over," Spurrier said. "[Garcia]’s got every opportunity to take us as far as he can because we firmly believe he’s our best quarterback on the team."

ELSEWHERE: Alabama senior wide receiver Darius Hanks will return for the Tide's meeting with North Texas after missing the first two weeks with a redshirting issue. "I don’t think his transition back will be a problem," Nick Saban said ... Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden is surprisingly already practicing again after his broken ankle was found to be only a hairline fracture. Bolden could see the field as early as this week ...

Mississippi State
head coach Dan Mullen says his players have practiced "angry" this week after last week's loss to Auburn. "They felt we should have won that football game," he said ... As for the Bulldogs' Thursday night opponent, LSU head coach Les Miles would not rule out backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger making an apparance after a successful debut against Northwestern State. "I would anticipate playing Jarrett Lee really start to finish," Miles said, but added "You just never can tell when you may turn to him and see if we can get a hot hand and go." Lee is nursing an ankle injury but should be fine against MSU ...

Starting Georgia safety Shawn Williams could get a look at inside linebacker after the position has been hard-hit by injuries ... Vanderbilt's surprising recruiting renaissance has continued with the commitment of a top-25 wide receiver from Minnesota.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:03 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 2

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College football's encore weekend not only lived up to expectations, but beat them.

It also caused at least few hearts to skip a beat or two around the country. It seemed like every channel you were on, there was a game coming down to the wire or ready to head to overtime. From the noon games to the night games, last Saturday was one big, drama-filled day.

Notre Dame-Michigan, USC-Utah, Cal-Colorado, Washington-Hawaii, North Carolina-Rutgers, Auburn-Mississippi State, Ohio State-Toledo, Texas-BYU, Iowa State-Iowa, Vanderbilt-UConn and several others left everyone on the edge of their seats. There weren't a ton of great defenses among the group but that didn't hamper the fun as teams either came back or fell just short. Heck, the first night game in Ann Arbor had as much drama as any of them in just 72 seconds.

One game I was really looking forward to going into Saturday was between the Hedges and that game more than lived up to expectations and put one coach in even hotter water.

The game seemed to be South Carolina personified. It's why everybody's hand trembled writing them in to win the SEC East this year. Not only was it the Gamecocks' history but they had a quarterback who frustrated fans and Old Ball Coaches alike in Stephen Garcia. When he threw his first interception of the game, it was simply Garcia being Garcia. The ESPN director, as if he understood perfectly, cut to a shot of Garcia with his hands on his hips, staring down his mistake while clinching his lips and a coach yelling at him. Later in the game he rolled out of the pocket and threw a beautiful pass that reminded everybody of his talent. Again, just Garcia being Garcia.

This is a good and very talented Gamecocks team that can beat anybody on any given Saturday if they don't wind up beating themselves first.

“Georgia outplayed us, give them credit, they outplayed us but somehow or another we won the game,” Steve Spurrier said post game. “Somehow it happens like that. Somebody was looking out for us tonight.”

Running back Marcus Lattimore broke out for 176 yards and a touchdown as the team rode him for 27 carries. USC will have to be wearing of overusing Lattimore because he's the key to their success but at least he had 10 fewer carries than he did against the Bulldogs a year ago. His ability to find just a little hole and take off is special and he certainly can run very hard between the tackles.

On the other side of the ball, how scary is the Gamecocks' defensive line? We knew it was going to be good but maybe not quite this nasty. Melvin Ingram was superb, taking a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and scooping up a fumble for a touchdown after fellow end Jadeveon Clowney nearly took off the head of UGA quarterback Aaron Murray. Only in the SEC do 275-pound defensive ends score twice in a game and run 68 yards while doing so.

The thing about Clowney, the nation's consensus number one recruit out of high school, is how he stands out on every snap just due to his size. Then, as soon as the ball is snapped, he stands out for his explosiveness and physicality - making you drop your job and say 'Wow' a couple of times a game. Heck, Murray might want to leave school early just to get away from him. Clowney still isn't up to speed mentally but it's coming and coming quickly. If you're an SEC quarterback with South Carolina on the schedule, prepare your ice bath in advance.

For Mark Richt, he might have to go bang his head against the wall a few times after every game. He's had injuries and suspensions and even NCAA issues thrown his way but there's still no getting around the fact that this is a good group of players who haven't lived up to expectations. Just when it seemed like Georgia was about to break through, they'd commit a big error. The good news is it looked like freshman running back Isaiah Crowell got going, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown after breaking a few nice runs into the open field. But even as he took two steps forward, his fumble at midfield that Stephon Gilmore returned to the red zone was a step back. He's still a little behind in pass protection but the flashes he showed reminded everybody, coaches included, why he was so highly recruited out of high school.

The biggest thing that Richt can do next week is get his team to have fun against Coastal Carolina. There will be no avoiding hearing about his job status as the heat was turned up even higher after the loss - he has to get his team refocused before starting the heart of their SEC schedule. Get everybody involved, call some trick plays, something - anything - to get his team focused on having fun playing football instead of worrying about him. He can't eliminate all the distractions but he can get his team to buy back in week-by-week. The schedule is manageable enough that they could conceivably go 10-2 this year - more than enough to quiet critics for a few more months. The Bulldogs are talented but lost to two teams they should have to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1996.

Now the trick is winning out using their own talented roster. No easy task but one that can certainly happen.

Stat of the week

If I had to take someone to Vegas with me, I just might select Gene Chizik. All he seems to do is give heart attack to the Auburn faithful and win last second games. The Tigers pulled off the upset this week against Mississippi State thanks to a goal line stand that kept quarterback Chris Relf out of the end zone by inches to preserve a 41-34 win at home.

"We'd prefer to win football games a lot different than we are, but there's something to be said when you can fight down to the end when it doesn't look good and still win the game," Chizik said after the game.

While the head coach certainly would prefer a less stressful ending to games, he might need to get used to them if his team is to keep winning. After taking nearly two hours just to play the first half against the Bulldogs, I was digging around looking for the total game time but managed to find an even more eye-popping stat.

Auburn's offense has averaged 56.5 plays during their first two games while the defense has averaged 90.5 snaps per game. Yes, the defense is almost literally on the field twice as long the offense. For a young team with issues on both sides of the ball, that's an uh-oh.

For comparison's sake, Arkansas has averaged 74.5 plays on offense and 57.5 on defense during their light non-conference schedule. Only two SEC teams have average more than 70 snaps on defense, and just six teams nationally have their defense on the field for more than 80 plays a game. No one even approaches 90 defensive plays a game. The national average for number of plays on defense is 67.3 and 68.8 on offense.

Up against that little issue, it's almost shocking Auburn's 2-0 but they are thanks to some late game heroics. Whether this is a serious flaw of just the byproduct of two crazy games remains to be seen but, bottom-line, Chizik needs to make some adjustments.

Other stats of note

- Michigan's Denard Robinson thrilled the country against Notre Dame and became the first UM quarterback to beat the Irish twice since Jim Harbaugh did so back in the late 1980's. He also has accounted for an astounding 96% of the offense the last two games between the schools.

- Texas has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the second half while USC outscored their opponent in the 4th quarter for just the fourth time in 15 games this weekend.

- Tyler Bray's 405 yards are the most for a Tennessee quarterback since the legend himself, Peyton Manning, wore orange. Bray finished 34-of-41 and tossed four touchdowns. Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers both had 10 catches for over 100 yards and the pair combined for three TD receptions.

- In the last 11 years, the Georgia-South Carolina series has only been decided by nine points or less eight times. Since 2004, the winner has had fewer than 20 points every year but 2009 and 2011.

- Alabama has not allowed a touchdown in the first quarter for seven straight games.

- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine once again this year. He has a nation's-best 35 total tackles while the next closest player has 27.

Yard-by-yard

- What an impressive, almost surgical attack led by Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys' offense came out and pretty much blew away the Arizona secondary on Thursday en route to a 37-14 win in Stillwater. Weeden connected on his 13 passes and finished up with a ho-hum 397 yards after slowing down in the second half. He's flown under the radar a little bit (even in his own state) but in 15 starts, he has only two losses by a total of 16 points. It's sometime easy to say a lot of his success is due to receiver Justin Blackmon but Weeden is the triggerman for what the team does. This team can also run the ball pretty well - Joseph Randle is 15th in the country in rushing - and should make for a fun Big 12 regular season when they play fellow top 15 teams Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

- Senior writer Bruce Feldman touched on FIU in his Sunday column but what a win for Mario Cristobal's program. Their win over Louisville was the first win ever for the program over BCS team and showed that the Golden Panthers are more than just the dynamic all-purpose superstar T.Y. Hilton. They take on another rising in-state program in UCF this week and if they can pull off the upset, a run at going undefeated isn't out of the question. It will be tough to stop the Knights but FIU has the athletes and coaches to make it a game.

- Speaking of Louisville, their game against Kentucky might be downright unwatchable. Louisville is a mess offensively and their defense is suspect. Luckily for Charlie Strong, they'll face a Kentucky team that has serious issues with both lines. It's going to really be rough once the Wildcats get into SEC play this year if they continue to play as sloppy as they have been during their first two games. Fans from both schools are probably counting down the days until basketball season already.

- If there's one thing that might be different under Luke Fickell at Ohio State, it's the offense is involving the tight end more. Senior Jake Stoneburner came into the season with 22 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games this season he has eight catches for 93 yards and four TD's and seems to be one of quarterback Joe Bauserman's favorite targets. The Buckeyes haven't look completely in rhythm on offense but that's not Stoneburner's fault.

- Not sure what to make of Texas' win over BYU other than it's a baby step back to respectability. Garrett Gilbert's not who Mack Brown wanted him to be coming out of camp, looking shaky again with some bad decisions before being pulled for David Ash and Case McCoy. Using Ash in some zone read situations was a good change of pace and was a productive play with their speed at running back - a group that finally got going, including freshman Malcolm Brown. The defense still is a concern, as BYU seemed to pick apart the middle of the field. Might take awhile for everybody to get comfortable with Manny Diaz' system but there's some talent on the team. Baby steps.

- Two quarterbacks in the Northwest were rolling this weekend. In Oregon, Darron Thomas and the Ducks offense seemed to be back in their normal sixth-gear against Nevada. Thomas had just 13 attempts - after throwing for 54 against LSU - but six of them were for touchdowns on Saturday. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas had over 200 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns. He's a small but tough back who has speed to burn, should be fun to see what Chip Kelly does with him as he learns more of the playbook.

At Washington, Keith Price got the Huskies off to a 2-0 start by throwing for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He connected on his first eight throws and has spread the ball around to a good receiving group well. Things got a little tight against Hawaii but Price and running back Chris Polk kept the Huskies moving. This team may not be a top 15-caliber squad but they're certainly going to give others fits if they can stop playing down to their competition at times.

- I was a bit shocked to see that Clemson opened up as a favorite against Auburn this week, their own issues aside. Dabo Swinney's club struggled against Wafford and things are not going to get any easier. The offense is productive in the stat sheet but in they're still struggling to adjust to Chad Morris' system. The rush defense in particular is very concerning, ranking 107th in the country after two games against a Sun Belt and an FCS opponent.

- Several people in the Alabama program told me that the Crimson Tide defense might be the best ever under Nick Saban. After watching two games, I think they're close to being right. The score was a bit closer than expected against Penn State at 27-11 but this is a very good group. They look faster and deeper than the national championship squad a couple of years ago and are not the opposing quarterback's best friend, to say the least.

Pulling Rank

My top 10 after week 2:

1. Oklahoma

2. LSU

3. Alabama

4. Boise State

5. Texas A&M

6. Stanford

7. Wisconsin

8. Florida State

9. Oklahoma State

10. South Carolina

Where we'll be this week

I'll be out at the Ineligible Bowl, Ohio State at Miami on Saturday. Senior writer Brett McMurphy is in Tallahassee for the top five showdown of Oklahoma and Florida State.

Across the goal line

There were a series of firsts in the USC-Utah game I was at this weekend. Trojans kicker Andre Heidari recorded the first points in Pac-12 conference history while teammate Marc Tyler will be in the record books for scoring the first touchdown. Thanks to their 17-14 win over the Utes, USC won the final Pac-10 game and the very first Pac-12 game.

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Wait, excuse me, thanks to their 23-14 victory.

In many ways, the first ever Pac-12 conference game - which wasn't really true because Colorado and Cal played earlier that day in an overtime "non-conference" game - featured many of the same elements of its Pac-10 predecessors. There were big plays on offense, a close game, USC on national (cable) television at night and, oh yeah, an officiating controversy.

As I walked down the steps of the Coliseum toward the field right before their drive, I kept thinking this was a welcome to the conference moment for Utah. Boy was it ever.

I was about 10 yards away when, on 4th down, DeVonte Christopher caught an in-route that seemed to fall just short of the first down marker. It seemed like a bad spot but the refs said it was a turnover on downs. Then they reviewed it, remarked the spot and gave Utah a first down. Saved by Pac-10… er, -12 replay officials.

Then there was the pass interference call on the next play. That set up the Utes' field goal attempt. I couldn't quite see the holder but was looking at the middle of the line in case the kick was blocked. Next thing I know the ball is bouncing right into the hands of USC corner Torin Harris and he's off to the end zone. The crowd and sidelines were going crazy as he raced to the end zone. I turned to talk to a colleague and saw a few players run out to get a better angle on the return. Seconds later I saw the flag, then the announcement that the game was over. The touchdown didn't count, but the game was over.

What just happened I wondered. Duty, however, called as I tried to grab a few players to talk about the win (or, in the case of the Utes, loss). I kept thinking how close Utah had gotten and, in their first conference game, they had played like they belonged despite coming up short in the win column. They came into a storied venue and almost knocked off the conference's most storied program. Utah is a good team that was well coached but wasn't quite good enough on a beautiful Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Then there was a tweet that popped up as I got back to the press box to begin transcribing. Hold your horses, the score was in question. The Pac-12 was reviewing what happened at the end of the game. As Michael Lev of the O.C. Register noted down on the field, the touchdown had huge implications for bettors across the country with USC favored by 8-8.5 points.

That's when the story changed from Utah being not quite good enough to, apparently, the Pac-12 officials "miss-communicating" and they were actually nine points from being good enough.

It was an unusual ending that I'm still trying to get my head around because the score itself changed after the fact - regardless what the conference says. The Caesars, MGM and Wynn sports books apparently stayed with the 17-14 result. The Hilton, Cantor, South Point sports books switched to 23-14. Some honored both. If you threw away a winning ticket, that is a bad beat that will be with you for a long time.

A finish that was wild, unbelievable and involved money. In a roundabout way, the first ever Pac-12 game got me very prepared for the Ineligible Bowl next week.

I knew you were good Larry Scott, didn't know you were this good.

Posted on: September 11, 2011 3:55 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2011 4:16 pm
 

SEC Poll Reactions, Week 2

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the SEC fared, from the top of the polls to its bottom, and what it means.

ALABAMA/LSU. Entering this week, there was some expectation that a comprehensive performance from the Crimson Tide in Happy Valley might allow Alabama to retake the No. 2 slot in the media poll and consolidate their lead on the Bayou Bengals -- scheduled for what was little more than a light scrimmage against Northwestern State -- in the Coaches.

Thanks to getting that comprehensive performance, the Crimson Tide did indeed leapfrog the Tigers into No. 2 in both polls--but their margin for error in either balloting remains thinner than Nick Saban's patience for unforced mistakes. In the AP, Alabama has eight fewer first-place votes but a miniscule six-point lead all the same (1,422 to 1,416); in the Coaches, the margin is 38 points, less than half the gap between LSU and fourth-place Boise State.

Frankly, this is how it should be; both teams have decisive victories over quality opponents (though Oregon does look a good bit stronger than the Lions at the moment), both have overpowering defenses and a few offensive questions, and both spent one week dallying against lesser competition. If it looks like the pollsters are pslitting hairs at the moment, that's because those hairs ought to be split.

SOUTH CAROLINA. Interestingly, the team just ahead of the Gamecocks in each poll -- Virginia Tech -- happened to face the same team in Week 2 -- East Carolina -- Carolina had faced in Week 1. So between the Gamecocks' road victory over a desperate Georgia team and Tech's weaker performance against the Pirates, it's only fair that Steve Spurrier's team jumped the Hokies in both polls, going from No. 12 to No. 11. The Gamecocks are even within striking distance of the top 10 in the AP, sitting only five points back from Nebraska.

Too bad the Gamecocks won't have much of a chance to make an impression the next two weeks--they take on Navy and Vanderbilt.

ARKANSAS.
The Hogs blasted New Mexico, but given that the Lobos may not be much better than Arkansas's Week 1 FCS opponent Missouri State, there can't be any complaints out of Fayetteville about staying at No. 13 in the Coaches and No. 14 in the AP.

FLORIDA. The Gators blew past overmatched UAB in a second straight tune-up, but thanks to Mississippi State's loss and Ohio State's ineffective performance against Toledo, the Gators moved up anyway to No. 17 in the Coaches and No. 18 in the AP. That's a jump of four spots from the Gators preseason rank in each poll, just for beating the hapless Blazers and even-more-hapless FAU--sometimes scheduling cupcakes pays, apparently.

AUBURN. Weclome back to the AP poll, Tigers; Auburn's win over previous No. 16 Mississippi State has the defending national champions re-included at No. 21 in the AP and up three spots to No. 19 in the Coaches.

It's not a bad reward, but there's an argument to be made that the AP could do even more for the Tigers, though, and are still overreacting to the Week 1 escape against Utah State. After all, look at Florida--the media started the season with Auburn just one spot behind the Gators. Since then, Auburn has beaten two teams better than either of Florida's opponents--and now sit five spots behind the Gators.

MISSISSIPPI STATE. The Bulldogs can thank their New Year's Day Gator Bowl pounding of Michigan for just remaining in both polls this week, clinging to the No. 25 rung; without that emphatic victory, there's no doubt MSU doesn't enter this past week at No. 16/17, and (in turn) even less doubt they lose that top-25 spot. At this point, it's not like beating Memphis (47-3 losers to Arkansas State) should be worth anything in the voters' minds.

TENNESSEE. It's time for the voters to pay more attention to the Vols. After throttling a likely bowl team in Cincinnati, Tennessee has accomplished more in the win column and looked more impressive in doing so than, say, West Virginia, which beat Marshall in Week 1 and somehow trailed middle-of-the-road FCS program Norfolk State at halftime in Week 2. But the Mountaineers are ranked 20th in the Coaches and 18th in the AP, while the Vols limp along deep in the "Also Receiving Votes" category.

That's not to say the two teams should necessarily be switched; the young Vols still have a lot to prove. But there's no way the gap should be that wide given the results on the field.

Posted on: September 10, 2011 7:33 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2011 4:33 am
 

QUICK HITS: Alabama 27, Penn State 11



Posted by Adam Jacobi

ALABAMA WON. The third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide cruised to victory in Happy Valley on Saturday, besting Penn State 27-11. Trent Richardson ran for 111 yards and two scores against a tough PSU defense, and Eddie Lacy chipped in 11 carries for 85 yards for the Tide. Alabama held Penn State to just 251 yards on the day.

WHY ALABAMA WON: Alabama had a vaunted defense, and it showed up to play in this game, but it's also clear that Penn State's quarterback situation is just about a disaster. Rob Bolden was just 11-29 for 144 yards and one bad interception, but his performance was downright virtuoso compared to Matt McGloin, who went 1-10 for 0 yards. That is not a typo. McGloin's quarterback rating for the game was 10.0, which is just about as bad as it gets. Credit for that goes to Alabama's defense, to be sure, but both PSU quarterbacks were missing throws badly over the course of the game.

WHEN ALABAMA WON: The Alabama defense was so stifling that pretty much any lead would be safe, but when Richardson ran 13 yards to pay dirt with 6:14 left, making the score 27-3 and pushing the big back over 100 yards, PSU fans were free to head to the exits.

WHAT ALABAMA WON: Penn State's offense may have been an exercise in ineptitude, but its defense is legit, and Beaver Stadium is still one of the most intimidating home fields in all of college football. So coming into Happy Valley and leaving with a 24-point win is a tremendous accomplishment for Alabama, and the Tide now has a feather in its cap as it continues to prepare for the SEC and a potential championship run.

WHAT PENN STATE LOST: If Penn State had any confidence in its quarterback situation, it's gone now, as neither QB looks capable of beating a legitimate Big Ten defense -- or even being an effective "game manager," as the term goes. McGloin won't go 1-10 every week, of course, and there'll be better days against worse defenses, but Penn State's prospects for conference play look much bleaker than they did before this game.

THAT WAS CRAZY: With Penn State leading 3-0 late in the first quarter, Alabama needed a kickstart to its offense and found itself facing 4th and 1 at its 40. Nick Saban called a fake punt rush by Brad Smelley. Smelley took contact at the line of scrimmage after what Saban would later say was a blown block, and barely, barely got the ball across the first down line. Alabama would later score a touchdown on the drive, and the Tide never looked back.

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