Posted on: October 30, 2011 5:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.
DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 6, or the number of red zone scores allowed by Alabama this season, one of the many, many statistics in which the Tide defense leads the nation ... and in which LSU trails just a bit behind, tied for 12th with 15. The bad news for Alabama, such as it is? Five of those six scores -- out of nine opponents' red zone attempts total, also the lowest total in the nation -- have been touchdowns. Meaning Alabama's rate of allowing red zone touchdowns (55.6 percent) is essentially identical to the Tigers' (56.3, 9 of 16).
Does any of that matter? Not necessarily--it's a tiny sample size and red zone percentage is notoriously fluky stat anyway. But it also could be an indication that if LSU can break through to the Tide red zone, they're not doomed to settle for field goals no matter how strong the Tide D might be.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: We know we're going to see plenty of smashmouth running, aggressive calls from Les Miles, and huge hits from the nation's two best defenses. But what might we see that we wouldn't think we'd see?
In other words: if we're going to "expect the unexpected," what would we expect? And while that's a tough question to answer (it wouldn't be completely "unexpected" if we saw it coming, right?), here's a few guesses at potential events during Saturday's showdown that might defy conventional wisdom:
AJ McCarron airing it out. For a given definition of "air it out," of course; this is still Trent Richardson's offense first, second, and probably third. But Jim McElwain and Nick Saban have never been averse to letting their quarterbacks put the ball in the air when the situation calls for it. McCarron's already thrown 30 or more times twice this season, vs. Penn State and Vanderbilt. Likewise, though the common memory of Greg McElroy's role in the Tide's 2009 national title is as a low-use "game manager," he, too, surpassed the 30-pass mark four times, including against -- you guessed it -- LSU. With the Tigers ever-so-slightly softer against the pass than the run (10th nationally vs. 3rd), it won't be a huge surprise if McElwain turns to McCarron to handle a sizable chunk of the offense.
LSU connecting on the deep ball. We know the Tigers are going to try and go deep; when you have Rueben Randle and a quarterback in Jarrett Lee whose deep touch is his greatest strength, it's a no-brainer. The question is whether they'll have any success, and given that only Texas has allowed fewer than the Tide's 13 passes given up longer than 20 yards, it won't come easy. But the Tigers themselves lead the SEC in passes of 40 yards or more and rank second in those of 30 or more. There's some history of success for LSU vs. the Tide, too--just last year Randle caught balls of 76 yards (for a TD) and 47 yards, and the Tigers finished averaging 10.4 yards an attempt. Strong as the Tide secondary is, don't be shocked if the Tigers get over the top once or twice.
An Alabama trick play. It's Miles, of course, who's famous for diving into the bag of tricks. But over the past few seasons Saban has proven he's not afraid to call for some trickeration, either, especially in big games. Remember the fake punt that opened up the 2009 BCS national championship against the Longhorns? Then there was the Arkansas game earlier this season, in which the Tide took the lead by motioning out of a field goal formation into an offensive set that scored a touchdown. Given that Saban knows exactly what's at stake Saturday, we could see something similar.
VIDEO BREAK: Gary Danielson will, of course, be calling the game for CBS this Saturday (8 p.m. ET, don't forget). Here he previews the game with Tim Brando:
THE LATEST: With both teams taking Saturday off, the biggest news on the game didn't come out of either Baton Rouge or Tuscaloosa--it arrived from Vegas, where the Tide opened as a consensus 4.5-point favorite and were shortly bet down to a current consensus of 4 points.
If you buy the conventional wisdom that home-field advantage is automatically worth a field goal, this could be seen as Vegas stating their belief that the Tide is the better team ... though by all of a single point. Even the Vegas experts, it seems, have to split hairs when choosing between the two sides.
Posted on: October 30, 2011 1:20 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's that in many ways, this victory belonged to Richt. It was Richt who was able to keep his struggling team mentally afloat when the Gators took a 17-3 lead and the Dawg half of the stadium couldn't help but think "here we go again." It was Richt who made the calls to go for it on 4th-and-long inside the red zone once Blair Walsh showed himself unreliable, calls that resulted in two of the Dawgs' three scores in a game where points came as easily as pulled teeth. And it was Richt who showed enough faith in the flailing Aaron Murray -- who'd missed nine straight attempts -- to endorse a throw on 2nd-and-9 as the Dawgs tried to run out the clock.
That decision worked, as did nearly every move Richt made Saturday. That's what it was, and why Georgia won.
LOSER: Charlie Weis. We don't want to be too hard on Mr. Decided Schematic Advantage, since the quarterbacks he's worked with the past few weeks have been 1. true freshmen 2. still kind of hurt 3. more inherited than hand-picked. But still: between weapons like Chris Rainey, Jordan Reed, Trey Burton, Deonte Thompson and even a half-speed Jeff Demps, we're not sure there's excuses enough to explain 10 second-half points across four games, one first down in the second half against Georgia, or 175 total rushing yards in this four-game losing streak on all of 1.5 yards a carry. Weis arrived at Florida with a reputation for expertly handling quarterbacks and passing games but perhaps not having a good idea of how to operate a rushing attack with smaller backs like Rainey and Demps ... and with Brantley's downfield accuracy gone and the field shrunk, Weis has lived up to every bit of that reputation.
WINNER: Vanderbilt. We know, we know, they lost. But they also outgained the nation's No. 8 team (and one of its most explosive offenses) by 74 yards. Their years of wandering the wilderness at the quarterback position appears over, thanks to Jordan Rodgers' outstanding 15-of-27, 240 yard, 66 rushing yards, 3 touchdown, zero turnovers performance. They took over down 3 at their own 9 with 3 minutes remaining, a situation in which Vandy has accomplished nothing since the days of Jay Cutler, and promptly drove 80 yards for what should have been the game-tying field goal. Top-to-bottom, Vanderbilt was a better team than Arkansas Saturday.
In short, in so many, many ways, James Franklin's Vanderbilt is not the same old Vanderbilt
LOSER: Vanderbilt. Of course, there were even more ways in which Vanderbilt was precisely the same Vanderbilt they've been for decades. Shall we count the ways? The four or five easy interceptions which Commodore defenders let slip through their hands ... the backbreaking 15-point fourth-quarter swing as their best offensive player, running back Zac Stacy, fumbles the ball at the opponent's 3-yard line (without being touched) for a touchdown fumble return the other way ... with a chance to go in at halftime up 21-7 and in firm control of the game, the touchdown allowed with five seconds remaining ... and, yes, the shanked 27-yard field goal at the bitter, bitter end.
Until further notice: same old Vandy.
WINNER: South Carolina offensive tackle Cody Gibson. Gibson is a big fella: 6'6", 285 pounds. And when Tennessee's Prentiss Wagner picked off a third-quarter pass from Connor Shaw and bolted clear for the Gamecock end zone 56 yards away, Gibson probably could have been forgiven for ... well, not quitting on the play, but only making a token effort; the odds of the tackle being made by a tackle among the Gamecocks' receivers and running backs and the quarterback was insanely low, right? But Gibson made much more of an effort than that, going all-out in pursuit of Waggner until the corner cut back towards the middle of the field, cut again, had to slow up one last time ... and Gibson caught him, flattening him at the Gamecock 2-yard line.
Against most offenses, that might not have mattered much. But vs. Tennessee's? It mattered a ton: only two plays later, Vol freshman QB Justin Worley threw an ugly interception, and Gibson's play had saved his team seven points in a game which only totaled 17. Instead of being down 10-7 with a wobbly Shaw in front of a fired-up Knoxville crowd, Carolina drove 98 yards for their own touchdown and (for all intents and purposes) the win. Gibson's play won't make him a star, but Saturday, there's no question it made him a winner.
LOSER: Barrett Trotter. This might a touch unfair to Trotter, who didn't even see the field Saturday. But whatever hope he had of reclaiming the starting quarterback job he lost at halftime of Auburn's win over Florida was extinguished for the foreseeable future by Clint Moseley's outing against Ole Miss. The redshirt sophomore (left)connected on 12 of his 15 attempts for 10.7 yards a pass and four touchdowns ... all without an interception. More importantly, the Auburn offense looked like the Auburn offense for the first time in weeks, rolling up 414 yards and 41 points on a Rebel defense that caused real problems for Arkansas last week. Remember those Snickers commercials? Where the Tiger pecking order under center is concerned, neither Trotter nor Moseley are going anywhere for a while.
WINNER: The Liberty Bowl. With LSU and Alabama surely off to the BCS and a pair of teams with precious little bowl eligibility hope in Kentucky and Ole Miss, the SEC was already in danger of not fulfilling all its bowl tie-ins ... and a Wildcat win against Mississippi State would have made things even more dire for the last couple of bowls at the end of the food chain, as that result would likely leave neither team in striking distance of the postseason. As is, the BBVA Compass Bowl is still likely out of luck, but the venerable Liberty can live in hope--the Bulldogs have both FCS patsy UT-Martin and the Rebels on the schedule.
LOSER: The rest of the SEC. It's now officially LSU-Alabama week. We'll see the other 10 of you next Sunday*.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, BBVA Compass Bowl, Blair Walsh, Charlie Weis, Chris Rainey, Clint Moseley, Cody Gibson, Connor Shaw, Deonte Thompson, Florida, Georgia, James Franklin, James Franklin the Vanderbilt coach not the Missouri quarterback, Jay Cutler, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Reed, Jordan Rodgers, Justin Worley, Kentucky, Liberty Bowl, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Prentiss Waggner, SEC Winners and Losers, South Carolina, Tennessee, Trey Burton, UT-Martin, Vanderbilt, Zac Stacy
Posted on: October 29, 2011 4:28 pm
Posted by Jerry HinnenARKANSAS WON: In the wildest, most unpredictable, best game in the SEC in weeks, the Razorbacks scored the contest's final 14 points for their second upset-avoiding comeback victory in as many weeks. But this one was an even closer shave than the one at Ole Miss, as Vandy's Carey Spear missed a 27-yard field goal with less than 10 seconds remaining that would have sent the game into overtime. The difference in the placekicking made the difference in the game, as the Hogs' Zach Hocker made three tries from 35 yards out or further, including the game-winner from 42 yards with 6:53 to play.
WHY ARKANSAS WON: The continued brilliance of Tyler Wilson had an awful lot to do with it. Despite taking yet another pounding from an opposing defensive front (especially late in the first half), Wilson connected on 27 of his 43 passes for 316 yards, one huge late first-half touchdown, and no interceptions. With the Hog ground game reverting to its usual sputtering self (71 yards on 26 carries, 2.7 an attempt), Arkansas doesn't come close to winning this game without Wilson.
But the largest factor in Vanderbilt's defeat was that Vanderbilt -- for all of James Franklin's culture-changing confidence, bravado, and game-planning -- is still Vanderbilt. Opening up the second half with the ball and a 21-14 lead, Zac Stacy threw a halfback pass into excellent coverage that was picked and turned into a Hocker field goal. Stacy redeemed himself with a tackle-breaking 62-yard third quarter touchdown run and could have salted the game away when he took an early-fourth quarter handoff from the Arkansas 3, with his team up 28-20. But he fumbled without being touched, and Jerry Franklin scooped and scored from 94 yards on the game's biggest play. And then Spear capped what should have been an inspirational 8 play, 80-yard drive with the game on the line -- the sort of thing Vandy never does -- with the sort of thing Vandy always does.
Franklin clearly has the 'Dores on the right path, and faster than anyone could have imagined. But the exorcism isn't complete yet.
WHEN ARKANSAS WON: Spear's miss and Stacy's backbreaking fumbles were huge plays. But they might not have been any bigger than the touchdown thrown from Wilson to Jarius Wright (pictured) with five seconds remaining in the first half. The Hogs had taken over on their own 38 with just over 90 seconds left in the half, down 21-7, with Vandy having scored three long touchdown drives in four first-half attempts and getting the ball to start the third quarter. All the momentum was with the home team. But Wilson hit Wright for a 30-yard gain on 4th-and-10, and on the next play Wilson and Wright connected again from 11 yards out. The Commodores were never fully in control of the game again.
WHAT ARKANSAS WON: A continued spot in the polls' top 10, a 7-1 overall record, a 3-1 SEC record, and the knowledge that no matter how poorly they might play over the first 30 minutes, the Razorbacks always have a second-half comeback in them. But if one escape from a heavy underdog is a fluke, two is a trend, meaning that it's hard to argue the Hogs are playing like a top-10 team right now.
WHAT VANDERBILT LOST: As with the Rebels a week ago, this wasn't one of the games the 'Dores would have had circled as a must-win for bowl eligiblity. But to play as well as Vandy did and have the game so ... close in hand only to lose on a handful of mistakes must be crushing. Franklin will have his work cut out for him keeping his players' positive and focused after this kind of heartbreaker.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:53 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.
Last week's menu was full of surprises as both Wisconsin and Oklahoma fell from the ranks of the unbeatens, and this weekend could include a lot more of the same as Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Clemson all face challenges. Yes, we'll have to wait another week before LSU and Alabama are available, but there's plenty here this week that should help stem that hunger.
#13 Nebraska vs. #9 Michigan State - ESPN, 12pm ET
It's not often that the marquee matchup of the Big Ten kicks off before noon local time, but that's what we've got this week with Michigan State visiting Nebraska with an 11:00 CT kickoff time. The Spartans come off a stunning 37-31 win against Wisconsin, and Nebraska comes off a bye week; those factors combined with an early kickoff means it's going to be difficult not to come out flat in this contest. Whoever sustains a high effort from the first to the fourth quarter seems likely to get the win here. - Adam Jacobi
#16 Texas A&M vs. Missouri - FX, 12pm ET
These two teams will meet for the final time as Big 12 rivals, but that doesn't mean it will the the last time they meet in a conference game does it, Mizzou? Wink, wink, nudge. It's a big game for both teams as Texas A&M still has an outside chance at a Big 12 title and BCS game but can't afford another loss, and Missouri really needs a win or its bowl hopes could be in some trouble. - Tom Fornelli
Florida State vs. North Carolina State - ESPNU, 12pm ET
Florida State played themselves out of the national picture with three straight losses, dropping them from the polls and the ACC title race. The Seminoles redemption tour welcomes N.C. State to Tallahassee on Saturday, with both teams at 4-3 hoping to move one step closer to bowl eligibility. Since EJ Manuel's return to the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury in the loss to Oklahoma, the Seminoles offense has regained some the early-season production that had pundits talking "title contender." But N.C. State boasts one of the league's best defensive playmakers in sophomore David Amerson. Amerson leads the nation with eight interceptions, even returning one for a touchdown. The Seminoles have a lot of talent on the outside, but Manuel (seven interceptions in six games) needs to be wary of where #1 is at all times. - Chip Patterson
Vanderbilt vs. #8 Arkansas - SEC Network, 12:21pm ET
At 4-3, the Commodores are just two wins away from doing something in one year under James Franklin they've done only one other time in their past 29 seasons--go to a bowl game. And with potential All-American corner Casey Hayward leading a secondary capable of keeping Jarius Wright and the Hog receivers (mostly) under wraps, the potential for a stunner is there. Is new quarterback Jordan Rodgers really up to moving the ball consistently against an SEC defense, though? - Jerry Hinnen
#3 Oklahoma State vs. Baylor - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET
Do you like to see a lot of points scored and very little defense getting in the way? Well then I've got good news for you, because Oklahoma State and Baylor are going to score a lot of points and not play much defense. This could truly be one of those games in which the first team to score 50 wins, and Baylor is just as capable of put points up in bunches. There's a chance that another Oklahoma school could suffer its first lost this Saturday. - TF
#10 Kansas State vs. #11 Oklahoma - ESPN, 3:30pm ET
Kansas State has been one of the biggest surprises in college football this season, getting off to a 7-0 start and even winning a couple of shootouts along the way. That being said, the real test for Bill Snyder and the Wildcats begins on Saturday when they face Oklahoma. The Sooners are likely to be a bit cranky following last week's loss, and will be looking to end Kansas State's unbeaten season as well. - TF
#22 Georgia vs. Florida - CBS, 3:30pm ET
CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart has written that Mark Richt's job is on the line in this one, and given that the Dawgs won't win this year's well-water SEC East without a win Saturday -- begging the question of when he ever would win the East again -- we're inclined to agree. The good news is that unless John Brantley provides a serious spark to the Gator offense, he has the team to get the job done; the Gator front hasn't looked its best against straight-ahead power running games, and Isaiah Crowell gives Georgia plenty of pop in that department. - JH
#21 Penn State vs. Illinois - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET
Coming into the season, it seemed far more likely that these two teams would have three losses apiece eight games in than three combined. But even with the Illini fading, they're still 6-2, and PSU currently leads the Big Ten with a 7-1 (4-0) mark. As such, there are major consequences for both the Legends Division race and bowl positioning here -- not to mention two of the Big Ten's best wideouts in A.J. Jenkins and Derek Moye. Don't sleep on this game -- there'll probably be some late-game theatrics, and when Ron Zook's involved, that's a recipe for chaos. - AJ
Tennessee vs. #14 South Carolina - ESPN2, 7:15pm ET
Can Justin Worley hack it? If the Vols' new true freshman starter can hang in there against Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Gamecock pass rush (no mean feat), the pieces could be in place for an upset. Carolina's ground game could be completely MIA without Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looked awfully wobbly his last road game, and Tauren Poole has finally given the Vols a rushing game with a pulse. With Derek Dooley's seat growing ever-slightly-warmer and Carolina's East hopes on the line, this is a big one for both teams. - JH
Georgia Tech vs. #6 Clemson - ABC, 8pm ET
The primetime rematch of the 2009 ACC title game (which the NCAA will tell you "didn't happen") was a possible selection for ESPN's College Gameday two weeks ago when both teams were undefeated. But since two straight Georgia Tech losses, this game has lost some of the luster it once carried. That does not make it any less of a trap game for the undefeated Tigers. Clemson's BCS dreams could be erased in the dust clouds of Paul Johnson's grinding option attack, which when run effectively can eat up game clock and wear down opposing defenses. If ABC is broadcasting this game in your region, it should definitely be worth your time to watch for fireworks. - CP
#20 USC vs. #4 Stanford - ABC, 8pm ET
The first top 20 match up in the Coliseum in over three years, this has turned into the game of the week thanks to a marquee quarterback showdown featuring Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley. This game likely comes down to defense - as in who can stop who - as the Cardinal has a trio of talented tight ends 6-foot-6 or taller and the Trojans have All-American candidate in wide receiver Robert Woods. - Bryan Fischer
Ohio State vs. #12 Wisconsin - ESPN, 8pm ET
If this game were in Madison, the Badgers would probably cruise. It ain't. Fresh off their first loss in their first game in a truly hostile environment, Russell Wilson and crew have to travel to Columbus to face a Buckeye team that's just finding its stride after injuries and suspensions rocked its first half of the season. And just to up the ante even further, this one's under the lights. What a way to end a great slate of Big Ten action. - AJ
LATE NIGHT SNACK
Washington vs. Arizona - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET
Looking for a good old fashioned, late night, Pac-12 shootout? Look no further than the Huskies and Wildcats. Both teams have struggled defensively and Washington gave up over 400 yards rushing to Stanford last week. Keith Price and Nick Foles are two quarterbacks who are a joy to watch and they have plenty of weapons to get the ball to. Like offense? This is your game. - BF
Tags: A.J. Jenkins, ACC, Adam Jacobi, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arkansas, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bryan Fischer, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Connor Shaw, Derek Dooley, Derek Moye, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Isaiah Crowell, Jadeveon Clowney, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Justin Worley, Kansas State, Keith Price, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Richt, Matt Barkley, Melvin Ingram, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Nick Foles, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Pac-12, Paul Johnson, Penn State, Robert Woods, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Tauren Poole, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, Tony Barnhart, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:03 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 3:11 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 8.
WINNERS: Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson. On the eve of the 2011 season, the LSU quarterback situation was supposed to be the team's Achilles heel. The senior Lee had spent his entire career as erratic at best and a turnover machine at worst; Jefferson was suspended and might never return; and despite intense fan interest, Zach Mettenberger hadn't been able to beat either out for so much as the backup's job. But after the Tigers' demolition of Auburn, it's time to give the Bayou Bengal quarterbacks their due: not only are they not a weakness, they're a major reason LSU is 8-0 and now preparing for an undefeated megatilt against Alabama.
The stats are argument enough: a combined 16-of-23 for 219 yards (9.5 an attempt), three touchdowns, and no interceptions. (This was LSU's fifth straight game without a turnover, by the way.) But the two touchdown throws they made in the second quarter -- one by each, both of 40-plus yards, both to the rapidly-improving Rueben Randle -- are an even better argument. On the first, Jefferson was leveled by an Auburn blitzer and stood strong in the pocket to deliver Randle a precision strike; on the second, Lee "dropped it in a bucket," as they say, allowing Randle to beat double coverage. The end result was that a quarter that began 7-3 and with Auburn in a dogfight ended with LSU up 21-3 and the game over. If those two throws are examples of what LSU can expect in two weeks, even Alabama might not be good enough to beat the Tigers. At this point, it seems obvious no one else in the SEC can.
LOSER: Houston Nutt. Honestly, this isn't entirely fair to Nutt, who just coaxed the best performance from his team all season and has nothing to hang his head about, final score-wise; losing to a legitimate top-10 outfit like the Razorbacks by five points is an accomplishment, especially when the outcome is still in doubt in the final minute. Still: a 17-0 second-quarter lead over that kind of opponent -- not only one of the best teams in the country, but an opponent whose fans enjoy needling Nutt and the Rebels about their failures -- is the kind of golden opportunity that Nutt and his team simply couldn't afford to let slip through their fingers. In the end, solid performance or not, it's just Nutt's 10th straight SEC loss ... and another few before the year's end could be the end for Nutt.
WINNER: James Franklin. On the other end of the spectrum, we've got a coach for whom beating Army isn't really that big a deal ... but beating them by a comprehensive 23 points is. The Commodores had only one week of study for the Black Knights' triple option and held them to 288 total yards anyway, forcing three turnovers in the process. The 'Dore running game racked up a stout 344 yards and Vandy may have finally found a quarterback in Jordan Rodgers, who didn't set the world on fire (10-of-27, one touchdown, two interceptions) but whose 10 completions did go for better than 18 yards a pop. In short: this was the kind of performance that suggests the 'Dores 3-3 record wasn't a fluke, and that they could go bowling in Franklin's first year. It won't be enough to win him Coach of the Year with Miles and Saban around, but it's still a heck of a job.
LOSER: Drama. Another week, another series of blowouts in the SEC. Save for Arkansas's escape from Oxford, the average score of the four Week 8 games involving SEC teams was 41-13. After another week of winning their two games by some outrageous combined score -- 66 points' worth this go-round -- LSU's and Alabama's average margin of victory has ballooned to a full 30 points. It's a good thing the Tide and Tigers have next week off; not only will it give us another week to savor the buildup to the Game of the Century of the Year, but maybe it'll give us a chance to enjoy more than a single helping of competitive SEC football.
WINNERS: Alabama's receiving corps. The Tide's wideouts were alleged to be the team's one weakness entering this season, and doubly so once Duron Carter was ruled ineligible. But Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks and Kenny Bell made that expectation look more ridiculous than ever in the second half Saturday night, hauling in acrobatic circus grab after acrobatic circus grab and eventually totaling 11 receptions, 213 yards, and Bell's game-clinching touchdown. AJ McCarron didn't have his best night, but Maze, Hanks, and Bell made him look awfully good all the same.
LOSERS: Auburn's special teams. The way LSU (and their quarterbacks in particular) are playing, it didn't matter what Auburn did today. But the one area where you can't show any weakness vs. Les Miles's team is in special teams, where they will kill you with field position if given the opportunity. Given the Tigers' strength in this area so far in 2011, Gene Chizik was probably expecting a draw in this phase, at least. Nope: punter Steven Clark had his worst game of the year, repeatedly failing to pin LSU deep when given the chance, and dynamic freshman kick returner Tre Mason fumbled away a second-half return to turn the game from decisive LSU advantage to full-on rout.
LOSER: Matt Simms. Ugly as Simms' final line in the box score was (8-of-17, 3.4 yards an attempt, no touchdowns, one interception), he was facing Alabama on the road; lots of quarterbacks would have looked just as bad, and Simms did play a role in getting the Vols to a 6-6 halftime tie. But Derek Dooley's decision to burn Justin Worley's redshirt late could indicate a move towards getting the freshman snaps at Simms' expense, and though he had a lot of company on the Tennessee sideline, he wasn't able to do much in preventing the Tide onslaught in the second half.
WINNER: College football. No. 1 LSU and (now consensus) No. 2 Alabama are going to meet in two weeks, both undefeated, both extremely heavy favorites to finish their regular season schedule perfect and run a way with the SEC East with a win over the other, both having established their national championship contender's bona fides weeks ago. It really, really, really shouldn't get any better than what we now know we'll see Nov. 5.
Tags: AJ McCarron, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Darius Hanks, Derek Dooley, Duron Carter, Gene Chizik, Houston Nutt, James Franklin, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Rodgers, Justin Worley, Kenny Bell, Les Miles, LSU, Marquis Maze, Matt Simms, Ole Miss, Rueben Randle, SEC, Steven Clark, Tennessee, Tre Mason, Vanderbilt, Winners and Losers
Posted on: October 19, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 2:31 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The SEC has finished "gathering information" on the angry postgame confrontation seen above between Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. And that information has them to ...
... do nothing at all, at least where any serious punishment is concerned. The league has announced that any disciplinary measures against Franklin and Grantham "will be handled internally" between the two schools and the SEC itself. No suspensions for either coach will be levied.
The incident occurred after Franklin took exception to Georgia players "rubbing our face in it right after the game" (as he told Mark Richt) and appeared to point out Bulldog safety Shawn Williams. He then confronted Grantham over those actions, leading to the shouting incident.
The SEC's decision doesn't come as too much of a surprise since the confrontation never became physical and college football coaches shouting at someone isn't exactly an uncommon occurrence. (Just ask Will Muschamp, who apologized this week for his tirade at the SEC's officials during his team's loss to Auburn Saturday.)
But for both coaches to escape so much as a public reprimand or censure for their actions seems out-of-step with recent league precedent. It wasn't long ago Lane Kiffin was reprimanded twice in the space of a year -- and threatened with suspension -- for critizing officials and discussing Urban Meyer's recruiting efforts. With the SEC's decision regarding Franklin and Grantham, the message sent seems to be that it's unacceptable to air (potentially legitimate) complaints about officials or opposing coaches' recruiting tactics, but screaming directly into the face of an opposing coach and nearly inciting an on-field brawl between the teams? Well, that's not so bad.
In the end, the Franklin-Grantham incident won't be remembered as much more than a tempest in a teapot. But since the next similar incident might lead to more exchanged than just harsh words and pointed fingers, it's confusing to see the SEC take such a lenient approach.
Image HT: Mocksession.com.
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 1:13 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Want to know how things wound up so heated between Georgia and Vanderbilt Saturday night? This video from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution should help explain things:
That's Commodore center Logan Stewart diving into the back of Bulldog nose tackle Kwame Geathers' legs after the play was over, and Geathers throwing a punch in retaliation. The SEC has responded by suspending both players for their teams' next half-game, as well as Georgia safety Shawn Williams, flagged for multiple personal fouls during the game.
The league is also officially reviewing the postgame fracas between the two coaching staffs, and it stood to reason they'd want to take a closer look at any plays that might have led to it ... particularly when one of those plays includes a thrown punch. Both retaliations like Geathers' and egregious clips like Stewart's resulted in half-game suspensions for other players in 2010, so it's not a surprise to see something similar for Geathers and Stewart here.
Vandy head coach James Franklin said he expected to hear on a possible punishment for Stewart sometime Wednesday.
Though the 'Dores won't be happy losing Stewart for any period of time against a tricky Army program this Saturday, the suspensions are an even greater blow for Geathers, Williams and the Dawgs--with a bye on tap for Saturday, the defenders will be forced to sit for the first half of the World's Largest Cocktail Party showdown against Florida.
We don't blame the SEC for suspending either Geathers or Stewart; while Geathers is fully justified in being angry (and even in reacting angirly in some fashion) a thrown punch is by this point universally recognized as just cause for a suspension. But it would have been nice if the SEC sent a message about Stewart's play by handing him a greater punishment than Geathers'--say, a full game to Geather's half. If we're comparing the two offenses, there's no question in this blogger's mind which one is more likely to result in an injury, which is more premeditated and less emotional, or which falls further outside the bounds of acceptable conduct on the football field. Geathers' punch probably hurt, but Stewart's clip might have ended Geathers' career, and came far too late to have anything to do with the play.
However things finally shake out, this much is certain: next year's meeting between the Dawgs and 'Dores is going to be far spicier than any game featuring Vandy and an SEC East power typically is.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 2:57 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
At the top, midseason 2011 remains the best of times for the SEC. Alabama and LSU have given the conference not one but two highly viable -- some might even say favored -- candidates for a sixth straight national title. It's not even such bad news that one seems all-but-destined to eliminate the other from the title race when they meet in Tuscaloosa Nov. 5; assuming both clear their final hurdles this week, that game should arrive with more hype, more anticipation, more coverage and more viewers than any regular season college football game since Ohio State and Michigan clashed as undefeateds the final week of 2006. From a national title perspective, the SEC has never mattered more.
But anywhere other than the top, these are the worst times for the SEC in a while. A plague of injuries, inexperience, and ineffective coaching has gutted much of the league's offensive bite and turned what used to be riveting battles amongst the league's wealthier-than-thou middle class into glorified slapfights. Take this past weekend: Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina combined for a total of 49 points across two hideous games; lambs-to-the-slaughter Tennessee and Ole Miss lost to the league's top two by a combined 76 points; and Georgia and Vanderbilt played a game most notable for the screaming match between its coaches afterwards. It was ugliness all the way around--and that's with the conference's worst offense, Kentucky, on a bye.
Alabama vs. LSU should be a classic. And Arkansas, still easily top-10 caliber and as exciting as ever, is blameless. But are the hobbled back-nine of the SEC capable of giving us anything else deserving of that label in 2011's second half?
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama. It's easy to forget Richardson's 2011 season actually got off to a slow start, with only 148 yards on a 3.8 per-carry average through the Crimson Tide's first two games. Since then: five games, 764 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 8.2 yards-per-carry, the sort of per-attempt number starting tailbacks for national title contenders achieve only in video games. It's not just the production, either; Richardson has showed off the proverbial total package and then some, flashing breakaway speed, bone-rattling power, and startling elusiveness, sometimes -- as in his Heisman-reel tour de force against Ole Miss -- all on the same play.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback, LSU. The only serious defensive candidate for the 2011 Heisman, the Honey Badger has stormed onto the national scene on the back of a wave of big plays: the strip-and-fumble-return for touchdown against Oregon, the dazzling interception-and-return-to-the-1 against West Virginia, the sack-strip-and-fumble-return for touchdown against Kentucky. But those game-changing efforts shouldn't obscure what Mathieu does on an every-down basis: namely, lead the nation's No. 4 defense in solo tackles and spearhead the nation's No. 6 secondary in opponent's passer rating.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Les Miles, LSU. Nick Saban obviously deserves commendation as well, but with the ridiculous stockpile of defensive talent in Tuscaloosa and the rock-steady stability of Saban's program, the Tide were never in any danger of not being really, really good. Miles, however, had to navigate a major offseason shakeup of his offensive coaching staff, the Jordan Jefferson barfight brouhaha on the eve of the season (amongst other distractions), and a handful of offensive line injuries to have his team where it is now--atop the AP poll and well on their way to bringing an 8-0 record to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
SURPRISE: Auburn. Few SEC teams have legitimately exceeded expectations in 2011 -- LSU and Vandy are the only other two, frankly -- but none has been as big a shock as the Tigers, who had been predicted by many to sink to fifth (or worse) in the West and general irrelevancy in Year One A.C. (i.e., after Cam). But despite being a Vegas underdog in all four of their SEC games (and scoring 20 points or fewer in their most recent three), a newly-energized defense and timely plays on offense and special teams have Auburn sitting at 3-1 in the league and 5-2 overall. If Miles's and Saban's teams hadn't run so far away from the pack, Gene Chizik would be a hot favorite for SEC Coach of the Year.
DISAPPOINTMENT: Mississippi State. The 0-4 SEC record isn't that bad, honestly; at Auburn, vs. LSU, at Georgia, and vs. South Carolina is a reasonably tough road to hoe. What is that bad is that Dan Mullen's veteran offense has looked so lost, scoring just one offensive touchdown over its last three conference games. This was supposed to be the season Mullen started winning games against the heavier hitters of the SEC, but thanks to his team's offensive struggles, the Bulldogs are now losing games (and in uglier fashion) to the same caliber of team they defeated in 2010.
GAME OF THE YEAR--SO FAR: South Carolina 45, Georgia 42, Sept. 10. Thanks to the lack of offensive fireworks and Alabama and LSU horse-whipping opponents on a weekly basis, candidates for this honor are few and far between, But back in Week 2 the Gamecocks and Bulldogs played a back-and-forth thriller that may still wind up deciding the SEC East. Marcus Lattimore powered for 176 bruising yards, but the player of the game was Gamecock defensive end Melvin Ingram, who scored touchdowns on both defense and special teams and capped his breakout performance by snaring the Dawgs' last-gasp onsides kick.
GAME OF THE YEAR TO COME: Alabama vs. LSU, Nov. 5. Do we even have to spell out why? Consider that the average score to-date between one of these two behemoths and an SEC opponent has been 37-8, and the only thing keeping either one from being heavy, heavy favorites to win the league title is the other. With the pair currently ranked No. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings, it's not an exaggeration to think of this as a BCS championship semifinal.
AND YOUR SEC CHAMPIONS ARE: Alabama out of the West, purely on the basis of getting to host the Game of the Century of the Year, and Georgia out of the East--the Bulldogs have far fewer offensive question marks than the Gamecocks and the easier schedule down the stretch. And as for the SEC Championship Game, well, when the best of this year's West meets the best of this year's East, there's only one outcome worth predicting. We like Alabama to win this year's SEC title and advance to the BCS national championship.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Dan Mullen, Florida, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Jefferson, Kentucky, Les Miles, LSU, Marcus Lattimore, Melvin Ingram, Michigan, Midseason Report, Midseason Reports, Mississippi State, Nick Saban, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oregon, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Trent Richardson, Tyrann Mathieu, Vanderbilt, West Virginia