Posted on: November 7, 2011 12:02 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 2:36 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A little over halfway through Saturday's showdown in Tuscaloosa it became clear, this wasn't the game of the century it had been built up to be. While that superlatives will be saved for another big game down the road, what transpired at Bryant-Denny Stadium was something else: the slugfest of the century.
For some, the defense being played was marvelous. Morris Claiborne solidified himself as one of the top corners in the country with an interception and Eric Reid showed what it takes to win a game of this magnitude by wrestling for, and eventually coming down with, a pick near the goal line after the Tide tried a trick play to tight end Michael Williams.
The defense was so good on both sides that the MVP in a losing effort for Alabama had to be the offensive line, which was great at handling the pressure from LSU's front for four quarters - they seemed to fall apart a little in overtime.
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, a longtime assistant in the SEC, said after the game that this was "the most physical, hard-fought game he's ever been involved with."
With a fifth of the televisions in use on Saturday tuned to CBS for the game, I was quite surprised at how many lambasted the game afterward. Sure, there was a lack of crossing the goal line and way too many field goals for most people but that was the result of the defenses being so good. Both teams were able to move the ball, the defenses just tightened once they moved closer to the red zone.
As my colleague Tom Fornelli said to me, this game was all about deciding what fans liked college football and what fans just like touchdowns. Some compared it to a great pitchers duel in baseball but that would be unfair. The beauty of playing defense might have been lost by some but the battles in the trenches and in the secondary said Saturday was a masterpiece.
The Crimson Tide finished with 295 yards, the Tigers ended up winning with just 239. Alabama came into the game 23rd in the country in offense at 457 yards/game and had the best running back in the country in Trent Richardson. Despite not moving the ball well on offense, LSU came in 15th in scoring offense. That's just how good both teams were on the side of the ball - defense - that ultimately decided the game.
It would be interesting to see how much Miles' strategy would have changed had Alabama hit just one of their three missed field goals. Would we have seen one of his famous trick plays? I wouldn't exactly say 'The Hat' Les Miles out-coached Nick Saban since both adjusted conservatively but there's no question that Miles made decisions more inline with how the game was going, such as running Jordan Jefferson more than what the game plan likely called for.
Despite all the 'what ifs' that will be dissected over the coming days (and weeks and months and years), we're left with just one fact: LSU was better than Alabama Saturday night. If they were to play again for the BCS championship, what happened between the two teams would invalidate the very crutch - every week is a playoff - BCS supporters use to support their cartel of a system. If we just saw a playoff game, the Tide need to be thinking about a trip to a bowl game and not the title game.
In post game interviews, Miles was inviting of a rematch - perhaps knowing that knocking off Saban and the Tide another time on their way to picking of the crystal football would mean this LSU team could be considered among the greatest to play the game. The players too, were living in the moment and inviting LSU-Alabama II in New Orleans.
"That game should've been on pay-per-view," Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery said. "I think the world wants a rematch, honestly. It would be lovely to play such a great team out there again."
My colleague Bruce Feldman, who was in Tuscaloosa, discussed the rematch issue in The Big Picture, as did BCS guru Jerry Palm.
As we sit here on week 10 trying to digest what happened on Saturday, it good to lay down what we do know in the race for the national title.
1. There is A LOT of football remaining. LSU plays a top 10 team in Arkansas to end the season as well as the SEC championship game in Atlanta. Alabama has the Iron Bowl against Auburn. Oklahoma State ends with Bedlam against Oklahoma. Stanford plays Oregon and Boise State takes on TCU this week. We don't have a great system in the BCS but it was it is so "the race" is going to chance course several times between now and mid-December.
2. If Stanford beats Oregon, they'll move past Alabama in the BCS standings. If Oklahoma State wins out, they'll play in the championship game. Boise State needs help in droves.
3. Though Houston has moved as high as 11th in the rankings but are still a long shot at playing in a BCS bowl because Boise State is the highest ranked non-AQ school. It's doubtful the Bowls would pick the Cougars as an at-large team with fan bases such as Oklahoma likely qualifying.
4. The bowl tie-ins are ACC-Orange Bowl, Big Ten/Pac-12-Rose Bowl, Big 12-Fiesta Bowl, SEC-Sugar Bowl. The Bowl that loses the #1 team will have first pick of the replacements, followed by the bowl that loses the #2 team. The order after that is Fiesta, Sugar, Orange. There's a chance we could see some juicy match ups as a result (Oklahoma-Boise State rematch anyone?).
5. Want pure chaos? Arkansas beats LSU and Georgia pulls off an upset in Atlanta, forcing Alabama or LSU to miss a BCS game. Oregon beats Stanford, only to lose to USC and Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State to leave just Boise State and Houston as the lone undefeated teams. It's all unlikely but stranger things have happened. It also might be the only chance the men from the blue turf have to play for a title in New Orleans.
6. The game of the century did not occur last Saturday in Tuscaloosa but it was still a fantastic regular season game. A rematch would devalue the game, forcing LSU to beat Alabama twice for a national title while the Tide only needs to win once (in New Orleans). If we could have best two out of three, that'd be great but we're stuck with our current predicament.
Buckle up and get ready, it's going to a fun and bumpy road to New Orleans.
Stat of the week
To say the Big 12, and the state of Kansas in particular, is not very good at defense might be an understatement. To say they like offense in the state of Oklahoma, likewise, might be an understatement. Consider this: of the 10 best games rushing this season (net yards gained), three have come against a Big 12 team. Strip out non-BCS opponents and it becomes three of the top five, including Kansas giving up the most a game this season on the ground when Georgia Tech rushed for 604 yards. Of the top 10 passing games (net yards gained), four of the top 10 have come against a Big 12 defense, including four of the top five. Kansas and Kansas State find themselves on the two lists a grand total of five times, one reason why the Jayhawks are dead last in defense.
Thanks to playing the Oklahoma schools in back-to-back weeks, Kansas State has dropped from 29th in total defense to 78th. Half of the Big 12 is in the top 10 in the country in total offense and Texas Tech is 11th. Needless to say, it's not fun being a defensive coordinator in the conference.
Stats of the week
- Stanford remains perfect in the red zone this season, getting points out of all 52 trips. They've scored a touchdown all but 11 times and there's only one team that has been inside the 20 more often (Oklahoma State). LSU is second in red zone efficiency, scoring on 41 of 42 trips. The Cardinal are also third in the country in red zone defense, allowing a score 16 times out of 24 attempts.
- Oklahoma is tied with Stanford for fewest sacks given up with just four all year. Of course, the Sooners have dropped back 128 more times.
- The top three active career leaders for rushing touchdowns are all juniors. Temple's Bernard Pierce has 45, Oregon's LaMichael James has 44 and Wisconsin's Montee Ball has 43. The NCAA FBS record is 73.
- Both Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis and Idaho kicker Trey Farquhar hit 55-yard field goals right before halftime this week, which tie for the second longest of the season.
- Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning's pass to Torieal Gibson resulted in a 94 yard touchdown against Eastern Michigan, the longest pass play of the year. There have been four runs longer than that this season.
- Matt Barkley passed for a school-record six touchdowns in his game against Colorado on Friday. He also moved into 10th on the FBS active career list for touchdowns thrown with 69.
- Alabama still has yet to trail this season in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th quarter. LSU has trailed at the end of just two quarters all year.
- Since building a 31-7 lead on Oklahoma in the 3rd quarter, Texas Tech has been outscored 124-37.
- This was the first time Texas has rushed for five touchdowns in back-to-back games since 2005.
- Weird quirk from Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, Washington's tight ends had three catches for -5 yards and a touchdown against Oregon.
- It didn't have the hype but the most thrilling game Saturday night was in Stillwater. Brandon Weeden threw a school-record 502 yards and had an answer for every late Kansas State score to escape with a 52-45 win. The defense, who seems to take shots from just about everybody in the game and outside it, held on with a goal line stand to prevent the tying score. Kansas State has taken some lumps in back-to-back weeks by stopping three straight passes with seconds left on the clock. It will get overshadowed given the loss but you have to be impressed with the play of KSU quarterback Collin Klein this season. He's been solid in the passing game and is as tough of a runner as you'll find at the position.
- Hats off to Rick Neuheisel and UCLA for fighting and clawing their way (as some Bruins said) to an upset of Arizona State at the Rose Bowl to, gasp, control their own fate in the Pac-12 South. Thanks to a "here's what we're made of" five minute drive to score a go ahead touchdown, it almost looked like the Bruins defense were going to allow the Sun Devils to get a decent field goal shot off. Alex Garoutte's 46-yarder fell short though and an exuberant sideline of powder blues jumped for joy. A lot of people have counted Neuheisel out, especially after the debacle at Arizona, but he still put his team in a position to win and they finally seized it. The loss was the latest in a line of head scratchers for Dennis Erickson, who seems to lose this type of game every year at ASU. Without a decent South team this year, it's looking very much like a two team league.
- There was another top 10 match up in the SEC that seemed to be the third wheel Saturday night as Arkansas beat South Carolina 44-28. It was surprising to see the Razorbacks put together a solid first half, something they really hadn't done against a decent opponent this season, before pulling away late thanks in part to special teams and defense. South Carolina had just 49 yards heading into the locker room but Connor Shaw led a late comeback in the third quarter until being knocked out with a concussion. The Gamecocks have a good defense and for Bobby Petrino's squad to hang 44 on them is certainly a statement that you can't forget about the Hogs at the end of the season when they play LSU.
- After dropping a game to lowly Minnesota, hardly anybody but the most hopeful Hawkeye faithful gave Iowa a chance against Michigan. Yet the defense was vintage, bottling up Denard Robinson all day, and Marcus Coker looked like a man on a mission while rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns. The Wolverines had a chance to force overtime from the 3-yard line but four straight passes couldn't be snagged and Iowa ran off the field in celebration. "They showed a lot of heart," head coach Kirk Ferentz said. Given who they lost to the previous week, it's difficult to tell what Iowa football is this season outside of being a big of Jekyll and Hyde. For Brady Hoke and Michigan, it appears the tougher schedule and move to a pro-style offense is finally catching up. The difference between passing in Rich Rodriguez' system and passing in Al Borges' cannot be understated. Robinson has been conditioned with certain timing for years and now is being asked to change it to match the current system. If you're looking for the reason why the junior is having problems (53% passing, 13-12 TD-INT ratio this season), look no further than a round (quarterback) being in a square hole (system).
- Bryan Harsin came into Austin with designs of transforming Texas' offense and it appears he is doing so, surprisingly, on the ground. In the past two seasons the Longhorns had just five games where they rushed for more than 200 yards; Saturday's win over Texas Tech was the fifth time they topped the mark this season. In a 52-20 win, Texas' 439 yards rushing against Texas Tech were the 4th-most against a BCS opponent this season. They've racked up 880 yards on the ground the past two games against sub-par defenses but it will be interesting to see if they can keep running the ball consistently the rest of the season. Given their youth on both sides of the ball - they've play 18 true freshmen - it's a good bet that they'll try and keep it up. Either way, there's a new coordinator and a new way of doing business on the 40 acres.
- Charlie Strong has one of the youngest teams in the Big East but they're rounding into form and it paid off with a huge upset of West Virginia that was extra personal given that the school was largely seen to be invited by the Big 12 over Louisville. Frosh QB Teddy Bridgewater threw a touchdown and special teams came up huge with a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. It was a complete and satisfying victory for the Cardinals. "I was not surprised at all to come into this venue and for us to go and play well," said Strong. "We knew we had to play well. We didn't come here to lose or to play it tight. We came in here to win." After the win, Strong ended up crowd surfing among his players in the locker room and the team, taking an added jab at the loser, sang John Denver's "Country Roads."
- The upset of the week comes courtesy of an NU on NU crime. With designs of making it to Indianapolis for the title game, Nebraska was upset by Northwestern despite Dan Persa standing on the sidelines. The Wildcats have not been great this season but they just kept coming through on defense, hanging on 28-25 for their first top 10 win in some time. "A great program win for us," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "To come on the road and put together our most complete game of the year. ... Not perfect. Not a work of art. There are some things we can correct."
- Not sure anybody has raised his NFL stock more than USC quarterback Matt Barkley? He played well in his showdown against Andrew Luck and then followed it up with a school-record six touchdown passes against Colorado despite a few drops from his wide outs. No, the Buffs aren't that good but thanks in large part to the through and through California kid Barkley, USC is a solid top 20 team. The defense is still the link week but outside of a trip to Eugene, it's likely they'll win out - especially if they can get healthier. Colorado, meanwhile, is so bad they're a double-digit favorite at home to a 2-7 team that lost their head coach.
- Small story that went way under the radar Saturday but kudos for Paul Pasqualoni for knocking off Syracuse to give UConn their fifth straight victory in the series. It meant a little more for Pasqualoni than others, who was head coach of the Orange for 14 years before being fired after winning four Big East titles and nine bowl trips. The Huskies defense played a big part, forcing several turnovers and holding despite the offense's own issues. Despite much talent at all, Pasqualoni has kept hopes alive for another winning season in Storrs.
- Kellen Moore is now 46-2 as a starter, more wins than any other FBS quarterback and an amazing accomplishment for a guy that no one outside of Idaho would even think is a major college quarterback if he was walking down the street. The Broncos saw a few different looks they weren't expecting from UNLV and led by just seven at halftime before pulling away late in the 4th quarter. As it stands now, Moore has an impressive 128 touchdowns against just 24 interceptions.
- As good of a slate as this week was, it was definitely a week filled with MACtion. Tuesday's Toledo-Northern Illinois game was 7-on-7 in pads it seemed like, with NIU prevailing in an entertaining 63-60 win that included 1,121 total yards (and back-to-back kick returns by the Huskies' Tommylee Lewis (great name) to open the game). One of the most underrated players in the country, Toledo's Eric Page also caught five touchdowns and had to be screaming when coach Tim Beckham didn't call any of his timeouts as NIU drove for the game winning touchdown pass. Then there was Ohio's 35-31 win over Temple to take control of the MAC East after a touchdown to win with less than two minutes on the clock. Thursday's Miami of Ohio romp over Akron wasn't anything to write home about but Central Michigan missed a final play field goal from 28 yards out to allow Kent State to win on Friday. Finally, on Saturday, Steven Schott hit a 44-yard field goal to put Ball State ahead of Eastern Michigan 33-31 with seconds left on the clock. MACtion indeed.
- Remarkable stat from Bruce Feldman, Lamar Miller became Miami's first 1,000-yard back since 2002 (Willis McGahee), a stretch of five different offensive coordinators. Although the 5-4 Hurricanes has dealt with a lot on and off the field, you have to give credit to OC Jedd Fisch and Al Golden. Much maligned quarterback Jacory Harris has been playing as well as he has at any point in his career and probably better than that. The senior is remarkably sixth in the country in passing efficiency, right behind Andrew Luck, with an impressive 18-4 touchdown-interception ratio. Miami has been in every game they've played with the four losses coming by 22 points. Saturday's 49-14 thrashing of Duke put them one win away from bowl eligibility ahead of this week's rivalry game at Florida State.
- It's always fun to catch the late night WAC games involving Hawaii, after a long day of watching college football it always seems to be an interesting way to cap it off. Utah State managed to beat the Warriors 35-31 thanks to a last minute drive. Hilariously, one of the keys to the game that the third-rate announcers brought up at the end was the late Andy Rooney (to play, they said, 60 minutes). Can't make that up.
Tweet of the week
"So Fox Sports MW is electing to show California HS football instead of Kansas-Iowa State."
- Bill Connelly, writer for SB Nation and Football Outsiders.
Note: Last week was the fourth in a row that my 10th ranked team lost (sorry Nebraska fans), perhaps that will give Georgia Tech some hope on Thursday at home.
2. Oklahoma State
5. Boise State
10. Virginia Tech
Where we'll be this week
Senior writer Dennis Dodd and I will be in Palo Alto to catch the Pac-12 showdown between Oregon and Stanford. Mr. College Football Tony Barnhart will be between the hedges to catch Auburn at Georgia. Brett McMurphy will head to State College to see Nebraska at Penn State.
Leaning this way
TCU at Boise State
Before the season, people were circling this game as perhaps the Broncos toughest test. There was the added issue of the game being moved by the Mountain West from Ft. Worth to Boise as a parting gift for the Horned Frogs. At 7-2 with issues on both sides of the ball, TCU is solid this season but it's not the team we've seen the past couple of years. Boise State, meanwhile, has gotten off to some slow starts and will still need to take care of business. This could be closer than most people think but expect the home team to come out victoriously.
Auburn at Georgia
The Bulldogs put up an impressive 42 points in one quarter against the lowly New Mexico State Aggies but the competition will pick up a bit this week with Auburn rolling into town. Aaron Murray continues to come along at quarterback and Georgia should be at full strength after dealing with a few suspensions. It will be tough for Auburn to pull of the upset in this one as Georgia continues their march for Atlanta.
Oregon at Stanford
The Game of the Century, West of the Rockies Edition can be found in Palo Alto, with two top-six ranked teams squaring off. Stanford gave Oregon a scare last year before faltering in the second half and, given the injuries on both sides of the ball, it wouldn't be shocking to see the same thing happen again this year. The Ducks aren't quite as sharp as they were last season but they're capable of knocking off Andrew Luck and company.
Tags: Aaron Murray, ACC, Akron, Al Borges, Al Golden, Alabama, Alex Garoutte, Andrew Luck, Andy Rooney, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Auburn, Ball State, Ball State, BCS, Bedlam, Bernard Pierce, Big 12, Big Ten, bill Connelly, Bob Condotta, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Brady Hoke, Brandon Weeden, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Bryan Harsin, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Caleb Sturgis, Central Michigan, Charlie Strong, Clemson, Collin Klein, Colorado, Connor Shaw, Dan Persa, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, Dennis Erickson, Duke, Eastern Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Eric Page, Eric Reid, Fiesta Bowl, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Houston, Idaho, Iowa, Iron Bowl, Jacory Harris, Jedd Fisch, Jerry Palm, John Chavis, John Denver, Kansas, Kansas State, Keith Wenning, Kellen Moore, Kent State, Kirk Ferentz, Lamar Miller, LaMichael James, Les Miles, Louisville, LSU, Marcus Coker, Matt Barkley, Miami, Miami of Ohio, Michael Williams, Michigan, Minnesota, Montee Ball, Morris Claiborne, Mountain West, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Orange Bowl, Oregon, Pac-12, Pat Fitzgerald, Paul Pasqualoni, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Rose Bowl, Sam Montgomery, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Steven Schott, Sugar Bowl, Surveying the Field, Syracuse, TCU, Teddy Bridgewater, Temple, Texas, Texas Tech, Tim Beckham, Toledo, Tom Fornelli, Tommylee Lewis, Tony Barnhart, Torieal Gibson, Trent Richardson, Trey Farquhar, UCLA, UConn, UNLV, USC, Utah State, Virginia Tech, WAC, Washington, West Virginia, Willis McGahee, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 3, 2011 5:36 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 1:11 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.
DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 2, or the number of fumbles LSU has lost all season, the third-fewest total in the FBS. What's incredible is that that number is still one more than the number of interceptions thrown by Tiger quarterbacks in 2011; only Utah State has also tossed just one. Not surprisingly, LSU's total of three turnovers is the lowest in the nation. But Alabama's not that far behind--the Tide's eight ties them for sixth-fewest nationally.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Which team has the advantage at quarterback?
Just before the season -- even given that AJ McCarron had yet to start a game at the collegiate level and hadn't even been delcared the full-time Alabama starter -- this was a no-brainer. LSU was mired in a quarterbacking slump that had lasted three full seasons, and their best hope for a change in fortunes seemed already dashed by the indefinite suspension of the reportedly much-improved Jordan Jefferson. Jarrett Lee couldn't really be the answer, could he?
Not only has Lee been the answer, he's been such a positive that if the question is still a no-brainer, it's a no-brainer in the Tigers' favor. With an incredible 13-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, the highest quarterback ratio in the SEC (and one of the top 20 in the nation), and the single biggest hand in an offense averaging an unthinkable 39 points per-game, the senior isn't just having a career year--the former turnover machine is having the sort of season we believed would have to be some other quarterback's career year. If we were picking the first-team All-SEC quarterback today, Tyler Wilson would be Lee's only serious competition.
But what takes LSU's quarterback position from merely "outstanding" to "nearly as good as any that's not Stanford's" is that Lee's only part of the equation. Les Miles has always handled the two-QB, change-of-pace rotation expertly, and so it's no surprise that hasn't changed with Jefferson back and the "running" quarterback also a senior with three years' worth of starts behind him. The numbers for the LSU quarterback spot in the three games since Jefferson's full-time return speak for themselves: 70 percent of passes completed, 10.2 yards per-attempt, 8 touchdowns, no interceptions, 82 yards rushing and a rush TD (courtesy of Jefferson) for good measure.
It's a testament to how strongly McCarron has come on since being named the Tide starter that, for all of that, it's not a no-brainer to declare LSU with the advantage here; his 67 percent completion rate and 8.3 yards per-attempt are both better marks than Lee's, and since throwing two picks Week 1 vs. Kent State, McCarron's 9-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio will stand with anyone's. Particularly worrying for the Tigers is that McCarron has been particularly money at home: 15-of-20 without a pick vs. Arkansas, a 4-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio vs. Vanderbilt, a season-high 10.9 yards per-attempt against Tennessee last Saturday.
Combine McCarron's penchant for such strong showings at Bryant-Denny with an LSU secondary we feel is just a hair more boom-or-bust than the lockdown unit Lee and Jefferson will face, and it's possible that the redshirt sophomore will outplay his LSU counterparts--especially if he can keep the ball out of the hands of the LSU ballhawks. That would be a win that would no doubt put LSU in deep, deep trouble.
But at this point in the season, Lee and Jefferson have done enough that even on the road, even against Alabama, we're expecting them to get the better in the head-to-head matchup. That doesn't mean LSU will necessarily come away with the victory in a game this tight--but if they don't, we are confident in saying it won't be on the guys under center.
THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: You won't find much in the way of bulletin board material in the above video interviews with Les Miles, T-Bob Hebert and Eric Reid, which is why CBS Sports maybe should have spoken to LSU senior tight end Deangelo Peterson instead. Asked about his matchups Saturday, Peterson had this to say(emphasis added):
"I think I can play a big role because I feel like their linebackers can't guard me one-on-one. They're slow ... I don't think their safeties can either. If the ball comes my way, I'll make an opportunity with it."Well then, Mr. Peterson. CBSSports.com RapidReporter Glenn Guilbeau is correct when he points out that the Tide's linebackers are larger than the ones typically faced by the Tigers, and no doubt Miles appreciates his player's confidence. We still have no question Miles would much rather not have his player challenging the likes of Dont'a Hightower and Mark Barron to prove they can, in fact, cover him.
It's not often that a team facing a bunch of dedicated road-graders like Alabama willingly gets smaller, but Miles said Wednesday that he won't shy away from using the nickel -- a move that would put more emphasis on his loaded secondary and less on his merely-good linebackers -- when the game calls for it.
“It depends on the situations that we run into, but there’s also a point in time where the fast guys will make it more difficult for the big guys to block at times,” Miles said. “We’ll play that nickel package in some marginal downs and distances.”
Crazy stat of the day: LSU hasn't won its first six SEC games of the season since 1961.
VIDEO BREAK: If there's one person we wouldn't blame for being tired of the LSU-Alabama hype, it's CBS analyst Gary Danielson, who' been previewing the game in one form or another seemingly since the start of October. But that's also made Danielson as knowledgable as anyone on the game, so we suggests watching the two following clips as Danielson discusses the game first for CBSSports.com, and then on the Tony Barnhart Show:
THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: How much can Trent Richardson bench press? God only knows, and we mean that literally: neither Richardson himself nor his trainers have a firm figure since said trainers won't allow Richardson to press more than 475 pounds. "I did 475 easily," Richardson told the Dan Patrick Show, "and they won't let go above 475." (Less interesting, but more germane to preparation for Saturday: when asked which LSU defenders stood out on film, Richardson mentioned a safety we assume is leading tackler Brandon Taylor and Morris Claiborne ... and not a certain Honey Badger.)
Reporters allowed to get a glimpse of Wednesday's practice reported that Tide backup running back Eddie Lacy was still exhibiting a "noticeable limp," the sophomore having injured his foot against Arkansas Sept. 24. But LAcy wore a full-contact white jersey at the practice and Nick Saban said he had no injury news to report. "We don't have any personnel injuries, problems or anything you don't know about. Everybody's been practicing all week,” Saban said.
The guess here: Lacy isn't 100 percent. But whatever percent he is, it's nowhere near low enough to keep him out of a game like this.
And we're guessing everyone saw this coming as soon as ticket prices hit quadruple digits, but yes, there's counterfeits out there. Be careful if you're getting yours late.
Tags: AJ McCarron, Alabama, Arkansas, Brandon Taylor, Deangelo Peterson, Dont'a Hightower, Eddie Lacy, Eric Reid, Gary Danielson, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Kent State, Les Miles, Les Miles, LSU, LSU-Alabama, LSU-Alabama Daily, Mark Barron, Morris Claiborne, Nick Saban, SEC, Stanford, T-Bob Hebert, Tennessee, Trent Richardson, Tyler Wilson, Utah State, Vanderbilt
Posted on: September 29, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 3:32 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
In which we break down the SEC's biggest games. This week: Gators and Crimson Tide, 8 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS.
AT STAKE: Nothing less than the winner's continued presence in the national championship race. Yes, Alabama could potentially lose and still work their way back in via a victory over LSU, but the way teams like Oklahoma and Wisconsin are playing, we wouldn't risk it if we were them. And no, Florida isn't widely viewed as a national title contender at the moment--but a win over the Tide would change that in the biggest of hurries.
WHEN ALABAMA HAS THE BALL, THEY MUST: Give AJ McCarron time to throw. The Tide's pass protection hasn't exactly been an Achilles heel so far this 2011 season, but it hasn't been a strength, either; the Tide have given up eight sacks in their four games, ranking them 77th in the FBS in that department, and that's with the offense heavily favoring the run game and North Texas and Kent State on the schedule.
Now tackles Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker will have to deal with the most fearsome pass rush they've faced yet. The Gators have collected seven sacks the past two weeks alone, and it's not the result of just one superstar player; Will Muschamp's blitz packages have resulted in six different Gators collecting at least one sack, with linebacker Jonathan Bostic and defensive end Ronald Powell tying for the team lead with two. Tackles Jaye Howard, Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd mean the Gator pass rush is just as strong inside as it is outside, too. In short: the Tide offensive line is going to have its hands full.
But the rewards for keeping McCarron clean should be lavish. The Gator secondary is athletic and has been highly productive to date (four interceptions in the last two games, 4.7 yards per-attempt allowed for the season), but they're also young, mistake-prone (as the avalanche of penalties vs Tennessee showed) and no doubt highly concerned with the Tide rushing attack. Keeping McCarron upright likely also means the handful of big plays that would keep the Gators defense honest ... and honesty is no way to deal with Trent Richardson.
WHEN FLORIDA HAS THE BALL, THEY MUST: break Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey free for big plays--and we mean really big plays, plays of the 60-, 70-yard touchdown variety the Gators have already enjoyed vs. Tennessee and Kentucky.
Against the Tide, that's easier said than done, of course. But that's also the Gators' best hope. The Tide have allowed only four plays all season longer than 20 yards (second-fewest in the nation), and yielded just one to Arkansas. Result? Being forced to drive the length of the field, neither the Razorbacks nor Penn State before them were able to muster more than one serious drive before the game was well out of reach.
And it's not as if the Gators are any better built for pounding out long, methodical possessions; for all their brilliance neither Demps nor Rainey is the sort of back to move a pile of Crimson Tide defenders on 3rd-and-2, and while much improved, John Brantley still only completed 59 percent of his passes in the Gators' two SEC contests to date. Charlie Weis must figure out a way to get Demps and Rainey into space -- we suggest a heavy dose of the screen passes and check-downs that so damaged the Vols -- and hope they can work their magic. Otherwise, first-year punter David Lerner is going to get an awful lot of work.
WHAT ALABAMA CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR: The Florida Field crowd. The Swamp hasn't always been The Swamp as of late -- it was just last year the Gators conspired to lose an unthinkable three consecutive home games -- but with the 4-0 start, the burst of energy from Muschamp, the primetime start, and no less an opponent than Nick Saban's Alabama, the atmosphere in Gainesville promises to be as hostile as any college football will see this year.
On the whole, a veteran team like the Tide should be able to handle it. But can McCarron? And if the Tide fall behind, will he be alone in feeling the pressure?
WHAT FLORIDA CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR: The inevitable deflation of that crowd. At some point, Alabama will connect for a big play, whether it's Marquis Maze on special teams, Richardson breaking loose on a screen pass or Eddie Lacy coming off the bench to thunder for 40 yards or so. While Florida has any number of upperclassmen leaders, this remains a young team on the whole, with a first-year coaching staff, that's enjoyed nothing but prosperity so far in 2011. When Alabama socks them in the mouth and the crowd loses its buzz momentarily, there's no guaranteeing how the Gators will respond.
AND IN THE END: Buoyed by the home crowd, Florida's defense holds up much better in the face of the Tide running game than Arkansas's did. But there's not enough weapons in the Gator passing game to keep Demps and Rainey from being swarmed under, and the Tide seizes control early in the second half. Alabama 27, Florida 16.
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Tags: AJ McCarron, Alabama, Arkansas, Barrett Jones, Charlie Weis, Chas Henry, Chris Rainey, D.J. Fluker, Dominique Easley, Eddie Lacy, Florida, Florida Field, Jaye Howard, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Jonathan Bostic, Kent State, Kentucky, LSU, Marquis Maze, Nick Saban, North Texas, Oklahoma, Penn State, Ray Guy Award, Ronald Powell, SEC, SEC shakedown, Sharrif Floyd, Trent Richardson, Will Muschamp, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 18, 2011 12:19 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 12:20 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. Oklahoma's defense is championship caliber. Having to go to Tallahassee to face a top five team in Florida State in only your second game of the season is not an easy test for any team. That being said, it was still a test that Oklahoma passed on Saturday night. Now, it was not a pretty game, particularly for Oklahoma's offense, as Landry Jones and the Sooners looked as discombobulated as I can ever remember them being in the last few seasons. Thankfully the Sooners defense was more than up to the task. Florida State scored 96 points in its first two games of the season, but the Sooners held the Seminoles to 310 yards of total offense and only 13 points.
The Sooners also brought the wood on defense, handing out some big hits -- including a scary one on Florida State receiver Kenny Shaw that ended up with Shaw immobilized on a stretcher -- and knocking quarterback E.J. Manuel out of the game. It was nice that the world finally got a chance to see just how good this unit is since the Sooners offense struggled so much. If Will Venables' unit keeps playing like this for the rest of the year, it's going to be hard to beat Oklahoma.
2. Texas needs to run the ball more. Texas's offense looked the best it has all season on Saturday afternoon in the Rose Bowl -- something about that venue for the Longhorns -- and it wasn't just because Garrett Gilbert had been replaced by Case McCoy. No, while McCoy and David Ash played well enough, it was the ground game that really carried the Longhorns. Texas rushed for 284 yards against the Bruins on Saturday, led by Malcolm Brown's 110 yards. Fozzy Whittaker also rushed for 63 yards and 2 touchdowns. Still, the more I see of Malcolm Brown running the football, the more I begin to feel that Texas may have finally found the back it has been looking for since the days of Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson.
3. If you offer the Big 12 cupcakes it will eat all of them up, possibly even the wax paper that comes with them. On Saturday Texas Tech, Missouri, Baylor, Texas A&M and Kansas State played New Mexico, Western Illinois, Stephen F. Austin, Idaho and Kent State respectively. In those five games the Big 12 schools outscored their opponents 250-20. Of those 20 points, 13 were scored by New Mexico and the other 7 were scored by Idaho on the Vandals' final possession of the game. Though I suppose it's possible Stephen F. Austin might have managed a touchdown against Baylor if the two teams had been allowed to play a fourth quarter.
4. Seth Doege is somewhat accurate with a football. Speaking of Texas Tech's scrimmage against New Mexico, quarterback Seth Doege made some history in the Raiders' 59-13 win. Doege completed 40 of 44 passes for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns. And he did this without playing in the final quarter. Still, the truly remarkable thing is that Doege's completion percentage of 91% is the highest completion percentage in NCAA history in a single game for a quarterback with at least 40 pass attempts. Who knew Texas Tech quarterbacks would still be re-writing history books even after Tommy Tuberville came to Lubbock?
5. Steele Jantz may not be the greatest thing ever. Last week I was very impressed with Steele Jantz's performance against Iowa, and apparently so was the Big 12 as he was named the conference's offensive player of the week. Well, let's hope the Big 12 wasn't watching Jantz on Friday night. Steele threw three interceptions in his first four passes of the game. Yet, somehow, someway, Jantz was able to recover from that terrible start and help lead the Cyclones to a comeback victory over UConn, giving Iowa State its first 3-0 start to a season since 2005. Iowa State would go on to finish the 2005 season 7-5 following a loss to TCU in the Houston Bowl.
6. The Kansas defense is terrible. I know that Georgia Tech's option offense can be tough to handle. I know this. Still, I don't care how tough it is to stop, that's no excuse for allowing it to rack up 768 yards of offense against you. No that is not a typo, and yes you read it right. SEVEN HUNDRED SIXTY-EIGHT yards of total offense. That includes 604 yards rushing! Georgia Tech ran the ball 50 times and averaged 12.1 yards per carry! Georgia Tech also scored a 95-yard touchdown on its first play from scrimmage, and then tossed in a 63-yard touchdown run, a 67-yard touchdown pass and a 52-yard touchdown pass just for added flavor. It was one of the most embarrassing performances I've seen from a defense in a long time, and that includes pee-wee games.
7. Weather is terrible too, but not as terrible as Kansas' defense. Once again college football saw games have to be ended early, as Baylor's 48-0 win over Stephen F. Austin ended after only three quarters. Which means that Robert Griffin's brilliant night (20/22 for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns, 78 yards rushing) likely won't count in the NCAA record books. To make matters worse, storms in Tulsa postponed the Oklahoma State/Tulsa game long enough that it is yet to kickoff as of the time this post was published.
Tags: Baylor, Big 12, Case McCoy, Cedric Benson, David Ash, E.J. Manuel, Florida State, Fozzy Whittaker, Garrett Gilbert, Georgia Tech, Idaho, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Kenny Shaw, Kent State, Landry Jones, Malcolm Brown, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ricky Williams, Robert Griffin, Robert Griffin III, Seth Doege, Steele Jantz, Stephen F. Austin, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Tommy Tuberville, Tulsa, UConn, Western Illinois, What I Learned, Will Venables
Posted on: September 12, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 5:32 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The all-seeing, all-knowing experts here at the Eye on College Football (and CBSSports.com's equally all-knowing Adam Aizer) have voted, and here is the first Heisman Hopefuls breakdown of the season.
Our collective ballot's top five looks like this:
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (37-of-54, 461 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT)
2. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (28-of-34, 261 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT; no game last week)
3. Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor (21-of-27, 359 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT; 38 yards rush; no game last week)
4. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (148 rush yards, 3.8 YPC, 5 TD; 35 yards receiving)
5. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (35-of-47, 375 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; no game last week)
Five other players received at least one vote across our six ballots, which, again, you can see here. Breaking down the race:
WHO'S NO. 1? Luck's stats aren't quite as over-the-moon as you might expect from a Heisman front-runner who'd faced a pair of patsy defenses in San Jose State and Duke (he's currently 20th in passer rating, after finishing third a year ago), but the weak opposition also means the Cardinal haven't had to ride their future No. 1 overall draft pick all that hard, either. It's too early for most of us to back a horse in this race other than the favorite.
WATCH OUT FOR: Jones. The senior Sooner's precision performance against Tulsa might have drawn more notice if it wasn't the sort of outing we've come to expect from whoever lines up under center for OU ... and if it hasn't come against Tulsa. But if Jones repeats those kind of numbers in a road victory this Saturday against Florida State, there won't be any shortage of attention thrown his way.
OVERLOOKED? Your current national leader in total offense? Houston's Case Keenum, bearing down on the all-time NCAA passing record after throwing the Cougars to a 38-34 Week 1 win over UCLA and shredding North Texas for 458 yards in a 48-23 win Week 2. It still wasn't enough for Keenum to appear on any of our six ballots, though, not with so many outstanding quarterbacks -- most of which have faced stiffer competition -- in front of him.
OVERRATED? Obviously this opinion isn't shared by all the voters, and it's still early enough that it makes some sense to vote on pure talent and potential -- which Trent Richardson has in overabundance -- rather than production. But Richardson's statistics simply aren't at Heisman levels just yet; he's lagging 140 total rushing yards behind Marcus Lattimore, for instance, and averaging a full two yards less per-carry than the Gamecock back. Much of that is sitting for most of the second half in his team's rout of Kent State, and maybe even more of it is an offensive line that Tide observers say hasn't lived up to its billing just yet. But sooner rather than later, Richardson will have to put up some bigger numbers (especially in the per-carry average department) to keep pace.
DEFENSIVE NOMINEE OF THE WEEK: We all know a defensive player has a chance of winning the Heisman somewhere between zero and lottery ticket, so each week we'll use this spot to highlight a defender who deserves some kind of a nod. This week's honoree: Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, who after two weeks aleady has 11 more tackles than any other player in the nation. Maybe he can play both ways for the sputtering Eagle offense?
Posted on: September 12, 2011 3:33 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Last week was supposed to be the week for Duron Carter, Alabama's much-hyped JUCO wide receiver transfer. The former Ohio State Buckeye and son of Cris Carter was finally supposed to hit the field after a long fall awaiting his eventual NCAA clearance, finally supposed to show some glimmer of the potential that has him rumored to be the Tide's potential gamebreaker at wideout.
That didn't happen; in fact, the school announced just before kickoff that Carter didn't even make the trip to Penn State. Per that announcement, Alabama is "awaiting documents necessary for Duron to be certified. Until those documents are received, Duron may continue practicing with the team, but he cannot compete in a game."
Not surprisingly, Saban's typically tight-lipped Monday press conference did nothing to clear up Carter's situation. "Don't even ask," he told reporters. "You'll be the first to know when we get the information, if we get the information."
And with that, Carter's chances of ever making a substantial impact on this 2011 Tide season become that much slimmer. Thanks to the eligibility concerns that held him out of all but the tail end of fall camp, Carter was already behind in getting up to speed on his assignments and game-readiness, and Saban's staff has never been one to casually throw an unprepared player (no matter how talented) into the fray. The good news for Carter was that the early-season slate of Kent State and Sept. 17 opponent North Texas should have given him ample opportunity to prove himself reliable before the Tide's critical Week 4 showdown with Arkansas.
But with Carter's eligiblity apparently still to be resolved, it's entirely possible Carter won't be able to take so much as a single snap before the Tide hit the meat of their SEC schedule. If that's the case, how much will Saban be willing to risk on an untested first-year player?
The answer might come down to how badly the Tide's receiving corps seem to need him. And right now, an extra weapon like Carter looks like he'd certainly come in handy. Though senior Marquis Maze has established himself as a legitimate No. 1 option with 12 catches (several of them of the highlight reel variety) and 160 yards, no other Tide wide receiver has more than DeAndrew White's four receptions and 44 yards ... and all four of them came in Week 1 vs. the Golden Flashes.
Thanks to the Tide's brutalizing defense and patented running game, Maze's efforts alone might be enough to raise the Tide passing game to the point where an effective Carter isn't needed for a national title. But we don't know that yet, and the longer Carter is forced to sit, the less likely it becomes he will be that effective if he is needed to take the Tide over the top.
Posted on: September 8, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 5:44 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Each Thursday we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:
Mike Bobo: do you know what you're doing with an up-tempo shotgun offense? After rumblings from fall camp that Georgia would unveil a no-huddle spread offense gainst Boise State, the Bulldogs didn't quite go the full Dana Holgorsen ... but they definitely flirted with it, breaking away from their traditional pro-style I-formation look for a multitude of quick snaps, multi-receiver sets, and shotgun handoffs. The results were occasionally spectacular (see Brandon Boykin's 80-yard touchdown run) but more frequently sputterrific (see the other 25 rushes for all of 57 yards, or Boise's six sacks).
So why the change? "We wanted to get more plays, which we didn’t do on Saturday,” Bulldog coordinator Bobo said. “But we’re committed to doing it, and more plays equals more opportunities, and more chances to score.”
This is true, technically speaking. A faster tempo does lead to more possessions and plays packed into a game, and more scoring chances. But that's true for both teams, not just the one running the no-huddle; barring onside kick shenanigans or the occasional odd break at the end of a half, possessions in football are always going to be equal. For seasoned practitioners of the no-huddle like Holgorsen or Gus Malzahn, tempo is partially about giving their offense as many opportunities as possible, but it's also about making it more efficient by keeping an opposing defense off-balance and wearing it down over the course of 60 minutes.
Bobo is not one of those seasoned practitioners. As the Athens Banner-Herald points out, in 2010 Georgia ran fewer plays than any other team in the SEC. Suddenly lurching into a part-time, only-half-committed shotgun spread outfit seems from here to be a good way to neither execute that plan well nor the Bulldogs' traditional power-running and play-action bread-and-butter. One Georgia blogger has cleverly referred to Bobo's plan as the Cheesecake Factory offense--one that attempts to do everything, and in the end does none of it well enough to win.
Mark Richt, for what it's worth, is firmly on board with Bobo's approach. But if it doesn't pay far more dividends against South Carolina than it did against Boise (and if there's a bigger red flag than giving up six sacks to the Broncos the week before facing Devin Taylor, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney, we haven't seen it), Richt may pay for that support with an 0-2 start and the hottest seat in the country.
Auburn's defensive line: what can you do with Mississippi State? The surprising thing about Utah State's 84-play slice-and-dice job on the Tiger defense wasn't the 22-of-31 passing from true freshman Chuckie Keeton, or the resulting 13-of-20 mark for the Aggies on third- and fourth-down conversions; Ted Roof's Tiger teams have always had issues with a tight, controlled passing game like USU's. But they've also usually been stout enough against the run to make up for that Achilles heel -- Auburn led the SEC in rush defense last year -- making the true stunner the Aggies' 227 yards on the ground.
Unfortunately for Roof and the Tigers, things only get tougher this week. State boasts the league's best dual-threat quarterback in Chris Relf, a veteran line featuring three senior starters, Dan Mullen's tried-and-true option schemes, and one of the nation's most underrated tailbacks in Vick Ballard. Even Auburn is obviously a far cry from Memphis, but the 309 rushing yards and 8.1 yard per-carry average racked up by the Bulldogs in Week 1 still make for a hell of a warning shot across the bow of the Tiger front seven.
That front seven should get a boost with the return of suspended senior linebacker Eltoro Freeman, and Roof's long track record of run-stuffing success suggests some level of improvement is due. But the Tiger front remains so young -- all four starting defensive linemen are sophomores -- that it will take a major, major leap forward for Auburn to avoid getting steamrolled. Are they up to it?
Alabama: is your offense good enough to stake a claim to No. 1? Maybe we'll be proven wrong about this. But the guess here is that despite the change of venue to Happy Valley, there won't be any more competitive drama in Saturday's Alabama-Penn State clash than there was in last year's 24-3 Tide throttling in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban's loaded roster of future pros dominated the Nittany Lions physically in nearly every aspect of the 2010 meeting, and that's not a problem we see Joe Paterno repairing in the space of one offseason.
Which means the burning question is one of degree: does the Tide offense have the chops to go on the road and put together a performance worthy of putting the team in the top-of-the-polls discussion? Underrated though Kent State's defense may be (10th in FBS total defense in 2010), the Tide still looked surprisingly sloppy on attack, despite the 48-7 final. The quarterbacks threw four interceptions; the offensive line missed a handful of assignments; the Tide receivers and quarterbacks put the ball on the ground four times.
Were those opening-week jitters ... or something more serious that might deprive the Tide of championships once the 2011 season is finished? A dominant performance against a Lion team with plenty of questions of its own in the front seven would go a long way towards affirming it was the former.
Also worth asking: Can Tennessee's Janzen Jackson-less secondary hold up against Cincinnati's lively passing game? (The league's most underrated Week 2 matchup could be decided here.) Can Vanderbilt look like a real team another real team? (Despite their 45-14 win over FCS Elon, the 'Dores were outgained by 14 yards. Jury's well out.) Will Kentucky or Ole Miss show any signs of life on offense? (If the 'Cats and Rebels can't get better against Central Michigan and Southern Illinois, respectively, it's going to be a long season.)
Tags: Alabama, Auburn, Boise State, Brandon Boykin, Central Michigan, Cheesecake Factory, Chris Relf, Chuckie Keeton, Cincinnati, Dan Mullen, Dana Holgorsen, Devin Taylor, Eltoro Freeman, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Jadeveon Clowney, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Paterno, Kent State, Kentucky, Mark Richt, Melvin Ingram, Memphis, Mike Bobo, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Penn State, SEC, SEC Interrogation, South Carolina, Southern Illinois, Ted Roof, Tennessee, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Vick Ballard
Posted on: September 8, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 12:05 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Coming into this new season one of the things I really wanted to see with Kansas State was the debut of Bryce Brown. Brown was a highly-touted running back coming out of high school that eventually committed to Tennessee before transferring back home to Kansas State. Well, we really didn't get to see much of Brown in Kansas State's narrow 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky last weekend, as he carried the ball only 3 times for a total of 16 yards. Brown also coughed up one of the four fumbles that the Wildcats had in the game, which was a major reason why the team struggled to score points.
I was wondering if we'd have a chance to see more of Brown this weekend against Kent State, but that doesn't seem to be the case. He's currently listed third on the Kansas State depth chart, and according to head coach Bill Snyder, Bryce still has some work to do if he wants to see more carries on offense.
"I think for him, getting invested is probably the most significant thing for him," Snyder told the Manhattan Mercury. "And I think he's making some headway in that respect. I think he's a little more into it. He missed a lot during the course of the summer, so there's a lot of catching up for him to do."
Snyder also went on to say that when Brown will get more time with the offense is "up to him."
Sophomore back John Hubert is currently on top of the depth chart, and he rushed for 91 yards on 17 carries against Eastern Kentucky, so at the moment it's hard to justify Brown taking his place. That being said, it's not like the Kansas State offense played well in the opener, and regardless of where Brown is on the depth chart, the quicker he can start contributing to the team, the better off the Wildcats will be.