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Tag:Melvin Ingram
Posted on: December 30, 2011 9:19 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Capital One Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: Connor Shaw plays in Orlando the way he has back home at Brice-Williams Stadium. With Marcus Lattimore out and Alshon Jeffery only narrowly showing up on the side of a milk carton, Shaw emerged as the Gamecocks No. 1 offensive threat down the stretch, peaking in the season finale vs. Clemson with a 14-of-20, 210-yard, 3 TD, no pick, 107 rushing yard MVP performance. But that wasn't all that unusual for Shaw when it came to playing in Columbia; in the four games he played at home (plus a cameo against Vanderbilt), Shaw was 63-for-91 (69 percent) for 9.1 yards an attempt and a 10-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, not to mention 341 of his 482 rushing yards. Away from Brice-Williams? Shaw was 49-of-80 (61 percent) for 4.8 yards an attempt and a 2-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio. 

Nebraska has struggled mightily with offenses led by dual-threat quarterbacks like Shaw, giving up 418 yards to Denard Robinson's Michigan, 468 to Dan Persa's Northwestern, 486 to Russell Wilson's Wisconsin. If Shaw treats the neutral Citrus Bowl like a home venue, he should have more than enough leeway from the Huskers D to propel the Gamecocks to victory. If he has a relapse of those road blues, though, it's not like there's a whole lot else on the Gamecock offense to save him.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: they can open up some running holes. This is easier said than done, of course; the Gamecocks boast a veteran senior starter at DT in Travian Robertson and arguably the nation's best set of defensive ends in Melvin Ingram, Devin Taylor, and Jadeveon Clowney. But Carolina still finished just 44th in rush defense nationally and sixth in the SEC, giving up 130 yards or more on the ground in seven different games. The option attacks of Navy and the Citadel, in particular, gave them fits, a promising development for the Huskers' read option looks with Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead.

But if Martinez and Burkhead can't get it going -- if Robertson can't be moved out of the middle, if Ingram, Taylor and Clowney blow up the option -- the Huskers will be in trouble. Martinez's struggles as a passer meant that when Nebraska ran for 180 yards or more, they were a perfect 9-0. When they didn't? They went an equally imperfect 0-3. Where the Huskers are concerned, it's go nuts on the ground, or go bust.

THE X-FACTOR: Whether or not Carolina wants to play this game. For all the good Steve Spurrier has done at South Carolina, he hasn't yet solved the dilemma of how to get his Gamecocks ready for the postseason; he's 1-4 with the 'Cocks overall and winless against BCS competition, with the last three losses coming by an average of 14.3 points. It goes more-or-less without saying that even with this being Spurrier's first 10-win team with Carolina, they're still nowhere good enough to no-show and still beat a nine-win Big Ten team like Nebraska.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: December 7, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 11:53 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-SEC team

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the SEC.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR 

Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. No SEC player was more electrifying to watch on a weekly basis than the Tide workhorse, whose raw strength and unmatched determination could turn an average four-yard gain (usually into the teeth of half the opposing defense) into must-see TV. Of course, the elusive, explosive 70-plus-yard bursts -- like his showstoppers against Ole Miss and Auburn -- weren't too shabby, either. Few have ever combined those gifts like Richardson, and no one in the SEC was any better this season.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. Claiborne wasn't just the best one-on-one man-coverage corner we saw this season, bar-none, SEC or elsewhere--he might have been the best defender we saw this season, SEC or elsewhere. By erasing his side of the field (except for those lone occasions when he was tested and -- as AJ McCarron found out -- usually ready to make a pick), Claiborne set the tone for the best secondary in the country and played arguably the biggest role of any LSU defender in getting the Tigers to the national title game.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Les Miles, LSU. James Franklin 
has earned legitimate consideration for his work at Vanderbilt. But when you look at not only the juggernaut constructed by Miles in Baton Rouge but his ability in steering it through the storms of the preseason bar fight incident, suspensions, and quarterback controversy, there's not really any other choice to make in this slot.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Brad Wing, P, LSU. A punter, over a running back like Isaiah Crowell? When we're talking about the nation's third-best net punting average for a No. 1-ranked prfect-record team that thrived on field position, you bet. That Wing's best two games came at the best possible times -- at Alabama and vs. Georgia in Atlanta -- makes his selection even easier.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Tyler Wilson, Jr., Arkansas. It was far from a banner year for quarterbacking in the SEC -- only three teams were even able to keep the same starter for all 12 games -- but you wouldn't know it from watching Wilson, whose 3,422 passing yards led the league by nearly 600 yards. No team in the conference was more dependent on their quarterback, but despite taking frequent poundings behind a suspect line Wilson repaid that faith to the tune of a 10-2 record.

Honorable mention: Georgia's Aaron Murray led the league with 33 touchdowns and was the East champions' clearcut best offensive player, but his 12 interceptions were also an SEC high. AJ McCarron struggled for Alabama in the LSU showdown but still finished the year with an SEC-best QB rating and that spot in the BCS title game.

RUNNING BACK

Trent Richardson, Jr., Alabama. It won't win him the Heisman Trophy, but Richardson's brilliant 2011 season -- 1,583 yards, 23 total touchdowns, an eye-popping 6.0 per-carry average despite a league-high 263 carries, and more highlight-reel runs than any running back in the country -- deserves to have cemented his status among the SEC's all-time backfield greats. Not even his predecessor Mark Ingram was ever better.

Michael Dyer, Soph., Auburn. The only back besides Richardson to average more than 100 yards per SEC game, Dyer was often the only thing the sputtering Auburn offense had going for it--and he still finished with 1,242 yards while averaging better than 5 yards a carry.

Honorable mention: Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy quietly enjoyed a breakout season as the league's second-most explosive back behind Richardson, scoring 13 touchdowns and averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

WIDE RECEIVER

Jarius Wright, Sr. Arkansas. Though not the most heralded of the Hogs' star-studded receiving corps entering the season, Wright quickly established himself as Wilson's go-to receiver and arguably the league's top wideout, finishing in the SEC's top two in receptions (63), yards (1,029), touchdowns (11), and average per reception (16.3).

Da'Rick Rogers, Soph., Tennessee. Like Wright, Rogers was supposed to take a back seat to fellow Vol wideout Justin Hunter. But when Hunter went down with an ACL injury in Week 3, Hunter stepped forward to lead the SEC with 1,040 receiving yards and 67 receptions--despite often being the woeful Volunteer offense's only threatening playmaker.

Rueben Randle, Jr., LSU. Rather than take a tight end, we're promoting a third receiver to our first team to make room for the SEC's biggest downfield threat. Randle caught "only" 50 passes (fourth in the conference) but saw eight of them go for touchdowns and averaged 18.1 yards per completion, making him one of only three BCS-conference receivers nationally to clear both 50 total catches and 18 yards a reception.

Honorable mention: If we'd gone with a tight end, Georgia's Orson Charles (44 receptions, 572 yards, 5 TDs) would have been an easy choice. Alshon Jeffery didn't have anything like the All-American season expected of him at South Carolina, but he was still the only receiver outside Wright, Rogers, and Randle to finish in the league's top seven in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

OFFENSIVE LINE

OT/OG Barrett Jones, Sr., Alabama. Whether at guard or tackle, Jones was hands-down one of the nation's best offensive linemen and a deserving All-American who's about to become quite the wealthy individual in the NFL. An easy selection.

OG Will Blackwell, Sr., LSU. The league's best prototype guard this season, Blackwell punished opponents in run blocking and played a major role in LSU's weekly second-half bulldozings on the ground.

C William Vlachos, Sr., Alabama. The SEC's best center, Vlachos put both his considerable strength and veteran guile to use in leading Alabama to the SEC's most productive rushing attack.

OT Alex Hurst, Sr., LSU. As effective as the LSU ground game was, the line also had to give Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson time to uncork those bombs to Randle. And thanks in large part to senior tackle Hurst, they did; the Tigers allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC.

OT Rokevious Watkins, Sr., South Carolina. Even without Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks averaged more yards per-carry and scored more rushing touchdowns than any team in the league outside of Alabama and LSU, and the much-improved Watkins was a huge reason why.

Honorable mention: Both Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones had strong senior campaigns (following) iffier junior seasons and have strong arguments for first-team inclusion. Kentucky never got anything going on offense, but guard Larry Warford was a bright spot.

ALL-PURPOSE

PR/WR/KR Joe Adams, Sr., Arkansas. Instead of reading this comment or looking up his stats, just watch this video:
 

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Melvin Ingram, Sr, South Carolina. His 13.5 sacks and 8.5 sacks -- both among the SEC's top five totals -- might have been enough anyway. Add in his two defensive touchdowns, critical fake punt touchdown rumble vs. Georgia, and skill at kick-blocking, and he's a total no-brainer.

DT Josh Chapman, Sr., Alabama. When you're the nose tackle that anchors a run defense that not only finishes No. 1 in the nation but allows an unbelievable three rushing touchdowns all season, yes, you've had quite the campaign.

DT Malik Jackson, Sr., Tennessee. Don't hold the Vols' poor team numbers (or record) against Jackson; the ever-active veteran finished with 11 tackles-for-loss (second among SEC tackles) despite receiving constant attention from opposing offensive lines.

DE Sam Montgomery, Soph., LSU. Picking the best LSU defensive lineman is like picking which cast member of Arrested Development How I Met Your Mother is your favorite, but we'll go with Montgomery, who combined incredible disruption (9 sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss) with stout down-to-down run defense.

Honorable mention: Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox led all SEC tackles in tackles-for-loss with 12.5 and Auburn's Corey Lemonier led all SEC ends with 9.5 sacks; both deserve a tip of the cap.

LINEBACKERS

Jarvis Jones, Soph., Georgia. Todd Grantham's 3-4 system made a star out of Justin Houston a year ago, but it paid even bigger dividends for Jones, who led the SEC in both tackles-for-loss and sacks and his Georgia defense -- one of the nation's best -- in tackles overall.

Courtney Upshaw, Sr., Alabama. Of the many terrors in the Tide linebacking corps, Upshaw may have been the biggest, collecting 17.5 tackles-for-loss, 8.5 sacks, and as much general havoc caused as any player in the country.

Danny Trevathan, Sr., Kentucky. No SEC player filled the whirling-dervish tackling-machine middle linebacker role better than the veteran Wildcat, who led the league in tackles for a second straight year and seemed to be three or four places at once late in the season.

Honorable mention: We're pretty sure that Crimson Tide inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower makes the first team in any other league in the nation; given the Tide's unreal rushing defense numbers and Hightower's role in them, we won't argue if you want to put him first in this league, too.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Jr., Alabama. Much as we've talked up Alabama's run defense, the Tide's pass defense was No. 1, too, and Kirkpatrick was the best player in pass coverage Nick Saban had in 2011--quite the accomplishment considering the competition.

CB Morris Claiborne, Jr., LSU. As much as we admire Claiborne's mustelid teammate in the LSU secondary, Claiborne's outrageous cover-corner skills means that if forced to pick one or the other to build our secondary (or team) around, we don't even have to think very long before taking Claiborne.

S Mark Barron, Sr., Alabama. Ho-hum, just another All-American season as the leader of the nation's top pass defense and the second-leading tackler on the nation's top rush defense.

CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, Soph., LSU. The Honey Badger is a tad overrated as a corner--which is why he wound up playing safety late in the year when Eric Reid suffered an injury. But it's pretty much impossible to overrate his nose for the ball or knack for the big play, which stands alone as the best in the nation.

Honorable mention: Casey Hayward and his five interceptions (and outstanding ball skills) for Vandy could and maybe should have him in the All-American discussion ... but since this is the SEC secondary we're talking about, he's here. The same goes for Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo and LSU's Reid, and though not quite in that class, Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks had a season worth mentioning as well.

SPECIALISTS

P Brad Wing, rFr., LSU. We're assuming the Ray Guy Award voters left him off because they expected to simply hand the thing over each of the next two seasons.

PK Caleb Sturgis, Jr. Florida. His 21-of-25 season was a rare positive for the Gators in difficult season.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 12:35 pm
 

2011 AFCA All-America team released

Posted by Tom Fornelli

On Tuesday the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) released it's 2011 All-America Team. Which means that these are the best players in the country as chosen by the men who coach for and against them every week. There are five members on this team from Alabama, which is the second most players ever selected from one school in any given season. The most belongs to the 2003 Oklahoma Sooners who had six members on the team.

OFFENSE

QB - Andrew Luck, Stanford
RB - Trent Richardson, Alabama
RB - Montee Ball, Wisconsin
WR - Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR - Jordan White, Western Michigan
TE - Orson Charles, Georgia
OL - Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
OL - Barrett Jones, Alabama
C - Peter Konz, Wisconsin
OL - David DeCastro, Stanford
OL - Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State

DEFENSE

DL - Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
DL - Alex Okafor, Texas
DL - Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
DL - Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
LB - Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
LB - Jarvis Jones, Georgia
LB - Lavonte David, Nebraska
DB - Mark Barron, Alabama
DB - Morris Claiborne, LSU
DB - Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State
DB - DeQuan Menzie, Alabama

SPECIALISTS

PK - Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
P - Shawn Powell, Florida State
AP - LaMichael James, Oregon

Justin Blackmon and LaMichael James are the only players on the team who were selected last season.

As for potential snubs, I'm not going to make too big a deal out of any one position because every year there are a lot of players who deserve the honor that don't make the cut. Though I will point out how Robert Griffin didn't make the team, and many are predicting he's going to win the Heisman Trophy. Then there's Tyrann Mathieu who is another Heisman finalist, yet he didn't make the team while his secondary teammate Morris Claiborne did.

I also have to point out that Brad Wing should be the punter on every postseason team this year, I don't care that he's only a freshman.
Posted on: November 4, 2011 3:04 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 10

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.

Listen, we know what you're planning on having for dinner on Saturday night. The only college football fans who won't be tuning into Alabama and LSU on Saturday night are the ones who have their favorite teams playing at the same time. And even most of those people will be flipping back and forth.

Still, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other strong options out there on Saturday. I mean, every main course needs an appetizer or 8, right?

BREAKFAST

Iowa vs. #13 Michigan - ESPN, 12pm ET

Let's face it: it's not very fun to watch games with dynamic performers if those guys get shut down by a defense. Fortunately for Michigan, that's probably not a fate awaiting Denard Robinson against Iowa. The Hawkeye defense has been jarringly bad all season long, and "Shoelace" is likely to get in the end zone several times. What more can you ask for from an early game? - Adam Jacobi

Texas vs. Texas Tech - FX, 12pm ET

The word is that beginning next season these two teams will begin playing on Thanksgiving Day, so this may be the last time you watch this game without a turkey leg in your mouth. Both are looking to make a statement on Saturday, as the Longhorns would like the world to know that they're a good team that has lost to great teams. Texas Tech, meanwhile, would like to prove that the win over Oklahoma wasn't just a fluke and it wants to wash the stench of Iowa State off. - Tom Fornelli

Florida vs. Vanderbilt - SEC Network, 12:21pm ET

Is this the week the Commodores finish the deal? After playing Georgia tough and Arkansas tougher, it would seem the reeling Gators, losers of four straight, would be ripe for the picking. But with John Brantley another week removed from his ankle injury and Will Muschamp's team now in desperation mode, the upset won't come easy. Vandy's struggled on the road, too, having lost their two SEC games away from Nashville (to South Carolina and Alabama) by combined 55-3. Can the Gators rebound? - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

Oregon State vs. #4 Stanford - ABC, 3:30pm ET

Let down game? We'll see if Stanford struggles on the road after their big, overtime win at USC last week. Strange things have been known to happen up in Corvallis with highly ranked teams so keep your eye on this one even though it's a complete mismatch in favor of the Cardinal. - Bryan Fischer

#7 Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

With its slim hopes of winning the Big 12 dashed last week by Missouri, the Aggies are now resigned to playing the role of spoiler. What better way to say goodbye to Oklahoma than by killing its chances at a Big 12 title as well? Both of these teams have strong offenses, and we could be in store for quite the shootout in Norman on Saturday. - TF

#19 Wisconsin vs. Purdue - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

We're not saying this game won't be competitive, but before the third quarter is over, Russell Wilson will probably throw a sword at the press box then scream, "Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you have come out here?!" And then, if we haven't stretched the Gladiator reference past credulity and good taste, the Camp Randall crowd will begin chanting, "Caroliniard!" over and over. - AJ

Air Force vs. Army - CBS, 3:30pm ET

Air Force already withstood an 18-point comeback from Navy before winning 35-34 in overtime, and it would be a huge let down to follow that performance with a loss against Army at home.  The Falcons can capture their 18th outright win for the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy if they can win the ground attack battle against the Black Knights.  Army and Air Force rank 1st and 3rd nationally in rushing offense, and Saturday's battle will be a test of defense and ball control as the two service academies square off in the annual rivalry.  With Air Force starting quarterback Tim Jefferson reportedly playing with a broken nose, I expect senior Asher Clark to step up in the backfield with a big performance at home.  The Falcons are favored to win this nationally televised battle, but in these rivalry games with the service academies you never know what to expect.  - Chip Patterson

DINNER

Pitt vs. #23 Cincinnati - ESPNU, 7pm ET

The Bearcats have quietly made themselves Big East frontrunners, as the only team without a loss in conference play.  Two years ago Cincinnati came from behind to beat Pittsburgh 45-44 on Heinz Field to cap off an undefeated regular season and earn a berth to the Sugar Bowl.  Now with Butch Jones at the helm, they control their own destiny to return to a BCS bowl.  Their five-game home stretch starts with the Panthers, who will be looking to rebound from losing Ray Graham for the season with a knee injury.  Quarterback Tino Sunseri delivered one of his best performances of the season after Graham went down against UConn, and they'll need it again to take down the conference leaders. - CP

#8 Arkansas vs. #10 South Carolina - ESPN, 7:15pm ET 

Believe it or not, there's going to be two matchups of BCS top 10 teams in the SEC Saturday night. The Hogs and Gamecocks might have been able to draw a little more attention away from that other game if Carolina had done anything on offense of late, but -- go figure -- scoring just 28 points in their past two games doesn't seem to have done much to move the national needle. If Tyler Wilson can avoid getting an early shower courtesy of Melvin Ingram and the rest of the outstanding Gamecock pass rush, Carolina should be hard-pressed to keep pace with the Raozrback offense in Fayetteville. - JH

#3 Oklahoma State vs. #17 Kansas State - ABC/ESPN2, 8pm ET

Consider this Kansas State's last stand. The Wildcats were finally starting to gain the respect they deserved for their strong start to the season only to get trounced by Oklahoma last weekend. They either get off the mat and fight back against a very good Oklahoma State team or they'll just be a footnote in the 2011 season. As for Oklahoma State, they've got plenty to play for, as a berth in the BCS title game is very much in play. - TF

#2 Alabama vs. #1 LSU - CBS, 8pm ET

So, is it possible to sum up two solid weeks of previews and thousands and thousands of words in just a couple of sentences? We'll try: if AJ McCarron doesn't hand the Tigers big plays on defense and Rueben Randle doesn't break free for some big plays on offense, Alabama's brutal run game and equally brutal run defense will eventually wear down the Tigers in Tuscaloosa. But if McCarron does get sloppy and Randle does keep the Tide D off-balance, the matchup's close enough that just those handful of plays could swing it. - JH 

LATE NIGHT SNACK

Washington vs. #6 Oregon - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET

Washington fans hate Oregon. Oregon fans hate Washington. This Northwest rivalry is underrated by many nationally and has been one-sided as of late but this year's game should be very competitive. The Huskies can score some points on the Ducks defense but can UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt stop the fast-paced Oregon attack? - BF 
Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:37 pm
 

Keys to the Game: South Carolina at Arkansas

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF:
they can play keep-away. Much as they've struggled the past two weeks, Arkansas still has arguably the most explosive offense in the SEC (particularly with Dennis Johnson taking more of the load at running back) and will be primed to make up for the close calls at home. The current iteration of the Gamecock offense -- with no Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looking average-at-best away from the friendly confines of Williams-Brice, and Alshon Jeffery on the verge of winding up on a milk carton -- is not going to win a shootout against the Hogs in Fayetteville. The best way to avoid that? Do what the Gamecocks did against Tennessee: milk the clock. Freshman tailback Brandon Wilds doesn't have nearly Lattimore's burst, but his 137 yards against the Vols kept the chains moving and led to a whopping 13-plus minute advantage in time-of-possession. Given that the Hog defense has been dreadful of late (giving up an average of 248 yards their past five games), the opportunity is there for Wilds and the Gamecock ground game to do something similar against the Hogs ... and keep the game the kind of low-scoring slog they pulled out against Mississippi State and the Vols.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they show up for the first half. The Hogs have been absolutely dominant in recent second halves, outscoring their last four opponents 81-17 after the break. But they've had to, since they've been outscored 87-59 in the first half of those same four games and trailed three times. Those opponents, however, haven't had anything to throw at the Hogs defensively like Carolina will in Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and a secondary ranked third in the country in pass defense. Another comeback won't be so easy. That said, if Tyler Wilson can get out to an early lead and force the Gamecocks out of their three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust comfort zone -- and the game into Shaw's hands -- the game could get away fro mthe visitors in a hurry.

THE X-FACTOR: Johnson. It's only fitting that Johnson has taken over as the Hogs' No. 1 rusher during the Halloween season, since he's the very definition of a trick-or-treat player. His 57-yard touchdown on a late first-half draw against Ole Miss turned the momentum of that game ... but his critical second-half fumbles against both the Rebels and Vanderbilt also helped both those teams stay in touch when it looked like Arkansas might put them away. If Johnson can avoid giving the ball away, he should be a major factor--but that's a big if.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:53 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 9

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.

BREAKFAST

#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

LUNCH

#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

DINNER

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 
Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:57 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:57 pm
 

Keys to the Game: South Carolina at Tennessee

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: They can manage any kind of running game in the absence of Marcus Lattimore. The only fully healthy tailback on the Gamecock roster is freshman Brandon Wilds, who started the season on the fifth string. Wilds looked competent against Mississippi State in emergency duty but will no doubt need help--most likely from Bruce Ellington in Wildcat sets and from Connor Shaw himself on the zone read option and other quarterback keepers. (Though not known for mobility, Shaw has totaled 70 yards rushing in his two starts--and that's after removing sack yardage.) Shaw looked more than a little uneasy in the pocket against the Bulldogs and that was with Lattimore around; if Steve Spurrier can't find some sort of offensive balance, it seems unlikely Shaw's ready to quarterback the Gamecocks to a road SEC win singlehandedly.

TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Justin Worley is ready. Derek Dooley proved once again this week he isn't scared of rolling the dice, naming the true freshman the Vols' starting quarterback even after the veteran Matt Simms showed some command of the offense against Alabama. If Worley can hack it, the Vols will have a lot going for them: the backing of the Neyland Stadium home crowd, a previously moribund running game that inexplicably found its footing against LSU and Alabama behind tailback Tauren Poole, the abundant question marks on the Carolina offense, and a defense that for all its second-half woes did keep the Tide entirely in check for a half. But none of that will matter if Worley completes more passes the ball-hawking Gamecock secondary (fifth in the FBS with 14 picks) than he does to his own receivers, and a Carolina pass rush featuring Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney won't make things easy on him.

THE X-FACTOR: Neyland. It's been a house of horrors for opponents in the past -- particularly ones quarterbacked by, say, a sophomore making just his second road start without his All-American running back security blanket -- but the recent downturn in the Vols' fortunes has left a lot of unhappy customers in the crowd, dulling UT's formerly fearsome holme-field advantage. If Dooley's team can get out to a fast start and engage the orange masses, Shaw may not be able to get the boulder rolling back in the other direction. If a slow start brings out the boo-birds, though, it's Worley who might wind up wishing he was somewhere very different.

Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 2:57 pm
 

Eye on College Football Midseason Report: SEC

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. 

More Midseason Coverage
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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.

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