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Tag:Vick Ballard
Posted on: December 30, 2011 10:39 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Miss. St. 23, Wake Forest 17

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: It's not easy to lose the turnover battle 4-0 and still win a bowl game, but that's just how much better the Bulldogs were in seeing off Wake Forest at the Music City Bowl. The Bulldogs outgained the Demon Deacons 380-288, Vick Ballard ran wild with 180 yards on just 14 carries (12.9 per-attempt) and two touchdowns, and Chris Relf did just enough in the Bulldogs' aerial game -- 12-of-19 for 129 yards and a touchdown -- to keep the Deacon defenders honest. If not for Relf's two interceptions and two first-half fumbles, this game could have been put to bed much, much sooner it was.

WHY MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: Because -- not that this was unexpected -- Tanner Price and the Wake Forest passing game never got going. Always a lackluster rushing team, the Demon Deacons had to get Price hot to move the ball against the Bulldogs. But with the exception of one clinical drive to open the second half, Price barely ever got lukewarm; he finished the night 24-of-46 for all of 214 yards, a thoroughly mediocre 4.7 yards per attempt. Though Price never threw an interception, he never threw a touchdown, either, and finished the game with three ugly incompletions on Wake's final drive.

But it wasn't all Price's fault. For one thing, he was under constant pressure -- defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was everywhere, particularly in the first half -- and was rarely able to throw in rhythm. We said before the game that star Deacon wide receiver Chris Givens would have to win his matchup against excellent Bulldog cover corner Johnthan Banks for the Wake offense to click, and it's fair to say that didn't happen; Givens finished with nine receptions, but for only 54 yards without a touchdown. The results were predictable--including this defeat, Wake finished the season 0-5 in games in which Givens finished with fewer than 80 yards.

WHEN MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: For all of the Bulldogs' statistical dominance and control of the game past the first quarter, the game wasn't ultimately decided until Price's final incompletion on 4th-and-7 gave the ball back to State with under 90 seconds to play. 

WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: A winning season, still far from a certainty in Starkville, but more importantly it keeps alive one of the nation's more improbable postseason winning streaks; the Bulldogs have now won five straight bowl games dating back to their victory in the 1999 Peach Bowl, tying Rutgers for the FBS's longest streak.

WHAT WAKE FOREST LOST: Their own shot at a winning record -- the Deacons finish 6-7 -- but simply getting to a bowl game was a major accomplishment for a team without a whole lot of raw talent or offensive firepower.

FINAL GRADE: Once State went up 16-7 in the second quarter, the entire game seemed to consist of the Bulldogs trying to run out the clock, Wake desperately trying to make up ground, and neither team succeeding at either. Though the outcome technically remained in doubt until the final minutes, the game never quite became legitimately "exciting." (Vick Ballard's bolting up the middle for long touchdowns excepted.) C-.

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Posted on: November 12, 2011 11:36 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 4 Alabama 24, Mississippi St. 7

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



ALABAMA WON: It was in many ways the Tide's unprettiest win of the year, one marked by much of the same questionable quarterbacking, kicking woes, and missed opportunities that plagued them against LSU. But when you have the Trent Richardson-Eddie Lacy tag team at running back and a defense that holds your opponent to just 131 total yards, it takes a lot more unpretty than that to drop one against Mississippi State. Richardson and Lacy combined for 223 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

WHY ALABAMA WON: As good as Richardson and Lacy were, this win wasn't much about the Tide offense; by going an even-quieter-than-the-numbers-sugge
st 14-of-24 for 163 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception, AJ McCarron reduced the Tide offense to one dimension for much of the night. (One very, very good dimension, but still.) Two more missed field goals (one a makeable 31-yarder that Jeremy Shelley usually converts without much drama) put an even bigger onus on the Tide defense to come up big.

Which they did, of course. The numbers tell most of the tale -- those 131 total yards for the Bulldogs, the 12 rushing yards given up on 29 carries, the 4 yards allowed per Mississippi State passing attempt -- but they don't quite explain how well the Tide stiffened the few times the offense put them in a bad position ... for instance, when McCarron's inexplicable second-quarter interception set MSU up at the Tide 4. First down: blanketed receiver, incomplete. Second: Vick Ballard rush, loss of 3. Third: under-pressure incompletion. And then, just to make the Tide defense feel really good about itself, the missed chip shot field goal on fourth. Spread that kind of domination out over four quarters, and it seems somewhat strange State even got on the board.

WHEN ALABAMA WON: The Tide took over on their own 27 up 17-7 in the fourth quarter with 6:26 remaining, and we suppose weirder things have happened than teams -- even great teams like Alabama -- losing in that situation. Nothing weirder has ever happened, though, than a hypothetical State win once the Tide plowed downfield for an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown drive -- every inch of it coming on the ground via Richardson and Lacy -- that took up all but the final 78 seconds.

WHAT ALABAMA WON: Nothing where the SEC West is concerned, but thanks to Oregon (and TCU, to a lesser extent), the Tide finished the day in better shape for a second shot at LSU than ever. Ugly win in Starkville or not, they'll take it.

WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE LOST: a shot at bowl eligibility, technically speaking, and we're not sure the Bulldogs are going to get it at Arkansas next week, either. But with Ole Miss coming in two weeks and apparently having given up on the season for good, a competitive loss to a potential national champion isn't the worst thing in the world.

Posted on: November 8, 2011 2:17 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Alabama at Mississippi State

Posted by Chip Patterson

ALABAMA WILL WIN IF: They play anyone but their scout team? I imagine that Nick Saban has this Crimson Tide team ready to play at the highest level of execution following their overtime loss to LSU. Remember what Alabama did to Michigan State after Saban was upset with his team's focus during the regular season? I expect a similar result when they face Mississippi State on Saturday. Richardson will run like a man on fire and the defense will strive to shut out a reeling Bulldogs squad.

MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF: Alabama has been shaken due to the loss. The Bulldogs will try to use the home field advantage at night as much as possible, but the ground attack of Chris Relf and Vick Ballard just doesn't look productive enough to take on a defense like the Tide. Their best chance to stun Alabama early is to try and force McCarron into making poor decisions and hope for an early turnover. Otherwise, it could be a long and painful night for the Bulldogs.

X-FACTOR: AJ McCarron. After struggling against LSU, I'm interested to see how the first-year starter bounces back against the Bulldogs. If the sophomore quarterback wants to keep his hold on the first-string job in the future, he will need to prove it in these last weeks of the season. Richardson and Lacy are probably enough for Alabama to win on Saturday, but a good performance from McCarron could lead to the domination Tide fans are hoping for.

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 3:23 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 3



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 18-7 (7-3)
2. Man 16-9 (8-2)
3. Machine 13-12 (2-8)
Posted on: September 10, 2011 4:48 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 5:16 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Auburn 41, No. 16 Mississippi St. 34

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

AUBURN WON: The rumors of the Tigers' death have, as it turns out, been greatly exaggerated. After going down 21-14 on an ugly Barrett Trotter interception State's Johnthan Banks gratefully returned for a touchdown, Gus Malzahn's offense ripped off 27 of the game's next 33 points.to open up a 41-27 fourth-quarter lead. But State showed some Auburn-like resilience of their own, scoring one touchdown and driving down to the Auburn 1-yard line with 20 seconds to play. Vick Ballard was stuffed on first down and with no timeouts, Chris Relf was then upended by little-used sophomore safety Ryan Smith inside the 1. Time ran out, and Auburn moved to an incredible 10-0 in their last 10 one-possession games. 

WHY AUBURN WON: Because even without Cam Newton and four three-year starters, Malzahn still knows how to put together a run game. With a week to lick their wounds from their Utah State struggles and shake up their offensive line (senior A.J. Greene was returned to the starting lineup), the Tigers rededicated themselves and tore through the Bulldogs' veteran defensive front for 235 rushing yards on just 36 carries--a team average of 6.5 yards per-carry. Sophomore star Michael Dyer picked up 150 of those on 8.3 yards an attempt, including a pivotal 52-yard dash that took the Tigers out of the shadow of their own goalposts late in the third quarter and set up his team's final score.

Thanks to the running game, Auburn was able to open up just enough space for the Tiger passing game (though he threw for just 146 yards, Trotter also threw two long touchdown strikes) and leave State with just too little time to accomplish what would have been a stirring comeback. 

Some measure of credit may also be due the Auburn defense, which despite another brutal day in the box score -- 531 total yards given up, 333 of them on the ground, 97 plays faced as State converted 11-of-20 third downs -- rose up and got the two goal-line stops they had to have to keep their nation-best 17-game winning streak intact.

WHAT AUBURN WON: A return to the AP poll, no doubt, and a week after looking like the sort of team that might struggle to make the postseason, a simple "2" in the win column is not close to being something to sneeze at. But the Tigers also served notice that despite the vast personnel losses, the Week 1 embarrassment, and a defense that bends so badly it seems as if it must have already broken long ago, their remarkable knack for making just enough plays to earn victory is every bit as intact as it was in 2010.

Auburn won't win the SEC West this season (not without some rapid, substantial defensive improvement), but with Malzahn's offense still capable of putting up a 40-spot on any given weekend, the Tigers are still plenty dangerous enough to have a large say in who does.

WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE LOST: This was supposed to be the season the Bulldogs were something more than just "scary" or a "sleeper"; this was supposed to be State's chance to surge past the likes of the green, inexperienced Tigers to cement themselves a legitimate player in the West, their opportunity to surprise one of the consensus top three teams and maybe start to sniff Atlanta. But with the Bulldogs now stuck again behind Auburn in the current West pecking orderthose dreams are going to have to be put off at least until they pull one of those LSU-Alabama-Arkansas-type upsets.

More practically speaking, the Bulldogs also saw starting tackle James Carmon go down with a knee injury and stretchered off. With LSU coming to town this Thursday, there won't be much time for him to get better.


Posted on: September 8, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 5:44 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 2

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.)
Posted on: September 1, 2011 11:39 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 9:32 am
 

QUICK HITS: No. 20 Mississippi St. 59, Memphis 14

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: 
Despite suspending five players just before kickoff, the Bulldogs manhandling the overmatched Tigers from the opening kick, taking a 24-0 second-quarter lead and racking up 405 yards of offense by halftime. Running back Vick Ballard finished with a career-high 166 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns, and the Bulldog offense as a whole set a school record with 645 total yards.

WHY MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: The overwhelming advantage in talent and coaching over one of the worst teams in FBS, mostly. But State fans will be happy to see an offense that looked sluggish for much of 2010 flash some serious big-play potential. Chris Relf threw several precision deep passes, connecting for scores of 44 and 35 yards, and Ballard broke loose for touchdown runs of 35 and 66 yards. Redshirt freshman receiver Jameon Lewis even added an 80-yard score in garbage time.

If any of the suspended players were truly missed, it was starting defensive tackle Fletcher Cox; the Tigers found enough room up the middle for running backs Billy Foster, Artaves Gibson, and Jerrell Rhodes to average a healthy 5 yards per-carry and combine for a total of 170. But Memphis's passing game (quarterbacked by first-year starter Andy Summerlin and true freshman Taylor Reed) was no match for the veteran Bulldog secondary, which held the Tigers to a miserable 4.2 yards per-attempt through three quarters. Much stronger foes await (starting with Auburn in Week 2), but the MSU defensive backfield looks SEC-ready.

WHEN MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: Tempting as it is to say "as soon as they successfully negotiated walking down the tunnel into the stadium," Memphis looked like they'd gained a modicum of second-quarter momentum when they foiled a State fake punt, turned it into a 21-yard Foster touchdown, and forced MSU to start their next drive at their own 2. But State went 98 yards in 5 plays to go up 31-7 with 1:51 left before the half, ending whatever shreds of competitive drama remained.

WHAT MISSISSIPPI STATE WON: By scheduling the game for Thursday, a couple of days extra preparation for Auburn. And by scheduling Memphis, a healthy sense of confidence that should let Mullen make the most of that extra time.


Posted on: July 14, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:50 pm
 

Coaches' preseason All-SEC team released

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We haven't felt like joining in the "wow, college football is really close!" chorus that's popped up as SEC Media Days creeps closer and various media guides across the land have landed in various media mailboxes. With more than half of July and all of August still to cross before we finally reach the promised land, we remain more depressed about the relative closeness of the season than excited.

But maybe, just maybe, it's closer than we think. That's our reaction to the news that the coaches' preseason All-SEC team has already been released. (That, and that the league's coaches sure don't think much of the Tennessee offense.)

A few notes before we get to the teams:
  • Arkansas leads the league with 14 total players honored, but not surprisingly it's Alabama with the most first-team selections, with seven.
  • More intriguingly, the team with the second-most first-team players? Georgia, including (as expected) the conference's first-team quarterback in Aaron Murray. Notably, though, none of those six play defense; lineman DeAngelo Tyson and corner Brandon Boykin were named second-team.
  • We don't have a whole lot of gripes with the selections, though we'd personally take outstanding Vanderbilt corner Casey Hayward over South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore for the first team. While big and physical, Gilmore was vulnerable to getting beaten deep, a big part of the Gamecocks' 10th-place conference finish in both overall pass defense and opponent's QB rating.
  • There's likely to be a lot more griping out of Knoxville, though, after zero Volunteers made any of the three offensive teams. There are cases to be made for running back Taurean Poole, offensive lineman JaWuan James and James Stone, and quarterback Tyler Bray, but the player with the biggest complaint is likely sophomore receiver Justin Hunter. Hunter only caught 16 balls last year, but seven of them went for touchdowns as he averaged an eye-popping 26 yards per reception. With the Vols' three leading receivers from a year ago all graduated, Hunter seems poised for a huge season.
  • It wasn't long ago the SEC was actually somewhat devoid of bellcow running backs. (In 2006, for instance, no player outside of the Darren McFadden-Felix Jones tag-team at Arkansas topped 1,000 yards.) That's not the case this season -- how often do you see the league's leading returning rusher (the Hogs' Knile Davis) consigned to second-team, or a player with 20 rushing touchdowns (Mississippi State's Vick Ballard) dropped all the way to third?
And without further ado, the teams:

OFFENSE

First-Team Offense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
TE Orson Charles, Georgia 6-3 241 Jr. Tampa, Fla.
OL Cordy Glenn, Georgia 6-5 348 Sr. Riverdale, Ga.
OL Barrett Jones, Alabama 6-5 311 Jr. Memphis, Tenn.
OL Bradley Sowell, Ole Miss 6-7 315 Sr. Hernando, Miss.
OL Larry Warford, Kentucky 6-3 340 Jr. Richmond, Ky.
C Williams Vlachos, Alabama 6-1 294 Sr. Mountain Brook, Ala.
WR Greg Childs, Arkansas 6-3 217 Sr. Warren, Ark.
WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina 6-4 233 Jr. St. Matthews, S.C.
QB Aaron Murray, Georgia 6-1 211 So. Tampa, Fla.
RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina 6-0 231 So. Duncan, S.C.
RB Trent Richardson, Alabama 5-11 224 Jr. Pensacola, Fla.

Second-Team Offense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
TE Brandon Barden, Vanderbilt 6-5 345 Sr. Lincolnton, Ga.
OL Alvin Bailey, Arkansas 6-5 319 So. Broken Arrow, Okla.
OL D.J. Fluker, Alabama 6-6 335 So. Foley, Ala.
OL Brandon Mosley, Auburn 6-6 306 Sr. Jefferson, Ga.
OL Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina 6-4 334 Sr. Fairburn, Ga.
C Ben Jones, Georgia 6-3 316 Sr. Centreville, Ala.
WR Joe Adams, Arkansas 5-11 190 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.
WR Rueben Randle, LSU 6-4 210 Jr. Bastrop, La.
QB Stephen Garcia, South Carolina 6-2 230 Sr. Lutz, Fla.
RB Knile Davis, Arkansas 6-0 230 Jr. Missouri City, Texas
RB Jeff Demps, Florida 5-8 190 Sr. Winter Garden, Fla.
RB Mike Dyer, Auburn 5-9 206 So. Little Rock, Ark.

Third-Team Offense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn 6-4 253 Jr. Marietta, Ga.
OL Grant Cook, Arkansas 6-4 318 Sr. Jonesboro, Ark.
OL Alex Hurst, LSU 6-6 329 Jr. Bartlett, Tenn.
OL Bobby Massie, Ole Miss 6-6 325 Jr. Lynchburg, Va.
OL Kyle Nunn, South Carolina 6-5 296 Sr. Sumter, NC
C Travis Swanson, Arkansas 6-5 305 So. Kingwood, Texas
WR Emory Blake, Auburn 6-1 197 Jr. Austin, Texas
WR Marquis Maze, Alabama 5-10 180 Sr. Birmingham, Ala.
WR Jarius Wright, Arkansas 5-10 180 Sr. Warren, Ark.
QB Chris Relf, Mississippi State 6-4 245 Sr. Montgomery, Ala.
RB Vick Ballard, Mississippi State 5-11 220 Sr. Pascagoula, Miss.
RB Onterrio McCalebb, Auburn 5-10 172 Jr. Fort Meade, Fla.

DEFENSE

First-Team Defense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
DL Jake Bequette, Arkansas 6-5 271 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.
DL Josh Chapman, Alabama 6-1 310 Sr. Hoover, Ala.
DL Malik Jackson, Tennessee 6-5 270 Sr. Northridge, Calif.
DL Devin Taylor, South Carolina 6-7 248 Jr. Beaufort, S.C.
LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama 6-4 260 Jr. Lewisburg, Tenn.
LB Chris Marve, Vanderbilt 6-0 235 Sr. Memphis, Tenn.
LB Danny Trevathan, Kentucky 6-1 230 Sr. Leesburg, Fla.
DB Mark Barron, Alabama 6-2 218 Sr. Mobile, Ala.
DB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina 6-1 194 Jr. Rock Hill, S.C.
DB Robert Lester, Alabama 6-2 210 Jr. Foley, Ala.
DB Morris Claiborne, LSU 6-0 177 Jr. Shreveport, La.

Second-Team Defense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
DL Melvin Ingram, South Carolina 6-2 271 Sr. Hamlet, N.C.
DL DeAngelo Tyson, Georgia 6-2 306 Sr. Statesboro, Ga.
DL Kentrell Lockett, Ole Miss 6-5 248 Sr. Hahnville, La.
DL Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State 6-4 295 Jr. Yazoo City, Miss.
DL Barkevious Mingo, LSU 6-5 240 So. West Monroe, La.
LB Ryan Baker, LSU 6-0 227 Sr. Grand Ridge, Fla.
LB Jerry Franklin, Arkansas 6-1 245 Sr. Marion, Ark.
LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama 6-2 265 Sr. Eufaula, Ala.
DB Brandon Boykin, Georgia 5-10 183 Sr. Fayetteville, Ga.
DB Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt 5-11 188 Sr. Perry, Ga.
DB Tramain Thomas, Arkansas 6-0 198 Sr. Winnie, Texas
DB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU 5-9 180 So. New Orleans, La.

Third-Team Defense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
DL Corey Lemonier, Auburn 6-4 229 So. Hialeah, Fla.
DL Sam Montgomery, LSU 6-4 250 So. Greenwood, S.C.
DL Travian Robertson, South Carolina 6-4 298 Sr. Laurinburg, N.C.
DL Tenarius Wright, Arkansas 6-2 252 Jr. Memphis, Tenn.
LB Jon Bostic, Florida 6-1 238 Jr. Wellington, Fla.
LB Jelani Jenkins, Florida 6-1 233 So. Olney, Md.
LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama 6-2 234 So. Theodore, Ala.
DB Johnathan Banks, Mississippi State 6-2 185 Jr. Maben, Miss.
DB Dre' Kirkpatrick, Alabama 6-3 192 Jr. Gadsden, Ala.
DB Neiko Thorpe, Auburn 6-2 185 Sr. Tucker, Ga.
DB Prentiss Waggner, Tennessee 6-2 181 Jr. Clinton, La.

SPECIALISTS

First-Team  Specialists

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
PK Blair Walsh, Georgia 5-10 192 Sr. Boca Raton, Fla.
P Drew Butler, Georgia 6-2 214 Sr. Duluth, Ga.
RS Brandon Boykin, Georgia 5-10 183 Sr. Fayetteville, Ga.
AP Joe Adams, Arkansas 5-11 190 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.

Second-Team  Specialists

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
PK Caleb Sturgis, Florida 5-10 192 Redshirt Jr. St. Augustine, Fla.
P Tyler Campbell, Ole Miss 6-2 227 Jr. Little Rock, Ark.
RS Warren Norman, Vanderbilt 5-10 195 Jr. Stone Mountain, Georgia
AP Trent Richardson, Alabama 5-11 224 Jr. Pensacola, Fla.

Third-Team  Specialists

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
PK Zach Hocker, Arkansas 6-0 180 So. Russellville, Ark.
P Dylan Breeding, Arkansas 6-1 211 Jr. Hoover, Ala.
P Ryan Tydlacka, Kentucky 6-1 185 Sr. Louisville, Ky.
RS Andre DeBose, Florida 5-11 180 So. Sanford, Fla.
AP Trey Burton, Florida 6-2 222 So. Venice, Fla.


 
 
 
 
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