Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).
FLORIDA. It's been a busy few days down in Gainesville since the Tide swept the Gators away, even moreso for starting defensive lineman Dominique Easley, who was accused by a former Alabama player of assaulting him on a stadium walkway post-game. Though Easley has not been charged with any crime (nor even named as a suspect), he has hired notable criminal defense attorney Huntley Johnson. Johnson on why Easley retained his services: "Probably because he read the Constitution. It's his right."
A Gator spokesman had no comment on the situation.
As for the Gators' quarterback situation in the wake of John Brantley's right leg injury -- reportedly confirmed as a high ankle sprain -- freshman Jacoby Brissett is firmly in the mix, with Charlie Weis saying he could have won the backup's job if he had been enrolled for spring practice. Fellow true freshman Jeff Driskel has served as Brantley's backup to-date and is the other option to start with Tyler Murphy likely third string.
LSU. Jordan Jefferson had quite the interview with the media late Monday evening, and while most of it's covered in this wire report, it's also worth noting this gem of a quote: "I didn't have to apologize because we all were there (at the bar fight)," he said. "So I didn't have to apologize for anything." We're not sure that really applies when you're a senior leader breaking curfew and inadvertently setting off a media circus that still hasn't subsided, but we'll take his word for it.
Les Miles addressed the CBSSports.com report that NFL teams would be interested in hiring him, saying he was flattered but "I am happy where I am." He also confirmed that the hamstring injury which removed tailback Spencer Ware from last Saturday's win over Kentucky would not keep him out of this week's matchup vs. the Gators.
AUBURN. An already-shaky injury situation for the Tigers at wide receiver has only gotten worse. Trovon Reed is still out with a shoulder injury, but the bigger blow is that junior Emory Blake is in a protective boot and doubtful for Auburn's trip to Arkansas. Between them, Blake and Reed have accounted for 32 of the Tiger wideouts' 48 receptions on the season.
The good news for Auburn is that Michael Dyer's ankle injury won't prevent him from taking the field vs. the Razorbacks. Dyer blamed South Carolina for intentionally causing the injury, saying a Gamecock player had twisted his ankle after the whistle. (A replay of the play is available here.)
SOUTH CAROLINA. Speaking of the Gamecocks and injuries, Carolina likely won't need Melvin Ingram to beat Kentucky. But they're likely to find out all the same, as the SEC's leading pass rusher and tackler-for-loss has been on crutches and is a question mark for Saturday.
Also potentially out: left tackle Kyle Nunn, which won't help an offensive line Steve Spurrier said has backslid the last few games. "Our blocking has been a little on the bad side lately," he said.
ELSEWHERE. He wouldn't be Nick Saban if he wasn't disappointed in some aspect of his team's play, and this week it's first quarters. “We really haven’t played worth a damn in the first quarter ... that was certainly the case in this last game [vs. Florida], where we gave up half the yards," Saban said. He also had some choice wordsfor the practice of trash talking. " “You should never talk to the guy you are playing against," he said. "You’ve got nothing to say to that guy" ...
Arkansas has several candidates for their starting tailback slot, and will use them all ... Mark Richt is one victory away from 100, but he'll have to earn it without Da'Rick Rogers, the receiver who eventually signed with (and now stars for) his Saturday opponent, Tennessee. "We thought we had him," Richt said. "Then, it changed. It happens in recruiting" ...
Meanwhile, in Knoxville, true freshman Devrin Young made two long special teams returns in his Vol debut vs. Buffalo, but a fumble has meant spending this week working on his ball security ... Embattled Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone received a standing ovation at a Jackson (Miss.) speaking engagement ... The remarks of Boone's head coach on Auburn cornerback Jermaine Whitehead's recruitment have been much less well-received ... Morgan Newton is still taking all the first-team quarterback reps at Kentucky practice this week.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Buffalo, Charlie Weis, Da'Rick Rogers, Devrin Young, Dominique Easley, Emory Blake, Florida, Georgia, Huntley Johnson, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Jermaine Whitehead, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Jordan Jefferson, Kentucky, Kyle Nunn, Les Miles, LSU, Mark Richt, Melvin Ingram, Michael Dyer, Morgan Newton, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Pete Boone, RapidReport Roundup, SEC, South Carolina, Spencer Ware, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Trovon Reed, Tyler Murphy
Posted on: October 1, 2011 3:41 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
LSU WON: SEC wins simply don't get more ho-hum than this. Kentucky gained just 59 yards of offense through three quarters and didn't penetrate any further than the LSU 47 until fewer than nine minutes remained, meaning that even as the LSU offense sputtered -- 8-of-21 passing for Jarrett Lee and fewer than 4 yards per-carry probably weren't what the home crowd had in mind -- their 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter was never remotely threatened. The game had two bursts of excitement: when Jordan Jefferson came off the bench to sneak in from a yard out for that first LSU touchdown, and when budding Heisman candidate Tyrann Mathieu stripped replacement Wildcat quarterback Maxwell Smith, recovered the fumble, and returned it for his second touchdown of the season.
WHY LSU WON: Because the collision of the impotent Kentucky offense and the ruthless LSU defense was as brutally one-sided as you'd expect. The Wildcats' first five drives all ended in three-and-outs as the Tiger defensive line crushed any efforts at running the ball -- their first nine attempts went for five yards or fewer -- and Kentucky starting quarterback Morgan Newton had been sacked twice before he completed his first pass ... on his 10th attempt. That Joker Phillips sent the true freshman Smith on for the second half ... against LSU ... down 14 ... in Death Valley should tell you the depths of the Wildcats' desperation.
The Wildcats' only realistic hope of getting on the board against LSU's first string was a turnover or huge special teams play. But the Tigers never lost a fumble or threw an interception, and committed just four penalties. The list of teams that can beat the Tigers when they commit that few mistakes is very, very short, and Kentucky most assuredly isn't on it.
WHEN LSU WON: The Tigers' 14-0 lead at halftime was more-or-less unassailable, but the win might as well have gone into the record books when they took their first drive of the second half 68 yards in 10 plays, capping it with a one-yard Alfred Blue plunge. At 21-0, Kentucky's chances of coming back were identical to their chances of coming back if the score was 437-0.
WHAT LSU WON: Another boost to Mathieu's All-American campaign, another notch in the win column, plenty of rest for the Tiger starters in the late-going. Aside from a little more crispness on offense, Les Miles couldn't have asked for much more.
WHAT KENTUCKY LOST: Just another bit of confidence in their offense to do anything against top-notch defensive competition. But given how little was expected of the Wildcats going on the road to face the No. 1 team in the nation, not much else.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 11:43 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's a big week for news down in Baton Rouge, what with LSU's big win over West Virginia, Jordan Jefferson's return to the team, and Les Miles suddenly a potential NFL head coaching candidate. In this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, senior writer Brett McMurphy talks to our Adam Aizer about all of that and much more: Clemson's visit to Virginia Tech, Mark Emmert's efforts to clear college football's good name, and which top 25 team is in upset trouble this weekend.
Listen by clicking below, downloading the mp3, or popping out the player to continue browsing. And to make sure you don't miss and future appearances from McMurphy on the CFB Podcast, subscribe in iTunes by clicking here.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:16 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
No, we haven't done any scientific surveys or hired Gallup to conduct a poll. But we have an edcuated guess as to how most college football fans would react to this CBSSports.com Mike Freeman report that several NFL teams are looking at Les Miles as a serious head coaching candidate. And that reaction is: WHAAAAA?
Even amongst college football fans -- heck, even amongst LSU fans -- Miles is rarely viewed as some kind of coaching savant. There's the late-game clock mismanagement. The years of underachieving offenses. The inability to gets his uber-talented teams over the hump to an undefeated season, national title or not. (Say it with us, Miles skeptics: "You can't spell Les Miles without two L's.")
But even if you aren't impressed by Miles' record -- and with a national title, two SEC West titles, and four seasons of 11 wins or more in only six tries, you should be -- the wildly successful start to his team's 2011 season should be evidence enough that he's doing something right. Several somethings, in fact, somethings that could very well make Miles a success even after making the leap to the NFL.
And if you've missed them along the way, these are them:
He coaches to win. Sounds simple, right? But truckloads of coaches base their in-game decisions on not losing rather than winning, and the end result is that their record in close games hews to the .500 mark you'd expect when allowing luck to be the deciding factor. Not Miles: whether it's throwing the famous last-second bomb to beat Auburn in 2007, calling the last-minute fake field goal that helped down Florida in 2010, or a dozen other examples, Miles is committed to calls that give his team a chance to win, not just a shot at avoiding a loss.
The proof is in the pudding of his record in close games: 22-9 in his six seasons in games decided by a touchdown or less. In a league by nature even more conservative than the college game, Miles's go-for-broke approach could pay even bigger dividends.
He surrounds himself with the right coaches. Not every move Miles has made on his staff has been gold; after defensive coordinator Bo Pelini left to become Nebraska's head coach following the 2007 national championship. Miles promoted Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto as co-coordinators to fill that spot ... and promptly watched the Tiger defense take a massive step backwards in a disappointing 8-5 2008 season.
But Miles didn't wait around to see if Mallory and Peveto could get it together. He promptly went out and hired respected ex-Tennessee coordinator John Chavis, and the LSU defense has never looked back. Even many of Miles's less popular hires have paid dividends--look no further than Steve Kragthorpe, the widely reviled former Louisville head coach brought on as offensive coordinator this offseason to general disdain. But it's Kragthorpe having the last laugh: former pick-six machine Jarrett Lee is playing the best quarterback of his life and the Tigers have been ruthless in the red zone.
Assuming Miles learned the pro game well enough from his two-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys to have an idea of who he'd want on his NFL staff, that same eye for coaching talent should serve him well.
His special teams are dynamite. For years, LSU has boasted some of the best-coached, most consistent and most explosive special teams units in the SEC. Much of that success has been chalked up to the Tigers' string of top-notch return men: Trindon Holliday, Chad Jones, Patrick Peterson. But after watching Morris Claiborne emphatically end West Virginia's second-half rally with a kickoff return for touchdown last Saturday (and Tyrann Mathieu do much the same to Oregon with his forced fumble and reutnr-for-touchdown on punt coverage), it's time to acknowledge that LSU's special teams success runs deeper than just the guys asked to field the ball.
He connects with his players. It's not worth belaboring the point already made by Freeman in his report, but no one has ever accused Miles's teams of not playing their hardest for him, nor Miles himself of being unable to reach recruits or manage his star players. Motivating and focusing college kids is a very different task than doing the same for seasoned professionals, but Miles's homespun charisma and willingness to trust his players to win games (see the first item on this list) should go a long way towards helping him make the adjustment.
Miles would no doubt have a lot to learn about the NFL -- two years as a tight end coach doesn't seem like an ideal level of pro experience for someone being asked to take over his own team -- but he appears to have a foundation in place that would serve him well should he make the leap. With NFL teams apparently willing to offer him the chance, the question is: will he?
Tags: Auburn, Bo Pelini, Bradley Dale Peveto, Chad Jones, Dallas Cowboys, Doug Mallory, Florida, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen. Trindon Holliday, John Chavis, Les Miles, Les Miles to the NFL, Louisville, LSU, Mike Freeman, Morris Claiborne, Nebraska, NFL, Oregon, Patrick Peterson, SEC, Steve Kragthorpe, Tennessee, Tyrann Mathieu, West Virginia
Posted on: September 27, 2011 3:13 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the SEC, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).
AUBURN. After last week's decidedly ho-hum display against FAU, it's safe to say the Tigers will need every offensive weapon they can get facing South Carolina this Saturday in Columbia. But one weapon they won't have is redshirt freshman receiver Trovon Reed, who Gene Chizik said yesterday was doubtful for the game with a shoulder injury suffered vs. the Owls. He then confirmed today that Reed will not play against the Gamecocks. Reed has collected 13 receptions so far this season for 91 yards, making him Auburn's second-most productive receiver to date.
The matchup against Carolina will be broadcast on CBS at 3:30 ET Saturday. The Tigers will likely stick with the simplified cover 2 defensive schemes that led to (somewhat) better results against FAU. The inexperienced Tiger offensive line doesn't have its chemistry perfected yet, says senior guard Jared Cooper--potentially a major issue confronting the Gamecocks' beastly defensive line.
ALABAMA. The Tigers' cross-state rivals have their own injury worry with linebacker C.J. Mosley "questionable" for the Tide's showdown with Florida (8 p.m. ET Saturday, also on CBS). Nick Saban said Mosley would be replaced by committee, with Dont'a Hightower adding that no one would be "the equivalent" of Mosley, but that he has confidence in the Tide's linebacking depth.
The game is a homecoming of sorts for Florida native Trent Richardson, whose high school team's nickname was the Gators. Richardson said he raced against Gator speedster Jeff Demps in high school. "For the first 40 meters we were going at it. After that, it wasn’t a race. I think after 80 meters he was 10 meters, maybe 20 meters in front of me," he said.
FLORIDA. The story of the Gators' season so far has been the revitalization of the Jeff Demps-Chris Rainey tag team, but Will Muschamp says there's still more to see. "They’re going to touch the ball," Muschamp said Monday. "The touches we get them could be different and not as conventional as we’ve seen." But Muschamp said that despite those tweaks, the strength of Alabama's run defense meant John Brantley would throw the ball more often as well.
Muschamp said he knows former mentor Saban well--but that it won't help the Gators' preparation, since Saban knows him just as well.
GEORGIA. Bulldog center Ben Jones clipped Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox during the two teams' 2010 meeting, and revealed in advance of this week's rematch that he felt poorly enough about it to write Cox a letter of apology. "I felt bad when I got home," Jones said. "I was like, `Man, that’s wrong.’ "
On the Dawg injury front, linebacker Christian Robinson could return from the foot injury that's kept him out the past two weeks, but lineman Chris Burnette may be out longer than initially thought with his knee injury.
ELSEWHERE: Arkansas senior corner Isaac Madison left the Alabama game with a minor injury, but will return against Texas A&M. Fellow senior defensive back Tramain Thomas also left the game, but for reasons Bobby Petrino said were performance-related ... Despite his strong start to his career (team-high four sacks, five tackles-for-loss, three forced fumbles), Jadeveon Clowney still won't start just yet. Melvin Ingram (the SEC's reigning Defensive Player of the Week ) and Devin Taylor remain the team's bookend DEs in their base defense ...
Tennessee all-purpose back Raijon Neal will focus on the wide receiver position for now ... Injured Vol teammate Herman Lathers was able to jog for 20 minutes at practice Monday. The veteran linebacker is working his way back from breaking his ankle in the spring ... While acknowledging that Texas A&M's move to the SEC was "great for the Southeastern Conference and great for us," Les Miles also added that he found the splintering of the Big 12 "inconceivable." "It's hard for me to figure this," he said. "You're taking the traditional rivalries and throwing them out the window" ... None of the four players who left the West Virginia game with injuries have been ruled out of this Saturday's game against Kentucky ...
Mississippi State is reshuffling its offensive line in advance of their trip to Georgia, with former left tackle James Carmon working at right guard after his recent MCL injury ... Last year, Ole Miss ran for more yards in one game against this week's opponent -- Fresno State -- than they have this year in all four games combined ... One bright spot for Kentucky as they get ready for their trip to Death Valley: senior defensive tackle Mark Crawford will return from a four-game suspension.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Ben Jones, Bobby Petrino, C.J. Mosley, Chris Rainey, Christian Robinson, Devin Taylor, Dont'a Hightower, FAU, Fletcher Cox, Florida, Fresno State, Geen Chizik, Georgia, Herman Lathers, Isaac Madison, Jadeveon Clowney, James Carmon, Jared Cooper, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, John Brantley, Kentucky, Les Miles, LSU, Melvin Ingram, Mississippi State, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, Raijon Neal, SEC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tramain Thomas, Trent Richardson, Trovon Reed, West Virginia, Will Muschamp
Posted on: September 26, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 5:34 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
This week's polls have been released. Here's how the SEC fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.
LSU. We wrote late Saturday that you couldn't go wrong with either the Bayou Bengals or the Crimson Tide at the top of a ballot, so yes, from here LSU's ascension to the No. 1 spot in the AP poll looks entirely deserved. What's interesting is that the voting wasn't even that close; Les Miles's team drew more the double the first-place votes of previous No. 1 Oklahoma and the Tide combined.
Two points to be made from this development:
1. Aggressive nonconference scheduling can pay off. The "three victories over ranked teams on the road" soundbite is a bit of an exaggeration -- the "neutral" site in Dallas was far closer and cozier to LSU than Oregon, and Mississippi State, only No. 25 at the time, is deservedly nowhere near the polls now -- but there's still no question which team has the best overall resume in the country right now. That LSU is now in poll position to potentially lose a game somewhere and still reclaim their BCS title-game spot with a win over Alabama is a just reward for their willingness to challenge themselves.
2. The AP poll deserves kudos for their voters' willingness to respond to results on the field and adjust accordingly. It wasn't that long ago the Sooners would have held the top spot come hell or high water, as long as they didn't lose. Thankfully, where the AP is concerned, those times are behind us.
ALABAMA. As much fun as the polls are to track and debate, when you're in the Tide's position, it doesn't honestly matter where you're ranked at this stage. If Alabama continues winning -- particularly against LSU -- it will reach the No. 1 spot, no questions asked.
But it remains odd to see the Tide badly trailing LSU and Oklahoma in first-place votes, leaving them third in the AP and tied for second with LSU in the Coaches. If the Tide don't have LSU's overall body of work, in Saturday's total domination of Arkansas they also put together the most complete single-game performance of any team in the FBS this year, considering the opponent. With Oklahoma struggling to put away Missouri at home and Florida State absorbing a second loss (and in turn making the Sooners' win in Tallahassee less impressive), it's a close call ... but after watching Saturday's performance, we'd favor the Tide, and we find it surprising more voters don't.
SOUTH CAROLINA. The Gamecocks are now officially a top-10 team in both polls, moving up to 9th in the Coaches and 10th in the AP. But they're still not doing it by overwhelming the voters' impression of them; they simply moved up one spot to account for Texas A&M's loss in the Coaches and two for that and Florida State's in the AP.
No one in Columbia's going to complain about occupying a top-10 slot when Stephen Garcia's playing as poorly as he is, but we asked last week why the Gamecocks were ranked behind an Oregon team with a worse record and worse resume, and that still stands. Carolina is undefeated, the Ducks aren't; Carolina has beaten Georgia on the road, Navy and Vanderbilt all teams with better records than anyone the Ducks have beaten. To rank Oregon higher means voters are simply guessing that they're better--and at this point of the season, shouldn't they be relying on something other than guesswork?
FLORIDA. The Gators continue to rise, moving from 15th to 12th in both polls thanks to losses from the Aggies, 'Noles, and Razorbacks. The same complaint regarding Oregon could maybe be repeated here (the Ducks are one spot ahead in the Coaches, three in the AP), but with wins over FAU, UAB and a terrible Kentucky team, the Gators don't have nearly the quality-of-victory the Gamecocks do.
ARKANSAS. The Razorbacks fell to 18th in both polls, a slide of six spots in the Coaches and just four in the AP. This seems extremely generous on the part of the voters--yes, the Hogs are likely good enough to eventually win their way back into the top 15 or even top 10 by season's end, but at this point their entire resume consists of: 1. Blowing out an FCS team; 2. Blowing out New Mexico, potentially the worst team in the FBS; 3. Beating Troy by 10 points 4. Being routed by Alabama.
The Razorbacks are a good team. But until they prove it by beating quality competition, they have no business being ranked in front of teams like Michigan, Georgia Tech or Illinois, all of which have victories (or two) over likely bowl teams tucked away. Again: guesswork should be for preseason polls, not for those in Week 4.
EVERYBODY ELSE: In the Coaches, no other SEC team is receiving more than the 3 points pulled by Tennessee, good enough to make the Vols "No. 37." Auburn somehow checks in the third-team-out position in the AP -- clearly, not media members saw the Tigers wheeze past awful FAU Saturday night, when they outgained the Owls by all of eight yards -- but aren't quite "knocking on the door" of the poll yet; they're still 97 points behind No. 25 Arizona State.
Still, a win at South Carolina this weekend (however unlikely that seems after Saturday) would seem to lock up an AP spot for Auburn next week.
Tags: Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, FAU, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Illinois, Jerry Hinnen, Kentucky, Les Miles, LSU, Michigan Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Missouri, Navy, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Poll Reaction, Poll Reactions, SEC, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Tennessee, Troy, UAB, Vanderbilt
Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:07 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:20 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
As much as it frustrates the rest of the country, there's a reason why the SEC is continually touted as the nation's best conference. There's a reason why they've won five straight BCS championships.There's a reason why the league is so competitive. And it's not hard to figure out either.
Defense, and lots of it. S-E-C Speed, S-E-C D.
With nearly half the league ranked 75th or worse in total offense through four games, five ranked teams and a 25-4 non-conference record don't happen by accident. Six teams are in the top 30 in scoring defense, including Alabama and Florida in the top five.
For LSU, the fearsome part of their defense is the backend. Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu repeated as Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week thanks to six tackles and two turnovers against West Virginia. A week earlier, his teammate Morris Claiborne was tabbed for the award after two interceptions against Mississippi State. If there's a better pair of corners in the country on one team, they're in the NFL. Mathieu's interception that he took down to the one right before halftime helped stretch the Tigers' lead to 20 and Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown ended all hopes of a Mountaineers rally and kept momentum planted firmly on the LSU sideline.
"West Virginia did a very good job, but our defense showed up to play and we got off to a nice start," Les Miles said after the game. " Morris Claiborne’s return was right on time, and we were able to finish it off. We made some mistakes, but we overcame that adversity."
What was surprising Saturday was just how little pressure LSU's front seven were able to get on opposing quarterback Geno Smith. He finished with a school-record 468 yards of total offense as the Tigers game up more yards in a game than they had since 2005. Giving up chunks of yards to a Dana Holgorsen-led offense is nothing new, but what kept the game in LSU's favor was the big play ability of coordinator John Chavis' defense.
Ultimately, the Tigers don't win by scoring, they win by scoring on defense.
Mathieu, who wears Patrick Peterson's old number seven, is as ball-hawking as you can get. Peterson was a one-man island last season, often taking away half of the field by himself in zone coverage if he wasn't locking up his man one-on-one. While Mathieu isn't as good in coverage as the man he took over for, he has a great feel for the game and reads plays as well as anybody on the back half. When he roams or blitzes, things just happen - as they did in Morgantown on Saturday. Despite losing Peterson, this secondary is better and deeper than it was a year ago as Claiborne and others have elevated their game. As one NFL scout told CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel, there are actually more than four NFL players among this group.
Read more about Tyrann Mathieu in Bruce Feldman's Big Picture
"The offensive game plan was not a problem," Holgorsen said. "Turning the ball over four times is a problem, and they have something to do with that too. They have a pretty good defense."
LSU has scored first and led at halftime in each of the Tigers' games this year. It's all part of the plan: Score first, play defense, be opporunistic and win the fourth quarter.
Alabama uses a similar strategy. Before the season, one person inside the program said what many had been saying: this defense was better than 2009's championship squad and might be one of the most talented ever under Nick Saban. They might have an even faster secondary than LSU and use the speed to play everything in front of them, swarming to ball seconds after the snap.
Against Arkansas, they also delivered shot, after shot, after shot on quarterback Tyler Wilson. The 3-4 the team runs allows Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart to mix in plenty of zone blitzes to create pressure on quarterbacks who rarely can tell where it's coming from before the snap. The Tide recruit athletes who can move well in they scheme more than anything and that's translated into a fearsome unit that is living up to their reputation as the best in the country. They play smart and play well.
"Well we set out to establish that we were going against the best offense in the SEC and a lot of people were labeling us as the best defense in the SEC, so we wanted to go out and show people what we were capable of with all cylinders turning," linebacker Dont'a Hightower said.
Though the highlight of the game with Arkansas was Marquis Maze's punt return for a touchdown, that was nearly the straw that broke the razorback's back. As Saban and others admitted it was a defensive play, DeQuan Menzie's interception, that shifted the momentum after the offense couldn't convert on the goal line.
"That was a big turning point in the game from a momentum stand point, and you know, we need to make more plays like that, get more turnovers," Saban said. "People are going to see what we do and figure out ways to deal with it. Our challenge is to get better every day."
That's a scary thought - for Alabama or for any SEC defense. Can't wait to see them match up with LSU on November 5 as much as the offensive coordinators do not.
Stat of the week
After wrapping up a 56-31 win over Rice, just about everybody was talking about Heisman candidate and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Look up the box score and it's easy to see why: he went a ho-hum 29-33 for 338 yards and five touchdowns as the Bears racked up 673 yards of offense. Even more eye-popping was the fact that he threw more touchdowns than incompletions for the second consecutive game. Griffin has also thrown more touchdowns (13) than incompletions (12) this season. He is completing 85% of his passes, hasn't thrown an interception and is throwing for nearly 12 yards per attempt. As one would expect, he tops the NCAA efficiency rankings, just ahead of Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.
Other stats of note
- Florida beat Kentucky for the 25th time in a row and by at least 34 points for the fourth straight year. The Wildcats are on the losing end of the two longest active losing streaks to one team, the other being the 26 game streak to Tennessee.
- Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz set a school record and tied the NCAA record by throwing seven touchdown passes against UC Davis over the weekend. He sat out the second half after the Warriors led 49-0 at half but not before he also passed for a school record 424 yards in a half.
- Notre Dame is dead last in the country in turnover margin at -2.50 a game. The Irish have given the ball away 15 times in four games, more than they did in all of 2009 and 2006. The defense has forced just five this year.
- Quarterback Denard Robinson is the nation's leading rusher at 168.7 yards per game, over 15 yards a game more than runner up LaMichael James. While that's pretty impressive, he wouldn't be in the top spot were it not for the NCAA not counting his stats from the game against Western Michigan - which was stopped early. Of course, who knows, he might have been able to pad his stats during that game and still be in the lead a few weeks later like he is now.
- Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray had his nine-game streak of at least 100 yards rushing broken. The Aggies really went away from the ground game in the second half and never did establish Gray against Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden set school records for completions (47) and passing yardage (438).
- James was back to putting up video game numbers for Oregon against Arizona this weekend. He rushed for a school record 288 yards and also set the all-purpose mark. His first quarter touchdown run also gave him the Ducks record for career touchdowns as well. His 288 yards were more than the Wildcats have rushed for all year (249).
- Florida Atlantic had just one first down against Michigan State but racked up 20 against Auburn's defense in a 30-14 loss. The Owls are dead last in the country in offense and have scored only 17 points all year. 62% of FAU's offensive yardage this year came against Auburn.
- South Carolina's defense allowed just 77 yards to Vanderbilt and only five first downs all game. Defensive stud Melvin Ingram scored yet another touchdown, his third in as many weeks. By reaching the end zone, Ingram is tied for third on the team for points scored with quarterback Stephen Garcia.
- A few miles away from Columbia, Clemson receiver and freshman sensation Sammy Watkins is leading the Tigers in scoring after 141 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a victory over Florida State. Through four games this year he has 433 yards receiving and six touchdowns, marks that would have placed him second and third on the team respectively in each category last year.
- Four teams topped the 400 yard rushing mark last Saturday, led by Air Force rolling up 595 yards against hapless Tennessee State. Oregon had 415 yards against Arizona, Florida rushed for 405 against Kentucky and Army pounded Ball State for 402 yards. A team has rushed for over 400 yards 10 times this year while a team has passed for over 400 yards 22 times through week four.
- According to SI.com's Stewart Mandel, Illinois is 4-0 for the first time since 1951. I'm with him, how is that possible?
- Georgia Tech has six plays of 70+ yards this year and seven one-play scoring drives.
- Hats off to Mike Gundy's halftime adjustments. After being held about 1,000 points below their average in the first half to trail by 17, the Cowboys offense exploded as Brandon Weeden started picking apart Texas A&M's secondary with intermediate passes on their way to a comeback win. The Aggies turned the ball over three times and anytime you give Weeden the ball on a short field, watch out. The most telling sign was the lack of panic on the OSU sidelines as they fell behind. Though they hadn't been in the position before, it was as if they knew what to do and went out and executed. The defense isn't quite as good as Oklahoma's but they'll be able to ride the offense quite far in Big 12 play.
- I'm not quite ready to say the Michigan defense is good but it's certainly much improved and solid enough in a weaker Big Ten for new coordinator Greg Mattison. After the much maligned unit struggled all of last year, they seemed to turn a corner against a very good offense in San Diego State. The Wolverines shutout talented running back Ronnie Hillman and the Aztecs in the first half, the first time they've pulled off the feat in the first half in over two years. Hillman hadn't fumbled since the first carry of his freshmen season last year and yet coughed it up twice. We've been in this position with the Wolverines before last year - a fast start, Denard Robinson being Denard Robinson - before fading badly at the end in Rich Rodriguez' last year as head coach. This year, though, might be different. The schedule is manageable and with the defense being more opportunistic than they have been in the past, Michigan could have a much different ending.
- Michigan's archival Ohio State doesn't have the kind of stability that the Wolverines have but they had to be encouraged with the solid first start for quarterback Braxton Miller. He didn't cause anybody to label him the "next" anything after going 5-13 for 83 yards and rushing for 83 yards but it looks like he's the future after a disastrous passing game for the Buckeyes I saw firsthand against Miami. What's funny is the last time I saw Ohio State play on the road was a couple of years ago at USC. The offense struggled and the next game a talented true freshman by the name of Terrelle Pryor started for the first time. Pryor tossed four touchdowns in that game and led the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record as a starter. While Miller didn't come anywhere close to looking like his predecessor, he looked comfortable running the offense and playing with what the defense was giving him. No one's saying he'll be able to replicate what Pryor did on the field but it looks like yet again the Buckeyes have another true freshman ready to lead them into Big Ten play this year.
"I slept pretty good," he said of his first start. "I really didn't have any jitters at all."
With improved play from Miller and the rest of the offense, head coach Luke Fickell might sleep better too.
- There's no offense quite like Georgia Tech's. It's an option attack but one that has a dangerous passing game that is part of the reason the Yellow Jackets are leading the nation in yards per game. They piled up 496 yards on Saturday in a nice win over North Carolina. Quarterback Tevin Washington is the triggerman but unlike previous players at the position under Paul Johnson, he looks like he can legitimately get the ball down the field accurately. Of course, it helps to throw the ball to 6-foot-5 receiver Steven Hill. There were times where he looked just like Calvin Johnson while making one-handed catches on his way to 151 yards and a touchdown. Hill might be the best receiver no one's really talking about but with Washington throwing the ball and running back Orwin Smith helping out on the ground, expect to hear more about Georgia Tech going forward.
- Poor N.C. State fans. As if it weren't enough to see former quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm for a top 10 team, Thursday's blowout loss to Cincinnati couldn't have given anybody any confidence in what's to come this season. The offensive line gave up six sacks to go on top of three turnovers, two of which were interceptions thrown by Wilson's replacement Mike Glennon without much thought. There's some talent on the team but clearly not enough in a much tougher ACC this year. It's going to be a long season until North Carolina's Committee on Infractions hearing for Wolfpack fans.
- I thought the Clemson game would be a bit of a letdown game for Florida State and while they made it close, the execution just was not there for the Seminoles. Of course they wanted to win and definitely were without some key players, but they invested so much into the game against Oklahoma one would have to think that they spent a little too much time watching film from last week instead of film of the Tigers. Just when it seemed like the defense was ready to make a stop or the offense get going, there'd be a penalty (they finished with 11 for 124 yards). On the other side, it finally appears that Clemson is getting the hang of offensive coordinator Chad Morris' new hurry-up system. Tajh Boyd still has moments that must make Morris rip out some hair but he is looking much more comfortable behind center. With electric freshman Sammy Watkins making plays every time you tune in, it's easy to see why there's plenty of optimism in Death Valley.
"I'm super excited about how our players keep growing this offense and executing. And we're only four games into this offense," Morris said. "It's crazy."
- Penn State beat Eastern Michigan 34-6 as part of the Big Ten's weekend of home games against directional schools to raise money for themselves. The Nittany Lions might have come out with a victory but it was a costly one - starting outside linebacker Mike Mauti will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Considered to be the team's best backer, this is needless to say a big blow to a team that already has struggled some on both sides of the ball. Mauti missed the 2009 season with an ACL injury to his other knee and was limited at times last year due to a shoulder injury. Senior corner D'Anton Lynn was also hurt and had to be transported to the hospital to have his head and neck examined after a hit.
- Speaking of Penn State, the team that almost beat them last week, Temple, ended up routing Maryland 38-7. Steve Addazio has quietly taken what Al Golden left him and turned the Owls in a forced to be reckoned with. Junior back Bernard Pierce is the Northeast's best kept secret, as he rushed for five touchdowns and 149 yards to power Temple's first road win over a BCS foe in nine years.
- How bad is Oregon State? The Beavers lost 27-19 to a UCLA team that is not without their own issues on both sides of the ball. Many expected them to get a boost - they were favored at home - with the return of all-purpose threat James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni but it was to no avail. It's the worst start of the Mike Riley era and unlike many of his previous teams, there's just no execution. There's been issues behind the scenes and at quarterback on offense while the defense is still breaking in plenty of new players. As Pac-12 play continues, don't expect things to get any easier until the Beavers get back to their roots of playing smart football and keeping the turnovers to a minimum. For UCLA, it was a game they just had to have if they're to sneak into a bowl game this year. According to the LA Daily News , a joyous Rick Neuheisel told a group of fans after the game "Anybody have fun on the flight here? Not as much as you'll have on the flight home!" Of course, he also added that the Bruins haven't been 1-0 in the conference, "in a long time."
"Big 12! Big 12! Big 12!" - Oklahoma State fans after their victory at Kyle Field. Perhaps it was also fitting that Texas A&M had two 12th man penalties on defense early in the game.
Quote of the week, part II
"The speed of the game, it's kind of lighting struck the outhouse and we were in it." - Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter after the Wildcats' 48-10 loss to Florida.
Tweets of the week
"Arizona will always be a basketball school.. So Child please!" and "If one more person EVER tells me Arizona is turning into a "football" school .. Can kiss the baby"
- Former Arizona forward Derrick Williams during his football team's blowout loss to Oregon. Ouch.
4. Boise State
7. Oklahoma State
9. Virginia Tech
Where we'll be this week
The big CBS primetime matchup between Alabama and Florida from the Swamp will have Mr. College Football himself, Tony Barnhart, in attendance. Dennis Dodd will be at Camp Randall for Nebraska's first Big Ten conference game against Wisconsin while Brett McMurphy will be listening to 'Enter Sandman' as Clemson plays at Virginia Tech. I've got early duty as I'll be at Texas A&M's first SEC conference game (well, first unofficial one anyway) against Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium.
Leaning this way
Alabama at Florida (8 p.m. ET, CBS)
The past three meetings has featured one of two teams ranked number one overall and while neither will be in the top spot in the polls this year, a top 12 matchup awaits down in the Swamp. Both the Gators and Tide have tough defenses that are ranked in the top five nationally in the three big defensive categories (total/rushing/scoring defense) so each offense figures to have a little more trouble moving the ball than they have so far this year. Alabama's speed will be the difference as they bottle up Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to come out with a victory.
Nebraska at Wisconsin
Welcome to the Big Ten Nebraska. Camp Randall should be jumping around as they welcome in the Cornhuskers and Taylor Martinez. Look for Russell Wilson to continue to be sharp and not turn the ball over and the Badgers' defense to make just enough plays to win. Martinez should be able to move the ball though, Wisconsin's defense hasn't really been tested - much less by an offense like Nebraska's.
Clemson at Virginia Tech
The first big test for both teams as Clemson goes on the road to take on Frank Beamer's squad. Clemson made several key mistakes that kept Florida State in the game last week and if they turn the ball over, that plays right into the Hokies game plan. Virginia Tech should win but don't be surprised if this is a close ACC battle.
Tags: ACC, Air Force, Al Golden, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Army, Ball State, Baylor, BCS, Bernard Pierce, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Braxton Miller, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Bryant Moniz, Calvin Johnson, Camp Randall, Chad Morris, Chris Rainey, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cowboys Stadium, Cyrus Gray, D'Anton Lynn, Dana Holgorsen, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, DeQuan Menzie, Derrick Williams, Dont'a Hightower, Eastern Michigan, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Geno Smith, Georgia Tech, Greg Mattison, Gregg Doyel, Hawaii, Heisman, Illinois, James Rodgers, Jeff Demps, Joe Halahuni, John Chavis, Kentucky, Kirby Smart, Kyle Field, LaMichael James, Les Miles, LSU, Luke Fickell, Marquis Maze, Maryland, Melvin Inrgam, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Mike Mauti, Mike Riley, Mississippi State, Morris Claiborne, N.C. State, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Orwin Smith, Pac-12, Patrick Peterson, Paul Johnson, Penn State, Rice, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Minter, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Ronnie Hillman, Russell Wilson, Sammy Watkins, San Diego State, SEC, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Steve Addazio, Steven Hill, Stewart Mandel, Tajh Boyd, Taylor Martinez, Temple, Tennessee, Terrelle Pryor, Tevin Washington, Texas A&M, Tony Barnhart, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 24, 2011 11:58 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 11:59 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
LSU WON. West Virginia was able to get Dana Holgorsen's offense in rhythm, collecting 533 total yard of offense. But on Saturday LSU provided a potent offense of their own, feeing off great field position and 4 turnovers to a 47-21 win in Morgantown. There was trash talking, hard hits, and great competition at the skill positions. But the game was won for LSU in the trenches on both sides of the ball, with the Tigers wearing down West Virginia and pulling away late.
HOW LSU WON: The Tigers' touted defensive unit did not put up numbers that would jump off the page (like the aforementioned 533 yards of offense for West Virginia), but they delivered enough timely turnovers and frurstrating pass coverage that kept West Virginia from crossing the end zone. Nearly every time the Mountaineers started rolling down the field, LSU would come up with a perfect stop just outside of scoring position. Jarrett Lee also put together an unusually impressive evening, completing 16 of 28 passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Once the Tigers' had the lead for good, it was Ware and Ford pounding the ball on West Virginia's 3-3-5 defense. An exhausting clock drainer that has become LSU's bread and butter in the fourth quarter.
WHEN LSU WON: West Virginia got the home crowd rocking after scoring two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to cut the LSU lead to six points. In typical Tigers fashion, they completely reveresed the game's momentum with a big special teams play. Morris Claiborne took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards down the field for a touchdown and a two score lead for LSU. It was a crippling blow to the home crowd and West Virginia's offense did not get a chance to score again.
WHAT LSU WON: The right to be considered the best team in the nation. The Tigers have put together some of the most impressive on field performances this season, but their body of work and strength of schedule gives plenty of reasons for voters to consider placing LSU above Oklahoma and Alabama in the No. 1 spot. There are still plenty of obstacles left in that rigourous schedule, but it is hard to make an argument FOR either Oklahoma or Alabama after LSU has beaten Oregon on a neutral field, as well as Mississippi State and West Virginia at home in primetime.
WHAT WEST VIRGINIA LOST: The chance to leap up into the Top 10 nationally and make a case as a national contender. Playing in the Big East won't get you enough respect from the voters and computers to give you many opportunities past the BCS berth, but a 4-0 start with victories over Maryland and LSU would give plenty of reason to consider the Mountaineers a dark horse. West Virginia is still the favorite to win the Big East, and now that needs to be their No. 1 focus.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Tyrann Mathieu. Other fans may get tired of the attention he's getting, but we will stop calling his name when he stops making plays. From strips, to interceptions, to punt returns, to downing punts at the one-yard-line; the guy is all over the place. He wears Patrick Peterson's number and he still has (at least) one more full season to continue to improve.
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