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Tag:Auburn
Posted on: November 4, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 1:50 pm
 

NCAA documents on Newton investigation released

Posted by Tom Fornelli

In October the NCAA concluded its investigation of Cam Newton and his recruitment to Auburn without finding any major violations. The result of this announcement was that Auburn fans could stop worrying that they'd one day have their BCS title stripped from them and that the school would also suffer further punishments.

Though just because there were no major violations found, that doesn't mean the school didn't come close to losing Newton a couple of times last season.

Auburn released documents on Friday between the school and the NCAA regarding the Newton investigation as part of the Freedom of Information Act. What they document is that Auburn was nearly forced to sit Newton out twice last season -- before the Georgia game and SEC Championship -- but that the school successfully defended Newton both times by saying he had no knowledge of any contact between his father Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers.

The documents also included a letter from Auburn sent to the NCAA.

"Despite numerous media reports suggesting Newton himself engaged in wrongdoing, the facts clearly demonstrate Newton has done nothing
wrong," Auburn told the NCAA. "Auburn had no contact with Rogers during the recruitment of Newton. Auburn was in no way involved in offering or considering an offer of any recruitment inducement."

Cecil Newton has already admitted that he asked Rogers, a former Mississippi State player, to try and get money from Mississippi State when it was recruiting his son, but that no money ever changed hands and there was never a similar deal agreed to or even asked of Auburn.

Though the documents that were released on Friday show that there was plenty of contact between Cecil Newton and Rogers, as the two exchanged 275 phone calls during Cam Newton's recruitment at Mississippi State.
Posted on: November 2, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 10

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. South Carolina (5-1)(7-1)
1. Georgia (5-1)(6-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Alabama (5-0)(8-0)
1. LSU (5-0)(8-0)
3. Arkansas (3-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: South Carolina at Arkansas, LSU at Alabama

Pick: LSU. This could easily be Alabama, but right now I've got the Bayou Bengals winning 21-17 in Tuscaloosa. Regardless, whoever wins the SEC West will likely be the one to win the SEC Championship in Atlanta. Even with a victory over Alabama, LSU would still need to beat Arkansas in the regular season finale in Baton Rouge. South Carolina owns the head-to-head against Georgia, so the Bulldogs will need to win out and hope for a Gamecocks loss this weekend to win the East.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (5-0)(8-0)
2. Oklahoma (4-1)(7-1)
2. Kansas State (4-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: Kansas State at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M at Oklahoma

Pick: Oklahoma. I like the way the Sooners responded to getting upset by Texas Tech in their performance against Kansas State. Unless the Cowboys continue to showcase the defense that was on the field against Baylor - which they might - I have a hard time seeing the Sooners' offense getting stopped in the Bedlam Rivalry. Oklahoma State also has a tough road against Kansas State and on the road against Texas Tech before that season finale. Could be the Cowboys, but right now I'll take the Sooners.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (6-0)(8-0)
2. Oregon (5-0)(7-1)
3. Washington (4-1)(6-2)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-1)(6-2)
2. UCLA (3-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Arizona State at UCLA, Oregon at Washington

Pick: Stanford. If Arizona State beats UCLA this weekend it should basically lock up the USC-less South Division for that bid to the inaugural Pac-12 title game. The North will be a more difficult challenge for the Cardinal, but the resiliency showed by Andrew Luck and the offense after the pick-six in fourth quarter was just one of those moments that makes you believe this is their year to win the league.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan (3-1)(7-1)
1. Nebraska (3-1)(7-1)
1. Michigan State (3-1)(6-2)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(6-2)
2. Wisconsin (2-2)(6-2)
2. Ohio State (2-2)(5-3)
2. Purdue (2-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Michigan at Iowa, Northwestern at Nebraska, Purdue at Wisconsin, Indiana at Ohio State 

Pick: Wisconsin. Penn State has been the surprise of the league, now sitting as the only team undefeated in conference play. But with Nebraska and road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin on the schedule, I think the Badgers will have a chance to win the division in the regular season finale. The Legends Division is a little more cloudy, but right now Michigan State's remaining schedule is the most favorable among the three contenders. I like the Badgers to exact their revenge on Sparty in a rematch from the upset in East Lansing.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-3)
3. Florida State (3-2)(5-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)

Key Week 10 Game: Florida State at Boston College

Pick: Clemson. This weekend won't reveal much more about the ACC title race, with the top teams in the conference sitting this out this first weekend in November. But the Hokies and Yellow Jackets will square off in Atlanta next Thursday, a game that could seal the division for either team. Wake Forest will get their shot at the Tigers, but a Clemson win should st them up for a return to the ACC title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (2-0)(6-1)
2. West Virginia (2-1)(6-2)
2. Louisville (2-1)(4-4)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisville at West Virginia, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Pick: Cincinnati. The league-leading Bearcats do play three of their final five conference games on the road, but they will get to play host when West Virginia comes to town. If Cincinnati can get another game on the Mountaineers, I like their chances to emerge as a 1-loss Big East champion. West Virginia has to finish their season on the road against South Florida on a Thursday night. So far in 2011, Big East home teams are 6-0 when playing conference games on a weekday night.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (3-1)(7-1)
1. East Carolina (3-1)(4-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (4-0)(8-0)
1. Tulsa (4-0)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Tulsa at UCF, Southern Miss at East Carolina

Pick: Houston. Winner of this weekends East Division showdown should take front seat for the Conference USA title game. Either way I'm not sure either team could beat Houston. Tulsa will have their chance to play spoiler to the Cougars, hosting Case Keenum and Co. in the final game of the regular season, but they'll have to get by UCF and Marshall to have that opportunity.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (3-0)(6-2)
2. Boise State (2-0)(7-0)
2. Wyoming (2-0)(5-2)

Key Week 10 Games: TCU at Wyoming, Boise State at UNLV

Pick: Boise State. The only hurdle left for the Broncos is TCU, and the Horned Frogs' defensive drop-off from 2010 has been well documented. The game also will be played on the Smurf Turf in Boise, and I like Kellen Moore's chances to dissect that defense from under center at home. With the possibility of the Broncos earning a BCS bid, there is also significant competition for those extra bowl spots. I do like TCU to finish ahead of Wyoming for the second-place spot.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Hawaii (3-1)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (3-1)(4-4)
4. Fresno State (2-1)(3-5)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisiana Tech at Fresno State, Utah State at Hawaii

Pick: Nevada. The Wolf Pack bounced back from a 1-3 start with four straight wins to jump out ahead of the conference. The ground attack has been grooving, and they will have a week off before hosting Hawaii in a crucial battle for the top spot in the league. With Week 10 off and three of their final four contests at home, I like Nevada's chance to emerge as the top team in the WAC.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1, Temple (3-2)(5-3)
2. Ohio (2-2)(5-3)
2. MIami (OH) (2-2)(3-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Eastern Michigan (3-1)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Northern Illinois 63, Toledo 60. Temple at Ohio, Ball State at Eastern Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. Tuesday night's 123-point touchdown extravaganza provided thrilling mid-week action for college football fans, but it was also a huge win for the Huskies in the battle for the West Division title. Temple and Ohio will have a similar battle on Wednesday night, as the division races should have much more clarity heading into the weekend.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (4-0)(6-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (5-1)(7-2)
3. Western Kentucky (4-1)(4-4)
4. Florida International (2-2)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Florida International at Western Kentucky, Arkansas State at Florida Atlantic, La.-Monroe at La.-Lafayette

Pick: Arkansas State. Both La.-Lafayette and the Red Wolves have winnable Week 10 games before facing each other Nov. 12 in a game that could decide the Sun Belt Champion. With no conference title game you can never count out ties, but I like Arkansas State next week to at least pick up the head-to-head tie breaker in the final standings.


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Posted on: November 1, 2011 6:06 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 6:07 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Nov. 1: Run game breakdown

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.




DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 4, or the number of special teams and defensive touchdowns scored this season by LSU: two fumble returns for scores by Tyrann Mathieu, a kickoff return by Morris Claiborne, and pick-six by Ron Brooks. The Tide have three: a Marquis Maze punt return, and pick-sixes by Courtney Upshaw and DeQuan Menzie. Also the number worn (as you can see) by Tide All-American safety Mark Barron, who (despite our raving about the Alabama linebackers yesterday) leads the Tide defense in solo tackles with 25.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: We know both these teams can run the ball. But which one does it better?

You might be surprised just how decisively the statistics will tell you that answer is "Alabama."

Yes, the Bayou Bengals have an out-and-out stud carrying the ball in Spencer Ware, a veteran offensive line loaded with former blue-chips playing its best football in years, solid backups in Alfred Blue and Michael Ford (not to mention bruising freshman fullback Kenny Hilliard, who collected 65 yards and two touchdowns vs. Auburn), and a successful vertical passing game to keep defenses honest. But it hasn't added up to statistical dominance just yet: the Tigers rank a respectable-but-not-spectacular 31st in rushing offense, but a downright middle-of-the-pack 55th in yards per-carry. Ware's 73 yards per-game rank him 66th in the country, sandwiched between Nevada's Cody Fajardo and USF's Darrell Scott.

The Tide, meanwhile, have the numbers to back up Trent Richardson and Co.'s reputation: 14th nationally in rushing yards, but sixth in yards per-carry at 5.84 an attempt and fourth in touchdowns with 27. Richardson ranks seventh at 123 yards per-game, third in touchdowns, and first in yards per-carry (6.64) among backs with more than 125 attempts. And given that backups Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler are averaging a fairly ridiculous 7.6 yards per-carry between them, it's not just the Heisman candidate guy; Barrett Jones and the rest of the Alabama offensive line are, as the kids say, bringing the wood.

So would we agree with the numbers that this is that major an edge for the Tide? Not in the slightest, for two reasons:

1. LSU's stats are being dragged down by an usually slow start to the season; through their first five weeks, the Tigers were averaging just 3.96 yards per attempt despite facing the likes of Kentucky and FCS Northwestern State. That's changed in a big way over their past three games, with the Tigers gashing Florida, Tennessee and Auburn to the tune of 216 yards per game and 4.8 yards per-carry. That 4.8 is even more impressive when you consider ...

2. the Tigers simply don't get huge gains on the ground. The Tigers have just one run of 30 yards or more this season, tying them for the lowest mark in the SEC. 20 yards or more? They're still ninth, and those numbers are despite attempting the second-most runs in the league.

The Tide, by contrast, already have 12 30-plus yard runs; only four teams nationally have more, and two of them are option squads. When comparing the two sides, yes, it's fair to say that Richardon's explosiveness and LSU's confirmed lack of an out-and-out breakway threat make the Tide more likely to bust a long one.

But how likely is one of those long ones? Given the quality of both teams' secondaries in run support, not all that likely. Which running game gets the upper hand is going to come down to which team can slug forward for four, five, six yards at a time, which line can create just the slightest creases for their backs, which backs can consistently wriggle and drive for the extra yard here and there.

No one in the SEC -- not even Alabama -- does those things better than a focused Ware and the Tigers. We still have to give the Tide's ground game the slimmest of edges due to Richardson's extraordinary ability and the higher likelihood of a big gainer ... but in a game like this one, we do mean "slimmest."

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: Judging from his Twitter feed, Mathieu already plays with a decent-size chip on his shoulder. So we're curious to see how he responds to being snubbed from the list of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, announced Monday. The Thorpe is given annually to the nation's best defensive back, and while all 15 are worthy candidates, it's hard to see how Mathieu isn't one of them ... unless the Thorpe organization is punishing him for his recent drug-related suspension. Fair or not, we wonder if a big day Saturday won't result in some Thorpe-related chirping from Mathieu in the near future.

Speaking of chirping, remember when Claiborne said he'd go for Richardson's legs if asked to tackle him one-on-one? Ryan Baker doesn't sound quite so impressed:
"Oh yeah, I can tackle him. I can tackle anybody in the country," Baker said of Richardson. "Don't need any help."
Wonder if Mr. Richardson will make any note of that. Other LSU defenders, for what it's worth, were not quite so brash. (For more from Baker, check out this well-done brief interview clip from the SEC Digital Network.)

If anyone ever decides to make another Australian fish-out-of-water comedy, we'd suggest they start with the story of LSU punter Brad Wing. Not only did Wing express bemusement at the exorbitant sums now being requested for tickets to the game in which his punting could make a dramatic difference -- "I think a Grand Final ticket in Australia might be 200 bucks. That’s crazy" -- but he's also getting a quick education in the history of the game he's stumbled into. Asked about Bear Bryant, Wing responded that the name "sounds familiar" before asking "Should I know [him]?"

Actually, Brad, it's more funny if you don't.

VIDEO BREAK: CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart appears on the Tim Brando Show to preview the game:



THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA:
Taking cues from their head coach, the Tide players have been admirably steadfast in their refusal to say anything other than boilerplate one-game-at-a-time-LSU's-a-great-team comments to reporters.

Examples from Monday: "We want to win every game, and LSU is the next team standing in our way, but I wouldn’t say ‘revenge'"; "They have a great defense. They also have a great offense, and we have a great offense and a great offense. It’s just about going out there and playing at our standards and not anybody else’s standards"; "I pay no attention to who the (LSU) coaches play (at quarterback). Having other factors at play just kind of throws us off, and we don’t want that to happen."

Richardson also had praise for the Tiger defense, saying they "don’t back down for anyone. They are going to come for me." But he also admitted that the game is hugely important to him personally--not just because of the stakes involved, but because he wasn't able to help prevent last year's defeat in Baton Rouge.

"I tore an abdominal muscle and I had a slightly torn MCL," he said. "This game means a lot to me, because I didn't get to play in it last year except for about one quarter. So I really can't wait to showcase what a healthy Trent can do in this game."

There's a lot of people, we would guess, that would love to see what a healthy Trent can do in this game. As for what his coach might do, we wrote Sunday that we shouldn't be too shocked if Nick Saban defies his reputation and pulls a trick out of the bag. So we were intrigued to find out that former Tide player and current Houston Texan DeMeco Ryans told the Sporting News that he wouldn't be surprised, either:
"I think the X factor could be a trick play. If you look at coach (Nick) Saban's history, he's got some tricks up his sleeve. I could see him calling a fake punt or an option pass or something like that to break open a close game. He's known for doing that. I hate to admit it, but when I played, he got me on one (fake punt) of those (when Saban was at LSU). As a defensive player or a special teams player, you've got to be aware of the possibility, but you can't let it affect your aggressiveness."
Ryans was one of four current NFL players and LSU/Bama program alums to offer their take on the game; you'll be shocked, shocked to learn that all four picked their former teams to win the game.

Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 3:12 pm
 

Georgia RB crisis: Samuel out, Crowell suspended

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Ever dreamed of toting the rock for the Georgia Bulldogs, random UGA student? Now may be your chance.

In the space of one afternoon, the Bulldogs have lost four scholarship tailbacks for this Saturday's game against New Mexico State. Starter Isaiah Crowell and backups Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome have all been suspended for one game for a violation of team rules, the program has announced.

But even that's not the worst news of the day from the Bulldog tailback perspective. Mark Richt announced earlier Tuesday that Richard Samuel, Crowell's immediate backup and the Dawgs' initial 2011 starter, underwent surgery on his ankle Tuesday morning and will miss the remaining four games of the regular season.

Samuel scored the winning touchdown against Florida last Saturday in the junior's career highlight to date, then was injured in the game's closing moments.

"We don't know exactly when he'll be back, but it obviously won't be anytime soon," Richt said. ""Richard really had probably his finest performance, in a really big game. For it to happen on the last play is just sad for him."

With all the absences, the tailback job will likely fall to redshirt sophomore Brandon Harton, a former walk-on who received a scholarship this fall. Harton has 11 carries for 33 yards this season, all against Coastal Carolina. Another former walk-on, senior Wes Van Dyk, could see time; Van Dyk has two career carries, both vs. FCS competition.

Against the 3-5 Aggies, all the running back absences shouldn't matter too much (though NMSU does have one BCS conference scalp to their credit this year ... if you count Minnesota, and we're not sure you should). The Georgia line should still be able to open holes nearly anyone could run through, Aaron Murray should still have little problem finding receivers, and or Jarvis Jones should still live in the Aggie backfield. We shouldn't oversell the damage here as long as the suspended three return as expected for a potentially make-or-break visit from Auburn Nov. 12.

But losing Samuel hurts -- his surge against the Gators might have taken him back into the starter's role -- and a topsy-turvy first several months in Athens has made Crowell seem less-than-100-percent reliable. Georgia's OK for the present, but the future looks much murkier than it did 24 hours ago.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 7:51 pm
 

The Poll Attacks: Week 9

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.

With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.

AP Poll           Coaches Poll           Harris Poll           BCS

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)

Poll reactions: ACC, Big East, Big TenBig 12, Pac-12, SEC

Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team of the week: Penn State

  It took awhile but we're finally on board with the Nittany Lions. As my colleague Bruce Feldman asked, has any 8-1, Joe Paterno-coached team ever been this disrespected? Yes, the offense is pitiful outside of Silas Redd and they seem to enjoy tormenting the local media by never naming a starter. They're the leader in the, um, Leaders division and certainly have a chance at winning their last three games to get to the Big Ten title game. 10th is a little high (Jim Wogan, John Hunt) but 20th or below? Not right now.

Overrated: Michigan State

  Hard to pick just one team that is overrated this week, it seems like everybody below Oklahoma has serious issues (and Oregon/OU aren't great top 10 by any means). But Michigan State seems ripe at 15th in the AP poll and 16th in the Coaches poll. The loss to Notre Dame (31-13) doesn't look good at all in retrospect just as the Wisconsin win doesn't help all that much. They impressed in a win against Michigan but they only have three BCS wins and won by three in one and needed a hail mary in another.

California Craziness

A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.

  It was really hard to pass on Wolf being in this space after he went on national television to defend his Boise State first place vote and failed miserably. But based on the ballot turned in, Wilner once again falls in the California Craziness section. 13th and 14th seem really high to rank Arizona State and USC, and all Auburn did this week was beat Ole Miss - are they really 17th ahead of Virginia Tech? Texas 19th, ahead of undefeated Houston at 25th (!) is highly questionable, as is Washington at 18th. Also, Georgia Tech and Penn State are unranked.

What were you thinking? Chris Fowler, Idaho Statesman

  Chris, Poll Attacks here, big fan of your work on GameDay and with tennis coverage. Here's the thing though, you can't rank USC 12th in the country after they lost to Stanford. You also can't rank the Trojans ahead of Arizona State, who beat them badly when they met earlier this year. Outside of that, the ballot looks pretty good. But still, USC 12th ahead of ASU? Come on man. Also probably a bit early to put in Ohio State.

Also have to say shame on the Idaho Statesman this week. With Boise State on a bye, they furloughed beat writer Chadd Cripe. That in, itself, would earned them a mention in this space. BUT, they also prevented Cripe from voting in this week's AP poll because it would have constituted working. So not only do you force him to the couch (likely to watch plenty of football) without pay, but you prevent him from sending a simple email about who he thinks is a top 25 team. Love the paper's coverage of Broncos athletics but really? What are you thinking? Not sure why Desmond Conner of the Hartford Courant didn't turn in a vote either but hope he has a good excuse.


Posted on: October 31, 2011 2:23 pm
 

SEC Poll Reactions, Week 9

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.

(AP/Coaches)

1/1. LSU

Want a recipe for keeping the status quo in a team's poll position? Make them the clearcut No. 1 team in both polls, give them a bye week, and have the only team within shouting distance of them also enjoy a bye. Result: the Tigers didn't just stay a comfortable No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches, their point totals from Week 8 barely flinched.

2/2. ALABAMA

Lather, rinse, repeat. No. 3 Oklahoma State's bludgeoning of Baylor did nothing to narrow the gap between the Cowboys and the Tide, despite Alabama having the week off.

8/8. ARKANSAS

The Razorbacks entered the week No. 8, then saw No. 6 Clemson lose and slip to 11th or 12th, depending on the poll. So why didn't the Hogs move up? Because Oklahoma leapfrogged them after going on the road and smashing previously-undefeated Kansas State. We've been championing the Hogs for the top spot among one-loss teams for weeks, based on their Texas A&M and Auburn wins and highly-understandable loss at Alabama. But the Razorbacks really can't have any complaints after a second straight underwhelming perfomance, this time escaping Vanderbilt solely on an unforced goalline fumble by Zac Stacy and a missed Commodore field goal. At this point, the No. 8 spot even looks a tad generous. Though nowhere near as generous as ...

10/10. SOUTH CAROLINA

... the Gamecocks sliding in at No. 10. No, Carolina's collection of wins isn't bad at all; at Georgia, at Mississipi State, now at Tennessee gives them three road W's over likely bowl teams. But that's no better than Kansas State's collection, and the Wildcats' loss to Oklahoma is much more understandable than losing at home to Auburn ... so why are the Wildcats a whopping 7 and 9 places behind the Gamecocks depending on the poll? Clemson's beaten Virginia Tech, Florida St. and oh-by-the-way the same Auburn team that beat Carolina; why are they behind the Gamecocks at all?

And all that is strictly looking at wins and losses--anyone who's seen the Gamecock offense sputter and flail the past two weeks can't be convinced this is one of the 10 best teams in the country. We'll buy Steve Spurrier's team as top-20 and even top 15 based on the resume, but slotting them 10th is just preseason-based laziness on the part of the voters.

18/20. GEORGIA

The Dawgs get a four-spot bump in the AP after downing Florida but move up just one spot in the Coaches poll. Who's right? We'll side with the Coaches on this one; the Gators and previous Dawgs victims Tennessee and Mississippi State are all decent teams, but none of them are even on the right side of .500 and both of Georgia's losses have come at home. Why the AP took the Dawgs over a Wisconsin team that crushed Nebraska and lost both its games on last-minute Hail Marys on the road, we're not sure. Until/unless they handle Auburn at home in two weeks, 20th should be good enough for Georgia.

25/unranked. AUBURN

And speaking of the Tigers, they're now the only three-loss team in either poll after sneaking into the bottom of the AP. With all three of those losses coming on the road to teams in the top 11 and one of the Tigers' wins coming on the road at that No. 10 Carolina team, it makes sense, though we can't really blame the Coaches for going with Southern Miss (7-1, wins over surging Virginia and SMU). Texas, though, whose best win came either at home vs. BYU or at UCLA ... them, we're less sure about.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as Saturday's classic battle between Stanford and USC was about Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes and the Cardinal's national title dreams, it was hugely important for the man pacing the home sideline with a laminated playcard.

Yes, USC lost, there's no denying what really matters and what the game will represent in the media guide years for now. But, when combined with the way the Trojans beat Notre Dame last week and their inspired-but-not-quite-good-enough play against Stanford, I think we can finally come to one conclusion about Lane Kiffin that we couldn't beforehand: he can coach. We're still not sure if he can win quite yet, but the question marks about his coaching abilities have been answered.

Given his record, 12-21 with the Oakland Raiders and at Tennessee, it was easy to be skeptical about Kiffin. His resume had an impressive collection of jobs before he turned 34 but he still couldn't shake the label that he was riding on the coattails of his father Monte and Pete Carroll. The NCAA violations and brash nature while with the Vols only enhanced negativity. Last season's 8-5, 5-4 in the Pac-10, record didn't answer any questions. He was blown out by Oregon at home and lost to a lowly Oregon State team in Corvallis on top of three losses by seven points. His offensive unit was good but struggled at times. Jokes about him firing his father for the Trojans' defensive woes had some truth behind them.

2011 wasn't a make or break year but it was important to Kiffin and the USC program as a whole to take another step back to where they were under Carroll despite being under the cloud of NCAA sanctions. The disrespect was evident when the Trojans were a nine point underdog in South Bend despite the Irish's penchant for turning the ball over in big games.

As celebrated as Brian Kelly was in his first season, he came into the game with a 12-7 record while Kiffin was one game better at 13-6 at USC. The tone was set early last week with an impressive opening drive to quiet the Notre Dame crowd and the Irish were never really back in the game after that.

Afterward, Kiffin was elated in the locker room and was extra happy to ruin a game Kelly had built up to be the Super Bowl for his team. He acknowledged it was the biggest win since he arrived in Los Angeles and he was right, in his second season he finally had a marquee victory.

Coaches and players vehemently dislike the term 'moral victory' because they understand the bottom line: you still lost. Still, there are plenty of positives in defeat and we learned a few about USC this week after the three overtime loss to Luck and the Cardinal.

The defense is not terrible like we thought it was. It's not great by any stretch but the defensive line can put pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers are quick enough to make plays in space and the secondary is young but rounding into form. On offense, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods have something special going on, the offensive line has exceeded expectations and the running game has come into its own the past few weeks.

USC didn't win on Saturday but they came close and that counts for something against a team that had reeled off 10 straight wins by 25 or more points. Luck, the best quarterback in the country by far, looked human at times and the USC offense looked like it was on the cusp of being great.

Lane Kiffin will still be thought of negatively, especially in the South, but he's answered a few of his critics' questions this season. He can coach and he can coach offenses that put up points. Now is the time to win the big, big game that his predecessor was known for. Kiffin's insistence after the game about calling out the referees for the final play of regulation - "They lied to me," he said Sunday - knowing that a reprimand from the Pac-12 was coming was taken by some to be whiny but I saw what some of his players did - that he'd fight for them until the battle could no longer be won, and even a little more. Even in retrospect, his play call of a tunnel screen to Woods doesn't look as terrible as it was when you consider he had two timeouts and the play was designed to go up field.

The last time USC lost a triple overtime game to a Bay area team they went on a historic run. No one is saying the same will happen under Kiffin, especially as the program begins scholarship reductions this season, but it's a good omen.

Last Saturday the Coliseum was rocking, the team was playing well and the coach wasn't a question mark. Kiffin can coach, now it's time to see if he can win big games.

Stat of the week

Via the Associated Press, Texas Tech is second team since 1989 (when the AP Poll expanded to 25), to go from no votes to ranked to no votes in three weeks. The other was Washington after they beat USC in 2009.

Stats of the week

- Five Big 12 teams are ranked 90th or worse in total defense, complete with Kansas being the worst in the country giving up 555 yards and 49.5 points per game. That might explain why three of the top five passers in the country are from the conference. The Jayhawks also only had 46 yards of total offense this week.

- Two candidates for most disappointing team of they year, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, are 110th and 118th respectively in turnover margin.

- Despite running so much, Georgia Tech is a third-down machine. They have the fifth-most third down attempts in the country yet are converting on 57.6% of them, best mark in the country by nearly 2%.

- The much maligned Michigan defense has taken a leap in several categories under Greg Matison but perhaps the most important: they lead the country in red zone defense. The Wolverines have only allowed 13 scores all year from inside the 20.

- If you had to guess who leads the country in time of possession, you'd probably start with a Georgia Tech or an Army. It's actually Texas, who holds onto the ball for over 35 minutes per game.

- After facing Oklahoma State, Baylor's defense dropped from 97th in total defense and 101st in scoring defense to 108th and 115th. Missouri went from 29th and 25th in the two categories to 51st and 46th. Texas went from 24th and 47th to 30th and 56th. Bottom line, your defense won't look too good in the stats after facing the Cowboys.

- Auburn is 289-4 all time when scoring 30-plus points. One reason why Gus Malzahn is being paid $1.3 million a year.

- This is the first time Georgia has beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same year since 1988. There are only three players on the Bulldogs' roster that were born before then. The Gators' four game skid is the first of any kind at the school since 1988 and first in the SEC since 1979, when head coach Will Muschamp was eight.

Yard-by-yard

- It was only a matter of time before the Manhattan Miracle came to an end. Oklahoma had been shocked the week before by Texas Tech and Kansas State was the unwitting opponent they took it out on. Landry Jones threw for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns, impressive considering the quarterbacks that have been churned out under Bob Stoops recently. His favorite target, Ryan Broyles, also moved into first place on the Big 12 career receiving list. Not all was crimson Saturday however, as running back Dominique Whaley fractured his ankle on the very first play of the game. Though overwhelmingly a passing team, the balance that the running game had with Whaley will be missed unless the Sooners find someone to step up. Kansas State will have to regroup after the Big 12's previously top-ranked defense was shredded by Jones. They rallied in the second quarter but that was about the only time the Wildcats could get something going.

- Say what you want about Oklahoma State's 111th ranked defense but they bottled up Robert Griffin III, shutting Baylor out in the first half and allowing just one score in the red zone all game. The 622 yards allowed is concerning but they allowed a good chuck of the yards when the game was well out of hand. It seemed like the Cowboys were going to be locked in a tough one once the Bears drove down to the one-yard line on their first drive but the defense held and the offense drove 99-yards for a touchdown to set the tone early. After that, it was like Mike Gundy's squad was shot out of a cannon. Particularly impressive was running back Joseph Randle, who had 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead a rushing attack that rolled up over 300 yards for the first time in over two years. It's hard to look at the Cowboys and see anybody but Oklahoma stopping them from booking a trip to New Orleans.

- It seems to happen every game but it does seem concerning that Oregon led Washington State by only five points before taking care of business in the second half in a 43-28 win. The big news was the return of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, who both started. James ran for 53 yards and wore a brace after dislocating his elbow a few weeks ago. Thomas was a little shakier, tossing two interceptions before being pulled for backup Bryan Bennett. Was it rust? Hard to say but you can't say it wasn't a factor after being limited in practices the week before. There's likely not much of a quarterback controversy but there's no question the Ducks need Thomas at 100% if they want to beat Washington, Stanford or USC. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas was a bright spot, perhaps extra bright in Oregon's yellow "bumblebee" uniforms, taking a kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown and scoring on a 45-yard pass.

- People joke about Case Keenum putting up video game numbers in Houston's offense but that's exactly what he did Thursday, throwing NINE touchdown passes as the Cougars routed Rice 73-34 despite the rainy conditions. It wasn't the start Keenum and the offense wanted, with an interception and having a fumble returned for a touchdown to put themselves in an early hole. But then the rain seemed to lighten up and the record-setting quarterback took over from there. His fifth touchdown toss moved him past former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell to set the FBS-record for career TD passes and he proceeded to throw four more just for good measure. "Those are video game numbers, something we couldn't get stopped," Rice linebacker Justin Allen said. "The rain slowed down a little bit ... I wished it would have rained all game. It stopped, and they got things cranked up. There was no looking back for them." Keenum should set another record next week with 267 yards to become the FBS leader in career passing yards. Undefeated and somewhat untested, it looks like Houston is on their way to a special season. They have serious issues on defense but the offense will continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

- Tom O'Brien's hot seat status is fiery hot right now after losing to Florida State 34-0. The Wolfpack managed only 166 yards on offense and were shutout for the first time in three years. They weren't just beat by FSU, they were pushed around like they were Duke. T.J. Graham, one of the few bright spots for N.C. State this year, was bottled up and held to just 116 all-purpose yards. Given the way he handled the Russell Wilson situation and the way the season has gone, don't be surprised when there's a second coaching search going on in the triangle during the offseason (UNC being the other).

- It's time to give JoePa props for coaching Penn State to an 8-1 record. The defense, of course, is the story and the backbone of the team, shutting out Illinois for three quarters but the Nittany Lions had just enough on offense to get by with a 10-7 win. It was a sloppy affair for both teams but Joe Paterno picked up win No. 409 to move become the winningest coach in Division I. They are the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team right now.

- Is there a team more bipolar than Syracuse? A week after throttling West Virginia at home, the Orangemen looked terrible against Louisville, losing 27-10. They beat Toledo thanks to an officiating error, barely lost to Rutgers and barely beat Tulane, then have alternated between great and horrible the last two weeks. They certainly look like they're going to another bowl game this year but if you're Doug Marrone, you have to be concerned with the lack of consistency. On the other side, Louisville posted back-to-back Big East wins for the first time since 2006 and are still in the thick of things in the muddled conference race. Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress and this young team is making steady progress.

- As a few people joked on Twitter, Missouri proved that an SEC East team can beat an SEC West team with the Tigers 38-31 overtime win against Texas A&M. Any joy Aggie fans have over the move to a new conference is being ruined by their team's play on the field, blowing a 14 point lead at home this time around after doing the same against Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Missouri is better than their .500 record suggests and Henry Josey has been a revelation at the running back spot - so much so that he looks like the all-Big 12 pick at his position. James Franklin still makes a bone-headed play from time to time but the offense is still better than expected with the first-time starter running the show. Still, what once was a season of promise for Texas A&M has been anything but and doesn't get better with a trip to Norman.

- Impressive game by the Blackshirts as Nebraska muzzled Michigan State's offense in a 24-3 win in Lincoln. NU defensive backs turned in their best game of the season, being physical off of the line and forcing Kirk Cousins into missing all but four of his first 16 passes. He finished the day with just 86 yards a week after a 290 yard, three TD performance. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead paced the Cornhuskers' offense and looked like they are finally earning their ranking with a dominating win.

- Iowa, really? Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the country and you lose 22-21? There's not much to explain really. The same goes for Texas Tech, getting trounced at home by Iowa State. CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman was in a state of disbelief everytime he checked the score of either game and that pretty much sums up what everybody else was thinking.

- Late in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which the politically correct will know is Georgia-Florida), SI.com's Andy Staples and I both turned to each other and said that the Bulldog's four point lead would be insurmountable for the Gators offense to overcome. Special teams was another story but the offense? It just couldn't move the ball for their life. The personnel just isn't there to give them any schematic advantage. Hats off to Mark Richt though, who has won six straight and certainly helped his cause.

- Was shocked to see that Texas ended a FIVE game losing streak at home against Kansas this week. It's not saying much against that Jayhawks defense but the Longhorns still rushed for an impressive 441 yards in a game that few people saw on the Longhorn Network.

- Welcome to the Pac-12 win column Utah, who beat Oregon State at home 27-8.

- Clemson finally pulled a Clemson against Georgia Tech. Tevin Washington, after a string of bad games, rushed for 176 yards and was the triggerman for the option offense that jumped out to a 24-3 lead thanks to several Tigers turnovers. It was an impressive showing by Georgia Tech's defense against the explosive Clemson offense, which had come into the game scoring points at will. Considering how shaky the Yellow Jackets had looked on that side of the ball coming in, only a few believed they could pull off the upset which ended any hope of the ACC putting a team in the BCS championship game.

- Go ahead Braxton Miller, take a bow. The true freshman sparked a last-second win that gives Ohio State some life after upsetting Wisconsin. According to reporters after the game, Miller apparently winked at head coach Luke Fickell before the final drive and said "We're all right." That's special. Coming out of high school, Miller showed he had enough talent and moxie that many people compared him to former Heisman winner Troy Smith. The 40 yard pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left had to be the play of the year for a Buckeyes team that had been through so much. One has to wonder if they had held on against Nebraska what our view of this team would be.

Tweet of the week

"How impressive was Texas vs. KU? UT had more total yards (590) than current subscribers to Longhorn Network."

- CBSSports.com Senior Writer Brett McMurphy.

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Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. Boise State

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Clemson

9. Arkansas

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

Brett McMurphy will be in Stillwater to see BCS contender Oklahoma State host previously undefeated Kansas State. Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman will both be in Tuscaloosa for the game of the season, LSU-Alabama.

Leaning this way

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

It's almost unfair for one of the great stories in the first half of the season, Bill Snyder's Wildcats, to face the Big 12's two best teams on back-to-back weeks so all we'll say is good luck trying to stop the Cowboys offense. We have a feeling that Kansas State, which dropped 31 spots in total defense after facing Oklahoma, will struggle unless the offense plays keep away and doesn't turn the ball over.

South Carolina at Arkansas

On paper this is a top 10 match up but in reality both teams a bit overrated. Arkansas' defensive issues, especially in the first half, have contributed to closer than expected wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina has a good defense but the offense has struggled to score for six week outside of the Kentucky game. It's at home so the edge goes to the Hogs unless Alshon Jeffrey (finally) has a breakout game.

LSU at Alabama (CBS, 8 PM ET)

The showdown of the season is what everybody will have their eyes on Saturday night. The strength of both teams is clearly their defenses so this will come down to who can break open a big play on offense or special teams. There are more home run threats on the Tide and it's in Tuscaloosa but anybody picking against LSU has to know that doing so means going against Les Miles. Should be a great one.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 1:20 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 9

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: Mark Richt. 
It's not just that the victory today was only Richt's third in 10 tries against the team most Georgia fans want to beat more than any other. It's not just that with the win, the Dawgs are two home victories over a middle-of-the-pack Auburn and far-below-the-pack Kentucky from a 7-1 SEC record ... and with a little help from someone vs. South Carolina, a trip to Atlanta. It's not just that after today, it seems close-to-impossible that Richt won't return for an 11th season on the Georgia sideline. 

It's that in many ways, this victory belonged to Richt. It was Richt who was able to keep his struggling team mentally afloat when the Gators took a 17-3 lead and the Dawg half of the stadium couldn't help but think "here we go again." It was Richt who made the calls to go for it on 4th-and-long inside the red zone once Blair Walsh showed himself unreliable, calls that resulted in two of the Dawgs' three scores in a game where points came as easily as pulled teeth. And it was Richt who showed enough faith in the flailing Aaron Murray -- who'd missed nine straight attempts -- to endorse a throw on 2nd-and-9 as the Dawgs tried to run out the clock.

That decision worked, as did nearly every move Richt made Saturday. That's what it was, and why Georgia won.

LOSER: Charlie Weis. We don't want to be too hard on Mr. Decided Schematic Advantage, since the quarterbacks he's worked with the past few weeks have been 1. true freshmen 2. still kind of hurt 3. more inherited than hand-picked. But still: between weapons like Chris Rainey, Jordan Reed, Trey Burton, Deonte Thompson and even a half-speed Jeff Demps, we're not sure there's excuses enough to explain 10 second-half points across four games, one first down in the second half against Georgia, or 175 total rushing yards in this four-game losing streak on all of 1.5 yards a carry. Weis arrived at Florida with a reputation for expertly handling quarterbacks and passing games but perhaps not having a good idea of how to operate a rushing attack with smaller backs like Rainey and Demps ... and with Brantley's downfield accuracy gone and the field shrunk, Weis has lived up to every bit of that reputation.

WINNER: Vanderbilt. We know, we know, they lost. But they also outgained the nation's No. 8 team (and one of its most explosive offenses) by 74 yards. Their years of wandering the wilderness at the quarterback position appears over, thanks to Jordan Rodgers' outstanding 15-of-27, 240 yard, 66 rushing yards, 3 touchdown, zero turnovers performance. They took over down 3 at their own 9 with 3 minutes remaining, a situation in which Vandy has accomplished nothing since the days of Jay Cutler, and promptly drove 80 yards for what should have been the game-tying field goal. Top-to-bottom, Vanderbilt was a better team than Arkansas Saturday.

In short, in so many, many ways, James Franklin's Vanderbilt is not the same old Vanderbilt

LOSER: Vanderbilt. Of course, there were even more ways in which Vanderbilt was precisely the same Vanderbilt they've been for decades. Shall we count the ways? The four or five easy interceptions which Commodore defenders let slip through their hands ... the backbreaking 15-point fourth-quarter swing as their best offensive player, running back Zac Stacy, fumbles the ball at the opponent's 3-yard line (without being touched) for a touchdown fumble return the other way ... with a chance to go in at halftime up 21-7 and in firm control of the game, the touchdown allowed with five seconds remaining ... and, yes, the shanked 27-yard field goal at the bitter, bitter end.

Until further notice: same old Vandy.

WINNER: South Carolina offensive tackle Cody Gibson. Gibson is a big fella: 6'6", 285 pounds. And when Tennessee's Prentiss Wagner picked off a third-quarter pass from Connor Shaw and bolted clear for the Gamecock end zone 56 yards away, Gibson probably could have been forgiven for ... well, not quitting on the play, but only making a token effort; the odds of the tackle being made by a tackle among the Gamecocks' receivers and running backs and the quarterback was insanely low, right? But Gibson made much more of an effort than that, going all-out in pursuit of Waggner until the corner cut back towards the middle of the field, cut again, had to slow up one last time ... and Gibson caught him, flattening him at the Gamecock 2-yard line. 

Against most offenses, that might not have mattered much. But vs. Tennessee's? It mattered a ton: only two plays later, Vol freshman QB Justin Worley threw an ugly interception, and Gibson's play had saved his team seven points in a game which only totaled 17. Instead of being down 10-7 with a wobbly Shaw in front of a fired-up Knoxville crowd, Carolina drove 98 yards for their own touchdown and (for all intents and purposes) the win. Gibson's play won't make him a star, but Saturday, there's no question it made him a winner.

LOSER: Barrett Trotter. This might a touch unfair to Trotter, who didn't even see the field Saturday. But whatever hope he had of reclaiming the starting quarterback job he lost at halftime of Auburn's win over Florida was extinguished for the foreseeable future by Clint Moseley's outing against Ole Miss. The redshirt sophomore (left)connected on 12 of his 15 attempts for 10.7 yards a pass and four touchdowns ... all without an interception. More importantly, the Auburn offense looked like the Auburn offense for the first time in weeks, rolling up 414 yards and 41 points on a Rebel defense that caused real problems for Arkansas last week. Remember those Snickers commercials? Where the Tiger pecking order under center is concerned, neither Trotter nor Moseley are going anywhere for a while.

WINNER: The Liberty Bowl. With LSU and Alabama surely off to the BCS and a pair of teams with precious little bowl eligibility hope in Kentucky and Ole Miss, the SEC was already in danger of not fulfilling all its bowl tie-ins ... and a Wildcat win against Mississippi State would have made things even more dire for the last couple of bowls at the end of the food chain, as that result would likely leave neither team in striking distance of the postseason. As is, the BBVA Compass Bowl is still likely out of luck, but the venerable Liberty can live in hope--the Bulldogs have both FCS patsy UT-Martin and the Rebels on the schedule.

LOSER: The rest of the SEC. It's now officially LSU-Alabama week. We'll see the other 10 of you next Sunday*.

*We're kidding, geez. Mostly kidding, anyway. 

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