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Tag:Kentucky
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: October 30, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 9:36 pm
 

BCS Standings Top 10 Reactions, Week 9



Posted by Eye On College Football


On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. There were some shakeups at the top with the losses of Clemson and Kansas State, and Stanford also leapt in front of Boise State following its win over USC.  

You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.

1. LSU: The Tigers hold steady at the top of the BCS standings after their first off-week of the season. SEC partisans hoping for a rematch between the combatants in this week's Game to End All Games will be rooting for Alabama; thanks to LSU's top-notch nonconference schedule giving them a computer boost, their pre-loaded positioning at the No. 1 team in the country and -- most importantly -- that they're forced to play the Crimson Tide on the road, they loom as much more likely to leap back into the BCS top two following a loss Saturday than their Tuscaloosa counterparts. - Jerry Hinnen

2. Alabama: No change this week for the Crimson Tide, either, as they stay in the No. 2 spot following a bye of their own. But we doubt the Tide minds all that much. For one thing, they know they don't have to worry about ascending to the top spot if they come out victorious this week; Oklahoma State already has the best computer rankings in the formula and still isn't within real striking distance of the top two. They have no chance of leapfrogging the LSU-Alabama winner as long as that team stays perfect. For another, the No. 2 slot has some nice precedent for Alabama--that's where they stayed in the BCS standings throughout the 2009 season, too, behind Florida ... until smashing the Gators personally and going on to win the national title. Is their a repeat in the cards for 2011? - JH

3. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State currently sits in the best position amongst anybody to climb into the top two next week. With Alabama and LSU playing on Saturday, somebody is going to move into that second spot, and the Cowboys will be that team if they beat Kansas State. If Oklahoma State can get through its final four games without a setback, then it's the favorite to be playing for a national title. Of course, getting through those games is a lot easier said than done. - Tom Fornelli

4. Stanford: The Cardinal got their toughest test of the season on Saturday night, but they were able to knock off USC and remain unbeaten. Aside from Oregon, I don't see much of a threat for Stanford remaining in the Pac-12. Maybe, and I mean maaaaybe, Notre Dame can get to them, but if Stanford gets by Oregon I don't see a loss on the schedule. Stanford is a very real threat to get to New Orleans. - TF

5. Boise State: Good news for Boise State: Clemson took a loss and is out of the way! Not good news: Stanford has passed the Broncos after a 3-OT win over USC on Saturday, so Boise's still stuck at 5. Still, of the top five teams, the Broncos have the lowest probability of sustaining a loss from here on out in the regular season, so it's likely that Boise's not finished rising up the standings -- even if going undefeated may, once again, not be enough to satisfy the BCS. - Adam Jacobi

6. Oklahoma: It's not the same as being in the top three, but Oklahoma climbs back up to six following a big win over Kansas State. The Sooners are still very much a darkhorse to play for the BCS title this January as a one-loss team, with games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State still on the schedule. They also don't have a conference championship to get through, so if the Sooners can win out, they're going to climb even further. - TF

7. Arkansas: You might expect the third-best team in the SEC to be entirely deserving of the No. 7 spot in the FBS. But the Hogs haven't come close to playing the part the past two weeks, struggling at hapless Ole Miss and getting straight-up outplayed on the road at Vanderbilt last Saturday. Thanks to Tyler Wilson the Razorbacks have the offensive horses to play with anyone, and their season-ending visit to LSU still has the potential to turn the entire college football season on its head. But after yielding 462 yards (and 6.6 per play) to the previously low-fi Commodore offense, it's hard to see the Hog defense getting nearly enough stops to challenge the Tigers. - JH

8. Oregon: Oregon's hanging tough at No. 8, and that's fine, but it's going to take multiple quantum leaps for the Ducks to get into the national championship conversation. Step 1 is obviously a win over Stanford in two weeks, but even if they pull that off, it's going to take a LOT of help for Oregon to get any higher than fourth or fifth. The secondary's going to get tested over the next few weeks with games against Keith Price, Matt Barkley, and of course Andrew Luck. No pressure, Ducks. - AJ

9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks benefit from the losses of both Kansas State and Clemson this week by climbing into the top ten of the BCS, but is this really a team we can expect to be here much longer? Take away a 54-3 blowout of Kentucky, and this is an offense that's been struggling to score points for over a month now, and Marcus Lattimore is out for the season. Add in a road game against Arkansas this weekend and Clemson at the end of the season, and I don't like South Carolina's odds. - TF

10. Nebraska: A few weeks ago, it didn't seem like Nebraska was ever going to be the top team in the Big Ten this season; the Huskers were sorely lacking in big wins, while Wisconsin and Michigan looked like the class of each division. How quickly circumstances change, however, and now the Big Ten's only representation in the Top 12 of automatic bids is Big Red. The real fun for Nebraska begins on November 12, when the Huskers travel to Penn State and follow that up with a road date at Michigan. Two wins, and Nebraska's got a case for being a Top 5 team. Another loss, and it's back to chaos in the Big Ten. - AJ
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. 

Posted on: October 29, 2011 8:01 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 22 Georgia 24, Florida 20

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

GEORGIA WON: Objectively speaking, it wasn't a thing of aesthetic beauty, but we won't dare tell Georgia fans that any win over Florida ain't pretty. The Bulldogs fell into an early 17-3 hole, gained just 354 total yards, saw Aaron Murray miss nine straight passes in the second half, and committed far too many special teams gaffes to list in this short a space. But after a hot start, in the second half John Brantley played like the injured, rusty quarterback he was (missing 11 of 12 himself at one point) and the Gators were held to just three points after the break. A pair of fourth-down Murray touchdown tosses and a bruising four-yard TD run by Richard Samuel (pictured) early in the fourth quarter would be all the offense the Dawgs needed.

WHY GEORGIA WON: Because Florida simply cannot find the key to getting the ball moving after halftime. In eight second-half quarters since their win over Kentucky on Sept. 24, Charlie Weis's offense has scored a total of 10 points: seven against LSU on a lightning-in-a-bottle downfield bomb, and three today when Chris Rainey's long kickoff return meant the Gators could gain three yards in three plays and still kick a field goal. Across seven second-half possessions vs. the Bulldogs, Florida earned one first down, gained 12 yards, and started drives at the Dawg 26, 45, and 36 that totaled, yep, three points. While the Bulldogs deserve a lot of credit for putting the clamps down -- particularly outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who finished with four sacks -- that kind of week-in-week-out futility isn't going to win many games in the SEC. Or anywhere.

A nod is also due to Mark Richt's aggressive red zone play-calling. After Blair Walsh missed a 33-yard chippie (his ninth miss of the season; he would add a tenth later), Richt twice passed on makeable field goals to have Murray throw to the end zone on 4th down. Results: 1. massive touchdown pass to Michael Bennett to close halftime gap to 17-10 2. equally massive touchdown pass to Tavarres King to tie game at 17 early second half. Without Richt's willingness to take those risks, the Bulldogs lose.

WHEN GEORGIA WON: A 24-yard punt by Drew Butler (we mentioned the special teams disasters, right?) set the Gators up at the Georgia 36 with just under 6 minutes to play. The ensuing drive: incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, sack. Even if the Gator defense had been able to get the ball back (they weren't), there wasn't any way the shellshocked Florida offense was getting a better opportunity than that.

WHAT GEORGIA WON: The inside track to Atlanta. Only home dates against Auburn and Kentucky stand between the Dawgs and a 7-1 SEC mark, and the only help they need if they win out is a single loss from South Carolina ... who's losing 3-0 to Tennessee as we type this and still have a road date against Arkansas to come. But if becoming the de facto East favorite wasn't sweet enough, that was just the Dawgs' fourth win over Florida in 21 tries and may have even saved Richt's job. Not bad for 60 minutes of work.

WHAT FLORIDA LOST: the Gators' fourth straight SEC game and any distant hope of winning the division. At 4-4 and with only one "gimme" left on the schedule (and dates vs. Carolina and Florida State still to come), Florida isn't even guaranteed of making a bowl game just yet.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:30 am
 

DODDCAST: Talking NCAA changes and NCAA records

Posted by Chip Patterson

In this week's edition of the Doddcast, Dennis Dodd and Adam Aizer review Miami's first home loss ever on a Thursday, and credit Mike London for the recent success at Virginia. History was also made in Houston, with Case Keenum breaking Graham Harrell's career touchdown record in a nine-touchdown performance against Rice. Dodd breaks down the NCAA reforms approved this week, discuss Kansas State's chances against Oklahoma, and the crazy state of SEC/Big 12/SEC/Big 12 Missouri.

Nothing is off limits this week as Dodd, an admitted die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, even weighs in on the historic Game 6 Thursday night. They also answer some listener emails, so be sure to submit your question to podcast [at] cbsinteractive [dot] com 
Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer.




Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: October 18, 2011 6:50 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 3:50 pm
 

The Doddcast: Midseason Review

Posted by Chip Patterson

In coordination with his midseason report, CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd sits down with Adam Aizer to deliver his midseason superlatives. Best game, biggest surprise/disappointment, offensive AND defensive Heisman, and much more. Also, Adam explains why he thinks the Honeybadger Tyrann Mathieu is NOT the premiere defensive player in college football. Check out all that, plus the Top Five teams in the land and a Auburn-LSU preview on this week's Doddcast.

Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the Doddcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer.



Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 2:57 pm
 

Eye on College Football Midseason Report: SEC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

At the top, midseason 2011 remains the best of times for the SEC. Alabama and LSU have given the conference not one but two highly viable -- some might even say favored -- candidates for a sixth straight national title. It's not even such bad news that one seems all-but-destined to eliminate the other from the title race when they meet in Tuscaloosa Nov. 5; assuming both clear their final hurdles this week, that game should arrive with more hype, more anticipation, more coverage and more viewers than any regular season college football game since Ohio State and Michigan clashed as undefeateds the final week of 2006. From a national title perspective, the SEC has never mattered more.

But anywhere other than the top, these are the worst times for the SEC in a while. A plague of injuries, inexperience, and ineffective coaching has gutted much of the league's offensive bite and turned what used to be riveting battles amongst the league's wealthier-than-thou middle class into glorified slapfights. Take this past weekend: Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina combined for a total of 49 points across two hideous games; lambs-to-the-slaughter Tennessee and Ole Miss lost to the league's top two by a combined 76 points; and Georgia and Vanderbilt played a game most notable for the screaming match between its coaches afterwards. It was ugliness all the way around--and that's with the conference's worst offense, Kentucky, on a bye. 

Alabama vs. LSU should be a classic. And Arkansas, still easily top-10 caliber and as exciting as ever, is blameless. But are the hobbled back-nine of the SEC capable of giving us anything else deserving of that label in 2011's second half?

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama. It's easy to forget Richardson's 2011 season actually got off to a slow start, with only 148 yards on a 3.8 per-carry average through the Crimson Tide's first two games. Since then: five games, 764 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 8.2 yards-per-carry, the sort of per-attempt number starting tailbacks for national title contenders achieve only in video games. It's not just the production, either; Richardson has showed off the proverbial total package and then some, flashing breakaway speed, bone-rattling power, and startling elusiveness, sometimes -- as in his Heisman-reel tour de force against Ole Miss -- all on the same play.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback, LSU. The only serious defensive candidate for the 2011 Heisman, the Honey Badger has stormed onto the national scene on the back of a wave of big plays: the strip-and-fumble-return for touchdown against Oregon, the dazzling interception-and-return-to-the-1 against West Virginia, the sack-strip-and-fumble-return for touchdown against Kentucky. But those game-changing efforts shouldn't obscure what Mathieu does on an every-down basis: namely, lead the nation's No. 4 defense in solo tackles and spearhead the nation's No. 6 secondary in opponent's passer rating.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Les Miles, LSU. Nick Saban obviously deserves commendation as well, but with the ridiculous stockpile of defensive talent in Tuscaloosa and the rock-steady stability of Saban's program, the Tide were never in any danger of not being really, really good. Miles, however, had to navigate a major offseason shakeup of his offensive coaching staff, the Jordan Jefferson barfight brouhaha on the eve of the season (amongst other distractions), and a handful of offensive line injuries to have his team where it is now--atop the AP poll and well on their way to bringing an 8-0 record to Bryant-Denny Stadium.

SURPRISE: Auburn. Few SEC teams have legitimately exceeded expectations in 2011 -- LSU and Vandy are the only other two, frankly -- but none has been as big a shock as the Tigers, who had been predicted by many to sink to fifth (or worse) in the West and general irrelevancy in Year One A.C. (i.e., after Cam). But despite being a Vegas underdog in all four of their SEC games (and scoring 20 points or fewer in their most recent three), a newly-energized defense and timely plays on offense and special teams have Auburn sitting at 3-1 in the league and 5-2 overall. If Miles's and Saban's teams hadn't run so far away from the pack, Gene Chizik would be a hot favorite for SEC Coach of the Year.

DISAPPOINTMENT: Mississippi State. The 0-4 SEC record isn't that bad, honestly; at Auburn, vs. LSU, at Georgia, and vs. South Carolina is a reasonably tough road to hoe. What is that bad is that Dan Mullen's veteran offense has looked so lost, scoring just one offensive touchdown over its last three conference games. This was supposed to be the season Mullen started winning games against the heavier hitters of the SEC, but thanks to his team's offensive struggles, the Bulldogs are now losing games (and in uglier fashion) to the same caliber of team they defeated in 2010.

GAME OF THE YEAR--SO FAR: South Carolina 45, Georgia 42, Sept. 10. Thanks to the lack of offensive fireworks and Alabama and LSU horse-whipping opponents on a weekly basis, candidates for this honor are few and far between, But back in Week 2 the Gamecocks and Bulldogs played a back-and-forth thriller that may still wind up deciding the SEC East. Marcus Lattimore powered for 176 bruising yards, but the player of the game was Gamecock defensive end Melvin Ingram, who scored touchdowns on both defense and special teams and capped his breakout performance by snaring the Dawgs' last-gasp onsides kick. 

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GAME OF THE YEAR TO COME: Alabama vs. LSU, Nov. 5. Do we even have to spell out why? Consider that the average score to-date between one of these two behemoths and an SEC opponent has been 37-8, and the only thing keeping either one from being heavy, heavy favorites to win the league title is the other. With the pair currently ranked No. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings, it's not an exaggeration to think of this as a BCS championship semifinal.

AND YOUR SEC CHAMPIONS ARE: Alabama out of the West, purely on the basis of getting to host the Game of the Century of the Year, and Georgia out of the East--the Bulldogs have far fewer offensive question marks than the Gamecocks and the easier schedule down the stretch. And as for the SEC Championship Game, well, when the best of this year's West meets the best of this year's East, there's only one outcome worth predicting. We like Alabama to win this year's SEC title and advance to the BCS national championship.

Posted on: October 17, 2011 2:34 pm
 

The Poll Attacks: Week 7

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 Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC

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

  Smash-mouth, hard-hitting defense and a solid (but certainly not spectacular) offense but Sparty just can't get much respect. They beat Michigan and held Denard Robinson and his explosive offense to just 250 total yards and 14 points. Edwin Baker, the touchdown maker, ran for 167 yards against an improved Wolverines defense too. We'll really see what they're made of this week but they should be higher than 15th in the AP and Harris Polls after their performance last week. They've proven more than Nebraska or South Carolina and probably should be in the 11-13 range.

Overrated: South Carolina

  The Gamecocks are ranked 14th in the AP, 12th in the Coaches and 13th in the Harris Poll. First off, let's say that they lost their quarterback, top offensive player and running back Marcus Lattimore and struggled to beat Mississippi State 14-12. They really haven't beaten anybody convincingly outside of Kentucky before the injuries so it's safe to assume they're probably going to struggle in the near future. Is this a one-loss top 25 team? Sure. Top 15? Ehh...

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.

  Welcome back Jon, it's been a while since you found yourself in this space. We've got several issues with the ballot you turned in, starting with putting Clemson 3rd. In case you didn't watch (and you probably didn't), the Tigers needed a late 4th quarter rally from 18 down to beat Maryland. The Terps also rolled up 468 yards and 45 points on the defense, not exactly top three caliber. It's also concerning to see Stanford ranked behind Oregon and Arkansas at 10th, two spots ahead of a way to highly ranked Auburn team. Wilner doesn't respect Kansas State much either, putting them 20th behind 11 teams with at least one loss. Oh yeah, Texas is still ranked too, as is USC.

What were you thinking? Craig James

  Is there a more maligned broadcaster than James? Judging by Twitter, I'd say no. Either way, he's also an AP voter despite the issue of having an active lawsuit against him by a former coach. Perhaps that was what was weighing on his mind when he turned in his AP ballot this week. It's not terrible but there are a few interesting choices. Of course he has SMU ranked 25th but that looks good considering he put Wake Forest 23rd overall. Yes, the Demon Deacons have had a nice season but they lost to Virginia Tech 38-17 this weekend and their other loss is to Syracuse. Not a top 25 resume at all. James also has Oregon 7th, higher than anybody and higher than undefeated Wisconsin.

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