Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

How Fulmer hopes to treat Spurrier tomorrow night

Happy Halloween. Enjoy your weekend. My advice, put down the candy and grab yourself a nice Punkin Ale tonight. It's tastier than you think it would be.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Week 10 Picks

Auburn (4-4, 2-3) @ Ole Miss (4-4, 2-3)
11:30 CDT, Raycom
All-Time Series: Auburn 24-8
Wednesday's Line: Ole Miss -6.5

This has been one of the most lopsided SEC West series over the last 15 years as Auburn is 13-2 since 1992. The Tigers are 8-1 in Oxford with their lone loss coming in 1992. But, if ever there was a year for Ole Miss to break the skid, this is it. At least for the time being, these are two programs heading in opposite directions as the Rebel faithful are fired up just to be relevant again while Auburn fans are left scratching their head about this season.

This is not a favorable matchup for Auburn. While Auburn’s offensive woes this season are well documented, here are some numbers to show how bad it’s really gotten: Only Alabama has more rushing attempts than the Tigers, yet Auburn ranks 11th in the SEC in both ypc (3.34) and rush TDs (7). The Rebels, for all their problems in the secondary, have a talented front 7 that has held opponents to a 3.15 ypc average this season, 4th best in conference. And something tells me that the Rebels aren’t exactly quivering at the thought of AU’s QBs.

Meanwhile, the once stout Tiger D has been shredded in recent weeks by WVU (445 yds) and Arkansas (416 yds). The Rebels sport the conference’s 4th best offense (377.6 ypg) and will look to take advantage of a reeling Tiger D. If the Rebels can minimize turnovers like they did last week, they should have a productive day on offense.

This is a pivotal game for those teams for bowl positioning, particularly for Auburn. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they’re just off their game this year. Last weekend, the Rebels beat their head coach’s former team. This week, they’ll knock off their former head coach. Ole Miss wins a close one, notching their first home conference win since November 2006.

Straight Up Winner: Ole Miss
Against the Spread: Auburn

(#19,#18)Tulsa (8-0) @Arkansas (3-5, 1-4)
1:00 CDT
All-Time Series: Arkansas 52-15-2
Wednesday's Line: Tulsa -7

This hasn’t been a competitive series since the outset and Arkansas has won 16 games in a row. The last Golden Hurricane win came in 1976. The Hogs are 40-5 against Tulsa in Fayetteville, though this is certainly the most explosive TU team the Hogs have faced. After dropping a game to former HC Houston Nutt last week, the Hogs will try to avoid losing to his former OC this week.

They’ll have to stop a ridiculous offense that has torched everyone it’s played this season. In 8 games Tulsa has scored 61 TD (32 passing/26 rushing/3 other), is averaging 55.6 ppg, 601.1 ypg, 8.2 ypp, and leads the nation in scoring and total offense, ranks #5 in passing offense, and 7th in rushing offense. That said, they’ve done it against 7 1A opponents who combine to be 17-39 and a 1AA opponent.

Unquestionably, this will be Tulsa’s biggest test off the season. While Arkansas is certainly not an elite SEC team, they have the size and speed to compete with the gimmick offense that the Golden Hurricane is running. The biggest question will be if the Hogs can get up for this one after the disappointment of last week’s game. They’ll play well, but not enough to pull the upset.

Straight Up Winner: Tulsa
Against the Spread: Tulsa

Kentucky (5-3, 1-3) @ Mississippi State (3-5, 1-3)
1:30 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: Kentucky 20-15
Wednesday's Line: Mississippi State -2.5

Last year in Lexington, MSU knocked off a worn-out ‘Cats team fresh off grueling battles with South Carolina, LSU, and Florida, all in the Top 15 when UK played them. MSU forced 6 2nd half TOs last year in the upset. The ‘Cats are 6-9 in Starkville, including 2006’s 34-31 win.

Looking to spark a struggling offense, UK is turning the reins over to Randall (Don’t call him Tex) Cobb, the multi-talented freshmen who caught the two TDs in the final minutes to secure UK’s comeback against Arkansas a few weeks back. The injury situation is worse than a week ago when the already decimated ‘Cats were throttled by UK. To borrow a paragraph from A Sea of Blue:

Micah Johnson has re-injured his sprained ankle and is doubtful. Marcus McClinton's knee is a bit worse, Myron Pyor is still out, Kyrus Lanxter is still down with a knee, Ricky Lumpkin has a strained calf, Justin Jeffries and Maurice Grinter are banged up, as is Josh Minton. Dicky Lyons and Derrick Locke are both still out for the season.
The Bulldogs aren’t exactly world beaters, but this is a good matchup for them. While the insertion of Cobb may jolt a little life back into the offense, it won’t be enough to overcome the injury situation. The Bulldogs got back to running the football last week and had one of their most productive offensive days of the season, albeit against a Sun Belt team. Both UK and MSU rank in the middle of the pack in total defense (though UK’s #s are a bit skewed after the UF game) and towards the back of the pack in total offense.

By the time this one’s over, there still may not be 20 points on the board. While it won’t set modern football back 50 years like Auburn’s visit to Starkville did, this one won’t be much more entertaining. The ‘Cats feasted on cupcakes early in the season, but have too many injuries at key positions to pull this one off. I’ve suspected all season that this Kentucky team was mediocre. After this week, I think most will have to agree.

Straight Up Winner: Mississippi State
Against the Spread: Mississippi State

Arkansas State (4-3) @ (#2, #2)Alabama (8-0, 5-0)
2:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: Alabama 1-0
Wednesday's Line: Alabama -23.5

With all the critical conference games this weekend, hard to spend any time on this one. Alabama is prone to letdowns. It’ll probably happen again this week, though I doubt it’s as severe as the early season versions. This Arkansas State team did knock off Texas A&M team in College Station in the season opener, but they suck. Alabama doesn’t. No reason for this one to even be a contest. Alabama improves to 17-1 against Sun Belt teams with a big Homecoming win.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Arkansas State

(#8,#8)Georgia (7-1, 4-1) vs (#5,#7)Florida (6-1, 4-1)
2:30 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: Florida 47-37-2
Wednesday's Line: Florida -5.5

The World's Largest Don't Call it a Cocktail Party returns to Jacksonville for the 74th time this weekend. It sports 2 top 10 teams for just the 5th time in series history. While UGA won last year, that was the exception to recent rule, as the Gators are 15-3 over the last 18 years against the 'Dawgs.

This game basically serves as an SEC East Championship game and a national title elimination game. Both teams are still in the hunt for a BCS Title game berth, but a loss would knock them out. The teams rank #1 and #2 in the conference in scoring (UF 42.0ppg, UGA 34.3 ppg). The big difference comes on the defensive side of the ball where Florida again leads the conference (11.9 ppg) while UGA checks in at #8 (20.3 ppg).

There should be plenty of fireworks in this one. Florida is cruising right now and UGA QB Stafford played one of his best games of the season last week on the road against LSU. The Gators' run D gives up just 3.36 ypc, so it will be interesting to see if Moreno can find space to run. There's little reason to believe he won't have a good day, but if the Gators can limit his big plays they'll win the overall battle.

I'm not one who believes that TCTUMWNF* had much to do with UGA's win last year. The Gators were rebuilding on the defensive side of the ball and Tebow was not 100% in that game and the 'Dawgs were the best team in the nation over the last several games last season. Those are similar reasons to why Florida wins this year. The Gators are peaking having outscored opponents 152-33 since their slip up against Ole Miss. Meanwhile, the 'Dawgs have done a remarkable job with basically a makeshift offensive line and have other costly injuries at key positions. Look for the Gators to assume control of the East with a close victory in Jacksonville.
*the Celebration that Urban Meyer Will Never Forget

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida

Tennessee (3-5, 1-4) @ South Carolina (5-3, 2-3)
6:00 CDT, ESPN2
All-Time Series: Tennessee 21-3-2
Wednesday's Line: South Carolina -5.5

Like Kentucky, South Carolina has basically been penciled in as a “win” every season for Volunteer fans. Phil Fulmer is 14-1 as a HC against SC, losing only in 2005 in Knoxville. Fulmer improved to 5-8 all-time against Spurrier. The Gamecocks dominated the game statistically last season but 4 TOs and poor special teams play cost them a 27-24 OT loss.

Much like the Auburn/Ole Miss game, if South Carolina doesn’t get it done this weekend, when will they? The Vols are reeling while the Gamecocks are playing better, despite the heartbreaking loss to LSU. SC QB Garcia has rejuvenated (to a degree) a once stagnant offense, but will have to minimize his mistakes (and cockiness) against a stout Vols’ D, which gives up less than 280 ypg and is anchored by all-world DB Eric Berry.

This is going to be a tougher matchup than Gamecock fans want. USC has not been able to run the ball on anyone this year – 100 ypg, 4 TDS – and the Vols D gives up just 101 ypg on the ground. The Vols also have given up just 5 passing TDs while picking off 14 passes, a handful of which have been returned for TDs. With the Gamecocks’ propensity to give up the ball - nation’s worst 23 turnovers! – ball control will be mandatory. If the Gamecocks force the Vols to drive the length of the field for points, they’ll be in good shape.

The Gamecocks lead the SEC in total defense (256.1 ypg) and rank 4th nationally. The Vols offense has been bad all season, so don’t expect any kind of a breakout game here. This should be a good, old fashioned, hard-hitting SEC game, with the winner being determined by whose QB makes the fewest mistakes.

The Vols will be desperate for a win here, but the Gamecocks will be ready. This is a huge game for them as a loss will actually drop them below the Vols in the conference standings. Spurrier will have a smart, simplistic game plan for Garcia to take advantage of his mobility and will get back to terrorizing his old punching bag the Great Punkin. South Carolina wins a close one.

Straight Up Winner: South Carolina
Against the Spread: South Carolina

Tulane (2-5) @ (#15,#15)LSU (5-2, 3-2)
7:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: LSU 67-22-7
Wednesday's Line: LSU -24.5

LSU squares off with Tulane for the 3rd straight year this weekend in another one of those “Oh, really? Who cares?” games. LSU has outscored the Green Wave 83-16 the last 2 years and this one will probably be just as ugly. Tulane hasn’t beaten LSU since 1982. Last year’s game was close for a half. This year’s won’t be as the Tigers use this as a rebound game before the showdown with Saban and the Tide.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

Week 9 SEC Power Poll

The new power poll is up and there's nothing really earth-shattering this go round. Most teams have settled into their comfortable little niche in the pecking order. For all the insight you just can't get anywhere else, check out Garnet and Black Attack.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My SEC Power Poll Ballot, Week 9

With each passing week, it becomes more and more evident that the SEC isn't as deep this year as it has been in years past, particularly last year. The top 5 teams are pretty clear, but after that, it's a garbled mess of mediocrity. Here's how I see it.

1. Alabama
Tide finally played both halves and the result was a second straight year of Big Orange demolition.

2. Florida
In all honesty, the 63-5 score really doesn’t do the utter domination justice. It really wasn’t even that close. The Gators passed their final test before the SEC East Championship Game this weekend.

3. Georgia
Basically ended the game Saturday on the first play from scrimmage. While the defense gave up a lot of garbage yards and points late in the fourth, the offense was clicking on all cylinders. Should be one helluva game Saturday in Jacksonville.

4. LSU
The Tigers were shredded by the Beasts of the East, which may not bode well for next weekend’s Best of the West showdown with the Tide.

5. South Carolina
Had the weekend off, but solidified themselves as 5th best in the conference. Need to find a way to beat Tennessee this weekend, something they’ve done just once over the last decade and a half.

6. Ole Miss
Bounced back from a tough loss in Tuscaloosa to beat a fired up Arkansas team. Could this be the weekend they start a *gasp* winning streak in conference?

7. Vanderbilt
With a few more lackluster performances like the one Saturday, the ‘Dores could turn 5-0 into 5-7. Have a week off to right the ship, though a visit from the Gators will only make matters worse.

8. Auburn
If the Tigers would just stick to running the ball they’d be fine… or at least better. A loss Saturday to Ole Miss would jeopardize bowl chances and crank up the heat on Tuberville’s seat.

9. Tennessee
Same ol’ Vols against Bama: Another ugly game from the offense, another highlight reel play for Eric Berry.

10. Kentucky
Sure the ‘Cats lost by 58 points, but the punter averaged 50+ ypk and they only committed 3 penalties so all is not lost. Until a loss in Starkville this weekend drops them to #12.

11. Arkansas
Again played a more talented opponent close, but couldn’t seal the deal. This one hurts Hog fans more than the blowouts to Florida and Alabama.

12. Mississippi State
Used the same game plan against MTSU as they did Vandy – pound the ball with Dixon and don’t put it on the ground. Should work this weekend against Kentucky as well.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bowl Projections, Week 10

The most notable change is that only CBS has an SEC team in the BCS Title game. Two weeks ago, all 5 “experts” had either the Tide or the Gators playing for this year’s MNC. With PSU’s win in Columbus over the Buckeyes Saturday though, many feel that JoePa will make it back to a national title game. PSU certainly has the inside track now as the Big10 not only sucks, but has no championship game.

Most still feel that the SEC will get 10 teams in bowls, but I just don’t see it. Either Vanderbilt or Kentucky will go bowling, but not both.

Kentucky needs just 1 win, but their remaining schedule and current injury situation doesn’t set up well for them. They play road games against weaker SEC teams in Starkville and Knoxville, but can you honestly say that UK is going to win either of those? They’ve got home dates with UGA and Vandy left. The UGA game won’t be close. The Vandy game seems to present the ‘Cats with the best chance to lock up a bowl bid.

Vandy also needs just 1 win for eligibility, but it’s going to be tough. Kentucky seems to be their best shot at a win. Florida won’t be close. They host UT, but the Vols are too physical a team for the ‘Dores to handle, particularly now that their luck seems to have run dry. They close the season at Wake Forest, but the Deacons are a well-disciplined team who don’t turn the ball over much. VU will struggle in Winston-Salem.

• As poorly as they've played lately, I still feel Tennessee will end up in a low-level bowl. They need to finish 3-1... well 3-0 after they get beat in Columbia this weekend. Starting next weekend, they close with Wyoming, @ Vandy, and Kentucky. None of those teams are very good. It may not be enough to save Fulmer's job, but it will be a strong finish to the season.

Auburn is 4-4 and still needs 2 wins. They’re possibly fighting for bowl eligibility this weekend in Oxford as 2 of their remaining games are against Georgia and Alabama. They’ve got a gimme against UT-Martin, but if they slip up in Oxford Saturday, they Tigers may be home for the holidays.

• I tend to think Ole Miss is fairly safe. They’re just 4-4 – like Auburn – but have games against UL-Monroe and Mississippi State left on the schedule in addition to Saturday’s Auburn game and a trip to Baton Rouge. They should be able to split those 4.

Your Captions, I Need Them, Give Them to Me

I'm sure somewhere there is a legitimate explanation for this photograph, I just can't fathom one right now. Can someone please explain this to me? Why is there an old man wearing an LSU cheerleader outfit?

Or better yet, post your caption in the comments area.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Morning Randomness

- What is going on at Auburn, seriously? Much like the Vanderbilt game, the offense started out strongly, pounding the ball right at WVU. In the 2nd quarter, they jumped up by 2 TDs and recovered a surprise onside kick… and then it seemed they ran every play out of the shotgun. Why didn’t they just continue to take the ball right at WVU’s DL?

- Part of me believe that Tuberville has earned the right to have a down year after the 10 year run he’s had at Auburn. But there’s another part that’s gaining some serious momentum that says he realizes it may be time to move on. You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

- I’ve taken heat from Arkansas fans on this site over some of the things I’ve said about Petrino. I can only image the emails Greg Doyle is getting after this piece. FTA:

Run it up, Houston Nutt. That's what I'm saying. That's what would be appropriate. That's what the lunatic fringe in Arkansas deserves. Run it up so badly that Arkansas fans in attendance leave in the third quarter because they can't stand the sight of your fist in the air. Run it up so badly that Arkansas fans elsewhere turn off the television and the radio and even the computer, because not even the cowardly company of the meanest message board will get them through this beatdown.
- My guess is that Nutt will be happy to get out with a 1-point win. The Rebels can’t seem to stay out of their own way this year having already dropped 4 close games this year, most of which can be traced back to careless turnovers.

- I hope the rumblings surrounding Eric Berry playing offense this weekend are true. The Vols need a playmaker on the offensive side of the ball and Berry’s proven he’s a star time and again on interception returns. He not only leads the country in picks, he also averages 35 yds per return. Here's another cool Eric Berry story.

- Senator Blutarsky at Get the Picture offers his final thoughts on today's uber-matchup between LSU and Georgia.

- Corso is feeling particularly frisky this morning. He just declared that "USC kicked the crap out of Ohio State" and he's wondering "what the hell is going on".

- Guns n' Roses actually set a release date for the long-talked-about Chinese Democracy album and released the title track. It doesn’t suck nearly as much as you thought it would…

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Week 9 Picks

Auburn (4-3, 2-3) @ West Virginia (4-2)
6:30 CDT, ESPN
All-Time Series: First Meeting
Wednesday's Line: West Virginia -2.5

This is probably not exactly what ESPN had in mind when it picked this game up. Both of these teams ranked in the preseason Top 10 in the AP poll, now both of them are struggling for an identity. WVU hired their version of Larry Coker in the offseason and Auburn… well, they’ve had some coaching issues too. Working in Auburn’s favor is their 6-1 record all time on Thursday night, they’re 18-5 in road/neutral games since 2004, and the fact that DC Paul Rhoads is familiar with WVU’s offense from his days at Pitt.

The Mountaineers actually enter the game on a 3-game win streak, but the wins have been at home over 3 teams who combine to be 6-15. The Mountaineers rank in the middle of the pack in the Big East in total offense and defense, but do average 220+ yds on the ground. Auburn gives up less than 110 per game, so that’s the point of emphasis this week for the Tigers.

Games like these have become Tuberville’s forte. He backs himself into a corner, goes on the road as an underdog, and next thing you know, Wes Byrum is running around going the Gator Chop. As poorly as AU has played offensively the last 3 games, you’ve got figure there’s nowhere to go but up. Look for Auburn to get back to running the football first, throwing second. The Mountaineers have beaten an SEC team in 3 straight years, but it won’t happen this weekend. A win in Morgantown would go a long way in silencing the loud rumblings on the Plains. And few are better than Tuberville at that.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Auburn

Kentucky (5-2, 1-2) @ (#10, #5)Florida (5-1, 3-1)
11:30 CDT, Raycom
All-Time Series: Florida 40-17
Wednesday's Line: Florida -24.5

Besides self-righteous Irish fans, no one hated Navy’s victory over Notre Dame last year more than the Big Blue. Now that ND’s 44-game win streak over Navy is no more, Kentucky is now on the butt end of the 2-longest losing streaks, having not beaten Tennessee or Florida since the Reagan administration.

The $64,000 question is whether Florida rediscovered itself in the romp over LSU in the Swamp or they merely caught LSU on an off night. The Gators offense had looked like a shell of its 2007 self before blasting the Tigers 2 weeks ago. The ‘Cats offense woke up in the final 5 minutes of their rally over Arkansas, but now they’re without starting RB Locke for the rest of the season. This year’s Kentucky team would have problems scoring on last year’s Florida team.

This one will be ugly. No two ways about it. Florida is 25-7 vs UK in Gainesville and the ‘Cats haven’t won there since 1979. While the Gators are just 1-3 the week before the WLOCP the last 4 years, but the “1” was last year’s victory over a ranked, healthy UK team. Kentucky is neither this year and this is going to get out of hand early. While the line is bigger than I’d like, Meyer’s never been one to call off the dogs, so you gotta lay the points.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida

Dook (3-3) @ Vanderbilt (5-2, 3-2)
2:00 CDT
All-Time Series: Vanderbilt 7-3
Wednesday's Line: Vanderbilt -10.5

While certainly not the most exciting game of the weekend, it could turn out to be the “best” game. These are two evenly matched teams, despite the discrepancy in records. Vanderbilt has come back to earth after a remarkable start. For all their struggles in the mighty SEC, the ‘Dores have fared significantly better against the little boys from the ACC, posting a 7-3 record over the last 10 years.

This is a tricky game for Vanderbilt. The Dookies take good care of the ball – just 7 turnovers all season – and punt the ball fairly well. Both those mean Vanderbilt may have to drive the length of the field to score which has not been their calling card this year, though they showed a little life offensively with Adams at QB. They’ll be tested in this one, but the ’Dores will come out on top.

Straight Up Winner: Vanderbilt
Against the Spread: Dook

(#7, #9)Georgia (6-1, 3-1) @ (#13, #11)LSU (5-1, 3-1)
2:30 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: LSU 14-11-1
Wednesday's Line: LSU -2

This should be one of the best games in conference all season. Two BCS Bowl winners from last season square off in a crucial interdivision game that makes a division title a real unlikelihood for the loser. Both teams rank in the top 3 in the conference in total offense (UGA #1, LSU#3), though UGA ranks 3rd in total D while the Tigers rank 9th.

The key matchup in this game will be the pressure either team gets on the others QB. Georgia ranks 8th in conference in sacks while LSU leads the conference in fewest sack surrendered. On the flip side, LSU is 3rd in the conference in sacks and UGA is 3rd in fewest given up. QB Jarrett Lee proved last week he could make some key throws in a hostile environment against a better defense. He could have a real breakout game in this one.

When this one is all said and done, UGA’s injuries and subsequent inexperience will be their undoing. While most of the stats point to the ‘Dawgs winning this one, until I see them play a complete game, I’m not going to call for one to magically appear in Death Valley. Georgia is a better team than LSU is and Mark Richt has been masterful on the road in the SEC. I’m going against my better judgment and saying that LSU wins this one.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3) @ Arkansas (3-4, 1-3)
6:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: Either Arkansas 29-24-1 or 30-23-1
Wednesday's Line: Ole Miss -5

How is this one not on TV, besides PPV? Really and truly, I thought this was a shoe-in to be on somewhere. With the Right Reverend Nutt’s return to Fayetteville, there’s no telling what to expect from Hogs’ fans. Messy divorcees shouldn’t cross paths so soon after the split.

This is another one of those games that – on paper – shouldn’t be all that close. The Hogs rank behind the Rebels in both total offense and total defense. There’s a good chance the offense will be without the SEC’s leading rusher in Michael Smith who remains day-to-day after sustaining a concussion in the Kentucky game last week. Once he left the game, the Hogs managed just 11 yds on their final 13 plays from scrimmage.

The Rebels’ main weaknesses are turnovers and pass defense. Fortunately for OM, the Hogs struggle with turnovers as well. Unfortunately for the Rebels, Arkansas ranks 3rd in conference in passing yds per game. If Smith doesn’t play, the Rebs will be able to drop more men into coverage, making life difficult for Dick. Even if Smith does play, it shouldn’t matter. Look for the Rebs’ most complete game since their win in Gainesville.

Straight Up Winner: Ole Miss
Against the Spread: Ole Miss

MTSU (2-5) @ Mississippi State (2-5, 1-3)
All-Time Series: Mississippi State 2-0
Wednesday's Line: Mississippi State -10

This is one of those games that would actually make sense to not be on TV because honestly, who wants to watch this? I doubt many Bulldog fans are stoked about a trip to Starkville to watch this game.

MSU has scored 101 pts in the two previous meetings, but will be hard pressed to get to 14 this game. The MTSU defense isn’t exactly stout, but MSU’s offense is putrid at best. Look for the Blue Raiders to spring the upset Saturday and Woody McCorvey to be relieved of his duties sometime next week.

Straight Up Winner: Middle Tennessee State
Against the Spread: Middle Tennessee State

(#2, #2)Alabama (7-0, 4-0) @ Tennessee (3-4, 1-3)
6:45 CDT, ESPN
All-Time Series: Alabama 45-38-7
Wednesday's Line: Alabama -6.5

Another classic SEC matchup Saturday night in Knoxville as the Crimson Tide rolls into town. Alabama stomped UT 41-17 last year in Tuscaloosa, but hasn’t won back to back games in this series since 1991-92. Alabama has dropped its last two games in Knoxville buy a total of 7 points. Last year’s romp was the exception to the rule as 4 of the last 5 have been decided by 8 pts or less.

It will be interesting to see how the Alabama D performs for a whole game without Cody in the middle. Fortunately for them, the UT offense has been bad all season, so they should be fine. The bigger question is how the Tide O will perform against the UT D, which will be the best they’ve faced this year. JPW threw two of the prettiest deep balls of his life last weekend against Ole Miss, but also chucked some head-scratchers. Any lame ducks thrown against UT will be picked off by Eric Berry and run back the other way for 6. Assuming Eric Berry is on Julio Jones, that could be one of the most entertaining individual matchups of the weekend.

A line this small for teams with this much discrepancy in their season accomplishments tells you that Vegas knows something’s up with this game. They don’t know how the D will look without Cody, they don’t know if the Tide can put together two halves. Something tells me that Saban finally got through to his players and Alabama plays a complete game Saturday night. It’ll be a hard fought, low scoring game, but the Vols just don’t have it this year.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Alabama

SEC Power Poll, Week 8

The numbers to the right of your team allow you to track your team's progress from Week 1 to Week 4 to Week 8. Each represents their rank in conference (according to our voters) with 12 being the highest. You can really see Alabama's relentless rise, Florida holding incredibly steady, Vanderbilt moving up and Ole Miss being right about where we expected them to be

For all the insight you'll only find from Power Poll voters, check out Garnet and Black Attack.

My Week 8 SEC Power Poll Ballot

1. Alabama
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Tide. Since the UGA game, Alabama has outscored its opponents 69-3 in the first half but been outscored 61-13 in the 2nd half.

2. Florida
Solidified the #2 spot in the poll with an off weekend. Will solidify it even more with the impending destruction of Kentucky this weekend.

3. LSU
Last Saturday night’s game in Columbia showed there’s still some life left in the defending BCS champs. QB Jarret Lee looked calm under pressure and made some key throws when needed. Confidence builder for Satuday’s uber-matchup with Georgia.

4. Georgia
Another win, another game that makes you wonder if the UGA is holding something back or if they’re just not as good as we originally thought. Saturday’s tilt on the Bayou will answer a lot of questions.

5. South Carolina
Garcia showed signs of brilliance, particularly in the 2nd quarter, but also displayed an air of cockiness that cost the Gamecocks. As he matures in the offense, SC will only get more efficient through the air. Now, about that running game…

6. Kentucky
Probably shouldn’t have needed a late rally to edge Arkansas, but they got the job done. Injuries starting to become a real factor.

7. Ole Miss
The Rebels may actually deserve to be higher than this, but until they stop turning the ball over every other possession, we’ll never know. Only South Carolina has turned the ball over more than the Rebels have in conference.

8. Vanderbilt
Didn’t win, but kept the game closer than most expected. Can clinch bowl eligibility this weekend against Dook.

9. Auburn
Utilized the off weekend to design several new offensive plays that won’t work.

10. Tennessee
Railroaded a hapless MSU team, but defense scored two of the TDs. Offense was again mediocre. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Eric Berry is the best player in the SEC.

11. Arkansas
Played very well for 3 quarters but lost it in the waning moments of the 4th. All will be forgiven by the HogNation if the Razorbacks come out victorious this weekend.

12. Mississippi State
The Bulldogs took another gigantic step towards completely erasing last year’s 8-win season from the minds of their fans. This is just a bad team. No way Woody McCorvey has a job next year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Random Request for Tide fans (or anyone)

In 2002, after Dennis Franchione left the Tide for Texas A&M there was an epic rant by some lady on a call-in show. She ripped "Fran" a new a-hole and - as I remember - it was one of the best fan rants ever. It seemed to last forever and she only gained momentum as she went along.

Does anyone still have the audio file to that? I swore I still had it somewhere in my email, but apparently I was wrong. Any assistance would be much appreciated.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Week 8 Grades

No real standout performances this weekend. The better team won every game and no one really exerted themselves in dominant fashion.

Rebounded nicely from last week’s debacle to pick up a nice conference road win. Weathered a 17-point Gamecock outburst in the 2nd quarter to play an otherwise solid defensive game. Held SC to 39 yds rushing and a 1.3 ypc avg and forced 3 turnovers. Solid outing from the young Tiger QBs and the veteran RBs. LSU’s best win of the season.

Tennessee: A-
Another fairly stagnant offensive performance for the Vols – 275 yds – but the defense was there as usual to carry them. Not 1, not 3, but 2 MSU passes were picked off and run back for TDs in the 4th quarter busting open a semi-close game. Eric Berry continues to get my vote for best player in conference. A good, much needed win on the 2nd Saturday in October considering what happens on the 3rd.

Georgia: B
Another one of those games that leaves you wanting more from the ‘Dawgs. Were obviously the most talented team on the field and dominated every statistic except the scoreboard. They led by only 7 at the break and won by only 10 despite outgaining VU by 180 yds. Cut back significantly on the penalties. Stafford has a ho-hum day but Moreno finally had his season breakout game with 170+ yds and a 7.5 ypc average.

Kentucky: B
Whoduthunkit? The offensively-challenged ‘Cats used two late TDs to snag a must-win game. The rushing defense was gouged early and often by Michael Smith, but the secondary held Casey Dick to 94 yds and 38% through the air. Outgained the Hogs for the game despite having the ball for 12 minutes less than Arkansas did. Randall Cobb caught 2 TD throws from Mike Hartline in the final 4:21 of the game to rally the ‘Cats (and save my College Pick ‘Em entry)

Ole Miss: B
Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Ole Miss played well Saturday, but careless turnovers cost them a shot a win. They have to be the best 3-4 team in the country. Actually scored on ‘Bama in the 1st quarter and were winning, both of which were Tide firsts this season. Outgained the Tide and were nearly able to take advantage of a lackadaisical 2nd half by Alabama.

Alabama: B-
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Early on, the Tide looked like the #2 team in the country and ready to challenge for a BCS title. For the rest of the game, they looked like Mike Dubose was back. Looked dominant in the 1st half, but completely different team in the 2nd half, particularly without Mt. Cody stuffing the run. Completely nullified the “Wild Rebel”. Will need to tighten things up and play a complete game at some point or it will cost them against LSU or UGA/UF.

Vanderbilt: B-
Despite being dominated in nearly every facet of the game, the ‘Dores once again found away to hang around against a more talented team. Although the defense gave up way too many yds (425), it did do a good job getting off the field when the opportunity was there, holding UGA to 1-8 on 3rd downs. WR Jamie Graham hauled in 2 TD passes from new starter Makenzi Adams.

Arkansas: C+
Snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the waning moments of the 4th quarter, but another improved effort for the first 50 minutes of the game. Michael Smith is a stud RB and had another big game, but the passing game provided no help. The defense bottled up UK for the most part – forcing 4 turnovers. Unfortunately, the Hogs committed 13 penalties for 102 yds and 4 TOs of their own.

South Carolina: C+
This is one of those games you’ve got to win to be considered a big time program. The crowd was as raucous as it’s ever been at Brice-Williams, the QB of the future making his first home start, a chance to have a 3-game conference winning streak, but the Gamecocks couldn’t get it done. The offense sputtered for 75% of the game and while the defense played well, it couldn’t get off the field on 3rd downs (LSU was 6/14).

Bonus: For those of you who somehow haven’t seen this, well, here ya go…

Mississippi State: D-
This team is just bad, so it’s hard to give them an “F”. The defense held UT fairly well, but the offense was just horrible, mustering only a FG and throwing 2 TDs to UT DBs. MSU really didn’t do anything well this game except hold a mediocre UT offense to less than 300 yds. I’m scouring the box score looking for something to spin in a positive light and all I can come up with is that Wesley Carroll didn’t throw an INT. He was 1/7 for 6 yds, but no INTs.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tommy Tuberville's gmail account

With all the hoopla surrounding the kid that hacked Sarah Palin's email, I had my investigative staff lay low for a while. As the Palin story cooled down and things on the Plains heated up, they were able to hack into Tuberville's gmail. See below.

*Click on image to see for full size

Other examples of their work:
Sylvester Croom
Phil Fulmer
Houston Nutt
Bobby Petrino

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Week 8 Picks

(#22,#23)Vanderbilt (5-1, 3-1) @ (#10, #9)Georgia (5-1, 2-1)
11:30 CDT, Raycom
All-Time Series: Georgia 48-18-2
Wednesday’s Line: Georgia -15

Though the all-time series is lopsided, this has been a very close game the last two seasons. The Commodores won the last they played in Athens and then choked the game away last year in Nashville. The furious comeback/late FG by UGA built some real momentum though, as UGA is 11-1 since.

On paper this game shouldn’t be close. Georgia leads the SEC in total offense – 430.3 ypg – and VU ranks 10th in total defense – 318. ypg. The ‘Dores also sport the worst offense in the conference – 250.2 ypg – while the ‘Dawgs will trot out the 4th best defense (statistically speaking), giving up just 273.8 ypg. If you watched the game against UT last week, you saw UGA finally show some toughness in the trenches and really neutralize a good Vols OL & DL.

Knowshown Moreno is actually taking a little bit of flack for not living up to preseason expectations, but this will be his breakout game. The Vandy D is tied for the conference lead with 11 INTs, but has had trouble stopping the run all season. As long as Stafford plays smart, The ‘Dawgs will have no problems in this one. Look for Moreno to go for 150+ and a couple of TDS to boot.

Straight Up Winner: Georgia
Against the Spread: Georgia

Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2) @ (#2, #2)Alabama (6-0, 3-0)
2:30 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: Alabama 44-9-2
Wednesday’s Line: Alabama -13

Like the VU/UGA series, this one is equally as lopsided, but has been very close lately, though Alabama has won the last 4 games. The last 3 have been decided by 3 points apiece and have not been without their fair share of controversy. At least it led to a catchy ditty.

Both teams are much improved over last season – the Tide is #2 in the country and the Rebs have already matched last season’s win total. Houston Nutt has won the last two road games against top 5 SEC teams he’s faced, having beaten Florida in Gainesville a few weeks back and coaching Arkansas over LSU in last year’s season finale. While I don’t think he has the magic to pull this one out, it could again be closer than Tide fans would want it.

While the Tide are undefeated, they’ve “lost” 5 of the last 6 quarters of football they’ve played. After an absolutely perfect 1st half in Athens, Alabama did little in the second half and then laid an egg for the final 3 quarters of the Kentucky game. If they get up big in the first half, they’ve not shown the knack for staying focused and keeping a big lead.

Bottom line is that this Tide team is too physical and too disciplined to lose to Ole Miss Saturday. Mt. Cody will continue to wreak havoc in the middle and JPW should be able to have some success against a less than stellar OM secondary. The Tide wins, but not by as much as they “should”.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Ole Miss

Arkansas (3-3, 1-2) @ Kentucky (4-2, 0-2)
All-Time Series: Kentucky 3-2
Wednesday’s Line: Kentucky -9

The last time these two hooked up in Lexington, Arkansas won an epic 71-63, 7OT thriller. They could play this game 3x and not get to that score this year. The road team has won 3 straight in this series.

The Hogs played their best game of the season last week. They rode the SEC’s leading rusher to a shocking upset on the Plains. They’ll find it tough to runt he ball against a UK defense that’s given up just 1 rushing TD this season. On the other side of the ball, the ‘Cats may finally find some offensive consistency against a Hogs D that – up until last week – had been porous.

Arkansas won’t be able to maintain the same level of intensity and execution they had in dismantling Auburn last weekend. UK will be in full-on desperation mode as they want to avoid dropping to 0-3 in conference. Rich Brooks still harbors some animosity towards Petrino from his time at Louisville, so he’ll make sure his UK squad is ready to roll. Look for the ‘Cats to win a good one.

Straight Up Winner: Kentucky
Against the Spread: Arkansas

Mississippi State (2-4, 1-2) @ Tennessee (2-4, 0-3)
6:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: Tennessee 27-15-1
Wednesday’s Line: Tennessee -7.5

Like so many other games this year in conference, this one has the potential to be ugly. Both teams sport a strong defense but an impotent offense. Not sure why anyone who’s not a Vol or Bulldog would actually pay money to watch this game on TV. The Vols must win this game to keep their outside chances at a bowl game alive. The Bulldogs would like to carry over some momentum from their victory over Vandy.

The Vols will get it done this weekend in Knoxville. They’ve shown some signs of life with Stephens under center and this will be his 3rd start, so the jitters shouldn’t be a factor. Look for UT to win a low-scoring game, though giving up more than at TD is too much to ask.

Straight Up Winner: Tennessee
Against the Spread: Mississippi State

(#13,#14)LSU (4-1, 2-1) @ South Carolina (5-2, 2-2)
7:00 CDT, ESPN
All-Time Series: LSU 15-2-1
Wednesday’s Line: LSU -3

LSU and South Carolina square off for just the 6th time since 1992 this weekend in Columbia. The Tigers beat the Gamecocks 28-16 last year in Baton Rouge and have dominated the series all time.

As hyped as the LSU defense was before last week’s game, the numbers tell a different story. Florida shredded them for 475 yds, including a 6.5 ypc average. More disturbing is the fact they’ve only forced 4 turnovers all season, a far cry from the 36 they forced last season. With the Gamecocks offense looking good with Stephen Garcia under center last week, the Tigers will be in for another dual-threat QB test.

This will be a different LSU team this week. The Gamecocks are not nearly as explosive as Florida and won’t be able to bury LSU early. The Tigers will ride Charles Scott and their big OL against the Gamecocks’8th in conference rushing D. Something tells me this is the game the defense gets itself back on tracked and takes advantage of an overexcited Garcia.

The Gamecocks finally beat Ole Miss in conference play a couple of weeks ago, but they won’t have the same luck with LSU. The Tigers will be a focused group out to prove that last weekend’s debacle in the Swamp was just a fluke.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

SEC Power Poll, Week 7

The votes are in for Week 7’s SEC Power Poll and there are come changes in the minds of the voters. Not to give anything away, but if your team is nicknamed the “igers-Tay” or “olunteers-Vay”, you’re not ranked as high as you were this time last week.

To read all the witty snarkiness, check out Garnet and Black Attack.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Week 7 SEC Bowl Projections

We're at about the midpoint of the season, so at least semi-intelligent conversations about bowl games can be had. Below is a consolidated chart of 5 opinions about where the conference teams are going this holiday season.

All 5 agree that the SEC will get 10 teams in post season play, though they're not in agreement as to whether team 10 is Tennessee or Arkansas. Of those 2, Tennessee seems to have the better shot as their schedule is a little easier than the Razorbacks' is. At least at this point, everyone's in agreement that Alabama and Florida will be the SEC's 2 BCS game representatives, though I'm sure Georgia fans believe they have something to say about that.

The four people projecting Alabama in the BCS Title Game obviously have the Tide winning the SEC Championship game first. I wonder if they see Georgia winning the East then losing a second time to the Tide in Atlanta and that's how the Gators make it to the Sugar Bowl. It would be the same situation as Missouri was in last year - losing to OU in the Big12 Title Game, then watching as Kansas got invited to the Orange Bowl.

Also, I'm not convinced 10 teams will finish with 6 wins. While it's certainly no guarantee that either Arkansas or Tennessee will, don't forget how bad Auburn has looked in recent weeks. They need 2 more wins and other than a home game with UT-Martin, they probably won't be favored again this year. They play @WVU, @Ole Miss, vs UGA, and @Alabama.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Week 7 Grades

Florida: A+
This one was over before it even started. The floodgates opened early for the Gators and they buried LSU in the first quarter before cruising to a resounding victory. Reestablished themselves as the favorite in the East.

Mississippi State: A
Congratulations to MSU for being the first team all season to hold onto the ball against Vanderbilt. The offensive numbers weren’t great – less than 250 total yds – but the Bulldogs had 0 turnovers and forced 2 Commodore turnovers. It never hurts to hold you opponent to 107 total yards.

Arkansas: A-
Arkansas’ defense has been bad all season, but got just the cure in Auburn’s impotent “offense”. What was more surprising was the way the Hogs carved up the Tigers normally reliable defense. Without a few miscues – particularly on Special Teams – this game wouldn’t have been close.

Georgia: B
After the last two games against the Vols, the ‘Dawgs will take any win they can get, but this one wasn’t easy. They dominated the stats – 458-209 total yards, 29-10 FD, 42:04-17:56 TOP – but managed only 6 2nd half points and led by only 6 at the start of the 4th quarter. The 11:00 minute FG drive was a back breaker for the Vols.

South Carolina: B
Maybe this was officially the beginning of the Stephen Garcia era. He added a new dimension the ‘Cocks’ offense. The 4 turnovers is way too many though. Big play in Special Teams was a big life in an otherwise stagnant first half for SC.

Kentucky: C
The ‘Cats again played fairly well, but were outmanned by the Gamecocks. Their defense had no answer for Stephen Garcia, though it did force 4 turnovers. Special Teams breakdown on FG attempt was huge and ended up providing the difference in the game. Didn’t have a single run of longer than 9 yds and ended up with less than 220 total yds.

Tennessee: C
Once again, the Vols D played well – at times – and actually had the Vols down only 6 at the beginning of the 4th. Eventually though, they just couldn’t get off the field. Not that the offense did that much when they were on the field. Stephens again showed signs of life under center, but 1 rushing yd is inexcusable.

Vanderbilt: D+
Met its match against a well-disciplined MSU team that didn’t give Vandy the game. VU mustered only 107 yds of offense against the Bulldogs. The Defense was good – holding MSU to 247 yds – but it wasn’t enough. Offense was forced to deal with a full football field most of the day and that spelled trouble.

Walked into a buzzsaw in the Swamp and just got obliterated. Lee looked shaky under center. Thought they were making a move with bookend TD drives around halftime, but then more of the same. This may help them in the long run, but for now… yikes.

Auburn: F
How much explanation does this one really need? Their offensive struggles are old hat now, but their defense gave up more than 400 yds to an Arkansas team that was averaging just over 300 yds. Made some nice plays on special teams or they would have gotten an “I” for incomplete.

SEC Power Poll Roundtable #2 Responses

What's your prediction for the matchup in the SEC championship game, and has that changed at all from what you were predicting in the preseason?

Right now, I’ve gotta say it’s going to be Florida and LSU in Atlanta in early December, which is different than the Auburn/Florida matchup I saw in the preseason.

In the Eastern Division, Vanderbilt sits atop the standings now, but I don’t see any chance they’re there at the end of the season. Florida seems to have righted their ship with a resounding victory over LSU Saturday night. Georgia is certainly not out of the mix, but they’ve been less than impressive in consecutive games against Alabama nad Tennessee. South Carolina already has 3 conference losses. Kentucky is in the early stages of a losing streak. Tennessee sucks.

In the Western Division, I didn’t expect the Tony Franklin experiment to run like a well-oiled machine this season, but I certainly didn’t expect the disaster that has been the 2008 Auburn offense. LSU seems to have barely missed a beat from last season and are thriving without Ryan Perrilloux’s antics. It’s obvious that Mississippi State and Arkansas would struggle to win the Sun Belt this year and Ole Miss just doesn’t have the horses this year. The West will comedown to the mid-November showdown between Alabama and LSU, but at this point, I give that edge to LSU.

If your team has Vanderbilt coming up at some point on its schedule, are you worried? If not, which team should be the most worried?

Any team that plays Vanderbilt should be worried, but if I’m Phil Fulmer I’m petrified. The natives are growing restless in Knoxville as the Vols have been anemic on offense all season long. The Commodores are not a powerhouse themselves, but are as opportunistic a team as there’s been in several years. They lead the country in turnover margin and capitalize on the short fields their opponents give them.

Holding onto the ball has not been the Vols’ strong point this season. As they’ve lost it 10 times already. Mississippi State beat the Dores by not beating themselves. If you can force Vanderbilt to drive the field to score, you’re in very good shape as VU still ranks last in the conference in total offense by a long shot.

If the Vols were to lose that game to Vanderbilt, it would – in all likelihood – wrap up a losing season for UT. That would not be good for Fulmer’s job security, what little there is left.

Other than perhaps Alabama's season-opening win over Clemson, the SEC doesn't really have any marquee non-conference wins thus far, and a couple of traditional powers (Auburn and Tennessee) are struggling in high-profile fashion. Is it too early to call this a "down year" for the conference?

That depends completely on your definition of the word “down”. The SEC is not as strong as it was last year, which was certainly one of the most impressive bodies of work in recent memory. As usual, the SEC lost a lot to the NFL draft and that’s taken its toll on the league offensively this year. There’s yet to be that 3rd QB to step up as a reliable option behind Stafford and Tebow. JPW and Jevan Snead have both shown signs, but Snead is a turnover waiting to happen and JPW will follow up a 250 yd game with a 75 yd game.

Defensively, the SEC is as strong as ever. The numbers will be somewhat inflated this year because of the stagnant offenses, but come bowl season, the defenses and team speed will again shine through.

It’s a testament to the standards of SEC fans to talk about this year as a potential “down year”. As of Week 7, the SEC has 2 teams in the AP Top5, 3 in the Top10, and 5 in the top 25. Only the Big 12 has more with 6.

So sure, go ahead and call it a “down year” for the SEC if you must, but don’t call it a bad one. A couple of high profile programs are immersed in a season of FAIL, but Vanderbilt nearly cracked the Top 10 and Ole Miss has already matched its win total from last year, so there are positives as well. I fully expect another success bowl season this year as well.

My SEC Power Poll Ballot, Week 7

Another crazy weekend in the SEC. Shakeups in the rankings at the top and bottom. With MSU and Arkansas both springing upsets, Tennessee remains the only team in conference without a win against a BCS foe.

1. Alabama
With wins over Clemson and Georgia, the Tide has accomplished more than Texas has this season and should be the #1 team in the country, not just the SEC.
2. Florida
I have never seen any player in the entire country play as hard as Tebow did against LSU. And I’ve never seen someone push the rest of the team as hard as Tebow pushed everybody against LSU.
3. Georgia
Got a much needed win against Tennessee, but didn’t make it look easy. Will need to play better as UT was last gimme on the schedule.
4. LSU
The wheels came off for LSU early in the Swamp and they never recovered. Still control their own destiny in West, but have to bounce back from this one.
5. South Carolina
Second straight road conference win puts Gamecocks back in favorable position, but must face an angry LSU team this weekend.
6. Vanderbilt
Statistics finally caught up to the ‘Dores last weekend. With meat of schedule coming up, 5-0 could very quickly turn into 6-6.
7. Kentucky
One step ahead of Vanderbilt when it comes to returning to reality. Need to beat Arkansas this weekend to keep bowl hopes alive.
8. Ole Miss
Had an extra weekend to prepare for trip to Alabama this weekend. Nutt will need to work his motivational magic if the Rebels are going to pull that one off.
9. Mississippi State
Good win for the Bulldogs Saturday. The offense held on to the ball and the defense held Vandy to basically nothing. Laid the successful blueprint for Vandy – Don’t beat yourself.
10. Arkansas
Dealt Auburn fans (and Tuberville) as painful a loss as they could imagine. Not surprisingly, the defense held AU in check, but the offensive numbers Arkansas put up were astonishing.
11. Auburn
Spiraling out of control. Ensminger in a very uncomfortable position, like the backseat of a Volkswagen.
12. Tennessee
Kept the game with UGA much closer than it should have been, but as only team in league without a BCS win, the Vols are now the official cellar-dwellers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday night ramblings

Now, it could just be the 60 Minute IPA talking, but:

* Tommy Bowden's probably on right now. He's all but toast. ***UPDATE 10/13/08: I told you so. Maybe he should have taken the Arkansas job. He'd at least have an excuse for why his team sucked this year.***

* Was this the dawning of the Stephen Garcia era in Columbia? No way the Gamecocks win that game today if they have to rely on Smelley for 60 minutes. Brings up (even more) real questions about the Ole Miss secondary Smelley shredded last weekend.

* As for Kentucky, the 4-0 ride was fun while it lasted. They'll beat Arkansas next weekend, but that 6th win will be tough to come by. If they get down and have to throw the ball to win, they're not much of a threat.

* Nice win for Croom and MSU today. He and Nutt always seems to be good for knocking off a ranked team each season.

* 107 total yards. That's all Vanderbilt could muster against a MSU defense that came in ranked 9th in conference, allowing 332 ypg. Mississippi State followed the right blueprint for beating the 'Dores: Hang on to the ball, do the little things right, and make VU move the ball to beat you.

* I'm sure Tuberville would rather have lost 99-0 in in the Iron Bowl than have lost to Bobby Petrino and Arkansas today. Things are about to get ugly on the Plains.

* Can you really even count this as a signature win for Petrino? Yes it was over a ranked team on the road, but that'd be like counting UCLA's season-opening victory over #18 Tennessee as a signature win. Just because you're ranked doesn't mean you don't suck.

* Georgia righted itself today but I still can't say I'm blown away watching them. Their receivers drop too many easy balls.

* Eric Berry is awesome.

* The lead on the AP recap of the UT/UGA game on UT's official says:

Georgia is back on track for another SEC title chase, and it's not too early to rule Tennessee out of the race.
The Vols showed some signs of life with Stephens under center, but no doubt about it: They're no longer relevant this season

* Did Tracy Wolfson really just Urban Meyer if he was feeling light-headed? What a random question.

* Florida looks scary good tonight.

* Speaking of "scary", not a good week for The Dead Guy in ESPN's College Pick 'em

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Week 7 Picks

South Carolina (4-2, 1-2) @ Kentucky (4-1, 0-1)
11:30 CDT, Raycom
All-Time Series: South Carolina 12-6-1
Wednesday’s Line: South Carolina -1

This series has not gone well for UK lately as the Gamecocks have claimed the last 8 meetings. Most meetings have been close – 4 of last 6 decided by a TD or less – but SC seems to always manage to pull this one out. UK is also 0-15 against a Spurrier-coached team.

Last year, both of these teams were ranked when they squared off on a Thursday night. This year, both are still trying to identify who they are. The ‘Cats feasted on a diet of cupcakes early on while the Gamecocks have been up and down from game to game. They’re currently as “up” as they’ve been, coming off a nice road win in Oxford where the long-dormant passing game suddenly awoke.

This certainly has the makings of one of the most competitive SEC games of the season. Neither team is great, certainly, but they are evenly matched. Both rely heavily on a strong defense as neither offense has been consistent this year (USC ranks 6th in the conference in total offense, UK 8th).

Last year, SC DE Norwood busted onto the national scene returning two fumbles for TDs in the Cocks’ win. It’s certainly not out of the question that there could be a defensive score in this game as well. With neither team particulary effective running the ball, the game will boil down to USC’s play under center. If the Gamecocks get the same kind of production they got last week in Oxford, they’ll roll to a victory. If they get the kind of play they had against Vanderbilt in Week 2, Kentucky will steal one.

When it’s all said and done, look for Spurrier to continue his mastery of the ‘Cats and SC wins a close one.

Straight Up Winner: South Carolina
Against the Spread: South Carolina

(#13, #14)Vanderbilt (5-0, 3-0) @ Mississippi State (1-4, 0-2)
1:30 CDT, No TV
All-Time Series: Mississippi State 10-7-2
Wednesday’s Line: Vanderbilt -2.5

The Commodores will be looking to start a season 4-0 in SEC play for the first time in program history, and the 4-game win streak would also match the longest SEC winning streak in program history. Starkville has never been kind to VU though, as the ‘Dores are just 1-6 through the years. They lost 5 straight there by and average of 27 ppg.

They won’t have to worry about that this year as neither team will approach 27 points. Like the UK/SC game, this is set up to be a very competitive, probably low-scoring game. Neither team is particularly effective offensively, and that won’t change this weekend against the others’ soft defenses. Mississippi State is going to pound the ball with a power-run game and not abandon it like Auburn did last week.

This game has upset written all over it. The Bulldogs are desperate for a win and the ‘Dores are coming off the biggest home game in recent memory and are truly in uncharted waters as a program. If this were last year’s MSU team, it would be a no-brainer, but the luck that followed the Bullies last year has gone. Neither of these teams is very good offensively, but the Bulldogs turn the ball over more than Vandy does, and that plays right into VU’s hands. It’s a good thing this game isn’t on TV, because – much like last week’s AU/VU game – this will be ugly.

I’ve gone back and forth on this one 100 times, but I just get the feeling that MSU pulls this one out. Croom always seems to pull one out of his… um, hat, and this seems like the perfect candidate in 2008.

Straight Up Winner: Mississippi State
Against the Spread: Mississippi State

Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) @ (#10, #10)Georgia (4-1, 1-1)
2:30 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: Tennessee 20-15-2
Wednesday’s Line: Georgia -12

This marks the 2nd straight year UT has been unranked when it faces UGA, although the Vols have taken 3 of the last 4, including the last 2 by a combined 39 points. The visitors have won 4 of the last 5 and UT is 8-5 Between the Hedges. Overall, Fulmer sports an 11-5 record against the ‘Dawgs.

If UT wants to remain relevant for the rest of this season, they’ve got to continue the recent trend of visitors’ victories in this series. QB Nick Stephens will get another start under center for the Vols. He was effective against NIU, but nothing more. That’s certainly more than Crompton had been in earlier games though.

Unfortunately for the Vols, they’ll be dealing with a UGA team that’s had 14 days to simmer and stew over being embarrassed on national TV by Alabama. With Vandy sitting 3-0 in conference, the ‘Dawgs know they can’t afford to lose any more ground. They’ll welcome back human battering ram Brannan Southerland as well. The Vols have (statistically) the toughest defense in conference to move the ball against, allowing just 244.4 ypg, 3.9 ypp, but Moreno should find more room to run than he did against Bama, particularly with Southerland’s return.

It’s been ugly for the Vols this season and it could get even uglier Saturday afternoon. They just don’t have the offensive power to hang with UGA for 60 minutes. While I don’t think it’ll be the outright skull-dragging many are predicting, there’s no reason to think this won’t be a nice, comfortable conference win for the ‘Dawgs.

Straight Up Winner: Georgia
Against the Spread: Georgia

Arkansas (2-3, 0-2) @ (#20, #23)Auburn (4-2, 2-2)
4:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: Auburn 10-6-1
Wednesday’s Line: Auburn -18.5

As if the Tuberville/Petrino melodrama weren’t intrigue enough, Tony Franklin’s firing makes this game a little more interesting. The Tigers have won 4 of the last 5, though the road team has won the last 3 and 5 of the last 6. Tuberville surely has been dreaming of Jason Campbell handing off to Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams and pounding the Hogs into oblivion. He’s certainly not a Bobby Petrino fan.

The Hogs are coming off their best 3 quarter game of the season last week against Florida. They fell apart in the 4th and wound up on the wrong end of another blowout, but looked like a legitimate football team – at least defensively – before that. They’ll ride RB Michael Smith as far as he can take them, but against an AU defense that’s surrendering just 11.7 ppg and 248.8 ypg, hard to imagine that would be very far.

Who knows how AU’s offense will function this weekend against Arkansas? Even if it’s not a well-oiled machine, you’ve got to believe it will operate better than Arkansas’ has. Plus, I’ll take a chip-on-his-shoulder Tommy Tuberville over Petrino any day of the week, particularly on a Saturday gameday with these two defenses in play as well. Auburn wins this one comfortably, though 18.5 points may be a bit much to ask.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Arkansas

(#4, #3)LSU (4-0, 2-0) @ (#11, #12)Florida (4-1, 2-1)
7:00 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: Florida 28-23-3
Wednesday’s Line: Florida -6

This is one of the biggest game nationally Friday, and certainly the highest profile conference game since Alabama/Georgia a couple of weeks ago. LSU has won 3 of the last 4. The home team has won the last 3, but the road team won the previous 4.

This is a statement game for both programs. The Tigers have been impressive against a less than stellar schedule while the Gators have struggled moving the ball at times this season, though still lead the league in ppg. LSU ranks 2nd, just ½ a point behind them. It also pits a couple of coaches under comparison by ESPN’s Chris Low.

Florida doesn’t seem right to me at this stage of the season. The defense is certainly better than last year, but the offense has shown some signs of vulnerability. LSU is going to win the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball and cause a lot of trouble for the Gators. I look for LSU to go to the Swamp and hand Florida its 2nd consecutive SEC home loss.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

Tony Franklin Fired

Tony Franklin has been relieved of his duties in Auburn. So apparently Tuberville really does just want to line up in the Power I and just smash some people.

If Franklin was going to be axed during the season, this was the obvious choice of weeks to do it. There's this weekend's showdown with "Backstabbin' Bobby" and then an off weekend next week, giving the Tigers 2 full weeks to prepare for their next legitimate competition, a Thursday night showdown at West Virginia. Seems like Tommy wants to make a statement to Petrino, basically saying he can fire his OC a few days ahead of the game and still win.

Week 6 SEC Power Poll

Just as everyone predicted preseason, at basically the midway point of the season, Alabama is still holding on to the top spot and Vanderbilt has crept its way into the top 4, slightly ahead of Florida. With 5 conference games this weekend, things could change significantly this weekend.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Week 6 SEC Power Poll Ballot

Week 6 has come and gone and the Tide still sit atop the standings. This weekend's Kentucky/South Carolina game will really help sort those two out.

1. Alabama – The Tide hold on to the top spot despite a subpar performance this past weekend. Got the job done, but much closer than it should’ve been.
2. LSU – We’ll know a lot more about the Bayou Bengals this weekend after a tussle with Florida. For now though, no reason to not rank the defending national champs #2 in conference.
3. Georgia – World’s largest hobnail boot expected to be sighted between the hedges in Athens at this weekend’s game against Tennessee.
4. Florida – A week off to lick their wounds and try to get a consistent offense going. Something seems amiss among the Gators.
5. Vanderbilt – Call me a cynic, but I’m still not convinced the ‘Dores are that great. You can’t argue with 5-0, 3-0 in conference though.
6. Kentucky – Good effort for the last 3 quarters in the Cats’ first real game since August. Like Vanderbilt, not sure where to rank them. Saturday’s game against SC will help.
7. South Carolina – Not sure where that QB play came from, but the #5 spot is theirs the taking if it continues. Offensive line did a great job nullifying the OM pass rush.
8. Ole Miss – Note to Rebels: Turnovers kill. Ole Miss could be 5-1 or even 6-0 if not for consistently shooting themselves in the collective foot.
9. Auburn – I know Tuberville says he’s not panicking, but his players and staff aren’t figuring anything out. Auburn is just ugly on offense.
10. Tennessee – Think Cutcliffe is missed? A 4-point win over a bad MAC team has given Vols fans new hope for the season because the new QB threw for 156 yds.
11. Mississippi State – The defense enjoyed their off weekend. The offense has taken every weekend off since August 30.
12. Arkansas – Last week, the defense scored a TD. This time, it was the offense. If they could ever put it together for one game, they’d only lose by 20.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Week 6 Grades

South Carolina: A
This is how Gamecock fans have been waiting to see a Spurrier-coached SC team play. Out of nowhere, QB Smelley throws for 330+ yds and the reliable defense held the Rebels to just 3 points in the 2nd half and took advantage of the 3 OM miscues. Easily their best effort of the season.

Vanderbilt: A-
Another one of those headscratchers that Vanderbilt has mastered this year. Actually outgained an SEC opponent for the first time this year, though against this year’s Auburn team, that’s not saying much.

Arkansas: B+
The Hogs were actually competitive for 3 quarters which is more than they can say about their recent games. This is certainly Petrino’s first moral victory to go along with his 2 moral defeats he opened the season with. I’m not sure how much better the Hogs could have played in this one.

Kentucky: B+
Went toe-to-toe with the #2 Tide in a ridiculously lopsided rivalry and nearly walked out with a victory. This weekend’s game with South Carolina will be a better indicator of how good UK is than this game was.

Florida: B
On the plus side, they rolled up 500+ yds of offense and held the Hogs to 7 points. But they also committed 12 penalties and didn’t put the game away until the 4th. Probably looking ahead to the big showdown with LSU.

Alabama: C
Came out and smacked UK in the mouth in the 1st quarter, then really didn’t do much else the rest of the game. While some of that goes to an inspired effort by the ‘Cats D, a lot of it is on the Tide. The penalties – 10 for 92 yds – were very surprising, as one of the trademarks of this team has been discipline.

Ole Miss: C-
The game started out as well as possible for the Rebels, up 14-3 after the 1st quarter. After that, the turnovers came out, which has been an all-too-familiar theme for OM this year. The offense went stagnant in the 2nd half and the vulnerable secondary was torched by Chris Smelley. Not a very strong effort following last week’s big win.

Tennessee: D-
Yea, the Vols beat Northern Illinois by 4. They had 9 first downs and less than 230 yds of offense. If not for an above average defense, the Vols would be Arkansas.

Auburn: F
Just an ugly, ugly game from Auburn. It’s not even worth the effort to come up with different words to describe that “offense”. And missing a PAT is icing on the cake.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Week 6 Picks

(#12,#13)Florida (3-1, 1-1) @ Arkansas (2-2, 0-1)
11:30 CDT, Raycom
All-Time Series: Florida 6-1
Wednesday’s Line: Florida -25

This will be the first meeting between UF and Arkansas since the 2006 SEC Championship game. Arkansas won the first meeting ever between these two teams in the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl, but has lost the last 6, including 2 SEC Championship games.

This one won’t be much of a game. Florida is coming off an upset loss to Ole Miss while the Hogs are coming off another thrashing, this time at the hands of Texas. The Razorbacks rank 65th in the country in total defense and 74th in total offense. While the Gators gain only a few more yards than they Hogs – 71st nationally – they score more than 15 more than the Hogs do. Their defense – 7th in the nation – is also significantly better.

Any disillusions Razorback fans had that this wasn’t a rebuilding year have gone up in flames the last two weeks that saw Arkansas outscored 101-25. A re-focused Gator team can all but name their score in this one.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida

South Carolina (3-2, 0-2) @ Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1)
1:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: Ole Miss 8-5
Wednesday’s Line: Ole Miss -2.5

Like the Florida/Arkansas series, this is one of those random East/West matches that only happens every few years. The Rebels have won 5 in a row against South Carolina, including all 4 meetings since the ‘Cocks joined the SEC in 1992. Current Ole Miss DC Tyrone Nix was at South Carolina last year.

Last year, when Nutt was at Arkansas, the Razorbacks slashed USC for 542 rushing yds behind McFadden’s 321 yds and Jones’ 166. This year, Nutt is at the helm of a much more balanced offense that showed equal parts big-play capability and mind-boggling inconsistency last week in the big win against Florida. Unlike last year though, SC’s defense is still healthy and leads the nation in total defense, allowing a paltry 221.4 ypg.

Spurrier is hoping that QB Garcia can bring a little spark to the stagnant Gamecock offense. While the D has been solid, the offense ranks 79th in total offense and 90th in scoring offense. He played well in spurts last year, but hasn’t proven to be a consistent performer yet. He’ll need to use his legs a lot on Saturday escaping the OM pass rush that bothered Tebow so much last week.

Nutt feels last week’s game was a turning point for the Rebels. As losers of nine straight SEC games, no one there “knew how to win”. They’re slight favorites in this game and the defensive line will only be healthier and more in rhythm than last week, when they controlled the line of scrimmage from the beginning. If they can avoid the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, they’ll actually have an SEC winning streak.

Straight Up Winner: Ole Miss
Against the Spread: Ole Miss

Kentucky (4-0, 0-0) @ (#2, #4)Alabama (5-0, 2-0)
2:30 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: Alabama 33-2-1
Wednesday’s Line: Alabama -16.5

One of the most lopsided series in college football resumes this weekend when unbeaten Kentucky travels to Tuscaloosa to tangle with unbeaten Alabama. The ‘Cats are 0-8 in Tuscaloosa and haven’t beat UAT since 1997. UK’s other win in the series came in 1922.

While the ‘Cats have played 3 cupcakes and 1 pseudo-cupcake, they have looked impressive, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. They currently rank 4th in the country, giving up just 227.3 ypg. The offense has been spotty at times, but seemed to hit its stride a bit last week against WKU.

Meanwhile, Alabama has played a much tougher schedule and has compiled the most complete body of work so far this season of any team in the country. They’re certainly due for a letdown this week after the annihilation of UGA last week, but the Tide is too sound fundamentally to lose this game. They lead the SEC in scoring and have given up just 20 more ypg than UK has, despite playing a much tougher schedule.

While this certainly isn’t a make or break game for UK, it certainly is a chance to legitimize their 4-0 record. While they won’t win the game, I do think they’ll keep it close enough to cover. Alabama is 17 points better than Kentucky most days, but as the Tide showed against Tulane, they’re not immune to a bit of a hangover. The Tide may need a special teams or defensive play to spark them, but they’ll move to 6-0.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Kentucky

(#13, #14)Auburn (4-1, 2-1) @ (#19, #19)Vanderbilt (4-0, 2-0)
5:00 CDT, ESPN
All-Time Series: Auburn 20-19-1
Wednesday’s Line: Auburn -4.5

Auburn has won 13 straight in this series, which surprising gives them just a 1-game lead in the all-time series. The Tigers have rarely struggled in that streak, averaging 36.4 ppg and holding VU to 10 pts or less in 9 of the 13 games. Obviously, this weekend’s showdown presents a unique set of circumstances as they’d have to play 3 times for Auburn to reach 36 points.

Hmm… how to say it… Both of these teams are horrid offensively. Auburn ranks 90th in the country with 329.4 ypg and Vanderbilt ranks 112th at 282.8 ypg. Where the big difference lies on the defensive side of the ball. Auburn ranks 11th in the country, surrendering only 246 ypg. Vandy ranks last in the SEC and 73rd in the country giving up 364 ypg. Both defenses should improve their standings this weekend.

This is a chance for Vanderbilt to prove to everyone it belongs on the national scene. GameDay will be in town, it’s a national, primetime broadcast, and this has to be the smallest line on a Vanderbilt/Auburn game in recent memory. Unfortunately for the ‘Dores, this is the type of situation in which they typically fold.

I don’t see how the ‘Dores will move the ball against Auburn’s defense. If the Auburn offense can stay out the way of itself and let the defense win the game, the Tigers will be fine. They’ll have to take better care of the ball, as VU sports the most opportunistic defense in the country as they are currently rising a ridiculous +9 TO margin through just 4 games. South Carolina and Ole Miss seemed to make consistently bad decisions and spoonfed the Commodores TOs. It’s hard to take Auburn on the road against anybody at this point, but it’s even harder to imagine Vandy scoring much against the Tiger D.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Auburn

Northern Illinois (2-2) @ Tennessee (1-3, 0-2)
6:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: First Meeting
Wednesday’s Line: Tennessee -15.5

This will be Fulmer’s first tangle with a MAC opponent as head coach at Tennessee and it couldn’t come at a better time… so long as the Vols win, which is hardly a given regardless of the opponent. UNI has outscored its last two opponents 85-3. While the competition has been weak – Indiana State and Eastern Michigan – those are still gaudy numbers. This is the same program that beat then #21 Alabama in 2003 though, so the Vols will have to be ready to play. As bad as UT has been this year, they can’t afford to take anyone lightly.

My guess is the game goes something like this: Tennessee struggles, fans boo, UNI gets an early lead, fans boo some more, ponder how much it’ll take to bring Lane Kiffin in for the 2009 season, Tennessee’s defense makes a play or two, the Vols win by 10. It’ll be ugly, but a 2nd win for the Vols.

Straight Up Winner: Tennessee
Against the Spread: Northern Illinois

Week 5 SEC Power Poll

No surprise that there's a new #1 team this week. The Tide was dominant in dismantling the 'Dawgs and rode that victory to a #2 ranking in the AP Poll. Meanwhile, Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Arkansas strengthened their grips on the bottom spots.

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