Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sugar Bowl Preview

(#4, #4)Alabama (12-1) vs (#7, #9) Utah (12-0)
Sugar Bowl
New Orleans, LA
January 2, 7:00 PM
All Time Series: First Meeting
All Time Bowl Records: Alabama 31-21-3, Utah 10-3
Monday’s Line: Alabama -9.5

Total Offense, Scoring Offense (National Rank):
Utah: 403.6 ypg, (32nd), 37.4 ppg (15th)
Alabama: 367.2 ypg (56th), 31.2 ppg (30th)

Total Defense, Scoring Defense (National Rank):
Utah: 295.9 ypg (17th), 17.3 ppg (12th)
Alabama: 256.9 ypg (3rd), 13.0 ppg (6th)

The Crimson tide will wrap up another memorable season in its long, storied history Friday night with its 13th appearance in the Sugar Bowl. They’ll take on an undefeated Utah Utes team that first crashed the BCS in 2005, spanking Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

Much of the news this week has focused on the suspension of All-America LT Andre Smith. The Outland Trophy award winner violated unspecified team rules and will miss the final game of the season, and possibly his career. This puts added pressure on QB John Parker Wilson to make smart, accurate throws to prevent the Utes from stacking the box to take away the Tide’s power running game.

Smith’s absence won’t affect the Tide’s defensive gameplan though. That’s where the Tide have excelled all season, ranking in the top 6 in both total defense and scoring defense. And while the Utes certainly present a new set of challenges, some of what they run is similar to Florida’s attack, just without Tebow at the helm. Utah senior QB Brian Johnson is certainly no slouch though, throwing for 2600+ yds and 24 TDs on the season.

There’s no doubt that Andre Smith will be missed, but his absence won’t be enough to derail the Tide. This Alabama team is too sound and too disciplined to have a hiccup against a team that is not more talented. Saban will have the Tide ready to play and the SEC will continue its BCS dominance.

Alabama 24, Utah 14

Liberty Bowl Preview

Kentucky (6-6) vs East Carolina (9-4)
Liberty Bowl
Memphis, TN
January 2, 4:00 PM
All Time Series: Kentucky 1-0
All Time Bowl Records: Kentucky 7-5, East Carolina 8-6
Monday’s Line: East Carolina -3

Total Offense, Scoring Offense (National Rank):
East Carolina: 336.0 ypg (86th), 23.8 ppg (78th)
Kentucky: 298.4 ypg (105th), 22.4 ppg (87th)

Total Defense, Scoring Defense (National Rank):
East Carolina: 334.8 ypg (43rd), 20.8 ppg (31st)
Kentucky: 327.0 ypg (34th), 21.7 ppg (38th)

Friday’s Liberty Bowl will be just the 2nd meeting between these 2 schools all time, the other a 6-3 game in Lexington in 1993. With both teams sporting mediocre offenses and decent defenses, this game may not be too much higher scoring than that one was. Kentucky has lost 3 games in a row and 6 of 8 while ECU has 6 of 7, including knocking off Tulsa in the CUSA Championship game.

Kentucky will be playing this one without their starting QB, true freshman Randall Cobb. Cobb took over for Michael Hartline after the ‘Cats offense began to sputter in conference play. While Cobb was not spectacular, he did bring a level of excitement to the offense with his ability to tuck the ball and run. That dimension will be missed against a solid Pirates’ D.

After 2 weeks of football, the Pirates were the talk of the nation after knocking off West Virginia and Virginia tech to open the season. While they hit a rough patch – lost 3 in a row to NCSt, Houston, and Virginia, they’ve rallied nicely in the late season. QB Pinkney is steady – 2379 yards, 12/7 TD/INT ratio – particularly considering the ineptitude of the Pirates’ 84th ranked ground game.

The talk at the beginning of the season was about the UK D that only gave up a total of 22 points to its 4 non-conference foes. Once the SEC slate began – and the injuries mounted – the ‘Cats struggle on both sides of the ball, knocking off only Arkansas (in a miraculous Cobb-fueled comeback) and Mississippi State. East Carolina certainly has the momentum headed into this one.

When this one’s all said and done, the ‘Cat will just be too inept offensively to win this game. While it’s been a good story that this is only the 2nd UK team to play in 3 straight bowls, the simple fact is that they’re average at best on both sides of the ball. While the extra bowl practices this year will certainly pay dividends next season, it’ll be another bowl loss for the SEC this year.

East Carolina 17, Kentucky 13

Cotton Bowl Preview

(#20, #24)Ole Miss (8-4) vs (#8, #8)Texas Tech(11-1)
Cotton Bowl
Dallas, TX
January 2, 1:00 PM
All Time Series: Tied 2-2
All Time Bowl Records: Ole Miss 19-12, Texas Tech 10-20-1
Wednesday’s Line: Texas Tech -4.5

Total Offense, Scoring Offense (National Rank):
Texas Tech: 536.2 ypg (4th), 44.6 ppg (4th)
Ole Miss: 398.4 ypg (37th), 30.8 ppg (32nd)

Total Defense, Scoring Defense (National Rank):
Texas Tech: 371.6 ypg (72nd), 26.3 ppg (66th)
Ole Miss: 294.8 ypg (14th), 17.8 ppg (14th)

In what should be one of the best bowls of the season, streaking Ole Miss takes on potent Texas Tech in the final Cotton Bowl played at the fairgrounds in Dallas. It’s the 5th meeting between the 2 schools, and a homecoming of sorts for Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead, a native Texan. Both teams enter the game hot as the Rebels have won 5 straight games and the Red Raiders are 11-1, though suffered a humbling blowout to Oklahoma.

If the Rebels are going to stay in this game, they’ll need to play the same kind of defense they’ve played over the last 4 games where they’ve given up just 20 points and pitched 2 shutouts. The defensive line – led by All-American Peria Jerry – has been unblockable. It will be a tough task though, as Texas Tech ranks 5th in the nation in protecting the QB, giving up just 11 sacks in 12 games. The Red Raiders also lead the nation in fewest tackles for loss allowed (2.95 per game) while the Rebels lead the country in tackles for loss with 8.92 per game.

The majority of TTU’s yards come after the catch. QB Harrell throws a lot of quick, underneath passes and screens and lets his talented WRs do the rest. It will be a true test for the Ole Miss defensive front to disrupt Tech’s rhythm.

On the flip side, the Red Raiders will have their hands full stopping the Rebel attack. QB Snead has really come on in the second half of the season and the “Wild Rebel” has been an effective option for the Rebels as well. TTU hasn’t played against an offense like Ole Miss’ this year, so it will be interesting to see how they adjust.

If you want to stop Texas Tech, you’ve got to get pressure on Harrell. He’s shown to be average throwing the ball on the run. Outside of USC and Oklahoma, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more dominant defensive line in the country than the Rebels’. While the Ole Miss secondary is average at best, the front 7 will be able to get plenty of pressure and force TTU turnovers. Look for the Rebs’ remarkable turnaround season to be capped with an upset of the Red Raiders in Dallas.

Ole Miss 31, Texas Tech 30

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Capital One Bowl Preview

(#16, #17)Georgia (9-3) vs (#19,#19)Michigan State (9-3)
Capital One Bowl
Orlando, FL
January 1, 11:00 AM
All Time Series: Georgia 1-0
All Time Bowl Records: Georgia 24-16-3, Michigan State 7-11
Tueusday’s Line: Georgia -7.5

Total Offense, Scoring Offense (National Rank):
Michigan State: 352.4 ypg (67th), 26.2 ppg (56th)
Georgia: 433.9ypg (20th), 32.1 ppg (29th)

Total Defense, Scoring Defense (National Rank):
Michigan State: 357.9 ypg (61st), 21.9 ppg (40th)
Georgia: 318.3 ypg (28th), 25.6 ppg (63rd)

We’re 4 games into the SEC Bowl slate and finally a favorable matchup for the SEC. While Georgia certainly has fallen short of preseason expectations, this is still a remarkably talented team that’s capable of beating anyone in the country on any given day. Michigan State is a something of a surprise to be here, but rode workhorse RB Javon Ringer to an impressive 9-3 record, albeit in the Big10.

Nothing about this MSU team really jumps out at you besides Ringer, who’s rushed for nearly 1600 yds and 21 TDs. The defense is average and the passing game certainly leaves something to be desired. They’ve been beaten by a combined 94-25 against the other 2 ranked teams they’ve faced this year.

Sure, the ‘Dawgs run D was gouged for 409 yards last time out against Georgia Tech, but the Spartans feature a more basic, pro-style run game with Ringer. There’s a much smaller likelihood that the UGA defenders will repeatedly get caught so far out position play after play like they did against GTU. They’ll also know where the ball is going as Ringer has carried the ball close to 350 times this season already.

Despite the (lack of) effort against GTU, UGA still ranks in the top 40 rush defenses in the country, allowing 129.5 ypg on the ground. Before the GTU debacle, the Dawgs were allowing just over 100 ypg. They’ll bounce back with a solid effort against Ringer who’ll come nowhere near his self-described perfect game of “25 carries, 200 yards, 3 TDs, and win”. The only one of those stats he’ll approach will be the carries.

This Michigan State team is good, but certainly not great. If the ‘Dawgs show up to play, this one won’t be close. There’s too much offensive firepower for an average Sparty D to try and contend with and Ringer will struggle to consistently produce against the 8 and 9-man boxes he’ll be facing. This may or may not be the swan song for Stafford and Moreno in a UGA uniform, but they’ll end this season as big winners.

Georgia 34, Michigan State 17

Outback Bowl Preview

South Carolina (7-5) vs Iowa (8-4)
Outback Bowl
Tampa, FL
January 1, 10:00 AM
All Time Series: First Meeting
All Time Bowl Records: South Carolina 4-9, Iowa 11-10-1
Tuesday’s Line: Iowa -4

Total Offense, Scoring Offense (National Rank):
Iowa: 373.9 ypg (52nd), 30.3 ppg (34th)
South Carolina: 316.8 ypg (97th), 21.7 ppg (92nd)

Total Defense, Scoring Defense (National Rank):
Iowa: 289.5 ypg (13th), 13.3 ppg (8th)
South Carolina: 288.9 ypg (12th), 20.3 ppg (30th)

Two teams headed in opposite directions clash Thursday morning in the 2009 Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks limp in to the game having lost 3 of 5 and mustering just 20 points the last two games. Iowa has won 5 of 6, including handing Penn State its only loss of the season. With both teams featuring stout defenses, this could be one of the harder-hitting, lower scoring games of the Bowl season.

South Carolina has enjoyed success in the Outback Bowl over the years, smacking down the hapless Buckeyes in both 2001 and 2002. Though Spurrier is just 7-7 in bowl games all time, he’s 4-1 against the Big 10, as he’s typically had the team speed that our neighbors to the North so sorely lack. Unfortunately, that’s not the case this year. While there’s certainly defensive talent and some speed at the WR position, inconsistent QB play combined with no running game landed the Gamecocks here instead of a big bowl.

Another blow for the Gamecocks is that they’ll be without their leading tackler and arguably their most important defender S Emmanuel Cook, who is academically ineligible for the game. With Iowa’s offense featuring (an undeserved) Doak Walker Award winner in Shonn Greene, Cook’s leadership and run-stuffing talents will be missed.

Iowa has been in every game it’s played this season, losing 4 games by a combined 12 points. While the running game has been consistent all season, the passing game has been steady lately as QB Ricky Stanzi threw for nearly 1000 yards and had an 8/3 TD/INT ratio over the last 6 weeks. He’ll certainly be tested against South Carolina’s 3rd rank pass defense, which gives up just passing 160.3 ypg, though that’s with Cook playing.

This is the third bowl game in a row to open bowl season where it’s just not a favorable matchup for the SEC team. The Gamecocks will struggle to maintain any sort of drives against Iowa’s stout defense, particularly with zero production from their RBs. While the SC defense should bottle up the Hawkeyes early, Iowa will continue to pound the ball and eventually Greene will break a big run.

I can’t find a legitimate reason to pick South Carolina to win this one. Aside from the season opener against NCSt and the offensive explosion in Oxford, this has been a mediocre team all season. The Gamecocks haven’t been able to do much on the ground all season, and it won’t magically start Thursday. While I don’t see the blowout or domination that many are predicting, I also don’t see the Gamecocks pulling the upset.

Iowa 17, South Carolina 13

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chick-Fil-A Bowl Preview

LSU (7-5) vs (#14, #14)Georgia Tech (9-3)
Chick-Fil-A Bowl
Atlanta, GA
December 31, 6:30 PM
All Time Series: Georgia Tech 14-6
All Time Bowl Records: Boston College 22-14, Vanderbilt 20-18-1
Monday’s Line: Georgia Tech -4

Total Offense, Scoring Offense (National Rank):
Georgia Tech: 377.2 ypg (46th), 26.2 ppg (56th)
LSU: 371.8 ypg (54th), 30.3 ppg (30.3)

Total Defense, Scoring Defense (National Rank):
Georgia Tech: 312.7 ypg (22nd), 18.8 ppg (22nd)
LSU: 326.5 ypg (33rd), 24.9 ppg (64th)

This is not exactly what LSU fans had in mind before the season began, wrapping up a disappointing season before the change of the year. On the other side of the field, not many predicted that Georgia Tech would rebound from its recent mediocrity to win 9 games running Paul Johnson’s triple option.

Despite stellar talent on both sides of the ball, offensive and defensive inconsistencies have plagued the Tigers all season. Their remarkable +20 turnover margin last season fell to -4 this year as well. All-SEC RB Charles Scott is a load on offense, but with no reliable passing game, his numbers have tailed off some in the second half of the season.

While LSU has struggled all season against the pass, they’ve stopped the run consistently all season. The Tigers currently rank 16th in the country, giving up just 105.67 rush ypg. GTU won’t be intimidated, as they just ran for 409 yards against a Georgia team that was giving up just over 100 ypg on the ground in the season finale. The Yellow Jackets feature the ACC Offensive Player of the Year in Jonathan Dwyer, who led the ACC with 110.7 ypg rushing and was 2nd with 13 TDs. He’s rushed for 100+ yds 9x this season, including 4 straight.

As it stands, these teams are somewhat similar in playing styles. Both feature a tough run defense, tough RBs, and QBS who’d just as soon hand off. LSU ranks 67th in the country with 204.5 passing ypg, while GTU comes in at #117 with a whopping 95 ypg. I expect that GTU will pass a bit more than normal this game to take advantage of LSU’s 81st ranked secondary.

This is still the defending national champion and there is still a lot of talent on the field. Unfortunately for LSU fans, they’re not playing well together as a unit. While I don’t think that the Jackets will run wild like they did against UGA, they’ll run enough to take advantage of LSU’s porous pass defense. The difference in this game will be the Yellow Jacket defense. With a one-dimensional offense, LSU will have trouble moving the ball against the Ramblin’ Wreck. This should be one of the best non-BCS games of the Bowl Season, but unfortunately, another where the SEC comes out the loser.

Georgia Tech 27, LSU 21

Music City Bowl Preview

Vanderbilt (6-6) vs (#24, NR)Boston College (9-4)
Music City Bowl
Nashville, TN
December 31, 2:30 PM
All Time Series: Boston College 2-0
All Time Bowl Records: Boston College 13-6, Vanderbilt 1-1-1
Monday’s Line: Boston College -3.5

Total Offense, Scoring Offense (National Rank):
Boston College: 318.9 ypg (94th), 25.5 ppg (61st)
Vanderbilt: 260.9 ypg (118th), 19.4 ppg (104th)

Total Defense, Scoring Defense (National Rank):
Boston College: 273.4 ypg (6th), 18.5 ppg (18th)
Vanderbilt: 318.7 ypg (29th), 20.1 ppg (27th)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: No matter what happens Wednesday night in the Music City Bowl, it’s a remarkable accomplishment for this Vanderbilt team to have made it to a bowl game. With the losses from last year’s team, the consensus was that VU would bring up the rear of the SEC East, with College Football guru Phil Steele even predicting an 0-8 SEC slate.

Now for the reality: This Vanderbilt team was playing bad football at the end of the season. They enter Wednesday’s game with Boston College having lost 6 of 7 games, including a road game at woeful Mississippi State and an inexplicable home loss to Dook. Offensively, VU has struggled all season and this Eagle defensive unit is particularly stingy. They lead the country in interceptions with 26 and returned 5 for TDs, which is tied for best in the country. It will be very tough for the ‘Dores to generate any sort of consistent offense.

It’s a good thing for the Eagles their defense has been so tough, as the offense has been up and down as they searched for a replacement for QB Matt Ryan, who just led the ATL Falcons to an 11-5 record. The current starter is Dominique Davis who took over after a broken collarbone sidelined Chris Cane. BC has won 4 of 5, dropping a 30-12 game last time out to VaTech in the ACC Title Game.

The common logic is that the team that’s happier to be there will more often than not win the bowl game. Certainly the Commodores are thrilled to be in any bowl and the Eagles may be a little disappointed as they were one win away from an Orange Bowl bid. I just don’t see it though. All this BC program does is win bowl games, and they’ll do it again Tuesday afternoon.

Boston College 24, Vanderbilt 6

I'm Back in the Blogosphere

After an extended absence preparing for, celebrating, and recuperating from Christmas with a hyper-stimulated 3 year old, I'm back. SEC Bowl season starts in a couple of days and I'll start getting previews up this afternoon.

Thanks to those who emailed during my hiatus. It's good to be back.

Friday, December 19, 2008

SEC Power Poll All-SEC Team Defense

I’m a day late on this, but the SEC Power Poll All-SEC Defense and Special Teams have been announced. Check out the following links to see who we voted.

The Red Solo Cup: Defensive Line
Garnet and Black Attack: Linebackers
Save the Shield: Cornerbacks
Gate 21: Safeties
UK Wildcat Country: Special Teams (coming soon)

The Sporting News Rates the Bowls

The Sporting News has ranked the Bowl Games 1-34 and it’s a little different from Rivals' picks. Here’s how TSN sees the SEC games.

1. BCS Title Game
There’s major pressure on Florida’s young defense and Oklahoma’s banged-up group to make a handful of stops and force a turnover or two.

3. Cotton Bowl
A curious case here for erratic Tech, which could roll with 10 touchdowns or fold after a poor regular-season finish. Ole Miss, with road wins over Florida and LSU, won’t be intimidated by the Red Raiders.

10. Chick-Fil-A Bowl
Nothing like Paul Johnson’s triple option in the background to ring in the new year.

13. Sugar Bowl
Smell a barnburner? You’re not alone.

15. Capital One Bowl
This might be the last go-around for Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno at Georgia

22. Outback Bowl
The game’s a scout’s dream and a fan’s nightmare.

30. Liberty Bowl
Not much talent on the field for this one.

32. Music City Bowl
What time does Opryland close New Year’s Eve?

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Last Call for Bowl Mania Players

If you want to get in the Dead Guy SEC Group on ESPN's College Bowl Mania, do it today or tomorrow morning. The first game - the all important EagleBank Bowl - kicks off tomorrow morning at 10AM CST.

I'll send out a $10 Amazon Gift Card to the winner. Good Luck!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday Afternoon Linkage

* It’s meaningless and inherently flawed, but quick… name the SEC school ranked highest in the New America Foundation’s 2nd Annual BCS Academic Standings. For the 99% of you that said Vanderbilt, you’re wrong. It’s Ole Miss.

The NFA’s formula starts with the team's most recent federal graduation rate, which includes four classes of players who entered college between 1998 and 2001 and graduated within six years of initial enrollment. Then, each team gains or loses points based on (A) the gap between the team's graduation rate and the overall school's graduation rate and (B) the gap between the team's black-white player graduation rate disparity and the overall school's disparity. Finally, the team gains or loses points if its Academic Progress Rate exceeds or falls below the Division I-A median.

* Chris Low runs down the Top 25 players in the SEC. Alabama leads the way with 7. Florida, Georgia, and Ole Miss check in with 3 a piece, while LSU and Tennessee have 2 each.

* Auburn’s questionable hire of Gene Chizik has raised more than a few eyebrows across the SEC and the blogosphere ( I know, who knew?). Pat Forde grades the recent SEC hires and drops this gem:

Maybe Chizik will be the next Bill Parcells -- he went 3-8 in his first year as a head coach, at the Air Force Academy in 1978 -- before turning out all right. But until that happens, this has the makings of the worst hire in SEC history.
Dan Wetzel shares a similar viewpoint.

* Jason Whitlock is dead on again. While race may or may not have been a determining factor in Auburn’s passing on the more-talented Turner Gill for the Ed Orgeron Redux that is Gene Chizik, Auburn may not have been the right fit for Gill at this point of his career.

Andy Kennedy arrested

Thanks to the people who emailed about Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy's excitement earlier this morning. For those who haven't seen it, Kennedy was arrested this morning in Cincinnati and charged with misdemeanor assault of a 25 year old cab driver, whom he allegedly struck with a closed fist and yelled racial epithets at.

While all the facts have yet to come out, there are conflicting stories, so there's hardly a need to crucify the guy just yet. A Cincinnati beat writer who covered Kennedy in his days on Huggins' staff had this to say:

Yep, actually talked to Someone Who Would Know just a few minutes ago. He said the cabbie dropped a racial slur on a member of Andy's party as they got into the cab... AK and his four companions, all his assistant coaches, got out of the cab and hailed another. As they were on their way back to their hotel, cops pulled them over and charged AK with assault.

My source said AK assaulted no one and has 4 eyewitnesses to swear to it. Given what I know of Kennedy from having covered him as a head coach and as Huggins' top assistant, I believe this account.
While it's quick and easy to judge Kennedy in this situation, remember the Duke lacrosse scandal. It's not public yet what actually transpired last night in Cincinnati. Kennedy "emphatically denies" the assault and making any racial slurs. It may be a few hours or a few days before all the facts are out.

It's hard to imagine that Kennedy will coach tonight against Louisville though. Ole Miss was a prohibitive underdog (~15 points) before this went down. It will be tough for his young team to stay focused after this distraction. As a Southerner, I'd like to believe the incident didn't go down as originally reported, with Kennedy lobbing racial slurs at the man as he pounded in the face with a "closed fist". I'd like to think reality lies closer to the version suggested by the Cincy beat writer.

Only time will tell.

Okay, so Andy Kennedy will coach tonight, which makes me think even more that this is blown out of proportion. Kennedy obviously refused to comment about the situation, but given the Ole Miss AD is allowing him to coach tonight, there must be something that points to a big misunderstanding.

So now this is just getting weird. According to the Jackson Clarion Ledger, the situation that Kennedy described to his brother is completely different from the police report.

If this is true, it's a remarkable 180 from this morning. It's becoming more and more like a smaller version of the Duke Lacrosse scandal. Pull on the heartstrings of an overly PC, scoop-hungry media a bit and you can accuse anyone you want of of anything you want at anytime.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Closer Look at the AP All-American Teams

With all the talk of the SEC being down a bit this year, only the Big 12 landed more players (18) on the 2008 AP All-American teams than the SEC’s 14. Not surprisingly, the Big 12 is heavy on the offensive side of the ball, landing 14 offensive players on the 3 teams. The SEC was second with 7. The ACC led all conferences with 9 All-American defensive players. The SEC was second with 7.

Here’s a look at how it breaks down by conference, by All-America team, 1st – 3rd.

While football is undoubtedly a bona fide team sport, you’ve got to have individual talent to win. The argument can rage for days about whether the Big 12 offenses are that good or the defenses are that bad. The exact opposite question is applied to the SEC. Unfortunately, there’s no answers to that here, or anywhere until the bowl games are played.

As a side note, SECSports lists only 13 SEC players on its website, but they missed LSU’s Herman Johnson, which is remarkably tough to do, given his stature.

SEC Power Poll All-SEC Team: Running Backs

As mentioned earlier, the SEC Power Poll voters have compiled an All-SEC team of our own. We voted on each position and are now revealing our results. The offense is being revealed today with the defense following later this week.

You can see the QB at Alligator Army, the Tight End at Leftover Hotdog, and the Offensive Line and Wide Receivers at TeamSpeedKills.

This year's winners for top RBs in the league are UGA's Knowshown Moreno and Alabama's Glen Coffee.

While UGA might not have enjoyed the type of season it had hoped for, it's not because of Moreno. He was electrifying week in and week out, rolling up 7 100-yard games as he and backfield buddy QB Matthew Stafford led the 'Dawgs to 32.1 ppg, 2nd best in the conference. He averaged 5.9 ypc and tallied at least 1 TD in every game except the Tennessee game.

While Moreno and UGA got the majority of the preseason hype, Glen Coffee and the Tide made it abundantly clear early and often that they were not to be trifled with. While Coffee certainly benefited from Alabama's monstrous offensive line, he - and fellow RB Mark Ingram - were the steadying forces for Alabama's ball control offense. Coffee registered 5 100-yard games and averaged a robust 6.1 ypc. His numbers could've been much higher, but he split time with Ingram

Here's a look at their numbers and conference ranks*:

Rush Yards Per Game
Knowshon Moreno 111.5 (1)
Glen Coffee 102.9 (3)

Total Rushing Yards
Knowshon Moreno 1338 (1)
Glen Coffee 1235 (2)

Rushing TDs
Knowshon Moreno 16 (1)
Glen Coffee 9 (3)

Total Yards From Scrimmage
Knowshon Moreno 1667 (1)
Glen Coffee 1306 (3)

*regular season games only

Knowshon Moreno
We've all seen this one 1000 times...

...and this one too...

Glen Coffee
He's literally untouched on this...

... and a very nice featurette on SportsCenter

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gene Chizik? Seriously?

Okay, so now I'm just confused. Auburn fires Tommy Tuberville, a proven winner with a 70% winning percentage over Alabama, and hires Gene Chizik, a guy with 2 years of head coaching experience under his belt and 5 total wins. Tuberville had 5 wins in the season that got him fired.

Auburn fans have to look at themselves now and realize that Mississippi State did a better job hiring a football coach. Mississippi State. In Starkville, MS. That's a sobering dose of reality for a program that just last year was among the most consistent winners in the country.

After thinking about, I've come up with a few explanations as to why Jay Jacobs would fire Tuberville to hire Gene Chizik:

  • Chizik has compromising photographs of Jacobs... possibly something with farm animals or leather

  • Jacobs was unable to resist hiring Chizik after Nick Saban triple dog dared him to, despite the slight breach of etiquette by skipping the "triple dare"

  • The spirit of Bear Bryant possessed the body of Jacobs and forced him to the make the most damaging, idiotic hire possible

  • Jacobs wants to set the bar as low as possible for himself so that all his future decisions will seem brilliant in comparison to this one
Can anybody else come up with an idea or two as to why this hire was made?

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My All-SEC Team

The voters in the SEC Power Poll are voting on the All-SEC team. The team will be announced on a variety of sites of Power Poll voters early next week. See below for my votes. Who did I miss?

My Ballot:

QB: Tim Tebow (UF)
RB: Knowshown Moreno(UGA)
RB: Charles Scott (LSU)
WR: Percy Harvin (UF)
WR: AJ Green (UGA)
TE: DJ Williams (Ark)
C: Jonathan Luigs (Ark)
OL: Andre Smith (UAT)
OL: Michael Oher (OM)
OL: Herman Johnson (LSU)
OL: Ciron Black (LSU)

DL: Peria Jerry (OM)
DL: Terrence Cody (UAT)
DL: Antonio Coleman(AU)
DL: Robert Ayers (UT)
LB: Brandon Spikes (UF)
LB: Eric Norwood (USC)
LB: Rolando McClain(UAT)
CB: DJ Moore (VU)
CB: Trevard Lindley (UK)
S: Eric Berry (UT)
S: Rashad Johnson (UAT)

Special Teams:
K: Joshua Shene (OM)
P: Tim Masthay (UK)
KR: Brandon James (UF)
PR: Javier Arenas (UAT)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Move over Archie Griffin

Shotgun Spratling at the Blue Work Horse hosted voting for the Sports Blog Heisman Trophy Winner. More than 70 bloggers from across the blogosphere submitted votes and Tim Tebow brings home the e-trophy.

For all the insight and detailed voting, check out the Blue Work Horse.

See my ballot here.

What now Auburn?

We’re currently in Day 10 since Tommy Tuberville was fired resigned from Auburn. In 10 seasons on the Plains, Tuberville was 85-40 overall and 52-30 in conference games. Most importantly, he was 7-3 against Alabama. And yet, as more details come out about his dismissal, the sketchier it seems.

Remember the scene from American Beauty where Kevin Spacey was supposed to defend his job to his new boss, but instead writes how he really feels? And then he ends up blackmailing his boss to pay him a year’s salary after he quits? That’s what comes to my mind when I try to process Jacobs’ BS.

This is starting to look more and more like what Ole Miss did to Cutcliffe in 2004 by the minute. As most remember, Cutcliffe had a winning record his first 5 seasons at Ole Miss before a 4-7 campaign in 2004. He was asked to make changes by his AD, refused, and found himself on the street. More than 2 weeks later, after interviewing several candidates, the Rebels somehow selected Ed Orgeron.

The list of coaches Jacobs is interviewing is underwhelming at best. Even former DC Will Muschamp doesn’t want the Tigers’ money. Neither does Spurrier. Besides, who of those candidates would be a decided upgrade from Tuberville. When Syracuse fired Gregg Robinson or Mississippi State fired Sylvester Croom, nobody thought twice about it. Neither could coach or recruit well enough to win. But Tuberville did. He did it in Oxford. And he sure as hell did it on the Plains.

I understand that this was a tense season for Auburn. The offensive woes reached an all-time high (or low?) this season. Tuberville admitted as much as shouldered the blame for the failed experiment. Meanwhile, across the state, Nick Saban took Alabama to one quarter away from playing for the BCS title in just his second season in Tuscaloosa. While the kneejerk reaction may be panic, it seems foolish to fire a guy who produced a consistent winner for a decade.

Which of the candidates will have Tiger fans saying “Whew, I’m glad we got rid of Tuberville for that guy”? Sure Brady Hoke has put together a nice 2-year run in Muncie, but is he ready for the big time? Turner Gill is certainly a great story, but is he an upgrade over Tuberville? Derek Dooley? Rodney Garner? Patrick Nix? These are the guys you’re going to replace Tuberville with?

The longer this drags out, the worse it is for Auburn. With the football power in the stat clearly shifting back to Tuscaloosa, now is an inopportune time to have uncertainty at your program. But that’s the bed that Jay Jacobs and Bobby Lowder have made, so now they get to lie in it. If he's comfortable lying behind a podium, a bed should be no problem.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rivals ranks the SEC Bowl Games

Rivals has ranked the bowl games from 1-34 in terms of intrigue and interest. With 68 teams making the postseason these days, there are quite a few games that even alumni probably can’t get up for. Of the 8 SEC games, 5 rank pretty high (top 13). The other 3… not so much.

Here’s how Rivals sees it:

1. BCS National Championship Game, Florida (12-1) vs. Oklahoma (12-1):
It's for the national title, which makes it No. 1 on this list. The past two title games have been decided by a total of 41 points. That may be the number of points needed to win this one.

6. Sugar Bowl, Alabama (12-1) vs. Utah (12-0):
Utah has a lot to prove, despite its unbeaten record. Will Alabama suffer any kind of hangover from its SEC title game loss?

7. Capital One Bowl, Georgia (9-3) vs. Michigan State (9-3):
An intriguing Big Ten-SEC matchup. Michigan State can't pass, but TB Javon Ringer had a great season and Georgia's defense has had trouble against the run. And can Michigan State slow Georgia TB Knowshon Moreno? In their three losses, the Spartans' defense was run over.

9. Cotton Bowl, Ole Miss (8-4) vs. Texas Tech (11-1):
Ole Miss has a good front four, and if you can harass Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, he becomes an average quarterback. But only one team was really able to harass him this season. Watch Ole Miss junior DE Greg Hardy, who could declare for the draft. Hardy could make himself quite a bundle of money with a big game.

13. Chick-fil-A Bowl, Georgia Tech (9-3) vs. LSU (7-5):
This basically is a home game for the Yellow Jackets, who will be playing a few miles from their campus in downtown Atlanta. LSU comes in having lost three of their past four. If the Tigers' defense doesn't awaken from its season-ending slumber, LSU is going to finish 7-6 one season after winning the national title.

22. Outback Bowl, Iowa (8-4) vs. South Carolina (7-5):
Iowa runs well but can't throw. South Carolina runs poorly and would like to throw but can't. At least both play good defense.

26. Music City, Boston College (9-4) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6):
Vanderbilt comes in having lost six of its past seven. Yep, that sounds like a bowl team to us. BC, by the way, holds the nation's longest current bowl winning streak, at eight games.

27. Liberty Bowl, East Carolina (9-4) vs. Kentucky (6-6):
Kentucky comes in having lost three in a row, four of five and six of eight. Yep, that sounds like a bowl team to us.

While Chris Low (ESPN) doesn’t delve into all 34 games, he ranks the SEC games in that same order. From a neutral standpoint, that’s probably how I’d have to rank them as well. On a national scale, I think the Outback should be higher than the 22nd most interesting bowl, but I agree with its pecking order in the rank of SEC games.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Heisman Ballot

Shotgun Spratling at The Blue Workhorse has put together the "2008 Sports Blog Heisman Trophy Winner" to be revealed on Thursday. Here's my ballot:

1) Tim Tebow
- I tried to not make this pick so I wouldn't come off like an SEC Homer, but after watching Tebow put the Gators on his shoulders in the 4th quarter of the SEC Championship Game, I don't know how you don't vote him #1. He doesn't have the gaudy TD numbers that Bradford and McCoy (and Harrel and Daniel and Reesing) have, but he actually faced a real defense occasionally. The way the Gators have performed since their week 5 loss to Ole Miss has been nothing short of remarkable, and Tebow is the engine that makes them go.

2) Colt McCoy - The trophy was his to lose for the majority of the early season. He completed less than 60% of his passes just once this season - the 'Horns lone loss this season to Texas Tech. For the season he completed 77.6% of his passes for 32 TDs and 7 INTs. He tailed off a bit towards the end of the season, but he beat Bradford head to head, so he gets the 2nd place vote.

3) Sam Bradford - The offensive numbers speak for themselves. He's got a 48/6 TD/INT ratio and the Sooners have scored 60+ points in 5 straight games. He's got two things working against him as far as I can tell. First, OU lost straight up to Texas on a neutral field. Secondly, the whole Sooner team is unbelievable. You could plug another QB under center at OU a lot easier than you could at Texas or Florida. Tebow especially is irreplaceable.

Mullen in at Mississippi State

It's being reported nearly everywhere, but apparently Florida OC Dan Mullen will be the new head guy in Starkville. This is about as good a hire as the Bulldogs could expect to make.

After being woeful on offense under Croom for 4 years, MSU AD Greg Byrne made it clear he wanted to bring a little pop to the offense. Looking at the numbers the Gators have put up with Mullen behind the wheel, it's easy to see why he was their choice. He's been with Urban Meyer for several years now and knows the conference well. His experience with recruiting top athletes to come to Utah will most likely serve him well as he now works to convince them to come to Starkville.

That leaves only Auburn resting squarely on the clock. It's embarrassing enough to fire a guy with Tuberville's track record at Auburn after one bad season and then boldface lie about like Auburn AD Jay Jacobs is doing, but it's even more damaging to the program to not have a replacement in yet. Tick Tock Mr. Jacobs.

Monday, December 8, 2008

2008 ESPN College Bowl Mania

Bowl season is officially here. This year there are 34 bowls, meaning 68/120 D1A (56.67%) qualify for bowl games, which, quite frankly is absurd. But I digress.

ESPN has launched its annual College Bowl Mania game. For those who haven't played before, basically you choose the winners of all 34 games and assign a unique "confidence value" to each game, 1-34. Your 34 pointer is the game you're most sure of, your 1 pointer the game you have no clue on.

Like last year, I've created a Dead Guy SEC Group. It's free to play and I'll send a $10 Amazon credit to the winner of the group.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Some links and thoughts on Championship Saturday

* Most of you have probably seen this, but if you haven't, the Orlando Sentinel has a look at how college football would be different if Tebow had chosen Alabama over Florida. The effects would have been far reaching, sure, but it's really just a fluff piece about Tebow.

* There's a good read in the Wall Street Journal about Southern football and its rise to prominence.

* Army's camo uniforms are awesome.

* It's hard not to root for Buffalo head coach Turner Gill. His post-game interview and subsequent man-hug with his AD after last night's shellacking of Testicle Tech Ball State are what the passion of college football is all about.

I can't imagine he's going to be at Buffalo much longer. The Bulls joined D1A in 1999 and were an underdog in every game for 7 years. They'd won 17 games in their first 9 seasons and are now MAC Champions. It's a remarkable feat what Gill accomplished in 3 seasons.

* I still don't agree with the Tuberville firing. I disagree more with how Auburn AD Jay Jacobs is handling it, claiming it was Tubby's choice and that Auburn paid the $5M+ buyout because they "felt it was the right thing to do".

That said, his firing will also resonate in Starkville. First off - Bulldog fans - there is absolutely no chance that Tommy Tuberville is you head coach next year. It's not going to happen. Secondly, it knocks the MSU job down another notch as Auburn will certainly have first choice over MSU. While getting rid of Croom was the right thing to do, it's not going to be easy to convince someone to move to Starkville to compete with Saban and Miles and Nutt and Petrino for recruits.

* The line for today's SEC Championship game has held steady at 10 points all week, so the money's been split pretty evenly. I think it's a fair line and if each team plays their game, it's about what the margin would be.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It’s Hard Out There for a Blimp

If you think the heavyweight division of boxing is struggling to find an identity and maintain relevance in the world of sports, stop and consider the plight of the heavyweight college football coach. Over the past couple of seasons, these jolly old souls endeared themselves to us with their facial contortions and jiggly belly gyrations. But now, sadly, many of these portly gentlemen have fallen on hard times.

2006 and 2007 will long be viewed as the pinnacle for the OBCs. No, not the Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier, but a secret union of former Christmas Parade Santas known as the Overweight Ball Coaches. For two magical seasons, hypertension and blood sugar be damned, these hefty heroes captivated our minds the same way this morning’s Grand Slam Breakfast at Denny’s captivated theirs.

The collective accomplishments of the OBC over those two glorious seasons are impressive. In 2006, Ralph “The Fridge” Friedgen led the Maryland Terrapins to a 9-4 record and a victory in the Champs Sports Bowl. That same season, Charlie “Decided Schematic Advantage” Weis led Notre Dame to 10-3 record and a Sugar Bowl bid.

Then, last season, in the legendary basketball town of Lawrence, KS, Mark “Mega Man” Mangino led the long-irrelevant Jayhawks to national prominence and a victory in the Orange Bowl. And, in our own SEC, two OBC members enjoyed their own shining moments. Phil “The Great Punkin” Fulmer led Tennessee to a 10-4 record, an SEC East Championship, and a victory in the Outback Bowl. Meanwhile, in the SEC West, Sylvester “The Walrus” Croom guided Mississippi State to an 8-5 record and a Liberty Bowl Victory. Goo goo g’joob indeed.

Unfortunately, in 2008, the OBC has fallen on its hardest times since the Twinkie shortage of 1985 (and I think we all remember how that turned out). Both Fulmer and Croom were unceremoniously shown the door after lackluster 2008 seasons. Kansas slipped back to mediocrity this year at 7-5. Maryland has yet to reach those heights again. And the struggles of poor, pitiful Charlie Weis have been well documented. Although it’s not his fault at all (Damn you Ty Willingham!), Weis was fortunate to maintain his job after consecutive mediocre seasons.

So please, this month, while you’re celebrating the religious holiday of your choice, pause for a minute to reflect on the ill fates of the fallen members of the OBC. Its members are people too, just bigger. And rounder. And they probably breathe through their mouth. But they are people and they need your thoughts and positive energy in these trying times.

SEC Championship Game Preview

(#1, #1)Alabama (12-0, 8-0) vs. (#2, #3)Florida (11-1, 7-1)
SEC Championship Game
3:00 PM CST, CBS
All-Time Series: Alabama 21-13
Thursday’s Line: Florida -10

While there’s no doubt the SEC is not as strong as a whole this year as in 2007, it’s hard not appreciate the significance of this weekend’s SEC Championship game. Florida was expected by most to make it. Alabama was expected by most to be a year or two away. And now the two clash in Atlanta for the right to call themselves SEC Champions.

These two schools are no strangers to each other in this environment. This is the 6th time in the 17 years of the SEC Championship game that these programs have faced off. Alabama won the inaugural SEC title game in 1992, followed by the Gators winning the next two in 1993 and 1994. The Gators also beat Alabama in 1996 before the Tide rolled in 1999. Alabama has never played another opponent besides the Gators in the title game. Meanwhile, the Gators are back in Atlanta for the 9th time and sport a 6-2 record there.

While statistics certainly don’t always tell the whole story, you can get a feel for how a team operates. When you run down the numbers on both sides of the ball for these two schools, it’s easy to see why they’re here. See the chart below. (conference ranks in parentheses)
We all knew the Gators would be close to unstoppable offensively. Tebow has played himself back into Heisman contention and even with a (perpetually) gimpy Percy Harvin, there are few offense in the country that put up yards and points like the Gators. And while the general consensus was that the Gators would be better on D, I don’t know that many saw this sort of a turnaround. Sure they’ve inflated some numbers playing in a weakened SEC, but the turnaround is remarkable.

The same could be said for Alabama’s offense. Last year, the Tide struggled to put points up consistently. This year, the Tide generated as many points per game as a Georgia offense led by future NFLers at QB and RB. Saban is known for his defensive scheming, so it’s not surprise to see gaudy numbers there, but the importance of a consistent offense cannot be understated.

As for the game itself, Alabama actually matches up as well as a team can with the Gator offense. In the lone Florida loss this year, the Gators struggled against an aggressive and dominant Ole Miss front four. The Rebels held the Gators to 124 rushing yards. Only Miami(FL) did better against the UF ground game, but offensive inconsistencies took the ‘Canes out of that game early. The Tide will stack the box with 8-9 guys and force Tebow to beat them with his arm.

Offensively, the Tide will pound the ball on the ground with a slew of hard-hitting backs and take their shots downfield when the opportunities are there. Other than freshmen WR Julio Jones, no one really stands out on this offensive unit, and Jones hasn’t scored a TD since September. That said, as evidenced by the season-long production, while they may now “wow”, they’ll certainly rear back and knock you over if you’re not ready.

The Tide enters this game with a very solid +9 turnover margin. The Gators are at ridiculous +21. Only twice have they lost the turnover margin in a game – Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. If the Tide want to win this one, they’ll need to turn the Gators over and give themselves short fields to work with.

When it’s all said and done, the Gators will win this game. And they will cover the 10 points. What they won’t do is run Alabama out of the Georgia Dome like they’ve done their last 8 opponents. The Tide is too tough defensively, particularly up front to let that happen. Florida wins 38-24.

Final SEC Power Poll

So Florida ends the season at the top of the pile in the SEC. While the overall strength of the conference is signifcantly down from last year, it's worth noting that the top 2 AP teams in the country are squaring off in ATL this weekend. That's the good news. The bad news is that Auburn and Tennessee slipped to 5-7 this year, and though Vandy and Kentucky are both bowl-bound, it's hard to imagine either being very competitive.

As usual, for the greatest insight ever typed into a text box and posted on a sports blog, check out Garnet and Black Attack.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tuberville out at Auburn

That's what The Birmingham News and the Auburn Beat are reporting.

Unless there's been another Petrino-gate type episode - maybe Leach-gate or Petersen-Gate this year - and they've got a big name guy lined up and ready to announce, I can't say I agree with the firing. Auburn's struggles this year were exacerbated by Alabama's success no doubt, but that hardly seems reason to abandon ship.

I said when Fulmer was fired (and I stole it from The Dark Knight): You either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Week 14 SEC Power Poll Ballot

1. Alabama
Saban's earned his $4M this year as the Tide finally put it all together for 4 quarters and obliterated a hapless Auburn team. They finished the regular season undefeated and #1 in the country, so they stay #1 here.

2. Florida
The fact that they're a double digit favorite over #1 and undefeated Alabama tells you what the Gators have done since their loss to Ole Miss.

3. Ole Miss
The Rebels have outscored their opponents 152-20 over the last 4 weeks and are playing the best football in the conference behind the Gators and Tide. Should (but won't) get the Capital One bid.

4. Georgia
Meanwhile, the 'Dawgs defense is reeling, having given up 187 points over their last 5 games. The defensive performance Saturday was nothing short of embarrassing.

5. LSU
Only here because every other team sucks worse than the Bayou Bengals do. With Saban's success at Alabama and the Tigers' 5 losses, Les Miles seat is getting warmer by the nanosecond.

6. South Carolina
Someone should have asked Chris Smelley to, I don't know, maybe stop throwing the ball to Clemson at some point. Who does he think he is? Jarret Lee?

7. Tennessee
7th is probably higher than most will pick the Vols, but after they smoked Vandy and Kentucky the last 2 weeks of the season, how can they rank below them? They're playing as well as they have all year.

8. Arkansas
Aside from Ole Miss, no team improved more offensively from the beginning of the season to the end. The defense is another story.

9. Vanderbilt
I'll use big words since it's for Vandy. The offensive ineptitude once masked by an opportunistic defense is now manifesting itself on weekly basis.

10. Kentucky
Bowl-eligible sure, but bowl-worthy? Limping to the finish line and will be without dynamic freshman Randall Cobb in their bowl game.

11. Auburn
Suffered an emphatic ending to the unprecedented win streak over the Tide. Tuberville better get a cohesive staff in place quickly or run the risk of being on the wrong end of a similar streak.

12. Mississippi State
Mercifully, the Bulldogs' season has ended. Made the right move firing the inept Croom, but it's going to be a tough sell to get someone to move to Starkville to compete against Saban, Miles, Nutt, et al.