Archive for July, 2012

Three SEC teams in ESPN’s Top 10 running games

ESPN has picked three SEC teams in their Top 10 running games in the country for 2012.

Alabama (#2), LSU (#5) and South Carolina (#9) were the teams – which is hardly surprising that Alabama boast Eddie Lacy, LSU has Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, and South Carolina has perhaps the best of the lot – if he remains healthy – in Marcus Lattimore.

The biggest factor, according to the website, is the fact that Alabama and LSU both return four starting offensive linesmen, while South Carolina brings back just two.

The order is:

1) Southern California

2) Alabama

3) Oregon

4) Texas

5) LSU 

6) Wisconsin

7) Georgia Tech

8) Stanford

9) South Carolina

10) Nebraska

On July 1st, Texas A&M was officially recognised as a SEC school. To go with the big-time money that the Aggies will receive from being a SEC school – along with the celebration-by-association of six straight National Championships- Texas A&M fans now believe that they can attract top talent from Texas to College Station. But can they be a force in the SEC West, the SEC, and on the National Grid?

What happened in 2011?

Despite having 18 returning starters and an expectation that they would challenge Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas for a Big XII Championship, Texas A&M entered the land of Chokeaholics Anonymous. The Aggies led 11 games by double digits – YES, ELEVEN – but they were 5-6 in those games, including major throat-grabs against Oklahoma State (20-3 lead), Arkansas (35-17 lead), and Missouri (28-17 halftime lead). They also lost to hated rival Texas.

The season was enough to get Coach Mike Sherman fired by the Aggies administration. In ESPN’s words, they were “so, so much better than 6-6”. He was replaced by former Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin, which came off a 12-1 season with the Houston Cougars – including a bowl slaughtering of ‘The’ Penn State University.

Oh, and in the draft, inconsistent-but-talented (ish) quarterback Ryan Tannehill (3,744 yards passing, 29 TDs, 15 INTs) was drafted in the first round by the Miami Dolphins, and the school also saw running back Cyrus Gray (Kansas City), Terrence Fredrick (Pittsburgh), and Randy Bullock (Houston), Jeff Fuller (Miami) going to NFL teams.

So who’s going to be the new quarterback?

We have absolutely no clue as to who’s going to be the new quarterback in 2012 – which is going to hurt the Aggies more than the offensive line, which is going to be excellent this year. Our bet that Johnny Manziel was not going to be named starting QB this year after his off-season behavior earned him an arrest  and a trip to Sumlin’s doghouse was shut up after he was, ahem, named the Aggies starting quarterback – the first freshman to get honor since Stephen McGee in 2005, according to a report.

The good news for Manziel (and any other QB if he gets arrested again) is that incredibly talented wide receiver Ryan Swope , who caught over 80 passes last season for over 1,200 yards and 11 TDs.

But there’s a running game, right?

A&M loses a hell of a talent running back in Cyrus Gray, but Christine Michael put up nearly 900 yards and 8 TDs – and if he’s as “ready to go” as Sumlin said on the SEC Media Days, then A&M’s going to be bring some speed to the table. And with that offensive line, College Station will have more than a few reasons to cheer.

And how about the defense?

The pressure will be on new defensive co-ordinator Mark Snyder to make sure that the defense isn’t as horrific as it was in 2011, when it gave up 4,916 yards and ranked 66th in total defense.

While we think that the Aggies are going to have an excellent linebacking corps in Sean Porter, Jonathan Stewart and Steven Jenkins, we truly, truly worry about a secondary that conceded 3,592 yards of passing and against the passers of the SEC West, we feel frightened for them this year – especially as they will all be either inexperienced or freshmen. Gulp.

The 2012 schedule

Sept 1: at Louisiana Tech
Sept. 8: FLORIDA
Sept 15: at SMU
Sept. 29: ARKANSAS
Oct. 6: at Ole Miss
Oct. 20: LSU
Oct. 27: at Auburn
Nov. 3: at Mississippi State
Nov. 10: at Alabama

The biggest games on the schedule are going to be Texas A&M’s opener with Florida, which may go a long way for us to see how good Kevin Sumlin’s team is. the Aggies have back-to-back SEC home games with Arkansas and LSU should introduce the noise of Kyle Field to their SEC West rivals (sandwiched between the games is a game at Ole Miss), but we think that the Aggies may struggle on the road to Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama. The home game against Missouri might be a true test as to whether the Aggies have another 6-6 record, or a respectable 7-5 record.

PREDICTION: Although we expect Texas A&M to sweep its non-conference schedule, we think the Aggies are going to struggle in their first season in the SEC West. We think that they’ll finish second-from-bottom in the SEC West (above Ole Miss, who they’ll beat), with a 2-6 record. They’ll finish 6-6, with wins over Ole Miss and Missouri (although the last one is a shout in the dark).

Penn State: Richt looking at Penn State LB

Mark Richt has admitted that Georgia is already looking at Penn State players after NCAA sanctions on the Nittany Lions meant the school will effectively have nothing to play for over the next four years, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported.

Richt told press at a UGA Day:  “Some colleges are going to be interested in some of their players, and we’re one of those schools. It’s pretty well-documented that we’re under our 85[-scholarship] limit. We’ll try to get in touch with some of these young men and see if they’re interested.”

He added: “We do have some space available and if somebody fits a need and they’re excited about coming we would look into that possibility,” he said. “There may not be anybody. But we’re at least going to explore. … I don’t want people to think we’re trying to load up a bunch of them. It could be zero, it could be one or two.”

One of those mentioned has been Penn State linebacker Khari Fortt, who chose Penn State over UGA in 2009.

Quick reflection on SEC Media Days: Why didn’t people mention soft scheduling?

This is going to sound really nasty bearing in mind that this is a blog on the SEC and the fact that we are read by SEC fans, but we’ve been looking for the ‘juiciest’ (trust me, there aren’t very many) quotes from the SEC Media Days, and we struggled to get anything that kept us particularly awake.

However, like the ghost that haunts us and never seems to give up, we couldn’t help but think: Why on earth did NO-ONE ask either Commissioner Slive or any of the SEC head coaches about Non-Conference scheduling?

Here is why: When the 2014 play-offs come along and the Committee -whoever they might be – are deciding ‘strength of schedule’, they hopefully will not just think about how good a team’s in-conference schedule is.

You see, you can’t decide in-conference schedules: They are given to you year in, year out. There are no choices. The ADs don’t negotiate them. You play who’s in front you, be it non-conference, fixed clashes, or one non-conference team.

But you CAN decide out-of-conference schedules. In his press conference, Mark Richt basically said that powers-that-be at Georgia preferred a joke non-conference home schedule rather than play BCS conference teams year in, year out. “After living it out a little bit, went to Arizona State, Oklahoma State, those are long road trips. It takes a lot out of you just to prepare for a team like that, then it also takes it out of you on the traveling part of it. All of a sudden you’re flying home in the middle of the night, your guys are trying to find a place on the floor on the plane to sleep. You get behind the eight ball that way. I love having seven home games.”

OK, Mark (and Nick Saban, who refused to play a home-and-home against Wisconsin recently), so what happens if 2014 comes along, and you are still playing the likes of Buffalo, New Mexico, and Coastal Carolina? Are you going to argue that you’ve got one big non-conference game of the season and brush the three terrible games under the table? And what happens – and this could well happen with Georgia Tech (or in South Carolina’s case, Clemson) – if the rivals are having a down year? Won’t that make the philosophy of ‘play nobody’ look a little stupid?

And we know: You Alabama and LSU fans will look at us and say: “Heck! We scheduled Michigan and Oregon in successive seasons! We’re great!”. Actually, you’re not that much better, either. Here’s why: It was on NEUTRAL TURF, which takes out home field advantage. What makes college football so great are the games when a No.1 school walks into their big-time rival. Just ask Missouri about the time they hosted No.1 Ohio State, or LSU fans about the time when they went into West Virginia. Or the home-and-home rivalries that continue with Clemson and South Carolina, or Georgia Tech and Georgia? Are you telling me that the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in a neutral venue is more special than a road win at a hated rival? And more’s the case, what happens to your season ticket holders? I can bet that the tens of thousands of Alabama season ticket holders would rather see their team play Michigan in person in Tuscaloosa that in Dallas, Texas – and they would probably LOVE travelling to The Big House for the return game in 2013 (Alabama fans inform us that the Penn State home-and-home was a great experience).

The Bottom Line: SEC teams NEED to start playing big-time non-conference rivals (two if possible), because if they don’t, they’ll get punished by The Committee come 2014. Or they should.

Alabama receiver to transfer

Sometimes, just because you’re the son of one of the NFL’s biggest-ever receivers doesn’t mean that you’re going to be an automatic shoo-in in the arena of College Football….particularly at the University of Alabama.

Duron Carter, son of NFL great Chris Carter, is leaving Tuscaloosa, ESPN has reported.

Alabama became Carter’s school after he transferred from Ohio State, but he had academic problems, and he also landed in Nick Saban’s doghouse. He was suspended in March along with two players.

At the time Saban said: “It’s not up to me. It’s up to them, so i don’t really need to spend time speculating on what they’re going to do. I got two adolescents at home and I can’t predict what they’re going to do so I’m not going to predict what these guys are going to do. If they do what they’re supposed to, they can play on our team, all right? If they don’t, they won’t.”

ESPN added that Carter is hoping to play at Florida Athletic, the Florida Sun-Sentinel reported, and will hope that the NCAA will grant him the transfer without having to sit out the season.




SEC Media Days: Mark Richt’s best quotes

Mark Richt met with journalists at the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Al.

ESPN reported that he said: “No decision to dismiss a guy from the team is an easy decision. It’s always tough because I care very much about all these guys and having to make those kinds of decisions are tough. But in the end, I think we did what’s in the best interest of the program and I really do wish Isaiah the very best in his future. Hopefully things work out for him.”

Otherwise, here are some of his other quotes, provided by the SEC.

  • Defending a poor non-conference schedule: “A few years back when the extra game was added, we had the philosophy of adding another BCS opponent outside of the southeastern region. It sounded like a good idea at the time. But after living it out a little bit, went to Arizona State, Oklahoma State, those are long road trips. It takes a lot out of you just to prepare for a team like that, then it also takes it out of you on the traveling part of it. All of a sudden you’re flying home in the middle of the night, your guys are trying to find a place on the floor on the plane to sleep. You get behind the eight ball that way. I love having seven home games. I’d like to have 12 home games if we could, certainly for our fan base and for our players. This season is one that I think the amount of home games is outstanding. The fact that we always play Florida in Jacksonville is going to give you a cycle of every other year not getting that one home game, but it’s certainly worth it to play in Jacksonville.”
  • On Zach Mettenberger, who he threw out of Georgia: “He’d be competing to be the starter, if not being the starter.”
  • On the four-team play-off system: “I think the four-team playoff is going to be outstanding. I’m not sure who’s going to decide who the top four teams are, but hopefully we’ll get a chance to have one and maybe two teams play out of our league if the season’s just right. One of the reasons why I like it is it doesn’t destroy the bowl system the way it is. Some people may not like it the way it is, but I think the bowl system is outstanding. I think our regular-season games are huge. I’m talking about the entire BCS. I’m not talking about just the Southeastern Conference…. I just hate to see a day where we might play Florida, and whether you win or lose, you still go to the playoffs, no one thinks it’s that big of a deal. It is a big deal every game we play. I don’t want college football to lose that.”
  • Defending Georgia’s drug policy/Suspensions: “I think every university has the right to decide what’s in the best interest of their student-athletes. We at Georgia have got our policies there for a reason. We don’t want guys to get into that type of thing. When a guy makes a mistake, you want to stick him. You want to hopefully have a discipline that would teach a lesson and be painful enough to where they wouldn’t want to do it in the future. When the teammates are watching, hopefully it would help them not want to make the same type of mistake. I don’t think there will ever come a time in college football where everybody has a uniform policy in those issues. But I do think we’re doing the right thing for Georgia….People make mistakes. When they do, you discipline it. Some people have policies, as you mentioned earlier, that bring certain things to light, and some people don’t. So the bottom line is, you know, I love every guy on our team. Part of love is to be able to help teach them right from wrong. When they make mistakes, you need to discipline them in such a way that hopefully they’ll become better men down the road. That’s what we do at Georgia. To say that issues aren’t happening around the country isn’t really realistic.”
  • On the Baccari Rambo/Alex Ogletree “I’m not going to update anything other than we know that Sanders Commings has a two-game suspension.” People are human.

SEC Media Days: Nick Saban’s best quotes

Nick Saban took the stage at the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, and his address and answering to subsequent questioning answered everything from the prospect of next season (“challenging”) to the Penn State fiasco (“criminal”).

Here are some of his best quotes:

  • On the new team for 2012: “It’s really, really difficult in college football to carry momentum from one season to the next. You lose 25% of your team. That’s an understatement for us. We lost 13 starters from our team last year. And the new 25% that you bring to your team, really they don’t have knowledge and experience, they haven’t played. They’re young players. Maybe very talented players, but they’re very young players.”
  • The new kick-off rule: “I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that a player’s helmet coming off is not a good thing. It’s probably dangerous for the player. I don’t care whether it’s stylish or whatever it is, the players need to wear their helmet properly, it needs to fit properly, and it’s never good when it comes off. I think whatever we can do to sort of manage that toward player safety would be a real positive for our game.”
  • On Penn State: “This is obviously a very criminal thing that occurred there….If there’s some kind of way that we could create a win-win, and I don’t really know what that is, I just threw out a tax on every ticket at every athletic event and donate all the money to organizations that prevent child abuse, would be more of a win-win than worrying about punishing someone…. I just think that more focus on outcome is always more beneficial that might create a situation in the future that would be beneficial to someone.”
  • On the play-off system and worries about conference champions in a play-off: “I think, to be quite honest with you, whoever’s making the statements about conference champions is really making a statement against the SEC and against any league who has more than one good team who would qualify, trying to enhance the opportunity for somebody from their league to get in.”
  • On a nine-game SEC schedule: “What scheduling format gives us an opportunity to do that? So we’ve always played two teams on the other side plus a fixed opponent. You can do that by playing eight. You could do it by playing nine. Everybody’s got a self-absorbed opinion about why we shouldn’t do it because maybe they won’t get bowl eligible….So I don’t know if it would or it wouldn’t affect it one way or the other. I just look at it that the number one priority should be that every player have the opportunity to play every school in the SEC rather than being so divisional oriented. I think that should be the number one priority in scheduling.”
  • On coaches he looks up to: “There are other coaches in this league, like Steve Spurrier, that are older than me, that I look up to, that are my mentors, that I really learn a lot from, that I really want to try to be like. In fact, I was even going to consider wearing a visor on the sidelines this year. I was afraid I’d throw it.”

SEC Media Days: Les Miles’ best quotes

LSU coach Les Miles was his usual quotable self at his SEC Media Conference his Hoover, Alabama.

Here are a list of some of the more juicy things he said in what was an unusually straight press conference.

  • About the Alabama National Championship Game Loss: “‘I’ve seen [the game] a couple times. There weren’t that many plays for us on offense for me to spend that much time [on].
  • On his EA commercial: “I really thought that Mike the Tiger stole the show. We didn’t get along on the set. He was kind of working the camera. It was really a difficult time”.
  • On Tyrann Mathieu and (yet another) Twitter outburst on July 13th: “I didn’t get the Twitter rant exactly. I do recognize that there’s some verbal squabble, if you will, at times. The only thing I can tell you is that our guys are certainly proud of their team and how they’ll want to compete. I think he probably represented that. I can tell you that no game is won in a Twitter page. It’s a nice, pleasant pastime, very much like Media Days. But it’s all about what you earn in the fall. I think certainly not only Tyrann, but those people that he was communicating with, they understand that, as well.”
  • On Texas A&M on Thanksgiving: “I don’t know how we could play both Arkansas and Texas A&M on the same weekend.”
  • On new QB Zach Mettenberger: “The reality is he throws the ball extremely well. He makes all the throws. So, you know, we’re going to take advantage of some of those secondaries that want to come up and crowd the front and really try to stop the run. We suspect we’ll see some more pass coverage and then have an opportunity to run it a little bit more. I think our quarterback can throw it. It’s going to be more in the learning curve. The good news is he’s not a young quarterback. He’s had time. He’s had a full junior college slate, been with us for a year in transition. Now it looks to me that he’s kind of ready to go to the field. He’s not that freshman, that sophomore that really doesn’t understand the game. He has that.”
  • On the new play-off system: “The interesting thing is, over time the great scrutiny of this country on that selection committee will be very significant. They’ll have to get it right. They’ll have to defend their vote. I think that they’ll find people from backgrounds that are not conference driven. Even if they were conference driven, they’re just so tremendously loyal to the SEC, they would vote for the best teams, period. Same thing if they were Big Ten proponents or PAC-12, whatever. The point is that the person on the committee have integrity and be able to go beyond what would be natural conference allegiance. College football is too important. They’re going to want to pick the best four. As long as they do that, they’ll be fine.”
  • On Texas A&M and Missouri’s arrival into the SEC:  “I think they’ll have to recognize that there’s a little different breed of defense in this conference.”

SEC Media Days: Chizik gives play-off thumbs up

Auburn Coach Gene Chizik gave the four-team college football play-off his approval at his SEC Media Day Conference in Hoover, Alabama on Wednesday.

When asked about a play-off by journalists, he said: “With a four‑team playoff, I’m going to be honest with you, that depends on what glasses you’re wearing. Let me give you an example.

In 2010, if we had the four‑team playoff in place, I was at Auburn, just went through this league undefeated, won the SEC championship game, am I in favor of playing another one to prove that I deserve getting into the national championship game? No, I don’t.

But if you go back up to 2004 when we were undefeated and we didn’t get in the national championship game because we weren’t 1 or 2, then I’m totally in favor of it.

I think, as anything, you can shoot holes in anything you want. I think it’s a movement in the right direction. I think there’s two main keys to the point of how they structured it. Number one, they kept the bowl systems pretty much to the best of their ability intact so that there’s still a reward for all of the players at the end of the day. I feel that for the traditionalists out there, the bowls that are out there, they get to stay as a reward. That’s big for the players and coaches.

Second thing, I don’t think a four‑team playoff diminishes whatsoever the intensity of week‑by‑week trying to get down to the final four. I think there’s a lot of value in that for the fans. Essentially every week is a playoff, certainly in late October and November.

So I think those are good things.

At the end of the day, 12 years from now when they go back and they start‑‑ they start this two years from now, they do it 12 years, this system we have now, when they put that in however many years ago, that looked great. We decided there were holes in that. To be honest with you, the same thing is going to happen with this. There’s going to be unintended circumstances or consequences that a lot of people didn’t think about. I can think of scenarios in my mind right now.

If the fifth team beat the third team or the second team, they didn’t become No.4, they’re going to have the same argument the No.3 team did. We all know that. We’re smart enough to figure that out.

Another scenario could be if No.1 and No. 2 are in the same conference, they play a championship game, 2 beats 1, right, then 2 becomes 1 and 1 becomes 4, they’re going to rematch the next game.

There’s scenarios out there that can happen. Look, there’s a lot of things. But I definitely think it was well thought out and I think there was a lot of movement in the right direction. I think it’s going to be very exciting for everybody.

But, again, eight years from now, what will be the scenarios that popped up that will make people rethink this, because that’s going to happen. But for the most part I think it was a really, really fine job and well thought out in terms of for everybody, the fans, the players.”

He also refused to comment on speculation that the SEC East and West divisions should be split in terms of geography.

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State’s head coach, has said that keeping college football’s tradition is incredibly important in the face of the new play-off system coming in 2014.

He said: “The one thing I don’t want to see us lose is the tradition that is college football.  The great thing about the bowl system, we like talking different ways.  We want to talk education.  These guys are student-athletes.  This is not a professional sport.  They’re there to get an education.  But on the top end, there can only be one champion, we have to have this big extended playoff.  Where at the bowl system, we had a bunch of seniors leave winning a championship in their last football game last year.  What a great educational tool that is for them winning the Music City Bowl.  That’s their lasting memory of football.  The majority of them, that will be the last game they play.  I hope a lot of them get the opportunity to play professional football.  A lot, that will be their last opportunity.  The tradition that goes along with it, the excitement with the fan base, when you pull up to Nashville at the Music City Bowl, there’s 30,000 fans outside the stadium to meet the bus, what a neat experience that is for your players and fans. I hope we don’t lose any of the traditions and things that make college football special, you know, just because we want to form a playoff that right now there’s four teams.”

He added: “I’m sure there’s going to be discussions that whoever finished fifth is not going to be happy.”

One thing that Mullen said he worries about is the fact that student athletes are having to cope with rising academic standards, throwing out the age-old notion that players aren’t there to learn, they are there to play. Recently, NCAA team grade scores have been on the rise as the NCAA continues to threaten teams who score badly on their work that they will miss the post-season.

He said: “The biggest concern I’ve always seen in looking how it affects the big picture.  You look and say, Okay, recruiting, we have some guys that might have to academic redshirt.  That’s fine.  What it does, it takes numbers away, takes depth away. The one thing to me that’s disappointing is maybe give the guys an extra reward.  There might be a guy that is a great student, done everything the right way, that now because of depth concerns with other guys having academic redshirt, maybe you would have redshirted to give him a chance to develop and grow.  Now this young man has to go play on the field and essentially be punished for being great in school because now he only has four years with you.  He’s going to lose his opportunity to get a Masters because he had to play his first year. If you meet this standard, are above it, maybe you get five years of eligibility as a reward. You don’t have to make that tough decision if you’re going to redshirt those guys that qualified academically.  Everything was done more on a punishment basis, to punish the guys that didn’t do it, they’re going to have to academic redshirt and can’t play. I would have loved to see more of that approach taken and you reward guys for doing well instead of punishing guys that don’t do as well with their academic standards coming in from high school.”


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