Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 5:23 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: they can avoid giving LSU easy points. No kickoff returns for touchdown, no short fields following fumble giveaways, no pick-sixes or 60-yard bombs over the top. Simple, right?
Not against LSU, it's not; such is the Tigers' incredible strength in special teams and defense that they rank a mediocre 62nd in total offense ... and still a robust 13th in scoring offense at 38 points a game, better than all but seven other BCS conference teams. But as those low yardage totals indicate, putting together 8, 9-play drives that cover 75, 85 yards are not what LSU wants to do or what plays to their strengths. Even the 14-play, 77-yard march that got the Tigers on the board vs. Arkansas had to survive a botched option pitch and a near-interception from Jordan Jefferson to hit paydirt.
The Tigers can bang out those kinds of drives, of course, thanks to Spencer Ware and Michael Ford and the rest of LSU's pounding ground game. But Georgia can answer that with the nation's No. 6 rush defense, Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins, Christian Robinson and the rest. If Ware and Co. find some tough sledding somewhere between their own 20 and the end zone, is Jefferson good enough to repeatedly execute in the passing game -- against the nation's fourth-ranked secondary in opponent's QB rating, no less -- enough to put those usual 38 points on the board?
Probably not--which is why if Aaron Murray can protect the ball against Morris Claiborne and the rest of the LSU ballhawks, if the Dawgs can avoid getting burned in special teams, if Drew Butler can match Brad Wing inside-the-20 punt for inside-the-20 punt, if the Dawg secondary can keep Rueben Randle from shortcutting a long drive into a quick one, the Dawgs will have a chance. Those are big -- gigantic -- if's, of course. But that's where the Dawgs have to start.
LSU WILL WIN IF: they play their game. Georgia shouldn't be able to stay even in the special teams department when no one else has. Georgia shouldn't be able to run well enough to keep Murray out of the 3rd-and-8's in which Barkevious Mingo can tee off and Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, and the rest of the defensive backs thrive. Georgia shouldn't be able to get their receivers free against that secondary. Georgia shouldn't be able to offensively overcome to kinds of holes Wing will put them in.
LSU is the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. Georgia's good, but are they so good that if LSU plays to their potential, they'll be able to win anyway? No.
THE X-FACTOR: When Arkansas went up 14-0, the immediate reaction was "how will LSU respond?" Those 14 points represented a deficit more than three times larger than their previous season high ... and it was still erased and then some before halftime. But that was at home, against a team with no ability to stop the LSU ground game, and they got the benefit of Mathieu's game-swinging punt return. Let's say the Bulldogs not only ride a surge of early energy and momentum to a two touchdown first half lead, but hold on to keep a narrow edge into the game's final 20 minutes. Then how does LSU respond? It's a de facto road game. It's against the best defense they've seen since Alabama. It's for the SEC title. Do they keep their unflappable 2011 cool in that situation, too? Or not?
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Posted on: October 29, 2011 8:01 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
GEORGIA WON: Objectively speaking, it wasn't a thing of aesthetic beauty, but we won't dare tell Georgia fans that any win over Florida ain't pretty. The Bulldogs fell into an early 17-3 hole, gained just 354 total yards, saw Aaron Murray miss nine straight passes in the second half, and committed far too many special teams gaffes to list in this short a space. But after a hot start, in the second half John Brantley played like the injured, rusty quarterback he was (missing 11 of 12 himself at one point) and the Gators were held to just three points after the break. A pair of fourth-down Murray touchdown tosses and a bruising four-yard TD run by Richard Samuel (pictured) early in the fourth quarter would be all the offense the Dawgs needed.
WHY GEORGIA WON: Because Florida simply cannot find the key to getting the ball moving after halftime. In eight second-half quarters since their win over Kentucky on Sept. 24, Charlie Weis's offense has scored a total of 10 points: seven against LSU on a lightning-in-a-bottle downfield bomb, and three today when Chris Rainey's long kickoff return meant the Gators could gain three yards in three plays and still kick a field goal. Across seven second-half possessions vs. the Bulldogs, Florida earned one first down, gained 12 yards, and started drives at the Dawg 26, 45, and 36 that totaled, yep, three points. While the Bulldogs deserve a lot of credit for putting the clamps down -- particularly outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who finished with four sacks -- that kind of week-in-week-out futility isn't going to win many games in the SEC. Or anywhere.
A nod is also due to Mark Richt's aggressive red zone play-calling. After Blair Walsh missed a 33-yard chippie (his ninth miss of the season; he would add a tenth later), Richt twice passed on makeable field goals to have Murray throw to the end zone on 4th down. Results: 1. massive touchdown pass to Michael Bennett to close halftime gap to 17-10 2. equally massive touchdown pass to Tavarres King to tie game at 17 early second half. Without Richt's willingness to take those risks, the Bulldogs lose.
WHEN GEORGIA WON: A 24-yard punt by Drew Butler (we mentioned the special teams disasters, right?) set the Gators up at the Georgia 36 with just under 6 minutes to play. The ensuing drive: incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, sack. Even if the Gator defense had been able to get the ball back (they weren't), there wasn't any way the shellshocked Florida offense was getting a better opportunity than that.
WHAT GEORGIA WON: The inside track to Atlanta. Only home dates against Auburn and Kentucky stand between the Dawgs and a 7-1 SEC mark, and the only help they need if they win out is a single loss from South Carolina ... who's losing 3-0 to Tennessee as we type this and still have a road date against Arkansas to come. But if becoming the de facto East favorite wasn't sweet enough, that was just the Dawgs' fourth win over Florida in 21 tries and may have even saved Richt's job. Not bad for 60 minutes of work.
WHAT FLORIDA LOST: the Gators' fourth straight SEC game and any distant hope of winning the division. At 4-4 and with only one "gimme" left on the schedule (and dates vs. Carolina and Florida State still to come), Florida isn't even guaranteed of making a bowl game just yet.
Posted on: August 8, 2011 9:48 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 1:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
As part of CBSSports.com's season preview, we offer one blogger's choices for preseason All-SEC. Our team includes 11 players on either side of the ball, because any more is cheating.
Aaron Murray, rSoph., Georgia. A 24-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio would be damn good for any quarterback. For a redshirt freshman in his first year on the job playing without the benefit of a strong running game, it was downright outstanding. (And, in fact, made him the most efficient underclassman quarterback in the country.) Murray should emerge as the conference's clearcut best passer as a sophomore.
Also watch for: Mississippi State's Chris Relf, the conference's best rushing quarterback and option operator; Arkansas's Tyler Wilson, like all Bobby Petrino pupils a 300-yard day waiting to happen; and South Carolina's Stephen Garcia, Murray's biggest competition for first-team honors if he can eliminate the backbreaking turnovers that have plagued his career.
Trent Richardson, Jr., Alabama. Boasting arguably the nation's best combination of power and speed at the position, Richardson should find himself carrying the lion's share of the load for a Tide offense that's never shied away from pounding out wins on the ground--and will shy away even less in 2011 with an unsettled passing game and ruthless defense.
Marcus Lattimore, Soph., South Carolina. The league's near-unquestioned leader in yards-after-contact, Lattimore's ruggedness and stamina sometimes overshadowed his other stunning gifts: his Mark Ingram-esque balance, surprising acceleration, and maybe the best pair of hands for a back in the SEC. Maybe the nation's best all-around back.
Also watch for: pretty much everyone, given even the SEC's least-heralded backs (like, say, Tennessee's overlooked Tauren Poole) have the potential for a 1,200- to 1,300-yard season. But we'll spotlight Arkansas workhorse Knile Davis, a good bet to finish as the league's top rusher despite the Heisman candidates above.
Alshon Jeffery, Jr., South Carolina. The league's leading receiver in 2010 by nearly 400 yards, there are sea urchins that could tell you Jeffery belongs here. A consensus preseason All-American and first-round lock, don't be surprised if he walks away with this year's Biletnikoff Award.
Greg Childs, Sr., Arkansas. We're five selections in now and have yet to break ranks with preseason consensus, but we're not going to in this slot, either; at an NFL-ready 6'3", 215, Childs was step-for-statistical-step with Jeffery last season before an injury cut things short. Expect him to make up for lost time in 2011.
Also watch for: Childs' Razorback teammates Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, either of which could top 1,000 yards themselves; Tennessee sophomore home-run threat Justin Hunter; and junior Emory Blake, who could see a massive statistical bump as the No. 1 receiver in Auburn's more aerial-friendly offense.
C William Vlachos, Sr., Alabama. The senior leader of what shapes up as the conference's best offensive line, Vlachos will have a shot at the Rimington Trophy.
OT Barrett Jones, Jr., Alabama. After two years at guard, the All-SEC performer and All-American candidate moves to tackle for 2011.
OT Bobby Massie, Jr., Ole Miss. Senior teammate Bradley Sowell could fit in this slot, but we like the immensely talented 6'6", 315-pound mauler to take another big step forward, especially in the run game.
OG Alvin Bailey, rSoph., Arkansas. Speaking of steps forward, Bailey started all 13 games in 2010, earned freshman All-American honors, and should be the focal point of an improved Hog ground game.
OG Larry Warford, Sr., Kentucky. The future pro was named second-team All-SEC a year ago and preseason All-SEC this year by both the media and coaches--not an easy thing to do at Kentucky.
Also watch for: Sowell, for one. But every SEC team has at least one player or two with all-conference potential. Perhaps the most likely candidates not listed above are at Georgia, where center Ben Jones and tackle Cordy Glenn could put an end to the Bulldogs' years of line underachievement in their senior seasons.
Orson Charles, Jr. Georgia. No other returning tight end in the league was close to his 26 receptions for 422 yards last year--and with A.J. Green and Kris Durham gone, Charles's role in the Bulldog offense should only expand from here.
Also watch for: Auburn's Phillip Lutzenkirchen, also due to see a numbers spike thanks to other receivers' departures. And if Florida jack-of-all-trades Jordan Reed sticks to TE, expect an impact from him as well.
DE Jake Bequette, Sr. Arkansas. In collecting seven sacks a year ago, Bequette emerged as the most explosive performer in the Hogs' highly-underrated front seven.
DE Devin Taylor, Jr., South Carolina. The Gamecocks finished a quiet third in the SEC last season in rush defense, due in large part to Taylor's 13 tackles-for-loss (tops among returning linemen) and 7.5 sacks.
DT Malik Jackson, Sr., Tennessee. It won't be easy for the talkative Jackson this season--he's the Vols' only returning starter in the front seven, and he's already missing two weeks of practice with a knee injury--but no returning SEC tackle was as disruptive in 2010.
DT Sharrif Floyd, Soph., Florida. Part of Urban Meyer's famous five-star haul in February 2010, Floyd collected 6.5 tackles-for-loss despite only starting two games and has reportedly been unblockable in recent Gator practices.
Also watch for: the nose tackles in either Alabama's or Georgia's 3-4 schemes--Josh Chapman in Tuscaloosa, and Kwame Geathers or Johnathan Jenkins in Athens. Ole Miss end Kentrell Lockett is in his sixth year and could lead the league in sacks if healthy. And the early reports are that megarecruits Jadeveon Clowney (at Carolina) and Anthony Johnson (at LSU) are as good as advertised.
OLB Courtney Upshaw, Sr. Alabama. Seven sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss a year ago, and those numbers should only improve as Nick Saban makes him the cornerstone of a more-dedicated Tide pass rush.
ILB Dont'a Hightower, Jr. Alabama. Hightower's rusty 2010 return from an ACL injury doesn't merit inclusion here, but his experience -- combined with the expected return of the athleticism he flashed a freshman All-American in 2008 -- certainly does.
MLB Danny Trevathan, Sr., Kentucky. We're fudging the formation a bit with two inside 'backers and just one OLB, but it's worth it to make room for the SEC's leading tackler from a year ago.
Also watch for: the excellent tandem of Jerico Nelson and Jerry Franklin at Arkansas, or Chris Marve at Vanderbilt, or LSU's underrated Ryan Baker.
CB Tyrann Mathieu, Soph., LSU. Teammate Morris Claiborne has received most of the preseason love, but Mathieu came on like gangbusters at the end of his freshman season -- culminating in an MVP performance at the Cotton Bowl -- and should be ready for an all-conference season.
CB Casey Hayward, Sr., Vanderbilt. The Commodores' disappointing 2010 wasn't Hayward's fault; his 17 passes defended led the SEC, and his six interceptions placed him second.
S Mark Barron, Sr., Alabama. His All-American status overrates him ever-so-slightly -- it's possible to get deep on Barron occasionally, if not frequently -- but no defensive back in the league (and maybe the country) has a better nose for the ball or knack for the game-changing play.
S Robert Lester, Jr., Alabama. Two Tide safeties might feel like overkill, but there's not really any arguing with numbers like these: an SEC-high eight interceptions, 12 passes defended, 52 tackles, and the Tide's league-best opposing passer rating of just 103.56.
Also watch for: Tennessee's Janzen Jackson, now that he's reportedly reported to camp in great shape after his layoff; Claiborne, obviously; Razorback safety Tramain Thomas; Georgia corner Brandon Boykin; and oh, fine, Stephon Gilmore. We don't think netting two pass breakups and three picks for a Gamecock pass defense ranked 97th in the country adds up to being an All-SEC player, but we're in the minority.
P Drew Butler, Sr., Georgia; PK Blair Walsh, Sr., Georgia. We wish the Bulldog specialists the best of luck in their 11th year in Athens. (No, we refuse to believe the pair of them have only had four years of eligibility each.)
Tags: A.J. Green, Aaron Murray, Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Alvin Bailey, Anthony Johnson, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Jones, Ben Jones, Blair Walsh, Bobby Massie, Bobby Petrino, Bradley Sowell, Brandon Boykin, Casey Hayward, Chris Marve, Chris Relf, Cordy Glenn, Cotton Bowl, Courtney Upshaw, Danny Trevathan, Devin Taylor, Dont'a Hightower, Drew Butler, Emory Blake, Florida, Georgia, Greg Childs, Jadeveon Clowney, Jake Bequette, Janzen Jackson, Jarius Wright, Jerico Nelson, Jerry Franklin, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Adams, Johnathan Jenkins, Jordan Reed, Josh Chapman, Justin Hunter, Kentrell Lockett, Kentucky, Knile Davis, Kris Durham, Kwame Geathers, Larry Warford, LSU, Malik Jackson, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Barron, Mark Ingram, Mississippi State, Morris Claiborne, Ole Miss, Orson Charles, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, preseason All-SEC, Robert Lester, Ryan Baker, SEC, SEC preview, Sharrif Floyd, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia, Stephon Gilmore, Tauren Poole, Tennessee, Tramain Thomas, Trent Richardson, Tyler Wilson, Tyrann Mathieu, Vanderbilt, Williams Vlachos
Posted on: July 11, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 5:27 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Here are the five members of this year's 2011 Ray Guy Award watch list, as determined by the Augusta Sports Council:
Bryan Anger (Sr.), California
Obviously, Drew Butler (yes, the son of former Dawg kicker Kevin Butler) is the big name here, as he won the award as a sophomore in 2009 (see right) and was a finalist again last season. But compared to some of the other names on the list, Butler was a little -- just a little -- disappointing in 2010.
Past that, Oklahoma State's Quinn Sharp has a cannon of a leg, and he was second in the nation in punting average last year (the Cowboys were third in net punting average). With Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon both coming back in 2011, the Cowboys may not have a great deal of opportunities to punt this season, but as long as we're keeping track of punts by average yardage instead of total, Sharp should be fine.
One quibble, though, and I know this is just a watch list, but where the heck is UCLA punter Jeff Locke?
Tags: 2011 Ray Guy Award, 2011 Watch Lists, ACC, Auburn, Big 12, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Anger, California, Clemson, Dawson Zimmerman, Drew Butler, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Jeff Locke, Justin Blackmon, Kevin Butler, Kyle Martens, Non-BCS, Oklahoma State, Pac-12, Quinn Sharp, Ray Guy Award, Rice, SEC, UCLA, Watch Lists
Posted on: December 29, 2010 3:57 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Basics: UCF (10-3) vs. Georgia (6-6), Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. EST.
Why You Should Watch: The SEC's bowl tie-ins give the non-AQ teams of the world just one shot at the nation's highest-profile conference, and this is it; the Liberty annually pairs one of the SEC's also-rans against the Conference USA champion. But even with the field seemingly as tilted in favor of the C-USA upset as it could possibly be, it hasn't happened yet, as the SEC has swept all four of the SEC-vs.-C-USA Liberty Bowls to date. UCF represents maybe the best chance for C-USA yet, as they have both the airtight defense (18th nationally) and offensive starpower (in freshman quarterbacking prodigy Jeff Godfrey) to give Georgia all they want.
Of course, the Dawgs have A.J. Green and Justin Houston and Aaron Murray and a whole bunch of other SEC athletes, not to mention a statistical profile much better than their 6-6 record. Last year's Liberty went into overtime, and on paper this one's evenly-matched enough to make it 2-for-2. For depth of talent on display and a well-balanced, competitive matchup, you're not going to do much better before New Year's than the Liberty.
Keys to Victory for UCF: Frankly, the Knights should come into this game the substantially more motivated team. They're coming off of a championship season, but one without a win over BCS competition (after close losses vs. N.C. State and at Kansas State); they couldn't ask for a more perfect finishing touch than beating a traditional SEC power for the program's first-ever bowl victory. That should give the Knights an emotional edge, one that could give them a fast start against a Bulldogs team that badly underachieved to land at 6-6 and no doubt had their sights set on a bowl destination more glamorous than Memphis.
If the Knights do come away with a halftime or three-quarters lead, Georgia will be in trouble. Godfrey was a revelation after taking over for the injured Rob Calabrese at midseason, finishing eighth in the country in passer rating with a sparkling 68.4 completion percentage and 9.8 yards-per-attempt average. He added 10 touchdowns and 546 yards on the ground for good measure, pacing the Knights to the kind of balance (2,502 rushing yards, 2,493 passing) and steady efficiency (fifth in the FBS in time-of-possession at 33:09 a game) that most teams can only talk about.
But as effective as the Knight offense was, it was the defense that did the heavy lifting, starting with a secondary that placed both corner Josh Robinson and safety Kemal Ishmael on the All-C-USA first team and finished in the national top 30 in opponent's passer rating, opponent's yards-per-attempt, and interceptions. But the Knights also have a pair of fearsome defensive ends in Bruce Miller and Darius Nall, who combined for 21 tackles-for-loss and 15.5 sacks to give UCF the nation's 10th-ranked rush defense. (Ishmael's team-leading 82 tackles helped, too.) The absence of a big-play passing game means they won't want to fall behind, but if the Knights can get out in front, their combination of sound defense and clock-killing offense will have them well-positioned for the victory.
Keys to Victory for Georgia: It's simple: if the Dawgs overcome their disappointment of a season and match UCF's levels of energy and focus, they win.
Because while UCF might have several awfully solid players, Georgia has several All-Americans. Houston led the SEC in sacks, finished second in tackles-for-loss, and was a finalist for multiple national awards; Murray might be the only freshman quarterback in the country to have had an even more impressive season than Godfrey, posting an incredible 24-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio; and Green might be the most purely talented college receiver since Larry Fitzgerald. And even aside from their headlining stars, Georgia can boast an offensive line packed with both experience and future NFL players like senior tackle Clint Boling; dangerous skill position weapons like tight end Orson Charles and running back Washaun Ealey; maybe the nation's best pair of specialists in punter Drew Butler and cannon-legged kicker Blair Walsh; kickoff returner Brandon Boykin, who's taken four kicks to the house the past two seasons; two steady senior linebackers in Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble; etc.
All of that talent means it's something of a mystery how Georgia ever wound up at .500, though plain old bad luck in the form of poorly-timed fumbles and critical defensive breakdowns in close games -- the Dawgs went 0-3 in games decided by 7 points or fewer -- probably had something to do with it. Their average per-play margin of +1.2 (6.4 gained per snap, 5.2 allowed)
ranked first by a wide margin in the SEC East and fourth in the conference behind the leagues' two BCS teams and Alabama. In short, this is a team that's been much better than their place in the SEC standings (or their Liberty berth) would indicate, and if they play to that same standard, they should have enough to overpower the less-talented Knights.
The Liberty Bowl is like: That one sharp-witted, twinkly-eyed elderly gentleman in your neighborhood who you knew from church, or the diner down the street, or maybe just the rocking chair on his front porch, who told stories and though not all of them were classics, he always had one you'd never heard before and some of them stayed with you like Louisville beating Boise State 44-40 in 2004. The Liberty has been in business since 1959, making it one of the oldest pre-New Year's games, and though it's not the game it once was, UCF and Georgia promise to give it another memorable chapter in its distinguished history.
Tags: A.J. Green, Aaron Murray, Akeem Dent, Blair Walsh, Bowl Bonanza, Bowl Previews, Brandon Boykin, Bruce Miller, Clint Boling, Darius Nall, Darryl Gamble, Drew Butler, Georgia, Jeff Godfrey, Josh Robinson, Justin Houston, Kansas State, Kemal Ishmael, Liberty Bowl, N.C. State, Orson Charles, Rob Calabrese, UCF, Washaun Ealey