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Tag:Auburn
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:07 pm
 

Brantley still out as UF QB, Brissett to start?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Will Muschamp spelled out his Florida current quarterbacking depth chart Monday, and it sounds an awful lot like the one his Gators employed Saturday against LSU.

Per Muschamp, the high ankle sprain suffered against Alabama will once again keep starting senior QB John Brantley on the sidelines this Saturday. True freshman Jacoby Brissett, having gotten the start against LSU, will enter the Gators' week of preparation for his team's trip to Auburn as the Gators' current No. 1 quarterback.

But that doesn't mean Brissett (pictured) is a lock to start by any means. Muschamp said that determination would be made after the Gators Tuesday practice, potentially depending on the health of fellow true freshman Jeff Driskel's injured ankle. Muschamp said Driskel's availability would be determined throughout the week.

Driskel was expected to start in Baton Rouge until apparently becoming a late scratch with the ankle issue. That put Brissett under center, where he went a discouraging 8-of-14 for less than 100 yards and two interceptions.

The encouraging thing for the young Gator quarterbacks is that even on the road, Auburn's defense promises to make for a far more welcoming environment than LSU's. the Bayou Bengals rank sixth in the country in opponent's yards-per-attempt and quarterback rating, Auburn 64th and 74th in those same categories.

But whatever the Tigers' defensive limitations, Brissett remains a true freshman third-stringer, and Driskel has sturggled against whatever teams he's taken snaps against thus far in 2011. If the pair of them don't take major strides this week, the Gators could be staring at a three-game losing streak.

Posted on: October 9, 2011 3:43 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 6



Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 6.

WINNER: Les Miles.

For years, college football fans have come up with excuse after excuse for why Miles has been less than a terrifiic head football coach, despite his gaudy records and 2007 national title. He's just lucky. Anyone can recruit that kind of talent to LSU. His clock management is terrible. Never lost fewer than two games in a season. He can't get his offense fixed. Did we mention he's lucky? This offseason, one prominent blogger went so far as to place Miles No. 1 on a list of "the Worst Coaches in College Football."

But after today's dominating 41-11 win over Florida and the Tigers' 6-0 start to the 2011 season -- a start that includes wins over four different ranked teams -- even Miles's most ardent detractors have to admit the Mad Hatter has put together the kind of upper-upper-echelon team that can't be explained by recruiting or luck or happenstance alone. Yes, it helps to have Ryan Baker and Tyrann Mathieu and Michael Brockers around, but even superstars like those don't make the kind of terror-inducing defense LSU has today without the guidance of John Chavis, who Miles recruited to Baton Rouge personally. Yes, it's tough to not have a strong running game with Spencer Ware and a veteran line, but that running game wouldn't be nearly so effective if Jarrett Lee hadn't shaken off a career's worth of failures to become exactly the steady, accurate (and vs. the Gators, bomb-tossing) quarterback the offense needs--a development that can be directly traced to Miles's much-derided hire of Steve Kragthorpe as his team's new quarterbacks coach. The Tigers have been special teams killers for far too long under Miles to dismiss their contributions as mere "luck," as evidenced once again Saturday when punter Brad Wing noticed the lack of a Gator punt safety and took off for what should have been a 44-yard touchdown.

In short: to watch the Tigers' rise to 6-0 and their dismantling of the Gators and not see Miles's fingerprints all over them is an exercise in willful ignorance. Luck can explain some of his successes, and the natural advantages of being LSU does explain a little more. But these Tigers? They are only explained by having a coach at the very, very top of his field.

LOSERS: Auburn's wide receivers.

Tiger quarterback Barrett Trotter hasn't played well of late, and has the numbers to prove it--6 of 19 for 81 yards and a pick against Arkansas, to be specific. But he also hasn't gotten much help from his wideouts with leading receiver Emory Blake out ... if he's gotten any at all. Remove a 44-yard reception for Travante Stallworth on a second-half flea flicker completion, and Auburn's wideouts combined for all of three receptions for 21 yards. DeAngelo Benton had a particularly rough evening, dropping one late first-half pass that could have set up an Auburn field goal, getting called for a hold that would eventually force an Auburn punt, and letting a late Trotter pass whistle through his hands for the aformentioned interception.

WINNERS: Backup quarterbacks.

Jacoby Brissett aside, it was a good day to be a current (or recent) second-stringer in the SEC. Connor Shaw cemented himself as the new South Carolina starter and then some with his 311-yard, 4-touchdown, zero-pick performance vs. Kentucky. Mississippi State's Tyler Russell came off the bench to complete 11 of his 13 passes, three of them going for second-half touchdowns that turned what had been a 3-0 halftime deficit into a 21-3 win over UAB. Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers didn't have much of an impact statistically (11-of-18, 104 yards, 2 INTs), but led a couple of decent drives and looked as composed vs. the Alabama pass rush as you could hope.

And then there's Lee, who you'll remember was not only Jordan Jefferson's backup with just days remaining before the season, but many fans' favorite to drop to third-string behind JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. Against Florida Lee completed only 7 passes--but he also only attempted 10, and those 7 completions averaged a gain of 22 yards.

LOSER: Stephen Garcia.

The career of one of the SEC's most recognizable stars, magnetic talents, and frustrating enigmas appears poised to end not with a bang, but with a whimper. Though you can't ever say never with Steve Spurrier, Shaw's confident command performance against Kentucky suggests he's going to be the Gamecock quarterback for quite some time to come. There's going to be much more difficult opponents ahead for him than the hapless Wildcats, but does it matter? Spurrier's surprising patience with Garcia through his awkward start to this season now looks poised to be turned against him as Spurrier lets Shaw work through the same rough patches Garcia endured.

Which means that in the end, Garcia's senior season hasn't been undone by the off-field troubles that so many have expected to be his downfall. It's gone south because he simply hasn't produced on the field, because aside from one half against East Carolina, he's never looked as good in 2011 as Shaw looked Saturday. It's not how we expected things to come to an end for Garcia (if this is the end), but nothing about Garcia's time in Columbia has ever played out as expected, has it?

LOSERS: Kentucky fans.

The Wildcats kicked off to open their game against the Gamecocks, forced a fumble on the return, and recovered just outside the Carolina 20. Cue the shots in the stands of overjoyed Kentucky fans high-fiving each other and celebrating the best possible start.

60 minutes later -- and only 96 Wildcat yards, 6 Wildcat first downs, and 3 Wildcat points which came immediately following that fumble recovery later -- those same fans had to be some of the most miserable in the country. It's one thing to watch a poor football team; it's another to watch a team that seems so hopelessly outmatched on offense and doesn't seem to be showing any kind of week-to-week improvement. After failing to top 300 total yards against Louisville or Florida, the Wildcats have now failed to top 300 yards in their games against LSU and Carolina combined.

So about that kickoff: were those fans happy to have that one moment of joy? Or all the angrier for that joy being so completely misleading?

WINNER: Georgia's defense.

Before the game, we asked if the Bulldog secondary could live up its gaudy post-Boise State numbers against the likes of Tyler Bray and Da'Rick Rogers on the road at Tennessee. The answer: mostly. Bray and late-game injury replacement Matt Simms did throw for 290 yards at a perfectly respectable 7.3 yards-per-attempt clip, and without an interception.

But they never did throw a touchdown, either; in fact, the Volunteers were kept out of the end zone entirely until Simms snuck in from a yard out with only 2:45 to play in the game. Thanks to the Dawg defensive backs keeping the Vols in front of them, and the UGA front seven stuffing the pathetic Tennessee ground game to the tune of .4 yards per rush (yes, .4), Bray and Co. finished the game with all of 12 points on the scoreboard. The Bulldogs offense wasn't much to write home about -- Isaiah Crowell didn't even hit the 60-yard mark on the ground, the red zone offense sputtered, and like his Vol counterparts Aaron Murray threw neither an interception nor touchdown pass -- but after years of seeing their team score like a pinball machine only to lose after another lackluster defensive display, we expect Dawg fans will take it.

LOSER: Clarity in the SEC East.

South Carolina was the preseason favorite. They were the favorite after they beat Georgia. But then Garcia struggled and Florida beat Tennessee, and the Gators were the favorite. And then Carolina lost to Auburn and Florida lost to both Alabama, and lots of people considered Georgia as the new favorite. But now that Shaw looks to have healed the Gamecocks' Achilles heel ... are they the favorites? Or is Georgia, still, after beating Tennessee? Or is Florida just ripe to return once their schedule eases up? All we really know is that none of the other three teams is winning the division, and that the East winner is going to be a two-touchdown underdog to the West's come December. Past that? your guess is as good as ours.

WINNERS: Everyone who loves college football. Let's not go crazy by saying something like "LSU and Alabama isn't going to be the only game that matters in college football this season"; with Wisconsin, Stanford, Clemson, Boise State and of course Oklahoma all looking at potential undefeated seasons, it's too hasty to even lay claim to LSU and Alabama as the nation's best two teams.

That said: if you're a college football fan, and you've watched Alabama and LSU play this season, and you know how good they are, and you've considered how much fun it would be to watch them meet, undefeated, with a trip to Atlanta on the line on Nov. 5 ... then every week that passes with the two of them still unblemished is a good thing. This was one such week.





Posted on: October 8, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 11:45 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 10 Arkansas 38, No. 15 Auburn 14

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

ARKANSAS WON: The Razorbacks spotted Auburn a 14-7 first-quarter lead but finished the game on a 31-0 run as the Tigers' passing attack continued to flail and the Hogs eventually caught up to Gus Malzahn's running game. While Auburn's quarterbacks combined for a 9-of-25, 4.2 yards-per-attempt, zero-touchdown, three-interception performance, Tyler Wilson was his usual steady self: 24-of-36, 262 yards, 7.3 YPA, two touchdowns, no picks. But the highlight reel play of the game belonged to wideout Joe Adams, who took a handoff and went 93 yards for a third-quarter touchdown, the second-longest run in Razorback history.

WHY ARKANSAS WON: It's not their run defense, that's for certain; a week after giving up 381 rushing yards to Texas A&M, the Hogs gave up 290 more to Auburn, with the Tigers' one-two punch of Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combining for more than 200 yards alone.

But even one terrific dimension isn't usually enough to make up for the lack of a second, as Auburn found out when their offense ground to a halt over the course of the final three quarters. Arkansas, meanwhile, kept moving in large part due to their excellent balance: 7.3 yards averaged over their 36 passes, 5.7 yards on their 31 runs. Sure, many of those rushing yards came on Adams' 93-yard lightning bolt -- the game's pivotal play, taking the Hogs from up 7 and backed up deep in their own territory to two a clear two-touchdown lead -- but Dennis Johnson and Broderick Green ground out plenty enough yards themselves (89 combined on 28 carries) to keep Auburn honest.

Combine that balance with a precision red zone attack that scored 31 points on its final five attempts, and Bobby Petrino's attack finished the night as a model of efficiency--a (relatively light) 438 yards, but 38 points. Auburn's defense had a better day against the Hogs than it did a year ago (or than it did earlier this year vs. Clemson or Utah State), but it hasn't caught up with the likes of Petrino and Co. yet.

WHEN ARKANSAS WON: Auburn actually responded well to the Adams run, using an exchange of punts to flip field position and then driving to the Arkansas 23. But then Malzahn elected to let run-first true freshman Kiehl Frazier make a rare passing attempt ... which was promptly picked off by the Hogs' Eric Bennett. Auburn wouldn't come close to threatening again.

WHAT ARKANSAS WON: Technically speaking, The Hogs remained only a game back in the SEC West race. But more realistically, they reasserted themselves as the SEC's third-best team, stayed in the mix for a top-10 poll position in the near future, and remain cleanly in line for a Capital One Bowl berth. As ugly as that loss to Alabama might have been, Arkansas remains well on track for another superb season.

WHAT AUBURN LOST: A 5-1 start with two massive SEC road wins would have silenced Auburn's doubters for good; as it stands, the Tigers still have work to do if they want to come out of their brutal October slate any better than 4-4. Next week's home date with Florida could be a make-or-break game for both teams.



Posted on: October 8, 2011 4:25 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 18 South Carolina 54, Kentucky 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Barring injury, the Stephen Garcia era came to its all-but-official end as Connor Shaw shredded the Wildcat defense for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns without throwing an interception. That was more than enough help for the Gamecock defense, which held the utterly feeble Kentucky offense to all of 96 total yards and forced five turnovers. At one point in the fourth quarter, Kentucky quarterbacks had thrown as many interceptions -- four -- as completions.

WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Shaw's confident, in-control performance had a lot to do with it. The sophomore looked little like the overwhelmed player that started the season opener against East Carolina, making sharp passes, correct reads, and even some hay on the ground on the zone read (42 rushing yards, even after accounting for several sacks). So effective was Shaw that the Carolina offense barely even needed Marcus Lattimore, who had the quietest 100-yard rushing day (4.6 yards per-carry, no touchdowns) it's possible to have.

But as big a story as the Gamecocks' offensive success was, even it might have been eclipsed by the endless whirlpool of horror that was the Kentucky offense. Carolina's defense is solid enough (and even had Melvin Ingram available after the SEC's leader in sacks overcame an ankle injury), but Joker Phillips can't have many excuses for this kind of wretched display: 4-of-26 passing for 17 yards, 2.9 yards averaged over 27 carries, as many turnovers -- six -- as first downs. Morgan Newton gave the Wildcats nothing through the air, forcing Phillips to turn to freshman Maxwell Smith in the second half ... only for Smith to throw interceptions on his first two passes.

With Shaw in command, the Gamecock offense once again looks like a unit capable of powering the team to an SEC East title. But even accounting for their competition, Kentucky's barely looks capable of taking the Wildcats to, say, the middle of the Sun Belt standings.

WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: As soon as Shaw proved he wasn't going to follow in Garcia's scattershot, interception-prone footsteps, which he did on the Gamecocks' first possession: 7 plays, 80 yards, capped with a 20-yard touchdown strike to Alshon Jeffery. With Kentucky's offense, that was Game Already Over.

WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: After weeks of listless performances and sleepwalks past overmatched competition -- not to mention the ugly 16-13 loss to Auburn --dispatching an SEC opponent in such ruthless fashion will be a huge jolt of confidence. With Florida looking totally overmatched at LSU, the Gamecocks have reestablished themselves as a favorite -- and maybe the favorite -- in the East.

WHAT KENTUCKY LOST: In the win/loss column, just another game they were supposed to lose. But after another horrific blowout, the Wildcats' confidence and morale looks to have been blown into a million tiny, tiny pieces. Kentucky looks far more like a future 0-8 SEC team than even a 2-6 one.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Up 33-3 early in the fourth quarter and driving, Steve Spurrier called for a Lattimore-to-Shaw-to-Ace Sanders flea flicker that gained 25 yards. A nice play, but why use it at that stage of this game? Spurrier's never been known for his mercy when it comes to blowouts, and that call won't do anything to change that reputation.

Posted on: October 8, 2011 11:48 am
 

Game day weather updates, Week 6

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The sun is out, the leaves are brilliant, the wind is crisp, the days are warm, and the nights are cool. You can call it "autumn," but it's really football season. Mild weather and sunshine abound today, so by all means enjoy; this might be the best weekend of weather all year. All times are eastern.

Noon kickoffs

Maryland at No. 12 Georgia Tech, 12:00, Atlanta, GA: Mid 70s, clear

Connecticut at No. 16 West Virginia, 12:00, Morgantown, WV: Lower 70s, clear

No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Texas, 12:00, Dallas, TX (Cotton Bowl): Lower 80s, partly cloudy, storms

Kentucky at No. 18 South Carolina, 12:20, Columbia, SC: Mid 70s, clear

No. 23 Florida State at Wake Forest, 12:30, Winston-Salem, NC: Upper 60s, clear

Afternoon kickoffs

No. 19 Illinois at Indiana, 2:30, Bloomington, IN: Low 80s, clear

Boston College at No. 8 Clemson, 3:00, Clemson, SC: Upper 70s, clear

Miami at No. 21 Virginia Tech, 3:30, Blacksburg, VA: Low 70s, clear

Missouri at No. 20 Kansas State, 3:30, Manhattan, KS: Mid 80s, partly cloudy, storms

Kansas at No. 6 Oklahoma State, 3:30, Stillwater, OK: Low 80s, partly cloudy, storms

No. 22 Arizona State at Utah, 3:30, Salt Lake City, UT: Low 50s, mostly cloudy

No. 17 Florida at No. 1 LSU, 7:00, Baton Rouge, LA: Upper 70s, partly cloudy

Evening kickoffs

Vanderbilt at No. 2 Alabama, 7:00, Tuscaloosa, AL: Mid 70s, clear

No. 15 Auburn at No. 10 Arkansas, 7:00, Fayetteville, AR: Mid 70s, clear

Iowa State at No. 25 Baylor, 7:00, Waco, TX: Mid 80s, cloudy, storms

No. 12 Michigan at Northwestern, 7:00, Evanston, IL: Upper 60s, clear

No. 24 Texas A&M at Texas Tech, 7:00, Lubbock, TX: Low 70s, cloudy, storms

No. 7 Stanford at Colorado, 7:30, Boulder, CO: Low 40s, cloudy, rain

Ohio State at No. 14 Nebraska, 8:00, Lincoln, NE: Mid 70s, cloudy, storms

Posted on: October 7, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 2:41 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 6

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom. 

This is a bit of a bizarro week in your college football diet, as most of the big games on Saturday will be taking place earlier in the day while our nighttime offerings lack some of those bolder flavors we all love. But that's fine, because with some of the entrees you'll be served during the day, you might not have enough room for that 32-ounce steak once dinner comes around.

Though hopefully you have room for one of those steaks at breakfast.

BREAKFAST

#3 Oklahoma vs. #11 Texas - ABC 12pm ET

This is a pretty wonderful way to start the day, isn't it? There are a lot of great rivalries in the world of college football, and this one has to be considered one of the best. For years the winner of this game basically helped decide who was going to win the Big 12, and it will go a long way in deciding the conference champion again this year. Also, Texas finds itself ranked near the top ten once again after a terrible 2010 season, and while things seemed to have turned around in Austin, this game will be the first real indication of how far the Longhorns have come. - Tom Fornelli 

#13 Georgia Tech vs. Maryland - ESPNU 12pm ET

The Yellow Jackets keep scoring in bunches and riding their offense to methodical wins, while Maryland desperately is trying to put the pieces back together following a pair of home losses.  The Terps offense finally got back in a groove against Towson, particularly getting a boost from the return of wide receivers Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler.  Maryland's high-tempo offense must keep drives alive in order to give their defense time to rest on the sideline.  Additionally, the defense must get stops on third down or Georgia Tech will slowly wear down Maryland on both sides of the ball.  Let's casually call this one "The Friedgen Bowl" since former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen said he "could care less about Maryland" and "is flying a Georgia Tech flag now." - Chip Patterson

North Carolina vs. Louisville - ESPN2 12pm ET

Louisville's offense is struggling, averaging less than 20 points per game and ranking dead last in the Big East.  The matchup against North Carolina's talented front seven will provide plenty of work for the Cardinals inexperienced offensive line.  Louisville's greatest strength on defense might be their secondary, but this Tar Heels team has become uncharacteristically run-heavy.  The emergence of Gio Bernard has changed the face of the offense, as the redshirt freshman will look to continue his streak of 100+ yard games to four.  Something that hasn't been done by a North Carolina running back since Ethan Horton in 1984. - CP

LUNCH

#1 LSU vs. #17 Florida - CBS 3:30pm ET

What happens when a Honey Badger smells blood? We may find out when Tyrann Mathieu and the rest of the LSU defense hosts a Gator attack missing John Brantley and still licking the wounds from its strangling at the hands of Alabama. Whatever hope Florida has will rest in their defense shutting down the Bayou Bengals' power-running game, but the return of the bruising Spencer Ware from a hamstring problem won't help them. - Jerry Hinnen [Video Preview]

#20 Kansas State vs. Missouri - ABC 3:30pm ET

Raise your hand if you thought before the season started that Kansas State and Missouri would be pegged as a game appearing on a national network during the middle of the season. Okay, now put your hand down, liar. Missouri has been a bit up and down this season as James Franklin has grown accustomed to filling Blaine Gabbert's shoes, and he doesn't have the easiest defense to go against this week. Then there's Kansas State which has caught just about all of us by surprise so far this year, as Bill Snyder has once again lifted this program back into Big 12 contention. - TF

#21 Virginia Tech vs. Miami - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

Both of these teams need a win if they plan to contend with Georgia Tech for the Coastal Division title, but neither team has put together a truly impressive performance that makes me think they could.  It will be a chance for both teams to prove (to themselves, really) that they belong at the top of the ACC.  Miami has been wildly inconsistent on both sides of the ball this season, but get a huge boost with preseason all-conference safety Ray-Ray Armstrong returning from suspension.  The Hokies' offense will need more than David Wilson to beat the Canes, and that responsibility falls on quarterback Logan Thomas.  Thomas' development has taken longer than some expected, but this would be a great time for him to grow up and lead VT to a huge home win over their longtime rivals. - CP

Penn State vs. Iowa - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

This has been a rather one-sided affair over the last decade or so, but give Iowa-PSU credit: the games are generally exciting, with six of the last 10 meetings featuring either single-score margins or a 4th quarter lead change. Expect more of the same this week, with Iowa bringing the conference's most prolific passing game (seriously) to town and Penn State hoping to turn their offensive fortunes around against a surprisingly green Hawkeye defense. - Adam Jacobi

DINNER

#10 Arkansas vs. #15 Auburn - ESPN 7pm ET

Last year's meeting produced an SEC regulation-time record 108 points, and judging by Tyler Wilson's 500-yard passing day last week (and Texas A&M's 381 yards rushing), Arkansas looks ready to do their part for a repeat performance. But this time, the Tigers have to hope their improving defense can keep them out of a shootout--a struggling passing game has Gus Malzahn's unit leaning heavily on Michael Dyer and ground-out first downs. - JH

Northwestern vs. #12 Michigan - Big Ten Network 7pm ET

If it weren't for that Russell Wilson fellow over in Madison, this game might feature the best two QBs in the conference, as Dan Persa leads the Northwestern charge against visiting Denard Robinson and the Wolverines. Persa shined in his first week back from that Achilles injury last year, but missed the last few minutes for precautionary reasons after an awkward tackle. Can Northwestern make headway against a newly re-energized Michigan defense, or will the Wolverines keep rolling along? - AJ

#7 Stanford vs. Colorado - Versus 7:30pm ET

Colorado isn't terribly good this season but the Buffaloes are rebuilding their program under new head coach Jon Embree and do have several weapons Stanford has to contain. The Buffs are 36th in passing offense and sophomore Paul Richardson is averaging 95 yards receiving a game. As always though, the reason to tune into this game is Heisman candidate Andrew Luck and a balanced attack that can beat you through the air or on the ground. Plus, you never know when something like this is going to happen and make you say wow. - Bryan Fischer

#14 Nebraska vs. Ohio State - ABC 8pm ET

Before this season, this game looked like the second half of a brutal conference opening for Nebraska. Wisconsin held up its end of the bargain last week by beating the Huskers 48-17, but Ohio State is hardly the challenge it used to be without Terrelle Pryor and a host of other stars. If Nebraska's going to show it belongs among the Big Ten elite, it has to bring the pain against a reeling OSU ballclub this week. - AJ

LATE NIGHT SNACK

BYU vs. San Jose State - ESPNU 10:15pm ET

Not exactly a marquee matchup, I know, but it's football and it's on your television. Plus, aside from getting pasted by Utah a few weeks ago, BYU hasn't played a game this season that didn't come down to the final minutes, so the possibility of some midnight HAM is totally in play here. - TF
Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:02 pm
 

Arkansas DE Jake Bequette to return vs. Auburn

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Though no one at Arkansas expected their defensive showing against Texas A&M to be quite the bloodbath it proved to be -- 628 total yards given up, 381 on the ground, even in the win -- the Razorbacks could at least comfort themselves with the fact that multiple key defenders were either banged-up or out completely. And with Auburn on deck for Saturday, they can now comfort themselves that one of those defenders is set to return at last.

Bobby Petrino confirmed Thursday night that All-SEC defensive end (and CBSSports.com College Football 100 member) Jake Bequette will play against the Tigers, ending a four-week absence following a hamstring injury suffered against New Mexico.

"He’s been in there and done a nice job," Petrino said of Bequette's week of practice. "He’ll be ready to go."

It's boost enough for the Razorbacks that Bequette is a decorated senior leader who led the team in sacks in 2010 and has long been one of the team's stouter defenders against the run. But there also might be no position where Arkansas needs the help more than at defensive end, where the Hogs' second projected starter, Tenarius Wright, is still recovering from a broken arm. With both Wright and Bequette out, the Hogs failed to record a single sack on 35 Texas A&M passing attempts and have just five for the season, tied for 98th in the FBS.

With Auburn certain to ride Michael Dyer on the ground and look for big plays down the field in the passing game -- the sort of plays a pass rush would help disrupt -- Bequette could be returning just in time.  With the senior on the field, if the Tigers gouge the Razorbacks in any similar fashion to the way the Aggies did, there's going to be even less comfort this time around.
Posted on: October 6, 2011 3:33 pm
 

SEC Interrogation, Week 6

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

In which we demand the SEC give us answers to its most pressing questions. Here those are:



Florida's running game: can you give your quarterback(s) any breathing room?
Any team that can start Chris Rainey or Jeff Demps at tailback and then substitute the other in for the first is going to be a threat on the ground, regardless of who their team faces; when the tiniest sliver of a crease could equal an 80-yard touchdown before the coaches have their headsets correctly adjusted, the Gator ground game is where a defense's focus is going to start ... and probably finish.

That probably goes double for LSU this Saturday, since with John Brantley out and some combination of true freshman Jeff Driskel and other true freshman Jacoby Brissett taking over at quarterback, the Gators' passing game is the most glaring of question marks. But it doesn't matter how badly the Tigers stack the box, how fearsome LSU's defensive front is, how well John Chavis has his charges prepared--Florida must find a way to get Demps, Rainey, and possibly Trey Burton moving forward on the ground. Even with Brantley looking as sharp as he ever has in the first half, the Gators still couldn't rush the ball at all vs. Alabama; Rainey, Demps, and Mike Gillislee carried 17 times for 13 yards, and the end result was zero points over Florida's final 10 drives.

If Driskel and Brissett have any prayer of completing passes consistently against the carnival of athletic freaks that make up LSU's secondary -- in Baton Rouge, no less -- that secondary is going to have to be not just concerned but downright obsessed with the Florida running game. That won't happen if that running game doesn't pick up some good early gains, maybe break a 20-to-30-yarder somewhere, and keep the Gators out of anything but the occasional third-and-long. Otherwise, Chavis's Tigers will spend all afternoon teeing off on the newbies under center and generally choking the life out of Charlie Weis's attack. Weis failed miserably in his first attempt at finding a way to run the ball against an elite SEC defense; a second failure will equal a potentially even-more-miserable defeat.



Barrett Trotter: are you up to giving Auburn a passing attack again? The Tigers' 4-1 record and road upset of South Carolina has helped mask a major, major flaw in the Tiger offense, and a surprising one given Gus Malzahn's track record: Auburn's vertical passing game has all but vanished. In the five quarters since the start of the second half against Clemson, junior QB Trotter has completed just 52 percent of his passes, for only 5.9 yards an attempt, while throwing 4 (often ugly) interceptions to just 3 touchdowns. That's not to mention the eight sacks taken by Trotter the last two games or that neither FAU nor the Gamecocks are going to be mistaken for having world-class secondaries any time soon.

Judging by Arkansas's efforts to stop the run against Texas A&M (or lack thereof), Trotter should get plenty of help from Michael Dyer and the Auburn running game. But that alone won't be enough for the Tigers to keep pace with the Hogs, not given the way Bobby Petrino's quarterbacks have shredded the Auburn defense the past two seasons (702 combined yards, 7 touchdowns) and the kind of form Tyler Wilson and Jarius Wright are in right now. With the Tiger secondary as flammable as ever (provided your quarterback isn't Stephen Garcia), Arkansas is going to score a boatload of points.

Which is why the injuries to receivers to Trovon Reed and Emory Blake couldn't have come at a worse time for Auburn. Trotter already needed to take a substantial step forward to keep the Tigers within striking distance on the road; now he'll have to do it without two of his top three receivers. If there was ever a week for Malzahn to earn his substantial assistant's salary, this looks to be it.



Georgia secondary: are you for real? When Kellen Moore gouged the Bulldogs for 28-of-34 passing and 3 touchdowns Week 1, it looked like the Bulldog defensive backs had regressed back to their dark Wille Martinez-led days. But with safety Bacarri Rambo returning from suspension, the Dawgs have held their last four opponents to team QB ratings under 86 and rank 11th in the country in opponent's pass efficiency despite the Moore carpet-bombing.

Those past results are no guarantee of future performance, since facing Tyler Bray in Neyland Stadium represents a vast step up in competition from the likes of Garcia, Zack Stoudt, the slumping Chris Relf and whoever it was Coastal Carolina trotted out. But it's worth remembering that the Vols still have next-to-nothing going on the ground; even after totaling 199 yards against Buffalo, the Vols rank a horrid 109th in the country in yards per-carry. If the Dawg defensive backs can slow down Bray at all, the Vol offense could grind to a halt ... and barring another turnover-fest from Aaron Murray, Georgia should be able to walk out of Neyland with the victory.

So: can those Dawg DBs slow down Bray or not? The evidence to date is encouraging, but with the memory of Moore's night at the Georgia Dome still lingering, it's not compelling just yet.

Other SEC questions worth asking: How does AJ McCarron look against the Vanderbilt secondary? (Don't laugh; this is the best set of defensive backs McCarron has faced yet. A strong showing would further cement the belief that the Tide have no Achilles heels.) Can Marcus Lattimore keep pace in the Heisman race? (Sure, most of the attention on Carolina is focused on new quarterback starter Connor Shaw. But a second straight subpar outing against a Kentucky defense that kept LSU's ground game bottled up for a half would put the sophomore badly behind at the midseason mark.) Does Mississippi State have any fight left? (The Bulldogs have looked utterly listless and deflated ever since losing to LSU. Is there any indication that could change down the road vs. UAB?)

 
 
 
 
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