Wednesday, September 19, 2012

SEC Football: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly From Week Three - Rant Sports


Onward we go!

Week three of the SEC schedule gave us plenty of answers and even more questions.

As we move into week four, some teams open conference play while others step out of conference for a break.  The grind is about to get real, as the dream of making it to Atlanta can be gone in the blink of an eye.

Plenty of good, bad and ugly from Saturday, so let’s jump right to it.

The Good:

- Alabama Crimson Tide:  Alabama is a run away freight train right now, as they’re mashing anything and everything that steps in their way.  I’ve literally never seen a team that just goes to work each and every week like they do.  The job Nick Saban has done this year is remarkable.  Even more remarkable is the play of quarterback A.J. McCarron.  McCarron has been efficient each and every week, doing nothing flashy, but is managing the game exactly the way Saban would have him to.

- Florida Gator Halftime Adjustments:  After back to back road games, the Gators return home to the friendly confines of The Swamp as they host Kentucky this week.  Great timing for the Gators as they’re coming off a huge victory versus Tennessee.  Florida has trailed at the half in two straight games, but have come out in the third quarter looking completely revived.  The Gators have outscored their opponents 50-13 in the second half this season, including 27-0 in the fourth quarter.

- Texas A&M Quarterback Johnny Manziel:  The Aggies look to be a little better than first thought, thanks in part to the play of Johnny Manziel.  The freshman quarterback showed out on Saturday versus SMU, as he  finished the day 20 of 36 for 294 yards and four touchdowns.  If that wasn’t enough, Manziel also carried the ball 12 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns.  Not bad for a freshman.

The Bad:

- Auburn Tigers:  I chose to give the Tigers the benefit of the doubt after two tough games.  They fought hard against Clemson, just coming up short.  Then, having to travel to a pretty good Mississippi State team, they lose 28-10.  I honestly thought versus La. Monroe, you would see them get back to Auburn football.  They were headed that way, up 14, heading in to score and fumble on the two yard line.  Next thing you know, it’s a dog fight to the finish, and the Tigers win a close one.

- Mississippi State Defense:  The Bulldogs traveled to Troy, Alabama to take on the Trojans, in what could have been a huge let down spot for them.  The Bulldog’s defense surrendered 572 yards to Troy, but they hung on for the win 30-24.

- Ole Miss Defense:  The Rebels are clearly better than they were in 2011, a season where they only won two ball games.  Ole Miss came into the Texas game 2-0, but couldn’t slow down the Longhorns.  The Rebel defense gave up 676 yards in route to a 66-31 loss to Texas.

The Ugly:

- Arkansas Razorbacks:  If losing at home two weeks ago to Louisiana-Monroe wasn’t enough, the Razorbacks show up versus Alabama and get beat 52-0.  What’s worse than the score, was it looked like Arkansas may have just mailed this season in.

- Tyler Wilson:  Wilson spoke to the media after the game and basically called out his teammates and said they quit.  Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but he didn’t even play.  I’m sure Tyler learned a valuable lesson from this, as next time, I firmly expect him to take the high road.  Sometimes less is more when speaking with the media, especially after a 52-0 loss.

- Kentucky Wildcats:  I hate to break it to Joker Phillips, but you can’t lose to Western Kentucky.  The Wildcats were consistently in bowl games under former coach Rich Brooks,  a standard Phillips will need to uphold if he wants to keep his job.


Freddie Vickers covers the SEC for Rant Sports

Follow Freddie on Twitter:  @fredvic9

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Preview: UAB Blazers at No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes - (blog)

Preview: Florida Atlantic Owls at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide - (blog)

Preview: No. 2 LSU Tigers at Auburn Tigers - (blog)

2012 College Football Week 3 Review, Analysis: South Carolina Gamecocks vs ... - Opposing Views

South Carolina crushed UAB 49-6 Saturday night in one of the closest 43 points blow outs I can remember. Steve Spurrier picked up his 200th collegiate win, and the Gamecocks extended their winning streak to 7 games. The streak is the second longest in USC history. The Gamecocks moved up one spot in each of the polls to #7 in the AP and #6 in the Coaches'.

The Gamecock offense wasn't very productive early and struggled to find a rhythm at several points through out the week. Connor Shaw didn't look as crisp passing the ball as we might have hoped, but he has been coming back from an injury and missed many, many reps the last two weeks. He re-aggravated his injury, so we'll be waiting out his status all week again.

Dylan Thompson played well in relief like he had last week. You can be sure there'll be plenty of talk about who should play given Shaw's slow start and Thompson's pretty numbers. When someone strikes up that conversation remember that while Thompson has set Conference USA defenses ablaze, Connor Shaw has beat SEC teams. Both quarterbacks have work to do, but both are capable of leading this team.

The wide receivers continued to assert themselves. Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders have emerged as the go-to guys and there's no reason to think they won't be productive the rest of the season.

Marcus Lattimore only carried the ball 12 times, and it seemed clear the coaching staff didn't want to overuse him. The strategy paid off because Lattimore finished the game as healthy as he started it, and he should have fresh legs for games in which we'll need him more later in the season. He also found time to put his name atop the all-time USC leader boards for rushing touchdowns and overall touchdowns.

Shaq Roland and Mike Davis, two talented and hyped freshman found some more playing time in the second half. Roland caught a nice touchdown pass on a post from Dylan Thompson. He may be able to emerge as the third receiver as the season progresses. Mike Davis looked dynamic and strong in his limited carries. I don't think there's any sense wasting a red shirt on him. He can help the team this season and may be the #2 running back in a few weeks.

The defense looked like they were going to get run through in the first quarter. They didn't give up many points, but they did give up over 100 yards. They adjusted and stymied the Blazers the rest of the night. For all of the yards UAB managed in the first quarter, they only finished with 267 total.

Many, many defenders played superb football for four quarters, but they seemed to be placed in inadvisable positions early. Especially on long yardage downs the coverage seemed to be way too soft and something akin to a prevent. As a result UAB converted more long downs than they should have. Luckily Lorenzo Ward made a change and those conversions slowed considerably.

D.J. Swearinger continues to assert himself as a leader of the defense, and the fumble he picked out of the air to return for a touchdown might very well be the difference between a comfortable 49-6 win and a closer and less impressive 35-20 win. He's a game changer.

The defensive line continued to get stronger and stronger as the game wore on. Jadeveon Clowney was held on almost every single play, and he still managed to record 2 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Instead of a sophomore slump he appears to be ready to break out as an All-American performer. The rest of the line including Devin Taylor played exceptionally well.

Freshmen played early and often. It looks like Ahmad Christian, Stephon Diggs and T.J. Gurley are going to be part of the defense, and not just in garbage time. They are going to get significant playing time and are going to be the future of this unit.

The Red Zone defense merits a mention as well. UAB made it inside Carolina's 20 yard line 3 times. They came away with only one field goal. Andy Demetra pointed out on twitter just how good the red zone defense has been. Opponents have run 17 plays for a total 4 yards.

Special Teams continue to need work. The opening kick off was terrible in every way imaginable. For one the coverage was converging on the left side. Two, rather than kick it to the end zone, Carolina tried to pin the return team deep. Three, the kick only traveled to the 15 yard line, and four the kick was to the right side of the field. The one smart thing about that kick coverage set up was putting Damiere Byrd on the field. He managed to run down the returner; otherwise that's a quick 7-0 UAB lead.

Hopefully Joe Robinson learned his lesson. He seemed to for this game. After that dumpster fire of a kickoff to start the game he made some changes. He inserted Adam Yates to kick the ball into the end zone. That worked perfectly every time except for when Yates hooked the ball out of bounds.

Kicking it out of the end zone is what we need to do. The reward we get in terms of field position in kicking it short and covering it is entirely too small to risk the big returns we will give up against strong return teams. We can screw around with the East Carolinas of the world, but the LSUs and Floridas will run those kicks back and run our season. Kick the ball out of the end zone. Period. Let's not have to revisit this issue again.

Speaking of kicking, the punting game is awful. Officially South Carolina averaged 37.5 yards per punt. That includes one beautiful 18 yarder. It also includes a punt that went 35 yards and was inexplicably not caught. Instead it rolled for 16 yards. If we take the UAB mistake out of the equation, South Carolina's punting average should have been 34 yards, which is terrible. Either that needs to be fixed, or Carolina needs to go for it on fourth down a lot more.

That's a lot of complaining for a 43 point win, but I like to think this program is on the verge of accomplishing much more. If some things can be corrected, this team can be great. If they can't we'll have an entire off season to talk about what might have been and console ourselves with fond memories of dominating C-USA teams with less than our best stuff.

Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ohio State Buckeyes host the UAB Blazers: Who will win and by how much? (poll) - Plain Dealer (blog)

spencer-miller-linsley.jpgOhio State quarterback Braxton Miller (middle) gets congratulations from teammates Evan Spencer (left) and Corey Linsley (right) after running for a two-point conversion during the Buckeyes' 35-28 home win over California on Saturday.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Ohio State Buckeyes conclude the non-league portion of their schedule on Saturday, when they face the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Ohio State is 3-0, including Saturday's tense 35-28 win over California. The Buckeyes defeated Miami (Ohio), 56-10, in their season opener, and Central Florida, 31-16, in Week 2.

UAB's Blazers are 0-2, losing to Troy, 39-29, and then at No. 7 South Carolina, 49-6, on Saturday.

Ohio State, the nation's 16th-ranked team, begins its Big Ten schedule on Sept. 29 against No. 21 Michigan State (2-1). It will also be the Buckeyes' first road game of the season.

Continue to check The Plain Dealer and for Ohio State coverage.

How will the Buckeyes vs. Blazers game turn out?

2012 College Football Rankings: Week 4 FanIQ Power Rankings - FanIQ (blog)

NCAAF, Team News / Analysis, Scores, Rankings, Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, Oregon Ducks, West Virginia Mountaineers, LSU Tigers

FanIQ College Football Power Rankings: Week 4

1. Alabama Crimson Tide: 3-0 (no change)

The Tide have posted two straight shutouts and are undoubtedly the nation's best team right now. Where have I heard that before?

2. LSU Tigers: 3-0 (no change)

For those who thought the Tigers' offense would take a step back: LSU is currently No. 9 in the NCAA for points scored (48.3 ppg).

3. West Virginia Mountaineers: 2-0 (previously No. 4)

Geno Smith is 66-of-75 (88.0 percent) for 734 yards and nine touchdowns and no interceptions thus far. Welcome to the top of the Heisman leaderboard.

4. Oregon Ducks: 3-0 (previously No. 5)

The Ducks start conference play this weekend, where Chip Kelly is 26-2 overall.

5. Clemson Tigers: 3-0 (previously No. 6)

This upcoming slugfest with Florida State will determine the outcome of Clemson's season. A win here could set the Tigers on an ACC title run.

6. Oklahoma Sooners: 2-0 (previously No. 7)

Oklahoma is in dangerous territory here. It needs an early marquee win to quiet the doubters and ride a little momentum before the Longhorns come to town.

7. Florida State Seminoles: 3-0 (previously No. 10)

The Noles are currently first in the nation in scoring defense (1.0 ppg) and second in points for (58.7).

8. Georgia Bulldogs: 3-0 (no change)

Mark Richt and the Dawgs have a big SEC matchup with Vandy this weekend, where they are 14-1 since 1995.

9. South Carolina: 3-0 (previously No. 14)

If Connor Shaw is healthy, there's no reason the Ol Ball Coach won't get his 201st win over Missouri on Saturday.

10. USC Trojans: 2-1 (previously No. 3)

It's a painful loss as the senior class is 0-4 against Stanford, but USC will bounce back and still have a shot to win the Pac-12 and head to the Rose Bowl.

11. Kansas State Wildcats: 3-0 (previously No. 13)

If the Wildcats can force Landry Jones into some bad decisions, they can solidify themselves as a top-10 team. But remember: Boomer Sooner knocked KSU around last season, 58-17.

12. Texas Longhorns: 3-0 (previously No. 16)

Mack Brown's squad had the game against Ole Miss wrapped up at halftime when it led 38-10. 

13. Ohio State Buckeyes: 3-0 (previously No. 11)

Who would have thought that by Week 3, the offense â€" not the defense â€" would be Ohio State's strength? The Buckeyes allowed 512 yards to Cal last week in a 35-28 win.

14. Stanford Cardinal: 3-0 (previously unranked)

Even without Luck, the Cardinal are a team not to be reckoned with. If Josh Nunes can continue to get better and become more consistent, watch out Oregon.

15. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: 3-0 (previously No. 22)

The Irish received their first win over a top-10 opponent since 2005 after nearly shutting out Michigan State, 20-3.

16. Florida Gators: 3-0 (previously No. 20)

Muschamp seems to have found his quarterback in Jeff Driskel, who has completed over 71 percent of his passes this season.

17. TCU Horned Frogs: 2-0 (previously No. 15)

The Frogs coughed up four fumbles and were just 2-of-10 (20 percent) on third down, but a stellar performance from QB Casey Pachall and the defense helped beat Kansas, 20-6.

18. Michigan Wolverines: 2-1 (previously No. 19)

Michigan has a big test this weekend in South Bend.

19. Louisville Cardinals: 3-0 (previously No. 18)

Louisville jumped out to a 36-7 halftime lead against North Carolina before almost blowing it in the fourth quarter. Still, it held on to win 39-34.

20. Missouri Tigers: 2-1 (previously No. 21)

If the Tigers can go on the road and shock South Carolina, they'll be right back in the thick of things in what should be a tight SEC East race.

21. UCLA Bruins: 3-0 (previously No. 25)

True freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has passed for 827 yards and eight touchdowns in the Bruins' first 3-0 start since 2009.

22. Ohio Bobcats: 3-0 (previously No. 23)

Ohio sneaked by a tough Marshall squad to remain undefeated. Its most difficult opponent on the regular season schedule is Bowling Green in Week 11.

23. Michigan State Spartans: 2-1 (previously No. 12)

You win some, you lose some, right Andrew Maxwell?

24. Arizona Wildcats: 3-0 (previously unranked)

RichRod's early success with the Wildcats will be put to the test this weekend in Eugene.

25. Nebraska Cornhuskers: 2-1 (previously unranked)

The Cornhuskers got back on the winning track by beating up on Arkansas State, 42-13.

Other receiving votes (in order): Baylor, North Carolina State, Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, Boise State, Northwestern, BYU, Oregon State, Rutgers, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Texas A&M