Monthly Archives: August 2007

(Half) ‘Cock-ed Steeleoid

South Carolina has a very tough road schedule in 2007. On September 22, the Gamecocks travel to Baton Rouge. They’ve struggled with LSU, to put it mildly.

SC is 2-14-1 vs. LSU with an average score of LSU 24-10. The Gamecocks’ only win (1-9) in Baton Rouge was in 1994 (18-17).

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Filed under Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water, SEC Football

“It’s like the TV show ‘Big Love.’ There’s only one dude.”

Last year, Southern Cal had 10 tailbacks on scholarship. It wasn’t an untalented group, either.

Few teams have ever collected more talent at one position. Each of the Trojans’ 10 tailbacks was a Super Prep All-American. Nine were Prep Star all-Americans. Seven were Parade all-Americans. Together, they were on 38 first-team all-American lists.

Now, add the newbie to the mix:

For McKnight, any mistake counts as a new experience. Last year, he was the most celebrated high school running back in the country. He could have gone to Louisiana State University, near his home, and been guaranteed heavy playing time as a freshman.

Instead, he went more than a thousand miles away, to the place that makes no promises.

“Every school has a lot of tailbacks,” McKnight said. “It just so happened I picked the school with 10.”

McKnight apparently did not stop to consider the obvious: that Tailback U. has too many tailbacks, that some of them will never get off the bench, and that they will eventually have to give up and go elsewhere if they want to play.

“I’m not going to leave,” McKnight said. “I’m not going to transfer, no matter what the circumstances.”

The running backs coach at USC has a tough job. How do you keep RB #9 motivated?

There is one bright spot, as the New York Times notes.  U.S.C. may have the best collection of scout-team running backs in college football history.

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Filed under Pac-12 Football

‘Yo Vinny, what’s on the tube tonight?

We all know that college football isn’t the passion in the northeast that it is down here, but these numbers are still downright amazing:

Consider this: Last year, New York ranked 54th among the 55 large TV markets measured in Nielsen’s “overnight” ratings for Saturday night college football on ABC, edging out only Providence.

We also were next-to-last for ESPN2 games, trailed only by Sacramento.

We soared to 47th for ESPN games, with Sacramento again coming in at No. 55.

What about when it really counted, for the BCS Championship Game on Fox?

We ranked 52nd, with 11.1 percent of households watching.

That beat Buffalo, Providence and Richmond, but was behind Hartford and Albuquerque. (In Columbus, 49.7 percent of homes watched the Buckeyes get spanked by Florida.)

It’s tough when all you’ve got to play is a long time doormat like Rutgers to generate interest, but that’s the hand college football’s been dealt in the Big Apple.   It’ll be interesting to see if Rutgers’ national TV appearances rise in the next few years, assuming it remains competitive.

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Filed under College Football

Sexy SEC, thinking makes their heads hurt edition

Chris Rainey really needs to learn the value of keeping his opinions about certain personal matters to himself.

The Wiz has a good point about why Spurrier went off last week about the S. Carolina admissions process. Oy vey.

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Filed under General Idiocy

Sunday Steeleoid

Kentucky did beat Georgia last year to end a nine game losing streak.

However, there are other lengthy streaks the Wildcats currently have on the books:

South Carolina has won seven in a row in this series vs. Kentucky.

The Wildcats haven’t beaten the Gators since 1986 (20 in a row). The average margin of defeat in their 20 game losing streak to Florida is 23 ppg.

Kentucky’s last win over Tennessee was a 17-12 win in Knoxville in 1984. This is the NCAA’ 2nd longest series losing streak at 22 straight games.

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Filed under Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water, SEC Football

Feelings, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings (about the SEC East)

Navel gazing, continued.

I am more unsettled about the SEC East than I can remember being in a long time. Part of it, as Sunday Morning Quarterback points out, is due to the fact that the lower rung teams have a good deal more experience on their side than do the division powers going into this season. Of course, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Talent and coaching go a long way towards trumping experience.

There’s no LSU-caliber team in the East this year, which is a good thing for Dawg fans. Of course, it’s a good thing for Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina fans, too. Two conference losses won’t keep a SEC East team out of Atlanta in 2007. Right now, I really have no clue which school will be there.

Florida. First off, Urban Meyer is an awfully good coach (like he needs my validation). The defending national champs were a measly fourth in the conference last year in net ypg, but showed up and won in Atlanta. Sure, they capitalized on some breaks, but as the cliché goes, that what good teams do. And, yes, they are loaded with talent. That being said, there are question marks. The talent is way green – Steele ranks the Gators 119th (yep, that’s dead last in D-1) in his experience ratings. Tebow is being asked to do a lot, given the fact that there really isn’t much of a running game (he’s the leading rusher returning this season). The receiving corps is deep and good, though, which will certainly help. The offensive line is the best in the East. However, replacing nine starters on defense is a daunting task, no matter how fantastic those recruiting classes have been. (By the way, who’s kicking for these guys?) The Gators look like a three loss team to me; the question is who beats ‘em. They can make it back to Atlanta if they beat the right teams.

Key game: Tennessee. The loser of this game hasn’t been in the SECCG since 1997.

Georgia. This is a team that looks to be pretty good by season’s end. It’s just that the path it takes to get there could get a little rocky. Improving turnover margin is a must. I go back and forth on what worries me more between the offensive line and the linebackers (right now, it’s the oline). Keeping Brandon Coutu healthy is another biggie. I expect losses to Florida and Auburn, based on recent trends, but if Georgia gets out of the gate winning the first two (both at home), ten wins is a fair possibility. And that should be good enough – barely – to get the Dawgs back to Atlanta. If they don’t go 2-0 to start, I’d say they’re looking at another four loss regular season.

Key game: Oklahoma State, right off the bat. (If the Dawgs win that game, South Carolina becomes just as key.)

Kentucky. I just don’t get the love here, I really don’t. This team was flat out awful defensively last year. The Wildcats were next to last in net ypg in the conference, at -71. What bailed them out was a sparkling +15 in turnover margin. Just to put that in perspective, UK was -35 in TO margin for the prior eight seasons. In other words, last year was a significant aberration for UK football, one you shouldn’t count on for this season. The ‘Cats do have 8 home games and 15 returning starters (good for the offense, not so good for the defense).  When you add all that to a schedule containing five top 20 teams, you’ve got a formula for six, maybe seven wins at best. ESPN’s Bruce Feldman had a great line about Kentucky – it’s basically a less talented version of Oklahoma State.

South Carolina. I’m not sold on Blake Mitchell. Sidney Rice is gone (and – surprise! – they’re raving in Columbia about some converted DB who had a good scrimmage game). The interior offensive line is a mess. On the flip side, the kicker’s good, the defense returns a lot of starters and Spurrier’s the best coach in the conference. In the end, the road schedule does the Gamecocks in. I can see maybe nine wins if they beat Georgia, seven if they don’t.

Key game: at Georgia. Lose it, and they’ve got no shot at Atlanta.

Tennessee. Another SEC team that’s hard to get a handle on. Cutcliffe has been subtly remaking UT’s offense away from being oriented as a power running attack to something with more finesse. They didn’t run well last year, and I’m not sure why they expect to be better on the ground in ’07. Ainge has developed into a fine QB, but he’s lost his three top receivers from ’06 and he’ll miss them this year. (Generally, it’s not a good sign when you’re counting on a kid who’s been tossed out of FSU.) He’s also starting to run out of TEs. On defense, it’s a mixed bag on the d-line (good ends, meh on the tackles). The linebackers are great. The secondary has Hefney and… I’m not sure who else, as losing Morley and Johnson leaves them thin. (Tennessee’s defensive strengths and weaknesses look like the opposite of Georgia’s.) The conference schedule is favorable in that, unlike Florida and South Carolina, the Vols don’t play LSU. And Tennessee has this secret training weapon thing going on for them, too. I still think nine or ten wins seems likely. UT definitely has a good shot to play in Atlanta.

Key game: at Florida. See note under Florida, above.

Vanderbilt. Look at all the Commodores named to the first team SEC preseason offense and defense lists! More than Georgia! More than Alabama! If the SEC played six man flag football, I’d say Vandy might stand a helluva chance. Unfortunately, you need 22 starters to play, along with backups, and there just isn’t the quality depth here to keep up with the big boys. Yes, I know Vandy won in Athens last year. That’s the first time in school history it’s beaten a ranked opponent on the road. It won’t happen this year – and they really need to double that to have the kind of season they’re dreaming about. That being said, they’ve got a shot at bowl eligibility this year if a couple of things break right (steadier QB play and a semblance of a running game would help). It’s hard to believe, but these guys had a better net ypg figure last season than did Auburn. That they finished 1-7 in the conference is the sign of a team that hasn’t learned how to win yet. Perhaps they learn a little more this year.

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Filed under SEC Football

The sun continues to rise in the east in Knoxville and South Bend.

In a mad, crazy world, it’s always comforting to know that there are certain constants – touchstones, if you will – that we can count on in college football.

For instance, it’s reassuring to know that Phil Fulmer retains a certain practical flexibility about player discipline. The “medical advisors” reference is an especially nice touch.

And when Master James Clausen speaks to the assembled multitudes on freshman media day, it’s a certainty that it will reflect the combination of arrogance and BS that is the essence of the Weis era. After all, it’s not as important that you win the big game as long as you can make every one else feel they’re smaller than you. Charlie’s a smart guy – just ask him.

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Filed under Charlie Weis Is A Big Fat..., Crime and Punishment, Jimmy Clausen - Boy Wonder, The Glass is Half Fulmer

Homecoming Steeleoid

Georgia’s homecoming opponent in 2007 is Troy, on November 3rd.

The deck for that game is pretty stacked: Coming into 2007, UGA has won 17 straight non-conference homecoming games. Georgia is 6-0 vs. current Sun Belt Conference teams all-time.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water

Feelings… nothing more than feelings (about the SEC West)

Finally. The season is less than a week away.

What follows is a series of overall observations/expectations about the SEC West for this year based on what I see the teams have going into the season, along with what I’ve read about their fall practices. In other words, it’s pure, unadulterated navel gazing.

I’ve also listed key games for each of the major contenders.

I’ll throw out the same stuff for the SEC East tomorrow.

Alabama. In 2000, his first season in Baton Rouge, Nick Saban-coached LSU went 8-4. That seems like a good place as any to project the Crimson Tide for ’07. This is a team, remember, that went 6-7 last year. It always takes a little time for a new coaching staff to wring out all the (presumably bad) habits from the prior regime. (Steele ranks them third in the conference in experience, which may not necessarily be the best thing with a coaching change.) The schedule, as it usually does, sets up nicely for the Tide. The two toughest road games are FSU (which is restructuring in much the same way that ‘Bama is) and Auburn. Which is why that 8-4 record looks much more impressive than it will turn out to be. (BTW, Tide fans, after winning the SEC in ’01, LSU took a step back in ’02, finishing 8-5. Just sayin’…)

Arkansas. The schedule is laughable, as there isn’t a single noteworthy OOC opponent on it, and the Hogs play eight at home. But they do have to travel to Alabama, Tennessee and LSU. If they’re lucky, Monk will be back for the ‘Bama game (they have an off week before that game). Yeah, Casey Dick leaves a lot to be desired at QB, but with those running backs, Reggie Ball could win nine games with this team. I’d like to pick ‘em to win more, but the losses on the oline and on defense make me hesitant – although the Hogs rank second in the conference in Steele’s experience ratings. Anyway, now that they’ve taken his cell phone away, what else does the Nuttster have to live for?

Key game: at LSU. Arky’s got to win it to have a shot at Atlanta.

Auburn. The hardest team to figure in the SEC this year. This is usually the kind of below the radar team that Tuberville does a very good job with, as Michael Elkon notes, and I’m a little tempted to pick the Tigers to steal the West from an LSU squad that’s clearly more talented. But… I look at that offensive line, with less experience than even Georgia’s, and their receiving corps and it looks like Borges is going to be hamstrung again this year. On defense, the secondary looks mediocre at best, although the front seven should be terrific. They’ll lose to Florida and LSU, but the visitor’s been strong in the Arky and Georgia series of late, so I’m thinking they’ve got an outside shot at ten wins. Maybe. More likely nine is what the Tigers wind up with.

Key game: at Arkansas. The road team has been strong in this series lately, but Arky has the perfect offense to give Auburn fits. Like last year…

LSU. Book those rooms in Atlanta, baby! Isn’t that what they said last season? On paper, this should be easy. But then again, last year this team was +132 in net yards per conference game, which was tops in the SEC by almost 80 ypg (!) and still didn’t play in the SECCG. The schedule is manageable, with an off week before the road game at Alabama. They should run the table, but I won’t be surprised in the least if they don’t. Still, the West looks just weak enough that these guys make it to Atlanta with one loss.

Key game: Believe it or not, Virginia Tech. There will be a ridiculous amount of hype/ESPN “narrative” about this game. If LSU wins comfortably, the national buzz will grow significantly, as will the expectations and confidence of the team. Obviously, the Florida game will get a lot of attention, as well.

Mississippi. What does it say about Orgeron that most concede that he’s been successful in starting to restock the talent base in Oxford, but don’t see a rising talent level translating into an improved won-loss record? Adding the most overrated defensive coordinator in recent conference history won’t likely add much.  Their OOC schedule has one modest challenge with Missouri. The Rebs play five road games. They were last in conference net ypg in ’06 by a pretty wide margin (a number that’s worsened every year under Coach O). Four or five wins, tops, I’m afraid.

Mississippi State. My one bold prediction for the SEC West in 2007: one of the coaches in the Egg Bowl is going to be croomed. That’s the only game in the West I can see MSU with a shot to win. There’s a brutal non-conference game at West Virginia, too. There aren’t more than four wins on that schedule I can see.

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Filed under SEC Football

The family jewels

This is a rich story on so many levels.

From start –

An Oklahoma City man has been charged with aggravated assault and battery, accused of causing extensive damage to another man’s scrotum just because he wore a University of Texas shirt into a local bar.

to finish –

Two months later, he said he still is a lot of pain.The injury also caused Thomas to fall behind on his child support payments because he couldn’t work.

(h/t The Wizard of Odds)

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Filed under College Football, Crime and Punishment, General Idiocy