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Ways to make bowl season better

 

Back to playing games in cold Muncie. Bye bye warm climates.

Back to playing games in cold Muncie. Goodbye warm climates.

Bowl season finally ended last night with Alabama taking a baseball bat to Notre Dame’s head and that is a PG way of putting it.

Alabama winning again is not the problem but how boring this is becoming is.

How many bowl games grabbed your attention of the 35 games this year? For me it was only three.

  1.  Ball State vs. Central Florida, for obvious reasons.
  2.  Northern Illinois vs. Florida State, all about the MACtion.
  3.  Alabama vs. Notre Dame, the only bowl game that truly mattered.

That is it. I saw pieces of the other 32 games but that had more to do with the lack of television options between Christmas and New Years.

Those three games are the only games I will remember in two years. Maybe the fact the MAC went 2-5 in bowls too.

Some are excited for a four-team playoff coming up soon but that will only make two more games watchable. Here are some possibilities that might make bowl season a little better.

Eliminate conference tie-ins.

Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote about how fans of teams are constantly traveling to the same destination. This makes bowl season seem bland over time, especially for schools who go bowling every year. Not to mention more variety in bowl matchups. We just had three bowl games involving a MAC team against a Sun Belt school for crying out loud. We could have had matchup where Kent State played Purdue. Now that would have been comedy.

Start later

Some of these bowl games occurred December 15, 10 days before Christmas. I remember when maybe three bowl games would take place before Christmas. The early start drags bowl season out way too long. The term “Bowl Week” once described all the games that took place between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Bowl Week is great but “Bowl Month” not so much.

Cut 6-6 teams

Allowing a 6-6 team benefits the larger conference more than anyone else. A 6-6 SEC team will get a more attractive bowl bid before 9-3 MAC team. That is just the way it is. Getting rid of the 6-6 teams and making 7-5 the new bowl eligibility will create more meaningful games. Not to mention cut the number of bowl games down to a better size.

Form a selection committee

Are you tired of bowl reps yet? Why not take the decision-making away of middle men who have their own agenda. The NCAA could pick teams to create more competitive games. Then again the NCAA might make it worse but you never know.

I do like the bowls because it rewards teams with winning records. But the system needs to be tweaked to make it watchable again.

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Edge’s Week 1 Ruminations

Les Miles was far from impressive for Edge in Week 1

Les Miles likes walking on the tightrope. LSU’s second half attitude nearly cost them a loss and might have sealed his fate of unemployment for 2011.

Florida looked so ugly, I fought off the urge to watch a local high school game. On public access. Commentated by high school kids.

Notre Dame came out with a win in Brian Kelly’s first game. But 23-12 over Purdue leaves a bit to be desired when some very difficult opponents are lurking on that schedule.

DickRod avoided the hot seat with an impressive win over Connecticut. Tate Forcier in on the bench wasn’t surprising given his replacement made some huge waves for the future of Michigan.

Mississippi. Good Ole Miss. Moving on…

Brady Hoke is absolutely satisfied with a win over Nicholls State. 47-0 means all the homeless in San Diego can feel safe for a week.

Oregon State was one drive from handling a BCS-buster, but one bad snap sealed them to a loss against TCU. Too bad. I was hoping to see that bowl-buster drama end early.

East Carolina’s hail mary will probably be one of the top ten highlights this year. What an amazing game against Tulsa. Kudos to both sides for a great game.

Will Western Kentucky win a game this year? My sources say no.

Ok, seriously, Ole Miss. LOL. I mean, what the fuck?

Hello, Kansas. You’ve just been Turner Gill’d. You’re not alone, he did it to us in 2008. Too bad he did it for his own team this time though.

Navy’s case of fumblitis better get resolved quickly. There’s no excuse for three red zone attempts and two end in turnovers.

That Oklahoma game was a bit odd. Makes me rethink my pick of OU being a national contender this year.

Game of the week: Boise St. vs. Virginia Tech. It was everything it was hyped to be, and the Broncos prove they deserve that hype.

MAC stat of the week: 6-0 against FCS opponents. 0-7 against FBS opponents. Boo.

Finally, once again, congrats to Ball State for the week one win. Let’s keep it going against Liberty on Saturday.

Lane Kiffin… Now Hated By ALL SEC Fans

We won't have Lane Kiffin to kick around anymore (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

In December of 2008, Lane Kiffin was announced as the latest coach of the Tennessee Volunteers and subsequently became SEC Enemy #1 for 11 of the 12 member institutions’ fanbases. Hell, even the Tennessee fans were mixing their happiness with at least some level of trepidation due largely to Lane’s lack of experience, resume, or anything remotely resembling success.

Perhaps Kiffin’s hiring was a direct result of the season that Tennessee had just endured. Aside from losses, it was the bitter end to the Fulmer era, and this once proud program had more than its share of tarnish. Maybe they needed someone young. Maybe they needed someone brash. Maybe they needed someone who would skirt the occasional rule to get ahead. Regardless of whatever they needed that’s exactly what they got. All those things… and then some.

In record time it seemed, Kiffin had restored not only the success, but also the swagger to Tennessee. Perhaps it was the recruiting prowess of Ed Orgeron. Perhaps it was the defensive prowess of his father Monte, who turned UT’s defense into a respectable unit once again. And just as quickly as this Kiffin era started at Tennessee, it ends, as Kiffin accepts the head coaching position at USC and his number of SEC schools that hate is guts is now a perfect 12 for 12.

When Pete Carroll left USC this weekend, most believed it would be the first of many dominoes that would fall in the coaching world. USC, despite its lack of success in 2009, is still a premier program in FBS. But so is Tennessee. And these sort of lateral moves are a rarity in college football. Take a better job, and no one begrudges you. Take at best an equal job, after stirring up so much verbal doodie before you leave, and you are a borderline douchebag. Kiffin leaves a program where he could have been revered, where he could have competed for SEC titles year in and year out, and most shockingly, in the winter before a fall when most experts believe the SEC East will be lacking a front-runner.

Besides all of that, perhaps the one thing that would give some coaches pause before taking the head coaching gig in Los Angeles is the potential for NCAA sanctions thanks to Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, and Joe McKnight. For Kiffin, dealing with the NCAA is nothing new and if the trend continues, this sort of thing was simply bound to happen at Tennessee. At least now Kiffin can get the LA exposure in advance of the probation.

Normally as a Kentucky fan, I wish ill on the Volunteers. However, this may be the worst case possible for a major football program. A coach leaves after most of the premier BCS level candidates (Brian Kelly, Charlie Strong, etc.) have already been hired, quits a few weeks before signing day, and takes his entire staff with him. Questions now abound like whether or not the class that Kiffin had crafted will stick with Tennessee, whether the current roster loses any talent because of transfer, and all the other things that accompany a coaching shift. The kicker is UT and athletic director Mike Hamilton have approximately 3 weeks to find a coach, save a class, and stop the bleeding. Good luck.

2009… Get Ready for the History Books

Best ever? In the running.

In the words of the Grateful Dead, “What a long strange trip it’s been.” Things lately that are worth talking about…

  • Alabama Brings a Title Back Home: When Nick Saban was hired in 2007, most Crimson Tide fans felt it was only a matter of time until Alabama was celebrating another national championship. The number that thought Saban would do it within 3 years was significantly smaller. Some will say it was a tainted victory as Colt McCoy was injured moments into the contest, but a win is a win, and very few will remember the details like that years into the future. What will be remembered, though, is the fact that Nick Saban has now won 2 titles at 2 different schools and appears on the verge of building a Camelot of his own in Tuscaloosa.
  • Pete Carroll Takes His Show on the Road: In recent years, the closest thing to an Emperor in college football has been Pete Carroll in Los Angeles. With no NFL team in town, a resurgent Trojan program, and recruiting classes that rival some of the best in the history of the sport, Carroll was building a dynasty at USC that was cementing him as one of the best coaches in the game. Now, amid rumors that NCAA sanctions are looming and after arguably one of the most disappointing Trojan campaigns in recent memory, Carroll has bolted for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Perhaps it was Carroll’s way of leaving before more mediocre years occurred. Perhaps Carroll is attempting to get out of town before the NCAA drops the proverbial hammer on the Trojans for Reggie Bush and apparently Joe McKnight. No matter what the reason, the fact that Carroll is leaving creates one of the most coveted job openings in all of college football, and one can rest assured that the coaching dominoes that for the moment appeared somewhat secure are about to be reshuffled all over again.
  • Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Opportunity: The arguments about whether or not Mike Leach should have actually been fired, whether or not Adam James and his father are telling the truth, and whether or not being placed in a shed is good for your concussion are best left to the legal beagles and such, not smarmy sports blogs. What is certainly open for question though is Tech’s hiring of Tommy Tuberville to build upon the Leach legacy and the program that the crazy pirate rebuilt from the ground up. If I was Tuberville, I would be guardedly optimistic. I have a stable of athletes, I have a great recruiting base, and I have a team that knows what it’s like to win. Unfortunately, I’m in the toughest division of one of the two best conferences in football, I’m second-best in the state I reside in after the Longhorns, and I have an offense built specifically for someone else’s scheme and a defense which leaves much to be desired. I’m sure Tuberville was ready to return, but I cannot believe this is going to be a successful venture.
  • The Bowl Gods Wanted Blood, and Got It: For anyone who thought they knew college football, the 09 Bowl season was clearly an exercise in humility. No conference went undefeated, but none went winless either, proving again that an epidemic of parity is alive and well in college football.

A little later today we’ll have our final polls of the season, our CBS Sports Blogpoll ballot, and the SEC Power Poll. We’ll also have the announcement of the OTP Bowl Challenge Winner, and what they have won… aside from bragging rights. OTP has been on a bit of a break the last couple weeks as we savored not only the Holidays and the time away from things like our actual jobs, but we also wanted to simply enjoy the last few games of 2009’s season. Now that we’ve done that, it’s full steam ahead. We’re a few weeks away from signing day, and that’s when 2010 really begins for us. We need to close out 2009 with things like our Cardinal Senior Sendoffs, the evaluations of our preseason predictions, Edge’s superb stat work, and a look at the things that made 2009 an exciting time. That’s this week… and next week… it’s go time for ’10. Buckle up…

Conference Champs and the Last Weekend of 09

Bittersweet. That’s how I would characterize this past weekend in college football around OTP Manor. To have great games on, beginning with Thursday’s Civil War is a fantastic way to spend a few days. To realize on Saturday as you’re soldiering through a Wisconsin-Hawaii blowout that after that there are only 35 FBS games left this season is a bit of a buzzkill. At least conference championship weekend brought the thunder and gave 2009 more of what it had all season long: upsets, upsets gone awry, and controversy.

More after the jump…

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Rich Brooks & the SEC Teleconference

Another Wednesday and another chance to touch base with the head coaches of the SEC. First up? Big Blue head coach Rich Brooks!

Opening Statement
Well we are coming off a road win at Vandy where we played the last 30 minutes about as well as we could expect to play. Holding them to 31 yards in the 2nd half and being able to rush the ball for 308 yards on the game. Going in to Georgia we are a little more beat up than we were going in to Vandy. Randall Cobb could not practice today. I would say he’s questionable. Micah Johnson missed practice today but he should be able to go tomorrow. TC Drake remains out and Mike Hartline had surgery on his knee on Tuesday and is out for the remainder of the regular season.

I was very impressed with Georgia in the second half against Auburn. I got back in time to watch that and then obviously studied it on film. They did a great job against Auburn in their second half as well.

On whether or not if Cobb sits tomorrow, could he still play…
Well, he took some reps today but just couldn’t finish. Obviously the optimum thing is to have somebody practice everyday. With his experience and his knowledge, if he is healthy, he will play. We just don’t want to put him in a position where could risk further injury or injuring something else if he’s not full speed. So he won’t play if he’s not ready but he will play if he is ready.

On Georgia’s 3 defensive tackles and whether that will impact UK’s game plan…
Well they certainly are very impressive. Not only the tackles but the ends as well. The combination of their defensive front gives you all kinds of problems. We have to worry about defending the pass protection because they get such a push up the middle with those tackles and break free and put a lot of pressure on opposing QBs and it makes it very difficult to run the ball with those guys in the middle stuffing everything up. They’re a force to be reckoned with, there’s no question about it.

On the QB situation…
We will go with Morgan, he’ll start his 6th straight game. Fidler will be ready if needed.

On the depth of the league considering the large number of Bowl eligible teams…
I think the depth of the league has been tremendous. The difference this year is there’s more of a jumbled pack when you go down three or four teams, everyone else is kind of in a similar position.

On dealing with the injuries and the sense of accomplishment…
Well, I think the very obvious thing at least to me is that our depth is better than it has been because when you suffer the losses that we’ve suffered, whether it’s 1, 2, 3, or 4 game losses, or someone like Jeremy, someone you were kind of counting on, then the type of people we’ve been missing as well like our QB, our starting corners, Cobb and Locke, maybe Cobb for another one now. But the depth is better in that we’re at least still competitive and have a chance to win and haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth like we would have in prior years.

On how different the offense would be without Cobb…
It takes one of our most prolific playmakers out of the equation. Kick off returns, punt returns, holder on field goal, WildCobb formation guy, and leading receiver. Other than that, it doesn’t make it look much different at all.

The rest of the league’s head coaches…

  • Les Miles and his LSU Tigers will battle the Ole Miss Rebels this weekend in Oxford on the CBS 3:30 game. Miles was his usual close to the vest self, but did have some advice for those seeking a national title, saying, “There is a need for every championship team to have a great defense.”
  • Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks have a bye week this weekend and face off with Clemson in two weeks. Spurrier was complimentary about Clemson and their ACC title berth, calling them a “great team”. Interestingly enough, Spurrier was also asked a grand total of zero questions from the SEC media. According to Spurrier, “I guess there’s not a lot of interest in an open date.”
  • Urban Meyer and the Gators will battle FIU this weekend, having already completed their SEC schedule at a perfect 8-0. According to Meyer, he respects FIU, they have great athletes, and they’ll be in a Bowl in a couple years. Coachspeak? Of course.
  • Bobby Johnson and the Vanderbilt Commodores take on Tennessee to close their season on Saturday. A loss to Tennessee would put the ‘Dores at 0-8 in the conference and 2-10 overall.
  • Lane Kiffin and the Vols will look to hit Bowl eligibility this weekend against the Vandy Commodores. According to Kiffin, Vandy’s Warren Norman is on pace to have the most yards of a freshman in the SEC ever. “That’s a powerful deal,” says Kiffin.
  • Nick Saban and the Tide play host to Chattanooga this weekend on senior day at Bryant-Denny Stadium. This FCS matchup shows up this late in the season for Alabama because the Tide “had to play somebody.” Saban also refused to comment on the Florida game or the Auburn game and became a bit angry that one particular media member asked about a team not named Chattanooga.
  • Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks play host to Mississippi State this weekend. Petrino spoke at length about the need to speed up the tempo of their offense to try and put some pressure on the MSU defense. The Bulldogs, according to Petrino, are a very challenging defense to try to gameplan for.
  • Houston Nutt and the Ole Miss Rebels take on LSU this weekend and have the arduous task of preparing for two different QBs for the Tigers, but he does expect Jefferson to play. Nutt sees LSU giving up very few explosive plays and long gains and sees a defense that is very talented, deep, strong, and fast.
  • Mark Richt and the Bulldogs battle our Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday on ESPN2. Georgia is playing without AJ Green. Richt said coaches are notorious for putting in long hours and torturing themselves through long hours and demands. This of course is relevant after Arkansas had an assistant coach rushed to the hospital this week. Richt also thinks the depth of the SEC with their 10 Bowl eligible teams is more about parity outside of Florida and Alabama.
  • Dan Mullen of Mississippi State chatted a bit about Arkansas, the Bulldogs’ opponent this weekend. Arkansas and their offense is hard to pregame for… which is ironic considering Bobby Petrino said basically the same thing about MSU’s defense. Mullen also chatted about RB Anthony Dixon and his intensity and effort so far this season. Called Dixon and his attributes “irreplaceable”.
  • Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers has a bye week this week and then will face Alabama to close the season before the Tide plays Florida for the SEC title. It is Chizik’s first game against Alabama. According to Chizik, “It’s big.” Thanks, coach.

Rich Brooks & the SEC Teleconference

sec_logo1Another Wednesday and another chance to catch up with the SEC Coaches as they conduct their weekly conference call. First up for us is Rich Brooks whose Wildcats travel to Vandy on Saturday with a chance to gain bowl eligibility.

Opening Statement
Well we’re gonna be a little healthier than we’ve been in recent weeks. Derrick Locke couldn’t play last week, Randall Cobb couldn’t play last week and Matt Lentz couldn’t play last week and all of them will be ready to play against Vanderbilt. Mike Hartline has been practicing and really taking meaningful snaps in practice for the first time in four games now.  He’s missed 4 straight after being hurt in the South Carolina game. It’s possible he could see action as well at quarterback. We’re a healthier group then we’ve been in recent weeks and hopefully we can get back on track in conference play on the road.

On the QB situtaion and whether he’s gone through this type of year where he’s played 4 QBs…
We have [played 4 QBs] if you count Randall Cobb in the Wildcat formation. I haven’t experienced anything like this, especially going with a true freshman for 4 straight games. It just bodes well for the future that he’s had that experience already and will continue to play the rest of this year. Even if he is not starting I’m sure he will some action. I think the depth has improved at most positions for us because several years ago we couldn’t have gone through and lost our two starting corners, our starting quarterback, our best wide receiver and our best running back and expected to win hardly any games. And now virtually all of them are back and ready for the stretch run.

On that stretch run and closing with 3 division rivals with the injuries and whether this is a test week for Hartline…
Well, he would regain his starting spot if he’s ready to go and the rust gets off. Today’s practice was better than yesterday’s practice for him throwing the football even though he did have some swelling in his knee.. Hopefully that swelling will settle down and  the rust will keep coming off and we’ll have to see how he does in game-action when he’s given that opportunity.

On the similarities between Mississippi State’s offense under Dan Mullen and Florida’s…
I think it’s quite different actually. The run game in Florida’s offense has pretty much centered around Tim Tebow. They’ve mixed in a dose of the running backs and probably more of the running backs since Tebow’s concussion. MSU’s offense is centered around the running backs and not as much of the QB’s run game.

On the evolution of Derrick Locke to a two-sport guy…
Well, he came in and his track coaches brought him into my office with some high school film. I was shocked that he hadn’t decided to take a football scholarship. Most of the people out in the Big 12 were recruiting him as a corner and he wanted to play running back. Once I told him we would certainly give him that opportunity he jumped at the chance to come out for football and come here and compete in both. Actually, this is his third year now. He couldn’t compete in track last year because he tore his knee up in his sophomore season with us. But he did set the school record in the long jump his freshman year. I think that he’s a great athlete. The speed and explosion he brings to the tailback position even though he doesn’t have the great size is something that has contributed to him being an all around player, kickoff returner, receiver, runner, and one of the better multipurpose backs in our league.

On the other experiences he’s had with two-sport guys and the pitfalls of a two-sport athlete…
I had a lot of guys at Oregon that placed in the NCAAs in the shot put, in the hurdles, in long jump, in the triple jump and the sprints as well. A couple of them were track guys who came out for football, but most of them were football guys who went out for track. Obviously the thing you have to work through is what you’re doing in the spring and making sure they get enough repetitions which usually has to happen earlier in their career because once they become veterans, they can miss some of those practices more readily as they get closer to their junior and senior year. The other thing you have to guard against like in Locke’s situation is that in football he wants to add weight and in track, they want him to strip it. So that’s a tough thing to deal with.

Brooks and the Cats take on Vandy on Saturday at 12:21.

The rest of the SEC…

  • Les Miles and the LSU Tigers play Louisiana Tech this weekend, a far cry from this past weekend and their battle with Alabama that drew the eyes of the entire nation. Miles chatted a bit about the spread, sounded optimistic about his team going forward, and like the coaches last week who loaded up on cupcakes didn’t get very many specific inquiries about this weekend’s game.
  • Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks play Florida this weekend and is quite happy with his team’s results this season. According to Spurrier, the Gators are “the best team in the country.” Spurrier is also “honored” to be part of the Under Armour Wounded Warrior game. Spurrier also “knew going into this year we weren’t going to compete for the SEC Championship. Our goal was to win more than we lose, and then win the Bowl game.”
  • Urban Meyer and the Gators will travel to Columbia for a contest against South Carolina. According to Meyer, “This is an opportunity to play in one of the great atmospheres and environments in the SEC.” Meyer was asked directly about Charlie Strong and his pursuit of a head coaching opportunity. Meyer said his coaches are hot commodities but while people are at Florida and during the season their focus is on the Gators but allowed, “Once the season is over, let’s handle this professionally.” Confirming also what most of America knew, Meyer said, “Jeff Demps is one of the fastest guys in America.”
  • Bobby Johnson and Vandy play host to Kentucky this weekend, searching for their first conference win and attempting to keep the Wildcats away from bowl eligibility. Perhaps the most humorous moment for Johnson was when he was asked about the ability of Florida on kick coverage to shut down Vandy’s Warren Norman. Johnson’s response? “They have some big fast athletes down there.” Apparently Johnson is pursuing a graduate degree himself in obviousness.
  • Lane Kiffin and the Volunteers head to Oxford this weekend as they do battle with Ole Miss. Kiffin and the Vols are looking for their 6th victory this season and bowl eligibility. Kiffin was asked about the officiating in the league… again. Kiffin had no comment… again. Most of the chatter this week was about assistant coach Ed Orgeron and his former connection to Ole Miss as their head coach. Nothing of note as Kiffin resorted to the coachspeak of “it’s just another game.”
  • Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated LSU last weekend and will travel to Starkville for Mississippi State this weekend in search of their 10th victory this season. Saban was asked about his role in The Blind Side and much like Houston Nutt last week, was very complimentary of the film, the actors, and the staff. Saban also commented that the Crimson Tide were “confused” for a large majority of the LSU game. No huddles, late substitutions, and that sped up rhythm made it challenging for the Tide.
  • Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks have Troy on the schedule this weekend. Like Miles above, and some other coaches last week, Petrino’s time on the call was short. He gave a ton of credit to his squad for beating South Carolina this past weekend and putting the Hogs one win away from bowl eligibility.
  • Houston Nutt and the Ole Miss Rebels take on Tennessee at noon on CBS. Nutt was asked about the impact of a former coach taking on his former team. According to Nutt, “The first time it’s always a much bigger thing than you think. It’s a very different thing coming in on the visitor’s side.” When it comes to Tennessee, Nutt said the Rebels have to “harness the run and the explosive plays.”
  • Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs will follow up last weekend’s epic tilt with Tennessee Tech with a home game against Auburn. The Bulldogs, like so many other SEC teams, are trying to hit that 6th win this weekend.
  • Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs of MSU get the privilege of having Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide roll into town this weekend. MSU has to win 2 of their final 3 to reach bowl eligibility. Doable? Potentially. Easy? Hardly. The Bulldogs will need to shut down Heisman hopeful Mark Ingram this weekend, and Mullen is certainly impressed, but has a running back of his own worth celebrating in Anthony Dixon. “Dixon brings a lot in terms of what our offensive identity is.”
  • Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers will travel to Athens for the Georgia Bulldogs. The Tigers, already at 7-3 are more than bowl eligible. They are now trying to play their way in to a major Bowl. Their season-ending contest at Alabama means that this weekend is their best chance to pick up that 8th win. Chizik has 8 players who already have their undergrad degree, second highest in the SEC. “The thing that’s pretty incredible is that is almost all of our seniors on scholarship. It’s a credit to those guys who are able to do it in that amount of time and shows that academics are a priority here.”

Rich Brooks & the SEC Teleconference

sec_logo1Another Wednesday and another chance to catch up and hear from the coaches of the Southeastern Conference, most notably our very own Rich Brooks.

Opening Statement
We’re coming off of a tough loss to Mississippi State. Disappointing loss. We have some further injuries in that game. Derrick Locke banged his knee up and hasn’t practiced this week and is still doubtful for this game coming up. We’ve had a bout with the flu. We had 7 guys that couldn’t practice yesterday and had about 3 of them back today. It’s not the major flu, it’s just the normal flu, so that’s a good thing. We have a chance to do something that’s never been done in school history if we can win against Eastern Kentucky and that’s win 18 straight non-conference games. That’s a significant thing. We currently have the longest non-conference streak in the nation behind LSU.

Looking back at MSU and what the differences are with the Bulldogs in his tenure at UK
Well, I said we had a real disappointing loss. Unfortunately, Derrick Locke was injured with a knee in that game and is doubtful for this week. Certainly, Mississippi State, offensively, is a more productive team than the last several years. I was impressed with their offensive line play. Dixon had a very good game against us. I think they’re athletic and they have good size and speed on defense.

On slowing down Auburn’s offense
We played sounder more focused defense in that game than we have all year. Last week we played Mississippi State and a similar offense some of the same running plays and we didn’t have our fits with our linebackers and secondary. We allowed a lot of rushing yards against us in that game where we didn’t allow any big plays against Auburn. Part of that was not allowing Todd to hit the deep long balls in the passing game. I think they do so many things offensively that a lot of his big plays had come when coverage was broken down or busted by the opponent, and in that game we didn’t break any coverages, were in position, and we broke up a lot of key third down passes in that game as well. And honestly, it was a miserably cold windy night to throw the football so that probably helped defend the pass game as well.

It was a shame to see Coach Brooks only get two questions neither of which had virtually anything to do with UK and was more information trying to be gathered about opponents of other teams this weekend. For a coach with the 2nd longest non-conference win streak in the country whose team may go Bowling for the 4th consecutive year, that’s a real shame.

Around the rest of the league:

  • Steve Spurrier would love to move one of his final games to a different point in the season. He feels like the Gamecocks are going to be underdogs over their next 4 contests.
  • Urban Meyer and the Gators host Vandy this weekend and was very impressed by his team’s ability to stay focused this season. According to Meyer, Vandy’s defense is “one of the best in the conference.” He and the Gators have “zero conversations” against the SEC East anymore. Their focus is only on “winning the 9th game.”
  • Bobby Johnson of Vandy gets the joy of preparing for the #1 Florida Gators. Larry Smith, their starter, is out and Adams steps into the role as the starting Commodore QB. Injuries have taken a toll on the ‘Dores this season, and hopefully that experience gained will pay off next year.
  • Lane Kiffin and his Volunteers have the Memphis Tigers this weekend. “It’s a very big game for us,” says Kiffin. Kiffin has no comment on the new iron fist handing out suspensions and fines from the SEC Office. Against Julio Jones, Kiffin said the Vols’ primary weapon was “confusing the quarterback” while limiting him to small plays.
  • Nick Saban is half of the SEC game of the week against LSU in this year’s edition of the Saban Bowl. Said Saban, “Offensively, they’re playing their best football of the season right now.” Perhaps a nod to the lead up angle of his association with both schools, Saban was quick to point out that “the game should be about the players.” According to Saban, because of the team speed LSU excels at special teams as well.
  • Bobby Petrino and Arkansas host South Carolina this weekend and laid a beat down on EMU last weekend. The Hogs are healthy and Michael Smith is back for them. According to Petrino their offense against SC’s defense will be a “real good game.” Petrino also had no comment on the new order regarding fines and suspensions from the league office.
  • Houston Nutt and his Ole Miss Rebels host Northern Arizona this weekend. Most of Nutt’s question were about the movie The Blind Side and Nutt’s role in it. According to Nutt, “It was a very good experience. Tim McGraw, Sandra Bullock, the producers, everybody were class people. It was a very good experience.” This is what happens when you schedule Northern Arizona this late in the season.
  • Mark Richt and Bulldogs are also on the schedule patsies late in the season gravy train, as Georgia hosts Tennessee Tech this weekend. Richt thinks this year defenses are better across the board than in year’s past. Said Richt, “It seems like the offensive numbers have been tempered a bit.”
  • Dan Mullen, whose Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated the Wildcats last weekend referenced that win as something that will certainly help with his recruiting efforts. Beating a team like Kentucky, a team that has won 3 straight Bowl games, will certainly propel MSU over the top of the recruiting peak in his opinion.
  • Gene Chizik is excited to be home for the second week in a row and entertain Furman for Homecoming. Inferior opponents don’t lend themselves to a hungry media group seeking answers.

Unscientific Preview: MSU

KentuckyHelmetMississippi_St

Kentucky vs. Mississippi State

Time: 7:00 pm
Location: Lexington, KY
Television: ESPN360.com

It is exceptionally rare when a college football team hits a must win in October. And though Halloween month is almost over, and Kentucky sits at 4-3, this game looms large if the Cats are to go Bowling for their 4th consecutive year. Assuming the Eastern Kentucky game on November 7th is a win, the Cats will need one more victory in their remaining 4 games, all SEC contests, to get to that magical Bowl eligible 6 wins. It sure would be nice if we could just go ahead and knock that out now against MSU, allowing the games at Georgia, at Vandy, and against Tennessee to simply be icing on an already baked Bowl cake.

Mississippi State is in much the same boat as UK. The Bulldogs now sit at 3-5, with games ahead of them against Alabama, at Arkansas, and against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. A loss to Kentucky on Saturday means the Bulldogs have to win out… a very large improbability. So as large as this looms for Kentucky it is infinitely larger for Mississippi State, and a true “Must Win” for Dan Mullen to lead the Bulldogs to a Bowl in his first season at the helm.

Offense
For Mississippi State, they are a rush-centric team, led primarily by senior tailback Anthony Dixon, the SEC’s 3rd leading rusher this season. Dixon has helped the Bulldogs to a 4th place ranking in rush offense, at a shade under 200 yards per game on the ground. Their 10th in the SEC when it comes to passing and MSU clocks in overall at 8th in the conference for total offense.

Kentucky is similar in terms of their statistical rankings, with the differences negligible between each of the offensive strategies. Each of the major categories in terms of rushing, passing, scoring, and total offense finds Kentucky and MSU neck and neck. The key to the Kentucky offense is Randall Cobb, whose talent, skill, and speed are well utilized in an offense struggling to overcome injuries and find an identity of sorts.
Advantage: Push. Statistically there is virtually no difference between the teams and the star power of Cobb and Dixon cancel each other out.

Defense
Defensively, MSU is quite better than their record would indicate. They are 9th in the SEC in total defense (passing: 10th, rushing: 7th) and have had decent outings and moments of greatness in shutting down or at least significantly impeding major offenses like Florida, LSU, or Georgia Tech. They don’t maintain their intensity all game, and opportunities do exist to take advantage, but Kentucky will need to choose their spots wisely. Hindering the ability of the opposition to find those big plays are two freshman defensive backs in Johnthan Banks and Corey Broomfield who have a combined 7 INTs and 3 TDs. Up front, junior DL Pernell McPhee is 5th in the conference for sacks with 4.0 this season.

For the Cats, they have struggled against the rush this season, so much so that they are last in the SEC in rushing defense, giving up nearly 175 per game. Complicating matters for the Cats are the injuries throughout the defense, like Micah Johnson and Trevard Lindley. Johnson will most likely play but won’t be 100% with a high ankle sprain, and against a showstopper like Dixon, the front unit of Kentucky needs to dominate the line of scrimmage… a tall order.
Advantage: Mississippi_StInjuries make this a small advantage for MSU, in addition to the fact the MSU’s offense is strongest where Kentucky’s defense is weakest.

Coaching
Dan Mullen is in his first season as a head coach, after a successful career at Florida. Offensively, Mullen has worked with the likes of Chris Leak, Alex Smith, and Tim Tebow, and given the opportunity to recruit to MSU over several years, most expect him to be successful. For Kentucky’s Rich Brooks, you’d be hard pressed to find Kentucky football fans who are not remarkably impressed with the successes and achievements that Brooks has been able to accomplish while at UK. Three straight Bowl wins, recruiting classes that get better and better, and winning the right way all make Brooks a great coach.
AdvantageKentuckyHelmet In several years it may be a different story, but for now Brooks has the experience, the results, and the edge.

Googling
Random Page 4 Google Image Result for Mississippi State:
MVU_ft
Camouflage on the shoulders? Interesting.

Random Page 4 Google Image Result for Kentucky:
ashley_judd_kentucky_jersey1
Perfection.

Advantage: KentuckyHelmetWhen it comes to chicks in jerseys, Kentucky has the market cornered. By far.

Overall
For both these programs, this game is one of the remaining chances to get a win. It is one of the last times this season that both teams will line up against a conference opponent with similar talent, depth, and skill. For MSU and Dan Mullen, they must rely on their defense to disrupt a Wildcat offense that at times this season has ranged from stagnant to mediocre. For the Wildcats, they must try and contain the Mississippi State rushing attack while limiting mistakes. The difference, in my mind, may very well come down to a home field advantage in the snake pit known as Commonwealth Stadium. A hyped crowd, a black out, and a team in search of historical and unprecedented success will carry the Cats to win #5 and their 2nd SEC victory this season.

Prediction
Mississippi State 24
Kentucky 35

Rich Brooks’ SEC Teleconference

sec_logo1Each Wednesday we bring you a recap of sorts of the SEC Teleconference, where the league’s coaches have a chance to touch base with the national media regarding a whole host of topics. Here’s Coach Brooks’ comments:

  • CRB’s Opening Statement: “We came off a win last week that we got off to a good start and then didn’t do very well particularly on offense or third down defense, but got out with a good win. In the process we lost Micah Johnson on the 7th play of the game. He hasn’t practiced at all this week but will try to go tomorrow. He may play but won’t be 100%. Trevard Lindley is still doubtful, the 4th game in a row that he’s missed. Our QB Mike Hartline is still on the sideline. We don’t know when, or if, he’ll return. This game is critical for both teams. If Mississippi State wants to be in the postseason, they need to win, and if we want to continue to make an impact in the SEC than we need to win.”
  • On preparing for MSU’s RB, Anthony Dixon: “He’s one of the best running backs in the league. He’s powerful as well as having good speed. He’s a load, and it would be helpful if we had Micah. If we don’t have him it will make the job of stopping Dixon even more difficult. It would be difficult if we had a full compliment of players.”
  • On the QB rotation of Morgan Newton and Will Fidler: “Well, it’s not going as well as I’d like or we’d be throwing the ball better. With Newton and Fidler changing off, we’ve been able to get 2 wins and with the addition of Cobb in the wildcat we’ve been able to generate just enough offense to get it done.”
  • How to counteract MSU’s defense: “They do a lot of different things on defense. They play the 4 man front, then they come in with a 3 man front, they do some zone pressures s well as man pressure. In the running game we have to get a hat on a hat, and in the passing game we have to make sure our bases are covered and we don’t turn someone loose. They’ve upgraded the skill and the athletic ability on their defense since last year. The job they did on Florida has certainly got our attention. That offense is hard to slow down and they did a great job with it.”
  • On the odds of a defensive player winning the Heisman: “I think most of the front running offensive players have to have mediocre years and I think the defensive player has to be on an outstanding team and have great numbers. It’s very hard for the defensive player to get the media consensus to win a Heisman trophy.”

Other Coaches Around the League:

  • Les Miles was certainly complimentary of the Tigers’ opponent this weekend, though it was almost funny to hear Coach Miles reference Tulane as an opponent worthy of even minor attention. Listening to Miles, you’d think Tulane wasn’t 2-5 and 0-4 in CUSA. Hat tip to Les though for recognizing the fact that this Tulane game is right between the rivalry games of Auburn and Alabama. Miles is also in favor of an early signing date, as long as it doesn’t interrupt the calendar of college football or being able to show full attention to prospects on your campus.
  • Steve Spurrier was asked quite a bit about this weekend’s Tennessee matchup and thinks Monte Kiffin is quite the coach and it isn’t a transition that’s tough to make from the NFL to college. According to Spurrier, coaching is coaching and it doesn’t matter what level you’re at. That’s of course incredibly ironic considering Spurrier’s lack of success in the NFL.
  • Urban Meyer indicated that his walking wounded defensive unit is getting itself back to full strength and it will be needed considering that this weekend’s game against Georgia is between two great programs. Meyer was exceptionally opposed to an early signing period until one of the conference coaches came up with a better plan that he supports, allowing a recruit to sign early if they take no other official visits. Jeff Demps should also be ready to go at full speed this weekend. Great news for Florida, bad news for Georgia.
  • Bobby Johnson sounded surprisingly positive and upbeat considering a.) he’s facing a Top 15 ranked Georgia Tech team this weekend, and b.) his Vanderbilt Commodores have yet to win an SEC contest. He spoke a bit about officiating and sending reviews to the conference office, making it more about learning what is allowed as opposed to pointing out mistakes to the SEC. Johnson also thinks the instant replay system “works as well as humanly possible, but people are gonna make mistakes.”
  • Lane Kiffin and his Volunteers take on South Carolina Saturday night on ESPN. Jonathon Crompton, according to Kiffin has put together “2 and a 1/2 really good games.” He also thinks there is no clear cut Heisman front runner, and if things go well for Eric Berry from this point forward, he has a shot at the stiff arming trophy. Lane Kiffin had no comment on instant replay and its use choosing to “stay away from that.”
  • Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide defeated Tennessee last weekend, and now have an open date. According to Saban, “Mentally and physically this is a good time to recharge our batteries.” Saban was asked about the officials and their mistakes, and he made reference to the SEC having the best officials of any league he’s ever worked in. Also blamed the lack of offensive prowess on the defenses the Tide has played rather than something wrong with the offense.
  • Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks now start a four game homestand with this weekend’s battle against winless and hapless Eastern Michigan. Not a whole lot of questions for Petrino, mostly because of the lack of interest in an SEC-MAC bloodletting.
  • Houston Nutt spoke at length about D.T. Shackelford and his exceptional amount of talent and skill as a freshman. He’s battling a high ankle sprain, but is expected to soldier though it. The Rebels are at Auburn this weekend, but there were quite a few questions about Nutt taking on his former team in Arkansas last weekend… which he won.
  • Mark Richt and his Georgia Bulldogs take on the Florida Gators this weekend in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. The Gators are coming off an open week, and Richt said his team and coaches “could use the break.” There is also nothing in A.J. Green’s game that Richt would change, but special attention is paid to making sure he’s fresh and not playing him every down. This weekend’s Florida game “means an awful lot” to Richt and his team. He specifically mentioned his own team, but additionally, the fans and recruits, since “the whole nation pays attention to this game.”
  • Dan Mullen and his Mississippi State Bulldogs battle our Kentucky Wildcats this weekend in Lexington. Mullen says the Wildcats will “create issues for us and we’ll have our hands full”. What I thought most odd was Mullen holds Kentucky up as an example of where he would like his program to be in terms of consecutive Bowl trips. In terms of the QB upheaval, Mullen is more worried about Randall Cobb than any of the QBs Kentucky may trot out.
  • Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers play host to Ole Miss this weekend with the opportunity to right their ship a bit after three consecutive losses to Arkansas, Kentucky, and LSU. Chizik said the players have remained positive despite the losses, as they haven’t needed any prodding or coaxing.