Saturday, October 28, 2006


If anyone ever calls for a blackout again, I will personally beat them into a coma with my bare hands.

That is all.



Today, we are all Beavers.

--South Carolina controls its own destiny in the SEC East. At least for the next three hours.

--But Lou Holtz thinks South Carolina will beat Tennessee. This usually indicates certain doom.


1. The new Erik Ainge, same as the old Erik Ainge. Give David Cutcliffe credit for revitalizing the career of Erik Ainge, turning him into one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, if not the best, and one of the nation's elite. That's helped ...
2. Vols' scoring offense. Tennessee has scored -- gulp -- more than 32 points a game, including demolishing Georgia in Athens in a 51-33 rout that included 27 points in the final quarter. Notice -- those are all big numbers. (Stats, as usual, can be found here.) A 92 percent red-zone scoring rate doesn't hurt.
3. Home field disadvantage. Tennessee's one loss came in Knoxville. South Carolina's two losses came in Columbia, which is where the game will be played. Both teams have won all their road games. Go figure.
4. Tennessee is ranked. South Carolina has played precisely two teams that were ranked when they played them: Georgia and Auburn. They lost their games against? Yep, Georgia and Auburn.
5. Robert Meacham. Having the best year of any receiver in the SEC, with 40 catches for 762 yards and 6 TDs.

1. Spurrier owns Fulmer. Call it whatever you want, but the Head Ball Coach has an 8-3 record against the rotund one. As Morris points out (a phrase you won't often hear me use), that means something is up besides the usual suspects.
2. Syvelle Newton. I'm open to criticism that I've lavished too much praise on Newton. But look at what the young man has done. Before he took over, South Carolina had an unimpressive victory against Mississippi State and a disastrous loss to Georgia. After a slow start vs. Wofford, Newton promptly demolished Florida Atlantic, took Auburn to the wire, beat Kentucky on the road and easily dismissed Vandy.
3. Scoring defense. If Tennessee's offense is specatular, South Carolina's defense is stout. It's fourth in the league, allowing just 14 points a game. The one shortfall? The red zone, where opponents score almost 74 percent of the time.
4. Injuries. The Gamecocks are relatively healthy. Not so for the Vols, who have a hurt receiver and an injured starting running back.
5. A windy day. For once in his life, Spurrier can be thankful for the wind. It could -- and I stress the could -- slow down the passing game for the Vols. South Carolina is rushing for almost 20 more yards a game.

PREDICTION: Tennessee 28, USC 20

RECORD: 4-0; against SCORE (within one TD of each team's score): 1-3.

Friday, October 27, 2006

THE WORD -- Week 9

**EDITORS NOTE: Because of space limitations, images have been removed from this post.**

It's Regeneration Saturday...

Northwestern at No. 2 Michigan, 12 p.m.
Northwestern. Ann Arbor. Big Ten hopes dancing in Michigan’s eyes.

This one is over by the half, then trickles to a conclusion.
Michigan 35, Northwestern 14

No. 12 Notre Dame at Navy, 12 p.m.
CBS execs almost wet themselves when they found out they’d get a Notre Dame game the week after some Irish-inspired controversy. And it’s going to be an ND win.

Yeah, there’s always that “unconventional offense” v. favorite thing going on. Don’t count on it changing the outcome.
Notre Dame 28, Navy 14

Illinois at No. 16 Wisconsin, 12 p.m.
You know, there are some guys you keep wondering how they get jobs.

I wonder how long Ron Zook can hold onto this one.
Wisconsin 34, Illinois 10

No. 15 Oklahoma at No. 20 Missouri, 12 p.m.
Arguably the best noontime game in a few weeks, anyway.

The Sooners head to Missoura to take on the Tigers of the Midwest. Which somehow sounds less threatening than any other phrase containing the word “tigers.” But it should be intimidating to Oklahoma.
Missouri 24, Oklahoma 21

No. 4 Auburn at Mississippi, 12:30 p.m.
This is how JP/Lincoln Financial/Greater Birmingham AV Club gets the high-ranked SEC teams: conference games no other network would be caught dead airing.

The question isn’t whether Auburn will win. It’s how merciful the soft-hearted Tuberville will be.
Auburn 38, Mississippi 14

Buffalo at No. 24 Boston College, 1 p.m.
This is going to be yet another cruel, cruel bell-ringing for Buffalo.

Not a lot more you can say about this one, other than, I hope Buffalo does something good with the money.
Boston College 42, Buffalo 3

Minnesota at No. 1 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m.
You hate to see a conference game in one of the BCS leagues turn into a bloodbath.

But this one could get out of hand early. In any case, Ohio State teases us again with the possibility of an apocalyptic showdown with the Wolverines.
Ohio State 35, Minnesota 17

!UPSET SPECIAL! No. 3 Southern Cal at Oregon State, 3:30 p.m.
I don’t know why I’m doing this. Call it a feeling.

But I just think that this is going to be the narrowest of victories for Oregon State. It’s got all the elements we need: A team that keeps squeaking by, the upset no one sees coming, the perfect trap setup.
Oregon State 21, Southern Cal 20

Georgia at No. 10 Florida, 3:30 p.m.
This one could get ugly. Real ugly. So ugly that every South Carolina, Georgia Tech and Auburn fan should watch it with glee.

If there’s anything that can make Chris Leak and Co. look great again, it’s this dysfunctional group of Dawgs. (And, no, you’re not reading the score prediction wrong.)
Florida 48, Georgia 21

No. 21 Nebraska at Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m.
Huskers v. Cowboys. Another one of those Big 12 games that, no matter what I try to do, I just can’t get excited about.

This one could actually draw fewer Oklahoma viewers than the World Series.
Nebraska 24, Oklahoma State 3

Miami at No. 17 Georgia Tech, 3:30 p.m.
I remember going to the 2004 Miami-Georgia Tech game and noticing that a third of the fans were gone about the time the halftime score hit (if my memory is correct) 20-3. That score won’t happen again.

Gailey/Ball gets back on track.
Georgia Tech 21, Miami 10

No. 25 Wake Forest at North Carolina, 3:30 p.m.
Pity John Bunting for this: If there was one team he always had a shot against, it was Wake Forest. Suddenly, he can’t even count on that.

Another sour note for a swan song of a season. But I have a feeling the win will be unimpressive for the Deacons.
Wake Forest 13, North Carolina 3

No. 7 Texas at Texas Tech, 7 p.m.
Ah, the airborne mania that has come to mark Leachball hasn’t worked out so well this year. Meanwhile, the Horns keep plugging along, though they’ve gotten little attention since their one loss.

They’ve just begun getting people talking about them again. They roll.
Texas 35, Texas Tech 10

Louisiana-Monroe at No. 14 Arkansas, 7 p.m.
I must say, I had an immediate reaction when I saw this game on the schedule.

What do you say? Mustain will be sipping on Gatorade with 25 minutes left.
Arkansas 49, La-Monroe 7

Portland State at No. 22 Oregon, 7 p.m.
Portland State:Oregon::La-Monroe:Arkansas.

Oregon 38, Portland State 6

No. 23 Texas A&M at Baylor, 7:05 p.m.
Boredom ... setting ... in ... must ... make ... call ...

Texas ... A&M ... 24 ... Baylor ... 17 ...

Connecticut at No. 18 Rutgers, 8 p.m. Sunday
Rutgers should slice, dice and grind the Huskies.

It’s not a complete disgrace. But it’s still bad.
Rutgers 31, Connecticut 0


What's gone wrong at FSU? Could it be something other than Jeff Bowden?

The Orlando Sentinel says ... sorta. (HT: SMQ)

This is actually the rare, well-done, quasi-investigative sports story.

Get that dadgum reporter on the phone!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


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SEC Fans


Remember the kick.

The greatest man in South Carolina history. Almost.

ORANGE CRUSH: ACT I -- Tennessee

Think of it as a three-act epic, with intermissions/restroom breaks. It's the Orange Crush, South Carolina's annual gamut including the two kings of the SEC East and the rivalry game with the cow-tippers of the Upstate. (This year's intermissions/restroom breaks are SEC West rival Arkansas and the rent-a-rout game against Middle Tennessee State.)

So C&F will break down the Orange Crush team by team. Beginning with this weekend's showdown with Tennessee:

1. Villain (i.e., opponents head coach.)
The Blob: A massive, gelatinous fellow who can shake the earth by rolling over.

Even Alabama boosters' lawsuits can't stop him.

2. Mascot
Smokey: A blue tick coon hound who, it turns out, is surprisingly vicious.

Will bite you in the butt without hesitating.

3. Lame Tradition
It's close, what with the checkered end zones and all. But you have to go with the Vol Walk, or as the Knoxville Police Department calls it, the Perp Walk.

4. High Point of the Year
Hanging 27 on Georgia in the fourth quarter, 51 overall. I would say they put the Dawgs in their place, but I live in Atlanta and I don't want a midnight visit by the State Patrol.

5. Proof that God Hates Orange
The 2005 season.

6. Spurrier's Record Against Tennessee: 9-4.


Clemson - (Davis + Spiller) = Florida State

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Striking a blow for media timidity over time-honored traditions, ESPN and CBS have agreed not to call the the Georgia-Florida game "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

First of all, the idea that calling a game "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" will encourage binge drinking on campus is akin to saying Bush went to war in Iraq because he saw "Courage Under Fire" one time too many.

In Michael Adams' mind, the cause of the mess in Iraq.

Second of all, I doubt cocktails are the main cause of intoxication on the Georgia campus.

There are other names floating around out there.

But given my ... high regard ... for UGA and Florida -- UGA in particular -- I have a suggestion:



Ah, pity Charlie Weis. He does, after all, come from a sport where they deal in playoffs and such hogwash. Thus his dissatisfaction with the BCS:

"One of the teams (Tennessee) that jumped us had the same game that we had. They're down, they're playing at home and they win by a field goal," Weis said Tuesday. "Another team (Florida) that jumped us wasn't even playing. They were home eating cheeseburgers and they end up jumping us. That befuddles me."

Did somebody mention cheeseburgers?

Now, far be it for me to dispute anything Charlie Weis says about cheeseburgers. But, for someone who's already figured out how to politick over the polls, he shows an incredible density about college football's traditions.

First of all, BCS polls must not make sense. That is a basic tenet of the system (and little-known bylaw of the BCS itself).

That said, there is a difference between Alabama playing Tennessee tough in a decades-old rivalry and Notre Dame coming one Jeff Somethingorother catch away from defeat against UCLA.

As for Florida, see the rule about BCS polls not making sense. But one can argue that they looked better than most of the teams that actually took the field Saturday.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


It looks like trouble might be brewing for Les and Crew.

BATON ROUGE (AP) — An assistant strength coach for LSU was arrested and accused of violating state law by inviting student athletes to his home to meet a sports agent and suggesting the agent should represent the athletes, LSU police said Tuesday.
Travelle Ernest Gaines, 26, of Port Allen, surrendered to university police and was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish prison, the university said in a statement.
It was the second arrest in two weeks connected to the school about violations of the law regulating sports agents in Louisiana, the university said. Gaines had been employed with the athletic department since July. ...
University police arrested sports agent Charles Taplin, of Houston, earlier this month for attempting to contact student athletes. LSU said notes and a cellphone gathered during Taplin's arrest, combined with interviews with several student athletes, pointed to Gaines as assisting Taplin.

I had two immediate reactions to this story. First of all, it's illegal to violate recruiting rules in Louisiana? They give people awards for that in Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Second, um, doesn't Louisiana have higher corruption priorities than CFB?

"At LSU, we will not tolerate this predatory behavior, and in particular we will not abide those who seek to infiltrate our athletic department. Our student athletes and coaches provided authorities with the information they needed to make this arrest," LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe said in a statement released by the school.

Making money off young men playing football? Scandalous!

Um, NCAA, when two people are arrested, it's probably time to call in the investigators.

Brand will get to LSU investigation once he catches this guy.


With the firing of John Bunting of North Carolina, who has so far failed to win a game against a Division I-A opponent -- though, really, what did you expect from North Carolina -- it's time to officially begin the Coachosel, a weekly look at who's going where, or could be going where, at the end of the season. First, a look at the coaches likely to be dismissed, based on the number of Buntings they receive.

Five Buntings: Crank up the weepy music.
Four Buntings: Begin perusing real estate guides.
Three Buntings: Better have winning season.
Two Buntings: Only if the AD loses his/her mind.
One Bunting: Only the frothing boosters will call for your head.

Larry Coker
When the headline in the Miami Herald read, "Coker senses danger zone," it might as well have been about his job. Instead, the article was about Miami's game against Georgia Tech. But Coker should be more concerned about Donna Shalala and the UM boosters than about Reggie Ball and Chan Gailey. Actually, that could be said just about any year, given Ball and Gailey's performances. Nonetheless, barring a minor miracle, Coker is gone at the end of the year.

Five Buntings

Bobby Bowden
It's hard to type that one, but it's time to put Bowden on the watch list. Yes, he's the guy that led Florida State to national prominence and made it even possible to whisper about firing an FSU ball coach with a 4-3 record. The caveat to this is that Bowden won't be canned; he'll be allowed to retire. But the time for that decision to be made is coming soon.

Three Buntings

Karl Dorrell
Some, such as BruinsNation and now poritions of the MSM, have either been on Dorrell's case for a while or are now beginning to point the finger at the UCLA head coach. He has gone 6-7 (bowl game), 6-6 (bowl game), and 10-2 (bowl game, Dorrell named conference co-coach of the year with Pete Carroll, who coached some team that I'm forgetting). Records here. The fact of the matter is, if Southern California were still muddling and mediocre, I don't think there would be pressure on Dorrell. But So Cal's not, so there is. He's needs to win a bowl game to squash the talk.

Three Buntings

Now, we turn to who will be the hot commodity on the market, like Urban Meyer was at the end of 2004. Since nobody really got hot and moved last year, we'll give someone a number of Meyers for their move-on-ability. These, I should note, are far more speculative, since leaks about coaches moving to another school don't really start circulating until November or December.

Five Meyers: Movin' on up.
Four Meyers: Is Larry Coker available yet?
Three Meyers: It'll take a hefty contract extension.
Two Meyers: A good contract extension will do.
One Meyer: Bobby Petrino.

Mark Richt
Yes, Richt loves it at Georgia. But he's had time by now to figure out that most UGA fans are, well, not exactly the most stable people you'll ever know. Many are homers to the extent that they lack any reasonable interactions with reality. (JOE T III FOR HEISMAN!) Some of those take out the resulting disappointment on the coach. The rest are somewhat reasonable, but they weren't ready for this (Giving up 51 at home? Having to hold on against Ole Miss? LOSING TO VANDY???) Meanwhile, Richt has ties to both Miami (his alma mater) and FSU (former OC), jobs that could come open this season.

Four Meyers

Greg Schiano
Win at a program like Rutgers, and people will talk. Win as a former Miami DC at a program like Rutgers on a down year for the U, and the buzz becomes almost unbearable. Will Schiano forsake the chance to be a legend at Rutgers for the expectation-ridden chaos that is Miami? Who knows? But with Coker's head almost certain to roll, Schiano can expect another call.

Three Meyers

Bobby Petrino
No, there's nothing specific. But Petrino is the Larry Brown of CFB. Once there's a job open, he'll be mentioned for it, offered a contract, he'll go Hamlet/Koetter on it, then decide to return. Probably.

One Meyer

Monday, October 23, 2006

THE RANKS: The rumble inside

For the first time so far, no one comes on or off the ranks. It was tempting to drop a couple teams from the list, but I left them on because of the down week for everyone. I won't be so kind twice.

To the ranks:

1 (Last week: 1) Ohio State: def. Indiana, 44-3. Running out of things to say about the greatness that is Jim Tressel, Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., etc., etc. They're No. 1, though by a slim margin.
2 (2) Michigan: def. Iowa, 20-6. Let's not forget that Iowa was, until recently, a highly-regarded team. I still think they're pretty decent. So no panic here because of a tight win by the Wolverines.
3 (3) Southern California: IDLE.
4-T (4) West Virginia: def. Connecticut, 37-11. Still not bowled away by this team. But the workmanlike wins continue to stack up, and I'm still waiting for someone to knock them off.
4-T (4) Auburn: def. Tulane, 38-13. Nothing dominating here, but Tuberville hasn't made a habit of destroying opponents just for the pleasure of watching them crumple up and die.
6 (6) Tennessee: def. Alabama, 16-13. Again, Bama's not Top 25 caliber. But they're not terrible. And given all the other close shaves we saw this weekend, there's no reason to drop the Vols.
7 (7) Texas: def. Nebraska, 22-20. Why does it feel like I'm having to justify not dropping half the Top 10? Again, decent foe, last-minute win, no reason to worry yet.
8 (8) Louisville: def. Syracuse, 28-13. There could be two monstrous games left in CFB this year: Michigan-Ohio State and Louisville-West Virginia. But that's only if Rutgers doesn't get in the way.
9 (11) Clemson: def. Georgia Tech, 31-7. Wow. Wow. Yes, part of this was the uncanny ability of Chan Gailey and Reggie Ball to find a game on the schedule, circle it, and perform a superhuman immolation in front of a national television audience. But Clemson looked gooooood. Against a pretty good team. Arguably the only ranked team to outperform expectations.
10 (10) Florida: IDLE.
11 (12) California: def. Washington, 31-24 (OT). Washington is a good team. Don't forget that if you want to ask why I dropped ...
12 (9) Notre Dame: def. UCLA, 20-17. In a week of unimpressive wins by ranked teams, this was perhaps the most unimpressive.
13 (13) LSU: def. Fresno State, 38-6. LSU just continues to throw up points against any defense not found in the SEC. But can they put together a consistent run to contend for Atlanta -- even if, by Atlanta, you mean the Peach Bowl?
14 (14) Arkansas: def. Mississippi, 38-3. I have to use this space to admit that I was wrong about Arkansas at the beginning of the year. The question is whether they drop the games Auburn needs them to drop.
15 (16) Oklahoma: def. Colorado, 24-3. No underperforming. No overperforming. They just keep chugging along. But the lack of an ability to crack the Top 10, I think, raises honest questions about whether Oklahoma is still a member of the CFB elite.
16 (17) Wisconsin: def. Purdue, 24-3. Again, continuing to chug through the Big Ten to set them up for a nice bowl bid. If they weren't in the same league with Ohio State and Michigan, they could dream about the BCS.
17 (15) Georgia Tech: lost to Clemson, 31-7. It's hard to drop the Jackets too far for losing to a good team, though they lost bad. There's just not much impressiveness below them.
18 (19) Rutgers: def. Pittsburgh, 20-10. They're beginning to win respect beyond the novelty effect. But I still need some wow-ness to bump them over the big dogs.
19 (20) Boise State: def. Idaho, 42-26. Perennial BCS buster wannabe sets its sights on doing so for real. Another undefeated sleeper.
20 (23) Missouri: def. Kansas State, 41-21. They torched the Wildcats, which isn't saying much, but again, it looks good by comparison.
21 (21) Nebraska: lost to Texas, 22-20. They played Texas tough. So they stick at No. 21.
22 (18) Oregon: lost to Washington State, 34-23. Really struggled with whether or not to keep them here or drop them out. But I think Wazzou might be better than anticipated.
23 (22) Texas A&M: def. Oklahoma State, 34-33 (OT). Unimpressive, so they slip a bit. But there were only a few teams that looked good, so they hang on.
24 (24) Boston College: def. Florida State, 24-19. Last-minute heave could have cost them the game. So they stick.
25 (25) Wake Forest: IDLE.

DROPPING OUT: No one. Some movement, but no drops. A few teams are poised to fall, though...

ON THE BUBBLE: I still like Pittsburgh, but a ten-point loss doesn't lead to a debut...Washington is still in the picture...Wazzou might make a visit, but I need more...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

AFTER GAME 7 -- Where South Carolina stands

First of all, a word on why after Game 7 is the best time to evaluate any team -- particularly South Carolina. The first few games will always include two matchups with teams that area ... um, er subpar. Exhibit A: Mississippi State. Exhibit B: Wofford. Exhibit C: Florida International.

Beating him isn't an accomplishment. It's a duty.

Second, it usually brings us right up to the Orange Crush: Tennessee, Florida and Clemson with a bit of Arkansas (and, this year, Middle Tennessee) sprinkled in. The easiest games are, for the most part, behind us, though Georgia and some others are tough games. The stretch run is before us.

So what can we take away from the first seven games? Here's five things:

1. Syvelle Newton is the man. As the fifth-rated team in the SEC in terms of passing efficiency, South Carolina doesn't exactly look like the Steve Spurrier teams of old. (All statistics taken from their secure and undisclosed location on the league Web site.) But dig a bit deeper, and you'll find that Syvelle Newton (159.5) is second only to JaMarcus Russell (174.6) in terms of efficiency. That puts him ahead of Chris Leak (!), Erik Ainge (!) and Brandon Cox (!). He also adds the rushing dimension that was absent from previous Spurrier QBs.

2. Score more. This has already been partially accomplished, but the offense's 22.7 points a game is ninth in the league, not something you'd expect from a Spurrier-coached team. Now, that includes the 15-point showing against MSU and the shutout against Georgia. But the points still need to come in.

3. Keep up the good scoring defense. Meantime, the defense has held opponents to an average of 14 points, fourth-best in the SEC. This one is a bit fuzzier. It includes rolling over offense lightweights MSU, Florida International and Vanderbilt, giving up some points to Kentucky and Wofford, holding high-octane Auburn to 24 points, and holding Georgia to 18 points. But who knows what the UGA game means? The only way to beat have any prayer of beating the Orange Crush is to keep the games from becoming a shootout.

4. More turnovers for them, fewer for us. While the ranking isn't that bad (tied for fifth in the SEC), the turnover margin for South Carolina is zero. It's a wash. That includes 13 turnovers in seven games -- an average of almost two a game against competition that doesn't measure up to what's coming. Giving the ball to Tennessee, Florida and Clemson will kill you. Not giving the offense a short field will make tough wins nearly impossible.

5. Flip the red zone numbers. In other words, execution, execution, execution. South Carolina is dead last in the SEC when it comes to red-zone scoring, with 59.3 percent of trips inside the 20 turning into scores. Meanwhile, opponents are cashing in 73.7 percent of their red-zone visits, good -- or not good -- for seventh in the SEC.

Wipe them out (in the red zone). All of them.

So what does this mean for my preseason prediction? The win against Tennessee -- gone. We can beat them, but we probably won't, and I certainly wouldn't bank on it.

The win against Arkansas -- in doubt. They rush for more than 200 yards a game -- the only team in the league doing that right now. Meanwhile, we're giving up 150 yards a game -- ninth in the SEC. Unless South Carolina toughens up against the run, trouble is brewing.

A win against Middle Tennessee will likely lock up bowl eligibility if the Gamecocks lose to Arkansas and Tennessee.

And a loss against Florida still looks likely.

We will beat Clemson. But don't ask me if I'm saying that because I genuinely believe we will beat them or because I would never say otherwise.

We will beat Clemson. He will win the World Series. Pigs will fly, monkeys will speak...