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Feb 10

Kentucky vs. Vandy Preview

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 11:42 am | Leave a Comment (135)
Category: Basketball

Tomorrow the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats (24-1) will head down to Nashville to do battle with the Vanderbilt Commodores (17-7) in a key game in the hunt for the SEC Title. The Cats will enter this game on a roll as they come off a pasting of the #8 Florida Gators on Tuesday night while Vandy is fresh off of a victory over the sliding LSU Tigers. The Cats appear to have rounded into form over the last 2 weeks and they will not easily be derailed as they prepare to head down the home stretch of this college basketball season. Freshman Anthony Davis (14.0 ppg, 10 reb., 4.8 blk & 1.5 stls) continues to be the centerpiece behind a defense that is just downright frightening at times. The Cats are still looking for a total effort on offense but there is no denying the way they play defense. Davis is literally the front-runner for not only “Defensive Player of the Year” but also “Freshman of the Year” as well the possible “Player of the Year”; no player has ever won all three awards in his first year of playing college ball. But Davis will need help from Terence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller if the Cats are to come away from Nashville with a “W” tomorrow night. Marquise Teague will also have to have an excellent floor-game to allow those guys to be able to produce.

For the Commodores, the season has been a combination of ups and downs, injury filled and sometimes a lack of passion and intensity. This is a veteran team that some thought could win the SEC and at times they have looked very good (i.e. a 17 point victory over a then “hot” Marquette squad in late Dec.); however the ‘Dores have inexplicable losses (home losses to Cleveland St. and Indiana St.). So it is hard to get a read on a team that had high expectations coming into this season. John Jenkins leads Vandy averaging 19.7 ppg but he will need help from Festus Ezeli and Jeffery Taylor if they hope to topple the Cats. Coach Kevin Stallings knows this is a chance for his team to build some momentum as they head toward March, something they sorely need after being bounce in the 1st round of the big dance each of the last two years. Vandy still has at the very least “Elite 8” talent but they will need to at least try and add another marquee victim to their list (Marquette is the only ranked team they have beaten).

My thoughts for this game are simple, the Cats routinely have problems playing in down in Vandy and that is usually atypical of any visiting opponent to Nashville. However, the friendly confines have not been all that friendly as mentioned previously. The Commodores need this victory badly, if for nothing else, to pad their resume. #1 going on the road for a tough conference game usually smells of upset but I am not so sure the Commodores believe in themselves the way UK does; give me UK 72 – Vandy 68.

Jan 11

UK Visits Auburn

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 12:33 pm | Leave a Comment (82)
Category: Basketball

Tonight, the Kentucky Wildcats (15-1) will pay a visit to the state of Alabama to play the Auburn Tiger (10-5). The Cats are fresh off of a good victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday while Auburn was thoroughly beaten by Vanderbilt (65-35) in its SEC opener over the weekend.  Kenny Grabiel (6’8’’ forward) leads the Tigers in just about every important offensive & defensive category (11.9 pts per game, 7.8 reb. per game, 1.5 steals per game and 2.7 blocks per game. While Auburn had a pretty good start to the season with their non-conference record of 10-4, they really didn’t beat anybody worth speaking of. Their best win on paper appears to be against South Florida, but only because the Bulls are in the Big East Conference. Auburn had bad losses to Seton Hall (81-59), Long Beach St. (64-43) and Florida St. (85-56). The Tigers really have trouble putting the ball in the basket, even more than UK’s last opponent, the Gamecocks. Usually home-court advantage means something for a team (worth between 5-10 points possibly) but for the Tigers, it just means there will be no long bus ride after this “mercy killing”.

For the Cats, this game will be about focus and not letting up on the road against an inferior opponent. Terrence Jones finally re-emerged as he had maybe his best game of the season against South Carolina. Anthony Davis continues to give opposing players fit when they attack the rim. The Cats cannot come out sluggish and uninterested because much like the Commodores did, you want to take the heart and breath away from a team like Auburn early because that will lead to them hanging their heads and being frustrated.

This one should not be a challenge except if you are betting whether or not the Tigers score more than 40……….I’m betting they will, but barely; UK 70 – 45.

Dec 20

Rumblings With Ralph

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 2:21 pm | Leave a Comment (13)
Category: Basketball

Well we are about 1/3 of the way through the College Basketball season and we have seen a lot of different things up to this point. We saw a mammoth clash between UNC and UK that went right down to the wire before the Cats pulled out a victory. We seen a great group of teams assembled for the Maui Classic, including Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Memphis and Georgetown but when it was all said and done, the “Dukies” continued their mastery of the islands and brought home the championship. We have already had 3 teams stand atop the polls at #1; we started with North Carolina, then we had Kentucky and now we have Syracuse. We have been surprised by some teams while disappointed by others but thru it all, we are prepared to witness even more great things as each team quickly approaches conference play. So with that being said, let me hand out a few honors as well as a few “head-smacks” for what has transpired thus far.

The Five Most Disappointing Teams:

  • UCLA Bruins (5-5) – Began the year as a Top 15 Team; they have won 3 in a row just to get to .500. Howland’s seat in Westwood is starting to get warm.
  • Vanderbilt Commodores (7-4) – Began the year as a Top 15 Team; the Commodores are struggling with injuries in the post and they have been abysmal at times on both ends of the court.
  • Villanova Wildcats (7-5) – While most people knew Jay Wright’s program would be rebuilding most could not have thought it would be this painful.
  • Memphis Tigers (6-4) – Began the year as a Top10 Team; now to their credit, Memphis has lost to some good teams but they better get it turned around quickly.
  • Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish (8-5) – Much like ‘Nova, fans in South Bend knew this team was not as good as the last couple of seasons but the loss of Tim Abromaitius may be more than this team can withstand.

The Five Most Surprising Teams:

  • Missouri Tigers (11-0) – Currently #9 ;Despite the changing of coaches over the off-season, some wondered if the Tigers were getting the worse end of the deal with former Miami coach, Frank Haith………..I think the record says it all
  • Indiana Hoosiers (10-0) – Currently #17; Tom Cream finally looks to have what he wanted in Bloomington, a team that is solid on both ends of the floor.
  • Georgetown Hoyas (9-1) – Currently #16; many thought the Hoyas would be scuffling just to get wins but they have beaten Alabama and Memphis already.
  • Virginia Cavaliers (9-1) – Currently #24; The Cavs are one of those “under the radar” teams with no big-name player to speak of, but they have already beaten Michigan.
  • Harvard Crimson (9-1) – Currently #25 (USA Today) – Tommy Amaker has a solid ball club whose only loss thus far was on the road at Connecticut.

The Best Conference: The Big 10 – After the Big 10 destroyed the ACC in their annual conference clash, there is no reason not to believe that this conference can put 8 or 9 teams in the “Big Dance” in March.

The Most Scrutinized Team: The Louisville Cardinals (10-0) – Some people are saying the Cardinals are the worst Top 5 team they have seen but the numbers show different. The have beaten Vanderbilt, Memphis and Butler but they have only played 1 game outside of the friendly confines of the YUM Center….that game was right up the road in Indianapolis.

The Most Scrutinized Conference: The PAC-12 – This conference does not boast ONE single team in the Top 25 in any poll at this point and that quite frankly is reason for concern. Stanford (10-1) and California (10-2) have the best records but when they have played a team of caliber, both have lost. The third best team at the moment is Oregon State………., yes I said Oregon State (9-2).

The Most Improved Player: Dion Waiters (Syracuse) – Waiters has gone from a guy that barely saw action last year to a star in the making. Waiters came out of high school highly acclaimed but then struggled to understand the offensive and defensive philosophies that Jim Boeheim teaches. Waiters even considered transferring this summer. But he seems to have a renewed spirit and dedication and he is one of the reasons the ‘Cuse are #1 right now.

The Conference Most Likely to Turn MMA: The Big East – Between the Georgetown Hoya’s brawl with the Chinese National team over the summer and the fight the Cincinnati Bearcats had with Xavier, the Big East referees must be fully prepared for anything once conference play begins. Factor in other physical teams like UCONN, PITT, Syracuse and Seton Hall, some of the conference games could resemble a match in the caged “Octagon”.

Conference With the Most to Prove: The SEC – Because John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats have ruled the recruiting and the conference for two consecutive seasons, it has overshadowed nearly every other team. This season, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are considered to be contenders to the throne but more importance will be placed on what they do in March.

The Best 5 Teams I Have Seen Up to This Point:

  • Syracuse Orangemen – This may be Boeheim’s best team since Carmelo Anthony was in the Orange.
  • Kentucky Wildcats – The Cats have tremendous talent at every position but one, at the point. While Teague is quick and explosive, he is not in the Caliber of former PGs, Wall and Knight so he will have some growing pains along the way.
  • North Carolina Tar Heels – The Heels are similar to UK in that they have talent all over the floor but Marshall must become a factor offensively if UNC wants to be a complete team.
  • Missouri Tigers – The Tigers are truly “high octane” at the highest level. They push the ball on offense and will even press you 94 ft. on defense.
  • Duke Blue Devils – The Blue-Devils have a good inside / outside combination that makes it hard to key on anyone facet of their game.
Dec 14

Rumblins With Ralph

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 9:52 am | Leave a Comment (15)
Category: Random Notes

–  Albert Pujos to the Angels was not necessarily about the money (although 10 yrs, $254 million is not “chump change”) as much as it was about the Cardinals not showing a lot of initiative to re-sign him. The fans in St. Louis are upset and rightfully so but they can’t or shouldn’t be upset with the player in this instance. This is more about management maybe being a little hesitant to give a great player a contract that would take him into his early 40s when they were probably eyeing maybe something around a 5 year offer. So with the defending champion Cardinals now without its two faces of the team (Pujos and Tony LaRussa), you have to wonder where the organization goes from here. As for the Angels, the sky is the limit provided Albert stays healthy and can continue to produce for them the way he did for St. Louis.

–  The brawl this weekend between the Xavier Musketeers and the Cincinnati Bearcats was one of the ugliest in recent years for College Basketball and certainly it could have been a lot worse. Obviously with both of the teams in Ohio and not very far apart, the animosity in this rivalry has picked up over the last couple of years. But what occurred Saturday was just inexcusable and it shows the immaturity of the Bearcat squad. Even when Bob Huggins was the coach, it was know that the Bearcats were a very physical team that had players that actually looked as though they belonged on the “gridiron” rather than the “hardwood”. Who can ever forget the incident when form Bearcat hoopster, Art Long was arrested downtown Cincinnati (outside of a club) for punching a police horse…..yes I said a police horse. But the rivalry has spilled over to “Twitter” where UC players have allegedly being tweeting that the Xavier players were not good, specifically Xavier guard Tu Holloway and that if he was at UC, he wouldn’t even make the squad. Well I am not sure that is a true statement but then Holloway’s assessment of the incident in the post-game conference was not much better when he proclaimed “…..we have gangsters in our locker-room…..”! At this point, I am not sure that the six-game suspension handed down to UC PF, Yancy Gates was enough as he was the most serious offender in the brawl, as he literally knocked-out Musketeer big man, Kenny Freese with a stingy right hand. But I do know that as the Bearcats head into Big East play at the end of this month; this may not be the only on-court incident so coach Mick Cronin would be best served to get this under control now.

– The craze and the criticism that surrounds the new phrase: “We Got Tebowed” has merit no matter which side you are own. Tebow has helped elevate the Denver Broncos from a season to be lost to now possibly AFC West Champions and a play-off berth. Tebow is simply just a “winner” and always has been. He is not a prototypical QB and by no means will he ever be but he is a believer and a winner. The majority of the Bronco faithful are all in with the Tebow craze but they shouldn’t be completely secure for the future of the franchise unless a few things happen. #1 is that the Broncos need to make sure they give him a great QB coach that can continue to help him try and improve as much as possible. #2, the Broncos need to start to improve on the offensive line and add more talent (at the skilled positions) around him, particularly in the area of wide receiver. But for all it is worth, you have a guy just living out his dream of playing QB in the NFL and he is enjoying every bit of it.

– David Stern’s veto of the trade that would have sent Chris to the Los Angeles Lakers upset a whole lot of people but in reality, Stern was looking out for the NBA owned Hornets. Without Paul, and now with David West a pick-up the Indiana Pacers, who would have been even tougher to find an interested buyer for a Hornets franchise with no “name” player on its roster. The fact is simple, while “small market” teams are already behind the “big market” franchises in terms of money and fan support, the one thing small market teams hang their hat on is having a at least one star player to lure fans in. If Paul is in fact moved at some point, the Hornets will definitely need to recoup some young, serviceable talent in return as well as a stockpile of draft picks.

– Robert Griffith III was the correct pick for the Heisman based on the voters but he may have not been the popular pick by the people. Andrew Luck would have been just as deserving but it is hard to argue with what RGIII did against good competition. He opened the season with a bang when Baylor beat TCU. He was able to continue his play against the rest of the non-conference slate on into the Big 12 season. But what he did to Oklahoma (of course the Baylor’ “D” had a hand in it too) and Texas, both games toward the end of the season put him on the mind of a lot of voters as opposed to Luck. In fact, with Baylor playing the last weekend of the regular season and Stanford and Luck being off probably was just as key as anything. RGIII had the stage all to himself to make his bid for the Heisman. Now the talk that he could rival Luck for the #1 overall spot or at least the overall #1 QB taken in the 2012 NFL Draft is foolishness. While Griffith is definitely worthy of being one of the Top 5 QBS taken is one thing but Luck is NFL ready now in terms of almost every aspect of the game. In fact, the Indianapolis Colts may be so fortunate as to be able to draft Luck and still have Peyton Manning around for 1 or 2 more years. The Colts nor any other franchise looking to pick a QB in the draft should not be fooled into putting Griffith ahead of Luck. In fact, Griffith’s talents may best fit with a team like Kansas City Chiefs, the Seattle Seahawks or the Miami Dolphins. The Colts and the Washington Redskins would both be disastrous fits for RGIII if he was chosen either of those teams.

Nov 29

SEC Round-Up Week 14

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 1:05 pm | Leave a Comment (21)
Category: SEC

Kentucky 10 – Tennessee 7: The “Streak” is finally over………after 26 consecutive losses spanning back to 1985, the Kentucky Wildcats (5-7), behind WR turned QB for at least this game, Matt Roark used a stingy defense and an old school offensive game plan to beat the Vols (5-7) in Lexington, KY on Saturday. With QBs Morgan Newton and Maxwell Smith both injured and less than 100%, Joker Phillips turned to Roark, a former high school QB, to run the “Wing-T” for the majority of the game and that obviously was something Derek Dooley and the Tennessee Vols were not prepared for. Roark carried 24 times for 124 yds while passing for just 15 yds. But combine that with the running of Coshik Williams and any other back that entered the game and UK piled up over 220 rushing yds against a stunned Vol’s defense. Meanwhile, the Kentucky defense played absolutely “lights-out” in stuffing the run game (Taurean Poole had 32 yds on 9 carries) and confusing QB Tyler Bray most of the day by mixing-up its coverage. Bray passed for 215 yds, 1 TD & 2 INTs in route to one of his worst performances while wearing the Orange & White. The Cats not only ended a 26 game losing streak to the Vols, but they also prevented Tennessee from gaining bowl eligibility meaning both team’s seasons are over.

Georgia 31 – Georgia Tech 17: The Bulldogs seem as if they are ready to do battle with #1 LSU this Saturday in the SEC Championship Game; so they decided to get an early win in Atlanta as they disposed of their arch-rival, the Yellowjackets (8-4) in a game they took control of early. Georgia QB, Aaron Murray passed for 252 yds, 4 TDs & 1 INT while the Georgia (10-2) defense slowed down Tech’s potent rushing attack, holding them to under 200 yds on the ground. Murray has been red hot over his last 3 games throwing 4 or more TD passes in each. He will need to be just as hot this weekend because the “LSU express” is showing no signs of slowing down as they can see the National Championship game on the horizon. For Georgia the season has turned around since starting 0-2 and they would love to cap it off with an upset if the #1 team in Atlanta.

LSU 41 – Arkansas 17: In a game that started off rather precarious for the #1 Tigers, it was their ability to just make plays that was the difference in a match-up of #1 & #3 in the BCS on Friday. Arkansas (10-2) jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind an offensive & defensive score in the 2nd Qtr. That was about all that the Razorback fans would have to cheer for though as LSU would proceed to run off 21 straight points and 24 of the next 27 scored between the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The Tigers (12-0) would then add 17 points in the 4th to put the game away. Tiger QB Jordan Jefferson had his best game since coming back from an earlier suspension as he passed for 208 yds w/ 1 TD and he also had a 48 yd TD run in the 4th qtr. RB Kenny Hillard ran for 102 yds on 19 carries and the Tiger offense was just too balanced for Arkansas’s “D” to deal with. For Arkansas, QB Tyler Wilson passed for 207 yds & 1 TD but he was battered and bruised as he took numerous hits from the LSU defense. The game really changed when CB / PR Ryann Mathieu returned a punt for a TD in the 2nd qtr; however Mathieu would not stop there as he went on to strip D.J. Johnson of the football later on in that quarter when the Razorbacks were driving.  LSU will prepare to battle Georgia for the SEC Championship on Saturday; but the goal is much higher than that; they want to be there playing for the National Title in January.

Alabama 42 – Auburn 14: Alabama’s mantra all year has been “Never Again” which is a reference to their blown 24 point 2nd half lead against Auburn last season. Well this time around, there would be no magic for the Tigers (7-6) as the Tide took control early and did not take their foot off the gas until the final horn. Alabama (11-1) led 24-7 at half-time (just like last season) but they outscored Auburn 18-7 in the 2nd half to insure there would be no comeback this season. RB Trent Richardson ran for 203 yds on 27 carries and QB A.J. McCarron passed for 184 yds. & 3 TDs. For Auburn, the defense spent way too much time on the field, largely in part to their continued problems on offense. Auburn had less than 200 yds of offense as their 2 scores came via the defense and special teams. The Tide can only sit and wait to see if they will be selected to possibly oppose what is thought to be LSU in the National Title game; a rematch Nick Saban wants very badly.

Vanderbilt 41 – Wake Forest 7: The Commodores (6-6) knew their bowl hopes rested on whether they could go on the road and beat a fairly solid Wake Forest squad. Well Vandy left nothing to chance as they jumped out to a 27-7 half-time lead and cruised to their 6th victory of the season. For Wake Forest (6-6), they are also bowl eligible but they seem to struggle over their last 4 games as they had a real shot of winning at least 8 games before their mini-collapse. Commodore RB, Zack Stacy ran for 184 yds & 3 TDs and Wake Forest really had no answer for him.

Florida St. 21 – Florida 7: In a game between to in-state rivals in which neither was ranked for the first time in over 12 years, it was the Seminoles (8-4) had more juice than the Gators (6-6). If the sting of seeing their club go just .500 for the season wasn’t enough, the Florida faithful are really mad after seeing former coach (1 year removed) Urban Meyer announce that he has accepted the head position at Ohio State this week. Gator fans are going to want answers from a man who supposedly was stepping down for health reasons and is all of a sudden better and ready to coach again. Well aside from that, Gator QB, John Brantley was absolutely horrendous against the Noles “D” as he tossed 3 INTs (including 1 taking back for a TD) and passed for just 104 yds. On the other side, Seminole QB E.J. Manuel was equally ineffective as he passed for just 65 yds. Neither team’s running game ever really got going but the turnovers absolutely killed Florida.

Mississippi St. 31 – Ole Miss 3: In a game that really didn’t mean much outside of the state of Mississippi, in a battle know as the “Egg Bowl” it was the Bulldogs (6-6) gaining bowl eligibility by beating cross-town rival Ole Miss (2-10). Neither team had the kind of season either was expecting but for Ole Miss it has been especially disappointing. They will now have to look for a new coach (there are plenty out there to choose from) and then try to rebound from the last two seasons. For the Bulldogs, it just seems as if the QB play really hurt them this season and that is something Coach Dan Mullins will have to address in the off-season and recruiting wise. But back to the game, Miss. St. ran out (literally) to a 21-0 lead at the half and that meant the ending was never in doubt. RBs Vic Ballard and Ladonn Perkins ran wild on the Rebel defense as each scored 2 TDs apiece (1 receiving & 1 passing), all plays longer than 15 yds. QB Chris Relf passed for 70 yds and both of those TD passes to Ballard and Perkins and that was all of the offense they needed. Ole Miss was held to under 225 yds of offense again, which was about 8 or 9 out of their 12 games.

South Carolina 34 – Clemson 13: The Gamecocks had a plan and it did not include losing to in-state rival Clemson this season. While they fell short of their goal to play for the SEC Championship in Atlanta, it appeared that Steve Spurrier’s club took out its frustrations on the visiting Tigers (9-3). South Carolina (10-2) got 3 TD passes from Connor Shaw (210 passing yds) and he also led them in rushing with 107 yds & 1 TD. WR Bruce Ellington had 3 grabs for 71 yds & 1 TD. For Clemson, the last couple of weeks have been anything but Stellar as they have lost two straight and 3 of their last 4. QB Taj Boyd passed for just 83 yds and he struggled all day long. The South Carolina defense looked as good as they did in any game this season. While both teams are bowl bound, they seem to be heading in different directions heading toward Bowl Season.

Nov 22

SEC Round-Up Week 12

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 10:41 pm | Leave a Comment (8)
Category: SEC

South Carolina 41 – The Citadel 20: For at least a half, The Citadel looked to pull what would have been one of the bigger upsets in college football this season as they only trailed by 7 at the half (20-13). However, the Gamecocks “D” stiffened in the 2nd half and the offense tacked on 3 more touchdowns, thanks in part to great play of Connor Shaw. Shaw completed 88% of his passed in throwing for 217 yds & 3 TDs while RB B. Wilder ran for 109 yds & 2 scores. However, because of Georgia’s victory over Kentucky, it will be the Bulldogs who will represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta in two weeks.

Georgia 19 – Kentucky 10: In a game that had a lot riding on it for both teams (although the stakes for each were vastly different) it was the Bulldogs (9-2) who had just a little more offense than the Cats (4-7). The Cats played hard throughout the game limiting Georgia to 4 field goals through 3 quarters. However, at the beginning of the 4th, QB Aaron Murray threw his only TD pass of the game to put Georgia up by 9 and the “D” made it stand-up. The UK defense frustrated Murray through out the game holding him to 162 pass yds and picking him off once as well. RB Isaiah Crowell went down with an injury early in the game and that may have thrown off the game-plan of the offense. For Kentucky, the offense struggled again but QB Maxwell Smith looked better than he did a week ago against Vandy. However, the running game was not a factor and that meant the young QB had to shoulder more of the load and it just didn’t work out. The Cats will wrap up their season this week when they visit Knoxville to play Tennessee. Georgia will play arch-rival Ga. Tech in what could be an interesting game for the Bulldogs.

Auburn 35 – Samford 16: For a half, Auburn did not look like the team we seen earlier in the year. Samford trailed by only 4 at the half (14-10) and looked to be in position to pull off a shocker. In the 2nd half, the Tiger’s rushing attack got going and helped the Tigers (7-4) avoid a major upset. RB Michael Dyer ran for 157 yds & 1TD on 30 carries. Not to be out done, RB J. Gates for Samford rushed for 119 yds on 28 carries. In fact, Samford appeared to have the better offense through-out the entire game but the Tiger’s defense played much better in the 2nd half. Next up for Auburn will be the “Iron Bowl” against in-state rival Alabama.

Florida 54 – Furman 32: Furman jumped out to a 22-7 lead and the crowd at the “Swamp” was stunned and shocked at what was happening. The Gators would outscore their opponent 47 -10 over the final three quarters to win a game that was much closer than anticipated. QB John Brantley threw for a season high 329 yds & 4 TDs & WR Andre Dubose had 3 catches for 151 yds & 2 TDs. The Gators will have to be much better than this on defense this weekend as they play in-state rival Florida State. This was the best offensive game Will Muschamp’s team had played in its last seven. This win also got the Gators bowl eligible.

Alabama 45 – Georgia Southern 21: At least for a half, Alabama did not look like Alabama, sluggish and unsure of themselves on defense. By the second half, the defense had tightened up and the offense was able to keep up what they had started in the 1st half. Bama QB, A.J. McCarron threw for 190 yds. & 3 TDs and RB Trent Richards ran for 175 yds & 2 TDs on 32 carries. But, the Bama “D” gave up 153 yds on the ground to D. Swope, the RB for Ga. Southern. They must be better than that when they visit Auburn this weekend.

Arkansas 44 – Mississippi St. 17: Arkansas looks to be primed for their showdown with #1 LSU on Friday as they ran thru, around and over the Mississippi St. (5-6) defense. QB Tyler Wilson passed for 365 yds & 3 TDs and Derrick Johnson rushed for 98 yds on 14 carries. Arkansas (10-1) will certainly be the most explosive offense LSU’s defense will face since the Oregon game to open the season. Arkansas’s defense has been much improved and they will need to be good this Friday too. For Mississippi St. their bowl hopes rest on whether or not they can defeat Ole Miss this Saturday in the “Egg Bowl”.

LSU 52 – Ole Miss 3: This game was never in doubt as the Tigers (11-0) ran out to a 35-3 half-time lead and cruised to victory. Jordan Jefferson started at QB and passed for just 88 yds & 1 TD. But he used his legs to avoid the blitzing Rebel defense on numerous occasions. The Tiger’s defense battered the Ole Miss (2-9) until they were just helpless. The Rebels had less than 200 yds of offense again; something that the new coach must address next season. For LSU, only Arkansas & Georgia stand in their way of a shot at the National Title.

Tennessee 27 – Vanderbilt 21 (OT): In possibly the best game in the Sec this past weekend, it was the Vols (5-6) inching one step closer to bowl eligibility with a overtime victory over their in-state rival. The Commodores (5-6) were hoping to pick-up win #6 here sp that they would not have to rely on a victory this weekend, on the road against a formidable Wake Forest team. Of course Tennessee must beat Kentucky this weekend themselves to get bowl eligible; of course UK’s last victory over “Rocky Top” was back in 1984. QB Tyler Bray was back for the Vols and he threw for 189 yds, 2 TDs & 2 INTs. RB Tauren Poole ran for 107 yds & 1 TD as well. For Vandy, QB Jordan Rogers passed for 193 yds, 1 TD & 3 INTs; the last of those INTs proved to be costly though as it was picked off in the flat in OT and taken “to the house” for a game winning, defensive TD.


Nov 16

SEC Round-Up Week 11

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 12:35 pm | Leave a Comment (16)
Category: SEC

Vanderbilt 38 – Kentucky 8: In a battle of teams trying to inch their way to bowl eligibility, it was the Commodores (5-5) who wanted it more than the Cats (4-6). RB Zack Stacy ran for 135 yds and 3 TDs and Jordan Rogers had another efficient outing, passing for 207 yds and 2 TDs. For the Cats, it was more of the same, an anemic offense that couldn’t generate enough plays down the field. QB Maxwell Smith threw for 179 yds and 1 TD but he didn’t seems as crisp as he did against Ole Miss. A lot of that can be contributed to the Vandy defense, which spent an abnormal amount of time in the UK backfield. Vandy turned up the heat early and often with a variety of blitzes that the Cats could not pick-up. The Cats now have to travel to Athens to face a Georgia Bulldog team that can clinch the SEC East with a victory over the Cats on Saturday. For Vandy, they will travel to Knoxville to battle instate rival Tennessee for one of two shots they will have to get bowl eligible. The Commodores will play Wake Forest to end the year.

South Carolina 17 – Florida 12: The Gamecocks “eeked” out a win in Columbia but it still may not be enough to get them the SEC East title and a trip to the SEC Championship Game. The Gamecocks (8-2) now need UK to upset Georgia on Saturday for South Carolina to make the SEC Championship. As for the game against Florida (5-5), it wasn’t spectacular for either team but Connor Shaw found a way to “will” his team to victory even though he continues to put up less than stellar numbers. Shaw passed for just 81 yds but he ran for 2 scores and RB Barry Wilder added 120 yds on the ground as well. For Florida, RB Chris Rainey ran for 132 yds on just 17 carries, but a lot of that was between the 20s as the Gators did not score a TD until the 4th; QB John Brantley continued his own struggles as he passed for only a 119 yds. The Gators should get win# 6 to become bowl eligible this weekend as they host Furman but they finish the season against Florida St., another potential “L” that would leave them just 6-6.

Georgia 45 – Auburn 7: It is safe to say that after starting the season 0-2 and their coach “squarely” on the proverbial “hot-seat”, Georgia (8-2) has turned it around and is one of the hottest teams in the country. The Bulldogs can roll into the SEC Title game with a victory Saturday over UK, as they are fresh off a “wood-shed” game over Auburn (6-4). The Tigers were good for about 1 quarter and then after that, Georgia decided to flex for those who don’t believe in them. QB Aaron Murray threw 4 TD passes (all in the 1st half) and RB Isaiah Crowell ran for 132 yds & 1 TD as the Bulldog offense was nearly flawless. For the visiting Tigers, the offense was stuck in neutral for the majority of the game as the revolving QB door is not impressive at all. Clint Moseley managed just 140 yds thru the air and the Auburn ground game was completely stifled.

Arkansas 49 – Tennessee 7: The Volunteers have been absolutely abysmal since losing QB Tyler Bray and now they are not even looking competitive. The Razorbacks (9-1) used a steady stream of good offense along with an amazing punt return for a TD by WR, Joe Adams to hand UT its 6th loss of the year, putting them on the brink of being knocked out of bowl contention. The Vols would have to beat Vandy and UK to make themselves eligible for bowl selection. Razorback QB, Tyler Wilson passed for 224 and 3 TDs and RB Derrick Johnson ran for 97 yds & 2 TDs; the offensive attack was very balanced. For the Vols, they did manage to show some signs of life offensively as they totaled nearly 300 yds of offense for the 1st time in several games, but they could not get in the end zone more than once. Arkansas will host Miss. St. this week before their big date with LSU the day after Thanksgiving; that game will determine the SEC West Champion.

LSU 42 – Western Ky. 9: The Tigers seemed a little sluggish in the first half against an opponent that was inferior in talent, but not heart. The Hilltoppers (5-5) came out and played with a lot of character and fire and had the game knotted at 7 until late in the 1st half. After half-time, the host Tigers (10-0) woke up and on both sides of the ball and pounded the visitors with a bruising running attack. The Tigers used 4 or 5 different running backs to help them pile up over 200 yds on the ground against the small WKU defense. WKU B. Rainey was held to just 85 yds on the ground but against LSU, that is pretty good. LSU will travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss this weekend as they await the anticipated game with Arkansas on 11/25.

Louisiana Tech 27 – Ole Miss 7: Ole Miss (2-8) struck first on a 34 yd TD run by Brandon Bolden mid-way thru the 1st qtr. They would not score the rest of the game as the visiting Bulldogs got their 6th win of the season. La. Tech was not great offensively but they were balanced (nearly 200 yds passing and over 150 yds rushing) and they played better than the Rebels. Once again, Ole Miss was held under 200 yds for an entire game s the Houston Nutt era in Oxford cannot end soon enough for the Rebel fans. With #1 LSU coming to town this weekend, expect more Tiger fans than Rebel fans in the stadium.

Alabama 24 – Mississippi St. 7: Much like LSU, Alabama looked sluggish in the 1st half against State (7-0) Tide lead at the half. After half-time the Tide (9-1) used its ground game to subdue the Bulldogs and remove any hope of an upset going down in Starkville. RB Trent Richardson ran for 127 yds & 1 TD on 32 carries and RB Ed Lacey also contributed a TD as well. QB A.J. McCarron threw for only 163 yds but he was not required to pass for big yardage as the running game was all Nick Saban’s team needed in this match-up. For the Bulldog’s (5-5) offense, the sledding was much tougher as RB Vick Ballard was held to under 25 rush yds and QB Tyler Russell passed for just 110 and 1 TD. Mississippi St. still needs one win in their last two to be bowl eligible; meanwhile the Tide will tune-up with Ga. Southern this week before preparing for the Iron Bowl against Auburn to end the regular season.

Nov 11

Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt Preview

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 12:11 pm | Leave a Comment (7)
Category: Football

This Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats will visit Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores in a game that will be significant for both teams. Both the Cats and the ‘Dores sit at 4-5 currently and a win for either puts them one win away from bowl eligibility. However for the loser, that will mean they would have to win their final two games to be bowl bound, and that would be a tall order for either team. Up to this point both teams have had good and bad games this season although for very different reasons.

In UK’s case the issue has been an inconsistent and a stagnant offense that has few and far between break-out moments (Jacksonville St. & Ole Miss). For Vandy, the issue has been similar but primary problem was at QB where Sr. Larry Smith started the season but after 5 games, he has given way to the emerging Jordan Rodgers, brother of NFL quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. While Jordan may not quite be on the level of Aaron, he has given the Commodores some moxie and swagger that they can feed off of.

For the Cats, a change at QB last week also seemed to give the team a boost; Morgan Newton appears to be out of the starting role for the remainder of this season as freshman QB Maxwell Smith has given the offense new life. But Smith is not the only reason the Cat’s offense has looked better recently; RB Cozik Williams has posted two 100+ yard efforts in three starts and he looks like the spark the Cats needed in the run department. But when you examine this match-up, the key will be defense and which one can impose their will the best. The Cats are better against the run than the pass where as the Commodores are the opposite as their secondary is full of “ball-hawks” when the ball is in the air. Vandy would love to establish RB Zack Stacy early on just to take some pressure off of Rodgers. If he can’t get going (i.e. against Florida last week) then that means Rodgers would have to do more with not only his arm, but his feet as well.

The Cats would love to start the game off with balance, get Williams some early carries but also get Smith some early, easy completions. With so much riding on this game, it easy to see this one being a close game with the outcome being decided in the final stanza. The ‘Dores are an early 12 – 13 point favorite……I say it will be closer than that though. I think the Cats cover the spread but Vandy gets the win in a 28-26 cliff-hanger.

Nov 8

SEC Round-up Week 10

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 3:42 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: SEC

Kentucky 30 – Ole Miss 13: Maxwell Smith made his first start at QB a memorable one and UK used a 20 point 4th quarter to secure its 4th victory of the season, keeping alive its slim bowl hopes. Kentucky (4-5) used Smith’s passing attack (283 passing yds & 2 TDs) along with the hard running of Cozhik Williams (25 carries for 111 yds & 2 TDs) to subdue a game but overmatched Rebels (2-7) squad. With that loss, Ole Miss is mathematically eliminated from bowl consideration and with that, coach Houston Nutt along with Ole Miss A.D. both announced they would step down, effective the end of the season. QB Randal Mackey had a decent game for the Rebels (197 passing yds, 1 TD & 1 INT) but in the 2nd half, the offense seemed to stall. The Cats also got a big game from WR Matt Roark, 7 grabs for 116 yds; the surprising offensive output combined with a strong defensive effort, particularly in the 2nd half has UK feeling good as they prepare to travel to Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores this weekend.

Florida 26 – Vanderbilt 20: Florida owned the first half as they took a 17-0 lead into the locker room. The 2nd half belonged to the Commodores (4-5) but there bid for a win in “the Swamp” fell short. The Gators (5-4) snapped a four game losing streak but they are far from being were their fans are used to seeing them. Jeff Demps ran for 158 yds & 2 TDs and QB John Brantley passed for 173 yds. But the Gators do not have the same bite that we expect from their offense. While the defense looked good in the first half, they were very sub-par in the 2nd as Commodores riddled the secondary with pin-point passing from Jordan Rodgers (297 passing yds & 2 TD). The Gators were stiff against the run as they held RB Zack Stacy to 49 yds on the ground but the pass defense will have to improve as they prepare to travel to Columbia, SC to take on former head coach, Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks.

Georgia 63 – Mew Mexico St. 16: Mark Richt’s ball club had an easy time of it on Saturday as they ran out early and fast on the visiting Aggies to the tune of a 49-7 halftime lead. Georgia (7-2) QB, Aaron Murray passed for 238 yds & 5 TDS, all in the first half as the Bulldogs prepare to host Auburn this weekend. Because of the loss by South Carolina on Saturday, the Bulldogs control their own destiny as they look to claim the SEC East Title.

Tennessee 24 – Middle Tenn. St. 0: For the 1st time since QB Tyler Bray was injured, the Volunteers (4-5) won a game, although it was not pretty. Third-string QB, J. Worley passed for 291 yds & 1 TD but the Vols used a stingy defense to prevent this game from even being in doubt. All of the scoring came in the 1st half and that was all that the Vols needed. The Blue Raiders were held to less than 250 offensive yds as they just were not able to put together any offensive consistency. Tennessee will visit Arkansas Saturday and a loss in Fayetteville puts them in real danger of not making it to a bowl this season.

Arkansas 44 – South Carolina 28: In a game that was back and forth for a while, the Razorbacks eventually showed they had too many weapons on offense for even the stingy Gamecock “D” to contain. Arkansas (8-1) QB, Tyler Wilson threw for 299 yds & 2 TDs while WR Jarius Wright had 4 catches for 103 and both of those passing touchdowns. RB Derrick Johnson also gave the Razorbacks good balance on the ground as he ran for 86 yds on 15 carries. For South Carolina (7-2), QB Connor Shaw was less than effective (128 passing yds & 1 INT) as he looked very badly for a second consecutive outing. Without the threat of RB Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecock offense has fallen off and defenses can now afford to double WR Alshon Jeffery on the outside.

Mississippi St. 55 – Tennessee-Martin 17: The Bulldogs seemed to have found some momentum after beating Kentucky 2 weekends ago. State (5-4) rolled up over 300 yds of offense, RB Vick Ballard 102 & 2 TDs on the ground and QB Tyler Russell passed for 183 yds with 1 TD. While State’s defense only gave up 17 points, they surrendered over 300 yds of offense to Tenn-Martin. They will have to do better than that on defense this Saturday as they host an angry Alabama squad. State is just one win away from being bowl eligible but I don’t believe they will get that win this weekend.

LSU 9 – Alabama 6 OT: In a game that was much anticipated in the SEC and throughout the nation, #1 and #2 in the BCS did battle in Tuscaloosa, AL. Throughout the entire game, the defenses prevailed for both coaches but in the end, special teams told the story; LSU’s kicker was 3 of 3 and Alabama’s kicker was 2 of 6 including a miss in overtime. LSU (9-0) QB Jarrett Lee never found a rhythm in this big game and eventually was pulled after throwing picks on consecutive pass attempts. So for LSU, the theme was try not beat yourself on offense and let the defense when the game. For the Crimson Tide (8-1), the thought was much the same but they had the better offense coming into the game. RB Trent Richardson managed 89 tough yards on 23 carries but was held out of the end zone. QB A.J. McCarron threw for 199 yds but everything seemed to be between the 20’s as he could not get them into the end-zone when they got near the red-zone. The Tide out gained the Tigers but when you miss 4 FGs in a game like this, you will not be the victor. With only Western KY and Ole Miss remaining before Thanksgiving, it is all but guaranteed that LSU’s last hurdle to the SEC Title game will be that 11/25 match-up with Arkansas. The Razorbacks always seem to play LSU tough and with all of the wide-outs they have and the skill level they possess, the Tigers will have to be on guard for a possible upset the day after Thanksgiving.

Nov 4

UK vs. Ole Miss Preview

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 9:35 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

This Saturday evening, it will be the Kentucky Wildcats playing host to the Ole Miss Rebels in a game that has little if any bearing on the SEC race in either division. This game also has little if any bowl ramifications as neither team is expected to make a late run to get there; in fact the Rebels (2-6) would have to win out the rest of the way as one more loss mathematically eliminates them from a bowl. For the Cats (3-5), all they can afford is one more loss and with Georgia, Vandy and Tennessee still left to play, beating Ole Miss is critical to keeping their slim bowl hopes alive. For both teams the season has been disappointing, especially for Houston Nutt and the Rebels. While Ole Miss knew the challenges within the conference would be tough to overcome, they had hoped to at least do well in their non-conference slate. But an opening week, 4th qtr. breakdown led to a loss in Oxford against BYU and that would prove to be a crucial loss.

They did manage to go on the road and beat Fresno St. in what may have been their best offensive performance all year but that performance would not sustain itself the next few games. For the Cats the season started off shaky but at least on a winning note, 2-0. But since then, things have been down hill, starting with the offense but now the defense is beginning to show signs of coming apart. Last week against Mississippi St., the Cats were unable to stop the run and that bolds well for an Ole Miss team who relies on their ground attack because they lack any “punch” in the air. Like Kentucky, Ole Miss’s defense seems to be starting to show signs of a decline and for both teams, it starts with struggling offenses. Ole Miss changed QBs the week of the Fresno St. game and the offense has been much improved since.

Kentucky will make a change at QB this week as well as Maxwell Smith has been inserted as the starter for Saturday. Smith looked rather comfortable last week in place of the injured Morgan Newton and he at least gave UK hope in a losing effort against Mississippi State. The “line” in Vegas pretty much has this game “even” with maybe UK a 1 point favorite. There is a lot of speculation that Houston Nutt will be fired at the end of the season and that has not helped ease things in Oxford.

Joker Phillips seems to have the support of Mitch Barnhart, at least for one more season. I say the Cats have a little more stability and with a new starting QB, maybe a little more spark. Give me the Cats to get to win #4 on the season in hard fought contest, UK 24 – Ole Miss 20.