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Nov 1

SEC Round Up Week 9

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 10:34 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: SEC

Mississippi St. 28 – Kentucky 16 – Well the UK offense was not great (better than it has been in other SEC contests) but this time it was the defense that just could not make enough plays as the Cats are still winless in conference. The Cats (3-5) scored first but the Bulldogs (4-4) responded with a pair of touchdowns to take control of the 1st qtr. and the game. From that point, the game was fairly even with State outscoring the Cats 14-13 in the final 3 quarters. UK QB Morgan Newton went down early with leg / arm injuries but Maxwell Smith performed admirably in a back-up role. He passed for 174 yds with almost a 79% completion. Although a majority of those passes were within 10 yds or less of the line of scrimmage, he showed good poise and pocket presence. RB Cozik Williams ran for 64 yds on 15 carries, a far cry from what he got against Jacksonville St. the week before. For State, they used the “2 QB System” as Tyler Russell passed for 172 yds and 1 TD and Chris Relf ran for 2 scores as the Bulldogs pounded the Cats “D” with a bruising running game. The Cats will host Ole Miss this Saturday as both clubs are still looking for that first conference victory.

Arkansas 31 – Vanderbilt 28 – For consecutive weeks, the Razorbacks (7-1) have fallen behind only to rally for victory in the 4th; the Commodores (4-4) have to learn how to finish games if they want to take that next step. At one point, Vandy led 28-17 late in the 3rd but the Razorbacks turned up the defense and it was horrendous fumble in the red zone by Commodore RB, Zack Stacy that gave the Razorbacks a 94 yd defensive TD and new life. That potential TD for Vandy would have undoubtedly locked up the victory for them but instead it led to the loss. QB Jordan Rogers continues to show improvement for Vandy as he threw for 240 yds, 1 TD and also ran for a pair of TDs. Despite the costly fumble, Stacy had a great game rushing for 128 yds& 1 TD (a 62 yd scamper). Razorback QB Tyler Wilson shook off a sluggish beginning to throw for 316 yds & 1TD and WR Jarius Wright had 10 grabs for 135 yds & 1 TD. Arkansas will host South Carolina this weekend while the Commodores will visit the “Swamp” to play Florida.

Georgia 24 – Florida 20 – For almost 2 quarters, the Gators looked to be on the way to snapping their 3 game skid; but then the Bulldogs woke up and the Gators could not withstand the Georgia rally. Florida QB John Brantley made his return after injury (245 passing & 1 TD but only 35% completion) but it was not enough as the Florida fell to 4-4 overall. Georgia (6-2) QB Aaron Murray passed for 169 yds with 2 TDs but he continues to have his struggles against the Gators. RB Isiah Crowell ran for 81 yds and that provided enough balance for Mark Richt’s ball club.

Auburn 41 – Ole Miss 23 – The visiting Rebels played hard and tough for the 1st half (17-17 tie at half-time). The 2nd half belonged to the home team as the Tigers could not be stopped on offense. Auburn (6-3) RB Michael Dyer piled up 177 yds on the ground on 27 carries and he also scored 1 TD. Rebel (2-6) RB Brandon Bolden was almost equally as impressive with 114 yds and 2 TDs. The difference was at QB where Clint Moseley (making 2nd career start) propelled Auburn with 4 TD passes in route to throwing for 160 yds. Auburn’s “D” was very good in the 2nd half as Ole Miss couldn’t continue the momentum they had built up in the first 2 quarters. The team is playing hard for embattled coach Houston Nutt but the “rumor mill” is swirling and the players know Nutt’s time in Oxford is coming to an end.

South Carolina 14 – Tennessee 3 – In a game that was devoid of a lot of offense it was the Gamecocks out muscling the Volunteers in Knoxville. Playing its first full game without All-Conference RB, Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks (7-1) seemed even more conservative but back-up RB B. Wilds did run for 137 yds on 28 carries. QB Connor Shaw had a very pedestrian game throwing for just 87 yds & 1 TD. For the Volunteers (3-5), no Tyler Bray and the offense continues to struggle badly. The Vols were held to less than 250 yds of offense and Derek Dooley has to be scratching his head. His ball club is pretty much on the brink of being eliminated from “bowl” contention and one has to wonder if it would be worth bringing Bray back this season.

Oct 31

Ralph’s Pre-Season Top 25

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 12:34 pm | Leave a Comment (1)
Category: Basketball

1. North Carolina Tar Heels– Harrison Barnes leads maybe Roy Williams’ deepest roster since he has been in Chapel Hill. Will the “Expectations” be too much to handle for this team??
2. Kentucky Wildcats – John Calipari’s back with even a bigger, more talented squad from last year. All eyes will be on Sophomore Terrence Jones as he looks to be the “main” cog on this unit that is built like a Ferrari.
3. Connecticut Huskies – The defending National Champs are reloaded and ready for action……odd too see Huskies being led by a Lamb (Jeremy).
4. Syracuse Orangemen – Jim Boeheim appears to have his deepest and best team since Carmelo Anthony led them to a National Championship. Only Rick Jackson was lost from a team that can now play “man-to-man” as well as the “2-3 Zone”.
5. Duke Blue Devils – Coach K has a squad that is strong in the middle with the Plumlee Brothers (Miles, Mason & Marshall) but it is the much anticipated play of guard, Austin Rivers that has the “Cameron Crazies” so excited.
6. Ohio St. Buckeyes – Jared Sullinger is back in Columbus for at least one more season and he has some unfinished business………he wants to give coach Thad Motta a Championship, and not just a Big Ten Championship.
7. Florida Gators – The Gators have arguable the best and deepest back-court in the nation but it will be the post play that determines just how far Billy “the Kid” Donovan’s squad will go.
8. Memphis Tigers – Athleticism and talent are abound in Memphis but will the youth they have be best served in a conference where they will not be challenged?
9. Vanderbilt Commodores – Coach Kevin Stallings has his deepest squad in 13 seasons at Vandy and they are primed to shake off the “one & done” syndrome in the NCAA Tournament. John Jenkins is one of the most underrated players in the country.
10. Baylor Bears – Perry Jones came around at the end of last season; the “super Sophomore” will be expected to be a star this season if Baylor is to reach its goals.
11. Louisville Cardinals – Rick Pitino has a good mix of talent led by PG Peyton Siva; the hope here is that talented Freshman, Wayne Blackshear is eligible and or healthy to play because he is an exceptional player.
12. Pittsburgh Panthers – If nothing else, you can count on a Jamie Dixon ball-club being physical and defensive minded. With Ashton Gibbs back for another season, you know he will score points but will he get help from anyone else.
13. Wisconsin Badgers – Led by undervalued PG, Jordan Taylor the Badgers can play with anyone in the nation. The Badgers must find some perimeter scoring though.
14. Xavier Musketeers – Guard Tu Holloway is as good as any guard in the country. The problem was he had a tendency to disappear in some games down the stretch last season. Hopefully he can stay off of the “milk cartons” this season.
15. Michigan Wolverines – This is definitely John Beilein’s deepest and best team since he took over in Ann Harbor. For the Wolverines, it will be about hitting the boards as they finished -11, on average last year in games. Guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of the premier scorers in the Big Ten conference.
16. Arizona Wildcats – Gone is all Mr. Everything, Derrick Williams but don’t think that Sean Miller still doesn’t have a viable team. The Cats will battle with the Bruins for supremacy of the Pac-12.
17. Alabama Crimson Tide – Jamychael Green is one of the more overlooked players in the SEC but he plans on having everyone take notice this year. Add to that a tough non-conference slate and the Tide will be battle tested for conference play.
18. Kansas Jayhawks – While this is not a typical Bill Self team, they should still be able to hold their own against good teams. PG Tyshawn Taylor will be the catalyst for this squad but an off-the-court incident already has him sitting for two games.
19. UCLA Bruins – The Bruins have maybe the best front-court in the Pac-12 and they will be very physical in the paint. Also add the Ware Twins (transfers from UNC) and now you got more size and depth. If they can find steady play in the back-court Ben Howland may have Westwood rocking once again.
20. Texas A&M Aggies – Forward Khris Middleton is a solid player who may be the best kept secret in the Big 12. He will have to should the load for 1st year coach, Billy Kennedy (former Murray St. coach).
21. Cincinnati Bearcats – Coach Mick Cronin’s team is always one of the most physical teams in the nation and this year will be no exception. Led by Yancy Gates, the Bearcats have a chance to improve on last years 26-9 record.
22. Florida St. Seminoles – The Noles are a great defensive team that has trouble scoring at times. But in the ACC, behind UNC and Duke, they are the next best team in a weak conference.
23. Marquette Golden Eagles – Buzz Williams is one of the most energetic coaches in the nation and he always produces tough teams. Guard Darius Johnson-Odom is an overlooked talent who plays both ends of the court. If Oregon transfer, Jamil Wilson works out, Marquette will be a contender in the Big East.
24. California Golden Bears – Jorge Gutierrez has developed into one of the best players in the Pac-10 and Mike Montgomery hopes that Gutierrez can help lead his team back to the “Big Dance”.
25. Temple Owls – Fran Dunphy’s team has a solid core of players returning (26 wins last season) led by guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore. If they can get production from the front-court then the Owls are always dangerous to play in NCAA post season.

Oct 28

Cats vs. Dogs Preview

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 8:30 am | Leave a Comment (13)
Category: Football

On Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats (3-4) will host the Mississippi St. Bulldogs (3-4) in a game that has potential bowl implications on the line. Neither of these team is where they thought they would be when the season first began. While the Cats may have only been hoping to be at 4-3 based on their schedule, they certainly would have been a lot more competitive as a team. Aside from the disappointing loss to U of L, the other 3 losses have been “no contests” and even their wins (aside from Jacksonville St.) have been ugly and unfulfilling.

For the Bulldogs, they had high expectations entering the season but have completely failed to reach any of them. Their 4 losses are all conference losses, one of their wins was a come from behind victory over a 0-4 UAB team at the time. They have benched starting QB Chris Relf and the offense has been headed downhill faster that a skier on a snowy slope. While both of these teams have been relatively health (the Cats have had injuries at RB) neither has been able to accomplish much on offense lately, although the Bulldogs where pretty good the first two games of the year.

For both of these teams, Saturday’s game is a “must win” simply because there are not many more wins left on either’s schedule….at least not what would be considered a guaranteed win. In fact, it is safe to assume that outside of this game (Bulldogs favorite by +10), that neither will be favorite over anyone remaining on the schedule, outside of Ole Miss, which both teams will play later. Both teams have leaned heavily on their defenses and will continue to do for the rest of the year. Special Teams could be a point of emphasis by both coaches (Joker Phillips & Dan Mullens) because that may be where this game is won or lost.

Of course, the turnover battle will be important as well but isn’t it always; the fact is UK turns it over and doesn’t generate many turnovers to recoup. Mississippi St. creates just as many if not more than they give away, but usually can do nothing to take advantage of these miscues. The loser here will still be winless in conference and more importantly will drop to 3-5 with 4 games to go. The winner can at least say they are only 2 wins away from bowl eligibility and will have a little “head of steam” heading down the stretch.

The UK fans are calling for a “blackout” on Saturday and apparently the team will don their black jerseys for this one. It is the weekend before Halloween so I say “give me the Cats and the points in a mild upset over the Bulldogs”, 17-15.

Oct 26

Heisman Hopefuls Update

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 12:56 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

Well we are a little over half-way through the College Football season and there have been some great  games, great players and great plays that have defined the season up to this point. As little as two weeks ago, we had roughly 13 undefeated teams still left and then within the blink of an eye, we were down to 10. Now after last week, we are down to just 8 and that list will shrink by at least 2 or 3 more of the next couple of weeks. There is also no shortage of individual star power throughout the nation either. You have QBs like Andrew Luck (Stanford), Kellen Moore (Boise St.), Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) & Denard Robinson (Michigan) among others. Then you have RBs like Trent Richardson (Alabama), LaMichael James (Oregon) and Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina). Then the WRs group may be as strong, if not stronger than last year’s group was with the likes of Alshon Jefferey (South Carolina), Robert Woods (USC), Malcolm Floyd (Notre Dame), Justin Blackmon (Okla. St.) and Russell Shephard (LSU). With this group of talent, some of these guys will be great players at the next level and making an impact for whatever team they play for. With that being said, let me give you “My Top 5 Heisman Candidates” as we head into week 9 of the season.

  1. Andrew Luck (QB) – Maybe two weeks ago, he was not #1 but whether he is #1 or #5, he is one of the best QBs, if not the best in the nation. Even though he lost his coach for the past two seasons (Jim Harbaugh) to the NFL, Luck has continued to do exactly what he did last season, carve up opposing defenses with his arm mainly, and occasionally his feet. He has his team once again in the National Title hunt and after his Cardinal crushed Washington last week, they have their sights set firmly on USC this weekend. Luck is projected as the “next great” pro QB and he seems ready to fit that bill. Of course only time will tell but for a guy whose TD to INT ratio is somewhere around 4 or 5 to 1, I wouldn’t bet against this guy because he has been doing for three seasons now.
  2. Kellen Moore (QB) – To Boise St.’s opponents it probably seems as if Moore has been playing for close to 10 years in college but the reality is you are looking at a guy that has been knifing up opposing defenses for 4 seasons now. Like Luck, Moore has a lot of attributes that go into the making of a “star” QB on the next level. Unlike, Luck, Moore (5’11) lacks the actual physical status often associated with the prototypical NFL QB. But if nothing else, Moore reminds some of a “new age” Doug Flutie that just knows how to play the position and get his team in the position to win games. Some will say Moore’s Broncos didn’t play the greatest of competition week in and week out but when he has played the “big boys”, he has acquitted himself very well….just ask the Georgia Bulldogs (2011) and Virginia Tech Hokies (2010).
  3. Trent Richardson (RB) – Richardson split a lot of time / carries in the backfield with Mark Ingram for the Tide last season and they were a force to be reckoned with. But you always wondered how good would Richardson be once Ingram left…I think he silenced any doubters, if he had any. Richardson has the size to run between the tackles and the speed to get to the corner. He is bigger and faster than his former backfield mate and like Ingram, would like to hoist the Heisman Trophy above his head on the way to a possible National Title. Richardson reminds some of former Penn St. RB, Curtis Enis (hopefully his NFL career will not mirror Enis’s) but then others say he looks more like a faster version of former Michigan RB, Anthony Thomas. Regardless of who Richardson reminds you of, one thing is clear, he is a versatile back that can make opposing defenses game plan just for him.
  4. Russell Wilson (QB) – Some thought Wilson’s collegiate football career would end largely unfulfilled (played / started at N.C. State for a couple of seasons) as new head coach, Tom O’Brien just did not seem comfortable with Wilson at the helm of the team he took over. So as early as March of this year, the versatile Wilson appeared to be ready to embark on the pro baseball career that he had been holding off on. Fast forward 7 months and up to just last week, Wilson and his new team, the Wisconsin Badgers looked like the best team in the Big Ten and were a threat to run the gauntlet and possibly finish undefeated. Now with a loss to Michigan St. last week, the Badgers must re-focus as a team. But for Wilson, he is still a contender for the Heisman; obviously he needs to bounce back with a stellar game this week but Wilson has been the best “game changer” in the nation thus far and his play has definitely been the reason the Badgers have been successful this season.
  5. Tyrann Mathieu (DB / PR) – Not since the days of Charles Woodson (former Michigan DB / PR – Heisman Winner) has a defensive back been able to impact games the way Mathieu does. He is only a sophomore and he already is LSU’s career leader in turnovers (forced / recovered) and he also returns punts. The one thing to note is even in the year Woodson won the Heisman, he also played WR a bit and that helped him in his campaign for the Heisman. So while the chances of Mathieu lining up on the offensive side of the ball are not likely, his ability to make plays and score TDs for the defense and special teams make him a legitimate candidate at this point in the season. He has scored TDs this season against Oregon, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Oct 25

SEC Round-up Week 8

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 8:59 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: SEC

Kentucky 38 – Jacksonville St. 14: The Kentucky Wildcats (3-4) started slowly on offense again, but their defense jump-started the whole team as they literally ran away from the 8th ranked team in the FCS polls. The defense forced J’Ville State (5-2) QB Coty Blanchard to fumble and DB Martaveous Neloms scooped it up and took it to the house late in the 1st qtr. and that seemed to energize the rest of the squad, including the anemic offense. The Cats would rush for a season high of 250 + yds, led by 3rd string RB, Cozik Williams who ran for 148 on 22 carries. If not spectacular, QB Morgan Newton had probably his best all-around game as a Cat, throwing for 105 yds & 2 TDs as well as running for 1 himself. While the Cats offense still had some miscues they appeared to be just a step quicker Saturday and they looked a little more ready to play. The defense was back to the “D” that we saw the first two games of the year, although RB Wasaun Ealey did run for 120 yds on 16 carries; but the Cats managed to keep him out of the end zone. Joker Phillips had to be pleased but he also knows this game was just the beginning. The Cats will host Mississippi St. (3-4) this weekend and surely the loser of that game can all but forget about going to a bowl so there will be a lot on the line for both teams.

Arkansas 29 – Ole Miss 24: Well for a half it appeared that the Razorbacks were still on their bye week and it seemed as though Ole Miss would get the upset Houston Nutt may need to keep his job. Then the 2nd half came everything fell back into its rightful place as the Hogs (6-1) overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit by outscoring the Rebels 22-7 after intermission. The Rebels (2-5) had it clicking on both sides of the ball in the first 2 quarters as they dominated the #9 Team in the country. The Rebels used 3 different running backs, all with their own style to keep the Razorback defense off-balance; once they began to focus on the run, QB R. Mackey (219 passing yds 2 TDs) began to pick them apart in the air. In the 2nd, it was reversal of fortunes as Arkansas QB, Tyler Wilson (232 passing yds) began to heat up and the defense tightened up. D. Johnson had a 52 yd TD run and piled up a total of 160 on the ground and Arkansas held off a late Rebel drive.

LSU 45 – Auburn 10: Well, LSU entered this game short-handed as three players (all starters, 2 DBs) were suspended for drug-testing issues. Meanwhile, Auburn entered the game starting a new QB, Clint Moseley (1st career start) after benching the struggling Barrett Trotter. Well neither of these proved to make a bit difference as LSU (8-0) steam-rolled Auburn (5-3) in handing them their worst loss in close to 15 years. LSU is using the two QB “thing” a lot better this time around (Jarrett Lee – 165 passing yds and 2 TDs) & Jefferson passed for 1 TD as well) and together, Auburn could do nothing with them. LSU RB, Michael Ford ran for 82 yds on 12 carries (replaced the suspended Spencer Ware) and WR Rueben Randle had 5 grabs for 106 yds 2 TDs. LSU will have this weekend off before they have that huge showdown with #2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on 11/5. Auburn will play host to Ole Miss this weekend.

Vanderbilt 44 – Army 21: Vandy named QB Jordan Rodgers (little brother of Aaron Rodgers) the starter early last week and it paid dividends. He passed for 186 yds, 1 TD & 2 INTs but the team seemed to be more energetic with him under center. The Commodores (4-3) led Army 23 -6 at the half largely behind the gritty play of Rodgers and the feet of RB Zac Stacy (21 carries, 198 yds and 3 TDs). The Cadets largely rely on the triple-option attack and they just could not get a lot going against Vandy’s “D”. Army has struggled at times this year with their ground game and when that happens, they are going to be on the losing end just because they ate one of the worst passing teams in the nation. The Commodores would like to build off of this victory as they host Arkansas this Saturday in a game that could move them one-step closer to bowl eligibility.

Alabama 37 – Tennessee 6: For a half, UT played Alabama (8-0) to an even affair (6-6 at half-time). In the 2nd half, the Tide woke up and the defense clamped down on the Vol offense while their offense broke loose on the Vol defense. Even though Tennessee (3-4) was able to hold RB Trent Richardson to under 100 yds, he still managed 77 on the ground and 2 TDs; meanwhile QB A.J. McCarron passed for 284 yds. & 1 TD, most of it in the 2nd half. UT QB, Matt Sims had a second consecutive week of being held below 100 passing yds (just 58 this game) and as a team, the Vols failed to reach 200 offensive yds for a second consecutive week. All eyes and minds are set for 11/5 when the Tide and the LSU Tigers collide in what may be the game of the season. Like LSU, Alabama will be off this weekend so both teams will be rested and prepared. For Tennessee, they will host South Carolina this weekend, a game they have a good chance at winning.

Oct 21

Kentucky vs. Jax St. Preview

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 2:04 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

This weekend, the University of Kentucky (2-4) football team will begin the 2nd half of its 2011 schedule when they host Jacksonville St. (5-2) out of FCS Division. For the Cats the season started off 2-0 although there were early concerns about the anemic offense. Those concerns would only be heightened over the next four games, all losses and all but one by 4 touchdowns or more. In all 4 losses the Cats were held under 250 yds of total offense and not since the U of L game have they put up more than 1 TD in a game. So with two weeks to basically get ready for Jacksonville St., it will be interesting to see what, if any changes Joker Phillips and his staff have made.

They have to get the offense going because State will not be easy to defeat, regardless of the division they play in because they are an athletic team that will not be intimidated. They also have former Georgia RB, Wasuan Ealey on the team…….that would be the same Ealey who ran for over 130 yds and 2 TDs last year against the Cats when he as playing for the Bulldogs. So while the “O” line at J’Ville St. may not be the Georgia offensive line, Ealey has proven skills and UK will have to slow him down early.

The defense may have to carry the load (i.e. WKU & Central Michigan) if the Cats are going to win, but if that is the case and the offense has not improved “one single iota”, then this will be the last game they will win all season. I would like to think I know better than that and I expect better than that from Joker and his staff. So I will say UK gets the “W”, but it may not be real pretty… give me the Cats 28 – J’Ville St. 20.

Oct 17

SEC Round-Up Week 7

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 10:22 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: SEC

South Carolina 14 – Mississippi St. 12: In a game that seem to lack the luster it did before the season started, it was a hard fought contest that went right down to the wire. The Gamecocks (6-1) won the war but may have lost the battle; RB Marcus Lattimore was lost for the remainder of the season with a knee / leg injury. In a contest where the defenses ruled and neither offense looked particular sharp, South Carolina made one more big play than Mississippi St. (3-4) did. The Bulldogs are now 0-4 in conference play and but can all but just about bury their bowl chances needing to win 3 of their final 5 to be eligible. For the Gamecocks, the win keeps them ahead of Georgia in the SEC East but now you have to wonder what they will do for a ground attack with Lattimore done for the season. He was held to just 39 rushing yds and 1 TD before going out so State did a great job of containing him. Both QBs, Connor Shaw for South Carolina and Tyler Russell for Miss. St. threw for 1 TD & 2 picks but Shaw had the last laugh when hit Alshon Jeffery with a 4yd TD pass with 3:50 to go in the 4th. Both teams will be off this coming weekend.

LSU 38 – Tennessee 7: The good news for Vol fans was that RB Tauren Poole was able to play after all (19 carries, 70 yds & 1 TD); the bad news was it was against LSU (7-0). The Tigers led 17-7 at the half and then defense pitched a shut-out after intermission as Matt Simms only completed 30% of his pass attempts. Tennessee (3-3) knew this would be a tough task on the road in Baton Rogue but without QB Tyler Bray, the task got just that much tougher. The Vols were limited to less than 250 yds of offense an LSU continued to strengthen their hold on the #1 spot in the Polls. Tiger’s QB Jarrett Lee passed for 115 yds and 2 TDs while the defense hounded his counterpart all game long. LSU will host Auburn this Saturday while UT will travel to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama.

Alabama 52 – Ole Miss 7: For the 1st quarter, Ole Miss (2-4) was just as good as Alabama (7-0); for the rest of the game, the Tide was on a different plateau than the Rebels. Bama would finish the game on a 52 – 0 run after spotting Ole Miss a TD on their opening drive. Alabama RB Trent Richardson ran for 183 yds and 4 TDs and QB A.J. McCarron passed for 224 yds and 1 TD. Ole Miss was held to less than 200 yds, most of which came on the opening series of the game. For Houston Nutt, it continues to be a problem to find any source of offense as his time in Oxford appears to be about over. The Rebels will host Arkansas Saturday and I would not expect the home fans to hold back in voicing their displeasure with how this season is going.

Auburn 17 – Florida 6: The Auburn Tigers (5-2) have been able to consistently prove the skeptics wrong this season as they took care of the Gators on Saturday. In a game that featured shaky QB play from both sides and good defensive play from both, it was poor special teams play from Florida (4-3) that proved to be the difference. The Gators muffed or bobbled 4 different punts and a pair of them led directly to Auburn scores. Without John Brantley under center, the Gators have not scored more than 1 TD in a game. They tried three different guys under center Saturday and none of them were very effective. They also had to play the game without RB Jeff Demps who was out with an injury. Add to that, RB Chris Rainey was held to just 33 yds on 16 carries and the Gators tallied less than 225 yds of offense for the 3rd consecutive week. Auburn was not much better on offense as QB Barrett Trotter continues to struggle in the passing game. He would give way to Clint Moseley who managed to pass for only 90 yds himself. Bottom line is the Tigers just made less miscues than the Gators.

Georgia 33 – Vanderbilt 28: In what proved to be the most entertaining game of the day in the SEC, the Bulldogs (5-2) held off the Commodores (3-3) in wild game. Georgia led 20-7 at the half and appeared to be on their way to an easy win. But in the second half, Vandy’s special teams (a KO return for a TD) helped ignite a Commodore rally that would eventually fall short. After Vandy had been embarrassed in its last two outings, they actually showed a lot of moxie after falling down 13 in the 1st half. RB Zack Stacy ran for 97 yds and 1 TD but the Commodores struggles can be found at the QB position where neither of the two they used were very effective. For Georgia, QB Aaron Murray passed for 326 yds & 3 TDs, because Vandy shut-down the Bulldog’s ground game. Georgia will be off this week while Vandy will host Army as they try to get that elusive 4th win of the season.

Oct 15

The Off-Week Blues

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 2:06 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

With the weekend upon us and the Kentucky Wildcats on a bye week, you have to find other games of interest. That will not be hard to due as some of this weekend’s match-ups will play a pivotal role in the BCS poll as well as conference races. There are still several undefeated teams that will get a stiff test Saturday and those should make for some thrilling contests. With that being said, let me tell you the games worth keeping an eye on.

#11 Michigan (6-0) vs. #23 Michigan St. (4-1) – In recent years this game has had little or no impact in the National scheme of college football because one or the other has been on the downslide; well this year is different. Michigan comes in, winners of the first 6 games of the Brady Hoke era, and they have done it in a variety of ways. On offense, they boast one of the most dangerous players in all of college football in Denard “Shoelace” Robinson and a defense that is seemingly improving each week. In fact, the Wolverines are near the top in defensive statistics in the 2nd half of games; in fact only 3 of their 6 opponents even dented the scoreboard after halftime. For the Spartans they have had week off to prepare for this game. Last year, they forced Robinson into 3 INTs and knocked him out of the game late in the 2nd half as the Spartans routed the Wolverines. Spartan’s QB Kirk Cousins must be sharper than he was in their 10-7 victory over Ohio St. 2 weeks ago when he threw 3 picks and missed a ton of open receivers.
#6 Oklahoma St. (5-0) vs. #22 Texas (4-1) – The Cowboys are fresh off of a 70-28 wood-shed game against Kansas and their offense does not appear to be slowing down; they led 56-7 at the half last week! QB Brandon Weeden is thedirector of this potent offense and unless you can put pressure on him, he will pick your defense apart all game long. The Longhorns will have to try and pull it together after they were destroyed by Oklahoma last week. Mack Brown knew his team would be young but a 4-0 start had Longhorn fans on “cloud 9”; but they fell hard to earth last week. The offense was exposed as not being very good, as was the defense. Texas needs to stand tall this week or risk possibly falling apart for the rest of the season.
# 15 South Carolina (5-1) vs. Mississippi St. (3-3) – At the start of the season this was one of the “prized” games circled on the calendar for both of these teams. Well the luster on this match-up has faded just a bit, mainly due to the troubles in Starkville, particularly with the offense. The Bulldogs offense has been non-existent as of late, in fact against the three SEC (0-3) opponents they have already played, they are averaging less than 2 TDs a game. They managed just 21 pts. against 0-4 UAB last week and they even benched QB, Chris Relf. For South Carolina, the past week has been turbulent due to the fact that QB Stephen Garcia was kicked-off the squad for what will be the last time. But the Gamecocks are fresh off of a good performance by QB Connor Shaw against UK last week so I would say Spurrier feels good with Shaw as the starter right now. The Bulldogs can’t afford to go to 0-4 within the conference and still maintain high hopes of going “Bowling” at the end of the season. South Carolina wants to maintain the leg-up it has on Georgia in the race for the SEC East, a loss here puts Georgia in the driver’s seat.
#18 Arizona St. (5-1) vs. #9 Oregon (4-1) – This game out west could be the most intriguing of all this weekends games, if you can stay up to watch it. The Ducks are anything but healthy as they will not have star RB LaMichael James (injured elbow / arm) and his back-up was even dinged up last week. Oregon at times does not look to have the same flow to their offense as they had last season. The receiving group is “suspect” at best and when you are without your RB that is not good. The Sun Devils are a possession or two away from being 6-0 (lost at Illinois) and they are a team that rides their defense. The defense is an attacking group that goes sideline-to-sideline as well as any defense in the nation not named LSU or Alabama. For Arizona St, this is a statement game and a chance to maybe get some national attention. For Chip Kelley and the Ducks, this game is about trying to keep their hopes alive for another shot at the BCS Title game.
Florida (4-2) vs. #24 Auburn (4-2) – Well this game may not impact the national scene as it typically can but it will impact the SEC race. The Gators are losers of two straight, both blow-out losses and now they will play their second straight road game without QB John Brantley. The Gators running game (Demps & Rainey) has been stifled for 2 consecutive weeks and the defense has not been good either. For Auburn, it is all about scheme and timing. Yes the Tigers were smashed in Fayetteville last week, but they are still 4-2 with a good chance to get win# 5 Saturday; most people were wondering if Auburn had enough to get 6 wins total this season. RB Michael Dyer has been on a tear lately and when he gets going, he is good for 100+ yds. The problem has been the below average play of QB Barrett Trotter, especially over the last 3 weeks. He seems to be more of a game manager than a vital piece and the Tiger faithful just don’t seem to be dealing with that well after having Cam Newton last season. The winner still stays in the race both in their division and within the conference. The loser may as well forget about a conference title.

Oct 13

Rumblin’ With Ralph: State of the Cats

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 2:42 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Football

With this week off, the Kentucky Wildcats are officially half way through the 2011 football campaign and the first 6 games have been somewhat of a disappointment (2-4). When the schedule first came out, the thought was that UK would be 3-3 at worse with a distant shot at 4-2 should Florida not be as good as what some might have thought. The Cats were not expected to be able to “hold a candle” to either LSU or South Carolina so those were expected losses. The problem was UK was slow out of the gate against Western KY and Central Michigan, needing strong second half performances (shut-outs in both games after half-time) by their “D” to win both of those games. The issue in both of those games was all offensive, particularly the line play and the lack of a passing attack. Those two problems would only get worse when they played U of L (24-17 loss) and since then it has only been magnified by the last three losses 48-10, 35-7 and 54-3, all games in which UK managed less than 200 yds of total offense. In fact, in almost every offensive statistical category (SEC and NCAA), UK ranks either last or near the bottom. So with another week to go before they take the field again against Jacksonville St. (FCS opponent), what if anything can the Cats do to stop the bleeding in terms of their lack of offense and try to get themselves bowl eligible.

For beginners, they can try and make some adjustments on the offensive line, especially in terms of line blocking assignments. I know it may seem crazy for a team that has been horrendous thru the air, but the Cats will need to spread things out and try to create mismatches on the outside. My suggestion would be to use the TE more, possibly even two TEs; they would mainly be in there to bolster your blocking and not so much as pass catchers. The next thing would be to put your QB (Newton or Smith) in the shotgun formation unless you are in short-yardage situations. Newton has struggled mightily whether it be dropped balls, over-thrown balls or whether he has been sacked or hit in the pocket, he has had “zero” success as a passer (10 completions in his last 40 attempts for 72 pass yds). By putting these guys in shot-gun, you give them and extra couple of seconds to see the field and go thru their progressions. The next thing is to realize that with your best RB, Clemons out for the year now, they will either need to go with 1 TE and 1 RB (mainly a blocker or safety valve on pass plays)& 3 WR , 1 TE, 4 WR & empty backfield or 2 TE & 3 WR & empty back field.

With these types of sets, what you want and need from your QB is rhythm passing which will be predicated on the pre-snap reads they make. The main cog in the passing game when you spread the field is a slant route. The reason why is because you can use the inside WR to clear out (set an inadvertent pick) not only his man but the corner on the outside receiver thereby leaving the outside WR some room to operate after making the catch. This also gets the ball out of the QB’s hands quickly thereby cutting down the pressure he will come under. Other passing routes that you generally run out of a spread are bubble screens, quick outs to the sidelines and comeback routes (8-12 yds). Occasionally you can take a shot deep down the field because of all the short stuff being run, but you have to pick and choose your spots. There will be times that you have to run draw plays out of the spread or maybe even toss sweeps but the running game would not be primary.

It is clear that Randy Sanders offensive scheme is not suited for this team right now, especially based on the play of the line and the QB spot. So the best way to alleviate some of the issues is just go spread (i.e. NFL version of the spread, Patriots and Colts) and take your chances that way. The expectations or at least the hope for the next six games are 4-2 but to do that, you have to get the offense going. Starting with Jacksonville St., a win is a must here. After that, the Cats will see the likes of Ole Miss, Mississippi St., Vanderbilt, LSU and Georgia, just not in this order. So if they are sitting at 3-4 heading into the rest of the SEC schedule then you can start trying to figure where the wins would come to get them to bowl eligibility. Ole Miss (just 2 wins) and Vandy (been blown out in their last two) appear to be two good chances but neither are “gimmees”. If they were playing UT while Tyler Bray was out, then their chances of winning would go up. State seems to still be in a funk from their three early SEC losses and they look vulnerable right now. The only team that seems to have found themselves and is not playing injured is Georgia so that one may not be favorable, even if the offense got going. There is still plenty of football to play but if the UK offense does not find itself beginning next Saturday then the rest of the season may be even worse than the first half was.

Oct 10

SEC ROUND-UP WEEK 6

Posted by: Ralph Lee at 1:00 pm | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: SEC

South Carolina 54 – Kentucky 3: Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for UK(2-4) offensively, they are seemingly finding new lows to hit every week. QB Morgan Newton completed just 4 passes for 17 yds as the Gamecocks (5-1) unleashed a furious offensive display in the 2nd – 4th quarters after only leading the Cats 7-3 after the 1st. Newton also had 14 carries for 54 yards but fumbled once and was battered all day long whether in or out of the pocket. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks rolled up over 600 yds of offense behind back-up QB, Connor Shaw (311 passing yds & 4 TDs) and RB Marcus Lattimore (22 carries for 102 yds) in route to their best offensive output all season; WR Alshon Jeffery had 6 grabs for 95 yds and 2 TDs as he gave the UK secondary fits. UK scored first after the Gamecocks fumbled the opening kick-off; unfortunately they were only able to get a field goal. South Carolina would score the next 54 pts as UK’s bleak chance for an upset was gone by half-time.

Mississippi St. 21 – UAB: Well things are not getting much better for Dan Mullins’ ball club as they fell behind UAB (0-5) 3-0 at the half. Mullins decided to bench starting QB, Chris Relf and that seemed to jump start the offense or at least give them life. T. Russell passed for 165 yds & 3 TDS in the 2nd half and the Bulldogs’ “D” blanked the Blazers the rest of the way. State (3-3) RB Vic Ballard had 101 yds on the ground but this team still seems to be in somewhat of a daze as all of their wins have been outside of the conference thus far. The Bulldogs will finally try to breakthrough with a conference win Saturday in Starkville when they host South Carolina.

LSU 41 – Florida 11: A tale of two teams possibly heading in the opposite direction, the Tigers (6-0) beat its 4th ranked opponent of the season, further strengthen its grip on the #1 spot while the Gators (4-2) lost their 2nd straight, both in convincing fashion. Playing without starting QB, John Brantley, the Gators could never find a rhythm on offense and on defense they were helpless to stop LSU either on the ground or through the air. LSU had over 300 yds of offense while Florida was short of 200 yds for the game. LSU may have proved to every one in the nation that they have the fastest defense (the Sooners and the Tide may disagree) going sideline to sideline as the Gators couldn’t muster anything of significance on the ground as their only TD came on a 65 yd pass play in the 3rd. LSU will now visit Knoxville to face Tennessee while Florida will hit the road again this weekend to face Auburn.

Arkansas 38 – Auburn 14: For the 1st half, this game was very entertaining as the teams traded TDs with Arkansas (5-1) leading at the half, 21-14. Apparently the Tigers (4-2) forgot there was a 2nd half as they were blanked offensively while the defense could not slow down the steamrolling Razorback offense. Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson passed for 262 yds and 2 TDs and the Razorbacks defense forced Auburn into 3 & outs on just about every 2nd half possession. The Tigers played without its two leading receivers and it showed as the back-ups either dropped passes or were not running the correct routes. The only bright spot for Auburn is that Michael Dyer continues run well (21 carries f/ 112 yds & 1 TD).

Alabama 34 – Vanderbilt 0: For about a quarter or so, the Commodores (3-2) defense seemed to be inspired rather than intimidated by Alabama’s (6-0) offense. The problem was that Vandy’s offense was intimidated by the Tide defense and that meant the Commodore defense would eventually get worn down and they did. Vandy was limited to less than 200 yds of offense and Alabama rolled up over 400 yds (McCarron passed for 237 yds & 4 TD, while Richardson ran for 107 & 1TD). Alabama will visit Oxford, MS this weekend to play Ole Miss while Vandy will play host to Georgia.

Georgia 20 – Tennessee 12: Oh how costly was the Volunteers’ lost to the Bulldogs on Saturday…..Tennessee (3-2) will have to go the next 4 weeks or so without QB Tyler Bray (Broken Thumb on throwing hand). While Bray may have not been having a stellar game (251 yds passing) he is the trigger man for what can be an explosive offense; he hit his right hand and wrist on a defenders helmet while throwing a pass in the 4th quarter. Georgia (4-2) also did not get a stellar performance from its QB (Aaron Murray 227 passing yds) but the difference proved to be on the ground where Isiah Crowell ran for 2 scores. Coach Mark Richt continues to stave off the “hot-seat” talk as Bulldogs have clearly put themselves in a position to be right there in the SEC East race with South Carolina. The problem is they have already lost to the Gamecocks so they will need to keep winning and hope someone else can knock off the Gamecocks along the way.