Week 6 BCS and SEC Bowl Predictions

October 11, 2010

First, keep in mind, these are not projections.  These are predictions.  A projection would be more of an “if the season ended today” situation.  These are my predictions as to what will happen and the matchups you will see in this year’s BCS Bowl Games and the SEC’s affiliated bowl games.

BCS National Championship – Oklahoma vs. Boise State – I am sticking to my guns on this one.  Alabama’s loss to South Carolina Saturday promotes my thought that the SEC is too powerful this year for any team to go undefeated.  Ohio State and Oregon will each lose at least one game due to their tough schedules (at USC, Arizona or at Oregon State for Oregon; at Wisconsin, at Iowa or Michigan for Ohio State).  Oklahoma and Nebraska will both likely be 12-0 going into the Big 12 Championship Game, which I see Oklahoma winning.  As for Boise State, they are unbeatable, especially in that conference.  No other AQ team will be undefeated, and neither will TCU.  Boise State gets the nod, further showing the need for a playoff.

Rose Bowl – Oregon vs. Michigan State – Michigan State has an easier schedule in the Big Ten this year, not having to play Ohio State.  They will ultimately shock the world and win the Big Ten, but not go undefeated.  Oregon is clearly the best team in the Pac-10 and will win the conference, likely with a heads-up tie-breaker with Stanford.  As I said in the above piece, they will falter in at least one conference game this season.

Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. West Virginia – Alabama will recover to win the SEC West, and ultimately the SEC championship.  However, with one loss, they get left out of the national title picture and picked up in the Sugar Bowl.  West Virginia will win the Big East and get their automatic bid.  The Mountaineers will wind up playing their second SEC West school, the first being their one loss to date, at LSU.

Orange Bowl – Florida State vs. Ohio State – Florida State has risen to their historical power and seems to have separated themselves from the rest of the ACC with a dominant performance over rival Miami in what might be a preview of the ACC Championship Game.  Ohio State will get an at-large bid and selected to the Orange Bowl to face Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles.  At the end of a disappointing season for the Buckeyes, they still make it to a BCS game, but ultimately lose the conference, which will be one by Michigan State.

Fiesta Bowl – Nebraska vs. Auburn – With Nebraska losing the Big 12 Championship Game to Oklahoma (at least in this scenario), they take a short step back and travel to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl.  This is still a successful end to the season for Nebraska, with a final record of 12-1 and their only loss coming to BCS National Championship contender Oklahoma.  Auburn has had an amazing year behind quarterback Cam Newton and will finish the season 11-1 with their one loss coming in the Iron Bowl to rival Alabama.  They miss the SEC Championship game, but still get the final at-large bid over teams like Utah, TCU and Stanford.

Capital One Bowl – South Carolina vs. Wisconsin – South Carolina’s win over then #1 Alabama puts their team into perspective.  They are here to play and they want to win.  They are currently in the driver seat in the SEC East and should end up winning it over Florida.  But the Gamecocks will fall short in the rematch with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and drop to the Capital One Bowl.  Wisconsin, even after a possible win over the Buckeyes drop from BCS Bowl consideration, but still end up with a good season.

Cotton Bowl – Arkansas vs. Missouri – Arkansas is talented enough to play for the SEC Championship, but will fall short, much like they did against Alabama.  They will still finish with a good year behind quarterback Ryan Mallett, and even though they wanted more than the Cotton Bowl, they should be happy.  Missouri is a surprise team in the Big 12 this season.  Texas’ loss to UCLA will be their doom as they drop past the Cotton Bowl, likely to the Alamo Bowl or Insight Bowl.  Arkansas vs. Missouri will be a high-flying offensive attack, and a very exciting game that will be remembered in Cotton Bowl history.

Outback Bowl – Florida vs. Iowa – No matter how bad they look, Florida is still Florida and they still have Urban Meyer.  They will recover for a nine win season and get a bid to Atlanta.  Though it’s not the bid they wanted.  Iowa has had a more disappointing year as they too were expected national championship consideration.  They have dropped and finish fourth in the Big Ten.  This gets them another bid to the Outback Bowl, which they will hope is as successful as their last trip when they beat South Carolina in 2009.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl – LSU vs. Miami – Read this well SEC fans:  Les Miles is a terrible coach.  That being said, they will ruin their 6-0 start and drops games against Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and perhaps even Ole Miss.  Miles will prove it’s not always better to be lucky than good, and it cannot be pulled off all year.  They have not hit the meat of their schedule, so be afraid LSU fans.  On the other side, Miami is another team with national championship hopes that dropped further than expected.  I just do not see two ACC teams in the BCS.  After losing the ACC Championship Game to Florida State, they will get the next best bid, to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Gator Bowl – Mississippi vs. Michigan – This is the first year of an SEC Gator Bowl, and will be the third SEC/Big Ten matchup on New Year’s Day.  Mississippi will have a nice recovery to this season, but not nice enough to reach the fans’ expectations of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.  But after a loss to FCS school Jacksonville State, at home, all Rebels should be happy with any bowl game.  Michigan will hit the wall I have been warning people about and drop to the Gator Bowl.  They are a one man show with an average defense.  Denard Robinson is electric, but as a smaller mobile quarterback, with Big Ten defenses and the cold weather bearing down on him, he will be slowed down.

Music City Bowl – Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech – Kentucky is a much better team than people give them credit for.  But they are still in the SEC and will not make it past the Music City Bowl.  Fans should however take solace in the fact that they were selected to a bowl over traditional SEC East powerhouses Georgia and Tennessee, both those they can beat this season.  Georgia Tech has been a question mark all year long.  One week they lose to Kansas (who lost to North Dakota State), then beat preseason favorite North Carolina and lose to N.C. State.  The Yellow Jackets will recover to a seven win season and get to Nashville for a shot at an SEC team.

Birmingham Bowl – Georgia vs. Pittsburgh – Formerly the Papajohns.com Bowl, the Birmingham Bowl gets an SEC vs. Big East matchup, and luckily grabs two talented teams here.  All be it, two talented teams with remarkably disappointing seasons.  Georgia, once with SEC Championship hopes, started the season with an A.J. Green suspension and a 1-4 record, but will recover for a 6-6 finish and a bowl bid by the skin of their teeth.  Pittsburgh returned the Big East’s 2009 leading rusher Dion Lewis (1799 yards last season) and a talented defense, with hopes of winning their conference.  However they start the season 2-3 with losses at Utah, at home to Miami and in South Bend to Notre Dame.


SEC Power Rankings: Week 4

September 28, 2010

It usually takes fours games of a season to learn enough about a team to be able to form an accurate ranking.  Now let’s look at the SEC from top to bottom, starting with the defending national champions and 4-0 Alabama Crimson Tide.

  1. Alabama (4-0, 1-0) – This is the most obvious choice in the entire list.  The Crimson Tide rank first in the SEC in scoring offense and defense, putting up 39.5 points per game, while only allowing 9.8 points.  They showcase the top running back tandem in the conference lead by 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and sophomore sensation Trent Richardson.  Also, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, quarterback Greg McElroy simply doesn’t lose.  He has not lost a game he has started since the eighth grade.
  2. Auburn (4-0, 2-0) – Led by transfer quarterback and former Florida Gator Cam Newton, Auburn has the SEC’s top rushing offense, averaging 278 yards per game.  Newton leads the team, and conference in rushing with 485 yards in just four games.  And while he is not lighting up the passing game in yardage, he does have the highest pass efficiency, with a 182.5.
  3. Arkansas (3-1, 1-1) – Head and shoulders above all other SEC pass offenses, Arkansas is led by one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, Ryan Mallett.  Mallett is seen by many scouts as a dominant force and easy first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  He leads the conference in passing offense, averaging 359.5 yards per game, which is over 120 yards more than Kentucky’s Mike Hartline who sits in second.  Arkansas pushed Alabama to the limit last Saturday, but Mallett’s three interceptions kept the Razorbacks from closing it out.
  4. Florida (4-0, 2-0) – The story with the Gators’ season centers on quarterback John Brantley replacing the legend of Tim Tebow.  Unfortunately for him, he is not sitting at the top of statistics like Tebow did.  Brantley is currently eighth in the SEC in passing yards with 700, and tied for fourth with six passing touchdowns.  But another quarterback story has emerged, that of freshman Trey Burton, who was responsible for six touchdowns against Kentucky this weekend.  Burton also played some receiver, where he had five catches for 37 yards and one of his touchdowns.
  5. LSU (4-0, 2-0) – While they have not been impressive in the eyeball test, LSU has established a setting in the top five teams of the SEC with quality wins and a stout defensive performance.  The Bayou Bengals are ranked second in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing only 12 points per game and first in total defense, allowing just 254 yards per game.  They may not be dazzling, but wins over North Carolina, Mississippi State and West Virginia cannot be overlooked.   Their road to Atlanta (or back to Atlanta if you count the game with North Carolina) only gets tougher as they travel to Florida and Auburn, and face Alabama at home before the trip to rival Arkansas to close out the regular season.
  6. South Carolina (3-1, 1-1) – The Gamecocks have been impressive for the first 15 quarters of the season.  However, the fourth quarter in Auburn was, in a word, embarrassing.  Junior quarterback Stephen Garcia lost two fumbles and was replaced by freshman Connor Shaw.  Shaw then proceeded to throw two interceptions, both of which were caused by his inexperience in the SEC.  Inconsistency in the offensive line didn’t help matters either.  However, the bright side for Carolina is their young core of talent, including the freshman phenom running back Marcus Lattimore and the SEC’s leader in receptions and receiving yards Alshon Jeffery.  If they can toughen up in the trenches, the Gamecocks could push Florida for the top spot in the East.
  7. Kentucky (3-1, 0-1) – Even after a 48-14 thrashing by Florida, Kentucky sits high in my power rankings.  They have two of the more dynamic offensive players in the SEC, running back Derrick Locke and wide receiver Randall Cobb.  The duo combines for 586 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, as well as Cobb’s 227 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.  While Kentucky hasn’t played a particularly difficult schedule, they have taken down rival Louisville and beat opponents Western Kentucky and Akron by a combined score of 110-38.
  8. Mississippi State (2-2, 1-2) – Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs are a little better than most people, including myself expected.  They took Auburn to the end in week two, but fell short by just three points.  This was followed with another loss, this time at the hands of LSU.  However, they came roaring back with a 24-12 win over the Georgia Bulldogs.  This win gives them a few power points in my book.  While they won’t compete for the West crown, they will play spoiler down the road.  Don’t be surprised by a few upsets in conference play from the Bulldogs.
  9. Georgia (1-3, 0-3) – The loss of wide receiver AJ Green has hurt Georgia.  We can all agree on that.  However, I am a firm believer that losing one player (except a veteran, proven winner at quarterback) cannot cost a good team three wins.  Losing a skill position player shouldn’t be a reason for losses.  By that, I mean Georgia is not a very good team.  They newly inputted 3-4 defense has been serviceable, but nothing stellar.  Quarterback Aaron Murray has had a good season, but can’t do everything on his own.  The rushing offense, the bread and butter of Georgia every year, is tenth in the SEC with only 124.2 yards per game.  Georgia, once thought to compete for the SEC East, has dropped to having to fight for a bowl bid.
  10. Vanderbilt (1-2, 1-1) – The Commodores are an improved team.  But the loss of Coach Bobby Johnson didn’t help the progression, from a leadership perspective.  Vanderbilt will fight for a bowl bid with Tennessee and Georgia, and could make it on the shoulders of running back Warren Norman.  He is tenth in the SEC in rushing, averaging just 75 yards per game.  However, he is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.  If Vanderbilt can stay stern on defense and avoid having to air the ball out, Norman could lead them to a 7 win season and a respectable bowl bid.
  11. Tennessee (2-2, 0-1) – We all expected Tennessee to be un-Tennessee-like in 2010.  But not one expected this.  The Volunteers hosted Pac-10 Elite Oregon in week two and held up with them for the first half.  But the second half featured an offensive “nuke” by Oregon, scoring 35 unanswered points (45 going back to the end of the first half).  However, the story of the season was what happened this past weekend in the disappointing win, if there is such a thing, over UAB.  It took overtime and a miracle catch for Tennessee to drop the Blazers, a team that should have been demolished in Neyland Stadium.  Tennessee will be lucky to pull out a six win season in 2010, as they still have trips to LSU, Georgia and South Carolina, as well as home games with Alabama and Kentucky, all which I think they will lose.
  12. Ole Miss (2-2, 0-1) – This one was a little simple for me too.  The bottom line is this:  you can’t be an SEC powerhouse and lose to an FCS opponent, Jacksonville State and yearly bottom-of-the-barrel SEC team Vanderbilt AT HOME.  As surprising as the loss to Jacksonville State was, the Vanderbilt loss was officially a blowout (loss by 14 or more points).  Because of this, the Rebels have dropped to dead last.  Even the addition of expected Heisman contender quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss hasn’t proven a single thing to me.  The two wins over Tulane and Fresno State mean next to nothing when compared to the two glaring home losses.

We Hail Thee, Kenny McKinley

September 24, 2010

The world lost a truly great man yesterday.  Denver Broncos wide receiver and former South Carolina Gamecock Kenny McKinley was found deceased in his Denver home Monday night.

I intentionally waited a few days to post this due to the fact that I felt my mind and judgment was clouded initially.  This was a personally tragic moment for me.  I want to put all journalistic unbiased attitudes aside and express my emotions on this unfortunate event.

As I was lying in bed last night drifting off to sleep, I received the startling news of McKinley’s untimely death.

I’ve spent my entire life as a Gamecock fan.  I spent my college years studying at South Carolina, as did my father and my older brother.  My time was gratefully shared with the school’s all-time receiving leader, Kenny McKinley.

I was able to witness all 207 of his memorable receptions and every single one of his 2,781 yards he gave the Gamecocks.  I had the privilege of seeing a man with such passion that he made me feel like I was on the field with him for every play.

McKinley quickly became my favorite Gamecock.  I felt a connection with him.  He made me see myself on the field.  He was an undersized player, often times overlooked by his opponents.  He was never really seen as the dominant receiver that teams had to worry about.  He came in a virtual nobody, just another player trying to play for South Carolina.  But he had risen through all adversity to become the one man Head Coach Steve Spurrier can call “the greatest receiver” he had ever seen.

Kenny’s determination to be the best at what he did was unmatched and he played with more heart and love for the game than any player I have ever seen.  He would put his body on the line ever week, but showed his grit and toughness by never giving up, no matter what injuries would come his way.

Of the many tragedies that happen in the sports world each and every year, this one has hit me harder than any in the past.  Gamecocks, Broncos and every other sports fan should remember that even though his life came to an abrupt and shocking halt, Kenny McKinley was an amazing athlete and man.  He was every coach’s dream player, and that’s how we should all remember him.

Gamecocks Survive the Paladins’ Purple Passion

September 19, 2010

The South Carolina Gamecocks expected a fight against the Paladins of Furman.  But they didn’t expect the strong showing they got.

Furman came into Williams-Brice Stadium as a 33 point underdog ready to follow in the footsteps of Jacksonville State and defeat a team from the mighty Southeastern Conference.  Luckily for the Gamecocks, they were able to fend them off for a 38-19 victory.

South Carolina walked into this game after an immensely critical win over division rival Georgia.  However, they weren’t able to carry that emotion over into this week.  On the other hand, Furman showed up ready to fight and unwilling to let their foot off the gas.

Each time South Carolina would seem to get a comfortable lead and put their backup players in, Furman seemed to fight harder, making things rough for the Gamecocks.

Things started nicely for the Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier as he had a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.  The first touchdown was a 15 yard strike to Tori Gurley from quarterback Stephen Garcia.  The second was a four yard touchdown run by the phenomenal freshman running back Marcus Lattimore.

After a pair of Furman field goals and a touchdown run by senior Gamecock running back Brian Maddox, the scoring continued with another touchdown pass from Stephen Garcia, this time in the third quarter to wide receiver DL Moore.

Garcia finished tonight’s game completing 13 of 20 passes for 150 yard and two touchdowns.  Unfortunately for him he also threw two costly interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown by Furman freshman defensive end Shawn Boone in the third quarter.

Furman continued to scare South Carolina and its fans in the fourth quarter as running back Tersoo Uhaa completed a 72-yard pass to wide receiver Adam Mims.  After missing the two-point conversion attempt, the score stood at 31-19 in Carolina’s favor.

Fans at Williams-Brice let out a sigh of relief as sophomore cornerback Stephon Gilmore returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown to seal 38-19 victory.

The young talent shined through once again for South Carolina, only more quietly this time around.  Marcus Lattimore finished the game with 97 yards rushing and his first quarter touchdown on 19 carries, while sophomore wide receiving Alshon Jeffery finished with five receptions for 97 yards.

While South Carolina didn’t put on the dominant performance fans were hoping for, they should all remember that even though Furman is an FCS program, they are one of the better ones and still a very talented team.  A bigger win would have been nice, but don’t forget that it’s still a ‘W.’

In the win two players reached career milestones:  Alshon Jeffery eclipsed one thousand receiving yards for his career and senior placekicker Spencer Lanning made a career long 51-yard field goal.

Furman returns home to Greenville, SC with a 1-1 record play in-state rival The Citadel in a crucial Southern Conference clash.

The 3-0 (1-0) Gamecocks will spend the next week preparing for their second SEC matchup and first road trip of the 2010 season as they travel to Auburn to face the Tigers.

Auburn, lead by transfer quarterback and former Florida Gator Cam Newton, is currently ranked #16 in the AP Poll and should pose as the biggest threat to date for the Gamecocks.  The Tigers also defeated the other half of the Palmetto State Rivalry, the Clemson Tigers at home 27-24 in overtime.

Freshman Phenom Leads Gamecocks Over Georgia

September 11, 2010

Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore followed up his two touchdown college debut against Southern Miss with an Earth-rumbling performance in South Carolina’s 17-6 victory over SEC East rival Georgia.

Lattimore expected his number to be called a lot, but the Ole Ball Coach entrusted him with the ball an astounding 37 times, rushing for 182 yards and another two touchdowns.

Unlike the prototypical Steve Spurrier offense that involves high percentage passing and focuses on the quarterback, today’s game with Georgia proved that the Gamecocks can pound the ball when they have to.

Overshadowed by the glaring performance of the young running back was quarterback Stephen Garcia who had a respectable game completing twelve of fifteen passes for 165 yards.  Alshon Jeffery is once again another unsung hero of the Gamecock’s offense as he posted his second straight game with over 100 yards receiving.

However, as impressive as the offense was for South Carolina, the defense matched them by keeping the Bulldogs’ offense out of the end zone.  Georgia kicker Blair Walsh connected on his two field goal attempts as their only points.

Georgia’s biggest chance to get into the end zone was stopped when Gamecock sophomore cornerback Stephon Gilmore recovered running back Washaun Ealey’s fumble at the two yard line.

The Bulldogs were forced to punt their following two possessions.  In their final chance to salvage anything from this game, quarterback Aaron Murray was sacked twice, including on the final play by defensive end Devin Taylor.

With that, South Carolina closed out an impressive ranked win against their rival neighbors to the west.  Gamecock fans are left with starry eyes, a new vision of George Rogers in Marcus Lattimore and a temporary seat at the top of the SEC East.

Stay tuned for the stat-by-stat comparison tonight.

Georgia Vs. South Carolina: How the East Could Be Won

September 10, 2010

After a convincing win over Southern Miss last Thursday night, the South Carolina Gamecocks face their rival to the west, the Georgia Bulldogs.

South Carolina and Georgia compete in a rivalry that is nationally underrated, but they always put together a hard-nosed, down-to-the-wire contest that pleases its viewers.  In the past decade, seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Usually, South Carolina comes in as underdogs to mighty Georgia, but this year is different.  The season started with an offensive bang for Coach Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks as they put up 41 points against Southern Miss.  And unlike the recent past, the points came on offense, and on the ground.  Junior quarterback Stephen Garcia and freshman phenom running back Marcus Lattimore each had two rushing touchdowns.  The only touchdown through the air came from freshman quarterback Connor Shaw on a strike to wide receiver DL Moore.

If South Carolina can capitalize on their talent and consistently put up the points Spurrier was accustomed to at Florida, they could contend for and possibly even with the SEC East.

And to make matters even better for them, the Gamecocks are expecting most of their previously suspended players to return this week, including starting cornerback Chris Culliver and offensive tackle Jarriel King.

Georgia was not without their show of brilliance either, beating Louisiana-Lafayette 55-7.  Freshman quarterback Aaron Murray made an impressive debut, even without All-American wide receiver and headline-maker AJ Green.

As you recall, Green was left out of the season opener by Georgia due to an NCAA investigation.  The ruling came down this week for Green, and it wasn’t good.  Georgia’s best player will be forced to sit for three more games, including the clash with South Carolina.  Green will also miss a home game with #14 Arkansas and a trip to Mississippi State.

Losing a top weapon like that could wind up costing Georgia these three games, which would essentially ruin their hopes of winning the SEC this year.

As for this week, I think Georgia falls just short in their trip to Columbia.  The Bulldogs will visit one of the most hostile stadiums in the country to play a team with a brutal defense and an offense than can seemingly match it.  And what’s worse is they will make this trip without their top player, a wide receiver I might add, and a freshman quarterback who has never seen an SEC defense that wasn’t a practice squad.  Not only will he face an SEC defense this weekend.  He will face one of the best defenses out there, against two lock down cornerbacks, without his top weapon.  Expect to see a lot of blitzes from Ellis Johnson’s defense, which will mean a lot of man coverage and, hopefully for South Carolina, a lot of sacks.

If South Carolina can contain the running attack of Georgia, they should walk away victorious.  This is their chance to dominate Georgia defensively and they better take advantage of it.

Final score prediction – South Carolina 27, Georgia 10.

South Carolina vs. Southern Miss Final Prediction

September 2, 2010

It is literally the final moments here.  The band is on the field, less than fifteen minutes before kickoff to the matchup between South Carolina and Southern Miss.

In the final word before the game, I have my few predictions for the outcome.

Stephen Garcia – 150 yards passing, 40 yards rushing, three total touchdowns

Connor Shaw – 85 yards passing, 75 yards rushing, one total touchdown

Brian Maddox and Kenny Miles (combined) – 130 yards rushing, two touchdowns

Marcus Lattimore – 45 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving, one touchdown

Alshon Jeffery – 70 yards receiving, one touchdown

Final Score – South Carolina 31, Southern Miss 14

Now let’s kick off the 2010 college football season!