published Friday, September 23rd, 2011

SEC items of interest for Sept. 24

1) The Immovable object against the irresistible force

No, we’re not talking about Arkansas-Alabama, but we could be. This also applies to LSU’s trip to Morgantown to face a No. 14 West Virginia team that is averaging more than 350 passing yards and 42 points per game. But a road test against a ranked foe is hardly new for LSU or its stout defense. The Tigers, who are sixth nationally in total defense, are facing their third top-15 opponent away from Baton Rouge this weekend, and quarterback Jarrett Lee has handled it well, according to coach Les Miles. “Jarrett has done a great job in some not-so-home enviroments.” And yes, you have to love Les Miles.



2) The movable object against the resistible force

While the SEC has two of the nation’s top defenses in Alabama and LSU, the Auburn Tigers, last year’s national champions, would have a hard time stopping a nose bleed. The numbers are staggering for a defense that is 100th or worse among the 120 FBS schools in rush defense (116th), pass defense (100th), scoring defense (107th) and total defense (117th). But the Florida Atlantic offense is even worse, ranking dead last nationally in rushing, scoring and total offense and 119th in passing offense. Suffice it to say that when Florida Atlantic has the ball, anything can happen and it’s likely going to be ugly.

3) An extra special (teams) blossoming

This just in: The Florida Gators are good on special teams. That likely will continue this week against an overmatched Kentucky team that was humbled by Louisville last week. There are two applicable theories to this: They’re athletic — “Well, they have a guy that could win the gold medal in the Olympics, and if you don’t get a hand on him he’s going to block the punt,” UT coach Derek Dooley said of Florida do-it-all senior Chris Rainey, who blocked one in the Gators’ 33-23 win over the Vols last week. And they’re committed to special teams — Florida coach Will Mischamp said: “If you’re not a QB or an OL and you don’t play on special teams, you’re a selfish football player.” Amen and pass the Gatorade.

4) A little more of Lattimore

Steve Spurrier praised the improving talent level of the Vanderbilt program by saying, “Vandy has always had some good players and sent a lot of good players to the NFL. The Bears have like four guys from Vandy.” True enough, Evil Genius, but the Commodores have no one who resembles Marcus Lattimore, your bruising sophomore stud running back who was a one-man show in last week’s closer-than-expected win over Navy. Lattimore finished with a career-best 246 yards on 37 carries. “Hopefully 20-25 [carries] would be enough,” Spurrier said leading up to Saturday’s showdown for first place in the SEC East, “but we’re going to do what it takes to win the game. Who knows how the game is going to take place.”

5) Loser leaves town

The names “Buyout Bowl,” “Hot-Seat Showdown,” and even “The Pink Slip Playoff,” have drawn the attention of the maligned coaches — Ole Miss boss Houston Nutt and Georgia’s Mark Richt — and neither is thrilled. “If you use energy on things outside of this meeting room and this complex and this program, you’re wasting your time,” Nutt said of this week’s storyline of he and Richt facing uncertain futures after each team’s 1-2 start. “I’ll tell you what, that’s being in good company with Mark Richt.” In most cases, yes, that’s true. Being ranked 1 and 1A on the SEC’s hottest seat list is not an ideal scenario, however. A small saving grace for each: Georgia could go on a winning streak, and it would cost Ole Miss roughly $6 million to cut ties with Nutt.

Center Stage

No. 14 Arkansas at No. 3 Alabama

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. — Bryant-Denny Stadium — CBS

Alabama leads the series 11-8 — Alabama favored by 10

Arkansas wins if ... The Razorbacks can keep quarterback Tyler Wilson upright and he matches the numbers he posted the last time he played a game in the state of Alabama. Wilson entered the game at Auburn last year after Ryan Mallett was injured and threw for 332 yards and four scores in less than three quarters of action. Wilson has an array of of talented weapons, but whether Arkansas can avoid negative-yardage plays will be paramount against the Crimson Tide. “The key thing is moving forward. Get to second-and-medium and second-and-short and keep moving forward,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. “When you get behind the sticks, that’s when they come after you.”

Alabama wins if ... The offense takes care of the football. It may sound simple and basic, but for a defense as good as Alabama’s, as long as the offense doesn’t set up scoring situations for Arkansas, the Tide will be fine. Yes, Arkansas has some weapons and Petrino is among the best play-callers in college football, but Alabama’s defense is relentless. Plus, the Tide have NFL-ready talent at each level, highlighted by linebacker Dont’a Hightower and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. With running backs Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy hitting their strides, as long as Tide quarterback AJ McCarron avoids the big mistake — a bad pick or costly fumble — Alabama should be fine.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Arkansas 10

GRAB THE REMOTE

Last week the college football powers that be smiled on you, the football watching fanatic. This week, those powers are laughing at you. Remind the Mrs. to buy extra batteries at the Bi-Lo — the remote’s going to get a workout this Saturday. Plus, the mute button may get some use, too, with the way Verne Lunquist has slipped — last year he called, “FUMBLE,” when a UT player lost a shoe, and last Saturday he pronounced Ooltewah “the tiny Tennessee town of ooh-te-way” — and the heights Brent Musberger is reaching on the annoying meter. Not-so-good times.

UNC at Georgia Tech, noon, ESPN

Tech’s offense leads the free world in yards and leads the universe in rushing yards. Seriously, the Yellow Jackets are running for almost 460 yards per game (and they haven’t even played Auburn yet — ZING). But North Carolina still has some NFL-talented defenders.

Georgia at Ole Miss, 12:21, WDSI

Give this a quick check to see Aaron Murray throw an early TD to Orson Charles, to see Brandon Boykin run back an errant Zach Stoudt pass and to see Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt smack his forehead about 1,432 times and polish his broadcasting resume in the first half. Then feel free to go back to the Tech-UNC game.

FIVE-SIREN CLICKER ALERT

Arkansas at Alabama, 3:30, CBS — and — Oklahoma State at Texas A&M, 3:30, ABC — and — Florida State at Clemson, 3:30, ESPN

Forget the clicker: Find a way to get multiple TVs into your watching area. This may be the worst college football traffic jam this side of Auburn, Ala. (ZING.) OK, to cover each of the three quickly: Start with Arkansas-Alabama, because the first quarter is likely to be the most competitive — and if Bama builds a big early lead and forces Arkansas to be one-dimensional, well, here’s hoping Hogs QB Tyler Wilson has his insurance premiums up to date. Give FSU-Clemson a quick check because that game features a bunch of serious speed and serious blowout potential each way. Plus FSU may turn to backup quarterback Clint Trickett, the son of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett. Sure, every offensive lineman everywhere wants to protect his QB, but is there any player anywhere who’s going to get every ounce out of his offensive line more than Clint Trickett? If Trickett gets lit up the linemen have to go answer to Trickett’s dad, who will have to answer to Trickett’s mom. Here’s saying that FSU may have 32 holding penalties, but there will be few hits on the quarterback Saturday. Plan on frequent check-ins on the OSU-A&M game, too, because it could be a classic.

Vanderbilt at South Carolina, 7, ESPN

Vandy is a 16-point underdog, but there is no game that Stephen Garcia cannot win. Or lose.

CLICKER ALERT

LSU at West Virginia, 8, ABC — and — Missouri at Oklahoma, 8, FX

C’mon, this is getting out of hand. Another interesting head-to-head TV matchup if for no other reason than there’s a 1-in-6 chance that any one of these four teams could be in the SEC in the next five years. Seriously. That said, the Missouri-Oklahoma game is listed here for two reasons: This is an underrated rivalry (good); Brent Musberger is doing the other game (not good). Otherwise, this LSU defense is so fun to watch, it’s hard to imagine turning the channel.

LATE-NIGHT CLICKER BLESSING

USC at Arizona State, 10:15, ESPN — and — Oregon at Arizona, 10:15, ESPN2

This is the best kind of crossover — no emotional investment and a chance to close the day with some offense. Which is doubly important after watching the suffocating defenses of LSU and Alabama all day. And, hey, cheering against Lane Kiffin never gets old, right, Vols Nation?

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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