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Friday, October 23, 2009

Alabama better than Florida and winning "cleanly"

The Guilbeau Poll

1.ALABAMA (7-0, 4-0 SEC) – The Crimson Tide is playing the most complete football in the league, which means it's also playing the best in the nation. Alabama also does not need help to win games as Florida did against Arkansas.

2.FLORIDA (6-0, 4-0) – The Gainesville police department apparently knows right from wrong concerning Gators better than the officiating crew at the Florida-Arkansas game last week.

3.LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC) – Auburn's defense may just be the triple shot of espresso that LSU's comatose offense needs. LSU's fans may need a shot of something, too. According to Ron Higgins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal and formerly of the Shreveport Times, "Florida's defense shut down LSU's offense (13-3 on Oct. 10) and performed an intervention on 92,000 well-lubricated Tiger Stadium fans."

4.SOUTH CAROLINA (5-2, 2-2) - The Gamecocks played Alabama tough.

5. OLE MISS (4-2, 1-2) - Quarterback Jevan Snead finally got some protection against UAB last week and produced. He'll do more of the same Saturday as coach Houston Nutt will once again make Arkansas wonder why it let him go.

6. KENTUCKY (4-3, 3-2) - The Wildcats' win at Auburn last week was just their second SEC road win since the 2007 season.

7. ARKANSAS (3-3, 1-3) - The Hogs nearly pulled a major upset last week.

8.AUBURN (5-2, 2-2) - LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will teach Auburn's latest high school offensive coordinator a few lessons.

9.TENNESSEE (3-3, 1-2) – The Vols played their best football against Georgia two weeks ago, then had an off week. Look for a great effort against the Tide Saturday.

10.GEORGIA (4-3, 3-2) - The Bulldogs have a week off to prepare for Florida, which looks more beatable every week - excluding game officials.

11.MISSISSIPPI STATE (3-4, 1-2) - State has played one of the better SEC schedules, and it played competitively in losses to No. 17 Houston and No. 11 Georgia Tech.

12. VANDERBILT (2-5, 0-4) - Even when the Commodores do something well, they get penalized by another anal SEC officials. After 24 penalties over two games, linebacker John Stokes blocked a 57-yard field goal last week against Georgia. But he was called for taking too many steps before jumping. "I don't think I landed on anybody," he said.


Arkansas at Ole Miss, 11:21 a.m., SEC Network.

Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama, 2:30 p.m., CBS.

Louisiana-Monroe at Kentucky, 6 p.m. Fox Sports South.

Vanderbilt at No. 23 South Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPNU.

Auburn at No. 9 LSU, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2.

No. 2 Florida at Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN.


Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 10

Mississippi State 27, Middle Tennessee 6

Florida 23, Arkansas 20*

Ole Miss 48, UAB 13

Kentucky 21, Auburn 14

Alabama 20, South Carolina 6


OFFENSE – Alabama TB Mark Ingram stepped into the Heisman Trophy race with 246 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown and caught two passes for 23 yards in the win over South Carolina. No Tide back has rushed for more yards in Bryant-Denny Stadium in history, and his total is the third highest in Bama history. Shaun Alexander has the most rushing yards in a game in Alabama history with 291 at LSU in 1996. Bobby Humphrey is No. 2 with 284 at Mississippi State in 1986.

DEFENSE - Kentucky LB Mark Johnson had 14 tackles with eight solos in the win over Auburn.

SPECIAL TEAMS – Florida K Caleb Sturgis kicked the game-winning, 27-yard field goal to beat Arkansas with 33 seconds left. Sturgis also booted a 51 yarder.


*SEC OFFICIALS PENALIZED: At last, an SEC officiating crew has been suspended. In an extremely rare move, the SEC office this week suspended the officials who called Florida's controversial 23-20 win over Arkansas in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday. The crew was removed from its next two assignments on Oct. 31 and Nov. 7. It will not be officiating this Saturday either, but it already had this Saturday as a scheduled off day.

The crew was off on several calls last Saturday. There was a questionable pass interference call against Arkansas' Ramon Broadway and a questionable personal foul call against Arkansas' Malcolm Sheppard. The calls were on consecutive plays in Florida's game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

Another questionable decision by the crew was a non-call against Florida receiver Riley Cooper, who collided with Arkansas cornerback Andru Stewart in the end zone on Florida's game-winning field goal drive. Cooper is the same receiver who pulled LSU cornerback Chris Hawkins' jersey to get open for the Gators' only touchdown of the game in a 13-3 win at LSU on Oct. 10, but that was not the same officiating crew.

The guilty crew is the same one that the SEC said made an incorrect excessive celebration call against Georgia receiver A.J. Green in the Bulldogs' 20-13 loss to LSU on Oct. 3. Green did little if anything on the play, but Georgia was penalized 15 yards and had to kick off from its 20-yard line. This helped LSU get better field position for its game-winning touchdown drive.

"A series of calls that have occurred during the last several weeks have not been to the standard that we expect from our officiating crews," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said in a release. "While only a few calls have been identified, the entire crew shoulders responsibility for each play. I have taken this action because there must be accountability in our officiating program. Our institutions expect the highest level of officiating in all of our sports, and it is the duty of the conference office to uphold that expectation."

The crew's eligibility for bowl assignments is also at question, the SEC office said.

The crew is headed by Marc Curles of Birmingham, Ala., and includes umpire Ronnie Jones, linesman W. Randall Kizer, line judge Michael Shurley, back judge Michael Watson, field judge Greg Thomas and side judge Jess Dupuy.

Watson was the one who mistakenly threw the flag against Green.

PETRINO REPRIMANDED: The SEC also reprimanded Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino "for his public comments," about the calls that violated the SEC's code of ethics, Slive said. SEC Bylaw 10.5.4 says that coaches "shall refrain from all public criticism of officials."

After the game Petrino said, "I didn't like them. I didn't think they were good calls."

After Florida tied it 20-20 in the fourth quarter with the help of the two phantom calls, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach said, "Bobby Petrino has to feel like he's getting jobbed right now," on his Twitter.

Arkansas drew 10 penalties for 92 yards. Florida, which appears to be headed to another classic No. 1 versus No. 2 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta if it can stay undefeated, drew three penalties for 16 yards.

In the weekly SEC writers network report, the Florida writer had 4.5 pages of notes but nothing on the penalties.

STARS WERE ALIGNED: Other than the officials, Arkansas had good karma going for a monumental upset. Two of Arkansas' previous four wins over a No. 1 team in the nation came on Oct. 17, which was the date of the Florida game. The unranked Hogs defeated No. 1 Texas 42-11 on Oct. 17, 1981, and the No. 8 Hogs beat No. 1 Texas 14-13 on Oct. 17, 1964.

CLEANLINESS NEXT TO TIDE-LI-NESS?: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was known for whining about officials when he was Florida's coach. He once harshly criticized Florida State for being too rough on Gator quarterback Danny Wuerffel. But Spurrier praised Alabama for the way it handled its five sacks of Gamecock quarterback Stephen Garcia.

"I tell you, Alabama's a very clean team," said Spurrier, who turned in former Alabama coach Mike Dubose for recruiting violations. "After watching the tape, a lot of guys could've taken hard shots at Stephen right as he threw the ball, but they sort of veered off and didn't clobber him near as badly as maybe some other teams do."

Alabama safety Robby Green knocked out South Carolina receiver Moe Brown with a helmet-to-helmet hit, and Brown is questionable for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt with a concussion. But Spurrier had no issue with that hit either.

"It was a very clean hit," he said.

SPURRIER STILL WHINING: Spurrier did have a problem with Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin using a white tape to spot his field goals and extra points in last week's game in which he kicked two field goals and two extra points.

"No material or device shall be used to improve or degrade the playing surface or other conditions and give one player or team an advantage," the NCAA rule book states.

"I guess Alabama didn't know it was against the rules," Spurrier said.

"We've done some research on it, and over half the teams in the league do something with it (tape or something else)," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "They put a piece of grass there or a piece of mud or whatever it is, so the kicker knows where the ball's going to be spotted. We even saw verification where last year South Carolina's kicker did it. "

50-YEAR RECORD IN DANGER: Alabama defensive back/punt returner Javier Arenas is just 150 yards away from breaking a SEC record that has stood for half a century. Arenas, a senior from Tampa, Fla., has returned 110 punts for 1,546 yards in his career. The SEC record holder is Auburn's Lee Nalley, who returned 109 punts from 1947-49 for 1,695 yards.

Arenas missed Alabama's last game with a rib injury and is questionable for Saturday's Tennessee game.

ORANGE IN LOUISIANA: Tennessee receivers coach Frank Wilson, a former high school coach in New Orleans, and UT recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron, a former Saints assistant coach who also coached at Northwestern State, McNeese State and Nicholls State, are recruiting heavily in Louisiana.

The Vols are after linebacker Patrick Swilling of Brother Martin High in New Orleans, tailback Alfred Blue of Hahnville High, receiver James Wright of Belle Chasse and defensive back Jarvis Landry of Lutcher. Swilling is the son of former Saints linebacker Patrick Swilling.

For 2011, UT already has a commitment from defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who is expected to be one of the state's top prospects next year. Johnson goes to O. Perry Walker High in New Orleans, which is where Wilson was the head coach from 2000-03.


Auburn coach Gene Chizik is only the third first-year Auburn coach in history to win his first five games. The other two were Terry Bowden, who won his first 20 in 1993 and 1994, and Mike Donahue, who won all five of his games in his first season in 1904. Donahue left Auburn after the 1922 season to become LSU's coach.


"Refs are CHEATING in this Florida/Arkansas game!!"

- Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens on his Twitter page Saturday during the game.

- Compiled by Glenn Guilbeau with other SEC writers.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saints Providing the Respite

BATON ROUGE - Rremember football seasons from 2001-2005 and 2007 when LSU provided the sanity, the order and the success for the masses suffering with the Saints.

The Saints actually had a winning season in 2002 at 9-7 and went 8-8 in 2003 and 2004, but even when they won they were so aggravating to watch. Even when they won, they looked bad and disjoined and poorly coached under the most overpaid NFL coach at the time - Jim Haslett.

After watching LSU on Saturday, you'd turn on the Saints and say to yourself, "Thank God for LSU." Because the Tigers played the game right. Even when they lost, they played the game right. That ended last year when the Tigers went 8-5 while the Saints went 8-8.

Now this year, the Saints are doing everything right as they are probably the best team in the NFL at 5-0. It is truly a pleasure to watch them on Sundays after watching LSU stumble around on Saturdays. Yes, LSU is 5-1 and ranked No. 9 in the nation, but its offense has not played well for a whole game yet. The Tigers are aggravating to watch even when they win. They have been No. 12 in the SEC in offense and around 100 in the nation for most of the season, and they have showed no signs of exiting that ineptitude. And they have tremendous offensive talent.

Much like Haslett, who never could get anything corrected in a season, Miles and Crowton have not been able to right the ship. Last season, LSU had the same problem. The defense never got fixed.

Help may be on the way, though. Auburn is LSU's next opponent Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. Auburn has an awful defense, and LSU has had a week without a game to find out "what the hell's going on out there," with the offense, as Vince Lombardi would say.

This could be the weekend where we don't need to turn to the Saints to right the weekend.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bama replaces Florida as No. 1 team

Glenn Guilbeau's Associate Press top 25 voting:

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Boise State
5. LSU
6. TCU
7. Miami
8. Iowa
9. Oklahoma State
10. Penn State
11. USC
12. Georgia Tech
13. Virginia Tech
14. South Carolina
15. Oregon
16. BYU
17. Cincinnati
18. Ole Miss
19. Utah
20. Houston
21. Texas Tech
22. South Florida
23. Missouri
24. Oklahoma
25. West Virginia

NOTES: Alabama and Florida flip-flop. Alabama has had the better overall season and has beaten better teams and has looked very good doing so. LSU stays at No. 5, though that is wavering. The Tigers, who host Auburn at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2, have not looked like a top five team, but their only loss is to Florida. Ohio State, Nebraska and Kansas are all out after losses to bad teams. Cincinnati finally has a win over a decent team in South Florida and jumps to No. 17 from No. 25. Oklahoma does have three losses, but it stays in based on strength of schedule. Those losses are all to very good teams - Texas, Miami and BYU - by a combined five points. Utah and West Virginia crack the poll for first time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

LSU will still finish 10-2 and in high cotton

BATON ROUGE - At about the halfway point, we give LSU a "B." The Tigers have looked great and sick at times, but in the end, its only loss is to the No. 1 team in the nation. That's a B.

Let's start with the offense. The coaching has been poor. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton seems to be too concerned with how many things his offense can do as far as formation and personnel variety instead of what it can do well. It's great to be multiple unless you're not good at multiple things.

The amazing thing is that head coach Les Miles has criticized the lack of playing time for Russell Shepard, who is averaging 6.2 yards a carry in limited use, and the option and at times the lack of touches for Charles Scott. And Miles is the head coach, and he has an offensive background. So Miles, like the CEO coach that he is, needs to get more involved with the offense during this open week. If LSU still wants to run the option, it should look at how Florida runs it. LSU doesn't even do the spacing right between QB and TB and continues to run to the short side of the field, which neutralizes its speed. Grade: D.

Now to the defense. The coaching has been excellent by new coordinator John Chavis. Florida's 13 points were its fewest since 2005. LSU dominated Georgia. After a poor showing in the Washington game, LSU's defense has done nothing but improve and has allowed a touchdown or less in three games. Despite a questionable pass rush from the line, LSU is stopping people. LSU has tackled as well as any team I've ever seen over the last two games. They don't miss. Chavis has seen to it that Chad Jones and Patrick Peterson are blossoming and reaching their potential. The defense will continue to keep LSU in games and win games.

Special teams coverage has been good. LSU has done well in the return game, but it could be better considering the talent. The kicking is good, but the punting has been average to bad. It may be time to try another punter.

Looking to the second half of the semester, I think LSU, mainly because of its defense, will win the rest of its games other than Alabama. Ole Miss is not as good as it was expected to be.

Auburn showed itself at Arkansas, and Arkansas is a one-trick pony. LSU will gradually improve its offense. Crowton is too good for it not to, and there is too much talent for him not to improve. This is the perfect time for an open week. The Tigers will finish 10-2 and play Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.

Florida and Alabama will meet in a rematch in the SEC title game. It's an Urban Meyer-Nick Saban world. Everyone else is fighting for third.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Simply offensive

LSU may be the most frustrating team in America to watch.

For the first time since 2005, LSU has yet to break the 40-point mark as an offense through six games. It was week 7 before the Tigers put up 56 against North Texas in 2005. Heck, even Curley Hallman once got to the 40-point mark by Week 2.

So a prolific offense this isn't.

And what makes it even more frustrating to watch as that LSU has playmakers. It's not like you've got Robert Toomer running the football with Scott Ray out as a wide receiver. You've got guys who will go on to NFL careers playing on this offense.

But what you don't have is an offensive identity. This team is more McDonald's than Raising Cane's. By that, I mean they are trying to do a lot of things -- formations, personnel groups, plays, etc. -- like McDonald's. They probably need to be more like Raising Cane's where the menu is chicken fingers, bread and a couple of drink options. In other words, find a few things to do well and then do them.

What they're doing now isn't working by any measure -- whether it's against the No. 1 team in the country (Florida) or a team (Vanderbilt) that can't beat Army.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


BATON ROUGE - There was an interesting question at Les Miles press conference Monday.

Basically, it centered on the premise that LSU's next game is bigger than tonight's matchup between No. 1 Florida and No. 4 LSU. Others have asked the same question and brought up the same premise. I heard another writer bringing it up Wednesday.

It's interesting, but it's an example of thinking too much and trying to be cute and different to be cute and different. It's a mindset that has trouble with true and false tests because of over-analysis.

LSU coach Les Miles was put aback by the question, paused and delivered one of the best answers he ever has.

"There's a game after this? The only thing I'm focused on is this very next opponent," Miles said. "It's a very consuming task, and we're not looking to the bye week and those teams that we play thereafter. It's all about this Saturday."

All coaches focus only on the next game or say that. But this is one week where coachspeak makes sense.

The eggheads point to LSU's next game - Oct. 24 at home against possibly undefeated Auburn - as a bigger game than tonight's LSU-Florida "undercard" because the Auburn game matters more toward the Southeastern Conference West and thus reaching the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta in December. Wow, aren't you smart!

I understand the point, but don't be stupid.

Yes, the LSU-Auburn game is bigger than the LSU-Florida game if LSU's goal is to just get by, win the West and make it to Atlanta like Tennessee did in 2007. If making it to Atlanta is the only goal, then it doesn't matter if LSU is not ranked at the time. So then it doesn't matter if LSU loses to Tulane and Louisiana Tech, then LSU could just use those games to practice new plays and strategy for its West games the following weeks at Alabama and at Ole Miss. Miles could let Russell Shepard play the whole game at quarterback. Who cares how many times he fumbles or is lifted into the air by tacklers.

Because if the Auburn game is bigger than the Florida game then the Tulane and Tech games are meaningless. See what happens when you think too much.

But if LSU wants to soar into Atlanta as the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the nation with a shot at another national championship, tonight's game is this week's game of the century. Elite teams that compete for national championships don't think about divisions. Those get won in the process. I never forget while covering Alabama in 1994, the Tide beat Ole Miss to clinch the West and no one realized it until somebody did the math on Monday. Bama wasn't thinking about the West. It was thinking about the national championship.

Tight end Richard Dickson was asked the same ridiculous question.

"I didn't know we played Auburn next week," said Dickson, who also doesn't seem to realize that LSU is off next week. This is a good thing. The only thing on his mind is beating Florida. Smart kid. Doesn't think too much when he doesn't need to.

"This will be the biggest game of my career," Dickson said.

Right again, young man. Or at least until No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU meet with those rankings for the first time in history on Nov. 7 in Tuscaloosa. THAT could be a bigger game than LSU-Florida and wil definitely be bigger than LSU-Auburn.

Big games are judged by how much winning it changes your season. This is where the rankings come in. An LSU win over No. 1 Florida will drastically change LSU's season. It will put the Tigers into the national championship race, because right now no one is really talking about LSU in that way. A win over lower ranked Auburn by an undefeated LSU team in two weeks would just keep LSU where it already was as would a win over Tulane the next week.

If you lose a smaller game like Auburn or Tulane, it drastically changes your season the other way, but winning it doesn't get you beyond where you already were. You just keep serve. This is why tonight is THE GAME. An LSU win means LSU has serve for another national title.

A good thing about huge games like this is that even if you lose it, it's not the end of the world.

This is why LSU should schedule USC early in a season. Even if it loses, it gets poll cred for playing the game and has all season to make up for it. If LSU loses tonight, it could still win out - it will have to beat Alabama anyway - and could play Florida again. And if it wins, it's where it would be if it wins tonight. So yes, this game carries within it a Mulligan, but that does not make it any less a game. It's just early enough in the season that both teams can make up for it. When you're in the best league in the land, you get Mulligans. That's just how it works.

And no one knows for sure if LSU will play Florida again after tonight, so each team better think it needs to take care of business tonight. So, again, THIS is THE GAME. LSU, meanwhile, will probably never get a chance to play Florida again this season without Tebow, so it needs to take advantage of it.

So don't think too much. THIS is THE GAME.

I think the 150,000 or so moving in as we speak to surround, then occupy Tiger Stadium by sundown would agree with me. They won't be there to swap there Florida tickets for Auburn tickets.

Friday, October 09, 2009

LSU-FLA. CAPSULE: Tigers to beat Gators 17-13

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.
SITE: Tiger Stadium (92,400), Baton Rouge
WEATHER: There is a 60 percent chance of rain with temperatures in the high 60s.
RECORDS: LSU is 5-0 overall, 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Florida is 4-0, 2-0 in the SEC.
SEASON SO FAR: LSU: W at Washington, 31-23; W Vanderbilt, 23-9; W Louisiana-Lafayette, 31-3; W at Mississippi State, 30-26; W at No. 18 Georgia 20-13.
FLORIDA: W Charleston Southern, 62-3; W Troy, 56-6; W Tennessee, 23-13; W at Kentucky, 41-7.
RANKINGS: LSU is No. 4 in the Associated Press media poll and No. 4 in the USA Today coaches' poll. Florida is No. 1 in both polls.
POINT SPREAD: Florida is an 8-point favorite.
INJURY REPORT: LSU - Starting right guard Lyle Hitt (mild concussion) is expected to start. Backup defensive end Chancey Aghayere, who missed the Georgia game last week, and backup defensive tackle Josh Downs, who played only briefly at Georgia, are each expected to play.
FLORIDA -Starting QB Tim Tebow (serious concussion) is questionable, and his status is not expected to be known until shortly before kickoff. Coach Urban Meyer wants to see how he will handle the flight to Baton Rouge today, which may be a first. Have you ever heard of a football player needing to pass a flight test? If there's a question about Tebow handling air travel, how can he handle Tiger Stadium? Starting OT Marcus Gilbert (bicep) is probable. Starting WR Deonte Thompson (hamstring) is probable. Backup CB Moses Jenkins (concussion) is not expected to play. Backup OT Matt Patchan (knee) is out for the season. Backup DT Brandon Antwine (shoulder) is questionable. Backup DT Lawrence Marsh (ankle) probable.
COACHES: LSU coach Les Miles is 75-32 (.700) through 107 games in his ninth season as a college coach and 47-11 (.810) in his fifth season at LSU. Florida coach Urban Meyer is 87-17 (.837) through 104 games in his ninth season as a college coach and 48-9 (.842) in his fifth season at Florida.
SERIES: Florida leads 29-23-3, including a 15-13 advantage in Tiger Stadium. ... LSU has won the last two in Tiger Stadium. ... Over the last eight games of the series, it is 4-4. ... The Gators lead the decade 5-4. ... Florida won 51-21 last season in Gainesville. ... LSU won a classic, 28-24, in Baton Rouge in 2007. ... Florida won 13 of 14 from 1988 through 2001 with the lone exception a 28-21 upset by LSU of the No. 1 Gators in 1997 in Tiger Stadium. ... LSU won five of six from 1977 through 1982.
NOTES: According to the Associated Press poll, this is the first top five pairing in Tiger Stadium since No. 1 LSU beat No. 3 Ole Miss 7-3 on Oct. 31, 1959, on Billy Cannon's 89-yard punt return for a touchdown with 10 minutes to play in the game. ... That was the only previous top five pairing in Tiger Stadium. ... LSU is 26-3-2 as a top five team at home since the A.P. poll began in 1934 with the only losses to No. 13 Alabama, 22-10, in 1987, to No. 10 Tennessee, 30-27 in overtime, in 2005, and to Arkansas, 50-48 in overtime, in 2007. The ties were against Rice, 6-6, in 1962 and No. 7 Ohio State, 13-13, in 1987. ... LSU is 8-2 as a top five team at home under Miles. ... Meyer is 6-1 as Florida's coach against top five teams with the only loss to No. 1 LSU in 2007. ... Meyer is 2-4 at SEC West stadiums as Florida's coach. ... Meyer is 1-2 in Tiger Stadium with the lone win as an assistant at Colorado State, which beat LSU 17-14 in 1992. ... LSU and Florida meet as the last two national champions for the second straight year. The 2006 national champion Gators beat the 2007 national champion Tigers by a 51-21 score in 2008 on their way to the national title last season. ... The winner of this game has won the last three national titles - Florida in 2006 and 2008 and LSU in 2007. ... LSU is 2-8-1 all time against the No. 1 ranked team and 1-5-1 vs. No. 1 in Tiger Stadium. The only wins were over Florida in 1997 in Tiger Stadium and over Ohio State in the 2007 national championship game in New Orleans. ... LSU lost to No. 1 Alabama at home last season. ... The Gators as the No. 1 team are 2-1 against LSU with wins in 1994 and 1996 in Gainesville. ... Florida is 19-5 all time as the No. 1 team. ... LSU has won 32 straight Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. ... LSU has won 32 straight Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium. ... Crowley's Tommy Casanova, LSU's only three-time, first team All-American in 1969-71 at cornerback, will have his No. 37 jersey retired at tonight's game.
NEXT WEEK: LSU is open before hosting Auburn on Oct. 24. Florida hosts Arkansas.
GAME PREDICTION: Tim Tebow dresses out but does not play, and a distracted Florida team misses him as Patrick Peterson and Brandon Taylor each intercept passes from John Brantley to set up a score and stop a score. LSU wins hard-nosed battle, 17-13.
LAST WEEK: The following was last week's prediction: "LSU finally plays a complete game with a little zest as well, edging the Bulldogs 20-17 on a last-minute touchdown drive engineered by quarterback Jordan Jefferson." Jefferson actually engineered the second-to-last touchdown drive to put LSU ahead 12-7 in the fourth quarter, but the point differential was just four points as LSU won 20-13.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tebow Should Not Play Saturday

BATON ROUGE - Even if Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is cleared today or on Friday or on Saturday to play at LSU Saturday night, he should not play.

That's what his father should say. That's what his coach should say.

If Tebow, who suffered a concussion on Sept. 26 at Kentucky, is deemed ready to play Friday, that would mean he would be even more ready to play next week with a full week of real practice. That is what Florida should be shooting for with Tebow - Arkansas on Oct. 17 or maybe the next game.

Dr. Michael Kaplan, an ESPN medical analyst, has already said Tebow is "probably a go" for the LSU game. "Probably?" This is not a knee or a shoulder. It's not something you can rush. It's not something you can suck up. Even if his brain is ready, it can be more ready.

"You can't fix the brain," said ESPN analyst Merrill Hoge in the Palm Beach Post this week.

Hoge played in the NFL until two concussions ended his career in 1994. He tried to come back too early from the first one and was knocked out again. He underwent 18 months of rehabilitation and had to learn how to read again after he lost his vital signs and was in intensive care for two days.

"You only get one," Hoge said of his brain.

It's already Thursday, and Tebow's brain has not taken a good hit yet. Tebow does not need to take his first good hit at LSU Saturday night. He needs to take it in practice next week, and then a few more. They don't let players coming off knee injuries play until they can take a hit or cut on the knee, but they're going to let a guy with a brain injury play a day or two after he's cleared or on the day he's cleared?

There was a diagram of Tebow's brain on ESPN today. What are we doing? This is a kid, and it's just one game. He needs to relax.

At this point, Tebow will not be ready to play Saturday. And a player should never be asked to play in any way but all out. It's not in Tebow's makeup to play hard a little. Florida owes it to Tebow to not let him play Saturday so he will be at his best in the future. He does have an NFL future. Does anyone at Florida realize that?

Maybe Florida coach Urban Meyer has already decided not to play Tebow and, for silly, military-style, seemingly strategic reasons that football coaches love to use, just does not want LSU to know. This would be understandable, but I don't think that's the case.

Meyer has said he sees Tebow as a son, but it seems like he wants too badly for Tebow to play.

Meyer said on Wednesday that he knows the grade concussion Tebow has but does not want to say what it is. That sounds a little sinister.

Tebow should not be in any pressure situation to play. He needs to be brought along slowly. Probably no one is pressuring him to play, but all the attention his injury has received in itself is pressuring him to play. Particularly the way Florida is handling it. "Can he play? Can he play? Can he play?"

If Tebow was a college kid playing club rugby, do you think his dad would want him to play two weeks after he was rushed to the hospital with a concussion? The magnitude of a game should have nothing to do with his recovery calendar. Tebow's recovery should be governed by his recovery not by a kickoff time.

Tebow and those in his family should be thinking about his future even if he isn't. Tebow's 22.

Kids that age do not usually think past the weekend. Tebow needs to be thinking past this weekend and to the nine, eight, seven or fewer weekends he has left this season. And if he's not, someone needs to tell him to do so.

Tebow needs to be thinking about weekends 20 years from now when he's done with football and reading to his kids and living with the brain of a 42-year-old and not the brain of a 62-year-old. This is his first concussion, and it needs to be babied so he does not become like so many NFL players that the NFL doesn't care about and tries to keep a secret.

Yes, the greatest medical team assembled by a college football program is working with Tebow, but there is no way they do not feel pressure to let Tebow play. And again, even if he is ready to play in their minds, he will be more ready the next week and the next if he doesn't play this weekend. There's no sense hurrying. Just think of the national outrage Meyer and Florida will receive if Tebow doesn't get up from another hit Saturday!

It shouldn't matter, but Florida does not need this LSU win. It will have a great chance of winning with backup quarterback John Brantley because of what its national champion defense can do to a still-disjointed and inconsistent LSU offense that struggled to score against one of the SEC's worst defenses last week.

Even if Florida loses, it could win the rest of its games and beat LSU or Alabama in the SEC title game and still win another national championship. If Florida and Meyer are so consumed with winning, it needs to realize that Tebow may be a better quarterback later in the season if he doesn't play this week.

Florida should have already come out with an announcement that Tebow is not playing. This would send a great message to all the coaches at all levels of football that even one of the toughest players ever to put on a helmet in college football is going to take a step back and make double sure he's ready. This is the 21st century. You don't play with a concussion so soon.
But no, Meyer and the Florida camp want to keep playing games with a game in which Tebow should not play.

"There are little leaguers, wanna-be coaches all over the country watching this," Hoge said. "He's sending the wrong message, and he needs to zip it, quick."

Meyer is also hurting his team by not making it clear early in the week what his quarterback plan was. Practice is virtually over for the week now. Meyer had a chance to announce Brantley as the starter Tuesday and let his team rally around Brantley. Brantley and all of his teammates instead are left up in the air.

"I would like to know to get my head in the right place," Brantley said. "It's a little difficult. I don't know when I'm going to get the word."

That's Meyer's fault.

If Tebow does play, it could do more harm than good to the Gators. His teammates will be distracted, particularly the offensive linemen, whose job it is to protect him. They'll be more worried about Tebow not getting hit than playing LSU.

Meyer needs to end this medical countdown and just say Tebow is not playing Saturday because waiting is the right thing to do.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Charles Scott should be primary back, period

BATON ROUGE - I am reversing my field, which is something LSU tailback Charles Scott rarely does.

Earlier this season I said that Keiland Williams will be the answer at tailback, mainly because Scott was the best blocking fullback LSU had. While that is still a very good strategy, LSU's best tailback was and still is Scott.

And this is not just because Scott is coming off the best game by an LSU tailback since Scott gained 114 yards on 12 carries against Tulane last season.

Scott gained 95 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns in the Tigers' 20-13 victory at Georgia Saturday and was named the Southeastern Conference offensive player of the week.

Scott dominated the game. He also won the game with a 33-yard touchdown run with 44 seconds to go. Scott had some good blocking on the play by center T-Bob Hebert, tackle Ciron Black and wide receiver Chris Mitchell, but Scott also ran through and over tacklers.

This is why Scott deserves the most carries in every game LSU plays this season, unless something happens strategically where Williams or someone else gets hot. Williams may be better at running out of the spread. Williams is a very good back and will likely play in the NFL, but he's just not as strong a runner as Scott. He doesn't hit the hole as hard. He also doesn't hit the no-hole as hard. And since LSU has an average offensive line this season, you need a runner who doesn't always need blocking. That is Scott.

Scott often just pushes defenders for a few yards. This is very important on short-yardage situations when there is often little or no blocking. This is how Scott scored his 2-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 12-7 lead with 2:53 to play in the game.

Williams may be faster and maybe he would be more effective with a better offensive line, but LSU does not have that offensive line this season. Scott is the back for an average offensive line, and he is faster than you think. After he made it through the first wave of tacklers on the 33-yard run, his sprint the rest of the way was as fast as it needed to be.

Scott and LSU's offensive line will likely not do nearly as well against Florida Saturday night as they did against Georgia last week. Florida is No. 2 in the SEC against the rush with 92.8 yards allowed a game and is No. 1 in total defense with 212.8 yards given up a game. Georgia is No. 8 in the league in rush defense with 121.4 yards allowed a game and 11th in the SEC in total defense with 358.2 yards allowed a game. But Scott is the one to get the tough yards, which LSU needs to balance its offense even if he only gains 50 yards on 19 carries.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

LSU will win close one, 20-17

ATHENS, Ga. – Today is the day LSU will learn just how good a hire new defensive coordinator John Chavis was last December.

As Tennessee’s defensive coordinator from 1995-2008, Chavis went against Southeastern Conference East border school Georgia 14 times and won eight of those. Against Mark Richt, who became Georgia’s coach and virtual offensive coordinator in 2001, Chavis is is 3-5. But Chavis has won three of the last five meetings against Richt.

No. 18 Georgia (3-1, 2-0 SEC), which hosts No. 4 LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC) at 2:30 p.m. today on CBS, has a better offense than LSU. It has a better quarterback at the moment in fifth-year senior Joe Cox, who is in his first season of starting as is LSU sophomore Jordan Jefferson. Cox has been up and down. He has thrown two interceptions for touchdowns, but he has also thrown five touchdowns in a game and he throws over the middle more than Jefferson. Cox is fifth in the SEC in passing efficiency and 23rd nationally with a 153.7 rating to Jefferson’s 141.2 for eightn in the SEC and 43rd nationally.

Cox has one of the best receivers in the nation to throw to in sophomore A.J. Green, who leads the SEC with 107 yards receiving a game and with 6.2 catches a game. Green does not have to be open, and Cox often only needs to throw it in his vicinity.

Georgia’s offensive line has been banged up this season and is about the same as LSU’s, which is not that good right now. The Bulldogs are 11th in the SEC in rushing with 112.2 yards a game and 90th nationally. LSU is not a lot better at No. 10 and No. 74 with 130 yards a game.

But Georgia has shown a big-play ability against better competition than has LSU.

LSU will need Chavis to keep Cox and Green in the teens for the Tigers to win, and Chavis has been very adept at that against good Georgia teams.

In 2007, an inexplicable 35-14 loss to Tennessee and Chavis kept Georgia out of serious national championship conversation, unless you spoke to Georgia president Michael Adams. Georgia had one of the best offenses in the SEC that season and finished 11-2 with an early-season, 16-12 loss to South Carolina. Had it defeated Tennessee it would have probably won the national championship that year instead of LSU.

But on the heels of Georgia beating Alabama 26-23 in overtime and Ole Miss 45-17, Chavis’ defense held the Bulldogs to 69 rushing yards on 25 carries and 174 yards in the air on 16-of-34 passing.

The 35-14 loss was Georgia’s worst since a 34-13 to LSU and a Nick Saban defense in the 2003 SEC title game.

In 2004, Chavis silenced another Georgia team gaining momentum. Just one week after the Bulldogs destroyed LSU 45-16, Chavis held Richt to two touchdowns in a 19-14 victory. Georgia managed 56 yards rushing on 29 carries and 209 yards in the air on 19-of-41 passing.

With LSU still finding its way offensively, the Tigers will need its SEC East veteran chief to do something similar today.

The Bulldogs have as much talent on defense as LSU, if not more. LSU is better in the secondary, but Georgia is better on the line and at linebacker. Senior defensive tackles Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins will play in the NFL as will junior outside linebacker Rennie Curran.

Georgia’s defense has strangely underachieved this season, though. The Bulldogs are 11th in the SEC and 90th nationally in pass defense with 243 yards allowed game. They are also No. 11 in total defense and 67th nationally with 355.8 yards allowed a game.

Georgia’s offense is better than LSU’s offense, but LSU’s defense will win the game today because of its Chavis wild card.

Final Score: LSU 20, Georgia 17.