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SEC In The NFL – Georgia Tops Florida, Again

The Georgia Bulldogs got the best of the Florida Gators on Saturday in Jacksonville.  They did again the next day in Denver – at least when it came to the performances of the two quarterbacks.

Matthew Stafford (Georgia) and the Detroit Lions blew out Tim Tebow (Florida) and the Denver Broncos 45-10 at Sports Authority Field Sunday afternoon.

Stafford completed 21-of-30 passes for 267 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Quarterback rating – a Sunday best 130.8

Tebow finished the game 18-of-39 for 172 yards, one TD, one interception and a quarterback rating of 56.8.

QB rating or scoreboard totals – Stafford won convincingly.  For the struggling Tebow, the inevitable questions are being raised.

“How long,” wonders Denver Post columnist Dave Kreiger, “before Bronco fans and Tebow fans part company?”

“It’s not his fault,” said Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch in regards to Tebow’s struggling performance. “It’s the media that gives him hype. Obviously, he’s a young player.  He has a lot of learning to do.  Taking nothing from him, he’s a great player, he just has to find his niche as an NFL quarterback and I think he’ll be able to do so in due time.”

Tebow was sacked seven times on the day, including one time by Tulloch who struck the “Tebowing” pose afterwards.

Lions tight end Tony Scheffler also mimicked the one- knee prayer following a second-quarter touchdown.

A story earlier in the week at NFL.com had hyped the game as Good (Tebow) vs. Evil (Ndamukong Suh of the Lions).

But as news Detroit News columnist John Niyo wrote after the game, “this was simply good vs. bad. The Lions are a good team.  The Broncos are a bad team.”

Broncos coach John Fox initially refused to commit to Tebow as his starting quarterback next week against Oakland but has apparently changed his mind – for now.

“For this week, yes.” Fox said when asked about it today, in a less than ringing endorsement, amid calls for Tebow to perhaps consider another position or the Broncos to consider dumping him following this season.

As for Stafford’s performance, Mike O’Hara reminds us that the Lions haven’t had a Pro Bowl quarterback in 40 years – Greg Landry back in 1971.  But that drought should end this year.

Speaking of impressive quarterbacks, Eli Manning (Ole Miss) and Cam Newton (Auburn) continue to shine while their teams move in opposite directions.

Manning threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns as the Giants moved to 5-2 with a come-from-behind 20-17 victory over Miami.

“Eli made some big plays,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin.  “Obviously he threw the ball a lot today. No turnovers, no interceptions, and he made plays when we had to have them. Once again, he did a very good job.”

Newton threw three touchdown passes for Carolina but the Panthers came up short three points short against the Minnesota Vikings when a last-minute field goal attempt missed.

The Panthers dropped to 2-5 but the Carolina rookie drew praise from the opposing coach.

“(Newton’s) a terrific athlete,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who also started a rookie quarterback in Christian Ponder. “He’s a guy who has a great head on his shoulders and really understands football. He knows how to make plays and he has a great future in the National Football League.”

Arian Foster (Tennessee) had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season Sunday, carrying the ball  33 times for 112 yards in the Houston Texans 24-14 win over Jacksonville.

Foster and teammate Ben Tate (Auburn) have combined to rush for 1,040 yards in the first eight weeks of the season.

Finally, Marcell Dareus’ (Alabama) move from defensive end to nose tackle paid off in a big way for the Buffalo Bills Sunday.  Buffalo shutout Washington 23-0 and the Bills defensive line dominated.

Buffalo had nine sacks – Dareus was credited with 2 ½.  His teammate – linebacker Chris Kelsay was impressed.

“He’s a force to be reckoned with,” Kelsay said. “He’s got a number of years ahead of him playing like that. We’re fortunate that he’s on our side.”

The nine sacks by Buffalo’s defense were the second-most in team history.

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SEC In The NFL – “Weirdest Home Game Ever” As Tebow Rallies Broncos In Miami

Six NFL quarterbacks got their first start under center in Week 7 of the NFL schedule.

John Beck started in place of Rex Grossman (Florida) for the Washington Redskins – and lost 33-20.

Kyle Boller lasted just over one-half against the Kansas City Chiefs – as the Raiders were shutout 28-0.

A.J. Feeley started for the injured Sam Bradford as St. Louis traveled to Dallas – and were blown out 34-7.

Charlie Whitehurst took place under center for Seattle just in time for the snoozefest in Cleveland – as the Browns beat the Seahawawks 6-3.

Rookie Christian Ponder, the Vikings first round-pick, had to face the World Champion Green Bay Packers in his first start – and got beat 33-27.

Returning to his home state, Tim Tebow (Florida) led the Denver Broncos into Miami – and won 18-15 in overtime.

Six 2011 debuts – one only win.  And what an improbably victory it was.

”Weirdest Home Game Ever,” read part of a Miami Herald headline.

Tebow’s start coupled with Dolphins honoring the 2008 National Champion Florida Gators at halftime produced the following spectacle, as noted by columnist Greg Cote.

It “meant half of the crowd was cheering for the opponent’s quarterback.  It also meant the other half of the crowd (including many University of Miami fans) were booing the halftime ceremony honoring the Gators.

“You heard chants of “Te-bow!” and chants of “Te-bow sucks!”- sometime a simultaneous dual.”

The game itself wasn’t much of a dual for the first three-and-a-half quarters.  Miami led 15-0 and Tebow looked bad.  Really bad.

“Through almost 55 minutes of football at Sun Life Stadium, Tebow looked like he might not even survive his debut as a starter this season,” wrote columnist Israel Gutierrez.

“He was so bad, the Twitter universe was overwhelmed with jokes about his inaccuracy, his awkwardness in the pocket, his random 360-degree spins and how obvious it was that the Denver coaching staff had little-to-no-trust in him as a passer.”

On the last two drives of regulation, Tebow began earning their trust.

The Broncos quarterback threw two touchdown passes in 2:44 and tied the game by running in a two-point conversion with 17 seconds left.

Denver kicker Matt Prater kicked a 52-yard field goal in overtime and the Broncos walked out a winner.

The Denver Post, citing Elias Sports Bureau figures, notes that no team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 had ever been down by as many as 15 points with less than three minutes remaining and won.

Behold.  The Miracle in Miami.

“It’s my fault that we were in that (15-0) situation in the first place.  I just have to play better in the first three quarters so we don’t have to make that comeback in the fourth,” said Tebow after the game.

Just how bad was Tebow before the final drives of regulation?  The Broncos QB had completed just 4-of-14 passes for 40 yards.  But in the end, Tebow and the Broncos got exactly what they wanted – a win in Miami.

“He’s a guy that as long as there’s time on the clock, he’s going to give us a chance to win,” said John Elway after the game.  “Those are the things you can’t coach.”

For other “Tim-Tastic” coverage, check out the roundup at ProFootballtalk.com.

The Dolphins meltdown has plenty in the media speculating about the future of head coach Tony Sparano.  As part of the Florida Gators celebration, Urban Meyer was in the stadium Sunday and spent time talking with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in the second half.

Before the game, Ross was photographed with one arm around Meyer and the other around Don Shula.

The Miami Herald says a coaching change with the Dolphins is coming and that Meyer seemed to impress Ross.  But the paper says that if Meyer ever returns to coaching, it will likely be at the collegiate level but later added that “Meyer seemed to join the conversation Sunday.”

Some other SEC-related news from around the league:

Cam Newton (Auburn) and Carolina won for the second time this season while the QB tied a rookie record. The Panthers beat Washington 33-20 as Newton rushed for his seventh touchdown this season – tying a rookie record for most rushing scores for a quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

“The kid is a pretty Ferrari,” said Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall.  “He can run. He can throw.  He’s got the entire package. He’s going to a be a player in this league for a long time.”

Newton completed 18-of-23 passes for 256 yards and one touchdown.

Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt) wasn’t great on Sunday, but good enough to win as Chicago beat Tampa Bay in London.  Cutler was 17-32 with one touchdown and two interceptions in the game.  Afterwards, he refused to blame the long-distance travel.

“You know, the travel and all that had nothing to do with the football game,” Cutler said. “We could have gotten here yesterday. It’s a matter of going out and executing, limiting turnovers. That’s what wins football games, not getting here a week early or three days. It has nothing to do with it.”

The Houston Texans had not one but two former SEC running backs cross the 100-yard mark on Sunday.

Both Arian Foster (Tennessee) and Ben Tate (Auburn) crossed the century mark as the Texans blasted the Tennessee Titans 41-7.  Foster wound 115 yards rushing while Tate finished with 104.

“When I go out there and see him get a touchdown or break a run, I start going nuts on the sideline because I want to do the same thing,” Tate said. “When I get my chance, I’m definitely trying to outdo him.”

For the season, Tate is the Texans leading rusher with 466 yards.  Foster is second with 420.

Rookie Mark Ingram (Alabama) and the Saints had their way with the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night – winning 62-7.  Ingram appeared to be on track for his first 100-yard game of his career but was sidelined by a fourth quarter injury.  He finished with 91 yards on 14 carries.

The injury was to his heel and Saints coach Sean Payton said after the game that x-rays were negative.

A few other injuries of notes:

Earnest Graham (Florida) Percy Harvin (Florida), Matthew Stafford (Georgia), Darren McFadden (Arkansas), and Mohamed Massaquoi (Georgia) all left the field on Sunday with various injuries for their respective teams.

Stafford was scheduled to have an MRI Monday for an injured leg, McFadden was believed to have sprained his foot, Harvin aggrevated a rib injury, Massaquoi suffered a head injury after getting hit following an incomplete pass over the middle and Graham reportedly suffered a torn Achilles tendon.

 

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SEC Headlines – 10/13/11 Part One

1.  What goes on during halftime in Alabama’s locker room?  Find out here.

2.  BCS guru Brad Edwards believes Alabama will top the first standings of the year.

3.  Gene Chizik takes the high road when it comes to how some in the media covered the Cam Newton story.

4.  Barrett Trotter and Kiehl Frazier will continue to split the QB duties at Auburn… while Clint Moseley waits his turn.

5.  Due to an ankle injury, Arkansas running back Kody Walker could possibly redshirt.

6.  Mike Anderson is remodeling the Razorback basketball program.

7.  LSU’s John Chavis doesn’t want his return to Tennessee to become the storyline of the week.

8.  The Tigers’ season-opening basketball game with Nicholls State will be free to the public.

9.  Three years ago, Ole Miss upset eventual national champion Florida in The Swamp.  Can they upset Alabama this week?

10.  Could the shotgun formation blow up in quarterback Randall Mackey’s face on Saturday?

11.  South Carolina’s defensive ends are a big concern for Mississippi State.

12.  Dan Mullen is keeping every quarterback option on the table for Saturday.

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SEC In The NFL – Tebow Time In Denver

It’s finally Tim Tebow time in Denver.  Broncos’ fans got their wish on Sunday as the former Florida quarterback replace Kyle Orton in the second half against the San Diego Chargers (and was greeted with a standing ovation).

Down by 16 points, Tebow led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, running for one score and throwing for another.  After a failed two-point conversion on the last touchdown that would have tied the game and a San Diego field goal put the Chargers up by five points, Tebow led a final Bronco drive, making it to the Charger 29-yard line before a pass was knocked down  as time expired.  San Diego won the game 29-24.

“It was fun to play football again,” Tebow said after the game, “but there is no rejoicing in a loss.”

The Broncos are off this week so that buys the Denver coaching staff some time to make decision on a starting QB but if coach John Fox names anyone but Tebow the starter, he may have to” build a fortress around his house so that the citizens of Denver don’t attack Fox’s family.”

Update: No surprise here.  Denver Post says Tebow likely to be be named starter. The Broncos are off this week and then head to Miami, giving Tebow a start in his home state.

For their part, The Chargers downplayed Tebow’s impact in Sunday’s game. “Believe me, there is a specific game plan you need when you’re playing a quarterback like him, and you’re torn a little bit when you’re facing two,” San Diego coach Norv Turner said.

A few other former SEC quarterbacks made news in a losing effort on Sunday.

Rookie Cam Newton (Auburn) continues to be the bright spot of the most exciting losing team in the NFL.  The Carolina Panthers are now 1-4 with all four losses coming on fourth-quarter scores.  On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints rallied to beat the Panthers 30-27.

“It hurts losing, period,” Newton said afterwards “You know you have standards and when you don’t meet that quota of yourself, you just ask yourself why. There’s a reason we keep losing and I want to know the reason.”

For the day, Newton was 16-of-31 for 224 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

No one threw for more yards this weekend than Eli Manning (Ole Miss).  The New York Giants quarterback was 24-of-39 for 420 yards and three TD passes against the Seattle Seahawks.  But Manning also threw three interceptions against the 10-point underdogs and the Giants lost the game 36-25.

Down 29-25, Manning had the Giants on the door step of taking the lead.  From the Seahawks 10-yard line, Manning threw a pick-six interception that put the game out of reach.

“It kind of came down to the one play at the end,” Manning said.  “We had a tipped ball that they picked up and intercepted.  It’s a shame to lose a game with that type of play.  I’d kind of rather get outplayed than one of the games when we had a chance but didn’t make the play.”

The 420 passing yards were a career-high for Manning.

A career-best for another Ole Miss alum Sunday in New England.  Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis went for 136 yards and two scores as the Patriots beat the New York Jets 30-21.

“BenJarvus is a great guy to block for,” Patriots guard Logan Mankins said. “He reads the play out, he finds the hole and he won’t fumble.”

Running back Arian Foster (Tennessee) crossed the 100-yard mark –as a receiver Sunday.  Foster caught five passes for 116 yards and rushed for 68 yards in the Texans 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (LSU) was key to the Chiefs 28-24 win in Indianapolis.  Bowe caught seven passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.  If you haven’t seen it, check out this juggling touchdown catch by Bowe.

A few other SEC-related notes from around the league:

Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons (Georgia) should be included in the league’s top pass rushers, according to Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times.  Clemons had two sacks in Seattle’s upset victory over New York. Clemons has four sacks on the season and led Seattle with 11 a year ago.

Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour (Georgia) had two sacks in the Raiders win over Texas. “I just felt like we grew up as a team today, we took a step forward as a team, we continued to fight,” Seymour said. “Last year, we probably would of lost this game.”

Green Bay Packers left tackle Chad Clifton (Tennessee) suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday night’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons and could miss several weeks.

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Trotter Still AU’s Starting QB, But That Position’s Under Review

Arkansas did things the right way on Saturday.  If you’re going to beat Auburn, you’d better blow ‘em the heck out.  The Razorbacks did.

And while the Hogs’ offense did their part in the 38-14 win, the Auburn offense struggled, failing to create the shootout most of us expected to see.  The performance dropped Auburn into eighth place in the SEC in total offense, eighth in scoring offense and ninth in passing offense.

For the year, the Tigers are averaging 27.8 points per game… two touchdowns off last year’s 41.2 points per game average.  Their 374.7 yards per game average is down from 499.2 last season.

In Gus Malzahn’s first season on The Plains, his offense started hot and then struggled through the meat of AU’s SEC schedule.  Auburn finished just 3-5 in league play in 2009.  Last season, Malzahn was hailed as a genius as his offense — behind best-SEC-player-I-ever-saw Cam Newton — turned football into pinball.

Barrett Trotter is no Cam Newton.  Against Arkansas he completed just 6 of 19 passes for 81 yards and an interception.  For the season he’s 79 of 141 (56%) for 976 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions.  Clint Moseley is just 2 of 2 passing.  True freshman Kiehl Frazier is just 2 of 5 for 18 yards and two picks.  (Yep, he’s completed as many passes to opponents’ players as he has to his own teammates.)

Frazier has been the Wildcat option so far, but he sounds like he’s ready to take on a larger role.  “If Coach Malzahn wanted me to, I could run more of the base offense, but he wants me in the Wildcat.”

Yesterday, Gene Chizik hinted that changes might be coming at the quarterback spot: “Today, Barrett Trotter is our starting quarterback.  Obviously, we’ll spend all day today, we’ll spend all day tomorrow evaluating all of our positions on our team just like we do every Sunday and every Monday.  And we’ll go from there.  But today, Barrett Trotter is our starting quarterback.”

Yes, but for how long?  And who’s ready to step in and take the reins of Malzahn’s offense?

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SEC In The NFL – A.J. Green & Julio Jones Putting Up Almost Identical Numbers

Many similarities exist between A.J. Green (Georgia) and Julio Jones(Alabama).  Both are wide receivers who played their Saturday football in the SEC, both were taken early in the first round of the NFL draft – Green went fourth to the Bengals while Jones went sixth to the Falcons– and a quarter of the way through their first NFL season, both wideouts find themselves atop the rookie leaderboard.

On Sunday, the symmetry continued as both players went over 100 receiving yards, their teams won close games and the Bengals and Falcons now sport identical 2-2 records.

Green caught four passes – including a couple of highlight grabs – for 118 yards in Cincinnati’s 23-20 victory over the previously undefeated Buffalo Bills.

On the road at Seattle, Jones caught 11 passes for 127 yards in Atlanta’s 30-28 victory over the Seahawks. Only seven players have ever caught more passes against Seattle.

It was the second this season Jones has had more than 100 yard receiving in a game.  Green has also crossed the century mark twice.

For the season, Jones leads all rookies in receiving yards with 342.  Second place? Green, of course.  He has 312 receiving yards.

Rookie running back Stevan Ridley (LSU) saw his most extension action on Sunday, carrying the ball 10 times for a game-high 97 yards in New England’s 31-19 victory over Oakland.

“The offensive line did an awesome job. Like I said, those were the biggest holes I’ve ever seen in my life. So I just had to keep running and hit them at full speed,” said the Patriots rookie.

While Ridley had more rushing yards than Oakland’s Darren McFaddeen (Arkansas) who finished with 75 yards on 14 carries, McFadden still leads the NFL in rushing for the season – with 468 yards and an impressive 6.2 yards per carry.

Matthew Stafford (Georgia) and his Detroit Lions are a weekly staple here on SEC in the NFL – and this week is no exception.  Stafford led the Lions back from a 20-point deficit for the second straight week as Detroit defeated Dallas 34-30.

“Any time you can come back from 20 down, you are doing some kind of stealing.  But you have to play great to steal one like this,” said the Lions quarterback.

The Lions trailed Dallas 27-3 in the third quarter before embarking on their comeback. The Lions defense was responsible for two touchdowns but Stafford led the Lions on two TD drives, including what proved to the game winning score with just 2:34 left in the fourth quarter.

Stafford finished with 240 yards passing on the day.  The Lions are 4-0 for the first time since 1980.

In Houston, it was the running game that made the difference against Pittsburgh. Arian Foster (Tennessee) played his first full game since last January and become only the third running back in the past decade to rush for more than 150 yards against the Steelers defense.

“One thing about him,” coach Gary Kubiak said, “if you don’t have a good play, that big body of his falls forward, and it’s still a 2- or 3-yard (gain). He’s always a falling-forward guy. That’s just the way he plays the game. It’s so positive with what we’re doing.”

Foster rushed for 155 yards on 30 carries in the Texans 17-10 win over the Steelers.

A few other notes from around the league:

Two former SEC quarterbacks faced off in Chicago.  One got the stats – the other got the victory.  Cam Newton (Auburn) threw for 374 yards but the Carolina Panthers fell short against Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt) and the Chicago Bears – losing 34-29.

Two SEC alums accounted for all the points for the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday.  Ryan Succop (South Carolina) kicked five goals – including one from 54 yards – and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (LSU) caught a 52-yard touchdown pass as the Chiefs got their first win of the season – beating Minnesota 22-17.

Eli Manning had another impressive game and the New York Giants got another win.  The Giants rallied to beat the Arizona Cardinals 31-27.  Manning threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns.

The last touchdown came right after perhaps the most controversial call of the weekend.  Receiver Victor Cruz caught a Manning pass, dropped to the ground, left the ball, and then got up– all without being touched.

“We got a break on that one I think,” said Manning after the game. “I thought it was going to get ruled a fumble and I saw it pretty clear.  I don’t know what the call was or why.”

The referee ruled that Cruz “game himself up” on the play and was therefore down. Manning connected with Hakeem Nicks on what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on the very next play. The Giants are 3-1.

And finally, a week in the NFL can’t go by without mentioning Tim Tebow (Florida) and the Denver Broncos.  Denver was crushed by the Packers on Sunday 49-23.  Tebow saw action for one play and lost a yard.  After the game, Denver coach John Fox said he’s sticking with the starter. “We feel Kyle Orton is our starting quarterback.”

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SEC In The NFL – McFadden Is The Man

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden (Arkansas) is the man.  Just ask New York Jets corner back Darrelle Revis.  “He just crushed us today,” said Revis following the Raiders 34-24 victory on Sunday.

McFadden rushed for 171 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns.  One of those touchdown runs went for 70 yards on a play that was supposed to be a pass.  “I just felt like it was in my best interest to go ahead and run,” McFadden said.

“He’s able to get from point A to point B faster than anyone I’ve seen,” quarterback Jason Campbell (Auburn) said. “He can get in a hole and shift out and make two guys miss and get down the sidelines.”

With 393 rushing yards in his first three games, McFadden leads the NFL.  ”He’s the best back in football, bar none,” said Raiders coach Hue Jackson.

On the defensive side of the ball for Oakland, Jarvis Moss (Florida) had a big day for the Raiders, notes Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News.  The defensive end had two sacks, a tackle for a loss, and three quarterback hits.

Pending the outcome of tonight’s Washington-Dallas game, there will only be three or four undefeated teams left standing heading into week 4.  One of those teams is the Detroit Lions led by quarterback Matthew Stafford (Georgia).  On Sunday, Stafford led the Lions back from a 20-0 halftime deficit as Detroit rallied to beat the Minnesota Vikings 26-23 in overtime.

Although this is Stafford’s third year in the league, thanks to an assortment of knee and shoulder injuries, the Lions QB completed his 16th career start on Sunday, completing his “rookie” year.  Detroit News columnist Mike O’Hara breaks down Stafford’s stats and says the former Bulldog compares favorably to another SEC legend – Peyton Manning.

“Stafford is proving he’s the real thing.  He is a quarterback, not just playing the role.”

Sunday afternoon in Minnesota, Stafford completed 32 of 46 passes for 378 yards and two TDs. Stafford is currently fifth in the NFL in passing yards, only behind Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Drew Brees and leader Tom Brady.

Speaking of Cam Newton (Auburn), the number one overall pick in this year’s NFL draft had his worst statistical game but got something that had eluded him in his first two starts – a victory.  The Carolina Panthers beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 16-10.

After back-to-back  400+ yard efforts in his first two games, Newton completed 18 of 34 passes for just 158 yards yesterday. But he did engineer his first fourth-quarter game-winning touchdown drive in a game that featured “monsoon-like” weather conditions.

“No matter what the conditions were — dry, slick, wet — it doesn’t matter as a quarterback in this league,” Newton said. “There’s an old saying: ’Don’t tell me about the pain, just bring me the baby.’”

Another positive for the rookie yesterday – no interceptions and no sacks.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (Ole Miss) was also a winner Sunday – torching the Philadelphia Eagles for four touchdown passes with no interceptions in the Giants 29-16 victory.

Sean Hartnett says it’s time to recognize Manning for what he is – a top 10 NFL quarterback.

“No longer should he be the whipping boy of New York back pages, radio hosts and fans when things go wrong”

A few other SEC-related notes from Sunday:

  • Mike Wallace (Ole Miss) caught 5 passes for 144 yards including an 81-yard touchdown pass in the Steelers 23-20 victory over Indianapolis.
  • Julio Jones (Alabama) had an impressive showing in a losing cause.  The Atlanta Falcons rookie caught 6 passes for 115 yards against Tampa Bay.  The Bucs won the game 16-13.
  • Sidney Rice (South Carolina) had 8 catches for 109 yards as Seattle won for the first time this year.  The Seahawks beat the Arizona Cardinals 13-10 in Rice’s season debut.  He had been sidelined with a shoulder injury.
  • Mark Ingram (Alabama) scored the go-ahead touchdown in the Saints victory over the Texans.  It was his first touchdown of his young NFL career. New Orleans defeated Houston 40-33.
  • The Broncos lost to the Titans 17-14 on Sunday fueling speculation in Denver that it’s time for Tim Tebow (Florida).  But coach John Fox is still backing Kyle Orton.  “Right now, in our opinion, Kyle gives us the best chance to win.”

And finally, Colts owner Jim Irsay made news this morning when he told a group of Super Bowl donors that Peyton Manning (Tennessee) was out for the season.  Irsay later clarified those comments saying there’s an “outside chance” Manning returns in December.

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SEC In The NFL: Stafford And Grossman Lead 2-0 Efforts

Stafford and Grossman get victories; Newton smashes records

There are only seven undefeated teams left in the NFL after two weeks of games and a couple of those squads sporting a perfect 2-0 mark are led by former SEC quarterbacks.

In Detroit, the Lions are 2-0 to start the year for the first time since 2007. They did it in style with a 48-3 blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs, the most lopsided regular season win in franchise history.  Leading the way was Matthew Stafford (Georgia).  The third-year Lions quarterback threw four touchdowns on 23 of 39 passes that went for 294 yards.

Those four TD tosses in only his 15th NFL start puts Stafford in elite company. It marked the third time in his career that Stafford has thrown that many TD passes in a game.  Only fellow Georgia alum Fran Tarkenton can top that.  Tarkenton threw four touchdown passes four different times in his first 15 starts.

In Washington, it was a tale of two halves for Rex Grossman (Florida).  In the first half of the Redskins game against the Arizona Cardinals, Grossman threw two interceptions including one at the goal line, while leading his team to only score one score in four chances inside the Red Zone.

But in the fourth quarter, Grossman completed 12 of 17 passes with a touchdown.  On the day, the former Florida Gator ended throwing for 291 on 25 of 43 passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“It was just one minor mistake here or there. But we got it done,” said Grossman, who has now thrown multiple touchdowns in three of his five games as Washington’s starter (three of them were last season). “That’s all that matters. I felt like on offense, we dominated yards-wise, but we had only 10 points to show for it (in the first half). That’s something we’ll look at film and work to improve on, but we won the game, and that’s what matters. We didn’t capitalize on some of our drives, but we did when it counted.”

He’s starting his NFL career 0-2 but the most celebrated former SEC quarterback continues to be Cam Newton (Auburn).  One week after tying a rookie record for most passing yards in a game, Newton set the rookie record on Sunday against the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, throwing for 432 yards in the Panthers 30-23 loss. It’s not the only record he set.

Newton is the only rookie in NFL history to post two consecutive 400-yard passing yards in a team’s first two games of the season and is the only player to throw for 400+ yards in his first two starts.  His passing-yards in his first two games – 854 – is also a record for a quarterback in his first two starts. The 432 passing yards were also a franchise record.

But Newton also threw three interceptions and the Panthers are now 0-2 on the season.  How much blame should the quarterback get?

Writes Doug Farrar at Yahoo! Sports, “there’s no question that he helped his team lose the Packers game,” but  Farrar also adds that Newton  “kept his team in both of those games, and when you watch the tape against the Packers, it was the little things he did that impressed.”

For perspective, Farrar points out that last season Carolina quarterbacks failed to throw for at least 151 yards in six games.  Newton threw for that many yards in the first quarter against the Packers.

The most popular backup quarterback in the NFL saw action Sunday but not at his normal position.  Denver quarterback Tim Tebow (Florida) was forced into action as a wide receiver because of injuries.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team,” said Tebow. “If they ask me to go out there and run some routes and block some people, I’ll go do it.”

Tebow did have any balls thrown to him. The Broncos beat Cincinnati 24-22.

Elsewhere around the league:

An impressive second-game showing for Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (Georgia).  The rookie wideout caught 10 passes for 124 yards and one touchdown in the Bengals loss at Denver.

The touchdown came on an impressive sideline catch early in the fourth quarter.

“I was trying to make the play when my number was called, and Andy (Dalton) did a great job giving me the ball,” Green said. “We’re young, and we’re going to get better every week.  We’re taking steps every week.”

Oakland Raiders rookie Denarius Moore (Tennessee) was impressive at Buffalo on Sunday.  Seeing action because of injuries in the Raiders receiving corps, Moore caught five passes for 146 yards.  One of those catches resulted in a 50-yard touchdown.

“It was an OK day for me,” Moore said. “I came in and made plays when they called upon me. The overall thing is we took a loss today. We’ve just got to come back, practice Monday and get better.”

The Raiders lost to the Bills 38-35 despite a 323-yard passing day from quarterback Jason Campbell (Auburn).

Wide receiver Mike Wallace (Ole Miss) played a big role in the Steelers route of the Seahawks on Sunday.

Wallace had 8 catches for 126 yards and one touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 24-0 shutout of Seattle.

Three receivers of note with repeat 100-yard performances the first two weeks of the season:

Wide receiver Devery Henderson (LSU): Three catches for 103 yards and one touchdown in the Saints victory over the Bears. That follows his six-catch 100 yard performance in Week 1 against the Packers.

Tight end Jason Witten (Tennessee): Seven catches for 102 yards in the Cowboys’ 27-24 overtime victory at San Francisco. That follows his six-catch, 110 yard performance against the Jets.

Running back Ben Tate (Auburn): On Sunday, he went 103 yards on 23 carries in Houston’s 23-13 victory at Miami. That comes on the heels of his 116-yard rushing performance in a Week 1 blowout of Indianpolis.

Finally, it’s the absence of an SEC alum that’s causing panic in Indianapolis. With the Colts dropping to 0-2 following their loss to Cleveland on Sunday, Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz had this to say about a team playing without star quarterback Peyton Manning (Tennessee).

“They’re not going to win any football games with Kerry Collins. Nice guy, stand-up guy, and once upon a time, he was a pretty darned good NFL quarterback.

“I will acknowledge, when the Colts went out and grabbed Collins as a short-term insurance policy for Peyton Manning, I thought it was a terrific idea. Surround him with playmakers, run the ball a little better, play some defense and win some games.

“I was wrong.

“The Colts were wrong.”

Kravitz solution? Brett Favre.

“The next time Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay tweets about visiting Hattiesburg, Miss., here’s hoping he’s not joking around.”

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AU’s Jacobs Discusses NCAA Investigation Into “Institutional Control”

The NCAA is continuing to look into Auburn’s athletic department.  The goal is to determine if the school has “institutional control.”  And Auburn AD Jay Jacobs says that’s perfectly normal.

Speaking yesterday in Hoover, Alabama, Jacobs said that his school has not received a notice of inquiry from sports’ governing body, the first step in an official investigation.  He told The Birmingham News that the Cam Newton situation opened the door for the NCAA to start snooping around, but that he’s heard nothing new with regards to Newton in “the last month of so.”

(Everyone jumps to conclusion that that means he DID hear something new on Newton three or four months ago.)

Jacobs believes the NCAA is just doing standard due-diligence work at this point:


“The Cam one is the one that started this entire thing.  But the way the process works is once they begin to look at one thing, they look at everything around your program, whether it’s a coach in another sport having too many text messages and you filed a secondary report.  The look at all of that.

They’re making sure we have institutional control, and there’s been nothing to indicate to me or to them otherwise.  So when  you say how many facets, it’s basically everything that may come up in a normal operation of a year — this year, last year or two years from now.  They take a look just to make sure they’re not missing anything…

The thing I’ve learned about the NCAA is, I have a lot more respect for them today than I did a year ago.  They’re very thorough.  They’re professional people.  With all these things going on at other institutions, they just want to make sure they get it right.  That’s what we want to do.  There’s no question that doesn’t justify being asked.”


Those three short statements help explain why we at MrSEC.com always say that any visit from the NCAA is a bad visit.  Once investigators arrive on campus, they can look under any and every rock they wish.

In Jacobs’ case, he’d better hope the right stones aren’t overturned.  And that goes for any AD who has NCAA sleuths snooping around his campus.

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Can The SEC Win Six Straight National Championships?

Alabama fans hated to see former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville hold up six fingers signifying six consecutive wins over Alabama from 2002-2008. This season Alabama fans might relish the sight considering Alabama will be one of the leading candidates to win the SEC’s six consecutive national championship in 2011. Never before in the history of college football has a single conference won five consecutive national titles until Auburn beat Oregon last season. To compound other conferences misery, it has been accomplished by four different schools in the five-year run (Alabama,Auburn,Florida, and LSU).

Alabama, LSU,South Carolina and even Arkansas are prime candidates to give other league commissioners including the Big 10′s Jim Delany another reason to despise the SEC in 2011. LSU (with or without suspended quarterback Jordan Jefferson and wide receiver Russell Shepard) have a tenacious front seven lead by linebacker Sam Montgomery and defensive end Barkevious Mingo. Arkansas suffered a major loss in early fall camp losing one of the SEC best running back’s Knile Davis to a knee injury. But the Hogs are expected to make a seamless quarterback transition from Ryan Mallett to Tyler Wilson. Joe Adams and Jarius Wright will lead the most talented wide receiver corps in the nation.Alabama coach Nick Saban nearly allowed himself to smile at a recent press conference talking about one of the best defenses in the nation lead by linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower and Heisman Trophy candidate running back Trent Richardson. Even South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is excited about returning sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore and a very talented front seven on defense led by All-SEC defensive tackle Travian Robertson and freshmen sensation Jadeveon Clowney.

How has the SEC won five consecutive national championships? The SEC enjoys a tremendous advantage with some of the top coaching talent in the nation, recruiting success and tough weekly competition that prepares teams for the post season.

In this five-year run, the SEC has had great coaches. Nick Saban, since joining the SEC, has a 91-27 record in nine seasons at LSU andAlabama. Saban has coached a Heisman winner (Mark Ingram) and won two BCS national championships (LSU in 2003 and Alabama in 2009). Gene Chizik, who endured the infamous “boo bird” at his airport arrival with a 5-19 record as a head coach at Iowa State, has gone 22-5 in two seasons at Auburn. He has coached a Heisman winner in Cam Newton, and won a BCS national championship at a University that went half a century without repeating as national champions. Urban Meyer, who “retired” after this past season to become a ESPN analyst, amassed a sparkling 65-15 record with the Florida Gators, coached a Heisman winner in Tim Tebow, and won two BCS titles in a three-year span (2006, 2008). LSU coach Les Miles who waivers from looking like a genius to a buffoon with his clock management skills, has compiled a 62-17 record at LSU and won a BCS national title in 2003.

TV rules college football now and the SEC’s TV exposure, on CBS and ESPN have allowed the league to telecast its product nationwide. Alabama recruited Heisman Trophy winning running back Mark Ingram from Flint,Michigan. Tennessee recruited starting quarterbacks Casey Clausen from Northridge, California and pulled Erik Ainge out of Hillsboro, Oregon.

Competition in the SEC makes a team battle tested. Critics proclaim there is no way an SEC team can go undefeated each year running the gauntlet of a typical SEC sausage grinder schedule. Auburn and Alabama’s undefeated seasons in 2009 and 2010 refute that premise. When Florida won the national championship in 2006, it lost to Auburn and also had stiff challenges in LSU and Tennessee. In 2008, Florida suffered a defeat to Ole Miss, struggled against LSU and Georgia and also had to beat Alabama (who went 12-0 in the regular season) 31-20 in the SEC Championship game. In 2009, Alabama did go unbeaten, but the Tide’s Terrance Cody had to block two field goals (one on the last play of the game to win 14-12) and also was trailing Auburn before driving the length of field to win 26-21.

One position where the SEC is a level above any conference in the nation is defensive line play. The SEC clones defensive tackles and ends to combat spread formation offenses run by talented quarterback and skill players from other conferences. As Jon Solomon of Al.com notes the BCS Championship Game defensive MVPs during the SEC’s run have all been defensive linemen:Florida’s Derrick Harvey, LSU’s Ricky Jean-Francois,Florida’s Carlos Dunlap, Alabama’s Marcell Dareus and Auburn’s Nick Fairley. If it’s not Harvey sacking Troy Smith three times, it’s Dareus knocking Colt McCoy out of the game. If it’s not Jean-Francois blocking an Ohio State field goal, it’s Fairley wreaking havoc in Oregon’s backfield. These athletic linemen “freaks” relentlessly pressure opponent’s quarterbacks and shut down running games on the biggest stage in college football.

“One hundred percent that’s the difference between the SEC and other conferences,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “SEC fans think it’s the SEC speed. The Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC, these guys have speed on the perimeter. It’s not about the speed. “It’s the difference in the interior line — the athletic ability, the power, the energy, the intensity, the depths of it. Almost every team in the SEC has defensive linemen that when they go outside the conference, they will dominate the opposing offensive line.”

Mental and physical toughness goes hand-in-hand with success in the SEC. Legendary coaches in the league such as Paul Bryant, Pat Dye, Vince Dooley, Gene Stallings, and General Robert Neyland believed running the ball and playing defense are the keys to winning championships. Every SEC team to win the BCS title the past five years has either averaged over 200 rushing yards per game or held its opponents to less than 300 yards of offense per game. The SEC prides itself on having the biggest and strongest teams, not the fastest. Speed kills, but not always as  Oregon discovered the hard way against Auburn last season.

Will the law of averages finally catch up with the SEC this year as many college football critics predict? Maybe, but no one thought two players at Auburn who were not on anyone’s preseason All-American list such as quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley would end up being such difference makers.

Critics say no team can win a national championship with an inexperienced quarterback. Ask Greg McElroy of Alabama and Cam Newton of Auburn if they can win one. Five of the past nine national titlists have had a first-year starting quarterback, including the Tide in 2009.  A sophomore is too young and inexperienced to make that much of a difference. Well ask sophomore running back Mark Ingram if he could make a difference as he did in Alabama’s 2009 run. A fifth-year senior Matt Flynn who played sporadically during his career was the calm effective game manager Les Miles needed to win the national championship over Ohio State in 2007.

Can the SEC win an unprecedented sixth national championship? Don’t bet against them.

Brett Beaird and Harold Bugg co-host the Boomo Bugg Show on WYTK 93.9 FM The Score weekdays from 12:00-2:00 pm and the Sportsbuzz on WZTV weekdays at 5:30 and 11:00 pm CT. Brett is also a free-lance writer for Tiderinsider.com.

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