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New DC Haynes Says Cotton Bowl Could Provide Preview Of His New Arkansas Defense

New Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes is in an unusual position.  Hired quickly enough after the regular season that he’s already on staff and coaching his new team in their bowl game, the ex-Ohio State assistant says the Hogs’ defensive style in the Cotton Bowl might provide a preview of what he’ll do next season.

Asked if his gameplan for Kansas State will be more of what Arkansas has done in 2011 or what he plans to do going forward, Haynes said:


“I think it’s going to be a little bit of both.  But, again, I think one of the reasons why I’m here is there is a little bit of similarity to what we did at Ohio State and what we do at Arkansas.  It’s going to be a little bit of both.  A little bit of a mixture.  But, to me, football is football.”


Haynes also said yesterday that the “jack” linebacker position used by Willy Robinson the past four seasons will remain a part of the Hogs’ scheme.  “Those type of guys, that position, will stay for sure.”  That position is basically a hybrid safety-linebacker spot.

The Razorbacks will — finally — face KSU in the Cotton Bowl tomorrow night.

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MrSEC.com’s Official Bowl Projections

So where will your favorite team go bowling?  We at MrSEC have our own thoughts on that matter and you can find them below.

But first, let’s establish a couple of ground rules.  First, we’re going to go with the favorite in tomorrow’s SEC Championship Game.  So all of the predictions below are based on the assumption that LSU will avoid an upset at the hands of Georgia.  Also, we’ll assume that Alabama will not be jumped in the BCS standings by Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, or anyone else come Sunday afternoon.

Now, on with the predictions…

 

BCS Championship Game:  #1 LSU vs #2 Alabama

Capital One Bowl:  Arkansas (SEC 2nd) vs Nebraska (Big Ten 2nd)

Outback Bowl:  South Carolina (SEC 3rd/4th) vs Michigan State (Big Ten 3rd)

Cotton Bowl:  Georgia (SEC 3rd/4th) vs Oklahoma (Big 12 2nd)

Chick-fil-A Bowl:  Auburn (SEC 5th) vs Florida State (ACC 2nd)

Gator Bowl:  Florida (SEC 6th) vs Ohio State (Big Ten 5th)

Music City Bowl:  Mississippi State (SEC 7th) vs Wake Forest (ACC 6th)

Liberty Bowl:  Vanderbilt (SEC 8th) vs Cincinnati (UPDATE — through a series of loopholes the Big East can force a team into the Liberty Bowl in place of a C-USA team.)

 

Comments:

* The SEC will not have a representative in the Sugar Bowl as both LSU and Alabama will land in the BCS title game.

* The SEC does not have enough bowl eligible teams to fill its slot in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

* The toughest call of the above games is the Capital One Bowl.  It’s our belief that the majority of Arkansas fans would prefer the closer trip to Dallas — despite the weather advantages offered by Central Florida.  Also, the Capital One committee might feel that either Georgia (closer) or South Carolina (a program that last played in the Orlando bowl in 1975 and currently has an excited fanbase) will travel better and fill more hotels and restaurants.  In the end, we believe they’ll go with the higher-rated Razorbacks and hope for a good turnout, but we won’t be surprised at all if Carolina or Georgia landing that slot.  In fact, the more we type, the more we’re leaning toward a switch to the Gamecocks…

* The only other game up for real debate is the Music City Bowl which has a choice to make between 6-6 Mississippi State and 6-6 Vanderbilt.  Mississippi State would bring more fans into the Nashville area and fill more hotel rooms than the hometown Commodores.  But it’s also possible some political pressure could come into play which would push the Music City committee to take the re-energized local team.  Ultimately, we think State will get the invite to Nashville with the spin being that Vanderbilt’s players deserve an opportunity to go bowling outside of their own fair city… which means VU will spend New Year’s Eve in Memphis.

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SEC Headlines 11/27/2011 Part Three

1. Alabama wants a rematch with LSU.

2. Gene Wojciechowski: Alabama-LSU “became 99.9 percent official Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium.”

3. Chris DuFresne: “There remains a chance voters will rise up again and prevent LSU-Alabama II.”

4. Looks like the Chik-Fil-A or Gator Bowl for Auburn.

5. South Carolina likely headed to the Outback or Cotton Bowl.

6. Liberty or Music City Bowl likely for Mississippi State. Ditto for Vanderbilt.

7. Bowl projections from the Orlando Sentinel.

8. Kentucky 87 – Portland 63.  Lowest turnover total for the Wildcats since 1993.

9. USC 63  - USC 60.  Gamecocks fall to Southern Cal.

10. Arkansas 86 – Grambling  44. Freshmen score 53 of the Razorbacks total.

Extras

11. Former Les Miles assistant Larry Porter reportedly out at Memphis.  

12. Washington State coach rumored to be out - Mike Leach could be the target.

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Nutt, Boone Asked About Coach’s Job Security At UM

Houston Nutt is in trouble.  Coaches who follow up a 4-8 season with a 2-6 record to start the next year, find themselves answering questions about their job security.  Ole Miss’ coach was doing just that yesterday.

“I don’t look at it that way, going into the office like, ‘Uh-oh, this could be it.’  I don’t look at it that way,” Nutt said yesterday.  “I’m in charge or responsible for about 120 guys.  I love it here.  But I know this, they pay me to win.  Right now we’re not winning”

“I’ll take every single day and give you everything I have,” Nutt added.  “I’ve done that since the first day I got here, worked from daylight to exhaustion.  Everyday, giving it.  Trying to make a difference in a young person’s life and try to win football games.  We haven’t done that this year.  I don’t like that.  I hate losing.”

So do boosters.  And the must especially hate the Rebels’ 11 consecutive losses to SEC foes… the worst stretch in Ole Miss history.  Nutt blames attrition for his program’s woes.

“A lot of it, when you look back, you look at guys that should be here.  Guys like Clarence Jackson, a Patrick Patterson, Tig Barksdale.  You look at guys that bottom line, for whatever reason, didn’t work out, hurt your numbers.”

In 2009, Nutt signed 37 players (which led the SEC to begin to cut back on oversigning).   Of those 37 signees, only 15 are currently on the team and — according to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger — only seven of them have started multiple games this season.

But isn’t that on Nutt?  He is the one who signed all of those washouts.  Yes, surprises and disappointments occur.  But to lose 22 of 37 signees?  That suggests you’re taking a lot of chances on guys (something Nutt’s predecessor, Ed Orgeron, did as well).

Making matters worse is the Pete Boone situation.  Following a 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt in September, Ole Miss’ AD said the performance was “unacceptable” and he held a special Sunday meeting with Nutt.  Afterwards he said he wanted to see the Rebels play with more “fire.”

Since then, Ole Miss has gone 1-5.

But Boone himself is on the hot seat with many fans.  The group “Forward Rebels” has run a Tea Party-esque grassroots media campaign to cost him his job. 

What do head coaches do when the pressure gets to be too much?  They fire assistant coaches.  So it’s possible that Boone might be thinking that he can dismiss Nutt and when back some fan support — and booster donations — by bringing in a “name” hire (Mike Leach is sitting on the beach waiting for someone to give him a big check and a second chance).

From what we’ve been told, Nutt has made it clear to many that he’s not a fan of Boone’s difficult schedules and lack of support.  Indeed, Boone refused to support his coach yesterday.  “I think that we’re at the point in the season that we just let the season play itself out.  I really don’t want to get into a week-to-week conversation about whether it is going well or not.”

To fire Nutt, Ole Miss would have to pay him a $6 million buyout.  Do the Rebels have that kind of money to throw around right now?  And if so, do they have enough to then go out and get a top-notch replacement for even more cash?

Nutt began his stay in Oxford with back-to-back Cotton Bowl wins.  The past two seasons have been horrible.  But if you look at Nutt’s track record at Arkansas, you’ll see a familiar pattern:


* 9-3 in 1998 and 8-4 in 1999

* a dropoff to 6-6 in 2000 and 7-5 in 2001

* a rise back to 9-5 in 2002 and 9-4 in 2003

* a fall back to 5-6 in 2004 and 4-7 in 2005

* another rise to 10-4 in 2006 and 8-4 in 2007 before moving to Ole Miss


Two years up, two years down.  If history is any indication, the Rebels should be back in the eight- or nine-win range next season.

But will Rebel fans put up with such an up-and-down pattern moving forward?

Can the school afford to pay off Nutt and hire someone better?  Are key boosters willing to chip in to make that happen?

And how does the pressure on Boone affect all of this?  Would a solid coach walk into a situation where his boss might himself be ousted shortly?

There are lot of questions swirling around Oxford right now.  The only answer we have to give is this — Nutt had better be glad he got a nice new contract after his Cotton Bowl appearances.  Because if his buyout weren’t $6 million, his coaching grave would have already been dug.

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SEC Headlines – 1/25/11 Part One

1.  Nick Saban says “It’s hard to spend the time to evaluate coaching candidates when you’re on the road all week.”  Saban must replace receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Curt Cignetti.

2.  Alabama’s basketball team is looking better everyday…

3.  Thanks in part to Anthony Grant’s decision to stop pressing.

4.  Gene Chizik has won the Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year Award.

5.  Heading into a game at Arkansas tonight, Tony Barbee says his staff is trying to “stay positive and upbeat” despite losing five straight games.

6.  The Hogs will be trying to rebound from a 75-43 blowout loss at Florida on Saturday.  (I wouldn’t expect a real big crowd in Fayetteville tonight.)

7.  The folks at ESPN believe Tyler Wilson will step in nicely as Ryan Mallett’s replacement.

8.  Film study shows that LSU’s offense was dominant in the Cotton Bowl (in case that 41-24 score didn’t tip you off to that fact).

9.  Asked what his team is doing well right now, Trent Johnson said, “Nothing.”

10.  Ole Miss’ win over LSU on Saturday was big for Nick Williams in showing that he can score in the SEC.

11.  Freshman Rebel forward Demarco Cox is still having trouble with the speed of the college game.

12.  Rick Stansbury says he would toy with his lineup if he thought it would help State’s play.

13.  Kevin Stallings — whose Vandy team will travel to Starkville Thursday — says MSU has “had games where they looked absolutely awesome.”

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Miles: Kragthrope Has The Experience To “Develop Quarterbacks”

LSU finally made the hiring of offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe official last night.  The former Tulsa and Louisville head coach replaces Gary Crowton who left LSU for Maryland.  Initial reports indicated Les Miles would take his time in finding a replacement, but he inked Kragthorpe exactly one week after Crowton’s announced his departure. 

Why Kragthorpe?

“Steve brings to our staff the type of experience necessary to develop quarterbacks,” Les Miles said via press release.  “He’s an experienced play-caller who will bring a great deal of enthusiasm and energy to the staff.  Steve will come in and build on what we’ve been able to accomplish on offense in the past.”

Ah, yes… quarterbacks.  Crowton became an unpopular man in Baton Rouge the past three seasons as he was forced to work with Andrew Hatch, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson at the signal-caller position.  None of those three will likely be drafted into the NFL anytime soon.

But Crowton has a long history of working with successful passers and high-flying offenses.  Tiger fans don’t want to hear it — because everyone loves to bash their offensive coordinator — but it’s likely the past few seasons’ problems started with the players and not the coach.

That said, many of the much-publicized recent gaffes at LSU have come on the offensive side of the ball (at the end of the Ole Miss game in 2009 and at the end of the Tennessee game in 2010).

Kragthorpe will be called upon to fix those mental errors and tutor incoming juco transfer Zach Mettenberger.  Jefferson is back and he had a solid Cotton Bowl, but folks in the Pelican State are counting on Mettenberger becoming the starter sometime in 2011 (preferably in the spring).  Jarrett Lee and incoming freshman Stephen Rivers will round out the QB position.

RC Slocum — the former Texas A&M coach who once employed Kragthorpe as his OC — believes Miles’ new hire will be “a perfect match” at LSU.  “Steve is the kind of guy you can’t help but like.  And I think a lot of Les and what he’s done since he got to LSU.  Those are two very good people who are going to work very well together.”

Slocum doesn’t believe Kragthorpe’s history as a head coach will be a hindrance, either.  “A lot of guys come in with a big ego, especially when they’ve been a head coach like Steve, but he’s not that kind of guy.  He’s very knowledgeable and will offer a lot, but he won’t come in and try to fight the head coach every step of the way.”

Many expect Kragthorpe’s offense — “A pro-style, run-first offense that set up play-action passing” — to be a better fit with Miles’ desires than Crowton’s more pass-happy system.  Of course, Crowton also employed more option with Jefferson as his starter.

A former Louisville quarterback under Kragthorpe, Tyler Wolfe said of his old coach’s system: “He runs a pro-style offense and always does a lot of things — shotgun, I-formation and multiple wide receivers.  He does a little bit of everything.”

Whether he does the things Miles and LSU fans are looking for, well, that remains to be seen.

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LSU’s Ridley Is Heading To The NFL

The star of LSU’s ground game is taking his game to the NFL next season.  Tailback Stevan Ridley told Randy Rosetta of The Baton Rouge Advocate today that he will skip his senior season and turn pro early.

Ridley rushed for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Tigers this past season.  He was briefly declared ineligible over an academic issue but was cleared in time to play in last weekend’s Cotton Bowl… in which he topped the century mark against Texas A&M.

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SEC Headlines – 1/7/11 Part Two

1.  Ryan Mallett could have gone pro last year but chose not to.  This year he’s making the move.  And no Arkansas fans should blame him.

2.  So who’s the next man behind center for the Razorbacks?  (Tyler Wilson isn’t a lock.)

3.  In the Cotton Bowl, LSU will enjoy their own Friday Night Lights in the heart of Texas.

4.  LSU and Texas A&M used to have a strong rivalry… and no one seems to know exactly how that rivalry ended.

5.  The Tigers will be facing an up-tempo Aggies offense that averages 80 snaps per game.

6.  Here are the keys to an LSU victory tonight.

7.  With Zach Mettenberger transferring in, the Cotton Bowl could be Jordan Jefferson’s last start at quarterback for the Tigers.

8.  On Monday night, Darron Thomas will be quarterbacking Oregon in the BCS title game.  He might’ve been playing for LSU tonight if the Tigers had called him a quarterback rather than an “athlete.”

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Miles: No Contact From Michigan

Jim Harbaugh was believed to be Michigan’s first choice to replace Rich Rodriguez.  In fact, if reports are to be believed, Harbaugh was offered $5.2 million to take the job… before Rodriguez was officially canned.

That 5.2 million number might sound pretty good to LSU coach Les Miles, but he said today that he hasn’t heard from his alma mater.

“I have received no contact from Michigan.  I’m really here to speak about no other school.  I’m here to speak about LSU.  Michigan will be fine.  There will always be Michigan.

“Speculation is not factual.  The only think I can say to you is my focus is complete.  We’re preparing to play a great (Texas) A&M team.  That’s my want and desire.

Speaking at a Cotton Bowl presser, Miles was asked if there are any similarities between this situation and the 2007 Michigan rumors that so bothered him.

“I have no real view of anything else but what I’m getting done right here, preparing your team, taking practice today, working in that event.  I very much enjoy where I’m at.  I don’t think anybody has any reason to be concerned in any way.  Let’s just go practice and enjoy this week and go on.

“If you look back at things, speculation was terrible.  Things were said without fact.  In my opinion, it does not benefit us to go back and talk about speculation which again is not based in any fact.  Let’s put that behind us and focus on the Cotton Bowl, please.”

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SEC Headlines – 12/27/10 Part One

1.  Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower is hitting his stride in return from knee injury.

2.  The Tide opened practice in Orlando in 40-degree weather.

3.  The rumors about Bama’s coaches taking other jobs have died down.

4.  Auburn’s O-line has the edge on Oregon’s D-line.

5.  Arkansas’ offense is preparing to meet Ohio State’s top-flight defense.

6.  As his junior season nears its end, Jordan Jefferson is showing signs of maturity as LSU’s starting quarterback.

7.  Heading toward a Cotton Bowl date with Texas A&M at Cowboys Stadium, Les Miles is saying great things about Jerry Jones and his own time as a Dallas assistant.  (Maybe that’s why those Miles-to-Dallas rumors never seem to end.)

8.  The Tigers’ struggling basketball team will face Southern U. tonight in Baton Rouge.  (In its last outing, LSU was trounced at home by North Texas.)

9.  Mississippi State and Michigan arrived in Jacksonville to 30-degree temperatures yesterday.

10.  State practiced in a hotel ballroom.

11.  Dan Mullen believes MSU can become “a national power.”

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