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Vince’s Vibe: SEC questions and answers

There are a wide array of questions and topics out there involving SEC football. Here are my thoughts on some of those below.

Should there be a SEC rematch in the BCS Championship Game?

Absolutely. LSU and Alabama are the two best teams in college football and they deserve to be in (and this is important) a winner-take-all championship game. Make-up all the really lame, flawed excuses for not wanting to see Alabama in the title game (like: if you don’t win your conference you don’t deserve to play for the national title, you can’t lose at home, they already had their chance, the first meeting was boring, etc) all you want. Make inaccurate statements (like Lou Holtz on ESPN this past weekend saying, “nobody wants to see a rematch”) all you want. The rematch should happen. If LSU loses the SEC Championship, it should still happen. LSU’s resume is far and above anyone else’s in college football. In the current flawed system we have, the two best teams should play in that game. We all know who those two teams are. It is just a matter of whether you’ll allow yourself to admit it.

 

Is Georgia a threat to LSU in the SEC Championship Game?

Yes. However, so was Arkansas, and look how that played out. The Bulldogs have some ingredients to present problems if LSU isn’t sharp. Georgia has a great quarterback, a Top 5 defense and lots of talent. If Crowell is healthy, he makes Georgia even more of a threat. LSU would have to really help Georgia because LSU is the better team, but Georgia is capable of winning the game.

 

Where is the SEC in bowl scenarios?

If the SEC gets 3 teams into the BCS (LSU/Alabama in title game & Arkansas or Georgia in Sugar Bowl,) that will leave the SEC with 6 bowl eligible teams left for 8 remaining bowls with league tie-ins. That would mean the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis and the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham would need to go outside the SEC for teams to play in those bowls. Those will be big financial hits for those bowls and those communities. Of those 6 remaining teams (Georgia or Arkansas, South Carolina, Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida and Vanderbilt) three are 6-6 and one is 7-5. That means after the Capital One and Cotton snatch-up those 10 win teams left on the board, the Outback, Chick-fil-A, Gator and Music City bowls will have teams with unusually average records left for them.

 

Should Derek Dooley be fired at Tennessee?

No. Not after only two years. Is the jury still out? Yes. Are there a lot of concerns? Definitely. The problem is that considering the brutal state of the program and circumstances Dooley inherited, you have to give him more time. A change in head coaches would mean 4 head coaches in 5 years. You can’t win that way. You need to give him another year to improve the roster and see what he can do with them. As LSU and Alabama show us annually, the first absolute ingredient to win championships is great players. Then you need great coaching with that. After another recruiting class and scholarship numbers recovered, the excuses go out the window from this point on. The results must come next year though. Tennessee fans are mad. Many want a change now. I say, not yet.

 

Should James Franklin be the SEC Coach of the Year?

Nope. Les Miles is the coach of the year. The “it’s easy to coach great players” argument doesn’t fly, especially in college football. Who recruits those great players? The coaches. Who has to motivate those great players? The coaches. You need great coaching to put elite athletes in positions to be successful and play hard for you. Those are not automatics in college football. Miles keeps his players confident and loose. Look at all the adversity LSU had to overcome this year. Miles is the best in the business at winning despite distractions. LSU has been the best team with a difficult road to an undefeated season. What Franklin has done at usually lowly Vanderbilt has certainly been impressive but Les Miles should be the SEC Coach of the Year.

 

Why was Bobby Petrino so upset at Les Miles?

For no good reason, whatever it was. Apparently, Petrino wasn’t pleased with LSU trying to score points in the fourth quarter while up big on the #3 team in the country. Wait, I thought you could win the game? Now, you expect an opponent to show mercy on you in a 1-vs-3 matchup with the current voting system in place? Please! We all know that Petrino would have done the same thing. That’s just a ploy to have a chip on their shoulder next year. Coaches rarely pass on motivational plays. Just ask James Franklin.

 

What’s the biggest misconception about the SEC?

That no one in the SEC East is any good. I know Georgia and South Carolina didn’t play the SEC gauntlet that Tennessee did, but you have to give them credit for winning games they should in the best conference and for reaching 10 wins. These teams have improved and overcome injuries, suspensions and more. Both teams and coaches deserve a lot of credit and recognition for it.

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

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LSU – Alabama: The View From Tennessee

Vince Ferrara

Although I’m not sick of the hype for #1 LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC) at #2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC,) it is time put all that aside and just project what we’ll see. Here’s how I see college football’s spectacular showpiece playing out this Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

I could say turnovers and fewest mistakes will win the game, but frankly, that would be lame general football talk.

The most important match-ups are the OTs of Alabama (Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker) vs. the stable of talented DEs from LSU. Alabama’s offensive line has gotten better each week. If LSU’s defensive line gets the better of the Bama tackles it could really slow down the Tide’s offense and make it one-dimensional.

I think both teams will throw the ball down the field and they will do it early. Who hits those downfield pass play opportunities? That will be a big factor in the game.

LSU is a great tackling team. Trent Richardson is the best in years at breaking tackles and yards after contact. Who wins that battle? Alabama will have more success running the football than LSU because of Richardson and the offensive line.

Alabama’s defense is more balanced, has been more consistent and is more violently physical. I don’t think LSU can sustain success on the ground against Alabama’s run defense. I expect LSU to use Jordan Jefferson a lot for the run/pass threat. Ultimately, I think Alabama’s complex pass defense turns the LSU quarterbacks over at least twice. Jefferson could be the culprit of multiple turnovers.

LSU has the edge on special teams because of two areas, kickoff distance and punting. I could see a late-game scenario where Alabama leads by one possession; has the ball deep in its own territory; is conservative running the clock; is forced to punt (Cody Mandell) with a little more than a minute to go; and they get a shank out of bounds to give LSU great field position and a chance to tie or win.

Both these teams are elite and very closely matched. In the end, Alabama’s home field advantage with the electric crowd, Alabama’s motivation from last year’s disappointments and Nick Saban’s incredible success in revenge games following a loss take me to an Alabama win.

Final Score Alabama 24 LSU 19

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

 

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Vince’s Vibe: Week 7 SEC game predictions

Here’s the schedule of SEC games in Week 7 of the college football season, along with some basics on each game, my predictions and analysis.

Schedule of SEC games

Schedule of Saturday, Oct. 15 Games

South Carolina (5-1, 3-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3 SEC)

12:21 a.m. ET • SEC Network / ESPN3.com

Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (55,082)

Series Record:  USC leads, 7-6 • Last Meeting:  Sept. 29, 2007 at Columbia (USC, 38-21)

Thoughts: South Carolina is 3rd in the nation in pass defense and 9th in total defense. South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore is 6th in the nation in rushing and 20th in all-purpose rushing. I know this game has some elements of an upset: a home underdog with some ability, skeptics of South Carolina, an early kickoff, etc. but I don’t think it’ll happen. South Carolina hasn’t just upgraded the QB position but the defense has drastically improved. MSU’s disappointments against lesser opponents don’t help.

Final Score: South Carolina 28 Mississippi State 14

LSU (6-0, 3-0 SEC) at Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 SEC)

3:30 p.m. ET • CBS Sports

Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium / Shields-Watkins Field (102,455)

Series Record:  UT leads, 20-8-3 • Last Meeting:  Oct. 2, 2010 at Baton Rouge (LSU, 16-14)

Thoughts: LSU’s Morris Claiborne is 6th in kickoff returns. LSU is fourth in rush defense and turnover margin; 5th in total defense and 8th in scoring defense. LSU will have to be incredibly disinterested, turn the ball over uncharacteristically and not win special teams where it has a huge advantage going in. The best chance for UT is to find a way to run a little bit and go to TE Mychal Rivera early and often. LSU is much too talented, deep, physical and focused to lose this game. How far behind Tennessee is from a talent standpoint will be crystal clear during this game, even at Neyland Stadium. Last year’s game means absolutely, positively nothing towards the outcome of this game. Zero. The schools are the same; the football teams are much different.

Final Score: LSU 38 Tennessee 10

Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) at Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2 SEC)

6 p.m. ET • ESPN2 / ESPN3.com

Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium / Hollingsworth Field (60,580)

Series Record:  UA leads, 44-9-3 • Last Meeting:  Oct. 16, 2010 at Tuscaloosa (UA, 23-10)

Thoughts: Alabama is 3rd in the nation in total defense. Alabama’s Trent Richardson is fifth in the nation in scoring and ninth in rushing. Ole Miss’ Tyler Campbell is 8th in punting. Ole Miss’ Jeff Scott leads the nation in punt returns. Ole Miss traditionally plays Alabama tough, especially in Oxford. Ole Miss is hoping Randall Mackey can continue to play well. Houston Nutt had to suspend four players for this game. The gap between the two teams is significant. The margin of victory will be as well.

Final Score: Alabama 37 Ole Miss 6

Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt (3-2, 1-2 SEC)

7 p.m. ET • FS South / ESPN3.com

Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)

Series Record: UGA leads, 51-18-2 • Last Meeting:  Oct. 16, 2010 at Athens (UGA, 43-0)

Thoughts: Vandy’s strong start has quickly been forgotten after a step-up in competition and a woeful offense. Jordan Rodgers could have seized the QB reigns by now but he hasn’t played as well I expected. Georgia is a little banged-up but more than able to handle their business on the road in Nashville.

Final Score: Georgia 27 Vanderbilt 9

Florida (4-2, 2-2 SEC) at Auburn (4-2, 2-1 SEC)

7 p.m. ET • ESPN / ESPN3.com

Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium / Pat Dye Field (87,451)

Series Record:  AU leads, 42-38-2 • Last Meeting:  Sept. 29, 2007 at Gainesville (AU, 20-17)

Thoughts: Florida’s Caleb Sturgis is third in the nation in field goals. Florida’s offense finally gets away from Alabama and LSU. Can Charlie Weis get Rainey and Demps re-started against a weaker defense. I don’t think so. Auburn’s defense will do enough to compliment the Tigers running game that should have a big day to win the game.

Final Score: Auburn 24 Florida 17

OPEN:  Arkansas (5-1, 1-1 SEC); Kentucky (2-4, 0-3 SEC)

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

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Vince’s Vibe: Spurrier’s QB failures

Steve Spurrier has struggled finding quality quarterback play during his tenure at South Carolina. But why? He’s the quarterback guru and the genius right?

The reality is that the legend of Spurrier far exceeds the actual results. Not only has Spurrier played swing set with his signal-callers but he hasn’t developed them significantly, and he’s ultimately responsible for the handling of the drama that is Stephen Garcia.

Do you want to know the root of the problem? The problem is recruiting.

Below is the list of quarterbacks signed by Spurrier and his staff since he landed in Columbia in 2005. Tell me how many of those guys you’ve even heard of. A couple, at best.

Quarterback recruits under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina

*Number in parenthesis is the star rating according to Rivals.com

’05 Tommy Beecher (2) & Cade Thompson (2)

’06 Chris Smelley (4)

’07 Stephen Garcia (4)

’08 Aramis Hillary (3) & Reid McCollum (3)

’09 Andrew Clifford (3)

’10 Connor Shaw (3) & Dylan Thompson (2)

’11 Martay Mattox (3)

’12 (not yet signed just verbally committed) Brendan Nosovitch (3)

A coach with the status and reputation of Spurrier should be able to lure elite quarterbacks to play for him, right? Wrong. That hasn’t been the case in a long time.

Besides Garcia, Spurrier has only signed one, just one, four-star quarterback. That was Chris Smelley, who had some moderate success before leaving the team to go play baseball at Alabama. Smelley thought he’d enjoy playing for the Head/Ole Ball Coach a lot more than he did.

The dirty little secret is out, and has been for a while. Steve Spurrier isn’t enjoyable to play quarterback under and he doesn’t prepare you for the NFL like many of his mates in the coaching ranks do.

Actually, it looks like the secret has been out with recruits for years. It’s just that fans and the media have been slow to catch-on.

In addition to the lack of top-tier high school prospects signing on with South Carolina under Spurrier, the quarterbacks there haven’t been developed either.

I’ve compiled the career numbers of each of the quarterbacks that were signed during Spurrier’s tenure. The stats are far from impressive.

Cade Thompson (2) ‘06

2 gms / 1 of 4 / 25% / 1 yd / 0 TDs / 0 INTs

Tommy Beecher (2) ’06-‘08

17 gms / 30 of 51 / 58.8% / 320 yds / 2 TDs / 5 INTs

Chris Smelley (4) ’06-‘08

21 gms / 270 of 479 / 56.3% / 3,210 yds / 23 TDs / 22 INTs

Stephen Garcia (4) ’08-‘11

40 gms / 589 of 1,021 / 57.6% / 7,597 yds / 47 TDs / 41 INTs

Aramis Hillary (3) Signed in ‘08

Never played.

Reid McCollum (3) ‘09

2 gms / 4 of 6 / 66.7% / 39 yds / 1 TD / 0 INT

Andrew Clifford (3) ‘10

2 gms / 1 of 2 / 50% / 10 yds / 0 TD / 1 INT

Connor Shaw (3) ’10-‘11

11 gms / 27 of 44 / 61.4% / 252 yds / 1 TD / 2 INTs

Dylan Thompson (2) Signed in ‘10

Has not played.

Martay Mattox (3) Signed in ‘11

Has not played QB. Moved to CB.

Brendan Nosovitch (3)

Not yet signed just verbally committed.

Total (10 Quarterbacks since 2005)

95 gms / 922 of 1,607 / 57.3% / 11,429 yds / 74 TDs / 71 INTs

I included the 2012 verbal, Nosovitch, just to make a point that, moving forward, coming off of a trip to the SEC Championship, the inability to recruit top-level quarterbacks hasn’t changed.

Would you send your son that plays quarterback to Steve Spurrier to “get coached-up” in college? Spurrier is funny. Spurrier is entertaining. Spurrier is a coaching legend. The answer, for me, is no.

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

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Vince’s Vibe: SEC QB situations

The Southeastern Conference is the best in the world at a lot of things, but overall quarterback play isn’t one of them. There are some really good ones but, top to bottom, that’s not a deep position in the conference right now.

So which SEC football programs should truly feel good about their quarterback situations right now?

Here’s a look at what I think.

Truly Feel Good

Tennessee

Tyler Bray has been phenomenal. Even amongst adversity at Florida, he gave the team hope. No one is playing better, top to bottom, than Bray. The Vols have an experienced veteran back-up in Matt Simms. Tennessee also has a young QB of the future in freshman Justin Worley. It’s a perfection situation.

Arkansas

Tyler Wilson has put up big numbers as expected. No one expected him to be slung around like a chew doll in a big dog’s mouth. The coaching staff is excited about the future with dual threat back-up Brandon Mitchell. The position is in good shape right now under Bobby Petrino.

Georgia

Aaron Murray started out slow but is coming on. Overall, as talented and hyped as he was, he hasn’t done a chin-up to reach that bar just yet. Nonetheless, he’s still a Top 3 QB in the SEC. Hutson Mason and Christian LeMay are highly recruited young QBs of the future. This is another good situation, short-term and long-term.

Alabama

A.J. McCarron has been outstanding. He’s protected the football, he’s been accurate, he has a strong arm, he’s been a leader, he handled the competition well, he has swagger and he carries himself well on the field. Don’t focus on the stats. He’s doing what’s asked and doing it well. Phillip Sims is unproven but very skilled and smart as the back-up. Athlete Blake Sims could play some emergency quarterback. Phillip Ely is another young QB for future development.

Auburn

Barrett Trotter has been better than many thought he’d be, including myself. He’s been solid and not trying to do too much. He knows the offense. Back-up Clint Moseley doesn’t have game experience and isn’t talented enough to be the QB of the future but he knows the system as well if he needed to play. The X-Factor is true freshman Kiehl Frazier that is starting to play more and should be a big part of the offense before long as a run/pass dual threat, ala Cam.

Might Feel Good

LSU

Jarrett Lee has been very good overall. Former starter Jordan Jefferson is back from suspension. That’s a great problem to have right? I have a bad feeling that Les Miles is going to incorporate Jefferson more and more as time goes on and that negatively affect Lee. This has a chance to be mismanaged. Zach Mettenberger is by far the most talented QB on the team, and the one many fans most want to see. He doesn’t have true game experience but could be great in the future.

Florida

Just when John Brantley had started to prove himself as an improved passer, he gets hurt. That leaves true freshman Jeff Driskel and true freshman Jacoby Brissett as highly-rated high school QBs who have little college experience. There’s no guarantee Brantley would have panned out anyways. Then again, maybe he comes back soon and plays well and the ship is righted somewhat. It doesn’t look good, but you can’t totally give-up on the position until we see how long Brantley is out and we see how the highly-touted Driskel does.

Texas A&M (just kidding, not yet)

Hardly Feel Good

South Carolina

Stephen Garcia has fallen apart and has now been benched. Connor Shaw wasn’t good enough to keep his starting spot in the first place. Can he develop? It’s possible, I guess. I’m skeptical. There’s no big-time quarterback of the future on the roster either.

Mississippi State

I’ve never been sold on Chris Relf. Tyler Russell could give them the passing threat they need but he’s so inconsistent. The coaching staff was so desperate last week it went to Dylan Favre, who’s hardly #4. This situation has gone south in a hurry.

Ole Miss

Three different guys have played and have been “the guy” at one time this season. That uncertainty and unknown hasn’t been a good situation that’s conducive to winning.

Vanderbilt

Larry Smith isn’t getting it done. Aaron Rodgers’ little brother hasn’t resembled his older brother yet.

Kentucky

Morgan Newton has been bad. No true young hope.

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

 

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Vince’s Vibe: Week 5 SEC game predictions

Here’s the schedule of SEC games in Week 5 of the college football season, along with some basics on each game, my predictions and analysis.

Schedule of Saturday, Oct. 1 Games

Mississippi State (2-2, 0-2 SEC) at Georgia (2-2, 1-1 SEC)

12 p.m. ET • FS South / ESPN3.com

Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)

Series Record:  UGA leads, 16-6 • Last Meeting:  Sept. 25, 2010 at Starkville (MSU, 24-12)

Thoughts:  MSU will likely play with desperation to avoid falling to 0-3 in SEC play. Georgia has righted the ship a little bit with two straight wins. Aaron Murray seems to be settling in well and is statistically having a nice season. True freshman WR Malcolm Mitchell gives UGA a dangerous speed threat. It all starts with terrific freshman RB Isaiah Crowell for Georgia. Mississippi State’s defense isn’t as good as their reputation suggests. I like Georgia.

Winner:  Georgia 31 Mississippi State 24

Texas A&M (2-1) vs. Arkansas (3-1, 0-1 SEC)       

12 p.m. ET • ESPN

Arlington, Texas • Cowboys Stadium (71,167)

Series Record:  UA leads, 40-24-3 • Last Meeting:  Oct. 9, 2010 at Arlington, Texas (UA, 24-17)

Thoughts:  Many have jumped off the Razorbacks bandwagon after getting handled in Tuscaloosa. I’m not one of them. Alabama is arguably the best team in the country, so that’ll happen. Texas A&M blew a 20-3 lead in a home loss to Oklahoma State. Losing Tenarius Wright hurts the ‘Backs who are pretty banged-up. Texas A&M has had trouble defending the pass. That’s not good news against the Razorbacks passing game. Arkansas gets back on track. Arkansas wins at Cowboys Stadium.

Winner:  Arkansas 28 Texas A&M 27

Kentucky (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC)  

12:21 p.m. ET • SEC Network / ESPN3.com

Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (92,542)

Series Record:  LSU leads, 38-16-1 • Last Meeting:  Oct. 13, 2007 at Lexington (UK, 43-37, 3 OT)

Thoughts:  Kentucky has been atrocious in many facets including discipline and turnovers. LSU is much too good, especially defensively for UK to be in this game. Bad offense vs. Great defense. Turn the ball over a lot vs. One of the best at creating turnovers and turnover margin. Short of Jordan Jefferson playing then imploding and/or poisonous grass making someone’s head coach horribly sick, LSU will cruise.

Winner:  LSU 38 Kentucky 7

Buffalo (1-3) at Tennessee (2-1, 0-1 SEC)

12:30 p.m. ET • CSS / ESPN3.com

Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium / Shields-Watkins Field (102,455)

Series Record:  First Meeting

Thoughts:  Tennessee is really one-dimensional. The Vols are one of the nation’s best passing teams and worst running teams. With injured WR Justin Hunter now out for the year, the Volunteers must get some quality work in, in this game, on the running game to try and be more balanced. Buffalo sophomore LB Khalil Mack will be interesting to watch. UT players and coaches have talked all week about him standing out on film. Buffalo has played BCS teams Pitt and UConn tough. We’ll see if this year’s open week for Tennessee helps as much as last year’s did when UT won the last four regular season games after the bye. Vols win.

Winner:  Tennessee 34 Buffalo 13

Auburn (3-1, 1-0 SEC) at South Carolina (4-0, 2-0 SEC)    

3:30 p.m. ET / CBS Sports

Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)

Series Record: AU leads, 8-1-1 • Last Meeting:  Dec. 4, 2010 at Atlanta (AU, 56-17)

Thoughts:  This is a rematch of last year’s SEC Championship Game. Neither team looks anything like it did a year ago. South Carolina should be similar or even better than last season but it has been less than stellar so far, despite some tricky early season games like Navy and East Carolina. The Gamecocks get WR Damiere Byrd back from suspension. Steve Spurrier’s bff Stephen Garcia has to get better. If Auburn jumps out early and forces SC to play catch-up and abort the running game, look out. In the end, Auburn won’t have an answer defensively for Marcus Lattimore. The Head Ball Coach wins in another close, high scoring game.

Winner:  South Carolina 34 Auburn 30

Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) at Florida (4-0, 2-0 SEC)

8 p.m. ET • CBS Sports

Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (88,548)

Series Record:  UA leads, 22-14 • Last Meeting:  Oct. 2, 2010 at Tuscaloosa (UA, 31-6)

Thoughts:  Alabama and LSU are two teams that can cover Rainey and Demps in the passing game through scheme, great team speed and physicality. Florida’s inability to run the ball between the tackles consistently and shaky game closing ability are concerns against the Tide. John Brantley will need to have a Stephen Garcia “best game ever” type performance like last season for the Gators to win. Gotta see it to believe it. The Crimson Tide running game versus the Florida run defense will be fun to watch. Florida’s best chance in this game is to win special teams decidedly. The Tide is too good and won’t be intimidated by the environment. Alabama wins comfortably.

Winner: Alabama 34 Florida 16

Ole Miss (1-3, 0-2 SEC) at Fresno State (2-2)  

9:15 p.m. ET • ESPN2 / ESPN3.com

Fresno, Calif. • Bulldog Stadium (41,031)

Series Record:  UM leads, 1-0 • Last Meeting:  Sept. 25, 2010 at Oxford (UM, 55-38)

Thoughts:  Fresno State isn’t spectacular or bad at anything. They are just solid. I expected a little bit more from the Bulldogs actually. I think Fresno State has the toughness and physicality to play well against Ole Miss at the line of scrimmage. The Rebels have been bad and disappointing in so many ways. The west coast trip is unchartered territory for the Rebs. Ole Miss has never played a game in the state of California. Home field and the likelihood of critical mistakes by Houston Nutt’s team will help Fresno State notch a win against an SEC team, albeit perhaps the worst one.

Winner:  Fresno State 20 Ole Miss 17

OPEN:  Vanderbilt (3-1, 1-1 SEC)

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

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Vince’s Vibe: Take Alabama over LSU and Field

MrSEC.com asked several media members from across the SEC for their take on the following question: If you had to pick an SEC champion now, would you pick Alabama, LSU, or The Field?

Four weeks into the season, it is clear that two of the three best teams in the country in college football reside, not only in the same conference, but in the same division, the SEC West.

Both Alabama and LSU have been convincing and, at times, dominant this season. The Crimson Tide and the Tigers have both been tested by quality opponents. No one in the country has a better resume of up-til-now wins than the Tigers. LSU has a neutral site win over Oregon, a road win at Mississippi State and a road win at West Virginia. It is fair to criticize most programs in the country for weak non-conference scheduling but leave LSU out of that discussion for this season. Alabama has wins at Penn State and at home versus Arkansas.

So, if you had to pick Alabama, LSU or the field to win the SEC right now, who would it be? The field (the other 10 teams in the SEC) includes a number of other quality teams and is loaded with bowl teams. LSU finally has competence at the quarterback position and a devastating defensive line. However, my pick is Alabama.

Alabama’s combination of defense, offensive explosiveness, ability to score on special teams, ability to score on defense, motivation, depth of talent, schedule and coaching makes the Crimson Tide the favorites to win the SEC and the national championship.

The defense is so good and so deep. The defensive line has improved each week. Every player on defense, starter or role player, hits like Steelers linebacker Jerome Harrison and gets to the football like Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. The linebackers as a unit is the best in the country. The secondary is the best (although LSU is close) in the country. The defensive front has played so well, that DC Kirby Smart hasn’t needed to blitz much at all.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron hasn’t put up video game numbers but he’s done a great job for a first year starter. Most importantly, McCarron has taken care of the football, made good decisions and managed the game well. He’s also shown leadership traits and toughness.

The offensive line has gotten better each week. If this unit becomes dominant as the year goes on, as it did two years ago, look out.

Wide receiver Marquis Maze has still been able to make plays as the number one guy. Many other talented receivers have contributed and shown the ability to make plays. You don’t see drops from this group that’s truly getting it done by committee.

LSU is at Alabama, so the schedule favors the Tide. Enough said.

This isn’t last year’s team coming off of a national championship letdown. This Alabama team is motivated to make-up for last year’s disappointing three loss season. The swagger and focus appears to be back.

If you had to put money (or lunch at Chick-Fil-A among friends for that matter) on the line on who wins the SEC right now, the team to go with is the Alabama Crimson Tide.

*Facebook Poll Question: Who’s your pick to win the SEC?  Vote here.***

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

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Vince’s Vibe: What We Learned – Week 3

With the results below in mind, here’s a look at what we learned about each SEC team after Week 3’s college football games. It won’t be everything, but it’s some important things.

SEC Results – Week 3 – Thursday, Sept. 15 – Saturday, Sept. 17

LSU 19, Mississippi State 6 (56,924 at Starkville) (Thursday)

Florida 33, Tennessee 23 (90,744 at Gainesville)

Vanderbilt 30, Ole Miss 7 (34,579 at Nashville)

Alabama 41, North Texas 0 (101,821 at Tuscaloosa)

Arkansas 38, Troy 28 (69,861 at Fayetteville)

Louisville 24, Kentucky 17 (68,170 at Lexington)

Clemson 38, Auburn 24 (82,000 at Clemson)

Georgia 59, Coastal Carolina 0 (91,946 at Athens)

South Carolina 24, Navy 21 (78,807 at Columbia)

What Did We Learn In The SEC

SEC EAST

South Carolina (3-0, 1-0 SEC):  The Gamecocks may need a serious reality check (aka a loss) before this team decides it wants to be great. It has great individual talent but collectively has been slightly above average. Marcus Lattimore better be on your Heisman short list.

Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC):  This is a team with flaws but also a team that’s better coached than a year ago. The defensive young players have developed; the offense finds a way to get mismatches for Rainey and Demps and the special teams is as good as ever.

Vanderbilt (3-0, 1-0 SEC):  The Commodores may just be for real, relative to what Vandy normally is. I admit, I’m impressed now and you should be too. The players have bought-in; they are playing with energy, confidence and intelligence. Vanderbilt isn’t suddenly a great team but it can run the football, battle you and cause the SEC big boys some stressful times this season.

Kentucky (2-1):  The Wildcats finally create a little bit, and I mean a little bit, of offense and they still lose. Kentucky’s bowl appearance streak is in serious danger.

Tennessee (2-1, 0-1 SEC):  Tennessee wasn’t able to overcome losing Justin Hunter, emotionally or schematically, in the loss to the Gators. The Vols relied on Justin Hunter even more than anyone imagined. They didn’t have a plan for the offense without him. We also learned that they couldn’t come up with an effective enough plan during the game. You add a bad decision to go for a two-point conversion and you have a rough day for the UT coaches.

Georgia (1-2, 0-1 SEC):  At least they have enough pride and sense to take care of business against a FCS opponent and try to get better. I didn’t just learn that Isaiah Crowell is the real deal. I already knew that.

SEC WEST

LSU (3-0, 1-0 SEC):  The nation’s number one (or two, at worst, along with Alabama) defense is even more dominant than anyone gave them credit for. If Jarrett Lee continues to play this well, Jordan Jefferson, if he’s reinstated, shouldn’t get his starting quarterback spot back. Although, when Les Miles is in charge, anything odd is in play.

Auburn (2-1, 1-0 SEC):  The defense truly does stink. If the offense doesn’t help the defense, Ted Roof’s bunch gets exposed. It is going to take some more recruiting classes to fix that side of the ball. Auburn will need to continue to try and outscore people. At least everyone (including Auburn) is aware of that.

Alabama (3-0):  As dominant as the team has been (and was versus North Texas,) you still have things to critique them about. There are a number of things Bama needs to improve on going into SEC play. Alabama’s offensive line should be more dominant, the passing game isn’t explosive, the redzone execution needs improvement, the kickers have been ordinary and the defensive line isn’t affecting the quarterback like it wants to. The bad news for everyone else is that Nick Saban’s team is so loaded with talent, that when those players come together and play with energy and motivation, it will be really difficult to beat.

Arkansas (3-0):  Arkansas showed some chinks in the armour by giving up nearly 500 yards to Troy. The Razorbacks had to hold off the Trojans in the fourth quarter. Some of the questions about this team’s defense have to be re-asked. Is the defense really better? Can they generate turnovers against top teams? Can the pass rush, other than Jake Bequette, be counted on?

Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC):  The Rebels hit rock bottom under Houston Nutt. This team has even less pride in performance than any of us thought. To get man-handled by Vandy like that is embarrassing. Only monumental upsets and a bowl berth could save Houston Nutt’s job at this point.

Mississippi State (1-2, 0-2 SEC):  MSU just isn’t ready for prime-time. Dan Mullen has made the Bulldogs consistently competitive. That’s not good enough to win as many games as people expected and hoped. Chris Relf’s improvement wasn’t enough to keep him from getting pulled last week. The coaching staff doesn’t have confidence in him to throw the football when needed.

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

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Vince’s Vibe: Week 3 SEC Game Predictions

Here’s the schedule of SEC games this weekend (Week 3,) along with some basics on each game, my predictions and analysis.

Schedule of SEC games

Saturday, Sept. 17

Auburn (2-0) at Clemson (2-0)

12 p.m. ET • ABC Sports

Clemson, S.C. • Clemson Memorial Stadium (81,500)

Series Record:  AU leads, 34-11-2 • Last Meeting:  Sept. 18, 2010 (AU, 27-24, OT)

Thoughts: Auburn’s offense (41.5 per) has been better than expected and the defense (36.0 per) may even be a little worse than thought entering the year. Clemson is what Clemson typically is; there’s some speed, there’s some talent and there’s some undisciplined play. Clemson is the favorite at home. Clemson and the fans want this revenge game bad. There’s the unknown of how the young Auburn team handles a hostile road environment. In the battle of the Tigers, the trust factor, especially in a close game, is with Auburn.

Winner: Auburn 38 Clemson 31

Ole Miss (1-1) at Vanderbilt (2-0)

12:21 a.m. ET • SEC Network / ESPN3.com

Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)

Series Record:  UM leads, 47-36-2 • Last Meeting:  Sept. 18, 2010 (VU, 28-14)

Thoughts: Vanderbilt’s surprising start has some people around the conference, and a few national sports writers, praising James Franklin and the job he has done. Vandy won in Oxford a year ago. Ole Miss continues to be inconsistent. Ole Miss has been flashy and impressive at times, below-average-to-bad at other times. Houston Nutt might not want to add back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt to his resume, or else his agent may be emailing that resume out looking for a gig before long. I’m taking a “show me more” approach on the Commodores. I like the Rebs to win this game.

Winner: Ole Miss 34 Vanderbilt 20

Coastal Carolina (2-0) at Georgia (0-2)

1 p.m. ET • Georgia PPV / ESPN3.com

Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)

Series Record:  First Meeting

Thoughts: Coastal is FCS school more known for its fine baseball program and different name in the Chanticleers. Surely, Georgia won’t mess around with CCU. Will it? Better not.

Winner: Georgia 49 Coastal Carolina 17

Tennessee (2-0) at Florida (2-0)

3:30 p.m. ET • CBS Sports

Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (88,548)

Series Record:  UF leads, 21-19 • Last Meeting: Sept. 18, 2010 (UF, 31-17)

Thoughts: There is a lot more intrigue and excitement in this game now than anyone anticipated before the season began. Both teams are better on offense and defense than many thought. How much staying power any of that has is TBD. CBS’ Gary Danielson told me this week that he expects the Gators to only play six in-the-box versus the dynamic passing game of Tennessee. The Gators will dare the Vols to try and run the football against the stout Florida defensive front. Will UT’s tall receivers still make plays against the short, young Gators secondary? Will Tyler Bray have time to throw? If he does, I don’t think Florida can cover Tennessee in the passing game. How will Tennessee defend the short, wide passing game (Demps and Rainey coming out of the backfield simultaneously) of Florida under Charlie Weis? How Tennessee defends that in its base defense will be huge. Will Demps and Rainey take a UT missed tackle to the house one or more times? Both teams can make plays on special teams as well. Slight edge with home field to Florida but Bray and the young Vols won’t be intimidated.

Winner: Florida 34 Tennessee 31

Navy (2-0) at South Carolina (2-0)

6 p.m. ET • ESPN2

Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)

Series Record:  USC leads, 4-3 • Last Meeting:  Nov. 12, 1988 (USC, 19-7)

Thoughts: This is a dangerous game for the Gamecocks. Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo loves the SEC. He recruits the southeast, especially Tennessee and Georgia, heavily. He told me he had interest in the Vanderbilt job during their coaching search. Navy leads the nation in rushing (401 yards per game.) That triple-option offense is tough to prepare for in one week, especially coming off of SC’s first two opponents. Navy is next-to-last in the country in passing (73 yards per game.) South Carolina’s defense (110th in the nation in scoring defense, 39.5 per) has been very disappointing, especially the pass defense. That pass defense shoouldn’t be a factor versus Navy’s running offense. The whole South Carolina team, overall, has been disappointing really. This will be another week where the Gamecocks look ordinary at best but still survive. This is a very dangerous game for SC.

Winner: South Carolina 42 Navy 34

Louisville (1-1) at Kentucky (2-0)

7 p.m. ET • ESPNU

Lexington, Ky. • Commonwealth Stadium (67,942)

Series Record:  UK leads, 14-9 • Last Meeting:  Sept. 4, 2010 (UK, 23-16)

Thoughts: Louisville lost at home to FIU last week, becoming the first BCS conference team to lose to the Panthers. Louisville won ugly in week one. Kentucky has won even uglier both weeks. The offense in Lexington has been brutal. UK is 115th in the nation in passing. The Wildcats won’t have exciting RB Raymond Sanders for the next few weeks after knee surgery. Louisville has some athletes but can’t run the football like typical Louisville teams have been able to, and the Cardinals turn the football over too much. UK gets another unimpressive W.

Winner: Kentucky 26 Louisville 17

Troy (0-1) at Arkansas (2-0)

7:30 p.m. ET • CSS / ESPN3.com

Fayetteville, Ark. • Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)

Series Record:  UA leads, 3-0  • Last Meeting:  Nov. 14, 2009 (UA, 56-20)

Thoughts: Arkansas has been blasting its inferior opponents. Troy is better than the first two victims but this isn’t as strong of a Trojans team as years past. When’s the last time Troy was ranked 99th in the nation in total offense, regardless of how tough the competition had been? Problem is, the defense has as many holes as it usually does. Whatever the point spread ends up at, Arkansas will win by more than that.

Winner: Arkansas 52 Troy 14

North Texas (0-2) at Alabama (2-0)

7:30 p.m. ET• FS South / ESPN3.com

Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)

Series Record:  UA leads, 3-0 • Last Meeting:  Sept. 19, 2009 (UA, 53-7)

Thoughts: Alabama appears to have settled on a quarterback in AJ McCarron. It should, because he was very impressive with his poise, accuracy and leadership in the win at Penn State. Phillip Sims will get to play plenty in this game, so it will continue to look like an open competition. North Texas is very bad defensively. If Alabama can’t dominate the line of scrimmage on offense against the Mean Green, there may be some cause for concern in Tuscaloosa.

Winner: Alabama 45 North Texas 6

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

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Vince’s Vibe: What We Learned – Week 2

With the results below in mind, here’s a look at what we learned about each SEC team after Week 2’s college football games. It won’t be everything, but it’s some important things.

SEC Results – Week 2 – Saturday, Sept. 10

Auburn 41, Mississippi State 34 (87,451 at Auburn)

South Carolina 45, Georgia 42 (92,746 at Athens)

Ole Miss 42, Southern Illinois 24 (58,504 at Oxford)

Vanderbilt 24, Connecticut 21 (32,119 at Nashville)

LSU 49, Northwestern State 3 (92,405 at Baton Rouge)

Tennessee 45, Cincinnati 23 (94,207 at Knoxville)

Arkansas 52, New Mexico 3 (52,606 at Little Rock)

Alabama 27, Penn State 11 (107,846 at University Park, Pa.)

Florida 39, UAB 0 (87,473 at Gainesville)

Kentucky 27, Central Michigan 13 (58,022 at Lexington)

What Did We Learn In The SEC

SEC EAST

South Carolina (2-0, 1-0 SEC):  The pass defense was supposed to be improved over last year. So far, it’s not. Melvin Ingram is an even better athlete than many ever knew (i.e. fake punt TD run and recovering onsides kick on the hands team.)

Florida (2-0):  The Gators are better than many thought going into the season in all phases. Just like week one, Charlie Weis continues to find ways to use his playmakers much, much better than the previous coaching staff.

Tennessee (2-0):  This Tennessee offense, especially the passing game, is dynamic and even better than anyone expected, regardless of opponents. The defense is capable of big stops at key moments. Derek Dooley has a good feel for his team during games.

Kentucky (2-0):  This offense is still bad. Then again, we knew that after week one. This is one of the worst 2-0 teams in the country. I won’t say THE worst because there are plenty of 2-0 posers out there right now.

Vanderbilt (2-0):   The hopes of this team have been elevated after an impressive win over UConn in come-from-behind fashion.

Georgia (0-2, 0-1 SEC):  Aaron Murray has been way too inconsistent. The special teams hasn’t been an advantage like it should be. Isaiah Crowell may live-up to expectations but the team may not, which will cost Mark Richt his job eventually.

SEC WEST

Auburn (2-0, 1-0 SEC):  The resolve of Auburn in close games under this coaching staff is immeasurable and underrated.

Alabama (2-0):  AJ McCarron showed great poise and leadership in leading Alabama to a road win at Penn State in front of a hostile, record crowd.

LSU (2-0):  Nothing really. The Tigers handled Northwestern State. At least LSU didn’t slow-dance with an inferior opponent as its been prone to do at times.

Arkansas (2-0):   Arkansas isn’t showing all its cards and is still pounding bad teams. The offensive line looked dominant. If that question about the Razorbacks is answered, look out.

Ole Miss (1-1):  Not much. It is such a mixed bag with this team. The team and players show flashes, then make mistakes and look bad.

Mississippi State (1-1, 0-1 SEC):  Not surprisingly, the Bulldogs were not ready for prime-time at Auburn. This team is better but not good enough to handle hostile SEC environments after hearing how good they are.

Vince Ferrara has more than 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, in numerous SEC and Big 12 markets, working in sports radio, play-by-play and television. You can hear him host the “News Sentinel Sports Page” weekdays 10am-12pm ET on WNML - “The Sports Animal” in Knoxville and read more of his work at Examiner.com. 

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