NCF Nation: Charles Scott
ATHENS, Ga. – As an SEC West school, LSU is hardly a fixture on Georgia's annual football schedule. But when the Tigers and Bulldogs do get together, the results are almost always memorable.
Just think back over the past decade. Two meetings in the SEC championship game – one won by each school. The phantom celebration penalty against Georgia receiver A.J. Green in 2009, helping pave the way for LSU's comeback victory. Georgia putting huge point totals on LSU's defending BCS champion teams in 2004 and 2008.
There's a lot to remember – and just like in Saturday's meeting between No. 6 LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) and No. 9 Georgia (2-1, 1-0) – there are often major SEC and BCS implications in play.
“[I told the younger players] any game can go down to the last second, but what kind of fight that they're going to have to be ready for,” said Georgia fifth-year senior receiver Rantavious Wooten, one of the few Bulldogs who were on the team when LSU last visited Athens in 2009. “They've got aspirations just like we do. They want a championship and we want a championship and this game right here, this is the game for it. So I just let them know what to expect and how it's going to be and just to get ready for it.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt is 3-4 against LSU since arriving at UGA in 2001 and Tigers coach Les Miles is 2-2 against the Bulldogs. Let's take a look at the last five times their programs squared off:
In one of the most bizarre games of Richt's tenure, Georgia's defense thoroughly dominated the first half. LSU didn't muster a single first down and was in danger of falling down by a big margin, but Georgia receivers dropped a pair of potential first-half touchdown passes and LSU punt returner Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu took a kick back for a touchdown to make it 10-7 Georgia at halftime. The second half was a completely different story, as the Bulldogs committed a couple of turnovers, LSU's pounding rushing attack began to have its intended effect and Todd Grantham's defense seemed helpless as the Tigers rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns after intermission, turning the game into a rout.
Oct. 3, 2009 (Athens): No. 4 LSU 20, No. 18 Georgia 13
This one will forever be remembered among Georgia fans for a referee's questionable decision to penalize Georgia superstar Green for excessive celebration following his leaping, go-ahead touchdown catch with 1:09 to play, giving Georgia its first lead at 13-12. The penalty forced the Bulldogs to kick off from their own 15 and LSU return specialist Trindon Holliday made them pay by returning the kickoff to the Georgia 43, with a 5-yard penalty against the Bulldogs on the kickoff moving LSU even closer to the UGA end zone. Two plays later, Charles Scott rushed for his second touchdown of the fourth quarter, a 33-yard run with 46 seconds to play allowing LSU to improve to 5-0.
Oct. 25, 2008 (Baton Rouge): No. 7 Georgia 52, No. 13 LSU 38
As wild as the ending of the 2009 game was, this one was crazy from the very beginning. Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble returned an interception for a 40-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and added a 53-yard pick six in the game's closing minutes as the Bulldogs hung half-a-hundred on LSU's porous defense. The Tigers surrendered 50-plus twice that season – the first time in school history that had happened – leading Miles to dump co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto after the season in favor of former Tennessee coordinator John Chavis, who has been in Baton Rouge ever since.
2005 SEC Championship Game (Atlanta): No. 13 Georgia 34, No. 3 LSU 14
Although fellow receiver Sean Bailey caught a pair of first-quarter touchdowns from D.J. Shockley that got Georgia off on the right foot, Bulldogs senior Bryan McClendon – now the team's running backs coach – might have delivered the play of the game when he blocked a punt midway through the second quarter deep in LSU territory. That helped Georgia score to take a commanding 21-7 halftime lead which LSU never threatened. The Bulldogs' defense also did its job that day, limiting an LSU rushing attack that dominated in their 2003 meeting in Atlanta to just 74 rushing yards.
Oct. 2, 2004 (Athens): No. 3 Georgia 45, No. 13 LSU 16
Nick Saban's final game against Georgia while at LSU ended with a humiliating loss, as the Tigers surrendered the most points allowed by an LSU defense since Florida hung 56 on them in 1996. Georgia quarterback David Greene threw only 19 passes, but set a school record by completing five of them for touchdowns. The Bulldogs had lost twice to Saban's Tigers in 2003 – 17-10 in Baton Rouge and 34-13 in the SEC Championship Game – but they quickly exacted a degree of revenge by jumping out to a 24-0 lead before LSU could answer. The Bulldogs also generated three turnovers and sacked LSU quarterbacks Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell five times.
Both teams have been ranked in the top-20 in all seven of their meetings in the Richt era, and this will be the second time they've both been in the top-10. While not every meeting between the two has produced a close contest, they've all been memorable – and almost always impacted their respective championship chases.
“They've been great games. ... Just about every one of them, both teams are ranked teams and at least in the Top 25,” Richt said. “It is a cross-conference rival, so it doesn't hold quite the weight of an Eastern Division [game] when it comes to who plays in Atlanta. We could lose the game and still control our destiny, and they could lose the game and still control their destiny, so it's not do-or-die as far as league play, but it's very important for any national title hopes.”
Lee wants to end his career the same way. Penn State is known for winning bowl games, and Lee carries a 3-0 mark into Friday's Capital One Bowl matchup against No. 12 LSU (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET). Remember that Lee missed last year's Rose Bowl loss to USC with a knee injury, so he doesn't know what it feels like to be on the field for a postseason loss.
"I've told the guys it's good to have fun during the trip and experience the city, but you will remember the game," said Lee, a co-captain for the Nittany Lions. "You will remember winning the game, and it'll spoil everything if you don't work as hard as you can and try to win this game.
"We've had that attitude. We've come down here on a mission."
Penn State traveled to Florida earlier than teams usually do for bowl games, a strategy head coach Joe Paterno employs to get his players acclimated to the environment. The team spent the first five days in Daytona Beach, where it was "just straight football," Lee said
That meant two-a-day practices, 7:15 a.m. wake-up calls and a training camp-like atmosphere.
"We were on the beach in Daytona," Lee said, "but we barely got a chance to go partly because it was raining a little bit and secondly, because we were practicing so much and everyone was so tired."
Players have had a bit more fun in Orlando, going to Best Buy on Tuesday for a shopping spree. But Lee and his teammates are locking in on LSU, an opponent stocked with young talent and athleticism.
Lee sees similarities between LSU and the Tennessee squad he faced in the 2007 Outback Bowl, which Penn State won 20-10.
"They have a ton of athletes," he said. "When it comes to their wide receivers, [Trindon] Holliday they use in a ton of ways. And their quarterback, [Jordan] Jefferson, is a really good athlete. When he gets out of the pocket, he makes a lot of plays and gets the ball to their big, good, really athletic receivers. And their running back, [Stevan] Ridley, replaced [Charles] Scott as the year's gone on. He's been a big reason why they've had success."
Lee, who battled a knee injury early this season but surged down the stretch, feels as healthy as he's been since the summer. He leads a Penn State defense that owns sick stats -- fourth nationally in scoring (11.8 ppg), eighth in total defense (277.1 ypg), sixth in tackles for loss (8.25 per game) and eighth in sacks (2.92 per game) -- but lacks a signature victory.
LSU provides that opportunity.
"We didn't play as well as we would have liked in our two big games at home, against Ohio State and Iowa," Lee said. "This is just another chance to prove the type of football team we are, and to be able to play a team with a ton of tradition like LSU just adds to it."
Jan. 1, 1 p.m., (ABC)
Penn State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Penn State's BCS bubble burst Sunday, but the Nittany Lions still have an excellent chance to notch a signature victory on New Year's Day.
Two of college football's most storied programs meet for just the second time at the Capital One Bowl. Penn State beat LSU in the 1974 Orange Bowl, which capped head coach Joe Paterno's eighth season at the helm. Paterno boasts 23 bowl victories, an NCAA record, and he aims for his 14th season of 11 or more wins against the Tigers.
Penn State's defense has been its calling card all season, as the Lions rank in the top eight nationally in yards allowed (277.1 ypg), points allowed (11.8), tackles for loss (8.25 per game) and sacks (2.9 per game). You can bet Big Ten defensive player of the year Jared Odrick and star linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee will be geared up to face an LSU offense that has endured its struggles this fall and will be without standout running back Charles Scott (fractured collarbone).
The Lions' Spread HD offense was both dominant at times this fall and dormant against elite defenses in both Ohio State and Iowa. LSU's defense provides another very tough test for Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and, most importantly, an offensive line that has taken some time to jell.
Penn State makes its fifth appearance in the Capital One/Citrus Bowl and its first since 2002. The Lions are 1-3 in the Orlando game.
LSU take by SEC blogger Chris Low: The wolves were howling in Baton Rouge following LSU’s 25-23 loss to Ole Miss on Nov. 21 when Les Miles and the Tigers’ offensive staff butchered the end of that game with their clock management. Miles was roasted by the fans and the media.
That next week, the Tigers were again on the ropes, but they showed their mettle by rallying in the final minute of regulation and beat Arkansas 33-30 in overtime to change the complexion of this season. A home loss to end the regular season, particularly coming off that Ole Miss debacle, would have made for a long offseason no matter what happened in the bowl game.
But, now, the Tigers have a chance to win a 1oth game and get one more chance to improve offensively. That’s been the sticking point, because John Chavis’ defense in his first year as LSU’s coordinator has played well enough to win every game the Tigers have played this season.
Injuries have decimated LSU’s running back stable, and the Tigers are down to Stevan Ridley. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson has struggled with his overall awareness, and LSU has also given up an SEC-high 35 sacks.
The Tigers are 11th in the SEC this season in total offense (309.7 yards per game). That’s 130 yards fewer per game than what they averaged in 2007 when they won the national championship.
Picking the No. 1 team right now in the SEC is an impossible chore.
One minute, you think it’s Florida. The next, you’re leaning to Alabama. Something tells me it’s going to be that way until we get to Atlanta on Dec. 5:
1. Florida: The Gators (9-0, 7-0) weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut in their 27-3 win over Vanderbilt, but they were good enough. And with the way their defense and special teams are playing, “good enough” is going to win them a lot of games. But will it win them a second straight national championship? Looks like we’re going to find out.
2. Alabama: The Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0) were forced to come from behind and win last week in their 24-15 victory over LSU, clinching the Western Division title and a trip to Atlanta to face Florida in the SEC championship game. Quarterback Greg McElroy answered the skeptics with a big game, and Alabama dominated the fourth quarter. This is a team that just finds a way to get it done.
3. LSU: The 24-15 loss to Alabama was costly on a couple of different fronts. The Tigers (7-2, 4-2) were knocked out of the Western Division title race, and a couple of their top players were injured. Running back Charles Scott was lost for the season with a broken collarbone, and quarterback Jordan Jefferson had to leave the game with a sprained ankle. Jefferson hopes to return this week.
4. Tennessee: The Vols (5-4, 2-3) obliterated Memphis 56-28 last Saturday, and senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton put on a record-setting performance. Is he the most improved player in the league? Tennessee has a chance to really finish this season up strong and get to an attractive bowl game, but it all hinges on beating Ole Miss this weekend in Oxford.
5. Auburn: The Tigers (7-3, 3-3) go for win No. 8 this weekend at Georgia, which would be a pretty sweet accomplishment when you look at where this team was a few weeks ago after losing three straight and some of the depth issues it’s faced. Quarterback Chris Todd has seemed to find his second wind. This will be a big test for the defense, which gave up a lot of points to Furman last week after the starters left the game.
6. Georgia: Here’s one final chance for the Bulldogs (5-4, 3-3) to salvage something out of this season of discontent. They beat up on Tennessee Tech last week, and next up is a home date with Auburn. The grumbling among the fans has already been loud enough. It will only grow louder if Gene Chizik comes into Sanford Stadium in his first year as the Tigers’ coach and handles the Bulldogs.
7. Ole Miss: The Rebels (6-3, 2-3) have one decent win at this point, and that’s the 30-17 victory over Arkansas at home last month. Otherwise, they’ve beaten up on a bunch of lightweights. Any chance of playing for the Western Division title was gone a long time ago, but they still have a chance to make this season a respectable one. And that starts this weekend by beating Tennessee at home in the "Ed Orgeron Bowl."
8. Arkansas: The Hogs (5-4, 2-4) can become bowl eligible this week with a win over Troy. They’ve been a different team at home this season, and quarterback Ryan Mallett has been especially good when the Hogs are wearing their home jerseys. He carved apart South Carolina last week in a 33-16 win. Something says he’s not done carving and that the Hogs aren’t done winning.
9. South Carolina: That familiar late-season fade is looking more and more like a reality for the Gamecocks (6-4, 3-4). They’ve lost their last two games, including a 33-16 setback at Arkansas last week, and haven’t scored more than 16 points in their last four SEC games. With Florida coming to town this weekend, it doesn’t get any easier. The Head Ball Coach sounds about as frustrated as he did at the end of last season.
10. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (4-5, 2-3) had last week off to get ready for a stretch run that will determine their bowl hopes. They get Alabama this weekend at home, then travel to Arkansas and come back home to face Ole Miss. They need to win two of their last three to ensure that there will be a postseason. Dan Mullen’s club has had several near-misses this season. Maybe the Bulldogs are due for a couple of big hits in November.
11. Kentucky: One of the most time consuming things Kentucky coach Rich Brooks does every Sunday is read off the injury report. The Wildcats (5-4, 1-4) are really banged up. Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb didn’t play last week in the 37-12 win over Eastern Kentucky, but both are expected back this week against Vanderbilt. The Wildcats would like to get all the drama out of the way and become bowl eligible this week. Otherwise, they’ll have to beat Georgia or Tennessee to do so.
12. Vanderbilt: Give the Commodores (2-8, 0-6) some credit. They haven’t mailed it in and played Florida tough most of the way last week before losing 27-3. They just can’t score and have now gone six straight SEC games this season without scoring more than 10 points. If they’re going to avoid a winless season in the league, they better get Kentucky at home this weekend.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- LSU has a 7-3 halftime lead over Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. As expected, the two defenses have dominated.
LSU ended an Alabama threat right before the end of the half when linebacker Kelvin Sheppard intercepted a Greg McElroy pass inside the 10.
Here’s a first-half analysis:
Turning point: Alabama appeared to have LSU running back Charles Scott stopped on a third-and-2 play from the Alabama 45 early in the second quarter. But Scott kept his legs churning and powered his way for 4 yards and a first down to keep the drive alive. Five plays later, the Tigers scored the only touchdown of the first half on Jordan Jefferson’s 12-yard pass to Deangelo Peterson.
Stat of the half: Alabama opened with seven straight pass attempts and threw the ball on nine of its first 10 plays from scrimmage to start the game.
Player of the half: Jefferson was able to avoid the Alabama pressure and make some plays passing and running. He had a 15-yard scramble on a third-and-7 play to keep alive the Tigers’ touchdown drive. He was also 8-of-14 passing with the touchdown and made all the right decisions.
The last time LSU played a game of this stature -- against this type of defense -- you got the feeling the Tigers could have played for 12 quarters and still not been able to score a touchdown.
That was four weeks ago, and LSU bowed meekly at home to Florida in a 13-3 loss that saw the Tigers go belly-up on offense.
Everything was in place, too.
|Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire|
|Jordan Jefferson has completed 66.7 percent of his passes in LSU’s last two games.|
A record crowd turned Tiger Stadium into the kind of environment you only get there on the Bayou. The Gators were forced to be somewhat conservative with quarterback Tim Tebow since he was coming off his concussion, and LSU’s defense was terrific all night long.
The only thing missing was a pulse from the LSU offense.
Clearly, the Tigers weren’t ready for that kind of challenge, and they failed miserably.
They get a second chance on Saturday in Tuscaloosa against an Alabama defense just as imposing and just as nasty as the Florida defense.
We’ll see how far the Tigers have come.
“I think we’ve gotten better and really answered some of those challenges beyond that Florida game [offensively],” LSU coach Les Miles said. “Certainly there is a new challenge with every week. I think it was important that we answer some of those issues beyond the Florida game, and we did.
“I feel pretty comfortable that our offense is in position to play well.”
The Tigers (7-1, 4-1 SEC) are coming off their two most complete offensive performances of the season. They averaged 415.5 yards and 36.5 points in their two wins over Tulane and Auburn.
But, then, nobody is going to mistake the defenses at Tulane or Auburn for the one the Tigers will be going up against on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
In four of its five SEC games, Alabama has held its opponents to a single touchdown. South Carolina and Ole Miss never found the end zone against the Tide.
“We’ve got to play Alabama like it's our national championship game,” LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson said following the Tigers’ 42-0 rout of Tulane last week.
That and with some offensive imagination and consistency.
It was almost like the Tigers were scared to let Jefferson attack the Gators down the field four weeks ago. Then again, Jefferson wasn’t very decisive in the pocket and has to be poised enough to step up and make those throws.
He finished with just 96 yards passing against the Gators, who crept closer and closer to the line of scrimmage and sat on all of the Tigers’ short and intermediate routes.
And in the second half, Jefferson was sacked five times. Some of those were protection issues, but he also got himself in trouble by trying to scramble around and not throwing the ball away.
The Tigers converted just one third down the entire game against the Gators, and that came during the first possession of the game.
In a lot of ways, LSU looked like a high school offense with a bunch of NFL-caliber athletes running around on the field.
But after a bye the following week and now two games that have seen this offense click as well as it has all season, the Tigers feel like they’re much more equipped to go in and move the ball and score points against a defense the caliber of Alabama's.
For one, it looks like freshman Russell Shepard is going to see his chances increase. He’s scored touchdowns in each of the last two games.
Senior running back Charles Scott is coming off his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.
And most importantly, Jefferson appears to have matured some as a quarterback and is making quicker, more decisive decisions. He’s completed 66.7 percent of his passes in his last two games for 405 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
But now comes the real test, and at stake for the Tigers is a commanding position in the Western Division race if they can knock off Alabama. If the Crimson Tide win, they clinch the Western Division title and a trip to Atlanta.
“Certainly we felt like we were in position to do good things against Florida,” Miles said. “Any time you finish second in a football game, it’s a very pointed reminder that you have to improve and that you have to continue to improve.
“I think our football team has done that really since that time, I think.”
Consider it a crimson-coated mulligan for the LSU offense. We’ll see what the Tigers do with it.
By Saturday night around 7 o’clock, Miles won’t think. He’ll know ... one way or the other.
We’re right back where we ended the season a year ago in the SEC.
Midway through, Florida and Alabama appear poised to square off in the SEC championship game for the right to play for what would be the league’s fourth straight national championship and fifth in the last seven years.
Both the Gators and Crimson Tide are unbeaten, and they’re Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the first BCS standings that were released on Sunday.
Even though the Gators are unbeaten, they’ve had a few bumps in the road getting here. The offense is completely reliant on Tim Tebow, who suffered a concussion in the Kentucky game, but hasn’t missed any game action. Tebow has been the heart and soul of the running game, and the downfield passing game hasn’t been very consistent.
|Marvin Gentry/US Presswire|
|Alabama’s Mark Ingram leads the SEC with 905 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.|
The Crimson Tide had been much more diverse offensively until the last two games when quarterback Greg McElroy didn’t throw the ball nearly as consistently as he did in their first five games.
The constant with both teams (and the league in general) has been defense. Big surprise there, huh?
Alabama and Florida are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in total defense nationally. Tennessee (13th), South Carolina (19th), Ole Miss (23rd), Vanderbilt (24th) and LSU (35th) give the SEC seven of the top 35 defenses in the country.
Auburn was the big story the first month of the season. The Tigers started out 5-0 under first-year coach Gene Chizik, but have lost their last two games and look like they might be running on empty with a defense that is hurting for numbers.
After Alabama and Florida, it’s difficult to sort the teams out from there. They’re all pretty close.
In other words, the third best team in this league isn’t appreciably better than the ninth best team. All but three teams already have two conference losses.
The team that stands the best chance to break up what’s shaping up to be an Alabama-Florida rematch in the SEC championship game is LSU, which lost 13-3 at home to the Gators two weeks ago. But that was the Tigers’ only loss, and they still get a shot at the Crimson Tide in November.
There are sure to be some other twists and turns along the way. There always are in the SEC. Just last week, both Alabama and Florida had to fight like crazy to survive at home. And even then, the Gators got a little help from the officials.
So don’t write anything in ink just yet.
Offensive MVP: Alabama RB Mark Ingram
With Alabama’s passing game taking a turn for the worse the last two weeks, the Crimson Tide have really jumped on Ingram’s back. He obviously has wide shoulders even if he is built pretty low to the ground. The 5-foot-10, 212-pound sophomore has been a tackle-breaking machine and leads the SEC with 905 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, eight rushing and three receiving. He’s doing it all for the Tide -- running, catching and blocking -- and has also delivered several big plays.
Defensive MVP: Alabama LB Rolando McClain
Midway through, it’s one big Alabama party. McClain gets the nod over South Carolina outside linebacker Eric Norwood and Tennessee safety Eric Berry based on how versatile he’s been and his overall impact on the Alabama defense. Nick Saban says McClain is one of the smartest players he’s ever coached. He calls all the signals and makes sure everybody is where they’re supposed to be. He’s also plenty productive from his middle linebacker spot. He leads Alabama with 49 total tackles, including 6.5 for loss. Go back and look at how many game-changing plays he’s been involved in, whether it’s deflecting a pass that leads to an interception, forcing a fumble that leads to a touchdown or intercepting a pass himself. He’s the most complete middle linebacker in the country.
Biggest surprise: South Carolina
The Gamecocks (5-2, 2-2) are in position to have their best season under Steve Spurrier. There were a bunch of question marks entering the season, but quarterback Stephen Garcia has matured. The defense has overcome injuries and youth to be one of the better units in the SEC under Ellis Johnson and his staff, and even in their two losses, the Gamecocks have been right there. They played Alabama as well as anybody has this season. Now let’s see if they can finish the season, which has been a problem in Columbia.
Biggest disappointment: Ole Miss
There’s still time to make something of this season, but the Rebels’ hopes of playing in their first-ever SEC title game pretty much went down the drain before the month of September was over. They were awful offensively in their two biggest games to date, losing 16-10 to South Carolina and 22-3 to Alabama. It’s been a rough first half of the season for quarterback Jevan Snead, although he played better last week in the win over UAB. The best thing the Rebels have going for them is Tyrone Nix’s defense. They’ve been terrific on that side of the ball.
Best game: LSU at Georgia, Oct. 3
In all honesty, the game wasn’t that great until the final few minutes. But the finish was thrilling and made up for everything else. The two teams combined for three touchdowns in the final 2:53, with Charles Scott breaking loose on a 33-yard touchdown run to win it for the Tigers with 33 seconds to play. Only seconds earlier, A.J. Green had put the Bulldogs ahead 13-12 after going up and over an LSU defender to wrestle away a spectacular 16-yard touchdown catch. As fate would have it, Green was hit with a bogus 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for celebrating, a penalty the SEC later said should have never been called, and LSU’s Trindon Holliday took advantage by taking the ensuing kickoff back 40 yards to the Georgia 38 -- setting up Scott’s run. Honorable mention would go to Georgia’s 41-37 win over South Carolina on Sept. 12, Georgia’s 52-41 win over Arkansas on Sept. 19 and Florida’s 23-20 win over Arkansas on Oct. 17.
Best coach: Alabama’s Nick Saban
Chizik looked like a runaway winner here until the last two weeks. He’s still done a nice job with an Auburn team that’s really hurting for depth. Spurrier deserves a few votes, too. But Saban gets the midseason award based on the fact that nobody saw the Crimson Tide being this dominant with everything they lost last year -- two All-American offensive linemen, a three-year starter at quarterback and their captain and best safety on defense. The Tide have just reloaded, though, and are trying to become the first Alabama team since 1973 and 1974 to go unbeaten in back-to-back regular seasons. Seems like old times at the Capstone.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Before Florida and LSU get it on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, maybe they can sit down and compare whose crystal football that sits atop the last three BCS national championship trophies sparkles the brightest.
|James Lang/US PRESSWIRE|
|Florida has won two of the last three BCS championship games. LSU won in 2007.|
They’ve carried the torch for the SEC nationally this decade and are a big reason this conference is recognized as the best conference in the land.
They’ve shared the last three BCS national championships, Florida in 2008 and 2006 and LSU in 2007.
The winner of this game the last three years has gone on to win the national championship, and these two teams are the only schools in the country with multiple BCS national titles. The Tigers also won in 2003 under Nick Saban.
Here’s another way to look at it: Four of the last six national championship celebrations have gone down in either Baton Rouge, La., or Gainesville, Fla.
“This is what you play for,” LSU running back Charles Scott said. “You have a little extra motivation for this game. It’s LSU and Florida, the top dogs in the SEC.
“There’s no hatred … just a lot of pride.”
About the only chink you can find in Florida’s armor since Urban Meyer arrived in 2005 is that the Gators have been ordinary against Western Division opponents in the regular season.
Florida is 6-6 against the West since 2005, losing both times at Tiger Stadium.
Keep in mind that Florida’s regular Western Division opponent just happens to be LSU.
“I’m not sure how the SEC figured out that we had to play LSU every year,” said Meyer, weighing in on the Gators’ struggles against the West. “We happen to get them when they’re loaded up real good with players. It’s a players’ game. Just watch what happens in the next five years, a bunch of those cats will be playing in the NFL and so will the Gators.
“This is two top-5 teams playing. I imagine we haven’t done really well against very talented teams.”
Meyer’s selling himself short there.
While this will be the Gators’ first game against a nationally ranked team this season (and only their second against a team with a winning record), Meyer is 17-5 against nationally ranked opponents at Florida, 10-2 against top-10 teams and 6-1 against top-5 teams.
And when he has more than a week to prepare for an opponent, he’s 28-3 during his career.
Of course, he’s done so this time not knowing if he’s going to have his record-setting quarterback, Tim Tebow.
As big as this game is, it’s not necessarily a death sentence for either team in terms of staying in the national championship race.
In fact, both teams would still control their own destiny in their divisional races even if they lose. Winning out would get them to Atlanta. And as both Florida and LSU have shown us in recent years, winning the SEC championship as a one-loss team (or even a two-loss team as LSU did in 2007) is still good enough to be right there in the mix when the final BCS standings are released in December.
Just don’t tell that to any of the participants in Saturday’s festivities.
“It’s going to be a nose-bleeding, smashmouth, backyard football game,” LSU offensive tackle Ciron Black said. “Everybody’s helmet is going to be scratched up. Everybody’s going to be sore. This is what we’ve all worked so hard for.
“If you can’t play for 60 minutes in a game like this, you shouldn’t be on the field.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
This Saturday in the SEC needs no buildup. There are marquee matchups everywhere.
The intrigue surrounding Tim Tebow’s playing status has sort of dominated the headlines, but the real story is what happens on the field.
It’s the first chance for a couple of teams to separate themselves. We’ll see if they’re up to the task.
Here’s a look at what to watch in the SEC in Week 6:
1. Bedlam on the Bayou: If you love college football and love the atmosphere surrounding college football on game day, find a way to be in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night. The party outside Tiger Stadium has a chance to be as good as the game itself. They do it up right on the Bayou for every game, but the environment for the Florida-LSU showdown will be electric. I can already taste the gumbo. I can already feel the anticipation of the last two national champions squaring off in one of college football’s most hallowed (and deafening) cathedrals. I can already hear the LSU band striking up those legendary first four notes: DAH-DANT-DA-DUM. For a little taste, go to LSUsports.com and click on “Touchdown for LSU” (pregame).
2. Getting the tough yards: If Tim Tebow does come back from his concussion and play for Florida, will he be as willing to take off and lower his head on third-and-short and down near the goal line? Let’s face it: His ability to get the tough yards and do the Gators’ dirty work has been what’s separated him and what’s made the Gators’ offense so difficult to defend. And if he doesn’t play, who’s going to assume those duties for Florida? Backup quarterback John Brantley isn’t much of a runner, and the Gators don’t really have an every-down running back. Emmanuel Moody, a 210-pound junior, would probably be the closest thing.
3. Dunlap and Cunningham: It’s hard to find a better defensive end combo in the country. Carlos Dunlap is pushing 290 pounds and has the strength to overpower an opposing offensive tackle while also having the speed to blow past him. Some analysts think Dunlap might be the top overall pick in the NFL draft if he decides to leave school early. On the other side is Jermaine Cunningham, who according to LSU offensive tackle Ciron Black, is the fastest defensive end in the country. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson was sacked six times last week in the 20-13 win over Georgia, so you can bet that Dunlap and Cunningham will be pinning their ears back and coming on Saturday night.
4. Great Scott: The Tigers appeared to find something in their running game toward the end of the Georgia contest last week, and they did so by handing the ball to senior Charles Scott and letting him do his thing. Scott finished with season highs of 19 carries and 95 yards rushing. His 33-yard touchdown romp where he ran over a Georgia linebacker was the game-winner with 46 seconds to play. Entering that game, he’d only carried it 43 times combined in four previous games and hadn’t gone over 63 yards or carried it more than 13 times in a game. This is the same guy who rushed for 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. The Tigers’ problem is that Scott is also their best blocker in the backfield, and he's having to play some fullback. But getting him more involved in the running game will be key if the Tigers are going to establish anything on the ground against the Gators.
5. Prove-it-to-me time for Rebels: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and his players said all the right things in the offseason, that they were handling the expectations and all the hype accordingly. As it turns out, they probably didn’t handle it all that well. They’ve yet to come close to playing their “A” game this season and lost to the only team they’ve faced with a winning record. It’s been a disappointing first five weeks to the season, no doubt. But that can all change with a win over No. 3-ranked Alabama at home Saturday. Not only do the Rebels prove that they’re legit by winning, but they put themselves in prime position for the stretch run in the Western Division race. This is their shot to completely change the complexion of their season.
6. Julio’s just fine: Want to get Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy fired up? Ask him why Julio Jones hasn’t been more involved in the offense this season. Jones has nine catches for 133 yards and one touchdown. Part of the reason his numbers are down is that he’s missed virtually two games with a bruised kneecap. But McElroy isn’t buying that Jones hasn’t been involved. If anything, Jones is the main reason that so many different guys have emerged in the passing game for the Tide. McElroy has thrown touchdown passes to six different players. “Just because Julio’s not catching passes doesn’t mean he’s not involved. He’s very involved. He demands the eyes. Four eyes are on him every time we snap the ball. That’s two from a safety and two from a corner. He makes a difference whether he catches a ball or not,” McElroy said.
7. Redemption for the quarterbacks: For a league that’s hard on quarterbacks, some guys have put up some mighty impressive numbers heading into Week 6. In fact, four of the top 12 rated passers in the country are from the SEC. Tebow is No. 3 in passing efficiency, Alabama’s McElroy No. 6, Auburn’s Chris Todd No. 8 and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett No. 12. Tebow’s not a surprise, and most people felt Mallett would come out slinging it in Bobby Petrino’s offense. But what about the two guys from the state of Alabama? Between them, Todd and McElroy have thrown 21 touchdown passes and two interceptions. Ole Miss' Jevan Snead is all the way down at No. 66 nationally in passing efficiency, but he's too talented not to make a move. Maybe it's this week. Ole Miss fans sure hope so.
8. Auburn at the front of the line: As we approach the midway point of the season, it’s hard to pick anybody other than Auburn when you start talking about the best offensive line in the league. Props go to Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes. His guys have really played well up front. The numbers speak for themselves. The Tigers are second in the league and fifth nationally in rushing offense. They lead the league and are tied for second nationally with only two sacks allowed. They haven’t allowed any sacks the past two games, and they’ve also done it with different people. Guard Byron Isom has missed the last two games, meaning the Tigers have started a different combination in each of their last three games. Lee Ziemba might be the best left tackle in the league right now.
9. Garcia’s maturation: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has resisted at every turn to drop the slightest bit of praise on sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia. Maybe Spurrier didn’t want to jinx it. Maybe he wanted to keep Garcia on his toes. Maybe he’s just hard on his quarterbacks. Whatever the case, the Head Ball Coach is starting to come around and says now that Garcia has made tremendous progress. Even though South Carolina didn’t win, you could sort of see Garcia grow up in that Georgia game, and he’s been steady ever since. The best thing he’s done is manage the game, meaning he’s given the Gamecocks a chance in every game and making the plays when they’re there. He’s only thrown two interceptions this season and heads into Saturday’s game against Kentucky having gone 116 pass attempts without an interception. Simply, he's playing winning football.
10. Revival on Rocky Top: You heard it here first. If Tennessee doesn’t beat Georgia at home Saturday, the Vols won’t have a winning season. That’s how important this game is for Lane Kiffin’s club, which has shown a knack this season for hanging around in games, but hasn’t been able to generate enough offense to beat anybody that counts. Despite the struggles, Kiffin hasn't taken any shortcuts and has stuck to his guns. He dismissed receiver Brandon Warren from the team this week after Warren spent one too many nights in Kiffin’s doghouse. He’s also stuck with senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton and says he has no desire to start shuffling quarterbacks. Whether that comes back to get him remains to be seen. Either way, the Vols have continued to play hard. It’s getting to the point, though, that they probably need to see some results if they're going to hang in there for the rest of this season. That’s what makes this Georgia game so critical heading into the bye week. A 0-3 start in SEC play could become 0-4 real quick with Alabama looming in two weeks. The last time the Vols started 0-4 in SEC play was 1988 when they finished 5-6 overall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
On a weekend when No. 1-ranked Florida was idle, the rest of the league had the spotlight to itself.
LSU made good on its end of the bargain, setting up a huge showdown of top 5 teams in Tiger Stadium next Saturday night. Auburn is obviously serious about making some noise in the Western Division race, and Alabama rolls into its toughest road test of the season at Ole Miss on the heels of another runaway victory.
Here’s a look at what we learned in the SEC in Week 5:
1. Resolve over luck: LSU has been called overrated, even lucky by some. Could it be, though, that these Tigers simply know how to win? There’s something to be said for having the ability to make plays when you need them, and LSU has certainly shown that ability in starting this season 5-0. It hasn’t always been pretty and hasn’t always been textbook. But the bottom line is that different guys have stepped to the plate all season long for LSU when called upon. In the 20-13 win over Georgia, it was senior running back Charles Scott who came through, but what about the poise of sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson in those final minutes? And do the Tigers win without freshman Rueben Randle’s sweet 16-yard catch over the middle on third-and-10 in the drive to go ahead 12-7? LSU coach Les Miles said it best: “Our football team, if you turn your back on them, they’re going to beat you up and steal a victory.”
2. Quick-strike Tide: After seeing Alabama mash people on offense a year ago, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that this version of the Crimson Tide is a bit different. And nobody at the Capstone is complaining. This team can score points in bunches, and everybody gets into the act. The most encouraging thing about Saturday’s 38-20 win over Kentucky was that the offense sort of bumbled along in the first half, but the Crimson Tide still managed to send the Wildcats reeling with a head-spinning flurry that turned a 7-6 game into a 31-6 romp in a span of fewer than five minutes of actual game time. Alabama had ranked 11th in the SEC in takeaways entering the game, but scored 17 points off turnovers. The 45-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Courtney Upshaw with 21 seconds to play in the first half is the play that broke Kentucky’s back, but then Mark Ingram answered for the offense with a 32-yard touchdown run in the first 80 seconds of the second half. The Crimson Tide can get you in a lot of different ways.
3. Early dibs to Chizik: Everybody wondered which one of the three new head coaches in the league would make the quickest impact. We now have our answer. Gene Chizik has Auburn 5-0 and playing the kind of football they’re used to on the Plains. The Tigers beat Tennessee 26-22 on Saturday night in their first road game of the season and are building confidence each week. That’s the thing that jumps out when you talk to any of the Auburn players right now, how confident they are in Chizik, his staff and the system. The defense isn’t dominant, but has been good enough so far. And Gus Malzahn’s offense epitomizes balance. Quarterback Chris Todd hit 19 of 32 passes against the Vols for 218 yards, and running back Ben Tate rushed for 128 yards. The 459 total yards by the Tigers were the most Monte Kiffin’s defense has given up this season by more than 100 yards.
4. Props for Ole Miss’ defense: While there’s still some concern in Oxford about the Ole Miss offense, specifically quarterback Jevan Snead’s inability to put together a whole game, it’s time to give it up for Tyrone Nix’s defense. The Rebels have played well enough on defense this season to still be unbeaten right now. The 16-10 loss at South Carolina was hardly their fault, and the D was dominant Saturday in a 23-7 victory at Vanderbilt. Granted, the Commodores aren't going to be confused with an offensive juggernaut, but the Ole Miss offense put the defense in some tough spots in the second half, and Nix’s guys responded every time. There are a lot of teams who’d be willing to trade for the Rebels’ front seven on defense, which is the best thing Ole Miss has going for it next Saturday entering one of the biggest games the Rebels have played at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in the past 40 years. Beating Alabama starts up front on defense, and Ole Miss has what it takes there to get it done.
5. Tough season for the Vols: It’s shaping up as what could be a second straight non-winning regular season for Tennessee following the 26-22 home loss to Auburn. The Vols (2-3, 0-2) will have a difficult time getting out of October with a win. Georgia comes to town next weekend, and then Tennessee goes to Alabama following a bye and gets South Carolina at home on the final day of the month. There were some good signs against Auburn. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton played the best game of his career against an SEC opponent, and Tennessee has continued to get after people. Lane Kiffin has seen to it that this team is going to play hard. But as the losses and injuries continue to mount, you wonder if the Vols will be able to sustain that same intensity. If they can get to 6-6, that could still get them into a bowl game, which would be huge with all the younger players playing key roles this season. But they sure don’t want to be 2-6 heading into that final month. They need to find at least one win somewhere in October, and that won’t be easy.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Auburn and LSU both responded to key road challenges, while Arkansas picked up a much-needed nonconference win.
There were some difficult choices in Week 5 when doling out the SEC helmet stickers, but here goes:
Auburn coach Gene Chizik: Remember all the quizzical looks and grumbling when it was first announced that Auburn was hiring a guy who’d gone 5-19 in his previous two years as a head coach? Nobody’s grumbling now on the Plains. The Tigers are 5-0 after winning Saturday night in their first road test of the season, a 26-22 victory over Tennessee. Chizik has these players believing, and they’re playing sound, disciplined and balanced football. They’re also playing as a team.
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis: He was brought in by Les Miles to restore LSU’s proud defense to prominence. So far, it’s hard to argue with the results. LSU’s defense was dominant for much of the game Saturday in the 20-13 victory over Georgia. The Bulldogs were held to one first down in the first half. Chavis’ decision to play a lot of man coverage against Georgia paid off in making them one-dimensional and limiting them to 274 total yards. This LSU defense has taken on Chavis’ personality -- tough, resilient and all business. The Tigers still haven’t played their best game on defense, either.
Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain: Proving yet again why he’s one of the best inside linebackers in college football, McClain had a game-high 11 tackles in the 38-20 win over Kentucky and had a hand in three turnovers that killed three consecutive drives for the Wildcats. He had an interception and also forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Courtney Upshaw just before the half to completely change the complexion of the game.
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett: He came back to reality last week against Alabama’s defense, but showed what he’s made of Saturday in a 47-19 victory over previously unbeaten Texas A&M. Despite getting off to a slow start, missing his first three passes and being sacked a couple of times, Mallett kept his poise and finished with four touchdown passes. He connected with four different players on his scoring tosses.
LSU running back Charles Scott: The heart and soul of LSU’s offense a year ago, Scott hadn’t done a whole lot this season until Saturday. The Tigers needed him in the fourth quarter, and he delivered with a pair of touchdown runs and a season-high 95 yards rushing. His 33-yard touchdown romp with 46 seconds remaining was the game-winner and was vintage Scott. He bolted through the hole and then ran over Georgia linebacker Marcus Dowtin on his way to the end zone.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
ATHENS, Ga. -- The sweat was still thick on Charles Scott’s brow Saturday evening when he ignited the official countdown to The Game.
LSU hadn’t even had time to celebrate its thrilling 20-13 victory over Georgia when the subject invariably turned to next week.
|Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images|
|LSU coach Les Miles and the Tigers will put their undefeated record up against Florida next Saturday.|
The Florida Gators.
“We’ll feel great for another hour or so and then we’ll start thinking about Florida,” said Scott, whose 33-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds to play won it for the Tigers.
It was another skin-of-their-teeth win for the Tigers, who’ve pretty much experienced this all this season.
They’ve gone all the way across the country to face Washington in the opener in a game that was closer than anyone expected at the time. They played just well enough to win the next week at home against Vanderbilt and then came up with a goal-line stand for the ages last week to escape at Mississippi State.
They head back home to Tiger Stadium to face the No. 1-ranked Gators after coming alive offensively in the final three minutes against Georgia.
“My heart can’t take too many more of these,” LSU coach Les Miles joked.
Something says he probably better get used to it, because the SEC race is shaping up as a wild one.
Next weekend, in a lot of ways, will separate the contenders from the pretenders. In addition to the Florida-LSU showdown, Alabama goes to Ole Miss.
“We’re right where we wanted to be, undefeated and going back to our house,” LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “Florida’s coming to town, and nobody is going to want to miss this game.”
The Gators, who were off this week, thrashed the Tigers 51-21 a year ago in Gainesville, a romp that was still fresh in the LSU players’ minds only minutes after taking care of Georgia on Saturday night.
“Florida put it on us last year, and we’re holding a grudge,” LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson said. “They were disrespecting us, doing stuff like punting the ball in the stands. We’ve been looking forward to this.”
Jefferson was referring to Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes punting the ball into the stands after returning an interception for a touchdown a year ago.
Linebacker Kevin Sheppard’s eyes lit up when asked what Tiger Stadium was going to be like next Saturday. LSU has won 32 consecutive Saturday night games at home.
“Oh man, words can’t describe that,” beamed Sheppard, already anticipating the atmosphere on the Bayou.
Something else the Tigers are anticipating is seeing Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in the lineup despite the concussion he suffered at Kentucky.
“He’s going to play. I know he is,” Peterson said. “He’s a competitor. He’s always in guys’ ears, and I know he’s going to play.
“They call him Superman. We’re just going to have to contain Superman.”
Added Sheppard: “Knowing that guy, he’s definitely going to give it his all to get in there and play.”
Either way, the Tigers (5-0) go into that game feeling better about themselves than they have all season.
“I love the passion we’re playing with, the way the offense came through, the way the defense is playing,” Scott said. “It’s coming along, and the best thing is that we’re only going to get better.
“We’ll keep our eyes open and keep heading down that road.”
It’s a road the leads to one of the most anticipated showdowns of the season next Saturday between a Florida team many have called the most talented team in the country and an LSU team many have called the most overrated team in the country.
“People can sit back and talk and talk,” Sheppard said. “One of these days, you have to line up and play each other. That’s what happened today and what’s going to happen next week against a great team.
“We’ll see how it turns out on the field.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
ATHENS, Ga. -- Les Miles can’t say for sure that his LSU football team found itself in the final minutes Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
He’s seen it in bits and pieces all season long.
|Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images|
|Charles Scott's 33-yard touchdown run sealed the game for LSU.|
“I can only tell you this: We’ll be competitive, and we’ll play for victory, and this football team will look forward to playing the rest of the way,” Miles said following No. 4-ranked LSU’s 20-13 win over Georgia in the wildest finish of the season thus far in the SEC.
The Tigers (5-0) scored their only two touchdowns of the game in the final 2:53, both frantic drives capped by Charles Scott touchdown runs.
It’s been their theme all season long: When they have to get it done, they get it done.
“I think you saw our true identity tonight,” said Scott, who finished with 95 yards rushing after totaling just 179 yards in his first four games. “We stepped up to the plate. The world knows now that we deserve to be where we are.”
For more than three quarters, LSU couldn’t finish a drive on offense and was hanging on thanks to a defense that was one great A.J. Green play away from holding Georgia to a single touchdown for the entire game.
Green’s leaping 16-yard touchdown catch over LSU cornerback Chris Hawkins gave the Bulldogs a 13-12 lead with 1:09 to play. The reason the Tigers were able to stuff the Bulldogs’ running game was all the man coverage they played on Green and the Georgia receivers.
“Our cornerbacks played their behinds off,” LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said. “They told us, ‘We’ve got your backs. Just go stop their run.’”
Even then, the Tigers needed one final thrust after an excessive celebration penalty on Green forced Georgia to kick off from its own 15. Trindon Holliday returned the kickoff 41 yards, and another 5 yards was tacked on because Georgia’s kickoff team lined up in an illegal formation.
That’s where Charles took over, but only after sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson sort of overruled offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. A pass was initially called on the play Scott scored on, but Jefferson convinced him during the timeout to give the ball to Scott.
Sure enough, Scott ripped through a huge hole, plowed over Georgia linebacker Marcus Dowtin and sprinted 33 yards for the winning touchdown.
“I said, ‘Let’s give it to Charles,’ and he came through,” said Jefferson, who came through himself on the drive before with several big-time throws.
It’s the kind of balance Scott has been waiting on all season.
“That’s us. We’ve got too many weapons on offense to stick to one dimension,” Scott said. “That’s our offense, the way we want to be.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
ATHENS, Ga. -- In one of the wildest finishes you’re ever going to see, LSU rallied in the final minute for a 20-13 victory over Georgia on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
How the game was won: After falling behind 13-12 with 1:09 to play on A.J. Green’s leaping touchdown catch, LSU came roaring back down the field, and Charles Scott broke loose on a tackle-breaking 33-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds to play.
Turning point: Trindon Holliday returned a short Georgia kickoff 41 yards, and an illegal formation penalty on Georgia’s kickoff team moved the ball to the Bulldogs’ 38-yard line, leading to Scott's game-winning touchdown.
Unsung hero of the game: LSU true freshman Rueben Randle had two key catches on the Tigers’ drive to go ahead 12-7. One was a 17-yard catch on a third-and-10 play. He also had a 12-yard catch later in the drive. Randle, one of the top-rated receiver prospects in the country, only had one catch all season coming into the game.
Player of the game: Scott had struggled most of this season after rushing for more than 1,000 yards a year ago. But when the Tigers needed him, he was there with the biggest play of the game on his 33-yard touchdown romp.
What it means: LSU (5-0) remains unbeaten and will keep its Top-5 ranking heading back home to Tiger Stadium next week to take on No. 1-ranked Florida in what will be the showdown of the season in the SEC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
One of the best recruiting jobs LSU coach Les Miles did this past offseason was holding onto senior offensive tackle Ciron Black.
In reality, I don't know how much recruiting Miles really did, but there's no denying how much better the Tigers will be with Black lining up at left tackle for another season.
|Brad Schloss/Icon SMI|
|Ciron Black has started in 40 straight games at left tackle for the Tigers.|
Not only is he the best offensive tackle in the SEC, but he's the kind of strong-willed leader that keeps everybody accountable. In more ways than one, Black will be the Tigers' rock in 2009.
He insists that he hasn't regretted his decision to put off the NFL and return for his senior season one bit.
"I realized I had a lot more to do," said the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Black, who has started in 40 straight games at left tackle for the Tigers. "I have a lot more to work on in becoming a better player, a better all-around player."
When one of your best players has that kind of attitude, it typically rubs off on everyone else.
The other thing that sticks out about Black is that he's not a pass-the-blame kind of guy. Case in point: While many were blaming LSU's struggles last season on a lack of senior leadership, Black steadfastly refused to throw his former teammates under the bus.
That's refreshing, too, because how many times have we heard players talking about former teammates who've moved on (usually unnamed teammates) that were too selfish the year before or weren't in it for the team?
"The leadership was there," Black said. "Our mindset wasn't right, and things fell apart on us. We started getting bogged down late in the season and it kind of wore on us."
Black's only suggestion for the coaches heading into this season is to hammer away with the running game. He said the Tigers' backfield is "unbelievable" with the threesome of Charles Scott, Keiland Williams and Richard Murphy.
"Offensive linemen love coming off the ball and hitting somebody in the mouth," Black said.
Something tells me he'll get plenty of chances.