NCF Nation: LSU-Alabama 2011

A closer look at Alabama vs. LSU

November, 5, 2011
11/05/11
10:52
AM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's finally game day, which gives us one more chance to break down the Alabama-LSU game with the help of the Stats & Information and Next Level folks at ESPN:
  • Alabama running back Trent Richardson has gained 513 of his 989 yards (51.9 percent) after contact this season. Richardson has been hard to bring down, breaking a 10-yard run on 16.1 percent (24/149) of his rushes. LSU gives up a 10-yard run on 10.2 percent of its opponents’ carries (T-24th lowest in FBS).
  • Richardson has three touchdown runs of 50 yards or longer this season, tied for the most in FBS. Alabama as a team has five such runs, which is also tied for the most in FBS along with Oregon.
  • Since the start of the 2010 season, Alabama’s SEC opponents have completed 31.7 percent (14-44) of their throws of 20 yards or longer. In the Tide’s three losses during that stretch, that number jumps to 85.7 percent, including four touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • LSU has completed 40 percent of its throws of 20-plus yards this season, including four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Tigers had season-highs on these throws in their last game against Auburn in completions (4) and touchdowns (2).
  • Alabama has only allowed 14 plays of 20 yards or longer this season, fewest in FBS. The Tide are also one of two FBS teams to only allow one run of 20-plus yards this season. Utah State is the other. LSU has allowed 19 plays of 20 yards or longer, tied for third with four other teams. LSU has played in three games this season where it hasn't allowed any plays of 20 yards or longer.
  • In 215 attempts this season, Alabama has only allowed nine rushes of 10 yards or longer (4.2 percent). That is the fewest such rushes and the lowest percentage allowed in FBS. Florida State is second with 16 rushes.
  • LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee has thrown eight of his 13 touchdown passes this season when opponents have sent five or more pass rushers on the play. Lee has spread the ball around when opponents blitz, completing the eight touchdowns to six different receivers.
  • LSU has held opponents to a completion percentage of 12.8 on throws of 15 yards or longer this season. The Tigers have held every opponent to below 30 percent passing on these throws and they have more interceptions (7) than their opponent does receptions (6).
  • Alabama has allowed just one fourth-quarter touchdown this season.
  • In its past 26 home games, Alabama has held its opponents to an average of 7.8 points per game. The Crimson Tide have held their opponents under 10 points in 17 of those 26 games. They're 25-1 during that span.
  • The team leading at halftime has won only two of the past eight games in this series. Last season, Alabama led 7-3 at the break, but LSU put up 21 second-half points for a 24-21 win in Baton Rouge.
  • Alabama and LSU have combined for just three turnovers against FBS-AQ conference teams this season. The Crimson Tide have one and the Tigers two.
  • Alabama hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 14 points in any game this season, and LSU has allowed 10 or fewer points in five of its eight games.
  • The Crimson Tide's starting offensive line and the Tigers' starting defensive line average the same height (6'4). However, Alabama's offensive line outweighs LSU's front four by nearly 40 pounds per man. Alabama averages 312.6 pounds across its offensive front. LSU averages 273.3 pounds across its defensive front.

Richardson's cell phone blowing up

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
10:08
PM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Trent Richardson has become the latest target of the LSU fans.

The Alabama star running back spent much of Friday dodging cell phone calls and text messages from LSU fans, who've become quite adept at getting the cell phone numbers of opposing players and then wearing them out prior to a big game.

It happened to former Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson before the 2008 game. It also happened to Florida's Tim Tebow and Riley Cooper in 2009.

Now, apparently, it's Richardson's turn.

"I don't know how they got my number, but they've got it and have been killing me all day," Richardson said. "One guy just keeps sending pictures of himself."

Richardson, who gets his biggest stage yet in the Heisman Trophy race on Saturday night, was already looking forward to getting another shot at LSU after being banged around in the game last season.

"Last year, I was all beat up," said Richardson, who was held to 28 yards on six carries in the 24-21 loss to the Tigers. "Coming into the game, I was getting a shot in my foot every weekend. I had a bruised sternum. My groin was tight and hurting, and I had a problem with the AC joint in my shoulder. It was crazy.

"And then in the game, I tore an abdominal muscle and had a slightly torn MCL. I was all beat up, man. But, now, I'm ready to go see what this healthy body can do against these LSU Tigers."

Richardson, who leads the SEC in rushing with an average of 123.6 yards per game, is braced for an even more physical game than a year ago.

"Their safeties are real good and they’re making plays out there like they’re linebackers," Richardson said. "Their safeties aren’t scared to hit nobody, and a dude like me is going to come with it. They leave a lot of one-on-one coverages with the receivers and have some of the best cornerbacks I’ve seen.

"As an offensive unit, we've got to break their will first."

Video: LSU-Alabama preview

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
7:00
PM ET

Chris Low and Ivan Maisel break down LSU at Alabama and preview Saturday's top matchups.

Tide's Jones, Vlachos always a step ahead

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
5:10
PM ET


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For two guys who are polar opposites in a lot of ways, Barrett Jones and William Vlachos are the ultimate combination on Alabama’s offensive line.

The truth is that they’re great friends, even though they both revel in getting under the other’s skin.

They room together on the road, quarrel over who gets to control the television remote and make fun of the other’s interests.

When Jones is away from football, he’s liable to be playing the violin or lining up his next mission trip.

When Vlachos is away from football, he’s probably going to be in camouflage and sitting in a deer stand.

When they’re both on the field -- Jones at left tackle and Vlachos at center -- they’re one of the premier offensive line duos in all of college football.

“You’re talking about two guys who are great people, extremely intelligent and are going to be very, very successful in life at whatever they choose to do,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They love playing football and are football junkies. They like to prepare and probably understand what they’re supposed to do as well as the coaches.

[+] EnlargeBarrett Jones
AP Photo/Dave MartinBarrett Jones, center, has paved the way for several touchown runs by Trent Richardson this season.
“Their communication and ability to make calls really helps the other players tremendously. You have to have a combination of those kind of guys, especially in the offensive line where playing intelligently is very, very important to being successful.”

As Saban notes, it’s one thing to be able to physically block a guy. What’s more important is knowing who to block on every play.

“If you don’t block the right guy, it doesn’t do you much good,” Saban said. “Those two guys help us block the right guys. We can’t always block them, but they help us block the right guys, and that helps our consistency.

“Those guys have been staples for two or three years now, and I think our offensive line has always sort of overachieved a little bit … probably because of them.”

Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who’s run through more than a few holes created by Vlachos and Jones, is continually amazed at how quickly they adjust to what defenses are doing and how well they work together on the field.

“Vlachos is almost like a quarterback on that offensive line,” said Richardson, who leads the SEC in rushing. “I’m looking at him in the backfield and listening to him make all these calls, and I’m like, ‘How are you seeing all this stuff that quick?’

“He and Barrett talk to each other on the line and are making decisions together. My head is almost spinning, and they’re making calls. I’m trying to read off them and see what they see.

“They’re three times ahead of everybody else.”

That’s not by coincidence.

The only thing they like better than watching film is cracking on each other.

And the film room is their haven for some of their best barbs.

“We’re the only players in the SEC who know every defensive lineman by his first name,” said Jones, a fourth-year junior who’s made 33 career starts.

Vlachos goes one better.

“Over the last three years, we can tell you the first and last names and number of everybody we’ve played against and what they were like and a certain play that stands out,” Vlachos said. “That’s what happens when you play as long as we have together.”

Vlachos, a fifth-year senior who’s made 35 consecutive starts, admits that his first impression of Jones wasn’t a good one.

“William thought I was weird,” said Jones, who gets no argument from Vlachos.

“I wasn’t a huge fan,” Vlachos acknowledged. “He probably wasn’t a huge fan, either, but the rest is history. I love his humor now.”

There’s never a dull moment when they’re together. It’s like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble reincarnated.

Jones jokes that Vlachos hasn’t seen the inside of a classroom in three years.

“William is strictly on an online class diet,” quipped Jones, who earned his undergraduate degree in accounting in August with a 4.0 GPA.

Vlachos is quick to shoot back.

“I graduated in three and a half years [in consumer economics], but now I’m an online guy,” Vlachos said.

Jones said Vlachos hates sports other than playing football.

[+] EnlargeWilliam Vlachos
Spruce Derden/US PresswireCenter William Vlachos has been a mainstay on Alabama's line the past few seasons.
“He likes playing football” Jones said. “But if there’s a game on, and it’s not somebody we’re going to be playing, he doesn’t want to watch it.

Vlachos interjected that he watches golf on television. He just doesn’t play it.

Jones said there’s no way he’s going to take Vlachos to play golf, either.

“I don’t want to get kicked off the course. He doesn’t have the patience for golf,” Jones said.

They could go on for days about who’s the better athlete. Jones is 6-foot-5 and 311 pounds. Vlachos is listed at 6-1 (don’t dare debate him about it) and just under 300 pounds.

“Who runs the fastest 40?” asks Vlachos, wearing a proud smile and looking directly at Jones.

“I’m just more athletic overall.”

Jones isn’t about to buy that and quickly claims to have the better footwork.

“That’s definitely me,” Jones said.

And the smarter player?

“You’re not going to give that to me?” says Jones, staring blankly at Vlachos.

Finally, Vlachos gives in. Well, sort of.

“It’s a tie,” Vlachos said. “You’re a smarter person than me, but we have equal football instincts.”

Even though they room together on the road and at the hotel the nights before home games, they have their own places in Tuscaloosa.

“We need to keep our space. He’s too messy,” Jones said.

Sure enough, during their live appearance with ESPN on Wednesday during the All Access special, Jones was wearing long pants with his shirt tucked in. Vlachos was rocking shorts with his shirt untucked.

“But my hair was brushed,” Vlachos pleaded.

They did once go on a double date together.

“Went to the Iguana Grill,” Vlachos said. “I don’t remember much about it other than it was the only one.”

Jones said Vlachos thinks he’s a running back or fullback at heart, and Richardson says that Vlachos has been known to try to race him off the practice field.

“It’s like that 80-yard screen play Trent had against Ole Miss where William is just sprinting down the field to be sprinting down the field,” Jones said.

Counters Vlachos, “Nope, [Chance] Warmack blocked the wrong guy, and I started running. For 40 yards, we were step for step. Now, I had a little bit of steam going, and Trent had to stop and go again.

“You can pull it up on the film.”

It’s always a riot when Jones and Vlachos get going, and by the time they’re finished, everybody’s rolling in laughter.

Neither was laughing, though, when the decision was made in the preseason to move Jones from right guard to left tackle. Jones had played alongside Vlachos at right guard for two seasons.

They had the kind of chemistry working between them on the field that one could nod and the other would know exactly what to do.

“I was very against it at first,” Vlachos said. “But I think he’s done an incredible job at left tackle. It’s just that we were so good at getting to know the other personnel together. Now, he’s always watching ends, and I’m still watching tackles.”

Jones, a first-team All-SEC selection at right guard last season, has played every position on the Alabama line this season but right guard, including some at center.

Moving away from each other isn’t the only adjustment Jones and Vlachos had to make this season. Veteran offensive line coach Joe Pendry retired following last season and was replaced by Jeff Stoutland.

“Barrett and I had played for Coach Pendry for so long,” Vlachos said. “He was instrumental in our development, and he was kind of like a father to both of us. While we both miss Coach Pendry, Coach Stoutland has been great.

“Their styles might be different, but their philosophies are the same. They expect you to give everything you’ve got every play and know exactly what you’re doing all the time.”

Never a problem for these two, who agree that Saturday’s challenge against this LSU defense will be one for the ages.

“Our coaches do a great job of putting us in the right spots,” Vlachos said. “But I also think that when our offensive line plays well, at least since Barrett and me have been here, our offense plays well. I believe everything revolves around a strong performance from the offensive line and being able to run the football.

“I’m not saying this because of all the hype. But when we step in between those lines on Saturday night, it’s going to be the best defense we’ve played against in our careers -- and it’s on us to be at our best.”

Calling it a day in Tuscaloosa

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
6:58
PM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 2 Alabama is finishing up practice, meaning our inside look at the Crimson Tide is coming to a close.

The ESPN cameras have been following the Alabama coaches and players all day Wednesday as they prepare for Saturday's game with No. 1 LSU.

"Everybody's been talking about this game since the first of the season," Alabama running back Trent Richardson said. "It's time to play it now and quit talking about it."

It's obvious this isn't Alabama's first rodeo. This is a team that's experienced its share of big games. A lot of these same players played key roles on the 2009 national championship team.

"We know what it takes in these kind of games, and that's going out and playing our best game," Alabama senior center William Vlachos said. "This is definitely the best defense we've faced during our careers."

Alabama coach Nick Saban started the day by driving into the office with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi. Saban said the worst thing he could do this week was be uptight, because that's the way the players would practice and prepare.

There hasn't been any sign of that. Offensive tackle Barrett Jones and Vlachos joked with ESPN personnel before doing a live chat and traded barbs with each other.

The real trick for the Alabama players this week has been avoiding calls. Richardson said he's quit answering his phone because he knows what's waiting for him on the other end.

"Everybody wants tickets," Richardson said. "People I haven't heard from in two or three years are finding my number and calling me. I'm like, 'What are you talking about? I don't have enough tickets for my own family.' "

Trent Richardson: We're ready for this

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
3:04
PM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Trent Richardson could have gone anywhere he wanted to play college football.

But as he looks ahead to Saturday’s showdown with LSU, he’s reminded of just why he picked Alabama.

“You grow up watching games like this, the Texas-USC game (in 2005), and you imagine what it would be like to play in a game like that,” Richardson said. “As a little boy, you grow up watching all these big-time stars in big-time games, and that’s what you want to be. We’re going to be in that kind of game on Saturday. It’s still a dream and still a shock to me that I’m here doing this.

“This is why you come to Alabama.”

This obviously isn’t just any week with all the buildup and hype of No. 1 vs. No. 2, but Richardson said there’s a confidence and a tone set by coach Nick Saban that’s infectious.

“People don’t like to play for coaches who are uptight. It gets inside your head and messes kids up,” Richardson said. “Coach is always intense and the same way all the time. He just wants to see us succeed out there on the field. It’s not about him. It’s about us, and that’s the type of person I like to play for.”

Richardson said the players have actually been reassuring the coaches this week that they’re ready.

“In big games like this, we don’t panic and stay calm and try to play our game and play it like we’ve never played it before, like this is our last down we’re going to play,” Richardson said. “You never know. That’s what I try to remind everybody about. You can’t slack off. There are no friends on the field.

“The thing with this team is that when we get to the big games, we don’t worry. We’re on the coaches more than they’re on us. We’re like, ‘Hey, coach, we’re ready for this game. Don’t worry about nothing. We’ve got this.’ ”

Ex-LSU players asking Saban for tickets

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
12:21
PM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The true MVP this week inside the Alabama football program might well be Nick Saban’s administrative assistant, Linda Leoni.

She’s handling ticket requests and lodging accommodations for the Saban family, and as you might imagine, the demand is overwhelming.

In a normal week, there might be 30 friends and family members coming in for a game. But this week, that number has swelled to 143.

And making matters worse for Leoni, her computer was down for five hours on Monday, so she really had to scramble.

But she adapted and overcame (musts if you're going to work for Saban) and is now on track to handle all 143 of the requests.

This game is so big that even some of Saban’s former players at LSU have been calling and asking for tickets.

“I tell them, ‘I can’t put you in the Alabama section if you’re going to be cheering for LSU,’” Leoni said. “They say, ‘No, we’re fans of Coach Saban.’”

No understating McElwain's impact

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
11:15
AM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- You could probably win a lot of bets if you asked a group of fans who leads the SEC in scoring offense and total offense this season.

If we were talking defense, the answer would be simple … Alabama.

But the Crimson Tide also lead the way in four of the main offensive categories: scoring offense (39.4 points), total offense (457.6 yards), rushing offense (229.2 yards) and third-down conversions (50.9 percent).

It’s a reminder that Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain is one of the more underrated coaches in college football, and it’s just a matter of time before he gets a head-coaching gig.

Since his arrival in 2008, Alabama has improved each season in points per game, rushing yards and passing yards. The Crimson Tide are currently averaging 12.3 more points per game this season than they did in 2007 and 83.8 more yards per game.

Each of his last two quarterbacks, John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy, are on NFL rosters, and McElwain's doing it this season with a first-year starter at quarterback -- AJ McCarron.

“We don’t get caught up in numbers here,” McElwain said. “We try to go out on a daily basis and get better, and for the most part, we’ve done that.”

Third down will be huge on Saturday night, particularly with both defenses being so good at getting off the field.

“Trying to keep control of the football and winning on third down … that’s where you do it,” McElwain said. “And trying to make sure you have answers for all the different things they do. We spent a long time last night and this morning putting that plan together with things our kids feel comfortable with.”

Over and above Alabama’s productivity on offense, the balance has been even more remarkable.

The Crimson Tide are averaging 229.2 rushing yards and 228.4 passing yards.

Nick Saban and Michael Jackson

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
10:28
AM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama coach Nick Saban has long had a fondness for the Eagles rock band and has been known to do a little jamming to "Hotel California."

In fact, he said one of the best concerts he's ever seen was the Eagles back in the early 1990s at Cleveland Stadium. It's a concert Saban attended with Bill Belichick, who was then the Browns' head coach and Saban was the Browns' defensive coordinator.

So to hear that the Eagles were one of the three selections Saban could punch up on his car CD player while driving to work Wednesday morning wasn't surprising.

But we also learned that Saban likes a little Michael Jackson and Al Green.

Saban said it drives his wife, Terry, crazy because they're the only three he listens to.

Tide's McCarron ready for the big stage

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
8:00
AM ET
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- AJ McCarron arrived at Alabama with a bit of a gunslinger reputation.

Big arm. Big numbers. Big expectations.

He could throw a ball a mile and didn’t mind trying to squeeze one into the tightest of windows.

It’s like his top receiver, Marquis Maze, said earlier this season.

[+] EnlargeAJ McCarron
Spruce Derden/US PresswireAlabama coach Nick Saban said he's still preaching patience to QB AJ McCarron.
“There aren’t many plays out there that AJ thinks he can’t make,” Maze said.

That’s not always the best way to think if you’re going to play quarterback for Nick Saban, at least if you want to play very long.

From the day McCarron went through his first practice at Alabama, Saban knew he had a special talent.

Saban also knew what kind of seasoning would be required to get McCarron to where he is today: A quarterback who can make all the throws, but also a quarterback who knows when to make those throws, and even more importantly, a quarterback who manages the offense with a steady precision.

“AJ’s played well for us,” Saban said. “I think he’s improved in every game.”

Granted, that’s not gushing praise, but Saban has been careful about the way he’s brought McCarron along. Go back to the preseason, even the first game of this season.

McCarron shared snaps with redshirt freshman Phillip Sims and really didn’t solidify himself as the Crimson Tide’s quarterback until Week 2 in a 27-11 win at Penn State.

It was major breakthrough for McCarron, to go on the road and lead Alabama to a win at a tough place to play, especially after throwing two interceptions in the opener against Kent State.

He’s thrown only one interception since and ranks second in the SEC in passing efficiency. He’s completing 67 percent of his passes, which leads all SEC starters.

And the thing that impresses his teammates the most is that he’s become a leader.

“I think the biggest change from Week 1 until now has been his leadership,” Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones said. “To have a successful offense, you have to have a leader at the quarterback position. He’s done a really good job of stepping up and being that leader.

“The other thing is that he’s done a really good job of keeping his poise and executing. I’ve been really impressed with him in these last few games when guys would try and load the box, and he’s been able to make plays for us in the passing game.”

McCarron, who’s thrown for 1,664 yards and 10 touchdowns, has been masterful at spreading the ball around. The Crimson Tide have nine players who’ve caught at least eight passes. Moreover, eight players have caught touchdown passes.

“He’s always been focused. That’s the one thing I can say about AJ,” said Alabama running back Trent Richardson, whose ability to rip off large chunks of yards in the running game has taken a lot of the pressure off McCarron.

“He’s done a tremendous job on the field and off the field with anything that has come toward him. He’s staying focused. He’s a reliable person. If you need him, he’s there. In the games, he’s a playmaker. So he’s a role model on this team as well.”

McCarron has talked only a couple of times this season to the media. Saban’s explanation is that he wants McCarron focused on doing all of the things he needs to do as a quarterback and that there will be plenty of time for him to speak publicly later.

Of course, the big question this week against No. 1 LSU will be: Is he ready for this kind of stage and ready for this kind of defense?

LSU’s secondary rivals Alabama’s as perhaps the best in college football, and the Tigers have made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks this season with their relentless pass rush.

But, then, this is McCarron’s chance to prove that he’s not just another quarterback.

“He’s going to use the playmakers around him,” Richardson said. “We know he’s going to get us the ball, and we know he’s going to keep getting back up when he does get hit.

“We’ve got his back and know he has ours.”

Video: LSU CB Morris Claiborne

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
10:51
AM ET

Edward Aschoff talks to LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne about facing Alabama this weekend.

Two-quarterback system pushes Tigers

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
8:00
AM ET
Jarrett Lee and Jordan JeffersonAP Photo/Bill HaberLSU's QB combination of Jarrett Lee (12) and Jordan Jefferson (9) has been efficient and effective.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles has been down this two-quarterback road before.

It’s not always ideal, but if run correctly, it can cause headaches for defenses and bring jubilation to an offense.

In 2007, Miles used it to near-perfection at times and won a national championship. Matt Flynn was the prototypical drop-back quarterback and grabbed the majority of the snaps, playing in 12 games, while the more athletic and agile Ryan Perrilloux played the part of the change-of-pace QB. He also played in 12 games.

When Flynn dealt with injuries, Perrilloux filled right in. His most notable play came in the SEC title game against Tennessee, when he replaced the injured Flynn and passed for 243 yards and a touchdown in a 21-14 win that sent the Tigers to the national championship.

So with title hopes on the minds of everyone in Baton Rouge, Miles finds himself running another successful two-quarterback system.

Entering the Alabama game, starter Jarrett Lee's passing efficiency is an SEC-high 157.4 and he has 13 touchdowns to just one interception. Lee has also thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game this year, making him the first LSU quarterback to throw at least one in the first eight games since 1998 (Herb Tyler did it in the first 10).

Yes, the same Jarrett Lee who had a knack for throwing more touchdowns to the defense early in his career.

[+] EnlargeLSU's Les Miles and Jarrett Lee
Derick E. Hingle/US PRESSWIRE"Whoever is on the field roots for who's taking the snaps and whoever is off the field is involved as that guy that's taking the snaps," Les Miles said of his two quarterback system.
Jordan Jefferson has been used mostly in running situations, getting 111 yards and two touchdowns, but he has also passed for 123 yards and two more scores. Jefferson’s stats aren’t flashy, but his presence forces defensive adjustments across the board.

Together, the two have been extremely efficient, but don’t ask Miles if he takes the credit.

“I don’t know that it’s my management skill in any way,” Miles said. “I think it has to do with guys that recognize that they are part of a whole and that their contribution is significant. Whoever is on the field roots for who’s taking the snaps and whoever is off the field is involved as that guy that’s taking the snaps.”

It would have been so easy for this strategy to backfire. Entering the season, Jefferson was the man until his involvement in a fight at on off-campus bar got him suspended for the first four games.

Lee took over and helped put the Tigers on top of college football. Bringing Jefferson back could have destroyed all that mojo the Tigers had after defeating three ranked teams in their first four games, but it actually made them better.

LSU has averaged 39.8 points and 394.3 yards in its past four games. Players feel it has brought them closer and think the offense is that much more potent with two under center rather than one.

“It’s key when you have two quarterbacks that can step in and lead your offense down the field,” wide receiver Rueben Randle said. “Coach Miles does an excellent job of switching his quarterbacks throughout the game.

“Whoever is back there, we’re going to make plays on them.”

It’s also beneficial to have a healthy body waiting. Miles needed Perrilloux when Flynn went down in 2007, and while he hasn’t had to deal with injuries at the quarterback position this time, Miles knows that nothing is guaranteed in this sport and especially not in this league.

(Just look at the significant offensive injuries we’ve seen in the SEC this season.)

“I can tell you that you need two quarterbacks,” Miles said. “The idea that you go through a season without sustaining an injury at some point and time to one guy, you’re going to in return need for the second quarterback to lead your team, function the offense and be capable. We’re fortunate to have two very quality quarterbacks that way.”

And the players around those quarterbacks obviously don’t mind seeing either. This team has been through too much and has been bombarded by too many distractions, to let a quarterback shuffle bother them.

Players are ready to ride both to another championship run.

“It gives us a whole new dynamic back there having two guys that could probably start anywhere in the country,” offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said.

“The more the merrier to me. They can both play, and we as an offense support both guys and believe in both fully.”

Players shocked by $10,000 tickets

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
6:16
PM ET
BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo has had some crazy ticket requests for Saturday’s game with Alabama.

He and his teammates are allotted four tickets for friends and family, but he said Monday that he’s had at least 20 requests for tickets, including one from a cousin who lives near Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Mingo thought the high number of requests was a little extreme, but it was nothing like the wild request sitting on ticket website Stubhub.com.

As of Monday, there were two Alabama-LSU tickets available for $10,423.14 … each.

Let that process for a second. Tickets for a college football game at the beginning of November are worth more than $10,000. This isn’t the Super Bowl. This isn’t the national championship. This isn’t even the SEC championship.

And if that doesn’t break your piggy bank, the $16.95 shipping charges if you want that ticket shipped overnight might.

Oh, and these aren’t even close to being the best seats out there. They are in the lower level of the end zone and in row 25. You can choose between seat 17 or 18. That doesn’t come with catered food or secure you from sitting behind someone who you might consider a giant.

When Mingo heard about such craziness, he was stunned. He paused for a few seconds before even delivering an answer – and even that had to be pieced together with glue.

“That’s pretty incredible,” Mingo said. “Ten thousand dollars? I’m speechless, man. Who would pay $10,000 for a football game?

“I don’t even think national championship tickets go for that much.

“That’s just crazy to me.”

We should be shocked by such a nutty request, but there is a part of all of us familiar with SEC football that can’t help but shrug at this. As if it isn’t terribly out of the realm of possibility that someone would actually try to sell tickets for this price or that someone would actually buy one – or both.

LSU punter Brad Wing, who spent 15 years playing Aussie Rules Football in Melbourne, Australia, before heading to LSU last year, met the question about the tickets with astonishment before interjecting some laughter.

“I think a Grand Final ticket in Australia might be 200 bucks,” Wing said. “That’s crazy.

“They love their football down here, huh?”

LSU safety Brandon Taylor said he heard the cheapest ticket was going for around $375 in the nosebleeds. So, $10,000 had Taylor laughing in disbelief.

“That’s a lot of money,” Taylor said. “That’s a car for me.”

Mingo knew the magnitude of this game would be monumental, but he never expected something like this. He couldn’t even fathom having the money right now to buy such a ticket. But if he did, Mingo said he would buy a cheap truck, head to Best Buy and use the rest of the money to buy a TV to watch the game on.

Even if he had the money to spare and he could take any woman in the world with him, Mingo said he wouldn’t do it. Recently divorced Kim Kardashian (after 72 days of true bliss) wouldn’t even stand of a chance of being his date for such an expensive event.

“I wouldn’t even take her. I wouldn’t even go,” he said.

“Ten thousand dollars? Come on. Are you serious?

“That’s SEC football for you.”

SEC race update: Week 10

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
10:24
AM ET
Two huge games highlight the SEC schedule this coming weekend and will go a long way toward determining which two teams will be in Atlanta in December.

The Alabama-LSU winner takes a commanding lead in the Western Division race, although if the Tigers win, they still have to beat Arkansas in the regular-season finale on Nov. 25. That game is in Baton Rouge.

If Alabama wins this Saturday, it would take a major upset to keep the Crimson Tide from making their third trip to the SEC championship game in the past four years. They have Mississippi State and Auburn remaining in the conference, although both games are on the road.

Should LSU win on Saturday and then lose to Arkansas, creating a three-way tie among the teams, the tiebreaker would be determined by the BCS standings that come out the Sunday following the final regular-season games. Here’s the caveat: The tied team with the highest ranking in the BCS standings would be the West representative unless the second of the tied teams is within five or fewer places of the highest ranked team.

In that case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked teams would determine the West representative.

For example, if Arkansas were to rise to No. 3 in the BCS standings after beating LSU, and Alabama was No. 4 and LSU No. 5, Alabama would be the West champ because it beat Arkansas head-to-head during the regular season and was within five spots of Arkansas in the BCS standings. In that scenario, LSU would be eliminated from the process as the third highest team in the BCS standings.

Now that we’re all clear on that, the East race is officially a two-team race between Georgia and South Carolina.

They each have one loss apiece in the SEC, while the other four teams in the East all have at least four conference losses.

The Gamecocks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker based on their 45-42 win over the Bulldogs the second week of the season. If South Carolina wins its next two games against Arkansas on the road and Florida at home, Steve Spurrier’s club will make its second straight trip to the SEC championship game.

So the Bulldogs, despite winning their last six games, still need some help. Their schedule the rest of the way is a little easier. They get Auburn and Kentucky, both at home.

Georgia hasn’t played in the SEC championship game since winning its last SEC title in 2005.

SEC Power Rankings: Week 10

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
9:33
AM ET
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

The SEC has four teams in the top 10 of the latest BCS standings. This week's SEC Power Rankings have a similar look at the top:

1. LSU (8-0, 5-0): Approaching midnight Saturday, we won’t have to choose anymore between Alabama and LSU. We’ll know who’s better. Until that time, the Tigers stay on top based on their five wins over nationally ranked foes and the way they’ve rolled through the opposition regardless of how many key players they were missing.

2. Alabama (8-0, 5-0): The Crimson Tide are an early favorite in the game, which isn’t surprising given that the game is being played in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has been equally impressive this season. It has won all five of its SEC games by at least 24 points and is ranked nationally at the top or near the top in just about every defensive category.

3. Arkansas (7-1, 3-1): There was a time when finishing the game was a problem for the Hogs. Now, it’s figuring out how to start the game. Once again, they recovered from a poor start to rally and beat Vanderbilt on the road last week. It’s probably going to take a more complete game to beat South Carolina, which is playing lights out on defense right now.

4. South Carolina (7-1, 5-1): The Gamecocks are winning ugly, and it’s obvious that’s not Steve Spurrier’s style. But he likes winning too much to complain too loudly. There’s nothing ugly about the way their defense has been playing. They’ve gone five straight games now without allowing the opposition to score more than 16 points.

5. Georgia (6-2, 5-1): It’s hard to believe the Bulldogs are sitting where they are after seeing them start the season 0-2 and all the grumbling going on around the program at that time. But they’ve won six straight games and really showed their mettle, particularly defensively, in being able to claw back into the East race.

6. Auburn (6-3, 4-2): The Tigers take this week off and can use the break after playing nine straight weeks. It’s the longest any team in the SEC went before getting a bye. Quarterback Clint Moseley played much better in his second start last week, and the collection of younger players the Tigers are playing are starting to come into their own. This is a team that could still win eight or more games.

7. Florida (4-4, 2-4): The Gators are glad just to get out of October after losing all four games they played during the month. It was a killer schedule, for sure, but they’re struggling to find any kind of consistency or rhythm on offense. Senior quarterback John Brantley returned against Georgia and showed a lot of courage in playing on a gimpy ankle. The Gators are going to need to keep him healthy if they’re going to finish with a winning record.

8. Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4): First-year coach James Franklin isn’t into moral victories, but it’s pretty clear the Commodores, to quote their coach, aren’t going to sit back and take it anymore. They just missed again last week against Arkansas and are starting to improve on offense. They need to find two more wins in these last four games to qualify for a bowl.

9. Mississippi State (4-4, 1-4): Nothing has come easy for the Bulldogs this season, and outside the opener against Memphis, they haven’t looked like the team everybody thought they would be when the season began. They shouldn’t have any problem this week against UT Martin, but then they close the season against Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss.

10. Tennessee (3-5, 0-5): The Vols are mired in one of the worst stretches in their program’s history. They have lost four straight games, the second straight season they’ve had a four-game skid, and have gone two straight games without scoring a touchdown. They need to get busy if they’re going to make a bowl game. Losing quarterback Tyler Bray and receiver Justin Hunter was a killer for this team.

11. Kentucky (3-5, 0-4): The Wildcats showed a pulse against Mississippi State last week in a tough loss and might have found a new quarterback. Coach Joker Phillips said junior Morgan Newton and freshman Maxwell Smith will compete for the starting job this week. Smith came in and played well last week after Newton banged up his shoulder and ankle.

12. Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5): The Rebels lay claim to the bottom spot based on their 11 straight SEC losses going back to last season. That said, they haven’t quit fighting and were right there against both Auburn and Arkansas in the first half each of the past two weeks, but simply couldn’t finish the deal. They get a chance to move out of the cellar this week if they can beat Kentucky in Lexington and end their league drought.

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