Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The only crown Ole Miss will wear this year

That would be "most beautiful," naturally -- as opposed to most naturally beautiful -- or so say the folks at Newsweek and the Daily Beast. The judges' criteria:

No one wants to spend four years in Uglyville. Newsweek crunched the numbers to determine which colleges offer it all — the most beautiful campus and the most attractive students. Just as it’s enviable to spend your college years surrounded by gorgeous co-eds, it’s not bad to walk amongst architectural treasures and lush greenery. We considered colleges that ranked on either PopCrunch’s annual ranking of the 50 Hottest Student Bodies or The Best Colleges list of the 50 Most Beautiful Campuses. Their respective ranks on either list (or both, in some cases) were then weighted equally with the College Prowler grade for male and female attractiveness, as well as the level of appeal the local atmosphere bears.

Others in the SEC-heavy top 25: Alabama #3, Florida #5, Georgia #8, Kentucky #12, Auburn #15.

here for the entire list.

Do the Dawgs -- finally -- show some teeth?

We'll have this week's picks up shortly, but as an early course, here's one columnist's take on the best matchup of the week -- Boise State-Georgia.

The Potatoe Boys ain't stupid. There's a reason they agreed to play Georgia, in Atlanta, where the BSU fans will be outnumbered about 50 to 1. It's because they know they can win.

Georgia, under Mark Richt, is lost in the woods. The question remains, can they find their way out?

The answer begins to take shape Saturday night. Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has more.

USC No. 1? Only in the New York Post

Not sure how this one slipped by us, but go here as Lenn Robbins of the Post makes his case for why South Carolina will win it all. For the record, his top 10 includes Alabama at No. 3, LSU at 7 and Georgia at 10.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I don't care if it is Kurtis Blow, turn it down

As a public service, we looked over the Cowboys Stadium guide for those area LSU fans who might be making the trip to Arlington for the Oregon game. And we quote:

Hand-held radios for personal use are allowed in the stadium as long as they are not larger than 12" x 12" x 12" and do not distract from the enjoyment of other guests. The use of headphones is required.

So much for that "Straight Outta Compton" party in the mezzanine.

Speaking of stadium guides, we like LSU's because it's written with the college football fan in mind -- it has pictures. So the next time you're off to Death Valley, remember, NO alcoholic beverages allowed inside: you'll have to leave your Pilsner glass at the gate. -- RTR

Three cheers for Vandy! (one for each win)

Not this year, my friends. This prognostication has Vanderbilt going 6-6, beating Kentucky and Tennessee along the way and, dare we say it, being bowl-eligible. We link to it because we firmly believe a staffer at the school paper can be every bit as partisan as, say, an Expat. Click here for the rundown from The Vanderbilt Hustler.

And just for consistency sake, we add Jess Nicholas' appraisal: His prediction: 5-7

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tennessee: Not so fast on the big leap forward

Tennessee's football program slipped significant punishment in a recent NCAA ruling. Now the bad news: The Vols must still play the games.

This is a team that is not deep or particularly talented, despite showing quick glimpses of promise during Derek Dooley's first season. But the Vols, like all bad teams, kept finding creative ways to lose. They couldn't count against LSU. They couldn't count or behave against North Carolina.

Now, after a disastrous spring and the disciplinary loss of its best player, safety Janzen Jackson, Dooley's squad comes into 2011 with as much momentum as an arthritic coon hound.

Read here.

The roosters may have something to crow about

Experience, talent and coaching: The year is setting up nicely for Steve Spurriers's South Carolina Gamecocks.

The only issues: depth, which is improving quickly; and the performance of Stephen Garcia -- Spurriers's Jeckyl and Hyde starter at quarterback, who's been around Columbia as long as the bullet holes in the state capitol.

If the good Garcia shows up, South Carolina will be very hard to beat. But in South Carolina, history is everything, and history tells us that the bad Garcia will run onto the field about 40 percent of the time.

As alway, the Gamecock season will pivot early: The second game will on the road at Georgia, and the Dawgs and Mark Richt have more riding on the outcome than Spurrier's team.

Get through that game, and South Carolina will have another trip to Georgia, for the SEC Championship Game.

Here's the lowdown.

Friday, August 26, 2011

LSU's Russell Shepard suspended

While whatever happened at Shady's is still sorting itself out (go here for the latest from the Baton Rouge Advocate), one thing is for sure: all-purpose threat Russell Shepard won't be playing against Oregon on Sept. 3. He's been ruled ineligible, possibly for several games. Writes The Times-Picayune: "The violation stems from the relationship between Houston native Shepard, LSU and Houston-based scouting service owner Willie Lyles. According to a source in the LSU athletic department, Shepard communicated the details of the NCAA inquiry into LSU's involement with Lyles to his cousin, sophomore safety Craig Loston. (Go here for the Times-Pic story and here for the Advocate's report.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Janzen Jackson gone from Tennessee

What a week in UT-land ... Summit, Pearl, Kiffin and now junior safety Janzen Jackson gets the boot (go here for that story).

Here's hoping this Tennessee-centric post finds its way to (and momentarily appeases) SECfan. Because I think we can all agree that a boiling bunny is not in anyone's best interest.

Kentucky: Still jumping through hoops

Kentucky football is like an child learning to ride a bike -- on the railing of a staircase. Some forward progress, but far more crashes.

No longer is Kentucky a walkover game, especially at home. But the team still does not have enough quality players, meaning a key injury or graduation can often set the team back.

Case in point: This year's Wildcats' group will bruise some folks on defense. But most of the offense went out the door.

Get the details here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NCAA and Sheridan to discuss alleged AU/Cam Newton "bag man"

USA Today's Danny Sheridan will finally tell what he purports to know -- but to the NCAA not a general audience.

After saying he could identify the so-called "bag man" who Sheridan claims delivered the money to get Cam Newton to Auburn, Sheridan went on a syndicated radio show and clammed up like a box turtle. His defense: His attorney didn't want him to be sued.

Now that same attorney says t the NCAA allegedly wants to hear what Sheridan has to say, whatever that might be.

More here from

QB or not QB?

That is the question in Baton Rouge and Oxford.

QB: Jordan Jefferson was one of four LSU players interviewed Tuesday by Baton Rouge police who are still looking into what went down early Friday at Shady's. Nobody yet charged. Nobody yet suspended. Go HERE for The Advocate's story and HERE for The Times-Picayune report.

Not QB: Randall Mackey was suspended for Ole Miss' opener against BYU after his arrest early Tuesday on a charge of disorderly conduct. The Clarion-Ledger has the latest HERE. surveys the SEC quarterback field HERE. (And that whooshing noise you hear is Stephen Garcia bounding his way up the For-A-Signal-Caller-He's-A-Pretty-Good-Citizen charts.)

-- RTR

UPDATED Pearl the big loser in NCAA findings against Vols

The Sweaty One will have plenty of time to towel off.

Disgraced former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl got what amounts to a three-year suspension from college coaching, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The paper says the NCAA, in an unusual dual investigation of UT's football and basketball programs, has given the gridironers a pass on further penalties. Not so with Pearl and his staff.

The official word is expected today.

Read the paper's story here.

And here it is.

Georgia: WOOF or woof?

You know what they always say: The early games define the Dawgs.

As always, there's more than enough talent at Georgia to reverse the downward glide of Mark Richt's program. But no team in the SEC has more riding on its early games. Beat Boise State and South Carolina, the Dawgs could find a higher gear that leads them all the way to the SEC Championship Game. Lose one of first two and, given how UGA's remaining schedule sets up, a good year is still in reach.

Lose both, the baying of one of the country's most passionate fan bases will ring out from Valdosta to Vinings, and the long, slow close on the Richt Era will begin.

Georgia has excellent talent at quarterback, tight end, defensive line, linebacker and special teams. But they have very little proven experience at receivers, none at running back, and, up to now, their offensive line, long touted but injury bugged, has gotten older as a group but not better. Defensively, expect Georgia to be tougher against the run but vulnerable to the pass.

Richt's recruiting class, the so-called Dream Team, was excellent, though generally ranked behind the groups from Alabama, Auburn and LSU. We won't have to wait long to see if the kids can play. Isaiah Crowell is the likely first-game starter at running back, and remember the name of Malcolm Mitchell, who may already be the best receiver on campus.

More here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The terrible news about Pat Summitt

Here on the Expats we can argue all day about the best SEC football coach ever... but truth serum might force us to admit that the SEC's best coach, all sports included, might be the woman in orange on the basketball court.

The awful news from Knoxville is that Pat Summitt has early Alzheimer's. Here's a package from the Knoxville paper, and here's a wonderful column from Sally Jenkins, who wrote a book with Summitt in 1999.

Let's pause on this strange, earthquake-y day and wish her the best.

-- Tommy T.

Monday, August 22, 2011

ACC Agonistes: When football is king, all must kneel

We come here not to bury the ACC but to praise it: academic excellence; for years the most important basketball games in the world.

But times have changed, and quickly. The conference may be in its most vulnerable position since the game-fixing scandals of the early 1960s. Its football expansion has compromised the longtime ACC rivalries, introduced scandal and failed to come anywhere close to upping the league's profile. Instead, North Carolina, the league's bell cow, is awaiting the NCAA boot for a host of transgressions that stem from a concerted reach to be gridiron credible. For the fourth straight decade, Miami appears guilty of massive corruption. Hurricane football is like an infection that keeps one step ahead of antibiotics.

As the other conferences get richer and bigger from football television money, the ACC's gridiron problems have succeeded only in tarnishing the conference's gold standard -- hoops.

Where does this leave the ACC? In perilous waters, says Mark Bradley of the AJC, that's where.


Why we should sorta feel bad for Les Miles

Let this be a lesson for all you SEC coaches out there who might think about scheduling someone other than patsies for your season opener.

LSU coach Les Miles is facing the prospect of losing starting QB Jordan Jefferson, along with three others, for the Tigers' opener against defending national runner-up Oregon. Jefferson and others are postponing interviews today with Baton Rouge police, who wanted to chat about a weekend incident outside a local bar. Witnesses say the football players sent four people to the hospital after one of the victims honked his horn at a crowd while trying to back out of a parking spot. (Some witnesses say Jefferson was not a part of the violence.)

Had Les chosen the scheduling route favored by, say, Auburn (Utah State) or Alabama (Kent State), he could have expressed his disappointment with a firm one-game suspension of Jefferson and Co. Now we're likely to see some interesting contortions of rationalization as Les tries to make sure Jefferson is under center for that opening snap.

Next time, think North Texas.

Peter St. Onge

LSU players delay meeting with police after apparent brawl

What LSU coach Les Miles described as a large group of Tiger players sneaked out after curfew Friday to a Baton Rouge bar where a fight broke out. Four people, none of them players, were treated at an area hospital.

Now four of the players, including starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, have delayed a meeting with police so their attorney can gather more information. Miles is not happy and says he has already started disciplining the players. Two questions remain: whether the police will level charges and will Jefferson be the starting quarterback when LSU opens its season Sept. 3 against Oregon.

Here's the morning report from the Baton Rouge Advocate.

How long does it take a Gator to get back on its feet?

The Florida Gators' fall from grace in 2010 was more complete than it was surprising.

Fall camp squabbling between veterans and members of the team's top ranked recruiting class. Freshmen reportedly sitting out of practice because they didn't like how the coaches were treating them. An implosion on offense following the graduation of the Lizard King, Tim Tebow. Urban Meyer's early retirement, strange return and ultimate departure -- a la Bjorn Borg -- that was set in motion by the team's pounding in the 2009 SEC Championship Game by Alabama.

Now Will Muschamp takes over. He undoubtedly knows how to build a defense, and early signs are that Muschamp certainly can recruit. But can the career assistant and his very big personality build and run a program?

The early returns on that gamble arrive in two weeks. Here's the team's preview.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Miss. State: Does 'Bully for the Bullies' still hold true?

Mississippi State's dismantling of Michigan in its bowl game, which followed a season when the Bulldogs fought national champion Auburn to the very end, capped off another growth spurt year for the Starkvillians.

Will it continue in 2011? Our preseason analyst says yes. But State, like all emerging teams, has problems with depth and the overall skill level of its roster. The Bulldogs also lost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Suffice to say, much of the season rides on Chris Relf. If he continues his improvement, State again will be the team nobody really wants to play.

Read more here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rick Bragg's ode to Southern football

Rick Bragg, as with a selected few of us, isn't young anymore. His life, like a lot of lives, has had its ups and downs. But the boy -- I call him that since we've known each other since he was a teen-ager -- can still tell a story.

This one is about football.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Ole Miss: The Nutt Watch

Short of a mid-major of a miracle, Houston Nutt won't be coaching at the University of Mississippi after this season. In fact, it wouldn't be a big surprise if he is fired before the Egg Bowl, the season-ending rivalry game with Miss. State in which Nutt's team -- again -- will be a decided underdog.

The Right Rev's teams just haven't performed up to what Ole Miss fans' expected when Nutt fled Arkansas for Oxford. Two Cotton Bowls sure, but the Black Bears now are running second in their own state, with few expectations for that to change in 2011.

Read more of Nutt's early obituary here.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

'Subterranean fringe lunatic elements'

Danny Sheridan's words, not ours. Sheridan, "America's leading sports analyst and handicapper" (per his website), says he knows who put up the money that brought Cam Newton to Auburn. But he didn't give up any name when he appeared on Paul Finebaum's radio show Wednesday, instead using the above description to "address" those who would doubt him. (Audio clip here, thanks to More blips and blurbs from Finebaum's Twitter account; go here for those.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Vic Henley on comedy, Auburn football and the Bear

We don't normally do interviews here in Expats-land -- we prefer blathering, and linking to the blathering of others -- but with comedian Vic Henley coming to town we made an exception. Henley, who had his own Comedy Central special and has done Leno and Letterman, is doing a show Saturday night at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille. But more to the point for the purposes of this blog, he's the younger brother of Terry Henley.

Some of you Auburn fans just felt a tingle. Some of you Alabama fans just felt a chill wind.

In 1972, Terry Henley -- an Auburn running back at the time -- promised that the underdog Tigers would "beat the no. 2" out of second-ranked Alabama. Auburn pulled the upset in the famous "Punt, Bama, Punt" game (here's video), and some people say that moment was the first time Auburn fans rolled Toomer's Corner with toilet paper. (Which gives me an excuse to link to my SI story one last time.)

So we asked Vic Henley about that moment, SEC football and such.

You were there for the "Punt, Bama, Punt" game, right?

Yep. My job was to sit with Terry's date. He was 12 years older than me, and he had a different girl every week. When they blocked the first punt, I missed it. I was in the bathroom -- I was angry that we were getting beat. I even stomped on my blue-and-gold shaker. Real mature. So I heard all the noise when I was in the bathroom, and I saw that we had scored. So I went back and sat next to the hottie. And I was right there when we blocked the second punt.

Terry had a buddy who had a show on the campus radio station, WEGL. Terry was on there before the game and made that comment about beating the no. 2 out of Alabama. WEGL didn't broadcast any farther than, like, the dorms, so almost nobody heard it. But after the game it became a legend. I don't know if that's why people started rolling the corner or not.

There's a story out there that Auburn fans rolled Toomer's Oaks after Bear Bryant died.

That never happened. But I was at Auburn by then, and me and my two roommates cranked up the Allman Brothers and started drinking beer and celebrating. We were the only ones doing anything. Even then, Auburn people were driving by and saying "You guys suck." I was 22. I didn't know any better. I was an idiot.

So what's the Auburn-Alabama feud like from the inside?

It's worse than any feud you can think of, exponentially, times 12. It doesn't matter where you are. I was walking down the street in Manhattan one night and I passed by the window of a restaurant and I could see a guy in there with Alabama gear. This was when we had beat them six games in a row. So I'm banging on the glass of the restaurant in my Auburn hat, going "SIX! SIX!" while everybody was staring at me like I was a lunatic. And the best part is, the Alabama guy knew exactly what I was talking about.

Having said that, the guy with the trees (Harvey Updyke), that's a psychopath. Ninety-nine point nine percent of fans are decent. Obnoxious, but decent.

How much did you enjoy Auburn winning the national title last year?

The greatest year of my life. I knew in that Clemson game, when we were beat about three different times and still won, that it could be a special year. I looked at my wife when Oregon tied the national championship game and said, "We're gonna win. I've seen it seven or eight times this year already." I was thinking, the blimp could crash into the stands and we're gonna win the game.

Comedy. Football. Similarities?

Well, you're up there with people watching, and you've got to be fearless. You have to take the ball and say to yourself, I'm not gonna fumble. And seeing my brother play, Auburn football showed me as a kid that you could do anything. You might as well give it a shot.

-- Tommy T.

Midweek fun and linkage

* From the Texas A&M front: Go here for "The Economic Importance of the Big 12: Potential Losses from Conference Realignment" from The Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm based in Waco. (The numbers are big but not backed up, at least on the PDF). Then go here for the Big 12 commissioner saying he's ready for a decision, any decision.

* The Oregonian has all the stories and details about the traffic stop involving Ducks' starting quarterback Darron Thomas. (Latest word is that Thomas will be suiting up for the LSU game). Start here.
* "Steve Spurrier Vineyards introduces 'Gamecock Garnet' wine." Enough said. The story from WLTX in Columbia also lists the stores where it's available; go here for that.
* And ESPN's Chris Low provides a few predictions here.

The U and you

Click here for Yahoo's investigate pieces about the goings-on at the University of Miami between a well-heeled (and now-jailed) booster and a whole bunch of players. We mention it here because of the names that have popped up -- former Hurricane coaches who found work in the SEC, as well as a few current players. (Bryce Brown, once of Tennessee, even makes an appearance.)

Tigers, Tigers burning bright

LSU wears a big target on its back -- in the shape of a big, green O.

The O, of course, stands for Oregon, which will take on LSU to help open the college football season in Dallas early next month.
The big question marks for this supremely talented team are whether it has the quarterback it needs to get to the BCS championship game, and will Les Miles again chew every right blade of grass.

Miles had a hot year in 2010, and LSU also benefited from Tennessee's problems with cardinal numbers. But LSU blasted Alabama's defense apart in a pivotal late-season game.

The rematch in Tuscaloosa this year could not only settle the SEC West but also decide the conference's candidate for its sixth straight BCS title.

Read more here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Champs: How quickly can Auburn rebuild?

First there was a little smoke, as the rumors began to ride the air out of Lee County during spring practices. The plume grew at the beginning of the summer camp and through the first few games of the 2010 season. The flames grew and spread during the back-to-back wins against Clemson and USC, when the home team made every big play and watched their opponents self-destruct at every key moment.

Auburn was onto something big. Big new quarterback. Big brain at offensive coordinator. Big play defense that played faster and hit harder as the game wore on.

And the team rode those traits through pundits' low expectations, a national furor over its star player and out of a seemingly bottomless hole on the home field of its bitterest rival.

That's a lot to fit in the rear-view mirror. Suffice to say, the Tigers are a much different team in 2011. Cam Newton is gone. So is Nick Fairley and Josh Bynes and most of both lines.

There's talent -- Auburn should benefit from back-to-back recruiting bonanzas -- and justifiable excitement on The Plains on how the kids will play.

But there is also this: Every rival game on the Tigers' schedule has been circled -- in Columbia, Athens, Fayetteville, Baton Route and Tuscaloosa -- not only because Auburn is the defending champs but also because of the Tigers' intense -- some would say chippy -- style of play.

There's also the specter of an ongoing NCAA investigation, which AU partisans don't like to talk about, but which a top NCAA official confirmed in direct response to coach Gene Chizik's persistent questioning at the SEC meetings.

What's it all mean? This assessment says as many wins as losses. But Auburn is onto something -- great recruiting, good coaching and a fiery "us-against-all-of-'em'' approach that speaks to something deep in the program's psyche.

The outcome of the NCAA probe is the ultimate wild card, sure. But don't be surprised if Auburn, again, overachieves, then look out for 2012.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Calling out the Hogs

Skilled players galore and an improving defense make Arkansas my dark horse for SEC and National mischief this year.

Every team has questions to answer, but in Fayetteville they boil down to a very few: Is there life after Ryan Mallett? How long will it take Knile Davis to mend? Can the Arkansas defense take another step toward the SEC's elite?

Here's one assessment. What's yours?

Next up: Auburn.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tweet or twit?

Nick Saban has a rule against freshman interviews. Zeke Pike exhibits why.

Except Pike, a quarterback out of northern Kentucky, isn't in college yet. And he's committed to Saban's arch-rival, Auburn.

But the young man can't keep his mouth shut or his fingers off the keyboard.

Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News takes it from there.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Auburn, Alabama, and Toomer's Oaks

As we all know, SEC Expats is the true home for reasoned discourse and compelling storytelling on the greatest conference in the land. But from time to time our humble correspondents write for less prominent publications.

So we thought you might like to see this story on Harvey Updyke and Toomer's Oaks from a little startup called Sports Illustrated.

Hope you enjoy.

-- Tommy T.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Team Previews: Alabama

We start our team-by-team breakdowns with Alabama (It's the alphabet, stupid).

Three big questions for The Tide to answer: Can the defensive line, minus first-round draft pick Marcel Dareus, crash the point of attack and pressure the quarterback? What to make of the passing game without Julio Jones? And does the team have its quarterback?

Otherwise, Nick Saban's team is loaded. First half of the season includes trips to Penn State and Florida, and then a heavyweight showdown with Arkansas in Tuscaloosa.

Early on, the defense and offensive lines better be as good as advertised. The Swamp feels more and more like THE trap game on the schedule, with its new coaching staff and a frenzied fanbase just dying to return to the national conversation.

Next up: Auburn.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Iron Bowl busted

In Alabama, it's the equivalent of shooting ducks in a barrel.

The offer of Iron Bowl tickets would tempt the pope, assuming he grew up in Demopolis or Phil Campbell. So when some Alabama-Auburn seats suddenly came available in Lee County (home of the Auburn Tigers), those tipped off certainly turned up at the appointed place and time.


Read more here.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Some more prognostications: Could the Sooners and Aggies be SEC Bound

More pre-season talking points, courtesy of Jess Nicholas of

Among the most interesting: That the fallout from Texas' holdup of the Big 12 conference and the Longhorn's own television network is simmering anew and fueling speculation about another round of conference realignment. In particular, Oklahoma and Texas A&M may be ready to bolt to the SEC, destroying the Big 12 and giving UT the chance to live out its ultimate fantasy of being a one planet universe.

Other topics: A relatively small number of title contenders gives Boise its best shot yet of crashing the Big Game.

That this will be the last year before some playoff system is put in place.

That the SEC Championship Game make walk out of the Georgia Dome.

All in all, not a bad Sunday morning checklist.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Year III for the SEC Expats

Welcome home, SEC buds.

We're entering our third season of SEC EXPATS here at the Observer, adding commentary, links and thoughtful snark to the paper's coverage of the best football conference on earth.

The SEC goes after its sixth BCS Championship in a row and has EIGHT teams in the coaches' preseason top 25, including at least three serious contenders -- LSU, Alabama and keep all three eyes on Arkansas -- for the title. The NCAA also has ongoing investigations at almost as many SEC schools, adding altitude to Mike Slive's moral high ground as the SEC commissioner leads the way toward serious reform of college football.

All of that will be fair game here in the weeks ahead. The group of us running this blog -- the major contributors are Tommy Tomlinson (UGA), Trent Roberts (MSU), Peter St. Onge (Auburn), Steve Harrison (LSU) and yours truly (Alabama) -- will try to keep the EXPATS a fresh and fun home-away-from-home through the bowl games.

Given certain, ahem, industry fluctuations, there are not as many EXPATS to go around this year. And those of us still standing have the most splendid opportunity to contribute to the newspaper in more and more ways. In other words, we do this on the side because we love college football and feel we can add something you can't find in the morning sports pages.

So if there's cool stuff on your team that we haven't picked up, let us know and we'll do what we can. That invitation goes out with complete Eddie Haskell sincerity to the SEC teams not represented in the room. Your teams will show up in the blog, sure. But it may not be in context that you and your alumni society would prefer. Such is life. Such is the SEC.

We're less than a month off from Double-Whammy Night. The country's annual SEC coming-out party offers a double feature: Oregon-LSU, an early BCS elimination game, and Boise State-Georgia, in which Georgia takes its first big step toward the Road to Respectability.

Week II offers Alabama at Penn State and South Carolina at Georgia . . . and on and on and on.

And of course there are the individual stories. Is Les Miles still noshing on grass? Have Alabama fans dried their eyes over last year's Iron Bowl? Does it seem to you like Stephen Garcia has been the quarterback at South Carolina since 1983?

Climb aboard. It should be another fun six months.


OK, so we're not in game shape just yet

* It's obviously been a long offseason, seeing as how the South Carolina-East Carolina game right across the street on Sept. 3 was news to me. All eyes will be on Charlotte that night -- well, any and all eyes that aren't on Arlington (LSU-Oregon) and Atlanta (Georgia-Boise State). Anyway, go here for a report on USC's first practice Wednesday.

* Go here for the 2011 TV schedule (courtesy of

* Quick, fun read: The worst coaching tenures in college football since 1960. Vanderbilt gets a lot of love in this one -- they make the top 20 twice. Story here.

* Another day, another preseason poll: The Austin American-Statesman is counting down its top 25. They're at No. 3 -- LSU. Only two teams left, and we surmise they're Oklahoma and Oregon. Story here.

-- RTR

Team by team -- another pre-season analysis

This is something has been doing for seven years -- a unit by unit analysis of the SEC Teams.

Arcane, sure, but it breaks down the teams in an interesting way, which leads us to this: Check out how high South Carolina and Arkansas score out.

Punch here.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Roman Harper, just speaking the truth

Unintentionally hilarious -- but dead-on -- comments from Saints safety / 'Bama alum Roman Harper, talking to Jim Rome on the radio: The SEC is "like a semi-pro league," where teams "will do just about anything to win."

The votes are in (for LSU-Oregon)

We're exactly one month out from the Cowboys Classic, and the readers of the LSU blog And the Valley Shook! have weighed in. Of the nearly 900 votes so far, two-thirds are going with the Tigers. (Mildly surprising -- thought it might be higher. Story here.)

Other linkage:
* Speaking of opinions and such, The Best Damn Poll in the Land's preseason forecast has LSU at #3 and Oregon at #4.
* From Chris Dufresne at the L.A. Times: "Willie Lyles does not coach or play football or work for ESPN. He is not a candidate for this year's Heisman Trophy. No one invited him to grand-opening festivities. He just sort of crashed the party. Only in wacky college football world could Oregon and Louisiana State meet in a huge Sept. 3 game in Dallas with both teams under investigation for dealings with the same guy." (Full story here.)
* 10 questions facing LSU, none of which have to do with Willie Lyles. (Click here for that offering from
* Finally, cheers and beers to for truth in advertising: Click here for the official "Hype Video."

-- RTR

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

All P's, no Q's: Prodigal son, paint, parties, prime time

Link sausage for a Tuesday morning:

* QB Stephen Garcia, South Carolina's single-season and career suspension leader, returns to the fold. Story here.
* Arkansas trademarks "We didn't come to paint," made famous by Bobby Petrino after last year's big win over LSU. Story from Arkansas News here. Original video here. (Image from Arkansas media guide)
* The Princeton Review's top 5 party schools, in order: Ohio University, Georgia (last year's champ), Ole Miss, Iowa, UC Santa Barbara. Story and top 20 here.
* There's talk of South Carolina-Vanderbilt as a 2012 season opener. Story from The Tennessean here.

-- RTR

Monday, August 1, 2011

An early SEC preview

You know it's getting close when Jess Nicholas of starts his SEC previews.
We'll run some of his team-by-team analyses as they appear, but first his predictions
(A note: despite his affiliation, Nicholas is one of the most objective SEC analysts on the web. Just ask St. Onge)

Some of his crystal ball stuff:

Alabama's Trent Richardson is really good.

LSU, Arkansas and Alabama could settle half the BSC championship game match-up.

Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi State will not meet expectations.

Mark Richt and Houston Nutt are sitting on side-by-side cushions on the hottest coaching lounger in the conference.


Since the congregation said, ahh-ooooo about the first Jess post, here's a second -- SEC and national predictions. Headline: three SEC teams in the Top 4. The round robin in the SEC West could be that good.

Herbie on the SEC ...

Attention must be paid to Kirk Herbstreit.

No one outside of Lee County predicted Auburn would win the SEC last year. Herbstreit, the ESPN college football analyst did.
Besides, the guy agrees with me that Arkansas could be the surprise team in the conference and country this year. Like I said, pure genius.

For the record, he thinks South Carolina will win the East, Alabama the West and that the defending champs will have trouble making a decent bowl game.

Check out his reasoning here.


Paraphernalia I vs. Paraphernalia II: The differences between TOSU and the Tide

In a few words: It's the lying, stupid.

Ohio State and Alabama, two of the country's top football programs, have been linked to the sale of player-signed equipment. That similarity aside, the differences in the two cases start immediately.

TOSU's ex, Jim Tressel, withheld information about his players' activities for an entire season, then lied to the school and the NCAA about what he knew and when he knew it. That explains the EX before his name.

The Alabama case is still developing. But four months before online sleuths started papering the Web with photos of Alabama players and the proprietor of a Tuscaloosa men's shop, university officials were aware and actively involved. You can read more here from Cecil Hurt, longtime sports editor of the Tuscaloosa News, and about as balanced a voice as we have left in the coverage of college football.

Practice starts this week. Can't wait.


Crank it up, it's Kentucky football

Who knew SEC coaches were such funksters and freestylers at heart? ESPN threw some off-beat questions at them recently (click here for the story), and when the subject turned to music, we learned that Les Miles is ALL OVER Lil Wayne and Akon, while Houston Nutt gets his groove going with Earth, Wind & Fire. Joker Phillips, meanwhile, has fond memories of this little number by Morris Day and the Time. And so without further ado ...

Cam Newton had an even more interesting year than we thought

From the even-trading-cards-need-editors file ...

Behold the back of the Cam Newton Red Zone Rookie Autographs card. Setting aside the national championship and the Heisman for a moment, his 2010 season was truly unlike any other -- playing for the GATORS, he threw for 30 touchdowns and NOT A SINGLE interception.

There are at least 3 of the cards floating around on eBay (search for "cam newton topps red zone"), if you have $200 to $500 you didn't have any other plans for.

-- RTR