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SEC Bowl Previews: December 30 Games

Dec 29, 2014 -- 1:05pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Each day an SEC team is playing during bowl season we will preview the game and give you reasons to watch.

We start with the December 30th games.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
#22 LSU (8-4, 4-4 SEC) vs. Notre Dame (7-5)
2:02pm Tuesday, 12/30 | LP Field, Nashville | ESPN

Notre Dame was 6-0 and had the world in front of them when they faced Florida State on October 18. Then, a penalty took a late touchdown of the board and the Fighting Irish went into a free fall for the balance of the season losing four of their last five after that game. Mid-way through the season this team had dreams of the college football playoffs, and spent the balance of the season just trying to figure out what was wrong.

LSU had a disappointing season by the standards set over the last decade. The Tigers won eight games, but they had four stinging losses that really defined the season. Auburn routed LSU, they lost to Mississippi State in a game where they tried to rally late to win, took a tough home loss to Alabama in overtime and were shut out by Arkansas.

LSU lacked offensive punch in 2014 and most of the issues can be traced to growing pains at quarterback. Anthony Jennings only completed 48.8% of his passes and had ten touchdowns to go with seven interceptions. The ground game was solid and could have been better if the Tigers had any genuine threat of a passing attack. On defense, the Tigers gave up more yards than normal, but still finished second in scoring defense in the SEC.

The return of Everett Golson at quarterback was supposed to be a big boost to the Notre Dame offense, and while he had great moments there were too many times where he made big mistakes. An example of his play that cost the team, there are the four picks against Arizona State. The Irish were also not as good on defense as they needed to be and finished the season 86th nationally in scoring defense giving up 29.3 points per game.

The Call: Both teams brought higher expectations into the season than the Music City Bowl, which means that neither team is just wild about being in Nashville. That means overall talent should prevail and the edge in this category would go to LSU. Quarterback play will also be important. If one signal caller can win the game it would be Golson, though both could lose it for their team. This should be a close game, but expect LSU to rack up another win for the SEC.

Belk Bowl-Georgia (9-3, 6-2 SEC)vs. Louisville (9-3, 5-3 ACC)

 Kickoff: Tuesday, Dec. 30 at 5:30 p.m. CT

TV Channel:ESPN

At most schools a 9-3 record is reason to celebrate. Georgia fans view it as another disappointing season for the Bulldogs under Mark Richt. While there were big wins over Clemson, Missouri and Auburn, there were the moments of failure that haunt this Georgia program. The loss to South Carolina was a tough one given how the Gamecocks lost to Texas A&M.  Against Florida the Dawgs were manhandled and in the game with Georgia Tech they managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

Louisville had a solid first year trek through the ACC and had Florida State on the ropes for much of their game before being wore down by the Seminoles. An early season loss to Virginia was disappointing, but the Cardinals were able to put that in the rearview mirror successfully.

Like most Bobby Petrino teams the Cardinals will be able to put points on the board and average 32.6 points per game. A holdover from the Charlie Strong years as head coach is a solid defense. Louisville is second in total defense in the ACC and is only giving up 20.5 points per game.

Georgia will be without longtime offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and play calling duties will be handled by tight end coach John Lilly. Don’t expect the Bulldogs to shift away from their physical running game with Nick Chubb carrying the load.

The Call: While this should be a good game the physical running of Georgia will be the toughest Louisville has faced this season. Despite the impressive stats of the Louisville defense against the run, Georgia should be able to find separation in the second half. In addition, the Georgia defense is the SEC’s best against the pass and they should have success in making Louisville one dimensional. As long as Georgia does not stray too far from their typical game plan, they should lock up win ten this season for Mark Richt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEC Bowl Previews

Dec 26, 2014 -- 8:32am

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Each day an SEC team is playing during bowl season we will preview the game(s) and give you reason to watch.

Today we look at the December 29th games.

SEC Bowl Picks

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
West Virginia (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) vs. Texas A&M (7-5, 3-5 SEC)
2:00 pm Monday, 12/29 | Liberty Bowl Municipal Stadium, Memphis | ESPN

For West Virginia the season had a lot of “almost” feel to it. The Mountaineers played Alabama tough in their opener, were in the game with Oklahoma until late, barely lost a heartbreaker to TCU and beat Baylor 41-27. While this team was in position for more, the folks in Morgantown have to be happy about the turnaround from a 4-8 record last season.

On Thursday night, August 28 the world of college football was anointing Texas A&M a national title contender and Aggie QB Kenny Hill a Heisman contender. The October happened. A&M went on a three game losing skid with losses to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and a 59-0 thumping by Alabama. The Aggies were sinking fast and Kenny Hill was on the bench. The Aggies did pull off an upset of Auburn, but closed the season out with loses to Missouri and LSU. The season that started with a bang, turned into a dud for Kevin Sumlin’s team.

This game will feature two schools that, well, to be charitable, don’t specialize in defense. Both head coaches do like to score, so if you want to see points on the board this is a game you will not want to miss.

West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett has been one of the keys to the Mountaineers rebound in 2014. He passes for just under 300 yards per game while completing 67.1% of his passes. He has thrown eighteen touchdowns this season, but also turned the ball over on interceptions ten times. Those interceptions, along with eighteen lost fumbles are a big reason West Virginia did not have a bigger 2014 than they did.

Despite their record, Texas A&M is still able to score and averaged 34.4 points per game while churning out 449 yards per outing. Kyle Allen finished the season out at quarterback and has thrown twelve touchdowns to go with six interceptions. The Aggies are not very good on defense, but one player to keep an eye on is true freshman defensive end Myles Garrett. He was second in the SEC in sacks this season with eleven.

The Call: Both rosters are full of young talent and are looking to get things moving in the right direction as 2015 rolls around. Just looking at the two teams, it seems there is more talent on the Aggies side of the football and those West Virginia’s turnovers loom big as bowl games usually mean timing is off and mistakes seem to be more frequent. On the other hand, Texas A&M saw a season that started with plenty of hope just fall of the cliff. If Kevin Sumlin has his team focused and forward thinking, then expect the Aggies to give the SEC a bowl win.

Advocare V100 Texas Bowl
Arkansas (6-6, 2-6 SEC) vs. Texas (6-6, 5-4 Big 12)
9:00pm Monday, 12/29 | NRG Stadium, Houston | ESPN

Get the complete Texas Bowl Preview Here

 

Texas vs. Arkansas: who has the advantage?

Dec 26, 2014 -- 8:25am

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

The Arkansas Razorbacks will take on the Texas Longhorns Monday night in the Texas Bowl played at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The game is set for an 8:00 p.m. central time kickoff and will be televised on ESPN.

Visit the ESPN Arkansas Texas Bowl blog for more news on the game between the Razorbacks and Longhorns.

Here is a preview of what to expect.

When Arkansas Runs the Ball

The Razorbacks feature a one-two punch of Jonathan Williams(1,085 yards in 2014) and Alex Collins(1,024 yards in 2014) running the football behind the massive Arkansas offensive line. Williams averages 5.8 yards per carry and has scored eleven touchdowns. Collins goes for 5.5 yards per carry and has scored twelve touchdowns. The Razorbacks are the nation’s 28th best rushing team and average 220.25 yards per game on the ground.

The strength of the Texas defense is the front seven, but the Longhorns have given up an average of 162.08 yards per game against the run. The defensive front of the Longhorns has the size to stand up to the beef of the Razorbacks with their interior players weighing an average of 309 pounds, with plenty of depth.

Arkansas rushes for almost seventy yards less per game in SEC contests than all games, which indicates that while big, the offensive line is still relatively inexperienced. Texas gave up lots of yards on the ground early in the season allowing UCLA, BYU and Baylor to all rush for more than 240 yards. In their last seven games they allowed just an average of 130.8 per game.

Advantage: Arkansas

When Arkansas Throws the Ball

QB Brandon Allen has shown significant improvement from 2013 to 2014. His completion percentage increased from 49.6% to 56.3%. He tossed five more touchdowns, while throwing five fewer interceptions. The most consistent weapon at receiver is tight end Hunter Henry. He has thirty-six receptions this season and is a key target on critical downs. Keon Hatcher is the best of the wide receivers and averages 13.3 yards per catch.

The Longhorns secondary is a mixture of experienced players and young talent. The Longhorns have the best defense against the pass in the pass happy Big 12, giving up just 186.3 yards per game. Playing mostly a nickel defense they have only allowed eleven touchdowns in 2014 and have picked the ball off fifteen times.

Brandon Allen’s improvement as a passer has been surprising given the lack of talent among the wide receivers. The strength of this Texas defense is against the pass and it should be a day where they are able to slow down the passing attack of the Razorbacks.

Advantage: Texas

When Texas Runs the Ball

Texas will also feature two running backs in their rushing attack. Malcolm Brown has 683 yards in 2014 and scored six touchdowns. Jonathan Gray is the second back and averages 4.5 yards per carry, and totaled 628 yards during the 2014 season. The Longhorns offensive line has good size at every spot but left tackle, where an athletic Marcus Hutchins starts.

The Razorback front seven has shown steady improvement this season and has been at their best when it comes to stopping the run against some of the nation’s best. They held Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss to their lowest rushing numbers of the season.

Charlie Strong wants his team to be physical in the ground game, but this team does not have the needed horses at running back or on the offensive line to make things really click. Arkansas has players who are genuine future NFL picks in Darius Philon, Trey Flowers and Martrel Spaight in the front seven. The Longhorns will try to get the ground game going, but it will be tough to grind it out against Arkansas.

Advantage: Arkansas

When Texas Throws the Ball

Texas was forced to promote Tyron Swoopes to the starting position when David Ashe was knocked out for the season with a string of concussions that plagued his career. Swoopes completed 58.8% of his passes and has thirteen touchdowns in 2014. Like Arkansas, Texas lacks the types of playmakers needed to really help the quarterback shine. John Harris is the best of the group, with 1,015 yards this season. Behind him is Jaxon Shipley, who averages over five catches a game for 9.8 per catch.

The Razorback’s pass defense is the SEC’s tenth best and has allowed nineteen touchdowns and created eleven picks. Both linebackers, Brooks Ellis and Martrell Spaight are active in the pass defense and have each intercepted at least one pass.

Swoopes is the big factor in picking the team with the advantage here. The Texas QB has been inconsistent this season and the results show up in the 6-6 record Texas. Arkansas will be without defensive backs Carroll Washington and Rohan Gaines as the result of suspensions. Of the two, Gaines will be missed more. This one is close to being a toss-up, but Swoopes has the potential to flip this one either way.

Advantage: Texas

Special Teams

The Razorbacks lead the SEC in average yards per kickoff yards and are third nationally, but will be without Korliss Marshall who has been kicked off the team and provided most of the juice for kickoff returns. Punter Sam Irwin-Hill has been inconsistent, but does limit opportunities for opponents to create much in the way of returns. Field goal kicking has improved for Arkansas since Adam McFain took over the duties. He has connected on 75% of his attempts and has a long of forty-nine yards.

Nick Rose handles kickoff duties for Texas and has touchbacks on forty-four of his fifty-nine kicks. The punter position is unsettled for the Longhorns and they have put twenty-six inside the twenty.

Neither team has a true advantage in the special team area.

Advantage: Push

Coaching

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has a plan and is working it steadily by building the Hogs in the mold of his Big Ten teams at Wisconsin: big and physical. There is more work to be done, but the foundation for future success is being laid.

Bret Bielema Career Record: 77-39

Charlie Strong is in his first season at Texas, after producing solid results as the head coach at Louisville. The Arkansas native has developed a strong reputation as a defensive coach.

Charlie Strong Career Record: 43-22

Advantage: Arkansas

The Call

In this game Arkansas seems to have more playmakers than Texas and some of the key stats point that it should be a good day for the Hogs when they take on their old SWC foe. The Hogs have scored thirty-four touchdowns on fifty-one trips into the red zone this season. Texas has given up twenty-two touchdowns in thirty-nine visits into the red zone by opponents. Texas has also had turnover problems in 2014 with a turnover margin of -1. The Longhorns have put the ball on the ground thirteen times, with some really bad timing in the process. They have also thrown ten interceptions this season. Expect Arkansas to have more success on both sides of the ball on third down. All things considered, it just feels like Bret Bielema’s team will be able to use the Texas Bowl to launch into 2015 on an upswing.

Final Score: Arkansas 28   Texas  17

 

 

SEC Bowl Previews

Dec 25, 2014 -- 8:27am

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Each day an SEC team is playing during bowl season we will preview the game and give you reasons to watch.

We start with the December 27 game.

SEC Bowl Picks

DUCK COMMANDER INDEPENDENCE BOWL: Miami (6-6) Vs. South Carolina (6-6)

Shreveport, LA/2:30 p.m. CT/ABC

This season started with South Carolina thinking this could be the year for an SEC title and even a shot at the national championship. The dream ended right out of the blocks when Texas A&M dismantled the Gamecocks on their home field 52-28. It also concluded poorly when Clemson put an end to Steve Spurrier’s dominance over them with a resounding 35-17 win.

Miami also started out the season with a thud as they opened with Louisville and a 31-13 loss. The Hurricanes played Florida State tough before losing 30-26, and the game with the Seminoles was the start of a three game losing streak to end the regular season.

As the two teams meet in the Independence Bowl, they both have reason to need a victory. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier needs to show his fan base that he still has the fire that has created the best years in South Carolina football, while Miami coach Al Golden needs to set the table for a strong 2015 or he might be looking for work after next season.

For South Carolina to win they will need to do something well that has been a struggle all season. Stop the run. Miami’s Duke Johnson topped the 100 yard mark in six games this year and ripped off 249 against Virginia Tech. For the season he has rushed for 1,520 yards and a gaudy 7.0 yards per carry.

Despite their struggling defensive play, South Carolina has been surprisingly good on the offensive side of the football and average 33.3 points per game. They will be challenged by a Miami defense that only allows 24.3 per outing. Dylan Thompson has performed well at QB for the Gamecocks and has thrown twenty-four touchdown passes in 2014. His favorite receiver is Pharoh Cooper, who can look like Amari at times. He averages 16.1 yards per catch.

The Call: Miami gets the win for two reasons. First, Johnson is set up for a great day running the football against the South Carolina defense, and it seems like South Carolina is a tired football team that thought they would spend bowl season in a better locale than Shreveport.

 

 

SEC Bowl Picks

Dec 25, 2014 -- 7:39am

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Here are my SEC bowl picks along along with those of Derek Ruscin and Tommy Craft.

DateBowlMatchupDerekTommyGary
Sat, Dec 27Independence* Miami (FL) at South CarolinaMiamiMiamiMiami
Mon, Dec 29Liberty* Texas A&M at West VirginiaTAMUTAMUTAMU
Mon, Dec 29Texas* Arkansas at TexasArkansasArkansasArkansas
Tue, Dec 30Music City* Notre Dame at # 23 LSULSULSULSU
Tue, Dec 30Belk* # 13 Georgia at # 21 LouisvilleGeorgiaGeorgiaGeorgia
Wed, Dec 31Chick-Fil-A Peach* # 9 Ole Miss at # 6 TCUTCUTCUTCU
Wed, Dec 31Orange* # 7 Mississippi State at # 12 Georgia TechGa TechMiss. St.Ga Tech
Thu, Jan 1Outback* # 19 Auburn at # 18 WisconsinAuburnAuburnAuburn
Thu, Jan 1Citrus* # 16 Missouri at # 25 MinnesotaMinnesotaMinnesotaMissouri
Thu, Jan 1Sugar* # 1 Alabama at # 4 Ohio StateAlabamaAlabamaAlabama
Fri, Jan 2TaxSlayer* Iowa at TennesseeTennTennTenn
Sat, Jan 3Birmingham* East Carolina at FloridaFloridaEast CarolinaE. Carolina

 

To beat Arkansas, Texas will have to...

Dec 23, 2014 -- 7:42pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Arkansas and Texas both bring 6-6 records into the Texas Bowl. Yesterday we took a look at what Arkansas has to do to beat the Longhorns. Today, it is time to consider what Texas needs to do to leave Houston with a win and momentum for 2015.

Want to be in the Texas Bowl

When players sign with Texas the dream is not a 6-6 record and a trip to Houston for a contest with another school with a break even record. In the minds of every Longhorn is that with the talent on hand they should only face off with the best of competition, at the best of bowl destinations. This means that for Texas to win this game, they have to come in motivated and not under-estimating the Razorbacks.

Establish the Running Game Early

For their young quarterback, Tyrone Swoopes, to be effective he will need help. The best way to help a quarterback is to make sure the defense has to defend a whole offense and not just one element of it. This means Texas will need to use their big right side of the offensive line to plow the road for running backs Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray. To meet this challenge Texas will have to push their 3.9 yards per rush average up to around 4.75 per carry in this game.

Be More Physical than Arkansas

The Texas defensive front will be the group that must rise to this challenge first. The weapons are in place to get the job done. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown will be a first round pick and carries his 320 pounds well on his 6’2” frame. Hassan Ridgeway can fill up the middle of the field at nose tackle to free linebackers up to run the ball. The entire front seven better bring their A game against a Razorback offensive front that can be nasty.

If the Longhorns prevail, you can be sure the three boxes above will have been checked off.

 

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