Daily Archives: October 21, 2012

Poll update: Tide retains No. 1 in BCS standings

Alabama is first in the BCS standings for the second straight week, while SEC rival Florida is second. Kansas State is third, Oregon fourth and Notre Dame fifth.

Alabama dominated the USA Today coaches and Harris polls, which account for two-thirds of the BCS formula. On the computers, the Crimson Tide is fourth. Florida is first, Kansas State second and Notre Dame third.

In the Associated Press poll, which doesn’t count in the BCS standings, Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer of Cleveland kept Alabama from a fourth straight week as the unanimous No. 1.

Lesmerises voted Florida first and Alabama second. All 59 other voters put the Crimson Tide at No. 1. Ten voters put Florida at No. 2, while the remaining 49 voted the Gators No. 3 or lower.

In an online story, Lesmerises said he put Florida first and Alabama second based on who both teams have beaten so far.

He wrote: “Before the Bama backers start emailing, this is a reversal from the first half of 2009, when most of the country was voting Florida No. 1 but I was one of the few voters to put Alabama in the top spot based on resume. On that resume voting, the Gators are ahead of Alabama in my opinion, with wins over LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina.”

Alabama took every first-place vote in the USA Today coaches poll, while the Harris Interactive voters had the Tide first on 109 ballots, Oregon tops on five and Florida on one. Neither the coaches nor the Harris poll release their ballots publicly.

All three polls have the same top six: Alabama first, Oregon second, Florida third, Kansas State fourth, Notre Dame fifth and LSU sixth.

This marks Alabama’s eighth straight week at No. 1. That is the longest stretch in Tide history. Alabama was No. 1 for seven weeks in a row in 1979, 1980 and 2009-10 (last two of 2009 and first five of 2010).

Click here for the complete AP, Harris and USA Today coaches polls and BCS standings. That link takes you to the poll page on this blog.

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Alabama vs. Tennessee photo gallery

AJ McCarron threw four TD passes against Tennessee. (AP photo by Wade Payne)

Alabama 44, Tennessee 13

Click here for a gallery of pictures from The Associated Press. Also, click here for a gallery of some photos by the Knoxville News Sentinel. Yes, there are a couple of Phillip Fulmer in there, but the gallery includes several photos Alabama fans might appreciate.

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Tide in the NFL: Trent aggravates his injury

Trent Richardson (33) is tackled by the Colts’ Kavell Conner. (AP photo by AJ Mast)

Trent Richardson re-injured his ribs in the second quarter of Cleveland’s game with Indianapolis, and the former Alabama running back remained on the bench for the rest of the game.

Richardson was hit in the side the previous week but played today with protection for his ribs. He finished with 8 yards on eight carries against the Colts and caught a pair of passes for 11 yards.

Richardson said Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur made the call to pull him from the game.

“The injury was pretty bad, I guess it limited me a lot,” Richardson told reporters, according to The Associated Press. “I sat down, so, you know, it just hurt me not being out there, hurt me inside not being out there.

“I didn’t want to come out. I said Pat knows what’s best. He made his decision, and I think he made a great decision.”

Houston Texans running back Justin Forsett (28) is tackled by Baltimore Ravens defensive end DeAngelo Tyson (93) and Courtney Upshaw (91). (AP photo by Jose Yau of The Waco Tribune-Herald)

Other performances from former Alabama players today:

–Linebacker Dont’a Hightower had seven tackles in New England’s 29-26 win over the New York Jets. His biggest play was a 10-yard sack of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez late in the fourth quarter. Tied 23-23, New York faced third-and-seven at the New England 15 before Hightower made his play.

–The Houston Texans beat Baltimore 43-13 but linebacker Courtney Upshaw had four tackles for the Ravens, including one when he stopped Houston’s Arian Foster 2 yards behind the line in the third quarter.

Baltimore noseguard Terrence Cody and Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson each had two stops. Houston guard Antoine Caldwell did not start but did play off the bench. He came out of the previous game with a concussion. He also has dealt with an ankle sprain this season.

–Cincinnati defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry recovered a fumble in the Bengals’ 24-17 loss to Pittsburgh. Gilberry jumped on a fumble by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter at the Pittsburgh 8, setting up a Bengals touchdown on the next play.

–Middle linebacker Rolando McClain had five tackles as Oakland beat Jacksonville 26-23 in overtime.

–Running back Mark Ingram had 21 rushing yards on seven carries as the New Orleans Saints beat the Tampa Bay Bucs 35-28. Also for the Saints, safety Roman Harper had five tackles. For the Bucs, safety Mark Barron made seven tackles and had one pass defended.

–Defensive lineman Marcell Dareus had a tackle as the Buffalo Bills lost to the Tennessee Titans 35-34.

–Several teams are off this week, including Philadelphia (linebacker DeMeco Ryans and guard Evan Mathis), Atlanta (wide receiver Julio Jones and guard Mike Johnson), Kansas City (defensive back Javier Arenas) and San Diego (fullback Le’Ron McClain and linebacker Jarret Johnson).

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AJ McCarron: Nation’s top passer

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s 16 touchdown passes this year match the number he had all of last season. (AP photo by Wade Payne)

Alabama’s AJ McCarron woke up this morning as the nation’s best in the NCAA passing efficiency rankings.

McCarron has a rating of 183.63, which ranks ahead of Kansas State’s Collin Klein (175.79), Baylor’s Nick Florence (172.80) and West Virginia’s Geno Smith (172.02).

It helps that McCarron hasn’t thrown an interception this season. He is one of only two among the top 100 passers to accomplish that. The other is Louisiana Tech’s Colby Cameron, who is ranked 11th overall.

McCarron moved into the top spot after completing 17 of 22 passes for career highs in yards (306) and touchdowns (four) in a 44-13 win over Tennessee. His previous career high came against Tennessee last year when he threw for 284 yards. He also has had four touchdown passes against Western Kentucky this year and Vanderbilt last year.

When asked about McCarron’s performance Saturday night, Alabama coach Nick Saban said, “AJ played well. We still like him. … He made some really big plays with some great throws down the field. That’s somethign we probably ought to do a little more of.”

The Southeastern Conference has had only seven players finish the season ranked first in passing efficiency, including only one from Alabama — Steve Sloan in 1965 with a 153.8 rating. The others are Ole Miss’ Charlie Conerly in 1947, Kentucky’s Babe Parilli in 1951, Tennessee’s Dewey Warren in 1966 and three from Florida: Danny Wuerffel (1995), Rex Grossman (2001) and Tim Tebow (2009).

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They’re not happy in Vol-land

Tennessee fans absorb a sixth straight loss to Alabama. (AP photo by Michael Patrick of the Knoxville News Sentinel)

One of the fun things about covering a game in Knoxville is listening to sports radio on the way out of town the next morning. If Tennessee loses, the callers aren’t happy.

After getting bopped by Alabama 44-13, the home fans are upset. Especially since the Vols haven’t won but one SEC game in their last 12 attempts. Especially since about 30,000 Alabama fans held seats inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

Here are some of the highlights from the callers for FM-99.1, which bills itself as the “Sports Animal”:

–It’s time for Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley to go and he should take defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri to go. Just because they coached for Nick Saban, it doesn’t mean they can coach like Nick Saban.

–A program like Tennessee deserves a better coach than a “stop-gap” like Derek Dooley.

–Tennessee should fire Dooley now because after the season, other programs like Arkansas and Kentucky are going to be looking for coaches and Tennessee can’t afford to get left out in the cold.

–Tennessee probably will beat Kentucky, but beating Vanderbilt is a lost cause. (When has that been said about any SEC football team in the last 50 years?)

–Allowing Alabama take so many seats inside Neyland may be the final straw for Dooley, as it was for Phillip Fulmer when Tide fans “took over” Neyland in a 2008 win over the Vols.

–The play-caller, Jim Chaney, is awful. Too many deep passes and not enough short routes.

–The play-caller is wonderful, but the quarterback, Tyler Bray, is awful.

–Bray should’ve come out afterward to talk to reporters. (He declined.) If you aren’t man enough to talk to the press, then you’re not man enough to play quarterback for Tennessee.

–Of all those four- and five-star recruits who have been brought to Knoxville in the last few years, almost all of them have either not panned out or are underachieving.

I thought that particular caller made an excellent point. I’ve always believed Saban’s biggest strength isn’t as a recruiter but as an evaluator of talent. He knows which four- and five-star players to bring to campus.

No caller this morning suggested letting Dooley’s stool coach the next game. After having hip surgery Oct. 9, Dooley had a stool available on the sideline Saturday night, although it didn’t appear he used it much.

Isn’t college football in Knoxville fun?

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Opinion: Cooper gives Tide a good pair of hands

This is my column for today’s print editions:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Amari Cooper caught only 33 passes as a high school senior in Miami, and it’s hard to imagine a team having a weapon like him and not using him more than that.

Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) and teammate Kenny Bell (7) celebrate a touchdown. (AP photo by Wade Payne)

He is proving over and over at Alabama that the more you throw to him, the more plays he’ll make — even though he’s just a true freshman. Maybe more true talent than true freshman.

In Saturday’s 44-13 win over undermanned, out-gunned Tennessee team, Cooper caught seven passes for 162 yards and a pair of touchdowns, adding big numbers to what’s becoming a big year. He leads Alabama in catches (28), yards (425) and receiving touchdowns (five).

If you don’t think that’s a big deal, consider this: In the past 40 years, only three freshmen have led Alabama in receiving. All three made it in the NFL: Ozzie Newsome (1974), David Palmer (1993) and Julio Jones (2008). Although they played at different times in different offenses with different quarterbacks, none of those guys had a game as freshmen that was as productive receiving-wise as Cooper did Saturday.

Combine that with T.J. Yeldon’s big rushing night, and Alabama got 291 total yards and four of its six touchdowns from true freshmen. They were in seventh grade the last time the free-falling Tennessee football program scored a win over Alabama.

Cooper’s best play didn’t even count. On third-and-14 at the UT 30, he caught a short pass from McCarron, slipped by some poor Tennessee defender who was left grabbing air, and zipped down the sideline for a touchdown. Alabama got called for illegal formation, bringing it back.

There were enough other highlights, however. He had the 23-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. That’s when he slid into the end zone uncovered for a pass from AJ McCarron. Eddie Lacy and Kenny Bell were wide open on the play, too, but who can blame McCarron for going with the hot hand?

Cooper also had the 54-yard pass to set up another touchdown. And there was the 42-yard deep ball that McCarron floated to Cooper’s left. Cooper broke for it and made the catch, while the UT defensive back couldn’t keep up.

We would love to know what Cooper might say about his big night, but Tide coach Nick Saban doesn’t allow freshmen to talk to reporters.

You can check his Twitter account, but his posts sometimes tend to be cryptic. His last post Friday was this: “Much ado about nothing.” He didn’t say what he was talking about, but it certainly couldn’t have been himself.

He certainly seemed to be referencing himself with this one earlier in the month: “They say if you (are going to) choose to do one thing then you better be able to do it well.”

The funny thing is he wasn’t supposed to be Alabama’s best receiver this year. He wasn’t even supposed to be Alabama’s best freshman receiver. Chris Black, who hurt his shoulder in preseason practice, looked like he had the best shot at breaking out.

Cooper is fast but not rocket fast. He’s big (6-foot-1, 198 pounds) but not as imposing as Jones was. He makes plays, however.

Alabama’s receivers as a whole weren’t supposed to be that strong this year, and as the Crimson Tide meets better teams on its schedule, we probably will have an easier time shining a light on their weaknesses.

But for now, Alabama has a bright light in Cooper. Even on the road in a big rivalry game, he didn’t blink, bobble or trip.

Bigger stages are coming. There is a trip to LSU, the Iron Bowl against Auburn and a possible appearances in the SEC Championship Game. But he looks ready. He doesn’t look like a freshman.

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What others are saying about Alabama vs. Tennessee

Alabama head coach Nick Saban, left, pats Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley on the back after his Tide beat the Vols 44-13. (AP photo Wade Payne)

A look at what some of the out-of-state news reporting organizations are saying about Alabama’s 44-13 win over Tennessee:

The Commercial Appeal of Memphis
KNOXVILLE — Phil Fulmer admitted that yes, indeed, it pained him.

It pained him to see all those Alabama fans in the stadium. Pained him that there were nearly as many fans wearing crimson as orange.

“There were days it was hard for them to get tickets,” he said.

Yeah, there were.

But those days are not these days. Those days exist only in the memory and on the pregame highlight films.

Tennessee opened the night by toasting Fulmer, Peyton Manning and the ’97 team that won the SEC championship. The idea was to inspire the Vols to rise up and defeat their longtime foe.

Instead, it was just sad. Sad to be reminded how far this program has fallen. Sad to see the stark difference between then and now.

Alabama defeated Tennessee for the sixth straight time Saturday night. This time, the final was 44-13. But it wasn’t even the score that defined this night. It was the wistful quality of it all.

The Tennessean of Nashville
KNOXVILLE — Sometimes an endorsement does more harm than good. That’s the case with some post-game comments made by Alabama Coach Nick Saban after the Crimson Tide waxed Tennessee 44-13 on Saturday night.

Without being prompted, Saban spoke highly of the job being done at UT by Derek Dooley.

“I think that Derek is doing a fantastic job,” Saban said. “They have been better and better every year we’ve played them. We were fortunate today that our defense played well enough to keep their high-powered offense to just 13 points.”

I suspect Tennessee fans don’t want to hear it. When an opposing coach offers up such praise, you have to wonder if there’s an ulterior motive.

In short, why wouldn’t Saban want Dooley to continue at UT? In their three matchups, Alabama has outscored the Vols 122-29.

Alabama defensive back Robert Lester (37) intercepts a pass intended for Tennessee wide receiver Alton Howard (2). (AP photo by Wade Payne)

Knoxville News Sentinel
The cheers washed down Saturday night over a Tennessee championship team and a Hall of Fame coach.

Neyland Stadium was filled, 102,455 strong, an old rival was in the house and the good vibes flowed.

Then the game kicked off.

Alabama 44, Tennessee 13.

Look hard enough and there is a silver lining.

That Michael Palardy field goal with four minutes left was the first time since 2007 the Vols have scored more than 10 points against the Crimson Tide.

“We got whipped by a great football team, in about every phase,’’ UT coach Derek Dooley said.

Knoxville News Sentinel
Tyler Bray’s started 2012 started with eye-popping numbers and a hope that this could be a season filled with defining moments that might propel him into the nation’s elite quarterbacks.

In four frustrating SEC losses, there have been defining moments, but not the kind Tennessee anticipated.

Bray couldn’t shake a “jumpy” start in Tennessee’s 44-13 loss to Alabama Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. He finished 13 for 27 for 184 yards and had two interceptions and no touchdowns.

After a long wait, a media relations representative announced that Bray would not be meeting with reporters as he had after every game this year.

“Our quarterback didn’t play well,” said Tennessee coach Derek Dooley. “I’m not sure why.”

Chattanooga Times Free Press
KNOXVILLE — There was plenty of crimson and white in the Neyland Stadium stands.

There was even more of it on the field, and Tennessee could do nothing about it.

The Alabama machine kept rolling through its competition Saturday night, as the top-ranked Crimson Tide were well-represented in the crowd and devastating on the field in a 44-13 whipping of the Volunteers.

“It was disappointing we couldn’t go four quarters with these guys, and we thought we could,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. “Quite frankly, I thought we played well enough for a while on defense to hang in there, but you’ve got to get points. We just joined the ranks of the rest of the country.

“We got whipped by a great football team in just about every phase.”

The talented Tide dominated their annual October rivalry game with the Vols for the third consecutive time by 31 points and pushed their average margin of victory in their six-game run to 23 points.

USA Today
There was a time, not so long ago, that Tennessee owned Alabama. Yes, it’s true. I promise.

From 1995-2006, Tennessee went 10-2 against the Crimson Tide. For nearly a generation (and nearly a lifetime, in college football years), the Volunteers knew little but joy on the third Saturday of October.

These were the glory days under Phil Fulmer, the former UT head coach who was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in May. In 1998, Fulmer led the Volunteers to the program’s first national championship since 1951.

But something funny happened in 2007: Nick Saban rolled into Tuscaloosa. His arrival, in conjunction with Tennessee’s decline under Fulmer, Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley, has pushed this rivalry firmly into Alabama’s corner.

Let’s put Alabama’s dominance against UT into perspective.

After a 44-13 win on Saturday, Saban is 6-0 against the Volunteers. His teams have outscored UT by a combined 204-65. That’s an average final score of roughly 34-11.

The Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Practicing against the nation’s best defense each day apparently is helping Alabama develop a championship-caliber offense.

A.J. McCarron threw for a career-high 306 yards and four touchdowns Saturday night as the top-ranked Crimson Tide trounced Tennessee 44-13 at Neyland Stadium. The Tide have scored at least 30 points in each of their first seven games, the longest streak to start a season in school history.

McCarron’s four touchdown passes matched a career high set twice previously. He has 16 touchdown tosses with no interceptions this season. The junior quarterback called it the most complete game Alabama has played all year.

“We set the tone and we stayed on it,” he said. “We never let up, and that was the biggest thing Coach keeps preaching.”

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Alabama-Tennessee game highlights (video)

This is the ESPN highlight package from Alabama’s 44-13 win over Tennessee. To me, it seems a little light on highlights. You can judge for yourself.

Below that is the SEC digital network’s highlight package. Of course, since both Alabama and Tennessee are league teams, they can’t make the whole package about Alabama, even though it was a blowout. But if you look at their video, you would’ve thought the margin was a lot closer than 31 points.