Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 11
We are closing in on the end of the season with about a month until we find out the four teams that will comprise the College Football Playoff. Week 11 is not the best week for games with the best ones being #25 Baylor at #9 Oklahoma, #11 West Virginia at Texas, Pittsburgh at #3 Clemson, #19 LSU at Arkansas, Minnesota at #21 Nebraska, and USC at #4 Washington.
We will focus on games that may not appear to offer much at first glance. These games might not have a national impact, but they could affect a team’s bowl chances or a conference title race. Note that these games are listed in order of when they will be played and all times listed are Eastern.
1. Eastern Michigan at Ball State (11/8 at 7 PM) – Some Tuesday MACtion kicks off the week and this column. This game is all about bowl implications with both teams still looking for 6 wins.
Eastern Michigan is sitting at 5-4 and have lost 3 of their last 4 games after starting a strong 4-1. The Eagles will want to win this game because their next two are against the suddenly hot Northern Illinois Huskies and Central Michigan. Both of those games are at home, but the pressure will build the longer the season goes. In addition, both of those teams are still alive for a bowl berth.
Ball State is currently 4-5 and their road (literally) is just as tough. After this game they face both Toledo and Miami (OH) on the road. Miami (OH) is still alive for a bowl berth at 4-6 while Toledo has a chance at winning the MAC West. This game is big for both schools in terms of a bowl bid.
2. Kentucky at Tennessee (11/12 at 12 PM) – The SEC East is still wide open, which is why this game is crucial. Kentucky still has a glimmer of hope, but needs a lot to go their way to win this division. They own losses to Florida and Georgia, but a win here would put them at 5-3 in conference, in a bowl game, and two Florida SEC losses from a conference title game. Imagine that.
Tennessee’s path is clearer and they just need Florida to lose once in SEC play while the Vols need to win out. The Vols end the season with Missouri (home) and Vanderbilt (away) with the latter being the tougher of the two.
For as crazy as the SEC East has been this year, are there still a few twists left in the plot?
3. Cincinnati at Central Florida (11/12 at 12 PM) – Bowl hopes are on the line here and both teams are facing a must win. Cincinnati is 4-5 with losses in 4 of their last 5 games while their final two games are against good AAC West foes in Memphis (home) and Tulsa (away).
Central Florida, against the backdrop of a horrendous 0-12 season in 2015, sit just one win away from a bowl. They are 5-4, but their final two games are just as difficult as Cincinnati’s. They face Tulsa (home) and AAC East contender South Florida (away).
This game is big, but there is the possibility Cincinnati wins this game and both teams lose their final 2 games to finish 5-7. That would be a disaster for the American Athletic Conference.
4. Tulsa at Navy (11/12 at 12 PM) – There is not much on the line here except the outright lead in the AAC West. Both teams have already hit the six win mark with Tulsa at 7-2 and Navy at 6-2. Both teams control their destiny in this division with identical records of 4-1 and Navy could hold a commanding lead with a win over Tulsa.
Outside of getting blasted by Ohio State, Tulsa has played well in every game. They lost by a touchdown to Houston, but also went to overtime against Fresno State and SMU. Since that 38-31 loss at Houston, Tulsa has won their last three games by an average of 24.3 points per game. That loss to Houston also means they need to win out against Central Florida and Cincinnati or get another loss from Houston in addition to two more losses by Navy.
Navy is coming off their 28-27 win against Notre Dame and they have already beaten Houston this year. Navy needs a win this week and one win in their final two AAC games against East Carolina and SMU to clinch the AAC West Division. Both of those games will be on the road, which may be a little cause for concern because that is where they had their two losses this season (at Air Force and at South Florida).
This could be a high scoring affair as both teams have been putting up points. Then again, Navy could just do what they did against Notre Dame and allow only 2 possessions for Tulsa in the final 30 minutes. This should be a good game.
5. North Carolina State at Syracuse (11/12 at 12:30 PM) – Here are two 4-5 teams that will still need quite a lot to go their way if they win. A win will push one team to 5-5 and the other 4-6, but both teams’ final two games will be hard to win.
NC State started 4-1 this year, but have lost four in a row including three games by a touchdown or less (Clemson, Boston College, and Florida State). They end with Miami (FL) at home and North Carolina away. If they can get enough offense, they may be able to sneak into an upset, but they must beat Syracuse first.
For Syracuse, they have had an up and down season. The offense has looked good at times, though last week against Clemson was terrible. The defense has not been great, but has shown some improvement at times. Both sides will need to be in sync with games against Florida State (home) and Pittsburgh (away) to end the season.
6. UT-San Antonio at Louisiana Tech (11/12 at 3:30 PM) – The C-USA West Division will be on the line here. UTSA is 5-4 overall and 4-2 in C-USA while Louisiana Tech is 7-3 overall and 5-1 in C-USA.
UTSA is playing really well the last five games with a 4-1 record and their lone loss was a 52-49 to UTEP that went to five overtimes. Their win against Middle Tennessee last week was impressive as they won by 20 points on the road and considering UTSA has struggled away from home this year. A win here puts them in their first bowl game in their short history and in first place of the C-USA West.
Louisiana Tech has been on fire the last six weeks, which have all been wins. Five of those games have been blowouts and the close game of those was a 55-52 win over Western Kentucky. Even their 1-3 start is deceiving because they lost 21-20 at Arkansas, demolished FCS South Carolina State, lost 59-45 at Texas Tech, and lost 38-34 at Middle Tennessee. A win here does not completely clinch the C-USA West because Southern Miss has only 2 losses in conference play.
7. Appalachian State at Troy (11/12 at 3:30 PM) – What a game we have here in the Fun Belt. 7-2 Appalachian State (5-0 in SBC) and 7-1 Troy (4-0 in SBC) meet in one of the biggest conference games of the year.
Appalachian State has a strong defense and they will be put to the test against Troy’s offense that averages 39.4 points per game and have scored at least 31 points in six of their eight games (6-0 in those games). Appalachian State’s defense has given up 19.6 points per game and just 8.4 points per game in Sun Belt games.
A win for Appalachian State would pretty much put them in position to win the Sun Belt or at worst tie for the title. Their final two games are against UL-Monroe (home) and New Mexico State (away).
Troy’s final four games are daunting. They face Appalachian State, fellow Sun Belt undefeated Arkansas State (home), Texas State (away), and Georgia Southern (away). Keep an eye on this game to see which side can gain the upper hand.
8. South Florida at Memphis (11/12 at 7 PM) – The third AAC game to make an appearance this week and this one also has possible conference title game implications. South Florida is 7-2 overall while Memphis is 6-3 overall.
South Florida, which already holds a loss to Temple, is 4-1 in the AAC East and needs Temple (5-1 in the AAC) to lose another game while winning out to win the AAC East. They face SMU (away) and Central Florida (home) in their final two games so their last three games in total will not be easy wins.
Memphis is 3-2 in the AAC and are a long shot to win the AAC West division having lost to both Navy and Tulsa already this year. Still, this is a solid team that could ruin South Florida’s AAC hopes if they are at their best. Memphis also faces Cincinnati (away) and Houston (home) to end the year so this could be a chance to build momentum heading into the bowl season.
Check back next week for the week 12 edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.
Five Predictions For Southeastern Conference In 2016
The 2016 College Football season began last night with California defeating Hawaii 51-31 in Sydney, Australia. Below are five predictions for Southeastern Conference for the 2016 season. Some predictions will be right, some predictions will be wrong, and some will be spectacularly awful (or correct) by the end of the season.
There are no changes to the teams for the Southeastern Conference as the fourteen teams remain the same and are split into East and West Divisions. The seven teams in the East Division are Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee,and Vanderbilt. The seven teams in the West Division are Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State,and Texas A&M.
Here are five predictions for the Southeastern Conference in 2016:
1. Every SEC West team will make a bowl game – The SEC West has done this two years in a row already with every team going to a bowl in both 2014 and 2015. In both of those years, every team finished with a winning record as well. The SEC West sets up well again for it to be three straight years with every team making a bowl game. No time needs to be spent on Alabama, LSU, or Ole Miss as they should easily reach six wins.
Arkansas – They play Louisiana Tech, Texas State, and Alcorn State in the state of Arkansas (the Alcorn State game is played in Little Rock), and TCU on the road for their non-conference schedule. From the East, they draw Florida at home and Missouri on the road. They may need two or three wins against SEC West opponents to reach six wins.
Auburn – They face Clemson, Arkansas State, Louisiana Monroe, and Alabama A&M at home in their non-conference schedule. They also draw Vanderbilt out of the East, which means they only need two wins against fellow SEC West opponents if they go 4-1 against the aforementioned opponents.
Mississippi State – Their non-conference schedule consists of South Alabama and Samford at home while facing Massachusetts and BYU on the road. A 3-1 record looks like the worst case scenario for the Bulldogs and they draw South Carolina (home) and Kentucky (road) from the East.
Texas A&M – They have to face UCLA, Prairie View, New Mexico State, and UT-San Antonio out of conference all at home. They will play South Carolina (away) and Tennessee from the East. Like Auburn, if they go 4-2 in those games, they will only need two wins against the SEC West.
It looks likely the SEC West will make it three straight seasons with every team making a bowl if each of the teams above only require two wins to reach six wins. Every team is capable of grabbing a couple of wins against fellow SEC West teams.
2. Kentucky will not reach that elusive bowl game – Kentucky has not been to a bowl game since 2010 when they lost to Pittsburgh 27-10 in the Compass Bowl. This will be Mark Stoops’ fourth year and the seat will be a lot hotter if the season unravels as it has the past two years.
In 2014, Kentucky opened with a 5-1 record that included a triple overtime loss to Florida on the road. The final six games featured five losses by double digits and a close loss on the road to rival Louisville (44-40). In 2015, Kentucky had another strong start going 4-1 with another close loss to Florida. They went 1-6 in their final seven games with a victory over Charlotte and two close losses to Auburn (30-27) and Vanderbilt (21-17).
There are nine starters back on the offensive unit after putting up 24.7 points and 372 yards per game last year (both down from 2014). One of those two starters being replaced is at quarterback where Drew Barker is expected to take over. He only threw for 364 yards with a touchdown and two picks in just two starts last season. He has the top four running backs as well as the top ten receivers from 2015 returning. The offense should be more efficient and there are plenty of reasons for Barker to succeed.
The defense returns just five starters from their unit that allowed 27.4 points and 394 yards per game in 2015. That was an improvement of nearly four points and 13 yards per game over 2014’s defense. However, this year the losses are heavy as seven of the top eight tacklers have left. This is the area of concern for the Wildcats and may prevent them from getting to six wins.
2016 starts with Southern Miss at home and then Florida on the road before back-to-back home games against New Mexico State and South Carolina. A 3-1 record is mandatory for Kentucky to have a chance at making a bowl. Alabama (road) and Vanderbilt (home) are the next two games before a bye. The final half of the season only gets harder. They finish with Mississippi State (home), Missouri (away), Georgia (home), Tennessee (away), Austin Peay (home), and Louisville (away). The Wildcats are going to need a few upsets (and avoid that second half of the season swoon) if they are to end the bowl drought.
3. Vanderbilt will make a bowl game – 2016 will be Derek Mason’s third year and it is clear that the team is heading in the right direction. They went 3-9 in 2014 and 4-8 in 2015 with a huge improvement on defense. After allowing 33.3 points per game in 2014, they only allowed 21 points per game last year. The offense needs improvement after putting up just 15.2 points and 327 yards per game. That side of the ball will have running back Ralph Webb again after rushing for 1,152 yards and 5 touchdowns. The quarterback play will be better regardless of who wins after throwing for just 172 yards per game in 2015. There are eight starters back on offense and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is in his second year.
The defense will have seven starters back with Mason running the unit again. Four of the top five tacklers are back while nearly all of the secondary returns. It would not be surprising to see the Commodores have another very good season on defense and it will need to be if they are to make a bowl appearance.
The schedule is challenging for Vanderbilt, but not overwhelming to start the season. They have South Carolina and Middle Tennessee at home before back-to-back road games at Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky. Up next are Florida (home), Kentucky (road), Georgia (road), and Tennessee State (home) before their final four games in November. They take on Auburn and Missouri on the road while facing Ole Miss and Tennessee at home. Vandy can start no worse than 3-1 if they are to have a shot at making a bowl game, but that start is very doable.
4. The Arkansas-Mississippi State game will determine the last place finisher in the SEC West – These two teams appear to be the weakest on paper, but that is why they play the games. Both teams lost their quarterback from last year (Dak Prescott for MSU and Brandon Allen for Arkansas). Both teams also lost their leading rusher (Prescott for MSU and Alex Collins for Arkansas). However, both teams return their top receiver from a year ago (Fred Ross for MSU and Drew Morgan for Arkansas).
The key for this prediction is how well the teams have come together and there will be plenty of time for that as Arkansas travels to Starkville on November 19 (the tenth game of the year for both teams). The Bulldogs having won four straight in the series, but the last three have been decided by a touchdown or less. While both teams have rivalry games the next week (MSU in the Egg Bowl vs Ole Miss and Arkansas versus Missouri), no game in the SEC West can be classified as a trap game this year.
5. Missouri will win the SEC East – This seems preposterous with the amount of hype around Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida, but let’s take a look outside the box. Missouri lost long time head coach Gary Pinkel as he retired after 15 years at the helm. Taking over is defensive coordinator Barry Odom who was with the team in 2015 and also played as a linebacker the school from 1995 to 1999.
The offense returns just five starters, but last year’s unit was abysmal averaging just 13.6 points (only Kent State’s 13.1 points per game were worse in the FBS) and 281 yards of offense per game. Former Oklahoma Sooner quarterback Josh Heupel is the offensive coordinator and a fellow Sooner is in the backfield in Alex Ross to give the rushing attack a spark. Drew Lock is back at quarterback after throwing for 1,322 yards with 4 touchdowns and 8 interceptions (49%) while starting the last eight games. The top receivers are back as well and the only place this offense can go is up.
The real crux of this team is the defense, which a large part of the reason the team did not end up worse than 5-7 last year. They gave up just 16.2 points and 302 yards per game in 2015 and now have eight starters back. Six of the top seven tacklers return as well as the entire defensive line and two of the three linebackers from last year. The defense has given up 133 and 134 yards rushing per game the last two years and they should duplicate that again in 2016.
Missouri does not have the friendliest SEC schedule. They start with Georgia at home on September 17 before a road game at LSU on October 1. Up next are the Gators on the road again October 15, but at least they have a bye week to prepare for that contest. Middle Tennessee (home), Kentucky (home), South Carolina (road), and Vanderbilt (home) all lead up to their final pair of games: on the road at Tennessee and home to Arkansas.
Since joining the SEC, Missouri is 2-2 against Florida, 1-3 against Georgia, and 3-1 against Tennessee. Perhaps the biggest test is not their penultimate game (Tenn), but the third game of the season against Georgia. If the offense improves by a touchdown or ten points a game along with the defense that should be very tough and keep them in every game, then these Tigers could surprise some teams this year.
With the SEC predictions above, predictions have been made for every conference. Links to all the predictions for each conference are provided below.
Part 18 of Sports Enthusiasts’ 2015 College Football preview looks at the SEC East in the penultimate preview. As usual, the SEC East is wide open with talented teams and an up and coming team all in the mix. Below are the previews completed and the SEC West preview scheduled for Friday, August 28.
Let’s take a closer look at how the SEC East will shake out.
1. Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee has fallen on hard times in recent years. Between 2008 and 2012, the Volunteers had four losing seasons with only two bowl appearances and they lost both of those games. Butch Jones came in for the 2013 season after three years at Central Michigan (2007 through 2009) and Cincinnati (2010 through 2012). Tennessee went 5-7 in his first year (2013) and improved to 7-6 in 2014 with smashing 45-28 victory in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Iowa. 2015 provides Jones with his most experienced team.
The offense will have 10 starters back, which is double the number from both 2013 and 2014. In 2013, the offense put up 23.8 points and 353 yards per game while that number went up to 28.9 points and 371 yards per game in 2014. The quarterback position was hampered by injuries in 2014 with Joshua Dobbs the top returning guy after throwing for 1,209 yards with 9 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. At running back will be Jalen Hurd (899 yards and 5 touchdowns) and former Alabama commit Alvin Kamara. Dobbs also has some wheels after rushing for 469 yards and 8 touchdowns. The entire receiving unit is back with Pig Howard (54 catches for 618 yards and a touchdown), Von Pearson (38 catches for 393 yards and 5 touchdowns), Marquez North (30 catches for 320 yards and 4 touchdowns), and Jason Croom (21 catches for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns). The offensive line has four starter back and the offense should be able to easily produce the highest numbers under Jones.
The defense will have eight starters back from a unit that allowed 24.2 points and 365 yards per game. The defensive line will have two starters back led by Derek Barnett, who was a monster in 2014 with 72 tackles, 10 sacks, and 10.5 tackles for loss. Three linebackers return in Jalen Reeves-Maybin (101 tackles, 2 sacks, and 9 tackles for loss), Curt Maggitt (48 tackles, 11 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss), and Corey Vereen (24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss). The secondary will also have three starters back including both safeties in Brian Randolph (88 tackles and 2 interceptions) and LaDarrell McNeil (76 tackles and 2 interceptions). Cameron Sutton will be at cornerback after recording 37 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 13 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions. The defense should be even better in 2015, which is a scary thought.
Tennessee opens the year with Bowling Green in Nashville before a big game against Oklahoma at home. They will also face Western Carolina and North Texas at home to close out their non-conference schedule. In conference, the Vols will play Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri on the road while staying home to face Georgia, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. From the West, Tennessee has Arkansas at home and will face their rival Alabama on the road. Despite the tough draw from the West, Tennessee has the ability to win those games and have a great chance against the biggest contenders in the East. Tennessee is the pick to win the East in a surely contentious and open division.
2. Missouri Tigers
Missouri was in the Big 12 Championship in the 2007 season with a chance to make the National Championship, but were demolished 38-17 and ended up being left out of the BCS altogether. The Tigers still had really good seasons in 2008 (10-4) and 2010 (10-3), but began their SEC life with a 5-7 record. That changed in a hurry as the Tigers have been to back-to-back SEC Championship games under GaryPinkel.
The offense took a big step back in 2014 with only 27.8 points and 367 yards per game of output. Compared to 2013, when they put up 39.1 points and 491 yards, it was tough year even with four starters back. In 2015, there will be six starters back led by quarterback Maty Mauk, who had 2,648 yards with 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Russell Hansbrough returns after rushing for 1,084 yards and 10 touchdowns and Mauk can run the ball if needed as well (373 yards and 2 touchdowns). Wide receiver is a concern with the top four gone. The top returning receiver is tight end Sean Culkin, who had 20 catches for 187 yards and 1 touchdown. Others who may have an impact are J’Mon Moore (2 catches for 33 yards), NateBrown (5 catches for 45 yards), and Wesley Leftwich (3 catches for 36 yards), but are light on experience. The offensive line will have four starters back, which will create plenty of protection for Mauk and running lanes. The concern is the receivers, but Missouri has the ability to produce higher totals this year despite that.
The defense has been very solid the last two years. In 2013, the defense gave up 23.1 points and 418 yards per game while those numbers went down to 21.1 points and 346 yards per game in 2014 (only 4 starters back). There will six starters back in 2015 including the top two tackles. On the line, only Harold Brantley returns after recording 54 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, and 3 pass breakups. The top tacklers from 2015 reside in the linebacking unit. Kentrell Brothers had 122 tackles, 1 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss while Michael Scherer had 114 tackles and 3 tackles for loss. The secondary has three starters back from a unit that allowed 213 passing yards per game and 60.8% completions. Aarion Penton (36 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions), Kenya Dennis (61 tackles, 9 pass breakups, and an interception), and Ian Simon (54 tackles and 1 interception) are the returners. The defensive line is the obvious worry, but the Tigers could match last year’s numbers and possibly improve them.
The Tigers have only one real test on the non-conference slate. They will face Southeast Missouri State (home), Arkansas State (road), Connecticut (home), and BYU (in Kansas City, Missouri). Within their division, Missouri will face Kentucky, Georgia, and Vanderbilt on the road while playing South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee at home. They have to play Mississippi State (home) and Arkansas (road) from the West, but they can win both of those games. The schedule sets up well for Missouri to have a serious shot at winning a third straight East Division title and another big bowl game.
3. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia is consistently one of the better teams in the SEC under Mark Richt. The Bulldogs have made a bowl game in all 14 years under Richt and have only one losing season in 2010 when they went 6-7. More impressively, Georgia has won at last 10 games nine times with Richt at the helm. The Bulldogs have also won 2 SEC Championship under Richt, however, the last one came in 2005. The Bulldogs went 10-3 in 2014 without Aaron Murray and will look to do the same without their starter from last year.
The offense has seven starters back, but as alluded to earlier, Hutson Mason (2,168 yards with 21 touchdowns and 4 interceptions) is not one of them. Brice Ramsey seems to be in line to start (333 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions), but he will have competition from Faton Bauta and Greyson Lambert. Nick Chubb will be the top running back after rushing for 1,547 yards with 14 touchdowns while Todd Gurley (911 yards and 9 touchdowns) was hampered by an NCAA investigation and eventually a torn ACL. The top two receivers are gone as well, but Jeb Blazevich (18 catches for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Malcolm Mitchell (31 catches for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns) are set to step up. The offensive line has four starters back, but the losses at quarterback and receiver are worrisome. The Bulldogs put up 41.3 points and 458 yards per game in 2014 and will probably not match that in 2015.
The defense was stout last year by giving up only 20.7 points and 337 yards per game with eight starters back. There will be six starters back in 2015 with one starter back on the line in Jordan Jenkins from linebacker. Jenkins had 70 tackles, 5 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss. Two linebackers return in LorenzoCarter (41 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss) and Leonard Floyd (55 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss). The secondary will have three starters back from a group that allowed only 170 passing yards per game and 53.8% completions. The trio returning are Aaron Davis (40 tackles, 5 pass breakups, and an interception), Quincy Mauger (51 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions), and DominickSanders (34 tackles, 5 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions). The defense should be solid again and while they may not match or top last year’s numbers, they could come close.
Georgia faces Louisiana-Monroe, Southern, Georgia Southern, and Georgia Tech in non-conference action with the only road game against the Yellow Jackets. In conference, Georgia has to face Vanderbilt and Tennessee on the road while playing Florida in Jacksonville, as usual. They will also face South Carolina, Missouri, and Kentucky at home. From the West, Georgia will take on Alabama (home) and Auburn (road) to give them another tough draw. Georgia has the talent to win the East and the division is certainly there for the taking.
4. Florida Gators
Since Urban Meyer’s departure after the 2010 season, there have been more bad times than good for the Florida Gators. They went 7-6 in 2011 before a slight resurgence to 11-2 and a Sugar Bowl appearances, but they were crushed in that game and it was all downhill after that. They missed a bowl game entire in 2013 with a terrible 4-8 record and went 7-5 last year. Will Muschamp was in charge for the last four seasons, but he was let go. Jim McElwain has been installed as the head coach after three seasons at Colorado State where he went 22-16.
The offense in 2013 for Florida was atrocious. They put up a paltry 18.8 points and 317 yards per game while the numbers improved drastically in 2014 with 30.3 points and 368 yards per game. Enter McElwain, who nearly 35 points and 500 yards per game in his final two years at Colorado State. The quarterback position was unsettled last year due to injuries, suspensions, and ineffectiveness. Treon Harris threw for 1,019 yards with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, but will be competing with Will Grier for the QB duties. The running back position is led by Kelvin Taylor, who had 565 yards and 6 touchdowns, but the loss of Adam Lane (181 yards and 1 touchdown) will hurt the depth. DemarcusRobinson (53 catches for 810 yards and 7 touchdowns) was the top receiver last year and returns for 2015 along with Ahmad Fulwood (12 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown), Latroy Pittman (15 catches for 164 yards), and Brandon Powell (15 catches for 147 yards and a touchdown). There is only one offensive lineman returning and the offense is also learning new schemes. With all that in mind, it is tough to see the Gators putting up a high amount of points, but there is serious talent left over from Muschamp’s tenure.
The defense was very good to excellent under Muschamp, which is no surprise. In 2012, the defense allowed 14.5 points and 287 yards per game in their 11-2 season. The numbers rose to 21.1 points per game in both 2013 and 2014 while the yards per game were 314 in 2013 and 330 in 2014. This year, there will be seven starters back with two on the line in Bryan Cox (29 tackles and 4 sacks) and Jonathan Bullard (52 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 6 tackles for loss) while highly rated freshman Cece Jefferson. AntonioMorrison is the lone linebacker returning, but he is a good one after leading team in tackles with 101. The secondary is clearly the strength of the defense with all four starters back led by Vernon Hargreaves (50 tackles, 13 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions). Brian Poole (45 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions), Keanu Neal (45 tackles and 3 interceptions), and Marcus Maye (62 tackles) all return as well. The secondary should be one of the best, if not the top, secondaries in the nation. Overall, the defense should be stout again with that back four leading the way.
Florida faces New Mexico State, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, and Florida State as part of their non-conference schedule and all four of those games are at home. Within their division, Florida faces Kentucky, Missouri, and South Carolina on the road while playing both Tennessee and Vanderbilt at home. The Gators also face Georgia in their annual clash in Jacksonville. From the West, Florida will play Ole Miss (home) and LSU (road) in two tough games. The talent is there for the Gators to win the East, but a new coach and some losses on the offense leave some worries about actually getting it done.
5. South Carolina Gamecocks
It is hard to believe that Steve Spurrier will be entering his 11th year at South Carolina. He has led South Carolina to an overall record of 84-45 and has not had a losing season. However, the Gamecocks have not won the SEC Championship and have only played in the SEC Championship game once in 2010 when they were lit up 56-17. Still, South Carolina had three straight years of 11-2 records from 2011 through 2013 and Spurrier looks to get them back to those heights after a 7-6 record in 2014.
The offense put up 32.6 points and 443 yards per game, but will only return four starters from last seasons. The quartet of Connor Mitch, Perry Orth, Lorenzo Nunez, and Michael Scarnecchia will battle it out to replace Dylan Thompson (3,564 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions). The top returning rusher is Brandon Wilds (570 yards and 4 touchdowns) and he will be joined by David Williams (256 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Shon Carson (141 yards with 2 touchdowns). PharohCooper returns at wide receiver after leading the team in 2014 with 69 catches for 1,136 yards and 9 touchdowns. Tight end Jerell Adams is the second leading returning receiver with 21 catches for 279 yards and 1 touchdown. There are three starters back on the line as well. The lack of experience is a huge concern for the offense and the last time this few of starters returned, they only put up 20.6 points and 347 yards per game.
The defense is in better shape than the offense with eight starters returning including three on the offensive line. The duo of Gerald Dixon (42 tackles and 2 sacks) and Gerald Dixon Jr. (29 tackles) will be joined by Darius English (24 tackles) and junior college transfer Marquavius Lewis. The top three linebackers return in Skai Moore (93 tackles and 3 interceptions), TJ Gurley (80 tackles), and JonathanWalton (61 tackles). The secondary is the concern here with two starters back in ChrisLammons (21 tackles) and Chris Moody (37 tackles). The defense allowed 30.4 points and 433 yards per game in 2014, but those numbers should improve in 2015 with more experience returning.
South Carolina opens the year with a game against North Carolina in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their three other non-conference games are against Central Florida, The Citadel, and Clemson with all of those games at home. They will face Georgia, Missouri, and Tennessee on the road in three tough games while playing Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida at home. From the West, the Gamecocks have LSU (home) and Texas A&M on the road. If the offense can get its act together quickly and perform well above expectations, then South Carolina has a great chance at contending in the East.
6. Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky has been a middle of the road SEC team at best for a long while. With Joker Phillips at the helm, the Wildcats went 6-7 in year one before falling off to 5-7 and 2-10 in his final two years. MarkStoops was brought in and produced the same 2-10 record in his first year. 2014 was a step in the right direction with a 5-1 that included a brutal triple overtime loss to Florida, 36-30. They finished the year with six straight losses preventing them from making a bowl game.
Kentucky’s offense put up 29.2 points and 384 yards per game in 2014, a step up from the 20.5 points and 341 yards per game they produced in 2013. This year, seven starters are back led by quarterback PatrickTowles, who threw for 2,718 yards with 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. The running game has Stanley Williams back after he ran for 486 yards and 5 touchdowns as the leading rusher, though that will need to go up in 2015. Jojo Kemp (323 yards and 4 touchdowns) and Mikel Horton (306 yards and 2 touchdowns) are also at running back. Ryan Timmons is back after leading the team with 45 receptions for 536 yards and 2 touchdowns. Also returning are Garrett Johnson (22 catches for 271 yards and 2 touchdowns), Dorian Baker (19 catches for 199 yards and 1 touchdown), and Blake Bone (14 catches for 194 yards with 2 touchdowns). The offensive line has four starters back and the offense should continue its upward trend in points and yards per game in 2015.
The defense has been consistently sub par in Stoops’ first two years. In 2013, the defense gave up 31.2 points and 427 yards per game and those numbers were nearly the same in 2014 when they allowed 31.3 points and 407 yards per game. In 2015, the number of starters returning is seven including four of the top six tacklers. On the line, Melvin Lewis is the lone returning starter after recording 37 tackles last year. The three linebackers all return in Ryan Flannigan (57 tackles), Khalid Henderson (53 tackles), and Josh Forrest (110 tackles and 7 tackles for loss). The secondary has three starters back led by Cody Quinn (35 tackles), Fred Tiller (46 tackles, 9 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions), and AJ Stamps (56 tackles and 4 interceptions). Year three of the Stoops era should produce the best defense yet.
Kentucky has a non-conference schedule that consists of Louisiana-Lafayette, Eastern Kentucky, Charlotte, and Louisville with all those at home. They will face South Carolina, Georgia, and Vanderbilt on the road while taking on Florida, Missouri, and Tennessee at home. From the West, Kentucky will play Auburn (home) and Mississippi State (road). Kentucky is the wild card team in the East due to their ability to completely shake up the standings.
7. Vanderbilt Commodores
Vanderbilt was undoubtedly going in the right direction under James Franklin. He led them to three straight bowls between 2011 and 2013 while going 9-4 in his final two years. Unfortunately, Derek Mason was not able to produce the same results in his first year with Vanderbilt going backward to 3-9 including 0-8 in the SEC last year.
The offense for Vandy in 2014 was poor gaining only 288 yards per game and scoring just 17.2 points per contest. There will be in starters back from that group led by quarterback Johnny McCrary, who was the leading passer in 2014 with only 985 yards with 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Wade Freeback threw for 365 yards with 1 touchdown and 5 interceptions. At running back will be Ralph Webb, who was a bright spot as a freshman with 912 yards and 4 touchdowns. The top three receivers are back in StevenScheu (39 catches for 525 yards and 4 touchdowns), CJ Duncan (28 catches for 441 yards with 4 touchdowns), and Latevius Rayford (36 catches for 350 yards and a touchdown). The offensive line has four starters back and the offense should produce better in 2015.
The defense has nine starters back from a group that allowed 33.3 points and 402 yards per game. There are two back on the line led by Caleb Azubike (39 tackles and 4 sacks) and Adam Butler (35 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss). The linebackers have three returning starters in Nigel Bowden (78 tackles), Stephen Weatherly (55 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 8 tackles for loss), and Darreon Herring (45 tackles). The secondary has all four starters back with Torren McGaster leading the way with 66 tackles and 2 interceptions. The defense should improve in 2015 with the experience and depth returning.
Vanderbilt will play Western Kentucky, Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, and Houston with the first two at home and the second two on the road. In their division, Vandy will take on South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee on the road and play Georgia, Missouri, and Kentucky at home. From the West, they will play Ole Miss (road) and Texas A&M (home). Vanderbilt will be struggling for wins again in 2015, but they will be a tough out in some games this year.
The SEC East is wide open with Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina all having enough talent to win the division. Kentucky is a dangerous team that can spoil the hopes of any of the top five teams with an upset while Vanderbilt is still lagging behind. Below is the predicted order of finish.
5. South Carolina
Check back on Friday for the final preview of this series with the SEC West. We will also predict the winner of the SEC Championship.
Elimination Saturday comprised four games that would cut the field in a half from eight teams to four teams. It was an exciting day that sets up Sunday to determine the two teams that will contest the Championship Series starting on Monday.
Auburn started a two out rally with a walk drawn by Kasey Cooper and single to left field by BranndiMelero, but a ground out ended the rally in the top of the first.
The Volunteers also had a two out rally of their own in the bottom of the first. A single past the shortstop by Megan Geer was followed by a single from Annie Aldrete to put runners on the corners. A pop out in shallow left field also left Tennessee without any runs.
The top of the second produced an even better chance for Auburn. Haley Fagan led off with a single and Carlee Wallace did the same. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners up to second and third, but like the first inning, the Tigers could not capitalize.
Tennessee also had a great opportunity to put up the first runs of the game. A one out double by RaineyGaffin was followed up with a walk and single to load the bases. A line out by Meghan Gregg to short allowed a double play to occur as Tory Lewis was too far off the base and thrown out at first. After two innings, the game was still scoreless.
The top of the third was a similar story for Auburn, but a different ending this time. Cooper drew a one out walk and moved up to second on a ground out by Melero. Morgan Estell hit an infield single and then stole second to put runners on second and third. A little dribbler off the end of the bat by Fagan was perfectly placed with the infield back and the Tigers took a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers continue to build their lead with a double by Wallace to the right center field wall to clear the bases. At this point, Tennessee’s Erin Gabriel was removed from the pitching circle for Cheyanne Tarango with Auburn leading 3-0. Auburn added another run with Jade Rhodes hitting a pop fly down the left field line that could not be caught by Shaliyah Geathers despite it being in her glove. Wallace scored to make it 4-0, which is the lead the Tigers took after the top of the third.
Tennessee was finally able to put their first run on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Scarlet McSwain started with a lead off single while a ground out two batters later saw he thrown out at second, but Gaffin reach base. Geathers then hit a double that reached the left center field wall to bring home Gaffin while the Vols trailed 4-1 after four innings.
The Tigers had a chance to rebuild their lead to four runs with runners on first and second with two outs, but the Volunteers did not give up a run by forcing a ground out to end the threat.
The Vols had a chance to cut into their deficit in the bottom of the fifth and did so. Gregg reached on a funky hop over the pitcher’s glove while Lexi Overstreet singled to right field. Geer hit into a double play with a line out to right field while Overstreet was doubled up at first on an overzealous base running trip. A single by Aldrete and hit by pitch from McSwain loaded the bases with two outs.
After going to a full count, Tarango was able to hit an opposite field single to right field to score Gregg to make it a 4-2 game. Auburn decided to replace Lexi Davis in the circle with Rachael Walters who was able to get the last out of the inning with a fly out to left field by Gaffin.
A formful sixth inning set up a tense finish between the Tigers and Volunteers in the bottom of the seventh with Auburn holding a 4-2 lead. Overstreet struck out to start the bottom half of the inning while an error by at second base by Emily Carosone allowed Megan Geer to reach first base. It was just the third error by Carosone all season.
Walters was able to get Aldrete to chase a rise ball for a strike out and out number two. Walters then struck out McSwain to end the game and keep Auburn alive. Tennessee was eliminated with the loss.
The win against Tennessee was Auburn’s first Women’s College World Series win in program history. They will be back on the field again on Saturday with a game against UCLA at 7 PM Eastern Time.
In the bottom of the first, Alabama got a one out walk from Haylie McCleney and she then stole second. A strike out by Jadyn Spencer and deep fly out to the warning track by Chaunsey Bell left McCleney stranded.
The Tide were in better position to score in the bottom of the second. A one out single by Danae Hays was followed by a double off the right center field wall from Daniell Richard, however, the runners were stopped at second and third. Cheridan Hawkins struck out Leona Lafaele, but a flare single into right field by Chandler Dare brought home both runners for a 2-0 Alabama lead after two innings.
Oregon was able to cut the deficit in half to 2-1 in the top of the third inning. Lauren Lindvall drew a one out walk while a ground ball moved her up to second. A single from Janie Takeda drove Lindvall home for a 2-1 game after two and a half innings of play.
The Ducks had a chance in the top of the fourth to tie the game. Jenna Lilley started with single to right center field and she was sacrificed to second by Hailey Decker. A strike out, walk, and hit by pitch loaded the bases for Oregon with two down, however, Lindvall grounded out to second to end the inning.
Oregon’s Janie Takeda bunted to reach base in the top of the fifth, but was thrown out trying to steal second and the Ducks could not continue the rally. In the bottom of the fifth, Dare had a one out double over the right fielder to put Alabama in position to score a crucial insurance run. Dare would be run down after a ground ball back to Hawkins while Demi Turner was able to get all the way to second. After intentionally walking McCleney to put runners on first and second, Hawkins was able to strike out Jadyn Spencer to keep the game at 2-1 in favor of Alabama.
Both teams went down in order in the sixth inning to set the stage for a last chance in the top of the seventh for Oregon. The Ducks would provide an anticlimactic finish with a pop out and two strikeouts to end the game.
Alexis Osorio ended up going the distance giving up only one run, three hits, and two walks, but struck out nine Oregon batters in the win.
Oregon has been eliminated from the Women’s College World Series while Alabama will play LSU on Saturday night after UCLA versus Auburn.
#7 UCLA Versus #4 Auburn – Game 9 Recap
The game of the tournament thus far was wild from start to finish. Both teams had plenty of action while UCLA blew a five run lead in the third inning and Auburn blew a two run lead in the top of the seventh. In the end, Auburn won 11-10 on a walk off walk of all plays. (The box score is worth checking out and is linked at the end of the previous sentence).
UCLA’s top of the first began with a hard hit to right center field by Delaney Spaulding that went to the warning track, but the ball was caught. After a bunt out, Ally Carda hit a soft single to right center field while Stephany LaRosa hit a two out double to right field to put runners on second and third. A check swing by Mysha Sataraka led to a Carda being thrown out at home to keep the game scoreless after half an inning.
The bottom of the first gave Auburn a chance to take the lead with a two out rally. Back-to-back walks ended up not leading to anything more as a fly out ended the first inning with no score in the game.
In the top of the second, UCLA was able to get runners on first and second with one out after an error by Auburn’s Kasey Cooper and a single to shortstop. Once again, the Bruins could not take advantage as a foul out and ground out ended the top of the second.
The Bruins finally got on the board in the top of the third. A lead off walk by Allexis Bennett turned into a runner on second after she stole second easily. Another walk drawn by Carda and a sacrifice bunt moved the runners up to second and third with only one out. Another walk to Sataraka loaded the bases while Auburn elected to take Lexi Davis out of the circle in favor of Rachael Walters.
The first pitch to Gabrielle Maurice was crushed into the right center field gap for a bases clearing triple and a 3-0 UCLA lead. After another walk, a bunt by Gracie Goulder was fielded and thrown back to home to get Maurice at the plate to keep it a 3-0 game. The Bruins added a fourth run with a single to right center by Kylee Perez that scored Maddy Jelenicki. The Tigers then made another pitching change with Marcy Harper coming in for Walters. One more run scored after a double steal of second and home (to go along with a blown call at second on the steal) to make it a 5-0 game after the top of the third.
Auburn’s offense responded in the bottom of the third. A walk by Jenna Abbott and back-to-back singles from Tiffany Howard and Emily Carosone loaded the bases with no outs for the Tigers. Kasey Cooper drew a walk to bring home one run while Branndi Melero single to right field to make it a 5-2 UCLA. At this point, Ally Carda was taken out with Selina Ta’amilo stepping into the pitching circle.
The first pitch by Ta’amilo was a wild pitch that allowed Carosone to score and the two runners to move up to second and third. The bases were loaded again after a four pitch walk to Morgan Estell with still no outs on the board. After a force out at home, Carlee Wallace cleared the bases with a double to left center field to give Auburn a 6-5 lead and still only one out in the bottom of the third.
Ally Carda then re-entered the game after the double and her second pitch was well over the catcher’s head to move Wallace to third base. Wallace was thrown out at third on a ground ball from Jadyn Rhodes. Carda and UCLA finally got out of the third inning, but blew a five run lead and trailed 6-5.
The Bruins were able to tie the game in the top of the fourth. A fielding error and bunt single followed a wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out. Sataraka hit a fly ball to left field that scored Bennett to knot the game up at six while Jelenicki flied out to end the inning.
Auburn would reclaim the lead in the bottom of the fourth. A single by Emily Carosone and walk by Kasey Cooper set up Branddi Melero, who drilled a line drive over the left center field wall for a three run shot and a 9-6 lead.
The Bruins continued to battle in the top of the fifth. A lead off single from Gabrielle Goulder was followed up with an infield single by Kylee Perez to put runners on with no outs. A single from Delaney Spaulding to right field scored Goulder as she slid into home to make it a 9-7 Auburn lead. Both runners also moved up to second and third with no outs on the board.
Bennett struck out looking before Ally Carda drew a walk to load the bases. A foul out behind home plate from Stephany LaRosa and a nice jumping catch by Auburn’s Kasey Cooper at third kept the game at 9-7 after the top of the fifth.
The Bruins had a two out rally in the top of the sixth with a walk by Goulder and single up the middle by Perez. A grounder through the infield by Spaulding loaded the bases, but a pop out to left field by Allexis Bennett ended the bases loaded threat.
UCLA had one final chance in the top of the seventh and they made the most of it. Carda led off with a single and LaRosa singled back to the pitcher to put runners on first and second. A sacrifice moved them up one base before a ground out by Gabrielle Maurice scored Carda who slid around the tag to make it 9-8 with two down. Jelenicki came up and crushed a two run blast to left center for a shocking 10-9 lead in the top of the seventh.
The Tigers still had a chance to come back and tie or win. Haley Fagan started with a lead off single back up the middle and Carlee Wallace crushed a ball into the gap in left field to score Fagan to tie the game at ten while Wallace was at second with no outs. Wallace was replaced by Victoria Draper. Jade Rhodes sacrificed Draper to third to set up Jenna Abbott, but she grounded to third with Draper caught in a run down and thrown out at third. Abbott was also thrown out on the play going for second in a bizarre ending to the seventh inning.
In the top of the eighth, Perez led off with a single before a ground out and infield single from Bennett put runners on first and second with one out. Carda then flew out to center and LaRosa grounded straight to third base to set Auburn up with a chance to win the bottom of the inning.
Carosone was hit in the helmet by a pitch, but was okay and took first base with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A walk drawn by Melero put Morgan Estell in the batter’s box and she too was able to draw a walk to load the bases with two outs. Haley Fagan hit a deep shot to right field, but it was on the warning track for the third out of the inning and the two teams continued to play into the ninth inning.
UCLA had another scoring chance in the top of the ninth. Gabrielle hit a one out double to left center field past the diving left fielder and she advanced to third on a passed ball. However, Jelenicki struck out and Goulder grounded out to first to keep the game at 10 apiece heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Auburn’s Wallace drew a lead off walk, but was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice. Strikeouts by Abbott and Howard sent the game into a tenth inning.
Auburn had yet another chance to end the game in the bottom of the tenth. Carosone was walked on four pitches while Cooper singled to center field to put runners on first and second with no outs. Melero then flared a single to left field to load the bases, which brought up Morgan Estell. Estell drew a walk to give the Auburn Tigers the walk off win by a score of 11-10.
UCLA has been eliminated from the 2015 Women’s College World Series and Auburn will face the Florida Gators on Sunday at 1 PM Eastern. Auburn will need to defeat Florida twice on Sunday to reach the Championship Series.
Alabama got on the board in the top of the first. Demi Turner drew a lead off walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. She later advanced to third on a ground out and was able to score on a single to right field by Marisa Runyon. After the top of the first, Alabama held a 1-0 lead.
LSU answered back in the bottom of the first. LSU had a runner on first after a single by Bailey Landry. She later stole second base with two outs and scored after a rope single to center field by SahvannaJaquish. Kellsi Kloss came up and hit a single between the left fielder, center fielder, and shortstop that scored Jaquish. However, Kloss was able to move to second and then scored after a bad throw to second base to make it a 3-1 LSU lead after the first inning.
Alabama’s defensive problems continued in the bottom of the second. After Constance Quinn drew a lead off walk, she was able to advance to second after a bunt. A single by Emily Griggs was not fielded properly, but no error was charged to put runners on the corners with one out. A ground out by A.J. Andrews to first base allowed Griggs to move to second and Landry hit a two run single past the second baseman to bring the score up to 5-1 after two innings.
The third and fourth innings were mostly uneventful. LSU got a lead off walk from Quinn, which led to Alabama’s Sydney Littlejohn being replaced by Leslie Jury as pitcher. Quinn tried to steal second, but was thrown out and LSU held a 5-1 lead after four innings.
Alabama’s Andrea Hawkins reached first base after a fielding error at shortstop to start the top of the fifth. After back-to-back ground outs, Hawkins was on third, but could not be brought home after a fly out to right field ended the frame. LSU started with a lead off single from Andrews in the bottom of the fifth, but were set down in order after that.
The Tide put together an excellent rally to start the top of the sixth. An error allowed Jadyn Spencer to reach first and Runyon hit a single to center field to put the first two runners on with no outs. Runyon was taken off the base paths for Rachel Bobo. LSU’s Allie Walljasper induced two fly outs to left field from the next two batters and a pop out to short to get out of the jam unscathed.
LSU tried to put together a two out rally and increase the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Quinn hit a single up the middle while Dylan Supak drew a walk and was pinch ran for by Sydney Bourg. The Tigers would not be able to advance as Emily Griggs grounded out to third to end the inning. LSU led 5-1 heading to the top of the seventh.
Alabama’s last chance in the top of the seventh started with a ground ball by Hawkins and she was able to leg out an infield single. Chandler Dare had the same result for the Tide to put runners, which led to Walljasper coming out and Carlee Hoover entering to try and close the game out.
Hoover started with a strikeout of Demi Turner and a wild pitch allowed the runners to move up to second and third. Haylie McCleney drew a walk to load the bases while Jadyn Spencer hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Hawkins to make it a 5-2 deficit with two outs. Both runners also moved up to second and third while a wild pitch by Hoover allowed a run to score to make it 5-3, but Hoover forced a ground out to end the game.
Alabama has been eliminated while LSU will face Michigan on Sunday at 3:30 PM Eastern Time. LSU will need to win twice against Michigan on Sunday to make the Championship Series.
The 2015 Women’s College World Series got underway with four games played on Thursday night and into early Friday morning due to some severe weather in Oklahoma City. Each game is recapped below while a schedule for the upcoming games can be found here.
#8 Tennessee Versus #1 Florida – Game 1 Recap
The Florida Gators opened their defense of the National Championship with a 7-2 win over Tennessee on Thursday. Another complete game by Lauren Haeger lifted the Gators to the victory.
The Gators started the scoring in the bottom of the first with a rocket to left field by Haeger to give them a 1-0 lead. Florida loaded the bases after a walk, single, and hit by pitch, but could not add to their lead.
The Gators would have another chance to add to their lead in the bottom of the second. Following a walk and ground out, Kelsey Stewart singled to put runners on first and second with only one out. A grounder back to the pitcher advanced the runners and the Volunteers opted to load the bases by intentionally walking Haeger. Bailey Castro came up next, but could not capitalized as her strike out ended the rally.
Florida did add to their lead in the bottom of the third. Following a strike out and walk, Kayli Kvistad came up and drilled a shot to right center field to put the Gators up 3-0. The three run lead would not last long, however.
The Volunteers finally got their first runner on base in the top of the fourth following Shaliyah Geathers being hit by a pitch. A fly out brought Megan Geer up to the plate and she hit a two run shot to left field to make it a one run game again at 3-2.
Florida would respond in the bottom of the fourth. After two quick outs, Haeger was able to single to left field and advanced to second on a wild pitch while Castro was hit by a pitch. Kirsti Merritt was able to hit a hard ground ball to second, but it was not fielded by Geer that allowed Haeger to score. Merritt then stole second and while sliding head first the ball went off her helmet allowing Castro to waltz home for a 5-2 Florida lead after four innings.
The bottom of the sixth saw the Gators add more insurance runs. A lead off single from Stewart was followed by a ground out and Stewart was able to get to third on a stolen base. After Haeger was hit by a pitch (and pinch ran for by Jessica Damico), a throw by the catcher to third base went into left field that scored Stewart. Damico scored on a bunt back to the pitcher that was not fielded cleanly to make it 7-2.
The Gators were able to load the bases, but could not score another run. It would not matter as the Volunteers went down in order to end the game in the top of the seventh.
Haeger gave up only one hit (the two run homer by Geer) while striking out four batters and allowing no walks.
Florida moves into the winner’s bracket and will face the winner of LSU and Auburn game on Friday at 7 PM Eastern Time. Tennessee will be playing the loser of LSU and Auburn on Saturday at 12 PM Eastern Time.
#5 LSU Versus #4 Auburn – Game 2 Recap
The LSU Tigers sound defeated fellow SEC rival Auburn 6-1 on Friday afternoon in the second game of the Women’s College World Series. LSU’s Carley Hoover gave up only one run in a complete game.
LSU got on top first with a solo shot to left field by Bianka bell in the top half of the first inning. Auburn was unable to answer with LSU taking a 1-0 lead after one inning.
In the top of the second, LSU Constance Quinn hit a bloop single to right field and an error fielding the ball put her on second. Sydney Bourg came up and struck out to end the rally.
In the top of the third, Emily Griggs led off with a lead off single to left field before a double play with Auburn’s third baseman Kasey Cooper charging and catch a bunt then throwing down to first. LSU, however, would still come out with a bigger lead.
A two out single by Bailey Landry and walk drawn by Bell put runners on first and second. SahvannaJaquish then delivered a ball into the right center field gap to drive home two runs on a double. Up next was Kellsi Kloss and she drove an 0-1 pitch to left off the foul pole. LSU led 5-0 after just two and a half innings of play.
Auburn was in great position to score in the bottom of the third. Back-to-back singles put runners on first and second while a close ground out put runners on the corners. A fly out by Cooper ended the threat and Auburn was still looking for their first run of the game.
LSU put runners on first and second in the top of the fourth following back-to-back singles, but were unable to take advantage of the opportunity. The bottom of the fourth saw a tremendous catch by A.J. Andrews in center field as LSU led 5-0 after four innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, Auburn got a lead off double from Morgan Estell and she was sacrificed to third on a bunt by the next batter. Up next was Jenna Abbott who hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring home Estell and make it a 5-1 deficit.
LSU started the top of the sixth with a single from Quinn while Griggs singled two batters later. A ground ball by Andrews back to the pitcher was thrown over the third baseman’s head and Quinn was able to score. Griggs moved to third and Andrews, despite a stumbling out of the batter’s box, was able to move all the way to second. Auburn settled down to limit the damage to one run in the top of the sixth to trail 6-1.
The bottom of the sixth began with a single by Emily Carosone and she advanced to third on back-to-back ground outs. She could not score after another ground out ended the inning and Auburn trailed 6-1 after six.
Auburn had one last chance in the bottom of the seventh. H Fagan reached first base after LSU’s SandraSimmons could not hold on to the ball. Estell then came up to hit a bunt single with her speed to put runners on first and second with no outs. Jade Rhodes then hit into a double play with a ground ball back to third base and she was thrown out at first. A strike out ended the game.
Carley Hoover went the distance giving up only one run on six hits while striking out five Auburn Tigers.
LSU will move to the winner’s bracket and face the defending National Champions, the Florida Gators on Friday at 7 PM Eastern Time.
Auburn drops into the loser’s bracket and will face the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at 12 PM Eastern Time. The loser of that game will be eliminated while the winner will play a second game on Saturday.
The Wolverines struck first in the bottom of the first. Kelly Christner took an 0-2 pitch to right field with a line drive over the wall and a 1-0 Michigan lead.
Neither team was able to get a runner on base in the second and third innings. Alabama got their second base runner and first hit in the top of the fourth, but that was the extent of that rally for the Tide.
Michigan was able to load the bases in the bottom half of the fourth after a single by Sierra Romero, walk by Christner, and single by Kelsey Susalla. After battling back to get a full count, Lauren Sweet took a 3-2 pitch to right center field that just go over the fence for a grand slam and a 5-0 Michigan lead. Michigan was unable to add to the lead despite putting a runner in scoring position.
Michigan had another chance to tack on runs in the bottom of the fifth after a walk by Romero, but she was thrown out trying to steal second. Christner then drew a walk and she successfully stole second, but Susalla’s strike out ended the inning.
Alabama finally put together a serious threat in the top of the sixth. Demi Turner singled up the middle with one out and then tagged up to second base following a fly out. Jadyn Spencer singled to shortstop to put runners on first and second, the first time Alabama had a runner in scoring position in the game. The Wolverines got out of the jam by forcing a pop out from Marisa Runyon to end the top of the sixth still five runs to the good.
Despite a steady rain in the first couple of innings, the game was played through the precipitation. Oregon had a great opportunity in the bottom of the first, but an uncharacteristic base running mistake hurt them. After a fielder’s choice got Janie Takeda on base, Jenna Lilley hit a single to right field, but Takeda hesitated rounding second and was thrown out at third. The Ducks would not score in the bottom of the first.
The Bruins were able to get a couple of runs of Cheridan Hawkins in the top of the second. StephanyLaRosa hit a bomb to straightaway center field to lead off the inning. Gabrielle Maurice did the same, but to left field with two outs and UCLA led 2-0 after the top of the second.
The game was delayed at the start of the top of the third with UCLA leading 2-0. A lightning strike in the area was the cause for the delay that lasted about 45 minutes.
Delaney Spaulding hit a one out double in the top of the third and later advanced to third on a ground out, but Carda’s ground out ended the rally. Oregon had a chance to get on the board in the bottom of the third with a lead off runner getting on after an error. Nikki Udria was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second, but Takeda lined out into a double play while Lilley lined out to end the inning.
The Ducks threatened again in the bottom of the fourth back-to-back singles to open the frame put the Ducks in great scoring position. Carda settled down to get the next two batters out before another single loaded the bases. Yet another ground out ended the threat and UCLA held a 2-0 lead after four innings.
A largely uneventful fifth inning gave way to the game changing sixth inning. With runners on second and third with two outs, Mysha Sataraka hit a pop fly to right field that could not be handled properly allowing both runners to score for a 4-0 lead. More defensive issues would haunt the the Ducks.
Maurice struck out for the third out of the inning, but a wild pitch allowed her to make it to first to keep the inning alive. A single by Gracie Goulder brought home one run while Kylee Perez‘s single to right field brought home to more runs to make it 7-0.
Oregon was able to get one run across in the bottom of the seventh after a lead off double from Koral Costa and a single by Lauren Lindvall scored Costa. A wild pitch allowed Lindvall to move to second, but Carda forced a foul out and then hit Udria with a pitch. Another pop out and another wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, but Carda was able to work out of the jam by forcing a pop out to end the game.
UCLA will have a quick turnaround by taking on the Michigan Wolverines on Friday evening at 9:30 PM Eastern Time. Oregon will play on Saturday to keep their Championship hopes alive against Alabama at 2:30 PM Eastern Time.
With the completion of the 2015 NCAA Division I Softball Tournament Super Regionals on Sunday, May 24, the 2015 Women’s College World Series is now set.
There was not much in the way of upsets in the 2015 Tournament to this point as witnessed by the fact that the top 8 national seeds all made the 2015 WCWS. Only the Auburn Tigers are making their debut in the WCWS in 2015.
In 2015, the Women’s College World Series will take place between Thursday, May 28 and Wednesday, June 3. The best of three Championship Series will take place on Monday, June 1, Tuesday, June 2, and Wednesday, June 3 (if necessary).
All the games in the 2015 Women’s College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Thomas allegedly stole an Xbox and three games from a room on the University of Tennessee’s campus. Thomas then sold the games to a local Game Stop store, which cost $176 to reimburse the store. In total, the stolen items were valued at $640.
Thomas will appear in court on April 7 where he is to be arraigned.
As a true freshman in 2014, Thomas played in 11 games and started five of those. All five of the starts were at right tackle and his performance as a freshman had the coaching staff high on his ability in 2015.
Wharton played in 9 games and started the last two games. He caught 5 passes for 64 yards with a touchdown. The touchdown came in the TaxSlayer Bowl on a trick play with running back Marlin Lane throwing him the ball. Wharton ran in for the 49 yard score.
Wharton was a freshman in 2014 and will be required to sit out a year per NCAA transfer rules. Wharton is from Nashville and was a four star recruit of the 2014 class.
Prior to Wharton’s official confirmation of transferring to Cal, fellow wide receivers Ryan Jenkins and Drae Bowles also announced they would transfer from Tennessee. Jenkins has not decided where he is transferring to, but Bowles will playing at Chattanooga.
Final scores do not always tell the tale of how a game truly went or how comprehensive a team performed. This article is intended to shed light on some of those discrepancies and highlight some stats put up by teams and individuals alike.
Virginia Tech Hokies at Pittsburgh Panthers (Pittsburgh won 21-16 on Thursday (10/16))
The Hokies ran for only 26 yards on 22 carries as a team against Pittsburgh. That comes out to an average of 1.2 yards per carry. Even worse, the offense was 2 of 14 on third down yet the Hokies managed to stay in the game until late in the fourth quarter.
For Pittsburgh, James Conner ran for 85 yards on 16 carries, but he did have two touchdowns. This marked his third straight game where he failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark. His first four games saw him run for at least 153 yards each game and total 699 rushing yards. In the last three games, Conner has produced 260 yards. That total is respectable, but it is quite a drop off from his early season output.
Temple Owls at Houston Cougars (Houston won 31-10 on Friday (10/17))
The story of this game was the four turnovers by Temple quarterback P.J. Walker. He had three interceptions and a fumble lost. One interception was returned for pick-six and another led to a Houston touchdown. The lost fumble came on the doorstep of Houston’s end zone at the one yard line. Those three turnovers combined were a 17 to 21 point swing, which undoubtedly cost the Owls a chance to win.
South Florida Bulls at Tulsa Golden Hurricane (South Florida won 38-30 on Saturday (10/18))
South Florida trailed 27-7 at halftime, but outscored Tulsa 31-3 in the final minutes to win the game. Outside of their first drive of the third quarter, Tulsa ran only 7 plays in South Florida territory and failed to score a point.
Baylor Bears at West Virginia Mountaineers (West Virginia won 41-27 on Saturday)
This game had several noticeable stats. First, Baylor committed 18 penalties for 215 yards!! West Virginia committed 14 penalties for 138 yards. Combined, the two teams had 32 penalties for 353 yards. Those 353 penalties yards are more than Baylor put up on offense (318 yards)!
As impressive (or pathetic) as those penalty yards are, the Mountaineers did everything they could early on to let Baylor put up points. Clint Trickett had a lost fumble and an interception that led to 10 Baylor points in the first quarter. Daryl Worley lost a fumble on a punt return, but Baylor could not take advantage of that turnover.
Kansas State Wildcats at Oklahoma Sooners (Kansas State won 31-30 on Saturday)
We will not dwell on this game too much because this is obvious why the Sooners lost. Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt missed two field goals (including a horrendous shank late in the game) and an extra point. One could also point to DanzelMcDaniel’s 5 yard pick-six as another reason.
Texas A&M Aggies at Alabama Crimson Tide (Alabama won 59-0 on Saturday)
This one has to be included for the way Alabama utterly dominated the Aggies. The Tide were up 45-0 at the break and held the high-flying Aggies offense to 172 yards for the entire game!! The Tide scored 35 second quarter points, the most ever in a single quarter for an Alabama team.
The shutout is even more impressive because it marks the first time Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin has been shut out as a coach in 86 games at the FBS level.
We all know Nick Saban is looking for something to critique in this performance and there are few he can sheepishly use. The first is that the Aggies managed to convert two third downs… out of 13 attempts. In addition, the Tide only forced one turnover. There are your areas for improvement, coach Saban.
Michigan State Spartans at Indiana Hoosiers (Michigan State won 56-17 on Saturday)
Indiana actually led 17-14 with 5:25 left in the second quarter, but Michigan State quickly put an end to that. They scored 14 points in the final 4 minutes to take a 28-17 lead and then poured on 28 more points in the second half.
The most striking stat was that Indiana had 11 yards passing. Zander Diamont went 5 of 15 for all 11 yards in his first start as a true freshman. He has drawn comparisons to Johnny Manziel, but that is all hyperbole for a kid who had a total of one negative yard on the game (Diamont also ran 10 times for -12 yards).
The Hoosiers had 224 yards of offense, even without a passing game from Diamont, who was replacing the injured Nate Sudfeld. Tevin Coleman had 132 yards on 15 carries, which is excellent for a one-dimensional offense against the Spartans.
Colorado Buffaloes at USC Trojans (USC won 56-28 on Saturday)
USC quarterback Cody Kessler went 19 of 26 for 391 yards and 7 touchdowns. Yes, 7 touchdowns for Cody Kessler. It is a pretty good day when 27% of your attempts go for a touchdown and 37% of your completions end up as a score. Unsurprisingly, Kessler is now the USC single game record holder for touchdown passes in a game. He also tied the Pac-12 record with 7 touchdown passes in a game with Mike Pagel of Arizona State in the 1981 season.
Tennessee Volunteers at Ole Miss Rebels (Ole Miss won 34-3 on Saturday)
Ole Miss gave up a total 191 yards of offense to Tennessee on Saturday night. All 191 yards came through the air, as the Volunteers did not gain a single yard via the ground game. Jalen Hurd had 40 yards rushing, but that was cancelled out by JustinWorley’s 8 rushes for -41 yards performance. One caveat, however, is that sack yardage goes against the rushing stats in college football.
Missouri Tigers at Florida Gators (Missouri won 42-13 on Saturday)
Most people probably heard this on Saturday night or Sunday morning, but it is worth repeating. Missouri had 119 yards of total offense (20 passing and 99 rushing), yet the won by 29 points over Florida. How? Turnovers and touchdown returns.
Missouri had a kickoff return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, a fumble return for a touchdown, and an interception return for a touchdown. Marcus Murphy had both the kickoff and punt returns for a touchdown from 96 and 86 yards respectively. Markus Golden had a 21 yard fumble return and Darvin Ruise had a 46 yard interception return.
The Gators committed 6 turnovers, three fumbles and three interceptions, which led to 24 points for Missouri.
Will Muschamp should start packing his bags now because he is well on his way out of Gainesville.
Utah State Aggies at Colorado State Rams (Colorado State won 16-13 on Saturday)
The highlight of this game was Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins. He caught 10 passes for 187 yards during the game while the Rams threw for 243 yards. That equates to Higgins accounting for 77% of the receiving yardage. Higgins managed to account for only 59% of the total offense for Colorado State.
Iowa State Cyclones at Texas Longhorns (Texas won 48-45 on Saturday)
This needs a bit of context to explain why it makes it here. According to Las Vegas Insider, the over/under of this game closed at 45.5 points, which makes them believe it would be a defensive game. Texas closed as an 11-point favorite so it was expected that Texas would not give up many points.
Boy, those expectations were way off.
The two teams combined for 1,036 yards of total offense with the yardage nearly split 50/50. Iowa State had 524 yards and Texas amassed 512 yards. By halftime, the score was 28-28, well over the 45.5 points expected for the ENTIRE GAME.
Both quarterbacks had over 300 yards passing with Sam B. Richardson (ISU) having 345 yards and Tyrone Swoopes (UT) throwing for 321 yards. Iowa State ran for 179 yards while the Longhorns had 191 yards on the ground.
This just goes to show that even Vegas can be way off once in a while.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Florida State Seminoles (Florida State won 31-27 on Saturday)
Controversial ending aside, this game did feature one incredible strength. That was the run defense of Notre Dame. They allowed only 50 yards rushing on 26 carries for the Seminoles.
There may be recipe in there to beat Florida State. By stopping the run, they put the pressure on Jameis Winston to lead the Seminoles offense with his arm. If a team can force Winston into mistakes and turnovers, they can pull the upset. However, it is far more difficult to force Jameis into mistakes on the football field as opposed to off of the field.
Nevada Wolf Pack at BYU Cougars (Nevada won 42-35 on Saturday)
This was a late night game, but it had plenty of fireworks and not a lot of defense. The two teams combined for 58 first downs, 1,012 yards of total offense, and 20 third down conversion out of 38 attempts.
BYU led 28-13 at the break, but saw their lead evaporate with four scoring drives by Nevada in the second half. All four of those scoring drives resulted in touchdowns and a 42-28 lead with less than 6 minutes remaining. The Wolf Pack held on for a 42-35 win to send BYU to their third straight loss without Taysom Hill.
Filling in for Hill has been Christian Stewart who looked excellent in this game until the fourth quarter. For the game, he went 39 of 63 for 408 yards with 4 passing touchdowns. He did not have a single interception, but he lost two fumbles in the final seven and a half minutes to dent BYU’s chances of winning. The first led to a touchdown by Nevada to take a 42-28 lead and the second occurred at the Nevada 34 yard line when the Cougars were driving for the game-tying score.
It was an unfitting end to a game in which Stewart played so well.