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November 12, 2012

Auburn-Alabama: Nov. 24, 2:30 p.m CT, CBS

AUBURN, Ala. –It took until the very end of the season, but Auburn will finally play on the SEC’s prime network platform in 2012.

CBS will televise the 77th Iron Bowl when Auburn visits No. 4 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, at 3:30 p.m. EST on Nov. 24, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Seven of the past 12 Iron Bowls have been decided by single digits. The Crimson Tide leads the series 41-34-1, winning three of the past four following the Tigers’ 6-game winning streak.

Three of Auburn’s final four SEC games in 2011 were televised by CBS, including Alabama’s 42-14 romp at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The other two games were big losses as well: 45-10 at LSU and 45-7 at Georgia. The Tigers did win 16-13 at South Carolina on CBS last year.

Georgia hosts Georgia Tech in its regular season finale Nov. 24 at noon EST, televised by ESPN.

Here’s the full TV and times schedule for the final weekend of the regular season (all times CT):

Friday, Nov. 23
LSU at Arkansas ~ 1:30 p.m. CBS

Saturday, Nov. 24
Georgia Tech at Georgia ~ 11 a.m. ESPN
Kentucky at Tennessee ~ 11:21 a.m. SEC Network
Auburn at Alabama ~ 2:30 p.m. CBS
Florida at Florida State ~ 2:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN/ESPN2
Missouri at Texas A&M ~ 6 p.m. ESPN/ESPN2
South Carolina at Clemson ~ 6 p.m. ESPN/ESPN2
Mississippi State at Ole Miss ~ 6 p.m. ESPNU
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest ~ TBD

Pay-per-view: This coming Saturday at 2 p.m., Auburn (2-8) hosts Alabama A&M — an FCS squad with a 7-3 record. The game will be

available on pay-per-view, costing $39.95 plus fees and taxes, to viewers in Alabama markets, which does include Columbus, Ga., customers.

Fans interested in ordering the game should be able to make the purchase through their on-screen guide, but are encouraged to call their cable, Dish Network or DirecTV provider with further questions.

National viewers will be able to watch the Alabama A&M-Auburn game — which will serve as the Tigers’ Senior Day — on ESPN3.com and ESPN GamePlan, available online.

Bring on the big boys: Auburn men’s basketball picked up its second and third verbal commits from the class of 2013 over the holidayweekend, adding a couple of big men for the future.

Seven-foot center Ronald Delph committed Sunday during his official visit, and 6-foot-11 forward-center Benas Griciunas followed up Monday a couple of weeks after his trip to campus.

Delph is playing this season at post-grad program IMG Academy, the previous source for current Tigers freshman point guard Brian Greene Jr.

Delph visited campus this past weekend and attended the Tigers’ season-opening victory over Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne and Auburn’s football game against Georgia, reported by AUTigers.com. He plans to sign with Auburn when early signing period opens Wednesday.

Griciunas came to the United States three years ago from Lithuania, according to AUTigers.com, and now plays for Findlay Prep outside Las Vegas. He made his cross-country visit during the Texas A&M football weekend, which included the White-Blue scrimmage at Auburn Arena.

Auburn had previously picked up a commitment from point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen out of Decatur, Ga.

The Tigers (1-0) begin play at the Charleston Classic Thursday at 8 p.m. EST against Murray State.

Women’s basketball picks up weekly honor: Auburn junior Tyrese Tanner was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week for the first time in her career.

Tanner, a Birmingham native, scored a career-high 26 points against North Carolina State in the Raleigh Wolfpack Invitational Championship Game.

She leads the Tigers (1-1) with 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and also has four steals and two blocks in two games.

Her 26 points, the most scored by a player in the SEC this season, were the most for a Tiger since Blanche Alverson scored 27 on Jan. 13, 2011.

She is also Auburn’s first SEC Player of the Week since Alverson won following that performance.

Auburn plays its home opener Thursday at 7 p.m. ET against Alabama State.

Tested in the west: The Auburn women’s soccer team won its first-ever NCAA tournament match in a road setting at Washington Saturday.

Sophomore Tori Ball had a goal and an assist in the Tigers’ 2-1 victory, ensuring a second straight trip to the NCAA second round.

Auburn (13-10-1) will stay out west to continue its tournament quest, taking on bracket No. 1 seed BYU (19-1-1) Thursday night in Provo, Utah.

November 5, 2012

SEC Power Rankings: Week Ten edition

Aaron Brenner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer 

**All games Saturday … all times CT … all rankings BCS**

1) No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC); Last week, 1

Last week: won at No. 5 LSU 21-17

The human emotion is a funny thing. Tim Tebow’s about as tough a dude as there is out there, and A.J. McCarron showed his own cold-blooded cojones on that game-winning drive against a feasting defense. So what’s the big deal with crying in sports? Roger Federer does it. Tiger Woods has. Kevin Garnett resorted to a primal yell to mask the tears. I guess what I’m trying to say is, fans of Alabama and against Alabama should embrace McCarron, not critique him, for reminding us these are people on the field. Warriors, yes, but people too. Good for McCarron. And a bit of crow to gobble for Crimson Tide fans who once ripped Tebow for letting the waterworks flow.

Next: vs. No. 15 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2), 2:30 p.m. | CBS

2) No. 5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1); LW, 3

Last week: beat No. Ole Miss 37-10

Happy birthday to Aaron Murray Saturday, turning 22. What a task in front of Auburn’s own No. 22, T’Sharvan Bell, and the defense to slow down the scorching-hot Bulldogs, who must win the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry to punch their ticket to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.

Next: at Auburn (2-7, 0-6), 6 p.m. | ESPN2

3) No. 7 LSU (7-2, 3-2); LW, 2

Last week: lost to No. 1 Alabama 21-17

The offense is what it is, and what it is not is a quick-strike of the 2-minute variety. Zach Mettenberger caught fire on a couple drives Saturday – impressive against this defense – but LSU simply does not have championship playmakers with the ball.

Next: vs. No. 21 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2), 6 p.m. | ESPN

4) No. 15 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC); LW, 6

Last week: won at No. 15 Mississippi State 38-13

The Aggies top Florida, since the Gators’ 3-point win at Kyle Field was two months ago. Johnny Manziel’s second career start. Soooo … if this coming showdown against the defending champions was in College Station, wouldn’t Texas A&M be favored? Or at least be regarded as having one heck of a chance to come out on top? Bama’s gonna be drained after last week’s festivities. And don’t forget Texas A&M’s road resume: 48-3 at SMU, 30-27 at Ole Miss, 59-57 at No. 23 Louisiana Tech, 63-21 at Auburn, 38-13 at No. 15 Mississippi State. Five wins, no losses. Do not hand this game automatically to Alabama. By any stretch.

Next: at No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0), 2:30 p.m. | CBS

5) No. 6 Florida (8-1, 7-1); LW, 4

Last week: beat Missouri 14-7

They’ll be rooting for Auburn. Big-time.

Next: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (5-3), 11:21 a.m. | SECN

6) No. 8 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2); LW, 5

Last week: Idle

It’s our job as journalists to roar in response when Steve Spurrier remarks that Alabama could compete with an NFL team. I’m sure that wasn’t at all a mediocre attempt to inflate the heads of Crimson Tide players, thus bettering LSU’s chances and therefore those of South Carolina to make the national championship game. Nope. No chance at all.

Next: vs. Arkansas (4-5, 2-3), 11 a.m. | CBS

7) No. 21 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2); LW, 7

Last week: lost to No. 16 Texas A&M 38-13

Other than Alabama first and Kentucky worst, there’s no ranking I feel more sure about than right smack-dab in the middle. Mississippi State is clearly not on the level of the top six, and clearly is better than the bottom seven. Thing is, while the Bulldogs will likely see their losing streak stretched to three at Tiger Stadium, the last two games – vs. Arkansas and at Ole Miss – could be fuzzy. State’s job isn’t over yet. Let’s not dismiss the fact there’s a real chance Mississippi State hasn’t beaten more than one bowl-bound team yet this year.

Next: at No. 7 LSU (7-2, 3-2), 6 p.m. | ESPN

8) Vanderbilt (5-4, 3-3); LW, 9

Last week: won at Kentucky 40-0

First goose egg against an SEC team in 44 years. Of course, that was against Kentucky. Of course it was. Commodores are well on their way to back-to-back postseason games for the first time in school history – they’ve gone bowling just five times, ever.

Next: at Ole Miss (5-4, 2-3), 6 p.m. | ESPNU

9) Ole Miss (5-4, 2-3); LW, 8

Last week: lost at No. 6 Georgia 37-10

Fascinating matchup in Oxford this weekend. Truth is, since Vandy’s final two games are far easier than those for Mississippi, the Rebels straight-up have got to take care of business at home. If they do, they’ll be preparing to play in their first bowl in three seasons. Ole Miss, incredibly, is 8-1 in the postseason since 1990.

Next: vs. Vanderbilt (5-4, 3-3), 6 p.m. | ESPNU

10) Arkansas (4-5, 2-3); LW, 11

Last week: beat Tulsa 19-15

Nice little win over a solid Tulsa team. Defense has totally undergone a makeover. It’s almost like they’re trying to save their coach’s job or something.

Next: at No. 8 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2), 11 a.m. | CBS

11) Tennessee (4-5, 0-5); LW, 10

Last week: beat Troy 55-48

Speaking of defense; that sounded like a clown show out there in Knoxville. Vols keep sliding, even in victory. At least they finally pulled out one of those down-to-the-wire finishes.

Next: vs. Missouri (4-5, 1-5), 11:21 a.m. | SECN

12) Missouri (4-5, 1-5); LW, 12

Last week: lost at No. 7 Florida 14-7

Had their chances since Florida looked hungover. Crummy game by James Franklin, whose accuracy needs a lot of work, cost the Tigers that chance.

Next: at Tennessee (4-5, 0-5), 11:21 a.m. | SECN

13) Auburn (2-7, 0-6); LW, 14

Last week: beat New Mexico State 42-7

Sure helps to have a terrible opposing quarterback to create good feelings on defense. It absolutely looked like Daren Bates was stiffarming a lot of frustration out of his body when he trucked that NMSU running back. The Tigers understand Georgia’s a different challenge.

Next: vs. No. 5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1), 6 p.m. | ESPN2

14) Kentucky (1-9, 0-7); LW, 13

Last week: lost to Vanderbilt 40-0

Love the rumor mill spiraling out of control. I actually heard Chip Kelly mentioned as a candidate to go to Kentucky. Folks, it’s not a good football job. They’ll take some old alum or raw upstart, and need multiple years to become competitive.

Next: Idle

October 15, 2012

Saturday Night’s Alright: Auburn, Texas A&M will play under the lights on ESPNU

AUBURN, Ala. — No early wake-up call for Auburn against No. 20 Texas A&M, for a change.

The Tigers (1-5, 0-4 SEC) will host the Aggies (5-1, 2-1) on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT in a game televised by ESPNU. After kicking off before noon in five of its first seven games this year, Auburn will return to a primetime session after previously playing Clemson and LSU at night.

The SEC took more time than normal Monday releasing its times and TV networks for Oct. 27 games. Here’s the league’s full schedule with TV assignments (all times ET):

Tennessee at No. 9 South Carolina ~ 12 p.m., ESPN

Kentucky at Missouri ~ 12 p.m., ESPNU

Ole Miss vs. Arkansas (in Little Rock) ~ 12:21 p.m., SEC Network

No. 3 Florida vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville) ~ 3:30 p.m., CBS

No. 20 Texas A&M at Auburn ~ 7 p.m., ESPNU

Massachusetts at Vanderbilt ~ 7 p.m., FSN

No. 15 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama ~ 8:30 p.m. ESPN

October 8, 2012

Auburn gets another morning wake-up call

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn will play Vanderbilt on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 11:21 a.m. CT in a game televised by SEC Network, the conference announced Monday.

This the same time and TV schedule as this upcoming Saturday’s Tigers road game at Ole Miss. It will be Auburn’s fifth morning kickoff in seven games to open the season.

For those grasping for straws of optimism, the Tigers are 3-0 when they play on SEC Network under coach Gene Chizik.

October 5, 2012

Pregame Pep Talk: Smile! Big games Saturday

AUBURN, Ala. – I count at least 18 games worth watching Saturday. Gotta love college football on Saturday.

There’s really no understating the importance of tomorrow’s matinee at Jordan-Hare Stadium. You wanna argue Arkansas’ season is already a lost cause even with a road victory, that’s fine, but Auburn really, really needs this game. Because with a loss, the Tigers drop to three under .500 with two road games immediately looming … and the home schedule gets no easier. In fact, it gets much, much more challenging.

Huge, season-defining game tomorrow. No wonder Gene Chizik begged the fans to replicate their LSU performance. Two thoughts on that: it ain’t happening when the team’s performance caused this to be labeled an 11 a.m. local kickoff, and the best way to engage the crowd is make big plays early and often.

Five X-Factors when the Razorbacks have the ball

#8 Tyler Wilson, 6-3, 220, sr., QB and #11 Cobi Hamilton, 6-3, 209, sr., WR, Arkansas. If for some reason my column wasn’t blunt enough, here it is: if the Tigers slow the Cobi Express, this should be an easy win. If Wilson and Hamilton go off, Arkansas would have to massively screw up otherwise to lose. I don’t see a lot of in-between. This is the most vital individual X-Factor I’ve seen in any Auburn game this year.

#11 Chris Davis, 5-11, 200, jr., CB, Auburn. Haven’t heard your name much this year, Mr. Davis, though part of that is the rotation at corner with Jon Mincy and T-Bell. If Davis does play 50-plus snaps Saturday, he’ll be doing his job by maintaining anonymity. By the way, Auburn DBs, it’s not against the law to catch passes thrown by the other team.

#69 David Hurd, 6-6, 300, jr., LT, Arkansas. You see that freight train coming in from right end? That would be Corey Lemonier. Speaking of anonymity, Hurd is tasked with capping the number of times Rod Blamblett screeches, “and there goes Lemonier AGAIN into the backfield!”

#21 Jonathan Jones, 5-10, 166, fr., ST, Auburn. Outside the box, yes. This is a nod to Arky kick returner Dennis Johnson, one of the best in the business. Cody Parkey might just boot the ball out of the end zone best he can, but if Johnson – the SEC’s career kickoff return yardage recordholder – does get a hold of one, nothing changes a game for a road underdog like explosive special teams. Since fellow rookie Ricardo Louis will probably be focusing on playing slot receiver and/or punt returner, the job of gunner is left to the young and speedy Jones.

Five X-Factors when the Tigers have the ball

#12 Jonathan Wallace, 6-2, 197, fr., QB, Auburn. Welcome to the column, J-Wall. The guess here is 14 snaps for the freshman Saturday. Wouldn’t blame anyone for taking the over. Whether he was actually running it or handing off, that package worked two weeks ago, and Arkansas’ run defense ain’t exactly LSU.

#23 Onterio McCalebb, 5-11, 173, sr. and #21 Tre Mason, 5-10, 198, so. … RBs, Auburn. Establish the run. Establish the run. Establish the run.

#45 Alonzo Highsmith, 6-1, 233, sr., MLB, Arkansas. He makes lots of tackles.

#26 Rohan Gaines, 5-11, 190, fr., S, Arkansas. So does he. Look, there’s not much to work with on Arkansas’ defense. Work with me here.

Three players you should watch since I can’t be at every game Saturday

#23 Mike Gillislee, 5-11, 209, sr., RB, Florida. You know what hurts? Losing something you wanted when you felt you were that close to getting it, and realizing regret in the aftermath. (Deep, I know.) You know what hurts worse? Ouchy groins. Gillislee has one of those problems on his plate right now. It’s not the one Florida fans care about.

#3 Todd Gurley, 6-1, 218, fr., RB, Georgia. Yeah, and Keith Marshall too. That’s 12 feet, 434 pounds and 36 years of running back goodness. Freshmen aren’t supposed to be that advanced, size-wise.

#12 Geno Smith, 6-3, 214, sr., QB, West Virginia. I would make some stupid statement along the lines of “He definitely will NOT throw for 656 yards tomorrow” … except I have no confidence in such bombastic guarantees. Who knows in this era of college football.

Saturday’s Main Events (all times ET)

Arkansas Razorbacks at Auburn Tigers, 12 p.m. ESPN2

More I think about this game, more I believe Tyler Wilson can win this game by himself. In home field I trust. That, and Arkansas finding ways to give Kiehl Frazier short fields to work with via turnovers.

Brenner picks: Tigers 31, Razorbacks 28

No. 24 Northwestern Wildcats at Penn State Nittany Lions, 12 p.m. ESPN

Plenty of storylines here. Northwestern basketball hogs the headlines locally (even if calling Northwestern a drop in the bucket of Chicago sports coverage is being kind), but the football team is ranked for the first time in over three years. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions are rolling since their two-game swoon to open the year. For Auburn fans watching on TV, just flip one channel down to ESPN during halftime and timeouts to check on this game’s progress.

Brenner picks: Nittany Lions 24, Wildcats 21

No. 8 West Virginia Mountaineers at No. 11 Texas Longhorns, 7 p.m. FOX

Looks very much like the Longhorns left Stillwater with that look of getting away with something. The Football Gods, as Bill Simmons likes to say, don’t smile kindly on these kinds of things. Of course, West Virginia’s defense is nothing to smile at. Which fits right in to its new conference.

Brenner picks: Mountaineers 42, Longhorns 38

No. 21 Nebraska Cornhuskers at No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes

Oh, hello there, defense. Good to see you still exist somewhere in the world. Is this the ultimate Urban Meyer ‘world against us’ season?

Brenner picks: Buckeyes 20, Cornhuskers 15

No. 4 LSU Tigers at No. 10 Florida Gators, 3:30 p.m. CBS

This one’s not a bad defensive battle, either. You wonder about Zach Mettenberger’s ability to win a game in the swamp. This game hinges on how much the Tigers learned from the Auburn game – maybe they overlooked Auburn a bit, and obviously Florida’s a superior team, but the Gators certainly will make LSU pay for dumb transgressions.

Brenner picks: Gators 27, Tigers 20


No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs at No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks, 7 p.m., ESPN

Even though you figure Georgia’s taking these games one at a time – as well it should – the Bulldogs are going to be hard-pressed to escape every one of these tough challenges with defensive lapses and costly turnovers. With the SEC East on the line, Connor Shaw, Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor will make the plays necessary for a victory.

Brenner picks: Gamecocks 31, Bulldogs 17

The Rundown

@Syracuse 30, Pitt 28 (Friday). When’s basketball season start?

No. 20 Mississippi State 27, @Kentucky 10. Tyler Russell is the picture of stability in a game like this. Potential UK hangover after giving South Carolina a tussle.

@Air Force 31, Navy 10. Falcons have been money in Colorado Springs.

Virginia Tech 24, @North Carolina 21. Upset pick. Frank Beamer teams are too good to let this season slip away. Both teams a little banged up.

@Texas Tech 34, No. 17 Oklahoma 31. Upset pick, remix. Red Raiders haven’t played anybody on their way to a 4-0 mark, but back-to-back home games against top-20 squads should bring out the best in a confident bunch.

Louisiana-Monroe 37, @Middle Tennessee 30. Rise of the Sun Belt! ULM just scheduled a 2014 date with LSU, capitalizing on the rise of a mid-major’s notoriety.

Michigan 31, @Purdue 30. Hey, remember when Denard Robinson was the fresh squeeze?

@Missouri 44, Vanderbilt 10. No reason for Mizzou not to finally knock off its first SEC foe here.

Texas A&M 34, @Ole Miss 30. Chance for the SEC newbies to sweep this weekend.

@No. 9 Notre Dame 27, Miami 16. Is college football better when Notre Dame’s good? You be the judge. Manti Te’o is fun.

@No. 2 Oregon 38, No. 23 Washington 19. Won’t be many chances for that No. 2 spot to open up for somebody else, and this is a slight opportunity at best.

Last week: 8-2

Track record: 32-20

That’s it for the Pep Talk. Now here’s your chance to get back on the horse, because you can’t afford to lose again.


September 29, 2012

Pregame Pep Talk: TV guide for football, flicks

Got a hot date today.

Well, I hope it doesn’t get too hot. Shouldn’t. I can always crank the AC.

A football watcher’s paradise

Some of you will spend the bye weekend at the farmer’s market. Some of you will spend it at the park with the kids. Some of you will tailgate and get buzzed like nothing’s different … except, of course, Jordan-Hare Stadium should be a little more dormant than usual.

Not me. Those are all fine suggestions. But I’m gonna actually watch college football without worrying about deadlines for the first time this fall.

Oh, I’m sure I’ll tweet a little bit. I’m sure I’ll glean some info that will be useful going forward, which is why I consider it a semi-work day. But I do know this: I don’t plan on moving further than from my recliner to the kitchen and back.

You’re probably wondering, “But, Aaron, with no Auburn football to appease me, whatever shall I watch?” Well, maybe you’re not wondering that. Because, you know, you’re off to the farmer’s market and playground and such. But still. Work with me here.

My mission is simple: to watch the better part of ten halves in ten different college football games, and swing by for ten segments of classic movies, all in one day. Yeaaaaaah. My remote control’s gonna be hotter than Mila Kunis by midnight tonight.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your DVRs. Because I want to portray the notion that I’m actually producing something of value here, I’ll throw in my game picks.

All times Eastern Time Zone

12 p.m. ET – No. 25 Baylor at No. 9 West Virginia, FX

Why? Because I’d like to see what the fuss is about with Geno Smith. And see what it’s like in Morgantown for its first foray into Big XII play. The pick: Mountaineers 54, Bears 26

12 p.m. – Arkansas at Texas A&M, FOX

Why? Because, uh, I actually do have to work. And do some scouting work on Arkansas. Let’s see what Mr. 303, Cobi Hamilton, does for an encore. The pick: Razorbacks 35, Aggies 34

3:30 p.m. – Tennessee at No. 5 Georgia, CBS

Why? Because if the Bulldogs pound the Volunteers in their trademark well-balanced ways, I may not care whether LSU beats Towson 200-0. I’m seriously considering lifting Georgia to No. 2 in my weekly SEC power rankings. The pick: Bulldogs 34, Volunteers 7

3:30 p.m. – No. 14 Ohio State at No. 20 Michigan State, ABC

Why? Because this is the best the Big Ten has to offer these days. The pick: Buckeyes 31, Spartans 21

6 p.m. – No. 4 Florida State at South Florida, ESPN

Why? Because some believe the Seminoles are ripe for the national title game. I’ll be sure to catch the first half before it gets out of hand, just to get an idea for the eye test on Jimbo Fisher’s juggernaut. The pick: Seminoles 45, Bulls 14

7 p.m. – South Carolina at Kentucky, ESPN2

Why? Because I don’t think South Carolina’s that far off of Georgia, or LSU for that matter. The pick: Gamecocks 37, Wildcats 13

7:50 p.m. – No. 12 Texas at Oklahoma State, FOX

Why? Because This is probably the best game of the day, with potential for ‘First to 50 wins’. No other reason than that. The pick: Cowboys 51, Longhorns 49

8 p.m. – Wisconsin at No. 22 Nebraska, ABC

Why? Because … ah … well, it’s the alma mater, and ABC says it’s our top night game, and the Blackshirts always bring it in Lincoln, and … well, because it’s something to do, that’s why. The pick: Cornhuskers 24, Badgers 16

9:15 p.m. – Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama, ESPN

Why? Because I just need visual confirmation that Alabama’s just unstoppable. Don’t smirk at Ole Miss – the offense is capable of getting something going, even in Tuscaloosa. The pick: Crimson Tide 48, Rebels 20

10 p.m. – No. 2 Oregon at Washington State, ESPN2

Why? Because I want to see whether I like Oregon or Florida State better. These are the things we beat writers can’t really evaluate on Saturdays when we’re busy with our own teams. Thanks for the idle weekend, Jay Jacobs and Gene Chizik. Throughout my college tenure, I never ever had one. The pick: Ducks 55, Cougars 12

Last week: 7-6

Track record: 24-18 

If you want a break from football … and I don’t blame you … then check out some flicks on the tube. Plenty of solid options, including these ten:

Again, all times Eastern Time Zone

9 a.m. – No Country For Old Men, USA. Maybe a little early in the morning to watch some ol’ Texas shootouts over your eggs and grits, but still, it’s an Oscar winner.

2 p.m. – The Green Mile, AMC. Rest in peace, Michael Clarke Duncan. Loved you as Frankie Figgs, and you were great as John Coffey too.

4:22 p.m. – Glory Road, Spike TV. Sigh. Can’t wait until basketball season.

4:41 a.m. – Mr. Deeds, Comedy Central. Hey, remember when Adam Sandler was funny and Winona Ryder was hot? Yeah, me neither. This will catch you up to speed.

5 p.m. – Book of Eli, TNT. Denzel Washington could star in a SpongeBob SquarePants episode and I’d be sold.

7 p.m. OR 10 p.m. – A Time To Kill, gmc TV. I have no idea what gmc TV is. All I know is this channel is showing Moesha marathon before unquestionably Matthew McConaughey’s best work, with a killer plot to match the cast (Sam L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Oliver Platt, Ashley Judd, Donald and Kiefer Sutherland)

8 p.m. – Independence Day, A&E. Hope I flip over in time for President Whitmore’s “Tonight, we celebrate” speech.

8 p.m. – The Karate Kid, FX. Boy, between Texas-OK State, ID4 and the Kid, that’s gonna be a heck of a rotation in prime time.

8:03 p.m. – Aladdin, ABC Family. Don’t laugh. Favorite classic Disney movie. “Ten thousand yeeeeeeeeeeears will give you such a crick in the neck!”

9:06 p.m. – Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and Kill Bill, Vol. 2, Bravo. Uma Thurman kicks ass. You stay up to watch both movies, you’ll be crashing after bartime. Have fun!


September 24, 2012

Arkansas-Auburn: Sat. Oct. 6 at noon ET

Auburn’s next game is a home date with Arkansas at Jordan-Hare Stadium, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 6, with a noon ET kickoff, announced by the SEC Monday. The game will be televised nationally by either ESPN or ESPN2, which will be determined after the slate of Sept. 29 games. Auburn is idle this Saturday.

It’s a big slate of SEC games on Oct. 6, with LSU-Florida on CBS at 3:30 ET and Georgia-South Carolina at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

A limited number of single-game tickets for the Arkansas (Oct. 6) and Texas A&M (Oct. 27) games still remain. You may contact the ticket office by email at tickets@auburn.edu or by phone at 855-AUB-2010.

September 22, 2012

Pregame Pep Talk, Part II: Saturday picks

Saturday’s Main Events (all times ET)

Missouri Tigers at No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks, 3:30 p.m. CBS

The Gamecocks have won seven straight going back to last year, the program’s longest winning streak since 1984. Steve Spurrier’s defense hasn’t allowed a red-zone touchdown yet. Even if James Franklin does return, it won’t be enough for Mizzou.

Brenner picks: Gamecocks 34, Tigers 16

No. 2 LSU Tigers at Auburn Tigers, 7 p.m. ESPN

The more I analyze this matchup, the more I think the whole “Nobody believes in us!” corollary popularized by guys like Bill Simmons could totally apply to Auburn today. They seem galvanized by this perceived lack of respect. Make no mistake, though: based on the eye test alone, LSU should win this going away, provided the Bayou Bengals show up with the mindset to take care of business. Not LSU’s indictment they haven’t played anybody yet.

Brenner picks: LSU 38, Auburn 13

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Arkansas Razorbacks, 7 p.m. ESPNU

Gotta feel for John L. Smith. Bankruptcy, deflating losses, the hot seat, and then the loss of his brother this week. Chances are Arkansas “goes in a different direction” in 2013 – read, fires Smith after the LSU game – but his guys will rally today.

Brenner picks: Razorbacks 16, Scarlet Knights 12

No. 18 Michigan Wolverines at No. 11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 7:30 p.m. NBC

Denard Robinson has accounted for 948 total yards the last two games against Notre Dame. Read that sentence again. And then one more time. Try to process that. By the way, the last three Mich-ND games: Wolverines by 4, Wolverines by 4, Wolverines by 4.

Brenner picks: Wolverines 27, Irish 23

No. 15 Kansas State Wildcats at No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners, 7:50 p.m. FOX

Most thrilling quarterback duel of the day. Landry Jones gets the ball last, makes one final play, then shares a mutually respectful handshake and hug with Collin Klein.

Brenner picks: Sooners 41, Wildcats 38 


No. 10 Clemson Tigers at No. 4 Florida State Seminoles, 8 p.m., ABC

Florida State’s resume isn’t too different from LSU’s – they haven’t played anybody. Also haven’t left Tallahassee once. I checked the Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest rosters, and nowhere did I see Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington, Sammy Watkins or DeAndre Hopkins. Clemson’s offensive and defensive lines have been strong, and overall, Brent Venables has a good thing going turning around that defense. Okay, that’s enough to talk me into the upset special.

Brenner picks: Tigers 24, Seminoles 21

The Rundown

Baylor 47, @Louisiana-Monroe 32 (Friday). If you’re not heading out to a prep football tonight, maybe flip on RGIII’s old squad against the SEC’s thorn. Could be a doozy. (Note: I wrote this Friday, I swear. Baylor won 47-42. I take a polite bow, and await the chance to ruin it with four horrible picks today.)

Ole Miss 42, @Tulane 24. Hey, check out which team leads the SEC with plays 10 yards or more. The Rebels have 57 in three games.

@Ohio 47, Norfolk State 13. Forget football, let’s get a hoops game going between these 2012 bracket-busters.

@No. 19 UCLA 29, Oregon State 20. Been awhile since UCLA has been football-relevant – we’ll see how the Bruins fare in the much-improved Pac-12.

@Washington State 47, Colorado 24. Can I interest anyone in some terrible football? (This game is NOT evidence of aforementioned Pac-12’s improvement.)

@No. 5 Georgia 38, Vanderbilt 3. Vandy’s not there yet. Georgia is incredibly well-rounded – and it wouldn’t be wrong for Bulldogs fans to think, why this year? Why bust out the same season Alabama’s being compared to professional teams?

No. 3 Oregon 49, No. 22 Arizona 21. No SI cover jinx this week. Not after cover jinxing the crap out of Peyton Manning last week, anyway. 

Last week: 10-4

Track record: 17-12

That’s it for the Pep Talk. Now this is what you dream about: the chance to shock the world. Go out there and have fun with it.


September 14, 2012

Pregame Pep Talk: Third time’s a charm

AUBURN, Ala. — Many interesting quotes during this week. I’ll make sure to sprinkle them in with the X-Factors. Because at the end of the day, it’s just talk. Time to walk the walk.

Four X-Factors when the Warhawks have the ball

#18 Brent Leonard, 6-2, 186, sr., WR, Louisiana-Monroe. That was a former walk-on receiver torching the Arkansas secondary last Saturday night for 11 catches and 112 yards with a score. Granted, it’s just one game, but only USC’s Marquis Lee joins Leonard among FBS receivers averaging double-digit receptions, triple-digit yards and at least a TD.

#22 T’Sharvan Bell, 6-0, 190, sr., CB, Auburn. Strong words this week, but he wasn’t so much calling out his teammates so much as demanding himself to lead by example. Starts today.

#12 Demetruce McNeal, 6-2, 187, jr., S, Auburn. How does a guy go from DNPing to a ridiculous 18-tackle game from one week to the next? Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder called the veteran’s effort “special” and “outstanding.”

#54 Jeffrey Whitaker, 6-4, 307, jr., DT, Auburn. Angelo Blackson probably has one defensive tackle spot locked down. The other one’s up for grabs, but not really if you believe DL coach Mike Pelton: “Whitaker’s kind of separated himself. The rest of them are in that pack. We tell them all the time, you get what you earn.”

Four X-Factors when the Tigers have the ball

#10 Kiehl Frazier, 6-2, 226, so., QB, Auburn. Said it once, will say it again: would like to see the playbook call for more playaction and designed runs. That’s why Kiehl Frazier’s the starter. Theoretically, at least. But then again, it’s been beaten to death that Frazier cannot turn over the ball. Usually a guy would get more leeway there at home, but not in front of a crowd which will be ripe to boo and heckle the first chance it gets.

#43 Philip Lutzenkirchen, 6-5, 255, sr., TE, Auburn. These are times when leaders must step up. Of the seniors, sophomore lineman Chad Slade said: “They’ve been in a national championship game. They know what it takes to get there. I believe whatever T-Bell or Lutz or EB (Emory Blake) said to me, I’m going to do it no matter what.” Lutzenkirchen has been quiet, too quiet on the field for his preseason proclamations.

#1 Trovon Reed, 6-0, 190, so., WR, Auburn. Interesting comments from Travante Stallworth this week, on ULM’s 3-3-5 system (not too dissimilar for Auburn’s nickel package): “It’s kind of a wacky defense. They do a lot of different things. The receivers will get a lot of opportunities this week to make some big plays because they play a lot of man coverage.” Well, the pick here is Reed to take advantage, but certainly Quan Bray or Stallworth or Sammie Coates or even DeAngelo Benton could as well. We’ll see how many 3-WR sets are summoned, but those do take fullback Jay Prosch and secondary tight end Brandon Fulse off the field.

#51 R.J. Young, 5-11, 240, sr., LB, Louisiana-Monroe. A bowling ball in the middle of ULM’s defense which set a Sun Belt record for rush defense last yea. Young, who had eight tackles against Arkansas, played two years at Arizona before transferring.

Three players you should watch since I can’t be at every game today

#6 Corey Robinson, 5-10, 227, sr., QB, Troy. The best chance for a repeat Sun Belt-beats-SEC performance is in this game because of this fella, a top-flight passer.

#23 Mike Gillislee, 5-11, 209, sr., RB, Florida. It’s not hard to see the SEC’s No. 1 rusher challenging for 30 touchdowns this year. Definitely the Gators’ most valuable asset in another tough roadie at Tennessee.

#? Brandon ________, QB, Arkansas. So the word is out that Tyler Wilson is, uh, out. So, will the Hogs turn to junior Brandon Mitchell’s experience, as someone who backed up Wilson last year but is now a receiver? Or redshirt freshman Brandon Allen, who got the call against ULM … which did not turn out well? Either way, a daunting task to take down the defending champions just became so much more so.

Saturday’s Main Events (all times ET)

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks at Auburn Tigers, noon, SEC Network

I could totally see the Warhawks starting off well, catching sleepy Auburn off-guard a little bit, making the Jordan-Hare crowd a little restless. But it’s a 60-minute game, and it just doesn’t seem plausible previously-off-the-radar ULM can knock off two traditional powers in straight weeks. That ULM actually finished off Arkansas rather than merely giving it a scare was the best thing that could happen to Auburn. Nobody’s sneaking up on War Eagle today. Unless the Tigers’ purported depth is ghastly overrated, this should be over by the end of the third quarter.

Brenner picks: Auburn 41, ULM 10

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks, 3:30 p.m., CBS

The Hogs will play better than they did last Saturday. Much better, in fact. It’ll barely make a difference.

Brenner picks: Alabama 23, Arkansas 14

No. 2 USC Trojans at No. 21 Stanford Cardinal, 7:30 p.m. FOX

Not enough Andrew Luck + too much Matt Barkley = sad day in Palo Alto. Closer than you think, though. Stanford always plays the Trojans tough.

Brenner picks: USC 28, Stanford 27 

No. 20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at No. 10 Michigan State Spartans, 8 p.m. ABC

The buzz is back around Notre Dame athletics as it makes the massive leap from the least reputable BCS conference to … er … the second-least reputable. Actually, the ACC still wasn’t quite good enough for the football program – it’s still technically independent. (Did you know the past two years, the ACC finished below the Big East in RPI rankings? It’s true.) As the best player on the best team in a league long-spurned by the Fighting Irish, Le’Veon Bell will ACCelerate the Spartans closer to elite Big Ten status.

Brenner picks: Michigan State 30, Notre Dame 10

No. 14 Texas Longhorns at Mississippi Rebels, 9:15 p.m. ESPN

Boy, if Mississippi gets this one, the SEC could really crow its dominance over the Big XII. The Longhorns’ stingy defense silences Ole Miss, currently the SEC leader in total yardage.

Brenner picks: Texas 21, Ole Miss 13

The Rundown

@Nebraska 42, Arkansas State 24. Gus Malzahn’s unit dealt an unfortunate hand against a ticked-off opponent.

@Missouri 35, Arizona State 24. Still believe in Gary Pinkel’s bunch, and this is a softer opposing defense. Look out for ASU’s explosive offense, though.

@Georgia Tech 23, Virginia 20. Yellow Jackets have been sneaky-good so far.

@No. 19 Louisville 32, North Carolina 30. Good game, though. Wonder if Rick Pitino or Roy Williams will show up.

@Penn State 19, Navy 6. Probably a lot of PC peeps out there happy to see the Nittany Lions suffer tough defeat. Bill O’Brien, Matt McGloin and company get off the schneid here, but only if it contains the triple option.

Western Kentucky 28, @Kentucky 20. Insert Nick Saban respect joke here.

Mississippi State 31, @Troy 28. Tyler Russell rides momentum from last week, surviving a shootout with more than 700 passing yards combined.

No. 25 BYU 34, @Utah 21. Utes are exhausted from a draining defeat at Utah State. Cougars quietly continue independent resurgence against pillowtop-soft schedule.

Last week: 4-8

Track record: 7-8


No. 18 Florida Gators at No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers, 6 p.m., ESPN

I continue to believe Derek Dooley’s unit is stronger than Will Muschamp’s on any field you choose. And the Volunteers will prove it as Tyler Bray stays super-efficient, Justin Hunter breaks free for a big play or three and their fans’ rendition of Rocky Top resounds around the south.

Brenner picks: Tennessee 27, Florida 13. 

That’s it for the Pep Talk. Now your backs may be against the wall, but the home crowd is behind you. No more room for error or excuses. Go out and do your job.


September 10, 2012

No. 3 LSU at Auburn | Sept. 22, 6 pm CT, ESPN

Fire up those lights at Jordan-Hare. They’ll be in use a week from Saturday night.

When Auburn gets its second crack at an SEC opponent, it’ll face No. 3 LSU at 6 p.m. CT in a game televised by ESPN.

Last year, the Tigers were 3-0 in home night games, beating Florida Atlantic, Florida and Ole Miss. Auburn last hosted LSU in a night game in 2008, when LSU prevailed 26-21 in a top-10 matchup.