Tide, Gamecocks on schedule; Tigers exceeding expectations
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Oct 17, 2011 | 2576 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama and Jacksonville State are on schedule, and Auburn is ahead of schedule. Now, can we freeze this Big 3 happy place in time and cancel the rest of the season?

Well, cancel it after Alabama’s Nov. 5 game against LSU, the real national championship, anyway.

Sunday’s release of the first Bowl Championship Series standings confirms that BCS No. 2 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) is very much in control of its destiny in the national-title chase. The computers agreed with what everyone saw during the Crimson Tide’s 52-7 rebel black bear harvest Saturday.

The Tide just has Tennessee sans quarterback Tyler Bray and a bye week between now and its showdown with BCS No. 1 LSU.

Jacksonville State’s 44-14 throttling of Austin Peay on the road likely means the No. 10 Gamecocks (5-1, 4-0 Ohio Valley Conference) will continue their rise in the Football Championship Series polls. The victory coupled with a Tennessee Tech’s 42-40 loss to Tennessee State puts the Gamecocks alone in first place in the OVC race.

JSU was picked to win the OVC this season. If they beat Tech at home in two weeks, it’s hard to see the Gamecocks blowing it.

Auburn (5-2, 3-1), No. 19 in this week’s Associated Press poll, improved to 2-1 during the brutal October stretch everyone circled on the Tigers’ schedule by beating Florida 17-6 on Saturday. They also won at South Carolina on Oct. 1, back when Carolina had Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore.

A defending national champion that once looked doomed to go bowless, the Tigers have an 8-4 finish and mid-tier SEC bowl realistically in reach.

And now, don’t hate the messengers for interrupting this Big 3 happy place for three big reality checks:

Alabama: T-Rich for Heisman?

Running back Trent Richardson’s 183-yard performance Saturday, capped by a spectacular 76-yard touchdown run, has those who saw it putting the word Heisman in the same sentence with his name.

He warrants serious consideration, but this great downhill runner faces a real uphill challenge.

It’s a national vote, not a southeastern vote, and lots of voters likely came into this season with hardened opinions about Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck being the best player in college football.

Also, quarterbacks have the edge. The top five vote-getters in this past week’s StiffArmTrophy.com poll of actual Heisman voters are quarterbacks, led by Luck.

Richardson fell from No. 4 to No. 6.

His performance Saturday, coupled with a Michigan loss to Michigan State, means he’s likely to replace Michigan’s Denard Robinson in the top five.

Then again, the top three vote-getters --- Luck, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Boise State’s Kellen Moore --- play for teams that will be favored to win their remaining games prior to the actual vote.

JSU: Perspective break

The sense headed into JSU’s game this week at SEC member Kentucky is the Gamecocks should win.

Kentucky is horrible, after all, and JSU fared well in its previous two games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, beating Ole Miss in 2010 and nearly beating Florida State in 2009.

The only question is how close JSU fans will come to making Commonwealth Stadium look like Vanderbilt Stadium on most fall Saturdays.

A little perspective here.

First, what are the odds of an FCS team winning two games in a row against SEC competition? No one should come away disappointed if Kentucky, knowing full well JSU’s reputation, takes this game and its own pride quite seriously.

Second, life after the Ole Miss game in 2010 should be a lesson in how little these games matter in the big picture. JSU didn’t even win the OVC last year.

The danger in this game is that it might mean too much to the Gamecocks and some of their fans when the important game comes a week later, at home against Tennessee Tech.

So enjoy it, Gamecock Nation. Then move on, whatever the outcome.

Auburn: Who can Barrett?

For Auburn fans riding the Clint Moseley bandwagon after his solid showing in relief of struggling Barrett Trotter on Saturday, it had to be nice to see a quarterback other than wildcat change-of-pacer Kiehl Frazier run a designed quarterback run again.

It also had to be nice to see downfield pass completions, and Moseley did it without injured receiver Emory Blake in action.

Now, here’s a dose of reality for anyone wondering why Auburn’s coaching staff said Sunday they’re still evaluating the quarterback situation. The timing of all of this complicates the evaluation.

Auburn is about to play at LSU. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavous will have the week to study Moseley and prepare for him.

Oh, and did we mention the game is at LSU, where Auburn’s quarterback must handle the noise of Tiger Stadium and one of the nation’s top defenses?

It’ll be a game that could destroy any quarterback’s confidence, let alone an emotional quarterback like Moseley.

Also, Auburn’s coaches must weigh a guy who has never started on the road in the SEC against a guy who has won a road game in the SEC, and Trotter won against a pretty good defense at South Carolina.

Not so easy of a call, eh?

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or jmedley@annistonstar.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.
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