I spoke with SEC Network play-by-play announcer Dave Neal for this week’s “Pick Six” heading into LSU’s game Saturday with Kentucky. Neal, who has worked the SEC Game of the Week for 13 seasons, will make the call for Saturday’s 11:21 a.m. contest. Here’s the Q and A:
You called Kentucky’s season opening 14-3 win over Western Kentucky and you’ve studied them heading into this game. This was a bowl team last year and now they’re really struggling with perhaps the worst offense in the SEC. What’s wrong with the Wildcats?
It’s not that they lost Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke and Mike Hartline. One glaring stat for them is that their quarterback has been 16 times this year. The past few years Kentucky was one of the SEC’s best teams at not getting sacked. Hartline wasn’t flashy, but he was solid. (This year’s starting QB) Morgan Newton is having to work his way into being the same type of quarterback, but he hasn’t come along as quickly as they have hoped. Kentucky is certainly facing an uphill challenge. They don’t run well, they don’t have the pieces they had a year ago and they’ve had to play a lot of young guys. They just haven’t evolved into the team they hoped to be a month into the season.
That said, LSU players say they expect Kentucky’s best shot in part because of the Tigers’ No. 1 ranking. Do you think the ranking will help the Wildcats’ effort?
It helps. That (48-10) loss at home to Florida hurts, and maybe if they were playing another opponent it would be tough for them to rebound. But the fact they are playing the No. 1 team in the country gives them a reason to try harder. And I will say while most of them weren’t around in 2007 (when UK beat No. 1 LSU 43-37 in 3 OTs) it is still talked about. Who wouldn’t want to play No. 1?
You haven’t called a game in Tiger Stadium since 2006. Now you get to come back and LSU is ranked No. 1. You have to be pretty excited.
No question. SEC football is great anytime you get a game, but you throw in the added bonus of having the No. 1 team in the country coming off a great win at West Virginia is huge for the SEC Network.
People talk about how LSU fans hate playing day games, but I’ve been there lot in the last 13 years and I’ve always been treated with kindness by the LSU fans. They know their time (for an early game) comes up every once while. I look forward to come there. I really enjoy being around the LSU fans in every sport.
I was surprised to see that stations in 28 states will be carrying Saturday’s game. You did games in this time slot for Jefferson Pilot and Lincoln Financial, but this is a much bigger broadcast now, isn’t it?
It’s not the old school Raycom/JP umbrella. We go into Alaska and Los Angeles and New York. It’s truly a national game, unlike a few years ago. The way it used to be, Raycom really had to stay within the SEC footprint. Under the new (SEC/ESPN contract) those boundaries have been wiped out. It truly gives us a national identity. It replaces an SEC Network channel, if you will, if ESPN promised national distribution. ESPN went out and got about 80 million households. It’s the third-largest ESPN platform on Saturday besides ESPN and ESPN2. It’s a pretty good deal.
You had the call on LSU’s “Bluegrass Miracle” victory at Kentucky on 2002. Do people still ask you about it?
It’s unbelievable. If there’s one game I’m tied to of the 200 or so I’ve done, it’s the Bluegrass Miracle. I was playing in a golf tournament on Monday and the group of guys I’m playing with on the third hole start asking me about the LSU-Kentucky game. Here we are, nine years later, and people still remember that play like it happened last week. It’s truly amazing how that game has lived on. It wasn’t a game that determined a championship, it just happened to be one of those games in the SEC that had a fantastic finish. If it happened in the ACC, I don’t think it would get talked about as much. I’m glad I was a part of it.
You’ve often said at the end of a game you’re usually getting ready to bolt out of the press box as soon as it ends, but that for some reason you decided to pay close attention to the last moments of that LSU-Kentucky contest.
It was a great learning experience. Sometimes in the last minute of the game I’m getting my stuff together, putting my notes in my briefcase, but for whatever reason I never took my eyes off the field. I don’t know what it was. I felt something would happen. Maybe not the finish we got, but the fans interrupting the game or tearing down the goalposts or something. I locked in to the play. I’m just glad I didn’t screw it up.
Since 1960, LSU is 220-60-4 in night games at Tiger Stadium and 24-25-3 during the day.
That would seem to be an edge for the Kentucky Wildcats, who visit Tiger Stadium for an 11:21 a.m. game Saturday on the SEC Network.
Given that No. 1 LSU will also be there, though, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips isn’t counting on it.
“I don’t consider it any type of advantage,” Phillips said during Wednesday’s SEC coaches conference call. “I don’t consider it any type of advantage to play a team like LSU.”
LSU coach Les Miles said he expects Tiger Stadium to be as big an edge for his team in the daylight as it is in the dark.
“There is an enjoyment to playing in Tiger Stadium at night, no question. But there is an advantage to playing in the daytime as well,” said Miles, who is 8-4 in day home games.
“I think our guys will be fired up and I don’t think there will be a difference in the crowd.”
Miles was also asked several questions about the addition of Texas A&M to the SEC starting with the 2012 season. Again, Miles sees advantages for the conference and for LSU’s recruiting – not negatives.
“Where were just outside the borders, now I think we will be the home conference for the state of Texas,” Miles said. “Now there’s a strong likelihood that a greater number of guys will look at the SEC.”
Miles is concerned about the fact that for at least the time being the SEC will have 13 members, seven of them in the SEC West. That raises the possibility that not everyone in the West will play each other.
“That’s not right,” Miles said. “If you’re naming a division champion you want a chance to play the guys in your division.”
Kentucky is coming off a 48-10 blowout loss to Florida in Lexington, a game in which the Wildcats managed just 299 yards total offense.
Asked if he see’s similarities between the LSU and Florida defenses, Phillips gave the edge to the Tigers.
“This team gives you a lot more different looks,” Phillips said, “different pressures, different fronts. They do have a lot of similar personnel, but this team we’re about to play is probably more physical. Not that Florida isn’t physical, but this team is really big up front and tries to bloody your nose. That’s the way football is played, and they do a good job of it.”
LSU is a 30-point favorite over Kentucky. This will be the first meeting between these two schools since 2007.
After getting a call from a Tiger fan trying to find a station to watch Saturday’s LSU-Kentucky game on the SEC Network, thought it might be a good idea to post this listing of all the affiliates nationwide which will carry the contest.
What else are blogs for, right?
Sorry to make you wade through the list to find the Louisiana stations, but it was either run it in the format in which it was supplied by LSU or retype the whole dang thing.
Not willing to be THAT helpful.
Remember, kickoff is at 11:21 a.m. CDT:
Location Local Affiliate Network
|West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce||WTCN||CW|
|Paducah-Cape Girardeau, MO||WPSD||NBC|
|St. Louis||KPLR 11.2||TTV|
This week’s Associated Press poll isn’t the only place where the LSU Tigers hold down the top spot.
A website called BCSguru.com also ranks LSU No. 1 in its simulated pre-BCS standings.
Using the four available computer polls and replacing the Harris Interactive poll (a BCS component that won’t be released until the first BCS standings come out Oct. 16) with the AP poll, BCSguru.com gives LSU an overall rating of .9475. No. 2 Alabama is at .9180, while No. 3 Oklahoma is at .8701.
LSU’s computer average is tied for first with Oklahoma. In the available BCS computer ratings the Tigers rank No. 1 in Billingsley, No. 2 in Sagarin, No. 3 in Massey and No. 6 in Colley Matrix. BCSguru.com also throws in a median ranking of 59 other computer polls, in which LSU comes up at No. 2 behind only Alabama.
For the complete BCSguru standings, CLICK HERE.
… ESPN.com recruiting writer Dave Hooker writes that LSU’s national exposure through its tough early season schedule is paying dividends in recruiting.
… The SEC bloggers at collegefootballnews.com heap a lot of praise on LSU’s players and coaches this week, including one line (though you’ll have to hunt for it) touting Tyrann Mathieu for Heisman.
… We used some of the quotes herein for Tuesday’s editions of The Advocate, but here’s the full story from Louisville Courier-Journal beat writer Kyle Tucker on Kentucky coach Joker Phillips’ news conference Monday. Love that “I’ve got a dragon to slay” quote. Got to admire Phillips’ chutzpah for a guy whose team is a 30-point ‘dog to LSU.
… SI.com’s Stewart Mandel says LSU has just completed the most impressive September in recent memory and that he can’t wait for the Tigers showdown with Alabama on Nov. 5.
Because of difficulties with travel home from Morgantown, Les East’s weekly Monday chat will be postponed until Tuesday.
So join him from 3-4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon for the weekly chat.
There was plenty of Twitter chatter Friday about LSU fans prowling the West Virginia campus the day before the game looking for Tiger Bait.
According to The Dominion Post newspaper in Morgantown, the tweets were true.
WVU campus police said six LSU fans barged into a classroom at West Virginia’s Oglebay Hall on Friday and started chanting the LSU fight song.
The six people were not identified as LSU students, but simply as LSU fans because of their purple and gold attire.
Campus police found three LSU fans at the building when they arrived.
“They were advised of the inappropriateness of their actions and apologized,” WVU Police Chief Bob Roberts said.
The LSU fans were then asked to leave the building. No citations or arrests took place.
Jarrett Lee passed for three touchdown passes and LSU survived a school-record passing night by Geno Smith as No. 2 LSU beat No. 16 West Virginia, 47-21 at Morgantown, W.Va.
LSU saw a 20-point halftime lead cut to 27-21 before Morris Claiborne’s 99-yard kickoff return with 59 seconds left in the third quarter gave LSU a 34-21 lead.
Smith completed 38 of 65 passes for 463 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Lee completed 16 of 28 passes for 180 yards. Running back Spencer Ware rushed for 92 yards on 23 carries and Michael Ford had 85 yards on 13 carries with two scores.
Alfred Blue’s 18-yard touchdown with 3:03 left has giving LSU a 47-21 lead after the extra point.
It was an 8-play, 55-yard drive that showed that, after all, LSU finally did wear down the Mountaineers.
Ware is probably done for the night with 23 carries for 92 yards. Ford has 85 on 13. Lee is 16-for-28 for 180 yards with his three touchdowns.