The SEC Bachstory will be a weekly SEC recap posted every Monday morning breaking down all the big events from the previous weekend in the Southeastern Conference. In order to eliminate all confusion, the Bach in Bachstory is pronounced like back (Back to the Future, The Empire Strikes Back, Back in Black), you get the picture. Back from my own Bye Week and ready to talk about the Auburn offense, Carolina being Carolina and the Mississippi State’s next step.
The Weekend That Was
Operation Win gets a big one as Kentucky beats Steve Spurrier for the first time in school history. This game had arguably the most entertaining fourth quarter of the weekend, not the craziest (that belongs to Arkansas and Auburn) and Joker Phillips gets his first signature win as the Wildcats Head Coach. Kentucky made play after play on offense and defense in the second half as South Carolina struggled to step on the Wildcats throats and put the game away. Mike Hartline was fantastic (more on him below), Randall Cobb didn’t have the stats, but he made plays when it mattered and Kentucky did this without Derrick Locke. Don’t think for a second that Carolina mailed it in and acted like a normal South Carolina team after some success, Carolina was up 28-10 at halftime but didn’t score at all in the second half.
This marks the second straight week that the Kentucky defense has woken up in the second half to put on impressive performances. Two weeks ago they gave up 31 points to Auburn in the first half; the Tigers won 37-34. This week they gave up 28 in the first half and won the game 31-28. Two ranked SEC teams put up a combined 6 points in the second half against Kentucky. To put it in perspective, Auburn scored 38 points in the second half against Arkansas and South Carolina scored 14 against Alabama. The much maligned Kentucky defense has made great halftime adjustments; if they can just play better defense in the first half of games they might have a great finish to the 2010 season.
The Weekend That Wasn’t
There are two sides of the Carolina Spurrier Experiment, the first is the HBC has had more success in a five year period than any coach in Carolina history and that means something but the second is he has not recruited well enough to build the depth a SEC contender needs. Marcus Lattimore is a game changer; hands down the best freshmen in the country but even without him in the second half South Carolina should be better than what they played on offense and especially on defense. There is plenty of blame to go around in the loss to Kentucky and a lot of it should go directly to the Wildcats who made play after play in the second half. Spurrier deserves a lot of the blame for the way he managed the offense on the last drive and while people may say the throw to the end zone was the right call, it is debatable.
Ellis Johnson has been an SEC Coordinator for years but his defenses have always been great on stats but poor on results. The effort in the second half was embarrassing as was the fact that South Carolina did not force one turnover in the entire game. Auburn roughed up the Gamecock D for over 300 rushing yards while Mike Hartline passed for 349 and 4 touchdowns. The inconsistency in a group that is bringing back nearly the entire defense and some elite talent goes directly to the coaches and directly to Ellis Johnson. But what if Lattimore didn’t get hurt? This excuse is complete BS and if your team can’t handle losing a true freshmen when up by 18 points at the half, your team just isn’t that good.
Take away any team’s best player and they are not the same team, but if that player gives you a three score lead and it isn’t enough there really isn’t much else to say. South Carolina score zero points in the second half, zero. The last drive was jaw dropping as South Carolina got in field goal range but never kicked a field goal. Sure Carolina can still win the east, at this point Kentucky and Georgia can still win the East but it will be a moral victory as whatever East team plays in Atlanta will become a lamb to the slaughter. This loss hurt the Gamecocks, it erased the image of the Alabama win, it erased the thought of a program turning the corner and it erased Steve Spurrier’s undefeated record against Kentucky.
The Weekend That…What the Heck
Let’s start this section with a cliché, in regards to Cam Newton “you can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him.” The problem is no one has been able to contain the Auburn quarterback and Auburn sits 7-0, #5 in the Polls, #4 in the BCS and a six point favorite over #6 LSU this weekend. Newton led the Auburn offense to a 65-43 victory over Arkansas this weekend and he threw 14 passes. Let me repeat that….65 points, 14 passes. How in the world does that happen? There was a defensive score, a 99-yard kickoff return and two fourth quarter interceptions that led to excellent field position for Auburn but once again Newton dominated an SEC defense.
The game end up scoring the most points in the history of the SEC in a non-overtime SEC game. Ryan Mallett gets knocked out and experienced back up Tyler Wilson comes in to torch the Auburn defense for 332 yards and four scores. Wilson ran the Arkansas first team offense all spring when Mallett was out with an injury so it was no surprise that he knew what he was doing…it was beyond impressive how well he played. The back and forth continued until the fourth quarter when the Auburn defense became opportunistic and started picking off Wilson. We learned a lot from this game, some just re-enforced our current opinions. Arkansas and Auburn are defensively challenged, Cameron Newton is the favorite for the Heisman and the SEC still has deficient referees in charge of their games.
The Weekend That Will Be
Biggest game of the week in the country will be played in Auburn with the Tigers and Tigers matching up for their yearly battle. #5 Auburn vs. #6 LSU should be a battle with the best offense in the SEC going up against the best defense in the SEC. LSU has owned the series lately, winning three straight games and Les Miles seems to have the same magic touch he did back in 2007. Some other interesting SEC matchups include Georgia traveling to Kentucky for their third straight game against an SEC East opponent, South Carolina heading to Nashville to face Vanderbilt, Ole Miss playing at Arkansas against one of two great quarterbacks and MSU will become bowl eligible against UAB in Starkville Saturday. Congrats Dan Mullen.
Big Man on Campus (BMOC)
Mike Hartline, Kentucky Quarterback
Not too often does a Kentucky player get into this spot but Hartline deserves this award just based on his reaction after throwing the game winning pass to Randall Cobb. Knocked on his back, but throwing the perfect ball to Cobb, Hartline shook his arms and kicked his legs in joy as Cobb made a beautiful over the shoulder catch to win the game. Hartline passed for 349 yards, and four touchdowns (3 in the second half) to upset then ranked #10 South Carolina. Hartline has been excellent this season completing 68.3 % of his passes for 1791 yards, 13 TD’s and only three interceptions.
Player Now Doing Charlie Work (PNDCW)
As a note to those who do not know what “Charlie-Work” is, do yourself a favor and start watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (the episode called “Dennis and Dee go on Welfare” explains it perfectly).
Ellis Johnson, South Carolina Defensive Coordinator
South Carolina just couldn’t stop Kentucky from throwing the ball just like they couldn’t stop Auburn from running it. Ellis Johnson has been unable to make adjustments in any of South Carolina’s two losses and even though the Gamecocks tried everything against the Wildcats, nothing worked. Blown coverage, missed tackles and poor execution allowed Kentucky to build the momentum late in the game. Watching the fourth quarter with South Carolina up you just knew it was Kentucky’s game to win and they won it. There is too much talent on the defensive side of the ball for Carolina to be this inconsistent and that goes to coaching.
4 Downs with the SEC
First Down – “Pay That Man His Money” Teddy KGB
In case Mississippi State Athletic Director Scott Stricklin was unsure what he should be doing this week, it is my responsibility to inform him. Get on the phone with Dan Mullen’s agent and start negotiating a new contract immediately. After a great MSU upset of Florida in the swamp, Mullen has officially moved from good coach to hot commodity and the Bulldogs need to lock him up now. There will be teams coming after him this offseason, ones he won’t jump at like the Minnesota’s and Boston Colleges but what about Texas A&M? Mike Sherman is done in College Station, if Tommy Tuberville wasn’t coaching in Lubbock he would have been the Aggies first choice, but a man like Mullen is worth going after.
A&M has alumni with deep pockets and they like stealing SEC coaches (Dennis Franchione), it is in the state of Texas where recruiting would be easier than it is in Mississippi and with the changes in the Big 12 it could be an easier job than MSU. This is not meant to worry MSU fans, it is meant to encourage the Bulldog Athletic department to do the right thing and pay Mullen the bucks he deserves to stay and start building for the future. With Ole Miss down, it is a great opportunity to take hold of the state and move up a couple rungs on the SEC ladder. Keep in mind that Mullen is doing this with a limited QB in Chris Relf, once Tyler Russell gets some experience and more weapons around him the offense could move from serviceable to productive. Give your team a chance to be great, pay that man his money.
Second Down – Florida back to earth
The more I watch Florida, the more stubbornness I see from its coaching staff and it is hurting the Gators ability to win. We all remember the poorly thought out jump-pass in Tuscaloosa, but after the loss to MSU it seems that John Brantley is a square peg and the Florida offense is a round hole. Brantley is not capable of running the Florida offense, he is not Alex Smith, he isn’t Chris Leak and he certainly is not Tim Tebow. Deonte Thompson’s preseason comments were honest 2 months ago, now they just seem stupid. If Florida wants to win they have to bench Brantley, the bye week is a perfect time for changes and if Urban Meyer doesn’t want to adjust his offense, he needs to adjust the quarterback running it. Is Trey Burton a better QB than Brantley, probably not but he is a better fit for the Gators right now.
Third Down – Bobby Petrino know QB’s
Auburn is notorious who allowing second string quarterbacks to come in for the hurt starter and burn their defense to the ground. Tyler Wilson is not your typical backup quarterback and Bobby Petrino is not your typical coach. First and foremost, Bobby Petrino is the best quarterback coach in the country and any recruit who wants to play in the NFL that does not look to Arkansas is insane. Wilson is not a typical backup because he spent the entire spring running the first team offense when Ryan Mallett was injured. Wilson spent time learning how the receivers run routes, he spent time building chemistry with the group and Petrino got to spend more time coaching him up than he would have with Mallett taking the first team reps.
No one should have been surprised that Wilson played well against Auburn, especially considering the Auburn secondary but no one expected him to look that good. He was throwing to open receivers in broken coverage; Wilson was hitting receivers in stride on wheel routes, crossing patterns and dig routes over the middle. He was excellent, even with the two picks at the end of the game, it can’t take away from the incredible effort he put out. If Ryan Mallett leaves for the NFL after this year the Arkansas offense will not skip a beat with Wilson starting at QB. Bobby Petrino knows how to find them and knows how to coach them; Wilson looked like the real deal and it wasn’t just because of the Auburn defense.
Fourth Down – Bowl Predictions
Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Utah
Orange Bowl – Auburn vs. Florida State
Citrus Bowl – LSU vs. Wisconsin
Cotton Bowl – Arkansas vs. Texas
Outback Bowl – Kentucky vs. Iowa
Gator Bowl – South Carolina vs. Michigan
Peach Bowl – Florida vs. Georgia Tech
Music City Bowl – Mississippi State vs. NC State
Liberty Bowl – Georgia vs. East Carolina
Birmingham Bowl – No SEC team will qualify
What were your thoughts on the past weekend in the SEC? E-mail
me Brian Harbach
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