The SEC Bachstory will be a weekly SEC recap posted every Monday morning breaking down all the big events from the previous weekend. 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.
Just to bloviate for a minute, I want to say how great it feels to be back writing this column. Those of you who have been reading for the last year or so know this is THE SEC recap to read on CFN and I don’t hold back or pull any punches. The format is the same as last year and hopefully the content will be just as good. Since Monday was Labor Day, the Bachstory is coming out on a Tuesday, but next week it will be back on its normal Monday release time. It was a pretty uneventful first weekend for the SEC, but this column will hit on the Lack of Georgia offense, great Alabama defense, the man, the myth the legend…Randall Cobb and more.
The Weekend That Was
As mentioned above, this was a pretty low key start to the SEC season with a majority of the teams playing FCS opponents; really only 2 games were expected to be special (UGA at OSU and Bama vs. Va Tech) and one game that wasn’t discussed much ended up with a close score (LSU at Washington). The Georgia game will be the topic of discussion for the second section of this column because this space is going to be all about Alabama. If you are looking over the scores after a busy day of shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond it may seem like the Crimson Tide’s ten point win was pretty innocuous, but this was not your typical ten-point victory. This game was physically dominated by the Crimson Tide defense that gave up a total of 155 yards.
Never mind how bad the ACC is as a conference; Virginia Tech has been the class of the league ever since they left the Big East. To physically dominate a team like Virginia Tech that is typically known for doling out the same kind of punishment says a lot about where Alabama is right now. Alabama kept Va Tech in the game with poor special teams play, turnovers and penalties, but the defense rose up and shut the door on the dynamic Tyrod Taylor and the rest of the Hokie offense. No team in the SEC learned more about where they are than Alabama did this weekend and that is not good for the rest of the SEC.
The Weekend That Wasn’t
The hits keep coming for the Georgia Offense, after I questioned their offensive line as a strength they made me a genius by rushing for a total of 95 yards on 30 carries against one of the worst defenses in the Big 12. Add in the fact that Trinton Sturdivant is lost for the season and Bulldogs, you have a problem. I was worried all summer about the O-line because they were relying on players returning from injury and frankly there is not a lot of quality depth on the sidelines. That statement will be tested this weekend as they go up against a very good South Carolina defensive line this weekend. But moving back to the offense, Mark Richt has to be concerned with what he saw and the lack of production against a very poor defensive team.
To put the 10 points in context, FCS program Missouri State scored 13 points against the Cowboy defense last season. Obviously not every game is an apple to apple comparison, but any Bulldog fan that thought their team was going to score 10 points please email me to let me know you saw that coming. After a Georgia opening drive that was 80 yards and 10 plays it was all down hill from there. Joe Cox looked uncomfortable all game turning the ball over twice, A.J. Green had only 4 receptions and the offense was unable to get in any sort of rhythm. The defense didn’t play terrible; they gave up a couple big plays, but nothing that the offense could have overcome if it had been playing competent football. This could end up being a season very similar to 2006 for UGA, slow start with a strong finish, they just need to figure out if Joe Cox was still recovering from flu symptoms or if Joe Cox needs to step and aside.
The Weekend That…What the Heck
The word to define the opening weekend for SEC football would have to be turnovers. SEC teams had 19 turnovers, Mississippi State had 4 fumbles, 2 of which they lost against FCS opponent Jackson State (not a good sign). Sloppy football is always a problem early in the season, but this year it seems to be much more prevalent. Florida and Kentucky were the only two teams to have zero turnovers this weekend. Some teams with big turnovers problems from a year ago seem to be picking up right where they left off. Ole Miss had the third most turnovers in the league last year and turned the ball over 3 times against Memphis and South Carolina who had 38 turnovers last season seems to be on a better pace of 24 after only turning it over twice against NC State. Hopefully this was just a little first game jitters because it was one sloppy weekend in terms of ball security.
The Weekend That Will Be
Now that the SEC has had another successful starting weekend, an 11-1 record for the conference on Labor Day Weekend, it is time for the SEC race to kick into high gear and we have three SEC match-ups this weekend…Vanderbilt at LSU, Mississippi State at Auburn and the headliner South Carolina at Georgia. Only one other game outside of these brings any interest and that is UCLA making the return trip to Knoxville for their home and home with the Volunteers. The last trip South Carolina made to Athens in 2007 was a 16-12 victory for the Gamecocks but both teams seem to be worse than their 2007 versions. UGA will be desperate for a win, Spurrier loves beating UGA and we get to watch one heck of a football game. If you are a glutton for pain the Mississippi State/Auburn battle might have a few more points than last years 3-2 classic. The over/under is somewhere around 7 and I am still not sure what to do.
Big Man on Campus (BMOC)
Mark Ingram, Alabama Running Back
There were two Alabama players that may have been suspended for this weekend’s game against Va Tech, Ingram and Julio Jones. Jones looked distracted, dropping a number of balls that he likely would have caught last year, but Ingram looked like the beast Crimson Tide fans expected all summer long. Ingram rushed for 150 yards on 26 carries and a score against a very experienced Hokie defensive line with his very inexperienced offensive line. Ingram was a powerful and physical runner all night long and he had the best night of any Alabama player. For showing up big in the weekend’s biggest game, Mark Ingram is the first BMOC of the 2009 season.
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).
Spencer Lanning, South Carolina Kicker
Lanning handles both kicking duties for South Carolina and he almost single handedly kept NC State in the game last Thursday with a missed 27 yard field goal and terrible punting in the fourth quarter. South Carolina was fortunate to have Ryan “Dreamboat” Succup as the kicker for the last four years and now with the kicking game looking questionable the Gamecocks need to spend the extra days of practice before the road trip to Athens focusing on the third phase of the game. First games are always full of mistakes, but Lanning kept hope alive for the Wolfpack in Raleigh and let’s just hope he shook every one of the Gamecock defensive players once the game was over.
4 Downs with the SEC
First Down – South Carolina Offensive Line
South Carolina fans should be proud of the their offensive line after week one not because of the production on the field, but because they did not hurt the team all night long. If anyone has watched Gamecock football the last 4 years there are two phrases that go hand in hand with their O-line. The first is holding and the second is false start. There were zero penalties called on the USC offense line, ZERO. That is a major victory for Eric Wolford and a major step forward for those players.
The running game was atrocious all night, mostly because South Carolina has changed their scheme from an I formation rushing attack to a zone read they are now attempting. They did not rush off-tackle more than one time and every rush was off-guard or right up the middle. Maybe they are saving some of this for next week at Georgia, but it is probably because they feel more confident with the players in the middle and less confident with the tackles right now. Either way, it was a good effort by the line and they deserve to be recognized for it.
Second Down – Randall Cobb is Awesome
As an SEC fan of course you know who he is, but honestly think about how much you have actually seem this kid play. Do you only think of him when your team has Kentucky on next week’s schedule or are you actually looking for Kentucky games to watch this kid play. If your answer was the former, trust me when I say that you are missing something by not actively seeking out Wildcat games to watch him play. Cobb is one of the best athletes in the SEC and not in the sense that he is the best player on an average Kentucky team; he is an elite SEC player.
Cobb had two scores this weekend, one receiving and one rushing but he only had 8 touches. I am trying not to judge Kentucky so harshly in this piece so I will only say this one negative thing and that is that 8 touches is not enough for Cobb. He needs to get the ball at least 12-15 times a game for the Kentucky offense to be good. For a first game it is hard to judge too much, but if this becomes a trend over the next couple weeks the tone will change. It makes sense to hold back some of the formations and plays that Cobb will be running, but he is a threat passing, rushing and receiving so expect to see him have at least one game this year when he catches, passes and rushes for a score. Kentucky games are worth watching because of Cobb, let’s just hope they use him more.
Third Down – Does LSU defense have a problem?
There is no nice way to put this, but the LSU defense was bad this week, really bad. Giving up 478 yards to one of the worst offenses in the country last season has to have Les Miles scratching his head this week. Washington was jacked up for that game so it isn’t surprising they played well, but there is no excuse for that kind of yardage when a team is essentially installing a new offense. There are two major concerns for LSU fans regarding their defenses performance. The first is how well Washington did on third down, converting 11 or 19 attempts.
The second issue is related to the third down problem and that is there was only one three and out LSU forced. One drive ended in one play after an interception by Jacob Cutrera, but only once did LSU go three and out against the Huskie Offense. There were 5 drives of 10+ plays, seven drives of 40 yards or more and LSU was helped by a lot of Washington penalties. Again this is only the first week, but those kinds of stats are worrisome and could end up becoming bigger problems as the season goes on. Teams improve the most between week one and week two so John Chavis has some serious coaching to do in Baton Rouge this week.
Fourth Down – Gus Malzahn is not Tony Franklin
The Auburn practices were closed, spring and summer, in order to keep their spread offense under wraps before it was unveiled to the fans Saturday night. What Auburn fans got was what they were hoping for and that is a running game. The first Auburn drive, which ended in a field goal, was 13 plays, 69 yards and contained ten rushes and only three passes. Actually running the ball was something that Auburn did all night long with 52 attempts for 301 yards while Chris Todd’s formerly injured arm was used on for 27 pass attempts.
The Tony Franklin chuck and duck offense is done, the Gus Malzahn spread is on the Plains and it ain’t the same. Malzahn is a run first coach, he uses the run to open up the passing game where Franklin used the running attack to starve offensive lineman and put the offense in 2nd and 12. While this is no longer your father’s Auburn Tigers, it is also not Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn Tigers either. Evidenced by 30 seconds left in the first half with great field position Auburn had a 3-play drive, moving the ball 29 yards for a field goal attempt of 49 yards that Wes Byrum made. Tuberville just threw up a little bit in his mouth after that one. Auburn still has depth issues, talent issues and a tough schedule, but it looks like this is another example of Gene Chizik growing as a head coach and refusing to be Tommy Tuberville 2.0.
Just a reminder, I want your emails. Tell me where I’m wrong, where I’m right and where you think I am full of it. Your emails can shape what I should be writing about and if you don’t tell me, I won’t change. E-mail
me Brian Harbach