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. Week two had some pretty great moments and in this column we take a look at the Auburn offensive juggernaut, more QB problems in Knoxville, one fun game in Athens and more.
The Weekend That Was
It only seems right to start this column off by discussing what is going on with the Auburn offense. Gus Malzahn’s group is breaking records left and right after just two games and in Saturday’s win over MSU the team scored 6 offensive touchdowns compared to the 8 Auburn scored all of last year in SEC games. One thing has become obvious in college football and that is the importance of coaching. Good coaching can overcome almost anything and when you look at teams like Utah, Boise State and BYU that statement becomes even more obvious. So when an Auburn team that lacks depth on the offensive line, lacks a returning playmaker at receiver and the starting QB is a journeyman who was booed off his home field last season and the only thing that has changed is the guys calling the plays…there is you answer.
Do I consider Auburn an SEC contender right now, no. Calm down Auburn fans because you don’t want to put the cart before the horse, Auburn has become a more interesting story after week two of the season, but playing 11 straight games and a murderous October schedule is going to catch up with them at some point. Now that the “bad” news is out of the way we can discuss the top two rushers in the SEC, Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb, Kodi Burns managing the Wildcat offense to perfection and receivers using their hands to catch the ball (Darvin Adams and Philip Lutzenkirchen). Two straight weeks with over 500 yards of offense including almost 600 over an SEC opponent shows me they are doing something right. Throw in the fact that the offensive line hasn’t given up a sack yet this year and it is easy to see why the Auburn offense is humming and starting to make some noise.
The Weekend That Wasn’t
Obviously this is my section to discuss what went wrong with an SEC team this weekend and the obvious choice is Tennessee. But I realized that would be a silly thing to do. Don’t you all realize what the Vols did against UCLA this weekend, they set a trap for Urban Meyer and his Florida Gators. Why would they do that you ask? The answer is simple, when you have a coaching staff that knows UCLA like the back of their hand and discusses that fact during the week instead of working on getting their starting QB prepared to play in the game; it has to be a trick to get Florida to overlook them this weekend. Tennessee has Florida right where they want them, they purposefully looked like a disorganized turnover machine in order to make the Gators think they are a terrible at playing football.
It is the perfect plan because Tennessee has done nothing to get on Urban Meyer’s radar the last 9 months and he will be going through the motions in practice all week long. Wait, that doesn’t make sense at all. Why would Tennessee pretend to be an awful team in order to trick Urban Meyer after Lane Kiffin has been playing metaphorical patty cake with Meyer since he was hired. If they were trying to win this weekend, how in the heck did Tennessee manage only 208 yards of offense against a Pac 10 team at home? How did Jonathon Crompton throw 3 more interceptions and not get pulled from the game? How did Lane Kiffin get out-coached by the program that he owned while at USC. The answer is Lane Kiffin is not at Southern Cal anymore, he doesn’t have USC’s players, he doesn’t have USC’s coaches and he doesn’t have USC’s schedule. Kiffin’s team looks like they might be in trouble and a date in Gainesville could not have come at a worse time…or could it ?
The Weekend That…What the Heck
One of the best things about SEC football is the consistent curveballs that are thrown our way each year. Trends seem to be tossed upside down as often as Ohio State loses to top 5 opponents and what we think we know is worthless. The people (myself included) who though the UGA/South Carolina game would be a defensive slugfest with less than 31 total points were shocked to see that point total show up at the end of the first quarter. South Carolina dominated this game by forcing 3 turnovers, out-gaining UGA by 120 yards and controlled the time of possession but 5 field goals and a blocked extra point undid them.
This game was as crazy as they come in the SEC, historically this has been a defensive struggle between Georgia and South Carolina. But the points kept coming Saturday night and they were coming from every which way. South Carolina returned a pick for a touchdown, Georgia’s Brandon Boykin had a 100 yard kickoff return for a TD, there was a Georgia Safety, four touchdown passes and two touchdown runs. Joe Cox was better than last week, but his bright red face and deer in the headlights look freaks me out each time the cameras zoom in on him. This is the kind of win that can rally a team towards a successful season and sadly it is the kind of loss that sticks with a team for a long time. Georgia needed positive momentum before traveling to Arkansas and South Carolina is fortunate to have a home game with Florida Atlantic this weekend.
The Weekend That Will Be
Once again we have a smattering of interesting games among another group of blah in the SEC for Week Three. The headliner as we all know by now is the Florida/Tennessee game in Gainesville. Lane Kiffin gets his first taste of conference football against the man he has angered quite a bit since his hiring last year. Georgia gets a night game with Arkansas who has had two weeks to prepare for the Bulldogs, West Virginia makes their return trip to Auburn after defeating the Tigers in Morgantown last year and Kentucky faces Louisville in their annual rivalry game, the Governor’s Cup. The SEC slate is starting to pick up steam, but right now we still have a lot of fluff to get through until the main course is served.
Big Man on Campus (BMOC)
Kodi Burns, Auburn QB/RB/WR
Kodi Burns has become the perfect player to run the Gus Malzahn’s Wildcat offense and this weekend he pulled off three touchdown runs and a TD pass in the Tigers win over Mississippi State. Burns was told when he was being moved to receiver that he would still be needed to help Auburn win games this year. Most fans thought that meant by taking reps on the practice field or with a good attitude (Burns’ attitude has been amazing) but not even Burns could have imagined his impact in the first two weeks. He will be counted on throughout the season and he came up huge this weekend.
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).
Jonathon Crompton, Tennessee QB
The effort to be a leader on this Volunteer team is definitely there with regards to Jonathon Crompton. Seeing him rally the team together on the sidelines to try and fire them up was a good sign, but the talent and execution is just not present with the senior quarterback. He threw another 3 interceptions this weekend in an upset loss to UCLA and now has 5 picks in his first two games. Tennessee’s success this year is directly tied to the QB position. It was nice of Lane Kiffin not to pull Crompton and give him a chance to win the game, but there is enough film to know he isn’t able to do it. A loss is always a team effort, but Crompton didn’t give the team much of a chance Saturday.
4 Downs with the SEC
First Down – Georgia 0 vs. LSU D
Earlier this week Russ Mitchell and I discussed who was in better shape, the LSU Defense or the UGA offense after the first week when both units disappointed. We were able to reason the LSU defense’s struggles, but the UGA offense was still a mystery. After week two the LSU defense seems to be going in the right direction, but the jury is still out on UGA. Actually the UGA offense is probably going to be a work in progress all year long or at least it will be vastly different than in past seasons due to the loss at quarterback.
There were good and bad things to take away from the win over South Carolina; the best was how well the O-line played. There is too much talent on the Georgia O-line to play like they did in Stillwater and they are too young to think they are going to be the best in the SEC, but from week one to week two they improved more than any unit in the SEC. They handled a very good South Carolina D-line and while they still haven’t found a groove in the running game, they got better. Improvement is what is expected, even if it is small from week to week. LSU’s defense took a huge step forward giving up only 210 yards of offense and the UGA Offense moved forward as well, just not as much.
Second Down – Bored with Florida?
Is it just me or are we all just sleeping on the Gators? Not sleeping on them in the sense that they are underrated in any way, but no one seems to be talking about them. Maybe it was because the first two opponents were ridiculous or maybe it is because we have all become desensitized to Tim Tebow, but no one seems to want to talk about them. The Gators are first in Scoring Offense and Total Offense, second in Rushing Offense, Passing Offense and Scoring Defense in the SEC. But that is what we expected. Is there schedule going to hurt them in the long run if (and that is a big if) they lose a game?
Those big games better get here quick because the pollsters might forget they are still playing games and leave them off their poll submissions by mistake. But thank goodness for Lane Kiffin because without him this weekend’s game would have zero attention and it would be the third straight week that the Gators were an afterthought. Expect more attention to be focused on the Gators this week, but not because of their dominant wins the first two weeks, but because of the drama in the off-season. Let’s be honest, Tennessee is going to be blown out, but who wants to bet that Lane Kiffin goes all Mark Richt on Meyer and has a stomping incident after their first touchdown or field goal or first down.
Third Down – Alabama more physical than last year?
Last week Mark Ingram ran over, around and through the entire Virginia Tech defense on his way to an SEC Offensive Player of the Week award in some publications, but this week the Crimson Tide took another physical back out of their stable and Trent Richardson ran just as hard and strong as Ingram did the week before. Richardson is a 220 lb bruiser for a true freshman and combined with the 215 lb Ingram it makes for a nasty pair. The popular phrase for running backs is the thunder and lightning or smash and dash because usually there is the power back and the scat back. Alabama has smash and smash or thunder and thunder because these two young men don’t need to shake, they run right through defenders.
The Offensive line is not as talented as last years group, but the running backs look better and the offense looks physical and nasty. Ingram is fifth in the SEC in rushing right now at 103 yards per game and Richardson will only get better the more reps he gets in actual games. This team rushed for 268 yards against a Virginia Tech defense and the physical play of the running backs is going to be hard for SEC defenses to contend with. Greg McElroy has the defense and running game to get back to Atlanta, all he has to do is manage the offense.
Fourth Down – Stephen Garcia is getting better
No one wants to hear about moral victories after a tough loss and this is not a moral victory, it is a fact. Stephen Garcia is turning into a good SEC quarterback and will only get better with time. In a hostile environment Garcia accounted for 355 total yards passing and rushing, it could have been more if it wasn’t for a number of penalties that called huge plays back. He is running less, but when he does use his feet it has been for big plays and he hasn’t been forcing the ball as much as he was last year.
He seems to throw the ball very well on the move and he looks less like a gunslinger than he has in the past. His comfort in the Steve Spurrier offense is growing and he was a tipped pass away from pulling off one of the greatest drives in South Carolina football history. The South Carolina offense is going to grow under Garcia this year, the young receivers are making plays, they have a dependable tight end in Wesley Saunders and the offensive line is improving. For South Carolina to be successful it starts and ends with Garcia and Gamecock fans should be happy with what he has done so far.
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me Brian Harbach