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 four had some pretty great moments and in this column we take a look players playing when they don't have to, Houston Nutt being Houston Nutt, Ryan Mallett struggling and more.
The Weekend That Was
South Carolina fans owe a big thank you letter to two people after their big win Thursday night against Ole Miss; the first letter should go to Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson. No explanation needed on that one, Johnson did a masterful job keeping a dangerous Ole Miss offense in check. The second letter should be mailed to Rebel Athletic Director Pete Boone for putting his team in the worst possible position to win that game (more on this below). That second letter was not meant as a back-handed compliment towards South Carolina because they went out and played stellar defense for 60 minutes and it seems that is the only way they are going to win games this year because the offense is no help at all.
The Ole Miss defense should have felt great about giving up 16 points and holding the Carolina offense without a first down for the last 23 minutes of the game, but the Gamecock defense was just too good. Eric Norwood is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the SEC for a number of reasons starting with the fact that he came back for his senior year. I have a soft spot for kids who turn down guaranteed cash and risk injury to play a sport where any play could be your last. He is NCAA Football's version of Tyler Hansborough…is he a defensive end, is he a linebacker, will he be a great pro? It really doesn't matter what he is next because right now he is the best defensive player in the SEC. The kid plays with heart and if any team in the country had 22 players like him they would win a National Championship every year. I guess that is what makes him so special.
The Weekend That Wasn't
Speaking of the aforementioned Pete Boone, it is time for my LAML (Look at me
moment of the day when I take credit for calling a South Carolina upset back in early August and actually before that but I just can't prove it. Mr. Boone is directly responsible for this loss because he did not challenge Ole Miss once with one decent game to start this season. Of course the coaches and players take the blame for the loss, but the Boone scheduled the worst slate of games for any SEC opponent in years, maybe decades. The OOC games are an absolute joke and it gave Ole Miss no chance to gage how good or bad a football team they really are. Even Jesse Palmer during the ESPN telecast was questioning the schedule where the Rebels open on a Sunday, get a week off, play Western Sisters of the Poor University and then open up with their first real test on the road for a Thursday night game. This is not the only reason they lost in Columbia, but I guarantee if they had one decent game in the first three weeks of the season Ole Miss walks out of that stadium with a win.
Hoddy Toddy Gosh O Mighty that was an embarrassing performance for the number four ranked team in the country, actually it was an embarrassing performance for any team in the SEC. Jevan Snead looked more like Brent Schaeffer than he did either one of the Manning's (that's right Ole Miss fans, I just busted out a Brent Schaeffer reference). Snead completed 7 of 21 passes for 107 yards and a score, those are not first round draft picks numbers and the national view of the Rebel QB and program is in shambles. It is amazing they are still ranked right now because it isn't like their two wins were against world-beaters. Watch out Rebel fans, with Vandy this weekend you better hope your boys aren't looking ahead to that big match up with Alabama because the Commodore/Rebel rivalry is serious. You know it, I know it and Houston Nutt knows it so you better be sharp this week or 0-3 in the SEC will be staring you in the face.
The Weekend That…What the Heck
It makes sense that SEC coaches want their best players on the field in key moments, but can someone explain to me why Tim Tebow, Chris Todd and Greg McElroy are playing late in games that are well in hand and risking injury? The Tebow concussion should be shown to coaches in the league, to make them aware how quickly your best player could be hurt. How pointless it is to have quarterbacks taking snaps when they are up 35 – 7 in the fourth quarter (Nick Saban) or up 47 – 17 in the third quarter (Gene Chizik) or in the game at all when you play the University of Kentucky (Urban Meyer).
Obviously Meyer is pushing Tebow for a Heisman and he just flat out likes running up the score on any opponent he can. Chizik has a new QB who needs all the reps he can get and the same goes for McElroy, but all three of those teams are in game 4 of the season. Just work them harder in practice, in the film room and on the sidelines. Don't risk your season going up in flames by playing the starting QB in a situation where they aren't needed.
The Weekend That Will Be
Wow, we are already into the fifth week of the season and this Saturday will be October and that is when the real SEC slate starts to pick up. The headliner of this weekend is the LSU/Georgia game-taking place in Athens but another intriguing match up will be in Knoxville between Auburn and Tennessee. On a personal note, I will be covering the Auburn/Tennessee game in Knoxville this weekend and looking forward to it, please feel free to send any tips my way. The other two SEC games are Alabama visiting Kentucky and Ole Miss traveling away from Oxford for a second straight week to take on Vanderbilt. The OOC games have some fire behind them with Georgia Tech heading west to MSU and Arkansas battling Texas A&M at a neutral sit in Arlington, Texas.
Big Man on Campus (BMOC)
Greg McElroy, Alabama QB
Up 14-0 over Arkansas at half it seemed like Alabama had the game in hand, but a good opening drive to the second half brought the Crimson Tide lead down to 7 points with lots of time left in the game. The next play when Alabama got the ball McElroy tossed a dart to wide receiver Marquis Maze who was streaking down the sideline. The ball was either going to be an incomplete pass or a reception by Maze. Maze made a play on the ball and ran for the 80 yard score. McElroy had 291 passing yards and three touchdowns, it doesn't seem like he is just a manager of the game any longer, he looks like a playmaker at the QB position for Alabama.
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).
Jevan Snead, Ole Miss QB
The numbers were listed above but the bottom line was that Snead didn't play well enough to give Ole Miss any shot of winning the game. He completed 33% of his passes and while not taking anything away from the Ole Miss defense; he should have played a lot better. The offense looked off all night long and even on his one touchdown pass he knocked into his fullback and was off balance throwing the ball. A busted coverage saved him, but it was not a good night for the potential Heisman candidate. The good thing about the SEC is that he will get bigger games and more chances to prove himself on a national stage, but his first attempt was poor.
4 Downs with the SEC
First Down – Not the man I thought he was
Sitting down and watching an entire Arkansas game for the first time this year was something I was really excited about. I had seen the Mallett highlights against UGA and each pass looked accurate and on time, but after watching him play Alabama it is obvious that Mallett is a long way from becoming a great passer. As far as arm strength goes, he may have as strong if not a stronger arm than Matthew Stafford, but the piece that Mallett is missing is what made Stafford great…touch. Stafford could drop in a screen pass or a short curl to a receiver with just enough on it to make it through the defense, but with enough zip to hit the receiver in stride. Mallett seems to have one gear and that gear is full speed.
He is widely inaccurate when throwing short passes and he zings every single ball as if someone is tracking him with a radar detector. The only time he has any arc on his passes is when he is chucking it 40 yards down field for a receiver to run under. It could be because of his size and wind up that makes every pass look like a fastball, but as the game went on I kept watching the receivers drop ball after ball and I thought they were the problem. Some of it was their fault, but those passes were too tough to catch and thrown too hard. Not every pass is going to be a 50 yard bomb and Petrino has to work Mallett to improve on those short and intermediate throws because his receivers don't have a chance to catch them the way they are coming out of his cannon.
Second Down – Exactly the man I thought he was
The state of Arkansas was smiling last Thursday before karma punched them in the kidney Saturday afternoon, but after the Ole Miss loss the Razorback fans were thinking "I know how this story ends." Once again Houston Nutt was Houston Nutt. He had a highly ranked team that was supposed to be capable of winning big games and he came out with egg all over his face. The worst part is that right now the pollsters think so little of the South Carolina win over the #4 ranked Rebels that they are nowhere to be found in the top 25. As an underdog Nutt would rival Tommy Tuberville for the honor of most likely coach to win a game you have absolutely no business winning, but like Auburn ex-coach, you never want these guys as a favorite.
I read a lot of columns last week that said they could not pick South Carolina to beat Ole Miss because Steve Spurrier hasn't won that kind of game while coaching in Columbia. Pretty funny words considering his counterpart at Ole Miss could have been described the exact same way. The difference is Spurrier is at a school that has underachieved for years but was successful in other places while Houston Nutt is a leopard who can't seem to change his spots. Until Nutt comes out as a favorite and wins a big game it is impossible to pick him to do so and Ole Miss fans will not get their desired trip to Atlanta. If Ole Miss somehow beats Alabama in two weeks that will have changed nothing, Nutt needs to win a game he should, not win a game he shouldn't.
Third Down – Who are these guys?
Three teams in the SEC are in need of serious explaining as to what kind of players they are going to be in the league this year. Auburn, Georgia and LSU seem to be teasing fans with the possibility of a good year, but it is mixed with head scratching moments and plays that scream the opposite. Starting with Auburn who looks to have a good offense, but the defense is so thin that the fewest points they have given up is 17 and each week it seems to get worse. The special teams are sloppy and at some point in a tight game a special teams gaff is going to cost them. Georgia comes out and lays and egg against Oklahoma State, gives up a million yards and a thousand points to South Carolina and Arkansas and then beat a bad Arizona State team on a last minute field goal.
The Bulldogs turn the ball over way too much, they give up too many yards on defense, but they have won three straight games against decent to good opponents. LSU has been daring teams to upset them since the season opener. They managed to win their latest game of Russian roulette with MSU after the Bulldogs had 4 goal-to-go chances with time running out to win the game. The last two attempts were on the one-yard line and they were able to spin the chamber again with it coming up empty. I am not convinced any of these three teams will finish in the top 25, but this weekend will go a long way to helping us find out. Auburn's first road trip is a game on paper they should win, but it isn't a sure thing and LSU meeting Georgia will help one of those programs feel better or maybe it will just bring up more questions.
Fourth Down – The risk of new coaches
I am curious to find out how MSU fans feel about their almost upset over LSU. On one hand you have to be happy with the effort the team put in, but on the other you have to question the coaching decisions at the end of the game. The play calling was panicked and frankly stupid. This is one of the risks that come with on the job training for new SEC coaches. Dan Mullen was going to get second-guessed no matter what he did if it failed. But with Anthony Dixon over 100 yards on the day, one of those last two plays had to be the big man up the middle. MSU fans should take this as a learning experience for a new coach who is getting a baptism by fire. There is huge difference between being the man calling the offensive plays and the man doing everything. We will see what he learned from this game the next time a situation comes up and how he calls the plays.
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