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. This week we take a look at the Gators stepping up, LSU stepping back, bad defense for Georgia and Auburn and the now dangerous Tennessee passing game. (On a personal note, next week the Bachstory will be out Tuesday next week instead of Monday)
The Weekend That Was
One thing we all learned Saturday night in Death Valley was how much Tim Tebow means to Florida and how well the players responded to their leader being hurt. The bottom line was that Tebow was not Tebow, but the rest of the Gators had to step up with Superman hurt and they had no problem doing that. Brandon Spikes has had a number of great games in his career and this week may have been the best with 11 tackles and 2.5 sacks against LSU, he helped lead the defense that held the LSU offense in check all game long.
The most impressive part of the Florida game plan was how Urban Meyer used a dive play to keep LSU confused and keep the threat of a Tebow run in the back of every Tiger defenders head. The running game kept the ball in the Gators hands for over 36 minutes and that allowed Florida to control the tempo of the game and limit LSU's potential for big plays. LSU gained only 162 total yards of offense and while the final score looked close, Florida was never in any danger of losing the game. LSU couldn't run, they couldn't throw, they couldn't convert third downs and they couldn't stop the Gator rushing attack. Getting Tebow back on track the next couple weeks will be huge in order to prepare him for the SEC Championship game because from looking at the SEC East, there isn't a threat in the division.
The Weekend That Wasn't
Midway through the season my expectations for the LSU offense and Quarterback Jordan Jefferson were a lot higher than the Fighting Tigers delivered Saturday night. A lot of that did have to do with the Florida defense, but it doesn't look like Jefferson is ready to take LSU to an SEC Championship game this year and the coaches don't seem to have the faith in him to do that either. The most surprising part of the LSU game plan was that it was exactly like the Florida game plan. Florida tried to have Tebow manage the game and let the talent around him make the plays and LSU did the same thing with Jefferson. The young LSU signal caller did not seem to be given the chance to make a play and the play calling was so conservative you would have thought LSU was the favorite and defending national champions, not the Gators.
Les Miles coaches the least Les Miles like game in his career, sure he went for it on fourth downs, but he didn't take chances, he didn't take risks and he played not to lose the game and never tried to win it. What I heard over and over from Gary Danielson was that he thought LSU was trying to protect Jordan Jefferson from making mistakes and what they got instead was a QB who never got a chance to make a play. The game was a one score game for most of the second half but it felt worse. It felt as if Florida had a three touchdown lead with the lack of urgency LSU played with. I don't know if Jefferson needs to be protected because he isn't ready for that stage because he never got the chance to show what he can do. At some point this season in the big games LSU has left he is going to have to be given the chance to do something or this year will look a lot like 2008 to LSU fans.
The Weekend That…What the Heck
We are going to play a quick guessing game to start off this section; some of you will know the answer right off the bat but don't spoil it for everyone else by shouting it out. I am going to list a stat line and you have to try and guess the player. This player completed nearly 70% of his passes (20 of 27) for 310 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Obviously it is a quarterback so go through the teams and think…McElroy has looked good, but Alabama only scored 22 points so it can't be him. Ryan Mallett must have had a big day, but he ran for a score against Auburn and Harbach would have mentioned that in the stat line above.
You could probably think for another 5 minutes and then give up, but the answer is Jonathon Crompton. Yes, Tennessee's Jonathon Crompton. No, seriously, I am not making this up. Tennessee played Georgia this weekend…ok, I guess I don't have to explain any further after mentioning UGA was involved, but give Crompton some credit for having the game of his career and at home. Last week I was in Knoxville and the fans were ruthless to him and the receivers. It was nice that finally when his career at Tennessee is over fans will look back fondly at one game where he was a hero and not a goat.
The Weekend That Will Be
It seems like a pretty quiet week seven in the SEC with the only big game between Alabama and South Carolina. It is the only match up of ranked opponents and the rest of the SEC slate is pretty pedestrian after a weekend of huge games. Kentucky travels to Auburn, Arkansas travels to Florida, Ole Miss adds to its gangbuster schedule with an OOC game against UAB and Georgia plays their second straight week in the state of Tennessee traveling to Vanderbilt. The most surprising game of the week is MSU playing at Middle Tennessee State.
Who the heck is scheduling the games for Mississippi State? How do you end up playing at Middle Tennessee State in the middle of the season or at any point in the season for that matter? I understand Ole Miss playing at Memphis because of the rivalry thing, but how MSU ends up on the road against a Sun Belt team is shocking. This seems to happen every year to them and I don't get it. Figure it out MSU athletic department, this is not a good thing for fans or the team regardless if you win or lose.
Big Man on Campus (BMOC)
The numbers were mentioned above, but how often is this kid going to get this kind of recognition again? He is a fifth year senior and he had the game of his career against a huge rival. Good for Kiffin sticking with him, good for Crompton for keeping his head in the game after the fans and his teammates seemingly had given up on him and good for Tennessee for showing some life and avoiding what could have been an ugly October. With two weeks to prepare for the best team on their schedule, Alabama, Crompton needed a game like this to get him through that game and the rest of the season. You hate to see a player struggle as badly as he has at Tennessee but it makes games like this that much more special.
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).
Gary Crowton, LSU Offensive Coordinator
As mentioned above LSU coached the offense this week not to lose the game instead of trying to win. Crowton and Les Miles were too cautious in their play calling and no matter how limited Jordan Jefferson may have been, they had to turn him lose at some point against Florida. There are a lot of big games left on the LSU schedule and they still can control their own destiny in the West since the only SEC loss they have is an SEC East loss. I am not sure if they can beat some of the better teams in the SEC West if they don't give Jefferson a chance to show us what he's got.
4 Downs with the SEC
First Down – Really Bad Defense
Two of the worst defensive performances of the year were put on this week by Auburn and Georgia, but the two teams are in very different places defensively and they have two different sets of problems. Starting with Auburn, the Tiger defense just doesn't have the players or the depth to keep up with good SEC offenses and unless they play a perfect game on offense each week, the 21 point blowout by Arkansas will happen again this season. The Tigers brought 4 linebackers to Fayetteville; the LB position has been a struggle since the spring and will continue to be a problem all year.
Because the Tigers have very little depth, players are being asked to do things they normally would not do and play above their capabilities. Could they be tackling better, of course they could. Could the coaches be more aggressive on defense and blitz more, yes they could. But they will have to win with a bend don't break strategy in order to stay in the game, but that won't work every week and it didn't work against the Razorbacks.
The Georgia situation is an entirely different story with the Bulldogs playing with one of the most talented teams in the nation and there is no excuse for play this poor at any position on the field let alone an entire defense. Willie Martinez has been a coaching liability for years and Richt refuses to make a change. Frankly I don't think Richt will be the one to make a change after this year. If I was a betting man I would bet that Martinez has enough respect for Richt to take another job at the end of the season at a different school similar to what Neil Callaway did when he went to UAB.
The bottom line is that with the amount of talent UGA brings in every year there is no excuse to be giving up the points they have in any season. The Volunteer loss was the third time this season that UGA has given up 37 or more points in a SEC game. This kind of defensive meltdown has been common place for Georgia under Richt's tenure, but it has never been as consistent as it is this season. Richt is too much of a stand up guy to fire or demote Martinez mid-season, but it will be interesting to see if he is let go after the season or if he is encouraged to find other employment. No matter what Richt does publicly or behind closed doors, Martinez will not be on the UGA sidelines in 2010.
Second Down – South Carolina is nothing if not consistent early
South Carolina fans are aware of the fast start trend that Steve Spurrier has had during his time in Columbia. The Gamecocks always seem to hit the ground running in September and early October only to fall apart in late October and November. The Ole Miss win was a big one because Spurrier has not won those kinds of games at South Carolina, but we are getting to the point where the Gamecocks have begun to fall apart year after year. It is not fair to blame Spurrier for a loss at Alabama this week, there may not be a team in the country right now that can win that game next week but two weeks from now will be very telling to the Gamecock season.
A home game with Vandy is one that South Carolina should put away with no problems even though they have lost the last two to the Commodores, but road games at Tennessee and Arkansas are the ones to watch. Those two games will be the difference between a 6-7 win season and an 8-9 win season for South Carolina and frankly they need to win both of those games. Ole Miss was the first step forward, but in my eyes there are four games that South Carolina has to win this year to be able to get excited about the future. Steps 2-4 are in order, at Tennessee, at Arkansas and home against Clemson. Carolina should win each of those three games and there is no excuse not to win them. If Gamecock fans want to say wait till next year and actually feel good about it, they have to win those three games.
Third Down – What is wrong with Jevan Snead?
Everyone has heard of a sophomore slump, but I am not sure what we can call the way Jevan Snead is playing this year. How about the Red-Shirt Junior Rustiness, sure that isn't very good, but it isn't worse than Snead has been playing this year. He is completing less than 50% of his passes (46.8%) and he has 9 interceptions already which according to ESPN.com puts him on pace to throw 22 picks this season. He has no confidence in the players he is throwing the ball to and most of his picks this year have been due to deflections or tips by the receivers.
What is on him was that pick late in the Alabama game that Kareem Jackson jumped the route and ran about 70 yards with. Snead is staring down receivers and he doesn't look anything like the player we saw a year ago. If he doesn't start to play better it is hard to see Ole Miss being any better than 6-6 and in serious danger of not making a bowl game. Remember, they play 2 FCS teams this year so they need 7 wins in order to play in a bowl this season, just like Clemson a year ago.
Fourth Down – The Razorbacks Defense Wakes Up
The Auburn offense has been tough for every team they have faced this year to stop and the team that finally manned up and knocked them back was the SEC's worst defense, the Arkansas Razorbacks. Bobby Petrino called this weekend's game against the Tigers a must win and the team got the message by holding the vaunted Auburn offense to season lows in points (23) and total yards (375). Most importantly the Razorbacks were able to get pressure on Chris Todd and with Todd unable to make plays downfield he was sacked more times Saturday than he had been in five previous games. Could this be the turning point for a defense that has struggled for two years under Petrino and finally not be the reason Arkansas has been held back. This weekend will be tough since Arkansas is traveling to Florida, but the rest of the schedule is winnable and the defense has to continue to play well for Arkansas to make a statement in year two of the Petrino era.
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