The results from last week have lit up the internet, talk radio and message boards so far this week with calls for dismissals, doomsday scenarios and position battles. Following a wild week six, here are three story lines to keep an eye on during week seven in the SEC:
On The Decline?
A lot has been made about the state of the Georgia Bulldog football program, following their 45-19 shellacking by the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville last weekend. Rightfully so. It takes a lot of work to make Jonathan Crompton look like Peyton Manning. This week, calls for defensive coordinator Willie Martinez's job have been joined by calls for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and even head coach Mark Richt.
Easy Bulldog fans. Drop the ax and take a deep breath.
Georgia is not on the decline. They've hit a speed bump, no doubt. But, at least at this point, it's nothing more than that. Firing Mark Richt is not the answer, no matter what Paul Finebaum says.
What hurt the Bulldogs the most is the departure of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno for the NFL Draft. If only one of those guys would have stayed, the offense would be much more consistent. Fifth-year senior QB Joe Cox has been erratic at best for the Dogs this season, and there's been no running game to speak of out of Richard Samuel, Caleb King and Washaun Ealey. Teams are allowed to rebuild, and sometimes that road is a bit rocky, especially if you have unexpected departures. No need to sound the alarm on the offensive side of the ball yet.
However, on defense, it's a different story. Since Willie Martinez took over the Bulldog defense in 2005, Georgia's defense has been on a steady decline. They gave up an average of 14.6 points per game in 2005, 17.1 in 2006, 21.0 in 2007 and 27.8 in 2008. In 2008, Georgia, the pre-season No. 1 team in the nation, saw their defense get taken behind the woodshed in their three biggest games of the year, giving up 41, 49 and 45 points to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech respectively. At that point, the calls for Martinez's departure grew to a dull roar. In 2009, they are last in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 30.7 points per game. Enough is enough. It's time for Martinez to go.
There seems to be a growing perception that Mark Richt is too loyal to his assistants, and that he's unwilling to make that move. Loyalty to long-time coordinators created the atmosphere that led to the end of the Tommy Tuberville era in Auburn. Mark Richt should take note, and do what he has to do to avoid a similar situation taking place in Athens.
Junior QB Will Fidler and true freshman Morgan Newton are in a battle this week to take the snaps as Kentucky's new starting quarterback, as the Wildcats go on the road to take on Auburn. The two are in competition to take the spot formerly occupied by Mike Harltine, who tore his MCL, PCL and cartilage in his left knee knee early in the third quarter in last weeks loss to South Carolina. Hartline is out indefinitely.
Fidler entered the game following Harltine's injury, finishing the day 2-of-8 for 16 yards. The Henderson, Ky., native is 5-of-13 in limited action this season. Newton, a Parade All-American last year at Carmel (Ind.) High School, has not played this season. But, Wildcat head coach Rich Brooks has said that he is willing to take the red shirt off of Newton if he wins the job this week.
Another potential option would be QB-turned-WR Randall Cobb. Cobb came to Kentucky as a QB, and started four games at the position last season. This year, the sophomore has emerged as the Wildcats' top playmaker as a WR/Wildcat QB, catching 23 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 130 yards and two touchdowns in five games.
It's the right move for Brooks to let Cobb continue his role and let the untested QB's battle it out. He's already lost Hartline, who is one of his key contributors on offense. Moving Cobb away from his comfort zone at WR/Wildcat QB would do even more harm to the Wildcat offense. Letting Cobb continue to grow and putting the faith in the QB of the future is the right thing to do for the future of the Kentucky football program.
SEC Rematch in Pasadena
After Alabama and Florida both passed road tests against ranked opponents this weekend, a question has been peppering my inbox and discussed on message boards and the airwaves that needs to be addressed. “If Alabama and Florida go undefeated, and the SEC Championship Game is a classic, could there be a rematch in the BCS Championship Game?”
Slow down folks. That's a bit premature. After all, both teams have half the season remaining before they even think about Atlanta, much less Pasadena. But, for the sake of discussion, I'll address the hypothetical situation.
There's little doubt that Alabama and Florida are the two best teams in college football. With all due respect to Texas, elite teams don't get tested by Colorado. They just don't. With that said, Texas absolutely has to lose for an SEC Championship Game rematch to even be considered. If that is the case, then an SEC rematch may be more likely than any other scenario. That would be a travesty.
There's no way that Florida and Alabama should meet again in the BCS Championship Game. It would be completely unfair to the winner of the SEC Championship Game to force them to beat the second-best team in the nation twice in order to win the crystal football, while the loser only has to win once. Even though they may very well be the two best teams in the country, that movie will be written in Atlanta. A sequel in So Cal would be a box office bust.
If not an SEC rematch, who gets that shot? USC? No. The loss to Washington is inexcusable. Texas? Maybe. That would depend on who they lose to and how they look doing it. Where it could get really interesting is if the debate for No. 2 is between Virginia Tech and Alabama or Boise State and Oregon. If that's the debate, then an SEC rematch may be justifiable considering the Crimson Tide beat the Hokies straight up, and Boise State in the BCS Title Game would be beyond laughable.
Who would have thought back in 2004, when Auburn was robbed of a National Championship Game appearance, that SEC dominance could make this already ridiculous system look even more absurd. Hopefully (or maybe not if you're a fan of BCS madness), the situation works itself out; because an SEC rematch, even if it's between the two best teams in the nation,would be incredibly unfair to the SEC Champion.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BSallee_CFN
Three & Out Archive:
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - October 14, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - October 11, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - October 7, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - October 4, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 30, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 27, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 23, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 21, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 17, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 13, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 10, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 7, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes - September 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 3 – July 24, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 2 – July 23, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Media Days, Day 1 – July 22, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 16, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 12, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 9, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – April 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 30, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 26, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 18, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 15, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 11, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 7, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 3, 2009
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – February 28, 2009
Click here for the 2009 blog archive
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