Just a little side note: WTF is wrong with y'all all of a sudden? Kicking??? You're creating all this fuss about kicking? Get a grip. For crying out loud. First it was officiating, and now kicking. Y'all are thisclose to losing your football cards for the rest of the season. Don't make us.
3 SEC QUESTIONS THAT NAG MORE THAN YOUR EX
(i) What was the best performance from last weekend (Team or Player)?
We're not even fooling around with our usual format here. Simply put, this was the best performance we've seen in the first half. Absolutely dominating. Alabama's Mark Ingram is single-handedly carrying this Tide offense. He makes Greg McElroy look good, and Mac's struggled against every decent D he's faced. He makes his offensive line look better, as many of his yards come after contact. He averaged 10 yards per carry on 24 carries, and did it against a punishing defense. But it was more than that – more even than how badly his team needed his dominating running style on an evening when the offense couldn't shoot straight. Ingram was spent by that fourth quarter – physically and emotionally. Yet that's exactly when this team needed him most, and called on him most… Ingram got seven of his team's nine fourth quarter plays, and the game's only offensive TD (second game in a row). Clutch. Truly clutch performance, Mister Ingram.
The stand out performance of the weekend was Alabama running back Mark Ingram, who rushed for 246 yards on 24 carries against a very good South Carolina defense. Ingram is having an All-American season after seven games; so much so that the question now centers around if he's worthy of a Heisman trophy? In a normal season, this seems to have become a QB award. However, with all three of the QB favorites playing themselves out of contention, Ingram has moved to the front of the race. Yet there are two factors that will hurt Ingram when it comes down to winning the award: first, the fact he's a running back, and second, that he's just a sophomore. Only one true sophomore has won the award: Tim Tebow. And Ingram is not Tim Tebow. It is an unfair precedent, but I think it will be enough to hold him back from collecting the hardware. Right now I would be shocked if he wasn't at the ceremony, but given history, it is unlikely he will end up winning. Still, what a leap forward in just seven weeks.
(ii) What does the Arkansas/Florida game mean for the rest of the season?
Full disclosure – we picked Arkansas to beat Florida straight up, and even we desperately need everyone to stop talking about the refs. Stop it, or move to California and start supporting the Pac 10. Yes, that crew absolutely, if unintentionally, gave Florida every chance to hang around and win that game. And if you're not going to suspend that unit for several egregious calls, then who are you going to suspend? Also, don't be lazy – this game had nothing to do with Florida's four TOs, off which Arkansas only mustered 7 points. And Brandon Spikes absence wasn't as important to his team as the no-show performance of Hog RB Michael Smith. Florida didn't win this game, Arkansas lost it. The Hogs left nearly 20 points on the Ben Hill Griffin turf, in missed FGs and dropped / overthrown end zone passes. Ryan Mallett performed exactly as you'd expect a young, inexperienced (if talented) QB to play – sporadic at best.
What does this mean for the rest of the season? Nothing. You're high if you think Tim Tebow is healthy. At best, he's "running" at 75%. And without him, his team is struggling with its identity. Defense included. Talking heads out there (particularly those trying to hype up their billion dollar investment) will tell you how great Bama has played, and how great Bama's defense is, and how Florida has now lost its veil of invincibility. Right… you keep telling yourself that. BOTTOM LINE: The SEC Championship is coming down to Florida v. Alabama, and the Tide's young, inexperienced QB Greg McElroy (See "Mallett, Ryan" above) has struggled against every D he's played that's had a pulse. And Florida's D has more than a pulse. We'll take a reasonably healthy Tebow against that ‘bama D, over a completely healthy McElroy facing off against Florida. All the more so on a neutral field. We recognize this isn't sexy, and we're sorry, but no one has ever accused us of being sexy. Just right.
We wanted to focus on the fact that Florida is looking more and more beatable each week, but the biggest story coming out of this game was Mike Slive Hoculi-ing (that's right, I just created a new word) the officiating crew from the already infamous UGA/LSU game, and the newly infamous AK/UF game. Word coming down Wednesday night that the entire officiating crew has been suspended will send shock waves through the rest of the SEC, though it doesn't necessarily mean this is a good thing for SEC teams going forward. It is understandable that Slive wanted to make a point, but while the suspension is warranted, it is a bad thing for the conference.
This suspension is going to make those officials left standing gun shy, and a lot of them will think twice about throwing the flag, particularly on personal fouls. This will also cause issues with holding and pass interference calls - or any interpretation penalties. Sack numbers are about to plummet, and it just got easier to be a DB in the SEC. I expect this hesitation will create even worse officiating throughout the rest of the season, and at the outside, potentially make play more dangerous for players. This suspension is not going to end the SEC's officiating problems. Were I Slive, I would not have suspended the crew for a short period. I would have waited until the end of the season and then made a decision on their individual futures. There may not be a perfect answer here, but to shield the rest of the refs, and the rest of our games, Slive should have waited. I want to be wrong with this one, but I expect SEC officiating will get worse for the rest of the season because of the Arkansas/Florida game.
(iii) What every SEC fan should be talking about after Week Seven, but isn't?
Well, that leaves out any and all things tape, SEC officiating, and the Swine Flu (threw that in there as a PSA; wash your hands after reading this column), (i) Amazing. It's amazing how quiet my inbox has gotten after that putrid performance chucked up by Greg McElroy. 0-3 against the tough D's he's faced this year. Take Two: This is why Florida will beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game: we'll take a reasonably healthy Tebow playing against a slightly better ‘bama D, over Greg ChokElroy facing that tough Florida defense, (ii) While we're on it – what's wrong with ‘bama's offense? Two TDs in two games? (QB!) That's not gonna cut it against Florida, boys. Best not be relying too heavily on that great defense, (iii) Speaking of the Gators, anyone watching CFB with half a memory can tell you just how badly the boys in the Swamp are missing Harvin and Murphy's receiving (and running) talents. But how about their blocking? Murphy was an underrated blocker on the wing, and anyone that's forgotten only needed to watch the clinic Mr. Murphy put on last Sunday in the Raiders win over the Eagles. Good blocking receivers are perhaps the most underrated aspect of college football, (iv) Kentucky: zero penalties + zero turnovers = Big Road W in Auburn, (v) There is no way Tim Terrific is back to 100%; not even close. Lace ‘em up! (vi) Another ‘don't kid yourself' – Brandon Spikes was injured in the LSU game, not the Arkansas game. Urban and crew just played shush shush. No way! Not Urban, and his Army of 1%?! Are you sure? (vii) Is it just us, or is Meyer starting to look/sound more and more like this guy, (viii) Arkansas leads the conference in Tackles for Loss – just ask Eddie, (ix) Florida and Alabama lead the conference in every favorable statistical category other than Tackles for Loss, Passing Offense (Arkansas), Kickoff Returns (Arkansas), TO Margin (LSU) and Net Punting (UGA). Well, at least the Dawgs are winning at something, and (x) This pretty much sums up LSU's poor line play: The Tigers are 107th in the nation in Sacks Allowed (@ 3 per game), and nearly last in Sacks (114th). You can't spell "Weak Line Play" without LSU.
It is pretty amazing how much one player can totally change a college football team, and the Florida Gators are the perfect example of this. When Percy Harvin left for the NFL, most every fan and media member expected the Florida offense to keep on clicking like it had the previous three seasons with Tebow, but it hasn't. Tim has been good, but he hasn't been the Superman every SEC fan expected. One less player has turned the best offense in the SEC into a mediocre group that can be roughed up by Arkansas. Yes, the Razorbacks are improving, but two weeks ago it was arguably the worst defense in the SEC.
Harvin being in the NFL has warped everything that Florida likes to do on offense, and the injury to freshmen phenom Andre Dubose left the Gators with no other slash player to fit his role. It is pretty amazing how important Harvin is, but Florida is still unbeaten. Think about how the Gators will be next year when the greatest player in College Football history is in the NFL, and they have to replace HIM (is that Kiffin I hear chirping?). Keep in mind that even with the loss of Harvin, Florida is still in great shape to win another SEC and BCS Championship, but they are not close to the same team with Percy in Minnesota.
IN FOCUS: Which SEC Coach / Player is in the Spotlight this week?
Jordan Jefferson, LSU QB. 89. 105. 112. No, those aren't the measurements of some catastrophically obese playmate, though it's just as ugly. That's where the LSU Tigers are ranked nationally in Rushing Offense, Passing Offense and Total Offense, respectively. Way ugly. So, you're expecting to see Les and crew take the gloves off and let Jefferson spread his wings this weekend. Really? Take a step back for a second… This is it, folks – Miles isn't switching QBs next year. If LSU does, it'll be Russell Shepard, which would make THREE CONSECUTIVE YEARS that LSU has started a season with an inexperienced 19 year old under center. They tar and feather people for less in Red Stick. As such, the Tiger brain trust have clearly decided to bring Jefferson along slowly. It's painfully obvious he's been instructed to take a sack unless his receivers are wide open (in part hurting the O-line's #s), and to consider the short pass above all else. As a result, opposing defenses continue to stack the box and smoother the run; expect to see 7-9 Auburn Tigers near the line all night Saturday. Given the political fallout if the Bayou Bengals have to go with Shepard at QB next year, we don't expect Miles and OC Gary Crowton will change much – they'll continue to protect Jefferson with conservative play calling. As such, you can expect to see a tighter game than most predict. Jefferson must connect on what few 12 yard plus passing attempts he's given, or Auburn will stack 11 on the line, and make LSU virtually one dimensional. If that happens, LSU could easily lose this game.
Chris Todd, Auburn QB. One of the best stories through the month of September was Todd's success in Gus Malzahn's offense. However, the last two weeks, both Auburn losses, have been a nightmare. Auburn fan's are questioning his health, and the 2009 Tigers have looked a lot like the 2008 version. Todd was great on the road in Knoxville, horrible in Fayetteville, and his third road trip in Baton Rouge will be his toughest test of the season. If he continues to miss open receivers and be inconsistent with his throws, Auburn will be blown out of Death Valley. If he plays like he did back in September, Auburn has a chance to upset LSU. The Auburn signal caller will be the biggest reason for an Auburn win or loss in Death Valley.
SEC POWER RANKINGS
1 Florida – Tebow outplays McElroy; that's all you need to know
2 Alabama – O's going to have to do better than that
3 LSU – Don't expect the reins to come of Mr. Jefferson
3 Arkansas – What kind of character does this team have? We'll see in Oxford
3 South Carolina (up from 3) – UK win looks better; loss to UGA, not so much
3 Auburn (down from 3) –Still think they're better than Ole Miss, but sliding…
7 Ole Miss – Anyone's got Nutt's cell #? Want to send him a text.
8 Tennessee – Still better than Georgia
9 Kentucky (up from 10) – Now do it again
10 Georgia (down from 9) – Nod to B. Sallee, take Bye week/points over UGA
11 MSU – Will cover the spread
12 Vanderbilt – There's always life after football
1 Alabama (up from 2) – "Sure we cheat on FGs, but so does everyone else"
2 Florida (down from 1) – One player (Harvin) a team makes
3 LSU – Will they let Jefferson loose against the porous Auburn defense?
4 Arkansas (up from 5) – Is everyone seeing this D improvement?
5 South Carolina (up from 6) – T-minus 1 week from the SC late season collapse
6 Ole Miss (up from 8) – Do they have one quality win yet this season?
7 Auburn (down from 4) – Lack of depth becoming more obvious each week
8 Tennessee (down from 7) – Has Kiffin taken any public shots at Nick Saban yet
9 Georgia (down from 5) – Vandy points don't count; this team is in trouble
10 MSU – MTSU in October? Who's making that schedule?
11 Kentucky – Glad to see UK take advantage of the Auburn mistakes; great road win
12 Vanderbilt – Think of it this way: just 23 years 'til your next bowl
THREE GAMES TO DVR
1) Auburn at LSU, October 24th. The kid gloves are staying on for Jordan Jefferson (read "SPOTLIGHT" above). As such, this game will be closer than it should. If a fifth year senior Ryan Perrilloux were under center for the Tigers, this would be a massacre. As it is, it'll be a nail bitter, and the difference will be TOs; LSU leads the SEC in takeaways, and is tied for 9th in the nation. The Bayou Bengal defense will make just one more play than their Tiger cousins from the East, stopping AU on their final drive to preserve the home win…
LSU 24, Auburn 21
2) Arkansas at Ole Miss, October 24th. It's a young team, with sophomores making plays all over the field. Dennis Johnson did a great job filling in at TB for Smith last week. And the Arkansas defense has come out of nowhere. It's hard to call this a grudge match anymore, as both parties are better off. Nutt has had two weeks to game plan for his old team. Won't be enough...
Arkansas 28, Ole Miss 21
3) Tennessee at Alabama, October 24th. (Brian, how do you make this blowout the #2 game?) What's "in" a name? Quite a lot when the name in question is Ingram. Expect to see the talented Tide tailback in the end zone more than once this weekend. In fact, expect to see at least one of his back-ups in there as well. And McElroy will mop up, and my inbox will be flooded with "Joe Namath, The Sequel" emails. Lol...
Alabama 31, Tennessee 0
Record 13-8 (RM Note: Did I even lose 8 all of last year? Special shout out to Arkansas/Auburn.)
1) Auburn at LSU, October 24th. Russ convinced me that this game is going to be competitive, and believe me it took him some work to do so. The last five years this game has been hands down the most exciting game of the SEC season. After two weeks of Auburn disasters and the LSU offense looking pretty inept, it is hard to get excited about this one, but the rivalry is huge and the players love this game. Wes Byrum misses a game winning field goal ala John Vaughn in 2005, as LSU hangs on to a win.
LSU 31, Auburn 29
2) Tennessee at Alabama, October 24th. It is hard to see what Lane Kiffin can do in two weeks to get his team ready for what could very well be the best team in the country. Throw in the fact that Alabama is at home. Oh yeah, they hate Tennessee. Expect Jonathon Crompton circa games 1-5 to show up this week, and Alabama cruises to a victory over the Vols.
Alabama 31, Tennessee 9
3) Arkansas at Ole Miss, October 24th. It seems like Houston Nutt has been baring the brunt of a lot of criticism just because he is doing what he always does. Nutt takes expectations and laughs at them while he underachieves, and Razorback fans now laugh. Bobby Petrino seems to have found a defense in the last two weeks, and Jevan Snead still hasn't been impressive. Now he is the second best QB on the field. Ryan Mallett will outshine him, and Arkansas will get revenge on their old coach.
Arkansas 28, Ole Miss 17
Yell at Brian: Brian Harbach
Yell at Russ: Russ Mitchell
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Seven, October 15, 2009
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Six, October 8, 2009
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Five, October 1, 2009
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Four, September 24, 2009
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Three, September 17, 2009
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Two, September 10, 2009
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week One, September 3, 2009