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 Alabama's championship moment, Chris Todd partying like its 2008, Dexter McCluster and Tim Tebow not really being the Heisman favorite.
The Weekend That Was
It seems every team on its way to a National Championship has one game that they should have never won, but that close call seems to re-focus them for the rest of the year. Some plays that come to mind are the Clint Stoerner fumble that Tennessee needed to beat Arkansas in 1998, the Matt Flynn TD pass to Demetrius Byrd in 2007 to beat Auburn with 1 second left on the clock and Saturday the Terrence Cody FG block to keep Alabama unbeaten could very well be that moment for the Crimson Tide. Alabama had no business winning that game against Tennessee and while the Vols did everything they could do to choke it away, great teams find ways to win and as mentioned before, every championship team has a moment like this.
With all the talent on the Alabama team, it is surprising how much Greg McElroy has regressed the last month against good SEC defenses. Two weeks ago Julio Jones goes without a reception and this week it seemed like McElroy was trying force the ball to Jones all game. The Tennessee defense is extremely underrated and they did an amazing job stopping Mark Ingram from taking over the game even though he ran for almost 100 yards. Ingram needs McElroy to be more effective if Alabama is going to win the SEC, Ingram can only do so much against the 8 men in the box he faced Saturday. This team has the talent to win a National Championship and they have had their fortunate moment so with a little more production from the QB position Alabama can be the most dangerous team in the SEC.
The Weekend That Wasn't
After a 5-0 start the Auburn Tigers were one of the biggest surprises of the SEC, but after three consecutive losses and Chris Todd beginning to look like the 2008 version, the wheels are about to fall off. The Kentucky loss was embarrassing, especially considering it was a home game, but the first quarter against LSU had nothing to do with the mess that Tommy Tuberville left the Tigers in. Auburn had 54 yards in penalties after the first two LSU drives and that has nothing to do with a lack of depth. Auburn continues to play undisciplined football and continues to play even worse on special teams. The Tigers have once again tried a new punt returner and the red shirt freshmen Philip Pierre-Louis muffed another punt that was recovered by LSU.
Defense and special teams have been a weakness all year, but the offensive problems are a recent issue and it begins with Chris Todd. Todd will remain the Auburn starter, which is going to be dangerous with a home game against Ole Miss that could turn ugly for Todd if he continues to struggle. Todd's arm strength looks similar to last season and his pocket presence has disappeared. He was sacked four times Saturday night and none of those were the fault of the offensive line. Auburn's downfall can be directly related to Todd who has not thrown a TD pass in 3 games and continues to be hesitant to throw the ball downfield. It is very likely that this is Todd's last chance to prove he can run the Auburn offense. With the homecoming game against Furman two weeks away, it would be good to get a backup some reps in a real game before Auburn travels to Athens and ends the year with a home game against Alabama.
The Weekend That…What the Heck
I am still not sure what to make out of Arkansas, they look so good defensively against Auburn and Florida, but forget how to tackle Dexter McCluster. Ryan Mallett is still learning how to put any sort of touch on his passes and the receivers have a serious problem dropping the ball. Mallett had passes go off receivers chests, hands and face masks. Every time it seemed like the receivers had turned a corner they went on another streak of dropping everything that came their way. Arkansas can win four out of their last five games with two OOC opponents and two home games against MSU and South Carolina. But with the inconsistency they have shown so far this season, it is hard to expect them to be competitive in the season finale at LSU. True of most young teams is their inconsistent play and that is something that Arkansas will struggle with for the rest of the year.
The Weekend That Will Be
There are games before the season that are easy to point to and get excited about, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail party is one that year in and year out is circled on most SEC calendars. Now that that game is almost here, it doesn't have nearly the luster it did in the pre-season. Georgia is not who we thought they were and neither is Florida, but regardless of how these teams have played, this is always one of the best SEC games of the year. After last year's beat down and Urban Meyer's inability to destroy Lane Kiffin, Mark Richt is in a dangerous position facing a good offense team with absolutely no defense. Some other games to highlight would be Ole Miss traveling to Auburn, South Carolina going to Knoxville for Spurrier's first match up against Lane Kiffin and MSU playing at Kentucky. There are a couple OOC games that are interesting, Georgia Tech play at Vandy, Tulane in Baton Rouge and Arkansas gets a visit from Eastern Michigan.
Big Man on Campus (BMOC)
Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss RB
Houston Nutt realized the game against Arkansas was a do or die game for his Rebels and when your team is in trouble, the ball has to go to your best player as much as possible. Two months ago that was Jevan Snead, now that player is Dexter McCluster and he showed up huge against Arkansas with 260 yards rushing/receiving and a score on a 60 yard screen pass. He avoided Arkansas tacklers all game with his quick feet and blazing speed. He has been the one constant to Ole Miss all year and with the Rebels needing to finish strong in order to keep the positive momentum going into 2010, the offense has to go through McCluster even more than Snead.
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).
Chris Todd, Auburn QB
It was so exciting to see him do well earlier this season after the terrible 2008 season he had where he was obviously hurt. He has done a complete 180 in the last three weeks with his worst effort coming Saturday night in Baton Rouge. He passed for 47 yards, completing only 8 passes. He was sacked 4 times, none of those were on the O-line, he fumbled twice and threw an interception. He has gone from helping Auburn win to holding Auburn back from winning. The Auburn coaches will decide whether he plays the rest of the season as the starter, but the fans are not going to be very forgiving if he struggles against Ole Miss this weekend for the 4th game in a row. He is in a tough position and the pressure has been increased significantly.
4 Downs with the SEC
First Down – McCluster, not Snead needs to lead Ole Miss
Jevan Snead's numbers were very impressive this weekend as he threw for over 300 yards, but if anyone actually watched the game it is still apparent that Snead is not comfortable against SEC teams. He threw another two interceptions against Arkansas which puts him at 11 for the season, but Dexter McCluster bailed him out time and time again. It is obvious that the Ole Miss season is now on the shoulders of their 170 lb running back/wide receiver/quarterback/wild rebel leader. Ole Miss is capable of winning every game left on their schedule if McCluster is the focal point of the offense. Using him late in the fourth quarter is not enough and I am not sold on any of the other Rebel Running backs. Snead was supposed to be the man, but he hasn't shown the ability to do that. McCluster put that team on his shoulders Saturday and if Houston Nutt is paying attention he should get another 25 touches against Auburn this week.
Second Down – Still worried about the South Carolina Collapse?
South Carolina is at the crossroads of another season with a road game against Tennessee up next. It is put up or shut up time for Steve Spurrier and the soft part of their schedule is over. It is time to earn that money and win some big time SEC games. The Ole Miss win in September was huge and Carolina has not had a slip up yet this season, which bring us to Knoxville. This is a game that South Carolina should win, they are better than Tennessee at every position except safety. After another way too close game with Vanderbilt it seems like the Gamecocks are not their typical choking selves because any other year they would have found a way to lose that game.
I am scared to go out on a limb and say that Carolina is ready to win at Knoxville, but I will hedge a little bit and say this…If South Carolina wins at Knoxville this weekend they will have a 10 win season. If they can beat Tennessee I expect them to win all their remaining games minus Florida and including a bowl game. A 10 win season would be huge for the Carolina psyche and huge for Steve Spurrier. Even more important would be the momentum for 2010 in an SEC East that is rebuilding and without Tim Tebow. The Gamecocks could come into 2010 as the favorites to win the SEC East if they can finish this year strong. A lot is riding on this game in Knoxville.
Third Down – LSU clearly over the Florida loss
The rest of the SEC should not be sleeping on LSU at this point because they are still one of the most talented teams in the conference and the Auburn defense did a great job helping build up their confidence Saturday night. Bob Davie must have mentioned 100 times that LSU is still in complete control of their destiny in terms of an SEC championship and they do travel to Tuscaloosa in 3 weeks to play a confused Alabama team. After last year's overtime classic this game will be the deciding game for the SEC West Championship. Jordan Jefferson looks a lot more confident in his throws after the bye week, Charles Scott is running hard and the secondary is as salty as ever. The offense has so many weapons it is hard to keep track of them. They have speed in the return game, at receiver and now with Russell Shepard starting to get carries in the running back spot, they have speed seeping out of Les Miles cap. No team should look past LSU and my calendar has the game with Alabama circled with a bright red pen.
Fourth Down – Tebow is not the Heisman Favorite
While watching some of the talking heads after the games Saturday I heard more than one media member say that Tim Tebow is still the favorite for the Heisman. I thought about it for a second and decided that is absolute BS. Look at his numbers and compare them to other top candidates and players that aren't even on the list after 8 weeks and they are nowhere near Heisman quality. I like Tim Tebow, actually I love what he does for college football and how he plays the right way, but let's not kid ourselves that he is a favorite to win his second Heisman trophy. If we are giving an award for the starting QB on the nations best team than give it to Greg McElroy, if you want to say he is the most valuable QB in the nation give him that Davey O'Brien Award, but if we are talking about the nation's best football player, Tim Tebow is not is this year.
This is not a knock on Tebow, but stats are what drives this award and Jimmy Clausen has better numbers than Tebow and no matter how much it pains me to say this, Clausen is more deserving at this point of the season. If I had a vote it would go to Colt McCoy first, Mark Ingram second and Jimmy Clausen third. I am not writing Tebow off in any way and has huge games left against UGA, South Carolina, FSU and likely Alabama to show up huge, but to make him the favorite right now is biased and unfair to the rest of the candidates.
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me Brian Harbach