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 Ole Miss' steps backwards, Tebow breaking records, Mark Richt playing with the color black again and more.
The Weekend That Was
Does everyone remember how much Steve Spurrier used to relish beating Georgia; well it looks like Urban Meyer has picked up right where Spurrier left off because he seems to love putting it on the Bulldogs. Storming the field 3 years ago could go down as one of the dumbest moves in the history of UGA football when Richt finishes his career at Georgia because Meyer has had a new passion for this game since that happened. Did anyone not expect Tim Tebow to break Herschel Walker's rushing TD record against UGA? It didn't matter than once again Mark Richt tried to motivate his team with different colored helmets and jerseys while Meyer was probably watching film. The Florida defense was once again dominating as UGA threw 4 picks and self destructed with penalties for the second year in a row.
The last two years UGA has come up flat in big games and I am starting to think that they are playing these big games on Monday-Friday instead of on Saturday. Florida on the other hand comes out motivated and under control. Senior leadership has a lot to do with that for the Gators and even with a senior starting QB for the Bulldogs, it isn't enough. When I read about how UGA has pictures of Urban Meyer calling timeouts from last year's game around the UGA facilities it really makes me think that they are focused on the wrong things. Of course Florida has something to do with how bad UGA looks; this Gator team is eerily familiar to the 2006 Championship team with the dominant defense and timely offense. After sealing their second straight SEC East Championship all eyes shift to Tuscaloosa this week to see who their likely opponent will be.
The Weekend That Wasn't
The Ole Miss season is three losses away from a disaster after the shocking loss to Auburn this weekend. Why three losses you ask, well the Rebels scheduled two FCS programs this season and they can only count one of those wins towards bowl eligibility which means 7-5 is the only way they make it to the postseason. Next weekend is FCS game number two against Northern Arizona, followed by two home games with Tennessee and LSU while the Rebels end the season in Starkville. The Vols and Fighting Tigers will be tough match ups but Ole Miss has also lost two straight at MSU and Houston Nutt could be in serious trouble with a loss to their in-state rivals. But going back to the Auburn debacle, Jevan Snead once again did everything wrong and even a second straight 200 yard outing from Dexter McCluster was not enough to save Ole Miss.
Snead threw another two picks, one that was returned for a touchdown, the defense gave up yards to a struggling Auburn every time Ole Miss looked to be back in the game. It was another inconsistent performance from Ole Miss in a year where that type of play has defined them. After two weeks of looking like they were moving in the right direction they seem to take 3 steps backwards. Another issue for the Rebels is the health of Dexter McCluster who took some serious shots from Auburn defenders. He is not the type of player than is meant to carry the load that much because he is such a small player. He isn't build to run inside as much as he did, but Ole Miss needs to run their offense through him. The Rebels season is not over by any means, but instead of the pressure to make the SEC Championship game, Houston Nutt has the pressure to win 3 big SEC games.
The Weekend That…What the Heck
There were all kinds of weird and wacky this week and it could not be more fitting that it was Halloween. Starting with the UGA uniforms, the Bulldogs were black helmets for the first and probably last time in school history. Not to go on a rant about this but come on Mark Richt, there is no reason to come out and wear different colored jerseys, pants, helmets, cleats, or any other piece of apparel for a rivalry game. Does that really fire up the fans any more than they already were? Was the crowd that much more fired up to beat Florida considering the beat down they put on you last year with the timeouts at the end of the game to rub in the win. All the jersey stunt does is fire up the opposing team and allow people like me to knock you down for doing it. If you need black jerseys and red facemasks to get your players excited about playing the freaking University of Florida than you aren't doing your job. Teams have two jerseys, home and away. If you want to do something quirky for a bowl game, have at it, but for the regular season please stick with tradition.
Speaking of jerseys, Tennessee in the all black was about the ugliest thing I have ever seen. That shade of orange could only be loved by Drivers Ed teachers and members of the UT family, but throwing black with them made the team look like giant Reese's Peanut Butter cups. Maybe their plan was to make Stephen Garcia hungry. I would like to move past my new role as a college football fashion reviewer and back to the play on the field and the what the heck moment that stood out to me was the third quarter of the Ole Miss/Auburn game. In about five and half minutes of game time there were 40 points scored. Bare with me as I list the Mayhem…Kodi Burns Wildcat pass to Auburn TE Tommy Trott, Auburn DB Walter McFadden returns a tipped pass for a pick six, Auburn RB Ben Tate 53 yard TD run, Rebel Jesse Grandy 82 yard kickoff return for a TD, Dexter McCluster 79 yard TD run followed by a blocked extra point returned 90 yards by Auburn DB Demond Washington for the two point conversion. It was utter madness and of course it could only happen on Halloween.
The Weekend That Will Be
It must be homecoming weekend in the SEC for most of the schools because this might be the worst slate of games in the history of the SEC. Auburn/Furman, Georgia/Tennessee Tech, Kentucky/Eastern Kentucky, Northern Arizona/Ole Miss, Vandy/Florida and Memphis/Tennessee are all the clutch games that we are left with for the first weekend of November. But there are two matchups that should have your attention starting with the SEC West Championship game between LSU and Alabama in Tuscaloosa. If your mouth wasn't watering for this game, it should be now.
Les Miles gets his rematch with the former Fighting Tiger coach after last year's overtime loss in Baton Rouge. Jordan Jefferson looks like he has turned a corner while his Crimson Tide counterpart, Greg McElroy, is headed in the opposite direction. These two teams just flat out hate each other and if you love physical football your butt better be in front of the TV 3:30 ET/2:30 CT for one slobber-knocker of a game. The other mentionable game is South Carolina on the road for the second straight week traveling to Arkansas. In case you were curious who to pick in that one, Steve Spurrier's record at South Carolina in games played November 7th or later is 5-8.
Big Man on Campus (BMOC)
Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State RB
In the last couple years it has been few and far between when a MSU player gets to be highlighted because of their offensive output. By no means is this a courtesy mention because Anthony Dixon put on a rushing clinic in Lexington this weekend breaking out for over 250 yards against the Wildcats. His rushing total and two scores helped MSU upset Kentucky and it keeps the Bulldogs alive for a possible bowl bid. They will be underdogs in their last three games against Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, but Dan Mullen's crew will be playing for something more than pride this November.
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
I want to say first of all that this kid has the worst luck with interceptions, the inaccuracy of some of his throws causes the tips and resulting picks, but if he throws that ball to Markeith Summers 10,000 times it doesn't pop up and get run back by Walter McFadden the way it did Saturday afternoon. He has had at least half a dozen incredible plays like that this year that have turned into interceptions, but his accuracy issues are causing the turnovers and he is at 13 interceptions for the season with 4 games to go. Houston Nutt won't throw downfield because Snead has been so inconsistent and Auburn should have picked off three more of his passes but they flat out dropped them. Snead's problems are all mental at this point and I don't see him getting over them until next year. He needs to take a step back, relax and refresh himself. He is too good a QB to struggle like this, but this is going to take time and time he doesn't have in the month of November.
4 Downs with the SEC
First Down – A Cursed Program
A South Carolina football collapse is just like setting your clocks back an hour because it happens every single fall. Once again the Gamecocks went into a game where they could have made a statement and they fell flat. I guess you can't really say they fall flat; it makes more sense to say they never showed up. Ranked in the top 25 at 6-2 and poised to step a major step forward as a program, South Carolina had an opportunity to define themselves as the second best team in the SEC East but instead reiterated their mantra of "wait till next year." This may seem unfair or even a bit harsh, but if you don't think it is deserved than you haven't been paying attention to the Steve Spurrier era in Columbia.
We all know what comes next Carolina fans; another great start goes up in flames as the state of South Carolina wonders what the heck just happened. The worrisome part was that they didn't lose on a last minute field goal or a blown call; they lost the way every Spurrier coached USC team has lost at the end of the year…turnovers and drive killing penalties. It is hard to see where Carolina goes from year, in seriously down years for both UGA and Tennessee they lose to both those teams. Is South Carolina football cursed or is it something else? With only two 9-win seasons in the schools history, a curse may be the only explanation. It is hard to see Carolina finishing this season strong looking at their schedule. With schools like Tennessee and Georgia likely reloading in 2010 and Florida being Florida; that might just mean South Carolina can't be better than the 4th best team in the SEC East.
Second Down – Lane Kiffin will continue to talk smack
After playing all the teams that Lane Kiffin supposedly upset enough to want revenge on the Vols, the Vols Coaches, the Vols coach's family members, the Vols Fans, the Vols Athletic Department and the rest of the state of Tennessee the winner seems to be Lane Kiffin. That doesn't seem possible, but let's look at this game by game. Kiffin angered Urban Meyer the most and the ten point loss in Gainesville made Meyer and the Gators look worse than Kiffin, UGA came in fired up and left Knoxville once again with their tails between their legs, Alabama needed a last second blocked field goal to stave off an upset and Kiffin was nice enough to help gas up the South Carolina busses as they headed back to the airport en route to Columbia. Every team that felt offended by Kiffin's antics never came out of the game looking better than Tennessee. Sure Tennessee lost two of those games, but no one expected them to win any of them in the first place.
For a long time the SEC East was Tennessee and Florida, that game the third weekend of the month of September was for the SEC East Title and it is very possible we could be back to that starting next year. Kiffin and his staff are loved by high school recruits and that is obvious by looking at last year's recruiting class and this year's commitment list. The guy has Lil' Wayne rapping about him. The credit he is going to get for that alone will net Tennessee a top 10 recruiting class next year. Right now he can sell playing time, a defensive coordinator who has coached in the NFL forever (Monte Kiffin) and he has been a part of a National Championship staff. The failure of the teams he offended to put him in his place is going to help Kiffin put them in their place in the future. This hire for Tennessee could have been an absolute bust, it looked that way after the UCLA loss, but now it might just be coming up roses.
Third Down – Defending Mark Richt
Skimming through ESPN.com this week I saw an article listed in the rumors section that said "Richt Out, Charlie Strong to be next head coach at Georgia." Now of course that is just an unsubstantiated rumor, but it may be the dumbest thing I have read online this season and that is saying something. I understand UGA fans are angry, frustrated and shocked at how bad UGA has been this season, but firing Richt is too stupid to discuss. Yes, I ripped him earlier for the uniform shenanigans, but the man deserves a chance to either put up or shut up this off-season before anyone decides he should be replaced.
Of course I am talking directly about the defensive coordinator spot and fans out for blood are not going to be happy with how this story ends. Georgia fans remember former Offensive Coordinator Neil Calloway who was "promoted" by UAB to be their head coach, expect the same thing from Willie Martinez this winter. He will be the head coach at Central Florida or Army or some other lower level school well before the fans get to see him handed a pink slip and pushing boxes into a Honda CRV (ala Tony Franklin 2008). Richt will do what is best for the program and make a change, that is what coaches do and unless the locker room is divided regarding said coach, it won't happen until after the season.
Richt has too many wins, too many championships and too much respect from the college football world to be fired over one bad season. Yes, UGA underachieves a lot but you couldn't ask for a better coach representing the program than Mark Richt. If he didn't have two SEC Championships than I would be all for the idea of firing him, but he does. He deserves to play against a Tebowless Florida with some new blood calling the defensive plays. He will get that chance and he will win more championships at UGA doing that. Get off the man's back and let him do his job the right way because that is what he has been doing for almost a decade.
Fourth Down – Rodney Scott, great awareness for a Freshmen
I want to take one second to highlight Ole Miss true freshmen running back Rodney Scott. This mention has nothing to do with Scott's play, but by keeping his head in the game against Auburn he may have helped keep a badly injured Auburn Tiger, Zac Etheridge, from becoming seriously injured. Etheridge was attempting to tackle Scott in Saturday's game but instead of getting Scott, he received a helmet to helmet hit from his teammate Antonio Coleman. Etheridge fell motionless on top of Scott and the two players sat there until the Auburn medical staff was able to get Etheridge off the field on a back board and a stretcher.
It is unimaginable how Scott knew that the Auburn defender was hurt except for the fact he wasn't getting off of him, but he sat underneath Etheridge for at least 10 minutes. If Scott would have jumped up or made any impatient movements Etheridge could have been hurt worse, but he lay on the field in an awkward position until the medical staff did their thing. When Etheridge was taken off him, Scott jumped up and headed to the sidelines completely unharmed, continuing to play in the game. It was a tragic injury that could have been worse if Scott had not realized what was going on around him.
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me Brian Harbach