3 SEC QUESTIONS THAT NAG MORE THAN YOUR EX
(i) What was the best performance from last weekend (Team or Player)?
We could go with Auburn's QB Chris Todd, who completed his first 14 pass attempts and ended with four TDs in the win against Furman; except that it was a win against Furman. Or we could go with Arkansas signal caller Ryan Mallett, and his 329 yards passing against a good SC D; but the ‘Cocks were without two defensive stars, and are in the midst of their annual nose-dive. Or we could go with LSU's CB Patrick Peterson, an emerging star who literally took Julio Jones and Greg McElroy out of the game while playing though cramps, along with something about an interception? However, he was busy on the sidelines with said cramps for the Tide's decisive 2 yard-into-73-yard Jones TD in the 4Q. But is there really any doubt – Alabama's talented RB Mark Ingram stole the show in the 2H, rumbling for 106 of his 144 yards. So what exactly was the Alabama coaching staff thinking only rushing this tank six times in the first half? That could be the SEC coaching brain fart of the season. Thankfully for Alabama, its talented defense LITERALLY knocked the LSU offense off the field in this war of attrition.
Of the eight SEC games from last weekend, only two are actually worth discussing. And while we can talk about the Alabama defense or Mark Ingram or Ryan Mallett, I want to go in a different direction and discuss how impressed I was with Les Miles after the loss to Alabama. That was a tough loss to take, particularly considering LSU lost All-SEC TE Richard Dickson in warm-ups, then Jordan Jefferson and Charles Scott for most of the 2H, and Patrick Peterson was clearly not 100%. But Miles came out and didn't talk about injuries. He didn't talk about the controversial fourth quarter non-interception along the LSU sideline. He simply talked about his team, and moved on. Miles is not the kind of coach that is going to keep his mouth shut if something was on his mind; he wasn't thinking about the 30,000 bucks that Urban Meyer was fined earlier in the week. He was thinking about not whining after a loss, and that is the kind of attitude you want your head coach to have. Other SEC coaches have made excuses this year on everything ranging from the flu to cheap shots and cheaper touchdowns, but the Hat took the high road, and he should be commended.
(ii) What team(s) do we still not know about after ten weeks in the SEC?
Talk about polar opposites... Pretty much the entire Western division remains a mystery, while we know what we have with the East. Florida is Florida, improving every week since Tebow's concussion, and like a veteran team, able to turn it on/off at whim. Down the stretch, UT has proven to be a solid, if particularly defense-oriented, team – improving with each week. UGA has been consistently average-to-poor the entire year, South Carolina is marching into its typical end-of-the-season nose-dive, and Kentucky and Vandy are poor-to-average. Consistently. With three games remaining, and with apologies to Dennis Green, the East is who we thought it was.
The West, on the other hand, is still an unknown commodity nearly top to bottom, and in large part given the parity, but also some shortcomings. Yes, the Tide has locked it down; but really, outside of Tuscaloosa (where it never rains on the Tide) and ESPN's $1.8 bln, how sure are you about this ‘bama team? They've played two tough opponents (Tenn. & LSU), both in Tuscaloosa, should have lost to the Vols, and were losing to the Tigers in the 4Q against LSU's backup QB, backup RB, backup TE and the game's defensive star at 50%. QUICK - how much weight would you have given an LSU W if the Tide had been playing without Greg McElroy, without Mark Ingram, without Colin Peek, and Javier Arenas at 50%? Bama's offense continues to be inconsistent outside of the run… The only thing we know for sure about ‘bama is that its defense is virtually top tier in everything; and maybe that consistent fact is enough. LSU's only losses have been to the #1 and #2 teams, but it's offense is ranked 103rd, and you can't truly say you know this team either – again, other than a good defense (but even there, we've seen some inconsistent line play). As for Auburn, they make Sybil look stable. Arkansas is great one week, average-to-poor the next; can you confidently say you know how Arkansas is going to play from week to week? Ole Miss might Oh Miss! the bowl season. Oh my! Miss State might be the only team in the West that we truly know ten weeks in – they've been consistent, if decidedly lower-tier. Look at the schedule: after the blowout loss to Auburn on 9/12, they've been scrappy in every game from Vandy through Kentucky, with a consistently good defense and great rushing offense, if a consistently poor passing attack.
The word for the SEC this season has been inconsistency. There has not been one team that week in week out has played excellent on both sides of the ball to make the rest of the league stand up and recognize them as the best or the worst. Our two bell cows this season, Florida and Alabama, have looked great one week only to look beatable the next. Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee all have really good wins on their 2009 resume, but nearly each of them has one really bad loss as well (sans LSU). The only team that's been consistent is Vanderbilt, because they have been so bad. As for the rest of the league, chalk it up to the depth and parity of the Southeastern Conference. After 10 weeks, Florida and Alabama are the class of the SEC and possibly the nation, Vanderbilt is struggling and the worst team in the SEC right now, and the rest we don't have a clue about.
Just look at the bowl predictions from week to week. One week Ole Miss is picked to play in the Cotton Bowl, the next week they are predicted to play in Shreveport. The Rebels aren't the only team shifting between New Year's day riches and the backhanded bowl rewards. Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee are all in a consistent ebb and flow between desirable locations and the also-ran cities. The middle of the the SEC pack has been so wildly inconsistent that it is impossible to define them. To an extent it's parity, but the reality is there are not a lot of great teams in the SEC this year. Alabama and Florida excluded, any SEC could win out or lose out, and we wouldn't spend one second being surprised.
(iii) What every SEC fan should be talking about after Week Ten, but isn't?
Well, that leaves out anything to do with officiating, whether Peterson had one or two feet in bounds, and oh yeah, anything to do with officiating… (i) How many Tennessee freshmen does it take to screw in a light bulb? Three. Same number it takes to allegedly rob a convenience store, (ii) To just go bowling, Ole Miss must beat either Tennessee or LSU at home, or win the Egg Bowl, which this year is in Starkville – none of which are given at this point. Wow, (iii) No truth to the rumor those Vol freshmen will have to sit out the 1H of the next game (nod to Gomila), (iv) The mighty University of Buffalo is 3-7 on the season, 1-5 in MAC play – a conference that right now is led by Temple. Yes, that Temple. Hey Chuck, so how badly do you still want Turner Gill? (v) That said, hard to ignore how few black coaches get invited to interview for our programs, let alone lead them, (vi) (Yes, we know Central Michigan is also undefeated in MAC play and thus tied with Temple, but (a) it reads better that way, and (b) really, who cares about the MAC. We just don't want the emails correcting us), (vii) How many yards per game do you think Anthony Dixon would average if he played in Tuscaloosa instead of Starkville? (viii) Stop believing the hype-machine that is ESPN. The four letter network's CFB experts say Tim Tebow is once again at the head of the line for the Heisman; this after Tebow passed for just 208 yards and a TD against Vandy. Vandy – the same squad that, in the previous game, surrendered 193 yards passing and 2 TDs to the wishbone running offense that is Georgia Tech, (ix) Those same ESPN experts said that Tide QB Greg McElroy is back after his good performance against LSU. Really? Take out the 2 yard pass to Jones (which the latter turned into 73 yards with LSU's Peterson on the sidelines), and add in Peterson's clear INT, and McElory had a pedestrian 203 yards passing, 1 TD and 2 INTs – and that's with a running back who averaged 7 ypc for the game, on 22 carries. You'd think that kind of production would make things easier for a QB, (x) I'm telling you, that kid's going to cost you the title, and (xi) While we're on ‘bama, it was either hubris or stupidity that led to Alabama rushing Ingram just six times in the first half of last Saturday's game. It's not like he was struggling – he averaged 6 ypc on those six runs. Because of that play calling, the Tide exited the half down 7-3, at home, with a QB whose confidence was damaged even further. Why? Fortunately for Alabama, cooler heads prevailed in the 2H, or they'd have likely lost to an LSU team playing what seemed like its second string.
Georgia fans know what I am talking about here, and I apologize for telling the rest of the SEC and spoiling the surprise for this weekend, but UGA will have another uniform change for this weekend's big game against Auburn. We have all seen the "Georgia Blackout" games and the black helmets from this year's Cocktail party, but Mark Richt sat down with the team and brainstormed this past Sunday to come up with an even more creative idea. This week UGA is going to play Auburn wearing the Indianapolis Colts uniforms. That's right, they are going to dress up like an NFL team to shock the Auburn team into submission before the game starts. Joe Cox is going to wear Peyton Manning's 18 instead of his normal 14, A.J. Green is going to wear Reggie Wayne's 87 in place of his normal 8, and the Bulldogs are actually going to play defense this weekend.
This was just too big a story to keep under wraps until kickoff. Moreover, my sources learned that Richt contacted Mike Slive to see if his team could wear two separate NFL jerseys. He wanted to have his offense wear the Colts jerseys and his defense wear the Steelers. Slive thought this was an interesting idea, but since the game was between a 5-4 Georgia team and a 7-3 Auburn, he asked Richt to pick just one NFL jersey - Slive thought that idea might be better used for a Championship game between Alabama and Florida. After all, we need to save the big stuff for the marquis teams in the SEC no matter what. So, expect to see UGA once again in a different uniform this weekend, and since the only time this parlor trick has worked was against Auburn, Richt may have just had another stroke of genius!
IN FOCUS: Which SEC Coach / Player is in the Spotlight this week?
Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee QB. Yes, we remember. But since October, the Vols QB has thrown for 16 TDs with just two INTs. Read that again. Hats off, Mr. Crompton. We're not entirely sure what Baby K told JC, but the highly touted HS prospect is finally living up to his billing. Is it too little too late? Well, the Vols have a good chance to finish second in the East, with only UGA and USC ahead of them, and having a game in hand against both. With second place comes a solid bowl. And with that a boost to recruiting. But in order to get that home W, the senior will have to do his best job as a leader up to this point in his career, as the locker room is bound to be somewhat distracted given this Thursday's arrests. Can he be steady and hold his team together? Or will he push and try to do too much? All eyes will be on Crompton as he takes the field Saturday against Ole Miss. A game the Rebs desperately need.
Jevan Snead, Ole Miss QB . Snead has been consistently bad in every big game Ole Miss has played this year, at home and on the road. He gets another chance at redemption this weekend against Tennessee in Oxford and if the Rebels have any chance to win this game, he has to play well and complete over 50% of his passes. The Tennessee defense has been outstanding this year and Snead has been inconsistent at best in big games. If Snead can be accurate in the short passing game, Ole Miss can control the ball and move it down the field. If he shows up as his normal inaccurate self, it is very difficult to see Ole Miss being able to win this game.
SEC POWER RANKINGS
For the first time ever, there is no change this week in either of our SEC Power Rankings; which is in large part due to the piss-poor job of scheduling by the conference last week. Just THREE conference games in the first week of November?
1 Florida – Some guy named Steve
2 Alabama – Hey Tide fans, bet you'd trade McElroy for JPW. Or Barker.
3 LSU – Hey Tiger fans, remember when it was your team that beat up on people?
4 Tennessee – Cool Hand(s) Janzen
8 Arkansas – Don't accept any wooden horses
8 Auburn – Blitz. Just sayin'
8 South Carolina – PULL THE CORD! PULL THE CORD!!
8 Ole Miss – Snead throws three INTs
11 MSU – Put 11 guys on the line and make McElroy beat you
11 Georgia – Must beat Auburn AND Kentucky at home, or you're 6-6. No pressure.
11 Kentucky – Vandy's you second (and last) conference W
12 Vanderbilt –
1 Alabama – You lose all credibility when arguing that wasn't an interception
2 Florida – Now I see why Meyer wanted Vandy: shootin' for a shutout
3 LSU – Hard to win after losing your starting QB, RB, TE and best defensive player
4 Tennessee – Fighting for a New Year's Day bowl with Ole Miss this weekend
5 Arkansas – Mallett is starting to hit a groove
6 Auburn – Which Auburn team is going to show up on the road this week?
7 South Carolina – Will having Spurrier calling the plays help the offense improve?
8 Ole Miss – A loss to UT might mean Shreveport or Birmingham for the Holidays
9 MSU – Dixon vs. Ingram in Starkville; who is the best power back in the SEC?
10 Georgia – This game might be Willie Martinez's last chance, if he's a cat
11 Kentucky – Hartline might be returning, that's the good and bad news
12 Vanderbilt – Where's Vandy's QB talent? I expected so much more in Aug.
THREE GAMES TO DVR
1) Tennessee at Ole Miss, November 14th. Stop it. They're important freshmen, but they're just freshmen. Janzen Jackson and Nu'Keese Richardson are likely to miss this contest due to their alleged involvement in an off-campus attempted robbery. But this defense is still likely to shut down Ole Miss, particularly how Jevan Snead has been struggling of late. The Rebs' O is one dimensional – stop Dexter McCluster. Now, could this disruption hurt in the locker room? Could it disrupt a team that's only just starting to gel? Nope. We're talking Ole Miss 2009, not ‘08. And it's without Greg Hardy. And without a break since September 12th. Doesn't matter that the game's in Oxford, Papa K's D will bail out Baby K again…
Tennessee 24, Ole Miss 21
2) Auburn at Georgia, November 14th. Both of these teams have struggled on D lately, particularly UGA. The difference is that UGA has played four good teams, and lost them all. While Auburn has beaten a West Virginia team that's currently ranked, and another team that should be ranked given how it's played since October (Tennessee). Georgia's RB by committee is likely to still flounder, and we have no faith in Joe Cox. Given that the other side of the line has been even less sturdy for Mark Richt, it's going to be another long day between the hedges…
Auburn 45, Georgia 31
3) Florida at South Carolina, November 14th. Once again Spurrier & Co. enter this game in the midst of a free fall, and once again, at the very time they desperately need a life line to call anyone – Mom maybe – they will instead get a beat down at the hands of the Gators. This is very personal for Meyer – he doesn't miss an opportunity to embarrass Spurrier, if only to endear himself to the Gator faithful, and help remind them of Spurrier's "place" In the Florida pecking order. Behind Meyer. If SC doesn't have the horses to run with Tennessee or Arkansas, what makes you think they can run with Florida? Isn't it interesting how Matthews and Culliver missed the game last week against Arkansas, but are probable for Florida – which do you think is more important to Spurrier? Won't matter…
Florida 35, South Carolina 9
1) Tennessee at Ole Miss, November 14th. Jonathon Crompton has looked like a new quarterback the last two months, starting with the Auburn game when he started hitting receivers late in the game. How crazy is it to say that Crompton is actually the more consistent QB going into this game, but the truth hurts Rebel fans. Expect the Tennessee D-line to have a field day against the Rebel O-line and the Tennessee defense will force Snead into more mistakes. Tennessee jumps out to an early lead in this one, but holds off a good comeback from the Rebels.
Tennessee 27, Ole Miss 20
2) Auburn at Georgia, November 14th. The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry is going to be the most entertaining SEC game of the weekend because there will be zero defense on the field. Both Auburn and Georgia have struggled to stop anyone this year and don't expect either to stop that trend Saturday. There isn't a lot of difference between the two teams, but Georgia has a much better kick return game that will be the difference this week. Special teams saves the dogs with two kick returns for touchdowns as Auburn's tackling issues continues in the kicking game.
Georgia 42, Auburn 38
3) Florida at South Carolina, November 14th. For the fifth time the Ole Ball Coach gets to face his alma mater and former employer, the Florida Gators and once again South Carolina heads into this game with a severely bruised ego. The Gamecock offense is a mess, the running game is non-existent and Steve Spurrier Sr. has to decided to take over the play calling once again. Too much change going on to think they have a chance against the number one team in the country. Florida rolls in this one and Carolina gets ready for the season finale against Clemson.
Florida 34, South Carolina 13
Yell at Brian: Brian Harbach
Yell at Russ: Russ Mitchell
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Ten, November 5, 2009
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Nine, October 29, 2009
Y'all Play Nice. SEC Week Eight, October 22, 2009
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