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 talk about every team's first game, more Georgia discipline from Mark Richt, Ole Miss losing to Jacksonville State and more.
The Weekend That Was
One consistent theme that I hope everyone takes from this column is that you can never be as high on your team after the first week of the season and you can never be as low (Ole Miss may not apply to that this year though). But South Carolina deserves some attention this week because they did a very good job against a good team in the first game of the College Football season with a ton of uncertainty less than an hour before the game. Players were being shuffled in and out in regards to who was or was not going to be suspended for the game, Weslye Saunders was already suspended and Spurrier made sure that Stephen Garcia knew he would have a short leash.
With all that swirling around the Gamecock team, they came out and played pretty well. Stephen Garcia looked like he was confident in where to put the ball, the young guys stepped up and Connor Shaw was a nice change of pace when he did get in the game. Again, some very big positives and good optimism for the first week, but the running game is still a serious concern, as is the unknown status of the team's best offensive lineman, Jarriel King. But South Carolina had 224 rushing yards you ask…roughly 60% of those rushing yards came from players other than the running backs (DB, WR and QB).
South Carolina took some good steps forward in dominating Southern Miss, but there is no question even with an impressive opening performance, there is plenty to work on…Steve Spurrier would be the first to admit that.
The Weekend That Wasn't
LSU vs. North Carolina turned into a lose/lose/win situation for Les Miles. With so many Tarheels suspended, it was a forgone conclusion that LSU wins this game so if the Fighting Tigers lost it would be a mess. Since everyone knew that LSU would win, anything less than a blowout would be a disappointment so the only way to have this turn out good for Les Miles would have been said blow out. Lose (if they lose the game), Lose (if they don't blow out North Carolina) and Win (if the game ends 30-10). Miles managed to hit one of those two Loses after spending the first half teasing LSU fans with the thought that the team had turned the corner.
After the 30-24 escape in the Georgia Dome, where UNC had two throws into the end-zone that would have won the game, every media person explained how LSU did not win the game…North Carolina just lost it. It was the greatest moral victory in the history of college football. North Carolina played so valiantly after losing so many key players from their team. The media almost had me convinced that North Carolina won the football game and the big mean NCAA stopped them from being able to do so. Give me a break, one of the hardest things to do is to beat a team that you know you should destroy, and when LSU got up by 20 they put it on autopilot. That is Miles's fault, a good win turned into a moral victory for the other team nationally…Miles wanted the win, not all the baggage that came with it.
The Weekend That…What the Heck
It is hard to dance around this one, the Ole Miss loss to FCS Jacksonville State was bad…really bad. I don't need to tell Ole Miss fan that, opposing fans don't need to tell Ole Miss that…they know it and they are upset. This is impossible to explain or defend, good SEC programs do not lose to FCS programs like Jacksonville State, it doesn't matter how good they are in their division or where they are ranked in the FCS. There is no excuse for losing this game, the good thing is that Houston Nutt knows that, saying it was the worst loss in his career. It probably wasn't the worst loss he has had, some SEC Championship game losses probably hurt more, but this was the most embarrassing loss.
Playing Masoli late in the game and in overtime wasn't why they lose so there is no point in talking about him now…the defense and Tyrone Nix were flat out terrible. 34 (regulation) points to a FCS team should never happen, giving up a 31-10 lead and 21 points in the fourth quarter says a lot about the focus of the defense this year. It shows there is no leadership on the field right now and that is very disappointing for a team filled with experienced senior defensive players. Ole Miss was a certain bowl team before the season because of the soft schedule they played; now it is up in the air. This team was supposed to flirt with the top 25 with a sure 5-0 start; now I would be shocked if they are ranked at any point in 2010.
The Weekend That Will Be
Allow me to rant for a minute about the first SEC game of the year between Auburn and Mississippi State. It should be a good game, but it is a Thursday night game…I hate Thursday night games for SEC teams. There is no point for any SEC ever to play at home on Thursday night. South Carolina gets a pass for the first game of the year because it is the first game of the year, but Mississippi State volunteering a home game where there fans have to screw up their travel plans and have one less Saturday home game is just crappy. Just because this game would have been a noon-Jefferson Pilot/Lincoln Financial game any week during the year does not make it better because it is on a Thursday. The SEC does not need the exposure, nearly every SEC game is on TV anyway, stop with the Thursday night stuff please.
Outside of the good game on a bad night, this is a pretty great weekend for the SEC. Georgia at South Carolina is huge for both programs, the loser will be in bad shape with fans and with their chances at the SEC East and it is only week two. Alabama gets a visit from Penn State (I love programs that man up with their schedule), Florida welcomes upstart South Florida and the game on my schedule for this weekend…Oregon visits Tennessee. Sure the Vols are going through rebuilding season, but don't be shocked if Derek Dooley can pull this game off…if you are going to be in Knoxville this weekend give me a holler, I can't wait to be back in Neyland.
Big Man on Campus (BMOC)
Cameron Newton, Auburn QB
After nine months of opposing fans questioning Newton's accuracy, his ability to run the Malzahn offense and his arm strength…Newton busts out with five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing). He only threw 14 times but he didn't need to with 171 rushing yards and a 71 yard TD run where he flew past the entire Arkansas State defense. Sure it was a Sun Belt program he did this to, but it was a very impressive start for a QB that is supposed to improve a very good Auburn offense.
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).
The Ole Miss Defense
This section is for the entire defense, but it really should be just the seniors who showed zero leadership in a time when they needed to. Johnny Brown, Jonathon Cornell, Kentrell Lockett Jeremy McGee, Jerrell Powe, Lawon Scott and Allen Walker (7 senior starters) showed no sense of urgency when the team needed them to step up. This will not cut it once the SEC games start up…if it wasn't for a very easy start to the season there would be more reasons to worry but this can be just a bump in the road if those men act like the seniors they are and not the freshmen they played like.
4 Downs with the SEC
First Down – SEC Sloppy Starts
Auburn and Florida both had 20+ point victories but they both looked sloppy in their wins against two overmatched programs. Auburn's defense looked exactly like it did a year ago to the disappointment of their fans and the Florida offense looked like Ron Zook was the head coach (sloppy and predictable) and not Urban Meyer. The Auburn defense missed tackles, gave up tons of passing yards and did not get a turnover when the opportunity presented itself. The Gator offense was lost for almost three quarters, they had eight fumbles and John Brantley did not look comfortable with the All-American center Mike Pouncey. Florida had 39 total yards in the middle of the third quarter. Again, the first game is not how you can judge a team for the next eleven but this was not a good start for two teams hoping to make major moves this year.
Second Down – Mark Richt needs to send a message
The Bulldogs have moved past LA Lafayette and on to South Carolina, but this section won't be about sending a message on the field, Mark Richt needs to send a message off of it. The next player that gets arrested needs to be kicked off the team, I don't care if it the starting quarterback, starting linebacker or starting deep snapper. Richt needs to do something to fix this mess because it has gone past embarrassing for the program. Don't send me the "everyone does it" emails or the "I did worse when I was in college" stuff. You probably didn't represent the university in the most public of forums and there is no more public forum than Georgia Bulldog football player.
If Mark Richt wanted to fix this problem, it would be fixed. The reason this stuff isn't as prevalent at other schools is because they handle the players with more than running stadiums and OOC game suspensions. Yes, every team has players that get involved with the law, but none of them come close to the arrests the Bulldogs rack up. You want some numbers, Georgia has had nine players arrested since March. Georgia has had more arrests this year than their team leading in sacks did a year ago (Justin Houston 7.5), more arrests than any individual had rushing touchdowns from a year ago, more arrests than UGA had in total wins in 2009.
Send a message Mark Richt, it doesn't have to be a star, it doesn't have to be a starter, but make a statement that shows the team if you are going to drive with a suspended license, get involved in a hit and run or steal something…there will be repercussions. This behavior is not going to stop until you show them what happens when they do get arrested. This is not about the players anymore; this is about the head coach.
Third Down – The Blowouts
Just to give the other teams in the league some love there were four blowouts that were expected and frankly pretty boring. Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee all had majorly undermanned opponents and they took care of business. Maybe MSU's win was the most impressive of the bunch because the offense played so well with young gun Tyler Russell, but how good is Memphis. It is hard to get excited about any of these wins but it is good to see that some teams took advantage of their paid wins…giving their opponents a butt-kicking to go along with that huge check they got for showing up to get it.
Fourth Down – A look at the Top and Bottom
The "cream of the crop" (Alabama) and the "bottom of the barrel" (Vanderbilt) had two good weekends even though there were two different results. Alabama did what was expected, they played great defense and dominated on offense. The Tide gave up 175 total yards and three points to go along with the nearly 600 offensive yards and 48 points. The bigger test is this week, but it was a good tune up game to get some playing time for the youngsters replacing last years stars.
Vanderbilt lost in a great game to Northwestern but even in defeat there were some great signs for a team that had a different head coach roughly two months ago. Larry Smith looks like he is ready to be the starter, he was more accurate and the offense showed signs of life that were not there a year ago. They outgained Northwestern but in a very un-Vandylike display they had almost 100 penalty yards. With so many freshmen playing the Dores need to play mistake free football and if they can cut back the stupid penalties they might be a tougher out for SEC teams later in the season.
What were your thoughts on the past weekend in the SEC? E-mail
me Brian Harbach
Don't forget to follow me on Twitter