SEC Week 6 Recap

There’s a series of stats I’ve been repeating so often since Saturday night that I have it memorized. It goes like this:

Vanderbilt went into last weekend giving up 364 yards of offense per game. They held Auburn to 207 yards. Auburn gained 320 yards on LSU. And Florida dropped 514 yards on Arkansas Saturday.

That’s the kind of stat chain that keeps me up at night. But I’ll address the implications of that going in to Week 7. Week 6 was an odd one.

The Auburn / Vandy game was the strangest I’ve seen in a long time. For a team to go from dropping 156 yards on their opposition in the first quarter to being completely unable to move the ball the rest of the game is just bizarre. Things are not good in Auburn. And poor Vandy is sitting atop the SEC East, ranked No. 14 and 5-0, yet they can elicit only pleasant thoughts of perhaps being bowl-eligible this year from the likes of ESPN analysts. Ouch. I did not get the pick correct.

I’ve also been giving UGA fans a lot of crap about Bama’s performance against Kentucky. Probably six SEC teams would have beaten Fonzie and the gang on this day (three turnovers, 10 penalties), but not Kentucky. Of course, Kentucky also didn’t give Alabama reason to get focused and execute like UGA did with the “blackout” nonsense. I got the pick right.

South Carolina stepped up and beat Ole Miss, but I had picked the Rebels in a close one. The world would be a more interesting place had the Cocks slipped to 0-3 in the conference and Ole Miss gone to 2-1, but alas.

I threw out a 9-6 score prediction for Tennessee / Northern Illinois, and 13-9 is not far off and just an embarrassment for the Vols. It’s a tough call between Auburn and Tennessee for the most bafflingly-bad team in the SEC, but the edge has to go to the Vols for now.

Florida rolled the hapless Hogs as expected.

For the week: 4-1
For the season: 40-8

A quick post-Saturday thought

A proper recap of the week shall follow, but let me just say – thank you Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch. I say thanks because you are not Chris Todd and Kodi Burns.

LSU could have been left without a competent quarterback this season, and Auburn demonstrated very well yesterday what that would mean.

So thanks, guys.

SEC Week 6 Predictions

LSU’s on the Open Date, so the focus this week will be how Florida reacts to the Ole Miss loss and how Alabama reacts to the Georgia win and all their new-found hype. The Florida game is most critical, of course, as the Tigers are getting ready for a trip down to The Swamp next week.

No. 29 Kentucky at No. 3.5 Alabama: It’s telling that 4-0 Kentucky can’t crack the Top 25, but 4-0 Vandy has. The Wildcats have played absolutely nobody, somehow managing to stretch their first actual test out to October. So there’s not much point in analyzing Kentucky’s past performance, and no reason to expect Alabama to be down enough to lose the game.

Bama 28 – 10

No. 12 Florida at Arkansas: So you’re the worst team in the SEC and have been pummeled for two straight weeks by now-Top 5 teams by a combined score of 24 – 101. And this week you welcome in the team that fumbled away its shot at a No. 2 ranking last week – but still rang up 443 yards of offense in the loss. This can’t end well. I’ll be watching to study the puzzling Florida offense (only 5th in total offense despite their ample weapons) to see what LSU might expect next week.

Gators 63 – 10

No. 13.5 Auburn at No. 19 Vanderbilt: Game Day’s in Nashville, I hear. What has the world come to? Vandy has done great early in the season, beating South Carolina and Ole Miss to go 4-0. Good for them. And Vandy’s strength is rushing (No. 3 in the SEC), which offers better prospects on paper now that Auburn’s rush defense has slipped to No. 6 in the conference. But the problem is that Vandy has the SEC’s worst total defense and worst pass defense. It’s the perfect time for Auburn to roll back out the non-spread offense and take advantage.

War Eagles 27 – 17

South Carolina at Ole Miss: Tough one to pick here. The Rebels are riding high and threw 325 yards down on the Gators last week. The Cocks haven’t looked particularly good in any game this year, but they do hold the No. 1 total defense in the SEC. I’ll go with excitement over chaos.

Ole Miss 19 – 17

Northern Illinois at Tennessee: The utter disarray in Knoxville makes Northern Illinois a tempting pick. The Huskies lost by 4 to Minnesota to open the season, and I’m not sure Tennessee could beat Minnesota. But ultimately, I think a tiny bit of healing is in order this weekend for the Vols.

Tennessee 9 – 6

Google 2001 to Sarah Palin – who are you?

This amuses me. Google’s throwback search engine they’re rolled out to celebrate their 10th birthday – Google 2001 – is a great way to see how the world was viewed a scant 7.5 years ago.

What I had to check out was the engine’s view on our current Presidential tickets.

“Barack Obama” tells the tale of a young Illinois state Senator and Harvard Law alum.

“John McCain” gives you information on his 2000 Presidential campaign and his Senate career.

“Joe Biden” is all about his Senate career.

“Sarah Palin” – Never heard of her.

Great moments in exaggeration

I try my best not to visit (the hideous web design offends my sensibilities), but I do subscribe to the site’s feeds (which also sucks, because stories are repeated over and over in the feed) because Scott Rabalais does remain a good source of LSU info.

And I clicked over this evening to read Rabalais’ piece on CBS scheduling the LSU / Florida game as a prime-time broadcast. No great revelations, but I noticed a link at the bottom to the TigerGumbo Forum – I had to take a look.

As one might expect, the message board section of the brand-new LSU site that nobody knows about (outside of the casino and beverage industries in Mississippi, of course) is a pretty barren place right now. Yet that didn’t stop them from describing their LSU Football Forum thusly:

In case the funny is not apparent, they are describing a message board that has never been posted in as “The popular forum dedicated to LSU Football AND recruiting with LSU Tiger Football fans from around the world participating 24/7″

Yeah, just a little bit of wishful thinking there. That’s not so say someday TigerGumbo might not dominate LSU message boards (but it’s doubtful), but come on.

SEC Week 5 Recap

I don’t buy into the idea of “upset weekends”, but having the No. 1 and No. 4 teams go down to teams they should have destroyed drives home the most important point of all – what matters most is simply winning.

And watching Ole Miss make Florida pay dearly for its mistakes earlier in the day leaves me without much desire to pick apart LSU’s less-than-stellar win over the other Mississippi school.

We got past the Bulldogs, got valuable full-game experience for Jarrett Lee and would up after the poll shuffle sitting at No. 2 in the poll that matters. All things considered, that’s not too shabby.

Statistically, Lee had a really good night. 18 of 27 for 261 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Behind the numbers, he’s still not quite there – his pick was a horrible throw, he should have had another soft swing toss picked and several throws were just off – but I think that’s OK. I would imagine the LSU coaches have a good sense of what he’s mastered and what he needs to work on, and they have two weeks until the Florida game to sharpen his reads and throws. Considering that we missed the Troy tune-up, I think Miles and Crowton have done a great job bringing him up to speed. Taking more risks with him against MSU was pretty smart as part of the preparation for the Gators. I like where he is now.

The Tiger running game was very solid again, putting 166 yards down to go with Lee’s 261 in the air. Charles Scott dropped his 4th-straight 100-yard game and served as the closer, carrying the ball eight times in the 4th quarter to put down any notion of a Bulldog comeback.

Defensively, injuries to Ricky Jean-Francois and Charles Alexander showed both their value – MSU’s 110 yards on the ground was more than they should have gotten – and the depth of LSU’s D-line because the Bulldogs didn’t get even more than that. I’m not bothered that they cracked 100 yards under those circumstances.

Against Auburn, the biggest problem for LSU was pass defense. LSU made Chris Todd look much better than he is and kept the War Eagles in the game by leaving receivers completely undefended downfield. So a close look at the coverage against MSU is very much in order.

New MSU quarterback Tyson Lee rang up 175 passing yards on 17 completions against LSU. Of those 17 completions, seven were for more than 10 yards and accounted for 139 yards. Looking back at those seven plays, just one was a result of poor downfield coverage – the 41-yard completion on MSU’s final drive (you’ll remember it because of the crap late-hit call on linebacker Jacob Cutrera at the end of it). Cutrera was left to cover MSU receiver Jamayel Smith and couldn’t keep up. But the problem there wasn’t with Cutrera, it was with Chris Hawkins and Curtis Taylor, who let the play get behind them.

But the defensive backfield play was much improved since the Auburn game, and – again – the coaches have two weeks to tighten things up for Florida. Also needing improvement is LSU’s outside tackling (MSU’s second-longest pass came on a screen pass that should have been snuffed out but ended up being a 29-yard gain). LSU is also feeling the loss of Darry Beckwith, as poor linebacker coverage led to a couple of MSU’s bigger gains.

It was a pretty ugly game last night, but I came away from it seeing some very good improvement from last week, impressed with LSU’s D-line depth, confident that the LSU staff knows where improvement is needed … and very happy to have the win.

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Mark Richt “calling a blackout” and then having his team get destroyed by Alabama is one of God’s greatest gifts to the world. Players dressed in black; coaches dressed in black; fans dressed and painted black; that stupid little dog in a black sweater – they painted the freaking end-zone lettering black, for Chrissakes. All to get your asses kicked by Fonzie. The world is a beautiful place.

I picked Bama, of course, but my 31-28 score prediction wasn’t intended to show Alabama’s first-half total and Georgia’s second-half total. It was, though, as I predicted – Bama exposed the piss-poor Georgia pass coverage and hammered them with the run because of it. And Georgia couldn’t do anything on the ground, and thus gave Alabama the ability to shut down the pass.

Give credit to Georgia for sticking around for the second half of the game, and Saban is thrilled to have something to hammer his guys on there. But the Dawgs have a long way to go to be a complete team. And the penalties – Jesus. Once upon a time, Richt was known as a disciplinarian – those days are long gone. It’s not surprising, I guess, that when the coach “loosens up” and starts ordering unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that his team would end up being the most penalized team in the country.

The bad thing, of course, is that Alabama is now the media darling (as reflected by the meaningless media poll – in which 32% of the nation’s sportswriters who make up the AP poll now consider Bama to be the best team in the country a week after none of them held that opinion. Only 3% of coaches in the meaningful poll do). Ultimately, that will not matter much, as LSU and Bama play each other Nov. 8, but heads are certainly swelling in and around Tuscaloosa.

Ole Miss beating Florida I did not predict. The Gators, of course, killed themselves. But credit has to be given to Ole Miss for actually having an offense. No. 3 in SEC total offense now, in fact. Of course, they have no defense and Florida is rightfully very embarrassed to have blown the game.

Tennessee at Auburn was as ugly as I thought it could be, and the War Eagles should be grateful for a rankings shake-up that actually saw them rise two places after a horrid game. UAB put more yards on the Vols than Auburn did, and the fourth-quarter of this game was like a reenactment of World War I. Nobody wanted to win it; it’s too bad somebody had to. But I got the pick right.

The pigs were killed by the bulls with the big horns, as I expected. The Hogs are now giving up 38 points a game and scoring 20 points a game. I know math isn’t encouraged in Arkansas, but that’s not good. Oh to have Houston Nutt back. Unsurprisingly, I got the pick right.

South Carolina and Kentucky both won their patsy games, which I figured they would.

For the week: 6-1
For the season: 36-7

Things (hopefully) put to rest today

- UGA’s “blackouts”. Yes, turns out they were going to a funeral.
- “Knowshon for Heisman”. 34 yards on nine carries tonight.
- The idea that Matthew Stafford has “lost a bunch of weight”. Tubby sure can throw, though.
- ESPN’s assertion that Jarrett Lee did not play football until he was a junior in high school:

Second week in a row they’ve thrown that graphic up. Seriously – not true.
- The idea that Alabama is the best team in the country. Oh, wait, that notion is just popping up now. Unfortunately with Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Arkansas State on deck before they play LSU, it’s an idea that’s likely to stick around a while. Big heads in Tuscaloosa, for sure.

SEC Week 5 Predictions

USC’s loss to the Beavers last night sets this weekend up as Upset Watch ’08, Part I. Last season led the college football world up to expect lots of top-5 upsets and general disarray in the season. So now we’re on watch for the Great Crumbling once again.

No. 6 LSU, of course, welcomes to town the kids whose parents aren’t upper-class enough for them to be accepted at Ole Miss – the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. Coming off the win over Auburn and looking forward to the big battle at Florida in a couple of weeks, LSU puts itself in a great position to be an Upset Watch favorite.

In this matchup, though, the Tigers give me no reason to look for an upset. MSU has no rushing offense (No. 11 in the SEC), an unspectacular passing offense (No. 7), is dead-last in SEC scoring, can’t stop the run (11th in the SEC) and gave up almost as many points against Georgia Tech (38) as Ryan Perrilloux’s new club did (41).

If you look at the stats, the shining star for the Bulldogs is their pass defense, ranked first in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and No. 2 in passing yards given up. That number, though, is heavily colored by the Tech game (62 yards given up in the air – 438 on the ground). MSU did, though, hold Auburn to 154 passing yards – the War Eagles put 250 on LSU.

So give MSU credit for a pass defense; it’ll hardly matter on Saturday. The Tigers sport the SEC’s No. 2 rushing offense and showed how dominant their offensive line is last week. LSU has yet to lose a fumble this season, so chances are not good that MSU stays in the game because of Auburn-like mistakes.

LSU 35 – 10

Elsewhere in the SEC:

No. 10 Alabama rides in to the pitch blackness of Athens to take on No. 3 Georgia: I want to pick Alabama here. I still don’t buy Georgia as a top-3 team, and I think Alabama has a great shot to win this game.

The numbers don’t support it – When the Tide has the ball, Bama’s got the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC; Georgia has the No. 1 rushing defense. Georgia has the No. 11 passing defense; Alabama has the No. 11 passing offense. No exploitation for Bama by the numbers there.

When Georgia has the ball, the Dawgs have the No. 4 rushing offense against the No. 3 rushing defense but the No. 2 passing offense against the No. 8 passing defense. Opportunities abound for the Dawgs to riddle Bama’s secondary.

I don’t think, though, that you’ll see just the 15 passing attempts Bama put up against Arkansas. The Tide passing stats are stunted by 73 yards against Tulane and 74 yards against Arkansas. Both of those games were won by defense and special teams, and Bama had fewer offensive possessions and little reason to bust out the passing game then. Against Clemson, JP Wilson rang up 180 passing yards, and against Western Kentucky he put up 276. Not spectacular numbers by any means, but more of an indication of how Georgia should view the Tide passing game.

Execution-wise this game, I think, will come down to whether Georgia can exploit Bama’s pass defense better than Bama exploits Georgia’s. Past performance is with Georgia there.

But more importantly, I believe the game will come down to motivation. Mark Richt, of course, has “called a blackout” for the game, and the Dawgs will again storm the field in their awesomely-powerful black jerseys. I suppose the first time you do that as a surprise to the team and your fans and come running out in the awesomeness that is non-red clothing, it charges you up. Second time you do it when you announce it a week in advance? It’s probably charged up Fonzie and the Tide more.

So I look for Bama to open up their offense; hit Georgia with a strong passing game they haven’t seen on tape and hammer home the run. All in white jerseys, no less. If Bama’s secondary can come together and hold the Dawg air game in check, I like the Tide here.

Bama 31 – 28

Ole Miss at No. 4 Florida: Ole Miss would need a whole lot of help to win this one. Their offense doesn’t suck, but their defense does. At home in The Swamp, Florida isn’t likely to screw this one up.

Gators 38 – 20

Tennessee at No. 16 Auburn: Ah, lovely. Two teams who love to make mistakes. If Auburn plays like they did against MSU and Tennessee plays like they did against Florida, this could be ugliness for the ages. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Tennessee get itself together and pull and upset, but I’m not picking that.

War Eagles 2 – 1 (yes, I know)

Arkansas at No. 7 Texas: Die, pigs, die.

Horns 48 – 13

UAB at South Carolina: The Cocks managed to get by Wofford 23-13. Can they stand up to the massive Blazer attack? I guess this passes for drama in South Carolina these days.

Cocks 17 – 16

Western Kentucky at No. 32 Kentucky: Never have so few cared so little about a 3-0 team. I know Louisville looked like a decent game when you scheduled it, Kentucky, but I’m starting to understand why you were left off that SEC Schedule iPhone app.

‘Cats 34 – 17

Goodbye purple jerseys for crap home games?

While giving Georgia fans at EAV Buzz a hard time about their looming “blackout” game against Alabama this weekend, I realized that Les Miles broke with the Saban Jersey Doctrine against North Texas two weeks ago.

The Saban Doctrine says that LSU shall wear purple jerseys at home for non-conference games that are not the home opener. Miles has followed this doctrine, breaking the practice only for the Arizona game in ’06 – the unspoken corollary being the rule is followed unless the game is against a non-patsy team.

Yet against North Texas, the Tigers were in glorious white:

North Texas

Having opened at home against Appalachian State, and with North Texas being a patsy, by the Saban Doctrine the Tigers should have been in purple jerseys.

Discounting the very real notion that Leslie simply forgot this rule, it would be great if Miles has quietly done away with the practice. Maybe he felt a need to hang on to Fonzie’s ways before he got his own crystal football, but he surely doesn’t need to now.

Don’t go messing with the uniform, Les (I don’t want to see any “eye of the Tiger” crap showing up on them), but I’d endorse going back to full-time white jerseys at home.

Postgame photo of the century

Gary Crowton greeting his quarterbacks after Saturday’s win over Auburn:

Crowton with Jarrett Lee & Andrew Hatch

Assuming Andrew Hatch was, in fact, aware of his own existence again by this point, he’s got the unmistakable look of the guy who just realized that hot girl in the bar is actually after his friend, not him.

Love hurts sometimes.

Runner-up for postgame photo of the century:

Les Miles and Mike The Tiger

Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow me on Twitter!