Monday, September 28, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

While watching SportsCenter Saturday night, I heard Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit say something that was actually useful as they recapped the day in college football. Musburger pointed out that it appears the top three teams in college football, Florida, Texas and Alabama, appear to be legitimate teams, while everyone else is sort of up in the air. Herbstreit went on to mention that now that these September games are over, we know the flaws of everyone after the top three (the top three teams have some perceived flaws, but they haven’t been exposed as such). And now that we know these flaws, we won’t be so surprised when, say another SEC team’s right defensive end records five sacks against Ole Miss.


South Carolina 16, Ole Miss 10

Given that the Rebels had a matador playing left tackle, a quarterback who was more skittish than Romaro Miller in 2000 against Auburn and an offensive game plan that made David Cutcliffe seem innovative, it was pretty amazing they still had a chance to win the game. All of that credit of course goes to the Ole Miss defense, which was as good as advertised. They were certainly helped out by South Carolina’s sloppiness and penalties, especially inside the 10, but for the most part they did their job.

The same cannot be said for the Ole Miss offense. First, the game plan. The only explanation for this conservative atrocity I could come up with was that the coaches must have known how bad our offensive line was at pass blocking, and thus kept it simple. Even then it still doesn’t explain why the best player in the whole damn stadium, Dexter McCluster, touched the ball once in the first half. ONCE. Why they waited until we were elbow deep in shit to start giving him the ball made no sense at all. I understand his body can’t handle 25 touches a game for a season, but perhaps he should get more than one touch a half. Just a thought.

Second, Jevan Snead. It’s pretty obvious he has no faith in his offensive line and is rarely comfortable when he drops back to pass. He failed to step up into the pocket several times, which led to a sack or getting hit as he was throwing, and often danced around and threw on the run when it wasn’t necessary. Of course, it’s hard to throw into coverages of seven and eight, which South Carolina was able to have since they were getting pressure with only three and four (and sometimes JUST TWO) rushers. Had they blitzed more they might have set a sack record. Snead went through this problem early last year and one would think he would be over it by now, but clearly he is not. He has to settle himself down and remember how to operate in a pocket.

And third, the offensive line. Remember when I said I thought Ole Miss’ offensive line would be a little more stable than Alabama’s? I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more wrong in my life. We’re getting nothing with Bradley Sowell at left tackle and John Jerry, one of the returning starters, decided to take the night off. The other three spots played okay for the most part, but as a whole this group is just bad right now. And to be honest, I didn’t see anything that gave me hope they might turn it around over the next few games. Also, I’ll get more into Sowell and his now infamous quote later.

As for South Carolina, Stephen Garcia showed flashes of competence and is firmly entrenched himself in the slightly above average category. I thought he played pretty well considering the beating he was taking. He didn’t make any killer mistakes and made the simple throws that were required of him. I would have like to seen him operate a drive in which a score was absolutely needed, but thanks to the Ole Miss offense, I didn’t get that chance. Also, I keep hammering the Ole Miss offense, but part of their lack of success was the South Carolina defense. They played really well, especially up front, which after the Georgia debacle, I never would have believed.

And finally (seriously, this is it), I’ve never seen more media outrage over Ole Miss being ranked number four (or five depending on the poll) after losing a road SEC game on a Thursday night to a team that won seven games last year, including four SEC games. Now, I’m not saying Ole Miss didn’t deserve some criticism because they did, but such a vicious attack on Ole Miss and virtually no credit to South Carolina was ridiculous. And last time I checked, no one that plays, coaches or works for Ole Miss voted or hyped Ole Miss up to be the number four team in the country. That was done by the same assholes who couldn’t believe Ole Miss was number four.

I’m also still waiting for the same attacks on Penn State, California and USC. Penn State lost AT HOME in front of 100,000 people by 11 to another shitty Big Ten team. All I’ve heard here is how great Iowa is. Guess what? Iowa sucks, just like the rest of the Big Ten. California at least went on the road to get annihilated, yet no cries of how overrated they are when they do this same crap EVERY YEAR. And let’s not forget USC, then ranked number three, lost on the road to a Washington team that last won a game in 2007. 2007. Their biggest win was over another overrated Big Ten team that has been consistently destroyed when playing outside the conference. Please, let me know when the crucifixions of these teams take place.

LSU 30, Mississippi State 26
Speaking of overrated, welcome to the club LSU. A team that can’t run, can’t stop the run and whose quarterback is at best average. Even a Chris Todd-led Auburn offense racked up 500 yards on this Mississippi State defense. But if I cared at all about LSU, my biggest concern would be this is now two years running of below average defense. Yes, the goal line stand was involved a huge play by a great athlete, but the fact Mississippi State even got into that position is embarrassing. A five-foot nothing quarterback led three scoring drives of 66 yards or more, and was able to get down to the four-inch line in the final minutes. That can be best described as not good.

If you’re Mississippi State, you had a chance to beat the number seven team in the country despite turning the ball over four times and allowing an absurd 93-yard punt return for a touchdown (these stats are also a great indicator as to how bad LSU’s offense was). Yes, it was a sucky way to lose a game, but it was a sign of great progress for a team that was totally outmatched at Auburn just two weeks ago. We’ll find out more about this team and Dan Mullen if he can get them to carry over this success in the next two weeks against Georgia Tech and Houston, which now look like winnable games. But, damn, four inches. That’s going to be hard to get over.

Alabama 35, Arkansas 7
As Ryan Mallett found out, it’s much easier to throw against crappy defenses than good ones. Alabama made life miserable for Mallett and the Arkansas offense, exposing their offensive line as below average (which they might do to many offensive lines this year). The only thing that really surprised me about this game was Alabama’s inability to generate much offense outside of big plays against a bad Arkansas defense. Of their five scoring drives, only one was over five minutes and the scoring play was not over 50 yards (one of the drives was a short field drive of 35 yards). Obviously, they took a shot at some big plays and they hit, but I doubt the result would be the same against a more legitimate defense. And the Trent Richardson 50-yard touchdown run was a classic example of how to miss tackles, although credit him for running hard and through one or two of them. I’m still not sold on the Alabama offense, but when they play defense like they do, tons of points and yards aren’t needed.

Florida 41, Kentucky 7
I take back all those nice things I had to say about Rich Brooks. A more unorganized, unprepared team has not taken the field in Lexington since Ed Orgeron took the Ole Miss Rebels there in 2006. The first quarter of Saturday’s game was just awful across the board. The offense was confused, the defense was confused and Rich Brooks was mainly just pissed off. After that though, the Wildcats did settle down, not surrendering 80 points and not getting shutout.

The big story here of course is the Tim Tebow injury. No doubt 40-year old media types wept when they heard their guy was injured and taken to a hospital. And I think most Florida fans stopped breathing until sometime Sunday afternoon. However, what really irritated me about this whole thing was after the play was over and ESPN’s moronic Bob Davie tried to breakdown what happened, he made up what he thought happened and stuck to his guns when it was obvious he was wrong. Watch this:

Davie claimed Kentucky rushed six players when in fact they rushed five. He said the reason for the hit was that Florida had one less blocker in than Kentucky had rushers, which was wrong (five blockers, five rushers). Florida’s left tackle (not sure if he’s related to Bradley Sowell) either screwed up his blocking assignment or Tebow just misread who was actually rushing. From watching the video over and over, I lean in the direction of the offensive lineman since the guy who hit Tebow was in a rush stance. Either way, Bob Davie continued to add evidence to the case that he’s a moron.

Georgia 20, Arizona State 17
And Joe Cox comes crashing back to mediocrity. I think I’m going to create some chart that lists all the mediocre quarterbacks who suddenly turn into Greg Zolloman when he used to play against Ole Miss whenever they play Arkansas. We’ll call it the Joe Cox Effect.

Tennessee 34, Ohio 23

I was off by two passes. Crompton hit 17 instead of 15. Give yourselves $20 for my mistake.

Auburn 54, Ball State 30
I’ll now give myself $20 for correctly predicted Kodi Burns would complete less than five passes. In fact, he attempted no passes.

Vanderbilt 36, Rice 17
No one wants to read a recap of this game.


Virginia Tech 31, Miami 7
So the U is not back. Sorry, Luther. As I thought they would, Virginia Tech didn’t let Jacory Harris sit back and throw and as a result, they dominated the Hurricanes. Let’s hope all the future Miami opponents took note of this strategy.

(Given to the player who dominated with or without the help of his teammates and coaches.)

Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State
Dixon pounded away at LSU and scratched out 106 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He ran hard, looked lean and even showed flashes of some speed, which I never knew he had. Unfortunately for him and his team, he was not given the ball when it was four inches away from the end zone.

(Given to the player who caused his team’s fans the highest degree of wailing and gnashing of teeth due to blown assignments and generally piss poor play.)

Bradley Sowell, LT, Ole Miss
"I'm glad it's over with so everybody can stop talking about it and we can just play ball.”

I had nothing against him after the game other than just being angry that he was the best we could trot out at left tackle. It’s not necessarily his fault he’s playing when he sucks. But then he opened his mouth and said this. I hope someone on the defense went over and punched him in the balls for stealing the victory they earned. Instead of embracing the high ranking and wanting to prove everyone else wrong, he acted like it was some giant burden or cross he had to carry, much like a teenage girl who doesn’t like the situation in which she finds herself. Seriously, that’s what he thought. With another performance like the one in Columbia, the name of this weekly award might be changed to his name.

(Given to the coach who dominated whatever task was in front of him.)

Urban Meyer, Florida
Destroying a relatively hostile environment in 15 minutes was quite impressive. I assumed it would take the better part of two and a half quarters, but in just 15 minutes he was up 31-0 over Kentucky.


LSU at Georgia
A battle of mediocre teams, one of which is disguised as the fourth ranked team in America. Despite the reeking of mediocrity, I think this should be a good game.

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Surely the Ole Miss offensive line isn’t as bad as I think it is. If the Vandy defensive line is terrorizing the Ole Miss backfield, this is going to be an incredibly long year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SEC Picks of Week 4

Made while staring at a clock that just won’t get to 6:30 fast enough…

Last week: 8-1
Season: 24-3 (.889)

Ole Miss at South Carolina
For months now, this is the game I’ve been pointing to as the make or break game for Ole Miss’ season. Win and the Rebels probably win 10 games. Lose and that total will be closer to seven or eight. And for months I’ve been simply terrified of this game. On the road, first real game of the season and the Thursday night home underdog’s amazing ability to pull off wins (I have no evidence to back this up other than I vaguely remember reading that the home underdog has an outright winning record. I guess you’ll have to trust me.).

Well, we’ve finally arrived at the day of reckoning and I’m strangely calm after being miserably worried Sunday through Tuesday. Sometime Tuesday morning I had some sort of an epiphany and feel no worry as the game nears. Now, I will certainly be filled with that nervous nauseous feeling once the game starts, but that cannot be helped. Yes, I do understand that it’s completely insane to get so worked up over the actions of 18-22 year olds, but screw you for judging me.

Anyway, here’s why I like Ole Miss to win and, as of now, feel no worry:

-Ole Miss has better players. Seriously, look up and down both rosters. Ole Miss will hold an edge at a majority of the positions. South Carolina doesn’t have what Ole Miss has on offense and hasn’t shown much on defense.

-The Ole Miss defense is not the same defense South Carolina destroyed last year. Yes, many of the same players are there, but that defense that lost became something much greater as the season went on. The Gamecocks haven’t played the current defense and I don’t think they can handle them.

-The Ole Miss offense, which has been much more chunky than smooth, has run absolutely nothing filled with any sort of creativity or strategy. It’s been all basic plays that rely on nothing but superior skill. Pure skill doesn’t work when conference play starts and that’s why you’ll see a much more diverse and creative offense tonight.

The bottom line is that if Ole Miss doesn’t turn the ball over, they’ll win. In fact, that will be the story for pretty much the rest of the year. The only team that can beat Ole Miss straight up is Alabama. Everyone else will need help and even if South Carolina gets a little help, they can’t win.

LSU at Mississippi State

In the days of old, as in just two years ago, this skull dragging would be over with by the second quarter. However, LSU doesn’t have the offensive firepower they once had and their defense isn’t the F5 tornado it once was. I’m very interested to see how the LSU defense plays in this one. It’s a game they should dominate, much like Auburn dominated State, but if they don’t, some serious questions need to be asked about this defense. State doesn’t have enough of anything to win this game, so I don’t think the outcome will ever be in doubt, but I think this is a great opportunity to find out if LSU really is an elite team in the SEC.

Arkansas at Alabama
I said earlier this week that I’m fascinated by the coaching match up in this game. Nick Saban’s defense going up against Bobby Petrino’s offense. Saban has had basically two weeks to get ready for this game (since North Texas preparation was most likely kept to a minimum) and I like his chances with that much time to get ready. Plus, if he just looked at the Georgia film and did the exact opposite of whatever they did, he’d already be doing much better.

Arkansas has no defense and everyone knows it. Look for Alabama to pound away via the ground game and keep the Arkansas offense off the field. With Alabama’s ability to run and then mix in the play action they love so much, I think they’ll put plenty of points on the board. Arkansas can’t stop them and they’ll have to play a perfect game on offense to have a chance, but they won’t. Alabama wins.

Florida at Kentucky
A perfect chance to add validity to my belief that Rich Brooks is a good coach. Tennessee showed everyone how to play this Florida team and I expect Brooks to follow suit. He’s got a little more offensive talent so he can be a little more aggressive than the Vols, but it’s not enough to win. I just want to see Kentucky keep it within a few scores and make it a mildly competitive game.

Arizona State at Georgia
Can Joe Cox live the good life for another week? It probably doesn’t matter. As long as Georgia avoids massive quantities of turnovers, they win. And remember when there was a contingent of Ole Miss fans (a contingent made up Pete Boone and Robert Khayat) who thought Dennis Erickson should become Ole Miss’ next head coach? What an outstanding idea. Granted, he certainly would have been better than Ed Orgeron initially, but so would have an eight-year old.

Ball State at Auburn

I’ve got $20 that says Kodi Burns can’t complete more than five passes.

Ohio at Tennessee
I’ve got another $20 that says Jonathan Crompton can’t complete 15.

Vanderbilt at Rice
One of a handful of times Vandy will play a team that’s actually worse than they are. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice. Vandy wins.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Belly of the Beast Call-In Show

Week two of the “call-in” show, albeit a little late, but there. This means it’s lasted one week longer than I thought it would. On to our first caller…

Bodhi from Venice Beach, CA: What’s up with SC when they go to the Pacific Northwest? Is it the rainy climate? Clouds? The seemingly never-ending sea of white people? If they want the ultimate thrill, they’ve gotta be willing to pay the ultimate price.

Gray: I knew you survived that giant wave in Australia. But as for your question, the Trojans appear to be allergic to whatever’s in the air in the Pacific Northwest. They’ve now lost in that area of the country in 2009, 2008 (Oregon State), 2007 (Oregon) and 2006 (Oregon State), all of which were loses to inferior teams. They seem to have no problem plundering and pillaging the rest of the Pac-10, but fall to pieces when they go were the sun is behind the clouds 300 days of the year. I’m not sure why that happens, but I do have some ideas to fix this problem for next year.

1) Did you see the ESPN segment last week about all the USC players singing “Lean on Me” during a team meeting? Yes? Well scratch that feel good crap. Start singing something with inner angst and rage. I recommend something out of the Nirvana catalog. Perhaps something like “In Bloom” would set the mood right.

2) Since every day in Southern California is like 80 degrees and sunny, practice at night in the desert and have some of those “cool zone” machines used for hot weather spray a constant, cold mist over the field. This will give a more accurate feel for the weather one will experience there.

3) Throw cultural diversity out the window. Invite every white person in Los Angeles to practice. This will help simulate the thousands of all-white faces that will be staring at the team when they play up there next year.

Do that and your fortunes should improve. Next caller…

Dale from Omaha: How painful was Nebraska’s last minute collapse against Virginia Tech on Saturday?

Gray: Well, as an Ole Miss fan, I’ve been through more awful loses than I can remember. Eventually the pain dulls and everything runs together so you sort of lose track of all the misery. But as for your loss on Saturday, it was particularly brutal. You were in control for virtually most of the game and limited Virginia Tech’s hapless offense no almost nothing through the air. You also continued to show the country that despite what talking heads constantly say, Tyrod Taylor is an absolutely horrible quarterback.

And then you blew up. I didn’t really care who won the game, but as I watched Taylor scramble around on third down and not pursued by defensive linemen, I was reminded of Matt Jones’ performance in the seven overtime game (yes, SEVEN OVERTIMES) against Ole Miss. And like you, we lost. Bill Simmons has spent many words coming up with a levels of losing scale and I think this one might create its own level. And to make it even worse, if you had won, the country wouldn’t have to watch an average Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl this year. Thanks for nothing, jackasses.

Next caller…

Luther from Coral Gables, FL: Is the U back?

Gray: Is this Luther Campbell from 2 Live Crew fame? I feel honored to be talking with someone who was once a blight on the Miami program for the admitted cash payments and favors for players, yet continues to be a visible presence in the program. Surely you’ve reformed by now and participate in no such activities because that’s the only explanation as to why you’d still be allowed around there right?

Luther: Answer the mother *$%&#@$ question, whitey.

Gray: Indeed I will, good sir. It’s hard to say. On one hand, they’ve handled the mediocre ACC teams that have come their way with an outstanding pass offense, which I never thought I’d be able to say about a Miami team again, and a defense that is suspect against the pass, but has performed well against the run. On the other hand, they’re one accurate Christian Ponder pass away from being 1-1 and unranked and as mentioned, not very good against the pass.

I’m interested in seeing Jacory Harris have to make some throws where he doesn’t have eight seconds to look over the defense before throwing. Credit his offensive line and the play calling for some of that, but I think some of that was the result of playing some bad defenses. Hopefully, Virginia Tech’s defense will show up and we’ll have a more definitive answer this weekend. If not, we’ll have to wait another week when Oklahoma comes to Miami. And if Miami continues this onslaught of offense against these two teams, I’ll admit the U is on their way back. Defensively, I think they’re too shaky right now to have them be all the way back.

One more caller…

Josh from Nashville, TN: If a Big 10 game were held in your backyard, would you watch?

Gray: My first answer would be no, absolutely not. I really have no desire to watch players with the speed of refrigerators, washers and dryers run around in such a big area. However, I am reminded of a Simpsons episode where they give away their old washer and dryer to Moe’s Tavern, and the drunks there race the two against each other. They looked like they were having fun yelling for the washer to win. So perhaps I might.

Until next week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

Even though I was faced with a battle against a combination of whooping cough, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, post nasal drip and perhaps a touch of the black lung, I managed to plow through something like 11 hours of college football on Saturday just so I could have something to write about here today. Well, that’s not actually true. I did it because I’m sort of an addict and like all addicts, despite my condition and environment, I had to have the good stuff.

Anyway, I’m trying on a new pair of pants around here (and yes, they were from the Pants Store) so there’s a little more content below all the game recaps. So feel free to stick around and read that after you are reminded of all the ways your team did or did not disappoint you over the weekend.


Kentucky 31, Louisville 27
If you live outside the state of Kentucky (with the exception of fans of these schools), there is literally zero appeal to this game. Kentucky football isn’t bringing anything glamorous to the table and the days of Louisville lighting up scoreboards and piling up yards are gone. So what we had left was two teams with bad defenses giving up points to mediocre offenses. Luckily, this game came on during the time when most people were getting ramped up for the Florida/Tennessee game and no one was really paying attention.

The only thing worth noting here was that Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders broke his arm when one of his players crashed into him as a play spilled into the sidelines. Tennessee fans would want you to believe he broke it while aggressively putting his hands around his throat while calling plays, but that would be incorrect.

Alabama 53, North Texas 7

Just never listen to me when it comes to point spreads. I know nothing.

Florida 23, Tennessee 13
It wasn’t the raging bloodbath that many were hoping for, and actually was a pretty boring game, but what America did get out of this was a blueprint on how to beat Florida. A patient, time-consuming ground game, mixed in with some play action and screens, and a defense that takes away deep plays, calls some great blitzes and puts the burden on the Florida rushing game to win. You really can’t put into words how well Tennessee’s defense played considering they weren’t getting much help from their offense. Of course, Tennessee played about as well as they could have played on defense (and arguably on offense given what they have at quarterback) and still lost. However, a team with a competent quarterback and offense in general can beat Florida, provided they get a defensive effort and game plan like the ones Tennessee put up.

If you’re Tennessee, obviously you have to be pleased with how well your defense played. On the other side, your offense did better than expected, but you have to be frustrated with the quarterback play. As mentioned above, average quarterback play gives them a real chance in this game. Of course, they had no one on the sidelines that could give them that so they really had no chance. I was especially confused by the complete lack of urgency when the Vols got the ball back with six minutes to go, down two scores. I understand that was the plan that got them there, but with six minutes left and down ten you have to be aggressive. If not, you’re absolutely going to lose, which they did. Perhaps some no-huddle, maybe a trick play or a shot down the field against single coverage should have been in order. Instead, they bled the clock down and it eventually ended with Crompton throwing a pick with two minutes left. Their strategy was great up until that drive.

As for Florida, I’d be a little worried on offense. They didn’t get much by way of their receivers and Tebow really felt some pressure from the Tennessee defense (three sacks), but at the same time they did hit up an SEC defense for 200 yards on the ground, which makes winning much easier. Defensively, they were a little shaky against a one-dimensional offense, but basically shut down the Tennessee run game at the right times and forced Crompton to throw. But by no means is this a terrifying defense. Florida is still a really good team and will be extremely hard to beat, but Tennessee showed it may not be as difficult as previously thought.

One final note, I thoroughly enjoyed the opening shot of Ed Orgeron trying to get the team fired up in the tunnel before they took the field. It brought back some memories of lambs being led to the slaughter.

LSU 31, Directional School 3
Interesting note that I heard on ESPN is that in the history of the games between these schools, Louisiana-Lafayette has never scored a touchdown.

Mississippi State 15, Vanderbilt 3

Only Dan Mullen’s bounce back kept me from a perfect week in the picks. I watched for maybe 10 or fifteen minutes and all I saw was a trainwreck of offensive incompetence, led by Vandy’s revamped offense. Give credit to State’s defense for not giving up any big plays and keeping a crappy offense in neutral. They did what any decent defense should do to a bad offense. And in all seriousness, if State got to four wins, I’d be very impressed.

South Carolina 38, Oceanic Directional School 16
In addition to the list of diseases above that I’m currently battling, I’m now dealing with nausea and probably an ulcer all because of Ole Miss’ Thursday night game against South Carolina. Remember all those diseases that people in your wagon party used to get in Oregon Trail? I’ll probably have all of those by then. I’m going to be an absolute wreck by the time Thursday gets here.

Ole Miss 52, Directional I-AA School 6
Typhoid, diphtheria, dysentery, measles, scabies, rabies, raging fever, lice. I’m pretty sure I’m already showing symptoms of at least three of those.

Georgia 52, Arkansas 41
Easily the most entertaining game of the weekend. Lots of offense and a pair of defenses that did their best to get out of the way of those carrying the ball. We knew Arkansas’ defense was bad, and they certainly upheld their reputation, and now we know that Georgia’s defense is officially horrible as well. They’ve given up 912 yards and 78 points in two conference games. Arkansas is on pace to break that level of terribleness, but right now Georgia is our leader in bad defense.

And thanks to that shoddy Arkansas defense, Joe Cox showed real quarterbacking skill, so much skill that I’m sure he often said to himself, “Wow, how did I do that?” If Georgia can keep up the receiving combination of A.J. Green and Michael Moore, there’s hope for their offense yet. We’ll find out more when they play LSU in two weeks.

As for Arkansas, if Ryan Mallett has time, he will destroy opposing defenses. Georgia was eventually able to cut down his time to throw and that was the end of the Arkansas offense. He was much better than I expected, some of that was due to Georgia’s defense, but I thought he played well considering there wasn’t much happening by way of the run. If Arkansas’ defense can show up to any games, this won’t be a fun team to play, despite the potential one-dimensional nature of this offense.

Auburn 41, West Virginia 30
Hey, guess who else’s defense stinks? The Tigers got rolled up for 500 yards and did so while generating six turnovers. I think West Virginia might have had an outside shot at 750 yards of offense had they not turned it over so much. The good news for Auburn is that their offense is not the spectacular disaster it was last year so their defense doesn’t have to be that good. Although if the defense continues this level of suckiness, they’ll need the USC offense circa 2005 to hold on to some wins. We’ll find out if this Auburn offense is for real when the go to Tennessee in two weeks. And I suppose if Jonathan Crompton lights them up for some significant yardage in that game, we’ll know that their defense is one of the worst in the country.


Florida State 54, BYU 28
I mentioned during last week’s “call-in show” that I thought BYU had a strong to quite strong chance to beat FSU. What an idiot I am. I completely forgot about the Mississippi State team in 2000 that traveled to BYU and simply pummeled the Cougars without mercy, 44-28. They were 20 times faster and it often seemed like it was 15 on 11 because of their team speed and BYU’s lack thereof. In that 2000 game, State ran for 200 yards (FSU ran for 300+), created four turnovers (FSU created 5) and simply blew them away with speed. Now why I didn’t see FSU doing the same thing is beyond stupid. The lesson, per the usual, is that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Also, maybe Oklahoma really is bad.

(Given to the player who dominated with or without the help of his teammates and coaches.)

Joe Cox, QB, Georgia
Abandoned and left for dead on the side of the road by most Georgia fans, Cox picked himself up, found his way to Fayetteville and turned in a great game against Arkansas. Granted, he was facing Arkansas’ non-existent defense, but 18 of 26 for 375 yards and five touchdowns is still pretty impressive. Sure he’ll probably come crashing back to earth, but at least for this week Joe Cox looked like he belonged in the SEC.

(Given to the player who caused his team’s fans the highest degree of wailing and gnashing of teeth due to blown assignments and generally piss poor play.)

Jonathan Crompton, QB, Tennessee
A fairly obvious pick and perhaps the one player who might win this award multiple times, but Crompton’s performance in Gainesville was 1,000% awful. 11 of 19 for 93 yards and two interceptions and he did that while playing in an offense that would have been declared conservative in 1949. Had Tennessee’s defense collapsed and forced the Vols to throw much more than they did, he could have made a run at six interceptions. Our loss more than anything.


(Given to the coach who dominated whatever task was in front of him.)

Monte Kiffin, Defensive Coordinator, Tennessee
The most powerful offense in the SEC and its spread formations, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and the smartest man in the entire world running the show was stacked up against Kiffin’s defense and for the most part, he held them in check. Yes, his defense did give up large chunks of rushing yards, but if not for their outstanding pass defense and pressure, Florida might have covered that 29-point spread.


Ole Miss at South Carolina

Arkansas at Alabama
Let’s see this Arkansas offense against a real defense. I’m really looking forward to see what Saban has in store to slow the Hogs down and what Petrino will do to challenge Saban’s defense. Very interesting coaching matchup.

Friday, September 18, 2009

SEC Picks of Week 3

Made while having an airing of grievances with my fantasy football team…

Last week: 5-1
Season: 16-2 (.889)

Louisville at Kentucky

I’ll just go ahead and get it out of the way and tell you that I know nothing about this game. I’m pretty sure Louisville still stinks, although not as badly as they did, and Kentucky is Kentucky, although a more improved version of Kentucky. It’s hard to know much when the two teams have defeated Indiana State and Miami (OH). What I can tell you based in facts is that there was a time Rich Brooks could not beat Louisville, but in the last two years he has. This is a weird game. We should move on. Brooks and the Wildcats make it three straight over the Cardinals.

Directional School at Alabama
The good news for North Texas is that they’ve already equaled their win total (one) from last season. The bad news is that they may not have one total yard of offense on Saturday. Just kidding. But I’m serious. However, the line of North Texas (+38) looks nice only because Alabama’s offense isn’t that great and, even though I claimed there would be no gambling information mentioned here, the Tide is just 10-22-2 against the spread in their last 34 home games. And yes, I am aware that last sentence made me sound like a gambling degenerate.

But I do have a few questions about this game. One, I don’t know how much money North Texas is getting for making the trip to Tuscaloosa (I’m assuming in the $1 million range), but what percentage of their athletic budget is made up of that money? 10%? 20%? 58%? Someone with research ability needs to find out. Two, how long could Nick Saban’s annual salary (roughly $4 million) fund the North Texas athletic department? 6 months? 6 years? And finally, I don’t really know where I was going with any of this. Just trying to make conversation.

Tennessee at Florida

The day of reckoning has arrived for Lane Kiffin, who spent a good chunk of the offseason yammering about singing Rocky Top in the Swamp after a Tennessee win, accusing Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation and removing all humility from his soul. In other words, he spent it poking a sleeping Kodiak bear who, in addition to razor sharp claws and teeth, is also armed with Tomahawk missiles, an arsenal of F5 tornados and a fire-breathing, giant dragon. And that’s just on offense.

Did no one tell Kiffin that his best returning quarterback was Jonathan Crompton? Surely he knew, right? I mean, you wouldn’t run around saying all the stuff he said if he knew unless HE IS COMPLETELY IN OVER HIS HEAD. I said the Lane Kiffin era was going to be a spectacular train wreck and so far it’s right on pace. Unfortunately, it really does look like it’s headed to an end midway through the 2010 season as predicted.

And this just in to Belly of the Beast. It’s a reenactment of a phone call placed earlier today by Florida coach Urban Meyer to Lane Kiffin. Meyer is played by Tom Cruise and Kiffin by an unknown and possibly uncredited Asian actor. And Matthew McConaughey represents the media and its unhealthy man-lust for Urban Meyer.


Well then, I’ll take Florida.

Former Directional School at LSU

The second Sun Belt team of the week placed on the sacrificial altar for the SEC. And it will be 0-2 for the week.

Mississippi State at Vanderbilt

In all seriousness, State might not win another game. Their remaining schedule is a nightmare, made even worse if you’re not very good, which State isn’t. If they lose this game, I can absolutely see them finishing 1-11. If they win, maybe 3-9, more likely 2-10. Hard to believe that the third game of the year for State is a must-win if they want to avoid a totally embarrassing season, but it is. Unfortunately, as long as Tyson Lee and/or Chris Relf are prominently involved in the offense, I don’t think they’ll be able to beat any SEC team. SEC defenses are always some of the better ones in the country (right now, eight teams rank in the top 50 in total defense) and if your offense or the players running that offense stink, you’re not going anywhere. However, the good news for State fans (as if they care what I think) is that I do foresee them beating Middle Tennessee State later this year.

Oceanic Directional School (I think it works) at South Carolina
Was Spurrier found face down in a drain pool last weekend? I hope someone picked him up.

Directional I-AA School at Ole Miss
What an exciting home opener. Here’s a list of all the SEC’s home openers:

Miami (OH) (Kentucky)
Jackson State (Mississippi State)
Western Kentucky (Tennessee)
Charleston Southern (Florida)
Louisiana Tech (Auburn)
Missouri State (Arkansas)
Western Carolina (Vanderbilt)
Florida International (Alabama)
Vanderbilt (LSU)
South Carolina (Georgia)
Florida Atlantic (South Carolina)

Compelling and rich.

Georgia at Arkansas
Everyone is all on board with an Arkansas win here and I’m not sure it’s going to be that simple. Yes, Georgia’s defense appears to suck. Yes, Georgia’s offense appears to suck. And yes, this is the third straight highly competitive game for Georgia. But, let’s look at Arkansas. If you recall, their defense was awful last year, and because they haven’t played anyone yet we don’t know what they’ve got there. Two, we don’t know what Ryan Mallett brings to the table when not playing in Big Ten games (his state line from Michigan: 61 of 141 (43.3%), 892 yds, 7 TD, 5 INT). And three, did I mention how bad Arkansas was on defense last year?

Now, Arkansas may come out in this game and blow Georgia away and answer all of my questions and doubts I have about them. But, until I see some proof, and Missouri State is not proof, I’m not fully buying into the hype surrounding an Arkansas transformation. I’m taking Georgia here and when Arkansas hangs 50 on them, please be sure to remind me of my stupidity on Monday.

West Virginia at Auburn

I just realized there’s a pretty good chance Auburn could start out the year 5-0, which would double Gene Chizik’s career win total coming into this season. In the next two weeks, they play Ball State and Tennessee, one of which is a certain win and the other could be called a probable win. I know nothing of West Virginia other than moonshine, crystal meth and no black people live in that state (except those on the UWV sports teams), but I am quite certain their football team is going to be thrashed on Saturday.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Belly of the Beast Call-In Show

A new feature here that will most likely meet the same fate as the Classic Conversation, Looking for a Midweek Pulse and several other of my ideas that ultimately bit the dust because of general apathy and sloth, but I like this idea so I’ll give it a try. Ideally, this would appear each Wednesday (being that today is Thursday we’re already off to a good start) to give you something to digest as you eagerly (perhaps a loose interpretation of the word, no?) await Friday’s preview of the weekend SEC games.

Anyway, the idea here is that if the Belly of the Beast had a call-in show, this is what it would be like. And although I tend to focus mostly on what goes on around the SEC, I take calls covering all schools and conferences. That is, if I had a telephone set up, which I don’t, an ability to broadcast said phone calls (nope) and people actually called, which they wouldn’t. On to our first caller…

Norm from Broken Arrow, OK: Are the Sooners totally screwed?

Gray: Yes Norm, they are. The teams you’d normally steamroll, Miami, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma State, are suddenly not automatic wins. In fact, I’d be a little worried about Tulsa this weekend. Good offense, not great defense, but not awful. Sounds a little like BYU doesn’t it? And why did you get your hopes up for this season when you knew your offensive line was totally new? Had Bradford survived the BYU game, the line would have eventually bitten you square in the ass.

Next caller…

Gavin from Provo, UT: What are BYU’s chances this weekend?

Gray: I’d say strong to quite strong. Look, FSU’s pass defense is awful. Awful. In fact, their defense in general may not be very good. They love to keep blitzing and play very aggressive even when they don’t have the players to play that type of defense. Hence giving up 30-something points to Miami. Yes, Florida State will be faster and have more athletes than currently live in the entire state of Utah (20% of which play for the Jazz), but BYU showed they could play with that type of athleticism when they beat Oklahoma. Plus, the Cougars are fielding a team made up of 24 to 35 year olds, which will give them a physical and mental advantage.

Who’s next…

Brent from Columbus, OH: Why?!?!? The pain!!! It’s a deep burn!!! I’ve burned all of my Walmart jerseys and even my precious Starter jacket!!! Help!!!

Gray: I guess that’s an actual question so I’ll take a shot. First, get used to it, or stop playing teams that reside outside of the stretch of land from Minnesota to Pennsylvania. Second, start questioning your head coach. I mentioned it in brief fashion here, but Chris at breaks it down in far greater (and better) details here. Jim Tressell specializes in being spectacularly outcoached. And finally, petition national media members to stop ranking you so high in preseason polls. That way, when you lose a game you should win or are demolished by a far superior team, the pain will be more of a dull ache.

Moving on…

Bobby Dan from Alabama: Hello? Hello?

Gray: Yes, go ahead.

Bobby Dan: Yeah, uh, you was talkin’ to the feller from Oklahoma about the offensive line and I had a question.

Gray: Okay, what is your question?

Bobby Dan: My question is, so, if Oklahoma’s line is new and that got that quarterback hurt, what does this mean for Alabama’s offensive line? Thanks, and I’ll just hang up and listen.

Gray: Okay, sure. Thanks, Bobby Dan. And let me be the first to congratulate you on being the first Alabama fan to ever question that something might be wrong with the Crimson Tide. I’ve never heard that before. As for your question, I’d be a little worried about three of the five spots being filled by guys who didn’t play last year. I’m not saying they’re going to make a colossal mistake and that lead to your quarterback being injured, but new offensive lines are not good things to have when conference play starts.

Next caller…

Ricky from Alabama: HORSESHIT!!!

Ah, Ricky. I can’t wait to see video of you after a game in which Alabama loses. I’ll probably watch it at least 25 times.

A couple more and we’ll mercifully wrap this up…

Larry from Muscle Shoals, AL: Yeah, couldn’t you say the same thing about Ole Miss’ offensive line?

Gray: Indeed you can, Larry. While not overly impressive in the Memphis game, they didn’t make any killer mistakes, but it’s also Memphis. What makes me a little less worried about Ole Miss’ line is that Daverin Geralds, the center, returns after a full season at the position in which he was outstanding down the stretch last year. He’s responsible for the offensive line and knows what he’s doing, plus has a little more experience around him than what Alabama has. Now, the two new linemen, the left tackle and right guard (I’d name names here but nobody would know who the hell I was talking about) could be completely overwhelmed against South Carolina and blow this theory to hell. We’ll talk next Friday after we see what happens.

Last one…

Lou from Bristol, CT: My friend Beano and I are having a kegger at the house on Saturday. All are welcome, but if you want liquor it’s on you. And don’t tell Mark May.

Gray: Lou, what happened to your lisp?

Lou: Ha! You think I really talk like sthissss? It’s all made up. The more absurd I sound, the more people watch our show and the closer I get back to coaching. I tell ya….wait….Beano, for the love of all things holy put your shirt back on. And cover up that gobbler you call a neck.

Alright, Lou, we’ve got to run. Until next time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

With Ole Miss having an off week, I too took an off week of sorts and didn’t watch very much college football. I found it to be refreshing and non-emotionally damaging, which was nice. However, thanks to some outstanding scheduling by those in the Ole Miss athletic department, I’ll be locked in for the next 11 weeks and can promise much more insightful and stinging reviews of our football teams and all the ways they find to disappoint us. So without seeing much more than highlights for each game, here was the week in the SEC.

Florida 56, Troy 6
Note to self: Always pick Florida to cover. Always. Any other idea you may have is stupid.

One of the games I did get to watch a good chunk of was the USC/Ohio State game, which was a contest of some bad offenses. I’m not really sure why anyone even talked like this would be the game that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor finally arrived as one of the big time players in college football. Anyone who has watched Pryor play quarterback should have known he wasn’t going to play well because he’s not a good quarterback. Outstanding athlete, yes, quarterback, no. Watching him try to pass and read coverages is just painful. It sort of reminds me of the illustrious Brent Schaeffer era at Ole Miss (for the record I think Pryor is a better athlete). Schaeffer was forced into a pro-style offense that wasn’t suited for his talents and when he did play, played poorly. And it didn’t help the coaching he received could best be described as poor.

Now, if you remember the last two games of his last year at Ole Miss, the Rebels finally started running a form of the spread/run option offense that really cut down on his having to read defenses and allowed him to use his athletic ability. That offense ripped LSU up for 400+ yards of total offense (even though LSU kicked the crap out of Ole Miss) and was highly successful the next week against Mississippi State until Ed Orgeron decided to play super conservative until the infamous fourth and one play in which he needed to be super conservative and wasn’t.

Pryor has better coaching (at least I think he does) and more talent around him on both sides of the ball than Schaeffer had at Ole Miss, so why not run an offense that plays to his athletic strengths? He’s faster and sometimes bigger than the linebackers chasing him, has a pretty strong arm and has great natural strength. If used properly, he would be a nightmare match up for defensive coordinators. Lining him up under center or using that stupid fake draw pass play out of shotgun is what opposing defenses want to see from Ohio State.

And Ohio State should take heart, this is the second game in a row versus a top-ranked BCS school in which they were not blown out of the building. Luckily for them, the rest of their season is filled with Big 10 teams, Toledo and New Mexico State. So look for them in the Fiesta Bowl.

And as for USC, let’s put an end to all these cries of the next great one for quarterback Matt Barkley. It was obvious that for most of the game the USC coaches were terrified of letting him take any sort of chances downfield. I thought he played well given the conservative nature of USC’s game plan and play calling, but I think we should all see a little more before we declare him the next great quarterback in college football.

UCLA 19, Tennessee 15
I blacked out, what happened? Were we just taking at length about Ohio State? Not sure what happened there. Anyway, welcome back to reality Lane Kiffin. Life sure was easy against the Western Kentucky’s of the world.

Remember all that talk about the new and improved Jonathan Crompton? Well, that was just silly. He still stinks. I thought Tennessee played this game much like they should play every game. Rely on their defense, run the ball and hope your quarterback can make a handful of good throws. Unfortunately for them, running the ball is much harder against teams with a degree of talent who also know you can’t throw the ball.

And make no mistake about it, this UCLA team is not very good at all. They were 4-8 last year and I saw nothing that indicated they were going to be much better than that this year, much like Tennessee. But the good news for Tennessee fans is that their defense appears to be a pretty good one, which should prevent Florida from scoring 70 this week.

Alabama 40, Florida International 14
It should be noted that Alabama has now surrendered 65 total rushing yards on the season. 64 of those came against Virginia Tech.

LSU 23, Vanderbilt 9

It appears the cure for LSU’s defense was the Vanderbilt offense and some rain. Everything I read about this game noted that the rain really slowed both teams down, LSU more than Vandy. Not much to say here other than LSU played well enough to win and deserved to win. I’m really looking forward to their game at Georgia on October 3rd. They’re better than Georgia right now, but I want to see what happens when they play a team that is in the neighborhood of their skill level because then we’ll have a real understanding of this LSU team.

Georgia 41, South Carolina 37

So not only does Georgia’s offense stink their defense does too. 427 yards to a Stephen Garcia led offense? And he even threw 53 times, which should always mean good things for opposing defenses. This is the one game of the weekend I wished I had been able to see because looking at the box score I have no idea how South Carolina lost. Georgia had fewer yards, more penalties and had the ball for nine fewer minutes. Someone go check to see if Steve Spurrier has finished vomiting yet.

Auburn 49, Mississippi State 24

Speaking of bad offenses and defenses, it’s Mississippi State. We all know State’s offense is bad, but to give up 390 yards rushing to a team that can’t throw the ball is awful. If this poor run defense turns into a trend for State and with the schedule they have, a 2-10 season is a serious possibility.

And my apologies for labeling this game a bloodbath of punts. I should have called it a bloodbath of Auburn first downs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SEC Picks of Week 2

Made while watching Ricky the Alabama fan shatter the YouTube record for comedy. Even Kige Ramsey’s awkwardness and unintentional comedy can’t touch this.


Let’s see what we have here.

Redneck? Check.
Racist? Check.
Anger Issues? Check.
Wearing large amounts of Alabama flair in home? Check.
Limited vocabulary? Check.
Belief that Alabama can do no wrong? Check.
Women cursing in the background? Check.

And I thought there would never be anyone that could top Cowboy.

Last week: 11-1
Season: 11-1 (.916)

Troy at Florida

I’m only vaguely interested in this game for reasons involving point spreads. There’s no doubt Florida will conduct a wholesale slaughter of the Trojans, but I want to see what Troy has on offense. If you recall the last few seasons, Troy has had some outstanding offenses and because of this, was a covering machine. In fact, I want to say two seasons ago they were something like 11-1 against the spread, which is cash money in your pocket (if gambling were a legitimate enterprise looked favorably upon by the NCAA). If the Trojans put up some points, I’d keep an eye out when they run into the Sun Belt teams.

UCLA at Tennessee
Question: How does one lose a game when the opposing quarterback throws four interceptions? Simple. You elect to throw 41 time with your below average quarterback and ignore your two running backs who would end the game AVERAGING 7.4 and 5.5 yards per carry. That’s what Phil Fulmer allowed offensive coordinator Dave Clawson to do in last year’s 27-24 overtime loss to UCLA. Now, both those guys are no longer employed by the University of Tennessee (although they are still receiving handsome paychecks from Tennessee).

As poorly as I think of Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron, I don’t think those mistakes will be made again. Last week against a hapless directional school, Jonathan Crompton, the player some Tennessee fans wanted to kill (literally), was only allowed to throw 28 times. If he’s allowed to top that (barring turnovers and Tennessee falls behind), Kiffin may find himself in the unemployment line much faster than I predicted. The Vols win an ugly, ugly game.

Florida International at Alabama
God help Ricky’s family if FIU jumps out to an early 3-0 lead. He’ll probably burn the house down with them inside. Then, after he steals a map from a local convenience store, he’ll find his way to Tuscaloosa and blow the brains out of the referee who missed a holding call on FIU’s scoring drive. Good times.

Vanderbilt at LSU
The revamped, no-huddle Vanderbilt offense exploded last week for over 600 yards of offense against what had to be an awful Western Carolina team. The revamped, well-coached LSU defense gave up 478 yards to a team that had one player (the quarterback) and won zero games last year. This could turn into an interesting game if Vanderbilt can keep from committing the soul-crushing turnovers they so often have against every team in the SEC but Ole Miss (in their last two wins over Ole Miss, Vandy is +4 in turnover ratio). I find it hard to believe Vandy could go to LSU and win, but I foresee things getting a little shaky for LSU before the Tigers go on to win.

South Carolina at Georgia
Steve Spurrier said earlier this week that he plans on being a little more aggressive on offense than he was against NC State. This, of course, means that Stephen Garcia will be given more opportunities to make bad decisions that might cost his team the game, which will in turn lead to him possibly doing something really dumb off the field. We all win in this scenario. Who isn’t ready to see him take his property crimes to the next level?

As for the actual game, I think Georgia could be in some serious trouble, not just this weekend, but for the rest of the season. Take a look at this. Even Mark Richt senses something is amiss. And Joe Cox, doesn’t care about his critics, but does care enough to address them and pull out the old “they’ve never played a down of football in their lives” argument, which always goes over well. A crappy performance this weekend and you’ll be able to feel the fan’s sense of impending doom in the stadium, even if Georgia wins.

I’d love to take South Carolina here, but then I remember their game last Thursday night. And I cannot in good conscience select Stephen Garcia to win on the road. Georgia wins and challenges Tennessee for the ugliest win of the weekend.

Mississippi State at Auburn

From the few moments of the Auburn game I saw last last weekend, they appear to have a much more competent offense than whatever it was they had last year. Of course, they were playing Louisiana Tech, which probably helped. The same goes for Mississippi State. A much better offensive showing, but it was Jackson State, who I’ve now had three separate people tell me was “the worst team I’ve ever seen.”

I think we’ll see yet another defensive orgy, which will take place not because of outstanding defensive play, but because mediocre offenses will run into stronger defenses. And because I think Auburn’s offense is a little stronger than State’s, which I think is pretty bad, Auburn should come out of this bloodbath of punts victorious.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

From the Long Weekend That Was

South Carolina 7, NC State 3
Much like my suggested rule that Ohio State never be ranked again or receive media attention for slapping around the smaller schools of Ohio, my idea that South Carolina or NC State never be allowed to open the college football season again will most likely be ignored. Although it shouldn’t, since I’m right. South Carolina has given us such greats as this year’s win, last year’s 34-0 game which was equally as boring and who can forget the exciting 15-0 win over Mississippi State just three years ago. It’s time for this business to stop.

And, holy crap, NC State is just awful. If you’re scoring at home, which may be difficult for NC State fans since they have no examples provided by their football team, that’s three points in two years on season-opening Thursday night games.

Kentucky 42, Miami (OH) 0
Do you think that when Miami Hurricane fans are watching the bottom line scores come across on ESPN they are temporarily terrified of the result they see until the OH appears? I think I would.

Tennessee 63, Directional School 7
After the destruction of a Sun Belt school, Lane Kiffin still isn’t letting up. According to his Twitter account, today is COMPETITION TUESDAY!!! (Note: This is not to be confused with David Cutcliffe’s “Get Better Monday.” And I have a feeling that after his Blue Devils’ loss to I-AA Richmond, he’ll be ordering a “Code Blue” on Wednesday.) If you’re familiar with Ed Orgeron’s body of work, that statement reeks, I mean REEKS of Ed Orgeron. Let’s see how fresh the Vols are in week eight or nine when they’re still going 200 miles an hour three days a week. The more influence he has, the more enjoyable the Kiffin era’s fall will become.

Oklahoma State 24, Georgia 10
If Georgia has a quarterback and the officials elected to referee this game as a football game and not a touch football game, perhaps the Bulldogs would have been in a position to win. For those who may have missed it, Oklahoma State’s last touchdown came on a drive that was kept alive by an unnecessary roughness penalty on a Georgia defensive back after he destroyed a Cowboy wide receiver who was trying to catch a pass. When he was hit, the receiver still had a hand on the ball. Violent hit? Yes. A penalty? Only at the YMCA.

As the Sean McDonough, the announcer, said, “If you’re going to throw a flag for every hit that looks bad, you might as well play flag football.” Well said, sir. Of course, if Joe Cox weren’t absolutely horrible, it wouldn’t have mattered.

Mississippi State 45, Jackson State 7
According to a friend who was there, “Jackson State is the worst football team I’ve ever seen.” For the purpose of fantastic comedy, I would have loved to see how Sylvester Croom would have fared in this one. State still would have won, but it would have been along the lines of 24-7 and disgustingly ugly.

And my apologies to Dan Mullen (as if he cares) for besmirching him based on the idea that Anthony Dixon would play. I will also refrain from writing the backhanded compliment I had ready to go. But know that I did have one.

Arkansas 48, Missouri State 10

Auburn 37, Louisiana Tech 13

Chizik is now four wins away from double digits in career victories after 25 games as a head coach.

Florida 62, Charleston Southern 3
If you’re curious, the Charleston Southern nickname is the Buccaneers. So file that one away.

Vanderbilt 45, Western Carolina 0
Two of the country’s worst offenses last year, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, combine to score 90 points. By comparison, it took Vandy two games last season to reach the 45-point mark, and through its first four games of 2008, Mississippi State had a total of 57 points scored.

Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24
Hey, guess what? Tyrod Taylor is awful, just like every Virginia Tech quarterback since Michael Vick. Who saw that coming? The Hokies are another team that should never be ranked in the top ten before the season ever again. If Alabama had a stronger quarterback and decent special teams play, they win this game by at least 21. And when Virginia Tech is winning the Orange Bowl in January, just be sure to remember they stink.

As for the debut of Greg McElroy, color me unimpressed. Granted, he was going against a solid defense and was still able to help crank out almost 500 yards of total offense, but I never saw anything that made me think he’s going to be much better than he is right now. He’ll improve, but not by much. And I think we’ll also see Alabama be little more risky or aggressive on offense thanks to complete confidence in a really good defense. A defense like theirs will help control whatever mistakes are made on offense.

LSU 31, Washington 23
Speaking of unimpressed, here’s LSU. The defense that was supposed to be totally revamped now that all of that talent was being properly coached gave up 478 yards of offense to a team that was 0-12 last year. Jordan Jefferson? Blah. Maybe it was the trip to the West Coast, but LSU doesn’t look the part of a team that could make a run at Atlanta.

Ole Miss 45, Memphis 14
The day I am remotely upset with a 45-14 win, please shoot me in the face (and don’t miss). Yeah, it was a little frustrating watching Jevan Snead crap the bed for a little over three quarters, but I never got the sense we were in danger of losing the game. The defense picked up where it left off last year, really shutting down the Memphis offense. Other than the fourth quarter touchdown drive and the drive where Memphis missed a field goal, they really had no consistency. The defensive line got stronger as the game went on, especially Jerrell Powe, and the secondary has made a transformation to a group of guys I don’t even recognize. Shit talking, aggressive AND they put points on the board with Fon Ingram’s interception return for a touchdown. The last time we saw something like this was in the Billy Brewer era.

Other than Snead’s early struggles, it’s hard to really criticize much. The play calling was extremely basic so there’s not much to pick apart on offense. I thought the offense line played well at times, not so much at others, but for the first game, I’ll take it. Snead was not murdered by a vicious hit so that’s a victory in my book. I think we’ll see much more two weeks from now when they travel to Columbia.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

SEC Picks of the Week

For the first time in three weeks a spectacular video of Europe is not starting out a post in this spot, which depending on your affection or lack thereof of the band, can be a good or bad thing. I will miss my daily search for yet another video of the song that makes no sense. There’s nothing like a countdown in which it’s never mentioned what we’re about to reach. Easily one of the most confusing songs of all-time. But awesome.

So now that college football season is upon us, it’s time for me to break out my favorite post to write, my weekly SEC picks. You may hate them (possibly the picks themselves and reading someone pick games), but know that I thoroughly enjoy doing this. Probably a little too much. Anyway, if you’ve never read this before, I go through all the SEC games for the week, make a few comments that rank from absurd to blindly ignorant to spiteful and hopefully select the winner. These picks are made free from any sort of point spread because the NCAA tells me gambling is borderline illegal even though they require schools to publish weekly injury reports. Plus, any thoughts I have involving point spread winners will be kept to myself for my financial benefit and not yours.

Last season, I slapped together a 64-19 record (.771) and was headed for an .800 season until a last week debacle sent me under .800. So my goal this season is to crack the .800-mark, which can be done if I break my habit of choking at the worst time possible.

South Carolina at North Carolina State
Last season, this game opened college football and we saw the Gamecocks destroy NC State 34-0. This season, I don’t see it being that bad, but as far as I know (and I know nothing about NC State) the Wolfpack aren’t going to be much better and South Carolina could be slightly better or slightly worse. In short, I have no idea. And yes, you can expect this detailed analysis all season long. I’m taking South Carolina here.

Kentucky at Miami (OH)
As I mentioned yesterday, Kentucky could be a sneaky team in the SEC this year. Not that they’re going to dominate, but it’s entirely possible that in the last week of November you’ll look at the SEC standings and say, “Wait, Kentucky has eight wins?” They have three for sure loses Florida, Alabama and Georgia, but every other game is completely winnable. I’m very interested in this Kentucky team. It’s entirely possible Miami could be one of those 10-2 MAC teams (how would I know, I don’t do research), but I’ll take Kentucky.

Directional School at Tennessee
I struggle to put into words how excited I am about the rise (which has already happened) and eventual fall of the Lane Kiffin/Ed Orgeron regime. As I’ve written before, my money is on midway through the 2010 season. Good times are indeed ahead. Vols win.

Jackson State at Mississippi State

Anthony Dixon is suspended for a game. He’s suspended for a half. He might actually play. He’s going to start. Dan Mullen certainly comes from the Urban Meyer school of discipline. Also, he doesn’t want to get fired. State avoids a Maine disaster.

Georgia at Oklahoma State

Big 12 school with an all-world offense getting lots of hype going against an SEC school that is underrated and has a defense that’s much better than anyone Oklahoma State has seen. Does this sound familiar? Something to do with the Cotton Bowl. And I remember Florida playing in some other game in which they defeated a Big 12 team. I’m sure it was nothing. Georgia it is.

Missouri State at Arkansas
Hopefully, Arkansas can avoid a UL-Monroe near-disaster.

Louisiana Tech at Auburn

One person Gene Chizik will not be calling for some thoughts on Louisiana Tech is Sylvester Croom. Auburn’s win will account for one-sixth of Chizik’s career wins.

Charleston Southern at Florida

Western Carolina at Vanderbilt
Anything is possible with Vanderbilt when they’re favored in games. It’s the underdog role that allows them to play well. I say Vandy avoids a devastating loss by a narrow margin.

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech
Much like Clemson was last year, Virginia Tech is an ACC team that gets way too much hype for not being that good. They’ve made their national reputation on beating other ACC teams and losing to any team that’s even remotely good. Their offense stinks, they have no quarterback and they’ve lost their top running back. In the past five seasons when Virginia Tech stepped outside of the ACC and played teams in BCS conferences, they’ve piled up a 6-6 record with two of those wins coming over mighty Cincinnati.

Oh, they’ll go 10-2 or 9-3 because they are the best of the mediocre in the ACC, but look for them to get crushed against Alabama. The speed of Alabama’s defense is something they last saw when LSU dismantled them 48-7 in 2007. This won’t end well for the Hokies.

LSU at Washington
Oh, to be able to see those from Louisiana colliding with the good folks of the Pacific Northwest. What a show that will be. What won’t be a show is this game. LSU dominates.

Ole Miss at Memphis
Normally, I’m terrified of this game, but a strange calm has come over me the past few weeks. I realized Memphis really isn’t very good and that they’re not used to playing against the speed they’ll see on defense and offense on Sunday, and barring multiple turnovers on Ole Miss’ part, this one won’t be close. Well, that and I remembered a clueless Ed Orgeron defeating Memphis three straight years. The only thing that would make Sunday better than a crushing Ole Miss victory is a crushing Ole Miss victory followed by the dismissal of the hack that is Tommy West.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Final Countdown: 1

We finally made it to the end of this damn countdown. We’re one day away from college football season, which coincides with beginning of sloth, gorging and a high degree of emotional stress. And I, for one, can’t wait. So representing the last number of our countdown, I give you my SEC predictions and the one team that will leave Atlanta victorious.

These predictions are full of generalities, a small dose of research and a following of SEC football with the intensity of one of those stalkers about which states eventually make laws to protect their targets. If I confuse any numbers, names or other general information, it’s simply because my mind is about to explode. And partly because I don’t care about any other team but Ole Miss. My apologies to your team. And yes, this site is free.


1. Florida
According to everything I’ve read, Florida will sort of be like Ivan Drago, everything they hit, they will destroy. And I tend to agree. Everyone on defense is back and it’s a defense that after the loss to Ole Miss (maybe you heard about it) gave up an average of 13.1 points a game. That went along with an offense that averaged something like 117 points a game the rest of the way. I think this defense will probably challenge Alabama for the best in the conference.

On offense, there’s some guy named Tebow who’s allegedly pretty good. Not sure about that. The question marks on offense are can they effectively replace three offensive linemen, including the right tackle (protecting Tebow’s blind side) and Percy Harvin. I’m not so much concerned with the loss of Harvin as the Gators have like 27 more fast and talented guys waiting to play, but the offensive line could make them a degree below bulletproof. Their visit to Baton Rouge could be the end of a perfect season, especially if they struggle to find competent line replacements.

2. Georgia
The Bulldogs have about as favorable a schedule as you can have in the SEC. They get LSU and South Carolina at home (and of course have to play Florida), and their only dangerous road game could be at Arkansas before they figure out what they can and can’t do on offense. Joe Cox is allegedly a member of a plethora of game manager quarterbacks that are in college football, so in order to avoid any upsets, he’ll need to not screw things up. There’s young talent on offense and the offensive line should be pretty solid so anything above average from Cox and Georgia could be a pretty tough team.

Defensively, they should be strong, but then again, if you recruit like Richt has, they should have some players there. To me, this season is a defining season for him. If he pulls out a nine or 10 win season with this bunch, I’ll reconsider my 2200 words that declared him the most mediocre coach in the SEC.

3. South Carolina
Any chance the Gamecocks have at finishing behind Florida is ruined by their schedule. At Georgia, at Alabama, At Tennessee, and Florida and Ole Miss in Columbia. 1-4 there would be pretty good considering what Steve Spurrier has. A talented, but erratic and often dumb quarterback playing behind an offensive line that was awful last year and might not be much better this year. If South Carolina can’t run the ball with any success, this could be a long year in Columbia. If I had any faith in Kentucky or Tennessee, I’d put one of them here.

As for defense, all signs point to it being a little worse than last year’s, which wasn’t bad, but not great. If the defense can’t get any help from the offense, I will again question why I continue to put South Carolina this high every year.

4. Tennessee
Biggest problems: At Florida, at Alabama, at Ole Miss, Georgia at home, no quarterback, Ed Orgeron, Lane Kiffin, very thin offensive line, not much on the defensive line.

Biggest strengths: Everyone but Florida in the East is beatable and outside of the defensive line, the rest of the defense should be solid.

I really don’t see the Vols being much better than last year, and I wouldn’t expect more than 5-7.

5. Kentucky
If the Wildcats develop some consistent offense, they might prove to be a little feisty. And by that, I mean challenge Tennessee for fourth in the East. If you have to play Florida and Alabama, you want them at home and Kentucky does. I don’t think this will influence the win/loss column, but from a point-spread standpoint it might.

Defensively, Kentucky will be weak on the line, but fairly strong behind that. If they can hold up against the run, the defense could propel itself into the average category and, combined with a more experienced offense, they could pull off a couple of wins they shouldn’t.

6. Vanderbilt
In order to ramp up an offense that was one of the worst in college football, Bobby Johnson has installed a no-huddle, spread attack. That’s nice if you have a quarterback, which, as far as I know, is not on the Vanderbilt campus. The defense returns nine starters and should be the rock of the team, like every Vandy team since 1912. Don’t be surprised if Vandy leads the SEC in 11:30 kickoffs this season.


1. Ole Miss
That’s just terrifying to see that. Truly terrifying. Before you start accusing me of blind loyalty, allow me to make my case. First, the schedule. Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Tennessee all come to Oxford. The toughest road games are a Thursday night trip to South Carolina and a trip to Auburn. No other team in the West has a schedule that favorable. Second, an established, experienced, talented quarterback. No other team in the West has that. Third, defensive line. No other team in the West can match the talent there. Alabama could make a case, but they don’t have the depth Ole Miss does. Fourth, experience at every defensive position. Alabama is the only other team that can say that.

As for the weaknesses, offensive line depth. Even Houston Nutt has admitted that this team is a couple of sprained ankles away from being mediocre. As I have stated many times, if Ole Miss develops eight competent offensive linemen, they should beat every team they play in the regular season. Second weakness, cornerback. Yes, Marshay Green certainly came on at the end of last season, but everyone else is average to slightly above average. Can anyone really trust Cassius Vaughan? But the cornerback position is based heavily on confidence and if this group plays well early, they could become a strength.

As for the argument that Ole Miss has never been here before, that’s not really a strong argument to me. If you recall the end of last season, this team developed a sense of confidence I’ve never seen in an Ole Miss team. They knew if they didn’t have dumb turnovers, they were going to win. So they know what it takes to win. Yes, more teams will be geared up for them, but again, they know what they have to do to beat teams they’re better than.

2. Alabama
If not for going to LSU and Ole Miss, I think Alabama might have taken the number one spot here. They’re defense should be one of the strongest in the conference, although I’m interested to see who takes over leadership after Rashad Johnson’s departure, and of course they’re going to be extremely well-coached. My biggest problem with them is at quarterback and offensive line.

Recently, I heard Eli Gold, Alabama’s radio play-by-play announcer, say that Greg McElroy is a game manager type (buzzword!) that probably isn’t as talented as John Parker Wilson was. If I’m an Alabama fan, that’s a big, fat gulp right there. An inexperienced, lesser-talented version of Wilson behind an offensive line that won’t be as good as last year’s. That group has to replace three guys, the most underrated of which was center Antoine Caldwell. Losing three members off the strength of your team is going to hurt in some way the following year. I think the Tide is a year away from being a legitimate top five team.

3. LSU
At Ole Miss, at Alabama, at Georgia and Florida at home. A 2-2 finish there would be impressive and I think that will be a stretch for this team. As I’ve said before, Jordan Jefferson may be talented (I haven’t seen it), but he’s not good enough to win the West. Les Miles won’t play conservative offense with him and Jefferson will make tons of mistakes (remember Jarrett Lee last year). He’s got talented running backs and receivers, but I don’t think he’s ready to be an SEC quarterback. If he improves, LSU could be pretty tough at the end of the season.

As for defense, John Chavis takes over a talented group. Or so I’ve heard. In the last six games of the regular season, LSU surrendered almost 22 points a game. Granted, many of those could have been off Jarrett Lee interceptions returned for touchdowns, but the defense wasn’t very good. Unless Les Miles pulls a Nick Saban and goes super conservative on offense, LSU won’t be in Atlanta.

4. Arkansas
Holy crap, what a schedule. At Alabama, at Florida, at Ole Miss, at LSU and Georgia at home. 1-4 would be outstanding here. If they can get anything out of their defense, which was the worst or one of the worst in the SEC last year, they might sneak up on some people. That is if Ryan Mallett proves to be worth anything.

He’ll need some major help on his offensive line since he’s not been blessed with any foot speed. One would think he’ll bring more to the table than one of the Dick brothers, and if he does, Arkansas could be an interesting team, especially as Mallett gains experience. If he sucks, forget about everything I’ve said. Their battle with State for fifth and sixth will be fun to watch.

5. Auburn
Gus Malzahn’s offense was brought in to breathe some life into a disastrous offense from last year. Unfortunately, Chris Todd is operating that offense. Defensively, they should be much better than people think, but with a schedule that looks like this, at LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas, it won’t really matter. Oh, that and Gene Chizik is still in charge.

6. Mississippi State
An excellent group of teams comes to Starkville this year, unfortunately they’re all really good teams. LSU, Georgia Tech, Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss all come to Starkville, and barring anything crazy, all will win. Dan Mullen will have a tough year ahead of him, he’s got no quarterback, a bad offensive line and a defense that will probably be worse than least year’s. At worst, I can see a 2-10 season, and at best they can somehow claw their way to 5-7.

SEC Championship Game
Florida over Ole Miss

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Final Countdown: 2

And then there were two. 12 teams will compete for two spots in the SEC Championship Game, one will represent the West, the other the East. In true teaser fashion, you'll have to come back tomorrow to find out which teams I expect to see in Atlanta. My predictions promise to be full of scientific research, effort, stats, numbers and well-crafted sentences, while free of any biases or blind loyalties. Or maybe not. Find out tomorrow.

Until then, I leave you with some less-than-successful duos of the SEC...

Ed Orgeron and Ethan Flatt
Ed Orgeron and Michael Spurlock
Ed Orgeron and Robert Lane
Ed Orgeron and Seth Adams
Ed Orgeron and Brent Schaeffer
Ed Orgeron and Noel Mazzone
Ed Orgeron and Dan Werner
Ed Orgeron and Patrick Willis
Ed Orgeron and McKinley Boykin
Ed Orgeron and Garry Pack
Ed Orgeron and Robert Russell
Ed Orgeron and Hayward Howard
Ed Orgeron and LaMark Armour
Ed Orgeron and LeRon King
Ed Orgeron and Quentin Taylor
Ed Orgeron and Michael Herrick
Ed Orgeron and Jerrell Powe
Ed Orgeron and winning
Ed Orgeron and enunciation
Ed Orgeron and his neighbors
Ed Orgeron and offense
Ed Orgeron and defense
Ed Orgeron and kickers
Ed Orgeron and coaching
Ed Orgeron and football