Thursday, October 29, 2009

SEC Picks of Week 9

As I mentioned last week, we’re in the middle of a stretch where teams begin to make their moves towards good bowl games, bad bowl games or waiting for spring practice to start. So in order to give you an idea of where each team is headed as of this week (after this weekend I’m sure this will be totally worthless), I give you the SEC bowl hierarchy.


South Carolina


Ole Miss




Mississippi State


So there you have it. As always, those rankings will be under constant change. On to the picks.

Made while applauding Major League Baseball for completing a World Series game in under six hours and eighteen minutes...

Last week: 6-0
Season: 53-8 (.869)

Ole Miss at Auburn
A second straight week for Ole Miss in the JP Memorial 11:30 AM Time Slot (technically, the game starts at 11:21, but if it’s before noon all times run together). Back in the height of David Cutcliffe’s mediocrity, the Rebels were a constant feature at 11:30, usually bumbling their way through a spirited contest against Vanderbilt or playing the biggest home game of the season while the crowd is mostly still asleep (Note: This is slightly different from the usual Ole Miss crowd. During most games scheduled at a normal time, only like 25% of the crowd is asleep.). Regardless, what a treat it will be to wake up at the same time I normally get up for work in order to be at this game. Good times. And not that I’ll be able to experience it, but from what I heard about last week’s telecast, allegedly Andre Ware, the color analyst for those watching on TV, was actually sharp and on point with his comments. This, of course, is a disgrace to the legacy left behind by Dave Rowe. Everyone associated with an 11:30 AM broadcast is expected to and should perform at the lowest possible level humanly possible. And wear short sleeve dress shirts with a tie. Ware should be removed immediately and given the chance to work with a professional crew.

Moving on to the game, Auburn currently finds itself in a freefall. They can’t pass, can’t run now that teams know they can’t pass and can’t play defense. Even the legendary Dave Rowe knows that’s not a good combination (“BIG MAN ON BIG MAN…BAM!!!” Sorry, it’s just that I miss him so damn much.). And even worse for the Tigers, Ole Miss comes into this game seemingly on the rise. They rolled up 550 yards of offense on a defense one spot behind Auburn’s in total defense and shut down a one-dimensional offense, which Auburn has. I think this game has the makings of another thrashing received by Auburn.

Barring a multitude of turnovers, Ole Miss should be able move the ball freely and score probably in the same neighborhood of points as they did against Arkansas. If your run defense stinks, and Auburns does (11th in the conference), it’s almost impossible to keep the opposing offense from doing whatever they want to do. Mediocre defenses have the ability to keep their teams in games they have no business being in because they can take away the running game from the opposing team. Auburn can’t do that. And, in fact, their passing defense isn’t much better (9th in the league). Anytime Jordan Jefferson could be described as sharp and the phrase “career night” is used after playing your defense, you stink.

The only scenario I see in which Auburn pulling this off is if they take a page from the Lane Kiffin playbook. Run as much as they possibly can, slow their offense down (meaning get rid of the no-huddle) and hope Jevan Snead turns back into Alabama Jevan Snead. That’s a tall order because I know that while offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will go run heavy, he won’t slow down his offense. He’s going to want to show Houston Nutt what a bad idea it was to ignore him at Arkansas. Even if he puts that beef aside, I still don’t think it’s enough. Ole Miss wins.

Georgia vs. Florida (in Jacksonville)

The hometown of Lynyrd Skynyrd will be more than thrilled to see the flood of jorts that will be arriving in their fair city when all the Gator fans show up on Saturday. Normally, there would be a solid contingent of Georgia fans to combat this fashion atrocity, but with the way their season is going (and the fear that Urban Meyer will find away to continue to punish their team for the team celebration in the endzone two years ago), I expect they’ll be scarce. And with good reason. I wouldn’t want to watch Joe Cox throw three more interceptions either.

I would think Georgia will take the Tennessee approach to this game and run the ball, playing ball control, time-consuming football. Unfortunately, there’s a small problem with that strategy. Georgia can’t run. At all. They’re dead last in the conference and Florida happens to be second in the league against the run. So if they can’t run, where does that leave them? If you guessed hanging on the not-so-golden arm of Joe Cox, you are correct. And if you have surmised that’s a bad thing, nice job by you. I’m sure Cox will manage to hit A.J. Green for a few nice gains, but if he’s throwing the ball 30+ times the chance for multiple mistakes goes up something like 4000%.

It’s not all bad news for Georgia though. Florida’s offense is still stumbling around seven games into this season. The lack of a passing game is what will ultimately undo this team, and Georgia has a decent defense against the run (5th in the SEC). If Georgia can force Florida into throwing much more than they want to, the Bulldogs might have a chance. That of course assumes Joe Cox won’t spend the better part of his afternoon throwing to the wrong team. The bad part of forcing Florida into throwing is that the Georgia pass defense is awful (11th), but if I’m playing Florida, I’d rather take my chances with them throwing than running.

Ultimately though, Georgia isn’t very good. Their defense is bad, the offense is one-dimensional and that one-dimensionalness rests on Joe Cox. I think this is a game that Florida dominates and wins, but never really blows it open because of their lack of wide receivers. And I can see Meyer doing something stupid like, say, throwing from his three-yard line with three minutes left while dominating a team on the ground.

Directional School at Arkansas

Nothing cures a two game skid like an 0-7 team coming to town.

Mississippi State at Kentucky
This may be the most interesting game of the weekend while also being one the least watched of the weekend. Both teams are not particularly enjoyable to watch (by that I mean, they don’t have very good offenses or one standout player I would want to see) and amazingly, both are next to each other in almost every major statistical category. Take a look at this:

Scoring Offense
MSU 8th
Kentucky 9th

Scoring Defense
Kentucky 8th
MSU 9th

Total Offense
MSU 7th
Kentucky 9th

Total Defense
Kentucky 8th
MSU 9th

Rushing Offense
MSU 4th
Kentucky 5th

Passing Offense
MSU 10th
Kentucky 11th

Passing Defense
Kentucky 8th
MSU 10th

The only category in which one team has a real advantage over the other is in rushing defense. State is a respectable 7th in the league while Kentucky is last. And therein lies the key to this game. State should be able to run against the Wildcats, and in doing so remove Tyson Lee from the game. However, if the Wildcats can limit that ability, they have a pretty good chance to win.

That may not make any sense, but look at the only teams that have beaten Kentucky: Alabama, Florida and South Carolina, which are all top 25 teams. They’ve beaten all the mediocre and bad teams they’ve played (State falls in the mediocre to bad category), which means I don’t think Kentucky is as bad as I once thought they were. Throw in a home game, a Mississippi State team that is coming off an emotional and physical game against Florida and the whole replay debacle, which became somewhat of a distraction all the way until Tuesday, and I think Kentucky has a pretty good chance to win this game.

Kentucky knows that the best way to win is to force Tyson Lee into throwing as many times as possible. That’s why I think we’ll see them unveil the rarely used and often only seen in video games 10-1 defense. I don’t think they’re good enough to completely shut down the State running game, but if they can hold them in the neighborhood of 150 yards I like their chances. My only concern for Kentucky is their offense, which is missing a quarterback and relies heavily on Randall Cobb, who will be a marked man by the State defense. If the State defense emotionally and physically recovers from last weekend, then State will have a great chance to win. However, I say last week’s game takes its toll on the Bulldogs and going on the road makes it worse and Kentucky wins.

Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt
The Yellow Jackets should destroy Vandy on Saturday, but my one hope for the Commodores in the next few weeks is that they get at least one SEC win just so the Shrimp Boat Captain will still be the last SEC head coach to not win a single conference game. What a spectacular year 2007 was for Ole Miss.

South Carolina at Tennessee
The glorious Lane Kiffin era took itself to yet another level earlier this week as Kiffin continued to rattle on about the incompetence of SEC officials. He even had the Shrimp Boat Captain at some event on Monday night complaining about the calls in the Alabama game. As I’ve said before, I agree with Kiffin’s premise that the officiating in the SEC is incompetent, but the last person who will cause a reform movement to gain any legs is Lane Kiffin. His off-season of repeatedly firing off unfiltered comments helped him lose any credibility he hoped to have. Well, that and his 5-15 record with the Raiders. It seems that logic and trying to get his team bowl eligible (which is dangerously close to not happening) would cause him keep his pie hole shut, but this is the guy who commented that a recruit who signed with South Carolina would spend the rest of his life pumping gas since he turned his back on the crazy house in Knoxville.

Which brings us to this game. A report came out this week that some South Carolina players, most notably captain Moe Brown, were still upset over words that came out of the shit cannon that is Lane Kiffin’s mouth. Brown went as far to say, “I’m taking it very personally. I’m taking it personally to the point where I’m going to show him how we do pump gas at South Carolina.” I find that quote inspiring and confusing at the same time. Sure it indicates revenge is on his mind and that he’s motivated, but is there a secret way to pump gas that I don’t know about? Because I hate pumping gas. If there’s a better way to pump gas and be more aggressive towards the gas pump, then let me know. It could totally change my life (By the way, this is what happens to you when you realize you’re going to spend the next 30 to 40 years working. Any possibility at improving the mundane things in life suddenly becomes exciting.).

Anyway, I’m not really sure where I was going with all of that. Both teams come into this game with pretty good defenses, with the edge going to Tennessee (ranked 3rd in total defense to South Carolina’s 4th). Statistically, Tennessee’s offense is ranked higher than South Carolina’s, but anyone who has watched the Vols knows that can’t be true. Amazingly though, it is. The Vols have sort of a sneakily mediocre offense. They have a strong enough running game that they can use against good defenses to keep the burdens on Jonathan Crompton as few as possible, and a good enough offense that can move the ball fairly well on bad defenses (see: Georgia, Auburn and Western Kentucky). Since South Carolina has a good defense, expect the Alabama/Florida game plan from Tennessee. I would think even though he had a solid game against Alabama, Kiffin will remember that Crompton was playing way out of his element and another performance like that isn’t very likely, and will rely heavily on the run.

South Carolina has a typical South Carolina offense. They look really good in spurts and really awful for long stretches. Stephen Garcia must continue to play like whoever this person is that he has become because I don’t think the Gamecocks will be able to run with much success (9th ranked against Tennessee’s 3rd-ranked run defense). If he starts doing what used to be typical Stephen Garcia things, Tennessee will win. But as much suspicion as I have of him, I think Garcia might be past the old Garcia, which as I have said before shakes me at my core. Death, taxes and Stephen Garcia’s recklessness once were all sure things.

This game will probably come down to Crompton’s ability to make enough plays to win the game. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure he used all of his good plays last week (not that there were very many). I like South Carolina here because, much like bad teams, bad quarterbacks cannot play well for extended periods of time. So let me be the first to welcome the real Jonathan Crompton back to Earth.

Tulane at LSU
LSU wins.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Belly of the Beast Call-In Show

In honor of Halloween with all its spirits and ghouls and such, it’s the back-from-the-dead Belly of the Beast Call-In Show. I’m sure most of you assumed this was just another idea that lasted two weeks until it was completely crushed under the weight of my laziness. But I’ll bet you didn’t think they were going to make a Friday the 13th Part VII: Jason Goes to Hell either. So here it is in all it’s glory. If you’re confused, which happens to most people reading these incoherent thoughts here, 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…

Abe from Stillwater, OK: So Dez Bryant gets suspended for the year thanks to lying about a meeting with Deion Sanders? Is there any method to the NCAA’s madness?

Gray: Yes, it’s hard to believe that a guy who has been out of the NFL for three years (although in spirit it’s been more like eight. Seriously, do you remember anything after his time in Dallas?) and he’s still making life difficult for wide receivers. And why Deion Sanders has any kind of relationship with Bryant is even harder to believe. But to answer your question about the NCAA, the answer is no. You lie, you get suspended for a year. Take money and other benefits, just pay it back and miss a few games. Both are wrong, but one is an athlete thinking he’s protecting himself and the other compromises the core of what the NCAA claims college football is about, amateurism (even though it makes millions and millions of dollars of these amateurs).

NCAA justice reminds me of Roman emperors. Steal some bread, twenty lashes. Make a weird face at the wrong person, I hope the lions are surprisingly gentle as they tear the limbs from your body. Well done, NCAA, well done.

Next caller…

Hank from Des Moines, IA: In what sort of devil worship did the Iowa coaches participate in order to secure our 8-0 start?

Gray: I’m not sure, but I feel certain it involved the sacrifice of at least 25% of all livestock and wheat in the state of Iowa. That might explain the good fortune behind having the 87th-ranked team in total offense and still being 8-0. And the unbelievable fortune in blocking not one, but two field goals in the final seconds against someone called Northern Iowa. And the break of a pass interference penalty, which led to a touchdown against Michigan State with no time left on the clock. And the absurd luck in being 6th in the nation in turnover margin when your own team has eleven turnovers that must be overcome.

Whatever Jobu-juju the Hawkeyes have going on is sure to run out soon unless more sacrifices are made. In fact, I saw yesterday that their starting running back is now out for the year, which is the first chink in the good fortune awarded to them by the dark prince. Well, that and their eventual burning for all of eternity.

Next up…

Terry from Florence, AL: So who’s going to be the first one to flinch, Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden?

Gray: In what has become a contest between two old men to see which one can grow the better garden that no one under the age of 55 cares about, one has finally fallen behind. Bowden now trails Paterno by 20 wins after some of his wins were taken away to due to a small matter like academic fraud (Florida State is appealing that decision and will lose since the NCAA prefers not to overrule itself). The whole process is pretty much a joke because both of these guys quit coaching around 2000 and make no attempt to pretend like their still involved in any decision-making (Have you seen either one of them wear a headset in the last 10 years?).

I would love to know what they do on a day-to-day basis. Can you see an 79-year old and an 82-year old making recruiting phone calls everyday? Or riding around on a plane for three days at a time when recruiting season really picks up? If their Cadillacs can’t make it there in two hours with someone else driving, they’re not going. For the past 8 to 10 years, they’ve been in the role of Don Corleone halfway through The Godfather. They provide the face of the program, but they’re no longer running the show. All Penn State and Florida State fans can hope for is that the family has no Fredos. Check that, it’s all Penn State fans can hope for. We already know about the Bowden Fredos.

Let’s take one more…

Jim from Columbus, OH:
Boise State! Cincinnati! TCU! Iowa! How can these teams be in the top 10 of the BCS standings and THE Ohio State University is not? A two-loss Big Ten team is always better than one of these teams. What an outrage!

Gray: Yes, it’s unfortunate that a victory over Toledo doesn’t mean as much as it once did. And you would think if you didn’t leave the state of Ohio until October 3rd you’d be in a better spot. But, he does bring up an interesting point. Is a school from the SEC, Pac-10 or Big XII South (the Big XII North is not a real conference) with two losses (sorry, the Big Ten is also not a real conference) a more worthy choice for the BCS at the end of the season than an undefeated team from a smaller conference out West or from the Big East? They’ve certainly played a harder schedule and seem to be penalized for something they can’t control.

It’s an interesting argument, but to me, if you’re a good team, then you don’t lose two games or lose to a crappy team (ahem, USC). I firmly believe that any one-loss team (that didn’t lose to a bad team) from the conferences mentioned above should always be in front of the teams from smaller conferences. They should be rewarded for playing well through much tougher schedules and competing in such an aggressive athletic environment. But once you lose two, you’re done. Let’s see what these smaller conference schools can do at that point. If they get destroyed on a regular basis, then they should be cast down to the Houston and Mobile bowls.

There’s not enough history to determine if they should no longer receive opportunities. Hawaii, WAC Champions, lost to Georgia 41-10 and last season Cincinnati lost to Virginia Tech 20-7. Of course, there’s the Boise win over Oklahoma and last year Utah beat Alabama 31-17, so they’re basically 2-2 with only one really embarrassing loss and one surprisingly dominant win, which doesn’t indicate they’ll fall into a pattern of being dominated. And when USC goes to a BCS game this year, wouldn’t you rather see a team like Boise State get a shot at them rather than the annual drilling they’ll put on the runner-up Big Ten team?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

Eight weeks into the season and I think we’ve finally arrived at the point where we can all finally admit what’s been hanging over the SEC all season. No, it’s not the bad officiating. That’s been going on for years, but what can you expect from poorly trained and compensated part time employees? Or the fact that Verne Lundquist is slowly slipping into a permanent state of confusion. The cloud I’m talking about is that the SEC is a league without a complete team and full of teams that just aren’t very good. Only Alabama and Florida appear to have defenses that can make up for their offenses’ ineptitude, while everyone else has multiple flaws. But, if you look across college football, that trend shows up in every conference. College football has become a game with a plethora of mediocre teams and a small handful of good teams that, while still capable of losing to the mediocre teams, have fewer holes than everyone else and will ultimately prevail at the end of the season.

There’s a huge discussion buried in that last paragraph about what is the cause of the decline in good teams and the disappearance of dominant teams, but I don’t want to take the time to put in the research and effort to get into that discussion (I told you I was lazy). But know that we’ve entered into an era (and perhaps will always be in this era going forward) in which there are no more dominant teams and every team, even the few good ones, are fully capable of losing each week.


Ole Miss 30, Arkansas 17
As I mentioned last week, good defenses have the ability to make one-dimensional teams play very poorly. And that’s what Ole Miss’ defense did to Arkansas. They shut down the limited Arkansas running game and put the game in Ryan Mallet’s hands and blitzed the hell out of him. He responded with a 12 of 24 (very Jevan Snead-like) showing. Yes, he did have some drops, including a dropped touchdown (which was later made up for by the ridiculous tipped pass touchdown), but he spent a lot of his time throwing on the run and with someone or someones in his face. Now, I’m no quarterback, but I do know that on NCAA 2010 when my offensive line elects not to block anyone, I have trouble passing, which makes me qualified in my criticism.

Here’s the thing about Arkansas going forward: they’re an average team at best and much closer to a bad team. Bad teams don’t play three good games in a row. Ole Miss fans experienced this during the Shrimp Boat Captain era. In 2007, Ole Miss lost 30-24 to Florida. The next week they were obliterated by Georgia 45-17. A few weeks later they lost a brutal game to Alabama 27-24. The next week Arkansas destroyed them 44-8. If you’re bad, you’re flaws will eventually come to the surface because they’re greater than your strengths. We all knew Arkansas’ defense was terrible. Sure, they played outstanding against Florida and the first half against Auburn, but anyone who has watched this team knew that wasn’t the real Arkansas defense. The real defense showed up in the second half against Auburn and on Saturday against Ole Miss. I’m sure the Hogs’ defense has a few more good quarters of play left in it, but what you saw on Saturday is the norm for this defense. They’re just not good and any offense that has a skilled quarterback and a good offensive line is more than likely going to tear this defense apart.

As of a few weeks ago, Jevan Snead could have been labeled a skilled quarterback, but certainly not a competent quarterback. Thankfully for Ole Miss, skilled and competent aligned for this game. While he still made some shaky decisions and I still don’t fully trust him, he did play like second half of 2008 Jevan Snead. Mostly good decisions, a few outstanding throws and a big drop in dump decisions. While he did throw two interceptions, I thought only one was his fault (the one before halftime was a desperation throw in a sequence of events that was highly confusing. Ole Miss wanted to kill as much time as possible while still scoring, but not turning the ball over. Only one of those three was accomplished.). If he continues to play like this and improve, Ole Miss has a chance to ascend out of mediocrity and teeter on the edge the good category because they’ll have both a good offense and a good defense, which no other team in the league currently has that combination.

Alabama 12, Tennessee 10

Alabama, after saving their best performance of the year for Ole Miss (according to Nick Saban) just like they do every year, their flaw, a suspect offense, has come into the light. I’m sure the conservative nature of their offense is due to the outstanding defense on which they lean, but after I predicted the worst quarterbacking performance in quite some time, Jonathan Crompton made me question this defense against the pass. It’s entirely possible that they relaxed late in the game and didn’t want to give up any big plays, but surrendering a 21 of 36 for 265 yards and a late touchdown to Crompton certainly raises an eyebrow. Maybe they were due for a not-so-dominating performance, but I never thought I’d live to see the day where Crompton looked like a decent quarterback against a good defense.

I actually felt sorry for Crompton after the last field goal attempt was blocked because on the play before that he threw a pass down the seam to his tight end that was the single greatest pass of his life, and he’ll never throw another one remotely close to it. I’m talking NFL-caliber, fit it in between three players and in a spot only where only his guy could catch it. It was good enough that I wanted to get an apartment with it. Unfortunately for Tennessee, he was playing about 2500% above his head. As you remember, his coaches refused to run another play after that, fearing he’d come back to reality and do something dumb, and elected to spike the ball with just a few seconds left (Kiffin claimed he chose to do that because he didn’t want the officials to call another penalty on Tennessee, which is something Lane Kiffin would do. But to be fair, he did have a small argument to be made. Eight penalties for his team to one for Alabama. However, bad teams tend to make more mistakes than good ones).

Luckily for Alabama, they only play one more team that has the players to beat them. And unluckily for them, it’s in two weeks against LSU. That’s not a lot of time to correct their offense, but the good news is that as long as their defense keeps playing well they won’t need to correct much on offense. They just need enough to get by.

South Carolina 14, Vanderbilt 10
This annual bloodbath of boredom certainly lived down to all its low expectations. I actually drifted off for about a minute while just looking at the box score. I’m a little confused as to how South Carolina managed to rack up 431 yards of total offense, commit zero turnovers and only scored 14 points. If any game deserved the JP Memorial 11:30 AM timeslot, it was this alleged game of football. I think it’s for the best to never speak of this game again.

Kentucky 36, Former Directional School 13
Speaking of games we should ignore, it’s a good idea to do so when the Sun Belt is involved. To be fair to Louisiana-Monroe, this game was played on a Saturday instead of a Tuesday, which probably resulted into some body clocks being askew.

Florida 29, Mississippi State 19
When State returned the interception for a touchdown right before half, I had visions of their game against Alabama in 2007. If you recall, that was a game in which Alabama was dominating, leading 9-0 and about to score to go up 16-0 or 12-0. Instead, John Parker Wilson threw a dumb pass and State ran it back for a touchdown and totally changed the game, which they would go on to win. So when Tim Tebow did the same thing and State cut it to 13-10, I thought that maybe State could pull off the upset. Then the second half saw the Bulldog offense flex its muscle, gaining 57 yards of offense in the fourth quarter, which began with them trailing only 16-13. And much like I mentioned earlier about Arkansas’ defense, this is the true Mississippi State offense. Some of their struggles in this game had to do with the defense they were facing, but against teams with a decent defense, their flaws will always come through more than their strengths. But as I wrote last week, take heart State fans, you’re seriously a quarterback away from pulling off one of these games.

As for Florida, it’s pretty obvious they desperately need another guy that can make plays, whether it’s a receiver or a running back that can take the pressure off of Tebow. Riley Cooper is a nice receiver but he’s not a number one receiver. If he’s your number one, passing effectively and consistently will be a problem. It’s like the movie Armageddon, which is hands down one of the top five best worst movies ever. If Ben Affleck is the star of that movie, I don’t get nearly the amount comedy or joy out of that train wreck than I do watching Bruce Willis pretend like he’s happy to be in this movie. And so it goes with Florida. Riley Cooper gets that movie in the top 15, but a compliment to Tebow gets it in the top five.

Like Alabama, Florida only plays one more team that could take advantage of its problems on offense. In three weeks, they go to Columbia to play South Carolina. The Gamecocks have the defense and enough offense to beat Florida. Granted, they’ll have to play very well on offense, but if I’m Florida we need to get our shit together on offense in a hurry.

LSU 31, Auburn 10
How bad has Auburn been in its last three games, all of which were loses? Let the following soak in:

-Chris Todd in those three games has completed 33 of 66 passes for 260 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs. That’s an astonishing (the bad kind) 3.94 yards per pass, which is Danny Wuerffel New Orleans Saints bad.

-The Auburn defense has surrendered an average of 409 yards a game and 32 points. Oddly enough, Mike Ditka New Orleans Saints bad.

And that is the perfect recipe for the 6-6 season that Auburn is barreling towards. I’d like to spend more time thinking about it, but right now I’d say this Auburn team has a chance to be the worst bowl eligible SEC team ever, narrowly edging out the 2008 Vanderbilt team and the 2007 Mississippi State team.

As expected, Les Miles flaunted convention and elected to pass 31 times against the league’s second worst run defense. That’s either because he’s insane (most likely) or LSU really sucks at running the ball. Actually, I take that back. They suck at offense in general. They still trail Vanderbilt in total offense and with games against Alabama and Ole Miss remaining, they may not be able to pass them. However, if their defense is actually improving and not just dominating bad offenses, then they won’t need that much offense in these last few games.


Iowa 15, Michigan State 13
These crazy bastards from Iowa are also like the movie Armageddon (I find it's best in life if you relate as many things as possible to Armageddon). They’re one of the best worst teams in recent memory. They’ve now won games by 1, 10, 11, 3, 2, 10 and 2. Their only comfortable win was over Iowa State by 32 (and strangely not Northern Iowa, beating them by 1). I don’t know how they do it, but they keep winning. Actually, I’ll attribute it to playing in the Big 10 where bad teams play competitively bad games.

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

Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss
This one was pretty easy. McCluster amassed 260 yards of total offense on 22 rushes and seven receptions, which is almost nine yards each time he touched the ball, and scored one touchdown. Arkansas had no one on the field or even a group of two or three that could slow him down. His ability to go from standing still to hyperdrive in about .3 seconds is almost unbelievable. My only concern is that if this is the Ole Miss game plan for the rest of the season, I don’t know if his body can hold up over five games at 25+ touches a game. But until that injury, I’ll enjoy the show.


(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.)

Tyson Lee, QB, Mississippi State
Although it’s technically not his fault since he has no business playing quarterback in the SEC, but Lee’s showing against Florida was one of his worst. 15 of 23 for 145 yards, 0 TDs and 3 INTs. Yikes. Even Michael Henig flinched when he read that.

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

Houston Nutt, Ole Miss
A game which meant more to him than he would let on, Nutt got his team to finally put it all together against a team not from Conference USA or one that was not Vanderbilt. Had he not helped the offense bumble around inside the five, the score would have been even worse. There’s still a chance for Ole Miss to have a pretty good season and this win might have sent it in that direction.

2009 SEC Awww-Shit Trophy Leaderboard

The trophy, which gets its name from the reaction of fans when their team’s quarterback throws an interception (“Awww-shit!!!), will be awarded at the end of the year to the quarterback in the SEC who throws the most interceptions. A more prestigious award I cannot recall.

1. Jevan Snead 11
2. Jonathan Crompton 10
3. Joe Cox 9
3. Tyson Lee 9
5. Larry Smith 7
6. Mike Hartline 6


Ole Miss at Auburn
Can the Rebels carry on offense dominance of another bad defense? Will Chris Todd throw the ball further than eight yards? Will he even finish the game? Will Greg Hardy play in a Halloween costume?

Georgia vs. Florida
The video is several years old now, but why did the schools want to stop calling this the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party again?

South Carolina at Tennessee
Remember that whole thing I said about bad teams can’t play three good games in a row? In the past two weeks, the Vols have beaten Georgia and nearly beaten Alabama. We’ll find out if that statement holds up this week.

Friday, October 23, 2009

SEC Picks of Week 8

As poor as the quality of play has been in the SEC this year, this week begins an exciting few weeks in which teams will either begin to propel themselves to the success of a warm bowl game, make preparations for another layer of clothing for a cold bowl game or meet the miserable failure of not making a bowl its fans began to fear in July. The two top teams in the league, Alabama and Florida, are steadily moving (although sometimes in really choppy steps) towards an Armageddon game in Atlanta on which the fate of the world will rest (or so CBS would want you to believe). For the rest of the teams, they’re all fighting whatever’s left. Most coveted are warm spots in Florida, the Georgia Dome or hope that it’s inexplicably 70 degrees in Dallas in January. The worst of the scraps include bone-chilling visits to Shreveport, Memphis and Nashville in December. While all bowl games are a nice trip (especially if you haven’t been in a few years), dressing like I’m going to spend the night in the Gobi Desert isn’t how I prefer to watch football games.

Made while welcoming back the rain that took a 72-hour break before getting cranked up again…

Last week: 5-1
Season: 47-8 (.855)

Arkansas at Ole Miss
In keeping with the theme of the opening paragraph, Arkansas currently sits at 3-3. They have non-conference games against Troy and Eastern Michigan, which should get them to 5-3, and they also have South Carolina and Mississippi State at home. If Arkansas were to beat Ole Miss this weekend and gain some momentum before the South Carolina game in two weeks and actually win that, they could easily be looking at 8-3 headed into the season-ending LSU game and a visit to one of those warm places. If they lose to Ole Miss, that final record could look much closer to 6-6 and a trip to Memphis or Shreveport would be in the works.

Ole Miss is 4-2 with five conference games (and Northern Arizona) left to play. And I have absolutely no idea what could happen. If they were to beat Arkansas, maybe that would send them on another scorched earth run to the end of the season, or it could simply mean that Arkansas has been playing over its head and Ole Miss could still finish 6-6. They could also lose and go on another run or finish 6-6. It’s like last year all over again, except last year they were 3-4 before laying waste to the rest of the schedule. The schedule is set up where it’s possible to finish 10-2, but this team has not shown that it’s capable of doing that. Perhaps like last year, the Arkansas game will be the start of such a run, but there’s also a great chance it will serve to show that Ole Miss still has too many holes on offense to do anything more than 7-5.

As for the game, Arkansas does one thing really well, which is passing. In fact, they average a little more than 70 yards than the number two team, Georgia, in passing offense. Although in the past three games, they’ve shown some life in the running game, going for 133, 221 and 163 (Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M, so one legitimate defense). Offensively, I expect Ryan Mallett to get some numbers. He’s too big and strong not to have a decent to good day. However, good defenses have the ability to make one-dimensional teams play very poorly and Ole Miss has a good defense. I expect Ole Miss to follow Alabama’s game plan and really get after Mallett. He’s not the fleetest of foot and when rattled tends to throw incompletions in large quantities. If the Hogs are going to win, they’ll have to have some of the ground game magic they’ve recently discovered.

For Ole Miss, they’re facing a defense that while not good, has shown flashes of being good, especially against the run. They were able to really give Florida problems because Florida is not very good at throwing. Even an average defense can make life difficult for one-dimensional offenses. So that means that if Jevan Snead hasn’t figured out what the hell he’s doing, the Rebels are going to have issues in advancing the ball forward. And the fact that this game is a pretty crucial point in the season, I’m willing to bet Snead has one half to show that he isn’t completely incompetent. If he struggles and stars throwing passes to the ground and Arkansas instead of his receivers, it could be the end of his 2009 season. The season is still salvageable for Ole Miss and Houston Nutt knows he can’t keep waiting on his quarterback to figure out where the 2008 version of himself went.

I still don’t think Arkansas is very good, especially on defense. I like Ole Miss in this one to put up just enough to get by, much like last year’s game. As long as the Rebels don’t turn it over and lean on their defense, they should come out of this one 5-2.

Tennessee at Alabama
Lane Kiffin was hired in November of 2008. Lane Kiffin just signed his contract in October of 2009. Now maybe that’s not that big of a deal, but the only other coach I can remember not signing his contract was former Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie, which ended well to quite well. And in even more crazy behavior, Kiffin allowed the Shrimp Boat Captain to convince him it would be a good idea to fly a helicopter onto the grounds of a high school game for recruiting purposes last Friday. I’ve said it before, but the sky really is the limit when it comes to absurd behavior in the Lane Kiffin era.

Unfortunately, the sky is also the limit for Jonathan Crompton’s suckiness in this game. Alabama’s defense destroys quarterbacks, even the ones that can be labeled as marginally good. As you know, Crompton isn’t very good and his performance on Saturday will be made even worse than his normal 40% completions and two to three interceptions performance. In order to keep the damage to a minimum, I expect we’ll see much of the same gameplan the Vols used at Florida. Lots of runs, a few more runs after that and some basic screen and rollout plays in which Crompton will be given his chance to show of his inaccuracy.

Tennessee’s defense will keep this one fairly close in terms of score, but there won’t be any doubt about who will win the game. Alabama dominates.

Vanderbilt at South Carolina
Much like Ole Miss, South Carolina has managed to lose its last two games against Vandy before this season. And much like Ole Miss this season, I look for South Carolina to pound Vandy further into the misery that is their 2009 season, and Vanderbilt football in general. Interestingly enough, the Commodores are currently ranked ahead of LSU in total offense. Not that it means anything in this game, but a note worth noting. Vanderbilt trudges on towards a 2007 Ed Orgeron SEC record.

Former Directional School at Kentucky

Florida at Mississippi State
In order for Mississippi State to keep the curse of Starkville going against Florida, Tyson Lee and Chris Relf will need to have the best day of football they’ve ever played in their lives. And even if they achieve that, they’ll still need more if you consider that their best days ever are probably nothing more than an average quarterback performance. I think we’ll see a second straight game where the Florida offense struggles at times to move the ball, but I would be surprised if State is fortunate enough to have the Gators fumble four times like they did last week.

Even if the State defense stops being one of the worst in the conference (9th), they just don’t have enough on offense, mainly at quarterback. But that should be good news to State fans, who, after being trapped in the dark ages of the Sylvester Croom era, have legitimate hope that their team could eventually called frisky if they find a relatively skilled and competent quarterback.

Auburn at LSU

LSU’s chance to surpass Vanderbilt as the worst offense in the SEC takes a giant leap this week as the Auburn defense comes rolling into town. And even better for LSU, the Auburn rush defense is ranked 11th, which means LSU coaches will have even less incentive to allow Jordan Jefferson to throw the ball. Of course, this is Les Miles we’re talking about so I’d look for close to 45 passes from Jefferson. Hell, the backup quarterback might come in and throw 15.

LSU’s defense has shown an ability as of late to not suck as much as they were sucking. And given that Arkansas and Kentucky, who have much less talent than LSU, have shown how to stop (or in Arkansas’ case, slow down) the Auburn offense, I wouldn’t expect much out of Auburn in this game. Chris Todd stinks, their defense stinks and LSU is decent enough against the run that they’ll keep Auburn under control. So look for none of the above to happen. Except an LSU win.

A segment in which I take a question about college football that may or may not be from a real person.

Every reader of the Belly of the Beast writes:
“What takes longer, a Major League Baseball playoff game, Ed Orgeron winning an SEC game or you getting your two damn posts a week up?”

A fantastic question. I did about four seconds of research and have decided that all MLB playoff games average roughly eight hours and seventeen minutes to complete. I used to think baseball was not a physically taxing sport, but I have to say, standing around for eight hours would literally kill me. And listening to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver for that long would kill my soul.

Ed Orgeron last won an SEC game as a head coach on November 25th, 2006. His next time to experience an SEC victory as a coach (not head coach) was October 10th, 2009, almost three years. And in that time span, only 2008 saw him not involved in the SEC.

As for me, it’s a miracle that I even get up two posts a week. I can’t accurately describe just how much I love to procrastinate and be lazy. Somehow, as I’ve gotten older, my attention span has gotten even smaller. If I can focus on anything for more than 11 seconds, I’m impressed with myself. What’s that shiny object over there? A piece of tin? How interesting! Oh, look, a nickel!

So to answer your question, Ed Orgeron winning an SEC game takes the longest of the three. But another couple of years and I might take the lead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

This weekend was one of discoveries. We found out that one dominant team isn’t so dominant, one dominant team doesn’t really need its quarterback and a once hot team does indeed stink. But most importantly, we found out that, and I know I said I’d never talk about women’s basketball on here but this is too good, the 2008 WNBA champion Detroit Shock is leaving Detroit for the high-powered TV market that is, drum roll please…..Tulsa, Oklahoma!!! If we had a live satellite feed into his house, we could see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is vigorously applauding this move right now (For those of you who don’t know what the NHL is, it was a growing league of a sport called hockey in the early 90s. It is now found on the Versus Network and ranks behind the Rodeo Clown Olympics in terms of major sports in America.). And even more bizarre than the move is that former Arkansas Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson is set to become the team’s coach and GM. Who says the WNBA is in trouble?


Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 10
I watched about ten minutes of this game before I realized I actually wasn’t watching a public access channel and the teams I was watching were actually not high school teams. The crowd, the 60-minute barrage of incompetence and the general disinterest from everyone involved in the game made this contest one of the leading candidates for the worst game of the year. I’m sure I’ve made that claim about multiple games this season, and I will go back and get the list together, but this really was one of the worst. Had the Oklahoma/Texas game also not been so miserable, I would have only seen the 10 minutes I thought this was a high school game. I’d really like to never watch either of these teams play again the rest of the year.

Mississippi State 27, Directional School 6

Nice job by State for finally completing a game without giving the ball away in large quantities. In fact, they had zero turnovers for the game. I’ve really got nothing to say here, other than kudos to the photographer who managed to get this shot of quarterback Tyson Lee on the sidelines. He’s a little taller than I make him out to be.

Florida 23, Arkansas 20
Another masterfully, poorly officiated game in the SEC. Whether it was a bad pass interference call or a personal foul that wasn’t a personal foul, Arkansas never did catch any breaks with the bad calls. The Hogs finished with 10 penalties for 92 yards while the Gators had only three for 16 yards, which is fairly absurd. I find it hard to believe there’s ever legitimately 76 yards worth of penalties difference in any college football game. But Arkansas fans should take comfort in the statement released by the SEC yesterday in which they said, “Whoops. They shouldn’t have called that personal foul on Malcolm Sheppard.” I know that makes it all better.

Instead of a stupid apology of sorts, how about giving the schools on the receiving ends of terrible calls something they can use? Like maybe cold, hard cash to help cover their travel expenses. Or an old jalopy and a sledgehammer like they have at a fair so they can beat the living hell out of the car and their frustrations with a conference that employs part time referees and refuses to spend some of the eleventy billion dollars it makes on properly training and paying full-time officials. Or a commemorative plaque the school could hang on the wall, or throw through the wall when it actually arrives. Throw these guys a bone after you just potentially cost them large sums of money that come with going to a bowl game.

As for the playing of the game, we found out Florida’s offense really isn’t that good. They have no vertical passing game to speak of, and outside of Cooper and Hernandez, I can’t name another receiver. Yes, they did manage to hit a long pass play for their first touchdown, but that seemed to be the result of the Arkansas defensive back blowing coverage. When Florida meets a better defense than the worst one in the conference, things like that won’t happen. Of course, if Florida doesn’t turn the ball over four times (and twice inside the ten), this game probably isn’t close, but Florida has some serious questions about their passing offense. And their defense was a little shaky as well. I don’t know if that had to do with Brandon Spikes not playing most of the game, but Arkansas showed you can run right at them and they’ll struggle to stop it. If Florida and Alabama played tomorrow, Alabama would win by two touchdowns.

On the Arkansas side, Ryan Mallet really has problems against fast, aggressive defenses. Take away his 75-yard touchdown pass, which was a great throw and play by him, and he finishes 11 for 26 and 149 yards. He missed a couple of touchdowns, one to a receiver and one to a fullback, and generally seemed off all day. So future opponents (ahem, Ole Miss) take note, pressure, pressure, pressure ruins this guy’s day.

As much grief as I give the Arkansas defense, I thought they played really well. They made running the ball very hard for Florida (only average three yards a carry) and other than the long touchdown pass they gave up, did a pretty solid job against the pass. That’s two straight weeks that they’ve been able to make life very difficult for teams that rely heavily on the run. Again, Ole Miss, take note.

Ole Miss 48, UAB 13
It took six games and a defense that is one of the country’s worst, but the Ole Miss offense finally looked like a well-run operation for an entire game. Yes, they blew out Memphis and SELA, but even those games had no consistent offensive flow. I’m not sure how much of that should be attributed to UAB’s awfulness, but it was a pretty mistake-free performance by Ole Miss. Much like the State/MTSU game, there’s not much to say here. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture that represents Jevan Snead’s poor decision-making and incomplete passes, but if I did I would post it here.

Kentucky 21, Auburn 14

Welcome back to the rest of the pack known as reality, Auburn. I wrote last week that Kentucky would lose because they had the worst run defense in the SEC and Auburn would have a field day against them. This was true to a degree. Auburn did run for 220 yards, but I failed to realize that Auburn too had an atrocious run defense and that without its starting quarterback Kentucky would do nothing but run. And they did to the tune of 282 yards and had two guys that went over 100 yards.

It was a game so exciting that both teams combined for 170 yards passing, with Auburn’s Chris Todd leading the way with a 10 of 24, 80 yards and one interception showing. Again, when you hear analyst types lamenting the struggles of Todd, remember he’s not struggling, this is who he is. He stinks. I can’t emphasize this enough because in three weeks, he’s going to light Furman up and people will claim he’s getting back to form for a final push against Georgia and Alabama. Do not be fooled by this nonsense.

I mentioned penalties in the Arkansas/Florida game and I’ll mention it here. Auburn had 10 for 76 yards and Kentucky had, get this, zero for zero yards. I didn’t watch any of this game, so I have no idea if Auburn has any beef with the calls against them, but I do not believe for one second a team composed of 18-22 year old did not make one mistake all night.

And one final thought, Auburn has an outstanding chance to finish the season 6-6 after a 5-0 start. They have LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss and Furman to go. They’ll beat Furman and probably their best chance to win another is at Georgia (thanks to their offensive and defensive incompetence) and at home against Ole Miss. I doubt they win both of those and at this point I think the best they can hope for is 7-5, which is two more wins than Gene Chizik had when he started this season.

Alabama 20, South Carolina 6
As this game was ending, Todd Blackledge made a statement that he was obviously very impressed with Alabama’s defense, but would be a little concerned with a team that takes away their ability to run. And this is true. As I’ve said before, Greg McElroy is a very average SEC quarterback and he showed it in this game (10 of 20, 92 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT). But, to Blackledge’s point, does it really matter if they struggle running the ball against a good team? With the defense they have, Alabama just has to be bad at the run. If they can churn out 100 yards on the ground and have a few decent pass plays without any turnovers, they’ll win every game. I said it last week, but until you see the Alabama defense in person, you can’t appreciate how big and fast they really are.

Unfortunately for South Carolina, Alabama didn’t struggle running the ball. Mark Ingram, doing his best to become the next Darren McFadden of the SEC, ripped off 246 yards and AVERAGED 10.3 yards a carry. Had Alabama been able to mix in any success by way of the pass, they would have won by a couple of more scores.

All things considered, I thought Stephen Garcia played pretty well. He had no running game to support him and was under constant pressure, and even though he only completed 20 of 46 passes, he looked the least incompetent of any quarterback I’ve seen play Alabama. This, of course, is sad news to me because I enjoyed the irresponsible, reckless Stephen Garcia era and I think it’s now a thing of the past. I know he’ll still show a few flashes of the good ol’ days, but it won’t ever be the same again.


Purdue 26, Ohio State 18
Even though Ohio State lost to one of the many terrible Big Ten teams, it still has a legitimate chance to win the Big Ten and go to a BCS game. If they win out, which includes beating Iowa, who is currently undefeated, the Buckeyes will go to a BCS game (most likely the Rose Bowl). For the love of all things holy, is it possible to not see Ohio State in a BCS game for just one freaking year? I think as punishment for a team that has clogged more TVs with bad football than any other team I can remember, the Buckeyes should be shipped to Boise for the always cold and depressing Humanitarian Bowl. There, they’ll be out of everyone’s way, no one will have to watch their game since no one knows when that bowl game is and they might actually win a game in December or January outside the state of Ohio.


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

Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
As mentioned above, Ingram destroyed the South Carolina defense and allowed Alabama to continue its march to Atlanta unscathed. While not as visually appealing and smooth as Darren McFadden, Ingram is making a push for us to get an apartment together. Seven games into the season and he’s already sitting at 900 yards and eight touchdowns. With the remaining Alabama schedule (Tennessee, LSU, State, Chattanooga and Auburn), he could easily hit 1600 yards at 15 touchdowns.

(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.)

Chris Todd, QB, Auburn
To put his miserable showing in an even more miserable light, Todd averaged 3.3 yards per pass attempt, which is about as far as a small child can throw a football. For comparison, and again this was against UAB, but Jevan Snead averaged 10.9 yards per attempt on 22 tries.


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

Nick Saban, Alabama
This was a winner more by default than anything else, although credit was earned by Saban for dominating the team that had the last real chance to upset this Alabama team. I don’t know how he does it, but the man can really coach defense. Yes, he has outstanding talent, but even the LSU defenses of a few years ago that were loaded with NFL talent weren’t this good.

2009 SEC Awww-Shit Trophy Leaderboard

The trophy, which gets its name from the reaction of fans when their team’s quarterback throws an interception (“Awww-shit!!!), will be awarded at the end of the year to the quarterback in the SEC who throws the most interceptions. A more prestigious award I cannot recall.

Week 7 Standings
1. Jonathan Crompton 9
1. Jevan Snead 9
1. Joe Cox 9
4. Larry Smith 7
5. Tyson Lee 6
5. Mike Hartline 6


Arkansas at Ole Miss
Houston Nutt will always want revenge and Arkansas fans will always want to explain how horrible Houston Nutt is/was. Put the two together in the same state, stadium and an 11:20 AM start time and we should have some surly people.

Tennessee at Alabama
Brace yourselves for the potential worst quarterback rating in modern history when Jonathan Crompton is forced to throw 20+ times against the Alabama defense.

Florida at Mississippi State
Florida’s last three trips to Starkville resulted in fans running all over the field and tearing down anything they could get their hands on. Will the curse continue or will Tyson Lee prevent it from happening?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

SEC Picks of Week 7

It appears the call-in show has fallen on hard times. Call it lack of technology, effort and ability to create decent content three times a week around here, but whatever the reason, it has apparently died (and what a great two weeks it was). So in hopes of keeping the spirit of it alive, I’ve added a little more material to the weekly SEC picks. This week following the picks, you’ll find some more content. By doing this, I only have to come up with two posts a week instead of three, which is a royal pain in the ass (or so I’ve heard from those who actually do post three times a week), and now you’ll get two lengthy, mildly well-thought-out posts a week. And if you were counting, this week’s weekend recap came in at a whopping 2800 words, which should never happen again. Reading 2800 words on three-day old news is absurd. On to the picks…

Made while enjoying ESPN’s unintentional tribute to Sean Connery’s finest work on SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy.

Last week: 4-3
Season: 42-7 (.857)

Georgia at Vanderbilt
Congratulations to Georgia for successfully wrestling away the 12th spot in scoring defense from Arkansas. It was quite an effort they put up last week against Tennessee and now thanks to that effort, Hog fans can now claim there is one defensive category in which they are not last. I’d like to see Georgia catch Arkansas for worst total defense, but with the Bulldogs facing a trapped-in-a-coma Vanderbilt offense and the Hogs facing Florida, I don’t think it will happen. Yet.

Anyway, as for the actual game being played here, Vanderbilt has revealed itself to be absolutely horrible, at least on offense. Their defense has a little feistiness in it, but unless it learns to score, the Commodores have no hope. As awful as Georgia has become, they’ve got more to offer than Vandy. I look for a depressing, sloppy, miserable game, perfectly fitting of the old Jefferson Pilot time slot. If only Dave Rowe could replace Andre Ware and be with his old buddy Dave Neal, it would be just like old times. Georgia wins, yet keeps its fans in the spiral of depression known as the 2009 season and boosts liquor sales across the state of Georgia.

Mississippi State at Directional School
Thanks to the last three games, Mississippi State has come out of nowhere to challenge Georgia for the last spot in the turnover margin department. Georgia has an impressive total of -11, but State is closing fast at -8. It’s another thrilling race in failure between two bad teams.

I know almost nothing about MTSU (there’s a zero percent chance I’m going to ever type that out). I can tell you they’re in the Sun Belt, they recently lost to Troy and former Auburn offense coordinator Tony Franklin is now employed there. I have no idea if Troy is good (I say no) and couldn’t say how Franklin is doing in running the offense. What I do know is that despite Tyson Lee’s tendency to destroy his team’s chances of winning through turnovers and lack of skill, it shouldn’t matter here. If last year’s atrociously coached team could bumble its way through a win over this team, I say this year’s better-coached version should be able to do the same. If not, welcome to a 2-10 season Bulldogs.

Arkansas at Florida
There seems to be a belief this week that since Arkansas defeated an unbeaten Auburn team they must be turning some sort of imaginary corner toward being a good team this season. I am here to tell you that when you beat an average, overrated team at home, you are not turning a corner because you still stink. Last time I checked Arkansas is still horrible on defense. Unless they suddenly got faster and less terrible in the past few days, I’m pretty sure they’re still bad. Throttling a Chris Todd-led offense does not make you a good defense. Let’s keep that in mind going forward.

Remember what Alabama’s defense did to this Arkansas offense a few weeks ago? Expect more of the same slapping around to go on this week. Florida’s defense, which is probably not as good as Alabama’s but is still outstanding (sort of like the difference between Wendy’s regular chicken sandwich and the spicy chicken sandwich), currently is number one in the SEC in total defense (yes, I am aware I just made one claim then used stats that go against that claim, but whatever) and I expect they’ll give Mallett and company all sorts of problems, namely keeping him upright.

Even with the recently stagnant Florida offense due to their desire to prevent more “brain shakeage” (actual phrase used by an ESPNU analyst) in Tim Tebow’s head, they shouldn’t have much trouble putting up points. Florida cruises.

UAB at Ole Miss
How about we not talk about Ole Miss for one week? Since our scheduling debacle has prevented us from having an off-week, let’s just use this time to take one. Ole Miss will win, but I doubt any confidence will be restored.

Kentucky at Auburn
All you need to know about this game is that Kentucky is the worst defense in the league against the run. That should let you know that Auburn is going to have a field day against the Wildcats. I’m just disappointed we won’t be able to see any Mike Hartline interceptions since he’s out with an injury. Perhaps when he returns he’ll put on a strong show for everyone. Auburn wins.

South Carolina at Alabama
This has the potential to be an interesting game. Alabama is coming off a systematic destruction of Ole Miss, their first serious conference test of the year, and have to be feeling pretty good about themselves, which is always a dangerous thing in college football. South Carolina has sort of been flying below everyone’s radar and currently sits 5-1 and a winner of four straight. Stephen Garcia is threatening to jump into the category labeled “good quarterbacks” and the Gamecock defense can be labeled as good now that they’ve corrected the problems from the Georgia disaster.

Two things could make this game not interesting. One, if Alabama maintains its machine-like execution and mental state. If they come prepared and without high opinion of themselves, they will dominate. They’ve got better players, especially their defense matching up with the South Carolina offense, and don’t make mistakes. And two, if South Carolina’s performance against Kentucky was not because they were overlooking them but because they really aren’t that good. A two-point win at home over Kentucky is not an indication of a good team.

I think South Carolina will keep this one interesting a little longer than expected. Much like the Ole Miss game, Alabama’s offense will have an easier time moving the ball on South Carolina’s defense than the Gamecocks’ offense on Alabama’s defense (not that any of it will be easy). Even if South Carolina makes it really close, do you have any faith in Stephen Garcia against a good, aggressive defense? I know that I don’t. Alabama wins.

A segment in which I take a question about college football that may or may not be from a real person.

Ricky from Alabama writes:
“Can we get some sort of hierarchy as far as the teams in the SEC go this season?”

Well, I certainly hope this is the Ricky from the video involving a battered dining room table and a grown man carrying a shaker inside a house. If so, I’m assuming he learned the word hierarchy from “the TV.” Anyway, as I see it, here’s how the SEC breaks down. And there are no rankings within each section.


South Carolina


Ole Miss
Mississippi State


Only Florida and Alabama can beat everyone and no team can beat them. Everyone else can beat everyone else, except Vandy and Kentucky who can only beat each other. I’m not sure any of that made sense. But what all of this nonsense does mean is that it’s been a pretty bad year for SEC football. Not many great matchups and just a horde of not good teams playing each other in not very good games. I don’t know if this explosion of incompetence is due to a lack of quarterback skill, but that seems to me the most logical explanation.

Tim Tebow and Jevan Snead were the only two successful, talented and experienced quarterbacks in the conference coming into this year (and we see how Snead has turned out). Everyone else was new or terrible. At this point, you can say only Tebow, Greg McElroy, Chris Todd (who should start to some back to earth), Stephen Garcia and Ryan Mallet could be called successful right now. That’s less than half the conference trotting out anything good behind center, and by the end of the year I think that number will be even smaller (I’m looking at you Chris Todd and Stephen Garcia). I really noticed it last year, but if you don’t have anything competent playing quarterback, then you’re going to struggle, like so many SEC teams are this year. I hope this crap gets corrected next year because I’m tired of watching so many bad teams.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

From the Weekend That Was

After a weekend spent with rain, mist, cold, little to no sunshine, a football team falling apart faster than an Ed Orgeron recruiting class, two fantasy football teams that can’t do anything right, incorrectly picking SEC games and an immediate regret from reintroducing Krystal to my body, I’d like someone with connections to place a phone call to the Pacific Northwest and tell them to come take their weather back. This is getting ridiculous. I’d like to see the sun before December starts.


Arkansas 44, Auburn 23
That loud sound you heard early Saturday afternoon was not the collapse of the Ole Miss house of cards (that actually came later in the afternoon), but reality colliding headfirst with the Auburn bandwagon. As predicted, the Arkansas offense obliterated the Auburn defense and got just enough out of their defense to remind everyone that Auburn, while better than last year, isn’t that good.

The Hogs ran up 495 yards of total offense, held the ball for over 38 minutes and at one point led 34-3. If they had any form of defense, they would have won this one by an even larger margin. But give credit to the Auburn offense for finally recognizing that Arkansas’ defense is terrible and they were able to at least make it an interesting game headed into the fourth quarter.

The absurdity of Chris Todd being considered a good quarterback finally came into the light for the masses that really believed in him. A 15 of 28 for 133 yards and 0 TDs, while averaging an outstanding 4.8 yards per pass attempt, performance should be enough to remind even the most blind loyalist that this was Chris Todd we’ve been talking about all season, not Joe Montana (by the way, is Joe Montana a dated reference now? He was just the first guy that popped in my head. I really think he might be. Anyway, Chris Todd would be along the lines of a Jay Schroeder.).

Fortunately for Auburn, Kentucky comes to town next weekend and that should get them at least bowl eligible this year, which I never thought would happen, and they’ll be able to get away with Todd playing another game at quarterback. I’ll be interested to see how this Auburn offense plays the rest of the year now that Arkansas has shown teams that have defensive talent how to defend Auburn.

As for Arkansas, this was a huge win for them. They’re sitting at 3-2 with Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina coming up in three of their next four games. They won’t beat Florida, Ole Miss is certainly a winnable game, but road games in the SEC are always hard, and South Carolina will thoroughly enjoy playing against that awful defense. If they had lost this game, they’d be looking at 2-3 with three really tough games coming up. Now a bowl game is almost a certainty, barring a collapse, and they have another seven weeks with which to lecture Ole Miss fans on the shortcomings of Houston Nutt.

Army 16, Vanderbilt 13
Ole Miss’ lone conference win came against a team that was beaten by a team whose other two wins were over Ball State and Eastern Michigan.

Tennessee 45, Georgia 19
I don’t know where the real Jonathan Crompton went but his rental is due back tomorrow by noon. In a performance that shook me to my core, Rental Jonathan Crompton went 20 of 27 for 310 yards and four touchdowns. But just to throw everyone off the scent that this might not actually be Jonathan Crompton, the rental version did throw one interception. This offensive output by Tennessee give Arkansas fans legitimate material with which to argue that Georgia’s defense, not theirs, is the worst in the conference. I heard this score in the bathroom at the Ole Miss game and assumed the guy who reported it was a fifth deep in Kentucky Gentleman or whatever cheap brand of whiskey that was oozing out of him.

And for everyone but Georgia fans’ entertainment, Joe Cox has thrown his hat in the ring for the worst quarterback in the league and is putting up a strong effort for the 2009 SEC Awww-Shit Trophy (I’ll be unveiling this later in this post) with another two interceptions. Unfortunately for the rest of us, I’m not sure how much longer we’ll get to watch Cox disappoint the Bulldog faithful. Surely he’s nearing the end of Mark Richt’s patience with him and a change will be coming soon (Richt, by the way, is reeking of mediocrity). For my benefit, I hope he hangs around.

As for Tennessee, they’ll get to enjoy this win for another two weeks before going to Alabama and ending what tiny shred of confidence Crompton had built for himself. I suspect we’ll get another Florida-like gameplan from the Vols in that one, but I fully expect a handful of poor to quite poor decisions.

South Carolina 28, Kentucky 26
Our first casualty for the Awww-Shit Trophy, Mike Hartline is out for a few weeks with a knee injury. Hopefully, he’ll return and make a solid late season push to claim the trophy for which he was the leading candidate.

Houston 31, Mississippi State 24
Another four turnovers for the Mississippi State offense and another game the Bulldogs had a great chance to win. As expected State pounded away at Houston, rushing for 330 yards, and, as expected, gave up eight miles of passing yards on defense. I can’t name a single player in State’s secondary but I can believe that counting yourself and the next three people you see, the four of you would have close to the same results as State’s secondary is currently producing. To their credit, they did intercept two passes, a feat that I don’t think you and three friends could match, but you could certainly get one.

With a defense that bleeds yards and points, a two-win season is still a possibility for this State team. If they can beat Middle Tennessee State on Saturday, I can see them getting to four, possibly five, wins. If not, this could be one of the most competitive two-win teams ever.

Alabama 22, Ole Miss 3
Remember what happened to all those people in Jonestown that drank the kool-aid? They died. And for all those, including myself, who so readily swilled the Ole Miss kool-aid even when a lifetime of experience said not to, we are now all dead. Dead to Atlanta. Dead to any hope for the rest of the season. Dead to anything but our standard third to sixth place finish in the SEC West. It is our lot in life and to think otherwise is just stupid.

Now that my soul is numb, let’s talk about this game. If you haven’t seen Alabama play in person, you really don’t have a good feel for just how fast they are on defense. Oh, and they’re really big up front too. Fast and big makes it really hard to have much success on offense. They pushed Ole Miss’ offensive line around, shut down the running game and although they never sacked Jevan Snead, they did hit and harass him into a performance for the record books (the bad kind of record books). The last time I saw an offense that helpless was when the Shrimp Boat Captain hung his Red Bull on the shoulders of Seth Adams and Brent Schaeffer. To put it in perspective, the BancorpSouth Play of the Game on the JumboTron was a seven yard run by Enrique Davis, which helped lead to our lone score.

One of the startling differences in the game for me was between the two quarterbacks. Alabama’s Greg McElroy is an average college quarterback, but he doesn’t make mistakes and understands his defense is his best friend. But what really stands out between him and Snead is that he isn’t afraid or nervous in the pocket. He knows that he’s going to get hit on some plays, but he stands in, delivers the throw and takes the hit. It’s what all quarterbacks must learn to do if they want to have any kind of success.

Jevan Snead doesn’t play that way. He doesn’t like to stand in the pocket, he starts dancing around as soon as he gets the first sign the defense is closing in and rarely does he step into a throw and get a good delivery on the ball. I’m not sure exactly why that is, maybe he doesn’t trust his offensive line, maybe he’s always looking to make a big play or maybe he stinks. People seem to believe the real Snead is the one we saw in the last six games of 2008 and not the guy in the first seven games. Well, what if he is the guy from the first seven games last year? Maybe the fake Snead is the guy who played out of his mind at the end of 2008. Seriously, what has he shown this year that reminded you of late 2008? Other than the first half of the Vandy game and a few sporadic moments against Memphis and SELA, I can’t recall anything.

Now the big question is how much longer does Snead get to prove that he is the guy from the end of last year? Obviously he’ll start against UAB, but the following week we play Arkansas and that’s a game that should be won. If he struggles through the first half then, I have a hard time seeing any reason to keep him on the field. His incompletions hurt, making the offense stagnant and such, but it’s his turnovers that are absolute killers. He has to take a page from Greg McElroy’s book if he wants to keep playing quarterback at Ole Miss.

Moving along to the next target, I choose you, Ole Miss offensive line. Actually, as far as pass blocking goes, I thought they played okay. Not great, but they were serviceable considering the defense they were facing. Bradley Sowell took another step in making up for his comments after the South Carolina game, looking much less like a matador and more like an actual offensive lineman. As far as run blocking though, they were dominated. I’m sure some of it had to do with Alabama not being afraid of Snead’s ability to throw incompletions, which means they could stack eight or nine guys near the line, but even so, you expect to get a few decent runs instead of about zero.

The only bright spot for the day, and most likely the only one for the season, was the Ole Miss defense. It’s typical Ole Miss that we’ll end up wasting what has to be one of, if not the, best defenses in the history of the school. That group was simply unbelievable when you look at what they accomplished on Saturday. Alabama had six scoring drives and FOUR OF THEM STARTED IN OLE MISS TERRITORY thanks to offensive and/or special teams buffoonery. And one of those four started at the Ole Miss four. As in four yards away from the end zone. They gave up 22 points out of the bag of shit they were constantly handed, and this was to an offense averaging 40 points a game. If not for their effort (and I read today that Alabama ran 78 plays, which makes their effort even more amazing), this game would have looked something like 48-3. I hope they gave a collective punch to the offense’s man parts after the game.

So can Ole Miss pull this season out of the freefall that’s headed towards terminal velocity if things continue as they are? It all depends on whatever is going on offensively. If we can become an average, ball control offense that relies on our defense, perhaps eight or nine wins is not out of the question. We still have the easiest schedule in the conference and have two more sure wins (I think) in UAB and Northern Arizona, and it’s not unreasonable to think that out of the last five conference games (three of which are at home) this team could win four, so eight or nine wins is doable. But I also thought going to Atlanta was doable.


Florida 13, LSU 3
Luckily for Ole Miss, LSU provided the worst offensive performance of the day. 162 yards of total offense, 77 of which came on the drive that produced a field goal. I am already excited about the defensive orgy that awaits everyone when Ole Miss and LSU play.

I was only able to see the second half of this game, but from what I saw I thought Florida played very conservatively, partly to protect a concussed Tim Tebow and partly because they knew LSU wasn’t going anywhere on offense. In defense of Jordan Jefferson and LSU, at least he (and they) did not rack up five turnovers, a blocked punt and surrender a first down off a fake punt. Had they, maybe they too would have lost 22-3.


Iowa 30, Michigan 28
As I understand it, Iowa was ranked 12th, undefeated and facing a Michigan team fresh off a loss to mighty Michigan State. Michigan was also on the road playing with two freshmen quarterbacks and turned the ball over five times. And yet, when Iowa won the game, what did its fans do? Let out a huge gasp? Curse the team for putting them through all that crap? Treat the hypothermia they were probably experiencing from freezing their asses off for over three hours? No, they did none of these (well, not sure about the hypothermia). Rather, they charged the field. Seriously. Ranked, undefeated and they all ran out on the field to celebrate beating a one-loss, shitty, led-by-freshmen Michigan team. Yet another reason why the Big Ten sucks.

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

Jonathan Crompton, QB, Tennessee
Surely you jest, Gray. Crompton? I know, I’m as stunned as you are. I was convinced he wouldn’t throw four touchdowns the rest of the year and he somehow got four in this game. And threw for 300 yards. Odds are he’ll never be seen in this space again, but for at least one week Tennessee fans don’t want to literally kill him.

(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.)

Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss
A 2 for 12 first half performance set the stage for this week’s winner. Snead finished 11 of 34 for 140 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs. It was an epic failure. In his defense, two of the interceptions were not his fault, but the other two were so bad they should have counted as two each. I’d like to think this is the last time we’ll see Snead in this spot, but I also like to think I’m going to win the Tennessee lottery.

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

Nick Saban, Alabama
Going into what was billed the biggest test yet for his team, Saban’s team, namely his defense, plowed through Ole Miss on its way to a dominating 22-3 win. The next challenge for Saban is to see that no one is injured before reaching Atlanta in December.

2009 SEC Awww-Shit Trophy Leaderboard

A new feature added to the weekend wrap-up. This is simply a way to keep track of the quarterbacks of the SEC and their interception totals. The trophy, which gets its name from the reaction of fans when their team’s quarterback throws an interception (“Awww-shit!!!), will be awarded at the end of the year to the quarterback who throws the most interceptions. A more prestigious award I cannot recall.

Week 6 Standings
1. Jonathan Crompton 9
1. Jevan Snead 9
3. Joe Cox 8
4. Mike Hartline 6
4. Tyson Lee 6
4. Larry Smith 6


South Carolina at Alabama
Another chance for Nick Saban to show that he consumes offenses with the ease that Jerrell Powe shows while working his way through catfish baskets.

Arkansas at Florida
I’ll be looking to see if Florida shuts down the Arkansas offense with the same degree of efficiency as Alabama.

UAB at Ole Miss
The Nathan Stanley watch has begun.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

SEC Picks of Week 6

Sorry for the second straight week without the call-in show, but technical difficulties prevented it from getting posted. And by technical difficulties, I mean I was too lazy to do it. Seriously, do you know how hard it is to come up with the questions and the answers? I can barely do one, much less two.

Anyway, these picks were made while hoping the Missouri/Nebraska weather doesn't find its way to Oxford.

Last week: 7-0
Season: 38-4 (.905)

Auburn at Arkansas
The first of some potentially really good games in the SEC this week. Here we have two offenses that are lighting it up (save for Arkansas’ showing against Alabama) and two defenses that are helping opposing offenses light up the yardage and points categories. Usually when a collision of this nature happens, we get a Georgia/Arkansas type game from earlier this year. But the one thing I notice about this matchup is that Arkansas actually has a decent run defense (7th in the SEC), and if you’ve watched Auburn, their offense is based on running the ball. Now, you can point out that Auburn has the second best passing offense in the SEC and Arkansas has the worst pass defense, but I would argue that Auburn’s passing game in a beneficiary of a great running game and a multitude of piss poor defenses (which Arkansas admittedly is).

So what does all that mean? I think Arkansas has the ability to load up and challenge Auburn’s ability to run the ball. It’s entirely possible that Arkansas’ run defense is actually rated higher than it is because everyone elects to pass on them, but their best chance of winning this game is to dare Chris Todd and his mediocre arm to beat them. Let’s all remember that Chris Todd stinks. I don’t care what his stats say, he stinks. The more times he has to throw, the better Arkansas’ chances are.

On the other side, Auburn’s defense does nothing well. They’re 9th against the run and 10th against the pass. And they’re about to run into a competent quarterback and a well-coached offense. Barring a West Virginia-esque six turnover game, the Arkansas offense is going to blow the Auburn defense apart (actually, West Virginia blew them apart as well, but the turnovers made it much less abusive). And that’s why I’m taking the Hogs in this one. I think they have a better shot at stopping the one thing Auburn has to do in order to have a successful offense. Arkansas can get away without having much by way of the run, but Auburn cannot.

Vanderbilt at Army
Remember about three paragraphs ago when I mentioned all of the potentially great games in the SEC? This is not one of them. I think this game ties the Vandy/Rice game as worst game of the year so far. Let’s go nuts, I’ll take Vandy here.

Georgia at Tennessee

Interesting note about this game, Tennessee is actually four spots higher in total offense than Georgia (6th to 10th). I think some of that may have to do with the Vols feasting on Western Kentucky and Ohio while Georgia took on Oklahoma State and Arizona State. Because no one in their right minds would believe Tennessee has more competent on offense than Georgia. No one. As pitiful as Joe Cox can be, Jonathan Crompton is virtually untouchable in his lack of quarterbacking skill. If only Wesley Carroll were still in the league, then we could have a debate.

Anyway, from everything I’ve read this week, the consensus seems to be that this is a game Tennessee should win. To that I say why? What has Tennessee shown that makes anyone think they can win this game? Let’s look at games against non-completely shitty teams, of which Tennessee has only played three (UCLA, Florida and Auburn). In these three games, the Vols have put up a whopping 16.7 points a game, which fits right in with the Ed Orgeron era at Ole Miss. Georgia, by contrast, has not played a shitty team and averages 27.2 points a game.

Yes, Georgia’s defense has been awful, but some of that goes to the quality of teams they’ve played and their offense leading the way to a -9 turnover margin (worst in the SEC). But the Bulldog defense is good enough to limit bad offenses like they did to LSU’s last week. Tennessee does offer a better defense (although nothing spectacular), but if they can’t score they can’t win. There’s no way I can pick a team with an offense this bad unless they have an outstanding defense, which they don’t. Georgia wins.

Kentucky at South Carolina
Steve Spurrier is 16-0 against Kentucky. Do you think he’s going to lose to Mike Hartline? Pretty easy pick here. Something I did want to talk about which was brought up in the comments section of the last post on here was the absurd celebration penalties called in the Georgia/LSU game last week.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said at a speaking event this week that he’s “just never felt that a public hanging in the square" will make better officials. This is true, Mike. But you know what will make better officials? Hiring ones that don’t suck.

Houston at Mississippi State

Houston can’t stop anything, nor can Mississippi State to a lesser degree. However, a few weeks ago, this game looked like Houston would embarrass yet another team outside of Conference USA. Now, not so much. If someone no one has ever heard of on a team barely recognizable slashes Houston for over 260 yards on the ground, what might a running team like Mississippi State do with allegedly better talent? If I'm Dan Mullen, I don't let the two-headed monster of Tyson Lee and Chris Relf throw more than 12 passes and I make sure each of my top three running backs each get 20 carries. This way, State can control the clock and keep Houston from throwing for Texas Tech-versus-the-Ole Miss-4-2-5-defense-in-2003 yardage (which was an NCAA record at the time) because State has the pass defense that could give up numbers like that. State may also get the benefit of some rain, which should make it harder for Houston to throw. I don't think it will be the flood-like rain currently happening in Columbia right now, but a little bit can always help.

I'd like to take State here, but their turnover problems in the past few games (they're also 10th in the SEC in penalties) and the overwhelming fact that Tyson Lee and/or Chris Relf will be prominently involved in this game are forcing me into Houston. I don't think State will be able to stop Houston at all and State should rack up some points as well, but those two guys will do something that will lead to the loss. But take heart State fans, it's almost unbelievable how much better coached this team is than those under the Sylvester Croom era. If this year's team played last year's, they'd win by three touchdowns. While both coaches and players still make plenty of mistakes and I don't know if Mullen (or any coach) will break the mold of inexperienced coaches having no success in bad situations, but at least you have a chance now.

Alabama at Ole Miss
The game that was set up to be an Armageddon game between two top five teams until Ole Miss lost to another SEC team on the road on a Thursday night by six points and was declared one of the most overrated teams in the country. Now, it's just a top three team taking on a top 20 team. Yawn. Seriously, Ole Miss should just give up. The same people who told them how great they were have now told them that they are actually terrible, and we all know those people are really, really smart and well-informed.

Here's what's at stake in this game: If Alabama wins, they essentially eliminate Ole Miss from contention in the West and prove they can beat a team with a good defense, which they have not done this season (I refuse to acknowledge Virginia Tech as a good defense because they aren't. They're 47th in the country in total defense). If Ole Miss wins, they're in real contention in the West (not that they aren't now) even though they've been left for dead and it proves to them and to everyone else that they can beat everyone in the West. If Alabama loses, they're still in the race. Yeah, one loss hurts, but I think they'd still be one of the favorites to win. If Ole Miss loses, they're done in the West with two conference losses and there's a chance the season could start to spiral out of control.

What all my inane gibberish means is that this game means much, much more to Ole Miss than it does to Alabama. That doesn't mean Alabama isn't going to play hard and be really average, but Ole Miss knows a successful season is on the line. Never count out what a sense of urgency can do for a team. And then there's the "nobody believes in us" factor, which is right in Houston Nutt's wheelhouse. You think he's going to milk that for all it's worth? A sense of urgency and an "us against the world" attitude can go a long way when a game of this magnitude comes along.

Leaving the mental game, let's move to the actual playing of the game. Alabama's offense has pretty much dominated everyone they've faced this year. But, as I mentioned earlier, that's come against some pretty bad defenses (although Kentucky does bring the pain at number 61). Ole Miss is currently ranked 16th in total defense and will make things much harder on them. I doubt they'll be able to run very well and will be forced to throw much more than they want, which, as well as Greg McElroy has played, benefits Ole Miss. An inexperienced quarterback on the road, facing a legitimate defense, carrying the offense because of a lack of a run game, is a definite positive for Ole Miss. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, that's where the good news sort of ends. Alabama's defense is really good. They've dominated everything that's come their way and a mistake-prone quarterback is just what they'd want.

Jevan Snead has to, I mean HAS TO, tap his end of 2008 self or there's no chance for Ole Miss. All of these dumb passes he's so fond of making need to go away. And in order to aid him in his decision making, the offensive line must pass block with a high degree of success. If not, we'll see something like the South Carolina game again, except much worse. However, I believe Ole Miss will have a little more success on offense than everyone is probably anticipating. This may be the first game in which Alabama's defense really feels the loss of Dont'a Hightower. The guy was a freak with his size and speed and could play linebacker or be used as a rush end. I'm sure Cory Reamer is a nice player but a freak he is not. When Hightower is in there, an offense has to worry about him and Rolando McClain, not that the other Crimson Tide defenders are slouches, but those two guys are destructive machines. It's much easier to worry about one than two.

So after plowing through all that you already knew, who's the pick here? Call it a hunch, call it putting way too much stock in the "season is on the line" and the "nobody believes in us" attitude, I'm taking Ole Miss. I think the defense will keep them in the game with their ability to limit Alabama's offense, which I'm not totally buying, and I think they'll get just enough on offense and ride the emotional wave I spent something like 250 words talking about. This may be a moronic homer pick, but I think they've got enough to pull it off.

Florida at LSU
Tebow-watch sort of reminds me of panda-watch in Anchorman. Everyone's eagerly waiting the news and throwing out their uninformed opinions, but no one knows anything. On Friday night, I fully expect a reporter giving a live report to turn around and yell to no one in particular that Tebow needs to show his face and call him a Tebow-jerk (I looked for the video so all the people who have no idea what I'm talking about wouldn't think I'm crazy. But if you don't know what I'm talking about, it means you haven't seen Anchorman and are therefore an idiot. So I have no problem with you assuming I'm crazy.).

Anyway, I don't think it really matters if Tebow plays or not because I think Florida will win either way. LSU's offense and defense are way too suspect to even consider an upset here. LSU's only chance will come if Florida turns the ball over four or five times. That many turnovers will be necessary because a Jordan Jefferson-lead offense will need as many chances as possible. Florida's defense should dominate and whatever they get on offense will be enough to win this one.