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.
GAME I DIDN’T PICK BUT DESERVES MENTION HERE
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.
DEUCE MCALLISTER OF THE WEEK
(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.
ERIC OLIVER OF THE WEEK
(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.
JOHN VAUGHT OF THE WEEK
(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
WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS WEEK
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.