Thursday, October 01, 2009

SEC Picks of Week 5

Made while realizing the NHL season and the NHL itself were not cancelled this year. Must have been a nasty rumor. I’d like to watch, but I only get 225 channels and the Versus Outdoor Life Northeast Living Network isn’t one of them.

Last week: 7-1
Season: 31-4 (.886)

Alabama at Kentucky

In this space, I have expressed my respect and admiration for the job Rich Brooks has done at Kentucky. And of course, last week he repaid my touting of his abilities by dropping an epic stinkbomb in the first quarter against Florida. So earlier this week, I wrote that I took back all those nice things I said about him. Well, I’m back on the Rich Brooks bandwagon. Take a look at this Twitter post from yesterday:

Now that is one tough old man. And I’m quite certain he swore repeatedly at all the doctors. Anyway, glad he’s apparently okay because the only reason I even watch parts of Kentucky games is to see if I can catch Brooks unleashing a cluster bomb-like barrage of profanity on a player who’s just done something incredibly stupid. If I didn’t have that, I might never see Kentucky play.

As for this game, I fully expect Brooks’ saltiness to flex its muscle. Kentucky’s offense, in short, stinks. And their defense isn’t much better. Actually, I’m not even sure it is better. Watching Florida’s offense roll through their alleged defense and seeing their offense bumble around like an aluminum can-seeking hobo, I’m a little worried about my lofty prediction that had them fifth in the SEC East. They’re in serious need of getting their asses into first gear.

Unfortunately, that’s going to be hard to do with Alabama coming into Lexington. Improving your offense usually works when you’re playing teams like Miami (OH) or Arkansas, not Alabama. As Alabama proved last weekend, they make offenses much worse. And after shutting down Ryan Mallett, do you think Nick Saban is sweating Mike Hartline (whoever that is)?

Offensively, I’ll be looking to see if Alabama can get some sort of consistent ground game going. Outside of Trent Richardson’s 52-yard touchdown run last week, they piled up just 82 yards on 40 carries, which, if you do the math, is not good, especially against Arkansas’ defense. If they struggle running against Kentucky (the worst statistical run defense in the SEC), I’d be a little concerned if I cared about Alabama. Not for this game, but in future games against more talented teams. They’ve got plenty on offense to get by Kentucky and will do so with ease, but I wouldn’t feel great if it were up to Greg McElroy to win a game for me.

LSU at Georgia

This was the game I kept pointing to as when we would really find out more about LSU. But thanks to Mississippi State, I think we found out what this LSU team is: a very average team. They’re very erratic on offense, with a poor ability to run the ball, and defensively soft against the run and offense in general. They’re also the number four-ranked team in the country, which is hard to believe given their offensive struggles and their inability to shut down an offense led by an extra from Smurfs on Ice (granted, he would be the toughest Smurf given some of the hits he took, but still a Smurf). But I suppose other teams displaying their mediocrity (ahem, Ole Miss), LSU deserves to move up due to a process of elimination. Hell, if Virginia Tech and Ohio State are back in the top ten, then there’s no reason LSU shouldn’t be.

Looking at these two teams, it’s almost as if they’re identical. Both have offenses that rank in the bottom third of the SEC (Georgia’s is only better thanks to Arkansas’ defense), quarterbacks who have struggled mightily at times (although Jefferson is more talented), terrible running games (LSU is 10th and Georgia is 11th) and defenses that rank 9th (LSU) and 11th (Georgia) in the league in total defense. Statistically, it makes no sense that these teams even have winning records. And more amazingly for Georgia is that they’re -9 in turnover ratio (worst in the conference). LSU is +7, which is best and explains some of their good fortune.

So what happens when two below average to average teams play one another? I have no idea. Nothing would surprise me in this game. LSU by 30? I can see it. Georgia turns it over seven times and still wins? No big deal. The sky is the limit with this game. Hopefully, this collision of mediocrity won’t produce an Auburn/Tennessee game from last year when neither team could do anything remotely competent on offense. If two teams like this are going to play, at least give the rest of us some offensive excitement. Something like 38-34 would be just right.

I went back and forth on this one, but in the end settled on LSU. I think Georgia is just too sloppy (turnovers and penalties, which they are 11th and 12th, respectively) and in an even game, I’ll take the more disciplined team (hard to believe that would be a Les Miles team) and the quarterback with the most ability. As risky as it is to take Jordan Jefferson on the road, I still say Joe Cox airing it out 30 times or more is more dangerous.

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

Saturday we find out if Ole Miss’ problems on the offensive line and at quarterback are correctable problems or are season-killing ones that can’t be fixed. So it’s sort of a big day. If a Vanderbilt defensive lineman, who, as of right now I don’t even know exists, plays to the level where his name is burned in my brain forever, then this Ole Miss team may not find its way to six or seven wins. However, if the three man rush jailbreaks are kept to a minimum and Jevan Snead shakes off his Romaro Miller-itis, then there’s still hope for a shot at Atlanta.

I’m not looking for a massive blowout (mainly because I know it can’t happen), but I want to see a superior team with superior talent dominate an inferior team (for those confused as to which is which, Ole Miss is allegedly the superior team). The Ole Miss team will have had eight days to shake off the crash back to reality and get ready to make a statement that they aren’t done. This is a game that they should control from start to finish. Vanderbilt will offer a competitive defense (but nothing like South Carolina), a road environment that could be described as neutral and absolutely nothing on offense. There’s no excuse not to be in total control throughout. And that should be the message to this team. Dominate. Prove to yourself and everyone else that there’s not a giant fork sticking out of the team’s collective back.

Ole Miss should win, but I get the feeling it will be yet another excruciatingly painful Ole Miss/Vandy game in which it takes the better part of three and a half quarters to finally put the game on ice, a feat which Ole Miss hasn’t done against Vandy the last two years.

South Carolina State at South Carolina
Baring a disaster, South Carolina should be 5-1 going into Alabama in three weeks, which is suddenly an intriguing game. Spurrier matching wits with Saban. Saban already destroyed one offensive guru in Bobby Petrino, and although Spurrier may no longer have that title, he still has to be considered somewhat dangerous.

Georgia Tech at Mississippi State
Last year, Mississippi State put up 400 yards of offense and matched Georgia Tech in time of possession. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they also turned the ball over four times, gave up 500 yards on defense (438 on the ground) and scored only 7 points. So one would think there’s not a tremendous advantage for Georgia Tech, especially with the game being in Starkville. However, remember when State met Auburn’s run-option oriented attack? 390 yards on the ground at a staggering 6.6 yards per carry.

Now, that Auburn team is a little more balanced than this Georgia Tech team, but it’s still a team that comes in with an offense that leans heavily on the run and is option-based. I don’t like State’s chances defending an option team (and one that gashed them last year). But I suppose if they wanted a great lesson in shutting down the option, they could watch LSU’s defense on the fourth and goal play from last Saturday (too soon?). That’s how you defend the option.

I think this game will be closer than last year, but given State’s recent struggles against good running teams, the brutal emotional loss last week and that Tyson Lee is still playing quarterback, Georgia Tech should win.

Texas A&M vs. Arkansas

In a game played at the new Cowboys’ stadium (wait, the Cowboys have a new stadium? I must have missed out on this.), two old Southwest Conference rivals collide blah blah blah blah blah. We get it. The old days of cheating, hatred and Texas are momentarily revisited. Both groups of fans will marvel at all the lights and electricity running those lights inside the stadium. Both will recall the good old days of the SWC. And both will long for those days to come back, not realizing that their current conferences make them millions upon millions of dollars.

Once the game starts, I’m not sure what to expect. Texas A&M has thrashed the likes of New Mexico, Utah State (only by 8) and UAB so who knows what they actually bring to the table. Oh, and they’re coached by Mike Sherman, who, by all accounts, stinks. But allegedly A&M has installed a new, fast-paced offense, which, when played against better competition, should get them into punting situations faster. I’m taking Arkansas here because they’ve played a pair of real games and I can’t ever cast my lot with Mike Sherman.

Auburn at Tennessee

Last year, Auburn played a huge role in two of the most boring football games of the 21st century. The epic 3-2 win over Mississippi State and the burn-out-your-retinas game against Tennessee, which they won 14-12. Perhaps this year these crimes against humanity can be avoided. Auburn appears to have found an offense that works and even though it is tearing up lesser competition, it’s still tearing them apart as it should. That would lead you to believe we won’t witness another bloodbath of offensive inefficiency, but as I just mentioned, Auburn hasn’t played a good defensive team.

Lots of people, including myself, expected Florida to score at least 250 points against Tennessee earlier this year. Instead, the crafty, defensive veteran coach Monte Kiffin came up with a defensive plan that not only slowed Florida down, but actually gave Tennessee a chance to win (if they had a competent quarterback). I expect him to do the same again this week. Kiffin knows that despite Auburn quarterback Chris Todd’s good early season numbers, he still stinks. Look for him to load up against the run and play a lot of zero coverage or cover 1, daring Auburn to throw the ball.

Now, as genius of a plan that Kiffin might create, he still has no control over the offensive side of the ball. That falls under his son’s responsibility and, as much as I enjoy making fun of his son, he’s limited in what he can do on offense because of his quarterback. The good news for Tennessee is that Auburn’s defense isn’t very good. Ball State put 30 up on them, and West Virginia, despite six turnovers, ran up 30 points and 500 yards of offense. If they had limited themselves to maybe two turnovers, we might have seen 50 points and 700 yards of offense.

But do you see what’s going on here? These assholes are setting us up for another offensive travesty. An overrated offense going against a good defense that’s well coached. An absolutely horrible offense facing a defense that isn’t very good, but with enough good athletes to hold the bad offense in the same place. Damn these teams to hell. They’re going to do it again. I hate both of them. I’ll take Auburn on account that Jonathan Crompton still plays quarterback at Tennessee.

A Simpsons’ moment best describes what it will be like to watch this game:

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