And the year of wretchedly bad quarterbacking marches on in the SEC. Back in August when I was making my preseason predictions, one of the reasons I thought so highly of Florida and Ole Miss was that they were the two teams that were returning experienced and very talented quarterbacks. No one else in the conference had a quarterback with both of those qualities. Now nine weeks into the 2009 season, we know that any team that has a quarterback, experienced or not, that doesn’t turn the ball over multiple times a game and doesn’t throw completions to the ground with great zeal is all a team really needs to win. Because more than likely, the opposing bad quarterback will lead his team to loads of turnovers and offensive incompetency.
This weekend saw Chris Todd and Jonathan Crompton, two guys I have mercilessly labeled as horrible, lead their teams to wins over higher ranked teams. Granted, both won at home, but they played at an average level, didn’t do anything to kill their team and watched as the opposing team staggered around and freely gave away the ball. And remarkably, these two have combined for 10 wins this season. 10! These two have shown that with all the crappy quarterbacking taking place, you don’t have to be good to win, just don’t be a complete and total liability.
Auburn 33, Ole Miss 20
Let me open this individual recap by offering an apology to all Auburn fans and Chris Todd. As I mentioned above, if you’re a regular reader here then you know I don’t think very highly of Todd’s ability as a quarterback. And I’ll go ahead and say that I still don’t (on his very best day he is average). But, I was wrong to blast his lack of abilities while not doing the same to Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead. If it were possible to do so, I would welcome a midseason trade for Chris Todd. While he has 25% of the physical gifts Snead has, he’s not a liability for his team right now. Jeavan Snead is. (And that is how you write a paragraph that offers an apology, a backhanded compliment and a disparaging remark.)
Since leaving the game early on Saturday (yes, I know that probably makes me a bad Rebel, but after watching Ole Miss’ sixth drive enter Auburn territory and end with no points, I had seen enough. Although, I’m sorry I missed number seven, which ended in yet another Jevan Snead interception.), I have tried to come up with a single, legitimate reason why he should continue to be Ole Miss’ starting quarterback. So far, the best I could come up with was that when the offensive line falls apart as they do at least four or five times a game, he has the most mobility of the quarterbacks and has a chance to gain some yards running. That’s it. He doesn’t do one thing well (except throw really hard, he still has that going for him). He doesn’t read coverages. He doesn’t look off defenders. He doesn’t stay calm in the pocket. He doesn’t limit turnovers. He doesn’t throw the ball downfield or over the middle with any degree of accuracy. He. Is. Awful.
Yesterday when I got home, I decided to put myself through the misery again and watched the game (where does DVR rank on the list of top inventions in the past 10 years? Five? Four? I would absolutely be a wreck without it.). What I saw confirmed that which I saw in person on Saturday and for most of this season: He doesn’t have a clue what’s going on with defensive coverages. If his first read isn’t there, he panics and starts dancing around, hoping that he’ll randomly see someone break open. Good quarterbacks can identify the coverage pre-snap or as they’re dropping back to pass. They also know where to go immediately if their first read isn’t open. Snead can do none of that, which results in performances like we’ve seen all year, a bundle of imcompletions and interceptions.
Perhaps some of his suckiness can be blamed on the offensive line and a group of receivers that don’t appear to be as strong as last year (with the exception of Shay Hodge who is even better than last year). To me, the South Carolina game was the only game in which the offensive line was a total failure. Every other game they have been at worst average, giving Snead the time he needed. Auburn was able to get lots of pressure late on Saturday because Ole Miss was in obvious passing downs (and losing by two scores) and their ends didn’t have to worry about the run. Yes, Bradley Sowell isn’t very good, but he’s not the matador he was against South Carolina. With the exception of three or four plays, I thought he did a pretty good job on Saturday. And until I see receivers constantly dropping wide open passes or even looked at after Hodge is covered, I can’t assess much blame to them.
For Ole Miss to have a chance to beat Tennessee, LSU and, gulp, Mississippi State, they have to find a quarterback who will not commit turnovers. Incomplete passes can be overcome, but turnovers more often than not cannot be overcome. And right now, Jevan Snead is killing, repeat, KILLLING Ole Miss with his turnovers. I don’t know what Nathan Stanley brings to the table with his limited experience, but I think Ole Miss has to roll the dice and find out. You know what Snead is bringing and most of it isn’t good. Stanley could turn out to provide nothing, but when you’re getting nothing with what you have right now, it’s worth the risk to find out if you can at least get something average behind center.
If you’re still reading at this point, congratulations. And if you’re not an Ole Miss fan and just read all that, I salute you and can tell you that this is the portion of the recap where I stop complaining and discuss the actual game. To me, this was a game that Ole Miss lost in the first and second quarters. Against teams that are struggling like Auburn was coming into this game, you can’t let them hang around, especially after jumping on them 7-0. You hammer away and get to halftime up two scores. Ole Miss completely failed to do that. They bumbled around and let Auburn start to get confidence, especially on defense where after Zac Etheridge’s injury, the Tigers had three scholarship defensive backs available. DO YOU HEAR ME JEVAN SNEAD? THREE!!! Then Auburn was able to hit a couple of big pass plays and the next thing Ole Miss knew, they were losing a game they had control of 10-7 (Seriously, Ole Miss had 230 yards of total offense in the first half and scored seven points. And for the game, not counting Dexter McCluster’s long touchdown run, Ole Miss had one offensive drive that ended in points.).
I thought the Auburn offense did a nice job of using the aggressiveness of the Ole Miss defense against itself by using multiple play action passes, misdirection runs and getting to the outside quickly to but the burden of tackling on the linebackers and secondary, which are not as talented as the defensive line. And when Chris Todd threw, it was usually to a deep route or a safe, short pass outside. They didn’t ask him to throw a lot or do anything very complicated and he made good decisions, mostly not throwing to the other team or at the ground.
This is the freaking recap that won’t end. ENJOY ANOTHER PARAGRAPH. Going forward for Auburn, they’re now bowl eligible, which I was close to 2,000% positive wouldn’t happen this year. They’ll beat Furman this week and as awful as Georgia looks, they’ve got a good chance to win that one to finish 8-4 (after a loss to Alabama). Maybe chalk it up to a weak SEC, but for this team with what they have to finish 8-4 is outstanding. For Ole Miss, suddenly a 6-6 record is a real possibility. Tennessee is coming on, especially on defense, and LSU, while not anything special, is getting stronger. I think 7-5 is the best the Rebels can hope for (knowing that a quarterback change probably isn’t happening since the coaches are probably convinced the real Snead is the one from the second half of 2008), and worst case they’ll have to beat State to become bowl eligible since they can’t count both wins against I-AA opponents. And if State stays at five wins, this could be the first Egg Bowl that actually is worth something. The teams will still be bad, but at least a bowl birth will be at stake, which hasn’t happened since the Tommy Tuberville/Jackie Sherrill games.
Florida 41, Georgia 17
Another big game in another gimmick uniform results in a familiar pounding of Georgia. Joe Cox, reminding everyone that if you’re a fifth year senior and it’s your first year to start that you will suck (unless you play at Texas Tech), continued his impressive spiral down into the wing of the Short, Crappy SEC Quarterbacks Hall of Fame by throwing three more interceptions (what a race it will be between him and Jevan Snead for the Awww-Shit Trophy in these last few weeks). It was a performance that upset Mark Richt enough that he actually shrugged his shoulders and groaned (What a monster this man is. How dare he pretend like he cares.).
As expected, Georgia’s offense sputtered its way through most of the game, save for a ten-point flurry early in the second quarter (it also took Joe Cox only 20 passes to make multiple mistakes, not the 30+ I predicted). And, as expected, Florida was able to run when it pleased against the Bulldog run defense. Although to be fair to the run defense, the pass defense was equally awful when presented with its few chances to defend.
I was right about Urban Meyer doing something stupid, but wrong about when it would happen. In case you haven’t heard, Meyer suspended Brandon Spikes for the first half against Vanderbilt (and will most likely miss the second half after Florida builds a 28-0 lead) for eye gouging Georgia running back Washaun Ealey as he lay at the bottom of a pile after a play. I have no idea why he chose to do that, maybe Ealey had said unpleasant things to him earlier, but to go at a guy when he can’t fight back is chicken shit. At least Oregon running back LeGarrett Blount had the courtesy to attack a guy who had his hands free. And making it more of a total bitch move, Spikes is 6’3” and weighs 258 pounds. Ealey is 5’11” and weighs 205. So more than likely, Spikes could beat his ass straight up, yet he chose to go after him while he was lying on his back unable to defend himself. Well done, Brandon, well done.
Arkansas 63, Eastern Michigan 27
I’m sure it was as compelling and rich as we thought it would be.
Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 24
Yet another game about which I was wrong. I was right about Mississippi State being able to run the ball (348 yards), but apparently there was no Florida hangover for the Bulldogs. And it helped that backup Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton was, how shall I put this gently, ONE PERCENT BETTER THAN JEVAN SNEAD. If watching bad quarterbacks is your thing, I strongly suggest watching the replay of this game. Combined, the two combatants went 21 of 35 for 264 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs, which will be in the neighborhood of Jevan Snead’s stat line against Tennessee, but with a lower completion percentage.
I’d like to spend some time on this, but from the two-ish quarters I watched I can’t think of anything worth discussing. Anthony Dixon was outstanding (33 carries for 252 yards) against the nine-man Kentucky defense…wait, I’m being told Kentucky actually did play with 11. My mistake. I wrote last week that Kentucky had a great chance to win if they held State to around 150 yards on the ground. Well, State more than doubled that number and Kentucky lost a game they really needed, and probably should have won, in order to gain bowl eligibility.
Georgia Tech 56, Vanderbilt 31
Just when I was ready to have a good laugh at how the highest ranked team in the ACC was in trouble with the worst team in the SEC, Georgia Tech pillaged and burned the confidence and joy Vanderbilt had going with one of their strongest offensive outputs of the season. The good news for Vandy is that they were officially eliminated from bowl contention and no longer have to experience the small bursts of confidence being crushed by a superior opponents in their last three games.
Tennessee 31, South Carolina 13
With three early turnovers from South Carolina, all Jonathan Crompton had to do was not screw the first half up. He tapped into the limited ability he has and didn’t. He even threw two touchdowns. I can’t believe I’m about to write this, and I know South Carolina gift-wrapped this game for the Vols, but Tennessee is looking like an 8-4 team. Crompton has eliminated his turnover problem and their defense is turning into a really good unit, despite injuries at the linebacker position. And looking at their last four games (Memphis, at Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and at Kentucky), there’s not a game in which they won’t be favored. Now, Crompton certainly has the ability to return to the real Crompton, but until he does, this team is a pretty decent.
Auburn is bowl eligible under a head coach who previously won five games in two years. Tennessee, coached by Lane Kiffin, has morphed into a decent team. These are frightening, uncertain times my friends. I can’t get a handle on it either. But, there is one certainty in life, and that is South Carolina’s inability to run the ball. The Gamecocks piled up 65 yards on 20 carries and as a result were forced to throw 50 times in the rain. And it didn’t help that they were down 21-0 before Steve Spurrier could even grind another millimeter off his teeth. But, the Gamecocks came in as a one-dimensional team and Tennessee made sure they stayed that way. Kenny Miles leads this team in carries with 86. Number two? Stephen Garcia with 72. As far as I know there is no running back named Stephen Garcia, so we’ll assume that’s the quarterback named Stephen Garcia. Unless you’re Georgia Tech, Navy, Air Force or some other option team I can’t name right now, that should never happen.
If South Carolina wants to find itself in Florida in January and end their typical year-end collapse, they have to find a way to run the ball. Arkansas and Clemson while not great teams can be frisky enough to beat the Gamecocks if they know they can stop the run with four or five guys. Those are two teams that South Carolina should beat, which would get them to eight wins, and a perfect game against Florida, who is beatable, is possible if they can become balanced. But at the rate they’re running the ball, a 6-6 finish isn’t that absurd.
LSU 42, Tulane 0
JUST END THIS DAMN POST ALREADY!!!
GAME I DIDN’T PICK BUT DESERVES MENTION HERE
Iowa 42, Indiana 24
I think it’s safe to assume now that there are no more living cows, sheep or any other form of livestock in the state of Iowa. Every last one of them has now been sacrificed for the 2009 Hawkeye season. How else would one explain a game in which Iowa turns it over SIX times and wins by 18? Surely Indiana isn’t that awful, right? I think we should also send a warning to all of Iowa’s neighboring states because now that Iowa is out of sacrificial livestock, they'll be coming for yours.
DEUCE MCALLISTER OF THE WEEK
(Given to the player who dominated with or without the help of his teammates and coaches.)
Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State
252 yards on 33 carries and two touchdowns. I’d say this one was pretty easy. With three games to go, Dixon has already hit the 1,000-yard mark. He’ll get a week off before his biggest challenge of the year against Alabama.
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.)
Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss
16 of 35 for 175 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. Not much more to say here other than what I wrote earlier. I can only hope this is his last appearance here either because he is no longer allowed to play quarterback this season or he goes on some sort of hot streak that no one sees coming.
JOHN VAUGHT OF THE WEEK
(Given to the coach who dominated whatever task was in front of him.)
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
I wrote last week that State needed a miracle to get bowl eligible. Now they only need a break or two thanks to this giant win. Mullen was able to get them over the Florida loss and steal a game on the road. All that remains for him to do is find a win against Alabama, Arkansas or Ole Miss.
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 13
2. Joe Cox 12
3. Tyson Lee 11
4. Jonathan Crompton 10
Larry Smith and Mike Hartline have fallen out of contention due to improved play and/or injury. Mostly injury.
WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS WEEK
South Carolina at Arkansas
Can Ryan Mallett actually play well against a good defense? Will Stephen Garcia throw fewer than 48 times? Will more than 200 South Carolina fans make the 78-hour trek from Columbia to Fayetteville?
LSU at Alabama
Alabama’s last major threat to ending it’s undefeated season before Atlanta. Is LSU a decent team or one that has thrived on playing crappy teams as of late?