Just when I had begun the checking out process on the Ole Miss season, the Rebels do what they do best, lure everyone, including me, back in. Usually this sort of behavior means they're setting us all up for yet another colossal failure, but like any good Rebel, I'll blindly ignore what history has told me and fix myself a giant vat of red and blue Kool-Aid, which I will be swilling with extreme aggression this week.
Ole Miss 42, Tennessee 17
After the game on Saturday, it was a familiar sight at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium seeing Ed Orgeron walk off the field with the scoreboard heavily in favor of the opposing team. Only this time, he did not lead the Ole Miss Rebels to another SEC loss, but instead helped Tennessee achieve its worst conference loss since Florida pounded them 59-20 in 2007. But, thanks to Ed Orgeron and his addiction to recruiting (with an assist to Red Bull and pork rinds), he was able to find the best player on the field on Saturday and convince him to come to Ole Miss.
I've been to more Ole Miss games that I can remember over the last 20-ish years and have seen numerous acts of failure, mediocrity and general incompetence. But, sprinkled in between all of those I have seen a few performances that I really couldn't believe were happening. Eli Manning probably provided the most, Deuce McAllister had some and Patrick Willis gave one pretty much every time he played (despite his team getting the crap kicked out of it; he also would have had more, but since he only started two years, Eli had more.). But Dexter McCluster, discovered by the Shrimp Boat Captain, probably gave the greatest one I've ever seen. His quickness, acceleration, speed and vision all came together to form sort of gear that no one else has. If he had been on NCAA Football 2010, his rating would have been a 99 with a +419 next to it. And if you had been playing as Tennessee, you would have turned the game off.
As great as McCluster's performance was, and I wish I had the ability to wax poetic as to how good it was (I haven't the skill or patience to write like that), the one thing not really being discussed about this game is that Jevan Snead has become such a liability that he is no longer allowed to throw passes over 15 yards or passes over the middle. If you watch the game again, every pass he threw was in the flat to a running back or tight end, or an out or curl to Shay Hodge. He did complete one pass over the middle to Hodge, but it was off a play-action/roll out thing where he just had to turn around and throw to his one read. I understand the plan on Saturday was to get McCluster the ball as much as he could handle it, but it was still shocking to see a quarterback once headed for a top five spot in the NFL draft reduced to wearing the label "game manager." Not that I had a problem with it, but if LSU or Mississippi State comes up with a plan to slow down McCluster (although the good Rebel in me tells me that's impossible), the burden falls back on Snead, which I can tell you will be a disaster for Ole Miss.
Wearing his new label, I thought Snead played well. He didn't do anything dumb (the one interception wasn't really his fault) and even ran a couple of times when the one receiver he's allowed to throw to wasn't open. However, if he's asked to do anything more, I fully expect the mistakes to return to their former heights. As for the opposing quarterback, Jonathan Crompton wasn't bad, but wasn't exactly the Crompton we'd seen over the past few weeks. He made some really bad throws, a few good ones and was mostly just blah. Much like Ole Miss, if Tennessee can't run the ball (only 99 yards on 25 carries), they're in trouble because their quarterback isn't going to win the game. Some of that was helped out by the Tennessee defense, which had some guys out with injuries, not able to do much of anything with success. But I'll be interested to see if Crompton begins to return to the player full of bad decisions and throws that the 11 other teams in the SEC know and love.
Kentucky 24, Vanderbilt 13
Welcome to the Music City Bowl, Kentucky. Your next trip to Nashville will not take you to the West End, but to downtown. And welcome back Mike Hartline. He only threw six passes, but was able to get in one interception. Although according to Rich Brooks, he's supposed to have surgery on his knee, which could keep him out of a late push in the Awww-Shit competition.
And barring a stunning upset, Ed Orgeron should get the champagne ready for Bobby Johnson for a quick toast after next week's Vanderbilt loss to Tennessee. Orgeron can swap stories with Johnson on just how bad you have to be to actually go 0-8 in the SEC. In Johnson's defense, he has no players, which is still his fault to a degree, while the Shrimp Boat reached his 0-8 season with a combination of bad players and historically wretched coaching.
Florida 24, South Carolina 14
Steve Spurrier lives. Unfortunately, he lives at South Carolina where he has no offensive line and running game. I applaud the Gamecocks' effort while in the midst of yet another late season collapse. At least they're fighting and losing rather than rolling over and losing. It is appreciated by those who jumped on South Carolina at +16 this weekend. Now, please, muster the strength to beat a crappy Clemson team next week. We'll all be embarrassed if you don't.
Georgia 31, Auburn 24
All this game did for me was make me even more sick and disgusted with Ole Miss' loss to Auburn. Joe Cox, who got the Jevan Snead treatment this weekend and was demoted to game manager, fulfilled his duties nicely by delivering a 9 of 17, 173 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT performance, and Georgia was able to grind out some rushing yards against one of the league's worst defenses. Chris Todd reminded everyone that he does indeed suck and threw a pair of killer interceptions inside the Georgia 25 (and created just 17 offensive points against a bad Georgia defense). Why this Chris Todd couldn't show up against Ole Miss can be attributed to the Sports Gods having a good laugh at Ole Miss' expense.
With the loss, Auburn probably cost itself a shot at a bowl in Florida and the Cotton Bowl (assuming they lose to Alabama and fall to 7-5). If I were an Auburn fan, I'd make plans for lovely Shreveport or Memphis in late December. Georgia now has a shot to change its bowl fortunes for the better if they can beat Kentucky and Georgia Tech, which would get them to eight wins, one of which would be over a top ten Tech team. If A.J. Green weren't hurt and Georgia's defense was actually average, I'd feel good about their chances. Unfortunately for Georgia, neither of those are true.
LSU 24, Louisiana Tech 13
I don't know about you, but it was good to have some Jarrett Lee back in my life. I didn't watch much of this game, but the few plays I did were thoroughly enjoyable as he struggled to resemble any form of a competent quarterback. The only question I have coming out of this game is did LSU assume (and rightfully so) that they could beat Tech with their backup quarterback or is Jordan Jefferson hurt much worse than they're letting on? I think Ole Miss has a decent chance to win next week, but if Lee is running the Tiger offense instead of Jefferson, those chances jump exponentially.
Alabama 31, Mississippi State 3
Welcome back to Earth, State fans. I guess we can all agree the win over Kentucky wasn't as glorious as previously thought. And it was good to be reminded that the Bulldog secondary is still awful (I look forward to Ryan Mallett's body of work against this group next week.). As I said last week, in order for State to have had a chance in this game, they needed Alabama to be sloppy. Alabama was not. Tyson Lee also needed to have a career game and instead threw up a 9 of 17, 99 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs performance, which was not unexpected. Lee now has 13 interceptions and is suddenly a serious challenger to Jevan Snead for the overall Awww-Shit trophy. I have a feeling that if Chris Relf could competently throw the ball forward, Lee would not get his chance to win the trophy, but Relf is miraculously worse than Lee at throwing.
In order to go to a bowl, State must beat both Arkansas and Ole Miss in the next two weeks. I could see them beating Ole Miss...well, not really (I told you I was back on the Kool-Aid). This State team makes too many mistakes on both sides of the ball, and while Anthony Dixon is a great player, he can't take over a game. He's got to have help from at least one other player (preferably a quarterback) and I can't find one person on State's offense that could be that person (at least for this year, perhaps Chad Bumphis could be that kind of player, but not right now). One man offenses can be successful to a degree, but in order to win there needs to be more help.
Arkansas 56, Troy 20
Arkansas has two chances, State and LSU, to greatly improve its bowl game.
GAME I DIDN'T PICK BUT DESERVES MENTION HERE
Oklahoma State 24, Texas Tech 17
When I saw this highlight, I yelled.
DEUCE MCALLISTER OF THE WEEK
(Given to the player who dominated with or without the help of his teammates and coaches.)
Dexter McCluster, RB, Ole Miss
25 carries, 282 yards, 4 TDs
4 receptions, 42 yards
As if there was any doubt. The only question is where he, myself and Shay Hodge will be getting our apartment next spring.
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
9 of 17, 99 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs
I received a text message from a State friend Saturday night that just read "Please graduate Tyson Lee."
JOHN VAUGHT OF THE WEEK
(Given to the coach who dominated whatever task was in front of him.)
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss
His team was poised for a floundering 6-6 finish after the Auburn debacle, but Nutt was able to right the ship, take the ball out of Jevan Snead's hands, put the ball in his best player's hands and as a result destroyed Tennessee. Now he has a chance to actually improve on last season's regular season record of 8-4.
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 14
2. Tyson Lee 13
3. Joe Cox 12
4. Jonathan Crompton 10
WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS WEEK
Mississippi State at Arkansas
Will Tyson Lee throw even more interceptions? Will Ryan Mallett throw for 500 yards? Will the Bulldogs start a miraculous run to a bowl game?
LSU at Ole Miss
Will Jordan Jefferson play? I'm no mathematician, but my calculations tell me that LSU's chances of winning drop by at least 25,000% if Jarrett Lee is their starting quarterback.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee
Just kidding, no one is looking forward to this game.