Since I took last week off to attend to very important things and pretend that I was extremely busy, I suppose it's time to update the always fluid (and what will ultimately prove to be incorrect, as I usually am) SEC bowl hierarchy heading into this eleventh week of the season. Please note that whatever absurd, Kool-Aid swilling confidence I had in Ole Miss earlier this season is now completely shattered.
TEAMS HEADED TO BOWLS THAT WILL MAKE THE CONFERENCE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS
TEAMS HEADED TO BOWLS THAT WILL BE GUARANTEED TO BE WARM
TEAMS STUCK BETWEEN THE PREVIOUS CATEGORY AND THE NEXT ONE
TEAMS HEADED TO BOWLS WITH A DECENT CHANCE OF FREEZING TO DEATH
TEAMS FLIRTING WITH BOWL ELIGIBILITY
TEAMS NEEDING A MIRACLE TO MAKE A BOWL
PLEASE, JUST SHUT IT DOWN
Made while stirring a giant vat of gumbo to welcome the Shrimp Boat Captain back to Oxford...
Last week: 7-1
Season: 64-12 (.842)
Tennessee at Ole Miss
And now comes the day of reckoning. No, not Ed Orgeron's return to Oxford, a place which saw him nearly get into a physical altercation with his neighbors (allegedly, of course), land one good recruiting class out of three and win exactly 10 games in three years, of which three wins were courtesy of the now fired Tommy West's Memphis Tigers. I was actually looking forward to this game earlier in the year so I could see the Shrimp Boat grind his teeth into a fine paste as some of his good recruits destroyed his new team. However, that will not happen. The day of reckoning I am talking about is today. I am now faced with and will admit the cold, hard truth that Jonathan Crompton is a better quarterback than Jevan Snead, and, on Saturday, I will look at Tennessee's sidelines and wish the two teams could swap quarterbacks before the game starts. Just thinking about that moment makes me want to reach for a bottle of the stuff Orgeron used to drink in his headbutting days.
Ole Miss will lose this game for two reasons: One, the aforementioned Jevan Snead. I can't emphasize enough just how bad he is. Yes, he's incredibly gifted physically, but upstairs, to quote Ray Finkle's father, "the engine's running, but nobody's behind the wheel." And two, the Ole Miss run defense is not the wrecking ball it was last year. In fact, it's more like the arm barrier thing that you find at parking garages. Yes, it's in your way, but if you want to break through it you can (this of course is assuming that everything in movies and television is true and it really is that easy to break those things). Tennessee will rush four people, drop seven and wait for the turnovers to start happening. Then, once they get those turnovers, they're going to pound Ole Miss with the ground game. Hell, now that Crompton has performed well enough to pull himself off Tennessee fans' hit lists, he might get a little frisky and throw 25 times.
Tennessee is going to win this game, so the real question is how long does Ole Miss stick with Snead? After the Auburn and Alabama disasters (not counting South Carolina, in these two games he often had plenty of time to throw), what else does he need to do to prove he doesn't need to play anymore? Five interceptions? Pull a Michael Henig and throw six? Seriously, what is it going to take to get him out of there? Once he throws up a 3 of 11 for 35 yards with two picks in the first half, HE DOES NOT NEED TO PLAY THE REST OF THE YEAR (unless Nathan Stanley is even more awful, which, at this point, is hard to believe). As I've said before, Ole Miss has to at least find out what Stanley brings to the table, even if it is an onslaught of incompletions and bad decisions.
Wow, that was depressing. The only thing I'm looking forward to on Saturday is the potential Nathan Stanley appearance and the possibility that Ed Orgeron's meating-out level will be at DEFCON 2.
LATE ADDITION: It looks as if Ole Miss will be without Greg Hardy, who apparently has a broken wrist and might be done for the year (THE SPORTS GODS CONTINUE TO HAVE A GOOD LAUGH AT ALL THE HOPE WE HAD FOR THE 2009 SEASON). And, in even more exciting news, three freshmen Tennessee football players (only two of them actually play) were arrested last night for attempted armed robbery. These assholes used a pellet gun to try rob two people outside a convenience store. The word "try" is key here because the two victims actually didn't have any money. Whoops. Oh, and of these three assholes, one was apparently wearing some Tennessee gear, and to help them get away from the scene of the crime, they all hopped in a Toyota Prius, which of course is known for its ability to reach high speeds quickly and then handle well at those speeds. And the excitement rolls on in the Lane Kiffin era.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
More than likely, this is Vandy's last chance to help keep Ed Orgeron as the last SEC coach to not win a conference game. Yes, they play Tennessee next week, but unless Jonathan Crompton remembers that he's Jonathan Crompton and not whoever he is right now, that's probably not going to happen. For Kentucky, they become bowl eligible if they win and will spend the holidays in the very spot in which they play on Saturday, most likely playing one of the eight 7-5 ACC teams in the Music City Bowl. So as you can see, there's a lot at stake this weekend.
Which makes it perfectly fitting that this game is rewarded with the JP Memorial 11:30 AM Time Slot (technically it's 11:21, but no one can look at a clock with any degree of accuracy before noon on a Saturday). And while we're talking time slots, allow me to pass out a hearty "go straight to hell" to CBS for picking up the Ole Miss game and putting it on at 11 o'clock in the damn morning. I was looking forward to a home conference game at night that didn't involve Vanderbilt (in 2008 Vandy was the only such game and before then it was 2006 against Georgia, which by the way, goes down as having one of the drunkest crowds in the history of sport. An 8 PM Central, not Eastern mind you, kickoff and a toothless Ed Orgeron team going against a Georgia team ranked tenth. It was a small miracle people were still alive by the time the third quarter started.).
Anyway, I've lost my train of thought now. Kentucky wins.
Florida at South Carolina
Both of these teams are sputtering their way down the stretch this season. For one of them, this occurrence is called November. For the other, it's a bit confusing. In the past two seasons, Florida has had one game (loss to Georgia in 2007 and Ole Miss in 2008) that caused it to find another gear and then ride on to burn and pillage the rest of its opponents. This year, it's not happening. Whether it's shaky offensive line play or very average wide receivers, the Gators are incapable of wiping people off the map in Genghis Kahn-like fashion. Luckily for them, all the other teams they've faced are more incompetent or don't have a complete team. In other words, Florida's superior talent level is saving its ass right now (which is a good problem to have). That will most likely change when they get to Atlanta, but we're not there yet.
Luckily for the Gators, the typically confused and bumbling late-season South Carolina team has arrived and can't seem to do anything right for an extended period of time. But unluckily for the Gators, South Carolina has enough talent to make this a game. And if Steve Spurrier's inner coach is still alive, he has to make this one close. It's a chance to prove that he can still coach, and that he should stick around Columbia for a few more years. But if the Gamecocks come out and drop their Arkansas performance on Saturday, I think you can officially start the Steve Spurrier "retirement" clock. This Florida team is not good enough to run South Carolina out of the stadium and if they do, it's on Spurrier, which I don't want to happen because I can't imagine life without him. I'll miss him so damn much. His laugh. His scent. After this is over we might have to get an apartment together. I think it's a close game, but Florida wins.
Auburn at Georgia
Joe Cox might be one of four quarterbacks in the SEC for which I wouldn't trade Jevan Snead (the others: Tyson Lee, Larry Smith and Mike Hartline), but I'd still think about it. Do I want a short, weak-armed, poor decision-maker or a tall, rocket-armed, poor decision-maker? It's a good question. I suppose I'd take the more physically gifted quarterback just on the chance he might get lucky on some passes, but a Joe Cox would be less aggravating because you know he has very little physical ability. Either way you're going to lose.
I'm not really sure where I was going with all of that because I was trying to find something to talk about for a game in which I have no idea what to expect. Auburn isn't a very good team (they didn't suddenly become good by beating Ole Miss). Georgia is a team that has a resting heart rate of about 12 beats a minute, so while not legally dead they're teetering between this life and the next. But, in Georgia's defense, they've only been completely destroyed once (Tennessee) and recently kept things interesting against Florida before collapsing under the weight of their own suckiness.
So, given that I have no idea what could happen here, let's go to the numbers to see if we can figure out anything because 60% of the time, numbers work every time. Both teams come in with below average defenses (Georgia 7th and Auburn 11th) while Auburn, thanks to some of the bad teams they've obliterated, has the top offense in the league and Georgia comes stumbling in at number 10. But, what we've learned about this Auburn defenses is that they spend a great deal of time making other mediocre offenses look like they know what they're doing (LSU, Ole Miss, Kentucky and even West Virginia). Georgia, despite being led by Joe Cox, should have the ability to move the ball and score on them.
However, Georgia's pass defense has the toughness and resistance of France's armies since they kicked Napoleon out of the country. This means that Chris Todd has a good chance to put a decent game together, and like most teams, if you can throw and run it's pretty easy to score. But, all of that said, it'll be a cold day in hell before I back Chris Todd on the road. Give me the Ginger Ninja and Georgia.
Louisiana Tech at LSU
This should be a lovely get-together between the highbrows of north central Louisiana and those who make their homes south of and along I-10. It'll be like a family reunion of sorts except with more violence and cursing. But rest assured, 80% of them will be related. LSU wins.
Alabama at Mississippi State
Here's a comforting report for State fans who should still be outraged over the fumble that was ruled not be to a fumble in the Florida game. You know how every time there's a play being reviewed the announcers immediately launch into the "they're seeing the same views you're seeing at home" routine? Well, not exactly. You see, the picture you see at home is in crystal clear high definition. The one the SEC replay officials see is in boring standard definition. So games that can cost schools millions, coaches their jobs and years off fans' lives can be decided by picture quality that is both disgusting and beneath me (watching standard definition for more than three minutes makes me want to vomit). So everyone remember that this weekend when a play critical to any chance State has to stay in this game goes upstairs. I, for one, am looking forward to yet another screw up by SEC replay officials (or officials in general) at the expense of Mississippi State (now that I've said this, I fully expect Ole Miss to be punished).
As for the Bulldogs staying in this game, they'll need Greg McElroy to stink worse than he has all year, which would be pretty bad. The only problem with that is even in the games in which he was awful, most notably against South Carolina (10 of 20 for 92 yards and two INTs), Alabama was still in control of the game. Their defense is that good (if you're State fan, just wait until you see them in person). They'll challenge Tyson Lee to basically be the offense for the Bulldogs, and if you've seen Lee play, you know that the more plays he is involved in, the more mistakes he creates. I look for him to solidify his spot at number two in the Awww-Shit Trophy rankings this week (no one will catch Jevan Snead unless he is placed on the sidelines).
I think we'll see a game much like the Florida/State game, that is one that is close in terms of the score, but never out of Alabama's control. State doesn't have enough offense or the players to actually pull this off, but I look forward to seeing Nick Saban curse repeatedly as his team slowly and frustratingly plows its way to a win.
Troy at Arkansas