With Ole Miss' thrashing of Tennessee last weekend, there was a major shakeup in this week's bowl hierarchy as the Rebels became bowl eligible and poised to go somewhere not cold. Tennessee and Auburn took a turn for cold weather and Kentucky now finds itself in the mix. Now, not all of these teams can go to bowls with wind chill factors, as some of them will be sent to Florida by default, but as of right now none of them have secured their spots in the 70 degree weather.
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 OF MIRACLES TO MAKE A BOWL
IT'S ALMOST OVER
Made while adding the sugar to my giant vat of red and blue Kool-Aid...
Last week: 6-1
Season: 70-13 (.843)
Chattanooga at Alabama
Once when I was in downtown Chattanooga, I ran into a group of Appalachian State fans right after they won the I-AA (or whatever it's called) championship game against Delaware (I have no idea why it's played in Chattanooga). I thanked them for beating Michigan earlier in the year, as it was one of the happiest moments of that football season for me (Ole Miss would go 0-8 in the SEC that year). They seemed like nice people. This of course has nothing to do with this game, but it was the only talking point I had.
Mississippi State at Arkansas
Arkansas had a moment of concern last weekend when defensive coordinator Willie Robinson had to spend the night in the hospital on Friday. Turns out it was an allergic reaction to the worst defense in the SEC, which he allegedly coaches (What? Too soon? He's fine so we're all free to make jokes now.). The good news for Robinson and his defense is that the Tyson Lee-led Mississippi State offense comes to Little Rock. As the Hogs showed against Auburn, they have the ability to shut down run-based teams for a period of time because their run defense isn't so bad (5th in the SEC). And Mississippi State is a run-based team sort of by default since throwing the ball is almost impossible for them.
Of course, Arkansas also boasts the worst pass defense in the conference, which could be exploited if Mississippi State had a quarterback. But, as documented numerous times around here, they do not. Arkansas will play an 11-0 defense and require Tyson Lee to have a career day to beat them. And looking at Lee's stats from this season, here's his best game so far: 20-30, 278 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT against Georgia Tech. It was one of two games this year in which he has thrown at least one touchdown pass and one interception or less. That, as you can deduce, is not good. So even if he pulls a Georgia Tech game out of his ass, it probably won't be enough for the Bulldogs. Why you might ask? This makes for a nice transition to our next paragraph.
The Mississippi State defense currently sits at number 11 in the league. Their pass defense is at 10 and the run defense is at nine, so they don't do much of anything well, and if you recall last week's game against Alabama, their secondary is really, really bad. Throw in a heating up Ryan Mallett who carved up South Carolina for 329 yards with only four incompletions out of 27 passes in Arkansas' last SEC game, and this is a perfect storm about to hit them (By the way the book, The Perfect Storm, is excellent. I highly recommend it. The movie, not so much.). The Bulldog's dream of a bowl game comes to an end here.
Florida International at Florida
Most likely I read this earlier in the year and forgot, but was anyone else aware that this is the last year for the Independence Bowl to have teams from the SEC and Big 12 play each other? This is a travesty. Back in the David Cutcliffe era when Ole Miss' home away from home was the Independence Bowl, I spent some time in the Shreveport-Bossier City area and to see that opportunity taken away from other SEC fans isn't fair. To me. If I had to suffer, then so should they.
LSU at Ole Miss
I told you earlier this week I was swilling the Ole Miss Kool-Aid with reckless abandon. In fact, I made so much I have more than enough to go around. So if you like games of chance (and who doesn't) that involve a potentially soul-crushing, core-draining moment, then please, have a glass while I show you how Ole Miss will win. What's that? Why yes that is an IV sticking in my arm. I'm pretty sure it's okay to insert Kool-Aid directly into the bloodstream.
LSU is claiming that Jordan Jefferson is healthy enough to start, and I'm sure he is, but I think we can all agree he won't be 100% healthy. The main question facing the LSU coaches is determining what percentage of Jefferson is better than 100% of Jarrett Lee. Personally, I'd go as low as 55%, but for some reason they have more faith in Lee than that. Anyway, if Jefferson's ankle is bothering him, it will limit his mobility, which is the quality he'll need most behind his porous offensive line, which is second worst in the SEC in giving up sacks (27 so far. And maybe I can use the word "which" a few more times in one sentence.). If he were more of a scrambling quarterback, I would think his ankle would be a huge deal, but strangely enough he doesn't run that well for as good of an athlete as he is (only 81 yards rushing in six conference games). That's either because he doesn't like to or the coaches told him we will kill you if you get hurt running and make us play Jarrett Lee. What that means is that he will be staying put in the pocket, assuming LSU's offensive line can form a pocket, and that makes it much easier on a defense.
Chasing Jefferson around will be a defense that ranks third in the league in sacks and fifth overall. LSU could combat this problem if they could run the ball. Unfortunately for them, they can't (10th in the SEC) and will be without Charles Scott, who last year had a whopping 10 yards on 10 carries in this game. Decent defenses, which Ole Miss is, can shut down one dimensional offenses and bad offenses (LSU is 11th in total offense) and I expect they'll do so on Saturday. However, LSU's receivers do scare me, but I take comfort in the fact that if their quarterback doesn't have time to throw or isn't very good, then neither are they.
As for the Ole Miss offense against the LSU defense, we all know what's coming. LSU has to find a way to slow down Dexter McCluster and put the game in the hands of Jevan Snead. I would think LSU certainly has the quickness on defense to be able to do so, but five days ago I saw McCluster run around a good SEC defense like they were a high school team. If McCluster is still running around in eighth gear, I don't see how he can be stopped. As long as Snead doesn't miss on his 10-yard passes, I think Ole Miss should be able to move the ball fairly well. I do think Snead will be forced to throw a little bit more than every Ole Miss fan would like simply because there's no way McCluster can do what he did against Tennessee again. He'll have a good day, but nothing that makes me question whether or not I just saw the single greatest performance by an Ole Miss player in my lifetime.
So there you have it, that's how Ole Miss will win. Shutting down the LSU offense and getting just enough out of their offense. Now, there's more Kool-Aid to be drunk/drank/dranked/drinked/shouldhavelearnedenglishmorebetter.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee
October was an exciting month for Tennessee football. They achieved the status of a decent team and saw their quarterback, who was challenging Tyson Lee for most inefficient quarterback in the league, become a competent forward passer. Things were looking up for the Vols. Then November started. Four arrests, two players kicked off the team, one victory and a blasting at the hands of Ole Miss. It was only fitting because things had started to run a little too smoothly in the Lane Kiffin era. The good news is those fortunes are probably about to change with Vanderbilt coming to town and a bowl birth on the horizon, which will immediately be followed by something else dumb. It's just how the Kiffin era is going to go.
This week, I suspect Bobby Johnson placed some phone calls to faceless/nameless Detroit Lions coaches of years past to gain some insight on how they avoided the 0-16 season, despite being absolutely awful. Unfortunately for Bobby Johnson, he doesn't have a Joey Harrington or the stable of other bad quarterbacks the Lions trotted out. He has a Mackenzi Adams, which, unbelievably, is worse than whatever the Lions had. I fully expect Johnson to join Ed Orgeron in the 0-8 SEC coaches club, and that's too bad. Johnson comes across as a nice guy and a coach who has flashes of looking like he knows what he's doing. I would venture to say that he's actually underqualified for the 0-8 Club, while Ed Orgeron is one of the only coaches in the world that's actually overqualified for such a club.
Kentucky at Georgia
I have nothing remotely interesting to say about this game (assuming all of the above was actually interesting). Georgia will win, but I have something else to mention. (WARNING: OLD MAN RANT POTENTIALLY BREWING.) Earlier this week, I read an article talking about the buzz for this movie called Twilight or something like that. Apparently, it's kind of a big deal. Something to do with books maybe, I'm not really sure because I wasn't paying that much attention to it. Anyway, I felt like it was a big day for me because as someone who does a pretty good job of keeping up with pop culture, things in this area are starting to slip by me.
I'm sure this means I'm headed down a road where I don't go to movies (wait, already there) and complain about all the kids and their nonsense. But, on the bright side, this means I'll no longer be able to rattle off the names of Taylor Swift's old boyfriend and her new one. It's embarrassing to be a 28-year old male and know the details of Chris Brown punching Rihanna (WHAT A BASTARD!!!). So I embrace my slow slip into cultural ignorance. Besides, being able to regularly spend 2500 words on the outcomes of football games about which most of the country could care less is much less embarrassing.