Texas Pete Hot Sauce Week Four SEC Powerpoll
Carefully scored by a panel of three judges, former figure skater Scott Hamilton, current Secretary of the Navy (and former Mississippi governor) Ray Mabus, and a shadowy Russian judge, this poll attempts to rank those in the SEC who are living the good life. And by that I mean should probably go buy lottery tickets in bulk. Pronto.
1. Robbie Caldwell
The man Bobby Johnson essentially forced on Vanderbilt managed to yokel and folksy his way into his first career win AND SEC win. I didn't think this had a chance of happening until October 9th when Eastern Michigan came to Nashville. But then again, I didn't think 11 months would pass and Ole Miss would still be just as clueless at defending the read option than they were last OCTOBER against Auburn. No, no, Tyrone Nix. Take your time. I'm sure the read option is just a phase.
2. Les Miles
If not for Robbie Caldwell's explosion onto the scene, Miles was about to find a permanent spot atop this poll. To date, Miles has no quarterback, no offensive consistency, a defense that was at the mercy of T.J. Yates, repeat, T.J. YATES, and is somehow undefeated, ranked 15th and about to go to 4-0 because West Virginia is coming to Tiger Stadium, and Baton Rouge will become one of America's great retirement cities before Bill Stewart figures out how to not bumble that game right into Les Miles' open arms (no, I don't know why his arms are open, maybe he wants a hug). LIFE, YOU ARE NOT FAIR.
3. Ryan Mallett
A breakthrough performance on the road leading to national hype for Saturday's game against Alabama, an inexperienced secondary coming to Fayetteville and he got his picture taken with Erin Andrews.
Drink it in quickly, tall Mallett, for unless your name is Les Miles, your position here is fleeting.
4. Joker Phillips
He's now 3-0 and the toast of the SEC. Wait, checking the validity of that statement....Okay, make that the toast of the SEC East. No? Checking again....the toast of the usual fifth and sixth place teams, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
5. Mark Ingram
Let's see, nine carries, 151 yards and two touchdowns in the season debut. Granted it was against a David Cutcliffe-Maginot Line defense, but he had to keep himself fresh while averaging 16.8 yards per carry.
6. Gene Chizik
The leader of the New Israel's football team best hope that Saturday night is another "God thing" or his appearance in the poll will be a short one.
7. Cam Newton
How much longer can a quarterback be so awful at throwing before he costs his team a win and people calm the hell down as to just how awesome that quarterback is? Chris Relf says two games and Jordan Jefferson says, "About half a season."
8. Steve Spurrier
South Carolina is ranked 12th? I'll have to consult the four-page South Carolina almanac of football success, but I believe it calls for collapse within the next few weeks.
9. Stephen Garcia
The fact that we're four weeks into the season and Garcia is still here is nothing short of Butler's run to the NCAA Championship Basketball Game.
10. Tyler Russell
He has the great fortune of playing behind a quarterback who can't throw because how else would you explain four interceptions in 19 passes in conference play and still being considered for playing time.
Last week: 6-2
UAB at Tennessee
I read earlier this week that Derek Dooley said kickoff return man David Oku has brought "nothing" to kickoff returns "other than an inability to make yards." Admittedly, I'm not even a poorly informed observer of Tennessee football, but, looking at Oku's career stats, one will discover that coming into this season he had physically touched a football in a game just 25 times (23 rushes, 2 catches) in his entire career. This means before Dooley put him back at kickoff return, Oku had exactly ZERO kickoff return attempts in his career. Now, Oku may be terrible at returning kicks, but if Dooley's going to throw him under the bus, perhaps he should admit putting him back there was a bad idea. Or Dooley could just admit that he was an asshole. Seriously, what an asshole.
Uncle Verne Game of the Week
Alabama at Arkansas
Clearly, Ryan Mallett will need to play the game of his life if Arkansas is to win. And the environment is set up for it. At home against a secondary that lacks experience in a defense that relies heavily on man-to-man coverage and a crowd of 70,000+ temporarily transferring its obsessive hatred of Houston Nutt to the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, what Mallett really needs is ANY kind of a pulse in the ground game and a defense that doesn't surrender 200+ rushing yards.
Last year in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas ran for 63 yards on 26 attempts (2.4 per rush). Their lack of ability to run the ball put the entire offensive game on Mallett and allowed Alabama to focus on stopping one thing only. It gave Alabama the option to sit back in coverage or really come after Mallett with blitzes, which they did quite often. By not having any success running the ball, Arkansas allowed Alabama to dictate the terms of that part of the game, which forced Arkansas to react to what Alabama was doing and not the other way around. If Arkansas can figure out the gate code and get into the neighborhood of 150-ish yards rushing, I think they have a chance to put close to 30 points on the board. They'll need those rushing yards because I expect Alabama to blitz on just about every passing down to try to protect their secondary.
Unfortunately for Arkansas, their defense stinks. If Aaron Murray and a shaky Georgia offensive line can push close to 400 total yards, that is not a sign of good things to come, especially when a good offensive line, solid quarterback and two really, really good running backs are next up. I expect Alabama to pound away with the backs, use lots of play action and pound away a little bit more. I just don't see any way the Hogs can slow them down, unless Greg McElroy turns into not Greg McElroy and starts throwing interceptions. I like Arkansas to keep Uncle Verne excited and have a couple of How-do-you-do's ready at hand for nearly three quarters, but Alabama is just too strong for them to win the game.
Kentucky at Florida
Fact: Joker Phillips owns the Commonwealth of Kentucky (2-0 versus in-state schools in 2010)
Fact: Florida owns Kentucky (23-0 in the last 23 games)
Fact: The last time Kentucky won at Florida was in 1979
Fact: The last time Kentucky played at Florida they were something like 27-point underdogs
Fact: Gray took those sweet 27 points because Florida was staggering around like a drunken hobo on offense, though not like they are now
Fact: Florida won that game 63-5
Fact: I STILL HATE KENTUCKY FOR THAT
Fact: I like Florida to out-stagger Kentucky on Saturday
Fact: No more facts
Georgia at Mississippi State
Another SOMETHING MUST GIVE game for Georgia after they failed their test last weekend. For Mississippi State, this is their first Belly of the Beast-sanctioned SOMETHING MUST GIVE game so it will be interesting to see how they respond to added pressure they don't even know exists. Both teams are staring at the ugly face of an 0-3 start in the SEC. And both teams desperately need a big game out of their quarterbacks.
For Mississippi State, they seem to be stuck in an odd place on offense. Chris Relf (Canadian pronunciation according to Jesse Palmer is "Ralph") gives the Bulldogs the best chance to win a game, but he severely limits what they can do on offense. He's clearly State's best runner and most dynamic player on offense, but when he's in the game, State is a one-dimensional team due to his inability to throw averagely accurate forward passes. Conversely, when Relf comes out and Tyler Russell goes in, State stays a one-dimensional team, only they become a pure passing team because the read option doesn't have the same effect with Russell pretending like he's going to run. Mullen needs to make up his mind what he wants out of his offense.
Either he says we're playing Relf the whole way and running the ball 55 times and not passing until we will lose the game if we don't start, or he says Russell is the guy and we're going to find a running back that can carry the load of the ground game. I think, for at least against Georgia, he goes with Relf and runs non-stop. A terrible running team like South Carolina was able to go for over 200 rushing yards against the Georgia defense. And I don't know how you can trust Russell right now and with no running back having any real success, Relf has to be his choice.
As for Georgia, its offensive line needs a game in which its freshman quarterback is not getting swarmed in the pocket. That at least gives Aaron Murray a chance to be average. If Georgia can get the running game going, and I expect State will play the rarely deployed 11-0 defense, Murray should be able to periodically take advantage of a secondary that is not very good. I'm taking Georgia, but not due to any confidence in them, it's just that I think they're a little more situated on offense than State is right now. And again, until Dan Mullen proves he can beat one of the big SEC schools, I shalln't side with him.
Fresno State at Ole Miss
I saw Fresno State play earlier this year against Cincinnati in the late Saturday night game. Cincinnati, as we know is terrible, got up 14-0 before the Bulldogs rallied and won 28-14. From what I remember as I was trapped in the last stages of my football coma, Fresno is not that good either. Unfortunately, Ole Miss is probably worse. Check that, IS worse. If there is any consolation for Ole Miss fans, it's that I don't recall Fresno using any read option plays, which means the Bulldogs will just straight up beat us rather than run through our defense untouched. Ole Miss is not going to win, but I would like to see a few things that at least indicated we're improving or our coaches have figured out what works best with this team.
1. Less Enrique Davis
2. More Brandon Bolden
3. Exactly zero runs up the middle in short yardage situations
4. A sign, single sign, of emotion or that someone out there gives a shit
5. A guard that only gets obliterated by the opposing defensive lineman 70% of the time
6. One properly defensed play in the flat
7. A safety that remains in proper position for an entire series
8. To not look like Ed Orgeron is calling the shots
South Carolina at Auburn
The Steve Spurrier I once knew probably wished this game could have been played on Wednesday because he would have been that eager to get after this Auburn defense. It's a defense with a bad secondary, one defensive lineman and arguably 1.5 linebackers. Oh, and it's coached by Ted Roof, whose work you may remember at Duke before David Cutcliffe arrived. And to add to the mix, it's a defense coming off a round of gladiatorial games at the Roman Colosseum with Clemson. If that Spurrier still exists, he carves this defense apart. Heavy doses of Marcus Lattimore and moderate doses of under-control-Garcia.
Unless Cam Newton has developed quarterbacking skill since last Saturday, South Carolina's defense should dominate Auburn. BOLD PREDICTION THAT IS ALSO IN BOLD TYPE: Newton will have his worst statistical game of the year so far. Now, by me being so confident in this, New Israel's team will royally suck for 3 and a half quarters, then fall ass-backwards into another win that only Les Miles could have the powers to pull off.
West Virginia at LSU
As previously mentioned, if you want to enjoy a coaching chess match where neither player knows the rules of chess, THIS IS YOUR GAME. Don't even make an attempt to question strategy, personnel moves or anything else that might fall under a head coach's jurisdiction. YOUR HEAD WILL LITERALLY EXPLODE. However, I will keep my eye on the area of clock management. I get the feeling this could turn into one of the very rare "anything you can do worse I can triple-worse it" situations. Do not let your children watch any part of this game. They will grow to hate football, lose faith in society as a whole, get caught in a spiral of shame and end up becoming a baseball fan. A BASEBALL FAN. No self-respecting parent could live with themselves if that happened.
Les Miles wins this one for LSU by a triple-jump King slapshot free throw in the top of the third period.