Thursday, October 28, 2010

Week Nine SEC Power Poll and Picks

TEXAS PETE HOT SAUCE WEEK NINE POWER POLL

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. Gene Chizik
Pardon me if I'm failing to understand the claims that Gene Chizik turned out to be the perfect hire for Auburn. Nothing screams perfect hire like a 5-19 career record. What does scream perfect hire is Cam Newton and the favor of the sports gods. Chizik has done exactly two good things at Auburn: Sign Cam Newton and had Gus Malzahn in place to get the most out of Newton's talents. Without Newton, Auburn is the same 8-4 team that was lucky to be 8-4.

2. Auburn
If only more teams and universities were about family, then they too could experience the joy of of an 8-0 season aided by Kyle Parker's inaccurate arm in overtime, instant replay incompetence and the dual threat monster that is Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.

3. Ted Roof
When I said last week that Roof needed to make sure at least half his salary went to Gus Malzahn, I should have mentioned the other half (minus Roof's living expenses) needed to go to Cam Newton. Once he goes pro, of course. Auburn, nor would any fine, upstanding school in the SEC, ever engage in such practices.

4. Mike Hartline
From earlier this week: 2 SEC games, 59-85 (69%), 702 yards, 8 TDs and 1 INT. That's MIKE HARTLINE.  MIKE HARTLINE OF KENTUCKY.

5. Mark Richt
Three straight conference wins (granted, they were three of the worst teams in the conference) and exactly zero arrests. I think this clock is ticking the fastest.

6. Dan Mullen
The Bulldogs have won five straight and are bowl eligible. If that's not playing with house money, then playing with house money ceases to be qualified to be used in an example like this. And with Kentucky in Starkville this weekend - I can't believe the day has come when I have to type this - it could be six straight.

7. Tyler Wilson
The injuries to the quite delicate Ryan Mallett have given Wilson a chance to show that he is indeed a competent quarterback. Against Auburn he looked very strong (minus the interceptions we knew were coming) and had a few solid glimpses versus Ole Miss, but that was mainly due to the Rebel defense laying down for Knile Davis.

8. Brian Maddox
Who? No idea. But he benefited from the injury to Marcus Lattimore and cranked out 146 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt.

9. Julio Jones
He's got a robotic hand and one normal hand and is catching passes at a higher rate than ever before. I doubt Nick Saban is above giving Jones another Luke Skywalker hand if he can continue to catch 12 passes for 221 yards each week.

10. LaDarius Perkins
Again, no idea. But he was the beneficiary of Vick Ballard's injury and rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown against UAB (also caught a short touchdown pass).

THE PICKS
Last week: 5-1
Season: 48-13 (.789)

Tennessee at South Carolina
As I've been hammering on with Tennessee, the Vols have so few good players, it's nearly impossible for them to put together consecutive good games. Now, they've reached the point where all that can be asked of them is one good half. And I'm going to go ahead and say even one good half won't happen in consecutive games. So good news for you, South Carolina.

In that general vicinity, bad news for you, Tennessee. You stink and Steve Spurrier got smashed by you last year. And if Spurrier is still the Spurrier we all once knew, he lives for vicious payback, especially when he knows a team is down. My favorite example is the late touchdown pass he threw against Mississippi State in 2001 to make it 52-0 (the one for the manager who got knocked over in State's celebration a year earlier). Now THAT was the Steve Spurrier I love. And given his feelings for all things Tennessee, I expect him to give the Vols a similar treatment.

Florida at Georgia (in Jacksonville)
Only because it never stops being funny, and what better way to recognize the tomfoolery associated with the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (or whatever the politically correct name is now):



Per the usual, this game has SEC East title implications. Not per the usual, both teams SUCK and will make this game far less interesting than Leah smashing her face into a bathroom stall door. However, even with three conference losses, the winner is still alive in the SEC East race. If Florida wins, all they need to do is win out and they'll go to Atlanta. Georgia would need South Carolina to do something dumb in at least two more games, which, with the powers of Stephen Garcia and the history of South Carolina football, is very realistic.

As you have no doubt correctly guessed by now, neither team will do much forward advancement of the ball. Florida will continue running option plays with John Brantley, whose foot speed is in the neighborhood of that table in the corner of the room (the one without the lamp on it), and throwing 1.2 yard passes. Georgia will do whatever it is they do while they're not throwing in the direction of A.J. Green. Given Florida's alleged offense, all signs point to Georgia as the winner. However, two things come to mind: 1. Georgia is terrible and lost to COLORADO. 2. Mark Richt is owned by Urban Meyer (1-4 against him) and just about any team of equal strength.

Look, I know Florida is awful and Georgia has shown signs of life after COLORADO slapped them around for 60 minutes. But there is not a chance in hell I would ever pick Mark Richt to win a game against Florida. NONE. I don't care that Steve Addazio would be questioned by parents of a Pop Warner league team as he continually called for sweeps and options with the fat kid, Mark Richt was born to lose games like this. BORN TO.

Auburn at Ole Miss
I was poised to pick Ole Miss to conjure up some Houston Nutt magic and pull off the upset of upsets. Then these national media assholes had to go and pick the same thing, ruining whatever chance at the upset there was (I don't have my hands on the information now and could be pulling this out of the air, but I'm sure there's a mathematical property that shows how your chances of upsetting a team go down as more people jump on the bandwagon. GET YOUR ASSES OFF, ESPN). So yes, I am casting an Urban Meyer death-stare at you Kirk Herbstreit, Colin Cowherd, Pat Forde and Scott Van Pelt.

You know what else tells me the upset isn't going to happen? Those get-to-the-point, brutally honest, bastard stats. Compare and contrast:

Auburn's Offense
Scoring 1st
Total offense 1st
Rushing offense 1st
Passing offense 9th
Passing efficiency 1st

Ole Miss' Defense
Scoring 12th
Total defense 10th
Rushing defense 6th
Passing defense 10th
Pass defense efficiency 12th

Not good times for the Rebels. In order to pull of a win like this, you have to have a defense that can get stops at crucial points in the game (or, in Ole Miss' case, in general). This Ole Miss defense is horribly undisciplined, makes the same mistakes over and over again and it's becoming quite evident that Tyrone Nix is making a habit out of getting his ass handed to him. There's no evidence to suggest this group will have their shit together on Saturday.

But (insert creaking door opening noise here), there is a sliver of hope for Ole Miss. As we all know, Auburn's secondary is wretched (11th) and the defense in general is very average (6th in total and 8th in scoring). If Ole Miss comes out running the second half at Arkansas offense (Masoli throwing, running for his life and throwing some more), then the Rebels have a chance to match Auburn score for score. Obviously, throwing is more dangerous than running with interceptions and Auburn's ability to have tipped balls land in their hands, but it's the only chance Ole Miss has. If we (yes, WE, DAMMIT) come out and try to run read option plays and stay conservative, the thrashing shall commence immediately. And I will be filled with the burning hot anger and rage of 1,000 suns.

I've just made the case for Auburn to win the game. But, hold on, let me check and see if I have money on this game.

/checks for forgotten bets
/checks email first
/checks for forgotten bets
/finds no bets
/answers GChat message
/forgets about writing this post
/remembers 10 minutes later
/resumes writing

No, I do not have any wagers on this game. So with that in mind, screw it. Something good has to happen this season. HAS TO HAPPEN. Move your frosted tips over, Herbstreit, I need a seat on this bandwagon. I'm taking the Rebels.

/sports gods laugh
/break Jeremiah Masoli's hip
/lesson learned

Vanderbilt at Arkansas
Someone explain to me why this game isn't the JP/Lincoln Financial Special. The game reeks of Dave Neal and Andre Ware. It also reeks of death and destruction for Vanderbilt.

Kentucky at Mississippi State
I missed this game last year because I neglected to look at the stat that will determine this game. State's rushing offense: 2nd. Kentucky's rushing defense: 11th. All the others don't really matter. Unless State turns the ball over or begins showing off Chris Relf's arm, this is win number seven and the sixth straight. Kentucky should put up some points due to the arrival of Mike Hartline's quarterbacking ability and shaky State secondary (8th), but this magical ride into the ionosphere of Hartline touchdowns and massive yards without interceptions and incompletions will soon be coming back to the cold, hard ground, smashing into a million pieces. I like State to take one step further away from the Liberty Bowl with this win.

Note of average importance: I will be traveling on Friday to the Ole Miss/Auburn game in Oxford on Saturday to witness the upset or yet another soul-crushing defeat in a long line of soul-crushing defeats. I expect to come back a man full of boiling rage or absurd optimism, so you've been warned. Anyway, all of that means that there won't be any posting here on Friday. I might make an attempt to get one in later tonight, but, let's be honest with each other, I have important stuff to do, like catch up on MTV's Cutthroat Challenge. And I forgot to watch Modern Family last night. Plus, 30 Rock, Community and The Office (I REFUSE TO GIVE UP). So we'll see. For those of you who aren't familiar with what that means, it means not gonna happen. But feel free to explore the space and see just how wrong I am most of the time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Five Words and Pictures That Adequately Describe Tennessee's Season Thus Far

CALIFORNIA

No, another Clausen brother did not arrive on campus, but even better, Lane Kiffin loaded up the gold-plated Learjet with his dad, the Shrimp Boat Captain and 75% more smugness and headed back home.

RESTORATION

"Tennessee-Martin, taste the pain of the new Tennessee."

UPPITY

"13-13 at the half? Don't bring that weak Pac-10 shit into Rocky Top, Oregon."

BURN

"Excuse me, Coach Kelly, do you have some water or bread you could spare?"

HARVEST

Touchdown, Ridley.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Replacement Cowbells

In what classifies as the least surprising story ever (just inching out David Cutcliffe being terrible at Duke), it turns out the Great Cowbell Compromise of 2010 isn't going as planned.  If you recall, Mississippi State and the SEC struck a deal that allowed State fans to bring cowbells into their home stadium, provided they ring them at the appropriate times (before and after games, halftime - GO BAND! - during timeouts and after scores).  If, meaning when, those rules were violated, the SEC would begin fining State based on the number of violations.  The fines would start at $5,000 and go up as high as $50,000 for repeated violations of the rule. 

When I read about the agreement last spring, I assumed that State was perfectly okay with making a $200,000+ donation to the SEC (I would say charity of the SEC's choice, but we know those bastards aren't giving away that kind of money; RUNNING SHIT IS EXPENSIVE).  Yesterday, the SEC finally announced that those fines were indeed coming at the end of the year for repeated violations and that the policy itself was in danger of being scrapped.

What no one will say is that the policy is going to get scrapped because State is now fielding a competitive football team.  If they finished this season at 4-8, no one would care about the cowbells.  But now that they're a competent team and putting people in the stands, the noise is an issue to opposing teams and coaches, and God forbid one of the smaller schools has even the slightest of advantages.  Personally, I hate the cowbells and find nothing but delight in the fines and eventual banishment that really won't be a banishment just like the "banishment" that happened some years ago wasn't really a banishment (BANISHMENT BANISHMENT BANISHMENT....just wanted to break the record for the use of that word in a post of less than 1,000 words).  But, being a fan of a smaller school in the conference, I do find it irritating when the bigger schools throw their weight around and get what they want (of course, in this case EVERYONE hates the cowbells).  I suppose they've earned it, considering the cash money they've helped bring in to schools like Ole Miss and State, but that doesn't lessen the irritation.

So, being a man of the people (please, keep your hands off me), I'm here to offer a few suggestions as to what else State fans could ring or wave without having to pay for the repairs to the east wing of Mike Slive's villa on the Mediterranean (and you know he has one).

1.  The portable bleachers in the north end zone
Even though they've been there since 2000 or 2001, if they're portable, they can move.  Sure the students would have to cram closer together as seating capacity shrank, but detached metal bleachers waving in the air would strike me as terrifying.  Just who are these people who choose to rip their seats up rather than sit in them?

2.  Cheese
They make lots of it so why not make a little more.  Plus, if people started throwing it on the field, and they most certainly would, injuries to players and coaches would not be a concern.  Unless someone threw a whole wheel off the upper deck, which, again, they most certainly would.  This is a questionable idea at best.

3.  Copies of the preliminary letter of investigation former Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat created, wrote and delivered to the NCAA to bring down Jackie Wayne Sherrill
YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE!

4.  The balls of the bull Jackie Wayne had castrated before State played Texas in the early '90s
The only problem here is that there's only one pair (I know they've been kept in a jar somewhere in the State football offices...don't lie, Scott Striklin!), which makes sharing difficult.  But being an agricultural school, shouldn't they know how to clone stuff like that now? 

5.  The golf cart used by Sylvester Croom to move eight yards at a time at football practices
Granted, this one cannot be waved or rung.  But it can lead the football team out on the field at four and a half miles an hour.  Attach a flag to it and it would be less embarrassing than when Ole Miss thought it was a great idea to lead the team out with a chopper bike.

6.  Woody McCorvey
Mainly because I'm sure they would like to wave him around and throw him off the top of the stadium for the offensive crapfest he so prominently displayed during his time in Starkville.

7.  Years of inferiority complex due to the whole sons of the gentry and people of the land thing
According to someone who knows history (I can't remember their name, nor will I look for it), originally Ole Miss was to be the only school in Mississippi.  When the time came for the need of an agricultural college, it was set up at Ole Miss.  However, none of the people of the land wanted to go to school with the sons of the gentry, so a separate school was created to prevent any mixing of classes and the fighting that would surely ensue (let it never be said Mississippi didn't know how to segregate).  And because the class system at that time was so divided, they cost the rest of us a national football powerhouse that could compete for national championships on a yearly basis.  SCREW YOU, 19TH CENTURY MISSISSIPPI.

8.  Their strength coach
One thing all the schools in the SEC like to claim is OUR STRENGTH COACH IS SO MUCH MORE AWESOME THAN ANYONE ELSE'S.  Nevermind that all these guys share information and ideas with one another or that a workout that involves flipping over tractor tires can be matched by doing something else just as physically miserable, fans love, love, love to talk about how great Coach NoNeckandVeinBulge is.  Changing bodies, reducing baby fat and making everyone tougher.  It's all the same.  However, few teams have turned their strength coach into a mascot of sorts and by jumping on this idea early, State could be one of the pioneers of ultimate strength coach worship.

9.  Pictures of Cam Newton ringing a cowbell after the 2009 Egg Bowl
Oh, what could have been.  Of course, they'd have less money to pay the cowbell fines, but they'd also be 8-0.

UPDATED:

Monday, October 25, 2010

From the Weekend That Was

Arkansas 38, Ole Miss 24
Take a look at these numbers:
48, 13, 28, 38, 35, 23, 38

Now take a look at these numbers:
21, 38, 31, 30, 45, 0, 27

Now take a 53 minute break for weather purposes....

...okay, let's resume.  The first set of numbers is the points surrendered by Tyrone Nix's defense this season.  The second set of numbers is the points surrendered by the 2007 Ole Miss defense led by Ed Orgeron.  If you're curious, and I know you are, Nix's defense, through seven games, has given up 224 points (32/game) and Orgeron's defense through the first seven games of '07 gave up 192 points (27.4/game).  So improbably, the defense we are currently watching Ole Miss play is actually WORSE than that of a defense run by Ed Orgeron, arguably the worst head coach and defensive coordinator in the history of the Southeastern Conference.  If you're an Ole miss fan, let that sink in for a few soul-questioning moments.  WORSE THAN ED ORGERON.

Coming into this game, we all knew Arkansas was going to score, but we all assumed those points would come at the hand of Ryan Mallett and his receivers.  Instead, the Rebels injured Mallett and his top two receivers (Joe Adams and Greg Childs) and watched, took horrible angles at and just plain missed Knile Davis on his way to three touchdowns and 176 yards (by the way, Andre Ware, his name is KNILE not Kniles; details were always overrated anyway).  This was game seven of the season and this defense is still making the same stupid mistakes they were making at the beginning of the year in the Jacksonville State debacle.  I understand we're a little young (at least in the secondary), but the veteran players and young guys HAVE NOT IMPROVED one percent.  Tyrone Nix, good sir, that blood is on your and the hands of your defensive assistants.  I suggest you show some sort of improvement in the last five games because we can go fish John Thompson out of Central Arkansas for half the price and the same results.

Wait one second there, Houston Nutt, don't try to slink off.  Were you aware that Jeremiah Masoli was your only offensive player in the backfield who could consistently create yards behind a terrible offensive line?  That might have been helpful to know when we had first and goal at the one and, having run a successful sneak on the previous drive, elected to use the Wildcat with Brandon Bolden, who promptly fumbled and cost us whatever slim shot we had to get back in the game.  Normally, I wouldn't mind such a call, but when we had three and a half quarters of evidence before us that said Bolden was probably not going anywhere, why in the hell would we even try that?  At that point, Bolden had 10 carries for 12 yards.  And for the record, we had a first and goal at the three and a first and goal at the one and got THREE POINTS out of both series.  Well done, goal line offense, well done.  Ugh, I hate watching this team.

By the way, if there are any Ole Miss fans that thought/think/considered the return of Nathan Stanley as a good idea, you may now shut the hell up (425 total yards tends to do that).  If not for Masoli, holy balls, we would have been run out of the building with extreme violence.  And we would have witnessed the murder of Nathan Stanley's confidence and potentially Stanley as a physical presence on this Earth.  That would have been slightly horrific (the actual murder part).  At least now, we know what kind of offense we should run for the rest of the season.  Pass heavy with Masoli and let Masoli make up for the inabilities of the offensive line to conduct basic functions.  Will we do this?  OF COURSE NOT.

Auburn 24, LSU 17
Is it possible for a team to go undefeated when it boasts the 49th best total defense in the country and the 101st best pass defense?  Apparently so if you have Cam Newton.  SONOFABITCH, we have to play this guy next week.

/pain
/wailing
/gnashing of teeth
/gentle tears
/angry tears
/incoherent rant against Tyrone Nix

Even though LSU gave up eight miles of rushing yards, I thought they did a pretty nice job on defense.  They gave up two crushing long runs, Onterio McCalebb's 70-yarder for a touchdown and Newton's most ridiculous run ever that went for a 49-yard touchdown.  They keep those from happening and make Auburn put together longer drives, perhaps things are little more interesting.  Of course, LSU still needed Jordan Jefferson not to be Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee to not be Jarrett Lee, both of which were impossible.

So FINALLY, LSU's offensive suckiness caught up to them.  With the job their defense did, if they had a quarterback who could take advantage of the Pu-Pu platter Auburn has in its secondary, they probably win this game.  Yes, they gave up tons of yards, but held Auburn to 24 points and still gave their limited offense a chance to win the game.  A decent offense could have won this game.  But so could a healthy dose of Les Miles' black magic.  TASTE EVERYONE ELSE'S PAIN, LSU (Except Auburn).

South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 7
Much like Ole Miss rolled up 512 yards of total offense and scored 24 points, South Carolina went for 484 and scored 21 points.  However, unlike the Ole Miss game, which was not an enjoyable game to watch, the South Carolina game, even just reading the box score, was probably the most uninteresting game of the weekend.  To be fair, Spurrier's foursome got behind a slow group and didn't get off the course until halftime.  Once he got a handle on the shitstorm, things seemed to go a little better for the Gamecocks, outscoring Vandy 14-0 the rest of the way.  If the score to every South Carolina/Vandy game seems like the same score, you aren't far from the truth.  This was the fourth straight game between these two teams in which neither team scored more than 24 points.  It was also the 37 millionth time fans across the country did their best to avoid watching Vanderbilt allegedly play football.

Mississippi State 29, UAB 24
UAB has now lost its two games against SEC opponents by an average of four points and the rest of its losses by an average of 19 points.  WRONG CONFERENCE, BLAZERS.  And a round of congratulations to Dan Mullen and this team for becoming bowl eligible.  I certainly did not think it was going to happen this year, and for it to happen with four games to go is even more impressive.  Now it's up to Mullen and the team to decide where it wants to go.  Anywhere is better than nowhere, but wins over Kentucky and Ole Miss probably take Memphis out of the equation.  Just a helpful tip.

Alabama 41, Tennessee 10
Apparently, Tennessee has now reached the state that its "good" games only last a half.  I'm no football expert (BUT I COULD BE), but I might chalk that up to a smattering of competent football players and a large collection of guys that shouldn't be playing right now (or should never be).  And Matt Simms.  Just a thought.

Alabama fans, you may now unclench those butt cheeks as your team returned to form, physically abusing a weaker opponent.  In fact, there's an old saying (I believe from the great Cousin Eddie) that goes something like I haven't seen a beating that bad since....well, now I can't remember it.  I think there was a banana in someone's pants and a monkey was trying to get it out.  I'm sure it was good. 

Also, I'm in complete agreement that listening to someone talk about their fantasy football team (other than 10-15 second summaries) is complete torture, but I'm about to subject you one paragraph of said torture.  I want to pass along a hearty and lustful BURN IN A FIRE to Titans' receiver Kenny Britt and coach Jeff Fisher.  Due to bye weeks, I was going to have to play Britt and was perfectly fine with doing so.  Then Britt's dumb ass goes and gets in a fight at a Nashville nightlife establishment on Tuesday or Wednesday.  So Fisher benches him for the start of the game, but conveniently tells no one how long the benching will last.  I panic and pick up the serviceable, yet fairly worthless Jabar Gaffney.  What does Britt do?  Sits for about .7 seconds of the first quarter and then catches seven passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns.  It doesn't matter what Gaffney did because he sucks.  Point is, Kenny Britt and Jeff Fisher, I HATE BOTH OF YOU.

Georgia 44, Kentucky 31
In contrast to Ole Miss and Auburn who both piled up the yards, but not the points, Georgia had 290 yards of offense and scored 44 points.  Thanks to Kentucky's giving spirit (four turnovers), this garbage Georgia team is still hanging around in the SEC East race.  They'll need to beat Florida (will never happen) and Auburn, then have South Carolina lose to Arkansas and Florida (both high probabilities given their inconsistency) for the right to go to Atlanta.

What's more unsettling than the Bulldogs not being dead and buried is that Mike Hartline for the second straight week threw four touchdown passes.  MIKE HARTLINE.  YES, THAT MIKE HARTLINE.  That makes him 59-85 (69%) for 702 yards, 8 TDs and 1 INT in the last two weeks.  I'd like scientific confirmation that the Earth is indeed still on its axis and we're not barreling towards Mars right now.

GAME I DIDN'T PICK BUT DESERVES MENTION HERE
Oregon 60, UCLA 13
Is there a more fun team to watch than Oregon?  If your answer is not "absolutely not," then I recommend a swift punch to your own lower region.  And just think, Jeremiah Masoli, had you not been a moron, it would be you running this F7 tornado of an offense, and you would not be spending your days toiling away behind a porous offensive on a 3-4 team that is clinging to hopes of a Liberty Bowl appearance.  Welcome to Ole Miss!

DEUCE MCALLISTER OF THE WEEK
Given to the player who dominated with or without the help of his teammates and coaches

Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Passing stats irrelevant
28 carries, 217 yards, 2 TDs



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

Johnny Brown, S, Ole Miss
As the namesake of this award tended to do, Brown turned in performance that could best be described as not-in-position-to-do-anything-correctly. It was so similar that I think Brown should be given a number 26 patch to wear for this week's game.

JOHN VAUGHT OF THE WEEK
Given to the coach who dominated whatever task was in front of him

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
It wasn't pretty, but Mullen got the win and has State legitimately bowl eligible for the first time since the Jackie Wayne era. And if you think the bowl appearance under Sylvester Croom was legitimate then you are an idiot.

2010 Jevan Snead Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Quarterbacking Failure Leaderboard
Awarded to the SEC quarterback who throws the most interceptions during the season

1.  Jordan Jefferson  8
2.  Ryan Mallett  7
3.  Jeremiah Masoli  6
     Stephen Garcia  6
5.  Cam Newton  5
     Matt Simms  5
     Tyler Russell  5
     John Brantley  5
9.  Mike Hartline  4
     Larry Smith  4

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS WEEK
Auburn at Ole Miss
Can a top-ranked team survive another weekend?  Will Cam Newton lock up the Heisman?  Will he run for 1.2 miles against Ole Miss' defense?  Will a "God thing" spoil any chance Ole Miss has at the upset?  Why is the line to this game only Auburn (-7)?  WHAT DO YOU KNOW, LAS VEGAS?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Five Words and Pictures That Adequately Describe Vanderbilt's Season Thus Far

VAYACONDIOS

It's unclear if Bobby Johnson took a lasso with him into retirement or not, but I assume he had the option.

CLUSTERBOMB

I'm not sure everyone has fully recovered (or can really look at him the same way) from Robbie Caldwell's tales of life on a turkey farm. Though, I suppose it was infinitely more entertaining than tales of Vanderbilt's upcoming season.

USUAL

Opening loss, loss to LSU.

YAWN

"Hey, look, we beat Ole Miss."
FOUR TIMES IN SIX YEARS NOW.

SUNDAY

"Wait, did we play yesterday?"

"Yes, we did."

"What was the score?"

"Georgia beat us 43-0."

"Oh."

"Wanna grab some breakfast?"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Week Eight SEC Power Poll and Picks

TEXAS PETE HOT SAUCE WEEK EIGHT POWER POLL

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. Gene Chizik
What an upset! I never thought we'd see Les Miles fall out of the top spot until he lost or received the Les Miles treatment from another team. I assume we can chalk this up to the SEC replay official who didn't get a good look at the two easiest calls he could make because his head was buried in his ass.

2. Auburn
Again, another upset! By the way, did the SEC ever issue an official release of sorts saying we made a mistake? Or are they walking the company line saying nothing was missed? The SEC office operates like Major League Baseball. NOTHING IS WRONG HERE. MOVE ALONG. IT'S ALWAYS WORKED LIKE THIS.  CHANGE IS BAD.  NOTHING IS WRONG. PLEASE KEEP MOVING. ENJOY YOUR DAY.

3. Les Miles
This man should get on his knees everyday and give thanks that he's employed, paid very well and not wrapped up in a white jacket right now. Observe:
"He's (Cam Newton) a guy you can focus on him and get beat by the other very talented perimeter. Auburn looks with that quarterback as playmaker. When he dishes the ball, when he throws it or hands it off, it's a very talented group."
"If you take a spy and play him (Newton) up and in, you're getting blocked. If you take a spy and play him in the center of the field and allow the deception in the perimeter to be divided, can you tackle Cam Newton in a position where you stop him from being a first down carry."
"If I could have a spy no one could see, a guy on the field that didn't count, that would be a great answer."
"I prefer to be lucky. That's met with some earnest preparation and some hard work. Guys that get lucky, maybe they work hard. I kind of enjoy that. I hope it continues."
4. LSU
These people are enjoying the lucky fruits of that crazy man.

5. Jarrett Lee
Defying every law of science and knowledge, Lee will continue to get opportunities, as announced earlier this week.

6. Ted Roof
What will Roof buy Gus Malzahn for Christmas? Anything worth less than half his salary is unacceptable.

7. Mike Hartline
I'm not even sure Mike Hartline thought the day would come where he would throw for 300+ yards, 4 TDs and no interceptions in a conference game.

8. Mark Richt
Back-to-back conference wins has him back in the sad SEC East race, and with Kentucky this weekend, things suddenly look less I'm-going-to-get-fired.

9. Dan Mullen
One win away from becoming bowl eligible and the Blazers of UAB (2-4) are rolling into town.

10. South Carolina's Secondary
Vanderbilt and Larry Smith this weekend.

THE PICKS
Last week: 3-3
Season: 43-12

Ole Miss at Arkansas
Among the many things that terrify me about this game is the fact that the one thing the Ole Miss defense does reasonably well, stopping the run, is the one thing Arkansas' offense doesn't even bother doing. They are the best passing passing team in the conference by 96 yards. NINETY SIX. While Ole Miss has made strides, check that, baby stutter-steps in improving the pass defense, they're still checking in at 10th in the league, only ahead of the disasters at Auburn and South Carolina. It's the absolute worst offense for Ole Miss to face. And no, it doesn't matter who starts or even plays at quarterback for Arkansas. First through ninth string will do just fine.

Luckily for Ole Miss, Arkansas' defense is nearly just as bad at stopping the one thing Ole Miss does pretty well: running. If the Ole Miss offense can use its advantage in the running game and control the clock, just maybe they have a chance. At the very least, they'll give their defensive backs time to rest before they have to start chasing down receivers again. They'll need to attack Mallett repeatedly and hope he makes some Alabama-like bad decisions that result in turnovers. And I'm guessing they'll need in the neighborhood of 300 yards rushing. Unless Ole Miss falls behind early and Houston Nutt starts to panic and begins throwing every play, I don't think this will be the blowout I once thought it would be.

So rejoice, Arkansas fans, you've been waiting for nearly two years and now you'll finally have your revenge. In celebration of your impending victory, I think you should fire off another Freedom of Information Act request to find out what everyone else thinks of your current coach. Wait, hold on, I have that information right here.
"I was never even there. As far as I am concerned. I never even was there. When a coach quits in the middle of the year and ruins a bunch of people’s families and doesn’t’ have enough guts to at least finish out the year. I am not a part of that."
"He (Petrino) is a coward. Put that in quotes. He ruined a bunch of people’s lives, a bunch of people’s families, kids, because he didn’t have enough nuts to stay there and finish the job. That’s the truth.”
"He came in and said he resigned, he would talk to us all at a later date, walked out of the office and no one has ever talked to him since. Not that anybody wanted to. He’s a gutless b—–d. Quote that. I don’t give a s—.”
"How about this, gutless MF. You can use that.”
LSU at Auburn
One of these teams will finally see its unprecedented streak of finding $100 bills throughout the day come to an end. They both wake up to one on their forehead. Oh, look, there's another by the toothbrush. Hey, neat-o, another by my keys. Wow, look what I found in my General Tso's Chicken! Another hundred! And during this time, they both get hit by buses and walk away with only damage to the bus.

So how do we even begin to decide who will come out on top of this madness? Let's go to the tale of the tape.

Offense
Advantage: Auburn via Cam Newton

Defense
Advantage: LSU via Ted Roof

Backwards-hat-wearing-towel-waving assistants
Advantage: Auburn (and in a runaway)

Games they won but had no business winning
Advantage: Push (LSU: Tennessee, Florida; Auburn: South Carolina, Clemson)

Indecipherable coach-speak
Advantage: LSU

Games in which a "God thing" helped them win
Advantage: Auburn

Eternal affiliations
Advantage: Auburn (according to the Bible, the New Israel will ultimately prevail over the forces of evil, with which Les Miles unfortunately signed a deal)

So there you have it. By a score of 4-2, Auburn should be the team that continues its ass-backwards lucky ways.

South Carolina at Vanderbilt
Not even Stephen Garcia or South Carolina's ability to shit the bed against teams like this could prevent them from winning this one. Take a look at this:

Vanderbilt SEC Team Rankings
Scoring offense: 12th
Scoring defense: 9th
Total offense: 12th (way to go, LSU!)
Total defense: 11th
Rushing offense: 7th
Rushing defense: 12th
Pass offense: 11th (keep trying, Tigers!)
Pass defense: 7th

Minus the two 7's and the 9, that is straight out of the Ed Orgeron era. How did Ole Miss lose to them again?

/stares out the window
/gently weeps
/smashes head through window
/bleeds profusely for the rest of the day

UAB at Mississippi State
Point of interest: UAB lost its three non-SEC games by an average of 19 points. It lost its one SEC game by three. Unfortunately for the Blazers, State is not operated by Matt Simms, nor does it have a defense that gives up 27.5 points a game.

Alabama at Tennessee
It's too bad for Alabama that Tennessee did not play well against Georgia two weeks ago because it's established law that bad team can't play two good games in a row (thanks to Ed Orgeron for his fine work in establishing solid data in this field). And throw in that they had an off week (apparently like all 12 teams Alabama will play this year), I think this will be one of Tennessee's "good" games. They won't win, but they'll annoy the hell out of Alabama and its fans, who will pepper the Saban call-in show with insanity-laced questions and comments like perhaps (note: not a word they would use) it's time to change quarterbacks or we should cut back on Mark Ingram's carries.

Next week, however, you should fully expect the Vols to get murdered by South Carolina.

Georgia at Kentucky
Don't look now, actually, do look now so you'll know what I'm talking about, but the Bulldogs are somehow still in contention for the East title. They do not control their destiny, but they haven't been mathematically eliminated just yet, so I'm telling you there's STILL A CHANCE. But, I think that chance comes to a face-first smash into the wall end this weekend.

Both of these teams stink, but only one of them has not had that stink show up in the last two weeks. And that would be Georgia. Yes, Kentucky did pull off the upset last week against South Carolina, but they were horrible for the first half. Not enough minutes have expired from their good second half until now. Georgia last saw its true self nearly three weeks ago against Colorado. They were blessed with the terribleness of Tennessee and Vanderbilt the last two weeks, but Kentucky checks in as reasonably competent (when compared to those teams). And reasonably competent means that the house has pulled a dealer change and is about to take back some of the money Georgia has earned.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Midseason You-Should-Probably-Look-Into-Fixing-That Review

Since no one really enjoys complimenting the fine work of someone else because pointing out their flaws and general failures is infinitely more fun, I'm setting out on a quest to identify the shortcomings of the 12 teams in the SEC.  Obviously, some teams will be full of rich, juicy meaty content, while others will be a little more lean and less tasty, so remember that when I say something like "something about these people makes me want to headbutt all of them on the bridge of their noses."  That's not really a problem that can be fixed (other than changing the very essence of who people are, which can't be done before the 2010 season ends and who really wants to spend that much time doing that), but more of a personal complaint.

(In order of whoever I remember first)
ALABAMA
Major problem:  Belief of infallibility
Keep an eye on that:  A tie between a shaky secondary and two teams have now been able to limit Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, forcing Greg McElroy to run the show, which produced not good, but not bad results
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  How close is Nick Saban to going to the lake, sitting on the dock and watching the ducks shit in the yard?

KENTUCKY
Major problem:  A defense that hemorrhages yards, points and time of possession
Keep an eye on that:  Mike Hartline and his not-so-strong arm are always lurking in the alley near the turnover department
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  Randall Cobb calling out Kentucky fans for sucking.  Normally, this might be an issue, but no one cares enough about Kentucky football to follow Cobb on Twitter.

LSU
Major problem(s):  Les Miles, Gary Crowton, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, time management, the broad area of offense, general disposition of LSU fans, WE'VE ONLY WON THE POWERBALL DRAWING TWICE THIS YEAR
Keep an eye on that:  Though they've yet to face a solid passing quarterback, this is the defense that was torn apart by T.J. Yates, who, after throwing for 412 yards on LSU, finally cracked the 300-mark for the first time since that game last week (325 against Virginia; his other totals:  209, 204, 181, 164)
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  Les Miles leaving or being fired.  HAHAHAHAHA.

FLORIDA
Major problem:

Keep an eye on that: Knowing that Mississippi State could not throw the ball, nor had any intention to do so, Florida's run defense gave up 212 yards on the ground
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  At Florida, never.  If he's fast, there's room for him.

TENNESSEE
Major problem:  Lack of Division-I football players
Keep an eye on that:  Matt Simms will begin sharing time with freshman Tyler Bray this week
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  Derek Dooley getting canned

MISSISSIPPI STATE
Major problem:  If forced into a position where they have to throw, total offensive failure will be engaged
Keep an eye on that:  Dan Mullen's slight itch to play Tyler Russell may not be totally gone, and defensively, I'm not sure they're as good as the numbers say they are
Dismiss with a nervous wave of the hand:  Dan Mullen leaving Starkville

VANDERBILT
Major problem:  Whenever they have the ball
Keep an eye on that:  Robbie Caldwell's job security should the Dores go 2-10
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  Absolutely nothing

OLE MISS
Major problem:  A defense that is vigorously challenging for the right to claim worst in the SEC
Keep an eye on that:  An offensive line that was horrible to start the year, achieved adequate for a few games, then was exposed against a good defense.  With an injury to one of the new starters, this unit is now just shy of average and very thin.
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  All serious, significant problems because WE'VE GOT A MASCOT ISSUE THAT NEEDS SOLVING

GEORGIA
Major problem:  General terribleness
Keep an eye on that:  Thanks to the SEC East resembling the Big 12 North, Mark Richt may yet save his job
Literally dismiss with a wave of the administration's hand:  Arrested football players

ARKANSAS
Major problem:  If its defense wants to claim worst in the SEC, it has a major fight on its hands in holding off Ole Miss, Auburn and Kentucky
Keep an eye on that:  Ryan Mallett's delicate body (has any man that big, NBA excluded, ever crumpled to the ground so easily and consistently?) and a rushing offense that got set up with a nice house in the witness protection program
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  Bobby Petrino is not an asshole

SOUTH CAROLINA
Major problem:  Somehow, your pass defense is worse than Ole Miss and Auburn's.  I've seen both of those defenses and I find this to be impossible.
Keep an eye on that:  The confinement of Stephen Garcia.  He can't stay fully functional in a structured environment without major damage to the walls.
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  We're going to make it to Atlanta, right?

Edit:  I cannot either count or keep track of things when I don't write them down.  My apologies, Auburn.

AUBURN
Major problem:  Ted Roof and a secondary stocked with players who may actually be Ted Roof
Keep an eye on that:  If Cam Newton HAS to throw, can he beat a team?  It probably won't matter since he cannot be tackled behind the line of scrimmage, but if, say, LSU and Alabama (the only two teams with defenses capable of making this happen) hatch a plan and perfectly execute it, I don't know if he can.
Dismiss with a wave of the hand:  Does it even matter if Cam Newton can't throw?  Also, what would happen to Trooper Taylor chest-bumping abilities if forced to wear his hat forward and he no longer had his towel?

Patience, Fellow Citizens, Patience

Pistons are not firing, metal is grinding on metal and no one thought to buy more gas to get this thing going this morning.  There's a midseason assessment/review/pointingouttheobvious to come later, but right now The Beast is stuck in "off" mode.  Stop by later, and I promise a smooth ride with a complimentary beverage.

(Note:  There will be no complimentary beverage.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Five Words and Pictures That Adequately Describe Kentucky's Season Thus Far

VOID

How dare the Wildcats and Rich Brooks decide to take away the one thing I loved about Kentucky, which was Rich Brooks. Though, I'll have to admit, following his fish pond saga on Twitter two weeks ago certainly made the day speed along.

IDENTIFICATION

"So that's what Joker Phillips looks like."

CONSTRUCTIVE

Notice the stone setting in which this sign was placed.  No expense was spared.

HOW

28-10 halftime lead and 472 yards of total offense for the game.

FINGER-WAGGING

Randall Cobb was not pleased with Kentucky football fans' lack of passion in supporting the team this weekend.  From his Twitter page after the win over South Carolina:

"To all the fans: loved seein Yall come late, love hearing Yall tell us we suck during the game, love that we have to play against our own fans too! Love that we can't pack the house when we play the 10 team in the nation. It means that much more to me. I love my team! Brotherhood they got my back n I got they back. The rest of Yall can get ready for bball season! Don't say u support n do all those things! Yeah I'm level 9 (upset)... so deal w it! Not blaming all but Yall know who I'm talking abt- Yall know I love bbn but something needed to be said."

Here's the deal, Randall. The football program needs to hire a racist old man as head coach, go back in time before black people started playing football, dominate a sport that only 30 teams gave a shit about, develop a win-at-all-costs attitude, cheat aggressively for the next 40 years, endure a couple of rounds of probation, resume all questionable practices, run off two coaches who failed to fully embrace those practices and then hire a coach who has a home, beach house and condo in the charcoal-gray area of ethics and the fans will come in droves.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A List of Everyone Still Mathematically Eligible to Win the SEC East





1.  VANDERBILT with 31 conference points (28 of which came against Ole Miss)

2.  TENNESSEE with 45 conference points

3.  Tulane (even though they last competed in the SEC in 1966)

4.  Anyone in the Coastal Division of the ACC

5.  Anyone in the Atlantic Division of the ACC (no one has any idea which team is in which division)

6.  A glow stick found in the parking lot of the state fair

7.  A box full of rusty nails

8.  The Vietnam veteran who sits on a milk crate on the corner of my street and makes friendly signs asking for money

9.  "Open Arms" by Journey

10.  The West Canaan Coyotes (sans Bud Kilmer edition)

11.  The 2028 Texas Tech Red Raiders (even with a true freshman quarterback, I can throw AND stop the run)

From the Weekend That Was

Preemptive excuse strike written in italics to both inform and justify my lack of depth (more than usual) and commentary in the games below:  I went to the Ole Miss/Alabama game in Tuscaloosa this weekend and saw only that game and the Auburn/Arkansas game.  I apologize for not being better than that.  But, as you'll find out around here, YOU BETTER GET USED TO IT.  Also, I'm running on half a cylinder and have a raging inferno of pain taking place in my throat, so I don't want to be here right now.  Anyway, moving on...

Georgia 43, Vanderbilt 0
/reviews scores from earlier this year
/confirms suspicion that Ole Miss did lose to Vanderbilt
/vomits and throws handfuls of vomit at the wall

Just how awful was Vanderbilt on Saturday?  140 total yards awful.  I watched the last quarter and a half of this game at a sports bar in Tuscaloosa and they had the sound coming in to the whole bar and on the outside patio.  Normally, such a thing is greatly appreciated, but whoever was in charge of the sound there decided that if someone in Birmingham didn't happen to have the sound on, they could use the sound provided by this bar.  Dave Neal and Andre Ware should never be heard at 216 decibels.

Auburn 65, Arkansas 43
If we needed further proof that Auburn is in fact the New Israel's team, consider the following:

-Auburn's defense gave up 566 yards of total offense
-The majority of those yards came from the backup quarterback
-Auburn fumbles at the one-yard line, play goes to review where it is confirmed a touchdown when it was most certainly not
-Arkansas player is tackled, down on the ground, ball comes out and returned for an Auburn touchdown, play sent to review and declared a fumble when it was not
-Even Les Miles gave a slight nod of respect after watching all of that

So that's 14 free points, one of the worst defenses I've ever seen, an injury to the best passing quarterback in the conference and the standard SEC review official incompetence.  Combined with Cam Newton running around where he pleased and the afternoon was Auburn's.

Obviously, Newton is one of the greatest individual athletes I've see play football [insert further praise, adulation, amazement here].  I would say he's absolutely perfect for the system he's in, but more than likely, he'd be perfect for any system because he's so damn big, strong and fast.  But, with a defense as bad as theirs and the offense completely relying on the legs of one person, Auburn can't keep pulling stuff like this out of its ass.  It's going to catch up to them, New Israel or not (looking in your general direction, LSU and Alabama).  Of course, I would give body parts (probably one or two toes) to be following one of the worst 7-0 teams in the history of college football, but since I do not, I will whine and complain with great zeal.

Also, I did receive a confirmation call on Sunday morning, and I just wanted to let everyone know that this game is finally over.

Kentucky 31, South Carolina 28
Are we barreling towards an SEC Championship Game in which the winner of the East has four losses?  Tennessee, who is 0-3 in conference play, is just 1.5 games out of leading that division.  And this nonsense could have been avoided had South Carolina not been South Carolina and won a game they led 28-10 at halftime.  Being a South Carolina fan would suck.  And you know what else would suck?  Watching Mike Hartline, MIKE HARTLINE, rip through your defense as if it was the Auburn defense for 349 yards and four touchdowns.  F-double minus for Spurrier and company.

Mississippi State 10, Florida 7
Let's review what I wrote last week:
"Surely after two straight weeks of loses and good, solid visual and statistical evidence that the option run by John Brantley is a horrible idea, Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio will decide that punting is a bad thing and perhaps they should throw passes further than 7.3 yards down the field with Brantley.  It's entirely possible that Brantley is himself terrible and that would be a bad idea, but something other than whatever they're doing now has to be tried, right?  Barely out performing Tennessee in total offense should send chills and a sweaty fever throughout your body."
We'll score that one as a giant absolutely not because from what I have been told, Florida kept doing the same thing that's now caused them to lose three straight games, running with John Brantley and throwing ultra short passes.  Brantely attempted 39 passes for an awful 5.4 yards a pass (210 yards; longest pass completed:  14 yards), meaning he's throwing the ball as far down the field as I can throw left-handed (why yes, some people DO call me Boomer Esiason Lite).  Well done, Urban and Steve, well done.  Stubbornness is not always the smartest choice.
"Certainly, the Bulldogs have plenty of offensive momentum right now (three straight wins) and appear to have found some help in the backfield for Chris Relf in the form of Vick Ballard, but if they can't throw in the neighborhood of 150 yards to keep Florida from crowding the line, they might have a hard time running."
We'll score that one as a giant absolutely wrong.  Not only did they make no effort to throw (and to that I say FINALLY, Dan Mullen, FINALLY) but they were still able to hit 212 yards rushing.
"If State's defense can get out of the way and let Florida's offense jalopy its way around, I think they have a chance to steal this game."
Point, Gray!  Though I lose this point for not actually picking them to win.

LSU 32, McNeese State 10
282 total yards against the Cowboys.  Gary Crowton and Les Miles, everybody!

Alabama 23, Ole Miss 10
Well, hello there, Ole Miss defense.  You're only seven weeks late, but glad you made it.  If you could tell the offense that cigarette break time is up, we'd really appreciate it.

Despite the best effort of the season so far by the defense, Ole Miss never really was in this game.  Technically, they were still hanging around, but the feel of the game let you know they had no chance to threaten Alabama for several reasons.  One, it was in Tuscaloosa.  Two, the Ole Miss offensive line, as serviceable as they had become, were totally outmatched and struggled mightily in any form of pass protection (usually that form involved their assignment running by them).  And three, I know Ole Miss got behind and needed to start throwing, but attempting 40 passes with a quarterback who isn't particularly accurate, a bad offensive line and bad receivers never needs to happen again.  I thought Houston Nutt panicked and got away from running the ball way too early and tried to spread Alabama out and rely on Masoli's athleticism to run away from Alabama defenders on any type of passing play (especially in five-wide sets, which looked to be our offense 60% of the time).  Unless your name is Auburn and your quarterback is Cam Newton, having your quarterback try to avoid the pass rush, then run is not a good offense.

If you are a future opponent of Alabama, Ole Miss and South Carolina have now given you the blueprint on how to give a team a chance to beat the Crimson Tide.  Play a 10-1 defense and make Greg McElroy hold the ball for five seconds before he either takes a sack or someone gets open.  That's two straight weeks he has not looked very good, despite putting up some slightly above average numbers.

And finally, eight o'clock games are right out of the devil's workshop.  When it's 5:30 and the Arkansas/Auburn game is just starting the fourth quarter, the last thing you want to hear is, "Hey, two and a half hours until our game."  And then there's the whole getting back to Birmingham at 1:30 in the morning.  NEVER AGAIN, SEC.

GAME I DIDN'T PICK BUT DESERVES MENTION HERE
Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 18
Young men of Wisconsin, the rest of the country (Ohio excluded) thanks you for doing the Lord's work and making this world a better place.

DEUCE MCALLISTER OF THE WEEK
Given to the player who dominated with or without the help of his teammates and coaches

Mike Hartline, QB, Kentucky
32-42, 349 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT
Many a time, I have been more than unmerciful with him, so when he torches and salts the remains of the South Carolina defense, I shall give him his due.

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

Urban Meyer, Florida
Steve Addazio, Florida
Back-to-back coaching winners for the first time possibly ever (my research staff is on vacation, or they don't exist at all; I forget which).

JOHN VAUGHT OF THE WEEK
Given to the coach who dominated whatever task was in front of him

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
First major road win for Mullen and he did it by sticking to his team's strengths (or maybe just strength). Also, if he coached in the East, he'd be sitting atop the division.

2010 Jevan Snead Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Quarterbacking Failure Leaderboard
Awarded to the SEC quarterback who throws the most interceptions during the season

1.  Jordan Jefferson  7
2.  Ryan Mallett  6
     Jeremiah Masoli  6
4.  Stephen Garcia  5
     Tyler Russell  5
     John Brantley  5
     Cam Newton  5
8.  Larry Smith  4
     Matt Simms  4

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS WEEK
LSU at Auburn
What happens when two of the luckiest teams in the history of mankind collide when they're both in the middle of two of the luckiest seasons in both schools' histories?  I don't know, but protective eyewear and padded walls should be used and all breakable objects should be taken out of the room.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Week Seven SEC Power Poll and Picks

TEXAS PETE HOT SAUCE WEEK SEVEN SEC POWER POLL

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. Les Miles


2. LSU
This year's inexplicable undefeated streak is allowing LSU to quickly gain on Auburn as the luckiest school that has ever existed.

3. Jarrett Lee
If he had to throw the fade pass that beat Florida 100 times, how many are successful? Five? Six? And this lucky bastard threw a successful one on the second try.

4. Gene Chizik
Same line as last week:
"The undefeated season soldiers on, riding the shoulders of a one-man offensive show, a shaky secondary and the towel of Trooper Taylor."
Except this week, we'll change that shaky secondary to shaky defense.  Giving up 34 points to Kentucky will do that.

5. Stephen Garcia
The odds of Garcia ever throwing up another 17-20, 201 yards, 3 TDs and only one whatthehellareyoudoing play? NEVER.

6. Steve Spurrier
Spurrier would have been higher had he not three-putted on 17 and 18 on Sunday.

7. Jordan Jefferson
While still mostly ineffective throwing the ball, Jefferson was not awful otherwise and made no game-killing mistakes, plus he ran for two touchdowns.

8. Dan Mullen
He faces his old employer this weekend and may know a thing or two as to how Steve Addazio operates, which is universally known as poorly.

9. Vick Ballard
All of sudden Ballard has 11 rushing touchdowns, which leads the conference. When did this happen? How long have I been asleep?

10. Cam Newton
Eventually he has to not go for 300+ total yards right?
/would never bet on this
/could talk self into betting on this
/foolishly believes it will happen
/watches in horror as he drops 500 yards on Ole Miss

THE PICKS
Last week: 5-2
Season: 40-9

Vanderbilt at Georgia
Remember how awful I assumed (and correctly at that) last week's Georgia/Tennessee game was going to be? Here's its twin, but with an even worse personality. My only question concerning this game is if Dave Neal and Andre Ware left Athens or just set up shop at the downtown Best Western. The complimentary breakfast and USA Today certainly had to be a strong selling point for staying. Georgia it is.

Arkansas at Auburn
Last year when Auburn got of to a similar start to this season, they traveled to Fayetteville and proceeded to have the sugar-coated shit stomped out of them. However, that team was led by the clone of Ben Leard/Daniel Cobb/Brandon Cox and this year's team is owned and operated solely by Cam Newton, who is roughly a nine billion infinity percent upgrade over what they had last year. So I don't think keeping up with Arkansas' offense will be as much of a problem as it was when Chris Todd was executing poor productivity effectively.

The numbers suggest Arkansas has a much improved defense (3rd in total defense, 2nd in scoring defense), and they have looked much better than last year. But, they've also only played one legitimate offense and it was Alabama, who rang up 421 yards of total offense. I think we'll see similar numbers from Auburn because, let's face it, until we see someone actually stop, nay, moderately limit Cam Newton, I think we can safely assume (and hurriedly jump to conclusions sans mat) that IT CAN'T BE DONE.

Normally, that would mean continued success for Auburn. But, this Arkansas offense has the capability of properly reminding everyone that Ted Roof is in fact not a good coach and his secondary stinks (10th in pass defense). Ryan Mallett finally proved he can have a good game on the road in the SEC, granted it was against Georgia, but the Bulldogs have offered more resistance (7th in pass defense) through the air than Auburn. If Mallett can avoid the large quantities of incompletions that plagued him in road games last year and the interception bug he's picked up this year, I like the Hogs' chances against this defense.

Usually, I'd insert something right about here about Arkansas needing to run the ball to pull this upset off. But, in Auburn's last two SEC games (South Carolina and Kentucky), neither of those teams paid much attention to running the ball (either they couldn't or got behind and had to start throwing) and were able to throw with success, nearly winning both games. If not for South Carolina's free football giveaway in the fourth quarter, they win by throwing the ball.

I would be willing to bet Bobby Petrino, deep within the recesses of his evil lair, has not slept this week due to the pure joy of facing a secondary like this (or he's possibly already thinking about Ole Miss'). If Petrino and Mallett threw for 357 yards against an Alabama secondary I think is much better than Auburn's, they should see some strong results on Saturday. I'm taking Arkansas and the potential regret that may come Saturday afternoon.

South Carolina at Kentucky
I have no official stats to back this claim up, but since leaping to conclusions is always fun and highly popular, I'll go ahead and say games like this should scare the crap out of the Gamecocks, given their history of collapsing at the worst possible time.  Team Spurrier/Garcia is fresh off an upset of the number one team in the country, in control of their destiny in the East and facing a Kentucky team piloted by Mike Hartline, who might be without the services of Derrick Locke.

The old Spurrier would drop a heavy payload of napalm over Kentucky's hopes and dreams right out of the gate, then when the matter was well in hand, do it again because, hell, that stuff is not gonna keep for another week.  But the Spurrier at South Carolina has never found the ability to destroy teams he should destroy.  Perhaps it's South Carolina and its football history (and lack of a successful history).  Or maybe it's hard to plan for a destruction while trying to rally on the back nine.  Whatever the reason, this game reeks of red flagness.  I like South Carolina, but it won't be comfortable.

Mississippi State at Florida
Surely after two straight weeks of loses and good, solid visual and statistical evidence that the option run by John Brantley is a horrible idea, Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio will decide that punting is a bad thing and perhaps they should throw passes further than 7.3 yards down the field with Brantley.  It's entirely possible that Brantley is himself terrible and that would be a bad idea, but something other than whatever they're doing now has to be tried, right?  Barely out performing Tennessee in total offense should send chills and a sweaty fever throughout your body.

Even though Florida comes stumbling in at number eight in the conference in run defense, I'm not sure State can effectively move the ball.  Florida still had a pretty good defense (4th in total defense) and good defenses usually have their way with one-dimensional teams, which State is.  Certainly, the Bulldogs have plenty of offensive momentum right now (three straight wins) and appear to have found some help in the backfield for Chris Relf in the form of Vick Ballard, but if they can't throw in the neighborhood of 150 yards to keep Florida from crowding the line, they might have a hard time running.

I realize this is coming from the guy who went on top of a mountain to look down upon Dan Mullen and shout that Relf needed to throw the ball as few times as possible, and they can still throw very little as long as they hit some big passes, but against legitimate defenses that probably have better athletes than your offense, you can't be one-dimensional.  And if Mullen plays Tyler Russell for more than, no, wait, AT ALL, State fans, you are more than justified to hop on a plane, fly to Gainesville, catch a cab to the stadium and attack Mullen on the sideline.

If State's defense can get out of the way and let Florida's offense jalopy its way around, I think they have a chance to steal this game.  Unfortunately, the game is in Gainesville where the Bulldogs last won sometime in the 14th century (give or take a few years).  To date, Mullen's biggest wins on the road have come over Vanderbilt and Kentucky, so until he pulls off a win like this one would be, I shall rest my selection on the steely glare of Urban Meyer and the Sgt. Slaughter looks of Steve Addazio.

McNeese State at LSU
What a stroke of genius it would be if the sports gods had been setting us up for an LSU loss to the Cowboys.  I would weep with joy and perhaps suffocate from deep, violent belly laughs.

Ole Miss at Alabama
The only factor I need to examine to correctly pick this game is its location.  Tuscaloosa?  Yes.  Alabama wins.  Across the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium in a cemetery, and, if you look closely enough, you'll find a tombstone in there with Ole Miss' name on it because Tuscaloosa is where Ole Miss teams always die.  And it's pretty convenient just to carry them across the street.  So while.....

BREAKING NEWS WHILE I WAS TYPING THIS:  OLE MISS HAS SELECTED THE BEAR AS ITS NEW MASCOT.

COMPLETE AND UTTER CATASTROPHE AVOIDED.  While I'm on record against this whole stupid process for its waste of time and resources when we have much larger problems, I am glad Ole Miss fans sent Hotty Toddy back to Greendale Community College before he got loose on campus.  Now, let's move on and never speak of this business again.  IT'S A DAMN MASCOT.

Anyway, about this game, the way I see it Ole Miss has two major issues going into this game (why yes, that is pretty generous of me).  One, and the most obvious one, Alabama is very good.  They're bigger, faster and stronger than we are and better coached.  And two, for Ole Miss to have a chance in a game like this, we have to have a defense that can get stops when we desperately need them.  This defense cannot do that.  They can't pass rush, defend the pass, defend anything to the outside or resemble a non-Big 12 defense in any way.  In short, THEY STINK.

And that in of itself stinks because Ole Miss should have some success moving the ball.  Jeremiah Masoli is athletic enough that he can make a bad play into not-so-bad and this offense puts him in position to make good plays stay good plays.  Plus, this is the first time this season Alabama has seen an offense like this.  I'm sure they'll eventually adjust to make some stops, but for a while, I believe we'll be treated to lots of rednecky screams of "GET HIM!!!" as Masoli runs around the Alabama defense.  Unfortunately, unless the Crimson Tide is in a giving mood, say in the vicinity of 12 turnovers, Ole Miss has no chance to win.  Not to worry though, I've already talked myself into a potential financial victory and taken the 21.5 points Vegas so graciously gave Ole Miss.

Edited to add a programming note:  Due to my travel to Tuscaloosa to absorb another body blow in a long line of body blows, The Belly of the Beast will be set to "non-operational" on Friday.  Not that this status is much of a departure from the norm around here, but I thought you'd like to know.  However, please feel free to stop by and explore the space.  There's no charge for that. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

8-47-2 Doesn’t Sting Like It Used To

Note:  I originally wrote this for theolemissblog.com, but since today (and this week) are excruciatingly slow, I have chosen to also post it here.  It might be in violation of some sort of unwritten blog law that is stupid, but I DO AS I SEE FIT.  Anyway, if you're an Ole Miss fan and you need to feed the monster inside of you, check out the link above.

Growing up an Ole Miss fan, I learned several truths that always applied to every Rebel team no matter who coached the team or played for it.  One, Vanderbilt will never roll over and die when playing Ole Miss.  Two, Ole Miss defensive backs will never turn around to play the ball as it gets close to the receiver.  And three, Ole Miss will never beat Alabama.

When these harsh rules were first explained to me, I tried to deny them, fully believing that each Ole Miss team was different and capable of breaking these and other chains that always pulled them down.  And, like all young people progressing from grade school through high school, I was an idiot.  I suppose you can chalk it up to the hope that lives in all youthful people before the real world sucks the life out of them by letting them know that, no, that’s not how things work around here.  Whatever the reason for my optimism, I was ultimately cured of believing such nonsense by regularly attending Ole Miss games since I was about 12.  

It wasn’t until I was in high school (‘97-‘99) that Ole Miss finally started to field teams that could compete on the field each year with Alabama.  Billy Brewer had a couple of teams that played them well (19-14 loss in 1993, which technically was won a few years later by Ole Miss due to a forfeited victory by Alabama) and even beat them in 1988, which, until I finally saw the highlights of some years later, I always believed it was something Brewer and/or Ole Miss fans made up, but Brewer’s teams could never keep up on a year-to-year basis (note:  I didn’t really start paying attention to Ole Miss football until sometime around ‘90 or ‘91).  

In these high school years, I was still dumb enough to believe that whatever the year, this was the year we were finally going to beat them.  In 1997, I believed it all the way up until the moment John Avery was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for diving into the end zone while an Alabama player was two yards away from him.  Avery had just sprinted through Alabama’s kickoff coverage team and kept Ole Miss alive in the game.  The penalty forced the Rebels to go for one instead of two, and they eventually lost 29-20.  

I was in Tuscaloosa the following year as I watched a Noel Mazzone offense destroy a Crimson Tide defense between the 10-yard lines (as Noel Mazzone offenses are want to do).  The Rebels got inside the Alabama 10-yard line eight times and scored only 17 points, missing four field goals and lost 20-17 in overtime.  One year later I saw Shaun Alexander run for 214 yards and beat Ole Miss 30-24, and it was an Ole Miss team that would lose four games by a total of 15 points.

But in 2001, sandwiched between a 45-7 loss in 2000 and a 42-7 loss in 2002, Ole Miss did it.  Aided by Mike DuBose’s terrible 2000 team, Dennis Frachione and the arm of Eli Manning, the Rebels finally did something I thought I’d never live to see and they beat Alabama 27-24.  I remember being about as happy as I’d ever been in my life up until that point (sad?  Yes, but screw you).  For days, months, hell, even now, I still can’t believe it happened.  It had become the curse of curses and it was finally broken.  We even beat them again in 2003 (and badly 43-28).

Since then, the Rebels have not beaten Alabama.  Eli Manning’s graduation, David Cutcliffe’s horrendous recruiting efforts, the Ed Orgeron disaster and the arrival of Nick Saban have created a new streak of victories for the Tide.  Although in this latest string of losses, Ole Miss has remained competitive, losing four of the six games by four points or less (and all six games by an average of about nine points a game).  But what I’ve discovered in this latest round of losses is that the Alabama game doesn’t mean what it used to mean to me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I HATE losing to them, repeat, HATE IT WITH EVER FIBER OF MY BEING, but this game no longer represents something Ole Miss cannot do.  We’ve beaten them before and will hopefully do so again (at least in the next decade or ten).  This game now represents beating one of the big guys that 82% of the time has beaten us (and often with great ferocity).  And, of course, there’s the whole keeping the dream of going to Atlanta alive, which is the new curse of curses (meaning:  WE ARE NEVER GOING TO ATLANTA.  EVER.).

On Saturday, I will make my sixth trip to Tuscaloosa to watch Ole Miss play there.  The five previous trips have all been horrible losses.  Two overtime games, two games in which Ole Miss lost by 38 and 35 points, respectively, and a game that featured Michael Spurlock and Ethan Flatt at quarterback.  Barring the sports gods deciding to have a little fun at the expense of Alabama fans who are already on DEFCON 3 meltdown alert, Ole Miss will not win.  In fact, we’ll probably get blown out.  But when I leave the stadium early (and you better believe that a blowout combined with an 8 PM kickoff that my ass is leaving early), I won’t be walking out with a sense of hopelessness and the urge to projectile vomit.  I’ll be walking out with the urge to just projectile vomit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Five Words and Pictures That Adequately Describe South Carolina's Season Thus Far

TIMELY

"So that Tebow asshole finally graduated, Mark Richt is Mark Richt, Tennessee, well, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH, and Garcia finally might stay under control this year. Oh no, we should win shouldn't we? Oh dammit. Oh dammit. We're going to choke aren't we?"

GROUNDED

"Out of the way, you silly Bulldogs. Lattimore means we don't need large and occasionally toxic doses of Garcia!  We have no concerns now!"

AGAIN

"Four turnovers in the fourth quarter?  Lack of discipline, you will forever haunt my dreams."

FICKLE

"Is there a third option that doesn't involve the unstructured and often destructive freelancing abilities of Garcia or the not-sure-what-the-hell-is-going-on-look of Connor Shaw?"

TRENDSETTING

"Yes, I think I will be the first coach ever to give MYSELF the game ball.  Can't believe I didn't think of this before."

Things You Should Keep an Eye on if You Are of the Wagering-on-Sport Ilk

It's only Tuesday (AND A DAY EARLY FOR THIS, SO YOU'RE WELCOME), but it's never too early to begin your meticulous preparation for wagering so that you can properly waffle over various point spreads from Wednesday night to Friday afternoon.  And we all know it's not a real bet unless you interpret defensive passing efficiency statistics combined with the tides schedule in the Gulf and that one Tennessee fan who annoyed the hell out of you five years ago in Knoxville to mean that, YES, the road underdog will cover.  So to add to the information most certainly necessary to making a successful bet, The Belly of the Beast is here to help.

But first, a free exercise in wagering to get the competitive juices flowing.  In the video below, ah, hell.  There is no competition.  It's my tribute to Braves' manager Bobby Cox, whose managing career came to an end Monday night as the Braves lost to the Giants and were knocked out of the playoffs.  Given that he dealt with the Pu-Pu Platter all year, he did a tremendous job getting this team into the playoffs before losing two games they probably should have won.



Julio Jones will be without the services of one of his hands, which will have no impact on his dropped passes
Jones, who went for eight catches, 118 yards, 1 TD against South Carolina, broke his left hand in the game and had surgery to insert a plate and screws.  His status for the Ole Miss game is declared somewhere in the gray-ish area.  Perhaps even charcoal (Fletch is the greatest).  According to Nick Saban, his availability will be determined by his tolerance of the pain, which, and I'm no doctor, should be SIGNIFICANT.  HE BROKE HIS FREAKING HAND.  Against Ole Miss, I would imagine they'll miss his ability to run block since he's like 12 times the size of the biggest Ole Miss defensive back.  I doubt they'll miss sending him deep down the field for a pass he's not going to catch.
INFLUENCE ON BET:  Minor in terms of the spread, perhaps significant in over/under.

Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker out with an injury I pray to never have
Fluker is out of at least the Ole Miss game with a groin injury, and possibly even longer.  I've had a sore groin muscle before and spent my days concentrating on not moving.  My head could move on a swivel, but the rest of the body was not allowed to move.  And when it did, PAIN AND SUFFERING ENSUED.  I don't even want to know how badly a real groin injury hurts.
INFLUENCE ON BET:  Ole Miss (+21)?  Sign this moron up.

Georgia always did want to be Florida
And they're on their way with yet another arrest.  Running back Caleb King is being held in the Athens-Clarke county jail for failing to appear in traffic court in a nearby county.  We all knew the good times couldn't last that long at Georgia.

Mississippi State's middle-of-the-pack kickoff return team might be a little less middle-of-the-pack
Return man Leon Barry was lost for the year when he dislocated his ankle, which required surgery.  The Bulldogs were sitting at 7th in the conference in kickoff return yard average and Berry was at 6th in the individual stats.
INFLUENCE ON BET:  Is Florida planning to or even capable of scoring a lot in the game?  Statistics tell us no, so I declare minimal impact here.

Kentucky could be without the service of one of its two good players
Running back Derrick Locke is battling a pair of stingers he received in the Ole Miss and Auburn games in consecutive weeks.  Without Locke, someone you've never heard of will receive the majority of the carries.
INFLUENCE ON BET:  Significant.  If the backup running backs are terrible, then more of a burden falls on Mike Hartline, and history has shown us that such a burden is usually disastrous for Kentucky's hopes at winning or keeping it close.

Oregon State loses one of the brothers Rodgers
James, the receiver/return man/doeswhatever/nottherunningback/ will miss the remainder of the season after injuring his knee against Arizona on Saturday.  I've watched Oregon State once this year (TCU game) and through my extremely talented observation skills, deduced that the Beavers better not lose either one of the brothers Rodgers or else their offense will grind to a slow crawl.  Things may have changed since then, but I will gamble they have not.
INFLUENCE ON BET:  Major.

Buffalo is so starved for winners, they stab one another in all the excitement of an actual win
Buffalo linebacker Scott Pettigrew was stabbed in the chest early Sunday morning after the Bulls win over a team I'm not going to look up.  Thankfully, he was released from the hospital later that day and appears to be fine.
INFLUENCE ON BET:  I wasn't aware the NFL allowed Buffalo to play in the league AND in college football.  As bad as they are, I suppose they could use the practice.