Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Biggest Game of the Week

I was on the road yesterday for a little while, listening to two talk radio idiots talking about the big college games of the week. One of them said Arizona St. vs. Oregon was the biggest game of the week because it was the game between highest-rated teams and had the greatest national championship implications. The other one said that the LSU-Bama game was the biggest because a) it's SEC, b) the whole Saban thing, and c) the teams don't like each other.

I agree with Idiot #2, and I'll tell you why.

Sure, the game between Arizona State and Oregon has substantial national championship implications. The winner will be in the thick of the championship hunt while the loser will be effectively eliminated. The same is not true of the LSU vs. Bama game. LSU remains in the national championship hunt, and will be eliminated if they lose, but Bama is not in it and can't get back into it.

While the ASU-Oregon game has that win-and-still-in-it, lose-and-you're-out subplot, and that certainly is meaningful, here's the deal about it. Outside of Pac-10 country, no one cares which one stays in and which one goes out. Someone will win. Someone will lose. I'll say, "Now isn't that interesting," as I read about it in the newspaper the next day.

On the other hand, the LSU-Bama game has, for all intents and purposes, the division title on the line. It also has a coach going against his old team, and that coach's replacement trying to show that it's his team. (Never mind that I think he's long since already done it; the media doesn't seem to agree). It is also a bitter, century-old rivalry. But the kicker is the Saban factor. Literally every college football fan in the country is interested to know how this game plays out. They want to see how these teams play and how these coaches play in this very bitter and heated environment. That's something ASU-Oregon can't match.

OK, I'm maybe exaggerating a little. Fact is that Oregon looks like a pretty good team at this point, and they have a very exciting offense. They're a fun team to watch. But I think the larger point remains.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Last Word on "The Call"

I've read and heard a lot of criticism of Les Miles' decision to throw for the end zone with less than :10 to play against Auburn, and the more I think about it, and the more I analyze the tape, the more I think it was a darn brilliant move.

OK, maybe not brilliant. What I would have done would have been to call timeout with :40 left and set up a play to get a first down, and then take a few shots towards the end zone. But, if you take that kind of play out of the equation, the decision to take one shot to the end zone and, if necessary, a field goal attempt, was great.

An acquaintance here was criticizing Miles, and was wondering how I could stand to have a coach who was so stupid. I gave him the timeline of the play (the call gets to the huddle at :18; the snap comes at :09; the ball is thrown at :07; Byrd catches it at :04; clocks runs to :01) and told him that under those circumstances, and with a 5th year senior at QB, there was no chance of the clock running out, and if it had, there would have been a video review. He told me, "Most coaches, in that situation, would have run the ball to the middle of the field and called timeout to kick a field goal."

If true, most coaches are damn fools. Here's why:
  • College kickers are extremely unreliable. If you saw Ryan Succop of South Carolina, one of the best kickers in the SEC, miss an overtime, tying 41 yard field goal by about 7-10 yards two nights ago, you saw an illustration of how unreliable college kickers are. And he's one of the BEST. Our kicker is middling at best. Every time I see a college coach deliberately decide to put a game in the hands of his kickers, I wonder if that coach actually watches football. I'm not talking about situations where you have one play to win a game here. I'm talking about coaches who get close to the end zone and then decide to run it to the middle and set up a field goal. Those coaches are playing with fire because quite a lot of kicks are shanked or get blocked, or are simply missed.
  • It was the absolute last thing Auburn was expecting. That gave it a fairly good chance of success, and while the DB on the play was able to keep up with Byrd, he was completely turned around and had absolutely no help. The risk of an interception was minimal (much less, I would say, than the risk of missing a long field goal).
  • They were absolutely in control of the timing of the play. As Miles revealed, there was only one read on the play. If there was safety help on Byrd, Flynn was to throw it away. If there was not, Flynn was to fling it to him. And as shown, the ball reached Byrd with :04 to play. Believe it or not, coaches generally have a good idea of how long it takes to run a play, particularly a bang-bang play like that, and they know it doesn't take 9 seconds.
  • "But what if it was tipped and batted around?" Have you ever seen a ball batted around for 4 seconds? Oh, you have? Have you ever seen a ball batted around for 4 seconds with only two people in the picture? I'm betting you haven't.
  • What if Flynn had been sacked? Well, the play was designed to get the ball of quickly, so the risk of that wasn't all that great. But if he had been sacked, we would have called timeout and kicked a field goal.
  • In addition to some inherent risks of running a pass play (sack, interception), there was also a good chance that the defender would get a pass interference penalty, setting up a relatively easy field on the final play. In fact, it appears from replays that had the ball fallen incomplete, there very well may have been a flag for interference.
What I'm trying to say is that the risks were minimal, and the potential rewards were great. What's more, the risks of NOT taking a shot to the end zone were fairly high, as it would have left us with only a long field goal. One shot. Versus two shots. I don't see how that's a bad thing.

In other news: Rumors continue to swirl about the incident at the Varsity. People claiming inside information say all sorts of things. I'm prepared and ready for anything to happen, but as of right now there is really nothing to report on it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Week 9 - The Day After

In a week with few upsets among the top teams in the country, the SEC once again showed how tough it is to win in this league. There were three substantial upsets in the conference yesterday, and what looked like it would be an elimination day in the East turned out, perhaps, not to be. Weeks like this illustrate perfectly why I do not like to make predictions about the outcome of games. The games are just too unpredictable, and logical thinking will lead you wrong almost as often as it will lead you right.

Five teams in the East started the day with 2 conferences losses. We knew it would get down to three teams with two losses, because 4 of the teams played each other. What we didn't know, and what probably no one saw coming, was that Kentucky would get beaten by Mississippi State.

Mississippi State lost to LSU by 45 points. Kentucky beat LSU. Mississippi State hasn't won more than 3 games in a year in how long? They have one of the weakest passing offenses in the country. Who would have thought MSU would beat Kentucky? Sure, I thought MSU might beat Kentucky, but that was merely a byproduct of thinking that anyone can beat anyone. There was no reason I could think of to give MSU any advantage at all in this game. But not only did MSU win, but they won by 17 points and never trailed in the game.

Georgia got a woodshed beating at the hands of Tennessee in a game where they were never in it; a game that appeared to be over at the opening coin flip. Tennessee got housed by Florida early in the season. Florida had played some of the toughest teams in the conference, winning their share and playing the others close. Georgia looked like a beaten team with an inconsistent quarterback, an injured running back corp, and an unspectacular defense. No gambler in his right mind would have put money on Georgia straight up.

Georgia not only won, but they dominated the 4th quarter after never trailing in the first three except for a brief period when they were behind 17-14 in the second quarter.

Oh, and if you don't think Knowshon Moreno is the GeauxTuscaloosa Offensive Skill Position Player of the Week, you just weren't paying attention.

Then we have the final game of the night between Tennessee and South Carolina. It's a tired refrain, but who could seen the outcome of this game after Tennessee was dominated by Bama just last week. Of course, South Carolina got beaten by Vandy last week as well, and their offense has struggled mightily. Who could have predicted that Tennessee would come out swinging and take a 21-0 lead into halftime? And then who could have predicted that South Carolina would immediately and dramatically turn it around after not scoring a touchdown in 8 quarters and take a lead with less than 2 minutes to play, only to give it up on a 48 yard field goal by a rookie, forcing overtime, where Tennessee would ultimately win?

It's madness, I tell you.

What does it all mean? Well, let's do some bullets.
  • My dream of having 11 bowl-eligible teams in the SEC appears to have a good shot at coming true. As of right now, 6 teams are bowl-eligible and 5 more teams have 5 wins. Florida has a gimme against Florida Atlantic. Tennessee and Vandy play each other down the stretch, so one of those guys will be bowl-eligible based on that game. If Vandy fails there, they get a shot against Kentucky or Wake Forest. If Tennessee fails against Vandy, it probably won't matter because they will have already played Louisiana-Lafayette. Arkansas and Mississippi State play each other, so at least one of those is getting to 6 wins. Mississippi State gets shots against Bama and Ole Miss, and Arkansas gets 3 shots against good teams if they can't beat MSU (South Carolina, Tennessee, and LSU). We're looking at 9 bowl-eligible teams, minimum, and a very good shot at 10, with 11 still being more realistic than ever.
  • Florida is not out of it in the East if they can beat Vandy and South Carolina, but those are big ifs. It's hard to believe that Florida has lost 3 of the last 4 games now. I assumed that someone would win out in the East and finish with 2 losses, but the two teams that survived this week have the hardest road to the end from here of anybody. Georgia still has to play Auburn and Kentucky in conference, and Tennessee still has to play Arkansas, Vandy, and Kentucky. If both of those teams lose a game, and if Florida wins out, Florida still wins the East, holding tie-breakers against all of the other teams in the hunt.
  • The SEC is getting out of hand with personal foul calls for hits out of bounds. Yesterday, in the Kentucky-MSU game, on a big 3rd down, Andre Woodson scrambled out of the pocket and ran towards the first down marker, angled such that he would run out of bounds a yard or two past it for a first down. A Bulldog defender drew up on him, and Woodson turned towards the sideline. He was running right at the marker at this point, and if allowed to get there it would have been VERY VERY close and likely a first down. The defender hit Woodson right before he stepped out of bounds, but he was definitely headed there. The hit may have saved 6 inches of field position, but it was a very valuable six inches. The refs threw a flag for personal foul for late hit, handing Kentucky a potentially valuable 1st down and 15 yards of field position. The replay showed definitively that Woodson had not stepped out of bounds yet. We've seen a rash of this lately, and the standard for late hits have gotten unreasonable. Now, if the player (particularly the QB) has stepped out of bounds AT ALL, or even if he's just about to step out of bounds, it's a 15 yard penalty. This is football people. Collisions happen, and it's neither wise nor fair to ask defensive players to stop playing aggressively near the sidelines.
  • I simply did not understand how badly hurt Tim Tebow was, but it was clear he was playing at significantly less than 100%, particularly in the running game. Fully healthy Tim Tebow is the best offensive player in the SEC since Bo Jackson. A Tim Tebow who can't run the ball effectively is another Jared Lorenzen. I was a big Jared Lorenzen fan back in the day, but no one ever said that Jared Lorenzen was the best player in the SEC since Bo Jackson. I guess with a 3rd loss, Tebow's out of the running for the Heisman, which is too bad because the Heisman goes to "the most outstanding player in college football." College football has, in its entire history dating back to the 19th century, not seen a player quite like Tim Tebow. I'm not saying he's the best college player ever, but I'm saying 10 years ago you would not have thought it possible that a player with his particular skill set (good and accurate passing, strong power running, leadership) would come around. If a high-skill player with a skill set never seen before is not the most outstanding in the country, I don't know who could be. No offense to Matt Ryan, who is a good QB having a great season, but he's just a drop back passer, perhaps the best of many good ones this year, but he's the sort of player who comes along every year somewhere. A player like Tebow never has before.
  • There are rumors everywhere about certain LSU football players getting into some legal trouble. Here's what we allegedly know. There was a fight at the Varsity late Thursday night. Many LSU players were in attendance that evening, and two of them (Ryan Perrilloux and Derrick Odom) were named in the police report, which named in total 20 or so people. There were no reports of weapons in the police report, and neither Perrilloux nor Odom have been charged with anything at this time. Rumors about what happened go well beyond this, but right now they appear to be nothing more than unsubstantiated rumors. If it does not go beyond this, I don't believe any disciplinary action is warranted.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Conventional Wisdom?

There is no more conventional wisdom. I give up all efforts to handicap this season.

More tomorrow.

Friday, October 26, 2007

SEC Preview - Week 9

Before we get to the SEC Preview, let's review the lessons from last night's Boston College vs. Virginia Tech matchup:
  • The "prevent" defense does nothing but prevent you from winning the game. When you have been absolutely dominantly defensively all game by rushing 4 and playing a tight matchup zone, why would you suddenly start dropping 9 and playing a soft deep, soft zone? Why do so many coaches change the formula that is giving them success just because they're ahead?
  • If you're losing late, it is never a good idea to give the other team the ball. I couldn't believe the announcers were even debating whether or not BC should kick an onside kick. Here's a hint: if Virginia Tech gets the ball and gets one first down, the game is over.
  • The center/QB exchange is very very important. I think one of the plays that made the difference in this game came with about 6 1/2 minutes to play in the 4th quarter. Virginia Tech was driving the ball, running effectively, and they had 2nd and 4. They lined up in the shotgun and the snap was wide to Glennon's left. He fell on it for a 10 yard loss, but it effectively ended that drive, and Virginia Tech didn't move the ball again the next time they went on offense (which was, incidentally, the last time they went on offense until they were losing).
OK, on to the SEC this week. It's a bit of a slow week this week because LSU and Bama are idle and Vandy and Arkansas are playing games out of conference. There are some decent games out there this week, including 3 on television, but honestly this week doesn't look nearly as exciting a some previous weeks.

Mississippi State at Kentucky, 11:30am Lincoln-Financial. It's a battle between tortoise and hare here. MSU plays 3 yards and a cloud of dust football and Kentucky has a big play, sophisticated offense. Kentucky has really proven a lot to me in the last two weeks. They are not at all the soft team I thought they were at the beginning of the season. They've matured as a team quite a lot, and they are a legitimate New Year's Day bowl-calibre team. MSU is not bad either. Their defense is going to have to play tight while also avoiding the big play and let their slow-and-steady offense put up a few points. I think Kentucky is superior, but I can't look at a game like this and say that MSU is out of it before the game starts. They can do too many good things, and this year no one is safe.

Here's what Kentucky needs to win the East:
  • win out
  • have Florida and South Carolina lose a game

Florida International at Arkansas and Miami (OH) at Vandy, both at 1:00pm, neither is televised. If Vandy wins their game, they're on the verge of bowl-eligibility. The same is true of Arkansas. This year, it is conceivable that the SEC could have 11 bowl-eligible teams. We only have 9 bowl tie-ins though. I really hope everyone who is bowl-eligible gets a bowl, but it seems like that's unlikely to happen. I don't know anything about these non-conference opponents, but it is my expectations that the SEC schools will win these two games.

Florida vs. Georgia, neutral site, 2:30pm on CBS. You know, I'm just not as excited about this matchup as a lot of people are. At this point, I just don't think Georgia is a very good team. Their offense is inconsistent and their defense is not particularly impressive. Matthew Stafford has not emerged as the force I expected this year, though he occasionally has a big game. They're going to need Stafford to play at his highest level if they're going to win this one, because Florida won't be holding Tebow back. Florida knows this game and the South Carolina game are the season for them. Tebow will carry the ball 15 times per game, at least. He can rest when he's dead. Georgia has looked pretty good at times, but their big win came a full month ago against Bama, and they've been pretty hit-and-miss ever since.

Of course, there have been plenty of games I've gotten exactly wrong this year.

What does Florida need to win the East: Win out.

What does Georgia need to win the East:
  • Win out
  • Have South Carolina and Tennessee lose a game
Ole Miss at Auburn, 5:00pm ESPN Gameplan. Ole Miss is a team with a little bit of talent, but they haven't been able to finish games. I think this game has the biggest potential for upset in the SEC this week. Ole Miss is more talented and more effective offensively than their poor record would suggest. They've played Florida, Bama, and Missouri tough so far this year. One of those teams still has a realistic shot at the National Championship. Auburn will be experiencing the "LSU Effect" wherein teams that play LSU struggle in the weeks following playing LSU due to being physically beaten up and emotionally exhausted. They're also coming off of a very disappointing last-minute loss in a game they probably thought they had won. There is the potential for a serious let-down game. Plus, Tuberville is known for losing to weaker teams.

Too bad this one isn't on television. Rumor has it that this could have been the LF game, but Auburn (having already had one LF game this year) turned it down.

South Carolina at Tennessee, 6:45pm ESPN. This is the best matchup of the week, I think, even though I think South Carolina is the far superior team. South Carolina has proven it's capable of laying an egg, and Tennessee has proven it's capable of playing over its head. SC's loss to Vandy last week was absolutely bewildering. I guess South Carolina just can't stand prosperity. The good news is that I still think South Carolina is the best or 2nd best team in the East, and they still control their destiny. As for Tennessee, I don't know what's up with them. They go out and dominate Georgia, and then they go and get dominated by Bama. I dont' see how that happens. This matchup is good for South Carolina because they're very good at countering what Tennessee does best, which is throw the ball. If South Carolina can do to Erik Ainge what they've done to other QBs this year, I don't think the Tennessee running game or defense can do enough damage to let Tennessee win.

What South Carolina needs to win the East: win out
What Tennessee needs to win the East:
  • win out
  • have Florida lose
The other thing is, while Tennessee is still very much mathematically in the race for the East if they win this one, they're also in danger of not making bowl-eligibility if they lose this game.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Coming to Tuscaloosa, Part Deux

Yesterday, we previewed some of the local Tuscaloosa eateries, and some additions were made in comments. I just want to give my thoughts on some of the additions.

My wife and I had our first date at DePalma's, a nice Italian/Mediterranean restaurant near the Strip. It's good and reasonably priced. It's kind of a "nice" place, but they aren't at all snooty. They won't be upset at all if you show up with jeans and a nice T-shirt, but it's probably best not to wear game day colors. The food is quite good and it's not among the more expensive restaurants in town.

Our choice for Chinese food is Swen's, which is also located on the Strip, in a little shopping center across the street from the Publix. It's not a buffet, and I consider that a good thing. A friend swears by Lai Lai, but my one foray there wasn't that good. It's also on the Strip.

If you're looking for a wings place, my recommendation is Bob Baumhower's Wings. It's very Bama-oriented, but I'm sure they'd take your money. My favorite thing they make is the "Black & White Chicken" which is blackened grilled chicken with a white bar-b-que sauce.

I've eaten at Chuck's Fish once, and it was good, but it's probably the priciest restaurant I've discussed in these two posts. It has, as the name would suggest, fish. It also has steak, but I haven't tried their steak. I heard it was good though. This is a fine restaurant, but if you're interested in spending $30 for a meal (without drinks or dessert), I think you can get better food at The Globe in Northport.

Another fine dining option is Kozy's. The only downside to Kozy's is that it is really out of the way. It has a very interested interior, with a Hollywood theme. There are lots of pictures of Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, etc. around the restaurant. I believe there are times when there's a piano player as well. I haven't been there in quite some time, but I remember it being quite good. It's on the other side of town from the stadium though, and you really have to be looking for it. If you want to find it, go down 15th Street and cross McFarland Blvd. Go down a couple miles until you get to an exit for Loop Rd. Take that exit, and it will be on the right.

I don't recommend Evangeline's, which I've been to once. It's very expensive (more than The Globe), and I found the food to be mediocre, the restaurant to be pretentious, and the staff to be rude. It was one of those places that was so dark you could barely see your food.

Newk's is a good sandwich/deli/salad type place. It is a small chain, sort of like a Jason's Deli. I'm particularly fond of the Black & Blue Salad, which is a salad with roast beef and blue cheese.

Cypress Inn is pretty well-known among people who travel here regularly. It's a very traditional Tuscaloosa restaurant on the river. The view of the river is nice, and the food is consistently good. The problem is that on a game weekend, you're probably going to be looking at especially long waits. If you go, be sure to eat the complimentary bran muffins, which are addictive. I've never had a bran muffin I've liked except there. It's kind of medium-priced. Expect to pay $12-$15 for an entree.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Coming to Tuscaloosa?

First, let me just say that I watched "Cavemen" last night because I thought the preview of the guy beating up the mascot looked funny. It really wasn't that bad. There is surely much worse television out there. This show had such lousy expectations, because everyone thought the premise was horrible and couldn't support a show. That may yet prove to be true, but the show isn't incompetently written or acted like may have been reported at times. The episode satirized racially insensitive mascots and the sometimes lame official explanations for them.

OK, on to the regular topic of the day. If you are an LSU fan and you're planning to come to Tuscaloosa for the game, and if you're looking for places to eat, here are my suggestions. I will stick to local, nonchain options you can only get in this area.

Alright, first let me just say because I know everyone likes to talk about it. Avoid Dreamland BBQ. It's a pretty low-quality option for bar-b-que that is much more popular with tourists and nostalgists than with people who actually like to eat good food and know the area. If you want good bar-b-que, there are much better local options. I suggest going to Archibald's/Woodrow's. There's one out in the boonies on Hwy 42 and another downtown. It's really good bar-b-que. Another option is Mike & Ed's, which is centrally located 15th St. near campus. I really liked Foxfire as well, but I think it may have closed down. If it's still open, it's located on Hwy. 69 towards Moundville.

If you prefer more fine-dining fare, I suggest The Globe restaurant, located in downtown Northport. It has a good variety of very good food, a good wine list, linen table cloths, etc. If money is no object and you're not concerned about it taking a little while, this is the place to go. Entrees cost about $17-$20, and salads are separate. There's more expensive out there, but there isn't anything better place to eat in Tuscaloosa. It's got a nice atmosphere too with a Shakespeare theme to the interior. It's not exactly fine-dining, I suppose. It's more dressy-casual. It's probably best not to wear your gameday colors there, but pants and a polo shirt would be fine. My favorite selection is the Thai Curry, but there is all sorts of stuff there.

On the opposite end of the scale, on the way to Tuscaloosa is a restaurant called The Cotton Patch. It's a log cabin off of Exit 40, about a half-hour outside of Tuscaloosa. It's a stop-off point for a lot of people on their way to or from hunting locations, and the crowd is definitely more working class than at The Globe. The atmosphere is great though. It's lighted mostly by candlelight and heated by large fireplaces (it's always fun to go there in the winter). The food is typical southern country, with lots of fried chicken, country ham, etc. Avoid the ice cream for dessert. I don't know what was wrong with it when I got it, but it was not good. Don't let that stop you though.

For breakfast on game day or the day after, go to The Waysider, one of the oldest restaurants in Tuscaloosa. It's located on Greensboro Avenue across 15th street from the campus. It's kind of tucked away and is a little difficult to find, but is worth it. It's a standard southern country breakfast cooking, like your mama used to make (and still might). It's very Bama-oriented in the clientele and the decorations, but the people are friendly. I think it would be OK to wear colors, but don't be an ass.

If you're getting into town early, City Cafe in Northport is a good place to have breakfast, but it's only open on weekdays. It's similar to The Waysider in its style of cooking. Grits. Eggs. Biscuits. It's another very traditional local place. I once saw 60 Minutes' Ed Bradley there when he was doing a local story. It's rather inexpensive and they'll kind of hustle you in and hustle you out. The good news is they recently started accepting credit cards.

If you want a hamburger joint, I think Mugshots is the place to go. It's a very college-town atmosphere, kind of like a chicken wing place in that respect, but with hamburgers instead. Beer flows freely (except on Sundays of course), and the burgers and fries are good. It's located on Greensboro Avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa. Actually, I think this is a small chain, with locations in Starkville and one other place. It definitely specializes in college towns though.

For Mexican food, definitely go to Los Tarascos. There is one on Syland Blvd. near the Wal-Mart and another on McFarland Blvd deep in Northport. They have very good standard Mexican fare like fajitas, tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, but if you're feeling a little more adventurous, try to Shrimp Diablo or one of the other Chef's Specials on the back of the menu.

The selection of sushi is not as good in Tuscaloosa as it is in Baton Rouge, but if you absolutely must have sushi, Bento on the strip is a good option. It's good sushi reasonably priced. Parking is an issue because it's on the strip. If you're tailgating near there, just walk to it.

Well, that's about it. I'm sure there are other good options that I am not thinking about right at this second. I'm not saying that Tuscaloosa is like New Orleans in its culinary ability, but there are good options here. Try to avoid the fast food places or the O'Charleys of the world and experience a little local flavor while you're here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An Update on Recruiting

With the off week, we can catch back up on some other topics we've talked about before but haven't gotten to in a while. The recruiting front is really looking up for the Tigers right now. Back in July, we did a couple of posts entitled "Meet the Beat Alls". Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. These posts profiled some of the real high profile recruits LSU was targeting. We certainly were not going to get all of them, and as I said at the time it was not definite we'd get any of them.

Recently, one of them finally committed to us. Garland, Texas Defensive End Chancey Agayhere committed a week or so ago. He chose us over Florida and Texas, when it looked like he was going to be Florida all the way. He was dropped by Rivals a few months ago from 5-star status to high-4-star status, but may get that 5th star back at some point. He's definitely the highest profile recruit to commit to us this season so far.

But we are not done. We also got a commitment from 3-star Winterhaven, Florida quarterback D.C. Jefferson. Jefferson is a big kid, 6'6"230 pounds, and really good athlete. He runs a 4.7 40 yard dash, and has a 30 inch vertical. People who've seen him play compare him to Byron Leftwich. Byron has had trouble in the NFL, but he was a great college QB. This is not to say that Jefferson will be like Leftwich, but he's got similar size, mechanics, and style. And yes, I know I'm falling into the trap of comparing black quarterbacks to other black quarterbacks, but I don't know much about Jefferson other than what others are saying, and that's what they're saying. He's not as highly regarded at this point as current freshman QB Jarrett Lee, but that can be deceiving. There's no guarantee that Jarrett Lee is going to develop into a player, and LSU was in desperate need of a backup plan for the post-Perrilloux era.

But we are still not done. It appears that LSU may lead for the services of Pennsylvania/New Jersey linebacker Brendan Beal and/or for Tallahassee, Florida cornerback TJ Bryant. Both are currently Rivals 4-stars, but people were very critical of Bryant's recent demotion. I have it on good authority that Bryant is considered the #1 corner in the country by a lot of head coaches. He comes from Seminole country, and from a Seminole feeder school, but everyone is saying that he is open, and that he loved his visit to LSU. It's a long way to signing day, but getting Bryant would be possibly the biggest recruiting coup since Les Miles arrived on campus.

Beal is a high-4-star where he has been all season. He will be announcing on Wednesday, supposedly, and there are rumors circulating that he has told LSU coaches he will be committing to us. There are also rumors going around that he is all Florida, like has been suspected for quite some time.

On the offensive side of the ball, all signs point to us being nearly out of the picture with all-world wide receiver Julio Jones, but it appears that we will have a slew of very good wideouts such as DeAngelo Benton, Chris Tolliver, and DeAndre Brown coming to us. The problem with those guys is that they all have academic issues, and we'll probably be sweating each one of them qualifying.

Scholarships are getting to be in short supply now, and we may get into the position of having to turn good players away.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Around the SEC: Week 8

It's going to be a while before we play again. We get a well-deserved off-week now, so our players can rest up and heal up before taking on Bama, who also gets an off-week. In this time, we'll talk a little more about recruiting. I'll also publish a few tips for people coming to Tuscaloosa. In the meantime, we have Around The SEC to give you.

Bama 41
Tennessee 17

Let's revisit what I had to say about this game last week:
I think Tennessee is the better team, which is strange because I wouldn't have said that two weeks ago at this time. If there is any trend you may notice from my writings, it is that I do not believe the better team necessarily wins every game, and these teams are close enough in talent that you really couldn't make a confident prediction. Plus, Bama's at home, and they hate Tennessee more than the Baptists hate to drink in public. Bama's problem here is that Tennessee's offense is pretty darn explosive. It's also very balanced. They can run with Lamarcus Coker and Arrian Foster, and it can pass with Erik Ainge, who is quietly having the kind of season that might normally make someone a 1st Team All-SEC quarterback.
I said more, but that pretty much covers it. To me, both of these teams have been an enigma this year. Both teams have looked very good at times, and both teams have looked very bad at times. This week was Bama's best game of the season so far. They were really up for it and smoked Tennessee. It was all Tennessee could do to keep up in the 1st half, but they couldn't get anything going in the second. Now the question is, does this mean Bama is a really good team? Or did they just have a really good game? Because there's a difference.

John Parker Wilson's line makes him a candidate for the GeauxTuscaloosa Offensive Skill Position Player of the Week. He had 346 yards on 46 attempts, with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. DJ Hall, with his 13 receptions for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns may take it away from him though.

Vandy 17
South Carolina 6

There wasn't a point scored in the second half of this game, and Vandy didn't score at all after the first quarter. Anyway, this is the game I've thought Vandy had in it from the beginning, and they beat a top 10 team. What's more, thanks to the depth in the SEC this year, this game went untelevised except on GamePlan.

Arkansas 44
Ole Miss 8

Arkansas shows a little life, and finally gets a win in the conference. Meanwhile, the team that pushed Florida and Bama to the brink completely failed to show up, at home, against a mediocre team. Neither of these teams have any shot of winning the conference at this point, but both teams have shown the ability to play the spoiler.

Florida 45
Kentucky 37

Let me just say this now. Both of these teams are very good. In particular, they are both very good on offense. Both of these QBs are legitimate Heisman candidates at this point, with Tebow having the advantage at this point. Both Woodson and Tebow scored 5 touchdowns, with Woodson passing for all of them and Tebow running for one. Woodson had over 400 yards passing. What I don't like is that both padded their stats at the end with meaningless extra stats. Florida had the ball deep in Kentucky's territory with less than two minutes on the clock and ahead by a touchdown. They could have kneeled it three times and ended the game. Instead, they ran Tebow for a touchdown. Woodson got the ball back with about a minute and a half and drove his team for a last-second touchdown to cut the lead down to 8 before the extra point, which was never attempted. What was the purpose of these plays? None, except that Tebow had a "consecutive games with a rushing touchdown" streak to keep alive, and I got the impression Woodson really just didn't want the game to end.

I don't like Urban Meyer. I think he's a petty little man. I say this because of things that happen on the field as well as things that happen on the recruiting trail, where he supposedly is one of the worst "negative recruiters" out there, meaning he will do much more than others to denigrate other teams to recruits.

West Virginia 38
MSU 13

This game went pretty much how I expected. Pat White and Steve Slaton and the rest of the WVU team just had too much big play ability for MSU to compete.

LSU 30
Auburn 24

It appears that both Tommy Tuberville and Auburn OL Chazz Ramsey's father have addressed the issue of the illegal hit that Chazz Ramsey perpetrated on Glen Dorsey, ending his night. Ramsey, by the way, is a freshman offensive lineman, which I think impacts the decision of his father to speak for him. Tuberville said that he was not ordered to do that, and that they do not teach players to do that. He also said that because it was not intentional, there will be no discipline. Ramsey said that it was not intentional, but that his son should know better than to do that to someone when he's engaged with another lineman. The player has yet to comment as far as I know. I'd still like him to comment on it himself, but I'm glad that the people around him aren't ignoring the issue. Like I've said before, I give the kid the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't out to hurt anyone, but it was reckless. I said the exact same thing about Richard Murphy's spear in Captain Munnerlyn's back, and I say the same thing here. I doubt it was intended, but it can't be tolerated.

What does all this mean? Well, the East is just as wide open as it was at the beginning of the season. Florida controls its destiny, and wins it if they win out, but they have tough games remaining. This thing is far from decided.

In the West, LSU and Bama are in the driver's seats. The winner of the game two weeks from now only has to beat lesser teams down the stretch in order to win the division.

Oh, and the GeauxTuscaloosa Offensive Skill Position Player of the Week Award goes to DJ Hall of Alabama. Also considered were John Parker Wilson, Matt Flynn, Andre Woodson, and Tim Tebow.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Auburn: Additional Thoughts

First, let me just say how wrong all the talking heads were about that last play. Miles knew exactly what he was doing with the clock. He decided he wanted one crack at the end zone, followed by a 40 yard field goal attempt. He got the play into Flynn with plenty of time. Flynn took the snap about 2 seconds later than Miles probably would have hoped, but Flynn got the pass away with 7 seconds on the clock. There was PLENTY of time for the pass to fall incomplete and give us a field goal chance. The only reason it got to one second is because the clock operator allowed the time to bleed off after the play was over. If you look at replays, it is clear that there were 4 seconds on the clock when the play was over (see picture). I don't know why the clock kept running, but if it had been important to the game, time would have been added.

It wasn't that gutsy of a call. I'm not sure it was the right call to make, but Miles had perfectly rational reasons for choosing to play it that way. The plan ensured that if we scored, there would be little or no opportunity for Auburn to do anything with it. If I was the coach, I think I would have tried to play a little faster, maybe using my timeout there, and try to get a first down on the play and get a few more plays off. Miles saw it different. He saw an opportunity to get two chances at a game-winning play, the success of either of which would have virtually ended the game. That said, I think he planned for the play to the end zone to be over with about 4 seconds on the clock.

My second thought is that we are not a great team. Don't get me wrong. We are a good team. And we are certainly an exciting team. We're a team with character and personality. What we are not is great. Great teams don't win on last second or last-minute plays. Great teams blow other teams out. We haven't blown out a decent team since Virginia Tech. That's not to say I'm not proud of them. I am. But if we want to lay claim to being "great", we need to start dominating again.

My third thought is that there is no way in hell the hit on Dorsey was legal. I understand that the Auburn boards are aflutter with activity justifying and/or rationalizing the hit, but there's no way. It wasn't in any respect a legal hit. I'll give the player the benefit of the doubt that he was not out to injure Dorsey, particularly if he comes out and says it publicly. I do, however, believe we should make a concerted effort to put pressure on him to do so. I'm going to call into some of the local radio shows to bring up the subject. I think others should do the same. If the kid comes out and says, "I'm sorry it happened, and I didn't mean to do that," I say the controversy is over. But he should do it. You can't hit a person like that and not answer for it. He could have ended Dorsey's season and cost him millions of dollars on a blatantly illegal hit. I think he'd be suspended and fined for it if he was in the NFL.

*I don't know who to credit for the incredible picture that accompanies this entry. I found it in a post by MikeDTiger in this thread over at TigerDroppings. Brilliant!

Auburn: Post Game

I went to bed pretty much right after the game ended, but now I'm up with a baby that decided to throw a temper tantrum. I don't know if or when I'll get back to sleep tonight.

That game. Wow. It's hard to top the Florida game for drama, but that game at least matched it. What's more, I think we finally came alive in the second half and showed the kind of team we're capable of being. After Auburn went up 17-7, we outscored them 23-7 the rest of the way and dominated their offense most of the time. That we almost lost anyway is kind of crazy.

The final touchdown pass to Demetrius Byrd was a phenomenal throw and a phenomenal catch, especially under the circumstances. I strongly disagree with the announcers about the timing. It is clear we would have had 1 to 2 seconds left on the clock to try a field goal if that one had fallen incomplete. The bigger worry is that we would have gotten sacked or gotten the ball intercepted, either of which probably would have ended the game.

I will say, I did not understand Miles' strategy at the time, and I don't understand it now. We had a third down and about 7 with about 35 seconds on the clock from the 22 yard line with a timeout available. I guess Miles decided he wanted one shot to the end zone, and failing that, a last second field goal attempt for the win. With the result unknown beforehand, I sure would have wanted to have a move-the-chains route available as an option, with then a fresh set of downs to take a couple of shots at the end zone.

Les Miles disagrees with me, however, and Les Miles picked up a big win. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here typing with a 7-month-old in my lap.

Some further observations:
  • Brandon Lafell is going to be a very good receiver for us, but right now the drops are in his head. Until he gets over this thing, he's a liability to us in the passing game. Unfortunately, the only way for him to get past it is to keep getting throws his way until he catches enough of them to regain his confidence. One is reminded of Steve Sax and his inability to make an easy throw from 2nd base to 1st base back in the '80s and early '90s.
  • That hit on Dorsey was dirty. I want to give a player the benefit of the doubt and say that he didn't go out there thinking, "I'm going to spear their best player in the side of the knee," but it's criminal that it happened right in front of the ref and was uncalled. They said on TV that it was just a sprain, but we know how cagey the coaches are about injuries. I sure hope he can come back soon.
  • Demetrius Byrd hasn't caught a ton of passes, but he sure has caught some big ones. The 4th down touchdown pass against Florida two weeks ago and the final-seconds touchdown pass against Auburn, a game winner. I questioned the decision to recruit him, but he's been our best receiver outside of Doucet. Once again, Miles is coaching, and I'm typing at 3:45am with a baby in my lap.
  • Despite the last Auburn drive, I really think the second half of this game signaled a re-awakening of our defense, which was excellent for most of the game except the first possession and the last possession.
  • Matt Flynn played his best game as a Tiger tonight. Three touchdowns, 1 interception, and nearly 10 yards per attempt are numbers that would win you the Heisman Trophy if you got them consistently. And the one interception wasn't his fault at all, and should have been a big completion for a lot of yards, putting him in position to get another touchdown pass. He did well running the ball as well.
  • Ryan Perrilloux is still going to be great when he gets his chance to run the offense next year. Tough night tonight, but he'll be fine.
  • I really don't know why Auburn kept squib kicking it. We haven't been a particularly dangerous return team all year. They looked back there and saw the little guy and must have thought, "Better keep it away from the guy who looks like a 14 year old. He must be awesome. He's certainly awesome in some respects, but he really hasn't been all that dangerous on kickoff returns this year. Auburn just gifted us great field position after every score.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Game Day: Auburn

Yet another fateful day is here, and today marks the 2/3 mark of the season for us. Game 8. It's also, needless to say, Auburn. Everyone with a lick of sense holds a special place in their hearts for hatred of Auburn.

But it's going to be a long day before we get to Auburn. There are only three SEC games on television this week, which is a mild disappointment, especially since USC vs. Vandy is not being televised. Here're my plans for the day:

Now until 11:30am: Various chores and activities, including a trip to the Kentuck Art Festival with my family. There will possibly be a trip to the library as well, and likely a short jaunt to the grocery store to buy milk and other household supplies.

11:30am - 2:30pm: Tennessee at Bama, Lincoln-Financial. If it's not over at 2:30, and if it's still competitive, I'll keep watching. I think Tennessee is the better team, which is strange because I wouldn't have said that two weeks ago at this time. If there is any trend you may notice from my writings, it is that I do not believe the better team necessarily wins every game, and these teams are close enough in talent that you really couldn't make a confident prediction. Plus, Bama's at home, and they hate Tennessee more than the Baptists hate to drink in public. Bama's problem here is that Tennessee's offense is pretty darn explosive. It's also very balanced. They can run with Lamarcus Coker and Arrian Foster, and it can pass with Erik Ainge, who is quietly having the kind of season that might normally make someone a 1st Team All-SEC quarterback. Too bad for him there's a guy named Woodson and a guy like Tebow stealing all the headlines. Bama's defense has been surprisingly good at times, and got something of a preview of this kind of offense when it went against a surprisingly dynamic Ole Miss team. They didn't have much success defensively against Ole Miss though, so they'll have to improve a lot from last week to this week. Bama can win, but it will be tough. They'll need Tennessee to be flat.

An interesting point: If Bama loses to Tennessee, they STILL control their destiny in the West. They will have two SEC losses, but both to Eastern Division opponents. If they win out after that, both Auburn and LSU will have at least two losses, at least one of which will be against a Western Division opponent. Bama would win the West. Further, a win here won't really help Bama in the SEC West, as they'd still have to probably win out in order to win the West.

2:30pm - 6:00 pm: Florida at Kentucky, CBS. I think Kentucky has a real chance here. And yes, I think that in part because of how they played us. They showed real character in beating us. It will be an uphill climb, but I think they got a lot of confidence from that win. Florida's secondary is young, and Kentucky's quarterback is great. That's a recipe for success if you're Kentucky. If Kentucky can bring the physical play the way they did last week on the defensive side of the ball, they're a very good football team.

7:00pm - 8:00pm: Michigan at Illinois, ABC: Go Fightin' Zooks!

8:00pm - midnight: Auburn at LSU, ESPN. Obviously, this is a big game for both teams. I don't think the loser has a prayer in the SEC West, and the winner has a very good chance of holding onto the top spot. Right now, only LSU, Auburn, and Bama control their destinies in the West. Arkansas, Ole Miss, and MSU have no real chance. I think the LSU/Auburn/Bama round-robin that occurs in the next several weeks decides the West, and that LSU and Auburn are both a little better than Bama at this point.

Friday, October 19, 2007

More Auburn

The more I think about this game, the less I have a good feeling about it. Yes, I think we have more talent than Auburn, but we have been making mistakes and playing so poorly lately that I think we are not peaking. We're valleying. Our passing game has been unreliable, and we have turned to running twice as much as we pass. Our defense looked very ordinary against Kentucky, and hasn't dominated an opponent since we played MTSU.

It is certainly possible that the loss to Kentucky will propel us out of our doldrums and motivate us to play a spirited game against arguably our most hated rival.

The good news is that I don't think Auburn is as good as Kentucky, and Kentucky had to play their best game to beat us. The better news is that I do not think Auburn is capable of beating us unless they play at their highest level and we fail to play at our highest level. The bad news is that we haven't played at our highest level in quite some time, and Auburn has.

For what it's worth, put me in the camp that says a) put Perrilloux in the game more and b) use blitzes and press coverage more.

As for Perrilloux, it is clear that he is the more talented QB between he and Flynn. Flynn's more experienced, but he has not been effective. If you look at the conference statistics, Flynn is in the bottom half in terms of his effectiveness. Part of that has certainly been his injured ankle, which allegedly is healed up now. Another part of that has certainly been drops by the receivers, and I can't blame him for that. Perrilloux has simply been much more effective, with the same receivers and the same blockers. Part of that may be that he is a "change up" who only gets specialty plays, but maybe we should be using those plays more.

Last night, I watched the Rutgers vs. South Florida game, and Rutgers gave us some of the help we needed. They did it by sacking the USF quarterback 7 times and pressuring him many more times. They did that by blitzing a lot. I know that QBs are using a lot of quick drops and quick throws to neutralize our rush, but that only intensifies the need to get pressure. We should be taking advantage of their plan to throw quickly by using pressure coverage and not let receivers get into their routes. Tight, press coverage is how you beat a quick passing game, and that frees up more players to rush. Lately, we've been letting QBs have their way in the pocket.

Tomorrow's going to be a very long day, but I'm excited about it. Football is a wonderful sport, and we're still very much in the hunt for the national championship and the conference championship. All we need to do is win. Win our games, and the rest of it should take care of itself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

SEC Preview Week 8

As it so happened, Homer at the Bat aired last night in local syndication. I was very impressed with the timing. The show is hilarious, and the commenter who corrected me about the plot points is correct. I had forgotten how funny Darryl Strawberry's appearance was in that show.

It's yet another in an endless string of big weekends in the SEC this week. Once again, it's so big that a fairly interesting matchup between Ole Miss and Arkansas won't be televised, and neither will a big OOC matchup between MSU and West Virginia. I guess at this point neither Ole Miss nor Arkansas are a threat to win the West, so it's not such a big deal that they're off of television. It appears there will be TWO Lincoln-Financial games this week, and both will be fairly substantial matchups. We'll get to all that now.

Tennessee at Bama, 11:30am Lincoln-Financial. People are very upset that this is the 11:30 game this week, as it is one of the most bitter rivalries in the SEC. And I can see their complaints. Both of these teams still control their destinies in their respective divisions. Tennessee, for one, has looked pretty good recently. It is, in fact, a very heated rivalry. The problem is that the other games on the schedule just look more attractive right now. The game between Auburn and LSU appears to once again be a fight for supremacy in the west and the game between Florida and Kentucky looks like a heavyweight fight. This one looks more like a middleweight fight at this point. By the end of the season, I could be eating those words, but at this point this matchup just doesn't look as compelling as the other ones on the schedule. Will I watch it? Heck yeah. I mean, it's Tennessee vs. Bama. We might see actual violence perpetrated against a certain coach.

Vandy at South Carolina, 11:30am, (Lincoln-Financial?). I can't figure out if this game is an alternate LF game or not. It's at 11:30. It's on GamePlan. But I haven't heard anything about it being an alternate LF game. It would be kind of a shame if this game was off of regular television entirely. South Carolina looks to be a serious challenger in the East this year, while Vandy is still... um... waiting to have that breakout game I keep expecting. If Vandy QB Chris Nickson can have a half-decent game against a half-decent opponent, Vandy is a dangerous team. South Carolina, meanwhile, just keeps looking better and better as the season progresses. I think they are legitimately the best team in the East right now, and they're just waiting for their game with Florida to prove it.

Arkansas at Ole Miss, 1:00pm, no television. Arkansas has to be the most disappointing team in the conference. I expected them to be a very good team, but they're winless in the conference and have looked pretty flat. After his 40-something yard rushing game against Auburn, Darren McFadden is out of the Heisman race. Marcus Monk is thinking about redshirting. Houston Nutt is thinking about life after Arkansas. Ole Miss has quietly become the worst team in the conference, even though I think they're a better team than they were last year. Their offense is much more dynamic and they have a lot more skilled players. Other teams, like MSU and Vandy, have just gotten better faster.

Florida at Kentucky, 2:30pm CBS. Kentucky will try to build on its win against LSU, and I for one hope they beat the Gators. If they play with the fire and passion they did against LSU, they have an excellent chance. It's hard to sustain that kind of effort over the long haul, however. I thought we could be more physical than Kentucky, but we couldn't. They surprised me with their intensity. Will they surprise Florida? Will they ask Tebow to put up another Herculean effort?

Mississippi State at West Virginia, 2:30pm Gameplan. I'm not sure this game has any regional coverage here. I'm not particularly interested in it, because I think WVU will pulverize Mississippi State. I could be wrong though. MSU plays a solid defensive and running game. They just are going to have problem with teams that put up big plays, which is West Virginia forte. I actually expect MSU to play them pretty tough, but I don't expect them to come out with a win here. There's just too much speed and big play ability on the other side of the ball.

Auburn at LSU, 8:00pm ESPN. Does anyone realize that Auburn is just a couple of plays away from being undefeated? Then again, almost every game is decided by just a couple of plays, and them's the breaks. It has been said, I think by Bear Bryant that, "You can't get your team up for every game. You can only get them up three times a year. The rest of the games, you better have more talent." I think this is a game we're going to be up for. It's one of our three, because Auburn is maybe our biggest on-field rival in the last decade, and they beat us last year. They've looked really good lately, even though they only put up 9 points last week (in a win). They still don't have a ton of weapons on offense, but their offense is greatly improved from early in the season. Still, I think we are the more talented team. We just have to go out there and play our best, and we should win. If we're playing our best, and playing spirited football, I think we're 2 or 3 touchdowns better than Auburn at their best.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

So What Is the Deal with Corndogs Anyway?

In 1992, The Simpsons (arguably the greatest TV show ever made) aired an episode entitled Homer at the Bat. In this episode, the nuclear power plant was playing a high stakes softball game, and local wealthy, ancient tyrant Monty Burns hired several ringers from Major League Baseball to stack the odds in his favor.

One of the players hired was Don Mattingly, whom Mr. Burns repeatedly told to shave his sideburns, even though he didn't have any sideburns. Finally, Mattingly presents himself to Mr. Burns with the sides of his head entirely shaved off. Mr. Burns still tells Mr. Baseball, "I told you to get rid of those sideburns." Mattingly responds "I don't know what you think sideburns are, but..." and quits the team.

The humor comes from the confused and exasperated responses of Don Mattingly, who is repeatedly admonished for something that is clearly untrue, until he decides to simply give up rather than continue defending himself.

I feel the same is true of the standard Auburn refrain of calling LSU fans "corndogs". It is so bizarre and out of place that it, in its own way, becomes really funny. If you ask an Auburn fan why they call us "corndogs", they'll respond, "because they smell like corndogs."

A little background. Corndogs are not, in any sense of the word, a typical Louisiana food. In fact, I do not know a single Louisianian who eats corn dogs regularly. I for one doubt I've had one since my age was in single digits. Yet, despite this, Auburn fans insist we smell of corndogs.

I've been told that this epithet originated when Auburn visited Oklahoma some decades ago, and learned that Oklahoma fans called Nebraska fans "the corndogs" and said they smelled of corndogs. Nebraska grows a lot of corn. They liked the insult so much they decided to import it back to the SEC and apply it to LSU, where corn is not a big staple crop or a major part of the diet. Its sheer inappropriateness has bewildered LSU fans ever since.

It's like if LSU fans decided to start calling Bama fans "the hippies" because of their progressive attitudes towards race relations and the environment.

If you go to an LSU game, you will see endless tailgates featuring a variety of gumbos, jambalayas, etouffes, soups, grilled meats, and seafood featuring local ingredients prepared in distinctly local ways. And in response to this variegated culinary attack on the senses, the Auburn fans, bizarrely, decided we smelled of corndogs. It's strangely brilliant in how it cuts right at our pride in local culinary achievement. Despite our famous skill in combining ingredients and adding heat, it is all a waste because we may as well have just had corndogs for all of its effect on outsiders. I don't know if they meant it to be this complicated of a form of humor, but that's how I see it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Anyone like corndogs?

Alright, we eventually have to get over the loss to the Wildcats. There are still more goals for the season, and we control our destiny for all of our goals except the National Championship, for which we need a little help. But it all starts with winning the rest of our games, and if we play well we can certainly win the rest of them.

We start with Auburn in a Tiger Stadium night game. Auburn has been a bit schizophrenic this year, starting out the season almost completely unable to move the ball. Through their first 3 games, they averaged 301 yards per game. Starting with the big win against Florida, they have averaged more like 340 yards per game and have substantially outgained their opponents each week.

Beating Auburn starts with being able to move the ball against their quick, undersized defense. I know that Auburn had some significant injuries on their defense, but I do not know if those guys are going to return for this game or not. If not, that certainly makes things easier, but probably no easier than it should have been against Kentucky.

Offensively, Auburn throws a "balanced" attacked at you. It's balanced in the sense that neither the running phase nor the passing phase has been particularly great, but things have definitely picked up for them lately. You could say it comes from the return of starting tailback Brad Lester, but he's not exactly tearing it up out there, averaging less than 5.0 yards per carry. Perhaps he is causing defenses to key on him, and he's opening up the passing game, which has also looked a lot more effective lately.

Early in the season, Auburn fans were calling for the benching of Brandon Cox, but he's been effective lately. They've found a receiver in Rod Smith, and they throw to backs out of the backfield at times. And yes, like other teams, they run a 2-quarterback system, with an experienced passer and a less experienced runner coming in at times.

I think we should beat Auburn, as long as we play competent football. I don't think we played competent football last week. We need to avoid dumb penalties, catch catchable balls, and avoid turnovers. If we can do those things, I think we win this game. If we have another week where big plays are overturned based on penalties or where we drop a ton of passes, it's going to be another long week.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Day After: Kentucky

We lost. We could have won. Perhaps we should have won. But we lost.

We can look at the plays that could have gone another way. Terrance Toliver's questionable pass interference call that negated a big play that would have likely set up a touchdown. Terrance Toliver's unquestionable illegal touching penalty that negated a big play that would have likely set up a touchdown. The colossally dumb roughing the passer penalty on Tyson Jackson where he hit Woodson in the head not once, but twice, letting Kentucky out of a 2nd and long situation in overtime. The defensive holding call that was not captured by the cameras, so cannot be evaluated. The pass to Demetrius Byrd that would have given LSU a first down, but was overturned on replay despite, in my opinion, there being no definitive replay showing the ball hit the ground. The bad throw by Flynn resulting in an interception when Lafell was streaking alone to the end zone. The bad throw by Flynn combined with the drop by Lafell that would have put LSU in relatively easy field goal range on the last possession of regulation. The tipped pass that improbably went right into the hands of the Kentucky tight end for a touchdown.

Any of those plays could have gone differently, and we'd likely be celebrating a win right now. But let's give Kentucky credit. There were two points in that game where I thought Kentucky had given up, or would soon do so. When we went ahead by 10 points late in the first half, and had the prospect of getting the ball first in the 2nd half, I thought Kentucky was finished. Instead, they got a quick strike for a touchdown, and kept playing. When we were ahead by 10 points in the second half and Chad Jones made a spectacular play for an interception, I thought we'd drive for a touchdown to go up by 3 scores, and Kentucky would fold the tents. We couldn't get the touchdown, and Kentucky came alive.

There's one other observation to make about this game. That observation is that this game is the culmination of several consecutive weeks where, in retrospect, you can see that we were not playing all that well. Starting with the South Carolina game, our vaunted defense has dominated only at times and at other times has looked very beatable. Starting with the South Carolina game, our offense has had problems getting passing yards, due to a combination of poor blocking, poor throwing, and poor catching. Not all at once, mind you, but something frequently goes wrong on particularly pass plays to result in a negative play. Either the protection will collapse, Flynn will throw an off-target ball, or a receiver will drop it.

We lost because we'd been building towards a loss for the last several weeks. We've made too many mistakes in the form of penalties, dropped balls, missed coverages, and missed tackles. Last night, it finally got to us.

The good news is that we can still reach all of our goals on the season. We still control our destiny in the SEC, and we still have a shot at reaching the National Championship game, but we have to play better. We have to figure out why receivers can get open in the middle of the field. We have to figure out why we're not getting it done in the passing game. We have to figure out why we're getting dumb penalties. If we do that, and get back to the level of play we saw against Virginia Tech, we'll go back to being unbeatable.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Game Day: Kentucky

We've been inundated with retrospectives on the Bluegrass Miracle. We've been inundated with talk of Andre Woodson's Heisman chances (slim now). We've been inundated with talk Kentucky's chances of winning the SEC East (not particularly good unless they can figure out how to win one of the next two games, and even then, not exactly great). Now it's Game Day, and time for all that talk to stop. It's time to play the game.

But what will be today's activities. After I'm done here, I'm probably going to go grocery shopping. Then I'll do more household errands and such, until about 11:00am.

11:00am-11:30am: Illinois vs. Iowa, ESPN2. My Fightin' Zooks continue their drive for the Rose Bowl, and for once I can say they're decided favorites in a conference game.

11:30am-2:30pm: Alabama vs. Ole Miss, Lincoln-Financial. I like the Zooks, but I have to watch the SEC. It's what my readership pays me to do. I don't think it's a big secret what's going on in this game. Bama is better, but not prohibitively better. Ole Miss can win, but has to play its best and hope Bama has another uninspired performance. If they get this, they can win, and talk radio will be very interesting this week. Still, the most likely result is a Bama win, which put Bama on the verge of being bowl-eligible.

2:30pm-6:00pm: LSU vs. Kentucky, CBS. Kentucky is a dangerous team, because they have very good skill players. What they lack are the players in the trenches. We should dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. If we have another game like we played against Tulane though, look out. This could get ugly. Following last week's intense, punishing matchup, I really look for our coaches to rotate in a lot more backups along the lines and at running back.

6:00pm - 7:00pm: Georgia at Vandy, ESPN2. I'll catch a little of this game if it's still competitive. I'm expecting Vandy to have a breakout game at some point this season, but they have looked pretty bad whenever they've played a decent team. Georgia laid an egg last week, and it remains to be seen how that team responds.

7:00pm - 11:00pm: Auburn at Arkansas, ESPN. Auburn has a lot of positive momentum, but they're playing a team designed to beat them. Auburn is a little light on the defensive line, and has small, quick linebackers. Arkansas runs right at you, negating any speed advantage you may have, and exploiting a size advantage it has. Arkansas's big problem here is on defense, but Auburn hasn't exactly shown a consistently good offense this year. There's no reason to think Arkansas can't win this game, but that's not the same as saying they will win it. This game could go down to the wire.

Every week is huge in the SEC, and while this may not be the biggest out there, an upset or two could REALLY shake things up in both divisions.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Quarterbacks at the Halfway Point

We're at roughly the halfway point in the season, and it's time to evaluate the SEC quarterbacks. Before the season, we developed the GeauxTuscaloosa Quarterback Productivity Index, a statistical measure designed to tell us which quarterbacks were being effective in their roles, by which is meant which quarterbacks are having success when the ball is in their hands.

The GTQBPI is determined by adding up passing yards and rushing yards, with a 20 yard bonus for all touchdowns and a 30 yard penalty for all interceptions, and dividing by the total number of pass attempts and rushing attempts. It provides a result in units of yards/play.

Here are the results so far this season, among quarterbacks who are currently starting for their team:

  1. Tim Tebow, Florida, 9.11
  2. Andre Woodson, Kentucky, 7.68
  3. Erik Ainge, Tennessee, 7.50
  4. Chris Smelley, USC, 6.79
  5. Seth Adams, Ole Miss, 6.38
  6. Casey Dick, Arkansas, 6.21
  7. Matthew Stafford, Georgia, 6.02
  8. Matt Flynn, LSU, 5.70
  9. John Parker Wilson, Bama, 5.62
  10. Chris Nickson, Vandy, 5.46
  11. Brandon Cox, Auburn 4.85
  12. Michael Henig, MSU 1.79
The first observation about this is that numbers are way down from last year. In 2006, a rating of 6.0 would have put you among the league worst, down with Michael Henig and Brent Schaeffer. This year, 6.0 is pretty much average. Last year, a 7.68 was good, but nothing spectacular. This year, it means you have an outside shot at the Heisman Trophy. That means that SEC teams are having a harder time passing this year than last year.

Second, there is a massive gulf between #1 and #2. The difference between Tebow and Woodson is about as big as the difference between Woodson and Casey Dick. And before you criticize any statistic that would put Casey Dick in the middle of the pack, realize that Arkansas doesn't ask Dick to do much. He's made fewer pass attempts than Matt Flynn, who has split time with Ryan Perrilloux and missed a game to injury. This statistic measures how you do with what you're asked to do, not how much you're actually helping your team win.

In a conference where quarterbacks' statistics are overall down, Tebow's are just as good as the #1 last year, Jamarcus Russell. Actually, the most effective QB in the conference this year is Ryan Perrilloux, but he's not the starter, so he's not on the list. Ryan comes in the game during a lot of goal line situations and racked up a lot of stats against an overmatched MTSU. But there's no denying he's been very effective. He's averaging over 10 yards per pass attempt, and he's scored more touchdowns than the starter has. Yes, LSU will be just fine with Perrilloux as the starter next year.

But I digress. Tim Tebow should really be getting a lot more Heisman talk. He's been by far the most effective and most important quarterback in the best conference. His team goes where he takes them, and they've gone pretty far to this point.

My third observation is that Ole Miss can suddenly pass the ball pretty well. Seth Adams' numbers are not an artifact of a low number of attempts. He's 3rd in the league in passing yards, and tied for 3rd in touchdown passes. He's been pretty darn good, and you have to give him some credit here. He was a former walk-on whose stats are better than those of Matthew Stafford, John Parker Wilson, and Matt Flynn.

Fourth, Matt Flynn has not been very effective this year, his first and only year as the starting quarterback. You can say it is because of his ankle injury, but his numbers weren't all that great before his injury. Simply put, he has struggled. The numbers are definitely down a bit since he and Early Doucet got injured, and you can see it in the play on the field without even looking at the numbers. Part of that is because of drops by the receivers, but part is due to just plain old ineffectiveness. Hopefully now with Flynn looking a lot healthier and Doucet back on the field, we will see a more effective passing game.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Week 7 SEC Preview

They're all big weeks in the SEC, now that we're heavily into conference play. While there are no real marquee matchups unless you count LSU vs. Kentucky, there are games that will factor heavily into division races, games that may factor into coach-firings, and maybe provide us with an upset or two.

Bama at Ole Miss, 11:30am Lincoln-Financial. Those of you who are keeping up certainly know that Bama is reeling. Last week's game against the Houston Cougars came down to a last-second jump ball in the end zone after Houston's comeback from down 23. Prior to that, Bama lost two consecutive games to decent, but not great, teams. Now they get a team that is arguably the least talented in the conference. Can you name the significant wins Ed Orgeron has had at Ole Miss head coach? While they've steadily marched to 4-win seasons in recent years, they don't have a single win against the more prestigious programs. Sly Croom at Mississippi State has had one per year since 2005 (Florida, Bama, and Auburn). Ole Miss's biggest wins in that time have come against Mississippi State. Ole Miss has been close. They lost to LSU in overtime last year, and lost to Florida by 2 points earlier this year. Ole Miss may be the least talented team in the league, but there isn't a very wide disparity here like in other conferences. Hell, everyone thought they'd struggle in their quarterbacking this year in starting a former walk-on, but he's been one of the more productive QBs in the conference. Their running game is just as good as last year (but that wasn't really all that great, despite BenJarvis Green-Ellis's gaudy cumulative stats). Their defense has been their problem this year.

For Bama, this year has gone the opposite of expectations. People believed Bama's offense would be explosive, but that the defense would be suspect, forcing Bama to win a lot of games with 70 or more accumulated points. Instead, the defense has been pretty good while the offense has struggled, particularly in the passing game.

Bama's the better team, but this isn't a bad place to look for an upset. Orgeron's due for one, and Bama has really been struggling lately. Some say Orgeron's already playing for his job, but I don't know if that's true. He'll be playing for his job next year.

Tennessee at Mississippi State, 2:30pm no television. With the volume of decent conference games this week, this rather intriguing matchup gets shuffled off the regular TV rotation. It's on GamePlan, but I don't get GamePlan. Mississippi State is not the bumbling team I expected them to be, but they're still a team that will have problem winning games. This one will be no exception. Tennessee played a game last week that I never expected them to be able to play. Can they sustain it? If they can sustain that level of play, MSU has no chance against them. The Tennessee that played last week is just too explosive and just too good on defense to be beaten by a plodding mule like MSU. However, if Tennessee reverts back to the slow, tentative, spiritless play they demonstrated against Florida and Cal, the plodding mule might just get them. A loss here for Tennessee probably knocks them out of contention for the SEC East. A win for MSU makes a bowl game a distinct possibility.

LSU at Kentucky, 2:30pm CBS. We've already talked about this game, but there's more to say. Yesterday, we learned that Early Doucet has returned to practice for the Tigers. This is astoundingly good news. He makes this offense so much more versatile. Our passing game has struggled for 3 straight weeks, and you have to think it's in part because our best wide receiver has been unavailable. The guy who can break away from single coverage and make the catch consistently has been out. The guy who draws the double teams has been out. The return of Early Doucet will open up the field for us, making Lafell, Byrd, Tolliver, and the Mitchells all better. Now, with Flynn healthier and Doucet at least healthy ENOUGH to play some, we're much better than we were against South Carolina, Tulane, and Florida.

South Carolina at North Carolina, 2:30pm ABC regional coverage. I don't know much about North Carolina, but I know this. They aren't in the SEC. As such, this game, as competitive as it may or may not be, is not particularly important. SC can reach all of its goals even if they lose this game. All it will count for us bowl position. The good news for South Carolina is that North Carolina is apparently not very good. They're 2-4 on the season, having lost to unranked East Carolina and Virginia, plus South Florida and Virginia Tech.

Georgia at Vandy, 5:00pm ESPN2. Vandy is probably the most disappointing team in the conference for me. They're at 3-2, but have lost to Auburn and Bama in games in which they were not competitive at all. Their offense ranks near the bottom of the conference in scoring, passing, and rushing. That's all the major categories there, people. And I expected them to be explosive. The problem has been in their QB, sophomore Chris Nickson, who some were saying was an All-Conference calibre player. He's completing just over 50% of his passes, and in their two losses has combined for 105 passing yards with 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, and -12 rushing yards. When the games get big, he's gotten terrible. Georgia's not that great either, but they're decent, and they're an opportunity for Vandy to get off the mat and show that they're a half-decent team like I expected.

Auburn at Arkansas, 7:00pm ESPN. Houston Nutt is fighting for his job. They're 3-2, but their wins have been against non-conference patsies. Their losses have been to an unspectacular Bama team and to Kentucky. Not terrible losses, mind you, but also games the good teams are expected to win one or two of. Now they get a resurgent Auburn team. Now there's a word we're using a lot this year. "Resurgent". Auburn's being resurgent. Tennessee is being resurgent. I guess Kentucky and South Carolina are just getting surgent. If Arkansas can win this one, then they'll be resurgent as well. Like last year, Arkansas can't throw. The problem is compounded because their best receivers are all on the sidelines with injuries. Marcus Monk was supposed to be back weeks ago, but still hasn't played. Auburn's suddenly started looking very good. Their offensive line has stabilized. Their best running back returned to the field. Their receivers have started catching the ball. We knew they'd get better as the season progressed, but right now they definitely look like the stiffest competition we have in the West.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Kentucky Preview

Get a good look at this kid. You'll be seeing a lot of him. He is Andre Woodson, and he might be the best pure pocket passer in the country. What he is not is the scrambling, physical quarterback who has given us fits this season. We have really played well against drop back passers this season by getting pressure on them, and Woodson can certainly be pressured. He's been sacked 12 times this year, which is actually a significant improvement from his pace last year, in which he was ultimately sacked 36 times.

Kentucky presents a new type of challenge for us. They are a finesse team, with probably the best collection of skill position offensive players in the conference. Outside of Woodson, the best passer in the conference, they have wide receiver Keenan Burton who may be a 1st team All-SEC wide receiver, Jacob Tamme who may be the best tight end in the country, and Raphael Little who is averaging 6.7 yards per carry as a running back.

As a team, they are averaging over 6 yards per carry if you take out the sacks from the equation. In other words, this is an explosive offense that can move the ball and score. Points scored in their games are 50, 56, 40, 42, 45, and 23.

But it's also an offense that I think can be dominated at the line. That 23 number was put up against the only really good defensive team they've played: South Carolina. The Gamecocks also scored two defensive touchdowns. They did it by beating Kentucky at the line of scrimmage and forcing fumbles. South Carolina, in beating Kentucky at the line of scrimmage and by successfully covering the receivers (SC has one of the nation's best passing defenses), really made Kentucky look pretty bad at times.

Defensively, Kentucky is hardly a juggernaut. They've given up scores of 10, 20, 34, 29, 17, and 38. They are 10th in the league in rushing defense, and 7th in the league in passing defense, having not really played a lot of great teams. They are 10th in the conference in total defense, and 2nd in total offense.

I think I'm not really going out on a limb by saying that Kentucky is not as good as we are. They have great skill position players, but they don't have the athletes all over the field that we have. We are the kind of team that, if we come prepared to play, can beat Kentucky soundly. We can dominate them at both lines of scrimmage and we can bring wave after wave of quality running back and wide receiver at their linebackers and defensive backs and wear them down.

Ah, but there's that phrase. "If we come to play." You may have noticed we played a game not that long ago, and that it may have been somewhat draining. Alright, it was the most physical and emotional game we've played in recent memory. It was maybe the most emotional win this team has had in the regular season since Herb Tyler beat Florida. The fans at least have not really moved on from it. The coaches and the players had better be way ahead of the fans, because Kentucky has had a long week, having played last Thursday.

This game will be decided by the mental element. I think if we're ready to play, we are a much better team and we are likely to win it going away. If we're flat and not ready to play, like we were against Tulane, we may very well get beaten. Kentucky is much more dangerous than Tulane. They may be soft, but they have a high skill level.

This is the sort of game where teams lose championships. As often as a good team loses a titanic matchup against another championship calibre team, it seems that more often that team loses to a decent but inferior team that simply catches them unprepared to play. Think of Florida losing to Auburn last year, or Oklahoma losing to Colorado this year. Or any number of upsets this year for that matter. This is what we're up against this week, the possibility of a let down.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Week 6 Results Around the SEC

I'm finally getting to talking about what happened in the SEC outside of Baton Rouge. Despite what looked like some really interesting matchups, there was really only one competitive game other than the classic played between the Gators and the Fightin' Tigers. Still, we learned a lot about the SEC this week. Namely, we learned that Kentucky is a pretender. We learned South Carolina may not be a pretender. We learned that Auburn is dangerous, or maybe we just learned that I had Vandy figured wrong. Here are the results:

South Carolina 38
Kentucky 23

Kentucky got on national television and folded like a note passed in 7th grade spelling class. It was pretty ugly. Andre Woodson's numbers as a QB weren't awful, but when you consider that in addition to throwing an interception, he also fumbled twice and lost 49 yards in sacks, his fair-to-middling numbers start looking downright awful.

South Carolina looked pretty tough and stout. The young quarterback looked... like a young quarterback in a tough league, but he wasn't terrible. He avoided interceptions and threw 2 touchdown passes. The running game struggled more than in the past, but the defense scored two touchdowns.

South Carolina is one of two teams in the East that controls its destiny. They still have to play Florida, but that's not an unwinnable game for them.

Auburn 35
Vandy 7

I was looking forward to watching this, and it was over almost as soon as it started. Auburn completely smoked Vandy. The Tigers averaged 6.1 yards per carry and only gave up 88 yards in passing. Frankly, I think I overestimated Vandy. Sure, they beat Ole Miss, but whenever they've played a halfway decent team, they haven't been competitive. Quarterback Chris Nickson was awful against both Bama and Auburn.

This game was over after the first quarter, and I turned it over watch Illinois beat Wisconsin. The Fighting Zooks roll on.

Tennessee 35
Georgia 14

This game is the epitome of why I don't predict the outcome of games. Everything about this game shouted that Georgia was the better team and would win the game. Their defense has looked better. Their offense has looked both explosive and balanced. They have athletes all over the field. Tennessee looked awful both times they played a half-decent team. The whole program looked like it was in shambles, and there were rumblings that the Vols had pretty much quit on the season.

Then they went out and smoked Georgia from the opening kickoff until the game was out of reach. Now all of a sudden, Tennessee went from being a team of quitters to arguably the team to beat in the East. They have already played Florida, and they control their destiny.

Ole Miss 24
La Tech 0

I thought this would be a good game. Not this time.

Mississippi State 30
UAB 13

This game was closer than the score. UAB was winning this game well into the 4th quarter. The Bulldogs had played from behind all day before taking the lead with touchdown run 7 minutes into the 4th quarter. The Bulldogs scored two more touchdowns, including one defensive touchdown late to make the game look like a blowout.

Mississippi State is good enough to beat some of the best teams around, but not good enough to overlook anyone.

Bama 30
Houston 24

If you didn't hear already, let me be the first to tell you. This game came down to the last play, in which Bama corner Simeone Castille intercepted a jump ball in the end zone. This after Bama ended the first quarter ahead 23-0 on three touchdowns and a safety. It was almost like LSU-UAB in 2000 all over again. It would have been ugly up here, and a very unpleasant week at work, if Bama hadn't gotten the win here. The Bama fans I know don't exactly like losing, but they can accept a loss to teams that are better than they are, and some to teams that are equal to them, but a loss to a lesser team could make things ugly.

John Parker Wilson was less than effective again, and apparently Bama has decided Terry Grant is not that great of a back because he hardly played.

Arkansas 34
Chattanooga 15

The message boards buzzed about this game and a possible upset as it was going on, but Chattanoga never got closer than 14-9, where the game stood for most of the second quarter. Arkansas blew it open in the second half. Jones and McFadden were their usual selves, as was Casey Dick.

LSU 28
Florida 24

I watched some of the game again last night. I noticed that Florida really exploited the middle of the field. Most of their plays, and most of their positive plays, went to the middle of the field both in the passing game and in the running game. They didn't attack the corners very much. They went after the linebackers and the safeties.

Oh, and Jacob Hester is still the man. He is the winner of the GeauxTuscaloosa Offensive Skill Position Player of the Week Award. His numbers were hardly gaudy: 23 carries for 106 yards and 1 touchdown. Several people got better numbers around the SEC and would have been deserving, like Eric Ainge for example. But of course, there was a lot behind those numbers. The winning touchdown, the two 4th down conversions, the bruising running style that occasionally carried defensive backs with him, and let's not forget the good block on the fake field goal.

Tomorrow: a preview of the Kentucky game

Florida: The First Replay

I watched the game on replay yesterday. All hail Tivo, the greatest invention since the counter-top deep fryer. When watching the game in real time, like everyone else, I watch the ball most of the time. When watching the replay, I watch the lines.

Our offensive line played very well the entire game, except for a few penalties. When it came down to getting a hat on a hat and blocking someone, the offensive line did it successfully almost every time. We gave up no sacks, only two tipped passes, and only one QB hurry (which was also a tipped pass). In the running game, we had very few negative plays caused defenders getting into the backfield. The holes weren't always cavernous, but there was almost always something there for a running back to get into.

The entire line was good, from Ciron Black on the left to Carnell Stewart on the right. You could count on one hand the number of missed blocks, and you'd probably still have some fingers left over.

And of course, in that big 4th quarter and on those fourth downs, the offensive line came up huge. All game, however, there were none of the major breakdowns that made the Tulane and Mississippi State games occasionally "interesting".

What we rarely saw, however, was the offensive linemen getting to the second level. It was all they could do to keep the defensive line blocked. That's why we didn't see a whole lot of really big gains. We just pounded the ball into the line time after time after time, and finally won the game doing it. It was a remarkably physical game; the most physical I'd seen since, oh, maybe the 2001 Mississippi State game that we won in overtime.

We moved the ball very consistently. We got yards all game. We just failed to finish off some drives, and we missed some field goals. If we had not stalled in Florida territory once or twice, this would have been a very different game.

In the passing game, it's amazing how much this team misses Early Doucet, and how much better we'll be when we get him back. Against a good team like Florida, and without Early Doucet, we just aren't that dangerous of a team in the air. Miles said he's close to being back, and almost dressed out for this game. Brandon Lafell is a pretty good receiver, but it sure would help matters a lot if he was our #2 receiver instead of our #1, and if we had a receiver taking double teams away from him, or taking a man out of the box and away from the running game.

Jared Mitchell, I think, is going to be a good receiver, but he's definitely still developing. I don't know if he's really ready to have the role he currently has. When Doucet's back, Mitchell will go back to his previous role.

On the defensive side of the ball, when the LSU defense was struggling, which happened through most of the first three quarters, no one struggled more than the right defensive end combination of Rahim Alem and Kirston Pittman. On that shotgun option that a lot of teams run, where the QB gets the snap in the shotgun and either hands off to a running back up the middle or pulls it back and runs around end, Pittman and Alem were absolutely abused. Tebow holds that fake a lot longer than most other quarterbacks, forcing the defensive end to commit either to collapsing inside to get the running back or staying outside to guard against the QB keeper. When Tebow handed it to Moore, it resulted in big plays. When Tebow kept it, the same thing occurred. This is a very difficult play to defend if the blocking is there, which it usually was.

Pittman and Alem also missed several free shots at the quarterback, also leading to big plays. At least twice on Florida's first touchdown drive, Pittman and Alem came unblocked off the end and simply missed Tebow, who ran to the vacated area or got off a pass, both for big plays.

When the defense finally starting bowing up at the end of the 3rd quarter, we may not have had a better defensive player than Kirston Pittman. He got that big interception on an alert play. He got consistent pressure on the quarterback. He forced the intentional grounding penalty on the second-to-last play of the game. He was excellent. It shows what difference one person playing up to his ability can do to make a difference in a game.

Tomorrow, we'll finally go around the SEC for this week. There was a distinct lack of interesting games outside of this one, however. Anyone wanna guess who the GeauxTuscaloosa Offensive Skill Position Player of the Week will be? I'll give you a hint. He came up pretty big on 4th downs.