Mullen to Mississippi State

December 10, 2008

Florida Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen is heading off to take the Mississippi State job. IT is not known yet if he’s coaching the bowl or not. In fact, not a whole lot else of anything is known for sure.

This much I do know: it floors me that Mullen is getting a head coaching job before Charlie Strong. Not one single bit of it makes sense.


Gators Potentially on the Move

December 8, 2008

When you go to the national title game twice in three years, you can expect to see assistant coaches start looking around at other opportunities. Norm Chow and Lane Kiffin left USC for the NFL earlier in the decade, and Mark Mangino and Mike Stoops left Bob Stoops’ staff too. It comes with the territory, two guys on the staff are browsing at head coaching jobs.

It should come as no surprise that defensive line coach Dan McCarney is looking at the opening at New Mexico. He is the winningest coach in Iowa State history and took them to bowls with more regularity than anyone else has. It amazed me that they let him go, and they have done nothing but suffer under his successor. Apparently the AD at New Mexico hired Urban Meyer at Bowling Green and Meyer recommended that McCarney look at the job.

Dan Mullen was rumored to be in play at New Mexico State not that long ago, but that talk died down. He is now said to be a major player for the Mississippi State job, though he is not a confirmed finalist as had apparently been reported in some corners of the Internet. When you’re the offensive coordinator for the most dominant offense the SEC has seen in a long time, you’re going to get some interest, but I don’t know if that’s a good fit for him.

Tim Tebow, for his part, says that he once thought going to the national title game would affect his decision to go pro or not, but now he doesn’t think so. He says he wants to stay, but ” it also would be great and really fun to go to the next level and see how that goes, too.”

The fact that he used the word “want” with coming back to school and “see how that goes” when referring to the NFL makes me think he’s leaning towards coming back. It’s a weak quarterback class, but I think the scouts probably want to see him go back another year. Of all stats, the only one with a high correlation to NFL success is total collegiate starts, so they are probably right.

The other Gators I see potentially leaving early are Jermaine Cunningham, Percy Harvin, and Brandon Spikes. Spikes missed out on winning the Bronko Nagurski award, given annually to the nation’s best defensive lineman or linebacker, finishing behind Texas DE Brian Orakpo. It’s understandable because he’s an absolute beast and he helped cover for a woefully young UT secondary.

An interesting report from that ceremony is that Orakpo gave Spikes some advice on beating the Sooners. You know that Texas is the only team to beat Oklahoma, but did you know Orakpo had two sacks, four tackles for loss, and a forced fumble in the game? I’m sure whatever he had to say pales in comparison to what Florida’s film staff can tell him after a month of study, but there are certainly worse people to ask for help from.


SEC Power Poll Ballot, Week 2

September 9, 2008

1. Georgia

I have a few quibbles about their performance, but really they’re nothing more than nitpicks. CMU got more pressure than I thought it would, which happens to be “any at all,” and the defense lost focus early in the second half. This game would have been closer for longer if Dan LeFevour actually ran the ball before the final drive of the second quarter.

They played like they should have played and won like they should have won.

2. LSU

Will Hurricane Ike let them play next week? It’s looking better now than it did Sunday when I originally drew up these rankings and comments.

3. Florida

The 26-3 final score doesn’t give a fully accurate impression of the game. The UF offensive staff got outcoached, but fortunately the Miami offensive staff did too. The Gator defense looked really good against a vanilla Miami attack, but they didn’t look as dominating as the stats make them out to be.

4. Auburn

They started strong and kind of let off the gas a bit, but the passing game had a pulse and the defense and running were still there. Without some uncharacteristic fumbles, Auburn’s margin of victory would have been much greater.

5. Alabama

Welcome back down to earth, and how. Without some great special teams plays, the Tide might have only won this one 7-6.

6. Ole Miss

Jevan Snead is Matt Jones, Jr. and Ole Miss would qualify as about the third best team in the ACC. They battled the whole game and easily could have won. This one portends good things in Oxford.

7. Tennessee

They better show something against UAB. And by that I mean the Blazers better not be anywhere near contention in the fourth quarter.

8. Vanderbilt

This year’s Mississippi State? A definite maybe on that for now.

9. South Carolina

They had their chances, but the offense stunk without McKinley. Then again, it wasn’t exactly putting up fireworks with him. They didn’t play like they wanted it as badly as Vandy did, and the defense fell apart to a degree in the second half.

I never thought I’d see Spurrier lose twice to Vandy, much less twice in a row.

10. Kentucky

Maybe Cobb is the answer at quarterback, but how much can you really learn against a I-AA team?

11. Mississippi State

You beat SELA. Congratulations.

12. Arkansas

Another close call against a bad team. They will be fortunate to win more than one conference game.


SEC Power Poll Ballot, Week 1

September 2, 2008

It is extremely difficult to parse the differences in the ways that elite teams blowout overmatched opponents, especially for me since I really only got to see the South Carolina-NC State and Florida-Hawai’i games all the way through. I only saw pieces of other games, if any at all.

Don’t be offended if you don’t like where your team is at. The margin between the top teams is razor thin, and until everyone starts playing real opponents, we’re all guessing anyway. Relax, it’s only Week 1; there are 13 more weeks of regular season to go.

These rankings are based heavily on the games played this past weekend. As time goes by, they will change based on how the teams’ résumés change.

Florida – The Gators are my top team as much as anything because I got to see them in person this weekend and no one else. Still, they answered fairly definitively two major questions. Yes, they have running backs, and yes, the defense is a lot better. The D-line was in the backfield all day and the secondary made fundamentally sound tackles for the first time since 2006.

It’s important not to overreact to one single game, but Florida showed enough to make me conclude that at their peak, they’re the best in the conference.

LSU – The quarterbacks were not electrifying, but the rest of the Tiger team showed that those signal callers will not have to be great. Despite a last-minute kickoff time change and a hurricane bearing down, Les Miles had his team focused enough to blowout a normally game opponent. I have few worries about this team for the rest of the season right now.

Georgia – The Bulldogs dismissed their lesser opponent with less authority than the above two did, so they end up third. Honestly, it’s tough to tell teams apart based on beating up patsies. As much as anything, they ended up third because they lost yet another player for the year to injury in DT Jeff Owens. Sure UGA has a lot of depth on the defensive line, but it is negative momentum.

Alabama – As I said earlier, it’s important not to overact based on one game. However, I did see some of the Alabama-Clemson game and Bama controlled the trenches on both sides with startling ease. The Tide just plain wanted it more, and they made a statement with their play. Then again, beating up on a Tommy Bowden team that has high expectations is hardly a stunning achievement.

Auburn – The defense and running game will have to carry this team until the passing game gets sorted out, but it appears for now that they’ll be able to do it. That’s fine in the short term, but Kodi Burns, the best runner of the two QBs, still can’t pass and that’s a problem. Defense and running the ball suit Tommy Tuberville just fine though, so it’s a little early to worry. Eight-man fronts in the SEC could pose a problem.

South Carolina – Thanks to them playing on Thursday, I got to see most of the Gamecocks’ opening game. The defense appears legit again, with Jasper Brinkley making a huge difference. The offense was putrid until Chris Smelley came in, but he also got to play against a demoralized defense after the game was already decided. This team is far from perfect, but Smelley showed at least there’s some hope for finishing above fourth in the SEC East.

Tennessee – I’ll be honest, I haven’t had time to really look at the Vols’ performance against UCLA. I had a late flight into Charlotte and got a flat tire on the way home. It doesn’t look all that great at first glance because I don’t have a high opinion of the Bruins right now, but that could always change. Tennessee got four first half turnovers but only 14 first half points. Crompton’s percentage was bad, but UCLA has a decent defense. I can’t ding them too bad for now since they at least went and played on the west coast.

Ole Miss – Memphis is not very good, but Ole Miss showed some real promise. The Wild Rebel formation, about the only thing Houston Nutt took away from his year with Gus Malzahn, was a smashing success. All that talk about Ed Orgeron stocking cupboards in Oxford was true, and if Nutt can harness it into something cohesive for a season, the Rebels will finish comfortably ahead of Arkansas and their in-state rival.

Kentucky – When Rich Brooks said his team had an SEC-caliber defense, I chuckled and decided to take a wait-and-see approach. Apparently he was absolutely right about that, but he forgot to mention that the offense might not be SEC-caliber. All but three of the Wildcats’ points against Louisville were scored or set up directly by the defense, and the offense prevented a shutout with QB Mike Hartline getting a grounding penalty in the endzone. If the Cats can’t figure out how to score more points, they’ll have a hard time climbing any higher than ninth.

Vanderbilt – Chris Nickson surprised a lot of people with his strong play against Miami University, and the Commodores won somewhat surprisingly easy. That bodes well for a team that lost a lot from last season. Bobby Johnson will have his work cut out for him if he plans on repeating last year’s five-win performance, but it will be easier if Nickson runs for 166 yards every week. D.J. Moore? Beastly.

Mississippi State – Louisiana Tech will be pretty good this season, but still, the Bulldogs had no business playing in Ruston, much less losing there. The magic from last season is fading already as Mississippi State had a -3 turnover margin. They outgained Tech 322-243, but ten penalties, five turnovers, and a 4-15 mark on third down negated that advantage.

Correct the mistakes and they win the game, but it’s not looking good for finishing above fifth in the division right now. Sly Croom is going to have to go back to his bag of tricks to get them to another bowl game.

Arkansas – Yes Mississippi State lost, but if you beat a I-AA team by just four points, that’s not good. This season, I’d classify that as worse than losing at LA Tech. Casey Dick can pass, but the Razorback faithful had better hope this Michael Smith kid (suspended for the first game) can really run. Having just 76 rushing yards won’t cut it in most SEC games.

Arkansas outgained WIU 394-262, committed just four penalties, went 7-11 on third downs, and yet was still down by 10 points in the fourth quarter. That’s some special kind of voodoo right there. Three turnovers, a reported six or so drops by receivers, and a 13:23 deficit in time of possession are troubling. This could be a long, long year in Fayetteville.


SEC Power Poll Ballot: Preseason

August 19, 2008

The preseason SEC Power Poll this year (conducted by Garnet and Black Attack) is not a ranking of the teams, but a ranking of the coaches. Specifically, it is a ranking of coaching ability.

My ballot is based on who is good now, and it is slanted towards performance in this decade. No lifetime achievement awards are being handed out here.

Here’s my list and the explanations.

1. Urban Meyer

Call it a homer pick if you want, but he’s done well everywhere he’s gone. He turned in an undefeated season at Utah, becoming the first BCS Buster ever. Let’s also not forget that he did it before the BCS expanded to five games.

At Florida he won a national and conference championship and got a quarterback a Heisman. He proved the spread could work in the SEC and did it so convincingly that other coaches in the league are going to install some spread-style goodness of their own in 2008. Add to that his ace recruiting abilities, and you have my vote for top SEC coach.

2. Tommy Tuberville

I should specify that this is a vote for the Tuberville of 2004 and on and not for the Tuberville of 2003 and prior. There is a difference, and I outlined it here.

The post-2003 Tuberville has been one of the best coaches in the country in that span, though the fact he’s only parlayed that into one conference title is the reason why he’s second on the list. He also gets points for abandoning his old, conservative offense and actually giving former outcast/spread guru Tony Franklin the shot at major college coaching that he deserves.

3. Mark Richt

Richt is on pace for becoming the most successful head coach in Georgia history. He has two conference titles and a 13-1 season that wins him a national title in nearly any other year than the 2002 season in which he did it. He also lost to Vandy in 2006, something that a top league coach shouldn’t do six years into his tenure despite the strides the Commodores have made under Bobby Johnson.

He ended up third in the league on my ballot. That is still nothing to sneeze at in the best coaching conference in the country. How he does with the heaps of expectations on him this year will help to sort out his place in the hierarchy as well as help to define his legacy as a head coach.

4. Nick Saban

I know some people will be upset seeing him this high, especially given the loss to Louisiana-Monroe last season. It’s difficult to blame him too much for the negative goings on last season though given that his predecessor was Mike Shula, a guy who never should have been given a head coaching position.

Despite that fact, all six of the losses were by eight points or less so the Tide was competitive in every one of them. He had a blowout win over the SEC East champ Tennessee. Let’s also not forget the BCS championship he won at LSU and the incredible amount of talent he left there when he bolted to the Dolphins.

5. Les Miles

I decided that the first five guys on the ballot had to be guys who have won the national title in this decade, or at least have done enough to win one in a normal year. Since Miles won his national title with two losses while Meyer’s and Saban’s came with one loss (and Tuber ville had an undefeated season and Richt had a 13-1 year), he ended up fifth.

Yes it’s true that he walked into a treasure trove of talent at LSU. It’s also true that he has gone 11-2 each of the past three seasons with two blowout wins in BCS bowls and a Peach Bowl win that ended Miami football as we knew it. He also doesn’t get nearly enough credit for keeping the LSU team together after the Hurricane Katrina disaster just days before the start of his first season in Baton Rouge. He’s colorful, but he can coach.

6. Bobby Petrino

I’m going to throw out his time with the Falcons, which was spent under conditions that pretty much no one could succeed under. Instead, I’m looking more at his time at Louisville where he turned it into one of the country’s best teams, nearly made the national title game, and helped save the Big East.

The immediate drop off after his departure should highlight how good of a coach he was. He still did win his BCS game as the Big East champ though, which unfortunately doesn’t mean a whole lot, and it was over surprise ACC champ Wake Forest, which makes it matter even less. He’s still got a bright offensive mind and knows how to build a winner, so he goes here.

7. Phil Fulmer

You could make a case for him being higher or lower on the list, but he’s listed here thanks to being the final guy who has won a division championship at his current school. His East Division title last season helped some, but the fact remains that he has not won a conference title since 1998 and none of his teams has truly been elite without David Cutcliffe.

He gets some points for hiring Dave Clawson but nothing big until we find out if the Clawfense can succeed long term in the conference. Fulmer didn’t really manage his staff as well as he could/should have in the time between the Cutcliffe stints, but maybe this is a step forward. He will have to win the conference again to move higher on my list though.

8. Steve Spurrier

It pains me a little to put him this low, but there’s not a lot he’s done at South Carolina to support putting him higher. The Orange Bowl win in his final year at Florida was this decade so it does count some, but not being able to break past seven wins at South Carolina hurts his ability to go higher on my list.

Now, he did go to two bowls in a row in 2005-06, which ties the longest bowl appearance streak in school history. Lou Holtz also left the school on probation and in questionable shape. However, I can’t ignore the epic collapse last season after climbing to #6 in the country. His upward mobility will be determined in large part by whether he can win the division.

9. Houston Nutt

This could be a little low, but we’re talking about ability to perform the duties of head coach with this list. He won the SEC West twice this decade, but with Matt Jones and Darren McFadden on those teams, you’d expect that to happen.

In recent years, his ability to be a head coach has appeared to decline. His regime at Arkansas had increasingly been marked by scandal, and last season there was precious little offensive talent behind the McFadden-Felix Jones combination. The cupboards at Ole Miss appear to be relatively full, so he’s going to need to produce quickly in Oxford.

10. Sylvester Croom

Mississippi State was a toxic waste dump of a program when he arrived, and he got it to eight wins and a bowl just four years later despite having no dominant offensive players. Even in Croom’s rebuilding years, he scored upsets over Florida in ’04 and Alabama in ’06 despite them being in better shape.

He has not been perfect; he initially wanted to run a West Coast scheme despite not having nearly the talent or practice time to pull it off. However he’s built a winner, and he built it the right way. If he can sustain it, he can move up.

11. Rich Brooks

Brooks has taken Kentucky to two consecutive bowls, and that should win him some sort of award. I mean, this is a school that used its newly-hired basketball coach to sell football tickets last fall despite having gone to a bowl the previous season.

I have a feeling though that any of the other guys on the list could have done that with the personnel Brooks had. I also suspect that many of them would have done it faster than he did. For that reason, he’s behind the rest.

12. Bobby Johnson

I actually like Bobby Johnson, so I don’t like ranking him last. He has made Vanderbilt a competitive team week in and week out, and he has defeated Tennessee and Georgia in recent years. That’s really good for a school that doesn’t even have an athletics director.

At the same time, he’s not yet made a bowl so I can’t put him ahead of guys who have. His 2005 team with Jay Cutler was his best chance to get eligible, but they lost late in the season to 3-8 Kentucky. As far as I know, Vanderbilt is happy with him so he’s not going anywhere, but I’d like to see him get a shot at a school with more resources.


Potential Fallers in 2008

July 30, 2008

Yesterday, I explained the theory behind using performance in close games in one season to pick potential risers and fallers in the next season. Basically, it works off the assumption that if you get a lot of breaks one year, you won’t get them again the next year and vice versa. I also outlined the candidates for risers in 2008.

Today is time for the other side of the story – the potential fallers.

For these purposes, a “close game” is defined as a game where the final score is eight points or less – in other words, one touchdown and conversion could tie or swing the game. Teams that made the main list had at least three more wins than losses; teams on the watch list had two more wins than losses and played at least four close games.

Only BCS conference teams (including Notre Dame) were analyzed.

Arizona State Sun Devils, 10-3 overall, 3-0 in close games

Arizona State was a surprise in Dennis Erickson’s first year. It was picked to finish sixth in the conference, but instead the Sun Devils won ten games and had a conference record identical to USC’s mark.

Since Erickson generally has a great second year and he will have a senior returning to start under center, it would seem unlikely that ASU will fall off too much, but you never know.

Boston College Eagles, 11-3 overall, 3-0 in close games

Boston College was one of the milder surprises of 2007. The Eagles were picked second in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, but they ended up winning the division and even spent a little time at #2 in the polls. Having the best quarterback in the conference definitely helped make that possible.

Matt Ryan especially helped in the close games, none more memorable than the win over Virginia Tech. He is gone now, and so are some other key players. The expectations have fallen with BC now projected fourth in its division, and a regression to a normal (near .500) success rate in close games would help make that prediction come true.

Kansas Jayhawks, 12-1 overall, 4-1 in close games

Kansas was definitely one of the big surprise teams of 2007. I would tend to doubt that anyone, even Mark Mangino, would have expected a 12-1 season. With them accounting for 25% of the Jayhawks’ total wins, close games were a big part of Kansas’ success last season.

Most people expect the Jayhawks to come back down to earth, similar to how Rutgers did in 2007 after its dream 2006 season. It’s hard to argue with that considering how almost no one gets that many breaks two years in a row.

Kentucky Wildcats, 8-5 overall, 4-1 in close games

Rich Brooks talked at SEC media days about having the best offensive line in his time at Kentucky. That will help since he’s breaking in a new starting quarterback. He also said he’ll have the best defense during his time at Kentucky. That is a little like Spinal Tap saying they are the loudest rock band in the world – it doesn’t mean a whole lot.

Despite Brooks’ optimism, Kentucky almost certainly will fall off some. The Wildcats lost too many good players, and they probably can’t do so well in close games two seasons in a row.

Mississippi State Bulldogs, 8-5 overall, 4-0 in close games

Mississippi State was actually not all that much better in 2007 versus Sly Croom’s three previous seasons. Timely turnovers largely made the difference in going from three wins to going bowling.

At this point, Croom has begun building some quality and depth that did not exist when he started. Despite that fact, it will be very difficult to sweep all of the team’s close games again.

Northwestern Wildcats, 6-6 overall, 4-1 in close games

I’d bet that if you ask most college football fans if Northwestern was bowl eligible last season, most would say no. The Wildcats did in fact get to six victories on the back of four close wins.

This is a team that is trying to be on the rise under Pat Fitzgerald, and with a senior quarterback returning along with most of the team’s important offensive weapons, it could very well be. It will have to make its own luck though, since the fates will probably not be with them after the close game performance last season.
Oregon State Beavers, 9-4 overall, 4-0 in close games

Oregon State is a team that hasn’t really fit the Pac-10 stereotype that well over the past few seasons. The Beavers win with power running and defense, two excellent allies in close games.

The electric Sammie Stroughter will be back after missing last season, but with just 10 starters back and a banged up offensive line, it’s not clear that OSU can repeat its nine-win success of last season. All else being the same, falling to 2-2 in close games will put the Beavers at seven wins, which would be disappointing but not completely unexpected.

Virginia Cavaliers, 9-4 overall, 6-2 in close games

Virginia was definitely a surprise nine-win team, especially after the Cavaliers lost at Wyoming 23-3 to begin the season. Thanks to a lot of close wins, they obviously got things turned around.

However, there are many reasons to think that UVA will not see the same success. For one, Chris Long is gone, and then there’s the entire rest of Al Groh’s record at Virginia. It will be difficult to have the same success in close games, so Virginia will probably go back to the 5 to 7 win range that has been the norm under Groh.

The Watch List

UConn Huskies, 9-4 overall, 3-1 in close games

LSU Tigers, 12-2 overall, 4-2 in close games

NC State Wolfpack, 5-7 overall, 3-1 in close games

Texas Longhorns, 10-3 overall, 4-2 in close games

Wisconsin Badgers, 9-4 overall, 4-2 in close games

Postscript

Here is the order of conferences in terms of average number of close games per team in 2007. It reflects the competitiveness of the SEC, the parity of the Big East, and the demise of defense in the Big 12.

  1. SEC – 5.08 close games per team
  2. Big East – 5.00
  3. Big Ten – 4.73
  4. ACC – 4.42
  5. Pac-10 – 4.40
  6. Big 12 – 3.25

The team with the most close games was Alabama with ten; the team with the fewest close games was Baylor with zero.


Surfing Through the SEC Football Schedules

May 7, 2008

The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu put out his preliminary projections for the SEC, and it got me thinking. I am not ready to put out my projections yet, mainly because there are too many good teams in the conference just to throw an order together right now. Projecting the SEC finish will take a lot of research.

I did end up looking at each school’s schedule, mainly focusing on the non-conference games. If you haven’t yet done that, you’ll be glad to know that the SEC schedules this year are less cupcake-y than past years.

For the record, I am fine with schools raiding the bakery for fundraiser games a couple times a year, but I do expect BCS schools to play at least one BCS opponent. I also think playing I-AA teams is inexcusable except for the very best I-AA teams, like Appalachian State, which are better than the Utah States and FIUs of I-A anyway.

Here’s a rundown of the SEC non-conference schedules, in alphabetical order:

ALABAMA

BCS Opponent: @ Clemson (Aug. 30)

Cupcakes: Tulane (Sept. 6), Western Kentucky (Sept. 13), Arkansas State (Nov. 1)

ARKANSAS

BCS Opponent: @ Texas (Sept. 13)

Respectable Non-BCS: Tulsa (Nov 1)

Cupcake: Louisiana-Monroe (Sept. 6)

I-AA: Western Illinois (Aug. 30)

AUBURN

BCS Opponent: @ West Virginia (Oct. 23)

Respectable Non-BCS: Southern Miss (Sept. 6)

Cupcake: Louisiana-Monroe (Aug. 30)

I-AA: Tennessee-Martin (Nov. 8 )

FLORIDA

BCS Opponents: Miami (Sept. 6), @ FSU (Nov. 29)

Respectable Non-BCS: Hawaii (Aug. 30)

I-AA: The Citadel (Nov. 22)

GEORGIA

BCS Opponents: @ Arizona State (Sept. 20), Georgia Tech (Nov. 29)

Respectable Non-BCS: Central Michigan (Sept. 6)

I-AA: Georgia Southern (Aug. 30)

KENTUCKY

BCS Opponent: Louisville (Aug. 31)

Cupcakes: Middle Tennessee (Sept. 13), Western Kentucky (Sept. 27)

I-AA: Norfolk State (Sept. 6)

LSU

Respectable Non-BCS: Troy (Sept. 6)

Respectable I-AA: Appalachian State (Aug. 30)

Cupcakes: North Texas (Sept. 13), Tulane (Nov. 1)

OLE MISS

BCS Opponent: @ Wake Forest (Sept. 6)

Cupcakes: Memphis (Aug. 30), Louisiana-Monroe (Nov. 15)

I-AA: Samford (Sept. 13)

MISSISSIPPI STATE

BCS Opponent: @ Georgia Tech (Sept. 20)

Cupcakes: Louisiana Tech (Aug. 30), Middle Tennessee (Oct. 25)

I-AA: Southeastern Louisiana (Sept. 6)

SOUTH CAROLINA

BCS Opponents: NC State (Aug. 28), @ Clemson (Nov. 29)

Cupcake: UAB (Sept. 27)

I-AA: Wofford (Sept. 20)

TENNESSEE

BCS Opponent: @ UCLA (Sept. 1)

Cupcakes: UAB (Sept. 13), Northern Illinois (Oct. 4), Wyoming (Nov. 8 )

VANDERBILT

BCS Opponents: Duke (Oct. 25), @ Wake Forest (Nov. 29)

Cupcakes: Miami University (Aug. 28), Rice (Sept. 13)

* * *

Only LSU doesn’t have a BCS opponent. Alabama, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt do not have I-AA opponents. LSU should not lose anything for playing Appalachian State, though, especially because Mountaineer fans have already begun predicting a victory on Charlotte sports talk radio.

LSU’s slate is the only one I’d call “shameful” in the bunch, though I am not happy about all of the non-App State I-AA teams you see listed. However, until the NCAA reverses the rule and stops allowing wins over I-AA teams to count towards bowl eligibility, those games are sadly inevitable.


Bear Hunting with Sylvester Croom

July 27, 2007

Al.com has been leading the pack when it comes to SEC media day coverage, and I’ve been sifting through some of the videos. One that I thought might be a little bland was that of Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom, since he’s not really the excitable type, and isn’t known for shooting his mouth off like Steve Spurrier.

As it turns out, it was a pretty entertaining video. First of all, it may be your only chance to hear someone with an Alabama accent speak with humility. Beyond that though, his first great line came when he was asked about playing LSU the first game of the year. Instead of making excuses, he said that if MSU plans on ever competing for the SEC title (one of his goals, eventually) it would have beat the top SEC teams both whether at the beginning or end of the year. He summed it up with, “August 30 is as good a time as any” to play the Tigers. I really like that line.

He continued talking about LSU, and praised it for being such a good team. He also got in a dig at Notre Dame, saying that the Sugar Bowl  last year went exactly how he thought it would. Well, I can definitely say I’m for anyone who takes shots at overrated teams, especially when that overrated team is Notre Dame.

Finally, the press conference ends with this exchange:

Reporter: Did you say you’re more excited going into this season than any year so far here in Starkville?

Croom: You ever gone bear hunting without a switch? I mean, bear hunting with a switch? Well that’s what we’ve been doing for three years, bear hunting with a switch. This time we got a gun.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s officially welcome Sylvester Croom into the official SEC Quote Machine club. I’m going to have to start paying more attention to what he says and see if any more chestnuts like this come out. I really hope Miss State officials and fans don’t lose their perspective, forget how bad things were when Jackie Sherrill left, and fire Sly after he misses a bowl again this year. Not only has he cleaned up the program (not one Bulldog had an off-the-field issue this summer for the first time in a long, long time), but by now he’s joined the rich tradition of SEC coaches saying interesting things. Those are both things to be proud of.


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