Over at Team Speed Kills, SBNation’s SEC blog, I am going to be doing reviews of unintentionally funny commercials from within the conference. The first one is up, and it’s on Tommy Tuberville’s absurd Golden Flake spot. Check it out.
It would never happen, but just imagine it for a second.
Auburn fires Tuberville at the end of the season. The boosters there don’t like him anyway, and the community thinks he betrayed their values by going after Tony Franklin and selling out to the spread. They want a return to pound-the-rock football. They want a guy who can recruit and raise money. They want someone Alabama hates.
So they hire… Phil Fulmer.
It would never happen of course. Phil is too close to UT I’ll bet to forsake it for another SEC school that quickly. Still though, what could be a bigger sideshow than Fulmer coaching inside the state of Alabama? Oh please, make it so.
The Tony Franklin Experiment is over after six games on the Plains. I’ve got coverage of it up over at Team Speed Kills.
I’m not sure if I’m ready to live in a world where Florida is on the cusp on being in the top 10 and Vandy is still just two spots back of them.
Yes, Vanderbilt is off to its best start since 1943, and a win in Starkville this weekend means their best start since 1928. Of course, that was back when Vandy did things like beat Alabama in Birmingham (1927), defeat Texas in Dallas (1928) and blowout Auburn 41-2 (1929). Though they struggled some in the 1940s and 1950s, they didn’t become a perpetual doormat until the 1960s.
It sure looks like I was right to put Vandy on bowl watch after all. They should be able to pick up at least one win among games against Mississippi State, Duke, Kentucky, and yes, Tennessee. None of those teams looks better than any of the five Vandy has defeated so far. Of course they’ve played Florida and Georgia close in recent years, and if Wake Forest is capable of losing to Navy, the Deacs can lose to Vandy.
I would expect 7-9 wins on the season from them. Eventually, they will run into a game where the ball doesn’t bounce their way all of the second half, and two or three of the remaining opponents are just plain better teams. The floor on that range is if Vanderbilt remembers it’s Vanderbilt, and the ceiling is if the dream continues.
On the drives that ended in scores, Auburn basically Tuberballed down the field until the red zone, and then spread things out to get open receivers near the goal line. That worked remarkably well. Vandy caught on to this, however, and started taking away the power running game. Neither Chris Todd nor Kodi Burns could make the Commodores pay.
The actual problems Auburn is having are not any different than the ones they had with Brandon Cox, it’s just that Cox was a better quarterback than Todd and Burns are. Drop in a better passer, and many problems go away. In that sense, the offensive mess is as much Tuberville’s fault for not recruiting a better quarterback as it is Franklin’s fault for trying to shake things up a bit with new formations.
The Tigers seriously need to pick an identity and stick with it, because this is two weeks in a row they’re promising big changes. You can’t just keep making big changes every week because that will only ensure they never find the rhythm they’re looking for. The defense can’t bail the offense out every week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They better show something against UAB. And by that I mean the Blazers better not be anywhere near contention in the fourth quarter.
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.
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.
Another close call against a bad team. They will be fortunate to win more than one conference game.
Well, Auburn and Southern Miss were underwhelming, and the BC-GT game was nothing if not sloppy and disjointed. If I could describe Auburn QB Chris Todd in one word, it would be “indecisive.” Meanwhile, Josh Nesbitt and Jonathan Dwyer together are probably good enough to get the Jackets four more wins in the putrid ACC.
Speaking of the ACC, Wake Forest doesn’t look too bad against Ole Miss. Ole Miss doesn’t look too bad against Wake Forest. This is a game between two good but not great BCS conference team. Only problem is, Wake is supposed to be one of the two or three best teams in their league. Whoops.
Georgia has been looking good, but Central Michigan’s defense is a sieve. I mean, they gave up 70 points to Clemson last season, and that betrays some deep issues that cannot be fixed in one year. CMU’s offense could have been better, except Dan LeFevour didn’t start running until about five minutes to go in the half. Not surprisingly, that allowed the Chips to move the ball better and even pick up a cheap TD right at the end.
By the way, Notre Dame is tied at the half 7-7 with San Diego State, and needed a blocked punt with under two minutes to go in the half to get a chance at that TD. Yes, that San Diego State, who lost to Cal-Poly last weekend. It is a little surprising, but then again not so much since it’s the Irish’s first game and they were not competitive in so many games last season. I think a lot of people overestimated where they were starting from this season.
Oh, and Jimmy Clausen looks like a dope with his new long hair.
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.