Category Archives: SEC Football

A Few Thoughts in Early March

I’ve really got to get better at this posting regularly around here thing. However, I changed jobs at the beginning of the new year and now have some more time to contribute to the cause around here. Hopefully I’ll be active enough to contribute material that is meaningful to discussion around UGA topics and college football in general. With all that said, here are a few things just bouncing around my head on this Monday morning:

  • Perhaps I’ll save the longer rant on this for another post at a later time, but who in their right mind believes that a playoff without the team that stomped the ever-living crap out of LSU on January 9th (since it seems señor Sam the Eagle and Larry Scott believe that the soon-to-be Plus One should be comprised only of conference champs) would legitimately be considered an effort at crowning the best team in college football?
  • Following up on my first point above. Dude…DUDE…You wrote an entire damned book espousing the idea that a playoff system had to include conference champions as it “maintained the integrity and relevancy of the regular season”. Now you say that a playoff system that includes conference champions over a non-conference champion such as Alabama would make the regular season less relevant? Consistency, thy name is not Dan Wetzel (h/t: Senator).
  • I particularly like the news coming out of Athens regarding Isaiah Crowell from his teammates, and I agree pretty strongly with these words from Artie Lynch:

“The person I’ve been most impressed with — and the person who I think has been wrongly scrutinized the whole year — was Isaiah,” Lynch said. “You ask these high expectations out of a kid who’s 18 years old, it’s such a different game than high school. Let’s face it, he had instant success and people were so demanding of him to be the savior, this idea of `Oh, the next Herschel.’ That was just unfairly [placed on] him. . . .

  • We’ll never know the extent of Crowell’s ankle injury and how much it truly hurt him to try to tough it out. I certainly struggled adjusting to the college life my first semester away from home and I never had to endure everything I did being scrutinized by a million different people. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for him. I personally believe his ankle never really was healthy the last half of the season last year and we’ll see a world of difference this fall after a full offseason in the conditioning program and having endured a full season playing big boy football. I expect we’ll see big things from him next season.
  • Losing the Auburn game annually would probably be enough to make me stop caring about college football the same way I don’t really have a passionate interest in the NFL and college basketball anymore. I suppose baseball could get me through the year, but with the new playoff format I’m already having my doubts. Basically, don’t screw this up for us SEC president’s and AD’s. Please step back from seeing all the $$’s in your eyes and try to remember what made your commodity so valuable in the first place. I assure you it has nothing to do with entering the Dallas and St. Louis TV markets.
  • On that same note, the 9 game conference schedule is going to happen at some point. The coaches can go suck on an egg and stop whining about it. They sound just like the Jim Boeheim’s of the world who want the NCAA tournament to expand to 128 teams so that there is little to no chance they would ever miss it ensuring perpetual job security.

One additional thought

Georgia scored more points against Auburn and held them to less points than both LSU and Alabama.  While I’m not expecting a Georgia win next week, there’s a chance.

So you're telling me there's a chance!

Talking With the Enemy: Q&A with Gamecocks Blogger Gamecock Man

For my first post (I know it’s already Thursday, so sue me) that is Gamecock preview related, earlier this week I exchanged a Q&A with Gamecock Man who runs the South Carolina oriented SB Nation website, Garnet and Black Attack.  Check them out as they do good work over there.  Here are my answers to his questions (note that the questions between us were exchanged prior to the AJ Green news from today):

1. This was the esteemed Senator’s pre-game analysis for last year’s game.  Removing the obvious references to Jon Fabris and Norwood, is there any reason to expect this year’s version to be different, last year’s results notwithstanding?

Yes and no–I don’t expect a high-scoring game, but I also don’t necessarily expect another 13-9 or 14-7-type of game, either. I definitely expect this year’s bout to return to the mean and not look like last year’s Twilight Zone game. That said, from my perspective as a Gamecocks fans, our team appears to have the best offense we’ve had in many years. I don’t doubt that UGA is going to be bringing a stout defense to Columbia, but I also expect that we’re going to find ways to move the ball fairly effectively. On the other hand, the jury is still out on our defense. Although we only gave up 13 points because we were great inside the 30, our defense gave up a whopping 400 yards last week. Granted, a lot of that came on USM’s last couple of drives, while the third-stringers were in, and word is we’ll get a potential All-SEC guy back in Chris Culliver. I also think too much has been made of our inability to hastle USM’s QB; the Golden Eagles were running a lot of quick screens and the like that made it difficult for us to rack up the sacks. Still, we didn’t exactly dominate their offense, and that makes me worry a bit about UGA moving the ball. The one good thing I saw was that we did well defending the run, and slowing down King and Ealey will be really important for us against your team.

Whatever happens, I expect this to be another close one.

2. This may have been my biggest criticism from last week’s USC/Southern Miss game, but was Garcia really that impressive?  If you’d been listening to the Palmer/James train, you’d think he was a front line Heisman contender.  What I saw were a bunch of WR screens coupled with short dump offs to the flats and short crossing routes.  He wasn’t really needed to make a difficult throw down the field, which I assume he will at some point against UGA.  Are South Carolina fans genuinely excited that this could be a big time year for Garcia or is the excitement more along the lines of amazement that he didn’t make any plays that would be considered “dumb” for a change?

I do think you’re right that Palmer and James, and probably some of our fans, overplayed Garcia’s performance last week. He was a little off on two or three throws that could have made the game an even bigger blowout than it was; there was one post route that sticks out in my head where Alshon Jeffery had a huge lead on a mismatched corner but where Garcia threw it behind the route. That said, he did make a couple of really nice downfield throws, so you have to give him credit for those, too. I do think you’re right that some of the reaction may just be people making too much of the fact that they’re just relieved that he didn’t do anything that seemed particularly stupid–he protected the ball and, perhaps even more stunningly, never got sacked despite feeling a bit of pressure at times. That’s progress for him, though, and if he can continue to do that as well as be an excellent passer at least most of the time, I think he can have a pretty good year.

3. I have to ask it, but this whole “hot seat” discussion.  Is this a creation of a zealous media looking for ad revenues and page hits during the off season (I’m looking at you Paul Finebaum), an increasingly vocal minority of UGA fans, or is there some reality to this? (before answering this question, I’d direct you to this blog post by former Gamecock beat writer and current Bulldog beat writer Seth Emerson when posed the same question)

I’m not exactly sure how to approach this question, as I’m not privy to the UGA admin’s feelings about Richt or even your own, although you’re certainly suggesting that he’s not on the hotseat. Here goes, though–as far as guys like Finebaum goes, I think we all know they’re just trying to stir up controversy, draw readers, and increase ad revenue. And certainly, saying Richt is on the hotseat is a little extreme–I couldn’t imagine UGA would fire him unless he completely tanks this year. At the same time, though, isn’t it possible that Richt is starting to feel a little pressure? Don’t get me wrong; I think he’s a great coach who has had a lot of success at UGA. But what happens if he goes 7-5 again? His last few seasons, with the exception of 2007, have looked a lot more like the Goff / Donnan years than Richt’s heyday from 2002-2005. I’m assuming that he’s got to do better than that at least most of the time to keep his job totally secure. All that said, I expect a nine- or ten-win season for the Dawgs this year, which should clear things up nicely for him. But if he struggles, I would think that “vocal minority” might get a lot more listeners than it has right now.

4. Is there really a perpetual Chicago Cub type “next year is our year” mentality around the Gamecock program or is this a myth perpetuated by fans of opposing schools as something to rib our neighbors to the East?

Yes and no. (I think I’ve answered like this to all of your questions, but there it is.) We don’t really believe that every year is the year. Only the most optimistic (some might say insane) Gamecocks fans, for example, believed that we would compete for an SEC Title in either of the past two years. We didn’t have a QB in 2008 and were very young last year, and the reasonable ones out of us were just hoping for winning seasons, maybe eight or nine wins if we got lucky. It’s the vocal minority thing you mentioned, though–the ones expecting SEC Titles are oftentimes the loudest and most obnoxious, and they get taken to be representative of the whole fanbase.

That said, I won’t deny that we’re generally a very hopeful bunch. When trying to figure out why we seem to feel more optimism than our history would allow, you have to remember that, at least in the last decade or so, we haven’t been an awful team. We’ve had a few pretty good years–2000, 2001, and 2005, in particular–and in the others we’ve generally been competitive. Each year seems to have a win or two that could reasonably make one believe that big things are on the way–think UGA in 2007, or Ole Miss last year. And a lot of our losses tend to have this “if only we could have made that one play” kind of quality. There’s a way in which the Gamecocks are constantly dangling the prospect of success right ahead of us, and the fact that it always seems so close makes us believe that eventually it’ll happen.

5. Since both our alma maters have dealt with some level of hand wringing from the NCAA and its apparent lack of commitment to timely responses regarding the eligibility of some players in question (South Carolina didn’t hear until a few hours before kickoff and UGA had to sit out AJ Green for the season opener due to no confirmation from the NCAA on a ruling), what is your thought on the whole process? Hypothetically speaking, let’s say AJ Green is held out this Saturday because no decision has come down and UGA loses by 3 points, but Monday the NCAA determines he was eligible.  If something like that happened, there’s no way the NCAA can win the court of public opinion.  Is there something the NCAA can do to expedite this process or is the NCAA so lacking on credibility at this point anyways, does it even matter if it tries to save face?

(Note–this answer is coming after the Green decision came down.) I think the NCAA really needs to figure out how to make its decisions quickly and equitably. While I don’t want to suggest that it’s played favorites, it has appeared to be inconsistent when it comes to how long it takes to wrap up each investigation, and that–whether malicious or not–is not equitable treatment. In that sense, it’s undermining it’s very purpose in carrying out these investigations, which is presumably to make sure that no one gets an unfair advantage. In that sense, it’s really important for these guys to get on the same page. Unfortunately, almost nothing about their procedure suggests that’s what they want to do; their bylaws and rulings are filled with vague, open-to-interpretation language, and that makes it seem as if they want to be able to hand down rulings in a completely arbitrary manner. At any rate, I think it’s going to be hard for them to come back from the PR hit they’ve taken this offseason. But the writing may be on the wall for them–if a serious conference reorganization was ever to come to pass, don’t be surprised if the conferences try to get together and create a new governing body that works in their interests.

Again, I’d like to thank Gamecock Man for being a good sport and taking some time to answer my questions.

A light LSU preview

After my return from exodus today I thought I’d add an early LSU post with some of the high level things I’d like to see and what I think it will take for the Dawgs to win on Saturday.

What I’d like to see:

  • Positive turnover margin (a big fat zero on the Georgia ledger would be quite awesome)
  • If you’re going to turn it over, do it on their side of the field for crying out loud.
  • AJ Green stepping up to the challenge of Peterson and Jones.  These are two of the best secondary players in the conference and Orson Charles commanded double teams from ASU last week leading to some man coverage for AJ.  Can he take advantage and basically take over this game like last week?
  • LSU gain less than 300 yards of offense.
  • No biting on the play action like you’ve never seen it before.
  • Joe Cox throwing for 65%+ completion percentage and no INTs.
  • An interception by the secondary.
  • Jefferson hitting the turf at Sanford Stadium no less than 10 times.
  • Rennie Curran being himself.

What the Dawgs have to do to win:

  • Hang on to the freaking ball!!!  As alluded to in my What I’d like to see comments, the Dawgs are getting by on smoke and mirrors at this point.  Certainly there’s much to be said about this team’s resiliency and ability to weather adversity as compared to last year, but you can’t keep spotting each team we play two scores on a silver platter by giving them the football.  We’re lucky to be where we are and I fear a team as talented as LSU will make us pay for those types of mistakes.
  • The rest of the receiving corps has to step up.  It’s no secret that every team Georgia plays from here on out will be gearing to stop AJ Green.  At this point AJ’s on another stratosphere so he might still get his, but if the rest of the receiving corps can take some of the pressure off AJ, I like our chances.  I think this also keeps Joe Cox from forcing balls to AJ if he’s got Orson Charles or Mike Moore wreaking havoc over the middle.  Having those guys step up will also free up AJ for some big plays once the defense focuses its coverage on them.
  • Can we find a running game?  Other than Richard Samuel’s 80 yard TD run against Arkansas, there hasn’t been much of a running game this year.  Caleb King has shown that he’s not a liability anymore in pass protection and should get his fair share of carries.  It’s time for that O-line that was so touted in the pre-season to finally man up and push some people around.  If the running game can get going, it will open up the play action passing game for our receiving corps down the field.
  • Get the defense off the freaking field.  They did a relatively good job of this last week against ASU but quick strike scores, turnovers, and an inability to stop 3rd downs have kept the defense on the field far too long this season.  The defense needs to get its stops when it can and the offense and special teams need to hold on to the ball.  This goes back to my previous point, but if Georgia can establish the running game and run time off the clock, that would help the defense immensely.
  • Be ready for some surprises.  In his tenure at LSU, Les Miles has shown that he is not afraid of the trick play or going for it on 4th down.  The Dawgs got badly beaten on a fake punt against South Carolina and need to be ready for it against this LSU team.  I hope that Coach Fabris has beaten that point to death this week.

Anyways, those are some of my semi-early thoughts about the game.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my predictions.

Quick hit thoughts on the new season

  • Was Oregon’s offense that inept or Boise State’s defense that good?
  • Ditto above question regarding NC State’s offense and South Carolina’s offense?
  • God help the ACC if Russell Wilson is supposed to be an All-ACC candidate for QB and if NC State is supposed to be a middle of the pack team.
  • Welcome back to 7-5/6-6 territory, Coach Spurrier.  No way that team wins more than seven games once conference play starts.
  • Way to hand out that threatened a** whooping, Legarrette Blount.  In the process you likely ended your career with Oregon.
  • Was in Athens last night and overheard the team all the way from north campus doing its final walkthrough at Sanford Stadium with the artificial crowd noise pumped in.  Made the hair on the back of my neck stand.
  • Saturday at 3:30 can’t come quick enough for me.

Around the SEC this week

I’ve already covered Georgia’s trip to Lexington this weekend, so let’s take a look at the rest of the conference:

Wyoming at Tennessee, 1:00 PM, PPV; Knoxville, TN

The mood at Neyland Stadium should be really strange for this one. As everyone knows, Phil Fulmer was told that he wouldn’t be coming back to UT earlier this week. He announced it to the world in one of the most gut-wrenching press conferences you’ll ever see. Surely, this has been a big distraction this week, but they are playing Wyoming. Hopefully, Phil’s boys go to war for him in his next to last home game as head coach. Tennessee wins, but they don’t cover the 26.5.

Tennessee 30, Wyoming 10

Arkansas at South Carolina, 1:00 PM, no TV; Columbia, SC

Looks like Bobby Petrino finally has his team play reasonable competitive football. Still, Columbia is no picnic to walk into. Spurrier has what may be his best defense since he’s been at South Carolina and Stephen Garcia brings some competency and excitement to the OBC’s offense. South Carolina wins in a game that is not as close as the score indicates, but does not cover the 13.5.

South Carolina 24, Arkansas 17

Alabama at LSU, 3:30 PM, CBS; Baton Rouge, LA

Hey, I bet you didn’t know that Nick Saban used to be the head coach at LSU. I didn’t realize he left them and went to the NFL only to return to one of their biggest division opponents, Alabama. In case you couldn’t guess, that comment was laden with sarcasm. Seriously, this one is shaping up to be an 234 on a 10 point hate scale for LSU. Saban is taking a physical, dominating Alabama offensive line down to the bayou to play an LSU team with a front 7 that is as talented as anyone else in the country, but they are very inconsistent. Alabama has played down to inferior competition and throttled its opponent in all its big road games. I’ll never understand the hatred that LSU fans carry for Saban. The man did win you a damned national championship and left the program in great shape. He wanted to take on the NFL challenge. Nothing wrong with that IMO. If someone wanted to triple my salary, I’d probably take a stab at it too. I think Alabama is too fundamentally disciplined to give this one away, and they’ve shown no signs of losing focus at any point this season. Take Alabama to cover the 3.5 and the over/under on broken windows on the Alabama bus is 20 right now.

Alabama 24, LSU 10

Florida at Vanderbilt, 8:00 PM, ESPN; Nashville, TN

Is there any team in the nation playing better than the Gators right now? Fans in Lubbock, Tuscaloosa, and State College might argue otherwise, but I don’t think there’s any team better. Since losing an ugly turnover-marred game against Ole Miss on September 27th, the Gators have outscored the opposition 201-43 for an average margin of victory of 39.5 points. They aren’t going to wow you on offense like Tebow’s Heisman campaign, but are a solid, well-coached team that takes advantage of all its opportunities. This team has to be flying high after depantsing LSU and Georgia in the same season. Vanderbilt has promptly erased all the goodwill it accumulated earlier in the season when it started 5-0. They’ve since lost to three in a row to fall to 5-3 and still seeking that elusive sixth win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. It seems like we’ve seen this movie before. This one should be over quick and won’t be close at halftime. Gators win easily and cover the 23.5.

Florida 45, Vanderbilt 13

That’s it folks, happy viewing this weekend.