Tuesday, September 15, 2009

2009 SEC Power Poll Ballot, Week 2

Week 2 in the SEC helped shed a little more accurate light on the pecking order of the conference this year, but not as much as Week 3 will. There was no change among my top 6, but Auburn jumped up a couple of spots as it continued to roll and the Vols dropped 3 spots after the egg they laid in Neyland Saturday afternoon.

Here's how my ballot looks for Week 2:

1. Florida
Final tuneup before the thrashing of the Vols on Saturday was a success. Now the fun begins.

2. Alabama
Like the Gators, the Tide shook off a sluggish start to roll to a convincing victory.

3. Ole Miss
Spent most of last weekend battling chills, fever, and the flu. Will coast to a win over SELA before heading to Columbia for a Thursday night showdown with the Gamecocks.

4. LSU
Jumped out to an early lead in the SEC West with a pedestrian 2 TD win over Vanderbilt. Will they have enough of a vertical passing attack to maintain it?

5. Georgia
Like most, I'm confused about the Dawgs. Was last week the real UGA team? Or was Week 1? Chances are the answer lies somewhere in between, which will land them in the middle of the pack in the SEC.

6. Arkansas
Saturday's game against Georgia is easily the most important in Petrino's tenure with the Hogs. A win announces that Arkansas is for real, a loss brings up more questions about the defense's ability to stop a team.

7. Auburn
Through 2 games, the Tigers' offensive numbers are unmatched in school history. Saturday's game against West Virginia will be the first real test of the season.

8. South Carolina
5 FGs? That's no way to win in the SEC. Some of those red zones have to produce touchdowns. Moving the ball between the 20s means little if you can't punch it in for 6. Still no running game. At all.

9. Kentucky
I honestly have no idea what to think of or say about the Wildcats.

10. Vanderbilt
A valiant effort in Tiger Stadium, though it came up short. The injuries are starting to pile up.

11. Tennessee
1... 2... Urban's coming for you. 3... 4... you're not gonna score. 5... 6... Crompton throws too many picks. 7... 8... you're Gator Bait.

12. Mississippi State
Bad. Just bad. The Bulldog "defense" was slashed for 390 rushing yards and 6.6 ypc. Still on a beeline for Jackson-State-and-11.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend recap of sorts

A smaller slate of SEC games over the weekend - just 6, compared to last weekend's 12 - but a more entertaining one for sure. Here's some rambling thoughts from the weekend.

* Florida is really, really good. They shook off a sloppy start and blitzed a capable Troy team. Tebow is likely to finish his career 2nd in both rushing touchdowns and passing touchdowns. The unprecedented media fawning over him tends to blur just how good he is. Then, when stories like this one come out, you get the full picture of the remarkable career he's had.

* Tennessee is not very good. So many wanted to declare the Vols "back" after their dismantling of a hapless WKU squad, but Jonathan Crompton is still the QB. Even God was happy the Vols lost as he was tired of being compared to Lane Kiffin. No amount of coaching is going to change that. He looked utterly lost out there against a fairly pedestrian UCLA squad. The highlights of the game for me were seeing Kiffin looking lost and confused yet smug all at the same time. The Vols are in for a world of hurt Saturday in Gainesville.

* It's hard to know what to make of Auburn and Mississippi State's game, at least from the Auburn side. MSU is horrible and isn't going to win another game the rest of this season, that part I understand. But what to make of the Tigers? Kodi Burns seems to have settled into his niche as WildWarEagle operator. Is Gus Malzahn truly an offensive genius to turn a mediocre offensive attack into a potent one in one offseason? Or are the Louisiana Tech and MSU defenses just that bad? Chances are it's a healthy dose of both. West Virginia rolls into the Plains this weekend, and while the Mountaineers will have the best defense the Tigers will have faced so far this season, it won't be mistaken for the Steel Curtain.

* Like last season, Alabama followed up a big win over an ACC foe with a sluggish win over a mid-major program. FIU actually led late in the 2nd quarter before the Tide turned it on and rolled in the 2nd half. Probably nothing to be concerned with - it certainly didn't hurt the Tide last year.

* I also don't know exactly what to think of LSU/Vanderbilt. Clearly LSU was the more talented team and the defense looked better, but Vanderbilt isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut. That game was very much in doubt until Keiland Williams TD run where the only person who touched his was a teammate who failed to get out of his way. I'm no more or less sold on LSU as a legitimate SEC contender this year as I was before that game kicked off. Jordan Jefferson did complete a high percentage of his passes (20/29, 69%) but threw for just 138 yds, or just 4.7 ypa. With cupcakes the next two weekends - ULaLa and @MSU - it'll be a while before we see the real Tigers: @UGA and vs Florida will do that to a team.

* Speaking of Georgia, that shootout with South Carolina definitely qualifies as the strangest and most unexpected outcome of the weekend. Not the UGA win or the small margin of victory, but the offensive explosion. For a game that spawned the greatest game preview post of all time to turn into a 4-hour shootout with 735 yds of offense, 200+yds of penalties, 8 TDs, 7 FGs, and a safety made for one of the most entertaining neutral fan games of the weekend. I still feel we matchup well with the Gamecocks leading up to next Thursday's game. We'll generate a much fiercer pass rush than the Dawgs did. While Garcia looked improved, there were still mistakes made. USC's 3.8 ypc avg doesn't bode well for their chances the rest of the season either.

* Outside the SEC, you know it's bad when you're actually openly pulling for Michigan to win a game, but when that Wolverine win is accompanied by a Fat Charlie loss, I'm all for it. But at least he's taking it like a man and not blaming others. Or not. Weis will be fired at season's end. Urban will tell them no and the Irish will go get Brian Kelly from Cincinnati. Then the Irish will start winning again as Kelly's a helluva coach. Weis, not so much.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

You stay classy Alabama

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 SEC Football Picks, Week 2

Week 2 is here. While the Rebels have the week off to get rid of the flu bug that has ravaged the team, most of the rest of the league takes to the the field, including the first 3 conference games of the year.

Troy (0-1) at (#1, #1)Florida (1-0, 0-0)

11:21am CDT, SEC Network, XM199/Sirius218
All-time series
: Florida leads 1-0
Wednesday's Line: Florida - 36.5

The Gators welcome Troy to The Swamp Saturday morning. Like last week, they'll be able to name the score. Troy hasn't beaten a BCS-conference team since rolling Brad Smith and Missouri on ESPN in 2004. The last SEC team they beat was Mississippi State in 2001. This one will be as ugly as Urban Myer wants it to be. The 5TD+ line is scary, but something tells me that Corch Myers will be a bit ornery Saturday morning.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida

UCLA (1-0) at Tennessee (1-0, 0-0)
3:00pm, ESPN, XM103/Sirius121
All-Time Series
: Tennessee leads 7-5-2
Wednesday's line: Tennessee -8.5

The Bruins and the Vols will take major steps towards establishing their team identities this weekend before a packed house at Neyland Stadium. Both had impressive Week 1 scores, but against weak competition. Last year's debacle in LA set the tone for the whole dismal year for the Vols, a feat that they hope Lane Kiffin and staff are ready to rectify this season.

There's a bit of history between the staffs of these two schools with UCLA OC Norm Chow and Kiffin both serving as assistants on Pete Carroll's USC staff a few years back. The story of this game though will be the Vols' defense. All-world DB Eric Berry was used sparingly last week, but he'll be unleashed at full speed this week. Expect some big hits, a pick, and a remarkably frustrated Bruin offense.

Straight Up Winner: Tennessee
Against the Spread: Tennessee

Florida International (0-0) at (#4, #4)Alabama (1-0, 0-0)
6:00pm CDT, PPV, XM199/Sirius214

All-time series
: Alabama leads 1-0
Wednesday's Line: Alabama -34

Greg McElroy shook off an ugly start to finish with a decent statline against the vaunted VTU defense. Now the Tide get to exhale a bit against an overmatched FIU squad. The outcome here will never be in doubt. FIU will move the ball a bit throwing to WR T.Y. Hilton who Nick Saban says is a "better offensive player than anybody that we played against last week." So take that ACC! The only question is how focused the Tide will be. After routing Clemson to open the season in 2008, the Tide stunk it up in week 2 against Tulane, winning by a paltry 2 TDs against a bad team. They'll roll here, but 5 TDs is too much to give up.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Florida International

Mississippi State (1-0, 0-0) at Auburn (1-0, 0-0)
6:00pm, FSN, XM199/Sirius214

All-time series
: Auburn leads 57-23-2
Last 12 matchups
Wednesday's line
: Auburn -14.5

Both the Gene Chizik and Dan Mullen eras started off on a positive note last weekend, posting blowout wins and scoring more points than either fan base was used to seeing. Each faces a sterner test this weekend as the pressure will be greater and the defenses quicker. The last time these two were on the field together, they nearly broke the game of football with the 3-2 embarrassment that resulted.

MSU RB Anthony Dixon makes his season debut this weekend after serving a 1-game suspension for a DUI arrest this summer. The Bulldogs moved the ball pretty well on the ground last weekend – 238 yds/4.5 ypc – but Auburn’s defense will prove a much sterner test. The Tigers held LaTech to less than 100 yds last week. MSU QBs Tyson Lee (who’s battling some nagging injuries this week) and freshman Chris Relf will be tested from the opening snap.

Auburn will be looking to build on a dominating 2nd half last weekend. After leading by just 3 at half, the Tigers cruised to a 37-13 win. While I’m not sure how much better MSU’s offense is than LTU’s, the MSU defense will be much quicker to the ball. This game is going to come down to execution on offense. MSU will also need to limit the ridiculous amount of penalties from last week – 12/152 yds – to help get the Tigers off the field.

This year’s game certainly won’t be as ugly as last year’s, and may even be watchable by neutral fans. Neither team should expect an offensive explosion, but a something close to a 24-14 Tiger win is likely. Until I see the Tigers offense move the ball against an SEC opponent, I'm skeptical about giving up 2 TDs to anybody.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Mississippi State

Vanderbilt (1-0, 0-0) at (#11, #9)LSU (1-0, 0-0)
6:00pm CDT, ESPNU, XM198/Sirius216

All-time series
: LSU leads 20-7-1
Last 12 years
Wednesday's Line
: LSU -14.5

Color me unimpressed with LSU. The Tigers struggled to beat a team that hasn’t won since mid-season 2007 and gave up nearly 500 yds of offense, which was worse than any single game total they had last season. The offense was average at best and I’m still not sold on Jordan Jefferson as a star QB. Serviceable, sure, but able to win close a close, important SEC game in a hostile environment? I’m just not seeing it.

All that said, I’m even less convinced that Vanderbilt is for real. Last year’s season was an aberration just like Mississippi State’s 2006 season. I know the Commodores return a bunch of starters from that team and they utterly destroyed Western Carolina last week, but until I see them perform against legitimate competition, I’ll remain skeptical. LSU is a flawed team, but the Tigers are more talented at nearly – if not every – position on the field. The Commodores fell ass-backwards into some wins against superior competition last year, but I think they’ll be tougher to come by this season.

Give Vanderbilt credit for their impressive win last week following a bowl win last year, but this is Tiger Stadium at night. It's been 58 years since the Commodores left Baton Rouge victorious. There's no way LSU drops this one. The 2 TDs seems to be a good bargain for the Tigers.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

South Carolina (1-0) at (#21, #21)Georgia (0-1)
6:00pm, ESPN2, XM197/Sirius21
All-time series: 45-14-2
Last 12 Seasons
Wednesday’s Line: Georgia -7

For the 18th straight year, the Gamecocks serve as the SEC opener for Georgia. The Dawgs are 12-5 in these games and Mark Richt is 6-2, though both losses have been in Athens, where this year’s game is. Lately, the games have been low-scoring slugfests with neither team topping 20 points since 2004 and close, with only 1 of the last 5 meetings decided by more than 7 points.

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that this is a huge game for the Bulldogs. There’s a little bit of unrest after a paltry showing in Stillwater last week and dropping to 0-2 is the last thing Richt and staff want to do. I expect this game to be similar to many recent in the series… low scoring, utmost importance on special teams and field position, and whichever team makes the biggest play at the most opportune time wins the game. Look for the Dawgs to come out on top.

***9/10/09 UPDATE*** Rivals is reporting that UGA QB Joe Cox is out for Saturday's contest (h/t Blutarsky). Based on comments on Get the Picture though, that may not be the case. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 48 hours.

**9/10/09 UPDATE #2*** Never mind. Per Get The Picture, Cox is confirmed as starter for Saturday.

Straight Up Winner:Georgia
Against the Spread: South Carolina

Terrelle Pryor is smart

Oh the many talents of Terrelle Pryor... In addition to unnecessary recruiting antics, and quarterbacking the Buckeyes to another bowl loss, the man is soon to be regarded as one of the preeminent sociology scholors of our time, or any time for that matter.

Pryor sheds some critical insight on everyone's favorite dog killer, Michael Vick:
Not everybody is the perfect person in the world. Everyone does -- kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me. I just feel that people need to give him a chance.
That's right people. You have no room to look down on Vick's hanging and electrocution of dogs, because you too have killed and murdered. You've also stolen from Pryor and apparently stolen from me as well.

For a more coddling, "Oh he's just a kid who idolizes Vick, cut him slack" point of view, click here to read Dan Wetzel. He's right of course. Pryor is only 20 years old, still years away from knowing right from wrong. Blind adulation of seriously flawed individuals has never been a bad idea. Ever.

SEC Power Poll, Week 1: Rebels at #3

No big surprises this week in the rankings, but there was strikingly little information to go on. With three conference games this weekend - and the Vols taking on a D1A opponent - there's a chance for some shifting outside the Top3.

Here's what the voters are saying about the Rebels:
Still impressed even though it took Snead late into the fourth quarter to get going.--Track Em Tigers

If Snead gets off to a start like that against a decent SEC opponent, things won't turn out so well.--Get the Picture

Didn't look like a top 5 team in the country when they played Memphis... Look for Ole Miss to lose at least 2 in SEC Play.--Hog Database
To read all the witty snark, check out Team Speed Kills.