Monday, October 15, 2007

Random Thoughts About Week 7 Games

No one outside of the Tide Nation (except maybe Mississippi State fans) can watch the end of the Ole Miss/Alabama game and not think something fishy just went down. The on-field crew actually got the call right, but they were also the ones who had to relay Replay Official Doyle Jackson’s questionable ruling to the fans and players and coaches. You can debate all day whether OM WR Hodge was forced out of bounds or not and whether he or Bama DB Mitchell was the first to touch the ball. But to say that there’s conclusive evidence from that replay to overturn the on-field call is a joke. This won’t be the last we hear about this. I expect the SEC will issue Ole Miss an apology and reprimand Jackson, much like the crew that worked the Oregon/Oklahoma game last season.

Alabama HC Nick Saban crossed the line of good taste when he called the Rebel fans classless. Just three weeks ago, Tide fans pelted UGA WR Mikey Henderson with cups, bottles, etc. for merely catching a game winning TD pass. These same fans made threatening phone calls to assistant coaches after that same UGA loss.While there’s no excuse for littering the field at any point, the Rebel fans were protesting the decision made by the officiating crew, not making Alabama players their targets. Saban is no stranger to targeting students with attacks though, having only recently questioned the University of South Florida's academic standards. I also wonder how classy Dolphin fans think Saban is…

Lost in all the controversy is the play of OM DE Greg Hardy. He’s 6th in the conference in tackles from his DL spot, and leads the conference in Tackles for Loss (16), Sacks (8), and Forced Fumbles (3). He’s also broken up 3 passes and recorded 3 QB Hurries. He’s also caught 2 TD passes this year. Glenn Dorsey gets all the attention – and rightfully so – but it’s hard to ignore the numbers Hardy is amassing this season.

Tennessee continued its solid play, picking up a conference road win against Mississippi State. They gouged a usually stout MSU defense for 470 yds, and set up their annual 3rd Saturday in October showdown with Alabama in style. JR WR Lucas Taylor had a breakout game, catching 11 passes for 186 yds and a TD. Hard to believe, but after their disastrous start – particularly defensively – the Vols actually control their own destiny in the East.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs dropped a tough one at home, despite one of their better QB outings of the year. FR QB Carroll was solid all game, throwing for 200 yds and 2 TDs and not turning the ball over at all. All that after being diagnosed with a concussion at halftime. RB Dixon continues to impress. He had another 100+ yd day and a TD, and currently ranks 5th in conference in rushing ypg (99.1) and is tied for 3rd in total scoring this season with 60 points. He actually leads the conference in TDs scored with 10. MSU will need more solid play from the QB position if they want to pull an upset in either of their next 2 games - @WVU, @UK.

I think most knew it could happen, but hoped LSU had enough talent to overcome the coaching of Les Miles. Unfortunately for Tiger fans, their luck ran out in OT against Kentucky. Despite gashing the Wildcat D all game long, RB Charles Scott vanished in crunch time in favor of the plodding Jacob Hester. He reappeared on 4th and 2 in the 3rd OT, and was promptly stopped a yard short of the first down. A week after being lauded for his playcalling against Florida, Les Miles will be criticized with the same vigor for this game. Tiger fans will be shaking their heads about this one for a while.

Not to take anything away from the ‘Cats though. QB Woodson carried the Big Blue in the absence of star RB Rafael Little, lighting up the Tiger D for 250 yds and 3 TDs, doubling the number of passing TDs they’ve allowed this year. As the only team in conference with no remaining non-conference games, Kentucky has no margin for error if they want to win their first ever SEC East crown. Maybe now the Big Blue Nation can look back at the Bluegrass Miracle and appreciate it for what an amazing, improbable finish it actually was.

South Carolina HC Spurrier will take the win, but no way he’s happy with the team’s effort in the 2nd half. After moving the ball at will in the 1st half, the Gamecocks punted 5 times, threw an interception and missed a FG in the 2nd half. The nation’s stingiest passing D also gave up a season worst 285 yds, nearly 60 more than it surrendered to UK’s Woodson last week. Their run D was stout though, allowing only 113 yds to UNC and a 3.1 ypc average.

A year after losing to Vanderbilt on a last second FG, Georgia returned the favor Saturday in Nashville. For Dawg fans though, this couldn’t be the game they wanted to see. QB Stafford was shaky for a 2nd consecutive week, barely completing 50% of his passes. Thankfully FR RB Knowshon Moreno had another huge game in RB Brown’s absence. Kudos to HC Richt for quickly breaking up his players who were dancing on the logo at midfield after the game. They do know it was Vandy right? A game they’re supposed win every year…

As for Vanderbilt, if you want to go to a bowl, you’ve got to protect your home field. And to do that, you have to have a home field. While I’m sure the TV shots skewed it somewhat, the UGA red seemed to have an unusually large presence. WR Earl Bennett did move up to 2nd all time in receptions in SEC history, but you can just see him laboring to get open. With no other offensive threat, defenses can key on him, daring a Vandy QB or RB to beat them. In 3 SEC games against teams not named Ole Miss, Bennett has just 11 catches for 113 yds. While he’s just a JR, and could put the career receptions record out of reach for years next season, it’s hard to see him wanting to come back for another year of this.

Quick, name the SEC team with the longest winning streak right now. It’s Auburn. With perhaps the defensive effort of the year in college football – holding Arkansas RBs McFadden and Jones to a combined 85 yds. This was the Tiger’s 15th straight road win, made more impressive by the fact they won it despite not scoring a single TD. They dominated the Time of Possession (35:53 – 24:07), rushed for 189 yards, and held the Hogs to a 2.7 ypc average. QB Cox engineered another big win for the Tigers, completing 57% of his passes and taking care of the football. After 6 INTs in his first 3 games, he’s thrown just 1 in his last 4.

While Hog fans have to be somewhat encouraged by the defensive effort, this game seemed to all but clinch HC Nutt’s fate. It’s the worst kept secret in the country that a loud portion of Razorback Nation would like to see a HC change sooner rather than later. This loss – particularly with the stagnant offensive showing – will do nothing but fuel those already towering flames. I just wonder if he’ll survive the week…

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