Monday, October 22, 2007

Random Thoughts About Week 8 Games

Okay, so maybe there is a scenario in which Vanderbilt beats South Carolina. Paced by SEC Defensive Player of the Week D.J. Moore, the Vandy D bottled up a surprisingly inept Gamecock offense. South Carolina was sloppy early, and Vandy jumped out to a 17-0 lead after just 1 quarter. The 17 points matched their season high in a conference game against a team not named Ole Miss. They didn't score again, but they did manage the clock well enough to keep USC off the field. Maybe Vandy will be bowl eligible after all...

South Carolina's D played well, holding Vandy to 269 total yards, but the offense committed 4 TOs and left the Commodores with a short field to work with for the majority of the game. And far be it from me to question HC Spurrier, but I disagree with the subbing in of QB Blake Mitchell. While QB Smelley was off his game somewhat, Mitchell looked just as bad if not worse. That can't help the confidence of Smelley heading into this weekend's show down in Knoxville.

Apparently Tennessee want to challenge Georgia for most schizophrenic team in conference. After winning their last two conference games by a combined 33 points, the early season version of the Vols showed up in Tuscaloosa Saturday. They gave up 510 yds to an average Alabama team, had the ball for only 22:22, and committed 11 penalties. All that added up to their 3rd loss this season by 2 TDs or more. RB Arian Foster was the lone bright spot, netting 165 yds rushing and receiving.

As for the Crimson Tide, this was the most complete game they've played this season. With a play here or a play there the last couple of weeks, the Tide could easily have been on a 4-game losing streak, but definitely righted the ship Saturday afternoon. WR DJ Hall had 13 catches for 185 (both career highs) and QB Wilson threw for 363 yds, the 2nd most in conference this season. All this without 3 starters and 2 reserves, who were suspended by Saban before the game.

Despite a 1-3 conference record, Arkansas has outscored its conference foes 118-100 on the season, thanks to the 36-point rout of Ole Miss on Saturday. After 3 close losses, a trip to Oxford to take on a Rebel still reeling from the Alabama loss was what the Hogs needed to get back on track. Both RBs DMac and Felix Jones rushed for more than 100 yds and QB Dick had his best game of the season. HC Nutt probably enjoyed the trip out of Arkansas, where he probably got a little reprieve from the pressure cooker he lives in in Fayetteville.

As for the Rebels, the Seth Adams experiment may be coming to an end, as the former walkonAdams finished the 3-game homestand with 10 interceptions. He played well at the beginning of the season, but has really struggled lately. Former UT QB Schaeffer managed to get the Rebels on the board with a late TD pass to WR Wallace. It will be interesting to see who gets the PT this weekend against a tough Auburn D. Even though he's only been there 2+ seasons, you have to wonder if the Rebels will start to see why they shouldn't have hired a position coach as a HC. Orgeron has improved the talent level since he took over, but hasn't proven he can have the team ready on a week by week basis.

Mississippi State's rush defense was ranked among the league's best a few weeks ago, but has since given up 473 yds on the ground to Tennessee and West Virginia. FR QB played respectably, but the tough Mountaineer D bottle up MSU's potent ground game, with RB combo or Dixon/Ducre combining for only 84 yds on 27 carries. As a team, MSU managed only 45 rushing yds, well below their season average of 157.6. MSU was out of the game early, as WVU scored a TD on its first play from scrimmage, and took a 31-0 lead just 6 seconds into the 2nd quarter.

While Florida let the world know they're still a factor in the SEC race despite 2 straight losses, they may have pushed their luck with QB Tebow one too many times, as he suffered a bruised right shoulder. It's his non-throwing shoulder, but it's still a concern as nearly every play in HC Meyer's playbook starts and end with Tebow making a play. He carried the ball 20 times against Kentucky Saturday, while the next highest Gator - WR Harvin - carried it 6 times.

For Kentucky, they may have lost the game, but QB Woodson played his best game of the season statistically, throwing for 415 yds and 5 TDs, both season highs in the SEC. This game was played on a higher level offensively than most SEC games this year. Both teams scored in all 4 quarters. Each team was whistled for just 4 penalties each. Each team converted more than 50% of 3rd down tries. And neither team turned the ball over.

Even though Auburn had their 3-game win streak (and 10-game road win streak) snapped, it's hard not to still view Auburn as one of the top 3-4 teams in conference right now. Against an incredibly stout LSU defense, they put up nearly 300 yds of offense, held the ball for more than 32 minutes, committed just 3 penalties, and didn't turn the ball over. While this game basically eliminated them from contention for the SEC Championship Game, it's looking the Tigers will be spending New Year's Eve somewhere warm and sunny.

Another crazy win for LSU, who seems to be making a habit of these crazy games. Again, I have to wonder what is going through HC Miles' head with his late game decisions. Two weeks after the challenge against Florida to save a few yards of field position with only one timeout remaining, and just 7 days removed from not handing the ball to RB Charles Scott in OT against UK, Miles again eschewed the timeout with less than 20 seconds left, down 1, and in FG range. If that pass is thrown 1 second later and not caught, LSU loses that game with a timeout in it pocket. It worked out this time, so more power to him, but wow... just... wow.

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