Monday, October 09, 2006

Saturday in assorted nutshells

This is the third and last post of the JCCW's All Blogging, All Dancing Sunday, which, to be honest, may not quite have lived up to its title. Anyway, here's Part 1 and here's Part 2.

Auburn debacle leftovers

--Let’s be clear about this: The running backs (and V****n, I suppose) are the only Tigers who deserved to walk out of Jordan-Hare with their chins up after Saturday. Whatever excuses you come up with for anyone else—Cox is hobbled, the o-line misses Cope, Muschamp’s alleged shakiness—don’t cut it. The players played like Ole Miss players, pure and simple. All of them.
--The epicenter of the meltdown, as has been noted elsewhere, was up front on both sides of the ball. From the JCCW’s point-of-view, Auburn’s offensive line was slightly better than the defensive line—bearing in mind this is like saying I’d rather drink formaldehyde than battery acid—since the running game did actually accomplish things (Irons, Lester and Stewart combined for 107 yards on 20 carries, not terribly shabby) and not all five sacks were the line’s fault (it’s called an outlet pass, Brandon.) But they were both terrible, and the mystifying part of it is how badly the d-line has declined from the LSU game. SMQ correctly points out that some hiccups on the defensive front were expected, but where were they vs. LSU? Thompson, Gunn, Groves, Browder, etc. were terrors in that game. You’re going to tell me that the Arkansas o-line is 300 yards better than LSU’s? No. The AU d-line has gotten demonstrably worse, and not just for one game, either … it’s been a decline, and that falls directly on the coaches’ shoulders.
--I have to disagree with Football Saturday when he takes Borges to task for being conservative. If by “conservative” you mean a run-first, play-it-safe mentality, I don’t think that’s what Borges has become; remember, arguably the worst call of the game was the wild Smith throwback that ruined the first drive and put Auburn in a hole they never got out of. Not conservative there. If anything, I think he should perhaps gte more consevrative, and simply run the ball more often. Borges called 39 passes and 21 rushes, with the rushes averaging exactly five yards a play and the passes … wait for it … a whopping 2.8 yards a play. (Remember to factor in sacks and short scrmables as pass plays.) Including screens, Irons, Lester, and Stewart averaged six yards a touch. Clearly the ball needs to be in the hands of the running backs a little more often, even allowing for the fact that Auburn was down two scores for so much of the second half. So becoming less “conservative” isn’t necessarily the answer, but I do think Borges can dig deeper into the playbook. As I noted in the recap, he seemed to get into a bit of a play-calling rut. An aggressive—not conservative—rut, but a rut nonetheless.
--The question heading into the Florida game: what kind of loss is this? Is this the 23-0 loss to USC in 2003 whose hangover wrecked the Ga. Tech game the next week, too? Or the 2001 Arkansas beatdown, after which Auburn was supposed to roll over on the road for Richt’s first Georgia team and instead walked out of Athens 24-17 winners? Tubby’s record in big games suggests the latter, but the three-game malaise and severity of the fiasco Saturday makes me think we might be in 2003 territory here. We’ll see.

Other games I saw Saturday:


--Florida has gone from underrated to overrated in what seems like a matter of seconds. They’re a very good team, second or third (behind Michigan) is an appropriate ranking, and yes, Tebow is (unfortunately for all of us) the genuine article. But Leak’s unhappiness (he is rooting for Tebow to fail and don’t doubt it for a second) is going to hurt the team at some point, they still haven’t kicked a field goal, and the jury remains out on how well they can stop a committed running game. Bottom line is that they’re not quite good enough to get out of the SEC unscathed. Sorry, Gators.
--Miles is the anti-Tubby. Ruthlessly crushes inferior foes, oversees choke after choke after choke in the biggies. I’ll take our guy, thanks.
--That said, he’s in a complete no-win situation with Russell. There’s no way you can bench a guy who plays as well he does in, well, any game that’s not a match-up of top-10 teams. The problem? Against top-10 teams, he’s the second coming of Josh Booty. Like Peyton Manning in the postseason in Indy. There’s no way out, Les. Good luck.
--Yeah, the jump pass was cool, but Verne, buddy … calm down. We’re fearing for your health out here.


--Ah, an 84-point scoring extravaganza, just as I expected. Or, rather, thought would happen when pigs not only flew, but started delivering messages to airline passengers.
--For the record, Richt’s play-calling emphasis on the pass makes Borges look like Fisher DeBerry. You would think with a QB with a busted ankle and no playing time in three weeks (and eventually, sitting on a lead) he might have had other ideas.
--What’s seven letters long and is glad Tennessee’s not on the schedule? The JCCW! (See, it’s like the “What has two thumbs…” bit, but … nevermind.) Erik Ainge apparently went to the Jason Campbell School of Career Resurrection a year early.
--OK, I can admit it: it turns out CBS put the best two teams in the prime-time slot after all on Sept. 16.


--Whenever you get the urge to complain about SEC officials, SEC fans, remember that it could be much, much worse. The end of the USC-Washington game was an absolute butchery, at least as bad as the Oregon-OU fiasco and maybe worse. Consider, at least the Oregon thing was a subjective call on some level; the official in the Coliseum Saturday had only to realize that the gain was a first down and stop the clock. He didn’t. And it cost Washington their shot at the end zone. Again, this is why SEC fans look down their nose at West Coast fans: if this had happened in an Auburn-Alabama game, the state legislature would be appointing members of a Special Investigative Committee as we speak … and forget about taking the year off, said official would be wearing a fake mustache in Paris by now.
--Michigan is the No. 2 team in the country IMHO. They’ve absolutely cruised past three teams that could have given them problems and as long as Henne keeps it together, do they even have a weakness?
--Only Vandy could outgain a team 400-179, force the opposing quarterbacks to go 3-9 with two picks, and lose by seven. (Why? Five turnovers, including four lost fumbles.)
--Ahead of Duke by two going into the fourth quarter? That’s … that’s not very good.
--I could rip the polls again, but it’s not even worth the effort. We should just all agree they're horrible, and collectively move on. At least until the last few weeks of the season.

The JCCW will most likely return Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

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