Monday, October 29, 2007

Not Surprise

"Well there's a big surprise! I thought I was going to have a have a heart attack and die, from Not Surprise!"
--Iago, Aladdin

I really wish bookies would take prop bets on things on useless, intangible stuff, because I could have made a killing on the Ole Miss game. Or last year's Ole Miss game. And the Ole Miss game before that. It's the same Ole Miss game, every year.

How? Let us count the ways:

1. Statistical dominance from Auburn but still an inexplicably close game well into the second half? Check. I know, I know, the score's the only statistic that counts, but it's also the only place this was even a remotely competitive game. 420 yards to 193. 22 first downs to 15. 36 minutes of possession time to 23. 5.7 yards a play to 3.7. Exactly one Auburn drive failed to end in Ole Miss territory. This was a 30-3 blowout in "If not for that interception, this was a tie ball game!" clothing.

2. Final score still worth two touchdowns of comfort? Check. Sure, Arkansas obliterated the Rebels, but the Hogs were mad. The Rebels took Florida and 'Bama both to the wire. I'll take our 17-3 snoozer over the Tide's outing against those guys any time. In fact, I won't just take it, I'll even throw in a couple of bucks for the Rebels' trouble. The bottom line is that two-TD SEC wins--especially this year, especially when one's team is playing its ninth straight week without a bye, especially when they're only a week removed from their most physically and emotionally demanding game of the season--do not come as cheap as this one looked. (Or, I'm assuming it looked. I was rocking the Sirius.)

3. Post-game headline and stories geared towards assuring the fans that the somnabulant win is no cause for alarm? Check. Check, check, check.

4. Fans who decide the light drizzle is the sky falling in? Check. What's funny is that I was writing a response to this kind of reaction just about this time last year. After Auburn's closer-than-expected win over, whaddya know, Ole Miss.

Here's the only rub: that performance last year, better than so many Auburn fans gave it credit for, did ... well ... sort of prove to herald a stretch run I think it's fair to call, um, subpar. (The always-sugary 'Bama win notwithstanding, when paired with the embarrassment against Georgia and truly hideous win over Nebraska.) I don't think Saturday's win needs defending. But will it when we've come out the other side of Amen Corner?

I don't think so, for three reasons on display against the Rebels:

1. Evil Brandon (i.e. the guy who started against UGA in 2006) is exorcised, with yet another clutch fourth-quarter TD as my witness.
2. This offensive line is better than last year's and will neither let Good Brandon come to so much psychological harm nor watch the running backs behind them meet tacklers before the line of scrimmage, as was the case so often a year ago (One sack Saturday, 4.8 yards per rush).
3. This defense (the principal point of worry after last year's Ole Miss game, you'll note) will not yield provided they're not in the presence of Matt Flynn channeling the departed spirit of Kurt Warner circa 1999.

So, as stated before, one slightly off Saturday filled with Not Surprise isn't going to worry me. At this point, it's a second straight year of tanking vs. the Dawgs that would be the real surprise.


Buford T. Justice said...

I’d be interested to know what the yards after the catch look like for the last few years, say 2003 – present. My guess is that YAC has gone down significantly because of the young receiving corps. As I understand it, the offense is designed around running the football and a short passing game. For the short passing game to produce big plays, the receivers have to gain yards after the catch.

I think we lack the ability to go “vertical” because of a weaker than average arm from Cox and three freshmen on the line who haven’t quite mastered recognizing and picking up the blitz. I really think Borges is super concerned about trying to throw downfield because of what happened earlier this season and he doesn't want to get Brandon hurt. I hate to say it, but our best offense sometimes is to punt and let the defense play. That will get us beat, see second half against LSU, but we might also win 8 or 9 games doing it.

I do sometimes wonder why we don’t run in no-huddle, hurry up mode all the time. The entire offense seems to focus better in that mode.

One thing that does need to be fixed sooner rather than later is the kickoffs. We essentially give every single team 20 yards when we kick the ball off. This combined with an inefficient offense is the biggest problem we have.

Hey, we are what we are.....a great defensive football team with an offense that can run the ball really well and is good for about 20 to 25 points a game. If we are decently efficient on first downs, stay out of 3rd and longs, don't turn the ball over, and actually score when we get inside the red zone, we win. Pretty simple formula.

So, what do I expect? I expect an easy win that rests the starters versus Tenn Tech and a split in the final two. I still can't get it out of my mind that we will drop one more game. However, as I maintained earlier in the season, we will have an offensive explosion against someone that least expects it.

Acid Reign said...

    I think Rod Smith's YAC yards are pretty good, this year. He's made some shifty, excellent moves. Robert Dunn, too, IF ... he actually brings it in. When you throw to Dunn, you need to throw it at his feet, or a foot above his head. Hit Dunn in the numbers, and it will bounce off. If he catches it, though, he's been hard to bring down.

    Ole Miss played their safeties 12-15 yards back, and pinched well inside the hashes. Throwing deep would have been iffy, except for corner routes. Brandon doesn't have the arm for that. The few he throws float, and aren't terribly accurate. Typically, a Brandon Cox corner route is more of a danger to the camera crews, than to the defense.

    Watching Coach O and Will Muschamp trying to out-nutbag each other was worth the price of admission, alone. I wish the Ramsey chop-block whiners had sat behind the Ole Miss bench, and seen what I saw. Ole Miss was always looking for a chance to elbow folks in the back of the head, after the whistle. Ole Miss players who were successful got an enthusiastic high-five from Coach O at the sideline. Well, except for the late hit on Pat Simms that got flagged. I thought Coach O was going to body-slam the offending player, for a minute.

    Losing to Georgia would be bad, especially in Athens, where we've only lost twice in the past 25 years. We need to stick to the "keep it in front of you" coverage package. Stafford bombed us last year. We need to stop their running game. I think our defense can. And, if a gimpy Tebow and sub-par running backs can put up 30 on the UGA defense, so can we, if we don't turn it over.

&nbps   Losing to Bama at home would be totally unacceptable. In my opinion, the only matchup that favors Bama is their receivers against our secondary. Here's hoping we don't get the Tennessee game J. P. Wilson. I think, though, that our defense will once again heat him up, and throw off his accuracy.

John G. said...

I think Tubs still feels bad for the "pine box" comments, so he always likes to keep it close on Ole Miss. He's turned in an Auburn man over the years.

Jerry Hinnen said...

BTJ, I agree we should just run the hurry-up all the time. Cox just seems "on" in it much more so than usual.

I think a lot of the kickoff problems are due to Byrum being hurt. If he was healthy and booming them, maybe things wouldn't be quite so ugly ... and you're right they're ugly right now.

AR, my early thoughts are that it's all about which JPW comes to play. 'Bama's very dangerous when he's on and wretched when he's not. That simple, kind of, though obviously there'll be a lot more to say about that game before it arrives.