Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SECond Look, Week 5: Go West

First, a little obligatory theme music, courtesy of Hey Jenny Slater favorite the Pet Shop Boys:

For those of you not interested in socialist-themed videos of '90s British technopop anthems (i.e. every single one of you except for Doug Gillett) that's "Go West," which is a pretty neat summation for the divisional shift in SEC power thus far this season. It's not exactly a secret, of course, that the preseason "East = The 2008 Colossi and better depth" consensus has been smashed into oblivion--just a look over the interdivisional scoreboard-to-date makes it pretty clear--but the shift is probably even more pronounced than those results make it appear.

Why? Several reasons:

1. The quarterback position is no longer an issue at LSU.
John Parker Wilson wasn't the only one to suddenly have the "liability" bulls-eye on his back removed this weekend. Jarrett Lee went out Saturday against one of the better secondaries in the SEC and proved that his second half at Jordan-Hare was no fluke, completing 18-of-27 for 261 yards, 2 TDs, and one pick. That's a sterling 9.7 yards-per-attempt and 14-and-a-half per completion.

Coming into the season, the conventional wisdom was that the difference between the Powers That Be in Athens and Gainesville and the one in Baton Rouge was that even if the Bayou Bengals' defense, lines, receivers, backs, etc. were all better than the Dawgs' or Gators', the quarterback position would be such a gaping wound it wouldn't matter. Now that it's not so much an issue as a strength, it seems pretty clear it's LSU and Alabama who are, for the nonce, the league's giants.

2. Ole Miss is still better than you think. Yes, the Rebels have two losses. Yes, they got a little bit fortunate with Florida's fumbling problems and got outgained by more than 100 yards. Yes, their defense still needs work.

But remember that both those losses came with the Rebels outgaining their opponent--by 180 yards in the Vandy game's case--and that on a down-to-down basis, there wasn't much difference between Ole Miss and the Gators, if any. The Rebs only managed 10 first downs to Florida's 24, but thanks to the same great big giant whopping plays that Nutt-coached teams have always seemed to come up with, they outgained Florida per rush 3.7 to 3.5 and outgained the Tebow Child 8.8 to 8.4 per-pass. (How those numbers managed to add up to Florida posting a 6.1 overall gain-per-play mark to the Rebels' 5.5, I don't know. I tried to figure that out and it made my head hurt.)

Bottom line: the Rebels' win in the Swamp was a lot less fluky than their losses to Wake and the 'Dores. If they played these five games 100 times, they'd be 5-0 more often than they'd be the 3-2 they are now. As things stand now, the Rebels' game against Auburn in Oxford is at the very least a toss-up, and frankly Nutt's bunch may very well wind up the favorite.

3. South Carolina just isn't terribly good, either. Last Saturday the 'Cocks took on the same UAB team the hapless Vols had rolled up 548 yards against, outscored by 32 points, and outgained by 273 yards two weeks prior. The result? A 26-13 final, only 353 yards of offense, and a 146-yard margin over the Blazers.

It's true that Garcia making his de facto debut may have made things a little unsettled and that the 'Cocks defense will be fearsome as long as it stays healthy, but the evidence presented against UAB (and Wofford, you my recall) is that Carolina has a long way to go and a short time in which to do it. (Then again, I hammered Alabama for a similar performance against Tulane and you see how right I was about that, so take with a grain of salt.)

Add it all together with the Tide's obliteration of the Dawgs, and what it looks like is that unless Vandy can keep their Gladstone Gander act intact, the West will be home to not only the top two favorites for the league title but as many as three of the top four or four of the top six teams in the league.

So with that said and before I have to contemplate how Mississippi St. and Arkansas fit into this little argument, on with the JCCW's ballot in this week's ...

1. Alabama.
Until Oklahoma beats somebody substantial, this is the correct choice for your No. 1 team in the country. I will now go jump off a bridge.

2. LSU. SEC Fashion Watch sez ... In: LSU-'Bama in Baton Rouge; Five Minutes Ago: WLO Cocktail Party; Out: Fulmer vs. Spurrier.

3. Georgia. Well, gosh, I guess devastating injuries to key starters along both lines can catch up with you eventually. Who knew? (Uh, given that I never even slightly wavered from my choice of the Dawgs as your eventual SEC champion, not me.)

4. Ole Miss. Between the win over Florida--every bit the quality win as 'Bama's in Athens or LSU's on the Plains--and the Rebels' generally high-level quality of play, yeah, I think they go fourth.

5. Florida. Attention Dan Mullen gripers: when your offense gains 443 yards, scores 30 points, and only turns the ball over on fumbles, your offensive coordinator is not the problem. As for the 4th-and-1 call, sure, it's predictable, but of course if Mullen tries anything else that doesn't work he gets roasted for not just going with ol' reliable Tebow Smash.

6. Vanderbilt. Bad news for Auburn fans: Bobby Johnson will have a bye week before the 'Dores play their biggest game maybe ever. Good news: doesn't that sorta seem like the same set-up Vandy's always wilted under?

7. Auburn. Can't go higher until they beat one of the teams ranked ahead of them, but I do think the Tigers aren't getting quite enough credit when the defense is as stout as it is; if Auburn was winning 31-30 and 35-33, the grumbling would probably be a lot more muffled.

8. South Carolina. Nice to see the ol' quarterback carousel back in action. How long until Tommy Beecher gets his shot at the brass ring again?

9. Tennessee. Jonathan Crompton's display at Auburn may have been the worst performance I've ever seen from an SEC quarterback, and I've watched Auburn play Mississippi St. every year for 20 years.

10. Kentucky. There's no truth to the rumor the Big 12 looked at the Wildcats' schedule-to-date and offered them honorary membership. Though I understand Mike Leach thought it was a good idea.

11. Mississippi St. Tyson Lee looked like a decided step up from Wesley Carroll against LSU, though to be fair it would have been quite difficult to have been a step down.

12. Arkansas. 191 yards, no offensive touchdowns, two turnovers including a pick-six ... and that was the Hogs' positive side of the ball.

1 comment:

per head service said...

I couldn't watch the video. The content was taken down thanks to EMI.