Blog Entry

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 4

Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:06 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 4:11 am

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. LSU and Alabama are the SEC's No. 1 and No. 2, or No. 2 and No. 1, and no one else is close. Yes: Arkansas could recover from today's beatdown in Tuscaloosa and still head to Baton Rouge at the end of the year with a chance to sneak off with the West title. Yes: South Carolina has the league's best player in Marcus Lattimore and more than enough weapons on both sides of the ball to beat anyone, LSU and 'Bama included, if Stephen Garcia's head is screwed on correctly. Yes: with Charlie Weis rediscovering the Gators' lost running attack behind Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, Florida looks like the most dangerous team in the East and could do anything in the Atlanta one-off.

But until one of those teams actually beats one of the two Goliaths currently standing atop the conference, we're going to assume the gap between LSU and Alabama and the rest of the conference is even wider than it was purported to be at season's beginning. In fact, this blogger would argue these are the two teams that belong atop the polls as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation.

Why? LSU has the best overall body of work of any team in the FBS, having beaten three ranked teams away from the friendly confines of Death Valley. And if Mississippi State doesn't look like they're going to live up to their preseason ranking, beating Oregon and West Virginia by a combined 39 points (and largely throttling a Duck offense that's rolled in its usual fashion ever since) should only look better as the season progresses.

But if LSU has the best body of work, it's Alabama that after Saturday has the single most impressive performance of the season. Not many SEC fans have doubts about Arkansas's offensive personnel (running back excepted), and even fewer would question Bobby Petrino's offensive scheming. But the Tide made the Hog attack look utterly ordinary, all while showing off the kind of explosiveness in the offensive backfield (hi, Trent Richardson!) and special teams (hey, Marquis Maze!) that should give them all the scoring firepower they'll need. If Arkansas goes on to be the top-15 team they've been supposed to be this offseason -- and we don't see any reason to doubt them yet -- then drubbing that top-15 team by 24 points that felt like 44 makes for the best single-game showing of the year so far.

So ... which do you choose? The team that's flashed the highest ceiling, or the team with the best scalps on the wall? We don't know. And fortunately, we don't have to choose--their meeting on Nov. 5 (barring an upset between now and then) will choose for us. We just know that choosing any other SEC team at this point is denying the obvious.

2. Florida is the East favorite, and Stephen Garcia is the reason. It's not that the Gators wiped the floor with Kentucky, though their willingness to keep the pedal to the proverbial metal was impressive. (They do wipe the floor with the 'Cats every year, after all.) It's not that the Gamecocks' issues in the secondary can't be overcome -- after collecting a pair of key sack-and-strips against Vanderbilt, Jadeveon Clowney can apparently do a lot of the overcoming by himself -- or that the slow start for Alshon Jeffery can't become a fast finish if he gets better quarterbacking.

What it is is, well, that quarterbacking. Garcia didn't just throw four interceptions Saturday against the 'Dores; he threw four awful, braindead, hilarious, Steve Spurrier aneurysm-inducing interceptions. Vandy has an outstanding secondary, but when you run straight backwards on 3rd-and-15 and blindly launch a pass so aimless and floated even the Wounded Duck Association of America immediately asks to be disassociated from it (as Garcia did for his first), an outstanding secondary isn't necessary. Garcia was terrible, plain-and-simple, and frankly lucky he hadn't already been pulled by the time Connor Shaw entered in the fourth quarter.

South Carolina can do a lot of things even when Garcia is terrible. They can do even more if he's hovering around "passable." (Like beat Georgia, for instance.) But they can't win the East if he's not playing somewhere near the top of his game, and judging by Saturday's performance, the top of his game is far, far away from him.

3. The SEC West might not be quite that brutal. Is it still the roughest, toughest division in college football? Probably. But part of its preseason reputation was due to the presence of both Auburn and Mississippi State in the preseason polls, and right now neither squad is playing like they deserve so much as a spot at the bottom of the "Also Receiving Votes" barrel.

The Bulldogs were supposed to lick their wounds this week against Louisiana Tech after crushing losses to Auburn and LSU. But the Bulldogs from Ruston nearly inflicted the biggest wound yet, tying the game at 20 on a late field goal and driving to the State 20 with under four minutes to play before a Garciaesque interception from true freshman QB Nick Isham ended the threat. Another pick would help MSU escape in overtime, despite Tech's 359-340 yardage advantage. 

But at least hard-luck Tech had already taken Southern Miss and Houston to the wire. FAU hadn't scored a touchdown in their two games, losing to Florida and Michigan State by a combined score of 85-3. And yet the Owls found themselves down just 10-6 to Auburn at halftime and finished the game with just eight fewer yards. While most of the frustration from Auburn fans has been centered on the Tiger defense, this time it was the offense doing most of the struggling, as they finished with just 315 total yards (the second-lowest total of Gus Malzahn's tenure) and two offensive touchdowns.

Both teams will no doubt play much better games against competition they take more seriously, in weeks where they're not recovering from emotional losses. But even if they do, neither the Bulldogs nor Tigers currently look like a threat to any of the five teams at the top of either division. 

4. Houston Nutt's odds of coaching in 2012 are now less than 50/50. A 27-13 home loss to Georgia isn't great no matter how you slice it. But the Rebels' performance was even more deflating than the scoreline suggests. The Dawgs outgained their hosts by nearly 300 yards (475 to 183), held them without a second-half point, and only kept them in the game via Blair Walsh's uncharacteristic three missed field goals. The Rebel passing game continued to be the sorest of sore spots, as Zack Stoudt and Randall Mackey combined to complete just 12 of their 30 passes for just 149 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. If not for an 82-yard punt return reverse for a touchdown pulled out of Nutt's bag, the Rebels likely would have finished in the single digits in scoring for a second straight week.

So maybe it looked better on the scoreboard than the 30-7 defeat at Vandy. But Ole Miss still didn't offer any reason to think they're not on their way to 1-7 (or worse) in the SEC.


Since: Oct 7, 2011
Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:39 am

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 4

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Since: Oct 7, 2011
Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:41 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 4

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Since: Nov 13, 2006
Posted on: September 26, 2011 6:54 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 4

Here's the problem with what you're saying... Richardson would have to be ABLE to run the ball 27 times on the average WITHOUT being keyed on every play, which, with Stephen Garcia playing lilke Jake Plummer in 1999, teams are immediately thinking, on every single play "tackle Lattimore."  They literally play "Run Key Lattimore" on every single play, or at least that's what Vandy did.  The AMAZING part is, even given that,  Lattimore is averaging 5.7 yards a carry and single-handedly put up just about all the points the 'Cocks did vs. Vandy. If (and that's a big IF) either Garcia or Shaw step up and show they can gain yards in some fashion OTHER than handing off to Lattimore, his #'s would be much better.  Richardson's #'s are only as good as they are because the Alabama Crimson Tide have a more than respectable passing game.  I have no question if McCarron was throwing up 4 interceptions in 3 Qtrs, unable to handle back to back snaps, teams would be keying on Richardson, allowing teams to hold him back about as much as Vandy held back Lattimore.  Besides which, Lattimore hasnt just started.  He was the National Freshman of the yaar.  In his first 4 games, he's averaging over 150 yards rushing per game, and the Soutch Carolina Gamecocks are yet to play a "twink" of a team.  Alabama, OTOH, has played Kent State, and North Texas--hardly teams which strike fear into the hearts of any SEC opponent.  OTOH, ECU is 3-5 in their last 8 games vs. top 15 teams, came VERY close to beating the Virginia Tech Hokies, and are 1-2 with both losses coming to top 15 teams--hardly slouches.  Navy's ONLY loss is to the Gamecocks. Vandy's only loss is to the Gamecocks.  Georgia has lost to Boise State and the Gamecocks--nobody else, so, discounting their losses vs. the Gamecocks, the teams Carolina has played so far are a combined 10-2, with the 2 losses coming to Boise State and Virginia Tech, so it's not like the South Carolina Gamecocks have been playing nobodies.  The same can't be said of Alabama. whose opponents are 8-4 minus their losses to Alabama, wiith teams like Kent State having been beaten by the likes of Lousiana-Lafeyette, and North Texas with losses to Florida International and Houston.  

Very basically speaking, Alabama has 2 quality wins so far this season, and 2 wins over effectively I-AA teams.  Yet you dare to compare the stats head to head? If Lattimore and the Gamecocks had played the same teams, Lattimore would have been clocking in with 800+ yards in the same games before he was pulled.  If you're going to compare stats head to head like you have, at least be fair in admitting Alabama hasn't faced quality teams in all 4 of their games the way Carolina has.  It's truly that simple. 

Since: Aug 20, 2011
Posted on: September 25, 2011 1:46 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 4

besides the Ole Miss Rebels really sucking this year, can you share what inside info you have that Houston Nutts odds of coaching in 2012 are "now less than 50/50?"
I believe Nutt will be coaching in 2012, but would place the odds of Pete Boone being AD at Ole Miss less than 50/50 for 2012.  I base this on the facts that:
---on Mon 9/19 a booster organization called "Forward Rebels!" placed a FULL page ad in ALL the major newspapers in the state of Mississippi stating "We believe that our coaches are not the problem.  Or our athletes.  Or our fans.  The Ole Miss Administration is the problem.  Our leadership has failed us.  And our leadership must be held accountable."  Their site is and on Facebook.
---Obviously the football team is struggling, but the AD Boone has completely botched the handling of the mascot with the whole Black Bear thing and Ole Miss fans/alum and boosters are almost as embarrased and mad about this as they are the football results so far---like we say down here it just "sticks in their craw."
---Houston Nutt makes $2.76 mil a year.  AD Boone makes $429,287.  Nutt's buyout if fired now or the end of the year is $5 mill. 
---I could be wrong, but almost certain if fired AFTER 2012 season Nutt's buyout is still $5 mil or real close to it.  I see no way in hell a public university in Mississippi getting away with paying a coach $5 mil to leave---not in the poorest state in the union and in this economy.  Even with the football results this would enrage the entire state all the way up the the governor down here!

Definitely some heads gonna roll, but don't think its gonna be Nutt's.  I read something about him last week on the subject of his being fired and the reporter talked about Nutt being under pressure etc. but sure wasn't losing sleep at night worrying about being fired knowing what his buyout was.  Thoughts?

Since: Aug 20, 2011
Posted on: September 25, 2011 12:28 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 4

After yesterday's games I don't see how Lattimore is the "league's best player."  League's running back that gets the most touches, yes, but best player?

Lattimore has 107 carries for 611 and a 5.7 avg.  12 receptions for 139.  8 td's rushing/1 receiving.
Richardson has 67 carries for 441 and a 6.6 avg.  9 receptions for 121.  8 td's rushing/1 receiving.

Lattimore averages 27 carries a game, Richardson 17.  If you gave Richardson another 40 carries at just HALF his season avg (3.3 yards) he'd have roughly the same total yardage as Lattimore. 

Also take into account who they've played against.  USC has not faced a ranked opponent.  Alabama has played a top 25 in Penn State and a top 15 in Arkansas.

Don't get me wrong, Lattimore is a beast.  But to come out and say "league's best player" like it's a given?  The numbers and quality of opponents each has faced does not support this. 

Since: Sep 25, 2008
Posted on: September 25, 2011 8:54 am

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 4

At first I thought you were a terrible writer because one of the things you should have learned is that maybe Kentucky should eventually just join the basketball only portion of the Big East.  Then, on second thought, you should have known that all along and not "just" learned it.

I am one of the biggest SEC homers you can find and do believe it is certainly the best conference around if you are looking at the top 3 to 5 programs but the rest of the league over the past few years is as bad or mediocre as any of the conferences.

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