01 September 2008
Some thoughts about the SEC after just the first game...
Mississippi State and Arkansas will play for last place in the West
On November 22, Arkansas will travel to Mississippi State and play for 5th place in the West. The loser will dwell in the cellar.
Mississippi State stunk up Ruston, Louisiana in the first road trip to Louisiana Tech for an SEC school since LSU made the sojourn in 1908. State's performance was riddled with mistakes, highlighted by 5 turnovers and 10 penalties (for 64). That included three personal fouls on State players (including the enforcement of the new horsecollar rule).
Wesley Carroll looked especially bad - four of the turnovers were interceptions thrown by Carroll. He was a cringe-worthy 11 of 25 for 161 yards. His backup, Tyson Lee, fared somewhat better - 10 of 15, but only for 85 yards.
The State defense, the hallmark of the Liberty Bowl team from a year ago, played well enough to give the team a chance, but tackled relative poorly. The Tech offense was anemic, but managed to generate enough scoring off the miscues to carry the day.
The 22-14 disaster was the only loss for the SEC in week one. Arkansas nearly made it two teams when Western Illinois took them to the wire. The FCS (Division 1AA) team was ahead 24-14 when the fourth quarter began. An Arkansas coversion on fourth and ten at the Western Illinois 33 made the comeback possible. Ouch.
Casey Dick did set every important passing personal best, and Petrino's new offense was in play. Dick threw for two touchdowns and ran for the other 2, while only throwing 1 interception. He was good for 318 yards through the air.
Arkansas only managed 76 rushing yards. Starting RB Michael Smith missed the game because of textbook issue, and De'Anthony Curtis shouldered the load - with 36 yards on just 6 carries.
South Carolina has a defense... and a QB controversy
The first half of the South Carolina-North Carolina State game probably made ESPN question the wisdom of putting the game on TV. A Gamecock field goal with 20 seconds remaining in the half punctuated a horrific half of football. The first half saw five turnovers between the 2 teams, including 3 of Gamecock Tommy Beecher's 4 interceptions.
The second half brought Tuscaloosa native Brad Smelley into the game, and he led South Carolina to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Spurrier is on the record saying he wants to give Beecher plenty of rope, but he may have used to hang himself. Smelley looked markedly better.
The Gamecock defense was incredibly stout. They allowed just 138 total yards from the Wolfpack, surrendering no points and forcing 4 turnovers. North Carolina State quarterbacks were 5 for 20 for 49 yards.
Auburn hasn't figured out their two quarterback system just yet
Playing against Lousiana Monroe was exceptionally opportunist early. In the first half, their defense took a fumble recovery to the house. Then they broke the nation's longest punt return dryspell when Robert Dunn took back a first quarter punt 66 yards. The second half featured a short field touchdown by the offense after ULM fumbled the opening kickoff.
Finally, late in the fourth quarter, Auburn sustained a scoring drive of more than 30 yards. that started at their own 22 as Chris Todd threw for a touchdown with just under 7 minutes left in the game.
Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said:
"We stink, and it's my fault," he said. "I just did a really poor job coaching this week. I saw it about three days ago. The offense was ugly tonight."
He went on to discuss the two quarterback system:
I've never done this before. I've always said you're stupid if you did it. It's funny the way the world works. One day, it'll come back to you. It's a tough deal because they're both really good players. Somewhere along the way, one of them probably will have to play more than the other. This week, we'll have to see how it goes.
Houston Nutt has Ole Miss on the right track
The Rebels bounced Memphis (State) 41-24 on Saturday. Memphis added 14 points late in the 4th quarter, and the score didn't really tell the story of the whuppin' that Nutt's Rebels put on the Tigers.
It'll be a couple of weeks before we know more about Ole Miss; Samford is next, followed by a Vanderbilt team that was surprisingly good at Miami of Ohio this week. We'll know whether that's a true test after Thursday's Vandy-South Carolina game. I love SEC football on a Thursday - as long as Bama isn't involved.
It's not difficult to understand why Nick Saban likes to play a good team early
Big blowouts by LSU, Georgia and Florida exposed very little - to anyone including their own coaching staffs.
On the flipside, Alabama knows and Tennessee will know what they have very quickly. That's why Nick Saban prefers to play a serious game early. And, that was one serious game...