If this isn’t the most “it’s not easy being a mid-major” story of all, I don’t know what is.
Gee, kinda makes all that whither BCS? hand wringing in the wake of the response to 2011′s Alabama-LSU’s rematch seem a little silly now. Overreact much?
Of course, the cherry on top of this particular sundae is that if the four-game playoff were in effect this season, we’d have a major controversy over the fourth-best team (Michigan State! Baylor! Tastes great, Lou! Less filling, Mark!).
Then again, that’s nothing that can’t be fixed with an eight-team playoff. More awesome, please.
No, this ain’t about which members of the 2014 recruiting class are headed to Athens. You should know me better than that by now. It’s just three random stories I thought I’d share:
- At ESPN RecruitingNation, Jeremy Crabtree has a good story about how the new NCAA academic requirements are affecting JUCOs. He actually describes a thoughtful NCAA process behind the new rules – unlikely, I know – and while that’s commendable, I have this feeling that the JUCOs are going to game some of that with good old-fashioned grade inflation. It will be interesting to see how much impact these rules have on D-1 schools that have come to rely on talent injections from the junior college rankings.
- The AJ-C‘s Michael Carvell asks the SEC for an interview about its reaction to the Butch Jones loophole story and gets a statement instead. The statement is about as empty as you’d expect at this point, since Jones hasn’t actually done anything yet. Will this become next year’s big story at the SEC spring meetings? Stay tuned for signing day and we’ll see.
- By all accounts, Virginia’s run under Mike London has underwhelmed, to say the least, culminating in a terrible 2-9 2013 season. He’s coming back for what I consider to be one of the weakest reasons to keep a head coach, to save a good recruiting class. (Virginia right now is the only team with commitments from two of the top twelve recruits in the country.) But that’s not what I find interesting. This is: “But several programs, most notably Alabama and Ohio State, have continued to recruit Blanding and Brown in recent months, trying to convince the two prospects that London could be gone next season, according to two people involved in the Tidewater recruiting scene who have spoken to college assistant coaches still pursuing Blanding and Brown. They were granted anonymity in order to speak freely.” I am shocked, shocked to hear that Saban and Corch practice negative recruiting tactics. And here I thought Alabama and Ohio State were such good programs that they sold themselves.
Remember this Q & A with Les Miles after his team’s thrilling 44-41 loss in Athens?
Miles was asked if this is a new era of offense in the SEC. “I hope not,” he sighed.
Flash forward to last Saturday afternoon. Auburn won a championship game that featured 101 points and more than 1200 yards of offense. The ball was moving with so little resistance at times that Gary Danielson essentially gave up trying to analyze what was happening.
If the Georgia-LSU game felt like a game that was marked by stellar quarterback play on both sides that overcame what the defenses threw at them (at least until the last LSU series), the SECCG put two defenses on display that were little more than paper tigers. It wasn’t just that they had trouble coping with the offensive schemes in play. There were plenty of puzzling decisions by the defensive coordinators – Missouri stubbornly stayed in a three-man front that Auburn simply ran around and Ellis Johnson waited until very late in the game to blitz to disrupt James Franklin – that were matched by sloppy fundamental play, as evidenced by a bunch of missed tackles by Missouri’s defense and scads of receivers that Auburn’s secondary simply elected not to cover.
Things were so crazy it made the Georgia-LSU game seem like an old Auburn-Mississippi State struggle by comparison.
Now I’m trying very hard to avoid sounding curmudgeonly here. There’s no question Saturday’s game was entertaining, even thrilling, at times. But there’s also no question for me that it lacked something that last year’s SECCG had in spades (besides Georgia being there, that is). And I do wonder if we’ve reached something of an end of an era in the SEC.
The top two defenses in the conference stayed home on Saturday. (In fact, Florida is home for good this season.) And while, by and large, playing good defense makes for a winning record, playing mediocre defense doesn’t seem to be as big a bar for excelling as we used to think, as both Missouri and Auburn finished in the lower half of the conference in total defense and 8-4 Texas A&M finished dead last by a pretty wide margin.
There are a variety of factors in play, it seems to me. Some of it’s the result of bringing in two teams from the freewheeling Big 12. The number of experienced, quality quarterbacks in the SEC this season played a part. You’ve got head coaches who refined their games in mid-major conferences coming into the SEC and having success with a more wide open version of offense. And it feels more and more like the defenses can’t cope with all that. It’s akin to the shock to the system we felt when Spurrier came in and blew things up with a previously unseen emphasis on a passing attack.
Now, defenses adapt, true. That’s been the case before, even with what the Fun ‘n’ Gun wrought. The quarterback position in next year’s SEC is going to be much greener, too. So maybe things will even out again. But there’s a part of me that wonders if something else is going on. Maybe there’s an attitude change going on in coaching philosophy about what it takes to win. Maybe there’s a growing feeling that there are other ways to skin the championship cat than to rely on having a shut down defense.
I could be overreacting, certainly. But something sure does feel different to me after watching that game. Now I wonder if next season will be an affirmation of that feeling.
The last week of the season brings us an undisputed weekly champ.
STANDINGS for WEEK 15 Rank Selection Name Standings
W-L Pts Tie Breaker Game
1 Bone Adj 9-1 9 28-35 2 jadams4148 Adj 8-2 8 37-45** 2 CoastToCoast Adj 8-2 8 31-35 2 econodawg Adj 8-2 8 28-35 2 Biggen Adj 8-2 8 28-35 2 uganewt Adj 8-2 8 27-31 2 Dilemma Adj 8-2 8 24-31 2 CallingtheDawgs Adj 8-2 8 38-34
Congrats to Bone, for pulling in the last W of the regular season.
And now, it’s time to crown our champ for the 2013 season.
SEASON STANDINGS through Week 15 Rank Selection Name W-L Pts 1 Trbodawg 95-55 95 2 ShockleyforHeisman 93-57 93 3 Sundiata 92-58 92 3 ParrishWalton 92-58 92 3 BosnianDawg 92-58 92
Trbodawg hangs on and wins by a comfortable 2-game margin! Plus-forty on the season… too bad if you didn’t monetize that in Vegas. Congratulations.
Just so you know, just like last year, there will be a bowl pool for everyone to jump in. I’ll have the info on that in the next few days.
It’s always fun to pour though this. FSU is a unanimous number one. What may not be noticed is that Auburn was close to being a unanimous number two pick, with only two coaches voting otherwise – in this case, Michigan State. The two? Dana Holgorsen… and Mark Dantonio.
Also, don’t miss where Mike Gundy ranked his team and Oklahoma.
Florida State is the better team, but it won’t matter. I’ve never seen anything like this run Auburn’s been on for the last month. Football gods, for the win…