This was the first Saturday of the year that I didn’t go to Athens (summer colds do suck). Instead, I was Joe Couch Potato. The remote was my loyal companion, as my thumb was the only body part that was in constant motion all day.
I saw a lot of football – some excellent, some OK, some putrid. Details:
- Mississippi State at Auburn. That Al Borges is some genius, isn’t he? Seriously, it’s a long way down from three first round draft picks in the backfield to what the Tigers put out there yesterday. And with the injuries and suspensions affecting Auburn’s defensive starters, Muschamp’s not playing with a full deck, either. Still, after scoring two quick TDs at the end of the first half, it looked like Auburn would pull this one out. Instead, we’ll all be wondering for the rest of the season about whether Tuberville could get croomed. (I doubt it, although it’s beginning to look like a stretch for Auburn to win eight.)
- Notre Dame at Michigan. I simply don’t have the vocabulary to describe how wretched Notre Dame is right now. I will say that these are the kind of losses that got Willingham fired after three seasons. At this point, the biggest game on Weis’ college resume is a loss to Southern Cal – you think the decision makers at ND would like a mulligan on his contract extension right now? We’ll know things have really gotten bad in South Bend if Lemming turns on Weis.
- Tennessee at Florida. This was a seal clubbing. No, wait – a baby seal clubbing. It was a rerun of the UT-Cal game, exposing the same Tennessee deficiencies, except Florida has more talent than Cal. Speaking of talent, I’m more than a little surprised at how average the Vols look in many places. And it doesn’t help that Ainge has the broken finger on his throwing hand. Still, for all that, Tennessee was actually in position to make the game close in the second half before turning the ball over for a defensive TD. Florida does have some issues on defense – no sacks and really not much pressure on Ainge for most of the game from the defensive line and the corners look like they can be exploited. But the Gators have the best coaching staff in the SEC. The coaches did a good job covering the weaknesses in the secondary. I’m also impressed with how much Tebow’s mechanics have improved this year. It’s clear that the Gators have to be the favorites to win the East now. As for UT, if you can’t run the ball and you can’t stop the run consistently, you’re going to lose your share of games in this conference.
- Arkansas at Alabama. One of the most entertaining games of the day, in the end, this one was decided by coaching, not talent. ‘Bama came out determined to do everything in its power on defense to stop McFadden and to take advantage of Arky’s secondary on offense. That worked well enough to run out to a 31-10 lead. Arkansas finally started making adjustments on both sides of the ball and McFadden took over. It was amazing to watch the game turn on a dime as Arky quickly scored four TDs to go ahead 38-31. The bonehead move of the night was the Nuttster’s decision with the score 38-34 to throw the ball on 3rd and long after ‘Bama had used all of its timeouts instead of running and taking at least another 30-45 seconds off the clock. The result? The Tide scored the winning TD with eight seconds left in the game. It’s a shame that McFadden’s heroics were wasted – Tebow will no doubt be named the SEC offensive player of the week, but I really believe that McFadden had the more amazing game, given how ‘Bama keyed its defensive strategy on him throughout the night. Marcus Monk’s absence really hurt the Hogs in this game, too.
- Louisville at Kentucky. Another exciting game to watch. Both teams have offensive firepower; neither have consistent defenses. Once again with the Wildcats, the difference was turnover margin, as UK was +2, and both led to early scores. The Louisville defensive breakdown on the winning score was inexcusable, as well.
- Boston College at Georgia Tech. Yeah, Matt Ryan is the best college quarterback you’ve never heard of, but the real story here was the BC game plan, which exposed the two biggest flaws in Tech’s game: a weak secondary and a lack of playmakers on offense. Tech was 2 of 14 on third down conversions and gave up 435 passing yards. Most importantly, BC held Choice to 31 yards rushing and the Jackets didn’t have anyone take up the slack. The good news for Tech is that there aren’t very many decent QBs in the ACC this year.
- Southern California at Nebraska. The Trojans sure have a lot of running backs, don’t they? Sam Keller held up for a while, but you knew things would break down sooner or later. The game wasn’t nearly as close as the stats make it look.
So, the general consensus from the pundits last night is that with a quarter of the season in the book, four schools have separated themselves from the rest of the pack: USC, LSU, Oklahoma and Florida. I can’t argue with that right now. The Florida-LSU game looks to be a monster.
Speaking of pundits, after listening to Gary Danielson during the Florida-Tennessee game (the way he was predicting calls, I hope he hopped a jet to Vegas immediately afterwards – he was on fire) and then suffering through Bill Curry’s and Bob Davie’s “analysis”, I truly have no clue as to how ESPN goes about deciding who appears on its broadcast crews. If anyone has some insight about it, I’d love to hear it.