Category Archives: SEC Football

SEC Power Poll, Week Seven

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It is tempting to boil the conference down to Alabama and the thirteen dwarfs, but that’s not accurate. What is accurate, though, is that there aren’t any teams outside of the Tide capable of playing consistent, quality football week after week, which is how you get the messiest case of transitive football we’ve seen in a while.

Right now, if you want to throw darts at a board to set an order from two on down to, oh, say, seven and then another round of darts to organize the bottom rung, I wouldn’t argue with you.  At some point, though, you have to think some semblance of a consensus will have to show, don’t you?  Don’t you?

Don’t hate me for what I’m about to post.

  1. Alabama.  Okay, fine.
  2. Georgia.  On talent alone, deserving of the two spot.  On game prep, you could rank the Dawgs in the bottom four and you wouldn’t hear a peep of protest from me.
  3. LSU.  Yeah, they lost to the Gators, but…
  4. Florida.  Yeah, they lost to Kentucky, but…
  5. Texas A&M.  3-1 in conference play, despite being minus-6 in points differential.
  6. Mississippi State.  The season’s first recipient of a bye week dip.
  7. Kentucky.  Georgia’s loss is just as big for the ‘Cats as it is for the Gators.
  8. Auburn.  The Gus Bus needs a tow truck.
  9. South Carolina.  In case you missed it, this is a pretty mediocre team.
  10. Missouri.  The Tigers are even more mediocre than South Carolina.
  11. Tennessee.  Ordinarily, you wouldn’t call a win over an Auburn squad that’s been falling apart for weeks a signature win, but when you get off the schneid from a losing streak that’s over a season long, hey, why not?
  12. Ole Miss.  Nobody’s gonna call a comeback win over Arkansas a signature win, though.
  13. Vanderbilt.  The ‘Dores go to Arkansas on 10/27 to play for all the marbles.
  14. Arkansas.  This week, in bad teams finding a way to lose…
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Five questions, LSU game week

Way back in May, Billy Gomila, of the LSU blog And The Valley Shook, and I did Q&A sessions with each other (my answers here; his here).  With the game almost upon us, it seemed like a good idea to revisit where things stand halfway through the season.  Moar questions!

You’ll find my latest batch of answers over here.  Meanwhile, here’s what I asked Billy and what he had to say in response:

1. With a 5-1 start and two big upsets, I assume the local hot seat talk about Coach O has cooled considerably.  To date, what’s been the most pleasant surprise about the team’s 2018 performance?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in covering college football and fan reaction over the years, it’s that people would rather be right than happy, especially online. There’s a percentage that never wanted Orgeron to get this job and nothing he does will ever change their minds on that. Success is only a temporary mollification, and whatever definitely of it hey have will change at each opportunity. The biggest games are always the ones you lose, and the wins don’t count.
The hot seat talk was never particularly serious in the first place — most people understand that this team would be playing a ton of freshmen and sophomores against a pretty brutal slate. Nobody that’s reasonable had expectations beyond some success and, hopefully, improvement towards 2019.
2. How, if any, has your perception of the team’s talent changed over the first six games?  What are now the areas of greatest strength and of biggest concern?
Sadly, the depth along the line of scrimmage still isn’t where LSU needs it to be. Every offensive line can become thin with enough attrition, and LSU had that hit again very quickly with several injuries and an unexpected suspension. They’ve had a different starting lineup in every game this year, although that may change on Saturday with all of last week’s starters still healthy.
The running game has been a little bit better than I thought it would be, with Nick Brossette fitting this offense much better than he did last year. The receiving corps is still a little inconsistent but I think that’s a unit that’s improving. The big hit was losing K’Lavon Chaisson in week one. This defense still hasn’t really found a consistent pass rush since then.
3. I look at Joe Burrow’s stats and don’t see any improvement over what LSU had with Danny Etling last season.  Am I missing something?
Well, Danny Etling was a good quarterback, so I think you’re missing that first point. Overall, Burrow has been steady and, outside of some crucial mistakes against Florida, he’s steadily improved overall. Honestly I’d say he’s exactly what I thought he’d be scouting him out of Ohio State. Not some elite playmaker, but a veteran manager type. He’s pretty good on the short/intermediate throws, and he has some nice mobility at times. His deep ball isn’t great — that was another Etling comparison as well. I think it’s possible that he can continue to improve and be one of the better quarterbacks in the league by year’s end.
He made some crucial mistakes against Florida, but he also converated a 4th-and-19 pass and threw too very nice passes that receivers dropped in the final minute of the game, both of which would have put LSU into Florida territory with enough time to take a few shots at the endzone.
4. I saw a snippy tweet the other day that was something along the lines of “Orgeron may not have liked Canada, but he seems to like a lot of Canada’s plays”.  Again, the stats don’t really show it, but has LSU’s offense benefited from the change at offensive coordinator?  And what’s Ensminger going to have to do Saturday to put the offense in a position to succeed against the Georgia defense?
I think the trust factor has made a big difference. Bottom line is that Canada had trouble getting along with Ed Orgeron and a lot of people that worked in LSU’s ops building. And let the record reflect that this is far from the first time that kind of issue has run him out of a job. As far as using “his plays,” LSU’s run a couple of jet sweeps, but not nearly as many as Canada did — and I don’t think he’s got that trademarked or anything. (this sounds like Dan Wolken’s particular brand of dumbass)There’s definitely fewer shifts, and I think the offense is relying a little less on deception and more on fundamentals. And so far, the scoring is up. Yards per play is slightly down, but trending in the right direction overall. And that’s with an offensive line that’s had a different starting lineup in every game this year due to injuries and suspensions.
As far as this Saturday, it’s not often that LSU finds itself at a talent disadvantage, but that’s the case here. I think they’re going to need to ugly things up a bit. Run the ball, try to keep the chains moving and keep the Georgia offense off of the field. Ensminger’s done a good job of attacking defenses, and he’s aggressive. But the key is going to be how the offensive line holds up.
5. When I asked you about LSU’s three toughest games back in May, Florida didn’t make your list.  Given that Auburn and Miami did, was last Saturday more an aberration of where this team is at now, or an indication that cracks are starting to show up?  What do you expect Georgia to have the most success exploiting this Saturday?
Well, I think that’s more a reflection of how much better Florida’s been and how they’ve recovered from the Kentucky loss. But I don’t think it was crazy to suggest that Miami, Auburn, Georgia, Bama and Mississippi State would be better based on most offseason projections. As I wrote after the game, it was a tight game that came down to a handful of plays that Florida was able to make and that LSU couldn’t. I’m not sure that there’s more to it than that. I’m not “big sweeping conclusions” guy after one loss, that’s just not how I get down.
If I’m Georgia, I stick with what brought me to the dance here and try to rely on the running game, with some calculated shots by Jake Fromm and the receivers. The strength of this defense is the secondary, and the front seven is struggling to make negative plays right now. If that continues, Georgia should be able to lean on LSU and pull away eventually.

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A tale of two passers

CFB Film Room tries to be fair with this:

The problem comes when you take a second glance.

It’s only fair to note that Georgia hasn’t played a ranked team yet, while LSU has faced two.  But if you strip that difference out of their numbers, it still turns out that Burrow’s passer rating against unranked opponents is nearly forty points lower than Fromm’s.

What’s got to be really scary for LSU, though, is this.

Fromm’s passer rating in the third quarter this season is a ridiculous 294.54.  (It’s a relatively paltry 246.27 in the fourth, but seeing as he’s only attempted six passes all year in that situation, I’m inclined to give him a pass.)  Burrow’s comparable passer ratings are under 100 in both quarters.

LSU needs to keep this game close in the second half so that it doesn’t have to rely on a passing attack to win.  That’s likely going to mean in part bringing Fromm down from his usual performance level.

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Holding

Generally speaking, this is more a condemnation of SEC officiating than anything to do with Alabama.

I saw three plays in Sanford Stadium Saturday night when a Vandy offensive lineman grabbed the leg of a Georgia defender as he went by.  No penalties were called.  Not that that’s particularly unique to Georgia, either.

I just wish Steve Shaw would man up and explain what exactly SEC refs consider offensive line holding these days.

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“It’s going to bring back a lot of memories.”

I honestly had no idea LSU folks saw the 2003 game against Georgia as such an iconic moment for their program.

“There was something about that day,” Bonnette says. “It will forever be remembered as the day that got us where we are.”

Interestingly enough, some are hoping Saturday is that kind of day for Coach Orgeron.

And now, maybe, it has come full circle. A program that has regressed to its historic mean—eight to nine wins, a nice bowl game and mid-tier SEC finish—is in position to storm back into the championship spotlight with three Top 25 home games in the next month that could make the Florida loss feel like years ago: No. 2 Georgia, No. 25 Mississippi State and No. 1 Alabama. “Every LSU coach has had his game,” Bertman says. “Nick had Georgia in 2003. Les had Florida in 2007. This Georgia game could be it for Ed.”

The first step in a return to glory, the chance to spoil UGA’s banner season, a potential table-setter for another gigantic party—it all arrives Saturday in Tiger Stadium, under the sun.

Or moon, as the case may be.

Former Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway had experienced LSU night games in the past, with a rowdy crowd creating a venue so loud at field level that Bryant once described the experience as “being inside of a drum.” He had always been told that day games were different, more subdued and tame. So, as Georgia’s team buses arrived at Tiger Stadium around 12:30 in the afternoon, he did not expect to see a man’s bare ass. He was wrong. “People were mooning,” says Callaway, now the offensive line coach at USC. “They were lined up out there from the bus to the locker room, hollering and acting like fools.”

I’m sure it will be much calmer this time.

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“I heard it’s a crazy environment, so I’m ready to see what it’s like.”

To reiterate something I posted about yesterday, this strikes me as kind of sad.

Both Smart and Jennings have shared their LSU experiences with Georgia’s players this week. Playing in Tiger Stadium is almost a mythical proposition for players of SEC Eastern Division teams that don’t play LSU as a cross-division rival. Because of the current eight-game SEC schedule model, the Bulldogs will be making their first trip to Baton Rouge since 2008 and won’t return until 2030.

“All of those guys who have played there previous years have told us it’s going to be a great environment and it’s going to be a hard-nosed game,” senior wideout Terry Godwin said. “This is what you come to the SEC for, to play in games like this. It’s going to be a great game.”

He’s right.  Which is why it shouldn’t be something experienced every other decade by fans or players.  It’s pathetic that someone has to describe a conference game as “almost a mythical proposition for players”, SEC.  The conference should offer something better than that.

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Today, in Kirby gets it

I may get a little irritated when Kirby Smart talks about needing fans as recruiting props, but, man, does he get this right.  All of this:

“I’ve always been in favor or a nine-game schedule, (but) it’s not my decision to make,” Smart said, asked his thoughts on adding another league game with respect to the fact that`the Bulldogs are making their first trip to LSU since 2008 and under the current model won’t be in Baton Rouge again until 2030.

“I think it (would be) a good thing, but I think you will have teams with more losses,” Smart said. “Does it affect a team getting in the playoff? I don’t know, but I know you have a lot more games to get up for, a lot more good rivalry games.

“It’s not just about traveling, it’s just as much about the atmosphere of playing an SEC opponent, I think you are playing more comparable teams to your talent level, I think it’s important for college football.”

Smart fondly remembers playing in Tiger Stadium himself, his team-high 12 tackles highlighting a 28-27 Georgia victory in 1998.

“Every environment in the SEC is incredible, but this is one of the best in the country, it always is, their fanbase cares so much, they tailgate, and they are the center attraction, they are the show,” Smart said. “I played there as a player, coached there a lot of times, and it’s a great program, great atmosphere, they are loud, their fans are passionate.”

Smart, who has a degree from Georgia’s celebrated Terry College of Business, said adding another conference game is also another way to ensure college football attendance stabilizes.

“If college football attendance continues to drop, they’re going to be looking to do this,” Smart said. “So I think it’s important, and I think it’s good for the game.”

One big reason I’m making the trip this week is because who knows if I’ll be in any shape to make the next one?  That’s kind of sad.  Isn’t that what playing in a conference is supposed to facilitate?  Bless the man for saying it.

One other thing here — when the day eventually comes that Smart’s had enough with coaching, I sure hope Georgia has enough sense to look at him as an athletic director.  He’d make a good ‘un.  That is, unless the SEC steals him for a bigger role.

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