Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Dwed Piwate Spuwier is coming for you soul!

Steve Spurrier. The Evil Genius. The Visor, the Ol' Ball Coach. The guy that has more nicknames than Apollo Creed.

I've got one more for him -- Ol' Rockhead.

Today, Spurrier decides he's gonna one-up Mark Richt over the celebration after Georgia's first touchdown this Saturday at the Cocktail Party. Obviously a poster child for "I'm talking and I can't shut up," Ol' Rockhead decided he had to get his licks in on this Richt debacle:

"I think if (Florida coach) Urban Meyer had known they were going to do it, send out one of his third team guys and get in a wrestling match with the guys, get a fight started, so all those guys on the field leave the bench in a fight," Spurrier suggested.

"I think that's what we'd do. If the other team ever does that, get one of your down the line guys that's not going to play to get out there and start wrestling with the guys. Now you've got a fight and they're all out the next week."
What a great idea -- jump right down there in the muck with Richt by sending in thugs to hurt their team. Man, what a sense of fair play Ol' Rockhead has. He missed his true calling, but then again, they don't need Ball Coaches in MMA.

Well. I think Franz Beard should write another letter to Mike Silve and demand some action against the Ol' Ball Sack Coach -- hell, the guy is basically advocating the very response Franz feared -- in fact, he's saying he would incite the violence himself.

Sounds to me like Spurrier needs to apologize for something. Hey, Alligator Army has some ideas. Let's let Spurrier apologize for the New Coke, God I hated that crap. Or maybe he can apologize for Ed Orgeron's English -- somebody needs to. Every time I look at Orgeron, I think of Farmer Fran in The Waterboy.

[UPDATE] Welcome all Get the Picture readers, and thanks to the good Senator for the linkage.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mark Richt is Satan, and other fables

What a fun day this is going to be. There is so much great stuff out there, you would think some of these people just discovered that football was something worth writing about.

Where to begin... How about Loser with Socks, one of my all time favorites. Jai Eugene (no, not the LSU cornerback of the same name) gets on board the "Ohio State is a cardboard cut-out #1" train and basically reasserts the very same point I made here, only much better and with an actual sense of humor, the absence of which is a known congenital defect of mine. Here is his apocalyptic scenario:

I honestly think a any combination of ACC/Big 10/Big East national championship game could be the cataclysmic event that gets us a playoff. The SEC would go berserk (as it should) about their 1-loss team being out of it, the media would keep jocking USC (like always) because they beat Cal (like always, except that one time that Cal is still living off of from 6 years ago) and every other team and conference in college football would go berserk over the mere suggestion that two one-loss teams could play for the national championship ahead of two unbeatens.

I swear, I have started to pray for this. I truly have. I know it is sick, depraved, perverted, disrespectful of women and minorities and just generally loathsome, but I can't help it. Somebody SAAAAAVVVVEEEE meeee!

But wait ... there's more! That's right, Orson Swindle must also have a say, lest EDSBS be forgotten and consigned to history -- OK, that's hyperbole, but this isn't:
Ohio State fans have achieved the impossible. Despite craving the taste of teargas from birth, allegedly beating up handicapped people, and entering each game with the homicidal zeal of an ultra-nationalist Spartak supporter armed with a Camelbak full of cut rate vodka distilled from radioactive Ukrainian produce, you have become an object of sympathy.
Not really sure what Orson's talking about here? You'll get it once you see the video. Just wow.

Moving right along, it seems that at least some Alabama fans have ... err ... a not so fuzzy feeling about the impending game with LSU. I can understand that -- they are a formidable team and, on paper at least, outclass the Crimson Tide. It also seems that LSU has owned the Tide over the last 10 years, and that can't make a proud 'Bama fan happy:
The Tide is a dismal 3-7 versus the Tigers over the last ten years. The numbers are what they are. Alabama has been handled roughly by its rivals since Gene Stallings refused to pull out the shotgun with five wide. The last decade has seen Alabama go 3-7 versus Tennessee, 3-7 versus LSU, and 3-7 versus Auburn. How's that for symmetry, but as we are reminded almost daily, you can't live in yester year, and the past doesn't block and tackle. The last decade is not the now. Live in the now, man.
Well, if the Tide were able to pull off the upset against LSU, it would send shock waves throughout all of college football -- not just because of the SEC repercussions, but because of the previously discussed BCS. I can't wait for this game, and I am a Kentucky fan.

The Heisman Pundit examines the data, and concludes that the SEC has not only the best defenses, but also some of the best offenses. And he says it, right there on his website. Of course, some of his Pac-10 readers ... uhh ... don't really agree.

Finally, the one that really got me laughing, and this guy was serious. A guy named Franz Beard, who is apparently managing editor for the Gator Country website, sent a letter to Mike Silve, the commissioner of the SEC, complaining about Georgia's behavior and in particular the behavior of Mark Richt on Saturday at the Cocktail Party.

Mr. Beard claims to be concerned about the message Silve's lack of punitive action against Richt might send, and supports his concerns thus:
I know what I saw with my binoculars from the press box and I do not accept Coach Richt’s explanation. There was nothing spontaneous about this demonstration. It was pre-planned and all you had to do was watch the way Coach Richt and his assistants reacted.

I believe we are extremely fortunate that a brawl did not break out. I’ve been at Florida-Georgia games since 1962 and I know the hair-trigger emotions both on the field and in the stands. One ill-timed remark, one bump of a Georgia player into a Florida player and we could have very easily had an on the field incident that would have made Miami-Florida International look like something you see on Sesame Street. It is only by God’s grace and the restraint of the Florida coaches, who prevented the UF team from charging the field by their quick, positive response, that there was no incident on the field.

Oh, my paws and whiskers, Mr. Franz Beard. You mean to tell me that the sight of a team rushing to the end zone to celebrate was so provocative that we should fear the other team rushing from their benches to brawl with them? Never mind that FIU and Florida are only 9 miles apart and the in-person smack talk had been going on for months. Never mind that Georgia and Florida, while rivals, have no history of this sort of violent behavior, unlike at least one of the two participants in the aforementioned brawl.

Mr. Beard, if Florida or Georgia has reached the level where they must resort to violence whenever the other team performs an unacceptable celebration, we should stop this sport right now. "Death penalty" for the whole SEC for maybe 5 years so we can all cool off and figure out the difference between right and wrong. Players and coaches hopefully learned from the lesson of FIU-Miami, and now you are telling the SEC commish that that isn't so?

Not only that, but you, from your seat high above the field, somehow magically perceived with your mind-reading binoculars that Mark Richt, a man known for anything but nefarious behavior, and his coaching staff were wickedly devising a scheme to drag the game into the muck? And it "could not have happend" without his "prior approval and planning"?

Dude, get a clue. These are games we play here, not gladiatorial contests. Lighten up. Live a little. Richt says he was sorry, and put it in writing. Accept the apology and move on like the rest of us, you freaking curmudgeon.

Some administrative items

I have discovered that several readers use and enjoy the newsfeed box to the right. I have been doing a lousy job of keeping that thing updated lately, but that is going to change.

Going forward, my plan for this feature is this:

  • Early AM update (except weekends, when I get my beauty sleep) with news from the main stream media sources and off the wires.

  • After I select the stories, I will be picking the ones I think are the most interesting and moving them to the top of the listing. I will only do this once - after that, stories will pretty much be listed in chronological order.

  • In the afternoon or early evening, I will switch to stories from SEC bloggers and other select blogs that contain SEC or other interesting sports-related content.
I am also planning a few more convenience features for the site, and will be announcing them as I get a chance to implement them.

Finally, I would like to take a second to thank my readers. This site was created primarily as an experiment. I wanted to see how fast and how well I could grow a blog from dead scratch. It has been interesting and instructive, and along the way I have kind of fallen in love with both the subject matter and the multitude of other outstanding bloggers out there in SEC land. I had no idea coming in that the SEC would be so well and capably represented in the blogosphere.

So to them and those who take the time to read my drivel, thank you.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Suck it? I'd rather not, thanks.

I noticed about a week ago that a blog called Ohio State OTR took me to task over a post I made regarding my frustration with the BCS. Of course, they weren't the only ones who noticed -- Ryan Ferguson at Fanhouse also addressed my missive.

I'd like to respond, however belatedly, to the blogger with the clever handle "FuhQ2" at Ohio State OTR, who wrote thus:

According to "Best of the SEC Blogs", the BCS system is broken; what a new and unique thought. It is time this talk of Ohio State having a cake schedule be put to rest. It may be easier than most, but OSU still has to win all 12 games to make the national championship; they cannot suffer a loss, or they will only receive an invite to the Rose Bowl. On the other hand, someone from the SEC with one or maybe even two losses has a chance to make the national championship this year.
First of all, a simple style point -- how juvenile is a handle like "FuhQ2"? It's fun to watch guys like Loser with Socks spew profanity and innuendo -- they are really good at it, it's funny, and it's their shtick. But "FuhQ2"? That's just so cute, I'll bet his 7th grade classmates think he is the shiznit.

But now to the substance. First, Mr. FuhQ2 (can I call you Fuh?), I wasn't trying to innovate here. I understand that other people don't like BCS any more than I do, and have said so long before I have. My point, though, is this -- the BCS is supposed to place the best two teams against each other in the championship game. If Ohio State wins out, that will very likely not happen. It just seems wrong to me, Fuh, that while OSU gets to play a relatively easy schedule, SEC teams must toil in the toughest conference in the land, where even mid-pack teams are good enough to defeat the best teams in the nation.

It also galls me that OSU is trading primarily on reputation, not on accomplishments. Not really OSU's fault, that's just the way they are perceived, and justifiably so -- they are one of college football's historical elite. But at some point in a given year, accomplishments have to trump reputation, and you seem to be unconcerned about that. Accomplishing an undefeated season in, say, the Big East can't be seen as equivalent to even two losses in the SEC. And many would argue that the Big 10 is no stronger than the Big East this year.

Fuh, you assure us that an SEC team with only one or maybe even two losses will have a chance to play in the BCS championship game, but how do you reach this conclusion? If OSU and, say Boston College win out, how do they find themselves below LSU, who is currently third? And if LSU manages to lose again, but still win the SEC, their chances of playing in the championship game become vanishingly small.

Your conclusion is that any team that goes undefeated in a BCS conference deserves to play in a national championship. I'm sure Boise State appreciates that position after going undefeated last year and finishing 6th in the BCS rankings.

Frankly, I hope OSU does wind up in the game with Boston College or maybe Arizona State. Perhaps then, we'll get sufficient outrage in the SEC to force change, even if we do have to drag the Big 10 and Pac-10 along kicking and screaming by the scruff of their collective necks.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mississippi State and Georgia have a big weekend

What a weekend. I am out doing stuff for one weekend and come back to find -- more upsets, more weirdness more ... well, just more.

First of all, home stuff. My UK Wildcats got drubbed by a Mississippi State team that is beginning to show signs of relevance in the SEC East. That makes two (2!) ranked teams that have been Croomed this year in the SEC, Auburn and UK. I'm thinking the Bulldogs are doing something right, and it's beginning to show. Yes, Kentucky had numerous offensive skill players out and had to run most of the second half with a fifth-string halfback, but part of being a good football team is finding ways to win when you have injuries.

MSU proved that while UK may (I say may -- I have a few more doubts now) be a good football team, they sure can suck in a given game. But lest we be guilty of the false assertion that MSU was handed the game by UK, let me point out that the Bulldogs played outstanding, smash-mouth football and beat the Wildcats in every way possible. It was a big win for the Dawgs, who now are only one game away from bowl eligibility, and a big loss for the Cats, who have justifiably dropped precipitously in the polls and limp into their bye week loosing 3 of their last 4.

The Wildcat Fan Report wonders what happened to the Cats:

The Kentucky offense, on the other hand, seemed like they were just meeting one another for the first time. Woodson threw several passes behind receivers and apparently thought Derrick Locke could catch a ball with his ankles as that’s where he threw at least three screen passes. And Joker Phillips astute play calling was on display late in the game on 3rd-and-2 in two down territory when he lined Woodson up in the shotgun and called a draw to Moncel Allen that went nowhere and then put Woodson back in the shotgun on 4th-and-2 only to see a collision between Woodson and Allen result in a turnover on downs. Why are you running a draw and trying to fool the defense when you have two downs to get two yards? Line up and go off tackle twice!
I also felt like I was watching a team from the twilight zone, somehow stuck in a 1992 time-warp and through the magic of a space-time discontinuity, manifesting itself in the bodies of current UK players. Well, who said the Universe makes sense?

Georgia had no such issues with Florida in the Cocktail Party, though. I had a feeling the Dawgs were due, and they punched the Gator's ticket to 3 SEC losses yesterday. Welcome to the world of getting smacked in the puss by a bye-week team, Gators. You did it to Kentucky, now Georgia showed you how it feels to be on the wrong end.

GatorPilot at Orange and Blue Hue is suffering from some vapors -- of the equine excrement variety:

Congrats to Georgia, the better team on this night. May God have mercy on the souls of Gator Nation. This is the kind of loss that makes a Gator fan’s heart explode.

Tonight I dream dark, cloudy, troubled dreams… and I’ll wake up screaming on 3rd and short every time.

Which is horseshit.

I know just how he feels, but probably don't feel it as sharply. At Kentucky, we have just figured out that losing a game is actually a bad thing, not something that should be expected. It will take a lot more success for our hearts to start exploding, I'm afraid.

What is interesting is that both Kentucky and Florida seemed to lose the game almost the same way -- an unsatisfactory defensive effort compounded by futility on the offensive end. Sacks of your previously-Heisman-contending quarterback, fumbles, interceptions, oh, my!

Mergz at Saurian Sagacity had this to say:
We were out coached, outplayed, and just plain beaten, which is made all the more the shame by the fact the ticky-tacky antics of the Georgia coaches should have allowed us to beat them silly. The same group of players that stamped on Vandy’s logo thought is somehow advisable (assumedly with the nod of the coaches) to all run on the field after the first TD. There is an old saying about “acting like you have been there before” when you score a TD. Instead, the entire Georgia team acted as if it was the first TD they hade ever seen. If the Gators did that, I would be embarrassed beyond belief.
Well, I sense frustration with the Dawgs' antics. Since I didn't see the game, I'm going to look to some Bulldog blogs for an explanation (an doubtless, a defense). David Ching of the Georgia Bulldog Blog had this contemporaneous post expressing incredulity:
Rushing the field after that touchdown is either the smartest thing Mark Richt has ever allowed or the dumbest. We're going to find out shortly.
Given the implied criterion of outcome here, I'd say David's a firm vote for "smartest", as his follow up post suggests. Over at Dawg Sports, a diarist named randomterrace addresses this article by Terence Moore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution blasting the Bulldogs for conduct unbecoming a football team. Dawg Sports makes several points athwart those of Moore, but concludes thus:
Mr. Moore - your column was stupid. You are a fool. But it's hard for me to stay mad at you, because I know you didn't mean it. I suggest your editors shove your computer off your desk, get in your ear about lazy, self-serving contrarian columns, and demand something more from you, something the AJC can be proud of. In short, they should follow the estimable example of Mark Richt.
Undoubtedly, this was a stunt designed to inspire the Dawgs who have played anything but inspiring football this season. But the apparent domino effect on Georgia was that it had multiple personal fouls called for everything from facemasking to unsportsmanlike celebration.

Kevin Brown of the Bleacher Report condemns Richt for allowing the celebration, suggesting that it could have provoked a bench-clearing brawl, while Mike Bianchi, a notorious Gator homer writing for the Orlando Sentinel, applauds the move as "brilliant."

In the final analysis, it probably wasn't Richt's finest moment, nor the Bulldogs when it comes to sportsmanship. This is a symptom that we are seeing more and more often -- the idea that winning is more important than what happens along the way. But Urban Meyer has no cause for outrage. That last-second time out against Auburn in their home loss earlier in the year is an example of how a coach can do something totally unsportsmanlike and get applauded for it. I think, in the end, it was karma from that action that got repaid in kind on Saturday.

Yeah, Georgia was wrong. But Florida deserved it, Urban Meyer in particular. So if you want to take some high ground, Gators, try earning it with your actions. That way, condemning others who act classlessly will ring a bit less hollow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Better late than never

OOPS! Wednesday I said I would look at two teams today, and two teams tomorrow, meaning Thursday -- and yet, I didn't post on Thursday, or Friday for that matter. Oh, well, life happens.

So now, we shall proceed to look at the two SEC games I didn't look at Wednesday, and without further ado ...

Mississippi State at Kentucky

This game is important for Kentucky. They are still in the SEC East race, but there is no way they can get to Catlanta without help. But more important even than that is the perception shared by many in the SEC that Kentucky cannot sustain their level of play, and is due to return to form and drop games they should win.

Kentucky Sports Radio takes a look at the UK-MSU game, and raises the specter of Happy Gilmore:

After a hard-fought, human-growth-hormone induced loss, it will be nice for the Cats to get back to their winning ways by going all Bob Barker on the Bulldogs (Does he mean Bob Barker as in when Bob Barker fought Happy Gilmore, or is that an allusion to neutering your dog? Both, kids.) The thought here is that Kentucky wins in such convincing fashion that College Gameday will actually be on the Vanderbilt campus in a couple of weeks to again witness the majesty that is UK Football.
Heh. Well, whatever, but if the Gameday boys show up in Nashville, be looking for the 5th Horseman to ride into town as well.

Greg Ellis from Inside Mississippi State was flying to Lexington for the game, but wound up in Louisville:
I was supposed to land in Lexington. Funny thing, though. I didn’t. Instead, I landed in Louisville. Thanks, Northwest, for overbooking. Wouldn’t have been so bad had my hotel not been in Lexington, along with the rental car. Oh well, that’s baseball. But, I finally made it. That’s all that counts. Just three hours late.
Man, what a drag. Enjoy the game, Greg.

Ole Miss at Auburn

The Tigers are coming off a disappointing loss at LSU in a game they arguably should have won. Ole Miss comes off a brutal beating at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Ryan at The Auburner hasn't quite moved on from LSU:
The general reaction on the plains has been mostly depression mixed with anger… if that’s even possible. The emotional cycle that has been going on this week goes like so:

1) Remembrance: The worst part of the cycle. Just when you think you have forgotten about the weekend and had moved on with your life only to relive the moment that Les Miles escaped death… again. This phase is often brought about by something that slightly resembles the… ‘Incident.’ For instance, I was driving up Donahue and noticed a sign for “Gourmet Tiger”… WRITTEN IN PURPLE! After that blow to my mood, I had trouble driving faster than 5 miles per hour.

2) Anger: Comes about 45 seconds after the first phase. It’s hard to beat ourselves up for losing on a roll of the dice. This stage consists mostly of questioning the referee’s sexual orientation and Les Miles’ alliance with Satan.

3) Arrest: Vandalism, assault, tax fraud, you name it. You can’t be held responsible for your actions as a result of phase 2. Les Miles took unnecessary gambles and it worked out great for him, why not me?

4) Bail: This is where you find out who your true friends are.

5) Trying to forget: It’s hard, but at some point you gotta move on… or just try to think of something else. Hakuna Matata anyone?

6) Remembrance: Rinse and repeat.
The Plainsmen are playing some of the best football in the league right now, and have redeemed their earlier loss to the MSU Bulldogs. But they have to beat Ole Miss to retain even an outside shot at the West, and even then, they will need help from LSU.

WorldClassGlass thinks the Rebels will have difficulty defeating the Plainsmen in Jordan-Hare, and isn't looking forward to the game:
We all know the Rebels story and it has been a bad season for them. They have been competitive in their two biggest games at home, but are coming off a week in which they played their worst football in the Coach O era.

While I think the Rebels will not play as bad as they did last week, I think they will have a lot of trouble hanging with the Tigers. This is a very big game for the future of the season for the Tigers. With an early evening kickoff(UMAA does not know what that is), the atmosphere at Jordan Hare should be rocking and the fans should be pumped up.

All that being said, I think the Tigers will beat the Rebels by about two or three touchdowns. It will be interesting to see if Seth Adams will return to play similar to earlier this season or if he will continue his interception filled play as the past several games.

I always enjoy the trip to Auburn and look forward to another trip, however I am not looking forward to the game.
As a Kentucky fan, I know exactly what this feels like. Up until the last couple of years, any fine Kentucky blogger could have written sentiments exactly like this one. Rebuilding is difficult, even near-impossible in the SEC when you are are mired in the lower tier. Every year brings more of the same frustration.

Ole Miss, at one time, was a dominant power in the SEC. Will we ever see a return of those halcyon days?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Week 9 -- Fewer games, higher stakes [UPDATED 10/25 0900]

This week is the first week so far this year where we have had two teams with byes in the SEC, and as it turns out, we also have two teams with games against theoretically inferior out-of-conference opponents -- Vandy faces Miami (OH) and Arkansas hosts Florida International, while LSU and Alabama have the weekend off.

That pretty much leaves me only four games to talk about -- two today and two tomorrow.

Georgia at Florida [Jacksonville]

This game has become known as the "Worlds Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" (someone probably knows why, but I really don't), but the bitter rivalry between these two teams makes it an exciting game. The fact that the loser of this game becomes a likely non-player for the Eastern division championship makes it a huge in terms of conference standing, as well.

NOTE: Paul Westerdawg of Georgia Sports Blog has thoughtfully explained the "WLOCP" moniker to me in a comment below. Here it is so you don't have to hunt:

If you ever come to the Cocktail Party, you will understand how it got its name. Particularly, if you come with people who know how to handle the entire 4 days of the thing.

As Lewis Grizzard once said, another name for it would be the "Annual Celebration of the Repeal of Prohibition".

It's 84k people split equally. Most of whom have been drinking for 3 straight days. Hell, UGA schedules its Fall Break so the students can get down there in a safe and orderly drink more.

If you've seen the absurdity of it, you'd understand the name.
Mergz at Saurian Sagacity has the statistics on how the teams have fared historically. Paul Westerdawg of Georgia Sports Blog has relatively low expectations for the contest:
I'm generally a sunshine pumper or at worse a realist. I rarely go into my dark cave of pessimism. But let's look at facts. In 2007, we have struggled with teams that have equal or lesser talent. The Gators are most certainly more talented than the Bulldogs, and you'll have to make one helluva argument that they aren't better coached right now.
Seems a lot of the Georgia bloggers are pessimistic about this game. Doubledawgs at Third Saturday in Blogtober is picking Florida in an ugly blowout. Senator Blutarsky of Get the Picture, however, is keeping the faith, sort of:
The Tennessee game was simply inexplicable. The tough thing right now is that no realistic observer of the Georgia program can say it won’t happen again. That being said, I wouldn’t put it past the coaches and players to put together their most complete effort in a conference game since Auburn last year, either - and, to be fair, under MR, there always seems to be one game every year like that when it all comes together. But I’m not gonna deny that I feel a little shaky about Saturday’s game.
Mlmintampa writing for Alligator Army worries that since Urban Meyer has let the world know about Tim Tebow's injured shoulder, the Dawgs will try to pick on that weakness in an effort to get him out of the game:

Meyer never should have admitted that Tebow has a sore right shoulder. If he had said "upper body injury" like a hockey coach, we wouldn't have to be concerned about things like this;

[Florida center Drew] Miller said there's no question opposing teams have been trying to knock Tebow out of the game, and he's been the subject of cheap shots all season.
"Oh, definitely," Miller said. "In piles, people are grabbing . . . it's just the way it is. They are trying to get any edge that they can have.
"You can't blame them, a guy like that who makes so many plays for us, they're going to do anything they can to get him off the field."
I expect the Dawgs will have a mental target drawn on Tebow's right shoulder, at least in the back of their minds. They know how effective Tebow is, and they also know that Florida without Tebow probably can't beat them.

I have said (and continue to say) that as long as Tebow represents 70% of the offense, the Gators are vulnerable. Unlike Kentucky, they can't just go to the ground game if their starting QB gets hurt -- Tebow is their ground game and their passing game. It is a very strange situation for the normally multi-dimensional Gators, and fraught with peril if Tebow gets hurt any more than a bruise or two.

South Carolina at Tennessee

Wow, what a weird game this is. Normally, we'd be talking about how big the margin is likely to be for the Vols, but not this year. Unfortunately, even with Tennessee's woeful showing against the better teams they have played this year, the Vols still have a chance to win the East. But as in the Florida-Georgia game above, the loser likely becomes lost in the crowd.

Chuck at The Cool Chicken thinks it's a coin toss between the two teams, but picks the Gamecocks to win a fairly close game. Scott Hood writing for Gamecock Central says that this game is "a test of leadership and character":
This week leading up to the Tennessee game in Knoxville is a stern test of the character and senior leadership of the Gamecocks. As Spurrier said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, USC doesn’t have any players who scream and yell a whole lot. Cory Boyd may come the closest to filling that role.

A team’s psyche is a fragile thing, as USC fans have painfully discovered in the past. A series of unfortunate events can send team morale plummeting.
Garnet and Black Attack takes a look at some of the games both teams have played so far. He says the combination of the Gamecock's futility throwing the ball and the utter failure of the UT defense to stop anyone gives the game an interesting dynamic:

The formula established so far is relatively simple: To beat Tennessee, you need merely to outscore them.

The Gators rolled up 554 yards against Tennessee. California put up 471. On average, the Vols allow 249.0 yards through the air and 157.7 on the ground. The Gamecocks could have some succeess if they focus on getting yards out of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis, as Spurrier has suggested they will.

But the passing game will have to do much better than it did against Vanderbilt.

The closest passing offense of any Vol opponent, statistically, to South Carolina's is Arkansas State, which ranks 60th in the country with 227 ypg. The Gamecocks are 62nd with 225.5 ypg. That's right, South Carolina's passing offense is stastically worse than Arkansas State.

Bottom line -- Can the Gamecocks outscore the Vols with their relatively low-scoring offense? I don't know, but I suspect if Spurrier keeps playing this crazy Chinese fire drill with his quarterbacks, the answer may well be no. This illustrates once again the importance of having a balanced attack -- you never know where opponents will offer you opportunities to score. If UT manages to take away the run from USC, how will the Gamecocks get it in the end zone? Maybe the OBC can put on a helmet and show them how an SEC quarterback is supposed to do it. Barring that, I don't have a clue.

Then we have Tennessee fans, and a more grumpy group can hardly be found anywhere except College Station, Texas. Maybe Fulmer and Franchione should just swap jobs for the rest of the year and see how that works out. Lexvol at Vol Nation is ready to heave coach F under the nearest Greyhound:
The blog today is not some fabricated hack piece written to create a debate. To use stronger terms, this is no longer opinion. This is not a shot at CPF’s weight, or off the field issues. This is not intended to denigrate the body of work that he has amassed at the helm of the UT program. This is stone cold fact in classic Guitar Shots fashion. Phil Fulmer has lost this football team. Either we do not have the talent, or these players have no faith in the current system. The more probable answer is that we are witnessing a combination of both. Look no further than the Hardesty situation to prove this point. This football team needs leadership on the sidelines, and on the field. Until changes are made, the Volnation should realize that 1998 was as good as it gets.
I remember a time when the Volunteer fans used to actually talk about football before a big game. My, how times have changed.

Meyton Panning, a diarist at Rocky Top Talk, takes the opposite tack:
Give Coach time folks. He's proven he can do it. Or do we want to turn the Tennessee Coaching Job into the orange version of the pressure cooker hot seat of schools like Notre Dame or Alabama? Do you want to see Tennessee go through four or five coaches like ND and Bama did? We, the fans, are going to make the Tennessee job look way too daunting and miserably tough for a young hot shot coach to take as he looks to get into a big time program. Why do you think Urban Meyer passed up on his dream job at Notre Dame? Maybe it was because he took an objective look at how demanding and ruthless the ND job is and decided that he would rather seek greener pastures.
Unfortunately, the Alabama drubbing has thrown the Tennessee bloggers into a state of despair, and interest in the South Carolina game among the Vol faithful seems to have given way to ambivalence.

I have witnessed a similar situation at Kentucky during the latter days of Tubby Smith (basketball, I know, but ... Hello! Kentucky fan!). That worked out OK for everybody in the end, but not until a gigantic schism developed in the fanbase which degenerated into hundreds of thousands of vitriolic comments and blog posts, and that rift has yet to fully heal. The Alabama, Florida and Notre Dame quick-fire jobs are not really comparable -- none of those coaches had been their a long time like Fulmer has, and none of them had brought a national championship to their team. Fulmer's situation is frighteningly similar to Tubby Smith's, despite the fact that they coach different sports.

I sincerely hope our neighbors to the South do better than Kentucky did.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

South Carolina and the Commodores (Sounds like a singing group!)

Today, I want to get to a game from Week 8 that I have neglected so far, but that is quite significant -- Vanderbilt at South Carolina.

After a couple of days, the blogs on both sides have had a chance to react. First of all, we have Sennsm at The Vanderbilt Tailgate:

DEFENSE. Man that was a great defensive effort. Although I didn't see it I did listen to all of it. Everytime I thought the Gamecocks were going to make a run at us, the defense stood strong. We all know in the past that the defense probably would have wilted. The big stat was that the Gamecocks were 1-12 on third down conversions.
So what happened here is the Commodores beat the Gamecocks at their own game, in their own house. Folks, that just can't be good. I didn't see any of the game, but I do know that the Commodores were #22 in total defense in the nation going into the game, and USC was #35. So you have to think that based on that, the two teams were pretty much true to form -- except when it comes to the final score.

Star & Stripe calls it the most important game since 1937:
On October 23, 1937, the Vanderbilt Commodores hosted the Louisiana State Tigers at Dudley Field in Nashville.

Earlier that year, Leon Trotsky and his associates were executed for trying to assassinate Stalin.

FDR was president of the United States, and he was flexing his muscles in the Supreme Court court-packing scheme.

Daffy Duck premiered for the first time.

The Golden Gate Bridge opened to traffic.

Amelia Earhart disappeared in her bid to become the first woman to fly around the world.

J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit was published.

And then, on the third Saturday of October that year, the Men of West End wearing Black-and-Gold defeated the sixth-best team in the country, by one point: 7-6.

It was the highest-ranked football team that Vanderbilt had ever beaten since the days that rankings had begun to be given.

And it would be the highest-ranked team Vanderbilt had ever beaten for a long, long time. Then, seventy years later, almost to the day, the Commodores finally, finally did it again.
I'm not quite sure whether to be impressed or depressed by that. I thought Kentucky had it rough, but man, that's just a long, unbroken line of futility right there. Nothing but props to the Commodores, though, they did in this case what Kentucky could not -- come into Spurrier's stadium and hand him a big, fat "L".

But there is still more great Vandy reax to this upset. Matt Wilson at Nashville Ballerz says the time for VU jokes has come to an end -- Vanderbilt is officially ahead of Tennessee in the BCS standings. Man, I thought Fulmer's seat was hot before, but when the Vol faithful here this news ... well, I just don't know what they'll say, but I doubt the Vol fans will be jumping for joy, especially since Vandy just beat Tennessee a couple of years back. I'm thinking the annual grudge match is going to be good, and if Vandy wins again, Flumer is going to find out what it's like to be Zookered.

So how are the Gamecock fans feeling now that they've had a few days of humiliation assimilation? Garnet and Black Attack lists 5 reasons why the result went against Carolina, and I found this one to be the most ironic:

3. The quarterback play was ... ahem ... uneven. Sure, you could look at one half of the line on the Gamecocks' signal-callers and say, eh, not awful. They went 23-of-43 for 256 yards. But the other half of the line is terrible: No TDs, 3 INTs. What do you make of that?

It's truly incredible that a Spurrier-coached team should be so futile at the quarterback spot. It's also questionable coaching by the OBC to keep trying out candidates for the starting spot 8 weeks into the season. The Cool Chicken says something similar:
The loss yesterday to Vanderbilt however, falls squarely on the offensive genius’ shoulders. For the first time, Coach Spurrier did not put us in a position to win the game. For the first time, Coach Spurrier made a decision before the game began that doomed our chances of competing. That decision was to rotate quarterbacks.
I hate to break it to you, CC, but it's gonna get worse before it gets better:

New starter?Meanwhile, Tommy Beecher could compete for the starting job against the Vols. SAVIOR OF THE PROGRAM Stephen Garcia? Not so much.

The Gamecocks might add a third quarterback to the mix. Redshirt sophomore Tommy Beecher, who has not played since the S.C. State game on Sept. 15, could see action because of his mobility. ...

Heh. This looks to me like the Steve Spurrier version of a Chinese fire drill. Gamecock fans are so confusticated and bebothered by this whole debacle that some of them think it might be time to chuck a few boos down from the stands:
I agree that fans should not boo their own team especially when they struggle and especially when it is more the coaches fault. I don't think fans should boo opposing teams either as they enter the stadium. But what was on display this past weekend was, how should we say, "not so good" and a boo was deserved (let the record show however I was not one of those that did boo yet feel the performance by USC deserved it).
Ouch. I don't think we fans should ever boo our teams, ever. Boo the opponent if you must, but support your team. That's my opinion anyway. But I do understand the frustration.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Week 8 -- Some thoughts and some fun

Well, well, some very interesting things going on in the SEC today, some of it just frankly freaking amazing.

It seems that in spite of the absolute pasting they took at the hands of the Crimson Tide this weekend, the Chattanooga Times Free Press thinks that the Vols still have a shot at the SEC title game:

Five of the SEC East's six teams have two league losses. The Vols (4-3, 2-2 SEC) have played two of them, going 1-1, and they will play the other three.

Four of Tennessee's last five regular season games are at home, starting Saturday night with South Carolina -- another two-SEC loss team.

"Like Coach (Phillip) Fulmer told us, the season's not over. Not one bit," UT middle linebacker Jerod Mayo said.

But have the Vols shown anything to make anyone this that optimism is realistic?

Uh, let me answer that for you -- not really, at least, not given the schizophrenic nature of the game they have been playing in place of actual football. Unsurprisingly, Rocky Top Talk agrees:
Despite gross coaching incompetence in all major games but one, UT still has an outside chance at contending for the SEC East. But someone (ahem, Georgia) would have to beat Florida, and UT would have to beat South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Vandy. I'm tempted to say Florida can punch their card to rematch LSU in the SEC title game, but things have been strange this year. I'm done with predictions.
Well, I can't blame him for that. This SEC season has been full of bizarre twists and turns, and there is no real reason to think that the thing will turn back to normalcy anytime soon. Nobody really would have expected Alabama to obliterate Tennessee like they did, but then again, almost nobody expected LSU to have a loss to Kentucky.

Now, here is an interesting tidbit -- Les Miles says he is going to "review the block on Dorsey". What the hell is there to "review?" All you have to do is look at the thing once.

For any of you that didn't see the game, the Auburn right guard made an egregious chop-block on Dorsey's right knee while he was engaged with another player. How the officials could have missed that call is beyond me, but it was really blatant. Fortunately, Dorsey seems to be OK, but that is the kind of thing that should get players thrown out of the game and suspended for long periods of time.

The thing looked very deliberate to me, as the right guard was going right for Dorsey's knee, which collapsed at an odd and scary angle. How he escaped serious injury is simply beyond my comprehension. Predictably, there is some displeasure among LSU bloggers. Here's what Richard Pittman of Geaux Tuscaloosa had to say:
My third thought is that there is no way in hell the hit on Dorsey was legal. I understand that the Auburn boards are aflutter with activity justifying and/or rationalizing the hit, but there's no way. It wasn't in any respect a legal hit. I'll give the player the benefit of the doubt that he was not out to injure Dorsey, particularly if he comes out and says it publicly.
Obviously, there are some who just a little bit more incensed, but I think Pittman gets it right. Senator Blutarsky at the Georgia Blog Get the picture thinks this was the cheap shot of the year in the SEC.

Auburn, on the other hand, feels there was a bit too much home cooking down on the bayou:
What's up with SEC refs this year? They are absolutely horrible. Are they making up their own rules? In the Florida/LSU game, they called back a kick return from a replay that was definitely disputable. In the Florida/Auburn game, they called a penalty that was eliminated in 2003. Who can forget the replay call in the Ole Miss/Bama game (aside from Bama fans)? In the LSU/Auburn game, they nullified a penalty from a replay, and gave LSU a first down with a horrible spot.
That spot was pitiful, no question.

So Kentucky beats the Tigers after a tough game and a long week. Then, dinged up Kentucky gets beat by Florida after a bye week, resulting in a tough game and a dinged up Florida team. Now, Florida faces a Georgia team coming off a layoff this weekend. Anyone sense a pattern here?

Georgia must be chomping at the bit to get to the Gators, especially on a "neutral" field in Jacksonville. This game could truly be a season changer, put Georgia back into the SEC East hunt and deal a fatal blow to their hated rivals from Gainesville. But David Ching is wary about Tebow's injury, and Paul Westerdawg says Tebow is the reincarnation of Biff Tannen. Twin sons of different mothers, indeed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Catching up from way behind

Yeah, yeah, I know. I haven't blogged in two days. Well, I have an excuse -- I was behind really bad at work on Friday, and on Saturday, I was, watching football games. I just didn't have the energy to blog last night after the LSU game. So sue me.

Anyway, there is sure plenty to talk about today. What a killer game between LSU and Auburn last night! It looked for all the world like Auburn was going to pull another upset like they did in The Swamp, and it was a very near thing.

But what I really want to know is, what kind of psychotic call was that last play from scrimmage? I mean, Les Miles came away looking like ... well, Orson Swindle says it better than me:

Holly: Tell us about that last call, Coach.

Les: (Pauses, looks blankly at her.) Which call?

Holly: (Dumbfounded.) The touchdown call to win the game. Tell us a little about that.

Les: Oh, that call. Sure. It’s because, where other men have brains, I just have more balls. Just a skull full of testes–that’s what you’ll see if you take an MRI of my head, actually. It’s like looking at an x-ray of a beanbag in profile when you look at my head. I jostle when I walk. Why? It’s the balls jangling and boinging around in my head. Don’t ask me if it’s awesome. There’s no brains up there, only balls. And balls always have the same answer to that question: it’s awesome having a brain full of balls like Les Miles does. It sounds awesome when I say that, actually. Balls. BALLS BALLS BALLS BALLS BALLS. That’s it in short, Balls.

That was just sick, insane, cluelessness, or the case of a coach having way more balls than brains. I'll leave it to you to decide which. Anyway, if that particular ball had been tipped or bobbled around before being incomplete, the clock would have expired. Les Miles would suddenly find himself with a first-person understanding of how Steve Kragthorpe feels. If he is just looking to pave his way to the Michigan job, this sort of thing could eventually get it done.

Just plain wow.

At least some Auburn fans see this as more of a victory than a loss:

Auburn will likely not play for an SEC Championship this season or figure into the SEC West race. LSU now must lose two more games for Auburn to sneak in.

But I don’t care. And I hope you don’t care. This Auburn team is special. It’s been like watching a child grow up. We should all be proud of this Auburn team.

Great game by both Tigers. I had a feeling LSU was going to pull this game out, and they did, but Auburn was truly impressive in defeat. Given the way Alabama performed against Tennessee, I believe this year's Iron Bowl is going to be one hell of a game.

Speaking of UT at Alabama, that was the other side of the coin from Auburn/LSU - an ugly blowout, the second one the Vols have suffered this year. Losing huge to the powerful Gators in The Swamp is one thing, but being handed your buttocks by a rather pedestrian Alabama team is ... well, different. Pat Forde writing for ESPN has an interesting take:
Throw in Alabama mugging Tennessee after suspending five players, and you have the Karl Marx dream standings in the Eastern Division. Everyone is equal, or nearly so.
Wow, Pat, that's some serious geopolitical allegory to hang on a football game, dude. UT Vols Football says Phillip Fulmer finds himself in a familiar place. All I can say is that DJ Hall and John Parker Wilson looked like Steve Young and Jerry Rice respectively against the Vol defense. That can't make Big Orange fans happy and Third Saturday in Blogtober confirms this perception.

From a Bama perspective, the fan blogs are decidedly more upbeat, perhaps even ... dare I say it ... giddy ?
It was an amazing game. Not only did Alabama beat the Vols, we CRUSHED the Vols. I’ve seen plenty of smack talk coming from the orange nation, so this victory is all the more sweeter. Plus, we have a bye week, so we can gloat for an entire week and not have to worry about LSU. Nick Saban improves to 3-1 against Phil Fulmer, starting a new daddy trend.
Ouch. But that's not all. Memphis Tider can't help but jump up and down in pleasure, and just a wee bit of schadenfreude. The Capstone Report is rather more circumspect, and highlights a different theme:

In what might have been the best executed and conceived Alabama game plan since the 1999 SEC Championship Game, Alabama mauled Tennessee 41-17; Nick Saban made a definitive statement that he understands the importance of winning over rivals.

But the bigger statement than even the game, was Alabama’s willingness to suspend players before a big game for potential violations. It was the failure to act swiftly that began Alabama’s decades of misery. Not this time. The administration and coaches made clear they want to win the right way.

I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but the last chapter is yet to be written on the book issue. I think Saban clearly did the right thing suspending his players given what we know, and that is a very good sign. But there may be more to this than meets the eye, and the Alabama program, who can ill afford another group of NCAA sanctions, cannot be feeling too good about this. Mike Silve, you may have to wait awhile to have a sanction-free SEC.

South Carolina found itself on the wrong end of a fired-up Vanderbilt team yesterday, and South Carolina fans are understandably upset. Some of them are placing the blame on Spurrier's decision to give Blake Mitchell a chance to recapture the quarterback spot:
I said it on the radio and I will say it again, Spurrier should have never put Mitchell in this game. Stick with your QB and move forward. Smelley should have played every snap this game. Mitchell is our albatross.

This is the first time in three years that I have questioned Steve Spurrier and I stick beside it. Spurrier should have never put Mitchell in the game. Ever.
Flounder at Leftover Hot Dog thinks this is arguably the worst loss in Spurrier's tenure at USC. I'm not sure who is to blame, but you have to believe this QB situation is a distraction to the team. I have never liked the idea of changing quarterbacks midstream unless there is clear and convincing evidence the one you have isn't going to be able to get the job done.

Vanderbilt bloggers are understandably pleased with sending The Visor home with mud in his eye. But as of this writing, there has been little Vanderbilt blogging to talk about. Well, it is only Sunday, and I think we can infer from the result that Commie fans are smiling.

Finally, the big game of the weekend, Florida at Kentucky. As a Kentucky fan, I do have a dog in this fight, and I think it was a case where the Wildcats simply didn't execute well enough to win. It was a well-played game by both sides, but Tim Tebow, the obvious result of some sort of illegal eugenics experiment, was just way too much for the Wildcats:
Also very difficult to watch was Kentucky's relative inability to stop Tim Tebow at much of anything. For the past two seasons, teams with running quarterbacks have caused Kentucky fits and tim Tebow may be the best we have seen in some time. Time after time when Kentucky needed a third down stop, Tebow would either scramble for a first down or make a perfect pass in order to move the chains. Had Kentucky been more efficient in the first half, its inability to get the big stop in the first half wouldnt have been so crucial and Tebow and company may have felt their own pressure to come up with a big score. But the hole dug in the first half could not be overcome and Tebow was pretty sensational throughout the game.
Tebow was indeed special, and deserves his plaudits. The Gators are beating their chests a bit over at Saurian Sagacity and Orange and Blue Hue. I suppose they have earned it, in that they won the game. Still, it strikes me as odd that both these bloggers spend a bit more time defending their own comments and assuring anyone within blogshot of their superiority. Well, this is the SEC, not finishing school.

Still, perhaps Gator fans should try not to break their arms patting themselves on the back, there is still a lot of football to be played, and a rested and healed-up Georgia will be waiting for the dinged up Gators in Jacksonville. Can you say, "Sauce for the goose ...?"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

This and that, and a look at this weekend

Well, Best of the SEC Blogs received a big link the other day from Ryan Ferguson from AOL Fanhouse. Ryan is also a co-blogger at the Florida blog Orange and Blue Hue, so we want to thank him for the link, and for reading Best of the SEC Blogs.

I do want to point out a couple of things, though. First of all, Ryan is right that I am annoyed to find Ohio State atop the rankings, given their schedule so far this year. And Ryan's co-blogger, Keltic Gator at Orange and Blue Hue delivers a scathing assessment of their ascendancy today.

With all that said, I do want to agree with Ryan that the final chapter in the BCS is far from being written, and Ohio State itself is guilty of nothing more than beating everyone who has come before them so far. OSU can't help it if sclerotic BCS voters care more about a school's pedigree than their body of work. It is also true that OSU's toughest games lie before them. All in all, the reality is that there is no reason for panic -- yet. But this, I cannot agree with:

This is the system college presidents we've adopted and this is the product we get. Accept it.
Never. Never will I accept this farce. It needs to be changed, and accepting it is acquiescing to a fraud, and every thinking fan of college football knows it. Once again I return to Mergz at Saurian Sagacity, and his outstanding series dealing with this issue. Until we get some form of playoff, even a limited one, there will be no legitimacy to the "national championship". It will remain little more than a beauty contest where football tradition and pre-season standing count for as much as prowess on the field. Anyone associated with athletic endeavor should be outraged at this arrangement.

But moving right along, it's past time for me to start looking at some of the big games this week.

And what's the biggest game in the SEC this week? It says here that it's Florida vs. Kentucky. Did I read that right? Kentucky, the basketball school? Up is down. Left is right. Florida and UK are weirdly switching roles lately, with Billy D. winning NCAA basketball championships and Kentucky contending for the SEC football crown. They say that if you live long enough, you'll see everything.

So what are the SEC bloggers saying about this matchup? Ole Miss blogger Parish Alford favors the Wildcats:

Since the SEC split into divisions in 1992, the East has been ruled by Florida, Tennessee or Georgia.

Kentucky and South Carolina have never been closer than they are this season. Maybe this is one of those lightning in a bottle times for the Cats.

Kentucky 36, Florida 31

Kyle King at Dawg Sports, who picked Kentucky to beat LSU (maybe the only person I know of to do so), thinks the Wildcat's luck has run out:
L.S.U. came back in gutsy fashion to win a thriller over Florida, confirming the Bayou Bengals' status as the nation's consensus No. 1 team . . . and setting the Tigers up for a letdown in Lexington against a well-rested and underappreciated Kentucky team that, unlike Louisiana State, hadn't spent the last week hearing how great it was. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that same formula works against them this weekend: Kentucky is the squad that will be physically drained and emotionally spent after a triple-overtime victory over the top team in the land and the Gators are the ones coming into the game with fresh legs and in a bad mood. Live by the letdown, die by the letdown: Florida will keep its shot at a second straight S.E.C. East title alive by beating Kentucky in the Commonwealth.
But Florida at Kentucky is not the only big game going on this time of year -- it is also the weekend for the annual renewal of the Third Saturday in October. Jon at Fulmer's Belly thinks that the Vols will be sending the Tide back to Tuscaloosa with their tail between their legs:
Who will win? Well, depends on whose blog you read. I’ve read through a few Bama blogs, and surprisingly, they chose Bama to pull off the upset, whilst this humble blog you’re reading now, would like to go ahead and call out a blowout by the Vols. Maybe the final margin will be closer, but it won’t be a game. Why? Because the belly decrees it so. Now get back to work.
Nico writing for Roll Bama Roll ranks the hate of the top five Alabama rivals. Tennessee comes in at #4:
4. Tennessee: I'm pretty shocked that Tennessee has managed to slip to #4 this season, but there they are. It's probably less a function of them slipping as much as it is other schools giving us more reason to hate. Don't be alarmed folks, this situation is purely temporary.
This is one of those games that just can't be picked based on any particular characteristic of either team. With both teams having a "down" year by their own definition, yet both still apparently controlling their own destiny in their respective divisions of the SEC, this game is sure to be among the most hotly contested of the year.

That's all I have time for now. I'll be looking at some more games later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Croome backs up Orgeron: Alabama gets calls

The call that was reversed on the field in the Alabama-Ole Miss game on Saturday is not done causing controversy. This Mobile Press-Register piece reports that despite the SEC official position that the reversal was correct, Orgeron, his AD Pete Boone still vehemently disagree. That isn't surprising.

What is surprising is this comment in the same piece attributed to Sylvester Croome, the Mississippi State coach:

Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said Monday the more successful programs get gets a lot of calls in their favor. Croom, a former Alabama center and assistant coach, said he noticed it while playing for the Tide and he has noticed it even more while coaching against his alma mater.
Ouch. Croome is essentially accusing officials of favoring Alabama on the field, as well as the other successful programs in the SEC.

This is actually a disturbing accusation, coming as it does from the coach of an avowed foe of Ole Miss, and a former player at Alabama. I want to clarify a couple of things before I go on. One, I'm not accusing Alabama, or any other SEC team of wrongdoing or misbehavior or any of that. The officials made the call, and Alabama had nothing to do with the review. It was a close call, no question, but in this writer's opinion, the SEC officials erred. There is no clear and convincing video evidence either a) that the player was not forced out of bounds, or b) that even if there were, the Ole Miss player actually touched the ball first. There is some evidence of both, but certainly it is not indisputable or even strong enough to be considered "clear and convincing". Therefore, the call on the field should have stood up.

Bottom line -- The SEC is circling the wagons around officials who are not applying the proper standard for review, and are winging it based on their judgment. That conflicts with the way that video review is supposed to work. I have no problem with changing the standards for review, they just shouldn't do it situationally, as appears to be the case here.

Another disturbing thing is that this same replay official has evidently been involved in other controversial plays. Not only that, but according to the same piece, the Ole Miss radio analyst virtually called this shot before the game even started. The final annoying fact in all this is that the replay official involved is not being made available to answer press questions (see the Press-Register piece above).

But even more insidious is Croome's suggestion that SEC officials favor the better teams in the league. That is worrisome, and given the fact that this claim flies in the face of Croome's presumed loyalties, concerns me more than a one-off screw-up. Unfortunately, officiating in the college world is as opaque as the Iranian government, and they appear just as likely to defend the indefensible. That needs to change. The more opaque and insular the officials make their review processes, the more likely you are to wind up with this.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Now this is an outrage!

I just ran across this in a CSTV piece:

It's that kind of carnage that has opened the door for Ohio State, which has yet to play anyone of note and could go the rest of the season without facing a ranked opponent. In spite of that, it appears that the Buckeyes are the only team that controls its own destiny in the BCS. If Ohio State wins out and wins by the margins voters like, it will get another shot at winning the BCS title.
So help me, if that happens, I am done with college football until they fix this unacceptably broken system. In a perverse way, I almost hope it does, because the outrage from the SEC, Big East and probably a couple of other conferences will should be deafening.

College basketball teams get to the national championship mostly on merit. Only in the deranged world of college football can you get by solely on past performance, reputation and pre-season positioning. As you can see in the piece just below this one, mostly due to work done by others, this entire football-BCS arrangement is a gigantic fraud, and whether or not by design, the powers that stand to benefit the most from continuing this deception are the ones who would appear to benefit the most, and continue to support the BCS. I know, knock me over with a feather.

If SEC officials sit still for allowing Ohio State to stroll through a pathetically weak schedule (at least by national championship standards) to the national championship game without demanding meaningful change, well ... they should be ashamed of themselves. In fact, they should be ashamed for taking no action last year. People have been warning for years that just this sort of thing was possible with the BCS -- what will happen if it becomes a reality?

But lest that not convince you, consider this paragraph from later in the same CSTV article:
Note that I am not lumping Ohio State in with USF and BC in this scenario. Even though the Buckeyes may play the weakest schedule of the three, they are a college football blue blood. Ohio State could go undefeated and only play one opponent that was ranked at the time it played them, and that is Purdue, which was No. 20 when it faced the Buckeyes on Oct. 6. Of its remaining five opponents, only Michigan is currently ranked in either BCS poll (No. 25 in Harris).

Oh. Well. That makes it all right then. We can't be worrying about such trivialities as schedule strength and merit when we are talking about royalty, now can we? I say, why wait? Let's just declare the "bluebloods" the only eligible teams, pat the "serfs" and "peasants" on their pointy little 2-star heads and send them to the Astro-Bluebonnet-Chick-Fil-A-Frito-Tostito bowl, and turn our attention to more important things. No way those lesser teams deserve a shot at the title. Fugghitaboudit.

The BCS is about (God willing) to be exposed for the incredible farce it truly is. The really sad thing is that we all fell for it for so long, as if we can't go futzing with the all-important pursuit of lucré such as TV contracts and what not. Noooo, buddy! We have already sacrificed the integrity of the game on the altar of expedience once. What matter if we send it's head rolling down the guillotine one more time, even if the victim is already as stiff as Houston Nutt after a text message?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Upset Saturday: Will this be the year the BCS dies?

Once again, the SEC has proven itself to be the toughest conference in the land. And once again, it looks like they will suffer for it.

As a Kentucky fan, I am still giddy from the huge upset of LSU last night by my Wildcats. It was a great game, and from my standpoint at least, a great result. I think at this point, the Wildcats have proven to everyone in this league that they are not a fraud. More than that, they now have an argument, albeit a convoluted one, that they are the best team in the East.

But what I want to talk about today are a couple of articles I ran across at the Washington Post and on Yahoo. The first, the WaPo article, suggests that the SEC is "Too good for its own good":

Watch a game from another conference on television and then watch a game in the SEC and note the difference in speed and overall physical brutality. No conference makes it more difficult for its teams to emerge from a season with an unbeaten record.
Well, we've all heard this before, and not just from the SEC. The Pac 10 keeps telling us that they are really better, and the Big Ten keeps asking us to watch it's network, claiming you will see the best football in the nation there.

This debate is no nearer being resolved today than it was in the summer, when Pac 10 commissioner Tom Hansen claimed, when asked if the Pac 10 would walk away from the BCS over a "plus one game" answered "Yes, no question."

First of all, this response strikes me as cowardly. Hansen and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney claim that they are all about protecting the "integrity of the Rose Bowl". But what integrity does the Rose Bowl have, in terms of its history, under the current BCS system? The Pac 10 and Big Ten sold out the integrity of the Rose Bowl eleven years ago. Hansen's statement is a dodge, because he knows that in a plus one system, there are much better odds that two SEC teams will be playing for the national championship than a Big Ten or a Pac 10 team. And he would rather take his football elsewhere (where is unknown) than do that.

Stewart Mandel has already accused Hansen of not dealing in reality, and suggests that more likely, Delaney and Hansen are just staking out a stance for negotiation. It really isn't in the interest of either of the two traditional Rose Bowl schools to actually pull out of the BCS, as it would create a schism in college football that would be way worse for the game than their original sell-out of the Rose Bowl.

But to be fair (or hypercritical), many of the SEC schools have also opposed a the plus one model, although their reasons must be quite different. But that was before this strange season happened.

It's early, of course, but let us suppose that Ohio State wins out it's remaining soft schedule and winds up the #1 team. Let us further suppose that USF wins out (a bit more of a stretch) and becomes the #2 team. LSU, South Carolina, and every other SEC school who played a much tougher schedule would wind up on the outside looking in.

There is still a lot of football to be played, and all this may sort itself out in the end. If so, that would almost be a shame, because a major catastrophe seems to be the only thing that will get these conservative college presidents off their duff and into a system that is less controversial and more fair. A plus one game is a start, although to be honest, I am not convinced it won't create as many problems as it solves. They may be different problems, though, and I am very much for giving it a try.

And ultimately, I have been persuaded by Mergz at Saurian Sagacity who argues convincingly that an NCAA national championship in football does not, and never did, exist. Mergz goes on to conclude that the BCS has made the entire system of selecting a national champion worse by continually changing the criteria for selecting the national champion. No less than 5 times has the BCS formula changed. By changing the formula for selecting the participants every year or so, how are the teams supposed to have any confidence that the system has any integrity whatsoever?

As Mergz points out, the very fact that the system can be changed by lobbying efforts on behalf of conferences and/or teams is proof of it's utter failure as a system for determining accurately and with unbiased objectivity the teams that should play for the national championship.

Mergz conclusion is the same as mine -- some form of playoff is required to produce any real plausibility to the system of selecting a national championship. The BCS is really no better than what we had before it, and the reason is it lacks integrity and year to year process continuity. They change the selection criteria at the whim of powerful interested parties, and the selection system itself is so opaque that the BCS cannot truly demonstrate any semblance of fair or objective judgment. It is a mess.

So if your team plays for the "national championship" this year, just realize that yours is no more legitimate than the 300-odd claims by various schools to a piece of that distinction over the years.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Gameday! Week 7

Time for a quick look around the SEC blogosphere to see who is saying what about today's games. Let's get right to it:

The Hog Blogger reports on some kind of weird soap opera going on in Arkansas, and suggests university involvement in supressing "Fire Houston Nutt" aerial banners via a third-party detective service. Wow, Houston Nutt's situation over in Arkansas appears to be approaching the definition of "untenable".

Save The Shield, a Vandy blogger, seems to be pulling against the Wildcats in the game with LSU:

LSU -9.5: This one I went back and forth on, but 9.5 isn’t that much given the talent gap between the two teams. Hope LSU isn’t flat after last week’s Game of the Century of the Week though.
Frankly, I hope the Tigers are very flat. But I'm not counting on it.

GatorPilot at Orange and Blue Hue claims he has sworn off Florida State schdenfreude, but I think I detect some.

Henry Gomez, Saurian Sagacity:
Close observers of the Gators know that last year's BCS Championship was the result of a stingy defense and not offensive fireworks. I've been having an ongoing debate with a friend about the reasons for the the two Gator losses we've suffered this year. I contend that the fault lies largely with the defense, while my friend blames the offense.
The Tide Druid talks to his gut, which seems to be arguing with itself about Alabama's chances against the Ole Miss Rebels today. His conclusion?
For some reason, I think Ole Miss might win. Still, I think the Tide can win easily if we actually play a more consistent game. Not to dis Ole Miss, but I think Alabama controls the outcome of this game more than the Rebels. Just watch the game and see.
Kyle King at Dawg Sports has a bottom line prediction for Georgia at Vanderbilt:
In five games this season, the Commies have scored 19.5 points per game against Division I-A opponents. In six games this season, the Bulldogs have allowed 21.0 points per game to Division I-A opponents.

In six games this season, the Red and Black have scored 24.3 points per game against Southeastern Conference competition. In five games this season, the Music City Sailors have allowed 25.3 points per game to Southeastern Conference competition.

My Prediction: Georgia 24, Vanderbilt 20.
Jerry Hinnen at The Joe Cribbs Car Wash finds our newsfeed here useful, and takes MSNBC's article lauding the SEC to task:
Accuracy, please. Snatched off the useful Best of SEC newswire is this piece of fluff from MSNBC. On the balance I agree that the SEC is still the nation's best conference, blah blah blah. But honestly? I think the league might have been a bit overrated entering this season. LSU is all that and a bag of cajun-style potato chips, of course, Florida is a worthy No. 2 as anyone who saw their slugfest last Saturday would attest, and if this were a chessboard South Carolina would make a fine bishop alongside LSU's queen and Florida's, like, almost-queen ... but who else? Kentucky is not a contender until they start allowing less than 12 yards a carry. Auburn has potential, obviously, but could likely lose to a Sun Belt team if they put their mind (not) to it. Tennessee rolled over and died in Gainesville, but are apparently still light years better than the toothless Dawgs, themselves road winners over the reeling Tide. MSNBC guy touts the number of SEC teams in the top 25, but I'm not sure even in this insane season more than those top 3 belong in the top 20. I hope I'm wrong. We'll see.
I think Jerry has a good point. Yes, we may still be overall #1 here in the SEC, but arguably not nearly as strong as the pre-season pundits predicted (try saying that 3 times fast). Perhaps Kentucky can step up and prove themselves worthy today, and perhaps we go 1-0 out of conference this weekend. But right now, we are very top-heavy.

Rocky Top Talk takes UT fans to task over Fulmer, and (reasonably, if you ask me) asks the Vol Nation for patience:
The most danging piece of evidence I have against Fulmer, though, is this picture. Just look at it. What is he doing? Going for a fist bump when obviously the assistant is leading with a high-five? Can't he get on the same page as the coaches on his staff? And is he wearing a championship ring? How dare he, when he hasn't won one of those in ten, er, nine... what is it, eight years! The audacity!
This is eerily reminiscent of Kentucky fans and Tubby Smith, and we all know how that worked out. Can you see Fulmer preemptively taking a job at, I don't know, Michigan (should Miles say no) or TAMU or even Arkansas (Nutt is very likely to be unemployed after this season, in my opinion) to get away from the hot seat he has now in Tennessee? Well, at least the Vols won't get accused of racism, at least until they hired a replacement. Then, all bets would be off.

Seth at the Hotty Toddy Blog says it's time to beat 'Bama, and they've done it before -- 8 times in 50+ attempts. I'd say they are due, and this year is certainly a year where it is very possible.

Enjoy gameday, folks.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Some quick SEC previews from around the blogosphere

Today, we'll be letting some of the SEC's best bloggers tell us what they expect this Saturday.

Georgia at Vanderbilt

Hunker Down Dawg Blawg, Georgia:

We need this game in a bad way. We have to right the ship and get out of Nashville with a win. At this point, after what I saw last week, I don’t even care about style points or anything like that. While a stylish blowout win a la Ole Miss two weeks ago (my how two weeks can certainly change one’s perception of this team) would certainly make me feel better about things, at this point, I just think we all need a win. We can’t let that complete meltdown last week result in the spiral out of control we saw last year.
Nashville Ballerz, Vanderbilt:
Here’s the truth: Vanderbilt is good enough to play in a bowl game this season but not good enough to overcome shoddy quarterback play. Whether it’s Nickson or Adams at the controls Saturday, one needs to get the VU offense moving again and keep this season on track while there’s still time.

LSU at Kentucky

A Sea of Blue, Kentucky:
Our offensive line will face a challenge of Davidian proportions. If they can find some formula to protect Woodson and create holes for our backs to hit through LSU's mighty defensive front, great things can happen for UK. LSU can't win a shootout with anybody, but normally, they don't have to face one.
LSUPhootball, LSU:
Monica Says: In order for Kentucky to win this game, LSU has to tackle the same way they did against Florida during the 1st half, Jarmon and Woodyard need to stop LSU’s rushing attack, and Woodson needs to be mistake-free, which isn’t that much of a stretch considering he’s thrown 18 TD’s and 2 interceptions. Coach Rich Brooks also needs to mix up the play calling and utilize Little and not rely on Woodson as much as he has this year.

Tennessee at Mississippi State

Rocky Top Talk, Tennessee:
Vols to the Wall asks the question on every Vol fan's mind: Can Tennessee run the table? College Football News apparently thinks we can at least get to the SEC Championship game because they have us slated for the Capital One Bowl (as the SEC No. 2) against Wisky. And yeah, Mississippi may be Josh McNeil's home, but Dave Hooker states the obvious anyway: There's nothing sexy about Mississippi State, but cautions us to not take the Bulldogs too lightly. Indeed, Mississippi State's defensive front presents some problems. And finally, on the Vols' front, Ghost of Neyland is headed out for vacation, but he's left a poem in his wake.
Kyle Veazey, MSU:
In today's Clarion-Ledger, the main Mississippi State story is on the offensive line. It has played well thus far, sure, but J.B. Grimes thinks it can play much, much better. The notebook is led with some of the MSU staff affiliations to UT — Pat Washington, Woody McCorvey, Brad Pendergrass.

Alabama at Mississippi

Roll Bama Roll, Alabama:
I feel strongly that we'll win, but that it won't be an easy layup by any stretch of the imagination. We just aren't a team that's capable of blowing mediocre teams out of the water yet, and until we're there, I'll be nervous. This one will probably be down to the wire as usual.
World Class Glass, Ole Miss:
So this game is a toss up for me. I feel like it can go one way or the other. I think the Rebels will come into the game fired up like they have the past several home SEC games and will be in this game for a couple of quarters. On the other side Alabama will probably be more focused for this game than any other one this season. If the Rebels are going to beat Saban while he is at Alabama, they better do it now before he begins to recruit his players.

Auburn at Arkansas

Track Em Tigers, Auburn:
You can bet Darren McFadden and Felix Jones will get their yards. The key for the Auburn defense will be stopping the big play. Last year, McFadden reeled off a 63 yard run that broke Auburn’s back. In all, Arkansas had six runs that accounted for 144 yards of rushing. Things will have to be different this year for Auburn to have a chance.
The Hog Source, Arkansas:
I reluctantly admit it. This game carries our season in it’s hands. It just seems like if we fail as this one task, the significance of all that follows dwindles to dust.