Sunday, October 7, 2007

A huge weekend, and the SEC picture becomes more clear

The SEC picture became much clearer this year than it has been up until now as several challengers emerged for the title in the East. Florida, once the clear leader in the East, is now one of three Eastern teams, along with Georgia and Vanderbilt with two losses. LSU continues to make themselves the class of the conference and the outright leader in the West, although Florida's game against them in Death Valley clearly gives some hope to the remaining teams on their schedule, it isn't much hope.

I want to look at a couple of the games here, Vandy at Auburn and Florida at LSU.

Auburn rudely welcomed the Vanderbilt Commodores to the Plains, and this game was, quite frankly, uncompetitive. While some of us expected the #2 ranked defense to put up a fight against the offensively-challenged Tigers, Auburn proved that the days of being a weak sister on offense have come to an end, and Brandon Cox is now firmly in control of this team.

I can't agree with Will Collier at From The Bleachers the Vanderbilt should leave the SEC. Vanderbilt is a founding member of the SEC, and even though it is very difficult for Vanderbilt considering it's academic underpinnings and strange lack of an athletic department, it is as much a part of the fabric and tradition of the league as any other school, including Auburn.

Without malice to Auburn or any other school in the SEC including my beloved Kentucky, Vanderbilt has not embarrassed the league by being placed on academic or athletic probation in memory, and from that standpoint, outshines virtually all of the league's more athletically fortunate members. You could make a case that if Vanderbilt really wants to develop a football program that the SEC is not the best place to do it, and if Vanderbilt wanted to leave the league for that reason, it would be difficult not to respect their decision. But frankly, I think they have earned a place in this league in many other ways than football, and for my money, can stay as long as they want. Besides, who else could Kentucky have a better than average shot at beating in football if Vandy left?

The War Eagle Reader is happy to see the Tigers back in the top 25, and further pleased that Auburn seems to have snapped out of it and wonders what would have happened if the team had played to it's potential all year. Well, there are a lot of football teams that would like to know that right now. I'm afraid the answer is not forthcoming.

PhilipVU94 at Save The Shield takes a fatalistic view that appears in some ways to validate Will Collier's argument:

I realize that no one likes fatalism, but there’s a reason why it really feels like nothing will ever get better in this program. We’ve seen it all before. (Well, except some really wildly exciting offense like June Jones or Mike Leach run. I’d like to see how we’d do with that instead of the conservative back-to-basics approach.) I’m really not sure the solution exists, if the problem is narrowly defined as “getting Vanderbilt to have a winning football season as a full member of the SEC.”

Ouch. Well, we may have to revisit this conversation after some of the hurt feelings wear off on the Vanderbilt side. Obviously, Vanderbilt fans had hoped for a lot more than the pasting the Tigers delivered to them.

What a great game it was between LSU and Florida last night! I stayed up and watched the whole affair, even though I had an early tee time on Sunday. And boy, was it worth it. Les Miles, with this game, has clearly established himself as a coach to be reckoned with as he clearly and convincingly outcoached Urban Meyer in this game. Not only did Miles show tremendous faith in his team when Meyer didn't, his team delivered in spades.

Florida fans will correctly point out that this game proves that there is far less difference between the Gators and the Tigers than many had supposed, and I think this is true. Florida has a very strong offense, and to their credit, they have a very decent defense. But LSU is simply indomitable defensively, and they proved it to my satisfaction in the fourth quarter when they held that powerful Gator offense to next to nothing -- the entire 4th quarter for Florida consisted of an interception, a 3-and-out, and one first down in a final, futile effort to create a drive.

Richard Pittman at Geaux Tuscaloosa was enthralled by the game and especially by the result:
But let's get one thing straight right now. We outplayed Florida. We were the better team over the course of the 60 minute game. Florida outplayed us in the first quarter, but we outplayed them the rest of the game. Florida almost won anyway, in part because we missed field goals and in part because of penalties. But let's be clear about that. We outplayed them.

Richard gets this absolutely right. A look at the stats proves it, although LSU didn't really dominate in any areas -- they were just superior in most of them, and that will usually get you the win.

GatorPilot of Orange and Blue Hue says the LSU game is the end of the world as he knows it, but he feels fine:
I give high grades to this entire team. Can you even imagine how good they’re going to be? How good they already are?

An SEC championship is still in the cards. A rematch with LSU would, in my opinion, favor Florida. They made LSU’s life hell when they played ‘em on the road. Imagine what it would be like in Gatlanta.

This can still be a great year for Florida. Rivalry games remain. We still have Georgia and FSU to look forward to. A BCS bowl is very possible, even with two losses, if LSU goes on to the BCS title game.

We'll have to wait and see if Florida can even win the East before Gator fans can be thinking about Catlanta Atlanta. Henry Gomez at Saurian Sagacity explains that this pretty much ends any hope of a repeat of 2006, however unrealistic those hopes may have been for Gator fans. Mlmintampa at Alligator Army also thinks Meyer was outcoached by Miles, and points out that Meyer guaranteed the Gators would be back -- but when was apparently an open question.

No matter what, kudos to two great SEC teams for giving us a battle for the ages. It was one of the better college football games I have seen in quite a while.


Diezba said...

Also, check out our response to "From the Bleacher" and his suggestion that Vandy leave the SEC: Response to a requiem: even at the grave we make our song of defiance.

BestofSEC said...

That was a very good piece. For my part, Vanderbilt deserves to be in the SEC because, perhaps more than any other school in the conference, they embody the tradition of the student-athlete.

Every one of the other schools has been involved in some kind of cheating, or other misadventure that Vandy never gets embroiled in. We need Vandy if for no other reason than to remind us that college athletics is not Sparta, nor is is the NFL or NBA. These are college kids playing for their school of choice, and that is what makes college athletics special.

Take Vandy out of the SEC, and in my opinion, you wind up with the NFC East.