Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Oct 2009

OFI: Florida, Alabama Rule SEC

by Robert Weintraub

The new season of the Metropolitan Opera began last month with a hugely anticipated production of Tosca, Giacomo Puccini's dark tale of jealousy and murder-suicide. But crowds hated the interpretation brought to the stage in New York and booed the director, actors, and production designers vociferously, causing much scandal.

In another story of entertainment falling far short of expectations, Saturday's sensational SEC doubleheader was, if possible, even more boring than opera. Florida and Alabama easily swept aside pretender rivals playing on the pretenders' home fields, behind suffocating defenses that strangled most of the life out of the two big contests.

Was anyone really surprised that Tim Tebow played, and played well, despite his concussion from two weeks ago? All week, the chattering class tried to sell us on a possible John Brantley start in Death Valley against LSU, but once CBS cut away to show Tebow's arrival at Tiger Stadium -- receiving hugs from coach Urban Meyer and, less importantly, mom and dad -- his participation was guaranteed. It was a small risk, given that LSU's hard-hitting defense knocked a pair of Kings, Tavares and Caleb, out of the Georgia lineup with concussions the week before. New offensive coordinator Steve Addazio has played his hands closer to the vest this season than predecessor Dan Mullen did, and he and Meyer dialed up a conservative game plan that could have been instituted by Woody Hayes. The Gators ran the dive play over and over, and LSU couldn't stop it. Tebow did toss a lone touchdown to Riley Cooper in the waning ticks of the first half. Cooper got open thanks to the "whip" technique -- he grabbed the defender's jersey and used it to propel himself forward. Quasi-legal, but successful.

Meanwhile, the Gators defense made LSU signal caller Jordan Jefferson look as bad as former Bayou Bengals quarterback JaMarcus Russell looks on a weekly basis with Oakland. Florida had five sacks, held LSU to under 3.5 yards per play, and was in such control the contest was never in doubt, despite LSU's being "in" the game most of the way. The Gators defense even scared Les Miles from going for it on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line in the second quarter. Lester had zero confidence in his underachieving offensive line to get a yard in that situation. In retrospect, that was the game.

Over at the Grove in Oxford, where they "redshirt Miss Americas" (credit to Tim Brando for that golden phrase), the Crimson Tide treated SEC West wannabe Ole Miss like Ike treated Tina. Quarterback Jevan Snead, who some had projected as the top overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, looked even worse than Jefferson, throwing four picks. The game was such a disappointment in the state that epitomizes the Old South that Foghorn Leghorn reportedly marched down to the locker room after the game and slapped Snead across the face.

Florida and Alabama look predestined to replay their fantastic SEC Championship game from last season in the Georgia Dome, about six miles down Dekalb Avenue from where I am writing this. I've voted them Nos. 1-2 all season long, and it's hard to see (at this admittedly premature junction) how the winner of that game loses in the BCS title game.

Now that I've dismissed the next three months or so, not to mention the rest of the country, let's check out the rest of the weekend's action, shall we? I'm sure Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is getting heat for his decision to play quarterback Denard Robinson on the final drive at Iowa, rather than Tate Forcier. Forcier was ineffective, but has been the collegiate Carson Palmer this season in the final minutes, working magic week in and week out. Robinson had rolled down the field on the previous drive, but I was still surprised "Shoelaces" got the nod with it all on the line. What's the consensus in Ann Arbor, Maize and Gold fans?

The Sundance Kid had a key weakness -- he couldn't shoot when standing still. But when he moved, he could knock the pull tab off a beer can at fifty paces. Jonathan Crompton apparently is the same way. Dropping back in the pocket, he's the worst quarterback at the FBS level. But once Tennessee started rolling him out and calling bootlegs, Crompton shredded Georgia for four scores and over 300 yards in the air, as the Volunteers blasted the Dawgs 45-19. Methinks this is more of an indictment of Georgia's once-mighty, now-flighty defense. Willie Martinez, the defensive coordinator between the hedges, may not last the season at this rate.

Bobby Bowden will last the season, but he's staggering to the finish line like that chick that seized up in the last stages of the Ironman Triathlon. His Seminoles started out like a house afire against Tech, but a long lightning delay drained some of the passion out of their play. (Even God wants Bobby to step down, I guess.) Worse than Mother Nature was the pounding effect of Tech's triple option, which slammed at FSU's dam walls until they breached. Led by powerful quarterback Josh Nesbitt, the boys from the Institute went on a 16-play, 80-yard drive that sucked more than nine minutes of clock -- and the life out of the Seminoles.

Two games turned on a dime -- Texas was sleepwalking against Colorado, leading by three but about to give up said lead, when quarterback Cody Hawkins threw a god-awful pass in the flat that was picked off by Earl Thomas and returned the distance. Hawkins made the critical error of throwing an out pass to the inside shoulder, and Thomas made sure to thank him as he flew past en route to the end zone. The Longhorns have yet to impress much this season, save sensational wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who should, but won't, be a Heisman finalist.

Auburn was atrocious in its first road (kill) game, falling behind Arkansas 34-3. But they reeled off three scores in six minutes to close to 34-20 and make it a game. On the final play of the third quarter, running back Dennis Johnson embarked on a long, twisting kick return of 70 yards to return Uncle Mo to his proper home, and the Hogs cruised to the finish. Quarterback Ryan Mallet gets all the media oxygen, but the Razorbacks have a strong stable of young running backs (Johnson is well down the depth chart), testimony to the fine "crootin" job Bobby Petrino has done in Fayetteville.

And while I loathe kneejerk worship of the armed forces, it was pretty cool of CBS College Sports to air the Army-Navy-Air Force triple-header. The Army-Vandy opener was the best of the three, with the Black Knights out-doinking the 'Dores. Vandy forced overtime with a field goal off the upright, but Warren Norman coughed it up millimeters from the goal line in the extra period. Army then ricocheted in a Figgie of its own, and won it 20-17. It was great to watch the Corps of Cadets, as well as General David Petraeus, salute the team on a perfect day along the Hudson after the win. Send those crew cuts down the river to the Big City, and let America's Finest fix all that is wrong with Tosca, I say.

Toedrags

  • Watching those games on CBSC, as well as ESPNU, is a bizarre experience, mainly because the unending crawls at the bottom give scores for women's soccer, volleyball, field hockey, etc. The eye notes that Duke has beaten Miami, and it takes a beat or two to realize that it ain't in football.
  • South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia continues to up his play from 2008, leaping a defender to convert a key third down late in his team's 28-26 edge of Kentucky. Freshman wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was fantastic, catching three touchdowns. Next week, Spurrier and company tangle with 'Bama, which will be a black diamond ski trail for Garcia and the Gamecocks offense.
  • All-time LSU hero Billy Cannon, winner of the Heisman Trophy and everybody's All-American, who beat Ole Miss with the greatest punt return in college football history in 1959, is now an orthodontist treating prisoners at the Farm, the feared Angola State Prison in Louisiana. That never ceases to amaze me.
  • Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones has been criticized this season for, in essence, not being A.J. Green, and his production isn't where his talent should have it. But man, can JJ block. Jones' wipeout of a defensive back opened a crater for Mark Ingram on his touchdown run.
  • Does Georgia defensive back Bacarri Rambo have the best college name since Syracuse running back Kirby Dar Dar?
  • Let me get this straight -- LeGarrette Blount may get to play again after coldcocking a Boise State dude in the heat of a bitter loss, but Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant is gone for the season because he worked out with Deion and didn't want to admit it? There is so much comedy in "Prime U" it makes "Curb Your Enthusiasm" look like The Sorrow and the Pity.
  • Superb Saturdays for -- Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing, Oklahoma State running back Keith Toston, Michigan defensive tackle Brandon Graham, Oregon State running back Jacquizz "Pocket Herculizz" Rodgers, and Bowling Green wide receiver Freddie Barnes (22 catches!).

The OFI Top 25

Every week, Robert votes in the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog, and available on CBS Sportsline.

Rank Team Delta
1 Florida
2 Alabama
3 Texas
4 Ohio State
5 Virginia Tech
6 Boise State
7 Southern Cal
8 Cincinnati
9 Oregon 4
10 TCU
11 Miami (Florida) 1
12 Iowa 9
13 Oklahoma 3
14 Notre Dame
15 South Carolina 2
16 LSU 5
17 Oklahoma State 2
18 Penn State
19 West Virginia 1
20 South Florida
21 Nebraska
22 Georgia Tech 2
23 Brigham Young
24 Pittsburgh
25 Auburn 16
Last week's ballot

Lurking -- Kansas, Central Michigan, Oregon State, Wake Forest, Wisconsin, Tulsa, Navy, Utah, Idaho

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 12 Oct 2009

15 comments, Last at 15 Oct 2009, 2:53am by Large Johnson

Comments

1
by Kibbles :: Mon, 10/12/2009 - 3:16pm

I believe you mean "Poquette Herculizz".

2
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 10/12/2009 - 4:44pm

"if possible, even more boring than opera." Clearly, you've never seen "A Night at the Opera." If you simply add the Marx Brothers, opera becomes hugely entertaining. Of course, if you simply add the Marx Brothers, pretty much anything becomes hugely entertaining. Too bad they never filmed "A Day at the Cleveland-Buffalo Game."

3
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 10/12/2009 - 5:27pm

Ohio state ahead of USC? Lets have them decide... it.... on the field...

4
by shake n bake :: Mon, 10/12/2009 - 7:15pm

It wasn't known at the time, but Forcier picked up a concussion on his last play in the game. Adrian Clayborn rocked him.

8
by robwein (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 12:17am

Yeah, damn medical logic getting in the way of a perfectly good QB controversy.
RW

5
by ohforreal? (not verified) :: Mon, 10/12/2009 - 8:15pm

Bacarri Rambo is a cool name, but plays second fiddle to LSU starting C T-Bob Hebert.

7
by robwein (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 12:16am

And T. Bob plays second fiddle to the greatest LSU name of all time, Ricky-Jean Francois.
RW

6
by Rover (not verified) :: Mon, 10/12/2009 - 9:02pm

College Football is too much like Boxing. The majority of Florida's wins come from tomato cans (Charleston Southern, Vanderbilt (lost to Army), Troy, Florida International, Tennessee (Lost at home to UCLA?), Georgia (Got waxed by Tenn),Kentucky), it plays a few worn-out has-beens who are just cashing checks (LSU, South Carolina, Florida State), and then, finally, takes one serious contender. (You can say the same about Ohio st, etc)

Florida and the SEC's (or Ohio St & Big 10) promoters work the connections & the voters, who don't even watch the fights, to pick their pound-for-pounds on reputation. The reputation is built by the screeching fanaticism of fans with hyper-developed, century old victimization complex to stoke it (and no pro-teams to moderate it).

And so, we'll get Hopkins - Roy Jones Jr on Jan 5, instead of College Football's Chad Dawson (take your pick, Boise St, Cincy, etc).

9
by Fourth :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 4:47am

Boise State had their one decent opponent at the beginning of the season (at home no less), and have been playing teams that would probably lose to Troy ever since.

You had some cute lines towards the end there with lots of big words, but your thesaurus failed you on "fanaticism of fans." Considering the quality of the rest of your post, that was really just the icing on the failcake.

10
by Rover (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 12:46pm

You are a grammar troll on a football site that doesn't understand football or grammar. But you displayed that in 2 sentences, so at least your conciseness partially redeems your foolishness.

12
by The Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 5:12pm

Thanks for the Halloween costume idea. Grammar troll it is.

11
by hrudey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 3:28pm

Which makes it a further shame that the game Florida tried to schedule with Utah didn't come to fruition this year. Nevertheless, if you want to knock Florida for playing a soft schedule, you really shouldn't be promoting the alternative of teams that rang up a last-minute TD against UC-Davis to get over 30 points and another team that beats Fresno State at home by 8. But by all means, let's ignore that besides one quality win over a PAC-10 team each, Cincy and Boise can't point to anyone better than Fresno State on their schedule to date.

(Actually, their schedules are eerily similar. Both played an Oregon team, Fresno State, Miami of Ohio and an FCS team. Boise threw in Bowling Green, while Cincy tossed in Rutgers. Neither schedule matches up to the 'soft' schedule Florida has played to date, though.)

14
by Fairly Hilarious (not verified) :: Wed, 10/14/2009 - 1:34am

Fairly hilarious that you bash florida's schedule and offer boise state as a more deserving team. Are you smoking crack?

15
by Large Johnson (not verified) :: Thu, 10/15/2009 - 2:53am

fun analogy, though way off base. to describe LSU as a "has been" who's "just cashing checks" means that 110 of the other 120 teams in Division 1-A are worse than "has beens"... simply put, the SEC is hands down, top to bottom, unquestionably the toughest and strongest football conference in the country. boise state and cinci would be lucky to go 4 and 4 in the SEC, and if they were, i'd bet against it.

13
by Shevin (not verified) :: Wed, 10/14/2009 - 12:57am

Footy's got nothing on hoops' Fennis Dembo.