Monday, September 20, 2010

SEC Week 3 Takeaways

What I learned about SEC football this past weekend, team by team...

Alabama: The patsies may be out of the way (apologies to San Jose State and Duke, and maybe Penn State), but Bama is looking strong. Mark Ingram is back - and I know it was against Duke - but big is big and strong is strong and fast is fast. He's all of those. And so is Trent Richardson, so is Julio Jones, and so is everyone else on this team.

Before the season, I predicted Alabama to go undefeated, with the only question game being Florida. And as so-so as Florida has been, I don't think it's a question anymore.

Arkansas: Don't give Ryan Mallett time. Ever. The problem is, if you do blitz him from all angles, he's still likely to pick you apart. Whenever Arkansas needed a big play Saturday, Petrino dialed it up and Mallett delivered.

I believe Arkansas will be dangerous this year, especially against inexperienced secondaries. The critics have stated this to be a weakness for the Crimson Tide, so we'll see if Petrino, Mallett and friends can take advantage of this next weekend in Fayetteville. I don't think they will, but maybe it'll be closer than I once thought.

Auburn: While I like Cam Newton a lot, my only beef is that I do't believe that he can beat good teams from the pocket. At least not consistently. But it may not matter, as for the first time since Cadillacs were in the Auburn backfield, the Tigers have playmakers. Almost too many of them.

I love Dyer, McCalebb, and Newton. I'd love Mario Fannin if he could find a few carries. One question is - assuming the stats at are correct - how is it that Kodi Burns has only had the ball 4 times through three games (two of those were passes)? I'm not saying he's a world-beater, but he's on the field a lot. I just figured he'd be getting more touches.

But Auburn did win a big, close game this weekend, which is always a good thing for the growth of a program and new coaching staff. I (and many others) once questioned the hire of Gene Chizik. To this point, I've been proven otherwise. Perhaps Auburn is in good hands.

LSU: What I learned here is that this upcoming weekend is when we'll actually learn anything about LSU. And we might not learn anything then. Or the next week. In fact, as it has turned out - LSU's first real tough game may not be until they play Florida on October 16th.

It's such a weird thing trying to understand LSU. I guess that's because it's just like trying to comprehend/justify crazy. This is a team that will be 5-0, likely ranked in the top 12, and they are currently 112th in passing and 32nd in rushing. How do they do it?

But whether I like it or not, Les always finds a way.

Mississippi State: While I greatly appreciate what Dan Mullen has done to this point (he was the best hire going in to the '09 season, between himself, Chizik, and Kiffin), they aren't to the point yet where they can compete for a win in Death Valley. They're better, but not by that much.

The curious factor breaks in when once Mullen gets State to that level - will Mullen have moved on to another job? Perhaps one where he could coach for victories in Death Valley all the time? If LSU ever finds themselves in a spot where they can finally rid themselves of Les Miles, don't be surprised if Dan Mullen's cell phone gets a few calls.

Ole Miss: What else can I say other than that they were terrible, and - if the SEC and NCAA would allow it - I would just forfeit the rest of the season if I were them.

I am a fan of Houston Nutt. But not because of his coaching prowess. I like characters, especially in the SEC. (That's why I like Bruce Pearl so much - a good character.) And Houston is that: a character.

But the uninspired, frustrating, confusing, fill-in-your-adjective-here game this past weekend could be a sign of the beginning of the end of the honeymoon for Houston in Oxford, MS.

Tennessee: I'll give the guys in orange some credit. After I deemed this game to be the most ambiguous UT/Florida game in my lifetime and that there was no hope in Knoxville, Tennessee came out and showed some life for three quarters of football Saturday.

What Tennessee fans can hope for now is that the NCAA slams Lane Kiffin, and not Tennessee. Hope that Bruce Pearl's transgressions stay over at Thompson-Bowling, and hope that Mike Hamilton is quickly shown the door.

Florida: I know they won in Knoxville, but I am not seeing a dominant team our of Gainesville. Brantley's "golden arm", as it has been referred to, seems to be more like a cheap knock-off.

Something's different about this year's team. And not in a good way. Maybe somebody familiar has a chance at the SEC East title.

What did we learn about them this weekend? Nothing at all, at least from watching them. But Florida's lack of dominance is telling me that the East is no longer a one horse race.

South Carolina is moving the ball well with some big receivers and the best new running back in the SEC.

But the schedule doesn't help the Gamecocks this year. They have at Auburn and host Alabama this year, and if they aren't able to either of those games, a win over Florida may still not get Spurrier back to Atlanta.

Georgia: I learned that they helped Ryan Mallett to his first big SEC road win. And, from what I've heard from my Dawg-friends, the fan base is restless. If not for Mark Richt's head, then Mike Bobo's.

Kentucky: We don't know anything about this team other than they can beat their totally depleted in-state rival. Mike Hartline is still the quarterback, and as long as that is case, they won't be a title contender. Look for Kentucky's slide to start this weekend.

Vanderbilt: I learned that when Robbie rides, he rides the "W" Train.