Monday, September 27, 2010

SEC Week 4 Takeaways

Last weekend was huge. It really set the paths for most teams in the SEC. Some have to hope others lose (Arkansas, South Carolina), some just need to maintain (Alabama, Auburn), and some are just lost (Georgia).

Alabama & Arkansas: Alabama continues to be bigger, faster, and stronger than everyone else. What we also saw this weekend was that they were more mentally tough. Go back and watch that game closely, and you'll see early in the fourth quarter many Arkansas players (offense and defense) started with some trash talk.

While I am not anti-trash talking, I feel that there are times it can show weakness. Or at least an insecurity. When I saw this happening Saturday, I thought, "this is a nervous football team." And sure enough, fourth quarter mistakes did Arkansas in.

Throughout all the on-field talk, Alabama maintained confidence and poise. I'm not saying they didn't say anything back, but at no point Saturday did I think Alabama was going to lose the game. When they made their plays to win the game, I was not surprised.

Arkansas, I believe, has come a long way under Bobby Petrino, and if he can find someone close to Ryan Mallett to follow up in the year's to come, they will be contender for the West title.

As I wasn't surprised when Alabama made their winning plays, neither was Alabama. Saban's "finish" concept has taken a complete hold over this program, and the players expect to make the plays as well.

Auburn: Cam Newton continues to play Heisman-level football. He's got stiff competition with Denard Robinson, Terrelle Pryor, Kellen Moore, and - maybe - Mark Ingram.

But aside from Robinson, I'm not sure if one guy is carrying his team any more than Newton is for Auburn. Some question if he can make it through the SEC season without being injured, but if you watch closely, I'm not sure how many hits he really is taking. Because he's living on a two-way street, as he delivers quite a few hits himself.

And Maisel is right on. Auburn could be very dangerous in the very near future.

LSU: Yes, that was a Jarrett Lee sighting Saturday night. Jordan Jefferson has been flat out terrible. He hasn't thrown for 100 yards since the opener, and only hit 45% of passes Saturday.

Complicating matters is that I can't figure out if Les Miles either overthinks or underthinks in situations like this. Despite the troubles, they've been winning (in the truest Les Miles' fashion), and as of now, Les isn't going to rock the boat. We'll see how long that lasts, because Florida and Auburn are right around the corner.

And it's tricky. If you make the change while you aren't losing, it's quite a risk, because if LSU goes down - that's the easiest item to point at. And a fan base that, let's face it, has been uneasy at best in terms of confidence in their head coach, would have another piece of ammunition to call for his ouster.

Ole Miss: Congrats on the win, Houston. Now you need to beat Kentucky, because it gets real tough after that. I'm not sure if you're on 'hot seat' status, but someone's got to be on it in the SEC, and Mark Richt may not be around next year to take it for you.

But there's not much to learn about this Ole Miss team that is worth holding on to, because the season's shot, and the team without Masoli will be different next season.

Mississippi State and Georgia: Big win for Dan Mullen. Along with last year's Egg Bowl win, a victory over the bigger Bulldogs gets him a great second 'signature' victory.

It's at least disguised as a 'signature' win for Mullen, as it was against a Georgia team that can't get it's starting wide receiver or starting running back on the field at the same time, and with a fan base that is barking for changes louder and louder each week.

Even with the bad luck with AJ Green, it's a real bad spot for Mark Richt. He's already gotten rid of the defensive staff, and while the same change on the offensive side may quell some of the talk, that only seems to be delaying the inevitable. In science, if one variable remains constant while all the others change, but the outcome remains the same, then you should probably change that one variable. That variable: Mark Richt.

Unless Georgia fans are content with being anywhere from the second to fourth best team in the East every year, it may be time to cut the cord.

And Mississippi State is ahead of (2-2) where I thought (1-3) they'd be through four weeks, they're in danger of picking up 8 wins this year. Quite a coup for Dan Mullen while Houston Nutt and the school up north are floundering.

Florida: Florida is Florida, and they have played very well in the second halves of games. But what concerns me about the Gators is that they are 90th in passing, 48th in rushing, and they've played less-than-stellar teams thus far.

Are they hiding something? Maybe, because they'll need to bring more to the table for this weekend's game in Tuscaloosa.

South Carolina: Where to start?

I didn't agree with bringing Connor Shaw in that game, despite my love affair for Steve Spurrier. Maybe things were getting too good for South Carolina, and Steve wanted to mix it up. If he wanted a controversy or if he wanted headlines, he got them.

Unfortunately, I have the feeling this will be a turning point for South Carolina, and it's one for the worse.

Kentucky: Blah. Nice effort against Florida.

Vanderbilt: Didn't play, but I wouldn't have watched anyway.

Tennessee: Thank god they won that game. But isn't carrying a receiver off the field to celebrate a win over a CUSA team that was picked to finish last in the conference? A bit much, I say.

But Tennessee did escape, and I believe that does say something for the team. Dooley knows that this team is not very talented, and perhaps they can grow from these tough games, maybe appreciate-every-win kind of stuff.

They're going to LSU this weekend, and while I think LSU wins that game, the Tigers are on some thin ice with their QB. Maybe an opportunity for Derek Dooley to make a splash?