Author Archives: tardawg1014
Another week, another compelling case for the SEC West being the best division ever. Perceived doormat Arkansas took Texas A&M to overtime and beat the hell out of them doing it, while the rest of the division held serve in nonconference competition by a combined score of 132-27. In the East, Missouri helped the Dawgs in turning the tables with a win at South Carolina– a week after losing at home to Indiana– who got boatraced at home against Maryland (and previously lost to Bowling Green).
So, yeah, to reiterate: the East is a joke, the West is a juggernaut (boasting six (6!) of the top 11 teams in Bill Connelly’s very good F+ rankings).
1) Alabama: Boasting an average margin of victory of 27 points and the best offense of the Saban era, their defense may actually be able to grow into a Kirby Smart defense by the time Texas A&M and Auburn come calling (both in Tuscaloosa). I’m expecting them to show Ole Miss why Ole Miss is Ole Miss this weekend in Oxford, Gameday or no.
2) Texas A&M: Good teams find ways to win football games, and aTm had no business beating Arkansas on Saturday. But they did. No rest for the weary, bloodied, and battered defense, as they get Dak Prescott and Mississippi State this weekend. If I’m a Mississipian with the means, I am helicoptering from this one to Oxford at about 2:45pm CST.
3) Auburn: A slow start against Louisiana Tech, but still a 45-17 win. Their back seven scares me for their long-term health, as does their suddenly inconsistent running game. They finally play a measuring stick game this week with LSU coming to town.
4) Mississippi State: I’ll let them in the top 4 because it’ll never happen again, but also because their bye week performance was more impressive than Georgia’s win. Also, I feel compelled to apologize for the complete undersell of Dak Prescott and the inclusion of 15 egg puns on my preview of the other Bulldogs.
5) Ole Miss: Their D is good. Really, REALLY good. I don’t care who you play, 8.5 points per game is patently absurd in today’s game of football. But you cannot trust Dr. Bo to go and beat Alabama this week. (Can you?) ((You can’t.))
6) Georgia: Remember the late 1990’s, when Florida and Tennessee were the juggernauts of the SEC, and the SEC West was an afterthought? Roughly 15-17 years later, the exact opposite has occurred. Leading the way from the worst SEC division of this millennium is Todd Gurley and a solid pass rush. Not Hutson Mason, not that secondary, and STILL not that special teams unit.
7) LSU: Running into this spot by default is a team that could find themselves or risk finishing 6-6, but put them in the East and they’re a legit contender. Just like Miss State and Ole Miss above, we learn a lot about them with a big game against a top-3 (in these rankings) opponent this weekend. DEAR GOD WHAT A WEEKEND OF SEC WEST FOOTBALL.
8) Arkansas: LOL at our intern Andy not entertaining the notion of Arkansas beating Georgia two weeks from Saturday. This is no longer a pushover.
9) The rest of the SEC East. Seriously, I’m not doing this. South Carolina’s defense has shown up for 45 minutes all season (and still lost that game at home to Mizzou). Mizzou lost to friggin’ Indiana. Still a thing. Tennessee has improved but isn’t worth writing home about, and their game with Florida determines the 9 spot for next week’s power ranking. (BTW, that is the fourth-best SEC game this week. The top three involve, exclusively, SEC West teams.) Kentucky and Vandy did their best ‘if a tree falls in the woods does anyone hear it’ in Lexington last week. The highlight of that game for me? Switching over to it and seeing Kentucky students rushing the field after their last SEC win, WHICH WAS IN 2011.
CRAP! It’s 11-something on Saturday morning and I haven’t given you picks yet! That may work out well for you, as I would be losing you money for the season right now. I personally don’t put my own money on anything until October, so while I don’t want a mulligan, know that I’m looking for trends.
I’m done betting on Georgia. I got the South Carolina line TOO right, and missed last week’s by, oh…25 points. Missouri was responsible for the WTF of the week, as they had a more-than-manageable line against a bad Indiana team, and lost. Rutgers won outright at Navy as road dogs, which is the only nice thing New Jersey has ever done for me. I had no doubt about Washington State covering at night against Oregon, and they delivered. And my San Diego State confirmation bias was emphatically denied. I blame the ‘gave up 70 points to a directional school’ North Carolina Tar Heels, who beat the ‘Tecs.
1) Kent State (+27.5) against Virginia: After watching UCLA’s romp over Arizona State on Thursday, I’m even more a believer in the Wahoos. Kent State is a bad team. However, Virginia’s O is still atrocious, and starting QB Grayson Lambert is questionable. A 31-7 Virginia win gives Kent the cover.
2) Vandy (+17.5) against Kentucky: 17.5? Are we considering Kentucky a successful renaissance project in the SEC East? Did I miss something? 17 points better than a team that has won 26 games over the past 3 years? (Yes, I realize that Vandy is really, REALLY bad.) But…man. I don’t know if we’re to the point where we can take Kentucky giving 3 scores against any Power 5 team, though.
3) Notre Dame (-9.5) against Syracuse: I liked this one when I thought the game was in Syracuse. At MetLife, its essentially a Notre Dame home game. Syracuse boasts a 1-point win over FCS Villanova and a 24-point loss to Maryland. What am I missing here?
4) USC (-8.5) against Oregon State: Betting against the Beavers for the second straight week, which gives me slight pause. A bye for a still-scholarship-restricted USC after two physical games, and a home opener, and a mediocre Oregon State team…I guess this is my lock of the week.
5) Duke (+6) against Miami: You could combine the average home attendance for these two programs and almost fill an evangelical church. Like, a small one, not one of those creepy warehouse ones like in Borat. Based on 10 years’ closely-watched empirical evidence, Miami is a front-running team that allows the wheels to come off upon losses. To wit, they lost to a less-talented Nebraska team last week, and face a well-coached Duke team this week. I would probably take the Dookies straight-up here.
LAST WEEK: 2-3 OVERALL: 8-9. Ugh. This is becoming a self-callout.
Bulldogs on TV, Gameday from Columbia (from Clemson), and an Otherwise Uninspiring Slate: The DudeYouCrazy Viewing Guide, Week 5
So, let me get this straight: Missouri loses to Indiana, South Carolina struggles against Vanderbilt, and Gameday goes to Columbia?
Well, not exactly.
— Brandi Mills (@BrandiCMills) September 25, 2014
As an avid hater of all things Gamecock-related, this makes me incredibly happy. What doesn’t make me happy is the fact that that is the only semi-palatable game on the evening slate on Saturday (more to follow) ((but Notre Dame at Syracuse is on ABC. KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!))
Every other timeslot has some damn good football.
Thirsty Thursday Double (hell, triple) header Action
1) 10pm, Fox Sports 1, #11 UCLA at #15 Arizona State: UCLA has been rather pedestrian this season behind a shoddy OL, but maybe Jim Mora’s Bruins have simply been playing down to competition? They’ve won their three games by a combined 18 points. On the flip side, Arizona State has climbed to 15 by virtue of playing NOBODY. Last summer, I almost moved to Phoenix, so I have a soft spot for ASU and the fact that Sun Devil Stadium is essentially built into a mountain. Pretty cool spot.
2) Texas Tech at #24 Oklahoma State, 7:30, ESPN: A coaching matchup for everyone! Ladies will love Kliff Kingsbury’s Goslingesque looks, and men will appreciate Mike Gundy’s manliness. (12 years later its still funny)
3) App State at Georgia Southern, 7:30, ESPNU: Compelling
Big South Sun Belt action!
1) Tennessee at #12 Georgia, ESPN: Even sans any inherent bias, this is the obvious choice for football-watchers in the early slate. Learn about Tennessee here and learn about Georgia’s secondary making tackles in space on Saturday.
2) Vanderbilt at Kentucky, SECN: It’s almost like an SEC game.
3) PICKEM: Wyoming at #9 Michigan State is on the deuce if you need to scout Sparty before their jog through the B1G. The rest is ugly.
Whilst Poppin’ First-SEC-Win Bottles…
1) Again, the SEC saves the day with suddenly-good-at-football Arkansas and #6 Texas A&M (3:30, CBS) squaring off in JerryWorld. Prepare yourself to hear Uncle Verne say “Kenny Trill” and for us all to die a little inside.
2) 4:30, FOX, #16 Stanford at Washington: Why did Chris Pedersen jump ship at Boise, exactly? He hasn’t made that evident in his first few games at UDub. A Huskies win puts Oregon in an almost unbeatable position in the Pac-12 North.
3) #1 Florida State at N.C. State, 3:30, ABC: The ‘Noles have lived dangerously this year. The Wolpfack (yes I did that on purpose) boasts a 4-0 record including wins over South Florida, Old Dominion, and Presbyterian, and a last-minute one over Georgia Southern. SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE!
4) AT YOUR OWN RISK: See if Michigan’s ticket giveaway was enough to keep the sellout ‘streak’ alive against Minnesota on ESPN2. #5 Auburn gets a final tune-up vs. Louisiana Tech before a brutal season-ending stretch (@MSU, SC, @Miss, aTm, @Georgia,
Samford, @Alabama). Oh, and for laughs: Texas at Kansas on FS1 at 4:15.
When the lights go down in the citaaaaayyyyy
1) Anything else. Go to dinner. Enjoy the weather. Knock out your ‘honey-do’ list. Play some touch football. Drink yourself into oblivion. Get creative.
2) Mizzou at #13 South Carolina, 7:30, ESPN: Missouri can totally recover from an Indiana loss to hand the Cocks a loss, right? RIGHT? Shane Ray and Markus Golden, MAKE IT SO!
3) Memphis at #10 Ole Miss, inexplicably on ESPN3. A classic trap game for the Rebs against a team that almost won against UCLA. They host Bama next week.
4) Grab-Bag: I’ll be suffering through UNC’s defense against Clemson at 7 on ESPNU. If you get the B1G Network and hate Ohio State, Cincinnati/#22 Ohio State (6pm) could be fun. Ames, Iowa is where dreams go to die, but the only dreams killed on FOX at 8 are Iowa State’s as they host #7 Baylor.
Anything more, and you’re a masochist.
Thus far in 2014, Tennessee has been exactly who we expect them to be: a team good enough to beat reasonably difficult non-conference opponents (Utah State and Arkansas State are slouches by no stretch of the imagination) and not yet good enough to compete with the nation’s elite (Oklahoma). The 34-10 loss in Norman was closer than the final score indicated, though, and it appears Tennessee is much closer to a best-case scenario of 8 wins than the “let’s get out the pitchforks for yet another coach” scenario of 4.
The offense hasn’t been extraordinary yet, ranking just 62nd in passing and 98th in rushing on a per-game basis. Again, the Vols haven’t had a cupcake to munch on yet, so their numbers are going to be skewed downward in pretty much any apples-to-apples comparison. QB Justin Worley has been decent, throwing for 721 yards and 6 touchdowns, but a pedestrian YPA of 6.1 tells me that their receivers aren’t yet blocking on the perimeter screens so prevalent in this offense. That number will be higher by the end of the season because of the talent in the WR corps.
I talked about Marquez North in my preview of Tennessee and added GIF evidence as to why he’d be the second-best WR in the league this year. 14 catches for 173 yards and 2 TD’s pales in comparison with Amari Cooper, but he is definitely the Alpha dog in a very balanced passing game. Four other guys have at least 8 receptions, including Georgia fan favorite Pig Howard and mega-recruit Von Pearson.
A cause for hope for the Bulldogs: a nondescript offensive line for the Vols (which probably plays a major role in Worley’s pedestrian YPA as well as a weak 4.2 YPC from their two backs, big-ass Jalen Hurd and regular-ass Marlin Lane). Hurd could cause problems with his 6’3 225-pound frame if Tennessee has early success through the air, as he’d represent a load for a 6-DB set.
On the other side of the ball, Tennessee is actually looking much-improved from a season ago. Again, despite a lack of cupcakes, they’re allowing 20 points per game, which is not half bad. Mark Richt opined that starting middle linebacker A.J. Nicholson should have gone pro after last year, and I tend to agree. #45 is a sure tackler and a playmaker in every sense of the word, as he has a pick-six and a few sacks already to his credit this year (did I say he was the best LB in the SEC? Yes I did.)
Beyond that, I cannot find a good site for Tennessee defensive stats ANYWHERE on the Googles, which is nuts. No tackles, no sacks, nothing. (Although LaDarrell McNeill and Cameron Sutton join Nicholson with one pick on the year).
I expect this to be a test for the Bulldogs. I arrive at this train of thought only after seeing undermanned Tennessee teams time and time again compete against Georgia. This iteration of the Vols is still a year or two away from contending for anything real, but is starting to put the pieces in place and WILL score a major upset sometime in 2014.
This one should take a similar arc to the Clemson game: trading a few blows early, Georgia being able to adjust and pound the Vols in the second half.
Georgia 41, Tennessee 24
Last week, we caught a glimpse into the three tiers of power in the SEC: the West, the East, and Vanderbilt. This week, let’s see if teams have separated themselves (either as good or as Vandy) enough to make these rankings make sense.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: It’s really tedious typing out records and previous opponents and scores, so I’m adding screenshots of the standings and last week’s scores in order to allow the blurbs to be more football-related.
Tier 1: The Playoff Contenders
1) Texas A&M: That’s right, I have the Aggies #1 on the strength of 55 points per game and the fact that I don’t think Alabama’s back end can stop them. Having said that, the old SWC tilt with Arkansas in Dallas this week is going to indicate how well this defense is. I think A&M outscores the Hogs.
2) Alabama: Sloppy first half against Florida, but to steal words from Dennis Green, they were who we thought they were in the second half. Their defense is not up to Bama standards, but their offense is…yikes. #Cooper4Heisman, y’all. The Tide is off this week, so Blake Sims’ elbow will be fully healed for next week’s big one at Ole Miss.
3) Auburn: Unconvincing in their win at Kansas State, but Kansas State + Thursday night + Bill Snyder usually = L, not close road win. So let’s give Auburn their due. Just like Alabama, we’ll learn more about them next week (vs. LSU) than we will this one (vs. LTU).
4) Georgia: The best team in the East is, by definition, a playoff contender due to the fact that they need one win in December to get there. Georgia is that team, as a B effort almost got them a win in Columbia and the schedule opens up for the Dawgs. The big question mark remains: is Mike Bobo protecting Hutson Mason because he’s not good, or because we haven’t felt the need to open it up with him yet? We’ll know something soon, perhaps this week against Tennessee.
Tier 2: Could Play ECU in the Orange Bowl If Things Go Right
5) Mississippi State: I know it was a young, depleted LSU team. I know this is a kneejerk reaction in the worst way. But what Mississippi State did in Baton Rouge on Saturday was impressive and worthy of this spot. I was wrong about Dak Prescott, I was wrong about Dan Mullen, and I am excited to watch the other Bulldogs in the rare ranked-vs.-ranked nooner against A&M next week. This week? Taking the Alabama approach and figuring out how to replace C Dillon Day, who stomped the yard in Baton Rouge.
6) Ole Miss: Ranked higher than MSU? SURE! Better? Ehhh. I’m still not a Bo-liever, and will not be until he gives me reason to be (how’s that for analysis?) They get Memphis in the classic pre-Alabama trap game. Andrew begged our staff to take Memphis in the upset. Who has the guts?
7) South Carolina: Steve Spurrier says they’re not very good, and I am compelled to believe him. However, A&M/ECU/Georgia is a brutal 1-2-3 punch to kick off the schedule. If they don’t solve their tackling problems on D and their consistency problems on O (fingers crossed, yo), we could be looking at a Missouri win in Columbia (the crappy one) this weekend.
Tier 3: A Damn Fine Group of Spoilers, Or Most of the SEC East
8) LSU: Even the group with most of the SEC East is headlined by a West team. But I’m at a crossroads about this LSU team. Anthony Jennings does not look like the right fit at QB, the run defense is ATROCIOUS, and the pass D is equally bad. I may regret giving them the benefit of the doubt.
9) Florida: A great (and lucky) half in Tuscaloosa was impressive, and proves that on the right day they are more capable than the teams below of beating anyone (look out, LSU/Georgia/SC). I’m still not confident in Coach Boom to push them into the next tier, but they SHOULD be there.
10) Arkansas: Get em, Bret.
11) Tennessee: A team that is fully capable of exploiting Georgia’s weak secondary and hanging 35 points in Athens is (objectively) ranked 11th in the SEC as of 9/24/2014 at 10:29 AM. Good lord.
12) Kentucky: 2-1 with an overtime loss in the Swamp, and DID NOT LOSE TO A B1G CELLAR DWELLER LAST WEEK! That pushes you up the rankings. And they get Vandy this week.
13) Missouri: Shame. Fie and shame.
Tier 4: You Know.
53) Vanderbilt: Back in the top 100 after a decent showing against South Carolina. Still, though.