Picking the SEC, one knee-jerk reaction at a time
Published 3:37 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Finally, we have some actual games to talk about.
So let’s jump right in, figure out the rest of the season right now.
Sure, it’s dangerous.
Even ESPN proclaimed last weekend to be “Overreaction Saturday,” probably as a warning against fast-forwarding through the schedule and assigning W’s and L’s based on a debut weekend.
And you know the old standard — a team will show its most improvement between Week 1 and Week 2.
Now I personally have found that to be an old wives’ tale, never scientifically documented.
Just as often, it seems, that biggest improvement comes between Week 6 and Week 7, and it can just as easily come between Week 4 and Week 5. Week 8 to Week 9 always bears watching.
And sometimes the first game is as good as it’s going to get.
But, what the hay, let’s do it anyway.
Let’s throw the “talking season” out the window and rank the SEC teams solely on what we saw in the first 60 minutes of the actual season.
Based on reckless knee-jerk reactions, this much is for sure: the SEC West is going to be a bloody donnybrook as the conference power balance has tipped even more toward the setting sun than in recent years.
Georgia: But, top to bottom, Georgia (from the East) was the most impressive team of all. What was there not to like about a dominating second half in whipping Clemson 45-21? It only took two days for Todd Gurley to pass Kenny Hill as the Heisman favorite (see Texas A&M).
Texas A&M: Wow. Just wow. And all this time you just thought it was Johnny Football causing all the havoc. The entire SEC is squirming now that it appears maybe it’s just Kevin Sumlin’s system and not a single rock star quarterback. Yet it doesn’t seem like Twitter will have to put a 24-hour tail on Kenny Hill, who needed exactly one game against SEC East favorite South Carolina to break Manziel’s passing record.
Throw out a few big (busted) plays and even the defense looked somewhat hopeful. If the most improvement indeed comes from the first game to the second, Lamar is in serious trouble this week.
Auburn: Maybe not a one-year wonder this time. If Auburn adds the throwing game that was sneak-previewed in shellacking Arkansas 45-21 (after a 21-21 halftime tie), the Tigers aren’t going anywhere.
Alabama: You know he spent all offseason dissecting it, but Nick Saban is still somewhat allergic to the spread, no-huddle, up-tempo whatchamacallit offense. In today’s SEC, he’s going to see plenty of it whether he likes it or not (he despises it, and thinks it’s ruining the entire college experience). The Tide, which gets held to a higher artistic standard was never in danger of losing en route to beating West Virginia 33-23, but never really dominated up to Bama standards either.
LSU: For artistic success, maybe you’d rank the Tigers a little lower. Still a lot of question marks after beating Wisconsin 28-24.
But a young team didn’t wait long to show it has the “goods” to, as Les Miles might say “play in tight quarters” with their backs against the wall.
Sometimes a team is more impressive overcoming something, like a 17-point deficit, than in cruising to a dominating victory. At least if it ever comes up again, they’ll know it’s possible.
It shouldn’t be a surprise.
This is easily the most amazing stat of the Miles Era at LSU:
Miles is now 22-21 — a winning record —in games where the Tigers trailed in the fourth quarter.
That (a .512 comeback factor) is by far the best in the NCAA over these nine-plus seasons.
Texas (18-29) is second (.389), followed by Ohio State (9-20, .310) and Boise State (7-16, .304).
That should teach you to never go to bed early again on an LSU game.
Ole Miss: Could just as easily be ranked ahead of LSU and had a similar game in stinking up the joint in the first half before dominating late to beat Boise State 35-13 (it was only 7-6 entering the fourth quarter).
But Boise State didn’t look the rascals of old and it shouldn’t have taken a veteran Ole Miss quarterback that long to put the Broncos away.
Tennessee: Coin toss between the Vols and Mississippi State. Utah State was supposed to be a decent test for the only team in America that didn’t have a single starter returning on its offensive or defensive line. Tennessee dominated from start to finish.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs couldn’t have been more impressive in beating Southern Miss 49-0. But the once-pesky Golden Eagles have been among the nation’s worst teams in recent years.
Missouri: In the end the Tigers did what they should have done to South Dakota State, which was beat the, uh, Jackrabbits, 38-24. But — horrors — it was a 3-point game in the third quarter.
Florida: You win some, you lose some, and sometimes The Swamp floods, you’re up to your armpits in hungry Gator fans, and the game gets cancelled. Still no word on when, or if, the Florida-Idaho game will be played, even though they share an open date.
Here’s my question — and I’m sure there’s a reasonable answer. But it was a holiday weekend. Why didn’t they just send Idaho back to a hotel Saturday, tuck them in for the night, and play the game on Sunday?
Kentucky: From a distance Saturday, based solely on the uniforms, it looked like Kentucky was playing Auburn. Then you switched to the hi-def channel and a closer inspection revealed that the Cats were winning 59-14 and you knew it must be Tennessee-Martin.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks can not possibly be as bad as they looked (helpless, hapless and clueless) against Texas A&M. And that’s about all I’ve got to say about that.
Vanderbilt: For some, perhaps, it was somehow comforting to see that, after a brief flirtation with respectability, the Commodores were back to being Vanderbilt again. But seriously? Losing? To Temple? At first glance that looked like the worst coached team in America.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU sports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org