Wednesday, October 14, 2009

a "Lost" Wednesday: who are they?

Often, life in the SEC is about as predictable as Craig Sager's wardrobe: you don't know what it's going to look like, but you're pretty sure it's going to be weird.
As an awkward segue, here's a video about The Others. Are they good or bad? Is Ben the bad guy? Charles Widmore? Jacob? That dude who dresses in all black currently inhabiting John Locke's visage?
In fact, I have no idea about these things. All I can do is look back and assess where we are at the moment.

It's the same in the SEC. Week to week, the conversation completely changes. Last week, the questions revolved around Tim Tebow's brain and whether Auburn could make a serious run at Atlanta. This week, we're back to predicting an inevitable Alabama-Florida game in the SECCG and trying to fend off crazy columnists' predictions of a championship in Tuscaloosa.
Anyway, before we go forward, it behooves me to look back and see where I went right and oh-so wrong in my SEC predictions, made all the way back in February.
(Note: Current standings are located here.)

6. Vanderbilt. It's been a painfully predictable regression to the mean for the folks in Nashville: they're last in the conference in just about every conceivable category. I'd like to say something about their fighting spirit or how everyone in the SEC should be leery of them, but ... well, when you're complaining on Tuesday about a missed call vs. Army, that pretty much sums up the season right there.
5. Kentucky. In the waning stages of 'Bama's victory over the 'Cats in Lexington, my friend Peter and I scanned Kentucky's schedule for the remainder of 2009 and determined they could "definitely" contend and possibly win the remainder of their games, and be right back in a bowl game at season's end.
Of course, then news broke that Mike Hartline is done for the season, meaning that Rich Brooks has to either a) go with Randall Cobb at quarterback (a complete non-threat as a passer) or b) play junior Will Fidler (who may or may not be Brandon Avalos in disguise). Which is really too bad. Cobb and Derrick Locke are two pretty exciting skill players, good enough to give Auburn fits on Saturday.
4. Tennessee. Yes, we're all very excited about Jonathan Crompton's offensive explosion vs. Georgia's defense. No, I'm not impressed to the point that I'm ready to start predicting a UT victory next Saturday.
(Please remember Ryan Mallett, a superior quarterback to Crompton in every respect who also hung ridiculous numbers on UGA's defense before coming to Tuscaloosa. Remember that one? Yeah. Thought so.)
3. Georgia. Not mentioned in the furor over UGA's 3-3 start: the 'Dawgs played one of the toughest opening months in the country. For a team definitely in a rebuilding mode, it's probably not the best thing to have to travel to Stillwater, Okla. (while Dez Bryant was in full-fledged smackdown mode), play consecutive SEC games vs. South Carolina and Arkansas, then come home to play pesky Arizona St. (currently 3-2) and then jump back into SEC play vs. LSU and Tennessee (at Neyland).
None of that scheduling talk, however, should excuse last week vs. UT, when UGA's defense turned Jonathan Crompton into Johnny Unitas and sent Lane Kiffin into full-fledged smug a-hole mode. I'll say it again: how Willie Martinez is still employed is beyond comprehension at this point.
2. South Carolina. A dangerous, dangerous football team. And I'm really afraid to say anything else.
1. Florida. Tim Tebow definitely did not look superhuman vs. LSU. Actually, he looked more like a regular guy who didn't want to get hurt. Which is fine, because it was very obvious from the opening bell that Urban's game plan was centered around defense and scoring just enough to win (and, of course, preventing Tebow from getting hurt).
The scary thing: Florida's defense is every bit as smothering as Alabama's right now, only nobody notices because of Urban Meyer and Tebow on offense (the inverse is true at Alabama, but we'll get to that in a minute). And for the record, I don't expect much out of this week vs. Arkansas. What happened the last time the Hawgs went on the road to face a defense this good? Exactly.

6. Mississippi St. Arguably the scariest team left in the conference. The Bullies have just enough to whip anybody left on their schedule, but they're not quite good enough to get over the hump. At least, not yet — one of the marks of a well-coached team is that it gets better over the course of a season. Auburn and LSU were fortunate to catch these guys early — 'Bama, Arkansas and Ole Miss won't have that luxury.
5. Ole Miss. I'm frankly not in the mood.
4. Arkansas. Read everything I just said about Mississippi State, then replace "the Bullies" with "the Hawgs." I don't expect much out of them this week in Gainesville, but they still have LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina and State remaining on the schedule. You might see them in the Cotton Bowl before all's said and done. Seriously.
3. Auburn. Everything I wrote about them at Warblogle today stands: the Teagles are light years ahead of where I believed they'd be at this point, but their lack of fundamentals on defense is disconcerting. Remember, they'd have two losses on their slate right now if not for Jarrett Brown's penchant for throwing the ball away, and they still have the balance of the division schedule remaining.
On the other hand ...
2. LSU. Give me one shred of evidence that shows LSU is any good. I'm begging you. And the recruiting stars next to the players' names on the roster doesn't count.
Currently 5-1, LSU needed the following things in order to get here:
• Washington fizzled in the red zone despite throwing for nearly 500 yards.
• Mississippi St. couldn't score on three plays from inside the 1, and that was after giving up a pick-6 and a marathon punt return.
• UGA — yes, the same team that just lost 45-19 to Tennessee — got hit with a ridiculous celebration penalty, then mysteriously quit on defense on the game's final possession.
(UPDATE: For more on this, read OTS' SEC assessment at RBR.)
So please give me one reason to believe in LSU. Seriously. I'm begging for one.
1. Alabama. I'll cede this final point to the fan commenter at RBR:
"When Alabama arrived yesterday, they looked like cloned, diciplined, suited warriors. Their whole demeanor is one of order and discipline. They were wearing coats and ties (like Alabama did years ago) and they looked like individual parts of a machine. There was no "individuality" displayed at all. Just a body. A body of soldiers. It was really impressive."

Roll Tide Roll.

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