Power Poll – Week 6

1) Auburn Tigers (Overall 4-0, Conference 1-0) [Last week 1] – I make no bones about it.  I am keeping Auburn here, as the defending conference champions, until they get beat.  The schedule toughens from here on out, so we can hope they move down soon.

2) Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0) [3] – The Tide is playing as well as any team and the league and if I had any sense, I’d have them no. 1 here.

3) Texas A&M Aggies (5-0, 2-0) [2] – The Aggies weren’t nearly as impressive in their win over Arkansas as they were against South Carolina.  Is that because the Hogs are improved or perhaps we jumped on the A&M band wagon a little too early?

4) Missouri Tigers (4-1, 1-0) [8] – This season has already had it’s share of ups and downs for the Tigers, but right now, they are in the driver’s seat in the East.  If they can get by Georgia on the road in two weeks, they will go a long way towards locking up a second straight division title.

5) Ole Miss Rebels (4-0, 1-0) [4] – The Black Bears looked a little sluggish against Memphis, but that’s too be expected with Alabama coming to town this week.  The Rebs have the top-ranked defense in the league and need a great game from Bo Wallace to move up next week.

6) Georgia Bulldogs (3-1, 2-1) [6] – Todd Gurley is carrying this team on his back.  The Dawgs better hope that back don’t get tired.  Otherwise, this is a very average football team.

7) Mississippi State Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0) [7] – The Dogs celebrated their win over LSU with a well-placed bye week.  Things are about to get exciting in Starkville as MSU hosts Texas A&M and Auburn over the next two weeks.

8) LSU Tigers (4-1, 0-1) [9] – The Tigers’ season is on the line this Saturday at Auburn.  Lose and the Tigers are done in the West race.  Win and they’re right back in the middle of things.

9) Arkansas Razorbacks (3-2, 0-2) [10] – The Hogs look much-improved, but they just can’t quite get over the hump.  They’ll take a week off and then try again against Alabama.

10) South Carolina Gamecocks (3-2, 2-2) [5] – The ‘Cocks dropped a game late to Mizzzou and guess what?  They are now toast in the East.

11) Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1) [11] – Like Arkansas, you can tell this team is improved.  Unlike Arkansas, I don’t think there’s as much improvement.

12) Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1) [12] – Will Muschamp’s boss says he gets to wait until the end of the season before he gets canned.  Well, if the Gators get stomped in Knoxville, they may re-think that logic.

13) Kentucky Wildcats (3-1, 1-1) [13] – Kentucky is as least competitive this year.  The ‘Cats will visit Columbia this week and try to surprise the Gamecocks.

14) Vanderbilt Commodores (1-4, 0-3) [14] – This is a very bad football team.

First Thoughts on Ole Miss

The Ole Miss Rebel Black Bears are feeling pretty good right now heading into this week’s game against Alabama.  I guess they should.  After all, they are unbeaten through four games and are ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press poll.

They also have a pretty good defense.

But in 2014, these Black Bears will only go as far as their quarterback, Bo Wallace can take them.  Here’s what Dr. Bo has done so far this year:

BoWallaceThrough4Games2014So far, at least statistically, Wallace hasn’t had a bad year.  In fact, before last week’s game against Ole Miss (and through the bye week that proceeded it), folks were downright gushy about the RBB signal caller.  As the line went, Wallace had been on first since the second half of the Boise State game.

But I think the story goes deeper than just these numbers.  Let’s face it, if you look inside the big red sort of circle, you’ll see that Ole Miss’ competition this year ain’t all that grand.  You’ll also see that Wallace likes to turn the ball over, and those tend to come in bunches.  That’s something about Wallace’s play that isn’t new for 2014.

Of course, I also buy the line of thinking that Ole Miss, and Wallace, were probably looking ahead to Bama.  It’s hard to keep your focus on a team like Memphis when the big boys are rolling into your town the next week.

Most of us Bama fans look at the Black Bears and Wallace and aren’t all that concerned.  After all, this is a team that hasn’t beaten us since 2003.  But I look at this game as trouble.  The RBBs have a salty defense, they are playing at home, they have some momentum that comes from being 4-0, and, they do have a quarterback that is capable of getting hot and pulling a Stephen Garcia.

Week 5 Review

9272014 ScoreboardA 6-1 week brings the total to 40-8…

1) Georgia 35, Tennessee 32 [Prediction: Georgia 27, Tennessee 24] - UT allowed a career game from Todd Gurley and shot itself in the foot late.

2) Kentucky 17, Vanderbilt 7 [Kentucky 31, Vanderbilt 28] – This must have been a fun game to watch.

3) Missouri 21, South Carolina 20 [South Carolina 35, Missouri 31] – The Gamecocks are dead in the East and we have a new favorite atop the leader board.

4) Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 [Texas A&M 42, Arkansas 24] – The Aggies score two touchdowns late to set up overtime and then pull out the win.

5) Auburn 45, Louisiana Tech 17 [Auburn 45, Louisiana Tech 24] – This game also sound brutal to watch, right?

6) LSU 63, New Mexico State 7 [LSU 48, New Mexico State 6] – What better way to rebound from a loss to Mississippi State than to play an out of conference patsy.

7) Ole Miss 24, Memphis 3 [Ole Miss 37, Memphis 17] - Perhaps the Rebel Black Bears were looking ahead to Bama.

 

A Few Week 5 Thoughts

Week five brings an off week for the Tide, but there are a few other games of note today.

Tennessee travels to Georgia in a game that, on paper, doesn’t appear to be close.  The Vols are weak along the line of scrimmage and I doubt they’ll be able to contain Todd Gurley; no one else really has.  The Vols aren’t into moral victories, I’m sure, but they’ll be looking for more progress, a few baby steps forward in Butch Jones’ second year.

Missouri travels to South Carolina in a key SEC East battle.  The Tigers stubbed their toe against Indiana last week, so look for them to play better against the Gamecocks. If they Tigers win, they take a big step forward in the East race.  They’ll own a key tie-breaker against the ‘Cocks, plus, they’ll stay ahead in the loss column.  A win for Carolina means another key tie-breaker in the bag, much like they have against Georgia.

Kentucky hosts Vanderbilt this week as these two teams race for the bottom of the league.  Wins are tough to come by for these two programs, so the winner needs to savor the moment.

Arkansas will meet Texas A&M at the Jerry Dome in the best game of the day for the SEC.  The Aggies have been very impressive this year, but really haven’t played anyone since their week one beat down of South Carolina.  The Hogs are a beefed-up smash-mouth team on the way up.  My guess is they aren’t far enough along in the rebuilding process to knock out the Aggies.  But if the Hog defense can get a few stops and let their offense grind on the A&M defense, you never know.

Drug Testing the ‘Horns

A couple of days ago, we mentioned Charlie Strong’s scrubbing of the Texas Longhorn roster. Yesterday, we found out the deal:

Data obtained by the Statesman indicates that a total of 188 drug tests have been administered in the first eight months of Strong’s tenure. From 2010 to 2013, Texas administered an average of 104 drug tests per year under former coach Mack Brown.

Strong has dismissed nine players from his program since taking over in January and currently has two more players suspended from the team for undisclosed rules violations.

According to data the newspaper acquired through an open records request, Texas drug tested every player after spring break in March. Players who were considered at-risk were then subject to more frequent testing.

Many schools just do the bare minimum related to drug testing, so testing all the players after spring break?  All you can say to that is…wow.  Strong clearly means business about cleaning up the Longhorn culture and you definitely have to applaud his actions.

Saban and Begging

From Cecil Hurt:

If you’ve listened closely during Saban’s tenure, you know this is the truth.  During Saban’s early years at Bama, the team struggled to maintain intensity, especially on offense for entire games.  During the last couple of years, there’s been a struggle to keep the gas pedal down to keep up with certain teams.

The Jim McElwain offensive era sparkled primarily because the team won three national championships.  Don’t forget the 9-6 loss to LSU in 2011 came on his watch.  Last year’s team, in particular, seemed to under perform based on the offensive talent that it had.  That’s why, in my humble opinion, why last year’s offensive coordinator isn’t this year’s offensive coordinator.

This year, it appears, many of the problems have been solved with the addition of Lane Kiffin.  Many think he earned the job during bowl practice last season when he diagnosed several of the offense’s problems.  Then the Tide went out and stunk it up in New Orleans.  Then there was a spot to fill on the staff, and he filled it.

For the most part, I’m sold on Kiffin as a coordinator.  The offensive success so far – especially against Florida, leads one to believe that the guy can coach.  I don’t care who you are playing, when you can rack up points and yards as the team has done this year, that’s definitely a good sign.  When you can use the vast talent on the team in a plethora of ways, that’s definitely a good sign.  And when you can take what the defense gives you and beat them over the head with it, that’s a good sign.

There are more tests to come, though.  The season is only a third over and bigger, more important games to come.  There are still challenges.  But for now, Saban has what he’s wanted: an offensive coordinator that will open it up.