The SEC Bachstory will be a weekly SEC recap posted every Monday morning breaking down all the big events from the previous weekend. In order to eliminate all confusion, the Bach in Bachstory is pronounced like back (Back to the Future, The Empire Strikes Back, Back in Black), you get the picture. After a two week hiatus the Bachstory returns and there is a ton of stuff to discuss this week with Ole Miss stepping up, LSU and Georgia stepping back, the Wildcats on the road and more.
The Weekend That Was
There were some great games this weekend, but we have to start with the LSU loss to Ole Miss and before we get to the juicy stuff I want to talk about Ole Miss waking up the last month. There are two people responsible for the Rebel turn around, Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix and Running Back Dexter McCluster. Nix has been masterful all season and even with all the injuries he has had to deal with, the Rebel defense seems to be getting better each week. The most points the team has given up this year was 33 to Auburn and 9 of those points were scored by a Jevan Snead pick six and a blocked PAT returned for 2. They have been consistent all season while the offense has been the reason for the losses. Nix has NFL talent on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary plus he lost the teams best defensive player, Greg Hardy, a couple weeks ago.
If the Quarterback position had been marginally better in the losses, the bowl scenario for the Rebels could be very different right now. Houston Nutt has admitted recently that he was worried about overusing Run DMC early this season and he didn't think he could handle the beating all year. Honestly, that is a total cop out. Nutt is notorious for this kind of junk and if you look back at the games the Rebels lost, McCluster was a non-factor because he barely touched the ball. In the loss to South Carolina, it is amazing Run DMC didn't get the ball to until the fourth quarter when he went off on the Gamecocks. But this is classic Houston Nutt, as an underdog he is maybe the best in the business. As a favorite, you get what happened in Columbia. Either way, the Rebels are poised for their first 10 win season since Eli was on campus and a very good bowl game.
The Weekend That Wasn't
The reason I didn't discuss the LSU game very much in the first section is because while Ole Miss won the game, the real story line was the LSU coaching staff. In what was the worst game management I have ever seen in my many years of watching college football, Les Miles gave his critics more ammo as he snatched a loss from the hands of victory. Miles has been fortunate, to put it nicely, in past seasons. Who can forget the 2007 Matt Flynn TD pass to Demetrius Byrd with 1 second left that led to a National Championship instead of the disaster that is happening today. Miles has been playing with fire for years and while his risks have sometimes paid off, this was just flat out mismanagement, poor coaching, lack of communication and bush league. Russ Mitchell called me after the game absolutely appalled and wrote this piecethat is dead on.
The entire article is on point but I want to expand on one item that is the most egregious to me. Russ points out how much time Miles let run off before calling the timeout prior to the 4th down play and if they had called the TO immediately they would have had time to spike the ball and run out the kicker. The time being wasted is insane, but what makes it worse is that they never had a plan on what to do if that 4th down Hail Mary was completed. LSU called a fricking timeout, how do you not discuss what happens if it is completed? Get the kicking team ready and if you don't think there is time for that, Jefferson has to have a play to run. Ole Miss would have been caught off guard if they ran a play immediately and it would have had a great chance to succeed. This loss is going to hurt Miles immensely, there already was skepticism that his success was with Nick Saban's players and now that he has lost seven games in two years after only losing six games in the first three seasons. The natives are restless, maybe Michigan will call.
The Weekend That…What the Heck
What the heck is going on in Athens right now? I was convinced they had turned a corner last week against Auburn with a gritty win over a good team, not an elite win by any means, but a win that they could have built some good momentum on and calmed the fans down until the winter break. Man was I wrong; I didn't see that Kentucky loss coming even with how well the Wildcats have played on the road this year (more on that coming). Last week against Auburn, Georgia had zero turnovers, they limited penalties and didn't beat themselves which is what they have done all year long. They played the first half against Kentucky much of the same way and then the second half turned into every other game they have played this year.
Joe Cox's face turned the color of his jersey which is now a sign that teams should wake up their defense because he is about to throw some picks. Last week he didn't turn that shade of red all game and played perfect. I know some of you out there remember the Nintendo game (original Nintendo) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III "The Manhattan Project." I bring this up because when you were playing the boss for a level and were about the defeat him, the bad guy would shimmer red because he was about to go down and you had almost beaten him. Joe Cox is the same way, when he is about to blow up he turns that same shade red so break out Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael because that boy is about to go down for the count.
The game against Tech has become one of the most important in Richt's career and he has made a point of beating Tech nearly every season. UGA can win that game, they are one of the most talented teams in the country, but there is just something wrong with their mental state right now. The undisciplined behavior that Richt has let run rampant through his program for years is now coming back to bite him in the butt on the field. This could end up being his first non-winning season in Athens and while he will get another chance to make it right in 2010, it will be at a price. Expect new coordinators on both sides of the ball and a number of position coaches to move on. Change is needed and if Richt doesn't do it, 2010 will be do or die instead of a rebuilding opportunity.
The Weekend That Will Be
Not many people need to be reminded what is going on this weekend, Rivalry weekend is the most loved and thought about weekend in the College Football season. Championship weekend is huge, but not every team plays for a championship, everyone has a rivalry. All traditional rivalry games should be played at the end of the year, no question. So Boise State/Idaho, Colorado/Colorado State, USC/Notre Dame, Iowa/Iowa State and any other program that I left out because your game isn't being played this weekend; you are doing it wrong. The last regular season of the year we get Kentucky/Tennessee, Georgia/Georgia Tech, Clemson/South Carolina, Florida State/Florida, Alabama/Auburn, Arkansas/LSU and Ole Miss/MSU. It is the dream weekend for SEC fans, no other weekend comes close and we love it.
Big Man on Campus (BMOC)
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB
This one is going to be short and sweet, Mallett tossed for 313 yards and five touchdown passes. He did throw a couple picks, but came back strong to blow out Mississippi State in the Razorbacks final home game of the season. Right now Mallett is the first team All-SEC QB over Tim Tebow, basically if Tebow is named 1st team QB it will have absolutely nothing to do with this season and it will be based on his career. If you want to give the Heisman or Dave O'Brien award for a lifetime achievement I won't argue (although I disagree) but don't do it for a post season All-SEC team.
Player Now Doing Charlie Work (PNDCW)
As a note to those who do not know what "Charlie-Work" is, do yourself a favor and start watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (the episode called "Dennis and Dee go on Welfare" explains it perfectly).
Joe Cox, Georgia QB
Cox was abysmal is the loss to Kentucky, he turned the ball over three times…once inside the Kentucky 2 yard line and all in the fourth quarter. He completed 12 of 30 passes for a ton of yards and three touchdowns, but the turnovers killed UGA. If you aren't sure how a team can out gain their opponent by almost 230 yards and still lose, watch this game.
4 Downs with the SEC
First Down – Down Year for the SEC?
While it may seem stupid to consider a year when the top two teams in the country are from the SEC a down year, that is exactly what we have in 2009 and actually it is what we had in 2008. The SEC seems to have become a top heavy league like the Big 12 and Big Ten used to be with two teams dominating and every one else knocking each other around. All you need to know about where the SEC is this year is to look at the Polls, the ACC (probably the worst conference in the country) has 5 teams ranked in the top 25 and the SEC has 4 teams. Of course the season isn't over yet and I expect the SEC to make a couple statements this weekend against the Atlantic Coast Conference, but right now the league is 2 teams and everyone else.
The answer to that is simply coaching, Florida and Alabama have two of the best coaching staffs in the country and everyone else in the SEC right now is trying to catch up. Looking across the SEC it has been a disappointing year for coordinators and head coaches. Mark Richt is getting destroyed, Les Miles and Gary Crowton have taken huge steps back, Gene Chizik/Lane Kiffin/Dan Mullen are almost finished with their rookie seasons and they have all faired very well but they aren't striking fear in any of the SEC elite yet. Spurrier, Petrino, Nutt and the rest all have their ups and downs, but outside of the Gators and the Tide there is very little consistency. Last year was poor because of the youth at the quarterback position for most of the league and they still dominated in bowl games. Coaching is the question mark this year, but even in a down year for the SEC the bowl games will once again prove that it is the premiere league in the country.
Second Down – Kentucky on the Road
It is time for another one of my favorite things to do, a trivia question. Can anyone tell me what Alabama, Florida and Kentucky have in common this season? It is a pretty impressive stat and it should be discussed more than it has been so far this season, but these three teams are the only teams in the SEC to win 4 or more games away from home this year. Alabama has won in Atlanta against Va Tech, at Kentucky, at Ole Miss and at MSU. Florida has won at Kentucky, at LSU, at MSU, in Jacksonville against Georgia and at South Carolina. Kentucky has won in Cincinnati against Miami (OH), at Auburn, at Vanderbilt and at Georgia. The Wildcats one road loss was a 2 point defeat at South Carolina. Pretty impressive for a Kentucky team that has for years been doing just enough to make bowl appearances and now has a shot at their third 8 win season in four years.
Rich Brooks doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves for his job at Kentucky and with a fourth straight bowl appearance wrapped up it is amazing how well he has done for the Wildcats. After losing seasons in his first three years in Lexington, this will be his fourth year in a row with a winning record. He has taken a program that was a speed bump in the SEC where teams ran them over on their way to bigger and better things and turned into a threat to win against the "powers" of the SEC. It is unsure how long Brooks will continue to coach at Kentucky with Joker Phillips already named Head Coach in Waiting, but as long as he is coaching Kentucky, they are very fortunate to have him. He should get some serious consideration for the SEC Coach of the Year award and if they beat Tennessee, he should get it.
Third Down – Most Important Rivalry weekend in Years
Every year teams focus on this weekend because they hear about their rival 365 days a year. Fans, coaches, players and pollsters point to this weekend as the best in our sport and this year there is more on the line than any other season in recent memory. The bowl positioning seems to be more in flux than ever and a win in a rivalry game could push a team from any old postseason bowl to one on New Years Day. The coaches that would be under the most pressure to win this year look to be Gene Chizik, Mark Richt and Steve Spurrier. All three of these coaches need to win and get some positive momentum into 2010. For Chizik, a loss to Alabama would be the second time in two years that Auburn has lost to both Alabama and Georgia, this had not happened since 1998. Richt has never lost two straight to Georgia Tech, actually until last season he had never lost 1 straight to the Jackets and 7-5 with a win over top 10 Tech would possibly move their postseason destination from Shreveport to Atlanta or Nashville.
Spurrier might be the most desperate of the bunch considering the Gamecocks consistent late season meltdowns. Another loss to Clemson would be his fourth in five years and Gamecock fans who have been very patient with his struggles will likely not be so forgiving considering recruiting is not as good this year as it was last. It is hard to convince players to come to your school when you can't seem to beat your rival and you spend your holiday practicing in Birmingham. My picks will come out later this week, but right now I have only one of these three winning their rivalry game so two of these teams will need big bowl wins to escape the torment of losing to their rival for the second year in a row.
Fourth Down – The Bowl Picture
If everyone else gets to make bowl predictions it only seems fair that I get the opportunity to do the same. The SEC bowl picture is still a mess but right now this is pretty much where everyone stands. As usual keep in mind that outside of the Sugar bowl, no game is earned, it is given. It is more about ticket sales and match-ups than it is a team's record and since the Big Ten season is over and they always assign bowl games before the SEC, someone is going to get screwed out of a big bowl game; happens every year.
BCS Championship – Florida vs. Texas
Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Pitt
Citrus Bowl (Capital One) – Ole Miss vs. Iowa
Outback Bowl – Tennessee vs. Wisconsin
Cotton Bowl – LSU vs. Nebraska
Peach Bowl (Eat Mor Chikin) – Auburn vs. Virginia Tech
Music City Bowl – Arkansas vs. Clemson
Liberty Bowl – Georgia vs. Southern Miss
Independence Bowl – Kentucky vs. Kansas State
Papa Johns Bowl – South Carolina vs. Rutgers
Just a reminder, I want your emails. Tell me where I'm wrong, where I'm right and where you think I am full of it. Your emails can shape what I should be writing about and if you don't tell me, I won't change. E-mail me Brian Harbach