Sunday, September 11, 2011

SEC Roundup: Week 2 and where is Auburn’s defense?

image Alabama 27, Penn State 11. Methodical. Businesslike. Precise. No one should have any problems coming up with adjectives to describe the dismantling of the Penn State Nittany Lions by the Alabama Crimson Tide. Bama appears to have settled on AJ McCarron as the lead dog in the QB race, as the Mobile native threw 19 of 31 for 163 yards, one TD and no picks. Trent Richardson smashed the PSU defense for 111 yards on 26 carries and Alabama had this one on cruise control by midway in the third quarter. This was supposed to be a tune-up test for Bama and it played out exactly so. The offensive line seems to have gelled into a cohesive unit and the defense is just plain nasty. Next up is a visit from North Texas, a Sun Belt Conference team that dropped a 43-28 contest against Houston.

Arkansas 52, New Mexico 3. How did New Mexico prevent the shutout? Arguably the worst team in FBS, the Lobos stood absolutely no chance of drawing any significant bloodshed from the Razorbacks, whose Tyler Wilson polished his technique and went 18 of 26 passing for 259 yards, one TD pass and one TD run. Petrino’s offensive machine rolled up 632 yards and scored 50+ points for the second week in a row. While Missouri State plus New Mexico equals about one half of an SEC East team, Arkansas’ offense is going to be a difficult challenge for defenses throughout the league. Next up is Troy, 43-19 losers to Clemson.

Auburn 41, Mississippi State 34. The SEC’s Cardiac Kids were up to their old tricks yesterday, pulling out an improbable win against Mississippi State on the game’s last play. Bulldog QB Chris Relf got upended trying to punch in the tying TD with no timeouts and :08 showing on the clock. But Auburn’s defensive play during the game provided that opportunity. The 2009 and 2010 Tigers set school records for most points allowed, and they are on pace to break it again in 2011. Teams are gashing the Chizik/Roof defense and sustaining long scoring drives. Sooner or later, one has to wonder when the Tigers run into a defense capable of preventing Auburn from simply outscoring the opponent. Next up for the Cardiac Kids is a trip to Clemson, a team that Auburn needed overtime to beat in 2010. Mississippi State hosts LSU in Starkville on Thursday night.

Florida 39, UAB 0. UAB’s football program is a mess and yesterday’s game showed it in stark, high-contrast colors. The team was without three key starters—all out due to sports hernias. That’s an injury typically caused by a  poor strength & conditioning regimen. The Gators ran past, through and over the Blazers and dispatched them easily. UAB just needs to put its money in basketball and forget about that new stadium. Florida’s next opponent is Derek Dooley’s Tennessee Volunteers, a decent and improving SEC East foe that defeated Cincinnati 45-23. Should be a fun one to watch.

Georgia 42, South Carolina 45. Did the temperature on UGA Coach Mark Richt’s seat kick it up a notch? The conventional wisdom going into Saturday’s slugfest was that Richt wouldn’t survive to see the sidelines in 2012 if he started 0-2. There were plenty of mistakes on the field for both Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks and Richt’s Bulldogs, but this game was going to be won by whoever had the ball last. Richt obviously didn’t do anything to cool the hotseat, but it’s hard to fault the coach for that effort yesterday. His team left it on the field and that’s the best a coach can ask for. This game puts South Carolina in a key advantage in the SEC East race and sets UGA back several steps. While a loss to Spurrier might not end his career, not making it to Atlanta for a shot at the title might. Georgia plays Coastal Carolina at home next Saturday while South Carolina gets Navy. Oh, by the way…  Navy is undefeated, scoring 40 points each in wins against Delaware and Western Kentucky.

LSU 49, Northwestern State, 3. Northwestern what State? Demons coach Bradley Dale was an assistant for four years under Les Miles and actually pulled within four points when a Field Goal clanged in to make the score 7-3. It was all Bayou Bengals from there and it was 28-3 at halftime. Miles cleared the bench and I think even the waterboy got a key block on a fourth quarter first down play. LSU travels to Mississippi State for a key SEC West matchup on Thursday night.

Ole Miss 42, Southern Illinois 24. Don’t let this score fool you into thinking that Houston Nutt has Ole Miss’ problems solved. The visiting Salukis turned the ball over four times but made a gallant run at the Rebel Bears early in the third quarter, scoring on two long TD drives and closing to 35-24. The only reasons this didn’t turn into an 0-2 start were a porous Southern Illinois defense and the turnovers. Ole Miss is still a dumpster fire under the right reverend, but anyone can win with such gifts given at home. Ole Miss travels to Vanderbilt next Saturday and the SEC opener could determine who the conference doormat will be in 2011.

Tennessee 45, Cincinnati 23. Tennessee is an improving football program in Coach Derek Dooley’s second season. The Bearcats were no slouch of a football team, returning the Big East’s best passer, best tailback and leading all-purpose yards athlete. They expected to score early and often and Tennessee all but shut them down after starting a footrace with the Bearcats. The two teams traded touchdown drives twice and the game was tied 14-14 until took the lead for good in the second quarter. Cincy could manage only another nine points and the Vol defense made key adjustments. That’s what well coached teams do and Dooley is starting to show why his doubters may have sold him short. Tennessee travels to the Swamp to take on Florida next Saturday.

Vanderbilt 24, UConn 21. Vanderbilt has a winning streak. Vanderbilt is 2-0. Vanderbilt channeled its inner Auburn and came back from 21-14 down to beat the Connecticut Huskies 24-21 and Coach James Franklin has those crazy Commodore fans thinking they might challenge for the SEC East. Vandy’s first teamers have always been able to play competitively with anyone in the league. Depth has always been their achilles heel and it’s always affected their confidence. But Franklin seems to have erased the confidence gap and has his team playing to win. Vandy hasn’t won two straight football games since 2008, but with a visit from Ole Miss next week, they have a real shot at going 3-0 and with other winnable games on the schedule, the ‘dores might start thinking of holiday travel plans.

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