Sunday, October 9, 2011

Arkansas might be the best one-loss team in the country

image The USA Today Coaches’ Poll has Bobby Petrino’s Arkansas Razorbacks ranked No. 11, up from last week’s No. 12 and fresh off of a convincing 38-14 win over SEC West foe Auburn. In six games of the 2011 season, Arkansas has scored 30+ points in every game except one—the 38-14 loss to defensive juggernaut Alabama.

Alabama has made every offense it’s played look silly and ineffective, so the Razorbacks’ only season blemish should be palatable for the Hog Nation. The rest of the schedule sets up well for Petrino & Co. They should be favored in five of the last six, with the only truly dangerous challenge coming in the season finale vs. LSU in Death Valley. Should Arkansas win out or finish as 10-2 team, they’ll be a shoo in for a New Year’s Day bowl game or perhaps a return to a BCS berth. To these eyes, Arkansas is the best one-loss team in the country.

Georgia’s Mark Richt won his 100th game yesterday. The jury is still out on whether the temperature of his seat has cooled with the win over Tennessee.  Tennessee needs a running game.  Badly. The Volunteers have posted –9 and –20 rushing yards in consecutive SEC East losses to Florida and Georgia. Tyler Bray has been the only offensive weapon for the team, but one dimensional offenses in this league make for a miserable season. Tauren Poole’s gimpy hamstring won’t help matters at all, as Tennessee still faces the brutal defenses of LSU and Alabama in the next two weeks.

Speaking of LSU, give Les Miles and John Chavis credit for studying game film and duplicating Bama’s effort in shutting down the potent running attack of the Florida Gators. In the SEC, you have to have a credible running attack to keep the defense honest in the passing game. And, you have to have a credible threat to go deep to keep the defense from stacking the box. With their third string quarterback starting on the road, LSU knew that Florida couldn’t beat them consistently through the air and simply throttled the Gator ground game. Welcome to head coaching in the SEC, Will Muschamp.

And, speaking of Alabama, last night’s 34-0 shut out of Vanderbilt looks great on paper but come out flat against teams like Tennessee, LSU or Auburn and you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of a 14-0 halftime score. Vanderbilt’s defense gets some credit for being stingy early on, and James Franklin is a heckuva football coach and brought a good game plan to Tuscaloosa. But Alabama can ill afford to play lights out in only two quarters of football if they want to run the table and make the trip to New Orleans.

Who misses last year’s rainmaker more—Kentucky, or Auburn? The Wildcats rode the Mike Hartline to Randall Cobb connection last year to stun the South Carolina Gamecocks in 2010. With no Hartline and no Cobb, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips has no offense and it showed in yesterday’s dreadful 54-3 thrashing.

In 2010, when the quarterback had to make a play, Auburn’s Cam Newton made them. Last night, Auburn tried all three quarterbacks and none of them did anything. Barrett Trotter can’t run the football. Kiehl Frazier can run it and throw it, but completed as many balls to Arkansas’ defensive backs (two) as he did to his own receivers. Winning on the road in the SEC means having your rainmakers make it pour. Neither Kentucky nor Auburn could get out of their droughts and both suffered embarrassing road losses.

Mississippi State got back on the winning track, but did it by unimpressively pushing winless UAB around. The Blazers are a dumpster fire of a football program and is a credible threat to go 0-12. Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs received a lot of preseason hype as a program on the rise. But with three losses in the SEC and Alabama and Arkansas still on the schedule, State seems to be falling right into its historical form.

imageOle Miss’ Randall Mackey made an unfortunate mistake last week in comments to the Clarion- Ledger. "Alabama is just Alabama," Mackey said. "They've got a real good defense from the D-line to the secondary. There are still, I'm not going to say weaknesses, you know, they ain't Superman. So they can be beat."

That fearsome noise you heard from Tuscaloosa was the entire Bama defense growling and licking their chops.

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