Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Hot and Not in the SEC: Week 5
By ESPN.com staff
When you’re hot, you’re hot. And when you’re not …
Yep, it’s that time again:
LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu: If you were selecting the SEC’s Defensive MVP through four games, Mathieu would be at the top of a lot of ballots. The Tigers’ sophomore cornerback impacts the game in so many ways. He breaks up passes, forces fumbles, recovers fumbles, scores defensive touchdowns and is always around the ball. The Tigers are using him as a nickel back and giving him the freedom to roam and make plays. It’s the perfect role for Mathieu, who’s been the catalyst for LSU’s defense this season. The Tigers are loaded with difference-makers on defense, but Mathieu’s nose for the ball and his knack for creating turnovers make him invaluable.
Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones: He was one of the SEC’s best guards a year ago. Now, he’s playing left tackle for the Crimson Tide and received the highest grade on their offensive line in the 38-14 win over Arkansas. Jones has played four of the five positions on the line this season, including center. He also plays the violin. Serious.
Arkansas’ special teams: The feeling coming into last week’s Alabama game was that Arkansas might have an advantage in the kicking game. Obviously, that feeling was wrong. The Hogs gave up an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown, a fake field goal for a touchdown and didn’t make anything happen in their own return game.
South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram: The guy’s a touchdown machine. He already has three this season, his latest coming last Saturday on a fumble recovery in the end zone against Vanderbilt. Ingram also had three tackles for loss, including two sacks, against the Commodores.
Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone: He might be better off if he spent more time trying to be a real administrator as opposed to grandstanding at his head football coach’s weekly press conference.
Florida’s backfield speed: We all knew Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps were fast, but they’re running at light speed this season for the Gators. In a league full of fast players, they’re making everybody else look slow. Seeing them go up against Alabama’s defense will be a treat.
Tennessee’s scheduling: The Vols take on Buffalo this Saturday in Neyland Stadium. And, no, not the unbeaten Buffalo Bills. Every SEC team schedules a few built-in wins, so there’s no shame in scheduling Buffalo. The shame comes in paying a $750,000 penalty to buy your way out of the North Carolina series when the Tar Heels refused to move the series back later this decade and then replacing North Carolina with Buffalo. SEC teams don’t run from ACC teams, at least not in football.
Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward: He’s tied for the SEC lead with four interceptions after picking off two more passes last week against South Carolina. Matched up with Alshon Jeffery for a lot of the game, Hayward also made himself a bunch of money by raising his stock in the NFL draft. Jeffery finished with just two catches for 34 yards and wasn’t much of a factor in the game.
Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt offenses: It’s a close race as to who has the worst offense in the SEC right now. Ole Miss is 118th nationally out of 120 FBS teams in total offense, just ahead of Vanderbilt at 117th. Kentucky is all the way up to 113th in total offense, but has been limited to just eight touchdowns in four games.
South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia: In some parts of South Carolina, Garcia remains a cult hero, although his followers are dwindling every week. Through four games, he’s thrown three touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He’s completing just 54.7 percent of his passes and is coming off a four-interception performance last week against Vanderbilt. Steve Spurrier is so frustrated that he said earlier this week that he’s not going to criticize Garcia any more. That’s like Tiger Woods saying he’s not going to swear any more after slicing one into the deep rough off the tee. After all the drama this offseason involving Garcia and the fact that he was getting another chance, it’s hard to find anybody who thought he would be this shaky out of the gate. We’re talking about a fifth-year senior here who played some of the best football of his career last season. Spurrier doesn’t have a lot of options other than to hope that Garcia snaps out of it, because sophomore Connor Shaw hasn’t shown that he’s ready. No wonder that visor on the Head Ball Coach’s head looks a little more crooked every time you see him on the sideline. He’s shaking his head in disgust just about every time the Gamecocks throw a pass.