Monday, September 28, 2009
Alabama hot, special teams play not
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
It’s Monday, which means it’s time to find out who’s hot and who’s not in the SEC:
Alabama: As soon as they start playing games, it’s the most popular question I get: Who do you think is the best team in the league? While I’m still not ready to pick an SEC champion (too much can happen in the way of injuries, weird bounces, etc.), the best team I’ve seen in the league through the first month of the season is Alabama. The Crimson Tide really have it going on right now, and there’s a chemistry on the team that’s unmistakable. Quarterback Greg McElroy is spreading the ball around to everyone. The running game back stable is deep, talented and diverse, and the defense is one of the nastiest in the nation. Alabama also has Nick Saban standing over there on the sideline. This is a physical football team playing with a lot of confidence and a team capable of beating you in more ways than the Crimson Tide could a year ago.
Auburn receiver Terrell Zachery: Several different threats are emerging in the Tigers’ passing game, and Zachery showed off his playmaking skills in the 54-30 win over Ball State with five catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
LSU’s running game: It’s difficult to explain the Tigers’ woes in the running game. Their tailbacks were held to 35 yards on 16 carries in the 30-26 win over Mississippi State. LSU is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry in its first four games.
Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty: Shaking off the questions about his durability, Hardesty has already carried the ball 84 times in four games and is eighth nationally in rushing at 121.2 yards per game.
Mississippi State’s goal-line offense: It doesn’t matter where you’re playing or who you’re playing. When you get four cracks from the 2 (and two cracks with only a foot to go), you’ve got to get the ball into the end zone.
Georgia receiver A.J. Green: The Bulldogs’ sensational sophomore receiver is answering all those questions about who’s the best receiver in the league. He had eight catches for 153 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown, in the 20-17 win over Arizona State.
Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead: After the way he finished last season, who saw Snead struggling like this? He looked uncomfortable and downright jittery in the 16-10 loss to South Carolina, finishing 7-of-21 for 107 yards.
South Carolina kicker/punter Spencer Lanning: Not only has he made nine straight field goals after missing one in the opener against North Carolina State, but Lanning made a picture-perfect tackle in the open field on Ole Miss’ Marshay Green to save a touchdown.
Arkansas’ confidence: When a coach says publicly that his team didn’t believe it could win the game on the heels of a second straight loss, you can’t help but wonder where that team goes from there. The Hogs are going to find out with a schedule that doesn’t get any easier.
Ice, Ice Baby
Special teams: While realizing that a return for a touchdown or a blocked kick can constitute quality special teams play depending on your vantage point, some of the gaffes we’ve seen around the league in the kicking game four weeks into the season are spoiling the positives. Name it, and we’ve seen it – snaps sailing over punters’ heads, blocked extra points, mishandled snaps on field goals, shoddy tackling on coverage units, fumbled kickoffs, kickoffs out of bounds and shanked punts.