Monday, November 5, 2012
Hot and Not in the SEC
By Chris Low
We turn to our Hot/Not meter to check the latest state of affairs in the SEC:
T.J. Yeldon and AJ McCarron proved clutch in the closing stages of Alabama's win over LSU.
Alabama’s final drive: It’s the stuff of which championship seasons are made. Alabama hadn’t done anything on offense in the second half Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, and LSU had seized control of the game. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron missed his first five passes to open the second half, and the Crimson Tide went three-and-out on four of their first five possessions. The only time during that span that they did drive the ball, freshman running back T.J. Yeldon lost a fumble at the LSU 10. It was just one of those nights, but Alabama never lost its poise. Getting the ball back on their own 28 with 1:34 to play, the Crimson Tide put together what may turn out to be a season-defining drive. McCarron hit 4 of 5 passes, the last one a 28-yard screen play to Yeldon for the game-winning touchdown. A lot of people wondered how Alabama would respond in a tough spot. After all, it had been a full year since the Crimson Tide had played a fourth-quarter that really meant something. It’s safe to say that they responded like champions.
Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night: Man, what a place to watch a college football game. I can still hear the roar from the crowd in my ears. Bear Bryant once said that being in Tiger Stadium was like being inside a drum. He nailed it, because there’s nothing else like it in college sports. And it’s not just how loud the place is, either. It’s the festive atmosphere on campus, the tailgating, the tasty food, the cool outfits, Mike the Tiger hanging out just across the street from the stadium and those first four notes from the Golden Band from Tigerland. I’ve been fortunate enough to see 15 or more games in Tiger Stadium, and it only gets better each time I go.
Tennessee’s defense: We might as well create our own weekly spot for the Vols’ defense in this space. Sure, they were transitioning to a 3-4 defense coming into this season and were doing it with a first-year coordinator (Sal Sunseri), but you almost have to try to be as bad as they are on defense right now. In their past five games, they’ve given up 222 points, including 48 to Troy last week in a 55-48 “defensive struggle.”
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray: He bounced back from a shaky outing against Florida with 384 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 37-10 win over Ole Miss. Murray, a junior, has 21 touchdown passes for the season and 80 for his career. He’s well within range of Danny Wuerffel’s SEC career record of 114 touchdown passes.
Alabama’s tackling: As jubilant as the Crimson Tide were to get out of Tiger Stadium with a win, they won’t be thrilled when they watch the defensive tape. The tackling, especially in the secondary, was poor and will come back to bite them down the road if they don’t get it fixed.
Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter: He dropped a deep pass early, which has been a problem for him all season, but he recovered to catch nine passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns in the Vols’ 55-48 win over Troy.
Florida’s passing game: The Gators’ passing game is what it is, which is just sort of serviceable at best. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel passed for 106 yards in the 14-7 win over Missouri last Saturday. That’s after throwing two interceptions the week earlier in the loss to Georgia. The problem goes much deeper than Driskel's ability to throw it. The Gators simply don’t have any playmakers at receiver. Their longest gain by a wide receiver against Missouri was 9 yards.
Auburn running back Tre Mason: He called for the ball earlier this season and delivered with a career day last Saturday in the 42-7 win over New Mexico State to snap a five-game losing streak for the Tigers. Mason finished with 152 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Arkansas’ off-the-field issues: Senior linebacker Terrell Williams became the eighth Arkansas football player to be arrested since March when he was charged Sunday morning on charges of driving while intoxicated. Williams was indefinitely suspended. When’s it all going to end for the Hogs, who’ve seemingly been cursed ever since Bobby Petrino drove his motorcycle into that ditch in April?
Vanderbilt’s defense: The Commodores’ 40-0 win over Kentucky was their first shutout of an FBS team since 1982 when they beat Virginia Tech 45-0. It was their first shutout of an SEC foe since beating Kentucky 6-0 in 1968. Vanderbilt has given up just 20 points in its past three games and is one win away from becoming bowl-eligible for the second consecutive season.
Mississippi State’s swagger: The Bulldogs were riding high after starting 7-0, but have been smacked back down to reality the past two weeks, losing 38-7 to Alabama and 38-13 to Texas A&M. A third straight smackdown could be looming this week when the Bulldogs travel to LSU.
Football at Kentucky: Let’s face it. Football at Kentucky matters about like telling the truth does in politics. The Wildcats are in the market for a new coach after athletic director Mitch Barnhart announced Sunday that Joker Phillips would not return next season. It will be interesting to see what kind of candidates Kentucky can attract, because it’s easily one of the hardest two or three jobs in the league. Rich Brooks proved that it is possible to have some moderate success there despite basketball being king. It’s a hoops-crazy state that simply doesn’t produce very many big-time college football prospects. And to be fair, while Brooks had four straight seasons of seven wins or more with four straight bowl appearances from 2006-09, the Wildcats never had a winning SEC record during that stretch. For that matter, the last time they had a winning SEC record was 1977. Nobody in the SEC has what you would call poor football facilities, but Kentucky’s would rank near the bottom of the league. There haven’t been a lot of upgrades over the past few years. Also, Phillips was the lowest-paid head coach in the SEC. It goes back to that old saying: You typically get out what you put in.