Monday, September 25, 2006

Around The SEC: Blah Week

It wasn't much of a weekend in the SEC. The West saw a battle between the two teams in its mediocre middle, the East had a near-disaster in Athens, and everybody else basically slopped around for three hours. The only notable exception was Mississippi State, which got its first win of the season in a surprising 16-10 overtime edge of UAB on the road. So let's hear it for MORE COWBELL!

I didn't make it to Auburn's checkbook win over Buffalo thanks to a family wedding, and by the sounds of things on the radio, I didn't miss much. By all accounts, the Tigers were lackadaisical and uninspired, particularly in the first half. There's nothing wrong with a 38-7 win, and it's unreasonable to expect any team to be "up" for 12 straight weeks (you probably should consult your doctor if this actually happens to you), but still. The team clearly expected this one to be over by the second quarter, but didn't play that way until after the half. Anyway, freshman Ben Tate had a great game, getting 114 yards and two touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter, so good for Ben.

The Alabama-Arkansas tilt had so many bush-league plays and calls, it would have made a great high school game--which was appropriate, since at least one high school coach was on the field. Stewart Mandel at Sports Illustrated summed this one up perfectly:
The SEC has some good teams … but Alabama and Arkansas are not among them. Dear lord. While it certainly made for high drama, the teams' double-overtime game Saturday was a case of who would screw up less. Turned out it was Razorbacks freshman QB Mitch Mustain, whose 7-of-22, three-interception performance got trumped by Crimson Tide kicker Leigh Tiffin's meltdown (three straight missed field goals and a missed extra point in the second OT, all wide right). Given a chance to redeem himself, Mustain threw a nice 11-yard touchdown to high-school teammate Ben Cleveland. And Arkansas' kicker, Jeremy Davis -- who himself had missed a PAT earlier -- made his for the win. Please give me those three hours of my life back.

That's pretty much what you get when you match up two teams only slightly better than Vanderbilt. The Arkie papers are playing it up as a great, corner-turning victory today, and the Bammies are moaning and groaning with should-have-beens (so what else is new?), but Mandel has it right: neither of these teams are good enough to warrant either excitement or depression. Their only saving grace is that they're better than the two Mississippis--but you have to temper that by realizing the Mississippis are awful beyond belief.

Kudos to Kentucky for playing a gritty, fun-to-watch first half against a klutzy Florida down in Gainesville. Too bad they remembered they were Kentucky at halftime. Vandy got its first win, South Carolina finally proved they actually have an offense, Ole Miss continues to suck like few teams have ever sucked before, LSU took out their vain referee frustrations on Tulane, Tennessee got back on track by thumping a weak Marshall, and Georgia

Well, Georgia damn near absorbed the biggest black eye to the SEC in many a moon. I was completely, utterly shocked when I got in from the wedding and saw them trailing 13-0 in the fourth quarter. Give Colorado plenty of credit for getting up off the mat and playing a whale of a game, and Georgia credit as well for pulling it out, but good grief, Ugas. That was a terrible showing. Selfishly, I found the outcome just right: a one-point win over a winless team ought to tone down the local chatter about Georgia being a serious contender, but they didn't actually lose and make the conference look awful. Add in a three-headed quarterback controversy, and I really couldn't have asked for more out of the Dawgies this week.

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