The only real surprise I had in the Auburn-Mississippi State tuneup was how well State defended the run. MSU couldn't score against air, but they've got some serious defensive beef up front, and linebacker Quinton Culberson had a fantastic game. If only they could somehow cover the pass with nine men in the box, the Other Bulldogs would have a great defense. Since they can't, Brandon Cox and Courtney Taylor made mincemeat out of them.
Auburn turned in a workmanlike clubbing of an outmanned team. Outside of Robert Dunn's fumbled punt return (one more time, let's see Trisan Davis in there), the kicking game was outstanding. Any shutout is a good shutout defensively, but I still didn't like the way State was able to run up the middle, and the Tigers' tackling was often lackadaisical. That won't get it against the Corn Dogs on Saturday.
It's hard to see how State's going to get out of the rut they're in (no pun on freshman quarterback Tray Rutland intended). They don't have the players, and they couldn't sell out their small stadium for a game against a top-5 team. Sly Croom still looks like a good guy trying to win in a tough position, but as I said before the season, if he doesn't start getting some wins this year, he probably never will. In the interests of full disclosure, I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a lot of satisfaction out of watching ex-Bammie Croom's frustration at getting walloped by Auburn for the third year in a row.
Elsewhere, there's at least some hope at the end of State's 2006 road, because Ole Miss still really sucks. Get ready for that
I haven't seen Florida play yet, but the recaps look like they're taking care of business with the cupcakes. The same can't be said of UAT, which has struggled to hold off 1-A bottom-feeders Hawaii and Vanderbilt. As my dad noted to me Saturday, "That wasn't a fluke or anything; that's just what kind of team Alabama has--a little bit better than Vanderbilt."
In a somewhat-related note, if Mobile Press-Register sports editor Randy Kennedy were to quit the paper and become Mike Shula's press secretary, would UAT have to give him back pay for this column?
Tennessee darn near stubbed their unshod toes against Air Force Saturday night. At least some of that had to be due to a solid week of self-congratulation after the Cal clubbing, but the Vols were definitely susceptible to an option attack--and guess what the Urban Myth down in Gainesville loves to run? Those big injuries on the Vol defense aren't going to help any, either. That game ought to be a fun one.
LSU has certainly looked good against their preseason patsies. They took care of business and then some against a really awful Arizona team, but the suckyness of the Wildcats certainly isn't the Other Tigers' fault. Watching the LSU-AZ game, I was struck by how similar LSU and Auburn are offensively: both teams want to run first and throw off play-action. They both love the short passing game and running different plays out of the reverse. That should mean that both defenses this week will be well-prepared for the opposion--after all, they'll play a mirror image of what they see in practice every day.
Georgia's smackdown of South Carolina was pretty much what I'd expected. Carolina's offense is just plain bad, and Visor Boy doesn't have the players available to make it much better when he's facing a good defensive team. UGA's Mark Richt is still to fixated on throwing the ball. That series when he had the football on the one-yard line and insisted on calling three fade routes was eerily similar to some of Spurrier's less-stellar days from the '90's. UGA has running backs who could get in the end zone, either around the ends (SC doesn't have the speed to counter them, as demonstrated on one Georgia touchdown) or barreling through the middle, but Richt just wouldn't give them the ball. Maybe he's still having flashbacks from the 2001 Auburn game.
Nobody, including me, cares what Kentucky or Arkansas did on Saturday, but they're both pretty bad.