Sunday, October 22, 2006

Doldrums Week in the SEC

The Auburn-Tulane game was mostly a bore, as checkbook wins tend to be. Tulane quarterback Lester Ricard showed why he was recruited so highly a few years back (Ricard initially signed with LSU, then transferred) by lighting up the AU secondary for nearly 400 yards, but the Green Wave only managed to put one touchdown and a couple of field goals on the board. That wasn't close to enough when Brandon Cox could go 16-for-19 and three touchdowns and true freshman running back Ben Tate could rack up over 150 yards and a score of his own. I couldn't help thinking Tulane would be a pretty good team if they had a defense and a better running game, but as it is, they were Homecoming bait.

Auburn's play overall was, I'm sorry to say, about what I expected: they looked great for some series, and average at best on others. It's been that kind of year. It's odd eight games in to look back to the opener against Washington State and have no trouble at all saying it was AU's best-played game of the year, but that's the case. So far, this isn't close to being a consistent team.

The only real impact of the Tulane game was in the injured list, which is getting downright ugly for the Tigers. AU will have to move tackle Johnathan Palmer to center, as second-stringer Jason Bosley went down with a possibly serious knee injury. Recent reports have indicated that starter Joe Cope could be back in a couple of weeks, but Auburn was already thin up front, and as anybody who recalls 1998 can tell you, center is a bad place to start losing multiple players. It also didn't help any when Tray Blackmon picked up a hip stinger and Brad Lester left early due to a nagging groin pull. Kenny Irons, still trying to get over turf toe, didn't play at all.

I'd make fun of Alabama's ongoing implosion today, but try as I might, I can't think of anything I could add to this column by Tuscaloosa News sports editor (and all-around good guy, despite his poor taste in football teams) Cecil Hurt. A sample:

Alabama can’t blame bad luck. It can’t blame bad karma, or bad calls, or bad treatment at the hands of the NCAA. Not this time. Not when the same script was tried with the same heart-rending but utterly predictable results.

This time, the answer for Mike Shula can be found in one place: The mirror.

After the word "brutal" in the next Oxford English Dictionary, they ought to just append a link to that column.

There wasn't much else to talk about in a very dull day for the conference. Georgia continues to look worse than even I'd thought they were as the season rolls on, while Mississippi State is threatening to actually have a pulse (but still losing). The LSU-Fresno State and Arkansas-Ole Miss games went about as I'd expected. I wasn't surprised to see South Carolina knock Vanderbilt back to reality--they may be better than usual, but they're still Vanderbilt. That was it in a conference week that really only had one meaningful game; Kentucky and Florida took the day off.

Ah, well. The weather was beautiful, Auburn won, UAT lost, and other than the dual choke-jobs of Nebraska and UCLA, it was a really fun day nationally. Nothing wrong with that.

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