AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 22: Zach Mettenberger #8 of the LSU Tigers looks to pass against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
With week four of the college football season in the books, a few thoughts:
Alabama: Easy win against one of the worst teams in college football. Presumably quality wins against Michigan and Arkansas look far less impressive in hindsight, and with Mizzou's implosion in Columbia and Tennessee's struggles against Akron, it may be November until 'Bama is really tested. Eddie Lacy looks better with each passing week. Nick Saban was far more pleased with the effort this past weekend than he was against Western Kentucky.
Arkansas: What happens when you throw gasoline on the raging dumpster fire? We're about to find out. Tyler Wilson threw for 400+ yards, Cobi Hamilton had 303 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and Arkansas still lost in Fayetteville to Rutgers in a two-possession game. Tip of the hat to Wilson for playing so well in his return, but it seems clear that he won't be able to throw Arkansas past all of their countless other shortcomings. Knile Davis was a complete non-factor, with only 17 rushing yards on 10 carries. Defense gave up 35 points, 525 yards of offense, 26 first downs, let Rutgers stay on the field for almost 40 minutes, and didn't force a single turnover in sixty minutes. Almost cringing just to type. Even with Auburn, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Tulsa still on the schedule, not sure this team can get to four wins.
Auburn: Easily the best performance by Auburn since Cam Newton was under center, though poor play by LSU provided a big boost. The defense played well for the first time in ages, and more importantly did what they must do to succeed, i.e. the defensive line controlled the game at the point of attack. The offense is becoming more Malzahnian with each passing week, and against LSU there were numerous different formations, lots of pre-snap motion and in general an offense premised on misdirection and deception. Sounds like Chizik and Loeffler have learned the hard way they cannot go pro-style with Kiehl Frazier under center. Even so, Frazier's inability cost them an otherwise winnable game, gaining only 97 passing yards to go along with two interceptions on 22 attempts. More importantly, he badly missed a wide-open Onterio McCalebb, who was isolated in space on a safety, in what could have been a game-winning touchdown pass. Pretty indefensible that Gene Chizik decided to punt from midfield on the 4th and 5 with only four minutes left in the game.
Florida: After back-to-back road trips to College Station and Knoxville, Kentucky brings cupcakes to Gainesville and the Gators win big without any threat. Jeff Driskell was solid and the offense had a decent day, though the running game had a pedestrian performance after their second half explosion against Tennessee. Defense just dominated a non-existent Kentucky offense. Florida now gets a bye week to prepare for LSU to come into the Swamp, and if they can slow the Bayou Bengals rushing attack that should be a close one in the final minutes.
Georgia: Aaron Murray was his usual exceptional self against overmatched opponents. Defense gave up quite a few yards and didn't really produce a lot of turnovers, but they held Vandy to only 2-14 on third downs and good field position bailed them out. Freshmen tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 200+ rushing yards and four touchdowns, and in the opening month of the season have practically made all of the UGA fans forget about Isiah Crowell. Season-defining games now at hand for UGA with Tennessee and South Carolina on the slate the next two weekends.
Kentucky: Morgan Newton averaged 2.3 yards per passing attempt and threw three interceptions. Note to the file: Newton was a five-star QB prospect. No passing game, no running game, no defense, no coaching staff, no anything. The only thing this team is good at is guaranteeing victory for opposing teams. People with a history of depression should avoid viewing the Kentucky v. Vanderbilt game later this season.
LSU: So much for the air of invincibility, an absolutely horrid showing down on the Plains against what should have been a significantly overmatched opponent. Defense played extremely well, but couldn't generate the big turnover and came up lame when they needed it most after the fumble deep in their own end. The real problem was on offense, where the running game slowed somewhat (though 180 rushing yards is by no means a bad night) and Zach Mettenberger simply could not take advantage of what has been a laughable Auburn secondary. In fact, he's very lucky that end-of-game cross-field throwback to Spencer Ware didn't result in a game-winning interception going the other way. We'll see how Mettenberger fares on down the stretch, but for now you have to think LSU might have some problems when they cannot just run the football down their opponents' throats. Towson comes to town this weekend in a final tune-up for what could be a much tougher-than-anticipated road trip to Gainesville in two weeks. For now, LSU ought to simply sigh in sheer relief, they would not have beaten a quality opponent with that kind of a performance.
Ole Miss: Not saying that this team is good by any stretch, but perhaps they have been better than most expected. 39-0 win over Tulane in New Orleans doesn't mean much of anything, but Bo Wallace has been surprisingly good at quarterback and the skill position talent offensively has been solid. Terrible defense is the culprit in Oxford, but arguably this team has played better to date than Kentucky or Vanderbilt, and not demonstrably worse than Arkansas.
Mississippi State: Another sluggish performance and another relatively easy win, this time over lowly South Alabama. Cupcake schedules do have their benefits. Hard to see this team competing against 'Bama and LSU if Tyler Russell continues to only complete half of his passes and averages only six yards per attempt. Another cupcake coming up this weekend against Kentucky in Lexington, though it could be relatively close if MSU plays like it has the past two weeks.
Missouri: Turns out that Young Man football isn't transitioning so well to the SEC. Respectable showing against Georgia, but Mizzou was embarrassed by South Carolina. The athleticism of the Carolina defensive line controlled the dual threat element from James Franklin and with the back seven sitting back in coverage nothing was open in the passing game. The offense ground to a halt, and the defense lived up to all of the Big XII stereotypes, somehow allowing 20 straight completions to the usually inept South Carolina passing game. On the upside, few things can cure football ills quite like drawing Central Florida and Vanderbilt, which follow in the next two weeks. Shame that Sheldon Richardson popped off at the mouth before Georgia, because those comments have taken attention away from what has been strong play on his part this season.
South Carolina: Arguably one of the better performances in the Spurrier era in Columbia. Connor Shaw was outstanding, and the offense had a big day despite Marcus Lattimore averaging only four yards per attempt. LSU defensive line gets all of the credit for athleticism, but this South Carolina unit can legitimately be mentioned in the same breath. Losing safety D.J. Swearinger didn't hurt a bit, and Spurrier gets to knock around Kentucky this upcoming weekend in preparation for season-defining games against Georgia and LSU in the first two weeks of October. Kind of like old Florida times for the Ol' Ball Coach, isn't it?
Tennessee: Tyler Bray throws for 400+ yards and four touchdowns, Rajion Neal runs for 150+ yards, and yet the Vols cling to only a 30-26 lead over Akron in the fourth quarter? That alone ought to tell you quite a bit about what this team has defensively, though red zone issues and turnovers played a role too. Depth wore down the Zips in the fourth quarter, but not the prettiest of showings. Season-ending knee injury to safety Brian Randolph looks like a big concern. Even per the announced attendance, there were 21,000 empty seats in Neyland Stadium. Another big opportunity this weekend for Dooley against Georgia.
Texas A&M: With a 49-7 halftime lead over South Carolina State, A&M basically played the scout team in the second half on the way to putting up 70. Johnny Manziel and the passing game had a strong showing, but it largely means nothing given the opponent. Tailback Christine Michael is apparently still in the doghouse of Kevin Sumlin. This team really need to take advantage of Arkansas coming to College Station this weekend. Don't know how badly Aggie Syndrome will doom their efforts down the stretch, but if you look at the remaining eight opponents on the schedule there are a lot of winnable games for this team.
Vanderbilt: 48-3 loss to Georgia? Now that is the Vandy football we all know and love. Actually a respectable showing for the offense against what should be a strong Georgia defense, but terrible field position all night meant those yards generally didn't result in any points. Defense was just downright atrocious.