Alabama - Mississippi State:
- This game was much more pro-Bama than people want to admit.
- Mississippi State returned one of four punts for -15 yards.
- Statistically, fumble recoveries are perhaps the most random event in football. There's no way to predict it, no way to prepare for it, and no way to be particularly good at it. We are actually on track to fumble less this year than last year; it's just that our opponents are recovering our fumbles at 2x the rate.
This game wasn't really all that out of line with some of our more "dominant" games:
- Tennessee stat line: 30 rushes, 181 yards (6.03 yds/carry). 19/28 passing, 275 yards (9.8 per/attempt), 26 first downs
- Miss. St. stat line: 33 rushes, 196 yards (5.8 yds/carry). 18/32 passing, 187 yards (5.8 per/attempt), 20 first downs
- We rushed for right around the same yardage per carry on the same number of carries, and completed one fewer pass on four more attempts, though the yardage was notably lower. We actually held Miss. St. to 125 yards fewer than Tennessee, as well.
- The primary difference was that we were -4 in the turnover margin compared to the Tennessee game (-3 vs MSU, +1 vs UT). You score on those 4 missing drives, and you can account for the 25 point difference.
This all comes back to my point that the advantage of the Saban system is limiting the "variance" in your output. Negative plays have a tremendous impact on your performance as a football team. If you run a system like Alabama that is pro-style and limits turnovers while consistently gaining yardage on the ground, the chances of a "disaster game" are pretty low. Saban understands that winning championships is all about consistency. He also understands that being consistent in yardage gained and allowed is worthless if you don't consistently hold on to the ball. A drive to the TAMU 1 and a fumble is worth nothing; but if you hold on to the ball and get one more yard, it's worth 7 points.
These are all the games in the Saban era with a -2 turnover margin or higher:
-2013 Mississippi State (-3) W
-2012 LSU (-2) W
-2012 Texas A&M (-3) L
-2011 Kent St (-4) W
-2011 North Texas (-2) W
-2010 Duke (-2) W
-2010 LSU (-2) L
-2009 South Carolina (-2) W
-2008 Utah (-2) L
-2007 Louisiana Monroe (-3) L
Our wins have all come against terrible teams (Duke, NT, KS, Miss St), a Heisman performance (USC), or a miracle last-second score (LSU). The list also unsurprisingly includes perhaps our two most painful losses of the era (ULM and Utah). We're only 6-4 when (-2) in turnovers, and only 2-2 when (-3) or higher.
Miss St vs. Arkansas
I bring back up that SEC teams are 2-15 against SEC teams following a Bama loss in recent years. Mississippi State may well go down to Arkansas this week.
The 2010 Florida recruiting class was the highest rated class of all time according to many services. They are the redshirt juniors and seniors on this Florida team. Florida is 4-5.
- Still, there were people last week saying that Mississippi State would beat Florida by 2 touchdowns. I thought that was probably silly, and feel pretty justified in that now. Again, Mississippi State's offense was as ineffective as they come against us, and Florida's defense at least puts up a fight on a regular basis.
LSU vs. Texas A&M
LSU vs. Texas A&M is a pretty fascinating matchup. LSU can't stop the pass, TAMU can't stop the run. Both teams are coming off a bye. Here's my guess: LSU will win this if Miles can get out of his own way. He has always had a tendency to air it out when he shouldn't, and this is a week where they can't afford 2 dumb interceptions. It's just like the Bama game, if TAMU can't limit Hill to less yards/touch than the rest of LSU's team, LSU will win.
Vandy vs. Tennessee
Vanderbilt has secured their bowl berth, Tennessee hasn't. Since Vanderbilt has had improved quarterback play recently, I expect it to stay that way. However, it's an interesting note that every Tennessee loss to date came against a ranked team.
Auburn vs. Georgia
There isn’t a whole lot more to say about Auburn vs. Georgia that hasn’t already been said. Georgia came out very flat in that game, and their lack of scoring in the first and third quarters really, really hurt them. Also, Grantham’s defense was shockingly unprepared for the game. The Georgia linebackers routinely followed the DE around the edge, with no sense of individual responsibilities or gap management. With all that said, when Auburn had 4th and 18 with 25 seconds left in the game I thought I’d made the right pick. I really believe there’s no way to confidently predict who will actually win straight up any time a game is within a score, and that’s a big reason why I don’t bet.
Possible SEC Championship Matchups:
Missouri's tall, fast receivers scare me. South Carolina does not. Missouri has struggled mightily against the pass (114th nationally), but has benefitted from the lack of passing offenses in the East. Ole Miss (19th) ranks right behind UGA (16th) as the 2nd best passing offense they will have faced, though Ole Miss isn't crippled. Texas A&M (6th) is unsurprisingly far and away the best they will have faced, though I question whether TAMU will be able to keep Missouri's well-coached system offense from scoring every drive. In the end, I figure Missouri is probably going to drop one at this point, and we face South Carolina. Thanks Auburn? Their defeat of UGA broke a 3-way tie and made this happen.
Regardless, we're in a pretty good spot for who we play in the SECCG. Missouri would face us coming off TAMU, and USC would be coming off a nasty game against Clemson. Missouri is again the tougher matchup in my opinion, but just like us their last game would be an all-or-nothing SECCG bid.
Around the Nation:
Cincinnati's has an 8-2 record, and their 9 FBS opponents have a combined 14 wins against FBS teams.
- That's 1.5 wins per opponent.
Penn State has alternated W/L/W/L/W/L/W/L/W since the second week of the season. This is an "L" week, so bet accordingly for Nebraska.
The West coast media is going to really be rooting for UCLA to beat Arizona State this weekend. A UCLA win sets up a big matchup in the final weekend against USC between the two LA teams with the Pac-12 title berth on the line. Unfortunately, I still hold to my prediction that Arizona State is the class of the Pac-12 South and takes the title with a win against UCLA Saturday.
USC vs. Stanford
- From last week: "I think Stanford's "physicality" may get exposed against a USC team that is bigger and stronger than they are."
- Again, Stanford really isn't a very good team. The thing I most dreaded about this is that now we're hearing about how great Coach O is. While it'll make me happy if they screw up and hire him, he isn't responsible for that win. Stanford beat Oregon because they held their gaps well and played their assignments to the ball. Also, Oregon isn't built defensively to be run at every play. USC is a pro-style team and just out-athleted them.
- If USC or Stanford tried to play this style of football against Bama or FSU, they would be laughably out-classed.
- I also can't help but feel the hiring of Coach O may be more bad than good. Yes, they've improved, but there's nothing special about beating Arizona, Utah, Oregon State, or Cal. Beating Stanford was gutsy, but the defense made it happen, and they were doing just fine under Kiffin. Now there's a real danger that Orgeron won't give up the spot without a fight, and the players and recruits might never buy into the next guy they hire.
- And there isn't a single thought in my mind that Orgeron is a good long-term choice as a head coach. He went 3-8, 4-8, and 3-9 as the head coach at Ole Miss. They weren't just bad, they were a complete and utter disaster. The team played tough, just like USC now, but they were poorly organized, poorly coached, and the program was poorly structured. Not only did they lose repeatedly, they also embarrassed the program off the field when 20 players were caught stealing from the team hotel.
- Ironically, it was a 4th down "gutsy" call like the one he made against Stanford that cost him the Ole Miss job when he lost to Mississippi State. This one just happened to work.
Baylor's game should be interesting this weekend:
-They will be out their top WR, possibly top 2 RBs, and LT
-However, Oklahoma State hasn't played a single currently ranked team, and their loss came against a bad West Virginia team. OSU's best win is probably this past week's Texas game.
-Granted, the only other currently ranked team in the Big 12 is Oklahoma, so that kind of limits things.
-The two teams have actually performed pretty similarly in recent weeks.
-Something to keep an eye on through the rest of the season: Baylor is currently 60 yards/game ahead of the NCAA record for total offense.
Duke is playing surprisingly good football, primarily by playing great offense. The ACC probably also just sucks that bad. Duke should finish the season without a single ranked team on their entire schedule.
Maybe Cammy Cam Wasn't So Bad:
I remember when everyone in this state was railing on Cam based on a lot of kind of crazy accusations about how his dad had funneled money for his church and so forth. Well, there's just as much smoke around the Winston situation, yet people are a lot more hesitant to rail on him. I think a lot of it has to do with people being more willing to accept that Cam took money than that Winston is a rapist. Personally, I'll take the guy who potentially cheated over the potential rapist any day. And if you find it startling to hear Winston called a rapist, you need to stop and realize how serious these allegations are. He's either the victim of a terrible lie, or he's going to serve mandatory prison time and live his life as a registered sex offender.