Because my blogging has been so sluggish this week, I post an abbreviated SEC Preview, where games of no particular interest to us are excluded. This has just not been a good week for blogging. With the bad loss to start the week, and somewhat increased work responsibilities, and Mrs. ATVS feeling under the weather most of the week, time/motivation to write has been at an all-time low. We'll pick back up. I promise.
Auburn @ Ole Miss, 11:30am Central, Raycom
Two 4-4 teams battle in the morning for the right to breathe a sign of relief about becoming bowl-eligible. Both of these teams have an easy win coming up soon, and a win here virtually assures at least a six-win season. Auburn, in particular, would be sweating a loss, as they get Tennessee-Martin and then highly-ranked Georgia and Alabama to close out the regular season. If Ole Miss wins, Auburn can't reasonably expect a 6 win season, though upsets do happen.
A six win season, in this strange year in the SEC, almost certainly clinches a bowl game. Not a good bowl game, mind you, but something. And it's always better to play in a crappy bowl game than not to play in one at all.
What to watch for? Both of these teams are disappointing this season. Auburn moreso, obviously, but I really thought Ole Miss would be better. Granted, they've been competitive in every game they've played, but sometimes you have to win these games. The win over Florida early in the year truly looks like an outlier now, with Florida tearing it up and Ole Miss scoring the rest of its wins against Memphis, Samford, and Arkansas.
Is one of these teams going to give up? Has one of them done so already?
Kentucky @ Mississippi State, 2:00pm, no television
This matchup last year was one of the more exciting games of the season. Sylvester Croom's guys used their standard formula to win. Get turnovers. Run the ball. Frustrate the opponent. Get some luck. Win. They rode that formula all the way to an 8-win season.
As more than one person has pointed out, the formula wasn't sustainable. Still, a win here by the Bulldogs and a bowl game is still a possibility. Not a likelihood, mind you, but a possibility. Winnable games against Ole Miss and Arkansas remain.
Kentucky is trying to reach bowl eligibility for the 3rd straight year. Neither side has a competent offense, but both have good defenses. Expect little scoring. Expect also not to be watching because it's not on television.
Florida @ Georgia, 2:30pm, CBS
In a week where there are a bunch of average teams jockeying for the right to go to a bowl game, any bowl game, we actually have two heavyweights going at it in what is clearly the game of the day, and one of the marquee games of the season in the SEC.
These two teams sit tied atop the Eastern Division. The winner has an excellent shot at running the table on the regular season the rest of the way. In essence, this appears to be a one-game playoff for the Eastern Division's spot in the SEC Championship Game. The winner also still has a decent shot at a spot in the BCS National Championship Game if they get a little help and can win the SEC.
I don't really know what to expect here. Both of these are fine teams, but I think Florida has probably been a little better over the course of the season. They have a ton of weapons on offense, where Georgia relies heavily on only a few. I'll be rooting for Georgia, but I really expect an outstanding game here. If you're looking for a matchup, let's see how Georgia's quick linebackers match up with Florida's lightning fast running backs.
Tennessee @ South Carolina, 6:00pm ESPN2
This is not exactly an exciting matchup, but it's on television. Plus, I actually believe Tennessee still has an outside shot at getting to a bowl game. Perhaps even a decent bowl game. Yes, I know they are 3-5 right now, and their coach is probably going to get fired.
Their remaining schedule has no killers on it. South Carolina is decent, but there isn't a team in the SEC that is incapable of beating them on a good night. After that, they get 2-6 Wyoming. After that, it's Vandy. Vandy has lost their last 3 games, and the magic looks like it might be over. They close the season with Kentucky, who is another very mediocre team in this conference.
Yes, I know Tennessee can't play offense, but neither can South Carolina, Vandy, or Kentucky. I'm not saying Tennessee definitely will make it to a bowl game, but I am saying it's not inconceivable (or even that far-fetched) that Tennessee could win out from this point on. If they do, they could possibly make it to the OUTBACK bowl. I know it sounds preposterous considering the terrible performance so far, but let's look at it a little more closely.
They've only lost to one team that was unranked at the time. That was UCLA, and they dramatically outplayed UCLA for most of that game, only to lose it at the end. They've been somewhat competitive in every game except Florida (who has blown out more than one team this year, thank you very much) and Bama (another very good team). They lost to Auburn, and right now that looks pretty bad, but they were competitive. They just couldn't move the ball. After that, they only have a relatively close loss to a good Georgia team, and that's it.
They can win these games, if they get just a little bit better and avoid the kind of collapse that often comes with a season on the brink and a coach on the verge of being fired.
Tulane @ LSU, 7:00pm, Tigervision and ESPN360.com
I really want to see some young players put out there while the game in still on the line. In particular, I'd like to see Ryan Baker and Karnell Hatcher, both of whom have been outstanding when they've gotten on the field. Baker has only been in on special teams unless the game has been out of reach, but Hatcher has filled in well for Curtis Taylor when he was banged up. And how about Shomari Clemons? Could he get a shot at linebacker?
Really, I think we need a change of defensive philosophy after this season. The excuse I always hear for not playing young players is that they don't know all the responsibilities and they miss assignments. Well, by my observations, the veterans miss a lot of assignments too. Maybe the schemes are just too complicated for college. You see other teams plug in young players all the time without disaster striking. Granted, whenever you play a true freshmen, you expect mistakes, but people are saying that they can't move Chad Jones to safety yet because he doesn't understand all the assignments.
If that's true, then we have a problem with our defensive strategy. If a sophomore can't be trusted because he hasn't learned the defense yet, either the sophomore isn't cut out for it or the system is too sophisticated. When your defense is so hard that you need to be a 3rd year player or beyond in order to fully grasp it, you are too limited in the players you can put on the field, and you're not getting your best 11 out there. If Athlete A is a better player than Athlete B, but Athlete B is forced to play over A because he's the only one who understands all the nuances of the position, you're probably not putting your best out there, and you need to simplify the schemes enough so that Athlete A, the better player, can get out there.
Otherwise your "open competition for positions" becomes illusory because only 20 or so players on the team actually know the system well enough to be seriously considered for starters' minutes. If you simplify things, maybe you can increase that number to 30 and get a couple better athletes out there.
In any event, I think right now our defense is constituted of players that are too big and slow to have success in this league. I like Tyson Jackson a lot, and I think his play this year has been very good, but other than that pretty much all of our starting defensive linemen, linebackers, and safeties have been a step too slow at times.
I hope next year we make some moves to increase the speed and quickness on the field when we're on defense. Let's start experimenting with new players now.