The Halfway Point Approacheth

Well well, it looks like college football is back in session. After two so-so weeks of play, last Saturday was a welcome return to greatness. The rest of the season doesn’t look much different. Thank goodness.

West Virginia posted a 14-7 halftime lead on Mississippi State. Even though they took off in the second half, I’m still not impressed by their slow starts every week against so-so to awful teams. Florida State lost again, this time to NCState. I wonder how bad their record will look at the end of the year and if it will be bad enough to get Jeff Bowden fired. Here’s a fun statistic: Miami and FSU are both unranked for the first time since 1982. Yikes.

Georgia Tech needed a little fourth-quarter magic to beat Maryland, who beat William and Mary, Middle Tennessee State, and Florida International by a combined margin of 31. Since this was Tech’s only shaky performance of the season, I’ll cut them some slack. I’m looking forward to next week’s game against Clemson, which could possibly be a preview of the ACC Championship game. You know the ACC is different when Florida State, Miami, and Virginia Tech are on the outside track to the championship. The conference has flipflopped almost as much as John Kerry.

USC barely held off a Washington drive that would have ended their undefeated hopes. It probably doesn’t matter, because I doubt they will make it through their four-game season-ending stretch unscathed. The Trojans host Oregon, California, and Notre Dame before heading to UCLA. By now, it’s pretty obvious thatUSC is missing Leinhart and Bush, two NFL rookie superstars. Considering USC’s performances over the past few weeks, I’m amazed they are still ranked #2/#3. Michigan, Florida, and Texas all look pretty good in comparison.

Tennessee and Georgia outscored California and Oregon 84-69. I’m not sure if this means that SEC defenses are getting worse or their offenses are getting better. More likely, it means rampant turnovers equal points. (By the way, I’m 1-0 on my Georgia loss predictions. One down, three to go.) Florida dominated LSU 23-10 in a game that looked a lot more lopsided than the score. The Swamp has definitely regained its Spurrier-level intensity. I’m looking forward to going to Gainesville next fall to see the Tigers take on the Gators.

While Florida is probably my favorite challenger to Ohio State, I no longer count (and should not have counted for some weeks now) Auburn among that elite list. The Tigers gave up 257 rushing yards last Saturday. Arkansas isn’t anemic when running the ball, but dang! Just when I was beginning to think our secondary was weak, our defensive line caught my eye instead. Huge gaps in the line. Huge. What makes things worse is that Arkansas ran the ball on 36 of their last 38 plays, so it’s not like we didn’t know it was coming.

Even more embarrassing, Auburn only managed 95 yards on the ground, if you don’t count the five sacks for 35 yards. Those five sacks remind me that our offensive line didn’t look very good, either. Neither did our receiving corps, whose inexperience left Cox with little to do but wait in the pocket for Arkansas’ D-line to push him over. Even Kody Bliss had an off day; one of his punts travelled only 19 yards. I hate to say it, but John Vaughn was the only one who did his job (when Tuberville decided to kick a field goal rather than go for it on fourth and five).

Now that I’ve lamented last week’s loss, it’s time for me to offer an unrealistically optimistic picture of Auburn’s (laughable) national championship and SEC championship hopes. First, Auburn has to go undefeated. As bad as Auburn looked against Arkansas, there is still a chance that they can pull it off. Doing so would mean that they would pass Florida in the polls. Ohio State plays Michigan, USC plays Notre Dame, and West Virginia plays Louisville, so at least three of those six teams will drop below Auburn by the end of the season.

Texas will probably make it through the rest of their schedule undefeated, but Tennessee could lose to Alabama, at South Carolina, LSU, or at Arkansas. I’m not even going to check how close all of those things combined would get Auburn to a title game bid, but my guess is not close enough. To win the SEC West, Auburn needs Arkansas to lose two SEC games. The Razorbacks get three weeks off (essentially), then go to South Carolina before hosting Tennessee and LSU. My fingers are crossed, but after Alabama/Arkansas’ failure to topple LSU for us last season, I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up too much. (Side note: I bet this post looks pretty stupid in January.)

GameDay is coming to Auburn this Saturday, which is pretty exciting, even with the lessened hype. Some friends and I are tossing around the idea of spelling out “OVERRATED” across our chests in reference to Auburn’s collapse on the 7th. At the very least, I’ll be sporting a paper bag with “10-27” painted across the forehead. I’m wondering how much grief I’ll get from fellow Tiger fans, or how much TV time I’ll garner. Look for me and my pals (or, more likely, just me) on ESPN from 10-12 PM and 6:45-9:45 PM Eastern Time.

The first BCS standings come out after next weekend. The race to the finish is almost here. The halfway point approacheth. (I apologize for the John Kerry joke in the third paragraph. It was pretty lame.)

3 thoughts on “The Halfway Point Approacheth

  1. asimperson

    4th quarter magic indeed – in fairness to UMD, they looked sharp, but the Fridge had a week off. He’s still a good offensive mind, but he can’t recruit and lacks the tools.

    Unlike past seasons, we recovered from our big loss after a big win syndrome and took care of business, even if it took awhile. The off week is desperately needed, though, before we hit the road for the most of the rest of our remaining schedule (@Clemson, Miami, @NCSU, @UNC, Duke, @UGA). We have a real chance to run the slate on the rest of our ACC schedule…though just beating Miami should be sufficient to seal the deal (becuase then we’re 2-0 against VPI and UM).

    Sometime this week, probably after I get back to Madtown (fall break this weekend) I’ll write a half-way synopsis of what we’ve managed to do this year. As a preview, the biggest fact is our offense – in past years, our offense lacked the ability to really fight back from a deficit. We’re averaging nearly 10 points per game better than we did in the past, while basically playing playing the same amount of good defense (we gave up 33 to VPI, but the result wasn’t that close).

    I think some teams in the SEC have decent offenses, namely UT and UF. I am a bit perplexed by your statement that UGA played Oregon, though – that would require UGA to actually travel somewhere outside of the southeast for an out-of-conference game, which almost never happens.

    I think Cal has figured out offense again and has a fair chance to beat a USC team that seems to have forgotten offense since they put 50 up at Arkansas.

  2. Tito

    I meant Tennessee and Georgia combined for more points than California and Oregon. SEC matchups typically don’t outscore the Pac-10, so I thought it was somewhat surprising. I guess the wording wasn’t very clear.

  3. asimperson

    Ah, well, that is true…in fact, quite surprising now that I think about it.

    Especially since UGA has been billed elsewhere as having a “great defense” (since great defenses allow the other team to come back and score 37 points on you in the second half).

    Maybe it’s just the law of averages kicking in to balance out the averages for SEC games after that 7-3 AU-LSU game. 😉

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