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Weekend Carnage Report


Boom goes the Weekend Carnage Report

If OTP were a train, our actual real life function and existence Monday totally derailed the high hopes and expectations of the morning and afternoon. Post victory hangover? Perhaps. And while I wish we had all day to celebrate and mock since we have victory numero uno, part of me falls along the “Act Like You’ve Been There Before” line. We have been here before… 12 times last season to be exact, but for whatever reason, this win, this 29-27 eeking out over Eastern Michigan just tastes a lot sweeter than many of the wins last season.

Perhaps that’s because this one was unknown. Perhaps because this one silenced more critics, both internal and external, than any victory last season. Perhaps it was because of the record breaking day on the ground. It really is hard to say why I feel the way I do, because the game was far from perfect. The defense played deplorable at times, outstanding at others. As good as the running game was with Quale Lewis and Cory Sykes going for over 500 yards, the passing defense was just as bad… going for 1 yard. Singular. Not good. The special teams were far from special, as an extra point and a field goal were both blocked, and EMU was able to have favorable field position thanks to shoddy kick coverage most of the time.

The injury bug? He’s back again, this time claiming Eric Williams, the promising young tailback who at times this season has been the most exciting player on the field offensively for the Cardinals. No official word from BSU, but Williams has alerted us it’s an MCL sprain.

Any other time, a victory over a winless, hapless, severely overmatched squad like Eastern Michigan wouldn’t be cause for excessive celebration, but this time is different. The monkey is off the back of Stan Parrish and the team… finally.

The rest of the weekend…

The Good

  • Iowa: Their wins have been far from sexy, but the Hawkeyes continue to roll them up. Only a handful of teams in each of the major conferences control their own destiny any longer for a conference title, and Iowa is one of those lucky few. A win at Ohio State on 11/14 and avoiding trap games against Indiana and Illinois locks the Hawkeyes in for the conference crown and the BCS payday.
  • Cincinnati: The Bearcats are also in the control your own destiny camp, and took most of the country by surprise. Cynics will point to the lack of major opponents, but supporters can just as easily point to what Cincy has been able to do to those not so impressive teams. The area of largest concern heading into the season, the defense, has been more than impressive for the Bearcats.
  • TCU: After dismantling BYU at BYU this weekend, the Horned Frogs are making a serious case that it should be them, and not Boise State as the top ranked non-automatic qualifier. TCU’s performance on Saturday was dominant and one-sided, which is what they’ll need to keep doing to have a shot at the big dollar Bowls.

The Bad

  • North Carolina: After squandering a second half lead to Florida State and dropping their 3rd ACC contest of the season, the Tar Heels, whom many predicted to contend for the ACC find themselves in a virtual must win this Thursday at Virginia Tech to save face and try to go Bowling.
  • Kansas: The Jayhawks had the opportunity to plant their flag in the Big 12 North race with a win over a depleted and somewhat weakened Oklahoma team. After their loss, the Jayhawks now find themselves in a perilous position with the meat of their schedule upon them.
  • Rice/Miami (OH)/Eastern Michigan/Western Kentucky/New Mexico: All still winless after 8 weeks of action.

The Ugly

  • Alabama: Needed a blocked field goal in the final seconds to ensure a victory over Tennessee. It certainly raises some questions about which team in this contest was wrongly valued by the pundits and pollsters. My gut says Tennessee just plays big against big time opponents, and I hope my worst case fears that the Kiffin system actually works are not realized.
  • Auburn: LSU delivered the Tigers’ third straight loss. Auburn was a team being lauded mere weeks ago as a potential SEC West darkhorse. After Arkansas, Kentucky, and LSU, Auburn is falling back to Earth and quickly.
  • SEC Officials: No one had taken more heat leading up to Saturday’s action than the official crews in the Southeastern Conference. After yet another gameday across the south dictated by shoddy calls and blatant incorrect review decisions, there are some major questions being raised. All totally valid and worth exploring, but truly unfortunate that the country’s best conference, who happens to find themselves under the biggest microscope, is missing call after call after call.

OTP Helmet Stickers
From Alan

  • MiQuale Lewis/Cory Sykes, RBs, Ball State: In the win over Eastern Michigan, the Cardinal backfield rushed for over 500 yards. That’s more than most teams gain on the ground in two games. Hapless opponent? Of course. Any reason to not celebrate their accomplishment? Nope.

Rich Brooks’ SEC Teleconference

sec_logo1Another week, another Wednesday, another SEC Teleconference with Coach Rich Brooks. Today’s commentary:

  • General Commentary: “We had a much needed win on the road last week. We’re going into a very difficult game this weekend [against ULM]. Like us, they lost their starting QB, but they’ve had extra preparation time. I’m not sure what we’re going to get offensively from them. We continue to have problems with injuries as Derrick Locke hasn’t been able to practice at all this week with a sprained MCL. The flu bug has hit us a little bit. Taiedo Smith has not practiced and is questionable. Moncell Allen has not practiced either. We need to show up and play an outstanding game. Our inexperience at QB needs to grow up very fast.”
  • On how they slowed Auburn down: “We were very nervous going in since they were leading the league in offense. Our front group did a really good job with gap control. We didn’t bite on the misdirection, and while we didn’t get a lot of pressure on the QB up front, our coverage was excellent. It also wasn’t a great night to throw the ball. Very cold and very windy. We also didn’t give up any big plays, and they’ve been able to do that on almost everyone they’ve played.”
  • On how key the linebackers were against Auburn: “Auburn can get you with some misdirection. Our linebackers were the key to the victory. Micah Johnson had 14 tackles, Danny Trevathan had 14, Sam Maxwell had 10. The defensive line did a good job of plugging the gaps and keeping their lineman off the second level so the linebackers were free to make the tackle.”
  • On how he would rank the Auburn win: “I think we’ve had a lot of significant wins here and this one falls in that category. From where we were coming off of three tough losses, and without our starting QB, without our best corner, to go on the road and get a win against a team like Auburn at Auburn has to rank up near the top of the wins since I’ve been here for the circumstances. The significance will only be meaningful if we continue to win and build off it.”
  • On how the locker room was after the Auburn win: “Everyone was happy because the locker room and the trip home from South Carolina was very painful. It was great to see the young men get rewarded for making the effort and playing a great game.”
  • On why the triple option went away in college football and now has caught on again: “It has caught on again, but most are doing it from the spread and the shotgun. The fans didn’t like it years ago because there wasn’t enough passing and it wasn’t exciting. A lot of the fans, particularly on the west coast wanted to see the ball thrown some more. Some changes take place because teams stop it, others because the fans don’t like it. It’s always been difficult to stop though, and it obviously still is.”
  • On the benefit of Randall Cobb after the injury to a starting QB: “Randall is the ultimate playmaker and leader. He’s as exciting a football player as I’ve ever been around. He’s put it on his shoulders to sort of carry us in the 4th quarter. He’s the ultimate football player to me. He’s an exciting football player as well. He means an awful lot to what we’re getting done right now and what we’re hoping to get done moving forward.

Normally we give fun little blurbs on the rest of the coaches, but for the most part, there was nothing of real note. Perhaps it just seemed down because of the firestorm over the last couple weeks about Tebow, Twitter, etc. but for the most part it was a very status quo sort of conference call. Several coaches wrapped significantly early, and more than just Bobby Johnson had very few questions.

The only real note was the sidestepping from Bobby Petrino ducking question after question about the SEC officials and their nice gift wrapping skills and/or Florida favoritism. Petrino shot most of those down with a no comment, and said it was best to ask the league office. Something tells me that’s going to get a pretty resounding no comment as well.

Weekend Carnage Report

Kiffin throws a signature win on the resume with Saturday's Georgia upset. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Kiffin throws a signature win on the resume with Saturday's Georgia upset. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

This weekend was clearly the media’s dream sort of day. Two top 5 schools facing off in Florida-LSU, the return of Sam Bradford, the Michigan-Iowa game garnering national attention because of the early season upsets provided by both. Has has been the case the last three weekends, both our Ball State Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats walked into Sunday with another loss, and another game that frustrates the fanbases, albeit for very different reasons.

For UK, a loss on the road in the SEC is certainly respectable, especially considering it was against a Top 25 team, QB Mike Hartline’s injury resulted in him missing a majority of the 2nd half, and Steve Spurrier was roaming the sidelines for the Gamecocks… a coach UK has never beaten. Despite all that, Kentucky was still in it till the bitter bloody end. One of these days those sort of games that Kentucky seems to always find a way to lose will go UK’s way. I simply hope I’m alive to see it. Now the Cats find themselves facing off against a team that we’ve already covered once this season… the Auburn Tigers. Injuries are numerous, hope is little, but stranger things have happened.

The Ball State Cardinals continued to find new and impressive ways of losing games this season, this time shooting themselves in the foot with penalties, poor special teams, and more turnovers than is either acceptable or overcome-able. The fanbase is on edge, there are people calling for the ousting of head coach Stan Parrish, and unlike recent weeks, there isn’t a lot of positives to take away from this one. Do I think this all blows over? Hard to say. A victory would go a long way in righting the ship for Parrish, but just one is unfortunately not enough. With another loss this season, the Cardinals are guaranteed a losing record, and that isn’t sitting well with a fanbase that grew exponentially with last season’s 12-0 perfection.

Off we go for the weekend…

The Good

  • Florida/Tim Tebow: Tebow was far from dominating, and the Gators didn’t blow anyone out, but watching the #1 ranked team’s defense on Saturday against LSU certainly made me feel better about UK’s struggling against them two weeks ago. I have rarely seen a defense as good as theirs, and Tebow playing the way he did considering the circumstances was admirable, impressive, and worthy of the celebration and adulation he receives week in and week out.
  • Oklahoma/Sam Bradford: Yes, it was against Baylor, a team the Sooners should beat. But watching a star player return to form after a potentially serious injury is a great thing for the sport. Bradford certainly looked back to form, but the real test for his readiness is next weekend versus the Longhorns.
  • Virginia Tech: Holy woodshed, Batman. After putzing around with Duke last week, the Hokies laid a beating on Boston College from minute one. VT is getting very little attention compared to Florida, Texas, or even Alabama, but they are very much capable of running the schedule and making some noise at the national title table.

The Bad

  • Ole Miss: Heading into 2009, most thought Saturday’s game against Alabama would be essentially an early season elimination game for the SEC West. No one expected it to be Ole Miss’ second conference loss, and the game that would plummet them off of any Top 25 ballot they were on. Ole Miss fans were hoping that this was the year that the Rebs would prove the naysayers wrong, but it appears once again, that the cynical bloggers who had Ole Miss pegged as a fraud were right.
  • Penn State’s Schedule: Eastern Illinois? In middle October? As if the MAC schedule that Penn State played to start the season could get any softer. Kudos to teams like Oklahoma and USC for playing non-conference games of note. Shame, shame, shame to Penn State for loading their win totals up with cupcakes and softies.
  • Auburn/Wisconsin: Two teams who sat at undefeated and were just barely sniffing the Top 25 and now no longer need to play the “lack of respect” card since they proved they belong nowhere near a Top 25 ballot. Wisconsin’s loss, on the road to Ohio State was at least respectable. Auburn, on the other hand, was on the road and a complete and utter disaster.

The Ugly

  • TCU: The Horned Frogs, the second most respected non-automatic qualifier this season outside of Boise, needed to recover a late onside kick to hold off a surging Air Force squad. Hostile environment? On the road? Sure. But that’s a game that most, including me, expected TCU to roll through. Perhaps that high ranking is not so deserved after all.
  • Georgia Tech: Anyone who thought Paul Johnson’s offense was incapable of scoring points needs to look at Saturday’s Florida State contest and their 49 points and 401 rushing yards. What made this one ugly? The 44 points surrendered and 539 yards to a Florida State team hardly dominant or impressive this season.
  • Texas: Another game, another example of Texas going through the motions early, allowing a team to hang around longer than it should, and relying on the large talent gap to eventually take over. That won’t bode so well for them next week against Oklahoma, a team that is looking to make a national splash and has just as good, if not better, talent on the roster.

OTP Helmet Stickers
From Alan

  • Freddie Barnes, WR, Bowling Green: 22 receptions, 278 yards, and 3 TDs in the Falcons’ win over Kent. This does not bode well for the Ball State defense next weekend.
  • Jonathon Crompton, QB, Tennessee: 20-27, 310 yds, 4 TDS in a victory over Georgia. As much as it pains me to write that and as surprising as it is considering how this season started for Crompton, Saturday, he was dominant in the Vols’ upset win of Georgia. Granted, this isn’t the Georgia team of years past, but still…
  • Lee Campbell, LB, Minnesota: In the win over Purdue, Campbell certainly earned himself the game ball, blocking a field goal returned for a touchdown, intercepting a pass, and making 11 tackles, 1.5 for loss.

Unscientific Preview: Alabama

KentuckyHelmet Alabama

Kentucky vs. Alabama

Gametime: 12:21 (Palindrome! BOOYAH!)
Location: Lexington, KY
Television: ESPN360.com, many of the local markets

I know it’s been a while since we’ve rocked out an Unscientific Preview. Frankly, I’m surprised that the football team, the fanbase, and the SEC even carried on without. Blame it on the fact that the first few games this season were far from noteworthy, with the exception of Louisville… who didn’t even deserve this sort of treatment. This week, much like last week, the Cats face a Top 5 opponent who is skilled, talented, and has their eyes on an SEC title and accompanying BCS payday. Getting your teeth kicked in week in and week out is sort of the defining characteristic of the SEC… welcome to the party.

Bama is one of those teams that has tradition and mystique unlike a lot of other programs. But in Notre Dame style fashion, the Tide have had nothing of note to celebrate lately. Their last national championship? 1992. Their last SEC title? 1999. That’s 10 years without a conference title for the program that thinks they, and they alone, are the class of the SEC. Mostly because of their former coach Bear Bryant… who used to coach UK. Small world, Tide fans.

The college football universe has been perpetually gaga over the Tide for the last two seasons, most likely because Nick Saban is the man in charge in Tuscaloosa. His first two seasons led to bowls for the Tide, and recruiting classes universally lauded as some of the best in the nation. More on Satan… I mean Saban in a bit, though. Let’s get it on…

Alabama comes into Saturday’s contest as the #3 scoring offense in the conference (40.5 ppg) thanks largely to a 234 yard per game average rushing the ball. And these sorts of stats weren’t compiled against tomato can after tomato can from FCS or the Sun Belt. The Tide has played a decent schedule to this point, including their season opener against Virginia Tech. The Hokies were gashed for 268 on the ground, 150 of them coming by way of Mark Ingram. When the Tide decides to pass the ball, QB Greg McElroy is 4th in the conference in yards per game. He’s tops in the conference for passing accuracy at a shade under 70%, and has only 1 INT along with 7 TDs  and 938 yards. More a product of teams loading up to stop the run? Probably. But it works for the Tide and McElroy… and that’s what counts. Most notable for the Crimson Tide passing game is who McElroy throws to. Julio Jones, who generates the most buzz and internet chatter, isn’t their leading receiver. That honor belongs to Marquis Maze, who does have an extra game under his belt this season. Both receivers are threats, and should Kentucky choose to simply stack the box, they will make UK pay.

Offensively for the Cats, it’s a far cry this season from the Woodson years in Lexington, as the Cats are in the bottom third in nearly every offensive category. Scoring? 10th at 26.7 ppg. Passing? 9th at 171 ypg. Rushing? 8th at 166 ypg. Granted, those stats were skewed because 33% of the statistical evidence is being accumulated against a dominating Florida defense. But most fans will tell you outside of hapless Miami to start the season, this team has not looked offensively dominant. That isn’t to say it isn’t possible, though. The running game for Kentucky has the potential to keep the Cats in this game, as Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith offer a troublesome 1-2 punch capable of breaking out. Randall Cobb also provides a spark and playmaker for the UK offense capable at anytime of making a highlight reel sort of play. Ultimately though, those playmakers aside, the offensive prowess of this team rests squarely on the shoulders of Mike Hartline. Much maligned, but supported by his coaches, Hartline must will this team to win if they are to have a shot on Saturday.

Advantage: AlabamaAs much as it pains me to say this. The rushing game for Alabama is a bit better than UK’s, the passing game more advanced, and the Tide is facing a defense nowhere close to the D that UK is facing.

Oh defense… how you define teams’ identities. For Alabama, that’s certainly the case. The Crimson Tide come into Saturday’s game the #3 team in the conference for scoring defense (13 ppg), #1 against the rush (47 ypg), and #5 against the pass (155 ypg). Overall, the Tide is allowing just a shade over 202 yards per game… good for #1 overall in the entire SEC. Fabulous. So Kentucky’s potential strength… if you can call it that… is facing the best rushing defense in the conference? AWESOME! Other interesting fun facts… after the Tide’s season opener where they allowed 24 points, they’ve allowed a total of 28 points. In three games. The last two? 7 each. Personnel-wise, the Tide feature Marcell Dareus and Javier Arenas, #3 and #4 respectively in the SEC for sacks (3.5 & 3.0).

For Kentucky, they looked damn good in the season opener, pitching a shutout and allowing 188 total yards. Many fans, myself included, breathed a little easier knowing we had a defense capable of shutting a team down. Then Louisville happened… 27 points allowed and 378 yards surrendered to a team that many thought couldn’t fight their way out of a piss soaked paper sack. Let’s not even talk about the Florida game. The only defensive highlight was one particular hit. It certainly wasnt the nearly 500 yards surrendered or the 41 points… 31 of which came in quarter #1. Overall, the Cats are far from dominant, 10th in the conference in total defense (353.7 ypg), 6th against the pass (168 ypg), and 12th against the run (185 ypg). Yes, that’s right, dead last against the area of the game Alabama that excels the most. Stupendous.

Advantage: AlabamaAgain, this is more about who they are facing than the talent on the roster. While Alabama has standout defensive players, Kentucky has a few themselves, in Trevard Lindley, Micah Johnson, and DeQuin Evans. Can this Kentucky team play above what they’ve done so far this season? Of course. Will they? Doubtful, considering who they’re going up against.

Should you ask an Alabama fan, Nick Saban is the greatest thing since sliced bread. He has a 114–50–1 record in his NCAA career, has a national championship, and 2 SEC titles. Since coming to Bama, Saban has compiled a 23-8 record and one Sugar Bowl trip last year after losing the SEC Championship game. Saban was also the coach of LSU when they beat Kentucky in the “Bluegrass Miracle”. I contemplated embedding that video, but would rather jam bamboo toothpicks under my fingernails. For Coach Rich Brooks, his career at Kentucky has been slow moving but progress nonetheless. The Cats may still finish no better than 5th, but at least they don’t get beat by 70 anymore. Huzzah!

Advantage: AlabamaNational titles trump Bourbon bottles and F150 Signature Series trucks. Barely.

Famous Fanatic:
bear tattoo Crazy Bear Bryant tatoo guy. Classy.

ashleyjudd Beautiful, southern accent, and a Kentucky fan. Meet perfection.

Advantage: KentuckyHelmetAs if this even needed to be said. Though bonus points for the white face paint and the houndstooth hat for the tattoo guy.

Last season’s Alabama-Kentucky contest was a bit of a surprise to not only Alabama fans but the nation, as Kentucky hung with the Crimson Tide much longer than expected. The 17-14 margin was a jaw dropper, and most Kentucky fans felt that was a game Kentucky could have won despite the Tide’s high ranking and considerable talent gap. The last Wildcat win against Alabama came in 1997, in Lexington. The lone victory before then? 1922. Despite the 2-34-1 series record, despite the statistical dominance, despite the advantages Bama has on the roster, I fully expect UK to keep this one closer than many expect, and considering the way Florida handled the Cats last weekend, a close game, in my mind, is a great success.

Alabama 31
Kentucky 27

Rich Brooks & the SEC Teleconference

sec_logo1Coach Brooks’ comments on this week’s edition of the SEC Teleconference:

  • “Coming off of a pretty bad loss last weekend. We have a lot of work to do. Alabama is as good as Florida. We just have a lot of work to do. Offensively we weren’t able to generate any against Florida and Alabama’s defense is better than Florida is statistically.”
  • On Randall Cobb and being set at WR: “He’s one of our biggest playmakers. Florida had him double covered everywhere he went and he was still able to amke some catches. Good hands, good after the catch, explosive.”
  • On kickoff returns by Locke against Alabama: “Usually when you have some kickoff issues, which we have ourselves, that puts a lot of stress on coverage. Their coverage appears to be very good. Nothing schematically that we can take advantage of. Florida kicked our fanny on the kickoff return.”
  • On Mike Hartline and his play: “Played well the first two games, the last game not so well, nor did anyone around him. Product of the competition stepping up when you get into the SEC. He’s going to have to pick his game up, but so does everyone else. We need to block better, run better routes. He’s clearly a much better QB than he was a year ago.”
  • On the running backs and Bama’s rush defense: “We know we’re not going to run the ball down Alabama’s throat. Their too physical and too good. We have to have a running game, though, so we keep them honest. We haven’t had the ball enough in the last two games to produce the kind of stats and run progression that we’d like to have.”
  • On Bama’s blocking wide receivers on the opposing DBs: “You need all 11 guys to slow Alabama’s running game down. You look at all the big plays they had, those things don’t happen by accident. You have to have recievers blocking downfield for those things to happen. Our corners are not the most physical guys in the world. We need to step up and shed those blocks.”

Other Coaches Around the League…

  • Les Miles thinks the SEC from top to bottom is the toughest its been in recent memory. The question regarding Tim Tebow playing in the 3rd quarter was answered with an anecdote about how Bo Schembechler told him to “shut up” when Miles suggested to him to sub out some of the starters in a Wolverine win. According to Miles, “He told me ‘You leave ’em in and you fight like hell till the end.” Les Miles doesn’t Tweet, he Twits, or so he says. Verbage mistake? Of course. But funny all the same. Miles was asked about whether or not the coaching staffs should control the conduct of players off the field, specifically about Twitter, but Miles took it one step further in referencing “If they want to wear their blue jeans the way they want, or their hat to the side, then so be it. I’m not on the Facebook or Twitter very deep, but if I find it to be a problem representing this school, then I’ll get in there.” Watch yourself, LSU players… Les will be on the case.
  • Steve Spurrier had his usual our-opponent-is-a-great-one sort of theme go through his comments. The Gamecocks opponent this weekend? South Carolina State. When asked about lopsided games and playing the starters, Spurrier said it had been a while since he had that luxury. He referenced his philosophy that his second and third stringers would take their shots downfield and not let up.
  • Urban Meyer was “very pleased with a victory over a quality SEC opponent.” Meyer wasn’t really asked many things… oh wait… no… apparently someone got injured this past weekend. That Tebow character? Sigh. Question after question about Tebow’s runs, Tebow’s hits, Tebow’s injury. Blame the fact it’s a bye week, blame the fact that Tebow is clearly one of the best players in college football. Tebow is day to day, Urban is pleased, and hopefully he’ll be back.
  • Bobby Johnson was there. That’s about the best of it for him. Like almost every other week, very few questions, very little interest. Shame, really.
  • Lane Kiffin is excited about playing Auburn, an undefeated team that’s impressive. The Vols were hit hard by the injury bug, and it’s a big loss. When he was asked about Gus Mahlzan, he said Mahlzan does things that no one else has the guts to do. “It’s explosive and so hard to deal with. It’s like nothing we’ve… well… my dad… has ever seen before.”
  • Nick Saban, who Kentucky plays against on Saturday, gave credit to the Cats for being a worthy adversary. Said they had trouble moving the ball against the Cats last season, and they’re the first true two-back squad the Tide has faced all season. Mentioned Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb as explosive players and capable of making big plays. Said the Virginia Tech game in Atlanta is good preparation for playing on the road in the SEC. The players have to know they need to stay focused, stay disciplined, and keep their intensity when they’re on the road.
  • Bobby Petrino, and his team, are fired up to head to Dallas for a contest with Texas A&M. He’s optimistic about the ability to help out their recruiting in Texas, since that is “a needed area”.
  • Houston Nutt was surprisingly upbeat considering his team’s loss last Thursday. Nutt believes the SEC West to be the best division in football, not surprising considering there’s three teams in the top 5.
  • Mark Richt said some of the adversity they’ve run across is self-inflicted. They’re excited about LSU, and the Tigers are one of the finest football teams in the country and Georgia knows that. Said the wins were far from impressive, as they won them by the skin of their teeth, but they did win. “And we all know winning is the most important thing”. They want to limit the turnovers, the defense has played much better, and most of the ASU offense was created by Georgia mistakes, not a lack of effort from the defense.
  • Dan Mullen and his MSU Bulldogs are playing host to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets this weekend, their second consecutive ranked opponent. The option is tricky, the SEC West is damn good, and Mississippi State is ready to rock.
  • Gene Chizik, whose Auburn Tigers played our Ball State Cardinals last weekend and who gets Tennessee this weekend, is looking forward to this weekend’s game… their first SEC road contest of the season. This weekend, on national television, is an opportunity to let people see who you are. “One way or another, we’re going to do that Saturday night.”

Weekend Carnage Report

Huge ManateeBetter late than never, certainly, and the lack of which is making me reconsider heading to a distant road game in the future. On one hand, we have the delayed posting, the inability to get stuff done while traveling, etc. On the other, it’s southern barbecue, southern beauties, and maybe some of the nicest people on Earth. More on the Auburn trip tomorrow, but for now, it’s time to run through the weekend.

The Good

  • Florida/Texas/Alabama: Points to the top 3 for taking care of business and not losing. The same cannot be said for more than a few Top 10 teams. Bonus points to the Gators for doing it on the road, against a decent team, after an injury to Tebow.
  • Iowa: In what has become an annual rite of passage, the Hawkeyes knock off Penn State and essentially ending any hope of Joe Pa and the Nittany Lions to compete for a national title. Whether Iowa continues this sort of success is anyone’s guess, but for now, they certainly look like favorites for the Big 10.
  • Auburn: Bias because of watching them in person? Perhaps. But the Tigers looked damn good on Saturday against Ball State. Give a team like Auburn the emotion of a game against Alabama and they are certainly a darkhorse SEC West contender.

The Bad

  • Ole Miss: For weeks now, anyone that has lauded the Rebels as potential BCS busters has had to deal with a host of folks who throw around terms like “overrated”, “has played no one”, and “Nutt can’t coach a two-car funeral”. Frankly, after the performance on Thursday night, I may have to agree with the latter and not the former.
  • Maryland: Another week, another home loss for the Terps. At least this team the opponent was an BCS conference school. With Rutgers’ victory, the grumblings about Ralph Friedgen are getting louder, more insistent, and more correct.
  • Cal: Just as we were beginning to drink the Cal Kool Aid, Oregon came along with their fancy uniforms and ran roughshod all over the Bears. Did Cal not show up? Oregon simply play the game of their lives? Who knows. What is known is that Cal only mustered 77 yards on the ground. Not good at all.

The Ugly

  • LSU: Whether it was simply the football Gods not trying hard enough to upset the Tigers, their win over Mississippi State was not something that inspires any sort of confidence in the Tigers. This week? Georgia. Next week? Florida. Play like this past weekend, and say hello to 0-2.
  • Notre Dame: Notre Dame needed a miscue from Purdue’s coaches to pull out a victory, one that should have been nowhere as close as it was. Clausen injury or not, ND needs to lay the wood to teams like Purdue. This game did nothing to ease the yells for Charlie Weis.
  • Georgia/Georgia Tech: The Jekyll and Hyde sort of teams from the Yellow Jackets and the Bulldogs makes anyone watching them want to tear their hair out. GT gets blown out on national televison, then defeats UNC. Georgia struggles against everyone, does it again, but pulls out the victory. This has to stop eventually. Right?

OTP Helmet Stickers
From Alan

  • BJ Daniels, QB, South Florida: Leading the Bulls for the first time after an injury to Matt Groethe, and Daniels rings up the Noles for 341 total yards and 2 passing TDs.
  • Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: 9 catches and 177 yards with his 2 TDs as Cincy outlasts Fresno, moves to 4-0, and gains even more national attention.
  • Russell Wilson, QB, NC State: Lights up Pitt for 413 total yards and 4 TDs… you know… that Pitt team that was vaunted for its defensive presence.

From Edge

  • The Oregon Ducks: Outgained the Bears 524-207, withstood 3 lost fumbles, scored 42 unanswered. Dominating.
  • Case Keenum, QB, Houston: 435 yards passing and TDs passing and rushing as the Cougars rally past Texas Tech, move to 3-0, and are looking every bit the team capable of busting the BCS
  • God, Jesus, Vishnu, Buddha, whoever: Offering up a plate of hot Karma to Tim Tebow for his apparent taunting of Kentucky fans in the first quarter.
  • De-sticker goes to Purdue for calling a timeout at the end of the Purdue-ND game.  Just stupid football right there.

From RV

  • Quoted for posterity: “I didn’t get a chance to watch enough but I give all my helmet stickers to the dude who knocked tebow into the afterlife.” (Ed. Note: “The Dude” being Taylor Wyndham, DE for Kentucky)

Counter Intelligence: Auburn

auburn_logoFrom time to time, OTP likes to touch base with bloggers who know our opponents best. Today’s guest is Jerry at the War Eagle Reader, your one stop shop for anything Auburn related. While the game itself may be hard to watch, at least Jerry wasn’t a miserable prick about it. Kudos.

We exchanged questions and answers to said questions with Jerry about the Tigers and the chances Ball State has to potentially upset them at home. You can check out our answers to Jerry’s questions at the above link. Let’s get it on…

OverThePylon: Reading the messageboards and the fan sites, heck even one of your own writers, most seem to think that this is going to be a cupcake stroll for the Tigers. Something akin to the Navy Seals battling a paintball team. Of 5th graders. From Special Ed. What’s your take? Is there any possibility of the Tigers finally having a bad game or looking forward to Tennessee?

War Eagle Reader: I’ll say this: I wouldn’t wager anything more valuable than Monopoly money on Auburn covering that fat 30-point spread. For starters, because Auburn’s been kicking off the Gene Chizik era–an era I think you know has been viewed with more than its fair share of skepticism in non-Auburn climes–these first three weeks have been a lot more emotional than “vs. Louisiana Tech, vs. Mississippi St., vs. West Virginia” makes it look like they should have been. And next week comes the trip to Tennessee, Auburn’s first road tilt of the year and a chance for Chizik to prove he was the best offseason hire in the SEC all along.

But not only is Auburn emotionally primed for a let down, they kind of have to let down from a personnel standpoint: Auburn is a thin, thin team, and our first-string linebackers, wideouts, defensive ends, corners, offensive linemen etc. have wound up playing a metric assload of snaps. Part of that is the lack of a second string the coaches trust, part of it is the Gus Malzahn-dictated hyperdrive tempo that forces both sides of the ball to play an extra 20-30 snaps or so. So: I expect to see Auburn’s backups in early and often, and I don’t expect them to blow Ball St. off the field.

I think Auburn’s still too good to be seriously threatened by a team that has the kind of issues the Cards seem to have, but it’s not going to be a Florida-vs.-Charleston Southern-style beatdown, either.

OTP: Oh look… it’s Gus Malzahn. Gee… he looks familiar… oh wait… WAIT… that’s the guy who totally decimated our team last year in the GMAC Bowl. Fabulous!! Give me some sort of weakness this Auburn offense has. I mean, you have to have one. Right? RIGHT?!!?

WER: Honestly … I don’t know. Before last week I would have suggested packing eight into the box to stop the run and hoping your corners could keep up with Auburn’s iffy receivers one-on-one. But West Virginia tried that and sophomore Darvin Adams blew up (6 catches, 80 yards, 3 TDs) while the shockingly efficient Chris Todd wound up with career highs in yards and touchdowns.

So I’m not sure. Auburn does still need a second and third receiver to emerge and take some heat off of Adams (Terrell Zachery has made a few big plays, but hasn’t been a consistent threat as of yet), and I haven’t been all that impressed with the Tigers’ ability to handle a blitz. Tailbacks Ben Tate (he’s the bruiser) and Onterio McCalebb (he’s the burner) are too dangerous to let them get going, so I’d say you stack the box, shade your coverage towards Adams, blitz like hell on any obvious passing down, and just pray Todd has an off-day.

How Malzahn’s built something as versatile and intimidating as Auburn’s offense in this short a time, I have no idea. He is The Genius of Our Time.

OTP: Little known fact… Tommy Tuberville, aside from being your ex-coach, is married to a Ball State grad! Huzzah! On a scale of ambivalent to seething rage, how do you think Tubs watches this game? Follow up: Now with Chizik winning games and looking good, are the fans sold on him? Are they glad they got rid of Double-T?

WER: Wow–to quote Jimmy Carson, I did not know that. (About Tubby’s wife.) I suspect that Tubby is ambivalent about how Auburn fares these days–as a coach I’m sure he roots for his former players and is happy for them when they win, but at the same time his relationship with the Auburn administration was already frosty even before they showed him the door. His relative silence on the Chizik hire and conspicuous lack of public support for the program suggests to me that he doesn’t care all that much about Auburn for Auburn’s sake.

As for whether the Auburn A.D. made the right decision, I said at the time that Tubby had earned the right to come back for one more year, even if it wasn’t the best thing for the program–there was no way he and his coaching staff were going to get the ship turned back around. But now that Chizik is on board, I can’t imagine Auburn not having made the change. The energy in the fan base, the excitement in Malzahn’s offense, the joy Chizik and his staff have brought to the team and the program … even though Tubby won 9 games as recently as 2007, it feels now like the change was, somehow, overdue.

OTP: From what we’ve gathered, Chris Todd is the passing QB, Kodi Burns is the rush it down your throat on the goalline QB. Fair assessment? How does anyone hope to contain this offense? And more importantly, if the offense cannot be stopped, is the defense one that can be scored on… you know… assuming BSU can maybe sort of kind of muster any offense whatsoever?

WER: Yes, that assessment is fair, although unlike most Wildcat operators Burns was a QB in high school and his first two seasons at Auburn, so he’s much more of a threat to throw the ball than, say, Darren McFadden was.

I think I already covered how you might hope to contain the offense, but that brings us to the one sore spot on Auburn’s season to date: the defense’s tendency to give up yards, and I mean in chunks. For all the bending they haven’t broken that often, and they’ve shown a fun knack for coming up with a big, big play here or there … but Auburn’s also getting nothing from their weakside linebacker position and while they’ve been nice on the pass rush, the defensive line hasn’t bowed up and shut down the opponent’s running game since the opener. I don’t expect that BSU will bring in the same kind of strength on the ground that Miss. St. or especially West Virginia brought, but I’d wager MiQuale Lewis will see some space here and there. The Cards will probably have a handful of red zone opportunities–if they want to make a game of this, they’d better make the most of them.

OTP: Normally we ask visiting bloggers for a prediction about the score. Assuming you, like everyone else who watches, follows, or even knows about football would pick Auburn: A lot, Ball State: not as much, instead give us some recommendations of must hit places while we’re down in Auburn. There is a decent number of Cardinals fans who would love some good BBQ to drown their tears in.

WER: Unlike Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, I would say there’s not one single go-to BBQ place in Auburn, but Byron’s Smokehouse is highly thought of for a reason. Country’s Barbeque is also popular (and good), but I personally think it’s a touch overrated. Probably the most popular restaurant in Auburn is Niffer’s Place–it’s got a great college town feel and is famous for its burgers, corn nuggets, and cheap beer, though I’m partial to its grilled chicken sandwiches. Downtown pizza places Brick Oven Pizza and Mellow Mushroom both do very good work if you’re in the mood for a slice. If you’re looking for a quality pint, try the Olde Auburn Ale House–it’s been a while, but last time I was around it wasn’t as overrun (or as “clubby”) as some of Auburn’s bars can be on the weekends. And lastly, if you’re coming from Muncie or anywhere in the Midwest, you’ll need to eat some high-quality chicken fingers while you’re in the South. Chik-Fil-A, Guthrie’s, Zaxby’s, or any half-dozen other chicken finger joints in the Auburn area will work.

The Weekend ‘O’ Doom Looms

UK, BSU, I'm coming for you this weekend

UK, BSU, I'm coming for you this weekend

Come Saturday evening, within an hour of each other, both of our teams will kick off games that will speak volumes about what’s in store for this season, these programs, and the future of the Ball State Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats.

For the Cats, it’s a battle that not many are giving UK much of a shot in. For Ball State, even fewer people are giving the Cardinals a ridiculously smaller shot. Suffice to say, this weekend is not only an important weekend, it’s also potentially a painful weekend.

Kentucky LogoFlorida @ Kentucky
Most fans point to 2007 as a year to remember for the Wildcats, made so largely because of their upset of LSU. LSU came to Commonwealth ranked #1, and left with a loss. Could the same happen to the top-ranked Gators this weekend? It’s possible.

Florida is hampered by an emotional win last week against Tennessee, an emotional game next week at LSU, and a good number of players at least slowed down by a flu bug making its way through the team. Kentucky on the other hand, has seen a lack of respect throughout the country, as most fans point out the Wildcats blew out an awful Miami (Ohio) team and struggled to beat Louisville. Mentally, these Cats should be out to prove something… something that can only be proven by knocking off the presumptive national title favorite.

Kentucky football over the Brooks regime has steadily improved, and the fans of both programs are in for a fantastic contest Saturday night. Does Kentucky win? Doubtful. Do they look solid and surprise some folks around the country by taking the Gators to the wire? They absolutely will. Florida’s defense and Tim Tebow steps up when it counts, scores late, and the Wildcats streak against the Gators continues… for at least one more season.

Alan’s Prediction:
Florida 34
Kentucky 24

BSU logoBall State @ Auburn
For the Cardinals, they’ll take the field Saturday night in front of 80,000+ fans, all fully expecting an epic beatdown, thorough thrashing, and no chance of a Cardinal win. For the casual fan, just looking over the results this season, that’s not an unfair assessment. The storylines have been beaten to death, and this game comes down to two things… the o-line and Kelly Page.

If the o-line is able to open holes for Quale and protect Kelly to throw, then BSU has a shot. A small shot, that would require everything to break just right for the Cardinals, but a shot all the same. Should the Cards come out with a porous offensive line, no success in the rushing game, horrendous penalties, or turnovers, then it’s going to be a long damn night. A tremendously long damn night.

Realistically, the coaching staff and players for Auburn have to be looking at this game the same way as the fans… that this is simply a formality and no team or players to concern themselves with. They have a game next week against Tennessee which is probably occupying more than a few minds, and that’s good news for the Cardinals. Auburn has played perfect this season, their offense is exceptional, and the defense is hardcore. It is going to take a herculean effort from the Cards.

When the smoke clears on Saturday night, I fully expect a Ball State loss, but I also expect this team to show heart and talent that we haven’t had the luxury of seeing so far this season. This is a team whose back is against the wall and often times that leads to some pretty spectacular efforts. I am optimistic we look ok, not optimistic we leave with a win.

Alan’s Prediction:
Ball State 14
Auburn 31

Edge’s Prediction:
Ball State 6
Auburn 45
sirenOF SPECIAL NOTE: OTP will be providing live coverage from the press box of Auburn-Ball State on Saturday night via our Twitter feed. You can access that up on the left hand side of this page via the Twitter logo or by clicking here. Check it out, and get your fill of BSU related awesomeness.

Separated at Birth: Auburn

Everyone at one point or another gets a “You look just like….” comparison. Today, OTP revitalizes a message board tradition with the OTP Separated at Birth, this time for the Auburn Tigers.

K Chandler Brooks and Daniel Radcliffe, who apparently stars in a movie of some sort. Weird.

K Wes Byrum and Stephen Baldwin, you know… the Baldwin brother who sucks the most.

QB Barrett Trotter and Jets QB Mark Sanchez. No word on whether or not this one hearts Pete Carroll.

WR Philip Pierre-Lewis and Forest Whitaker

DL Cameron Henderson and Evander Holyfield (both his ears included)

OL Vance Smith and Biff Tannen, who is just now starting the 2nd coat.

QB Clint Moseley and the Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton. Drug addiction not included.

TE Robert Cooper and Trent Reznor, who wants to something like an animal…

DB Woody Parramore and bald Sigourney Weaver. Scott Hamilton a close second.

RB Ben Tate and Wesley Snipes, who always bets on black.

P Ryan Shoemaker and Rod Blagojevich, everyone’s favorite crooked Chicago politician… which is ridiculously redundant.

Oddities Needed for a Wildcat Win

Ask any true Kentucky fan and they will tell you that it isn’t just losing to teams in football that is frustrating. It is the way those losses happen. In usually epic tragic fashion, the football God (Footballor) rears his head out just long enough to screw with the minds and hearts of thousands of blue-clad fanatics packed into Commonwealth. It’s as much a rite of fall passage as the leaves changing or sorostitutes making a Friday morning scramble back to their dorm room in their black stretch pants and halter tops wrinkled and messy from too much Thursday fun. So it comes as not only hope inducing, but totally expected, that the Florida Gators are allegedly hampered by illness this week as they prepare for the Wildcats.

Why, yes, UK fans, I do aim for you.

Why, yes, UK fans, I do aim for you.

Whether it be Hail Mary passes caught by LSU, a pass with three seconds left versus the Gators in 1993, Billy Jack Haskins running over the Tennessee Volunteers, the 87 loss to Alabama snatched out of victory’s grasp, or the dozens of other examples, the Wildcats have always found a way to lose games just when it seems like the tide around UK football is rising. Take this year, more specifically, this weekend’s game against the Florida Gators… optimism is high, the team is undefeated, and it’s prime time to have some heartbreak doled out.

For Kentucky, optimism and hope ran high as last season ended. An impressive recruiting class joined a team that had made three straight Bowls… all wins. The defensive stalwarts that had paced the unit all elected to return instead of try out the NFL. Rich Brooks, for once in his Kentucky lifetime, was lauded as a coach worth celebrating… to the tune of a Maker’s Mark collectors edition bottle… the Kentucky version of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

There’s even reason to be optimistic for this specific weekend, even though the Cats haven’t beat the Gators since 1986. Florida, despite being the defending national champions, virtually everyone’s preseason #1, and returning every single starter from a dominating defense, has several negatives that Kentucky fans are keying on. Most notably, a lackluster effort last weekend against Tennessee, and the word over the last several days that flu is beginning to ravage the Gators. Of course it is! Because UK fans need a reason to be optimistic that an upset could occur despite the overwhelming empirical evidence that the odds of that happening are the same as me walking to my car to find Eliza Dushku and Erin Andrews naked in the backseat waiting for me.

Hey, Swine flu... yeah... you. Get the hell off my field.

Hey Swine flu.... yeah, you. Get the hell off my field!

Was this not the same team that manhandled Kentucky 63-5 last year in the Swamp? I (thankfully) didn’t watch that game, but I’m fairly certain it is in fact the same opponent. Perhaps vaunted Commonwealth Stadium is in fact a 58-point homefield advantage. Meaning that had Kentucky played Miami (Ohio) there instead of Cincinnati they would have won 100-0. Well, using that Miami game as sarcasm wasn’t the best since there are teams out there who could beat Miami by 100. I digress…

Call me a pessimist. Call me a non-believer. Call me a Kentucky football fan since that encompasses the first two, but I simply cannot fathom how Kentucky pulls anything closely resembling an upset. The flu isn’t even close to the top of the list of things that would make me consider Kentucky capable of shocking the world. These however would:

  • Tim Tebow not only gets the swine flu, but also the herp, head lice, erectile dysfunction, bubonic plague and a nasty case of scabies. Because of this he only throws for 3 TDs and runs for 2.
  • Florida’s plane en route to Lexington undergoes massive tragedy, team ends up marooned on island where millions of fans tune into watch their shittily crafted storylines, totally confusing plot, and rack up Emmy nod after Emmy nod.
  • Running backs Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey simultaneously suffer from Percy Harvin syndrome, where every ligament in their body snaps.
  • Urban Meyer gets arrested for massacring the Kiffin family…Florida hires Steve Kragthorpe as coach.

Frankly, I sincerely hope that I am way off the mark. It’s been known to happen on rare occasions. There is nothing I would like more than to have to tear myself away from the on-field drubbing at Auburn this weekend and post something about how Brooks is a genius, I am a dunderhead, and not even remotely worthy of calling myself a fan. Alas, what I fear will be happening is the special Sunday post of explaining an epic ass tearing of both of our teams here at OTP, swine flu or not.