Monday, November 29, 2010

What We Learned -- Week 13

If you missed it, our Mr. Gordon did an epic liveblog of the Auburn-Alabama game. The only thing missing was the scene at the end where he says "The horror... the horror."

Mike is in an undisclosed location with his old friend Basil Hayden. If a few months from now you see a man wandering aimlessly around Mobile Bay with a long beard, a deep tan and a houndstooth tattoo, send him back our way.

My thoughts on the Iron Bowl and the rest of the weekend:

-- There are two Auburns. One is the offensive avalanche (50+ points in five games and 49 once). But the other Auburn is even more entertaining -- the team that grits it out in the fourth quarter and wins the close ones. They beat three teams by 3 (Miss State, Clemson, Kentucky) to go with the singlet over Bama; they scored with 5 minutes left to beat LSU and were down in the fourth against South Carolina. The comebacks felt less special as the season went on and everybody figured out how great Cam Newton really is. But this Auburn team had been flame-tested well before Alabama, and it survived every time.

Having said that: Think about the degree of difficulty of coming back from 24-0, at your biggest rival's stadium, against a really good team that hates everything you stand for and is DYING to ruin your season. What were the odds of Auburn coming back from that? 20 to 1? I doubt that Oregon, much less South Carolina, can put them in that kind of hole.

-- Georgia was a shanked extra point from being dead even with Georgia Tech, which looked about right from watching the game. The ESPN bowl projections put us in the Liberty Bowl against Central Florida, which also seems about right. There are worse places you can spend a few days than Memphis (coughShreveportcough). I'm going to try not to think about where we might be if A.J. Green had not needed a little folding money a couple months ago.

-- The most impressive drive of the weekend: Arkansas running it down LSU's throat in the fourth quarter. Ryan Mallett got all the glory, and deserved most of it, but when Arkansas needed to bleed the clock, they went 88 yards on 10 runs and one completed pass, then kicked the FG that put the game out of reach.

And for LSU fans: When your team makes an interception with 50 seconds left in the first half, and somehow before the half ends you give up an 80-yard TD pass, that means one thing: The Les Miles Mojo Bag is finally empty. It had a glorious run.

-- Mississippi State fans have to be satisfied: Go 8-4, beat Georgia AND Florida, and take care of bidness in the Egg Bowl. That's about the most you could possibly ask for, especially given the deathtrap that was the SEC West this year.

-- Florida, pounded into cornmeal by Florida State. /chuckle

-- And now we come to South Carolina, which dominated Clemson and rolls into Atlanta with a puncher's chance. The Gamecocks took just one beatdown all year, to an Arkansas team that can roll it up on anybody. USC was right there with Auburn the first time around. The only loss that left a mark was on the road at Kentucky, a week after beating then-#1 Alabama. I'm not sure Steve Spurrier dreams about anything but the back nine at Augusta. But losing to a team whose only other SEC win was against Vanderbilt has to keep him up at night.

If you told me USC was up 35-0 at halftime against Auburn, I'd still pick Auburn. But if it's late, and USC is still close, I'd love to see Stephen Garcia against that porous Auburn secondary with the title on the line.

-- Tommy T.

From Peter St. Onge:

I'm the What We Learned sub today for Mr. Gordon, who is taking a well-earned (and well-timed) vacation. Mike has been annoyingly gracious about Auburn for most of the year, so I guess I'm inclined to be the same today.

A quick timeout, though, for my favorite new T-shirt:

Mike's fantastic Iron Bowl blog sums up the game beautifully. I'll add this: Alabama was everything I expected in the Iron Bowl's first half. The Tide players outquicked Auburn and outschemed Auburn. They sacked the smile off Cam Newton's face. Don't let any Auburn fans tell you that they Believed at the end of the first quarter. We were all practicing our snuffly voices for calling in sick Monday morning.

Then, the Comeback, which was different than the other, lower-case comebacks this year. Alabama never did let Auburn's offense take over the way it has and can. And while Mike and other Tide fans were fearing a loss at halftime, Auburn's fans were still pretty sure things would end badly until that last Tide pass was incomplete. For you northerners, it's a Red Sox-Yankees, pre-2004 kind of thing.

So here we are, with one hot, scary Gamecocks team standing in the way of the BCS title game. But we're not really thinking about that one yet. We still have some Tide co-workers to see today first.

From R. Trentham Roberts:

That it's a measure of the Mississippi State program (and the SEC these days) when being the sixth-best team in the conference is Cowbell Heaven. If the prognosticators know what they're talking about, the Dawgs have a date with Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. (That's one crowd that wouldn't blink if cows came parachuting in.)


J said...

Speaking of vacations...

I have just returned from one, in the weeds of central Georgia where my Air Force cousin is stationed. Getting the word that he was being promoted to Major the day before Turkey Day, as many of the extended family as possible made arrangements to make a long week out of it. Too bad there was only 1 internet connection and a constant line among family members to use it. So I was unable to keep up with the flurry of activity on the SEC Expats blog, and it has taken a couple days to catch up with all of it.

(Memo to the Observer guys: Why was this the only week we could get more than 1 or 2 posts out of you? I know y'all have higher-priority duties there, but I'll bet you get more readers if you post things a little more often.)

Peter is right - every Auburn fan on Earth was resigned to a blowout defeat after the first quarter. My brother (also a big Auburn fan) and I decided to employ the Counter-Murphy's Law Initiative to reverse our team's fortune. This initiative counters Murphy's Law by proclaiming that the only reason your beloved team is getting drilled is because you are watching. Turn it off, and you have a reversal. We both have smartphones and we just checked every 15 minutes or so. (I knew I would get to see any spirited comeback on CBS College Sports, so I wasn't worried about missing the Greatest Comeback of All Time.) Sure enough, here we come. We went ahead and turned it back on after we took the lead. Then, forget the Maalox IV, I wanted a 100-gallon drum of Maalox to submerge myself in. I thought of Mike Gordon often, wondering how sick this was making him. Can't imagine how many adult beverages he has needed to ease the pain. I know I needed several last year.

As for the other games, nothing was a surprise except maybe for Kentucky squandering a good season under its rookie coach by losing to Rocky Bottom. But there was some good out of that - the late-season rash of wins probably has UT folks actually thinking Derek Dooley can coach, and they'll keep him. That will keep the Vols out of SC, UF and UGA's way for a while.

For the game this Saturday: I do not expect a blowout, but I do not expect Auburn to be in any danger of losing. If you have learned nothing else about Auburn this year, you should have learned that they make better halftime adjustments than any team out there. We won the first matchup primarily by capitalizing on late-game turnovers. Our coaches will be able to make a much better game plan for this game much in the same way they have adjusted when we were losing in other games this season.

Michael said...

J, just so you know, three shots of Basil Hayden weren't nearly enough.

But I find your words of concern almost endearing. Almost.