Saturday, January 1, 2011

Now is the time for the real SEC to stand up . . .

Ugly, uglier, ugliest . . .

Some "yeah, I'm still on vacation but somebody has to write something" observations on the SEC's 0-3 start in the bowls.

-- Easy y'all. Reports of the SEC's demise are greatly overstated. This, after all, is the SEC (L)East, which this year would be competitive only in the Ugliest Dog pageant.

Still . . .

**The officiating in the UNC-Tennessee game was a carnival, particularly when the game got down to the winning and losing. Let's start with the personal foul call against Janzen Jackson that put Carolina in range for its tying field goal. Sorry, y'all, but that was a clean, albeit ferocious, hit. Jackson led with his shoulder and aimed at the back. Savage but perfectly legal. The Big 10 refs also blew the call on the next-to-the-last play of regulation, which needed only a bunch of clowns on scooters to qualify as a bona fide circus. Illegal participation -- running a play with too many men on the field -- is a 15 yard penalty, not 5. Put a second back on the clock, if you will, but the UNC kick should have been 50 yards, not 39.

That said . . . Tennessee didn't distinguish itself with its on-the-field antics. Derek Dooley still looks a tad wild-eyed and overwhelmed on the sidelines, and his players made enough mistakes to keep the game close. In Daniel Lincoln, they have The Scott Norwood Award winner, legendary for the ones that he missed (Alabama fans passed the hat for Lincoln's trophy). The Vols did test drive what should be one of the SEC's best passing attacks in the years ahead. Better still, quarterback Tyler Bray clearly displayed the behavioral qualities that next year will put his name up next to Casey Clausen as the most hated player in the conference. Can't wait to watch his personal development.

**Georgia fans continue to amaze us. They are passionate, mean-spirited (we like that about them) and know few equals in their love for their team and their disdain for their rivals. They are also clinically delusional, which is OK to a point because most of us lack any objectivity when it comes to their own teams.

But every year Georgia people believe they are destined to win the SEC, and they stick to it, even though this Bulldog edition was just woeful. Which hasn't stopped Dawg fans from lighting their torches and storming the castle after Friday's loss to Central Florida, a top 25 team that did all the little things a good football team does to win a game. The Liberty Bowl was a bit of a dogfight, except Central Florida had the better clamp hold. The longer George O'Leary's team held on, the more the fight went out of Georgia. Mark Richt has a lot of little/essential things to fix before Georgia kicks off next September against Boise State -- when Georgia will clearly be a favorite for the BCS Championship Game.

**The Spurrier/Garcia road show sputters on toward the pathological. You would think that after the third straight unsightly bowl performance from the tandem that one of them -- read Garcia -- might go. This is a team with improving talent and still way too many holes in talent, coaching and intangibles. Yet the biggest gap remains between the ears of its veteran quarterback. When does Spurrier say enough?

Which brings us to today's games:

Florida-Penn State: Tony Barnhart over on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Florida has too many athletes for Joe great-grandPA's team. My question to Tony: Have those Florida kids of whom he speaks been studying abroad this fall? Florida has had more athletes than every team it has played and is lucky to be 7-5! The highlight of their season was beating Georgia (which should be playing Oregon for the national championship if not for the minor detail that the Dawgs lost more games than they won). Sure, it's Urban Meyer's last game as Florida's coach. But this team hasn't played hard for Meyer all year. Nittany Lions, 20-16.

Mississippi State-Michigan: The Rich Rodriquez Parting Gift Bowl shows the dark side of tradition. MSU, whose only legacies are losing and cheating, hires an unproven assistant who runs a goofy offense, mouths off to everybody and after two years of exceeding low expectations is now considered one of the hottest names in coaching. Michigan, with all its history and wins, runs off a coach, botches his replacement, and "settles" on an outsider: Rodriguez, fresh off a highly successful stint at West Virginia. Three years later, the team still can't play and Ann Arbor still keens over the absence of a "Michigan Man" at the helm of the program. Note to Big Blue: Your last Michigan Man lost to App State. Word is that Rodriquez is out whether he wins or loses, and since his team stopped playing for him months back, it's hard to imagine one last rousing rendition of "Hail to the Victors" to send the coach on his way. The EXPATS have long thought the praise for Mississippi State a bit premature. But State has so much more to play for. Bullies, 28-24.

Alabama-Michigan State This game is simple and complicated at the same time. Alabama is bigger, faster and deeper. Michigan State has far more incentive. Alabama didn't play a complete game in 2010 (including the BCS winner over Texas) and had their heart and lungs ripped out in the epic collapse at Auburn. So how long does the good Alabama stick around against the Spartans, and when does the we-could-give-a-rip Alabama take over? The guess here is that the shift change won't occur until the game is in hand, but that Michigan State will make it closer at the end. If Alabama can run the ball, we will have the day's only rout. Tide, 31-22.

Arkansas-tOSU: Jim Tressel is doing what he can to save some face for his team and program, but his decision to play Terrelle and THE Free-Marketeers have completely overwritten the original storyline of the Sugar Bowl, which was: Will The Ohio State University finally beat an SEC school in the post season? The correct answer now is Who Cares? Much of the Buckeye fanbase believes
their star quarterback and the other violators should sit on their wallets. And yet, surely for the personal development of the student-athletes involved, the NCAA says they should play. Too bad, what was easily the second most interesting matchup on the bowl lineup now becomes a morality play -- with not enough morals to go around.



Anonymous said...

In reference to the TN-NC game I think the writer hasn't read the NCAA rule book very closely. Rule 9-1-3 (including direct examples of interpretations) is quite clear in showing that the hit WAS a foul deserving a penalty. Oh yeah what about the missed helmet to helmet late hit just after that?

Michael said...

Anon, thanks for the note.

Two things: There are missed calls all over the field and they can certainly affect the outcome of the game.

But the flag on Jackson DID influence the outcome. I watched the replay on the hit five times and saw a violent but clean tackle each and every time.

That said, if you're a Heel fan, congrats on your team achieving all that it did, given what it had to overcome.


Niner National said...

I'm a fan of neither team that played last night. In fact, I cheer for the Tarheels to lose whenever they play a game in any sport.

That hit last night was without question illegal. He launched himself and lead with his helmet. It was not a helmet to helmet hit, but he undoubtedly lead with his helmet.

As for the too many men on the field penalty, there are two different rules, which the author did not take the time to research because he is an SEC homer and it would hurt his argument.

There is a 5 yard penalty and a 15 yard penalty. If 12 men participate in the play, it is a 15 yard penalty. In the instance of UNC, the extra players were running off the field, which means it was an illegal substitution rather than too many players on the field. That is a 5 yard penalty.

I'll give you that it is stupid to have two rules for virtually the same thing, but that is what the rulebook says, so the refs did nothing wrong.

Tom said...

No Ryan, you're wrong about that play. UNC had 12 men in formation (participating) and 3 more running off the field. The penalty should have been a 15-yarder and not 5. The Big 10 refs blew that call.
Both teams made mistakes, but Butch Davis' dumb decision to run the ball on the preceding play (with no TOs), followed by that Chinese fire drill, was the final and dumbest mistake. UNC deserved to lose, but the officials' error, the replay call and the UNC kicker bailed him out.

Bud said...

Here's some news from one UGA fan. We are no longer delusional about winning ANYTHING. The bowl loss against the Central Florida Knights (say who?) was so bad that even Coach Richt was upset about it. Does that mean he's going to be able to DO SOMETHING about it? We will have to wait until next year to find out. But the ball is now in Richt's court to PROVE he can still compete in the SEC. Only a true delusional could actually BELIEVE that at this point.