Another crazy weekend: So what did we learn?
1. Georgia’s Aaron Murray is going to be fine. It’s the offensive line I’m not sure about: Georgia’s 31-24 loss to Arkansas proved once again that in the SEC, the difference between winning and losing is very small. Georgia made a good comeback to tie the game and put itself in a position to win. It had the ball on what should have been the final possession. The worst thing that should have happened is that Georgia didn’t score and the game went to overtime.
But on third down the running back whiffs on a pass block and the quarterback gets sacked. Arkansas gets the ball back and a safety takes the wrong angle on a tackle and Arkansas breaks free for the winning touchdown. Two plays. Arkansas made them. Georgia didn’t. That’s it.
But here is the good news for Georgia. The Bulldogs have a quarterback. Everyone I talk to in this league likes the upside of Aaron Murray. He’s learning the position and is going to make mistakes. What I want to know is when is this veteran offensive line going to start blocking like one? Georgia ran the ball 41 times for 139 yards at home against an average defense from Arkansas. Yes, six sacks figured into that total. Still, that’s not good enough. Yes, it would have been helpful if A.J. Green had been there to stretch the field. But he was not there. He’s not going to be there Saturday in Starkville. Georgia just has run the ball better than that.
2. Another tough weekend for the ACC: Georgia Tech took care of business within the league beating North Carolina on the road. But out of the conference it was second straight tough weekend for the ACC. The ACC went 1-4 in head to head meetings with other BCS teams: Clemson lost to Auburn, Duke lost to Alabama, Maryland lost to West Virginia, and Wake Forest was trounced by Stanford. The lone winner against BCS competition was N.C. State, which had a solid win over Big East team Cincinnati on Thursday night in Raleigh.
Florida State beat BYU (Mountain West) and Virginia Tech took care of East Carolina (Conference USA) to salvage something out of the weekend.
If you’re keeping score at home, and I know some of you are, the ACC is now 1-9 against non-conference BCS teams in the first three weeks of the season. In the first two weeks of the season the ACC lost to LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Kansas, and Southern California. Kudos to the ACC for scheduling those games. But you gotta do better than 1-9.
3. Clemson-Auburn was a game for grown men: Auburn’s 27-24 victory against Clemson in overtime was one of the hardest hitting games I’ve seen in a long time. Two guys got carted off with serious leg injuries. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker took a shot to the back (it was a legal shot, I might add) and showed tremendous grit in playing throught the pain. Auburn showed a lot of maturity in coming back from a 17-3 halftime deficit to win. Clemson showed, with running backs Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington, that the Tigers are going to be a force in the ACC Atlantic. It was a good old-fashioned street fight and I loved every minute of it. Just sorry that it came down to the Clemson kid missing a field goal. That’s a tough way for anybody to lose.
4. Florida is not a Top 10 team: The Gators may be worthy of their No. 8 national ranking (in the coaches poll) before the season is over, but right now Urban Meyer just has an okay team that is just trying to find its way. The good news if you’re a Florida fan is that you have enough talent to line up, play ugly, and win every game on your schedule–except for the Oct. 2 trip to Tuscaloosa to play No. 1 Alabama. The toughest remaining games after that (LSU, South Carolina) are at home. One thing I did learn watching the Florida-Tennessee game in Knoxville on Saturday: Florida’s receivers are pretty average. I thought they would be better.
5. I’ll bet Houston Nutt wishes he had never heard of Jeremiah Masoli: All I know is that since Jeremiah Masoli was clearned to play at Ole Miss on Friday, Sept. 3, almost nothing has gone right for the Rebels and Houston Nutt. Ole Miss just got absolutely gashed on Saturday by Vanderbilt 28-14. The Rebels are 1-2 with Fresno State coming to Oxford this week. If they can’t win that one, they are probably looking at 4-8 at best. Masoli has played reasonably well in the first three games. But the defense, which was supposed to be the strength of this team, is simply not getting it done.
BONUS WHAT WE LEARNED
Tennessee is what we thought they were: When I looked at the Tennessee team Saturday afternoon at Florida, I saw a bunch of guys who should be playing at Middle Tennessee State. I’ll give the Volunteers credit for this: They played hard for 60 minutes against Florida and were still within striking distance of the Gators in the fourth quarter. They didn’t go in the tank when adversity hit like they did against Oregon.
But it’s been a long time since Tennessee was this thin in SEC caliber talent. Things don’t figure to get better any time soon. After UAB this week, Tennessee plays at LSU, at Georgia, Alabama at home, and at South Carolina in the span of five weeks. Even if Tennessee comes out of its first eight games at 2-6, the Volunteers should be competitive in their four November games with Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The question is if Derek Dooley can hold this team together mentally. They may be so beat up physically when November gets here that it won’t matter.
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Programming note: Among today’s guests on the “Barnhart and Durham Show” are new Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell, whose team knocked off Ole Miss on Saturday. Please join us starting at 10 a.m. on www.790thezone.com.