It is a wonderful, COOL Monday morning. Hope you had a good weekend.
FYI. I will not be writing anything about the University of Georgia football program this morning. There is too much to say so I will dedicate all of Tuesday’s entry to the Bulldogs.
But elsewhere, what did we learn on the first Saturday in October?
1. There is Alabama and then there is everybody else: A year ago it was clear that Florida and Alabama had separated themselves from the rest of the SEC. After Florida got its act together and beat Kentucky last week, I had people telling me that Florida was still in the same class with Alabama, the nation’s No. 1 team. I was told that Florida’s players were embarrassed by their beat down in last December’s SEC championship game in Atlanta. I was told that Florida couldn’t wait to march into Bryant-Denny Stadium and get some revenge.
Nope. Not even close. Alabama looked at the Florida threat and barely broke a sweat Saturday night. I still have people who are telling me that Alabama can’t go 12-0 for the third straight consecutive regular season? So I’ll ask you: Who is going to beat this team? Nobody in college football is playing with as much talent, power, coaching, and attitude as the Crimson Tide right now. Again, look at the Alabama schedule and tell me who is going to beat them? Auburn is a candidate but that game is in Tuscaloosa.
2. Florida will get another shot at Alabama: As tough as that beating was for the Gators, Florida coach Urban Meyer has the best possible teaching tool to keep his team engaged. They will get another shot at Alabama in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4 if they take care of business. We’re making some huge assumptions but here is what I see: Even though Florida has clearly slipped and is a work in progress, I don’t see anybody else in the SEC who can beat them. South Carolina may have a shot but the Gamecocks play at Florida on Nov. 13. It’s hard to see the Gators losing that one if a division championship is on the line. Florida and Alabama played twice in 1999 with the Crimson Tide winning the regular season game 40-39 and the dominating the Gators in a rematch in the SEC championship game. That could happen again in 2010.
3. Les Miles’s luck is about to run out: One of my colleagues wrote that Les Miles doesn’t have nine lives. He has 99 lives. I agree. I have never seen a team with such a bad, poorly coached offense, continue to win games. LSU is 5-0 and ranked No. 9 in the coaches’ poll because the Tigers have a great defense (coached by John Chavis) and outstanding special teams (with Patrick Peterson). They have been good enough to win five ugly football games and needed a huge dose of luck to beat Tennessee at home on Saturday (More on that in the next item). But now the Big Boy part of the schedule kicks in and LSU fans are rightfully concerned. LSU goes to Florida this week and still has Auburn (Oct. 23), Alabama (Nov. 6), and Arkansas (Nov. 27) left to play. This could still end very badly for the Man in the Hat.
4. Give the SEC officials credit. They got it right in the LSU-Tennessee game: I beat on the officials a bunch last season when it appeared they were getting one big call wrong almost every week. But they got it right at the end of the Tennessee-LSU game. I talked to Rogers Redding, the SEC supervisors of officials once on Saturday night and again on Sunday. If you missed it, find the clip and take a look. LSU trailed 14-10 and was driving in the closing seconds for what would be a winning touchdown. Mass chaos reigned on the LSU bench in the final 30 seconds (Haven’t we read this before?) and as a result the snap flew by quarterback Jordan Jefferson and the clock ran out. Tennessee was celebrating because they had just upset the No. 10 team in the nation on the road. But back in the secondary there were three flags. Tennessee’s defense had 13—that’s right—13 players on the field. LSU got an untimed down and scored to win 17-14.
As painful as it was for Tennessee, the officials got it right. Tennessee got caught trying to sub too many players and trying to match LSU’s personnel when they should have stayed put, because LSU was self-destructing. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said he didn’t have time to get his players on the field. But Redding read the rule to me and it is clear that there is not an ulimited amount of time to get defensive substitutions on the field. The Tennessee defense got set but unfortunately it was set with 13 players. The official can’t stand over the ball forever or the clock would just run out. Then you have another set of issues.
I looked at the tape several times on Sunday and they got it right. Also, to those of you writing about the LSU player (T-Bob Hebert) snatching his helmet off during the fray: Understand that since the excessive celebration call last year in the Georgia-LSU game, the SEC is not going to let something like that determine the outcome of a game. It did not impact play and is not going to get called in that situation.
5. Oregon looks like the No. 2 team to me: Oregon jumped over Boise State into the No. 3 spot in Sunday’s coaches poll. I think the Ducks should have jumped over Ohio State to No. 2. We’re talking a team that went to an SEC venue (Tennessee) on Sept. 11 and ran off 45 unanswered points to win 48-13. We’re talking about a team that fell behind 21-3 to No. 9 Stanford, which was seemingly imposing their will on the Ducks. But quicker than you could say “onsides kick” Oregon turned on the switch again and outscored Stanford 49-10 the rest of the way. I look at all that speed with running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas. I see a really good coach in Chip Kelly. And I’ve decided that while a bunch of people think No. 3 Boise might get cheated of a shot at the big game, it’s the Ducks who may really be the odd man out if No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State keep winning. With all due respect to Boise and Ohio State, the Oregon Ducks are the No. 2 team in the country. Alabama-Oregon in Glendale would be an incredible national championship game.
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Programming Note: Among our guests on “The Barnhart and Durham Show” this morning will be SEC supervisor of officials Rogers Redding to break down the end of the Tennessee-LSU game. We will also be ready to hear from the Bulldog Nation who are not very happy today. Please join us starting at 10 a.m. www.790thezone.com.