Thursday, January 04, 2007

SEC Football Roundup

Its been a while since I have commented on college football. I had considered running my usual pre-bowl game break downs, but considering I was in England and missed the entire season, I would have been completely doing that blind. I did enter a bowl prediction contest that my hometown newspaper ran. I was not up to my usual par, but still in the 75 percentile. It was mostly the nickel and dime bowls (Troy v. Rice? Utah v. Tulsa?) that screwed up my batting average.

Now that I have a break from GOEs today, and all the SEC teams have played their bowls, except for Florida who will likely win the national championship against a much over-rated Ohio State, the time for commentary has arrived. I think the SEC faired pretty well in the bowls, but was not as stellar as I had hoped.

The SEC did win its big BCS game (the national title remains to be seen). LSU thumped Notre Dame (no real shock there) in the Sugar Bowl. Notre Dame hasn't won a bowl game since I was in college. I still can't figure out why anyone thought Notre Dame deserved a BCS. Well, upon further review, conclusive evidence shows $$$$ signs all over the field.

I was disheartened to see Tennessee completely meltdown in the last ten minutes of their game against Penn State (20-10). Arkansas lost, but gave 11-1 Wisconsin all it could handle (17-14). Auburn made some incredible adjustments at halftime and beat Nebraska. While usually running a good game plan, I am not convinced Nebraska's coach knows how to adjust if necessary.

Perhaps the SEC bowl of the year was Georgia's incredible comeback against Virginia Tech (31-24). They were down by 18 points at one time, if memory serves, and suddenly woke up. That was a classic. In second place surprise bowl wins is Kentucky, which put a thumping on Clemson, much to just about everyone's surprise.

South Carolina scraped out a win against Houston (44-36). There was a play in that game that made me really begin to believe "the Ole' Ball Coach" is starting to lose it, however. It was in the 2nd half, 4th and Short and South Carolina takes a time out and goes for it. No razzle-dazzle, no fun-n-gun offensive play, just a run up the gut for a loss of possession. The Steve Spurrier of old would never have done that.

So, again, a bit of a mixed bag for the SEC, whose overall bowl record was 5-3. Which brings me to my last point. I was shocked that Alabama fired Mike Shula after a 10 win season last year. Granted, they were 6-6 in the regular season this year. They played well in the bowl considering they didn't have their head coach, but lost. I think, given time, Shula could have done great things at 'Bama.

This brings me to my next surprise, the Nick Saban, former LSU coach and current Miami Dolphins head coach, actually accepted the job at Alabama yesterday. Rumors had been flying for some time, both before and after the head coach at West Virginia told Bama to take a hike. I am somewhat surprised that Saban left the NFL, having only been there for two years, especially leaving to go to a coach-eating hornet nest like Alabama. But after thinking about it, I do think that's a smart move for Saban. Saban is just better fit for college coaching. He is an excellent recruiter, both at LSU and Michigan State, and those talents were wasted in the NFL where money largely does the recruiting. He also won a split-national championship at LSU not too many years ago, and Michigan State has never really done much after he left there for LSU. Obviously he knows how to tactically coach a winner.

Welcome back to SEC, Mr. Saban. See you on the 3rd Saturday in October when Tennessee will welcome you back in style.

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