Before I start, I wanted to share a couple of things.
Even non-LSU and non-ESPN fans seem to be highly amused by this video. Apparently, this was released at least two weeks ago, but I happened to catch it while watching SportsCenter yesterday while my car was in the shop and found it hilarious.
Alabama/Texas A&M Pre-Game
Getting to more serious matters, the first thing on everyone’s mind at the moment is Alabama/A&M, and I’m glad LSU doesn’t have to play either this early in the season. Not that this makes up for the uneven scheduling as far as inter-divisional games.
This will come as no surprise to anyone, but I’m picking Alabama. In short, I’ll take competent offense + really good defense over really good offense + seemingly non-existent defense.
Restricting my comments to his abilities on the field, the main problem I see with Manziel is he’s not a two-way player. The offensive prowess of Rice and Sam Houston St. notwithstanding, you can’t justify giving up a combined 59 points and 899 yards of total offense in those two games.
As an aside, I’m not sure what’s going on with SEC defenses. Georgia and South Carolina don’t seem to have any defenses to speak of either. That’s half of the top 6 SEC teams from last year.
McCarron is over-rated (there are several quarterbacks that I believe could have the same or better record based on Nick and the teams he’s had recently), but I would venture to say Florida’s offense might even look competent against the Aggie defense.
Speaking of Saban, I saw his grumpy press conference. Sorry to ask about how the preparation is going, your highness. That’s the kind of question that can even be asked as a head coach is walking onto the field. “We’re going to put the distractions behind us and be ready to play.” I don’t understand what’s so difficult about that.
The game will be in College Station, but no one other than Les Miles has beaten Alabama two games in a row over the past few seasons; and he needed overtime to do it in 2011. Don’t remind me about anything that happened after that.
Also, I think Texas A&M is particularly vulnerable to the adjustments I would expect Saban to make. No one could quite prepare for the Aggies by game time last year, but there shouldn’t be the same adjustment period this year, at least not for the players who played defense last year. After the first half, the Aggies lost to Florida 10-0. After the respective first quarters, they lost to LSU 24-10 and to Alabama 24-9.
Yes, Alabama had more trouble initially than LSU or Florida did last year (hence the loss), but Texas A&M will probably be more reliant on the run than last year, and that’s good news for the Tide as well.
Compare the Sam Houston St. game this year with the one last year. Manziel had 13.4 yards per pass last season and only 10.1 yards per pass this season. The only reason I thought to look for that number was the fact that 4 of the Aggies’ top 6 receivers from last season are no longer on the team. Maybe the new receivers will be just as good at some point this season, but September 14 is a little early to expect that.
However, I’d be perfectly happy to see Alabama lose as usual. I don’t think they have anyone to realistically lose to apart from A&M and LSU. I hope I’m wrong.
W(h)ither Texas and USC?
Just to mention a couple of other teams, I’m not sure how to explain Texas and USC in recent years. They sure have fallen a long way from the 2005 BCS title game.
Mack Brown was always a better recruiter than coach, in my opinion, but I don’t know how the original McCoy/Shipley team didn’t lead to the recruits necessary to succeed since then. Maybe it’s not having Muschamp around on the other side of the ball. Something has gone terribly wrong if you give up 40 points to a team Virginia held to 16, especially when you’re loaded with returning starters. The Cavaliers gave up 59 to Oregon, by the way.
USC was the opposite problem. They only managed 7 points against Washington St. at home. Auburn (which didn’t even receive a vote in either major poll to start the year) scored 31 points against the Cougars. The Trojans’ average in this series the last 7 meetings had been 45.4 points. It seems there is something going on there that can’t just be chalked up to probation.
Now it’s easy to say Kiffin just isn’t a good head coach (living in Southern California, I might have heard that once or twice), but they went 10-2 in 2011 and finished even better than they started: after the bye week, they looked great for the remaining seven games, winning all but the one against Oregon by at least 2 touchdowns and only losing to Stanford after three overtimes. That doesn’t happen if you can’t coach.
Kiffin’s performances at Tennessee and the Raiders were actually underrated in my opinion. He won two more games than the Vols had won in Fullmer’s last year, and Dooley wasn’t able to match that win total in any of his three seasons.
Kiffin didn’t do very well with the Raiders, winning only ¼ of the games while head coach there (5-15), but in the shape that team was in after trying to bring back the early 1990s with Art Shell, I thought there was more improvement than the record indicated. Seven of Kiffin’s losses with the Raiders were by a touchdown or less. When Shell went 2-14 in 2006, only four of his losses were by a touchdown or less.
All I can think is that Kiffin has difficulty planning for the long-term as head coach. I think this is more vital in college than in the NFL. There is no guarantee you’re going to have a large number of known quantities from one season to the next in the NFL. I never see this printed anywhere, but I’d like to see the number of returning starters that NFL teams have from year to year. Anyway, even though offensive coordinators are often more involved than a defensive head coach, maybe Pete Carroll kept tabs on long-term recruiting goals at USC.