NOTE: Since I did not post this until late Tuesday and did not share widely until midday Wednesday, I’m delaying my SEC Review/Preview to Friday. When I said it would be on Thursday, I did not realize there were no games on Thursday this week.
I know this isn’t the optimal time to post this, but I promised to get it done tonight.
On one of the sites where I post my blogs, I got a request to compare my preseason rankings (which, just to avoid confusion, are not part of my formula and on which I generally only spend two to three hours every offseason, especially in recent years) to results. I’ve added into my last blog a summary of the post-2014 blog and also a short comparison between my 2015 preseason top 25 and the AP preseason top 25. I didn’t do a blog with any such comparisons after last season. I meant to, but I wrote a series of blogs about the NFL relocating to Southern California and did not get around to it.
While on the subject, I am also glad, at least for the moment, that I did not rank Notre Dame in my preseason top 25. So I’m happy with the results of the two Texas games. Also, I thought I’d mention again that I did rank Wisconsin in the preseason top 25. I think it’s silly that 2 points better than LSU on the field puts them 12 spots ahead of LSU in the polls now after LSU was 20+ spots ahead in preseason though. But I’ll get to my new top 25 at the end.
I’ll give details in my next blog on Thursday, but I also did very well with my predictions on SEC teams. The only real surprises were the LSU and Mississippi St. losses (though I picked those to be close, so I wasn’t completely shocked) and the margin of the Alabama win (I thought maybe somewhere between 7 and 21 points). Yesterday, I was surprised Ole Miss went out to such a big lead, but I was not surprised by the final score.
The SEC did have some losses, but Auburn, Ole Miss, and Missouri had no business beating their respective opponents. Kentucky should have been somewhat evenly matched, but you can rarely count on Kentucky to win a football game, especially not against a team who won 9 games last season.
Although the SEC only went 6-6 overall out of conference, it faced SEVEN non-conference Power-5 opponents (just as a reminder for the casual fans: those conferences are the ACC, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC… with Notre Dame thrown in) and zero FCS opponents. Only three other conferences even faced 4 Power-5 opponents: the Pac-12 (2-2; lost to two SEC teams), the MAC (1-3; Western Michigan beat Northwestern for the only win), and the MWC (0-4).
If you’re wondering what happened to the other two SEC teams, Vanderbilt played South Carolina for the first intra-conference game, so in total 9 of the 14 SEC teams faced a Power-5 opponent in the first week.
I don’t want to talk about LSU too much since I covered them in the last blog and there are still my rankings to get to.
Les Miles mentioned that Ohio St. lost its first game a couple of years ago before winning the national championship. The SEC is harder to win than the Big Ten (at least in recent years), but I think this Wisconsin team is a lot better than that Virginia Tech team (and it was a much closer game), so you can’t count out LSU or some of the other teams with losses out.
A late Va. Tech touchdown helps put away Ohio St. in Columbus in the opening game of the 2014 season. The Buckeyes did not lose again until 11/21/2015.
The message boards would have a meltdown if they see me blame OC Cam Cameron instead of Les Miles, but I thought Cam needed to go last year, and I don’t think he could have supported my point better if he’d tried. They’re moving him back to the press box, but I think that’s just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic if the offense turns in another performance like this. At the end of last year, they thought putting him on the field was a great solution.
In my opinion, Cam just can’t develop a quarterback. He did well with Mettenberger, but that was a senior quarterback who had been through a couple of major SEC camps before (he started at Georgia). Anthony Jennings, since transferred, didn’t seem to improve much either. Part of it was the offensive line, but Harris didn’t look much better than he looked at Auburn in his first start a couple of years ago.
Les mentioned there were two drops that worsened Harris’s stats this time, but there were also a few passes that required an athletic play to catch. Also, I’m not sure if Les is counting as a drop one of the balls that was over the receiver’s head. Harris also threw a lot of two- and three-yard passes when a better quarterback might have completed 20- and 30-yard passes on the same plays.
Obviously, Cameron’s quarterbacks in the NFL weren’t anything close to high-school-level. It’s like taking a college professor and trying to put him in an eighth-grade classroom. It might not work too well even if he’s good at his job (the Ravens fired Cameron, but he did help get them to the playoffs en route to winning the Super Bowl, so make of that what you will).
There was also a problem with missed blocks on the offensive line – and Les is knowledgeable in that area – but I think a good coordinator will take some initiative. I doubt Les would have intervened if Cam had an idea of personnel changes or of plays to avoid because they weren’t being executed properly. There will be at least one change in the personnel as Josh Boutte is suspended for his late hit/cheap shot. I know what it is to be frustrated (and he possibly thought the play was still alive), but risking an injury to someone is a completely unacceptable way to express that, so I agree with the suspension.
LSU linemen barely even slow down the Wisconsin defense on a screen during a key third-down play.
Cameron is largely responsible for the presence of LSU’s backup Danny Etling, a Purdue transfer who started five games for the Boilermakers in 2014, so maybe if Etling starts playing, Cameron can finally prove me wrong. Of course that 2014 Ohio St. team I mentioned (they didn’t play Purdue that year) had to get a quarterback or two off the bench as well.
Harris dropped back 23 times, and there were 8 pass-blocking misses according to the Advocate’s Ross Dellenger. Watch the highlights (mostly Wisconsin highlights) on his Twitter feed, by the way. So many blocks and tackles that just weren’t made. The LSU players were in the right position most of the time, they just didn’t make the plays.
It reminds me of a Bear Bryant comment after a loss. A homer announcer said, “The Lord just wasn’t with us.” Bear said, “The Lord expects you to block and tackle.” (source)
So the defense doesn’t completely get off the hook. Wisconsin was in position to score a lot more points than they did due to some missed tackles, 10 of them in the first half. However, given the offensive ineptitude, they did an amazing job when they were backed up to get the game into halftime down only 6-0 and to give the offense a chance to win at the end.
Anyway, unlike the polls, I don’t like to move teams more than 10 spots unless they lost to someone completely off the board, which didn’t happen to anyone in my top 15. One of many boneheaded plays could have kept LSU from losing to Wisconsin, and a slight breeze or bump in the turf or holding error could have caused Wisconsin to miss the winning field goal. So I think separating them by one spot is reasonable at this time anyway.
I did give Ohio St. the full 10 spots even though as I said I’m not inclined to reward running up the score. I would have put the Buckeyes in the same spot had neither team scored after halftime when it was 35-10. I think a lot of teams who are up 35-10 at the half can score 70 if they really want to.
It’s just that many teams in the 10 spots above them did not play well at all. Arkansas won by 1 over an inexperienced Louisiana Tech team, USC got annihilated, Washington St. and Mississippi St. lost to directional teams most people haven’t heard of, and Michigan St. and Florida failed to impress against two teams that Bowling Green (Ohio St.’s opponent) probably would have been beaten comfortably. Akron finished 8-5 a year ago and lost to Bowling Green, 59-10. UMass, Florida’s opponent, lost to Bowling Green, 62-38, last year.
The two Texas teams beat in my opinion deserving top-30 teams (the pollsters thought they were a whole lot better than that), so that’s good enough for now. They jumped over the same teams Ohio St. jumped over.
Ole Miss didn’t really move because my estimation of the Rebels has not changed at all. I just wanted to give credit to those three teams, and three other teams fell below for obvious reasons.
Anyway, it’s even getting to many people’s bedtimes where I am now, so I’ll leave it at that. If you’re reading this in the morning, I may add pictures later.
1 Alabama 1
2 Florida St. 3
3 Clemson 5
4 Michigan 6
5 Okie St. 7
6 Utah 8
7 Iowa 9
8 Houston 18
9 Stanford 10
10 Georgia 12
11 Wisconsin 21
12 LSU 2
13 Oklahoma 4
14 Ohio St. 24
15 Texas A&M —
16 Texas —
17 Tennessee 11
18 Oregon 22
19 Florida 19
20 Mich. St. 20
21 N. Carolina 13
22 Arkansas 14
23 Ole Miss 23
24 TCU 25
25 USC 15
Out of rankings: (16) Wash. St., (17) Miss. St.