Monday, September 09, 2002

SEC teams played three national TV games, and lost them all. Alabama lost to Oklahoma, 37-27, in a game they probably should have won, sending me into a funk all weekend. The Tide led 27-23 when they kicked a field goal with less than five minutes remaining. But after the Alabama defense had dominated Oklahoma the entire second half by coming hard after the quarterback, genius defensive coordinator Carl "North Carolina's Mike DuBose" Torbush pulled back into that bonehead prevent defense and let the Sooners drive for the go-ahead touchdown. And then Tyler Watts, trying to drive for the winning touchdown or at least a tying field goal, let the ball fall out of his hand while pulling back to throw and Oklahoma ran the fumble back to finish the game off.

Alabama was more impressive than highly-ranked Florida, which was wasted at home by Miami, 41-16. Florida led 10-6 late in the first half, but Miami drove for two touchdowns late in the half and another to start the third quarter, and the rout was on. Rex Grossman never got comfortable and may miss Jabar Gaffney; I'm pretty sure that he missed Steve Spurrier. Florida's last chance to make a game of it died when a Grossman interception was returned for a Miami touchdown.

South Carolina, coming in ranked, lost to an 0-2 Virginia club. The Gamecocks turned the ball over seven times and looked completely unlike a contending football team. Virginia really isn't very good, and even at home USC should have handled them. With Georgia coming up next, and the NCAA poking around, the Gamecocks are in danger of their season spiraling out of control.

The rest of the SEC had the good sense to pick on overmatched opponents, or take the weekend off in the case of Georgia and Mississippi State. Kentucky blasted UTEP 77-17 in the Adolph Rupp's Revenge game. And though it is UTEP, 77 points is a lot against anybody and Kentucky may surprise some people come SEC play. Tennessee handled Middle Tennessee State much more handily than Alabama did, 26-3. Ole Miss trailed honorary SEC member Memphis (why doesn't the conference dump Vandy and bring in Memphis?) early but came back to win easily, 38-16. Eli Manning didn't look particularly impressive, for what it's worth, but the Rebels have more good players than I thought; their defense dominated and they ran for over 200 yards.

Those were the good nonconference opponents the SEC beat. The bad ones... Auburn recovered from the USC debacle of last week by scheduling West Carolina, whom they thrashed 56-0. I'm sure that it made them feel a whole lot better, but it proved nothing. Ditto Arkansas' manhandling of Boise State, 41-14. Neither West Carolina nor Boise is a state, nor is either an opponent worthy of the name. LSU rebounded from getting thrashed by Virginia Tech by beating the Citadel, which apparently does allow women to play on their football team, 35-10. The Tigers were only 10-22 for 107 yards passing, though, and that won't do it in the SEC. And Vandy found someone they could beat in the form of Furman, with the 'Dores taking it 49-18. They may not win again until October 26, when they play UConn.


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