Rushing The Field: Another SEC Barnburner

Seriously, if we’re gonna go through this every week with SEC teams in the night game on ESPN, it’s gonna be a real long, nail-biting season.  LSU pulled out the victory in the Tiger Bowl against Auburn thanks to a late touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee, who was subbing after Andrew Hatch got concussed, to Brandon LaFell to end a game largely characterized by the hard hits on both sides along with fits and starts on offense that have to infuriate Auburn fans. I mean, just watching the passing on Tony Franklin’s offense look spectacular one minute and awful the next has to drive the Auburn faithful nuts rights now.  So much more of the game was about the heavy hitters on defense, and the eight guys LSU rotated in and out on the D-line came through and pounded Chris Todd in the end to secure the win.  Les Miles would also like to remind you about the size of his play-calling balls.

When UGA’s Rennie Curran took Rudy Carpenter’s helmet with him on a sack in the first half of Georgia’s visit to Tempe to face Arizona State, I knew this game was going to be in favor of the Dawgs, and ugly in the second half. Matthew Stafford now has a new target in A.J. Green, who caught for more than 150 yards last night and a score on top of two more touchodwns from the reliable Knowshon Moreno.  Carpenter now has a fifth off-brand orifice thanks to an offensive line that can’t protect him; at least two of them were provided by USC’s Rey Maualuga.

The Tennessee Volunteers just flat out gave up when Florida came to town. The final score does say that the Vols got on the scoreboard, but really, when you’re down 27-0 in the third quarter, do any points after that count?  It wasn’t exactly a spectacular game for Tim Tebow, and that offense still looks a little too dependent upon him and Percy Harvin, but the Vols defense had very few counters and the Vols on offense — well, this is a team with two studs at RB in Arian Foster and Monterio Hardesty whom they can’t open holes for and get the ball to. Jonathan Crompton is still being asked to do way too much.  In joining Steve Spurrier as the second Florida coach to beat Tennessee and Phil Fulmer four times in a row, Urban Meyer would be perfectly within his rights to snark, “You can’t spell Outback without UT.”

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Rushing The Field: That Was Supposed To Be Competitive, Right?

Honest question: is 35-3 a bad enough beating for Ohio State that we can no longer consider them candidates for the BCS championship game? After watching USC’s offensive pick apart the secondary and the Trojans’ front seven on defense get after Todd Boeckman early and often, it seems that Jim Tressel’s ethic and mentality in Columbus may need just as much of a change as Lloyd Carr’s did in Michigan. That wound up with Carr leaving and Rich Rodriguez replacing him, but I am not suggesting such a drastic step.  What it may require is Tressel stretching out his recruiting area — because he can get every athlete in the Midwest and many in the Atlantic part of Big 10 territory that he likes, but he isn’t attracting players that can be difference makers in out-of-conference games.  I don’t think Beanie Wells would have made a lick of difference, either, and you know what? I don’t like the Buckeyes much when they have to play Penn State are their spread offense later this year, either.

They may not be able to get by Wisconsin, who grind out wins. For every play that Fresno State made against the Badgers in the San Joaquin Valley, the Badgers had answers and their defense was able to keep Tom Brandstater in check.

The dirty little secret about USC? They have the easiest path to the MNC game because the Pac-10, usually good for 2nd in conference strength behind the SEC these days, is in a down cycle. USC was one of only two Pac-10 teams that won an out-of-conference game convincingly, and I would rather not count Oregon State-Hawai’i as any sort of meaningful OOC game. Oregon lost another QB and snuck by Purdue in OT, to be fair.

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Take The Skinned and Headless Bowling, Part II.

Kentucky 35, Florida State 28 – Not like FSU wasn’t completely shorn of players for the Music City Bowl, but it certainly didn’t look like it. The Seminoles were able to get offensive drives scoring and put up plenty of points — but the absence of players hit them hard defensively, where Kentucky QB Andre Woodson threw for four touchdowns and 358 yards against Bobby Bowden’s squad.

Cal 42, Air Force 36 – It seemed like Cal had no get-up-and-go early, with the offense sputtering under Nate Longshore and the Falcons getting out to 21 first half points. Kevin Riley then relieved Longshore and it was a completely different ball game, turning into an offensive shoot out. The crucial part came when Air Force QB Sean Carney had his leg bend in a way that really shouldn’t happen (so much so that announcer Dan Fouts told the audience to turn away), and the Bears were able to come back and solidify another winning season.

Oregon 56, South Florida 21 – Two things I learned from the Sun Bowl: the Big East isn’t as good as I thought yet, because South Florida, on paper, should have been much more competitive against a down on its luck Pac-10 team; Oregon is more resilient and has a better system than I thought, because for most of the season, I thought Dennis Dixon really was the ultimate key to it. He may be the best catalyst, but Justin Roper ran it well by using a heavy dose of running back Jonathan Stewart — 253 yards rushing.

Fresno State 40, Georgia Tech 28 – Pat Hill’s Mustache Riders romp on a BCS-conference opponent again while the Chan Gailey Equilibrium (TM EDSBS) strikes in combination with what is quickly becoming the Curse of the Interim — Jon Tenuta’s balls-out defensive calling skill didn’t work against Bulldog RB Clifton Smith, who rushed for 152 and 2 scores. Wait, Bulldogs? No wonder Tech folded — dogs, whether from Fresno or from Athens, seem to give them issues, and the Humanitarian Bowl was no different.

Oklahoma State 49, Indiana 33 – The Cowboys won on the strength of Zac Robinson; the QB threw for 3 scores and more than 300 yards in a game that very few got to see (thanks, NFL Network, not like many outside the fans of the two schools wanted to see the Insight Bowl.)

Auburn 23, Clemson 20 – So the Tigers have something interesting offensively going, with somewhat of a two-QB system between senior Brandon Cox and the future QB, Kodi Burns, who scored the winning touchdown in overtime after a game in which Auburn was able to put the screws to Cullen Harper, limiting Clemson’s attack in the Chk-fil-A Bowl.

Photo: AP/Bill Waugh