Saturday Lessons: October 10

Florida is on cruise control.

How many teams do you know of that plan to go on the road into one of the most hostile environments in the country against the No. 4 team and just coast on offense with about 30 vanilla runs up the middle? That's exactly what the Gators did in keeping things conservative on the way to their 13-3 win over LSU. It became evident by halftime that the Tigers' offense couldn't really threaten the end zone without the help of penalties by the Florida defense, so Urban Meyer took the route he did in the Florida-Tennessee game by not taking any chances and letting the defense win the thing. He also did that for three quarters against Kentucky, which makes basically 11 of the past 12 quarters that they've done this.

LSU's defense should get credit for stopping Florida's offense more often than not, as it easily could have been a 23-3 final without any change in strategy (have Florida kick FG instead of failed 4th down conversion, make the missed FG, have Aaron Hernandez actually catch the TD pass). However, the Tiger offense never once seemed potent enough to catch up without a fluke, and that spells trouble when they play Alabama.

Alabama was too, at least last weekend.

Alabama basically took what Ole Miss would give them, which in Jevan Snead's case was the ball four times. Going with five field goals and a touchdown is not the loudest way a team can make a statement, but this one was basically over at halftime too. At 16-0 and with no first downs for the Rebels, there was no need to get fancy on the road and let a dead team walking reanimate in a zombie that bites them where the sun don't shine. Nearly half of their yardage was Mark Ingram rushes, and Greg McElroy was solid but unspectacular in distributing the ball without turning it over.

As for Ole Miss, the chance to fulfill all their goals is basically over. With two conference losses, their best hope is probably winning out and having LSU lose to Alabama, thereby giving them the tiebreaker for second in the division. Even going that far is wishful thinking at the moment, since, leaving LSU aside for the moment, beating Arkansas and Auburn doesn't look at all like a sure thing anymore.

Something is really right in Tennessee, and something is really wrong in Georgia.

On Saturday, we got a glimpse of what the Lane Kiffin offense looks like with a good quarterback. In short, the rest of the East had better hope Tyler Bray doesn't pan out and that Kiffin's staff continues to struggle with recruiting signal callers. Getting Jonathan Crompton on the move following play action was sure to make things easier for him, but even if you knew that was the game plan, the only way you could have predicted his 310 yards and 4 TDs was with a random number generator. The only question is whether this was a one game fluke or a real change. Monte Kiffin's defense was spectacular too, but we already knew that was going to happen.

Georgia's defense certainly helped Crompton out on his banner day. Yes, his execution was nearly flawless, but no one goes from being a Michael Henig clone to a reflection of Joe Montana without help. Dawg Sports has the laundry list of problems if you need it, but it's tough to win when you can't stop anyone and the offense scores just three points. This is quickly going from being a down year to a disaster in Athens. The Bulldogs have a tune up against Vandy and a bye week before the showdown in Jacksonville, and it would be wise to use those two weeks as an opportunity for making big changes. I mean, they're not winning the East at this point. Why keep trotting out the same players and schemes?

It's still a bit nutty out there.

Texas was down to Colorado at halftime. Virginia, who lost to William & Mary, hammered Indiana, who almost beat Michigan. Kansas had to rally to beat Iowa State. Florida State is 2-4 and has no defense. East Carolina lost to SMU. There's not a lot that we're used to that we can cling to right now. Fortunately there's still Ohio State over Wisconsin, Texas Tech putting 60+ on a Big 12 North team no matter the quarterback, Oregon State losing a couple early ones before rounding into a good team, and Ron Zook being a terrible head coach.

In some places, it's beginning to look a lot like August.

Remember back in the preseason when Arkansas was the hot up and coming team and Auburn would be struggling? That assessment matches exactly what we saw over the weekend with the Razorbacks firebombing the Tigers in the first half to the point at which even the hurry up offense that Auburn runs couldn't catch up. The real story was not Auburn coming back down to earth (because that was bound to happen eventually), but that aside from a few breakdowns late in the third quarter, Arkansas looked like it had a functional defense. They were getting good pressure consistently, and if they can sustain that, third (or even second) place in the division becomes possible.

The human pollsters might just give the non-BCS folk a shot at it all.

Boise State, despite having done nothing in the past two weeks except notch a lackluster win over a I-AA team, remains sixth in the Coaches' Poll and fifth in both the Harris poll. TCU is lurking at 8 in the Coaches' and 10 in the Harris. Those teams will obviously need some help from those ahead of them to play in the national title game, but poll inertia is actually working in their favor still. There was a minor dust up a couple weeks ago when BSU shot to No. 5, but a couple weeks later, little has changed. The catch is that I can't imagine the computer polls being kind to the Broncos (though maybe they might be to the Horned Frogs).

South Carolina is a chameleon.

Against NC State (who got blown out by Duke over the weekend, by the way), the Gamecocks looked bad. Against Georgia, it was all offense and no defense. Against Ole Miss, it was all defense and no offense. Against Kentucky, it was doing everything sort of well but not a whole lot exceptionally well. In other words, South Carolina takes on the character of its opponents, and at least for now, it's working. If the pattern holds, look for about 200 yards rushing and stifling defense this weekend against Alabama.

Mississippi State is piling up moral victories.

The Bulldogs almost beat the team that beat two Big 12 South opponents. They gained nearly 500 yards in the process and averaged 6.5 yards per rush. Things are definitely progressing in Starkville, but with the talent available at hand, it will be tough to get many breakthrough wins.

Vanderbilt did not win.

Out of respect for the grieving, I will say nothing more.

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