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Kicking Off Week 12 of an Underappreciated Football Season // 11.16.09

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Kickingoff_medium

GATOR HYPE-O-METER
On a scale of 1 to 100

Hypeometerweek10_medium
Still not going anywhere after a victory against South Carolina.

UPS AND DOWNS
A look at who's going which way in college football 

Takeup_medium PAC-10
The end of the reign of Southern Cal means the rest of its league will get some national attention. But does the end of the Pac-1+9 really just mean it's now a mediocre league all around? Only Oregon annihilating Ohio State will tell us for sure.

Takeup_medium HUMAN VOTERS
Finally get over their unreasonable hesitance to admit that Southern Cal is a mortal team. What next -- acknowledging that an undefeated team is not necessarily better than one with a loss?

Takeup_medium SEC OFFICIALS
A week without controversy makes us wonder what they've got up their sleeves for this weekend.

Takeside_medium LANE KIFFIN
Handles ALLEGED attempted armed robbery situation with aplomb. But why was there an ALLEGED attempted armed robbery situation to begin with?

Takedown_medium PETE CARROLL
Old: Building a team whose reign over the Pac-10 will never die as long as he's around. New: Can he outlast Charlie Weis?

Takedown_medium SYRACUSE
You've already admitted you're a basketball school when your quarterback used to play roundball somewhere else. But losing to Kragthorpe's Louisville? Maybe you should just join the MAC.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
A few things to think about this week

In defense of the college football season
There have been a lot of claims made around the blogosphere -- including on this very site -- that the college football season has somehow been rendered boring by the locked-in national title matchup of Florida-Alabama against Texas. And while that part of the season certainly has been lacking in drama, it doesn't wipe out everything else that's been happening around the country.

Right now, the might Southern Cal dynasty is crumbling in Los Angeles, with losses to Washington, Oregon and Stanford making it almost impossible for the Trojans to win the Pac-10. As Dr. Saturday highlights in a post that we'll get to in the news, this could actually make Southern Cal a more intriguing team as it looks to deal with adversity almost unheard of in the Pete Caroll Era.

There was the death-defying undefeated streak of Iowa that kept all of us wondering whether and when the Hawkeyes' well-timed big plays might not be so well-timed or so big and might instead leave them with their first loss.

Meanwhile, we've been debating Boise State vs. TCU in an effort to figure out the best undefeated mid-major team and whether either of them deserves to be in the national title game. That only happened after BYU edged Oklahoma in a season-changing upset, a narrative that was rewritten when Florida State went to Provo and demolished the Cougars. That sparked more talk about a return for the Seminoles to their 1990s form until that idea was shattered over the next few weeks.

And all the mid-major talk was complicated by figuring out what to do with Houston before the other BCS Buster from Texas lost to UTEP in unlikely fashion and lost yet another game in Conference USA, leaving us all to wonder what happened to them.

Let's not forget the officiating controversies here in the SEC, the unlikely strong showing by Auburn and the stunning demise of Ole Miss' preseason dreams.

It hasn't been a boring season at all, really. The national title race hasn't been that exciting. But the best thing about college football -- and the thing that the BCS preserves -- is that when the race to the top isn't interesting, there's plenty more to watch.

Poll position
Florida's nailbiting 24-14 win over South Carolina must not have impressed the writers at all, with three first-place votes switching from the Gators to Alabama and Florida losing another point to boot. That moved Alabama into second place and trimmed Florida's lead to 34 points from 37. Texas lost six points but kept 10 first-place votes, which suggests something going on with the Longhorns among those who didn't consider them the best team in the nation.

The writers do love the Mountain West Conference, with BYU and Utah still being inexplicably ranked despite being pureed by TCU in the course of a month. Maybe the AP pollsters were like the other 300 million Americans who couldn't have watched TCU-Utah even had they wanted to. (Way to stick it to ESPN for not television your teams enough, MWC! Really, is there a more self-destructive conference in all of college football?) Southern Cal and Houston also hang around, the first one far more plausible than the second.

Texas continues to lead Alabama in the coaches' poll despite having fewer first-place votes, though the edge is down from 10 points last week to nine this week. I would point to some sort of attempted vote-rigging by coaches in the Big XII or those who just don't like the SEC, but what could they possibly be thinking? We all know how this is going to play out in the end. So I'll assume their motives are pure even if I'm not sure giving them that much of the benefit of the doubt makes them look better or worse.

With that as the basis for comparison, there's relatively little insanity in the Harris Poll results, though one must wonder whether defeating New Mexico by five really warrants moving Utah to No. 18 from No. 22. That's almost a point a place for a defeat of New Mexico, who haven't won a game this year.

Consensus No. 10 LSU remains the only other SEC team to actually be ranked in any of the polls. Ole Miss is imaginary No. 30 in the AP survey, which has Auburn and Georgia tied for No. 33. The Rebels are also five spots from the official ranking in the coaches poll, but that survey has Auburn at No. 36 and the Georgia team that just defeated the Tigers at No. 40. Ole Miss is No. 31 according to Harris and Auburn is No. 37. Georgia doesn't get any points, which is fair because otherwise No. 39 Nevada and No. 41 Air Force wouldn't get any.

The games ahead
Florida and Alabama both face less than compelling match-ups this weekend before their annual year-ending rivalries, with the Gators hosting Florida International and the Tide welcoming Chattanooga. Those games will lighten their resumes and their wallets but give them time to tune up a bit before the last weekend of the regular season and also the GAME OF THE DECADE CENTURY MILLENIUM INDICATOR OF THE IMMINENT APOCALYPSE in Atlanta.

Georgia tries to avoid an upset against Kentucky for the second time in four years -- the Dawgs only won by four points last year in one of the games that has endeared Willie Martinez to Georgia fans. The cross-state showdown between Tennessee and Vanderbilt also kicks off in Nashville. LSU and Ole Miss face off in a tilt that has lost some of its shine since the Rebels' season ran off the rails and Alabama clinched the SEC West. Arkansas and Mississippi State also square off.

South Carolina and Auburn take a break after 11 straight weeks of football that has at times taken an obvious toll on both teams. The only SEC team who will play all 12 games in a row this year? Vanderbilt, which looks headed for a winless season in the league and hasn't won a game since late September.

SEC NEWS

Give him credit
Lane Kiffin is handling the ALLEGED attempted armed robbery exactly right.

"I'm not calling it anything except for telling you that they're not part of any of our activities until we get more information in. There's no way I would ever let them be around our team and be around our functions with what's been said that may have happened."

Not making any premature decisions but not turning a blind eye either.

Be polite
This is a highly religious post that I found inspiring. It concerns two of the players linked to the armed robbery at the University of Tennessee. It is football-related but, as noted, religious in nature. For that reason, I will be monitoring the comments to this post very carefully. Be nice to one another in this forum -- any comment bashing anyone's religion will be deleted immediately per TSK's standards -- and please be respectful if you choose to comment on the site linked here. Obviously, I have no control over that and am not your mother, so it's not an order or anything. It's just a simple request.

Hartline done for regular season
He'll have knee surgery on Tuesday but could be back for the bowl. Just having that as a concern shows how far Kentucky has come under Rich Brooks.

Greg McElroy is still doing very well
He's probably better than you think and might be getting better still.

That is a moral victory
Louisiana Tech briefly held its first lead against LSU in 105 years Saturday. So if you're wondering why some LSU fans seem unhappy with the win ...

Richt still needs to fire Willie Martinez
The Senator says Mark Richt can keep his defensive coordinator if he wants to.

But he’ll be the guy that will have to live with the consequences. There are plenty of examples of good people at the top being undone by their subordinates. One thing we all know from following this program is that Georgia can’t be a successful SEC program with a second-tier defense.

I don't think that's a terribly subtle way of putting things.

Tebow gets his first 2009 Heisman vote
George Rogers has thrown his support behind the Florida QB.

Because he hasn't decided for whom he will vote
Tim Tebow is also wondering who deserves the Heisman.

Haden looking at the NFL
The junior is asking for his draft stock to be evaluated.

Vanderbilt's losing streak is its longest in six years
Think about that for just a moment.

I would heartily root for Georgia in that case
Dawg Sports looks on the "bright" side of a Peach Bowl invite.

This is truly outrageous
For those who don't know, Billy Laval is not in the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. He is, before and maybe even including Steve Spurrier, the best coach in South Carolina history and his exclusion from this hall is more ridiculous than Erk Russell not being in the national hall. So forgive me for taking a personal privilege and asking the folks in Columbia: What is wrong with you?

Eddie Gran now in Memphis head coaching picture
But the Commercial Appeal still thinks Larry Porter of LSU is one of the leading candidates, with former South Carolina assistant Rick Stockstill the other. Let's not forget that former Auburn head coach Terry Bowden is also in the picture. Also recently interviewed: Mike MacIntyre, son of a former Vandy coach and a onetime assistat at Ole Miss. Lots of SEC-related names in there.

Injury Report

WR A.J. Green (Georgia)
Shoulder sprain, out

S Bacarri Rambo (Georgia)
Concussion, out for at least one week but unclear beyond that

RB Emmanuel Moody (Florida)
Sprained ankle, unclear

OTHER NEWS

Maybe Georgia is Southern Cal with a southern accent
Sorry to borrow from the Mayor so blatantly for the link title, but the soul-searching sparked by the Trojan's losses to Stanford, Oregon and Washington should sound familiar to fans in Athens.

This program is at a crossroads...if you think that is some dramatic statement think again.

The a few teams in the Pac-10 have caught up. They do not fear USC. They are recruiting some solid players...Just like SC. And they have some solid staffs in place. Based on what I have seen I still want PC as the head coach but he has to make some changes...he has to overcome and adapt to the new style of play.

I think that has it just about right. It's not at all an exaggeration to say this is Pete Carroll's worst season since his first in LA. Because it is.

But if Southern Cal wants to overreact and completely scrap their head coach, be my guest. After all, South Carolina should have an opening in a few years, and he fits their hiring profile perfectly. 

Proof it's serious
Dr. Saturday and I are often worlds apart on our assessments of Southern Cal, but there's nothing like a mediocre season to get rid of those differences.

Until then, we won't know how deep the obvious cracks that have emerged this season really run, or whether they can just be painted over like they were never there by another seven-year run of uninterrupted dominance. But even if their immediate fate is obviously shot where the usual spoils of conference titles and BCS bowls are concerned, we can still learn a lot about the future of this great program by how it carries itself with nothing at stake but the logo on the side of the helmet.

They're playing for nothing more than pride. Who thought before the season began that we'd be saying that about Southern Cal?

Unlike Notre Dame, they actually want you to defeat Southern Cal first
Stanford and Jim Harbaugh are working on a contract extension.

'What's your deal?'
Because Pete Carroll has never run up the score against anyone ever.

Matt Barkley will still start
When was the last time Pete Carroll had to defend one of his decisions based on "potential"? (So am I enjoying this? Only a lot.)

Not all hope is lost
The NYT has come up with a scenario, believe it or not, where -- Well, I'll let them tell you.

There is even a chance of a six-way tie for first place in which U.S.C. would make the Rose Bowl.

At which point they would once again defeat Ohio State by 40.

Dick Tomey is done after 46 years of coaching
He was head coach for 29 of those and has a winning record, which isn't easy to do when you're coaching at Hawaii, Arizona and San Jose State.

Now THAT's cold
Mike Sanford, head coach of UNLV, was fired over the weekend. But there's a caveat -- it's "effective Dec. 5." Ouch.

Is the secret to fewer concussions getting rid of helmets?
The Wiz of Odds considers a counterintuitive cure to the rash of head injuries.

Here's hoping they all survive
The Rivalry, Esq., begins its annual coverage of, well, the rivalry. This is a bit more serious than Florida taking on South Carolina, so all the best to the survival of one our fellow conference blogs here on SBN.