Monday Morning Ramblings

Each week in college football brings us games that have a bearing on the national title hunt, and this week was no different. Here are some random thoughts on the weekend's action.

The showcase matchup in the SEC over the weekend was the Vols' trip to meet the Florida Gators, and it was Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer's first real game at Florida.

We hear a lot about "The Zone", but it's almost always when talking about players. I think "The Zone" can be found by coaches as well, even if only for a series. Florida's play calling on its first touchdown drive certainly had that appearance. Every play was 15 yards all the way to the endzone. The drive culminated with a reverse call that Tennessee completely blew backside containment, and Andre Caldwell scampered into the endzone.

The zone should be enjoyed though, because it doesn't last long. That drive was just about the only sustained drive either team could manage in a game that saw only 460 yards of total offense.

Forget covering Chris Leak on the option, he doesn't want to run it. However Leak showed good mobility and open field running when he broke containment for a 17 yard run on a pass play. His boisterous reaction was a little out of character for him. The typical business like Leak looked like he was having fun out there.

Meyer opened himself up to second guessing early when he went for a 4th and one on his own forty in the second quarter. Those kinds of misses tend to get forgotten when a team ends up on the right side of the score, and magnified in a loss.

Britton Colquitt may end up being a terrific punter for the Vols, but Saturday night's game in the swamp is one he's going to want to forget.

Looking at the box scores, this was not a game that either team would have wanted to be in. If Tennessee was told that they would hold Florida to 68 yards rushing on 37 carries (1.8 avg), they would have figured they were coming away with a win. The problem is, Tennessee only mustered 66 yards on the ground on 25 carries.

(AP/Phelan Ebenhack)

Florida's big win came at a costly price. Caldwell, who scored the Gators' only touchdown, was lost for the season with a broken leg, and Ray McDonald might be the player that the Gators could least afford to lose on defense. Caldwell is done for the year, and McDonald might be.

If it hadn't come already, Meyer's Welcome to the SEC moment came at 13:00 in the fourth quarter as the Gators got a little conservative protecting the lead, and the Boo Birds made an appearance.

CBS Showed a stat that 9 out of the last 14 years, the winner of that game won the SEC. That is an amazing stat in itself, but here's another: of the five times it wasn't won by Florida or Tennessee, four have been in the last four years.

While Clemson/Miami didn't have the build up of the Vols/Gators on a national level, it was a game that had national ramifications of its own. Despite losing to Florida State in week one, Miami still looked like the better team, and Clemson looked like a team that had serious ACC title hopes of its own.

Miami let Clemson back in the game before eventually pulling it out. I was surprised to see 55 passes from Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. I think there's a chance we could see these two team play again this year, and Clemson will hope to be able to establish more of a running game.

Speaking of playing second fiddle to the Tennessee/Florida game, Alabama's thrashing of South Carolina should have opened some eyes on Saturday. The ease at which the Tide dispatched the Gamecocks should have served notice to the rest of the SEC that Alabama will be a serious contender for the SEC West Championship.

The schedule is about to get nasty for the Tide with four straight SEC games including Tennessee and Florida, but the Tide gets both of those teams at home.

Georgia once again proved that football is a game of emotion, and it's impossible to be up every week. Georgia also proved that eventually, a national power is going to squash a big underdog. How else to explain Florida State being down 10-3 with two minutes left in the 2nd quarter to The Citadel in week 2, before dropping 59 straight points on the military academy?


Danny Ware rushed for 109 yards

How else to explain Georgia sleepwalking its way to a slim 10 point lead before blowing out the visitors from Louisiana? In each case, the final score was about what one might expect, even if the path to the final wasn't.

The Bulldogs have another tune up with Mississippi State before getting a week off to play the Vols in what has become an early must win game for Tennessee.

Speaking of Florida State, Boston College may one day be favored over the Seminoles, but it's not going to be this year.

The surprise in the SEC without a doubt is the 3-0 Vanderbilt Commodores. After beating Arkansas, Vanderbilt found themselves a home favorite against Ole Miss.

For the first three quarters of the game, they played like it to. Vandy was routing the Rebels 28-7 when Ole Miss made a furious comeback.

After watching another Ole Miss kick sail wide in the first half, I thought, "They better not need a field goal to win a game any time soon."

I didn't think it was going to be in this game, but a missed extra point that would have tied the game changed the whole complexion of the contest.

As I was watching this game in its entirety, it was obvious which team had more talent on the field, and it wasn't the one most might expect. Vanderbilt was superior in nearly all phases of the offense, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and the offensive line. Ole Miss has some talented playmakers, and a player like Mico McSwain helped bring them back into the game, but this isn't the Vanderbilt of old.

No longer to the Commodores pile up moral victories after falling in the end. This team has gutted out three big wins.

Some of the things I noticed in this game…

For the second straight game, Ole Miss opens with a solid drive. I don't know the answer to this, but I'd be interested to know of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone scripts the first few plays of a game.

Sophomore Theo Horrocks is a defensive tackle that most might not know about. Most will, and it's a safe bet that Ole Miss does. Horrocks was all over the field on Saturday afternoon in one of the best interior line performances I've seen this season.

Vanderbilt won this game despite erratic play from senior quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler made some uncharacteristic poor decisions in forcing the ball into coverage on several occasions.


Jay Cutler - AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

How does Michael Spurlock run out of bounds five yards short of the 1st down on 3rd and 10 in the fourth quarter?

Ole Miss' defensive lineman Jayme Mitchell has a long future ahead of him on the next level, and he was making life miserable on the Vandy offense in the second half. Cutler's shovel pass to Jeff Jennings in the fourth quarter right under a rampaging Mitchell was a terrific play call.

That wasn't the only good play call by Vanderbilt Offensive Coordinator Ted Cain. Fans complain about the prevent defense, but the prevent offense is just as deadly. Cain stayed aggressive and called a pass play with 2:30 left in the game on third down. That third down conversion could have been the play that won the game.

With Richmond and MTSU coming up next, Vanderbilt has a legitimate shot to go 5-0. This team has not enjoyed success long enough to overlook anyone, and I'm sure Head Coach Bobby Johnson has already reminded his team.

The schedule doesn't let up much for Ole Miss as a good Wyoming team is coming to town followed by a trip to Knoxville.

Georgia Tech pulled out a big win against a scrappy Uconn team on Saturday. After watching the Jackets play North Carolina, I remembered thinking that Chan Gailey is living right. The first two games of the season were against quarterbacks making their first career starts.

Gailey had to find out how the other half lived this weekend, as three year starter Reggie Ball was sidelined with viral meningitis (full recovery expected). Taylor Bennett made his first start and helped lead his team to a win in a game that Georgia Tech has to win in order to take a step to the next level.

Tech has been consistently unpredictable in the past. After beating a team like Auburn on the road, one could almost pencil in a loss to North Carolina or Uconn. This Jacket team took care of business in both games setting up a huge showdown with Virginia Tech on the road.

Auburn had the game they probably wished they could have opened the season with to get new quarterback Brandon Cox his first start. The Tigers blew out Ball State, and Cox turned in a very efficient performance.


Kenny Irons (AP / Robb Carr)

This game showed what Auburn does best, run the ball. Auburn piled up a whopping 390 yards rushing in this game. Kenny Irons went for 147 yards on just 11 carries. Brad Lester had 91 yards on only seven, and he added a 93 yard kickoff return in getting named SEC Freshman of the Week.

The schedule sets up nicely for Auburn with the next three weeks against Western Kentucky, South Carolina, and Arkansas before a trip to Baton Rouge. This Auburn team isn't ready to overlook any SEC opponent, especially an Arkansas team that historically gives them fits, but Auburn should be 5-1 headed to LSU.

Is Arkansas that bad, or is USC that good? Maybe a little of both. It sure looks like everyone is playing for second in the country this year, but that's why they suit them up.

I was a little surprised to check the box score (yes I turned it off at 40 something to not nearly enough) and see that the Trojans last three touchdowns in a 70-17 romp came through the air.

USC had 736 yards of total offense. I saw mention that USC's offense was a video game, and that's as good a metaphor as I've seen to describe the Trojan attack.

You mean, Charlie Weis isn't the Pope?

Game of the Week next week:

SEC - Tennessee @ LSU
ACC - Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech

Until Next Time…


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