To paraphrase Forrest Gump’s Army-buddy, Bubba: “Crow is the fruit of the air. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. There’s, uh, crow-kabobs, crow creole, crow gumbo. Pan-fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple crow, lemon crow, coconut crow, pepper crow, crow soup, crow stew, crow salad, crow and potatoes, crow burger, crow sandwich. That — that's about it.”
This week, the Commissioner will eat a hearty helping of crow. Not so much because I missed the call in the LSU-Georgia game; I thought that one was going to be close and it was. The game came down to a single play. LSU made it and Georgia didn’t. No, I’m sitting down to a generous portion of barbecued crow because of how badly I misjudged Arkansas.
After spotting Texas A&M a 10 point lead, Arkansas ripped off 30 unanswered points before half-time and eventually dispatched the Aggies by a margin of four touchdowns. The Hogs proved that a team struggling not to finish in the bottom half of the SEC West is still far better than its counterpart in the Big 12 South. This weekend, the Swine return home to host undefeated Auburn.
Before the season, this game looked like it would be a chance for the Hogs to catch their breath before going back on the road against Florida and Ole Miss. Well, so much for pre-season analysis.
Arkansas is winless against the SEC while Auburn is undefeated having beaten Mississippi State and Tennessee. Search as long as you like, you won’t find a soul down in The Village who will admit to having once longed for Bobby Petrino to coach the Tigers.
But the Inmates at Alabama Polytechnic Institute are notoriously fickle. Just ask Terry Bowden, “Brother” Oliver, Tommy Tuberville, or any of the other men that Auburn has paid not to coach football. If the Hogs light up the Auburn defense the way they did A&M’s and Georgia’s, Gene Chizik might want to make sure that offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn isn’t invited to any private meetings with the Auburn Trustees.
Does Arkansas have what it takes to beat Auburn? They sure do. Only Alabama has contained the Arkansas attack. The Pigs average nearly 38 points per game. Disregard the Alabama game, and the average is over 45 points.
The Tigers gave up 30 points two weeks ago to Ball State! Last Saturday in Knoxville, the Vols racked up 410 yards of total offense on Auburn; more yardage than the inept UT offense has been able to muster against any opponent other than Western Kentucky. If Auburn allows Arkansas to gain over 400 yards, the “Spread Eagle” offense had better be matching the Hogs point for point. Otherwise, Chizik’s quest to get his career coaching record to .500 will have to wait at least until next season.
Although this game could go either way, I’m picking Arkansas. But I’ll keep some of that barbecued crow in the freezer, just in case.
Tennessee vs. Georgia
UT has a chance to get its first SEC win this weekend. Georgia absolutely cannot run the ball. Its one-dimensional offense is custom made to be exploited by Monte Kiffin’s defense.
Defensively the Dawgs have been a sieve. Yes, they did double their sack total against LSU last Saturday night, and held the Tigers to only 6 points in the first half. But with the game on the line, the Georgia defense could not protect a lead with 1:02 to play.
Tennessee has a terrible offense. Vol fans should not be fooled by the quick scoring drive UT engineered in the closing seconds against Auburn. The real Tennessee offense was on display in its first 11 possessions that resulted in 8 punts, a fumble, a missed field goal and one touchdown.
The key to winning this game will be having the better mental attitude.
Georgia will have to put out of its mind, the horrendously bad penalty called on A. J. Green when he celebrated what looked to be the game winning reception. It will have to ignore the defensive collapse that allowed LSU to mount a winning drive that took all of 16 seconds.
It will have to focus on repeating the things that produced good results and avoiding the things that produced the opposite. Tennessee will have to deal with the inevitable self-doubt that comes from losing miserably to every quality opponent it has faced this season.
Mental preparation begins and ends with coaching. Between Mark Richt and Lane Kiffin, who do you think is more capable of accomplishing the task of getting their team mentally ready to play? The pick: Georgia.
Florida vs. LSU
This weekend offers several marquee games around the league. But this contest, between the two teams that have won the last three BCS Championships, is by far the one to watch.
By the time of the opening kick-off, the only residents of Baton Rouge capable of drawing a sober breath will be the players and coaches. The LSU fans will be decked out in their most outrageous game-day attire.
Look for the deep purple zoot suit with the tiger-skin hatband around the wide-brimmed fedora, or the purple and gold unitard worn by the guy who moonlights as an Elvis impersonator from his day job on the LSU faculty. And of course, check out the tiger-striped “Cat-Girl’ with the purple boa, stiletto heels and Mardi Gras beads. If this event were just a costume party, the coin toss wouldn’t even be competitive. LSU would win in a walk. But there’s a football game to be played. And it is going to be a barn-burner.
Both teams are undefeated and ranked in the top five in national polls. LSU has won several close games, including on the road against Mississippi State and Georgia. The last time the Gators played, two weeks ago in Lexington, they suffered the loss of the finest player on the team; arguably, the finest player in the country.
At the time I write this, Tim Tebow’s status is still unknown. If he plays at anything close to 100%, Florida ought to win. Without him in the lineup, the Gators will struggle. Florida’s defense is outstanding and will give them a chance to win even if Tebow is not available.
LSU is averaging 27 points and 321 yards of offense per game. The Tiger defense is also allowing its opponents 321 yards per game, but has surrendered only 14 points on average.
With Tebow, Florida is a much better team than LSU. Without him, Florida is marginally better, primarily due to its defense.
Luck has played a significant part in LSU’s last two wins. LSU was lucky two weeks ago, that the Mississippi State quarterback failed to extend the football over the goal line on 4th and goal from three inches out. LSU was lucky last Saturday that the sportsmanship sensibilities of an official were offended by a 19-year-old college kid celebrating the joy of a fantastic play. Luck, in the form of Tim Tebow’s status, is at work this weekend as well.
All things considered, I’m satisfied that even if Tebow is not available, Florida can hold LSU’s offense in check, and score enough points to win a close one. The pick: Florida.
Alabama vs. Ole Miss
After stumbling around in an embarrassing loss to South Carolina, the Rebs proved they had what it took to drub Vanderbilt. Alabama, meanwhile, just continues to win convincingly.
The Tide’s performance against Kentucky last Saturday was similar to its game against Arkansas two weeks ago. ‘Bama was unproductive early, then it seemed to find a different offensive gear; after that, the Tide could have named the final score.
In each of the last two games, Alabama has literally driven the length of the field to score touchdowns. In each game, Alabama’s quarterback Greg McElroy has shown poise and control of his offense as he has spread the ball around to every receiver on the team. Opposing defenses this season cannot employ last year’s plan of doubling up on Julio Jones to take away the Alabama passing game. Against Kentucky, tight end Colin Peek, was the leading receiver. The week prior against Arkansas, it was wide-out Marquis Maze.
The Tide and Rebs have played extremely close games against each other the last several years. This year’s game will be close …for a while. The pick: Alabama.
Kentucky vs. South Carolina
The Cats are not a bad team. The Yard Birds are not a great one. But South Carolina is better right now than three other teams in the SEC East, including Kentucky.
The Chickens are still looking for someone, anyone, to step up in the running game, but quarterback Stephen Garcia is playing lights-out as a passer. He has completed 60 percent of his pass attempts, for an average of 207 yards per game, and has thrown 6 TDs against only 2 interceptions.
The chefs in the cockabooses will be cooking up the perfect après-game delicacies in hopeful expectation that their Fighting Chickens will dispatch the Cats. I hope they are right, because I don’t think I will have enough of that frozen crow to share. The pick: South Carolina.
The Commissioner is Joseph A. “Woody” Woodruff, a partner at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP.