It was great to have a bye weekend and be able to sample the fare of other games without the pressure of putting your game face on for the Tigers. I swear we fans sometimes get up for these even more than the players do. It’s not easy being a fan. For the players, it’s just a game. For us fans, it’s our manhood on the line. Or the female equivalent. But with the weekend and the pressure off, for my money, there simply wasn’t a better contest than LSU between the hedges, the prime SEC afternoon telecast on CBS. It isn’t often that you watch a game and decree it to be an instant classic, but there’s little doubt that ESPN Classic will be replaying this one for decades to come.
This game was tough to figure out who to root for. Mathematically, Auburn fans needed Georgia to saddle LSU with a loss while we were still alive in the west, and neither could both teams lose no matter how much we willed it. Conversely, the toughness and pride of the SEC west was on the line–why see the Dawgs get any satisfaction in beating one of best of our division mates? If you’re like me, you just want to see a good contest. Usually I decide during the game whom I want to prevail–one team tends to reveals itself to more deserving than the other in good time. I started Saturday rooting for Georgia, but found myself wanting LSU to take it in the waning minutes. Maybe CFB should bring back the tie?
In a conference known for defense, we sure haven’t seen much of it in the marquee matchups so far this year. Two top 10 tens slugging it out should have some share of scoring but shouldn’t be nothing resembling a Big 12 or PAC 12 game. We opened the SEC schedule towards the beginning of the month with Georgia and South Carolina as the CBS featured game of the week. One thousand yards. Seventy-one points. Okay, that was a game between east foes. Sometimes the scoreboard gets a little busy in those. But would it be the template we’d see week after week?
A week later and we had Alabama at Texas A&M. Alabama’s known for defense, and there’s no way that revenge was going to be denied against Johnny Football. Same story. Almost 1200 yards of total offense and 91 points. It’s amazing that a team hung 628 yards on Alabama and still lost! I couldn’t help but wonder if the collective nation watched that game and laughed. SEC defense was looking like Notre Dame’s in last year’s BCS championship. Would it be any different with subsequent games?
A week later showed a regression in offense with Florida and Tennessee at the swamp, but defense wasn’t the culprit. Not a lot happened here–it was less a defensive chess match than simply huffing and puffing between out of shape, has-been teams. The Vols’ wheels continue to fall off the wagon while the Gators continue to be rudderless, in search of direction and a leader. This game only served as proof that CBS has to balance the telecasts and not show the SEC west week in, week out.
Then came the Bayou Bengals in Athens. Finally–a match between east and west. Georgia doesn’t get to play LSU near enough and it’s good to see the Dogs get to complain about the possibility of losing to someone other than the Gators for a change. Dawg pride from losing the past few match ups with LSU in Atlanta was on the line and they were looking for revenge. LSU’s once strong defense was looking a little vanquished one week after Auburn talleyed 420 yards against them. Georgia’s was definitely suspect after what Clemson and even Sakerlina did to them. Could we finally see a defensive showdown between DCs Chavis and Grantham?
Nope. Another field day for offenses. Almost a 1000 yards gained and 85 points. Only FOUR punts between them. In the second half, no score went unanswered by the other team. Zac Mettenberger played like a man possessed against his former teammates, as Georgia’s defense allowed him almost 400 yards passing and made Auburn’s defensive effort against him look mighty. Sure, it was a fun game to watch. It was one of those contests where the team that had the ball last was the one that would win, and it did go down to the wire, which is all you can ask from a football game.
It gave Auburn a chance to scout the Dawgs. With our first common opponent, it left me with the distinct impression that we’ll be able to move the ball against them. We were able to move the ball in the second half against LSU, and LSU was able to move the ball and score better against Georgia than they did on us. We were a few plays away from giving LSU a run in Baton Rouge. Georgia squeaked by at home. The possibilities are endless.
But what is the SEC to do about our defensive reputation if we keep watching the equivalent of arena football every week now? These are the marquee games and the country is watching. Suddenly our league doesn’t look so tough. If A&M can run clear across Texas on Alabama’s defense, imagine what an Oregon or Clemson or Ohio State is emboldened to believe they can do against any SEC team? Defense wins championships. I hope the conference isn’t forsaking that notion in the meantime, even if the ratings are great.
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