The Dirty Dozen – Week 5
Major Reisman: “Five”
Team: “Pinkley stays out in the drive”
The Dirty Dozen looks at the games that Auburn’s opponents play throughout the season, highlighting points of interest, tendencies and potential issues for their upcoming game with Auburn. For the teams we’ve already played, I’ll look at how they performed with their remaining opponents in relation to their game against the Tigers.
Sometimes things go poorly. Sometimes the odds are simply too much and your team succumbs to a heavily favored opponent and despite their best efforts, they come up short. Those days are hard, but can be accepted as just part of the game we love. And then there are games like last week in which teams forget everything they ever knew about football and stop doing anything like they ever did before. Or struggle mightily, are on the verge of a glorious triumph and through a series of horrific catastrophes, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
It was the perfect week to have a bye as Halloween seems to have come early this year.
Keep in mind the comments are for the OPPOSING team, and only serve as a vehicle for commenting on them, not necessarily our team.
Grading for the games remains as always
!!! – Best game of the week
!! – Surprisingly good
! – Average to good
? – Why am I watching this?
?? – Who would watch this?
??? – What the hell am I watching?
A Football Fan’s Worst Nightmare Edition
Auburn – BYE
KEY STAT: N/A
COMMENTS: I’m sure everyone watched the Ole Miss – Alabama game very closely. Ole Miss looked vulnerable and Hugh Freeze made some horrendous game decisions.
Stanford at Washington State (10 point underdog) Stanford 55 – WSU 17
RATING: ??? – I enjoyed watching the popcorn guy more than this game.
OFFENSE: Halliday threw his usual interception yet again (that’s 9 in five games), only this time it was a pick-6 when WSU was already down by two scores. His replacement then came in and promptly threw another pick six when they were down four scores. Along with two fumbles, it was a long day for the Cougars. All of the worst problems they experienced in their first game against Auburn came back – the inability to run effectively, the reliance on the deep strike and Halliday’s tendency to force the ball into coverage.
DEFENSE: Even taking away the 21 points off of turnovers, this game got out of hand quickly. WSU gave up big play after big play and even while playing run defense well, they were burned badly by Stanford’s intermediate passing.
KEY STAT: 1 red zone possession by Stanford, in which they didn’t even score. All other scoring plays (9) were in excess of 20 yards. Three were in excess of 40 yards.
COMMENTS: A nightmare game for Leach’s team. They looked unprepared and completely flummoxed by the Stanford offense. A very poor game at nearly every level, coaching included. Had that popcorn been a bottle of rot gut whiskey, that fan’s response to the game would have been entirely understandable.
Arkansas State at Missouri (21 point underdog) Missouri 41 – Arkansas State 19
RATING: ? – A fourth quarter meltdown
OFFENSE: Pressured by Missouri’s pass rush, and unable to move the ball on the ground, Adam Kennedy was forced to pass on short slants and bubble screens most of the night, never able to threaten deep. For three quarters it worked, and he was able to complete 80% of his passes, but it caught up to him in the fourth and he threw a poorly timed desperation pass for an interception. Red zone production was limited to three field goals and only one touchdown.
DEFENSE: Simply could not bring pressure on Missouri’s quarterback. James Franklin completed 70% of his throws and three touchdowns, two of which came on just nine plays in the fourth quarter when the game was in reach.
KEY STAT: 2 Tackles for a loss and only one sack. Letting a senior SEC quarterback free to torch your secondary is a recipe for disaster.
COMMENTS: Missouri’s success in passing made their draw and trap plays that much more effective against a tired Arkansas State defense, and the subsequent play action left them vulnerable to the deep strike. Kennedy iced it with that interception in the fourth.
Mississippi State – BYE
KEY STAT: N/A
COMMENTS: Mississippi state prepares for LSU. It’ll be an interesting match up that looks like it will be much more of a slug fest than before. Dak Prescott might just pull the upset at home.
LSU at Georgia (3 point favorite) Georgia 44 – LSU 41
RATING: !!! – By far the best game of the early season
OFFENSE: Mettenberger did all that was humanly possible to win this game. He was on target, passed for 372 tough yards against a very good defense and did not turn the ball over. His line was less than steller, as Georgia’s pass sacked him four times, and the LSU rushing that dominated each of their previous games was never able to establish a rhythym.
DEFENSE: Very poor, especially late in the game. The LSU secondary would cover well at times, but without a decent pass rush, Aaron Murray was able to burn them for big gains at critical times. He was unhurried and patient for much of the game, and Georgia’s running game gashed the LSU defense time and again to keep drives alive.
KEY STAT: 0 sacks of Aaron Murray, 4 sacks of Zach Mettenberger.
COMMENTS: A hard fought classic game. LSU was brutally efficient on offense, converting 10 of 15 third downs, but gave up too many big plays to a dangerous senior quarterback behind a veteran line. The game hinged on the LSU defense stopping Aaron Murray on the last drive, but they seemed exhausted and let them race down the field and score.
Ole Miss at Alabama (Ole Miss comments – 16 point underdog) Alabama 25 – Ole Miss 0
RATING: ? – Poor coaching decisions on both ends of the field
OFFENSE: Stymied and ineffective. Ole Miss crossed the 50-yard line only four times, and ended three of those drives on downs with no points well within field goal range. The fourth ended with an interception. Their vaunted HUNH offense never got in tempo, and Alabama was able to substitute defensive players at will.
DEFENSE: Pressured AJ McCarron, but were burned by draw and trap plays. Very poor linebacker play as they let TJ Yeldon and sophomore Kenyon Drake slip into the secondary on big runs.
KEY STAT: Gained only 46 yards (1.8 yards per carry) rushing
COMMENTS: Ole Miss looked completely unready for this game, despite two weeks preparation. Hugh Freeze’s decisions in the red zone cost his team 9 easy points and shotgunning a snap in the endzone when you can’t run the ball was another 9-point dagger to the heart. Otherwise, this was a one score game.
Western Carolina at Samford (No line) Samford 62 – WCU 23
RATING: ! – Purely out of nostalgia for the win by a Pat Sullivan coached team
OFFENSE: Gained 443 yards offense, and scored 3 touchdowns, but could not seem to find any consistency to match Samford’s scoring drives.
DEFENSE: Allowed 589 yards, 408 through the air as Samford drove no less than 7 times for touchdowns, four of which took less than four plays each. No effective pass rush or pass defense to Samford’s attack.
KEY STAT: 401 yards punting by WCU, only 42 yards less than the offense gained.
COMMENTS: A complete mismatch. Samford overwhelmed WCU, even in the fourth quarter with backups.
Texas A&M at Arkansas (3 point favorite) TAMU 45 – Arkansas 33
RATING: ! – Close until the middle of the fourth quarter.
OFFENSE: Johnny Manziel was effective as ever, hitting nearly 80% of his passes, as TAMU steadily chewed up yards both running and passing in one of their most effective games to date. The game was actually won on the ground as they nursed a five point lead in the fourth and ate the clock on a late touchdown drive.
DEFENSE: Porous as usual. Unable to stop the Arkansas offense until late, surrendering nearly 7 yards per run and 8 per pass play.
KEY STAT: 1 punt in the first half. Scored on every other possession until the fourth quarter.
COMMENTS: TAMU relies entirely on their offense’s ability to score to win games. Solve the problem of Johnny Football and TAMU will lose. Unfortunately, no one has been able to do that except Alabama.
Florida Atlantic at Rice (14 point underdog) Rice 18 – FAU 14
RATING: ! – Yet another nightmare – had a hard fought game in hand, but suffered a series of bad turnovers at the end
OFFENSE: Gained good yardage in spurts by virtue of a conservative short passing game, but dropped passes ended many drives. Except for a couple of big plays, the run game wasn’t effective at all. Even so, had Rice on the ropes until Freshman quarterback Greg Hankerson threw two costly interceptions and fumbled on a brutal sack. All of which Rice capitalized on.
DEFENSE: Held Rice to almost half the yardage they gained on TAMU earlier in the season. Other than the turnovers, Rice had only three third down conversions and was ineffective through the air.
KEY STAT: Four turnovers – two for touchdowns
COMMENTS: A tough game for a freshman in his first start, especially when his own miscues were the cause of his team losing a winnable game.
Texas A&M at Arkansas (3 point underdog) TAMU 45 – Arkansas 33
RATING: ! – Kept pace until the end
OFFENSE: Except for passing completion rate, the numbers look good, but then again so did every other team that faced TAMU. The Hogs ran left, right and up the middle, passed marginally well and were productive, but an early 3rd quarter pick six interception and another to end the game in the fourth were their downfall.
DEFENSE: Burned early and often by the arm of Manziel. Then were unable to stop the run late in the game as the clock ran away from them. Very poor adjustments and very little pressure on Manziel.
KEY STAT: Only 1 sack of Manziel the entire game
COMMENTS: Brandon Allen’s passing has steadily deteriorated as the season has progressed dropping from a season high of 65% completion to less than 50%. That won’t be enough in the SEC West. I expect this team’s struggles have just begun.
South Alabama at Tennessee (20 point favorite) UT 31 – South Alabama 24
RATING: ??? – A Jekyll and Hyde game. A sure blowout won by virtue of a last minute end zone interception to avoid overtime.
OFFENSE: Forgot they were Tennessee until almost the fourth quarter. A dominant 450 yards of offense in the first three quarters, followed by a 49 hapless yards in the fourth. Worley was hitting over 70% of his passes the first half, but threw 4 for 13 and an interception in the fourth quarter. Bizarre.
DEFENSE: Allowed four drives into the red zone after stuffing the South Alabama offense for the first half. Forgot how to tackle, forgot how to cover, forgot how to rush the passer.
KEY STAT: 6 interceptions thrown – 3 for each team.
COMMENTS: Butch Jones is in trouble. Keep in mind this wasn’t just a non-conference cupcake from the Sun Belt, but an FBS team in only their second year of competition and his team was up 31-7 in the fourth quarter.
LSU at Georgia (3 point underdog) Georgia 44 – LSU 41
RATING: !!! – Was this just the first half of the SEC Championship?
OFFENSE: Not nearly as dominating as one would imagine for the victor in this game. Murray was outstanding, but completed fewer passes than normal. However, given the protection he was afforded by his offensive line, his pinpoint passing was the difference in the game. The Georgia ground game was much better than expected, gaining significant yardage on a very good defense.
DEFENSE: Held the LSU run game to its fewest yards all season (and all but one game from last season – the loss to Florida). The Georgia pass rush harried Mettenberger all game long and despite the score, effectively halved the normal efficiency of the LSU running offense.
KEY STAT: Held LSU to 2.14 yards per carry.
COMMENTS: Although it raised more questions than it answered, this was the key game of the early season. Georgia is poised to run the table in the East, and will likely be the SEC East champion as the meat of their schedule is now behind them. LSU still has TAMU and Alabama on the schedule and must travel a much more careful path to do the same. However, I feel these teams will probably meet again in Atlanta for round two.
Ole Miss at Alabama (16 point favorite) Alabama 25 – Ole Miss 0
RATING: ? – Alabama finally woke up and began to play
OFFENSE: McCarron had his best game, passing for an impressive 78%, but mostly on short, high probability passes to suplement a grinding clock killing run game that was completely absent the first three games. Even excluding the two 50+ yard TD carries, Yeldon and Drake averaged over 4 yards per carry against a struggling Ole Miss defense.
DEFENSE: Denied the Ole Miss off-tackle run game from any momentum whatsoever. The speed and quality of the Alabama line and linebackers was evident in the inability for Ole Miss to convert anything in the red zone.
KEY STAT: 254 yards on 40 carries for Alabama, nearly as much as this offense gained in the first three games combined.
COMMENTS: Kirby Smart called a near perfect defensive game. Time and again, Alabama sent in full defensive sets prior to Ole Miss being able to implement their offensive tempo, disabling the one advantage Ole Miss brought to Tuscaloosa – the HUNH offense. That the chess match was won was evident by the complete inability for Ole Miss to score a single point, despite four trips within field goal range.
With a surprisingly easy schedule in October, Alabama has the opportunity to build upon this resurgent run game. They had better. November will prove a steep challenge if they backslide to what they were like in the early season.
All in all, I’m just glad the Tigers sat this week out. A few too many nightmares for my tastes.
Trivia Note: In addition to appearing in the Dirty Dozen, George Kennedy was in three other films in 1967, and won an academy award for Best Supporting actor as Dragline in Cool Hand Luke, a role that Dirty Dozen co-star Telly Savalas declined.