The Dirty Dozen – Week 8
Major Reisman: “Eight”
Team: “Jimenez has got a date”
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.
Jimenez might have a date, but so does Gus Malzahn and Auburn. It’s fast looking like November 30th in Jordan Hare Stadium will be a face off between two top ten programs for the fate of the SEC West, and possibly the SEC and even BCS championships. The winner of the Iron Bowl has won both of those other titles for the last four years, and it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine that it might be true for an incredible five in a row. Let’s hope it’s a full house hand of crystal trophies instead of four of a kind.
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?
Per request, I’ve added the pre-game win-loss record for each team and their calculated the ER or Efficiency Rating (see my Cafe Malzahn article) of the major or SEC teams. At the end, I’ll show a chart of the pre and post game ER ratings and the change that occurred this week.
This week’s games after the jump.
“OK, who here thought Auburn had a chance in this game?”
12th Man Post-game Conference Edition
Auburn (6-1 ER:3.5 ) – Texas A&M(5-2 ER:1) (14 pt underdog) AU 45 – TAMU 41
RATING: !!! – The ‘signature’ game of Malzahn’s first season. Now bowl eligible and so much more.
OFFENSE: The wheel(route)s on the Gus Bus went ’round and ’round the A&M corners for big yards while the Auburn rushing attack left roadkill in its wake slashing between the tackles for 6.3 yards per carry and 379 yards. Nick Marshall added 236 yards passing to seal the win. An outstanding effort on offense.
DEFENSE: There were too many big plays given up by the Auburn secondary. Several were due to personnel not keeping position on the play and no one could even attempt to cover Mike Evans on a career best night. Even so, Manziel was somewhat contained to limit his broken play scrambling and devastating opportunity passing. But it was way too close for comfort. Only a fresh pass rush late in the fourth quarter stood between TAMU and the win.
KEY STAT: 3.3 yards per rush by TAMU. While it gained a couple of first downs, it was very unreliable.
COMMENTS: The entire burden of the game was on Manziel who was often unable to make it out of the pocket and was disrupted just enough to make the difference in the game. We knew this game would be a shootout, but that was one for the ages.
Washington State (4-4 ER:) at Oregon (7-0 ER:6) (38 pt underdog) OU 62 – WSU 38
RATING: ! – Not close by any stretch, but not a runaway either.
OFFENSE: Halliday, Halliday, Halliday. Threw for an incredible 557 yards and four touchdowns against one of the best defenses in the land. But of course, he also threw four picks, as is his wont (he leads the nation with 17). If there ever was a predestined draft pick for 2015, I say the Dallas Cowboys desperately need Connor Halliday to back up Tony Romo. Those two are a matched pair.
DEFENSE: Allowed 719 yards by the every balanced score-a-minute Ducks. 383 on the ground, 336 through the air for over 9 yards per play. No one expected WSU’s defense to be much more than a speed bump to Oregon, and they didn’t disappoint in the least. There wasn’t even a pulse in the 3rd quarter as the Ducks put the game away.
KEY STAT: 2 yards rushing by WSU
COMMENTS: At times, Halliday was brilliant in his touch, poise and delivery. At other times, his throws were directly to opposing defensive backs with no WSU players within yards of the ball. But when you have your quarterback throw 89 times into the teeth of a top ten defense, you’re bound to see such things. 100 monkeys, 100 typewriters, 100 years and all that.
Arkansas State (3-3 ) – Half BYE?
KEY STAT: N/A
COMMENTS: Not sure what else to call this. Arkansas State plays La Lafayette on a Tuesday night, ten days after their last game and eleven days before their next.
Mississippi State (3-3 ER: -2) – BYE
KEY STAT: N/A
COMMENTS: Bye Bye loneliness. Since now a stunning ten of fourteen SEC teams have two or more conference losses, MSU is not as far down the totem pole as they once thought going into their bye week. But the Starkville dogs have three more ranked teams remaining on the schedule.
LSU (6-2 ER: 3) at Ole Miss (4-3 ER: -3) (8 pt favorite) Ole Miss 27 – LSU 24
RATING: !! – A great game in an entire weekend of great games
OFFENSE: LSU had the worst half they’ve had all year as Mettenberger ended three drives with bad interceptions in the red zone, two of them for touchbacks and leaving LSU scoreless in the first half. In the second half, behind Hill’s running, Mettenberger redeemed himself and LSU was in position to go into overtime, if only,…
DEFENSE: If only the defense could stop Bo Wallace from having the game of his life. Ten receivers torched the LSU defense for 346 yards, the most of any team this year. Wallace opened up the LSU defense at the seams, short, deep and at medium range while timely called runs kept them honest. Ole Miss steadily moved the ball down the field on the #2 SEC defense. On the last critical drive of 16 plays, only two Ole Miss plays were held for no gain.
KEY STAT: 3 Mettenberger interceptions, giving him five on the year. He only had seven all last year.
COMMENTS: LSU moved the ball well and looked to run up the score, but first half turnovers upended their momentum. In the second half the LSU offense was less dominating, and their defense could not stop Ole Miss from marching the length of the field on the final drive.
LSU (6-2 ER:3) at Ole Miss (4-3 ER:-3) (8 pt underdog) Ole Miss 27 – LSU 24
RATING: !! – Hugh Freeze and company put it all together for a classic upset.
OFFENSE: Bo Wallace was outstanding, incredibly accurate and blossomed into a field general as the game progressed. In his hands, the Ole Miss offense moved the ball almost at will at critical times. Every needle was threaded and every receiver hit in the optimum position. A terrific performance.
DEFENSE: Although tired against a relentless LSU run game late, the Rebel defense was opportunistic and motivated throughout the first half to put their team in a position to win, and held on for dear life against a tough LSU attack in the end.
KEY STAT: Wallace hit 10 receivers with over 75% of his throws – 30-39 and 346 yards and no interceptions.
COMMENTS: A truly exceptional win for Hugh Freeze and Bo Wallace. Very well coached and executed to near perfection. Yet another signature win for a given team’s program this week. After a somewhat humiliating loss to Alabama and dropping two close ones to Auburn and TAMU, this was sweet redemption for the Rebel Bears.
Auburn (6-1 ER:3.5 ) – Texas A&M(5-2 ER:1) (14 pt underdog) AU 45 – TAMU 41
RATING: !!! – An instant classic
OFFENSE: Manzeil was tough, dynamic, hit 73% of his passes for an incredible 454 yards and four touchdowns. But even that performance and a record setting game by Mike Evans wasn’t enough. Manziel’s two interceptions cost them valuable points, and once Auburn adjusted, he had difficulty late in the game and was forced to hand off the ball on draws to relieve the pressure he felt in the backfield.
DEFENSE: Couldn’t stop the Auburn run game. That is the story of this game. If TAMU could have ever stopped Auburn on third and short on the ground, this game would have ended with a three or four touchdown margin. But they simply couldn’t stack enough people in the box to keep Auburn from grinding 5-6 yards at will.
KEY STAT: 4 rushing touchdowns for Auburn. One for TAMU.
COMMENTS: TAMU retains the title of the most dynamic passing attack in the conference, and Johnny Football has earned every accolade ever given to him this year or last. It was a heck of a game, and he’s a dangerous foe, especially on the run behind the line of scrimmage. But so is the Auburn running attack between the tackles. When you can’t defend the run, you stop controlling the game and your fate.
Western Carolina (1-7 ER: N/A) – Wofford (5-2, ER: N/A no line) WU 21 – WCU 17
RATING: ??? – A season of sadness continues for WCU
OFFENSE: Was up 17-7 at halftime behind a fairly balanced attack, but a series of three and outs in the second half left WCU trying to come from behind. Had two fourth quarter drives reach the red zone late in the game, but couldn’t punch it over the goal line and instead turned it over on downs inside the ten.
DEFENSE: Held up fairly well, and stopped Wofford on their last two red zone possessions, but giving up two big plays in the third put them in a hole they could not get out of.
KEY STAT: The game saw only 6 combined third down conversions, three for each team , out of a total of 27 tries.
COMMENTS: This was WCU’s fourth conference loss of the season. Things won’t likely get better for the Catamounts.
FAU (2-5 ER: N/A) – BYE
KEY STAT: N/A
COMMENTS: Now you know FAU was watching Manziel’s passing attack on the Auburn secondary. Expect some targeting of our secondary on weaknesses shown in the game. You also know the coaches were watching the Auburn run game. Alka-Seltzer is now the beverage of choice this week for the FAU defensive coaching staff.
Arkansas (3-5 ER: -1.5) at Alabama (7-0 ER:6) (28 pt underdog) UA 52 – Ark 0
RATING: ?? – That little piggy cried all the way home
OFFENSE: I thought last week’s ineptitude was a low point for Arkansas, but Brandon Allen simply couldn’t find a receiver at all, completing only 28% of his passes. Arkansas passed the fifty yard line only four times, earning a blocked Field Goal attempt, two interceptions and turning the ball over on downs for their troubles.
DEFENSE: Gave up 352 yards on the ground to a team that has struggled to move the ball all season. Absolutely no impediment to the Alabama offense at all.
KEY STAT: Gave up 9.5 yards per carry to the Alabama running backs.
COMMENTS: Bielima’s team has lost every conference game this year, and has been outscored 134 to 17 in the last three. They have a bye week before facing Auburn, Ole Miss, MSU and LSU in a very long month of November.
South Carolina (5-2 ER:1) at Tennessee (4-3 ER:-2) (8 pt underdog) UT 23 – USC 21
RATING: !! – Yet another remarkable game.
OFFENSE: Still not an overwhelming performance by any measure, but Justin Worley improved over his previous starts, and avoided the interception bug that plagued him earlier in the year. Rajion Neal made tough yards when he had to, but the offense owes a lot to the catching ability of Freshman Marquez North who made an incredible one handed catch with the defender’s hand on the ball the whole way down.
DEFENSE: There was a definite stiffening of the line of scrimmage by Tennessee, and the secondary covered South Carolina’s receivers well enough to allow their rush to reach Shaw and disrupt his game. Stopped USC for three straight fourth quarter three-and-outs to set up their game winning drive and last second field goal. By far the most improved portion of the Volunteer team.
KEY STAT: Normally pass happy Connor Shaw held to only 7 receptions.
COMMENTS: After flirting with a signature win against Florida and Georgia, the Vols finally win one against a Spurrier-coached team to thrill the home crowd. But don’t imagine this is an indication of a resurgent Volunteer team in 2013. It’s more of a reflection that other than Mizzou the SEC East is somewhat less than was advertised in the early season.
Georgia (4-3 ER:-3) at Vanderbilt (4-3 ER:-.5) (9 pt favorite) VU 31 – UGA 27
RATING: ?? – Snatched defeat from the jaws of victory
OFFENSE: Played very sloppily. Had trouble moving the ball consistently on a motivated Vandy defense, but built a commanding 24-14 lead on short passes and a makeshift run game. However, when trying to rally as the Commodores came back, Georgia fumbled twice and Murray was intercepted to end the last three drives.
DEFENSE: Georgia played fairly good defense, but still couldn’t consistently cover Vandy’s Jordan Matthews who caught nearly a dozen passes. They also failed to stop the Vandy run game late, allowing the go ahead touchdown from 13 yards out.
KEY STAT: 3 turnovers on their last three drives.
COMMENTS: Georgia has looked awful since losing Todd Gurley. It’s almost a one-dimensional team without him, and the result is that Murray has to bear nearly the entire burden of moving the team down the field. When he has a bad play or series, Georgia punts or turns over the ball. There simply is no one else to pick up the slack or assist him in making plays. If you get to Murray, Georgia collapses.
Arkansas (3-5 ER: -1.5) at Alabama (7-0 ER:6) (28 pt favorite) UA 52 – Ark 0
RATING: ?? – Bama has learned to run the ball. Dammit.
OFFENSE: AJ McCarron had a relatively mild game of 180 yards and 3 touchdowns, but the story is all Alabama’s suddenly successful rushing attack. After searching his team for running talent, Saban has found Freshman Derrick Henry and Sophomore Kenyan Drake to supplement TJ Yeldon in the backfield.
DEFENSE: Effective as ever. Easily stopped everything Arkansas tried and shut down the Hogs whenever they strung together a first down or two. Completely dominant between the hashes.
KEY STAT: 1 punt by Alabama
COMMENTS: Played essentially a flawless game for the home crowd. Ran well, passed when they needed to and made the Hogs look like a FCS team with a losing record playing the first time in front of a crowd larger than 5000. Not much else to say about it, other than Alabama looked like the #1 team in the nation for the first time this year.
As promised, here is this week’s Efficiency Rating (for an explanation of this table see my previous article entitled ‘Lunch at Cafe Malzahn‘).
Because of the remarkable number of yards and points by TAMU, Auburn’s Efficiency rating evened out between gains on offense and losses on defense. In contrast, TAMU’s Efficiency Rating dropped considerably. The big loser of course was Arkansas due to giving up 52 points and not scoring at all. Keep in mind these are cumulative statistics, so don’t expect as much change in future weeks. Each additional game will influence the statistical total less and less as the season progresses.
While there is a lot more football yet to be played, with several key games on both Alabama and Auburn’s schedule, we could be looking at a classic Iron Bowl featuring two top ten teams with the winner going to the SEC Championship game. This is what running the ball for five+ yards per carry throughout a season nets you. When all is said and done, controlling the line of scrimmage and running the ball between the tackles is still a fundamental aspect of success in the SEC.
Trivia Note: Guess who also averaged over five yards a carry? In nine years of professional football, Jim Brown accumulated 12,312 yards and 106 touchdowns in 118 games, giving him 104 yards per game average – a feat unmatched by any other player in history. The Dirty Dozen was Jim Brown’s first feature film after retiring from the NFL (he first appeared in the film Rio Conchos before retiring).