Tiger-Eye Review—Back East Edition
Two East teams tasted their first defeat this last weekend, and the turmoil it caused has created an interesting situation in the division race on that side of the Southeastern Conference.
Funny thing about football. Not all teams, games, coaching staffs or plays are the same week to week. You can show the statistics as I have done year after year concerning the expected outcome of any contest or situation and be as confident in the result as your own name based upon past performance and walk into an absolutely entirely different outcome that contradicts every conceivable number I ever dreamed of. About the only thing I can think of to say in these instances is that a plus-five turnover margin erases a great deal of team efficiency and capability.
Ever wonder why “ball control” is so widely heard in pre- and post-game interviews from those same coaching staffs? This is the reason. This is also the reason it becomes a fundamental topic in every film review on both sides of the ball, both in lessons learned and weaknesses to exploit. You can bet that every team with Georgia on their schedule will be watching last weekend’s game film with intense interest. Likewise, you can bet the Georgia coaching staff and players will have an entirely different outlook and playing intensity at the earliest possible moment.
Which also means a very unforgiving game against their next opponent. Expect this to play out with a huge point spread against Kentucky.
But the curious thing about the statistics I’ve been following—Georgia’s numbers weren’t impacted by its defeat. In fact, it was South Carolina that suffered a setback. Even more curious, the two top SEC Western Division teams had efficiency numbers drop incredibly sharply following what looked on the surface like significant wins.
This can be looked at in a couple of ways. First of all, it is important to note exceptions to the chosen statistics I’ve based this analysis on. Both long scoring plays and turnovers are not tracked by this method. Not because they aren’t significant but mainly their rarity week to week. I just don’t have a way to track them incrementally throughout the season as I can for the numbers that I do include.
Secondly, what I am attempting to do is to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of conference team in a manner that can be compared to what a conference champion team normally looks like year to year and determine which teams are showing those attributes during the season. I usually don’t predict or speculate game to game. Nor do I try to use this system to bet on any games, mainly due to what happened just last weekend.
Sure is a long way down from where these two Easterners were
SEC West Offense
Both Alabama and LSU proved their offensive prowess last weekend, maintaining dominating performance numbers against two widely touted defensive teams. Neither one showed any impact to the impressive statistics they have compiled week to week.
The same could not be said for the remaining teams that played. Not a single one of the teams that played showed any sort of improvement from their previous statistics. In fact, several problems worsened, especially for Mississippi State and Texas A&M. With the losses mounting and the schedule still showing ranked teams in the future, bowl eligibility is squarely on the table for each of these teams.
SEC West Defense
This is where the numbers really took a turn almost across the board. The most striking are of course the last two undefeated teams heading towards an early November showdown. What is going on with both of those defenses? This isn’t just a rotation in depth when lopsided games wind down and third stringers give up big yards.
What is showing here is far more pervasive than a few late drives in already decided games. I believe this is actually a measure of the impact of big-play offenses. When a team scores on a deep strike, the defense has to return far sooner than after long drive, and even with substitution and rotation of players, this still has an impact on players that may be significant as the season progresses. The same goes for teams with poor offenses as three-and-outs produce the same effect.
A very interesting development that bears close watching these next few weeks.
SEC East Offense
Florida’s offense obviously couldn’t keep up with LSU, and the numbers this week show it. Interestingly enough, Georgia’s numbers don’t illustrate any impact from their loss. They are still the most efficient and effective team in the East Division. What is showing ominously is a steady, step-by-step improvement in Missouri’s numbers. And with the fall of Georgia and Florida in the same week, that puts the East Tigers into the division race with a vengeance. It’s going to get interesting these next couple of weeks.
Despite the win, South Carolina still has a daunting schedule and only an average offense with its third quarterback this season. Much as the win energized its team and fan base, it would be wrong to read too much into the game, especially with the Gators visiting this weekend. Tennessee notched a win, too, but it did so with very little noticeable improvement. This won’t go as far as they might hope.
SEC East Defense
This is where I think Missouri might be able to tip the scales on both Florida and Georgia. If the Tigers can keep these defensive numbers up when they play those two teams, we might be looking at a team playing for the Southeastern conference championship after losing to Wyoming.
But that is what I find myself thinking when I see the above. Georgia’s offense lost to a very average South Carolina defense, and Florida’s offense hasn’t been that great against any of the quality defenses they’ve played so far. While you can point out that Mizzou hasn’t face much in terms of quality teams, its numbers are remarkably consistent game to game. This is a well coached and well playing team.
State of the Conference
With the fall of the two East Division leaders, a curious race is starting for the East title. Missouri’s schedule and the fact that the two highest ranked teams on its schedule just suffered a conference loss puts it in a unique position of only having to win against one of them to secure half of the division title, if not winning it outright. This has changed from idle speculation to a serious possibility and likelihood.
The West division is narrowing with every victory by LSU and Alabama, leading up to their November matchup. But there are still pitfalls ahead, and if the South Carolina win tells us anything, it means that no team is entirely safe in any game for the remainder of the season. That ball can bounce any number of ways when least expected.
What does this mean, conference wide? What looked like a two-team race in the East has suddenly become a three-way free for all that can spin out any number of ways in the next few weeks. The West has two teams playing remarkably similarly in nearly every aspect, and with careful play November 9th will provide a deciding game.
And yet, this is college football, after all. Stranger things have happened before and will likely do so again, shortly.
Looking to burn brightly for the rest of the season.