Tiger Eye Review—First Showdown-Saturday Edition
The first quarter of the season is over, and the initial numbers are in to reveal what this season will bring.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of scheduling, some of these numbers are significant and meaningful due to the quality of opponents, and likewise some of these numbers are insignificant, also due to the quality of opponents.
Let me explain. For teams like LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida and South Carolina, there have been meaningful games against significant, talented opponents. and the numbers derived from those games point to good and bad aspects of each team’s performance. This is terrific in a mathematical sense as the standards I’ve set over the years well apply to the various teams, and I can see where they are struggling and achieving.
But it is exceedingly hard to draw much comparison with the numbers I’m seeing out of Georgia and Alabama so far. They are certainly knocking their opposition off the field by the middle of the second quarter, but against what level of opposition? Can they compare with the rest of the conference in the coming season? Or were these just glorified scrimmages extended from August?
On the flip side, I really don’t have a feel for what the bottom of the SEC is going to play like once they begin competing within the conference. Will Tennessee, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss show up at all in the conference? I have deep doubts about each of them, including the longevity of each of their coaching staffs. What this season will look like for each of those teams is anyone’s guess.
Then there is the middle eight—the competitive teams that have had a knock or two but are still in a curious phase of development. I see the progress each is making week to week, but will it be enough to overcome what they’ve all shown as trouble spots in their performance? Time and games will tell, and this week is no exception as some key match-ups are on the table.
This week is a series of showdowns among the top eight teams with the game at Kyle Field between Auburn and Texas A&M looming large for both fan bases as does the game in Athens Saturday night when the Fighting Irish have a go at Georgia. But don’t overlook other games around the SEC. A couple of interesting conference games are scheduled along with some significant out-of-conference matches like California at Ole Miss, Kentucky–Mississippi State, South Carolina–Missouri and even Tennessee–Florida that should provide a great deal of meaningful data for upcoming games.
As always, the standard of excellence is above.
No matter what the kickoff time, for Auburn and Texas A&M, it’s High Noon in the SEC West
SEC West Offense
The SEC West Division is definitely split between the unchallenged over-achievers putting mind-boggling numbers on the board and the rest of the Division that is struggling in various areas of production. Auburn can make third downs but is not getting in the red zone or converting when it does. Texas A&M is scoring on big plays with huge chunks of yards but at times has struggled to be consistent. The remaining teams have struggled significantly against not very capable opponents.
This doesn’t bode well now that conference play begins, especially in light of the next table.
SEC West Defense
Take a good long look at the third-down production against SEC Western Division teams. Not a lot of first downs are being achieved against any of them. With just a couple of exceptions, the same could be said for yards per play.
Moving the ball against these teams is going to be a tough assignment, and if your offense isn’t consistent or dependable, you’re in for a very difficult season in the West.
SEC East Offense
The picture shifts slightly but not that much in the Eastern Division. Again, there are two teams showing a high rate of progress in all factors of the game. Others may ahow occasional promise, but for many teams, there are significant failings they are struggling with. Seeing that these difficulties for the most part have been against out-of-conference opponents raises the question of what will happen when they face one another?
SEC East Defense
Unlike the SEC West, the SEC East division defenses are split between the haves (Georgia, Missouri, Florida) and the pitiful (everyone else). There is a reason Florida was able to achieve a three-touchdown turnaround in the fourth quarter against the Wildcats. The Kentucky defense was toast by the final quarter and was simply unable to rise to the occasion at home before a supportive crowd.
State of the Conference
So where does this leave us going into the meat of the Southeastern Conference schedule? For the select few with no meaningful games until mid-October it means more statistical padding and a higher ranking. Their day will come, but it won’t be this week or even the next. For now they can simply rotate their roster onto the field, chop the easy wood and store up their efforts for the final half of the season.
For the rest of the teams? This is the start of some heightened competition that will spell out how the season will progress and go far in determining where we all end up in November.
One final note. Looking over the table above, I was struck by what I didn’t see. Did you notice? In previous seasons there was Georgia up there with most of the SEC West teams while the SEC East teams were stuck in the bottom half.
Not so this year. With only a couple of exceptions, the rankings show a marked stratification across both Conference divisions. There really isn’t a clear East-West divide this year. The best teams line up statistically with the best from each division and so on down the numbers for East and West.
I’m not sure what this means going forward, but it is an interesting fact about 2019. I simply don’t see much differences between the divisions this year. Both have one or two exceptional teams, then several more-competitive teams, and finally those that are deeply flawed across the board.
In a world devoid of color, a Tiger still stalks