TigerEye Review Week 9
Because 7 ate 9 Edition
Apologies all around for my dropping the ball on my Tiger Eye Reviews the last few weeks. Real life ate into my blogging in a big way.
Speaking of eating your own, or biting the hand that feeds your football program, the number of fired SEC coaches in the middle of this season doubled last week with the departure of Jim McElwain from the University of Florida. I’ve talked about the losses of coaching talent over the last couple of seasons and related it to how various teams have performed over time. But one statistic I recently found really stood out to me from a coaching tenure standpoint.
How many SEC teams have had three different head coaches in the last decade?
There are now eight SEC teams with that history—five with four coaching changes: Arkansas, Florida, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt and three with three head coaches: Auburn, Kentucky, and Texas A&M. If Butch Jones is handed his walking papers, Tennessee will have had FIVE different head coaches since the 2007 season. All the rest except Alabama have had at least two coaches as 2007 is the year Nick Saban got his last new job.
What does this mean for this season and beyond? Well, there is a definite impact on recruiting and consistency in coaching staffs, program management and important year-to-year things such as weight training, development of existing talent within a defense and offensive structure. Good programs have that level of consistency, develop a rapport with various high schools around the southeast and become a talent magnets, especially in state in particular regions. They then develop that talent within their programs without confusing the issue with drastic changes in coaching styles and offensive and defensive schemes.
Few teams get a new coach who suddenly takes it to the national championship game the first season. Personally, I can only think of one guy who has done that recently. Some have marginal or even remarkable success their first year or two, but most others struggle mightily, are embarrassed frequently and are usually found on the front page in painful news interviews trying to justify blowouts against their team.
Still others rub some people the wrong way, make dangerous enemies during their stay, or just make some incredibly dumb mistakes in their lives that include either strippers, mistresses, escort services, golf tournaments or motorcycle accidents. Must be something in the bottled water they give these guys.
In any case, it’s having a deep and lasting effect on the success of the conference. By the (new) numbers, let’s take a look.
What’s next on Auburn’s plate is really something special
What you see here is indicative of a few things. Alabama’s run through the league is indeed impressive, but what is most impressive is its consistency at the backup level on the team. When the starters rest, the Tide keeps scoring and driving much the same against their opponents. Not so the next two teams. Mississippi State has done well, but without Nick Fitzgerald on the field, its offense doesn’t seem to click that well. Likewise Auburn’s performance tends to go down once Jarrett Stidham is on the sidelines. Big plays aside, if he’s not in, Auburn rarely makes a third down.
The rest of the division? Struggling in some areas, but on the average offensive production is up a great deal in the West. Somewhat of a surprise, historically, but most definitely an improvement.
This has been the story of the division—four teams have good to great defenses, and three teams have almost no appreciable defense at all. All three of the bottom feeders have been shown to be remarkably inept defensively in a manner that is an embarrassment to the notion that this was once the “toughest division in the NCAA.” You can’t make that statement anymore and still be able to look at yourself in the mirror.
The story in the East is that there is no story other than Georgia. Missouri’s numbers have to be taken with a huge grain of salt as much of their totals came from two blowouts against FCS talent. Their won-loss record in the division and the paltry numbers shown by the rest of the teams should tell you all you want to know about offensive production in the SEC East. It’s all but gone.
The numbers don’t look any better on defense. There are one or two teams showing some spark of talent and achievement, but with the offensive slide the East has taken, it would be impossible not to look good somewhere. But what this should tell you about Georgia’s numbers is that they’ve been built by beating the other East teams. What they can do against more talented teams is limited to a one-point victory over an otherwise little-tested Notre Dame team and a four-touchdown victory over a Mississippi State team that Auburn beat by over five touchdowns.
My thinking is that Georgia’s number might be a little inflated based upon the talent they’ve played.
State of the Conference
Eww. That was my first thought when I saw the numbers after three quarters of the season. In the 2017 version of the Southeastern Conference there are just four good-to-great teams and one average team that can surprise one or two better opponents. All the rest are substandard-to-bad teams with severe problems on one or both sides of the ball. With the current climate and some tough games ahead, I don’t expect we’ll see much better by the end of the year. In fact, we may see one or two drop a peg or two.
But for the Tigers? The situation is the opportunity of a lifetime. Beat Georgia and Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium in the next three weeks, and this team will have one of the greatest chances ever to make history—by beating both of those teams a SECOND time in the same season.
Picture this—a one-loss Georgia team will still go to the SEC Championship game and will be slated to go to the playoffs if it wins. A one-loss Alabama team will likely STILL get an invitation, too. So if Auburn can manage both in Jordan-Hare, it will meet Georgia again in the Georgia Dome. Win there, and it would be downright criminal not to let the Tigers into the CFP—where their likely opponent will be Alabama after the Mother of all Iron Bowls. Win that, and it’s on to the National Championship.
A hard road? Surely, but still a possibility even at this late date in the season. It’s something a lot of people were doubting just a few weeks ago. And, if we win twice against both Georgia and Alabama in the same season?
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