Ole Miss what are we going to do with you? It’s been a long time, since a team as undeserving of credit and acclaim, has beeen as hyped and talked about. This year’s USC may compare, but they, at least, beat a good Ohio State team that was deserving of some attention. For the hapless Rebs’, the first two games were cakewalks. Their fiery finish last season sent thousands of Ole Miss fans into a crazed hysteria, the likes of which previously only the Mannings could accomplish. Houston Nutt has been touted as the savior, the man with the plan. Nutt accomplished a lot with a little last year. This had been his “MO” at Arkansas for years. I like Nutt as a coach and a motivator; he’s a great leader and his players always leave their hearts out on the field for him. Regardless, Ole Miss DOES NOT have the talent their ranking warrants. I never believed they were a top 5 team. They may end the year as a top ten team, but this was much to much, much to soon for the rejuvenated Rebels.
In various preseason interviews, Nutt had eluded that he was worried his boys had let a little of their success go to their heads. This week’s #4 ranking in the AP Poll is the highest in nearly four decades, and after years in the SEC doghouse, I’m sure the players were on top of the world coming into this game. Remember, the 2007 season saw the Rebs go winless in the SEC and 3-9 overall. Two recruiting classes cannot improve the talent level that much, unless you’re Nick Saban, of course. Ole Miss fans, my only consolation to you, is that you did loose to Vanderbilt last year, and I know you all like the way the ’08 season turned out. All is not lost.
Eric Norwood is the most underrated player in the country, but after last night, I don’t see that continuing. He is the SEC’s current leader in sacks and tackles for loss with 24.0 and 47.5. That’s saying something with the likes of Brandon Spikes, Rennie Curran, Rolondo McClain, Greg Hardy, and many others still around. Steve Spurrier said in an ESPN interview he thinks if Norwood played with USC, or another high rofile school he would be the national defensive player of the year. http://espn.go.com/blog/sec/post/_/id/3707/norwoods-impact-goes-beyond-big-plays
Enough can’t be said about the turnaround Stephen Garcia has made from his 6 TD, 8-interception season last year. Spurrier’s still got it, and no matter what criticism you have of him; he can coach the QB position better than anyone in the nation. This I’m sure has to be one of his toughest transformations. Garcia looks like a different man this year and I don’t expect anything less for the rest of the season. His 47.1 % completion rate and 220 yards through the air isn’t eye popping, but he managed the game as a leader, and tool good care of the ball excluding the first-Quarter fumble.
I really like South Carolina; they are a few critical plays away from a 4-0 record and top 10 ranking. SC is far from finished with the upsets. I see them in the underdog role the rest of the season and I think they’ll relish that. I wouldn’t put it past them to make some serious noise in their games against Bama and Florida.
Now to the top match-ups of week 4.
1. #9 Miami at #11 Virginia Tech
Everyone should be watching this one. It looks to be pretty sweet. Never mind the heated nature of this game or the ACC championship implications. Miami has a chance to return to national prominence in the next two weeks, something that hasn’t been done since Ken Dorsey and Larry Coker had them in the running earlier this decade. Now with all-everything sophomore QB Jacory Harris, they look poised to re-enter the spotlight. Now lets not take VT. I saw them play Alabama in person and they were physically under matched. But that game gave them more than just bruises and a loss. VT has some intangibles that I think could make them special. These guys have heart and are tested against the best of the best. Their game with Nebraska was a nail biter, but VT found a way to win. Tyrod Taylor can’t be praised enough for his leadership and pocket presence in that game. If he continues buying time with his feet they’ll be in much better shape. Miami’s front seven aren’t near as disciplined, as Nebraska’s. It’ll be exciting to see Taylor finally making plays with his feet downfield and not just behind the line. The key to this game, though, is whether or not VT can stop the running back tandem of Graig Cooper and Javarris James. VT has struggled against the run in all three games this season. Alabama exploited it the most with a power running attack. Look to see if Randy Shannon isn’t planning something along the same lines. Expect Cooper and James carries early and consistently throughout. VT gets tired late and Miami finishes strong. Miami 38 – VT 28
2. Arkansas at #3 Alabama
I’ll be at this game in Tuscalloosa and I cannot wait. The offensive mastermind Bobby Petrino vs. the defensive genius Nick Saban. Ryan Mallet looks to get his first real introduction to an SEC defense this weekend, in Tuscaloosa. Dante Hightower and Rolando McClain are two parts to the best linebacker group in America. I’m afraid they might not be able to impact the game as much as usual. Petrino is a master when it comes to creating mismatches for his offense to exploit, and loves taking opposing defenders out of the game by scheming around them. Expect a high-powered aerial assault. They don’t run much and this has to concern Petrino. His offense is based around balance, but I guess you go with what works, sometimes. Besides the intriguing Petrino-offense vs. the Saban-defense battle, there’s not much to this game. Arkansas’ porous defense will have its hands full with Julio Jones coming back off a bruised knee. Greg McElroy has been as impressive as anyone, the last few weeks and especially the last nine quarters. Since the half time of the VT game, McElroy is 40 of 51, 553 yards, four touchdowns no interceptions. He looks the part, and this week will be just another showing of why Saban’s so confident in him. Bama rolls but not before Mallet shows why he’s the best QB in the SEC. Alabama 41– Arkansas 27
3. Texas Tech at #17 Houston
This is going to be one fun game to watch. I’m not sure both teams have scored over 70 points in the same game, but these two just might do it. Houston’s Case Keenum is among college footballs elite QB’s and Taylor Potts can throw the ball better than people givehim credit for. Texas has a tough defense and he stood toe-to-toe with them last week. The Red Raiders once again lead the nation in passing with 465.7 per game. And Houston is fifth in the nation in total yards with 525.0 per game. Neither defense is amazing, but they aren’t pushovers. Look who they practice against every day. This will be a close one but in the end Houston’s more balanced attack wins out. Houston 44 – Texas Tech 41
4. #6 California at Oregon
Cal fans are elated right about now. They’re in the national championship talks again, and they have they’re best shot in recent memory to beat Pete Carrol and his USC Trojans. Lets hope they don’t forget about those pesky Oregon Ducks. Oregon comes in as the underdog, and after a raucous start this season on national television; they’ve learned to appreciate it. Jahvid Best will no doubt take care of his duties, but I’m not sure they’re passing game will keep up with his tempo. Oregon is going to load the box and make sure Best earns every yard he gets. Shaky QB Jeremiah Masoli, for the Ducks, is going to have his hands full against this stingy Cal secondary. If he struggled against Boise State and Purdue I’m worried he may not even show up against Cal. Cal overpowers the Ducks with pure speed and talent. California 28 – Oregon 19
With too many exciting games to pick from here are the Honorable Mentions:
#15 TCU at Clemson.
Who knows which Clemson squad will show up, but you can bet the Horned Frogs defense will. This will be an interesting inter-conference game, worthy of an extra look.
#7 LSU at Mississippi State.
MSU hasn’t shown up against LSU in about five years. I’m not sure they will this year either. MSU RB Anthony Dixon is their only bright spot; he could be a factor this year at home.
#21 Georgia vs. Arizona State.
This was a huge game last year; this year no one seems to really care. With squeakers over SC and Arkansas the past two weeks everyone has forgotten about the Georgia Bulldogs. This’ll be a statement game for them. Dennis Erickson can’t be forgotten. This may be closer than people think.
#18 Florida State vs. USF
South Florida lost senior QB and emotional leader Matt Grothe for the season last week. Nobody knows much about his back up, but look for USF to fight hard till the end. FSU is coming off their dominating win over BYU. Bobby Bowden will make sure his boys don’t have a let down against the bulls.