1. Pretend for a minute that Vanderbilt wasn't 2-0, then answer this question: What has been the most surprising thing in the SEC so far this season?
A few people were with your humble correspondent: We knew Arkansas was going to be bad, but really? This bad? This comes despite the fact that the Hogs are technically undefeated -- a big 'Woo Pig Sooey!' for Hurricane Ike -- and have therefore not officially redefined awful. Yet.
Pelican State Sports, though, points out that, "far from looking like the well-oiled machines of the Petrino-Louisville years, needed two comebacks to avoid starting the season 0-2. They barely beat ULM. The cupboard was empty when he got there, but not that empty." Also knocking the Hogs are Gamecock Man from here at Garnet and Black Attack and UK Wildcat Country, who decides to take down fully a quarter of the SEC:
We knew Arkansas would suffer after losing everyone. And I never believed the Croom train was that serious, but some did. And South Carolina makes the list because they are about to be 0-2 in the SEC. All three of these guys are dragged their butts across the floor and it's embrassing the SEC.
At least South Carolina has played two SEC games.
The Dead Guy specifically eschews the Arkansas idea, going instead for another popular choice: The Gamecocks offense. Or, at least, the 11 players who take the field in garnet uniforms attempting to play offense. And, actually, TDG zeroes in on one of those 11.
While it's obvious Spurrier's best days are behind him, it's still amazing to me that he can't get a QB to just manage the game and not lose it for him. Through two games, USC QBs are completing a respectable 60% of their passes, but have thrown 6 interceptions to just 4 TDs.
A few others went for Kentucky's defense, even though the Wildcats have yet to, you know, play anyone. Hey Jenny Slater:
You can throw out the Norfolk State numbers if you like, but check out what they did to Louisville in the opener -- held 'em to only 205 total yards, including just 53 on the ground. Yeah, Louisville sucked last year, but it wasn't because of their offense, and despite losing Brian Brohm they still have an excellent QB (Hunter Cantwell) and a good menagerie of talent at the other skill positions; this was not an offense that should've ever had to worry about getting shut out, certainly not by the Wildcats, but that's exactly what happened.
Joe Cribbs Car Wash agrees: "Kentucky's defense approximating 'competent' is the bigget head-turner for me."
Red Solo Cup was left wanting more when Auburn took on their in-state rival.
It's not surprising that Auburn won or that Mississippi state lost, but seriously... Auburn didn't beat MSU as badly as Louisiana Tech did.
Some folks were more positive. Alligator Army saluted Georgia for its 101 points in the first two games -- maybe you should have waited on that one -- while Pelican State Sports and A Sea of Blue both gave Alabama high marks for demolishing Clemson.
2. Conference action has either just begun for most teams, or will Sept. 20. (The exception is Kentucky, which I believe plays I-AA teams until mid-November.) From what you've seen so far, how will your team fare in your division? If it's not going to win, which team will?
First, since the question does include a shot at Kentucky, the response from A Sea of Blue, presented without comment in the spirit of equal time:
UK's strength of schedule is firmly mid-pack in the SEC, and although it is very weak early it is certainly beneficial to our young quarterback and receiving corps. Imagine how ugly it could have been if UK played Georgia in week 3 instead of MTSU.
To the question: The favorites are still the favorites: LSU/Auburn and Florida/Georgia, meaning this weekend and the Cocktail Party (more on that later) serve as semifinals. Spread problems, shmead problems, says The Dead Guy.
Even with its offensive ups and downs so far this year, I still think Auburn wins the West. We'll know much more next weekend after LSU visits the Plains, but there's few better gameday coaches than Tuberville and I suspect the AU Tigers will be sharp in that game They just need to avoid a letdown Saturday against MSU.
Er. Well. I guess that depends on your definition of "avoid" and "letdown."
Joe Cribbs Car Wash doesn't jump ship on his Tigers, though he seems to lean more on the "galaxy-devouring" defense than the stardust-nibbling offense.
Pelican State Sports sticks by LSU, but cautiously.
The biggest factor here is, of course, schedule, and LSU has to go to Auburn, where it hasn't [won] since the Empire ruled the galaxy. But at this point, I think LSU has fewer questions than the other teams. Of course, now we have to look out for Bama, and overlooking Ole Miss would also be a mistake.
Alligator Army would like to know which team is going to take the field.
Good Florida will run the table, with a fleet of shifty running backs and very good receivers. Their strength is an improved defense, led by a linebacker corps that can drop in coverage or meet the running back in the hole. Bad Florida has problems on the offensive line, still depends too much on Tebow, and the d-line cannot penetrate leaving the still green DBs open to be burned. If Bad Florida only plays the first quarter or goes away, the Florida-UGA game in Jax is the Eastern Division Championship Game.
This "Bad Florida" scenario gives Hey Jenny Slater hope, but tempered by a hard realism.
The thing is, given our horrendous draw from the West -- LSU, Auburn, and Alabama, arguably that division's three best teams -- we could beat Florida up and down and still get knocked out of an SEC-title-game berth, but I'm doing my best to repress that thought at the moment.
The battle for third in the SEC East, though, is fierce. UK Wildcat Country stakes its claim.
But you can't look me straight in the face and say with any certainty that other historical precedent, that UK can't beat Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. History is meant to be re-written.
A Sea of Blue doesn't peg the 'Cats that quickly, putting Kentucky "somewhere along a normal distribution curve between 4-8 and 8-4 with 6-6 as the mean."
Gamecock Man says "Not So Fast My Friend."
I'm still sticking by my prediction that the Gamecocks will finish 3rd in the East. There are likely losses against Georgia and Florida on the horizon, but if the QB and OL problems resolve themselves, I believe we can beat all of our other opponents and finish 5-3 in the division. That should be good enough for 3rd. Of course, losses in tossup games against Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Tennessee will be decisive as to whether or not we get there.
"Tossup" might not be the best word to use in describing the Gamecocks right now, given the QB situation in Columbia.
3. Which SEC player that few of us are paying attention to is poised to have a breakout season? Try to choose someone not on your team.
There were three well-represented camps on this answer: Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead -- stretching the definition of below the radar, perhaps -- one of South Carolina's Cooks and anyone on the most forgotten portion of any SEC team, the Arkansas passing game.
First, Snead, whom Alligator Army believes could expose the Gator's secondary.
Snead played very well in the loss at Wake Forest and has 6 TDs, tied with Knowshon Moreno for the overall SEC lead. The Ole Miss @ Florida game in a few weeks could be his coming out party if he knocks around the Gators' secondary.
Pelican State Sports is also on the Sneadwagon, worried that Houston Nutt could be even more dangerous with, you know, a quarterback with a better passer rating than his running back.
His talents and improvisational ability fit right in with the lack of offensive creativity and mad-scientistness that Houston Nutt brings to a team. I always fear the Nutt (last year a good example of why) and the Nutt plus a dangerous quarterback is a frightening combination.
Joe Cribbs Car Wash sees Snead as too obvious a choice and goes with RB Brandon Bolden.
Gamecocks TE Jared Cook got the support of Hey Jenny Slater, who worried unnecessarily about the tight end's impact on the Georgia game, and Red Solo Cup, who notes that Cook could move up to first team All-SEC without Cornelius Ingram ahead of him.
While we have been wholly unable to asses his blocking skills (because we don't care enough to watch Jared Cook's blocking ability) his receiving capabilities have been utilized extensively through the first three games. He truly is one of the conferences premier receiving threats.-Red Solo Cup
A Sea of Blue goes for safety Emanuel Cook: "Maybe Spurrier should move Cook to quarterback." I'm not sure HBC isn't ready to try that at this point.
The Arkansas answers all argued that the new emphasis on passing would be a boon for either the Hogs' receivers -- The Dead Guy finally settles on TE D.J. Williams, who's already doing well -- or Casey Dick. Yes, that Casey Dick. Tide Druid knows what you're thinking.
Why is everybody laughing?
I still won't make a decision on Arkansas until they play BCS level talent, but Dick will have some very impressive statistics when it is all said and done. Petrino likes his NFL passing attack, and I know he'll use it as much as he can.
Garnet and Black Attack is also with the Arkansas signal-caller.
Gate 21 sees Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore as under the radar. UK Wildcat Country goes with Alabama RB Mark Ingram. "You want to know why John Parker Wilson looks good? Because this dude can run." And here I thought it was because JPW is Heism@n material.
4. Both Arkansas and LSU have had games delayed because of hurricanes. If you could choose a game on your team's current schedule to get postponed because of inclement weather, which game would you choose and why?
The answers are all over the place on this one. Red Solo Cup apparently can't wait until the next question to get into quantum physics.
Could we go back in time and have Hannah postpone the Wake game? We played them so well but our inexperience got the best of us. To think that we actually threw a touchdown pass on fourth and 2 on the 3 only to give Wake Forest one minute to get into field goal range and win the game by two really reminds us that we are, in fact, Ole Miss.
Garnet and Black Attack also goes retro -- though, in fairness, it wasn't at the time -- and picks Georgia. Prescient.
Hey Jenny Slater and Alligator Army are both worried about the sequence of games around the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, though they would achieve their means differently. Alligator Army would kick the spelling-challenged Dawgs down the road; Hey Jenny Slater would put off the previous week's tilt with LSU to focus on the Gators.
LSU -- one of the teams actually having faced hurricane-related rescheduling -- is forcing all sorts of changes in our alternate reality. Joe Cribbs Car Wash wants an extra week between the Clash of the Tigers and Auburn's meeting with the Vols.
For the entirety of this decade, Auburn's players have come out of the LSU game looking like they'd just gone 10 rounds with Bald Bull. Having more than a week to recover from that before trying to handle a team with as much talent as the Vols (even if said talent is always delpoyed as effectively as it might be) would be much, much appreciated--though I'd rather the inclement weather be something like, I dunno, a hailstorm of Werther's Originals.
As for LSU itself, Pelican State Sports would delay it's game against South Carolina, viewing the Bengals' visit to the WB as a "trap game" that gets in the way of a week of healing between Florida and Georgia. Except trap games usually involve teams that have a pulse, but in any case...
Our Kentucky bloggers split, with UK Wildcat Country wanting to delay the showdown with Bama --
The defense will think it's amazing. That isn't going to fly down 'Bama, at all. UK needs to have a game where they wake up, where they are scared crapless before they go to Alabama.
-- while A Sea of Blue wants to postpone Vandy.
UK needs that game very badly, and an extra week to heal and prepare after what promises to be a brutal battle with the Georgia Bulldogs would certainly be welcome.
Gate 21 would prefer to wait until, say, another decade for Tennessee's fight with the Gators.
And Tide Druid chooses Arkansas State. No, not Arkansas -- Arkansas State.
I guess I would wait with Arkansas State, so that we could have an extra week to prepare for LSU. I don't think playing Ark State later would help or hurt our chances to win that game, but it would certainly be a nice time for a rest.
Given how the Tide played Louisiana-Monroe last year, that might not be a bad choice.
5. So, the Large Haldron Collider hasn't destroyed the Earth -- so far, anyway. But had the world ended Wednesday morning, which SEC game would you have most regretted missing? Assuming, of course, you had been around to regret it. (Head...hurts...)
This one is a land-slide. Some folks did as your humble correspondent did and hemmed and hawed with a head-fake toward LSU-Auburn or LSU-Alabama, but in the end only two brave souls chose a game other than the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party -- even if Hey Jenny Slater is slightly apprehensive.
I view that game kind of like I view any OMG AWESOME new roller coaster they open up at Busch Gardens or something: Sure, it's scary, and there's a not-insignificant chance I'll come out of it with tears streaming down my face and urine streaming down my pants leg, but if there's a mere chance that it might be one of the most awesome experiences I've ever had, I gotta hop on board and prove I'm man enough to go through with it.
With the bad blood that has developed between these two teams, the kickoff of this game could be the collision that forms the black hole that eats the world.
Joe Cribbs Car Wash, meanwhile, wonders why the end of the world should change anything.
Even if the Hadron Collider did destroy the Earth, I think the Gators want this one bad enough that their spirits would live on and try to goad the Dawgs into having a spirit-game on some other ... plane.
The two oddballs noncomformists are The Dead Guy and Pelican State Sports, who choose different LSU games. The Dead Guy chooses this week's Auburn-LSU tussle. Pelican State Sports comes closest to the Cocktail Party by choosing the Bayou Bengals' match-up with the Gators.
Anyone who remembers last year's game remembers what an up-and-down, incredibly physical battle it was that ended with Tebow crying and both teams physically and mentally exhausted. This year, that circus moves to the Swamp and I am sure that Urb, Tebow, et. al will be looking for revenge, making this game all the more physical and nasty.
We'll know soon enough if the game makes us glad the Earth has at least survived this long.