New Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn walks through a throng of Auburn fans on his way to the stadium Saturday. Malzahn was one of four SEC coaches making his debut this week and one of three to win. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)
Sunday, July 20 2014 5:21 PM EDT2014-07-20 21:21:42 GMT
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
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A Montgomery native and former Auburn University pitcher has been called up to the Chicago White Sox.More >>
Friday, July 18 2014 3:55 PM EDT2014-07-18 19:55:51 GMT
The Alabama High School Athletic Association has announced that they are making changes to the 18 annual Summer Conference line-up of speakers, who are set to address football coaches next week.In OctoberMore >>
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(RNN) – It's baaaaack. Was it everything you hoped it would be and more?
There were weird injuries, back-up quarterbacks and all-but-nonexistent defenses, just like we've come to expect.
But that's enough about the NFL preseason. This is all about college football, where the concussions are just as real, the compensation is just as guaranteed and the cheerleaders are just as hot – hotter even. Welcome back, college football. You've been missed. (I was so excited I even watched parts of Utah vs. Utah State and Army vs. Morgan State.)
Not only is college football back, but so is the best thing you'll read all week – The Line King. The second best thing you'll read all week is presented below with limited commercial interruptions.
Below is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 1. (Now with annotated footnotes. HUZZAH!)
1. Texas A&M needs Johnny Manziel. News flash: A Heisman-winning quarterback makes your team better. Who knew?
Like him or not, Johnny Manziel is must-see TV. Whether you think he should play or shouldn't play, it doesn't matter. He's like the New York Yankees. More people hate the Yankees than people who love them, but everyone wants to know what they do – even if it's just to make jokes at their expense.
Manziel certainly qualifies in that category. "Johnny Football" or "Johnny Signed Football"1 should be his own Neilsen category. There should be the rating points, share and Manziel Adjustment. A positive Manziel Adjustment would represent the percent of people watching simply because there was a chance his name or likeness would be used, with or without his consent. A negative Manziel Adjustment would represent the percent of people who didn't watch because there was no chance Manziel would appear.
A&M's game against Rice would have a +100 percent Manziel Adjustment. I'm just as guilty as the rest of the world. I wanted to see how bad the Aggies were without him, and then wanted to see him go full-on Tecmo Bo Jackson just because he could.
I wasn't disappointed on either front. With Manziel watching on the sideline, A&M managed to outpace Rice by a single touchdown. But with Manziel on the field, the Aggies pushed that seven-point lead all the way to 10. Nobody spurs his teammates to a field goal quite like Manziel. You can give him the Heisman again right now.
To be fair for once in my life, Manziel did complete six of eight passes with three of them going for touchdowns and ran for 19 yards, and with him on the field the game turned one-sided. The Aggies, though, scored more points – 28 – without Manziel than with him – 24. Whether that's because they ran away with the game 52-31 will never be known.
He also made a money sign with his hands while looking toward the heavens, feigned an autograph at Rice's defense and mouthed off to either a Rice player or a referee, which drew a personal foul penalty. In other words, Manziel exhibited exactly the kind of stupidity we've come to expect from him.
But I'm fairly certain Manziel still has it (whatever "it" is). It's too bad he couldn't play defense, though, because the Aggies look like they need someone who can.
2. Alabama doesn't need to play offense. This happens to be very convenient for the Crimson Tide because their offense wasn't all that good, and by "wasn't all that good" I mean it was bad.
The only obvious place to lay the blame is the offensive line, where the Tide are replacing three starters, two of which were taken in the first round of the NFL draft. AJ McCarron threw for 110 yards with a touchdown and interception and was sacked multiple times. He had almost no running game to lean on, with the Tide gaining less than 100 yards on the ground.
But everything else 'Bama did made up for it in spades. Christion Jones returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns, Vinnie Sunseri ran an interception in for a score and the Tide "D" held Virginia Tech to 212 total yards and stopped 14 of 17 third down conversion attempts.
In any other context, the Crimson Tide allowing a single running back – Trey Edmunds – to gain 100 yards (77 of them were on one play) would have been the headline. Instead, the story from Saturday is that the Tide were outgained offensively and still won 35-10 while looking like an unstoppable steamroller.
3. South Carolina will be fine if every game includes a two-hour break. Jadeveon Clowney discussed conditioning following the Gamecocks' 27-10 win over North Carolina, and made it sound like it wasn't a problem. Well, anyone with at least one functioning eye disagrees.
I'm not going to pile on here because Clowney is a big man, it was somewhere near 1,000 degrees at kickoff and South Carolina – and Clowney – looked just fine. Everyone has been waiting for eight months to see Clowney run roughshod over whoever gets in his way. That didn't happen and lightning near the stadium was the most impressive thing the game had to offer.
Cameras were on him the whole game and any time he pulled up during a play or didn't show 100 percent effort it was magnified in a Manziel-esque way. Most of the plays being cited as examples of his lack of effort were plays he couldn't have affected anyway. It's not a big deal now, but it could be if it becomes a trend.
4. LSU should play all its games on artificial turf. I know Les Miles' secret and I'm about to share it with you. We all know Miles is part horse and enjoys grazing on the sideline between bouts of clock management incompetence, but what you might not realize it that not having anything to eat may actually be helping Miles.
Hear me out on this, because it's a far-fetched and ridiculous idea, and I want to give you a good laugh. We've all seen that Snickers commercial where Robin Williams tells his team to "look for anything with an O" and "win this for Mother Russia," but what you might not have realized is that's Les Miles in reverse.
In the commercial, Williams is a goofy, rambling caricature advocating a "kill them … with kindness" approach until he has a snack and he turns into a big, scary no nonsense guy. Miles is a goofy, rambling caricature when he's his normal self, so when he gets hungry he must turn into someone who looks like he knows what he's doing.
Playing in AT&T Stadium, Les had no immediate access to chlorophyll so he might have gotten a tad hungry, which explains why LSU kept it together and pulled out a 37-27 win over TCU. It was the kind of game that has earned Miles his reputation as a loose cannon and someone who doesn't understand the basic concept of time, yet nothing Les Milesian happened.
Keep Les Miles hungry. Of course, in last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson that approach didn't work so well. On second thought, it might have been the 13-of-19 on third down that made the difference.2
5. Georgia did what Georgia does. Fire up Mark Richt's hot seat … again. No one has been fired without actually being fired more than Richt, and after another loss on the national stage, his detractors have more fuel.
Georgia led Clemson in passing, rushing, first downs, time of possession and shirtless players on mopeds, yet still lost. But why did Georgia lose? It was Mark Richt, I tell you!
I don't think it was Richt. I think it was being bad on third down (4-for-14) and botching a field goal attempt. The Bulldogs had an easily makeable field goal, but after a terrible snap, it turned into a turnover on downs (the only blemish in a 2-for-3 fourth down conversion rate) and Georgia lost by three, 38-35.
Had the game gone to overtime, they might still be playing. Georgia only led once and did everything right in the final minutes to try to make a comeback, from a 10-point deficit. They didn't recover an onside kick, but that is by no means reliable and not something to blame a coach for.
It's unfair to blame Richt for not winning because it was an important game against a highly-ranked opponent, except that it's complete fair to blame him for it. Under Mark Richt, that is what Georgia does. The perception has become the reality.
6. Hugh Freeze can do more than recruit. The Ole Miss coach is also capable of snatching a loss from a win and then re-snatching a win from a loss.
Here's a quicker-than-a-bull-ride recap: Ole Miss went up by 10, then fell behind by 11, then went up by four, then fell behind by three and then won by four. And that was against Vanderbilt. Both Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are capable of winning eight games, and both are capable of losing eight games.
It's really odd to think Ole Miss and Vanderbilt might have played the best game of the year, especially in the first week, but their game had almost everything. Hugh Freeze gets all the credit in this one because the only way to shut people up about what you do is to beat them.
You can question Freeze's recruiting tactics all you want and scratch your head in a confused manner wondering why Ole Miss is a major recruiting threat, but you better beat them first. After some struggles, the Rebels retook the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it with 1:30 remaining.
Their comeback looked like it would go for nothing until Jeff Scott broke off a 75-yard run and reclaimed the lead. The Rebels are inconsistent and flaky, but they're also dangerous.
7. Mississippi State picked up where it left off. Last year, Mississippi State beat all the bad teams they played and lost to all the good ones. Well, here they go again.
Oklahoma State is not a team anyone should think of as a defensive powerhouse, yet the Bulldogs mustered only a single field goal in a 21-3 loss to the Cowboys. Oof. This is a team that will be facing LSU, South Carolina and Alabama later on and if it can't find some more offense could be looking at missing a bowl.
It's premature to go that far right now, but the 'Dogs were pretty inept on offense. Tyler Russell threw for 133 yards and an interception before being injured and Dak Prescott threw for 89 yards and an interception as his replacement.
Ladarius Perkins has been a reliable running back for Mississippi State (he had more than 1,000 yards last year), but was held to just 50 yards. The Bulldogs were 2-for-16 on third down, committed 11 penalties and forced no turnovers.
There was a bright spot, however, and it was on defense. In the three previous seasons, Oklahoma State had been held to 21 or fewer points just twice.
8. Getting a new coach can be a good thing, unless you're Kentucky. Four new head coaches made their SEC debut, and three of them won. They all played teams they should have beaten, so it's not a monumental day, but at least things got off to a good start.
Bret Bielema and Arkansas got over the hump of losing to University of Louisiana-(City name here) with a 34-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, which was 9-4 last season. By all measures of success, that's a big one for Arkansas, which was putrid last year.
Auburn was even worse, but Gus Malzahn topped Washington State 31-24 in his debut. Malzahn did the smartest thing he could possibly have done by relying on the running game and not forcing Auburn's plethora of bad quarterbacks to do too much.
Butch David led Tennessee to a stirring 45-0 win over Austin Peay, if such a thing even exists, and has the Volunteers primed for a 2-2 start.
Mark Stoops was the lone loser among the new coaches, falling to Western Kentucky and the Fighting Bobby Petrinos 35-26. It was one of only three games on the schedule Kentucky could reasonably be expected to win.
9. Vanderbilt needs a second playmaker. Jordan Matthews can't do everything by himself, but he has no problem trying. Of course it wasn't supposed to be that way, but Chris Boyd got suspended because he might have helped cover up a sexual assault.
Vandy has a talented quarterback, and running back Wesley Tate is a solid rushing threat, so one could develop with time. Matthews, however, is already proven. He caught 10 balls for 178 yards and a touchdown, including a crucial fourth and 18 toss in the fourth quarter.
Matthews left it all on the field3 and if the Commodores can find a second option to take pressure off him, a third consecutive bowl game will come easily.
10. It's going to be another good year for the crazy Hog Lady. If you don't remember the crazy Hog Lady, you missed perhaps the best and worst thing about college football last year.
Here's another quicker-than-a-bull-ride recap: YouTube user LizHoney sings fairly decent karaoke after being inspired by her beloved Arkansas Razorbacks.
She was absolutely stoked when Arkansas hired Bielema, and her passion was only further stirred after Arkansas's recruiting class. But her crowning achievement so far was uploaded a week ago with an original song, complete with a backup track, where she raps about herself and her mission in life. And if that wasn't enough, she accessorized with eye black and a stuffed Razorback on her shoulder to complement the hog hat and taped up nose that made her famous.
But the best part of her whole story is she's an elected official and completely awesome. I am eagerly anticipating more videos from her. She admits to liking Gangnam Style, so there's no telling what the future holds.
Extra points:1This is my personal favorite among the plethora of other nicknames Manziel has earned since last year. Among them are – in decreasing order of my preference – Johnny Hancock, Johnny Cash, Johnny Canadian Football, Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Goofball, Johnny Halftime and the Money Badger.
2LSU went 3-for-13 on third downs against Clemson, so that's probably it.
3Including his stomach contents.
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