W2W4 – The SEC Championship Game

W2W4 – The SEC Championship Game

Here we are once again in 2012 – participating in what is essentially a semi-final game for the fourth time in five years!  That’s quite a Roll, Tide!  So, Bama’s been here, done that.  Georgia hasn’t.  This is the second “biggest game ever” that Alabama has played this season while it’s Georgia’s biggest game in 30 years.  Every two years Nick Saban is hoisting a crystal ball while every other year finds Richt’s balls being flambéed on a hot seat.  Saban is the consummate coach who can get the very most out of his players while Richt’s teams are notorious “underachievers.”  Will coaching be the deciding edge?  Let’s start this week’s W2W4 with a quick look at the stats….

Mirror, mirror on the wall, tell me who will win this big game of Foosball!  Before I sat down to review a multitude of Georgia game film for the W2W4, my initial thoughts about this matchup were that this is about as even of a matchup as you can have.  Honestly, these two teams are basically mirror images of one another.  First, the defenses are strikingly similar as UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was on Saban’s staff at MichiganState and uses the same 3-4 defensive philosophies that Saban uses.  Also, these two balanced offenses are nearly identical, with each pro-style offense predicated on a strong running game mixed with an efficient passing game.  A quick review of their SEC offensive statistics absolutely confirmed that Even Stephen was right on the money – this game is about as even as it can be.  Take a look at these offensive rankings:

Category Georgia Alabama
Scoring Offense #3 – 38 ppg #2 – 39 ppg
Rushing Offense #4 – 190 ypg #2 – 214 ypg
Total Offense #3 – 463 ypg #4 – 433 ypg
Pass Efficiency #2 – 174.4 #1 – 175
Third down % #3 – 46% #2 – 48%

The only real disparity between the two offenses is UGA ranks #4 in passing offense while Alabama ranks #9.  But, as you can see by the Total Offense rankings, the two offenses are both pretty similar and both are highly effective. 

However, when we take a look at these two defenses this is actually where these two teams begin to differentiate themselves.  While you’ll take a look at Georgia’s defense and see a vast array of NFL talent, it hasn’t completely translated onto the field like you would expect it to.  Take a look:

Category Georgia Alabama
Scoring Defense #5 – 17.7 ppg #1 – 9.2 ppg
Rushing Defense #11 – 163.4 ypg #1 – 77 ypg
Pass Defense #2 – 174.4 ypg #1 – 156.7 ypg
Total Defense #6 – 337.8 ypg #1 – 233.7 ypg
Pass Efficiency Defense #5 (10 interceptions) #2 (16 interceptions)

As you can see, Georgia is ranked 11th in rushing defense and 6th in total defense and that certainly tells a story.  But, to really understand the significance of these stats you have to look at the disparity between the two teams.  Alabama is more than twice as effective at stopping the run and gives up 104 yards less per game than UGA!  That is a substantial difference!  With all of the smack talk emanating out of the Georgia players (evidently they are the new mouths of the south), the Lighthouse can’t help but wonder if the UGA players are trying to convince US they are better than Alabama or are they trying to convince THEMSELVES they are better.  Hmmmm.  Well, let’s see what the film study tells us about this Georgia team…

Alabama on Offense

When you start looking at Alabama on offense, there’s one big matchup that you absolutely have to watch for – Jarvis Jones vs DJ Fluker & Cyrus Kouandjio.  Georgia likes to move Jones around and this Dawg will most definitely hunt.  Jones is second in the league in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (19.5) and he’s first in the league in forced fumbles (6).  But, he’s probably best known for being a one man wrecking crew against Florida accumulating 12.5 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles during that one game alone.  Holy…!  The team defensive stats we talked about in the intro really do not account for this one man gang tackler so controlling Jones means controlling the Dawgs.  Honestly – in our opinion the entire game begins and ends with controlling the Dawg wearing the #29 jersey.  Here’s what else to watch for…

We Talkin’ Bout Practice, Man:  It’s not a coincidence that once Alabama realized their two best drives against LSU’s defense were out of the hurry up look that Bama began to utilize the No Huddle approach thereafter.  I was baffled when the Tide used the hurry up approach against Texas A&M – a game where ball control and long drives was needed.  Then Alabama used the No Huddle against Western Carolina and Auburn, as well.  Do you think Bama needed the No Huddle to beat WCU and AU?  NO!  As Allen Iverson said, “We talkin’ bout practice, man!”  Look for a HEAVY dose of No Huddle against UGA.  The interior defenders for the Dawgs are massive but they have no stamina.  The hurry up should wear them down and perhaps will take a toll on Jarvis Jones as well.  But, look for this early and often.

Mt Jenkins:  Remember MountCody?  Meet MountJenkins, who is one very large human being.  Rumor has it he’s been tested by John Brankus and ESPN’s Sports Science for having his own gravitational pull but that’s just a rumor.  Jenkins is listed at 6’3, 351 but I think that was with only one foot on the scales.  Jenkins has no lateral pursuit, no stamina and has one sack on the season but he can absolutely jam up the middle or the end when he’s moved out as a defensive end.  Why move him to end?  Well, they have some other “big sumbitch” named Kwame Geathers who at 6-6, 350 is a large mammal himself.  Mercy.

Danger Zone:  So how do you deal with these two twin behemoths?  Look for Alabama to employ a ton of zone blocking stretch plays that are designed to generate a flow one way and then use cut blocks on the backside to open up cutback lanes on the backside of the run.  Jenkins and Geathers do not move well and can easily be cut blocked.  Going man-up against these two will be tough sledding so zone blocking with cut blocks will be the order of the day.  BTW – zone blocking is Bama’s usual approach, though they do supplement this with a good bit of tandem and isolation blocks as well.

Cuts Like a Knife:  Georgia plays a ton of zone defense and their two middle linebackers can be exposed in coverage.  Look for Alabama’s backs and slot receivers to use option routes in the middle of the field to isolate and expose the LBs in coverage.  Florida’s tight ends and slots ran a hard route one way and then would stop and flare back out the other way (laterally from the line of scrimmage).  This was open all day.  UGA also blew a coverage against a tight end deep and I think we’ll try the same route with a slot WR or Michael Williams.  Basically, this is the pattern that Brad Smelley scored on against Auburn last year where he did an out and up against the flow of the QB.  The QB takes a couple of steps to his right while the TE on the right (or perhaps a WR stacked next to the tackle) slants left and then takes off for the goal line.

Pay Action PassLook for a play action pass where a run is faked to Jarvis Jones’ side of the line.  Once he reads pass, he always charges in to get the QB.  Well, this is significant b/c he shows a lack of discipline and loses sight of his coverage responsibilities when this happens.  The fullback, H-back or running back will run right by him and be wide open.  Bama will use this to their advantage.

Where’d Whoooooo Go?:  So, with Jarvis Jones being hell bent on getting to the QB (and only he and the other LB Jenkins are true pass rushers as evidenced by the fact they only rank 10th in the SEC in generating sacks), a draw and/or screen is available on his side of the line.  Basically the tackle will push him up the field creating a huge crease for the run.  We’ll screen and draw with our backs at least 5 times during this game, IMO.

Lonely Men There on the Corner:  DJ Fluker and Cyrus Kouandjio are going to have their hands full Saturday afternoon but they’ve been here before.  This dynamic duo nearly had a clean sheet against LSU’s vaunted defensive ends as they only gave up one sack against them.  Look for a combination of chip blocks from the backs and TE help to assist in successfully neutralizing the Georgia ends.  If this doesn’t happen then Alabama will lose the game.  Yes, it is that simple.

Backin’ Black:  It’s not often that you can suddenly add a 4 star wide receiver to an offense 12 games into the season but that’s exactly what it appears Saban & Co will do Saturday afternoon.  Chris Black injured his shoulder in fall camp and was slated for a redshirt this season.  But, as his shoulder has healed and he’s begun practicing again, Alabama lost fellow wide receivers DeAndrew White & Kenny Bell and sustained injuries to Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood and Danny Woodson so numbers are low.  White caught 5 passes for 97 yards during the A-Day game so he’s got some serious skills.  It will be interesting to see how he’s used against UGA (he’s currently backing up Norwood on the outside but most of his earlier reps were in the slot) but the staff seems absolutely sold on his ability to help the team during the next 2 games.  Black wears jersey #5 so be on the lookout for him!

Swami Sez:  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  What a matchup.  Look for Jarvis Jones to collect at least one sack and Georgia as a team to get two.  This would have to be considered as a success for Bama, by the way.  Look for Alabama to rush for under 135 yards.  Look for Bama to pass for around 250 yards.  This will be a defensive struggle until a late score by Bama.  Alabama will use the hurry up, no huddle attack for the first several drives but then they’ll likely settle into their normal routine.  As we said above, there will be a combination of at least 5 draws or screens.  Amari Cooper will get deep once again and it will be on a play action pass.  UGA’s safeties are much like Alabama’s and they bite heavily on the run fakes.  This should allow one on one coverage for Cooper and he should haul in a pass over 25 yards.  Big plays will not be available often so it’s critical that Bama hits on these opportunities when they are presented. 

Alabama on Defense

Mark Richt, Mike Bobo and Aaron Murray must have short circuited a few digital playbooks while they drooled over the LSU and Texas A&M game films.  I mean, if Zack Mettenberger can throw for nearly 300 yards then what can the #1 pass efficiency QB in the league throw for?  If Johnny Football can expose the Tide safeties in coverage, what can a sophisticated passing offense exploit?  Meanwhile, Nick and Kirby have been working in the lab trying to figure out ways to mask their secondary’s deficiencies.  First it was John Fulton playing in nickel and dime packages and now Geno Smith has emerged in the ever changing secondary shell game.  If one of these two kiddos doesn’t step it up in a hurry, instead of a shell game it will be a game of Russian roulette for the defensive coaches.

When Florida and South Carolina shut down the Georgia offense, they did it by pressuring and harassing Murray with their front four.  For all of the gaudy UGA stats (like ranking first in passing efficiency), Murray was a horrific 23 of 55 for 259 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions against these two teams combined this season.  And, if you expand to look at Murray’s performances against top 25 opponents, he’s completed a mere 172 of 314 (54.8%) and averaged only 208 yards per game.  By the way, UGA has gone 3-8 in these games and Murray’s play is the key reason for Georgia’s failures in big games.  So, as you can see, getting Murray out of his rhythm will be the key to punching Bama’s ticket to Miami.

Oh Line:  Coming into the season, Georgia’s offensive line was a significant question mark and after watching South Carolina and Florida expose it, it’s no wonder that Murray isn’t exactly sitting back there in an easy chair.  Sophomore center David Andrews weighs in at only 290 lbs and is apparently the only individual who can actually look slimmer on TV.  Meanwhile, Georgia’s right tackle is freshman Nathan Lewis and he didn’t exactly acquit himself well against USC or Florida.  So, evidently the interior and the exterior of the Georgia line are vulnerable – but everything else is solid!  This is the key difference between these two championship game combatants and should make for an Uga-ly performance from Murray.   

Under Pressure:  Aaron Murray is listed at 6’1 which means he’s likely closer to 5’10 without his heels on, so generating pocket pressure is key.  As we pointed out above, the Georgia OL is leaky, especially against good defenses, so as the pocket begins to collapse it becomes much harder for Murray to see over the carnage.  Todd McShay pointed out that Murray was only 3 of 13 against South Carolina when pressured.  Against Florida, all three of his interceptions were the result of Murray having to move in the pocket to maneuver around the pressure.  Oftentimes, to avoid the rush, Murray alters his throwing motion and the angle of his arm but that doesn’t seem to deter Murray from putting the football into harm’s way.  If Bama can pressure Murray in the slightest bit, the Bama defense will reap the benefits.

End Game:  Adrian Hubbard, all eyes are on you big man.  Hubbard is perhaps the most skilled edge rusher that the Tide has on their team and he does lead the defense in sacks and pressures.  Additionally, USC and Florida each generated more than enough pressure with their front four without having to resort to blitzes so this ratchets up the pressure on Bama’s ends (and Jesse Williams) to ratchet up the pressure on the QB.  Edge rushers were wildly successful in games against USC and UF.

Match Game:  Georgia loves to isolate Malcom Mitchell on the outside and have him run curls against man coverage.  Mitchell is their big game breaker at receiver now so I’m curious to see if Dee Milliner will spend his time guarding Mitchell.  LSU flexed their TEs out on the edges, forcing Milliner outside to cover them while the Tiger WRs worked against Sunseri, Lester and Perry.  Alabama’s corners must match up with King and Mitchell, as they are the two playmakers in the Georgia passing game.  If Georgia OC Mike Bobo finds a way to get these cats isolated on Bama safeties, pray that we are in zone coverage or that the front four gets to Murray in a hurry.

Lynch Pin:  Georgia utilizes their TEs more than anyone else in the league, especially since losing two of their top four WRs due to injuries.  In particular, Arthur Lynch has three catches in each of his last three games so look for Lynch to receive a lot of targets in this game.  Of course, he’ll spend most of his time working against CJ Mosley who is perhaps the best cover LB I have ever seen on tape.  Look for Mosley to lead the team is pass breakups and I think he’ll pick Murray off at least once!

Screen Game:  A staple of the UGA passing game is the screen game but, as I’ve told you guys for two years, no one plays screens better than Alabama.  The fact that Bama should be able to eliminate the screen game from the Dawgs’ playbook is a huge advantage.

Gurley Men:  True freshman Todd Gurley is 6’1, 218 and seems to play even bigger than that.  He’s extremely impressive and at that size will be a load for Mosley to handle in the running game.  Bama excels in stopping scat backs but backs built like Jeremy Hill have been a problem.  Gurley is built like Hill so I suspect the UGA running game will be better than you want it to be.

Swami Sez:  Georgia continues to be applauded for their victory against Florida and yet, in their biggest win, they played one of their worst games.  Had Florida not gifted 6 turnovers to the Dawgs, we’d be talking about Alabama’s matchup against the Gators this Saturday instead of their matchup with the Dawgs.  Murray’s woes against top competition are well documented and have been recited to Murray ad nauseum so he has the weight of the entire state of Georgia on his smallish shoulders.  We look for Murray to complete less than 60% of his passes, suffering four sacks (2 by Hubbard) and at least two batted and battered balls.  Gurley will be the one constant in the Georgia offense and will rush for over 80 yards.  Bama’s secondary woes will not be exposed as they were against LSU or Texas A&M and Georgia will have to work very, very hard to score against a revitalized and re-focused group of angry defensive Tiders.  Also, look for big Jesse Williams to have his name called for being in the UGA backfield a few times, as well.

Alabama on Special Teams

Georgia’s net punting average ranks 13th in the conference this season and the Dawgs have a freshman kicker who is 8 of 12 on field goals and has missed four extra points this season.  Finally, the kicking game should prove to be a huge advantage for Alabama.  Look for Christion Jones to pop off a big return that ignites the Bama sidelines early in the first half.  Look for Cody Mandell to have another big game as he continues to be a valuable weapon for Saban’s very special teams.

Conclusion

I started off this week thinking that Georgia was the exact type of team who could exploit Alabama’s defensive deficiencies in a way that Bama fans wouldn’t want to see.  Georgia features an accomplished passer, two dynamic running backs and skilled wide receivers so they should be able to threaten every level of Alabama’s defense in at least the same way as LSU and A&M did.  Meanwhile, their defense is as big and athletic of a defense as Bama has faced all season.  However….

Big time games are won by big time big boys on the offensive and defensive lines and that is where Alabama holds a distinct advantage on both sides of the ball.  First, Georgia’s offensive line has been woeful against teams that have been able to physically test them across their front.  Bama’s big, experienced linemen like Damian Square and Jesse Williams should dominate their matchups and Adrian Hubbard should be able to provide consistent pressure from the edge.  Bama’s defense is simply much, much better than Georgia’s (and you know the best defense wins championships).  Second, Alabama’s offensive line is experienced, athletic and physical and, as big as Georgia’s defenders are, they are not they type of defenders who typically pose real problems for Bama’s line.  You may remember that A&M moved a quicker but smaller interior player to the nose position and this wreaked havoc for Barrett Jones and the interior of the OL.  But, against 6’8, 380 lb Daniel McCullers, Jones & Co more than held their own.  The size of UGA’s tackles shouldn’t be as big of an issue as some are saying in my opinion.

At quarterback, AJ McCarron has excelled in big time games.  He has the kind of confidence that can only be gained by shining the brightest when placed among the stars.  Even in the A&M game, McCarron brought the Tide roaring back when they had to scrap the running game and he came within 2 yards of leading a pretty dramatic comeback.  Meanwhile, in the last two seasons Murray is 1-4 against top 15 teams with his one lone win coming in an awful performance against Florida.  With 30 years of Georgia history weighing him down in the pocket, there is absolutely no reason to expect him to excel in this, the biggest of moments.

But, finally, we end where we began – the coaches.  Saban hates losing more than he enjoys winning.  Richt is a family man who admits to prioritizing things ahead of football because, to him, football isn’t everything.  It is said that a team emulates and takes on the persona of their coach and, if that’s true, then give me the driven and focused band of Sabanites.  Give me the players with an undying hunger for victory and an overwhelming distaste for defeat.  The A&M game reminded this team what it was like to lose and they’ll go into this game remembering what that kind of pain feels like.  Meanwhile, Georgia’s biggest win was a game in which they played their worst…again.  And, after being humiliated against the Gamecocks, Georgia was once again outplayed by Florida.  The braggadocios pre-game statements coming from Georgia this week wreak of a team desperate to show the world that, gosh darn it, they’re  good enough to win this game.  Bama knows they can win…that they will win.  Saban owns moments like this one.  Richt has nightmares about his history of big losses in big games.  Expect another nightmare on Peachtree Street for the Dawgs.

Final Score:  Alabama 24               Georgia 13

Advertisements

The Chronicles of Bobby Petrino

First, it must be said that we at the Lighthouse really do not really care who Auburn hires as their next head coach.  I mean, as long as it isn’t Nick Saban then all is right with the Bama Nation world, right? 

But, the Lighthouse does want to cast a very bright and revealing light on the career of one Bobby Petrino for anyone who might want to hire him(cough-cough, Auburn, cough-cough).  While a Lighthouse can be a beautiful landmark on the horizon, it’s true purpose is to alert ships and their crew to imminent danger.  So, if your school is considering hiring Mr Petrino, then it is the Bama Lighthouse’s duty to let you know what you are getting yourselves into.  In the immortal words of the Lost in Space robot, “Danger Will Robinson, Danger!”  Here are the Chronicles of Bobby Petrino as he has created a land of ruin during his career path which can be better described as a path of destruction.  Pay heed before your school becomes, dare we say, Lost in Space…

  • At Louisville, in 2003, Petrino secretly interviewed for the Auburn job under the cover of darkness.  Taking the job would have meant stabbing the man (Tuberville) in the back who resurrected his career and hired him at Auburn as an offensive coordinator – but Petrino was obviously more than cool with that.
  • In 2004, Louisville twice renegotiated his contract after Petrino met with LSU and turned down the Oakland Raiders, giving him huge raises in the hopes of keeping him.  Each time he received a raise, Petrino promised Louisville no, really, this time I’ll stop looking for another job.  For real this time…
  • On 7/13/06, Petrino signed a 10 yr, 25.6 million dollar contract with Louisville.  He then lied to the Louisville AD about leaving and then summarily took the Atlanta Falcons job on 1/7/07.  This was far more despicable than what Saban did to Miami and was poorly received nationally.
  • On 12/11/07, Petrino then lied to Arthur Blank, the owner of the Falcons, and he left the Falcons with three games left in his first (and only) season with the team.  You may remember this was the Michael Vick dog killing year so the going got tough for the Falcons and Petrino got going, and quickly.  Prior to Petrino taking the Arkansas job, the Falcons GM  denied Petrino permission to talk to the Hogs but of course that didn’t stop him.  The day before Petrino took the Arkansas job, in an hour-long meeting with Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Petrino insisted to Blank he was staying.  The next day he then left the team a note and took off for Arkansas.  The Atlanta players officially found out when Petrino held a late night press conference in Fayetteville and then they found the note in their lockers the next day.  Arthur Blank said the best way to describe Petrino’s departure is betrayal.  Grady Jackson said the whole episode “showed Petrino’s true colors, like a coward with a yellow stripe down his back.”  When Petrino took the Arkansas job and addressed the media, Falcons QB Joey Harrington said, “He preached team and he preached family and then he quit on us.  To have him talk about family, about team, about commitment, then come in here and have a form letter at your locker, that’s not a man’s act.  That’s how a coward acts.”

And now, here’s the timeline of the entire Jessica Dorrell incident which took place at Arkansas this year:

  • March 28, 2012:  Petrino announced the hiring of Jessica Dorrell.  He, pardon the pun, ram-rodded this hire thru the committee and chose her over far more qualified candidates.  Now we know why.   
  • April 1, 2012:  Bobby was involved in a single vehicle (motorcycle) accident.  In a statement to his boss (the AD), Petrino stated that the accident involved no other individuals.  The Arkansas AD Jeff Long asked if Petrino was SURE there is nothing more to this story.  Petrino said there was nothing more to the story.  The AD then issued an official statement from the University of Arkansas stating the accident “involved no other individuals.”     
  • April 5, 2012:  Four days later, we learned that Petrino was not alone on the motorcycle.  Turned out, he was accompanied on his motorcycle by Dorrell, the woman he just hired a week ago.  Oh, and she was engaged.  Suddenly the statement that Arkansas issued on Monday is called into question.  Was it a cover-up by the AD?  By the University?  Why was it announced by the school that there were no other individuals involved?    
  • April 5, 2012:  Later that evening, the Arky AD threw together a press conference that Petrino didn’t attend.  There, in a written statement, Petrino admitted to an inappropriate relationship with Dorrell.  The AD said he’d placed Bobby on administrative leave while he investigated the crash and his relationship with Dorrell.  At this point, no one had tied together her hiring by Bobby and the fact he was banging her.  The AD asked Bobby, is there anything else you need to tell me?  Nope.  Once the Arkansas media latched on to the story, the details came pouring out, making Long look like a fool.  He had no choice but to fire the man who’d lied to him at every turn.
  • Petrino lied to the AD when he hired Dorrell.  He lied to the AD when he had the crash.  He then lied to the AD the next day when Long visited Petrino in the hospital.  He hid the affair and a 20K Christmas gift when she was hired and, of course, this made Arkansas vulnerable to a sexual harassment suit.  Thanks Bobby.
  • Petrino lied to his boss about the crash, then about his relationship to Dorrell and eventually it all came out when the media began looking into it.  Petrino has lied to every single boss he’s ever had and has never, ever been a man of his word – to his employers or to his family.

Then, there’s this little nugget taken from a 9/24/12 article from WDRB.com’s Eric Crawford after Petrino was fired from Arkansas:

Away from the lines, Petrino was never a warm and fuzzy presence. Players interacted largely with their position coaches. Fear was a powerful motivator. Petrino was known for violent outbursts of temper, and his criticism, while constructive, was painfully, brutally honest.

At the same time, there were rumblings after Petrino’s departure (from Louisville) that the coach had been too lax when it came to taking action on positive drug tests. The first positive test got you sent to drug counseling. The second got you a one-game suspension. The third got you a four-game suspension. Some later alleged that if there was a first, there usually was no testing done to risk a second or third. But attempts to get even aggregate records were not successful. Under Kragthorpe, players had a three-strike policy. First offense garnered a one-game suspension, counseling and mandatory testing for one year. The second positive got a 4-game suspension and enrollment in a treatment program, and a third got you dismissed.

Players started being dismissed in high numbers, including some who had people around the school scratching their heads, because they’d been otherwise good citizens. Nobody could divulge the real reason for many of the dismissals, though one source close to the program said, “They chose pot over their football futures.”

As a coach, Petrino has always won with an exciting high-octane offense, but at both Louisville and at Arkansas, he was unable to build a complete program–almost totally neglecting the defensive side of the ball–and he was unable to recruit well enough to create the depth that a team needs to sustain success year after year after year.  These deficiencies immediately bubbled to the surface after he left Louisville and when he was dismissed from Arkansas. You have to wonder if he had stayed at Louisville or Arkansas for a couple more years, would the neglection of key aspects of his program have caused his teams to crumble?  I guess we’ll never know.  What we do know is that when Petrino leaves a program, instead of erecting a statue they’ll have to resurrect his former program from ruin.

Game Review – Iron Bowl Style

Iron Bowl Game Review

The T-town Beatdown.  A Barn Burning.  Pains for the Plains.  Auburn sent around the bowl and down the hole, Roll Tide Roll!  Gene takes one to the chinny in Bryant-Denny.  It’s the Cry of the Tigers.  Bama turns Tigers into kittens.  Nick gives thanks and spanks Auburn.  Nick-knack, Family Smacked, Give Ole Gene a severance.

Any headline that you want to use to describe Saturday’s epic beat down simply doesn’t aptly do justice to Alabama’s absolute demolition of a really, really bad Auburn football team.  Auburn played the role of a bizarro Honey Badger (or Honey Tigers if you prefer) where these Tigers let you take what you want because they simply don’t care…about anything.  How else do you explain the slaughter that resulted in the largest halftime lead Alabama has ever had against Auburn (42-0)?  When you realize that Alabama had the same number of touchdowns (7) as Auburn had first downs then you do have to wonder if these paper Tigers cared about anything?  By the way they tackled, or attempted to tackle, they clearly didn’t care about getting embarrassed on the field.  By the litany of transgressions over the last year or two, these Tigers clearly haven’t cared about embarrassing themselves off the field, either.  And by failing to show up when Gene Chizik needed them the most, they clearly didn’t care about their poor embattled coach.  However, Alabama did most certainly care about beating Auburn.  The result was a historic 49-0 beating that could have easily been 149-0 if Nick Saban wanted it to be.  Nick Saban the merciful….taking a knee at the Auburn five may have hurt Auburn fans worse than the final score.  Ahh, good times!  Anyway, let’s just cut to the chase and get on with reviewing the pains for the Plains, shall we???

Alabama on Offense

I honestly believe eleven corpses could have tackled better than Auburn did Saturday.  I also think it would have been less embarrassing for the Tigers if they’d just played dead instead of going thru the motions of pretending to try and make a tackle.  Bama running plays netted 267 yards including runs for  32, 38 and 19 yards by three different backs.  Passing plays were proficient totaling 216 yards with the longest ones going for 20, 37, 29 and 38 yards to two different receivers.  AJ was never sacked and threw four touchdown passes.  As a result, Alabama scored touchdowns on their first seven possessions and converted their first 11 third-downs in a row.  Converting 11 straight third downs is hard enough to accomplish during a walk thru against tall grass, let alone 11 defenders, but that’s exactly what it looked like for most of the afternoon – an Alabama walk thru.  It’s impossible to determine whether Alabama is that good or if Auburn is that bad but the deadly combination of the two led to a comical 49-0 lead just one Alabama possession into the third quarter.  I mean, do you concentrate on just how bad Auburn was or do you applaud Bama for busting their chops?????  What a train wreck…

I Wanna Be Your Sledgehammer:  Four of the first five Bama plays featured Eddie Lacy running the ball right at the heart of the AU defense and these plays established that Auburn’s front line was in for a looong afternoon.  Utilizing a three wide receiver look (either in shotgun or under center), Alabama attacked the Tigers four man front and their two undersized and under-talented linebackers.  The Tide’s o-line carved gaping holes in the AU front four and the other seven Tiger defenders were left looking like four-year olds trying to chase down a bouncing superball that fell out of a large vending machine…and then the vending machine fell on them.  Ouch.

Tush Push:  If you still have the game recorded somewhere, go back and watch Alabama’s first touchdown run by Eddie Lacy.  However, instead of watching Lacy, lock your eyes on Jesse Williams and follow him as he finds poor Jake Holland.  Poor Jake.  Jesse and Jake locked horns around the goal line and, when the whistle finally blew, Williams taken Jake back Australia with him.  (Note: You did know Jesse is from Australia, right?  And he’s not even a punter!  Verne only includes that nine times per Alabama broadcast.  Sigh.)

Righty Tighty:  The Lighthouse would like to shine a bright spotlight on this week’s unsung hero – tight end Brian Vogler.  Vogler’s blocks were largely responsible for the first two touchdown runs by Eddie Lacy so we are singing Brian’s song this week.  On the first TD, Vogler sealed the left side edge allowing Lacy to walk in untouched to the corner of the end zone.  On the second TD, Vogler was lined up with Jesse Williams as offset fullbacks.  Vogler’s lead block opened the way for Lacy and caused Verne to congratulate his good buddy in Colorado Dean Fogalar…(wtf Verne?).  All told, we found at least five outstanding blocks for Dean Brian Fogalar-Vogler!

Men of Constant Sorrow:  Just a quick point about the Alabama offensive line – they were outstanding.  Numerous times the front four of the AU defense was relocated 3, 4 and 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.  Honestly, this looked very similar to the Western Carolina game.  Not a shot – just a fact.

Anatomy of the Follies of the Three Stooges :  These three plays sum up the game, the season and the end of Gene Chizik’s career.  Up 35-0, an Auburn fumble gave Alabama the ball at the AU 35 and the Tide used these three plays to humiliate three Auburn defenders (on each play) and eventually score.

  1. A slow draw to Yeldon out of the shotgun found AU’s Darrin Bates nose to nose with Yeldon as soon as he got the football.  One “Circle Button” move later, Bates was grasping for air and Yeldon was around the corner after stiff arming (DE) Dee Ford as though he were a child.  Just as Yeldon hit full speed, he hit the brakes allowing the cement footed Jake Holland to stumble past him like a drunken sailor.  What could have been a five yard loss turned into a 7 yard gain as Yeldon simply abused 3 Tiger kittens.
  2. After a false start created a 2nd and 8, AJ fired a quick screen to Christion Jones on the outside.  First Mincy took an angle that led him straight into Auburn’s other corner, Chris Davis and they collided into each other.  This gaffe freed up Jones to get back to the line of scrimmage where, once again, Jake Holland plodded by and whiffed on the tackle – shocking, right?  This slight pause allowed Mincy to get back into the play and allowed Jones to flatten him as help from other defenders finally arrived.  A three yard loss turned into a four yard gain and embarrassed three Tigers once again.
  3. Three continued to be the magic number as Bama faced a 3rd and 4 from the Auburn 29 (cue up the three stooges follies music).  AJ hit Amari Cooper with a simple slant that brought him into the middle of three Auburn defenders.  Whitehead led the charge as he made first contact with Cooper.  Unfortunately, most of him collided with Mincy who, too, was trying to make the tackle.  The resulting carnage of Whitehead’s collision with Mincy created enough wreckage to wipe out Jake Holland who, not surprisingly, was a step slow to the party.  The result left three AU defenders literally lying on the ground while Cooper waltzed into the end zone for a 29 yard touchdown.  I mean, seriously – Leno can’t write this kind of comedy!

What’s the Hurry:  For the third week in a row, Alabama experimented with a version of the no huddle offense.  Saban stated that once they identify a look that they want to attack, they will go no-huddle to prevent their opponent from substituting.  This worked to great effect and I look for this to continue to be utilized against UGA.

Hell’s Bell:  One thing that Bama could ill afford was another injury to a wide receiver so the loss of Kenny Bell is pretty disappointing.  Before you poo-poo Bell’s importance, know that his crossing routes have been a staple of the offense and he’s also averaged 25.4 yards per catch as a deep threat.  This big loss has Alabama contemplating taking the redshirt off true freshman Chris Black.  Black had an outstanding high school resume and it showed when he caught 5 passes for 97 yards in the A-Day game.  The Lighthouse thinks he’ll be on the field against UGA as a slot receiver as Bama holds nothing back to get an SEC and National Championship.

Alabama on Defense

How exactly does one dissect how the Alabama defense completely dismantled the woeful Auburn offense?  I mean, do you go into great detail describing how Mike Tyson knocked out Alan in the Hangover?  It’s a heavyweight against an overweight.  It’s Iron Mike versus Fat Jesus for the Iron Bowl.  It’s Alabama against Auburn.  One punch – lights out.  But the Alabama version of Mike Tyson allowed Auburn to keep their ears so that every shriek of every Auburn fan will be theirs to cherish – every fan who cried “BOOOOOOOOOO – YOU SUCK!” will reverberate forever in their perfect ears.  What a miserable vomitous mass Auburn turned out to be this season…

Double Trouble:  I have to lead with this because it was the only significant detail that came out of the Auburn game regarding the defense.  First, there was no pass rush to speak of.  Now, Bama never blitzed but, still, you expected the Tide’s front four to massacre the Aubie o-line.  Sadly, Alabama recorded only two sacks and this allowed time for the woefully inadequate Wallace to complete long passes of 16, 17 and 23 yards to Emory Blake.  I don’t need to tell you about the recent struggles of the Bama secondary and how it translates to the Georgia game.

Dee-Fence:  Dee Milliner had a really nice game.  Auburn challenged him three times yet Dee never allowed a completion.  Dee collected two more pass breakups and continued to show that he’s an outstanding corner.  I think Saban will have to man him up on King or Mitchell this Saturday which is contrary to the way Bama typically uses their corners (they typically are boundry corners who line up based on the alignment of the ball rather than against particular individuals).

Last Rites:  It was only fitting that DePriest played his best game of the season as he needed to be on hand to administer the last rites for Chiz.  Trey’s pass coverage was outstanding as Gary Danielson astutely pointed out several times during the broadcast but DePriest also showed up with a huge tackle for loss when he shot the gap of the offensive line.  To be honest, we thought Trey would be a tremendous playmaker this season but, for whatever reason, he’s not been heard of too much.  Nice to see him come up big Saturday…

True Grit:  I LOVE that Geno Smith blitzed into the AU backfield twice, taking on and taking out the big Tiger fullback.  For the second week in a row, Geno showed that he’s not afraid of knocking some heads and, for a true freshman corner, the physicality of the position is typically the biggest transition.  It took Dre Kirkpatrick a couple of years before he could go all Olivia Newton-John on people but Geno looks to be a physical youngster!  Let’s get physical, Geno!

Big Butts:  The last point I’ll make on the defense is the play of Jesse Williams and Brandon Ivory.  Between these two large mammals, they don’t give up much in the middle of the line.  Both are able to maintain their feet and their leverage, disrupting everything in the middle of the line of scrimmage.  This will be huge against the vaunted UGA running game this week.

Alabama on Special Teams

Although Cade Foster didn’t have any touchbacks, Auburn’s best field position on a kickoff was only their own 26.  The coverage team was outstanding.  Also, Cody Mandell busted out the whoopin’ stick with a 50 yard punt and a 47 yard punt.  Meanwhile, Steven Clark was Mr Shankopotumus as he bungled his way to a 34.6 yard average including a 19 yarder.  Lastly, Bama was finally muff free on the punt returns!  Woot!  Sure, they didn’t get any return yardage but at least they caught the ball!

Conclusion

This game featured the largest gap in wins between the two teams since 1950 and it more than showed up on the field.  With the loss, Auburn successfully completed the worst record by a team within two years of claiming a national championship which is why the stale Chiz-whiz was unceremoniously kicked to the Toomer’s curb following the game.  The Iron Bowl rivalry hasn’t been this one-sided in a long time, as Auburn hasn’t even scored an offensive touchdown against Alabama since early in the 4th quarter of the 2010 game.  And, Saturday was the first time in the series that a team has scored more than 40 points in consecutive games, with the 42-0 halftime lead being the largest halftime deficit in history.  Auburn pleaded no lo contendre, finally receiving Saban’s mercy five yards short of a historic margin of victory.  In a word, it was ugly.

So, what exactly did we learn from this game?  Sadly, not much.  The only real moment of significance was when Kenny Bell was carted off the field with a broken leg.  But now Alabama prepares for what essentially equates to their fourth semi-final game in five years – been here, done this.  Meanwhile, Georgia finally steps onto the big stage for the very first time in BCS history.  Will Bama’s experience win the day?  Or, will Georgia’s Richt finally find a way to show up and win a big game?  As of now, the Lighthouse isn’t feeling too good about this one but we are hoping reviews of Georgia v South Carolina and Georgia v Florida will change our minds.  Know this – Georgia can exploit Bama’s secondary far better than LSU or A&M could ever conceive of doing so, if Alabama can’t generate any pressure on Aaron Murray, it will be a long Dawg day afternoon.