Sunday, October 09, 2005


You can only tread water for so long before you begin to sink. And today that lesson is hitting home in resounding fashion in both Memphis and Knoxville. Despite high hopes for both the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee, it would appear both teams will have to settle for disappointment.

Treading water at the quarterback position (whether because of injury or coaching indecision) is clearly a recipe for failure, as evidenced by both schools. For Memphis, a season of celebration--a season to cement the team's newfound status as a perennial bowl invitee and to watch with awe the greatest Tiger ever--has turned into a season of injury (to both body and pride). Mario Pratcher won't play a down this season, Patrick Byrne broke his leg, followed by Will Hudgens doing the exact same thing--those injuries were bad enough. On top of that, I have to think that watching the defense get gashed time and time again by UCF was maybe more painful to the pride of Tiger fans. 57 carries for 261 yards? This wasn't 1995 Nebraska, it was 2005 UCF. Yes, Joe Lee Dunn's system isn't working--and yes, this team might be better served with a different defensive identity--but when the team gets whipped, the team gets whipped. The Tigers missed LaVale Washington badly on Saturday night. And there's no question the team has missed Albert Means all season long. There's just not enough depth, and part of that I would have to attribute to Joe Lee Dunn's unwillingness to recruit. They need more talent, and fast, and it would be nice to have a defensive coordinator that actually leaves the campus to recruit.

I think the offense is worthy of a little criticism as well. I realize that it's very hard to prepare a contingency plan for losing your two starting quarterbacks in the first three games of the season, but if you recruit Billy Barefield as a quarterback, he's got to be able to play quarterback at the D-1 level, and I'm not convinced. DeAngelo's DeHydration didn't help matters at all on Saturday, and the highly-touted young wide receiving corps has not been physical enough to make an impact. Those around Barefield have to get better (DeAngelo obviously excluded), and quickly.

Another unbelievable run, though...that much I have to admit. DeAngelo is so much better than anyone else on the field (in almost any game in which he plays) that it's frightening.

As for Tennessee, I hate to repeat myself, but it is becoming more and more obvious that Rick Clausen is just not good enough to be an SEC quarterback. Through coaching indecision and a lack of foresight, Phillip Fulmer derailed this season before it even got started. It had been obvious that Fulmer wanted Ainge to be his quarterback, and he tried every way possible to make that happen, but Clausen beat Ainge out for the QB spot during camp. He played better, looked better, and was the better QB. Yet Ainge was named the starter. That was the beginning of the end. It killed Ainge's confidence to be put out there when he didn't deserve it, killed the players' confidence in Ainge knowing he was only out there because Fulmer gave him the job, and it killed Rick Clausen's belief in the coaching staff since he won the job in camp, but didn't get it. Georgia played a very solid, very smart game against Tennessee--D.J. Shockley looked good both throwing and running, the run game was solid, and I thought their big tight end Leonard Pope was outstanding. UT had no answers for his size and great hands. Georgia is certainly now the outright favorite to head to Atlanta representing the SEC East--while Tennessee may well slip all the way to the Music City Bowl. That is the very definition of a disappointing season.

At this point, if Tennessee struggles mightily against Alabama (in what is sure to be an incredibly emotional game) with Clausen at the helm, I would have to recommend going with Ainge for the rest of the season, if for no other reason than to try to restore some of the kid's confidence. You have to find out what you've got with Ainge sooner rather than later.

Enough of that; on to Ole Miss--it is simply mind-boggling that this offense is as bad as it is. The talent on the offensive line is abysmal--apart from Oher, there's just not much there. Without a line, no offense can succeed. Only scoring 3 points in the first half of a game against a mediocre 1-AA team? That's just sad. Ed Orgeron benched Micheal Spurlock not because he was terrible, but to try ANYTHING to put a spark in the team. Robert Lane then came in and promptly threw a pick. Again, I ask: is Ethan Flatt dead? Did we not find out about some kind of accident he had? I think he's still on the roster...hang on, let me go check...

Yep. He's there.

"Remember me, Coach O?"

Here's the checklist: Spurlock--not good enough; Lane--not good at all; Flatt--?????

If I recall, he played well enough last year in the QB trifecta that David Cutcliffe used last year. So why not try him this season? Clearly, something has to be done or Ole Miss will be overrun in their last few games against the elite of the SEC West.

Oh, and before I forget, here's your Coincidence of the Week That Has No Actual Relevance But Still Seems Kind of Interesting: This is either a banner season or a renaissance season for teams associated with gold. Let me explain:
  • Notre Dame has been great this season
  • UCLA is on the way back (great win vs. Cal on Saturday)
  • Vanderbilt is having an amazing season (destruction by LSU aside)
  • The Minnesota GOLDEN Gophers are winning big games
  • Boston College is better than usual
  • Colorado's on the way back
  • Baylor just won it's first Big 12 road game ever
  • The Tulsa GOLDEN Hurricane are leading the C-USA's West division
  • The UCF GOLDEN Knights are leading the East

Amazing, isn't it?


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