sullivan013

sullivan013

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Tiger-Eye Review – Back East Edition

Two East teams tasted their first defeat this last weekend and the turmoil it has caused has created an interesting situation in the division race on that side of the Southeastern Conference.

Funny thing about football. Not all teams, games, coaching staffs or plays are the same week to week. You can show the statistics like I have been doing year after year concerning the expected outcome of any contest or situation and be as confident in the result as your own name based upon past performance and walk into an absolutely entirely different outcome that contradicts every conceivable number I ever dreamed of. About the only thing I can think of to say in these instances is that a plus-five turnover margin erases a great deal of team efficiency and capability.

Ever wonder why ‘ball control’ is so widely heard in pre- and post-game interviews from those same coaching staffs? This is the reason. This is also the reason it becomes a fundamental topic in every film review on both sides of the ball, both in lessons learned and weaknesses to exploit. You can bet that every team with Georgia on their schedule will be watching this last weekend’s game film with intense interest. Likewise, you can bet the Georgia coaching staff and players will have an entirely different outlook and playing intensity at the earliest possible moment.

Which also means a very unforgiving game against their next opponent. Expect this to play out with a huge point spread against Kentucky.

But the curious thing about the statistics I’ve been following – Georgia’s numbers weren’t impacted by their defeat. In fact, it was South Carolina that suffered a setback. Even more curious, the two top SEC Western Division teams had efficiency numbers drop incredibly sharply following what looked on the surface as significant wins.

This can be looked at in a couple of ways. First of all, it is important to note exceptions to the chosen statistics I’ve based this analysis on. Both long scoring plays and turnovers are not tracked by this method. Not because they aren’t significant, but mainly it is due to their rarity week to week. I just don’t have a way to track them incrementally throughout the season like I can for the numbers that I do include.

Secondly, what I am attempting to do is to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each of the conference teams in a manner that can be compared to what a conference champion team normally looks like year to year and which teams are showing those attributes when during the season. I usually don’t predict nor speculate game to game. Nor do I try to use this system to bet on any games, mainly due to what just happened last weekend.

Sure is a long way down from where these two Easterners were

SEC West Offense

Both Alabama and LSU proved their offensive prowess this last weekend, maintaining dominating performance numbers against two widely touted defensive teams.  Neither one showed any impact to the impressive statistics they have compiled week to week. 

The same could not be said for the remaining teams who played. Not a single one of the teams who played showed any sort of improvement from their previous statistics. In fact, several problems worsened, especially for both Mississippi State and Texas A&M.  With the losses mounting and the schedule still showing ranked teams in the future, bowl eligibility is squarely on the table for each of these teams. 

SEC West Defense

This is where the numbers really took a turn almost across the board. The most striking two are of course the last two undefeated teams heading towards an early November showdown.  What is going on with both of these defenses? This isn’t just a rotation in depth as lopsided games are winding down and third stringers are giving up big yards.

What is showing here is far more pervasive than a few late drives in already decided games.  I believe this is actually a measure of the impact of big play offenses.  When a team scores on a deep strike, the defense has to return far sooner than a long drive would allow, and even with substitution and rotation of depth, this still has an impact on your players that may be significant as the season progresses.  The same goes for teams with poor offenses, as three-and-outs produce the same effect.

A very interesting development that bears close watching these next few weeks.  

SEC East Offense

Florida’s offense obviously couldn’t keep up with LSU, and the numbers this week show it. Interestingly enough, Georgia’s numbers don’t illustrate any impact from their loss at all. They are still the most efficient and effective team in the East Division. What is showing ominously is a steady, step by step improvement in Missouri’s numbers. And with the fall of Georgia and Florida in the same week, that puts the East Tigers into the division race with a vengeance.  It’s going to get interesting these next couple of weeks.

Despite the win, South Carolina still has a daunting schedule and only an average offense on their third quarterback this season. Much as that win energized their team and fan base, it would be wrong to read too much into that game, especially with the Gators visiting this weekend. Tennessee notched a win too, but it did so with very little noticeable improvement. This also won’t go as far as they might hope. 

 

SEC East Defense

This is where I think Missouri might be able to tip the scales on both Florida and Georgia. If they can keep these defensive numbers up when they play those two teams, we might be looking at a team play for the Southeastern conference championship after losing to Wyoming. 

Ouch. 

But that is what I find myself thinking when I see the above. Georgia’s offense lost to a very average South Carolina defense and Florida’s offense hasn’t been that great against any of the quality defenses they’ve played so far.  While you can point out that Mizzou hasn’t face much in terms of quality teams, their numbers are remarkably consistent game to game. This is a well coached and well playing team. 

State of the Conference

With the fall of the two East Division leaders a curious race is starting for the East title. Missouri’s schedule and the fact that their two highest ranked teams on their schedule just suffered a conference loss puts them in a unique position of only having to win against one of them to secure half of the title for the division, if not winning it outright. This has changed from idle speculation to a serious possibility and likelihood. 

The West division is narrowing with every victory by LSU and Alabama leading up to their matchup in November. But there are still pitfalls ahead and if the South Carolina win tells you anything, it means that no team is entirely safe in any game for the remainder of the season. That ball can bounce any number of ways when you least expect it. 

What does this mean conference wide? What looked like a two team race in the East has suddenly become a three way free-for-all that can spin out any number of ways the next few weeks. The West has two teams playing remarkably similarly in nearly every aspect and with careful play will decide the fact on November 9th. 

And yet,… this is college football, after all, and stranger things have happened before and will likely do so again here shortly.

Looking to burn brightly for the rest of the season.

The post Tiger-Eye Review – Back East Edition appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

Tiger-Eye Review – Searching for Answers Edition

The mid point of the season is upon us and we’re still looking for answers to some very tough questions.

Have the schedules, games, teams and coaching staffs of the Southeastern Conference shown us the real quality and play of the league so far? We still have four teams in the top ten rankings, and two more among the top 25 ranked teams in the nation. A third of the top fifteen in college football belong to the Southeastern conference. No other conference in America has more than three teams in the top fifteen and at least one of those ‘Power Five’ conferences has just a single team represented.

But after that? There isn’t much to be said about the SEC. Over half the conference has already proven ‘beatable’ by outside opposition. No fewer than eight SEC teams are sporting an out-of-conference loss in their schedule so far, and we’re nowhere near bowl season. When this pans out, the highs and the lows of this 2019 season will likely show a severe drop-off in production after the top six teams are accounted for. So far, I have seen this in the numbers as the conference play has unfolded. There is a sharp and sizable gap forming between the top teams and the rest of the conference and it is widening, not shrinking.

My hope is that we’ve had some varying amounts of raw data against inferior opponents for the higher ranked teams and some underappreciated data from some out of conference opposition that has been overlooked due to their unranked status early on.  But that is only a hope. How that plays out as the conference schedule heats to boiling is still to be determined. 

I expect that some of these numbers will begin to normalize after this weekend and next weekends games are resolved. We should have a much better picture of how these teams are going to end up and how well they are playing.  Our search continues.

 

The standard of champions 

It’s still a long road ahead, before our search is through.

SEC West Offense

With the Auburn-Florida game now in the rear view mirror, only two offenses remain in the West showing championship numbers. Both of those may show some different numbers come Saturday. Auburn’s offensive statistics took a dive after meeting the three ranked teams so far, as did many of the other teams in the division. LSU faces that same Florida defense that Auburn struggled with and Alabama visits Kyle Field.

This will likely be a sizable test for both teams. The more consistent play on Saturday will illustrate which of those two top teams has the better offense. 

SEC West Defense

Surprisingly, Auburn’s defensive numbers didn’t fall that much from last week. Except for the two long scoring plays, the Tigers did much the same they have done all year – stopped the run, limited 3rd downs and kept teams from scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone. LSU and Alabama both sport far superior numbers, but this is more a measure of their opponents so far in the season.

Watch this space after Saturday and into next weekend.  It will be interesting to note how the Aggie and Gator offenses impact those two this week. The rest of the division is still doing fairly well on defense, considering their records. They are being outscored, but still playing hard on third down.  Very interesting.

SEC East Offense

Take a good look at the difference between this week’s number for the Gator offense and last week’s numbers. There was a seven point efficiency drop across all categories. This is what facing a top ten defense does to those glitzy early season numbers as the conference play heats up. I expect Georgia to keep their numbers up until they hit the meat of their schedule in late October and into November. 

Again, watch out for the Missouri Tigers. They are slowly gaining ground on offense and confidence as the season progresses. I still say they have a very good shot at tipping the apple cart over for the two division leaders. No one in the media has evidently seen this as I haven’t heard a whisper about their chances. But I still say they are just one upset away from being in Atlanta with the division title in hand. 

SEC East Defense

Three good defenses, one average and three dismal defenses define the East division.  Kentucky, Tennessee and Vandy aren’t going to stop anyone from scoring. Florida, Georgia and Missouri are playing at tip-top performance levels and South Carolina is just doing the best they can. Trying to anticipate how this will play out for the next six games is going to be interesting.

Matched with their dismal offenses, the bottom three in the East are going to struggle to retain bowl eligibility. It is still deeply in doubt that any will crack .500 by season end. It’s looking like a very cold winter north of the Tennessee river. 

State of the Conference

There are still six team s up and eight teams down, but there is now a second distinct separation between the very top and the next set of challengers. There are still only two losses in the top six teams, and now twenty four losses among the bottom eight teams. Two of those top six teams meet head to head as the Gators travel to Baton Rouge. But three others will be tested against conference foes this week and the results should prove decisive in setting the tone for the remainder of the season. 

This is actually my favorite time of the year for writing this column. The numbers begin to adjust to their proper levels during October showing their most active corrections as the inter-conference play begins to normalize what has previously been skewed by non-conference opponents of variable quality.  The numbers will start to crystallize into measurable trends between teams within the divisions and inside the conference as a whole. 

Are we really down to just three good teams, three above average teams and then a mire of mediocrity? These next two or three weeks will likely answer that question with firm statistics that point out how this will all end. The search for the soul of the conference will begin to show promise.

It’s a good time to take a break, sharpen our skills and be ready for the final push.

The post Tiger-Eye Review – Searching for Answers Edition appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

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