OK, lots of ground to cover here, since I haven't really posted about the Dawgs since the ASU game. We'll take them a game at a time:
Alabama (aka Blackout III: The Reckoning) - I'm still mentally blocking most of this game, and I haven't really dealt with it emotionally yet. I just sometimes wake up screaming after dreams of yellow flags flying all around me and gigantic Crimson monsters laughing maniacally while dangling poor little Uga VII over the pits of hell....best we just move on.
Honestly, this was just a good old fashioned butt-whoopin'. The disturbing part is that we seem to have one of these every year. Really not sure of the answer to why that happens, but this one hurt.The Dawgs no longer have any margin for error the rest of the year if they want to accomplish their ultimate goal.
Tennessee - I only wish we could have dominated on the scoreboard the way we did on the field. This was possibly the most dominating 12 point win I've ever seen. When you hold a 42-18 minute advantage in time of possession and a 460-200 advantage in total offense, you should expect to win by more than two touchdowns. Questionable play-calling and bad decisions in the red zone cost us at least another 14-21 points, and then we wouldn't have to hear any of the crap we're hearing about "style points" (seriously, style points? Is this figure skating? Are we in Russia?). We kept going to the well on the fade route in the end zone, and we never did have any success. Since we really haven't seen much of that play before or since, I can only assume that we saw something on film that we thought we could take advantage of and then just didn't execute.
Though I wish we could have beaten them by more, it was still a satisfying win to me. Like last year, UT was circling the bowl when they met up with the Dawgs...unlike last year, we didn't allow Phat Phil to clog himself in the drain and refuse to go down.
Vanderbilt - Almost a carbon copy of the UT game. Again, this was a much more dominating performance than the scoreboard would indicate. Once again, lack of execution in the red zone, including two uncharacteristic misses from Blair Walsh, kept this one closer than it should have been.
One disturbing trend that came out of these two games was that in each of them, Stafford threw an UGLY interception that was reminiscent of some of his early career mistakes. Up to that point, he had done an EXCELLENT job in valuing the football, so here's hoping they were temporary lapses that are out of his system.
Overall, the team has bounced back pretty well after the embarrassment against Bama. Two very good performances against SEC competition, even if there were still enough coughs and stalls to keep the game closer than they should have been. Pretty happy with the offensive line, especially considering the ridiculous rash of injuries and youth. Moreno continues to add zeroes to the end of his bank account with one jaw-dropping performance after another. AJ Green is a BEAST, and may be the best receiver we've ever had by the time he leaves. Really, the team has been playing well in most facets of the game, except we still don't seem to be able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, which is affecting all phases of our defense.
Which leads us to the LSU game...
Early in the week, I felt really confident about this game, to the point where I thought we may be looking at a 31-17 score, with maybe a defensive or special teams touchdown thrown in there. The more I look at the game, though, the more nervous I get. The matchups in this game remind me a lot of the Alabama game, which is terror-inducing for obvious reasons that I still am not ready to talk about. The matchups on both lines of scrimmage favor the Tigers, I think, especially our DL vs. their OL. If we can't shut down their run game, or if we give Hatch/Lee all day to dink and dunk their way down the field, we could be in trouble.
For some reason, though, I still think we pull this one out tomorrow. I think the OL will surprise some people in their ability to hold their own against LSU's monstrous DL. Open holes for Moreno and give Stafford just a LITTLE time, and I think we can put up points on this defense. The strength of their defense is definitely NOT in the secondary...if Stafford gets time, I think he can make them pay for blitzing by burning them deep with AJ and MoMass. A factor that is in our favor, in my opinion, is that we are VERY good at picking up blitzes, with Stafford able to identify them pre-snap and Knowshon and Southerland/Chapas doing an excellent job in picking them up. I see at least a couple of big pass plays coming off of LSU blitzes.
On defense, we need to sell out to stop the run and make them throw to beat us. Mix up coverage, but do NOT play off them all day and let them work their way down the field. Anybody can hit 6 yard curl routes, even John Parker Wilson (...shudder). If you make their QB's have to MAKE PLAYS, then we have them right where we want them. In fact, I think we may see one of our DB's with a pick-6 in this one, probably off a rushed decision due to pass rush.
Prediction: Dawgs 27, Tigers 17