By: Eric SanInocencio
SEC Digital Network
Birmingham, Ala. – First off, my sincerest apologies.
Last week was the first in our Monday “Three and Out” history that I didn’t produce a column. That time frame coincided with my son Deric’s first birthday party, leaving me unable to properly provide enough analysis in this space. With my in-laws in town as well, the convergence of events forced the “Three and Out” to have to punt.
Consider this my triumphant return.
I am back, with more than enough information to share with my legion of fans (no matter how many I have, I thank each and every one of you). We all know there was plenty to watch this Saturday.
However, in addition to activities on the field, there was an amazing amount of off the field happenings too. That deserves some attention, because the SEC Digital Network coverage slate was more than just Armageddon.
But, who are we kidding. It all began with LSU-Alabama, the “Game of the Century” in Tuscaloosa. I was there for pre-game action, and got to re-watch it a few times (thank you DVR) later back at home. There is really no choice but to begin this week’s “Three and Out” at Armageddon.
First Down: Defense, Defense, Defense
If you follow the SEC Digital Network (we hope you all do), you know I was in attendance Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. The atmosphere was worth an entire column itself
, and I won’t revisit that craziness here. But, the grandness of this day was a pivotal theme, producing a game many are still trying to analyze a day later. While promoted as the “greatest game ever”, the action on the gridiron wasn’t what many expected.
Is that a bad thing?
Everyone has heard the famous phrase, “offense sells tickets but defense wins championships”. But, not only does offense sell tickets, to some fans today it determines the excitement surrounding the game. I can’t tell you how many times on Twitter
fans called the LSU-Alabama game “boring”, or complained over a lack of offensive firepower. In this generation of college football followers, scoring equates to dominance, and many don’t know how to properly appreciate a game when neither team gets into double digits.
At the very same time LSU and Alabama were in the middle of their defensive war, undefeated Oklahoma State was in the midst of a shootout with Kansas State. It was the epitome of that fan divide, a collection of two contests that couldn’t have been more different in the way they were played.
In just the first quarter alone, KSU and OSU scored more points than Alabama and LSU did in the entire game. Both matchups came down to the final moments, ending dramatically but in different fashion. The Tigers kicked an overtime field goal to capture the 9-6 win, while Oklahoma State stopped Kansas State’s attempt at its 52nd point. An interesting debate about what “great” football is exploded on Twitter shortly after, and I was right in the middle of it.
People may say I’m biased, and I can see where you could make that point, but to me a low scoring affair doesn’t equate to “not fun”. What we watched on CBS in primetime was NFL-like in its talent, two great defenses that were so impressive the offensive playbooks shrunk out of fear.
Think about that.
Both Les Miles and Nick Saban, National Championship coaches, were overly conservative with their offensive attacks because both defenses dominated the line of scrimmage. Almost every point scored, and there weren’t many of them (15 total) were influenced by defensive plays. Great interceptions, field position and trench warfare ruled the day, both teams content to try and add three points wherever they could.
In the end, LSU pulled out another huge victory. For all the talk of Les Miles’ sideline mannerisms, there is no questioning his coaching resume. In the biggest moments, the Bayou Bengals win. Miles didn’t even dig into his bag of tricks, instead relying on Jordan Jefferson and his defense to lead the way.
Alabama fans will likely think about this loss for a long time. They had offensive success early, but failed to capitalize with points. Missed field goals came back to haunt them, leaving them just short of a victory in the “Game of the Century”.
It was almost fitting the way it ended. Both teams had chances to score in regulation, but played it safe and pushed for overtime. Alabama got the ball first in OT, and was stifled by the LSU defense. It was a key sack on third down of that lone Crimson Tide possession that proved to be pivotal, knocking Alabama out of reasonable (for their kickers) distance for the field goal attempt. Saban’s bunch missed, giving the Tigers a chance.
As had happened all night, the Bayou Bengal defense set up their offense to do just enough to win.
On top of that, Les Miles got out of “Armageddon” with a victory.
The question you’ll hear over the next few weeks is….”should there be a rematch?” Miles himself even faced the inquiry just moments after the game was over, as CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson posed the question.
If you are asking me, it is entirely possible. A 9-6 overtime game may not be the prettiest to watch, but don’t tell me we didn’t watch the two best teams in college football. LSU vs. Alabama part two? We will just have to wait and see.
Second Down: The Quietest “Good” Team In The SEC
I heard about it from their fan base all week. Why is it, they asked, with two top ten SEC teams battling for a possible berth in the Championship Game, did the Arkansas-USC game not get its proper due on the website? They asked me, “Why are we being left out”?
As I mentioned in the preview I wrote, the same points you made about the gravity of the Alabama and LSU game fit the criteria of the matchup in Fayetteville. Two top ten teams, two great coaches, even the same prime time slot on national television. When it came to importance in the SEC, Arkansas against South Carolina was HUGE. Now that the dust is settled, and Arkansas picked up the win, I ask you a simple question.
Is there a team less talked about nationally than Arkansas?
In one of my many interviews last week, I talked with Sports Illustrated college football writer Stewart Mandel, as he and I had a pretty long conversation about the SEC. I peppered him with questions about Tyler Wilson (Mandel said he was probably the SEC’s best QB), the South Carolina defense and what were the keys to the game.
Feeling I had taken up enough of his time already, I planned on ending the conversation after my USC-Arkansas inquiries. He interrupted me, asking a question of his own before I could hang up the phone. “You mean you aren’t going to ask me about LSU and Alabama?”
My point exactly.
Starting today, that is no longer the case. Arkansas picked up a major SEC win over South Carolina, positioning them right back in the Western Division mix. The best news for the Razorbacks, other than getting that key victory, was that LSU won, because the Tigers are still on Arkansas’ schedule.
To quote former Arizona Cardinals head football coach Dennis Green, when it comes to Arkansas “they are what we thought they were”. They scored 44 points against a great South Carolina defense (they average 37 points per game), and Wilson threw for 299 yards (he averages 291 a game through the air). They move the ball and score points, and head coach Bobby Petrino’s team does it every week. It is almost as if we take them for granted.
I can’t tell you how many emails and tweets I have gotten asking about possible tiebreakers in the Western Division. Luckily for us, we have that handy.
THREE (OR MORE) TEAM TIE
1. Once the tie has been reduced to two teams, go to the two-team tie-breaker format.
2. Combined head-to-head record among the tied teams.
3. Record of the tied teams within the division.
4. Head-to-head competition vs. the team within the division with the best overall (divisional and non-divisional) Conference record and proceeding through the division. Multiple ties within the division will be broken from first to last.
5. Overall record vs. non-division teams.
6. Combined record vs. all common non-divisional teams.
7. Record vs. common non-divisional team with the best overall Conference (divisional and non-divisional) record and proceeding through other common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish within their division.
8. The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game.
9. All three coaches will come together and play rock, paper, scissors, (best of three) with the winner advancing to Atlanta.
Ok, I made the last one up. But, after reading those rules, you could see that being entirely possible right?
You want to try and decipher all that?
That’s why I keep telling folks to just wait and see. Should all teams keep winning, we will worry about it then. It is like my mother always told me, “we will cross that bridge when we come to it”.
Arkansas deserves our attention. Petrino has himself a fine football team in Fayetteville.
Third Down: What A Week!
Two SEC championship events (cross country, soccer), we added a new team to the league (welcome Missouri) and oh by the way, had one of the biggest weekends in the history of SEC football. It made for a difficult high wire act, as the entire team was spread thin trying to be everywhere at once.
As I sit here and write this on Sunday night, I am hours away from completing what is likely to be the most action filled of my young career at the SEC Digital Network. The amount of information we pumped out this week was unmatched in our history, and the pressure packed moments leave me emotionally wiped out as I type these words.
With most news cycles in our business, some things you can plan for, others you can’t. You try to prepare as much as possible for what you know is coming, while trying to be as available for what might take place. It is always a delicate balance, because with the sheer size of the Southeastern Conference, you could literally work 24 hours a day and not cover everything. There is always something happening.
This week was just that, a roller coaster of events, announcements and travel that left us moving at the pace of a runaway train. I always try to remind myself to enjoy every moment, but even that wasn’t possible with the hectic schedule of the past seven days.
If you look at some of the stuff we were able to accomplish this week, it made me feel like we’d finally reached our goal of becoming a true digital network. Every day brought never before seen content, from interviews with NFL players to columns about historic SEC head coaches.
I’m not writing this to pat myself on the back, but more so to try and explain what working in this world can be like at times. While I always enjoy it, and know I’m blessed to be in this position, occasionally it is hard to keep your sanity during these moments.
Think about just the last 24 hours. We travelled to the “Game of the Century”, did several unique pieces on the game and drove back home. After a short night of rest, it was on to Missouri, who was announced as the league’s 14th member first thing Sunday morning. The day continued, as we had more reaction pieces, analysis columns and even crowned an SEC soccer champion.
There are times during the year where you don’t have time to breathe, as the barrage of news and events keep you moving non-stop. While it can be tough to manage from a time perspective, the excitement of living through those moments couldn’t be better.
Welcome to life at the SEC Digital Network.