Commissioner’s Report: call it ‘A Tale Of Two Coaches’

Friday, October 2, 2009 at 6:03am

Consider if you will, the comparison between two first-year head coaches at high-profile SEC programs. Both were hired to replace long-tenured predecessors who had taken their respective schools to extraordinary levels of achievement; undefeated seasons, a national championship, and dominance over traditional rivals.

Both new coaches came with some serious baggage. One had a career losing record [5-19] as a Division I head coach. The other had been fired from a head coaching position in the NFL by an owner whose picture appears next to the definition of “weirdo” in the unabridged dictionary.

They both inherited teams with serious talent problems, especially at quarterback as well as an irrational fan base, desperate for success.

So how did these two coaches handle their similar predicaments?

One of them made headlines in the off-season by not missing any opportunity to say something stupid in public, falsely accusing rival coaches of cheating, and generally going out of his way to insult his betters in the coaching profession.

The other simply went about his business; assembling a staff, installing a new offense, and coaching up the players bequeathed by his predecessor. The contrast in style and manner could not be more pronounced.

The same holds true for the contrast in achievement on the field. All of Lane Kiffin’s hot air has produced a lopsided win over the worst team in the division, an embarrassing home-loss to UCLA, a 10-point loss to Florida that some Vol fans hailed as a moral victory, and an 11-point win over 23-point underdog Ohio.

Is that a moral defeat?

Gene Chizik, on the other hand, has done nothing but coach winning football as his Auburn Tigers have dispatched La. Tech, Mississippi State, West Virginia and Ball State scoring 181 points and averaging 526 yards of offense per game.

Chizik and his offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, have transformed the Tiger’s quarterback, Chris Todd, who has completed 62 of his 106 pass attempts for 1012 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception.

What has Lane Kiffin done with his quarterback over in Volville? Here are Jonathan Crompton’s numbers: 62 completions in 107 attempts, 641 yards, 7 TDs and 8 interceptions.

These two coaches with similar circumstances, contrasting styles and opposite results meet this weekend in Neyland Stadium. The Tigers are playing with confidence. The Vols would have a hard time spelling “confidence.” On Saturday, Auburn will beat Tennessee.

Afterwards, Chizik will get to work preparing for Arkansas. Kiffin will probably say something uncomplimentary about Urban Meyer.

Here’s how the rest of the SEC landscape and make picks for other games.

Alabama v. Kentucky: Last weekend, Alabama demolished Arkansas. The Hogs’ high-octane offense was smothered by the Tide defense while the Bama offense proved it could both drive the length of the field [13 plays, 99 yards, 6:28 off the clock] and score explosively [1 play, 80 yards, :20 seconds].

The Cats were being pummeled by Florida until Tim Tebow was injured in the third quarter. Tebow’s concussion put a stop to the Gators’ offense, but by then the damage to Kentucky was done. The Cats will have no answer for what Alabama will bring on both sides of the football. The pick: Alabama

LSU v. Georgia: No teams have lived more on the edge so far this season than these two. Last Saturday, LSU was fortunate to escape Starkville with a narrow win over Mississippi State. The Dawgs needed a field goal on the game’s final play to defeat Arizona State.

Both teams’ defenses are suspect. The Dawgs have surrendered 119 points in four games and have been shredded by opponents who have averaged 355.8 yards of total offense per game. LSU’s defense has allowed an average of 333.5 yards of total offense and has been particularly vulnerable to the pass, which is Georgia’s strong suit on offense.

LSU runs the ball marginally better than Georgia, but Georgia’s A. J. Green is a more potent receiving threat than LSU’s Brandon Lafell.

This promises to be a down-to-the-wire contest with both teams accumulating double-digit penalties and trading turnovers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the game goes into multiple overtimes. But in the end, I think the home team has enough of an advantage to win yet another close one. The pick: Georgia

Vanderbilt v. Ole Miss: The Commissioner saw it coming. This column predicted a South Carolina win over Ole Miss last week. Even so, there was a time in the fourth quarter when I was convinced that Ole Miss had finally figured out how to sustain some offense to compliment the good job their defense was doing on the Yard Birds.

When was the last time that a team went three and out in its last five offensive possessions and still managed to win? Well, that’s what South Carolina managed to do, thanks to the comedy of errors committed by Ole Miss in its last opportunity to score.

After discovering that its speedy water bug, Dexter McCluster, could beat an exhausted South Carolina defense to the corner, the Ole Miss brain trust decided to have him fake a run and drop back to throw the ball. It’s possible this was not the intended play; maybe Houston Nutt, in the heat of his frenzied wig-wag signal calling, picked his nose when he meant to scratch his ear.

In any event, the resulting sack rang McCluster’s bell, and put the Rebs in a down and distance hole from which it could not recover. This coaching blunder was compounded with another when the Rebs came out of a timeout with 12 players on the field. Maybe some official with the Ole Miss athletic department ought to check Houston Nutt’s cell phone to see if he’s been spending more time texting than game-planning.

The South Carolina game exposed the Rebs as not worthy of being ranked 4th in the nation-it’s highest poll ranking in 40 years. They proved not to be good enough to beat South Carolina on the road at night. But are they good enough to beat Vanderbilt?

The ‘Dores managed to beat Rice and looked fairly good in the bargain. Vandy gained 484 yards of total offense [216 rushing] and gave up only one turnover while taking the ball away from Rice four times.

I think Vanderbilt is better coached than Ole Miss, but is not blessed with as much talent. Having both good coaching and great talent is a formula for success in more than just football. But I imagine that Bobby Johnson would sure like to have a little deeper talent pool to benefit from his good coaching. The pick: Ole Miss

Arkansas v. Texas A&M: Can the Hogs recover from the beat-down in T-Town and pull themselves together enough to win in College Station?

The Aggies are 3-0 having beaten UAB, Utah State and New Mexico. Their offense has averaged 574 yards per game, and while the passing game has accounted for most of the offensive production, the running game has not exactly been neglected. They have a pair of starting running backs, Cyrus Gray and Jerrod Johnson, who are averaging more than 65 yards rushing per game.

Apart from a couple of big plays, the Hogs defense did a reasonably good job containing the Alabama running attack. Arkansas will be the toughest opponent Texas A&M has faced so far this season, while the Porkers have played better quality opposition.

A by-product of playing better teams, however, is the physical toll that comes with tougher opponents. And Arkansas was physically beaten by Alabama. After a scoreless first quarter that saw Arkansas gain twice as many yards of offense than Alabama, the Tide put its game into a higher gear and the contest was over for all practical purposes with 13 minutes still left to play in the game.

Texas A&M is a middling Big 12 team that nobody expects to compete with the bigger dogs in their conference. Arkansas is on a two game losing streak. But if the Swine can put the last two weeks behind them, and use this week to get their offense working, they might be able to bring the bacon home from College Station.

Barbeque aficionados in the Lone Star State take pride in what they can do with a beef brisket. Saturday, however, the Aggies are going to cook the whole hog. The pick: Texas A&M

The Commissioner is Joseph A. “Woody” Woodruff, a partner at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP.


7 Comments on this post:

By: foxman on 10/2/09 at 9:58

I think the commish is a Vandy fan/grad with little brothers syndrome about the The Big Orange. How about the ass kicking they took at home from Miss State? How about getting on Bobby Johnson about that embarrassment? Will Vandy stay within 10 points of Florida? Hell no. The Commish is a douchbag!!!!

By: VUGuy on 10/2/09 at 10:16

He's an Alabama grad so maybe you're the one with the inferiority complex.

By: wiseguy on 10/2/09 at 11:30

I think foxman is partaking of prescription medication and/or experiencing halucinions. VU gave up 1 TD late in the 4th off a bungled punt catch equates to an ass kicking? VU D conrolled Miss St pretty well. The O is a different story and is credited with the loss for failure to perform. UT fans are so acustomed to a tilt in thier favor that anything other than praise and honors for UT and hate and discontent for VU spins their world off its axis.

Foxman probably still believes the world is flat, which is my way saying "living in the past". Get used to the concept that things are changing in Nashville and Knoxville.

By: foxman on 10/2/09 at 12:27

Being a Criminal Tide fan explains alot, but there is nothing changing between UT & Vandy. Vandy has beat UT once in 25 years & got manhandled at home last year by UT's worst team 20 years while Vandy fielded their best team in 20 years. No change there big boy. You are still little brother to the BIG ORANGE & will always be!!!

By: hawgfan76 on 10/2/09 at 12:57

Maybe you should stick with the day job because you have no clue about football. First, Arkansas vs Texas A&M is called the Southwest Classic going back to the days of the old Southwest Conference which will be played @ Dallas in the new Jerryworld, perhaps because Jerry is a Hog!?! Second, Arkansas is the Home team this year, not A&M. Dude if you can't even get the location or home team write please don't try to talk football. I'm sure you thought you'd be real cute with all the BBQ reference acting like "Leonard Losers" wanta be but the real loser is all of us who wasted our time reading you sorry attempt at college football coverage! Nevermind the fact that I disagree with about everything you said. Does the CP have a copy editor? I mean really is it that hard to hit up espn before you go to print, and they wonder why print is dying.

By: VUGuy on 10/2/09 at 1:47

No foxman, we're just fans who enjoy football on the weekends. You're a guy who places his entire self worth on the strength of his football team. Not your little bro.

By: wiseguy on 10/2/09 at 4:27

By foxman definition VU is little brother to every SEC team ... so what else is new? Keep in mind that there will always be a major difference in athletes at VU than all the other SEC schools ... VU athletes are students first. Call them little brother if you like, I don't think anybody really cares.

Now the point in my mind is Johnson has closed he gap in talent and competativeness. Team is not consistent yet and certainly needs some depth. In college ball these are not over night fixes. Last years team was better than the 7-6 record indicated. Beat Boston College but lose to Duke? Beat Ole Miss and lose to Miss St?

Johnson's task is certainly not finsihed.