SCARBROUGH'S TAKE

It’s Bad SEC Football … But Get More Popcorn

Lyn Scarbrough

November 08, 2017 at 11:26 pm.

Goofey makes it look easy in the "How To Play Football Picture," made by Disney.

Goofey makes it look easy in the “How To Play Football Picture,” made by Disney.

–Watching SEC football this season has been like looking at classic movies from the past.

You remember those unforgettable old films that glorified the gridiron.

No, not “Rudy,” the story of Daniel Ruettiger, the smallish walk-on who lived his dream to play for Notre Dame.

Not “Remember the Titans,” where head coach Herman Boone led T.C. Williams High School to an unlikely Virginia state championship.

And, for sure not “Knute Rockne, All-American.” That’s the one where the legendary Notre Dame head coach (played by Pat O’Brien) inspires the Irish to keep winning to honor halfback George Gipp (played by future President Ronald Reagan) who had been diagnosed with a fatal illness.

“The last thing George said to me … tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.”

You likely know those three, but maybe not these three that are much more fitting for the 2017 Southeastern Conference football season.

– “Three Little Pigskins,” filmed in 1934 about a trio of college students, mistakenly added to the football team, who know nothing about football. Their play is such a fiasco that when the team loses, people think they threw the game on purpose. That one starred Moe and Curly Howard and Larry Fine – The Three Stooges – and young Lucille Ball, who was a blonde back then.

– “Horse Feathers,” the 1932 movie built around a football game between fictional Darwin and Huxley Colleges. The four leading characters – Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo Marx (never confused with The Four Horsemen) – win the game by carrying the ball into the end zone in a horse-drawn garbage wagon.

– “How to Play Football,” the Disney short film lasting only 7 ½ minutes, starring Goofy with all other characters being Goofy look-alikes. Head coach Goofy explains the fine points of the sport before the game between Taxidermy Tech and Anthropology A&M. Available on YouTube, it was nominated for an Academy Award in 1944.

There are three SEC teams worthy of those first films. Georgia (No. 1), Alabama (No. 2) and Auburn (No. 10) are still in the national championship hunt. At the end of the season, those teams could be Academy Award material.

But for the most part, the rest of the conference has been at times – almost all the time for some teams – a combination of The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers and an all-star cast of Disney characters all rolled into one.

Looking around the league there are a few teams that have had some good scenes.

Mississippi State is the SEC’s fourth best team (ranked No. 16), but when they played two of the three top teams (Georgia, Auburn) they were demolished by a combined 80-13 and Alabama comes up next. On Saturday, they barely escaped upset at home by UMass, the team ranked No. 130 (dead last) by Lindy’s in the preseason.

LSU, the fifth best team (sneaking into the rankings at No. 24) did have a narrow come-from-behind win over Auburn, but they also had a 37-7 massacre by Mississippi State and a home loss to the Men of Troy … not Southern Cal … the real men of Troy, Ala., who the next game suffered a dominating, double-digit loss to South Alabama, which had won only one game. By the way, that Troy embarrassment was Homecoming in Baton Rouge.

South Carolina, the only other SEC team that even gets votes, has a double-digit home loss to Kentucky and a road loss to Texas A&M (notice that those two teams haven’t been mentioned yet), and only escaped a home loss to Louisiana Tech (4-5) with a 31-yard field goal with four seconds left in the game. The Gamecocks still have to play Clemson.

Who should be next?

How about Texas A&M? After starting the season at 5-2 and giving hope to fans, as all recent A&M teams do, they were dominated in back-to-back home games. Mississippi State led 35-7 before a late score made it look closer. The next game, they trailed Auburn, 35-13, before scoring late to again make it look closer. The Aggies also blew a 34-point second half lead against UCLA (4-5), the second largest collapse loss in FBS history. Remember the movie and book, “Great Expectations?” It had nothing to do with football, but that one would apply here. How many seasons can Aggie fans be teased with those expectations, followed by late season collapses?

Kentucky is bowl eligible (6-3), but those losses were painful to watch. The Wildcats were annihilated, 45-7, by Mississippi State (that team that lost to Georgia and Auburn, 80-13). They gave up a fourth quarter lead on Saturday, losing to bowl ineligible Ole Miss in the closing seconds. And, they lost to Florida when not once, but twice, the Wildcats had only 10 men on the field, leaving a Gator receiver uncovered for a touchdown, including the game-winner with just 43 seconds remaining. Once would be bad enough, but it happened two times! The guys from Taxidermy Tech can probably count to eleven.

That leaves a half-dozen SEC teams, a six-pack of video low-lights that would qualify more as horror movies than old pigskin films.

Missouri, given up for dead after losing five consecutive games by a 42-18 average score (Georgia scored 53, Auburn 51), has won three in a row, averaging 55 points per game. If the Tigers can win two of the next three over Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas (teams not yet mentioned with a combined record of 1-14 in SEC games), they can squeak into bowl eligibility and save head Coach Barry Odom’s job. That’s a realistic possibility.

Not much redemption ahead for the other five.

Vanderbilt is at least not likely to have a head coaching change. The Commodores, after starting 3-0, have lost five of the next six, including all five SEC games, losing those by a combined 233-100. They have to win two of three against Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee to be bowl eligible. Not likely.

Tennessee is historically bad, worse than their 4-5 record, which includes 0-5 in the conference. One win is over UMass (remember No. 130) in a 17-13 home squeaker when the Minutemen dominated the second half. Another win was over Southern Miss at home when the Volunteers gained only 210 total yards. And, they defeated Georgia Tech when the Yellow Jackets fumbled the game away, outgained Tennessee by almost 300 yards and had 33 first downs. The Tennessee record could easily be 1-7. To be bowl eligible, they have to win two of three against Missouri, LSU and Vanderbilt. Not likely.

Like Tennessee, Arkansas is historically bad. The Razorbacks lost four consecutive league games, giving up an average of 48 points per game. Then on Saturday, playing before an estimated 30,000 empty seats, they pulled out a last-second 39-38 win over Coastal Carolina, a bad Sun Belt team with a 1-8 record. The Three Stooges team could be that good. (Could that be Curly Howard we see roaming the Razorback sideline?) To qualify for the postseason, they have to win two of three against LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri. Are you kidding me?

How many times can you say historically bad? That fits Florida even more than Tennessee and Arkansas. The Gators, with possibly the most deceptive 3-4 SEC record in history, is the worst team in the SEC right now. If Kentucky could count to 10, and if Tennessee could defend a 63-yard Hail Mary final play, the Gators could be 1-7. The humiliating massacre by Missouri was Florida’s worst loss in 40 years. That followed a 41-0 loss to Georgia. The Gators offense would have trouble getting in the end zone in Groucho’s horse-drawn garbage wagon. To be bowl eligible, they have to win two of three over South Carolina, UAB and Florida State. At this point, I’m not sure they’ll win any, including UAB.

Don’t forget Ole Miss, even though everybody else has. The 4-5 overall record, 2-4 in the league, is bad, but even if it was an undefeated season it wouldn’t matter. Ineligible for bowls due to NCAA sanctions, which might get worse, the Rebels could sweep Louisiana, Texas A&M and Mississippi State and still go nowhere. But, that’s not going to happen.

When the season is over, six SEC teams could be looking for new head coaches. There aren’t but 14 teams! That’s almost half the league. For some of these guys, it’s too late to “win one for the Gipper.”

And, it’s possible, maybe likely, that only eight SEC teams will be bowl eligible, leaving several bowl partners without conference teams and the conference without millions of dollars in revenue.

How bad is it? If some of these teams played Darwin, Huxley or Anthropology A&M, they might be underdogs. If Goofy, Groucho or Moe were available, they might get calls soon about job openings.

So, it’s another Saturday of SEC football. Those games in Auburn and Starkville should be good ones. Get your recliner, the remote control and more popcorn.

For those other games, especially if you decide to go back and watch some of this season’s replays, you might want to add a pain reliever and Pepto-Bismol. It could give you a headache and make you sick.

And, be careful who watches it with you. Some of this will be too gruesome for children.

There’s some bad football out there.

 

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