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Schedule Watch: Weeks 7, 8, and 9

In which we take a quick look at how our 2011 opponents fared the preceding weeks

The weekly Schedule Watch wishes to dispel the rumor that it was suspended from Dawg Sports for a violation of unspecified team rules. Like everyone else around here, I’ve got a day job that sometimes takes up a lot of time. Unlike everyone else around here, my time management skills are awful. I’ve been far too slack in keeping up with my weekly report of our 2011 opponents’ performances in their other contests, and for that I’m truly sorry.

Let's catch up a bit, after which I invite a little reflection on the program directions of our opponents.

New Mexico State Aggies (3-5, 1-3 WAC) defeated Idaho, 31-24; lost to Hawai’I, 34-45; lost to Nevada, 48-34. Our next foe, about which you can find a few things to know or too much information (I recommend both) right here at Dawg Sports, held off a comeback attempt by Idaho before falling to Hawai’I on a Sunday and losing to Nevada last week. The loss to Hawai’i included a blocked Aggie punt returned by Hawai’I for a touchdown and a valiant but too-late comeback effort. In the Nevada loss, New Mexico State quarterback Matt Christian threw three interceptions and their defense gave up 683 total yards. Ouch.

Auburn Tigers (6-3, 4-2 SEC) defeated Florida, 17-6; lost to LSU, 10-45; defeated Ole Miss, 41-23. Auburn shows us that in the SEC this year, the good teams are very good, the bad teams are very bad, and Florida is a pain in the ass. Sophomore quarterback Clint Moseley had a big day against the Rebels: 12 of 15 passing for 160 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Sophomore running back Michael Dyer pitched in with 177 yards rushing and a TD. Sophomores. On the other hand, Ole Miss.

Kentucky Wildcats (2-6, 0-5 SEC) defeated Jacksonville State, 38-14; lost to Mississippi State, 16-28. Against Jacksonville State, Kentucky managed to score more than 17 points for the second time this season. The first time was their win over Central Michigan back in September. And by the way, it’s not that Kentucky’s got a bad football team this year. The team’s just doing its part to make sure the fans don’t have a conflict on 12/3/2011 between the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta and the pre-season #1 UNC Tarheels’ visit to Rupp Arena. Kentucky football 2011 is accommodating. I hope there’s no truth to the rumor that, now they’ve eliminated any chance of a trip to Atlanta, they’ll play actual football against UGA on 12/19.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-2, 4-2 ACC) lost to Virginia, 21-24; lost to Miami, 7-24; defeated Clemson, 31-17. Well, after two really awful outings, the Jackets faced undefeated Clemson and quickly ran up the score before the Tigers knew what hit them. Tevin Washington set a record for rushing yards by a Tech quarterback with 176, part of a 383-yard rushing effort. It was one of those games that the Paul Johnson offense is meant to create: long, clock-consuming drives ending with scores. Clemson showed signs of generating the kind of offense that would give it a chance at a comeback, but if your offense isn’t on the field, it can’t score points. Tech had only 60 passing yards – 44 of which were on one reception by Stephen Hill, but when your offense maintains possession for barely shy of two-thirds of the game, why bother? Dear UGA front seven: stay healthy.

Boise State Broncos (7-0, 2-0 MWC) defeated Colorado State, 63-13; defeated Air Force, 37-26. And fell in the BCS standings behind undefeated Stanford. Sorry, Broncos. There’s only so much we can do.

South Carolina Gamecocks (7-1, 5-1 SEC) defeated Mississippi State, 14-12; defeated Tennessee, 14-3. Marcus Lattimore wasn’t having his best game for the Gamecocks already by the time he left the Mississippi State Game with a season-ending knee injury (in fact, I'm pretty sure it was his worst game), and it appears the offense will suffer mightily from his loss and from inexperience at quarterback following the dismissal of veteran Stephen Garcia prior to that game against the western Bulldogs. Solid defense coupled with Tennessee’s own injury-depleted offense carried the day in Knoxville, and the Gamecocks’ D should help out over the remaining schedule. Whether it’s enough to hold off the likes of Arkansas and Clemson (or even Florida with a recovering John Brantley) remains to be seen.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (4-4, 1-3 Big South) lost to Liberty, 27-63; lost to Gardner-Webb, 24-26; lost to Stony Brook, 0-42. Yikes, what a skid. To be fair, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, located on Long Island, is a major power in the Big South Conference. But here’s the thing: other than Stony Brook, which is a member of the Big South for football only, every Big South member is in Virginia or the Carolinas. Several someones should be ashamed of themselves.

Ole Miss Rebels (2-6, 0-5 SEC) lost to Bama, 7-52; lost to Arkansas, 24-29; lost to Auburn, 23-41. Lost, lost, lost. I have a feeling that the Arkansas game will turn out to be the one surprise win that Houston Nutt was supposed to pull out of his butt. He will have no more chances, given the rest of the schedule (Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Mississippi State), which features teams over which a Rebels win wouldn’t be all that shocking or are impossible. Maybe Mississippi State, but I’m not betting on it.

Mississippi State Bulldogs (4-4, 1-4 SEC) lost to South Carolina, 12-14; defeated Kentucky, 28-16. It’s a tough time in the West for a team like Mississippi State to try to break through into the upper tier of the conference. Bizarro Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russell seems to be coming along ok, but Chris Relf was used a good bit throughout the game. They finally got an SEC win and head into November with Bama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss on their conference slate. By the way, they get Bama at home. I doubt it matters.

Tennessee Volunteers (3-5, 0-5 SEC) lost to LSU, 7-38; lost to Bama, 6-37; lost to South Carolina, 3-14. I have no serious hate for Tennessee, even considering their streak of dominance over the Dawgs in the 1990s. I know we play them very year, and it’s a game of great importance for the conference standings, but I’m just not that good at ginning up new hate. If I didn’t hate you before I reached age 25, I’m probably never going to hate you that much. Thanks for being there in my formative years, Tech and Auburn. So a little part of me feels sorry for Tennessee. They weren’t going to be great, anyway, but losing their excellent quarterback and a fine receiver early in the season has just done them in. It will be interesting to see if Dooley the Younger can get things on track soon enough to keep his job for more than a few years. Be cool, Barbara. I understand the mess he inherited.

Vanderbilt Commodores (4-4, 1-4 SEC) defeated Army, 44-21; lost to Arkansas, 28-31. I think Vandy looks at Stanford’s record and asks, "Why not us?" There are reasons, of course. I do not expect the Commodores to become a team that can be undefeated through October any time soon, but I think we may find in the next few years that this is not your father’s Vanderbilt: it might just become your great-grandfather’s Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Arkansas has scares against Ole Miss and Vandy? ShIt Tyrone! Get it together before the Gamecocks come to Fayetteville this weekend!

Excluding the two teams to whom we’ve lost, kinda Georgia Tech, and maybe Auburn, this group is a hot mess. Here’s a question for the group: I don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves, because there’s only so much football we get to enjoy every year, but now that we’re in the final month of the regular season, are there any signs that any of these struggling teams are poised to make big improvements next year? I feel pretty good about the direction of Georgia football. Which other schools’ fans, if any, also should feel pretty good? Just curious to see if there are any thoughts to share.