Although I wasn't watching the Auburn-Georgia game very closely on Saturday night (there was a slightly more pressing matter going on at the time), I happened to catch a quote from Auburn running back Ben Tate that was featured on the ESPN2 broadcast.
In response to a question about how he felt he compared to Alabama running back and Heisman trophy candidate Mark Ingram, Tate said the following:
"I know I’m the best back in the state. I bet if you went and broke down film and asked teams in the SEC who is the best back in the state, I feel like it’s me."
Now, to be fair, I think you have to salute the guy for his confidence. I even can get on board with a little cockiness, when presented correctly (i.e., exactly the opposite way Lane Kiffin does it).
Mark Ingram could have responded in any number of ways. He could have turned this into some sort of media quote-battle, or used his own statistics to refute the claim.
Ingram chose to do none of those.
When asked about Tate's statement, Ingram, in perfectly politically-correct fashion, said the following:
“Somebody told me about it,” Ingram said. “Everybody is entitled to their opinion and I respect him. He’s a great running back. I just let my words speak for me when I play. I won’t get into any tongue-tussling or anything like that.
“He’s a great back. He runs hard and I like his game and I respect him. I’ll let my game talk for me when I’m on the field.”
With that, any thought of Ingram giving Tate and Auburn any sort of "bulletin-board material" was squelched. Ingram said all of the correct things, but the real-life translation of his quote said something else:
"Ben who? Do you think I'm actually going to get into some kind of war of words with that guy? No, I don't think so. Can't you guys get Tim Tebow to say something like that? Than you might have a printable story. This isn't even on my radar."
Not that anyone really needs to defend Ingram in this situation, I think I will anyway. Here's a quick rundown of both backs' numbers.
Rushing Yards: Ingram 1297 (129.7/game), Tate 1142 (114.2/game)
Yards per rushing attempt: Ingram 6.7/carry, Tate 5.6/carry
Touchdowns: Ingram 13, Tate 8
Receptions (yardage): Ingram 25 (225), Tate 16 (88)
Nonsensical quotes: Ingram 0, Tate 1
Other areas that Ingram holds an advantage? Yards after contact, runs of 10-plus yards, and yards against top-25 defenses.
So, in short, regardless of how much film the teams in the SEC break down, I'm not sure that there is a valid argument to be made in Tate's favor.
Ben Tate is a very good back. He will probably find his way into the NFL someday. However, I don't think attention-grabbing quotes such as these are really in his best interest.
I don't really think Mark Ingram and Alabama need any additional motivation for next week's Iron Bowl, but just in case they did, now they have it. Nice work, Ben.