SEC looking like title contender again
Notebook: Vanderbilt eyes first eight-win season since 1982
A week after it looked like the SEC would be shut out of the BCS national championship game for the first time in seven years, it is right back in the thick of things.
The way it stands heading into Week 13, it is virtually impossible for the title game to exclude a SEC team. With Notre Dame sitting atop the rankings, assuming things stay the way they are—which they probably won’t—the Irish will most likely face the winner of Georgia and Alabama SEC title game.
If the Irish have an SEC opponent, whether it be Alabama, Georgia, or even Florida –who has an outside chance of sneaking in—it is shaping up to be the most anticipated BCS title game in recent memory.
Just when the SEC seemed out of the hunt, the two top teams in the country lose, and the Crimson Tide find themselves controlling their own destiny once again. Alabama will have to beat Auburn this week and then Georgia in the SEC title game. It’s almost as if its loss to Texas A&M never happened.
Georgia also controls its own destiny to the national title game although its task is taller. The Bulldogs will have to win their final regular-season game against rival Georgia Tech and then have to beat No. 2 Alabama in the SEC title game to advance to Miami.
The only other SEC team that even somewhat realistically has a chance to play for the title is No. 6 Florida. The Gators (10-1 overall) will need to win out and have Alabama and Georgia both lose once to have a chance at reaching the title. Unlikely it happens, but it's still a possibility.
Another wild college football season will once again come into focus around the SEC title game.
No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC)
• Well, well, well. Look who finds itself back in the driver’s seat for the BCS national title game. That’s right, the Crimson Tide are back up in the top two seeds after they trounced Western Carolina on Saturday behind the strong play of running back Eddie Lacy, who ran for 99 yards and three touchdowns on only 10 carries. The starters did not have to play much in this contest.
• QB A.J. McCarron set a school record for most passing touchdowns in a season with 21 as the Tide a week before Auburn comes into town. With a win Saturday versus the Tigers, Alabama will then only need to win the SEC title game to have the opportunity to play for its third title in four years.
Next Game: vs. Auburn Nov. 24
Arkansas (4-7, 2-5 SEC)
• Arkansas’ long, unfulfilling season will finally come to and end this week as its loss to Mississippi State last week officially knocked it out of bowl contention. A season that left a bad taste in their mouths after September, depsite a solid October, is finally ending for John L. Smith’s crew.
Next Game: vs. No. 8 Louisiana State Nov. 23
Auburn (3-8, 0-7 SEC)
• Auburn used it’s game against Alabama A&M to gain some confidence going into a game that features one of the biggest rivalries in college sports. No matter what the record of either team, these teams love to play each other and Auburn would like nothing more than to ruin Alabama’s national title game dreams.
Next Game: at Alabama Nov. 24
No. 6 Florida (10-1, 7-1 SEC)
• Florida’s biggest weakness this season has been its offense, and nothing really changed on Saturday as the Gators won 23-0 against Jacksonville State. A 10-0 halftime lead against an FCS school does not seem BCS-bowl worthy but the Gators will have one more shot to impress the voters when they travel to in-state rival Florida State on Saturday.
• Running back Mike Gillislee ran for more than 100 yards and found himself in the back of the end zone for the first time in six weeks. The last time he accomplished either of those feats was when the Gators beat LSU on Oct. 6.
Next Game: at No. 10 Florida State Nov. 24
No. 3 Georgia (10-1, 7-1 SEC)
• Two wins is what it will take for the Georgia Bulldogs to play in their first national title game since 1980. All that’s standing in their way is in-state rival Georgia Tech and the No. 2 team in the country, Alabama. No big deal right?
• Georgia’s offense finally came around as it put up 45 points against FCS foe Georgia Southern. If the Bulldogs want to win their next two games, they need to tighten up the defense which gave up 302 yards on the ground alone. The defense has proven stout all year, and it should be noted that 122 of those yards came in the fourth quarter when the game was already put away.
Next Game: vs. Georgia Tech Nov. 24
Kentucky (2-9, 0-7 SEC)
• Kentucky carried out head coach Joker Phillips on Saturday, in his last game in the Bluegrass State after he was fired a week before. Urged by his players to finish out the season, Phillips has been a member of the Kentucky campus for more than 20 years.
• A bad season might end on a two-game win streak as the Wildcats travel to Tennessee to face a team that has also remained winless in SEC play. Something has to give and right now the edge may go to Kentucky, which just snapped an eight-game losing streak.
Next Game: at Tennessee Nov. 24
No. 8 Louisiana State (9-2, 5-2 SEC)
• LSU barely kept its BCS bowl chances alive on Saturday by narrowly escaping a scrappy Ole Miss team 41-35. LSU, normally known for its defense, has now given up more than 330 yards in three consecutive games after not allowing that number in its first seven games. Head coach Les Miles definitely knows where his team can improve before its matchup with Arkansas.
"What we've got to do in the next six days between now and the next game is work in pass coverage," Miles said. "Honestly, this is the kind of film that will be truly beneficial to our secondary. They will develop."
• Arkansas is likely the only thing standing in the way of LSU and another BCS bowl berth.
Next Game: at Arkansas Nov. 23
Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3 SEC)
• The Bulldogs figured out how to win again after losing three consecutive games against ranked opponents. They were lucky Arkansas came to town as the Bulldogs rolled up 505 yards of total offense behind the strong arm QB Tyler Russell.
• Russell has been good all year as he now has 21 touchdowns compared to only four interceptions. With a win against rival Ole Miss this week and a win in a bowl game in December, the Bulldogs will reach the 10-win mark, which most expected them to easily get to after a 7-0 start to the season.
Next Game: at Ole Miss Nov. 24
Missouri (5-6, 2-5 SEC)
• Missouri might have blown its best chance at becoming bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive season as it lost at home to Syracuse after leading with a under a minute left in the fourth quarter. Now, in order to reach that coveted sixth win, the Tigers will have to beat arguably the hottest team in college football in Texas A&M -- at Kyle Field.
• Missouri was leading 27-24 with 20 seconds left before Syracuse found the end zone and upset the Tigers at home 31-27. QB James Franklin threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in the first half before leaving yet another game with an injury. Colin Berkstresser gave the Tigers two different leads in the fourth quarter but Missouri just couldn’t hang on.
Next Game: at No. 9 Texas A&M Nov. 24
Mississippi (5-6, 2-5 SEC)
• Also seeking bowl eligibility, Ole Miss barely missed clinching it this past Saturday, losing a back-and-forth game to LSU 41-35. Silver lining of this game, if the Rebels can hang with LSU then they should have the confidence they can win against Mississippi State at home on Saturday afternoon.
• One win is all QB Bo Wallace needs to orchestrate and if he played like he did on Saturday—minus the three turnovers—the Rebels definitely have a shot. Wallace threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns while running for another two scores against LSU.
Next Game: vs. No. 25 Mississippi State Nov. 24
No. 13 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC)
• South Carolina didn’t look all that impressive against FCS opponent Wofford on Saturday, winning 24-7, but we have to keep in mind that it was playing without its two best players. Running back Marcus Lattimore is out for the season with a knee injury while defensive end Jadaveon Clowney missed this past Saturday’s game with a foot injury.
• The win was Steve Spurrier’s 64th as the Head Ball Coach of the Gamecocks, tying him for first on the school’s all-time wins list.
Next Game: at No. 12 Clemson Nov. 24
Tennessee (4-7, 0-7 SEC)
• It was an end of an era in Knoxville on Saturday as head coach Derek Dooley coached his last game as the man in charge of the Volunteers. Dooley was fired, effective immediately, Sunday morning.
• Dooley’s track record at Tennessee included an 0-7 mark in the SEC this year, which leaves him losing 14 of his last 15 conference games. He finished with a 15-21 record in three seasons, which included an 0-15 mark against ranked opponents.
• The Volunteers finish the season with also-winless-in-conference-play Kentucky to try and salvage a positive feeling heading into the offseason.
Next Game: vs. Kentucky Nov. 24
No. 9 Texas A&M (9-2, 5-2 SEC)
• Johnny "Football" struck again as he is led the hottest team in the country to a BCS bowl berth in its inaugural season in the SEC. Manziel has likely put himself in position to be in New York when the Heisman Trophy is presented. The most recent effort: he dismantled Sam Houston State with 267 yards and three passing touchdowns to go along with a 100-yard day on the ground and two more scores.
• Manziel is setting record after record and is leading the SEC in rushing this year. Manziel is now the fifth player and first freshman in FBS history to pass for at least 3,000 yards with at least 1,000 yards rushing in a season.
Next Game: vs. Missouri Nov. 24
Vanderbilt (7-4, 5-3 SEC)
• Vanderbilt strikes again and for the second consecutive week, the team that Vandy beat on Saturday fired its coach on Sunday. The Commodores beat Tennessee by the biggest margin in more than 60 years, leaving the Commodores with seven wins. If Vandy can win this week, it will be the first time the program has reached eight wins since 1982.
• Head coach James Franklin has completely turned around the Vanderbilt program in just two years at the helm. A five-win season in the SEC is solid, especially for a team that had been getting pretty comfortable at the bottom of the standings.
Next Game: at Wake Forest Nov. 24