Bama withstands test in Death Valley
Notebook: Florida awaits destiny; LSU's dream squashed
Alabama proved once again that this is its world and the rest of the country is just living in it. After being outmatched for the majority of the game against then-No. 5 Louisiana State, the Tide scored a touchdown in the final minute to win 21-17 and remain in line to reach the BCS national championship game in Miami.
Led by QB A.J. McCarron, the Tide drove 72 yards in 43 seconds to begin their celebration. A screen pass to freshman running back T.J. Yeldon and a 28-yard scamper was all Alabama needed to continue its path to the national title and crush the hopes of the Les Miles' Tigers.
This certainly wasn’t Alabama's best game. The Tide, who had only been trailing in a game for 17 seconds all year, had to overcome adversity for the first time since last year’s national title game.
Head coach Nick Saban found his team trailing in the fourth quarter for the first time this season, and it was his message at halftime -- when the Tide were up 14-3 -- that inspired his team to battle throughout the contest.
“I told our guys that we’re going to have to keep fighting in this game and keep punching until we knock them out,” Saban said in the postgame press conference.
After theoretically knocking out the Tigers, Saban has never been more proud of his team.
“When things went bad and the momentum of the game changed, that’s what we kept talking to them about. They kept their poise, and they kept playing and they kept competing,” Saban said. “I’ve never been prouder of a bunch of guys to overcome adversity.”
Alabama’s mission is not even close to being completed. The Crimson Tide will welcome 15th-ranked Texas A&M and its stud redshirt-freshman quarterback Johnny “Football” into Tuscaloosa this weekend. After that, assuming the Tide shut down the high-octane sensation, the Tide will roll right into Atlanta for the SEC title game, with only Western Carolina and Auburn standing in their way.
Then, the Tide could be playing for their third national title in four seasons.
No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC)
• Alabama’s last true test of the season comes this weekend at home against a high-powered Texas A&M offense. After an exhilarating victory against rival LSU, the Tide get back to work this week and take nothing for granted as the Aggies come to town. A win against A&M will solidify a spot in the SEC title game in Atlanta. If the Tide can win out, they will meet their opponent in Miami at the end of the season looking to hoist the crystal ball in consecutive seasons.
Next Game: vs. No. 15 Texas A&M Nov. 10
Arkansas (4-5, 2-3 SEC)
• Arkansas’ fluctuated season continues as it knocked off an underrated Tulsa team in a back-and-forth affair on Saturday. It was a game in which Arkansas had to win to have any chance at reaching a bowl game. After starting 1-4 in September, the Razorbacks need two wins in the next three games to become bowl eligible. Only problem is that those games include contests at South Carolina and Mississippi State and home against LSU.
• Wide receiver Cobi Hamilton has set the school record for catches in a season with 69 so far this year.
Next Game: at No. 12 South Carolina Nov. 10
Auburn (2-7, 0-6 SEC)
• Auburn finally managed to win its second game after it put on its best offensive performance of the year on Saturday. After a slow start which yielded only seven points, the Tiger offense put up 35 second-half points on their way to a rout of New Mexico State.
• QB Jonathon Wallace, who was making his first career start, threw for 164 years and a touchdown. Auburn tallied a season-high 311 yards rushing led by Tre Mason's 152 yards on the ground.
• Auburn will attempt to carry this momentum into its matchups against Georgia and Alabama still to come.
Next Game: vs. No. 5 Georgia Nov. 10
No. 7 Florida (8-1, 7-1 SEC)
• Florida has completed its SEC season with a remarkable 7-1 record. That one loss, however, was to Georgia which currently sits atop the SEC East. Florida needs a loss by Georgia to reach the SEC title game.
• The Gator defense forced four turnovers and continued to carry the team as the offense has sputtered. As witnessed on Saturday, the Florida running game controls whether or not the Gators can move the ball down the field.
Next Game: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Nov. 10
No. 5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1 SEC)
• Georgia has one game left in the SEC to clinch a berth against Alabama in the SEC title game. That contest is against two-win Auburn this weekend. If Georgia plays solid on both sides of the ball like it did against Ole Miss last weekend, the Bulldogs have a legitimate shot of challenging the Tide in Atlanta.
• The Bulldog offense was proficient with turning up 533 yards of total offense on the day. On the defensive side, Georgia held the high-flying Ole Miss offense to only 234 yards of total offense.
• It may take some help, but potentially, a win against Auburn and a victory against Alabama in the SEC title game could propel the Bulldogs into the national title game—a place no one envisioned they would be at the end of the season.
Next Game: at Auburn Nov. 10
Kentucky (1-9, 0-7 SEC)
• Right when we thought Kentucky’s season had hit rock bottom, it fell even further on Saturday against Vanderbilt. The Wildcats were dominated and shut out 40-0. The Wildcats could get nothing going and will find themselves missing out on the postseason for the second year in a row after making five consecutive bowl appearances.
• The loss was potentially the last straw the school announced Sunday that coach Joker Phillips will finish the season but will not return as head coach. The Wildcats have a much-needed bye week as they have a lot of issues to resolve.
Next Game: vs. Samford Nov. 17
No. 5 Louisiana State (7-2, 3-2 SEC)
• Forty-three seconds was all it took for the Tigers' dreams of a national title to wither away. Les Miles had his team were in position to take ahold of the lead in the SEC West and a position to possibly reach the national title game. Alabama QB A.J. McCarron drove 72 yards in 43 seconds to take the lead away from the Tigers and crush the Tigers' hopes of playing for it all in Miami. Death Valley’s slogan is “Where opponents' dreams come to die”, but it was the Tigers' dreams that were killed on Saturday in Louisiana.
Next Game: vs. No. 22 Mississippi St. Nov. 10
No. 22 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 SEC)
• Mississippi State is not as powerful as the nation believed it to be at the beginning of the season. A favorable schedule to begin the year was covering the Bulldogs' flaws. After starting the year 7-0, the Bulldogs faced their first two legitimate opponents in the past two weeks and lost both of contests. Texas A&M destroyed Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs.
“We as a team played very poorly [Saturday]—that’s 100 percent my fault. As head football coach, that all falls on my shoulders,” Mullen said. “In every phase, we played very poorly.”
Next Game: at No. 9 Louisiana State Nov. 10
Missouri (4-5, 1-5 SEC)
• Missouri hung with Florida but once again was unable to seal the victory and fell to 1-5 in SEC play. The Tigers are playing much better in conference games then they were early in the season. If it wasn't for QB James Franklin having four turnovers, the Tigers may have come away with a victory in Gainesville.
• Missouri will get a shot at Tennessee next week. The Vols are winless in conference play this season. The Tigers follow that match with Syracuse and Texas A&M. They need two to become bowl eligible.
Next Game: at Tennessee Nov. 10
Ole Miss (5-4, 2-3 SEC)
• Ole Miss has improved, but it is not where it would ultimately like to be after it was dominated by fifth-ranked Georgia on Saturday. The Rebels still need one victory to become bowl eligible but it will not come easily. Ole Miss hosts a streaking Vanderbilt team this week followed by games against LSU and Mississippi State to end the year.
Next Game: vs. Vanderbilt Nov. 10
No. 12 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC)
• South Carolina is out of title contention for the SEC but there is still something to be salvaged in a season that had such high hopes. With Arkansas, Wofford and Clemson remaining on the schedule, the Gamecocks still aim to earn a 10-win season.
• After all the injuries and a quarterback controversy, Steve Spurrier deserves credit for getting his team to where it is with a possible January bowl game on the horizon.
Next Game: vs. Arkansas Nov. 10
Tennessee (4-5, 0-5 SEC)
• Tennessee won a shootout against Troy last weekend. Led by QB Tyler Bray, who threw for a school-record 530 yards, the Volunteers piled on 718 yards of total offense.
• On the contrary, the Vols’ defense also gave up a school-record 721 yards of offense and are getting back into SEC play where they are yet to come up with a victory.
Next Game: vs. Missouri Nov. 10
No. 15 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC)
• Once again, Johnny Manziel led the way for an A&M offense that has torn apart just about everyone it has played this year. The Aggie offense put up 693 yards of total offense against Mississippi State. It wasn’t all Manziel this time around. Running backs Ben Malena and Christine Michael combined for 162 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries.
• The nation will see how talented Johnny “Football” and the Aggie offense is this week as they travel to Tuscaloosa to face the best defense in the country. Manziel may have a shot at upsetting the Tide as LSU QB Zach Mettenberger exposed weaknesses in the Alabama secondary on Saturday.
Next Game: at No. 1 Alabama Nov. 10
Vanderbilt (5-4, 3-3 SEC)
• Vandy improved to 3-3 in the SEC and 5-4 overall after crushing Kentucky 40-0 on Saturday. The Commodores finally put all the pieces together and head coach James Franklin showed just how far his program has come in Year 2 of his tenure.
• One more win and Vanderbilt will be bowl eligible for the second year in a row. That would be the first time the program has accomplished that feat in school history. Vanderbilt will need one win against either Wake Forest, Tennessee or Ole Miss.
Next Game: at Ole Miss Nov. 10