What We Learned from the SEC in Week 10 - WSMV Channel 4

What We Learned from the SEC in Week 10

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Florida running back Todd Gurley evades a tackle against Florida. (Source: Georgia Athletics) Florida running back Todd Gurley evades a tackle against Florida. (Source: Georgia Athletics)
Auburn's Tre Mason scores a touchdown against Arkansas. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn's Tre Mason scores a touchdown against Arkansas. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
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(RNN) – So Florida State is a legitimate contender, huh? Well, stab me with a spear, because I keep waiting for them to fall apart against a team with three wins.

That isn't likely to happen because the Seminoles are a wrecking ball with the No. 7 defense in the country and the No. 4 offense. There is only one other team in the country in the top 15 in both – Ohio State (No. 8 offense, No. 9 defense). The fans also chanted "we want Bama" as early as the second quarter of FSU's 41-14 win over Miami.

Your move, Oregon.1

Here is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 10.

1. There's still some party in the "cocktail." This year's World's Largest Outdoor (Cocktail) Party looked like it was going to be a three-hour Florida-Georgia sadfest, but it turned out to be pretty good – if you only watched the second half.

What's the deal with Mark Richt? Didn't he used to be the kind of guy who led teams to utter collapse in the most crucial moments? Now, he's the guy who draws up clock-draining drives in the final minutes to suck the very life out of his enemies. What gives?

Actually Richt is still your home for late collapses it's just that now he finds a way to survive them. Georgia led by 20 at halftime and didn't score another point while Florida scored 17 of them. The Gators pulled the score to 23-20, but Georgia went on an eight-minute drive and converted a couple of dramatic first downs to suck the clock and the Gators' SEC title hopes dry.

I don't know if I like this year's version of Richt more or less. More importantly, I don't know which one Georgia fans prefer.

2. Mississippi State's offense is a hot mess. Not even my ridiculous double-barreled shotgun idea could survive five turnovers. In fact, it might cause 10 of them. You never know until you try and the Bulldogs need to try something because what they've got isn't working.

Dak Prescott is the starter now and while that is something Bulldog fans were begging for three weeks ago, they might be begging to go back to the way things were following Saturday's 34-16 loss to South Carolina.

Prescott threw three interceptions and the Bulldogs had five total turnovers and didn't force any. Prescott is still Mississippi State's leading passer and rusher by a wide margin and was the leading rusher with 78 yards for the 'Dogs on Saturday, but in their last three games with Prescott emerging as the starter, Mississippi State beat Bowling Green by 1, beat Kentucky by 6 and lost to South Carolina by 18.

They play Texas A&M and Alabama in the next two weeks, so it's a bad time to be struggling.

3. Auburn might be the perfect antidote to Alabama. The only way you can beat Alabama is to do what Alabama does to its opponents to Alabama. It looks an awful like Gus Malzahn designed Auburn's playbook with that very idea in mind.

Auburn averages 306 yards a game rushing (first in the SEC and No. 6 nationally), which is 20 yards more than Alabama's defense allows total. Alabama allows 101 yards per game rushing (first in the SEC and No 7 nationally).

Alabama, which has a stable of running backs and is always reliant on its running game, averages 100 yards less a game than the Tigers. Defensively, Auburn comes nowhere close to matching Alabama's dominance, so that's a concern. So is this stat: the team with the most rushing yards against Alabama this season was Arkansas – the SEC's No. 3 rushing team who lost to Auburn 35-17 this week – which lost to Alabama 52-0.

4. Missouri is back is business. Tennessee mustered a field goal in the second quarter and was glad to get it in a 31-3 loss to Missouri. The Tigers did everything they could to show last week's loss to South Carolina was just a hiccup, but they still have to beat Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M to earn a trip to the SEC championship game.

The Tigers will be big fans of Florida in two weeks because that is South Carolina's only remaining conference game and a loss in it would allow Missouri to take another loss and still make the title game. Maty Mauk threw for 163 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 114 yards to lead Missouri.

James Franklin is also likely to return from his shoulder injury before the season finale against the Aggies.

5. Arkansas is out of the desert, but it may not matter. It's been six straight games since Arkansas got a win and the crowd at Razorback Stadium at the end of Saturday's loss to Auburn was thinner than in the Alabama student section.

At this point in the year two years ago, Arkansas was ranked No. 3 in the country. Now they're 3-6 and weren't competitive in any of their last five games, which were all against ranked opponents. Arkansas still has to play Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU, so the math says a bowl appearance is still a possibility. But the way things are going for the Hogs, they should be glad to just win one of them.2

6. South Carolina isn't just a saboteur. When South Carolina topped Missouri, there were some who thought it only derailed Missouri's national championship hopes and put the SEC's banner in Alabama's hands, but the Gamecocks are trying for their own title.

Connor Shaw threw four touchdowns and South Carolina came within one win of putting some intense pressure on Missouri. It's still hard to get a handle on South Carolina after losing to Georgia, struggling with Vanderbilt and Kentucky, blowing out Arkansas, losing to Tennessee, edging Missouri and winning handily over Mississippi State.

The Gamecocks have no chance at a national championship, and their game in two weeks against Florida will cement the story of their season. If they win, the loss to Tennessee will be seen as a product of Shaw's earlier injury and Texas A&M could put them in the SEC title game by beating Missouri. If they lose, then it will have been an inconsistent season that could have ended with a BCS bowl instead of a trip to Tampa for the Outback Bowl.

7. Florida is in danger of not making a bowl. Where would Florida be now if Jeff Driskel hadn't gotten hurt? Would the Gators have beaten Georgia? Would they have beaten Missouri? What about LSU?

Florida lost all of those game and one to Miami where turnovers ruled the day. The Gators now need to win two of their last four just to make a bowl game in a year when an SEC championship and national championship were real goals.

Their last four games are against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Georgia Southern and Florida State, so the Gators can make a bowl without pulling off an upset, but to salvage the year and get a bowl worth being proud of, they'll have to and it will have to come against teams battling an SEC championship game berth and a national title.

8. Kentucky can beat teams from Alabama. Kentucky doesn't play many teams from Alabama and isn't successful against the teams from inside the SEC when it does. Since 2008, the Wildcats have one total win over Alabama and Auburn – a 21-14 win over Auburn in 2009 – and in that time have three losses.

But if you throw in all teams from Alabama, Kentucky is 3-3 in that span with a win over Jacksonville State in 2011 and Saturday's 48-14 win over Alabama State. Go 'Cats.

9. Next week will be worth the wait. The last two weeks haven't been particularly thrilling with several blowouts and a handful of games that looked good at the start of the year that didn't pan out. Next week could be more of the same, but the potential for something great is there.

Next week has an odd schedule because all of the games except one take place before the sun goes down. But that one game is one of the best games of the season and is a game with massive preseason hype that looks like it will live up to its billing.

Alabama and LSU have a knack of winning in the other guy's yard, so Alabama should be on notice. This is definitely one the fans should stay all 60 minutes for. Maybe the reason they left the blowout of Arkansas early was to save energy for the tilt with the Tigers. We may never know.

But if there's anything we do know you'll be glad there's no other game of note taking place at the same time to potentially distract you from the goings on in Tuscaloosa. Alabama-LSU is a rivalry that desperately need a good name and has been the best game in the SEC for the last five years. Bama's shootout with Texas A&M notwithstanding, it may be that again this season.

The game will pit Alabama against the team that looks most like itself, but has faltered in recent weeks and is struggling with inconsistency from quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Earlier in the season I was calling him AJ McCarron Junior because he was mirroring the Alabama signal caller's every move. If he found that within himself over the bye week, the game will be a classic.

The offenses are virtually the same, though LSU has a statistical edge, but the defense is where Alabama has a wide advantage in virtually every category. The important thing for LSU will be scoring early and late, because no team has scored on the Tide in the first half since the Aggies. Of the three touchdowns Alabama has allowed in first quarter, the Aggies scored two, and of the four touchdowns the Tide has allowed in the fourth quarter, A&M scored three and is the only team that has come close to beating Alabama.

The spread is expected to be a double digit margin in the Tide's favor, but that is a gross underestimate of how competitive this game is. In the last five years, the margin of victory has been four, three, three, nine and six, and two of those games went to overtime. Alabama won three of those five games and the road team won three of five.3

The teams also consistently allow more points to each other than to other teams, especially on Alabama's end. Both are coming off bye weeks and LSU can make a huge splash by knocking off the No. 1 team in the country and keeping its fading shot at an SEC championship game berth alive.

10. People actually read this stuff. At least one less person is reading, though, because last week I dared to mention Fox News in a sports article.4 Also, I apparently don't know football and should write about badminton instead. Good idea.

The USA badminton team took silver Oct. 24 at the 2013 Pan American Badminton Championship in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Team USA defeated Guatemala 5-0 to open the tournament and was undefeated through pool play.

The Americans then easily defeated Peru in the semifinals, but fell 3-1 to Canada in the championship.

Also, the Winter Junior International Badminton Championships will be held Jan. 3-5 in Orange, CA. Entry is $110 and the deadline is Dec. 3. You can register here.

Well, that was fun and informative, but I think I'll just stick to football from now on because I'd like people to keep reading. Thanks for being one of the ones who did.

Extra points: 1The Ducks have the opportunity to make one Thursday night against Stanford. There may only be three games this season pitting top five teams against each other – Florida State's 51-14 win over Clemson, Oregon-Stanford this Thursday and the BCS national championship game (there also could be a fourth in the Rose Bowl). The NFL game on opposite it on the NFL Network is the Redskins and Vikings, who entering today have three total wins. Unless you're really – REALLY – excited about seeing Dwight Howard play against his former team, the L.A. Lakers, you have no excuse not to watch. (By the way, for a riveting discussion over who is better between Florida State and Oregon, here's a shameless plug for the new collaboration between myself and Hot Reads' George Jones called Rantankerous.)

2The best part of the #karma fallout was the first response to Jen Bielema was from user Josh Gutowski who replied "remember that when you lose your next 6 games." Can this man see the future? Maybe. He's aware of his prediction, too. The crazy Hog lady hasn't had much to sing about, either, but now would be a good time to get those vocal chords loose. I'm thinking maybe a little Tom Petty?

3When you add Alabama's 21-0 win over LSU in the 2011 BCS national championship game, it throws the numbers to a sharp advantage for the Crimson Tide.

4It got me compared to Bob Costas, which I'm taking as a compliment even though I don't like him. Here's my "crime." I mentioned Fox News, President Barack Obama and people who don't like President Barack Obama, but I'm not sure what the egregious comment was. But it was sports and "politics" in the same place and it was not well received, even though I didn't make a political statement.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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