What We Learned from the SEC in Week 14 - WSMV Channel 4

What We Learned from the SEC in Week 14

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Auburn's Chris Davis (11) returns a field goal for the game-winning touchdown in a 34-28 win over Alabama. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn's Chris Davis (11) returns a field goal for the game-winning touchdown in a 34-28 win over Alabama. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Auburn's Sammie Coates runs down the sideline for a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn's Sammie Coates runs down the sideline for a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Auburn fans celebrate in Toomer's Corner after the Iron Bowl. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn fans celebrate in Toomer's Corner after the Iron Bowl. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Tre Mason (21) celebrates in the Auburn student section. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Tre Mason (21) celebrates in the Auburn student section. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Most of the fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium turned the field into a sea of orange and blue humanity following Auburn's win in the Iron Bowl. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Most of the fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium turned the field into a sea of orange and blue humanity following Auburn's win in the Iron Bowl. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
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(RNN) – Who doesn't love a little chaos with their college football? They go together like bacon and eggs.

The teams who will play for the national championship will be announced a week from today and the only chance it has of being free from controversy is if either Ohio State or Florida State lose in their conference championship games.

But if neither lose – or especially if both lose – all controversial hell will break loose. Personally, I'm pulling for it. Nothing would be more satisfying than one final, epic death knell for the BCS.1

Here is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 14.

1. The Iron Bowl lived up to the hype. Of all the things to say about Auburn's 34-28 win, the most surprising might be that the game wasn't a letdown. The chances of a highly anticipated showdown not living up to its billing and falling short of weeks-long hype are high. But not when it's the Iron Bowl.

The game saw Auburn strike first, Alabama respond by opening a two-touchdown lead, Auburn rallying to tie it, Alabama pulling ahead again and Auburn evening the score with 32 seconds to play. In between, Alabama missed three field goals, Auburn ran for 296 yards and AJ McCarron threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns, including a school-record 99-yard strike.

While trying to tie the game in the fourth quarter, Auburn went for a fourth down conversion and was stopped short. While trying to put the game away shortly after that, Alabama went for a fourth down conversion and was stopped short despite already having a lead and being in field goal range. Auburn tied the game with 39 of Nick Marshall's 97 passing yards on what looked like an impromptu throw to Sammie Coates, who was left wide open as Marshall appeared to be trying to run.

Then came the finish. Alabama looked content to run out the clock and go to overtime, but Yeldon broke a big run as time expired. The play was reviewed and one second was put back on the clock. An unlikely Hail Mary seemed to be the Tide's only hope, but a new field goal kicker was brought out for a 57-yard game-winning attempt.

It fell short and was run back by Auburn 100 yards – 109 yards by NFL measurements – and put 2013's edition of the Iron Bowl in its own historic category within a larger historic rivalry.

The only question now is what will be the game be called. "Kick Bama Kick" seems like the way most outlets are going (Wikipedia is using it, for what it's worth). Some names I came up with are "The Return," ":01," "The Kick II" and "1 Second and 100 Yards."

AL.com has a poll and Kick Bama Kick is winning followed by Destiny Beats Dynasty, which would be the better name if not for historic context. Kick Bama Kick references the 1972 game known as Punt Bama Punt, which is widely regarded as the most notable game of the series – though that opinion may be changing after Saturday's epic – and Sacked Bama Sacked, the 2005 game in which Auburn set a school record with 11 sacks.

It may be another 78 games before a better one comes along (just look at the Twitter reaction). But then again, it's the Iron Bowl so you never know.

2. Chris Davis called his shot. So, who is Chris Davis? Oh, he's just some dude that was hoping to return kicks this year. I'm not sure what he did to earn his spot on Auburn's return team, but it's clear now why he got it.

Davis was standing in the end zone with one second left on the clock while Alabama tried a game-winning 57-yard field goal. Davis was standing there to either be the last line of defense against a possible fake field goal attempt or to catch the kick if it fell short.

The latter happened, and because Davis is skinny and fast and Alabama's linemen are fat and slow, he went 100 yards the other way for a game-winning, field-storming, no-extra-point-kicking, city-block-toilet-papering, dead-tree-avenging, Gus-Malzahn-deifying, Nick-Saban-trolling, AJ-McCarron-Heisman-denying, SEC-championship-berth-earning touchdown.

It's always odd how rivalry showdowns regularly hinge on the performance of someone no one would expect to play a major role in the game. Davis capped the only Iron Bowl to ever be for a trip to the SEC title game and the only one when both teams were in the top 5 with the fourth 100-yard field goal return in college football history.

He'll never have to pay for dinner in Lee County, AL, again.

3. Nick Saban outcoached himself. The questions about Saban's decisions started before the Crimson Tide even got the ball back for their fateful final possession. Alabama was in field goal range and could have gone up by 10 late in the fourth quarter. But rather than lean on a field goal unit that had already missed three attempts, he opted to go for the fourth-and-1 and came up short.

The play call the Tide chose was also questionable. Rather than put the ball in McCarron's hands and go after Auburn's vulnerable secondary – which the Tide had no problems exploiting up to that point – Alabama handed off to Yeldon on a dive for the third straight play.

McCarron has been seen as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in recent weeks and his performance against Auburn only helped his case – that is until he wasn't called on in the waning minutes to put the game away, or to take a shot at the end zone with one second left.

Of course, being Nick Saban, there's always the possibility that he was just trolling his own fans to get back at them for, as his wife said to the Wall Street Journal, having "a lack of appreciation." Or maybe, as was told to GQ before the season started, he doesn't want to play in the national championship game because it means missing a week of recruiting.

We may never know.

4. Missouri's defense is sneaky good. Raise your hand if you predicted Auburn and Missouri would play for the SEC championship.2

James Franklin (player) outplayed Johnny Manziel straight up in the Tigers' 28-21 win. Franklin threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 80 yards. Manziel threw for 195 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 21 yards.

Score one for the Tigers' defense, which despite being last in the SEC and 110th nationally in passing defense, hasn't allowed anyone to score more than 28 points against them – and that includes a game that went to two overtimes.

How the heck is that even possible?

Missouri has the second-best scoring defense in the SEC and is No. 14 nationally. Alabama tops the conference and is second nationally, and the Tide have allowed more than 28 points twice.

Math. I hate it.

It actually might work in Missouri's favor in the SEC championship game because Auburn is 105th nationally in passing offense. (Believe it or not, three SEC teams are worse.)

5. South Carolina owns Clemson. I mean, like, really owns them. Clemson was ranked higher and for the last couple of years was supposed to be the better team, yet they've lost to the Gamecocks five years in a row, including this year's 31-17 defeat.

The Gamecocks had never won five straight games over the Tigers until Saturday and after the game, Steve Spurrier called Connor Shaw the best quarterback in school history.3

Shaw threw for 152 yards and a touchdown and ran for 94 yards and another touchdown. That will likely put South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, but they could go to the Capitol One Bowl if the SEC gets two BCS bids and the Cotton Bowl opts for the leftover team among Alabama, Auburn and Missouri.

6. Dan Mullen is underrated. Mullen has been at Mississippi State five years and in that time the Bulldogs have been to four bowls, including this season, and beaten Ole Miss four out of five years, including this week's 17-10 win in overtime and topping a ranked Rebels squad in 2009.

In the five years prior to Mullen coaching the 'Dogs, Mississippi State went to one bowl and beat Ole Miss twice.

The reason Mullen is overlooked is because Mississippi State is never in contention for the SEC championship and needs wins in the final weeks of the season to gain bowl eligibility. This season, Mississippi State pulled out wins over Arkansas and Ole Miss in overtime in the last two weeks to earn a postseason berth.

The team also has a reputation – a deserved one, by the way – of beating teams of lesser quality while being unable to pull off an upset over a better one. Mullen might not change that perception, but he might not stay long enough to have the chance to.

7. Texas A&M believes in Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin is locked in at A&M for at least the next three years, and he's getting Nick Saban-type money to be there. He has agreed to not seek a head coaching position in the NFL and will coach the Aggies at least until they open the new expansion project on Kyle Field in 2015.

The deal was announced before the Aggies lost to Missouri on Saturday and without knowing what Johnny Manziel's future with the team is. That's either a lot of faith that Sumlin is the man for the job or a lot of fear that A&M won't be able to find the guy who is if Sumlin leaves.

8. Bo Wallace is Ole Miss personified. The greatest thing about Ole Miss hairdo/quarterback Bo Wallace is that he is the exact opposite of everything he's supposed to be. Earlier in the year, Wallace said the Rebels would put points on Alabama. They were shut out. Then he said Ole Miss had better receivers than Texas A&M. He followed that with an impressive display, but the Rebels lost.

Wallace threw for 182 yards against Mississippi State, but his three interceptions were the story of the game. Then came overtime and Wallace broke free for a run to the end zone. He was touched at the 5-yard line and fumbled. Mississippi State recovered in the end zone and won.

No team is more inconsistent than the Rebels and no player more inconsistent than Wallace. But good news, Ole Miss fans, he'll be back next year.

At SEC media days, Wallace said the Rebels had a goal to win more than six games this year. Mission accomplished. They won seven.

9. Georgia still has life. It looked like Georgia was toast after falling behind 20-0 to Georgia Tech, but they rallied and won 41-34 in overtime.

It happened while the Iron Bowl was going on, so no one paid attention, but it was a pretty impressive turnaround nonetheless. It took until four minutes were left in the game for the Bulldogs to tie it at 27. Then the teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime and Georgia scored on its first play in the second overtime to take its first lead of the game.

Georgia Tech had a fourth-and-five from the 6 and Vad Lee's throw to the end zone in traffic got batted around for a few seconds before falling incomplete and sealing the win.

It was a good way for the Bulldogs to end their disappointing season and give them some life before their trip to what will likely be the Gator Bowl.

10. James Franklin (coach) did it again. Vanderbilt has won eight games for the second straight year after pulling out a 23-21 win over Wake Forest late in the fourth quarter.

OK, once and for all, I'm going to say this and move on because I'm tired of doing this research every week. From this point on, just know that every time Vanderbilt wins a game it's the first time something has happened in the history of the program. There. Done.

Potential coaching vacancies are closing up quicker than Vanderbilt can get history-making wins. Florida voiced its commitment to Will Muschamp, Texas A&M gave Kevin Sumlin a six-year extension, Nebraska and Bo Pelini hugged it out in an official statement, Texas has rebounded after a terrible start, Ed Orgeron has virtually coached his way into becoming Southern Cal's new man and Nick Saban's wife insists he won't be leaving Tuscaloosa.

This offseason is going to be awfully boring.

Extra points: 1Ohio State was a Michigan two-point conversion away from losing Saturday, so they're more vulnerable to Michigan State and its No. 1 defense than Florida State is to resurgent Duke, so it might play out perfectly for the BCS and give those idiots who don't see its failures reason to drone on about how it "worked" again. C'mon, Duke, don't let that happen! My ideal scenario is either both Florida State and Ohio State win but the SEC champion jumps Ohio State, or they both lose and Alabama squeezes its way back into the BCS championship game against Auburn/Missouri. (Seriously, could you imagine a national championship Iron Bowl?) I'm just hoping for massive controversy in any form.

2Put your freaking hand down. I want to see the paperwork on that. Hindsight doesn't count.

3What about Ronnie Bass? I don't know how great a career he had, but he has a cool nickname, and that has to count for something. Sunshine. Suuunshiiiiiine! (Googled it and Ronnie Bass ran for 200 yards against North Carolina in his first game. I'm sold.)

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