Blog Entry

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

Posted on: October 2, 2011 1:32 am

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The gap between the Big Two and the Smaller Ten is even wider than we thought. Last week in this space, we wrote that Alabama and LSU were the top two teams in the SEC and that no one else was close. That's not exactly right; the Crimson Tide and Bayou Bengals are indeed the top two teams, but no one else is even within the same stratosphere.

After all, if there was ever a situation where one team or the other was going to be challenged, it was going to be Saturday night in Gainesville, right? The Tide were on the road, at an undefeated Florida team, in prime-time, in an atmosphere just about as hostile as it's possible to have in college football and they fell behind 7-0 in the first 20 seconds ... and casually laughed all of it off on their way to a 38-10 romp.

So who's going to challenge either of those Big Two? The Gators have already been crushed by one and may not have John Brantley for the other. Arkansas? Kudos for their resilience today, but they also looked overmatched in their one attempt and gave up 381 yards rushing (628 total) vs. Texas A&M. South Carolina looks totally lost (see below), but not so lost they couldn't beat Georgia in Athens. Tennessee? Lost to Florida. Auburn? Still the same team that needed a miracle to beat Utah State.

We don't want to write things that look silly later, so for now we'll hold off on declaring the potential college football Game of the Year Nov. 5 between the Tide and Tigers a mortal lock to decide the SEC champion. But it may not be long until it looks silly to write anything else.

The Sports Illustrated curse has its first victim, and that victim is South Carolina. Back in August, we detailed how teams that have a player or players appear on the Sports Illustrated college football preview cover wind up limping to disappointing seasons more often than not. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Alshon Jeffery was one of those players this year.

And so surprise, surprise, guess who's well on their way to playing out exactly that disappointment. It's not just the loss to Auburn, either; after the big first-half deficit to East Carolina, the wheeze past Navy, the "putrid" offensive display against Vanderbilt, the only thing left to complete the Gamecock backslide was the nigh-inexplicable loss at home to a double-digit underdog coming off a 316-yard display against hapless FAU. Arguably the most surprising thing about the Tiger victory today was how unsurprising the rest of Carolina's season had already made it.

2011 was supposed to the confirmation of the lessons of 2010, that the old bait-and-switch Gamecocks were gone and the new East-winning, top-15, nationally-relevant Gamecocks were here to stay. Instead, 2011 has seemed to confirm that South Carolina is still South Carolina: talented, dangerous, capable of big things ... but always too erratic, too unfocused to accomplish them. It must particularly rankle to have that confirmed against Auburn, which beat Carolina twice last season. That the Tigers lost seemingly half their roster while the Gamecocks returned the likes of Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore, Devin Taylor and the incredible Melvin Ingram -- not to mention a senior quarterback coming off his best season yet -- should have turned the tables. But even at home, even with Auburn committing four turnovers, even with Barrett Trotter utterly unable to complete a pass longer than five yards downfield, the tables stayed unturned. 

There's still time to turn things around and get to Atlanta, thanks to John Brantley's injury potentially crippling the Florida offense and the tiebreak over Georgia. But if not? If we're a Carolina fan, we're blaming SI.

Mississippi State is in a similar, even-leakier boat. The Bulldogs were also looking to 2011 as the season they proved their old haunts at or near the SEC West cellar were behind them, thanks to an offense that returned nine starters and had another year of Dan Mullen's tutelage under it. But that offense hit its lowest point yet in what looks like another ho-hum season, going without an offensive touchdown at Georgia and scoring just three points in a dispirited (and dispiriting) 24-10 loss. Coming only a week after only putting up 20 regulation points against Lousiana Tech -- and given that Georgia's not exactly a defensive juggernaut just yet -- something appears to be seriously amiss with Mullen's unit. When the schedule still offers visits from Carolina and Alabama and a trip to Arkansas, he'd better have it fixed in a hurry--or his team could be one upset loss from missing the postseason entirely.

The SEC's roster of Heisman candidates goes much deeper than Marcus Lattimore. One less-than-overpowering performance from the big sophomore shouldn't douse his Heisman hopes too badly, but it did open up the floor for the rest of the league's stars to make their statements ... and they did. 

Trent Richardson put his slow 2011 start even further behind him with a punishing 181-yard, 2-touchdown performance. Tyrann Mathieu further cemented his status as the leading defensive candidate with another highlight-reel play -- a quarterback strip, fumble recovery, and touchdown return -- as well as keying another lockdown performance from the LSU secondary. Tyler Wilson isn't on anyone's shortlist yet, but a few more 510-yard passing days might change that. Melvin Ingram had an absurd game, collecting 3.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles-for-loss and an interception. And it seems unfair to mention Lattimore without also mentioning Michael Dyer, the Auburn running back who outrushed him 141-to-66 Saturday -- grinding out many of those yards in the face of poor blocking and a second-half ankle sprain -- and has now outrushed him 305-183 over their three head-to-head meetings.

For all that, if the Heisman vote were held today, Lattimore would still likely top the SEC's list. (As badly as his team is struggling, where on earth would it be without him?) But the SEC's roster of stars is deep enough that that could change as soon as next week.

Houston Nutt won't be fired this week. He still has a long way to go to guarantee himself a spot on the Ole Miss sideline in 2012. But flying cross-country to get a 10-point win over a likely bowl team in Fresno State isn't a bad first step.


Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 18, 2011 10:49 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

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Since: Oct 18, 2006
Posted on: October 4, 2011 12:36 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

The two best teams in the SEC are Bama and LSU. I'm fine with that. It's week 5.

In fact, when Auburn plays LSU I most certainly hope everyone just gives LSU the game. I mean, we were 11 point underdogs to South Carolina. Last line I checked for Arkansas has us as 10 pt dogs. Great!

You don't have to be the best team on paper to win games. LSU and Alabama both over tremendous D with just enough O.

Nothing is as it seems. Last I checked LSU still finds a way to trip despite its normally prodigious talent and Alabama has been touted so much you could call them overrated. You can't watch a CBS game without Danielson fawning all over them, lauding their every deed and glossing over every mistake and ridiculously late hits on punters and QBs. Oops. My bad.


Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:34 am

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

Hinnen's statement that "South Carolina looks totally lost, but not so lost they couldn't beat Georgia in Athens" indicates that he couldn't have watched that game. South Carolina was as bad as ever on offense, but won that game on three non-offensive TDs (a 65 yard fake punt, a pick 6, and a fumble return on a sack of Murray) which is the only game in Spurrier's coaching career that one of his team has ever done that. South Carolina's chances of winning any SEC road game are suspect (50-50 at best against Mississippi State and Tennesseee, with absolutely no chance at Arkansas) while Georgia's schedule sets up nicely if they win at Tennessee. With that being said, the SEC East is an absolute joke when compared to the SEC West. As for Bama and LSU, no amount of trash talk between fans of both teams is going to accomplish anything. That question will be answered on the field at Bryant-Denny on November 5th.

Since: Oct 4, 2011
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:22 am

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

Hey "BamaSticky"?  Did I hear your correctly?  Did you say the SEC is all about "Defense"?  Do you even watch college football? Explain Auburn's National Championship last year.  EVERYONE, (probably including you as well) was all about, "Auburn can't win without Cam Newton."...& if this holds true, then last I saw, Cam was NOT a defensive player.  So, the way I see it, because of that one ridiculous statement you made, it's totally taken away anything credible in your "blog." 

Since: Feb 24, 2010
Posted on: October 3, 2011 10:58 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

Hold on...a Bama fan saying that other teams beside the Tide are lucky and wouldn't be winning except for the refs?  No way!  I have never heard tide fans make such claims.  This is outrageous!

Since: Dec 2, 2007
Posted on: October 3, 2011 9:05 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

I am an LSU fan but I do agree. Alabama shut down Arkansas and Florida rather easily. I don't think Jarrett Lee is in the same category as Wilson or Brantley and they did get lit up against West Virginia so we'll just have to wait and see. Funny things have happened before.

Since: Jul 28, 2010
Posted on: October 3, 2011 5:51 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

Leave it to a bama fan to talk more about Auburn than their own team... I bet you have a shrine dedicated to Harvey Updyke in your living room... Thats cute how you think that there is a conspiracy to get Auburn to win games... was 9/11 an inside job too?

Since: Jul 28, 2010
Posted on: October 3, 2011 5:46 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

I wonder how Bama's ass tastes... i'm sure the CBS could tell me... I wish i had the time to go through the archives of last years stories and find out how many times they said that Bama was head and sholders above everyone else in the SEC and country... how'd that work out for them?

Since: Jul 28, 2009
Posted on: October 3, 2011 4:36 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

Thanks for your thoughts, but you are so wrong on one point. It should be the 2 best teams in the SEC which are Bama and LSU. There are not 3 best teams.....and Auburn certainly does not fall in that mix. AU is lucky to be 4-1. With a few different calls by the refs at home (which there always seems to be a few close calls go their way at home -- look into it, it's true), and AU is 2-3. And why South Carolina was not allowed to kick a game-tying field goal to go to OT with 1-2 seconds left was beyond me. There was clearly time left on the clock. But anyway, AU does not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with LSU and Alabama.

Those two teams stand out far and above AU, and you will see this when AU plays them both this year. AU still has the worst defense in the SEC, and one of the worst in America, and you want to say they are Top 3 teams in the SEC? Please. The SEC has always been about defense, and always will be. And no defensive joke (i.e. Ted Roof, AU Def. Coord.) should ever be mentioned as Top of the SEC this year.

The 3rd best team before last week would have been Arkansas or Florida imo. But you have seen how Alabama dismantled both of them. And with Brantley gone, Driskell is going to have to grow up fast, but I would not look for a good showing against LSU. I will say this though. LSU's Defense showed vulnerability against a good, but not great offense at West Virginia and Geno Smith, but Alabama faced off against Demps and Rainey at Florida, who accounted for 8 yards total, and Tyler Wilson at Arkansas, who passed for over 500 yards last week against A&M. Both were shut down.

People talk about the LSU Defense, but this Alabama Defense is something special. Nov. 5th will show everyone just how special it is.

Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: October 3, 2011 1:20 pm

What I Learned in the SEC, Week 5

It is amazing to me that the East has fallen so far so fast, and none of the teams seem to be able to pick themselves up.  I think that at this point, UGA is the best team, but they lost a fluke game to SC, so they have their work cut out for them.  I do not expect much from the SEC CG this season. 

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