After another compelling weekend of football in the SEC, we can finally turn our attention to the SEC title game. By the time the ball is kicked off, South Carolina and Auburn will have known for two weeks that they would be matching up. Additionally, the squads have already squared off once this year, so there will be a great deal of familiarity on both sides.
We’ll get into talking about what to expect from the game itself later in the week, but for now I’m going to restrict myself to talking about the importance of the game and the ramifications of the outcome.
If Auburn wins – Obviously, an Auburn wins means that the Tigers advance to the National Championship game. They have overcome the odds and they have overcome all challenges throughout the year, winning numerous close games in the process.
The other major result from an Auburn win is that Arkansas, who is all the way up to #7 in the latest BCS standings, would turn into all but a shoo-in for an at-large spot in the BCS. South Carolina’s loss and subsequent bowl game destination has an impact on the rest of the SEC bowl picture, but I’m not going to focus on that here.
If South Carolina wins – The biggest Gamecock fans in the nation right now are the Big East bound TCU Horned Frogs. The Frogs, having finished up their regular season, would be a lock for the national title game should Auburn fall on Saturday. A South Carolina win would also lock up an automatic BCS bid for USC, with an at-large BCS bid almost certainly going to one loss Auburn over Arkansas.
There are quite a few interested parties in the SEC title game, as you can see. Half of Auburn’s wins this season have come by a single possession, so I think a close game is in order.
Auburn 28 Alabama 27
I’ve been looking forward to this game for a long time. I was all set on Friday at 2:30 with snacks and a clear schedule to watch the Iron Bowl for three and a half hours completely uninterrupted. Then, Alabama captured its preseason #1 form for 22 minutes to race out to a 24-0 lead. Then, Alabama and Auburn did what they’ve been doing all year: the Tide lost form and focus after a potent stretch, while the Tigers just didn’t quit.
It started with consecutive Alabama possessions that ended in the red zone, but resulted in just three points, keeping Auburn within 24 when the lead easily could have been 35. Auburn then put together a long TD drive to close to within 24-7 at the half, knowing they would be the first to get the ball in the second half. The Tigers took just two plays to score a touchdown and the game was on.
Auburn’s defense stepped up in a huge way in the second half, allowing just 60 yards after being absolutely gashed in the first half. Their biggest stand of the day was on a series that had the Tide on the fringes of field goal territory up one with time ticking down in the fourth. After stuffing the Tide on first and second down, they registered a sack on third and 12 that knocked Alabama way out of field goal range and knocked Greg McElroy out of the game.
Alabama effectively limited Auburn and Cam Newton on the ground all day, so Newton got it done through the air. He stayed calm under pressure and found his receivers for big plays, all but assuring that his name will be called when the Heisman winner is announced.
Arkansas 31 LSU 23
I said early in the season that I thought Arkansas might turn out to be the second best team in the SEC. After this win, it looks like I might have been right (although at the time, I said second best after Alabama). The Razorbacks ran well all day against LSU and, even though they made mistakes in the passing game, they hit a bunch of big plays through the air to topple the Tigers at home. The Arkansas defense also stood tall, allowing just 294 total yards to LSU.
The turning point was perhaps the final play of the first half, when Arkansas scored an 80 yard touchdown on a pass from Ryan Mallett to Cobi Hamilton as two Tigers ran into each other, allowing LSU to take a 21-14 halftime lead.
Mississippi State 31 Ole Miss 23
Mississippi State had one of its best offensive games of the year against the rival Rebels, which staked them to a big 31-9 lead at the start of the fourth quarter. A couple late touchdowns by Ole Miss made it little more stressful that it probably should have been, but the Bulldog defense held up on the Rebels’ final drive.
Tennessee 24 Kentucky 14
Florida State 31 Florida 7
Wow, Florida has some work to do in the weeks leading up to its bowl and even more work to do in the off-season to try to right the ship after a disaster of a season. Four turnovers and complete ineptitude in both pass defense and pass offense didn’t even give the Gators a chance in this one. I just am curious to see who Florida trots out there at QB in its bowl game.
South Carolina 29 Clemson 7
South Carolina may be looking ahead to the SEC title game, but they sure didn’t show it against Clemson, especially on defense. Stephen Garcia completed under 50% of his passes and Marcus Lattimore managed just 48 yards on 23 carries, but Alshon Jeffery and a strong defensive performance powered South Carolina past Clemson. Clemson scored a TD on their opening possession but didn’t do a thing the rest of the way.
Georgia 42 Georgia Tech 34
The Bulldogs had all kinds of trouble dealing with G-Tech’s triple option attack, allowing over 400 yards on the ground, but Georgia used four turnovers and a very balanced offensive game to win this one. Aaron Murray, who looks like the next great SEC QB, was tremendous, completing 15 of 19 passes for 271 yards and three TD’s.
Wake Forest 34 Vanderbilt 13
The season is mercifully over for Vandy, who decided this week that Robbie Caldwell will not be brought back for another season. Rumors are floating that the ‘Dores will bring in Navy’s offensive coordinator to install the triple option and Vandy called passes like they were worried they wouldn’t get to pass at all next year. Jared Funk, starting in place of the woefully ineffective Larry Smith, attempted 61 passes in the defeat.
1. Auburn 12-0 (8-0) – What a fantastic win they pulled off against ‘Bama
2. Arkansas 10-2 (6-2) – Whoever gets them in the bowl game will have their hands full
3. Alabama 9-3 (5-3) – They showed what their capable of against Auburn, but they also showed their flaws
4. LSU 10-2 (6-2) – As good as the defense has been, it didn’t look so good this week
5. South Carolina 9-3 (5-3) – How will they react to big stage this weekend?
6. Mississippi State 8-4 (4-4) – This team is on the up and up and they need to hold onto Dan Mullen
7. Florida 7-5 (3-5) – It’s one thing for UF to lose five games, it’s another to be blown out in three of them
8. Georgia 6-6 (3-5) – Nice recovery after awful start
9. Tennessee 6-6 (3-5) – Ditto
10. Kentucky 6-6 (2-6)
11. Ole Miss 4-8 (1-7) – Was Jeremiah Masoli worth it?
12. Vanderbilt 2-9 (1-7) – I think getting rid of Caldwell was the right move