- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are five things we learned in the SEC on Saturday:
We've got a race (Part 1): With its win against depleted Georgia on Saturday, Missouri jumped into the driver's seat in the SEC East. But this might be an ugly horse race as we move down the stretch. The Tigers are 2-0 in league play for now, but they lost quarterback James Franklin to a shoulder injury and still must face Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M. Previous division favorite Georgia has major injury issues of its own with a game against Florida and a trip to Auburn still on tap. Florida dropped its first conference game on Saturday (at LSU) and still must visit Missouri and South Carolina and face Georgia in Jacksonville. With its dominant win over Arkansas on Saturday, South Carolina suddenly looks like a contender again, but it still needs Georgia to lose another SEC game and must win at Missouri and at home against Florida. In other words, we've got gridlock ahead. It's entirely possible -- maybe even likely -- that whichever team represents the East in the SEC championship game will come in with two conference losses.
We've got a race (Part 2): Have we forgiven Alabama for its defensive shortcomings against Texas A&M yet? Because it's high time we did. A week or two back, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Florida has the best defense in the SEC. Alabama has thrown its hat back into the ring lately, however. Kentucky's third-quarter touchdown on Saturday ended a 14-quarter streak (dating back to the A&M game) in which Alabama opponents (Colorado State, Ole Miss, Georgia State and Kentucky) had failed to reach the end zone. Over that stretch, Alabama had outscored its opponents 125-9. Florida hasn't done anything to lose the crown -- the Gators held LSU's talented offense to just 327 yards and 17 points on Saturday, after all -- but Alabama is making up ground quickly.
Rumors of their demise ... : There has been a seemingly endless array of drama at South Carolina since the season started, much of which centered around star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Entering Saturday's game at Arkansas, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks had won three straight since their Week 2 loss at Georgia, but each game saw the Gamecocks barely holding on for narrow wins. Then came Saturday's 52-7 win against the Razorbacks, which represents the biggest loss in Arkansas coach Bret Bielema's career and perhaps a corner turned by the Gamecocks.
No Marshall, no problem: Nick Marshall missed Auburn's 62-3 win over Western Carolina on Saturday, but that's not the main reason freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson played -- and started -- for the first time this year. He played as an insurance policy, in case Marshall's injured knee prevents him from playing next week against Texas A&M. Marshall led the Tigers to a 4-1 record to open the season, and coach Gus Malzahn said he will reclaim the starting role once his knee is healthy enough for him to play again. But just in case Marshall's not ready come Week 8, Johnson's performance -- 17-for-21 for 201 yards and four touchdowns -- in Saturday's win was nice practice for the freshman ahead of a trip to College Station.
Road warriors: Once Texas A&M survived Ole Miss' upset bid, the Aggies joined three other SEC teams that won on the road Saturday. Missouri ended Georgia's 15-game home winning streak -- which was the league's longest active streak -- South Carolina won big at Arkansas, Alabama blasted Kentucky and the Aggies rallied to win 41-38 in Oxford. Florida was the league's only road loser on Saturday. Alabama, Missouri and Texas A&M are all 2-0 away from home in league play this season.