Monday, November 12, 2012
Hot and Not in the SEC
By Chris Low
The hot/not meter was all over the place this past weekend in the SEC:
Texas A&M: This SEC stuff is a piece of cake. Just ask Texas A&M, which went into Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and took down Alabama 29-24. The Aggies have now positioned themselves for an at-large BCS bowl berth and are two home wins away (against Sam Houston State and Missouri) from winning 10 games. Teams simply aren’t supposed to come into the SEC and have this kind of success this early. Texas A&M’s only two losses were by a combined eight points to a pair of top-10 teams: Florida and LSU. But the Aggies believed all along that they were equipped to come into this league and be a factor right away. Kevin Sumlin’s up-tempo offense has given SEC defenses fits all season. Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is the most exciting player in the country, and let’s not forget about the defense, either. Mark Snyder’s guys have held teams to an average of 19.2 points in their past four games since that 59-57 shootout win against Louisiana Tech.
Coach Mark Richt has his Bulldogs defense playing as a cohesive unit during the second half of the season.
Georgia’s defense: Now that all of the suspensions are history and everyone is back in their normal roles, Georgia is starting to play like a championship defense. In their past three games, the Bulldogs have allowed a total of 19 points. Nobody ever questioned the talent on this Georgia defense, but there wasn’t a lot of chemistry the first half of the season with all the different combinations on the field. Looks like the Bulldogs are hitting their stride at just the right time.
Whining about Georgia’s schedule: Enough already. The Bulldogs played the schedule in front of them and are the East champs. Case closed. Did it help the Bulldogs that they avoided Alabama and LSU? Absolutely. Did Florida get a shot at Georgia head-to-head? Absolutely ... and the Gators lost.
Vanderbilt’s pride: The Commodores’ come-from-behind 27-26 victory over Ole Miss on the road says volumes about the pride in the Vanderbilt program, the mental edge that second-year coach James Franklin has brought to that program and the leadership on the team. Vanderbilt rallied from a 23-6 deficit early in the third quarter and did it with its leading rusher, Zac Stacy, on the bench after suffering an injury in the first half.
Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon: For the second week in a row, the talented freshman running back lost a fumble with Alabama driving in the second half, and this time, the Crimson Tide couldn’t recover. Yeldon coughed up the ball at the Texas A&M 30 in the fourth quarter, and the Aggies answered with a quick touchdown to take a 29-17 lead.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger: This is the version of Mettenberger everybody expected to see all season. He’s come to life in the past two games, and so has the Tigers’ passing game. Mettenberger followed up his impressive performance against Alabama by hitting 19 of 30 passes for 273 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in LSU's 37-17 win over Mississippi State.
Mississippi State’s momentum: The Bulldogs are suddenly reeling after winning their first seven. They simply haven’t played well during what has been the toughest part of their schedule and have lost three in a row to nationally ranked foes by a combined score of 113-37. If this is going to be a season to remember, they have to stop the bleeding this week at home against Arkansas.
South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger: When you start listing the best safeties in the SEC, don’t forget about Swearinger. In the Gamecocks’ 38-20 win over Arkansas, he had 13 tackles and returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown. Swearinger leads the team with 39 solo tackles.
Florida’s offense: It’s been painful to watch these past few weeks. The Gators aren’t doing much of anything well on offense right now, and a big part of their problem is how limited they are in the passing game. Their best offense this past week was the game-saving blocked punt against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Job security: Arkansas and Kentucky are already looking for new coaches, and it appears Auburn and Tennessee will soon join that market. Even for the SEC, four coaches being fired or pushed out in one season is pretty extreme. But when you look at the money being paid to coaches these days and the revenue being lost when a school doesn’t win, administrators aren’t going to be hesitant about pulling the trigger. Auburn has lost nine straight SEC games dating back to last season and is a shell of the program that won the national championship two years ago. Tennessee has lost 13 of its past 14 SEC games and has given up almost as many points in its six SEC losses this season (262) as Alabama, Florida and LSU have given up in 21 combined SEC contests (287).