The road to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game has become clearer:
Missouri: The Tigers get a week off before the biggest three-week stretch of games in school history: at Ole Miss on Nov. 23, home vs. Texas A&M on Nov. 30 and, presuming they win both, the SEC title game on Dec. 7. They will get quarterback James Franklin back from his shoulder injury, sustained against Georgia, in time to start the Ole Miss game. But they also take an off week knowing that top receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is in a walking boot with a sprained ankle.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks may be the best positioned team to challenge Alabama for the SEC title. After a week off and now the healthiest they’ve been in a long while, they play three consecutive home games, first against the weakest Florida team in 30 years, against Coastal Carolina and then Clemson, a team that all but owned the rivalry till Steve Spurrier took up residence in Columbia, S.C.. Should Missouri and Georgia fall hard the next three weeks, the Gamecocks will be a worthy SEC East winner.
Georgia: The Bulldogs must win, wait and hope. First, a trip to Auburn on Saturday and then a home game against a Kentucky team that couldn’t compete for the top division in any league in the country. (No, the SEC is not the strongest league from top to bottom.) The offensive injuries and a defense that hasn’t really grown up don’t give the Bulldogs great hope.
Alabama: With games against Mississippi State, Chattanooga and Auburn, the odds are that the Crimson Tide will come to the Georgia Dome on Dec. 7. And they will come with the best defensive player in the country: C.J. Mosley. Against LSU Saturday night, he had 12 tackles, broke up two passes and helped convert a fake punt in an all-around Heisman-worthy performance that prompted coach Nick Saban to say: “I trust C.J. to do anything. Watch my kids, take care of my house. So a (punt) fake is not much. C.J. is just so conscientious about everything does that you know he’s going to execute and do it exactly like you told him to do it.”
Auburn: The Tigers get Georgia and Alabama at home and can cap off an amazing turnaround riding the Gus Bus. “Coming off a 3-9 season last year, Coach (Gus) Malzahn said this is going to be the biggest turnaround in college football,” quarterback Nick Marshall said. “All of us bought into that and (are) just doing what the coaches tell us: to keep winning.” What gives the Tigers a chance: They average 320 yards rushing a game, third in FBS behind Army and New Mexico.
One man’s opinion
“Instead of an Honorary Mr. Two Bits at every game, maybe the Gators should have an Honorary Offensive Coordinator. This year, Florida’s offense is ranked 110th in the country. Injuries or no injuries, that’s inexcusable. Committing four turnovers and scoring only two touchdowns on Vanderbilt’s pitiful defense is equally unacceptable.
“Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has said (coach Will) Muschamp’s job is safe, but that was a couple of weeks ago. That was before the Gators lost to Vanderbilt at home for the first time since 1945.
“That’s right, 1945 … when Jackie Robinson was still in the minors, Fidel Castro was studying law at Havana University, U.S. Marines secured Iwo Jima, 10-year-old Elvis Presley finished fifth in a singing contest at a county fair in Mississippi and Steve Spurrier was six months old, throwing his pacifier across his playpen and completing passes to his teddy bear.
“Even at that age, Spurrier could coordinate an offense more complex than Florida’s rudimentary attack of today. When Spurrier coached the Gators, the offense was called the Fun ‘N Gun. Now it’s called the Fun Is Done.”
— Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel
“Closer to the end of the game, I looked into the quarterback’s eyes and I could just tell. Not trying to talk trash or call him out or anything. It’s just something that you just notice. After that, we kind of smelled the blood and kept going.” — Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, who had a game-high 12 total tackles along with 1.5 tackles for loss and two pass break-ups against LSU.
“Kyle Field is such a special place. To go out this way, I don’t think it could end any better.” — Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, certainly sounding like his career will conclude after this season. Manziel was 30-of-39 for 446 yards and five touchdowns against Mississippi State in College Station, Texas.
“I’m not asking for anybody to be happy. I’m not asking anybody to give me a pass. This is the real deal. This is the University of Florida. My expectation is higher than anyone sitting in those stands. … We’ll get it turned.” — Florida coach Will Muschamp, whose team must win two of three against South Carolina, Georgia Southern and Florida State to become bowl eligible.
“There’s a physical mismatch with almost anybody he plays against. He’s 6 (feet) 6 and weighs 225 pounds and he’s athletic and can jump. We’re just fortunate he’s on my team.” — Missouri coach Gary Pinkel on wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who caught four touchdown passes against Kentucky.
By the numbers
Vanderbilt scoring drives starting inside the Florida 25 (starting at the 10-, 4-, 22- and 10-yard lines), all after Gators turnovers.
Consecutive AP polls that South Carolina has been ranked, tied for fifth in longevity with Stanford and behind Alabama, LSU, Oregon and Oklahoma.
Career passing yards for Alabama’s AJ McCarron, the school record-holder, surpassing John Parker Wilson’s mark of 7,924.
Times in Auburn history the Tigers have returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in the same game. Chris Davis took back a punt 85 yards and Corey Grant took back a kickoff 90 yards for scores against Tennessee.
Return yardage for Auburn against Tennessee, the single-game Auburn record surpassing 208 against Chattanooga in 1974.
According to Stats LLC, the number of ranked opponents in an eight-game stretch for Tennessee, the first team to face that many since Pittsburgh in 1993. Auburn was the Vols’ fifth consecutive opponent ranked No. 11 or higher.
Mike Davis, @Mike28davis (South Carolina running back who had been committed to Florida while at Stephenson High)
Never been so eager to play. #hungry
Joe Namath, @RealJoeNamath
Mark Richt, @MarkRicht
Congratulations to Aaron Murray on the (SEC) Touchdown record (115)! Symbollic of team effort. Great route running, pass protection & execution!!
The SEC Logo, @SEC_Logo (Regarding Arkansas running back Alex Collins, who is fourth in the league with 946 rushing yards)
Alex Collins getting the most love for #SEC Freshman of the year right now.
Troy at Ole Miss, noon, ESPNU
Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 12:21 p.m., WPCH
Georgia at Auburn, 3:30 p.m., CBS
Florida at South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Alabama at Mississippi State, 7:45 p.m., ESPN
Thumbs up: Guz Malzahn and Auburn. Even those people who incessantly say “War Eagle” wouldn’t have dreamed of an 9-1 record on Nov. 11. Now the Tigers have two games (Georgia and Alabama) to bring Malzahn to the Georgia Dome as SEC West division winner and probably the national coach of the year. He has been the architect of one of the biggest major-college turnarounds in NCAA history.
Thumbs down: Texas A&M. The frequency that the school has made available Johnny Football, the reigning Heisman Trophy holder, to let fans know what’s on his mind about the season and about his career and future is embarrassingly low and the Aggies aren’t doing Manziel any favors. Both Manziel and the Aggies need to change their approaches toward the public.
Compiled by Ray Cox