Looking ahead

The No. 1-ranked Alabama begins a four-step process toward a third consecutive BCS title Saturday night in prime time.

LSU poses the first real challenge since Week 2 when Alabama disposed of Texas A&M in a 49-42 shootout. LSU visits Tuscaloosa at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Since the A&M game, the Tide has buttoned up its defense, re-established its running game and no one will be surprised if they win out again.

But nothing is a given in the SEC.

The other roadblock before an SEC Championship game in the Georgia Dome would be rival Auburn on the final Saturday of the regular season. The Tigers are fast improving and now stand 8-1. Games at Tennessee and at home versus Georgia will tell more about their ability to stick with Alabama.

The SEC title game opponent appears more up in the air. While Missouri still controls its SEC East destiny — three conference victories will put the Tigers in Atlanta — it’s not a sure thing with games remaining at Kentucky, at Ole Miss and home against Johnny Football and Texas A&M. The Aggies will be in line for a BCS bowl if they win out; they face road games at LSU and Missouri.

South Carolina remains in a great position to win the SEC East if the Gamecocks handle Florida and if Mizzou falters. Georgia lingers as well, needing a victory against Auburn and two losses by Missouri to reach Atlanta based on tiebreakers.

The remaining drama in the SEC surrounds coaching futures.

The bottom of the league includes two schools, Arkansas and Kentucky, that just changed coaches a season ago and they appear safe.

The two who will get chatter include Florida’s Will Muschamp and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.

Injuries have devastated the Gators, but Muschamp’s actions — complaining about officials, challenging fans (even insulting ones) — may be the kind of behavior that leads Florida AD Jeremy Foley to look past the injuries and find another leader. Look beyond last year’s 11-2 record; the Gator’s offense is stagnant and not SEC caliber.

Mullen just hasn’t brought the Bulldogs close to being competitive against the top-tier SEC teams. The school’s patience may start wearing thin, given Hugh Freeze’s success at Ole Miss. Mullen gave his own fans a slap Saturday when talked about how South Carolina fans gave their team a real home-field advantage.

Sound bites

“It’s hard to see some of that. Whatever they call, they call. In the last 24 years, the University of Florida, we’ve led the SEC in penalties — 20 out of 24 either first or second. That was long before I got here. So it’s interesting, but it is what it is.” Florida coach Will Muschamp after the Gators were flagged Saturday seven times for 70 yards with multiple offsetting penalties.

“Same mood: people down. We’re not going to quit, though. We got the Gators on our helmet and the names on our back. Our parents taught us better, our coaches taught us better. We’re not going to quit. We’re going to go till the last game of the season.” UF running back Mack Brown.

“It was on my nose in a very uncomfortable position and the only thing I did was take it off. I didn’t take it off intentionally. It was a tough call. Nobody wants to be called for a 15-yard penalty.” UF’s Neiron Ball, on the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called for the removal of his helmet.

“Last week left a sour taste in our mouth and we wanted to get out here and show people. There was a feeling around town, even though it was only one loss, that it was dead around town. There was a feeling like we won’t win another game, but it’s always great to go out and get another SEC win.” Missouri receiver L’Damian Washington after the Tigers walloped Tennessee 31-3 a week after an upset loss to South Carolina.

“It’s frustrating for me as a head coach, as an assistant, a player, a parent, an administrator, alumni and fan. I get it. I understand it. … I know where we need to be. We are not there yet.” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema after another humiliating SEC loss to Auburn (35-17).

“The only thing I told them was why in the world would you even think about last week’s game? Are you kidding me? We were 7-1 and 3-1 in the league and we’ve got four games left in November. I’ll take that for the rest of my career, forever.” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel on what he told his team last week after the Tigers’ first loss.

Key games

Remaining schedule for division contenders:

SEC East

Missouri: at Kentucky, at Ole Miss, Texas A&M

South Carolina: Florida, Coastal Carolina, Clemson

Georgia: Appalachian State, at Auburn, Kentucky, at Georgia Tech

SEC West

Alabama: LSU, at Mississippi State, Chattanooga, at Auburn

Auburn: at Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama

LSU: at Alabama, Texas A&M, Arkansas

Texas A&M: Mississippi State, at LSU, at Missouri


UGA basketball coach Mark Fox ‏@coachmarkfox

A wedding at a home near ours this afternoon. I told my son if ur girlfriend wants 2 get married during a Georgia game-find a new girlfriend

buck belue ‏@buckbelue8

Welcome to club Aaron Murray! Three wins over Gators is awesome, esp. for a Tampa boy! Congrats. @aaronmurray11

ESPN’s Skip Bayless ‏@RealSkipBayless

Love Mike Evans but Coach Sumlin just gave voters another excuse not to vote for Manziel when he said Evans should be in Heisman race.

Bleacher Report SEC writer Barrett Sallee ‏@BarrettSallee

Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp’s Hot Seat Could Get Scorching Down the Stretch

Saturday’s schedule

Vanderbilt at Florida, noon, ESPNU

Auburn at Tennessee, noon, ESPN

Missouri at Kentucky, noon, ESPNU

Arkansas at Ole Miss, 12:21 p.m., WPCH

Appalachian State at Georgia, 12:30 p.m., WSB

Mississippi State at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m., CBS

LSU at Alabama, 8 p.m., CBS

By the numbers


Record for Connor Shaw (Flowery Branch High) as South Carolina’s starting quarterback, a school mark he shares with USC broadcaster Todd Ellis and can break against Florida in two weeks.


Rushing yards against Mississippi State for South Carolina’s Mike Davis (Stephenson High), moving past 1,000 for the season and making him the first Gamecock to top 1,000 since Marcus Lattimore three years ago.


Will Muschamp’s record in the UGA-UF series, 0-4 as a UGA player, 0-3 as UF coach.


Consecutive road losses for Tennessee, including 12 in the SEC.


Consecutive victories at Williams-Brice Stadium for the Gamecocks, matching the school record (1978-80) and tied with Ohio State for second-longest in the nation behind Michigan (19).


Arkansas record in the SEC for only the second time since joining the league in 1992.

Taking stock

Thumbs up: South Carolina’s defense. After handling Mississippi State, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said the Gamecocks were back to playing defense they way they did a season ago. If so, the Gamecocks may have the best chance to unseat Alabama in the SEC Championship game Dec. 7 in the Georgia Dome. First, Missouri has to lose once against Kentucky, Ole Miss or Texas A&M and the Gamecocks must also dispose of Florida in two weeks. Entirely plausible.

Thumbs down: Florida offense and coach Will Muschamp. He committed a cardinal sin in coaching: arguing with a fan, albeit an insulting one, after the loss to Georgia. The Gators’ offense now appears to be the worst in the SEC, maybe in decades. With games left against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Georgia Southern and Florida State, there is no given that the Gators will become bowl eligible. This week’s home game against Vandy looms large for the season and in Muschamp’s career.

Copiled by Ray Cox

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