What we learned
While all the SEC cognoscenti waited on the final two weeks for someone to prove that Missouri is fraud, the Tigers took Step One toward the Georgia Dome and SEC title game by going to Oxford and handling Ole Miss with ease.
Step Two: A final regular-season home game against Texas A&M on Saturday. The Aggies, who had been scoring 40 or more every game, suddenly look very beatable after laying an egg in a 10-point effort at LSU.
While South Carolina waits in the SEC East wings, pulling for the Aggies and a chance to take on the Alabama-Auburn winner, it’s looking like an Alabama-Missouri matchup for the SEC title might well match the two best defenses in the league and once again provide an SEC champion capable of winning an eighth BCS title in a row.
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If it’s top-level competition and SEC football you like, Saturday is a day-long moveable feast:
- It opens in Gainesville, Fla., at noon, where no one could have predicted that an undefeated FSU would be in position to virtually lock up a spot in the BCS title game, much less put a final nail in the coffin for Will Muschamp as Florida coach. Jeremy Foley, an athletic director known for jettisoning coaches with successful records who failed to win big, has had to continue to defend a coach who has lost six in a row. What Gators fans Muschamp didn’t lose with harsh words a week ago will likely abandon him after the embarrassing loss to Georgia Southern.
- Move then to a doubleheader, with little needing to be said: Georgia at Georgia Tech and Alabama at Auburn, both at 3;30 p.m., both on national telecasts. One settles the SEC West. The other resolves bragging rights for two teams that had higher aspirations than fighting to see which one will finish 8-4.
- To conclude the day, you can catch the Steve Spurrier-Dabo Swinney show — Spurrier gets top billing till Swinney can beat him again — on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. in the best matchup in the long Clemson-South Carolina series. Then catch the end of Texas A&M at Missouri, a game that settles the SEC East starting at 7:45 p.m. on ESPN.
The BCS title game is Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl. Here are the SEC’s bowl tie-ins:
Dec. 30: Franklin American Mortgage Music City, vs. ACC, 3:15 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 31: Chick-fil-A, vs. ACC, 8 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 31: AutoZone Liberty, vs. C-USA/American, 4 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 31: AdvoCare V100, vs. ACC, 12:30 p.m., ESPN
Jan. 1: Capital One, vs. Big Ten, 1 p.m., ABC
Jan. 1: Outback, vs. Big Ten, 1 p.m., ESPN
Jan. 1: TaxSlayer.com Gator, vs. Big Ten, noon, ESPN2
Jan. 2: Allstate Sugar, BCS vs. BCS, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Jan. 3: AT&T Cotton, vs. Big 12, 7:30 p.m., FOX
Jan. 4: BBVA Compass, vs. American, 1 p.m., ESPN
“You have to be able to change the scoreboard and we just struggled scoring points offensively. It’s been a week-in, week-out occurrence. It’s my job to get it fixed and it will get fixed, so I’m very disappointed for our program and the embarrassment in this situation. We had our opportunities there. The kids kept playing hard, but it was very difficult for us to create explosive plays to get anything down the field.” — Florida coach Will Muschamp after losing to Georgia Southern.
“Every week, Chief (defensive coordinator John Chavis) goes out and draws a great game plan for every team that we play. But I think us as players sometimes don’t trust into the scheme and we try to do our own things. So we just said, ‘Chief is our leader and we’re going to ride for him tonight.’ We were going to do everything he needs us to do and I think everybody took it upon themselves to play their positions and do their part. We see what happens when we follow the rules like that.” — LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow about Chavis’ game plan that limited Texas A&M to 299 yards in the Tigers’ 34-10 win.
“They were coming from a lot of different places. They were bringing some blitzes and really getting a free rusher at will. We have got to get back to the basics and back to the fundamentals of pitch and catch and throwing the football around. If we don’t establish that and don’t get that going, we don’t stand a chance.” — Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, after throwing two interceptions at LSU.
By the numbers
Points scored by Georgia against Kentucky on Saturday night, the most in any SEC game since UGA pounded the Wildcats 62-17 in 2004.
Consecutive losing seasons for Tennessee (4-7, 1-6), which hasn’t happened in Knoxville since 1902-06.
Non-offensive touchdowns by Alabama since Nick Saban became coach (2007) after Christion Jones returned a punt for a score against Chattanooga, The TDs include 15 interception returns, nine punt returns, five kickoff returns, three fumble returns and three blocked punt returns.
Rushing yards allowed by Florida against Georgia Southern, the fourth-most ever by the Gators and the most since Nebraska gained 524 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, a 62-24 loss for Florida in the national title game. (Did Lawrence Phillips just score again?)
Games when Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel has been held to a less than 50-percent completion rate after LSU stopped him for 224 passing yards on 16-of-41 attempts.
Thumbs down: Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and Tennessee coach Butch Jones. Two of the biggest self-promoters among SEC among coaches have found the going tougher than just showing up and rallying the troops. The Rebels were stuffed 24-10 by Missouri and while they are improved, they aren’t more than a mediocre 7-4 SEC team. The Vols have fought hard but their touted offensive line couldn’t get a first down on a third-and-1 to grind out the clock, after which their defense allowed a 92-yard game-winning drive by Vanderbilt in the waning seconds.
Thumbs up: Georgia’s Aaron Murray. Consider these SEC records he holds: completions (921), passing yards (13,166), TD passes (121) and total offense (13,562). Murray also became the first quarterback in league history to throw for at least 3,000 yards for four seasons. Let’s say it here first: There needs to be a plaque at Sanford Stadium with Murray’s name on it.
Aaron Murray @aaronmurray11
— “Thank you for all the prayers over the past few hours. Gonna come back stronger than ever! Dawg for life. Truly love you all #GoDawgs”
— “Wanna thank everyone for making our senior night so special! Truly am blessed to have been your QB for 4 years!”
This week’s schedule
Ole Miss at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Arkansas at LSU, 2:30 p.m., CBS
Florida State at Florida, noon, ESPN
Wake Forest at Vanderbilt, 12:21 p.m., WPCH
Georgia at Georgia Tech, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Alabama at Auburn, 3:30 p.m., CBS
Tennessee at Kentucky, 7 p.m., ESPNU
Clemson at South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Texas A&M at Missouri, 7:45 p.m., ESPN
Compiled by Ray Cox