- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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The SEC’s chances of landing in a fifth consecutive BCS National Championship Game are heating up, but that’s not the only thing in this league heating up.
Or for that matter, cooling down.
It’s that time again for Hot and Not in the SEC:
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn: Remember all the skeptics when Malzahn returned to the SEC? Over and over again, we heard about how his offense would never fly in this league and that defenses would eat up his spread attack. Well, get this: The Tigers are averaging 40 points and nearly 500 yards (496.2) per game, and they’re No. 2 this week in the BCS standings. So I’d say Malzahn’s offense is working just fine. He’s been a master at keeping teams off balance with misdirection and fakes, and is always going to have a trick play or two up his sleeve. The biggest misnomer about Malzahn is that his offense is built around gimmicks. The Tigers are averaging 307.7 rushing yards per game and have rushed for 300 yards or more in five straight games against SEC opponents, which is the longest streak in school history. Doesn’t sound too gimmicky to me.
South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery: Finding an SEC player more valuable to his team than Auburn’s Cam Newton is going to be hard this season, but Jeffery would be right up there. He’s been so consistent and made so many big plays for the Gamecocks. His 70-yard touchdown catch against Tennessee last Saturday in the fourth quarter broke that game open.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray: The Bulldogs’ redshirt freshman quarterback had played beyond his years all season and protected the ball beautifully. Going into the Florida game, he’d thrown just three interceptions in eight games, but matched that total against the Gators, including a crippling interception in overtime.
Florida’s adjustments: The Gators adjusted, tweaked, experimented, what ever you want to call it in getting that offense back up to speed during the off week. The result was a no-huddle attack with alternating quarterbacks and 450 yards of total offense in a 34-31 overtime win against Georgia.
South Carolina’s attendance: What gives with all the empty seats in the upper deck at Williams-Brice Stadium? This could be a momentous season for the Gamecocks, and for some reason, the fans aren’t showing up in the kinds of numbers they used to. Granted, ticket prices to SEC football games are ridiculous. Still, it’s odd to see so many empty seats as the Gamecocks try to play their way into their first-ever SEC championship game.
Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms: He was steaming after getting the hook last week at South Carolina, and it’s hard to blame him. He’s been getting killed all season and sacked more than any quarterback in the SEC. Now, the Vols are going with freshman Tyler Bray, who seems to have more upside. Still, that’s a hard pill to swallow if you’re Simms.
Georgia excuses: For much of the past two decades, we’ve heard it all about why Florida beats Georgia every year, everything from it’s not really a neutral site to all the byes Florida has received the week before the game. Let’s just call this rivalry what it is. It’s not a rivalry. It’s a domination.
Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb: For two straight weeks, McCalebb has gotten outside on teams and showed off his speed on long touchdown runs. He had a 68-yarder against Ole Miss and a 70-yarder against LSU.
Kentucky’s ball security: The Wildcats had four more turnovers last Saturday in their 24-17 loss to Mississippi State. In their five losses this season, they have 14 turnovers. They don’t have any turnovers in their four wins.
BCS computers: Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t get it, but how can Alabama’s computer ranking in the BCS standings be so low … 15th? Not only that, but how can one-loss teams such as Missouri (4th), Michigan State (10th), Wisconsin (11th) and Arizona (13th) all have higher average computer scores? In fact, nine one-loss teams have higher computer rankings than Alabama right now. Alabama still has to prove on the field that it’s deserving of one of those top two spots in the final BCS standings, and the Crimson Tide will have to go through three nationally ranked teams to close out the regular season if they’re going make that climb. But Alabama has already beaten three nationally ranked teams and plays in a pretty decent conference. How any computer could crunch the numbers and have them come out where Alabama is ranked as low as 17th (in Jeff Sagarin’s computer poll) is reason enough to wonder about this whole process.