- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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It’s always hot somewhere in the SEC ... and always not, too:
SEC hate: They were celebrating in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Athens, Ga., and maybe even Gainesville, Fla., when Kansas State and Oregon both went down Saturday night. It was the ultimate mulligan for the SEC and a kick in the gut for the rest of college football. Just like that, the SEC is front and center again in the national championship race, and the groans everywhere else but the South are deafening. The SEC in football has become what UCLA was in basketball in the 1960s and 1970s. Everybody has grown weary of seeing the SEC win all the time. Assuming Alabama and Georgia both win this weekend, they will meet in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1 for a spot in the Discover BCS National Championship Game. Here’s the worst news for the SEC haters: There’s also a chance that Florida could squeeze in and make it an all-SEC affair for the second year in a row if the Gators beat Florida State this weekend and Notre Dame loses to USC. If that happens, maybe they’ll just create the SEC’s own division and have an SEC national champion and a BCS national champion.
SEC championship game tickets: The SEC championship game is always a hot ticket. But nobody was more excited than the ticket brokers when Kansas State and Oregon both lost Saturday. Alabama and Georgia fans will be clamoring to get their hands on tickets now that it looks like the winner will earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson: Having one touchdown called back for excessive celebration is bad enough. But getting flagged for two in the same season? Patterson is one of the most electrifying players in the league. But geez, get into the end zone and then do your thing. At least then, the penalty is assessed on the ensuing kickoff. There’s also something to be said for acting like you’ve been there before.
Johnny Manziel’s Heisman chances: Johnny Football may soon add a Heisman Trophy to his collection. With Collin Klein throwing three interceptions in Kansas State’s loss last weekend and Kenjon Barner being a nonfactor in Oregon’s loss, Manziel may now be the front-runner. He’s the first freshman in FBS history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season and has accounted for 38 touchdowns.
Bottom of the league: Three teams are still winless in SEC play: Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. They’re a combined 0-21 in the league. The Vols have given up 306 points in their seven losses, or an average of 43.2 points per game. Kentucky has been outscored by an average of 26 points per game and Auburn by an average of 21.7 points per game in each of their seven SEC losses. Talk about some ugly numbers.
Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear: The guy is absolutely fearless. Go back and watch his hit on Tennessee’s Patterson on Saturday in the third quarter after Spear kicked off to the Vols. He came flying in and leveled Patterson, and in the process, knocked himself silly. It’s not the first big lick Spear has laid on an opposing player. He might be a kicker by trade, but he’s still a football player.
Ole Miss’ ability to finish games: If only Ole Miss could finish a game. The Rebels still have a chance to qualify for a bowl game if they can knock off Mississippi State at home this Saturday, but they should already be bowl eligible. They let another game slip away last week at LSU. That’s after also blowing late leads earlier this season against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M at home. The Rebels have overachieved in a lot of ways this season, but finishing games hasn’t been their strong suit.
Missouri’s bowl chances: The Tigers had a great opportunity last week to secure a bowl berth in their first season in the SEC, which would be a nice accomplishment given all the injuries they’ve incurred this season. But they gave up 508 yards of total offense, blew a 14-point lead and lost 31-27 at home to Syracuse, snapping an 18-game winning streak against nonconference opponents. The Tigers (5-6, 2-5) must now win at Texas A&M this Saturday to qualify for a bowl, and the red-hot Aggies are a three-touchdown favorite. The 19-15 home loss to Vanderbilt a few weeks ago was difficult enough for Missouri to digest, but losing to a Big East team at home with so much at stake will sting the most this offseason if the Tigers don’t get it done at Kyle Field this weekend.
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney