- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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With the 2012 regular season now in our rearview mirror, let’s take a look at what we learned in the SEC in Week 13:
1. Play-in game is set: Alabama and Georgia both did their part on Saturday with blowout wins over rivals. Alabama thumped Auburn 49-0, while Georgia routed Georgia Tech 42-7. What that means is that a lot more than just the SEC championship will be at stake on Saturday in the SEC championship game. The winner will earn a spot in the Discover BCS National Championship Game to face Notre Dame, which beat USC on Saturday night and will remain No. 1 in the BCS standings. So in other words, the SEC championship game becomes a play-in game for the right to play for the national championship. It’s similar to both of the 2008 and 2009 SEC championship games, when Alabama and Florida squared off in back-to-back years in Atlanta. This is the first time that Alabama has faced somebody other than Florida in the SEC championship game.
2. Conquering quarterbacks: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel made one final compelling argument for the Heisman Trophy with five more touchdowns in the Aggies’ 59-29 battering of Missouri. He’s accounted for 43 touchdowns this season and set an SEC record with 4,600 yards of total offense. He has six games this season with at least two touchdowns rushing and two touchdowns passing. Nobody else has more than three. He’s only a redshirt freshman, but Manziel has put up Heisman numbers all season. At this point, it would seem like it’s his trophy to lose. And while we’re on the subject of SEC quarterbacks, Georgia’s Aaron Murray deserves some props, too. He became the first quarterback in SEC history to pass for 3,000 yards in three straight seasons. Murray threw two more touchdown passes Saturday and now has 89 for his career, tying him with Peyton Manning for second on the SEC career chart. Florida’s Danny Wuerffel holds the record with 114 career touchdown passes.
3. Chizik era is over: Two years removed from winning a national championship at Auburn, Gene Chizik is on his way out as coach. An announcement could come as early as Sunday or Monday. Auburn was drubbed 49-0 by Alabama on Saturday, the second most lopsided Iron Bowl in history. The Tigers looked like they wanted to be anywhere but Bryant-Denny Stadium, another telling indictment against Chizik and how far this program has fallen in just two years. The Tigers have lost 10 straight SEC games dating back to last season and finished winless in the SEC for the first time since 1980. One of the names sure to be mentioned as a possible replacement for Chizik is former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who’s in his first season as the Arkansas State head coach. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart could also be a potential target for Auburn.
4. Tight race for coach of the year honors: How do you pick just one SEC Coach of the Year? There are at least four coaches who deserve serious consideration. Take a look at what Kevin Sumlin has done in his first season at Texas A&M and the Aggies’ first season in the SEC. As soon as you think Sumlin is the guy, you realize that Florida's Will Muschamp has also done an amazing job. The Gators are 11-1 in his second season in Gainesville and have the best overall resume in college football with four wins over top-10 teams. Who had Ole Miss being bowl eligible in Hugh Freeze’s first season as coach? The Rebels whipped bitter rival Mississippi State on Saturday to qualify for a bowl. This is the same Ole Miss team that entered the season on a 14-game SEC losing streak and behind the eight-ball in scholarship numbers. Finally, anybody notice that Vanderbilt has eight wins and is headed back to a bowl game for the second year in a row? James Franklin is enough of a commodity that Vanderbilt is prepared to pay some serious cash to keep him. Good luck in picking this year’s SEC Coach of the Year.
5. Spurrier owns Clemson: During the course of his Hall of Fame career, Steve Spurrier has owned more than a few teams and more than a few coaches. He might as well start paying taxes on Dabo Swinney and Clemson. Not only did South Carolina beat Clemson 27-17 on Saturday for the fourth straight time -- the first time that’s happened in the series since 1951-54 -- but the Gamecocks won it with their backup quarterback, Dylan Thompson, going the whole way and passing for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Starter Connor Shaw missed the game with a sprained foot. Consider, too, that South Carolina snapped Clemson’s 13-game home winning streak and won for the second year in a row with its best player, running back Marcus Lattimore, out of the lineup. Lattimore also missed last season’s game with a knee injury. Think we’ll hear any “Real Carolina” rants from Swinney this week?
9hJosh Moyer and Dan Murphy