- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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The regular season in the SEC has come and gone, but our hot/not meter is still working overtime:
SEC championship game stakes: It’s a lot like it was back in 2008 and 2009 when Alabama and Florida met in the league championship game for the right to play in the BCS National Championship Game. The only difference is that Alabama is No. 2 and Georgia No. 3 this year in the BCS standings. In 2008, Alabama was No. 1 and Florida No. 4 heading into the SEC championship game. And in 2009, Florida was No. 1 and Alabama No. 2. This will be the first time that Alabama and Georgia have met in the SEC championship game. In fact, they’ve only met a total of six times since the league expanded in 1992 and split into two divisions.
Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy: His 180-yard rushing performance in the 55-21 win over Wake Forest pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season. Stacy has 1,034 rushing yards and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He’s one of only nine players in the SEC over the past decade to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, joining the likes of Carnell Williams, Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Knowshon Moreno.
Bobby Petrino’s SEC chances: There are some rumblings at Auburn that Petrino could be a candidate to replace Gene Chizik, who was fired Sunday. But that’s more talk than it is anything. Petrino’s not going to find many, if any, open doors to return to the SEC as a head coach, and at this point, isn’t a serious candidate at any of the four schools looking for a head coach. The school presidents and chancellors simply aren't going to let it happen.
Jarvis Landry’s catch: The LSU receivers took their share of grief during the first part of the season for not getting open and not making enough big plays. But Landry’s twisting, one-handed stab in the back of the end zone in the 20-13 win over Arkansas might have been the catch of the year in college football. Good luck in finding a better one.
ACC power: Yes, this is an SEC blog, but how much has the SEC owned the ACC this season? The SEC was 4-0 against the ACC last weekend with Florida beating Florida State on the road and South Carolina taking down Clemson on the road in games where the Gators and Gamecocks were both underdogs. Go back to the start of the season, too. Tennessee, which suffered through its third straight losing season, beat North Carolina State by two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, and one of the worst Auburn teams in history played Clemson to the wire the next night in Atlanta.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier: The Head Ball Coach joined Bear Bryant this past weekend in becoming the only two coaches in SEC history to top the wins list at two league schools. Spurrier won his 65th game at South Carolina, and it couldn’t have been sweeter for the Gamecocks. They defeated bitter rival Clemson 27-17 to end the Tigers’ 13-game home winning streak and give South Carolina four straight wins in the series for the first time since 1951-54. The Gamecocks have now won at least 10 games in each of the past two seasons. Prior to the 2011 season, they’d won 10 games in a season only one other time in school history (1984). Spurrier is also the all-time winningest coach at Florida with 122 wins. Bryant won 232 games at Alabama and 60 at Kentucky.
Florida’s respect: It’s hard to argue with Will Muschamp’s assessment following Florida’s win over Florida State. The Gators, based on what they’ve accomplished this season, are as deserving as anyone to be playing for the national championship. Their résumé is better than anybody else’s in college football with wins over No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 10 South Carolina and No. 13 Florida State. Their only loss was a close one (17-9) to No. 3 Georgia. The Gators have made a living of winning ugly in some games, but their body of work speaks for itself.
The school down south: Give Dan Mullen his due. He’s as responsible as anyone for spicing up the Mississippi State-Ole Miss rivalry with the way he’s gone after Ole Miss and referred to the Rebels as the “school up north.” For three years in a row, Mullen and the Bulldogs beat up on the Rebels and then rubbed the Egg Bowl trophy in their faces, at least figuratively speaking. Now, it’s Ole Miss’ turn to do some crowing after blasting the “school down south” 41-24 last Saturday in a game the Rebels dominated in the second half. It was a huge win for Hugh Freeze in his first season as Ole Miss coach and says volumes about the direction in which the Rebels are headed. They could easily be 9-3 right now instead of 6-6 if they had finished the Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and LSU games the way they finished the Bulldogs. Mississippi State’s disappointing finish to the season will put a damper on the Bulldogs’ 8-4 record. They wound up losing four of their last five games, and all four losses were by at least 17 points. Their only win over an FBS team that finished the regular season with a winning record came over Middle Tennessee.