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Sunday, October 5, 2008
What We Learned in the SEC: Week 6


Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The more we watch the SEC this season, the more it looks like nobody is going to get through this league unscathed. That's not necessarily a revelation given the balance and depth of the league. The next question becomes: Is it possible that everyone has at least two losses by the time the SEC championship game is played? The guess here is that there's better than a 50-50 chance of that happening. Cannibalism in the SEC is alive and well, although a one-loss SEC champion still has an excellent chance of playing in the BCS national championship game. Here's what we learned about the SEC in Week 6:

Vanderbilt's coaching staff is gold: Vanderbilt is not a great football team. The Commodores have significantly upgraded their talent under Bobby Johnson, but they still don't have the kind of talent of marquee teams in the league. What they do have is a coaching staff that's been together for a while, a coaching staff that's outstanding at making key adjustments, a coaching staff that believes in this group of players and a coaching staff that excels at putting a prepared, disciplined football team on the field every week. Redshirt freshman linebacker Chris Marve said it best Saturday night when recounting what Johnson said to the team following the 14-13 win over Auburn. "He said he was proud of us and thanked us for working hard," Marve recounted. "We thanked him for working so much harder and believing in us. Everything we've done is because we work together cohesively."

Two-team race in the West: With Auburn having already lost twice in the SEC, the Western Division race for all intents and purposes has narrowed to a two-team race between Alabama and LSU. Those two teams meet on Nov. 8 in Baton Rouge. Auburn could still have a say in who wins it. The Tigers, of course, end the season against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. But for them to get back into the race (especially with that offense), they would need everything to go exactly their way the rest of the season. Alabama's schedule looks to be the most manageable from here on out. But the Crimson Tide, who are off this coming weekend, have been just inconsistent enough to make every game interesting. LSU is about to hit the teeth of its schedule. The Tigers travel to Florida this coming weekend, then South Carolina on Oct. 18 and come home to face Georgia on Oct. 25.

Changes at Auburn: Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville told his team following Saturday's loss to Vanderbilt that changes were coming on offense. I guess late is better than never, but how in the name of Toomer's Corner did the Tigers get to this point after being such a successful tailback-oriented, power football team under Tuberville the last few years? The spread is clearly not the answer, at least not the version of the spread the Tigers have tried to run under first-year coordinator Tony Franklin. It was telling that Franklin was not allowed to speak with reporters following the loss to Vanderbilt (neither was defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads). But you can't help but wonder what his future is with Auburn at this point. The Tigers are in shambles offensively.

Rainey, Demps to the rescue: The Gators were desperately looking for more playmakers than just Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin and seemed to find them Saturday in their 38-7 win over Arkansas, a game that wasn't nearly as lopsided as the final score indicated. Tailbacks Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps helped the Gators pull away in the fourth quarter with big plays. They each finished with more than 100 yards rushing, the first time that's happened at Florida since 1997. But most importantly, they helped jump-start a offense in the fourth quarter that even Florida coach Urban Meyer described as "awful" up until that point. This is an offense that is still searching for an identity, but the speedy combination of Rainey and Demps has all sorts of possibilities.

Kentucky is legit: Granted, the Wildcats didn't get it done Saturday in losing 17-14 to the Alabama, but they did serve notice that they're going to be around all season. This is a quality defensive football team that allowed Alabama's offense to score just one touchdown. The Crimson Tide's other touchdown came on a short fumble return. The Wildcats (4-1, 1-1 SEC) had their chances to win the game in their first real test of the season. They were that close, which is something that should drive them the rest of the way. If the offense continues to improve -- and especially when you look down the schedule -- this is a team that has a great chance to get back to a bowl game for a third straight season, something that hasn't been done at Kentucky since 1949-51 when Bear Bryant was coaching. The next two games, both at home, are critical in that quest. South Carolina comes to town this coming weekend and Arkansas on Oct. 18.