Sunday, October 24, 2010
What we learned in the SEC: Week 8
By Chris Low
The ranks of the unbeaten in the SEC have dwindled to one.
Auburn is all that remains after a 24-17 victory over LSU Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Here’s a look at what we learned in the SEC in Week 8:
Cam Newton punished LSU with 217 rushing yards Saturday.
1. Collision course in Alabama: The Iron Bowl already is what it is -- one of the fiercest, most intense rivalries in all of college football. But with each passing week, it looks like the stakes on Nov. 26 in Tuscaloosa will be even higher this season. Auburn’s for real, and Alabama isn’t going away. They’re on a collision course to meet in a game that would send tremors across the state of Alabama. Can you imagine if Auburn is sitting there at 11-0 and Alabama at 10-1 with not only the Western Division title at stake, but also a chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game? It’s more than just a possibility if both teams keep winning. It’s now a probability with so many teams higher up in the polls losing the last few weeks (Oklahoma and Ohio State).
2. Running on the Plains: When you have a 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback/tailback with the moves, acceleration and vision that Auburn’s Cam Newton has, chances are that your running game is going to be pretty explosive. But the Tigers have taken running the football to a new level this season, and their performance Saturday in the 24-17 win over LSU left just about everybody speechless. Auburn finished with 440 rushing yards, the most it’s ever gained against an SEC opponent. And this wasn’t just any SEC defense, either. LSU was sixth nationally against the run coming into the game, giving up just 83.6 yards per game and only 2.4 yards per carry. Newton came close to blowing that average out of the water on one run, his magical 49-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter that had Heisman Trophy written all over it. Auburn had 12 runs of 10 yards or longer, which was a season high. Moreover, the 440 rushing yards were the most LSU has allowed in the last decade. Here’s the other thing: It doesn’t look like an Auburn rushing attack that’s showing any signs of wearing down as we approach November. If anything, the Tigers are getting stronger.
3. Downright offensive: How did LSU’s offense get this bad? Granted, the Tigers weren’t very good last season, but there’s no excuse for being this limited, this dysfunctional and this ineffective offensively two years in a row. The Tigers have run the ball well at times this season with Stevan Ridley leading the charge. But when they have to throw the ball to beat somebody, they’re in big trouble. We saw that again Saturday in the 24-17 loss to Auburn. They finished with 128 passing yards, which is deceiving. Running back Spencer Ware had 39 of those on a trick play when he gathered in a throwback pass and lofted the Tigers’ only touchdown pass of the game. Jordan Jefferson finished with 46 passing yards and Jarrett Lee 43 passing yards, and neither one of them had a completion longer than 12 yards all day.
4. Art of receiving: If you haven’t noticed, the receivers in this league are something special, and what Alabama’s Julio Jones has done the last couple of weeks is nothing short of amazing. He underwent surgery on his fractured left hand following the South Carolina game. Not only has he not missed any games, but he’s barely even missed any practice time. In Alabama’s 41-10 rout of Tennessee on Saturday, Jones set a school record with 221 receiving yards on 12 catches, and several of those were across the middle where he took big blows. He’s easily one of the toughest players in this league and the essence of what a football player should be. He’s hardly the only great receiver in this league, though. How do you pick just two All-SEC receivers on the first team this season? South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery lit it up again with nine catches for 158 yards against Vanderbilt. Kentucky’s Randall Cobb had an off night against Georgia, but he’s still one of the best players in this league. Arkansas’ Greg Childs is as good as it gets, and his teammate, Joe Adams, is terrific in the open field. It’s safe to say that Georgia’s A.J. Green has made a difference in the Bulldogs’ offense since he’s been back, and don’t forget about Auburn’s Darvin Adams, either.
5. Georgia on my mind: After Georgia beat up on Tennessee and Vanderbilt the way the Bulldogs did, it was only natural to say, “It was just Tennessee and Vanderbilt.” But the Bulldogs went on the road Saturday and won comfortably over a Kentucky team that had just beaten South Carolina the week before. That’s three wins in a row now for Mark Richt’s club, and there’s no question the Bulldogs are playing their best football of the season. Richt deserves a ton of credit for keeping this team together during the four-game losing streak. The Bulldogs made some adjustments, tweaked their personnel and got their best player (A.J. Green) back. Now, they’re right there in the middle of the East race again. The complexion of their season could change entirely next weekend in Jacksonville if they can beat Florida. The Bulldogs have scored 40 or more points in their last three games. They’re running the ball better. Their offensive line is playing now like everyone expected when the season began, and this is a team that has a chance to make something of a season that looked like it was in the tank to start this month.