Sunday, October 7, 2012
What we learned in the SEC: Week 6
By Edward Aschoff
Two teams in the SEC East made major statements Saturday:
1. Florida and South Carolina have great defenses: There's no question that it appears the road to Atlanta for the SEC East will go through Gainesville, Fla., and Columbia, S.C. Florida might have won by eight against LSU, but the Gators' defense totally dominated LSU's offense. Florida was at its best when LSU had the ball, allowing just 200 yards of offense and two field goals. LSU had five three-and-outs in the first half and crossed into Florida territory just once in the second half. LSU converted just 1 of 13 third downs and had nine first downs. As for South Carolina, the Gamecocks overpowered Georgia in every phase of the game in their 35-7 win, but the defense manhandled Georgia. South Carolina held Georgia to 224 yards of offense and kept quarterback Aaron Murray in check with loads of pressure. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were swallowed up by the Gamecocks' defense, combining for just 76 yards on 25 carries. South Carolina's front seven was outstanding all night and made things very easy for the secondary.
Zach Mettenberger had his worst game of the season against Florida, completing just 44 percent of his passes and throwing a pick.
2. LSU and Auburn need major offensive adjustments: Both sets of Tigers were atrocious on offense this weekend. Florida's defense absolutely smothered LSU, allowing just 200 total yards and two field goals, while Auburn generated just 321 yards and seven points against the SEC's worst defense in Arkansas. Auburn averaged just 1.3 yards per rush, and LSU ran for just 42 yards against the Gators. A lot of what these Tigers are doing isn't working offensively, and it starts with quarterbacks. Timing is off, and execution is mediocre at best. Credit has to be given to both defenses they faced, but the way these teams are playing when they have the ball is just bad all around. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger looks nothing like the quarterback who took the field to start the season, while Kiehl Frazier was eventually benched for Clint Moseley on Saturday.
3. Murray still has big-game problems: Coming into the season, Georgia's veteran quarterback had the stigma that he couldn't win the big game. That stigma will remain after the way he played in the Bulldogs' blowout loss to South Carolina. The SEC's most efficient quarterback left Williams-Brice Stadium after connecting on 11 of his 31 passes for 109 yards and an interception. He continues to be the only Georgia quarterback under Mark Richt who has yet to beat a top-10 team in his career. For as good as Murray has been, he struggles on the big stage, as his only wins over Top 25 teams came last year against No. 20 Auburn and No. 23 Georgia Tech. Murray never looked comfortable with all that South Carolina pressure bearing down on him, but he also pressed on a lot of throws, constantly missing receivers. The mental side of things continues to work against Murray on the big stage.
4. Alabama's real challenger is in the East: With what Florida and South Carolina did Saturday, it's become pretty obvious that those two teams are Alabama's biggest challengers. Neither has a very flashy offense, but in this league, the really good teams win with their defenses. Both have smothering defenses and when their offenses do get the ball, they're pretty efficient and balanced for the most part. Alabama's offense could have issues with both defenses. The Crimson Tide have to make it to the SEC championship if they want a chance to play one of these two teams, but with the way Alabama has been rolling and with LSU having major offensive problems, getting there might be inevitable. Keep an eye on Mississippi State as well. The Bulldogs are undefeated, and a win over Tennessee could make their matchup with Alabama a must-see game.
5. Texas A&M and Missouri couldn't be any further apart: We all assumed that Texas A&M would be the team struggling in its new home. With a lot of roster movement and a new coaching staff, the Aggies were supposed to be playing catch-up in their first season in the SEC. Missouri, which had a lot of vets coming back and was supposedly loaded with explosive offensive talent, was going to really compete in the SEC East. Well, after six weeks, Texas A&M has become the darling of the league with a 2-1 SEC record, and Mizzou is now 0-3 in league play. Texas A&M is winning with a flashy offense and superb quarterback play, while the Tigers are losing because they are getting outmuscled and outplayed and can't get consistent quarterback play. Mizzou now has to take on No. 1 Alabama, while the Aggies travel to Louisiana Tech before taking on LSU at home. A&M could really make things interesting with LSU.