- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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Are we really a week away from the midway point of the season?
Time flies when you’re having fun, and it’s always a lot of fun to gauge the temperature in this league with our weekly Hot and Not thermometer:
Alabama’s offensive line: If you enjoy watching old-school, hit-'em-in-the-mouth football, then you absolutely love watching Alabama play offense. The Crimson Tide don’t do much of anything fancy, but they come off the ball on every down and keep pounding until the other team’s spirit breaks. They also have the ultimate weapon in the backfield (Trent Richardson) and are really starting to settle in as a unit right now up front. The two veterans -- left tackle Barrett Jones and center William Vlachos -- are both playing at an extremely high level. Vlachos was a man inside against the interior of that Florida defense last Saturday, and he’s also a reminder that it’s not about how good you look physically or what kind of frame you have, but how well you play, how smart you play and the leverage you play with.
Alabama’s run defense: Good luck in trying to run the ball against this bunch. The Crimson Tide lead the country in rushing defense, allowing just 39.6 yards per game. That’s nearly 20 yards fewer than the No. 2 team nationally (Virginia Tech). Alabama held Florida to 15 rushing yards on 29 attempts. That's after after holding Arkansas to 17 yards on 19 attempts the week before.
Kentucky’s offense: The only two FBS teams ranked lower than Kentucky in total offense are Florida Atlantic and Kent State. That’s not the kind of company you want to be keeping. The Wildcats are averaging 255.6 yards in total offense and have been limited to nine touchdowns in five games. In their 35-7 loss to LSU last Saturday, they managed just 155 yards and only had 59 through three quarters.
Arkansas’ pride: The Hogs were already coming off a deflating loss at Alabama where they got pushed around physically. The same thing happened in the first half last Saturday against Texas A&M, but Arkansas showed some serious grit and determination in rallying from an 18-point deficit at the half to win a game that tells you all you need to know about the level of pride in the Hogs’ program.
Georgia outside linebacker Cornelius Washington: He’s coming off the best game of his career against Mississippi State and figures to play a key role this coming Saturday against Tennessee’s passing game. So what does he do to celebrate? He goes out and gets arrested on DUI charges and will now be watching the Vols’ game from home.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray: Try finding a hotter passer over the past 10 games than Bray. He leads the SEC this season with 14 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in four games. Over his past 10 games dating to last season, Bray has thrown 32 touchdown passes. Now, that’s what you call slinging it.
Marcus Lattimore against Auburn: Even the great running backs aren’t going to have big games every week in this league. That said, Auburn seems to have Lattimore’s number. In three games against the Tigers, Lattimore is averaging just 61 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry. He didn’t have a run longer than 15 yards in last Saturday’s 16-13 loss to the Tigers.
LSU’s defensive fury: The Tigers don’t just try to stop people on defense. They try to dismantle them. Through five games, LSU has forced 12 turnovers and also has 12 sacks and is tied for the lead nationally with 44 tackles for loss. John Chavis’ group is a load to move the ball against, but the Tigers are even better when it comes to taking the ball away and creating negative plays.
Belief in Auburn: Obviously, those on the Plains are the only ones who have any genuine belief in this Auburn football team. The Tigers are reveling in proving the “haters” wrong. They’re coming off a huge win at South Carolina and continue to be masterful at finding ways to win. Gene Chizik has now won his past 10 games that were decided by a touchdown or less.
South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia: It’s not often that somebody makes a repeat appearance in the “freezer burn” section of Hot and Not. But how do you get around it with Garcia, who’s now thrown 14 interceptions in his past seven games dating to last season? Steve Spurrier was going to hang with Garcia as long as the Gamecocks kept hanging on to win. But now that they’ve lost, it looks like Garcia will be watching the next game from the sideline. The Head Ball Coach is apparently going to give sophomore Connor Shaw a chance. It’s unfair to place all of the blame for the Gamecocks’ offensive struggles on Garcia's shoulders. But to be a fifth-year senior, he’s made some inexplicable decisions and some even worse throws. Even the routine throws have become an adventure. It was a gamble to bring Garcia back in the first place after five suspensions. You wonder now if the Head Ball Coach wishes he’d never rolled those dice.
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1dSam Khan Jr.