What we learned in the SEC: Week 4
September, 27, 2009
By Chris Low | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
A month into the season, the pecking order in the SEC is starting to take shape. And at this point, it’s hard to argue that Alabama isn’t the best team in the league.
What a scary moment involving Florida’s Tim Tebow in the Gators’ 41-7 win over Kentucky. Thankfully, it looks like he’s going to be OK.
Here’s a look at what all we learned in Week 4:
1. Tebow is human after all: No matter who your allegiances are to, I think I speak for the entire conference when I say we’re all relieved to hear that Tim Tebow has been released from the hospital in Lexington, Ky. He’s been such a warrior and plays the game with such a ferocity, but seeing the vicious blindside hit he took is a reminder of how fleeting this game can be. It’s the kind of shot we haven’t seen Tebow take often during his career. He’s usually the one delivering the blow. But on this one, he was in the pocket and never saw Kentucky’s Taylor Wyndham coming. What’s important is that Tebow is OK. Seeing his neck snap back the way it did after hitting Marcus Gilbert’s knee was as frightening as it gets.
But as we all keep our fingers crossed that he won’t have any complications with the concussion, a fair question becomes: Why was he still in the game? The Gators were leading 31-7 with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter when he was hurt. He was already sick, as were several of the Florida players. Urban Meyer’s mentality is that the game is never over until it’s over, and I understand that. But this isn’t the first time Tebow has still been on the field when the outcome had long since been decided. It’s a fine line for any coach on when to pull a star player. But what’s that old saying about playing with fire?
2. Alabama, Florida on collision course: As the calendar flips to October, two teams in the SEC have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. And they may be the two best teams in the country. Alabama and Florida appear headed for a rematch of last season’s classic showdown between the two in the SEC Championship Game. They’re clearly the class of this league right now, and while that doesn’t mean they don’t both have some holes, they’re the two teams everybody else is gunning for. That second tier of teams in the SEC is bunched up together, and depending on the week, could include any number of teams. They’re all pretty close, and they all are capable of rising up and knocking off the Gators or Crimson Tide if they play an ‘A’ game. Right now, that group includes, in alphabetical order, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and South Carolina with Arkansas and Tennessee hanging around on the fringe.
3. Something’s not right at Arkansas: It’s obvious to everyone after watching the Hogs give up 87 points in their last two games that they have issues on defense. Even though they played better against the run in the 35-7 loss to Alabama, this is a team that’s going to struggle to stop teams all season. But the deeper issues may lie in some of Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino’s comments after the game. When’s the last time you heard an SEC coach say publicly that his team didn’t believe it could win the game? That’s exactly what Petrino said following the Hogs’ loss to the No. 3-ranked Crimson Tide, and he readily took the blame for that defeatist attitude. Still, if that’s the case in the third game of the season when there was so much hope and optimism surrounding this team back in August, what’s that mean for the rest of the season? With a brutal schedule remaining, Petrino has his work cut out to get this team back on track.
4. Overrated until proven otherwise: LSU and Ole Miss are both overrated. There’s no other way to say it. The difference between the two teams is that LSU is overrated and still unbeaten. Ole Miss is overrated and coming off a loss in its SEC opener. LSU coach Les Miles called the Tigers “vulnerable” following their 30-26 escape at Mississippi State, and he’s right. I’d go as far as to say they’re very beatable unless they find their running game and start playing with more consistency in all areas. And until Ole Miss gets its issues straightened out on offense, namely its pass protection and a passing game in general that’s gone south thanks to Jevan Snead’s slow start, the Rebels are also a team that looks extremely beatable and nothing like a top 10 team nationally.
5. Dueling quarterbacks in Alabama: The two quarterbacks in the state of Alabama are playing some pretty swell football right now. Between them, Alabama’s Greg McElroy and Auburn’s Chris Todd have combined for 18 touchdown passes and two interceptions while throwing for 1,950 yards. Of course, the most important statistic is that their two teams have combined for eight wins and no losses. Their play through four games has been infectious. The better they’ve performed, the better everybody else around them has performed. Look at the way they’ve been able to get so many different people involved in the passing game, too. At the end of last season, neither was a sure bet to even be the starter at his school. But four games in, they’ve been two of the best three quarterbacks in the league and a big reason why the Crimson Tide and Tigers both go into October unscathed.