- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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It’s Monday morning, which means in the world of SEC football it’s time to take a closer look at who’s hot and who’s not:
South Carolina’s ascent: Don't blink. The nation’s longest win streak belongs to South Carolina, which is No. 3 in both polls this week and has won 10 straight games going back to last season. This is the same South Carolina program that had never won more than 10 games in a season until last year. Only four times in school history have the Gamecocks won more than eight games in a season. Steve Spurrier has done it each of the past two seasons and has this program pointed in a direction that South Carolina fans only dreamed about as recently as a decade ago. South Carolina manhandled then-No. 5 Georgia 35-7 last Saturday, which was the Gamecocks’ third conquest over a nationally ranked team during their winning streak. This is South Carolina’s highest ranking in the polls since 1984, when the Gamecocks started 9-0 and climbed to No. 2 before being upset by Navy. South Carolina also has won three in a row over Georgia for the first time. In fact, the Gamecocks have only 17 wins over the Bulldogs in a series that spans 65 games. Spurrier is responsible for four of those wins.
Arkansas’ defense: The Hogs have been scalded for much of this season for playing matador defense, so let’s give them a little love for manning up and laying the hammer down on Auburn last week. Arkansas had eight sacks and forced five turnovers in a 24-7 beatdown of the Tigers, who were held to 40 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
“Gurshall”: It’s a pretty cool nickname, and Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are still splendid freshman running backs. But the whole “Gurshall” train came to a screeching halt last Saturday thanks to South Carolina’s smothering defense. Gurley and Marshall combined for 76 rushing yards on 25 carries, and their longest run was a 15-yarder by Gurley.
Stingy defenses: With all this talk about scoring being up, it’s also worth noting that five of the top 15 scoring defenses in the country belong to SEC teams. Alabama is first (7 ppg). South Carolina is fourth (10.5 ppg). Then it’s Florida sixth (11.4 ppg), LSU tied for eighth (12.8) and Texas A&M 14th (14.8).
Knucklehead fans: Fans are going to be fans and call for coaches’ jobs, be critical of players and generally live on the edge. But the losers who rolled and egged the house shared by Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Christian Robinson ought to have to suit up and go through practice with the Bulldogs this week. Geez, get a life.
Florida’s defense: In its past four games, all SEC tilts, Florida has allowed a total of 13 second-half points. The Gators haven’t given up any points after the break in their past two games and still haven’t allowed any fourth-quarter points this season. This defense is playing at a championship level.
Richt’s record vs. ranked teams: The 35-7 loss to South Carolina was Georgia coach Mark Richt’s third straight loss to a nationally ranked team going back to last season. He now has lost eight of his past 10 games to ranked teams dating to the start of the 2010 season.
Missouri’s locker room: Following the 19-15 home loss to Vanderbilt last Saturday, the Missouri locker room (or anywhere in the vicinity) was no place for the squeamish. It was a locker room boiling over with frustration, embarrassment and raw anger over what has happened to the Tigers, who are 0-3 in the SEC and seemingly getting worse by the week. Now, they’re without injured quarterback James Franklin and get No. 1 Alabama next. You might want to cover your ears if you find yourself anywhere close to the Missouri locker room this Saturday.
LSU’s offense: It’s not all on quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who’s clearly struggling. It’s also not all on LSU’s offensive line, which has had its own struggles since losing left tackle Chris Faulk to a knee injury. It’s really pretty much everything right now offensively for the Tigers, and nothing seems to be working. They’ve scored exactly 18 points in two SEC games, and even with a defense as good as LSU’s, that’s not going to cut it in this league.
Auburn’s season: At this point, it’s difficult to see Auburn salvaging a winning season out of what has become a real stinker on the Plains. The Tigers, after barely putting up a fight last week at home in a 24-7 loss to Arkansas, are now 1-4 with back-to-back road games upcoming at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. How far have the Tigers fallen? This is how far: They’re an underdog this week to an Ole Miss team that has lost 16 straight SEC games. Auburn coach Gene Chizik apologized to the “Auburn family” following the loss to Arkansas. It’s only fair to wonder how fractured that family is right now and where this all leads. This Auburn offense rates up there with that 2008 offense in terms of ineptitude, and that’s saying something. It’s not a lot of fun right now on the Plains. But if the Tigers manage to lose these next two against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, it will be utter misery.
23mSam Khan Jr.
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