Vandy's second-half defense hot, Clawson not
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
You look around the country and see all these outrageous offensive numbers and PlayStation-like scores and wonder if the offenses in the SEC are just that ordinary, and in some case (that would be you, Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Tennessee) just that plain bad. But then you're reminded that defense in the SEC is not a lost art.
A few teams have won national championships around here lately (Florida and LSU) thanks to salty defenses. So while it hasn't been as pretty in the SEC to this point as some of the other locales around the country, it's probably premature to judge this conference based on style. With that, we go around the league with this week's edition of Hot and Not:
Vanderbilt's second-half defense: If you don't get the Commodores in the first half, you're probably not going to get them. They've outscored their five opponents in the second half this season by a 58-10 margin. The last three teams to face Vanderbilt (Auburn, Ole Miss and Rice) haven't scratched after halftime. The Commodores' secret? They're in terrific shape. Their coaching staff knows how to make the proper adjustments, and the players are smart enough and savvy enough to execute those adjustments.
Alabama in the first quarter: The 17-14 win over Kentucky was shakier than anyone at the Capstone would have liked, but the first quarter absolutely belongs to the Crimson Tide. They've outscored their opposition 88-0 in the opening quarter this season.
Auburn's offense: In four SEC games, the Tigers have scored just five offensive touchdowns. In their loss to Vanderbilt, they managed all of 82 yards of total offense over the last three quarters. That's downright offensive.
South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley: In terms of sheer accuracy, nobody has been better than Smelley. He's completing 63.1 percent of his passes and threw for a career-high 327 yards in the win over Ole Miss.
Ole Miss receiver Dexter McCluster: He lost another fumble in the vicinity of the goal line against South Carolina. It was eerily similar to the one he lost into the end zone against Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt's secondary: The Commodores picked off another pass, this one to seal the win over Auburn, and now have 11 on the season. This is not only a good secondary, but it's a talented one.
Arkansas' defense: Granted, the defense hasn't been solely responsible for all of the points. But in the last three games, Arkansas has allowed 139 points. That's ugly no matter how you slice it.
Kentucky's defense: The Wildcats made a statement against Alabama that they're for real defensively. They didn't win the game, but with the exception of the one bust early on Glen Coffee's long touchdown run, they were good enough defensively to win.
Ole Miss' defense: Tyrone Nix's defense took it on the chin against his old club. The Gamecocks racked up a season-high 405 yards and only had to punt once against an Ole Miss defense that wilted a week after spearheading the upset win at Florida.
Tennessee running back Lennon Creer: Seething is probably more like it. Who could blame him right now if he were looking to transfer? He's talented, explosive and hungry, and Tennessee wouldn't even give him a chance against Northern Illinois.
Alabama's discipline: All of a sudden, Nick Saban's guys aren't playing with the same poise. The last six quarters, going back to halftime of the Georgia game, haven't been an exhibition in doing the little things right. Alabama had 10 penalties and three turnovers in the 17-14 win over Kentucky.
Ice, Ice baby
Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson: It's a close race right now as to who's having the least fun this season -- Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin or Clawson. The introduction to the SEC has been a nightmare for Clawson. Tennessee has been a train wreck offensively. It's been different things at different times, too. The Vols have turned the ball over on their goal line and on the opposition's goal line. They've been inconsistent running the ball and are now on their second quarterback after Jonathan Crompton flopped in the first four games. Clawson has his work cut out for him if the Vols are going to turn this season around.