Sunday, September 23, 2012
What we learned in the SEC: Week 4
By Edward Aschoff
It's time to take a look at what we learned from a another weekend of football in the SEC:
1. The East has a trio of legit contenders: Heading into the season, it was the SEC Western Division that had the big three. Now, it looks like the East might own that distinction. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have all been playing high-quality ball the past few weeks, and Saturday delivered us the kind of victories we needed to see from the Bulldogs and Gamecocks. We knew Florida had some real bite and fight after back-to-back road wins in tough environments; then Georgia and South Carolina dismantled their opponents at home. Georgia crushed a talented Vanderbilt team 48-3, while South Carolina ran over Missouri 31-10. The race between these three for the East crown should be very exciting this season, and it's time to seriously consider one of them having what it takes to really challenge the West winner in Atlanta.
Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense are clicking on all cylinders right now.
2. The Razorbacks are lost:Tyler Wilson's return was supposed to energize a reeling Arkansas team. Having him on the field was supposed to make this team better. But it did neither, as the Hogs lost to Rutgers 35-26 in a game that could have been worse. Again, Arkansas' defense fell apart when the Hogs needed it the most. The Razorbacks surrendered 525 yards of offense, including 397 passing yards from Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova and 128 rushing yards. The Hogs squandered an early 10-point lead and looked dazed after Rutgers made its run from the second to third quarter. Wilson threw two interceptions and the running game managed just 73 yards, including 17 from Knile Davis. This was a game Arkansas had to win, but the Hogs folded. It's clear John L. Smith isn't the motivator or leader this team needs.
3. Zach Mettenberger has to get better: If LSU is going to continue to hold the torch as a legitimate SEC/national title contender, its quarterback has to play better. Mettenberger was supposed to make LSU's offense better, especially when it came to throwing the ball, but against Auburn, in his first SEC start, he didn't exactly make LSU's offense look much different from what we saw last year. His decision-making was off, as were some of his passes. In key situations, Mettenberger couldn't deliver the drive-extending throw, as he completed 15 of 27 passes for 169 yards. The Tigers survived against an overmatched Auburn team, but against the likes of Alabama, Florida or South Carolina, LSU might not be so lucky. His field focus has to improve.
4.The Aggies' offense is dialed in: The Kevin Sumlin era in College Station has come with a bunch of points and yards. Sure, the competition since the season-opening loss to Florida hasn't been near the quality the Aggies will face in league play, but you can tell A&M players totally understand what Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury are trying to do on offense. We thought it might take a while for the Aggies to resemble Houston's old offense, but in the past two games A&M has scored 118 points and put up 1,053 yards. Fifteen of A&M's 17 touchdowns in the past two games have come from the offense, with quarterback Johnny Manziel being a part of 11 of them. The Aggies' adaptation to this new offense has been very impressive.
5. Missouri isn't fit for the SEC yet: We saw the obvious fatigue in the 41-20 loss to Georgia, and Missouri's lack of shape came to light in South Carolina's blowout win Saturday. The Tigers looked like they just didn't have the energy or strength to battle with the Gamecocks up front. Missouri managed just 109 rushing yards (averaging 3.4 yards per run) while giving up 144. Quarterback James Franklin was sacked three times and managed just 92 passing yards, as the Gamecocks made his day miserable with constant pressure. You just didn't see much fight against South Carolina. The Tigers were exhausted well before the game ended, and that's not a good thing. This team talked about size not being an issue, but it's clear that Mizzou's lines are wearing down. The Tigers haven't won the battle up front in their two SEC games (both losses).