Monday, September 24, 2012
Hot and Not in the SEC
By Chris Low
It’s getting cooler outside, but in the SEC, the heat is always rising.
Let's take our weekly look at who's hot and who's not.
Rising in the East: When is the last time three Eastern Division teams were ranked among the top 11 teams in the country? It's been a while, and it's been a while since the East was this strong. Those "least of the East" jokes seem like a distant memory. Georgia is No. 5 this week, South Carolina No. 6 and Florida No. 11. The common denominator with all three is that they are playing excellent defense and smothering teams in the second half. The Bulldogs have given up 23 second-half points. The Gamecocks have allowed just 20 second-half points, and the Gators have been even stingier after the break, yielding just 13 points, including zero in the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss' running game: The Rebels lead the SEC and are 11th nationally in rushing offense with an average of 259.8 yards per game. They had 304 yards on the ground last week in the 39-0 win at Tulane.
Can Gary Pinkel find a way to get his Missouri squad headed in the right direction in the SEC?
Missouri's chemistry: Something's not right with this football team. The Tigers all but rolled over and played dead in the second half of their 31-10 loss to South Carolina. This season could unravel in a hurry if coach Gary Pinkel and the leaders on this team don't get everybody pointed in the same direction.
Tennessee safety Byron Moore: The Vols need all the help they can get in the secondary with their best player, Brian Randolph, lost for the season. Moore had two interceptions and a pass breakup in the 47-26 win over Akron.
LSU's offense: Yes, the Tigers have a championship-caliber defense. Nothing has changed there. But they have to get a lot better and a lot more consistent on offense if they're going to get back to the BCS National Championship Game this season. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger struggled down the stretch Saturday in the 12-10 escape at Auburn, but LSU's offensive line struggled to protect him and his wide receivers didn't help him by making any big plays down the field.
Mississippi State's secondary: The Bulldogs are flat getting it done right now in the defensive backfield. Their two starting cornerbacks, Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks, have already combined for seven interceptions. In its first four games, Mississippi State has given up just two touchdown passes while intercepting nine.
Auburn's start: The Tigers played their fannies off Saturday in the 12-10 loss to LSU. Give them credit for that, and give Gene Chizik credit for having his guys ready. But the only thing they see on the Plains is that 1-3 record. It's the first time in school history that Auburn has suffered three losses before Oct. 1.
Texas A&M punter Ryan Epperson:Johnny Manziel and that Texas A&M offense are lighting it up, not to mention an Aggies defense that leads the SEC with 16 sacks in three games. But let's not forget the special teams. Epperson is booming the football. He is third nationally in punting and averaging 47.6 yards per kick.
Vanderbilt's quarterback carousel: It's hard to figure what's going on at quarterback at Vanderbilt. Coach James Franklin says he is looking for someone to take hold of the position after starting Jordan Rodgers the first two games, playing Austyn Carta-Samuels the whole way in the 58-0 rout of Presbyterian and coming back with Rodgers last Saturday in the 48-3 beatdown by Georgia. In their three games against Football Bowl Subdivision foes this season, the Commodores have yet to score a second-half touchdown.
Woo Pig Sooie: We can officially say it. When Bobby Petrino wrecked his motorcycle in that ditch in April, he might as well have wrecked the Hogs' season. This is quickly going down as one of the biggest collapses in recent SEC history. With its loss Saturday to Rutgers, Arkansas is 1-3 with its lone win coming over Football Championship Subdivision foe Jacksonville State. This is a team that started the season ranked in the top 10, and at this point, it's difficult to see the Hogs even making a bowl game. Keep in mind that they have yet to play a road game, but that's about to change with back-to-back trips to Texas A&M and Auburn. This thing has completely gotten away from interim coach John L. Smith, and the Hogs' defense has hit rock bottom. Watching them try to tackle and cover has been a horror show.