Sunday, November 4, 2012
What we learned in the SEC: Week 10
By Edward Aschoff
Another weekend is in the books, and here's what we learned about the SEC:
1. It's still Alabama's world: The Crimson Tide went right down to the wire with fifth-ranked LSU. Alabama was outplayed for most of the game, but when it needed a game-winning drive, AJ McCarron delivered, connecting on 4 of 5 passes for 72 yards and the decisive 28-yard touchdown on a screen pass. Now the rest of the nation has to continue looking up at the Tide. If LSU had won, the SEC's BCS world might have been turned upside-down, but now Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame are all jockeying for position to play Alabama (if the Tide can continue their winning ways). Alabama controls its own destiny not only on the path to the SEC title game but also the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami.
2. Mississippi State isn't who we thought it was: The Bulldogs might have started 7-0, but it's clear that the soft early schedule helped mask some of the offensive and defensive issues this team has. The Bulldogs were pummeled by Alabama and then routed by Texas A&M, showing glaring weaknesses in their game. The defensive line is the biggest problem -- the Bulldogs just can't get any pressure on opposing backfields. That defensive line has been pushed around, and junior college transfer defensive end Denico Autry and veteran defensive tackle Josh Boyd haven't lived up to their preseason hype. The Bulldogs are losing the battle up front, and it's hurting the rest of the defense. There's no creativity, and the aggression is minimal. The offense hasn't found any consistency or rhythm in the past two weeks, and with a tough slate remaining in November, the 10 wins we thought Mississippi State could get might not happen anymore.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is this week's big threat to Alabama's undefeated season.
3. There's some fight left in sputtering teams: Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee entered the weekend with losing records, but all found ways to win Saturday. All of them could have rolled over Saturday. Auburn was the most impressive, routing New Mexico State 42-7 behind a superb running game and new starting quarterback Jonathan Wallace. The Tigers could have stumbled through this game, but after a slow first half, Auburn scored 35 second-half points. Tennessee and Arkansas were both in dogfights Saturday. The Razorbacks slipped past Tulsa by four points, while Tennessee survived a shootout with Troy to win 55-48. Both Arkansas and Tennessee still have bowl hopes. Arkansas has to get two wins in a tough month of November, while the Vols could still get eight wins by sweeping November and getting a bowl win.
4. Johnny Manziel poses a real threat to Alabama: With the way Zach Mettenberger threw the ball around Saturday, the coming weekend's Alabama-Texas A&M game just got a lot more interesting. Mettenberger registered a career-high 298 passing yards and a touchdown. Manziel has walked all over defenses this fall and he should be able to make some plays through the air on Alabama's secondary. He should be able to run around a little bit as well. Manziel struggled against Florida and LSU, but ran through Mississippi State over the weekend. He's growing each week and the Aggies offense is getting better and better. There are some holes in Alabama's defense that weren't there last season and Manziel has the ability to exploit them. Alabama should adjust through the week, but keeping up with Manziel will be a tall task for the Tide.
5. Georgia has the talent to take the SEC: When the Bulldogs can play a complete game on the field, they are very hard to stop. We've known that both sides of the ball are loaded with talent, but neither side has been able to live up to its potential at the same time in a game. Saturday, the Dawgs did that in their 37-10 victory over Ole Miss. The offense churned out 533 yards, while the defense held the Rebels' high-flying offense to just 234 yards and forced three turnovers. If Georgia can get past Auburn and play a complete game in Atlanta, the Dawgs could take the SEC title. Could this team beat Alabama? That's yet to be seen, but the team that we saw Saturday would have a chance with an offense that could test Alabama's secondary. Mettenberger picked on the Crimson Tide defensive backs all night, and Aaron Murray has the ability and the weapons to do the same thing. When that defense is clicking it could give Alabama's offense fits.