Random thoughts from around the SEC after week eleven of the college football season:
Alabama: Nearly 120 minutes of bad football finally catches up to the Tide, who ought to feel relieved they don't sit at 8-2. AJ McCarron played poorly yet again, and all of the Heisman talk looks laughable now; McCarron hasn't even been a competent game manager for much of the past two weekends. Does 'Bama have an offensive coordinator who can get the job done in big situations? The answer is arguably no, and the loss of Jim McElwain has loomed large in terms of playcalling. Defense played hard, but it looks like this is a unit finally being exposed in the stretch run. The good news for 'Bama is that, with a K-State loss to Texas and a Notre Dame loss to USC -- no major shocker in either scenario -- the SEC Championship Game suddenly becomes a national championship play-in game. Bad news for the Tide? If 'Bama keeps playing like they have the past two weeks, odds are low that they can successfully navigate through either Atlanta or Miami.
Arkansas: Hogs kept it reasonably competitive in the first half in Columbia, but ultimately faltered down the stretch. Tyler Wilson struggled with the South Carolina pass rush, and Knile Davis didn't play, which only added another blow to his already miserable season. With the loss, Arkansas drops to 4-6 and will not reach a bowl unless they find a way to pull upsets of both Mississippi State and LSU, so the Hogs will be getting an early start on the winter strength and conditioning program.
Auburn: Another week and another laughable loss for the Tigers, who fall 38-0 in Jordan-Hare Stadium to Georgia. Jonathan Wallace posted a decent stat line, but the zero points on the scoreboard is telling, and for the most part he had a lot of dink and dunk completions which proved only to inflate the box score. Gene Chizik insists that he hasn't lost he team, which is demonstrably untrue, but even if that weren't the case it's irrelevant because his termination is imminent. 'Bama fans and other Auburn detractors may as well enjoy the on-field struggles, because the odds are you will never again see another AU team this bad. Bottom line for Auburn is what we knew it was weeks ago: 3-9 overall, 0-8 in the SEC, and the entire staff is getting fired.
Florida: Far be it from an Alabama blogger to denigrate a performance against a directional Louisiana school, but the Gators just look badly out of gas with the offense grinding to a halt. Ankle injury to Jeff Driskell almost doomed the entire team, and for now it's just a matter of whether Florida can knock off Florida State and reach a BCS game. FSU has issues in their own right, but by all accounts the Gators will have to play much better if they are going to get the job done in Tallahassee.
Georgia: Mark Richt may have lost control of the swingset, but Georgia hammers Auburn for the second year in a row to clinch the SEC East. Dawgs kept the first-team defense on the field late to secure the shutout, which probably says more about UGA trying to create a certain tone and mentality more than anything else. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall went over 100 yards each, despite only combining for 19 carries. Vegas will most likely not bet against the Tide, but given the 'Bama struggles of late, Georgia is probably the on-field favorite in Atlanta even if not in the sports books.
LSU: Bayou Bengals rebound with a much-needed win in Tiger Stadium over Mississippi State, though outside of Death Valley the Texas A&M upset of top-ranked Alabama may have harmed their bowl standing. Running game never got going, but Zach Mettenberger responded with another big night, going 19-30 for 273 yards and two touchdowns. With Ole Miss and Arkansas on the schedule to close out the regular season, LSU should have no real issue finishing up 10-2, but again bowl seeding could be tricky. Bayou Bengals may be on the outside of the BCS looking in even if 'Bama can knock off Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Ole Miss: Rebels lose in a heartbreaker in Oxford after surrendering a 23-6 second half lead to Vanderbilt, and that slip-up may cost Colonel Reb a bowl game. Bo Wallace with another big night, going 31-49 for 403 yards, but the running game never got going, and that was one of the reasons they were unable to protect the lead in the second half. Strange end of game sequence on the game-winning touchdown pass, with the Ole Miss corner seemingly stopping mid-play when he apparently thought the play was blown dead due to a flag. Rebels now need an upset of LSU or Mississippi State to reach Shreveport or Birmingham in late December.
Mississippi State: Three game gauntlet for the Bullies ends with three losses by a combined total of 76 points. Again, with three blowout losses against quality opponents and seven easy wins over cupcakes, State has done nothing if not prove that they would make a fine Sun Belt program. MSU fought hard in Baton Rouge, and the game was a bit closer than the final scoreboard indicated, but nevertheless another big loss. Strong showing from Chad Bumphis, but the injury to LaDarius Perkins is a concern. Wonder if Mullen is still touting that big win over Auburn? See you in the Music City Bowl, Dan.
Missouri: The Mizzou spread passing attack finally comes to life against the hapless Tennessee defense, and Kendial Lawrence has a career day in Knoxville to aid the second half rally. Dorial Green-Beckham has largely been a non-factor in his true freshman campaign, but his 25-yard touchdown catch in the closing seconds is probably the play of the year for Missouri. With the win, Mizzou improves to 5-5 with games left against Syracuse and Texas A&M, and suddenly there is an outside chance of bowl eligiblity. Traffic on FireGaryPinkel.com will slow slightly this week.
South Carolina: Gamecocks had no running game in the absence of Marcus Lattimore, gaining only 104 yards on 41 carries, but Connor Shaw had a big day and South Carolina disposed of the Hogs in relative ease. D.J. Swearinger played a whale of a game. At 8-2, the Gamecocks look to be in trouble in terms of bowl seeding -- in all likelihood the number three team in the SEC East -- and the season finale against Clemson will prove big. If the Gamecocks falter on the road against Dabo and company, Carolina will probably end up in either the Peach Bowl or the Gator Bowl.
Tennessee: Volunteers crumble yet again in the second half, surrendering a two touchdown lead in the final twenty minutes before ultimately falling in four overtimes to Missouri. Derek Dooley was likely fired regardless of the outcome, but the loss to 4-5 Missouri only secures his fate. Yet again the Tennessee offense generally lived up to the hype, but the non-existent defense proved to be the Achilles heel, and in fairness the Vol offense was its own worst enemy late, going three-and-out and failing to protect the one touchdown lead with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Career day for Mychal Rivera, arguably the best tight end in the SEC, who had 10 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. Somewhat easy to blame Dooley for not kicking the 35-yard field goal in 4OT, but given how bad the Tennessee kicking game has been, I too would have sent Bray on the field for 4th and 3. Thousands of empty seats yet again in Neyland Stadium. Said it last week and will say it again this week: Tennessee needs a big hire in the worst way possible.
Texas A&M: Aggies have done something in two months that Arkansas and South Carolina haven't been able to accomplish in twenty years. Kevin Sumlin will all but certainly win SEC Coach of the Year. Tend to doubt Johnny Manziel will win the Heisman given that he is a freshman, but he ought to win and he ought to win in an absolute landslide. Manziel aside, though, A&M has a lot of quality players on both sides of the ball, and tip of the hat to the Aggies, who went on the road and significantly outplayed the top-ranked Tide. Biggest win for the Aggies in at least a decade.
Vanderbilt: With a comeback win on the road in Oxford, Vandy reaches six wins and will reach a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. Bowl eligibility doesn't mean what it once did, of course, but James Franklin should be awarded for what he has done in Nashville. Odds are he gets a big promotion in the next few weeks. If I'm Arkansas, Tennessee, or Auburn, I'm giving Franklin a very long look.