With week nine of the college football season in the books, a few thoughts:
Arkansas: Hammered by 'Bama, big comeback against Texas A&M, squeaker wins over Ole Miss and Vandy. Forgive me if I'm not bullish on this team going into Baton Rouge and knocking off LSU. At some point Bobby Petrino is simply going to have to run the ball and play defense, neither of which he was able to do yesterday rushing for only 72 yards while giving up 28 points and 462 yards of total offense to Vanderbilt. Marquel Wade ought to get a two-game suspension, one for the cheap shot on Jonathan Krause and another for acting like an idiot after being ejected. In the toughness department, Tyler Wilson is leading the conference by a wide margin as we enter November.
Auburn: Ho-hum performance until depth took over late in the game, but clearly Ole Miss had nothing on the Updykes. Going 12-15 for 160 yards with four touchdowns should solidify the starting job for Clint Mosley, especially as Khiel Frazier ran the one play he knows four times all to no avail. The return of Emory Blake provided a big spark for the offense. Downside? Giving up 382 yards of total offense, 21 first downs and 24 points this defense still cannot stop anyone. The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry seems like a toss-up at the moment.
Florida: The semi-return of John Brantley wasn't enough with Florida's absolute inability to run the football and in a lot of ways it was special teams that kept them in this game. It's clear that Will Muschamp will need a couple of years to bring in the type of players he needs offensively; 5'8 scat backs to go along with pattycake offensive linemen and 5'11 receivers aren't what his pro-style offense requires. The defense looks strong at times, but they simply look defeated mentally after the offensive struggles, and the inexperience on the back end really hurts in key passing situations. At 4-4 overall with games left against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Florida State, 6-6 may be the high-end for this team. Add them to the rather long list of SEC schools in contention to make one final trip to Legion Field.
Georgia: Consider me a cynic, but that was about as bad as any UGA performance we've seen in Jacksonville in recent years, except this year Florida was finally bad enough to let them squeak out a win. One of the glory year Tebow teams would have taken this UGA squad behind the woodshed yesterday, make no mistake. In the end Georgia's ability to run the ball made the difference, out-rushing Florida 185 to -19. Isiah Crowell was banged up again, though getting Malcolm Mitchell back will provide a spark against Auburn and Georgia Tech. Blair Walsh could probably use some time in a padded room with some experimental prescription meds right about now.
Kentucky: Sprained ankle knocks Morgan Newton out early, which arguably provided an upgrade in the form of Maxwell Smith, but in the end the 'Cats couldn't put up much of a challenge despite scoring 16 points to go along with 300+ yards of total offense (strong showings by their standards). Want more evidence that time of possession is meaningless? UK controlled the ball for 37 minutes on Saturday night. If this team cannot beat Ole Miss this weekend they just need to forfeit the remaining schedule.
Ole Miss: Are they trying to start a tradition by wearing the Confederate greys against Auburn? Someone should tell them the greys are working for them about as well as they did for Johnny Reb. Admirable first half performance, but as usual no depth whatsoever and opposing teams make mince meat of them in the second half. Randall Mackey looks semi-respectable under center, but it certainly seems like Houston Nutt is just playing out the string. Speaking of Nutt, he now holds the record for longest SEC losing streak in Rebel history, so he can add that to his resume. Ole Miss v. Kentucky this weekend may cause a second Great Depression.
Mississippi State: The two-man quarterback rotation between Chris Relf and Tyler Russell worked well in Lexington, though generally everything works well against Kentucky. An easy road win in SEC play is nice and all, but for all intents and purposes doing it over this UK team is the equivalent of going on the road and beating Toledo. Nice for the homers and the message board heroes, almost completely meaningless otherwise. Barring huge upsets against either Alabama or Arkansas, Mullen needs to fight through Tennessee-Martin and Ole Miss just to get to 6-6. UTM is no problem, but the Egg Bowl looks like a toss-up.
South Carolina: Connor Shaw throws for 87 yards, the Gamecocks score just 14 points on the road, and they win in relative ease. Isn't it nice to draw road trips to Knoxville these days? Freshman Brandon Wild led the offense with 137 yards on the ground and at 7-1 overall (5-1 in the SEC), Carolina still controls their own destiny in the SEC East with games left against Arkansas and Florida. The road trip to Fayetteville this weekend, though, certainly looks like a loss, and that would put UGA back in the driver's seat. Hard to shake the feeling that the Auburn v. Georgia game will be the deciding factor in who reaches Atlanta.
Tennessee: Justin Worley looked like a bumbling long-term developmental quarterback who shouldn't have seen the field for another two or three years, which made Derek Dooley look like a bit of a putz in the process. 151 yards of total offense, 10 first downs, 35 rushing yards, 2-14 on third down? Yikes. They could have played into next week and still not scored two touchdowns to take the lead. At 3-5 with games left against Arkansas, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt, the Vols might not make a bowl game and if they do it'll be in some place you wouldn't wish for your worst enemy to be exiled to. Six thousand empty seats (officially that is, unofficially it was more) says a lot about the state of the program now, and the downside of having the mega-stadium when you're not on top.
Vanderbilt: I would make a kicker joke, but who are we to poke fun at bad kicking? Big hat tip to James Franklin and what he continues to do, and by all account his 'Dores should have pulled the upset and admittedly deserved to win. Jordan Rodgers looks like a keeper at the quarterback position. Biggest key for Vandy was actually finding a pulse on offense. It's always an iffy proposition when dealing with Vanderbilt, but this looks like a team that should make a bowl game.