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Random Thoughts from Around the SEC

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With week eleven of the college football season in the books, a few thoughts:

Alabama: Solid rebound in Starkville, though injuries did hit fairly hard. 'Bama homers better hope defense really does win championships, because this offense and special teams isn't getting the job done. It's basically an A++ defense with a B offense and an F special teams. Regarding things beyond crimson control, Saturday was nearly perfect for the Tide. All that is left for 'Bama is one game with Auburn and a bunch of nailbiting gathered round TV sets in Tuscaloosa. The lack of an offense outside of Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy figures to keep the Iron Bowl relatively close.

Arkansas: Joe Adams pulled out a punt return as good as any seen in the SEC since the days of David Palmer. The return of defensive end Tenarius Wright looks to bolster the defense, and it may be no mistake that with he and opposite end Jake Bequette looking healthy that this defense is finally showing a pulse. 49-7 blowout of Tennessee doesn't mean a great deal given the struggles of the Vols, but Arkansas has played much better the past two weeks, and while an upset of LSU seems unlikely, they do match-up well with the Bayou Bengals and they are playing well enough now to give them a legitimate challenge. LSU will be favored and rightly so, but this won't be an easy victory.

Auburn: Gene Chizik got dentures for this? And you were right, Gus, Vandy is a dead-end job, James Franklin is committing career suicide going to Nashville. Emory Blake is the best receiver in the conference outside of Baton Rouge and Fayetteville. T'Sharvan Bell looks done for the year with a nasty looking knee injury, which won't help against 'Bama. Auburn ought to send Richt a thank you card, he could have hung 70 on them. Exit question: What does it say about the depth of the SEC this season and the long-term trends in college football as a whole that a team this bad can win seven games?

Florida: The worst Gator team in almost three decades continues its weekly display of bad football with an ugly loss in Columbia. In hindsight, the biggest surprise was that they were able to overcome a 14-3 deficit and actually make this a competitive game, so consider that a moral victory in Gainesville. Bowl eligibility won't be a problem with Furman on the horizon, but beating FSU looks like a major uphill battle and a 6-6 finish seems likely. Think this over: Do things really look that much better for Florida next year? I argue no.

Georgia: UGA hasn't technically clinched a spot in Atlanta, but with only one game left against Kentucky it would take a massive anthrax outbreak for UK to knock off the Dawgs in Athens.The crazy thing with Georgia is that, after an 0-2 start, they have reeled off eight consecutive victories and truth be told they still don't have anything close to a quality win. Say what you will about Auburn, but they were easily the best team UGA has beaten to date. Still not convinced UGA can beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta -- the option thrives on a lack of defensive discipline -- though as strange as it seems they actually do have enough raw talent to have a legitimate chance against LSU in Atlanta in what will be a glorified home game. The odds are heavily against it, for obvious reasons, but with South Carolina an upset wasn't even a theoretical possibility. In hindsight, fighting off 'Bama for Malcolm Mitchell was a huge victory on the recruiting trails.

Kentucky: The Ole Miss fluff last weekend was a nice feel-good story, but Joker Phillips has done absolutely nothing in Lexington that justifies him returning for a third season. A 30-point loss to Vandy? UK has squandered its best chance to beat Tennessee in the past thirty years.  If I'm the Kentucky AD, as soon as basketball practice gets over today I'm calling Mike Leach and overnighting him the master key to all of the school's electrical closets.

LSU: Western Kentucky players can always say they did something 'Bama couldn't. Kind of a sleepy start in Baton Rouge, but this one was never a legitimate competition, and Ole Miss is probably even worse than Western Kentucky. It's more likely that Louisiana State University decides to disband the football team than it is for them to actually lose to Ole Miss; only a key injury or two could make that a meaningful game. For now, LSU settles in for back-to-back games with Arkansas and Georgia with a trip to New Orleans on the line. The Hat will have to work hard to give truth to the old line about how you can't spell Les Miles without two L's.

Ole Miss:  Blown out at home by Louisiana Tech? I understand that as a 'Bama partisan LaTech is somewhat off limits, but at least Mike DuBose never got annihilated by them. Is this the worst team in the modern history of the SEC? And how in the hell did they ever manage two wins in the first place? You really have to impressed by the way Houston Nutt is going out in a blaze of glory. I think Colonel Reb needs to expand Vaught-Hemingway, don't you?

Mississippi State: Give MSU credit for fighting hard against 'Bama, but as usual the punchless offense bites them in the end and Dan Mullen falls to 0-12 against SEC West teams not named Ole Miss. Tyler Russell has the raw physical skill set, but is seemingly lacking in everything else you need to play the quarterback position. Already disappointing season for Chris Relf got even worse against 'Bama. The upside for State is that given how terrible Ole Miss looked against Louisiana Tech, odds are they can sneak by the Rebels and get to a bowl game at 6-6.

South Carolina: Connor Shaw completes six passes on the day for 81 yards, Alshon Jeffery is almost completely shut out, and the Gamecocks still find a way to win. Small wonder Auburn wanted to move to the SEC East. In the larger picture, though, South Carolina lost the East and as many garnet and black supporters have feared the bed wetting against Auburn doomed them in the end. This will be the best regular season record for Spurrier in Columbia, but it's relatively hard to argue that this wasn't a better team last year. Not sure 2012 looks any better, either.

Tennessee: Mike Shula is getting embarrassed by all of these Derek Dooley comparisons. Criticize him all you want, but Shula was never consistently on the end of four plus touchdown blowouts; he at least knew how to lose close with dignity and respect firmly intact. On first impression you think Joe Adams is dumb and just unnecessarily giving up a lot of yards, but then after about two seconds you think to yourself, "Tennessee is so bad they'll botch this, won't they?" Da'Rick Rogers has to lead the SEC in dropped passes. Tyler Bray looks to be back this week for the must-win game against Vanderbilt; loser stays home, winner goes to Birmingham, or at least an equally undesirable location. Perhaps we could get Peyton Manning to return to Legion Field to lead the band in another rendition of Sweet Home Alabama? At least it'd remind the Vols of a time when they still had their self respect, and it's not like Peyton is doing anything productive these days anyway.

Vanderbilt: James Franklin gets my coach of the year vote, hands down. Outside of 'Bama, the 'Dores have generally won big and lost close this season, which could be a sign the end of time is near. With a win over Tennessee more than just ardent SEC followers will take notice of the job that Franklin has done. A win against either Tennessee or Wake Forest will send the 'Dores bowling, and Vandy could be one of as many as four SEC teams that finish the season 6-6 (Florida, Tennessee, MSU).