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Random Thoughts from Around the SEC

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

Alabama: 'Bama finished what Harvey Updyke started, and frankly the game was nowhere near as close as the final scoreboard indicated. Trent Richardson and the UA defense were dominant, but 'Bama showed yet again it couldn't protect the football or play special teams. Very beat-up squad at the moment, and the Tide defense played almost the entire game without Mark Barron and a banged up Dont'a Hightower; a five week break will do wonders for this team. Say what you will about an Alabama v. LSU rematch, but 'Bama figures to be the only team in the nation that LSU wouldn't outright embarrass. A vote for Oklahoma State to take the trip to New Orleans is the functional equivalent of a vote to cancel the BCS Championship Game and simply FedEx the crystal ball to Baton Rouge.

Arkansas: The Hogs have played in five program-defining games in the past fifteen months and are now 0-5 in those contests. The pretender hasn't had this kind of a run since the heyday of Jackson Browne. Even after getting a 14-0 lead and all the momentum in Baton Rouge, LSU simply annihilated Arkansas from there on and the Hogs weren't even remotely competitive late in the latter stages of the game. The Houston Nutt Hogs it ain't, but Arkansas seems to have peaked short of the top. Bobby Petrino's in-game and post-game antics were indefensible; put him in a to-the-wire race with Gene Chizik for the title of biggest douche in the SEC head coaching fraternity.

Auburn: Who could have expected that the viral Kristi Malzahn video wasn't the most embarrassing thing that Gus would suffer through on Saturday? Forget the offensive genius label, just score a point, and Auburn was shut-out outside of fourteen points worth of charitable donations from the Tide. We'll see what happens on the Plains in the coming weeks, but in many ways this team was very lucky just to reach 7-5, and while they are a young squad there looks to be a great deal of coaching turnover imminent as neither Malzahn or Roof are expected to return next season. Would be interesting to know what happened to Emory Blake, it seems the injuries ailing him are more serious than Gene Chizik and company would acknowledge publicly. Expect Auburn to head back to Tampa for the second time in three years.

Florida: How bad is this Florida team offensively? On a fourth-and-inches QB sneak with a 250 pound lugger, the Gators lost 15 yards. The Florida State defense ended up with more return yards on Florida interceptions than the FSU offense piled up against the Gator defense. And John Brantley was benched because of injuries? Sure thing, Boom. This is just a bad, bad football team, and it really speaks volumes to the structure of modern college football that a team this bad can still make a bowl game. If they get any reasonably capable opponent in the bowl game they will end with their first losing season since Jimmy Carter was in office. Afraid it's going to be a long rebuilding process in Gainesville. Can Muschamp survive that? We'll see.

Georgia: Easily the strongest win of the season for UGA, though in fairness the Dawgs routinely dispatch of Georgia Tech. Aaron Murray is playing his best football of the season, and the Georgia defense has been playing at a very high level in recent weeks. Can this team beat LSU? I tend to say no, but admittedly they do have the talent to challenge the Bayou Bengals, and they will have force LSU to earn the victory. Downside for UGA? With a loss in Atlanta it's possible they could fall all the way to the Peach Bowl.

Kentucky: Joker Phillips still deserves to be fired based on the entire body of work, but his decision to simply go wildcat the entire game was a stroke of genius. It won't work long-term, but it worked to perfection on Saturday afternoon in Lexington. Always figured I would see a Cubs World Series victory before I would see a Kentucky win over Tennessee. Joker may go down as a trainwreck -- certainly looks that way right now -- but he'll always have this on his resume.

LSU: Spot the #3 ranked team a 14-point lead, a quarter of football and all the momentum, and then annihilate them 41-3 in the remaining three quarters. If that is not domination, I'd sure as hell hate to see what is. LSU has only gotten better since pulling out the overtime victory in Tuscaloosa, and the offense is noticeably improved now with Jordan Jefferson at quarterback. SEC Championship Game in Atlanta is a glorified exhibition and a trip to New Orleans is guaranteed regardless. Only Alabama has a chance of making a national championship game competitive with this team; if the Bayou Bengals come out in the Superdome and see anyone else they'll burst out in laughter (and rightly so). The turnaround in Baton Rouge has been nothing short of amazing; this program looked as dead as General Sherman fourteen months ago.

Ole Miss: Houston Nutt goes out without even as much as a whimper, falling hard at the hands of Mississippi State 31-3 in Starkville. I'll run the Pythagorean numbers in due time, but it's hard not to see this team going down as the worst in modern SEC history. How can you finish 0-8 in conference play and lose games by an average of three touchdowns? Much attention will be given in the coming weeks to Nutt's successor, but it won't matter. Any coach legitimately good enough to raise this ship from the ocean floor would never consider Ole Miss in the first place.

Mississippi State: MSU might not be much, but at least they aren't Ole Miss. Chris Relf led the way as a senior in his final game in Starkville, but it was Vick Ballard that powered the offense with 144 yards rushing. Oddly enough, MSU scored 31 points despite barely gaining 300 yards of total offense to go along with 80 yards in penalties and a turnover. Dan Mullen talked a lot of trash in the postgame, which is really more embarrassing for him and his program than for Ole Miss. Years from now this game will probably be remembered more for the Twitter reference in the end zone than anything else. 

South Carolina: Congrats, 'Cocks, you finally strung together two ten win seasons, and just in a shade under 120 years, too. Impressive. Clemson is finally playing like the Clemson we all know and love, but a strong win for South Carolina in Columbia. Steve Spurrier is routinely the pin-cushion of this piece, but for all the criticism give him credit for getting the Gamecocks to ten wins and taking this program to levels it has not reached before. He'll never be a legitimate national championship contender in Columbia, but these are the glory years of South Carolina football. Connor Shaw played arguably his best game, and the defensive line dominated in the trenches. Just wait a couple of years until ol' Spencer Region gets ahold of 'em, ain't that right Dabo? Interesting to see where the Gamecocks end up in early January, but the smart money looks to be on either the Peach Bowl or the Capital One Bowl.

Tennessee: I like to think I've seen a lot of cool things in my time, but few of them can probably match the sight of Kentucky beating Tennessee. Saturday was probably the darkest day in the modern history of Tennessee football, and adding insult to injury they now have to deal with a losing season and no bowl game. Derek Dooley is now officially on the hot seat, and while many Vol fans would like to go ahead and pull the trigger on the inevitable, the reality is that UT couldn't get any coach worth his salt at this point and for better or for worse they must simply live with what little they have for the immediate future. Don't know if Dooley can ever recapture a significant portion of the fan base after this debacle. He'd probably have to take Nick Saban and a few others behind the woodshed a couple of times for that to happen. Mama Dooley better not tune in to talk radio this afternoon.

Vanderbilt: The 'Dores are going bowling after a blowout win over Wake Forest, Vandy's fifth such victory of the year. And that is why James Franklin is the SEC Head Coach of the Year and why no one else, Les Miles included, even deserves a vote. At most guys like Miles and Nick Saban are just getting top-notch results with top-notch programs, but Franklin is getting a team bowl eligible in the modern day SEC that frankly ought to be duking it out with Sewanee in the SCAC. In all honesty, without some bad breaks in close games, Vandy ought to have a better record than it does; 8-4 was very much in reach for this team. Every SEC fan better hope this guy ends up somewhere other than Knoxville in a couple of years.