Many in other parts of the country will lambast those SEC schools for scheduling nonconference lightweights in November. On the contrary, they should be commended for their genius. There were 106 FBS vs. FCS matchups in 2012, so save the sanctimony. The SEC schools simply chose to play their games a couple months later than everyone else, and look how well that strategy paid off. For instance, back in September, while the rest of the country was playing in traditional early tYour daily dose of Crimson Tide quotes and links.une-ups, Florida was beating Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky in consecutive weeks to jump from No. 23 to No. 11 in the polls. When the Gators upset No. 4 LSU on Oct. 6, they assured themselves a season-long spot in the top 10. Then the Tigers got themselves back in the mix by beating South Carolina, which ensured Alabama received its rightful adulation upon beating LSU with a last-minute touchdown. Meanwhile, Georgia re-elevated its stock by beating Florida, which by then had notched another quality win over the Gamecocks, ensuring neither the Tide nor Gators ever fell too far. And now, with their hardest work behind them, the SEC teams can sit back and watch the conferences with more work to do cannibalize themselves. On Saturday, 8-2 Stanford beat 10-0 Oregon on the Ducks' home field, in overtime -- a nearly identical result to 9-0 Alabama's home loss to 7-2 Texas A&M a week earlier. But now, Alabama is back in control of the BCS race while Chip Kelly's team fell to No. 5 in the standings. Shouldn't have played that Tennessee Tech game so early, Oregon.
But a funny thing happened in 2012. The SEC split itself neatly, if not quite evenly, into two divisions, a fierce Gang of Six, three in each division, and a less-imposing Knitting Circle of Eight. While it's easy (and not unfair) to say that you can't play hypotheticals, there is one mathematical fact in the SEC. Every time a team from that Group of Six has played one of the other eight, it has won. Every single time. The record for the Haves vs. The Have-Nots is a perfect 27-0, and unless Auburn, Arkansas or Missouri can pull a big upset this weekend, it will end up at 30-0. So a fair argument can be made that the more non-Top Six teams you played (to be fair, some were pretty good teams such as Mississippi State and Vanderbilt), the better off you were. Proof in the pudding? The two teams that didn't draw a big-time cross-divisional opponent were Alabama and Georgia. Which two teams will, barring a big upset by Auburn, wind up in Atlanta? Alabama and Georgia.
"I don't think it really matters, because I'm not used as a runner," he said Tuesday after practice. But he scrambled Saturday for a 24-yard gain in a 49-0 victory over Western Carolina. Three weeks ago, he ran 9 yards up the middle for a touchdown at LSU. Two weeks ago, he scrambled away from what would have been a long loss for a 3-yard gain to the 2-yard line, but a fourth-down pass was intercepted on the next play, the decisive one in a 29-24 loss. Back to that 24-yard run Saturday. ... "I always mess with Coach," McCarron said of Alabama coach Nick Saban. "He told me he was screaming for me to get out of bounds the whole time. ... "When I came to the sidelines, (Phillip) Ely told me was screaming on the sidelines, 'Get out.' And I kept going. I came off after we scored on that long drive, came over and he met me. I knew what he was about to say, so I said, 'I just wanted to show you who was the real athlete out of us two.' He started laughing and just walked away. Couldn't do anything but smile."
Wallace hasn't been Manziel by any means, but he's been steady. Last week against Alabama A&M, he completed 10-of-18 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. He's thrown just two of Auburn's 13 interceptions on the season. "We've just got to do our job," linebacker Nico Johnson said. "We do our job better no matter if he's a freshman or a senior, then we should be OK. "We had a lot of mistakes the past three weeks, a lot of things we've got to correct. Something that's correctable. We've got to do it, no matter what. Like I said before, it's do or die time now. It's either we do it or we don't." Mosley said Alabama is preparing as if Wallace is a "fifth-year senior." "He’s going to prepare just like we’re going to prepare," he said. "We’ve just got to do our job. It’s about what we do, and this is how we prepare for the game."
When Oregon and Kansas State both went down, Aaron Murray whooped it up as much as any Georgia fan. He knew what that meant for the Bulldogs — a shot at the national championship. "I’ve never screamed so much at the television and prayed so much in my life," Georgia’s star quarterback said Tuesday. "It was definitely an exciting night. We were screaming, high-fiving, hugging, group hugs. It was a lot of fun." Funny thing, though. Outside of this state, hardly anyone is talking about the Southeastern Conference’s other title contender. Instead, everyone is gushing about the possibility of two storied programs — Notre Dame and Alabama — playing for No. 1. Georgia, it seems, is just an afterthought. "We don’t mind being the underdogs," Murray said. "We know what we have to do, and that’s win games. If we do that, we’ll be good to go."
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was named the American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year, the organization announced Tuesday. The honor comes on the heels of winning the Broyles Award in 2009. Under Smart’s direction, the Alabama defense is one of the best in the nation. Alabama is ranked No. 3 in rushing defense (76.20 ypg allowed), No. 9 in pass efficiency defense (102.76 rating), No. 2 in total defense (247.80 ypg allowed) and No. 1 in scoring defense (11.10 ppg allowed) in 2012. His defenses have helped Alabama win two BCS national titles in the last four years and five of his defenders earned All-America honors in 2011. Six players on the defensive side of the ball have been drafted in the first round in the last three years.
"Practice has been going well this week," said sophomore wide receiver Christion Jones. "We are focusing on doing our jobs and not getting ahead of ourselves. We have been playing with a lot of focus and have been making sure we know the game plan as we get ready to go for Saturday."
In case you were wondering what became of the ball that AJ McCarron threw to Christion Jones for a single-season school-record 21st touchdown pass Saturday, it was handed off. "Our equipment manager, (Jeff) Springer, saved it, and then I gave it to my parents after the game," the Alabama quarterback said Tuesday after practice. How special is that? "It's pretty cool," McCarron said. "Not so much for me. It's for them, just because they were born and raised Alabama fans, and it's every parent's dream for their kid to play for the university and be quarterback and achieve something like that. It's pretty special."
"It's a very physical game, but we fight through those things," Jones said. "We've done a good job with the transition of what you've got to do when someone goes down. We're focusing on right now learning multiple positions for those areas that we have with injuries." Jones said there isn't one specific receiver who knows the X, Y and Z positions best. Instead, it's been a collective effort. "We just keep everyone moving and keep it going because if you do all that, the offense can get confusing," he said. "Everyone learns those different spots so that we won't be able to slow down and we can move on to what we're trying to do in the game."
"OK, so here’s what happened. The true story. I’ll be dead honest," Jones said. "I live right beside there. Like I live within a quarter of a mile. So after it happened, everyone was just like running around the streets and everyone started running to The Strip. "So I was like, I mean, I’m in college, I gotta at least see what it looks like. So I just walked down there and looked around and all of the sudden there was just a mob of people and the next thing I knew, people were recognizing me and I was getting mobbed and I started high-fiving people. "I was probably down there for 5 minutes total and I ended up on every video. It was pretty crazy."
As with Maryland on Monday, Delany expressed confidence that the platform and resources the Big Ten has to offer can help raise Rutgers' historically irrelevant football program. The Scarlet Knights are currently ranked No. 21 in the AP Poll and No. 18 in the BCS standings, but they have never won the Big East and have little history or presence in the college football landscape. Delany noted the fickle nature of college football today, pointing at Auburn's freefall after winning the national title two years ago. "One year Auburn is winning the national championship," Delany said. "The next year they haven't won a game [in their league]."