What We Learned from the SEC in Week 9 - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

What We Learned from the SEC in Week 9

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Auburn's Tre Mason (21) scores a touchdown against Texas A&M. The score was in honor of Marcus Lattimore, but Auburn needed seven more to avoid a losing season. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn's Tre Mason (21) scores a touchdown against Texas A&M. The score was in honor of Marcus Lattimore, but Auburn needed seven more to avoid a losing season. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

(RNN) – We were all reminded of what a dangerous game football can be.

Marcus Lattimore injured his knee for the second straight year and is done playing football for who knows how long. Last year Lattimore's injury was a torn ACL, but this year the injury is reported to be a torn ACL, torn MCL, torn PCL, torn LCL, broken patella and broken femur.

That is six season-ending injuries all suffered on the same play. It's a terrible shame that the injuries should happen to anyone, but to Lattimore in particular. He has already had to overcome one season-ending injury, is so talented he is widely considered the best running back in college football and is so respected among his peers that both the South Carolina and Tennessee sidelines emptied so players could come and pay respect to Lattimore.

Auburn's Tre Mason – who, like Lattimore, wears No. 21 - dedicated his performance against Texas A&M to Lattimore, and rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown.

We'll never know why certain people are stricken with certain injuries and ailments. In Lattimore's case we can only hope it's bad luck – very, very bad, and maddening, luck.

Below is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 9.

1. Florida and Georgia need to calm down. Play football, win the game, go home and (don't) have a celebratory cocktail.

It isn't necessary to get into a dustup before the game even starts, pile on top of seven other players just because there was a fumble (that was already recovered, by the way) or block a member of the opposing team after the play into your own teammate, causing him to be injured. Yet, inexplicably, all of these things happened in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (Yes, there is alcohol consumption at the game. Get over it).

Georgia wasn't so much interested at playing tough as it was looking tough and Florida wasn't as interested in beating Georgia as it was looking tougher than Georgia. It's a football game, not the Thrilla in Jacksonvilla. (We know, bad pun. Again, get over it).

That being said …

2. Florida forgot its identity. This is hard to comprehend. Florida has been the poster child for playing to your strength, sticking to your plan and overpowering your opponent. What happened?

Jeff Driskel attempted more passes against Georgia than in any game other than Kentucky. Against Kentucky he attempted one more pass than against Georgia, but something different happened then – it worked.

Florida (7-1, 6-1) committed six turnovers – two of them interceptions – and gained just 81 yards rushing in a 17-9 loss. That is not what Florida is. Florida is, and should have been, a ball control, in your face, glorified single wing, 3-yards-in-a-cloud-of-dust-when-needed team that kicks (insert euphemism for rear end here) and takes names.

Refer back to item No. 1. Florida obviously didn't care about doing what it took to beat Georgia. The Gators just wanted to surprise Georgia and scare Alabama/LSU before an SEC championship game showdown (which Florida now needs help to qualify for). They had visions of flinging the ball around like bunch of monkeys at the zoo and running up the score. Well, you have to take the lead before you can do that.

Florida never had the lead, didn't score a touchdown and didn't even attempt to be the same power running team it has been all year. Even at its worst, the game was still a one-score affair. Running the ball would have been the right call because it's been the right call all year.

Then again, Florida had four fumbles, including one late in the game that was recovered in the end zone for a Georgia touchback. Georgia has struggled at times this year, but you can't do that against anybody and expect to win, even when you're just one play away from tying the game, which if the Gators had held onto the ball they probably would have done.

They should have read this from our good friends at Hot Reads.

3. Arkansas won't get a bowl. Stunning news, no doubt, but the Razorbacks (3-5, 2-3) had the opportunity. They could have beaten Ole Miss and Tulsa and then pulled off a win over South Carolina or Mississippi State or maybe LSU to get bowl eligible.

That would have been a huge accomplishment considering the black hole that developed in Fayetteville sometime over the summer and sucked away every bit of life that city had. It would have been a great way to the end the season after so much turmoil and controversy. The players would have been able to say they overcame more adversity than anyone would have ever expected.

Instead, Arkansas squandered two leads – one a 10-point lead – and lost to Ole Miss 30-27 by a field goal as time expired. Now they must beat Tulsa and two of the aforementioned SEC teams, which are all ranked. Arkansas hasn't scored a point against a ranked team all year and if you include Texas A&M, which is currently ranked but wasn't when it faced the Razorbacks, Arkansas has lost by an average of 50 points in those games. If you don't include A&M, that average is 52 points.

The Razorbacks might lose to Tulsa, which is 7-1, but they definitely will lose to even a Marcus Lattimore-deprived South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU.

You heard it here first.

4. Auburn has made history. It's time to drop some knowledge. We did this research about three weeks ago in anticipation of this event, and it is time to unleash the historical fury.

With its 63-21 loss to Texas A&M, Auburn (1-7, 0-6) has guaranteed itself a losing season. That is worth little more than a blurb, even though it has happened to the Tigers only twice since 1999. What is of historical note, however, is that since 1990, only two teams in college football have followed a national championship with a losing record within the next two seasons.

Those two teams are Georgia Tech in 1992 and this year's Auburn squad (it happened to Alabama in 1993 and Southern Cal in 2004 and 2005 as well, but each of those was due to NCAA sanctions and vacated wins). The Yellow Jackets split the 1990 national championship with Colorado and two years later went 5-6, starting a string of four losing seasons in the next five years.

But the Yellow Jackets did it with a different coach than the one who won the national title. Bobby Ross won the title for Georgia Tech and left to coach the San Diego Chargers before the '92 season. That makes Gene Chizik the first coach to lead his team to a losing season two years removed from a national title since 1988 when Penn State was 5-6 two years after the 1986 title.

One more loss for the Tigers (they play Georgia and Alabama later in the year, so it will happen) and they guarantee not getting five wins. Penn State was able to return to its winning ways the year after the losing season, but only had to improve its record by one win to do it.

The following refrain will be like wind sweeping down the Plains the next few weeks: Chizik's record at Auburn is 9-12 since Cam Newton left, and he is 17-17 overall at Auburn without the Heisman-winning quarterback. It's going be hard to defend that record, which could get worse.

There were suggestions this week that Auburn should announce Chizik's firing before the Iron Bowl just to make sure that even if the Tigers do the unthinkable and beat Alabama there won't be a temptation to keep him. That seems a bit extreme, and it doesn't look like that will be much of a concern anyway.

5. Somewhere in Starkville there is a mirror and Mississippi State is smoke in it. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? We're not totally sure, but it isn't Mississippi State.

We said here last week that Mississippi State might be able to "out-Alabama" Alabama. Instead, the Bulldogs got Alabama'd in a 38-7 loss. The Tide is starting to look like a baseball manager's sabermetrics chart: Trust the numbers. Alabama's defense leads the nation in every statistic of significance (including WHIP).

Mississippi State (7-1, 3-1) entered its game in Tuscaloosa good at everything Alabama (8-0, 5-0) is good at, and even leading the Tide – and the country - in turnover margin. Well, no more. The 'Dogs committed three turnovers and forced none. LaDarius Perkins, who was averaging 100 yards per game on the ground, fell victim to the sabermetric steamroller and was held to 38 yards, but he should take solace in the fact that it is the fourth-highest total the Tide has allowed one runner to get.

Maybe that isn't comforting to a guy who led the conference in rushing entering the game, but it's about as close to comfort as the Tide allows.

6. Georgia did what Georgia does. Like a cheetah hiding in tall grass waiting for the right moment to strike, Georgia pounced and seized the opportunity to take down a wounded gazelle.

Georgia (7-1, 5-1) lost the battle of who could beat itself more and in so doing won a football game, and gained the inside track to the SEC championship game. If the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss and Auburn, they will be in. Lose either game and Florida reclaims the berth, assuming the Gators beat Missouri next week.

Aaron Murray threw for just 150 yards and tossed three interceptions in the Bulldogs' loss. Oh, wait. They won. How?

Maybe it's because they went 1-10 on third-down conversions, or because they had 132 yards in penalties, or because they outgained Florida by 7 yards and had one less first down.

Seriously, how the heck did Georgia win?

Florida committed six turnovers and Todd Gurley ran for 118 yards. Yeah, we'll go with that.

7. Derek Dooley can say good bye to Knoxville. Dooley is 14-19 with the Vols and 4-17 in the SEC after falling to South Carolina 38-35. Both of those records could improve because Tennessee has games against Troy, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky coming up. The problem here is that if Tennessee wins all four – and all four are winnable – that would mean a bowl game and would be a tangible sign of improvement.

That might be the benchmark here, but the Vols (3-5, 0-5) have a lot to consider. Tennessee is definitely better than it has been under Dooley, quarterback Tyler Bray and almost all of the Vols' offensive weapons will return next year and the defense under coordinator Sal Sunseri should do nothing but improve as he installs a similar system to the one Alabama (where he previously coached) uses.

But, what about after that? If Tennessee keeps Dooley and wins eight or nine games next year because all its offensive weapons will be seniors, then they will all graduate and it will be rebuilding time. A 6-6 or 5-7 season at that point is to be expected, and won't be all Dooley's fault, but he'll still get the blame and probably be let go.

But what if he and his hideous pants stay and Tennessee underachieves next season, going 6-6? Then a total rebuild is in order with all new players and a new coach and probably a couple of losing seasons. It's a tricky choice.

It all boils down to one question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? (Did we really just say that?)

8. If LSU doesn't beat Alabama, no one will. The Tigers (7-1, 3-1) have had two weeks to prepare for Alabama, so there will be no excuse for them not getting a win. (Except LSU's passing game, which can be blamed for global warming and the extinction of the scimitar-horned oryx.)

Alabama has no weakness. Nick Saban knows more about football than we could hope to learn in a dozen lifetimes. And what's more is he knows it. Perhaps that is the Tide's weakness. (Mel Gibson thinks so).

LSU shouldn't put its weakest people in the middle of the line just yet, though. That's just asking for Alabama to go into Death Valley and live. A better course of action would be to learn from last season. LSU beat Alabama last season by allowing Alabama to miss five – FIVE!! - field goals.

The Tigers couldn't even cross the 50-yard line in the BCS title game. (If the Louisiana Department of Transportation hadn't removed the 50-yard line from I-10, the Tigers would still be in New Orleans). So LSU should learn from that. Don't worry about Alabama, because they do that for you. Worry about you.

Play smart defense, bottle up the running game and press the wide receivers. Use your stable of running backs to pound the defensive line. If they are turned away, stick with it. Whatever you do, don't try to throw.

Don't turn the ball over, don't commit penalties and let the crowd do most of the work. (And if all else fails, play Jarrett Lee).

9. South Carolina won't miss Marcus Lattimore as much as you think. It's a huge loss, for sure, but after Lattimore left the game, Kenny Miles came in at running back and did a pretty good job. He looked like he had more quickness – and more hair – than Lattimore (in fact, he is listed as being 0.2 seconds faster than Lattimore in the 40-yard dash).

Miles is a senior, so he has the experience and the talent to fill the void. He's not as good as Lattimore, but he can fill the role of starting running back very easily. More pressure will be on the Gamecocks' passing game now, which at times has been very productive.

Last year after losing Lattimore, South Carolina only lost one game – Arkansas. The Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2) have to play Arkansas in two weeks, then Wofford and Clemson. But this is not the same Arkansas team from last year. All three games are winnable, even without Lattimore.

10. Missouri can actually win in the SEC. We saved the best for last.

Congratulations, Missouri, on your monumental achievement of not going winless in the SEC in your first year. Kentucky seems to have that effect on a lot of people. You were smart enough to schedule the Wildcats (1-8, 0-6) for Homecoming because nothing primes the alumni donation-soliciting pump like a win over the Smurfs.

You got back to a .500 record – 4-4 and 1-4 in the SEC - and made making a bowl something you might actually, somehow, miraculously pull off. The 33-10 win represents the most points you have scored in an SEC game and the fewest you have allowed.

Kentucky committed three turnovers to help you out, but you committed three of your own to negate that help. But this is no time to focus on the facts. This is a time for celebration and dancing in your fancy, rented tuxedos (with a Golden Girl, if you have good fortune) because there is now indisputable video evidence that you are better than another SEC team, and one in your division at that.

Congratulations, again. It is truly a great day to be a Missouri Tiger. It won't be great next week against Florida, it won't be great the week after that versus Tennessee, it could be tough the following week facing Syracuse and Johnny Manziel will make it very tough in the season finale when your old/new conference rival Texas A&M comes calling.

But, again, forget about the facts. Dance to your little (bless your) heart's content and tramp, tramp, tramp around the columns with a cheer for Old Mizzou!!

T-I-G-E-R-S! Tigers, go!!

Extra points: We hate – HATE – election season, and love – not love, like – Missouri's fight song. We also watch the Discovery Channel waaaaaaaaaaay too much.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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