(RNN) – Missouri didn't play this week so we can't make fun of them for losing. This is disappointing. But, hey, we still have Auburn, right?
Below is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 8.
1. No one listens. We have been saying for weeks that the best offense is one that keeps the ball on the ground, and we will not let this go until someone proves us wrong. As said last week, we're not against the passing game, but when your passing game is terrible, you shouldn't use it.
LSU and Auburn are the primary offenders here, so we'll focus on them for now. LSU (7-1, 3-1) got the memo and might have even read it, but Les Miles didn't adhere to it. Yes, LSU ran for 219 yards, but Zach Mettenberger also threw 18 incomplete passes. He shouldn't have even attempted that many. His accuracy is inconsistent at best and completely absent at worst. The passes that do end up near LSU's receivers are usually dropped anyway.
Auburn's Clint Moseley completed more passes for more yards and for a higher average than Mettenberger did. When Auburn's passing game is better than yours, you definitely shouldn't be throwing. Auburn (1-6, 0-5) threw for more yards than it ran for against Vanderbilt. If you're wondering how it's possible to lose to Vanderbilt, there's your answer.
Both teams have talented running backs – plural – and neither seems content to let them do what they do. The passing game is a wonderful thing if you need it. Neither of these teams should need it much if they would just commit to running the ball. Neither can throw all that well anyway.
Auburn, LSU, listen up, please. We're tired of scolding you and your inept passing games. Just run it so we can get on with our lives.
2. Vanderbilt can successfully execute the Victory Formation. Who knew? It's not like Vandy gets the chance to use it much.
The Commodores (3-4, 2-3) needed a win over Auburn to start the weaker part of their schedule and get on track for a bowl bid. That happened somewhat easily as Zac Stacy led Vandy with 169 yards rushing and a touchdown in a 17-13 triumph. (Sound the trumpets!!)
This has been a good year for Vanderbilt. Not only are the Commodores looking at bowl eligibility, but with Arkansas and Auburn falling faster than Felix Baumgartner and Kentucky and Missouri being Kentucky and the new Vanderbilt (yes, we found a way to bash Missouri on its bye week) people are forgetting all those terrible things they used to say about the traditional GPA boosters.
There's a new Vandy in town, baby, and it conveniently also wears black and gold – well, yellow.
3. Johnny Football has been feasting on the weak. If we have learned anything from watching the Discovery Channel it is that the slowest wildebeest will be eaten by lions. Johnny Manziel is a lion and the likes of Louisiana Tech, Arkansas and Southern Methodist are slow wildebeests.
We still love "Johnny Football" and his meandering, scrambling ways, but it has become clear that against tougher defenses - such as Florida and LSU (the only team to keep him from scoring) - Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) can't muster the offense needed to navigate the treacherous plains of the Serengeti, and the hunter becomes the hunted.
Football is a pretty primal sport at its core and the best way to survive the many predators on the Great Migration toward a championship is to surround yourself with plenty of other potential targets. There is strength in numbers and a lone straggler, such as a quarterback with no one to throw to, is destined to be cornered and killed to feed starving cubs.
It is, after all, the circle of life. Manziel's time is coming soon, but he'll have to wait just a little bit longer.
4. Don't give Florida any help. It's already tough enough to beat the Gators (7-0, 6-0) as it is, and turning the ball over like South Carolina did is just asking to get blown out by say, 33, as the Gamecocks did in their 44-11 loss.
This really should go without saying, but South Carolina (6-2, 4-2) was unaware. The Gamecocks found out after giving up four turnovers and allowing 44 points to a team that previously hadn't scored that many only two weeks removed from a defensive clinic that held Georgia to just 7.
Marcus Lattimore was hobbled, and that definitely had an impact, but South Carolina had shown it was much more than just one player. At least it looked that way. Jeff Driskel threw four touchdown passes, doubling his career passing TD total.
We rescinded our apology for calling South Carolina overrated last week, but it needs to be done again. South Carolina is overrated. Terribly, terribly, overrated.
5. Georgia did what Georgia does. Winning over Kentucky by five points is not something to be proud of. Georgia had two weeks to sulk after its complete annihilation at the hands of South Carolina and basically overlooked Kentucky to get ready for Florida next week.
What almost happened would have rendered that game meaningless (more on this in a minute). Georgia (6-1, 4-1) apparently forgot it has one of the best running back duos in college football and ran for a paltry 77 yards against the Wildcats. Of course, Kentucky allowed 427 passing yards, so it wasn't really needed.
Except, of course, that it was. Kentucky (1-7, 0-5) did most of its damage on the ground, so if Georgia had put Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall into motion, it could have changed the tempo of the game and kept the Wildcats' offense off the field. "Gurshall" had better come out of hiding soon (say, next week against Florida?) or it won't be pretty for the Bulldogs.
6. Alabama will beat you any way you please. A lot of times we hear people say "don't let that guy beat you" or "make them beat you through the air" or similar comments when facing a tough team. Well, Alabama will do whatever you let them do and dominate you in the process.
Tennessee decided to put the game in A.J. McCarron's interception-averse hands and he responded with a career high in passing yards and tied a career high in touchdown passes in a 1,000-3 win. (Oh, it was only 44-13? Could've fooled us). Part of the reason why that happened was the Vols (3-4, 0-4) decided if they were to lose, McCarron would have to beat them. Had Tennessee covered Alabama's wide receivers, who knows what would have happened?
But that didn't happen. McCarron threw for 306 yards and four touchdowns and on only one of the touchdowns was a defender close enough to the receiver to make an impact. An analysis was sent out a few weeks ago breaking down how to beat Alabama (7-0, 4-0). Allow us to take a crack at that…
To beat the Tide, you have to out-Alabama them - don't give up on the run, throw short but effective passes, don't turn the ball over, force turnovers, don't commit penalties, run the ball well, don't drop passes, make tackles and capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves. Sound hard? That's because it is.
7. The World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party still matters. It's unimaginable to think that the annual meeting between Georgia and Florida wouldn't have the SEC East crown on the line, but the Bulldogs almost let it happen by trying to lose to Kentucky.
If Georgia had lost, Florida would only have needed to beat Missouri on Nov. 3 to clinch the division. Now, the Gators need a win over Georgia to do it. And beating Georgia is all the Gators need to do. Georgia is alive as well, but the Bulldogs have to beat Florida and the rest of the SEC teams on their schedule.
Without even looking at who those teams are, it's doubtful Georgia will make it through. Somebody always pulls off a win over Georgia that shouldn't. Georgia's remaining SEC opponents are Ole Miss and Auburn, so maybe they could do it, after all.
They (not sure who "they" is in this context) don't want the game being called the "Cocktail Party" because everybody knows there's no drinking at a college football game. Ever. Not even one. They prefer the World's Largest Outdoor Party. That seems presumptuous, and removing "Cocktail" from the game's name takes away the only reason anyone ever has to go to Jacksonville.
8. Mississippi State could "out-Alabama" Alabama. Efficient passing, few mistakes, high turnover margin, consistent running game, crushing defense. That's what Alabama is, but it is also what Mississippi State is.
This year will be the first time since 1942 that these teams have both been undefeated when they met. Mississippi State would love to be the team to derail the Alabama freight train and earn some much-coveted respect in the process.
The Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0) haven't gotten much attention this year, except when they tripped over each other trying to run on the field. Alabama won't let them use any fog in Tuscaloosa this Saturday so that won't be a problem. Noise fog, however, will be a different story.
It's odd that this rivalry doesn't have a name so we're officially coining the term "Starkaloosa Footballapalooza." It's sure to catch on quickly. Or not.
9. Derek Dooley's hip isn't the only thing broken for Tennessee. One word: defense.
Tennessee was scared of the Alabama running game, and rightfully so, but not fearing the passing game proved to be pretty dumb. It should have already been known that Alabama was a good passing team, but what Tennessee showed was Alabama is capable of being a great passing team, especially when you don't cover the wide receivers.
Derek Dooley's hideous pants were not enough of a distraction to keep A.J. McCarron from out-Tyler Braying Tyler Bray. None of Alabama's passing touchdowns were contested, McCarron was rarely under pressure and the Tennessee secondary looked at times like it was surprised Alabama could actually pass.
Tyler Bray has been leading an explosive aerial attack this year, which you would think would mean Tennessee's defense has seen some passing plays in practice. Apparently not. Maybe that's why Tennessee throws so much. It sees its inept secondary in practice and gets an inflated opinion of its own self-worth.
Whatever the issue is, Alabama did what it's always done: walk in, take care of business and walk out.
10. Five teams will be seriously evaluating their coaching situations. Unless Derek Dooley's pants hypnotize Tennessee's athletic director, he'll be doing something other than coaching Tennessee next year (and not wearing those pants) and the Vols' porous defense and fear of tackling will be the primary reasons why.
Dooley is far from being alone, however. Arkansas is unlikely to keep John L. Smith, Kentucky will look for something better than a Joker (Phillips), Mark Richt has been a bad night's sleep away from being fired about four years and the only reason the $7 million-plus buyout Gene Chizik has keeps being mentioned is to make sure Auburn asks for the right amount of money from its boosters to cover it.
Odds are that at least one of these coaches will stick around (we think Richt) after the season. Coaches who will be looked at to replace them, among others, will probably be Bobby Petrino, Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
The real question is who will be the first to be fired?
Our guess is Smith. No, Auburn won't even be able to win at that, either.
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