What We Learned from the SEC in Week 7 - Tucson News Now

What We Learned from the SEC in Week 7

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Gene Chizik walks through an isolated faction of Auburn fans who still tolerate his existence prior to the Tigers' loss to Ole Miss. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University) Gene Chizik walks through an isolated faction of Auburn fans who still tolerate his existence prior to the Tigers' loss to Ole Miss. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)
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(RNN) – There were no upsets this week, unless you count our sleeping pattern because of the four-hour defensive struggle in Shreveport.

Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech, the following message is for you: MAKE A TACKLE!!

We despise the style of football that leads to 59-57 games, but it was the biggest game in Louisiana Tech history so we had to watch (more on this later).

LSU's win over South Carolina could be considered both an upset and not an upset because the Tigers were ranked lower than South Carolina yet were a three-point favorite.

Also, regular readers may find this surprising, but we have no bad remarks about Missouri this week (OK, maybe just one). It's just not fun to goof on them anymore.

Below is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 7.

1. The only thing that can stop Alabama is lightning, and even that isn't very reliable. Alabama scored four touchdowns and gave up no points in its 42-10 win over Missouri before the game was delayed due to lightning in the area. After the delay, the Tide scored 14 points and allowed 10.

Alabama (6-0, 3-0) showed no ill effects of having a bye last week. In fact, the Tide looked better because of it. A new offensive wrinkle was added by putting defensive tackle Jesse Williams in at fullback and doing exactly what you should do when a guy wearing No. 54 plays fullback – run the ball right behind wherever he goes, which is generally the end zone.

Alabama did this once before with a guy named Terrance Cody, and it worked flawlessly. T.J. Yeldon was the primary tailback behind Williams against Missouri (3-4, 0-4), but if this package gets inside the red zone with bruiser Eddie Lacy running behind Williams, there may only be one defensive line in the country able to stop it and it happens to be the one Williams anchors.

2. LSU discovered the value of its running game. At the risk of being accused of wanting to outlaw the forward pass (but, really, that wouldn't be a bad idea), we will give LSU the same advice that was given earlier to Auburn and Alabama: Stop trying to throw.

Before we go any further, let's clarify our opinion. We here at What We Learned don't hate the passing game, but we do love the running game, and we love good defense. If you gave us a time machine, we wouldn't go back to Biblical times or walk with dinosaurs or have a cigar with Winston Churchill. We would want to go to the days of Knute Rockne to see the Notre Dame box in all of its antiquated glory.

It still amazes us how many people are still amazed at the importance of running the football. Name the last championship team that couldn't run the ball. It might take you a while.

LSU (6-1, 2-1) tried to pass early and it almost cost them when Zach Mettenberger threw an interception that almost got returned for a touchdown in the Tigers' 23-21 win over South Carolina (in his defense, the defenders were wearing camouflage and were hard to see). It did cost South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) when Connor Shaw threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter (more on this later).

Three players had at least 10 carries for the Tigers, the team rushed for 258 yards and LSU was able to take control of the game and dictate its outcome. Quarterbacks love running backs that do the work for them, and Mettenberger was in desperate need of that.

3. Auburn keeps finding new ways to get worse. What few expectations Auburn fans had left were crushed in the pile of rubble that used to be Gene Chizik's dignity.

Tigers fans can be divided into two groups: Those who understand the struggles Auburn faced after losing important players and both coordinators in the offseason and those camped outside of Auburn/Opelika area restaurants waiting for an opportunity to stab Chizik in the neck with a salad fork (gives new meaning to "all in").

It will take more than a quarterback change to get something positive happening on the Plains. The first thing that needs to happen is do what was advocated in this column a few weeks ago, and that is to just run the ball. When Auburn was running the ball, good things were happening. The Tigers (1-5, 0-4) even took the lead over Ole Miss (4-3, 1-2) before losing 41-20.

Auburn decided that what was working wasn't what it should do, so it went back to what wasn't working, and saw a seven-point game turn into a 21-point game right in front of its very eyes.

The Tigers are on the verge of something historic (we love history, and we don't want to jinx it so we'll wait a week or two) and if Chizik isn't making plans to be somewhere else next season, he probably should be. At the very least, he should stay away from the Opelika Outback Steakhouse for a while – a long while.

4. We really, really love Florida. We have waxed somewhat poetic about the running game enough that it should come as no surprise that we think Florida (6-0, 5-0) is an oasis of physicality in the desert of a defense-phobic football landscape.

Call them a guilty pleasure if you like, but the Gators are fun to watch. If it isn't Mike Gillislee pounding away at defensive lines it's Jeff Driskel faking it to Gillislee and running the other way. It's beautiful in its simplicity.

Driskel came through in a 31-17 win over Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-3) by rushing for 177 yards and three touchdowns while Gillislee was held to 67 yards. The Gators' running game picks up the yards and points and gives the defense a chance to rest.

It's easy and effective. More people should try it. Seriously.

5. Mississippi State is just good enough to beat you. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, that's all you have to be. That's very dangerous for every team remaining on their schedule.

Who knows what would have happened if Derek Dooley and his hideous pants had been on the sideline to distract the Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0), but in their absence Mississippi State did exactly what it needed to do, taking down the Volunteers (3-3, 0-3) 41-31, including a spectacular, one-handed grab in the end zone with 10 seconds left in the game.

The Bulldogs' toughest opponents are yet to come, but if they can keep up their current ways, it's not hard to see them navigating that stretch without too much damage. Tyler Russell is the best quarterback you don't know anything about, LaDarius Perkins is averaging exactly 100 yards a game on the ground and Chad Bumphis is a dangerous receiving threat.

Mississippi State faces Middle Tennessee before getting Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU. All of those teams should be on notice.

6. Vanderbilt is only good enough to scare you. Unfortunately for the Commodores, you need to be more than that. This is also dangerous for every team on Vanderbilt's schedule, because you don't want to let them hang around too long. They just might beat you.

Vanderbilt doesn't get a lot of respect. Everybody makes fun of them, except Missouri. (We lied. It's still fun to goof on the Tigers.) But in reality, there shouldn't be a lot of jokes passed around at Vandy's expense. Save those for Kentucky – or Missouri.

Vandy has four losses in six games, but look who the losses are to – South Carolina, Northwestern, Georgia and Florida. None of those is a bad loss. Vanderbilt is not up to their level, but the Commodores are still a pretty decent team capable of becoming bowl eligible.

The most likely scenario would involve Vanderbilt beating Auburn, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Wake Forest, but games against Ole Miss and Tennessee are also winnable. Don't sleep on Vanderbilt.

7. We don't know who South Carolina is. Are the Gamecocks the team that marched through Georgia or the one that couldn't find its running game against LSU? Is this the team that cruised over Missouri or the one that squeaked by Vanderbilt? Is this the team that was trailing Kentucky 17-7 at halftime or the one that scored 31 unanswered points in the second half?

The answer to each of those questions is "Yes." We hear all the time that the coach sets the attitude of the team. Well, judging by this, the Gamecocks are sporadic, fun to watch and prone to explosive, sometimes unexplainable outbursts.

We said recently that Steve Spurrier likes to outcoach himself, and that still looks pretty accurate. Only two players got carries against LSU – Marcus Lattimore and Connor Shaw – and the SEC's most efficient passing game entering the weekend faltered. Shaw was 19-of-34 for 177 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Lattimore only gained 35 yards on the ground and the Gamecocks were 3-for-13 on third down. The most important thing any successful team has to have is consistency. Right now, South Carolina is anything but consistent.

Our apology last week was premature. South Carolina has been overrated all along.

8. Ole Miss may actually get a bowl game NOT named the Egg Bowl. Sounds crazy, right? Well, it's not.

The Rebels are two wins away from being bowl eligible and still have to face Arkansas and Vanderbilt, so getting those wins could be easy. There's even better news for Ole Miss. The Rebels haven't been to a bowl since 2009, but are currently on a four-game bowl winning streak and have won eight of their last nine bowls.

The bad news is eligibility is by no means a guarantee. Ole Miss has definitely turned a corner for the better, but the Rebels gave up what could have been a win over Texas A&M and struggled with consistency against Auburn.

It's a football cliché, but it's no less true, that if the Rebels can minimize their penalties and turnovers, those wins – and maybe another over Georgia, LSU or Mississippi State – should come easily.

9. Johnny Manziel is the best player in college football, and the competition is not even close. The only thing keeping Manziel from getting Heisman hype is, well, actually, we don't know why he isn't getting Heisman hype.

It could be because it's only his first year playing college football or it could be because Florida kept him from doing what he has done to everyone else, which is run circles – sometimes figure 8s - around their defense.

The latest victim was Louisiana Tech (5-1). Manziel set an SEC record for total offense throwing for 395 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 181 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 9.5 yards per carry and 9.9 yards per completion in a 59-57 win.

Manziel's passing average per game is rapidly approaching 300 yards, but as a runner, he leads the SEC in average yards per game, yards per carry, total yards and is tied with Marcus Lattimore for the lead in rushing touchdowns. Manziel is second in the SEC in passing touchdowns behind Tyler Bray.

Those are numbers Tim Tebow and Cam Newton would be jealous of.

Yes, Florida did bottle Manziel up, but that was in the Aggies' first game of the season. Nobody really knew how that offense was going to work. A&M (5-1, 2-1) gets LSU next week, Mississippi State two weeks later and Alabama on Nov. 10. Those games will show if "Johnny Football" is for real or just feasting on the defensively challenged.

10. Computers are stupid. Well, not all computers, just the ones that try to tell us which team is better than another team.

Obligatory BCS bashing in 3 … 2 … 1 …

The first Broken Championship System standings are released today and this column is not being held to wait for those numbers. Why, you ask? Because What We Learned's opinion of the Beleaguered Cockamamie Standings poll won't change based on what it says.

We encourage you to go check the data entered into the six computer rankings algorithms to make sure there are no errors in them. On second thought, don't waste your time. Only one of the formulas is made public. That means there are five polls – more than half of those used to determine the final standings - that have an unknown, and therefore unverifiable and illegitimate, process.

We'll stop here and go have a Coca-Cola - the only secret formula we don't have a problem with.

Extra points: In the interest of disclosure, the author graduated from Louisiana Tech.

And who are we kidding? Of course we would have a cigar with Churchill.

Wait. Did Rockne smoke?

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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