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Y'all Play Nice: The SEC Staple, Week 11
The Rebels' Bo Wallace
The Rebels' Bo Wallace
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 9, 2012


Every week, CFN's Doc Harper and Russ Mitchell break down the SEC games you need to watch, the SEC questions you want answered, and of course, the SEC Power Rankings. All things SEC from two different SEC writers, with two different SEC points of view. One of 'em always right. Now y'all play nice.


Russ Mitchell is the lead SEC columnist for CFN. Follow him @russmitchellcfb
Doc Harper covers the SEC for CFN. Follow him @doc_harper


3 SEC QUESTIONS THAT NAG MORE THAN YOUR EX

(i) Who had the best performance in Week 10?

Russ Mitchell:

We could go with Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and his explosive afternoon, going 29-of-47 passing for 530 yards and five touchdown with no interceptions…’cept it came against Troy. Or we could go with Bama linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who not only led his team in tackles (12, a career high) along with 2.5 tackles for loss, but helped stop LSU on fourth and one late in the fourth quarter which kept the Tide’s dreams of a championship season alive…’cept his defense was manhandled Saturday on the Bayou, surrendering 435 total yards along with a healthy portion of its reputation. But is there really any doubt…in only his third SEC road game, A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel completed 30-of-36 passes for 311 yards to go with 21 carries for 129 yards in thoroughly embarrassing State in Starkville. Along the way, Johnny Football helped TAMU rack up 693 yards of offense…and it could have easily been more. Next up for the freshman: Bama in Tuscaloosa.

Doc Harper:

We often give this award to a guy who had a stellar game from kickoff to final whistle, but there was one player this week who put himself in SEC highlight reels for years to come. If Alabama wins the national title, the Tide faithful will paint murals of T.J. Yeldon’s 28-yard screen pass touchdown reception with 51 seconds left in Baton Rouge. Just as UGA’s Jarvis Jones earned a spot in Bulldog lore by putting UF’s Jordan Reed in the Clint Stoerner Hall of Fame, Yeldon cements a place in Crimson Tide history with one play, especially if Bama claims its second straight BCS title.

(ii)Should Johnny Manziel’s stats be enough to put him in Heisman consideration?

Mitchell:

No. If Manziel had performed well against the two top shelf defenses he’s faced, then yes. However, as impressive as Johnny Football has been this season, his struggles against both Florida and LSU – at home, no less – knock him from consideration for this award. Keep your eyes sharp, however…with another season of experience in both the film and weight rooms, Manziel could easily find his way to the DAC.

Harper:

He’s having a spectacular season and deserves to be in the conversation; potentially even deserves a trip to New York. But if the best team he beats all year is Louisiana Tech, he shouldn’t win the trophy. Manziel struggled in the second half against LSU and Florida, aka teams with good defenses. If he can stop that trend in Tuscaloosa this week, then he absolutely deserves to be in that group, I think he’s on the fringe right now. A lot of people are comparing his numbers to Tim Tebow’s 2007 numbers, but the difference is that was a year when their wasn’t an elite player on an elite team. That’s the year LSU got to the national title game with two losses. If Kansas State goes undefeated, the award is Colin Klein’s to lose, but Manziel may earn a trip to the big city.

(iii) What every SEC fan should be talking about after Week 4, but isn’t?

Mitchell:

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron led a comeback for the ages in perhaps the most hostile environment for a visiting football team in all of college football. As we wrote that day, champions seize opportunity. However, McCarron’s evening was hardly full of sunshine. In fact, his final state line itself was far from a thing of beauty: 14-of-27 passing for 165 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. But look a little deeper...

When you factor that McCarron went 7-of-8 passing for 109 yards and the touchdown against a very soft LSU prevent defense at the end of both halves, and the Bama signal caller’s evening of futility was pretty startling. Outside of those two drives, McCarron was a stunning 7-of-19 for 56 yards; not to mention 1-of-9 on third down conversions. In their first match-up last November, McCarron only completed four passes caught more than four yards past the line of scrimmage…yet with six weeks to prepare, in the title game he looked like Joe Montana Jr. Again last Saturday, McCarron largely struggled against the LSU defense, except when it came to executing the two minute drill – which, like the six weeks he had before the title game, is practiced ad nauseam. Practice, practice, practice… With time to prepare, McCarron is excellent.

LSU’s defense is certainly unique – this year it’s ranked third in the nation in both total defense and pass efficiency defense. It can make any quarterback look bad. Besides the Tigers, the next best defense McCarron has faced this season has been Missouri. No, that’s not a mistake. Last year, after LSU it was 7-6 Florida. McCarron’s stat line in that contest? 12-of-25 passing for 140 yards, zero touchdowns.

Champions seize opportunity, and McCarron did that to spectacular effect late in the fourth quarter against LSU. But given his suspect track record against good defenses without time to prepare, AJ’s glory on Saturday night in Death Valley might have been as much, if not more, about the Tigers offering him a soft, prevent defense in a two minute, rehearsed drill.

Harper:

For a league that prides itself on depth, the bottom of the league has basically devolved into Sun Belt quality. Troy held a late fourth quarter lead over Tennessee in Knoxville this week, and the Vols needed 55 points to hold them off. In Week 3, the Trojans pushed Mississippi State well into the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs put them down. Auburn needed Louisiana-Monroe to miss a field goal in overtime to defeat the Warhawks…the week after ULM actually upset Arkansas. Western Kentucky beat the Wildcats in Lexington, and Hilltoppers’ coach Willie Taggart may be a candidate to take Joker Phillips’ job as well. Is this the best conference in America?


IN FOCUS: Which SEC Coach/Player is in the Week 11 Spotlight?

Mitchell:

Dan Mullen, Head Coach, Mississippi State: Mullen got the “SEC West” monkey off his back by beating Auburn early in the season, but since then a win over Auburn hardly seems impressive. The schedule got tough after Tennessee, and it’s been two humiliating losses at the hands of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and TAMU in Starkville. Mullen's 7-0 season of destiny is quickly turning into a nightmare finish. For Mullen to avoid my preseason prediction of 7-0 followed by 0-5, he’ll need to win one of his next three games: at LSU, Arkansas and at Ole Miss for the Egg Bowl. State has only beaten LSU once in the last two decades; even with a post-Bama hangover, LSU should have no trouble with State on Saturday. A third straight blowout loss for MSU would hurt this program far more than it benefited from the 7-0 start. In addition to not being embarrassed, State must stay healthy to have a shot at winning one of its last two games after Baton Rouge. All eyes will be on Dan Mullen and State this weekend…for a number of reasons.

Harper:

Dan Mullen, Head Coach, Mississippi State: After starting 7-0 with a relatively easy early schedule, the Bulldogs have been destroyed in their last two games. State needs to win, or at least be competitive in this game against LSU, to prove they weren’t a complete fraud. Get blown out again, and they probably won’t be ranked next week - and that's the best case scenario. This game could also have an impact on Dan Mullen’s position on the coaching market, if he is in fact considering any other jobs after the season is over.


SEC POWER RANKINGS

Mitchell

1 Alabama – A win is a win is a win
2 LSU – Right now, Bama’s the only team playing better than LSU
3 Florida – 2 straight games where Florida has passed on 41% of O; 2 straight struggles
4 Georgia – Defense is playing much better than the 1H of 2012
5 A&M – Make sure Manziel doesn’t get hurt
6 South Carolina – Finally some payback for Arkansas
7 Ole Miss – Best shot to go bowling
8 State – Can’t afford a third straight blowout loss
9 Vanderbilt – Finally this backfield is playing to preseason expectations; will beat UT for bowl
11 Missouri – Solid defensive play in the Swamp; a good chance to win in Knoxville
12 Tennessee – Thank goodness Reggie White isn’t around to see this
13 Arkansas – Teams Tulsa has held to under 20 points: Tulane, Nicholls St, UTEP, & Arkansas
14 Auburn – Winless and coachless, Part I
14 Kentucky – Winless and coachless, Part II

Harper

1 Alabama – No time to rest with Johnny coming to town
2 Georgia – Relishing opportunity to humiliate rival Auburn
3 Florida – Stuck hoping for a miracle from Auburn
4 LSU – SCREEN!!!
5 A&M – Here’s your shot
6 South Carolina – Wouldn’t need Lattimore to beat Arkansas anyway
7 Ole Miss – Actually, a pretty big game against Vandy
8 State – Still unsure how good they are
9 Vanderbilt – Picking up momentum in second half of season
10 Tennessee – Still have a shot at bowl eligibility, somehow
11 Missouri – Hooray for moral victories!
12 Arkansas – Teams Tulsa has held to under 20 points: Tulane, Nicholls St, UTEP...& Hogs
13 Auburn – Tigers looking ahead to possible win over Alabama A&M next week?
14 Kentucky – Only behind Auburn because they already fired Joker


THREE GAMES TO DVR

Mitchell:

1) Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss, Saturday, 7:00 PM ET I ESPNU. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – this is the best game of the weekend. Both teams will be practicing in December if they can win this game. Most college football fans in the south, let alone America, don’t realize that the Dores have a top 20 defense, including one of the nation’s best pass defenses. Unfortunately for James Franklin and crew, Ole Miss would rather run. Vandy’s backfield of quarterback Jordan Rodgers and tailback Zac Stacy has finally come to life, and their 40-0 road win, coach-killing performance in Lexington was particularly impressive last Saturday. Yes, even against Kentucky. This will likely be a close game right to the final whistle, but we’ll take the home team Rebels and its rushing attack behind quarterback Bo Wallace…
Pick: Ole Miss 24, Vanderbilt 23

2)Texas A&M vs. Alabama, Saturday, 3:30 PM ET I CBS. Bama is ranked fourth best in the nation in turnover margin. Meanwhile, in its three close SEC games to date, TAMU has surrendered the ball 11 times, with a -9 differential. If that wasn’t bad enough, the one thing that Bama can do better than anything else is stop running quarterbacks dead in their tracks. Be they Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Va Tech’s Tyrod Taylor, LSU’s Jordan Jefferson (minus a half of football last November), Florida’s Tim Tebow, they all were shut down cold by this Bama defense. Even Cam Newton, while his team may have been better and won the 2010 Iron Bowl, was held to 39 yards on 22 carries. Now here comes the freshman, Johnny Football, strolling into Tuscaloosa. Welcome, freshman…
Pick: Alabama 31, A&M 24

3) Mississippi State vs. LSU, Saturday, 7:00 PM ET I ESPN. Sticking with my 0-5 finish for State. The score might not be a blowout like the last two games, but I expect the Bulldogs will get roughed up quite a bit in this game, which will set them back for the Arkansas game next week... Pick: LSU 24, Mississippi State 13

Harper:

1)Texas A&M vs. Alabama, Saturday, 3:30 PM ET I CBS. Manziel has been superhuman against teams without decent defenses, but Alabama doesn’t quite fit that bill. Has Manziel learned enough to compete against the Tide after coming up short against LSU and Florida? Does Alabama have enough left to get up for this game after an emotional win in Baton Rouge? I think the Tide can shut down Manziel as much as they want, but they better not take the Aggies lightly...
Pick: Alabama 31, A&M 24

2) Mississippi State vs. LSU, Saturday, 7:00 PM ET I ESPN. Which team has anything left? Both were hoping for big things last week and ended up taking a punch in the gut. LSU should win, and the game is a night game in Death Valley. The win streak might be 0 right now, but it won’t stay that way too long. It could be ugly though...
Pick: LSU 17, Mississippi State 14

3) Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss, Saturday, 7:00 PM ET I ESPNU. There’s been so much press about the horrible teams in the SEC this year, it’s easy to forget that some schools are on the upswing. These are two teams that weren’t expected to do a lot when the season started, and the winner here becomes bowl eligible. Even the team that doesn’t pull this out will have an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to get there as well...
Pick: Ole Miss 27, Vanderbilt 21


Russ Mitchell is the lead SEC columnist for CFN. Follow him @russmitchellcfb
Doc Harper covers the SEC for CFN. Follow him @doc_harper