Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Upsets abound in the SEC on one of the
most unpredictable college football Saturdays in recent memory, effectively
shaking up the dynamics of the nation's top conference.
The events that transpired on Oct. 19 proved that no team is safe in the SEC.
In total, five ranked clubs from the conference lost last Saturday, four of
coming in dramatic fashion on plays late in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss
managed to knock off LSU on a last-second field goal (27-24), the same fate
that Tennessee delivered to South Carolina (23-21). Vanderbilt orchestrated a
game-winning touchdown drive to take down Georgia (31-27), and in perhaps the
most impressive triumph of the day, Auburn went into College Station and
outlasted Texas A&M in a 45-41 shootout. Although not technically an upset,
Florida was the fifth ranked team to fall after getting run over by Missouri,
After such an unprecedented day, it's time to rearrange the hierarchy in a
conference that boasts the last seven BCS national champions.
At the start of the 2013 campaign, it appeared as though the SEC Eastern
Division was going to be a three-horse race between Georgia, South Carolina
and Florida, but what a difference a few weeks makes.
Georgia and Florida have both fallen from the national ranks with identical
4-3 records (3-2 SEC), thanks to a rash of injuries in both locker rooms. The
Bulldogs have struggled to surround quarterback Aaron Murry with his full
arsenal of weapons, with crippling injuries at running back (Todd Gurley,
Keith Marshall) and wide receiver (Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris
Conley, Justin Scott-Wesley, Jonathan Rumph) limiting the potential of their
once-potent offensive attack. The Gators have been plagued as well, with
season-ending injuries to QB Jeff Driskel, WR Andre Debose, OT Chaz Green, RB
Matt Jones, DT Dominique Easley, DB Nick Washington and LB Jeremi Powell. The
Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2) have been less ravaged by injury, but have been surely
distracted by the antics of their star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
With turmoil throughout the East, Missouri (7-0) has risen to the top of the
heap, climbing all the way to No. 5 in the latest AP poll, and at 3-0 in the
division, stands as the overwhelming favorite to punch a ticket to the SEC
Championship Game. It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for the Tigers
however, as they also suffered a huge blow with the loss of quarterback James
Franklin, but the team didn't skip a beat with backup Maty Mauk in their
convincing win over Florida.
Missouri's meteoric rise in the standings comes as a surprise to many,
considering the lackluster 5-7 (2-6 SEC) record in put forth in its SEC debut
a season ago, but head coach Gary Pinkel, who led the squad to bowl games in
every season from 2005-11, has brought the Tigers back to the prominence
thanks to an explosive offense (44.3 ppg) and a stout defense (22.1 ppg).
"This team is resilient, coming back from where we were last year," Missouri
wide receiver L'Damien Washington said. "I told Coach Pinkel, 'We've got to
stop talking about bowl games around here. Let's talk BCS, let's talk national
Over in the SEC West, things aren't in complete disarray. Even though many of
its flaws were exposed last weekend, LSU (No. 13) and Texas A&M (No. 14) are
still considered two of the nation's elite teams, although with two league
losses apiece, their respective hopes for competing for the SEC championship
have been all but dash. The big story out west, however, is the outstanding
play of the 11th-ranked Auburn Tigers, who just a season ago fired their head
coach after a disastrous 3-9 campaign, which included losses in all eight
league bouts. Now, under Gus Malzahn, the Tigers (6-1) are once again part of
the conversation when referring to the league's top teams. Their 615-yard, 45-
point performance at Texas A&M last week proved without a doubt, that they are
a force to be reckoned with.
"This is a statement game, and the statement we wanted to put across was that
we're coming," Auburn running back Tre Mason said following the comeback win
over A&M. "It's just getting better from here on out."
It's clear that times have changed in the SEC, but one constant remains -- the
nation's No. 1 team Alabama. As they have watched some of their competition
self-destruct and crumble while others successfully rose from the ashes, the
Crimson Tide stayed the course as their typically dominating selves. The two-
time defending national champs have won all seven of their games this season,
and since out-dueling Texas A&M on Sept. 14 (49-42), has ripped off five
consecutive wins of at least 25 points, including last Saturday's 52-0 rout of
Arkansas. The Tide may still have some difficult games left on the schedule
(vs. LSU on Nov. 9, at Auburn on Nov. 30), but in an unpredictable SEC,
there's no question which team is the cream of the crop.
"I think it's important that our team continue to focus on improving," Alabama
head coach Nick Saban said. "I still don't think we played our best game."
As last week proved, there's no use trying to guess what will happen over the
last month of the season, as there are sure to be plenty more twists and turns
along the way. What we do know is that the SEC's new-found parity will
continue to result in exciting football games down the stretch.
The Sports Network