SEC Football: Week 8 Matchups Showcase Shift in Conference Dominance

Ethan GrantAnalyst IOctober 20, 2012

OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 06:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies reacts to a call during a game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Oxford, Mississippi.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

BCS No. 1 Alabama is still at the top of the SEC and the entire country. But behind the Crimson Tide, the SEC is looking different than the normal teams and rankings we're used to seeing.

Case in point, 2011 national champion Auburn is 1-5, and are a touchdown underdog to Vanderbilt on Saturday. No team has ever won a championship and then had a 1-6 record within two years of accomplishing that feat.

Arkansas, a favorite to contend for national bragging rights this year, saw QB Tyler Wilson go down with an injury and its big season plans fall apart in the following weeks.

While teams like LSU, South Carolina and Georgia have all been on the national scene for the past few seasons, the emergence of three teams not anywhere near the list has been the most impressive this year, outside of Alabama.

No. 2 Florida has restored its program luster behind a 6-0 start and QB Jeff Driskel. The Gators defense has been stifling in the second half of football games, and they're outscoring opponents 54-10 in the final quarter—a mark of the coaching staff and their preparation towards closing out games.

Mississippi State has used a balanced offensive attack and some big road wins to move into position as a top 15 team. At No. 12 in the rankings, the Bulldogs' toughest games are still to come, but no one expected them to be in this position when the season began.

But the surprise team of the conference, No. 18 Texas A&M, is actually in the SEC West title race. At 5-1, the Aggies have survived games against Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech. Their only blemish is the home loss to Florida in their second game of the season.

Both Florida and A&M have a chance to really make things interesting after Week 8 is completed.

At home against No. 7 South Carolina, the Gators are facing a Gamecocks team that needs a win to push its national title hopes back to the front burner. It would assure South Carolina a solid shot at the East title after already embarrassing Georgia and muddy things up inside the Top Five of the BCS.

When A&M joined the conference, no one could question that its tradition and culture would fit right in with one of the best conferences for that sort of thing.

But the team's talent on the field seems to have the same kind of luster as the 12th man and all the illustrious things that make the school one of the most storied in this country's history.

Facing No. 6 LSU this weekend at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, they have a chance to make a national statement against the cream of the SEC. Should they pull off the upset, they'd be in better position than the school they left complaining against, the University of Texas.

You can follow along with B/R's live coverage of that game here.

With the nation's best football conference still boasting supremacy, the SEC has plenty of bragging rights against other conferences.

However, the teams leading the East and in contention in the West aren't the ones we're used to seeing. It's great news for both schools, and a needed wake up call for Auburn and Arkansas after early season expectations might have made them too lax in games that should have been victories.

Here's a complete look at this week's SEC matchups:

No. 6 LSU at No. 18 Texas A&M: In Progress, on ESPN and live blog on B/R

Auburn at Vanderbilt: In Progress, SEC Network

No. 7 South Carolina at No. 2 Florida: 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 11 Georgia at Kentucky: 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN3

Middle Tennessee at No. 12 Mississippi State: 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2

No. 1 Alabama at Tennessee: 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN


For everything college football and everything SEC, keep checking back with Bleacher Report on this Week 8 Saturday.