The SEC: What We Found Out, What We'll Find Out
Well, there you have it.
The majority of the question marks I commented on recently seem to have been ironed out. We knew that many answers would be found after the Alabama/Georgia game, but I don't know how prepared we all were to receive answers to questions we didn't even ask (right, Florida?).
Let's go ahead and get the showdown in Athens out of the way.
What did we want to know?
We were curious as to the actual identities and capabilities of both teams, each of whom are important pieces to their respective divisions and the SEC Championship game.
I don't think we realized just how much they would affect the National Championship picture in this game, though.
Alabama dominated the first half. They got the 120-150 yards I predicted they would need in order to have a shot. John Parker Wilson did exactly what he needed to: played efficiently and threw accurately, and managed the game admirably.
The defense was able to take Knowshon Moreno out of the game early because of their quick accumulation of points. Though Matthew Stafford was forced to pass for the majority of the game, he still eluded the 300-yard mark in passing yards (he threw for 275 yards in the game).
Georgia's offensive line was pretty well smacked around the entire game. The Tide typically rushed four or five of their defensive front and were able to flush Stafford consistently.
This will be excellent tape for Georgia's upcoming opponents; knowing they can rush less than half their players and still create disruption to help their secondaries against Big D's Big Arm.
Their defense did prove to be a tough one, and they certainly tested Alabama. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the Tide had a perfect game plan and executed it flawlessly. I know Alabama scored seemingly at will, but Georgia's lack of discipline cost them touchdowns and tons of momentum.
Let's not forget that Georgia showed extreme character and pride in the second half by not giving up and posting 30 points. It's easy to say that the score doesn't reflect how the game really went, but in this case, maybe it actually does.
Sure, Alabama went into halftime up 31-0, but they lost focus and allowed a somehow inspired Georgia squad to have a chance, albeit a small one.
Nick Saban has showed his displeasure in the team's second-half performance, and rightfully so. Alabama needs to constantly be reminded of how to finish games, how to get the blowouts, to not play down to the competition or circumstances of the game.
In truth, they need to be more like Oklahoma always is. It's true that Oklahoma loses in the spotlight, but they know how to get to that same spotlight, which is almost as important.
Their blowouts of every single opponent rightfully warrants their No. 1 ranking. Thus, Alabama is going to have to play with a higher level of consistency to achieve greatness this season. That's no small task for a team full of upstart youngsters.
The State of the SEC West
Alabama probably deserves to be ranked ahead of LSU for the simple fact that the Bayou Bengals have beaten Auburn and Mississippi State rather unimpressively... and those two schools have been very unimpressive.
One thing that does bode well for the Tigers of LSU is that they are starting to lean toward a particular QB now. Some stability at that position will do wonders for the entire team, and you have to expect the young Jarrett Lee to get better and better.
RB Charles Scott is tearing it up right now as well, and with his style of running, he shouldn't deter much as the season goes on.
However, the fact that the Crimson Tide won against two top 10 teams in brutal fashion on the road hasn't gone unnoticed. Thus, they deserve to be a highly ranked team until they start losing key players.
If that happens, it will certainly be a wait-and-see, as their depth is always a concern. Let's not forget that they haven't won a game in the month of November since 2006.
One place they can afford to be hit is at RB, which also happens to be where they've been getting their best production; so that's good.
They have four very capable backs ready to do work whenever they're needed, and have a fifth on reserve (RS Freshman Demetrius Goode).
Both 'Bama and LSU have a power back (Ingram/Scott), a couple of balanced backs (Coffee, Upchurch/Williams, Murphy), and a scatback (Grant/Holliday). Because they both have so many options in their ground attacks, it's easy to predict a real treat of a game come Nov. 8 in Baton Rouge.
We know each team will try to pound each other and play very physically. As it stands, neither team should lose before they play each other. Yes, that's right, that means I'm saying that LSU will go into the Swamp in Gainesville and beat Florida. Which leads me to my next point...
The SEC East, supposedly the class of the league, showed otherwise last Saturday. The Vols still played uninspired football against Auburn (and they still only lost by two points), the Gators lost at home to unranked Ole Miss, and of course you have the trouncing of Georgia by Alabama.
What are we left with? Vanderbilt and Kentucky leading the division. Wow. If anyone predicted this, give me proof of it and I will personally give you $1 million (just add it to my student loans total, as it will scarcely make a dent).
In the West, everyone knew it would be a battle to see who would represent the division in Atlanta in December, but most figured the prevailing team would be the punching bag for either Georgia or Florida (whichever one made it to the championship from the East division).
Now, Alabama and LSU (both from the West) sit atop the SEC hierarchy and are ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in the country, respectively. The Mississippi schools also did their part: Ole Miss by waltzing into the Swamp in Gainesville, and MSU by putting up 24 points on a stout LSU D.
But never fear, the SEC East knows how long the season is and we tend to forget the early bumps in the road come November anyway (just ask Tennessee in 2007).
Georgia, though still having a tough-as-nails schedule, can learn from their mistakes against Alabama and keep their heads up after proving to themselves that they can score when they're determined to (see second half of Alabama game).
Also, Florida, if Urban Meyer can get someone other than Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow running the ball effectively, will hang tough with anybody the rest of the season. However, we won't know exactly where they stand until they play Georgia in neutral-site Jacksonville on Nov. 1.
That game will quite possibly determine the East representative of the championship game at the Georgia Dome. My quick prediction for that game is a second straight win for the Georgia Bulldogs.
They are a team essentially built to play against Florida, and Urban Meyer has shown no interest in even trying to run the ball up the middle. Mark Richt won't let his players slip again.
So as things look right now (and keep in mind the words right now), the SEC looks to be headed by LSU and Alabama in the West and still Florida and Georgia in the East (by default).
No offense to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but they should enjoy their early success while it lasts.
If Georgia can't handle a physical, talented Alabama team, Kentucky won't be able to either in Tuscaloosa this weekend.
Also, Vandy will still upset some people, just like almost every SEC team does at least once a year, and probably make it to a bowl, but they aren't seriously in the SEC Championship hunt (even though that would be fantastic).
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