What We Learned from the SEC in Week 11 - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

What We Learned from the SEC in Week 11

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Tre Mason runs for an Auburn touchdown. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Tre Mason runs for an Auburn touchdown. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Though not discussed here, Georgia became bowl eligible with a 45-6 win over Appalachian State. (Source: Georgia Athletics) Though not discussed here, Georgia became bowl eligible with a 45-6 win over Appalachian State. (Source: Georgia Athletics)

(RNN) – Last week, I told Oregon to make a move. Well, holy quack, did they ever make a bad one.

Oregon was so concerned about Alabama it forgot about the closest thing the Pac 12 has to Alabama – run-first, defensive minded Stanford. In fact, it might have been a good thing for the Ducks to lose that game.

The only thing more embarrassing than recycling their "We Want Bama" T-shirts would be an embarrassing blowout in a season-long hyped contest, which it looks like Alabama would deliver.

Florida State took care of business against Wake Forest and Baylor trounced Oklahoma. We're steamrolling toward a perfect scenario for the new four-team playoff. Too bad that doesn't start until next year.

Here is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 11.

1. Do. Not. Provoke. Alabama. It was said by LSU defensive lineman Anthony Johnson that Alabama couldn't play physical like it has in the past. Why? Why do you do this to yourself? You're only inviting pain, punishment, ridicule and embarrassment on you and everyone who knows you. How many times must this be said?

Alabama takes offense to things like that. Nevermind the fact that with Eddie Lacy now running for the Green Bay Packers, he's kind of right. Alabama's running game is much more speed oriented this year with T.J. Yeldon (133 yards, two touchdowns) and Kenyan Drake (65 yards). The Tide also lost three offensive linemen to the NFL. But here's the thing: They replaced those linemen with other guys who will one day go to the NFL themselves.1

Those guys then responded after a lackluster first half by pacing the Tide to three punishing touchdown drives in the second half, an eight-minute time of possession advantage and a 38-17 win. So, yeah, just don't say anything when asked about Alabama. It only leads to trouble.

It's also a really bad idea to take a lead over the Crimson Tide while there's still time for them to do something about it. LSU took a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter then promptly fell behind by 10. The Tigers tied the game at 17 early in the second half and then did nothing offensively the rest of the game, including squandering an 82-yard kickoff return.

Texas A&M made the same mistake. The Aggies opened a 14-0 lead over Alabama in the first quarter. The Tide then responded with 35 straight points. For what it's worth, LSU made the same mistake last season when the Tigers rallied and took a 17-14 lead with 12:58 to play. It was 52 seconds too soon.

2. Les Miles got out-Les Miles'd. The way to beat Alabama is to out-Alabama them, but who thought Alabama would ever out-opponent its opponent?

Mismanaging the clock at the end of a half and missing out on potential scoring opportunity? Miles invented it. Wasting a timeout when you only have 10 people on the field? You have to pay Les Miles $100 every time you do that. A fake punt with a misdirection handoff? Les Miles owes his career to that play. Jumping into your quarterback's arms after a win? Absurdly Milesian.

Miles did none of those things Saturday. Nick Saban did them all.2

Then following the game, Saban said of the dominant second half Alabama had, "we probably played our best half of football." Probably? Does that mean Alabama can do better? That's a bit terrifying.

3. Florida is in serious danger of not making a bowl. Note the word "serious." Entering last week, things weren't dire for the Gators. Well, they are now following a 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt – at homecoming no less.

Vanderbilt forced four turnovers against the Gators, which is the blueprint for beating them, especially when you can score 21 points afterwards. Florida also only ran for 39 yards, and Tyler Murphy's -44 yards on five sacks didn't help much.

Florida still has to face Georgia Southern, so a fifth win is a virtual guarantee, but the all-important sixth win won't be easy. The Gators' best chance will come next week against South Carolina. That's not an easy game to win with the Gamecocks fighting for the SEC East crown, but it's a necessary win for bowl eligibility because the only other opponent the Gators have is Florida State, which is dominant and has its eyes set on the BCS national championship.

It's a far cry from last year's Sugar Bowl berth.

4. Ole Miss may end up with a decent bowl. "Decent" is, of course, relative. Last year, the Rebels went to the BBVA Compass Bowl, which is not decent. Now, following a 34-24 win over Arkansas, Ole Miss is in position to earn a trip to perhaps the Music City Bowl, which by Ole Miss standards is decent.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl is noticing the Rebels, and as long as it comes with a few orders of waffle fries, that's a couple of shades above decent. The Rebels will have to beat Missouri and Mississippi State to get there, though, so we'll have to wait and see.

Ole Miss has won five straight bowls and nine of its last 10, but hasn't been to the Chick-fil-A Bowl since 1971, when it was called the Peach Bowl. In that time frame, the Rebels have made five appearances in the Independence Bowl, two in the Liberty Bowl one each in Gator Bowl, Motor City Bowl, Music City Bowl and BBVA Compass Bowl and has been to the Cotton Bowl three times.

5. Auburn finally took my advice. I spent all last year telling people to run the ball and never pass again. Auburn is finally catching on.

The Tigers attempted only seven passes and completed three in a 55-23 win over Tennessee. However, the Tigers ran the ball 53 times for 444 yards and five touchdowns. That's my kind of football. Quarterback Nick Marshall ran for 214 yards and two touchdowns and Tre Mason rushed for 117 yards and three touchdowns.

Tennessee rushed for 226 yards, giving the game 670 rushing yards. It was glorious. That offense could come in handy for the Tigers against Georgia next week and Alabama in the season finale. This year's Iron Bowl matchup is so strong it should be called the Carbon Fiber Reinforced Steel Bowl.3

6. Arkansas is still getting #karma payback. The Hogs just can't get out of their own way this season. Jen Bielema upset the football gods earlier this season by reveling in an unfair loss suffered by her husband's former employer, Wisconsin.

Earlier this year, Bielema himself swiped no huddle offenses, calling for a mandatory substitution period for the defense, as if the bad players on his bench will make more stops than the bad players on the field.

He then took a jab at Auburn and filed a formal complaint that the Tigers were sending him game footage that didn't match the TV copy. Then this week he complained about his team staying an hour's drive away from Ole Miss, meaning the players had to get up early in the morning for the 11:20 a.m. kickoff, a game the Hogs lost 34-24.4

Even former Auburn coach Pat Dye said Bielema needed to shut up, and if anyone knows about needing to shut up, it's Dye.

7. Johnny Manziel may have left on a high note. Almost immediately after beating Mississippi State 51-41, the speculation that it would be the last game Johnny Offense ever played in front of the "12th Man" was rampant. It's been rampant ever since the "Summer of Johnny" saw him express a desire to leave and then allegedly forfeit his eligibility.

The last home game for the Aggies played out the way most of their games they have. Manziel threw for 446 yards and five touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 47 yards. He also threw three interceptions and A&M was outgained by 20 yards.

Manziel's numbers are better than they were last year when he won the Heisman Trophy. He's third in the nation in passing and second in total offense. With Oregon's loss to Stanford, Manziel now only has Florida State's Jameis Winston to compete with for a repeat win.

According to an ESPN poll of Heisman voters, Manziel trails Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, but he's closing the gap.

8. Vanderbilt is poised for another late-season push. As suddenly as Florida is irrelevant, Vanderbilt is relevant again. It's funny how one game can completely change your perception of someone (right, Oregon?).

It was a huge win for Vanderbilt and proof that James Franklin (coach) is doing the best job in the conference this side of the Dark Lord of Tuscaloosa. Vanderbilt is one win away from being bowl eligible for the third straight year. To say it would be the first time in school history is a gross understatement, because last year's second consecutive bowl was the first time for that in school history.

It was the first time since 1945 that Vanderbilt beat Florida on the road. In 1945, Alabama went undefeated, Florida had a losing record, Missouri won a conference championship and Duke had only two losses. Sounds a lot like 2013, with one exception – Alabama finished No. 2 in the Associated Press poll behind Army, which was led by Heisman Trophy winner Doc Blanchard and was voted No. 1 unanimously.

There were only eight bowl games back then – Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Sun, Gator, Oil and Raisin.

Getting Vanderbilt to do things it has never done is why Franklin was hired, but to surpass them is unprecedented and why he won't be at Vanderbilt long. Last season, the Commodores won their last six games to post an 8-4 regular season record. They can reach that mark again with wins over Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest.

9. Missouri is just getting warmed up. Maty Mauk threw for five touchdowns – four of them to Dorial Green-Beckham – in a 48-17 win over Kentucky. It was a great showing for what might be the last time Mauk plays this season.

James Franklin (player) returned to action for a couple of snaps with the game already in hand and didn't attempt a throw, but the message was clear: He's back. Missouri has a bye week before playing Ole Miss and then Texas A&M. Franklin will almost certainly be the go-to guy in both those games that could see 90 points each.

Missouri's mission remains the same: Win those games and go to the SEC championship game. They'll know exactly what they have to do after South Carolina's game with Florida next week. A win there by the Gamecocks and Missouri has to win both. A win by Florida means the Tigers only have to win one.

10. Mississippi State is on the outside looking in. The loss to Texas A&M was the first time the Bulldogs have lost consecutive games this season and they could be headed for a third straight loss next week. Mississippi State plays Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss needing two wins to become bowl eligible.

It will be tough to get, but the Bulldogs are not out of it. They went back to the dual quarterback approach this week with Dak Prescott leading the team in passing (149 yards, two touchdowns) and rushing (154 yards) and broke out a nifty wide receiver reverse pass for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

My double-barreled shotgun idea would employ those kinds of plays like five times a game. I still say it can work, and will be a lot of fun to watch.

Extra points: 1Poor, pathetic, unathletic "game manager" AJ McCarron needed their help, too. He only threw for 179 yards and three touchdowns and became Alabama's all-time leading passer. Can you imagine what the Tide would be like with an "elite" quarterback? How much hotter would his girlfriend be?

2If video surfaces of Saban eating grass during the fourth quarter, I'm going to call for a full-scale investigation into Alabama's new training facility to see if The Machine was installed in the basement. I think it's how Nick Saban stays young. (THAT's why they have a waterfall!)

3Copyright! I want a quarter every time somebody says it. I'm not greedy.

4Here's some free, unsolicited advice: 1. Welcome to the SEC. 2. If you have a good defense, the speed of the opposing offense doesn't matter. 3. Win more games so you're worthy of being on TV at a decent hour. 4. You signed up for this gig, and only two college football coaches make more money than you, so shut up.

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