Dominance of Alabama and Florida on display
Alabama and Florida cemented their status as the top two teams in the league. The Crimson Tide cruised past Tennessee in Knoxville, while the Gators rolled past South Carolina with ease in Gainesville. On the other end of the SEC food chain, Auburn dropped to 0–5 in the league with a 17-13 loss at Vanderbilt.
Post-Week 8 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. A.J. McCarron, Alabama — The nation is now starting to realize that McCarron is more than the “game-manager” of the powerful Alabama offense. The junior leads the nation in passing efficiency thanks to his 68.9 completion percentage and 16-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio.
2. Eddie Lacy/T.J. Yeldon, Alabama — Yes, it’s a cop out to have two guys listed for the No. 2 spot for Offensive Player of the Year honors, but Lacy and Yeldon have both been terrific sharing the role of featured back in the Alabama attack. Lacy leads the team in rushing (570 yards) and rushing touchdowns (seven); Yeldon isn’t far behind (565 yards and six TDs) and has a better yards-per-carry average (6.8 to 5.8).
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel struggled a bit in A&M’s loss to LSU last weekend, but his body of work is still outstanding. He is second in the SEC in rushing (100.4 ypg) and has thrown for 1,956 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Manziel will have to put up some big numbers against a quality SEC defense to remain in the hunt for Player of the Year honors.
Post-Week 8 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — South Carolina lost at Florida 44–11, but the Gamecocks’ defense only gave up 183 total yards. Clowney had five tackles, including two for a loss, and now has a team-high 14 tackles for a loss (including 7.5 sacks).
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones did not play in Georgia’s win vs. Kentucky due to an injured ankle. In five games, the outside linebacker has 36 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss (with 5.5 sacks).
3. Kevin Minter, LSU — Minter continued his outstanding season with 12 tackles, two quarterback hurries and an interception in the Tigers’ 24¬–19 win at Texas A&M. Minter, a junior middle linebacker, has 75 tackles and three sacks for the season.
Post-Week 8 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators improved to 7–0 overall and 6–0 in the SEC with a 44–11 win over South Carolina. Last year, Florida won seven games for the entire season.
2. Nick Saban, Alabama — Alabama is a team without a weakness. The defense, which had to replace several key contributors from last season, is ranked No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.
3. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State — Much has been made about the Bulldogs’ relatively soft schedule (and rightfully so), but credit Mullen and Mississippi State for taking care of business — and doing so in impressive fashion. State is 7–0 and heads to Tuscaloosa this weekend for an enormous showdown with the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Post-Week 8 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (7–0, 4-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 7 result: Beat Tennessee 44-13
Oregon, Florida and Kansas State have all looked very good this season, but Alabama is still the nation’s finest team. The Crimson Tide pounded Tennessee 44–13 in Knoxville with a balanced offensive attack (307 yards passing, 231 rushing) and a dominating defense that held the Vols to a season-low 281 total yards. AJ McCarron was nearly flawless at quarterback, completing 17-of-22 for 307 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy combined to run for 209 yards on 33 carries. Alabama’s seven wins have come by an average of 32.7 points, and each victory has been by at least 19 points.
Next week: Mississippi State
2. Florida (7–0, 6–0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 7 result: Beat South Carolina 44–11
Who needs yards? Not Florida. The Gators put up 44 points despite gaining only 183 total yards in a statement win over SEC East rival South Carolina in Gainesville. Florida took advantage of four Gamecock turnovers to improve to 6–0 in the SEC for the first time since 2009. The Gators had two scoring drives of two yards or less in the first half— one set up by a Connor Shaw fumble (on the first play of the game) and the other by a fumble by Ace Sanders on a kick-off return. The Florida defense, which has given up 20 points or less in every game, surrendered only 191 yards and did not allow a touchdown. Next week, Florida can wrap up the SEC East with a win over Georgia in Jacksonville.
Next week: vs. Georgia
3. LSU (7–1, 3–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 7 result: Beat Texas A&M 24–19
LSU proved that an elite defense can stop one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. Texas A&M did pick up 410 total yards — the most by any team vs. LSU this season — but the Aggies committed five turnovers and were held to 19 points, their lowest total since a 20–17 season-opening loss to Florida. The Tigers trailed 12–0 midway through the second quarter but scored the next 24 points to seize control. LSU ran the ball well — Jeremy Hill led the way with 127 yards on 18 carries — but Zach Mettenberger continues to struggle at quarterback. The junior completed 11-of-29 passes for 97 yards, which equates to a dismal 3.3 yards per attempt.
Next week: Bye
4. South Carolina (6–2, 4–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 7 result: Lost to Florida 44–11
Two weeks ago, South Carolina fans were dreaming of a national title. Now, after losses at LSU and Florida, the Gamecocks are all but eliminated from the SEC East title chase. Carolina quickly fell behind 7–0 thanks to a Connor Shaw fumble on the first play of the game. It didn’t get any better. The Gamecocks committed three more turnovers, two of which led to Florida TD drives of 11 yards or fewer. Shaw was ineffective at quarterback — he completed 9-of-20 for 72 yards — and was benched in the second half in favor of Dylan Thompson. “It was embarrassing for us — very embarrassing to lose,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said after the game. “We’ve got to reevaluate a lot of our personnel and get players out there who really want to play for South Carolina. Two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought this. We had a bad one today. LSU was bad (last week). This one was worse. We’ve got to regroup somehow.”
Next week: Tennessee
5. Georgia (6–1, 4–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 7 result: Beat Kentucky 29–24
A win is a win — especially on the road in the SEC — but Mark Richt can’t be too pleased with his team’s play in the 29–24 victory in Lexington. Quarterback Aaron Murray was outstanding, completing 30-of-38 for 427 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Not much else went well for the Bulldogs. Georgia’s three top tailbacks combined for only 93 yards on 25 carries against a Kentucky team that entered the game ranked 12th in the SEC in rushing defense. And the Georgia defense gave up 206 yards rushing to a UK offense that combined to run for 150 yards in its previous two games. Now for the positives: Georgia can move into the driver’s seat in the SEC East with a win next week vs. Florida in Jacksonville.
Next week: vs. Florida
6. Mississippi State (7–0, 3–0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 7 result: Beat Middle Tennessee State 45–3
It was a struggle for a half, but Mississippi State scored 35 unanswered points in the final two quarters to beat a solid Middle Tennessee team 45–3 in Starkville. Quarterback Tyler Russell continues to shine for the Bulldogs. He completed 17-of-21 passes for 191 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. In the last three games, Russell has completed 65 percent of his attempts with seven touchdowns and no picks. Junior tailback LaDarius Perkins chipped in with 125 yards rushing on 20 carries; he has topped the 100-yard mark four times in the last five games. Now, the 7–0 Bulldogs head to Tuscaloosa in one of the biggest games in school history.
Next week: at Alabama
7. Texas A&M (5–2, 2–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 7 result: Lost to LSU 24–19
The Aggies did a lot of good things against an elite opponent, but you can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel threw for 276 yards — that was the good news. The bad news? He threw three interceptions and was held to a season low 27 yards rushing. Manziel did not throw a pick in his first four games but has been intercepted six times in the last three games. The Texas A&M defense, which had allowed an average of 531.3 yards in its previous three games, held LSU to 316 yards, including less than 100 through the air.
Next week: at Auburn
8. Tennessee (3–4, 0–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 7 result: Lost to Alabama 44–13
Tennessee needed its best players to play well to make No. 1 Alabama sweat. It didn’t happen. Quarterback Tyler Bray completed only 13-of-27 passes for 184 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had only 25 yards from scrimmage on three offensive touches. Justin Hunter had a nice game (four catches for 70 yards), but it wasn’t nearly enough. Tennessee was outgained 539 to 282 en route to its 11th loss in the past 12 SEC games. The Vols’ schedule eases up considerably after next week’s trip to South Carolina, but will a run of victories against non-top-25 teams be enough to save Derek Dooley’s job?
Next week: at South Carolina
9. Vanderbilt (3–4, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 7 result: Beat Auburn 17–14
Vanderbilt outgained Auburn 376 to 224 yet needed a late defensive stand to secure the 17–14 win in Nashville. Tailback Zac Stacy led the Commodores’ offense with 163 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries. Stacy, a senior from Birmingham who was not recruited by Auburn, is now Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher with 2,670 career yards. The Commodores’ defense, now ranked No. 27 in the nation, did not allow a drive longer than 52 yards and only gave up one touchdown. Vanderbilt has scored 19 points or less in all five SEC games but is 2–3 in league play.
Next week: UMass
10. Arkansas (3–4, 2–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 7 Result: Bye
The Razorbacks appear to be playing better of late, but their two recent SEC wins have come against the two worst teams in the league — Auburn and Kentucky. The Hogs host improved Ole Miss and Tulsa (currently 7–1) in the next weeks before a tough three-game stretch that includes road trips to South Carolina and Mississippi State and a home date with LSU.
Next week: Ole Miss
11. Ole Miss (4–3, 1–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 7 result: Bye
Ole Miss needs only two wins to become bowl-eligible, but the Rebels’ remaining schedule is very difficult — road games at Arkansas, Georgia and LSU and home games vs. Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Not sure there are two wins in that group.
Next week: at Arkansas
12. Missouri (3–4, 0–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 7 result: Bye
The Tigers have a great opportunity to pick up their first SEC win with Kentucky coming to town next week. Missouri expects to have quarterback James Franklin back in the lineup.
Next week: Kentucky
13. Auburn (1–6, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 7 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 17–13
Auburn’s nightmare season took another bad turn Saturday afternoon. The Tigers dropped to 0–5 in the SEC with a four-point loss at Vanderbilt. Auburn managed only 212 yards of offense and now has 216 yards or fewer in four of its five league games. Clint Moseley got his second start of the season at quarterback and completed 14-of-20 for 98 yards. Jonathan Wallace also saw time, but the Wildcat specialist had a net of minus-5 yards rushing on three carries. Auburn announced before the game that tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is out for the season with a hip injury.
Next week: Texas A&M
14. Kentucky (1–7, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 7 result: Lost to Georgia 29–24
It was still a loss, but the Wildcats played arguably their finest game of the 2012 season. Leaning on a surprisingly effective running game, Kentucky jumped on Georgia early and hung with the Bulldogs until the final minutes of the game. The Cats’ top two tailbacks, Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders, combined to rush for 159 yards on 30 carries to lead a UK ground attack that netted 206 yards. Georgia, meanwhile, managed only 77 yards on the ground, but was bailed out by an outstanding performance from quarterback Aaron Murray (427 yards, four TDs). Kentucky’s 24 points were a season-high vs. an AQ conference opponent.
Next week: at Missouri