East Still Wide Open

Auburn, Georgia made statements in the SEC this weekend.

Auburn, Georgia made statements in the SEC this weekend.

Cam Newton’s impact is only more measurable in one place than Auburn: Gainesville. Sure, Florida would love to roll its eyes and say it doesn’t need Newton’s services as a run-first — second, third and fourth, too — quarterback. But it does. Oh, it does.

Auburn’s 8–0 record, No. 1 spot in the new BCS standings and Newton’s SEC-leading 122.9 rush yards a game speak deafening volumes in the swamps of north Florida. It’s not so much jealousy as what-ifs for the Gators, who still are far from out of it in the SEC East race — even without Newton.

Just imagine if Florida and Auburn meet in Atlanta, and it’s still distinctly possible. Actually, it’s probably something the Gators would rather not think about, given what Newton’s doing to the rest of the league.

How does Newton continue to do it, even with teams knowing precisely what Auburn’s plan is? Newton has averaged 194.8 rushing yards in the Tigers’ past four SEC games — all wins, obviously. He’s special. No one knows it more than the coaches who initially recruited and signed him.

Arkansas 38, Ole Miss 24
Auburn 24, LSU 17
South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 7
Mississippi State 29, UAB 24
Alabama 41, Tennessee 10
Georgia 44, Kentucky 31

Thumbs Up

• ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew said fervently Saturday that Georgia was its favorite to win the SEC East. Difficult to argue based on how the Bulldogs have played to get back to 3–3 in the league, blistering Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The road, though, gets tougher. To finish 5–3 and have a realistic shot, the Bulldogs have to beat Florida this week in Jacksonville and then Auburn (in Auburn) on Nov. 13. Even that’s no guarantee, requiring a couple of slip-ups by South Carolina. Think just how tough it is for a team to win five consecutive conference games, even if it is in the wide-open East. The Bulldogs are playing well, no question, but that well?

• South Carolina’s Brian Maddox said he was “devastated” after he was passed over to start Saturday in place of injured running back Marcus Lattimore. He was saying even more intense things behind closed doors. Maddox took out the aggression in a positive fashion, running for a career-high 146 yards to help the Gamecocks get their first SEC road win since 2008, a 21–7 victory at Vanderbilt. Vandy might not be special, but South Carolina needed to leave that monkey in the Music City. Lattimore is expected back for Tennessee this week.

• Florida didn’t play. So it couldn’t lose. And Steve Addazio is still drawing a paycheck.

• LSU finally lost a game that went into the final minutes, but it had nothing to do with faulty clock management. Imagine that. Know who earned some respect with the way it played down the stretch? An Auburn defense that’s been criticized to no end in 2010. LSU is far from the most proficient offense in the league, but Auburn held it to 243 total yards — including 39 on a trick-play TD pass. Maybe Auburn has enough defense to play for a national title? Don’t bet on it based on that week alone, but stay tuned in November. Remember that Gene Chizik is a defensive-oriented mind.

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Thumbs Down

• What is it with UAB catching SEC opponents on their heels? Something about Neil Calloway, a former Georgia assistant, knowing the league? Mississippi State, a week removed from winning in the Swamp, did just enough to escape an offsetting loss to the Blazers. Trap games and letdowns are real, people. Doesn’t matter who you are. Quite the racket UAB’s running. Just hasn’t quite finished the deal.

• Is there anything to help Derek Dooley catch Tennessee’s fall? Everyone on our fair planet knows the Volunteers aren’t very good. Despite the effort to cling close to Alabama, it got ugly in the Tide’s 41–10 win. You do wonder what kind of season this would be if the Vols had just managed to hold on at LSU. Maybe not altogether different, but Dooley and his team are left searching for something positive for the future.

• Arkansas and Ole Miss didn’t appear to even care much once their game resumed for the 13th time Saturday. Consistently delayed by lightning, it appeared for a spell as if the game would last until November. Credit the Hogs with staying up, enough for a 38–24 victory. Discredit Mother Nature for turning an 11:21 a.m. local kickoff into a deadline game for local writers.

• Vanderbilt’s offense is humorously bad. Despite South Carolina saying it made no adjustments at the half, the Gamecocks stopped the Commodores to the tune of 70 yards and three first downs in the second half. The Dores were 0 for 8 on third downs in the final two quarters. Larry Smith is highly inaccurate, and the coaches abandoned the one thing that looked effective against the Gamecocks: the option. Where’s Robbie Caldwell taking this program? The comedy club?

Stud of the Week
Cam Newton, Auburn QB. Once more, he’s the player of the week until he’s dethroned. If Newton can do it against LSU, he can do it against anyone in the league. He managed only 86 passing yards against the Tigers. Who cares? He ran for 217 of Auburn’s staggering 440 rushing yards.

Dud of the Week
LSU quarterbacks. Les Miles might want to revisit saying last week that Newton would be his third quarterback. Nice attempt at pumping up Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, but who are you kidding? These guys haven’t developed much in a healthy amount of time on campus. That’s on your coaching — and recruiting.

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