What We Learned from the SEC in Week 6 - KCTV5

What We Learned from the SEC in Week 6

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Nova the Auburn War Eagle is one of the many live mascots in the SEC. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University) Nova the Auburn War Eagle is one of the many live mascots in the SEC. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)

(RNN) – You woke up to a different world today than the one you woke up to yesterday.

Georgia and LSU are no longer unbeaten, Johnny Manziel is no longer a touchdown-producing robot and Mississippi State is actually good.

It's OK, though. Take off your tin foil helmet, put your canned beans back in storage, realize Missouri still doesn't belong in the SEC and whatever you do, DON'T PANIC. We'll get you through this. We promise.

Below is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 6.

1. The only thing better than a live mascot is two live mascots. Auburn proved this Saturday when two baby tigers prowled the Auburn sideline in search of defense. They didn't find one. There also seems to be no truth to the rumor that they were there to "take care of" the Gene Chizik problem.

Auburn already has the best live mascot in the SEC in Nova the War Eagle, and adding tiger cubs to the school's menagerie is a great idea. Too bad the cubs were just visiting from the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, where they can be petted.

We here at What We Learned fully endorse wildlife education and conservation (have your pets spayed or neutered) and wait with bated breath for a live alligator to inhabit The Swamp, circus elephants to perform at Bryant-Denny Stadium and Georgia Tech to gain the ultimate home-field advantage by training a swarm of yellow jackets to attack Mark Richt.

But for now, we'll have to settle for this.

2. The secret to beating LSU is to use a game plan from the 1950s. Alabama proved this last year, Auburn showed it was still true and Florida took advantage.

Florida only attempted 12 passes and rode Mike Gillislee like a rented mule to 146 yards, two touchdowns and a 14-6 win. This is the kind of game that people from places like West Virginia and Oregon don't understand. It's gritty, physical, brutal, mind-numbing at times and more beautiful than a rack of barbecue ribs – another thing they don't understand.

LSU (5-1, 1-1) was one score and 100 years away from tying the game. Florida's defense forced three turnovers and allowed LSU to convert on third down only once out of 13 tries. Gillislee carried just three times fewer than the total number of passes attempted in the game.

Most of his runs were short through the middle of the defense. His two touchdowns were his longest runs of the night at 12 yards each, and both would have gone for a lot more had he not reached the end zone first. Florida showed that the counter trap still exists, and LSU showed it is powerless to stop it.

As impressive as Gillislee was, the Gators' defense was even better. Florida (5-0, 4-0) is the best second half team in the conference because of its punishing offensive line and defense that never takes a play off. The signature play of this game was a fumble forced after a 56-yard pass. The receiver was ruled down, but replay showed Florida stripped the ball and recovered it, ending any chance LSU had to stay on top.

3. This is not what Georgia does. Fire up Mark Richt's hot seat. Yes, Georgia loses, but it is at least competitive.

The last time Georgia got dominated like in its 35-7 loss to South Carolina was to Florida in 2009 (Tim Tebow was still there then). It was the first time South Carolina has ever beat Georgia three consecutive years. Georgia was not able to get its talented freshman running back duo moving, Aaron Murray had his worst game of the season in a number of ways and Georgia's defense looked like it forgot there was a game going on.

South Carolina (6-0, 4-0) attempted only 10 passes because it didn't need to throw any more. Of Connor Shaw's six completions, two went for touchdowns. Now The Bulldogs get two weeks to brood over the embarrassing performance before facing Kentucky and Florida.

An appearance in the SEC championship game isn't out of the question, but Georgia (5-1, 3-1) must win all of its remaining SEC games and hope South Carolina falters against Florida and another team – perhaps LSU next week.

4. Mississippi State is a legitimate SEC West contender. You won't find any blowouts on the Bulldogs' win list, but Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0) entered the week leading the SEC in turnover margin. The Bulldogs lost two fumbles in a 27-14 win over Kentucky, though.

Mississippi State has a balanced offense and sufficient defense to cause problems for LSU and Alabama down the road. If the Bulldogs can get a little more consistent on offense, don't give up big plays and protect the ball, a trip to Atlanta is not out of the question.

Mississippi State will also have to make sure it doesn't lose games it is supposed to win. Working against the Bulldogs, however, are their games against Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss are all on the road.

5. Auburn has to win its next three games to be bowl eligible. OK, so mathematically speaking, Auburn can only win one and still make a bowl, but that requires the Tigers to then beat Georgia and Alabama, and let's face it, there's a better chance of those baby tigers taking down a couple of deer (we mean the live ones, by the way).

Auburn's next three games are against Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M and the first two of those are on the road. Then Auburn has to beat a non-AQ team and an FCS team (we hate both of those terms, by the way).

Auburn (1-4, 0-3) could really benefit from a bye week right now. After changing quarterbacks (finally), experimenting with the I-formation and looking halfway decent for a quarter, a week to regroup and get things together would be very helpful. There's just one problem with that: Auburn's bye week was last week.

That's right. That week to get things together and regroup was the week BEFORE the Tigers were forced to change quarterbacks at halftime in a 24-7 loss to Arkansas (2-4, 1-2). Ouch.

6. "Johnny Football" is also "Johnny Fumble." Texas A&M tried very hard to lose to Ole Miss, but the Rebels just weren't good enough to let them do it, and the Aggies won 30-27.

The Aggies (4-1, 2-1) had six turnovers, including the first two interceptions thrown by Johnny Manziel. Manziel – the aforementioned "Johnny Football" – also fumbled in the red zone, nearly thwarting A&M's fourth quarter comeback.

It's good to know he's human, because we were starting to get concerned. Even with the Aggies' struggles, Manziel rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown and threw for 191 and another touchdown. "Johnny Football" has a default setting of pass, but a quick review of his operator's manual shows he can be easily switched to run.

It's hard to know which one he does better. Without his running ability, the Aggies would not have beaten Ole Miss (3-3, 0-2). Against a better defense, like when A&M played Florida more than a month ago, the win would not have been possible.

7. The Missouri bashing gets to continue. We are very excited about this. Missouri has been the target of much scorn and biting criticism from What We Learned, and we think rightfully so.

There are some who disagree. To them we say, "You lost to Vanderbilt." The jury is still out on which James Franklin is better. The Missouri quarterback got injured and the Vanderbilt coach didn't exactly guide his team to a rousing victory.

Vandy squeaked by 19-15, but Missouri (3-3, 0-3) had the ball in the fourth quarter with plenty of time and couldn't convert. Had Franklin (the quarterback) not been injured, the outcome could have been much different.

The bad news for Missouri is Franklin has already been ruled out against Alabama next week. The good news is if the Tigers keep up their current win/loss rotation they will beat Alabama and Florida later in the year, but lose to Kentucky between them. We love trends, but are fairly certain this one won't continue.

8. LSU is a paper tiger. Yeah, we said it.

A month ago, LSU was assumed to cruise past Florida and even South Carolina to an epic showdown against Alabama. Now, after a dismal showing against Auburn, a slight scare from Towson and an embarrassing loss to Florida, five losses aren't out the question.

You're probably saying, "but LSU was 5-0 entering this game." Yes, and as we said a few weeks ago, LSU's sham of a schedule allowed the Tigers to get five wins over teams with a combined one win over AQ schools. That one win was Washington upsetting Stanford.

Those five schools have a combined record of 9-18. By comparison, Alabama's first five opponents have a record of 13-14 with wins over three AQ teams.

LSU's next four games are against South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State, and all of those teams are playing better football than LSU is right now. At this rate, LSU will be headed to the Georgia Dome after the season, but it will be for the Chick-fil-A Bowl instead of the SEC title game.

9. This is not the Ole Miss team we've grown to love. We grew to love the Rebels because they represented an easy win. Well, no more. These Rebels represent mildly difficult wins – ZING!

We kid (not really). Ole Miss has been impressive (by Ole Miss standards, of course) in wins over Tulane and UTEP. They gave Texas a bit of a test, took a lead over Alabama (then lost it 15 seconds later) and showed Texas A&M that anyone in the SEC can force you to need two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win.

Not everybody, however, can keep you from getting them. Ole Miss proved this, too, as it abandoned its policy for the first three quarters of actually playing defense. The Rebels' next opponents are Auburn and Arkansas and wins over both would put Ole Miss a win away from bowl eligibility. Losses to both would virtually guarantee no postseason play.

10. An apology is owed to South Carolina. This won't happen often, so pay attention.

We are sorry, South Carolina. We called you overrated at the start of the season, and that was wrong. In our defense, though, you did look pretty bad against Vanderbilt. We were perhaps too quick to rush to judgment. You are a better team than we give you credit for, and your quarterback is better than we thought.

Your coach has transformed his trademark Fun N Gun offense to a Fun With the Run offense, and we respect that very much. Your defense has improved a lot, and after you dismantled Georgia like a mechanic attacking a balky transmission we promise not to doubt what you can do.

Now, beat LSU next week before we take it back.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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