(RNN) – While we're no fans of the Big XII (and the reasons why are endless), we must acknowledge the death of perhaps the conference's greatest coach - former Texas coach Darrell Royal.
While we're no experts on Royal, we did spend a week in Austin, TX, one night. We don't know much about Royal, but we do know he ran the wishbone and, in our book, that's enough to be called a good man (the Notre Dame Box is the default for being a great man).
The Longhorns honored the man their stadium is named after by lining up in the wishbone for a play to start their game against Iowa State. It was a pass (Oh, come on!!) that went for 46 yards. It started the way all good wishbone plays start, by tossing the ball to a running back and moving the entire offense to one side of the field.
But student body right this was not. The ball was then thrown back to the quarterback, who – standing in his own end zone, mind you – chucked the ball 40 yards down field. But you can't blame Iowa State for not defending it, even though current Texas coach Mack Brown said days before the game they were going to start the game in the wishbone.
First of all, it's a formation that went extinct sometime before pterodactyls, and it wasn't exactly known for its passing or trick plays (especially from your own … freaking … end zone). Royal himself used to talk about the formation in the immortal words of "three things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad."
At least Texas found the good one in its tribute. And people want Mack Brown fired? Pshaw.
Below is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 11.
1. We are geniuses. Not only did we predict Joker Phillips' firing last week mere hours before it was official (really not that hard of a prediction, though), but remember when we said South Carolina would be OK without Marcus Lattimore? If you don't, read this.
Take that, Hot Reads. South Carolina (8-2, 6-2) didn't miss him that much, just like we predicted and steamrolled Arkansas 38-20. The roosters gave the pigs a veritable barnyard beatdown and we're comfortable saying eliminated them from bowl eligibility.
There's a pesky thing called math saying it's still possible, but we were never very good at math, anyway, so we're not sure how reliable that is. We do, however, know that 38 is a lot better than 20. Unless you're playing golf, but we're not good at that, either.
Now that you respect our brilliance, enjoy the rest of these educational factoids.
And, if you're still not convinced …
2. We were right about Alabama. We had said the way to beat the Crimson Tide was to "out-Alabama" them. That proved to be true after their 29-24 loss to Texas A&M.
LSU tried that and while it worked well, it still wasn't enough. Texas A&M expanded on that premise and went a step further. The genius of how the Aggies (8-2, 5-2) took down the Crimson Tide (9-1, 6-1) lies not in what they did, but in what they didn't do.
Johnny Manziel came out hotter than a $2 pistol, scoring 20 unanswered points in the first quarter. A&M managed only nine the rest of the game as the Tide's defense stepped up to counter the threat. Alabama's offense was up to the challenge in the second half as well, hitting two huge passing plays and coming within a touchdown from taking the lead.
That's where things get interesting. AJ McCarron threw an interception in the end zone while trying to get the lead and Alabama was called offside on a punt that gave A&M a first down. Had the Aggies punted, with the way Alabama was moving the ball at that time, it's easy to think the Tide would have scored and won.
But Alabama ended up playing uncharacteristic of itself and lost because of turnovers – McCarron had his first two interceptions of the season and TJ Yeldon fumbled – and penalties. A&M did neither, and that's why they won. So, in a way, they still out-Alabama'd Alabama, because they didn't make mistakes, exactly what the Tide had not done to this point.
A&M also became the first of the new SEC teams to do something worthy of a T-shirt, though not the first team to make one. But don't fret Aggie fans, new shirts are on their way to you, too.
3. Florida is channeling its inner Bear Grylls. The Gators aren't eating squirrels killed with homemade traps and drinking water from sources we won't discuss yet, but they have built a shelter out of fallen tree branches and a survival blanket they just happened to have lying around.
It won't be long before they wade out into depths and wait for unsuspecting fish to swim by (like real alligators). But now they've barely edged Missouri 14-7 and been on the verge of losing to Louisiana-Lafayette 27-20 – not to mention being eliminated from the SEC championship game. It's hard to understand, because Florida (9-1, 7-10 used to play a lot better.
That seems like decades ago, which is fitting since Florida's offense is reminiscent of the wishbone. They've gone away from it, which is our explanation for their ineptitude, though an injury to quarterback Jeff Driskel is likely to blame. They better start rubbing some sticks together because when Florida State comes calling, they will need more fire.
4. Mississippi State is the third SEC team this year to enter free fall mode. Arkansas and Auburn were first, and now the Bulldogs are following suit.
Mississippi State's woes can be explained by looking at their schedule. They've lost three straight games, but those losses were to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU. It gets easier now with Arkansas and Ole Miss coming up, and as long as the Bulldogs (7-3, 3-3) win those games, they'll be fine.
But a loss – or, God forbid, two losses – and Mississippi State is nothing more than a shriveled hulk of a team that had BCS aspirations but will be relegated to the Music City Bowl.
5. Georgia fans are happy … and sad. They're happy because for the last three weeks Georgia hasn't looked like Georgia, it has looked good. They're sad because with another trip to the SEC championship game, Mark Richt won't be leaving any time soon.
Georgia has overcome its Georgia-ness by beating Florida 17-9, Ole Miss 37-10 and Auburn 38-0 and look almost unstoppable. Except we all know better (this is still Georgia, after all). The Bulldogs (9-1, 7-1) have made it to the SEC championship game in consecutive seasons for the first time in a decade and will likely face Alabama.
Georgia is 2-2 in the SEC championship. But before trying to the win the conference title, the Bulldogs must go after the state title against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. With wins in those games, and a little help from teams to the west, the game could be for a berth in the national title game for the seventh consecutive year.
6. Missouri avoided more jokes. Well, not really. We have been very unkind to Missouri this entire season, but they are about to get the last laugh by qualifying for a bowl. Missouri (5-5, 2-5) needs a win over either Syracuse or Texas A&M to get bowl eligible.
We're giving them the win over Syracuse, but not A&M. By winning 51-48 over Tennessee in overtime (more on this in a minute), the Tigers have avoided being panned unmercilessly here. However, we're still going to pan them.
The people Tennessee puts on the field when the other team has the ball (we refuse to call it a "defense") are pathetic. At least Missouri took advantage of that. Tennessee's offense is good, so there's no shame in letting them move the ball against you, but it really shouldn't have been that big of a struggle. All you have to do is get one – ONE – defensive play against them, because you know they won't get any, and you've got a win.
Missouri turned the ball over twice – TWICE – against those no-play making "defenders." We'll give you credit for the win, but we abhor that type of football and find very little about it worth respecting.
Oh, and don't print another T-shirt.
7. James Franklin (coach) really, really needs an extension. Franklin has Vanderbilt (6-4, 4-3) bowl eligible for the second straight year with a 27-26 win over Ole Miss. It's the first time that has happened since "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt gave $1 million to his second wife's cousin's husband (because haven't we all?) in 1873 to start a school that would help the South rebuild after the Civil War.
It was 17 years later when Vandy decided to have a football team, and 122 years later that it decided to have a good football team. That's where Franklin comes in, and why he might leave.
If places like Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee don't sneak a glance Franklin's way when trying to figure who is better than their current coaches (here's a hint: he's better than all three) then they deserve what they get. And if they do sneak a glance his way Vanderbilt needs to name something after him – like a street or the stadium – to get him to stay.
At the very least sell the stadium's naming rights to Franklin Financial (or Franklin Templeton Investments, Franklin Mutual or just move it to Franklin, TN) and then pay him, because that's how the world works.
8. Tennessee just won't go away. Losing to Missouri is a good start, but it still isn't over. Bowl eligibility could possibly save Derek Dooley's job and now the Vols (4-6, 0-6) need wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky to get it. Do you know what this means? Tennessee could still get it.
We're tired of talking about Tennessee. They need to just die already and fire Derek Dooley so we can get on with our lives. There are other teams we could make better use of our time watching.
Tennessee is the first team in SEC history to allow 38 points or more in six consecutive games. Just lose to Vandy next week so we can declare Derek Dooley fired and get this whole charade over with.
9. Ole Miss won't get a bowl. We get it, Ole Miss, you don't like the president, and apparently don't like holding onto leads in the fourth quarter, either.
Every decent team the Rebels (5-5, 2-4) have faced this year has come away with a win. Ole Miss only has two more games left, and they are both against decent teams – LSU and Mississippi State. The Egg Bowl will be for their bowl eligibility, so the Rebs may put up a fight in that one, but call us when you don't blow a 17-point lead to Vanderbilt … at home.
10. Heisman talk is out of control. Three weeks ago, we were in the blissful state of Collin Klein, Manti Te'o and Kenjon Barner as the Heisman frontrunners. Oh, how naïve we were.
Last week, AJ McCarron beat LSU and he was anointed a Heisman contender, despite LSU's quarterback having a better game. Two interceptions and a loss at home later and he's an afterthought. That same week no one was discussing Johnny Manziel as a Heisman contender, but then he toppled the Tide and now he's all but won the thing.
Let's all calm down for a second. AJ McCarron never deserved Heisman consideration and Johnny Football should have been mentioned for it long before yesterday. Without a human highlight machine like Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III, the people who claim to have their finger on the pulse of the Heisman watch are jumping from one bandwagon to the next hoping something sticks.
They just don't like the grinding ruthlessness of Klein or the fact that Te'o plays defense. It's time to change that way of thinking, because they are the best players in college football, and have been all season.
Extra points: We're onto you, Bear Grylls, if that's your real name. (It isn't. It's Edward, but as a general rule you don't take survival advice from a guy named Edward.)
As much as we hated this advertisement from Texas A&M last year, we must acknowledge that they called their shot and delivered.
Cornelius Vanderbilt decided giving money to somebody else to do something was better than coming to the South and actually doing it himself, because that would get you labeled as a carpetbagger, and with a name like Cornelius haven't you suffered enough?
Vanderbilt (the man) never lived to see the school be named after him, and it's unclear whether he wanted that honor. He might have been the richest man in the United States, but at least he's not like this guy.
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