Eight SEC teams have clinched a bowl berth heading into the last weekend of the regular season. Nine SEC teams were bowl eligible last year, and Missouri and Ole Miss have a shot to make it 10 teams who are eligible for 2012.
With two teams almost assuredly going to BCS bowls, the SEC could likely not fill all their bowl game tie-ins.
Missouri and Texas A&M have reversed roles. Many thought – including myself – that it would be TAMU, not Missouri, who would struggle in its first year in the SEC. However, it’s Missouri who has struggled mightily throughout the entire season. From injury problems to massive depth issues, the Tigers blew their sixth win last week against Syracuse late in the fourth quarter.
Now, it leaves the Tigers with a trip to College Station with an ailing quarterback to take down the surprise team of the SEC in the Aggies, who just happen to have the most prolific player in the SEC in Johnny Manziel.
The Tigers’ offense is 86th in passing yards (212 ypg) and 96th in rushing yards (133.9 ypg). But we knew the offense would have a little setback, after finishing 12th in the country in total offense for 2011 in the Big 12. I thought Franklin and company would make some serious noise in the East with their ability to move the football, but that certainly hasn’t been the case.
However, the defense has played better than many anticipated, too. Led by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who happened to be suspended last week, this group has played particularly well at times. Currently 7th in the SEC in total defense, Richardson will have to lead this unit to post their best performance to date against Manziel and the Aggies’ high-flying offense. It will be a tall task to escape College Station with their sixth win of the season.
Ole Miss, on the other hand, is the one of the more improved teams in the SEC. After finishing 2-10 just a season ago, new head coach Hugh Freeze has done a fantastic job turning this club around and breathing life into an exhausted program and fan base. The Rebels should already be bowl eligible, as they have been sitting on five wins for three weeks, posting three straight losses to Georgia, Vanderbilt and LSU. Two of the three – Vanderbilt and LSU – should have been wins – coulda, woulda, shoulda.
Quarterback Bo Wallace and Jeff Scott have really been the lifeblood of the offense, and Wallace has been a nice addition to Freeze’s up-tempo, run-as-many-plays-as-you-can style of offense. Wallace has thrown for over 2,500 yards and combined for 22 touchdowns. Scott has rushed for 719 yards and six touchdowns, too. However, wide receiver Donte Moncrief has the most upside to any player on the Rebels’ team. He’s a future NFL player.
Ole Miss’ defense has been porous at times, but overall, this group has been an improved bunch that has played with a physical edge. The defense has really taken on the mentality of their best player Robert Nkemdiche, who is an undersized linebacker ready to pack a punch on any ball carrier.
It just happens that the Rebels have to beat their in-state rival Mississippi State in order to notch that sixth win. I’ve been pointing to this game all year as having more on the line than in the last few years.
We’re going to find out what kind of fight Missouri and Ole Miss have this weekend against good opponents with an opportunity to become bowl eligible. It should help make for a great Saturday.
Photo Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE