Published October 18, 2012 - 8:45am
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
The first half hit us with several great storylines. Florida emerged as the surprise team in the East, while Texas A&M and Mississippi State have emerged as serious contenders in the West. Then, we are all witnesses of what Johnny Manziel is accomplishing in College Station. But now it’s off to sorting out all the arguments of ‘who is better’, springing us right into bowl games and recruiting season.
Here are the main storylines for the second half of the season:
1. The SEC East will be over in two weeks: Poor scheduling by the SEC East? With South Carolina already having defeated Georgia two weeks ago, they travel to Gainesville to take on Florida on Saturday. The SEC East race could be over if the Gamecocks come out the winner. However, if Florida can keep rolling, they butt heads with Georgia next week in Jacksonville. The SEC East race will be over in two weeks, with the round-robin play from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The SEC should have planned their scheduling better knowing these three teams would be the likely one, two, three finish.
2. The quest to stay perfect is part of the process: That team, Alabama, is playing against their own standards, not against any opponents. Opponents aren’t good enough, but the standards set by Nick Saban are an undefeated record, an SEC Championship and a national championship, demolishing everything that stands in their way. Realistically, we know that upsets can happen any week. But will Alabama be beaten? Four games will test the will of the Tide – Mississippi State, LSU, Texas A&M and the SEC Championship. Will Alabama beat themselves?
3. Hot seats will get blazing before it’s over: John L. Smith is as good as gone, but three others could join him at season’s end. Joker Phillips, Derek Dooley and Gene Chizik are all on the rickety fence of going either way as things currently stand. Phillips and Chizik have the worst looking teams in the conference, and Dooley is 0-13 against ranked opponents and has a sub .500 record (14-17) since taking over at Tennessee. This will play out right before our eyes.
4. A freshman with pink socks could make a serious Heisman push: Did you see Johnny Manziel’s pink socks last weekend? Statistically, Manziel is ahead of both Cam Newton and Tim Tebow through six games. And there’s only room for his stock to soar against the #1 and 2 defenses in the country – Alabama and LSU. Manziel has been afforded the opportunity to get settled into his unreal streak before having to get into the meat of the Aggies’ schedule. We’ll learn whether he’s a contender or pretender Saturday against the Tigers.
5. A run to become bowl eligible: Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-3), Ole Miss (4-3, 1-2) and Arkansas (3-4, 2-2) are all on the brink of making a bowl game. The best opportunity lies with the Rebels, as they only have to have two more wins with two winnable games on the schedule left. Vanderbilt is the next likeliest, as they have five winnable games remaining. Arkansas may not make a bowl game, but if the defense continues its improved play and Tyler Wilson keeps putting up stupid numbers, the Hogs could back into a bowl game.
6. Who’s the main contender to Alabama: Three teams in the West look up to Alabama, and only one will emerge as the main contender to the Tide. Mississippi State (6-0, 3-0), LSU (6-1, 2-1) and Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1) are the three teams vying for that one spot. Although LSU is considered the favorite, don’t count out the Aggies or the Bulldogs, as both are still widely unknown through seven weeks. This is the second best race, outside of the East division, to watch play out before our beautiful eyes.
7. Finding offensive balance for title contenders: Two teams that must find offensive balance before even this weekend are Florida and LSU. Both teams boast a strong rushing attack, with Florida averaging 233 yards per game and LSU averaging 207 yards per game. However, neither quarterback – Jeff Driskel and Zach Mettenberger – has shown the ability to win a game win his arm. Florida runs the ball 70 percent of the time, and LSU runs it 63 percent, with predominately all the damage done in the ground game. I’d like to see both passing offenses take a step forward in the second half, because I’m not sure either team can win out with their current lack of impact plays in the passing game. Sooner or later, another team will limit the run against Florida and LSU. They are basically the same team.
8. Crown ‘the worst’ team in the league: ‘The worst’ is never what you want your team to be deemed. However, Missouri (3-4, 0-4), Kentucky (1-6, 0-4) and Auburn (1-5, 0-4) are all jockeying for position to be called the worst team in the best league of college football. Ole Miss was the honorary winner last season, but the Rebels have turned it around this year. So, maybe there’s an upside to being the worst. Kentucky and Missouri play next Saturday. Then, the picture will become a tad clearer.