The penultimate week in the SEC wasn’t the best one for the conference, especially in the SEC East, where the division limped to a 4-3 record – and was fortunate just to do that. But there was plenty to be gleaned from the conference in Week 12 as it begins preparations to close out the regular season on Saturday.

Here’s a look at some of the takeaways from the SEC during Week 12 play.

Beating up the Bucs – Alabama is the best team in the SEC. That’s not the takeaway, we’ve known of the Tide’s dominance for weeks now. Yes, it was Charleston Southern who Alabama rolled 56-6 in Week 12, but it was a victory that sent a message. While other SEC teams struggled against vastly inferior opponents (we’re looking at you, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina), the Crimson Tide beat up the Buccaneers in a game that championship-caliber teams easily win. Throw in an Ohio State loss, and Alabama is setting itself up nicely to attempt to avenge last year’s early playoff exit.

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LSUnglued – It’s remarkable how fast a season can implode on itself. A month ago, LSU was a favorite to not only win the SEC West, but garner one of the four College Football Playoff slots. But consecutive losses to Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss have the Tigers dead in the water. Leonard Fournette took much of the blame for LSU’s recent woes after the superstar RB rushed for 109 yards in Week 12 against Ole Miss, but it’s a far cry from the numbers that carried the Tigers through the season’s first seven games with 1,352 rushing yards (169.0 YPG) and 15 touchdowns. In the three LSU losses, the sophomore has averaged 76.7 YPG and scored just twice. When Fournette struggles, so, too, does the Tigers’ offense as quarterback Brandon Harris continues to post mild numbers that rank at or near the bottom in just about every passing category in the SEC. Head coach Les Miles is now on the hot seat in Baton Rouge, a notion that seemed somewhat absurd just a month ago.

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Prescott v. Allen – Is there some way we can pull some strings and get Arkansas and Mississippi State to play each other in a bowl game? In one of the best quarterback battles of the year, the Bulldogs’ Dak Prescott outdueled the Razorbacks’ Brandon Allen in a shootout that surprisingly didn’t need overtime to settle. The two quarterbacks combined to throw for 914 yards and a staggering 12 touchdowns in Mississippi State’s 51-50 Week 12 win. Prescott’s 508 yards, 5 passing TDs and two rushing touchdowns are career bests and should enter the senior back into the Heisman Award discussion.

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Uneven Gators – Jim McElwain is the first head coach in Florida history to start his career in Gainesville with 10 wins in a season. Despite the victories and an SEC East title, the Gators haven’t exactly been playing like a team that can knock off Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Florida has survived scares in each of its past three games, including heart attacks of 10 points-or-less against South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Week 12 opponent Florida Atlantic — teams that are a combined 10-23 on the year. Florida State to close out the season might be just what the Gators need to break this chain where McElwain’s squad appears to play down or up to its competition.

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Tigers By The Tails – Jeremy Johnson might not be a complete bust after all. The Auburn quarterback threw for a modest 163 yards and two touchdowns, but the junior was able to guide the Tigers to a relatively-easy 56-34 win over Idaho. The re-emergence of Johnson and running back Jovon Robinson (99 yards, TD vs. the Vandals) might have been enough to talk some Auburn fans off the ledge after it appears the two players, who are widely regarded as the future of Gus Malzahn’s program, have worked out whatever was ailing them during their early-season struggles. The 2015 season is a lost one for Auburn, but the Tigers can salvage what’s left of it with a strong performance in this week’s Iron Bowl against Alabama.

RELATED: Auburn preps for Iron Bowl with win over Idaho

Where’s the O? – Posting gaudy offensive numbers hasn’t been the problem in Tennessee this season. It’s been a young and talented Volunteer squad’s inability to close out opponents that’s dogged the Vols. But now the offense is beginning to struggle, despite pulling out four straight wins, including a Week 12 win over Missouri. After averaging 35.1 points per game through their first nine games, Tennessee has put up just 23.0 PPG in its last three tilts. Butch Jones’ squad can get away with 23 points against South Carolina, North Texas and Mizzou, but it’s not enough for the UT to compete at the elite level they wish. Tennessee goes for its eighth wins of the season next week against in-state rival Vanderbilt and a Commodores defense that gives up an average of 18.1 points per contest (18.7 in SEC play). Jones’ program has built some momentum in the second half of the season. Now the Vols need to jumpstart an offense that posted 337 total yards against the Tigers, but only 89 of them through the air.

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