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Saturday Lessons: October 24

Survive and advance.

I'm already sick of those words, but they were still apropos for this weekend. Alabama and Iowa won on the slimmest of margins. Florida looked lackluster again. The most bling anyone can hope to amass this year is a zero in the loss column, as every undefeated team (yes, including Cincy and TCU) has at least one sketchy win. As long as you don't lose, you're fine for the week.

Florida is its own worst enemy.

If they got points from first-and-goal at the seven after a blocked punt instead of throwing a 100 yard pick six (!!), they go into halftime up either 16-3 or 20-3. If Dustin Doe doesn't hot dog it on his interception return, there's no officiating controversy for a second straight week. If they don't try to throw from their end zone up 16 late in the fourth, MSU ends up with fewer points. If Ryan Stamper doesn't get a dumb penalty on another pick six for the Gator D, the margin looks nicer. Mississippi State played hard but was never going to take this one without help—the talent differential was palpable, and it bore out clearly in the box score.

This could have been Florida's second comfortable win of the SEC season, but they couldn't avoid making a slew of big mistakes again.

The SEC should outlaw former NFL coaches from taking jobs in the league.

The conference sure would be a lot less interesting without Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin, but after watching Alabama and Tennessee play, I'm willing to make that sacrifice. Watching two pro-style college teams is absolutely the worst of both worlds: you lose most of the fun and creativity of the college game without the tradeoff of getting to see nothing but the best players going at it (assuming you didn't turn on the Lions, Raiders, Rams, or Bucs). It was an excruciatingly boring game between two teams playing it by the percentages, and I'm already making plans to be busy during next year's iteration of this match up.

Bama is fortunate to have come out with the win, but as I said before, simply not losing qualifies as style points in 2009.

LSU doesn't want to be forgotten.

Lost in all the discussions about Florida and Alabama playing in Atlanta (and the insane talk of a rematch in Pasadena) is the fact that there is a team besides the Crimson Tide that controls its destiny in the SEC West. That team is LSU, and the Bayou Bengals emphatically reminded everyone of that fact with their dominating 31-10 win over Auburn. Jordan Jefferson had a career day and the LSU defense held the Tigers from Alabama to just a field goal for all intents and purposes. Midday on Saturday Tim Brando was winding up to call for Miami to be the highest ranked one-loss team (before they lost to Clemson), but why not LSU? They lost to a consensus top-three team and beat the team that beat USC.

The collapse of Auburn, meanwhile, is basically complete. A third conference loss, especially to LSU, effectively knocks them out of the West division race. They've dropped two straight after starting the season 5-0, and it won't get an easier against Ole Miss next week. Speaking of...

The Ole Miss we thought we would see is finally here.

The Rebels authoritatively blew out UAB 48-13 last week (without the struggles of Week 1's 45-14 win over Memphis), and they took care of Arkansas 30-17 yesterday. Jevan Snead had his first career 300 yard game and, though Arkansas made it interesting in the second half, Ole Miss was largely in control for the whole game. You also can't say enough about Dexter McCluster, who set career records in both rushing and receiving and looked like the best player on the field throughout. I even liked the strategy of using Jerrell Powe as a fullback, even if it wasn't all that effective in practice.

Bobby Petrino might invest in some new ways to coach up receivers.

Dave Neal reported late in the game that Arkansas had eight pass drops against Ole Miss. This is after last week when the Hogs' receivers had at least six drops against Florida. Ryan Mallett's journey to accuracy is a bit of a winding road still, so his receivers really need to think about hauling the ball in when it hits their hands.

South Carolina can't help but play to the level of its competition.

The Gamecocks played well against Alabama. They played poorly against NC State and now against Vandy as well. The defense was awful but the offense worked against Georgia, while the opposite was the case against Ole Miss. They did a little bit of everything well against Kentucky without really excelling outright. South Carolina is this year's chameleon team, so prepare to see yourself in them when your team plays against them.

The true test of this property is whether they make incredibly self destructive mistakes yet get some favorable calls against Florida in three weeks.

Georgia was the smartest team of all.

It's always a good choice to take a bye week this season. Bulldogs, I salute you for your wisdom of taking a break from the fray since playing a game subjects you to the capricious nature of the 2009 season. It was doubly smart since UGA always plays better in the Cocktail Party when the get the week prior off.