"Decaying legend" is the best option for rivalry weekend.
While Alabama and Texas had issues of different sorts against their rivals, Florida had no problem is dispatching Florida State. Tim Tebow had five touchdowns in his victory lap, and Brandon Spikes' defense gave up no points and roughly 110 yards to an otherwise terrific FSU offense before the starters began to get pulled late in the third quarter. It was easily one of the three best performances the Gators have had against BCS teams, up there with the games against Kentucky and Georgia.
It would be tempting to declare that Florida is peaking at the right time. However, FIU is terrible and FSU hasn't played defense in about two or three years. It is true that Florida had much less trouble with the Golden Panthers than the Tide did, but if you're using a September and a November game against a Sun Belt doormat to compare UF and UAT, I don't have words for you. I want to try to make the peaking case in a parallel to 2006, when the Gators struggled a lot of the year but hit their stride in the year's final two games, but I can't really pull the trigger on it.
Alabama showed some cracks and still came up a winner.
The 14-0 first quarter deficit was Alabama's worst since their Sugar Bowl loss to Utah. The seven point second half deficit was their largest since being down five to LSU. Mark Ingram's 30 yards was easily his lowest total of the season, and he eventually went out with a hip pointer. The opponent was coming off of a bye week. Everything lined up against the Tide, and yet with under two minutes to go, they pulled the win out.
Auburn did help some with an extremely puzzling clock management strategy on its final drive, something which amounted to, "let's run off as much clock as we can early and set ourselves up for a 40 yard Hail Mary." Even so, you can't argue with the result as Bama polished off a second straight 12-0 regular season. They stared defeat in the eyes and didn't blink.
We have a nine game winner for the Capital One Bowl.
LSU may not have taken the preferred method for getting to the SEC's best non-BCS bowl, but they got the bid and its accopanying $4.25 million paycheck by edging out Arkansas 33-30 in overtime. Les Miles showed an ability to learn from his mistakes as he managed the clock with aplomb at the end, enabling Josh Jasper to tie it with four seconds to go.
It's been a trying year for LSU, as the Tiger offense finished the regular season in the bottom half of the conference in most offensive categories. They lost to the three toughest teams on the schedule. However, they didn't blow one against a lesser team, and they get to reap the rewards for doing just that since only two other teams in the league managed to avoid that same thing.
Georgia brought home the SEC's marquee non-conference win.
By taking out the
Nerds Yellow Jackets, Georgia managed to get the SEC its best non-conference win of the season. Just about no one (myself included) gave Georgia a shot against Georgia Tech, but the Bulldogs not only won but flipped the script. Washaun Ealey and Caleb King each rushed for over 160 yards and combined for 349 on the day while no one on the home team managed more than 41 yards. It's a nice way to cap a disappointing season, but big changes still need to be made.
South Carolina didn't do so bad for itself either.
The Gamecocks made it a clean sweep over the ACC Championship Game participants with their victory over Clemson. It was Steve Spurrier's second over the Tigers in his five years and just the program's third in the last 12 games in the series. C.J. Spiller ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, but the boys from Columbia took over from there, building a 24-7 lead before Clemson even scored again. The Gamecock rushing attack came alive, rolling up 223 yards in total with freshman Kenny Miles leading the bunch with 114. Combined with a bowl win, it could be a good sign for next season.
Your SEC East Runner Up: Tennessee.
It's been a long road since Phillip Fulmer's tearful farewell press conference, but thanks to owning the tiebreaker over Georgia, Tennessee finished second in the SEC East. It's not exactly an emphatic finish since the Vols needed that tiebreaker to do it and are one of four 7-5 teams in the division, not to mention they had to go to overtime to defeat Kentucky. Still, it's better to be second than third or worse, and Jonathan Crompton managed to mostly redeem himself over the course of the season. It will be tough to repeat the circumstances next year without all of this year's seniors and a complete question mark at quarterback, but that's for next year to worry about.
It was an interesting finish in Mississippi to say the least.
I know some cynics probably predicted doom for Ole Miss thanks to Houston Nutt generally not being able to stand prosperity, but I doubt anyone expected Mississippi State to run away with this game. Anthony Dixon and Chris Relf each went for over 130 yards rushing as Dan Mullen's spread attack worked to peak performance. If the Bulldogs find a workhorse to sub in for Dixon next year, State could definitely make some noise.
It's also probably time to assess where the Nutt experiment at Ole Miss is. The Rebels surprised to an eight win regular season last year, and they disappointed to an eight win regular season this year. Maybe it was a bit much to expect them to pass up Alabama this season, but they didn't even finish above LSU despite winning the head-to-head match up and the Tigers having a dysfunctional offense. Can he win the division there at any time despite this year having the perhaps the most talented team he's ever coached?