Monday, November 18, 2002

The SEC East race has been settled, while the SEC West was thrown into NCAA-mandated chaos.

First off, Georgia rallied late to defeat Auburn 24-21. The Tigers led most of the game and had a 21-10 lead late in the third. But a David Greene fumble in the Auburn endzone was fallen on by OL Matt Stinchcomb for a TD, and with less than two minutes left Greene hit Michael Johnson in the back of the endzone on fourth-and-15 to take the lead. Auburn, thinking it had already won, fell apart, and Georgia was the SEC East Champion. Johnson had a huge game, 13 receptions for 141 yards. The Auburn offense was mostly the rushing game led by Ronnie Brown, who rushed for 124.

LSU had a chance to all but clinch the West against Alabama. Well, they didn't have a chance, because the Tide made them look like a Division II team, winning 31-0 in a game that really wasn't even that close. The Tigers held close for the first quarter, and actually had a field goal attempt (which was blocked) to take an early lead. But after that, it was all Alabama. The Tide led 6-0 when they went on the weirdest two-minute drive I've ever seen; seven runs, two passes (both spikes to stop the clock) without using a timeout. The runs were mostly simple draw plays to the halfbacks, but LSU couldn't do anything. Alabama wound up the game running for 300 yards while completely shutting LSU down, taking over the national lead in total defense along the way. Alabama also "clinched" the SEC West; they can't win thanks to the vengence of the NCAA, but they're clearly the best team.

Florida was eliminated from the SEC East race, but thrashed South Carolina anyway, 28-7. Kentucky made Vandy look like, well, Vandy, 41-21. Tennessee let Mississippi State hang around for two and a half quarters before pulling away, 35-17. And Arkansas struggled but beat Louisiana-Lafayette 24-17.

Four of the five eligible teams can still win the SEC West, with Mississippi State a winless exception. LSU and Arkansas hold their destinies in their own hands; if they win out, they go to Atlanta. The Razorbacks and Tigers play Nov. 29. Auburn needs to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa (unlikely) and have each of the other teams lose at least once. The nightmare scenario has LSU lose to Arkansas and Ole Miss, Arkansas lose to MSU, Ole Miss beating MSU and Auburn losing to Alabama. That would produce a four-way tie between Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, and Ole Miss at 4-4. I have no idea what the tiebreakers would be in that situation; I think Arkansas would still go to Atlanta but I'm not definite about that.

If Alabama played Ohio State, we'd beat the Buckeyes by forty points.


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