Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson may not know it, but he is now part of SEC folklore.
Before Missouri's Sept. 8 game with Georgia, the school's first ever in the SEC, Richardson famously declared that the type of football played by the league's traditional powers was "old-man football." After Georgia beat Missouri 41-20 in Columbia, Richardson had to concede that what he had actually seen was "grown-man football."
The SEC has won six straight BCS national championships and with one exception (Auburn, 2010) the conference has done it with defense. Alabama and LSU were the nation's top two defenses a year ago. This season Alabama is No. 1 in four major defensive categories and LSU is not far behind.
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Last year LSU won the regular-season meeting, billed as the Game of the Century, 9-6 in overtime. Alabama came back in the BCS national championship game and won 21-0. It will probably be low-scoring again but this much I can promise you: One of these defenses is going to force a mistake and that mistake will be the difference in the game. That's the way grown-man football is played. Hope you enjoy it, Sheldon.
Here is the rest of Tony's Top 10.
Ducks need to win big -- really big
When you put up 618 total yards -- including 493 yards by your quarterback -- you're not supposed to lose. But that is what Southern California did against Arizonalast week, 39-36. It certainly takes some of the steam out of Saturday's game with No. 4 Oregon at the Coliseum. Oregon (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) could have scored 100 against Colorado last week but settled for coasting home after posting a 56-0 halftime lead. The Ducks are in a strange place. They are No. 2 in both human polls, so unless No. 1 Alabama loses they have nowhere to go.
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Week 10 picks: Alabama, Oregon will survive road tests
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The computers like Kansas State and Notre Dame more. And it didn't help Oregon for USC and Oregon State to lose last week. In short, Oregon needs to win and it needs to win big against the Trojans. It needs to set the bar pretty high for Notre Dame, which plays at USC on Nov. 24. And if Arizona can run 94 plays against USC, then the Ducks should be able to run a 100. Top 25 preview: Oregon at USC
Are Dawgs in for a letdown?
For Georgia, things could not be clearer. Beat Mississippi (5-3) at home on Saturday and win at Auburn (1-7) on Nov. 10 and the Bulldogs will go to the SEC championship game for the second straight year. Georgia fans are still celebrating last week's huge 17-9 win over then-No.2 Florida in Jacksonville. So the question becomes: Will Georgia come out flat and allow the Rebels, who knocked off Arkansas (30-27) last week, to hang around? Georgia was uninspired at Kentucky on Oct. 20 and had to recover an onside kick to win 29-24. Slop around like that against Bo Wallace and the Rebels and Georgia could lose. Top 25 preview: Ole Miss at Georgia
Johnny Football goes to Starkville
After a 7-0 start and daring to dream of an SEC West title, Mississippi State (7-1) came back down to earth last Saturday with a 38-7 loss at No. 1 Alabama. The Bulldogs have a nice team. Running back LaDarius Perkins is second in the SEC in rushing. The offense is No. 5 in scoring with 33 points per game. Mississippi State is No. 6 nationally in turnover margin at plus-13. But the reality is that the six FBS opponents the Bulldogs have beaten are a combined 16-33. Coach Dan Mullen conceded that Alabama was everything that he thought they would be but "people remember what you do in November." Mississippi State's November schedule is No. 16 Texas A&M (6-2), No. 5 LSU (7-1), Arkansas (3-5), and Ole Miss (5-3). The Aggies' only losses are to No. 7 Florida and LSU, which were good enough to hold quarterback Johnny Manziel, the SEC's leading rusher, in check. "Johnny Football" should have a pretty good day in StarkVegas. Top 25 preview: Texas A&M at Mississippi State
The Gators can still get to the SEC championship game
Florida (7-1, 6-1 SEC) was at least a year ahead of schedule when the Gators started 7-0 and rose to No. 2 in the BCS Standings. Coach Will Muschamp knew it, but hoped his team could get by on a very good defense and limited offense. But Florida could not overcome six turnovers in losing to Georgia 17-9 in Jacksonville last week. Florida can still win the SEC East, however, if it beats Missouri (4-4, 1-4) at home on Saturday and then the Bulldogs stumble in one of their final two SEC games with Ole Miss and Auburn. Florida can also put itself in position to get a BCS at-large berth if it can win out and finish 11-1, which would include a victory over No. 9 Florida State. In short, the Gators still have a whole lot to play for and cannot afford to come out flat against Missouri, which finally won an SEC game last week in beating Kentucky. Quarterback James Franklin, who sprained an MCL back on Oct. 6, is expected to start. He played most of the second half against Kentucky. Top 25 preview: Missouri at Florida
The Irish cannot let up
After going on the road and posting a convincing win over Oklahoma, the human polls are starting to buy in to No. 3 Notre Dame. What Brian Kelly's team doesn't need now is a sloppy win over Pittsburgh (4-4) that might send some votes towards No. 4 Oregon should the Ducks do a number on USC. Notre Dame and Pittsburgh have split their last five meetings. Notre Dame plays three consecutive opponents it should dominate (Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest) and really can't afford a bad game against any of them. I'll be watching Saturday to see if Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o keeps dominating his side of the ball. I absolutely believe that this guy is deserving of a trip to NYC for the Heisman presentation. Top 25 preview: Pittsburgh at Notre Dame
Mountaineers try to stop their slide
It has been a long three weeks for West Virginia (5-2, 2-2 Big 12). After a 5-0 start, which included a dramatic 48-45 win at Texas, the Mountaineers were in the national championship race and quarterback Geno Smith was a lock for the Heisman Trophy. After two serious beatdowns by Texas Tech and Kansas State plus a week off, West Virginia needs to beat TCU (5-3, 2-3) at home to avoid a three-game skid. Ditto for TCU, which has lost two straight and is trying to right the ship after the loss of suspended quarterback Casey Pachall. Why we care: Despite the two losses, Smith still has extraordinary numbers, completing 74 percent of his passes for 26 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Longhorns could get lit up in Lubbock
Texas (6-2, 3-2 Big 12) has won two straight since getting boat-raced by Oklahoma (63-21) on Oct. 13. But neither of those wins has inspired a whole lot of confidence in Mack Brown and the Longhorns. Texas just simply outlasted Baylor 56-50 on Oct. 20 and last week Texas had to rally to beat a bad, bad Kansas team 21-17 in Lawrence. Now the Longhorns have to go back on the road to play No. 18 Texas Tech (6-2, 3-2), which is licking its wounds after a sound thumping from No. 2 Kansas State (55-24). The big question here is what Texas will do at quarterback. David Ash gave way to Case McCoy last week and brought the Longhorns back. This is going to be a shootout. Does Brown stick with the hot hand? Top 25 preview: Texas at Texas Tech
Can the Sooners bounce back?
Oklahoma (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) is out of the national championship race after losing at home to No. 3 Notre Dame. But the Sooners are still very much in the Big 12 race as they go to Ames and take on Iowa State (5-3, 2-3). Yes No. 2 Kansas State (8-0, 5-0), which beat the Sooners 24-19 on Sept. 22, is going to have to lose twice for Oklahoma to climb back in this thing. But the Wildcats still have road games at TCU and Baylor and must host Texas on Dec. 1. Oklahoma has won 20 straight games at Ames and has lost to the Cyclones only once (1990) in the past 42 years. Landry Jones (356 yards passing against Notre Dame) continues to play well, but Iowa State has a hot quarterback as well. Steele Jantz tied a school record last week with 36 completions in a 35-21 win over Baylor.
Cornhuskers should be on upset alert
Michigan State (5-4, 2-3 Big Ten) can't win the Legends Division after heartbreaking losses to Ohio State (17-16), Iowa (19-16, 2 OT) and Michigan (12-10). But the Spartans can have a say in who does win the division when they host Nebraska (6-2, 3-1). I'll admit that I pretty much wrote off the Cornhuskers when they got stomped at Ohio State (63-38) back on Oct. 6. But after a week off they bounced back with a win over Northwestern (29-28) and last week handled Michigan (23-9) in Lincoln. Win this one and the Huskers are looking pretty good with two of the final three games at home. Michigan State, which was ranked No. 10 after a 2-0 start, is upbeat after winning 16-13 in overtime last week at Wisconsin.
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