Posted on: November 9, 2011 4:01 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
With one conference game left on the schedule, Saturday's home game against division rival Florida is a must-win to keep South Carolina's SEC Championship Game hopes alive. The Gamecocks fell a game behind division-leading Georgia in the standings after their loss to Arkansas. The game not only set them back in their quest for a second-straight SEC East crown, but also jeopardized the playing status of starting quarterback Connor Shaw. The good news out of Columbia this week was that Shaw (concussion) is expected to play against the Gators.
"We think Connor's going to be all right by the middle of the week," head coach Steve Spurrier told the media. "Clint Haggard, our trainer, gave him the test to see how he was doing; and he's been doing very well."
Florida's defense is among the best in the nation, and with the return of starting quarterback John Brantley the Gators were able to end a four-game losing streak against Vanderbilt. They are also expected to have both Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey healthy for the contest, meaning the Gamecocks should expect more offensive production from the opposing offense. Because of the injuries and dismissal of Stephen Garcia, the quarterback position is not especially deep for Ol' Ball Coach. Shaw's backup is redshirt freshman Dylan Thompson, who has only thrown two passes all season.
If South Carolina defeats Florida and Georgia loses in their contest to Auburn on Saturday, the Gamecocks will win the SEC East and return to the SEC Championship Game for the second year in a row. If the Gamecocks lose to Florida in the conference finale, they will need Georgia to lose their final two conference games to win the East. Otherwise the Bulldogs will make the short trip to Atlanta to face the winner of the SEC West.
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Posted on: September 27, 2010 5:53 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 5:57 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
For the last four years, the winner of the SEC Championship game has gone on to compete and win the National Championship. With the conference play heating up and a rematch of Florida-Alabama ahead in Week 5, here is a breakdown of the division races in the SEC.
SEC EAST -- CONTENDERS
Florida Gators (4-0, 2-0)
So far...: The Gators got a slow start with a lot of questions after uninspiring victories over Miami and South Florida, but the last two games have shown a relentless defense and an offense that is beginning to find an identity. That identity is looking like it includes the multi-talented freshman quarterback Trey Burton, who scored six times (5 times rushing, once receiving) against Kentucky.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 2 - at Alabama; October 9 - vs. LSU; November 13 - vs. South Carolina
Outlook: The biggest game of the season for the Gators will be their visit to Tuscaloosa on Saturday. The rematch of the last two SEC Championship games has huge implications for both division races. If the Gators fall to the Tide, they will likely need to win the rest of their division games to ensure a trip back to Atlanta for the title game. An upset win over Alabama puts the Gators in the drivers seat for the title game, and likely would bring the Gators back into the national title discussion.
South Carolina Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1)
So far...: The Gamecocks burst on the scene with impressive victories and an improved offense that had Ol' Ball Coach running his mouth around the conference once again. Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore has proven to be a game-changing back already, and until the 35-27 loss to Auburn, quarterback Stephen Garcia finally looked ready for a true breakout season. Now the Gamecocks have a quarterback controversy on their hands, and their toughest challenges of the year left on the schedule.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 9 - vs. Alabama; November 6 - vs. Arkansas; November 13 - at Florida
Outlook: If they had been able to knock off Auburn on Saturday night, South Carolina would have been a frontrunner to knock Florida off its throne atop the SEC East. Unfortunately, the loss has put them in a can't-lose scenario if they want to get reach their first SEC Championship Game in school history. Looming dates against Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida in the Swamp will make it difficult to keep the loss column thin. If they can get pull off an upset or two and get some help from, they could enter the Florida game with a chance to steal the division.
Pretenders: Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia
SEC WEST -- CONTENDERS
Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0)
So far...: Alabama left very little doubt on Saturday who is the best team in the nation. Being pushed up against the ropes on the road by a very talented Arkansas team, the defending champs battled back into the game and escaped Fayetteville with a victory. After being down 17-7 at halftime, the Alabama defense (which had not allowed a TD all season until that game) tormented Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas offense in the second half. Mallet was picked off three times and the Tide defense only allowed three points after halftime while Mark Ingram led the charge for Alabama to reclaim the lead and a win.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 2 - vs. Florida; October 9 - at South Carolina; November 6 - at LSU; November 26 - vs. Auburn
Outlook: The tests are far from done for Alabama, but thankfully the two most threatening opponents remaining on the schedule (Florida and Auburn) both have to travel to Tuscaloosa. After watching their performance on Saturday, it is hard to imagine many situations that don't involve Alabama back in the SEC Championship game. However, South Carolina and LSU are both talented teams playing in hostile territory and those games should not be taken lightly. If Auburn and Alabama don't slip, they could enter the Iron Bowl with the division title on the line.
Auburn Tigers (4-0, 2-0)
So far...: The Tigers are quickly becoming one of the darlings of the SEC. For the third week in a row, Auburn has been locked in a nationally televised nail-biter and emerged victorious. The 17-14 win over Mississippi State was not impressive by any means, but the overtime victory against Clemson and Saturday's upset of South Carolina have bumped the Tigers to No. 10 in the nation and now a relevant part of the SEC Championship discussion.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 16 - vs. Arkansas; October 23 - vs. LSU; November 26 - at Alabama
Outlook: Cam Newton has officially arrived as one of the premiere quarterbacks in college football this season, and as long as the 6-6 250 pound signal-caller is scoring five total touchdowns like he did against South Carolina, Auburn will always have a chance. The Tigers have the benefit of getting Arkansas and LSU at home, but this team cannot afford another performance like Mississippi State and expect to win. If they play to their potential, Auburn could find themselves heading into the Iron Bowl with a shot to return to the SEC title game for the first time since 2004.
LSU Tigers (4-0, 2-0)
So far...: LSU's defense has proven to be one of the best units in the nation. Their offense, on the other hand, is about as productive as a late Friday afternoon. With no good option at quarterback (Jarrett Lee is not a "good" option, just not as a bad) the Tigers have relied on their defense and return game to spring them out to an early No. 12 national ranking.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 9 - at Florida; October 23 - at Auburn; November 6 - vs. Alabama; November 27 - at Arkansas
Outlook: If the Bayou Bengals are for real, they will get a chance to prove it in October in their road games against Florida and Auburn. If LSU can take care of business away from Death Valley, they will make the November 6 show down with with Alabama a lot more interesting. It is hard to support a team with no offense as a conference title contender, but they have at least earned the right to be in the discussion.
Arkansas Razorbacks (3-1, 1-1)
So far...: Until halftime of Saturday's game against Alabama, Ryan Mallet looked like the best pro quarterback in college football, and the Razorbacks looked ready to have one of the most successful seasons in the programs history. Unfortunately, the second half unraveling has temporarily overshadowed Arkansas' impressive start.
Toughest challenges ahead: October 16 - at Auburn; November 6 - at South Carolina; November 27 - vs. LSU
Outlook: Arkansas had not played a truly challenging team before Alabama, so there is a lot left for this team to prove. The defense looked fired up and strong in the first half against the Tide, but it is unknown if they will be able to repeat the same performance on the road against a team like Auburn or South Carolina. The Razorbacks made for a good story, but it is hard to believe that Alabama's comeback did not break their spirits a little. Difficult to imagine that they will be able to reach that level of energy the rest of the season.
Pretenders: Mississippi State, Ole Miss