Three Games: SEC West provides intrigue in two games - News, Weather & Sports

Three Games: SEC West provides intrigue in two games

Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo tackles Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel. (Source: Georgia Athletics) Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo tackles Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel. (Source: Georgia Athletics)

(RNN) – A wrench got thrown into the mix in the SEC East, adding new intrigue to the battle for an SEC championship game berth.

Meanwhile, the four teams battling for the SEC West crown square off, including the matchup everyone has been waiting for since last November.

Below is a look at three games from Week 9 and what they mean going forward followed by a look at three big games from next week and the impact they will have.

Week 9 recap:

South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35

Tennessee saw its chance for its first SEC win of the season slip away. While South Carolina led most of the game, the Vols rallied late behind Tyler Bray's 368 yards passing and four touchdowns. Tennessee needed a win to take a step toward being bowl eligible, but lost its fourth straight game to a ranked SEC opponent.

Tennessee (3-5, 0-5) has lost to all five SEC opponents it has faced and all five were ranked. The Vols' final nonconference game is this week against Troy and they follow with contests versus Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. It will take three wins in those games to become bowl eligible.

South Carolina was able to shake off back-to-back losses and rebound, but the Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2) lost their best player to injury. Marcus Lattimore was diagnosed with a dislocated knee with ligament damage, according to Coach Steve Spurrier. That means he won't be playing again this year, and nobody knows when he will be able to return.

The Gamecocks were knocked out of the running for the SEC championship game after their loss to Florida last week. With only one SEC game left against Arkansas, the next three games will be about earning the best possible bowl and knocking off rival Clemson, which is currently ranked No. 13.

Georgia 17, Florida 9

Florida could have wrapped up the SEC East with a win, but the Gators (7-1, 6-1) turned the ball over six times and were unable to get their dominant running game moving against the Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1), whose rushing defense is 10th in the SEC.

But it wasn't from lack of attempts. Mike Gillislee carried 22 times but for only 77 yards and Florida's passing game wasn't effective enough to pick up the slack. Florida has lived by the run all year so when that part of the offense broke down, the Gators' entire game plan crumbled around it. Florida threw two interceptions and fumbled four times, including one in the red zone while trying to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

Georgia now controls its own destiny to make the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs get the benefit of as easy a conference schedule as the SEC allows and must beat their two SEC West opponents – Ole Miss and Auburn – to earn the berth. A loss to either eliminates them if Florida beats Missouri this week.

Alabama 38, Mississippi State 7

Mississippi State's turnover margin was considered its best asset before this game. The Bulldogs (7-1, 3-1) were the best in the nation in that category, but against the Tide committed three turnovers – including Tyler Russell's second interception of the season – and forced none, dropping their turnover margin from first nationally to sixth.

Alabama (8-0, 5-0) just kept doing what it has done to every team on its schedule, which is dominate every facet of the game. Ladarius Perkins was the only running back in the conference averaging 100 yards a game and the Crimson Tide held him to 38 yards on 15 carries.

Alabama rushed for 179 yards and threw for 235, including a 27-yard screen pass to running back Eddie Lacy from backup quarterback Phillip Ely after a turnover when starter A.J. McCarron was momentarily taken to the locker room.

Games to watch in Week 10 (all times Eastern):

No. 16 Texas A&M at No. 15 Mississippi State, 12 p.m., ESPN

The second most important game in the SEC West this week could have as much of an impact on who earns the SEC championship game berth as the other game chronicled below.

Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2) is on the brink of elimination as it is, and a third conference loss would put the Aggies out of contention. Even with a win, Mississippi State has a long way to go and will need some help to earn a berth. The Bulldogs still have to face LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss.

The Bulldogs hover around the middle of the pack in the SEC in both offense and defense. The Aggies' defense is in the same boat, though their numbers aren't quite as good. It is the A&M offense that will set the tone in this game.

Johnny Manziel is the SEC's leading rusher and drives the conference's top offense in scoring, total yards and rushing. He's also third in the conference in passing. The Bulldogs' defense is eighth in the conference against the run and fifth versus the pass.

Ole Miss at No. 6 Georgia, 3:30 p.m., CBS

The Rebels (5-3, 2-2) have had a better season than some expected and could become a spoiler to Georgia's season with a win. It seems like a stretch, but Georgia hasn't fired on all cylinders in more than a month and the Rebels are on a two-game winning streak and are one win away from bowl eligibility.

The numbers favor the Bulldogs. Georgia is second in the SEC in total offense and scoring offense, while the Rebels' defense is 10th in scoring. Should the Bulldogs win, they would be one win away from clinching the berth to the SEC championship game.

Ole Miss can't make the title game, but a win over Georgia coupled with a Florida win over Missouri eliminates Georgia from the title game.

No. 1 Alabama at No. 5 LSU, 8 p.m., CBS

This has been the game of this football season ever since the before last year's champion was even crowned.

LSU (7-1, 3-1) won last year's regular season matchup in overtime after Alabama missed five field goals. Neither team scored a touchdown against each other until Alabama sealed the BCS championship with a run by Trent Richardson.

Last year featured two defenses that were at or near the top in the country in every statistical category, and this year is no different. Some of those categories are total defense (Alabama 1, LSU 3), opponents' yards per play (Alabama 2, LSU 3) rushing defense (Alabama 1, LSU 8), passing defense (Alabama 1, LSU 4), scoring defense (Alabama 1, LSU 9), turnover margin (Alabama 2, LSU 9) and passing efficiency against (Alabama 1, LSU 2).

That last category might be the most important to this game because of the teams' offenses. Alabama has the second most efficient passing offense in the country – and most efficient quarterback – and LSU's is 11th in the SEC and 88th nationally.

Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron completes about 20 percent more passes than LSU's Zach Mettenberger. McCarron has completed 10 more passes this year with 20 fewer attempts. He also has no interceptions to Mettenberger's four.

The teams are so similar in their style of play that the quarterbacks are the only thing setting them apart.

Alabama has two running backs in the top 15 in the SEC in yards per game while LSU has none. Alabama averages only 6 yards a game more on the ground than the Tigers do, but gain nearly 50 yards more through the air.

Alabama uses the tandem of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon to pick up yards on the ground, while LSU uses the combination of Jeremy Hill, Michael Ford, Spencer Ware and Kenny Hilliard. Each has had breakout games, but Hill has had the hot hand as of late.

LSU has had two weeks to prepare for the match and will be at home, where Alabama coach Nick Saban used to prowl the sidelines.

Regardless who it is, the winner controls its own destiny to making the SEC championship game. LSU would need to win over Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas to close the year to guarantee a berth, while Alabama would need to win only one of its upcoming games with Texas A&M and Auburn.

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