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What We Learned from the SEC in Week 8

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Alabama and Kenyon Drake (17) pushed Arkansas, Allen Turner (27) and early season struggles aside with a 52-0 win Saturday. (Source: Alabama Athletics) Alabama and Kenyon Drake (17) pushed Arkansas, Allen Turner (27) and early season struggles aside with a 52-0 win Saturday. (Source: Alabama Athletics)
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn casts a Level 5 Anti-Johnny Football spell on his team Saturday before the Tigers beat Texas A&M 45-41. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn casts a Level 5 Anti-Johnny Football spell on his team Saturday before the Tigers beat Texas A&M 45-41. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Vanderbilt and quarterback Austyn Carta Samuels (6) are suddenly relevant again after a 31-27 win over Georgia, which is suddenly out of the championship picture. (Source: Georgia Athletics) Vanderbilt and quarterback Austyn Carta Samuels (6) are suddenly relevant again after a 31-27 win over Georgia, which is suddenly out of the championship picture. (Source: Georgia Athletics)
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(RNN) – Well, last week wasn't the week that destroys your faith in humanity. It was this one.

I realize this is going to be like walking through a haunted house – it's dark, there's strange noises and random unexplained screams are coming from places you can't identify (like, you know, Missouri). Just calm down and stay close to me, and I'll walk you through it.

It will be a little scary at first, but I promise you'll be OK. The only difference is these scary things are real.

Here is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 8.

1. The SEC East is a trash fire. There are only two teams from this division playing with consistency: Kentucky, which is as bad as expected, and Missouri, who nobody trusts to be as good as it has been.

Florida's juggernaut defense gave up 500 yards, Georgia surrendered a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter and Tennessee's kicker called his shot on an upset of South Carolina. Additionally, Vanderbilt is a force again, South Carolina is in complete disarray and I can't believe what these next words say, but Missouri controls its own destiny for the SEC championship game.

In fact, Missouri can lose a game and still control its own destiny. Even the SEC West got in on the act with Auburn toppling Johnny Offense and Ole Miss putting LSU's championship dreams on life support.

The only teams ranked higher than their opponents who won were Alabama and Missouri. What kind of world are we living in?

2. Missouri might actually be the best team in the SEC East. Previously, Missouri just looked competent and like it might try to make some noise, but now it looks like there's nothing standing in the Tigers' way to keep them from making a trip to Atlanta at the end of the season.

It's entirely possible (read: likely) the team in the SEC championship game representing the SEC East is from a place further west than the team representing the SEC West. Now, make your head stop spinning and keep reading. The only teams in the SEC further west than Missouri are Arkansas and Texas A&M. The Aggies took their second conference loss of the season this week (more on this in a minute), and Arkansas State has a better chance of making the title game than Arkansas.

The Tigers still have some work to do to clinch a berth because they've only played three SEC games, but their systematic 36-17 dismantling of Florida without their best quarterback is the sign of a true contender. Not only is Missouri the only undefeated team in the SEC East, but it's the only team without two conference losses.

3. Johnny Manziel is winless at home against the state of Alabama. What a difference a year makes. Last season, Manziel traveled to the Heart of Dixie and won both times. This season, both Alabama and Auburn visited College Station and both pulled out close wins in dramatic fashion in his yard.

After a 49-42 loss to Alabama and a 45-41 loss to Auburn, the Aggies are looking like they could use a 13th man right about now. Johnny Offense delivered his characteristic day, throwing for 454 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 48 yards and another score.

But his penchant for throwing stupid passes caught up with him as Auburn picked off two passes that he never should have thrown and for the second straight week he suffered an injury that seemed like it might be bad but wasn't.

What was bad was the loss. A&M was already at the mercy of other teams, needing Alabama to drop two games to qualify for the SEC championship game, but now the Aggies need Auburn to drop two more games and Alabama to lose three.

It's safe to say that won't happen. Get ready for another trip to the Cotton Bowl, unless Vanderbilt, LSU or Missouri have something to say about it.

4. You will need some cocktails to get through the "Cocktail Party." It's always fun to joke about how Mark Richt is on the hot seat and how much he's hated and might get fired. That is, fun to joke about until it might actually be true. On the other side, Will Muschamp has gone from being the new Texas head coach to being compared to Lane Kiffin. Oof.

If you have a ticket to the World's Largest Outdoor (Cocktail) Party in two weeks, congratulations you have a chance to be a college athlete. Following a 31-27 loss to Vanderbilt and a 36-17 loss to Missouri, Georgia and Florida are so damaged and deflated right now that some random guy from Section 106 playing running back might be an improvement.

You know who's really disappointed about this game? CBS. The Georgia-Florida game is locked into CBS' 3:30 p.m. Eastern time slot before the first game is ever played. Every year at least one and perhaps both teams are looking for a win to propel them to the SEC championship game. This year it might be a battle for who doesn't have to go back to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl.

But it still looks like it will be the best game of the day. Its competition is Arkansas trying to not lose its sixth straight against Auburn, wildly inconsistent South Carolina facing wildly inconsistent Mississippi State, Missouri trying to inch closer to SEC acceptance against Tennessee, Texas A&M going for a scoring record against UTEP and Kentucky possibly losing to Alabama State.

Both teams will be coming off bye weeks and trying not to lose their third game in a row. If you have something else to do that afternoon – like jabbing your eyes out with an ice pick – feel free to do so.1

5. Steve Spurrier is still capable of outcoaching himself. It took a few weeks, but it happened. More reliable than his visor tossing and jab taking is Spurrier's ability to just straight up forget the simplest of things.

Leading by 1, South Carolina lined up as if to go for a risky fourth down conversion. Making it would likely seal a win. Missing it would give Tennessee good field position. Spurrier didn't like what he saw, so he called timeout. No big deal, right? Right, unless the Gamecocks line up to go for it again and call another timeout, but there's no way they would actually do that, right? WRONG!

After wasting – yes, wasting – two timeouts, South Carolina punted. Tennessee went down and set up a game-winning field goal and South Carolina didn't attempt to use its remaining timeout to stop the clock and give themselves a chance. Then they used it with 3 seconds left when Tennessee was going to use theirs and didn't have the opportunity to ice the kicker.2 Tennessee then won 23-21.

However, Jadeveon Clowney made a tackle that got people saying it looked like the one he made in the Outback Bowl, even though it didn't, so that's … something?

6. Gus Malzahn is a wizard. There is literally no other explanation for Auburn's complete reversal from a year ago. In a terribly ironic twist, Saturday's win over A&M illustrates just how awful Gene Chizik was.

Last season – at home, mind you – Auburn lost 63-21 to Texas A&M. This also perfectly illustrates why the SEC is the best conference in college football. A swing from national championship to 3-8 to now 6-1 is unfathomable, but it shows the talent that exists in the conference. There are no off days.

It rarely ever happens that a team would go from winless in the conference to a legitimate contender for the conference championship game, but that's exactly what Auburn has done. Last season, Auburn's offense ranked in the 100s nationally. Now its rushing offense is first in the SEC and eighth in the country, averaging right at 300 yard a game.

The Iron Bowl is must-see TV again.

7. Bo Wallace knows inexplicable upsets. Wallace looked like more than just a head of hair, throwing for 346 yards in a 27-24 win over LSU. He didn't score a touchdown, but that is of little consequence. Ole Miss opened up a 17-0 lead and Wallace guided a game-winning drive in the final minutes to finish off the upset of No. 6 LSU that the Rebels fell just short of last season.

Ole Miss was dreadful against Alabama and Auburn and dropped a heart-breaker to Texas A&M before getting back to winning this week. It could be the start of a four-game winning streak with Idaho, Arkansas and Troy coming up before games against Missouri and Mississippi State.

The Rebels should be in no danger of missing out on a bowl game like they almost did last year and the praise of Hugh Freeze is now getting back on track and growing louder. Ole Miss is also in the middle of a six-game home stand and only have one road game left.

8. Butch Jones might be the most impactful first-year coach. With Auburn's resurgence, this didn't seem possible. But the flip side to South Carolina's full body dry heave was that the other guy got to win. That "other guy" all of sudden looks like he's doing some great things for Tennessee.

It's funny how one game can change that perception. Malzahn is certainly doing something remarkable with the Tigers, but he took over a team that recently won a national championship and had much more to work with than the Tennessee squad Jones took over.

Tennessee has already equaled its win total from last season and pulled off a big upset to get there. The Vols also took Georgia to overtime and are primed for a trip to a bowl game for the first time since 2010. But it won't be easy to do. Tennessee only has one easy game left – the season finale against Kentucky – but needs two wins to make a bowl.

Despite that, Jones has fostered an environment where upsets aren't just something that happens, they are something that are expected. Case in point, Tennessee's kicker, Michael Palardy, said he would kick a game-winner against South Carolina and then did.

The Vols have already played four ranked teams and have to play three more in Alabama, Missouri and Auburn. Navigating that slate and coming out with a postseason berth will be no small feat.

9. Zach Mettenberger was Zach Mettenberger (2012) until he was Zach Mettenberger (2013). Zach Mettenberger threw three interceptions in the red zone in the first half against Ole Miss bringing back shades of his former self before remembering he's actually a decent player now and led LSU on a fourth quarter comeback to tie the game, but it wasn't enough.

Last week, I called LSU the best team in the SEC. Oops. I don't know if they just got beat or had a bad day or if they were never all that good to begin with, but the Tigers never got anything going, especially on defense where they gave up 525 yards.

LSU harbored national championship aspirations entering the game. Now, those are gone and their chances of making the SEC championship game hinge on upsetting Alabama, holding off Johnny Offense and hoping Alabama and Auburn each sustain an additional conference loss. In other words: Doomsday.

The season has already had one doomsday and LSU was its biggest casualty. It would be all but impossible for them to benefit from a second one.

10. You can forget about Alabama's "problems." Arkansas' #karma continued as the Crimson Tide gained 352 yards rushing, committed no turnovers and no penalties and rolled to a 52-0 win for the second straight year and now owns the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation.

Move along. There's nothing to see here.

Extra points: 1This would be the ideal weekend for one your wife's cousin's friends to get married. The cocktails you need should be there (if you're lucky, they'll be free) and there will be cake. Sure, the wedding will be boring, but it can't be worse than the game.

2I'm fairly certain icing the kicker is pointless, but you at least want to have the option to do it. It might not help you, but it's probably not going to hurt you, either.

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