With Florida suffering a third SEC loss in its setback at Auburn, the Gators have severely damaged their chances of winning their division. The SEC East is open for the taking with South Carolina and Georgia both at 4-1.
The Gators, who are 2-3 in the league, will have their chances to defeat both the Gamecocks and Bulldogs in coming weeks. If they can do that it would have put them on the inside track to play in the league title game if they had found a way to win against Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers.
It was an important win for Auburn because it was against an old rival and because it was a confidence booster after losing at Arkansas a week earlier, but the situation is that even though Auburn just has one league loss it is going to be an uphill struggle for this team to return to Atlanta to defend its SEC Championship with LSU and Alabama undefeated and playing so well in the West.
The road to Atlanta is a lot easier to travel in the SEC East, so much so that as strange as it may seem the Gators could still get to the championship game with three losses, but it sure would have been a lot easier to get there with two in the loss column so the Gators must be disappointed in letting a young Auburn defense and a strong kicking game win that game on Saturday night.
Auburn could be involved in another big contest that determines the SEC East champion when the Tigers play at Georgia on Nov. 12th. If South Carolina loses another SEC game and Georgia wins vs. Florida in Jacksonville and vs. Auburn and Kentucky in Athens, the Bulldogs will represent the East.
South Carolina still controls its destiny in the division, but does it without its best player, Marcus Lattimore, while facing a schedule that includes games at Tennessee and at Arkansas plus one at home vs. Florida. Georgia doesn't have a road game left, although its annual neutral site showdown vs. Florida has been like a road game for the Bulldogs for many years considering the success the Gators have had in Jacksonville.
Looking at the big picture in the SEC East, it is possible that the division winner will arrive at the Georgia Dome with three conference losses so even the Gators still have a chance, although it is an outside one.
I saw a lot of good things from Auburn in its victory over Florida. Even though the offense struggled, particularly throwing the football, the Tigers had two wide receivers who came up with big plays, something the team really needs.
This group has got to be more effective throwing the ball down the field. It is a good running team, but the passing game has got to make opposing defenses respect it or it will be too difficult to consistently move the ball on the ground. You could tell the Gators didn't respect Auburn's passing game one bit on Saturday night.
When the ball was snapped the Gators had nine people coming to the line of scrimmage as fast as they could get there. Unless Auburn's passing improves other teams in the SEC will be doing the same thing and defenses in this league are good enough to stop you unless you have balance.
While Auburn was winning on Saturday night the Georgia Bulldogs were fortunate to win in Nashville vs. Vanderbilt in a game that I thought would be closer than most expected, and it was. It went down to the final play after Georgia got a punt blocked and Vandy had two shots at the end zone as time ran out, but the Commodores couldn't convert their opportunity into a victory.
However, what stands out about what happened is the nasty stuff at the end of the game. The scene at the end of the game between the two teams, with even the coaches getting involved, was a very bad one.
There is no place in this conference for that kind of behavior. In fact, it is the last thing the SEC needs. There is enough rivalry and intensity without having teams out there on the field jawing, pushing, shoving and doing the stuff at the end of a game that happened in Nashville.
The whole country is looking for a reason not to like the SEC and something like that gives them a reason. I am surprised it took place. I don't know what the SEC Commissioner is going to do about it, but I am sure he will have something to say on the subject.
When South Carolina and Clemson got into a big fight a few years ago those teams were kept at home and not allowed to go to bowl games, a punishment that got the message across. If the SEC had a rule in place to fine the head coaches $50,000 apiece for what happened on field Saturday, I don't think we would have witnessed such an ugly scene. The coaches would have had their players trained better and they would conduct themselves better.This conference's reputation is too important for that kind of stuff to be allowed to take place. It is going to be interesting to see what happens with this case.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.