The Week 11 mid-week edition of Three & Out focuses on "The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry," Spurrier vs. Florida and Les Miles' response to the replay debacle from last weekend.
STILL A MASSIVE RIVALRY
Just because Florida and Alabama have already punched their tickets for the SEC Championship Game, don't be tricked into thinking that there aren't intriguing SEC games remaining on the schedule.
For the 113th time, Auburn and Georgia square off this weekend in what's termed as the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry." This is one of the longest running and closest rivalries in all of college football. Auburn leads the all-time series with a 53-51-8 record, while Georgia has outscored the Tigers 1,747-1,698 ever since the two squads first squared off in 1892 in Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Ga.
For the second straight year, this game doesn't carry SEC Championship ramifications. But that doesn't mean that it's irrelevant. This game is HUGE for both teams in terms of bowl positioning.
No. 25 Auburn (7-3, 3-3 SEC) is entering "Amen Corner," traveling to Georgia before hosting No. 3 Alabama the day after Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Georgia (5-4, 3-3 SEC) is looking to salvage a disappointing season with a win over one of its biggest rivals, before hosting Kentucky and visiting No. 7 Georgia Tech on the Flats to close out the season.
Buck Belue, former Georgia quarterback and current co-host of "Buck & Kincade," termed it as "The Battle for Nashville" on his radio show on WCNN 680 The Fan on Tuesday; insinuating that a trip to the Music City Bowl is in the immediate future of one of these two teams.
That's a bit ridiculous in Auburn's case since a win gets the Tigers to eight. That would almost certainly guarantee the Tigers of a Chick-Fil-A Bowl bid at the very worst. Even with losses to Georgia and Alabama, seven wins will likely put the Tigers in a group with Tennessee, South Carolina and Ole Miss. With wins over Tennessee and Ole Miss already in their back pocket, it's hard to believe that the Tigers would fall to the back of that pack should there be a debate amongst bowl committee members.
However for Georgia, winning out may be the only way that they avoid the Music City Bowl. Three wins to close out the season likely gets the Bulldogs to the Outback Bowl. The problem for the Bulldogs is that the Chick-Fil-A Bowl would probably pass them over in order to fill hotel rooms in Atlanta. That would make the Music City Bowl the likely next step down. However, none of the three remaining games on the Georgia schedule are slam dunks, so their bowl fate is still very blurry. A win over Auburn could clear that picture up quite a bit.
The South Carolina Gamecocks host the No. 1 Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon, as Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier welcomes in the team that brought him his only National Championship as a coach.
Florida (9-0, 7-0 SEC) cruised to an easy 27-3 win over Vanderbilt last weekend. But the Gators are suffering from a rash of injuries. OL Maurkice Pouncey, DE Carlos Dunlap, DE Jermaine Cunningham and RB/KR Brandon James all have ankle injuries, but all are expected to play; and LB Brandon Hicks is still nursing a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the Vanderbilt game.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks (6-4, 3-4 SEC) are coming off of a tough loss at Arkansas in a game that saw Ryan Mallett torch what usually is a pretty stout Gamecock D. Spurrier announced on Tuesday that he will be taking on more play-calling duties this week, and that he would be returning to Columbia as head coach in 2010. That timing may not be a coincidence. The move to a more hands-on approach tells me that this game is of huge importance to Spurrier, and that he plans on pulling out all the stops on Saturday afternoon to not only cure the Gamecocks recent offensive woes, but also to stick it to his alma mater.
South Carolina beat the Gators in Spurrier's first season with the Gamecocks and were a Jarvis Moss field goal block away from repeating the feat in 2006, which would have prevented the Florida from winning the National Championship. Don't be surprised if South Carolina gives the Gators all they can handle this weekend in Columbia
SPEAK UP LES!
In the Week 10 wrap-up edition of Three & Out, I stated that Les Miles should let the referees have it following the obvious non-call on a Patrick Peterson interception with 5:54 to go in the LSU vs. Alabama game. Had the play been called correctly, LSU would have gotten the ball down six points, with a chance to drive down the field for the game-winning touchdown. Much to my dismay, Miles did not oblige.
"I don't know to be very honest with you," Miles said on Monday. "I looked at the television feed, and I do not know what the instant replay officials are looking at. I defer, and I'm going to understand that in fact these guys are doing everything they can to get it right. I'm going to figure if there's an issue, they'll get it fixed."
That's neither the $30,000 rant I expected nor the response that the egregious error deserved. Ever since my weekend column was posted on Sunday morning, my inbox has been flooded by Alabama fans defending the play, which is simply baffling to me. Not only did Peterson control the ball with one foot in, he actually got BOTH feet in. There's not one piece of evidence, either video or photographic, that points to the contrary.
This was Les Miles' time to stand up for the injustice that was done to his team and for the rash of incompetent officiating that has been prevalent in the SEC this year. His team was robbed of a chance to win the SEC West. Judging from the e-mails I received from LSU fans, Miles wouldn't have to pay a dime of his own money to cover any fine incurred from a Jim Mora-style rant.
The frustration with SEC referees has almost reached a boiling point, and Miles is standing in front of the stove. All it takes is one twist of the knob to send it over the edge. Taking the high road may be the honorable thing to do, but it's not always the most effective way to fix a problem. The Peterson non-interception is the most prolific and egregious of all of the SEC officiating errors this season. Miles needs to capitalize on it in order to bring all SEC fans something that they really want – properly officiated football games.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at
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