If they're smart, though, they'll hold on to their money and not make any hasty decisions. From the looks of Saturday's games, the SEC division races are far from over.
Auburn (3-0, 2-0 SEC) took a decisive step at home on Saturday with a 7-3 win over LSU (2-1, 0-1 SEC) and both teams proved to be tough, physical and intense, but was there anything about that game that suggested Auburn was ready to win the rest of its game and go undefeated through the conference schedule.
"We will have to lose two games," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said, "and that could very easily happen if we don't go out and continue to improve with the schedule that we have left. We have a lot of hard work to do."
That was particularly evident on
"Offense is about your ability to get in synch, and we did not get in synch," said offensive coordinator Al Borges. "We were struggling."
LSU coaches and players will always
look back to the loss at
How many times did LSU appear to be
closing in on the big score? How many times did LSU appear to be one play from
taking over? But a penalty here, a missed opportunity there ... and a close game
becomes a loss. Again,
"There's so many ways to win that game," LSU coach Les Miles said. "If somebody would have told me that we would have won the turnover battle and we'd have outgained our opponent you'd have thought we'd have won. It wasn't meant to be."
That doesn't mean a division championship is not meant to be for LSU, but some things will have to change for it to happen.
Miles said the defense will "give us a chance to win every game" if it plays the way it did against Auburn, but the offense must do better on first down and run for more than 42 yards on 23 carries.
"We have to return to running the football when we want to run it," Miles said, "and I want you to know something: Our kids will do that. Our football team will do that."
Maybe some LSU fans woke up Sunday
morning doubting that, but a quick look back at that game reveals one very
important quality in both teams. Both
"It was a very violent game," Tuberville said. "There was more speed on that field than I've seen in a long time. It is hard to have a loser. We are awfully glad that this year we came out on top."
The same was true for
If a vote had to be taken right now, most objective SEC fans (all five or six of them) would probably have to pick Florida as the best team in the SEC at this point, but even the Gators have a lot to work on.
"I wouldn't say great yet, but
those were two very good college football teams going at one another,"
Both teams wiped out big plays with penalties and missed opportunities to take control of the game. Both teams will come away with regrets over mistakes, but neither one will come away questioning their ability to win and their commitment to making it happen.
"I don't think we took our foot off
the gas pedal.
Three things will ultimately decide
who wins the East and West Division titles: how much will these four teams
improve over the course of a season? Who will take the best advantage of their
schedule? How will the "
First, only time will tell the
answer to the first question. Second,
And then there's the "
Say this for the SEC, though. After a "down" year in 2005, the conference looks to be a major national player again. Any of the four teams that played on the national stage on Saturday is capable of playing for the national championship.
"I told the other coaches before the game, 'The SEC is amazing,'" Meyer said. "That's coming from someone who's coached in a lot of different parts of the country."
Anyone who follows recruiting knows
Not only is Meyer willing to play
talented true freshmen, but he proved on Saturday he's willing to play them at
critical junctures in big games. Receiver Percy Harvin, quarterback Tim Tebow
and punt returner Brandon James all took their turns making a positive impact in
Tebow ran for 29 yards and three first downs on seven carries, Harin ran once for 12 yards and caught a pass for 13 yards and James returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown. The score was wiped out by a penalty, but it occurred well behind James.
Shula has insisted upon keeping
The issue took another turn for the
worse on Saturday when Shula admitted that seven players had been suspended at
various points over the first three games for transgressions committed during
the offseason. Conveniently, three of those players – linebacker Juwan Simpson,
cornerback Lionel Mitchell and tailback Jimmy Johns - were suspended for the
Louisiana-Monroe instead of the season opener against
The suspensions, however, were staggered, Shula said, "because it was not fair to our football team to suspend all seven in one game."
Simpson just happened to make nine
"I think Coach Shula did the best thing for the team," Mitchell said. "Suspending everybody at one time might put us in a real bad situation."
As for the other suspensions, "We don't talk about the guys when they are missing games," Shula said.
In all, seven players were suspended. Two of those were receiver DJ Hall, who missed the opener, and offensive tackle Kyle Tatum, who missed the second game. Shula would not reveal the other two, but they were suspended over the first two games.
"We were going to carry it over the course of three games," Shula said. "Six guys, nobody knew about were going to miss games. The last guy (Simpson) everybody knew about."
And instead of
The anointed savior of the Rebels'
offense continued to struggle on Saturday, throwing a decisive interception at
the 10-yard line in the third quarter of a 31-14 loss at
Ole Miss also hurt itself with five turnovers and 12 penalties for 79 yards, but it's Schaeffer who remains the focal point after completing 13 of 26 passes for 190 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and two lost fumbles.
"We had way too many turnovers and penalties," Schaeffer said. "It's my fault. I take it all. A lot of the staff is about being a quarterback and a leader and I have to take control of some of those things."
He better do it soon. The 3-0
Richard Scott is a Birmingham based sports writer, author and featured columnist in Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at RScottfree@aol.com.