Roy Exum: Joy In So Many Mudvilles

Monday, October 21, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I couldn’t help but think about the classic poem “Casey at the Bat” late Saturday night because with so many upsets in college football, there was finally joy in more Mudvilles than I can ever remember in a lifetime of following the SEC on Saturday. Last Monday there were a record eight SEC teams in the Associated Press “Top 25” but after a case of interleague cannibalism broke out last weekend, a full five were each upset.

No. 6 LSU was beaten by unranked Ole Miss, 27-24; No. 7 Texas A&M was nicked 45-41 by No. 24 Auburn; No. 11 South Carolina was whipped 23-21 by unranked Tennessee; No. 13 Georgia was bushwhacked 31-27 by unranked Vanderbilt; and, No. 22 Florida was slammed by No. 14 Missouri, 36-17. What’s not fun about that! Mighty Casey would be going nuts.

Missouri, a team I thought at the start of the season would be searching for a coach right now, is 7-0 with a two-game lead in the SEC East standings and the only other unbeaten team is still-No. 1 Alabama, which had no turnovers, no fumbles, no penalties, didn’t give up a point or a sack and punted only once as the Tide annihilated a plodding Arkansas, 52-0.Get this: In the last five games, Alabama has outscored opponents 201-to-16.

So, sure, Alabama is still the chalk but do you realize that the five ranked SEC teams that lost this weekend had collectively lost only seven other games all this year? While we should never deprive Saturday’s winners the day in the sun, I don’t believe anybody ought to run out and sell any conference stock because doomsday for the SEC is a long way off.

There are six SEC teams on this week’s AP Top 25, Georgia and Florida tumbling off the list while Missouri had the biggest jump, going from 14th to 5th. Central Florida – after upsetting Louisville 38-35 on Friday night -- debuted at No. 21 and I have to believe either the Bulldogs or the Gators are better than the Knights, who lost to South Carolina 28-25 earlier this year. I also believe No. 23 Northern Illinois and No. 15 Fresno State would be suspect against any SEC team but I’m partial; things will settle out in several more weeks.

All eyes are obviously on Missouri right now after the Tigers have won back-to-back victories over ranked teams for the first time in 40 years. This week’s game against now No. 20 South Carolina in “the other Columbia” (Missouri) is huge and with Mizzou breaking into the Top Five, ever-crafty Steve Spurrier has to relish the Gamecocks being underdogs with a chance to get back into the SEC East race. Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw probably won’t play this week after straining his knee.

Missouri has two more games in the East after Carolina – a Nov. 2 home game against Tennessee and a trip to Lexington seven days later. UT will probably be about a 13-point underdog to Missouri – maybe more if injuries pop up – but everybody in the country has new respect for the Vols after they battled beautifully against Georgia and then sealed the deal against the The Ol’ Ball Coach & Co.

Tennessee’s win over South Carolina was the talk on Sunday, insiders saying that under Butch Jones UT steadily improving week after week. The statistics confirm it and while the early line has Alabama as a 27-point favorite in Tuscaloosa this Saturday, this game could signal a return to “The Third Saturday of October.” UT is two wins away from being bowl eligible, which makes the home game on Nov. 9 against Auburn a lot bigger than it first seemed. Auburn, which didn’t win a conference game last fall, is already bowl eligible!

Right now Auburn’s Gus Malzahn is a shoo-in for Coach of the Year and what is uncanny is that the Tigers are unbelievably on track to host this year’s “Iron Bowl” with a projected 11-1 record. A lot will depend on Auburn’s back-to-back record against UT and then Georgia at home on Nov. 16 but it could happen with Florida Atlantic this Saturday and a trip to Arkansas the next.

Mississippi, which had lost three straight heartbreakers before stunning LSU, appears to be on the brink of being a Top 25 team. The Rebs host Idaho (1-6) this week before taking a break so it might be until the Rebs, favored by 41 this Saturday, play Arkansas on Nov. 9 before Ole Miss gets another chance. Any team that stacks up 525 yards in total offense against LSU is Top 25 material.

You can expect the Florida-Georgia winner to get back on the list, too. “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party” is Nov. 2 after both the Bulldogs and the Gators are idle this Saturday. Florida played Missouri with eight starters out with injuries while Georgia has 15 quality players who are injured.

A&M’s Johnny Manziel suffered a shoulder injury in the Auburn loss but Aggie officials are downplaying it with Vanderbilt in College Station this week. The Commodores' best quarterback, Austin Carta-Samuels, has a leg injury but both are expected to play Saturday. Speculation that Vanderbilt coach James Franklin will be hired away heightened with the Georgia win but that is part of being successful.

Let me give you one other tidbit. Since the start of the 2012 season, you can take Alabama and the five ranked SEC teams that were upset on Saturday and compare their records with the other eight SEC teams before Missouri beat Georgia two weeks ago. You will find that the six “haves” compiled a 40-0 record against the eight “have nots.”  Don’t tell me a weekend of SEC upsets wasn’t just perfect!

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