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What We Learned from the SEC in Week 12

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Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera (52) tackles Auburn running back Trey Mason (21). (Source: Georgia Athletics) Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera (52) tackles Auburn running back Trey Mason (21). (Source: Georgia Athletics)
Georgia safeties Josh Harvey Clemons (25) and Tray Matthews (28) make a play on a pass intended for Auburn's Ricardo Louis (5). (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Georgia safeties Josh Harvey Clemons (25) and Tray Matthews (28) make a play on a pass intended for Auburn's Ricardo Louis (5). (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Auburn's Ricardo Louis comes down with a tipped pass. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn's Ricardo Louis comes down with a tipped pass. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Auburn's Ricardo Louis scores the go-ahead touchdown in Auburn's 43-38 win over Georgia. In his wake is the Georgia defense, Georgia's season and perhaps Mark Richt's tenure as the Bulldogs' head coach. ((Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Auburn's Ricardo Louis scores the go-ahead touchdown in Auburn's 43-38 win over Georgia. In his wake is the Georgia defense, Georgia's season and perhaps Mark Richt's tenure as the Bulldogs' head coach. ((Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Alabama's T.J. Yeldon (4) rushed for a career-high 160 yards in a 20-7 win over Mississippi State. Alabama and Auburn will play each other in two weeks with the winner advancing to the SEC championship game. (Source: Alabama Athletics) Alabama's T.J. Yeldon (4) rushed for a career-high 160 yards in a 20-7 win over Mississippi State. Alabama and Auburn will play each other in two weeks with the winner advancing to the SEC championship game. (Source: Alabama Athletics)
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(RNN) – Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor refuse to sort out the national championship picture on their own.

It's a good thing we have the BCS to do it for us. We wouldn't want them to actually play each other, would we?1

Here is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 12.

1. We're getting the Iron Bowl we want. Alabama and Auburn both took care of business this week, though neither should be proud of how it played out. (More on this in a minute). But it sets up an Iron Bowl showdown that will decide who represents the SEC West in the conference championship game.2

It's the college football equivalent of a loser leaves town cage match, except that the loser won't leave town and both sides will spend the next year hurling vicious insults at each other and whining about how the other team cheats. In other words, everything's normal.

But the game itself is a different animal. Auburn could sneak into the top five. It should be a game worthy of the "Game of the Century" tag, but in truth, it doesn't need it. The Iron Bowl comes with justified hype no matter how good the teams are. That both Alabama and Auburn are in the running for the national championship just means ESPN's College GameDay will be on hand and Tom Rinaldi will narrate a solemn requiem to the Toomer's Corner oak trees and make it sound as if the Liberty Bell had been stolen, which some Auburn fans think would be a lesser crime.

The tagline the game will be remembered by will come afterward. No other game has been as conducive to nicknames as the Iron Bowl. The most famous games in the series' history aren't known by years or scores, they're known as "Punt Bama Punt," "Sacked Bama Sacked," "The Kick," "Bo Over the Top" "Wrong Way Bo," "The Run in the Mud," "The Beatdown in T-Town" "The Drive," "The Cam-back" and "The Inch That Stole Christmas."

The series started in 1893 with two Auburn wins, but bitterness and hatred halted the game in 1907 after a 6-6 tie – the only one in the series. When the series resumed in 1948, the schools symbolically buried a hatchet. Alabama won 55-0 – which is both the largest win and most points scored by either team in the series. According to legend, the hatchet was then dug up.

The tradition of rolling Toomer's Corner is believed to have started in 1972, following "Punt Bama Punt" when Auburn beat No. 2 Alabama 17-16, though it true origins are unclear. However, the 1716 bar just steps away from Toomer's Corner is named for the game, which is considered the series' most famous.

Alabama leads the series 42-34-1, but the only city the Tide hold an advantage in is Birmingham, and the game is no longer played there.

Auburn rushes for 320 yards a game. Alabama allows 91. Something has to give. The only question is what will this year's game be called?

2. Auburn has done the impossible. How many people thought Auburn would be 10-1 right now with a shot at the national championship? The answer is nobody.

Even four weeks ago, it didn't look like a real possibility. The Tigers had hard-fought games with Washington State, Mississippi State and Ole Miss and lost by two touchdowns to LSU. But after pulling out its second fourth quarter comeback of the season against Texas A&M, Auburn started looking like a real threat.

The came Georgia. Auburn dominated and held a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter. The game was over. Then it wasn't.

Auburn surrendered three touchdowns, including two rushing touchdowns to the suddenly Tim Tebow-like Aaron Murray. If CBS had put cameras on the goal line, the last of those touchdowns might not have counted, but it didn't matter.

Auburn responded with less than a minute to play with a blind heave down field that went right into the hands of a Georgia defender. Then it was knocked out of his hands by another Georgia defender and landed in the hands of Auburn's Ricardo Louis. Auburn won 43-38.

Now the Tigers get Alabama, and unlike Oregon, Ball State, Duke and an overconfident pee-wee team from Mobile, Auburn actually wants Bama. The only top-ranked offense Alabama has seen all season hung 42 points on the Tide's defense, which otherwise has allowed an average of less than a touchdown.

3. Alabama doesn't want Bama. The only team that has proven capable of beating Alabama so far is Alabama, and the Crimson Tide have been great at it.

If Dak Prescott hadn't been hurt, Mississippi State might have been able to convert a score out of its four missed red zone opportunities and capitalized on one of Alabama's four turnovers. Instead, Alabama edged the Bulldogs 20-7, and somehow still managed to score in every quarter.

Alabama's offense was the target of much criticism earlier in the season, and those concerns are now back on, but even with those problems, T.J. Yeldon had a career-high 160 yards and AJ McCarron had a typical 187 yards and two touchdowns.

But his two interceptions and fumbles by Yeldon and Kenyan Drake killed what could have otherwise been a blowout. The Tide's defense is still unassailable and it held Mississippi State to less than 200 yards.

In truth, it's the exact type of game Nick Saban loves. His team was in control of the game from the start and won comfortably but still played bad enough that he gets to destroy nearby objects in a fit of rage without looking irrational.

Alabama might just be trolling the world right now playing its own game of how-bad-can-we-look-and-still-win. In all honesty, it makes sense. Winning by 28 every week gets boring after a while.

4. Georgia did what Georgia does. Oh man. I almost feel bad for what I'm about to do, but it has to be done. There's never been a more Georgia way to lose than how Georgia lost to Auburn.

I like poking fun at Georgia's struggles, but it's all meant to be satirical and in good fun. Now I'm actually starting a feel a little bad about it. If any SEC team fires its coach this offseason, it will be Georgia. There has simply been too many failures in close games to give anybody confidence in Mark Richt.

At one point in Saturday's game it appeared Richt knew that. The usually even-tempered coach did his best impersonation of a baseball manager losing his head over a perceived officiating slight and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Mark Richt seems to be the nicest man who has ever gone into coaching, so whether it was an actual missed call CBS failed to show, years of frustration finally bubbling to the surface or an audition for a switch from the gridiron to the diamond, anything that gets Richt animated is worth paying attention to.

The failed defense on Auburn's Hail Mary is understandable. It happens. (It actually happened in the NFL last week and – irony of ironies – was caught by a former Georgia receiver.) But Georgia followed it with a drive inside the 20 and had two plays to the end zone to win the game. In predictable fashion, the Bulldogs couldn't convert.

Murray had taken the team on his back and risked his own body to score Georgia's go-ahead touchdown. But on the final play, he was blindsided and his pass attempt barely looked intentional. Georgia now has four losses.

Murray will be gone when the season is over, and it wouldn't be surprising if Richt is gone with him.

5. South Carolina is sneaky good. The Gamecocks have kind of been written off following a disappointing year from Jadeveon Clowney and losses to Georgia and Tennessee that put them behind the 8-ball in the SEC East race.

But now following a 19-14 win over Florida, South Carolina is a legitimate contender once again, hanging around with a their 8-2 record and refusing to die. They're a Missouri loss away from playing the Iron Bowl winner in the SEC championship game.

It's easy to pinpoint what has make South Carolina so hard to dispatch this season – Mike Davis. Davis dropped to second in the conference in rushing following his 54 yards against Florida and Tre Mason's 115 against Georgia, but he's paced the Gamecocks the whole year and is one of only three SEC running backs with more than 1,000 yards.

The Gamecocks are pesky and both their losses – Georgia and Tennessee – were games they could have won. But several of their wins – Vanderbilt, UCF, Kentucky, Missouri and Florida – were less than spectacular.

They may not be a perceived threat to Alabama or Auburn if they make the championship game, but it's hard to argue with their results.

6. The pressure is on Missouri. All of that about South Carolina is bad news for Missouri. Everything is falling into place perfectly for South Carolina, including Missouri's final two opponents – Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

Both have fast-paced offenses that can cause a lot of problems for a defense. That's Missouri's weakness and the Tigers are in a position where they can't afford to come up short. A loss in either remaining game eliminates them from the SEC championship and puts South Carolina in the game.

This is big boy football time for the Tigers, and that's historically where Missouri is as it worst.

7. Florida's bowl eligibility is critical condition. If it wasn't for a pesky thing called math, we could write off Florida getting a bowl – even a paltry one like the BBVA Compass Bowl.3

Florida has the second-longest active bowl streak and hasn't missed one since 1990. Only Florida State, which has made a bowl every year since 1981, has a longer active bowl run.

Florida needs two wins to become bowl eligible and plays two more games. Despite my C in eighth grade geometry, I know that means the Gators can still do it. All they have to do is overcome five straight losses and beat Georgia Southern and No. 2 Florida State.

That's not THAT hard, right?

8. Vanderbilt is making history again. If Mark Richt does end up getting fired, a good candidate for his replacement isn't far away. For the first time in school history, Vanderbilt will be going to a bowl for the third straight year and James Franklin (coach) is the reason why.

Not only that, though, the Commodores are in line for eight wins again after a 22-6 win over Kentucky. They'll need to beat Tennessee and Wake Forest, both of whom could put up a good fight, to do it. Franklin proved last year he was a bigger fish than Vanderbilt's pond could hold and with every Commodore win, he's only getting bigger.

9. Mississippi State isn't quite finished yet. Somehow Mississippi State still has some fight left. The Bulldogs have lost three straight games after barely beating Kentucky and Bowling Green yet they're not dead yet.

Every loss the Bulldogs have suffered has been demoralizing, including Saturday's to Alabama. The Crimson Tide did everything possible to let Mississippi State win, but without quarterback Dak Prescott, the Bulldogs just couldn't do it.

With wins over Arkansas and Ole Miss, Mississippi State can be bowl eligible and both those teams are vulnerable – Arkansas because they're terrible4 and Ole Miss because the Egg Bowl is always unpredictable. The Egg Bowl is a home game for the Bulldogs this season, and they've won five of the last six played in Starkville.

10. Ole Miss can do some major destruction. There are only two games left for Ole Miss, but the implications of them are huge. First, the Rebels play Missouri, which is fighting for a berth in the SEC championship game. Next the Rebels play Mississippi State, which is fighting for bowl eligibility.

Ole Miss is already bowl eligible and trying to increase its position. Wins over Missouri and Mississippi State would definitely do that. A win over Missouri not only eliminates the Tigers from the SEC championship game, but throws all non-BCS bowl tie-ins into abject chaos.

Extra points: 1Actually, come to think of it, I do want that. Everybody should want that. The BCS still has its supporters (unless you look in that article's comments section), but anyone who presents an argument in favor of it is just stupid, and I'm tired of listening to their crap. Just for the record, I'm not in favor of the four-team "playoff" we're getting next year. I want to blow up the whole system and start over with eight conferences where every champion makes the playoffs. And just to respond to that asinine article, it's not about naming the best team or rewarding the best season, it's about having a champion that is legitimate and not up for debate. Every system with a playoff has one. Division I college football never has.

2Hey, that sounds like a playoff. Now I'm worried that game will get canceled because college football isn't allowed to have its championship decided on the field. Why do we like this sport so much?

3Did you know there's a bowl called the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl? Well, now you do. Royal Purple makes motor oil. Hilariously appropriate for Las Vegas, Wikipedia calls Royal a Purple a "lubricant manufacturer." Ok, sorry, that was in poor taste. But I bet you still laughed.

4Even the crazy Hog lady has given up on them. There hasn't been a mediocre karaoke video from LizHoney is more than a month.

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