With road victories Saturday, Alabama and Florida clinched Southeastern Conference championship game berths.
The Crimson Tide needed overtime to subdue LSU at Baton Rouge.
In an exciting back and forth game, Alabama defensive back Rashad Johnson picked off this third interception of the game on LSU’s first OT possession (one of the four oskies tossed by Tiger QB Jarrett Lee). The Tide then quickly drove in for the winning score and a 27-21 victory.
Florida had a much easier time at Vanderbilt.
The Gators jumped all over the Commodores on the way to a 35-0 halftime lead. QB Tim Tebow passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more before taking the rest of the evening off about six minutes into the third quarter. The final of 42-14 does not indicate how lopsided the score could have been.
With the clinching wins, the SEC championship game participants are set at the earliest time in recent memory.
Of course, both teams have their eyes on a larger prize … the BCS title in Miami.
Should both teams win out in remaining regular season games, the winner of that SEC showdown stands a very strong chance of playing for the national title.
With an undefeated record and #1 ranking, Alabama is assured of reaching the BCS title game if the Tide keeps winning.
Bama faces a rested Mississippi State team in Tuscaloosa this Saturday, takes a week off, and finishes up with the Iron Bowl at home against rival Auburn. The Tide will be trying to break a six-game losing streak in that series.
For Florida, the case is not so clear cut, but the Gators should feel good about their position.
Florida faces South Carolina and the Citadel at home the next two weeks before traveling to play in-state rival and ACC front-runner Florida State on November 29th.
If Florida wins out and handles Alabama in Atlanta, the Gators would have a strong case among potential one-loss teams.
The biggest threats to the Gators in that scenario?
Try any of a trio of Big 12 teams … Oklahoma, Texas, and currently unbeaten Texas Tech (assuming the Red Raiders lose one) … along with Southern Cal.
The BCS will shake out soon enough, for now Crimson Tide and Gator fans can get ready for Atlanta … and hope for an even bigger prize.
Enjoy the games!
Game Day Weekly SEC Ratings
1. Florida: Yes, Alabama is #1 nationally, but the Gators look like the hottest team in America right now.
2. Alabama: Tide showed the steely nerves of a champion in defeating LSU on the road.
3. South Carolina … Gamecocks boast league’s top D, but the old ball coach is alternating QBs again.
4. Georgia … Dogs offense has good pedigree … the defense may be looking for a new master soon.
5. Ole Miss … Rebs go for three in a row – and bowl eligibility – this week.
6. LSU … Bengal Tigers quarterback play is feast or famine … hello Cotton Bowl?
7. Kentucky … Wildcats had Georgia on ropes, but defense has faltered of late.
8. Vanderbilt … Commodores must beat UK, UT, or Wake to go bowling.
9. Arkansas … Turnovers butchered the Hogs at Columbia, but the SC defense played its role in them.
10. Auburn … Tigers struggled against FBS UT-Martin, but any win is sweet on the Plains right now.
11. Miss State … the Bulldogs needed the off week because Alabama on the road will be a chore.
12. Tennessee … AD Mike Hamilton probably should have waited until after the Wyoming game to fire Fulmer.
Last Week’s Record 4-2
2008 Record 57-21
* all times Eastern
Mississippi State at Alabama (7:45 ESPN)
The last time MSU played a top-ranked Tide team was 1980, and the Bullies stunned Bama and the Bear 6-3. My guess is that the Bulldogs will match that offensive output this week … and lose about 28-6. The Crimson Tide looks solid in all aspects (except place-kicking perhaps) and moves to 11-0 on the season. Florida is getting all the publicity right now … and that’s probably about what the Tide team and staff prefer.
Game Ball: Alabama
Georgia at Auburn (12:30 Raycom)
See SEC Game of the Week.
Game Ball: Georgia
South Carolina at Florida (3:30 CBS)
The Gamecocks come into the contest at 7-3 and looking to land a New Year’s Day bowl (likely the Outback in Tampa, but possibly the Cap One in Orlando). In last week’s win over Arkansas, head ball coach Steve Spurrier reinstituted what he calls the “quarterback shuffle” with Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia alternating every play. SC will need to throw everything plus the visor at the mighty Gators. “Experts” around the nation would probably rank Florida as the favorite to win the national title right now. The Gamecock defense will compete with Florida, but I don’t see enough offense to pull the stunner.
Game Ball: Florida
Vanderbilt at Kentucky (8:00 ESPN2)
We haven’t often been able to call the Vandy-UK game an intriguing one, but this time it qualifies. Kentucky nearly knocked off Georgia and could get to eight wins by beating Vandy and Tennessee. That might mean a New Year’s Day bowl for the Cats. On the other sideline, post-season options are dwindling for the Commodores. After starting 5-0, VU has dropped four straight and still needs another win to go bowling. Not this week.
Game Ball: Kentucky
Louisiana-Monroe at Ole Miss (2:00)
Ole Miss had a week off to prepare for the final three games of the season, still needing one win to become bowl eligible. They should reach that milestone against the 3-7 Warhawks.
Game Ball: Ole Miss
Troy at LSU (8:00)
Troy moved to 6-3 (and bowl eligibility) with a win over Western Kentucky, while LSU lost an emotional struggle in OT to #1 ranked Alabama. The Bengal Tigers may be sluggish after that disappointing loss, but if the QB play is at least decent (which it has not been lately), then LSU should have enough talent for a solid win.
Game Ball: LSU
Open: Arkansas, Tennessee