What We Learned from the SEC in Week 7

What We Learned from the SEC in Week 7

(RNN) – Clemson can't keep this up.

The Tigers are ranked No. 3 and have won four of their seven games by a touchdown or less. Those games were against Auburn, Troy, Louisville and Saturday's 24-17 overtime win over North Carolina State. Only Louisville should have kept it that close.

There's only one more ranked team left on their schedule and five remaining games, so only four-ish more of these kind of games to go.

Also, No. 2 Ohio State survived overtime against No. 8 Wisconsin 30-23 and Urban Meyer survived getting whacked in the face by a referee.

Here's a look at what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 7.

1. It's time for a showdown (WARNING: statistical analysis). Texas A&M and Alabama are both undefeated, ranked No. 1 and No. 6 respectively, and play next week with control of the SEC West on the line.

All you really need to know is it's the SEC's best offense vs. the SEC's second-best defense. A&M gains 533 yards per game (eighth nationally) and Alabama allows 274 (fifth nationally). But things get ugly when you look at the other side. A&M has the SEC's third-worst defense (tied for 98th nationally) and Alabama has the second-best offense (17th nationally).

It's particularly interesting when you just look at rushing numbers. Alabama gains 265 yards per game, which is 10th nationally and second in the SEC behind A&M, which gains 274 yards per game on the ground. However, Alabama has the nation's top rushing defense, allowing 62 yards per game. The Aggies give up 159 yards per game, which is tied for 68th nationally.

For some common opponent context, consider that Tennessee averaged 8 yards per carry against A&M two weeks ago and averaged one yard per carry Saturday against Alabama.

The Aggies get a half turnover a game more than Alabama and the Crimson Tide get half a sack more per game than A&M. But the biggest concern for the Aggies will be third downs. A&M is converting .387 percent of third downs. That's 75th nationally. Alabama's defense is 12th nationally, allowing conversions on .297 percent of opponents' chances.1

And, for what it's worth, Alabama has 11 non-offensive touchdowns this year and at least one in every game so far.

2. Don't taunt Alabama. Here we go, again. Every year, someone or multiple someones think it will be fun to engage in a little trash talk prior to playing Alabama, and then end up looking foolish a few days later.

Tennessee is a repeat offender in this regard after calling Alabama "the red team" in 2013. That preceded a 35-point loss. Well, in 2016, the Vols had an unkind message for Lane Kiffin, flew an anti-Kiffin banner, wore some anti-Kiffin buttons and, perhaps most egregiously, discussed plans for rushing the field.

Alabama won 49-10. Oof.

For as much as Alabama (7-0, 4-0) could survive on talent and doesn't need to look for motivation, it's still not a good idea to make it easy to find some. Kiffin's offense rolled up 594 yards and Alabama won with a bigger margin than it had against Kentucky and Western Kentucky.

Aggies, here's some advice. Look at what you're planning to do and say this week and determine if there is anything in it that could be interpreted in any way as a slight toward Alabama. If there is, Do. Not. Do It.2

3. Tennessee had The. Worst. Day. Let's start with this: Trevor Daniel outpunted Tennessee's offense by 320 yards.

But more importantly than that, the Vols have dropped consecutive games and don't control their destiny in the SEC East any more. That's now Florida, which Tennessee beat. Florida still has to play Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina and LSU while Tennessee must face South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt.

That sets up better for Tennessee (5-2, 2-2). All they need to do is win out and have Florida drop a game, and they're back in. And with Georgia losing to Vanderbilt (more on that in a minute) that removes a hypothetical three-way tie Tennessee could have sneaked in on.

Currently, the Vols are tied with Kentucky - yes, Kentucky - for second place in the division. And, not to forget, it's been a really long time since Tennessee beat Alabama.3

4. It's Florida SEC East to lose. In that A&M/Alabama analysis, you may have noticed a couple of "second-best" references regarding defense. Well, the best in those categories is Florida. The Gators have the SEC's best overall defense and best red zone defense, and is third nationally in both those numbers. And the Gators have the SEC's No. 5 offense.

The Gators (5-1, 3-1) beat Missouri 40-14 Saturday in a game that was needed for confidence reasons. Florida's last two games were a 10-point loss to Tennessee where the defense failed it and a 13-6 win over Vanderbilt where the offense failed it.

Luke Del Rio returned and was a little shaky with three interceptions, but the running game did the real work with both Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine gaining 100 yards.

It's not going to be an easy road for the Gators, though. They have to play Georgia - where strange things are to be expected - Arkansas, South Carolina and LSU. A loss in any of those and Tennessee is back in control (provided the Vols don't lose).

Florida should win all of those games, but Tennessee should also win all of its remaining games, so there's no margin for error.

5. Arkansas is a disrupter. The Hogs have already lost to both Texas A&M and Alabama, so each needs to lose three games for Arkansas to be in contention for the SEC West. I feel pretty safe saying that won't happen.

But Arkansas dealt a blow to Ole Miss' outside shot with a 34-30 win.

Quarterback Austin Allen is keeping Arkansas in position to cause mayhem to ensue in its wake. The Hogs still have to play Auburn, Florida and LSU, which are all still very much alive in their division races. While the West would only solidify if Arkansas wins those games, the East gets likely thrown into chaos if the Hogs (5-2, 1-2) take down Florida.

Arkansas should challenge everybody. It has already knocked out one team, and others could be next.

6. Georgia is in the tank. Pretty much every week, you can bet there will be jokes at Georgia's expense. This week is no different but the tone is. It's sort of not fair to goof on the Bulldogs at the moment because they deserve pity.

After losing to Vanderbilt 17-16, Georgia (4-3, 2-3) is behind the Commodores in the SEC East. Yes, that means at this point in the season, Vanderbilt has a better chance of making the SEC championship game than Georgia does.

And it's just as bad as that sounds. Georgia, a team with two of the best running backs in the SEC and arguably the nation, gained 75 yards rushing. Now, you might be thinking Vanderbilt has a good run defense. You'd be wrong.

The Commodores were 79th nationally - ninth in the SEC - entering the game allowing 176 yards per game. Georgia's rushing offense entered the game 32nd nationally - fifth in the SEC - gaining 215 yards per game.

Ready to bring back Mark Richt, yet?4

7. It's hard to figure Ole Miss out. The Rebels are so dependent on their quarterback, it's impossible to predict what you're going to get from them.

That's been the way Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2) has operated for years, and it's always gotten the same result. They will pull off a win or two they shouldn't get and drop a game or two they shouldn't lose.

It's gotten even more QB-centric under Chad Kelly. He threw for 253 yards with a touchdown and interception against Arkansas, but it's always been the running game where the impact is really shown. Kelly led the team with 89 yards and scored two touchdowns on the ground. Only two other players had carries and they combined for 61 yards.

Ole Miss uses the hurry-up as well as anyone, but pretty much exclusively throws from it. That lets the inconsistency creep in. Ole Miss either can't or doesn't run effectively and becomes dependent on not just the passing game, but on quickly getting to the line of scrimmage and catching the defense by surprise.

It can be effective, but it's also indicative of having major flaws. If you need a gimmick to stay competitive, you're probably not that good.

8. We still don't know what's up with LSU. This is so frustrating. Les Miles got fired three weeks ago, and we still have no idea if it's made a difference on LSU in any perceivable way.

Since Miles was booted out, LSU has picked up easy wins over Missouri and Saturday's 45-10 win over Southern Mississippi, which tells us nothing. A game against Florida that would have told have told us something got postponed. (More on this in a minute.)

Leonard Fournette has also been injured, making it even harder to figure out where LSU stands.

The Tigers (4-2, 2-1) play Ole Miss next week and then they're off (ugh!) before playing Alabama. Surely, by then we'll know something.

9. Derek Mason won't be staying around. Beating Georgia certainly made some people look at Vanderbilt differently, and along with that, head coach Derek Mason. Vanderbilt (3-4, 1-4) still isn't likely to make a bowl, but four wins looks a lot better than three.

That's probably still not enough to let Mason keep his job, but at least it's something to be happy about. It's his first conference road win since becoming Vanderbilt's coach.

Vanderbilt was still outgained 421 yards to 171 yards, and it's one of the few times the winning team's offense got outpunted by its own punter. Sam Loy had 378 yards in the game and is within striking distance of matching Vandy's offense for the season.

For the year, Loy has 1,823 yards to the offense's 1,968.

10. There are no winners in the Florida/LSU saga. Let's wrap this up. Florida and LSU will play Nov. 19 like everybody knew they should. Florida criticized LSU for not working with them and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey may have thrown some shade at LSU by not thanking them when the rescheduled game was announced. And LSU offered the dumb idea of playing the week before their game against Alabama, which is the same week Florida plays Georgia.

What stupidity.

HOT TAKE: LSU didn't owe anybody anything. Florida and Sankey could have kept this whole problem from happening in the first place, and they didn't. And now that it's resolved, no one gets credit for it because all they agreed to was the bare minimum possible. You don't get praise for being average.5

Extra points: 1A&M closes the gap with red zone defense. Both teams are average at scoring in the red zone with Alabama slightly better overall and at converting touchdowns. But defensively, the Aggies are second in the SEC and fourth nationally. Alabama is 47th nationally, but that may be misleading because A&M has still allowed more red zone scores than Alabama has allowed opponents to even get in the red zone. And more than half of the scores the Tide has allowed were field goals.

2Alabama got in a little taunting of its own at the end when Bo Scarbrough stuck his hand in a Tennessee fan's face after breaking off an 85-yard touchdown run. But things are cool. He might have made a new friend.

3Whoa! How 'bout ya, Kentucky? Wildcats fans, do you need some encouragement before basketball season? Well, here it is. Kentucky's remaining SEC games are against Mississippi State, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee. That looks fairly manageable. Two wins in those games and then a win over Austin Peay, and it's time to go bowling. Now, do you want to get REAL optimistic? Run the table and have Florida drop two of its games against Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina and LSU, and you're going to Atlanta.

4So, what is Mark Richt up to? Well, he took another loss like he was famous for doing at Georgia. His No. 16 Miami Hurricanes lost 20-13 to North Carolina.

5LSU's got enough going on right now anyway after Mike VI died. LSU plans to replace him. Predictably, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has weighed in on an animal being loved by millions of people, and they are against it.

"What We Learned" is a festival of shade-throwing and snarky remarks aimed at all who deserve it and some who don't that runs each week of the college football season. Feel free to snark back on Twitter at @BNT_RNN. Follow the feed while you're at it. Occasionally it can be humorous and/or informative.

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