A look at what we learned in the SEC in Week 11, as both divisional champions were crowned -- Auburn in the West and South Carolina in the East:
1. No stopping Newton: The Georgia players said afterward they don’t think Auburn’s Cam Newton can be stopped. Granted, Georgia has failed to stop a lot of people this season, but Newton is without a doubt the most dominant offensive force to come through the SEC in a long while. Nobody’s suggesting he’s a better player than Tim Tebow. That will all sort itself out. But where Newton separates himself from anybody who’s played football in the SEC in a long time is his ability to beat you so many ways. He demoralizes defenses with long runs for touchdowns like he did against LSU and several other teams this season. He wears defenses down by pounding on them for 30 carries like he did Saturday in Auburn’s 49-31 win over Georgia, and just when you think you might have him bottled up, he makes a couple of NFL throws for touchdowns like he did against the Bulldogs. What kind of defense do you play against the guy?
2. Tight-lipped Tigers: Don’t look for any revelations from Auburn concerning what all took place last week in deciding to play Newton amid the NCAA investigation into his recruitment and allegations swirling that his father, Cecil Newton, sought money for him to sign at Mississippi State. Cam Newton wasn’t made available to the media following the Georgia win, and Auburn’s official comment on the matter has become “no comment.” The Tigers are off until they travel to Alabama on Nov. 26, and these next 13 days are sure to provide some more drama off the field. In the meantime, don’t expect to hear too much from the Auburn side of things.
3. Lattimore is special: The word “special” is over-used in the world of sports when we start talking about athletes, especially first-year athletes that burst onto the scene and demonstrate greatness right away. In the end, it’s the long haul that makes that determination. I say without reservation, though, that South Carolina freshman running back Marcus Lattimore is special, and he’s special in every way. He hadn’t been healthy the past several weeks, juggling a sprained ankle and bruised knee. But when the Gamecocks needed him during the biggest game of the season, he was right there for 40 carries and a season-high 212 yards. Lattimore also had 31 receiving yards, giving him a total of 243 yards for the game. Single-handedly, he outgained the entire Florida offense, which managed just 226 yards. Yes, that says a lot about how lousy Florida is on offense. But for Lattimore to perform the way he did on such a big stage Saturday tells you even more about what kind of football player he is and tells you why he was such a priority for the Gamecocks last year during the recruiting process.
4. Hogs in the upper crust: Arkansas is playing well enough right now that the Hogs have an excellent chance to finish this season among the top three or four teams in the league. That’s a goal of any team in this league, to be a top-tier program. The 58-21 thrashing of UTEP on Saturday was Arkansas’ fourth straight win. The Hogs have averaged 46.5 points during their four-game winning streak, and there’s no question that their defense has improved significantly since last season. Sure, they’d like to have back the fourth quarters of those Alabama and Auburn games, but this is a talented team that’s held it together since those disappointments and is playing at an extremely high level heading into these final two weeks of the season. Bobby Petrino and his staff, as well as the leaders on this team, deserve a lot of credit for not letting this thing go south after the Hogs were eliminated from the SEC race.
5. Ole Miss is reeling: Even though Ole Miss has won two more games overall than Vanderbilt this season, you can make a strong case that the Rebels are the worst team in the league. After all, Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss by two touchdowns in Oxford. A more convincing case, though, played out in Knoxville on Saturday. The Rebels quit in the second half against a previously winless Tennessee team in SEC play and were humiliated 52-14. Jeremiah Masoli, coming off a concussion, probably wishes he’d watched from the sideline. He threw three interceptions, and two of them were returned for touchdowns. The defense, even though nose guard Jerrell Powe is a beast in the middle, has been shredded for much of this season. The Rebels give up big plays the way most of us dump pennies in the change tray at the convenience store. It looks like they’ve also given up on this season.