What We Learned from the SEC in Week 3 - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

What We Learned from the SEC in Week 3

This man, head coach Gus Malzahn, is making Auburn look good again. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) This man, head coach Gus Malzahn, is making Auburn look good again. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)
Mississippi State's offense is reeling from the loss of quarterback Tyler Russell. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University) Mississippi State's offense is reeling from the loss of quarterback Tyler Russell. (Source: Todd van Emst/Auburn University)

(RNN) – It's never a good week to be a referee, but this week was especially bad for a crew in Tempe, AZ.

Wisconsin trailed Arizona State 32-30 with 20 seconds left and tried to set up a game-winning field goal. The quarterback got in the middle of the field, knelt down and set the ball on the ground. The referees blew their whistles immediately to stop the play.

After a pause, an Arizona State player fell on the ball, which delayed the next snap where Wisconsin was planning to spike the ball and bring out the field goal team. Time expired before they could get the snap off.

At best, it was an uncalled delay of game penalty that may have changed the outcome of the game. At worst, it was a complete failure to maintain control of the game in its most crucial moment.

This is also a good time to bring up the stupidity of the new rule that it takes three seconds to spike the ball. With that rule in place, the Badgers' fate was sealed before they were even allowed to attempt the snap. Had the flag been thrown, there would have been plenty of time to spike the ball and attempt the kick.

Wisconsin already had an uneasy relationship with the officials, and Saturday's game will further exacerbate that.

Here is the weekly list of what we learned from watching SEC games in Week 3.

1. Supreme evil is the best kind of evil. Fights among super villains are always better than other fights. Think of the last time you saw a fight between two true villains. It doesn't happen. I don't know if it's because they're rare or because they're hyped or because they really are fantastic, but fights among people who are intensely hated never disappoint. Case in point: Johnny Manziel vs. Nick Saban.

Imagine your dream matchup of movie villains. Darth Vader vs. General Zod. (Well, Darth Vader vs. anyone. Heck, Zod vs. anyone.) Chucky vs. Jason Voorhees. The Joker vs. Agent Smith from The Matrix. Megatron vs. T-1000. Gordon Gecko vs. Lex Luthor. Magneto vs. Freddy Krueger. Shooter McGavin vs. Anybody who ever shot John Wayne.

Those would all be classic fights, but none of them would live up to Manziel/Saban II.1 It was epic, and Alabama's 49-42 win lived up to every bit of hype it got. Considering all the air time, column inches and need for the "Johnny Cam" it generated, that was no small task.

There were 91 points scored, 62 first downs and 1,200 yards of offense, and it didn't feel like a race to 50 because Alabama at one point led by 21, dominated the middle two quarters and played ball control for much of the game. But Manziel has only been a villain for a few months while Saban has been one for more than a decade, and that experience as college football's evil overlord was too much to overcome.

2. Johnny Football has an alter ego named Johnny Turnover. Let's fire up the way-back machine and look at an anecdote from last season. Ah, our first glimpse of Johnny Turnover. Johnny Football made some good plays against Alabama, including a mind-blowing escape and desperation heave down field that should've failed four times, but was still successful. But he followed that up with an interception in the end zone.

He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and made the kind of attempt at a tackle that defenders usually make while trying to tackle him. Add that to last year's failed PAT attempt and "Johnny Football" looks more like "Johnny Offense."

He's still great at it, though, and made plays with his feet when he had to and made some good throws down field when his receivers were open. Manziel threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 98 yards. All of those numbers are better than the ones he posted in last year's 29-24 win over the Crimson Tide. Manziel's 464 yards are a career-best, but the standout figure is two interceptions Saturday compared to no turnovers of any kind in 2012.

3. Nick Saban has an unholy deal with a higher power. I was just joking earlier, but Saban might actually be truly evil. Alabama did everything it could to lose, and still won.

The Tide fell behind by two touchdowns on the road against a juggernaut offense, allowed a 21-point lead to evaporate, got burned by the same pass five times, fumbled the ball away on the 1-yard line, gave up 628 yards of offense and had more than 100 yards in penalties, and won – AND WON!

How else can that be explained other than Nick Saban is cashing in on some sinister plot of world domination? (He's met with the president four times, so something is afoot.) What We Learned is determined to get to the bottom of this. Meanwhile, the question remains of just what exactly do you have to do to beat Alabama? What We Learned will try to get to the bottom of that, too. God, help us.

To be fair, AJ McCarron torched the Aggies' Big XII-caliber defense for 334 yards (also a career-best) and four touchdowns while T.J. Yeldon rushed for 149 yards, so that probably had something to do with it, too. It was fitting retribution for the Tide, who lost a classic SEC-style game last year at home and responded with a classic Big XII-style win in College Station. But suffice it to say Alabama never wants to win that way again.

4. Gus Malzahn really has returned Auburn to its former glory. I said this last week in somewhat sarcastic fashion, but now it's true. The Tigers' 24-20 win over Mississippi State should show Auburn fans that this team is like all the others they've cheered for in past years.

All but two games since 2007 between the two teams have been decided by a touchdown or less, including a 3-2 tilt in 2008. The two exceptions were last year's 28-10 win by the Bulldogs and 2009's 49-24 win by Auburn. Even with Cam Newton at quarterback, Auburn only beat the 'Dogs by three.

Auburn vs. Mississippi State has become one of the most reliably even matches of the season. Both teams gained more than 400 yards and were fairly even statistically. Auburn controlled the game early on, but was hampered by three turnovers. Mississippi State claimed the lead early in the third quarter, but the Tigers mounted an impressive drive late in the game and took the lead with 10 seconds left.

It's already clear Malzahn is a better coach than the departed Gene Chizik, whose success was due largely to Malzahn being his assistant for every season, except last year when the Tigers were winless in the SEC.

Malzahn will get an even bigger opportunity to work his magic next week against LSU, a team the Tigers have beaten only twice since 2004. It's another game that has a reputation of going down to the wire.

5. Ole Miss is dangerous. Texas is bad, let's just get that out of the way early. But Ole Miss is no longer easy-win Ole Miss. You need to actually prepare for this Ole Miss team.

Bo Wallace gets most of the credit for the Rebels' success – and he deserves it – but Jeff Scott has emerged as the Rebels' most dangerous weapon after their 44-23 win over the Longhorns. The dual-threat Wallace stood to be the beneficiary of the Longhorns' struggles ineptitude abject refusal to play defense,2 but it was Scott who turned in 164 yards rushing and a touchdown and added another touchdown on a 73-yard punt return.

The Rebels' own defense is pretty porous, which is nothing new, so that will hold them back, but you don't want to let them hang around late in games. This team might actually be good for a change.

6. LSU has that terrible early schedule thing going for it again. It isn't quite like last year when LSU played Towson – and fell behind – but the Tigers' early schedule is still fairly benign. Even the season-opening 37-27 win over TCU doesn't look as good after TCU lost to Texas Tech 20-10 this week.

UAB and Kent State aren't wins to brag about and LSU will be put to the test starting next week when it faces five consecutive SEC teams, three of which are ranked.

But don't fret, Tigers fans, there's still an opportunity for your team to fall behind an FCS doormat. LSU plays Furman on Oct. 26.

7. Vanderbilt won't be traveling for a bowl game. It's too early to say the Commodores won't make a bowl game, but a quick glance at their schedule shows that there isn't much room for error. Their Oct. 5 game against Missouri will be the first indication of their bowl status, with their last three games of the season against Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest filling out that picture.

But Vanderbilt's 35-25 loss to South Carolina, coupled with an earlier 39-35 loss to Ole Miss, means the Commodores will have to pull off a fairly big upset to equal last season's 8-4 regular season mark. Even with that record, the Commodores still ended up in the Music City Bowl in their own back yard, and they appear on track for a repeat trip.

8. Tennessee's defense is, well, Tennessee's defense. I may have done a disservice to humanity by talking about the new Tennessee offense and how improved it was and how Tennessee might be on the road to some good things and then – BAM! – Oregon3 and – BAM! – 59-14 loss.

Sweet Tim Tebow, that's a disaster – and that was just Oregon's uniform. It's rare that Tennessee's orange gets out-uglied, but Oregon did it easily with its Fightin' Highlighter/face-of-the-sun/dear-God-what-have-you-done fashion misstatement. Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, actual football.

The Volunteers surrendered nearly 700 yards of total offense and were forced to punt nine times, yet had almost 10 minutes more time of possession than the Ducks did because they were scoring so quickly. The Volunteers had a 7-0 lead at one point, though, so that's … something?

9. Mississippi State has badly regressed. Actually, Mississippi State and Ole Miss have switched places. Last season, the Bulldogs got off to a blinding 7-0 start then faltered late while the Rebels were back-and-forth all year until topping the 'Dogs to qualify for a bowl.

Ole Miss at 3-0 is in prime position for an eight- or nine-win season right now while Mississippi State at 1-2 is looking at games against Troy, Bowling Green, Kentucky and Arkansas as must-wins for bowl eligibility. Even then, the Bulldogs would need an upset over LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M or Alabama to get a sixth win. If not, the Egg Bowl will be for a postseason berth.

That's a long way from where Mississippi State has been, and from what a lot of people expected from the Bulldogs this year. A concussion to quarterback Tyler Russell put Dak Prescott under center and turned Mississippi State in an option offense that was effective and could prove successful in the future.

Prescott threw for 213 yards and ran for 133 more with two touchdowns, but the Bulldogs also faced 15 third downs and only converted five.

10. Arkansas is getting its wins while it can. Remember where Arkansas was this time last year? The Razorbacks were 1-2 with an injured quarterback, had lost to Louisiana-Monroe in overtime and just gotten run out of their own stadium in a 52-0 loss to Alabama.

Now they're 3-0 and facing a winnable fourth game. The good news stops there, however, because following their game with Rutgers, the Razorbacks face a gauntlet you wouldn't wish on your bitterest rival.4 It's that brutal.

Arkansas hasn't played anyone of note yet, and what the Razorbacks will do against Rutgers is a total mystery, but following that game the schedule looks like death warmed over.

Arkansas will face Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama in consecutive weeks before an off week. The Razorbacks then play Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU. (Florida, Alabama and LSU are all on the road, by the way.)

It could be ironic karma for the Razorbacks, after head coach (and former Wisconsin head coach) Bret Bielema's wife tweeted "#karma" following Wisconsin's loss described in the lead-in above. Twitter responded in predictable fashion, with one user hilariously retorting "remember that when you lose your next 6 games." He may be right.

Sadly, the crazy Hog Lady has not yet weighed in.

Extra points: 1OK, Vader vs. Zod would. Seriously, could you imagine that? Superhuman Kryptonian DNA vs. The Force? I'd pay what it costs to order an overrated Floyd Mayweather boxing match to see that. The people currently working on Batman vs. Superman need to ditch that and start working on this instead.

2Even by Big XII standards, Texas' defense is an atrocity. The Longhorns' orange isn't the only thing burnt in Austin, and yes I'm referring to Mack Brown's backside.

3Ducks fans followed up the drubbing of Tennessee by chanting "We want Bama!" Well, Ducks fans, you might get them, and you might also regret that. Of course, you might also lose to Stanford, UCLA and/or Southern Cal, so give it a rest for now. And, just for the record, the last time two times you played good SEC teams, you lost to both.

4Unless that rival is Johnny Manziel or Nick Saban, because the forces of evil must be vanquished at all costs. Huzzah!

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