Three & Out appears every Sunday and Wednesday in 2010 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In today's edition, we take a look at the Arkansas/Auburn showdown, Steve Spurrier's epic failure and Mississippi State's signature win.
DEFENSE OPTIONAL…UNTIL IT MATTERED MOST
Yeah, there were 108 combined points between Auburn and Arkansas. Yeah, Cameron Newton had another spectacular performance, cementing himself as not only a Heisman contender – but a Heisman front-runner. Yeah, Arkansas backup quarterback Tyler Wilson did his best Ryan Mallett impression in Mallett's absence. But don't be fooled by the basketball-like score, defense won this game for Auburn.
Auburn's defense came out to play in the fourth quarter, taking over the game and leading Auburn to a win. Yes, in a game where they allowed 43 points, Auburn's defense won the game.
For the Tigers, it was seniors Zac Etheridge and Josh Bynes leading the way. Etheridge gave the Tigers an eight-point lead with just under 10 minutes to play, picking up a fumble and cruising 47 yards to put Auburn up eight points. Bynes then stepped up to the plate, picking off two Wilson passes leading to two more Tiger touchdowns, completing a frantic fourth quarter charge for the Tigers that saw them score 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
No, the Auburn defense is not good. As a matter of fact, it's barely mediocre. But for the third time this season, they worked through their struggles and stepped up when it mattered most. It hasn't always been pretty, but the Tigers are still finding ways to win. That's what championship-caliber teams do.
Side note: How anyone can put Kellen Moore, Taylor Martinez, Terrelle Pryor or anyone else above Cameron Newton in the Heisman vote at this point of the season is beyond me.
THAT'S A BAD JOB, STEVE
The question all week long heading into the South Carolina/Kentucky game was how well the Gamecocks would handle their new role in the SEC East as "the hunted." That question was answered Saturday evening in Lexington.
The answer: "not well." And the blame falls on coaching.
Down three, the Gamecocks drove down the field to get within field goal range with under a minute to go. Then South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier did his best Les Miles impression, instituting some of the worst game management the SEC has seen this season – and that's saying A LOT.
You can't call your last timeout with 15 seconds left to go for the win, and trust Stephen Garcia to do the responsible thing and throw the ball away if the play isn't there. It's Stephen Garcia. Yeah, he had a great performance against Alabama, but so far in his career, that's been the exception, not the rule.
Could some blame be placed on Garcia? I suppose. He could have thrown the ball more towards the back of the end zone, which probably would have prevented the interception that iced the game. But Garcia shouldn't have been put in that position to begin with. Calling your last timeout and going for the win in that situation is bad enough, but calling a planned fade to a receiver not named Alshon Jeffery is even worse.
That's a bad job by Coach Spurrier. A real bad job.
STUDENT TOPS THE TEACHER
If Dan Mullen isn't at the top of every coaching search this off-season, someone's not paying attention.
Yeah, Florida's not very good, but for Mississippi State, a 10-7 win on the road in the Swamp is a signature win – even against the downtrodden Gators.
"This is not an upset," said Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen. "Our team expected to win."
Mullen's right, It wasn't an upset. The Bulldogs are better, and that was apparent Saturday evening. Mississippi State dominated every facet of the game. Of the 59 plays by the Bulldogs, 49 of them were rushing plays, including 24 in a row at one point. That's just imposing your will on your opponent, and the opponent had no answer.
Don't look now, but Mississippi State is one win shy of bowl eligibility, and has a real shot of getting an invite to a New Years Day Bowl. If that happens, Mullen should be SEC Coach of the Year, and there shouldn't be much of a debate.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at
Don't forget to check out "Y'all Play Nice" from CFN's Russ Mitchell and Brian Harbach every Thursday during the season.
2010 Three & Out Archive