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 SEC East Championship Game, the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry and Tennessee's big win.
JOB WELL DONE
I'm always willing to admit when I was wrong…and I was wrong.
Going into the SEC East Championship Game Saturday night vs. the Florida Gators, the two teams were going in opposite directions. After beating Alabama in early October, the Gamecocks had lost to Kentucky, looked mediocre vs. Vanderbilt and Tennessee, and then were blown out at home by Arkansas. Florida, on the other hand, seemingly had things going on the right direction following big offensive days vs. Georgia and Vanderbilt. The logical conclusion was that Florida would send former head coach Steve Spurrier out of The Swamp with the same heartbreak that Gamecock fans have become accustomed to for pretty much the entire existence of the program.
That didn't happen.
Aside from the opening kickoff, South Carolina made Florida look silly all game long. Led by running back Marcus Lattimore's 212 yards on 40 carries, the Gamecocks imposed their will on Urban Meyer's bunch, earning their first ever berth in the SEC Championship Game.
Considering how average South Carolina has looked over the last month, Saturday night may have been Steve Spurrier's best coaching job since his arrival in Columbia in 2005. Yes, that includes the 35-21 win over Alabama last month. His team came in to a hostile environment in a big game setting and ran the home team out of the building.
On the other side, there's Urban Meyer. Right now, the current head coach of the Florida Gators looks like he's had just about enough of this season, and wouldn't mind just packing it in for the rest of the year.
SAME AS IT EVER WAS
Through all the controversy, speculation, articles and unnamed sources, Cam Newton walked into Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday afternoon and showed no signs that he'd become a lightning rod for criticism. Through all of it, Newton's story hasn't changed at all, and he did his talking on the field.
Newton rushed for 151 yards, passed for 148 and accounted for four touchdowns in Auburn's 49-31 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs, clinching the SEC West championship and keeping Auburn on track for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
While Newton's on-the-field performance was impressive, the mere fact that he was playing should speak volumes on Auburn's stance regarding the off-the-field controversy involving an alleged pay-for-play scheme. According to reports, Newton, his father Cecil Newton and head coach Gene Chizik met with NCAA officials Thursday night to discuss Newton's eligibility. The final decision was left up to the institution, and there's no way Auburn would have let him see the field if there was any lingering doubt about his status.
So does this mean that the Newton saga is over? Highly doubtful. With so much time and money invested into the investigation by the NCAA, FBI and media outlets, surely more information will come out in due time. But the moment Newton took the opening snap of the game, it answered a lot of questions about where Auburn stands in relation to all of the information that has come out to this point – and probably some that hasn't.
OFF THE SCHNIDE
The Tennessee football program has never gone through a season without an SEC win, but midway through this season, that streak looked like it may be coming to an end. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray had other ideas, and put an end to that speculation in a big way Saturday afternoon vs. Ole Miss.
Bray completed 18-of-34 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns, as the Vols cruised to a 52-14 win over Ole Miss. The freshman has now thrown eight touchdown passes this season without throwing an interception since taking over as the starter.
It's Derek Dooley's first win as an SEC head coach, and the first time this season that the Vols have posted back-to-back wins.
There was no doubt that this season was going to be a rebuilding year in Rocky Top. But the gradual improvement that the Vols have shown since the start of the season is a sign of good things to come in Knoxville. No, Ole Miss' defense is not very good, so let's not elevate Tennessee to 2011 SEC East contender status just yet. But considering how down the division is, it honestly wouldn't surprise me.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, 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