In the weekend wrap-up edition of week nine, Three & Out takes a look at one of the most underrated running backs in the country, a record that wasn't broken and the new kids on the block.
UNDERRATED IN HIS OWN STATE
While Alabama running back Mark Ingram continues to soak up the spotlight in the race for the 2009 Heisman Trophy, another running back in the state is putting up numbers that are equally as impressive. World, meet Auburn running back Ben Tate. He's been around a while, and it's a shame that you haven't noticed him yet.
Tate, a senior from Newark, Md., tallied 144 yards on the ground for the Tigers in Saturday's 33-20 win over Ole Miss. It marked the sixth time this season that Tate has topped the century mark, and put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his four seasons on the Plains.
With his performance on Saturday, Tate went over 3,000 career rushing yards, making him only the fifth Auburn Tiger to ever accomplish that feat. This is a school that has boasted running backs such as: Bo Jackson, Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams, Stephen Davis, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Brent Fullwood, Kenny Irons, Stacey Danley, William Andrews, Tommie Agee, Tucker Fredrickson, Rudi Johnson and Lionel James...just to name a few. Not bad company to be in, if you ask me.
This past summer, Tate was inexplicably left off the 45-player watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the nation's best running back. After two months of college football, it can be argued that he's not only one of the best running backs in the nation, but also one of the most valuable to his team.
RECORD REMAINS UNBROKEN
A lot was made of Tim Tebow breaking Herschel Walker's SEC rushing TD record in Saturday's 41-17 beat down of Walker's former team, the Georgia Bulldogs. With 1:32 left to go in the first half, Tebow cruised down the middle of the field to find the end zone on the ground for the 50th time during his storied career in Gainesville. While the touchdown officially moves Tebow ahead of Walker in the record book, the Jacksonville, Fla., native still has some work to do if he wants the real record.
Georgia fans will argue that Tebow has two factors that make the record invalid, the 12-game schedule and the fact that Walker's touchdowns in bowl games weren't counted. The 12-game schedule argument is bogus. Just like Roger Maris, Tebow played the games on the schedule. He shouldn't be punished due to a scheduling technicality.
But the second argument makes a little bit more sense. The NCAA and SEC didn't recognize post-season statistics in record books until after Walker's time in Athens. Walker had five rushing touchdowns in bowl games with the Bulldogs. If Tebow is going to factor in his one post-season rushing touchdown into his career total, Walker should get to include his five as well. Of course, for this to become official, the NCAA and SEC would have to rewrite record books for over 100 years of football. That's not gonna happen. So, officially, the record is Tebow's. But everyone knows that those touchdowns by Herschel Walker do exist.
Tebow passed Walker on paper Saturday. But games aren't played on paper. After finding the end zone for a second time on Saturday afternoon, Tebow needs four more rushing touchdowns to pass Walker in reality – which is more important the the record book.
THE RIGHT STUFF
For the first time all season, the new kids on the SEC block, Gene Chizik of Auburn, Lane Kiffin of Tennessee and Dan Mullen of Mississippi State, all went to sleep on a Saturday night winners of SEC games. All three have enjoyed varying levels of success in their inaugural seasons in SEC play. But one thing is clear, all three have proven to be the right man for their respective jobs.
Auburn's 33-20 win over Ole Miss on Saturday moved Auburn to 6-3 on the season, and made the Tigers bowl eligible before the calendar changed to November. Many were critical of the Chizik hire prior to the season. But with the aide of Gus Malzahn's dynamic offense and the steady running of Ben Tate, the Tigers are relevant again. With games against Furman and Georgia left on the schedule, eight wins is attainable for the Tigers. Chizik critics didn't see that coming in August.
Lane Kiffin got the Tennessee fan base fired up in the off-season by salvaging a top-rated recruiting class and falling in love with a microphone (much to the appreciation of writers and radio hosts throughout the south). The Kiffin era got off to a slow start, as Tennessee lost three of their first five games and looked as bad as they did in 2008. But over the last month, the Vols appear to have righted the ship, and are looking like a decent football team again. The Vols destroyed Georgia, took National Title contender Alabama to the wire, and dismantled No. 23 South Carolina 31-13 in Neyland Stadium Saturday night. Sitting at 4-4 and with games against Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky remaining on the schedule, the Vols will go bowling this year. Not bad, Lane.
Dan Mullen has been largely overlooked in the SEC, but the first-year Mississippi State coach is doing a very good job in Starkville. Following their 31-24 win at Kentucky Saturday night, the Bulldogs find themselves at 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the league. That's not overly impressive on paper, but Mullen has Mississippi State competitive again. They played top 10 teams Florida and LSU tough all the way through the final whistle. For Mississippi State, that's about all you can ask for. Mississippi State has only been to 13 bowl games during their entire football existence, which dates back to 1895. Mullen's got some work to do, but he will be leading them to a few more in the very near future.
The SEC Coach of the Year award will justifiably go to either Urban Meyer or Nick Saban. But if any of the three new guys put together a solid November, don't be surprised to see them in that debate as well. That would be quite a feat considering the competition.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at
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