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SEC's bottom falls out

Alabama and LSU remain the two-headed monster in the SEC West, but there are troubles below.

September 16, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Alabama defensive end Quinton Dial sacks Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen during the Crimson Tide's 52-0 victory Saturday over its SEC West foe.
Alabama defensive end Quinton Dial sacks Arkansas quarterback Brandon… (David Quinn / Associated…)

You've heard this before — the sun rises in the east and sets in the SEC West.

The division was so good last season's national champion, Alabama, finished second in it.

The SEC West has claimed the last three BCS titles and five championships since 2002.

Last year's SEC West sucked up all college football's oxygen. It forced us to watch 9-6 overtime games in Tuscaloosa and an all-SEC West national title game in which the game's only touchdown was inconsequential to the final outcome.

This just in: That case is closed.

The SEC West, with the notable exception of Alabama and Louisiana State, suddenly looks like the Big East without Louisville.

The third-best team, in fact, might be Texas A&M, which just transitioned in from the Big 12.

Schools in the SEC West include Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State and Mississippi.

Arkansas may be the most overrated team in history. The Razorbacks started the season in the top 10 with chatter about a possible national title run. This was funny considering Arkansas has never won an SEC title.

Arkansas lost last week in Little Rock to Louisiana Monroe, a school that has never posted a winning season at the I-A level.

The Razorbacks promised to regroup, yet responded Saturday with one of the most embarrassing efforts in school history — a 52-0 loss at home to Alabama. It was Arkansas' most lopsided defeat since a 70-17 loss to USC in 2005.

It's no disgrace losing to the defending national championship and this year's top-ranked team.

Arkansas also had to play without injured quarterback Tyler Wilson.

It is a disgrace, though, to look as bad as Arkansas did under the SEC West banner of your home field.

Wilson didn't play but issued a blistering postgame response.

"Do I feel that we, at times, gave up out there?" Wilson asked. "Absolutely. As a leader it sucks to see people not their jobs and to see things go wrong."

After Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino was fired in April after a motorcycle accident that involved a female passenger who was not his wife, the school brought back former assistant John L. Smith and immediately assigned him interim status.

Arkansas was so confident in Smith it gave him a 10-month contract, which may have been too long.

Wilson, the quarterback, has vowed to return and restore some pride.

"We've got a big game against Rutgers next week," he said.

Auburn?

The Tigers nearly lost to Louisiana Monroe on Saturday. Auburn needed overtime to avoid going 0-3 for the first time since 1950.

Auburn had a magical, 14-0 run to the national title two years ago. It was led by quarterback Cam Newton, though, not coach Gene Chizik.

Take away the games Newton won and Auburn is 17-12 under Chizik's leadership. Chizik was hired after going 5-19 at Iowa State.

Mississippi, which was losing big to Texas late Saturday night, is coming off a 2-10 year in which it fired its coach. Mississippi State, which has underachieved under Dan Mullen, beat Troy by a touchdown.

The problem for the rest of the country, though, is the SEC West may still have the best two teams in the country: Alabama and LSU.

Alabama's win may have been slightly overstated considering the Crimson Tide, when you step a step back, only defeated an unranked team playing without its superstar quarterback.

The way Alabama won, though, was extremely impressive. The Crimson Tide deserves to be No. 1.

Nick Saban's team gave up Arkansas 137 total yards and 2.2 yards per play.

More than anything, Alabama made Arkansas quit.

The Crimson Tide defense has allowed 14 points all season and has already recorded two shutouts.

Alabama crushed top-10 Michigan, 41-14, in the opener.

Alabama has a ways to go to match Bear Bryant's 1961 national title squad, which posted six shutouts and allowed 25 points all season.

The SEC West is down, but that shouldn't bother LSU or Alabama.

LSU hasn't really been tested yet in opening romps against North Texas, Washington and Idaho.

These two dynamos, though, could be headed toward another West showdown. This season's game-of-the-year will be played Nov. 3 in Baton Rouge.

The winner is almost a cinch to make this season's BCS title game.

The loser, again, might crawl its way back too.

And win itagain.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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