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Sun shines on SEC, and light reveals its strengths and weaknesses

In day featuring five games involving seven ranked teams, the takeaway is the conference is not as good or deep as it has been but still dominates the college football conversation.

September 28, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • South Carolinatailback Mike Davis pounded his way for 167 yards on 26 carries during a 28-25 comeback win over Central Florida on Saturday.
South Carolinatailback Mike Davis pounded his way for 167 yards on 26 carries… (John Raoux / Associated…)

Oklahoma and Notre Dame tried their best, but it was remarkable, really, how much Saturday sunlight splashed on the Southeastern Conference.

It followed a week when the SEC unveiled "Book of Manning" with all its drippy-syrup Southern comfort and teary-toddler footage of Peyton fighting with his brother.

These guys know how to story-tell.

The league of seven straight champions had the No. 12 team, South Carolina, in the 9 a.m. PDT spot followed by No. 6 Louisiana State at No. 8 Georgia on CBS.

That's the hallowed, midday "My Goodness" show hosted by Verne and Gary.

That TV feed led to No. 21 Mississippi at No. 1 Alabama at roughly the same time No. 20 Florida was playing Kentucky and No. 10 Texas A&M was teeing off at Arkansas.

Wisconsin and Ohio State tried to cut in on the dance about 5 p.m., but the SEC otherwise had Saturday saturated.

Once again, the Pac-12 had the graveyard shift.

A viewer almost had no choice but to gauge where the SEC is at the end of September.

Instant analysis: It's not as good or deep as it has been but still has a stranglehold on the national narrative.

South Carolina trailed Central Florida at the half, 10-0, before going "smash mouth" to score 28 straight points and holding on to win, 28-25.

Gamecocks tailback Mike Davis pounded his way for 167 yards in 26 carries.

Message: The SEC is tough.

In Athens, Georgia held off LSU, 44-41, in a thriller in which 85 points and 900-plus yards got excused from the "SEC defense wins championships" mantra.

"I enjoy watching this, it's great football," CBS analyst Gary Danielson said.

The switch to Tuscaloosa got the script back on track as Alabama turned three field goals into a 9-0 halftime lead and then put Ole Miss in the meat grinder en route to a 25-0 win.

This was Alabama's No. 56 defense "stifling" an opponent averaging 38 points a game.

Another cable channel had Florida toying with Kentucky and a sister station had Johnny Football running hog wild in a pinball game at Arkansas.

Takeaway: the SEC has taken some early-season hits, with BCS contenders South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and LSU all taking losses before October.

Alabama, though, after some shaky performances, reestablished itself as national No.1 and remains the team to beat.


It's tough to get up for the game "after" the big game. Last week, Connecticut almost pulled off a huge upset over Michigan before falling short, 24-21. Saturday, Connecticut dropped to 0-4 after being clobbered, 41-12, at Buffalo. This is the same Buffalo team that gave up 70 points to Baylor.

At least Colorado State pulled out of its slumber in time. Last week, the Rams played No. 1 Alabama tough into the fourth quarter before losing, 31-6.

Saturday, Colorado State found itself tied 28-all in the third quarter against Texas El Paso but rallied to a 59-42 win.

RIP, Paul

Football Saturday felt a little bit emptier without Paul Dietzel, the former coach who died this week at age 89.

All three of Dietzel's teams were in action this weekend as Army and South Carolina won and LSU lost.

Dietzel would have loved LSU at Georgia in Athens, although he might have not have loved the defenses.

Dietzel became a national name when, at age 34, he led LSU to the national title in 1958. It would take the school 45 years to win another.

LSU was led by the great Billy Cannon and a group of scrub defenders nicknamed "The Chinese Bandits."

LSU went 11-0, with four shutouts, and allowed only 53 points all season. This year's LSU team has already allowed 122 in five games.

Dietzel was known as "Pepsodent Paul" for his bright smile and witty personality.

In a 2003 interview he did with The Times before LSU won the 2003 BCS title game, Dietzel reflected on how much the game had changed.

"If anyone would have come out with four wideouts we'd have called time out and said, 'What, are you out of your minds?' " Dietzel said. "The game has changed. The size has changed."

Dietzel took the name "Chinese Bandits" from his favorite comic strip of the time, "Terry and the Pirates."

The "bandits" were a group of reserves who spelled the starters and became beloved in Baton Rouge.

Dietzel surprised everyone when he left LSU for Army in 1962. He also coached at South Carolina.

In later years, Dietzel marveled at how the game had changed, but he was emphatic when asked whether his star, Cannon, the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner, could play in the modern game.

"Some athletes could make any team then," Dietzel said, "or any team now."

Bounce back

In 2011, Oregon State lost its home opener to Sacramento State and never recovered. The Beavers were routed the next week at Wisconsin and finished 3-9.

The same thing could have happened this year after Oregon State suffered another embarrassing opening-game loss to an FCS opponent. This time it was Eastern Washington.

This year, though, Oregon State has rebounded with four straight wins. Saturday's victory over Colorado in Corvallis was the easiest of four as quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks dissected the Buffaloes' secondary in a 44-17 win.

Sean Mannion, who has been brilliant this year after winning the starting job from Cody Vaz, passed for six touchdowns and 414 yards.

Cooks had nine more catches for 168 yards and, if he played for USC, would be touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

After the Eastern Washington loss, Oregon State defeated Hawaii and then survived an overtime win at Utah. The Beavers appeared on the verge of defeat last week at San Diego State but were rescued on Steven Nelson's interception return for touchdown with 2:31 left in a 34-30 win.

Oregon State is now 4-1 and plays at Washington State and California the next two weeks.

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