Then there was one: Florida final SEC survivor in brutal shakeout

October 8th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Then there was one: Florida final SEC survivor in brutal shakeout

ATHENS, Ga. - And then there was Florida.
Yep, while baseball is still swinging away and a crucial midterm election looms a month away, the Southeastern Conference is down to one serious national championship contender.
Heck, the leaves just started changing colors in this part of the country, but the Gators are the last SEC team clinging to a realistic shot of playing in Arizona three months from now.
So long, Auburn. Adios, Georgia. Wait 'til next year, LSU.
All three of those top 10 teams went down to defeat Saturday as the SEC devoured its own in another brutal round of "Survivor." Florida is the last undefeated team left in the conference, but there's still plenty of opportunities for the Gators to get voted out of the BCS championship game.
How about next Saturday, when they travel to Auburn? Or three weeks down the road, when they face Georgia in the game formerly known as the "Cocktail Party?" Will Florida stumble against Steve Spurrier when the Ol' Ballcoach returns to "The Swamp" next month? Or could its downfall come in the regular-season finale at Florida State?
And - take a deep breath, now - the Gators wouldn't be home free even if all those games go their way. They would still have to get by the SEC championship game on Dec. 2 to ensure a chance of playing for the biggest title of all.
No wonder coach Urban Meyer shrugged off the Gators' first 6-0 start since 1996, which just happens to be the year of their lone national championship.
"It's all about trying to get a first down and get to Tuesday's practice and those type of things," Meyer said Sunday. "I do believe I will address it now because the Florida nonsense - the big school, the Internet nonsense. All that affects these young people."
He knows its far too early to begin sorting through the possible BCS scenarios, especially in the treacherous SEC.
"As soon as we can watch film on Auburn, the better," Meyer added, "because that way our focus will be very clear on what our objective is: to move the ball and stop a very potent team."
Florida, which is 4-0 in the SEC, moved up to No. 2 in the latest Associated Press rankings with its impressive 23-10 win over LSU in Gainesville, but three other big-time teams headed in the opposite direction.
Auburn led the way, tumbling from second all the way to No. 11 on the heels of its stunning 27-10 loss to Arkansas. LSU slipped too, going from ninth to 14th after its second defeat of the season - both on the road to fellow SEC powerhouses. And Georgia took the exit lane in the national championship race, dropping six spots to No. 16 with a 51-33 loss to Tennessee.
This has become a familiar refrain in the SEC, which boasts loudly about being the strongest conference in the country but has produced only half a national title over the last seven years - LSU won the BCS championship in 2003, while Southern California took the AP crown.
"It's such a tough league," Alabama coach Mike Shula said. "You can win games a lot of different ways. You can win games with hardly any first downs. You can win games because of special teams. You can win games on defense, and you can win games scoring a lot of points. It just shows you how competitive this league is."
Auburn, which went 13-0 two years ago but was denied a shot to play for the national title by two other undefeated teams, hoped to make up for that disappointment this season. But, after squeaking by LSU and South Carolina, the Tigers were exposed as a pretender against Arkansas.
The Razorbacks dominated on both sides of the line, rushing for 279 yards and holding the Tigers to just 213 total yards.
"We really have no excuses," Auburn safety Eric Brock said. "I'm pretty much shocked by our performance."
The Razorbacks (4-1, 3-0) are the only team besides Florida with an unbeaten SEC record, but their surprising lead in the SEC West hardly makes them a national contender. They are No. 17 in the AP poll and have no chance of overcoming a 50-14 loss to USC in the season opener. Besides, Arkansas still has games left against Tennessee and LSU, so it's a little early to start planning for a trip to Atlanta for the league championship game.
Tennessee (5-1, 1-1) moved up five places to No. 8 and might have the best chance of sneaking back into the national picture as a one-loss team. The Vols, whose only defeat was 21-20 to Florida, certainly looked impressive against the Bulldogs, becoming only the second visiting team ever to score 50 points at Sanford Stadium.
Then again, the Vols still have tough home games left against Alabama and LSU, not to mention a trip to Fayetteville to face Arkansas.
"All this did was give us a chance to win the next game," quarterback Erik Ainge said. "You can't look ahead in the SEC more than one game."
Georgia coach Mark Richt never worries about the national championship race, knowing its tough enough to reach the SEC title game, something the Bulldogs have done three of the last four seasons.
"The SEC race is just beginning," Richt said. "There's no question we're still in the hunt. There's only one undefeated team."
In this conference, it's hard to imagine that lasting for an entire season.

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