Three Games: Race for SEC East crown heats up - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Three Games: Race for SEC East crown heats up

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze shakes hands with Auburn's Gene Chizik after the Rebels picked up their first SEC win of the year. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University) Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze shakes hands with Auburn's Gene Chizik after the Rebels picked up their first SEC win of the year. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)
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(RNN) – Last week was a little lackluster with only one game carrying postseason implications. But don't fret because this weekend is a hard-hitter.

Below is a look at three games from Week 7 and what they mean going forward followed by a look at three big games from next week and the impact they will have.

Week 7 recap:

LSU 23, South Carolina 21

South Carolina had hoped to survive Death Valley and enter its showdown with Florida undefeated, unchecked and on a roll toward the SEC championship game and a potential BCS title game appearance.

The BCS title game is a long shot now, but the SEC title game is still very much in play and could potentially mean a rematch with LSU. South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) is on the back end of a brutal three-game stretch against Georgia, LSU and Florida, but the good news is if there was any game the Gamecocks could afford to lose among those three it was LSU.

LSU (6-1, 2-1) is in the middle of an equally brutal stretch coming off a loss to Florida and now facing Texas A&M before a bye week to prepare for Alabama and Mississippi State. The Tigers are still alive for the national championship race, but can't afford to take another loss.

Because of its back-loaded schedule, LSU still has a long way to go to securing an SEC West title, but winning over South Carolina was crucial. Had LSU taken a second conference loss, it could have won out and still not made the SEC championship game if Alabama or Mississippi State were to win out. Now, if LSU wins out, the Tigers would be guaranteed a trip to Atlanta.

Mississippi State 41, Tennessee 31

There was some doubt as to whether Mississippi State was for real or just smoke and mirrors. Tennessee brought its explosive offense into Starkville and quarterback Tyler Bray was held to 148 yards passing while the Bulldogs' Tyler Russell threw for 291 yards. Both had two touchdowns.

There's no doubt about the Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0) any more. LaDarius Perkins rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown, Chad Bumphis grabbed seven balls for 93 yards and Marcus Green had two receiving touchdowns.

Mississippi State's defense moved up to first place nationally in turnover margin, tied with Alabama among others. The Bulldogs have a three-game gauntlet to run starting Oct. 27 with games against Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU.

Ole Miss 41, Auburn 20

This was an important game for both teams for different reasons. Auburn needed to stop its downward spiral and Ole Miss needed confirmation that it is taking a step back toward relevancy.

The Rebels (4-3, 1-2) succeeded, but have to wait two weeks to keep the momentum going against Arkansas. Ole Miss is looking at the possibility of being bowl eligible. Wins over the very beatable Arkansas and Vanderbilt later in the year would do it.

The loss leaves Auburn (1-5, 0-4) reeling and looking ahead to Nov. 3 when it gets to face New Mexico State (1-5). Between now and then, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M come calling. The Tigers are staring down the barrel of a losing season just two years removed from a national championship. That hasn't happened in 22 years.

Games to watch in Week 8 (all times Eastern):

No. 6 LSU at No. 20 Texas A&M, noon, ESPN

Texas A&M has a five-game winning streak and perhaps the most difficult player to defend in the country in Johnny Manziel. But against the Aggies' best opponent to date, Florida held that offense to its lowest point total of the season and didn't give Manziel the opportunity to make much happen.

LSU will be on the road, and that didn't work very well either of the two previous times the Tigers ventured away from Death Valley. LSU pulled out a 12-10 nailbiter over Auburn and lost to Florida 14-6. College Station will not be a friendly place for the Tigers.

The matchup to watch is the obvious one. Texas A&M has the No. 1 offense in the SEC – No. 6 nationally – and LSU has the No. 2 defense in the nation (and the SEC behind Alabama).

If the Tigers can run the ball as well as they did against South Carolina and keep Manziel in check, they should be able to come away with a win and get two weeks to prepare for Alabama.

If Manziel is able to run on LSU's defense and pull off an upset, the Aggies (5-1, 2-1) will go into a stretch of games against Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama as a contender for the SEC West title.

No. 9 South Carolina at No. 3 Florida, 3:30 p.m., CBS

This game is a must-win for both teams. Neither can afford a loss because their destiny would be out of their control.

South Carolina faces a more harrowing future if it loses, because two losses would all but eliminate the Gamecocks from the SEC championship. Florida (6-0, 5-0) would have to lose to Georgia and Missouri and Georgia would need a loss to either Kentucky, Ole Miss or Auburn to put the Gamecocks back in the hunt and create a three-way tie. If Georgia were to lose two of those games, South Carolina would be eliminated.

Florida is under the most pressure because a loss to South Carolina means the Gators would have to beat Georgia and Missouri and have South Carolina lose to either Tennessee or Arkansas to make the SEC championship game.

A win by Florida means the Gators could clinch the SEC East with a win over Georgia. A win by the Gamecocks means they could clinch the division by beating Tennessee and Arkansas later in the year.

No. 1 Alabama at Tennessee, 7 p.m., ESPN

The implications at play in this game are less confusing. Alabama can lose and still make the SEC title game, and Tennessee would need a doomsday scenario to qualify for the SEC East crown. A loss by the Vols would make even that impossible.

Instead, these teams will just focus on their mutual hatred for each other, which knows no limit. The simple and ominous nickname for this rivalry, "The Third Saturday in October," alludes to exactly what the game means.

It doesn't matter who is good or who is not or what is happening around them. The game is marked by both teams regardless of all other factors, even though it's not always played precisely on that date.

Alabama (6-0, 3-0) considers Tennessee just another team to get by on its quest for another championship. Nick Saban will hardly even notice the colors of the Volunteers' jerseys and he marches toward world domination. On the other side of the ball, however, Tennessee (3-3, 0-3) has malice in its heart and would love nothing more to be the demise of the mighty Crimson Tide.

Tennessee will need to unleash its speedy receivers and be dominant in the running game to sniff the end zone against the nation's top-rated defense and turn its defense, which is 13th in the SEC, around in the span of six days.

It's a tall order, but should that somehow happen, the game means enough that Derek Dooley could be allowed back in Knoxville again next year.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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