Bulldogs Blog

Bill Shanks commentary on SEC football: West takes attention away from East

So which is the best football team in the SEC West? Not sure, huh? Well, join the club.

There are a lot of people who are a bit confused right now.

For years, the SEC East was viewed as the dominant division. It had Florida and Tennessee battling it out every year, with Georgia occasionally making an appearance in the SEC championship game.

But now, Florida can’t score, which are a few words you probably never thought you would see written together. Tennessee is awful and rebuilding, and the Georgia Bulldogs are stuck somewhere in the middle, wondering how South Carolina passed them.

The SEC West is the division providing the most compelling drama. Most believed at the start of the season Alabama and Arkansas would be the cream of the crop. But one look at the top of the standings will tell you how crazy this division has been:

Auburn and LSU — undefeated and feeling pretty good through seven weeks of the season.

They will play each other Saturday, and it will be an interesting match up. It’s the best rushing offense in the SEC (Auburn) versus the best rushing defense in the SEC (LSU).

Let’s cut to the chase here. This game probably will be decided by whether LSU can stop Cam Newton.

He is the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, and he is undoubtedly the most valuable player in the conference.

Newton has made Auburn relevant again. He leads the conference in rushing, and he is a quarterback — a big quarterback.

And if you don’t think he is a valuable player, go ask a Florida fan where they think the Gators would be if Newton were still in Gainesville.

LSU coach Les Miles likes living on the edge, but he keeps smiling because he knows his defense is very good.

And defense wins championships.

So, while LSU doesn’t have a passing game, and its issues on offense are a worry, Miles knows his defense can stop people. And if it can stop Newton, LSU will control the game.

But there, lurking in the waters, waiting for blood, is Alabama. After playing Auburn, LSU will have to host Alabama in two weeks in Baton Rouge. Do you think Alabama coach Nick Saban can get his team pumped up for that game?

Alabama is the defending champion, and don’t think that doesn’t matter. Plus, in a weird way, already having a loss even might be an advantage for the Crimson Tide. The chances they would be undefeated were slim, and now they can just wait and play LSU and Auburn and pretty much say, “OK, you think you’re great, so now beat us.”

That’s the kind of challenge Saban licks his chops for, and it’s why he still is the most-feared coach in the league.

At the end of the year, Alabama will host Auburn. You know Auburn fans wish in this season they had Alabama at home instead. So, in a way, the SEC West champion still will be at least partly decided in Tuscaloosa.

Even if LSU survives and beats Auburn and Alabama, it will have play at Arkansas to end the regular season. That won’t be easy.

You could make a case for each team as being the best right now, and you can also see why each team is vulnerable.

Auburn has the out-of-control offense, but can it stop anybody? LSU has a tremendous defense, but its offense is suspect. And while Alabama still might be the best from top to bottom, it’s the team with the one loss looking up at the other two.

There are two really fun times in college football.

First is the start of the season. After nine months of waiting for it to start, it’s always good to just get it going. But we’re now entering the best time of the year — when every game counts and the stakes are high.

We’re not used to the SEC West providing so much drama, but it certainly will be fun to watch it play out.

Listen to The Bill Shanks Show online at www.foxsports1670.com.