What We Learned: I guess this gets Gus off the hot seat.....for now

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn has beaten Alabama's Nick Saban in three of their seven meetings.John David Mercer/USA Today
Tony Barnhart

Before we turn our attention to Saturday’s SEC championship game between No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Georgia, let’s take a look at What We Learned on the final Saturday of the 2019 regular season:

1---I guess this gets Gus off the hot seat—for now:

These are not opinions. They are facts:

**--Auburn’s Gus Malzahn has now won two of this last three meetings with Nick Saban and three of his seven total games with Alabama since he became the Tigers’ head coach in 2013. No other coach can say that.

**--When there were coaching buttons to be pushed in the Iron Bowl on Saturday it was Malzahn, not Saban, who was pushing them more effectively. You can argue about the rules on the field goal on the last play before halftime and the penalty against Alabama for having 12 men on the field, which sealed the game for Auburn. But the fact is that Malzahn used the rules as written to put his team in position to win.

**--And if Auburn had lost 48-45 instead of winning 48-45, there would have been an ample supply of folks who would have wanted him gone. Guess that conversation will be put on hold for a while.

At least until next season.

2—I wouldn’t be too quick to say that this is the end of the Saban dynasty:

Now there is no nice was to say this: Alabama was a flawed football team that covered up its blemishes with a generational quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa) and perhaps the best group of wide receivers to ever play on one team.

And we’ll always wonder what would have happened if Tua had not been hurt and lost for the season.

But once linebacker Dylan Moses was lost for the season, it was pretty evident that Alabama’s defense would not be an asset but a liability.

Alabama committed 13 penalties against Auburn and showed a lack of discipline that we’re not used to seeing from Saban-coached teams.

But let us not forget that four of Alabama’s last five recruiting classes have been ranked No. 1 by the major services and the Tide is currently working on other top three class that features one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the county (Bryce Young).

3—What Lynn Bowden, Jr., did at Kentucky this season is one of the remarkable stories in the history of the SEC.

Kentucky lost its starting quarterback, Terry Wilson, with a knee injury on Sept. 7. Then the Wildcats lost his backup, Sawyer Smith. Then, in what looked like an act of desperation (because it was), head coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran moved their best athlete—Lynn Bowden, Jr.—from wide receiver to quarterback.

Gran just basically made up an offense that would take advantage of Bowden’s strengths (running) and minimize his weaknesses (throwing).

Let the record show that on Saturday Bowden set a Kentucky record with 517 total yards. He ran for 248 yards with touchdown runs of six, 60, 46, and 32 yards.

Kentucky (7-5) was 5-2 in the games Bowden started at quarterback. And in those seven games Bowden rushed for 1,114 yards. Kentucky’s losses in that stretch were at Georgia (21-0) and to Tennessee (17-13).

“One of the greatest, maybe the best I’ve ever had at that position,” Gran told the Lexington-Herald Leader after the game.

Bowden could enter the NFL Draft or come back for his senior season.

4—Changes are coming at South Carolina:

Both the president and the director of athletics at South Carolina have said publicly that Will Muschamp will be back for a fifth season in Columbia.

But with a 1-5 finish after South Carolina had upset No. 3 Georgia on Oct. 12, it’s pretty clear that the status quo is not going to cut it. Muschamp admitted as much after the 38-3 loss to Clemson which left the Gamecocks with a 4-8 record.

“We’ve got to make some changes moving forward,” Muschamp told reporters without giving any specifics.

You can bet that some of those changes will involve the offense, which was 12th in the SEC in scoring (22.4) this season and scored only 24 points in its last three games.

Stay tuned on this one.

5—Dan Mullen did one of the best coaching jobs in college football this season:

Florida beat Florida State 40-17 on Saturday to post its second-straight 10-win season under Dan Mullen. The only losses by the Gators this season were at No. 2 LSU (42-28) in a game they led in the third quarter, and to No. 4 Georgia (24-17) in Jacksonville.

Mullen lost his starting quarterback, Feleipe Franks, in the third game against Kentucky and made the backup, Kyle Trask, even better.

Now Florida has a chance to win 11 games for the first time since the 2012 season.

“For our guys to finish the way we did was great,” said Mullen.

Expect Florida, now No. 11, to move up in the new CFP rankings that will be released Tuesday night. Florida will get its bowl assignment on Sunday.

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Tony Barnhart

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