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Hot Reads: Put up points and shut up Johnny Manziel

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Johnny Manziel wouldn't mind rubbing a second straight win over Alabama in the faces of Crimson Tide fans. (Source: Texas A&M Athletics) Johnny Manziel wouldn't mind rubbing a second straight win over Alabama in the faces of Crimson Tide fans. (Source: Texas A&M Athletics)
Butch Jones has brought a new look and new feel to Knoxville, and they get their first major test against Oregon. (Source: Tennessee Athletics) Butch Jones has brought a new look and new feel to Knoxville, and they get their first major test against Oregon. (Source: Tennessee Athletics)
  • Texas A&MMore>>

  • Hot Reads: 'Dogs open eyes and SEC East race

    Hot Reads: 'Dogs open eyes and SEC East race

    Thursday, September 11 2014 8:00 AM EDT2014-09-11 12:00:27 GMT
    Georgia emerges from the dark depths of a bye week and heads across I-20 to take on South Carolina. Redheaded stepchildren have gotten better treatment than the Bulldogs in their last two trips to Columbia.
    Georgia emerges from the dark depths of a bye week and heads across I-20 to take on South Carolina. Redheaded stepchildren have gotten better treatment than the Bulldogs in their last two trips to Columbia.
  • What We Learned from the SEC in Week 2

    What We Learned from the SEC in Week 2

    Sunday, September 7 2014 12:54 PM EDT2014-09-07 16:54:17 GMT

    It's still much too early to talk about who will be in the playoff at the end of the year, but it looks safe to say the Big 10 won't be represented.

    It's still much too early to talk about who will be in the playoff at the end of the year, but it looks safe to say the Big 10 won't be represented.

  • Hot Reads: Up is down, down is up in SEC this week

    Hot Reads: Up is down, down is up in SEC this week

    Thursday, September 4 2014 8:00 AM EDT2014-09-04 12:00:24 GMT
    Texas A&M was a surprising team in its first game, but that may not be such a good thing. On the other hand, an Alabama squad that was just blah is likely headed in a more positive direction.
    Texas A&M was a surprising team in its first game, but that may not be such a good thing. On the other hand, an Alabama squad that was just blah is likely headed in a more positive direction.
  • AlabamaMore>>

  • What We Learned from the SEC in Week 3

    What We Learned from the SEC in Week 3

    Sunday, September 14 2014 1:47 PM EDT2014-09-14 17:47:12 GMT

    Two top 10 teams were upset this week, and to the surprise of few, they were Southern Cal and Georgia.

    Two top 10 teams were upset this week, and to the surprise of few, they were Southern Cal and Georgia.

  • No. 3 Alabama cruises past Southern Miss.

    No. 3 Alabama cruises past Southern Miss.

    Saturday, September 13 2014 11:53 PM EDT2014-09-14 03:53:56 GMT
    The No. 3 Crimson Tide managed seven touchdowns and 547 yards in their 52-12 win over Southern Miss. Even so, head coach Nick Saban believes his team got off to a "slow start." "I didn't think we had very
    The No. 3 Crimson Tide managed seven touchdowns and 547 yards in their 52-12 win over Southern Miss. Even so, head coach Nick Saban believes his team got off to a "slow start." "I didn't think we had very
  • No. 3 Alabama cruises past Southern Miss 52-12

    No. 3 Alabama cruises past Southern Miss 52-12

    Saturday, September 13 2014 10:49 PM EDT2014-09-14 02:49:01 GMT
    (Source: WSFA 12 News)(Source: WSFA 12 News)
    Is it possible that the Alabama starting quarterback job now belongs solely to Blake Sims? It somewhat appears that way. Sims started for the Crimson Tide on Saturday enroute to a 52-12 blowout win against
    Sims started for the Crimson Tide on Saturday en route to a 52-12 blowout win against the Golden Eagles from Southern Miss.
  • Hot ReadsMore>>

  • Hot Reads: Up is down, down is up in SEC this week

    Hot Reads: Up is down, down is up in SEC this week

    Thursday, September 4 2014 8:00 AM EDT2014-09-04 12:00:24 GMT
    Texas A&M was a surprising team in its first game, but that may not be such a good thing. On the other hand, an Alabama squad that was just blah is likely headed in a more positive direction.
    Texas A&M was a surprising team in its first game, but that may not be such a good thing. On the other hand, an Alabama squad that was just blah is likely headed in a more positive direction.
  • Hot Reads: Preseason nominees for the 2014 Chinstrap Awards

    Hot Reads: Preseason nominees for the 2014 Chinstrap Awards

    Thursday, August 28 2014 7:00 AM EDT2014-08-28 11:00:25 GMT
    Don't worry. We'll be a lot nicer to the players in the SEC than the Emmy voters were to Netflix. We kind of have to - it's highly unlikely an actor could power clean the equivalent of a human being.
    Don't worry. We'll be a lot nicer to the players in the SEC than the Emmy voters were to Netflix. We kind of have to - it's highly unlikely an actor could power clean the equivalent of a human being.
  • Hot Reads: Ranking the defenses in the SEC

    Hot Reads: Ranking the defenses in the SEC

    Wednesday, July 16 2014 12:55 PM EDT2014-07-16 16:55:17 GMT

    With offenses becoming increasingly explosive, plugging the holes is more imperative than ever. It's no surprise Alabama and Florida top the list, but the rest of the rankings may surprise you.

    With offenses becoming increasingly explosive, plugging the holes is more imperative than ever. It's no surprise Alabama and Florida top the list, but the rest of the rankings may surprise you.

(RNN) - It has been said recently that the SEC Championship game is the real stage for deciding the BCS title winners, and recent history makes that hard to dispute.

But it's hard to keep the mind from drifting to the thought that Alabama's trip to College Station might have that type of impact.

That's a shocking thought for so early in the season, but hey, this is an era of instant returns. So perhaps the gurus in the SEC corporate office knew that waiting until November was better for business, err, we mean the spirit of the game.

And we're moving, people, we're moving…

SEC vs. SEC

Alabama at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. Saturday

It's hard to believe we're going into the third week of the season and Hot Reads is just now talking about the NFC South's honorary member, Alabama.

The most recent national champion (since Nick Saban haaaates the word defending) faces that shifty, little Heisman dude (since we're sure Johnny Manziel doesn't care how you refer to him).

College football just doesn't get much better. Am I right, Oklahoma State fans?

In our best singing voice, we ask: "How do you solve a problem like Manziel?" If only he were a happy-go-lucky ex-nun that makes clothes out of old drapery, the answer would be simple.

But since there's obviously nothing saintly about last year's Heisman winner, Alabama has to turn to old-fashioned X's and O's.

"From a strategic standpoint, I think that any time you play someone you learn a little about what they did against you," Saban said Monday during his weekly media conference. "You learn about what you did against them, and then you see some of the things that they may do to take advantage of that."

Here's what Alabama probably learned. Letting four linemen put their hand in the ground and rush Manziel straight up will get you killed.

Alabama's defense, as great as it was last season, didn't have the overall speed of LSU or Florida. That wasn't a huge problem as long as they brought their trademark discipline to the field, which unfortunately, was also lacking in this game last year.

LSU provided a textbook study on how to stop the Aggies. They faked the rush off the edge with a defensive end or linebacker and dropped that guy back to the middle to spy on the backfield. That takes away a couple of running lanes and forces Manziel to make more decisions in less time.

Easier said than done for the Tide. They don't seem to have a guy both quick enough to drop back in coverage and physical enough to stuff the run. Because the Aggies' offense has a lot of moving parts, the defense needs players that are comfortable moving around just as fluidly.

To truly understand why Manziel is so dangerous, we have to talk about "the play." You know, the one on third and goal where he scrambled, almost lost the football and then somehow with his arm dragging behind him fired a perfect spiral to Ryan Swope in the back of the end zone?

The most important thing about that play is actually what happened before the snap.

Manziel - in the same formation that got him a 32-yard completion into the red zone two plays earlier - noticed the secondary didn't shift from zone to man coverage right before the snap, which they did previously. He looked to the sideline for an audible, forcing safety Robert Lester to show his hand by sliding to cover one of three receivers lined up out left.

On that big first-down throw, Manziel faked a run and then pulled back to pass, but this time he did the opposite. He immediately looked to the left side of the field. Every player in coverage drifted that way and left a running lane to the end zone. In his excitement, Manziel almost created a college version of the "butt fumble," but he somehow stayed on his feet, kept control of the ball and extended the play long enough to get it to Swope.

Most freshmen might have gone with their first pre-snap read and made a stupid play, but most freshmen aren't QB1 for Texas A&M.

Love him, hate him, troll him on Twitter or whatever else - but you can't deny he's more than just a good athlete scampering around on the field.

Honestly, Hot Reads doesn't care if Manziel celebrates by flashing fake money or break dancing in the end zone. Any fan who wants to keep him from ticking them off has two options - root for him or desperately hope your team can stop him.

Vanderbilt at South Carolina, 7 p.m. ET Saturday

Who else thinks it is totally conceivable that South Carolina can lose again this weekend?

Given what has gone on the first two weeks of the season, don't snicker at the thought.

Vanderbilt is not exactly impressing anyone with their stomping of Austin Peay, but this is not the type of team you want to play early in the season with healthy bodies and high hopes.

That first-quarter offense, though... The Commodores scrounged up just 36 yards in the first 15 minutes against Ole Miss. They rolled up 116 in the first quarter against Austin Peay, but they only had a field goal to show for it.

That can't happen against the Gamecocks. Giving them a lead early in the game is like throwing blood out to sharks. That defense will do nothing but pin its ears back and attack the backfield.

Speaking of Carolina's defense, we hear some folks around the program are a bit grumpy. Talk of scared quarterbacks and the Heisman has turned to saving face and just being able to make it through a game without tossing cookies.

If Hot Reads may offer a little front porch wisdom… Let your play do the talking. If you have to go around telling people what you are, you ain't much.

There's life outside the SEC?

Tennessee at Oregon, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

This game might get very interesting. At the very least, it's a glimpse into the future.

Tennessee's offense under new coach Butch Jones has shades of Oregon streaked in it. Nowhere near as fast and with nowhere near as many offensive options, the run-based spread is still the foundation of the Volunteers' current philosophy.

You better believe the boys in orange will be taking notes, and that could mean headaches for SEC defenses later this year.

But you're like, "Well, Tennessee's defense gave up a million points last season."

That was last season. That was a year with nowhere near as much focus on conditioning and without up-and-coming star safety Brian Randolph. Speaking of injuries, defensive end Jacques Smith is returning from a fractured thumb, which will definitely help.

"Long way to go," Jones said of his team. "We're learning how to win, we're learning how to fight through fatigue when it gets a little bit hot. Need more leadership, and that's what championship football teams do. They have that inner drive."

The forecast is 87 degrees in Eugene on Saturday, so hope that's not too discouraging, coach.

But you're like, "Tennessee's schedule is B-R-U-T-A-L."

When teams play opponents like Austin Peay and Western Kentucky, the coaches look at how well their players executed. The Vols did a lot of small things wrong - poor angles on missed tackles, hitting the wrong holes on the read option, receivers dropping passes.

But again, those are small things, and there was noticeable improvement between halves last week. So what we're talking about is a team with a new system, new quarterback and semisolid chemistry that beat their first two opponents by outrunning them.

Those are the ingredients of a squad that could be very scary, and way sooner than people think.

Stat of the Week

5: No team has ever led the SEC in scoring defense for five consecutive seasons, something Alabama could accomplish this year. The only other team to lead the league in scoring defense four consecutive years was Auburn (1986-89).

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • Who will win Saturday's game between Alabama and Texas A&M?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Alabama
    76%
    57 votes
    Texas A&M
    24%
    18 votes
  • Southeastern ConferenceMore>>

  • What We Learned from the SEC in Week 3

    What We Learned from the SEC in Week 3

    Sunday, September 14 2014 1:47 PM EDT2014-09-14 17:47:12 GMT

    Two top 10 teams were upset this week, and to the surprise of few, they were Southern Cal and Georgia.

    Two top 10 teams were upset this week, and to the surprise of few, they were Southern Cal and Georgia.

  • No. 24 South Carolina upsets No. 6 Georgia 38-35

    No. 24 South Carolina upsets No. 6 Georgia 38-35

    Saturday, September 13 2014 10:09 PM EDT2014-09-14 02:09:54 GMT
    Dylan Thompson threw for three touchdowns and No. 24 South Carolina's maligned defense stood strong on a fourth-quarter goal line stand to topple No. 6 Georgia 38-35 on Saturday night.
    No. 24 South Carolina's defense showed it's not nearly as bad as it looked two weeks ago - and maybe that No. 6 Georgia isn't the runaway favorite in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.
  • USC season on line; UGA looking to break bad; Vols face tough road test

    USC season on line; UGA looking to break bad; Vols face tough road test

    Friday, September 12 2014 6:00 PM EDT2014-09-12 22:00:26 GMT
    Georgia can establish itself as a top-tier beast if it gets by South Carolina this weekend - and USC would drop to 0-2 in the league with a loss. Tennessee travels to Oklahoma, where Coach Bob Stoops doesn't believe the SEC is all-powerful.
    Georgia can establish itself as a top-tier beast if it gets by South Carolina this weekend - and USC would drop to 0-2 in the league with a loss. Tennessee travels to Oklahoma, where Coach Bob Stoops doesn't believe the SEC is all-powerful.
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