Just four weeks into the season and an SEC team has already skipped right past undefeated Oklahoma to grab the #1 spot in the AP Top 25 Poll. While LSU tops the AP Poll, the Tigers’ 4-0 record is only good enough for #3 in the USA Today Coaches Poll behind the aforementioned Sooners and fellow-SEC member #2 Alabama. Suffice to say, the top of the SEC is as good as any conference in the land. Again.
But which team had the most impressive performance of the week? We’ll rank ‘em all below. And remember, we’re talking about one week only. Here’s your weekly best-to-worst look at the SEC’s performances in Week Four:
1. LSU 47, West Virginia 21 at Morgantown, WV — So how did LSU edge out Alabama for our top spot when it allowed 533 yards of offense? Because most of those yards were meaningless. On the road. In one of the nation’s most hostile environments. The Tigers got another solid performance from quarterback Jarrett Lee (16 of 28 for 180 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions), a player who is quickly becoming one of the best stories of the season. Just as they did in an opening night win over Oregon, the Bayou Bengals forced four turnovers against the Mountaineers. It seems that even when offenses find ways to the move the ball against John Chavis’ bunch, his lightning-fast defenders answer with key takeaways. No arguments with this team’s #1 ranking. None.
2. Alabama 38, Arkansas 14 at Tuscaloosa, AL – At the end of the day, I think Arkansas will be a better team than West Virginia, but the Crimson Tide faced the Hogs at home while LSU traveled to WVU. That’s about the only reason to deduct points from the balanced, dominating effort turned in by Nick Saban’s crew. While the offense was totaling 200 yards passing and another 197 rushing, the Bama defense was squelching Bobby Petrino’s flashy offense. Just compare the efficiency of the two QBs: AJ McCarron passed for 200 yards on 20 passes, but it took Tyler Wilson 35 flings to tally just 185 yards. In addition, the Tide managed to score in all three phases of the game. Arkansas looked to be outclassed from the get-go… and there’s no reason for them to be ashamed. A lot of teams will be outclassed by Bama this season.
3. Florida 48, Kentucky 10 at Lexington, KY — Chris Rainey put up his usual good numbers (105 yards rushing), but this game belonged to Jeff Demps. The speedster galloped 10 times for 157 yards and two scores (one covering 20 yards, the other 84) as the Gators flattened the Cats on the road. In total UF amassed more than 400 yards on the ground in notching win #25 in a row against UK. This performance might have ranked higher if not for the level of the Gators’ competition — Kentucky’s pretty bad, folks.
4. Georgia 27, Ole Miss 13 at Oxford, MS — Mark Richt emerged victorious in the Hot Seat Bowl and his team was more dominant on the field than on the scoreboard. The Dawgs rolled into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and out-offensed the Rebels 475 to 183. They won the rushing battle 207-34. If not for three Blair Walsh missed field goal attempts and one punt return for an Ole Miss touchdown, the Bulldogs’ victory would have appeared even more complete. You never got the feeling in this one that UM had a chance to win it. And that’s good enough to keep most Richt-bashers — not all, but most — at bay for at least another week.
5. South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 3 at Columbia, SC — As I watched this game I kept wishing someone would come and administer some Novocaine to me. It was painful to watch. Vanderbilt’s offense was just non-existent. And while Carolina should get credit for holding VU to just 73 yards passing and a ridiculous 4 yards rushing… it’s Vandy we’re talking about. The Commodores got off to a nice 3-0 start this year, but they’d won games over lesser foes and with the help of multiple turnovers. Against Carolina, not even 4 Stephen Garcia picks could help them. They just couldn’t move the ball. At all. Meanwhile, Steve Spurrier stuck with Garcia — though it was a headset-throwin’ night for the Ol’ Ball Coach — and he credited the 5th year senior after the game for doing the best that he could. Carolina’s signal-caller is maddening. One minute he’ll whistle a rifle shot through defenders and the next he’ll overthrow a dump-off to Marcus Lattimore by five yards. But he’s still the guy the Gamecock team trusts, so credit Spurrier for sticking by him. But on this night there just wasn’t much to celebrate aside from a methodical victory. USC fans will take it.
6. Auburn 30, Florida Atlantic 14 at Auburn, AL — How bad is Auburn’s defense? Well, FAU entered the game with one of the worst offenses in America and still the Owls almost matched the Tigers in total yardage (315 to 307). That 307 yards of offense? FAU was averaging just 92 yards per contest heading into Saturday’s game. AU fans had to be nervous looking up to see a 10-6 game in the third quarter… before Neiko Thorpe and Jermaine Whitehead picked off FAU passes to set up the Tigers’ pull-away scores. And how ’bout this for fickle fans — the AP reported several “half-empty” sections in Jordan-Hare’s upper deck. The report also mentioned booing from the student section “during a particularly bad stretch” for Gus Malzahn’s offense in the first half. And this is a team that had gone 17-1 in its previous 18 games and won a little sumthin’ called the BCS title. Yeah, and it’s the media that’s been “disrespecting” Auburn’s young team. Considering the boos and attendance versus FAU and the thousands of Tiger fans who streamed to the exits and missed their team’s Week One comeback over Utah State, it’s a good thing we’re ranking the team’s performance and not the performance of their fans.
7. Arkansas 14, Alabama 38 at Tuscaloosa, AL — Think the Hogs missed Knile Davis? Bobby Petrino’s offense officially logged 17 rushing yards on 19 attempts on Saturday. That’s bad anywhere. But against a team like Alabama, such a performance spells certain doom. Wilson didn’t get much help from his O-line as he was harassed and hurried on seemingly every dropback. Now throw in a pair of Hog turnovers and you can begin to grasp the Razorbacks’ level of futility. In a battle between the SEC’s top defense and top offense, it was the defense of Bama that emerged victorious.
8. Vanderbilt 3, South Carolina 21 at Columbia, SC — James Franklin’s Cinderella 3-0 start to his Vandy coaching career came to a crashing thud Saturday night in the Palmetto State. If you thought Arkansas’ rushing numbers were bad, check out these: 25 carries, 4 yards. Four! And the Commodores converted just one third down all night (out of 14 chances). At least the Vanderbilt defense put up a fight. Lattimore was held to just 77 yards on 20 carries. And a week after picking off Mississippi’s Zach Stoudt five times, VU’s D came down with four Garcia passes. It just didn’t make a difference on the scoreboard this time around.
9. Mississippi State 26, Louisiana Tech 20 in OT at Starkville, MS — MSU’s meteoric rise has plum flickered out the past three weeks. Coming off back-to-back losses to Auburn and LSU, the black-jersey’d Bulldogs figured to get well against Louisiana Tech and its 17-year-old quarterback. Instead… Dan Mullen’s team was outgained and at times outplayed by La. Tech. If not for a late interception deep in State territory — which prevented Tech from kicking a game-winning field goal — and another INT on the first play of overtime, the Bulldogs might have suffered a remarkably embarrassing loss to a WAC team that’s now just 1-3. Chris Relf was so shaky in the passing game that Mullen chose to play for overtime on MSU’s final possession even though he had time to throw and good field position. It’s still early, but MSU seems to be a team moving in the wrong direction these days.
10. Kentucky 10, Florida 48 at Lexington, KY — Joker Phillips’ team — a squad he called “sloppy” after the game — turned the ball over four times and failed on all five of its fourth-down tries. And that was just the offense. Rick Minter’s defensive unit gave up 520 yards and allowed UF to score three touchdowns in a five-minute, first-quarter barrage that put the game away almost as quickly as it had started. The Wildcats are now 2-2 with a pair of unimpressive victories over Western Kentucky and Central Michigan, but at times they’ve played more like the 1994 Bill Curry-led squad that managed just one win on the season. Things look very bad in the Bluegrass State. So once again they find themselves near the bottom of our Impress-O-Meter. More showings like Saturday’s and they can apply for permanent residence at the bottom of our Monday morning chart.
11. Ole Miss 13, Georgia 27 at Oxford, MS — Even when Houston Nutt teams have struggled in past years, his offense could move the ball. Stumbling to a 4-8 mark last season, for example, the Rebels averaged more than 30 points per game. Not this year. Not even close. The check for going out in search of a transfer quarterback every year has finally come due. UM passed for just 149 yards against Georgia and rushed for a meager 34 yards on the ground. David Lee’s offense managed just one score on the day. Athletic director Pete Boone said earlier in the week that he wanted to see more fire from the Rebels’ eyes. He likely went home disappointed. Heck, as poorly as the Rebels played on Saturday, I was surprised Nutt didn’t pull his straight-billed cap down a little bit lower so as not to have to cast his eyes upon a squad that’s quickly costing him his job.
Open Date — Tennessee