Week Five is in the books and SEC West is starting to pull away as expected from the SEC East. Alabama and LSU are head and shoulders above anyone else in the league right now while Arkansas and Auburn are next up on the conference’s “most dangerous” list.
Below you’ll find our weekly Monday look back at the league’s most impressive and least impressive performances. Sorry it’s going up at night rather than in the morning, but I’m afraid it’s going to be one of those weeks.
Please remember that this not a power ranking. We’re grading teams on what they did Saturday, not on their season-to-date performances. Here goes:
1. Alabama 38, Florida 10 at Gainesville, FL — Do you think Florida’s players felt as though they were facing the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night. Scratch that. Bama looks better than the Steelers. Nick Saban’s team seems to be improving every single week. Through five games, the Tide is giving up just 8 points, 39 rushing yards, and 191 total yards per game. Saturday they bullied and punished a Florida roster that’s chock-full of four- and five-star recruits. Oh, and on offense Trent Richardson was carrying guys on his back like Forest Gump in the jungles of Vietnam. A truly awesome performance all the way around.
2. Auburn 16, South Carolina 13 at Columbia, SC — Take Alabama’s defensive stats and flip ‘em. Auburn has been as bad as Alabama has been good. Up until Saturday anyway. Marcus Lattimore only tallied 69 yards against Ted Roof’s defense which meant the Cocks would have to win with Stephen Garcia. And that wasn’t going to happen. With AU, you can toss out the stats. They’re 4-1 in spite of ‘em. They still have the same penchant for winning close games that they had during last season’s magical run, too. This is a well-coached bunch. The decision to slow down the game with 41 carries for Mike Dyer was a sharp one as it not only put the ball in the hands of the Tigers’ best player, but it also helped keep AU’s green defense off the field. Scary thought: With more experience Auburn should get better and better as the season rolls along. The trick was beating them early and only undefeated Clemson has been able to do that. Scarier thought: The Tigers almost landed Russell Wilson who is currently Cam Newton-ing Wisconsin up the polls. How good might AU have been with Wilson running and throwing from the QB spot?
3. Georgia 24, Mississippi State 10 at Athens, GA — Okay, so Mississippi State has taken a step backward. Still, they came into Saturday’s game with a pretty solid rushing attack. But Todd Grantham’s crew — looking more and more comfortable in his 3-4 scheme — held the Maroons to just 56 yards on 34 carries. Vick Ballard averaged less than 3 yards per carry. Quarterback Aaron Murray (3 interceptions) was far from at his best, but the Dawgs’ run game was solid enough to keep MSU at arm’s length for most of the afternoon. Georgia was the better team by far last weekend.
4. LSU 35, Kentucky 7 at Baton Rouge, LA — Get a load of these numbers: 89 yards rushing… 66 yards passing… just 155 total yards. That’s all UK’s offense could muster against the blazing fast Tiger defense. But all wasn’t perfect. The score was just 14-0 at the half as LSU’s offense stumbled a bit. And with Jordan Jefferson back on the sideline, Jarrett Lee had his worst day of the year completing just 38% of his passes (8 of 21 for 169 yards). As we noted last week, it will be interesting to see if Lee’s play dips now that he knows Les Miles has another option at quarterback. Speaking of that, shame on those Tiger fans who booed Jefferson when he entered the game on Saturday. Anyone who would boo a college player is trash. Pure and simple. And anyone who would boo a college player and then cheer him after he scores a touchdown on the next play is a trashy flip-flopper. Save the “we were booing the coaches’ decision, not the player” lip service. I’m sure Jefferson couldn’t tell the difference. This isn’t aimed at all Tiger fans by a long shot. It’s aimed only at the ones who felt the need to boo a 21-year-old kid who puts his health on the line for their entertainment each week. Because people who would do that… are trash.
5. Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 38 at Arlington, TX – Despite being hit again and again by the blitz-happy Aggies, quarterback Tyler Wilson passed for 510 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday. More impressive? He threw 51 passes without tossing a single interception. Even more impressive? He and Jarius Wright had a record-setting day connecting 13 times for 281 yards. Wright — a receiver — accounted for 48% of the Razorbacks’ yards. That’s unheard of. It looked like the Hogs still had an Alabama hangover in the first half, falling behind 35-17 at the break. But the team showed a lot of character in fighting back for the victory. The obvious downside, of course, was the fact that A&M scorched the UA defense for 38 points and 628 yards of their own. If the Hogs want to stay in the West race — at least mathematically — they’ll need to make some big strides on the defensive side of the ball.
5a. Here’s a bonus thought on Texas A&M. Yes, the Aggies shanked their second half for the second week in a row. But those who say Saturday’s game proves A&M doesn’t belong in the SEC don’t know what they’re talking about. It might prove that Mike Sherman needs a new conditioning plan because his guys wear out after two quarters, but I’m pretty sure forcing Arkansas to have to race from behind to pull out a win in heroic fashion is the definition of competing at an SEC level. So let’s wait til next fall before we declare A&M unfit for SEC football.
6. Tennessee 41, Buffalo 10 at Knoxville, TN — Two weeks ago we predicted a 34-24 UT loss to Florida. They lost 33-23. Last week we predicted a 42-9 UT win over Buffalo. They won 41-10. If nothing else, we can come close to guessing the Vols’ scores each week. But do we have any idea how good this Tennessee team is? Not a clue. The Volunteers took a step forward with their run game on Saturday, but that was against a squad whose only win came over Stony Brook. Derek Dooley’s team is 3-1, but they looked outmanned in their toughest game to date at The Swamp. Over the next four weeks, they’ll be tested by Georgia, LSU, Alabama and South Carolina. If Tyler Bray and Da’Rick Rogers continue at their current record-breaking pass-catch pace, then we’ll know UT is a year ahead of schedule in its rebuilding program. For now, at least they’re whooping up on the patsies they’re supposed to whoop up on.
7. Ole Miss 38, Fresno State 28 at Fresno, CA — I just watched this game on my DVR this afternoon and there’s just no question that Ole Miss looked like a completely different offense with Randall Mackey in at quarterback. The junior passed for 214 yards and ran for another 35 in his first start. For the first time this season, UM looked comfortable and confident — for the most part — on offense. Jeff Scott’s 24-carry, 138-yard evening helped. His 69-yard TD run in the third quarter showed his speed as he pulled away from the Fresno State defense. Now that the Rebels appear to have found a quarterback, it’s time for Tyrone Nix’s defense to start making improvements.
8. South Carolina 13, Auburn 16 at Columbia, SC — What the heck has happened to Stephen Garcia? In 2009 and 2010, the oft-troubled Garcia threw an interception once every 32 attempts. So far this season, the now clean-living Garcia is tossing picks at a 1-in-13 pace. That includes two more INTs on Saturday afternoon against Auburn. If this were a movie, we’d be at the point when the coach tells his QB to go out and have a few brews, Max McGee-style. But a bigger issue — in our view — was Steve Spurrier’s play selection on Saturday. Marcus Lattimore had a season-low 17 carries while averaging a healthy 3.9 yards per rush. Spurrier chose instead to have Garcia pass or run a combined 40 times. Bad move. Now we’ll see if the quarterback merry-go-round starts up in Columbia. Connor Shaw is scheduled to start on Saturday, but who knows where Spurrier will go from there? At least the defense was once again solid, led by Melvin Ingram who had 3.5 sacks as part of his own monster day. USC still has a roster capable of winning the SEC East… if Spurrier will rely on his best player’s legs (as Auburn did in defeating him last weekend).
8a. Spurrier didn’t like it. Lots of people didn’t understand it. And the SEC said its officials got it right. While it does appear that the clock should have stopped with a second or two on the remaining — we remember how a second was put back on the clock following an incomplete pass in a Texas-Nebraska game two years ago — there was no way the Gamecocks would have been able to get their field goal unit onto the field in time to attempt a potential game-tying kick. The first down would have stopped the clock only long enough for officials to move the chains. At that point, it would have been wound and time would have drained away before Carolina could get set for a field goal. The bigger issue wasn’t the officials’ decision, but the decision of Spurrier to burn his final timeout with 12 seconds remaining, rather than spike the ball as Garcia had gestured. Had he pocketed that timeout, he might have been able to use it on the final play which would have given his special teams unit a chance to enter the field, get set, and try a field goal.
(We have no idea who did the voiceover on this video, but you can at least watch the final sequence below.)
9. Florida 10, Alabama 38 at Gainesville, FL — Remember in August when ex-Gator coach Urban Meyer said Florida would be “loaded” with talent this fall? Well they sure didn’t look loaded when put on the same field with Alabama. UF managed just 15 yards rushing on the night and the team’s leading ground-gainer was backup quarterback Jeff Driskel. Which brings us to the injury-to-insult department. John Brantley was having a decent night when he was knocked out with what’s believed to be a high ankle sprain. This loss to Bama could cost the Gators another game or two before all’s said and done.
10. Mississippi State 10, Georgia 24 at Athens, GA — Dan Mullen, welcome back to Earth. Not only are his Dogs a disappointing 0-3 in SEC play (with an ugly overtime win over Louisiana Tech sandwiched in for good measure), but MSU never put a scare into Georgia on Saturday. Mullen’s spread offense no longer looks dangerous to anyone but State. The run game — 1.6 yards per rush — was nonexistent. It might be time to simplify things in Starkville.
11. Kentucky 7, LSU 35 at Baton Rouge, LA — We credited LSU’s defense for UK’s abysmal offensive numbers earlier in this post. But who expected the Cats to be this bad? As Joker Phillips said today, the Wildcat coaching staff has a pretty good track record of getting production from the quarterback position, but they haven’t been able to coax much from Morgan Newton (6 of 20 for 57 yards on Saturday). And there’s no more Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke to give the ball to either. It has the makings of an ugly year in the Bluegrass State.
Open Date — Vanderbilt