Here’s your Monday breakdown of all the SEC action from the weekend. The key stats and our impressions from each ballgame.
All in one big, juicy post.
Auburn 31, Louisiana-Monroe 28 in Auburn
Key Stat: 6.1 yards. That’s how many yards per carry Auburn averaged on 42 rushing attempts against the Warhawks. While ULM was able to take the game into overtime, two things ultimately did them in. One, an end-of-the-first-half Hail Mary type of pass from Kiehl Frazier and the run stat mentioned above. The Tigers’ ability to gain rushing yards meant that Frazier only had to pass the ball 18 times.
* Frazier’s stat line was fair: 10-of-18 for 130 yards a touchdown and an INT. Heck compared to previous performances that was stellar. But take away the 33-yard fluky touchdown and things wouldn’t look quite so good. Also, how much did ULM’s D play in Frazier’s slight improvement. LSU will be a huge challenge this weekend.
* The Tigers “held” ULM quarterback Kolton Browning to just 295 combined passing and rushing yards a week after he absolutely shredded Arkansas’ defense for 481 yards. The Warhawks have one true star and Brian VanGorder’s defenders were just good enough to keep that star from beating them.
Vanderbilt 58, Presbyterian 0 in Nashville
Key Stat: 58-0. Are you kidding? Even if it did come against a tiny FCS school nicknamed the Blue Hose (wonder what their women’s teams are called?), a 58-0 shutout is pretty darned impressive for the Commodores. And in case you’re wondering, 58 points was the largest margin of victory for Vandy in a shutout since an identical whooping of The Citadel in 1999.
*Bye-bye Jordan Rodgers. James Franklin isn’t saying who’ll play against Georgia on Saturday, but I think the fact that Rodgers didn’t play against Presbyterian speaks volumes. Franklin had been unhappy with Rodgers inconsistency through two games so he made the switch to former Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. Carta-Samuels managed the game well and was efficient passing (13-of-20 for 195 yards and a touchdown).
* Zac Stacy rushed himself into third place on Vandy’s all-time rushing list with a 174-yard, one-touchdown performance on — get this — just eight carries. Not a bad day at the office.
Alabama 52, Arkansas 0 in Fayetteville
Key Stat: 2.2 yards. That’s what the Razorbacks gained per play on 62 offensive snaps against the Crimson Tide’s dominating defense. Granted, Bobby Petrino’s gone and Tyler Wilson was out, but no Hog fan expected to see anything that bad on Saturday. The loss marked UA’s first shut out loss at home since 1966. Toss in Arkansas’ five turnovers and you have the ultimate offensive nightmare.
* How good is Bama? Well, the last two weeks they’ve won by a combined score of 87-0, the first time the Crimson Tide has pitched consecutive shutouts since 1980. This week it was SEC foe Arkansas, last week it was Western Kentucky (who went on to best SEC rival Kentucky on Saturday). The answer to our question? Scary good. So much for losing guys to the NFL.
* It appears Alabama worked out the whole “DJ Fluker’s stance tips run or pass” thing. Doug Nussmeier’s offense averaged a scintillating 10.7 yards per pass attempt and 5.0 yards per rush. They also had six rushing touchdowns and a seventh through the air. Easy peasy.
* While Alabama races toward another BCS title at the quarter pole, Arkansas has to somehow find a way to pull its season back from the brink. The goal in 2012 was to take a step forward, reach Atlanta, compete for titles. That’s not going to happen with Wilson or the defense the Hogs have put on the field so far. Wilson said some of his teammates quit on Saturday. Will they throw in the towel on the season, too?
Texas A&M 48, SMU 3 in Dallas
Key Stat: 418 yards. It was redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel’s show on Saturday. After making an impressive debut against Florida in his first start last week, A&M’s quarterback broke a 29-year-old freshman passing record as he passed for 294 yards, rushed for another 124 and racked up 418 total yards of offense. If Manziel continues to improve and stays healthy, A&M’s adjustment to life in the SEC will be helped considerably.
* The Aggies suspended starting running back Christine Michael before the game, but still managed to run for 225 against the Mustangs. They also rolled up 605 yards in total offense. Kevin Sumlin was back to putting up C-USA numbers against a C-USA opponent.
* One area Sumlin will want to shore up is his team’s on-field discipline. A&M has committed nine penalties in each of its first two games and giving up 81.5 yards per game is no way to win games in the SEC.
Florida 37, Tennessee 20 in Knoxville
Key Stat: 302 to 37. That was the difference in yardage following a Florida fake punt attempt in the third quarter of Saturday’s game. Tennessee stuffed the fake punt and took over on Florida’s side of the field up by a touchdown. Instead of throwing a knockout punch, the Vols went three-and-out and punted. Florida’s Trey Burton took the next play 80 yards to tie the score. After a Tyler Bray interception on the next Tennessee series, Florida scored again. That was a 14-point swing in three minutes and the rout was on from there.
* For two straight weeks Florida’s Will Muschamp has turned a game around at halftime. Against Texas A&M a week ago, the Gators trailed 17-10 at the half only to come back and win 20-17. On Saturday, UF trailed 14-10 at the break but raced to a 37-20 victory in the end. Combined that’s: 31-20 opponents in two first halves, 37-6 Florida in two second halves.
* Question: How did Jeff Driskel not win the Florida quarterback job early in fall camp? Heck, how did he not win it last season. He’s not a Tebow/Newton runner (yet), but he’s mobile enough to hurt defenses both when running and when buying time in the pocket. The last two weeks he’s 27-of-36 for 381 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. He’s added 89 yards on the ground. At this rate of improvement he’ll have a statue at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium by year’s end.
* While Florida looks closer to being “back,” Tennessee still can’t seem to get over the hump. A switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense always leads to some busted plays, but 555 yards for a Gator offense that had been ground and pound? The new defense and the lack of a real running game leave UT in this shape: If Bray plays well they win, if he doesn’t they lose. It’s a one-man team at this point.
Missouri 24, Arizona State 20 in Columbia
Key Stat: 4 turnovers. The Tigers’ D swiped the ball from the Sun Devils four times while Mizzou’s Corbin Berkstresser-led offense gave up the pigskin only once (on a pick from the first-time starter). In a tight four-point game, that plus-three turnover margin was the difference.
* First and foremost, Gary Pinkel should have never suggested that his quarterback didn’t “want” to play. James Franklin refused a painkiller shot to his shoulder and there’s absolutely nothing in the world wrong with that. I know plenty of ex-athletes who have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. If Franklin is smart enough now to protect his body for future years, that’s his call. And if — as his father has said — the Franklin family doesn’t believe in taking painkiller medications, again, that’s good enough for this writer. Any Mizzou fan questioning Franklin’s toughness might want to think back a week and remember how many times Pinkel called on Franklin to run — bad shoulder and all — into Jarvis Jones and Georgia’s thumping defense. The QB didn’t blink then. Pinkel was out of bounds with his comments. Any Tiger fans calling out Franklin are right there out of bounds with their coach.
* Berkstresser wasn’t perfect, but he was good enough. Good enough to beat ASU. Now, will a 21-of-41 passing day against a Pac-12 team translate into big numbers against SEC defenses? Probably not. And we could find out for sure this weekend if Berkstresser is called upon to run the Tiger offense against Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina’s D.
Western Kentucy 32, Kentucky 31 in Lexington
Key Stat: 17-0. That’s how far down Kentucky fell with five minutes to go in the first half. From that point on, quarterback Maxwell Smith was called on to rally his team with pass after pass. He threw 60 in all (finishing with 37 completions, 332 yards, and two TDs). Unfortunately, he also had four of his passes picked off by Hilltopper defenders.
* Kentucky’s defense had its best night against the run all season. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Cats still allowed more than 160 on the ground against a team that lost 35-0 to Alabama last week. For the season, Rick Minter’s defense has allowed 569 yards rushing — 4.25 yards per carry — against Louisville, Kent State and WKU. Next comes Florida in UK’s SEC opener. Things could get very, very ugly in Gainesville this weekend.
* After the game WKU head coach Willie Taggart popped his bill and caused the sword of Damocles to dangle just a bit lower over Joker Phillips’ head. The former Western player said, “WKU red is the new blue.” Phillips — whether you believe he deserves another year or not — wouldn’t take the bait and actually came out looking a whole lot classier than WKU’s coach by saying the following: “I’m not about to talk about an opponent. That’s me. Say what you want. ‘I’m not a tough guy.’ I’m tough guy because I’m not going to talk about someone else’s program. I played at the highest level and it’s shame the game has gotten to this. I respect Willie. I think he’s done a hell of a job there but I’m not going to talk about another program or have our kids run their mouth and disrespect them. Not going to do it.” Well, aside from the “I played at UK and Willie played at WKU” bit, Phillips showed about as much class as a man under fire could. Kudos.
South Carolina 49, UAB 6 in Columbia
Key Stat: 177 yards. Steve Spurrier elected to play Connor Shaw in spite of a badly bruised shoulder. And Shaw had to come out after reaggravating the injury. When came out — after going 8-of-14 for 107 yards through the air — Dylan Thompson came in. The backup only complete 5-of-10 throws, but those passes added up to 177 passing yards and two touchdowns. Spurrier now says that Shaw has a “little fracture” in his shoulder and could still possibly start Saturday against Missouri. But whether he starts or not, there’s now a debate among fans about who should start at QB. And we all know Spurrier’s history with quarterback controversies — he loves them, ignites them, fuels them, feeds them, etc. Don’t be shocked to see both Shaw and Thompson in and out of the Gamecock lineup from here on out.
* Congrats to the Ol’ Ball Coach for winning his 200th career game. Only three other current FBS coaches have reached that tally (Chris Ault at Nevada, Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, and Mack Brown at Texas). Spurrier has taken two different SEC programs to the greatest heights in their histories and he won an ACC title at Duke to boot. Some of us remember Paul “Bear” Bryant coaching. People today should try to catch Spurrier on the sidelines whenever the Gamecocks are on TV. They’re seeing this generation’s legend. When the SEC buys Stone Mountain in Georgia someday and creates its own Mt. Rushmore, Spurrier will be side by side with the Bear. (And for those who email me demanding that I start calling Spurrier the “Head Ball Coach” because he’s now decided that he doesn’t want to be called the “Ol’ Ball Coach,” sorry, that was his nickname in the early years. It’s silly to try to change it now. I won’t play along. But that’s not some show of disrespect, you wonderfully paranoid Cock fans. If you think it is, read the above paragraph again.)
* Another big story coming out of Saturday’s victory over UAB — along with Shaw’s injury and Spurrier’s milestone — is the suspension of free safety DJ Swearinger. Swearinger is a veteran and a leader on Carolina’s defense. His backup — Jared Shaw — is green at the free safety position. With Missouri coming to town on Saturday, that’s a hole in the USC secondary worth keeping an eye on.
Mississippi State 30, Troy 24 in Troy
Key Stat: 572 yards. That’s how many yards Troy rolled up on Mississippi State’s defense. Dan Mullen’s team forced four turnovers that led to 20 first-half points — while committing none — which ultimately allowed the Dogs to overcome such a poor defensive showing and escape with a narrow victory. But when you give up nearly 600 yards to Troy… it’s cause for concern. The Trojans completed 32-of-45 passes for 343 yards.
* State’s defense might have had some its issues, but the Bulldog offense was A-OK. Tyler Russell connected for three touchdown passes with Chad Bumphis. Bumphis needs one more TD reception to grab the school record in that category. On Saturday, his 180 yards receiving and LaDarius Perkins’ 179 yards on the ground gave MSU a rusher and a pass-catcher with more than 175 yards in the same game for the first time ever. Ever. Not bad.
* Not to rain on anyone’s parade hear, but as Mississippi State moves into the Top 25 this week at #23, it’s probably a good time to pump the brakes a bit. The Dogs have beaten all comers to date, but those foes were FCS-level Jackson State, what looks to be a pretty poor Auburn squad at home, and a Troy team that’s 4-11 in its last 15 games including a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette a week ago. The defense has forced 12 turnovers through three games which is darned impressive, but the score in this one and those yards allowed give one pause.
Georgia 56, FAU 20 in Athens
Key Stat: 713 yards. That’s the school-record yardage output that Aaron Murray and crew dropped on FAU Saturday in Athens. On the ground: 328 yards. In the air: 385 yards. Brutal. Balanced. Murray passed for 342. Michael Bennett had 110 yards receiving. And freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley (111) and Keith Marshall (104) both went over the century mark on an even 10 carries. Offensively, the Dawgs basically held a scrimmage on Sanford Stadium.
* Yes, UGA wound up crushing the Owls, but early on they couldn’t break free. Matter of fact, the game was tied at 14 with about six-and-a-half minutes to play in the first half. The Bulldogs quickly posted two touchdowns before the break to effectively end the contest.
* Mark Richt elected not to use banged up linebacker Jarvis Jones against FAU. Richt has said that he’s “hopeful” the man who played like Superman against Missouri last week will be ready to go when Vanderbilt visits on Saturday. Fellow starter Bacarri Rambo (safety) and Alec Ogletree (linebacker) may play against the Dores, but most believe they will sit out again to finish off four-game suspensions.
LSU 63, Idaho 14 in Baton Rouge
Key Stat: 40 wins and 20 wins. That’s two key stats because LSU broke two records on Saturday night in Baton Rouge. First, the demolition of Idaho marked the Tigers’ 40th nonconference victory in a row which sets a new FBS record. Second, the game was LSU’s 20th straight home win which is a new Tiger Stadium record.
* The goal going in to the game was to rev up the passing game and for the most part that’s just what LSU did. Zach Mettenberger completed 17-of-22 passes for 222 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. The interception came near the Idaho goalline, marking the second time in three games that LSU’s new QB has tosses pick deep in opposing territory. Yes, that’s nitpicking, but that particular nit come back to bite the Tigers if Mettenberger doesn’t start to take better care of the ball in the red zone.
* The LSU defense forced four turnovers on the night and ran back two interceptions for touchdowns. The Vandals gained just 39 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Just another day at the office for John Chavis’ defense.
Texas 66, Ole Miss 31 in Oxford
Key Stat: 66 points. No team has dropped so many points on the Rebels since Sewanee way back in 1917. The Longhorns also piled up 676 yards of total offense against Mississippi’s outmanned defensive unit. And did I mention Texas scored on seven consecutive possessions at one point?
* The Longhorn defense welcomed juco QB Bo Wallace back to Earth. After a brow-raising start against Central Arkansas and UTEP, Ole Miss’ quarterback struggled to find open receivers and struggled to hit them when they did pop open. His line for the night: 13-of-24 for 178 yards, one touchdown and three INTs.
* UM’s defense also got a wake-up call. After giving up 100 yards on the ground to Central Arkansas and just 37 to UTEP, Texas ran over, around and through Rebel defenders for 350 rushing yards. The Longhorns’ four rushing TDs equaled quarterback David Ash’s tally through the air. Ole Miss’ roster issues came home to roost this past weekend.