Here’s your weekly breakdown of all the SEC action from the previous weekend. We provide one key stat as well our own MrSEC.com takeaway from each contest.
This week’s will be a tad shorter because we’re having to put this one together uber-quick. It’s our salute to the new college football landscape: up-tempo, no-huddle.
Ole Miss 41, Auburn 20 in Oxford – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 1 win in a row. That’s Ole Miss’ new SEC winning streak. Until Saturday’s blowout win over Auburn, the Rebels had dropped 16 conference games in a row dating all the way back to 2010. No more. Streak? Dead.
* On a day when Tommy Tuberville and Texas Tech were crushing West Virginia and Iowa State and Paul Rhoads were taking Kansas State to the limit, Gene Chizik’s program continued to tumble. If the Tigers somehow crater to a two- or three-win season, yes, Chizik may be ousted just two years after winning a BCS title. But short of that, he’ll likely survive — even with a four- or five-win season — to face a do-or-die 2013.
* Houston Nutt suggested on Sirius/XM radio this summer that Ole Miss could win six games. Looking at the roster, the attrition, and the number of players in academic hell, that seemed laughable. It sounded like a man trying to suggest he didn’t wreck things as bad as most had said. Whether Nutt was spinning or not, Hugh Freeze is getting the absolute maximum out of what looked to be a thin, weak roster. Major props to Bo Wallace who’s been the Rebels’ catalyst at quarterback.
Alabama 42, Missouri 10 in Columbia (West) – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 359 yards. That was the difference in rushing yardage between top-ranked Alabama and Missouri in a rain-delayed game in Columbia. The Tide rolled up 362 yards on the ground while the Tigers could muster but three. Three yards. That’s it. (I can hear play-by-play man Harry Doyle from “Major League” describing that one in a NSFW way right now.) Granted, Mizzou lost a ton of yards on sacks which should count against passing yards — get on that NCAA! — but it couldn’t have been clearer that one team had the best lines in the nation while the other had makeshift lines that were built for the spread-it-out Big XII. Ugly.
* Everyone’s beating the drum that in hindsight, Alabama really hasn’t beaten enough teams to be considered #1 in the nation. Who cares who’s #1 right now? The still have #12 Mississippi State, #6 LSU and #18 Texas A&M to play before a possible SEC Championship Game. If they’re #1 come December, they’ll have earned it. And if they lose, duh, they won’t be #1 any longer. So much time is wasted fretting over who’s ranked where in October.
* Fair or not, a lot of SEC fans are going to say “told ya so” about Missouri. They won’t want to hear about injuries. Bottom line, Mizzou was seen — unfairly in this site’s opinion — as a throw-in to go along with Texas A&M. Starting 0-4 in the SEC will only feed that belief. Gary Pinkel had better hope quarterback James Franklin and some linemen can heal up during the Tigers open date because after Kentucky, the Tigers finish with Florida, Tennessee, Syracuse and Texas A&M. All three of those final league games will be on the road. Things could get uglier before they get better.
Florida 31, Vanderbilt 17 in Nashville – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 326 yards. That’s how much yardage Florida gained on the ground. But once again the Gators won without having to pass. Jeff Driskel was 11-of-20 for just 77 yards on the day (a stunningly bad 3.9 yards per pass attempt). Amazingly, even with all that rushing yardage, the Gators didn’t control the clock as they normally do. Vanderbilt had the advantage 33:10 to 26:50 which is basically a flip-flop of what UF had been doing to everyone else. The Gators didn’t have the big yardage boost in the second half. Nor did they hold Vandy to fewer yards in the second half. In every possible way but two this was the anti-Florida game. The two things that held true: Florida won… and they won by running the football again and again and again.
* We said last week that this looked like a proverbial trap game for the Gators and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Credit Vandy — and especially quarterback Jordan Rodgers — for following a pretty good script drawn up by James Franklin, but the Gators were flat. They had a huge home win over LSU last week, they’ve got a huge home game with South Carolina this week, and in between they had a road trip to Vanderbilt. For Florida’s sake, at least they escaped the trap with a W.
* The Commodores are now 2-4 on the season. Saturday they host Auburn and that game is winnable. Then they host UMass and Kentucky. Those are winnable games as well. They finish at Ole Miss (4-3), at home against Tennessee (3-3), and then at Wake Forest (3-3). Can Vandy win four of its next six to become bowl eligible for the second year in a row and the third time in five seasons? If so, folks are eventually going to stop overlooking the Dores.
Arkansas 49, Kentucky 7 in Fayetteville - Video Highlights
Key Stat: 5:08. Arkansas was beating Kentucky by six touchdowns when the game was called due to bad weather with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter. The Razorbacks rolled up 49 points and 533 yards in what was less than two-thirds of a football game. Just think about that. And here’s the bad news for guys like me who like to breakdown stats — Arkansas and Kentucky’s stats will now be skewed for the rest of the season. We’ll still do stat analysis pieces and the NCAA will make everything nice and official in its history book, but everything from yards-per-game to turnovers-per-game to time-of-possession stats will be marred for the Hogs and Cats the rest of the way. Dang it.
* Even Mother Nature is against Joker Phillips. Not only has fate dealt his team one injury after another this year, but now the embattled coach will have to hear his own fans say: “We lost 49-7 and they didn’t even play three full quarters!” In some ways, it would have been better to just lose 63-7 or even 70-7. We asked last week if injury after injury after injury and a ridiculously youthful starting lineup might save Phillips’ job. We’ll stop saying that. He’s doomed.
* Everything’s turned peachy in Arkansas again. Tyler Wilson’s throwing the ball all over the yard as projected. The Razorbacks are winning big. But will the confidence gained in beating the two worst teams in the SEC be enough to further fuel an Arkansas run to the finish? If John L. Smith can get the Razorbacks to seven wins after a disastrous, injury-plagued 1-4 start, he’ll deserve from praise for keeping his team together. (Just before he’s shoved out the door like Phillips.)
LSU 23, South Carolina 21 in Baton Rouge – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 224 yards. That was the difference in rushing yards between the victorious Bayou Bengals and the vanquished Gamecocks. Chalk it up to homefield advantage or just the old saying, “what goes up must come down,” but these two teams didn’t look as they did a week earlier. Two Saturdays ago, South Carolina outrushed Georgia in Columbia 230-115 (and 75 of UGA’s yards came on a garbage-time final drive). On that same day in Gainesville, LSU was being worn down and outrushed by Florida 176 to 42. And yet on Saturday in Baton Rouge, the Tigers outrushed the Cocks 258-34. Lou Holtz once said that a coach never sees the same team twice. That was proven true on Saturday.
* Remember when teams ran about 60-65 plays per game? On Saturday, LSU ran 78 offensive snaps. A full 53 of those were rushing plays. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger was so-so at best (12-of-25, 148 yards, no TDs, one interception) and it seemed that LSU was determined to get back to Les Miles’ basics — good defense, good running game. The Tigers controlled the clock for 36:57 to Carolina’s 23:03. And the Tigers needed every bit of that advantage to hold off USC.
* How ’bout Steve Spurrier saying yesterday that some of his players looked scared of LSU. Big words. Big motivation. Or at least he hopes it will be a motivation. Carolina, Florida and Georgia are in a three-way battle for the East Division title and if USC can win at Florida, they’ll control the main tie-breaker with their both their rivals. Spurrier won two years ago in the Swamp. If he can do it again, Carolina will have the inside track to Atlanta.
Mississippi State 41, Tennessee 31 in Starkville - Video Highlights
Key Stat: 450 yards. That’s how much yardage Tennessee’s porous defense allowed Mississippi State to gain on Saturday night. The Vols proved that they’re equally bad in pass defense as run defense by surrendering 291 yards through the air to MSU quarterback Tyler Russell, which is his new career high (even though he’s faced Jackson State, Troy, Kentucky and South Alabama to date). That’s to take nothing from Russell who was his usual efficient, smart self. But the Volunteers aren’t showing signs of improvement on D. In fact, they used more 4-3 than 3-4 this week — after switching to a 3-4 in the offseason — and there were still no answers for UT.
* How good is Mississippi State? Tennessee is — on paper — the best team the Bulldogs have beaten and the Vols aren’t anything to be feared. But at some point, you are what your record says you are. The Bulldogs are a well-coached football team. They don’t beat themselves and they don’t waste a lot of time trying to be something they’re not (which means flashy). State has a blue collar football team that’s now +13 in turnover margin on the season after winning that battle two-to-nil over the Volunteers on Saturday. After MTSU on Saturday, Mullen’s squad will face Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss over a span of five consecutive weeks. Assuming they’re 7-0 heading into that stretch, a 9-3 record is very doable.
* Can Tennessee afford to fire Derek Dooley? Can the Vols afford not to? If they do make a switch, a school with a budget shortfall last year will have to buy out the coach and his staff (depending on what jobs those guys land). Then they will likely have to buy out whatever new coach they can lure to Knoxville and pay him a fat salary. If they stick with Dooley, they’ll have to face the prospects of losing thousands of season-ticket buyers, the donations that go with them, and all of the parking, concessions, and merchandise sales that go with having those folks in Neyland Stadium every week. Did Dave Hart know what kind of no-win situation he was walking into as UT’s athletic director?
Texas A&M 59, Louisiana Tech 57 (Video Highlights not available from SEC)
Key Stat: 1,293 yards. That’s how much offense A&M and Tech erupted for on Saturday night. Last week we posted our game previews and someone suggested we’d neglected to mention how bad Tech’s defense had been. Actually, we didn’t go down that road for a reason — we didn’t believe in A&M’s defense. The Aggies had played pretty well up until Saturday, but they hadn’t faced many offenses like Louisiana Tech’s throw-it-everywhere system, either. Kevin Sumlin has done a great job in his first year with the Aggies, but A&M’s defense will be tested by LSU’s ground game, Mississippi State’s mistake-free unit, Alabama’s and Alabama’s everything over the next month. The offense we believe in. We’re not sold on the D yet, though.
* We already mentioned Johnny Manziel’s remarkable day elsewhere, but just gawk at these numbers for a while…
Passing: 24-of-40 for 395 yards. Three touchdowns against only one interception. A robust 9.9 yards-per-attempt average.
Rushing: 19 carries for 181 yards. Three more touchdowns on the ground. A 9.5 yards-per-carry average.
Touchdowns: A 20-yard pass. A 15-yard run. A 75-yard pass. A two-yard run. A 17-yard pass. And a 72-yard run.
If all that weren’t enough, Manziel also led Texas A&M to 15 third-down conversions in 22 attempts. You just won’t see a player have a better night than Manziel did on Saturday.