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.
As usual it’s done in no-huddle, up-tempo fashion.
Missouri 33, Kentucky 10 in Columbia (West) – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 186 yards. That’s how much Mizzou rushed for in its first-ever SEC win. The Tigers — even after Saturday’s game — are 13th in the SEC rushing offense against SEC rivals, averaging just 110 yards per contest in league games. This is a team that ran for three yards against Alabama. With the exception of last week’s rush defense against Georgia, UK has been gashed on the ground all season. The fact that Missouri’s Big XII-built, makeshift O-line put together such a day against Kentucky’s defense was probably the final nail in Joker Philips’ head coaching coffin.
* After saying all week that QB James Franklin wouldn’t play, Gary Pinkel wisely went to him in the second half after back-to-back interceptions by starting QB Corbin Berkstresser. Franklin came, steadied the Tiger offense, and helped turn a 17-10 halftime lead into a 33-10 victory. Franklin didn’t do much in the way of being “special,” but he managed the game effectively. With Kentucky’s anemic offense, a game-manager was all MU needed behind center on Saturday.
* So how in the world did Kentucky hang with Georgia a week ago? Well, in hindsight it looks like the Dawgs must’ve been napping throughout. UK turned back into a pumpkin in Columbia. They passed the ball for just 78 yards (even hyped QB Patrick Towles completed just one pass for two yards). Because they couldn’t pass, UK was just one for 12 on third-down conversions. In the run game, they fumbled it three times — and all three led to Missouri touchdowns. And we’ve already mentioned the defense above. Youth and injuries have been legitimate excuses for poor play this year. But Wildcat fans are tired of excuses… legitimate or not.
South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35 in Columbia (East) – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 510 yards. South Carolina became the fourth SEC offense to hang 500 yards (or more) on Tennessee’s woeful defense this season. The 0-5 Vols have allowed at least 450 in every league game they’ve played. And of the five SEC passers UT has faced, four — including QB Connor Shaw — have put up career-best passing yardage on them. Even when the offense plays up to snuff, the Vol D is just too horrible to overcome.
* Saturday’s contest will be remembered for one thing — the loss of Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore. If you’ve seen his knee bend in the wrong direction then you likely wish you hadn’t. Last year Carolina used a tough defense and a zone-read offense to survive another Lattimore knee injury. But USC’s secondary isn’t as strong this year. Last year the Gamecocks ranked second in the SEC against the pass. This year they rank eighth. In addition to a game with Wofford, the Cocks will finish the season against the SEC’s top-ranked passing team (Arkansas) and the ACC’s top-ranked passing team (Clemson). The loss of Lattimore could hurt more this year than last. Not only is he Carolina’s best weapon on offense, but he allows USC to keep its pass D off the field. Steve Spurrier’s pass rush had better crank it up the rest of the way.
* Derek Dooley threatened last week to pull QB Tyler Bray if he got “loose” with the football. Bray responded with his best effort ever against a good defense. The Vol signal-caller completed 27-of-43 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns. Carolina’s vaunted pass rush was stymied by an impressive UT offensive line. But as has been the case throughout Dooley’s three-year tenure, the Vols managed to find a way to lose. Gamecock DE Jadeveon Clowney — silent for about 59 minutes — strip-sacked Bray with UT inside the red zone with under a minute to play. Then Bray’s last Hail Mary pass attempt was snagged by 5-10 CB Victor Hampton who outjumped 6-4 WR Justin Hunter. One breakdown by the O-line. Two late turnovers. The Volunteers always seem to find a way to lose.
Ole Miss 30, Arkansas 27 in Little Rock – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 0 seconds. That’s how much time was left on the clock when Ole Miss kicker Bryson Rose nailed his game-winning field goal. For the Rebels, it meant back-to-back SEC wins for the first time since 2009. At 5-3, they’re now just one win away from bowl eligibility in a season when most expected them to be the worst team the SEC. For Arkansas, it was the first loss buzzer-beater loss in regulation since Georgia beat the Hogs in the 1987 Liberty Bowl with a field goal. Now at 3-5 with games against ranked SEC foes South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU remaining… the Hogs are probably looking at staying home for the holidays.
* Last Friday in picking Ole Miss to upset Arkansas, we said the Rebs would need to ride QB Bo Wallace on the ground and through the air just as Texas A&M had beaten the Razorbacks with an over-the-top one-man performance by QB Johnny Manziel. Wallace didn’t go for 500+ yards on the Hogs, but he did account for 316 of UM’s 355 yards of total offense on the day (278 passing, 38 rushing). Starting with 2:09 to play in the then-tied game, Wallace led the Rebels from their own 25 to the Arkansas’ 14. The drive consisted four Wallace completions, one incompletion, a 13-yard Wallace run, and a single one-yard carry by Jeff Scott. Ole Miss “let Bo go.” And so did the Hogs’ defense.
* Remarkably, Arkansas outgained Mississippi by 109 yards, won the time of possession battle, finished tied in turnover margin… and still lost. A surprising effort from senior RB Dennis Johnson was wasted. Coming into the game, Johnson had not rushed for more than 82 yards in a game all season. On Saturday he carried the ball 27 times for 161 yards and a touchdown. He also had added three catches for 19 more yards. But in the end, the Razorbacks lost again, suggesting that their recent two-game win streak had more to do with the teams they played (Auburn and Kentucky) than the Hogs themselves.
Georgia 17, Florida 9 in Jacksonville – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 6 turnovers. When the other team turns the ball over three times and you still manage to double them up in giveaways, it’s been a pretty bad day at the ballpark. Such was the case for Florida on Saturday. The Gators threw two interceptions and fumbled four times, including a TE Jordan Reed fumble into Georgia’s end zone with 2:05 to play. Worse, UF was also flagged 14 times for 132 yards. Back on October 18th we broke out a new stat on this site we called our Bunglers measure. Georgia and Florida both ranked near the bottom of the SEC in terms of mistake-making. Well, UGA was far from from perfect on Saturday, but Florida shot themselves in the foot more often. Old adage: The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. Georgia was that team on Saturday as Mark Richt moved to 2-0 all-time against Will Muschamp (who’s never won the UGA-UF game as a player or coach).
* We now know the impact S Shawn Williams’ loud and controversial criticism of his fellow defenders last week. After he called out the unit as “soft” and suggested that some players should be used less often, Williams’ mates rose to the challenge and held Florida to just 266 yards of total offense, including just 75 rushing yards. Throw in the six turnovers and there was nothing “soft” about Georgia’s performance. The defense that everyone expected to show up at the beginning of the season? Yeah, those guys finally showed up in Jacksonville.
* Florida simply had no answer for healthy LB Jarvis Jones. Jones won Player of the Week honors both on the conference and national levels for his fantastic performance. Back from a sprained ankle, Jones recorded 13 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles on the day. And it was Jones who stripped the ball from Reed as Florida tried to go in for what could have been a game-tying score (with a two-point conversion).
Texas A&M 63, Auburn 21 in Auburn – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 1917. That’s how long it had been since any team had scored 63 points against Auburn. But there were plenty of other stats in the running for this one. There were the 671 yards, the most ever surrendered by Auburn. There was the large number of empty seats as Auburn left the field trailing 42-7 at halftime. And there’s one more we could have picked…
* Gene Chizik’s huge buyout will drop on December 1st from $10 million to $7.5 million. Even with that kind of money on the table, it’s hard to imagine Auburn hanging onto Chizik unless he can somehow pull off a stunner of an upset against Alabama. He’s now just 36-36 overall as a head coach and just 31-17 at Auburn. But — and people may be tired of hearing it — when you remove Cam Newton’s 2010 season from Chizik’s resume you have a coach who is just 22-36 overall and only 17-17 on the Plains. Add it up and it becomes even more obvious that Newton was the reason AU collected a crystal football two years ago, not Chizik.
* So much for Texas A&M having to ease its way into the SEC. With Auburn and Arkansas being much worse than expected, the SEC West is nowhere near the division it was projected to be. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, a lot of credit has to be given to Kevin Sumlin and QB Johnny Manziel. “Johnny Football” was 16-of-23 passing for 260 yards, two TDs and no picks. He rushed nine times for 90 yards and three more scores. Who knows where A&M would be if something happened to Manziel — kinda like Auburn if they’d been without Newton in 2010 — but as long as that guy is on the field, he gives the Aggies a chance to beat anybody. To date Texas A&M has lost to Top 10-ranked LSU and Florida by a combined 8 points. They’re 16th in the current BCS standings. Wonder what Texas fans are thinking about that one as they stare up from #23?
Vanderbilt 49, UMass 7 in Nashville – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 0. That’s the number of wins UMass has on the year. Zip. Bupkes. Nada. So the fact that Vandy waxed the 0-8 Minutemen — in their first year of FBS football — is no surprise. Like VU’s game against the smallest FCS school in the country (Presbyterian) earlier this season, there’s not a whole lot to say about this one.
* Vanderbilt dodged a bullet. Not on the scoreboard, but on the injury report. RB Zac Stacy left the game early and stood on the sideline with a splint on his right ankle for much of the game. Luckily, James Franklin said the school’s all-time leading rusher “could have come back” to play if needed. Stacy has rushed for 683 yards on the season which means he’s been responsible for nearly a quarter of the Commodores’ total offense this season.
Alabama 38, Mississippi State 7 in Tuscaloosa – Video Highlights
Key Stat: 0. That’s the number of combined conference wins registered by the three SEC foes Mississippi State has vanquished on the year. Of the Bulldogs’ nonconference foes, only one has an overall winning record (MTSU is 5-3). So why in the world did I expect MSU to finish within the 24-point spread of Alabama? Didn’t think they’d win as they’d stuffed themselves with cupcakes, but I gave them way too much credit for not beating themselves and playing smart. Against the top-ranked Tide, State lost the turnover battle three-to-nil.
* State fans barked a bit into my email inbox because I hadn’t given them enough credit on the year. Well, hopefully I can find a dog whistle ’cause it’s time for folks in the Magnolia State to stop barking. MSU QB Tyler Russell finished just 15-of-30 for 169 yards through the air against Bama. RB LaDarius Perkins — who came in leading the SEC in rushing — managed just 38 yards on 15 carries. In fact, State didn’t even give Alabama as a good a game as surprising Ole Miss did. Until State beats a quality foe — or at least an SEC team that’s recorded a victory in league play — we’re off the bandwagon.
* Alabama was ruthlessly efficient once more. QB AJ McCarron averaged nine yards per pass attempt (excellent) and tossed two more TDs. (On the season he’s got a TD-to-INT ratio of — get this — 18-to-0 which is just otherworldly.) The Tide also pounded State with the run, averaging 4.5 yards per touch on 40 carries. Time of possession: Alabama 34+ minutes, Mississippi State 25+ minutes. On and on. Will LSU in a night game at Tiger Stadium be the team that finally challenges Nick Saban’s team? We’ll find out Saturday.